Up-or-Down Laws

With all that talk at the State of the Union about upordownvotes and whims and laws and such:

On matters of justice, we must trust in the wisdom of our founders and empower judges who understand that the Constitution means what it says. (Applause.) I've submitted judicial nominees who will rule by the letter of the law, not the whim of the gavel. Many of these nominees are being unfairly delayed. They are worthy of confirmation, and the Senate should give each of them a prompt up-or-down vote. (Applause.)
one would have thought the meaning of the word "nuance" was lost on old GW.

Apparently, however, GW finds his way to disregard certain nuances of the 2008 defense act:

WASHINGTON - President Bush this week declared that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill.

Bush made the assertion in a signing statement that he issued late Monday after signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. In the signing statement, Bush asserted that four sections of the bill unconstitutionally infringe on his powers, and so the executive branch is not bound to obey them.

"Provisions of the act . . . purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the president's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as commander in chief," Bush said. "The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President."

One section Bush targeted created a statute that forbids spending taxpayer money "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq."

The Bush administration is negotiating a long-term agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The agreement is to include the basing of US troops in Iraq after 2008, as well as security guarantees and other economic and political ties between the United States and Iraq.

The negotiations have drawn fire in part because the administration has said it does not intend to designate the compact as a "treaty," and so will not submit it to Congress for approval. Critics are also concerned Bush might lock the United States into a deal that would make it difficult for the next president to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

Heil to the Decider! And (Applause.) to the Good Congress for their friendly faint-hearted opposition to the Bush Doctrine (from Glenn Greenwald):

To support the new Bush-supported FISA law:

GOP - 48-0

Dems - 12-36

To compel redeployment of troops from Iraq:

GOP - 0-49

Dems - 24-21

To confirm Michael Mukasey as Attorney General:

GOP - 46-0

Dems - 7-40

To confirm Leslie Southwick as Circuit Court Judge:

GOP - 49-0

Dems - 8-38

Kyl-Lieberman Resolution on Iran:

GOP - 46-2

Dems - 30-20

To condemn MoveOn.org:

GOP - 49-0

Dems - 23-25

The Protect America Act:

GOP - 44-0

Dems - 20-28

Declaring English to be the Government's official language:

GOP - 48-1

Dems - 16-33

The Military Commissions Act:

GOP - 53-0

Dems - 12-34

To renew the Patriot Act:

GOP - 54-0

Dems - 34-10

Cloture Vote on Sam Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court:

GOP - 54-0

Dems - 18-25

Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq:

GOP - 48-1

Dems - 29-22

Anyone know where we're supposed to pickup our uniforms?

Nothing New byslag at 1:24 PM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Edwards Issues: ABTWG '08

Lurking around the blogosphere after Edwards' campaign suspension announcement has been a learning experience. It has been quieter than usual, and overall, there has been a general feeling of tremendous loss.

I continue to believe that our nation needs John Edwards at this time, and I am profoundly sad that we will not have him. I believed in him; I believed in his message; and I hope that he will take Waveflux's sage advice and find a role for himself as the vital and vibrant leader he is and can be, in the mold of Al Gore. And I hope we will assess why our two finest statesmen cannot find their way to the White House, and realize how bereft of genuine, tangible, spirit-lifting change we will be without them.

I was proud to support you, Senator Edwards. Thank you for trying.
Firedog Lake:
With John Edwards dropping out of the Democratic presidential race, we are losing a fierce and committed voice for change and for justice. I, for one, feel that loss like an ache.

One of the signature issues of his campaign -- one that is near and dear to my own heart -- was Edwards' commitment to giving voice to those who have none in our money-driven political process. The Democratic party has long been the champion of the downtrodden and folks in need. Although we have sadly forgotten that obligation to the least of these our bretheren the last few years, the message still resonates here in Appalachia and all over this nation where people are in need of hope, and a little dignity.

And News Corpse asks the practical questions:

Who Will Fight the Media Now?

...Edwards was the only candidate to have directly addressed the problem of the media in this country. He recognized the danger of unregulated corporations controlling access to the media megaphone that all candidates and initiatives rely on if they harbor any hope of success. His own candidacy was a victim of the exclusionary predilections of Big Media.

Here are some memorable moments from Edwards’ campaign:

“I am not particularly interested in seeing Rupert Murdoch own every newspaper in America.”

“High levels of media consolidation threaten free speech, they tilt the public dialogue towards corporate priorities and away from local concerns, and they make it increasingly difficult for women and people of color to own meaningful stakes in our nation’s media.”

“It’s time for all Democrats, including those running for president, to stand up and speak out against this [News Corp./Dow Jones] merger and other forms of media consolidation.”

“The basis of a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair media — all qualities which are pretty hard to [ascribe] to Fox News and News Corp.”

But then, there are others who are both sad to see Edwards go, yet ready to move on:
I've been going through my mourning for a while for his campaign not getting more traction, so his withdrawal announcement didn't shock me. But sad as I am about his departure, I feel good about being able to switch my support to Barack Obama, and will do all I can to help him win.
At Some of Nothing, our loyalties are swayed in a different direction. We liked Edwards for many reasons that aren't answered by either of the two candidates. Specifically, his big idea for making our government more democratic was the most compelling:

We, at SoN, talk of three big things we want to see our candidates stand for:
1. Publicly financed clean elections
2. Commitment to diversified media
3. Vastly improved educational system
We figure everything after these things will pretty much take care of itself. Edwards was the candidate making strong statements on those issues. As a consequence, we knew he was talking to us.

Some of Nothing has made no secret of the fact that Obama is next in line to receive our humble yet vocal support. Nonetheless, we're not easily moved. We're impressed that Obama stepped up his rhetoric after South Carolina. We think he saw the writing on the wall and made a smart strategic decision, and this speaks well of his chances of standing up to Republicans in the general election. And he made a decent speech after Edwards' campaign suspension. But again, it was a little empty, and it's hard to make up for so many months of essentially dissing us. So, until Obama either gets an endorsement from Edwards or really turns it up a notch, we're sticking with our own brand of identity politics through the general election: AnyoneButTheWhiteGuy '08. We figure that, unless everyone but Gravel drops from the democratic ticket, this is a gimme.

Nothing New byslag at 5:16 PM 3 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

News! (and Bad News)

John Edwards finally gets some real attention from the press! (because he's dropping out of the race)

Nothing good to say here.

Nothing New byslag at 9:01 AM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Impudent Conservatism

From Paul Krugman's latest column:

Whatever hopes people might have had that Mr. Clinton would usher in a new era of national unity were quickly dashed. Within just a few months the country was wracked by the bitter partisanship Mr. Obama has decried.

This bitter partisanship wasn’t the result of anything the Clintons did. Instead, from Day 1 they faced an all-out assault from conservatives determined to use any means at hand to discredit a Democratic president.

For those who are reaching for their smelling salts because Democratic candidates are saying slightly critical things about each other, it’s worth revisiting those years, simply to get a sense of what dirty politics really looks like.

No accusation was considered too outlandish: a group supported by Jerry Falwell put out a film suggesting that the Clintons had arranged for the murder of an associate, and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page repeatedly hinted that Bill Clinton might have been in cahoots with a drug smuggler.

Krugman goes on to extract two lessons from his analysis:

The point is that while there are valid reasons one might support Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton, the desire to avoid unpleasantness isn’t one of them.

Second, the policy proposals candidates run on matter.

Much has been debated about this column, and I can see both sides of the argument. Some say that this is a different time and that level and depth of support of a candidate matters in how opponents treat him. I think there's some truth to this. Bill Clinton barely won his first election, so at the time, Republicans could easily find it in their hearts to allege ad infinitum without much concern about a strong reaction from either side. However, we should point out that we're still a long way from the general election. There may be more Tony Rezkos waiting in Obama's closet. And Bush's approval rating is still around 30%, which means that nearly 1/3 of this country is either completely ignorant or just crazy (or maybe both). Plus, we continue to have the same laissez faire media who, when they are not spitting out "both sides" of an actual story, still think that stuff like this is news. So, Obama's riding high now, but for how long? And what about after he gets in the White House?

We don't need any tea leaves to tell us what methods Republicans are going to use in their attempt to take him out. Jon Swift has humorously laid out a version for us in some detail. In reality, they started their Obama-is-a-Muslim whispering campaign many moons ago. This whisper is all they need to keep their 30% happy. Now, they're sending that tool, Jonah Goldbrick, out to try to connect liberalism to fascism by reducing liberalism down to a gooey homogeneous "unity" mass with a little sprinkling of organically grown totalitarianism on top (and they wonder why we accuse them of projecting). Toss in David Brooks' hint that Obama's "unity" virtue is less "classical" and more Islamic-al, and you've got yourself a full-on Islamic Fascist in the White House (complete with his own week-long celebration) post election day.

David Brooks and the other neocon uni-tards in the media are going to provide the path for them to get their argument out of the 30% crazy land mass and moved toward the middle. They'll start by continuing to drip this "fascist liberal unification" concoction into every ounce of their rhetoric. And when you bring up the reality that everyone runs on bridging divisions, you'll get, "GW Bush, Uniter, Not a Divider? Clearly, you're a crazy revisionist historian." They'll keep throwing in a few "Osama (oh, I mean, Obama)'s" here and there along with some "Hussein"s just to keep their 30% on message. Then, the neocon media middlemen will start using every possible Obama hiccup to withdraw whatever faux support they claimed to have mustered for Obama during the campaign. Many of these "hiccups" will look to the rest of us like rational progressive leadership.

Eventually, Brooks is going to recant his former championing of him--maybe when Obama reveals his true Muslim roots by starting to extract us from Iraq or by refusing to get us into Iran--and admit that he just can't find it in his heart to support his old pal anymore. Brooks will talk about his own special goodness as a uni-tard and how he really, really tried his hardest, but that crazy Islamic Fascist Obama is tricky and suckered him in with his snake charming tongue. Eventually, after they've eroded away about 50%, they'll try to get Obama up on some little trivial land deal that didn't make any money but might have something to do with how he's helping out his friends, the terr'ists. Bring in a special prosecutor and no Libby-style justice will be good enough for the Muslim man.

Or maybe they'll take a different route with similar twists and turns--the thing about neocons is that they tend to keep a lot of branding irons in the fire. Just in case.

So, what's the lesson that I learn from all this? I already know that no one is immune--not even my man, Edwards. But if I were going to take a lesson from the neocon history books, it will be a phrase I learned from our 30% dear GW Bush. And I say to neocons everywhere: "Bring it on!"

(of course, unlike Bush, I will be doing some of the fighting)

Nothing New byslag at 10:24 AM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

Bill Clinton's (Bush) Senior Moment

"Democrats do better when people think."
-Bill Clinton (former president and former thinker)

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."
-Albert Einstein (former assistant patent officer and theoretical physicist)

The Some of Nothing Blog has, for the most part, ignored the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. What little attention we have paid to it has come in the form of criticism of the media for their coverage of the New Hampshire primaries and the trumped up "Hilsterics" that we've come to know and loathe. This lack of attention has been for two reasons: 1. there has been no shortage of other news coverage of Hillary Clinton (whether we like it or not), and 2. our thoughts about Hillary's campaign have been ambivalent, at best. We, here at Some of Nothing, have a tendency to view our representatives as children who need a firm but loving parental hand when it comes to encouraging them to behave properly. And in this primary, we've viewed Edwards as our favorite child--overlooking past indiscretions as we see him start to mature into being a contributing member of our society. We've seen Obama as the second favorite--our love and hope for him is displayed only in asking why he can't be more like his brother. And as for Hillary, she's the delinquent we've given up on--hoping nothing more than she stay out of jail and try to ween herself off of her various addictions. So, when the Clinton campaign started to behave more erratically than usual, we just looked at it as a typical cry for help and ignored it.

However, there's one element of Clinton's cry that we cannot ignore: it's the anti-intellectualism, stupid. If there is one thing that I appreciated about the original Bill Clinton as a campaigner and as a president, it was his ability to meet people on their level and raise them up. He recognized that we, as a country, were smarter than we were given credit for, and all we needed was a bit of encouragement to really see beyond initial barriers and prejudices in order to make the best decisions for ourselves and our country. For evidence of this, let's look back to Clinton's "debate moment" from back when he was running against Bush Sr. and responding to a question about how the economic depression has impacted him:

The genius of this Bill Clinton is fairly self-evident. He is empathetic, not dismissive, and thoughtful in his response. However, at the point near the end of his comment, when he says:
...What I want you to understand is, the national debt is not the only cause of that [depressed economy]. It is because America has not invested in its people; it is because we have not grown...it is because we are in the grip of a failed economic theory. And this decision you're about to make better be about what kind of economic theory you want...
that is where he truly shines. Because when Bush Sr. had talked down to this woman, Clinton talked up. He viewed her as an adult with the capability of rational thought and challenged her to look at the big picture and understand the reality of the issues she faces.

Now, let's contrast that Bill Clinton with the Shill Clinton we see today when asked about the success of the Obama campaign:

...Jesse Jackson won in South Carolina twice...
While the circumstances surrounding the two comments were not exactly the same, I can't help but wonder how the Bill Clinton of yesteryear would have handled the Obama question of today. In reality, the only acceptable excuse for Clinton's narrow and demeaning response here would be temporary insanity. Because in insinuating that Obama is just "the black candidate," not only is he minimizing the success of Barack Obama, but he's blatantly and unabashedly disrespecting the intelligence of the American people. He's having a Bush Senior moment. By failing to put himself in the minds of Obama voters, Clinton is perpetuating many of the crass and shortsighted stereotypes trumpeted by Beltway politicians and media. And in the process, he undermines his own credibility when he criticizes those stereotypes. Nonetheless, we can only hope that, when Americans contemplate their willingness to be talked down to and to base decisions on abject prejudice, Bill Clinton will be hoisted on his own petard. And we will firmly but lovingly remind him of the simple fact that we're not stupid!

Nothing New byslag at 11:55 AM 5 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Other People's Genius: Inside-Out Edition

In spite of Sam Seder's valiantly sappy effort to boost morale, I am skipping democratic primary school today to revel in recent achievements in the fight for information freedom.

* Heather McKee at EcoGeek shares the news about an "eco-patent commons":

In a partnership with the World Business Council for SustainableDevelopment (WBCSD), IBM, Sony, Nokia, and Pitney Bowes are giving away the rights to 31 environmental technology patents to anyone willing to use them.

Inspired by open source movement behind Creative Commons and the Linux OS, the WBCSD and these companies believe that by sharing patents that reduce pollution and waste, they will provide a spawning ground for new collaborations in efficiency and sustainability.

I am particularly looking forward to learning about Fluid jet impregnation. Who knew being good could sound so bad?

*Oyster's Garter highlights some exciting breakthroughs in "open-source science":
Most academic science is funded by the government, so the results essentially belong to the people. But the data that is paid for by these grants rarely appears outside of expensive, subscription-only journals. The Public Library of Science (PLoS), a free online scientific journal, is a great approach to making science results available to the public. And, very soon, Google will be another!

Wired Magazine reports that Google’s next huge world-changing project will be a home for terabytes of scientific data.
Ahhh...Google. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways: 10googol.

* Read/Write Web discusses the latest trend in free traditional media:
Monthly political and cultural editorial magazine, The Atlantic, announced in an editor's note this week that it would be ditching its subscriber registration requirement to view online content. The magazine's printed content, including archives from 1995-present, is now free for the general public on its web site. Archives dating back to 1857 are available as part of a for-pay premium pass program (though some of those articles should be in the public domain, right?), excluding articles from January, 1964 - September, 1992, which are left out for copyright purposes.
The Atlantic follows other old guard US media properties that have recently set their online content free.
This means that we can now read stuff besides Matthew Yglesias. Oh happy day!

*And finally, Tek Artist points us to a Flickr photo series called Understanding Art for Geeks, which opens up a whole new world:
And I didn't think Escher could get any geekier. Fair use.

Happy other people's genius Friday!

Nothing New byslag at 11:25 AM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Democrats are Losers

I don't know about you, but I was pretty excited at the beginning of this primary season. We had a slew of great Democratic candidates to choose from, a lot of ethnic diversity in the ranks, and a healthy range of solution-oriented ideas and agendas to inspire us. There were Dodd and Gravel giving us our straight talk, Kucinich being a progressive's progressive, Richardson showing some international insight, and Biden radiating a healthy glow of machismo. We also had Edwards' fire, Obama's optimism, and Clinton's...well...we'll go with gravitas. Back then, the future was so bright, I had to wear Biden's shades.

Cue Harry Reid discussing the FISA bill, including telecom amnesty:

[I]f people think they are going to talk this to death, we are going to be in here all night. This is not something we are going to have a silent filibuster on. If someone wants to filibuster this bill, they are going to do it in the openness of the Senate.
Even if I don't factor in the Nevada debaucus and the ditch Obaminton have driven the campaign into, I'm finding it hard to be a Democrat right now. The most recent telecom immunity capitulation has elucidated the fact that, no matter how vivid and inviting the future looks, the democrats are still just riding piggyback on Bush's dinosaur. This immunity issue compels us to recall the hope we had when Democrats won the Congress in 2002, and it compels us to recall every single subsequent disappointment thereafter. Back in the day, accountability was going to replace Scooter Libby, facts were going to replace "intelligence", and justice was going to replace Abu Ghraib. Instead, telecoms are the new Scooter Libby, Iran is the new Iraq, and Mukasey is the new Gonzales. This really isn't what I voted for.

So, when Bolton and Miers can blithely flout the rule of law by disregarding congressional subpoenas, and a Democrat representing my interests has to perform the first real filibuster against his very own party (supposedly my party), am I going to assume that my vote this November will actually bring me what I want? Because, in the long run, what I want has little to do with getting a few extra dollars in the form of a tax rebate and more to do with getting justice and equal representation. When I have these two things, I don't need or want the government to save me from anything. Why would I? With justice and equal representation, I have the power to save myself.

As Digby says:
It looks like we're going to party like it's 2002. Again. An unnecessary national security vote is being forced down the throat of a Democratic congress by the otherwise totally obstructionist Republicans, and the Democrats are anxious to sweep it under the rug so they can avoid being called cowards. Election year greatest hits: give them what they want so we can move on to "our issues." Get ready to hear this stale old tune a lot.
Well, the fact is that telecom immunity and congressional subpoenas are our issues, and we simply cannot move forward until we acknowledge that. And without the ability to move forward, democrats are losers--in every sense of the word.

PS Lawrence O'Donnell is a tool.

Nothing New byslag at 9:10 AM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

With Friends Like Reid...

That's it. It's clearly time for a moratorium on majority leaders from cesspool states such as Nevada. The state can't even hold a decent primary. Caucusing in casinos?!? Way to prioritize, dumbasses. Ken Layne from Wonkette uncovers the real Las Vegas:

Horrible smog. Chewed-up desert. Wind storms. Endless vistas of foreclosed stucco boxes. For Sale signs and Payday Loan joints. Crushing unemployment. No water. Rampant crime, prostitution, drug addiction, gambling addiction — all squirming around the edges of a never-finished vulgar theme park that should be blown up and reassembled in Dubai, where it belongs.
That may be true, but still the worst thing about Nevada right now is actually Harry Reid. As Glenn Greenwald explains:
Harry Reid -- who has (a) done more than any other individual to ensure that Bush's demands for telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers will be met in full and (b) allowed the Republicans all year to block virtually every bill without having to bother to actually filibuster -- went to the Senate floor yesterday and, with the scripted assistance of Mitch McConnell and Pat Leahy, warned Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold and others that they would be selfishly wreaking havoc on the schedules of their fellow Senators (making them work over the weekend, ruining their planned "retreat," and even preventing them from going to Davos!) if they bothered everyone with their annoying, pointless little filibuster.
To Reid's credit, maybe he's just trying to make his state actually look good in comparison with himself. His re-election campaign slogan: "You think rampant crime, unemployment, and drug addiction is bad? Just wait until I get back in the Senate." Odds are he won't make it back.

Nothing New byslag at 8:18 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Dear John

We knew it was coming. According to Glenn Greenwald, the telecom immunity issue is back with a vengeance. But this time, John Edwards is being recruited into the fight. From Firedog Lake:

John Edwards is the perfect person to lead with this message. Such an action would illustrate his genuine commitment to change and fighting vested interests in Washington, and hopefully it will channel that intense anti-immunity passion toward his campaign. He won't be able to participate in the filibuster himself, but by offering to leave the campaign trail and go back to DC with Clinton and Obama he'll be able to show leadership in challenging all Democrats to put thoughts of personal gain aside and join together in the fight to save the constitution.

Without the help of the presidential candidates, we are doomed to lose this fight. And all their calls for change will ring hollow if they allow George Bush to railroad this bill through a supine Democratic-controlled Senate because of their absence.

You can email Senator Edwards directly at john@johnedwards.com.

Here's the text of the email I sent:
Dear Senator Edwards-
Your supporters need your help! We need you to demonstrate your commitment to bringing the government back to the people by helping to lead the fight against immunity for telecommunication companies. This plan to give law-breakers amnesty from their actions is simply unjustifiable and is just another example of why we have learned to distrust our government. You have spoken to the nature of this distrust in the past, so we know you understand the problem. Now, please help lead us to a solution.
Thank you for your time!
Possible FREE Stuff: If you email John Edwards and would like an item from the Some of Nothing closet, post the text from your email into the comments section here. You will be entered to win something fabulous (and negotiable).

Nothing New byslag at 8:17 AM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

More Than 10 Things I Hate About the Primaries

That guy who was in 10 Things I Hate About You died yesterday. So, in honor of him, and another dead guy, William Shakespeare, here are More Than 10 Things I Hate About the Primaries (in non-iambic pentameter, yet sonnet-ish style):

When Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada speak,
Apparently, the rest of US must heed;
For primary season has already reached its peak,
Built on corn, granite, and muck from Lake Mead.

And thou, whose paper and TV news displays
Little more than hair, skin, and slightly un-dry eyes,
Must sift through garbage all the days
Only to learn about war, poverty, and government spies.

With such a task, it comes as no great shock
That important issues and platforms are ignored;
And power is still gained through cash and stock
In GE, Time-Warner, and Fox "News" corps.

So, when in frustration, a faux sonnet you wrote,
I certainly shan't blame you, but you still have to vote.

In other words, What Tami Said.

Nothing New byslag at 5:29 AM 4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Other People's Genius

*Bottle of Blog comments on the news of the US intelligence restructuring that took place in 2004:

In the case of the Iran report, the about-face was made possible in part by a 2004 restructuring that gave intelligence chiefs more autonomy. New procedures for vetting and authenticating reports also helped insulate analysts from White House involvement.

"White House involvement" is, of course, a common journalistic term of art for "fucking it up" or "getting it wrong".

Yes, but we all know that GW never made a mistake.

*Shakesville addresses Obama's Reagan-loving cheatin' heart:

I associate the name Ronald Reagan with deadly indifference and fear.

Yes, Mr. Obama—he changed the trajectory of America. You are correct. And yes—he buried his transformative agenda beneath a veneer of optimism. You are correct. And I don't care. I know you aren't praising his policies. I know you aren't putting him on a pedestal. I know what you were saying, and it still stinks.
Or, as I like to say, "Obama to Progressives: Go f*** yourselves!"

*Alas, a blog highlights Tom Toles' take on the Hilsterics to which we've been subjected:

More proof that Toles is the best mainstream political cartoonist…

Tom Toles Cartoon


Happy other people's genius Friday!

Nothing New byslag at 3:37 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Virgil Goode was Right

There is, in fact, someone who "would love to see ‘In God We Trust’ stricken from our money and replaced with ‘In Muhammad We Trust'."

And apparently, that someone is this Republican dude from Michigan:

WASHINGTON - A former U.S. congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday, accused of being part of a terrorist fundraising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al-Qaida and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.

The former Republican congressman from Michigan, Mark Deli Siljander, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about lobbying senators on behalf of an Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly sending funds to terrorists.

A 42-count indictment accuses the Islamic American Relief Agency of paying Siljander $50,000 for the lobbying — money that turned out to be stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Well, Virgil. When you're right, you're right. We all owe you a big apology.

I've been surprised that it's taken so long to get our "liberal" press corps on to this story. It seems to me that, either they didn't want to have to apologize to ol' Virgil for disregarding his huckleberry wisdom, or they were waiting for a chance to somehow connect this guy to a democrat:
Siljander, who served four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations for one year in 1987.
Democrat Barack Obama:
... I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. ...
Actually, I'm sure the press were just trying to get all their facts straight so as not to informoffend anybody. But I'm still looking forward to the new 6 degrees of Ronald Reagan game!

Nothing New byslag at 12:46 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

John Edwards John Edwards John Edwards

At the risk of turning Some of Nothing into the John Edwards blog (if I haven't done that already), I want to post some of what a few other Edwards supporters are saying about him.

Agonist's Ian Welsh:

Edwards should be Democratic nominee because he is the most progressive and electable of the top three candidate and the only one who understands that entrenched interests like the telecoms, banks, credit card issuers, health insurers and oil companies aren't voluntarily going to make some sort of "bipartisan happy consensus" that costs them billions of dollars and a ton of power, whether doing so saves millions of lives, trillions of dollars and makes the country prosperous and safe or not.
An Angry Dakota Democrat:
In my opinion, there is the one candidate that will fight for the change that America needs, and that is the insurgent that is above 1% in the polls, John Edwards. Let's see, I remember Edwards putting out his proposals long before the other two on healthcare and other issues. And when the other two put out their proposals, imagine what we find. The same ideas that Edwards had proposed. Even though the others were against Edwards proposal from the start. He has been minimized by the media, Democratic operatives, and the normal talking heads. But yet, he still hangs on to 15-20% of the electorate in the Democratic Party nationwide.
Bottle of Blog:

...[I]f our corporately controlled "liberal" media let more Americans know that Edwards was a serious threat to the pervasive and corrupt influence of corporate lobbyists on our American democracy, they might actually fucking vote for the guy.

The guy could actually wind up President! And then where would we be?

I'll tell you: we'd be in some crazy fucked up society where a corporation with a post office box in the Cayman Islands has less say on where tax dollars go than a taxpayer in the United States.

And that's just not right.

Horse's Ass' Goldy:

Delivering a consistent message of economic populism at home and abroad, Edwards is the only front-runner who seems to know what he wants to do with the office, and the only one whose specific proposals on health care, regulatory reform and economic justice seem targeted toward addressing the real issues that ail our nation. While other candidates promise hope or experience or competency, Edwards is the only Democrat truly promising change… and change is what we’ll most desperately need after eight years of a Bush Administration that has left our nation balancing precariously on the edge of abandoning the core values that have long nurtured our democracy and our economy.

Intrepid Liberal Journal's Robert Ellman:

Politics is a fight and the quest for fairness in our current gilded age won’t be accomplished without a determined struggle. Edwards as we all know rose from humble beginnings to take on predatory corporations in the courtroom and he won big. Whenever Republicans talk about tort reform it's code, to prevent advocates such as John Edwards from helping regular folks against entrenched corporate power. The fact Edwards earned a fortune at the expense of predatory corporations only angers the predatory conservative establishment even more. Remember the plutocracy considered FDR a traitor to his class too.

What Tami Said:
Since I added the John Edwards graphic to my blog, I occasionally get emails admonishing me for not supporting Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. "We need a woman to lead us," they say. Or, "How can you not support a black man running for president?" This kind of thinking drives me nuts. It diminishes the candidate in question. Aren't there better reasons to vote for Clinton and Obama? And it diminishes my rights as an American citizen to vote for whomever represents my best interests, those of my country and the world. Are women and ethnic minorities doomed to have a more limited choice of candidates? Is that the equality that we've been fighting for?

I have examined where the presidential candidates stand on the issues that I think are most important and I have come to the conclusion that John Edwards is the man for the job. Here are just a few reasons why:

I think that a large number of society's ills, including those within the black community, are the result of poverty. I support Edwards' strong focus on ending poverty by 2036.[...]
There are many reasons to support Edwards, but from this list, you can see a common theme. Many of us want a wo/man with a plan, and we see that John Edwards clearly has one. Obviously, this is just a tiny sample (because I'm lazy). So, if you have written something about your own reasons for supporting Edwards or have seen anything on the net that you think should be included here, just leave a link in the comments. Maybe this list will grow and grow.

UPDATE: FYI-The Edwards campaign is doing a major fund raising push today. Some of the proceeds from Some of Nothing schwag have already ended up at the campaign. Maybe, we'll find a little more in between the couch cushions today.

Nothing New byslag at 7:44 PM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Cue the Obamapologists

Once again, Obama plays to the rightwing, and once again, the Obamapologists come out to explain to us simpletons what their candidate really meant. Just for the record, let's count a few of the more egregious Obamantics:
1. Obama brings on gay minister to balance out anti-gay minister. Yes, unreasonable intolerance is just as valid as plain old acceptance of the way someone conducts his personal life. You betcha!
2. Obama hates on Social Security. Sure. It's fair to re-frame the Social Security debate using right wing propaganda as long as it takes you to the White House. There's no way that could possibly have a more long-term negative impact. No. way.
3. Obama hates on Krugman. Why not just toss the single most rational progressive voice in the traditional media out the window? That won't be a problem. Because clearly rational progressive voices won't be needed during the next presidency.
4. Obama praises Reagan. Great. Add another volume to the Reagan myth. Who cares how he actually behaved as president? Nobody remembers those silly little arms deals anyway, and best we keep it that way.

Whether or not Obama believes what he's saying, at this point, is somewhat irrelevant. He's using Clinton's centrist style in his rhetoric, which may bring him a win, but at what cost? Do we think the right wing noise machine has gone anywhere? Do we think that the second Obama gets elected Fox "News", Limbaugh, Medved, Savage, Coulter, Malkin...are just automatically going to become more rational? They'll have to be more careful in the beginning, for sure. But they'll just chip, chip, chip away until it turns out Obama has somehow sold whites into slavery and eaten their children for breakfast. Because when the new captain of our ship has, since the very beginning, listed toward Cape Crazy Hope, there's really nothing else to do but keep going. And in the end, cue the next GWackjob because Americans have become a cowering mass of intellectual weaklings that can't even stand up against the likes of Rupert Murdoch.

No thanks, man. I'm tired of cowering.

UPDATE: I almost forgot Obamantic #5. Obama hates on Gore and Kerry. It's true. Those elections were straight up the failure of Gore and Kerry and had nothing to do with faulty ballots, voter suppression, or corruption, in any way. And certainly nothing to do with Fox "News", etc. Good one!

Nothing New byslag at 11:11 AM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

Mustaches are Fascist

The Writers Strike, courtesy of the AMPTP, is having a variety of negative impacts.
From the Telegraph:

Organisers of this year’s Oscars are drawing up contingency plans for an alternative celebrity-free ceremony in case the awards show suffers the same fate as the Golden Globes because of the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike.
From Reuters:
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Director John Singleton is among the latest casualties of the Hollywood writers strike, losing his production deal at Warner Bros. TV as part of a sweeping cost-cutting action by major studios.
But most significantly, the strike is killing TheA Daily Show. Specifically, Jon Stewart is having a difficult time finding guests who are willing to cross the picket lines as evidenced by the fact that he hosted that Fascist Jonah Goldberg (calling people fascist is apparently all the rage now, and I didn't want Goldberg to feel left out) last night. Given the political implications of the writers strike, I hesitated in posting the A Daily Show interview here. But Jon Stewart's take-down of Goldberg is so inspiring and educational that I think it's in the public interest for everyone to see it:

Jon Stewart: But that's literally like saying mustaches are fascist.
It's amazing to me that writers such as Goldberg can engage in the most obvious logical fallacies (right from the cover) and still get a book published. In this interview, Stewart's reactions are simply spot on.

And I still haven't heard any credible argument that proves that Goldberg isn't Dracula. Go on. Prove a negative. It's not easy.

Nothing New byslag at 9:25 AM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

Letters to the Editors: Debates

The Nation Magazine's Christopher Hayes was on On the Media (NPR) this weekend discussing some of our media problems in terms of campaign coverage:

[...]I think the ability to have access, you know, to a kind of citizen’s media of video and to be able to actually go back and see it for yourself is going to be, in the long run, one of many correctives towards this Dean Scream phenomena that we see.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: But do you think it will make the pundit class more careful?

CHRISTOPHER HAYES: I would like to say yes, but I think no. And here’s the reason why. I really think that the vast majority of members of the political press work very hard and are not these kind of venal, you know, Heathers, as they're called sometimes in the blogosphere, [BROOKE LAUGHS] these catty high school cliques. But I think fundamentally the problems aren't personality. They're structural. People are set up to fail. [emphasis mine]

There are several interesting aspects of this conversation, but I want to explore only one of Hayes' points. Are not some members of the media quintessential Heathers?

First, Glenn Greenwald received an email from John King of CNN complaining about Greenwald's calling him on the weak questions he asked John McCain in an interview. Here is some of the text of King's email:
From: King, John C

To: GGreenwald@salon.com

Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 5:40 PM

Subject: excuse me?

I don't read biased uninformed drivel so I'm a little late to the game.

But a friend who understands how my business works and knows a little something about my 20 plus years in it sent me the link to your ramblings.

Since the site suggests you have law training, maybe you forgot that good lawyers to a little research before they spit out words.


You clearly know very little about journalism. But credibility matters. It is what allows you to cover six presidential campaigns and be viewed as fair and respectful, while perhaps a little cranky, but Democrats and Republicans alike. When I am writing something that calls someone's credibility into question, I pick up the phone and give them a chance to give their side, or perspective.

That way, even on days that I don't consider my best, or anywhere close, I can look myself in the mirror and know I tried to be fair and didn't call into question someone's credibility just for sport, or because I like seeing my name on a website or my face on TV.

Now, here is a quote from Heather Chandler: "Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast? First you ask if you can be red, knowing that I'm always red."

Sure, John King is a little more verbose (go to Glenn's post to see it in full), but really, is that all 20 plus years in journalism buys you?

Second, Matthew Yglesias discusses Tim Russert's inanity and brings up this "question" that Russert asks Richardson:

On your Web site you say this: "Troops out in '07. We should get our troops out of Iraq this year. No residual forces left behind. We must remove all of our troops. There should be no residual U.S. forces left in Iraq." Now, I want to compare that to what you said in your book, Between Worlds, which just came out about eighteen months ago. You write this: "At this point ... we must see this mission through. We mustn't stay in Iraq past the point where the new government asks us to leave, but neither can we unilaterally pull out before the Iraqis have achieved control over their own internal security. We owe them the opportunity to make their democracy work. We must not undermine their efforts now." That's exactly what you're doing, undermining their efforts.

Again, a quote from Heathers: "You inherit 5 million dollars the same day aliens land on the earth and say they're going to blow it up in 2 days. What do you do?"

Yes, at least the Heathers question was, in fact, a question, but was Russert's "question" any more meaningful? The only way for Russert to seem any more ridiculous would be for him to have ended his statement with: "What's your damage, Richardson?"

It's true that King and Russert probably don't represent the majority of the press. However, something tells me that, in the case of our national news media, the lightweights float up while the heavyweights eventually wander into oncoming traffic with suicide notes pinned to their shirts.

Given that thought, is it any wonder that some of us want to blow up the school (metaphorically speaking)?

Nothing New byslag at 5:03 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

When Cruise Attacks

All I know about Scientology I learned from Mental Floss and Tom Cruise. Apparently, the church wants its information back (from Gawker):

The Church of Scientology, and Tom Cruise, the organization's most prominent evangelist, are both notoriously litigious. The sect's founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, wrote in a 1955 magazine article, "The purpose of a lawsuit is to harass and discourage rather than to win." At the peak in the 1990s, according to the St. Petersburg Times, the organization spent $30m in one year on legal action, in part to win tax-exempt status as a religion, but also to parry and tire its many critics. So it's hardly surprising that the Scientologists' lawyers would at least threaten a huge lawsuit against the author of this week's controversial new biography of Tom Cruise, which also exposes many of the sect's most embarrassing secrets. Nor that Gawker Media has received a copyright infringement notice.
Gawker isn't anteing up, but it's interesting how copyright laws can be invoked as a way to try to suppress information. The Scientology video in question is scary to me in the same way that I imagine Jesus Camp to be scary (I say imagine, because I'm too afraid to go see it). It illustrates how fundamentalism encourages self-righteousness, delusion, and anti-intellectualism. What else is new? After watching the video, I'm not surprised the Scientologists want their information back. But I generally find myself surprised by the fact that Evangelicals don't. This Jesus Camp trailer is scary enough to give me nightmares:

Granted, their job in the world is to spread the Word. But if I remember correctly, at one point in time, it was ix-nay on the istianity-chray, if you know what I mean. So, is the difference in attitudes toward openness between Scientologists and Evangelicals simply a matter of time? Is the only reason we, as a society, apparently accept one and not the other a mere matter of numbers (cult v. religion)? Is it the same with Mormonism (which falls somewhere between Scientology and Protestantism on the secrecy scale, in my opinion)? At what point does our socially set BS detector sound off? And what does all this say about the nature of truth or our understanding of it?

Sadly, all these questions are making me feel not any smarter than a monkey today. Maybe tomorrow.

Nothing New byslag at 3:23 PM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

Are bloggers just second-rate journalists?

It seems to me that many bloggers have been playing the outfield behind the news media's in-field quite a bit in this primary ballgame. Touring the blogosphere of late has been like clicking between NBC, CBS, and CNN (from what I remember) in terms of depth and quality of election coverage. And instead of seeing new insights into how elections should or shouldn't be run or covered or discussions about who among the candidates left in the race will be better for the country, I see the same lame predictions and frivolous horserace coverage I can get anywhere else. There are some notable exceptions to this trend, but the trend is disturbing nonetheless.

As an example, I want to use a subject that's near and dear to my heart and talk about how some in the blogosphere have started treating the candidacy of John Edwards.

Matt Stoller at Open Left:

I believe John Edwards's situation is similar to that of a third party candidate working for viability. Voters considering their choices usually do not use their votes to 'send a message' but to pick a winner, so unless a third party candidate can prove they could possibly win an election, usually support for that candidate will collapse. And indeed, Edwards has dropped in the polls since December. He has not collapsed, probably because he is still viable and is not a third party candidate. Still, the dynamic of being a second tier candidate in a race that is increasingly dominated by Clinton and Obama could become more and more of a problem.[...]
But as one of Matt's commenters correctly points out:
Fortunately for us,
I believe John Edwards's situation is similar to that of a third party candidate working for viability.

you aren't much of a prognosticator:

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Obama will win the New Hampshire primary by a substantial margin tomorrow, followed by Clinton and then Edwards.
And for the record, Hillary is my 2nd choice. I'm the same age as Obama and I'm not buying what he's selling.
There are two negatives here--one of them a big one--and two positives. The big negative is that Stoller feels compelled to make primary predictions. Why bloggers haven't learned from the folly of the major press on this issue I have no idea. The other negative is that Stoller makes a significant unsupported statement: "Voters considering their choices usually do not use their votes to 'send a message' but to pick a winner, so unless a third party candidate can prove they could possibly win an election, usually support for that candidate will collapse." This may or may not be true, but the beauty of the internet is the hyperlink. We've all been lazy and have failed to link to our sources--esp when they may be old info that we've relied on for a while. But when using a dubious statement, such as this one, to support a larger argument, it's important to let readers judge its accuracy for themselves. Otherwise, you're committing the same sins as the "sources say" media.

The first positive of this post is the fact that, at least, Stoller is actually using some bit of polling data to make his claim (yes, that is an improvement over much of the news media). Second, the comments section of the blog helps to provide a sort of counterweight against the implications that Stoller is making. That is, the commenter has a place to make an objection or amendment to the story real-time. This function of the blog is an important one, and when comments sections are turned off or get too big, I think the blog quality suffers. So much so that I won't even read blogs that have comments disabled.

Of course, anyone who knows this blog (or can see the graphic at the top of this post) knows that I'm biased towards Edwards and am obviously going to react skeptically toward anyone that counts out his candidacy. And of course, I'm going to now go to Ian Welsh at the Agonist to balance out the implications made by Stoller's post (something I might not do if I already agreed with him):
Perhaps all the folks who keep wanting to count Edwards out, should note this poll on Nevada (hat tip David Sirota):

Barack Obama: 32 percent
Hillary Clinton: 30 percent
John Edwards: 27 percent

It's still close, and Edwards's delegate count is just fine, thanks. He's in the running to be kingmaker at the convention, and if something unpredictable happens, he's still within distance to win it all. He'd be a fool to step out now. Nor does the fact that South Carolina is polling badly for him mean much--it's only one state.

All I have to say here is that I agree with the Agonist. I like Ian Welsh's argument better because the "if something unpredictable happens" clause indicates a reasonable self-awareness of fallibility. Also, the fact that he shows the numbers in the actual post is nice. Beyond that, I appreciate the fact that Ian continues on in the post to provide some substantive contribution to the discussion in terms of talking about the differences between Obama and Edwards:

And Obama isn't Edwards: he is significantly to the right of Edwards and on the fight/compromise spectrum he is actually the most conciliatory of the three candidates. Edwards supporters want a fighter: that isn't Obama.

Edwards is alive and kicking, and a force to be reckoned with. There's no good reason for him to ever drop out of the nomination contest. Time for Obama supporters to tend to their own campaign, not to Edwards's.

These statements are interesting because they are clearly intended to be debatable. Ian didn't say "Obama is significantly to the right of Edwards (period)". His framing of the "fight/compromise spectrum" signifies a judgment call that gives space and boundaries for agreement and disagreement to take place in the comments. It seems to me that, if bloggers want to continue to provide needed coverage of the primaries, being open for electability and policy discussions until the very last poll closes is really the way to keep things interesting.

So, while some bloggers do seem to have forsaken their roles as a more intelligent alternative to traditional media, it's clear to me that not all hope is lost. After all, something unpredictable often happens.

Nothing New byslag at 11:10 AM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

John McCain: Behind the Music

This video from Jesus' General shows a two-act production starring Katie Couric and John McCain:

Katie Couric (before she goes on air, talking about how she should present the story of the interaction between US ships and Iranian boats): "I don't know. I just feel like we're kind of not making it kinda dramatic enough, you know?"

John McCain (sings to the tune of a Beach Boys song at a campaign event):..."Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran..."

Audience (responding to McCain's parody song): "Hahahahahahahahahaha"

Bravo, Katie! You're a true thespian and patriot. And the vocal stylings of John McCain can be enjoyed via cable and network news programs everywhere. Encore, encore!

Good show everyone!

Nothing New byslag at 9:29 AM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Something Else Neocons and the Kremlin Have in Common

Neocons want a multi-tiered internet; Russians want a multi-tiered internet. If we choose to use Jonah Goldbrick-style logic, that would make Neocons Russians? Finally, the Menace returns by way of neocon Red.

From the Guardian (via On the Media):

The growing cold war with Russia has a new front besides oil fields and undersea territorial claims: the internet. Russia's government is pushing for greater control over the Russian-language part of the net - and its aim seems to be to create a web that operates in Cyrillic, completely independent from the wider web.


The key is whether Russian international domain names would use their own root servers - which decide where to route your internet requests - independent of the existing internet root servers which are mainly based in the US.

Kleinwachter thinks that the worst-case scenario would mean everyone would have to register a domain name using the .rf top level domain in Cyrillic. "Then [Russia] would have their own root and it's much easier to control the top-level domain than hundreds of thousands of secondary level domains."

That would, arguably, mean Russians are safe from Paraguayan phishing - but it would also give the Russian government more control of the net and leave Russian citizens isolated from the international community. Davies explains that Russian Cyrillic keyboards make it difficult for Russian users to search for domain names using the roman letters of Ascii code. Without a bridge to coordinate it with Ascii code, a Russian-language internet would be cut off from the global net. [...] [emphasis mine]

We've heard all kinds of infrastructural arguments before from proponents of net discrimination. And as always, it smacks of shortsighted, self-serving rhetoric that will only re-substantiate a predetermined power hierarchy.

More information on Net Neutrality can be found by checking out Save the Internet, Cybertelecom, and this crazy dude who claims to have "invented the internet" (whatever, man, we've heard that one before).

Nothing New byslag at 2:41 PM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

In which I wonder: Is the media actually mocking itself?

And for more reasons why hell won't be so bad, we go to our national press corps (via, Group News Blog, Shakesville, Pandagon, and pretty much everywhere else) offering up this insightful political commentary:

Everyone has noted the extreme sexism so blatantly obvious in this cartoon--the scientifically miraculous PMS symptoms felt in a 60-year old woman, the typically female emotionalism, the lady-like superficiality of focusing only on clothes and flowers. And since we haven't seen a cartoon like this one showing Giuliani, George Bush Sr., or Jesus crying at the table, we can safely assume that what's being implied here is that Hillary is weak because she's a girly girl. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that because Hillary displayed a stereotypically female trait, she has opened herself up for this kind of attack (as opposed to all of the other attacks she has received for being too masculine). What I want to know is this: why is living up to one stereotype any more dangerous to our national security than living up to another?

Who says being a girly girl is any more of a weakness than being a manly man? When Bush was dragging his knuckles around his Crawford Ranch and when Dick Cheney was out in the field huntin' up some farm-raised grub and shooting old men in the face, I don't remember seeing one cartoon showing us how this overt hyper-masculinity was going to lead us into idiotic acts of aggression while threatening our ability to ally ourselves with rational leaders around the world. But isn't that exactly what's happened? We've had seven years of stereotypical absurdities from this group of fundamentalists who constantly tell us the only things a government is good for are spying on its citizens, promoting "free" market capitalism around the world, and ignoring those silly little Presidential Daily Briefings titled Bin Laden Determined to Attack in US, and still, the threat level remains significant.

Clearly, the entire new crop of Republican presidential candidates--shoot-em-up Huckabee, 9iu11iani, and double-Guantanamo Romney--adheres to this same tough guy approach to "protecting our freedoms" through irony and fear. Giulliani is bravely using the failure of September 11th as the entire building block for his campaign. Romney is resolved to the idea that we can get them terr'rists if we just put everyone but him in prison. And Huckabee strongly believes in the post-abortive power of the air-to-ground missile strike. Nonetheless, through this cloud of testosterone-laden bombast, all we can manage to see before us is a new threat from Iran. So, where exactly is the cartoon showing 100-Year War Hemingway McCain sitting at a table being uproariously laughed at by this same group of non-white people for having threatened them with a good ol' fashioned arm wrastle, I wonder. Maybe in the next issue?

Nothing New byslag at 8:25 AM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

Act! Don't Hope.

At the risk of taking precious time away from Hillary's tragic emotional breakdown (or whatever the press is calling it now), I wanted to share some of this Reuters piece on Edwards (via Crooks and Liars):

Corporate elite fear candidate Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ask corporate lobbyists which presidential contender is most feared by their clients and the answer is almost always the same -- Democrat John Edwards.


He accuses lobbyists of "corrupting the government" and says Americans lack universal health care because of "drug companies, insurance companies and their lobbyists."

Despite not winning the two state nominating contests completed so far, with 48 to go, Edwards insists he is in the race to stay. An Edwards campaign spokesman said on Thursday that inside-the-Beltway operatives who fight to defend the powerful and the privileged should be afraid.

"The lobbyists and special interests who abuse the system in Washington have good reason to fear John Edwards.

"Once he is president, the interests of middle class families will never again take a back seat to corporate greed in Washington," said campaign spokesman Eric Schultz.
Serious progressive liberals who have exchanged the power of action for the power of "hope" this primary season are, in my mind, being more than a little disingenuous. J'accuse, you pre-emptive apologists! J'accuse!

Nothing New byslag at 1:49 PM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

Other People's Genius: Interwebs Edition

*Using Pew Research data, Cyberjournalist highlights the internet's role in providing information to voters this primary season:

The internet is living up to its potential as a major source for news about the presidential campaign, According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they regularly learn something about the campaign from the internet, almost the double the percentage from a comparable point in the 2004 campaign (13%).
In my mind, this says a lot about the future of our democracy. Assuming we've decided to give up public television airwaves to corporate control (which we seem to have done), the next best way to get money out of our elections: the interwebs.

*CNET develops a 2008 technology voters' guide:

But knowing where the candidates stand on high-tech topics like digital copyright, surveillance, and Internet taxes can be revealing, which is why we've put together this 2008 Technology Voters' Guide.

In late November, we sent questionnaires to the top candidates--measured by funds raised and poll standings--from each major party. We asked each the same 10 questions.

Not all candidates chose to respond: Republicans Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson rebuffed our requests, as did Democrats Joe Biden and Bill Richardson. In all such cases, we made repeated efforts to try to convince them to change their minds.

Definitely worth a look. Note: Edwards advocates for a national broadband strategy...don't tell the libertarians (or Jonah Goldbrick because having a strategy can also be considered fascist).

*Business Week's Tech Beat summarizes research done by Andrew Odlyzko on the economics of net neutrality:
The paper, "Network Neutrality, Search Neutrality, and the Never-ending Conflict Between Efficiency and Fairness in Markets," is non-technical and well worth reading. It recasts the net neutrality debate largely as an argument over what economists call price discrimination, a difference in prices that reflects a buyer's willingness or ability to pay rather than differences in the cost of providing a good or service. Sellers generally like price discrimination because it leads to higher profit margins; consumers tend to hate it in large part because they are always left with the feeling that someone is getting a better deal than they are.

Odlyzko's bottom-line conclusion, based on an analysis of rates of return and the cost of capital, is that the operators of the Internet backbone don’t need to charge premium rates for the transmission of high-quality media. In large part, that's because the ungraded networks required will actually cost less than the book value of the systems they are replacing.
Yeah...but they really really wanna charge more! Nonetheless, interweb equality is where it's at.

*And finally, via BlogSchmog, we hearken back to The Daily Show's useful explanation (from back when they had writers) of the net neutrality issue:

Ahhh...those were the days. Give your writers what they're asking for, Jon! Happily, however, Chuck Norris is still a joke.

Happy Other People's Genius Friday!

Nothing New byslag at 1:33 PM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

One of the Seven Signs: When the Politico Starts Criticizing News Reporting?

Politico offers up a litany of media sins committed so far this primary season. A few they mention are:

the "horse race frenzy":

We are addicts. Do not listen to any reporter who says otherwise. It is why reporters leave their homes, spouses and families for long stretches to cram into crummy hotels and smelly buses to cover campaigns.

The Web has made us a bit less defensive about this than we were in the past. That’s because we now have metrics — based on what stories get clicked on — that show our readers are obsessed with the horse race, too.
the "echo chamber":
Check out the nicer restaurants in Manchester, N.H., or Des Moines, Iowa, in the political season and you will see the same group of journalists and pols dining together almost every night. We go to events together, make travel plans together and read each other's work compulsively. We go to the same websites — the Drudge Report, Real Clear Politics, Time’s “The Page” — to see what each other is writing, and it’s only human nature to respond to it.
and the "personal bias":
Many journalists rushed with unseemly haste to the narrative about the fall of the Clinton machine. On this score, reporters are recidivists. The Clintons were finished in 1992, when Bill Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign was rocked by scandal. In 1993, when Time pronounced him “The Incredible Shrinking President.” In 1994, when Hillary Clinton botched health care and Democrats lost Congress. In 1995, when Bill Clinton pleaded he still had “relevance.” In 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal sent the Clinton presidency reeling.
And I would heartily concur on all counts. But two strongly connected and highly important issues that Politico touches on, but doesn't give their due, are lack of responsibility and lack of critical thinking.

Glenn Greenwald has been an important voice on the media's tendency to abdicate what some of us consider to be its primary responsibility--telling the truth:

It isn't actually that complicated. When a government official or candidate makes a factually false statement, the role of the reporter is not merely to pass it on, nor is it simply to note that "some" dispute the false statement. The role of the reporter is to state the actual facts, which means stating clearly when someone lies or otherwise makes a false statement.

It's staggering that this most elementary principle of journalism is not merely violated by so many of our establishment journalists, but is explicitly rejected by them. That's the principal reason why our political discourse is so infected with outright falsehoods. The media has largely abdicated their primary responsibility of stating basic facts. One can see how damaging that really is in those all-too-rare instances, such as Cooper's article this morning, when a real reporter fulfills the core function of journalism.
In many cases, the media doesn't consider itself responsible for the news it puts out. And when that "news" precipitates invading sovereign nations under false pretenses, a simple 1-page apology (if that) really doesn't cover the costs. I don't know how to fix this issue without some significant benchmarks for accountability in place. And I've seen no evidence that news outlets are doing much more than defending their stance on "balance" over truth.

As for lack of critical thinking, the echo chamber may be one of its side effects but it certainly can't explain the whole. When op-ed contributers, in particular, write entire columns completely devoid of not only facts but simple, basic logic, it can't be explained away by "group think." More likely, "no think" would be a better term. And I would suggest that this "no think" is only possible in a world where there are few or no accountability standards.

On top of this, we'll add chronyism, nepotism, and all other kinds of isms.

So, good try, Politico. But keep going.

Nothing New byslag at 9:13 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Bill O'Reilly's Next Book

I just saw Robert Greenwald's video on Bill Ohhhhhreilly's hilariously hinged performance at the Obama event:

In the video, O'Reilly explains to his Fox "News" audience that, at the Obama event, his use of the term "sonofabitch" was actually just slang for this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Apparently, he first tried to get the guy in front of him to move by offering him some M-Fin' iced tea, but to no avail.

While that is certainly a believable cover story, sources tell me otherwise. In reality, O'Reilly is doing research for a sequel to his Culture Warrior book, entitled Sonofabitch Warrior: the art of using sonofabitch tactics in your fight for freedom. Obviously, it will be a kids' book.

Keep on keepin' on, Mr. Bill O'Reilly--well-paid author and media personality. You so richly deserve all your wealth and prosperity!

Nothing New byslag at 2:31 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

The New York Times: The Paper of Record(-setting Irony)

When will New York Times writers start reading the news?

Gail Collins (Maureen Dowd's wonder twin):

Whatever your politics, people, you have to admit this is one great presidential race. What next? Fred Thompson takes Florida on a sympathy vote from retirees? (They like a leader who’s really, really rested.) John Edwards finds a new emotion for South Carolina? (Anger is so cold weather.) I don’t think anyone can top Mike Gravel’s speech to the New Hampshire high school students when he told them to avoid alcohol and stick with marijuana. But really, we’re ready for anything. [emphasis mine]
Gosh! Whatcha tryin' to say here, Gail? Did Hils win New Hampshire cuz she cried?
From CNN (via Bottle of Blog):

A majority of Democrats said the issues were the most important factor in how they voted, while most Republicans said the candidates' personal qualities were most important to their decision.

Voters from both parties rated the economy their top issue and the war in Iraq second — but concerns about illegal immigration rated third among Republicans, while Democrats said health care was just behind Iraq. [emphasis mine]

But by all means, let's not allow reality to interject itself into Gail's real good story:

The Democratic contest is extremely unusual for an American election in that it contains more than one viable option. Barack Obama turns out to have a positive genius for making moderation sound exciting and is perhaps the only politician in American history who can get a crowd all worked up with a call to politeness. “We can disagree without being disagreeable,” he said in his New Hampshire farewell, drawing a roar of approval.

In a country where the spoils go to the loudest shrieker, this is absolutely revolutionary and very important. Most Americans want a moderate government, but nobody has ever before been able to make moderate seem interesting, let alone sexy. (Remember Joseph Lieberman.)

Ummm...isn't Lieberman, the apparent exemplar of moderation, like a Senator or something? Clearly, no one actually voted for this snoozer. I smell the beginnings of a coup d'etat. Don't go telling that crazy lefty senator, Hilary Clinton, or she might go all moderate on our asses. And yes, obviously, all of our presidents throughout history have been well-known for their shrieking abilities (Coolidge anyone?). If I remember correctly, George W Bush's entire campaign was all about what a Compassionate Shrieker he was.

I could keep going through the entire ridiculous waste of words that Collins offers up here, but sadly, our irony meter only goes to eleven, and I still haven't found a point to her column. I know that The New York Times is only a newspaper so we shouldn't expect their ordinary columnists to actually know anything about history or current events, but this woman was on their editorial board for chrissake! Time for a new irony meter.

ALSO: Shakespeare's Sister offers up some more NYT irony in that, not only do their writers not read the news, they don't read The New York Times. This time though, the writer is only a writer and not a former editor. Whew!

Nothing New byslag at 9:33 AM 3 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

In which I disagree with Sam Seder, Anonymous Liberal, etc

Catching up on my Sam Seder podcasts and vodcasts over the weekend, I heard Seder argue in favor of strongly considering Barack Obama in the primaries. In the discussion, Seder was quoting this post by Anonymous Liberal that disagrees with Paul Krugman's assessment that democrats need to stop running to the middle and start running to the left in order to achieve change:

With all due respect to Krugman (who does excellent work most of the time), I think this analysis is exceedingly simplistic and completely mischaracterizes who Barack Obama is and what it is he's selling. There's a tendency among Obama's detractors to characterize him as some sort of naive adherent to the David Broder cult of bipartisanship, someone who believes that all problems can be solved by sitting both sides down at the table and splitting the difference.

There are all kinds of things wrong with this caricature. First of all, it assumes that Obama is some sort of neophyte who doesn't understand how the system works or how hard it is to actually enact legislation. That assumption might make some sense if Obama were a military general or a business executive, i.e., a candidate with no real legislative experience. But Obama has served for over a decade as a legislator (the last three in the U.S. Senate); he's intimately familiar with the legislative process (and, by all accounts, quite skilled at working within it) and well aware of the obstacles any major progressive legislation will face. He's also, by all accounts, an incredibly intelligent, perceptive, and thoughtful person.

[...]Obama's rhetoric about transcending partisanship is not a sign of naivete; it's clearly strategic. Obama is intelligent enough and experienced enough to know that things like health care reform are not going to be passed without an intense and drawn out legislative battle. But he perceives--correctly I believe--that to win that battle (and others like it), he needs to build up political capital now. He needs not only to win, but to win big, and you're just not going to do that with an intensely partisan message. You have to be able to reach out to people who are open to your ideas but who see themselves as independents or even Republicans. That's obviously what Obama is trying to do, and I wish people like Krugman--who are smart enough to see the potential wisdom in following such a strategy--would stop pretending that it is simply the equivalent of mindless centrism. It's not.[...]
Now, I've watched Obama on and off for some time since he ran (or, more accurately, walked) against Alan Keyes in Illinois. I'd heard him speak a couple of times and was inspired by his appearance at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. But as his voting record evolved in the Senate, I grew disappointed in his lack of progressivism. David Sirota wrote:
Despite his anti-war positions as a candidate in 2004, Obama's second vote as a U.S. Senator was in support of confirming Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. He also voted to confirm John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence, despite Negroponte's involvement in Iran-Contra and other situations that clearly raise questions about his ethics and discretion. Obama also voted for a bill to limit citizens rights to seek legal redress against abusive corporations. During the bankruptcy debate, he helped vote down a Democratic amendment to cap the abusive interest rates credit card companies could charge. And now, Obama cast a key procedural vote in support of President Bush's right-wing judges.
I agreed with Sirota and determined that Obama wasn't living up to my expectations for leadership. Consequently, Obama slowly fell off my radar as he devolved in my opinion. However, once this primary season started, if I were going to focus only on progressive Senate voting records to guide my vote, my choices would be severely limited. So, I decided instead to let bygones be bygones and let speeches and debates guide much of my decision-making. And for reasons I've stated before on this blog, Edwards was the man.

With that said, Seder's argument convinced me to give Obama another look. So, in search of a fair point of comparison, I wanted to check Obama out on Charlie Rose's Candidates series. Sadly, however, Obama did not do an interview for that series (this isn't boding well). Nonetheless, I grabbed the opportunity to take a look at the interview he did with Rose in which he was pushing his book, The Audacity of Hope:

It's difficult to compare this interview directly with the Edwards interview, but since this is what I've got, this is what I'll use. First, as always, I liked how Obama denounced the Iraq War and its ideological rather than rational foundations. I also appreciated his discussion of the need for the separation between church and state (and forgave him somewhat for willfully turning his back on secularism :-). Finally, I'd be lying if I didn't say his argument in favor of honest bipartisanship didn't impress me a little. Like the thought of Santa, God, and the Toothfairy, it gave me warm fuzzies inside.

However, although his references to Bill Clinton's centrist style and Thomas Friedman's works of fiction were definite demerits for him, what compels me to disagree with Seder, Anonymous, etc, wasn't Obama's thoughts on policy or culture. I disagree with them because I realized during this Obama interview that, no matter how hard I try, I can't bring myself to really believe in Santa, God, the Toothfairy, honest bipartisanship, or someone who won't come out and tell me what he really means--if he even means it. I know Obama is smart and thoughtful, and I know he is, to a large extent, liberal. But he hasn't explained to me, in a convincing manner, how exactly he's going to address the fundamental flaws so painfully apparent in our system of government. Speculation is all fine and good, logical deduction has its place, and voting records can often go either way. But when it comes to my vote this primary, a strong candidate has to actually show me the money and explain to me exactly how they're going to negate its influence on our policymaking.

Otherwise, Obama might as well be Harry Reid, as far as I can tell.

PS I think election issues do influence policy, Edwards and Dodd have been demonstrating the leadership this cycle, and anyone who is so disliked or ignored by the media gets some automatic extra points as far as I'm concerned. Plus, if you really think public support matters more than partisanship, it seems to me that you're forgetting all about our 30% president and his lapdog Congress. Oh, I could go on all day...

Nothing New byslag at 1:35 PM 4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Oh Media! How You Make Me Work Against My Better Nature

So, what does the press get paid to do exactly?

Maureen Dowd:

When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes.

A woman gazing at the screen was grimacing, saying it was bad. Three guys watched it over and over, drawn to the “humanized” Hillary. One reporter who covers security issues cringed. “We are at war,” he said. “Is this how she’ll talk to Kim Jong-il?”

In other words, doesn't Hillary know by now that big boys don't cry (afterall, she is a man right?)? Let's forget about Giuliani's "emotional moments" when discussing 9/11 because we already know he's a hard-ass (we've said it often enough so it must be true). Let's forget about Bush Sr.'s "emotional moment" during his tour with Fox News of his Presidential Library (he's a doddering old fool who NEVER talked to a crazy foreign leader, such as Kim Jong-il anyway). And let's forget about that pansy-assed Jesus guy who, according to Fundamentalists everywhere, "wept." You're right, security issues reporter, strong leaders never cry. That's because they clearly know that they can't be "America's Mayor", President of the United States, or Jesus AND cry.

Next up...
David Brooks:

Both Barack Obama and John McCain attract independents. Both have a candor that appeals to voters and media-types alike. Both ask their audiences to serve a cause greater than self-interest. Both offer a politics that is grand and inspiring.

But they are very different men. Their policies obviously conflict, but their skills, world views and moral philosophies set them apart, too. One man celebrates communitarian virtues like unity, the other classical virtues like honor.

Thank you, David Brooks, for presenting me with this absurdly false dichotomy. Both in the implication that Obama and McCain are the only candidates that attract independents and are similar-yet-different and in the implication that unity and honor innately come from different "world views." I'm no grand historian so perhaps you can use your superior intellect and deft communication skills to explain which set of classic virtues "honor" falls into. Beyond that, last I checked, McCain's kissing the ring of Jerry Falwell--who he called an agent of intolerance--was hardly independent or honorable. And last I checked, Obama's association with an anti-gay minister in his campaign was hardly unifying or honorable. I hate to be the bearer of bad news for you (and your simplistic world view), but it is plausible that both Obama and McCain can be equally divisive AND dishonorable.

Finally, Glenn Greewald discusses our dear friend Chris Matthews:

If there's a more revealing (though unsurprising) illustration of our modern press corps than this exchange last night between Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw, I don't know what it is:

MATTHEWS: Tom, we're going to have to go back and figure out the methodology, I think, on some of these [polls].

BROKAW: You know what I think we're going to have to do?

MATTHEWS: Yes sir?

BROKAW: Wait for the voters to make their judgment.

MATTHEWS: Well what do we do then in the days before the ballot? We must stay home, I guess.

BROKAW: No, no we don't stay home. There are reasons to analyze what they're saying. We know from how the people voted today, what moved them to vote. You can take a look at that. There are a lot of issues that have not been fully explored during all this.

But we don't have to get in the business of making judgments before the polls have closed. And trying to stampede in effect the process.

Look, I'm not just picking on us, it's part of the culture in which we live these days. I think that the people out there are going to begin to make judgments about us if we don't begin to temper that temptation to constantly try to get ahead of what the voters are deciding.

All of the points Brokaw made would have been just as valid even if their Wicked Witch had been crushed last night by 15 points, just as they were all hoping, predicting, and (therefore) trying to bring about. The endless attempts to predict the future and thus determine the outcome of the elections -- to the exclusion of anything meaningful -- is a completely inappropriate role for journalists to play, independent of the fact that they are chronically wrong, ill-informed, and humiliated when they do it. It would all be just as inappropriate and corrupt even if they knew what they were talking about, even if they were able to convert their wishes into outcomes.
What are they going to do?!? Without simplistic and inaccurate opinions to rely on, they may have to start integrating actual information into their work! Well, welcome to the real world, press corps. Time to grow up now. Luckily for you, here in grown up land, we can cry, be honorable, and be unifying all at once. Or, we can even find it in ourselves to be the reverse, if we are so inclined.

And no, in spite of all of your efforts to make me want to vote for Hillary, I will not work against my own better nature. Jerks! (better nature be damned sometimes.)

Nothing New byslag at 9:52 AM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Iron Your Own Damn Shirt

Sexism shows up at a Clinton rally? According to the NYT:

“Iron my shirt!” yelled a man, who stood up in the middle of a jammed and stuffy auditorium at a high school in Salem, N.H., and held up a yellow sign with the same text. He repeated it over and over.

Mrs. Clinton asked for the lights to be turned on, and the shirt man was removed along with another man who had stood up too.

“Oh, the remnants of sexism are alive and well,” Mrs. Clinton said.

I'll be honest. At first, I was skeptical of the legitimacy of this "protest." But after a short spin around the interwebs, it seems that the above--extremely obvious--retort is good for a variety of occasions:
Take a good luck at the orange sign held up by the man in back.

If you can't make it out, it says "Iron My Shirt!" I wonder what these women thought about him? Since digital images can be easily manipulated, I wondered if this was a hoax. However, a little research found an article that referenced the sign. I am not sure I'd call the man brave or foolhardy. But he definitely has chutzpah.
Apparently, this kind of humor is HI-larious to some people. It takes a real man to stand up to women behind their backs. A MACHO man.

UPDATE: Video from Clinton event:

Obnoxious and stupid, at least.

Nothing New byslag at 12:22 AM 7 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Letters to the Editors

Via Blue Girl, Red State, Michael Scherer of The Swampland illustrates one of the most important issues of this election:

Here's one thing you need to know about John McCain. He's always been the coolest kid in school. He was the brat who racked up demerits at the Naval Academy. He was the hot dog pilot who went back to the skies weeks after almost dying in a fire on the U.S.S. Forrestal. His first wife was a model. His second wife was a rich girl, 17 years his junior. He kept himself together during years of North Vietnamese torture and solitary confinement. When he sits in the back of his campaign bus, we reporters gather like kids in the cafeteria huddling around the star quarterback. We ask him tough questions, and we try to make him slip up, but almost inevitably we come around to admiring him. He wants the challenge. He likes the give and take. He is, to put it simply, cooler than us.
Maybe if the press corps is really lucky, John McCain will ask them to wear his ring after the dance!

Some of us don't have the time or patience for this nonsense, so we'll put our reply in a form the press can understand:

Dear Press Corps,

EVERYONE'S "cooler" than you!

PS Please grow up now.

UPDATE: Of course, Glenn Greenwald offers more on the topic of pressing adolescence.

UPDATE 2: If you want to see how McCain actually responds to "tough questions," check out how he likes the "give and take" with Jon Stewart:

The Straight Talk Express comes to a screeching halt on this one. If only the press could be as "cool" as the host of the Daily Show. Maybe if they all just changed their name to John/Jon.

Nothing New byslag at 2:35 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

We Will Never Forget: Brooks Brothers Riot 2000

That "low class" "SOB" (to borrow language from Bill O'Reilly) Glenn Greenwald has unfeelingly brought back some horrible memories of the 2000 election. According to Greenwald's recent post, Jonah Goldbrick is projecting once again by saying that, if Obama loses the election, "certain segments" of the population are going to "become completely unhinged." As Greenwald quite rightly, yet quite unsympathetically, points out, the last time a certain group of the population became unhinged after a presidential election, it wasn't a group that would support Obama (unless Obama became a Republican tomorrow, which isn't entirely out of the question):

The last time I can recall a "certain segment of American political life" becoming "completely unhinged" and causing "social unraveling" in connection with a national election was this episode in Miami, during the 2000 recount:

The "bourgeois riot" celebrated by Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot helped stop the announced manual recount of the 10,750 undervote in Miami-Dade County. Instigated by an order from New York congressman John Sweeney to "shut it down," dozens of screaming GOP demonstrators pounded on doors and a picture window at elections headquarters. The canvassing board, which had already found a net Al Gore gain of 168 votes, reversed a decision it had made a couple of hours earlier to begin a tally of the undervote.

The mob gang-rushed a local Democrat carrying a blank sample ballot. They threatened that a thousand Cubans were on their way to the headquarters to stop the count. Several people were "trampled, punched or kicked," according to The New York Times. The canvassing board chair at first conceded that mob pressures played a role in the shutdown -- which cost Gore the 168 votes as well -- but later reversed his position. . . . .

Instead of condemning the Dade tactics, W. himself called the victory party that night to praise them, and Republicans invoked the specter of Jesse Jackson, who'd merely led peaceful protests outside election offices.

The "certain segment" creating "social unraveling" and blocking vote-counting in 2000 with their thug tactics wasn't quite the same as the "certain segment" which Goldberg and Reynolds are ominously warning will riot in the event of an Obama loss:

Most of those fist-waiving, threatening protesters were actually aides to GOP establishment figures, including Fred Thompson, Tom DeLay, Jim DeMint, and the NRCC, shipped to Miami to create a climate of intimidation and thus prevent pro-Gore votes from being counted.
Needless to say, this grossly pale visual reminder of privilege, deception, and gorilla head(?) isn't exactly the kind of image a person wants to wake up to on a weekend morning (thanks a lot Glenn). Nonetheless, as vomit-inducing as the picture may be, it's essential that we keep it in mind for the next election. Because when the phonies, thugs, and pinheads re-take the stage this election, we need to be prepared.

PS Extra special thanks to Bill OhhhhhReilly for providing much of the irony for this post with his well-hinged(?) behavior towards an Obama staffer in New Hampshire. *Hugs*

Oh yeah. And Amy Goodman helps tie it all together (9/11 and Iraq and the 2000 election):

Personally, I don't think the Senate's overnight sleepover held to discuss the Iraq War is actually the "political theater" we need to be worried about.

UPDATE: Firedog Lake also appreciates the Bill Ohhhhreilly irony. But do they have art?

Nothing New byslag at 9:31 AM 2 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)


Obsidian Wings blogger and US soldier Andy Olstead (G'Kar) was killed yesterday in Iraq. He left a message behind:

[...]This may be a contradiction of my above call to keep politics out of my death, but I hope not. Sometimes going to war is the right idea. I think we've drawn that line too far in the direction of war rather than peace, but I'm a soldier and I know that sometimes you have to fight if you're to hold onto what you hold dear. But in making that decision, I believe we understate the costs of war; when we make the decision to fight, we make the decision to kill, and that means lives and families destroyed. Mine now falls into that category; the next time the question of war or peace comes up, if you knew me at least you can understand a bit more just what it is you're deciding to do, and whether or not those costs are worth it.

"This is true love. You think this happens every day?"
Westley, The Princess Bride

"Good night, my love, the brightest star in my sky."
John Sheridan, Babylon 5

This is the hardest part. While I certainly have no desire to die, at this point I no longer have any worries. That is not true of the woman who made my life something to enjoy rather than something merely to survive. She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again...I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda. Now she has to go on without me, and while a cynic might observe she's better off, I know that this is a terrible burden I have placed on her, and I would give almost anything if she would not have to bear it. It seems that is not an option. I cannot imagine anything more painful than that, and if there is an afterlife, this is a pain I'll bear forever.


Nothing New byslag at 5:02 PM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

Other People's Genius: Election Edition

Booman Tribune offers some thoughtful insight into why most bloggers prefer Edwards to Obama:

[Obama's] 'style' will be ineffective. Why did so many of us conclude this? It's because we have watched Tom Daschle, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi try to negotiate with the Republicans (in the minority, the majority, no matter) and it does not work. We have watched the Dems talk tough and then back down time and time again. We're done with conciliation and we don't believe bipartisanship is possible without first crushing the Republican Party down to a stump.
I agree with this. But I would also add that Obama's rhetoric doesn't convey the strong sense of introspection and awareness that Edwards' does. He's not gutsy enough, and he's not geeky enough.

In 2006, David Sirota arrived at this conclusion when trying to figure out Obama:
Obama will often be a reliable liberal vote, and he can give one hell of a speech. But we should believe him when he downplays our expectations. He says he’s “a work in progress,” but he’s in an institution that tends to stifle greatness. As comic Jon Stewart said, “Everybody thought Barack Obama was going to [inspire people] when he came to Washington, but, you know, the Senate seems like the place where smart people go to die.”
Just the other day, I quoted this line from Stewart. Smart guy, I think.

And Bottle of Blog gets out the history books to explain the real meaning of these Iowa Democratic caucus results:
In the last forty years, only one Democratic candidate who won Iowa won the general election. And that was Bill Clinton running unopposed, as an incumbent, in 1996.

Christ, even Jimmy Carter lost the 1976 Iowa caucus to "uncommitted".

If it weren't for all the blithering idiots on your teevee sets and the six million pages of wasted newsprint, this thing would be entirely irrelevant. As it should be.

I hope John Edwards gets soundly defeated in Iowa. That should bode well for his run for the White House.

I'm taking that as optimism.

And for more optimism, Down With Tyranny puts a beautiful image in our heads of Chris Dodd as Senate Majority Leader and quotes Dodd's email to his constituents, including this:
The fight to restore the Constitution and stop retroactive immunity does not end with my Presidential campaign. FISA will come back in a few weeks and my pledge to filibuster ANY bill that includes retroactive immunity remains operative.
That's where the real party is going to be.

Happy other people's genius Friday!

Nothing New byslag at 12:55 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)


Dude. Somebody I'm supporting actually came in second! And I don't mean somebody I'm holding my nose and supporting. I mean somebody I'm SUPPORTING (like actually would want to see as president). I call that progress.

And this is just the beginning.

I know people are disappointed because Edwards is running a publicly funded campaign and is therefore poor, but don't forget, he ran for pres in 2004 and people probably remember him from that--and the senate. So, on to New Hampshire!

Nothing New byslag at 10:01 PM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

On John Edwards, Technology, and a Thrilling Revelation

Disclaimer: This is a long, rambling, virtually unedited post that combines a discussion of politics, social systems, and of course...technology. It also may present information that's not new or thrilling to you, but it is to me. Of course, if you've read this blog before, you already know that this possibility is highly likely.

A kind person on the Edwards blog directed me to this interview he did with Charlie Rose:

While there were a couple of stumbling points, I was extremely impressed with him here for two reasons:
1. He displayed both a depth of understanding and a passion for his subject matter (i.e., there were times in which I couldn't see how he could realistically be faking it, such as when he burst out: "Who speaks for these people?").
2. Even if he wasn't passionate about his subject matter, it was obvious that he had thought a lot about it. The whole discussion was about various challenges the country is facing--health care, global warming, inequality, national security--and they all came back to one obvious conclusion. It's the system, stupid! Or as Edwards put it:

I think we have serious challenges, and we're going to have to be willing to do bold things. And there are too many interests that stand against those bold things. And so we have to reclaim democracy for the many.
Clearly, Nader-ites and Paul-ites and many others see this concept as nothing new. So, when Charlie Rose asked him whether his fellow democrats--Obama, Clinton, Biden, etc--are complicit in working within the corrupt system, he responded with this:
I think that I myself have been guilty[...]I have turned my head. I operated within the system. And it is the easiest thing in the world to say to yourself: This is just the way it is, and there's nothing we can do about it. And just accept things as they are. And try to live with it. And try to maneuver your way through a system that's not working for the American people. That's the easy way out.
All very true, but what, in my view, really showed a high level of understanding of the issue was when Edwards said this:
And it's the natural tendency because you get used to it. You become part of it. And you don't recognize the huge flaws and problems with it.
I have not heard this kind of thoughtful introspection and analysis from any other candidate, and the fact that Edwards recognizes this fact and is addressing it openly and insightfully begs some interesting questions. Specifically, what process do we use to step outside ourselves long enough to recognize the "huge flaws and problems" with anything? And how do we get others to see the same flaws and problems that we we see? And then, when we finally do that, how do we fix problems? Especially when we know that it's the "natural tendency" to just live with a broken system even if we do finally come to the realization that it's broken, which is sometimes the hardest part (whew!). And although Edwards is talking about our system of government here, his statement applies to just about everything.

(Here's where I talk about technology design...sorry I can't help myself.)

Some people claim that because we humans are the creators of our systems, any given system is created the way we want it to be. And if it weren't so, we would just change it. In other words, people see that systems are products, and consequently, products are free to compete in the open marketplace and will live or die depending on how good they are. The people who think this are the ones that go around saying: "If people really didn't like Microsoft products, they wouldn't buy them." Either these people completely lack all imagination and insight into the development of these products and the dependencies they create, or they use statements such as these to shirk their responsibility of being participants in their society--at any level. Nonetheless, it's not true.

Any thinking individual has some level of awareness of the concept of convention (specifically, "a rule, method, or practice established by usage; custom: the convention of showing north at the top of a map." or "general agreement or consent; accepted usage, esp. as a standard of procedure."). We see applications of convention in just about every aspect of our lives (e.g., "Happy New Year!" by the way), and anyone can see the value it adds in enabling us to communicate, use symbols, and have standards. Convention is a tool that we all rely on without even thinking about it on a conscious level, and while it has many positive elements, we'd have to be complete simpletons (or Republicans) not to see how it can hinder innovation.

But the concept of convention is only one aspect of the story. When systems increase in complexity and become firmly embedded in our society, there is something more significant than convention keeping them from progressing in their development. In the case of Microsoft products, we can easily see how a computer's operating system (Windows) needs to know how to interact with its applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint). So, if we want to use the only reasonably good desktop application Microsoft has ever produced--Excel--we need one of three things to happen: either we need to have Windows as an operating system; or we need Microsoft to develop Excel for non-Windows operating systems; or we need a third party to try to reverse engineer the Windows operating system and integrate the elements of it that make it work with Excel into their own operating system (simplistically speaking). So, we can see how, over time and without any outside interference, Microsoft can easily gain a relatively undeserved advantage in the marketplace for their products. And even more so, because it's our "natural tendency" to just live with it.

I've been thinking about this systemic self-reinforcement--which is how I've come to see it--for a while now. I've wondered how things start out either making all the sense in the world or just being good enough to get by and end up embedded into every aspect of our society. I think about this process in terms of empire building, and I think about this process in terms of People Magazine. But I've been frustrated by a lack of a way to explain my thoughts. A lack of vocabulary. However, that was before the Situationist gave me a glimpse into the issue, and Wikipedia gave me details about something called path dependence (score 1 for the interwebs!). According to Wikipedia:
Path-dependence is a phrase used to mean one of two things (Pierson 2004). Some authors use path-dependence to mean simply "history matters" - a broad conception - while others use it to mean that institutions are self reinforcing - a narrow conception. It is this narrow conception which has the most explanatory force and of which the discussions below are examples. The "history matters" claim is trivially true and reduces simply to "everything has causes".
When I read this, the clouds parted. Just the awareness that "institutions are self-reinforcing" brings to mind so much about all of our social systems--everything from Microsoft's position in the world marketplace, to the "old boys network", to institutionalized racism, etc, etc. While it's hard for me to revel for very long in this realization because it all seems so obvious now, just the notion that all these disparate systems can be looked at in terms of this one simple idea is thrilling to me. Beyond this revelation there were others (more idiosyncratic, but fascinating nonetheless):
Path dependence also influences the progression of language, grammar and typographical conventions. For example, in the contrast between American and British English, there are different grammatical rules for the placement of punctuation relative to quotation marks in a sentence.
OMG! I have absolutely despised the American standard for punctuation relative to quotation marks and have always wondered about its origin (you think I'm kidding or exaggerating here, but I'm not--I've even argued with people about the difference between the US and British standards and have used the different rules depending on how rebellious I'm feeling at the time, which I'm sure observant readers have noticed). But to finally understand it...Path dependence! You wonderful, wonderful simply-stated concept, where have you been all my life?!?

But I digress.

While the intricacies of this concept are beyond me right now, having a vocabulary for my observations and seeing some of the research that's been done on this topic gives me tools for stepping outside of problems in order to start to solve them. And being able to communicate a problem to others and extrapolate some causes gives me more tools. But most crucially, in order to solve problems, I need to have the perspective that learning, thinking, and exploring are all good things. This perspective can come from a lot of places--curiosity, frustration, confusion--but one thing it absolutely requires is an overarching awareness that I have the capacity to make a change. Because otherwise, why would I bother?

So when Edwards says, "I think we have serious challenges, and we're going to have to be willing to do bold things. And there are too many interests that stand against those bold things", he's indicating that we're at a critical juncture and advocating that we make some significant (he won't say "radical") changes to the path we're on. Part of making those changes involves a willingness to step outside our path and look at in the most rational and objective terms we can muster. And we need to be willing to be bold and take some responsibility for our society, which includes our government. Beyond all this, he seems to be advocating that we need to choose a leader who has the capacity to engage in and encourage thoughtful introspection and analysis in order to make the changes we need. And personally, I couldn't agree more.

(aside: Watching the Charlie Rose interview work through so many different issues and finally land on education really makes sense to me after writing this post...me likes to learn.)

PS To all the smart people out there who aren't me and already know about path dependence and all of its associated concepts: Go read some other blog!

Nothing New byslag at 7:57 AM 4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Oh, Huckabee! You Devil

Dear Readers,
Huckabee has made a video and he wants you to know: "Being unborn doesn't make you less valuable." But being born a criminal does. Or if you happen to have been born a dog--that's not so good either. Or if you've been born a pheasant or a news reporter, it's every lifeform for himself, really. So, what I think Huckabee is really trying to say here is: "Look over there! Jesus fish!"

(photo courtesy of Shakesville)

Oh, and if you happen to be reading this from the womb, Huck's got your back. For the rest of us, tbd...

UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot the most important exception to Huckabee's "life" program!

If you happen to have been born either an Iraqi or a US soldier, consider your life forfeit for a real good cause (whatever that may be).

I think that's all of them. All these details can be so hard to keep track of...especially when I get mesmerized by the fish like that.

Nothing New byslag at 7:59 PM 5 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

Sadly, No! Jonah Goldbrick Doesn't Like Parody

From Firedog Lake:

Jonah Goldberg is disappointed that no "serious" progressive is willing to write what he considers to be a thoughtful review of his new book, Liberal Fascism.

Jonah hopes that

...some other liberal actually reads the book and offers a sustained argument against it. Honestly: I would actually like to read such a review. So far the reaction from Lefty blogs has been simply inane or deranged. I am sincerely interested in a serious liberal's — or leftist's — argument against what I have to say.

Apparently, Dictionary.com isn't serious or liberal enough for Goldbrick:

[fash-iz-uhm] Pronunciation Key –noun
1.(sometimes initial capital letter) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
2.(sometimes initial capital letter) the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.
3.(initial capital letter) a fascist movement, esp. the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.

fas·cist [fash-ist] Pronunciation Key –noun
1.a person who believes in or sympathizes with fascism.
2.(often initial capital letter) a member of a fascist movement or party.
3.a person who is dictatorial or has extreme right-wing views.
4.Also, fa·scis·tic [fuh-shis-tik] Pronunciation Key. of or like fascism or fascists.

lib·er·al·ism [lib-er-uh-liz-uhm, lib-ruh-] Pronunciation Key –noun
1.the quality or state of being liberal, as in behavior or attitude.
2.a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.
3.(sometimes initial capital letter) the principles and practices of a liberal party in politics.
4.a movement in modern Protestantism that emphasizes freedom from tradition and authority, the adjustment of religious beliefs to scientific conceptions, and the development of spiritual capacities.

lib·er·al [lib-er-uhl, lib-ruhl] Pronunciation Key –adjective
1.favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
2.(often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
3.of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
4.favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
5.favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
6.of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
7.free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
8.open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
9.characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts: a liberal donor.
10.given freely or abundantly; generous: a liberal donation.
11.not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule.
12.of, pertaining to, or based on the liberal arts.
13.of, pertaining to, or befitting a freeman.
14.a person of liberal principles or views, esp. in politics or religion.
15.(often initial capital letter) a member of a liberal party in politics, esp. of the Liberal party in Great Britain.

Sadly, no! is apparently either not serious or not liberal enough:
Today, we interview Jonah Goldberg on his controversial new book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. He talks about how people throw the word fascism around without really understanding its meaning, why so many liberals want to turn America into a college campus with free food, shelter and recreation, and why the upcoming election is about collective vs. individual rights. [emphasis mine]
And I, figuring that one verifiably ridiculous premise deserved another, went with parody. Not serious, it's true, but it's hard not to match "inane or deranged" with inane or deranged.

Still waiting on that book deal...

Nothing New byslag at 9:36 AM 0 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here)

It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp

Haplessly reading the New York Times this morning, I stumbled upon an article about boys, education, and organization that had this to say:

With girls outperforming boys these days in high school and college, educators have been sparring over whether there is a crisis in the education of boys. Some suggest the need for more single-sex schools, more male role models or new teaching techniques. Others are experimenting with physical changes in classrooms that encourage boys to move around, rather than trying to anchor them to their seats. [emphasis mine]
It hurt my eyes. Are we back to this again? Yes. It's extremely important for girls and boys to perform equally well in school. But when the causes and extent of the gender disparity in education are indeterminate, at best, and women are still underpaid and underrepresented in almost every other aspect of our society, it's really hard to see this as a "crisis." I'll go with "problem." Especially because we have a real crisis in our educational system that results in this:
"Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?"

"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and Iraq and everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for us."
Like such as.

Nothing New byslag at 2:54 PM 1 dispenses karmic justice! (or just comments here)

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