Saturday, December 31, 2005

Truly, the faith-based presidency.

What can you even say any more?

On the economic front [Bush] insisted that, even with tax cuts, his government was "staying on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009," but he made no mention of the fact that his Treasury secretary, John W. Snow, asked Congress on Thursday to raise the debt limit again, the fourth time in Mr. Bush's presidency, so that the government can borrow more money, largely for increases in military and entitlement programs.

And things are going just fine in Iraq, thanks, pay no attention to that recent sham of an election, the still-growing insurgency and, well, that increasing number of dead U.S. troops.

Remember, these are the folks for whom the phrase "reality-based" was an insult.

Sticking your nose in other peoples' business.

Yes, we all know that disgraced con artist Ahmed Chalabi was just handed the keys to the Iraqi oil ministry, democracy being on the march and all and Chalabi needing some sort of consolation prize after having been kicked to the curb in the recent Iraqi elections.

What's amusing in that article is this nugget buried several paragraphs down:

Once tabbed by some U.S. officials as a future leader of Iraq, Chalabi suffered a series of blows following the U.S.-led invasion, beginning when intelligence he provided to the Pentagon about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction proved false. He was later accused of passing U.S. secrets to the government of Iran. But in recent months, several U.S. officials have praised Chalabi's technical expertise and ability to facilitate agreements among feuding factions within the government.

"He has proven himself quite capable and experienced in dealing with all aspects of Iraq's energy sector and is well-qualified for this position," a U.S. official said on the condition that he not be named because he was commenting on an Iraqi government decision.

Well, how about that? Apparently, some U.S. officials understand that it's more than a little inappropriate to comment on the goings-on of a foreign government. Who would have guessed?

Bad science and Lord Edmund Black Adder.

Go here, and follow the link to the skewering.

And the Ottawa Citizen embarrasses itself.

Commenter Mike (from another post) points us at this article by columnist David Warren in today's Ottawa Citizen which (perhaps mercifully) you can read only the first line of:

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the Darwinoids

My favourite letter-to-the-editor all year was from a certain Rod Bhar of Carleton Place, who noted the large amount of space the Citizen had devoted to the 100th anniversary of Einstein's three most famous papers.

Awwwwww ... isn't that just adorable? David has a cute, condescending pet name for people who are smarter than he can ever hope to be. That's so sweet. Maybe we can come up with a clever nickname for David. I'm thinking "pompous, ignorant fuckwad" but I was hoping for something catchier.

In any case, perhaps someone who has access to the entire article can e-mail it to me and I can post it. Then we can all see what kind of doofus Warren really is. I suspect there will be no huge surprises.

AH, THERE WE GO: Commenter Aeolus points us to Mr. Warren's pompous, uneducated ranting online here. Go read it, and appreciate the fact that Warren actually got paid to write it.

I'm particularly amused by this surprisingly open admission:

I continue to draw inspiration from so many simple people, lacking the intellectual means to confute the Darwinian priesthood in the academy, ...

I mean, when was the last time you saw someone so publicly announce that his intellectual role models were, well, morons? At the very least, you have to give Warren credit for honesty.

TIT FOR TAT: Ah, it just came to me. If Warren is going to make up snarky, demeaning terms like "Darwinoid" to describe his detractors and intellectual superiors, it's only fair that we get to do the same in reverse.

I believe the term "dumbfuck" works just fine here. Go on -- tell me I'm wrong.

Your end-of-year creationist/ID idiocy.

And because you just can't get enough pig-ignorant, fundamentalist Christian swill in your life, I give you a couple of links.

First, we have DKos' science blogger DarkSyde, taking it to wingnut Kent Hovind. Most people know Hovind as the creationist who has a $250,000 offer to anyone who can provide any evidence for biological evolution. Fewer people recognize Hovind as a lying sack of crap that even other creationists try to avoid these days.

Also, we have this tedious and hopelessly dishonest op-ed piece in the National Post from back on Dec. 1 by the Discovery Institute's Stephen Meyer. I'm not sure how I missed it but, if you read it, you'll see why Meyer and the Post truly deserve one another.

I can't wait to see what 2006 brings. Perhaps yet another re-labelling of creation science? We could call it, um, "unnatural complexity." Yeah, that's it. And it will in no way be related to Intelligent Design. Trust me.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: I should point out that I found that Post piece by following a link from here -- an ID site whose collective contributors are so unspeakably dense, it's a miracle they don't simply collapse in on top of themselves through gravitational contraction.

The first link there is the Post piece, while the second is a similarly asinine article hosted by (big surprise coming here) Fox News. I'm not going to bother disemboweling that bit of stupidity, except to slap around one annoyingly-common whine from the wingnut right:

We’re fighting because the institution of public schooling forces us to, by permitting only one government-sanctioned explanation of human origins.

Quite simply, that's crap. Biological evolution has no "government sanction" whatsoever. There was no Congressional or Parliamentary vote along the lines of, "All right, then, all in favour of inflicting evolution on the public school system at the expense of scientifically illiterate, whiny, religious wingnuts? Done. Right, then, lunch anyone?"

Evolution is not the dominant explanation for the diversity of life because the government gave its stamp of approval. It's dominant because it's good science and it works, nothing more.

It is safe to say, though, that creation science and intelligent design are government rejected points of view simply because they're fundamentalist nonsense, but that doesn't stop the religious right from whining that, somehow, they're the victims of government-enforced anti-religious discrimination. To take that position is like claiming that the NBA unfairly discriminates against me just because, well, I have no talent at basketball. That's not discrimination; that's life.

And if the IDers want to be taken seriously, they should stop crying about discrimination and start presenting some science. Just like, if I want to be taken seriously by the NBA, maybe I should learn how to play basketball.

"Hey, Karl! I need another word for 'retreat'."

Yes, there's nothing like getting your ass handed to you on a plate to make you rethink that agenda, is there?

Ralph Reed's buddy Jack is in a world of trouble.

It just never gets old pointing out how Ralph Reed's good buddy Jack Abramoff is a walking cesspool of corruption and bribery (does that even work as a metaphor?). For all the latest, check out Josh Marshall.

Mercifully, no blowjobs were involved. That we know of.

New York Times vs Washington Post: The race to the bottom.

These days, it's hard to tell which is the crappier standard of journalistic excellence, the Times or the Post. Just recently, we had the Times sitting on the illegal wiretapping story for a year, then hypocritically moralizing about it.

Now it's the Post's turn, with this wretchedly dishonest piece of swill by neo-con hacks and water carriers Bill Kristol and Gary Schmitt, which Judd over at Think Progress deconstructs nicely.

Times, back to you. I'm thinking a properly rancid David Brooks column should show the Post who's in charge here.

Dear Times: Never mind. The Post just took a commanding lead.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Oh, God ... too much cuteness ... must resist ...

Snark, with a subtle hint of kitten.

Another blog to add to the blogroll.

I just stumbled across this blog by a sort-of colleague from way back, Jim Lippard. Jim's one of the smartest people you're ever likely to meet, so I'm guessing his blog will be worth reading.

As an example, this recent post kind of creeps me out. Sorry, what was all that about "They hate you for your freedoms?" What freedoms?

Do letters to the editor need to have any standards?

Many years ago, when I lived down south, I wrote a letter to my local newspaper, pointing out how the Boy Scouts of America discriminated against not only gays, but atheists. This wasn't meant to be a bombshell of an observation; it was well known and was (and still is) the official policy of the BSA. No big secret.

When my letter was published, I was infuriated to find that the editors had added an "editor's note" at the bottom, explaining quite simply that I was wrong and that the BSA had no such policy. In effect, they published my letter, then called me a liar. Assholes.

When I phoned the editor to ask what right they had to add editorial comments like that, he said that "several" of the editorial staff discussed it, and they decided that they had the right to disagree with my claim. Fascinating, I replied. Does that mean, I asked, that you will do the same when people write in, making demonstrably ludicrous claims about biological evolution? It sure sounds like that's what you're saying, I pointed out.

Well, he hemmed and hawed, there was still some debate as to the policy they would settle on regarding letters that they thought contained falsehoods. How convenient.

Which brings us to an article over at Jeff Shallit's blog, in which Jeff dismantles a recent letter writer to the local paper. It's not Jeff's dismantling that's of interest, of course; it's why that letter was published in the first place when it's such glaringly obvious bullshit.

I don't think it's unreasonable for someone to track down the letters editor at the paper, and ask whether they have any intellectual standards whatsoever for letters that they publish. Certainly, anyone who's followed the evolution controversy over the years can recognize the mind-numbing stupidity in that letter. But is that the kind of letter that's so stupid, it shouldn't even be published?

(Let me emphasize what the issue is here. We're not talking about a difference of opinion. We're talking about someone who's just flat-out wrong. There's a difference.)

Well? Does the Record have any standards at all? Or is it a case of anything goes? I'd be fascinated to know if there's a limit to the Record's tolerance for utter nonsense.

Intelligent Design and free speech. No, it doesn't work that way.

Over here, we have an article on Intelligent Design, written by some Christians who are, sadly, about as intelligent as a bag of rocks. Virtually everything in that article just drips with ignorance, dishonesty or some combination of the two. But it's the last paragraph I want to examine:

Nevertheless, Laursen promises, CEAI will continue to encourage its members to "teach all the science available in the 21st century, whether it supports evolution or not." He says the group will also go on urging teachers to bring supplemental science data and information beyond the mandated curricula into their classrooms.

Now, when anyone encourages teachers to "supplement" their official curriculum with, you know, "other stuff" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), they're typically implying that teachers (at least in the U.S., which is the target for the article) have some inherent right to free speech in the classroom. Those people would be hideously wrong.

The whole "You're infringing on my right to free speech" has already been tried, and it failed miserably. If you scroll down in that legal decision to Section "B. Free Speech," while that section is discussing teacher John Peloza's right to talk to his students about religion, it just as easily applies to Peloza's right to talk about anything that deviates from the official curriculum that he's been assigned by the school and the school board (particularly if the topic still has religious connotations, as ID certainly does):

While at the high school, whether he is in the classroom or outside of it during contract time, Peloza is not just any ordinary citizen. He is a teacher. He is one of those especially respected persons chosen to teach in the high school's classroom. He is clothed with the mantle of one who imparts knowledge and wisdom. His expressions of opinion are all the more believable because he is a teacher. The likelihood of high school students equating his views with those of the school is substantial. To permit him to discuss his religious beliefs with students during school time on school grounds would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Such speech would not have a secular purpose, would have the primary effect of advancing religion, and would entangle the school with religion...

The district court did not err in dismissing the part of Peloza's section 1983 claim that was predicated on an alleged violation of his right to free speech under the First Amendment.

In short, a teacher most certainly does not have the freedom to "supplement" official curriculum with his or her personal preferences. Put in a simpler way, a teacher is an employee and, as an employee, their job is to properly and competently present the material that has been handed to them. They have absolutely no "free speech" right to start making shit up, as it were.

Do I really have to explain why the rest of that Agape Press article is similar swill? I didn't think so.

BY THE WAY, you have to love this gem from that article:

In any case, the Christian educators' advocate insists that government has no business banning viewpoints in the classroom.

Ah, yes, those notoriously open-minded Christian fundamentalists. That would be these folks, right? Apparently, while all points of view are equal, some are more equal than others.

The Citizens Centre for "Rights? Who said you have any rights?"

You know, some folks really should deal with their homophobia. Seriously. Get into therapy, start taking meds ... something, because you're starting to embarrass yourselves.

The latest example is the laughably-misnamed Canadian "Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy" who, in the midst of a bunch of suggestions about how to make Canada a better place, have this genuine howler of a proposal (whose rationale I'm sure is fairly obvious these days, no?):

Citizens [should have] the final say over the Charter of Rights

... The real question is, however, who’s to decide when a particular Charter right reasonably applies and when it doesn’t? ...

Yes, it's all the fault of those gosh-darned pesky rights, making things, you know, complicated and everything. And the CCFD's suggestion:

Blatantly missing from the rights question is any direct reference to public judgment. The constitution is supposed to reflect the values, beliefs and priorities of the Canadian people, not just those of the legal elite.

We should amend Charter section 33 to state that in those rare but important cases when courts and politicians disagree about what the Charter means, the question will be settled by a public referendum in the next general election.

Brilliant. Because when it comes to deciding on what fundamental rights Canadians are entitled to, I can't think of a better final arbiter than the man on the street. You know, the one who, when asked by a reporter, "Who do you think will win tonight's game?", they're like, "The Leafs. Fer shure. You bet."

Yup, that's just the guy I want with the power to override the Supreme Court of Canada.

God, I love democracy.

Why I hate Microsoft products.

Stupid Microsoft humour for no reason whatsoever:

Credit here, which is an article that's worth reading.

Uh oh ... SOMEBODY'S starting to feel the pressure.

Notice anything interesting about the last few White House Press gaggles? I'm thinking somebody's going to be spending a lot more time with his family in the near future, if you catch my drift.

AFTERSNARK: I'm thinking someone with Photoshop-like skills might take that banner graphic and mess with it to show li'l Scottie giving the Corps the finger. Anyone?

: It's hard to believe they're still trying to put this over on the public, but check out the openings of the last two press gaggles. First, Dec. 27:

MR. DUFFY: Good morning. Let me update you on the President's schedule. Yesterday, after arriving, he went out and did some cutting and clearing brush, and then was at his home on the ranch. And this morning he had his normal intelligence briefings, and he was out this morning clearing some brush ...

And Dec. 28:

... The President had his normal intelligence and daily briefings this morning, and was out clearing brush.

You'd think that someone would have pointed out to His Preznitness that clearing brush is what undocumented Mexican workers are for. Or something.

"We're going home! We're finally going home! We're ... oh, crap."

Um, about that imminent redeployment from Iraq? Well, heh heh ... funny story:

After a series of prison abuse scandals that have inflamed sectarian tensions, U.S. officials announced plans Thursday to rein in Iraqi special police forces, increasing the number of American troops assigned to work with them and requiring consultations before the Iraqis mount raids in Baghdad.

Merry Christmas, troops. Don't take that lump of coal in your stocking personally or anything. (Hat tip to DKos.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Paul Martin really should learn to shut up.

I've never been a Paul Martin fan and I'm becoming less of one by the day. Consider this (emphasis added):

Goodale came under fire Wednesday after the RCMP said it has launched a criminal investigation into allegations that a Finance Department announcement was leaked to Bay Street...

"The RCMP has said there is no evidence of wrongdoing on Mr. Goodale's behalf, his office or his department," Martin said.

How exactly can the RCMP say there is no evidence of wrongdoing when they've just launched the investigation? If the RCMP actually said that, it was an incredibly stupid thing to say.

This is one of those rare occasions where Martin might actually want to take a page out of George Bush's playbook: "We are not going to comment on an ongoing investigation." And leave it at that.

What I want(ed) for Christmas.

Oh, baby, I want me one of these. Check out the specs. And, yes, of course it runs Linux. Like you had to ask?

A short piece on modern "Darwinism."

Over here, Andy links to a piece from The Economist that's a short but entertaining read. Now, if Andy would only do something about that colour scheme ...

Dear Intelligent Designers: You have two doors. Pick one.

If there's one thing that's grated on me for years throughout the creation science and Intelligent Design controversy, it's the proposal that students should be presented with "both sides," and that there should be a "balanced treatment" of the competing world views, all for the sake of "academic fairness." Let me explain why that attitude is unspeakably dishonest rubbish.

If we use ID as the example here, then you first have to accept that ID and biological evolution are competitors. Do you understand what that means? It means that they both can't be true at the same time. ID is not being presented as an extension or refinement of naturalistic evolution; it's being presented as a bold, new, earth-shaking paradigm that would replace biological evolution. What this means (and make sure you follow me here) is that, if you consider ID on one hand and biological evolution on the other, at least one of those must be wrong.

Are you with me so far? Is there anything inherently shocking about that claim? If you have two mutually incompatible proposals, at least one of them must be wrong. (It is, of course, possible that both of them are wrong, but that's just a subset of the first case. Let's just leave that alone for now, shall we?) Now what does this mean?

Well, if you're proposing that "both sides" should be presented to students, you are clearly suggesting that part of what the students are going to be hearing is rubbish, plain and simple. It doesn't matter which of those two viewpoints you agree with -- it's indisputable that, if you're advocating for balanced treatment or "equal time," you're simultaneously advocating that students should be taught scientific crap at least part of that time. There's no way to escape that conclusion. So how do the two camps approach this conundrum?

On one side, the scientific community is being perfectly consistent. It accepts biological evolution and rejects ID; therefore, its position is that evolution should be taught, and ID shouldn't. Regardless of whether or not you agree with this position, you can't possibly deny that this is an internally consistent position.

The advocates of ID, on the other hand, are sleazy, dishonest hacks. While they propose that the evidence supports ID, they take the curious position that they'd still be happy with "equal time"; with sharing the classroom time with biological evolution. But why?

If those folks really don't accept evolution, they should have the spine and the integrity to say so, and to propose that ID replace biological evolution in the classroom. If they honestly believe that ID is a better explanation, they should say so and be prepared to fight for it. But they don't. How odd. And why is that? Actually, it's fairly simple.

If the IDers actually tried to replace evolution with ID, there would be a shitstorm in the scientific community the likes of which you can't begin to imagine. More importantly for those advocates, ID would simply get crushed. Stacked up against all the arguments in favour of evolution, the best the IDers would be able to do would be to point at, say, the bacterial flagellum and say, "Gee, that looks pretty complicated, maybe even designed." Yes, they would get annihilated.

Which is why they're mysteriously content to just share the classroom time with evolution. They don't have a hope of replacing it, so they propose the "equal time" canard, hoping to sound ever so gracious and accommodating. And most of the general public -- being the scientific morons that they are -- just nod and say, "Yeah, I guess that sounds reasonable, what's wrong with hearing both sides? Sure sounds fair to me."

But it's not fair or reasonable, it's hideously dishonest. If the IDers really believe they have a better explanation, they should present it that way and take their lumps. They shouldn't be allowed to take this wishy-washy, "equal time" position, and I would like to see them getting called on this from now on.

The next time someone starts yapping on about "both sides" or "equal time," just slap them down and demand that they pick which point of view they want presented in the classroom. Perhaps a better way of phrasing it would be, "If you had to select just one 'theory' of biological development based solely on the scientific evidence, which one would it be? No waffling. No dodging, weaving, or tap-dancing. Pick one."

It's way past time to put the boots to this "balanced treatment" crap. If folks want ID in the classroom, they should be forced to defend its scientific superiority to biological evolution and explain why it should be the only point of view presented to science students. And if they're not prepared to do that, they should just shut the fuck up.

: I've written about this before, but I might as well flog it one more time. One of the most irritating questions I hear from the wingnut faction is why can't the scientific community "compromise"? That is, why can't all those dogmatic, closed-minded scientists find it in their hearts to meet the ID folks halfway? After all, that sounds fair, doesn't it? It's not, and here's why.

As an analogy, you get a one-day job doing some manual labour, while I decide to spend the day sitting on my ass by the pool, knocking back margaritas. At the end of the day, you come back hot, sweaty and tired, but with a hundred bucks to show for your efforts.

"Cool," I say, "hand it over. I can really use that cash."

"Screw you," you reply justifiably. "I earned it, it's mine."

"OK," I say, "calm down. In that case, let's compromise. Just give me half. That's fair, isn't it?"

That's a compromise? I don't think so, but it's exactly what the ID community is proposing. They haven't done squat in terms of scientific research or generating results, but they still want half the classroom time. That's their idea of a "compromise."

Tell them to take a hike until they have something to show for their efforts.

How about "Canadian media's blogs of the year"?

No, seriously. It's not like we haven't had enough blogging awards, but I'd like to know what the Canadian mainstream media thinks. I'd like to see their list of top blogs -- not a general public opinion poll since, for the most part, I don't give a crap what the general public thinks. (We've already seen the clusterfuck that results when you combine the phrases "public intellectual" and "National Post" in the same sentence. God knows we don't want to go down that road again.)

I want the media's list of blog favourites, to see what they think is the best of the best. And I want to see if they're any smarter than Time, who soiled themselves last year by giving their "Blog of the Year" to these cretins, who turned out to be a bunch of dishonest, right-wing hacks and spin merchants.

So, how about it, Globe? Post? Star? CBC? Maclean's? Where's your list? We all need some entertainment to start the new year off right.

, it does seem that Time has learned its lesson, deciding against even having a 2005 "Blog of the Year". Perhaps it's just as well, since I can only imagine the rancor and acrimony around the table, trying to decide between Michelle Malkin and Little Green Footballs.

It would have been ugly.

Apparently, "lying" is only for liberals these days.

If you're a conservative, then it's just not being "precise." I'm sure you all appreciate the difference.

UPDATE: The Washington Post does its part in taking the truth outside and pounding its face into the curb regarding DeLay.

"They're bloggers. Try not to make eye contact."

You bloggers. Yes, you. You are all evil, evil people. Kathleen Parker says so.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Logical analysis, CPC style.

Oh, dear. It appears that my recent suggestion to join the Blogging Tories didn't go over well, least of all with a number of conservatives. At issue was whether one necessarily had to be a "Tory" to be a "Blogging Tory," for which one commenter, "AlbertaAvenue," upbraided me thusly:

Complete and utter nonsense. I am a member of CPC, but not a member of BT.

(Long pause.)

OK, let me try that again ... (Obligatory reference to Monty Python logic skit, to which level of critical thinking commenter can only aspire. Sheesh.)

Oh, THIS is a promising development.

I'm sure this isn't what the Bush junta had in mind in terms of "democracy" in Iraq:

Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan...

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

"It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours."

I can't wait to see how this is spun as "progress." I'm betting Turkey is not happy about this.

THOSE SNEAKY, SNEAKY KURDS: Given the above, it's not at all surprising to learn that the Kurds have a vested interest in keeping the hostilities going. Yes, this is all going just swimmingly, isn't it?

About that CBC election roundtable resignation suggestion.

Since there's been some discussion of my suggestion, I thought I'd expand on it back here. Bottom line: I still think it's necessary.

Meet your newest Blogging Tory. Moi.

I am getting thoroughly tired of this ongoing debate about whether racist Canadian hate-monger Kate McMillan is, or is not, a "member" of the Conservative Party. Despite her clear membership in the Blogging Tories, she is adamant that she is unaffiliated with any party. Worse, she's managed to snooker into that myth at least a few bloggers who should know better:

... on prompting by Andrew of Bound By Gravity, I retract any suggestion that Kate speaks for, or is a member of, the Conservative Party of Canada.

That's just annoying. Let's look at the evidence, shall we? First, the site is called "The Blogging Tories". That's "Tory" with a capital "T", which suggests the use of a proper name and/or organization, and not just a general ideological attitude.

Furthermore, the home page header shows what appears to be a part of the Parliament buildings, no? Which strongly leads one to assume there's an actual political connection here. And politics would equal Conservative Party of Canada, unless things changed drastically while I was sleeping.

Finally, we have at least this definition of the word "Tory":

In Canada, a Tory is a member or supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada.

And yet, despite all of this evidence, McMillan insists that she has no political affiliations and that, mysteriously, one can be a member of the Blogging Tories without being an actual, you know, Tory.

Well, fine. Under that amazingly-accommodating definition, it would seem I could just as easily be a member. Which is why I just now submitted my membership application, and I encourage all other (non-politically affiliated) members of Progressive Bloggers to do the same. Apparently, one need not actually have any official sympathies with the Tories to be a member of BT, which makes all of us Progressive Bloggers eligible.

So come on down! The more, the merrier. I'm assuming my membership request won't be rejected based on a few niggling ideological differences. Or that I'm not an actual Tory. Or anything like that.

After all, they keep talking about having a "big tent." Let's see just how big that tent really is, shall we?

George W.: Not just another pretty face, you know.

There goes that George Bush again -- immersing himself in deep thought and literature:

President George W. Bush is spending part of his Christmas holiday reading about the post-presidential years of Theodore Roosevelt and the lives of U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Bush was reading "When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House," by Patricia O'Toole, and "Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground," by Robert Kaplan while on holiday at his Texas ranch, said White House spokesman Trent Duffy.

And it seems like only yesterday that he was zipping his way through the works of Cicero and de Tocqueville:

The most surprising convert to the ranks of the highbrow is Bush, who has evolved from calling the Greeks ``Grecians'' to reading the Greeks himself. An official recently told reporters that Bush's influences included Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, along with Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith and Cicero.

Apparently, we really have misunderestimated the man. Shame on us.

AFTERSNARK: Commenter "Brad" draws our attention to the intellectual juggernaut that is Commander Chimpy. I think I just wet myself.

Come again?

In psychology, we'd call this "projection":

Are you a high ranking member of the Liberal Party of Canada? Are you bursting with racist and homophobic slurs to level at the enemies of Canada, that is, anyone who isn't voting for you?

I think somebody has their ideologies crossed.

Redefining "self-loathing" in a whole new way.

We only spied on very bad people (emphasis added):

"This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner," [Bush spokesman Trent Duffy] told reporters. "These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings, and churches."

Well, dammit. I told you those Catholics were trouble.

And you thought intellectual discourse was dead.

Remember, when it comes to political differences, nothing says "conservative maturity" like calling someone a "whore."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Just when you think things can't get any more embarrassing...

Oh, dear ... it's going to be kind of hard to justify this little indelicacy in the name of fighting terrorism:

President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show.

Because, as we all know, there are only six degrees of separation between members of the U.N. Security Council and Osama bin Laden. No, wait ... that's Kevin Bacon. Never mind.

Open thread.

Play nice. Do not make me stop this car and come back there.

The futility of illegal wiretapping.

In the Family Guy episode "There's Something About Paulie," Peter accidentally puts out a hit on his wife Lois and desperately looks for a way to have it called off. He visits the local mob front "pet store," where he waits patiently behind a customer who has the following conversation with the proprietor:

C: "I would like a 'bunny'.
P: "What kind of 'bunny'? A semi-automatic 'bunny' or a handheld 'bunny'?"
C: "Whatever 'bunny' you think is better for shooting a guy in the head."

See, regulars in the store suspect that the place is bugged so, naturally, they converse in code, a clever trick apparently unknown to the geniuses in the Bush administration.

From all indications, everyone involved in fighting the War on Terror™ seems to think that, if they wiretap like crazy, they'll eventually stumble upon the evil terrorists, who naturally engage in incredibly incriminating conversations like this:

Abdul: "So, Mohammad, did you get the timers for the dirty bomb we're going to blow up next to the Empire State Building tomorrow at 5 pm? Next to the south entrance?"
Mohammad: "Not yet. Farid will be delivering them to me this evening, at 8 pm, here at my apartment at 3254 West Smith Avenue."
Abdul: "Good, good. I hope there are no delays in that delivery. You know how Farid's job as a truck driver for Fed Ex in the Bronx sometimes calls for him to work overtime."

Apparently, in Bushworld, it's inconceivable that those nefarious terrorists might, oh, I don't know, converse in a predetermined code, something like the following (which is based on something I read on the net in the last day or two but failed to keep a record of so if someone can track it down, I'd like to give it proper credit):

'Fred': "Hi, 'John'. How's the installation of 'PowerPoint" going?"
'John': "Pretty well, 'Fred', but I still need to install a couple more 'plugins' before it's all finished."
'Fred': "Well, if you need any help, you might want to ask my friend 'Bill'. He's done this sort of installation before and he probably has all the 'plugins' you need."

And how can we know that the Bush administration really is this unspeakably clueless? Well, if you look at their recent successes in the War on Terror™, it seems that, these days, everyone is celebrating the thwarting of the "destruction" of the Brooklyn Bridge when, as it turns out, this alleged terrorist plot was little more than the unrealistic ravings of a mentally ill truck driver from Ohio who figured on bringing down the bridge with a blowtorch.

That's it? That's the defense for Bush's global war on civil liberties? The capture of a nut who had absolutely no hope of doing any damage? That's their shining moment in anti-terrorism? That's what Commander Chimpy trashed the Constitution for -- the capture of someone who was so deluded, he probably blabbed about his plan to waitresses at every truck stop he visited on the way? The mind reels. And the terrorists are almost certainly chuckling to themselves while they continue to chat openly about 'bunnies' and 'PowerPoint'.

I'd write more but I'm already running behind schedule. 'Hank' is coming over for 'dinner'. And he's bringing the 'dessert'. If you catch my drift.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: mahigan tracks down the inspiration for my little scenario here.

"War"? What "war"?

Since so much has been justified recently in the name of the ongoing War on Terror™, it's worth pointing out one small detail: there is no "war." There never has been a "war" since, quite simply, the U.S. Congress never declared one. Q.E.D. The notion of a war on terror is as meaningful as a war on drugs, or poverty, or illiteracy, or whatever. It's not officially a "war" at all.

If you need convincing, I recommend this piece. All this talk about war and a "wartime president" and so on is just so much swill. So, can we all stop using that word? Please?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to the war on Christmas.

PILING ON: Josh Marshall wades into the same swamp.

It's time for the rest of the CBC election roundtable to resign.

Given that, as Dr. Dawg writes over here, the CBC caved in to Kate McMillan's threat to sue for libel, I think the rest of the roundtable have an obligation, out of pure principle, to resign in protest.

After listening to right wingers yap incessantly about how their views are being "censored" or similar rubbish like that, it's the height of hypocrisy for one of their own to use legal threats to clamp down on a fellow roundtabler.

So ... Marcie, Glyn, Alan and Liam ... I realize this is your 15 minutes of fame and a wickedly appealing forum to reach a larger audience. But, really, at this point, you need to do the right thing and walk off the set. Now.

MY SYMPATHIES: It's been suggested here and in a number of other places that it's really asking a bit much for the rest of the CBC Election Roundtable to resign. After all, what would that accomplish, they'd just fill those spots with other people who would be possibly worse, this is a great opportunity for those other four columnists to get some experience and perhaps move on to bigger and better things, etc., etc.

Sorry, I don't buy any of that as a defense.

As I read it, when that round table was first established, it was going to represent a variety of voices from across the ideological spectrum -- journalistic "peers" as it were, all with something to say and being given the opportunity to say it. Well, it didn't work out that way, did it?

Far from those round table members being co-equal, we now know who's running the show -- given Kate McMillan's ability to censor one of the other members, we know that Kate is the "alpha male" of the bunch and the rest of the group is (pardon the vulgarity here) her collection of bitches.

The credibility of that entire group pretty much vanished when Kate got her way. It means that, regardless of how much one likes to read Marcie's work, one will always wonder if she's having to hold back to avoid another legal threat, and the same goes for all of the other members. And it's not just Kate that they might be worried about.

Now that Kate's proved that intimidation works, what's to stop, say, Monte Solberg from putting in a call to the CBC to put a little pressure on a piece he doesn't like? We already know that legal threats work, we just don't know who else is going to get the idea.

I sympathize with the rest of the round table in that this is something that they really want to do, and that it's a nice source of income and that it's good experience and all the rest of that. But let's face it -- the credibility is gone. It disappeared the instant Kate McMillan strong-armed the CBC, and the CBC folded.

It's over, folks. It was over the moment you saw what happened and accepted it. Time to move on, and take your dignity and credibility with you.

That Rumsfeld resignation thing is going to take some timing.

Once upon a time, rumour had it that Secretary of Advanced Senility and Hallucinatory Epiphanies Donald Rumsfeld was going to resign, as soon as the bullets in Iraq stopped flying long enough for him to exit gracefully:

White House officials are telling associates they expect Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to quit early next year, once a new government is formed in Iraq, sources said yesterday...

Bush has told friends that Rumsfeld is a political liability, but the President has a history of sticking with his personnel baggage until an opportune moment.

Well, that could be a bit tricky:

Deadly attacks hit Iraqi, US forces

Iraq has returned to its violent ways after a brief lull during a fairly peaceful poll - secured partly by an informal ceasefire by Sunni Arab fighters hoping for representation in parliament.

Yes, this is the "MBA administration," isn't it? In which someone is just too unspeakably incompetent and clinically insane to fire until the right moment comes along.

Kate McMillan: Hacktacular!

The ever-so-predictable Kate McMillan, lovingly quoting yet another right-wing hack (all emphasis added):

Bush's illegal wiretaps on totally innocent US citizens who might be calling Hamas, Hizbollah and Al Qaeda personnel because ... er ... because ... well, it’s illegal, and wrong and against the constitution despite that fact that Bill Clinton did it ...

Details, details. And when all else fails, there's always the 9/11 card to play:

John Hindraker at Powerline sits us all down and calmly explains why it's important during wartime to find out what the enemy is planning, so we can try to stop them, and that in fact it’s completely legal and constitutional, and maybe some people might have forgotten about certain things such as skyscrapers collapsing and the Pentagon erupting in flames.

Yes, by God, you just never know when those treasonous Catholics or vegans are going to bring down another skyscraper, do you? Bastards.

DEAR NEO-CONS: When you've lost Byron York, you've lost the wankersphere:

In the argument that has emerged over warrantless surveillance, there have been a number of overstatements. Some people, for example, have said that Bill Clinton signed an executive order authorizing such surveillance; he did not.

When a regular columnist for the right-wing National Review understands this, it's time for the rest of you to buy a clue as well. Are you paying attention, Kate?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Marcie, Kate, the CBC and how you just KNEW this was going to happen.

It was a recipe for disaster. Mix four moderately sane human beings and pathological racist and right-wing hack Kate McMillan and, sooner or later, bad things are going to happen.

Here, Politicagrll Marcie Abramovitch describes how McMillan is yapping on about suing for libel because someone points out what a hateful racist she is. Someone might want to point out to Kate that it's kind of late to be locking that barn door -- that horse is long gone. But that's neither here nor there. To come up to speed, read the article that is the point of contention here, follow the link to Somena Media, check that out as well, then come on back. I'll wait.

So ... what exactly do we have here then? First, while I am not a lawyer, I think it's safe to tell Kate to go suck eggs. She is a public personality of her own creation, and it's hard to imagine any court in Canada taking her whining about being libelled seriously. But that's just my off-the-cuff opinion; cooler heads might want to jump in here. In any event, that's not the issue. There are bigger things happening here.

In the first place, when the CBC first rounded up that crew to produce regular pieces on the election, what exactly was it after? Self-contained pieces? Sober political analysis? What? Because, given the personalities involved, someone might have suggested that there was at least a small possibility of some fireworks.

Did the CBC lay down any ground rules about cross-column sniping? Because if I was in charge, I would have done just that. I would have made it clear that everyone was entitled to their opinions but, because this was being done under the banner of the CBC, things would be a little more structured and genteel than one would find on your typical PB blog.

In short, would any one of those columnists have been allowed to rake one of their colleagues over the coals? If that was one of the ground rules, then Marcie can be viewed as having crossed the line, but I have no idea what guidance these folks were given. All that aside, I think Marcie made a bigger mistake.

If you read her Election Roundtable piece, the title, "Another example of bad taste for the Liberals," suggests that she's going to talk about (sigh) "Klandergate." Which she does for almost her entire piece. But having written about that for almost the entire piece, she veers off-course in her last two sentences:

OTOH I've come across many tasteless blogs being written by Conservative candidates (or blogs heavily linked to by Conservative Candidates) as well. Somena Media has some good examples of this.

That final observation comes pretty much out of the blue. If Marcie wanted to draw comparisons, she should have made that point right up front, perhaps even in the title, but she didn't. She spent the majority of her time talking about Klander, which makes that last part seem almost gratuitous -- kind of a parting shot that doesn't really hang with the rest of her article. But that's not the only problem.

In backing up that last bit, Marcie doesn't really supply any of her own examples. Instead, she relies entirely on a link to Somena Media, which I think fails badly as supporting evidence. If, as a columnist, you have a point to make, I think it's your responsibility to make it, then provide at least some of the evidence yourself.

Marcie doesn't do that. Instead, her last couple of sentences effectively read as, "Oh, there's another point I want to make, and you can read about it over there." I don't think that works well. I think Marcie should have decided on her topic more clearly and stuck to it.

In any case, I don't think Marcie has any cause to worry about libel. But I think she could have been a lot more focused in her piece by picking a single topic and sticking to it, rather than taking that last gratuitous shot at right-wing hypocrisy. We now return you to your regular ideological crossfire.

And Kate can still, of course, suck eggs.

AFTERSNARK: Back here, in a maddeningly vague statement, Marcie writes:

After my last entry on the cbc roundtable Kate has sent out a letter saying that the part of my post that includes a link to Somenia [sic] Media should be cut off and that she will sue me (and everyone else in the world) for libel.

Now, what exactly means "and everyone else in the world?" Because if that explicitly included the CBC, then the CBC should have fired Kate's sorry ass on the spot and had security metaphorically escort her outside to the curb.

Perhaps things work differently in Kateworld but, where I come from, it's considered bad form to threaten, even indirectly, one's patrons or sponsors with legal action just because someone points out what kind of raving, hateful loon you are.

If Kate really threatened to drag the CBC into this, then the CBC would have to be jaw-droppingly negligent to not get rid of her that instant. They wouldn't even need to get into the sordid details; perhaps just a short statement along the lines of, "Kate McMillan has stepped down from the election roundtable in order to spend more time figuring out the correct dosage of her medication. We wish her all the best in the future in her treatment program." Or something like that.

Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing more about Kate's threats 'cuz, you know, I just don't get near enough wingnuttery in my life.

WHOOPS: I guess all I needed to do was follow a link or two. Dr. Dawg has the details.

The Washington Post and the Firefox browser.

It may be just a trivial misconfiguration on my part, but the Washington Post is really pissing me off with the Canon-related ad that plops itself down over the opening of this article and refuses to go away. This is the first time I've run across something this annoying.


God bless the New York Times.

Apparently, they still care what I think. Go figure.

"We're not homophobic. We just don't like fags, OK?"

An impassioned plea from the letters section of this morning's National Post (no link yet -- is apparently sleeping off last night's revelry):

William Mitchell writes, "A very immoral and insidious force in our society is the continuing hatred and persecution of homosexual people."

It would help the public debate considerably if Mr. Mitchell and those who share his opinion would look in a dictionary for the proper meaning of those words. Reasoned debate around the homosexual marriage question isn't even possible if its proponents resort to hysterical accusations every time they don't get their way. Most Canadians are tired of their Orwellian attempts to redefine words such as "hatred," "persecution" and "marriage."

S. R. Hamilton, Calgary.

Hamilton is, of course, correct. How on earth can we expect to have a productive dialogue on whether a segment of Canadian society should be treated as second-class citizens if we can't do it calmly and unemotionally -- presenting both sides of the evidence and weighing the pros and cons, as it were?

I'm thinking the same dispassionate eye should be cast on my proposal to deny the vote in the upcoming national election to all fundamentalist Christians because, well, they're pretty clearly too fucking stupid to know what they're doing and shouldn't be allowed within a hundred miles of the democratic process.

Now, I realize this suggestion might come off as narrow-minded, intolerant religion bashing, but we're not going to make much progress with the discussion if folks just get all bent out of shape about it. I mean, think about it -- if you take seriously an ancient superstitution involving talking snakes and burning bushes and whether an omnipotent, omniscient Creator cares if your team wins the Grey Cup or not, well, are you really intelligent enough to help choose who's going to govern the country? [Ed: Um ... no?]

Anyway, I realize this proposal might rub some people the wrong way but, if we're going to have a "reasoned debate," it's important to approach the subject calmly, unemotionally and with an open mind.

Oh, and all members of the Conservative Party of Canada should be rounded up and put into camps. But I'm willing to listen to dissenting opinions on that subject, too.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Bill O'Reilly Christmas.

It would be funnier if it weren't so frighteningly accurate. Now, back to that "War on Christmas" ...

Methinks someone is protesting too much.

Regarding the recent CCD/Omar Alghabra dust-up, we have the Canadian Coalition for Democracies eating some serious crow here, but still wanting to play that victim card just a little while longer (emphasis added):

... The Liberal press release chose to disclose the name, private mobile telephone number and email address of Georganne Burke, describing her as "the Conservative Party's regional organizer in Toronto". Ms Burke had never herself publicly disclosed her mobile number, although Stephen Heckbert claimed that a third party had done so. Such an irrelevant disclosure clearly violated the privacy of Ms Burke as well as possibly endangering her safety. To falsely associate a woman with an "ethnic smear campaign" directed against the Muslim community and to send such a potentially libellous statement to the media is extremely threatening to the individual involved.

Ah, yes, threatening. Perhaps as threatening as, in this day and age of anti-Muslim sentiment, painting a moderate Muslim candidate as a fundamentalist extremist, then sitting back and waiting for the potentially violent backlash?

Nah. Maybe not that threatening.

What IS it with right-wingers and sex with animals?

I am starting to get seriously creeped out by the conservative fixation on carnal knowledge of other members of the animal kingdom. I mean, Jesus (pun possibly intended), here we have Focus on the Family's James Dobson getting a little too animated when discussing the possibility of man-donkey relations.

Then there's Bill O'Reilly and his goat fetish -- mighty brave words coming from someone who would do unspeakable things with a falafel. There's Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum's obsession with man-on-dog sex, not to mention Republican Sen. John Cornyn and his infamoux box turtles. [Ed: Box turtles? How exactly would ... uh, never mind.]

And, last but not least, there's right-wing nut job and anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley, who doesn't just talk the talk (if you know what I mean) when it comes to mules.

I don't know what all this means, but I'm sure it can't be good.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christian "morals" and "values". And other bullshit.

Just follow the links. And Merry Christmas to you, too, you hypocritical, religious pricks.

Dear American lefty bloggers: Don't get too excited over this.

At the moment, the American liberal blogosphere is all a-twitter over a "Barron's" editorial that (allegedly) savages the Bush administration for its long-time illegal surveillance program. This is (supposed to be) a significant event, what with "Barron's" being about as Republican as you can get. Sadly, that editorial is not all it's cracked up to be.

While it certainly starts off well and says all the right things about inexcusable illegality, part way down, you suddenly realize that maybe they're not all that put out:

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation.

Yes, oh yes, they're saying all the right things! Then, suddenly, in the very next sentence:

They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

Oh. So as long as the laws are changed now, everything is cool and all is forgiven. Whew. What a relief. One would have thought, after all that harrumphing, that "Barron's" was actually upset with the idea of breaking the law. But they are a forgiving bunch, aren't they? Even retroactively.

I guess that's what they mean by "compassionate conservatism."

Canada's 2005 "Wanker of the Year" contest!

In the spirit of The Poor Man's "Wank of the Year" competition, I wish to propose the Progressive Bloggers' own "Canadian Wanker of the Year" contest, in which we here in Left Blogsylvania recognize the year's single transcendent example of jaw-dropping, mind-numbing, shock-and-awe-inducing wankery.

This wouldn't reflect any overall level of wankerosity; no lifetime achievement award. No, this would represent that one shining example where minimally sane Canadians stared in stunned disbelief and gasped, "Jesus Christ, how freakin' stupid can one person be?"

I think Scott T. should set up the voting over at and, as the first nominee, I think we need look no further than one Rob Anders and his crusade against "homosexual sex marriage".

Go on -- top that.

Some more serious snark for the blogroll.

I'm not sure where this site is going to go on my blogroll -- perhaps under "Bloggers Most Likely to be Nailed to a Large Piece of Lumber by Raving Fundamentalists".

I especially recommend this link to a good, meaty smackdown of Narnia.

WHY NARNIA ANNOYS THE CRAP OUT OF ME: One of my favourite authors, Harlan Ellison, once wrote about how, as a kid, he used to wait breathlessly every month for the next installment of a particular comic book he was reading involving (from dim memory so I'll just make up the names and the general storyline here) manly hero Lance Magnum and perennial victim Pauline Pureheart.

In one installment-ending cliffhanger, Lance, with a broken arm, had been thrown down a deep well full of alligators, with a crowd of angry natives gathered around the top of the well, menacingly pointing spears in Lance's direction. How, oh how, would Lance extricate himself from this dire predicament and save the annoyingly-helpless Pauline? Yes, indeed. How?

Ellison writes of dying with anticipation for the next issue and, finally, snapping it off the shelf the day it arrived at the local drugstore, running outside, plopping himself down on the curb and opening the book to find (and I'm paraphrasing), "With one mighty effort, Lance leaped out of the well, overpowered the natives and rescued his darling Pauline." Or some rubbish to that effect.

Well, fuck.

As Ellison wrote, that's just cheating and plain crappy storytelling. You can't carefully and meticulously create a suspenseful situation to draw the reader in, only to resolve said situation by just pulling rabbits out of hats. It's lazy and it's dishonest.

The same can be said of countless TV shows or movies in which one of the main characters is, say, shot several times and, shortly thereafter, manages to stagger out of the shadows just in the nick of time to save the world. That's bullshit. If every indication was that that person was fucking killed, it's rubbish to magically yank them back to life later just when things are looking grim.

In the same way, it's rubbish to describe in detail how the main character in Narnia -- Aslan -- is tortured and killed, and how everyone weeps over him, only to have him magically come back to life so the story can continue. That's dishonest, and it's about on par with wiping out numerous episodes of "Dallas" by suddenly deciding they were just a dream sequence.

That's why Narnia annoys me. It's not the religious undertones. It's just the crappy storytelling.

Misogyny? Who, me?

Oh, dear. From the comments back here, we have "anonymous" snarkily chiding yours truly regarding racist and/or misogynistic comments that allegedly appear on this blog from time to time.

Note to "anonymous": referring to Michelle Malkin as a "crazy-assed bitch™" is not misogynistic. This is misogynistic. See the difference?

Sure, it's EASY to make fun of the Americans ...

... but when it comes to spying on one's own citizenry, Canada also has some explaining to do. I refer, of course, to the ECHELON program (emphasis added):

In the greatest surveillance effort ever established, the US National Security Agency (NSA) has created a global spy system, codename ECHELON, which captures and analyzes virtually every phone call, fax, email and telex message sent anywhere in the world. ECHELON is controlled by the NSA and is operated in conjunction with the Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) of England, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) of Canada, the Australian Defense Security Directorate (DSD), and the General Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) of New Zealand. These organizations are bound together under a secret 1948 agreement, UKUSA, whose terms and text remain under wraps even today.

The article at that link is a few years old and it's been a while since I've looked into ECHELON, so maybe it's time to revisit the issue. Unless someone else out there has already done it?

"No, no, I meant for those rules to apply to everybody else!"

"Well, let me tell you, as a conservative, I fully support President Bush's plan to secretly wiretap U.S. citizens without warrants or court orders. I mean, if you haven't done anything wrong, then what are you so worried about, huh? Maybe you have something to hide, is that it? We're in a Global War on Terror™, and if that means we all have to give up a little privacy, well that's just fine. Hey, whoa, hang on ... when I said we all had to give up some privacy, I sure as hell didn't mean me!"

A festive Christmas story.

Well, OK, not really. But it's funny. Recommended by Athenae over at First Draft.

A game show for the hard of thinking.

I'm not sure I could imagine a game show any dumber than the agonizingly idiotic "Deal or No Deal". Mercifully, I'm not alone.

No, even with that doctorate, you're still an idiot.

Great. So there are two people as smugly ignorant as Dr. Phil, and one of them's not Dr. Phil.

Friday, December 23, 2005


Jesus, even I'm getting bored with pointing this out. Former Senator Tom Daschle (emphasis added):

As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.

Mind you, you have to be careful about accusing the Bushies of lying, 'cuz some folks purely get their panties in a bunch when you do that.

Open source: a primer.

More times than I've cared to count, I've suggested (at no charge) to someone in the corporate world that they should really consider replacing their hideously-expensive, proprietary, virus-laden, bug-ridden, crappy (read: Microsoft™) software with open source alternatives.

One of the benefits, I invariably point out, is that, because the source is openly visible to everyone, it's much more secure since it's virtually impossible to hide backdoors in the code, to which their inevitable response is, "Holy crap! Everyone can see it? We can't have everyone in the world being able to see our corporate data! Forget it!"


Let me explain how this works. And as an example, I'm going to use an issue that's getting a buttload of media coverage south of the border -- electronic voting machines (EVMs). There have been numerous accusations that some of the EVMs have been producing noticeably suspicious results in some elections, accusations that are fueled by the fact that that many of the EVM companies in the U.S. are affiliated with the GOP.

In many cases, there's absolutely no way to verify that these machines are acting honestly since those companies refuse to reveal their internal code. In short, there is absolutely no way to verify what the EVMs are doing and, if there's no paper trail, you're pretty much screwed in terms of accountability.

Open source to the rescue.

If the code that ran the EVM was publicly available, then anyone would have the right to look at it and tell if it was fudging the numbers. Let's start with a simple program written for the upcoming Canadian elections. For the sake of brevity, I'll assume three parties -- what the code is doing should be self-evident:

/* Start everyone at zero. */

libs = 0 ;
cons = 0 ;
dips = 0 ;

for (each person voting until all done) {
if (vote == "lib") {
libs = libs + 1 ;
} else if (vote == "con") {
cons++ ; /* just a shortcut to add 1. */
} else if (vote == "dip") {
dips++ ;
} else {
print "Spoiled ballot, rejected." ;

Print results here.

There. Now, ignoring picky details like, say, additional parties, or spoiled ballots because people voted more than once, any imbecile could look at that code and think, yeah, that looks reasonable, I don't see a problem. In short, there would be no way to sneak evil code into the EVM as long as every man and his ferret is entitled to see the actual source.

Now, let's say the code looked, like, say, this:

libs = 0 ;
cons = 0 ;
dips = 0 ;

for (each person voting until all done) {
if (vote == "lib") {
libs++ ;
} else if (vote == "con") {
cons++ ;
} else if (vote == "dip") {
dips = dips + 2 ; /* Oooooh ... sneaky. */
} else {
print "Spoiled ballot, rejected." ;

Print results here.

Uh oh. I'm pretty sure this wouldn't be a fair election but, as long as the code was open source, those kinds of shenanigans would be exposed faster than Kate McMillan could say something stupid and racist. If, on the other hand, no one was allowed to peek inside the box to see its actual processing, who knows if that sort of thing would ever be detected.

Well, OK, something that blatant would almost certainly cause suspicion since the machine's published results would deviate wildly from the inevitable exit polls. What to do if you still wanted to game the system? Do it subtlely:

/* Start everyone at zero. */

libs = 0 ;
cons = 0 ;
dips = 0 ;

for (each person voting until all done) {
... same stuff as before ...

libs = libs + 100 ;
cons = cons - 75 ;
dips = dips - 25 ;

Print results here.

Ooooooh ... isn't that clever -- the totals printed will still match the number of registered voters, the results won't be so badly out of whack that the exit polls will raise suspicions, but there's just enough fudging to throw a close race to one party. And if you have no access to the source, you'd never realize what happened.

And that, kids, is how open source works. Yes, this will be on the final exam.

BY THE WAY, if you have companies that insist on keeping the internals of their EVMs secret and proprietary, this is the sort of shitstorm that ensues.

Now that's what you call "blowback."

Apparently, everyone's got their limits:

European arrest warrants issued for 22 purported CIA agents in alleged kidnap

A judge has issued European arrest warrants for 22 purported CIA operatives in connection with the alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric from a Milan street in 2003, a prosecutor said Friday.

Armando Spataro said the warrants allowed for the arrest of the suspects in any of the 25 European Union member countries. Previously, Italy had issued arrest warrants for the 22 inside Italy.

And won't that put a crimp in George's precious War on Terror™?

Dear New York Times: Too little, too late.

It's amusing to watch the New York Times -- having inflicted Judith Miller and Danny Boy Okrent on us and having sat on the illegal Bush wiretapping program for over a year -- to now, just now, start having an attack of journalistic integrity.

Nice try, Times. But I have to go with this guy. Time to seriously clean house.

Ah, the beauty of open source.

Good Lord -- evidence of intelligent life over at the Wingnuterer. Of course, some of us have been open source geeks since before it was cool. That would explain the overwhelming smugness.

I'm waiting for the bumper sticker: "My other PDA runs Linux, too."

FOR THE HARDCORE GEEK: Not sure how to make your Linux system sing, dance and do everything that crappy, P.O.S. Windows box of yours can? Let me help.

: Again of interest probably only to the geeks among you but this is the kind of evil chaos you get into when you don't have access to the source code.

You'd think these folks would have wised up to this by now. Apparently not.

Ralph Reed is so ... so ... last week.

If the Canadian Christosphere really wants to drag an ugly American across the border to espouse those down-home Christian family values, well, I've got just the man for them.

He even hates gays. Man, you folks will have so much to talk about.

About that FOX News "war on Christmas" ...

Apparently, some of the FOX News bigwigs are not the sort of folk you want to bring home for Christmas dinner, especially if you have underage females in the vicinity.

AFTERSNARK: Christmas as it were meant to be.

Hypocrisy by any other name.

Following a recent bit of snark from Ms. Z, we have this dimbulb, who seems purely horrified at the thought of Islamic influence creeping into Canadian politics.

Yes, trying to mix religion and politics in Canada -- you'd have to be a truly evil fuck to want to do that sort of thing, wouldn't you?

STOP THE PRESSES!! And from this easily-excited wingnut, we have:

URGENT UPDATE - Liberal Candidate Alghabra Denies Statement

Yes! Urgent! It's urgent that you know that the Liberal candidate denies saying that which we now apologize for having accused him of saying in the first place! In short, there is no story here! Film at 11, for God's sake!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Open thread.

Because I need a little downtime.

(And apologies to the Rev. back here -- I was going for good-natured sarcasm and flubbed it badly. Sorry, dude.)

Oh, Ralph ... say it ain't so.

Christian moralist Ralph Reed: the gift that keeps on giving. Well, OK, to be fair, it's his spokeswoman who's in the giving mood:

“There was a ho in my hotel. A real-live booty-shaking, rump-selling, shaggarific, cash (or check) taking, living cesspool of questionable life choices right there, smack dab in the middle of our lives and about to enter the Los Angeles hotel where we were staying. It was awesome.” ...

“I swear I don’t have a big vagina, but over the Thanksgiving holiday, I told my father-in-law I did.” ...

OK, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to remove those images from my brain with an ice pick. Attaboy, Ralph ... you know how to pick 'em, don't you?

Does anyone want to warn this guy? Anyone?

You won't BELIEVE who's hacked off with the Bushies these days.

Just when you think the Bush administration can't become any more of a complete clusterfuck than it already is, it manages to piss off what is almost certainly the most conservative appellate court in the U.S. Go read:

"The government has held Padilla militarily for three and a half years, steadfastly maintaining that it was imperative in the interest of national security that he be so held. However, a short time after our decision issued on the government’s representation that Padilla’s military custody was indeed necessary in the interest of national security, the government determined that it was no longer necessary that Padilla be held militarily..."

In short, the 4th Circuit Court feels thoroughly snookered, and they are not happy about it.

This is what happens when you leave your keyboard unattended.

Apparently, the gang over at The Wingnuterer has been kidnapped and replaced with the cast of "Porky's". Down, boy, down.

For those of you who need a regular science fix.

Meet one of the new regulars over at Daily Kos, the science-oriented DarkSyde. 2006 is shaping up to be a good year, methinks.

And for the ladies this Christmas ...

"No, Mom, don't open that one, it's not for you!! Oh, shit ..."

Did someone say "flip flop"?

Bush administration: "Hey, we've got principles. And if you don't like them, well, we've got others." Here's the best part:

Although the Justice Department asked the 4th Circuit for permission to take custody of Padilla, the department maintained that it does not need that permission.

Then why did they ask for it?

It's about time.

Local UW academic and anti-dingbat curmudgeon Jeff Shallit now has his own blog. Shallit played a part in the recent Dover, PA Intelligent Design fiasco, as you can read here. Drop by and say hi, but be nice -- he's way smarter than you are.

Buy Canadian, eh?

If you're still a bit hacked off over the current softwood lumber rip-off (and who among us, except for these fake Canadians, isn't?), a simple solution is to spend your money this side of the border. And how hard can that be?

Now, there are the obvious choices -- if, for instance, you need home supplies, give Home Depot a pass and head over to Rona, which bills itself as "Proudly Canadian." But let's not get sidetracked by frivolities like home hardware and get right to the important stuff, shall we? Alcohol.

Yes, as a patriotic Canadian, there's little reason for you to be spending any money on American booze. Let's start with beer. From my time in Calgary, I learned that you really can't go wrong buying anything from the Big Rock Brewery. Their beers were pretty much a staple when a group of us gathered every Friday afternoon for nerd beer.

Closer to home (well, closer to my home), I'm rather fond of a line of beers from Magnotta -- their "True North" series. "True North Strong" -- recommended by bloggers everywhere who hope to get a free case of it in exchange for shameless shilling of the product. :-)

In a nutshell, there's no excuse for any self-respecting Canadian to belly up to the bar and order, say, a Miller or Budweiser. And anyone ordering a Coors Lite should simply be taken outside and shot. (And given Molson getting into bed with right-wing Coors, there's no excuse for you to be buying Molson, anyway.)

When it comes to the hard stuff, you have options there, too. If you're in the market for vodka, you might want to show a little class and check out Canadian Iceberg Vodka. And if, like me, you're into single malt scotch, there's Canada's own Glen Breton although, sadly, at a price of $90 a bottle at the LCBO, I'm afraid they're not going to be prying me away from my Laphroaig, Lagavulin or Talisker any time soon. A shame that -- I'd love to try it but not at that price. Sorry, folks.

Anyway, you get the idea. And, why yes, a bottle of Glen Breton would look just fine under the tree.

AFTERTHOUGHTS: I didn't think I really had to point out that, at least around here, there's little reason to buy foreign wines when there are so many passable local wineries.

(And no, don't give me that crap about your wickedly discerning palate. I'm betting that, if I blindfolded you, you couldn't tell the difference between a good local Pinot Grigio and, say, Sprite. Oh, hang on ... that's me. Never mind.)

Dear Stephen: Please stop. You're hurting Canada.

Someone should really tell Stephen Harper that he will never look hip. At anything.

Two sides to every story.

It's not like the current New York transit strike might affect you in any big way, but it's a perfect example of how you can get two totally different perspectives on the same event.

There's this perspective. Then there's this one. Guess which one corresponds to the "reality-based community."

The very definition of assholitude.

From the priceless Dan Froomkin:

How Cheney Flies

Nedra Pickler writes for the Associated Press with more tidbits from Cheney's recent trip. I mentioned on Monday that for the flight into Baghdad, the Air Force loaded an Airstream trailer into the belly of a C-17 cargo plane for Cheney and his top aides.

Pickler has more on that and on how during the flight home last night on his traditional 757, most of the electric outlets went on the fritz.

"Working passengers began lining up their laptops to share the power from a couple of working outlets - particularly the reporters who urgently needed to prepare their articles to transmit during a quick refueling stop in England.

"But when Cheney said his iPod needed to be recharged, it took precedence above all else and dominated one precious outlet for several hours. The vice president's press staff intervened so a reporter could use the outlet for 15 minutes to charge a dead laptop, but then the digital music device was plugged back in."

Insert your favourite joke about "compassionate conservatism" here.

BONUS TRACK: And while we're making fun of Cardiac Dick, here's a classic. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

And now squeal like a pig. Yeah, like that.

I think some folks' holiday season just got a lot less merry:

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, facing trial on fraud charges Jan. 9 in Florida, is negotiating a possible deal with the Justice Department, in which he would agree to plead guilty and cooperate in the wide-ranging political corruption investigation focused on his dealings with members of Congress and executive branch officials, people familiar with the talks said last night.

So ... besides members of Congress and executive branch officials, anybody else who might go down with Abramoff? Well, maybe this guy.

Reed ... Reed ... ah, that would be this Ralph Reed. You know, I could warn those folks ... or I could let them learn their lesson the hard way. Decisions, decisions. Grapple, grapple ...