Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
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NOT Now Playing On My iPod

But playing in my head:

I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink

So, anything interesting happen today? I'm too tired and busy to even check the news or visit anybody else's blog to look for analysis. If you've got a post or have come across one somewhere that I should look at, tell me in comments. And fix me a drink!


Monday, January 12, 2004
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Did I Miss A Memo?

Or did the US get even crazier since I went to bed yesterday? And I ain't talking about the NFL playoffs. See Kos and Fanatical Apathy (via Atrios) for details.


Nice To Be Somewhere Warm

Forecast for my house this week is cold:

Tuesday Night
Mostly clear. Lows 20 below to 25 below. Northwest winds around 15 mph.

Wednesday Night
Partly cloudy. Lows 25 below to 30 below. Light north winds.



Now I've Done It

I doubled up my pawns, did the exchange, and took Guy's bishop. Yes Diane, that's the pointy one with the little slot in the top.


Chances Are

Mustang Bobby informs us that William Safire thinks Bush's world is great. In fact, Safire compares the deaths of our soldiers in Iraq to the murder rates of LA and NYC, so I guess our casualties aren't that bad.

Well, we've lost 495 soldiers in less than a year. In 2002, NYC had 575 murders. Let's call the New York population 8,000,000, and the size of our force in Iraq 130,000. So my back of the napkin calculation of your chances of getting killed in Iraq in a given year are about 1 in 262. In New York: 1 in 13913. Where would you rather spend your next vacation?


Sunday, January 11, 2004
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Now Playing On My iPod

Hey Ya! by OUTKAST:

My baby don't mess around
Because she loves me so
And this I know fo shooo..
Uh, But does she really wanna
But can't stand to see me
Walk ou the dooo..

My first iTunes purchase--now I'm as hip as Howard Dean. Heeeyyy...Yaaaaaaa...


Saturday, January 10, 2004
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Early Look At Rook's Next Move

As Legolas said in LOTR: TTT, "Blood has been spilled this night." Rook dares to press the attack in Bloggers Chess. Crap.


Quite A Day

21 below zero when I got up, 3 below when I left Burlington, headed for Dallas via Chicago. Arrived early in Chicago, sat on the tarmac for 40 minutes, booked it from F14 to C26 to find my connection was closed. The gate agent took pity, let me on the plane, and I even got a free upgrade out of it (never be afraid to ask). Bonus: my bags made it as well!

54 degrees above zero when I landed in Dallas. A simple chicken finger dinner in the hotel's little cafe while watching a very exciting, albeit disappointing, playoff game between the Rams and the Panthers. I'm tired, but sated.



...for a few hours. Talk amongst yourselves!


Friday, January 09, 2004
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Opening Up

Finally made my third move in the epic Bloggers Chess match with Guy Andrew Hall (aka Rook). A departure from my usual N-B3 or B-B4. Thanks for the kibitzing, folks!


The Next Couple Weeks

Extremely hectic and draining. Posting will continue to be light, although look for something every day--blogging helps me keep my sanity. Probably no time to do blogarounds or anything really in-depth, but hopefully the posts will generate some discussion amongst my peeps.


Bush's Bold Vision

"This election year, I propose to spend lots of money to colonize space!* (Please pay no attention to the continuing tragedy in Iraq, further erosions of your civil liberties, and my unfulfilled promises to create jobs.)"


* I'm a certified space geek and love the idea of missions to the moon and Mars, but let's face it, we ain't going anywhere with our current fiscal quagmire. 

Thursday, January 08, 2004
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Funnier Than I Thought

The Club for Growth ad I mentioned the other day is even funnier than the Washington Times indicated. Check it out.


Open Letter Postcard To Howard Dean


Howard Dean's campaign...authorized volunteers to distribute anti-Clark flyers at a Clark town-hall meeting Wednesday here in Peterborough [NH].

On one side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: PRO-WAR," followed by a list of the general's much-discussed statements in support of the congressional Iraq war resolution. It's the stuff that gave Clark grief when he entered the race in the fall: He advised Rep. Katrina Swett in October 2002 to vote for the resolution, and he told reporters this past September that "on balance, I probably would have voted for it." On the other side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: REAL DEMOCRAT?" followed by Clark's much-discussed statements in praise of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Bush Cabinet, plus evidence of his pro-Republican voting record in presidential elections (until 1992).

Dear Howie,

Sorry, I don't have time for a long letter, but please, let's not stoop to the same level as Kerry and Lieberman with the negative stuff. Also, don't reduce your press contact.

Weather's fricking freezing. Wish you were here.


[Update: Added a link about the press contact, and removed the comment about spending money since I can't link/attribute.] 

Economic Alarm Bells


With its rising budget deficit and ballooning trade imbalance, the United States is running up a foreign debt of such record-breaking proportions that it threatens the financial stability of the global economy, according to a report released Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund.

Prepared by a team of I.M.F. economists, the report sounded a loud alarm about the shaky fiscal foundation of the United States, questioning the wisdom of the Bush administration's tax cuts and warning that large budget deficits pose "significant risks" not just for the United States but for the rest of the world.

The report warns that the United States' net financial obligations to the rest of the world could be equal to 40 percent of its total economy within a few years — "an unprecedented level of external debt for a large industrial country," according to the fund, that could play havoc with the value of the dollar and international exchange rates.

Speaking of the falling value of the dollar, check out Dollars as the World Reserve Currency.


Dem Electability Roundup

A few articles that discuss the electability thing, Dean, and Clark:

* WaPo: Can Dean Win, And Do Democrats Even Care?

* Salon: Dean, Bobby and the ghost of landslides past.

* Slate: The Second-Place Candidate - Wesley Clark plants his flag in New Hampshire.


[Update: In a related vein, here's some stuff about the expectations game from Salon:

If the former Vermont governor doesn't overwhelm his opponents in Iowa and New Hampshire, some analysts say, he may face a long, draining campaign fight.

Last polling I saw showed a tight race in IA between Dean and Gep. And Clark is making an impressive run in NH, seemingly taking support from both Kerry and Dean:

The plot sickens. Time to give more money to Dean?]

[One more update: TNR has a very nice, positive piece on Dean. Weird, I know. Thanks to reader dan in comments for the tip.] 

Wednesday, January 07, 2004
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Condensed ROTK

For all you folks with no patience to watch/read LOTR: ROTK.

BTW, I bought a new copy of Unfinished Tales. I had a paperback of that and The Silmarillion* (in addition to the hardcover my folks got me ages ago), but I have no clue where it is, and I never actually read it. I like it--easier to read than the Big S.


* Apropos of nothing, when I quoted the book a couple months ago, I was told my geek quotient went up. 

Why Can't I Get Paid To Write This Crap?

TNR spends 1817 words rationalizing its backing the lamest Dem candidate who is least likely to win the nomination: Joe Lieberman. They mention something about warnings and vision. Make sure you don't have a drink in your hand when you read it...


Dean's Records

Some local reporting from VPR on the (non) issue of Dean's sealed records:

At a recent debate Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman challenged Dean to sign a letter unsealing all of the private papers. Dean replied that he wanted the issue to be decided by a judge. Markowitz says the Lieberman challenge is not grounded in reality because some records - such as documents relating to Vermont Yankee - have been ordered sealed by the federal government:

(Markowitz) "That's actually not accurate. While it's true that there's an agreement entered into to keep particular records confidential, there's a lot of other privileges and this is an example of one situation where there's documents that a governor can't open up. And so it's really on some level not up to the former governor to open up the records."

Ah, life as the alleged frontrunner...



Just helped a dude load our old elliptical bike into his pickup truck in the frigid cold. We've been wanting to get rid of it for a long time, and right around NODWISH, Stef put up a notice at the General Store and a few other places to advertise. This guy called yesterday about it, came today, and took it off our hands a couple hours later. Whew.

But what's more important is that I set up Stef's birthday present: a new 40 gig iPod! It took some doing, given that the only Macs we have in the house are ancient models from the 90s. I had to get her a FireWire card, which for some reason wasn't working at first. I struggled with it for an hour last night, and then today I simply moved it to a different PCI slot, and everything was grand.

It's a sweet device. NTodd want one.


Another Milestone

Less than 2 hours ago a Road Runner customer clicked through from Holy Freaky Punky Sorry Tower to be my 30,000th visitor since June 14 of last year. I'm going to skip the "if I had a nickel" routine this time and simply say, "thanks, everbody!"


TTLB Showcase Vote

Howard Dean Says Something:

Howard Dean apparently uttered a string of words that, when put together, can be interpreted by the listener as a phrase expressing a thought or idea.

It was unclear when Howard Dean said something or what it was that he actually said, but the press, conservative political commentators and his fellow democratic rivals immediately attacked Howard Dean.


Iraq Roundup


The occupation of Iraq seems to be entering yet another critical phase. While Saddam Hussein has been captured, this result does not affect key issues of transition that Iraq must at some point address. For example, the Bush administration hoped to train some 40,000 soldiers by next October for use in Iraq's new light infantry battalions. Yet half of the initial recruits have already deserted, citing lack of adequate pay and fear of reprisals from insurgents. This, in turn, is linked to the amount of attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, as there will be a less developed indigenous security and military apparatus to gradually replace coalition members.

The Age:

Iraqi police opened fire on hundreds of stone-throwing former Iraqi soldiers demanding monthly stipends promised by the US-led coalition.

At least four protesters were shot in the southern Iraqi town.
The Basra protesters marched on the Central Bank on Tuesday and then tried to force their way in to get money, pelting the building with stones before turning on police who first tried to stop them by wielding batons. Police then opened fire.

British forces arrived on the scene and calmed the situation, using megaphones to say in Arabic: "You will get what you deserve, but not in this way."
The soldiers said they had not been paid a monthly stipend equivalent to US$50 ($A65.05) since September.

Coalition officials said the ex-soldiers would be paid Wednesday, but only if there was no violence.
The Coalition Authority had been dogged by protests by ex-servicemen after it disbanded Iraq's military in May, leaving more than 250,000 foot soldiers destitute.


Tensions over Iraqi Kurd demands for substantial autonomy within a future sovereign Iraq are causing unrest in northern Iraq and growing unease among Iraq's neighbors. In the latest of a string of violent incidents in the northern city of Kirkuk, unidentified attackers fired a rocket at the headquarters of one of the two main Kurdish factions, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

The attack comes after some 2,000 Arabs and Turkish-speaking Turkomans last week surrounded the PUK's head office to protest Kurdish calls for autonomy and demand that Kirkuk remain under the control of the central government in Baghdad.
Several bursts of gunfire during the protest left at least five people dead and debate is still raging in the city over who fired first - Kurdish police or protesters. Another person was later killed as rival groups clashed in the city center.

Emotions have run high in Kirkuk ever since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in April brought a dramatic change in its status.

Sorry, no time for any analysis.


Finally, A Horse Race

Looks like the Dem contest is shaping up into a Dean/Clark race afterall:

Dean has a closer competitor than he did last month, according to the poll.

He has the support of 24 percent of registered Democrats who responded. In December, Dean had 27 percent. The difference, however, is within the poll's margin of error of plus-or-minus 5 percentage points.

Clark had the support of only 12 percent of registered Democrats in December and is now within 5 percentage points of Dean, with 20 percent.

There's been a lot of discussion at Kos and elsewhere about how this compares to a poll released the day before, and frankly I don't understand enough about the vagaries of polling to comment. Only thing that makes me scratch my head is how so many polls vary so widely, even in the space of a day or two.

Did Clark really surge that much? Given the difference between things like "registered" and "likely" voters, the dates the polls were conducted, the MOE, etc, I'm not so sure this poll tells us anything really new. Dean's still the "frontrunner", whatever that means at this point, and Clark is still doing rather well compared to the career politicians.

While I'm glad to see Dean still leading more or less in the mythical national poll and in early contest states, and I'm happy Clark is also polling well, I don't put a lot of stock in polls. As Dean has been saying, not a single vote has been cast yet. That's why I can't wait until Iowa and NH are out of the way--some real polling will have happened, and we can stop focusing on two states that aren't really all that representative.


Tuesday, January 06, 2004
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Conservative Implosion

David Brooks asks: Do you ever get the sense the whole world is becoming unhinged from reality? Not the whole world, David, just yours.

Here's what Brooks says a little later: con is short for "conservative" and neo is short for "Jewish". This interesting linguisitic theory provides the foundation of his thesis that to criticize neocons is anti-Semitic. To be fair, Brooks has always been a bit of a nutcase, so maybe he's not representative of conservatives. What are others saying?

Speaking of anti-Semitism, Cal Thomas says:

Dean's wife is Jewish and his two children are being raised Jewish, which is strange at best, considering that the two faiths take a distinctly different view of Jesus.

(via Atrios)

Speaking of attacking Dean, The Washington Times tells us about an ad the Club for Growth is running in Iowa:

[A] farmer says he thinks that "Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ..." before the farmer's wife then finishes the sentence: "... Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs."

(via Left Leaner at Kos)

Brooks concludes in his piece: Partisanship has left many people unhinged. Concur 100%.


[Update: Josh Marshall over at TPM covers Brooks and a bit more today.] 

Monday, January 05, 2004
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Clark To Rove: Bring It On!

Clark unveiled his tax plan today. I loved this line from his speech:

So if Karl Rove is watching today, Karl, I want you to hear this loud and clear - I'm going to provide tax cuts to ease the burden for 34 million American families and lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty by raising the taxes on one-tenth of one percent of families in America, those who make more than a million dollars a year. You don't have to read my lips, I'm saying it. And if that makes me an "old style" Democrat, then, I accept that label with pride and dare you to come after me for it. Because what I am talking about today is in the best tradition of Wilson and Roosevelt; of JFK, LBJ, and Bill Clinton - and it is in the best interest of the United States of America!*

In your face! Heh.

At first glance the plan looks pretty good, at least judging by the summary. I'll need to read the full policy more closely, and get more information elsewhere. It certainly appears to be fairer and an easier sell than simply repealing the Bush Tax as Dean suggests. If anybody has additional insight, I'd appreciate hearing it.

I'd like to see Howie propose something similar that would deflate the "raising taxes on the middle class" canard Kerry rehashed yesterday, and Bush will certainly use in the general election. That said, I have seen polling that suggests most Americans are more than happy to give back their tax cuts for universal healthcare and other services. That was a couple months ago and I'm not sure if that's still true, so maybe somebody can help me out. Also, I wonder: when push comes to shove, does the simpler "it's your money" soundbite would still win out over the "you gotta pay for the stuff you want"?

[Update: from WaPo:

A top aide said Dean is considering a tax reform plan for the general election that includes a reduction in payroll taxes. If Dean rolls out such a plan, it could offset what many strategists see as a big liability: his support of what amounts to a nearly $2 trillion tax increase by calling for a repeal of Bush's tax cuts.

If Clark became Dean's running mate, maybe the ticket can just use Clark's Families First plan...]


* I corrected what I think were typos in the speech text. 

Shameless Pandering

The nice folks over at Wampum are trying to winnow down the crowded field of Democratic candidates, er...Best Blog nominees for their 2003 Koufax Awards. Somehow I'm on the list* with the likes of Atrios, Kos, Dave Pollard, Sadly No!, and many other fine blogs. You know what's coming: vote for me! I don't think I have a snowball's chance of winning the big enchilada, but maybe I can be a finalist...


[Update: ah, just remembered that Patrick Taylor nominated DM for Best Blog. Please note that his blog, The Poison Kitchen, is up for 2 awards (Best Design and Best New Blog), so we'll need to remember to vote for him when those come up. Although...I'm also up for Best New Blog, so maybe just vote for him in the Best Design category! :-) ]

['nother Update: Charles2 reminded me that his blog, The Fulcrum, is also up for Best New Blog. So if we vote straight ticket, Patrick wins Best Design, and Charles wins Best New Blog. Atrios or some other big guy probably wins Best Blog, but we can't have everything...] 

The Invisible Hand Of Sauron

Stef read the latest Fast Company this weekend in front of a roaring fire. While I was struggling with PC issues, she read some passages from this article out loud to me:

Wal-Mart wields its power for just one purpose: to bring the lowest possible prices to its customers. At Wal-Mart, that goal is never reached. The retailer has a clear policy for suppliers: On basic products that don't change, the price Wal-Mart will pay, and will charge shoppers, must drop year after year. But what almost no one outside the world of Wal-Mart and its 21,000 suppliers knows is the high cost of those low prices. Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.
"How can it be bad to have a bargain at Wal-Mart?' Sure, it's held inflation down, and it's great to have bargains," says [Carolina Mills president and CEO, Steve Dobbins]. "But you can't buy anything if you're not employed. We are shopping ourselves out of jobs."

I like capitalism, and I like getting good deals. The fundamental question I've often asked is: what is a good deal?

I don't have time to give this the treatment I'd like, and my mind is a jumble with thoughts about our eternal pursuit of the lowest price, the cult of the profit motive, rampant corporatism, media consolidation, and how all of this is bleeding over and corrupting our democracy. My biggest concern is that people focus so much on Adam Smith's "invisible hand" (the role of which the article says Wal-Mart is playing), they miss a lot of his warnings*:

[The rate of profit] is naturally low in rich and high in poor countries, and it is always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin...As [merchants and master manufacturers'] thoughts...are commonly exercised rather about the interest of their own particular branch of business, than about that of the society, their judgment, even when given with the greatest candour (which it has not been upon every occasion) is much more to be depended upon with regard to the former of those two objects than with regard to the latter.

So here we have Wal-Mart, who according to Smith can't be depended to think about society, claiming to know what's best for the consumer. Is it really in our interest to have Wal-Mart wielding its power solely to reduce our prices at the checkout counter?

And speaking of not getting the greatest candor from the merchants, it's interesting that the Fast Company article also notes:

There is very little academic and statistical study of Wal-Mart's impact on the health of its suppliers and virtually nothing in the last decade, when Wal-Mart's size has increased by a factor of five. This while the retail industry has become much more concentrated. In large part, that's because it's nearly impossible to get meaningful data that would allow researchers to track the influence of Wal-Mart's business on companies over time. You'd need cooperation from the vendor companies or Wal-Mart or both--and neither Wal-Mart nor its suppliers are interested in sharing such intimate detail.

We can't even easily study Wal-Mart's impact on its vendors, which means we don't really know how the company's practices will ripple out to the rest of our economy. That said, it's pretty damn clear that we're exporting jobs and exploiting workers overseas to save a couple bucks, and that's likely to have some nasty consequences in the long run.

As the article observes:

In the end, of course, it is we as shoppers who have the power, and who have given that power to Wal-Mart. Part of Wal-Mart's dominance, part of its insight, and part of its arrogance, is that it presumes to speak for American shoppers.
Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize about globalization: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences. Says Steve Dobbins, president of thread maker Carolina Mills: "We want clean air, clear water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world--yet we aren't willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions."

Globalization isn't inherently evil as the WTO protesters some anti-globalization folks** seem to believe, and it ain't the magic wand Tommy Friedman likes to pretend it is. I'm fairly sure it's inevitable and we're in the painful, nascent stages right now. I'd like to think that we can globalize in such a way that it doesn't hurt workers at home and abroad.

I don't know how to do that, but I'm certain that avoiding Wal-Mart is a part of the solution. Dave Pollard has a list of companies you might consider boycotting as well. As Howard Dean says, we do have the power, and voting with our wallets will have some influence--that is, if we stop focusing on simply getting the lowest price.

We also must stop electing corporatist candidates. That's effectively handing the government over to companies whose only interest in society's needs is how they influence profits. Perhaps that sounds harsh, but corporations are not people. Their goal is unfettered pursuit of profit, and that is not a universal or fundamental element of the human condition.

In America maybe this means ultimately voting Green, though I do see there's more than a dime's worth of difference between the GOP and Dems, and the Greens still need to work harder to prove themselves worthy of my vote. Some meaningful public campaign financing probably is also a part of the equation. Beyond that, I'm open to other suggestions.


* [Update: I can't take you directly to the page in question at Bibliomania, but this selection is from Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 11, Page 54.]

**[Update: three readers have already gotten on my case for my painting WTO protesters with such a broad brush. How 'bout I just say "the dude dressed up in a jester suit holding an anti-McDonald's sign who was at the Friedman talk I went to a couple years ago"? :-) ] 

Sunday, January 04, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.

Lost Weekend

I basically spent 3 days struggling to get my damned webcam working on the weather station up at our camp. At the last moment, I finally discovered that the issue was RealPlayer, which I had totally forgotten was installed on the PC--once I uninstalled that, I was able to successfully install the necessary USB drivers. A very frustrating few days, but now things appear to running smoothly. The old PC was really unstable, and I'm hoping this puppy will be more reliable.

[Update: I should note that it wasn't just the webcam that held things up. I also had to set up the station software on the new machine I'm using, plus get Service Packs, AV and firewall software all up to date, etc. A much longer project than I'd planned.]

In response to queries about my putting a weather bug up on the blog: I will, but haven't gotten to it yet. In the meantime, here are links to the two stations I own*:

* Fletcher, VT - just current weather conditions.
* Newark, VT - current conditions and the webcam.

Now I'm woefully behind on my book project, but I've struggled for months to fix various problems with the station, and I needed to resolve this before stuff really hits the fan at work. Oy. Anyway, a minor victory over one thing that has been hanging over me. Onward!


* For those who care, the National Weather Service uses the data I provide for their predictive modeling. The Fletcher station is officially known as KFLE, and Bald Hill is KBLD. A few local forecasters also use my webcam for reference.

[One more update: thanks to everybody for visiting and keeping the threads lively while I was AWOL. When I wasn't struggling with PC issues, I was hanging with my wife since it was her birthday weekend and everything. Blogging will still likely be light over the next couple weeks as I dig out from all the work that's on my plate, but I promise not to abandon my faithful readers completely!] 

Dem Debate

One of my favorite moments from today's debate in Iowa was when each candidate got a chance to ask another a question. While most predictably directed their questions to Dean, he asked a question of the entire field:

DEAN: I will vigorously support the nominee of the Democratic Party. And I will vigorously encourage all my supporters to do the same. I will campaign for the Democratic nominee of this party, should it not be me. And I'd like to find out who on this stage agrees that they will pledge to vigorously support the Democratic nominee.


[all candidates raised their hands]

[Moderator Paul] ANGER: Well, you're a consensus builder, Governor Dean.

Now everybody's on record, and I think Dean deftly deflated another stupid meme.


The Goring Of Dean

Cowboy Kahlil brought this lovely UPI article to my attention: Outside view: The Howard Dean implosion.

Here's one choice bit of information that supports author Rachel Marsden's thesis:

"The problem is that the Howard Dean gravy train seems to be sputtering toward the end of its track. One can only play "rotate-a-date" for so long, even if it is for a political cause. Looks like they're running out of beer keg money on the Dean campaign trail. They've dropped the fun, playful pretense and are now resorting to flat-out desperation.

On Dec. 28, Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi, sent out a mass mailing to every poor sap who happened to give the "Dean for America" folks his or her e-mail address: "We need to raise $1.5 million before midnight on December 31 so we can win Iowa. With just four days left to go, we're $1.2 million short. Please take action right now, because these are the most critical days our campaign has ever faced."

The e-mail message ends with a lovely, upbeat, "We need each other now more than ever. Stand together and do what you can do, but do something." Perhaps a "get off your arses, you lazy hippies" would have been more effective?

Oh my god, she's right! The Dean campaign, in its desperation actually sent out an e-mail to Howie's supporters asking for more money! What's that you say? The GOP sent e-mails telling me that foreigners and liberal billionaires are working to raise $400M to defeat Bush?

But still, the Dean campaign said they were $1.2M short of their goal with four whole days left to go! Clearly the wheels are flying off the Deanmobile. What's that you say? Dean subsequently shattered the quarterly contribution record he set in Q3?

Well, whatever. But how about this:

[H]e said that Bush was given a "heads up" about the 9/11 attacks by Saudi Royals. When he was asked to back up the claim, of course he couldn't.

Wow, Dean is a nut job. How could anyone claim that Bush got a "heads up" about 9/11? What's that you say? He didn't? Oh, you must be referring to his interview on the Diane Rehm show:

Diane Rehm: "Why do you think [Bush] is suppressing [the Sept. 11] report?"

Howard Dean: "I don't know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far - which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved - is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is, but the trouble is by suppressing that kind of information you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not. And eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the key information that needs to go to the Kean Commission."

(There's no transcript, but streaming audio is available, via DocBug.)

Well then, I guess Dean was right: lots of false things get repeated as fact, including the "fact" that he made unsubstantiated claims about Bush's foreknowledge of 9/11. Anyway, looks like it's not unreasonable to say that conspiracy theories develop when you stonewall a commission investigating the worst terror attack on US soil.

Okay, but he's totally out to lunch when it comes to healthcare:

Even when it comes to supposedly "left-wing" issues like healthcare, Dean doesn't seem to have a clue. One would think that, since he's a medical doctor himself, this would be the one area where Dean would really shine. However, when he spoke at a New England conference on healthcare in 2001, he suggested that Vermont's healthcare system should be used as a "national model" since 93 percent of residents (that's Dean's figure -- not that of the Census Bureau's, which says the number is significantly lower) have health insurance.

Dean went on to say, in the same speech, that Vermont's insurance program will be $50 million in the red if something isn't done. OK -- so Vermont, with a population of a little more than 600,000, represents about 0.2 percent of the entire national population. If Dean's model was a national one, covering all 50 states, then America would be about $22 billion in debt.

Completely nuts to try to cover 93% of Americans, and to go into the red to do it! Clearly Dean isn't a fiscal conservative. What's that you say? There's more to this than meets the eye?

Here's what it says in the original AP story the UPI clearly used as source

The lesson from the failure of President Clinton's plan to provide universal health insurance in 1993 is that health care can't be reformed all at once, Dean said.

He suggested Vermont be viewed as a national model, because 93.7 percent of its residents have health insurance. The state offers universal health care for children under 18, a prescription drug purchasing program and a program to move people out of nursing homes into less-expensive home health care.

Vermont's insurance program will be $50 million in the red if something isn't done, Dean said. He's thinking about raising the cigarette tax to raise revenue for health care, following Massachusetts' example.

And sure enough, Governor Dean did raise cigarette taxes to address the shortfall:

Governor Howard Dean signed legislation to increase the cigarette excise tax by $0.75 over two years. The tax rose from the current $0.44 to $0.93 in July 2002, and then to $1.13 in July 2003. Generated funds will be dedicated to health care programs for the poor and disabled. A June 2001 poll found that 71 percent of Vermont voters support a $0.67 tobacco tax increase.

But what about his clearly inflated numbers for how many Vermonters are insured? Oddly, Marsden failed to include the Census Bureau figure, so let's check out what they have to say. A 2002 report (PDF) showed that Vermont had one of the highest insured rates in the country, averaging 90.4% covered from 2000-2002. I'm not so sure that's "significantly lower" than Dean's figure, and I guess it might have been worth including in the article. Digging a little deeper, according to the AP:

87.3 percent of Vermonters had health insurance that year, which would mean the percentage of insured climbed from 87.3 percent in 1991 to 90.4 percent in 2001.

But even so, health analysts say the Census Bureau figures on health care coverage, especially from the early 1990s, are unreliable because of the small sample size used in the survey. Robert Mills, a researcher at the Census Bureau, wrote last year that this particular Census Bureau survey "is not designed primarily to collect health insurance data; it is largely a labor force survey."

Steven Kappel, a health analyst with the non-partisan Joint Fiscal Committee of the Vermont Legislature, said the Census Bureau's figures are especially suspect in small states.

Kappel said more accurate surveys show that the percentage of Vermont's insured climbed from 89 percent in 1993 to 93 percent in 1997 before dropping to 91.6 percent in 2000.

Bottom-line: these numbers are all apparently estimates, but all within a few percentage points of each other. Regardless, it seems like maybe covering a lot of people is a good idea.

Not content to let the UPI skewer Dean by itself, the AP has also gotten into the act: Dean Was Warned on Vt. Nuke Security. Sounds pretty ominous. Here's some choice info:

Presidential hopeful Howard Dean, who accuses President Bush of being weak on homeland security, was warned repeatedly as Vermont governor about security lapses at his state's nuclear power plant and was told the state was ill-prepared for a disaster at its most attractive terrorist target.
During Dean's final year in office in 2002, an audit concluded that despite a decade of repeated warnings of poor safety at Vermont Yankee, Dean's administration was poorly prepared for a nuclear disaster.

Those damn Reports of Mass Destruction! Dean was warned, WARNED, I tell you, that Vermont Yankee is a disaster waiting to happen! What's that you say? Oh, there's important stuff buried in the article:

State Auditor Ready, a Democrat and Dean backer, agreed things improved after her critical 2002 report and that security tests this year showed Vermont Yankee was safer. "Once Governor Dean got that report there was swift and thorough action," she said.
The lack of preparedness was blamed in the 2002 audit on inadequate funds. "Vermont receives the least amount of funding for its Radiological Emergency Response Plan, in total dollars, of any New England state that hosts a nuclear power plant," the audit disclosed.

What's more, here's what the NRC, who is actually responsible for nuclear security, said:

[N]o weaknesses were of such significance that they could not be dealt with promptly through compensatory measures. Vermont Yankee did establish such measures immediately, and longer-term improvements, including improved internal and external strategies and organizational improvements, were also begun. The NRC inspectors determined that the plant's security program was sound before departing the site. The NRC has also conducted subsequent reviews of the plant's security and found it to be satisfactory.

So actually, Vermont Yankee has since earned "green" ratings from the NRC.

Gee, I'm beginning to wonder if these articles are just more silly attempts to smear Dean, just like the SCLM did to Al Gore in 2000. Not so sure it will work this time.



Spirit lands:

After some seven months of interplanetary travel, NASA’s Mars rover, Spirit, has rolled to a full stop on the surface of the Red Planet.

"Sit back and enjoy the landing," said one controller as Spirit slashed through Mars' atmosphere. Ground controllers received a series of tones that showed the entry, descent and landing went by the book.

Bursts of applause broke out of mission control as the spacecraft began to feel the heat from atmospheric entry. Follow-on signals from Spirit told Earth operations that the parachute was fully deployed, with radar locking onto the Martian surface as the craft raced toward the surface.

Signals received from Spirit indicated that the spacecraft was alive on the ground and bouncing, perhaps bounding across the rocky terrain for several miles.

NASA also reported that Spirit's first task will be to rove around the Martian neighborhood, looking for Europe's lost Beagle.


Saturday, January 03, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.

Birthday Scrabble

Just got back from Stef's birthday dinner and now we're playing Scrabble (she usually kicks my ass). In between my turns I'm also trying to finish up with the weather station. There's lots of interesting stuff to blog about, and I hope to get to them soonish. And I hope to stave off Scrabble ignominy (damn, I don't have enough letters for it).


[Update: Sorry I haven't posted anything else tonight. Between Stef narrowly beating me twice in Scrabble, my dealing with the weather station, and a discussion thread elsewhere sapping my will to live, I haven't had the time/energy to actually blog.] 

Recent Polls

I grabbed some recent NH tracking poll data from ARG and made this chart of the top 3 Dems' support:

Not much movement for Clark and Dean, but Kerry's bleed out is sad to watch. While I'm a Dean supporter, would be happy to vote Clark if he's the nominee, way early on I anticipated voting for Kerry. I'm very disappointed with his disaster of a campaign and how crappy a candidate he turned out to be. I guess it's all more proof that generals and governors do make the best Presidential candidates.

There is a little bit of a silver lining:

[T]he loss of support for John Kerry has stopped. A total of 93% of all those saying they will vote for Kerry are strongly committed to Kerry.

Yay! Most of the people who are left are really behind Kerry. Well, back of the envelope calculations indicate that he might lose one more point, but that's it. Might be enough for Clark to earn a 2nd place finish, though.

Similar good news for the other 2 leading candidates, particularly Dean:

89% of all those saying they will vote for Dean are strongly committed to Dean, whereas 54% of all those saying they will vote for Clark are strongly committed to Clark.

There's been a lot of crowing over at the Clark blog about ex-Deanies getting behind the Good General. I'm not sure they're really going to get that many people switching, at least in the near future. That doesn't help Clark much with the imminent, fast-paced primary season.

One other thing to note about the ARG poll: the other Dems are at 6% or less, and Undecided is wobbly, but consistently in the high teens. It will be interesting to see how much that changes in the next couple weeks. Oh, I can't wait until we get actual voting started. I'll let Kos do all the heavy lifting with polls, but you'll see me post about them from time to time.

Another bit of polling news that you might have seen before: Bush's "post-Saddam bounce" has evaporated, so Dean is very close (most of the Dems also do well head-to-head). In November, the CNN/Time national poll had Bush leading Dean 52-40, with 8% undecided. Now it's 51/46/3--looks like the undecided voters are making up their minds and going for Dean. Pretty damn amazing this early in the game against a "popular wartime President".


[Update: I just saw this in a related thread over at Atrios:

I was just over at Ex-Deaniacs for Clark browsing through all the testimonials. There has been a recent flood of new testimonials, mine included. It is also posted to the Clark Community Network, where it was promoted to the front page (Woo Hoo!).

While reading all the stories written by Clarkies who had once been Dean supporters, I noticed that many of them regretted having contributed money to Howard Dean’s campaign. I don’t think they are aware that it is entirely proper to demand a refund from Dean's campaign.

It happens all the time. A political campaign would rather return the money than have a disgruntled former supporter bad-mouthing its fundraising. They won’t send the money back if you don’t demand it, so get on the phone.

If you have given money to Stubby Dean’s campaign and are now dissatisfied with him, call (802) 651-3200 and demand your money back. Be prepared to provide some documentary proof of your contribution, such as credit card records, cancelled check, or receipt. Be polite, but firm. If there is any resistance from the campaign about returning your money, write a press release and letters to the editor. Post it to ALL the blogs you can.

And when your refund arrives, send it to Wes Clark’s campaign!

Written by alleged ex-Deanie, politus, who has been annoying me for quite some time. I refuse to link to his blog, but I will provide the main URL for reference:

I hate this "I want my money back" attitude. This is not just about the Dean campaign. Some GOP donors were pissed at Jim Jeffords when he bolted the party and demanded their contributions back. Bullshit, I say.

A candidate is not a product, but an individual manifestation of our democratic process. You take a risk when you donate to them or vote for them. You don't like what the candidate has become? You get your "refund" by giving your support to another candidate. That's it, thanks for playing.]

Back Soon

Almost done with refurbishing the weather station at our camp. I'll blog between firetending and other duties...


Friday, January 02, 2004
Go to the new DM blog.

Call In The Fab Five

Does this shirt make me look fat?


[Update: Nobidness at Hurry Fappy Pory Stuppy Mime has a better caption: "I've just had a 24-ounce ribeye to prove that our American beef is safe and... Sweet Jesus, why am I lactating?"] 


He knows the lyrics to Outkast songs and, man, can that dude dance. - a 16-year-old Renaissance Weekend attendee on Howard Dean.

Hey, even if Dean loses in 2004, he's already won over a supporter for 2008!


Animal Blogging For The New Year

My resolution this year: to continue posting slices of the world as I see it.

If I were Tippi Hedren, I'd be nervous about all the juncos picking through the snow for seeds. Or maybe not.

I startled a big squirrel who was climbing up the deck to get at the platform feeder.

Sam discovers a new perspective for watching falling snow.



Just had a nice chat with a caller from the DNC. We agreed that the nation cannot afford another 4 more wars, er...years of Bush and that we all need to do whatever we can to defeat him (again). I observed that I am not a Democrat, but an Independent, to which she replied: well, as long as you're not a Republican! We laughed.

I declined to contribute to the party, telling her that I'm reserving my money to ensure Dean gets the nomination, but will consider giving to the party after the primary season. I also noted that I wanted the Dems to stop the sniping at each other, focus on substance and keep their collective eyes on the prize. She concurred.

This caller (sorry, I forget her name) partially redeemed the Democratic Party in my eyes. I still am not a partying kind of guy, but it's nice to be reminded that most Dems are good folk--I expect that from this blog's resident party faithful, but I don't always experience decency from Dems in other venues.

BTW, this is in great contrast to a call I got from the party a few years ago. When I told the caller I was not a Dem and don't contribute to campaigns or candidates (see how much Howard Dean changed my attitude?), he got all huffy and basically called me an idiot. I'm sure he's now working for the Kerry campaign.


More Wisdom From SSI

The conclusion of a monograph published by the Army's Strategic Studies Institute (PDF):

The global war on terrorism as presently defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military and other resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security. The United States may be able to defeat, even destroy, al-Qaeda, but it cannot rid the world of terrorism, much less evil.

Contrast to the neocons' insane worldview. Alas, the current administration has ignored a great many good papers that have been produced at the SSI, the AWC, and other military organizations, so I'm sure this contribution to the debate will make no noise where it matters most.



I'll get on the blogging thing soon.


Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

A New Move For The New Year

Our Bloggers Chess match has resumed, with Rook/Guy initiating the classic Ruy Lopez opening. Check out his New Year's Day post one day early. And somebody please tell me what I should do next!


Happy New Year!

Unclear how much blogging I'll be getting in over the next 48 hours. Check back obsessively, just in case I post something amazing.

Thanks very much for your readership in 2003 (well, the half I was blogging). Be safe and happy tonight, and I'll see you in 2004!


[Update: December was quite busy and a nice way to cap off the year:

Over 8500 visits this month! If only my retirement portfolio had a similar growth curve...]

The End Is Nigh


President George W Bush was sent a public manifesto yesterday by Washington's hawks, demanding regime change in Syria and Iran and a Cuba-style military blockade of North Korea backed by planning for a pre-emptive strike on its nuclear sites.

The manifesto, presented as a "manual for victory" in the war on terror, also calls for Saudi Arabia and France to be treated not as allies but as rivals and possibly enemies.

The manifesto is contained in a new book [An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror] by Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser and "intellectual guru" of the hardline neo-conservative movement, and David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter. They give warning of a faltering of the "will to win" in Washington.
The book demands that any talks with North Korea require the complete and immediate abandonment of its nuclear programme.

As North Korea will probably refuse such terms, the book urges a Cuba-style military blockade and overt preparations for war, including the rapid pullback of US forces from the inter-Korean border so that they move out of range of North Korean artillery.

Such steps, with luck, will prompt China to oust its nominal ally, Kim Jong-il, and install a saner regime in North Korea, the authors write.

The authoritarian rule of Syria's leader, Bashar Assad, should also be ended, encouraged by shutting oil supplies from Iraq, seizing arms he buys from Iran, and raids into Syria to hunt terrorists.

(via Atrios)

I'm sure Bush, reckless as he is, will swallow this manifesto hook, line, and mushroom cloud. Dean, on the other hand, rejects such dangerous ideas in favor of a more rational foreign policy. Once the public gets a look at the neocons' magical thinking approach to the world and Dean's vision grounded in reality, I'm optimistic that he will defeat the warmongers.


Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

It's Not Vietnam, It's Colombia

Of course I don't mean Iraq, but Afghanistan:

Two years after the U.S. dropped its first bombs over Afghanistan in President Bush’s global war against terrorism, the Taliban are reportedly regrouping in the lawless tribal region straddling the Afghan-Pakistan border...

In addition to the resurgence of the Taliban, Afghanistan has resumed harvesting massive amounts of opium and now accounts for 77 percent of global opium production according to the latest annual report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Twenty-eight out of 32 provinces in Afghanistan now produce the drug crop, up from 18 provinces in 1999. Cultivation has spread outside the traditional eastern and southern producing areas. The 3,600 tons of opium produced in Afghanistan last year was processed into 360 tons of heroin. The total revenues of poppy farmers and traffickers amounted to more than half of Afghanistan's gross domestic product of $4.4 billion. Drug money now finances local warlords and terrorists, possibly including the resurgent Taliban.

In military terms, the Taliban pose no significant threat to the 10,000 American troops based in and around Kabul. Their guerilla attacks have served only to scare away civilian aid workers and to limit foreigners to the environs of Kabul and other large cities. There is no chance that the Taliban will re-establish themselves as the rulers of any significant part of Afghanistan any time soon. But the absence of effective government and the persistence of security problems mean that an Islamist underground in Afghanistan will not be easily eliminated. The Taliban could continue to make Afghanistan ungovernable and could be serious wreckers of the planned process to build an Afghan democracy when elections are held as scheduled in 2004. Drug money would be another destabilizing factor in those elections. Afghanistan may never have been a candidate to become a new Vietnam, but it is clearly on its way to becoming a central Asian Colombia.

Thanks, Bush Doctrine!


On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're Bush's Dog

Kynn over at Shock and Awe provides the hed* and brings First Dog Barney's official blog to our attention:

I went looking in some of Daddy's old stuff.

I found a little plastic baggie! It was between the pages of that big thick book that Daddy has, but never seems ot read. I heard Mommy call it a "bye bull."

I carefully took the baggie from between the pages. There was something inside! It was a white powder.

I tore the baggie open and sniffed. Sniff sniff sniff! Hey! This is fun! Sniff sniff sniff!

Soon I had white powder all over my face!

A great dog's-eye view of life in the WH.


* Homage to the classic New Yorker cartoon.

[Update: I'm casting a vote for Barney in this week's Showcase at TTLB, if only because he's calling out Kasey the Howard Dean dog.] 

2004 Predictions

NRO has looked into its crystal ball and published predictions for 2004. Many contain some variation on the "Bush will win in a landslide" theme, along with a lot of other inanity. But why should overpaid pundits be the only ones who get to make completely wrong predictions? I'm getting in the game with my inaugural list:
You read it all here first. Any other predictions from my faithful readers?


Monday, December 29, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

But What About The Other Stuff?


The Arab dailies Asharq Al-Awsat and Al-Hayat reported Monday that Dr. Iyad Allawi told them in interviews the former Iraqi leader admitted he invested stolen Iraqi money -- which the Iraqi Governing Council estimates at $40 billion -- in Switzerland, Japan and Germany, among others, under fictitious company names.

Allawi also told the papers that Saddam is giving the "names of people who know the location of hidden arsenals used in terrorist attacks against coalition forces and the Governing Council."

Allawi is quoted saying, "Saddam Hussein's trial would not be public since he could name countries and persons whom he gave money."

Hmm...what three little letters are missing? That's right: WMD.

Well, I'd take anything coming from the IGC with a grain of salt, anyway. I'm still not entirely convinced Saddam knows much of anything about the insurgency (despite the fact that I think there was a planned guerrilla campaign). And it's interesting that Allawi says Saddam's trial would not be public. Might we also learn something about US complicity when Saddam gassed his own people?


Rocky Howard Picture Show

"That man has no neck!"


Why I'm Not A Democrat: Reasons #217 and #218

#217 from Atrios:

#218 is related, and is also from Atrios. He has a post and comment thread that really annoyed me. It's about Dean's recent statements, which are similar to what he's said in the past, about how he can't command his followers to line up and enthusiastically support another Dem candidate. Many people over at Eschaton are up in arms over that observation. I don't have time to go into it now, so just check out the thread and lemme know what you think.

Bottom-line for me: Dean is right, and all the hand-wringing is part of why I don't like parties in the first place. I'm suspicious of any group that espouses a pure faith.


Sunday, December 28, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

I Think This Is Good


Israel announced Sunday it will evacuate four settlement outposts in the West Bank and ease restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza.
The Israeli Defense Ministry said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz signed an order Sunday to evacuate four outposts in the West Bank -- Bat Eyin, Havat Shaked, Hazon David and Ginot Arieh.

I might be mistaken, but I think this is the farthest Israel has gone toward dismantling settlements. I think Sharon had made noise about doing this before, but backed down using Palestinian violence as an excuse. Unfortunately, I'm too lazy to look for sources confirming or denying that recollection right now.


My Back Hurts

The 0.6 HP NTodd snow thrower isn't working so well. I hope I didn't burn out my back shoveling the few hundred cubic feet of heavy snow in front of my garage bay. Maybe if I had no back at all...

...seems to work for Sam.

And in the interest of equal time, here's some video of Cairo engaged in one of her favorite endeavors: ripping apart the stuffing from a freshly-gutted hedgehog. At least I feel better than that poor toy!



Stef and I watched the new Battlestar Galactica last night (Dad Tivoed it for us), and I just re-watched it tonight. Wow.

I thought they did a great job paying homage to the original series, excellent job updating and expanding the vision and story. I think they even made things more realistic--still had sound in space, which always annoys me, but a lot of nice attention to detail regarding how ships in space might function, and the use of projectiles instead of energy weapons is a nice touch and even made things more dramatic.

I also dig the female Starbuck and Boomer, and even #6. Hoo yeah.


Marked Card

Over at alicublog there's a nice deconstruction of Orson Scott Card's laughable assertion that he's a Democrat:

[W]hat have we got? A guy who claims to be a Democrat, but whose main expressed belief is that Democrats are evil traitors for whom decent people should never vote.

(via StoutDemBlog.)

Why do I care what an SF writer thinks about politics? What bugs the crap out of me about Card is that he seems to claim he's a Dem just so he can sound "fair and balanced" as he takes a contrarian position against "his" party. His real purpose strikes me as merely giving wingers the opportunity to say "See, even a Democrat thinks XYZ."

I'm not a big fan of the Democratic Party (or any party), as faithful readers know, but I hate to see someone who is so clearly not a Dem say that he is. The combination of that "wolf in sheep's clothing" BS with Card's heavy reliance on strawmen and red herrings in his oft-quoted political writing is making me develop a healthy dislike of the man.


Screwing The Pooch, American Style


Strike up a conversation and the cabbies will most likely tell you what seems to have become the conventional wisdom today: not even Saddam Hussein could have screwed up this badly.

Yup, the reconstruction of Iraq proceeds according to plan. Or maybe according to the genius of our non-plan. Eh, what's the difference?

One might ask the same question about comparing Iraq and Vietnam. Robert Kaiser does a good job of answering that in today's WaPo:

"History doesn't repeat itself, at best it rhymes," Mark Twain is credited with saying. This is a wise warning. A close examination of Iraq and Vietnam quickly makes clear the limits of any analogy. There are just too many differences to justify putting these two entanglements in the same category.

But it's easy to find the rhymes...Sometimes the rhymes ring like chimes. For example:
  • Official optimism.

  • American isolation on the ground.

  • American isolation in the world.

  • The primacy of American political considerations.

Vietnam undermined the U.S. economy, nearly destroyed the U.S. Army and contributed to a generation or more of public cynicism and distrust of government. There are no grounds today for predicting consequences as grave from the war in Iraq. Indeed, a successful outcome, including a new democratic Iraq, remains possible. But the rhymes should give us pause.

This hits exactly the right note. I, for one, never have claimed Iraq and Vietnam are identical, yet I find the analogy between the conflicts to be generally instructive. Just as our own tragic chapter in Vietnam's history was presaged by France's quagmire, previous interventions can inform us with regard to our involvement in Iraq. Many proponents of the war in Iraq desperately try to dash any comparison to Vietnam, with objections ranging from the fairly reasonable (e.g., the Iraqi resistance ain't the Viet Cong) to laughable strawmen (e.g., Iraq doesn't have any jungles). All of these really miss the wider lessons of Vietnam: an indigenous force will ultimately always defeat an occupier; not even a superpower can win a war in isolation; lying to gain support for a war is a dangerous propositon.

Of course, all analogies break down at some point. Take the appeasement argument that led LBJ to increase our involvement in Southeast Asia. Johnson felt we needed to stand up to North Vietnam, lest we reward the commies for their aggression. As Jeffrey Record observes in a Air War College paper:

[T]he differences between Hitler's Germany of the 1930s and 1940s and Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam of the 1960s were so profound as to make Munich an enemy of sound judgment by the United States on Vietnam.

Munich has been invoked regarding Iraq many times by the pro-war camp, ignoring the myriad differences between Hitler and Hussein just as they ignored the obvious differences between Hitler and Ho. Not surprising, given the binary worldview that only saw inaction or war as the two options in dealing with Saddam. Casting successful containment of Iraq as "appeasement" came naturally to them.

No matter what analogy you prefer, the tragedy in Iraq continues: Iraq blasts kill 2 U.S. soldiers, 2 Iraqi children. Since Saddam Hussein was captured, A couple dozen coalition troops have been killed, and who knows how many civilians.

And lest we forget our other botched exercise in nation building: Suicide bomber kills 5 in Kabul. Only a superpower like America has the ability to invade and screw up two countries simultaneously.

I have no idea how our two quagmires will turn out, but I know this: we need to stop sticking our feet into them. Howard Dean might fall into the same traps, and will definitely create rhymes of his own, but I'm very optimistic that his foreign policy will be more reasonable than Bush's, and will offer us the best chance to avoid such pitfalls because it won't be so reckless.


[Update: I've made a few edits to fix a couple formatting things or other stuff that annoyed me.] 

Sunday Reading

Check these out:

* Over at Collective Sigh, andante has found her Rep in a deck of GOP Playing Cards.

* At Open Source Politics, Joe Taylor tells us about Hunger and How to End It.

* edwardpig is skeptical of The Ownership Society that Bush will be pushing.

* Peter at Kick the Leftist tells us about Progress in Iraq.

* At BBWW, Mustang Bobby tells us why the GOP is really afraid of Dean.

* Scout of And Then... describes the latest Bush shell game.

* "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites" sayeth Lambert at corrente.

* Steve Gilliard says it's time to take the gloves off.

* Allen Brill offers a Christmas Apology at The Right Christians.

Yup, still too lazy to provide editorial comments. Busy^3.


''U.S. Power Decides Iraq's Economic Future''


In the end, the Bush administration's decision to limit the contract bidding is important since it signifies the further erosion of current norms of world order and international law. In fact, the war began in much the same manner: foreign countries such as France and Russia that already had contracts in Iraq were told by the Bush administration that their contracts wouldn't be honored by the new U.S.-controlled Iraqi government unless these countries supported a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing a U.S. invasion.

This establishes a dangerous precedent: if a state is powerful enough, it can invade another, install a puppet government -- whether interim or permanent -- and then decide that country's economic future and structure. Indeed, Wolfowitz admitted as much, asserting, "Limited competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq and in future efforts."

Wolfowitz's statements not only acted as an attempt to dangle an economic carrot in front of the world's eyes, but also foreshadowed possible U.S. interventions in the future that would be undertaken using similar methods, without the involvement of the United Nations or other international bodies.

In the Bush Doctrine we trust, all others pay cash.


Blogging Resumes Soon

Okay, got the damn weather station PC working, and I'll get to some blogging soon. It's going to be light over the next several days because I need to: dig out my garage (damn nationwide snow thrower shortage), finish my damn book project (I got an extension), hang out with a couple important boys (nephews of a friend of mine from way back), spend New Year's with my best friends from college (and their spouses), and celebrate Stef's birthday (she already got an early vaporware present: a promise of an iPod, which we tried to buy at Circuit City yesterday only to discover there's a nationwide shortage). Whew!


Saturday, December 27, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


I just spent a couple hours troubleshooting an old computer that I use for a weather station--I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say, things are not working as expected, so now I'm just surly and have no interest in blogging.


Throwing Snow

Stef and I are going to get a snow thrower today, if we can find one. Home Despot only has really small ones or big 11 HP models in stock--all the midranges are gone. Given the size of the snow berm in front of my garage bay right now, that might be required. Anyway, we're going to enjoy a beautiful day and get a little shopping in as well. Back in a few hours.


Friday, December 26, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Agnew Lives

Okay, Atrios and Kos already have covered this, but...:

President Bush's campaign has settled on a plan to run against Howard Dean that would portray him as reckless, angry and pessimistic...

Yeah, that seems like a winning strategery. As I noted over at Eschaton, here are some words from Dean's recent foreign policy speech:

I believe that, with new leadership, and strengthened partnerships, America can turn around the situation in the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf. I believe we can defeat terrorism and advance peace and progress. I believe these things because I believe in America's promise. I believe in our capacity to come together as a people, and to act in the world with confidence, guided by our highest aspirations.

Does that sound like the words of a nattering nabob of negativism? Given the great damage Bush has wrought, this strikes me as the height of optimism.


Cat Blogging Coincidentally On Friday

As faithful readers know, I cat blog whenever I damn well feel like it, so I don't owe Kevin Drum any royalties for FCB.

Christmas Day Truce is now over, and Saffron defends her favorite haunt: my laptop case.

The soon-to-be-emasculated Sam quickly became distracted with some ribbon over by the dining room table.


[Update: special dog blogging addition:

This is for Jesse (and I guess Jeff, too, amongst others).]

Peace And Protest

Just got word of a new peace website set up by Mike Palecek in an e-mail:

Mike Palecek is an Iowa author, former federal prisoner for peace, seminarian, and newspaper reporter. He was the Iowa Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. House, 5th District, 2000 election.

Check it out!


Blogroll Addition

Our very own tinheart has a blog, Green Voicemail, and you must read it.


Post NODWISH Blogaround


* Lawrence of Cyberia covers the latest insanity from the IDF regarding conscientious objectors: "The Worst Of Criminals".

* Steve Gilliard has more than A few words about gun control.

* Stradiotto commits Heresy!

* Rook has a conversation going about his prediction that the GOP convention is going to be ugly.

* The Politburo Diktat has an interesting suggestion for finding Osama bin Missing.


Christmas in Baghdad...

Baghdad Burning:

Explosions and bombing almost all day yesterday and deep into the night. At some points it gets hard to tell who is bombing who? Resistance or Americans? Tanks or mortars? Cluster bombs or IEDs? Nothing on the see the reports on CNN, Abu Dhabi, and Al-Arabia you'd think there was nothing going on in Baghdad beyond the usual thumps and thuds. Yesterday was *very* unusual. Embassies, mines, residential areas and the Green Zone… and the sirens. I hate the sirens. I can stand the explosions, the rattling windows, the slamming doors, the planes, the helicopters… but I feel like my heart is wailing when I hear the sirens.

The explosions haven't really put anyone in a very festive spirit...
This year, the Christmas service was early and many people didn't go because they either didn't have gasoline, or just didn't feel safe driving around Baghdad in the evening. Many of them also couldn't join their families because of the security situation. Abu Josef's family have aunts and uncles in a little village north of Mosul. Every year, the extended relatives come down and stay in their house for a week to celebrate Christmas and New Year. This year they've decided to stay in their village because it just isn't safe to leave their home and head for Baghdad.

At one point during the evening, the house was dark and there was no electricity. We sat, gathered around on the ground, eating date-balls and watching Abu Josef's dog chew on the lowest branch of the tree. The living room was lit by the warm light radiating from the kerosene heater and a few Christmas candles set on the coffee table. Abu Josef's phone suddenly rang shrilly and Abu Josef ran to pick it up. It was his brother in Toronto and it was the perfect Christmas gift because it was the first time Abu Josef got an overseas call since the war- we were all amazed.


Thursday, December 25, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Happy Tree Friends

OMG, this is some disgustingly funny animation (via Blah3). My wife says I'm a bad Quaker for enjoying stuff like this, but I call it catharsis.



My folks left a little while ago after a very nice dinner and gift exchange. The animals are all zonked, having spent an exciting day ripping paper to shreds and chasing ribbons. A couple inches of fresh snow with more white stuff falling (8 inches by tomorrow, we're told), wonderful NODWISH music on VPR, flickering candles, a warm house, a full belly...a good day. Time for some good liberal guilt for being so lucky.


An Orange Christmas

Our Merry Orange Alert on this Christian holiday reminded me of something that most Christian of all Christians, Ann Coulter, said about Muslims right after 9/11:

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

And that reminded me of one of my favorite songs from South Park, Merry F'ing Christmas1 (lyrics, mp3):

I heard there is no Christmas,
In the silly Middle East...
No Trees, no Snow, no Santa Claus,
They have Different Religious beliefs...
They Believe in Muhammad,
And not in our Holiday...
And so every December,
I go to the Middle East and say...

Hey there Mr Muslim, Merry F'ing Christmas
Put down that book 'The Koran'
and hear some holiday wishes
In case you haven't noticed,
it's Jesus's Birthday
So get off your heathen Muslim Ass
And f'ing celebrate.

Oh, that always makes me laugh.2 Does that mean I'm a bad person? And bringing it all full circle, here's a story from last week's Onion:

On almost every corner in Iraq's capital city, carolers are singing, trees are being trimmed, and shoppers are rushing home with their packages—all under the watchful eye of U.S. troops dedicated to bringing the magic of Christmas to Iraq by force.

I must be a bad person, because this makes me laugh, too.3 A thought occurs: maybe Ann Coulter was just engaging in satire back in 2001? Hmm...


1 - Yes, I did some censoring. Guess which word.

2 - On a serious note, read this paper about addressing root causes.

3 - On another serious note, let's not forget that our soldiers are spending Christmas far from home: Troops kick off Christmas festivities in Saddam's former base. Come home soon.

[Update: realized I hadn't linked to Ann's article. Oversight corrected.] 

All I Want For NODWISH

A new preznit.

My folks gave me what I wanted for NODWISH: a donation to the Dean campaign.


PS--WaPo has a piece on web-based fundraising. Guess who gets most of the ink? 

X-mas Present From The Court: Cleaner Air


A federal appeals court on Wednesday at least temporarily blocked a Bush administration rule, due to take effect on Friday, that would have relaxed existing regulations and so allowed hundreds of aging power and industrial plants to make upgrades without installing modern pollution controls.

The order, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, indicates that the court has substantial doubt about the White House's claims that it has authority to modify the Clean Air Act by regulation and that its changes would not hurt the environment.
The ruling on Wednesday essentially places a burden on the administration to justify a regulatory change that it has been unable to accomplish through the legislative process...
When [the Clean Air Act] was enacted, it exempted from its requirements for modern, expensive pollution controls those plants that were already in operation. Lawmakers assumed that these "grandfathered" plants would be replaced over time by new ones.

Instead of building new plants, though, some utilities upgraded the existing ones, avoiding the costs of the emissions controls while adding to capacity, and to pollution.

In response, Congress modified the law, requiring that upgrades were to be considered "new sources" of pollution and thus subject to the control requirements. Industry subsequently objected that what environmentalists and government frequently considered upgrades were in fact nothing more than routine maintenance, which the requirements did not cover.

The battle has raged ever since...

Ah, the sweet smell of victory. Well, the battle ain't over yet, but we can breathe a bit easier this holiday. Have a merry...


Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Account Of A Visit From St. Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
except for Sam (and the mice in the basement)...

Blogging will be light tomorrow, as will be the traffic, I suspect. If you're celebrating X-mas (or even if you're not), have a safe and happy day.

And now I have to go to bed: Santa's almost here!



We made the annual pilgrimage to the light show at the old lady's house in Fairfax, about 6 miles from us (I should note that we pass by the house any time we go into town, and we try to stop to check out the display and chat with the folks). Her granddaughter gave us the tour this year, and as usual there were some new decorations added to the spectacle. Here's a sampling:

A panorama of the front yard. This is not the whole yard, but maybe only 30 feet less than the entire length.

An example of one of the windows on the house front. There are a total of 85 of these dolls throughout the display. Up from about 75 last year.

The Big Guy himself--a new addition since last year. He dances and sings "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." I didn't take any video.

There's more in the backyard, but I didn't shoot any pics. It's an awesome mixture of the sacred and profane, er...secular, with a certain method to the zoning. Many of the decorations are animated, and some play music, so there's a soundtrack as you walk the paths around the path.

They started putting the decorations up in July this year. In past years tour buses have come to see the sight, and there's been TV coverage--this year things have been a little more low key. The lights are on until 10PM each night, and they'll be shut down this Sunday, when the chore of tearing everything down begins.


HaloScan Back Online

I'll be taking the BlogSpeak comments down shortly. In the meantime, use the HaloScan link (the first one, not the one that says "Temp Comments") to leave comments. I'll move the stuff left in BlogSpeak over to HS so it will be easier to follow the split threads.

BlogSpeak comments moved to HaloScan (it's ugly, but they're there for continuity). BlogSpeak has been removed.


Merry Christmas From Nader


Ralph Nader, whose 2000 campaign many Democrats believe cost former vice president Al Gore the presidency, has decided not to run for president next year as the candidate of the Green Party but is still contemplating a presidential race as an independent, a Nader associate said yesterday.

Well, one major victory in convincing Ralph "Ego" Nader not to run as a Green (I think the party itself wasn't too sure they wanted him). I doubt an indy run will be as scary, but I sure would like him to stay out altogether.

I hear tell the Greens are considering putting up a candidate in "safe states" only--not sure if that's a bright idea either, but maybe it will help them build their organization with minimal risk of helping elect Bush. I like that they're at least a) thinking about the larger ramifications of a Green candidate, and b) actually focusing on building the party slowly, rather than grabbing for the brass ring right away. Shows that maybe the party is maturing.


Christmas Movies

My favorite movies at NODWISH time:

1) The Snowman - One of my favorite songs of all time is Walking in the Air--oddly enough, not the movie version as much as the one from Christmas with the Pops (I also like George Wintson's).

2) A Christmas Story - While I never wanted an Official Red Ryder carbine action BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time, Ralphie's quest reminds me of my own myriad childhood Christmas obsessions.

3) It's a Wonderful Life - Donna Reed. Nuff said.

4) A Charlie Brown Christmas - Linus is my hero. Charlie Brown's pathetic tree, the true meaning of Christmas, and all that jazz.

5) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - I've always felt like I belonged on the Isle of Misfit Toys. "Eat, Papa, Eat!"

Watching these shows always puts me in the NODWISH spirit. What are your quintessential holiday movies?


[Update: I was lazy and just copied 5 BlogSpeak comments into a single post in HaloScan. Hopefully it's not too much a pain in the ass to read. And c'mon, people! What are your favorite NODWISH movies? What, are you, like, interacting with family or something? That reminds me, Stef wants me to vacuum--my folks are coming over tomorrow.] 

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Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards

A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.

Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.

For more about me, go to You can also e-mail me at

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