... book review.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Ted is one of the most effective and honest legislators I have ever worked with. He has worked diligently to serve Alaska and has fought to make life better for people in every region of our state. I hope people will not rush to judgment and will let the judicial process work. The process is based on being innocent until proven guilty.
-- Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska
I just keep reading that first sentence over and over again.
- Stevens Indicted
- Stevens: Background and history covering the two years leading up to this indictment
- Young could be the next to go down (oh, please, oh, please)
[added] National Review attempts to grab a little bit of the high ground with an editorial calling for Stevens to resign immediately. Pardon my cynicism, but I'm reading this as a Republican rag recognizing a rout if Stevens persists in running for reelection. They'd really rather have a rookie in the race.
[added] Kevin Drum points to a Charles Homans piece that ran in Washington Monthly last year, "State of Dependency," which covers Ted Stevens's political life from the time before Alaska was a state. Quite good.
[added] Jane Hamsher has the best headline so far.
Via Brian Krebs: A patch has been released to close four security holes (on Windows machines; just one on Linux and Mac machines). The patch applies to RealPlayer versions 10, 10.5, and 11.
To get the patch(es), open RealPlayer and do Help → About RealPlayer. In the pop-up window that appears, click "Check for Update." Note that the Help menu item may not be immediately obvious; if you don't see it next to the File and View entries on the Menu bar, then the Help entry is under the chevron (>>) entry.
I did the update for v10.5. It was a little tedious. Be sure to uncheck the box on one of the screens that says "Include Desktop Weather from The Weather Channel," unless you want this shovelware installed on your computer. Also, you'll either have to register, or sign in, if you've registered before, to complete the installation. Also, Real will offer to create shortcuts where you probably don't want them, and offers to become the "universal media player" for all kinds of audio and video files. So, don't just mindlessly keep clicking "Next" during the installation of the patch -- you'll need to pay a little bit of attention.
I'd like to get rid of this piece of software completely, but there are still a few sites that I like that only deliver their streaming content via Real. I tried watching a video on BookTV.org using VLC, for example, and only the audio came through.
GMail has added two features that enhance security while using GMail. One is a setting that allows you to force all transactions to be conducted over an encrypted (https) connection. It's merely a matter of checking one box in your Settings. Note that this does not mean messages you send will be encrypted or anything like that. It just means that when you're logged in to your account, it'll be harder for snoopers to eavesdrop. This is especially handy for wireless users sitting in public hotspots.
The second featrure is a method that allows you to see if your GMail account is currently being accessed from anywhere else, and to kill the other session(s), if desired. This can be handy, say, if you forgot to log out of GMail on your work computer, and you're now at home.
I've changed my Settings in accordance with the first, and tried out the second -- successfully killing a session on a second computer from the first. Both are relatively minor, but the first is a set-it-and-forget-it thing, and the second may come in handy someday, so I thought I'd pass the along.
Brian Krebs has details.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.
You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.
During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.
Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center.
By the way, Lichter's group also surveys the first half-hour of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Fox News' answer to the network evening news shows.
The review found that, since the start of the general-election campaign, "Special Report" offered more opinions on the two candidates than all three networks combined.
No surprise there. Previous research has shown Fox News to be opinion-heavy.
"Special Report" was tougher than the networks on Obama -- with 79% of the statements about the Democrat negative, compared with 61% negative on McCain.
Rainey notes, midway through the piece, that the center's director, Robert Lichter, "… has won conservative hearts with several of his previous studies …"
Can't wait to hear the counterspin on this one.
(h/t: Jessie Roberts)
Beer is back, regaining a large lead over wine as America's favorite alcoholic beverage after wine threatened to close the gap around 2005. Fascinatingly, I see no plausible way of correlating this "beer track"/"wine track" data with anything happening in politics.
-- Matthew Yglesias
All together now ... in vino veritas!
(Dessert is the last course, but you don't have to eat it that way.)
Bob Herbert: Getting to Know You
Frank Rich: How Obama Became Acting President
Michael Bérubé: World writes open letter to McCain
Steve Benen's Official John McCain Flip-Flop List now has 70 items. I just forwarded a suggestion for number 71. You can help -- Steve's email address is available by clicking the link at the bottom of his post.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I've been saying for years that the very act of talking on the phone is the distraction while driving, not the fact that you're holding it in your hand. I offered the image of someone not behind the wheel -- note the stare into the middle distance and how much it takes to get him or her to pay attention to something else.
Finally, an article with some science to back me up: Katharine Mieszkowski, "Hang up and drive."
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Mozilla has released a patch for its email client, Thunderbird. This brings the latest version to 188.8.131.52. This patch closes several moderate security holes. (details)
Note for those keeping score at home: Yes, the previous version released was 184.108.40.206. You didn't miss anything. They probably skipped 220.127.116.11 to keep Tbird in sync with Firefox 2.
I got a notification message while my Tbird was open. If you don't get one, Help → Check for Updates should get you squared away.
The patch, for me, was about 640KB. Once I clicked "OK" to accept the new version, it downloaded, installed itself, and restarted Tbird automatically. The usual quick and slick Mozilla goodness. And they give it away for free.
Allow me to extend to those laboring under paid software services my deepest insincere sympathies.
So, after the third fighter jet roared over my house, sounding low enough to make me think it's a good thing we don't have TV aerials anymore, my thoughts turned naturally towards the coming global apocalypse. (Thanks for the mindset, GOP!)
I went to Google, typed in "rochester fighter jets," hit Enter, and clicked "News." Phew.
Of course, my cats haven't bothered to learn how to read and their interest in aviation ends with what can be brought to Earth with a well-timed swipe, so their minds are not yet similarly eased.
It's really, really loud here. Everyone's walking around looking at the sky, even while crossing streets. I try to tell them, Look to the Google. But in a city hosting an air show, no one can hear you scream.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Here is a video of a panel presentation recorded live at Netroots Nation, 18 July 2008. The discussion is moderated by Digby, who runs the blog Hullabaloo, and the panelists are Rick Perlstein, Paul Krugman, and Duncan Black, aka Atrios. (Short bios here.)
There's an obvious tilt to this panel, of course, but I think there's a lot to be gained from watching it, anyway. If nothing else, the overview of the history of past few decades -- how the "liberal media" tag was and remains so effectively applied -- is quite instructive. Beyond that: If you're moderate or conservative, you might at least appreciate how we lefties see things. If you're liberal, you should pick up some ideas about what we need to be doing.
Warning: There is no sound for about the first thirty seconds. After that, the sound starts, but unfortunately, it's quite soft. It's not a problem with the embed -- the same applies if you follow the alt. video link. You'll have to crank the volume on your machine to hear it. It's worth doing this, but I recommend closing all other programs while you're watching -- the ding-dong of new incoming email could stop your heart.
Approximate run length: 73 minutes.
(h/t: TwinSwords, via PM)
If you aren't notified of the availability of the update the next time you launch Pop Peeper, you can download it directly. The installer program is only about 1 MB.
Download and installation were hitch-free for me. Took about a minute, total. Tip: Do NOT uninstall the older version first. Just blast the new one on top of it. This preserves all of your settings.
Monday, July 21, 2008
How to defeat people who make annoying hand gestures:
Administrivia: YouTube says they're doing some site maintenance at the moment. If you're reading this right after I posted it, you may have some trouble watching. But be sure to come back. It's worth it.
(h/t: Sadly, No!)
[Update] Embedded and alt.-linked to a new version, since the old one no longer permits embedding. If for some reason you're bent on seeing the above with French subtitles, see here.
(DISCLAIMER: Post title does not refer to person depicted at left)
Wheels of Justice Turning Slowly Department:
Kate Harding reports, while adding just the right amount of editorializing: Janet Jackson's nipple not "actionably indecent"
Suck on that, Brent Bozell.
Given the possibility that when the Large Hadron Collider turns on, we won't immediately be swallowed up by a black hole, there may some interesting discoveries. To that end:
In 1993, the UK Science Minister, William Waldegrave, challenged physicists to produce an answer that would fit on one page to the question 'What is the Higgs boson, and why do we want to find it?'
Winning answers here.
You know how when you cough or sneeze and don't quite get your hand up to your mouth fast enough and you get that feeling that some glob flew out but you can't find it anywhere, but then a few minutes later, you do?
On the bright side, there's nowhere to go but up from here. And speaking of which, there's some buzz about a new desktop PC in the works that promises to cut power usage from 100 watts to 2. Yes, two. The CherryPal is just vaporware for the moment, but it's a sign of hope -- as it becomes ever more possible to do lots of things online, the time for the much derided "thin client" PC may have finally arrived. Plus, now you get to say "cloud computer" instead of "thin client."
More on the general trend towards lower-power computers here.
As I noted in an earlier post, the most recent version of Firefox, 3.0.1, marked the beta version of the add-on PDF Download as incompatible. I am happy to report that the nice people at PDFDownload.org let me know last night about the impending release of version 2.0.0 sans Greek letter, and sure enough, when I launched Firefox this morning, the update for this add-on was available. It installed without drama and seems to work fine.
If you have an earlier version of PDF Download installed and don't get automatically notified of the new version, do Tools → Add-ons and click the Find Updates button in the pop-up window. This also worked for me on another machine that still had v1.x installed.
Version 2 of PDF Download appears to be mostly a clean-up of a lot of existing features, along with updates to support newer browsers, but it does have at least one big new one, called "Web to PDF." This feature allows you to save a complete HTML page as a PDF file, which may be of use to some of you. I've tested it, and it works well -- pictures, fonts, layout are preserved. I don't have a regular need to do this, but I do like PDF Download as a streamlined alternative to the bloatware that is Adobe Acrobat. Or Reader. Or whatever they're calling it these days. My heart used to sink when I'd click on a PDF link while surfing. No more.
One last thing: if you want to play around with "Web to PDF" but don't want to install an add-on just to experiment, you can do that, too.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Frank Rich does what almost no one in the MSM bothers (dares?) to do: take a critical look at John McCain's economic views. Such as they are.
The term flip-flopping doesn't do justice to Mr. McCain’s self-contradictory economic pronouncements because that implies there's some rational, if hypocritical, logic at work. What he serves up instead is plain old incoherence …
It's a great piece of work, with no shortage of specifics.
Harry Shearer, as you may or may not know, lives part-time in New Orleans. Since Katrina, he has been delivering regular updates about the situation there, mixed in with all of the rest of the satire, news, and music that comprise Le Show.
From time to time, he'll change his usual format to concentrate on interviewing a guest, and this week was one of those times. If you want to hear an intelligent status report, including a good argument on why New Orleans matters to the rest of the United States, check out this week's show. Harry's guest is John Barry, an author and now a member of one of the boards that oversees the levees in the area. Recommended. (Every episode of Le Show is recommended.)
And don't worry. You'll still get to hear The Apologies of the Week©, News of the Warm©, and other copyrighted features.
... I look like the lead singer in a Village People tribute band is no reason to accuse me of denial when considering my choice of campaign literature.
Brent Rinehart. Proving that the GOP doesn't just run on fear.
They also run on hate.
I dunno. Revisionist history run amok? The Big Lie approach goes huge?
Even knowing all we know about Republicans, this astounds: Elizabeth Dole Tries To Name AIDS [Relief] Bill After Jesse Helms.
Forgotten your late 20th century American history? This might help.
For the first time ever, I believe it's appropriate to call for a bitch slap.
(h/t: Wait, Wait)
(Mostly a note-to-self)
Have you ever visited a website, only to find a page saying something like Bandwidth exceeded … Please try again later …?
This can occur when a big site refers to a small site. I remember it happening when the NY Times did a story on a brand-new gizmo named TV-B-Gone, for instance. Even without a link, boom, down it went.* There are many names for this phenomenon.
Anyway, if you come across an overloaded site that you absolutely cannot wait to see, try appending
.nyud.net to the URL you want to visit; e.g., instead of example.com, try visiting example.com.nyud.net.
For more info, see The Coral Content Distribution Network. If you host your own site and fear the occasional spike in traffic, CoralCDN has ways to help (that don't depend on your visitors manually modifying the URL). Fascinating idea.
* Okay, so it wasn't all the NYT's fault. Or so they say.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Howell Raines has a blistering piece of criticism, concerning the MSM's shallow coverage of the gas price story, up on Portfolio.com. Well worth your time.
I was led to this thanks to On The Media, who interviewed Raines in connection with his article. You can listen to the interview below, or by visiting this page. A promo message leads off, in either case.
Friday, July 18, 2008
My reaction (link added to quote for context):
Sheesh. Now I'm "benign?" I suppose it's better than being called malignant, but ...
And a few weeks ago, I was "venerable."
All I can say is that if this is Bob's notion of whoring after the affections of the Gang of 12, someone needs to buy him a thesaurus. Being called bland and old is not exactly the best fluffing I've ever had.
Contests to see who can bring the drier wit aside, the entire diavlog between Robert Wright and Heather Hurlburt is well worth watching, especially if you want to hear someone who's really smart describe how President Obama and the rest of the Democrats should address the major foreign policy problems of our day.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Steve Benen has updated his running list of McCain flip-floppery (the count is now 61!) and has also separated the items into categories. Have a look at "Jukebox John changes his tune every few minutes."
Both Steve and this list deserve much more attention. Nice work, Steve.
There's a new version of VLC Media Player available. The latest version is now v.0.8.6i. (That last character is a lowercase letter i, not the numeral 1.) Get it here.
After downloading the installer file and double-clicking it, VLC will detect the older version (if you have one) and offer to uninstall it. I said yes. The uninstallation program appears to run to completion, and then a short moment later, the installation of the new version automatically begins (resumes). It's momentarily disconcerting, but don't worry, everything will work out fine. At least it did for me.
(h/t: Ryan Naraine)
Sun has released a new version of Java, somewhat confusingly named "version 6 release 7." You can see which version of Java you have installed by visiting this page. That page may redirect automatically, or you can just click the "Verify" button. The new version of the test is slower to run than earlier versions that I've pointed you to, but eventually it'll run to completion. You'll probably see a big orange square for a while, and then you'll see the information you're looking for. If you're behind, just click the "downloads" link at the top of the same page.
The file that's downloaded is small. Double-clicking it evidently causes further downloading. The whole installation process takes a few minutes, but no reboot is necessary. You will have to close your browser and restart it for the changes to take effect; e.g., if you want to revisit the "verify" page to confirm the new installation.
Caution: During the installation process, you'll be offered the chance to install the Yahoo toolbar. The "yes" box is already checked, so be sure to uncheck it before clicking "next."
You have to be logged in as Administrator to do this update.
Reminder: As is usual with Java updates, the installation process does not remove old versions. Once you've finished installing the new version, use the Add/Remove Programs utility in the Windows Control Panel to get rid of the old versions. Make sure NOT to delete the entry that says "Java(TM) 6 Update 7." Anything else; e.g., Java(TM) 6 Update N, where N might be 6 or smaller, is what you want to remove. It's possible that you'll see several such entries, depending on your past updating and housekeeping activities, or lack thereof. Remove them all (just not the latest one).
Brian Krebs notes that this latest update includes a patch that supposedly addresses a vulnerability whereby a malicious web site could tunnel through these existing older versions of Java, even if you were running the latest version. I say, even though the hole is now supposedly closed, why take the chance? And you'll pick up a little disk space in the bargain.
(h/t: Nathan McFeters)
I just updated Firefox on another machine (cf.), and discovered that the patch is not compatible with the older version of the Get Mail add-on that I had installed. Visiting the home page for the "Get Mail" add-on and installing version 2.5.6 cleared up that problem.
I noticed that there are even newer versions available on that same page, but I didn't want to mess with them for now. Version 2.5.6 works on my main machine, and besides, I only use Get Mail to enable the CTRL-m shortcut. The others appear to be releases to address other problems or feature requests. Drop a note in the Comments if you have any arguments about why the new new new thing is better than the new new thing, please. Thanks.
Mozilla has released a security patch for Firefox. This brings the latest version to v.3.0.1. If you're still running version 2, the patch also applies, and will bring you up to v.18.104.22.168.
If you're not automatically notified, use Help → Check for Updates. I just did this (for version 3) and it went smoothly.
Probably minor note:
I did encounter one small side effect. As part of the update process, Firefox noted that one of my add-ons (PDF Download) was not compatible with this patch and disabled it upon restarting the browser after the update. I am actually running a beta version of a new release; i.e., this incompatibility may not present for the latest stable release. This add-on is distributed through the official Mozilla add-ons infrastructure, so even if the latest stable version is similarly disabled, you'll probably be automatically notified when it is updated.
More on this last bit as it develops (if I can remember making this promise).
[added] The latest stable version of PDF Download is, in fact, compatible with Firefox 3.0.1. I just confirmed this on another machine. I've sent a report off about the beta issue, nothing yet. Not that I'm drumming my fingers or anything.
I heard back from the people at PDFDownload.org. Problem solved. More details in a later post.
The latest Poli-Sci-Fi Radio podcast has extensive analysis on John McCain. Campaign missteps are covered at the start, and a discussion of his view of Social Security as "a disgrace," plus his campaign's Bush-like interest in suppressing free speech, happens later, starting at about 1:19:03.
If you're like me, and think the MSM continues to duck its responsibility of scrutinizing the candidates equally, this is a show for you.
In a related story, I used to work with a woman for whom English was her second language. She was playing with a kaleidoscope one day, holding it up to her eye and shutting the other one. I told her they were originally named kaleidoscopes because people would walk around with them up to their eyes and bump into each other all the time.
-- Phil Plait
Slightly old news which indicates how far behind I am in my feed-reading: Phil's blog has moved. It is now being hosted on Discover magazine's site. Visiting his old URL, badastronomy.com, will result in automatic redirect. Links to archived BAB pages should remain stable, Phil sez. Details here and here. See the latter especially if you're having trouble with the RSS feed.
On a related note, I see that Carl Zimmer has also moved his blog to Discover's site, from its previous home on ScienceBlogs. Doesn't appear to be an automatic redirect for this one; the new URL for The Loom is http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/.
Good to see Discover making this push to build a stable of bloggers, I think. There was a time when it looked like ScienceBlogs was going to become The Borg. I don't have a particular problem with that organization, but competition is always healthy.
The FTP client FileZilla has been updated. I don't know how new this news is -- it's been a while since I last launched it. At any rate, if you fire your copy up, you should get a notice informing you of this. If not, visit FileZilla's home page.
Upgrade was quick and painless. All settings appeared to be retained. I don't have as much need for an FTP client as I used to, which I think probably goes for most of you, but if you do need one, I'm happy to recommend FileZilla -- free, open source, and it works well.
The latest version of IrfanView is now available for download, bringing the latest version to 4.20. This release contains a number of added features and bug fixes. There do not appear to be any security concerns at play, but you might as well have the latest and greatest, right? I mean, it's not like upgrading software ever causes a problem, right, TC? ;^)
IrfanView, if you don't already know, is a free image-viewing program. I originally installed it years ago because I was annoyed at how long it took the default Windows programs to launch just to view an image file. IrfanView is fast, fast. I've never come across anything that beats it in time elapsed between double-clicking a file icon and seeing the picture. It has an enormous number of tools built in, too, to handle just about every basic task you could imagine in dealing with image files. The basic program is tiny -- the installation file is not much bigger than 1 MB. Optional plugins are also available, as a separate download. I've never tried these -- the basic program does everything I've ever wanted it to do.
One thing to watch out for: During the installation process, you'll be asked if you want to install the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. Annoyingly, the "yes" box is pre-checked, meaning that if you just keep clicking the "next" button during installation, you'll end up with something you might not want. Other than that, the upgrade was painless.
[added] CNet has some helpful tips and tricks for using IrfanView: how to do red-eye removal, how to ease photo management by making thumbnails, and how to resize your pictures for more polite emailing.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
TC asked in his latest email if I had seen the latest New Yorker cover. I have now.
In looking for the cover online, the first thing I came across was a post by Ryan Tate of Gawker, who quotes a few of the scolds out there who have already weighed in on this, chief among them Rachel "Didn't She Used To Be Funny?" Sklar. I'm sure there are others, although after a few clicks, the realization that I was doing nothing but searching for more outrage to be outraged by robbed me of the strength to link, let alone blockquote.
Barry Blitt, the artist behind the cover, which he titled "The Politics of Fear," answered a couple of emailed questions put to him by Nico Pitney on the HuffPo, basically saying what shouldn't need to be said, that it's satire, for Pete's sake.
I liked this part, though:
And in retrospect, given the outcry, is he glad he made the art?
"Retrospect? Outcry?" he wrote. "The magazine just came out ten minutes ago, at least give me a few days to decide whether to regret it or not..."
Will the usual gated community twits and GOP ratfuckers latch onto this? Of course they will. I expect that the "writers" for the Fox "News" programs are pounding away furiously as we speak -- even the LIEbrul New Yorker admits Obama is a turrurist!!!1! LOL! And as Andrew Sullivan notes, the WingNutDaily crowd is already happily registering that it "thinks it's true."
But so what? It's not like they haven't been saying this all along, anyway, nor is it like the dumb ones don't really believe it, nor is it like they're ever going to change their minds. Considering the potential political gains or losses only, I fail to see how this does anything except help emphasize to (sane) people the stupidity of the right's attacks.
Jeffrey Goldberg had a calmer take, to which he added some sensible thoughts on the recent unpleasantness involving Bernie Mac, although his post reminded me that I never did hear exactly what Mac had said -- only heard about the outrage -- which meant I had to look that up, which meant that I was led to erstwhile Captain Ed on Hot Air, whose title gave me the second laugh of the hour: "Today’s cover feature in Bus & Driver: Bernie Mac."
Look, peeps. If the rightwingers are beating us in the sense of humor department, we are already doomed.
In case you need more than a cracker to feed your outrage, about which I have gone on too long already, PZ has gathered up links to "a little collection of past articles that will serve to infuriate and enlighten."
Following the very first one led me to "Greetings from Idiot America," by Charles P. Pierce. Which is awesome. It's a few years old, and starts with a scene at the Creation Museum, then still under construction, where special guests were treated to a tour, by virtue of their having ponied up (or dinosaured up -- they both wear saddles, after all) $149 apiece to become "charter members."
Excerpt from a little later on:
The Gut is the basis for the Great Premises of Idiot America. We hold these truths to be self-evident:
1) Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
2) Anything can be true if somebody says it on television.
3) Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
How does it work? This is how it works. On August 21, a newspaper account of the "intelligent design" movement contained this remarkable sentence: "They have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive."
A "politically savvy challenge to evolution" is as self-evidently ridiculous as an agriculturally savvy challenge to euclidean geometry would be. It makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity or running someone for president on the Alchemy Party ticket. It doesn't matter what percentage of people believe they ought to be able to flap their arms and fly, none of them can. It doesn't matter how many votes your candidate got, he's not going to turn lead into gold. The sentence is so arrantly foolish that the only real news in it is where it appeared.
On the front page.
Of The New York Times .
Within three days, there was a panel on the subject on Larry King Live , in which Larry asked the following question:
"All right, hold on. Dr. Forrest, your concept of how can you out-and-out turn down creationism, since if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?"
And why do so many of them host television programs, Larry?
You know you want to: Read the whole thing.
Update: 2008-07-14 17:22 -- minor wordsmithing
I was going to embed this video at the end of this post, as something of a punchline, but (this'll shock you) I ended up getting a little long-winded. Since I was afraid you'd never get through to it, I decided it would be better to offer it up front. You might wish to reserve it as a reward for muddling through what follows, or you might be of the school that believes, Life is uncertain, eat dessert first. Or, you might think, The last shall be first. Your choice.
I was thinking recently that back when I still went to church, people seemed to have more of a sense of humor. Take it away, Tom:
What brought one of my all-time favorite songs to mind? Glad you asked.
Once upon a time, I was an altar boy in our local Catholic Church. If some biographer ever feels compelled to chronicle the life of Dude the Obscure, it may be noted that this experience was probably the first step towards my becoming an atheist.
As any fan of the theater will tell you, a backstage pass can diminish some of the on-stage magic. No, no, no. I'm not thinking unfondly of some fondler. The worst problems I ever had with Catholic priests consisted of them oversleeping and me having to go over to the rectory to wake them up for the 6:45 mass. Terrifying, but only for a moment, and without lasting damage.
No, the magic began to disappear the first time I saw the supply closet.
As you may or may not know, an important part of the Catholic Mass involves a rite variously called the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion, in which pieces of bread and a cup of wine are consecrated by a priest, and shortly thereafter, distributed to those in attendance (some restrictions apply). The ceremony is meant to recall a meal that happened about two millennia ago, frequently referred to as the Last Supper, at which bread and wine were identified by Jesus with his body and blood, and given to those at table with him. I'm a little murky about how metaphorical Jesus was being here, given the amount of times the story has been retold, not to mention re-translated, since.
I worried less about such weighty theological considerations back then, of course; the important thing for me as an altar boy was not to miss the cue line, "Do this in memory of me," at which point I would ring some bells.
Shortly after the Last Supper (ten, eleven, or twelve hundred years later, depending on who you want to believe), there arose a notion called transubstantiation, a term describing the belief that the bread and wine really, really, really changed into the body and blood of Jesus. Several centuries after that, some guys got together and made this view official. Some other guys disagreed about this, for which they were summarily burned at the stake. You could look it up.
Again, I'm not sure how aware I was of all of these details back then, but I did know enough to be horrified when, in gathering things together in preparation for the one of the first masses at which I ever served, I opened the supply closet (remember the supply closet?) and saw a perfectly ordinary brown cardboard box, inside of which was a perfectly ordinary clear plastic bag, inside of which were thousands of ... what the priest at hand quickly assured me were perfectly ordinary wafers of unleavened bread.
The horror ramped up when he told me, "Wait. Those are too old. Throw them out and open a new box."
"You mean ... throw them in the garbage?"
"Yes. Not to worry. They're just crackers."
He did, of course, go on to remind me that it was the rite of the Eucharist that made the difference. I did not ask about throwing out said crackers post-rite -- such a thing was beyond my ability to imagine then.
In a somewhat related event that occurred before I ever donned a cassock (or was it a surplice?), a mass was held at my own house. As I recall, it had to do with a going-away party that my parents were throwing for a priest friend of theirs who was shortly to depart for a long stint of missionary work in Ecuador. And, him being a priest, and my parents and pretty much everyone else there being Catholics, this probably seemed like a good way to kick off the party. Now that I think about it, breaking bread, drinking wine, and Do this in memory of me seems entirely appropriate to the occasion.
The problem for me started when my mother showed me, ahead of time, how the Eucharist part was going to work. She had baked a loaf of bread and cut some of it into small cubes. "That's not real Communion!" I insisted.
"Teaching moment!" my mother doubtless was happy to think. She explained about the difference between leavened and unleavened bread, how back in the days when you lived in a small tribe in the desert and might have had to pick up and move at a moment's notice, you couldn't afford to be messing around with yeast (even if you could get it), let alone wait hours for the dough to rise before baking. And that bread without yeast was less susceptible to mold growth. And, anyway, how this is all part of symbolism and ritual, and that I'd understand such abstractions better when I got a little older.
Not completely convinced, I later ate my cube of bread, post-consecration, but not without suspicion.
Something must have stuck, though. Toward the end of my time as an altar boy, our church switched to whole wheat wafers. By then, I was happy about this change, precisely because they seemed more like bread. They also had an added advantage: they were easier to swallow. The earlier version served at our church tasted exactly like Styrofoam, even fresh out of a new box, and exactly unlike Styrofoam, seemed capable of instantly absorbing all the saliva in my mouth. The point is, I was able to snicker when other members of the congregation, politely called "grownups," lobbied the pastor of the church, insisting that the new-fangled hippy disks were … yup, not real Communion.
All this by way of introducing the latest thing that (better sit down for this part) has William Donohue outraged. (Hmmm. Googling donohue outraged returns only 41,700 hits. Clearly, Google needs a thesaurus.)
Via Abbie, aka ERV, I was led to PZ Myers's reports of the unfolding events.
- IT'S A FRACKIN’ CRACKER!
- Now I've got Bill Donohue's attention
- Fresh crackers!
- Fight back against Bill Donohue!
- Can this possibly get more insane?
- I get email — special cracker edition!
- Mail dump
Now, the thing that I have to say about all of this is that, in my calmer moments, of course I do not believe that Donohue and his ilk are representative of all Catholics. Or all Christians. Or all religious people. Farthest thing from it. Neither does PZ, and neither does ERV. (More on this below.) What I will say, to all of you who are of a more moderate and mature bent regarding your faith, is this: To my mind, and I'm not alone in thinking this, guys like Donohue won't be content until we return to those happy days when people who don't share his views are once again burned at the stake.
I'm exaggerating, you say? Browse PZ's blog and read some of the email and comments he gets.
Still not sold? Fair enough. Maybe it'll help to think about it this way: Extremism tends to provoke more extremism.
When wingnuts like Donohue run around untethered, claiming an allegiance with everyone of your faith, purporting to speak on your behalf, without moderates like you loudly and clearly condemning them, one of the reactions is going to be alarm from people who become, by definition, those on the other side. There will be an instinct to fight fire with fire. If you're the sort who thinks PZ Myers goes too far, if you find guys like Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, Maher, and Condell offensive, you might consider this. You might think about the amount of airtime given to the agents of intolerance, and how that leads to the impression that all religious people are like this. Certainly, a large number of sheep are willing to be herded by Donohue, Robertson, Hagee, Parsley, and all the rest. This may be because they don't get much chance to hear any other voices. Like yours.
It's not entirely up to you to address this, but it is partly up to you. And, at minimum, this ought to give you a little understanding for what provokes the so-called militant atheists.
Is there something a little tasteless about "desecrating the Host?" Perhaps. On the other hand, it seems to me that anyone of real faith, who truly believes in an all-powerful God, ought not get into a tizzy over what is, in the end, merely a concrete instance of a symbol of something that is supposed to be infinitely larger.
It's the same sort of idiocy that causes a hullabaloo when a flag is burned. The important thing is not that one specific piece of cloth. The important thing is the idea of The Flag, which is far more durable, and which in turn stands for something more durable yet -- all of our founding principles. People who really believe know this, and cannot be bothered by an act which is purely intended to provoke those few whose belief is rightly questioned and unquestionably immature.
All right. That's enough sermonizing. Let me close with this.
If you want to know what PZ really thinks about religion in general, here's an excerpt from a longer post of his:
This does not mean that scientists can't be religious. We can encompass irrational beliefs without regret and without obligation—I can, actually, look at my kids in a different way than I would an experimental subject under my microscope. I also do not pretend that I view my children rationally and objectively, untainted by emotion or history, and I'm not ashamed of that at all. So, a scientist should have no problem demanding one standard of logic and evidence in the lab, and dropping that demand when they go to church on Sunday.
If you want to know what ERV really thinks about religion in general, here's an excerpt from a longer post of hers:
First, to be perfectly clear, there is no reason why you should think you are on 'the other side' for believing in God. Certainly we could have some fun philosophical disagreements, but my evolutionary biology professors in college were a Quaker and a Lutheran. If they can come to terms with their faith and their science, I really dont have much patience with YE/OE/ID Creationists bellowing about the limits of their own deity. That is a personal problem, not an overlying theistic (or Christian) problem.
If you want a closer look at these sinister atheists, see the diavlog that ERV and PZ did Saturday, on BloggingHeads.tv.
Obvious Antichrists, no?
Sunday, July 13, 2008
The following is a copy of an email that I sent to the crew of Slate's "Gabfest" podcast. I have added links here; I sent them plain text out of fear of their spam filter.
Modified portions of the following were originally posted by me on the BH.tv forum.
To: gabfest@[you can probably guess]
Subject: Is there a second candidate for president or not?
Here's a partial transcript from the opening of this week's Gabfest ("The Semisweet Gabfest"), David speaking:
"Today we're going to talk about the usual three topics. The first one will be Barack Obama and all the various excitements about him this week including the Jesse Jackson episode, and then we'll talk about Iran firing some missiles, and then we will talk the mystery topic, about a chocolate chip cookie recipe."
Exactly. The "usual three topics." I listen to the Gabfest every week, and I've concluded that by "usual," you mean "Obama for sure," "two other things," and "anything but He Whose Maverickly War-Hero-ness Shall Not Be Questioned." Once again, you neglected to say much of anything about the many twists and turns of John McCain and his campaign.
Why is he not worthy of the same scrutiny as Barack Obama? I mean, you spent minutes talking about the clothes, hairstyle, and future pets of Obama's daughters, for cripes' sake. Did McCain really do nothing this past week that might, just possibly, outweigh that in importance?
Maybe you could have talked about the increasingly obvious bias for McCain on the part of the Associated Press (that erstwhile paragon of objectivity) being documented by, among others, The Carpetbagger Report and Talking Points Memo?
Maybe gaffes are more to your taste? Okay, then how about McCain surrogates Giuliani and Romney questioning whether Obama is "American enough," surrogate-in-chief Joe Lieberman spreading the meme that Obama is "no friend of Israel," chief economic advisor Phil Gramm saying America is a "nation of whiners," or Carly Fiorina going way off the reservation and effectively criticizing the McCain record on women's health issues?
Do these seem as bad as Wes Clark's saying that having your plane shot down doesn't necessarily mean you're qualified to be president? Should the words "bus" and "throw" be used in the same sentence about any of these people?
Okay, those are only surrogates. Perhaps some doozies from the Straight Talker Himself? How about McCain joking about killing Iranians, again, this time with cigarettes, McCain calling Social Security "a disgrace," and then trying to spin his way out of it, or McCain lying about "300 economists" supporting his budget plan? How about a few minutes on McCain's desire to kick Russia out of the G8? Does he even know that he can't do this, by himself? Or is he flip-flopping and backpedaling on this, too? Is he losing his marbles or losing his integrity? Is it fair to ask this?
Granted, one or two of these was touched on in passing, and granted, some of them are a tiny bit more than one week old. True, too, David's bit of Cocktail Chatter did touch on the Sainted One, although he apparently could not resist hastening to throw in a line about Obama being "almost as bad on this." But still. Add it all up, and it comes darn near to zero coverage.
Look. You're hardly the only member of the MSM guilty of this neglect. In fact, you're one among a unanimity. But I thought Slate's shtick was determined contrarianism. How about showing a little of it, in this regard?
Last week, I linked to David Carr's piece in the NYT that described the duress reporters who cover Fox News often face as a result of their work. Carr was interviewed on this week's On The Media. If you haven't read the article, this is a nice intro and possible incentive. If you already have, there isn't a whole lot new, but I think it's still worth a listen -- there's always something added by hearing tone of voice. Listen here (40-second promo leads the piece -- sorry):
If the above embedded audio thing doesn't work, visit OTM's segment page.
There are some other interesting stories on this week's show, too. If you're paranoid about The Google, you may find you have your fears enhanced or assuaged -- three separate stories, including tips on how to anonymize your searching. Interesting either way. Plus, a report on FISA and an interview with the new
lackey for the Moonies executive editor of the Washington Times, who actually quite impressed me (maybe we're both dupes?).
So, as I do most weeks around this time, I urge you to listen to the whole thing.
In the interests of provoking discussion, Bobby G posted a link in the BH.tv forum to David Appell's gripe about the blogosphere. I responded there, in the forum, and then decided to repost it here. Probably could stand some more wordsmithing, but, what the hell. Here it is as it is.
Didn't do much for me. [Update: Well, now that I've finished ranting in response to his rant, it's clear that's not true. So, let's say I didn't find much to agree with.]
I can understand the emotion. I think most people who read a lot of blogs get a feeling a staleness or superficiality from time to time. I know I do. Once that happens, it's easy enough to pick out individual posts that irritate one the most. But really, the only thing David Appell has proved is that he is as susceptible as anyone else to crankiness-induced confirmation bias.
He sounds like he's got a plan -- read a different form. He says he's going to switch to books and serious magazines. Hats off to him, I say, although I do have to ask, what took him so long to realize that this might be a good idea? And why does he have to be so absolute -- why must it be only one thing and none of the other? Well, maybe he'll level off after a while. Sometimes you have to quit cold turkey at the start.
I don't completely disagree with one of his observations: A lot of blogs, especially those run by people who get paid to do it, have evolved away from reporting or op-ed-style column writing into a structure that's more rapid and more scattershot -- lots of posts, not necessarily connected, each containing only a single thought or observation, many of which are transient in worth. Appell is right to say that this approach has its shortcomings, especially if he's looking for a complete answer to a complex question. Again, though, I wonder why this is just now occurring to him. Perhaps, as with many blog readers, he was struck by the pithiness of a few observations at the beginning of his time online. Maybe it took him a while to realize that sound bites are not a speech, a newspaper story is not history, and, as Hannibal Lector has noted, you can't build a philosophy from Bartlett's Familiar. Again, though, even as I am inclined to mock him, I do realize that we all have to learn such things for ourselves.
The real complaint I have with Appell's post is its laughable over-generalization. All right, so he's tired of Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Ygelsias. I've unsubscribed from a few (other) feeds myself. But these two guys are hardly the sum and substance of the blogosphere. If Appell wants to read people who post longer items less frequently, he could start by looking at some of the blogs on my humble roll; e.g., Hendrik Hertzberg, Sean Carroll and friends, Doghouse Riley, Steve Yegge, Cosma Shalizi, and the gang at Crooked Timber. And that's just for starters, and that's resisting the temptation to list friends. There are thousands of people out there putting up substantive posts.
There's another thing Appell forgets, too. Some bloggers are very good at providing a play-by-play as they move forward in their research, as events that they're covering unfold, or as they start up a new project or start down a new path. It's a mistake, here, to expect any one post to offer the conclusion; the real meat comes from the accumulation and the process. It's both instructive and enjoyable, at least for me, to watch things develop, instead of holding off on reading until the arrival of the Final Answer.
Appell also seems to have forgotten the concept of reading for pleasure. Or, maybe he never had it in the first place. For me, the feeling of being beaten down by the sturm und drang of what we call "news" is relieved the quickest by spending a few minutes with Roy Edroso, Jon Swift, TBogg, Angry Professor, Defective Yeti, and Sadly, No!. Again, just to name a few. If I read nothing but blogs like these, do I feel unfulfilled after a while? Sure, same as if all I ate for dinner were chocolate chip cookies.
The thing is, blogs, even the many-short-items type, offer things that were hard to find until a few years ago. They offer a new form, and the way to look at this new form is as a compliment to what already existed, not as a replacement.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Those fine folks at Fox, summarized:
Sign the petition: http://foxattacks.com/michelle
(h/t: TC, via email)
Dean Baker was interviewed by Aaron Swartz on a diavlog posted yesterday on BloggingHeads.tv. Baker introduced a number of policy proposals that I'd not heard of before. They (he!) struck me as imaginative, and indeed, inspiring. I'm sure devils could be found in the details in most cases, but the ideas deserve to be heard and explored more fully.
Baker starts off with a proposal for addressing the mortgage crisis called "own-to-rent," which I'm told has generated some buzz. Among the ones that came later that caught my interest the most, though: new ways of allocating funds for scientific research and software development (open source everything!), letting a national health care plan begin by proving its mettle in competition with existing insurance companies, and new approaches for balancing artists' concerns for their livelihood with the out of control parasitism of today's copyright squatters. He's got a liberal's belief in the power of government to do good combined with a libertarian's love for adding competition wherever possible, to promote the things that work the best.
Go watch the diavlog, but don't read my comments in the forums. The fanboy raving is just embarrassing. As if this post isn't going down the same road, I mean.
By the way, this is Swartz's second appearance on BH.tv. I thought I had pitched his first, but unless I've forgotten how do a Google, I guess I didn't. Anyway, in his debut appearance, he gets to be the interviewee, and that's well worth watching, too. Another brilliant guy.
Whew. Guess what song just popped into my mind.
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting's magazine, Extra!, has a nice article in its current issue by Peter Hart on the construction and maintenance of the image of The MaverickTM.
Hart's focus is the MSM's ongoing contribution to this canard. While there is arguably a bit of cherry-picking here, the direct quotes, from some of the nation's best-known reporters, are staggering both in number and in shamelessness of fawning.
The web version of the article contains numerous external links, for which Extra! deserves praise. In case you miss it, I'll repeat one of them here, Jonathan Chait's article, describing how he fell into the trap, and how he finally realized he was in one.
Both Hart and Chait also do yeoman's work in laying out the extent of McCain's history of changing positions on virtually every major issue. One thing is clear: we need a more powerful word than flip-flop.
[added] Bonus Chait, responding to McCain's attempt at pushback.
Friday, July 11, 2008
After too long a delay, I've just added Hendrik Hertzberg to my blogroll.
Hertzberg works for The New Yorker, which means if you're less of a cultural savage than I am, you probably don't need a sell job. If by some strange chance you don't know of him, he's great, and I use that word sparingly. Have a look and set a bookmark. The latest three posts are a much-deserved harshing on Zev Chavets for fluffing Rush Limbaugh, a quick history and some thoughts on doing away with the Electoral College, and perhaps the Web's most succinct and proper reaction to the death of Jesse Helms.
Side rant: Annoyingly, it does not appear to be possible to subscribe to Hertzberg's feed alone. You can subscribe to a larger feed which gives you his stuff among others, most of which is also doubtless fine writing, but I, the self-centered user of the Web 2.0 era, want things served up exactly the way I want them. Hertzberg only posts once every few days, which means wading through/being distracted by tens of other posts just to check for new stuff from him. Get on this, will ya, New Yorker?
Anyway, never mind my griping. Go read.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Paul Krugman once had a great line about the ridiculous "balance" fetish that dominates the MSM, saying that if a Flat-Earther managed to grab a few minutes of attention in Washington one day, the next day's headlines would read, "Shape of Earth: Views Differ."
It seems like hyperbole for the sake of humor -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- but it couldn't ever really be that bad, could it?
When we're talking the MSM and John McCain, indeed it could. Have a look at Matthew Yglesias's razor-sharp post, "Saving Social Security," which slices apart the WaPo's latest bit of "balance."
Today's moment of McSame:
(h/t: Matthew Yglesias)
I just heard a statement made by Masha Gessen on the 7 July 2008 edition of Start the Week that "over half the Ashkenazi Jews alive today" are descended from just four women.
Other sources online seem to bear this out, at least ballpark. MSNBC, for example, said in January 2006 that it's 40%, based on a report in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
All I can really say is that this, combined with the Genghis Khan story, further confirms my suspicion that there are really very few real, unique people on the planet. The rest of you are cyborgs or simulacra, stationed on this planet for reasons unknown.
But probably malicious.
Michael Kinsley has a nice piece up on Slate about Al Franken. He asks, in this age of the never-ending quest to find the next thing to be offended by, whether some of Franken's old jokes will kill his chances of winning.
Me, I'm as sick of feigned outrage as I am of anything these days. But you probably already knew that.
The lede from Josh Marshall on McCain's new numbers-free budget and the uncritical MSM:
I think we may have come to that moment, that quick turn of events, that encapsulates the fact that there is apparently no limit to the howlers and nonsense that John McCain can throw out and still not generate collective guffaws or even scrutiny from the national political press.
Josh goes on to explain that in McCain World, the budget will apparently magically balance itself as soon as we achieve victory in Afghanistan and Iraq. Which, when you think about it, sort of means that McCain has given himself at least a hundred years to get the job done, right?
(h/t: The Carpetbagger Report)
David Carr has a piece in the NYT describing what it's like to be a reporter who writes about Fox News. Even given your worst suspicions, you'll still be amazed. What's really sad is how many non-Fox reporters refused to go on the record, or, if they did, went all mealy-mouth, when asked about their own, known, run-ins with Fox.
You may have already heard about this story, which Carr mentions, but I thought I'd add the link for completeness (and the pictures).
(h/t: The Carpetbagger Report)
Follow-up post, with audio of an interview with Carr, available here.
The Official McCain Flip-Flop List, as compiled by Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report.
Funny how little we hear from the MSM about this, isn't it?
(h/t: Poli-Sci-Fi Radio)
[update] By the way, the podcast whence I got the link is well worth listening to, if you're interested in hearing a different (i.e., non-bashing, non-wailing, non-gnashing of teeth) take on Obama's recent doings. Partial blurb from the show notes page (edited to fix one typo):
This week, the PSFR team covers the media's obsession with the Obama-moves-to-the-middle meme… even though it’s not really true. Also, who’s the real flip-flopper, McCain hires Karl Rove operatives, Obama’s "faith-based initiative," an absolutely astounding photoshop hack job by Fox News, the "Tyson Homosexual" farce and the fact that Obama’s Iraq policy is demonstrably unchanged, despite all the media reporting otherwise.
You'll probably be able to tell from that where the political sympathies of this podcast lie. That said, I think the analysis is solid. It's a long podcast, but the Obama stuff is at the beginning, so you won't have to hunt around the MP3 file.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
A listener email read on Buzz Out Loud's podcast #758 (audio starts at about 29:29) introduced me to a new bit of
Painfully Politically Correct speech.
From now on, listener Bill asks, we should refer to blind people as non-photon-dependent persons.
I like it, on so many levels. It's the best thing I've heard since Daniel Pinkwater called himself circumferentially challenged.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Email buddy SG sent me a link to a transcript of a keynote address that E. L. Doctorow gave about a year ago. He was speaking to "a joint meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society on the theme of 'The Public Good: Knowledge as the Foundation for a Democratic Society.' "
What does it say about the United States today that this fellowship of the arts and sciences and philosophy is called to affirm knowledge as a public good? What have we come to when the self-evident has to be argued as if--500 years into the Enlightenment and 230-some years into the life of this Republic--it is a proposition still to be proven? How does it happen that the modernist project that has endowed mankind with the scientific method, the concept of objective evidence, the culture of factuality responsible for the good and extended life we enjoy in the high-tech world of our freedom, but more important for the history of our species, the means to whatever verified knowledge we have regarding the nature of life and the origins and laws of the universe.... How does it happen for reason to have been so deflected and empirical truth to have become so vulnerable to unreason?
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Thanks to a heads-up from Eastwest in the BloggingHeads.tv forum, I was made aware of the latest good work from the great investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh.
Here is the direct link to the Hersh interview show page on Fresh Air. The interview ran yesterday.
Here is the direct link to Hersh's 7 July 2008 story in the New Yorker. The article appears in this week's print edition.
I urge everyone to listen to the interview and read the article ASAP, to pass the links along, and to start making some serious noise. Blog about it. Paste the links into other forums. Email them to everyone you know. Tell your friends. Call your Congress people. Write to your news sources. Demand follow-up. This is some truly scary shit from a reporter whose credibility could not be higher.
If you're momentarily pressed for time, here is the gist of the story. Recently, Bush issued a highly classified Presidential Finding concerning the alleged looming danger that Iran poses. On the strength of this, he went to Congressional leaders, and asked for and received $400 million in secret funding earmarked for CIA and Special Forces operations inside Iran. These ops are aimed at stirring up unrest in Iran with the aim of destabilizing the government. There are also plans for taking out Iranian air defense systems to ease the path for American bombers, and hopes of
capturing kidnapping scientists and engineers involved with Iran's nuclear programs. There are strong hints that Israel is also considering first-strike actions against Iran. Hersh suggests, finally, that Bush and Cheney are interested in provoking Iran into doing something rash in response, which would give them a casus belli.
The Congressional leaders, including House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, both Democrats, were among those who caved to Bush's request. Hersh doesn't know why for sure, but he thinks it has to do with their concerns about the Democrats appearing "weak on terror" during the homestretch of the presidential election. It's also possible, he thinks, that a combination of laziness in reading the reports, a less than honest story told by Bush, and a bunny-like and unquestioning acceptance of whatever Bush told them were at play, as well. Hard to believe that Bush lies and Congressional Democrats are invertebrates, I know, but there it is.
Hersh sees Bush's recent easing up on North Korea as possibly part of the this plan, speculating that Bush will attempt to spin this as North Korea was reasonable, so we were able to come to an accomodation. Iran, on the other hand …
All this, of course, despite the recent National Intelligence Estimate that strongly asserts that Iran has backed off on its nuclear weapons development.
Hersh lists several factors that he believes contribute to the Bush/Cheney thinking here, among which are: boosting John McCain's chances in the election (can you say October Surprise?), worries that a President Obama would be much more interested in pursuing diplomacy with Iran (despite the fact that most Americans agree with this idea), and a belief that things are going so well in Iraq that it makes sense to take the next step. He does not say so directly, in the interview at least, but there is an undercurrent in his words that suggests that many people in the administration and the Pentagon believe that Cheney has truly lost his mind.
[update] Thanks to pod2 in the Comments for noting that Seymour, despite his brilliant reporting, was never a good speller. I have changed Hersch to Hersh throughout out of respect for his one shortcoming.
I've long suspected that those alleged Democrats who continue to insist that they are such die-hard Hillary Clinton supporters that they will vote for John McCain over Barack Obama are few in actual number, despite the shrillness of their voices and the MSM's eagerness to give them air time. I've also begun to wonder, when looking at sewers like NoQuarter, how many Republicans are jumping onto the Hillarhoid bandwagon, posing as Democrats, and trying to fan the flames.
PUMA, it is claimed, variously stands for People United Means Action and Party Unity My Ass. I think we need a new expansion of this acronym. How about Poseurs Undermining My America?