Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: October 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

I was remiss not to post a comics cover for Halloween. I was already at work for some time this morning before I realized that I'd missed that. So here you are. And since it's Halloween, it really counts until sunrise tomorrow, doesn't it?

While you're still in the Halloween spirit, you might want to check out Jim Salicrup's interview this morning from Morning Edition. The piece is actually an appreciation of the old EC horror comics, particularly Tales from the Crypt, and Salicrup discusses his new revival of the series from Papercutz.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Feeling the Music

Is it possible to experience music too viscerally? Yeah, it's a strange question, but it was brought on by a song that came on the radio while I was driving home tonight. It was "Please Come to Boston" by Dave Loggins, which is a song I never particularly liked. But it reminded me that in 1974, when the song originally came out, I'd physically get a bit of a stomach ache when I heard it on the radio. It wasn't a bad stomach ache, particularly, but it was a bit of a discomfort. When the song was over, the stomach ache would go away. Maybe it was the world-weary achiness in the vocals. Perhaps it was the sense that the protagonist of the song was moving all over the country and pleading with his girlfriend to join him when it was clear that she never intended to leave her home. I have no idea, really. I just know the sensation was mildly unpleasant. There are a small handful of songs that give me a similar reaction, although the only one I can think of at the moment is O. C. Smith's "Little Green Apples." That one's more upbeat and positive, though, so I'm not sure what it might have in common with "Please Come to Boston."

On the plus side, and what I imagine is far more common, I could start naming a number of songs that make me feel good and immediately put me in a better mood. So I guess the viscerality isn't just negative. But does anybody else have a song or two that tends to make them physically ill?

UPDATE--A few minutes after posting I remembered one of the worst songs for me: "Afternoon Delight" by Starland Vocal Band. I've never actually measured (and I'm not sure I want to), but I'm betting that provides the most intense unpleasant feeling in my stomach.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Couple of Things I Missed While Moving

It figures. After essentially being off for several days, I'm finally ready to come back to post something substantial, and Blogger is causing me problems in signing in. I finally gave up on Firefox and went all the way back to Netscape 7.2 to get a browser that would let me in. But back to the previously intended post.

You may have seen these, but here are two items that grabbed my attention while I was trying to catch up on what happened while I was otherwise occupied at the end of last week.

• FEMA Blows It Again. Is the press just not compliant enough any more? What else could possibly be the reason for FEMA officials to set up a news briefing that real reporters were unlikely to attend and then fill it up with fake reporters who were really FEMA employees in disguise. Some of the briefing was carried live on cable news channels, who apparently didn't realize that none of their reporters were actually in the room. Those reporters weren't shut out altogether, though. They were allowed to listen in on the briefing by phone, but they weren't allowed to ask any questions.

How could the FEMA officials involved in this have believed they'd be able to get away with it? Clearly, they're deluded. John P. "Pat" Philbin, FEMA's former director of external affairs, said, "I hope readers understand we're working very hard to establish credibility and integrity, and I would hope this does not undermine it." No, how could a fake news conference possibly undermine credibility and integrity?

I wrote that Philbin is FEMA's former director of external affairs because Thursday had already been scheduled as his last day there. He was leaving to head up the public affairs operation at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Unsurprisingly, that position has been withdrawn.

• Higher Education Is the Enemy!! I don't know if I was still punchy from lack of sleep over the weekend, but this story made me start giggling aloud. Family Security Matters, which Sourcewatch identifies as a front organization for the far-right Center for Security Policy, has come up with a list of The Ten Most Dangerous Organizations in America. ThinkProgress, where I saw this story, comes in at number 10. Others on the list include the usual suspects: the ACLU, the Center for American Progess,, and others. But it's number two that brought on the laughter: Universities and Colleges. That's the second-most dangerous hate organization in the nation. Didn't someone once say, "An ignorant citizenry is essential to a functioning democracy"--or something?

The most dangerous organization in America, of course, would be Media Matters for America, which routinely calls right-wing blowhards on their lies, misstatements, and misrepresentations--because, how can right-wing blowhards prosper if their lies, misstatements, and misrepresentations are exposed?

Interestingly, Family Security Matters includes a couple of conservative organizations on its list: Tony Perkins's Family Research Council (even though the author admits that he "believe[s] in a lot of what the FRC preaches," when they reach too far, they do themselves a "tremendous disservice"; there can't be much that's more dangerous to America than that) and the League of the South. I'm not sure what that says about internecine warfare on the Right.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

2007 World Series Champions

That's it, it's over. The Red Sox swept the Rockies to win their second World Series in four seasons. I guess that means the long dry spell is really over. The Rockies were a Cinderella team, but apparently their fairy godmother packed up and went home before the actual series started. I talked to more than one Red Sox fan who was secretly pulling for the Rockies to prolong the series a little but. I'm pretty sure that Fox was, as well. For a long-time Red Sox fan like me, always ready for defeat to be snatched from the jaws of victory, expecting a win and actually achieving a win is unfamiliar territory. It looks like we're going to have to get used to it.

Don't forget to steal your taco on Tuesday. Taco Bell was running a promotion for the series, "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco," in which the first stolen base of the series would result in a free taco for every person in the country. They're doing it on Tuesday between 2:00 and 5:00, so that means it's after lunch and before dinner, so there won't be too many people trying to cash in. Even so, Taco Bell was extremely particular in what they'd allow and what they wouldn't. Look at the fine print.

If an eligible base was stolen during the Games, Taco Bell will make an announcement through selected media channels, including a press release and its web site (, that eligible consumers can obtain their free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 (if base is stolen in Games 1 or 2 on October 24 or October 25, 2007) OR November 6, 2007 (if base is stolen in Games 3-7, October 27, 28, 29, 31, November 1, 2007) ("Redemption Date") only. To obtain the Free Taco, consumers must visit any participating Taco Bell® restaurant in one of the fifty (50) the United States or District of Columbia between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. (local time) on the Redemption Date only and request a Free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco. Free Taco's will not be offered on any other date or time, regardless of circumstance. Limit one (1) Free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco per person. Participating Taco Bell restaurant manager reserves the right to deny Free Taco to any person he/she reasonably believes has already received a Free Taco or has engaged in any other fraudulent activity. All eligible consumers: Everyone in line at a participating Taco Bell restaurant before 5:00 p.m. local time will receive a Free Taco, even if it is provided after 5:00 p.m. Free Taco offer is subject to store availability and Taco Bell reserves the right to substitute an item of equal or greater value if due to unavailability. All restaurant managers decisions are final regarding to Free Taco offer.

These guys aren't joking. But they owe you a hot dog on Tuesday, so walk in and demand it. It's the least you can do.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

An Explanation

I couldn't go with a third "Mission Accomplished"-related title in a row, as I've heard that hasn't worked well as a long-term motto before, but in essence, this is the final post in what's become the "mission Accomplished" trilogy.

In my first post, I hadn't really intended to be oblique or obscure with my previous posts, but it's sort of played out that way. The truth is merely that Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk headquarters is relocating, so Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk and I have been in moving hell for the last few days. In my first post on the subject, after the movers had taken all of the furniture and whatever we'd had boxed up and ready, I predicted that we'd be finished up in the wee, small hours of the morning. The reality, unfortunately, is that we didn't clear the place until the huge, honking hours of the morning. It was 11:15 Friday morning before we were keys on the table, walking out the door, all the way gone. Since we got up on Wednesday, we'd had two hours of sleep on Wednesday night, and three-and-a-half hours on Thursday. We had to run a couple of errands on Friday afternoon, so we had only an hour nap or so before we were off to the theater for Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk to present the Women's Performance Arts Festival. When we returned to our new home at the end of all that, I should've just given it up and gone to bed, but I still haven't skipped a day of posting since I started this blog, so I was determined to write something. I intended to cover this same material. What came out, though, was simply an ill-fated attempt to post while asleep. Our computers weren't connected yet, so I was on the Blackberry, and I'd try to compose a sentence in my mind and then type it out, but I'd nod off and wake up halfway through the sentence, having hit a couple of bad keys on the way to sleep in the first place, so I had to try to figure out what the sentence fragment had been supposed to say and then correct the several typos in it. Often, though, I'd fall asleep while correcting typos, so I'd wake up again and have to figure it all out a second, third, or fourth time. Maybe I would've just been better to have skipped my first day of posting. Although it wasn't exactly eloquent, I did put together a post that made sense. I still don't know what I hit to make it disappear altogether.

Although the place is full of boxes, we're finally all the way relocated, and tomorrow should be the first normal day. (Today I slept until 11:00, got up for an hour but felt sleepy again, and went back to bed until 4:00, after which I was groggy for another hour or two. I've been following the series (and the Red Sox are up 9-5 in the 8th, but with the Red Sox, you never know whether that will hold or not), but I haven't been keeping up with much of anything else. What have I missed? We haven't attacked Iran or anything, have we?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mission Accomplished--For Real This Time

I wrote a previous post by this title, but my Blackberry ate it. I'm far too exhausted to reconstruct, so I'll have to explain it to you later, Right now, I'm going to bed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mission Accomplished--Almost

No, not the Red Sox. They did what they intended to do, even if they might've preferred a higher margin. No, Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk and I have been ensconced in an overwhelming task , and we were trying to finish tonight, which isn't going to happen. We'll be engaged until the wee small hours of the morning, so that's why today's post is little more than a space marker. Maybe I'll be paying more attention tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Did the Long Layoff Hurt the Rockies?

I'd say yes. That was quite the romp, as the Red Sox set a World Series record with a 12-run margin of victory. Of course, history tells them that they shouldn't rest on their laurels, as the two teams who'd won their opening games with 11-run margins, the White Sox in 1959 and the Braves in 1996, went on to lose their actual series, to the Dodgers and the Yankees, respectively. I don't think the whole series will look as easy as this game did, but I suspect the Red Sox have the edge. Of course, that's assuming they don't trip over themselves and end up losing, as they've been known to do in the past.

Returning to last night's subject of the wildfires in California, I was quite put off by how Fox was teasing its post-game news broadcast. One of their weather reporters, Tammy Souza, comes from the San Diego area, and we were told that she'd be along to share a personal tragedy. As it turned down, it was her uncle's house that burned down rather than her own childhood home, but it's dropping pretty low to hype your broadcast on our being able to empathize with our local reporters on their personal losses. Of course, news broadcast trade in this kind of tragedy all the time, so it's hardly surprising that they'd pimp their employees' emotional tragedies for ratings. Live by making yourself a commodity, die by making yourself a commodity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California Fires

There's not much to say about the situation on the West Coast but that we're watching, waiting, and worrying. I heard from a friend in a voluntary evacuation area near San Diego that the winds seemed to be shifting and that his neighborhood appeared to be on its way out of danger, but fires are unpredictable enough that it's hard to say whether or not good news for him means trouble for someone else. These fires, which are all throughout Southern California, from down near the Mexican border up north of LA, from the beaches into the mountains, have caused the largest evacuation in California history, and the implications of that don't go away quickly. It's hard not to compare this situation to Katrina a couple if years ago (especially with Michael Chertoff touring affected areas with Arnold Schwarzenegger), but there are some significant difference. First of all, California has faced massive fires before, so they've got some preparations in place. But perhaps the biggest difference is that, Glenn Beck notwithstanding, many of the areas hard hit are well off, and they house a good number of people who tend to support the Republican party. It'll be interesting to see how quickly national aid for rebuilding becomes available. For the time being, though, we've got to be concerned with the welfare of those in danger. I can't help but notice the political implications, but I'll try to hold my sniping for the time being.

By the way, a good source for up-to-date information is the LA Times index of fire stories. For the time being, the Times also has a tally of significant numbers on its main page. Right now it stands at 420,424 acres burned, 1,155 homes destroyed, and 881,500 people evacuated.

Monday, October 22, 2007

8th Annual Women's Performance Arts Festival

Believe it or not, this post is actually early compared to previous years. But be that as it may, this weekend, Stockyards Theatre Project is presenting its 8th Annual Women's Performance Arts Festival. This year's theme is "A Fierce Presence," and as usual, it's a veritable cornucopia of drama, dance, stand-up comedy, stage combat, storytelling, and performance art. Each of the three nights features different performances. Here's the scheduled line up:

Friday at 8:00: Stand-up comedy by Janet Kane; "Welcome to the Gap," a monologue by Kelsie Huff; improv/sketch comedy from Dumbledore's Army (Ashley Cozadd & Carrie Bain); "Open," dance & video by Jennifer Allen; "They Don't Call it Mousechwitz for Nothing," sketch comedy written by Francesca Peppiatt; "The Green Room" by Elmarie McDonald Esser, which blends the continuing series format of popular television shows with classical theatre; and "Who's That Girl?," a monologue by Kendra Stevens.

Saturday at 8:00: Stage Combat from Alison Dornheggen and Gillian N. Humiston of Babes With Blades; stand-up comedy by Hollie Himmelman; "Stalled," a series of comedic vignettes written by Cyra K. Polizzi & Katie Rolnick; "Jesus Camp Queen," a atorytelling performance by Angela Latham; two dance pieces from think/dance collective; "Who's Ark Is It," song and dance by Mary Hobein; and "No One Is Faithful," performance art by Leslie Moore & Taleshia J. Walker.

Sunday at 7:30: Four dance pieces from think/dance collective; "Apologies Are in Order," improv comedy from Carole McCurdy; a dramatic excerpt from "Criminal Hearts" by Jane Martin, featuring Lori Howard & Janel Palm; dance from GI Dance Alliance; "This Expert Slut Moans," performance art by Jennifer Karmin; "Jesus Camp Queen, storytelling by Angela Latham; and songs from singer/songwriter Jeanne Arrigo.

The Chicago Sun-Times has called Stockyards' Women's Performance Arts Festival "the purest woman's performance event in Chicago." For readers in the Chicago area, drop by for one night of purity or all three. Each evening is $15 at Links Hall, which you'll find at the apex of Clark, Newport, and Sheffield, just a couple of blocks south of Wrigley Field.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I was hard on them Red Sox when they seemed to be flagging during the pennant race, going so far as to claim they didn't deserve to go to the postseason. Well, I guess by now they've proven that they did. They go up against the hot, hot, hot Rockies in the World Series on Wednesday, but it's just possible that Colorado has cooled down a bit since they last played almost a week ago. We'll see who's up to the task.

Uh Oh

When I was digging through the transcript of the Prez's Wednesday press conference for the Political DNA post a couple of nights ago, I stumbled over a somewhat disturbing back and forth between Bush and the reporter asking the question. It was clearly intended and set up as a joke, but when we've got an administration hellbent on (and getting away with) expanding executive power farther than the framers ever expected it to go, call me crazy and paranoid, but I don't find it terribly funny.

Q Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment. He said recently that next year when he has to step down, according to the constitution, as President, he may become Prime Minister, in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition there. Senator McCain --

THE PRESIDENT: I've been planning that myself. (Laughter.)

The reporter (who's unnamed in the transcript) continued setting up his question, but before he was finished, he contributed his own callback.

And what would it mean for Russian democracy if, when you leave power, assuming you do, in January 2009 -- (laughter) -- if Vladimir Putin is still in power?

I'm sure it's just nothing. We can just add it to the Prez's previous list of jokes about his own authoritarian wishes. Funny guy, that president.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

One More Game

So the Red Sox have fought back from their 3-1 deficit against the Indians to tie the series and leave us with one final game tomorrow night before somebody advances to the World Series. Josh Beckett had been pretty consistent in the post-season, and Curt Schilling held it together for seven innings tonight. Finally, some of the less prominent members of the lineup came through on offense tonight, led by J. D. Drew's grand slam in the first, so we weren't just waiting for Ortiz and Manny to come through. This is the team we've been seeing most of the season, so it's nice to see them show up for the postseason, as well.

Tomorrow night, it all comes to a head, at least for a few days. I'm not really worried that the winner of that game will be able to take on the Rockies, but I'm not so confident about who'll end up on top. Boston will have Matsuzaka (Dice-K for short) on the mound, but he'll be up against Jake Westfield, who pulled out a victory when the same match-up was featured in Game 3 on Monday. That one was in Cleveland, and this one is in Boston, so that may be enough to shift the balance. The Boston team has the pitching and the hitting to deserve a place in the World Series, but the same might be said of the Indians. We'll find out. The game starts at 7:00 Central on Sunday night.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Political DNA

In his press conference on Wednesday, the Prez made a statement that struck me at odd (technically, I suppose he made a number of such statements, but this is one that caused me to stumble when I heard it). I didn't hear the entire press conference live, so I only caught this one yesterday on NPR's The World. As I said, the words caught my attention, but it wasn't until someone sent me an e-mail later yesterday evening pointing out the same statement, that I really started thinking it through. The question was about Vladimir Putin and democracy in Russia, and it received this response:

Now, in terms of whether or not it's possible to reprogram the kind of basic Russian DNA, which is a centralized authority, that's hard to do. We've worked hard to make it appear in their interests -- we made it clear to them that it is in their interests to have good relations with the West. And the best way to have good long-term relations with the West is to recognize that checks and balances in government are important, or recognize there are certain freedoms that are inviolate. So Russia a complex relationship, but it's an important relationship to maintain.

What exactly does he mean that Russian DNA is encoded with centralized authority? Doesn't this go against his whole campaign to expand democracy. Is he now saying that democracy can only be expanded in some places but not in others? I know, it's a fool's errand to look for intellectual consistency in this president, but this seems like a significant point. As my e-mail correspondent pointed out, this was one of the major points in support of the Iraq war. In the lead up to the war, it was argued in some quarters that, after decades of dictatorial rule by Saddam Hussein, Iraqis were simply not capable of establishing a democracy. I googled Iran and "not ready for democracy" and wound up with 12,200 hits. Such an argument was dismissed out of hand by the Bush administration, which hinted that such claims bordered on racism. And yet, here we are. The Russian people simply don't have it in them to accept democracy. The problem certainly can't be with Vladimir Putin, whose been moving to undermine democratic reforms. No, more than six years ago, the Prez "was able to get a sense of" Putin's soul, finding "a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country." So that settles that. And it can't be the Prez or American policy ignoring Putin's backsliding away from democracy. Who's a bigger booster of democracy than our president? No, it must be the fault of the poor Russian people themselves, who are genetically impaired and must work harder than any other group on Earth to move toward the democratic ideal. Maybe they'll be able to work past this genetic impurity, but clearly the Prez doesn't expect that to happen anytime soon.

In the time since I started thinking about this since last night, The Washington Post published an editorial to the same effect in Friday's paper. They've got a number of examples of the Prez talking up the value of promoting democracy across all cultures and races. If you want to pick up this argument yourself sometime, that editorial is a great source of ammunition.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Three Cheers for Chris Dodd

My, but this has been a busy few days for the worried telecoms. They've long insisted that a few years ago they didn't do anything other than their patriotic duty when they handed over private customer data to the government without a court order to help with the newly christened War on Terror. Perhaps that's true. But if so, it's inexplicable that they'd need the new Democratic FISA bill to include retroactive immunity for any illegal acts they may have committed. To borrow an old-line Republican talking point, if they didn't do anything in the first place, why are they worried about immunity?

A few days ago, the momentum seemed to be going against the telecoms. In recently released court documents, former Qwest head Joseph Nacchio (who was, admittedly, appealing a conviction for insider trading) claimed that the National Security Agency was requesting that same private information before 9/11 and cut Qwest out from contracts because the company wouldn't provide it. Verizon also admitted to passing along that info on its customers, although as far as I saw, they only admitted to doing it after 9/11. Chairman Pat Leahy and ranking Republican Arlen Specter of the Senate Judiciary Committee came out strongly against casually offering immunity to the telecoms without even knowing what they'd done that might be illegal (although Specter is almost Democratic in his ability to talk tough and then cave on actual votes when it counts). I was starting to think that maybe the Senate might act responsibly.

But then came this morning's "compromise" bill from Jay Rockefeller's Intelligence Committee. The Prez and his director of national intelligence love it--they get everything they want, including absolute immunity for the telecoms. But up to the plate stepped Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. After a concerted blog campaign pushed the idea, Dodd put a hold on the bill. Any senator can put a hold on any bill, and it takes a concerted effort for the Senate to go around that. Often a hold will shut down a bill if the majority leader doesn't want to go to the trouble of getting around it.

Dodd is running for president, and this is probably good politics for him. I've often said that Congress is getting such low approval ratings because they refuse to stand up to an unpopular president. It can't hurt Dodd with the base for him to push the Senate to stare down the Prez. Majority Leader Harry Reid hasn't endorsed anyone in the presidential campaign, but I have to wonder if he doesn't have a soft spot for Dodd. According to Congressional Quarterly (and passed on by TPMMuckraker), Reid is going to fight Dodd's hold and plans to bring the telecom bill up for Senate debate next month. If Dodd successfully stays on top of this situation, he can turn this to his advantage and focus even more attention on the problems with this with this bill. How can Bush-weary Democratic voters not love a senator who's not just unafraid of standing up to the Prez but also willing to go to extremes to prevent the useless Democratic Senate from caving yet again? As the situation catches the imagination of voters, Dodd has the potential to become a true hero here. Not only can it advance his cause, it also can't help but improve his name recognition in the presidential sweepstakes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vetoing His Way into Relevance

Thursday is the day the House is planning to vote on a potential override of the Prez's veto of S-CHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. I haven't seen a vote count lately, but I'd be surprised if enough Republicans jump ship. Even so, however, there were a couple of interesting developments today. Given that S-CHIP protects little children who are sick or injured, it's insanely popular with the public. A CBS poll released today finds that 81 percent of respondents favored expanding the program (via ThinkProgress). Only 15 percent oppose expanding it. But the Prez is valiantly standing with the 15 percent, and so, apparently, are enough Republicans to maintain that veto. I hope they probably take that stand before the voters next year.

At a press conference this morning, the Prez explained why he felt he had to veto S-CHIP. I'd offer my interpretation of what he said, but I'm not sure I understand it completely. Here's his explanation.

In this case, this bill started heading our way, and I recognize Republicans in the Senate supported it. We made it clear we didn't agree. They passed it anyway. And so now, hopefully, we'll be in the process. That's why the President has a veto. Sometimes the legislative branch wants to go on without the President, pass pieces of legislation, and the President then can use the veto to make sure he's a part of the process. And that's -- as you know, I fully intend to do. I want to make sure -- and that's why, when I tell you I'm going to sprint to the finish, and finish this job strong, that's one way to ensure that I am relevant; that's one way to sure that I am in the process. And I intend to use the veto.

He vetoed the bill to prove that he was relevant to the country. Guess what, W--you're not. A new Reuters/Zogby poll lists the Prez's approval rating at 24 percent. That doesn't sound like somebody who's overwhelmingly relevant. (And before anybody points it out, Congress did even worse, scoring only 11 percent approval. As far as I'm concerned, that's pretty much entirely due to their continual deference to Mr. 24 Percent. There's no point in having a Democratic Congress if they're going to do nothing other than cave to a wildly unpopular administration.) We need to beware of what else the Prez does to keep up his sprint to the end of his term (which is still about 15 months away) and prove that he still matters. As he gets more and more desperate to assert his importance, there's no telling what he might try to pull.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Knuckle Down

Now that was unexpected. No, not the Red Sox returning to pre-2004 form, bringing us almost to the brink of the post season and then lying down on the job. They've got the hitting power, they've got the pitching, and they just don't bring it together. They've got another game on Thursday with Josh Beckett on the mound, so don't count them out quite yet, but this is what Red Sox fans were used to in the almost century run up to 2004.

No, what caught me by surprise was the song they played in the background as they wrapped up the game. Celebrating Tim Wakefield's knuckleball (which wasn't enough to stop a 7-run 5th inning for the Indians), they backed the highlights with "Knuckle Down" by XTC. I haven't been that pleasantly surprised since Extra put "Falling and Laughing" behind coverage of the O.J. trial. (I knew a guy who worked on that show, and when I mentioned it to him, he suggested that it was probably just a coincidence. I explained that Orange Juice had no American distribution and very little American exposure at the time, so the idea that they'd just randomly picked this track to accompany that story was quite a stretch. The music guys on the show just weren't that clever, he assured me. I asked him to pass my compliments to them, anyway.) Admittedly, it's late in the game to cheer for XTC exposure, but it's nice to see.

"For my sake, won't you put your knuckles down, boys."

Speaking of baseball, you've just got to respect those Rockies. That's an amazing accomplishment--winning 21 of their last 22 games, and just at the moment it counted to maneuver their way into the World Series. The only problem with streaks like that is that ultimately they come to an end. Do the Rockies have four more wins in them this year?

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Night at the Post Office

Ugh. For various reasons, we got an extension on last year's taxes, which were due today. I just got back from the post office downtown, where I waited in line for about an hour and fifteen minutes for the automatic postage machine. There were only fifteen or sixteen people in front of me, and yet it took them most of that time to get what they needed. I wrote "most of them" because when the fourth guy in front of me went to the machine, it went down for daily maintenance. I couldn't help but get impatient, but I was still considerably ahead of the woman who came in at the same time I did and was standing in the line for personal service. A security guard insisted that a post office employee would come to see what the problem was with the machine, but after about ten minutes, even the security guard was surprised no one had come (which is odd--she works at the post office, so she should know what to expect better than those of us in line did, but we knew it was iffy whether anybody was ever going to come over at all). Finally, someone actually did come, but all they could say was, "I've never seen it do this before. I don't know when it will come back."

I haven't been to the downtown post office for a while, but it turns out that besides the automatic postal machine in the lobby, there are three automatic postal machines where there used to be counter workers. The line for those three, which was obstructed enough by the huge line waiting for personal service, was moving at quite a nice pace. So those dozen or so of us still waiting for the out-of-service lobby machine joined that faster line. It was another twenty minutes or so, but with three machines it moved at a reasonably brisk pace. Suddenly, I was at the front of the line, waiting for the next machine to become free. I have to admit that I've never particularly identified with Ziggy before, but there's a first time for everything. When the first one freed up, it went down for whatever service these things need to have. I wasn't too worried, because there were still two more than were working. A guy who'd been in front of me waiting for the lobby machine finished up his business, but as I stepped to the control panel, it went down, too. Meanwhile, the woman who would've been behind me in the long line was coming up to the window for personal service. But there was still one more machine. The same guy had been at that machine since we'd moved our line in from the lobby--I think he was the reason that the post office personnel made the rule of no more than five packages for the machines--but he was finally mailing all his packages. And as he walked away--you already know what I'm going to type. One of the postal workers said that the machines had been going up and down all evening, so it was possible that they could come back, but otherwise the best she could do was suggest we go into the only line left that was still moving (and I could tell it was moving because the woman who'd arrived at the same time was leaving the window and on her way home). By this time, it was after 11:00, and the line was just as long as it had been when I'd arrived. I wanted to send my taxes by certified mail, and I was considering getting a book of stamps and sticking them all over the envelope until I got up to the $5.00 and whatever that a certified letter costs. Before I could do that, though, one of the machines came on line again, and I was all over that in getting started before it could go down again. I finally got out of there after about an hour and forty-five minutes. I barely made it home in time to get this going before midnight.

The lesson here? Do your taxes on time. I'm sure I'll have long forgotten it by the time April 15 roles around again next year. Oh, yeah, and props to the Post Office for keeping the postmarks going after the normal last pickup of the night--without that, I and every other person standing in those long, long lines would've missed our tax deadline, so despite how it might sound, I'm certainly appreciative of the Post Office and its employees.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

We're All Complicit

Take a look at Frank Rich in today's NYTimes for a discussion that we all know we should be having but have successfully avoided for too many years. As much as the Bushies have tried to insulate the American people from the Iraq war, we know enough of the sordid details that it's our war and our responsibility.

It was always the White House's plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war. Part of this was achieved with the usual Bush-Cheney secretiveness, from the torture memos to the prohibition of photos of military coffins. But the administration also invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice. A country that knows there's no such thing as a free lunch was all too easily persuaded there could be a free war.

Instead of taxing us for Iraq, the White House bought us off with tax cuts. Instead of mobilizing the needed troops, it kept a draft off the table by quietly purchasing its auxiliary army of contractors to finesse the overstretched military's holes. With the war's entire weight falling on a small voluntary force, amounting to less than 1 percent of the population, the rest of us were free to look the other way at whatever went down in Iraq.

. . .

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It's up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war's last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country's good name.

"Good Germans" are not exactly the kind of company that we should want to keep. But until we force the weak-kneed Democratic Congress to stand up, hold the White House accountable, and change administration policy, that's exactly what we're doing.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pop Quiz

You thought pop quizzes were over once you got out of school, but it's always worthwhile to keep our minds sharp. Here's a quote made earlier in the day. See if you can fill in the blanks (there aren't very many) and then identify who said it.

There are issues of human rights and we've been concerned and I've talked a good deal about the problems of individuals, journalists and others, who have had difficulty. But there are also institutional issues, issues about the -- in a presidential system not having strong institutions, countervailing institutions, to the presidency. And I've been very open about the concerns that that raises in any country, not just in (1)__________ but in any country. If you don't have countervailing institutions, then the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development.

. . .

Ultimately, democratic guarantees come from institutional development. Democratic governance comes from a president who can never be too strong because there will always be a congress or a parliament to check him or her, because there will be an independent media to shed light on what is going on. Now, we did have in one case a kind of interesting discussion of how the Internet will be a source from which people will get their information globally, not -- and so one wonders to the degree that you even control the media how well you'll be able to control information in the long run. . . . And so one wonders, even if there is an attempt to control the media, if that's going to work in the long run. And I tend to think not.

. . .

I've said that I think there's too much concentration of power in the (2)__________. . . . I've said it publicly before. Because it's just the absence of -- I think everybody has doubts about the independence, full independence, of the judiciary. . . . On a lot of very high-profile cases I think there are questions about the independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are I think questions about the strength of the (3)_________.

Have you filled in the blanks? No, it wasn't very hard--this is the first pop quiz we've featured in this blog, so I didn't want to make it difficult enough to scare people away. The correct answers, of course, are:

(1) Russia; (2) Kremlin; (3) Duma. The speaker was Condoleeza Rice, who's on a visit to Russia. Her press roundtable from earlier in the day came directly from the State Department Web site. You got them all correct, right?

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Nobel

All those predictions about Al Gore being the odds-on favorite to take home this year's Nobel Peace Prize seemed completely off base to me. The Nobel Committee is famous for being inscrutable, in going left when everyone expects them to go right. As soon as you think you know where they're going, they pull a quick left turn and end up somewhere else altogether. So much for my intuition. I believe that he's the first former Saturday Night Live host to win the prize (unless Chevy Chase snagged one when I wasn't paying attention).

Unsurprisingly, Gore said that he hoped the award would put a stronger focus on global warming. It'll probably do that to some extent, but the main topic of conversation in this country has been how this will force Gore into the presidential race or, if it doesn't, what effect it will have on those who are already in the race. A couple of them have already weighed in. Edwards congratulated the former vice president and took the opportunity to criticize the White House: "[Gore's] leadership stands in stunning contrast to the failure of the current administration to pursue policies that would reduce the harm of global warming." John McCain stated flatly that the Nobel Committee should've given the prize to someone else. The White House didn't seem to be widely impressed. "Of course, [Bush is] happy for Vice President Gore, happy for the International Panel on Climate Change scientists, who also shared the peace prize. Obviously it's an important recognition, and we're sure the vice president is thrilled." Now, there's a heartfelt congratulation. Privately, one unnamed administration official was even more blunt, telling The Washington Post that "the Nobel Prize is nice, but the presidency is still better. 'We're happy for him,' the aide said, 'but suspect he'd trade places before we would.'" That's just in case you'd forgotten that it's all about George.

The Draft Gore campaign has used the opportunity to offer fresh encouragement for the vice president to enter the race, but my sense is that he won't. (Take a look at the beginning of this post for how much to trust my predictions.) He should know that the press will treat him as a polarizing figure if he enters the race, and if his last election is any indication, a new campaign would never have the chance to focus on real issues, instead being forced to put out the silly fires his opponents (and the media itself) will keep setting for him. For the time being, anyway, he can probably best address the fray by staying above it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nostalgia for Former Causes

I stumbled upon some statistics yesterday that I haven't noticed in a while. The world's population has been ballooning at an amazing rate. Population first hit 1 billion people in 1804, and it took less than 125 years to double that, getting to 2 billion in 1927. A scant 33 years later in 1960, we hit 3 billion, and then 4 billion came in 1974. The next milestone was 1987 for 5 billion, and 6 billion followed in 1999.

The population explosion was a common catchphrase in the '70s. It hasn't faded away completely, but for some reason the issue doesn't seem to have the immediacy it once did. The fear in this issue, of course, and it continues to make sense today, is that population will grow so much as to outstrip the planet's natural resources. One basic precept is Thomas Malthus's principle that population would increase geometrically, by multiplication, and resource would increase only arithmetically, by addition. I first heard of Malthus when I was on the debate team in high school, when we repeated the geometric/arithmetic equation religiously. I might've heard of him a few years earlier, if I'd bought this comic book.

I remember looking through this comic on the stands when it was new in 1970, but my comic buying was far more constrained in those days (even with comic books at 15 cents, a ten-year-old back in the day had to be very choosy). Almost a year earlier, Green Lantern had teamed up with newly ultra-liberal Green Arrow to go in search of America. Sales were down, and the creative team, writer Denny O'Neil, artist Neal Adams, and editor Julius Schwartz, decided to take a new tack with the series, exploring current issues of the day. (As you can see, it's All New and All Now.) This issue, obviously, took on the population explosion and featured our heroes traveling to the planet Maltus (yes, they dropped the h) which had its own population crisis (I didn't buy it at the time, but I've since read the story). After I heard those statistics and traveled down this consciousness stream to this comic book, it occurred to me that this issue of Green Lantern came out 3 billion people ago. Why isn't overpopulation as pressing and imperative an issue today as it seemed to be then?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Credit Where Credit's Due

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post complaining about a shabby pair of Lee jeans. They were literally falling apart, and I vowed that I'd not waste any more money on Lee or their jeans. I figured that was that, but Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk doesn't waste her time with all talk and no action. She looked up Lee, discovered that their parent company was VF Corporation, and sent them a strident letter along with the actual jeans themselves. Late last week, we got an unexpected package from UPS. Lee stood behind their product and replaced the damaged jeans with another pair. I'll happily wear these new jeans, and provided that they don't disintegrate like the last pair, I'll likely buy more.

I don't know whether this is just my sense of things nowadays or whether there's something (that I'm too lazy at the moment to research) to back it up, but it seems like too many businesspeople are content to get the money into their hands and lose interest in any sort of service for their product. For most products, it's not just a matter of selling it once, but selling it twice, three times, or multiple times. If I like something, I'll generally replace it when it wears out. I'm happy to keep bringing my money back to get products that work and that appeal to me. Why wouldn't I? And I'm sure I'm not the only one. I'll reward good work, and I'll spurn bad work. Does that make me out of step with the rest of the world? I don't care if it does. I've got a new pair of jeans.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quick Hits

I haven't commented on Larry Craig's decision to stay in the Senate, which he made last week after his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea for disorderly conduct was turned down by a Minnesota judge. He'd earlier promised to leave if his plea stood, but for reasons that are not at all clear, he changed his mind. Was he reacting to the unsubtle push he was getting from his own party? I know that I certainly don't like to feel railroaded into a decision.

It's always fun to watch Republicans squirm. They tried to set up some sort of moral territory that would exclude Craig but welcome hooker-patronizing David Vitter. Craig may have to face down the Senate Ethics Committee, but I say, "Bring 'em on." Let the Republicans explain their situational ethics on this issue. And just in time for campaign season. Yeah, I suspect those hearings will fade into the sunset, too, particularly if the committee starts to look into Robert Novak's report that Senate conservatives knew about and covered up Craig's "problem."

On the horizon for Craig? He's due to be inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame on Saturday.

In his column last week (yes, that's how far behind I am at the moment), Rich Johnston has a link to what might be the perfect content for this blog. On Comedy Central's Indecision2008 blog, casts much of the presidential field as superheroes. Some of them are pretty much on target.

To the surprise of, well, pretty much no one, I'd imagine, Don Imus is in talks for his triumphant return to the airwaves, this time with Citadel Broadcasting, which would include ABC Radio. Not that I'm claiming any great insight, but I expected him back on the air before 2007 was out. Not everybody's happy about it, though. The National Association of Black Journalists is campaigning against him, and they may have influenced Fox News's decision of whether or not to simulcast the radio broadcast.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Better than Machiavelli!

That's what Chris Matthews told Jon Stewart on The Daily Show about his new book, Life's a Campaign, which sounds like a self-help book of life lessons based on politics. Stewart had what sounds like a reasonable response to that idea, which is that it would basically be a recipe for disaster. This was one of the most pointed (yet entertaining) interviews I've seen in a while. Matthews called it the worst interview he's ever had.--when he accused Stewart of trashing his book, Stewart replied, "I'm not trashing your book, I'm trashing your philosophy of life." Check out the video at mediabistro's FishbowlDC.

But that's not all! Matthews had another odd situation at a fete celebrating ten years of Hardball last week. He addressed the crowd, claiming he wanted to "make some news." He pointed out that the Clinton administration had never used heavy-handed tactics to pressure MSNBC to reign him either Matthews or his show and then made a vague reference to attempts by the White House and/or the vice president's office to do just that. "They've finally been caught in their criminality," he said, although it wasn't clear exactly what he was referring to. Don't worry, though, he "clarified" his statement the following evening on Hardball, and it appears that he was making nothing more than a reference to Scooter Libby. STOP THE PRESSES! FishbowlDC has the disappointing transcript.

Perhaps providing a little hint about Matthews's mindset at the Hardball party, also mentioned that he was overheard gloating over his coming out on top in his Jon Stewart encounter. Keep thinking the good thoughts, Chris!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Warning to the Senate

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia went onto the Senate floor on Thursday and in no uncertain terms attacked the passage a couple of weeks back of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that put the government of Iran on notice that they just better watch their step. Although some earlier war-mongering language was taken out of the final amendment, there was plenty of saber-rattling left for the Prez to be satisfied. The Senate is leaping aboard the White House (or vice president's?) agenda to join in banging the war drums for no obvious reason that I can see.

Calling the vote an "international verbal spitball," Byrd made the obvious comparison with a previous vote:

Every day it seems the confrontational rhetoric between the United States and Iran escalates. We hear shadowy claims about Iran’s destabilizing actions in Iraq, with little direct evidence offered to back it up. The President telegraphs his desire to designate a large segment of the Iranian army as a terrorist organization—and instead of counseling prudence, the United States Senate rushes ahead to do it for him. I hope that we can stop this war of words before it becomes a war of bombs.

We have seen the results when the U.S. Senate gives this Administration the benefit of the doubt: a war that has now directly cost the American people six hundred billion dollars, more than 3,800 American deaths, and more than 27,000 American casualties. A war that has stretched our military to the breaking point. A war that the commander of our forces in Iraq just three weeks ago could not say had made America safer.

I daresay many-—perhaps most-—in this chamber wish we had never gone into Iraq. Are we willing to sleep-walk into yet another disastrous military confrontation with a Middle East tyrant?

ThinkProgress has the video and helpfully points out that Byrd made a similar speech four and a half years ago, for all the good it did then.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


It looks like Justin Timberlake didn't have any competition from the latest addition to the Republican presidential field after all. Regardless of all the hype, Fred Thompson did not bring sexy back to Iowa or New Hampshire. A lot is being made around greater Blogistan of this report from the NYTimes earlier in the week describing a soporific-sounding meet-and-greet session in Iowa.

Twenty-four minutes after he began speaking in a small restaurant the other day, Fred D. Thompson brought his remarks to a close with a nod of his head and an expression of thanks to Iowans for allowing him to "give my thoughts about some things."

Then he stood face to face with a silent audience.

"Can I have a round of applause?" Mr. Thompson said, drawing a rustle of clapping and some laughter.

"Well, I had to drag that out of you," he said.

. . .

As Mr. Thompson campaigned across Iowa this week, he was something other than the dynamic presence that some in his party have been yearning for. Iowans saw a candidate who is subdued and sonorous, a laconic presence who spoke in soft monotone, threw few elbows and displayed little drive to distinguish himself from his opponents.

Mr. Thompson told few jokes and, while an easygoing presence, did not appear to have much interest in the small talk that is a staple of retail campaigning. As he defined his candidacy, Mr. Thompson spoke in broad generalities about the conservative principles that he said had informed his political views — in particular, federalism and cutting government spending — and led him to run for president.

In the process, he often lulled audiences into the kind of stillness that engulfed the room when he finished talking at the "Lunch with Fred Thompson" in Marshalltown.

The Times also offers a "Can I Have a Round of Applause" slide show--Christy Hardin Smith at firedoglake suggests we pay special attention to the body language between Thompson and his wife in this one.

One criticism often leveled against the former faux district attorney of New York is that he just doesn't have the desire and drive to become president. He's never been a favorite actor of mine, but I suppose that he gets the job done. If you want to see him in some unscripted action, he and his wife Jeri sat down with Sean Hannity for an interview of such low energy that Hannity seemed quite subdued, as well. It aired on Wednesday night, and it's up in three parts on YouTube (part one, part two, and part three), but his explanation of why he's running for president (at about 5:30 in part one) is not to be missed. It basically boils down to his wife encouraged him to, so why not, he might as well.

I'm wondering if he's even in for the long haul. I suppose he could hang on the three months until the Iowa caucuses, but he won't last much longer than that. The truly unfortunate thing for Thompson, though, is that by then the new season of Law & Order will have started, and the gig will go on without him. Sorry Fred.


I was out earlier in the evening watching the Red Sox join every other series-leading team by going up 2-0 over their opponent. It was touch and go for a while, and traditionally this hasn't been a team that you can count on to pull things out, but that's what they did tonight. Behind in the fifth inning, they caught up through the help of a teen fan in the stands who prevented Angels catcher Jeff Mathis from catching a foul ball from Manny Ramirez. (The ball was completely in the stands and out of official play, but if Mathis had come up with it, he would've got the out. Danny Vinik grabbed the ball just before it made it to Mathis's glove, making him the anti-Bartman, helping rather than hurting the team he was rooting for.) After that, Manny made it to first on a walk, loading the bases, and Mike Lowell knocked in a run with a sac fly. Although the Sox had scoring opportunities, the score remained tied into the bottom of the ninth. The Sox had set themselves up into scoring position again, and the Angels decided that they'd rather not face DH David Ortiz, giving him an intentional walk. Manny hadn't been at his best on defense throughout the evening, but as he walked to the plate, he had a lackadaisical quality, appearing unconcerned that the game was in his hands: An out would send it into extra innings. It seemed to me that he simply had an air of, "I'll take care of it, no need to worry." He took one ball, but as the second pitch left Francisco Rodriguez's hand, I thought, "This is it." When Manny connected, though, I was surprised anyway, thinking, "This is it!"

The Red Sox showed flashes of a championship team tonight, but they didn't make it through the whole game. They've got a travel day on Saturday, but the Red Sox and Angels are back at it on Sunday. They can wrap it up then and start getting ready for the winner of the Indians-Yankees match up (which I called for Cleveland before they were actually up 2-0 over the Yanks). But, in true Red Sox tradition, let's don't start getting ahead of ourselves.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Hey, Look! A Response!

Last night, it occurred to me that the NYTimes torture piece might just make a small splash and then disappear. It certainly wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened. But, lo and behold, people were actually paying attention. The press decided not to just give it quick lip service and move on to something else, they actually pursued it in this morning's press gaggle. White House spokesperson Dana Perino must've been up late last night at Arthur Murray, because she certainly had her dancing shoes on this morning. She didn't really get very far, but you've got to admire the effort. TPMmuckraker has the transcript. But the press weren't the only ones interested in pursuing the issue. John Conyers is pressing to get his own copy of the memo for the House Judiciary Committee. Unfortunately, it's not clear quite what the committee will do when the Bushies refuse to provide the document. Congress hasn't exactly had the best track record of enforcing supbeonas these days. Barack Obama weighed in with a straightforward denunciation of the practice.

The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security.

You'd think some things would go without saying, wouldn't you? He also told us that he wouldn't torture if he wins the presidency.

We'll keep an eye on this to see if anything actually comes of all this outrage. It's still got the option of making a small splash and being quickly forgotten.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Small Hint on Torture

Thursday's New York Times opens a small peephole on the Gonzales Justice Department's defense of torture. Completely unsurprisingly, Justice was setting up secret memos to allow and protect CIA torture techniques while Congress and the Supreme Court were trying to reign in roguish operations (which weren't rogue at all, of course, carrying the full--if secret--imprimatur of the White House).

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.

Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard.

The classified opinions, never previously disclosed, are a hidden legacy of President Bush’s second term and Mr. Gonzales’s tenure at the Justice Department, where he moved quickly to align it with the White House after a 2004 rebellion by staff lawyers that had thrown policies on surveillance and detention into turmoil.

Congress and the Supreme Court have intervened repeatedly in the last two years to impose limits on interrogations, and the administration has responded as a policy matter by dropping the most extreme techniques. But the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums, officials said. They show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.

It seems to me that there's not a lot of comment to make about this. We'll see what kind of response this inspires. It says something truly sad about the state of our current political and moral discourse that I feel the need to follow the word response with the disclaimer, if any.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hersh on Iran

The best advice I can offer tonight is to go read Sy Hersh's New Yorker report on the White House's ever-changing reasons for attacking Iran. Some of it is really harrowing stuff, especially in light of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that the overly deferential Democratic party passed last week, ratcheting up the rhetoric against that country. It all seems vaguely familiar, searching for a viable justification (that can be successfully sold to the voters) for a decision that's already been made. Fearmongering about a potential Iranian atomic bomb hasn't been successful, so the Bushies are trying to come up with some sort of counter-terrorism argument. Hersh has a rundown of instances in which they've already started salting the cover story into the national conversation.

But what's perhaps the most distressing part of this story (and another part that has an uncomfortable ring of familiarity to it) is the fact that there seems to be little planning for any kind of contingency plans if everything doesn't come off perfectly. And what kind of contingencies are we talking about? Hersh quotes Zbigniew Brzezinski:

Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to an American attack "by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years."

But what's twenty years of war among friends?

Hersh also reports that Britain is getting on board, which means that Tony Blair's trashed reputation over the Iraq War is serving as no warning sign whatsoever to Gordon Brown. France, which recently elected a more conservative government, is friendlier to these plans than it was four years ago.

As Hersh lays it out, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of obstacles to the Prez striking into Iran if that's what he chooses to do. While many of us are looking to the future and the next president, the current one still has a lot of fight left in him.

If you want to listen to Hersh make his arguments rather than reading them, take a listen to Tuesday's Fresh Air, where he talked to Terry Gross.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Still Waiting for the "New Political Landscape"

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released in Tuesday's Post reveals that 2/3 of respondents want Congress to reduce funding for the Iraq war. Too bad that the rollover Democratic Senate just voted to authorize another $150 million. But was the vote close? 92-3. Here's what the AP had to say about Democratic strategy:

Hoping the political landscape changes in coming months, Democratic leaders say they will renew their fight when Congress considers the money Bush wants in war funding.

They're hoping that the political landscape will change. What landscape are they waiting for when 2/3 of Americans want them to do the opposite of what they just did?

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who voted in favor of this bill, said, "Many of us have reached a breaking point on this. I've done this for too many years. I've waited for the president to start bringing this war to an end. I'm not going to sign up for this any longer."

Yeah, right. I suppose this was just one more for the road, then.

Monday, October 01, 2007

It All Had So Much Promise

Are you as disappointed as I am about our lost entertainment opportunity? At the end of last week, Newt was ramping up his potential presidential campaign. It wasn't a sure thing, but if he could raise $30 million in three weeks, he wouldn't necessarily avoid entering the contest. Yes, that was an unwieldy sentence. Newt wasn't promising to run if he got $30 million, but if he didn't get it, he wouldn't waste his time. "This is like climbing Mount Everest," he told the Associated Press. So much to look forward to!

Unfortunately, on Saturday he apparently realized that he'd never been much interested in climbing Mount Everest. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, Newt canceled his presidential inquiry the day before he was going to announce it. The stated reason is that Newt wouldn't be able to muse anymore. He's starting up American Solutions, which The Washington Post described as "the latest vehicle for Gingrich's musings about politics and policy." Apparently he learned that running for president would necessitate his resignation from the chairmanship of American Solutions, so naturally he made the only decision he could: keep the gig no one's ever heard of.

"American Solutions is in the early stages, I think, of becoming a genuine national citizens movement," Gingrich told reporters. "To walk out of it just as it's getting launched struck me as absolutely irresponsible."

Well, duh. Especially for something as frivolous as running for president.

We'll miss you, Newt. You would've added some real liveliness to the Republican field.