Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Clouds of Smoke

We shouldn't think of having the appearance of fighting terrorism and actually hindering that fight as being contradictory aims or even as independent, but it is possible that the same things that give the appearance of fighting terrorism (e.g. invading Iraq, datamining international calls) actually are the things that hinder our fight (e.g. giving Al Qaeda what it wants, allowing terrorist communications to be buried in a haystack of misleading data). A puff of smoke may look as if it came from a gun aimed at terrorists and be cover for those same terrorists to escape being actually shot at.

... jus' sayin' ...


I don't know how I feel about explicit inflation targets ...

but, this criticism of Bernanke (who seems to be one of Bush & CO's better appointments -- along with Wolfowitz at -- is it the IMF or World Bank -- although he was awful in DoD, he actually has some good ideas about international finance -- and, surprisingly, Rice at state -- although she does show signs of shilling for the admin, she seems to be more competant than she has been in other contexts) seems a bit bizarre: how, from the perspective of a central banker looking at the long term, is keeping down inflation, a domestic devaluation of the dollar, much different than minimizing the devaluation of the dollar on the world's currency markets. Indeed, some inflation is merely what happens when, following global devaluation of a currency, people pour money into an economy 'cause its goods and services are cheaper for them than they are at home.

But then again, not being an economist, I guess I don't really understand these sorts of things ...

Also -- couldn't the dollar stand to be devalued a bit? It would certainly help our balance of trade ... unless the idea is that some people like our trade deficit. Hmmm ... now why would a free trader like us to have a trade deficit? In order to maintain some sort of status quo of "comparative advantage" in which the rich coutries stay rich and the poor ones stay poor to provide resources/cheap goods for the rich? If the poor countries' currency can go further on the world market, that kinda eliminates the sort of inequalities which allow poor countries to produce goods cheaply for rich ones, doesn't it?

Monday, January 23, 2006


Have you noticed this?

In coverage of the Abramoff scandal, certain Republicans and their allies in the press are trying to slip something under the table into our national discourse: i.e. a narrative in which the Abramoff scandal represents an about face from a ethically minded, reformist campaign in 1994 when the Republicans made huge gains in Congressional elections in which their "Contract with America" at least in part had the promise of cleaning up the House, so to speak.

Alas, the 1994 elections themselves were not about ushering in a reform minded Congress that would sweep K-street clean. The current scandal involving Abramoff is not an about face from the efforts of the Republicans in 1994 but rather the logical culmination of those efforts. The "Contract with America" was only nominally about "reform" but was in fact, and rather obviously, about the interests of big business. Indeed, one of the major funders (and beneficiaries) for the 1994 Republican take over of the House was Koch Industries whose actions in funding this "revolution" were actually rather shady themselves and certainly more dangerous to democracy than any money Soros has spent to promote balanced, open discourse in this country and elsewhere. Also, the K-street project did not hatch full bloom from the mind of the "oh-so-clever" Abramoff (and we all know what that's code for), but rather represents a decade or more long goal of the Republican party to corner the lobbying market.

I fear that certain Republicans, e.g. Gingrich and friends, will try to lay this all on Abramoff and even the current "leadership" of the Republican party. Of course, their efforts to blame current Republicans for the scandal will not hurt the Democrats politically, but it does obscure the larger issue (the airing of which would be to the long term benefit of Democrats): the Abramoff scandal is not a scandal about just Abramoff or even just the current Republican party (nor, OTOH, is it a natural consequence of having a government, as the libertarian types would like to tell us -- there is a such thing as cleaner government that does some good things), but rather about a long term project of the Republican party to corrupt Washington for their benefit.

We need to be sure to frame the issue our way and not let others frame it as "both sides do it" or "it's just the current crop of Republicans -- the 1994 crop was about reform" or "this is why government is a necessary evil, not a good". The Abramoff scandal neither represents "business as usual in Washington" nor "a break with the Republican revolution of 1994" but rather is part and parcel of that revolution's undermining of business as usual in Washington.

As George Santayana would tell us, if people are not clear about the history of this situation, we will be too likely to have it repeat again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Democrats Surrender

Check out Gene Lyons' column.

I would quibble with him though, that it isn't all the fault of those whom some have called the Vichy Dems. It is hard to put up a fight when the Kewl Kids in the SCLM decide that the only people worth taking seriously (and, in spite of their proclaimed distrust of the media, most people take seriously that and only that the media takes seriously) are those who boldly beat the drums of war, who are good sports about that which is not even a game and who otherwise are Republican lite. How being war-mongering and wishy-washy became seen as being tough and moderate and how only war-mongering wishy-washy folks are the only Dems. seen by the media as being "serious" is beyond me.

But that is the situation. So why should it surprise us that some Dems. are convinced that they have to be spineless war cheerleaders in order to win elections? For that matter, why are so many people convinced that they should only vote for a spineless war cheerleader?

That being said, Gene Lyons' basic point is sound. Even though many people claim the Dems. are too liberal (without even realizing what a liberal actually is) would probably more likely support a Barbara Boxer or a Russ Feingold (I know such people personally) than a Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. There are many people who, if you ask them, would claim , as much as they dislike the Republicans, they'd never vote for a Democrat 'cause the Democrats are too liberal. But this is based on a misperception of liberalism as an effete doctrine which is out of touch with the concerns of real people. This misperception is actually strengthened by folks like Clinton and Lieberman who, no matter how much they position themselves as moderates, are seen as liberals whilst their positioning causes them to take positions at odds with what really matters to people even as they still maintain the unpopular stances associated with liberalism. But fundamentally, when it comes down to it, the strength of the tough talking Republicans who, in spite of what the SCLM says, really are out of the mainstream, indicates that what matters is sounding like a leader ... not what you actually say. As Lyons so aptly puts it:

[I]f Democrats ever again hope to lead this country, they have to show that they can be leaders.

A Democrat who shows she can be a leader will be called upon to lead the country. A Democrat who triangulates, unless they have the political skill of the Big Dog himself, will not be so called -- not in spite of his moderation but because of it: such moderation will, possibly correctly, be seen as pandering rather than leadership. And people would, right or wrong, vote for someone who seems to be a tough leader over someone with whom they agree (some of it is a self-confidence issue: people feel that anyone who shares their opinions cannot be all too smart ... of course, self-confidence cuts the other way too -- people don't want a leader who threatens them intellectually ... and of course, we Dems. manage to loose on both sides of this psychological krenk of too many voters).

To adapt Ben Franklin to our current situation and thus give advice to Democrats: those who would trade principles for electability deserve (and will have) neither.

To approximately quote Truman on the effectiveness of "acting Republican" in order to get more votes: when a Republican runs against a Democrat who acts like a Republican, the Republican will win every time.

Even when the Democrat who acts like a Republican wins, it is a win for the individual Democrat but a win for the Republican party.

If the Democrats want to regain office, necessary at least to restore some checks and balances to the government since the Republicans seem unable or unwilling to do so themselves (which is un-American, if you ask me), they better start acting like leaders and like Democrats.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Punishment of and the War on Terrorists

I am a little confused about the attitudes some people have to terrorists -- that whatever we do to "them" is ok, 'cause "they" are bad actors who have done bad things to "us".

There are two issues here. One is who "they" are. For example, suppose we catch someone on a "battlefield", which in this war on terrorism we are told is everywhere (which makes the "innocent Americans will be safe as y'all know to stay away from battlefields, don't you" argument rather moot, doesn't it?), there is the epistemological issue of whether we know that person is actually a terrorist or not. Much has been discussed about the implications of our lack of knowledge, so I won't go further with this angle.

I wonder why, assuming that the person we have in custody is indeed a "terrorist", so many Americans feel it is A-OK to torture them, etc. Why so many Americans feel it is hunky-dory to treat a "bad person" inhumanely. As a Jew, of course, if we have established that a person is a "terrorist" (which is a big if), I feel it is not at all immoral to treat him or her according to the principle of lex talionis ... of course, though, it is immoral to take two eyes for an eye rather than merely one, so to speak.

But most Americans who are so gleeful about punishing terrorists are not Jewish. Indeed, some of the strongest support for our President and his policies comes from the "America is a Christian nation" crowd. And, I cannot figure out how, according to the teachings of Jesus, whom Christians claim is the Messiah and Son of God, it is at all acceptable to punish terrorists even in accordance with their crimes. How does Christian teaching even support lex talionis, forget about supporting an attitude which celebrates and considers just vengeant abuse of the least among us, e.g. those who are terrorists, whose treatment echos our treatment of the arch-radical leader Jesus? And if we are at war against terrorism, doesn't that make terrorists are enemy? And aren't Christians supposed to love their enemies?

Anyway, isn't a fundamental principle of Christianity that pretty much all sins are equal in their abominable nature (which is why even the most saintly individual requires the death of Jesus to achieve salvation) and "don't judge lest ye be judged"? I.e. an average Joe is no better than a terrorist, therefore for an average Joe to feel it is ok to torture a terrorist for his crimes means that he is ok with being tortured for his petty sins?

I just don't get how people who view themselves as Christians and who view this country as Christian have an attitude toward treating terrorists -- even assuming the people we have in custody for terrorist related acts are actually guilty -- that goes against everything Jesus was supposed to have taught and how they support our leaders who wish this country to behave in a manner that goes against the principles laid down by Jesus.

The religious right in this country needs to ask themselves a question: if Jesus were to be crucified today, would they be protesting that act of torture or would they be cheering on Pilate while denouncing those protesting as unpatriotic lovers of terrorism?

Of course, the religious right still blames the Jews for killing Jesus ... and right-wing Jews think these people are our "friends"? Gevalt!

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Another Reverse Blogwhore

I should probably start ranting on my blog and then blogwhoring the rants in appropriate comment sections on others' blogs rather than ranting in the comments' sections and then linking to them from my blog.

But yet again, I've done the latter, bass-ackward thing to do: this time on the way in which Kelo does illustrate what is wrong with the Democratic party.


JFK and the Freedom Riders

I heard a bit of Fresh Air today and they were talking about the Freedom Riders a bit.

Call me naive and/or over-influenced by 2000s era conservative rhetoric, but why didn't Kennedy just put a stop to all the shenanagans down South? Why didn't he just get a "cease and desist" order and send marshals down immediately to make sure that federal law and authority were respected? Why didn't he just start rounding up people like Bull Connor (or J. Edgar Hoover for that matter) on conspiracy charges? And why didn't he just give an -- almost -- now we'd call it Bush-esque -- speech in which he used his bully pulpit to say "look -- we're locked in a struggle with an enemy who is seeking to undermine our freedoms. those at home who violate established federal law and try to deny people their freedoms can only be assumed to be in league or sympathy with the Soviets"?

Kennedy came at the perfect time to nip reaction to the march of freedom in the bud and he failed. At the very least, in a time of struggle, the federal government needed to assert its authority and assert the rule of law, and Kennedy failed in doing that (even as they painted lefties as subversives, people like Connor and Hoover et al were actually real subversives, if not treasonous in their desire to undermine just and proper federal authority).

Those who have fallen for the myth of Camelot should, along with Kennedy's support for the military industrial complex, recall that while JFK did many good things, he was, shall we say, far from being our best president -- he let people skirting with treason get away with it ... and some of their ideas are still buried within the psyche in certain all too powerful sectors in this country.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


What is Terrorism?

An act of terrorism has occured. Read about it here. Do you think GW Bush will send whomever is suspected of doing this to Gitmo? Or does the term terrorists only apply brown-skinned furriners who believe in a different religion than our fearless leader?

As to the "they hate our freedoms" argument (I guess the implication is that Bush & CO keep us safe by taking away our freedoms -- so the terrorists will hate us less?) -- I would say "they envy our freedoms" might be right. We must beware the green-eyed monster. More likely, they hate us because we force the world to do one thing (e.g. fool-hardy "neo-liberal" economic "reforms") whilst being smart enough ourselves to know that you cannot have a powerful economy without cheap energy, honest business and other things guaranteed to us by that regulatory chokehold that so-called conservatives are always complaining about. We have those regulations for a reason -- a real conservative might be a bit concerned about throwing the baby out with the bathwater ... but no ... the pseudo-conservatives want to turn us into yet another banana republic.

Oh well -- I've diverged (time to go home and get some rest?) ... but thought I would point out this story. Against whom are we fighting, I must ask ...


I'm a Bad Sport

I got on a role on the idea of politics as a game in a comment at Eschaton. We Dems. need to stop trying to be good sports, no matter what the SCLM says -- after all, since when do they want us to be elected? so why do we take advice from them? To view politics as a game is to concede to the Republicans a key part of their "anti-government" ideology: that politics is only about power plays.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Abortion and Toevah

As a Jew, even as I feel "abortion as birth control" is wrong, I feel it is immoral to compel a woman to maintain a pregnancy that is likely to lead to physical morbidity or mental anguish raising to the equivalent level of morbidity. On the other hand, I know many sincerely religious folk who believe that it is immoral for a woman to abort under any circumstances.

In the ancient world, there were cultures in which women were deemed inferior -- and to receive sexual pleasure from them, to whom it was assumed a man was naturally attracted, was considered inferior to receiving sexual pleasure from other men, to whom a man presumably would have to cultivate a sexual attraction (*). The Hebrews felt (or at least were supposed to feel) the other way. Indeed, the Torah describes the behavior sanctioned by Gentile societies using the word "Toevah", usually translated as "abomination" but really meaning "that which we find morally outrageous about other cultures" (**). For example, the Torah describes the at times famously culturally stuck-up and almost xenophobic ancient Egyptians as finding eating at the same table with foreigners to be a "Toevah".

While some would say that, because of the negative connotations of the word Toevah, as something even prohibited to Gentiles though they characteristically do it, actions which are Toevot should be prohibited as part of a legislative campaign to keep people on the straight and narrow path. However, the experience with abortion is illuminating: what for one person is the height of morality (sacrificing your own health or even life for the sake of a fetus) is for another person a Toevah (how dare you sacrifice your health or life, which are gifts to you from God, for the sake of something that is essentially a parasite) and visa-versa. As Reagan might have put it if he were Jewish and remained a Democrat -- one person's Toevah is another person's Mitzvah. As I say, one problem with legislating morality is that, in having the law not be morally neutral but rather striving for it to be moral (as opposed to merely ethical), you risk the law being immoral.

Abortion is an issue where I certainly feel that certain practices are Toevot. But I am sure some would feel the practices I find honorable are Toevot. In a secular society -- and our society is strong in part because it is secular ... indeed, religion flourishes in our society because it is secular! -- how can we choose whose Toevah to prohibit when the two are mutually exclusive? Better not to prohibit anything at all and allow people, as per Kant, to actually prove their moral mettle and thus truly be good people, rather than trying to protect people from immorality and thus at least denying them the chance to make moral choices and possibly worse, forcing them to be immoral.

(*) Off-topic, but hey, it's my blog and I can go off topic when I want: one of my best friends asks "in much of the ancient world, 'artificial' was considered superior to 'natural' whereas today it's the other way around -- when and why did things change?" My girlfriend's answer to this question is "things changed when mass production become such that 'artificial' things became plentiful yet shoddy whereas 'natural' things became less available yet are no worse than they ever were". I wonder, though, if this change predates mass production. I think we can blame the Jews. Underlying many of the Toevahs prohibited in Leviticus is a notion that "natural" pleasure is sanctified whereas the pleasures of artifice, so valued by the ancient Greeks and non-Hebraic Levantines, are considered, in fact, sinful.

(**) FWIW, I do not view what we today know as homosexuality to be the toevah prohibited in Torah. Indeed, one can argue that for a homosexual to try and live as a heterosexual is just as much a toevah as for a heterosexual to "cultivate" homosexual attractions ... the bisexuals are lucky, IMHO ... they get a free pass on this particular law (unless you consider them unlucky as they have no way of actually fulfiling this commandment as everything is allowed for them?).


Parental Notification Rules and Bush Wiretaps

I am a bit confused by the thought processes of some of those to the right side of the political spectrum:

How come is it that a teen, impregnated by her father -- alone and scared -- would not be unduly burdened by having to go in front of a judge in lieu of parental notification in order to obtain an abortion/morning after pill or what have you ... whereas GW Bush's executive branch, filled presumably with prosecutors who could indict a ham sandwich and other sorts of crack legal experts, is so horribly burdened by a requirement for search warrants that to have them go in front of a judge to justify their work would undermine the whole global war on terror?

I just don't get it ...


Paint Me Pink (with Broad Brushstrokes) and Call Me a Keynesian ...

... but how come in all of this talk about "lobbying reform", nobody is talking about the demand issue?

Everyone is talking about how to stop the supply of the corrupting flow of money from lobbyists -- changing laws, etc. -- but who is talking about reducing the demand for money? After all, so long as elections are expensive to run, there will be "special interests" willing to pay for them. The real solution to the problem of corrupt and corrosive monetary influences on politics is to have a system in which it just don't cost all that much to win an election. Public campaign financing might help, but do I, e.g., really want my tax money going to some wingnut who is wont to point out "it's uterus, not uterme"?

The real solution is that all of us voters should become more educated about issues and candidates (and the newsmedia should actually perform their role in keeping us informed of such things) so that elections are not decided by expensive attack ads but by inexpensive lists of positions disseminated through press conferences, etc.

You would think that both parties would be harping about the demand side of the equation. It gives Republicans a chance to talk about "personal responsibility" (they may not be the party of personal responsibility, but until BushCO made it so obvious that they are not, they were certainly the party of talking about personal responsibility) of voters to be informed citizens. It gives Democrats a chance to talk up Keynesian theory about the role of demand in affecting, nay in even effecting decisions (yay! I get to use effect as a verb ... I love it when I can do that!). And it gives "both sides" (TM of SCLM, Inc.) an opportunity to throw their hands up in the air about lobbying reform (which presumably neither really wants anyway) by saying -- "no matter what we do, it'll be futile" ... and for once, they will not be entirely wrong in saying that! Indeed, what can be done to address the demand issue are things incumbents might like -- for example, better gerrymandering: if no races are competative, incumbents won't need to raise money. And, in spite of what Newt G.'s now saying, most Congresscritters, even most of the sleezers and wingnuts, are not in Congress to raise money 24/7 but to actually do their jobs as Representatives of you and I (no matter how deluded they are about what being a Representative actually means).

But I reckon the reason why the demand side (except for an occassional moonbat, not thinking about her money going to fund the Atilla '06 campaign) doesn't get much traction is that party bosses are people too. And saying that the real problem with our system is not the supply of lobbyist money but the demand for it due to expensive elections indicates that the real problem with our system is we the voters -- who are suckered into voting one way or the other not by the simple, honest and cheap facts of the situation but by expensive campaign ads (if those ads don't work, why are people paying for them?). It's as Pogo said: "we have met the enemy and he is us".

So, until we all are willing to face the fact that, when the system is broken in a democracy, it's our own damned fault, no matter what "lobbying reform" gets passed, it won't do a lick of good.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


A Disturbing Trend

One disturbing trend in the present administration is its innate distrust of having an external authority check its work. As a scientist of sorts, a key aspect of my life is the process of "peer review": having my work checked makes sure I am on the right path. All other things being equal, it should be assumed that the administration will do a better job fighting terrorism, or whatever, if their work is being checked than they would if no-one could make sure they were doing the right thing. In as much as so many people feel comfortable with the admin's arguments that it is better for national security that their work is not checked, it reflects more than just an undermining of the concept of "checks and balances" -- it reflects a fundamental break with a culture of science. This seems to me an ill omen. If we now reject the scientific method's emphasis on having others check your work, will technological innovations soon be stiffled? Are we, as Margaret Mead feared, heading into a new Dark Ages?


This Seems Familiar

Neo-conservative imperialism? Monetarism? The kind of free trade advocated by Tom Friedman? It all sounds so familiar ... at least the merchantilists believed in emperical data ... the same thing cannot be said for their current re-incarnations who substitute the moustache of understanding and similar divining devices (why do Jews use these? aren't we prohibited by Torah from using them?) for actual data and analysis.

BTW -- I suspect the merchantilists understood full well (if only implicitly) the idea of "comparative advantage". What merchantilists and their "free market" "opponants" seem to purposefully fail to understand is that often the best comparative advantage to have is to have no advantage at all (lest a nation get stuck as a resource or labor colony) and that the whole theory ignores economic growth anyway.


American Ignorance and Laziness

A friend of mine who is an immigrant to this country pointed out to me that Americans by and large don't realize how good we have it in this country. Not only that but we are almost willfully ignorant as to why we have it so good: because, when push comes to shove, we are smart enough not to fully trust free markets and we have, since the days of Jackson, believed in a tough regulatory regime. As much as we may foist our free market snake oil on other nations, in spite of what their people want (and then we question why people hate us ... why our efforts at spreading "democracy" are unsuccessful? because it is neither bound by a constitution but on the other hand nor do we allow any real popular sovereignty should it threaten the new world trade order -- just ask Allende), we have so far been smart enough not to try it at home.

But now, thanks to those who would just assume bring back feudalism, enough Americans are convinced that regulations don't need mere tweaking and streamlining, but are inherently bad, that we might undo what has made this country great.

Americans should see how other people have it. They should try to take a cab in India and realize that, without a powerful government system of cab regulations actually enforced by police and bureaucrats, a cab driver can get away with charging you whatever as why should cab drivers compete when if they simply don't compete, they will all make more than enough money off of fairs from airports and other crowded places. Before Americans push for continuing down the path to truly "free" markets, they should see what a real free market is like -- what it's like to have to bargain for everything and still get shoddy workmanship (by people who aren't getting paid enough for what they do and hence don't care) and pay too much.

My girlfriend's Rabbi is very keen on the proper role of being thankful in religion: religious expression is not about being holier than thou but thanking God for what we have. But being thankful is also important in secular society. We Americans need to learn to be thankful for the system that has built this country -- and not try to undermine it with monetarist and free-market narishkeit!


Alito and the Wiretapping Memo

Conservative spin is that even the Carter administration (such a bastion of liberalism? and don't "conservatives" realize that -- even though they by default support everything St. Ronnie did -- we liberals don't automatically support everything every Dem. president has ever done) supported not allowing for any personal liability of attorney generals, etc., for activities ruled to be extra-legal.

On the one hand, this sounds reasonable. It would be wrong for an attorney general to have to pay out of pocket because a judge ruled against a motion s/he filed in good faith. On the other hand, this stance is wrong. Professionals are held personally liable all of the time for actions they perform in the course of their profession. That is one reason why they get paid the big bucks. And that is why there is a such thing as malpractice insurance. Indeed, litigators can and are hit with contempt fines and other, potentially out of pocket, expenses relating to their work. They might get reembursed ... or, depending on the nature of the judge's ruling and how their boss feels about them, they might not. So for Alito to have argued that an attorney general should be immune from lawsuit related to a wiretap that the attorney general ought to have known was illegal and was likely done maliciously, is absurd. Malpractice is malpractice -- professionals are often held personally liable for what they do on the job. It's called personal responsibility, which last I heard, conservatives supposedly supported (yet another reason why BushCO is not conservative!). Of course, there is no guarantee a suit will hold up in court or be judged in the plaintiff's favor, but the idea that Mitchell had immunity for what he did simply because he did it on the job is absurd.

Unfortunately for our side, most people are not professionals and have no idea of the ethical, legal and financial obligations professionals have. And while you cannot fool all the people all of the time, in a democracy, you only have to fool the majority of the people and that only in election years. I fear BushCO may yet again be able to fool enough people on this one that this memo of Alito's will have no traction.


A Reasonable Search?

There is a new argument out: BushCO's datamining activities are Constitutional because they are "reasonable" and the Constitution only bans "unreasonable" searches.

Aside from the issue of who decides a search is reasonable (I am not a lawyer, but I always thought that you knew a search is reasonable if you could get a warrant for it! no warrant? why not? ... the search must have been unreasonable!), there is the issue of how do you decide if a search is reasonable.

The defense of BushCO is that what they are doing is datamining not actually wiretapping -- so it isn't as if your privacy is being violated by having someone listen in on your conversation. The subtext being that if you've not done anything wrong, why would you care if a computer is listening in on your conversation: it isn't as if the computer is going to snicker at your personal business.

Unfortunately, the media have been negligent in checking on whether this argument itself is reasonable. Look -- in my research I make forays into the field of dataming. I've even published results in this field. And I can say with professional confidence that datamining is not always reasonable! There are false negatives. There are false positives -- remember the joke from the CONTELPRO (before my time, but I know it) days about the Hollywood executives being tracked as terrorists because someone listened in on a phone call with key words like "[that movie] bombed" and "[that other movie] exploded"? If what BushCO is doing is to be considered reasonable, before they can actually use the results of these searches to catch bad guys, they need to justify (in court, to Congress, to the public ... but to someone other than themselves) their reasonability with some statistical evidence that the false positive and false negative rates (or better, recall and precision) are acceptible. If BushCO cannot justify what they are doing, they are not only wasting resources and time which could be directed toward actual catching of terrorists, but they are tainting whatever cases could have been made against the people against whom we are spying. As for the argument, we have to give up liberties in a time of war: did Congress declare war? And what of the "original intent" of our Founding Fathers (where are the "conservative" justices now?)? Didn't Ben Franklin say "those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither"? Does BushCO feel we deserve neither liberty nor security?

Indeed, all of this fooling around by BushCO does make one question whether or not they really do want to fight the "war" on terrorism. By shrouding our fight in secrecy, they have made it impossible for us to judge whether or not they are actually getting results (which makes their defenders' comments about "what BushCO's doing may be keeping us safe, but we don't know 'cause it's a secret" so much pissing in the wind and telling us all it's raining), which begs the question: how come they are not, in the stereotypical Texas style, bragging, in some reasonably concrete way, about how well their methods are working? The fact is that they either have no results (in which case their methods are not reasonable and hence are not Constitutional by their defenders' arguments) or they don't even know whether what they are doing is working! And if they cannot even track it themselves (forget about justifying it to the rest of us), how can they improve what they are doing to keep us safe?

This sheds new light on BushCO's argument that revealing the existence of probably illegal searches hinders our fight against terrorism. Are Al Qaeda et al. really going to change their communication techniques making themselves harder to catch 'cause they now know we are listening in? No -- presumably any group clever enough, and violently paranoid enough, to pull off 9/11 is already assuming their conversations are monitored anyway. But what BushCO is tellingly arguing is that revealing the existence of these searches is giving aid and comfort to the enemy: by revealing that BushCO is doing this (and yet has not been able to successfully prosecute real terrorists), the leaker has publically revealed that BushCO has no strategy nor intends to have a strategy to really fight the organized crime that is global terrorism. At one time those in the admin (or at least defending the admin) who really do care about fighting bad guys (e.g. the neo-cons who supported McCain in 2000 and opposed Bush until the latter got the nomination thanks to religious right funded dirty tricks) could at least think the Chimperor was just wearing an invisible suit. But now it is obvious to all -- US citizens, terrorists, etc. -- that BushCO really has nothing. And that is why some neo-con types are quite bona fide in their criticism of the leaker for giving comfort to the enemy. 'Cause the leaker, by showing BushCO -- law enforcementwise -- has no clothes, showed that we really are not fighting to win the war on terrorism.

Of course, it should be pointed out that there is no incentive for BushCO and those making money on the war on terrorism to actually win it, now is there? We "won" the Cold War (well, actually, the other side folded) and look at what that did to the financial backers of BushCO. A war on terrorism that is unwinnable will prevent such losses by the military industrial complex. Am I saying they planned 9/11? Hell no! They didn't have to -- it was inevitable, especially with BushCO turning a blind eye to Saudi terror networks. Heck -- Hitler was probably right: it was leftists who burnt down the Reichstag. But conflict of interest does not require conspiracy. If people would read their Eisenhower, they would know that folks like me are not wide-eyed conspiracy theorists but just pointing out a simple (what those on the right in other contexts -- like trying to destroy welfare programs -- call "simple economic truths") truth about how judgment is clouded by self-interest.

But now that clouding of judgment -- coming with an ideology that says judgment is pointless anyway -- is hurting our security. I hope the electorate finally comes to realize this and throws these BushCO bums out!


Nominating Alito is not Conservative

So-called conservatives are starting to raise the point that Alito is really no further to the right than Roberts, but that liberals are protesting Alito because his vote would be the deciding vote on Roe v. Wade.

This is correct but anyone who makes this criticism should henceforth never be described by anyone as a "conservative". A real conservative must have loved the Roberts nomination: replacing a conservative justice with another conservative who would preserve and expand right wing principles within the Court's interpretation and final say on the law of the land. However, conservatives should be against the Alito nomination for the same reason liberals are -- because Alito, in replacing O'Connor, would represent a change in the direction of the court. And conservatives, by definition, want to slow or stop change.

Those who want to "turn the clock back" are hardly conservatives. They are reactionaries. They do not want to conserve or preserve anything. It is time people use the proper terminology to describe who BushCO and their ideological allies are. And it is time the media take the lead and use the proper terminology to describe these jokers.

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