Archive for July, 2008

He’s John McCain, and He Approves This Message

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

He’s John McCain, and he approves this message:

Note that this isn’t isolated. There have been a whole string of McCain web ads recently pushing similarly dishonest crap containing embedded racist dogwhistles.

Like I said: he’s John McCain. And he approves this message. Which I think says all that needs to be said. But if you’d like some more analysis, here’s Joshua Micah Marshall in keeping track:

…here we have a candidate, John McCain, who is running on a record of straight talk and honorable campaigning running a campaign made up mainly of charges reporters are now more or less acknowledging are lies. But there’s precious little drawing together of the contradiction. What’s more, as everyone will acknowledge after the campaign, the McCain campaign is now pushing the caricature of Obama as a uppity young black man whose presumptuousness is displayed not only in taking on airs above his station but also in a taste for young white women.

US Military Patches

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

So Easy...
I just came across these US military patches. As a graphic artist I was really interested in the really high level of humor these displayed. I don’t see anything here as portraying any kind of contestable sentiment, but rather wondering if the humor implied is the result of coping with a stressful situation.

Anyway, where they are.

“The president has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants.”

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

That quote from Cheney staff director David Addington, as reported in a new book detailing administration terrorism policies. The WaPo also says:

The classified CIA report described by Mayer was prepared in the summer of 2002 by a senior CIA analyst who was invited to the prison camp in Cuba to help Defense Department officials grapple with a major problem: They were gleaning very little useful information from the roughly 600 detainees in custody at the time. After a study involving dozens of detainees, the analyst came up with an answer: A large fraction of them “had no connection with terrorism whatsoever,” Mayer writes, citing officials familiar with the report. Many were essentially bystanders who had been swept up in dragnets or turned over to the U.S. military by bounty hunters.

And that’s one of the conservative estimates.

Guantanamo is a carefully crafted loophole in the constitutional limits on presidential power, and a carefully crafted exercise in managing public perception. It is a national dungeon, where the President’s determination of guilt is the only rule. The law upholds it because it must, the congress accepts it because it’s too politically easy to ignore it, and the public accepts it because it seems just far enough away to be less important than the numbers on the gas station marquee. Podcast 28 – Beatlebamamania!

Thursday, July 17th, 2008 Podcast 28 is about Beatlemania, Obamamania, the love of a good adversary, and learning to man up and commit already. Warning: includes foul-mouthed sex-advice columnist Dan Savage.

Feel free to help me get more listeners by casting a vote at Podcast Alley. You could also post a customer review at iTunes, if you’re feeling really motivated.


Hodder Remixes Blitt for Drum

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Greenwald on Mayer on Torture

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

So, is Glenn Greenwald a shrill, Leftist hysteric?


Mainstream Media Play NBA Referee, Give McCain Home-Court Advantage

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

So, despite having some significant stretches of NBA fandom in my past, I was forced to accept a couple of painful (for me) truths during the playoffs this year:

1) The Celtics as a team, and Kevin Garnett as an individual player, were just so much better than the Lakers that there wasn’t any real doubt as to the outcome of the Finals from the get-go.

2) The NBA exists somewhere in the gray area between professional wrestling and real sports in terms of the essential fairness of the competition, with the referees serving as the main lever that gives the home team a big leg up to keep things closer than they otherwise would be.

Which is not much of a crisis; I understand that (as with pro wrestling) it’s just business: People pay lots of money to buy those tickets, and lots of money to reach the audience that watches the games on TV, and some of that money would probably go away if the officials were zealously objective in how they call the games. So it all works out; I’m not sure it even has to be arranged explicitly in smoke-filled rooms. It probably just kind of happens, as people at all levels of the organization make decisions in the knowledge of the overall institutional goal (more viewers, more ticket sales, more dollars).

And maybe I’m being paranoid. Maybe this is the result of my own bias resulting from the hostile-media effect. But I’m increasingly of the opinion that the mainstream media is calling the presidential race the same way. That is, they are giving the underdog (McCain) a leg up, because a closer contest is more interesting, and gets more viewers, and since the dynamic of commercial news operations has been pretty much completely remade to be bottom-line driven, with things like journalistic ethics and fairness a distant memory, it becomes just like the NBA, or professional wrestling. It isn’t like there has to be a big shouting match between old-school referees who still call the game fairly and soulless league executives who pound the desk and talk about ratings. The people who would have made that case for fairness (or for journalistic ethics) just aren’t there any more. They’ve retired, or moved on, or just never rose to the level of exercising that kind of power in the organizations the way they’re currently structured.

I’m not sure what it means. But I’m pretty sure it’s not a good thing.

Anyway, some data points that have caught my attention lately: Max Bergmann at the huffingtonpost writes about the week that should have ended McCain’s presidential hopes, but that hasn’t, thanks in part to the referees blowing the whistle on Jesse Jackson’s “cut off his nuts” comment about Obama, while ignoring lots of more-newsworthy fouls by McCain and his entourage.

And along with the supposedly-fair news organizations skewing for McCain, there are the not-even-pretending fanboys at Fox News, and their imitators, which these days apparently includes the Associated Press. Mark Kleiman wonders the following (in Pelosi figures it out):

How completely in the tank for the Republicans is the AP? A subpoena isn’t issued, and a Congressinal investigation isn’t conducted, by “Congressional Democrats,” as the story says not once but three times. A subpoena voted by a Congressional committee has exactly the same legal standing as a subpoena issued by a judge. The story makes it sound as if Rove is engaged in partisan warfare rather than defiance of the law.

I’d have to answer, pretty much completely in the tank. I’m not sure when it happened, but it’s kind of scary, given that the AP is one of the few remaining “news organizations” that actually has reporters scattered around to gather news. Most of the rest are madly downsizing their editorial staffs, replacing them with wire reports from… the AP.

Sigh. Maybe Obama is the political equivalent of Kevin Garnett, and it doesn’t matter how hard the referees shore up McCain in their effort to make it a more interesting contest. Maybe it doesn’t matter how many former referees have traded in their blue-gray shirts for the hot pants and spangles of Republican cheerleaders. Eventually we’re going to get to that Game 6 in Boston Garden and the truth will be revealed in all its ugly, naked starkness (or its radiant, majestic glory, depending on which team you’re rooting for). McCain will try to drive the lane and Obama will just swat that weak-ass stuff away, then spread his arms to the cheers of the crowd, reveling in his moment that has finally, at long, long last, arrived.

Maybe. But in the meantime, I wish we had better referees.

More Photoshop Phun

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

From some bloggy New York Times site: In an Iranian Image, a Missile Too Many.

Here’s the first version (which apparently was pulled by those stalwart defenders of copyright, the mainstream media, from the web site of “Sepah News, the media arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards”). This photo ran on the front pages of the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, and the Chicago Tribune, as well as on the web sites of BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, and None of these top-notch media outlets noticed (or at least, none of them cared) that one of the four missiles is a fairly obvious photoshop clone:

Today the following image was posted to the Sepah News site. Presumably this is the original from which the other one was made:

It’s kind of fun to figure out how little effort was required to alter the image, and what a big psychological difference is achieved by the alteration. (And again, what a gullible bunch of n00bs the MSM editors were to run it without comment.)

Iraq War Deaths for December 2007 through June 2008

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Here are the updated graphs covering the last seven months. US military deaths in Iraq have continued to be fairly low, at least be the standards of the past few years. The highest number of US troop deaths during this interval came in April, with 52 deaths; the lowest number was in May, with 19 deaths. For a less-hopeful graphic, see Kevin Drum’s reposted graph of US casualties in Afghanistan, which shows a steady increase over the last several years.

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.

On Fox News

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

They’re not the only ones doing it, obviously. But they were the first to go this far with it. And I guess it’s some measure of the lingering memories of a bygone era that I still find it somewhat shocking that Fox News stoops this low in its efforts to manage its reputation.

See this write-up from David Carr at the New York Times: When Fox News is the story. It has additional back-story regarding this item from Media Matters, showing altered photos of NY Times reporters that were run on the “Fox & Friends” show: Fox News airs altered photos of NY Times reporters.

I mean, really, guys. Can we go back to a world where grown-ups are in charge?

What I Did on My Vacation

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

So, I’ve finished Julia’s and my entry in the Weepies’ “Hideaway” video contest. It’s not very relevant to’s usual subject matter, but if you want to see what I’ve been doing for the last month or so that has helped keep me from posting the usual inanity here, you can check it out:

Hideaway – John and Julia Callender