Saturday, February 24, 2007

Late Night

Oh Lordy, I see the sociopaths are out playing again.

I'm so old I can remember when pasty wasn't pathetically insane, and was actually pretty amusing.

How they fall.

...ah, here we go: memories of blogrolls past. July, 2002

Saturday Night

Rock on.


Over there:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A fuel tanker rigged with explosives killed 40 people when it blew up near a Sunni mosque in western Iraq on Saturday, a day after the mosque's imam had criticized al Qaeda militants, police and residents said.

The bomb exploded in a market in the town of Habaniya in the restive province of Anbar, where U.S. forces are battling Sunni Arab insurgent groups, including al Qaeda.

Local police said they believed the mosque was the target, adding that the market had been destroyed and 64 people wounded. Women and children were among the dead, they said.

In Baghdad, more than 20 loud explosions in quick succession rocked a southern district of the capital after night fell.

Stupid Glenn Greenwald

What he doesn't tell you is that all the Victory Caucusers went down to their local recruiting stations and enlisted.

Oh, wait, no, that didn't happen. In fact, because of the spectacular failure of Operation Yellow Elephant, they've changed policy about National Guard deployment:

RAY SUAREZ: The Pentagon has alerted National Guard units in several states their soldiers may be returning to Iraq sooner than expected. The New York Times reported today that as many as 14,000 Guard troops could be involved.

For more, I'm joined by David Cloud of the New York Times, who broke the story today. And, David, who's being told to be ready to go back to Iraq?

DAVID CLOUD, New York Times: Well, there are units in four states -- Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ohio and Indiana -- combat brigades in all four of the states, which are being told they may have to go back to Iraq early next year. Many of them have already been to Iraq one or Afghanistan one or even two times.

RAY SUAREZ: Now, when would they have expected to go back? When, under the normal rotation, would they have gone back otherwise?

DAVID CLOUD: One of the units wasn't scheduled to go back until 2010. The other three were supposed to go back in 2009. So this is a significant shortening of the time that they're going to have at home between deployments.

Timetables for deployments

RAY SUAREZ: Now, what was the most recent policy of the Bush administration regarding how long it would be between overseas deployments for units like the ones that are being told to be ready to go back?

DAVID CLOUD: The policy for several years, since the Iraq invasion, has been that, for Guard and Reserve units, they were supposed to be deployed for 24 months every five years, no more than 24 months every five years. That was scraped in January when the president announced his surge plan, his plan to send more reinforcements to Iraq.

They acknowledged at the time that essentially the deployments had gone on so long in Iraq and Afghanistan that there was no way they could live up to those promises anymore. And they've come up with a new set of rules, which essentially say, "We will send you for one year, a maximum of one year, every five years." But in doing so, they've wiped away the previous service so that any unit is now eligible to go back for another year to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Still, don't sell the Victory Caucusers short. Here's what the 6 users who are currently online say they're willing to do to help achieve victory:

wil: Contributing my own writing
Snooper: Acting as a researcher to find and post content; Contributing my own writing.
Kateri: Acting as a researcher to find and post content; Contributing my own writing.
Fat Matty: Acting as a researcher to find and post content.
CoolBlue: Contributing my own writing

And, finally, there's Charles120, who has already done his service - Vietnam Vet - and says he's willing to help "Where ever I can be of assistance."

Arcade Fire

Of all the recent bands I'm supposed to link, this is the one whose popularity puzzles me the most.

Must be missing something.

Media Matters

From Jamison Foser.


I think, probably, people have mostly come around to my way of thinking. Leaving is losing. The Bush administration will not leave Iraq unless they are forced, at best, and at worst will leave their successor with a regional war with Iran and who knows who else.

Still, the Elite Consensus by the Wise Men of Washington is that we need to give it another chance, and then another, and then another. In other words, it's a good thing that Bush isn't leaving.

So we've (The Wise Men) gone from thinking Bush will leave Iraq at some point and that's a good thing to thinking that Bush will not leave Iraq at some point and that's a good thing. I'm not sure that's progress, but at least we understand that Bush isn't leaving.

Conservative Reality

As I said, endless hours of fun as we gaze into the depths of the stupidity that is your online conservative movement.


That word does not mean what they want you to think it means.

When Will It End?

CNN just now, discussing the Biden proposal:

John Roberts: Even some fierce critics of the war feel it's far too early, that the troop increase should at least be given a chance.

Michael O'Hanlon: It seems to me the logical thing is to wait 4 to 6 months, and use that 4 to 6 months to evaluate that surge, and then to develop some plan B proposals.

Plan B?


This will provide endless hours of fun.

Morning Thread


Friday, February 23, 2007

Eschaton After Dark

Murder by Death - Brother

Fresh Thread

Stalker NToddler is getting creepy.

More and Better Democrats

Tangentially related to the point below, if you're enamored with, say, a newly elected Democrat then you can help them to not have to spend large amounts of time kissing up to people whose particular concerns might not line up very well with yours.

More Like This


AUSTIN, Texas -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama ridiculed Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday for saying Britain's decision to pull troops from Iraq is a good sign that fits with the strategy for stabilizing the country.

Obama, speaking at a massive outdoor rally in Austin, Texas, said British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision this week to withdraw 1,600 troops is a recognition that Iraq's problems can't be solved militarily.

"Now if Tony Blair can understand that, then why can't George Bush and Dick Cheney understand that?" Obama asked thousands of supporters who gathered in the rain to hear him. "In fact, Dick Cheney said this is all part of the plan (and) it was a good thing that Tony Blair was withdrawing, even as the administration is preparing to put 20,000 more of our young men and women in.

"Now, keep in mind, this is the same guy that said we'd be greeted as liberators, the same guy that said that we're in the last throes. I'm sure he forecast sun today," Obama said to laughter from supporters holding campaign signs over their heads to keep dry. "When Dick Cheney says it's a good thing, you know that you've probably got some big problems."

Dick Cheney should be nothing more than an object of ridicule.

As for this last part, I hope it didn't come across as condescending to the people there, because it really is the important thing:

Obama told the Austin crowd that they should try to recruit their friends to support his campaign. "I want you to tell them, 'It's time for you to turn off the TV and stop playing GameBoy,'" Obama said. "We've got work to do."

Tickets to the rally were free, but Obama asked the attendees to give even $5 or $10. "I don't want to have to raise money in Hollywood all the time," he said.

Big money isn't going away, but it'd be nice to diminish the need for Big Donor Money. Dean proved it's possible (and, yes, Dean got plenty of Big Donor money too. I'm not against rich people writing checks.)

More Thread

This blog just isn't as cool as it used to be.

Out of Context

Bill O'Reilly sounds just like pasty.

Fresh Thread

Delete my account!

Lies and the Lying Liars

Last honest man edition.

"Bloggers Fear Publicists May Infiltrate Sites"

True, though some of us also fear they'll infiltrate CNN.

Artistic Stupidity

I'd truly like to believe that Rep. Bachman is just a brilliant performance artist.

I think I'll just pretend she is.

"Screw The Buddhists And Kill The Muslims"

I'm sure the comments of Duncan Hunter's South Carolina campaign chair will be a week long news story. No, I'm not really that stupid.


The media is remavericking him even though they never demavericked him.

Where's All The Money Going To Come From?

There are, presumably, a finite number of people who are willing to give $2300 or $4600 (maximum allowed) to presidential candidates. I get the sense that the candidates are spending their time courting the big donor fundraising networks, which makes sense I suppose, but given that they're sucking up all that money so early, at some point I imagine that well will run dry. Maybe I'm wrong and there are more $2300 checkwriters than I'm aware of. clarify, there's more money out there than big donor money. Us little people can be inspired to give. What I mean is that if candidates suck up all the big donor money early, then six months from now there will be no more big donor money left to receive.


I was joking about having anything to do with Vilsack dropping out, of course, but it got me thinking about why Social Security has such resonance in left blogistan.

There are two main issues where left blogistan got it right - the Iraq War and Social Security. We lost the first fight, failing to prevent a war, and won the second one. On both those issues the Elite Consensus was completely wrong, and we were right. For Social Security, we were right not just on the merits, on the policy, on the politics, but also on the tactics. Even aside from the various ways which bloggers helped to put the pressure on the media and on the politicians, a fundamental strategic principle was that it was a colossally stupid mistake for Democrats to take the bait and come out with their "own plan," something every pundit in Washington "knew" they had to do. Fortunately, now-Speaker Pelosi agreed with us and helped to make sure it happened that way.

Last March, Reid persuaded more than 40 Democratic senators to oppose privatization, assuring Democrats of the number they'd need to sustain a filibuster. Pelosi had fewer procedural tools but no less commitment to the cause. One Pelosi aide recalls her giving the same curt response to several colleagues who asked when the party's Social Security plan would be released: "Never. Does never work for you?"

There were a variety of reasons this was an important strategy, but a main one is that doing so would implicitly buy in to the Elite Consensus's "Social Security is in Crisis" assumption. As we pointed out, There Is No Crisis.

Going forward, it's important to put a marker down that no politician who buys into this "crisis" frame should get any support. That isn't to say we can't have a sensible discussion about possibly tweaking and improving Social Security, but that discussion should be divorced from the dishonest assertion that it needs adjustments because of long run fiscal problems.

Vilsack's Out

Someone sent me the rumor this morning, and now the AP is reporting it (sez CNN). Guess our mighty social security blogofascism destroyed him.

Your Liberal Media

From the ringmasters of the freak show (aka the Note):

Basically, the political press wants to tempt Al Gore into the race, and then they will destroy him as a flip-flopping, exaggerating, stiff loser. And Gore knows this.

Speaking of Conason

Whitewater memories:

But so did The Times, which more than any other news organization bears responsibility for the phony Whitewater scandal and the runaway independent-counsel probe that led to President Clinton’s impeachment. And now, on its front page, in a single sentence, the paper of record effectively disowned hundreds and perhaps thousands of articles, editorials and columns that once framed the trivial, unprofitable and long-dead Whitewater investment as a matter of immediate public concern.

In The Times, their guilty involvement was treated as something established, not “supposed.” Eight years and tens of millions of dollars later, the independent counsel grudgingly conceded that its investigators and lawyers had found no criminal wrongdoing in Whitewater by the Clintons. That was the same conclusion reached years earlier in a truly nonpartisan investigation undertaken by the Resolution Trust Corporation (to which The Times gave scant attention).

With the assistance of The Times’ editors, not to mention their equally zealous counterparts at The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, the right-wing network financed by Mr. Scaife succeeded in crippling the Clinton White House for years and nearly bringing it down altogether.

Only when impeachment loomed did The Times nervously back away from the consequences of its stupid crusade. To this day, the paper’s editors have never admitted that they were wrong about Whitewater. They have confessed serious error on many things, from the Wen Ho Lee affair to the hyping of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, but Whitewater remains a sacred cow.

They Write Books

Joe Conason writes a book.

Wanker of the Day

Josh Trevino, née Ticky Tacky.

Morning Thread



I had no idea Jay Reding was still alive, but here's what he wrote in my comments in Oct '02:

There's no reason why this isn't doable. Deposing Hussein will the easy part. Remember that people were saying that Afghanistan would be "the graveyard of empires" and that we'd have no better luck than the Russians? It turned out that Afghanistan can be won... and since we didn't come to colonize or conquer, we proved those predictions to be wrong. Iraq will be little different.

If anything, Iraq will be easier than Afghanistan. Iraq hasn't been in continuous warfare for years. Iraq has oil reserves that can fuel reconstruction, and many Iraqi people secretly harbor the dream of a free and democratic Iraq. No, we won't see democracy spring up in a few months or perhaps not in a few years, but it will come.

There's nothing wrong with worrying about our troops... in fact, I'd say that it's natural and understandable to do so. But we should all take comfort in the fact that they are part of the best fighting force that has ever walked this Earth, and the most elite of the Iraqi military don't hold a candle to them. This is what they were trained to do, and they will see this through.

And so will we...

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Rock on.

Strolling Through The Archives

October '02:
Well, as we march off to the inevitable war there isn't much to do but pour yourself a scotch, download yourself a copy of Oil War by American Stranger, and hope that ole Atrios is wrong and Jay Caruso, Henry Hanks, Godless Capitalist, Mr. de Beste, Mr. Quick, VodkaPundit, and Instapundit are right. As Ted Barlow just wrote:

We're going to war. There's not much point in having doubts now, not that there ever was. I hope that we achieve our goals quickly and leave the region better off, with a reasonable facimile of liberal civil society. Nothing will make me happier than looking back at this time next year and wondering what I was so worried about. Here's hoping.

Here's what we're in for, folks.

U.S. Has a Plan to Occupy Iraq, Officials Report

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — The White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein, senior administration officials said today.

The plan also calls for war-crime trials of Iraqi leaders and a transition to an elected civilian government that could take months or years.

UPDATE: And Digby says, in Matthew Yglesias's comments, in response to Yglesias saying "But if I don't get what I want and it does come to war, you won't see me out on the streets rallying for a Hussein victory either.":

I don't think the pro-Saddam rally will be well attended.

But, there will be prayer vigils and sleepless nights on the part of those of us who hope that this incompetent administration doesn't fuck it up so much that all hell breaks loose in the region, including the real possibility of nuclear war and many american and arab casualties. And we'll be wishing fervently that terrorism on US soil doesn't become something we'll have to learn to live with because we just can't seem to kill all the people who hate our guts and multiply exponentially with every aggressive action that we take. And we'll sure hope that we can get some cooperation from the unstable regimes that finance them without having to invade and depose their leaders, too.

And, if everything works out, let's keep our fingers crossed that we can turn the mideast into a democratic paradise quickly because judging from our experience in Afghanistan, our President meant it when he said he "wasn't into nation building." We really don't need to fight this war again.

And I know that a lot of us will probably get together around the dinner table and water coolers to talk about the enormous sums of money remaking the mideast is costing and will continue to cost for years to come, while we worry about whether we'll have jobs or health care or a chance of a comfortable retirement.

So, rather than attending pro-Saddam rallies, people who are against this war being waged by someone in whom they have no faith will be instead be gathering together to fervently pray that his adventure goes perfectly every step of the way.

Ah well.

(linkrot has taken its toll, so don't bother clicking on the links)

More Thread

Rock on.

McCain Returns to "Crazy Base Land"

Not the religious right, but the press. His little dance with the environment had CNN calling him a maverick, and it's probably been at least 2 days since they've done that. Misssion accomplished.

Fresh Thread

oh boy, someone's got a klonopin problem.

Too Scared to Look

I haven't been able to summon up the courage to see if wingnut bloggers are so goddamned stupid that they're citing the use of chlorine in bombs as "proof of WMDs."

Posted Without Comment

"And the Catholic Church just cannot resist temptation, even during Lent, the temptation to get itself involved in secular politics..."

-Lou Dobbs, just now

Fresh Thread


Iraq 4Ever


Feb. 22, 2007 - The British are leaving, the Iraqis are failing and the Americans are staying—and we’re going to be there a lot longer than anyone in Washington is acknowledging right now. As Democrats and Republicans back home try to outdo each other with quick-fix plans for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and funds, what few people seem to have noticed is that Gen. David Petraeus’s new “surge” plan is committing U.S. troops, day by day, to a much deeper and longer-term role in policing Iraq than since the earliest days of the U.S. occupation. How long must we stay under the Petraeus plan? Perhaps 10 years. At least five. In any case, long after George W. Bush has returned to Crawford, Texas, for good.

But don’t take my word for it. I’m merely a messenger for a coterie of counterinsurgency experts who have helped to design the Petraeus plan—his so-called “dream team”—and who have discussed it with NEWSWEEK, usually on condition of anonymity, owing to the sensitivity of the subject. To a degree little understood by the U.S. public, Petraeus is engaged in a giant “do-over.” It is a near-reversal of the approach taken by Petraeus’s predecessor as commander of multinational forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, until the latter was relieved in early February, and most other top U.S. commanders going back to Rick Sanchez and Tommy Franks. Casey sought to accelerate both the training of Iraqi forces and American withdrawal. By 2008, the remaining 60,000 or so U.S. troops were supposed to be hunkering down in four giant “superbases,” where they would be relatively safe. Under Petraeus’s plan, a U.S. military force of 160,000 or more is setting up hundreds of “mini-forts” all over Baghdad and the rest of the country, right in the middle of the action. The U.S. Army has also stopped pretending that Iraqis—who have failed to build a credible government, military or police force on their own—are in the lead when it comes to kicking down doors and keeping the peace. And that means the future of Iraq depends on the long-term presence of U.S. forces in a way it did not just a few months ago. “We’re putting down roots,” says Philip Carter, a former U.S. Army captain who returned last summer from a year of policing and training in the hot zone around Baquba. “The Americans are no longer willing to accept failure in order to put Iraqis in the lead. You can’t let the mission fail just for the sake of diplomacy.”

"Ruling Expected Soon in Anna Nicole Smith Hearing"

Finally, our long national nightmare will be over.

Blogger Ethics Panel

From a Hillary Clinton fundraising email:

Look, I don't care that James Carville is supporting Hillary Clinton, but given his role as one of CNN's resident pundits, over the next year or so with the primary season with us it's a bit problematic for him to be involved in discussions of the primary. He was on yesterday discussing the Clinton/Obama issue only identified as a "political strategist" and "CNN contributor."

Anyway, this kind of complaint isn't limited to Carville, he's just a more visible one with more obvious connections.

(thanks to reader d)

Wanker of the Day

The Ole Perfesser.

"Same Old Guys To Say The Same Old Thing"

Seriously. This is a kind of textbook case where there's a problem which has an obvious cause and obvious solution. It doesn't require "affirmative action" in the right wing caricature, it simply requires not pulling all of your writers from a pool filled with white guys.

Dear Democrats

Fox is not your friend.


What's weird is that every time the wingnutosphere starts one of these things they get press for it. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but they quickly get distracted by some other shiny new penny. They're obsessed with power, but aside from typing furious blog posts, they don't really have a clue how to try to wield it.


Just because I'm having nostalgia for the days when it was all about Social Security, let met briefly explain what price indexing instead of wage indexing would do to the program.

First, only the initial level of benefits is indexed to wages (which rise faster than prices), after that annual COLA increases are linked to prices.

Second, while the formula for Social Security is complicated, benefit payouts are somewhat progressive, with poorer people getting a bit more relative to what they pay in, and higher income people getting a bit less, but there is a relationship between lifetime income and benefit levels. Higher income people get more.

Changing to price indexing would, over time, delink the relationship between income and benefits entirely. The formulas in place would lead to poorer people having their benefits rising in real terms (over and above inflation) slowly over time, but benefit levels for higher income people would essentially be frozen. In about 90 years or so every Social Security beneficiary would end up receiving essentially the same level of benefits, which for higher income people would be a tiny percentage of pre-retirement income.

While Social Security isn't meant to provide the complete retirement portfolio for everyone, it is meant to provide a reasonable chunk of pre-retirement income for poor and middle class people so that all people, including victims of either bad fortune (stock market crash, major health care bill, etc...) or good fortune (living longer than expected), can aspire to maintain their pre-retirement existence.

Pretty pictures here.

...minor correction, this discussion is about progressive price indexing, which continues to index low income benefits to wages while stopping it for high income people. Pure indexing would just continue to reduce everybody's benefits, relatively to current law.

But What Will They Say Then?

If I were a smart presidential candidate I'd understand that what I say about Iraq now is not all that important. What matters is what you'll say next January, and if you get the nomination, the following September. I know the press has been willing to call McCain "consistent" despite his ever-shifting pony plans for Iraq, so he might get away with his "if only they'd listened to me" schtick. But that's only the first step. Come January, and the following August, he'll have to say what we should do now.

I really can't see the Republicans divorcing themselves from this.

More Ponies

Na Ga Ha Pen:

"He's got until summertime to show some results, and if he doesn't, he's got to start pulling out, too," one of the President's closest associates said yesterday. "The fact of the matter is, most of the public isn't with him now, and the rest aren't going to stay with him unless this last-chance surge works."

And a Pony

I know Bullshit Bob Novak has been doing this longer than I have, but the Republicans aren't going to leave Iraq unless someone makes them.

Morning Thread

Have some coffee.


Rock on.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gloves Are Off

Social Security is a perfectly lovely program which helps a lot of people and is very popular. Because of that, the Washington Post's position and the general elite consensus is that there must be something wrong with it. But there isn't. It's a wonderful program.

So, if you want to destroy it we will post pictures of you in silly costumes. And do what we can to stop you from getting anywhere near the White House.

Fresh Thread


Wanker of the Day

St. John McCain.

Well, That's News

Had some interest in how Vilsack would perform, but now that he's advocating the long run destruction of social security by indexing benefit increases to prices, not wages, all signs point to "not well."

For an explanation of why this basically destroys social security as a retirement program, see here.


Bill Clinton is extraordinarily popular, which is why John King frets he's a liability.

They'll never let go of the Clenis.

Fresh Thread

Rock on.


Marcy writes a great account of the final moments of the Libby trial.


Okay, he sucks me in. Klein:

Atrios makes my point for me. If you want to tell me how you're going to guarantee a left-wing challenger won't weaken Tauscher, or perhaps see her replaced by a moderate Republican, I'm all ears.

I have no idea what he means by "weaken" in this context. Sap her precious bodily fluids, perhaps?

But as for the second part, it's very simple Joe. Ellen Tauscher's congressional district is not Pennsylvania. John Kerry got 59% of the vote in 2004 in her district (51% in Pennsylvania). It's a safe Democratic seat, unlikely to go Republican absent scandal or a truly awful candidate. Pennsylvania is a barely blue leaning state which likes moderate Republicans in general, and Arlen Specter specifically.

A Little Light

The reaction is amusing when someone in the mainstream media points out that our dangerous extremists on the right are, in fact, dangerous extremists.

..."nuttier than a Planters factory." heh. indeed.

A Little Close to Home

Uh, Kevin? That Sunoco facility is about 2.5 miles from me. Don't give people any ideas, now...

Worship of Incumbency

Joe Klein's just trolling at this point, so no linky for him, but I've been long fascinated by the elite consensus that there's something distasteful about running primary challengers against incumbents. Certainly primary challenges can be strategically stupid - if Pat Toomey had beaten Arlen Specter in the primary a couple years ago then Joe Hoeffel would currently be the senior senator from Pennsylvania - but they provide one of the very few checks on legislator behavior that the people have.

Incumbents, of course, rarely lose these things because they have a built in massive fundraising advantage, an advantage which often comes because incumbents are pleasing wealthy interests.

"He Should Go Enlist"

More like this.

Operation Yellow Elephant has been a spectacular failure.

Smarter Campaigns Please

Clinton's problem isn't David Geffen, it's Maureen Dowd.


Quiet American Michael O'Hanlon is on my teevee suggesting that the British pullout from Basra suggests that partition - you know "helping people relocate" - is the right thing to do.

I've never lined up with the "incompetence dodgers" but I have said that much like "WMD" was the thing everybody in the administration could agree upon as the reason to support the war, the general dishonesty and incompetence of the Bushies should have been the thing the "liberal hawks" could have agreed upon as the reason to oppose the war.

Can I remind people that these incompetent and awful people are still in charge. They are no less incompetent than they were 4 years (!) ago. Even if in some platonic plane of reality partitioning Iraq is the correct thing to do, in our blinkered reality George Bush and his merry gang of morons are still in charge of things. And "helping people relocate" (translation: forcing them to relocate) would be a massive operation, fraught with chaos and violence, overseen by a bunch of people who haven't yet managed to keep the lights on.


Glenn Greenwald takes a look at the fantastic job of Richard Wolffe. While relatively trivial in the scheme of things, this was my favorite:

The constitution gives the president the right to declare war but it gives Congress ways to counter that power.

For those without their handy pocket constitution:


The Congress shall have Power:

To declare War,

Babies DO Come From Storks

Mitt told me so.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


In the comments at Beliefnet, Jesse Lava of Faithful Democrats says:

But Atrios and Matt Stoller don't really do that. What they do is speak a language that, to devout Christians' ears, tends to sound dismissive. This is just a comment thread, so I'm not going to do a research project for you, but Atrios has said that religious language sounds like "gibberish" to him, for example -- and I'm sure it does, which is fine, as far as it goes. But throwing in little barbs like that are the kind of thing that raise religious folks' defenses.

How is that a barb? I'm not religious, I have only a passing familiarity with Christian theology, its associated customs, and the language used by its adherents when discussing it. Finnish is also gibberish to me, as are string theory and the jargon of most academic fields other than economics. When I referred to religious language as gibberish, I plainly said it was "gibberish to me." Here's what I wrote:

The Language of Religion

It's something I don't understand. It's gibberish to me. When people start invoking religion in discussing issues they may as well be talking Martian. I'm not being insulting here, I'm just saying it's utterly meaningless to me personally.

I'm not obligated to understand your traditions, and don't claim to. It's that simple.


Ted Leo gets shrill (.mp3)

And when the crying starts
You won't have to see their bloodshot eyes turn red
And when the dying starts
You won't have to know a thing about who's dead
This is your nation
Pretend it's television
Where the good guys always win.

Ted's site.

Feel The Power Of My Mighty Blogofascism!

What a bunch of WATBs.

More Thread

Fight for your right to party.

MoDo Evil

Boehlert takes apart MoDo.

Fresh Thread

Rock on.

Senator, Why Do You Hate America?

This is a really stupid plan.

I Really Thought I Was Done

Jim Wallis joins in.
As a progressive Christian, I always wondered why many on the secular Left felt it necessary to cut off potential political alliances with progressive religious people, to alienate most of America with nasty anti-faith diatribes, and to choose to ignore the history of most of the social reform movements in this country, where religion often served as a powerful motivator and driving force – as in the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, establishing child labor laws and social safety nets and, of course, the civil rights movement. In recent years, the Left and even the Democrats managed to appear hostile to faith and to people in faith communities

As I always want to scream when Wallis writes, WHO ARE THESE DEMOCRATS and how did they passive voice "manage to appear hostile to faith and to people in faith communities." Perhaps because Wallis keeps writing various versions of that sentence.

There are few people anywhere in our mainstream discourse who are anything close to being anti-religion, and I'm not aware of any of them having prominent ties to the Democratic party or any prominent organization associated with The Left, let alone speaking for them.

And then we get to:

So Kos, let’s made a deal. How about if progressive religious folks, like me, make real sure that we never say, or even suggest, that values have to come from faith – and progressive secular folks, like you, never suggest that progressive values can’t come from faith (and perhaps concede that, in fact, they often do). If we progressives, religious and secular, could stop fighting among ourselves (shooting ourselves in the foot) and join together on some really big values issues – like economic fairness, health care, and a more just foreign policy – think of the difference we could make. How about it?

As I said before I don't really care if progressive or any other beliefs come from faith, but who has denied that they can?

The Sincerity Privilege

Ed Kilgore writes about a lot of the things I've been talking about recently, and adds a bit of his own to the mix. I think he's on to something here though I don't quite agree with all of it:

On Atrios' first point--presumably motivated by the talk of Amanda Marcotte's "offensive" blog posts about the Virgin Birth and so forth--I would offer one important qualifier to his general take: mocking the religious underpinnings of some political position is one thing; denying their sincerity is another.

Here's how the regression from mockery of politics to mockery of religion to mockery of religious sincerity tends to work: Some people hold abhorrent political positions that they justify with religious principles you happen to consider a bunch of atavistic Hooey. You attack the positions on their dubious merits. You then go over the brink and attack the underyling Hooey. But since you think it's Hooey, you go on to suggest that the Hooey, being Hooey, is just a mask for very different motives (e.g., misogyny) that can be deplored without discussion of religion. Not being a regular consumer of Amanda Marcotte's blogging at Pandagon, I can't say for sure this is her pattern, but it is common in criticisms of religious-based opposition to equal rights for women and/or gays and lesbians.

Whether or not this applies specifically to Amanda I'm not really sure either, but I do agree that questioning the sincerity of peoples' faith does anger them. On the other hand, appealing to the sincerity of their beliefs is a way of privileging them, to put them in the realm of privileged discourse, as well as removing the person's responsibility. I don't really care if the desire to discriminate against gay people, or turn the uterus into state property, is motivated by sincere religious conviction. I don't think religious conviction, sincere or otherwise, makes your beliefs somehow special. If you think your misogyny or homophobia is sanctioned by God, it doesn't make you not a misogynist or homophobe.

I've had this conversation with anti-choice progressives, who think it's important for me to understand that their anti-choice views come from a sincere religious belief. The thing is, I just don't care. The fact that your political beliefs are motivated by your religion doesn't make them special to me.

...adding, I didn't mean to imply that this "sincerity privilege" was something Kilgore was invoking. Here's an email from him:

Thanks for the discussion and the link. I do hope you understand I am in no way arguing for a "sincerity privilege." As you say, bad policies can and should be attacked on their own merits, regardless of their religious justifications. Sincerity is generally irrelevant. All I was trying to say is that arguments based on a denial of sincerity are best left to those who share the basic religious views whose sincerity is being denied. And as I noted, I'm happy to make those arguments every single day, not because I think they are critical to the political debate over abortion or gays rights, but because, as a Christian, I think they are critical to the internal debate over the meaning of Christianity, which happens to matter to me. I dislike our common enemies on more than one front.

High Treason

Heh. Indeed.

Anyway, someone apparently shoved a hulk tie into my intertubes so my contact to the outside world keeps fading in and out.

Wanker of the Day

The Ole Perfesser.

I'm A Bigot

I don't mind dogs, it's dog owners that I can't stand...

Black, Female, Mormon

Foser addressed this on Friday, but it's worth revisiting. The press has spent a lot of time on whether the Murkin People are "ready" to vote for a woman, an African-American, or a Mormon. But, according to poll data we have, people claim to be much more likely to vote for any of those than they are for a guy who has been married three times or a guy who is old.

In the coming months there will be major attempts by the various gangs to define what are "off limits" subjects, that is things about the candidates which are "inappropriate" to discuss in the public forum. The success of St. McCain and St. Rudy will depend on their success in defining these terms in their favor.


Mithras writes:

First, note her statement that Democrats need to work to convince religious people that it is possible they can be "people of moral values" and "Democrats." Kleiman argues that the generous reading of this to Vanderslice is that we need to do a better sales job. Duncan says that you would have had to have been asleep for the past six years to believe that the Republican Party - which tortures people, jails others without charge, allows American cities to be destroyed by natural disasters, and starts wars on a pretext - are the moral ones. If they haven't been asleep, what Vanderslice must be saying is that evangelicals have real, substantive concerns that Democrats are less moral than Republicans.

Indeed. The real issue, as I keep saying, is that "people believe different stuff." Faith and morality are lovely words, but their meanings vary greatly depending on who is mouthing them. Appeals to morality, with or without associated religious appeals, are fine but let's not pretend there is some universal agreed on morality.

White evangelicals
and regular churchgoers are the most supportive of the Bush administration's Iraq policies. Their moral priorities are apparently different than mine.

Where The Women Aren't

While Roger Simon does tend to write like a smitten teenage girl, they're otherwise mostly missing at Politico.

Hey, Ted Stevens, Get Off My Lawn

Somebody broke my intertubes again.


Keep the faith.

Monday, February 19, 2007

How Many

I haven't had too many contacts with people who have served in Iraq, though I have met a few. I wrote this bit after chatting with one for about 3 hours at a bar in Grinnell, Iowa in September of 2005. I just read through the comments to the post, noticing that some got my point and some missed it. In any case, it's worth revisiting.

I was in town to give a talk, and went to a bar afterwards with a few people. A guy sat down next to me and started to talk. He needed to talk. He was there with friends, happy to see him but really tired of listening to him. Whatever this guy had been through, and it wasn't all clear, he needed people to understand it. His friends obviously weren't up to dealing with him. I'm not blaming them for that, they were all young (21ish), but the point is that this guy had no one to listen to him.

He'd been in Iraq for awhile. He'd been wounded, and for awhile held hostage, he said. He'd killed a couple of dozen people, including women and children, he said. He was, psychologically, a complete mess. I'm not the most welcoming/empathetic guy on the planet to random people who talk to me - I don't fit the model of the welcoming bartender - but he sat there and chatted with me for 2-3 hours. His friends were thrilled to be rid of him for awhile. When they came over they talked to him like he was a dude returning from college for a bit of spring break fun, not a guy who had been through 14 months of hell.

Don't know his name, don't know what he's up to now. Hope he's ok.

Wanker of the Day

DoughBob LoadPants.


Not a single "fuck" was used in the production of this post.

Fresh Thread

Rock on.


Tonight on Hardball, Matthews gave Mr. Maverick a new nickname: Senator John McBush.

Hillary on the CFL Ticket?

As I've said I'm going to try to stay out of the food fight of Dem primary politics as much as possible, but the one place I won't hesitate to chime in is when Dem candidates support right wing narratives about Democrats to attack their opponents.

So, Hillary, please stop it.

You Gotta Have Faith

Apparently not just to be president, but to run the Oregon State Democratic Party. Eric Sapp at Faithful Democrats:

Now Mac is running for Oregon Democratic Party Chair. Given his foresight and willingness to take a chance on championing this program back in early '05 when the success of such efforts was not quite so well documented, we should all be excited. He'd serve the state and party well. But what makes the situation in Oregon so remarkable is that one of his opponents, Meredith Wood Smith, was a cofounder of the DPO faith caucus and played a key role in its success, and another opponent, Carol Voisin, has a Th. D. in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union.

So no matter how things turn out, this will be a win for the DPO and for the state as a whole. Now let's hope other states will follow suit.

Two of the people discussed are praised for the work they did improving outreach to religious voters in that state. For their works, so to speak. I've got no problem with that. The third is praised simply for being a theologian. Based on this, no matter who wins, "this will be a win for the DPO and for the state as a whole."

Not sure precisely how other states should "follow suit."


Candy Crowley just now:

It can't be ignored that, in particular, Evangelicals have a certain amount of problem with Mormonism. They don't think it's a Christian religion. They liken it to a cult.

Fine for them. They believe in one thing. They think believing in that thing is rather important. Mitt believes in other stuff. Stuff they don't believe in. Kudos to Candy Crowley for telling us the dirty little secret that some people who believe in one religion don't like people who don't believe in their religion and certainly don't necessarily want them to be president even though they're all "people of faith."

Fresh Tread


Internet Ethics

I guess my take is that it's best to respect privacy and anonymity on the internet even when it isn't really private and people don't go to extreme lengths to protect their anonymity. On the other hand, the general genre of "student web sites which bash professors" is a bad one for a variety of reasons.


Picking up on something from the comments, I'm curious if the medical establishment's obsessive concern with potential fetuses is a relatively new thing or not. I gather that when obtaining just about any prescription or medical treatment which could impact fetal health in any tiny way, women have to convince doctors that not only are they not pregnant, but that they couldn't possibly be. This of course requires having abstained or abstaining from intercourse for a nontrivial amount of time.

Ladies, is this new? be clear, I'm not talking about inquiring about whether it's been a bit long since your last period or other evidence that you genuinely "might be" pregnant, I'm talking about a somewhat lower standard here, that you "could be."

...comments seem to be mixed about this. Hmm. Anyway, I'm not suggesting that this is necessarily wrong, and certainly women should be informed of all potential side effects for drugs and procedures. I guess the issue is that there's a big gray area between "necessary" and voluntary procedures and drugs, both diagnostic and actual treatment, and so there's going to be a balancing issue between concerns for fetal wellbeing and the health of the mother. Is there a greater willingness to delay treatment over a potential pregnancy than previously?

Tough Guys

It's sad that our elite discourse has sunk so deep into the stupid that we have to point this stuff out.

The Rich White People Exception

Few participants in our elite discourse imagine that the rules would actually apply to them. They, or their daughter or their spouse, would be able to get an abortion. Few have the degree of empathy to comprehend being a 15 year old girl choosing between potential parental abuse or getting permission from a judge, or having the judgment of them and their doctor replaced by that of a judge.

George Bush Doesn't Care About Wounded Vets

And that's only the beginning of the abject horror wounded veterans are facing during life as "outpatients" at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, some of whom "have been stuck there for as long as two years." Black mold invades the walls. Veterans aren't given the most basic help they need, including assistance finding their rooms. People go missing and no one knows what happened to them. Forms are lost, and lost again, and again. "The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide. Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers' families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment." Veterans are required to prove who they are and that they fought in the war. It just goes on and on and on.

By the end of the article, I felt nauseous and furious. Jill's spot-on when she says, "when our troops are wounded, they come home and are put into a facility that is more like the weird hospital scenes in the film Jacob's Ladder than like the kind of state-of-the-art recuperative facility these young men and women deserve." It truly does sound like an inescapable nightmare—a place I wouldn't want to convalesce after a paper cut received at an office job, and a place I can't even fucking imagine being sent to to recover from wounds acquired during a goddamned war.

Why aren't we taking better care of these men and women?

Honestly, this should rightly be regarded as yet another planning failure. The architects of this war thought it was going to be a cakewalk; they didn't in their wildest dreams consider the war would last this long, and thusly failed utterly to prepare contingency plans, as has been acknowledged even by the administration. The military healthcare system isn't designed to manage a constant influx of wounded soldiers, and I would bet that not a modicum of thought was given to readying it for that possibility. The war was going to last six weeks, remember? But instead, the war became "a long hard slog," as Donald Rumsfeld described it in November 2003, and now "Three times a week, school buses painted white and fitted with stretchers and blackened windows stream down Georgia Avenue. Sirens blaring, they deliver soldiers groggy from a pain-relief cocktail at the end of their long trip from Iraq via Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Andrews Air Force Base." The Pentagon numbers the wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan at 23,000, as of January.

Our wounded veterans, 96% of whom received their injuries after "Mission Accomplished," were first casualties of the utter lack of competent post-war planning for the war theater, and are now casualties of the utter lack of competent post-war planning at home. They're pratically stacked on top of each other in a rotting building, all but abandoned to circumstances unfit for a dog, no less a veteran.

There was no needed to plan for anything likes this, because at first it was going to be a cakewalk, and then the pony was always a Friedman Unit away, and the Final Friedman never really comes, no matter how many One Last Chances and Biden Shots we're promised.  We owe these people better, much better, and Congress needs to allocate the money and force the executive to act.

Maybe this is one of those moral issues where the souls and consciences of the party could step up.

...adding, I forgot to point out that Shakes's use of the word "fucking" is very uncivil.


And the odd urges of George W. Bush.

Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon’s delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: “I will screw him in the ass!”

Sorry About All That


Morning Thread

Rock on.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Eschaton After Dark

Murder By Death - Brother.

Fresh Thread

Rock on.

They Write Letters

Brent Budowsky writes to the Washington Post.

As for Pach's question, it's company town and Scooter Libby is a member in good standing of the Washington establishment.

And Finally

To conclude religion week here at Eschaton:

There are Jews in the world, there are Buddists,
There are Hindus and Mormons and then
There are those that follow Mohammad...

People believe in different stuff. Those beliefs should be subject to scrutiny and disagreement like anything else. We have a great system in this country which lets you worship any way you want, mostly, or not at all. I think it's reasonable to ask people to not be assholes to each other needlessly when it comes to religion, but to the extent that you're bringing your religion out of your home and church and bringing it into the public (and especially political discourse) those ideas should be subject to the same disagreements as anything else. I don't normally care how many Thetans Tom Cruise thinks he has in is head, but if he gets on the teevee and starts talking about it I might make fun of him. If he gets on the teevee and starts telling me that we need to ban anti-depressants and throw psychologists in jail I'm going to fight his political agenda.

And Another Thing

One big difference between Mitt Romney and me, aside from the fact that Roger Simon is unlikely to write me a love letter (a boy can still dream), is that he's running for president and I'm not. So, let's compare Romney's comment to a comment by an imaginary presidential candidate, and how it would be treated in the press. Romney:

We need to have a person of faith lead the country.

A. Candidate:

We need to have a Protestant lead the country.

In the first instance, Romney is (probably correctly) assuming that he'll gain more from "people of faith" than he'll lose from the critical atheist vote which he was unlikely to nab anyway. A. Candidate probably said a really stupid thing, because he just pissed off a bunch of catholics and others for unlikely political gain. Still, one can imagine how the press would treat these things differently. In the Romney case it's highly unlikely that the "did he piss off the atheists" question would even come up, and even if it did it is highly unlikely that it would framed as an issue of bigotry/intolerance.

However, in the case of A. Candidate the charge of "anti-catholic bigotry" would be front and center, and William Donohue would be on all 3 cable networks simultaneously for the next 90 days.

I don't advise A. Candidate, or any politician, to say things which offend a sizeable chunk of their potential voters, but much as it's perfectly fine for Romney to say that he doesn't want an atheist to be president, it should be fine for A. Candidate to say he doesn't want a catholic to be president. "Fine" doesn't mean "incredibly smart." "Fine" means not necessarily bigoted.


I think Nathan Newman misses my point, and then goes on to largely make it. In the current state of our discourse, "people of faith" are good and the right kind of people to be president and it's perfectly acceptable to point that out. If I wrote:

I don't think a person of faith should be president.

I'd be accused of being an anti-religious bigot, of religious intolerance, etc. But it's perfectly acceptable for Mitt Romney to say:

We need to have a person of faith lead the country.

The point being that what would be considered to be bigtory against religious people (specifically Christians, as the reporting about Keith Ellison demonstrates), is perfectly acceptable when applied to atheists. No reporter will frame this as evidence of "Romney's intolerance," just as his "commitment to his faith."

But the broader point, which Nathan goes on to make, is that it's perfectly normal and understandable that people make judgments about you based on your religious beliefs. More than that, it's absurd that given the extent to which "you gotta have faith" has become, rightly or wrongly, part of the conventional political wisdom, that passing judgments about what people actually believe or claim to believe is somehow seen as intolerant or bigoted.

If people don't want to vote for atheists that's fine. If people don't want to vote for Catholics, or Mormons, or evangelical Protestants, that's fine too. And it's fine to say it, and it's fine to say why.

Some of the motivation might be based on ignorance which veers into bigtory/racism territory - historical anti-Semitic trope, the belief that all Muslims are terrorists, etc... - but even if someone's perception of a religion is in part due to an ignorance of that religion that doesn't necessarily suggest bigotry. People are ignorant about lots of things. Ignorance is a basis for bigotry, but it isn't intrinsically bigotry.

We believe different stuff. Especially to the extent that people want to keep shoving personal religion out into our political sphere, it's important examine those differences. And if we examine those differences, we're entitled to make decisions based on them. Otherwise, the implication is that someone's religious beliefs say something incredibly important about them, but we're not actually supposed to talk about exactly what that is.


It was indeed odd when after about 24 hours or so without a major mass casualty event, we were all supposed to declare the escalation a roaring success and shut our pieholes.

As has been the case throughout, I hope every day that I'm wrong about Iraq. Still, it seems truly weird that people could credibly expect that the proposed escalation would actually change things so quickly.

Actual Journalism - On Fox!


I wish all of the Sunday shows would do this on a regular basis. While it's their job to do better, I can understand why politicians and administration officials can get a few whoppers past Tim Russert, but there's nothing stopping him from revisiting it the following week.

I don't mean nitpicking little things which don't matter, or objecting to exaggeration/hyperbole. I mean the big important stuff which is clearly flat out false. When things are said which are wrong or clearly deceptive, call them on it the following week.

Sunday in the City

Sunday in Philadelphia is otherwise known as "park wherever the hell you want day." Actually, in some neighborhoods every day is "park wherever the hell you want day" as the primary job of local politicians is to ensure that no resident ever pays a parking ticket. In the rest of the city there's an informal understanding that anywhere in the general vicinity of a church - just about everywhere - you can park anywhere, including on sides of the street where parking isn't normally allowed.

Normally this isn't a big deal as I don't own a car and don't drive much. But today I rented a car for a couple of hours to run some errands and had to navigate the maze, which was made even worse by the still lingering piles of snow and ice.

Fresh Thread

Sing along with Portastatic's "I Wanna Know Girls."

Tear It Down

It'll be unfair to him and to Mormons, but I hope the candidacy of Mitt Romney helps us put a stop to this "people of faith" nonsense. It's time to retire the phrase and the concept. Not that I have any sympathy for Romney, who said:

We need to have a person of faith lead the country.

This, in response to another "person of faith" who called him a "pretender" based on his Mormonism. Watch the video. (ht reader v)

We believe different stuff. The alliance of "people of faith", both organizationally and rhetorically, has created an artificial distinction between "believers" and "nonbelievers," perpetuated the notion that what you believe is unimportant as long as you have faith in something, and reduced any public discussion of the genuine differences in belief that exist.

It's become vogue for politicians to make their religious beliefs, their "faith,"central parts of their campaigns. If they do so, it's quite fair for people take a look at just what those beliefs are.

Romney says only a "person of faith" can be president. Plenty of people are going to say they don't want a Mormon to be president. Is this bigotry, an objection to belief (or lack), or both?

Want to make personal religious beliefs a central issue in politics? Fine, bring it on. You guys can fight it out.

"We need to have a person of faith lead the country."

"We need to have a Christian to lead the country."

"We need to have a member of the Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915 to lead this country."

Where's the line?

Sunday Bobbleheads

Hey, they're putting a liberal on the teevee. Must be my birthday present.

Meet the Press (NBC): WH press flack Tony Snow; Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) & Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.); NBC's Richard Engel, just back from Iraq.

This Week (ABC): "On the Trail" with GOP front-runner and former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass. and his wife Ann to discuss his bid for the White House. Fareed Zakaria, Katrina vanden Heuvel and George Will on the 'Roundtable.' And Michael Douglas on teaching kids to talk to each other.

Face the Nation (CBS): Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware.; Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana; Doyle McManus, Washington Bureau Chief, The Los Angeles Times; Josephine Hearn, The Politico.

Late Edition (CNN): Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada: majority leader; Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky: minority leader; Gov. Bill Richardson, D-New Mexico, former Energy Secretary; Tony Snow: White House press secretary; Penn Jillette: entertainer and magician; Michael Steele: former Lt. Gov. of Maryland; Marc Morial: president and CEO, National Urban League; Donna Brazile: Democratic strategist.

Fox News Sunday: Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI); former Rep. Newt Gingrich.

Supporting the Troops

This is awful.

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read the whole thing...


The stupid! It burns!!!!!!!!