Thursday, July 24, 2008

A smashing new victory!

Well, from listening to Republicans across the country, I see that they've ret-conned a new reason we went to war!

As you know, we went to war with Iraq to find active WMD programs, er, defeat an ally of al Qaeda, I mean, bring peace and prosperity to the Iraqis , uh, oh, yes! reduce violence, at least in Baghdad, and allow the Iraqi government to make progress towards creating a unified Iraq! Anyway, due to our troops and their leaders, including the brilliant and courageous John McCain and George Bush, we've achieved victory!

It must be great to be a high ranking Republican! You get all the great victories and effusive praise given to a toddler, while still being old enough to drink (and, alas, hold elective office).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Torture in the news again

I'm getting really tired of this crap. So, another round of congressional hearings, run by people who don't really seem to understand the right questions to ask.

The Bush administration tells a good story. "We wanted to do everything we could to protect the American people". Let's take them at their word, then, and look at what they did. What they did was to look for ways to apply ever greater amounts of cruelty.

They didn't look into what works. They didn't create a special task force of the best experts in intelligence operations to come up with a plan. They immediately went for cruelty. "How can we hurt people, to make them do what we want? How much can we hurt them, and still pretend this is legal?"

That was their big idea. They assumed that the only thing standing in the way of successful interrogations was an inability to be nasty enough, to hurt people enough. Even though all of the best interrogators will tell you that you get better information without torture.

Even if you weren't horrified by the evil of an administration that approves of torture, you should be horrified by the sheer stupidity of an administration that doesn't bother looking for the best way to do things. You should be horrified by those whose knee jerk reaction is "hurt someone until they do what we want".

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Can we drill our way to lower oil prices?

Can we drill our way to lower oil prices?

Let's see.

a) If the oil companies drill enough to significantly lower prices, it'll cause their profits to fall - remember, supply *is* still ahead of demand!

b) The oil companies like their profits.



So why the bullshit push to open new drilling areas?

The more places the oil companies *can* drill, the greater the likelihood they have of finding oil that's cheaper to bring up. Cheaper oil means higher profits (reference b), above). Plus, every lease they hold is an asset on their balance sheets.

So, yes, Bush is lying, and simply pushing hard to pander to his buddies in the oil business. Is this a surprise?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I remember Colbert...

A couple years back, at the White House Press Correspondent's dinner, Colbert announced that Bush was the decider; he decides. Tony Snow recites what he's decided. Then, the reporters transcribe what Tony Snow recites. Okay, that's the job, got it? Decides, recite, transcribe. Then reporters can get back to writing that story about the brave journalist standing up to the government... you know, *FICTION*.

Zing, I say... zing.

But pretty sad too.

Today we have the same thing going on... only with Dana Perino rather than Tony Snow.

Bush decided to whine about the Supreme Court decision granting detainees habeas corpus rights. Dana dictated his whine; the reporters transcribed it.

Look, I don't want to be mean... oh, hell, who am I kidding? Of course I want to be mean!

But I don't want to be unjustifiably mean.

Okay, but this is justifiable. President Bush made an unsupported claim... that he, as President, could grab anyone, under any circumstances, and claim that they were an illegal combatant, and ship them to Guantanemo naval base to be held indefinitely.

Any first year law student should have been able to point out that the courts might rule that people snatched by the US government have rights. I mean, it's not like these people were all known to be enemy soldiers. That's the point, isn't it? If they were enemy soldiers, they'd be POWs. The point is, Bush is claiming that these people were enemies who disguised themselves as ordinary people.

And, he claimed that he was the only person who had to be satisfied by that designation. No namby-pamby judge gets to decide whether or not the government has acted illegally, nuh-uh! Who do those judges think they are, making legal decisions?

It was always a weak claim, and a pretty stupid one, and every time it was tested in court, it was ultimately rejected. And it's been on extremely shaky ground since at least 2006. So, he's had two years to figure out what to do.

And now, he's complaining that he doesn't know what to do, and he's scared that things might happen that he doesn't like. Well, boo-friggin'-hoo, a competent executive would have been planning for this and working on the assumption that this might come up.

For the record, judges aren't stupid. They are not going to order the release of anyone that the government can show is a true, honest-to-goodness risk.

But they're not going to put up with the whining of a President who can't deal with a situation he's seen coming for two years.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Reporting ethics?

Obama has a mortgage! (Film at 11). No, wait... Obama has a mortgage and it appears that he got a good rate! No, wait... Oh, right, he got a discount! Right... a discount.

Like, if you shop for a new car, and the average price for that car is $25,000, and you manage to talk the dealer down to $24,000, you got a discount.

But, they gave a discount to a US Senator... shouldn't that make us suspicious? Shouldn't we report that to the world, and let the people decide if it's news worthy?

Well, let's look at this from another angle. Obama, as a politician, has probably shaken hands with thousands of people. One of those people is probably guilty of a crime. If we just happened to find a photo of him shaking hands with that criminal, is that newsworthy, if it was just a handshake at a campaign event where he was shaking everyone's hand?

No. To report such a thing, without any further evidence that he was especially friendly with that person, would push the reader to make a link that is not justified by the evidence.

Similarly, reporting that Obama has a .375% (that's 3/8ths of one percent!) difference between his mortgage, and the average mortgage of the same type, would push people to try to make a link that just isn't justified by the evidence.

This isn't the same thing as Chris Dodd, who we know got VIP treatment, but claims he was unaware that he was given special treatment. Dodd is probably telling the truth, in my opinion, but that's irrelevant to this case. The point is, we have no reason to suspect Obama got special treatment... we only know that he did better than the average person getting that kind of loan. Well, a lot of people will do better than the average, and a lot will do worse; that's how averages work.

And yet the Washington Post thinks it's news. Why?

I could deal with this a bit better if there weren't so many of these kinds of stories hitting the wire already. Obama knows a member of the Weathermen, and even serves on a committee with him! (Somehow, this makes him - not the committee - bad.) He had some dealings with Rezco. He stood by the man who baptized him, who performed his wedding, and baptized his children. Wouldn't you expect folks to start vetting these stories, to decide if there's any "there" there?

I guess there's a reason they call it "silly season".

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