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Nuts and Buts

Posted by Ogged
on 07.19.03

Kevin Drum wonders about James Lilek's sanity. Kevin quotes Lileks on Tony Blair,

[Tony] Blair is, at heart, a socialist; I've no time for half the stuff he wants and most of the stuff he'd agree to. But he'd get my vote. We can argue about the shape and direction of Western Civ after we've made sure that such a thing will endure.

And Kevin himself comments,

I dunno. I take terrorism seriously, and I also take seriously the threat of terrorists and unstable states getting hold of weapons of mass destruction. But what can you say about this kind of talk? Do Lileks and the rest of the prowar crowd seriously think that Osama and his ilk have made it doubtful whether western civilization will endure?
To me that just sounds crazy, and I guess maybe that's at the core of the schism in America today.

The dream study! Remember it? Republicans are three times more likely than Democrats to have nightmares. The researcher who did the study asks for a bit of sanity in interpreting the results, but I've found it to be one of the most moderating influences on my political views. The sincerity of beliefs goes a long way to mitigating the anger they might arouse. If you're really and truly worried, I'm far less likely to demonize you for it. Of course, you can be sincerely crazy, but even Kevin's comment indicates a difference of degree, not an opposition of sanity and insanity.

I've also found it helpful to think of the political community as a whole rather than individuals when judging political beliefs. It's true that many Democrats, like Kevin, recognize the threat of terrorism but don't we need some overreactors to mount a vigorous defense?

To put it another way, and I'm not talking about Kevin anymore, a lot of political talk presupposes that we should all come to an agreement on a particular view and, consequently, the great bulk of political debate is spent on refutation and argument. But isn't this model rooted in an error?

Ultimately, on any given issue, a decision has to be made which rejects some points and embraces others. But why is political discourse conducted by people who write as if they are in the position of the decision-makers and as if they are charged with justifying and explaining various exclusions? Save for about twenty of us in this country of 300 million, we are contributing voices, not decision-makers. Could the tone of political debate itself be due to this confusion? Can we change the goal from "tell me why you're right" to "tell me what you think?"

I don't think it's a utopian enterprise. There's a great reserve of distaste for people who pretend to be more important than they are. Rhetoric could be deployed very effectively against "contributors" who mistake themselves for "decision-makers." We need to de-link derision and strength and link derision to pretension.

He talks as if he's the President.

He think he knows better than everyone else.

Stop putting people down and tell us what you think.

Hey, is this a "meme?" The contributor/decision-maker meme. Me me me me. I like it.


 

horizontal rule

 

Stylin'

Posted by Ogged
on 07.19.03

Dana Milbank and Dana Priest, continuing the Washington Post's excellent coverage of the Uranium Scandal, have this report in today's paper. You'll recall that yesterday the White House released some declassified intelligence reports in order to show that they were acting in good faith when they included the reference to African uranium in the SOTU. Trouble is, what they released also includes some strong dissent from the State Department about the uranium. Now the White House is spinning that Condoleezza Rice and Bush didn't read the whole report.

The State Department's intelligence arm (INR) also offered a caustic criticism of the controversial claim, raised by Bush in his State of the Union address, that Iraq was seeking nuclear material in Africa. "(T)he claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious." The objection was included in an annex to the report. The White House did not release the full text of the objection. The allegation that Iraq sought uranium in Africa was in the main portion of the report but was not one of the report's "key judgments."

...

A senior administration official who briefed reporters yesterday said neither Bush nor national security adviser Condoleezza Rice read the NIE in its entirety. "They did not read footnotes in a 90-page document," said the official, referring to the "Annex" that contained the State Department's dissent.

Brad DeLong doesn't think much of that defense. And it's not really consistent with what this "senior administration official" says later.

"When you get all six agencies, you take dissent into consideration, you note their dissent, but there is a majority judgment that's made," the official said. "It was made in this case, and that's why it was relied upon."

Dissent was (foot)noted, but it wasn't even read.

Also note that there's yet another spin on the inclusion of the reference to British intelligence in the contested sentence. We had heard that the reference to British intelligence was included to make the sentence "technically accurate," since the US didn't itself know if Saddam had tried to acquire Uranium, but now the explanation is this.

The official said that in the drafting of Bush's January speech, aides decided to attribute the uranium allegation to British intelligence because of a "stylistic" decision to provide sources for several allegations, "to make the speech more credible."

Let me guess, Condoleezza Rice received a Chicago Manual of Style for Christmas.

But the best part of the article is this line, which I think we'll be hearing for a long time to come.

"The president was comfortable at the time, based on the information that was provided in his speech," the official said of the decision to use it in the address to Congress. "The president of the United States is not a fact-checker."

 

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New Comment Notification

Posted by Ogged
on 07.19.03

If you're like me (and really, why not?), you post a comment on a blog and check back about 75 times in the next hour to see if anyone has responded. Not anymore. Not on Unfogged. Thanks to this very cool script from Scriptygoddess, now you can subscribe to a comment thread and receive an email when something is posted there. You don't have to comment to subscribe and you can unsubscribe whenever you like.

Full posts in the RSS feed, new comment notification--all part of my effort to make Unfogged the least visited site in all of blogdom.


 

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Iran and Religion

Posted by Ogged
on 07.18.03
This New York Times editorial by Reza Aslan is a pretty sneaky bit of rhetoric. He sets out to justify a post-current-regime "religious democracy" in Iran, but never gets around to the justification part. Note how in the following passage a group that a generous estimate would put at a thousand people becomes "most Iranians." (emphasis added)
The president has interpreted the current situation in Iran as a conflict between Islamic theocracy and the kind of Western secular democracy his administration envisions for Iraq. But that is not at all how most Iranians see it. Over the past two decades, academics, reformist theologians and liberal clerics in Iran have been struggling to redefine traditional Islamic political philosophy in order to bring it in line with modern concepts of representative government, popular sovereignty, universal suffrage and religious pluralism. What these Iranians have been working toward is "Islamic democracy": that is, a liberal, democratic society founded on an Islamic moral framework.
That was convenient. There are clerics in Iran doing groundbreaking work on the relationship of religion and government, but "most Iranians'" views of religion are perhaps better expressed by someone I know in Tehran who, reflecting on life after the current regime noted that "first, people will have to spend a month killing mullahs." The disdain for religion among "most Iranians" is hard to overstate. Aslan then adduces Israel as Exhibit A in the case of the possibility of "religious democracy." Unfortunately for Aslan, conflict between religion and the state is a constant source of trouble in Israeli politics. But Israel is a particularly inapposite example because Jewishness is unique in that it is a "cultural" as well as a religious category: "secular Jew" is a common term, quite unlike, say, "secular Catholic" or "secular Shia." Aslan's Exhibit B, the United States, is puzzling, to say the least. He writes,
it could be argued that the United States itself began as a religious democracy founded on a Protestant moral framework that still plays an influential role in our laws and politics.
Given the fact of the First Amendment, I'm at a loss as to what Aslan might mean here. That Americans at the time of the founding were overwhelmingly Protestant and their religion informed the values of the state they founded? Fine. Granted. But is that all "religious democracy" means? In that case, why argue the point or try to justify the practice? Iranians are overwhelmingly Muslim and their values will inform whatever state supersedes the current mullahcracy. In fact, there's plenty of evidence that Aslan is either confused about the meaning of "religious democracy" or that he is trying to argue for a collapse of the church/state distinction by cloaking it as an issue of self-determination.
the concept of religious democracy has not been allowed to reach fruition in the Islamic world, partly because of foreign interference, partly because of religious fanaticism, but mostly because of the West's overwhelming fear of Islamic government. It is this fear that has sustained an outdated foreign policy in the Persian Gulf, one that is still founded on containing Iran at all costs — regardless of the profound changes taking place in its government and society through the work of reformist politicians who are fighting for wider powers for the elected Parliament and greater freedom for the populace.
It is this same fear that has led to American military and economic support of antidemocratic regimes in Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan. More recently, this fear of Islamic government has forced the United States to forgo elections in Iraq in favor of appointing a Governing Council, lest the Shiite majority exercise its democratic right to self-determination.
Aslan is eliding an important distinction. Religion may be allowed to inform the actions and principles and free expression of groups operating within a political framework or it may be allowed to dictate the nature of the framework itself. To fix, at the founding, a notion of proper religion in the state is quite simply undemocratic in that it precludes the move to secularism, should the people desire it (and even likely precludes a shift in religion, should demographic factors bring that about). In addition, in an explicitly religious society, interpreters of religious texts invariably become a de facto oligarchy. There is no reason that Iraqis cannot become, like Americans, a deeply religious people in a secular state. A counterfactual counter-example may be helpful here: imagine if the government of Northern Ireland were to be constituted from scratch tomorrow. Would Aslan think it just for the Protestant majority to exercise their right to self-determination by making Northern Ireland a Protestant state? Aslan ends as he began, by saying that the interests of a narrow group represent the interests of most.
What the United States must learn from the colonialist experience is that the only way to promote lasting democratic reform in the Middle East is to encourage it to develop according to its own indigenous culture and its own religious identity. That is precisely what reformists are trying to do in Iran, and rather than being feared or isolated, they should be supported.
No. If the US wants to allow democracy to "develop according to its own indigenous culture," it should ignore, as much as possible, the special pleading of any faction claiming to speak for everyone.

 

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No mas

Posted by Unf
on 07.18.03

Lots of people lament the fact that Hollywood's summer schedule always seems overly cluttered with sequels. I always figured that, whatever this might have said about the ability of screenwriters to come up with original stories in this day and age, at least the studios only made sequels to movies that were generally pretty good in one way or another. Now, that the original was good is no guarantee the sequel is going to be any good (I'll leave it to you to come up with examples of this phenomenon - its not too hard). However, when the original is decent, at least you've got something to start with.

I think that the new Lara Croft movie pretty much kills off any remaining faith I had in the notion that only good movies get sequels. I'm not one for superlatives, but the first Lara Croft movie is probably the worst movie I've ever seen. I saw it one night with a friend when it came out in theaters. Despite the fact that a) we were living in a small southern town and had little else to do at night, b) we had seen just about everything else that was out at the time, c) he was no help in choosing something to see, and d) I explicitly disclaimed any responsibility for what we were about to see, I still felt the need to apologize to my friend for picking the movie as we staggered out of the theater. What's next, a sequel to Pluto Nash?


 

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Picking on Darwin

Posted by Ogged
on 07.18.03

John Holbo says,

It occurs to me that I don't know the answer to a rather simple question. Why do Creationist 'literalists' about Biblical interpretation single out Darwinism for attack? Surely physics - cosmology, in particular - is just as hard to square with "Genesis".

John guesses that the desire to discriminate humans from mere beasts ("exceptionalism") has something to do with it, but isn't wholly convinced by the answer. [I see now that there's a thread about this on Matthew Yglesias' site, with other answers.]

But I'm not sure we can answer the question without a bit more historical perspective. Physics had its own crisis with Galileo, but the church and the physicists have had plenty of time to work out their accommodations. The same is true of Copernican cosmology. So the question becomes whether we're just in the early stages of the accommodation of Darwinism and religion or whether there is something about the two that is irreconcilable.

My own guess is that it's the former. There are aspects of Darwinism that are difficult for traditional religious thought. Exceptionalism is one, but the more serious problem is the role of chance in natural selection. Nevertheless, with a little bit of Augustinian free-will spin, I think even that one could be fudged.

We can chalk up the fact that we haven't had the necessary fudging yet to political rather than doctrinal difficulties. Religious doctrine tends to change only when it's so obviously wrong that not changing would mean a loss of credibility. But credibility is as much about audience as content. If enough people are favorably disposed to religious arguments, scientists will have a much tougher time winning the debate (are there evolution debates in Europe?) And biology is much squishier than physics and cosmology. Galileo can drop a ball and pretty easily convince someone about its rate of descent, but when you have to go the fossil record and catalog all your reasonable inferences, it's hard to make the doubters feel irrational. Finally, evolutionary biology just doesn't matter very much. If the neighboring town's cannon suddenly gets a hell of a lot more accurate, that has a rather pronounced effect on your willingness to accept its physics. But if the neighbors have better or worse theories of evolution, what difference does it make?

So the evolution debate isn't even really about evolution. Evolution is just vague enough and just concrete enough to become the locus of a political tussle between religious and secular groups. Teach that to the kids.


 

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My Agenda, Bent

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.03

I don't know why I haven't added Agenda Bender to the blogroll until now.



 

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Want Some Gauze With That?

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.03

You know when you got a new teacher and you tested him to see how hard you could push before he cracked or pushed back? Well, Scott McClellan took over for Ari Fleischer this week.


 

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The Holbos

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.03

The wonderful John and Belle Holbo have moved to a slick new TypePad blog. And I've added them to the blogroll.


 

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Blogger Got Back

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.03

Matthew Yglesias is back, and sharp, as usual.



 

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Welcome, Bob

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.03

Please join me and Unf in welcoming Bob to the ranks of the Unfogged bloggers. We figured it was about time to elevate the discourse of this blog a bit and Bob has promised to help us look for someone to do that.


 

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A Test

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.03
Now that I've encouraged everyone to use the RSS feed, can y'all tell me if links to cached pages work from within your aggregators? Thanks.

 

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Oh My

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.03

As with all charges this explosive (via Brad DeLong), one should wait for some sort of confirmation or follow-up, but if this is true, Uranium-gate pales in comparison.

Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security--and break the law--in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?

The operative in question is the wife of Joseph Wilson, the man who was sent to Africa to investigate the Niger/Uranium connection and came back to report that it didn't exist. Wilson also published on Op-Ed in the NY Times claiming that intelligence was being manipulated. As this Time story reports, it seems the administration is trying to smear Wilson. But the outing of his wife as a covert operative is the most shocking item. From The Nation again.

[Wilson] will neither confirm nor deny that his wife...works for the CIA. But let's assume she does ... The sources for Novak's assertion about Wilson's wife appear to be "two senior administration officials." If so, a pair of top Bush officials told a reporter the name of a CIA operative who apparently has worked under what's known as "nonofficial cover" and who has had the dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material. If Wilson's wife is such a person--and the CIA is unlikely to have many employees like her--her career has been destroyed by the Bush administration ... Without acknowledging whether she is a deep-cover CIA employee, Wilson says, "Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames." If she is not a CIA employee and Novak is reporting accurately, then the White House has wrongly branded a woman known to friends as an energy analyst for a private firm as a CIA officer.

That's not just not very nice, it's illegal.

This is not only a possible breach of national security; it is a potential violation of law. Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent. The punishment for such an offense is a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in prison.

If this story is true, the important question will be who tipped off Novak and whether those people are or are close to senior adminstration officials. If Rumsfeld, Rice or Cheney had anything to do with blowing an operative's cover, I think Bush won't be re-elected. But if it was anyone else, no matter how familiar the names to savvy blogospherians, it will be much harder to attach responsibility to Bush. Either way, I'm sure this is just the beginning.

I AM A BIG DUMMIE: Kevin Drum, whose site I read every single day, blogged this yesterday and I somehow missed it. My apologies.


 

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What's Been Done

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.03

There are some things, that if you do them, count forever in your favor, no matter what else you do and no matter what your motives for doing them.

In August 1995, the general [Wesley Clark]—three stars, working as J-5 for the Joint Chiefs—went to Bosnia as part of the negotiating team Ambassador Richard Holbrooke had put together to end the civil war that had resulted in the massacre of as many as eight thousand Muslim men and boys at the town of Srebrenica the month before. In Belgrade, Clark had met for the first time Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who was sponsoring the Bosnian Serbs. Now the team had to travel to Sarajevo. Told that the airport in Sarajevo was too dangerous to fly into, the team decided to drive and asked Milosevic to guarantee its safety on a road held by Bosnian Serbs. Milosevic did not, and so the team wound up taking a fortified Humvee and an armored personnel carrier on a pitched, narrow, winding mountain road notoriously vulnerable to Serb machine-gun fire. Clark and Holbrooke went in the Humvee, the rest in the APC. In his book, the general describes what happened this way: "At the end of the first week we had a tragic accident on Mount Igman, near Sarajevo. [Three members of the team] were killed when the French armored personnel carrier in which they were riding broke through the shoulder of the road and tumbled several hundred meters down a steep hillside."
It is not until one reads Holbrooke's book, To End a War, that one finds out that after the APC went off the road, Clark grabbed a rope, anchored it to a tree stump, and rappelled down the mountainside after it, despite the gunfire that the explosion of the APC set off, despite the warnings that the mountainside was heavily mined, despite the rain and the mud, and despite Holbrooke yelling that he couldn't go. It is not until one brings the incident up to the general that one finds out that the burning APC had turned into a kiln, and that Clark stayed with it and aided in the extraction of the bodies; it is not until one meets Wesley Clark that one understands the degree to which he held Milosevic accountable.

 

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Go, Enjoy

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.03

Gary Farber should never be without readers. He hasn't been posting a lot lately, but go over to his blog, check out the archives, scroll around. I'm sure you'll find great stuff.


 

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Pleasantville

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.03

We ate dinner outside tonight in a public area that has tables and seats and a fountain. There were lots of nice young couples and inappropriately dressed teenagers and, at the table next to us, a man about fifty, clearly deranged, who kept up a stream of expletives for the entire 20 minutes we sat there.

His effect on me was bizarre: I was totally becalmed. "Finally, I can relax," thought some corner of my mind, "he's doing all the work for me." It was as if I'd taken out my id and plopped it at the next table so I could finally enjoy a pleasant dinner.

This has perturbed my fiancee a bit. Especially, I think, my rather too good imitation of the man (but really, who can resist saying "glorious son of a whore" a few times?) "I think he speaks for all of us," I told her--again, with a bit too much confidence, apparently. But she gave herself away too: everyone else around us--goddam fucking rigid suburban sons of bitches that they are--was glancing up nervously at the man and my fiancee finally became insistent that we leave too; as we walked away, I asked her if she was ok, and she said, yes, "but I was going to burst out laughing if we sat there any longer."


 

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I'll Never Eat Crow Again

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.03

This is amazing (via Brad DeLong, who nabbed it from Teresa Nielsen Hayden). Definitely watch the video. In short, it's about a crow making a tool to do precisely what it needs. Also amazing was this comment by Scott Janssens on Teresa's site.

I had a roommate with an African Grey named Gromit. When one of us would leave, he would flawlessly mimic the sound of our phone and then laugh at us when we came back in and answered it. He also took pleasure in confusing us by when we used the microwave by sounding the finished beep too early. And I don't know what he did to the cats when we were away, but they wouldn't go near him.

Well, now that I look at Scott's comment, I'm a bit incredulous. Couldn't you tell that the phone ring wasn't coming from the direction of the phone? And doesn't a microwave make noise that stops when the "finished beep" sounds? Perhaps the embellishment is on the side of the effect rather than the cause, which leaves the parrot smart. Ok, I'll believe that!


 

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I Love Me, I Love Me Not

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.03

Hairy palms, cancer. Hairy palms, cancer. Hmm.



 

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PMA

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.03

Come to think of it, I have been down lately. Now I feel better.


 

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Can You Be Any More Gay?

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.03

As promised, I watched the first episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy last night. I enjoyed it and I'll watch again, but, on the whole, I was a bit disappointed. They got a good group of queers together to help each hetero overcome himself, so to speak, but the show managed to make even their extremely high-strung frenetic banter seem forced and slow by giving the camera and sound such a damn fast pace.

But the real problem, at least in the episode I saw, was that the hetero just wasn't hetero enough for good drama. I want the hetero the resist a little, to be shocked and incredulous when they tell him his nine-year-grown ponytail has got to go. Butch, our man last night, basically said, "cool, whatever." He looked hetero enough, but really, the guy is a set builder on Broadway; they couldn't find a guy willing to be on the show who found gays a bit more alien?

First episodes can be misleading, so I'll reserve final judgement. I think they played a few episodes last night and I've got them Tivo'ed, so I'll watch another one soon. Let's hope our next hetero is Idaho milita.


 

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Just Do It Already

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.03

I know I've gone on about this in the past, but if you look at a lot of web sites in the course of a day, it's really really worthwhile to get a news aggregator. It will take you, at most, 30 minutes to download and begin using one. I'll even take the decision-making out of it for you:

If you use a Mac, get NetNewsWire.

If you use a PC, get Sharpreader. [UPDATE: Sharpreader requires .NET; AmphetaDesk is also good and doesn't require .NET] If you also use Outlook and are willing to spend a little money, get NewsGator.

If you're running Linux, you probably already know what to do, but if not, try Amphetadesk.

It's easier to set up a newsreader than an email program. And just hop in the comments if you get stuck.


 

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Very Good News

Posted by Ogged
on 07.15.03

The Senate is set to kill the proposed computerized snooping and data mining system now known as Terrorism Information Awareness. It was a horrible idea and kudos to the Senate for seeing that.


 

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Dissident DeLong

Posted by Ogged
on 07.15.03

Brad DeLong positions himself at the fringe of political discourse by stating the obvious.

But perhaps the most interesting thing is that everyone in Washington--Democrats, Republicans, and independents; journalists and political hacks; experts on national security and those who believe that "Star Wars" is ready for deployment--everyone, starts from the assumption that George W. Bush is a sock puppet. It is inconceivable to everybody that George W. Bush might have asked questions about the reliability of claims "in the speech presented to him." It is inconceivable to everybody that George W. Bush might have actually gotten himself briefed at some point about the quality of the evidence that Saddam was going full-throttle to reconstruct his nuclear program. It is inconceivable to everybody that George W. Bush might have the curiosity about the world and the factual knowledge of even a part-time intern working on Andrew Sullivan's weblog.

There's more.


 

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We Self-Hating French

Posted by Ogged
on 07.15.03

Indeed.



 

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The decline of American civilization

Posted by Unf
on 07.15.03

Exhibit 1,035,056 in the prosecution's case for why we are all going to hell. Via Reenhead.


 

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The State of the Scandal

Posted by Ogged
on 07.15.03
The New York Times editorial page has three separate columns about the Nigerien Uranium mess; by the editorial board, Kristof and Krugman. Kristof refers to this open letter to the President from several ex-intelligence officers calling for Dick Cheney's resignation. I can't remember anything like that happening in the past. This story is now a very big deal. Some bloggers on the right are defending Bush with the argument that the British still stand by their claims (and also say that they were not relying on the documents later shown to be forgeries) and so Bush hasn't even been shown to have been wrong, let alone lying. There's something to this defense. If it turns out that the Brits were correct, I'd consider Bush exonerated (of this one charge, though not of the charge of programmatic deception). But there's reason to treat the British claims with some skepticism. First, there's absolutely no corroboration and no other country seems to have seen the evidence the Brits are using. More damning still, the British agents doing the denying seem to have their facts confused. They dismiss the Wilson report (I'm sorry that I'm assuming you know all the back-story, I can't make every post a complete recap) by saying,
He seems to have asked a few people if it was true and when they said 'no' he accepted it all," one official said. "We see no reason at all to change our assessment.
But, as Josh Marshall has reported (and the Washington Post has verified), Wilson did a very thorough report and the Brits seem to have confused his report with a different one. So why is the left treating Bush as guilty until proven innocent? Because the adminstration's story on the Nigerien Uranium has changed so many times that something must be rotten.

 

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Suggestions

Posted by Unf
on 07.15.03

For a long time, I held to the notion that one should never wear a walkman while riding a bicycle. However, in a move of exceptional daring, I listened to my iPod while going for a ride along the lake this past Saturday. Not only did I not die, but I also realized that, all other things being equal, its much more fun to listen to music while riding than not. So now I need suggestions for good music to listen to while riding. Any thoughts?


 

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But His Parents Are Democrats

Posted by Ogged
on 07.15.03

I'd say Yuri Guri has this just right.



 

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Dean and Electability

Posted by Ogged
on 07.15.03

There's a lot of smart commentary on John Judis' Salon piece about Howard Dean in the Salon letters section. Two points were especially good. Javier Morillo-Alicea explains that many Dean supporters realize he's not as far left as they are, but his policies aren't necessarily what's attractive about Dean.

It's the backbone, stupid.

Matt Segur makes a good point I haven't heard elsewhere.

The North-South logic that says Dean can't win also says Kerry can't, yet somehow Kerry avoids the "can't win" stamp. I smell a rat.

I am mindful of the strange status of "electability" arguments. A candidate's success can't be judged "on paper," so to speak, and perceptions regarding electability are subject to very strong positive feedback loops. But how can we avoid these calculations? We each understand that our preferences may not be everyone's preferences and therefore, the candidate we like best may not be able to command the support of the majority of voters. If you concede that much, it seems you have to concede that calculations of electability are at least legitimate.

I'm genuinely torn about who to support in the Democratic primaries. I, unlike, apparently, the rest of humanity, like John Kerry (and I love his wife). But, as I say, I seem to be alone in this. I don't have a good feel for Dean yet (I need to start watching more television news). Have people really already made up their minds about the candidates?


 

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I Made This

Posted by Ogged
on 07.14.03

We were out and about this weekend and saw a couple of things that made us wonder. At one cafe, a young woman (probably about 20) with a stunning body was standing in line wearing bottoms like these and a top like this. And sandals, of course. My fiancee, innocent and covered lass that she is, turned to me and said, "that's underwear."

We were somewhere else when we saw another young lady (probably about 17) wearing sweatpants that were perilously low on her hips. A common sight, I'm aware. But across her tart little bottom were big yellow letters: JUICY.

Now, I'm all for this. I think young men and women with gawkable bodies should be as little covered as possible and everyone should enjoy looking at them. If you're dropping 15 bucks to go to a museum to look at paintings and can't get excited about young bodies, you're confused.

But here's why what we saw seems post-worthy to me (a low bar, I'll admit). Both the young ladies were with their parents. And their parents were fairly beaming. If this were a world where most people agreed that young bodies should be flaunted and admired, then these parents would be right to beam. But that's not this world and these parents didn't look like the proud innocent to me (or to my fiancee, who, in an uncharacteristic moment of snarkiness said of JUICY's mother, "she's happy that people will think she used to look that good." Ouch. But exactly right. Underwear woman's parents were so unattractive that my impression was that they just couldn't believe their luck.

I don't know if I'm being clear. I can imagine different parents in a different setting accompanying their scantily clad children and everything being fine. But these parents struck me as somehow exploitative. I couldn't help but wonder what signals had been sent to these women over the years leading up to this moment of pride for these aging parents. Yuck.

Am I being prudish? Sexist? What?


 

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Just shampoo for me, thanks

Posted by Unf
on 07.14.03

Has Ogged signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda? I think so.

Have years of diversity training taught you nothing? I say there's nothing wrong with:

1. Shopping for underwear only once a decade;

2. Insisting that all food be grilled, weather permitting;

3. Shampoo being one's only hair care product;

4. Caring more about sports teams than family members; and

5. Being comfortable with old boxes as a decorating choice.

Let's remember the rainbow, Ogged.


 

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Just A Day?

Posted by Ogged
on 07.14.03
If you're a guy, odds are you're too hetero. Fun article in the Times yesterday about hetero guys getting gay makeovers. Apparently, this conceit is the basis of a new TV show on Bravo beginning on Tuesday. There was a time in my life (when I was between 17-20 or so) when lots of gay guys assumed I was gay. I'm not sure why that was; probably because I was a homophobic teenager who was fascinated by gay guys and stared at them. Or maybe I was just gay. Dunno. I remember going to a baseball game with some friends and sitting right behind a couple of guys and their female friend. My friends and I were probably about 17 at the time. One of the men kept bumping my knee with his elbow. At first I thought it was accidental. Round about the 7th inning, he leaned over and said something in his friends ear. His friend turned back, looked right at me for a good 3 seconds and said, very loudly, "I don't know what you see in him." Alas. In any case, I apparently stopped being of the slightest interest to gay men a few years after that. Again, probably because I went off to college where many of my best professors were gay and I just calmed down about the issue. (That, by the way, seems like a better diversity argument than so-called "viewpoint diversity:" it's important just to be around people one wouldn't normally be around.) I'll be in front of the TV this Tuesday. This whole being engaged business is way too hetero.

 

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Don't Say Factive!

Posted by Ogged
on 07.13.03
Rice and Rumsfeld are now using the "it was technically true" defense in the Nigerien Uranium affair. They're also trying to be clever by saying that while it was technically true, that's not true enough for Bush, so it shouldn't have been included. The impression we are meant to have is that Bush is so honest he doesn't say things that are merely technically true and so he apologizes for this lapse. Here's some advice on the political side. Ignore the fact that the statement is not technically true. As soon as a critic utters the words "factive verb," the Republicans have won. Don't do it! It's a trap! The proper response is to emphasize that "technically true" was used as cover for something the administrataion knew was untrue or, at the very least, not well substantiated. The words "the British have learned" didn't just magically appear in the speech; they were inserted because the CIA had doubts about the veracity of the claim. Push the Clintonian angle.

 

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Thank God For Leaks

Posted by Ogged
on 07.13.03
At the very least, we'll see how creative spin and misdirection can be. This may be the most damning revelation yet about the Niger/Iraq/Uranium/State of the Union affair. The CIA, which took the blame for not taking the reference out of the SOTU, did manage to have it removed from a speech given months earlier.
CIA Director George J. Tenet successfully intervened with White House officials to have a reference to Iraq seeking uranium from Niger removed from a presidential speech last October, three months before a less specific reference to the same intelligence appeared in the State of the Union address, according to senior administration officials.
So who put it back in? We finally get a clue.
Administration sources said White House officials, particularly those in the office of Vice President Cheney, insisted on including Hussein's quest for a nuclear weapon as a prominent part of their public case for war in Iraq.
That's clear enough, but there's also this.
Officials said three speechwriters were at the core of the State of the Union team, and that they worked from evidence against Iraq provided by the National Security Council. NSC officials dealt with the CIA both in gathering material for the speech and later in vetting the drafts.
Which is a long way of saying, Condoleezza Rice. It's pretty amazing that people have leaked this to the Post just the day after Tenet tried to put the matter to rest by taking the blame. There are serious internal divisions here.
But it is clear from the new disclosure about Tenet's intervention last October that the controversy continues to boil, and as new facts emerge a different picture is being presented than the administration has given to date.
Clear indeed.

 

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