Sunday, May 30, 2004

Supporting the troops
Over the last week or so, a few in Left Blogistan have been gnashing their teeth over the fact that the drug-addicted, fat idiot is carried on Armed Forces Radio while no counter balancing voice of the Left is carried. I agree, this bites big time. We’re spending taxpayer money to tell our boys and girls in beige camo that one political party is a bunch of traitorous dogs who hate them and the president can do no wrong. But if we try to object Rush’ presence, the trolls come out of the woodwork to call us pro-censorship, hypocrites. This also bites. If we try to demand equal time for one of our own, they call us PC, thought-controlling hypocrites. And yes, this too bites.

Those nice folks over at Salon have come up with a philosophically consistent and emotionally satisfying response. They are giving free subscriptions to their premium service to all active military (existing military subscribers get a free year). I hope other lefty sites jump on this bandwagon.

Okay, it’s not as emotionally satisfying as dropping an anvil on Rush, but we can’t drop an anvil on him because anvil dropping is wrong.

Friday, May 28, 2004

You can count on me
Those other blogs will be leaving you for the holiday weekend, leaving you without the obsessive coverage of and sarcastic commentary on everything those bad conservatives do that you count on to keep your blood pressure up.. But I won’t leave you. I’ll be here for you. I do it because I care and, like SZ, I don’t have a life. As a contract worker (not a mercenary, a temp. Although, if you prefer, you can think of me as an office ronin), I don’t make enough to take vacations. I also don’t make enough to hire a carpenter (as the weekend progresses I might mention several things that I can’t afford). I’ll be spending the weekend here at home fixing the decking and rails on my porch so they will be safer and more attractive for my sickly and aged mother to visit and make cookies. This is the kind of attention you can count on here at archy. Tell all your friends to read me and write Janeane Garafalo to demand she have me as a guest on her show.
Death to seditious Democrats
As reported by Atrios, Sean Hannity on his Wednesday night show equated speaking to Move On with speaking to the Klan.
HANNITY: Should -- why would Al Gore associate with a group that is that left wing and that radical? What if he spoke before the Klan? Would that -- would we not hold him in judgment for that?

Is this a fair comparison? Let's look at the two groups.

The Klan is a shadowy, semi-criminal organization with a very real criminal past that includes arson, assault, bank robbery, and murder all focused on the goal of intimidating and disenfranchising racial and religious minorities. This pattern would be called hate crimes and terrorism by any rational standard, except that the Ashcroft Justice Department feels that white Protestants are not capable of these crimes.

Move On is a legally formed political action group that registers voters and buys television ads critical of the president.

Hannity seems to feel that murder and criticizing Bush are equivalent crimes. Does he also think they should have equivalent punishments? Good thing he's not one of those hate filled Democrats, because then he might have said something outrageous.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Not impressed with his offer
The Iraqi Governing Council said no thanks to Bush's offer to tear down Abu Ghraib and build a new prison in its place.
President Bush's offer to demolish Abu Ghraib prison — made in a speech Monday night — found little support among Iraqis, with the head of the Governing Council yesterday calling the idea "a waste of resources."


Bush told an audience Monday night at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., that Abu Ghraib, scene of prisoner abuse by U.S. troops and notorious for torture under Saddam Hussein, will be destroyed "as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning."


Interior Minister Samir Shaker Mahmoud al-Sumeidi said he understood Bush's desire to "remove the memory and the stain" of the prisoner-abuse scandal. Still, he argued it would be better to change the way the prison is managed rather than construct a new building.

Don't they understand that all crises must be treated as an opportunity to send sweetheart contracts to Bush's friends? What will Bechtel and Halliburton stockholders do without the several hundred million that the prison construction job would have brought? If the Iraqis can't grasp as fundamental s principle of democracy as pork, how can they be said to be ready for self rule? Good thing the turn-over of power is a cosmetic sham; they need more time.

Snort. Good for them.
We need some clarification
A comment string at Pandagon brings to mind some questions for which I would like to have more information.

Abu Ghraib prison is a huge complex, over two hundred acres. The unit where the abuses that we have heard about took place is supposed to be the high value prisoner unit. What sort of process was used to decide who ended up in this unit? Most of us on the Left focus on the Red Cross report that more than 70% of the prisoners at Abu Graib were picked up in sweeps and not accused of anything specific. The Right has been focusing on the fact that this was the high value prisoner unit and therefore these guys must be guilty of something and deserving of violence (a chain of logic that does considerable violence to a couple of centuries of common law respect for due process). If we had a better idea of who the men in the high value prisoner unit were and how they got their we might be able to have a more productive debate.

There have been stories of humiliating little old ladies and raping women. There are no women in this unit of the prison. We need better explanations of where, when, and under what circumstances each abuse took place. Right now all we have is a bunch of anecdotes that are blended together in the public imagination and lacking context.

Another aspect of the confused blending of incidents is the eliding of interrogations and recreational violence. The Right narrative is of getting information from bad people in order to save lives (we're tough enough to do what needs to be done). Again, it's macho bullshit, but it allows them to remain on the side of the comic book heros. The Left narrative is of beating the crap out of innocent people for the heck of it. My feeling is that most of what has been revealed so far has been recreational violence and that the interrogation violence (torture) is still mostly covered up. I know there was some blurring of the borders at the prison, with guards asked to soften prisoners up for interrogation, so again, we need more context to make sense out of all of these horrific anecdotes.

The official excuse is to try and scapegoat the blame onto "a few bad apples." Our problem is that there were bad apples as well as sanctioned violations of international law. If we are going to nail those higher up the food chain, we need clarity about the different crimes committed, and we need to communicate it to the public in a sound-bite way.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Show no mercy
Al Gore pulls no punches when he says what's on all of our minds.
[From the Move On press release] Former Vice President Al Gore delivered a major foreign policy address in New York City today, sponsored by MoveOn PAC, linking the Abu Ghraib prison abuses to deep flaws in President Bush’s Iraq policy and calling for the resignation of 6 members of the Bush Administration team responsible for the failed policy and abuse of prisoners in Iraq. The members include Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor, George Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence Agency, Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Stephen A. Cambone, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

"George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.

"He promised to “restore honor and integrity to the White House.” Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.

"Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as “a decent respect for the opinion of mankind.” He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.

"How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words “We Are All Americans Now” and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world -- to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib."

There are too many good and powerful lines for me do do justice to with a mere sequence of quotes. Go read the whole speech. We need more of this kind of honest and even harsh criticism. Bush has brought shame on the entire country. He has undermined our moral standing in the world, endangered our citizens, and abused his power. He does not deserve a polite benefit of the doubt. He deserves the kind of criticism that Pelosi and Gore are giving him. We need more of this.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Who authorized this crap?
I have always believed that once you sell your soul it is very hard to get it back. That goes equally for individuals and for groups. The national equivalent of selling my soul is the embrace of ideas like trading rights and freedoms for security and the philosophy of "to defeat the enemy, we must become the enemy." Macho posturings about getting tough and "doing what needs to be done" or declarations that "everything changed on 9/11" don't change anything. If America sells its soul, that soul is gone, and America is no longer America; it is just a line on a map filled with people who are just as bad as any other.

This administration would have us turn our back on a two-hundred-thirty-year history of defending human rights. They want us to embrace vile, outmoded, and un-American concepts like indefinite imprisonment by executive order, collective punishment, hostage taking, permanent suspension of due process and judicial oversight, and torture. In effect, they want to sell our soul for us. These things don't just happen because someone at the top wants them to. We are still a society of laws and processes; we have not yet succumbed to the feuhrerprinzip, whether the administration likes it or not. And so, there is a trail that leads to torture.

Eric Muller is asking some very pointed questions about that trail and the steps that must have been taken for even sham legality.
In which executive departments have attorneys been called upon to review the legality under American and international law of interrogation methods such as "water boarding" (in which people are dipped into water to make them fear they're about to be drowned) and multi-year confinement of people in total isolation? (On the strategy of permanent solitary confinement, see the Declaration of Lowell Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, on which the administration has relied in court.)

What conclusions did these attorneys reach on the legality of these methods?

How were disputes among attorneys or departments about the legality of these methods resolved? By whom?

Was DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel ever asked to opine on the lawfulness of any specific methods of interrogation? On whether any specific method of interrogation or approach to interrogation constituted "torture" within the meaning of any federal statute or treaty, or a violation of any provision of the Geneva Conventions? Who prepared any such opinion? What conclusion did he or she reach? Did DOJ's position on any such question conflict with an opinion rendered in another executive department? If so, how was the dispute resolved?

Given that there was no explicit congressional authorization for techniques of this sort, was there discussion within the executive branch about whether any congressional act even implicitly approved of them? Or about whether it was necessary to inform Congress in any way about the more aggressive methods of interrogation? What position did lawyers take on these questions? How, and by whom, were any disputes on these questions resolved?

These are questions that any investigation into this horror needs to ask. This is the way we identify those who want to sell our soul and fire the bastards.

Fortunately, one person, one leader, or even one administration cannot sell our collective soul. They can only sell their own. If we repudiate them, we are saved; America is saved. If we embrace them, we are doomed; America is doomed. It's as simple as that.

Monday, May 24, 2004

I shouldn’t need to mention this, but…
I was not able to see our President’s speech tonight but I see from the headlines that he made the predictable promise to raze Abu Ghraib prison. Considering the foresight and competence that this administration has shown in all things relating to Iraq, I hope someone reminds them to take the prisoners out before they start knocking the walls down.
Questions about the Chalabi brou-ha-ha
Now that Chalabi has been cast into the outer darkness and is no longer our best friend. I don't think he'll find many defenders in Left Blogistan. Most lefties who have followed his career (I'm not part of that group, so catching up over the last couple months has been very interesting for me) have had no trouble at all assembling lists of reasons for cutting him off. But now that the right has discovered to their shock that he is a bad person, I think we need to go over that list and ask some questions.

The reasons for getting rid of Chalabi boil down to three points, he's corrupt, he sold us worthless intelligence, and he's in bed with the Iranians.

  • His corruption has been well reported in the press; why has the administration tolerated him for so long?

  • When an audit showed $22 million in his care missing, why did the administration continue to pay him and trust him?

  • When his intelligence turned out to be worthless, why did the administration continue to stand by it?

  • We are accusing him of passing classified information to the Iranians; who gave him (a foreign civilian) access to that information?

  • How long has the administration known he was in bed with the Iranians?

  • Why did they choose this moment to break relations with him?

  • Is the administration trying to scapegoat all of their failures in Iraq on to Chalabi and the Iranians?

  • Will this result in new investigations of the administration or just add flavor to the existing investigations?

  • Is the administration setting the stage for some election-time saber-rattling at the Iranians?

  • Are we still stupid enough to fall for that?

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The usual lies and worse
Everyday we get a new proof that our “leaders” are serial liars and probably wouldn’t know the truth if they stepped in it. The revelations are becoming so routine that those of us who try to pay attention and care run the risk of outrage burnout. The rest of the great unwashed are so accustomed the conservative relativist message of “they all do it” that they do not notice when corruption and outrageous behavior rise above the background noise.
Presented last fall with a detailed catalog of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the American military responded on Dec. 24 with a confidential letter asserting that many Iraqi prisoners were not entitled to the full protections of the Geneva Conventions.

The letter, drafted by military lawyers and signed by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, emphasized the "military necessity" of isolating some inmates at the prison for interrogation because of their "significant intelligence value," and said that prisoners held as security risks could legally be treated differently from prisoners of war or ordinary criminals.

The idea that the administration can, by executive diktat, declare new categories of people that are exempt form any rights or protections is surely the most corrosive legacy of this extraordinarily corrosive administration. Most of the Patriot Act abuses are, at their heart, the usual sort of wartime undermining of rights by scared people willing to trade liberty for security. This argument is something new. This argument will produce a legacy that we will have to deal with for decades unless the Supreme Court unambiguously squashes it. And what are the odds of this court doing that?

Friday, May 21, 2004

I is the state
It seems that pointing out that Bush's policies have failed is the same thing as attacking America and insulting its troops. Bush is not America. Bush is not the army.
"The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader," Pelosi said. "These policies are not working. But speaking specifically to Iraq, we have a situation where -- without adequate evidence -- we put our young people in harm's way."


"Nancy Pelosi should apologize for her irresponsible, dangerous rhetoric," DeLay, R-Texas, said. "She apparently is so caught up in partisan hatred for President Bush that her words are putting American lives at risk."


"The San Francisco/Boston Democrats led by John Kerry have now adopted 'Blame America First' as their official policy," RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie said in the statement.


Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said Pelosi’s comments “represent a grotesque political attack. They’re simply outrageous, and the American people will reject that type of blame America first.”


And Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said if all Pelosi could offer is taunting U.S. troops “by saying they are dying needlessly and are risking their lives on a shallow mission, then she should just go back to her pastel-colored condo in San Francisco and keep her views to herself.”

Someone needs to point out to the blowdried brownshirts of the GOP that America is the sum of its freedoms. If they don't like the First Amendment, they have no business representing or speaking for Americans. They should just go back to their beige-colored ranch houses and keep their views to themselves.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Educational toys
This is the top review at Amazon for the classic Giant Ant Farm educational toy.
Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm is a fun, interactive way to teach children ages 5 and up about unceasing, backbreaking toil and the cold, inescapable reality of death. My little ones had a front-row seat as worker ants labored, day in and day out, until they inevitably died of exhaustion, their futile efforts all for naught. The ant farm, complete with stackable tiny ant barns, see-through 'Antway' travel tubes, and connecting 'Antports,' is a child's window into the years of thankless, grueling labor that await them as worker drones in our post-industrial society. It's the fun way to teach your kids to accept their miserable fate stoically. The ants, which come separately from the farm, are bred in New Mexico and mailed directly to your home. Within days of arriving, a majority of the ants die at the hands of the small children responsible for regulating the temperature, humidity, and food supply in their delicate pseudo-ecosystem. Even under optimum conditions the ants survive no more than 20 weeks in the farm. As a result, children are assured the chance to contemplate the inescapability of their own mortality and the whole family will be reminded that the spectre of death hangs over every creature on this Earth. The lesson that the ants' labor is all in vain becomes clearer as time passes. During the first two to three weeks, the exclusively female worker ants are extremely productive, building an elaborate system of tunnels and hills amongst the miniature green trees and red plastic houses dotting the interior of the plastic dome. However, because neither male ants nor a fertile queen is provided with Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm, making reproduction impossible, the farm is doomed to extinction from day one. You'll learn such fascinating things about the natural world, like the fact that the social structure of an ant colony is extremely complex, with individual members occupying such castes as soldier, messenger, and larvae attendant. At some point, Uncle Milton's ants become cognizant that their hierarchical structure has been stripped away, rendering their already near-meaningless existence totally futile. There seems to be a breaking point at about the 22-day mark when the dejected ants begin to die off en masse. At this point the ant farm enters what is known as the "death-pile phase." A spot is chosen by the worker ants to deposit their dead, and the burial mound steadily grows as the few remaining ants devote more of their time to gathering and burying others. Yes, with Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm, arbeit macht fun!

This was sent to me by my boss, who doesn't know I'm writing this post on the company's time. I she a cool boss or what? Thanks boss!

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Let's have a big welcome for the Ediacaran
Not much I can say about this except, "cool."
Geologists have added a new period to their official calendar of Earth's history - the first in 120 years.

The Ediacaran Period covers some 50 million years of ancient time on our planet from 600 million years ago to about 542 million years ago.

It officially becomes part of the Neoproterozoic, when multi-celled life forms started to take hold on Earth.

However, Russian geologists are unhappy their own title - the Vendian - which was coined in 1952, was not chosen.

Monday, May 17, 2004

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine
Gay marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for almost twenty-four hours, and yet I feel my marriage is going strong. How long is it supposed to take for the institution of marriage, undefended by a constitutional amendment as it is, to collapse under this assault? And just what does an undermined institution of marriage look like? Am I supposed to suddenly find Rick Santorum (R-PA) attractive? Does anyone find Rick Santorum (R-PA) attractive? Am I supposed to run out and have an affair with an underage marsupial--or is my wife? What is the age of consent for a marsupial? This is so confusing.
Best denial since Ari
The statement from DoD spokesperson Lawrence Di Rita casting doubt on Sy Hersh's latest revelations really deserves a prize. This is the best bit of bureaucratic non-denying denial that I've seen since Ari Fleisher retired. After nice tough sounding lines like "outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture" he gets to the prize winner:
No responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as witnessed in the recent photos and videos.

Wow. No one "approved any program... intended to result in... abuses." Really!? That wasn't the whole intent of the program. And I thought it went something like this:

Rumsfeld: Paul we need a program that violates international treaties and all standards of civilized human behavior. Something that will bring shame and humiliation to the US armed forces and the people of the US as a whole. It needs to be outrageous and disgusting, yet capable of corrupting even the best intentioned soldiers. Can you take care of this for me?

Cambone: You can count on me boss. I'll even make sure it produces unpleasant visuals that can dominate the news cycle for weeks.

Rumsfeld: Yeah. That's kind of thinking that will take you places in this administration.

Di Rita assures us that's not how we got into this mess.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Why I’m not rich
For better or worse, this is my inaugural post over at From the Trenches. If you haven't checked out Mick's work there, I encourage you to do so.

Mick has a pair of linked posts that talk about attitudes toward the poor toward and attitudes of the poor about being poor (here and here). In both, he hits on that unpleasant question that smart poor people occasionally run into (and hate), “if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” For most of us (I include myself in the smart but not rich category) our first impulse is to bellow, “if you’re so rich, why aren’t you smart, you stupid bag of phlegm?” Though only the Scottish among us would actually call someone a “stupid bag of phlegm” the impulse to shout something similar is part of the explanation.

Before I explain why I’m not rich, let’s look at the question. This is one of those rude questions that is offensive because it contains so many other ugly and hidden questions. Social scientists call those hidden questions a subtext. The name isn’t important, but since I’m an underemployed historian, I’ll use subtext because these words are about all I have to show for my education.

The three most obvious subtexts to “if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” are the implication that there must be something wrong with someone who uses a talent to do anything except become rich, the questioner’s open hostility to the non-rich, and the idea that talent automatically leads to wealth.

The first two subtexts are really two sides of the same coin: there is something wrong with you and I hate you because there is something wrong with you. This, Mick discussed as the Myth of Meritocracy. All cultures regard success and other desirable conditions as somehow divinely ordained. If the universe is orderly and just, it’s a short step from success being divinely ordained to success being a divine reward for superior attributes, usually morality. The successful are morally better than the non-successful. The two best-known forms of this idea are Calvinism and the Victorian concept of a criminal class. In Calvinism, God recognized moral superiority with earthly success. Thus, riches were a sign of God’s favor and the rich were to be adored, while poverty was a sign of God’s disfavor and the poor were to be despised. The Victorians used nineteenth century scientific concepts to modify Calvinism into the idea of a criminal class: the lower classes were predisposed to criminality because of their inferior moral evolution. This line of logic leads directly to eugenics and final solutions.

The reason this ugly line of thought has survived is that it is much deeper ingrained than these two well-known examples. Think of science fiction, fairy tales, and folk wisdom. The good are always beautiful and the evil always misshapen and ugly. Cinderella’s stepsisters were as ugly as a mad scientist. This goes against our own experience, but the myth is so deeply ingrained that we ignore experience to stick with what we know is true. In high school were the most beautiful and successful (according to high school standards) the kindest and most pure? How many cheerleaders were self-involved princesses? How many jocks were violent bullies? We all knew exceptions, but if success is a sign of heavenly favor, doesn’t high school suggest that heaven favors jerks?

The third subtext, talent automatically leads to wealth, is less of a philosophical position than a plain old fallacy. Why do we assume that all talents lead to wealth? Why don’t we assume that wealth is the result of pure dumb luck or that the ability to accumulate wealth is a singular talent unrelated to intelligence or any other talent? This is a continuation of the previous mythology; the successful want to claim that their accomplishment is not just a result of their superior moral status; they want to claim all virtues. How secure can the top be if you admit that your “inferiors” are superior in any way? The Myth of Meritocracy is necessary for segmented societies—classes—to exist.

What does this have to do with stupid bags of phlegm and my lack of wealth? If wealth is not the result of superiority in all things, what is it a result of? As is usually the case in real life, there is no single simple answer. Sometimes wealth is the result of superior talent or intelligence. Sometimes it is the result of being in the right place at the right time—luck. Sometimes it is the result of birth and social connections. No one thing guarantees wealth and success. But some things help.

Wealth begats wealth and wealth likes wealth. The people who control wealth and, frankly, control most of the opportunity for the next generation of wealth, are, like all of us, most comfortable around people like themselves. Rich people will give opportunity to people who speak their cultural language. There is no conspiracy of race or class here, it’s simple human nature at its lowest. Some smart people speak, or can fake, the language of wealth and get the opportunities. Other smart people lack even basic social skills and can only hope for a miracle of economic demand to open opportunity to them, as happened to computer nerds in the late 90’s. Lots of smart people are in between.

That’s where I come in. I’m a history nerd, I’m smart, but I’m not rich.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Lorem ipsum
One of my favorite ways to look for new things is to see who’s linking to archy, on the theory that if they like what I like, I might like what they like. That’s how I found this. Exceive links to me and to the Lorem Ipsum Generator.

You’ve probably run across Lorem ipsum at some point in your life, maybe without even noticing it. It’s the standard dummy text used in printing layout. It usually begins "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur…” Lots of desktop publishing applications use it. The Blogger templates use it. I always thought it was faux Latin. I was wrong.
Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged.


Contrary to popular belief, Lorem Ipsum is not simply random text. It has roots in a piece of classical Latin literature from 45 BC, making it over 2000 years old. Richard McClintock, a Latin professor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, looked up one of the more obscure Latin words, consectetur, from a Lorem Ipsum passage, and going through the cites of the word in classical literature, discovered the undoubtable source. Lorem Ipsum comes from sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of "de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum" (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, written in 45 BC.

The unnamed, and apparently unemployed, author of the lorem ipsum site has still more trivia and the full text and translation of the original Cicero passages. He or she also has designed a cool Lorem Ipsum Generator that will churn out endless pages of authentic looking faux Latin text useful for graphic design, stage props, or party favors (assuming you have those kinds of parties).
"Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit..."

"There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain..."

This kind of site is why I love the Internet.

Friday, May 14, 2004

There's nothing like moral consistency
And this is nothing like moral consistency. I'm not the first one to point this out this morning, but that's only because those other bloggers on the East coast have an unfair time zone advantage.
The Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado Springs has issued a pastoral letter saying that American Catholics should not receive communion if they vote for politicians who defy church teaching by supporting abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research.

Is this a political statement or a religious statement? Let's look at the list of issues he mentions "abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research." Are any politically charged issues missing from the list? How about the death penalty and unjust war? Does this unbalanced list seem to favor one party over another. Is the Bishop making the sort of partisan endorsement that could endanger the church's tax-exempt status? Looks that way to me, but don't take my word for it, let's go back to the Bishop.
The letter from Bishop Sheridan will undoubtedly intensify the debate, partly because it sounds in places like a political endorsement, Catholic observers said.

Bishop Sheridan wrote that the November elections were "critical" because for the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court legalizing abortion in 1973, the number of abortions was declining.

"We cannot allow the progress that has been made to be reversed by a pro-abortion president, Senate or House of Representatives," the bishop wrote.

No politician or career bureaucrat in their right mind is going to remove the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church or even threaten it in public. That would be career suicide. Still it might be a good time for Bishop Sheridan's colleagues to have a talk with him and tell him to tone it down. The American Church is already woking on a policy for dealing with contentious political issues. Grandstanding by conservative bishops will just make their job more difficult.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, who is heading a committee studying how bishops should relate to Catholic politicians, said Thursday in his archdiocesan newspaper that he did not favor using the eucharist as a "sanction."

Cardinal McCarrick wrote, "I do not favor a confrontation at the altar rail with the sacred body of the Lord Jesus in my hand."


The committee of bishops headed by Cardinal McCarrick is not expected to issue recommendations until after the presidential election.

Just to be clear, the problem here is not that Bishop Sheridan is strongly defending the Church's position on sensitive issues that are also being debated in the political realm. The problem is that he is picking and choosing his issues in a way that favors one political party and he is explicitly telling his parishioners how to vote. He is not asking them to vote their consciences; he is telling them to follow orders. This crosses the line of separation. If his was a small independent Protestant church, their tax exemption would be on the line. Only the fact that he is part of a large, politically influential body saves his church from the consequences of his actions.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Media Matters
I'm going to have to add David Brock's new project, Media Matters, to my blogroll. For those of you not familliar with Brock, he was a rising star in the ranks of Scaife funded far right hatchet-men / "journalists" in the early nineties. Then he had a sudden attack of conscience. No one likes a turncoat and many on the Left prefer to keep Brock at an arm's length. But anything Brock says is gaurenteed to sent the far right punditocracy into frothing fits of incoherence. That makes him an angel in my book.

This week Brock has turned his guns on Rush Limbaugh and the big, fat, drug-addicted idiot is feeling a wee bit persecuted. Good.
Media Matters for America today launched an aggressive television ad campaign spotlighting highly controversial comments on the torture of Iraqi prisoners made by Rush Limbaugh, the political commentator with the largest radio listenership in the U.S. The 30-second ad contrasts the Bush Administration's denunciation of Iraqi prisoner torture with Limbaugh's May 4th statements comparing the torture to a college fraternity prank and people 'having a good time.'

Voiceover: 'Secretary Rumsfeld called the torture of Iraqis sadistic...cruel...'

Rumsfeld: 'fundamentally un-American.'

Voiceover: 'But here's what Rush Limbaugh said:'

Limbaugh: 'This is no different than what happens at the skull & bones initiation...I’m talking about people having a good time. These people -- you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of needing to blow some steam off?'

Voiceover: 'this is the most listened-to political commentator in America?'

'We first posted reports of Limbaugh's comments to our website,,' said David Brock, president and CEO of Media Matters for America. 'His radio show reaches 20 million Americans each week, with many of these listeners considering him a legitimate news source. We are running the ad to spotlight whether Rush Limbaugh is a credible source of information.'

Media Matters for America's ad will run for four days in the Washington, DC area on major cable networks including CNBC, CNN, ESPN, FOX News and MSNBC.

Media Matters for America's website, currently features numerous analytical reports and full transcripts of Rush Limbaugh's Iraqi prisoner torture comments, including:

May 3, 2004 - Limbaugh likens the photos to 'anything you'd see Madonna, or Britney Spears do on stage.'

May 5, 2004 - Limbaugh claims 'the reaction to the stupid torture is an example of the feminization of this country.'

May 6, 2004 - Limbaugh calls the torture a 'brilliant maneuver' and the photos 'good old American pornography.'

May 10, 2004 - Limbaugh mimics barking in describing a photo of a nude Iraqi prisoner terrorized by vicious guard dogs [later announces that he was incorrect in asserting that the prisoner had not actually been attacked].

May 11, 2004 - Limbaugh equates brutal sodomizing of Iraqi prisoners to the 'cigar in the Oval Office.'

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Western Strategy
Ezra over at Pandagon has started a nice discussion of the Western Strategy. I'm a big fan of the Western Strategy. Though I have mentioned it in passing a few times, I haven't gone into it in any detail. It's time to fix that, I suppose (warning: pedantic background material follows).

The Western Strategy is a simple demographic observation. For years the West has been divided into a safe Democratic West (the coast states) and a safe Republican West (the mountain and basin states). Demographic changes along the southern edge of the Republican West are turning some of their safe states into swing states, with the possibility that they might eventually become out and out Democratic in the near future. The states most often mentioned are New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada. The demographic changes in question are mostly the rapid growth of the Hispanic population, but the rapid urbanization of some areas (in the form of retirees) is also an important factor.

There is more strategy involved here than just waiting for the fruit to fall from the trees.

First, is how to appeal to these states. Hispanics are not a monolithic group of loyal Democrats. They are a diverse population of many competing factions and interests. Republicans have been courting them for years hoping to make Hispanics their Blacks (a formula that is offensive on more levels than I care to go into at the moment). Fortunately, these efforts have been more than balanced out by the anti-immigration and racist idiot wings of the Republican Party. Of course, the more attention Democrats pay to the Hispanic vote the more opportunities we have to come across as condescending panderers just like the Republicans.

Second, is when to make that appeal. This is a question of resources. It would be nice if we

UPDATE:What happened to the rest of my post? Dammit. This is an attempt to reconstruct what I started to say. I only have a partial copy here. Assume the original was at least 30% more brilliant.

Second, is when to make that appeal. This is a question of resources. It would be nice if we could contest every office in every state. But we can't, so we perform a classic triage of the states. Some states are so safe that the national party doesn't need to spend too many resources there. Some are so Republican that it would be a waste of money to spend there. Both parties spend most of their money on the states that fall in between, that are genuinely in play. If the same states always fell into the same categories there would be no point in having this discussion. They don't, and the parties are constantly monitoring for tiny changes that might shift a state from one category to another. Even if the Southwestern states aren't ready to go Democratic, we might be able to force the Republicans to spend a lot to keep them. Money they spend keeping Nevada in their column is money not available to fight for Ohio.

Third, is the question of whether the Western Strategy replaces our older strategies or is in addition to those strategies. Although this is also a question of resources, it is most often voiced as the question, are we giving up on the South. For forty years the Republicans have been taking the South away from the Democratic Party. This shift is almost complete. For the duration of this shift Democrats have held as an article of faith that we cannot elect a Democrat to the White House without a few southern states. After the last census some Democrats noticed that this is no longer true. If Gore had taken New Hampshire, as Kerry is likely to do, he wouldn't have needed Florida.

So should we give up the South? My feeling is "No." The South-less Strategy leaves no margin for error in the presidential election. The South-less Strategy ignores other parts of the government to concentrate on the White House. Although there are now very few statewide races that a Democrat can win in the South, there are plenty of individual districts that are winnable, and we need those districts to regain control of the House.

The South-less Strategy is short-sighted. The Republican tide has peaked in the South. The more the Republicans turn the South into a one party system, the more any dissatisfaction with the staus quo will turn to the Democrats. We need to maintain a visible presence and organization in the South to sieze these opportunities when the appear.

Does this mean I'm against the Western Strategy. At this point my answer is "No" on this, too. We can't afford to surrender any complete region and the West is likely to pay dividends before the South will.

It is important in any discussion on strategy to remember that the Republicans are making these same calculations (even though their leader can't pronounce the word "strategy"). While we try to take the Southwest from them, they are trying to take Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, and Wisconsin from us. It might not be possible to keep all of those states. The key is to make sure that for every state we lose we take a bigger state from them.
Remember when sending Rumsfeld out to be rude to reporters, foreigners, and the Senate was called a “charm offensive?” I don’t suppose we’ll be seeing that phrase used in close context with his name any time soon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Moment of silence
I started a couple of posts, but don’t have the heart today. What happened to Nick Berg makes me sick. His own last few minutes must have been horrific, but at least his pain was relatively quick. What I keep getting back to is his poor family and the media circus that they are going to be subjected to. Their pain will not be quick. Everyone will want to co-opt Nick and the family to support their position on Iraq and the Bush administration. Television crews will stalk them. Remember, May is ratings season. We can’t imagine what they are going through and we have no right to interrupt them. Leave the people alone.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Pop quiz

"Donald Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had," the vice president said in a statement relayed to CNN through a spokesman Saturday.

Is the above quote evidence that Dick Cheney: is a) insane, b) evil, c) senile, d) it doesn't really matter, he's got to go in any case.

The correct answer is D.
Who's in charge here?
There are no end of snotty comments we could make about Bush's bold leadership and moral clarity here. But who needs to joke when McClellan is out there openly admitting that Bush won't have an opinion till Rumsfeld tells him what it is?
QUESTION: Scott, given that there are these other pictures out there, it's been acknowledged by the Secretary and you just mentioned, why not just release all of the pictures and all of the video clips that exist, just all at once, and stop the dribble, dribble that's, you know, one-by-one --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we are in close contact with the Pentagon on those issues, and I think the Pentagon is working to address those issues.

QUESTION: Is there discussion that, perhaps, it might be better to just release it all to the public?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Pentagon is looking at all those issues. I mean, they have to take into account other considerations, as well. There are ongoing investigations, and the Pentagon has to look at those issues and take those issues into account.

QUESTION: Do you think it will be discussed this morning at this meeting? Has the President expressed his view as to whether it should all be released?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think that those are issues the Pentagon is working to address. And we remain in close contact with the Pentagon on those issues.

QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of -- I mean, obviously you said the President is -- hasn't necessarily seen them, but he knows what's in the pictures. What is his feeling, at this point, about releasing the pictures? Or is there just still an active discussion going on about whether or not --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has made his views known, in terms of when it comes to the investigations that are ongoing. I think he's stated that. But, again, I think the Pentagon is the one who is working to address these matters. We're going to continue to stay in close contact with them on these issues. But as I said, the Pentagon has to look at other factors, as well, when they're considering these issues.

QUESTION: But it will be his decision whether or not to release them, right?

MR. McCLELLAN: These are issues the Pentagon is working to address, and they have to take into account other considerations. I think that's the way I would describe it.

I wonder if Barbara and Senior are as embarassed by this as thesy should be. As an American, I'm embarassed.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

It is Vietnam
I’ve lost track of all the reasons we’ve been told why Iraq isn’t Vietnam. The first reasons were downright silly. Vietnam was wet and jungley; Iraq is dry and deserty. Vietnam is long and skinny; Iraq is fat and lumpy. For months the reasons why Iraq isn’t Vietnam have been getting more sophisticated, but no more convincing. The last few I paid any attention to, brought out charts and graphs (I’m a sucker for visual aids) of casualties by month and public support and proudly pointed out that the Vietnam and Iraq lines are completely different shapes. I’m not an expert on the Vietnam War, but I am old enough to remember when Viet Nam was two words and that gives me enough authority to be opinionated on this.

Iraq is Vietnam.

It’s not because of the weather, or the geopolitical context, or the impact on folk/protest songs that Iraq is becoming Vietnam. Iraq is Vietnam because it is a political war that is of no benefit to the US as a whole. Iraq is Vietnam because it is distracting us from pressing dangerous problems at home and driving us into a deficit that will take a generation to pay off. Iraq is Vietnam because it has cost us the good will of most of the world and made our most precious values appear hypocritical coming from our mouths. Iraq is Vietnam because it is brutalizing a generation of American soldiers, leading them commit crimes that would not ordinarily cross their imaginations. Finally, Iraq is Vietnam because the honest patriots who oppose the war are being tarred as unpatriotic by cowardly flag wavers even though morality and history are on our side. We must get rid of the maniacs who have brought the disaster of a second Vietnam down on us.
Happy birthday, dammit
Ezra Klein of Pandagon, one of the best bloggers around, turns twenty today. This, of course, leads me to recall what I was like at twenty and to ponder just how much of my life I’ve wasted. At least I can buy beer. I think I’ll do just that to complete this mood.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

From the Trenches
Mick from Omnium just started a new project dedicated to working-class and low-income issues called From the Trenches. He’s starting out with lots of news and some commentary and has very exciting plans for the blog’s future. I think Mick has identified a important niche that needs to be filled. From the Trenches can be a strong and valuable addition to the voices of the Left in the blogosphere. I’ll be guest posting from time-to-time. Drop by and check it out.
They like me – Part 2
Jeff over at Notes on the Atrocities has named me his Daily Link today. I’m genuinely touched. In this big impersonal world, kind words and recognition are always appreciated. By the time I tell Mom about it, the Daily Link will be transformed into a highly prestigious and very important Internet award. It’s the least I can do to return his kind gesture.

Friday, May 07, 2004

A question
I’m puzzled about something. We keep hearing on the news that the “contractors” at Abu Ghraib and other prisons in our war zones are not subject to the Military Code of Justice. Okay, I have no trouble believing that, but what about American civilian law. Are we to believe that in all of the territory that the US has had under military rule in the last century—from Germany and Japan after WWII, to the Panama Canal bases, to bases in Germany, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Korea—that no civilian employee has ever committed a crime? Are they really saying that there are no relevant precedents under which to deal with these perps? Or is the problem that this administration does not want to admit that civil law has sway in overseas military territories like—oh, say—Guantanamo Bay?

Any lawyers out there want to chime in?
Fair play for Tom
We lefty bloggers beat up on Tom Friedman a lot. Sometimes he deserves it and sometimes we’re being hypercritical. Prior to 2002, I disagreed with maybe one in ten of Friedman’s columns. But that tenth column just drove me nuts. I explained my feelings to my wife once as thinking Friedman wrote well thought out columns most of the time, but every so often he would just lose patience and write a childish screw ‘em all rant. Since the ramp up to the Iraq invasion, most of his columns have been of that sort. Yesterday, he wrote a calmer column admitting we are in deep crap and may not get out of this unless heroic measures are taken. It’s not a perfect column, but rather than dwell on what’s wrong with his position, I want to recognize that he’s headed in the right direction and especially give him credit for a good hook.
I have never known a time in my life when America and its president were more hated around the world than today…. It's no wonder that so many Americans are obsessed with the finale of the sitcom 'Friends' right now. They're the only friends we have, and even they're leaving.

As Atrios says, reward good behavior.
It must be true
When Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) commented in a news conference that "the direction [of the war] has got be changed or it is unwinnable," republicans jumped on him with both feet. Tom DeLay accused Murtha of participating in a "calculated and craven political stunt." Since DeLay is the congress' undisputed leading authority on participating in calculated and craven political stunts, I suppose it must be true. Rep. Murtha must be so embarassed to be in DeLay's league.
A few days back, I mentioned that it was the policy here at archy to avoid vulgar invective and abusive language when discussing anyone not named Limbaugh. That statement should have read "not named Limbaugh or DeLay." The management apologises for any pain or confusion this omission may have caused our readers.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Good news from Darby
In a record turn out, voters in Darby, Montana voted over two to one to reject creationist candidates for school board. “Preliminary counts showed incumbent Bob Wetzsteon and Erik Abrahamsen with a 42 percent lead over incumbent Gina Schallenberger and Robert House in the Darby school board race for two three-year terms.”

Schallenberger’s efforts to introduce an “objective origins” curriculum created by creationist think tanks the Intelligent Design Network and the Discovery Institute has divided tiny Darby for months. Since first proposing the curriculum last December, Darby has lost its school superintendent, had the high school students go out on strike, incurred multiple lawsuits against the school board, failed to hire a new superintendent twice, and seen their town ridiculed in state and national news. Let’s wish the kids a quiet and uncontroversial graduation. They deserve it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

No one showed him the script
Since at least the Challenger exploded, I’ve hated the word hero. Too often it simply means “died in a highly visible manner,” visibility for the news media being more important than any actual heroic activity. When Pat Tillman died I braced myself for the usual nonsense and was not disappointed. Just to be clear at the beginning, I am not diminishing the life or death of Pat Tillman, I just hate the media circus that accompanies it. Admittedly, I resent the fact that an athlete’s death is valued more in our society than any of the other nearly eight hundred sons and daughters who came home in a box, but I don’t blame him.

In death, Pat Tillman has been given awards and a promotion. The infotainment media has pulled out the hero script and checked off the hero boxes for Tillman while putting on the hero show. But Tillman won’t cooperate.

What does the script demand? A hero must be brave—no problem. Check. Strong—he was a pro athlete. Check. Humble—he went to another town to enlist so he wouldn’t be recognized. Check. Selfless—he died for his comrades and country. Check. Pious…
Tillman's youngest brother, Rich, wore a rumpled white T-shirt, no jacket, no tie, no collar, and immediately swore into the microphone. He hadn't written anything, he said, and with the starkest honesty, he asked mourners to hold their spiritual bromides.

"Pat isn't with God,'' he said. "He's f -- ing dead. He wasn't religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he's f -- ing dead.''

Okay, but that’s just one thing. Let’s see, what was next? Oh yes. Manly…
His brother-in-law and close friend, Alex Garwood, described how Tillman handled his duties when he became godfather to Garwood's son. He came to the ceremony dressed as a woman. Not as a religious commentary. He was doing a balancing act.

"We had two godfathers, no godmother,'' Garwood explained. And what NFL player turned Army Ranger wouldn't don drag to make that math work?


He was the same person who often talked late into the night with his linebackers coach at ASU, prying apart stereotypes about college football players and future soldiers.

"He talked about gays,'' Lyle Setencich, the former ASU assistant said. "He asked me, 'Could you coach gays?' " Setencich told Tillman yes. He could, and he had.

So Pat Tillman was a human being. He refuses to fit into our script for a made for TV movie hero. In death he continues to be his own person. His memory belongs to his family, teammates, and friends. He refuses to let infotainment executives and politicians steal his image and make it a tool to sell their products. I suppose there is only one word for a person like that. The word is hero.
More proof of the decline of science education in America
The first question from the audience at Bush's Dayton rally began: "In 1998, due to the impending recession, I started living the American nightmare." In both logic and physics, effects always come after causes. I suppose in some kind of faith based quantum economics, effects could precede causes. Maybe someone from the Discovery Institute can explain it to me. The gang at Pandagon are having fun with this.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Moore update
It seems to be a slow day in the blogosphere today. Although there is plenty to talk about, many of us are experiencing outrage overload and need to take some time off. This seems like a good time check in our old friend former judge Roy Moore and his crusade to relegalize God in America. Somebody once told Roy that believing in God had become illegal in America. Despite the fact that Roy was a judge and had all the legal tools in the world at his fingertips, he never figured out that they were just pulling his leg.

Things were looking pretty good for Roy last month, his lawsuit to be restored to the Alabama Supreme Court was moving along, he was making a lot of money on the lecture circuit, the candidates in the upcoming Alabama Supreme Court elections were defining themselves as pro- and anti-Roy, with his former spokesman leading the pack, and a fringe party was courting him to become their presidential candidate. He was in the public eye and had plenty of options. But last week, things took a turn for the worse. On Friday a specially convened court unanimously decided against his suit and a group of Alabama citizens announced their own suit to get Roy repay the state of Alabama for some of the money they have wasted on Roy’s adventures in constitutional law.

In a nice twist of the knife, the court’s written opinion cited Bible verses as well as law on explaining their decision.
"The evidence of Chief Justice Moore's violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics was sufficiently strong and convincing that the Court of the Judiciary could hardly have done otherwise than to impose the penalty of removal from office," the opinion said.


Special Supreme Court Justice Harry J. Wilters wrote a two-page addition to the court's opinion that cited six Bible verses on obeying the law.

Among the verses was I Peter 2:13: "Submit yourselves to every human institution for the sake of the Lord."

Moore took his defeat with the same dignity that we have come to expect from him. He denied the legitimacy of the court and its decision and called the decision politically motivated. He will, of course, appeal to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Constitution Party is getting tired of waiting for Roy to make up his mind. They already have an announced candidate, Michael Peroutka, who has said he will step aside if Moore wants the job. But there is a deadline. The Party needs to secure its place on various state ballots (they claim to already have forty states), and they have a convention coming up. Peroutka is going about his business as if he will be the candidate; today he is announcing his running mate. Soon it will be too late for Roy to take over. After that, he’ll be out of a job and soon after that his fifteen minutes of fame will end. Then what will he do for attention?

Saturday, May 01, 2004

The wisdom of bumper stickers and anthropomorphic flowers
In the last twenty-four hours or so, I’ve seen the crisis of American foreign policy summed up in two unlikely places, on a bumper sticker and in this week’s Bob the Angry Flower comic.

I saw the bumper sticker on a car near Capitol Hill in Seattle. It had nice black script on a white background, but looked homemade.
Who Would Jesus Bomb?

Bob the Angry Flower puts the same question in a different form.

The coincidence of both of them showing up would be almost spooky if wasn’t—you know—not really spooky at all.