Archive for April, 2006 Podcast 16

Friday, April 28th, 2006

I was feeling pretty low-energy when I started recording this, and I think it shows. For what it’s worth, though, here’s you go: Podcast 16.

  • A mention of coming attractions: The as-yet-unposted Tenth Anniversary Reader (sitting in my Drafts queue staring at me as I write this, waiting for me to find time to finish it).
  • A digression on why I’m really not interested in debating people who aren’t willing to accept even the possibility that they might be wrong. (I don’t state it that clearly in my comments, but in hindsight I think that’s what I was going for.)
  • An extended revisiting of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker controversy, this time with me providing more specifics about my objections to the approach taken by Sibley et al. in their criticisms of the rediscovery evidence.

That’s it.

Alan Hirsch on Moussaoui’s Likely False Confession

Friday, April 28th, 2006

A really great op-ed that appeared in the LA Times the other day was this one by law professor Alan Hirsch: Why the innocent confess. Hirsch talks about the chilling reality that if the Moussaoui jury convicts the self-described would-be 9/11 hijacker, they will be condemning to death a man who, in all likelihood, gave a false confession.

More of Hirsch’s thinking is available from his weblog: Truth About False Confessions. And because I liked his op-ed so much, and feel that it’s an important viewpoint that deserves to be more-widely read, I’m going to steal the whole thing, and include it here.

If the linkrot-prone people at the Times want to sic their lawyers on me, they’re welcome to contact me. In the meantime, follow the link below, or scroll down, for the whole piece.


Senator Pat Roberts: Douche Bag

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, really goes beyond being a partisan tool. He’s a pathetic example of what’s worst about our national politics today. And yeah, there are Democrats who embody the same corrupt dishonesty, but few that I can think of who have been so blatant about it.

I don’t know if you’ve followed the way he’s helped cover up the Bush admininstration’s prewar hijinks with respect to Iraqi WMD, but even now, three years after the war began, he’s still doing everything in his power to keep the lid on things. His latest ploy, according to an article by Alexander Bolton in The Hill (Sen. Roberts seeks delay of Intel probe), is to push for yet another subdivision of “phase two” of the committee’s investigation into prewar intelligence, letting the less-controversial parts come out now, while putting off the parts dealing with the rotten center of the Bush team’s lies to some hypothetical future phase three.

It has become obvious that Roberts will never willingly allow that information to see the light of day. This is exactly why this country desperetely needs one, or preferably both, houses of Congress to change hands this year. Our government simply doesn’t work if the people running the legislative branch are willing to give the executive a free pass.

More on the ridiculous history of phase two of the committee’s report is available at the scrupulously researched and stunningly well-written Wikipedia article: Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq.

Kleiman on the Righties on McCarthy

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Mark Kleiman has some choice comments on what the right-wing blogosphere has to say about Mary McCarthy’s firing, and the failure of the Bush team to try to prosecute her for allegedly leaking information about the CIA’s “black” sites in Europe to Dana Priest of the Washington Post: Secret prisons: Red Blogistan de-compensates.

Now that the leaker of the information has been unmasked and fired, the same folks are gleeful about the fact that she turns out to have been a Democrat. And they’re out for blood: Why, they demand, was she fired rather than being prosecuted? (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds. If Glenn disagrees, he doesn’t say so.)

Duhhhhh… wait, don’t tell me … ummmm …. because she’d assert a “public interest” defense, which would mean putting the story back on the front pages for weeks, and risk having the facts about what’s been going on in those dungeons revealed in open court? Just a guess.

Anyway, she’d probably get off. I’d be surprised if even this Supreme Court would hold as a matter of law that revealing criminal activity is a crime if the activity in question is labeled “classified.”

There’s more, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it.

Rolling Stone: The Worst President in History?

Monday, April 24th, 2006

I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to this, since it really is very much up my alley. From Rolling Stone: The Worst President in History?

Marshall Interviews Drumheller

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Since working to expand Wikipedia’s article on the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee on pre-war WMD intelligence, I’ve been aware of how Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), the committee’s chairman, worked so hard to produce a whitewash favorable to the Bush administration.

More evidence of that comes from the recent appearance of Tyler Drumheller, a former CIA agent, on 60 Minutes. Joshua Micah Marshall has this to say, after he did a follow-up interview with Drumheller: By now you’ve probably seen or heard…:

Did you read in any of those reports — even in a way that would protect sources and methods — that the CIA had turned a key member of the Iraqi regime, that that guy had said there weren’t any active weapons programs, and that the White House lost interest in what he was saying as soon as they realized it didn’t help the case for war? What about what he said about the Niger story?

Did the Robb-Silbermann Commission not hear about what Drumheller had to say? What about the Roberts Committee?

I asked Drumheller just those questions when I spoke to him early this evening. He was quite clear. He was interviewed by the Robb-Silbermann Commission. Three times apparently.

Did he tell them everything he revealed on tonight’s 60 Minutes segment. Absolutely.

Drumheller was also interviewed twice by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (the Roberts Committee) but apparently only after they released their summer 2004 report.

Now, quite a few of us have been arguing for almost two years now that those reports were fundamentally dishonest in the story they told about why we were so badly misled in the lead up to war. The fact that none of Drumheller’s story managed to find its way into those reports, I think, speaks volumes about the agenda that the writers of those reports were pursuing. Podcast 15

Friday, April 21st, 2006

I was so jazzed about getting the last podcast successfully completed that I turned right around and recorded one the next day. So here you go: podcast 15.

This one covers:

  • Listening to Disney obsessives, especially Jesse O. of the MousePod.
  • Again with the new Pride and Prejudice adaptation. In this installment, I realize that my resistance to crediting Keira Knightly with the stunning performance she actually delivered was simply a recapitulation of the story’s main theme: It was my own pride and prejudice that prevented me from doing so. But I’ve come to appreciate the error of my ways.
  • Arguing with Andy and John of the Hollywood Saloon that they really ought to give chick-flicks a try.
  • More Austen adapations: Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Emma. Must-see chick flicks all.
  • Kick-ass podcast special effects: I’m interrupted by the sight of an actual whale.

So. There it is.

Phony Doctor Gives Free Breast Exams

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

From Reuters: Phony doctor gives free breast exams.

MIAMI (Reuters) – A 76-year-old man claiming to be a doctor went door-to-door in a Florida neighborhood offering free breast exams, and was charged with sexually assaulting two women who accepted the offer, police said on Thursday.

One woman became suspicious after the man asked her to remove all her clothes and began conducting a purported genital exam without donning rubber gloves, investigators said. Podcast 14

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

Woo! I finally managed to record one and save it to disk without my battery expiring first: podcast 14. Featured drivel:

  • My bonehead consumerism with respect to the poorly named Belkin Universal Microphone Adapter.
  • A musical interlude from Rx of The Party Party, with his awesome mashup My name is Rx (mp3 file; streaming versions also available from his web site). Note that in the podcast I mistakenly say that the song is titled “Will the real Rx please stand up?”
  • The Ivory-billed Woodpecker rediscovery, David Allen Sibley, Guy McCaskie, my own history of obsessive birding, and how I was re-introduced to the hobby by my wife, Linda.

RNC Trying to Swift-boat Harry Reid Over Immigration Legislation

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

It seems the Republican National Committee intends to run Spanish-language radio ads in Las Vegas, among other places, arguing that it’s Democrats like Nevada Senator Harry Reid who are responsible for recent legislation making illegal immigration a felony.

As described in an article from the Las Vegas Sun (Republicans plan anti-Reid ads on Spanish-language radio):

“Reid’s Democrat allies voted to treat millions of hardworking immigrants as felons,” the ad says, “while President Bush and Republican leaders work for legislation that will protect our borders and honor our immigrants.”

Josh Marshall explains how dishonest the argument is in this piece at Talking Points Memo: Emerging RNC bamboozle…

The argument is really pretty egregious even by GOP standards. House Republicans put up a bill to make being an illegal alien a felony. An amendment was proposed that would have made it a misdemeanor. As the AP reports, “Democrats, including members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, voted against the amendment, arguing they did not support criminal penalties. Nevada Republicans Jon Porter and Jim Gibbons also voted against the amendment, which failed. The felony provision remained in the bill, H.R. 4437, and it passed the House on a largely party line vote.”

So Democrats wouldn’t vote for criminalizing at all. Ergo, they’re for making it a felony.

This sort of bald-faced lying really should be called out.

Okay. I hereby do so. Liar, liar. Nyah nyah.

Billmon on a Roll

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

There have been a lot of interesting takes on Hersh’s Iranian nukes story over the last few days. One particularly noteworthy one is Billmon’s Mutually assured dementia.

It’s really quite impressive, in an over-the-top sort of way. It’s full-on propaganda, but the best propaganda has its foundations in truth, and this is very good propaganda.

I guess that’s what public discourse has come to.

The (Invalid) Comparison Gets Interesting

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

Here are the updated graphs of US war deaths in Iraq for March, with only 31 US fatalities during the month. That’s the lowest total since February of 2004.

As always, I’m comparing the military casualties to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime (which some have charged is misleading; see disclaimer below). And the interesting thing to me is that for the first time, the Iraq numbers are lower than those for the “corresponding” month of the Vietnam war.

Now, I’m completely aware that the particular starting point I chose for the Vietnam numbers drives many people nuts, and many of those people have spent lots of time and energy explaining to the world what a lying fucktard I am for presenting the numbers this way. Given their views about my motivations, I wonder what they’ll think of my willingness to present these latest figures without qualification.

Anyway, the data come from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first 37 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: Every so often someone comes along and says I’m guilty of intellectual dishonesty by comparing apples to oranges in these graphs. For the record, here’s what I am not arguing with these graphs:

  • I’m not saying that Iraq is somehow deadlier per soldier-on-the-ground than Vietnam. For both wars, the number of fatalities in any given month tracks pretty closely with the number of troops deployed (along with the intensity of the combat operations being conducted). There are more troops in Iraq today than were in Vietnam during the “corresponding” parts of the graphs. Similarly, for later years in Vietnam, when the monthly death toll exceeded the current Iraq numbers, there were many more troops in place.
  • I am not saying that Iraq is somehow “worse” than Vietnam, and have not chosen the starting dates for the respective graphs out of a desire to make a dishonest argument to that effect. I include the first graph mainly because I wanted a zoomed-in view of the Iraq data. And I include the second graph, which shows the entire span of the Vietnam war, because I want to be clear about what the data show about overall death tolls — where any rational assessment would have to conclude that, at least so far, Iraq has been far less significant (at least in terms of US combat fatalities) than Vietnam.

I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and how those deaths played out in terms of their political impact inside the US. For that reason, I chose as the starting point for each graph the first fatality that a US president acknowledged (belatedly, in the case of the Vietnam graph, since US involvement in the war “began” under Kennedy, but the acknowledgement was made only later by Johnson) as having resulted from the war in question.

As ever, you are free to draw your own conclusions. And for that matter, you’re free to draw your own graphs, if you have a way of presenting the information that you believe would be better. In that case, feel free to post a comment with a URL to your own version. Thanks.

The Top 10 Ways To Tell if Someone is Lying To You

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

A public-service announcement from your friendly neighborhood The Top 10 Ways To Tell if Someone is Lying To You.

New York Hack

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

For no particular reason, I feel compelled to let you know that New York Hack is my new favorite weblog.

Hersh on Bush’s Nuclear Ambitions in Iran

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

I’m not sure how seriously to take Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker piece on Bush’s desire to launch a nuclear war on Iran: The Iran plans. Hersh gets good information, I realize, but I think he has a tendency to go too far in the direction of the worst-case scenario. I’m thinking of Abu Ghraib, I guess: Yes, the reality of what the Bush team did there was awful, but not quite the apocalyptic end-of-the-nation-as-we-know-it stuff that Hersh portrayed.

Gah. That sounds like I’m defending the Bush administration’s use of torture as an instrument of government policy.

Okay; start over. Bush sucks, and his use of torture (and, to the extent that he’s contemplating it, his contemplation of using nuclear weapons in a bid to go after the Iranian nuclear program) is at the heart of the ways in which he is the most disasterously unqualified person to hold the presidency I have ever seen, or ever want to see.

But with that said, Hersh’s arrangement of the detail in his stories leaves me thinking that he misses a truer context, sometimes. In his Cassandra-esque keening about the evil he’s uncovered, I think he gets a bit carried away. I think that might be part of what’s happening with this story.

At least, I seriously hope so. Because the alternative is horrifying and depressing.

Podcastus Interruptus

Friday, April 7th, 2006

It won’t actually do you any good, but I wanted to mention that I’ve tried — twice now, dammit — to record a podcast for y’all. Both times I’ve suffered a lockup of my powerbook (I’m guessing due to my sleeping it, then shutting off/unplugging the USB mic; I think that’s exercising some bug or other), which has prevented me from saving the thing before the battery runs out.

It’s actually been fairly depressing. Those weren’t half-bad podcasts, at least by my standards.

Anyway, today I ordered a recording adapter and a new microphone for the iPod, and with any luck I’ll be able to use that to record the podcasts more reliably.

Anyway, keep the faith. More goodness shortly. Thanks.