Friday, April 01, 2005

Good Wishes!

Courtesy of Gabe:
Killing the Goose

These combination of budget cuts and heightened secrecy will ultimately throttle economic expansion in the U.S. The scientific cutting-edge will move off-shore. If the economy's high-tech seed corn is eaten now, where else will the big boom come from that will allow retirement 'privatization'?:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Pentagon - which has long underwritten open-ended "blue sky" research by the nation's best computer scientists - is sharply cutting such spending at universities, researchers say, in favor of financing more classified work and narrowly defined projects that promise a more immediate payoff.

Hundreds of research projects supported by the agency, known as Darpa, have paid off handsomely in recent decades, leading not only to new weapons, but to commercial technologies from the personal computer to the Internet.

The shift away from basic research is alarming many leading computer scientists and electrical engineers, who warn that there will be long-term consequences for the nation's economy. They are accusing the Pentagon of reining in an agency that has played a crucial role in fostering America's lead in computer and communications technologies.

"I'm worried and depressed," said David Patterson, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley who is president of the Association of Computing Machinery, an industry and academic trade group. "I think there will be great technologies that won't be there down the road when we need them."

...University scientists assert that the changes go even further than what Darpa has disclosed. As financing has dipped, the remaining research grants come with yet more restrictions, they say, often tightly linked to specific "deliverables" that discourage exploration and serendipitous discoveries.

..."Virtually every aspect of information technology upon which we rely today bears the stamp of federally sponsored university research," said Ed Lazowska, a computer scientist at the University of Washington and co-chairman of the advisory panel. "The federal government is walking away from this role, killing the goose that laid the golden egg."
The Politics of Churlishness

Martin Peretz at The New Republic has long disdained the American political approach to the Israeli/Palestinian debacle. Internationalist institutions like the U.N. have also utterly failed there.

Peretz grants the Bush Administration much credit for its policies towards Israel/Palestine. I must agree, sticking with Ariel Sharon and his centrist vision is by far the best approach anyone has yet conceived. It's Bush's biggest international success. I loathe Bush and his administration, though, and I'm not willing to concede as much credit to Bush as Peretz does: the victory belongs instead to Sharon. Peretz seems to think Bush is out to democratize the Middle East, and is essentially sincere in his goals, but I suspect Bush is instead trying to maintain the flow of oil with a projection of U.S. military power and keep the "ruling Arabs happy." Bush disdains his father's approach as being inadequate to our national security, so he's come up with a new-fangled but still dishonest new approach. Democratization is a slogan Bush employs. Like his father with the Hitler/Saddam analogy, Bush's desire to liberate the Middle East is phony. Peretz states:
The traditional Republican mentality that was so perfectly and meanly represented by Bush père and Baker precluded the United States from pressing the Arabs about reform--about anything--for decades. Not Iraq about its tyranny and its record of genocide, not Syria about its military occupation of Lebanon and its own brutal Baathist dictatorship, not Egypt about loosening the crippling bonds of a statist economy and an authoritarian political system, not Saudi Arabia about its championing of the Wahhabi extremism that made its own country so desiccated and the world so dangerous, and certainly not the Palestinians about the fantasy that they had won all the wars that they had actually lost and were therefore entitled to the full rewards due them from their victories.
Not much has really changed in that respect, despite the invasion of Iraq. The ruling circles of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt have little to fear from Bush's initiatives. Peretz is nevertheless right about Clinton's reluctance to respond effectively to bin Laden. But once again, Peretz gives Bush too much credit for statesmanship:
What the Bush administration gradually came to realize was that fighting the Muslim terrorist international could not be done in a vacuum. If the Islamic and Arab orbits were to continue to revolve around sanguinary tyrannies, there would be no popular basis in civil society to rob the cult of suicidal murder of its prestige. So, rather than being a distraction from the struggle against the armed rage suffusing these at once taut and eruptive polities, confronting their governments was actually intrinsic to that struggle. The Bush administration recognized that removing the effect means removing the cause.
No, Bush just wanted the oil and the glory. And to kick Saddam's ass. These plans predated 9/11. How effective are Bush's attacks against Muslim extremism, really? Great skepticism is warranted.
Whatever the proper historical and cultural analysis of the past, however, the fact is that democracy did not begin even to breathe until the small coalition of Western nations led by the United States destroyed the most ruthless dictatorship in the area.
And does democracy yet breathe? Looks like it's still on life support to me! (sorry, I'm being churlish).

After a year and a half of nearly daily Sunni bloodletting among them, the Shia have not wreaked the vengeance they surely could and, equally as surely, some of them long to take. The U.S. liberation-occupation has now tried to cobble together these diverging Iraqis into the beginnings of a democratic regime. Wonder of wonders, these estranged cousins have shown some talent in the art of compromise; and trying to make this polity work is hardly an effort undertaken without courage.

That's Ayatollah Sisatni's work there (churlish me):
In any case, this churlish orthodoxy tells us that the Sunnis need to be enticed into the political game lest it be deemed illegitimate. In this scenario, it is the murderers who withhold or bestow moral authority.
Not the moral authority - they have guns! They must be dealt with in some constructive way!
Suddenly, the elections in Iraq, Bush's main achievement there, exhilarating and inspiring, sprung loose the psychological impediments that shackled the Lebanese to Syria. Even if the outcomes will not be exactly the same, this was Prague and Berlin at the end of the long subjugation to their neighbor to the east.
Not quite. As Juan Cole churlishly notes, Bush didn't even want these sort of elections. They were forced upon him by Sistani. Hamas and Hezbollah hold far too much sway to be pollyannish yet about the future of Lebanon. Peretz continues:
It is simply stupid, empirically and philosophically, to deny that all or any of this would have happened without the deeply unpopular but historically grand initiative of Bush.
The glory of Bush! But couldn't Bush at least be honest in his rhetoric, actions, and motivations? His thuggery enrages people all around the world. People like me!
Have Democrats begun to wonder how it came to pass that this noble cause became the work of Republicans? They should wonder if they care to regain power. They should recall that Clinton (and the sanctimonious Jimmy Carter even more so) had absolutely no interest in trying to modify the harsh political character of the Arab world. What they aspired to do was to mollify the dictators--to prefer the furthering of the peace process to the furthering of the conditions that make peace possible. The Democrats were the ones who were always elevating Arafat. He was at the very center of their road map. After he stalked out of a meeting room in Paris during cease-fire talks in late 2000, Albright actually ran in breathless pursuit to lure him back. It was the Democrats who perpetuated Arafat's demonic sway over the Palestinians, and it was the Democrats who sustained him among the other Arabs. And so the cause of Arab democracy was left for the Republicans to pursue. After September 11, the cause became a matteralso of U.S. national security.
True enough, to the discredit of the Democrats. Thuggery isn't the answer, though. Too many lives are at stake!
Now that there is some real hope among both Israelis and Palestinians about the future, let us examine the reasons for it. The first is that Bush made no gestures to the hyperbolic fantasies of Palestinian politics. He gave them one dose of reality after another. The second is that he gave Israel the confidence that he would not trade its security for anything--which means that Israel is now willing to cede much on its own. (Israeli dovishness for American hawkishness: This was always the only way.) The third is that Bush is holding Sharon to his commitments, and everyone who is at all rational on these issues now sees the Israeli prime minister as a man of his word and a man of history. After all, Sharon has broken with much of his own political party.
Bush HAS been effective this way!
It has been heartening, in recent months, to watch some Democratic senators searching for ways out of the politics of churlishness. Some liberals appear to have understood that history is moving swiftly and in a good direction, and that history has no time for their old and mistaken suspicion of American power in the service of American values. One does not have to admire a lot about George W. Bush to admire what he has so far wrought. One need only be a thoughtful American with an interest in proliferating liberalism around the world. And, if liberals are unwilling to proliferate liberalism, then conservatives will. Rarely has there been a sweeter irony.
I hope Peretz isn't talking about that Social Security traitor Joe Lieberman, but he probably is.

Look, Democrats can adopt Bush's approach in Israel/Palestine, and I hope they would. But Martin Peretz/Peter Beinart have shown a keener interest instead in exiling and Michael Moore from the Democratic party. Also, by working so closely with Lieberman, Peretz/Beinart are betraying the New Deal, with Bush's misguided Social Security 'reform'. Peretz is shooting himself in the foot as long as he maintains this course. There are better ways. Michael Moore is a gifted propagandist and should be put to work, not thrown into the cold. is the future of the Democratic party. Lieberman's star is fading fast. Democrats can always steal Bush's approach, but backstabbing is unwarranted!
"Alarm Bell in the Night"

To add to Dr. Teresa Whitehurst's article I blogged about earlier this week, wondering if a kristallknacht was nigh, here's another article at TNR by Rochelle Gurstein, wondering if the Terri Schiavo incident in the Culture Wars is another step towards a 21st-Century Civil War. Perhaps the 'Culture Wars' are going to get more interesting than they've been heretofore. Was the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing just an early harbinger?:
I couldn't get out of my mind a diagram from a history textbook that listed the causes of the Civil War next to a thermometer with the temperature rising until it reached the boiling point, from the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Nullification Crisis of 1832 to the ominous decade of the 1850s--the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law; the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act and the years of violence known as "Bleeding Kansas"; the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision; John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859; and finally, Lincoln's election in 1860. At every point, the people living through these conflicts did not recognize them as the fateful events that would lead them headlong into civil war. Will some true believer presently unknown to us violently take matters into his or her own hands so that he or she will one day occupy a similar place in history as John Brown? History, of course, never repeats itself, but I couldn't help wondering, are we now living through what, from the perspective of future generations, will turn out to have been another such fateful time?
Fun Facts From 'Science News'
  • African elephants can imitate the sounds of Asian elephants, and distant heavy traffic;
  • Vampire bats have the ability to run;
  • Ant larvae ask for food by swaying;
  • Certain red feathers of parrots contain pigments unique to parrots: polyenal lipochromes, unlike the carotenoid pigments other birds obtain from their diet.
Good for Senator Lautenberg!

If federal judges can be threatened, people like Tom DeLay can certainly be threatened too. What is wrong with DeLay for making these threats? Has he lost his cool? Doesn't he realize the possible consequences, to himself as well as his allies? DeLay has certainly disgraced his office.
Report by the President's Commission on Intelligence Gathering

What a sorry exercise in blaming the intelligence agencies for deliberate lies and egregious faults among the policymakers! The editorial writers at the New York Times timidly call this report "A Profile in Timidity":

Sadly, there is nothing about the central issue - how the Bush administration handled the intelligence reports on Iraq's weapons programs and presented them to the public to win support for the invasion of Iraq. All we get is an excuse: the panel was "not authorized" to look at this question, so it didn't bother. The report says the panel "interviewed a host of current and former policy makers" about the intelligence on Iraq, but did not "review how policy makers subsequently used that information."

...The panel said timidly that "it is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom." But it utterly ignored the way President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his team, and Condoleezza Rice, as national security adviser, created that environment by deciding what the facts were and saying so, repeatedly.

It does not say that these powerful people knew or should have known that there was no new intelligence on Iraq, and that as the intelligence reports were sanitized for the public, the caveats were stripped out. Instead, it loyally maintains the fiction that Mr. Bush was just given bum information by incompetent intelligence agents.
The way the administration hyped the intelligence on Iraq is not just a matter of intellectual curiosity. It is vital that the public know the answers because Americans are now being asked to accept a new set of claims about nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.
Maureen Dowd gets closer to the center of corruption:
As necessity is the mother of invention, political pressure was the father of conveniently botched intelligence.

Dick Cheney and the neocons at the Pentagon started with the conclusion they wanted, then massaged and manipulated the intelligence to back up their wishful thinking.

As The New Republic reported, Mr. Cheney lurked at the C.I.A. in the summer of 2002, an intimidating presence for young analysts. And Douglas Feith set up the Office of Special Plans at the Pentagon as a shadow intelligence agency to manufacture propaganda bolstering the administration's case.

The Office of Special Plans turned to the con man Ahmad Chalabi to come up with the evidence they needed. The Iraqi National Congress obliged with information that has now been debunked as exaggerated or fabricated. One gem was the hard-drinking relative of a Chalabi aide, a secret source code-named Curveball, who claimed to verify the mobile weapons labs.

Mr. Cheney and his "Gestapo office," as Colin Powell called it, then shoehorned all their meshugas about Saddam's aluminum tubes, weapons labs, drones and Al Qaeda links into Mr. Powell's U.N. speech.

The former secretary of state spent four days and three nights at the C.I.A. before making the presentation, trying to vet the material, because he knew that Mr. Cheney, who had an idée fixe about Saddam, was trying to tap into his credibility and use him as a battering ram.

He told Germany's Stern magazine that he was "furious and angry" that he had been given bum information about Iraq's arsenal: "Some of the information was wrong. I did not know this at the time."

The vice president and the neocons were in a fever to bypass the C.I.A. and conjure up a case to attack Saddam, even though George Tenet was panting to be of service. When Mr. Tenet put out the new National Intelligence Estimate on Oct. 2, 2002, nine days before the Senate vote on the war resolution and after our troops and aircraft carriers were getting into position for battle, there was one key change: suddenly the agency agreed with Mr. Cheney that Iraq was pursuing the atomic bomb.

...It is laughable that the report offers its most scorching criticism of the C.I.A. when the C.I.A. was simply doing what the White House and Pentagon wanted. Isn't that why Mr. Tenet was given the Medal of Freedom? (Freedom from facts.)

The hawks don't want to learn any lessons here. If they had to do it again, they'd do it the same way. The imaginary weapons and Osama link were just a marketing tool and shiny distraction, something to keep the public from crying while they went to war for reasons unrelated to any nuclear threat.

The 9/11 attacks gave the neocons an opening for their dreams of remaking the Middle East, and they drove the Third Infantry Division through it.
Even Dowd doesn't hit the nail on the head, though. The Bush Administration is criminally irreponsible for starting a war on false pretenses. What a disgrace! Historians will have a fine time with this maggot-filled mess!
Abrupt Speech Changes in Canada

Interesting. Being born in New Mexico, and living in California, I was unaware of anyone pronouncing avenue as aven-you. But being from NM, I certainly understand having local ways being trampled by outsiders. And if the outsiders control the media, heaven help us!
I was at my limit. I heard yet another one of my friends replace ‘avenyou’ with ‘avenoo.’ It wasn’t that there was anything necessarily wrong with pronouncing avenue without the ‘you’ (or what is called a y-continuant in linguistic circles), it’s just that the y-continuant wasn’t missing from the word before I left for a European summer vacation only 3 months before!

It seemed as if everyone I knew had adopted the new avenoo, and it was driving me nuts. Maybe, I thought, they were conspiring to test my sanity. The nagging question actually drove me to consult the University of Winnipeg’s voice and diction coach, who also noticed the trend. She said that it was an American speech pattern, heard commonly in the media on American television programs. But, she said, it seems that the pronunciation has finally spread like wildfire north of the 49th parallel – our old pattern has been all but dropped entirely in Canadian television and radio, and now, among the general public.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

RIP, Terri Schiavo

We never knew you, except at the eye of the hurricane. And soon, the reckoning will start.
Best of B3ta QOTW

Woo-hoo! My story was chosen to be among the 'best' ones on B3ta's Question of the Week (QOTW)! I've been having a hard time breaking through to the 'best' page, because the Website caters to fairly-juvenile British humor, for which I'm not particularly well-suited by background or temperament. B3ta tends to prefer stories about nasty, humilating, permanent traumas. I succeeded only once before, with "My Knife," in response to QOTW "What have you lost lately?" But even though I start with a disadvantage compared to young, careless, impulsive, heavy-drinking, accident-prone Britons, a good story is a good story, and that makes the competition fun.

This week's QOTW was:
There you are innocently going about your day when suddenly a particular song transports you back to a specific time and place. For me, Animotion's Obssession instantly brings back the fear and nerves of school exams. And you? Tell us all about it.
My response was:

I was playing Coldplay's "Clocks" while driving into a California sunset in September 2002, when I saw a strange contrail rapidly heading west into the sunset. First time I ever saw such a thing: a Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile heading from Vandenburg Air Force Base to Kwajalein Atoll, many thousands of miles away in the Pacific.

The missile was many hundreds of miles away, but with good visibility in the gloaming, it was possible to see the rocket stage. The contrail changed from dense smoke into a translucent glimmering perfect cone, as the upper stages of the missile ripped into the mesosphere. It was gorgeous and scary at the same time.

When I hear "Clocks", I sense nuclear annihilation is near and my time on this Earth is over.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mobs Rush In....

Death Valley?:
Record rains have remade Death Valley this spring into a showplace of desert golds, brown-eyed evening primroses, gravel ghosts and desert stars.

It is also a place where fistfights have broken out among customers waiting in long lines at gas pumps. Heavy traffic along a 50-mile stretch of two-lane road at the southern end of the park has left gaping potholes and crumbling pavement.

..."We're being hammered; we can't catch our breath," said Terry Baldino, the park's assistant chief of interpretation. "I'm encouraging our staff to get away from it all on weekends," he said, adding that some "are going to Las Vegas, others are hiding at home."

Normally, Baldino said, there might be 4,000 visitors roaming the park's stark geological wonders this time of year. "Last Saturday," he said, "we had 14,000 people come through the front door of the park's central headquarters." Even that figure accounts for only a fraction of the influx since not all park visitors go to the headquarters.

"There's so many people here right now, I dread going to get the mail," said Death Valley resident Ruth Shandor. "Makes you think we need street lights."

...In a scene wavering between tense and surreal, the line at the women's restroom in the park's main visitor center was 15-deep Tuesday.

The center itself was packed tight with people jostling to buy field guides to wildflowers, or to ask rangers for directions to "flower hot spots." Some just wanted to express their frustration with the crowds and even the flowers at their feet.

"I had one person come up and say, `I'm sick of yellow. Where can I go to see different colors?' " recalled Lori Spoelhof, one of two rangers brought in on an emergency basis from Yellowstone National Park to lead "flower walks."

...At Stove Pipe Wells, about 17 miles to the north of Furnace Creek, maintenance workers were being dispatched to keep the peace at a gas station that has run out of fuel several times in recent weeks.

...As of March 30, Death Valley had received 6.3 inches of rain since July, the most in the 94 years in which records have been kept. Rainfall averages less than two inches a year here. During some years, there is no rain at all.

This season's rains included a destructive storm in August that killed two people and washed out park roads. The latest moisture came on Sunday, when the park best known as the hottest, driest place in North America was pelted with rain and hail.

Signs abound that Death Valley's wettest season in recorded history may be nearing an end. In recent weeks, vast carpets of flowers have been battered by fierce winds and rising temperatures.

An enormous rain-filled lake that only two weeks ago was a novel gathering place for kayakers has evaporated to a depth of only a few inches.

"Eventually, the flowers will disappear, the crowds will diminish and we'll pick up the pieces," Blacker said. "Then, in the fall, we'll start watching the rain totals. If they get way up there again, I guarantee we'll be better prepared."

Mickey Kaus and others makes an excellent point regarding the Terri Schiavo case. Shouldn't liberals and Democrats be pro-feeding tube?:
What's a sounder basis for ambitious liberal affirmative government--a) an optimistic desire for often-expensive government action to preserve and extend life or b) a resigned, fatalistic willingness to delegate life-ending decisions to private citizens? If the answer is a), shouldn't left-wingers be pro-tubists? NPR's "bias legend" Nina Totenberg was ridiculed for saying, on Inside Washington, that:
"if we really believed in an unmitigated, uncurbed in any way culture of life, we would be having universal health care."
But it seems to me that Totenberg has pointed in exactly the direction the Democrats should have been heading on the Schiavo issue. Has their political and moral sense been so twisted by the hard dogma of "abortion rights" (and disdain for fundamentalist Christians) that they don't see this? ... "More chances at life for all citizens, whatever their status or station"--that's still more of a Democratic slogan than a Republican one.
The trouble is that Americans have learned the libertarian, live-and-let-live philosophy only too well. We are also pretty procedure-oriented too, especially with regard to the courts. Which is usually good, but not always. Few people want to intervene in the Schiavo case: it's private. We don't trust the Religious Right. And we've all been taken by surprise by the issue: we weren't prepared for it and haven't thought it through.

But mostly I think liberals just don't believe an optimistic technology-oriented approach would work in this case. Terri's cerebral cortex is mush. Would stem cells help? Doubtful. Maybe we are just too educated for our own good! Liberalism is an optimistic faith. Blithe ignorance about our chances for success may be better in this case than bitter knowledge!
Nanny Knows Best

Not often that I promote libertarian Web Sites, but this one is nice. We all love Olde England, but everyone chafes under overweening governmental restrictions. A sample:

It is reported that the Greater Manchester Police are adopting an Orwellian approach to the word “township”; they are banning it from being used in the force.

Seemingly it was adopted, around a year ago, to describe sub divisions within the Manchester police force. Quite how “township” is indicative of sub divisions I don’t know.

Notwithstanding that, Chief Inspector Jeff McMahon has issued a memo banning the word; on the grounds that, because of its associations with apartheid, it is racist.

As from now, all memos and signs with the word “township” will be replaced by the equally undescriptive word “partnership”.

The costs of removing signs, and reprinting letterheads, has not been disclosed; doubtless an enquiry as to the cost, using the new Freedom of Information Act, could be made.

Any such enquiry could of course be deemed to be a frivolous waste of Nanny’s time!I wonder if the good people of Manchester feel any safer, now that they are being policed by “partnerships” instead of “townships”?

Taken Aback

He narrowed his eyes, stared at me, and apropos of seemingly nothing said, "hasn't that brain-dead woman from Florida died yet?" Surprised, I said "that's my mother you're talking about!" Interesting exchange, just for the shock value. But it made me wonder if people nationwide are losing their patience with this entire mess, and are responding, not with sympathy, not with anger, but with utter disdain.
The 2005/06 DMTC Season - Take Two!

Into the Woods
Wizard of Oz
Vindicating Michael Moore

These flights go beyond what Michael Moore alleged in Fahrenheit 9/11. What else don't we know that someday we'll be told?
The F.B.I. records show, for instance, that prominent Saudi citizens left the United States on several flights that had not been previously disclosed in public accounts, including a chartered flight from Providence, R.I., on Sept. 14, 2001, that included at least one member of the Saudi royal family, and three flights from Las Vegas between Sept. 19 and Sept. 24, also carrying members of the Saudi royal family. The government began reopening airspace on Sept. 13, but many flights remained grounded for days afterward.

The three Las Vegas flights, with a total of more than 100 passengers, ferried members of the Saudi royal family and staff members who had been staying at Caesar's Palace and the Four Seasons hotels. The group had tried unsuccessfully to charter flights back to Saudi Arabia between Sept. 13 and Sept. 17 because they said they feared for their safety as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, the F.B.I. documents say.

The documents also show that F.B.I. officials were clearly riled by public speculation stirred by news media accounts of the Saudi flights. They were particularly bothered by a lengthy article in the October 2003 issue of Vanity Fair, which included charges that the bureau considered unfair and led to an internal F.B.I. investigation that the agency named "Vanitybom." Internal F.B.I. correspondence during the review was addressed to "fellow Vanitybom victims."
When All You've Got Is a Hammer....

The Penitentes are now most active on the farthest frontiers of what used to be the Spanish Empire (Philippines; New Mexico; rural Mexico). These areas tend to have the most conservative and observant Catholics. The practice used to be widespread, but no more. Today, the Shiites have all these guys beat for such bloody displays of religiosity.
Pop Music Lyrics

Lyrics so stupid I choked with laughter (Lil Flip's 'Sunshine'):

I need a lady in the streets but a freak in the sheets
That know how to cook cause a nigga like to eat
Spaghetti, shrimp and steak and I'll adore you
I'll treat you like milk, I'll do nothing but spoil you
Awesome lyrics: (from Kylie's 'Crying Game'):
One day soon I’m gonna tell the moon
About the crying game
And if he knows, maybe he’ll explain
Why there are heartaches, why there are tears
And what to do to stop feeling blue
When love disappears
Michael Boskin, Conservative Economist and Giant Brain

Today's Wall Street Journal features a column by Michael Boskin, conservative Stanford economist and senior fellow at the *(giant sucking sound)* Hoover Institution. Mr. Boskin has decided to throw his giant brain into the Social Security melee.

Nothing works like icons to stir the emotions! Boskin wouldn't be such a giant brain if he wasn't aware of the importance of atmosphere. Boskin equates President Bush's and Clinton's proposals (even though they had diametrically different approaches - Clinton is still alive, and I'm sure he wouldn't like getting dragged into the argument this way). Boskin quotes JFK. He has a nice picture of a thoughtful Daniel Patrick Moynihan. 'Where, oh where, is today's Patrick Moynihan?', Boskin wails. It's time to 'modernize' Social Security and every year we wait, the harder it gets. If we don't start now, when, oh when, will we get our private accounts? (Note to Boskin: why not a picture of FDR?)

Well, if Boskin really wants a private account, he could always open an IRA. Anyone can. We already have suitable 'add-on' accounts. But, I forget, this is all about 'carve-out', isn't it. It's about gutting Social Security and getting people to surrender their guaranteed benefits for a cheap whirl on the Wall Street merry-go-round.

Boskin idolizes the young. He states:
Many younger workers say they expect the system to be bankrupt and gone by the time they retire.
Boskin knows these young people are right. Young people are his god - he sees them every day at Stanford, and he knows how smart they are. But young people make mistakes. Many young people think they won't live to be 40, boring statistics to the contrary be damned. Why should these feckless young people be right on Social Security's prospects?

Boskin uses the straw man of reactionary Democrats who want to extend the current benefit formula indefinitely into the future. Most Democrats are willing to tinker with the formula if it helps long-term solvency, however. People like Boskin are not interested in long-term solvency, because they plan to destroy Social Security in the short-term. To Boskin, tinkering with formulas is like sweeping the floor of a cottage perched on top of Mt. St. Helens: boring and pointless.

Boskin likes everything and anything, except shoring up Social Security. Boskin likes Robert C. Pozen's ratchet idea. Boskin also likes borrowing. Boskin contrasts good borrowing (automatically equated to private sector needs) and bad borrowing (automatically equated to government needs, which he likens to a party), failing to notice that these distinctions are not borne out in practice - borrowing is borrowing, and can be good or bad, depending on context:
Many critics of individual accounts denounce the idea of borrowing to finance them. While I share concerns about large deficits in prosperous peacetime, there is a fundamental difference between borrowing to finance individual accounts and borrowing to fund government current consumption. The individual accounts acquire real assets. So, while there is borrowing by the government on the one hand, it finances investment in real assets on the other, like borrowing to buy a home, not to throw a party. Is there really such an aversion to private capital that only government spending counts?
No aversion to private capital, Mr. Big Brain, as long as the interest gets paid on all that borrowed money! Plus, a lot of government spending serves as an investment in society's future. Don't you just love all his evasions? Plus, Boskin is off-message: it's not prosperous peacetime, we are war with the terrorists! Aren't we?

One trouble with privatization is that the new system has to work on $1+ trillion of borrowed money in order to avoid cutting current benefits. That scale of borrowing might damage the economy, and the money has to be repaid - with interest. It's no panacea! In comparison, pay-as-you-go Social Security is cheap.

Boskin reverts to scare tactics: act now, or you get benefit cuts, tax increases, social dislocations, high interest rates, hives, herpes, locusts, pestilence, obesity, and gas. Sorry, Michael Medulla, none of this works for Americans. We are not scared of the future. We are an optimistic folk. Even if the baby boom generation retires, a few, hardy young people will be left behind in the ruins of our empty cities from which to repopulate the country again (maybe add a few hard-working immigrants as well).

Boskin refers to the Bush plan as if everyone knows what it is, but clever guy that Bush is, he has yet to reveal it, in the form of proposed legislation. It's like poker! Bush now wants Democrats to reveal their plan, but the Democratic plan has been in plain sight for decades: preserve Social Security much as it is. It's not like poker, it's more like a game of 'pull my finger.' Democrats should walk away from this game on the midway of democracy, and involve themselves elsewhere. Leave the sad freak from Texas alone with his finger outstretched.

Poor George Bush - he's misjudged this game's odds! Wasting away all that precious political capital from the 2004 election - for nothing! Like the blackjack dealers at Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino say about other dealers who play blackjack: "they work for free!"

Preserve Social Security, ever-so lofty and cerebral Michael Boskin, and everything else will fall into place. Social Security is not a bad program. Social insurance preserves social stability, and makes possible the crazy-ass markets that brains like you idolize so much. Turn your attention to health care costs instead, which are truly running wild, rather than Social Security, which is probably the best-run part of the entire Rube-Goldberg Republican-dominated federal government.
Easter Malice

This is the other Lota-Burger than the one I visited in Gallup, NM over last New Year's holiday. Still, really ugly. Not a homeless guy either....
GALLUP — A trail of blood that stains the pavement along Dairy Drive serves as an eerie reminder of Sunday's dragging of a Gallup man for more than a mile.

Fausto Arellano, 32, was bound by the ankles, strapped to a pick-up truck and dragged for at least a mile before he was abandoned in the Lot-A-Burger east parking lot at about 4 a.m. Easter morning.
She Can Dish It Out

But Ann Coulter has problems taking it:
"Could 10 of the largest College Republicans start walking up and down the aisles and start removing anyone shouting?" Coulter asked. "Otherwise, this lecture is over."

George Bush hasn't given up on Social Security just yet. It's been hard to miss the Wall Street Journal's Golden Boy, Robert C. Pozen, and his 'Progressive' solution to Social Security's problems, appearing on NPR's 'All Things Considered,' and even getting a solid boost from George W. Bush himself.

Pozen's irreversible ratchet mechanism for forcing the rich and their money out of the Social Security system would not only weaken the system directly, but also indirectly, by converting Social Security into a welfare program and therefore into a big fat juicy target for future race-and-class-based Republican attacks. Bush will try all sorts of subterfuges to break Democratic resistance.

If the front door is locked, try the side window!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Guess DMTC can't do 'Little Shop of Horrors' after all! (maybe 'Cabaret' instead...)
Physics Songs

This site was featured in the Wall Street Journal last week. Takes me right back to high school!

The Hooke and Newton Song:

Doo Doo, Dooo Doo, Doo Doodle-oo Dooo Doo
Doo Doo, Dooo Doo, Doo Doodle-oo Doo

Hooke on the left, Newton on the right
Gives you an equation that’s really outta sight!
Short and sweet, full of hidden delight
And the spring goes up and down, and down
And the spring goes up and down.

Hooke and Newton were rivals in their day,
But partners for eternity is how they’ll have to stay!
Minus kx equals ma,
And the spring goes up and down, and down
And the spring goes up and down.

Repeat Chorus

Words, Chords, & Intro. by Walter Smith 7-01
Tune from the PBS program “Dragontales”
Should Liberals Be Paranoid Regarding Terri Schiavo?

There is an interesting essay at Smirking Chimp by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst warning progressives of imminent doom regarding the Terry Schiavo case. In her view, the emotional, quasi-fascist framing of the standoff regarding the feeding tube is likely to provoke a Kristallknacht-like response from the Religious Right.

It's a good idea that liberals and progressives be a bit paranoid these days. Even paranoids have enemies, as the old saw goes. Is Whitehurst overreacting, as the people commenting on her essay seem to think, or is she on to something?

Whitehurst writes:
Never underestimate the power of repeated imagery. The videotape of Ms. Schiavo is becoming firmly planted in the American mind, just as the 9/11 bombings became engrained through repeated viewings of the same footage. Functioning somewhat like brainwashing, the repeated exposure to stress-provoking imagery arouses negative feelings such as fear, powerlessness, horror, anxiety, pity or anger. Such "vicarious trauma" burdens viewers, who handle it in one of two ways: numbing/avoidance/minimization or agitation/obsession/exaggeration. Those who are becoming "numbed out" to the images of Ms. Schiavo's real-time starvation-a gruesome reality-TV event for which none of us were prepared-will either avoid the news, crack jokes, or minimize the significance of her dying ("they say starvation doesn't hurt" or "people die all the time-get over it!"). But the many Americans who are growing increasingly distressed (with accompanying feelings of powerlessness) are likely to undergo a personal transformation wherein their more moderate views are discarded and they begin to identify with angry, extremist persons or groups.

In 1995, when Newt Gingrich and the House Republican leadership shut down the federal government, the Radical Right took an aggressive approach. There was one significant overreaction, though - stark damage: Timothy McVeigh and conspirator(s) destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. People recoiled at the violence, however, and the Republicans lost public support. Bill Clinton prevailed over the Gingrich, and by 1999 Gingrich was forced out of the House leadership and Congress altogether.

Whitehurst continues:
Progressives have been conspicuously silent regarding the family's suffering, and most won't even consider her parents' claims that Terri might not want to be starved to death, even in her present condition. The radical right, however, is busy endearing itself to the public-all those millions of average Joes who get all their news from TV, and are watching Terri's withering little body, sad face, desperate parents and the conservative leaders lending them sympathy and support. For the viewing public, I'm afraid it's Michael Schiavo, the man who's forcing his will on Terri and her family, who's speaking for us, and for liberal/progressive values. Come election time, the masses will remember who's who. If we don't speak up and speak up now, here's the equation that millions of voters will remember at the polling booth, just as the Bush administration hopes: Sympathetic to dying woman and her family=Conservatives. Unsympathetic to dying woman and her family=Liberals.

Well, is Whitehurst right? My judgement on this issue may be impaired because I don't watch enough TV, and so I may be missing people's emotional overreaction. I took a little heart in the story on Drudge yesterday that the evangelicals may turn on Jeb Bush instead:
"If Gov. Bush wants to be the man that his brother is, he needs to step up to the plate like President Bush did when the United Nations told him not to go into Iraq," Randall Terry, a protest organizer, said of the governor. "Be a man. Put politics aside."
Michelle Cottle at TNR suggests that Democrats keep their distance from the issue, not only because the politicians are playing with fire, and it's hard to say who is going to be burned, but also because Michael Schiavo may have mixed motives. Fortunately, the national Democratic leadership is unwilling to whip their troops into line. Presenting an amorphous target to the Republicans may be the best policy. My thought is that the Religious Right has alienated a lot of people with their willingness to dispense with the Constitution. Progressives should remain paranoid though - Whitehurst may end up looking like a prophet once this is all through.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Folding a T-Shirt

Wow! Isn't the Internet great! I've never been able to figure out an efficient way to do this. It's like an experiment in topology that always goes bad. Like a chemical experiment that always explodes. I need to study this more...

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Liberal Hypocrisy?

The Wall Street Journal's John Fund accuses liberals of hypocrisy in opposing federal intervention in the Schiavo case, but supporting it in the case of Elian Gonzalez:
But liberals have gotten off easy for some of the somersaulting arguments they have made on behalf of judicial independence and states' rights to justify their position that Terri Schiavo should not be saved. Many made the opposite arguments in the Elian Gonzalez case.
I'm one liberal who opposed federal intervention in both cases, so I find the accusations of hypocrisy to be annoying. In the Elian Gonzalez case, however, federal intervention was more understandable, since under our system of government, immigration matters are supposed to fall under federal jurisdiction. Nevertheless, Elian had family members here who could care for him, and the U.S. had long had a policy for allowing Cuban refugees to settle here. It seemed an aggressive federal overreach to send Elian back to live under a tyranny, even if his father wanted him back.

In the Schiavo matter, the precise hook for federal intervention remains unclear, which is probably why federal courts have refused to intervene. Where have the Florida state courts failed in their duty, exactly?

Supposed conservatives have no trouble trying to demolish our system of government in order to make petty Culture War points. Why doesn't the Wall Street Journal focus on conservative hypocrisy instead? Liberal hypocrisy seems pretty wan these days, at least when compared to the amazing antics of Frist and DeLay. When DeLay was in Michael Schiavo's place, deciding whether to continue medical care for his injured dad, DeLay decided to pull the plug. DeLay's family protests that the situations were different, that DeLay's dad had no hope for recovery. I'm sure Michael Schiavo would answer: EXACTLY!
Scientific American Snark

Scientific American takes their April Fool's jokes seriously.....

Despite my support for Evolution, I think Scientific American should be a little more humble. There has been collateral damage in their war against the Creationists.

Remember when Scientific American refused to hire Forrest Mims III as their "Amateur Scientist" columnist? The job was his, well and justly earned, until they found out that he was a Creationist. Even though his responsibilities would rarely, if ever, intrude into biology, ideological dissonance could not be tolerated.

As an agnostic liberal evolutionist, I nevertheless feel an injustice was done. It's time we liberals expressed a little of that tolerance we like to brag about.
Feets Don't Fail Me Now!

From Deborah:

RIP, James Callaghan

British Prime Minister, 1976-1979.