Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jobs and Smarts and Diplomas

Some interesting thoughts.

Here's a thought that, while it certainly doesn't capture the thesis of the piece, has probably occurred to many people before:

Part of the change in a degree's value, however, comes from a trend that the authors decry: credentialism. "More and more employers don't care what you know," says Pryor. "They just care if you have the right sort of degree; it does nobody any good." Although they admit that scholars should conduct more research on the topic, Pryor says he believes that some employers -- banned from using many types of tests for employment purposes -- use the degrees that people have earned as a crude personality-screening mechanism. "If someone has the where-withal to finish junior college, even if they don't have any more real skills, some employers might figure that they are simply a better worker."


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bill Sali (R-Idaho)

Is a world-class douche bag. But don't take my word for it. There's plenty of sources to check.

I won't bother to comment on the obvious fact that his assholery is protected by the same amendment that protects the Hindu prayer, or that the Christian purity he insinuates is expressly forbidden by Article VI of the Constitution. Screw that guy.

Mark Day knows what's up:


On Sicko

Some interesting thoughts. I'm not sure I totally buy his premises, or the historical applicability of the Upton Sinclair analogy (though I love the quotations), but it's definitely food for thought.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Don't Mention It. No, Really, Don't.

Bush recently invoked the lessons of Vietnam as, get this, an argument for staying in Iraq. It was a stupid thing to say. He has failed to grasp the aptitude of the comparison before, and has been widely and deservingly excoriated for his ignorance on the matter. Once again, he has mustered the audacity to present a war he refused to serve in as a rallying cry for the current quagmire. And he is so unbelievably wrong, his credibility so minuscule, you really have to wonder who he's even trying to fool with this absurd rhetoric. I doubt it's working.

This op-ed sums up my thoughts pretty well.

Desperate presidents resort to desperate rhetoric -- which then calls new attention to their desperation. President Bush joined the club this week by citing the U.S. failure in Vietnam to justify staying on in Iraq.

Bush's comparison of the two conflicts rivals Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" utterance during Watergate and Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," in producing unintended consequences of a most damaging kind for a sitting president.

It is not just that Bush's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Wednesday drew on a shaky grasp of history, spotlighted once again his own decision to sit out the Vietnam conflict, and played straight into his critics' most emotive arguments against him and the Republican Party.

More important, Bush has called attention to the elephant that will be sitting in the room when his administration makes its politically vital report on Iraq to the nation next month. For Americans, the most important comparison will be this one: As Vietnam did, Iraq has become a failure even on its own terms -- whatever those terms are at any given moment.

That is, the administration has constantly shifted its goals in Iraq to avoid accepting failure and blame -- only to see the new goals drift beyond reach each time. Liberation of Iraqis became occupation by Americans, democracy became an unattainable centralized "national unity" government and this year's military surge has become a device for achieving political reconciliation among people who do not want to reconcile.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Candidate

"This isn't American Idol; we're choosing the President of the United States." --Dennis J. Kucinich

I still like Biden a lot. He's a straight shooter, and I don't doubt his intentions. Richardson appears do be a Wesley Clark-like candidate: appealing on the surface but with little panning out on closer inspection. But the thinking person's candidate is a no-brainer: Dennis Kucinich. He's the type of guy who you would have hired on the spot if these debates were anything like a real job interview. He was a carefully considered answer to every question, and he honestly and fully elaborates his position. He is the only candidate that actually answers the questions instead of being evasive. His most memorable lines are fully backed by a consistent track record as a legislator and activist, unlike many of the candidates who just talk the talk. And as of late, he's actually become a pretty decent orator. But the fact of the matter is, when it comes to pure policy talk, he's the only one with any cred. No, perhaps some of the author candidates have those credentials, but they refuse to talk about them. But there's still no doubt in my mind that Kucinich would make the best president. He would run the country better than anyone else. Maybe people wouldn't like him. Maybe he wouldn't give entertaining press conferences or uplifting SOTU addresses, but he would do a great job at what a president should really be doing: improving the lives of Americans through better government.

It's a damn shame that he's so thoroughly unelectable. But it's even more of a shame what a self-fulfilling prophecy this observation has become. Yeah, he's short, not particularly good looking, and is all around lacking in the panache that many people expect from a serious contender. And the media has treated him accordingly, virtually guaranteeing that he can be nothing more than a dark horse, or perhaps an anti-spoiler who forces the other candidates to reveal their positions on issues rather than their slogans. But at a time when Americans are (hopefully) awakening from our political complacency and realizing that likability is not an adequate solution to our very serious problems, I can't understand why we don't even give this guy a chance. I for one am appalled at how much the debates have already focused on Obama and Clinton, ensuring that they are the only two candidates likely to garner mainstream appeal, because the others are relegated to obscurity even to those who have an open mind to consider them.

Anyways, Dennis is the man. When he gets massacred in the primary, I hope someone thinks to add him to their ticket. And I hope he declines. But it would be a tremendous service to the country if the eventual winner would put him exactly where he belongs: in charge of an important government function that could use some work. He would make an excellent Secretary of Labor, Energy, Agriculture, HHS, or pretty much anything else that's really important but fairly unglamorous. I am praying to whoever will hear me, please let this guy do something bigger than holding a House seat from Ohio.


Dennis for President

A great piece that makes me wonder if Dennis doesn't have the rhetorical flourish to match his substance...

YouTube him for more, but here's a start:

I disagree with him on nuclear power. While it is an uncomfortable solution, it is increasingly looking like the only realistic option. But I believe he is the reasonable sort of politician he would honestly investigate the truth of this assertion, and if he could find an alternative, then more power to him. Otherwise, I believe he would submit to the necessity of meeting our power needs sustainably, and that seems to mean nuclear to me.

A response to criticisms that he didn't vote with dems on their Iraq withdrawal plan.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Link Dump

Patrice Evans on the ethics of being Goliath.

NYT says exercise is good for your brain! Interesting addenda on drugs; I hadn't heard that moderate ethanol intake increased neurogenesis.

WaPo has a reasonably informative, though perhaps overly glossy, commentary on the sub-prime loans debacle.

WaPo also has an interesting piece on an interesting type of political exploitation: a quasi-fraudulent scheme that fleeces donors. The specific example is Linda Chavez, a Reagan/Bush 1 hack.

Here is a good free peak at a piece by Michael Ignatieff on the lessons learned in Iraq. He has been accused of covering his own ass while not offering an apology, although I (and I am no fan of revisionist history) find that critique overly harsh. I think the piece is in fact much more humble and insightful than the HP author gives him credit for. Although, Ignatieff has been known to cling resolutely to the apologists' position in the past.

Here is an excellent piece on the biological basis of altruism's antithesis: spite. Did you know bacteria have suicide bombers too?

This provides a horrific example of industrial encroachment on the responsible, patient-oriented practice of medicine. Specifically, it details a scheme in which pharma can target its marketing efforts towards doctors in a way that encourages unabashedly quid pro quo exchanges (as if this weren't already enough of an issue). It's particularly pernicious in that it allows doctors to reap the benefits of crookedness without knowingly --or demonstrably-- acting unethically. Pharma bears the burden of any ethical suspicion, and with a powerful lobby and enormous legal team, they are well-equipped to face the legal consequences of this making sure that there are none. This is NOT right.

On a lighter note, a friend showed me this:


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Post Secret

I have written about this site before.


WMD Video

The first video gets a bit incoherent at the end, but it's an excellent expose on the rhetoric that has gotten us where we are today.

It wasn't misleading. It wasn't slightly but defensibly dishonest, if there is such a thing. It wasn't about "WMDs" that could include 20-year old nerve gas that we had sold them; it was about nukes. It wasn't about state sponsorship of terrorism, which Syria, Iran, and most of the Arab states are guilty of; it was about a direct connection to 9/11. It was manipulation. It was wholesale fabrication. It was lies. It was despicable.

On a related note, this includes some of the statements of the very architects of the Iraq plan before this horrendous idea became so fashionable.

If only this guy had been around to talk some sense into renegades like Colin Powell:

But he was not.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Joyous Day

I can't believe what I just read!

I can't wait for this guy's memoirs/deathbed confessions. Who will be our generation's Woodward and Bernstein and hound him all the way to the grave?

I would like to read something into the timing of this resignation, but they're all just too secretive to speculate about what, if anything, it means. Oh well. I can imagine just about anything other than that he's actually feeling the heat of congressional investigations; he has too defiantly thumbed his nose at oversight of any kind for that to be a plausible theory. Perhaps, for the very first time, he is telling the honest truth: with the new democrat-controlled Congress, there is simply nothing left for him to do. He and his ilk have wielded near-absolute power for a long time, but now there is nothing to do but stem the tide of the reversal of their abuses, and frankly that's not very exciting. Anything is drudgery compared to playing a modern Rasputin, so who could blame him for walking out on a high note?

The Onion weighs in.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Seniors Ignorant, Study Finds

From WaPo. The headline is "Test Finds 42% of Seniors Proficient in Economics."

Check out this clown's response:

While there is clear room for improvement, the results are not discouraging," said Darvin M. Winick, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees policy for the NAEP tests, in a statement before a news conference in Washington this morning. "Given the number of students who finish high school with a limited vocabulary, not reading well, and weak in math, the results may be as good as or better than we should expect.

Yeah, good point. Since they don't seem to be learning jack shit anyway, we shouldn't pressure them to learn this specific shit. Better to keep them homogenously uninformed. Idiot.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Good Going

WTF, mate?

"You won't need to eavesdrop to hear this: I voted for you assholes because you said you were against shit like this."


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Gonzo's Last Gasp

This is really the only defense left for him:

Oddly, I've pretty much had it with calls for Gonzo's head. It's not that he doesn't deserve it, it's just that it is now clearly a lost cause and a waste of precious legislative time and effort. He's not going to resign, Bush certainly isn't going to make him, and while even Republicans in the House and Senate are happy to verbally condemn him, nobody's going to orchestrate his political lynching (how typical of the Dems not to shove when pushing is nonplussed). So at this point, heaping scorn upon Gonzales actually plays right into the White House's strategy. Libby-like, they have designated a whipping boy who will dutifully absorb his flogging and deflect the outrage from where it rightfully belongs. (He will be well compensated in the end, we presume.) Don't give them what they want. Brand Gonzales the idiot and liar that he is, and move in to other examples of malfeasance. There's plenty of criticism to go around, and it's not fair or wise to let Gonzo become the lightning rod for the manifold transgressions of his employers, in much the same way that the Libby conviction (even if it had had teeth) was ultimately a vacuous appeasement given the depth of corruption that his scandal embodied.

This is funny too:


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Holy @&*$%*#@$*)@#$

Fox News has published an article that pretty much concedes the point on global warming! Like the Catholic Church and Galileo, there comes a point when, in the face of mounting evidence, you simply cannot maintain a credible denial of the manifest truth.

Of course, it is no secret that Fox was going to come to the not-so-dark-side on this issue. Rupert Murdoch has personally acknowledged, on the record and on at least a few occasions, that global warming is a fact. He is, after all, not an idiot; he's a sociopath. And like any smart, profit-minded asshole, he is well aware that his viewers are idiots, and he has given them what they wanted: fodder for arguments with the evil leftists who have concocted this conspiracy as part of their plan to prevent the second coming of Jesus.

One of the vaunted defenders of the skeptic position (mentioned in this article, as well as pretty much every other climate change article, since there are only a handful of credible scientists who contest the consensus) is Richard Lindzen. He is a great candidate since he is evidently quite free of industry ties and his reputation as a scientist is impeccable. But what's interesting is that he's not quite the champion of anti-anthropogenic warming that editorialists would have him be. In fact, he mostly falls in line with the consensus position, though he would probably deny that adamantly. And though he has stated that he predicts a 50-50 chance of the earth actually cooling over the next 20 years, he doesn't seem to believe that with conviction. He's willing to bet it 50:1 odds, which sounds like a pretty damn good argument for the global warming position to me.

Here is a good piece on William Gray, one of the other prominent skeptics mentioned in the article. There's no stubbornness like an old codger's stubbornness.


Pushing the Envelope

I finally got around to reading this excellent article. A few notable excerpts:

Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden "torture" and permitted use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning.
What else would you expect from a VP who is, according to his unusual interpretation of the constitution, simultaneously a member and yet not a member of both the executive and legislative branches?
A backlash beginning in 2004, after reports of abuse leaked out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, brought what appeared to be sharp reversals in courts and Congress -- for Cheney's claims of executive supremacy and for his unyielding defense of what he called "robust interrogation."

But a more careful look at the results suggests that Cheney won far more than he lost. Many of the harsh measures he championed, and some of the broadest principles undergirding them, have survived intact but out of public view.

Geneva rules forbade not only torture but also, in equally categorical terms, the use of "violence," "cruel treatment" or "humiliating and degrading treatment" against a detainee "at any time and in any place whatsoever." The War Crimes Act of 1996 made any grave breach of those restrictions a U.S. felony [Read the act]. The best defense against such a charge, Addington wrote, would combine a broad presidential directive for humane treatment, in general, with an assertion of unrestricted authority to make exceptions.

The vice president's counsel proposed that President Bush issue a carefully ambiguous directive. Detainees would be treated "humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of" the Geneva Conventions. When Bush issued his public decision two weeks later, on Feb. 7, 2002, he adopted Addington's formula -- with all its room for maneuver -- verbatim.

In a radio interview last fall, Cheney said, "We don't torture." What he did not acknowledge, according to Alberto J. Mora, who served then as the Bush-appointed Navy general counsel, was that the new legal framework was designed specifically to avoid a ban on cruelty. In international law, Mora said, cruelty is defined as "the imposition of severe physical or mental pain or suffering." He added: "Torture is an extreme version of cruelty."

How extreme? Yoo was summoned again to the White House in the early spring of 2002. This time the question was urgent. The CIA had captured Abu Zubaida, then believed to be a top al-Qaeda operative, on March 28, 2002. Case officers wanted to know "what the legal limits of interrogation are," Yoo said.

This previously unreported meeting sheds light on the origins of one of the Bush administration's most controversial claims. The Justice Department delivered a classified opinion on Aug. 1, 2002, stating that the U.S. law against torture "prohibits only the worst forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" and therefore permits many others. [Read the opinion] Distributed under the signature of Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, the opinion also narrowed the definition of "torture" to mean only suffering "equivalent in intensity" to the pain of "organ failure ..... or even death."
What does this have to do with Cheney?
The vice president's lawyer advocated what was considered the memo's most radical claim: that the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it crosses the line into torture. U.S. and treaty laws forbidding any person to "commit torture," that passage stated, "do not apply" to the commander in chief, because Congress "may no more regulate the President's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield."
That's not radical, it's unthinkable. There is NO legal justification to suppose that anyone, including the president, can simply disregard a law. And if there were any reason to claim that executive authority could supersede certain congressional actions, it would not apply to an international treaty.

Another bit:
Even so, Cheney's losses were not always as they appeared.

On Oct. 5, 2005, the Senate voted 90 to 9 in favor of McCain's Detainee Treatment Act, which included the Geneva language [Read the bill]. It was, by any measure, a rebuke to Cheney. Bush signed the bill into law. "Well, I don't win all the arguments," Cheney told the Wall Street Journal.

Yet he and Addington found a roundabout path to the exceptions they sought for the CIA, as allies in Congress made little-noticed adjustments to the bill.

The final measure confined only the Defense Department to the list of interrogation techniques specified in a new Army field manual. No techniques were specified for CIA officers, who were forbidden only in general terms to employ "cruel" or "inhuman" methods. Crucially, the new law said those words would be interpreted in light of U.S. constitutional law. That made a big difference to Cheney.

The Supreme Court has defined cruelty as an act that "shocks the conscience" under the circumstances. Addington suggested, according to another government lawyer, that harsh methods would be far less shocking under circumstances involving a mass-casualty terrorist threat. Cheney may have alluded to that advice in an interview with ABC's "Nightline" on Dec. 18, 2005, saying that "what shocks the conscience" is to some extent "in the eye of the beholder."

There is much more amazing content on Cheney's expansive and iron-fisted rule over policy. Read it all. Here is some good commentary with links to appropriate further reading.