Thursday, June 30, 2005


The problem with promises made by politicians is that sometimes they simply can not bring themselves to honor them. This time it's the Republicans and poor, poor Katherine Harris.

A Hostage-taking President

I guess I shouldn't be surprised but the things people get upset about are really silly sometimes. Let's not worry about the validity of the rather odd election result in Iran. No, let's worry about something he may have done as a young man years and years ago. Like it actually matters in any way today.

Spain Shows Leadership in Civil Rights

The New York Times report on how Spain is now turned away from state-sponsored gender discrimination.

How do you spell stupid?

"Medicaid beneficiaries living with HIV/AIDS in Mississippi are about to be denied access to medications they need to stay alive.

A law that takes effect tomorrow, July 1, limits Mississippi Medicaid beneficiaries to two brand-name drugs. But controlling HIV infection requires three drugs, and all of them are brand name.

Gov. Haley Barbour has not responded to a letter, written two weeks ago by HIVMA Board of Directors Chair Paul Volberding, MD, imploring him to change the policy.

'The Mississippi Medicaid program's two brand-name prescription drug limit leaves Mississippi's poorest and sickest residents with no options other than substandard HIV care,' Dr. Volberding wrote. 'Substandard care for people with AIDS has deadly consequences,' he added. The virus mutates and becomes resistant to treatment. Patients who were living normal, productive lives get sicker and die."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Poor Company

I really wish the current administration (hswib) would stop trying to promote nuclear energy and stick with fossil fuels. It puts too much of a stain on something this country really needs to get independent from Middle Eastern problems.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

More Unraveling

It probably doesn't matter that more and more evidence comes oozing out that the rationales for the Iraq war were trumped up. Some people had this figured out from day one. For others such things as technical legalities are less important than the exercise of raw power. After all if WMD's had really been there to find, the current administration (hswib) would look like geniuses. Instead of what they really are.
"MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal."

Missile "Defense"

Actually it's not really a defense at all. It's just another ploy to win an election.
"Imagine that: First, MDA rushes a defense that won’t defend to meet a deadline that just happens to coincide with a Presidential election. Then, MDA scales way back on necessary testing, lest the bad guys figure out the damn thing doesn’t work.

Brace yourself, it gets worse. Kim Jong-Il probably knows the system is a dog; the dunce who concerns me is George W. Bush.

Bush told a Pennsylvania audience that potential adversaries know “You fire, we’re going to shoot it down”—a disturbing remark that suggests Administration may have an exaggerated notion of effectiveness of the system."

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Forget about Fundraising

I remember my grandmother singing an old suffragette song in which the woman demands her right to vote so she can "vote for the handsomest man!"
"Despite the age-old admonition not to 'judge a book by its cover,' we routinely make important judgments about human traits based on instant, superficial impressions of peoples' faces. Such 'blink of an eye' decision-making predicted the outcome of about 70 percent of recent U.S. Senate races, according to a new study in Science this week.

According to the study, candidates who looked 'competent' prevailed in congressional elections more than two-thirds of the time. In a review of the study, Dr. Leslie Zebrowitz, a psychologist at Brandeis University, and Joann M. Montepare, explain that the outcomes of the political races were likely due to differences in the opponents' 'babyfacedness.'"

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Lapdog and Abramoff Relationship

It seems the Abramoff stain has expanded to Doc Hastings.
"Abramoff cited close connections to Hastings in a 1995 letter to the Northern Mariana Islands government in which he urged the government to hire his firm. At the time, Hastings served on a House subcommittee that oversaw the Marianas and was considering Democratic proposals to impose minimum wage, immigration and other U.S. laws on the Pacific commonwealth, which opposed them.

In Abramoff's sales pitch, he wrote that lobbying colleague and former Washington state Democratic Rep. Lloyd Meeds 'has an excellent relationship' with Hastings and several other members of the House Subcommittee on Native American and Insular Affairs.

The Marianas hired Abramoff's firm and paid it millions in the 1990s for lobbying efforts run by Abramoff, including work to counter allegations that Marianas clothing factory workers faced 'sweatshop' conditions. At Abramoff's urging, the island government played host to many congressional aides and lawmakers, including DeLay, who visited at Christmastime in 1997.

Hastings' office and the Marianas team Abramoff headed had at least three dozen contacts in 1996 and 1997, including at least two conversations between Abramoff and Hastings, according to firm invoices and correspondence the island government gave The Associated Press under an open records request. That two-year period was a crucial one for Abramoff as he tried to show the Marianas that Preston Gates' six-figure monthly billings were worth the money."

Monday, June 06, 2005

Rossi loses and whines

In typical rightwing borderline personality behavior, Rossi distances himself from the flakiness of his case.
"Judge John Bridges today upheld the election of Gov. Christine Gregoire, dismissing a Republican lawsuit and so soundly rejecting the party's claims that Dino Rossi said he would not go forward with what had been seen as an inevitable appeal.

Rossi said because the 'political makeup of the Washington Supreme Court' makes it 'almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending this election contest.'"
You shopped around for the best venue and handsomely lost. Given what you are saying now why did you even bother? You would have surely lost on appeal anyway. But this is better I think. When the courts have integrity we all win.

The state Dem party spent lots of money on shutting down this Repug fantasy. Give the Washington State Democratic Party some love. Small bills are fine.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Self-Weaving Threads

In an AP report it looks like Bolton was up to his usual bad behavior in an attempt to keep the Bush (hswib) war plans on track. It simply wouldn't do to have some sort of diplomacy solving the WMD problem at the same time you were trying to get a war started over it.

Fighting in the Snakepit

LiberalOasis documents to incidents where the right-wing criticism of liberal assertions were smacked down when the protagonists took it right to their turf. Amnesty International stands by its characterization of the similarities between the gulags and American handling of alleged unlawful combatants. And Howard Dean stands by his assertion that many in the Republican leadership have little experience in the world of the workers. I'll have what they're having, thank you.

Update: I see where the MSM is headlining that AI has backed down on the gulag characterization. Here's what AI's William Schulz had to say on Faux.
SCHULZ: The United States is maintaining an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons into which people are being literally disappeared -- held in indefinite incommunicado detention, without access to lawyers or a judicial system or to their families.

And in some cases, at least, we know that they are being mistreated, abused, tortured and even killed.

And those are similar at least in character, if not in size, to what happened in the gulag...
That doesn't sound like backing down to me. It's more like getting the point to the point. The gulag comparison is being typically distorted to make a better story. Then when AI corrects the distortion the media characterizes it as "backing down". Feh.

Good Intentions Gone Bad - Newsweek

I fully expect Newsweek to get pilloried is some circles for this but I suspect the author is just making it up after all. We really know that all-is-well in Baghdad.
"Living and working in Iraq, it's hard not to succumb to despair. At last count America has pumped at least $7 billion into reconstruction projects, with little to show for it but the hostility of ordinary Iraqis, who still have an 18 percent unemployment rate. Most of the cash goes to U.S. contractors who spend much of it on personal security. Basic services like electricity, water and sewers still aren't up to prewar levels. Electricity is especially vital in a country where summer temperatures commonly reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet only 15 percent of Iraqis have reliable electrical service. In the capital, where it counts most, it's only 4 percent.

The most powerful army in human history can't even protect a two-mile stretch of road. The Airport Highway connects both the international airport and Baghdad's main American military base, Camp Victory, to the city center. At night U.S. troops secure the road for the use of dignitaries; they close it to traffic and shoot at any unauthorized vehicles. More troops and more helicopters could help make the whole country safer. Instead the Pentagon has been drawing down the number of helicopters. And America never deployed nearly enough soldiers. They couldn't stop the orgy of looting that followed Saddam's fall. Now their primary mission is self-defense at any cost—which only deepens Iraqis' resentment."

Winning the war?

This is one of those wars in which the measures of success are slippery. Everyone can pick some stats to support their preferred view. The truth can be complex.

The Washington Institute has as assessment. As you might imagine it's a mixed bag. It's not the "success is just around the corner" story you hear from the rose garden. But slow (yet inadequate) progress is being made.
Insurgent Accomplishments: A Balance Sheet

What progress have the insurgents made toward achieving their short-term objectives? They have:

• Succeeded, through consent or intimidation, in establishing themselves as a major—if not the dominant—force in the Sunni Triangle, shaping political values and public morals in large parts of this region.

• Deterred many residents of the Sunni Triangle from working in the new government. Many local councils in that area no longer function, and some ISF units have collapsed under pressure of threats and attacks.

• Complicated, but not undermined, the political transition. Every milestone in the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) has been met, and successful elections were held in January. Yet, the insurgent-inspired election boycott in the Sunni Triangle will significantly complicate the transition.

• Contributed to the slow pace of reconstruction in many areas and deterred foreign investors. High unemployment provides a pool of recruits for the insurgency, though it also ensures recruits for the ISF.

• Contributed to the past or upcoming departure of several coalition contingents. U.S. resolve, however, remains firm, even though public opinion polls show dissatisfaction with the war and its handling.

• Failed to make the U.S. presence intolerable for most Iraqis. Many Shiites and Sunnis still grudgingly accept the U.S. presence as necessary to stave off chaos or civil war; some tolerate it because they believe it is essential to a successful political transition.

• Failed to attract large numbers of jihadists from around the Muslim world or foment sectarian strife (though they may yet succeed in achieving this last objective).

Most significantly, the insurgents have failed to obstruct the political transition or halt efforts to recruit, train, and equip the ISF. Hence, there is reason to believe that the insurgency will be unable to prevent the Iraqi government from discharging its principal transitional responsibilities (governance, security, drafting a constitution). The insurgency remains a major force in the Sunni Triangle, however; if it can effectively play the role of spoiler, it may yet succeed in sowing chaos and thwarting the political transition. Alternatively, it may create conditions whereby oppositionist Sunni Arabs can participate in the new political order.

Measures of Strategic Success

In light of the aforementioned considerations, what analytical measures can be used to gauge the success of the insurgents in achieving their strategic objectives?

• Continued low levels of Sunni Arab participation in Iraqi government activities, alongside high levels of public support for the resistance. It would be important to ascertain whether these factors are due mainly to insurgent intimidation, popular estrangement from the government, or genuine popular support for the resistance.

• Repeated failure by the Iraqi government to meet various milestones set forth in the TAL (e.g., drafting a constitution, electing a permanent government) as a result of Sunni Arab obstructionism. Such a development could undermine confidence in the efficacy of current arrangements for governance.

• Inability of the ISF to meet recruiting goals outside mainly Sunni Arab areas; rampant absenteeism and desertion among ISF personnel; or the growth of tribal and party militias due to lack of confidence in the ISF.

• Popular disillusionment with the political process (measured by polling data), which could eventually render the coalition presence politically untenable.

• Low confidence in the effectiveness of the ISF and a lack of identification with the Iraqi government (measured by polling data), resulting in low levels of political participation and a refusal to cooperate with Iraqi authorities.

• Incidents of sectarian violence by Iraqis acting without the prompting of insurgent groups or provocateurs, deriving from conflicts over mundane, ostensibly nonpolitical matters.

For now, survival is the paramount objective of the insurgents, although their lack of success thus far in disrupting the political transition is a major setback for them. Unless the insurgents seek merely to sow death and destruction, success will likely hinge on their ability to set the conditions for the entry of Sunni Arab oppositionists into politics, to either continue the struggle via legitimate means or subvert the Iraqi government. This process of co-optation appears to have already begun, albeit on a limited scale. As for the Iraqi government, any effort to devise measures of success for the current phase of the counterinsurgency must begin by identifying the necessary and sufficient conditions for a solution that isolates diehard insurgents (so they may be hunted down and killed), neutralizes the remainder (e.g., by offers of amnesty), and co-opts pragmatic Sunni Arab oppositionists. Then, measures for gauging progress toward fulfillment of these conditions can be formulated.
In order to make things better the loyal opposition needs to articulate a clear position. It should include

1. A clear admission that as bad as Saddam was the invasion was not justified. The United States has offended the international community in general and the people of Iraq in particular.

2. A solid date for the exit of US troops. After that date Iraq will be on its own to determine its own fate. Help can be solicited from other nations if needed but we will be out. We must make it clear that we have no designs on permanent bases.

3. All American corporations will relinquish their favored economic positions in the country and all major contracts will be rebid with the legitimate Iraqi authorities with American companies on an equal footing with other competitors.

4. An appropriate system of reparations and compensation for the citizens of Iraq from the US will be set up an adjudicated by an appropriate international body such as the UN.

All kinds of scary things could happen in the vacuum left by departing American forces and influence. But no Iraqi government can merit the respect of its people as long as it is shored up by invaders and occupiers. The people of Iraq are going to have to get their act together without the US. One hopes that some non-combatant countries can step up and lend Iraq a hand.

This war was lost from the day it was launched because there was no good idea of what success entailed. The best way we can honor those who have been harmed or destroyed by it is to start doing the right thing now. Unfortunately those currently in power in this country have a strongly warped sense of what honor really is.

Nader Redux

A Naderite takes a riff.

The issue is a good one, ie., corporate control of the electoral process and consequentially the government itself. Nader was a nice grandstand for the cause but it hurt the wrong people. Is there another way we can hurt the biggest corporate stooges as a warning to the lesser corporate stooges? Perhaps the issue candidate should run as a Republican. That would be better than actually harming those who are the lesser of the two evils.

The Evolution Of Ashkenazi Jewish Intelligence

Randall Parker references an NYT article with this comment:
"Well, three researchers at the University of Utah, anthropologist Henry Harpending, Gregory Cochran (a Ph.D. physicist turned genetic theorist), and Jason Hardy put forth a hypothesis that seeks to explain both mysteries simultaneously. Nicholas Wade of the New York Times has written one of the two news stories about it to date. The proposed hypothesis holds that Jews developed their genetic diseases as a side effect of strong selective pressures for higher intelligence during the Middle Ages as they were forced to work mainly in occupations that required greater cognitive ability."
The idea of ethno-centric enhanced intelligence would be tougher to prove if the enhanced intelligence didn't correlate with genetic diseases. In his discussion Randall talks about the trade-off that comes with evolutionary intelligence enhancement. How many diseased children can we tolerate in order to have smarter children?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Gulag of our Time

it's not just what the US has done, it's our hypocrisy about it.
"'When the U.S. government calls upon foreign leaders to bring to justice those who commit or authorize human rights violations in their own countries, why should those foreign leaders listen?' he said. 'And if the U.S. government does not abide by the same standards of justice, what shred of moral authority will we retain to pressure other governments to diminish abuses?'

Amnesty has criticized U.S. detention practices before. But this marked its first call for closing Guantanamo, and it used unusually sharp language in demanding an independent investigation of torture and abuse of prisoners there and at detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Guantanamo has been in the spotlight in the last year since the FBI cited cases of aggressive interrogation techniques and detainee mistreatment. The government has also been criticized for not charging those classified as enemy combatant, a distinction with fewer protections than prisoners of war get under the Geneva Conventions."