Archive for February, 2004

Who should you vote for?

Sunday, February 29th, 2004

So for those of you who don’t really know who you SHOULD vote for, based upon your opinions of several key issues, here’s a link so that you can find your way.

Or worse, so that you can realise that you’re voting for the wrong person.

Or even worse, that the wahoos running the site can influence your opinion because you’re not paying attention, so you’ll drink their koolaid and then vote the way they want you too.

In the end, I’m still voting for Ross Perot, for the 3rd election in a row.

Oscar Predictions

Sunday, February 29th, 2004

Because I like the idea of people dangling out there in public view with predictions about unpredictable phenomena, here is my ballot, just now prepared, in anticipation of the Oscar-viewing party that will be taking place here in a few hours.

Note that these are not necessarily who I think should win, but just who I think will win. Or at least, my best guesses in my effort to secure bragging rights among the other losers who’ll be attending. Follow the link below, or scroll down, for the full picture.
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Bush: Science? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Science!

Saturday, February 28th, 2004

One more item in a very long list: Bush ejects two from bioethics panel. What do you do when prominent scientists on your advisory panel tell you your policies are a bad idea from a scientific perspective? Fire them, and replace them with less-prominent scientists who agree with you. Problem solved!

Except, of course, for this: Science, by definition, is all about understanding reality as it is, not as you would have it be. Once you start intentionally stacking the deck to allow “your” side to “win,” it’s no longer science. It’s make-believe.

Maybe if you’re the kind of president who doesn’t read much, and got a C average in school, and was more interested in partying than studying, you don’t mind having a make-believe science panel. But see, it’s a problem. Because the president needs science advisors, and he needs them to be honest scientists, not just puppets chosen to repeat back the positions he’s already decided will work best for him politically. Because science, for all its imperfections, is the best tool we have for understanding the non-obvious aspects of the universe. And it’s important to have that perspective when you’re making decisions that will have a direct and lasting impact on a good chunk of the planet’s population.

Imaginary Girlfriends

Saturday, February 28th, 2004

From Janus/onan comes word of this nifty service: Imaginary girlfriends. “The girls are real. The relationship is not.”

Kerry’s Electability

Friday, February 27th, 2004

You know I didn’t think Kerry came off all that Presidential until I noticed that he may have already been elected previously.

I guess he won’t take any crap from the British…

Paris Hilton: Porn Director

Friday, February 27th, 2004

I saw this the other day, but the significance of the claim didn’t really register in my mind untill today. Rick Soloman has filed a lawsuit against “Marvad Corp”, for displaying still shots taken from the well known video of he and Paris Hilton having sex on their web site. The basis of his suit is copyright infringement — which is key to keep in mind, because Marvad’s lawyers have responded by claiming that as “The Producer”, he is commiting fraud by claiming copyright without the consent of Paris Hilton, “The Director”.

From their petition: “Ms Hilton offered directorial comments and physically controlled and directed the camera. Solomon’s failure to identify Ms Hilton as a co-author on the application for copyright registration renders the certificate of registration invalid and fraudulent.”

Racicot: Bush Volunteered for ‘Nam

Monday, February 23rd, 2004

Wow. From the same team that brought you “outsourcing jobs to foreign countries is good for America,” we now have yet another choice election-year sound bite, and yet another reason to keep talking about Bush’s spotty attendance in the Texas Air National Guard: Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot’s statement to Juan Williams during an NPR interview that Bush’s Vietnam-era service “compares very favorably” with that of John Kerry, and that in fact, Bush “volunteered to go to Vietnam. He wasn’t selected to go, but nonetheless served his country very well…”

As with Clinton and Monica, it’s not the act itself that’s such a problem. It’s the lying about it after the fact. I don’t have any problem with the way Bush pulled strings to avoid going to Vietnam. But I have a big problem with his attempting to claim that his military service is in any way comparable to John Kerry’s. Because it just isn’t. And for him to claim otherwise is dishonest, and an insult to the electorate’s intelligence.

Joshua Micah Marshall has more: Just when you start debating…

Bush’s Poll Problem

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

I noticed that Professor Pollkatz hadn’t updated his very interesting Bush approval ratings graph in a while, and since I’d been reading that Bush was dropping in the polls again, I wanted to get a graphic representation of things. So I went to PollingReport.com’s Bush job ratings page, and whipped up the following (click on the graph for a larger version):

(Update: As of 13 May 2004, I’ve updated the polling data in the graph to reflect the latest figures.)

As you can see, the pattern I discussed previously (in The silk-purse president and Bush descending) continues. Bush’s poll numbers, in the absence of a big event like 9/11, the premature celebration of the not-quite-end of the Iraq war, or the capture of Saddam Hussein, trend only in one direction: down. Without a national crisis to rally us around the flag, or a dramatic success story with good visuals, people tend to move in only one direction in terms of Bush approval: away from him.

I’m sure this isn’t a secret to Karl Rove. Without some big event to bolster Bush’s approval at just the right time, he’s toast in November.

There’s a rumour among tinfoil-hat liberals that Bush actually has Osama bin Laden on ice, either breathing or not, and is just waiting for the right moment to announce his capture and/or killing. I don’t know that I buy into that, since the conspiracy necessary to pull off something like that would be tricky, and risky. But if Osama suddenly does appear, just in time to save Bush’s second term, say around September or October, I’d be awfully suspicious that there was hanky-panky involved.

Anyway, that’s a conspiracy for another day.

Mark Green on Bush’s Reality

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

The Bush supporters in my readership (both of them!) having been driven away by my heavy-handed election year partisanship, I’m now free to link unto the following bit of unrepentant lefty snark from Mark Green: W’s reality gap.

Marshall Gets Letters on Gay Marriage

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

Joshua Micah Marshall posts some very interesting email he has received since posting about his own wrestling with the issue of gay and lesbian marriage versus civil unions: As probably comes as no surprise….

Send Flowers to the Gay Betrothed

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

Here’s a cool idea: Flowers.

The Electronica Quickee Mart

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

If you like electronic music, or find it baffling, or a little of both (*handraise*), you should check out Ishkur’s guide to electronic music. I was amused when I realized I’d been listening to the same 20-second sample, looping, for about 20 minutes, without realizing that that wasn’t just the actual piece.

Thanks to Hiro for the link.

Marshall on the Stolen Democratic Memos

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

Joshua Micah Marshall has some interesting scuttlebutt about the ongoing investigation into the theft of thousands of memos from Democratic staffers by Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee: Bad counsel. Apparently the Republicans on the committee have told conservative activists who were spouting off about how the theft really wasn’t a big deal that they (the activists) really ought to cool it, because the investigation is turning up lots of wrongdoing that is pretty clearly illegal, and it’s likely to result in criminal charges. And Marshall speculates that that could mean the appointment of a special counsel, with the resulting investigation involving not just Republican Senate staffers, but the office of the White House Counsel as well.

Yowza.

Is it just me, or is the confluence of bad karma coming home to roost in the Bush administration reaching Biblical proportions?

How the New York Times Helped Sell the War

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

From Michael Massing, here’s a long but really excellent article on how the New York Times (among other media outlets) helped the Bush administration make its case for war by hyping bogus WMD intelligence and downplaying the concerns of those who thought the administration was giving a one-sided version of reality: Now they tell us.

Particularly interesting to me is the way Massing points out that in the run-up to war, most major daily newspapers in Washington and New York were running front page stories that were largely supportive of the administration’s position. Stories that were critical tended to be consigned to page 10 or 15. That’s an aspect of the coverage that I didn’t really notice at the time, since I was reading most of the stories online, following links from third parties or Google search results or what have you.

RFK Jr. on Bush’s Bad Science

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

Here’s a really good article by Robert Kennedy Jr. that contains more detail on the Bush administration’s war on science: The junk science of George W. Bush.

McClellan: Sorry, No, I Disagree

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

Also via Joshua Micah Marshall, you really must read this exchange with everyone’s favorite White House press secretary: Press briefing by Scott McClellan. At issue is how the White House is already backing away from the prediction it made a week and a half ago that 26 million new jobs would be created this year. An excerpt from late in the exchange, after McClellan has already sidestepped the question several times:

Q Why — if you’re suggesting that people will debate the numbers, that’s kind of a backhanded way to say, oh, who cares about the numbers. Well, apparently, the President’s top economic advisors do, because that’s why they wrote a very large report and sent it to Congress. So why was the prediction made in the first place, if the President and you and his Treasury Secretary were going to just back away from it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I disagree with the premise of the way you stated that. This is the annual Economic Report of the President and the economic modeling is done this way every year. It’s been done this way for 20-some years.

Q So why not — why aren’t you standing behind it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think what the President stands behind is the policies that he is implementing, the policies that he is advocating. That’s what’s important.

Q That’s not in dispute. The number is the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I know, but the President’s concern is on the number of jobs being created –

Q My question is, why was the prediction made –

MR. McCLELLAN: — and the President’s focus is on making sure that people who are hurting because they cannot find work have a job. That’s where the President’s focus is.

Q Then why predict a number? Why was the number predicted? Why was the number predicted? You can’t get away with not — just answer the question. Why was that number predicted?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ve been asked this, and I’ve asked — I’ve been asked, and I’ve answered.

Q No, you have not answered. And everybody watching knows you haven’t answered.

MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree.

I like that because it reminded me of a great piece that ran in The Onion back in March of last year: Point-counterpoint: The war on Iraq.

Marshall: Blowing Up the WMD Buck

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

Joshua Micah Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo makes a good point on the way Bush is trying to deal with the WMD “intelligence failure” these days:

Knocked on his heels by increasing evidence that he willfully deceived the American public, President Bush is off to a new strategy of spreading around the blame. Let’s call it the anti-buck gambit. Don’t pass the buck. Just get an M-80, light it, put it over in the corner with the buck on top of it. Then no more buck, no more problem.

Marshall goes on to cite some of the blatant revisionism in Bush’s current attempts to say that hey, we were wrong, the CIA was wrong, the Congress was wrong, the UN was wrong; everybody was wrong. So what are you picking on me for? Anyway, here’s the whole thing: Back to the tangled web files…

Bush National Guard Woes Post-Mortem(?)

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

Righties are tiptoeing very, very quietly away from the issue of Bush’s National Guard service, in hopes that the story has really been done away with. And the shock troops of the right are already hard at work smearing Kerry, anyway (the best defense is a good offense, and all that). But in the meantime, a few more-thoughtful types have some final words on the subject.

Kevin Drum at Calpundit has a great roundup of what we know, what we think we know, and what we know we don’t know: National Guard finale? And he has an interesting followup to the Calhoun assertions (from the guy who claims Bush did his Alabama Guard service sitting in his office reading airplane magazines): More from the Memphis Flyer.

Meanwhile, Bill Maher makes some excellent observations about the way Bush is trying to equate his own service, such as it was, with the perils faced by Guardsman today: Bush draftdodger.

Bush Science Bites: Film at 11:00

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

So, a group formed of many of the top scientists in the country, including 20 Nobel prize winners, are making a stink about the Bush administration’s systematic and wide-ranging undercutting of the scientific process in cases where the findings of science are in conflict with Bush’s political agenda: Scientists: Bush distorts science.

This is pretty much the heart of the case against Bush. His administration is all about twisting facts to fit a priori conclusions, rather than basing conclusions on the available facts. Which is why I think he’s toast in November: Because the more successful he is at making the case that this is a dangerous world, with scary people out to get us, the more obvious it is that someone who ignores inconvenient data, refuses to acknowledge and correct for his own failures, and strenuously pretends that ideologically preordained policy positions are the perfect answer to every problem, regardless of that problem’s specifics, is not a particularly good choice for president.

Authors Review Own Books on Amazon

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

Somewhat interesting story, made more interesting (well, for me) by the fact that I have personally had to grapple with the moral issue raised: Amazon glitch unmasks war of reviewers. An excerpt:

John Rechy, author of the best-selling 1963 novel “City of Night” and winner of the PEN-USA West lifetime achievement award, is one of several prominent authors who have apparently pseudonymously written themselves five-star reviews, Amazon’s highest rating. Mr. Rechy, who laughed about it when approached, sees it as a means to survival when online stars mean sales.

“That anybody is allowed to come in and anonymously trash a book to me is absurd,” said Mr. Rechy, who, having been caught, freely admitted to praising his new book, “The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens,” on Amazon under the signature “a reader from Chicago.” “How to strike back? Just go in and rebut every single one of them.”

This link brought to you courtesy of an author whose own book’s Amazon page contains only legitimate reviews, as far as he’s aware.