Friday, February 6, 2004

Stupid Lawsuit Tricks

A Tennessee woman yesterday filed a proposed class action lawsuit "on behalf of all Americans" who watched the Super Bowl halftime show and were somehow injured by Miss Jackson's adorned nipple. In the below federal complaint, Terri Carlin, a 47-year-old Knoxville bank employee, contends that Jackson's exposure and other "sexually explicit conduct" during halftime festivities caused viewers to "suffer outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury."



C'mon people...It's a breast fer cryin' out loud.



Besides, there's only one boob that we need be concerned about:



Tuning Out the G.O.P.'s Siren Song

Maybe the lowest common denominator approach to campaigning is losing its usefulness. But they're at it again, just in case. The proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages is a case in point: that Bush seems willing to push the first discriminatory constitutional amendment shows the emptiness of 2000's promise to be "a uniter, not a divider." Not that additional evidence was necessary, of course. No doubt we'll hear the shrill rhetoric regarding the alleged threat to our moral fabric posed by gays and lesbians; the same veiled racist rhetoric; the same promises of bread and circuses.



Just a thought: go back to some Greek mythology and read up on the Sirens. Note the fate of the sailors who heeded their song. Look at where we are now. Those jagged rocks are a bit close for comfort.

Shorter Tony Blair

I didn't know that when I assumed, the only ass would be me.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Another Voice of Academia Is Silenced in Iraq

Academic and intellectual freedom in Iraq, already strained under the rule of Saddam is an increasingly distant memory as Iraq teeters on the edge of civil war.



They buried Abdul Latif Mayah on Tuesday, and with him, many academics' hopes for intellectual freedom in the new Iraq.

The Prisoner's Dilemma and the 2004 Election

by way of the Liberal Arts Mafia. Welcome back, btw!



What is the Prisoner's Dilemma?



The game got its name from the following hypothetical situation: imagine two criminals arrested under the suspicion of having committed a crime together. However, the police does not have sufficient proof in order to have them convicted. The two prisoners are isolated from each other, and the police visit each of them and offer a deal: the one who offers evidence against the other one will be freed. If none of them accepts the offer, they are in fact cooperating against the police, and both of them will get only a small punishment because of lack of proof. They both gain. However, if one of them betrays the other one, by confessing to the police, the defector will gain more, since he is freed; the one who remained silent, on the other hand, will receive the full punishment, since he did not help the police, and there is sufficient proof. If both betray, both will be punished, but less severely than if they had refused to talk. The dilemma resides in the fact that each prisoner has a choice between only two options, but cannot make a good decision without knowing what the other one will do.



How does this relate to the current primary cycle? Along the lines of Liberal Arts Mafia, I'll offer that the focus on "electability" is based on an assumption of how other people are likely to vote. Truth is, we really can't know how others will vote if faced with a choice between Candidate X and Bush. We can make some guesses, I suppose, but that's all they end up being -- guesses. And a wrong guess can have enormously bad consequences -- in this case four more years of pillaging the national treasure, wars fought for ill-defined or capricious reasons, and raping of our natural resources.



Hence, I've largely avoided the "electability" factor in my own personal election calculus. Instead, I have focused on finding candidates for whom I could be enthusiastic; for whom I know with some degree of certainty that I would go out of my way to cast a ballot.

One Year Ago Today:

Colin Powell went to the UN and engaged in one the most infamous acts of Propaganda in World history. We must never forget.

Across the Pond:

Intelligence chief's bombshell: 'We were overruled on dossier'. That's Brian Jones' contention: namely that intelligence concerns were essentially ignored by Blair in the run-up to the war. Blair is hardly out of the woods, even in the brief afterglow of the Hutton report. Not surprisingly, Pressure on Blair to publish evidence for 45-minute claim.



Back on our side of The Pond, Bush is increasingly viewed with skepticism. In That Hell-Bound Train

Why didn’t the administration simply turn back?
, columnist Michelangelo Signorile has this to say:



In addition to the "faulty intelligence" ruse, conservatives are also defending Bush by pulling out their old standby argument: "But Bill Clinton…" (Actually, blaming the CIA is blaming Clinton as well, since CIA director George Tenet is a Clinton holdover, and a lot of Republicans in Congress want to get rid of him.) The supposedly faulty intelligence on WMDs in Iraq was the same intelligence used under the Clinton administration, they’re claiming, and foreign governments believed it too. But if you follow the time line in Kay’s remarks, Saddam likely did have stockpiles of WMDs during the early part of the Clinton presidency. Sanctions, U.N. inspections, internal corruption and Saddam’s overall lunacy, however, contributed to Iraq’s dismantling, and/or not proceeding with, nuclear programs by decade’s end. Another thing happened as well: In the mid-90s, according to Kay, a targeted bombing campaign by the U.S. destroyed most or all of Saddam’s chemical weapons.



"The large chemical overhang of existing stockpiles was eliminated," Kay said.



In other words, Bill Clinton, scourge of the right and one of those soft-on-terrorism Democrats, actually can take credit for ending Saddam’s illicit weapons programs.




Further, Even if Clinton, France, Germany and others believed right up until the war last year that Saddam still had WMDs, those beliefs were based on intelligence that, rightly, wasn’t solid enough for any of them to support an invasion before more inspections could take place. As Kay told Ted Koppel on Nightline, if you’re going to have a policy of "pre-emption" then the intelligence has to be "pristine." With CIA insiders complaining about intelligence being "politicized," and with Dick Cheney’s hands constantly molding it–he was, according to reports last year, shuttling back and forth between the White House to the CIA–the intelligence was anything but.

A United Democratic Party?

Regardless of whom one is supporting during the primaries & caucuses, the exit polls are a harbinger of good news.



Regime change begins at home, and in November it's all about regime change here in the US. It's doable.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

In OK's GOP Primary, 10% Vote For:

Bill Wyatt instead of George Bush. One of my colleagues stumbled upon this result, did a quick Google Search, and found Wyatt's campaign website. I'll give him credit: his campaign site is amusing to say the least. He is running as a protest candidate, and one that has received little media attention (no big surprise there, as the GOP primaries and caucuses are supposed to be merely a formality this year), but he has picked up some votes. In NH, he received a fairly small number of votes (not even a dent among the 14% who voted for anyone -- and I mean practically anyone -- other than Bush in that state's GOP primary). In my state, OK, he received almost 10% of the GOP primary votes cast.



Will Wyatt pose a serious challenge to Dubya's coronation? Doubtful. But the fact that he's succeeded in getting 10% of the GOP voters to choose him and not Bush in a fairly conservative state should be a warning sign for the Carl Rove campaign machine.

Please, Don't Forget to Flush

Current Reading List

The Price of Loyalty, by Ron Suskind



Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov



The second is more of a re-read 20 years after I first read his original three books in the Foundation series. I figured that given the current geopolitical climate, some facets of Asimov's classic sci-fi novels would be relevant.

Perle's Wisdom

here's the text of tompaine.com's ad:



Nothing ennobles a nation more than citizens who shoulder the burdens of wartime. Nothing degrades a nation more than those who lobby for war while enriching themselves on its spoils.



Think Richard Perle. You can’t miss him these days. He and his colleague, David Frum, are all over television promoting their new book, An End To Evil. Their plan: Overthrow Iran’s government, blockade North Korea, force "regime change" in Syria, "squeeze" China, isolate France, pull out of the United Nations, and more.



It’s a breathtaking blueprint. But are they credible architects? After all, it was they who said that Iraq was teeming with weapons of mass destruction. That U.S. forces would be welcomed with open arms. That Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda. That Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress would be a popular leader. They were wrong on all accounts.



And then there are Perle’s questionable business deals. As he agitates for war, he advises companies who profit from war. Last year, for instance, he briefed investors on ways to make money from U.S. conflicts with North Korea and Iraq. Such controversies forced him to step down as chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. But he didn’t resign from the board itself; he can still offer his clients the latest inside scoop.



This kind of a track record would send most armchair generals limping back into private life. But that hasn’t happened to Perle. He still has the president’s ear. And not one interviewer—not Charlie Rose, not NBC’s Matt Lauer, not CNN’s Wolf Blitzer—has forced him to fully answer the conflict of interest charges.



They should. Just as they should question his predictions about Iraq. Because what’s at stake is not just one man’s credibility but the lives of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who risk their lives no matter why they are sent into battle.



Stacking the Deck Against Science

The politicizing of peer review. The White House seems to have religiously adopted Maier's law: "If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of. " Hopefully these proposed peer review changes will not come to pass.

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

That's a LOT of School Lunches

US defense bill to exceed $400bn



Props to Buzzflash for the "school lunches" remark. That remark does capture the flavor of GOP budget priorities. Not only do record deficits seem to be of minimal concern to these politicians, but they've devoted a disproportional amount of the budget itself to what amounts to empire building.



I will say this: I am in awe of this, the worst budget proposal ever issued by an White House administration. Where's the outrage?

Shorter Bush

Ma, I promise to be more careful with this credit card. Honest Injun. Let's just keep the new home entertainment system our little secret, n'kay?

Shorter Wolfowitz:

Up is down. Day is night. Failure is success.

Is America Getting Less Conservative?

Does the sun rise in the east and set in the west?

???W





It was much more than 16 words. Never forget.

Iraq's WMD in Three Words:

There were none.



A friendly reminder from The Left End of the Dial.



"Think! It ain't illegal yet!"

Predictions, P-Funk Styley

For this Tuesday (from most to least delegates):



Kerry: He ain't got tha funk, but he's got his mojo workin'. He can't boogie, but he'll have the biggest soul train.

Edwards: He needs to get some funk in his trunk, but he's also got tha mojo. His soul train will be phat, but not like Kerry's.

Clark: He's got some funk, can't find tha mojo, but will have the third phattest soul train.

Dean: He got tha funk, but he's got some serious mojo issues. Tha Dean soul train will be short, but gettin' freakey.

Lieberman: No funk, no mojo, no soul train.

Sharpton & Kucinich: These cats can get down, but tha thrill is gone. They droppin some mad underground grooves, but where's tha peeps?



When tha party's over, peep this: Dubya ain't got tha funk; He's never had tha funk; He'll never have tha funk. He's tha Anti-Funk. Tha White House has no Soul. We gotta drop Tha Bomb this November and unite One Nation, under a groove. Feets don't fail me now. Nothing but tha funk.



Word.

Monday, February 2, 2004

Bush Gets Hatred the Old-fashioned Way

He earns it.1



I was reading Harley Sorensen's column, and asking myself when I started becoming angered at Bu$hCo's actions. As I reflect back on the last Presidential election cycle, I recall that Bush simply didn't leave much of an impression. At the time, he reminded me a bit of some of the Fraternity/Sorority types whom I had to baby-sit through methods and stats labs during my grad school days (yes, I had the distinct pleasure of being a lab instructor). I thought that John McCain would have been a better choice on the GOP side (as an independent in Missouri's open primary, I cast a vote for McCain figuring that if a Republican did win he'd actually know what he was doing), but I figured (perhaps hoped) that if Bush did get to the White House, he couldn't mess things up too badly...a probably one-term caretaker President who gets saddled with a possible economic down-turn was pretty much what I counted on.



Fast-forward to November, 2000. I was a little put off by the was the Bush crew was handling the recount controversy. However, I more or less let that go. In the wake of 9-11, I found Bush's handling of the event to be a bit unsettling. Why? The talk of "evildoers" and "crusades" had an apocalyptic tone that I do not think befits a leader of a secular republic. I was a bit skeptical of going into a war against Afghanistan (I'm a pacifist to begin with) although I could appreciate the rationale of those who advocated a war that would knock the foundation out from under Al-Qaida and lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden (neither happened in the war's aftermath, as we are all too painfully aware). Still, the talk of an "axis of evil", the efforts to ram the PATRIOT Act (talk about a misnomer) through Congress, references to "the homeland", and so forth made me increasingly irritated.



For me, last year's invasion of Iraq was the last straw. From what I was reading at the time, my understanding was that Iraq posed no threat. There was skepticism regarding what (if any) WMDs were possessed by Saddam's regime. The response to the skeptics? Villify them. That's what was done to our allies in the international community who wanted to give the weapons inspectors more time to do their job. That's what was done to anti-war protesters. I felt like we were being sold a bill of goods, and that countless lives would be lost over a pack of lies. Turns out I was right, and my anger grows more intense with every casualty report coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan (i.e., that other war no one ever talks about any more).



The terrible mismanagement of the nation's treasure is just one more thorn in my side, as I suspect that I and my children will be paying for Bu$hCo's financial blunders for years and probably decades to come. I'm something of a deficit hawk by nature and am horrified with the sorts of budgets that we've been presented with as they first rivaled, and then exceeded, the deficit excesses of the Ronald Raygun era. Trade deficits worry me, and ours has been growing the last few years. The exodus of jobs overseas and the ensuing chronic unemployment and underemployment here in the US is infuriating -- and the fact is that nobody in the White House cares. I have a pronounced libertarian streak, and am horrified with the expansion in the federal government's role as "big brother". The whole notion of "free speech zones" to buffer the Prez from dissention is offensive if for no other reason than that it is practically impossible for a leader to act effectively without an awareness and consideration of those opinions that diverge from his/her own. I could rant forever.



The bottom line for me is this: it took me a long period of time to actually become angered by this particular Prez. That anger for me was long in coming and well-earned.



[1] A reference to an old Smith-Barney ad campaign using actor Ben Kingsley (best known as the curmudgeonly law professor on the movie and later tv series "The Paper Chase") as its spokesman.