July 31, 2008

This is funny

You have all heard about the McCain latest juvenile attack on Obama that compares the Illinois Senator to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears? Well, evidently, the Hilton family are big McCain supporters and they don't appreciate the ad. Heh.

Everywhere I turn, I read sharp critiques of McCain's campaign. It started out with the man saying he would run a dignified campaign that was respectful of Obama. Then he is saying that Obama would win a political campaign even if it meant losing a war. Then he bashes Obama for not visiting the wounded troops (even as he shows a clip of Obama playing basketball with the troops) and we learn today that McCain had a clip ready that was going to bash Obama for visiting the troops if he went.

No wonder lifelong Republican and Ike's grandaughter, Susan Eisenhower is not only endorsing Obama, but says today that McCain's campaign shows that the Republican Party is out of ideas.

July 30, 2008

Right-Wing and the TN shooter

First and foremost, just like the Columbine and Va Tech (and every other shooting), let me be clear that the person responsible for the shooting is the shooter. I agree with those who say he is obviously mentally ill (perhaps not technically).

So, I post this with a bit of trepidation. For me, the issue is not really who is to blame for this shooting. As I said, that is obvious. But it does seem to me raise some of the issues of public responsibility and hate speech. I have suggested here that conservatives have let their right wing idiots into the mainstream much more than the left has. Ann Coulter routinely says something incredibly offensive about gays, minorities, or liberals, yet always lands on some show.

Many say that the political dialogue is poisoned on both ends, and to a certain degree, I think that is true. Certainly there are many on the left that make me wince when they speak. Hell, Pelosi does sometimes.

But it seems to me that the right advocates or jokes about violence toward the left much more casually than the left does. As the piece notes, I can not recall Olbermann calling for the death of right wingers. He mocks O'Reilly incessantly, and derides many on the right--but I don't recall him ever calling for them to die, or suggesting that he would like to kill them. The closest I can think of was when Bill Maher seemed to cheer an assassination attempt on Cheney, and he took a lot of grief for that.

I know that the left demonizes some conservatives--gun owners, Christian conservatives, militia members, etc. But I don't recall those liberals suggesting (even tongue in cheek) that those conservatives be killed.

Kim has a good list of quotes from the right, and look at worst, how often they have called for the death of liberals for being liberal, or at best, have equated us to those terrorists who are trying to kill Americans:
"I’ll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo — every filthy Democrat in the U.S. Congress." — Sean Hannity
"To fight only the al-Qaeda scum is to miss the terrorist network operating within our own borders... Who are these traitors? Every rotten radical left-winger in this country, that's who." — Michael Savage
"Liberalism is the greatest threat this country faces." — Rush Limbaugh
"It is not a stretch to say that MoveOn is the new Klan." — Bill O’Reilly
"I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could." — Glenn Beck
"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too." — Ann Coulter
"I don’t see any difference between [Arianna] Huffington and the Nazis." — Bill O’Reilly
"The Islamofascists are actually campaigning for the election of Democrats. Islamofascists from Ahmadinejad to al-Zawahiri, Oba -- Osama bin Laden, whoever, are constantly issuing Democrat talking points." — Rush Limbaugh
"There are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of ‘em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn’t become the [House] speaker." — Sean Hannity
Of those, only Savage has been punished to some degree for his hateful approach. Still on the radio, though (and most recently mocking autistic kids).

I am not suggesting censorship, mind you, though I wouldn't mind a little corporate responsibility. But mostly, I am suggesting that the middle of America start to recognize that this kind of hate speech has consequences.

Reading the Bible through the eyes of America

Natalie always gives me something to think about, and this post on the Americanized Bible is no exception. At Tony's blog, he and I have been arguing with a Huckabee supporter who thinks a) that waterboarding is not torture, and b) that the state can and should do whatever is necessary to protect us--including torture. The gist of his argument seems to be that what we do to protect ourselves is, by definition, moral.

Natalie suggests another perspective, and challenges that American-centric viewpoint that seems to be filling the church--to say nothing of the push for the "masculine Jesus" and away from what Mark Driscoll calls the "limp-wristed hippie" image. You know, the Jesus who actually told us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek.
"Claiborne and Haw write that “the empire of violence and nationalism has crept into the church” (193). We are faced with the danger of reading the Bible “through the eyes of America rather than read[ing] America through the eyes of the Bible. We just want Jesus to be a good American” (194)."

Click over to read her entire post and check out the wonderful images she included.

July 29, 2008

Backyard chickens

I wonder what my neighbors would think of this. Hell, I wonder what Abbie the Wonder Dog would do?

A Torture Paper Trail

Eugene Robinson on the Bush legacy:
"I still find it hard to believe that George W. Bush, to his eternal shame and our nation's great discredit, made torture a matter of hair-splitting, legalistic debate at the highest levels of the U.S. government. But that's precisely what he did.

Three previously classified administration memos obtained last week by the American Civil Liberties Union add to our understanding of this disgraceful episode. The documents are attempts to justify the unjustifiable -- the use of brutal interrogation methods that international agreements define as torture -- and to keep those who ordered and carried out this dirty business from being prosecuted and jailed."

The American Lawn

Our neighbors to one side are both zoologists, and we have had more than a few conversations about water pollution and environmental responsibility. That, plus reading a book on America's obsession with the lawn, annual discussions about the "dead zone" of oxygen depleted water in the Gulf created in part by fertilizers has made me a pretty hand's off lawn manager. I don't water (unless it starts to turn completely brown) and have not applied either weed killer or fertilizer for many, many years. If I could get around to it, I would like to replace a lot of the grass with some kind of drought-resistant monkey grass to further reduce the mowing.

So, it makes me feel a little better when I read this about how much money, water, and chemicals go into our lawns:
"Amount of lawn in the United States: 40.5 million acres
Total amount of money spent on lawn care: $30 billion

Percent of residential water used outside: 30 to 60%
Amount of water used daily for residential irrigation: more than 7 billion gallons

Amount of fertilizers used on lawns annually: 3 million tons
Percent reduction of nitrogen fertilizer needed if clippings left on lawn: about 50%

Amount of synthetic pesticides used on lawns annually: over 30 thousand tons
Amount spent on pesticides in 2001 for home and garden use: almost $2.2 billion
Ratio of pesticide use per acre by the average homeowner versus the average farmer: 10 to 1"
Steinberg estimates that we spend $40 Billion a year on lawn care, that some 75,000 + Americans are injured using lawn mowers (roughly the same as injured by firearms).

Americans spill about 17 million gallons of gas each summer (or 50% more than was spilled in the Exxon Valdez).

Millions of birds die each year as a result of lawn-care pesticides.

July 28, 2008

More Monica

And I will bring this up every single time someone tells me that the Bush people were trying to protect us from the terrorists.

Seems that the prosecutor that Monica Goodling refused to hire because the candidate's wife was a Democrat--yeah, he was one of the most qualified counter-terrorism prosecutors around. But Monica refused to consider him (pages 53 and 54). But surely they hired someone just as good who happened to complete her little Bush-love test, right?

Similarly, Kelly told us that Goodling refused to allow EOUSA to hire the candidate because his wife was active in Democratic politics.


Because EOUSA had been unable to fill the counterterrorism detail after Goodling vetoed this candidate, a current EOUSA detailee was asked to assume EOUSA’s counterterrorism portfolio. This replacement detailee had been an AUSA since September 2004, after having served as an assistant district attorney for 3 years. He had been detailed to EOUSA in 2006. He had no counterterrorism experience and had less than the minimum of 5 years of federal criminal prosecution experience required by the EOUSA job announcement. Battle, Nowacki, Kelly, and Voris all said they thought that he was not qualified for the position, since he had no counterterrorism experience. The replacement candidate was a registered Republican who Goodling had interviewed and approved before he was selected for his EOUSA detail.

In sum, we concluded that Goodling prevented EOUSA from selecting an experienced career AUSA to handle counterterrorism issues because of his and his wife’s political affiliation. As a result, a much less experienced, but politically acceptable, attorney was assigned this important responsibility. (emphasis mine)
May this be attached to every discussion about the Bush Justice department from now on.


Remember Monica Goodling?

Well, evidently she refused to hire a qualified prosecutor Because He Was Married to a Democrat. And there is more, from Kyle Sampson's specific intent to only hire Republicans to Monica Goodlings interviews with prospective employees with questions like:
Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.
[W]hat is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?

Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.

These people tried very hard to ruin the Department of Justice and turn it into a GOP Pac.

Interesting Obama interview

With the Jerusalem Post. Read the beginning where he compares Obama's approach to McCain and Bush--their comfort level with the region's issues and how many staffers they had in their interview. McCain brought Lieberman and (according to the writer) looked uncomfortable and ill-at ease several times. Bush brought a whole team to help him. Obama sat down with one aide--who's sole contribution seemed to be setting up the pictures.

With that in mind, read his interview and see how intelligent this man is.

July 27, 2008

Sport Utility Bicycles

These are kind of cool.

Chuck Hagel on McCain's irresponsible attacks

The Page - by Mark Halperin - TIME: "I think John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into, “You’re less patriotic than me. I’m more patriotic.”"
Most conservatives I talk to don't seem to recognize just how casually they can question the patriotism of liberals. A friend of mine compared it to the assumption that conservatives are accused of being racists. I countered that whereas he had never had his patriotism challenged, I had been accused of racism. And sexism. The only parallel I can really imagine are those in the Christian community who decide that the people they disagree with are not just honorable people trying to understand God who have come to a different conclusion--they are actually not Christians.

Sunday morning roundup

Good morning, everyone. Hope your summer weekend is going well. I have some good coffee and SOF is making something delicious for our brunch--so I am doing very well.

This week, of course, saw Barack Obama tour the Middle East and speak in Germany. And by all accounts, he did very well. All the talk about the increased scrutiny giving him more opportunities to screw up proved to be false. Obama looked presidential, and from what I saw, gave a speech for the ages in front of 200,000+ Germans. To be fair, after the last 8 years, this inanimate carbon rod looks more presidential than this.

But the scrutiny given Obama's visit coupled with John McCain's unbelievably inept campaigning this week led to increased whining from the right that the "liberal media" loved Obama and was shafting McCain. One report showed that Obama received nearly twice the minutes of coverage as McCain. But the LA Times points out that more is not necessarily positive:
"The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.

You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.

During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative."

If you want an example, just look at CBS's decision to edit McCain's interview to clip out his mistakes.

I still believe that our media is driven by money and what is "easy." And Obama is scintillating and interesting, and very easy to cover. Add to that the corporate machines running our media, and their clear conservative bent, and you have an interesting "capitalistic" approach to media. But conservatives have repeated this lie (in addition to others) so often that even some liberals assume that the media is biased toward them. And, I think, many analysts believe it and so go out of their way to dispel the fear that they are too liberal.


Speaking of McCain, he has a new ad out that challenges Obama's commitment to our troops. What a shock! A conservative saying that liberals don't support the troops. McCain used Obama's recent trip, and mischaracterized Obama's decision to not visit the troops in Germany as a snub. Even some conservatives cried foul, and many have noted that McCain seems to have thrown the clean campaign out the window. Perhaps it is to be expected. His entire campaign has been predicated on the idea that Obama was wrong on Iraq and he was right. Maliki's endorsement of Obama, and even our President's decision to suggest "time horizons" undercuts McCain's approach, and has left him stuttering about "we will win, we have won, we are winning," in a completely incoherent way. Chris Bodenner, at Sully's blog said it best:
I predict these nasty, petty, and desperate attacks will only grow as Obama soars into November. What else does McCain have to run on? It's the same approach Clinton took after Feb. 5: if I can't beat him, I'll drag him down to my level and hope he hits back, besmirching his image as a "new politician." It wasn't exactly a winning strategy.

All in.

July 26, 2008

The Olympic games

Over a lovely dinner last night with some friends, we discussed the relevancy of the Olympics. I am pretty sure I was outnumbered at the table last night. Of course, they were all wrong, so that makes it easier.

In all honesty, I really understand why so many true sports fans love the Olympics. They love seeing those sports that never get any attention elsewhere, and as several noted last night, for track and field, it is the pinnacle of the sport, and the only real goal of the top athletes in the sport.

But here are my problems with the Games.

1) The American coverage. I think the Simpsons said it the best when they had their own Olympics in Springfield where athletes received the "glorious gold, so-so silver, and shameful bronze." If I hear one more of our idiot reporters ask someone how bad they feel for getting the silver, I will puke. I will. Not only that, but they add drama to events that are naturally dramatic. Kind of like adding sugar to sweet tea. Disgusting and annoying.

2) American coverage, cont. I hate the national jingoism on display. Rarely do we see coverage of sports where Americans are not competitive. That may have made sense in the Cold War when we were fighting the dirty Commies in hockey, but it makes no sense when a good number of those athletes competing for other nations live and train in the US.

3) The lack of true national rivalry. Perhaps a contradiction with the last point, but I stand by it. When the Olympics were a way to compete with our enemies, the games had a sense of peaceful coexistence and healthy competition. Better to wave flags at each other's bob sled teams than shoot each other, as it were. But Al Qaeda is not likely to field a bob sled team.

4) The increased corporatization of the games. I remember when Bob Costas got in trouble during the Atlanta games for criticizing China's human rights policies. China complained to the corporate sponsors, and they reined Bob in--for saying the truth. The real rivalries are there, but we can't talk about them because our corporations are too busy selling out to China.

5) As a result, we get made-up rivalries, like the US and Australian swim teams. Really? I am supposed to care about that?

I will probably watch some of the games. I always end up doing so. But they often don't make me happy.

So, tell me. Why will you watch (or not watch) the Olympics? And if you are not going to watch, why do you hate America?

July 25, 2008

New Poll

I posted a new poll in the right side for your Friday democratic impulse.

July 24, 2008

Lincoln Chafee on Bush's economic diagnosis

And he suggests that Bush's tax policy certainly didn't help:
The president reversed his predecessors' good, conservative fiscal policies -- responsible stewardship of revenues and expenditures. So who's drunk?
But my favorite little line:
"True to form, the president prefers simplistic jargon over communicating the complexity of any subject."
Why is that? Does he really not understand the complexity of any subject? Seriously. He describes terrorist motivations as "they hate us for our freedom," and our approach to the world as "you are with us or against us."

Does he communicate so simplistically because he thinks that is the best way to communicate to people? Or does he want to appear "dumb" to appeal to American stupidity?

July 23, 2008


Robert Novak hit a pedestrian (minor injuries) and fled the scene? And he isn't in jail?

More on McCain's foreign policy

Following up in McCain's attack on Obama, several have taken note of McCain's recent error on foreign policy. It isn't quite the Iraq/Pakistan border, but while he dismissively attacks Obama for his stance on the surge, McCain gets the key chronology completely wrong.

Oh, and for those who still cling to the "liberal media" mythology, CBS evidently spliced the video tape to not show McCain's completely wrong answer.

McCain and Bush's war

While not completely fair, a video showing how supportive McCain has been for Bush and his war.

July 22, 2008


Joe Klein (not a big fan, btw) on McCain's suggestion that Obama would rather "lose a war in order to win a political campaign":
"This is the ninth presidential campaign I've covered. I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether McCain has the right temperament for the presidency. How sad."

Bush--economic geniuser

The Houston Chronicle obtained a video of Bush speaking to a Republican fundraiser, where he says that Wall Street got drunk, and now has a hangover. Of course, no mistakes by the "decider," but as with everything, bad decisions made by other people.

And because I haven't posted it in a while....

More right wing nuttery

Obama is being sponsored by Al Qaeda. Ah, the lovely American Family Association. Hating liberals, gays, and now Muslims (and supposed Muslims) since the 1977.



Acceptance of Gay People in Military Grows Dramatically:
Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.
And this:
"Fifty-seven percent of white evangelical Protestants now support allowing openly gay service members in the military, compared with 82 percent of white Catholics and 80 percent of those with no declared religious affiliation."

A pretty seismic change, don't you think?

How Obama Sees the World

Fareed Zakaria suggests that Obama is the real conservative on foreign policy in this race. More like HW Bush and miles away from the idealistic and ideologue-driven W foreign policy.

200 year old tips for a balanced life

And several of them are just as good now as they were then. A few of my favorites:
"1st. Live as well as you dare.
3rd. Amusing books.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to you friends, but talk of them freely--they are always worse for dignified concealment.
11th. Don't expect too much from human life--a sorry business at the best.
13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
17th. Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.

Is it wrong of me to laugh at this?

When Republican presidential nominee is worried about the trouble on the Iraq-Pakistan Border?

July 21, 2008

Stay classy, Republicans. Stay classy

State Senator Kevin Bryant Posts Osama-Obama Photo.
"It was meant tongue in cheek," he said, adding, "I've got some questions about Senator Obama's ties to -- such as his comment that we should negotiate with Iran. Iran's a country that would like to destroy Israel, that bothers me. But is this picture appropriate? I don't know." He let out a loud laugh. "It's gotten a lot more attention than I would have expected."

Does he think Obama is actually has terrorist ties? "I don't think he's tied to terrorists, no. I do think he's probably more sympathetic to nations that allow terrorism than I would prefer. And that's why I posted it. Am I saying that him and Osama work together? No, I'm not saying that at all."

And what religion does Bryant think Obama practices? "That's a good question. I don't know."

July 20, 2008

More on McCain and Obama's supposed FP weakness.

hilzoy says a few things I have also said:
"First the Bush administration started appeasing negotiating with Iran, as Obama had suggested; then McCain essentially adopted Obama's position on Afghanistan; then the Bush administration agreed to what they called a 'general time horizon'for withdrawing troops. (Wait: now it's 'Joint aspirational time horizons'!) McCain and Bush seemed to be adopting Obama's positions all over the place. For a risky, inexperienced novice, Obama seemed to have gotten a lot of things right. And for an experienced, serious old hand with a command of foreign policy, McCain seemed to be spending a lot of time playing catch-up. And every time Obama gets to say, in effect, 'Hi, John! What took you so long?', McCain's only winning message gets that much weaker."
But nails the other problem for McCain--one I had missed--that it is incredibly problematic for McCain to suggest that al-Maliki doesn't adequately represent the country's wishes:
But saying something like that about the Iraqi government -- that it doesn't really speak for the Iraqi people, or isn't capable of making its own decisions about Iraqi territorial integrity -- would undercut McCain's claims about progress in Iraq. Again, McCain would have to choose: does he say that Iraq's government has made some real political progress, and is capable of making its own decisions? In that case, he should accept its wishes. Does he say that he can disregard its requests on matters of Iraqi sovereignty? In that case, he undercuts a lot of his claims that the surge has enabled real and lasting progress in Iraq.

Politics draws me in once again

In 1996, SOF and I volunteered at the county Democratic office. Those were easy times to be a Democrat with Clinton riding high. Gore did not inspire me in 2000 and I was frankly tired of the Clinton/Gore camp by then. I voted for him, of course, but did so tepidly. Little did I know that Bush would be such a giant cluster. But even with that, I didn't have the energy to volunteer in 04. Not sure why.

Well, today, we walked down to the Midway Market which is one of those cool little old style markets tucked back in the neighborhood. State Senator Andrew Rice spoke at a rally, and he was quite engaging and inspiring. I don't know if he can beat Inhofe (our idiot incumbent) but I believe he is worth getting behind. He told a couple of interesting stories, including some polling data that suggests that only 39% of Oklahomans want to definitely reelect Inhofe.

Well, today I signed up to volunteer. If anyone is interested in following suit, you can do that or contribute to his campaign here.

Because what we have right now isn't working.

Oh Good God

The Bush administration really went to school on the whole Orwellian language, didn't they? When I saw they wanted "time horizons" but not timetables, I nearly gagged. I think we can all imagine the group huddle in the WH, "ok, we need a term to describe a timetable, but we cannot call it that or the Democrats and terrorists win."

Then al-Maliki endorsed Obama's 16 month timetable and the Republican heads started to asplode. This morning, I see from Petraeus that al-Maliki doesn't want what he said he wanted. And earlier, from Centcom, came a statement that al-Maliki had been misquoted.

To be fair, I have no clue what the best course of action is in Iraq. As far as I am concerned, the Bush people have left us with no good options. Likewise with Afghanistan, where I am unsure that Obama's stance is the right one there either.

But it seems clear that the Bush/McCain people are not as good at the foreign policy as they pretend. Not only is Bush now talking time-whatevers, but he is actually talking to Iran--the very same thing he accused Obama wanted to do when he called it "appeasement."

The Hold Steady Stays Positive

Halfway through this year, and my fears of a weak music year have proved wrong. So far. The Kathleen Edwards "Asking for Flowers" is as good as music gets, and other albums from Tift Merritt and the new Frightened Rabbit are very solid.

This last week, I was pleased to find the new Hold Steady album available on Emusic, so I downloaded it immediately. I have mixed emotions about this band. As one of the reviewers noted,
Like all The Hold Steady's albums, this one is basically about young folks behaving badly (booze, sex, fights).
That is about right. But when you hear their guitar licks, the bizarre lyrics work. And this new album (Stay Positive) is no different. Stirring guitar licks with some great rock anthems. This album, more than the previous couple, reminds me of early Sprinsteen--when the Boss's songs were long and rambling stories. With the Hold Steady, those stories are usually about bad behavior or very odd people. Like "Your little Hoodrat Friend," or the "Chillout tent."

But they also have songs that build beautifully. I said to SOF the other day, as we were listening to my favorite off this new album "Slapped Actress" that this is the kind of music that Beethoven would have found intriguing. He would have loved the chord progressions and musical hooks. Not just your basic 1,4,5 progression, the song just keeps running through my head. Still not sure about the lyrics, though as I read them, it is not an endorsement of slapping, but the song is a great one, and the album a cinch for top 10 albums of the year.

A "giving kiosk"

Courtesy of my friend Mary, this from a mainline Methodist church. One of my Baptist friends pointed out that there is very little difference between paying a tithe with check or credit card. I think in isolation, that is exactly right and this just reflects the changing ways we move money in our society.

But in the broader contexts of churches relying on business models, focus groups, and preachers trained in communication rather than theology, it concerns me.

July 19, 2008

Just too funny

Guitar lesson time (courtesy of my guitar teacher)

Why McCain's "socialist" comment offends me

The other day, a reporter asked John McCain if he thinks Obama is a socialist:
McCain responds with a with a shrug, 'I don't know.'"

A commenter at Tony's blog took offense at my characterization of this exchange, and I think I was unclear. I said that either McCain doesn't know what socialism is or he is lying.

Let me explain.

While there are actual definitions of socialism, I believe that Americans hear "socialism" as the same as "communism" and equate both to being "unamerican." And I believe that John McCain understands that very well. He knows that he can very subtly imply that Obama is not a loyal American. He knows that for two reasons--one that the American people respond to that assertion, and two, that liberals would be unable to suggest the same thing about McCain.

Conservatives can casually question the patriotism or loyalty of liberals, but no matter how duplicitous, or corrupt, or even destructive, no one questions the loyalty of conservatives. They can do business with the enemy, or out a CIA agent working for us, and while they might be chastised and criticized, they will not be accused of being unAmerican.

There are definitions of socialism. Most of them include the government control of the modes of production and a controlling the distribution of wealth. We really don't have much of a socialist movement in this country, and while McCain tried to link Obama to " the announced Socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont," even that was a distortion. Sanders is a political liberal, calls himself a "Democratic socialist" and is hardly some Marxist.

So when McCain says, "I don't know," what he means is that he doesn't really care about Socialism. Hell, if Obama is a socialist, then so is McCain (or so he was when he was the self-appointed "maverick"). McCain means to undermine Obama's legitimacy. It is the very same tactic that Hillary used when asked if Obama was a muslim. She knows the answer, just as McCain did--in both cases, "no, of course not"--she left doubt because she wanted to question Obama's American identity.

The closest comparison would be if Obama had been asked if McCain was a "fascist" and said he didn't know. But even that doesn't work as well in our culture. I remember a friend of mine saying he voted for Bush in 04 because he was afraid of what a radical liberal like Kerry might do. Of course, as I pointed out then, he seemed completely oblivious that we were living with the disaster of a radical conservative agenda, but the "theoretical" liberal was more scary than the actual conservative agenda of war, torture, and reduced civil liberties.


July 18, 2008

Because I love the top ten lists

And saw this at Sarah's blog asking for your top-ten albums of the last ten years. Decided to post my response and open it here for others.

I said:
"Any of the Wilco albums
Anything from Kasey Chambers
Same from Kathleen Edwards
The Jayhawks, Sound of Lies or Smile
Springsteen’s Rising
Ryan Adams, Cold Roses
Uncle Tupelo, Anodyne
Son Volt, Trace
the Hold Steady (not sure which one)
Alejandro Escovedo, (several)"


July 17, 2008

Rape jokes

Just curious, but has any of you ever told a rape joke told a rape joke?

I am a big joke teller. Can't think of a time that I told one that made light of rape.

Just saying.

This makes me angry

Republicans really do seem to assume they are the only ones who care about national defense. Here in Oklahoma, we have a pretty liberal state senator challenging the corrupt Jim Inhofe for Senate and he has responded to a billboard ad by some asshat Floridian that connects voting Democrat with the WTC. Rice (our candidate) lost a brother in the World Trade Center.

The Conservative Nanny State

Thanks to a friend for pointing me to this book, on conservative economics.

In this book (which I have only read part), Baker suggests that our current dialogue is misleading. It isn't that conservatives don't want big government, it is that they want government to protect their interests. While rather harsh in phrasing, he has some very interesting points. For example, on the issue of free trade, he suggests that what we have now is not free trade, but selective free trade. Dishwashers, for example, compete for jobs in the US based on wages and ability (as such). If a restaurant can hire a Mexican (let's assume legally here) for cheaper wages, then he is free to do so. Let's remember that many conservatives oppose the minimum wage, so if they had their way, that Mexican immigrant could work for next to nothing if he/she were willing, and Americans would find their wages decrease. A good example of this, of course, is the migrant labor that picks our fruit and vegetables.

This "free market" serves a lot of good for our society, or at least most of us in this society, because it makes most of our goods and services less expensive. But, as Baker suggests, white collar professionals do not participate in such an economy. Yes, absolutely, a Mexican trained professor could be hired into a university program--competing on ability--but that University would not be allowed to pay that professor what might pass for a wage in Mexico city.

As a result, those wealthiest professionals prosper in a protected economy. Not only that, but often they participate with government in ventures that are exceedingly unfree and not governed strictly by the market. CEOs and executives at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will not suffer the market's consequence for screwing up. Individual homeowners saddled with poorly vetted mortgages will. Something about "socializing the risk and privatizing the profit," I think.


Another Conservative for Obama

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "I'm a lifelong Republican - a supply-side conservative. I worked in the Reagan White House. I was the chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for five years. In 1994, I helped write the Republican Contract with America. I served on Bob Dole's presidential campaign team and was chief economist for Jack Kemp's Empower America. This November, I'm voting for Barack Obama.
When I first made this decision, many colleagues were shocked. How could I support a candidate with a domestic policy platform that's antithetical to almost everything I believe in?
The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies - this is the difference between venial and mortal sins. Taxes, economic policy and health care reform matter, of course. But how we extract ourselves from the bloody boondoggle in Iraq, how we avoid getting into a war with Iran and how we preserve our individual rights while dealing with real foreign threats - these are of greater importance,' - Larry Hunter, New York Daily News."

July 16, 2008

Cannot make this stuff up

And that has been true for the last 8 years, especially, but today had a few like this.

First, of course, is the unbelievable gall of Elizabeth Dole wanting to name an AIDS Bill after Jesse Helms. Kind of like naming an evolution lab after Jerry Falwell. Or a library after GW Bush.


After all the years of Republicans complaining about Clinton auctioning access to the Lincoln bedroom, this HS advisor selling access to the Bush people for $600,00+ is kind of funny. I really don't want to hear a lecture from any Republicans in the future. Not about anything moral or ethical.


Speaking of our Republican friends, Yglesias has an interesting post on the right's love affair with Teddy Roosevelt. An interesting figure in American history, but far too concerned with his masculinity for me.


I love how Cindy McCain thinks that private plane travel is the only way to get around Arizona. And it is Obama who is the elitist.



Jane Mayer's new book is getting a lot of press. Seems she thinks that Cheney is responsible for a lot of our torture. Turns out he simply ignored or over-rode any objections by moral or legal critics who said this was not the way to go. And despite our commenter's critique, there is ample evidence that the torture was not only immoral, but also simply unhelpful:
Meanwhile, although President Bush has argued that “enhanced” interrogation had led to numerous breakthroughs he has never publicly acknowledged the false and fabricated intelligence it has yielded, too. One former top CIA official told me, “Ninety percent of what we got was crap.”

I think Cheney is going to have a lot to answer for as his "legacy" is written. At this point, I suspect that Bush will come across as a man in over his head, who delegated the wrong tasks to the wrong people.


I think some will find Obama disappointing as a Presidential candidate because he is so damn pragmatic, but I, for one, find that option quite compelling. After 8 years of idiot ideologues, I would welcome someone pursuing foreign policy more on the model of the first President Bush.

And I remember when we thought HW Bush was dumb. Turns out, he was quite smart and capable.

Some more Hawaii pictures

July 15, 2008


Tony noted this the other day and I just saw it again on the DMN Religion blog. Evidently, a Baptist church right here in Oklahoma was planning on giving away a semiautomatic rifle to a lucky youth attending their conference. Really hard to figure out what is going on here. I guess I just don't see the connection.

But for a happier topic, here is another picture from our trip. Our Nikon Coolpix has a cool panoramic assist that really works! I took several pictures and then used their software to stitch them into one nice picture. See what you think. This one is a view of the Na Pali Coast on Kauai.

If you click on it, I think you can see a bigger version. I have a few more panoramic views to post. Maybe later this week.

July 14, 2008

Pearl Harbor

As I mentioned the other day, our trip struck me as a mix of authentic and contrived experiences, and this describes our trip to Pearl Harbor as well. Perhaps my expectations were a little on the high side. After all, I felt as if I had been there before. It was also one of the longer days on the trip, so my fatigue grew through the tour.

We started early and ended up in line waiting to get into the memorial and museum. I had been reading about the attack and how America experienced it almost as an archetypal American event similar to Indians attacking the generic homestead, or the shocking losses to the "other" at the Alamo or Little Big Horn. Pearl Harbor fell into that for many--a treacherous attack by the non-white other. The racial aspect was something that concerned the OWI (Office of War Information). They did not want our films and portrayals to emphasize the racial difference of the Japanese, but wanted to emphasize a conflict of systems and ideas.

So when I watched the movie introduction and went through the Arizona memorial, I had some of that in the back of my mind. When I referenced the propaganda movie, that was rather harsh, perhaps, but there is an element there. The film shows original footage (including obviously some gleaned from Japanese archives) and then some footage from early documentaries showing the American spirit responding to the attack--emphasizing the melting pot of American citizens (except, of course, Japanese Americans). Heartwarming stuff.

In retrospect, there was much I admired about the memorial. Seeing the outline of the Arizona and the seeping oil made it very real, and very authentic. But there were other issues (fair or not) that caused me some discomfort.

1) The idea that everyone who perished that day were heroes. This is not a criticism of their service or sacrifice, mind you, but I would imagine that many of those who died that day would have scoffed at the idea that they were heroic. They were just doing their jobs. Some, I am sure, acted heroically and tried to save others. But just being there didn't make them heroes.

2) Likewise, the arbitrary nature of the adoration. Is there a wall or memorial for those who died a few weeks after Pearl? In a battle that didn't conform to the idea of treachery and deceit?

3) (And this one was more unspoken, and not fair to attack to the memorial or the Park Service presentation) the specter of 9-11 and the "Greatest Generation." I recently received an email saying that Bush's error on Iraq was not the war, but the assumption that he led the same country that fought WWII. Yet, in the footage of the response to the tragedy of Pearl and the attempts to rescue the wounded and dying, I saw the previous versions of those rescue efforts here in Oklahoma City and following the World Trade center attacks. World War II was different because our President then called us to sacrifice and to rally behind the war effort against a known and definable enemy. Roosevelt didn't tell the American people to trust him and then go shopping. Likewise, black and white film doesn't mean that people in the past were more patriotic or "Greatest."

4) The assumption of victory and the "rightness" of our cause. In this case, I sincerely believe that we were on the right side of that war--don't get me wrong. Fascism had to be stopped. But out of that "victory culture" has come a sense that all of our wars or military actions are the same way. It almost becomes a circular logic--we are right because we fight, and we fight because we are right.

The tour of the Missouri was less emotional and more almost just factual in nature. It was cool to see a ship that size and to see how it operated. I had forgotten that it was still in use during the Persian Gulf War. But during our tour, we heard a couple of stories that were rather interesting. The first was about President Truman's visit to the Missouri. The ship's captain planned for the President to eat in the Officer's mess, but Truman insisted on eating with the men--and also standing in line for his food like everyone else.

The second story was actually the most positive and uplifting one for me. During the battle for Okinawa, a Kamikaze bomber hit the Missouri--you can still see the dent in the ship side. It caused very little damage and no casualties for the ship, but ended, of course, the life of the pilot. The men on deck wanted to throw the rest of the man's body overseas in disgust. But the ship captain insisted on waiting until the next day, folding the remains in a makeshift Japanese flag and giving the Japanese soldier a proper burial. The men questioned this, noting that he had been trying to kill them. The Captain said that the Japanese soldier was just doing his job, just like all of them. He was fighting for his country, and deserved this small bit of respect.

July 13, 2008

Back. Bleary-eyed, jet-lagged, and exhausted. But back.

So we went to Hawaii on a cruise with SOF's family. A once-in-a-lifetime vacation, and a very good family get-together. But I am exhausted and trying to avoid crashing too early. If that results in some typos or bizarre prose, you now the excuse. This time.

But also a trip that had us thinking a lot about a wide variety of things--from affluence, to colonialism, to historical memory. For once, I chose very wisely for my travel text. I am a fan of Tony Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic is still one of my favorite books) and realized I purchased a copy of Blue Latitudes some time ago, but never read it. So I pulled it out for the plane trip and cruise, and it served me well. Reading about Cook's voyages to the Pacific was a perfect way to approach and view the islands. Though it did present the experience through a particular lens. I was ever mindful of the European view of Polynesia and their cultural differences--the impact of Christian missionaries (both positive and the many negative impacts)--and the continual residue of colonialism.

This reading informed so much of my experience--from our brief experience in ocean kayaks to the most bizarre and awful Luau at a ritzy resort. Watching the "Polynesian" dancers (Maori, Hawaiian, Samoan, etc. all performed by the same dancers) made me feel more like a colonizing invader than ever before. Likewise, watching three drunk frat boys (or older) splash around in a hot-tub to a cover band doing the Beach Boys--WHILE reading a discussion of Cook's own rather reserved upbringing--simply made me feel queasy.

I finally decided that I was torn between the "authentic" and "in-authentic" experiences on this trip. That paradigm is not completely satisfactory, because many of the experiences included both "real" and "contrived" elements. The tour began with a trip to the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor. One would think that would be an intensely authentic experience, but I found it oddly ambiguous. Real war experiences combined with a propaganda-style movie introduction--followed by a gift shop filled with all manner of consumer goods to commemorate.... something about "infamy."

But I return to that metric--flawed as it is--and will try to unpack some of those observations this week. But first, a few of our many photos:

Waikiki Beach

Arizona Memorial at dawn

And one of me on horseback on a beach in Kauai. For the doubters.... This horse doubled as a team-roping heeler when he wasn't ferrying around some tourists. His name was "7-11." I feared a broken down nag, but 7-11 was a cool horse.

Glad to be home...

July 3, 2008

Light blogging for a while

SOF and I are going to be taking a little time.

So, in the meantime, some discussion? The Holy Roman Empire was neither. Discuss.

July 2, 2008

More on torture's consequences

Not only does it create more terrorists, but it is endangering our own operatives

Key quote:
"Operationally, the torture story has already had a chilling effect in keeping CIA officers off the streets and out of the back alleys of a dangerous world. There is a deep and realistic concern that they could be captured and tortured themselves.

Old hands will recall the case of the CIA Beirut station chief, William Buckley, taken hostage in Beirut in 1984 by Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad, and held until his death there in 1985. An operational assignment to Beirut after the Buckley affair was a personal security nightmare -- but the heightened concerns were limited to that rough neighborhood. CIA officers could still do abroad what they did best -- move around and understand, perhaps as well as any, the lay of the land.

Today, for CIA officers, and literally all U.S. officials abroad, much of the world resembles Beirut in the mid-1980s. A look at any U.S. embassy must be through crash barriers and razor wire. These serve not only to keep America’s adversaries out, but to keep American officers in, crippling the intelligence and any foreign-policy missions at the worst possible time."
The author suggests that the CIA is damaged goods right now, and made less effective by these people. Let's remember, they took their operational manual from the Communists--even those operational manuals dedicated to getting false confessions. Are we now surprised that the very agency dedicated to keeping us safe through intelligence is now the hunted.

Add this to the list of things that Bush allowed under his watch. He delegated the hell out of this, and turned our military and intelligence agencies over to sadists and thugs. And not the good kind.

"Believe Me, It's Torture"

Hitchens chooses to be waterboarded and he still has nightmares about it.
One used to be told—and surely with truth—that the lethal fanatics of al-Qaeda were schooled to lie, and instructed to claim that they had been tortured and maltreated whether they had been tortured and maltreated or not. Did we notice what a frontier we had crossed when we admitted and even proclaimed that their stories might in fact be true? I had only a very slight encounter on that frontier, but I still wish that my experience were the only way in which the words “waterboard” and “American” could be mentioned in the same (gasping and sobbing) breath.

Americans and Communists

Turns out that that trainers at Gitmo were pulling verbatim techniques from the Chinese communists--techniques, it turns out, that were intended to produce false confessions. Earlier reports had some of the techniques taken from KGB manuals, and then there is, of course, the use of former gulags as "black sites" to hold terrorist suspects.

Some of you know this, but I grew up in a Republican world with the Cold War ringing in my ears. I remember, very distinctly, worrying about nuclear attack, and hearing phrases like "better dead than red." I remember every mention of how the communists in the Soviet Union and China had no respect for human rights--every example of "kangaroo courts" and other forms of fake justice. As a young man, the idea of who we were as a people was firmly rooted in the oppositional force of this kind of totalitarianism.

When I read about my country converting old gulags, and recycling old communist torture techniques, it makes me sick to my stomach. More than that, I see how little people (not readers of this blog, obviously) care about this. I remember when the first allegations of torture appeared. I said to SOF (incredibly naively, as it turns out) that torture would force a divide between Christian conservatives and the Bush people. To say I was wrong is to understate it. Amazingly, most of the conservative Christians who led the charge for Bush in 2000 not only signed on again in 04, but again for the party in 06. And even more, they said nothing critical about torture.

It makes me sad for who we have become.