Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Mark Foley affair doesn't end with his hasty resignation. There will be aftershocks for a while to come. The Republican leadership wants to make this go away as quickly as possible, but, with less than six weeks till the election, it's unlikely that it will vanish fast enough for their tastes. Two questions stand out at the moment, has there been a cover-up and what does this mean for the election?

The short answer to the first question is "yes, there has been a cover-up." At least five Republicans in positions of responsibility knew about Foley's inappropriate* e-mail contacts with teenage pages and kept quiet about it. More revealing is the fact that some of them saw this more as a problem for their reelection campaign than as a problem of ethics.

House Majority Leader John Boehner told The Washington Post last night that he's known about this since last spring. Rep. John Shimkus, the head of the Page Board, knew about the problem since last fall, but thought it was enough to take Foley's word that the e-mails were innocent and he wouldn't do it again. Shimkus closed the matter, off the record, without notifying the only Democratic member of the board, Dale Kildee. Rep. Rodney Alexander, who sponsored one of the pages has known about Foley's inappropriate messages for "10 or 11 months." Alexander might have a partial excuse for his silence because, he claims, the parents of the page asked him to keep it quiet (assuming he didn't pressure them in that direction). On the other hand, he reported it to Tom Reynolds, chairman of the House Republican reelection committee, but not to the Ethics Committee. Reynolds says he notified Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert in February, three months after first hearing about it. As Mustang Bobby observed, they must be getting their legal advice from the Vatican.

Let's be very clear what the issue is here: the Republican Party only became interested in investigating a possible sexual predator in their midst when it become a public embarrassment for them. As long as the only issue was the good of the victims, they couldn't have cared less. This is potentially a criminal issue. If Foley is charged with a crime, then anyone who was in on the cover-up should be charged with withholding evidence.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded an investigation into the Foley matter last night, but Boehner was able to stifle further public discussion by referring the matter to the Ethics Committee. Normally, this would seem like the right thing to do, but for several years the Ethics Committee has been a black hole of inaction. The committee is currently headed by Doc Hastings who, I'm sad to say, represents my mother's district in central Washington. Hastings is part of the class of 1994, the group of Republicans elected in the Gingrich revolution. For twelve years he has been a dependable Party soldier and the perfect picture of a do nothing rubber-stamp in hands of the Party leadership. Hastings was appointed to head the Ethics Committee two years ago to replace Joel Hefley, who had proven undependable to the party when he allowed Tom DeLay to be investigated and criticized.

Hastings will no doubt try to delay action on this till after the election and the Republican Party will take the position that they can't discuss the issue while an investigation is going on. Not only has there been a cover up for the last year, the Party's electoral hopes depend on their ability to keep the cover-up going for another six weeks.

This brings us to the second question: what does this mean for the election? It's clear that this potential scandal has figured into the Republican electoral strategy since they found out about it. At the beginning of the year, Foley was interested in campaigning for Bill Nelson's Senate seat. The Party pressured Foley not to run. At the time many observers believed that the Party was afraid that Foley's well known, but not publicly admitted, homosexuality would be a liability in conservative northern Florida. Foley's dropping out of the race opened the way for Katherine Harris to get the Party's nomination. Now it appears that the Party feared far more than homophobia in north Florida; they knew this skeleton was in Foley's closet (no pun intended) and had to know he couldn't stand the kind of extra scrutiny he would face in a Senate race. Even a Harris candidacy was better than that. Now they have both.

Under Florida law, it's too late to remove Foley's name from the ballot. However, the Republican party has seven days from the time of his resignation in which to name a new candidate. That candidate will get any votes cast for Foley in November. There will, no doubt, be considerable voter confusion over this. With the Republican Party facing the very real prospect of losing the House, they can't afford to surrender even one seat. They will get the highest profile candidate they can and pour a lot of money into the race.

Locally, the big question is, can even the most beloved candidate rise above the confusion and public revulsion associated with Foley in the short time they have. Nationally, the question is, who participated in the cover-up and how many of them will be dragged down by the scandal.

Five Republican congressmen knew about this, discussed it, and kept it quiet. I'm not sure if that technically rises to the level of criminal conspiracy, but it needs to be investigated by someone other than a tame committee run by Republican congressmen. We need to know if the national Republican Party or the Florida Republican Party knew about this and participated in the cover-up. This story should not be allowed to die, nor should it be scapegoated off on to the shoulders of Mark Foley alone. The entire Republican House leadership needs to explain itself. The voters deserve some answers before the election so they can decide if these are the types of people they want to represent them.

This is no longer just about Mark Foley and his victims.

Update: In the comments, Bryan corrects me on the Florida background.

* So far, only the first e-mail exchange published by ABC News is being discussed by the members Congress. Though creepy, inappropriate is probably the correct word for that particular exchange. The other exchanges, that have since been published, are explicit discussions of masturbation and, therefore, possible felonies. The Republican leadership hasn't admitted any prior knowledge of those exchanges. I'm not sure if any reporters have pushed them on this.
Mom and Dad are fighting
There might be nothing to this, but does anyone have any inside gossip about why AmericaBlog has been dropped from Atrios' blogroll?

Friday, September 29, 2006

One down
Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) just resigned from Congress, effective immediately, after some inappropriate e-mails he wrote to a former male page were published. Foley's seat was considered a safe one for the Republican Party.

Normally I enjoy a good sex scandal mixing things up during the election season, but Foley makes my skin crawl. Foley is not just a gay Republican or a middle-aged guy hitting on someone less than a third his age; Foley is the co-chair of the US House Missing and Exploited Children Caucus. This is someone engaging the very actiity he is supposed to be in charge of fighting. Since "hypocritical" has been watered down through overuse it no longer has the power to describe how contemptable this is. This is betrayal of the worst sort.

The down side of this easy pick up of a seat in the House for our side is that the religious right is going to jump all over this as evidence for their "all homosexuals are pedophiles" narrative. It will give them ammunition to hurt a lot of innocent people. The responsibility for that pain will also rest on Foley's shoulders.
It's not quite too late
I have always hoped that America would outlive me, but I have always carried a nagging dread that it would not. Over the last five years we have taken a number of steps away from being America. Yesterday was the worst of all.

The United States of America is neither a true territorial state nor a nation-state. It is not a state primarily defined by a unique territory nor is it defined by a unique ethnic group of Americans. America is a set of institutions and values and Americans are those people holding citizenship under those institutions and believing in those values. When we abandon those institutions and values we cease to be America. A certain body of territory might still exist on the map with the name "United States of America" and the same group of people might still inhabit it, but it will no longer be America and they will no longer be Americans.

Nothing lasts forever. That's a simple law of nature. Sooner or later everything ends. Some things die; the end is neat and clean. Others whither away and the end is harder to pin down. Sometimes it's a bang, sometimes it's a whimper, but the end always comes. Someday everyone we know will die. Someday everything we have built will be broken and cast aside. Someday America will be gone.

Most people have a hard time believing that. They prefer to believe that every swing one direction will be followed by a swing the other direction. They prefer to believe that everyone will get their turn and that the mistakes of one group will always be fixed by the next group. They prefer to believe that there will always be a tomorrow. Those are pleasant, reassuring beliefs, but none of those things are guaranteed. Some changes are irreversible.

One by one the Bush administration has crossed lines that America never would have crossed: unprovoked war, state authorized torture, unlimited detention without charge or trial, wholesale wiretapping, secret judicial proceedings, unrestrained executive power, repudiating the Geneva Conventions, and, now, selectively withholding the writ of habeas corpus. It's not that we haven't blurred these lines before, but in the past we have always recoiled in horror when it became clear what we were doing. For the last five years the administration has systematically repudiated one American value after another. Congress, through cowardice or approval, has enabled the administration in every one of those steps.

These retreats from our Americanness will not be repaired by a simple change of administration in two years. A new administration might officially reverse every one of these repudiations, but the precedent has been set that American values are no more permanent than the next election. What country will trust us knowing that the Republicans might return? It took sixty years to build the international order that the Bush administration irreparably damaged in a few months from 2001-2003. It took over two hundred years to build the structure of rights that the Bush administration has irreparably damaged over the last five years.

Though we can't reverse the damage, we can stop further damage. It is vitally important that we take away at least one house of his rubberstamp congress (preferably the Senate). The new congress might be gutless, but even that is an improvement over being completely in his pocket. We cannot turn back the clock and regain the structures that he has so grievously harmed, but, given enough time and good will, we might build new structures almost as good. America is not dead yet, but it cannot survive many more of this kind of blow.

Now is not the time to give up the fight.

PS - As someone who has lived through the collapse of a peaceful and prosperous country, Coturnix's views on this should be read by everyone.
Throwing away the constitution
I'm too angry and disgusted to write anything original about this. Here's a few good words from the New York Times:
Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

And who were the Democrats who betrayed their principles?
Tom Carper (Del.)
Tim Johnson (S.D.)
Mary Landrieu (La.)
Frank Lautenberg (N.J.)
Bob Menendez (N.J)
Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Ben Nelson (Neb.)
Mark Pryor (Ark.)
Jay Rockefeller (W. Va.)
Ken Salazar (Co.)
Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)

...and, of course...
Joe Lieberman (Ct.)

Lincoln Chafee (RI) was the lone Republican to vote in favor of preserving the constitution.

Let's finish with a phrase usually credited to Ben Franklin but probably first made by Richard Jackson. Regardless of who said it first, the phrase should be hung above the entrance to every legislative body in this country.
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Not a joke
The New York Post seems to think sending terrorist threats is a big joke.
MSNBC loudmouth Keith Olbermann flipped out when he opened his home mail yesterday. The acerbic host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" was terrified when he opened a suspicious-looking letter with a California postmark and a batch of white powder poured out. A note inside warned Olbermann, who's a frequent critic of President Bush's policies, that it was payback for some of his on-air shtick.


He asked to be taken to St. Luke's Hospital, where doctors looked him over and sent him home. Whether they gave him a lollipop on the way out isn't known.

The Post writer, Paula Froelich, apparently lacks the senses of perspective and long-term memory necessary to recall that the Post was one of the places hit with real anthrax back in 2001 and that three of her colleagues were hospitalized in that attack. Along with those mental abilities, Ms. Froelich also lacks knowledge that sending bio-threats through the mail is a federal crime. When Clayton Waagner sent fake anthrax threats to Planned Parenthood clinics in late 2001 (after the attack on the Post), he was sent to federal prison for 19 years.

Froelich might make the excuse that she was just following the example of that fine Christian role model for female conservative pundits, Ann Coulter who jokingly (I assume) took credit for a hoax anthrax threat sent to the New York Times last July.

This is a good example of eliminationist rhetoric disguised as humor, a trend increasingly common on the right in recent years. David Neiwert is the local blogosphere expert on this trend and why it is worth our concern. I want to point out a second aspect of this particular example. The fact that Froelich was so monumentally insensitive to her own colleagues experience makes me suspect that her piece wasn't really the result of any kind of meaningful thought process, it was pure reaction on her part.

Although most people would like to think that their opinions are the result of some kind of core values or philosophy and an intelligent deliberative process, the sad fact is that that's not really how we work. In many spheres of life, including, especially, politics, we don't think things through before forming opinions. Instead, early in life, we identify with a group and then adopt the opinions of our group. When faced with a new issue, we check to see what "our team" believes and then rationalize our way around to supporting that position. This often leads people to support positions directly opposed to their deeper value system (or that expose their real value systems). These contradictions give the other side endless opportunities to cry "hypocrisy!"

I'm trying to give Froelich the benefit of the doubt by assuming that she didn't stop to think about the larger implications of anthrax attacks on journalists. I'm assuming that this was an unthinking reflex on her part. She saw an opportunity to gain points for her team by mocking a player on the other side. If she had thought about it, she would never have made light of such a thing.

Of course, I might be wrong and she might really be the biggest jerk in the tri-state region.
Mmmmm, spinach
I'm glad I'm not the only one. Dr. Free-Ride has been craving spinach lately. I suppose it's a perverse sort of power of suggestion. When some people are bombarded with ten headlines a day that say "Deadly Spinach" it kills their appetite for spinach. Others, like me and the good doctor, only hear the "spinach" part and get home thinking, "you know what would be good for dinner? Some spinach." It doesn't help that my favorite vegetables are the dark green ones: spinach, broccoli, beet greens, mint juleps.
Last night I got a new cookbook and started browsing through it looking for something new to try out this weekend. Naturally, the first things that caught my eyes were various things florentine style. Every recipe I glommed on to ended, "...and serve on a bed of spinach."

Sigh. Maybe I should bake some cookies. There hasn't been an outbreak of killer chocolate, has there?
Otter disaster
It's Sea Otter Awareness Week in Alaska and the otters aren't doing that well.

Over the last few years, more and more otters in the Aleutians and Katchemak Bay have been turing up dead or ill with a strep infection. According to Fish and Wildlife records, the affected otters are overwhelmingly in the prime of life. This is the sort of pattern that is common when a new disease enters a population, and new diseases often decimate populations.

Otters are more than just cute and furry sea mammals. They are a keystone species that are vital to maintaining the biological diversity of the tidal zone ecosystem. Otters are the main predators on sea urchins. Without otters, sea urchin population explodes and over-grazes the kelp beds which are the breeding grounds for herring and a number of invertibrate species. Herring and tideland invertibrates in turn are a main source of food for sea birds and other fish and sea mammals. Without enough otters, the whole system starts to crumble.

In the panhandle of Southeastern Alaska, otters are already an endangered species. It would be a terrible tragedy if the Aleutian and Katchemak otters were to join them. Alaska need its otters.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Paddington runs amuck, kills hundreds
I always knew that bear was a timebomb waiting to go off.
A teddy bear has been implicated in 2,500 deaths -- trout deaths, that is.

State officials say a teddy bear that fell into a pool at a Fish and Game Department hatchery earlier this month clogged a drain. The clog blocked the flow of oxygen to the pool and suffocated the fish.

Hatcheries supervisor Robert Fawcett said the bear, dressed in yellow raincoat and hat, is believed to be the first stuffed toy to cause fatalities at the facility.

"We've had pipes get clogged, but it's usually with more naturally occurring things like a frog or even a dead muskrat," he said. "This one turned out to be a teddy bear and we don't know how it got there."

The deaths prompted Fawcett to release a written warning: "RELEASE OF ANY TEDDY BEARS into the fish hatchery water IS NOT PERMITTED."

He said it's not known who dropped the bear, but urged anyone whose bear ends up in a hatchery pool to find a worker to remove it. "They might save your teddy bear, and keep it from becoming a killer," he said.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mammoths, mastodons, and killer hippos
Yesterday, the Clever Wife and I went over to Sequim (pronounced "skwim") to look at some land. We didn't buy any land, but we did get to take an extra moment to visit the little museum in Sequim and look at their mastadon. I've written a lot about mammoths, but I havent said much about their cousins, the mastadons.

Despite their superficial resemblance, mastodons are only a distant relative of mammoths. Mastodons separated from the earliest elephants millions of years before African and Asian elephants separated from each other or mammoths separated from Asian elephants. Mastodons probably entered the new world at the beginning of the ice age and spread all of the way into South America, where they split into a number of species. The mammoths entered the new world later, during interglacials of the ice ages.

Mastodons have teeth that are dramatically different from those of elephant/mammoths. Mammoth teeth are giant grinders suited to grazing on the grasses and low shrubs that they found on the prairies, steppes, and tundras where they usually lived. Mastodons had pointed teeth. This led the first scientists who described them to believe they were carnivores, terrible monsters much like the oliphaunts of Mordor. I'm not sure if it was homework or imagination on Peter Jackson's part, but some mastodons also had two sets of tusks, just like the oliphaunts in Return of the King. Later, scientists discovered that mastodons were browsers, who lived in the forest and ate tough branches and cones of conifers. Big, pointed teeth are useful for tearing branches and cones apart.

The idea that mastadons were carnivores wasn't a wild idea on the part of eighteenth century naturalists. They believed mastodons were carnivores because mastodon teeth were almost identical to hippo teeth, and they believed hippos were fierce carnivores. Pointed teeth were considered to be a sign of meat eating. More than that, hippos are extemely dangerous animals in the wild. In an average year in Africa, hippos kill a far larger number of humans than any other mammal, except other humans. Hippos are short-tempered, huge animals that spend most of their days beneath the surface of shallow waters. When boats or swimmers pass overhead or near-by, they respond to the potential threat by snapping at them with their enormous jaws. It's a defensive action, not a hunting action, but that is small consolation to the families of those who were bitten in half or to those who were bitten.

Eighteenth century image of a carnivorous hippo

Since antiquity, the only thing that most of the world outside of Africa knew about hippos were that they were big and dangerous. The occasional huge bone or sharp tooth that made it to the Mediterranean only served to confirm the image of hippo fierceness. Most experts believe that the Behemoth in the Old Testement book of Job is probably a garbled description of a hippo. The parts of the world where hippos are common were not penetrated by outsiders before the nineteenth century. A live hippo didn't make it to Europe until the 1840s.

Ken Ham, the founder and director of the young earth creationist group Answers in Genesis, points out that Job 40:15-24 descibes Behemoth as having a "tail like a cedar." The Bible is the word of God, who is infaliable. Therefore, it is not possible for a book of the Bible to include a garbled description of any animal. Hippos have small tails. According to Ham, this means Behemoth was not a hippo; it was probably a brachiosaurus. And, brachiosauri were among the passengers on the ark of Noah, because God told Noah to take up "every kind of animal" not just some animals. If dinosaurs ever existed, they were on the ark and only went extinct after the flood. Ham believes that some kinds of dinosaurs might still be alive out there, waiting to be discovered.

Scholars of Biblical high criticism (studying it as a literary text) usually laugh until coffee comes out of their noses when they hear the tail argument. These scholars believe that the tail of Behemoth is a metaphor for something else. The complete desciption of Behemoth in Job is as follows:
15 Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.
16 Lo now, his strength [is] in his loins, and his force [is] in the navel of his belly.
17 He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.
18 His bones [are as] strong pieces of brass; his bones [are] like bars of iron.
19 He [is] the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach [unto him].
20 Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play.
21 He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed, and fens.
22 The shady trees cover him [with] their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about.
23 Behold, he drinketh up a river, [and] hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth.
24 He taketh it with his eyes: [his] nose pierceth through snares.

Now, dear students, by carefully reading verses 16 and 17 (Lo now, his strength [is] in his loins, and his force [is] in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.), what do you think tail and stones are a metaphor for? That's right, kids. You might have dirty minds, but you are better Biblical scholars that Ken Ham.

I'll have more to say about mammoths and mastodons in the Northwest at a later date.
Happy holidays
At sundown on Friday, the year 5766 ended and the year 5767 began according to the Hebrew calendar. Today, the fast month of Ramadan begins according to some versions of the islamic calendar. Whatever holiday might have happened for your people this weekend, I hope you had a good one. And, since it makes the baby Bill O'Reilly cry whenever someone uses the phrase, "Happy Holidays! Happy Holidays! Happy Holidays! Happy Holidays! Happy Holidays! Happy Holidays!"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Carnival of Bad History #9
Miland at the World History Blog is hosting the Latest CoBH. This month, the intrepid defenders of history ajve discovered bad history in a 9/11 movie, Japanese war revisionism, tales of first contact, political rhetoric, and fake time travelers.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I don't feel safer
Five years into the war on terror and we have yet another stunning example of how little the Bush administration has done to make us safer.
Two teenagers Wednesday drove a stolen car onto the U.S. military base that commands much of the war on terror, triggering an investigation into the security breach, police and military officials said.


Police had been monitoring the vehicle as it sped through the Florida Gulf Coast city after eluding a police speed trap, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

The car then "blasted through the gate at the base," and police at that point took up the chase and were waved through by military police, McElroy said.

There was nothing at the gate preventing entry to MacDill, which houses the U.S. Central Command, responsible for U.S. military operations in the Horn of Africa, Middle East and Central Asia and therefore for much of the U.S. war on terror.

Mind you, MacDill is not any old base; MacDill is the home of the Central Command for military operations in the Middle East and there was nothing at the gate to slow a speeding car from rushing in. I believe that the terrorists have heard of using cars as weapons and might possibly be expected to use them in that manner in the future. We've known for a long time that the administration has done next to nothing to improve security for our ports, refineries, and chemical plants. Now we find out they haven't done much for our most important military bases or for the capitol building. It seem like the only thing they have worked to protect is the profitability of well connected corporations.

Why on earth would even the most partisan conservative Republican still believe that the Democrats could do a worse job that this administration? My lazy cat couldn't do a worse job. This is two major security breeches in a week. Every Democrat in the country should be running ads based on this.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Has anyone seen the television trailer for the new movie version of "All the King's Men?" It's a great story with a good cast and I'll probably see it, but I hate that ad. What makes my teeth hurt is the point at the end when the voice over says, "based on a true story." Technically, that is a correct statement. Willie Stark is a thinly disguised stand-in for Huey Long. However, the movie is not based on the life of Huey Long, it is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, which was based on the life of Huey Long. Sony's marketing department has committed a grievous act of disrespect against a great American writer by leaving Warren out of the equation. It also cheapens the story itself by reducing a powerful and important novel to the level of just another television docudrama. Sony's marketing staff should be ashamed of themselves.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Great minds and all that
I just had a brilliant idea about how to break the Senate deadlock over which interogation techniques should be legal and which should not. Unfortunately, Joe in DC already had that idea> I hate it when people steal my ideas before I have them.

Anyway, here's Joe:
I have a suggestion. Today's Washington Post gives a rundown on some of the techniques being debated:
While it is not clear exactly what techniques the White House wishes to keep, sources have said those previously used include nakedness, prolonged sensory assault and deprivation, the imposition of "stress" positions, and water submersion to the verge of drowning. Bush has said none of those amounts to torture.

Since the White House says what it's doing isn't torture, they need to set up a demonstration. Take someone like Karl Rove or Ken Mehlman, and apply some of those techniques. Do it on live TV (although no nakedness from either..ick). I wonder what kind of confessions could be wrangled from those two after a little waterboarding. Their boss says it's not torture.

I think I can offer one improvement. Although I think we should waterboard Karl Rove just for being Karl, I'm not that sure that he's not just enough of an extremist to take one for the team. It's important to make sure that the Senators themselves understand just what's at stake. I propose that the Senators who are in favor of the White House's position demonstrate to their doubting peers that there is nothing wrong with this. Afterwards, they can all go out and blow off some steam by playing fraternity pranks on Rush Limbaugh.
I was robbed - twice
The other day Janet announced the results ofthe big nerd-off among the science bloggers. Despite my stellar credentials, I didn't even rate an honorable mention. The game was clearly fixed. I can't think of a more open and shut case of "it's not what you know but who you know."

Except this: the MacArthur Foundation genius grants were announced yesterday and, once again, I'm not on their list. It seems that I'm fated to be the eternal victim of petty backstabbing by my jealous peers.

Oh well, I'm still in the running for People magazine's annual sexiest media personalities in the English speaking world issue.
Today be "Talk like a pirate day." Haul up the Jolly Roger, put a parrot on yer shoulder, and go plunder the lunch room.
"It's unacceptable to think"
Before the New York Times placed its opinion and editorial columns behind a par per view firewall, we lefty bloggers had a twice a week ritual that tied us all together. Every Monday and Friday we would all write a post that basically said, "Paul Krugmann is really good today; you should go read him." Now days ,those of us who have a premium pass to the Times occassionally grab a block quote from Krugmann and base a post on it. But, since we can no longer link to his whole column, linking to Paul is no longer a unifying experience in Left Blogistan.

Fortunately we have Keith Olbermann. For a while, most lefty bloggers only occasionally checked in on Olbermann to see what his rationale was for naming Bill O'Reilly the Worst Person in the World yet again. Lately, however, Olbermann has been producing a series of powerful editorials--indictments, really--aimed at the administration and its eagerness to embrace its worst instincts and impulses.
"Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism," he was asked by a reporter. "If a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former secretary of state feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?"

"If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic," Bush said. "It's just -- I simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective."

Of course it's acceptable to think that there's "any kind of comparison."

And in this particular debate, it is not only acceptable, it is obviously necessary, even if Mr. Powell never made the comparison in his letter.

Some will think that our actions at Abu Ghraib, or in Guantanamo, or in secret prisons in Eastern Europe, are all too comparable to the actions of the extremists.

Some will think that there is no similarity, or, if there is one, it is to the slightest and most unavoidable of degrees.

What all of us will agree on, is that we have the right -- we have the duty -- to think about the comparison.

And, most importantly, that the other guy, whose opinion about this we cannot fathom, has exactly the same right as we do: to think -- and say -- what his mind and his heart and his conscience tell him, is right.

All of us agree about that.

Except, it seems, this President.

With increasing rage, he and his administration have begun to tell us, we are not permitted to disagree with them, that we cannot be right, that Colin Powell cannot be right.

And then there was that one, most awful phrase.

In four simple words last Friday, the President brought into sharp focus what has been only vaguely clear these past five-and-a-half years - the way the terrain at night is perceptible only during an angry flash of lightning, and then, a second later, all again is dark.

"It's unacceptable to think," he said.

It is never unacceptable to think.

And when a President says thinking is unacceptable, even on one topic, even in the heat of the moment, even in the turning of a phrase extracted from its context, he takes us toward a new and fearful path -- one heretofore the realm of science fiction authors and apocalyptic visionaries.

That flash of lightning freezes at the distant horizon, and we can just make out a world in which authority can actually suggest it has become unacceptable to think.

Thus the lightning flash reveals not merely a President we have already seen, the one who believes he has a monopoly on current truth.

It now shows us a President who has decided that of all our commanders-in-chief, ever, he alone has had the knowledge necessary to alter and re-shape our inalienable rights.

This is a frightening, and a dangerous, delusion, Mr. President.

This is only about half of the full editorial. As always, you should go read the whole thing.

In a way, it's too bad that Olbermann first came to the attention of many of us for his smart-alecy take on the news displayed in his countdown and cheap shots at O'Reilly. Olbermann is obviously an intelligent, articulate, thoughtful observer with a deep sense of historical perspective.

Still, it's never too late to start taking him seriously. We need more voices like this.

PS - Speaking of smart-alecy cheap shots, I must point out in Bush's defense that, when he says "It's unacceptable to think," he practices what he preaches.

Monday, September 18, 2006

More like this, please
On the front page of my New York Times this morning I see the headline "As Senator Falters, a Democrat Rises in Virginia." It's a bout the Allen / Webb race. I'm sure many of my blogging friends will find something to dislike about this piece, but I see it as representative of an important change. For months the approach of the major news media has been to characterize this race with stories about the lack of a Democratic message. The most favorable stories for us have those about disunity among the Republicans. This is the first story I can recall that has framed the story as one of Democratic strength. Or, at least, equal parts our strength and their weakness. And it is definitely the best story I've seen with such prominent placement. Winning over the press is a big part of winning the election. This is a very good sign.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Another liberal conspiracy
Many conservatives daydream about exterminating all the liberals if they ever have the power to do so. However, I would never do the same to them if I had the power. Conservatives have too much humorous entertainment value. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomy blogger, has discovered a conservative blogger named Mike Janitch who thinks the renaming of Xena and Gabrielle after the goddesss of strife and lawlessness can only be a liberal and anti-American comentary on the current world situation. After all, Mike Brown, the discoverer of the two celestial bodies is from--gasp--California! What more proof do you need!?

Of course, PZ beat me to this.
And he lived to tell the tale
Yesterday, John Scalzi taped bacon to his cat. I think he's my new hero.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Say hello to Eris and Dysnomia
Some casual readers of the news during the Pluto brouhahha last month may have been surprised to discover that we have a dwarf planet (as they are now called) named Xena. Actually it was just a provisional name assigned by the minor planet's co-discoverer Mike Brown. It was easier to remember that 2003 UB313. Brown, who has discovered several dwarf planets, has a history of giving his discoveries whimsical names. He named two other candidate dwarf planets that he found, Santa and Easterbunny.

The International Astronomical Union assigns the official names to celestial objects. The schema for planets and dwarf planets is that they are named after characters in Greco-Roman mythology. Xena is now officially Eris. Fans of the Illuminati books will know that Eris is the goddess of discord. Classicists will recall her playing the trick that eventually led to the Trojan War.

Eris has a small moon which Brown called Gabrielle, after Xena's sidekick. The IAU has officially named the moon Dysnomia. I doubt as if even Illuminati fans know this one. Dysnomia is the daughter of Eris and the goddess of lawlessness. Considering that Xena was played by Lucy Lawless, I wonder if someone at the IAU was trying to keep a little Xena in the naming, or if that was just Eris, doing what she does best.
Time to update his resume?
If you were the art director for one of the world's premier news agencies and needed to illustrate a story that began with this paragraph:
"The White Planet,"a documentary about life in the Arctic, was delayed by a year as filmmakers waited for a herd of nearly half a million caribou to gather for their yearly migration up north.

What picture would you use?

That's right, a herd of musk oxen. Musk oxen are not mentioned anywhere in the article, which is entitled "Attention Caribou: It's time for your closeup." In the art director's defense, the picture is apparently a still from the movie maker's publicity package.

"The White Planet," by the way, is a companion piece to last year's "March of the Penguins." It's currently playing at the Toronto International Film Festival and should be in theaters later this year. I know I'll go see it. It might be our last chance to polar bears on ice.
We've come full circle
For four years we've listened to Republican politicians and conservative pundits tell us that we needed to remove Saddam because he was a consciousless dictator who crushed dissent and brutally maintained total control over his people with an iron fist. That went so well that now we have a conservative pundit telling us that we needed to restore Saddam because he will be a consciousless dictator who will crush dissent and brutally maintain total control over his people with an iron fist. Michael Savage on Tuesday:
Well I got news for you, I'm the first to have said it, but I'm not the last to have said it. I said it a year ago. Maybe we should bring back Saddam, a Sunni, because he knows how to control the Shia. No. You can laugh all you want. He knew how to control them; he knew how to keep these maniacs under control. And he was also a counterbalance to Iran.

I'm not the first to have said it and I won't be the last to have said it, but Michael Savage is an idiot. Is everyone as tired as I am with the macho posing of conservatives who want to fix every problem with more killing and less freedom? Wouldn't we all be better off if they just settled their manhood issues by driving big, gas-guzzling cars?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Carnival of the Liberals # 21
What have I gotten myself into? Twenty authors. Thirty-nine posts. How am I going to make sense out of all of this? How can I narrow this down to just ten posts? Is it too late to back out? It is too late? Oh. Well I better get hosting. Let’s see, where to start? Ah yes, start with the writer who best understands the importance of gratuitous flattery…

In "Smoking Kippers," Doctor Biobrain takes on the always-annoying phenomenon of self-proclaimed moderate Democrats who think that it is more important to distance themselves from radicals they agree with than to confront Republicans that they disagree with. How is it that people who think bad manners are more dangerous than bad policy get to be taken seriously as policy commentators? If style is what’s most important to them, why aren’t they writing style columns? The good doctor can’t explain why these people still have an iota of credibility, but he does give a couple of them the smacking that they deserve.

In "On patriotism" Barry Leiba expresses the anger that many of us feel over the right claiming the term patriot as their wholly owned brand property and, in the process, soiling the word almost beyond recognition. "I want to take the term 'Patriot' back," he tells the right. "If you walk around singing 'God Bless America', you have to live by the American ideals. Otherwise, you're just whistling 'Dixie.'"

Richard Chappell of Philosophy, et cetera talks about real radicals, as opposed to rude bloggers, in "The Ethics of Activism." Without giving in to a merely emotional rejection of all traces of radicalism, Chappell discusses procedural liberalism and whether violent activism can ever be justified.

Marcella Chester
gives her take on the recent removal of a Pennsylvania law requiring political candidates to sign a McCarthy-era loyalty oath. She gives us a brief lesson in the bloody damage that the fear of radicalism can wreak on our country and reminds us that, although the McCarthy laws might be gone, the mentality that created them is still going strong.

The Ridger at Greenbelt discovers that Dick Cheney's remarks have "lost their news value." How can that be, considering their substance? The man who stands only a pacemaker generated heartbeat away from the presidency is the architect of some of the most anti-democratic actions ever undertaken by this country. Yet, because he’s personally unpopular and kind of creepy in person, the press have deemed him unnewsworthy. As long as he has the slightest bit of influence in Washington, shouldn’t the press be paying more attention to his deranged utterings, not less?

Last week, President Bush admitted to the existence of a system of secret prisons where the United States has kept captives in violation of American and International law. At any other time in our history, this would have prompted an immediate constitutional crisis. The position of the Bush camarilla seems to be that this is something to be proud of and something that can be used to their advantage in an election year. As Idiot/Savant points out, that we accept this with anything except horror and rebellion can only mean that "The US no longer even has a sense of shame."

Hell’s Handmaiden points out a possible explanation for this ugly situation. Sadly, it appears that the rights that Thomas Jefferson so optimistically assigned the entire human race are not “Self-Evident” to most of our fellow citizens. To far too many, rights do not belong to the people, they belong to the government to dole out or withhold as it sees fit. As long as this condition continues we will have more Abu Graibs, more Guantanamo Bays, more secret Gulags, and fewer rights for fewer people.

An Aussie commenter reminds GreenSmile that "America Hater," the oldest empty smear that wingnuts can make against liberals, is bound to arise from the deliberate habit of liberals to be better informed about their world. Historical perspective can be a terrible burden.

In "Sistani Gives Up / 30 Years War Starts," Ali Eteraz draws an interesting parallel between the present and the start of one of the ugliest conflicts in European and Christian history. We may not have passed the point of no return yet, but it’s not far away. Will we recognize it when we get there?

MW finds a different and more recent historical parallel for the present and suggests that accountability demands that Bush replace Rumsfeld. Political junkies get too involved with finding the right moment and publicly useful reason to get rid of Rummy and we forget that he’s just bad at his job and he’s getting people killed. He needs to go. Sometimes change for the sake of change is the right answer.

The rules of hosting the Carnival of the Liberals are that I choose ten posts from those submitted and promote only those. Presumably that means I have to evaluate which ten are the best. But I’m a liberal, I can spin off into weeks of agony over whether I have the right to judge and what I should do about the potentially hurt feelings of those not in the ten. And what does best mean? How can I make these decisions? With great power comes great responsibility.

Yes, but with great responsibility comes great power. And what good is power if you don’t abuse it? (I believe that’s the motto of the modern Republican Party.) If I’m the host, I can break the rules. Who’s going to stop me? I don’t have to pick the best posts; I can just pick the posts that best reflect my mood at this moment—cranky and grumpy—and offer my compliments to those who were in too good a mood for me (in fact, I admit to passing up some excellent posts on gender, environment, and science just because they didn’t match my mood). I can also throw aside the limit of ten and insert an eleventh.

I’ll finish with a political haiku by Madeleine Begun Kane, just because I feel like it.

The Difference Between Republicans & Democrats
Republicans chide
The press, when it tells the truth.
Dems decry press lies.

See you at the next carnival.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One of the main reasons why some of us volunteer to host carnivals is that it gives us an opportunity to wield power. As the host, we have something everyone wants--links, lovely links--and that means everyone wants to be your new best friend. I'm hosting the Carnival of the Liberals tomorrow and found this in my mailbox just now.
Though I, technically speaking, have never actually read your blog, I've always admired you from a distance and thought your writing was among the best on the net. It's hard to put into words, but I really like that thing you do, and it's really great and important. Not that you should let my meager words influence you. But I assume you must get this kind of praise all the time and won't actually consider this to be cheap flattery intended to influence your decision. Because it's not. I just happen to think you're the best, whoever you are.

His post is definitely going first.
UPDATE: The Carnival of the Liberals won't be up till this evening. It seems that my employers actually have the unreasonable expectation that I will occasionally do some word for them.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Just wondering
When they finally pass that anti flag-desecration amendment to the constitution, what kind of penaties do you think they will enact? Will it be enforced retroactively?

(Photo from Reuters)

I know. I know. You can't enforce new laws retroactively and this one will only be a crime when liberals do it. Still...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

My nerd cred
The kids over at the science blogs have been fighting over their bragging rights as nerds. I think some us non-science types need to step forward to defend our place in the nerdy sun. Here's my claim:
  • I received a nerd score of 85 even though I wasn't a science major.
  • I still own a lava lamp.
  • I did not go to my high school senior prom.
  • I watched the first episode of "Star Trek" on a Zenith black and white teevee.
  • I packed two capes when I left for college.
  • I continued to read comic books as an adult.
  • I was the class projectionist in Junior High and had a card from Bell & Howell to prove it.
  • I do not have an athletic bone in my body.
  • I have a set of gold plated "Trivial Pursuit" wedges, but no one in my family will play with me.
  • By age ten, I had a chemistry set, a telescope, and a microscope.
  • I wear socks with sandals.
  • I camped out for the first "Star Wars" movie.
  • In college I could recite most of the "Firesign Theater" albums.
  • I built the "Visible Man" model kit.
  • I point out the mistakes in historical movies to those sitting next to me.
  • I blog.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tagged by a meme
It's been a while since I was tagged by a meme. TNG, the Neural Gourmet, got me with the blogging meme. This gives us both an opportunity to point out that I'm hosting the next Carnival of the Liberals. Over the years I've determined that blogging is made up of equal parts determined energy and laziness. Think about it. Would blogging even be possible without the copy and paste function?

Why do you blog?
I blog to have a voice, to find kindred souls, and for the money. Two out of three ain't bad.

How long have you been blogging?
Three and a half years. Not long after I became reacquainted with my childhood friend David Neiwert, he began blogging. I began sending him comments and suggestions on his pseudofascism series as it was developing and decided it would be more fair to seek my own audience that to impose on him to print my every passing thought. I started Archy over the weekend before the Iraq invasion.

Self Portrait?
I haven't done a self portrait since about 1988. Here's a duck instead.

Why do readers read your blog?
They come for the politics, but stay for the woolly mammoths.

What was the last search phrase someone used to get to your site?
Of the last four, two were looking for George Harriman's illustrations for Archy and Mehitabel and two were looking for information about woolly mammoths. I also get a lot of hits looking for information about other John McKays (there are many of us) and pictures of walrus penises. I particularly enjoy the fact that I share the same name with one of the bigger creationists in Australia.

Which of your entries unjustly gets too little attention?
The serious political ones, wherein I try to make some original observation about how things work rarely get comments or links. Stories about the weird side of science usually get the best links and geezerly asides about my age usually get the most comments. All I have to do is mention vinyl records or reminisce about when TV Guide pointed out which shows were being shown in color and they flock to Haloscan muse about forgotten technologies.

Your current favorite blog?
Lately, being a bit burned out on politics, I've been reading the science blogs at Seed (yes, I've gone to seed), but I couldn't pick out one as my favorite.

What blog did you read most recently?
Neural Gourmet, where I was tagged for this meme. Aren't you paying attention?

Which feeds do you subscribe to?
Whenever I post something good, my tenders give me a nice bowl of Purina Blogger Chow as feed.

What four blogs are you tagging with this meme and why?
I'll send this to:
Bad Tux: the all-purpose penguin
Dum Luks
Why Now?
Because I don't pay enough attention to them.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Need more information
Neil Gaiman discovered this while browsing through the Transportation Security Administration (motto: Vigilant, Effective, Efficient) updated list of items that we are allowed and not allowed to take as carry-ons on commercial airline flights.

Not allowed:
Bug and mosquito sprays and repellents
Liquid lip glosses or other liquids for lips
Meat Cleavers
Cricket Bats
Mace/Pepper Spray
Hand Grenades
Gas Torches
Whipped cream

Gel-filled bras
Knitting Needles
Toy Transformer Robots
Diabetes - liquid or gel low blood sugar treatments, including juice
Mobile Phones
Wrenches and Pliers
Baby formula
Personal lubricants

Um, excuse me?
Personal lubricants

Yes, they mean that kind of personal lubricant. Gaiman looked it up. PZ Myers suggests an explanation: "National security will not be allowed to deter new recruits to the Mile-High Club." That makes sense to me.

In this case, I don't think that this our dirty minds at work. After all, that's what it says this stuff is for on the label. We have three fairly intelligent and creative nerd guys here and we're all stumped. Does anyone know of another legitimate use for this stuff that the TSA might have in mind?
Take care of our own
Everyone's favorite Red-State, Serbian, Jewish, atheist, liberal, PhD student, science blogger, Coturninx, recently sent his two kids back to school and turned his daytime attention back towards his dissertation where it belongs. Neither of those things is an inexpensive proposition and things are a bit tight for the Coturnixes. Yesterday, he lost his internet connection for most of the day until he could pay the bill. If anyone has a few bucks they can spare, do a good deed and go drop it in his tip jar. You know you were just going to spend it on coffee anyway.
I break with Olbermann
I make no secret of the fact that I enjoy and admire Keith Olbermann's commentary. He's a smart-ass intellectual who makes Bill O'Reilly cry. What's not to like? In his latest editorial, he slaps President Bush around for sliming his critics and for his scare-mongering election season tactics. This is the point at which I have to break with Olbermann. I think he's pulling his punches and going too easy on Bush.

Here's the offending paragraph:
It is to our deep national shame—and ultimately it will be to the President’s deep personal regret—that he has followed his Secretary of Defense down the path of trying to tie those loyal Americans who disagree with his policies—or even question their effectiveness or execution—to the Nazis of the past, and the al Qaeda of the present.

What bothers me is the implication that Bush is merely following Rumsfeld's lead. It suggests that the current round of flinging the word "fascism" around and impugning the patriotism of anyone who questions the administration was a spontaneous development--that Bush, Rice, Santorum, and others had no intention of doing this until they heard Rumsfeld go down that path.

This is not a random happening; it is a planned and coordinated information campaign aimed at hanging on to power in the coming election. It is, in fact, the exact same strategy that they have unleashed every time they feel their power slipping since 2001. The only difference is the prominence of the fascism metaphor. As long ago as January, Karl Rove was openly announcing his intention to use terrorism as a centerpiece of this year's election strategy. The administration began market testing the fascism meme at the beginning of August with Bush's speech following the London arrests. A strategy like this does not emerge in imitation of a lieutenant. It is something that is discussed and approved at the very highest level. In this administration, that means Bush, not Rumsfeld.

I'd like to see Rumsfeld booted out as much as the next knee-jerk liberal, but I'm careful not to loose sight of the real problem here. In any gang of playground bullies, there is a leader, a circle of toadies, and an audience that tolerates their behavior. While it might be very satisfying to slap around one of the toadies and send him home crying, doing that doesn't solve the bully problem. To solve the bully problem, you heave to isolate the gang from their audience and take away their leader. To repeat myself, in this administration, that means Bush, not Rumsfeld.

To Keith Olbermann I say, keep up the great work, but don’t loose sight of who’s the leader of this gang.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What Valerie Plame did at the CIA
We've long known that Valerie Plame worked in the Counterproliferation Division at CIA headquarters at the time that her career was destroyed by Bush administration insiders. These are the people who gather intelligence on other countries' weapons of mass destruction and try to prevent additional countries from gaining WMD capacities. This should have been just the type of specialist that the Bush administration need to protect the American people from the sort of threats that the administration claimed we most needed protecting from. The sheer blindness and stupidity of ending her effectiveness has been mentioned by other bloggers. Now it appears that the crime of the Bush administration might have been even more counter-productive than we originally thought.

According to a new article in The Nation by David Corn, Plame's actual position within the Counterproliferation Division was that of the leader of the team specializing in Iraq. She was one of the people who failed to cook the books for the war party in the administration. I saw it once suggested--and can't find right now who said it--that the whole business about her outing being to punish her husband was misdirection; that punishing her was the actual goal of the outing and her husband was just an extra. This story seems to lend support to that theory.

This should be very big news. We should not let this get lost among much more trivial election year noise.
Not so soon
Yesterday, a number of bloggers announced summer over. According to a number of calendars, summer ends at Labor Day. The school year starts in most of the United States within a week of yesterday. Fall of the American election year traditionally runs from Labor Day till Election Day. Most people have taken their summer vacations by now, if they got one, and are packing their recreational gear away for the season. Most homeowners are done trying to make their yards look pretty and will now prepare them for winter. But in a lot of the West, summer is nowhere near over and we're bracing for one if the worst parts of summer. As the south goes into the worst part of the hurricane season about now, we go into the worst part of the fire season.

In the wild and rural parts of the West, people hold their breaths from mid-August till the first serious rains of Fall. Like the South and its hurricanes, we have our legendary fires. In the Big Blow-up of 1910, 1700 fires pushed by record winds burned three million acres of Idaho and Montana and killed 85 people in just two days in late August. Most of the town of Wallace, Idaho was destroyed. In 1988, just over one third of Yellowstone Park burned in the three weeks straddling the end of August and the beginning of September. A 1947 fire in Kenai, Alaska burned 310,000 acres and continued deep into the winter.

Let's not celebrate or mourn the end of summer yet. For better or worse, we still have a few weeks to go.
Then and now
The leader of the free world then:
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
-- G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

The leader of the free world now:
"Bin laden and his terrorist's allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is `Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say?"'
-- G.W. Bush, 9/5/06

Speaking before the Military Officers Association of America and diplomatic representatives other countries that have suffered terrorist attacks, President Bush today continued to push the administration's new fall product: Nazi analogies. I suppose if don't have ideas or accomplishments to offer the public, the next best thing is a scarey narrative.
Rice breaks with Rummy
The last time Condoleezza Rice ad Donald Rumsfeld discussed history in public, they were in total agreement. Occupied Iraq, they believed, was just like occupied Germany; both countries faced years of terrorist attacks by bitter dead-enders from the defeated regime. They were half right, Iraq was (and is) a mess. Germany, however, did not experience a single political attack following the surrender of the Reich in May 1945. This week they are again making historical analogies in defence of the endless war in Iraq, but this time Condy has boldly stuck out with a different analogy.

Last Tuesday, in a speech before the American Legion, Rumsfeld compared critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy to those who sought to appease Hitler before World War II. This weekend, Condi said "no, that's not right. They're more like Civil War era Copperheads who wanted to save slavery in the South."
Asked if she still thought the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003 was right, considering the cost in lives and treasure, Rice said, "Absolutely."

Rice then offered a parallel between critics of the administration's Iraq policies and "people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War (in this country) to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold."

"I'm sure that there were people who said, "why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves."

Perhaps it was the experience of being stung on the German werewolf business that has led her to disagree with Rummy this time. Or, perhaps it is a sign of growing maturity, self-confidence, and independence that has led her to offer her own bad historical analogies.In either case, the important question is, how can someone get a PhD in Political Science and major academic position and know so little about history?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

News you can use *
You can buy Joe Lieberman's campaign biography at an Amazon Z-shop for one cent.
* Or not.
Pitch perfect
Glenn Greenwald sums up Right Blogistan:
The creepy spectacle of watching one warrior after the next insist that we must risk other people's lives and bomb more people so that we don't feel girlish and scared and submissive is repugnant enough, in itself, to have to witness on a daily basis. But the fact that these same people are the ones whose deep, irrational fears of The Terrorist override virtually all other considerations, and who demand that we change our nation and relinquish all of the values and liberties which have always defined it and which make it worth fighting for, all because they believe that doing so is necessary to allow them some marginally greater chance of avoiding death, renders their accusations and warrior dances -- on top of everything else -- an exercise in the grossest and most absurd hypocrisy.

I've tried to make this same point--that a profoundly contemptible cowardice lies at the heart of the macho posturing about being tough enough to "do what's necessary" on the right--but I never said it this well. Go read the rest.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Old news
Afarensis points us to an article in Discovery News about the forthcoming book Rediscovering Homer by Andrew Dalby. Dalby speculates that the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey was probably a woman. Speculating about the authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey is as venerable a tradition as speculating about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. And usually based on about as much evidence. A classicist, who I went to grad school with, said he had proof that the Iliad and the Odyssey were not written by Homer, but that they were written by someone just like Homer, who lived at the same time as Homer, and also named Homer. I gathered that this was a very old joke among classicists.