Nero's Fiddle
A View From The Handbasket

Monday, October 31, 2005
Up and down, flip and flop
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:20 PM
When we last left the chaotic landscape of the Supreme Court's vacant seat, Harriet Miers had been hounded from nominee status by the hard-right conservatives before hearings could take place, let alone a vote. Republicans seemed relieved by this, as they waited for someone more to their ideological liking.

Today, Sam Alito is hauled out and the Republicans applaud. Now that they approve of the nominee, the old "up-or-down vote" talking point is pulled out of the mothballs it was so hastily stuffed into after Miers was nominated:

"The Senate is responsible for providing advice and consent, not partisan obstruction," said Thune, who never said whether he would support Miers. "Let's give Judge Alito a fair up or down vote."

So Miers didn't deserve an up-or-down vote, but Alito does. I suppose the lesson here is that "partisan obstruction" is OK when Republicans do it.

1 comments on this post
The CD that ate your computer
Posted by neros_fiddle at 7:12 PM
As a public service, I'd like to advise anyone that has recently purchased a Sony music CD to *not* put the damn thing in your Windows PC. The new My Morning Jacket album is specifically designed to punish users of Apple's iTunes and iPod because Sony is jealous of their marketshare.

Even worse, the new Van Zant album apparently has some extremely evil software on it that will create security holes, screw up your CD drivers, and wreak God-knows-what havoc on your OS, while hiding itself like a virus. (Whether the crippleware on the My Morning Jacket CD does these things I don't know -- it's possible that Sony is trying different flavors on different releases.)

Now's as good a time as any to turn off Autoplay on your optical drives to prevent this crap from installing itself when you put in a CD. Go here to download TweakUI from Microsoft, which lets you easily disable Autoplay as well as do a lot of other useful things.

But you shouldn't have to go to such lengths to just play a lousy CD. These idiots are quickly making downloading morally (if not legally) justifiable as a self-defense practice against malware invading your computer.

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Doing it right
Posted by neros_fiddle at 6:04 PM
I want to be as good a blogger as Athenae when I grow up.

5 comments on this post
Posted by neros_fiddle at 8:38 AM
To frighten all of us this Halloween, Bush brings out Samuel Alito, a man so far to the right he's likely to start mandating burqas. The right wanted a Scalia clone, they got him. Here's his opinion of a law requiring spousal notification for abortions:

"The Pennsylvania legislature could have rationally believed that some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems — such as economic constraints, future plans, or the husbands' previously expressed opposition — that may be obviated by discussion prior to the abortion."

And in what way is this the government's problem? If that's not an "activist" judge, I don't know what is.

However, Alito is "conservative" where it counts, standing up for the individual's right to not hire promote undesirable minorities:

Alito dissented from a decision in favor of a Marriott Hotel manager who said she had been discriminated against on the basis of race. The majority explained that Alito would have protected racist employers by “immuniz[ing] an employer from the reach of Title VII if the employer’s belief that it had selected the ‘best’ candidate was the result of conscious racial bias.” [Bray v. Marriott Hotels, 1997]

In a final bit of bone-crushing irony, Bill "Kitty Killer" Frist is going to take this ardent opponent of civil rights to view Rosa Parks' coffin at the Capitol.

Will the Dems have the guts to fight a President with a 39% approval rating?

Har. "Scalito" should have no trouble.

5 comments on this post
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Tardy catblogging
Posted by neros_fiddle at 8:06 PM
Athena likes books about the occult.

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The scarlet "A"
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:20 AM
Looks like Rove is "Official A", and there's evidence he's still under the gun.

This is extremely intriguing:

The biggest piece of unfinished business involves Rove. Fitzgerald appeared set to charge Rove with making false statements until the White House deputy chief of staff provided new information on Tuesday that gave the prosecutor what two people described as "pause."

It is unclear what information Rove turned over. It is also unclear if it will be enough to prevent a grand jury from indicting him in the weeks ahead.

Hmmmmm. Maybe Rove not being indicted is a good thing, if he's spilling his ample guts.

Perhaps Fitzmas could come twice this year, after all.

1 comments on this post
Friday, October 28, 2005
Merry Fitzmas
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:40 PM
Quick reactions to the Libby indictment:

- Whether or not outing Plame was a crime, and whether or not that crime was committed, is completely irrelevant to this indictment. Libby has been indicted for lying to the grand jury, and it's not just a little lie -- it's a whopper.

- According to Fitzgerald, there are no indictments specifically on the Plame charge because Libby lied. This is important. Fitzgerald is, at least to an extent, saying that he is unable to bring charges because he did not get accurate information from Libby. This might be a strategy.

- I wouldn't put any money on Rove (much less Cheney) getting indicted. The case is effectively done. But the whole White House has been tarred by this.

- Who the bloody hell is "Official A"? He might be the 21st century Deep Throat, except on the other side.

3 comments on this post
CNN comedy
Posted by neros_fiddle at 2:39 PM
I'm watching the Fitzgerald press conference as I type this. CNN just went to a split screen with live coverage of what looks like a Cheney rally somewhere.

I swear to God, Cheney is speaking from a stage dressed to look like a bunker.

You can't make this stuff up.

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If being conservative is a crime, only criminals will be conservatives
Posted by neros_fiddle at 12:28 PM
Tom Delay says:

"We are witnessing the criminalization of conservative politics."

This picks up a talking point that William Kristol is selling over at the Weekly Standard:

But it's a reasonable bet that the fall of 2005 will be remembered as a time when it became clear that a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives.

The conservative movement's victimization-based ideology is reaching its apex. Here we have some of the movement's leading figures insisting that charging conservatives with crimes is tantamount to "criminalizing conservatism."

Only the "woe is me, I'm so oppressed" right could come up with such lunacy. When Clinton was lashed to the fiery stake of impeachment for perjury, I don't recall the right going around minimizing the importance of perjury. (That's leaving aside the problem of Clinton's lying about a blow job vs. Scooter Libby lying about blowing the cover of a CIA operative. A different kind of blow, if you will.) And I certainly don't remember Clinton bellyaching about "criminalizing liberalism" (or, in Clinton's case, "criminalizing mushy centrism").

If this talking point gains traction, the right will have a ready-made sound bite for future indictments and charges -- "Oh, you're just criminalizing conservatism." This has worked for them before. Have a problem with the Iraq war? You're on the side of the terrorists and/or you hate America. Don't like huge upper-class tax cuts? You're just indulging in class warfare.

Someone needs to ask Delay, Kristol, et al if they think liberals are free to be indicted on similar charges if caught doing the same things.

0 comments on this post
Thursday, October 27, 2005
And now for the real nominee...
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:11 AM
Miers is out, supposedly of her own accord. My pet conspiracy theory was that Bush was going to let her get rejected by the Senate, then send up a real right-wing nutcase and claim that two rejections constituted obstructionism.

Miers didn't even get that far. I think Bush underestimated just how little clout his personal say-so has post-Katrina.

So chances are we're going to get the real nominee now. My money's on Janice Rogers Brown, who the religious right will fall all over themselves endorsing.

2 comments on this post
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Bait and switch
Posted by neros_fiddle at 12:31 PM
NPR had a piece this morning profiling two of the mothers of troops killed in Iraq. Yet again, I heard about someone enlisting in the aftermath of 9/11 getting sent to Iraq and killed.

I have to wonder how many people signed up for a war on terror and ended up dying in a war that was more about neocon foreign policy and oil than terror. A war that's made terrorism worse. A war that we were lied into.

9/11 gave the neocons a fresh supply of cannon fodder and a rallying cry to use to pursue the PNAC agenda in Iraq. People get upset when 9/11 is used for "political purposes." This seems infinitely worse to me.

0 comments on this post
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Democrats unveil Defeat 2006 strategy
Posted by neros_fiddle at 5:47 PM
Again, apologies for the lack of posts. October and April are bad months for me.

Anyway, I was excited to receive a survey from my state's Democratic Party. What an insider I am! I eagerly tore open the envelope to see how they planned to take advantage of all the Republican scandals and woes to take back Congress in 2006. Let's see!

1. Please rate the following state issues in order of importance. (1 = most important)

- Lowering state taxes
- Restoring essentiaal services cut to funding shortfalls
- Keeping our state's air and water clean
- Protecting wildlife and natural habitat

Oh, dear. I see where this is going. What's more important, cutting taxes, increasing spending, or both? Do you like cute furry animals? How do you feel about E. Coli? Geezus, this is like a Republican mailing except even dumber.

I suspect that this is just boilerplate being fed from the national level to the state, since nothing here sounds specific to my state.

2. What is your view of our children's education fund?

- It's too little
- It's too much
- It's just about right
- Not sure

Because, as we all know, the amount spent is always more important than how it's spent.

3. Please check all the following that you think will help the Democratic Party ensure a Democratic victory in 2006.

- Expanding outreach to independent voters
- Focusing attention on the negative impacts of the Republican agenda
- Increasing public awareness of our Democratic vision for a better America
- Raising the public profile of state Democratic leaders

This is their strategy for victory? Might as well start painting the map red. How about "stop being wussies and stand for something"? That's not on the list.

4. How important do you think the 2006 election results will be to Democratic effort to regain control of Congress?

- Very important
- Somewhat important
- Not very important
- Not important at all
- Not sure

At this point I think it would be useful to point out that I am not making any of this up. This is a real question on the "Democratic Victory 2006 Survey." The only thing more mystifying than the utter stupidity of the question is exactly what useful information someone hopes to glean from the responses.

In similar news, it's been suggested that the World Series may play a role in determining the MLB champion. Details to come.

5. Please rank the following national issues in order of importance. (1 = highest priority)

- Strengthening Social Security
- Improving access to quality health care
- Fufilling the educational promises of the No Child Left Behind Act
- Lowering skyrocketing gas prices
- Restoring fiscal responsibility in the federal government
- Protecting America's natural heritage
- Maintaining a fair and nonpartisan federal judiciary

Sounds like the Dems are again surrendering foreign policy without a fight. Nothing about Iraq, nothing about terror, nothing about trade, nothing about torture, nothing about nuke proliferation, North Korea, Iran or the Sudan. Call me crazy, but I'm not sure how taking half or more of the issues of the table at the start helps your effort to present yourself as a superior alternative to your opponent.

And, please -- "Lowering skyrocketing gas prices"? Pander much? Show some vision and suggest alternative energy sources as a national priority.

6. What do you think is the most likely outcome of the 2006 elections?

- Democrats will take back the U.S. House of Representatives
- Democrats will take back the U.S. Senate
- Democrats will take back both the House and Senate
- Democrats will take back neither House of Congress
- Not sure

I guess it's good to know the morale of the troops, but how does this help craft a compelling message? Oh, wait, here we go...

7. How compelling is the case Democrats are making for opposing the national GOP's special-interest agenda?

- Very compelling
- Somewhat compelling
- Not very compelling
- Not compelling at all
- Not sure

Christ. No wonder the Dems can't craft a coherent message to save their lives if this is the caliber of feedback they're getting from the base. "They don't like the message! We don't know why! Try something else -- how about clean water? Everyone likes clean water!"

8. What do you think will happen to George W. Bush's popularity in the months ahead?

- It will continue to fall
- It will stay the same
- It will rise
- Not sure

What a useful thing to know. Let's plan our strategy around the uninformed opinion of the masses on predicting the unpredictable!

More incisive, no-nonsense information gathering:

9. How important is the outcome of the 2006 elections to our nation's future?

- Very important
- Somewhat important
- Not very important
- Not important at all
- Not sure

I used to work for a market research company. This is like a parody of bad market research. At the risk of stating the obvious, what you want to accomplish with market research is to gather useful information to help you understand what resonates with your target market. For a political organization, there's the additional need to understand what people are concerned about in their everyday lives and their feelings on a range of issues.

If someone came up with this at the company I used to work for, they would have fired in a heartbeat. You have a limited window to gather information, and you're wasting it on useless data points like this? Yikes.

And finally...

10. How do you plan to help Democrats win in 2006?

- Contribute to the State Party
- Contribute to candidates
- Vote for Democratic candidates
- Serve as campaign volunteer
- Not planning to help out
- Not sure at this time

See you in '08, guys.

2 comments on this post
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Brownie/heckuva job/etc.
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:18 AM
Well, there goes the talking point that it was Nagin and Blanco that screwed up the Katrina response. Brownie's boss tells us what we already assumed -- Brownie was just trying to shift the blame that was on his shoulders.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's lack of planning, not the failures of state and local officials, was to blame for much of what went wrong with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told members of Congress today.

The assessment by the most senior administration official to answer legislators' questions since the hurricane struck in late August contrasted sharply with testimony offered earlier by former FEMA Director Michael Brown. Brown had blamed the "dysfunction" of Louisiana state and local officials for the problems that hobbled the relief effort.

"From my own experience, I don't endorse those views," Chertoff said.

He told lawmakers that he found the governors and mayors of the region to be responsive as the crisis unfolded.

Why does Michael Chertoff hate America?

0 comments on this post
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Real life stinks
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:06 AM
Sorry for the lack of posts -- work insists on my time in exchange for a paycheck.

However, I'm working on a special treat for those of you who find Republican-bashing tiresome. Stay tuned.

0 comments on this post
Friday, October 14, 2005
Friday dogblogging
Posted by neros_fiddle at 7:42 PM
Varley is no longer with us, but here's a photo from when she was a force of nature.

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One of those weeks
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:33 PM
Headlines from the AP wire in the last day or two:

Office Contacted About Williams Contract
Rove Testifies Again in CIA Leak Probe
Poll: Bush Presidency Judged Unsuccessful
Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged
U.S. Accused of Making Up al-Qaida Letter
Gingrich Says Run for President Possible

0 comments on this post
Slouching toward theocracy
Posted by neros_fiddle at 2:11 PM
Exhibit A -- President George W. Bush on his criteria for nominating judges (June 2002):

"We need common-sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God. Those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench."

Exhibit B -- George "My favorite philosopher is Jesus" Bush on why he chose Harriet Miers to nominate to the Supreme Court:

"People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers," Bush told reporters at the White House. "Part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion."

Exhibit C -- Radical Christian cleric James Dobson on his discussions with Karl Rove about Miers:

What did Karl Rove say to me that I knew on Monday that I couldn't reveal? Well, it's what we all know now, that Harriet Miers is an Evangelical Christian, that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life, that she had taken on the American Bar Association on the issue of abortion and fought for a policy that would not be supportive of abortion, that she had been a member of the Texas Right to Life.

Exhibit D -- The Constitution of the United States, Article VI, Clause 3:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

I'm still not entirely sure what the heck is going on with this utterly bizarre nomination, but it's becoming more and more clear that Miers' legal qualifications barely entered into the conversation.

One thing is nearly certain: these nomination hearings should be good theater.

6 comments on this post
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Scott McClellan calls Helen Thomas a terrorist sympathizer
Posted by neros_fiddle at 5:20 PM
Poor Scottie is becoming unhinged, and the press are growing fangs. I predict fisticuffs during one of these briefings before long.

Check out this exchange from today:

THOMAS: What does the President mean by "total victory" -- that we will never leave Iraq until we have "total victory"? What does that mean?

McCLELLAN: Free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East, because a free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a major blow to the ambitions --

THOMAS: If they ask us to leave, then we'll leave?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm trying to respond. A free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the broader Middle East will be a major blow to the ambitions of al Qaeda and their terrorist associates. They want to establish or impose their rule over the broader Middle East -- we saw that in the Zawahiri letter that was released earlier this week by the intelligence community.

THOMAS: They also know we invaded Iraq.

McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, the President recognizes that we are engaged in a global war on terrorism. And when you're engaged in a war, it's not always pleasant, and it's certainly a last resort. But when you engage in a war, you take the fight to the enemy, you go on the offense. And that's exactly what we are doing. We are fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here. September 11th taught us --

THOMAS: It has nothing to do with -- Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

McCLELLAN: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism, and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism. The President recognizes this requires a comprehensive strategy, and that this is a broad war, that it is not a law enforcement matter.


TERRY MORAN: On what basis do you say Helen is opposed to the broader war on terrorism?

McCLELLAN: Well, she certainly expressed her concerns about Afghanistan and Iraq and going into those two countries. I think I can go back and pull up her comments over the course of the past couple of years.

MORAN: And speak for her, which is odd.

McCLELLAN: No, I said she may be, because certainly if you look at her comments over the course of the past couple of years, she's expressed her concerns --

THOMAS: I'm opposed to preemptive war, unprovoked preemptive war.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- she's expressed her concerns.

Too bad Gannon's gone, or this might get *really* entertaining.

0 comments on this post
Better you than me. Heh heh.
Posted by neros_fiddle at 2:27 PM
Today the President somehow tricked the news networks into covering a scripted "teleconference" between himself and some troops in Iraq:

Wherein he uttered these words:

I wish I could be there to see you face to face and thank you personally. Probably a little early for me to go to Tikrit. Perhaps one of these days the situation will be such that I'll be able to get back to Iraq.

Oh, dear. So not only is he admitting that (1) Iraq is so unstable that he can't go there, but (2) Iraq is even more unstable than it was in November 2003, when he actually did go there.

Of course, back in June, Tom Delay observed:

"You know, if Houston, Texas, was held to the same standard as Iraq is held to, nobody'd go to Houston, because all this reporting coming out of the local press in Houston is violence, murders, robberies, deaths on the highways," DeLay said.

So I guess Houston is off limits for our Steely-Eyed War President as well.

Unfortunately for the troops, Bush refrained from sharing any useful tips on avoiding service requirements for months at a time with no repercussions.

0 comments on this post
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Let's play "Explicate the President"
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:34 PM
This one is challenging. Can you tell me just what Bush was trying to say here? (Emphasis mine.)

"You are the best governor ever -- deserving of great respect," Harriet Miers wrote to George W. Bush days after his 51st birthday, in July 1997.

She also found him "cool," called him and his wife, Laura, "the greatest!" and told him: "Keep up the great work. Texas is blessed."

Miers, President Bush's personal lawyer and his selection for a Supreme Court seat, emerges as an unabashed fan in more than 2,000 pages of official correspondence and personal notes made public Monday by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in response to open-records requests.

Bush responded to her birthday wish in kind, and included a humorous, if baffling, postscript.

"I appreciate your friendship and candor. Never hold back your sage advice," he wrote. "P.S. No more public scatology." Whether Bush was referring to Miers' rough-and-tumble time as chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission or something else isn't clear. Scatology refers to "the study of or preoccupation with excrement or obscenity," according to Webster's dictionary.

Just what exactly were the Governor and the Lottery Commissioner *doing*? (Thanx to the Rude Pundit, link at right, for noticing this.)

2 comments on this post
The waste material is rapidly moving towards the rotating blades
Posted by neros_fiddle at 11:42 AM
I haven't talked much at all about Plamegate, simple because it's a lot of smoke and no fire at this point.

That said, some of the smoke is downright intoxicating. The can of worms that indictments in this case might open up has become a barrel. If the reports in this article are correct, all sorts of interesting information about the selling of the Iraq war may come to light -- in a news climate that is significantly less subservient to the White House than it was three years ago.

Pass the popcorn.

0 comments on this post
Monday, October 10, 2005
Russ Feingold beats me up
Posted by neros_fiddle at 1:29 PM
Hey, Ron, Russ has your back (Salon link).

If we don't leave, our not leaving is a big part of the political instability. So it's an absurdity to talk in terms of, "How can we leave before it is stable?" In fact, the presence of this huge American, and other [countries'], occupation of this country is what is destabilizing the country even more. It's a completely illogical conversation for people to talk in terms of what is already, many believe, almost a civil war, if not already a civil war. What we need to do is recognize that Iraqis are going to have to stand on their own. When I suggest that we withdraw the ground forces in a reasonable manner, this does not mean that we do not continue reconstruction, it does not mean that we do not continue to help the government, it does not mean that we do not have a very strong partnership with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people on non-military issues as well as military issues.

OK, I'm convinced. Getting the heck out *militarily* is the right thing to do. But we're still on the hook for the cost of reconstruction.

1 comments on this post
Sunday, October 09, 2005
The smell of fear
Posted by neros_fiddle at 4:10 PM
Shifting gears a little bit, let's talk about how batshit crazy the music industry is. Beset by rampant digital piracy on one side and by an increasingly balkanized fan base on the other, the majors have gone into full-bore survival mode, like a starving animal rabidly leaping on anything that remotely resembles food.

One of the few bright spots in recent years has been iTunes, which has sold millions of legal downloads for a buck apiece. However, instead of seeing a growing market that should be nurtured, the industry sees an opportunity to squeeze somebody (anybody) for more money. They've been pressuring Steve Jobs to raise prices, and Jobs responded by publicly calling them "greedy." (Jobs, no fool, knows that the public would probably side with Osama bin Laden against the music industry and he's safe as milk openly criticizing them.)

The industry's response?

[Warner Music Group CEO Edgar] Bronfman said the music industry should not have to use its content to promote the sale of digital music devices for Apple or anyone else, and not truly share in the profits.

"We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don't have a share of iPod's revenue," he said. "We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only."

Yes, you read that correctly. Not only does Warner want more money out of iTunes customers (who seem to be one of the few blocs of enthusiastic legal music consumers out there), they also want a cut of iPod sales.

This is, not to belabor the point, batshit crazy. An iPod is what allows people to buy Warner's products, much like a CD player or a set of speakers. Only an insane businessman would want to make the cost of entry to his market higher. (Not to mention the incredible overreach. It would be like Budweiser demanding a cut of a bar's Buffalo wing sales.)

Not content to wildly overreach with one of the outlets providing them with valuable exposure and marketing, Warner also has their sights set on Google:

So if you type in "Madonna"—a Warner act—at the Google Video site (now in its test phase), and the results are accompanied by ads, Warner wants a share of those ad dollars as well as payment for any Madonna videos that are streamed or sold.

Rabid, drooling, starving, insane. A weeks-starved hyena would be calmer.

Essentially, what they are saying is that if you want to make money promoting the music industry's products, you'd better provide a kickback off *all* of your revenue sources, well beyond simply paying royalties on the industry's content.

Between this, ongoing RIAA lawsuits of downloaders (which often comically target the wrong people), and annoying their few remaining paying customers (CD copy protection, ugly ever-larger back-cover FBI warnings, multiple rip-off releases squeezing fans who want the one exclusive track on the new $25 CD/DVD combo package that came out a month after the $15 CD release) the industry is expending an awful lot of effort trying to shake down the very people who they need on their side.

Which is, well, sort of crazy.

5 comments on this post
What price stability?
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:26 AM
In the comments to a post below, Ron made an interesting observation that enriching Iraqis is the key to increasing stability in Iraq, rather than enriching Americans. That got me thinking.

We're spending 5.9 billion dollars a month in Iraq, or $70.8 billion a year. There are roughly 4.2 million households in Iraq, with a median annual income of about $255 (see UN study here).

$70.8 billion divided by 4.2 million is $16,857.

Just sayin'.

(EDIT 10/10: I might have been a bit too coy. My point was not that "we're already spending a ton on Iraq," it was "what's more conducive to stability -- spending the equivalent of a lifetime's wage per Iraqi household on a massive military occupation, or getting that money directly to the Iraqi people, perhaps in the form of wages for reconstruction projects, or even more directly in the form of war reparations." Poverty causes instability.)

3 comments on this post
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:06 PM
The porn site I posted about a few days ago, the one that accepted (and posted) images of dead Iraqis in exchange for free access to its content, just got busted for obscenity.

The authorities insist there was no connection between the bust (which was for the sexporn and not the warporn) and the use of photos of war dead.

Go figure.

0 comments on this post
A long way to go
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:16 AM
I was listening to a report on NPR this morning on the Iraq constitutional referendum. Towards the end of the piece, a loud beeping could be heard behind the field reporter in Baghdad. The anchor said, "I'd better let you go, it sounds like you have another call."

The reporter chuckled ruefully and said with infinite resignation, "No, actually the electricity just went out."

0 comments on this post
Friday, October 07, 2005
When wars collide
Posted by neros_fiddle at 2:25 PM
Here's an intriguing piece on the military's frustration with the partisan battles being fought in Washington.

The most trenchant observation is this:

"The debate about the war is finally happening, but it is two years too late," the U.S. official said.

"It's no bullshit on the ground here between us and the Iraqis. But back home it's still in f(ing) ideological political mode," he said. "We need to separate 'accountability' from 'success.'"

The tragedy here is that we're finally realizing we screwed up, long after there's much of anything we can do about it. We're there, we've totally dismantled the country, and it's our responsibility to put it back in order.

Although I was convinced the war was a mistake before it started, and I'm even more convinced of that now, I don't join with those who are demanding an immediate pullout. We simply have to expend whatever resources are necessary to put Iraq on a stable course. Unfortunately, the current gang in charge can't seem to make a correct decision if you gave them two options and pointed out the bad one.

(EDIT 10/9: Ron makes some compelling points for a pullout in the comments, and I tend to agree with what he's saying. Upon further reflection, I think what's needed is a plan for getting the destabilizing influence of the US out as a more independent authority takes on reconstruction. After all, reconstruction is the key to security, not bigger standing armies. [Of course, the spoils of reconstruction have many White House-friendly interests making lots of money, so this is problematic with the current regime.] So I somewhat retract my statement above -- an immediate pullout *could* be the/an answer if part of a larger plan for reconstruction.)

At root, the problem is this: the anti-war crowd will not let up until the architects of the war admit their failures. That's not going to happen, as Bush's ridiculously delusional speech yesterday proves -- to them, admitting that the war was a bad idea is equivalent to supporting the 9/11 terrorists. (Because, I hasten to point out, they were the ones who created that false equivalence in the first place.) As long as the two camps are at each others' throats over assigning blame, the very real problems on the ground get ignored, except as "evidence" for the veracity of one position or the other. There are two wars here -- the one between US forces and insurgents in Iraq, and one between pro- and anti-war partisans in the US.

Somehow, we have to decouple the notions of support for starting the war and support for finishing the war. They're not the same thing.

5 comments on this post
Last but certainly not least
Posted by neros_fiddle at 11:09 AM
The remaining member of the Feline Fab Four, the lovable Chloe:

0 comments on this post
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Bush: Greatest hits
Posted by neros_fiddle at 2:03 PM
A lot could be said about the president's "major address" this morning, but most of it boils down to two things. First, he's still using the same tired talking points he's used since September 12, 2001. The terrorists hate us for our freedom, we didn't do anything that would cause Muslims not to like us, they want to kill everybody, weapons of mass destruction, etc., etc.. While such stubborn consistency is to be admired, I suppose, it's not clear that this message has put us in any better a position in the world than we were in four years ago.

Second, many things he attributes to the bad guys could also be said of us. For example, he said this about Iraq:

The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses.

Isn't that the idea behind why we're in Iraq in the first place? You know, how installing "freedom" in Iraq will inspire the "Muslim masses" to rise up and cause it to flower throughout the Middle East? Is he saying that whoever takes over Iraq will cause the "masses" to suddenly do something radical? Does he really believe the "masses" are that gullible and easily led?

There's lots of other examples of this throughout the speech. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to find them.

Finally, I must note the irony of him giving this speech at the National Endowment for Democracy, which among other things was supporting the failed 2002 coup in Venezuela, which is certainly a novel approach for democracy, much like invading a country and enforcing democracy at gunpoint.

4 comments on this post
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
The irony, it hurts us
Posted by neros_fiddle at 5:37 PM
Go read this.

I'm not sure there's anything I can say about it that could add anything useful. It's all right there.

There's a lesson that'll be remembered for a long time.

3 comments on this post
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Moving the goalposts
Posted by neros_fiddle at 6:17 PM
Meanwhile, over in Iraq, the Shiites and Kurds are busily fixing the constitutional referendum and hoping no one gets too upset about it. The UN seems ticked off, but with the US distracted by hurricanes, indictments and lottery commissioners nominated to the SCOTUS, will the real power in Iraq just let this skate through?

Most likely. The US government is interested in stability, not democracy, in Iraq. They've made the gamble that passing a constitution over the objection of the Sunnis is less risky than letting the constitution fail and starting all over. I have no idea if they're right, but I have to observe that their track record to date isn't comforting.

UPDATE 10/5: The goalposts have been returned to their original position.

0 comments on this post
Monday, October 03, 2005
Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:40 AM
So, do we really know anything about Harriet Miers, other than the fact that she's been a Friend Of George for over a decade?

The total lack of judicial experience is certainly not unprecedented, but there's still a strong odor of cronyism around this nomination.

4 comments on this post