Thursday, August 31, 2006

Side Effects of Overzealous "Diversity"

Sacrificing truth on the altar of diversity

By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist | August 30, 2006

YOU'RE A publisher of children's textbooks, and you have a problem. Your diversity guidelines -- quotas in all but name -- require you to include pictures of disabled children in your elementary and high school texts, but it isn't easy to find handicapped children who are willing and able to pose for a photographer. Kids confined to wheelchairs often suffer from afflictions that affect their appearance, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. How can you meet your quota of disability images if you don't have disabled models who are suitably photogenic?

Well, you can always do what Houghton Mifflin does. The well-known textbook publisher keeps a wheelchair on hand as a prop and hires able-bodied children from a modeling agency to pose in it. It keeps colorful pairs of crutches on hand, too -- in case a child model turns out to be the wrong size for the wheelchair.

Houghton Mifflin's ploy was recently described by reporter Daniel Golden in a Wall Street Journal story on the lengths to which publishers go to get images of minorities and the disabled into grade-school textbooks. A Houghton Mifflin spokesman claimed that able-bodied models are presented as handicapped only as a last resort. But according to one of the company's regular photographers, the deception is the norm. At least three-fourths of the children portrayed as disabled in Houghton Mifflin textbooks actually aren't, she told Golden. In fact, publishers have to keep track of all the models they use for such pictures, so that a child posing as disabled in one chapter isn't shown running or climbing a tree in another.

Faked photos of handicapped kids are just one of the ways in which truth is sacrificed on the altar of diversity. The cofounder of PhotoEdit Inc., a commercial archive that specializes in pictures of what it calls ``ethnic and minority people in all walks of life," advises publishers that images of Chicanos can be passed off as American Indians from the Southwest, because they ``look very similar." Similarly, Golden notes, a textbook photographer tells clients that since the ``facial features" of some Asians resemble Indians from Mexico, ``there are some times where you can flip-flop."

Yet pictures of authentic Hispanics who happen to have blond hair or blue eyes don't count toward the Hispanic quota ``because their background would not be apparent to readers." In other words, rather than expose schoolchildren to the fact that ``Hispanic" is an artificial classification that encompasses people of every color, publishers promote the fiction that all Hispanics look the same -- and that looks, not language or lineage, are the essence of Hispanic identity.

Some images are banned from textbooks because they are deemed stereotypical or offensive. For example, McGraw-Hill's guidelines specify that Asians not be portrayed wearing glasses or as intellectuals and that publishers avoid showing Mexican men in ponchos or sombreros. ``One major publisher vetoed a photo of a barefoot child in an African village," Golden writes, ``on the grounds that the lack of footwear reinforced the stereotype of poverty on that continent." Grinding poverty is in fact a daily reality for hundreds of millions of Africans. But when reality conflicts with political correctness, reality gets the boot.

So, on occasion, does historical perspective, as for example when a McGraw-Hill US history text devoted a profile and photograph to Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot -- but neglected even to mention Wilbur and Orville Wright. ``A company spokesman," the Journal reports dryly, ``said the brothers had been left out inadvertently."

It isn't only when it comes to texts that diversity has led to dishonesty, or even to the manipulation of photos. In 2000, the University of Wisconsin at Madison featured a group of students cheering at a football game on the cover of its admissions brochure. One of those students was Diallo Shabazz, a black senior who hadn't been at the game. University officials, desperately wanting the new publication to reflect a diverse student body, had lifted Diallo's image from somewhere else and digitally inserted it into the football shot. ``Our intentions were good," Madison's director of university publications said when the deception was exposed, ``but our methods were bad."

But the ``good" intentions of the diversity crusaders cannot be separated from bad methods they resort to, whether those methods involve racial quotas in admissions and hiring, the assignment of schoolchildren on the basis of color, or photographic fakery that puts healthy kids in wheelchairs. By reducing ``diversity" to something as shallow and meaningless as appearance, they reinforce the most dehumanizing stereotypes of all -- those that treat people first and foremost as members of racial, ethnic, or social groups. Far from acknowledging the genuine complexity and variety of human life, the diversity dogmatists deny it. Is it any wonder that their methods so often lead to unhappy and unhealthy results?

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

A blog post at DPreview offers an interesting insight to the issue:

I'm not sure I understand what the problem is. It appears the columnist is talking about pictures that the textbook publishers are commissioning specifically for publication in their textbooks, using professional photographers, models, etc. It seems to me that such a picture is an illustration, not an editorial or news picture.

If the pictures he's talking about purport to be of actual events, then the problem of fakery goes well beyond able-bodied children in wheelchairs. After all, if models are being used at all, then the entire picture is "fake," so to speak. But I suspect that the pictures in question are simply illustrative--the columnist is not completely clear on this.

So what if the model in the wheelchair is actually able-bodied? How is that any different than photographing a model in a fancy car that he doesn't actually own? Or photographing a model about to skydive from a plane when he won't actually jump? How is the able-bodied child in the wheelchair any different from anything else that was staged in the photograph, including every single other model in the shot?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bush Administration - All Hat, No Cattle

Well said.


Deadbeat Governance

Those who hate government and governing should never, under any circumstances, be placed in positions of power. Or, put another way, Republicans have a wonderful way of telling everyone that government doesn't work, only to prove it once they get elected. Since President Bush took office, there hasn't been a single disaster, scandal or embarrassment that hasn't had either his or his party's fingerprints all over it. This mess we're in both at home and abroad? Republicans own it.

This week, naturally, it's easy for our thoughts to gravitate toward the Gulf Coast, an entire region of our country left in ruin thanks not only to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but also to deadbeat governance. So when you hear the president say things like, "And so I've come back on this anniversary to thank you for your courage, and to let you know the federal government stands with you still", you're left shaking your head. Still? Only a president representing a party looking to escape electoral disaster this fall would have the nerve to so callously insult disaster victims.

Let me illustrate the notion of deadbeat governance, a concept both practiced and perfected by the Republican Party. Deadbeat governance is the refuge of headstrong, incompetent amateurs who, in Texan terms, are all hat, no cattle. Deadbeat governance is the result of appearance-is-everything leaders whose policies wholly lack substance. Deadbeat governance is the return of buck passing to the Oval Office, a special brand of blame shifting designed specifically to shield top officials from the heat their wrong-headed initiatives produce. Deadbeat governance is governance by photo op, by the surprise visit, by looking back without actually having done anything. In short, the entire Bush presidency.

Think about Hurricane Katrina. What, to you, will be the lasting images burned into our collective memory thanks to this tragedy? They won't, to me, be of presidential leadership. No, they'll be of the president playing guitar while thousands died and millions were left abandoned. They'll be of the president lying to the American people by saying, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." They'll be of the president claiming, despite grave warnings of impending disaster and the fact that he didn't ask a single question during his final briefing, that the government was "fully prepared".

What's more, I'll remember Bush spending more time discussing Iraq than the approaching storm. I'll remember Condoleeza Rice buying shoes while thousands died. I'll remember our government refusing foreign aid while Republicans discussed abandoning the area and blamed the victims for their plight. I'll remember the lies, the media outrage, the claims to rebuild Trent Lott's house. And I'll remember when "genocide" became a word no longer spoken in a foreign tongue.

Days late. Billions of dollars short. Why? Because this president and his administration can't be bothered with the actual, on-the-ground details of what it will take to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Just like they couldn't be bothered with anything in Iraq past "Mission Accomplished" and "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." Just like they hide behind excuses for inaction with matters as economically influential as gas prices.

There's a pattern here. First, there's an administration screw-up. Often, sadly, of massive proportions. Then, someone else gets blamed for what went wrong. Instead of fixing the problem, the administration will fly over it, stage photo ops in the midst of it and make empty promises after it. Months, if not years, after the fact, the president will swoop in for a massive public relations push, just like an absentee father stays in touch by sending his children half-hearted birthday and Christmas cards and, if they're lucky, stops by their graduations.

So when I hear the president tell those victimized by disasters both natural and unnatural that he understands their plight and that "Some of the hardest work is still ahead", I'm not so much inspired as I am reminded that deadbeat governance isn't necessarily an outcome as it is a deliberate strategy. After all, it was a Republican, Grover Norquist, who once said, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Thanks to his party's deadbeat governance and his president's criminal neglect, the only logical response to Norquist's statement is this: Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Quote of the Day

How to think of a new way to photograph Oprah for each issue of her magazine:


Hey, don't get me wrong. I like Oprah. But after about 6 months of choosing photos of her for the every single cover of that magazine, I would begin to feel an itch on the roof of my mouth that only the cold steel of a gun barrel could scratch.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Media Solves the JBR Case... Again!

Except that they didn't. Again.

Yahoo News

Colorado not to charge Karr in JonBenet case

By Dan Whitcomb1 hour, 31 minutes ago

Colorado prosecutors said on Monday they would not charge schoolteacher John Mark Karr with the murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey because tests showed his DNA did not match DNA found in her underwear.

The decision by Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy to drop her arrest warrant against the 41-year-old school teacher was made public about an hour before he had been due for his first Colorado court appearance.

That hearing was canceled.



"Wherefore no evidence has been developed other than his own repeated admissions to place Mr. Karr at the scene of the crime, and in particular because his DNA does not match that found in the victim's blood in her underwear, the people would not be able to establish that Mr. Karr committed this crime despite his repeated insistence that he did," the filing said.


So what we have here is one attention-craven individual being exhaulted exhaulted as "GUILTY!" by thousands of other attention-craven individuals.

Do you think the first ACI will have learned any lessons from this? Probably not. But he did get a free plane trip.

Do you think the second group of ACIs will have learned any lessons?

Nah, after all, they made millions in these short days selling everything from bikinni wax to mortgage loans. Sure, they'll stare at their belly-buttons and issue self-doubt as long as they think that will hold the ratings up... or until something else bleeds.

Welcome to the present Fourth Estate. How could even Paris Hilton not make it worse?

A more lucid approach by Bob Geiger:

Media's Embarrassing Treatment of Ramsey Case Reaches Its Apex

There should be a lot of very red faces in newsrooms all over the United States right about now -- there should be, but I doubt there will be.

As many legal experts had theorized might happen, Boulder, Colorado prosecutors today dropped their case against John Mark Karr in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey. It appears that a DNA sample taken from Karr simply does not match DNA from JonBenet Ramsey's body, making it likely that Karr was just an attention-seeker trying to get a quick 15 minutes of fame and dupe a scandal-hungry media into playing along.

Mission accomplished.

It remains unclear whether Karr will be released or extradited to California to face child pornography charges there.

Samples of Karr's DNA had been taken upon his arrival in Boulder on Thursday and they were tested at the Denver Police Department's crime lab over the weekend. Despite his insistence that he killed Ramsey -- and the 10-day media frenzy that has followed -- the tests have failed to put him at the scene of the crime and he may be released entirely by the end of the week.

What is amazing to me is the media circus that has followed this "case" for almost two weeks now without really a shred of proof that anything had truly developed in the 10-year-old mystery. And we're not just talking about an informational mention on page six or seven of the local newspaper, or a 90-second story buried in the second half of a one-hour newscast.

We're talking about hour upon hour of coverage, with some cable news networks devoting the entire hour of a 60-minute newscast to a developing story that could very well have turned out to be a lot of noise about nothing. We're talking about alleged journalists and editors whose judgment made them decide that John Mark Karr's plane ride from Thailand to the United States, where he sat, who he talked to, what he ate and even what procedure was used to allow him to use the bathroom was their very top story.

All of this without the most basic elements of proof that freshman journalism students taking Reporting 100 are taught to look for.


And this giant waste of time and resources, occurred at the expense of real news affecting real lives: A major crisis in the Middle East, a civil war in Iraq that's killing an average of 100 Iraqis a day and with our troops stuck smack-dab in the middle of it. We have a major portion of our population without the means to get a simple medical check-up because they have no health insurance, more Americans in poverty, a devastating budget deficit and hurricane season upon us with FEMA in no better shape than it was a year ago when it bungled Hurricane Katrina.

Oh, and those people whose lives were sidelined by Katrina a year ago, tomorrow? Most of them still haven't received any help.

But none of that -- not one bit of it -- was more important to the corporate media over the last 10 days than a specious confession, to a murder long ago and with very little in the way of proof to go along with it.

We should read, see and hear some major mea culpas across every spectrum of the American media for wasting everyone's time over the last two weeks and, if there's a price to pay for total journalistic incompetence, more than a few editors should be fired. That should happen -- but it won't.

The best we can hope for is that the media will take a good, long, collective look in the mirror and hopefully feel some shame over what buffoons they have been over this non-story and how much they have let the American people down.

I'm sure a few will feel that guilt -- at least until the next blonde chick goes missing in the Caribbean.

Dangers of the Concentration of Wealth

Interesting pontifications regarding the concentraion of wealth:

Simply Left Behind

I had a chance to do a little thinking this morning in the bathroom....

I've read recently complaints on the left that Bush is an imperialist, that 9/11 was an attempt to grab power for himself and to create an American empire.

Bush is not responsible for setting up an American Empire, anymore than Clinton, or Bush I or Reagan, or Kennedy, or even Roosevelt.

History demonstrates that all democracies and republics evolve to empires. That's a simple fact, because democratic forms of government cannot possibly compete with the twin factors of the gathering of material wealth and it's concomitant, power.

Democratic power, by defintion, is diffused. I cannot gather a big enough bloc of votes without appealing to a large number of people.

On the other hand, wealth, with its aggregation in the hands of the few or even the one, can garner massive power that does not require a consensus. It merely requires an opinion in order to be deployed.

Ergo, when viewing history thru the lens of power, we see that wealth inevitably trumps cooperation.

We've seen it already in this country for centuries, literally almost from the beginning, but let's look at the latter half of the twentieth century for relevance:

Democratic power is best exercised when law and precedent are revered above any other "social god", for want of a better turn of phrase (and I'm just back from vacation, so taht's the best you're getting!). Washington got it correct when he went out of his way to ensure that his custom and precedent was something that was fair and equitable to all. Like only standing for election twice.

So here comes FDR, a savior of the nation, arguably the greatest President ever, to demolish that institution at the altar of personality.

Similarly, we've seen the brick-by-brick devolution of our personal freedoms, most recently in the Patriot Act, but also in the actions of previous presidents in the so-called "war on drugs", whereby the Fourth and Fifth Amendments have been greatly challenged and the SCOTUS has agreed they needed trimming.

The First Amendment is in danger of collapsing under the weight of public opinion, goaded on by the petty, small-minded administration currently in power, but the fatal blow was dealt by the Reagan FCC when it removed the Fairness Doctrine and when the 1996 Telecommunications Act greatly increased the concentration of media ownership.

Similarly, an huge blow to personal freedom was dealt by the Supremes themselves when they determined that corporations had precisely equal rights to natural born persons (I think this was in the Ford administration, but someone correct me if I'm wrong). Couple that to the fact that corporations already had rights far exceeding those of natural born persons (the right to socialize losses but privatize income, for example) and you can see that the dangerous combination of material wealth and power were mixing.

And we've already seen the beginnings of the coalescence of power into pools based on families: The Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Bushes. And now, the Clintons are poised to join the plutocracy.

There are examples of how a country evolves from a democracy to an empire, but the obvious choice is Rome (and here, I highly recommend reading "Rubicon").

Right now, all we have standing between us and an empire is the rule of law. All it takes is for one person to decide he is above the law (and as recent Presidencies indicate, that's not hard) and that's the ballgame, Charlie. Sadly, I don't see a way to reverse or even stop this trend from happening.

Katrina Anniversary: The Blame Game

Well put.

TPM Cafe

Another Round of the "Blame Game"
By Boyd Blundell

On of the most noxious of the federal talking points after Katrina last year was that they weren't going to play the "blame game." Of course administration defenders were playing it vigorously, which is important to note, because if the "blame game" had not been played, things would have been much worse for the administration than they ended up being (which is in fact pretty bad). The reason it was a success is that it gave Bush's true believers something to hang their hat on if they didn't want to criticize the administration.

But all this is to misunderestimate the scope of what happened here, and how predictable it was. You could prove decisively that Nagin was an incompetent idiot and Blanco was clueless and uncooperative, and still do nothing to mitigate the "blame" due the federal government.

The threat presented by Katrina, which it managed to deliver on despite barely grazing New Orelans, had been considered long in advance. It ranked alongside nuclear bombs and bio-terror threats as one of the worst catastrophes possible. This was not a secret.

So the question is not whether the city of New Orleans or the state of Lousisana acted well or poorly, but rather how much the quality of their reaction matters given the scope of the disaster. Remember we are not talking about a few square blocks of destruction, where the resources of the rest of the city can be brought to bear on the problem. We are talking about donzens of square miles of devastation, which complely obliterates the whole command and control structure.

So pile on Nagin if you must. I have no particular interest in defending him. He's energetic and fairly honest, but is completely overmatched by his job. But it should be noted that the evacuation of New Orleans before Katrina was among the (if not the) most successful urban evacuations ever. The lessons of Ivan were learned, and contraflow performed admirably. While the mandatory evacuation was ordered Sunday, the rhetoric of evacuation was ramped up on Thurday and Friday. New Orleans does not have the resources to plan a perfect evacuation, or good post-storm care. Everyone knew this too.

(Horrifying thought of the day: The 17th st and London canal levees failed well below their design specs. The level at which they seem to have failed could conceivably have been achieved by tropical storm Cindy in July of 2005. Everyone would have been in the city. Potential six digit death tolls. And you saw FEMA perform with maximum warning -- imagine if they were taken by surprise.)

Or pile on Blanco if you must. This is harder, because she did in fact declare a state of emergency on the 26th and requested a federal declaration on the 27th. She, unlike senior federal officials, cancelled her out of town plans, and generally seemed more cognizant of the scope of the impending disaster than Bush and Nagin put together. But whatever Blanco's competence, she did not do a lot to inspire confidence in her consituents. She didn't look decisive, and that's part of the job.

But let's pretend that both Nagin and Blanco performed beautifully throughout the whole thing. Let'e pretend (and this is hard) that Nagin made all the right calls, ordered the mandatory evacuation at the proper time, and marshalled all of New Orelans' meager resources in preparing for disaster. Let's further pretend that Blanco was a model of foresight and was ready to be the grease that helped the enitre disaster machine run smoothly, cooperating fully with both Nagin and Bush. The only thing that stays the same in this scenario is the federal response.

New Orleans is still completely screwed.

If the mayor and governor had been perfect, the ice still would have been sent to Boston, the necessary resources would not have been pre-positioned, Bush would have stayed on vacation, interrupting it only to to photo-ops with McCain and country music stars, and Broderick would still have made life and death decisions based on CNN's coverage of drinking in the French Quarter while ignoring the 700 emails that described the catastrophic flooding.

For the people of New Orleans and Louisiana to hold Blanco and Nagin responsible for their failures is not difficult or even unwarranted. But when the rest of the country starts piling on as well, it misses the point by over-valuing the the mayor and governor's importance in the whole scenario. It would be like blaming a few officers for the comprehensive disaster in Iraq. (And who would be craven enough to do that?)

If we fail to keep our collective eyes on the federal ball here, we are missing one of the reasons why we should care about this more than we apparently do. (Others are enumerated here.) The Department of Homeland Securty, the ultimate architect of this abject failure, is still in charge of FEMA. And FEMA is not a fixed-venue performance; it is a travelling road show that could soon be coming to a city near you. And when they screw it up again, they're going to blame you.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Best Example of Free Trade?

Bush touts "free trade" as the reason Harley-Davidson is doing so well. Actually, it was the protectionism that allowed Harley to flourish amidst heavy Japanese competition:

From "Economist's View"

... Let's play dress-up! -- but we need an excuse. How about we say it's to tout the merits of free trade? Yeah, that's the ticket:

Free-Trade Ain't What It Used to Be, by Dean Baker: USA Today had a great story about President Bush's visit to a Harley-Davidson factor in York, Pennsylvania to tout the merits of "free-trade." The reason why the story was so great is that the plant is in fact a testament to the effective use of protectionist policies to sustain a favored industry.

Don't take my word for it, here's the beginning of a 1983 article in the New York Times describing President Reagan's decision to impose tariffs on imported motorcycles:

In an unusually strong protectionist action, President Reagan today ordered a tenfold increase in tariffs for imported heavyweight motorcycles.

The impact of Mr. Reagan's action, which followed the unanimous recommendation of his trade advisers, is effectively limited to Japanese manufacturers, which dominate every sector of the American motorcycle market.
The action was exceptional for protecting a single American company, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company of Milwaukee, the sole surviving American maker of motorcycles ("U.S. Raises Tariff for Motorcycles," 4-2-83:A1).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What Bush Has Done Right II

On further thought, Bush has actually pursued two main objectives:

- Insure that fear of terrorism continues so as to be a recurring element at every election cycle.

- Insure that a hot war is active during his entire administration. This enables him to claim status as a "war president". This is used as a cudgel against anyone who tries to criticize him.

These two items he has used repeatedly against his critics and to encourage the masses to vote for him and his party.

This explains his lack of enthusiasm in capturing Bin Laden. It also neatly explains his half-hearted war effort. The lack of sufficient numbers of men and equipment may be an effort to hobble the effort and draw it out. A war that is won and over before his presidency would not serve the purpose of silencing his critics.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The 5 Stages of Bubbles

Billmon points out about bubbles:

Working from a schematic first developed by the late financial economist Hyman Minsky, Kindleberger described the idealized bubble thusly:

* Displacement: Some sort of exogenous shock -- such as the huge drop in interest rates in the early '00s -- gets the speculative juices flowing.

* Credit expansion: Lenders hustle to get in on the action, feeding more liquidity into the market, creating a self-sustaining loop of price increases, which leads to:

* Euphoria: (Minsky, following Adam Smith, called it "overtrading.") Since expectations are adaptive, not rational, a prolonged period of rising prices creates a growing consensus that the boom will never end. Clever writers and hack economists like Jim Glassman and Kevin Hassett, hustle to develop new wave theories showing why this must be true.

* Distress: As price gains slow or plateau (there are only so many fools in the world with money to wager) it begins to dawn on the crowd -- always slowly, never at once -- that the boom will NOT last forever.

* Revulsion: (Minsky also used the term "discredit") The conviction sets in that the one thing you do not want to own, under any circumstances, is the asset in question -- the same one the Glassmans and Hassets of the world were recently predicting would grow to the sky.

When we apply this to the current housing situation (Billmon again):
It goes something like this:

1.) We're not in a bubble. Prices are just recovering from years of underappreciation.

2.) It's a bubble, but it's a sustainable bubble because the fundamentals of the market have changed in the past decade. People need to recognize this. (Note: this stage is usually recognizable by an explosion in popularity of increasingly desperate and bizarre financing options.)

3.) Yes, growth is slowing, but we think we'll navigate a soft landing. It's absurd to think that housing in [fill in area where you live] will actually lose value.

4.) This is a disaster! Somebody better step in and do something! People are losing their life savings!

5.) Buyers have learned a permanent lesson this time. Homeowners need to accept the reality that the bubble of the past five years was a one-time fluke and we'll never see it happen again.

Sounds familiar? Read the rest.

Personally, I know of areas that have *tripled* in price since 1995. A "10-20%" drop is being very optimistic, in my opinion. Heck, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage and your house *tripled* in value in 10 years and "only" dropped 10-20% you still have every reason to be *thrilled*.

Bush Trotting Out the Old Fear Horse

Courtesy of Martini Republic

Demonstrating once again that his is an administration bereft of imagination, initiatives, or answers, Bush dusted off an old, worn out campaign slogan yesterday, echoing the fear-mongering theme of his 2004 reelection:

“America is safer than it has been, yet it is not yet safe,” Bush told reporters at the National Counterterrorism Center just outside Washington.

Safer, but not yet safe. Bush sounds like a man with demented echolalia, repeating old, familiar words echoing back from years past:

“America is safer, but not yet safe.” — GW Bush, November 1, 2004

“we are safer, but not yet safe.” — Bush, October 31, 2004

“America is safer, not yet safe.” — Bush, October 25, 2004

“America is safer, but not yet safe.” — Bush, October 9, 2004

“I think we are safer today. I would say, though, we’re not yet safe” — Dick Cheney, September 17, 2004

“the actions we’ve take have made America safer, but not yet safe. ” — Bush, August 26, 2004

“Our homeland is safer, but we are not yet safe.” — Bush, July 31, 2004

Read more here.

What Bush Has Done Right

Pointing out Bush's failures and faults is easy. Ok, REAL EASY. This one's woefully out of date.

Finding the few things he's done right is also fairly easy. I believe there's a pattern in there somewhere. Bush puts time and energy into making a success of those things that are important to him. Everything else? Well... it slides.

Bush's successes:

- Pandering to Religion. e.g. Broke vacation (something he wouldn't do even for New Orleans) to return to DC and sign Terri Shiavo legislation.

- Repeated tax cuts that brought biggest benefits to the wealthy.

- Killing Social Security (ultimately failed, but not due to a lack of effort on his part).

- 2+ times increase in oil prices (benefits oil buddies?).

- Billions of dollars of federal funds to Bechtel, Halliburton in NO-BID CONTRACTS via Iraq War. (Who has ties to Halliburton?)

- Capture of Saddam Housein. ( Why not devote equal effort to capturing Bin Laden? )

What is the pattern here?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Read Treasure in Iraq

More than three years into the war, more people believe there were WMDs than when the war started: Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The most popular "explanation" for why the US has found no WMDs in Iraq is that the Iraqis simply moved the WMDs to Syria.

But what everyone is overlooking is the *real treasure*: Iraq has devised a method for developing nuclear weapons that leaves no environmental traces!

Think about that! With Iraq's nuclear technology, we could clean up all of our nuclear waste and polluted soil surrounding our nuclear development & production labs ... leaving no traces whatsoever! Forget Yucca Mountain. Find us some Iraqi nuclear waste hiders!

Great WMD coverage from

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bush Serious About Terrorism?

Andrew Sullivan

How Serious Is Bush About The War?

14 Aug 2006 10:17 am

Here's a question many pathetic Democrats won't ever ask directly. Why is Bush firing dozens of trained Arab linguists in wartime? Here's an interesting nugget from an article dealing with the success of the British intelligence agencies in uncovering the recent airplane plot:

Here you have a classic test: does president Bush care more about winning this war and protecting Americans than pandering to a bigoted anti-gay base? Every day that goes by with the ban on openly gay officers in effect is a sign of where Bush's real priorities lie. For more information on the insane policy rejected by up to 80 percent of Americans, and options on how to help, click here, and here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Torture Suggestion

I can't figure out whether I'm suprised by this or not, but Christians (tm) tend to support the idea of torture more than the general public ( read: those f*cking secular heritics).

Yes, the Peace and Love Club throws thousands of years of Jesus's teachings out the window the second some fuzzy foreigner shows up in the dock.

Yeah, no suprise.

What I find interesting is that even close relatives of mine (those I always hoped would know better) hold the simultaneously conflicting views that:

A) Japanese torture of Americans during WWII was wrong and has been detrimental to Japanese-Everyone Else relations for 60+ years. America should learn from this and not torture.

B) Torturing "terrorists" is ok.

"Terrorists" (in practice, anyway) being loosely defined as anyone the President doesn't like.

So I have a suggestion: Though the current administration didn't exactly pass science class (without a few greased palms that is) I think this whole torture ethics debate should be tested scientifically.

Let's find out, once and for all, whether Rush Limbaugh is right that torture works.
Let's collect all the folks that support torture, throw them in jail and torture the shit out of them. Let's see what kind of information we can glean from them.

Yeah, the little cruds will probably dump their National ID Numbers (SSNs) at the first knife cut, but I'm sure there's other stuff hiding in there that could prove helpful to national security. No doubt at least two of them have some ideas on how to better torture people. Let's wail on them until they give up the goods.

Sure, to be a more scientific study, we should have a control group who isn't tortured and see how much information we can glean from them in other, non-torture ways. Say, through Nigerian e-mail scams and "discount vuIagr*" (sic) ads.

Finally, for those that argue "But our President doesn't support torture. Those were a few bad apples!" - why, oh why did Bush and Cheney lobby so hard to keep torture from being made illegal?

If the "ticking A bomb in the metropolis" scenario were to actually happen I'm sure there'd be no lack of CIA types willing to sacrifice their own freedom and go to jail for torturing that hypothical mastermind that knows exactly where the bomb is. Heck, we hire entire details of guys in suits who *volunteer* to take bullets for the Pres any time of day. Why wouldn't someone be willing to spend a little jail time to save an entire city? Sounds like a true hero to me.

(New) WAR!

Nothing like a new war to perk up the 'ol ratings, eh?

I'm not suprised that the MSM has completely forsaken Iraq for the new, younger, flashier war in Lebanon/Israel - but NPR even?

Yes, for the past two days, even NPR's top-of-the-hour news re-cap has given lavish attention to the Lebonon/Israel conflict with absolutely no mention of Iraq. Death tolls, numbers of buildings bombed, numbers of civilian casualties. Iraq who?

I guess Iraq is no longer an issue, eh?

Guess there's only room for one war at a time.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Flight Suit Thoughts

Do you think it is possible that Bush spent more time in a flight-suit as president that he did during all of Vietnam?

So Tell Me Again Who We're Fighting...

Our Enemy: Declares that anyone who criticizes the leadership is against God.
Our Leadership: Declares that anyone who criticizes the leadership is unpatriotic and/or a "terrorist".

Them: Invades other countries (Saddam) on flimsy pretense.
Us: Invades Iraq looking for "WMDs".

Them: Kills innocent civilians.
Us: "Collateral Damage"

Them: Tortures just about anyone.
Us: Throws you into prison indefinitely without due process before torturing you.

Them: Causes instability in nearby nations.
Us: Runs a wreckless financial policy that could conceivably distrupt dozens of nations.

Them: Doesn't provide for the basic welfare of their citizens.
Us: Tries to kill Social Security. Katrina.

Them: Goes on national TV threatening to wipe other countries "off the map".
Us: "Axis of Evil"

Them: Dictators that run around in funny hats.
Us: Self-declares immunity from laws ("signing statements") and wears a flight jacket (occasionally the full suit).

Them: Surrounded by gangs of thugs to intimidate enemies.
Us: Swift boating.

Them: Keeps population in constant terror from due to threat of invasion (N. Korea)
Us: "Terror Alert" before last election.

Them: Answer to every problem involves violence and destruction.
Us: Supposedly built a school-house somewhere in Iraq but we can't show you a picture of it to prevent the populace from blowing it up.

Them: Dangerous loners that tend to make hasty, ill-advised decisions contrary to the desires of their neighbors.
Us: "Coalition of the Willing" consisting of Britain (so far) and a lone island in the Pacific somewhere. (We can't tell you which one else the terrorists might blow it up.)

Them: Brings only war and poverty to their country.
Us: $400B and counting...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

You Black and White. Me Shades of Grey

An interesting reader post over at Andrew Sullivan

"It's amazing that a president who claims to see the world in black and white, and good and evil, sees the question of torture as one full of gray."

It's not amazing, it's human nature.

We've always seen the evil other people do in clear terms of black-and-white, and our own evil is always lost in a fog of gray. We grant ourselves vast swaths of nuance, while demanding clarity from others. Our enemies' motives are always clear and wrong, our own always justified and right.

It’'s a story as old as time. You'll find it told in the Illiad, in the Bible, in Shakespeare and Dickens, in Mark Twain and Sinclair Lewis. Heck, you'll find it in "The Sopranos" and any sitcom.

To find this amazing you'd have to believe we are really different from our forebearers, that our own apple fell across the street from the tree. The human condition didn't change because we have better technology, technology just distracts us from ourselves more efficiently.

Just As Long as the Test Passes

I gotta get this one off my chest. This isn't the first time this has happened, but today it strikes me as an example of the zeitgeist around here.

I've been having a lot of trouble with our testbenches. Testbenches are programs created to test the chips we produce. I design (parts of) the chip and the testbench tests it to try to catch bugs I/we introduce during our design.

Me: These testbenches are driving me nuts becuase they keep failing for reasons that have nothing to do with the chip.

Test Guy: Well, if that test keeps failing, just change the design of the chip to make the test pass.

Me: Whaa? You gotta be kidding me. The whole purpose of the testbench is to make sure our released design works.

Test Guy: No, no. You don't understand. You change your design to get the testbench to work, then change it back afterwards.

Me: That suggestion is wrong on *so* many levels.

- We wouldn't be testing the released code, but different, changed code.
- What if we make a mistake in changing the code back and in the process *introduce* a bug?
- Why the hell don't we just *fix the freakin' testbench*???!?!?!?

The list goes on.

So Test Guy goes tries again to explain to me how its only temporary and a whole lot less trouble than trying to fix the testbench.

This is what I work with.

Lord help us.

Write Your Own Caption

Blown away?

Stand By Your Words

Andrew Sullivan

"America's armed forces need better equipment, better training and better pay ... A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming ... I don't have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect ... We're learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back ... to lead this nation to a responsibility era, that president himself must be responsible. So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to ... uphold the laws of our land ... I will not attack a part of this country because I want to lead the whole of it ..."

Man, this is great stuff.

Insights Into the SUV Craze

Economist's View

I would also add "sex appeal" to the reason SUVs took off. The "active lifestyle" became popular with Americans around this time as well. SUVs were seen as sexier alternatives to station wagons. After all, an SUV is just a 4WD station wagon.

But actually, I guess that explanation doesn't hold much water either. The "health craze" probably took off in the 60's and was definitely strong by the 80's.

Guess the tax breaks for SUVs (they are classed as "light trucks" and therefore offer many tax loopholes) may be another major driver of the trend.

Are We Safer Yet?

George Bush's Big Idea after 9/11 was to make Americans safer. Are we there yet?

- North Korea is testing more missiles and continuing to develop nuclear weapons.
- Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
- India now has nuclear weapons and we're helping them develop more nuclear technology.
- Pakistan was found to be the biggest distributer of nuclear technology on the planet, supplying technology to both N. Korea and Iran. (We asked them to stop.)
- Bin Laden is still at large with (apparently) no interest in persuing him.
- Afghanistan is still not stable nor purged of Taliban.
- Almost every other country is sick of Bush, Bolton, Rice and the others that they almost refuse to talk to us, let alone work with us.
- New Orleans is still in the crapper.
- Lebanon elects a radical government (Yeah, Democracy!) and picked a fight with Israel. They're now pounding the shit out of each other.
- Iraq has gotten so bad that even Don Rumsfeld is now admitting it's bad.

Are we safer yet?

Hmmm.. November's coming up. Might be time to roll out the Terror Alert system again to scare the sheep back into voting for Republicans.

Political Dish: Ouch and Ouch

02Aug06 AP

And former ABC News White House correspondent Sam Donaldson reprised his role as a relentless presidential questioner, refusing to cede his desire to find out whether Bush believes actor Mel Gibson should be forgiven for an anti-Semitic rant after a drunken driving arrest.

"You're a has-been. We don't have to answer has-been's questions," Bush shot at Donaldson.

"Better to have been a has-been than a never was," the TV man retorted.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Shell "Signing" Staged?

The first photo I saw regarding the young Israeli girls signing shells, (presumably) about to be lobbed into Lebanon:

Seems.. well, at least candid.

Now this one, from another online news source:

Same two girls. But now there looks to be a press photographer caught in the background.

Now how I had imagined this scene, a press photographer comes up on this scene, photographs it and sends it to one or more news outlets.

I wonder if the press photographer caught in the background of Pic 2 indicates that there were more than one pro photographer there, i.e. a staged event?

In the background of the first pictures, we can see two people with cameras. The guy on top of the tank and the lady in the background, both with compact cameras. In the second picture, the fuzzy guy in the background is (I'm guessing) using an SLR.

It's very possible that Pic 1 was taken by the guy in the background of Pic 2. Who took Pic 2?

SLR guy is in Pic 2. Did tank guy or camera lady of Pic 1 take pic 2? I don't *think* so. As a general rule the smaller cams tend to be point-and-shoot. These camera don't usually have the ability to create the narrow depth of field seen in Pic 2.

My guess is that there was at least two press photogs at this event. This makes me believe that this was not an impromptu thing but was an event staged for the media.