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State Secrets?

Posted by Ogged
on 12.13.03

Sometimes it really is simple: this administration is full of bad people.

The Bush administration has removed from the public domain millions of pages of information on health, safety, and environmental matters, lowering a shroud of secrecy over many critical operations of the federal government.

...

The Bush administration is denying access to auto and tire safety information, for instance, that manufacturers are required to provide under a new "early-warning system" created following the Ford-Firestone tire scandal four years ago. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, meanwhile, is more frequently withholding information that would allow the public to scrutinize its product safety findings and product recall actions.
New administrative initiatives have effectively placed off limits critical health and safety information potentially affecting millions of Americans. The information includes data on quality and vulnerability of drinking-water supplies, potential chemical hazards in communities, and safety of airline travel and others forms of transportation.
Beyond the well-publicized cases involving terrorism suspects, the administration is aggressively pursuing secrecy claims in the federal courts in ways little understood--even by some in the legal system. The administration is increasingly invoking a "state secrets" privilege that allows government lawyers to request that civil and criminal cases be effectively closed by asserting that national security would be compromised if they proceed.

I know it's trite to say so, but do remember that these people work for us. What they hide isn't theirs to hide.


 

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Just Too Honest

Posted by Ogged
on 12.13.03

All ye defenders of David Brooks, I dare you to tell me he's not a hack.



 

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Hey Joe

Posted by Ogged
on 12.12.03

What's a blog for if you can't speculate irresponsibly? Much is being made of the fact that Al Gore dissed Joe Lieberman by not calling him before the endorsement of Howard Dean. Raise your hand if you suspect that Lieberman deliberately "missed" that call so he could play up the betrayal and victimization, and, of course, his own loyalty and honor.

Thanks, I thought so.


 

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Clio Can't Be Happy

Posted by Ogged
on 12.12.03

I thought Chun was being ungenerous with his criticism of Cliopatria's KC Johnson, but this post by Johnson makes me think Chun's right. Compare this laughably weak article about rising anti-Semitism that Johnson calls "thoughtful and balanced" (an article on anti-Semitism that doesn't even address--either to affirm or deny--the anti-Semitic / anti-Israel / anti-Israeli policy distinction? And that quotes Mort Zuckerman as if he's a source and not an advocate? Please.) with this superb piece drawing many of the same conclusions about the same subject.

And the site design sucks. Make a TypePad blog and then set up a redirect folks; it ain't rocket science. It's not even algebra.


 

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Track & Find

Posted by Ogged
on 12.12.03

Nifty new Google features.



 

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Epstein

Posted by Ogged
on 12.12.03

If you don't know of Joseph Epstein, or have never read one of his books of essays (this is my favorite), you're really missing out. You can catch him here this week.

FUNNY, BUT I DO LOOK JEWISH, at least to myself, and more and more so as the years go by. I'm fairly sure I didn't always look Jewish, not when I was a boy, or possibly even when a young man, though I have always carried around my undeniably Jewish name, which was certainly clue enough. But today, gazing at my face in the mirror, I say to myself, yes, no question about it, this is a very Jewish-looking gent.

...

The human face, we now know, is not symmetrical, a fact that painting seems to capture better than sculpture. Of my two sides, the right is the more lined, weather-beaten, battered-looking. I think of this side of my face as even more Jewish than my left side, which, to be sure, I don't exactly think of as Swedish.

...

Is the authentic Jew an earlock-wearing, tsitsit-on-the-undergarments-bearing Hasid in the Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem, a merchant originally from Iraq living in Calcutta, a Marrano praying in an attic in Portugal, a golfer in plaid pants and peach-colored shirt teeing off at the Lakeshore Country Club in Glencoe? The answer is of course all and none of the above.
And yet Jews remain, at least to most other Jews, identifiably, unmistakably Jewish. "Gaydar" is a word, formed from "radar," that describes the ability to discern a gay man, especially one attempting to pass as heterosexual. If there is an equivalent power of discernment that allows one to spot Jews, even where they do not conform in any obvious or even subtle way to stereotypical notions of the Jew--let us call this "Jewdar"--I like to think I possess it in reasonably good working order.

Oh, go on.


 

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Sucker

Posted by Ogged
on 12.12.03
I love it.
One of the world's most prolific spam distributors was arrested Thursday in Raleigh, N.C., and charged with four felony counts under Virginia's new anti-spam law, in a case that experts say reflects the nation's growing frustration with annoying junk e-mail.
I know it's a minor annoyance in the grand scheme, but there's just so damn much spam. Actually, that's only part of the reason. Let's be honest: that "ding" of new mail is still exciting. Who wrote me? Which friend, near or long-lost, is getting in touch? When you expect that and get another fucking ad for debt consolidation, it's no wonder we're willing to put the people responsible in jail.

 

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Profiteering

Posted by Ogged
on 12.11.03
Here's an update on the fishy Halliburton fuel prices (mentioned here).
A Pentagon investigation has found evidence of overcharging and other violations in billions of dollars worth of reconstruction contracts for Iraq that were awarded to Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, military officials said today.
The violations by a Halliburton Company subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown and Root, could involve "potentially tens of millions of dollars" in overcharging for fuel that the company is trucking into Iraq under one of two contracts....
But there's even more damning stuff in this story.
An ongoing audit of Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown & Root subsidiary found substantial overcharging for fuel and other items, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The problems go beyond overcharging, the official said, declining to elaborate.
Stay tuned.

 

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Looking For a Candidate

Posted by Ogged
on 12.11.03

Ted, hold your fire; I'm going over to the Dark Side for this one. Kieran and Jesse and Atrios are all correct. He's unelectable. Furthermore, Jesse's commenters have the right idea.


 

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Kucinich in a Tree

Posted by Ogged
on 12.11.03
Remeber the site trying to find Dennis Kucinich a date? It really happened. No doubt you'll want to read the whole thing, but I have to quote:
``I'm not a vegetarian, and I have no problem with someone else who is,'' Santore said. ``He may be a vegan, but as long as he drinks, it's OK.''
Picture here.

 

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Admissions Counselor

Posted by Ogged
on 12.11.03
If you haven't seen this yet, it's just precious.
President Bush found himself in the awkward position on Wednesday of calling the leaders of France, Germany and Russia to ask them to forgive Iraq's debts, just a day after the Pentagon excluded those countries and others from $18 billion in American-financed Iraqi reconstruction projects.
White House officials were fuming about the timing and the tone of the Pentagon's directive, even while conceding that they had approved the Pentagon policy of limiting contracts to 63 countries that have given the United States political or military aid in Iraq.
Kevin Drum comments. Josh Marshall has this to say.
I mean, it defies ridicule (what will I do?). The tone? How were they supposed to sugar-coat it?
Please ...
Clearly, we need to come up with a new executive branch foreign policy appointee, someone whose job it would be to coordinate all this stuff, who could make sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, someone who could ride herd over interagency disputes.
Ideally, that person would work out of the White House.
We could call the new post the National Security Coordinator or maybe the National Security Advisor. Something like that.
Just a thought.
And then I saw this (via PW).
"There's nothing I am worse at than long-term planning," Rice admits in the upcoming issue of Reader's Digest. "I have never run my life that way. I believe that serendipity or fate or divine intervention has led me to a series of wholly implausible steps in my life. And I've been open to those twists and turns because I didn't have a long-term plan."
I would say, once again, God help us, but that seems to have been the plan, and it's not working.

 

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Yeah, them too

Posted by Bob
on 12.11.03

Michael Schafer, a mere graduate student, almost singlehandedly found the largest known Mersenne prime. That is, he installed a program on his desktop Dell, adding it to the 200,000 or so computers used to search collaboratively for the number. Schafer's computer is the one that happened to be assigned the number that met the criteria.

Big as his achievement was, though, Schafer gives credit where it's due:

I get the credit, along with the people that developed the software.

But really my flipness is probably unfair. I suspect the AP reporter just couldn't figure out how to write a story about a distributed network instead of about some genius mathematician.


 

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Pluck it Out

Posted by Ogged
on 12.11.03

You know, maybe conservatives should take over the academy, if they can promise that no one will ever say something like this.

Late in my undergraduate years, I went through a phase of feminist influence in which I felt guilty about the fact that all the women I was attracted to were attractive.

God help us.


 

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Iraq Story

Posted by Ogged
on 12.11.03

This New Yorker story is epic-length, but it's the most important and informative thing I've read in the past few months. If you want a sense of what Iraq is like at the moment, print it out and read it in bits if you have to. It's worth it.


 

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Google is the ultimate surrealist tool

Posted by Bob
on 12.11.03

Last night after listening to a riveting This American Life story about money-laundering, human-rights disasters, American covert ops, and wholesale environmental destruction on the tiny Pacific-island nation of Nauru (listen to it!), I Googled Nauru and found this gem. This beadie, really.


 

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Weakness

Posted by Ogged
on 12.10.03

Atrios ends a very good post thus.

...and another thing. Stop ceding the goddamn debate. Who here thinks Howard Dean can beat Bush? Why Ted, you ignorant slut, Fred Flintstone could take Bush with Barney Rubble as his campaign manager. Wesley Clark should stop saying that he needs to be the nominee because someone needs to be able to match Bush at foreign policy. What Clark should say is that Joey Tribiani could match Bush at foreign policy, though he, Clark, has the most experience. Stop acknowledging that Bush is strong on anything. He's a big loser. He's a miserable failure. He's lost 3 million jobs. He got us into a screwed up war. Our soldiers are being killed by terrorists. The Middle East is a mess. Afghanistan is a mess. OBL is alive. Hussein is alive.

During last night's debate, he noted (correctly),

Koppel asked them to raise their hands if they thought Dean could beat Bush. They didn't. Idiots - you should be willing to say that a SLUG could beat Bush.

Exactly right.


 

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Nickel Today

Posted by Ogged
on 12.10.03

This is a very nicely designed website. And, if you're a man, Frederica Fontana (any relation to Labs?) will make you dumber (much dumber) than you've ever been. Turn down the sound on your system and click away.

via fleshbot


 

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Consciousness Explained

Posted by Ogged
on 12.10.03

Lock up the hotties, they're making me stupid.

Psychologists in Canada have finally proved what women have long suspected - men really are irrational enough to risk entire kingdoms to catch sight of a beautiful face.

Here's the deal: if I offer you $10 today vs. $30 tomorrow, barring some extraordinary immediate need, you'd be a fool not to wait. If I change the offer to $30 a week from now, you make some appropriate calculations and decide whether it's worth the wait. That's "rational discounting." Here's what happened.

Both male and female students...were shown pictures of the opposite sex of varying attractiveness taken from the website 'Hot or Not'. The 209 students were then offered the chance to win a reward. They could either accept a cheque for between $15 and $35 tomorrow or one for $50-$75 at a variable point in the future.
Wilson and Daly found that male students shown the pictures of averagely attractive women showed exponential discounting of the future value of the reward. This indicated that they had made a rational decision. When male students were shown pictures of pretty women, they discounted the future value of the reward in an "irrational" way - they would opt for the smaller amount of money available the next day rather than wait for a much bigger reward.

Truly, their brains were addled. (And just by the sight of a picture!) One scientist has an explanation that almost makes this sound reasonable.

"If there's the prospect of getting a very attractive partner it may pay a man to take more risks than if an average partner was available."

Dream on, bud. I like this explanation.

"...we hypothesise that viewing pictures of pretty women was mildly arousing, activating neural mechanisms associated with cues of sexual opportunity."

In other words, their brains were addled.

Tyler Cowen's post, where I saw this, end with this.

I fear [this finding] will be used to construct an efficiency argument for restricting pornography and tightening social mores.

That's paranoid, but Tyler's got the right idea in the next sentence.

And the next time I do something crazy, I will blame it on having a beautiful wife.

That's the spirit! Frankly, this is one of the best things I've heard in a long time. The dumber I get, the more beautiful she must be. Did I just buy a plasma TV? But sweetie, you're so beautiful! I know I quit my job, and yes, I know I don't have another one lined up, but, my goodness that dress is smashing!


 

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Barrels O Bucks

Posted by Ogged
on 12.10.03
A lot of the hubbub surrounding Halliburton's contracts in Iraq has been baseless, but this latest will be hard to explain away.
The United States government is paying the Halliburton Company an average of $2.64 a gallon to import gasoline and other fuel to Iraq from Kuwait, more than twice what others are paying to truck in Kuwaiti fuel, government documents show.
After several paragraphs of fairly convincing counter-spin from Halliburton, we get to the kind of paragraph that's still technically a "he said, she said," but written in a way that leaves little doubt about who's correct.
A company's profits on the transport and sale of gasoline are usually razor-thin, with companies losing contracts if they overbid by half a penny a gallon. Independent experts who reviewed Halliburton's percentage of its gas importation contract said the company's 26-cent charge per gallon of gas from Kuwait appeared to be extremely high.
"I have never seen anything like this in my life," said Phil Verleger, a California oil economist and the president of the consulting firm PK Verleger LLC. "That's a monopoly premium that's the only term to describe it. Every logistical firm or oil subsidiary in the United States and Europe would salivate to have that sort of contract."
Thanks NY Times. Now, will some Democrats make hay out of this? Please?

 

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But She Seemed So Nice

Posted by Ogged
on 12.10.03
Think she'll still be the darling of "liberate Iran" crowd?
[Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi] said Wednesday: "In the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of September 11 and the war on international terrorism as a pretext.
"Regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms ... have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism," she said.
Ebadi also slammed Washington for ignoring U.N. resolutions in the Middle East while using them as a pretext for launching a war in Iraq.
"Why is it that in the past 35 years, dozens of U.N. resolutions concerning the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel have not been implemented properly?" she asked.
"Yet, in the past 12 years, the state and people of Iraq, once on the recommendation of the Security Council, and the second time in spite of U.N. Security Council opposition, were subjected to attack, military assault, economic sanctions, and ultimately, military occupation?"
Good for her.

 

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Stradibrrius

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.03
The problem with global warming? It makes for crappy violins. via Marginal Revolution

 

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Paul Simon

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.03
Paul Simon, former Senator from Illinois, and one of the real good guys in politics, died today. A good Democrat to the last.

 

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Recruitment

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.03

Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan and a Middle-East expert, has up a blistering piece on US tactics in Iraq. Cole's dismaying conclusion:

I have a sinking feeling that Bush just lost the war on terror.

Read the whole thing.


 

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Uncovered

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.03

Has anyone seen this?

Sounds interesting.

Since then, "Uncovered" has emerged as a kind of liberal master narrative about the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. It's for sale on several major progressive Web sites, including those of the Nation, Buzzflash, John Podesta's Center for American Progress, and MoveOn.org (both MoveOn and the Center for American Progress helped fund the film). So far, it's sold more than 40,000 copies. Financier and Bush foe George Soros held a screening of it in New York. Podesta, Bill Clinton's chief of staff, showed it to an audience of 100 at the International Spy Museum in Washington, and his center sent a copy to every member of Congress. When Greenwald screened it at a 500-seat theater in L.A., people jammed the aisles, stood in the back, and cheered when it was over.

 

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The Kerry Face Debate

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.03

In case you haven't been scrolling, this post has been getting a lot of attention, and taking some time to defend.


 

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That Godless TCP/IP

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.03
Brian Weatherson and Josh Marshall take this bait from David Brooks.
My moment of illumination about Howard Dean came one day in Iowa when I saw him lean into a crowd and begin a sentence with, "Us rural people. . . ."
Dean grew up on Park Avenue and in East Hampton. If he's a rural person, I'm the Queen of Sheba.
Brian and Josh refute Brooks by affirming Dean's ruralness. But they miss the more clever and potentially much more damaging thread in Brooks' column: using Dean's most salient political characteristic--that he's the Internet candidate--as the key to reading Dean's personality.
Everybody talks about how the Internet has been key to his fund-raising and organization. Nobody talks about how it has shaped his persona. On the Internet, the long term doesn't matter, as long as you are blunt and forceful at that moment. On the Internet, a new persona is just a click away. On the Internet, everyone is loosely tethered, careless and free. Dean is the Internet man, a string of exhilarating moments and daring accusations.
That's very good. That's the kind of spin that gets you high-profile consulting jobs (or a New York Times column). It's also wrong. Brooks, who moonlights as a political analyst on the News Hour, somehow forgets that during the primaries, candidates play to their base, then run back to the middle. The real test of incoherence would be if Dean were alienating his base. Curious then, that every shift Brooks notes in this paragraph is consistent with appeals to the Democratic base.
The old Dean was a free trader. The new Dean is not. The old Dean was open to Medicare reform. The new Dean says Medicare is off the table. The old Dean courted the N.R.A.; the new Dean has swung in favor of gun control. The old Dean was a pro-business fiscal moderate; the new Dean, sounding like Ralph Nader, declares, "We've allowed our lives to become slaves to the bottom line of multinational corporations all over the world."
Shocking. I'm sure some fourteen year-old hacker is behind this new primary strategy. And how long before Brooks is calling Dean the pro-porn candidate?

 

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It Lives

Posted by Ogged
on 12.08.03

The doctors and nurses were fantastic and I feel great, if a bit drugged. Back tomorrow.

UPDATE: I am back--honest--but work has piled up. Blogging soon!


 

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a = b, b = c

Posted by Bob
on 12.08.03

Al Gore is going to endorse Howard Dean. I endorse Al Gore. Endorsement isn't transitive, is it?


 

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Don't worry about a thing, Ogged. I'm on it.

Posted by Bob
on 12.08.03

Fontana L. wants constant blogging. Okay, I'll do my share. For starters, Medicare is about to be overhauled. Guess that'll help Ogged someday. Oh, and Mary-Louise Parker (with whom I'm in love) has been dumped for Claire Danes (with whom I'm just short of in love) by Billy Crudup (to whom I'm indifferent). Sigh. And Afghans are angry at the US military. Stupid Bush. Or Rumsfeld. Condi, whoever.


 

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Got No Rhythm

Posted by Ogged
on 12.07.03
Drat. Atrial Fibrillation strikes again. This time, rather than paddling me relatively early, they decided to try to let some drugs work their magic over a two-day period. I'm sure it won't work, but the emergency room doctors seemed tired, and didn't listen well, so I was perfectly happy to leave and go to my cardiologist for my electric shock tomorrow. So, for the next couple of days, I'll be out of commission. Hope to see you all back here soon.

 

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Did I Kill Your Son? You're Welcome.

Posted by Ogged
on 12.07.03
Winning hearts and minds. More here.

 

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