Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 12:13 pm

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 12:13 pm

Testing multiple posts from

Saturday, July 11, 2009 8:38 pm

But … but … bloggers use cuss words!

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:38 pm

This happens, and all David Brooks, house conservative for The New York Times’ op-ed page, can think to discuss in light of it is “dignity”:

BROOKS: You know, all three of us spend a lot of time covering politicians and I don’t know about you guys, but in my view, they’re all emotional freaks of one sort or another. They’re guaranteed to invade your personal space, touch you. I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time. I was like, ehh, get me out of here.


BROOKS: I can only imagine what happens to you guys.

O’DONNELL: Sorry, who was that?

BROOKS: I’m not telling you, I’m not telling you.


Note to self: If I ever become an op-ed columist for The New York Times and I attend a lunch at which a U.S. senator sitting next to me places his hand on my inner thigh under the table and leaves it there, I should 1) stab that hand with a dinner fork and 2) write my next column about the experience, naming the individual involved.

I guess that means I won’t be invited to lunches with U.S. senators any time soon, but I’ll just have to figure out a way to live with that.

Oh, please, oh, please …

I’ll grant right up front that the odds of this happening at all aren’t great and the odds of its happening to the extent that I would like it to are probably nil. But if you’re a law-and-order conservative, this bit of information about Attorney General Eric Holder should warm the cockles of your heart:

Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama’s domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. “I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president’s agenda,” he says. “But that can’t be a part of my decision.”

Do it, Eric, do it. And that prosecutor needs to follow the trail wherever it leads, to Republicans and Democrats alike, to those who carried out torture and those who ordered it and those who could have intervened but instead stood by and let it happen. Document the crimes. Prosecute the criminals. Atone for this national sin.

One other thought, about the political ramifications: Obama’s biggest political problem so far hasn’t been Republicans, although they certainly have been a problem. It has been the disappointment of his own base, who have felt let down by Obama’s failure to embrace not just their own ambitious agenda but even some issues on which Obama himself campaigned (e.g., open government).

That’s even more the case for the Democratically-controlled Congress, whose low approval ratings are directly attributable to the disappointment of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. (Moving to the left isn’t going to make Congress any more unpopular with Republicans than it already is because that would be pretty much impossible.)

In any event, this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human rights and the rule of law. It’s about ensuring that we haven’t walked, and will never walk, away from the honorable standards we set at Nuremberg.

It’s about doing the right thing. Politics be damned.

UPDATE: And while you’re at it, Mr. Attorney General …

After a mass killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war by the forces of an American-backed warlord during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Bush administration officials repeatedly discouraged efforts to investigate the episode, according to government officials and human rights organizations.

American officials had been reluctant to pursue an investigation — sought by officials from the F.B.I., the State Department, the Red Cross and human rights groups — because the warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, was on the payroll of the C.I.A. and his militia worked closely with United States Special Forces in 2001, several officials said. They said the United States also worried about undermining the American-supported government of President Hamid Karzai, in which General Dostum had served as a defense official.

“At the White House, nobody said no to an investigation, but nobody ever said yes, either,” said Pierre Prosper, the former American ambassador for war crimes issues. “The first reaction of everybody there was, ‘Oh, this is a sensitive issue; this is a touchy issue politically.’ ”


UPDATE: Here‘s part of the reason why I don’t think much will come of this.

An encouraging development, if a little late

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 7:47 pm

For once, a president doesn’t get to signing-statement his way out from under the rule of law:

The House rebuked President Obama for trying to ignore restrictions to international aid payments, voting overwhelmingly for an amendment forcing the administration to abide by its constraints.

House members approved an amendment by a 429-2 vote to have the Obama administration pressure the World Bank to strengthen labor and environmental standards and require a Treasury Department report on World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) activities. The amendment to a 2010 funding bill for the State Department and foreign operations was proposed by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), but it received broad bipartisan support.

The conditions on World Bank and IMF funding were part of the $106 billion war supplemental bill that was passed last month. Obama, in a statement made as he signed the bill, said that he would ignore the conditions.

They would “interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with international organizations and foreign governments, or by requiring consultation with the Congress prior to such negotiations or discussions,” Obama said in the signing statement.

Senior Democrats and Republicans railed against the notion that the president could ignore a law they had passed and he had signed.

“We do this not just on behalf of this institution, but on behalf of this democracy,” said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). “There’s kind of a unilateralism, an undemocratic, unreachable way about these signing statements.”

President George W. Bush had used signing statements to ignore a number of provisions in bills that he signed into law, frustrating Democrats in Congress. One Bush signing statement allowed the administration to ignore a provision banning the torture of terror detainees in situations threatening the nation’s security.

A few random thoughts:

  • I am not clear on whether the substance of the amendment passed by Congress is a good thing. But the fact that Congress is not allowing the president to carry out executive fiat via signing statement is a good thing.
  • That’s because there is no basis in the Constitution for the president to attempt to bypass the will of Congress via a signing statement. It was wrong when Bush did it. It’s wrong now.
  • Interesting how Congress rediscovers the need to keep the executive in check once there’s a Democrat in the White House but couldn’t be bothered previously.
  • A 429-2 vote is nice, but it means nothing if Congress isn’t prepared to follow up the pretty words with action. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know whether the appropriate action would be a lawsuit or holding the president in contempt of Congress or impeachment or what. But the chief executive takes an oath to uphold the law. When he violates the oath by evading the law, real-world consequences must ensue.
  • Once again, kids: This is why you don’t let the executive branch do stuff the Constitution doesn’t allow. It may mean your guy finds it easier to do things you want him to do, but 1) your guy won’t be in there forever, and 2) whoever comes after him may go further than even you are comfortable with. Best to nip it in the bud.

Friday, July 10, 2009 9:32 pm

RIP: Joseph A. Dennison

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 9:32 pm

My friend and next-door neighbor Joe Dennison died this past Friday and was laid to rest yesterday.

Joe was, quite simply, one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known. I’m not claiming he’s a saint, but if his soul ever held an ounce of malice toward anyone or anything, he kept it extremely well hidden.

Joe’s first career was as a priest. He didn’t stay with that, but I think it’s fair to say he lived his adult life as a ministry. His primary career was with the Department of Veterans Affairs, where he was a psychotherapist and manager. He helped many, many veterans over the years, primarily from the Vietnam era, and one of the thoughts I had this week was how unfair it was that Joe had to die at 65 when Robert McNamara, who was directly responsible for much of the trauma that many of Joe’s patients endured, got to live to be 93.

.When I was covering veterans’ issues for the News & Record, particularly issues pertaining to disability, he was a big help: not in a Woodward/Bernstein “Deep Throat” sense, but in the sense of having had experience with the issues I was covering and the people they affected. He helped me figure out the right questions to ask, and that was great help indeed, even when, as was frequently the case when I covered the VA, no answers would ever be forthcoming.

He understood on both basic and complex levels the toll that serving in combat can take on a human being, the damage it can do even to service members who return home without a mark on their bodies. (He talked about it a little on this blog almost four years ago. Another example here.) And the level of compassion he showed for them even in our short, casual conversations was inspiring.

I also benefited directly from his compassion and concern. Since learning earlier this year that I had taken a buyout from the N&R and was looking for a new job, he had kept an eye peeled for opportunities he thought might be up my alley, particularly at High Point University, where he was an adjunct instructor, and let me know about them. More than that, he kept a kind of running check on where my head was at, trying to make sure I didn’t get too discouraged as weeks of joblessness turned into months. That kind of kindness and concern means a lot, and it appears to have been his standard M.O. in his dealings with other people.

One other measure of Joe’s personality: My kids, who can be quite indifferent to my adult friends, loved him.

I missed his viewing Wednesday night because I had to run the kids to their grandmother’s, and I missed his funeral yesterday because of medical issues involving both a relative and myself. It couldn’t be helped, and yet I can’t help feeling that I let him down … and letting a guy like Joe down feels awful.

I am blessed to have known Joe, and I pray for his wife, Sue, and their son, Matt, as they adjust to life without Joe.

* * *

Here’s a photo tribute to Joe, and (thanks to Fred), here’s a tribute from another blogger, one who knew Joe only online and yet captured him perfectly.

It’s a boy

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:47 pm
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El Nino has returned.

Your mileage likely varies with location, but ’round here, the bigger problem is La Nina. She brings drought.

I’m no business whiz …

Filed under: Journalism — Lex @ 8:31 pm
Tags: ,

… so maybe I’m missing something obvious, but if The New York Times Co., which does not charge for content on its newspaper Web sites, is taking in $237 million a year in online revenue from its newspaper sites alone, then why can’t it do … well, pretty much whatever it wants, news-wise?

Because even as labor- and resource-intensive as journalism is, $237 million will buy quite a lot of it.

I’ll see your illegal detention and raise you a show trial

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:29 pm
Tags: , ,

Not content to continue, and to continue to defend, the Bush administration’s unconstitutional practice of holding detainees indefinitely without trial, the Obama Defense Department has gone one horrific step further: claiming the right to hold indefinitely even people who have been acquitted of all charges.

I hope everyone who mocked those of us who criticized the Bush administration’s illegal and unconstitutional detention practices is happy now. We told you that if it wasn’t stopped it would only get worse. But, no, we were just “liberals” or “un-American” or “objectively pro-terrorist” “whiners” who didn’t understand the real problem, who didn’t want to do everything it took to keep our country safe. Or we were DFHs with Bush Derangement Syndrome. Or something.

Well, no, cheesemunches, you know what the real problem was? We were right and you were wrong. So now you get to shut up and let those of us who actually knew what we were talking about carry on the conversation … one main point of which is that Obama himself now has at least one foot firmly in war-criminal territory and shows no signs of reversing himself.

Report on the illegal warrantless-wiretapping program

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:22 pm

The Inspector General’s report on the illegal warrantless-wiretapping program begun under President Bush has been released. Here it is.

Blogger Marcy Wheeler has been following this issue in detail for quite a while. Her still-ongoing analysis begins here. Some of her findings:

I imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more about this.

And by “wrong hands,” you mean … ?

Filed under: You're doing WHAT with my money?? — Lex @ 8:12 pm

Per Bloomberg News, Jonathan Weil talks about how some proprietary code supposedly stolen from Golden Sachs could allow market manipulation if it fell into the wrong hands.

Not really addressed is the question of whether it was doing that before it was stolen. Certainly there’s no reason to think it couldn’t have been.

Thursday, July 9, 2009 8:58 pm

Living the dream … and the nightmare

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 8:58 pm
Tags: ,

I met Blair Pethel in 1987, when he was a copy editor at the News & Record and I joined the staff as night cops reporter. Long story short, in the intervening years, Blair developed an interest in wine, moved to France, went to wine school and opened his own winery, Domaine Dublere, in Burgundy. He’s only been at it a few years, but the stuff he makes is wowing the critics.

Every summer for the past few years I’ve gotten an invitation from him and his family: Come help with the grape harvest, and in return we’ll feed you, put you up, and give you some of the best wine on the planet. God willing, one year soon I’ll be able to take him up on his offer.

If this economy doesn’t kill him first.

Hang in there, my friend.

UPDATE: I’ve heard from Blair via e-mail and am delighted to report that 1) although it is a bad economy, the wolf isn’t nearly as close to his door as the article makes it seem, and 2) the French have been much kinder to him and his than the article makes it seem.

And speaking of Nazis, or, If Brian Kilmeade got Alzheimer’s, how could you tell?

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:39 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve never watched the morning show “Fox & Friends” because, well, I watch almost no TV, period. Apparently I’m missing some grade-A entertainment:

Kilmeade and two colleagues were discussing a study that, based on research done in Finland and Sweden, showed people who stay married are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s. Kilmeade questioned the (relevance of the results to the U.S.), though, saying, “We are — we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other …”

At this point, his co-host tried to — in that jokey morning show way — tell Kilmeade he needed to shut up, and quick, for his own sake. But he didn’t get the message, adding, “See, the problem is the Swedes have pure genes. Because they marry other Swedes …. Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society.”

And in certain hollows of West Virginia, Clampetts marry other Clampetts. Or so I’ve heard.

Welcome to Weimar

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:38 pm
Tags: ,

No, really. Just ask U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC:

[Immigrants] understand socialism. They understand tyrants. But none of us have ever had it here. We don’t even know what it looks like. Part of what we’re trying to do in [DeMint’s book] “Saving Freedom” is just show that where we are, we’re about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy. You still had votes but the votes were just power grabs like you see in Iran, and other places in South America, like Chavez is running down in Venezuela. People become more dependent on the government so that they’re easy to manipulate. And they keep voting for more government because that’s where their security is. When our immigrants get here, they’re worried, because they see it happening here.

So ignorant of history. So full of Fail and Teh Stoopid. Deconstructing it could take years and cost thousands, perhaps millions, of lives. Unless we’re willing to use unconventional weapons. I hesitate, but at Talking Points Memo, “The Commenter Formerly Known as NCSteve” goes there, for the win:

Yes, of course. It’s all so clear now. We’ve become the Weimer Republic. We’ve thrown off the rule of a hereditary despot who rashly led us into an unwise war and now, without his firm, steadying hand, we’ve descended into chaos and dependence.

If only we had a frankly anti-democratic, racist, authoritarian party to save us from the Communists and the Socialists and the evils of majority rule. A party with a cadre of fearful, frenzied xenophobic goons at its command and an array of thrilling orators who could whip up crowds of supporters into violent frenzies against those corrupt, decadant, unpatriotic elites who are daily stabbing our beloved homeland in the back. A party that defines “patriotism” in terms of ethnic identity, nationalistic symbolism and a quasi-mystical veneration of rurality and soil, rather than shared constitutional ideals. A party that abhors popular culture and modern art. A party with its own anthem.

Yes, clearly the time has come for such a movement to arise, arise and save us from ourselves. Yet, such a movement must have a leader. A man of ideas and vision and an unshakable firmness of purpose. Where, oh where can we find such a man? I know not, but he must be out there for, surely, in this time of turmoil and degeneracy, the hour and this man of destiny must meet.

Am I supposed to hate Obama because he’s a Nazi, because he’s a Communist, because he’s a Socialist or because he’s a fascist?  I can never remember.

Clarity coming

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 8:12 pm

Holy cow. Massachusetts has sued the federal government over the Defense of Marriage Act:

BOSTON – Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, sued the U.S. government Wednesday over a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act interferes with the right of Massachusetts to define and regulate marriage as it sees fit, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said. The 1996 law denies federal recognition of gay marriage and gives states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Massachusetts is the first state to challenge the federal law. Its lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, argues the act “constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law.” It says the approximately 16,000 same-sex couples who have married in Massachusetts since the state began performing gay marriages in 2004 are being unfairly denied federal benefits given to heterosexual couples.

“They are entitled to equal treatment under the laws regardless of whether they are gay or straight,” Coakley said at a news conference.

Man. I’m not even a lawyer and I can still see many, many veins of legal argument here. The equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment. States’ rights. Establishment v. free exercise.

This could finally usher in the legal, constitutional Era of Adam & Steve, or it could end up being for gays something like what Dred Scott was for slaves.

This will inevitably end up before the Supreme Court. Now, what that court might look like by the time that case gets there a few years from now is a whole ‘nother question and may well determine the outcome. If I had to guess, I’d say that in front of the current court Massachusetts would lose 5-4. But — say it with me, kids — I Am Not A Lawyer.

I’ll also predict this, although I generally suck at predictions: Whichever side loses at the Supreme Court level will push for a constitutional amendment.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 8:48 pm

Memo to

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:48 pm

I don’t care how many months you leave the link up, I am NOT going to “Check out this ‘Shocking’ online colon cleanser report before you buy.”

I’m a little less worried about our geographic borders at the moment …

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 7:20 am
Tags: , , ,

… than I am about our electronic ones:

A widespread and unusually resilient computer attack that began July 4 knocked out the Web sites of several government agencies, including some that are responsible for fighting cyber crime, The Associated Press has learned.

The Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department Web sites were all down at varying points over the holiday weekend and into this week, according to officials inside and outside the government. Some of the sites were still experiencing problems Tuesday evening.

Federal government officials refused to publicly discuss any details of the cyber attack, and would only generally acknowledge that it occurred. It was not clear whether other government sites also were attacked.

Others familiar with the outage, which is called a denial of service attack, said that the fact that the government Web sites were still being affected three days after it began signaled an unusually lengthy and sophisticated attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

The Homeland Security Department confirmed that officials had received reports of “malicious Web activity” and they were investigating the matter, but had no further comment. Two government officials acknowledged that the Treasury and Secret Service sites were brought down, and said the agencies were working with their Internet service provider to resolve the problem.

Ben Rushlo, director of Internet technologies at Keynote Systems, called it a “massive outage” and said problems with the Transportation Department site began Saturday and continued until Monday, while the FTC site was down Sunday and Monday.

Keynote Systems is a mobile and Web site monitoring company. The company publishes data detailing outages on Web sites, including 40 government sites it watches.

According to Rushlo, the Transportation Web site was “100 percent down” for two days, so that no Internet users could get through to it. The FTC site, meanwhile, started to come back online late Sunday, but even on Tuesday Internet users still were unable to get to the site 70 percent of the time.

“This is very strange. You don’t see this,” he said. “Having something 100 percent down for a 24-hour-plus period is a pretty significant event.”

He added that, “The fact that it lasted for so long and that it was so significant in its ability to bring the site down says something about the site’s ability to fend off (an attack) or about the severity of the attack.”

I’m not an expert, but when a large federal agency’s Web site is down 100 percent for more than a day, I would guess that’s pretty serious. DOT would figure into any major domestic emergency, just for starters.

I infer from this that we have serious weaknesses — that computer networks that control military assets as well as such civilian infrastructure as utility networks are very vulnerable to attack.

This is not good.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 10:26 pm

Quote of the day

Filed under: I want my money back.,Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 10:26 pm
Tags: , ,

From Athenae at First Draft, on NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard’s weak defense of the network’s refusal to use the word “torture” in its news reports and her criticism of the blogosphere for criticizing the network:

“I agree that what you call a thing matters, I just don’t believe for a minute that torture isn’t torture if you lower your voice. I’m sorry it upsets some people that here on the Internets we say f—, and treason, and talk about the most apt karmic bitchslap for those who ran this country for the past eight years. But I’m also sorry about ALL THE DEAD PEOPLE, and somehow that never spurs a discussion about how uncouth it is to f— up two wars and let a city drown and turn America into an international punchline.”

George Orwell would know exactly what she’s talking about.

And the scary thing? Is that Shepard teaches media ethics.

Robert Strange McNamara

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 9:40 pm
Tags: ,

In some circles, the only thing to debate about the late Robert McNamara is whether he’s currently inhabiting the seventh or ninth circle of Hell.

For reasons I can’t quite explain, I take a slightly more charitable view. I think he repented of his sins.

Insofar as he was able. Which I don’t think was very far, his 1995 memoir notwithstanding.

It takes a special kind of sociopath to 1) understand that a war is unwinnable and 2) continue to consign lives to it anyway. Between the time McNamara did No. 1 and the time the U.S. finally stopped doing No. 2, the number of dead Americans alone increased by more than an order of magnitude. For that crime alone, McNamara should have been tried and hanged as a war criminal — by his own country.

The magnificent Joe Galloway, who knew McNamara personally and obviously has a lot more insight into him than I do, believes that McNamara lied, intentionally, to the end.

Back in 1990 I had a series of strange phone conversations with McNamara while doing research for my book We Were Soldiers Once And Young. McNamara prefaced every conversation with this: “I do not want to comment on the record for fear that I might distort history in the process.” Then he would proceed to talk for an hour, doing precisely that with answers that were disingenuous in the extreme — when they were not bald-faced lies.

Upon hanging up I would call Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam and run McNamara’s comments past them for deconstruction and the addition of the truth.

The only disagreement i ever had with Dave Halberstam was over the question of which of us hated him the most. In retrospect, it was Halberstam.

When McNamara published his first book — filled with those distortions of history — Halberstam, at his own expense, set out on a journey following McNamara on his book tour around America as a one-man truth squad.

McNamara abandoned the tour.

In a separate piece, Galloway reminds us of how well McNamara adhered to Christ’s commandment to take care of the least among us:

Who out there remembers Mr. McNamara’s — he was the ultimate bean-counter who knew the cost of everything but the worth of nothing — Project 100,000?

If nothing else, Project 100,000 surely guarantees that Judgment Day and eternity will not be very comfortable for Mr. McNamara, now arriving on Track 12.

Beginning in 1965 and for nearly three years McNamara each year drafted into the military 100,000 young boys whose scores in the mental qualification and aptitude tests were in the lowest quarter — so-called Category IV’s. Men with IQ’s of 65 or even lower.

They were, to put it bluntly, mentally deficient. Illiterate. Mostly black and redneck whites, hailing from the mean big city ghettos and the remote Appalachian valleys.

By drafting them the Pentagon would not have to draft an equal number of middle class and elite college boys whose mothers could and would raise Hell with their representatives in Washington.

The young men of Project 100,000 couldn’t read, so training manual comic books were created for them. They had to be taught to tie their boots. They often failed in boot camp, and were recycled over and over until they finally reached some low standard and were declared trained and ready.

They could not be taught any more demanding job than trigger-pulling and, so, all of them were shipped to Vietnam and most went straight into combat where the learning curve is steep and deadly. The cold, hard statistics say that these almost helpless young men died in action in the jungles at a rate three times higher than the average draftee.

Just like Steve Earle sang, “They draft the white trash first ’round here anyway.” If there is a difference between the worldview that begat this project and Hitler’s worldview of untermenschen, it is of degree, not kind, and a small degree at that.

And draftee Bob Herbert, the New York Times columnist, had this to add:

I was lucky. The Army sent me to Korea, which was no walk in the park, but it wasn’t Vietnam. I served in the intelligence office of an engineer battalion. But no one could truly escape the war. I would get letters from home that would make my heart sink, letters telling me that this buddy had been killed, that that buddy had been killed, that a kid that I had played football or softball with — or had gone to the rifle range with — had been killed.

For what?

McNamara didn’t know. My sister’s boyfriend got shot. A very close friend of mine came back from Vietnam so messed up psychologically that he killed his wife and himself.

The hardest lesson for people in power to accept is that wars are unrelentingly hideous enterprises, that they butcher people without mercy and therefore should be undertaken only when absolutely necessary.

Kids who are sent off to war are forced to grow up too fast. They soon learn what real toughness is, and it has nothing to do with lousy bureaucrats and armchair warriors sacrificing the lives of the young for political considerations and hollow, flag-waving, risk-free expressions of patriotic fervor.

McNamara, it turns out, had realized early on that Vietnam was a lost cause, but he kept that crucial information close to his chest, like a gambler trying to bluff his way through a bad hand, as America continued to send tens of thousands to their doom. How in God’s name did he ever look at himself in a mirror?

Now he is looking God in the face. And I’d like to think that although God alone is the judge, the 58,249 American men, eight American women and God alone knows how many Vietnamese who were killed — two million? three? — at least have a seat in the courtroom.

I’d also like to think we as a country have learned something from the misadventures of Robert McNamara. But as it says over there in the top right corner, reality has other things to say, and so did George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and their ilk. God willing, the courtroom for their judgment won’t need to be anywhere near as large.

Adultery? Sure. Leaving the state unsupervised? Hey, cool by me.

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 8:16 pm

When the S.C. GOP Executive Committee met by phone to discuss what to do about adulterous Gov. Mark Sanford, 22 voted to reprimand (or “censure,” depending on which news report you read) him, 10 voted to ask him to resign … and nine voted to support him, rejecting any kind of discipline.

Given that investigators have determined that Sanford broke no law (if you don’t count being criminally stupid, I guess, and the state’s criminal ban on adultery notwithstanding), I suppose reasonable people can disagree on the need for resignation vs. censure/reprimand. But outright support? Who are these people, and what are they doing outside of a rubber room?

Common ground is overrated

This is what happens when you try to be reasonable with unreasonable people:

As the White House readies its plan for finding “common ground” on reproductive health issues and reducing the need for abortion, a major debate has emerged over how to package the plan’s two major components: preventing unwanted pregnancies and reducing the need for abortion.

Many abortion rights advocates and some Democrats who want to dial down the culture wars want the White House to package the two parts of the plan together, as a single piece of legislation. The plan would seek to reduce unwanted pregnancies by funding comprehensive sex education and contraception and to reduce the need for abortion by bolstering federal support for pregnant women. Supporters of the approach say it would force senators and members of Congress on both sides of the abortion battle to compromise their traditional positions, creating true common ground that mirrors what President Obama has called for.

But more conservative religious groups working with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships say they would be forced to oppose such a plan—even though they support the abortion reduction part—because they oppose federal dollars for contraception and comprehensive sex education. This camp, which includes such formidable organizations as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention, is pressuring the White House to decouple the two parts of the plan into separate bills. One bill would focus entirely on preventing unwanted pregnancy, while the other would focus on supporting pregnant women.

For these groups, making abortion illegal isn’t even the primary goal. Their primary goal is controlling the behavior of Americans, even those Americans who do not share their religious views. They don’t believe in a right to safe, legal abortion. They don’t believe in artificial contraception (access to which has been the law of the land since the Supreme Court’s Griswold decision in 1965). They don’t even believe in the right to privacy.

These are not reasonable people, these are not honest people, and these are not people who deserve any role in policy making in a free country. They want to use the mechanisms of a free society to deny freedom to others without so much as a shred of justification. That’s unacceptable.

We’re gonna need yots of storage

Filed under: Fun,Geek-related issues,Victoria — Lex @ 8:02 pm

I’m mentally still measuring computer storage capacity in gigabytes. A gigabyte is 1,000 megabytes, or 10 to the ninth power bytes. One thousand gigabytes is a terabyte, or 10 to the 12th power bytes. I hadn’t even gotten around yet to wondering what comes after terabytes. But thanks to the Federation of American Scientists, I now know that 10 to the 24th power bytes is a yottabyte.

And how many bytes is that? Yots:

If one byte of data were used to image one square meter of the Earth’s surface [and if it were, then the picture resolution would be lousy, but let’s work with them here — Lex], then 1.6 Yottabytes would be generated by imaging the entire surface of the Earth every second for a hundred years, the [defense advisory committee] report explained.

This will be very easy for me to remember because of something that happened around the time of Victoria’s third birthday. I asked her what she wanted as a birthday present and she said, “Bayoons, Daddy! Yots and yots of bayoons!”

Monday, July 6, 2009 8:48 pm

Without commenting on the merits of any particular health-care reform plan …

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:48 pm

… I’d just like to say that I doubt any good can come from this:

The nation’s largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.

The tactic is so widespread that three of every four major health-care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls, according to The Washington Post’s analysis. …

The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records. And even in a city where lobbying is a part of life, the scale of the effort has drawn attention. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million.

I take that back; I will comment on one “reform” plan: leaving things the way they are. We spend way more than other industrialized democracies on health care and our health indicators are mediocre, at best, in comparison. The status quo is not an option.

An Independence Day message …

… from someone who knows better than most what it means:

Ironically, for veterans, the Fourth of July can be a difficult holiday to celebrate. With every uniform that marches by in parades, we remember our friends that did not make it home. The sounds of fireworks remind us of incoming mortar rounds. And as large crowds gather to celebrate America’s birthday, we sometimes find ourselves scanning the masses for potential danger.

But the impact of war isn’t limited to July 4th.

In case you haven’t been tracking the figures, our military is in crisis-mode, trying to fend off a silent killer among its ranks. Almost 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are suffering from mental health injuries like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and less than half are receiving the help they need. Left untreated, the ramifications are clear: divorce, substance abuse, unemployment, and suicide.

Already, we’ve lost as many soldiers to suicide this year as to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. This frightening trend has triggered military stand-downs, and finally gotten the attention of the media. The alarm has been sounded. But our troops are still waiting on real action from Washington.

North Carolinians have a key role to play here. Our senior senator, Richard Burr, is the ranking minority member of the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Sunday, July 5, 2009 4:14 pm

So long, Sarah, we hardly knew ye …

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 4:14 pm

… except I don’t think she’s going away.

By far the two most popular explanations I’ve heard for her unexpected resignation announcement are 1) some kind of scandal about to pop or 2) plans to raise money and run full-time for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. On the basis of no evidence whatsoever either way, I’m going with Door No. 2.

I don’t think she’s just stepping out of public life early because she’s some kind of fragile flower to whom the Vanity Fair article was the final, fatal straw. Fragile flowers don’t get nicknamed “Sarah Barracuda”; moreover, what she has had to put up with is but a tiny fraction of what, say, Hillary Clinton has had to put up with.

No, I think she’ll be back. And honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if she did pretty well in the primaries. Her spot on the culture-wars spectrum, her overdeveloped sense of victimhood and her entitlement mentality all play well to the GOP base. As fragmented as that party is right now, that might be all she needs to achieve critical nomination mass, if she can raise enough money in the next 18 months or so.

This is all just a SWAG and could be totally, completely wrong. I have no evidence, no inside information, no original reporting. But I’m certain she’s running. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, July 4, 2009 8:55 am

Best. National Anthem. Evah.

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 8:55 am

The Dixie Chicks at the 2003 Super Bowl.

Friday, July 3, 2009 1:18 pm

Cool code (as in cryptography) story …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 1:18 pm
Tags: , , ,

with a nice Independence Day twist.

It’s a good thing that economic actions have consequences, huh?

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 12:10 pm
Tags: ,

I’d been worried:

Business is back on Wall Street. If the good times continue to roll, lofty pay packages may be set for a comeback as well.

Based on analysts’ earnings forecasts for 2009, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is on track to pay out as much as $20 billion this year, or about $700,000 per employee. That would be nearly double the firm’s $363,000 average last year, and slightly higher than the $661,000 for the average Goldman employee in fiscal 2007, according to analyst estimates reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

One big reason? All that debt the U.S. government is issuing? A big chunk is being underwritten by Goldman. So your tax dollars are going to those vultures.

It’s good to be king, dday observes: “For a second I thought the banksters would have to SUFFER for the damage they caused blowing a hole in the global economy. Thankfully, that task will fall only to the rest of the population.”

The 2000s expansion?

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 12:04 pm
Tags: ,


The American economy lost 467,000 more jobs in June, and the unemployment rate edged up to 9.5 percent in a sobering indication that the longest recession since the 1930s had yet to release its hold. …

The losses for June lifted net jobs shed since the beginning of the recession to 6.5 million — equal to the net job gain over the previous nine years.

“This is the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all jobs growth from the previous business cycle,” Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said in a research note. She called this fact “a devastating benchmark for the workers of this country and a testament to both the enormity of the current crisis and to the extreme weakness of jobs growth from 2000 to 2007.”

The stimulus package? Not helping. At least not enough and not yet:

“Not all the recovery money has been put to work yet,” said the labor secretary, Hilda L. Solis. “We’re making progress.”

But Ms. Solis acknowledged that joblessness was already much worse than the administration projected in January when it created its stimulus spending bill, suggesting then that joblessness would peak at about 8 percent.

And what happened to “shovel-ready”?

Asked why the unemployment rate is already much higher, Ms. Solis noted that much of the stimulus money was moving slowly, with construction projects in particular requiring time-consuming government permits.

This doesn’t mean the stimulus package was “wrong.” But we needed the government to spend more, faster, given how much of a hit consumer spending, which drives about 70% of GDP, was taking. And Solis’s protestations to the contrary, we need even more stimulus spending, and we need it go to where it’ll have a more immediate effect.

Good thing I’m a Bacardi man

Filed under: You're doing WHAT with my money?? — Lex @ 11:54 am
Tags: ,

The British company that makes Captain Morgan rum got $2.7 billion from the Troubled Assets Relief Program. To move.

(h/t: Zero Hedge)

Thursday, July 2, 2009 7:45 pm

Pre-holiday roundup

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 7:45 pm

Stuff I’ve been meaning to get to or forgot I had put aside to blog about, plus a couple of late-breaking items:

Enjoy the weekend, and take some time to think about what made the freedom to do so possible.

UPDATE: Link fixed.

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