Archive for December, 2007

You ’08 – Health Care Debate

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Next up, health care. This is far from a new issue, but it has come into focus this year with the quorum of democratic candidates pushing openly for various flavors of “universal” health insurance, and republicans staunchly against anything with the stench of government-run health care.

Like trade, there are a range of plans from our candidates here. As a start, I’d like to ask all of you — no matter where on the spectrum you are — two direct questions:

  • Do you believe that the goal should be to cover every American or are you willing to accept a system that allows some to be uninsured? The unemployed who can’t afford it? The very poor without employer insurance? Where do you draw the line on who should be left uninsured and why?
  • Whether you favor free-market insurance, government-run insurance, or a mix; how do you believe your preferred solution best serves the interests of the public?

Larry Johnson: Someone Lied About the Torture Tapes in 2003

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

I think I’m inclined to think that Larry Johnson knows what he’s talking about here: Who Obstructed Justice?

The key question surrounding torture tape gate is not who authorized the destruction of the tapes in 2005. Nope. The real priority is who in the Bush Administration knowingly lied to a Federal Judge in the spring of 2003. Either the CIA told DOJ the truth and DOJ lied or the CIA lied to DOJ or the White House directed DOJ to lie. It is that simple.

And it’s a felony. And it’s grounds for impeachment. Start the hearings already.

Froomkin on Perino on the White House on the Torture Videos

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Dan Froomkin does a good job of summing up the last few days’ hijinks from White House press secretary Dana Perino regarding what the White House did, and didn’t, know and do back in the day regarding the CIA torture videos: The Tell-Tale Stall.

Perino’s currently stuck in trying-to-have-it-both-ways mode: She doesn’t want to talk about the subject (because talking about it threatens to reveal the truth, which is almost certainly that folks like Addington were up to their eyeballs in pushing the CIA to ignore judicial orders and destroy the evidence of the torture they’d been committing). But at the same time, she wants to push back against the New York Times reporting that in the first few days after the story broke, the White House was peddling (via anonymous leaks) that Harriet Miers had been telling the CIA that the agency should not destroy the tapes.

There’s a constitutional provision specifically designed for handling situations like this. It’s called impeachment. And Nancy Pelosi needs to get off her skinny ass and start that process.

In the meantime, here are the highlights of yesterday’s White House press briefing. I know she doesn’t know what the Bay of Pigs was. And she’s defending torturers. But I have to admit: I’ve kinda got a crush on Dana.

You ’08 – Trade Debate

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Sorry for not keeping my promise to follow up the original reader platform post with some debate posts in a timely manner.

Rather than open this up to a free-for-all, I’d like to start with a specific topic for which we had a pretty wide span of opinions and policy, but is perhaps more pressing even than the typical topics of argument here: trade. To summarize:

  • Steve advocates free trade with restrictions used as a tool to punish human rights offenders. NorthernLite feels similarly, with added emphasis on environmental enforcement, while shcb seems to favor no restrictions at all, allowing business to set its own agenda.
  • JAYSON wants a return to a strong American manufacturing base by cutting the agreements and incentives that drive globalization. Knarlyknight takes a less harsh stance, but additionally favors tight enforcement of safety standards for imported goods.

Here are a couple starter question for the candidates:

Steve, NorthernLite, and shcb, are you concerned that transnational corporations may be often be pursuing business strategies that optimize their profits at the expense of nation-specific interests, as typified by America’s drift toward a service/consumer economy and widening economic gap?

JAYSON and Knarlyknight, strong economic ties between nations may the be the most effective base on which to build lasting good diplomatic relations; wouldn’t a more nationalistic US economic policy further isolate the US on the world stage, and embolden competing economic unions in the EU and Asia?

Lying Cop Caught by Perp’s Unauthorized Recording

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

This makes me happy: ABC News: Gotcha! Teen’s MP3 Catches Cop in a Lie.

I note that the officer in question is one Detective Christopher Perino. Which makes me wonder: any relation?

Beware Flirting Robots

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

I like all the politics folks have been posting, and have been thinking that since I’ve had a hard time finding time to play with as much as it deserves lately, I should open things up to more article postings by more users. Maybe it’s time for to morph into something more like a social bookmarking site, where users post and vote on high-profile falsehoods. I’ll have to think about that some more.

In the meantime, here’s the most thing I’ve seen lately: Warning sounded over ‘flirting robots’.

The artificial intelligence of CyberLover’s automated chats is good enough that victims have a tough time distinguishing the “bot” from a real potential suitor, PC Tools said. The software can work quickly too, establishing up to 10 relationships in 30 minutes, PC Tools said. It compiles a report on every person it meets complete with name, contact information, and photos.

“As a tool that can be used by hackers to conduct identity fraud, CyberLover demonstrates an unprecedented level of social engineering,” PC Tools senior malware analyst Sergei Shevchenko said in a statement.

And in a weird case of synchronicity, I noticed the following item languishing in the moderation queue of another weblog I frequent. I’m not sure if it’s a machine translation of Russian porn spam, or what Hiro described to me as “madlibs spam,” where a thesaurus program is used to fool shared blacklists.

Whatever it is, I think it’s fairly hilarious:

Kind time of days!

I am a fresh, chic seducer, with a wonderful bust and appetizing popkoy! I am a nice and mischievous miniature small child, will compliment with the real unforgettable sex! That it can be better the real meeting with a charming, young girl. I invite you to itself in a very class apartment, where nobody will us mix. Photos are my real 100%

Wild sex! For a hour with me, you will understand how to love and be sweet one!!! Innocence and hidden passion, external sensuality and internal fire – my society never does without flirtation and game. My sparkle is tenderness, caress, passion, blitheness and unconcern. You want me to see?


buy buy!

Final entry in the automated-love department (also courtesy of Hiro):

Okay. That’s it for me and my amazing popkoy.

Iraq War Deaths for October and November, 2007

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Here are the updated graphs for October and November, 2007, with 38 and 37 US military deaths, respectively. It definitely looks like a real downward trend to me, which is a good thing, certainly. Here’s hoping that trend continues.

As always, I’m comparing the US military casualties in Iraq 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). 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 comparison for the extent of the Iraq war to-date. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

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

Disclaimer: I’ve been accused of comparing apples to oranges in these graphs. For the record, here’s what I am not arguing:

  • 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 were more troops in Iraq in the early going than were in Vietnam during the “corresponding” parts of the graphs. Similarly, for later years in Vietnam, when the monthly death toll exceeds the current Iraq numbers, there were many more troops in place.
  • I am not saying that Iraq is somehow “worse” than Vietnam. 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.

You ’08

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

I’d like to take a moment to get a cross-section of the readership (yes even you quiet ones), but rather than gather uninteresting lists of pro-this/anti-that stances, let’s have a little fun.

Responding to public outcry, you have declared your candidacy for the President of the United States in 2008. You have the cult of personality on your side, but the American public wants to know where you stand on the issues and where your priorities lie., the undisputed and unbiased voice of the people, has asked you to answer the people’s call in the comments of this post.

I’ll get the format started with my response including a some general and hot-button issues. You must include your stance on all of the issues listed, although you may reorder based on your priorities and your stances may be as brief or lengthy as you wish (but keep it within reason — I’m looking at you, knarly). If you’re not sure or you don’t have an opinion on an issue, say so. Oh, and pretend that you would rather stick to your convictions than get elected.

Facts are Hard (Let’s Go to the Mall)

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

Maybe you’ve heard about the small furor over the Washington Post’s article, “Foes Use Obama’s Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him”. It really is an excellent example of the trap that reporters often fall into: pointing out an issue, reporting opposing statements about the topic, and leaving it at that. In fact I hope the criticism of this article doesn’t get lost in a similar trap, with the controversy getting simplified to “Obama Supporters Object to Washington Post Report on Muslim Rumors”. The rumors are simply false, have been proven to be so, and should be reported as such. Period.

The problem here is the unwillingness to state hard facts and call lies “lies”, and do so first and foremost. Others have commented extensively, but as usual I think the clearest criticism is through satire. This cartoon, amusingly also printed in the Washington Post, gets it right.

I think this is the crux of many of the problems people have with the media and the perceived bias (in either direction) of various news outlets. When reporting has devolved to he-said she-said (as Colbert put it, “Just put ’em through a spell check and go home.”), it is almost impossible not to exhibit bias. My guess is that, for a news business, facts aren’t profitable. Facts must be carefully checked and if they are wrong, the business is subject to libel lawsuits. Transcription is quick, safe, and (particularly if you pick a side) profitable.