Saturday, July 26, 2008

' '

Cost/Benefit

You do the analysis.
In a new report, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reveals that the real similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is in the price of staying. In constant FY2008 dollars, the Vietnam war cost the U.S. $686 billion. The Iraq war, at just over five years old, is priced at $648 billion
:

Wow!

A second 'Comment O' Teh Day'

Whenever you hear one of these Republican apologists use the term 'protect', remember the following:

“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.”

PLATO

That 'Hillary Is Monster' Chick

was Samantha Power and as soon as I saw her in Charlie Rose I was in love with a smart, beautiful, compassionate woman. But she jilted me and got married.

'Nonsense On Stilts'

Cass Suntstein, the Obama advisor from the University of Chicago, recently married Samantha Power, she of the "Clinton is a Monster" fame, in Ireland and with her Irish family in attendance.
But that's just the gossipy stuff, and I LOVED Power before reading all this stuff about Sunstein.
Okay, reluctantly, against my will, I am now very, Very skeptical about Obama.
But what's the choice, exactly?

Comment O' Teh Day

In response to someone's worry that there's an Obama cult:
Steve, we've had The Universal Salvation Church of President Bush and his Manly Characteristic for the last eight years and now you're starting to notice that US politics is getting a bit cultish?

The Surge Is Irrelevant

McCain is trying to make the campaign about the surge. And most of the television and radio news I've heard has swallowed that framing of the bigger issue of Iraq.
But there's always print, especially blogs.
Eric Martin at Obsidian Wings cites a year-old Slate article by an Iraq veteran who is also a lawyer.
I liked the story he leads with so much that I'm copying it for you:
In 1975, Army Col. Harry Summers went to Hanoi as chief of the U.S. delegation's negotiation team for the four-party military talks that followed the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. While there, he spent some time chatting with his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, an old soldier who had fought against the United States and lived to tell his tale. With a tinge of bitterness about the war's outcome, Summers told Tu, "You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield." Tu replied, in a phrase that perfectly captured the American misunderstanding of the Vietnam War, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."

Martin concentrates on what Iraq's former prime minister had to say to Congress last week about the surge. It boils down to one word. Irrelevant.

Friday, July 25, 2008

'Bridal Beauty Buffets'

So, you're not getting any younger and neither are your bridesmaids, Ms. 37 (or 39 or 41. No! Not you GHWB!)
So, maybe a little enhancement before W-Day would be in order. Botox, anyone? Breast enhancement?
Americans have too much money.
Wai-i-it, airbrush tanning? How come nobody told me about this?

Obama's Family

">" border="0" alt="" />

Includes a bunch of people from Kenya who you probably haven't heard of. So, here's a sweet little story.

Okay, I give up on the html here. Double post, you get the code you've got.

College Humor

can actually be quite sophisticated.

Can't Beat 'Em? Then Bribe 'Em.

Zbiggy's answer for Afghanistan is soooo timely, given that the idea of paying people not to do us harm was a hotly debated topic at my local Obama platform committee meeting last night.
Everyone seemed to like the idea a lot, but no one seemed convinced it would actually be taken seriously by the powers.
But Zbiggy's a power and he says pay 'em off.
I like it.
His own program for improving the state of affairs in Afghanistan -- where U.S. casualties have surpassed those in Iraq for two months now -- revolves around pragmatism. He believes Europe should bribe Afghan farmers not to produce poppies used for heroin since "it all ends up in Europe." Moreover, he thinks the tribal warlords can be bought off with bribes, with the endgame being the isolation of Al-Qaeda from a Taliban that is "not a united force, not a world-oriented terrorist movement, but a real Afghan phenomenon."

World to McCain: Go Away!

via Michael Berube at TPM:
EARTH, July 25, 2008 -- The entire world drafted an open letter to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) today, asking him to drop out of the U.S. presidential race and concede the presidency to Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois).
"Ordinarily we do not interfere in America's internal affairs," said a spokesman for the rest of the planet, "even when it has become clear, as in recent years, that American voters are about to elect ignorant, incoherent buffoons who will add immeasurably to our immiseration. But this time is different. We didn't think it was worth our while to step up for your Carter or Mondale or Dukakis or Gore or Kerry -- besides, we'd only be bombed or invaded for our trouble. But this time, I mean, come on -- you've got to be kidding me, right? Please tell me you're kidding."

Pointing to polls that show Obama leading McCain 94 percent to 6 percent everywhere on the inhabited globe except the United States, where most polls give Obama a narrow one- to three-point lead, the entire world suggested that Americans might not be sufficiently informed about the U.S. election. "Look, this isn't funny," said a world representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "You've got one candidate who has a reasonably sane and comprehensive foreign policy combined with detailed knowledge of American domestic affairs, and another candidate who isn't always sure which country he's talking about and whose domestic policy consists of telling people to stop whining. Why are you even throwing this open to a vote? Are you people out of your minds?"

'Thanks A Lot, Vietnam. You Had to Ruin the Fun for Everyone.'

WaPo has a pretty good story today about Lt. G's blog Kaboom, which the Army shut down about a month ago after the l.t. as they call them in Generation Kill tried to decline a promotion. He's now a captain.
Anyway, if you're interested, go here, and there are also links to Lt. G's blog archives and other tidbits.
 Sample from Lt. G's "Army translator":
General Order No. 1 - The base order for all deployed military personnel in Iraq that bans alcohol use, pornography, and a litany of other vices. Thanks a lot, Vietnam. You had to ruin the fun for everyone.



If you're wondering, Generation Kill is HBO's new mini-series based on a book by a Rolling Stone reporter embedded with a group of Marines when the Iraq invasion started. I've learned some colorful new curses ("hillbilly, buck-toothed, cross-eyed sister fucker") and the show is very, very well done, a project by David Simon and his partner Ed Burns, who did The Wire, the best television program ever.
Recommend you rent it when it's likely out on DVD next year.

Venn Heaven

A Venn diagram is...oh, I dunno, one of those intersecting circle thingies that give us a simple, visual picture of interrelated things, like the criminals and crimes of the Bush administration.
They usually confuse me, I'm not too good at spacial relationships, but Slate's is just super.
And there's an all-text version to save for future reference.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

From Cakewrecks.com

Go, Paint!

http://www.artweaver.de/index.php?en_version

Obama: The Man, The Brain

from the New Republic (because the National Review would never tell.)
But other Chicago conservatives seem content with the fact that Obama tried to understand their point of view, even if he didn't wind up adopting it. "What I know from my dealings with him at the law school is that he does really attempt to understand the points of view of other people who look at the world or a particular issue differently than he does," says Fischel. "He's much more intellectual, much more thoughtful, much more interested in discussion, debate, and dialogue than the typical politician. And that gives me some confidence about him, even though from my perspective he's much too liberal. I've never voted for a Democrat in my entire life. He's the first one I might vote for."

Psst, Obama Is Jewish, Pass It On

 
 
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., lays a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Wednesday, July 23, 2008. Barack Obama, after vowing to immediately work for a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations if elected U.S. president, plunged into the intricacies of the region's conflict Wednesday with a packed schedule of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner) 


His Holiness

New campaign poster. I'm wondering if those four planes are four of the five he crashed.

Using Brain Is Hard Work

and has its limits, psychologists say.
...you might choose the wrong job because you didn't eat a cookie...If we've just spent lots of time focusing on a particular task, exercising self-control or even if we've just made lots of seemingly minor choices, then we probably shouldn't try to make a major decision. These deleterious carryover effects from a tired brain may have a strong shaping effect on our lives.

Miss Kosovo

made it into the top 10 of the Miss Universe contest last weekend and it's considered a very big deal for the tiny, war-plagued little Balkan country. Usually, women from really big and rich countries are the ones who make it.

Erm, About That Glass Ceiling

From the Financial Times:
Women have a much better chance of breaking through the US corporate glass ceiling if they work for companies that have several female board directors, according to research to be published on Wednesday.
A study of Fortune 500 companies between 2001 and 2006 showed that companies with a high percentage of female board directors ended up with more women in senior managerial positions than rivals with male-dominated boards.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quote O' Teh Weekend

Someone over at MetaFilter answering a silly comment from someone else accusing police of incompetence.
Yeah, if Albert Einstein had become a police officer, instead of a physicist, then there mightbe lower crime, and a lot less nuclear weapons. But, this isn't a perfect world, then, is it?

Guess Who Said This

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point to the hope that comes with this spring of 1953.

(Answer: Dwight D. Eisenhower)

Jon Taplin, a man of wildly "eclectic" credentials, is also really really smart and writing on his blog about matters defense and economic and political this week. Worth a look. He writes short for those of us who have been made stupid by Teh Google.

Here's Who I Would Be If I Could Be Anybody

Jason Kottke. He's youngish, he has a beautiful wife and a new son, he lives in NYC and he blogs for a living. Oh, and he's funny. And finds more good stuff on the intertubes than I could ever dream of.
For today, anyway. Maybe tomorrow I could be Bird AND Fortune.

'George Bush Is A Genius'

I know we've got Colbert and Stewart but, really, the British are the best satirists.
6 1/2 minutes and you HAVE to watch to the end.
They are Bird and Fortune and you can find more on YouTube.

Toast With Butter Is Like Health Care

From the director of the Congressional Budget Office who, I guess the Democrats got to hire once they became the majority. There's a lot out there going on under the radar, and saving Medicare is one thing the CBO has at the top of the agenda. Apparently, it's doable, and you can read as much or as little as you like about it here.
I'll just take his word for it and hope the D's come through. In the meantime, here's a little nugget that makes me love the wonks among us.
...an analogy from Laura Adams of the Rhode Island Quality Institute , to the effect that wondering how we are going to achieve more efficiency in health care is like wondering why we don’t have buttered toast. Some people say the key is to plug the toaster in; others say we need to go to the store and buy the bread; others say the key is putting the bread into the toaster and pressing the lever down; and others say the most important step is the final one, applying the butter. (For those of you who like to eat healthy, imagine wheat toast and a high-protein spread instead.) Health IT is like plugging in the toaster — necessary but not sufficient by itself to produce the buttered toast. Obtaining some combination of higher quality and lower cost from health care will also require changing the way we use information and the incentives facing providers, among other steps. In other words, health care contains massive opportunities for efficiency improvements, and health IT can facilitate some of the steps that will be crucial to improving efficiency, but capturing those opportunities will generally require more than just expanded health IT. For more on health IT, see here and here .

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bottled Water

From a book review in The Economist cited on Andrew Sullivan today.
It should be easy enough to pillory bottled water. It costs between 250 and 10,000 times more than tap water and in blind tastings people cannot usually separate the fancy beverage from the ordinary stuff. Then there is the environmental cost: according to one estimate, the total energy required to make and deliver each bottle of water is equivalent to filling them a quarter of the way with oil. While New Yorkers enjoy the services of water sommeliers, millions of people in developing countries lack access to any clean water at all.

But although Ms Royte displays all the usual prejudices—private enterprise bad, collective provision good—her book concludes that even in rich countries tap water sometimes contains small quantities of harmful chemicals. She also points out that in water shortages, local authorities may supply people with water reclaimed from sewage without telling them. Bottled water, therefore, “has its place”: a confused message, if an honest one.

Planned Parenthood Gets McCain

We knew this was coming. Who really believes this guy can be president, much less get elected?

Nevada Republicans Not Interested

This is hilarious:
Nevada GOP Cancels Convention, Opts for Conference Call

Brad Haynes reports on the presidential race.

Citing a lack of interest, the Nevada Republican Party has called off its state convention and will instead pick its delegates to the national convention by private conference call.

The state party broke up its original convention in April when supporters of Ron Paul hijacked the proceedings and tried to elect delegates for their candidate to the national GOP convention in September. Party officials tried to reconvene on July 26, but they needed a quorum of 675 and received only 300 RSVPs, according to local reports.

About Obama Leaving For Iraq

In case you've ever wondered what a pool report reads like. (Pool report: Only two reporters are always with the candidate and every other reporter on the beat gets this to do with as they wish.)
HOW OBAMA SLIPPED OUT OF COUNTRY
Sat Jul 19 2008 17:02:39 ET

Pool Report

The motorcade left Sen. Obama’s home in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood at 11:11 a.m. There was one Chicago Police Department patrol car, followed by two SUVs, a sedan and a press van. Riding in the press van were agent Jill, Sam, John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune and Glen Johnson of The Associated Press.

The motorcade headed north on Lake Shore Drive to I-55 (Stevenson Expressway) and toward MDW. The CPD blocked traffic for our turn onto the western perimeter of the airfield, where we arrived at 11:31 a.m.

Waiting on the tarmac was a Gulfstream III (G3) executive jet (tail number N366JA). We exited our respective vehicles at 11:34 a.m.

The crew was waiting outside for the senator’s arrival and a few photos with him near a wing. He was wearing tan slacks and a short black jacket. After fishing around in the back of one of the SUVs for his luggage (he seemed especially to be checking his suits inside a garment bag), he was on the bird by 11:36 a.m.

Also getting on the plane were eight Secret Service agents and the two reporters. The senator briefly greeted us as we walked past his seat in the forward section. Seated near him was senior spokeswoman Linda Douglass, the only staff member on the flight.

After everyone found a seat on the crowded plane, the pilot announced that the flying time would be between 80 and 85 minutes. All seemed eager for him to start the engines, since the plane had been sitting under a hot sun and the cabin temperature was likely somewhere in the 90s. Sweat had begun to roll down the faces of some of the agents.

“We’re just easing you into it,” Obama told his bodyguards, referring to the heat and the desert weather they would all be traveling to in the coming days.

As the plane taxied, the senat or, wearing a short-sleeve black shirt, chatted with Douglass. The plane was wheels up at 11:55 a.m.

Your pool asked Douglass if we could chat with the senator about his upcoming trip. She said she would check, but later told us that we would only get a brief chance to ask him a couple questions once at Reagan National Airport.

Janis, our stewardess, first served the senator his lunch (chicken and rice and broccoli). Everyone else had sandwiches, wraps, chips and candy (yes, just like on the bus), although we were served on china and given green place settings and cloth napkins.

As the plane peaked around 41,000 feet and 500 knots, according to the computer screen tracking our location at the front of the cabin, the senator read a copy of the Wall20Street Journal. Johnson had claimed an aisle seat and reported that he first read a story about off-shore oil drilling and then one about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

By the time we were descending, at 17,000 feet, he had switched to the New York Times, spending most of his time in the Sports and Arts sections.

We were wheels down at 2:17 p.m. local and parked with the engines off by 2:24 p.m.

After getting off the plane, Douglass said there was time for “one question,” adding, “Then, we’re making him leave. He’s behind [schedule].”

Your pool, with the noise of the jet’s engines in the background, quickly asked what two or three things Obama was hoping to learn on this mission.

“Well, I’m looking forward to seeing what the situation on the ground is,” he said. “I want to, obviously, talk to the commanders and get a sense, both in Afghanistan and in Baghdad of, you know, what the most, ah, their biggest concerns are. And I want to thank our troops for the heroic work that they’ve been doing.”

Then, the senator was asked whether he plans to deliver some tough talk to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki about doing more to stand up the instruments of self-governance in their own nations.

“Well, you know, I’m more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking,” he said. “And I think it is very important to recognize that I’m going over there as a U.S. senator. We have one president at a time, so it’s the president’s job to deliver those messages.”

By 2:32 p.m., the motorcade was rolling. This one included two local police cars, three SUVs, a Honda Accord, a minivan equipped with lights and sirens and another local patrol car. We were off the DCA property by 2:36 p.m.

Your pool was in the Honda with Douglass. It was driven by Molly Buford, who works in Obama’s senator office and also for the campaign.

The mot orcade traveled I-395 to I-295 and then on to the Suitland Parkway, entering a northern entrance of Andrews Air Force Base at 2:57 p.m.

We passed several military helicopters and planes before arriving at 3:01 p.m. near an aircraft that had no markings, with the exception of an American flag on the tail. This was the plane that would transport the congressional delegation to their destination. A ground crew member told us it was a Boeing C-40C.

The senator greeted several military personnel waiting for him near the plane. He was carrying a laptop bag and had changed into some brown leather boots upon arrival in Washington.

The senator was also greeted by Mark Lippert, foreign policy advisor in his senate office. Douglass said he was the only member of Ob ama’s staff traveling with him on the congressional delegation trip. Douglass later told your pool that Lippert had returned in the late spring from a tour of duty in Iraq as a naval reservist.

By 3:03 p.m., the senator was on the aircraft, having been saluted by a member of the military on his way aboard. At 3:09 p.m., the plane’s door was closed. Four minutes later it was in motion and wheels up at 3:17 p.m., taking off to the south.

Later, Douglass confirmed that Sens. Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel were on the plane before our arrival. Your pool had not seen them at Andrews.

-- John McCormick, Chicago Tribune.