Friday, May 28, 2004

Weisberg and Saletan on Kerry

I think the following is a valid assessment.

"Kerry isn't a flipper; he's a leaner. He's got a 'yes' foot and a 'but' foot. He leans on one foot, then the other, depending on which way the wind blows. But he keeps both feet on the ground.

I prefer Kerry's flaw to Gore's. Gore oversimplified things. Kerry overcomplicates them. The latter may be cowardly, but I don't think it's dishonest."

Monday, May 24, 2004

Why is the Iraq CPA failing?

Because its staffed by inexperienced right-wing ideologues who tend to think that making the White House look good is more important than actually like building a nation.

Videotape shows revelers at celebration

Apparently the US military truly deserves all the bad press they get for lying about the wedding assault.

House divided

The rats are starting to attack each other. The stress is getting intense.

Airship groomed for flight to edge of space

Some truly novel thinking is going on out there. If you can get to near space based merely on helium flotation, it would only take a little push from say, an ion engine, to get the rest of the way there. Space access on the cheap. And near-space is quite sufficient for communications and surveilliance.

The beginning of the First Foundation

Asimov fans should relate to this.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


Cool! Tim Russert has been subpoenaed in the Valerie Plame investigation. Perhaps the investigation is going better than the sham I expected.

Roosting Chickens

Hesiod summarizes the litany of bad ideas that can be personally lain at the feet of George Bush. The incompetents under him who have championed and implemented failed policies will not be removed because he himself is in agreement with those policies. He must go.

Friday, May 21, 2004

The gay marriage (non) threat

Stanley Kurtz routinely trots out some statistics that imply that heterosexual marriage went into decline when gay marriage was allowed in Scandivavia. But the statistics are completely bogus.

"Despite what Kurtz might say, the apocalypse has not yet arrived. In fact, the numbers show that heterosexual marriage looks pretty healthy in Scandinavia, where same-sex couples have had rights the longest. In Denmark, for example, the marriage rate had been declining for a half-century but turned around in the early 1980s. After the 1989 passage of the registered-partner law, the marriage rate continued to climb; Danish heterosexual marriage rates are now the highest they've been since the early 1970's. And the most recent marriage rates in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland are all higher than the rates for the years before the partner laws were passed. Furthermore, in the 1990s, divorce rates in Scandinavia remained basically unchanged."

I don't know why the more thoughtful members of the conservative camp let this crap stand. Can't they see how stupid it makes them all look?

Douglas Feith Death Watch

The man who has done everything wrong.

Not a single Iraq war screw-up has gone by without someone tagging Feith—who, as the Defense Department's undersecretary for policy, is the Pentagon's No. 3 civilian, after Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz—as the guy to blame. Feith, who ranks with Wolfowitz in purity of neoconservative fervor, has turned out to be Michael Dukakis in reverse: ideology without competence.

Jittery Bush campaign

The man's visit to Capitol Hill was a bust. There must be some divine intervention or something going on for John Kerry. His lackluster campaign makes a decent showing in the Iowa caucuses and he ends up steamrolling the primaries that followed to become the Democratic candidate. Now that same lackluster tactic is working as the Bush administration seem intent on fumbling self-destruction. It is a both a pleasant vindication of the kharmic principle of "what goes around, comes around" and a warning to those who may be tempted to spin too much on the liberal side.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Sharing Streets

The latest thing in urban traffic design is to get rid of traffic control altogether. That's right. No rules. Drivers have to slow down and actually watch where they are going.

"Research has shown that fatality rates at busy intersections, where two or three people were being killed every year, dropped to zero when controls and boundaries were taken away. "


Evidence from countries and cities that have introduced a design speed of 30 kilometers per hour (about 18.5 mph) -- as many of the European Union nations are doing -- shows that slower speeds improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

"This surprises many people, although mathematically it's not surprising," Hamilton-Baillie says. "The reason for this is that your speed of journey, the ability of traffic to move smoothly through the built environment, depends on performance of your intersections, not on your speed of flow between intersections." And intersections, he says, work much more efficiently at lower speeds. "At 30 miles per hour, you frequently need control systems like traffic signals, which themselves mean that the intersection is not in use for significant periods of time. Whereas at slower speeds vehicles can move much more closely together and drivers can use eye contact to engage and make decisions. So you get much higher capacity."

On gay marriage and slippery slopes

Dahlia Lithwick makes an excellent summarization of the key points of the slippery slope arguments about gay marriage. Essentially, none of them hold water.

One of the most persistent complaints of conservative commentators is that liberal activist judges refuse to decide the case before them and instead use the law to reshape the entire legal landscape for years to come. The Massachusetts Supreme Court, in finding that the ban on gay marriage violated the state constitution, did exactly what good judges ought to do: It confined its reasoning to the case before it, rather than addressing the myriad hypothetical future cases that may be affected by the decision. Opponents of gay marriage should consider doing the same.

Hard Times for Chalabi

The Bush administration's favorite Iraqi gets the boot:

"It's hardly an exaggeration to say that he changed the course of Iraqi history: the information he and his party gave to the US about weapons of mass destruction - much of which proved to be false - was central to Washington's decision to launch the war that toppled Saddam Hussein.

But Thursday, US troops raided his house and the offices of his Iraqi National Congress political party. Earlier this week, his party's monthly US stipend of $340,000 was abruptly cut off."

Monday, May 17, 2004

Powell wises up

Unlike many others in the administration, Powell gets it.

"It's amazing, by the way, how Colin Powell seems to have scuttled his good-soldier routine altogether, criticizing his president at first quasi-anonymously (through Bob Woodward's new book), then through close aides (Wil Hylton's GQ article), and now straight up in the Baltimore Sun. One wonders when he'll go all the way and start making campaign appearances for John Kerry."

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Prison Abuse

This is good news. The DOJ asserts that it has jurisdiction such that the perpetrators of the Iraqi prisoner abuse can be prosecuted. It is only through successful prosecutions of the big fish as well as the little ones can America's damaged reputation be salvaged on the international scene. We must be aggressive to the nth-degree if we hold out any hope for future credibility.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Prison Abuse due to incompetence

The abuses were due to weaknesses in the system and the Pentagon knew about them long ago and did nothing.

The Neoconomy

Daniel Altman analyzes the consequences of the Bush administration's economic theory.

It sounds like a recipe for the kind of social unrest that can make an economy stagger, stagnate, or worse. A political backlash would seem almost inevitable. And something worse—like a riotous manifestation of anticapitalist sentiment—would become a real possibility for the first time in decades. And that's what could happen if the theory works.

The Misunderestimated Man

Weisberg on Bush:

"As the president says, we misunderestimate him. He was not born stupid. He chose stupidity. Bush may look like a well-meaning dolt. On consideration, he's something far more dangerous: a dedicated fool."

Friday, May 07, 2004

Administration incompetence

Where were the legal and foreign affairs experts when the US Military contracted with commercial security firms for work in Iraq? If the contracts were indeed written with no language that provided for a proper legal jurisdiction over the potential for abusive behavior by the contractors in a zone without its own legal apparatus, the people granting to contracts were clearly incompetent. Many people assume that because the military is involved on foreign territory that the Geneva Conventions somehow apply. But the Conventions only apply in war and only apply to the military. The abusive contractors were operating in an area with a vacuum of law and it is unlikely that there is any legal recourse against them. And this administration clearly allowed that to happen.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The hidden pro-Life nightmare

Just suppose abortion foes got their way and abortion was criminalized. It would be the worst thing for their cause. They would declare victory and go home. And all that energy directed toward channelling unwanted pregnancies into abortion alternatives would fade away. The number of women seeking abortions would go up. And the number of tragic outcomes would rise. On the other hand, as long as the issue is open, all choices remain in play. More alternatives to abortion would remain active and the number of abortions should actually be less.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Here's our situation

From Joshua Micah Marshall:

"A strong president, a good president, would put his country before his pride and throw himself into saving the situation even if it meant admitting previous mistakes and ditching past policies and advisors. But I don't think this president has the character to do that.

Making a clean sweep, firing some of his most compromised advisors, admitting some past mistakes -- not for effect, but so that those mistakes could be more thoroughly and rapidly overcome -- might well doom the president politically. But I doubt there's any question they'd be in the best interests of the country.

This president seems either disinclined to or unable to do more than preside over a drift into disaster while putting on a game face."

Monday, May 03, 2004

The Intelligence Service that works

is in the State Department:

What INR has, above all, is a culture that rejects easy answers and shoddy work. A State Department official remembers his early years in the bureau, when reports would be sent back to him full of corrections and notations such as, 'Start over' or 'You missed it.' When that kind of intolerance for mediocrity is shared throughout the intelligence community, we'll know that reform has really begun."

Conservative Rhetoric vs. Reality

From the Center for American Progress.