Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunday Sierrablogging

Mott Lake on the Silver Divide, John Muir Wilderness.

[That's all, folks]

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Alphabet Meme

So Deborah tagged me with this one. And what Deborah tells me to do, I do...if I know what's good for me...

Update: Kvatch and Mags have both done their duty.

Other update: I just realized I didn't do the quote--the one there is Deborah's (sorry about that, Deborah). The hazards of copy-and-paste. So now there's a quote that's actually mine.

Accent: Upper Midwest and California, with hints of Mississippi and New Jersey.

Booze: Martinis. Gin, of course--'vodka martini' is a contradiction in terms.

Chore I Hate: Anything that involves organizing. Straightening up a room, cleaning out the garage--stuff like that. The problem is that there's always stuff that's impossible to classify systematically, and it drives me nuts.

Dog or Cat: Cats! Dogs are too much like Republicans. (And Democratic politics is like herding cats. But I digress.)

Essential Electronics: Computer, iPod, DVD player & telly.

Favorite Cologne: Don't wear it.

Gold or Silver: I don't really wear any of either, but I kind of like the look of silver better.

Hometown: I have no idea what the word 'hometown' means. I was born in Dayton, Ohio; my home is San Francisco.

Insomnia: Often. I'm a terrible sleeper.

Job Title: Paralegal.

Kids: One teenage son, Max.

Living Arrangements: Flat; me, Jody, and occasionally Max.

Most Admirable Traits: Willingness to question what I think I know. Ability and inclination to resolve disagreements among people.

Number of Sexual Partners: One at a time--sorry, I'm boring that way. Oh, you mean total? Hell, I'm way too old to remember that.

Overnight Hospital Stays: Never. I got stitches once, but that took maybe 15 minutes (not counting waiting room time).

Phobias: Acro- and claustro-. Also spiders. And bugs in general, not one at a time, but in swarms. That scene in the King Kong remake? I could barely watch it.

Quote: Lawyers are like nuclear weapons: the only reason you need one is because somebody else has one.

Religion: No, thank you.

Siblings: Two older brothers, one younger.

Time I Wake Up: The alarm is set for 6:06 am on weekdays. On weekends I occasionally sleep as late as 7.

Unusual Talent or Skill: Wilderness routefinding. Compass? Hah! I scoff at the compass. Just me and the topo, baby--we'll find our way.

Vegetable I Love: Beets.

Worst Habit: Procrastination.

X-Rays: I remember getting some chest x-rays after a positive TB test about 18 years ago. Also, various dental x-rays.

Yummy Foods I Make: Lots of them, but mole poblano is probably my favorite.

Zodiac Sign: I don't believe in any of that astrological stuff. I was born under Kennedy.

I'll tag Kvatch, Mags, and Glenda...but anyone else who wants to is more than welcome to join in. (Just post a link in comments, and I'll add it to this post.)

[That's all, folks]

Parody or Not-Parody?

Ezra Klein wants to know, and so do I: is this site a very clever parody or a sincere (and genuinely awful) effort? It's so hard to tell these days.

What do you think? If my conservative friends are still visiting, I would be particularly keen to know what your judgment is.

[That's all, folks]

Mogas Prices

So Bill Maher had Barney Frank, Ian McKellen, and somebody else on last night, and they got to talking about mogas prices and shortages and conservation and all that. And Barney Frank (who did get off a couple of great one-liners) was saying that it isn't fair for people who have to drive to shoulder the burden of petroleum supply problems--that consumers who have all along been encouraged to live far from where they work, to settle in the suburbs and build their lives around the automobile, shouldn't 'suddenly' get 'whacked' by high mogas prices.

And I thought: wait a minute. Suddenly?

The energy crisis is 33 years old this year. Thirty-three years. A third of a century. Think about that for a moment...

For 33 years, consumers have (with occasional temporary lapses into semi-sane behavior) continued to organize their lives around the assumption that mogas will always be available and always be cheap, even though for that entire time we have known it not to be true. Now, again, we are having our noses rubbed in the fact that it isn't true. Again.

Well, wah, wah, wah. And wah.

Look, I don't think it's a good thing that consumers bear the burden here. It does hurt people who really can't afford it. And Frank's point about how the suburbs have been pushed on us is very well taken.

Still, people make choices. Consumers make choices, even when corporations artificially limit the options or stack the deck one way or another. And the reality is that consumers have consistently been choosing back yards over neighborhood walkability, garage space over public transportation, square footage over conservation.

That's where my sympathy reaches its limit.

I would like to see some solution that encourages conservation by consumers (and mandates conservation by the auto industry) without slamming people who really do have to depend on their cars. I would like to see the executives and shareholders of ExMoTexaChev take the hit instead of consumers. Just spare me any talk about how 'unfair' the mogas prices are.

[That's all, folks]

Friday, April 28, 2006

Mendocino Coast

Russian Gulch State Park

The Mendocino coast is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, and a good deal of it remains undeveloped--thanks to the efforts of environmental activists going back to the early '70s. (The creation of the California Coastal Commission was a key victory in the fight.) It's still a constant struggle, and every time you visit there are developments that weren't there the last time...but a lot of this remarkable land has been preserved for the benefit of everyone, instead of the profit of a few.

More pictures below the fold...

This is the northern headlands area of Russian Gulch State Park.

A rock arch in the Mendocino headlands.

Another photo from the Mendocino headlands. This whole area was saved from development back in the early '70s.

[That's all, folks]

Sometimes the First Paragraph Is All You Need to Read

Like this story, for example:

The U.S. war on terrorism has made the world safer, the State Department's counterterrorism chief said on Friday, despite more than 11,000 terrorist attacks worldwide last year that killed 14,600 people.
That's the whole story there, isn't it? You get the spin; you get the reality that contradicts it. You don't have to go to the third graph on the jump page to find what the real story is. Our press could do a lot worse (and they do) than using this as a model.

[That's all, folks]

Friday Random Ten

Wanda Jackson - Who Shot Sam?
Brian Eno - Under
Wire - It's So Obvious
Pine Box Boys - New Moon
Brian Eno - Dead Finks Don't Talk
Ofo & the Black Company - Allah Wakbar
Moussa Doumba - Keleya
Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - 5 American, 6 Canadian
Savage Republic - The Ivory Coast
Single Bullet Theory - Words Written Backwards

As always, feel free to post your own (or trash mine) in comments.

[That's all, folks]

Hofstadter Quote of the Day

In contemporary right-wing movements a particularly important part has been played by ex-Communists who have moved rapidly, though not without anguish, from the paranoid left to the paranoid right, clinging all the while to the fundamentally Manichean psychology that underlies both. Some authorities on communism remind one of those ancient converts from paganism to Christianity of whom it is told that on their conversion they did not entirely cease to believe in their old gods but converted them into demons.
Sound like anyone you know?

[That's all, folks]

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Congratulations to Boghie, who posted the 1,000th comment at If I Ran the Zoo. I'm afraid I don't have any door prizes; the recognition will have to suffice for now.

And many thanks to everyone who has commented here, with particular thanks to the small but elite group of people who comment regularly. When I first tried this, I quickly gave it up because I felt like I was talking to myself. Thanks to y'all, I feel like this blog is less monologue and more dialogue--which is exactly what I want it to be. I may write something worth reading every now and then, but it's the commenters who make it worth sticking around here. Thanks again.

[That's all, folks]

Hofstadter Quote of the Day

...[P]seudo-conservatism is, among other things, a disorder in relation to authority, characterized by an inability to find other modes for human relationship than those of more or less complete domination or submission. The pseudo-conservative always imagines himself to be dominated and imposed upon because he feels that he is not dominant, and knows of no other way of interpreting his position.
--Richard Hofstadter, The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt - 1954
[That's all, folks]

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Mendocino village
Originally uploaded by Tom Hilton.

This is where I spent my birthday weekend.

Mendocino is an old logging town gone bust (the mills closed int he '30s). They built an arts center in the '50s, and it became an artists' colony of sorts.

In 1972, residents organized to stop the development of the surrounding land. They succeeded, it became a state park, and the village was put on the National Register of Historic Places. They instituted tight controls on development.

The visual character of Mendocino was preserved, but not the economic character. Now it's a tourist destination (and deservedly so--I think it's the prettiest coastal town in California), and few of the people who work in Mendocino can afford to live there.

If Mendocino looks familiar, it's because you've seen Murder, She Wrote or Summer of '42 or The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming or any of the scores of movies shot there.

More pics below the fold...

The water supply is limited and uncertain, so there are lots of these water towers in town.

Main Street looking west (the shot at the top is also Main Street, looking east).

The old Presbyterian church, which is apparently the oldest continuously-used Protestant church in California.

More Mendocino pictures here.

[That's all, folks]

Random-Day-of-the-Week Random Ten Random Things

(1) Stapler
(2) Kleenex
(3) Styrofoam cup marred with grooves from a ballpoint pen
(4) Bottle of Windex
(5) Tylenol
(6) Strange little knickknack that looks like a pair of binoculars but is actually a butane lighter
(7) Mother's Day
(8) Jellybean
(9) Die Schreibtischzauberkeit!! (My mock-Gestapo name for ECL's* "Clean Desk Policy")
(10) Lugubriousness

*ECL = Evil Corporate Leviathan, my employer

[That's all, folks]


Just a brief site update: I shelled out for the HaloScan upgrade, and all HaloScan comments are now restored. (That goes back to October 18 of last year.) Older threads (anything more than 80 threads back) will appear to have zero comments, but the comments are there. It's a HaloScan glitch they haven't fixed yet.

[That's all, folks]

Hofstadter Quote of the Day

I'm reading The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays, and it's too good and too relevant not to post about. But so far there's nothing I could say about it that he doesn't say better himself. So I'll just post daily quotes (mostly) without comment. Beginning with:

Unlike most of the liberal dissent of the past, the new dissent not only has no respect for nonconformism, but is based upon a relentless demand for conformity. It can most accurately be called pseudo-conservative...because its exponents, although they believe themselves to be conservatives and usually employ the rhetoric of conservatism, show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions, and institutions. They have little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism in the classical sense of the word...Their political reactions express rather a profound if largely unconscious hatred of our society and its ways--a hatred which one would hesitate to impute to them if one did not have suggestive evidence both from clinical techniques and from their own forms of expression.
--Richard Hofstadter, The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt - 1954
[That's all, folks]

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Brzezinski, Iran, and the Wingnuts

I remember Carter's foreign policy as seriously schizophrenic. There was the advocacy for human rights and an inclusive global order; there was the hawkish Realpolitik, anti-Soviet actions, and massive military buildup. The former were generally associated with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. The latter were generally associated with National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

For the few of you who missed it, Brzezinski had an excellent op-ed in Sunday's L. A. Times explaining why an attack on Iran would be a stupendously bad idea. The gist:

First, in the absence of an imminent threat (and the Iranians are at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war....Second, likely Iranian reactions all probability bog down the United States in regional violence for a decade or more. Iran is a country of about 70 million people, and a conflict with it would make the misadventure in Iraq look trivial.

Third, oil prices would climb steeply, especially if the Iranians were to cut their production or seek to disrupt the flow of oil from the nearby Saudi oil fields....Finally, the United States, in the wake of the attack, would become an even more likely target of terrorism while reinforcing global suspicions that U.S. support for Israel is in itself a major cause of the rise of Islamic terrorism. The United States would become more isolated and thus more vulnerable while prospects for an eventual regional accommodation between Israel and its neighbors would be ever more remote....
As a hawk's hawk, a tireless advocate of military strength and the willingness to use it, Brzezinski is not the first person you expect to be arguing for peace. That makes him worth listening does his prescience on the Iraq adventure, which he opposed for reasons that have since been proven correct.

None of which, of course, matters to the wingnuts. For example:

Paul Mirengoff (Powerline):
It was he and his feckless boss President Carter who saw no cause for concern in a potential Iranian mullocracy, and hence no reason to back the Shah of Iran who stood in the mullahs way.
Right or wrong (and I think he was probably wrong), Brzezinski was the Shah's strongest advocate in the Carter administration. He's the one who pushed for a crackdown on militants, while Vance was pushing the Shah to liberalize.

California Conservative:
This is typical liberal ideology. Negotiate from a position of weakness is straight from the Jimmy Carter failed handbook. Then again, Brzezinski is the failed bureaucrat that gave him that “Let’s all get along” advice. It’s obvious that Mr. Brzezinski didn’t learn anything from Reagan’s intimidating the Soviets into oblivion.
Anyone who remembers the Carter administration knows a) that 'let's all get along' was antithetical to Brzezinski's approach, and b) that Brzezinski (as noted above) pushed for the military build-up (which Reagan continued, but did not initiate) that wingnuts credit with defeating Communism.

Carol Liebau:
One can only wish that Zbigniew Brzezinski were as helpful to his own country as he has been to the forces of Islamofascism in Iran, both now and, of course, during the administration of the terminally incompetent Jimmy Carter, where he served as national security advisor (and when the radical Isamicists came to power in the first place).
There are plenty of people to blame for the theocratic revolution, starting with Eisenhower and the CIA (who overthrew Mossadegh in 1953) and continuing through Nixon and Kissinger (who encouraged the Shah as he stifled every democratic alternative in Iran), but Brzezinski: not high on the list.

Update: Boghie has acknowledged his error. Good for him.
Boghie on Your Six:
At this point in time (1978) Secretary Brzezinski was promoting ‘Human Rights’ without concern for RealPolitic [sic]. That hung Iran, a long term realpolitic [sic] ‘ally’, out to dry and directly led to the revolution.
Once more, for the slow learners. Cyrus Vance: human rights. Brzezinski: Realpolitik. Got the difference?

I know I shouldn't be surprised by such stupefying dumbassery. This is what they do. Still...jeezus, what a bunch of fucking morons.

[That's all, folks]

Tuesday Catblogging

Some people think cats are cuter than mountains. Fine, I say. Just fine. Give the people what they want.

So this photo is especially for Deborah. A fat cat in a graveyard: what could possibly be more adorable?

Update: More photos from the same cemetery here.

[That's all, folks]

Monday, April 24, 2006

Iran: It's the Politics, Stupid

E. J. Dionne, in a column I missed last Friday, explains Rove's supposed 'demotion':

Here's the real meaning of the White House shake-up and the redefinition of Karl Rove's role in the Bush presidency: The administration's one and only domestic priority in 2006 is hanging on to control of Congress....Rove is simply moving to where all the action will, of necessity, be.
And he explains why:
The administration fears "investigations of everything" by congressional committees, this adviser said, and the "possibility of a forced withdrawal from Iraq" through legislative action.
Josh Marshall elaborates on this latter point:
Little of what's happened in the last five years would have been possible were it not for the fact that there was no political institution with subpoena power in Washington not under the control of the White House....The White House and the entire DC GOP for that matter is just sitting on too many secrets and bad acts. The bogus investigations of the pre-war intel is just one example, if one of the most resonant and glaring. Keeping control of the House and the Senate is less a matter of conventional ideological and partisan politics as it is a simple matter of survival.
Hence: Iran.

Now, we all know that this is what the Iran 'crisis' is all about. A couple of weeks ago, I argued that if we want to prevent a catastrophic military misadventure in Iran, we need to pre-emptively make an issue of this, of their cynical use of national security for partisan ends:
Make it about their political maneuvering. Make the point early and often that anything the administration says about Iran has no purpose other than influencing the midterms....Take their hubris and shove it right back down their smug little throats.
Or, to put it a lot more succinctly: it's the politics, stupid.

This week's Time has an article (a profile on new chief of staff Josh Bolten) giving us ammunition for just such an attack:
Friends and colleagues of Bolten told TIME about an informal, five-point "recovery plan" for Bush that is aimed at pushing him up slightly in opinion polls and reassuring Republican activists, whose disaffection could cost him dearly in November....

4. RECLAIM SECURITY CREDIBILITY. This is the riskiest, and potentially most consequential, element of the plan, keyed to the vow by Iran to continue its nuclear program despite the opposition of several major world powers. Presidential advisers believe that by putting pressure on Iran, Bush may be able to rehabilitate himself on national security, a core strength that has been compromised by a discouraging outlook in Iraq. "In the face of the Iranian menace, the Democrats will lose," said a Republican frequently consulted by the White House. [emphasis added]
There you have it: an admission in a major national magazine that the push for action against Iran is driven by political (rather than national security) calculations. They're admitting, in effect, that the Iran 'crisis' is a campaign ploy.

We have everything we need. Everything. We have the storyline: corrupt administration desperate to avoid oversight stakes everything on the midterms, fabricates foreign policy crisis to that end. We have the evidence, an abundance of evidence, including (but not limited to) the astonishing admission in Time that yes, they really are subordinating national security to partisan ends. We have the opportunity: the propaganda offensive has yet to begin on a large scale, this time we see it coming, and we have time to define them before they define us. If we hit them now and hit them hard, we can still win this. We can make their fabricated crisis a political liability instead of their ultimate weapon, we can force them to abandon their unilateralist fantasies, and we can win back Congress in November.

[More of my thoughts on stopping the Iran war here and here; a roundup of other blogging on the subject here.]

[That's all, folks]

Monday Afternoon Sierrablogging

The Ritter Range from upper Bench Canyon, Ansel Adams Wilderness.

[That's all, folks]

The Plastic Soldiers Are Coming! The Plastic Soldiers Are Coming!1

Facing only token resistance, Hilton's Heroes successfully established a beachhead (as it were) in the sleepy coastal town of Mendocino, California. Here they are greeted with flowers and hemp-based clothing at a countercultural products shop. Moving swiftly to seize key communications facilities, they occupy the local internet cafe. If this little soldier seems a bit jittery, it's not fear; it's the double espresso he just downed. Information management is essential to any successful occupation. This soldier is in the process of securing the offices of the Mendocino Beacon (which also happens to be the yarn store--don't ask me how that works), giving Hilton's Heroes a platform for their essential message: Don't send us to Iran! Don't let us die for another lie!

Update: Stuff I forgot to mention while struggling with Blogger: this is just one small part of a larger military campaign, the Bay Area portion of which is being coordinated by Kolonel Kvatch. Kvatch's Kommandos have already undertaken a couple of missions, and Generik's Guerrillas are mobilized and awaiting orders.

1Students of film geography will understand the reference; anyone who doesn't can find the necessary information here.

[That's all, folks]

Thanks to My Guest Bloggers

Heartfelt thanks to Deborah and Nobody in Particular for filling in during my absence. Y'all did a tremendous well, in fact, that hits were roughly double what they normally are. (That was mainly Deborah's car theft post, which got a link from Ampersand.)

I should also apologize to Mr. Particular for not giving him a proper introduction (I wasn't sure beforehand that he'd be able to post). Nobody in Particular (not his real name) is another long-standing friend; he's one of the smartest, funniest people I know...and one of the finest writers. He'll be posting here on occasion, as his time permits (alas, he has a real job).

[That's all, folks]

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The hazards of buying old favorites

In the early seventies, there was a law that sensitive teenage girls had to be Joni Mitchell fans. And I'm nothing if not law-abiding. Actually, I'm many things if not law-abiding, but this was more like a law of nature. Like gravity or the phone ringing as soon as you sit down to eat.

Anyway, by the late seventies, Joni was changing her style and losing the top of her vocal range, and most of her fans were abandoning ship. 1976's Hejira was the last album I heard get any radio play until the late nineties.

The turning point for me was Hejira; the first Joni Mitchell album I didn't buy. A lot of fans jumped off one back, and didn't buy Hissing of Summer Lawns, but not me, I loved that album. Loved it. Loved. It. There were songs I didn't like as much as other songs, but I still played its little vinyl grooves to death.

So from time to time, I purchase old vinyl favorites on CD, and not long ago Hissing of Summer Lawns got the upgrade. Alas.

Listen, Don't Interrupt The Sorrow is still a flippin' great song. Great. But it's early (track 4) and I'm listening to the whole CD while writing, and after a while I think "This is pretentious." And then I think "This is way pretentious." And then I think "This is shit."

Ah, the heartbreak. I tell you, right now I am afraid to pull out any other old favorites.

(Cross-posted at Property of a Lady. I like it there.)

[That's all, folks]


Tom's regulars are no doubt pining for Sunday Sierrablogging, which I cannot accomodate. (Although I happen to know that Mr. Particular has very nice pictures of Philadelphia.)

Anyway, if you're longing to look at pretty things, I refer you to my Friday Kittenblogging which, in my opinion, is cuter anyway.
[That's all, folks]

Saturday, April 22, 2006

All in Good Time

I recently finished All in Good Time by Jonathan Schwartz. I have been listening to Schwartz on the radio all my life (quite literally, as my parents listened before I was old enough to remember) so the memoir interested me, and it didn't disappoint.

This post, though, isn't primarily a book recommendation. Reading All in Good Time brought me up short on the whole concept of the memoir. The book is raw and open. Not in the conventional, might-as-well-be-true manner of James Frey, but in a much more personal, much more revealing manner.

In a memoir, anyone can be honest about their alcoholism (and Schwartz definitely is). To reveal your first drink at age ten, to chronical checking into the Betty Ford Center in a moment of desperation, these are facile revelations that function as the memoirist's stock in trade.

No, I'm talking about shame. Humiliation. Being a braggart and getting called on it. Hurting a friend with a casual lie and getting caught. Meeting your hero and sticking your foot all the way down your throat until you can kick yourself in the esophagus.

I was stunned by the honesty of these revelations, and moreover, by the absolute impossibility of me ever pulling off such a feat. I'm a very blunt person, the undisputed Queen of TMI. My role in life is to go there when people say "don't go there." But reading All in Good Time, I knew I could never be that honest in print, in public, with (as they say) God and everyone watching. Geez Pete, I've written five books, and even with the impersonal stuff of spells and elements, readers are happy, nay, gleeful, to rip you a new one. Tell them my mistakes? Oh the pain.

The. Real. Goddamn. Pain. I'll tell you the truth right now: I could never write like that without cleaning up my act. Without tidying the messes, without making me look just a little bit better than I really was. I wouldn't know how to bear the suffering of it otherwise, and I don't know how anyone else does.

(Cross-posted at Property of a Lady.)

[That's all, folks]


Originally uploaded by idlelight.
Thanks so much, De. Forty-five. Huh. I think the Wienie King said it all:
Cold are the hands of time that creep along relentlessly, destroying slowly but without pity that which yesterday was young. Alone our memories resist this disintegration and grow more lovely with the passing years. Heh! That's hard to say with false teeth!

On This Day in History ...

April 22, 1915: The First Major Use of Poison Gas in Modern warfare

German forces shock Allied soldiers along the western front
by firing more than 150 tons of lethal chlorine gas against
two French colonial divisions at Ypres, Belgium.

April 22, 1954: McCarthy-Army Hearings Begin

Senator Joseph McCarthy begins hearings investigating the United States Army, which he charges with being "soft" on communism.

April 22, 1992: Sewers explode in Guadalajara

Dozens of sewer explosions in Guadalajara, Mexico, kill more than 200 people and damage 1,000 buildings.

BUT ...

As if to make up for all of that, the Fates saw to it that on

April 22, 1961: Tom Hilton was born!



[Capsule history blurbs from]

[That's all, folks]

Friday, April 21, 2006

People Unclear on the Concept

If you don't know me, allow me to tell you that I am coated in tattoos. My left arm from shoulder to mid-forearm is all florified. My right arm has a big 9/11 memorial. So around this time of year, when I start wearing sleeveless tops, I get remarks.

So the new guy at work sees me in the lunchroom.

"Hi" he says. (He's never said hi before.)


"So, you like tattoos?" (No, hate 'em. I'm wearing them as a form of masochism. Here's your sign.)


"Is that the World Trade Center?"


"Do you change them around sometimes?" (Oh. My. Gods.)

"No, they're permanent."


It went on, but that was the fun part. For variant definitions of fun.

(Cross-posted at Property of a Lady. Which is like home for me.)

[That's all, folks]

Pass the Ketchup

This "news" is three weeks old—so you'll forgive me for being many days late and many dollars short with this—but earlier this week, a David Letterman joke called my attention to yet more administrative deviousness.

Remember when Reagan's pals tried to say that ketchup was a vegetable? And how Bush suggested that burger-flipping and soda-jerking could be considered manufacturing jobs? Well, those wacky Bushites are at it again, redefining the universe to serve their own agenda. (I should say their own agendum, for they have never had but one: to make rich people richer.) The latest game being played by the rascals in power is to convince us that between 1998 and 2004, the U.S. enjoyed a net gain in wetlands by counting man-made ponds, such as water hazards on golf courses.

A new report by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service boasts of "a net gain of 191,750 wetland acres (77,630 ha) nationwide which equates to an average annual net gain of 32,000 acres (12,900 ha)." On its website, the USFWS happily explains that

The report details a smaller loss of natural vegetated wetlands than in previous periods and substantial acreage gains in wetlands that include man-made ponds such as water traps on golf courses recreational or decorative ponds in residential areas, and storm water retention ponds.

The report, itself, was forthright in admitting,

Without the increased pond acreage, wetland gains would not have surpassed wetland losses during the timeframe of this study. The creation of artificial freshwater ponds has played a major role in achieving wetland quantity objectives. The replacement of vegetated wetland areas with ponds represents a change in wetland classification. Some freshwater ponds would not be expected to provide the same range of wetland values and functions as a vegetated freshwater wetland.

In fact, the report details the losses as well as the "gains." The Association of State Wetland Managers gives a more coherent (and more somber) review of the net balance:

Unfortunately, the report's seemingly-good conclusion that the nation has achieved "no net loss of wetlands" is misleading. The "no net loss of wetlands" is largely due to the proliferation of ponds, lakes and other "deepwater habitats," as the report points out. These ponds include ornamental lakes for residential developments, stormwater detention ponds, wastewater treatment lagoons, aquaculture ponds and golf course water hazards.

… This is the first time ever that the study reported a net gain in water resources acreage and this is an important achievement. However, the significant increase in new pond acreage (700,000 acres, an 11% increase) accounts for this net gain by a magnitude of more than three fold. A closer evaluation of the report reveals a net loss of more than half a million acres of naturally occurring wetlands. For example, estuarine emergent wetlands (salt marshes) were reduced by 5,540 acres (0.9%, the same loss rate as reported between 1985-1997), freshwater emergent wetlands declined by 142,570 acres (0.5%), and freshwater shrub wetlands declined by 900,800 acres (4.9%) during the 6-year study time frame.

Why does this wetland/pond distinction matter? Natural wetlands have the capacity to provide multiple wetland functions and related benefits to society. Depending on the type of wetland and its location in the landscape, these services include water quality improvement, waterfowl and shorebird habitat, floodwater reduction, shoreline stabilization, fish habitat and other functions. In contrast, special purpose ponds and ornamental lakes that have little if any vegetation may provide limited wetland functions and services-most commonly stormwater retention-but cannot replace the many functions and valued social and economic services performed by natural wetlands.

An article in the Saint Petersburg Times cites additional doubts:

Environmentalists, who attacked the study for a month before its release, said it is a mistake to equate man-made ponds with natural swamps and marshes.

"You can build as many ponds as you want, it's not going to make up for what we're losing," said Julie Sibbing, a wetlands expert at the National Wildlife Federation.

Not even the federal agency in charge of protecting wetlands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, considers such ponds to be a replacement for wetlands, and neither do the state agencies in charge of regulating wetland losses.

None of that is stopping the administration from spinning all of this as great progress in conserving our wetlands. The FWS report declares that "for the first time, net wetland gains, acquired through the contributions of restoration and creation activities, surpassed net wetland losses." Erstwhile Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, along with Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, cited the report in a press conference on March 30th, during which she said, " I'm pleased to complete my term as secretary of interior by announcing some good news."

One of the most indignant reactions to these semantic shenanigans came not from liberals or the MSM, but from—who else?—Field and Stream Magazine:

Researchers long ago established that natural wetlands such as marshes, swamps and prairie potholes are far more productive than even the best-designed artificial wetlands. And sharp-edged water bodies like water hazards, farm ponds, and even reservoirs offer very little for wildlife.

The boldness of Norton's claim was particularly galling given the Bush Administration's record on wetlands. President Bush, like other presidents before him, promised a policy of “no net loss” of wetlands, but his administration has consistently supported rollbacks of the Clean Water Act to satisfy industry and development.

Gale Norton confessed that "the overall state of our wetlands is still precarious," but asserted that "even ponds that are not a high quality of wetlands are better than not having wetlands." The Field and Stream folks saw through that:

Norton's announcement was likely an act of setting the table for more administration assaults on wetlands protections. It was probably no coincidence that three days earlier, the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations that encourage development of companies that build artificial wetlands used by industries that destroy the vital natural habitats. It's part of the wetlands mitigation banking concept--which gives companies permits to drain wetlands, as long as they produce “new” wetlands somewhere else.

So, while most experts agree that the overall increase in water acreage has limited benefits, they also agree that building ponds doesn’t replace natural wetlands. It's the old ketchup-is-a-vegetable trick, designed, in this case, to disguise unbridled development as conservation and plutolatry as environmentalism … and, in general, to disguise failure as success. Are they really fooling anyone at this point? Not David Letterman, who, the other night, quipped that the new water-hazard designation was all a part of the administration's program to "save America's endangered country clubs."

The FWS report, a "status and trends" report, was careful to qualify itself, saying,

This report does not draw conclusions regarding trends in the quality of the nation’s wetlands. The Status and Trends Study collects data on wetland acreage gains and losses, as it has for the past 50 years. However, it is timely to examine the quality, function, and condition of such wetland acreage. Such an examination will be undertaken by agencies participating in the President’s Wetlands Initiative.

Let's not be surprised if, as part of that initiative, the President tries to assert that the nation's supply of ketchup should be counted as wetlands.

[Links via Google search "water hazards" +wetlands]

[That's all, folks]

Our Man on the East Coast: He's Nobody in Particular

[Tom Hilton has graciously invited me to contribute to his blog and has asked me to make an introductory post.]

Nobody in Particular is not called Nobody in Particular for no good reason. His brain hurts after rereading that sentence.

(I'll go out and come in again …)

Nobody in Particular is so called for a good reason. (*Whew!*) N.I.P. lives on the East Coast of the United States, close enough to Washington, D.C., to make it an easy day-trip, but not so close that the capital's ambient brain damage is contagious. To his own great chagrin, he is locked into an undesirable job with an evil corporate leviathan (hereinafter called "ECL"). His employment with ECL consumes most of his life, and therefore …

(1) he will not be able to post very often,
(2) he will often be a day late and a dollar short on current events, and
(3) he will routinely rant about rich corporate weasels and the demons to whom they pray.

N.I.P.'s inclination is to post about things that he personally finds interesting and not (necessarily) politics. He hopes that nobody will mind that. N.I.P. is alienated from much of today's popular culture, especially where music is concerned. He will make every effort to stay out of all discussions on music.

He drinks too much and uses too many modifiers when he writes.

(Thanks, Tom, for the invitation. :))

[That's all, folks]

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Duke Car Theft Case

Of all the reams of material I've read about the Duke rape case, the raw news, the feminist, race, and class analysis, the anti-feminist rhetoric, the information on DNA testing, the meta-news about how the news is reporting the story, of all of it, the thing that resonates most clearly for me is the car theft analogy.

•Sometimes people who report their cars stolen are lying, for their own reasons, be it fraud, malice, attention-seeking, or whatever.

•Sometimes, a person consents to loan his car, and then accuses the borrower of theft. Such a case is 'one person's word against the other.'

•Physical evidence of damage to the car isn't proof of theft. It might merely prove vandalism. If I break your car window, and then someone else comes along and jacks the stereo, I am not a thief, am I? I'm just a vandal! Nonetheless, such evidence is considered significant.

•Although there are numerous authorities advising you on how to avoid getting your car stolen, your lapses in following that advise aren't all that pertinent to the theft investigation. If you left a package visible in the car, or if you parked on a dark side-street, your right to file a theft report would not be questioned.

•Some car thiefs are joy-riding youngsters, often alcohol-fueld, and with no criminal background. This doesn't prevent the theft from being treated as a crime, nor does it shift blame onto the victim.

Now if you look at this, it's pretty clear that rape is treated very differently in similar circumstances. That's because we are freakin' bizarre in how we treat rape, rape victims, and accused rapists.

The idea of false reporting is given many, many times the weight, on very shaky grounds. The victim's failure to be cautious, appearing to be "provocative," or easily victimized, is seen as mitigating the crime. The "your word against mine" argument is given enormous credence. Physical evidence of assault is downplayed.

Now, in essence I blame the patriarchy. The patriarchy teaches us to blame women for having sexuality. Men own women's sexuality, so blaming men for ocassionally asserting their patriarchal right is less important than blaming women for not being "good." (And I remind you that blaming the patriarchy is not the same as blaming men; the patriarchy is a system. Men are people. Some of my best friends are men.)

I'm kind of curious, though, about the recent trend to blame feminism. I mean, what's up with that? And essentially I think it's denial. I mean, one of the wonderful achievements of feminism has been to pull rape out of hiding, to make it a crime we can see and condemn and prosecute. To show us the violence of it, the hatefulness of it, the sadism, the absolute absence of "sex" in terms of desire or eroticism. So now we have to look at it, and shills for the patriarchy can't stand how ugly it is. Deny, deny, deny. Blame the victim, boys will be boys—all that is old school, we've done it before and it's not working well enough. So blame the people who make us notice. Please give me my rose-colored glasses back.

(Cross-posted from my blog.)
[That's all, folks]

Welcome Deborah

As you've figured out if you've read the post below, I'm going away for the weekend, and Deborah (of Property of a Lady) has graciously agreed to post in my absence. We've been friends for ages now--since the early days of the IMDb message boards, which is something like 1999 or maybe 1998. I lose track of time. Anyway, Deborah is very smart, very passionate, very funny, and an excellent y'all are in capable hands. Be sure to show her the love she deserves.

[That's all, folks]

Muito Prezar


Tom asked me to post while he's away for his birthday. Lucky bastard. Anyway, here I am, fluffing up the cushions, changing all the presets on the radio, and deleting stuff off his TiVo, and I thought I should introduce myself.

Me. Deborah Lipp. Renowned, nay, acclaimed, author. James Bond fanatic. Also, I'm cute. And I blog.

So, hi.

And the post title is Portuguese. I'm learning key phrases for an upcoming trip to Sao Paulo. I can say hello, goodbye, nice to meet you (muito prezar), "I'd like a cup of coffeee, please," "where is the bathroom?" and "Vodka martini, please." So I'm pretty much covered.

[That's all, folks]

Why Does the Chronicle Hate Jesus?

Headline, front page above the fold: Gesundheit!

(More backgrouhd here. And yes, I'm joking. And the article is about allergy season.)

[That's all, folks]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sandra Crandall Revisited

While going through my recent hits on Site Meter (why yes, I am incredibly vain and shallow--you got a problem with that?) I discovered that if you Google "Sandra Crandall", the I Feel Lucky hit is a post of mine from last October. That's a good thing. No, really--it is. Here's why:

One of Schwarzenegger's propositions in the November election last year was Proposition 75, which would have required public employee unions to get explicit permission from members for any money spent on political campaigns. The effect would have been to eviscerate union campaign funding; the purpose was to silence some particularly vocal critics of Schwarzenegger (and, more generally, opposition to Republican rule).

California newspapers carried a lot of stories about Proposition 75. They all quoted sources opposing and supporting the proposition. Most of them quoted teachers or CTA representatives who opposed it. Some of the stories quoted teachers who objected to their union money, and supported the proposition.

Most of those teachers were named Sandra Crandall.

Article after article after article after article quoted Crandall. They all identified her as an elementary school teacher in Fountain Valley, California.

And none of them mentioned that Crandall is on the board of directors of the National Right to Work Committee, an organization dedicated to crushing union power in the workplace as well as in politics. Sandra Crandall, in other words, is 100% Astroturf.

So I wrote about how thoroughly the press had been bamboozled about Sandra Crandall. And now that post is the number one hit when you Google Sandra Crandall. And that's a good thing because if a reporter ever bothers to look her up before quoting her, the real story will be right there where they can find it.

The point of revisiting this is not to pat myself on the back. Okay, it is a little--but it's not just that. The point is that Astroturf is what these people do, and that they're very good at it. The point is that it never hurts to be reminded of that. The point is that we need to be constantly on the lookout for this sort of thing.

By the way, the person who found me through the Google search was posting from the National Right to Work Committee. I hope they enjoyed their visit.

[That's all, folks]

Plastic Soldiers Against the War

Update: Reinforcements have arrived, in the form of Generik's Guerrillas.

Little plastic soldiers have begun mobilizing to help bring their less diminutive flesh-and-blood brethren home from Iraq...and keep them out of another disastrous war in Iran. This morning Kvatch's Kommandos made another raid on San Francisco (follow-up to an earlier sorty); Hilton's Heroes (pictured above; banners read "Don't send me to Iran" and "Don't let me die for another lie") will be deployed up the North Coast of California over the coming weekend. Expect these soldiers to see a lot more action in the coming pressure grows for a military strike on Iran.

(Thanks to Jay for coming up with the idea, and Kvatch for bringing it to my attention.)

[That's all, folks]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Iran: Just Say No

For a couple of weeks now I've been saying that the only useful policy on Iran is Just Say No--that is, all our efforts have to be focused on preventing Bush from following the catastrophic course he has in mind.

There are, of course, a lot of other Nattering Nabobs of Negativism out there. Below the fold is a roundup of posts I considered particularly useful. My aim is to keep updating this as the opposition gets more organized. Meanwhile, feel free to suggest additional posts in comments. [Updates below]

  • Update: Here's one I missed when it was first posted last week: Sean Paul Kelley of The Agonist, quoting a correspondent on how to fight this thing:
    So, what does that mean: starting now we need to get every Congress-critter on record saying that there are no good military options for Iran. etc.. We need to hunt the Republicans down on Security issues and corner them so they lose credibility.

    Because if we come to that vote in October and we STOP BUSH because Democrats are united and Republicans are fractured we'll have an excited Democratic base ready to lay down on train tracks for Democrats in Congress.
  • John Aravosis has an excellent set of talking points, and takes a stab at distilling them into a briefer message:
    Iran is ten years away from developing nuclear weapons. There is no discussion of America rushing into another premature war until either Bush leaves office, or Congress is able to provide effective oversight of, and can serve as a counter-balance to, the Bush administration's incompetence.
  • Newark Star-Ledger columnist John Farmer gives the Just Say No rationale in a nutshell:
    And what about the neocons, our home-front heroes -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, the civilians they've recruited like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Hadley -- who orchestrated the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war and foreign regime change?

    They should never again be allowed anywhere near the instruments and agencies of the American government.
  • Greg Sargent (Tapped) draws on a recent historical parallel:
    There are two different questions Democratic officeholders can be asking themselves, their staffers, and their consultants. One question is "How should I handle the Iran issue?" The other is "How should I handle the Iran issue given that supporting a war with Iran is a non-starter?" If you think of the Social Security campaign as the model of effective opposition, the crucial first step there was when Democrats decided that privatizing Social Security was a bad idea and that they were committed to opposing it. Once you reach the conclusion that backing the needless deaths of tens of thousands of people isn't going to be on the table as a tactical option for 2006, you can start working on the question of how to be against the needless deaths of tens of thousands of people without appearing "too weak."
  • Pachacutec (Firedoglake) suggests talking points and tactics for the campaign. I think the talking points are pretty weak--they appeal pretty much to the converted, rather than to folks we need to convert--but there's an intriguing tactical suggestion:
    Getting groups of citizens to show up at the offices of senators and congressmen is an extraordinarily powerful tool. It’s underutilized and underappreciated. A handful of people going to an office is worth two thousand emails, letters or phone calls. It works. It shows them we are real people, and takes much less effort to coordinate than a peace march. Please get involved today to stop the next next mindless war against American interests, before it’s too late.
Previously linked posts:
  • Andrew Sabl:
    Here good politics is good policy: only repeated, unified political opposition, as we pulled off on Social Security, has any chance of preventing this catastrophe.
  • Josh Marshall:
    The only sensible expenditure of energy is to find ways to hem these guys in or constrain them before they do even more damage to this country.
  • My initial post and follow-up.

[That's all, folks]

Things That Make You Feel Old

Turning 45 is one--that happens next Saturday. But that I've been expecting.

The other thing is bending over and having your back spasm so you spend the whole day hobbling around unable to stand up straight. That I didn't expect so much. It's a little better today, but still not great.

[That's all, folks]

Monday, April 17, 2006

Squeezing the Parks

Via Shakespeare's Sister, I see that the Bush administration is once again short-changing the national parks:

The Bush administration has ordered America's national parks to show that they can function at 80 percent or less of their operating budgets, which is forcing some parks to cut services for visitors as summer approaches....

President Bush is proposing to cut an additional $100.5 million from the parks' $2.1 billion budget next year. According to a report this month by the Government Accountability Office, the parks have an estimated $5 billion maintenance backlog, and even before the cost-cutting began, many of them had moved from slashing back-office operations to trimming visitor services.

At the same time, the parks are facing rising costs. Payroll, utilities, fleet and other fixed operating costs have increased yearly. Pay raises have been about 4 percent a year. At Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, utility costs increased 46 percent from 2003 to 2005.

If the financial pressures continue to grow, the parks will have no choice but to cut more services, reduce access for visitors or rely more on private funds. The Park Service receives as much as $250 million a year from fees, donations and concession royalties.
National Parks are the embodiment of a beautiful idea: that this land, or at least certain choice pieces of it, belongs to all of us. It's not an exclusively American idea, but it did have the advantage here of large expanses of undeveloped land, land of extraordinary beauty and grandeur, so this is where it flourished.

That idea, as much as budgetary limitations, may well be the problem here. The savings are infinitesimal in the context of the budget; maybe the real motive is ideology. The National Park idea implicitly rejects the notion that America should belong to the very privileged very few. They can't kill the idea, but they can deprive it of air. They can take the money that should be maintaining the ideal and give it instead to the ultra-wealthy. They can force the parks to cut services (services for everyone) and raise fees (so, as Shakes points out, fewer can afford the experience).

They really do believe that they own the country, and we're just living here on their suffrance.

[That's all, folks]

Adventure on the High Seas

Being carless for the time being, to get to the folks' house Sunday I took the ferry to Vallejo, where my brothre picked me up. The Vallejo ferry is a great ride--an hour-long cruise through some of the less well-known parts of the Bay. (Bays, actually--San Francisco and San Pablo. But who's counting?) The above was posted on the ferry (very reassuring, let me tell you); more photos are here.

[That's all, folks]

Billmon Explains Iran

And the logic is inexorable and terrifying:

What we are witnessing (through rips in the curtain of official secrecy) may be an example of what the Germans call the flucht nach vorne – the "flight forward." This refers to ta situation in which an individual or institution seeks a way out of a crisis by becoming ever more daring and aggressive (or, as the White House propaganda department might put it: "bold") A familar analogy is the gambler in Vegas, who tries to get out of a hole by doubling down on each successive bet.

Classic historical examples of the flucht nach vornes include Napoleon's attempt to break the long stalemate with Britain by invading Russia,the decision of the Deep South slaveholding states to secede from the Union after Lincoln's election, and Milosevic's bid to create a "greater Serbia" after Yugoslavia fell apart.

As these examples suggest, flights forward usually don't end well – just as relatively few gamblers emerge from a doubling-down spree with their shirts still on their backs.

But of course, most gamblers don't have the ability to call in an air strike on the casino. For Bush, or the neocons, or both, regime change in Iran not only may appear doable, it may also look like the only way out of the spectacular mess they have created in Iraq.

The logic is understandable, if malevolent. Instead of creating a secular, pro-American client state in the heart of the Middle East, the invasion of Iraq has destroyed the front-line Arab regime opposing Tehran, installed a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad and vastly increased Iranian influence, not only in Iraq, but throughout the Shi'a world. It's also moved the Revolutionary Guard one step closer to the Kuwaiti and Saudi oil fields – the prize upon which the energy security of the West depends....

In other words, the administration, and the Pentagon, have gotten themselves into one hell of a jam – militarily, strategically and politically. As desperate and reckless as attempted regime change in Iran might seem to us, to the Cheneyites it may look like the only move left on the board....

If the institutional temptation for the neocons to seek redemption in a flight forward is powerful, the psychological motivations for Bush may be overwhelming. In his story, Hersh refers to Bush's alleged desire to make "saving Iran" from the Shi'a Hitler his legacy. But saving Iraq from the Baathist Hitler was orginally supposed to be his legacy. This is doubling down on a historically grand scale.

[That's all, folks]

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sunday Sierrablogging

The White Divide from the Monarch Divide, looking across the Middle Fork Kings canyon, Kings Canyon National Park. Smoke is from a forest fire on the other side.

[That's all, folks]

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Something There Is That Does Not Love a Wall

Rick Oltman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors stricter limits on immigration, said a fence would do more to cut the death toll than establishing a guest-worker program would.

"The answer is deterrence," he said. "The most humane thing to do is to let people know they're not going to make it so they don't risk their lives."
--San Francisco Chronicle, April 14, 2006

In the 28 years of its existence, the wall claimed at least 86 victims. In reality the death toll was higher, much higher probably. However, this is hard to tell, even now, as such deaths were not recorded properly by the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Germany (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR)....The first victim of the wall was Günter Litfin. He was 24 years old. He was shot by transportation police, near the station of Berlin Friedrichstrasse. They tried to stop his attempt to get away. This was on 24th August, 1961, only 11 days after the inner-german border had been closed.

Peter Fechter bled to death in the death strip, on 17th August, 1962. This lead to a public outcry. American troops were watching him bleed, but could not do anything. East-German border police (who had wounded him), did not act....

In 1966, two children, aged 10 and 13 years, were killed by at least 40 gunshots in the border strip. This is unusual because the German border police had explicit orders not to shoot on pregnant women, children or mentally ill people.

The last deadly case took place on 6th February,1989. In the incident,Chris Gueffroy bled to death.
--Wikipedia entry, "Berlin Wall"

[That's all, folks]

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Case for Immigration Reform

Realistically, the status quo is probably better than any immigration bill that this Congress could conceivably pass.

Better...but still not good:

The number of Mexican migrants who died attempting to come work in the United States climbed to a record high of 516 last year, almost 40 percent more than in 2004, according to figures compiled by the Mexican government.

Record heat last summer and an American border control strategy that induced people to trek across more remote areas were largely to blame, Border Patrol officials and immigration analysts have said.
Reducing demand through employer-side enforcement might help. Increasing the (ridiculously low) immigration quotas would certainly help. Even a guest worker program, as odious as it is in other ways, would probably reduce deaths among would-be immigrants.

The one thing that will absolutely not work is a great big fence. If anything, it would exacerbate the problem by making would-be immigrants more dependant than ever on coyotes to get them across. In other words, it would take the most vulnerable and make them still more vulnerable to the least scrupulous people around. That must be why it's so appealing to so many Republicans.

In any case, this is a reminder of why, sooner or later--probably not this year, maybe not for another few years, but eventually--we need to come up with a more humane way to do this.

[That's all, folks]

Friday Random Ten

REM - King of Birds
The Ramones - Seven and Seven Is
The Wailers - Beat Guitar
Los Lobos - Venganza de los Pelados
The Clash - Four Horsement
Roxy Music - Love Is the Drug
Savage Republic - Viva La Rock 'n Roll (instrumental)
David Byrne - Like Humans Do
Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - Who Painted Whistler's Mother?
Shriekback - Black Light Trap

Bonus track:
Super Eagles - Love's a Real Thing

[That's all, folks]

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rain: The Upside

April 13, 2006 at 7:41 am

[That's all, folks]

The Worst and the Dumbest

Shakespeare's Sister points to Hinderaker's endorsement of DeLay as the new OMB director. That got me thinking about who else should be in the Bizarro World administration--who would be the absolute worst possible appointee for any given position. John Cornyn on the Supreme Court? Tom Coburn as HEW secretary? Oliver North as Secretary of State? John Bolton as UN Ambassador? (Oh, wait...that's been done.)

I'm sure y'all can come up with some choice nominations; go ahead and post them in comments.

[That's all, folks]

The Politics of Iran

Josh Marshall is right:

I'd...say that the biggest folly would be to engage the administration on the particulars of their fantasies and delusions about foreign policy in the Middle East....The only sensible expenditure of energy is to find ways to hem these guys in or constrain them before they do even more damage to this country.
Last week I argued that it is pointless to try to come up with a substantive plan for dealing with Iran--that the best we can do is to make it politically impossible for Bush to do anything, which requires a political plan. We need to make it about the lying, the incompetence, the manufactured crisis, the hijacking of national security for political ends--all of which are (finally) becoming apparent to the general public.

Not everyone agrees; some people are arguing that the only way to win the political fight is to have a substantive plan that's better than what Bush proposes. (And I'm not even talking about Marshall Wittman, whose plan is that the Democrats defer to Bush, while Bush forms a national unity government with Democrats in his cabinet.) How do we show we can do better (the argument goes) if we can't show what we would do in the Republicans' place?

The thing about this is that dealing with it on a they-have-a-plan/we-have-a-better-plan level buys into the notion that whatever the administration proposes might actually be a plan. And by 'plan', I mean a plan designed to deal with a national security problem, as opposed to a purely political ploy to be carried out regardless of the national security consequences. We know, absolutely, that it will be the latter and not the former; we know this from the Iraq experience.

And if it becomes a choice between their 'plan' and ours, we lose.

Problem number one: the playing field isn't level. On matters of national security, especially in times of crisis (real or manufactured), a sitting administration gets the presumption of correctness; the opposition has to clear a very high bar in order to overcome that presumption. (This is the reality that drove Democratic cowardice on Iraq back in 2002.) So dealing with it on a purely policy level, we've already all but lost. On the other hand, we can neutralize that advantage by making it all about how they abused that trust the last time.

Problem number two: they have all the intel, they can choose what to release, and we know from experience that they will release it selectively to make themselves look good. So a substantive debate would be conducted on their turf with the facts they choose. Again, we can neutralize this advantage by hammering on exactly how they cherrypicked intel the last time. We need everyone in America to be wondering what Bush isn't telling us.

Problem number three: they won't offer a plan. What they will give us, besides the cherrypicked intel, is a bunch of fatuous platitudes about keeping us Safe! from Danger! and did we mention Terror! That gives us an Eddie Gaedel-sized strike zone. If we have a full-on plan, conversely, it will be child's play for them to pick it apart. The way to counter this is to strike at the heart of their fatuous platitudes--to make it about what lay beneath the high-sounding rhetoric when they manipulated us into a catastrophic clusterfuck in Iraq.

Problem number four: they will lie about their intentions. They will claim they are pursuing every diplomatic option, just as they did with Iraq; the party line will be that it's up to Iran to behave if they want to avoid attack. They have already begun to do this. That makes it much more difficult to argue based on the catastrophic consequences of an attack, and it makes it much more difficult to differentiate a more reasonable plan. So once more, with feeling: we make it about the lying. We make it about Bush saying a vote for war was a vote for peace.

We can certainly attack whatever they come up with on a substantive level, but that won't be the strongest attack. The strongest attack will be to make it abundantly clear that it isn't really a plan at all--that, like the Iraq invasion, it's a cynical political gambit, founded on lies, with foreseeable catastrophic consequences. Here's what they're saying now; here's the exact same thing, which they said in 2002. They lied then; they're lying now. They played politics then (remember Andy Card's quote); they're playing politics now. They mismanaged Iraq; they'll mismanage Iran.

With Bush currently at 36%, an aggressive offense on this basis could create a situation in which congressional Republicans are running away from Bush, as opposed to Democrats being too terrified to oppose him.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't have the appearance of a plan, as opposed to having a plan. (The difference between the two is that there is less dishonesty in the former: the latter, having an actual plan, presupposes some remote possibility of said plan having some influence on the outcome...which is to say, it requires an extraordinary amount of self-deception. See Marshall Wittman, above.) The appearance of a plan might well be a political long as we understand that it is purely political, and has no chance of any substantive result.

The odds are long, the chances are slim, yadda yadda yadda. Still, we have the ammunition we need. Unlike Bush, we have learned from Iraq. As long as we maintain our focus, we may yet cause enough political damage to make it extremely difficult for them to carry out their insane plans. We can't do anything about Iran, but with a lot of luck we just might keep Bush from making things a whole lot worse.

Update: Andrew Sabl, who appears to be thinking along the same lines (quote: The right message regarding an attack on Iran is "No, No, No, No. No." Followed by "No."), points to a poll with promising results: 54% don't trust Bush to make the right choice about Iran.

[That's all, folks]

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

View from the 27th Floor

April 10, 2006 at 7:50 am

Another very brief bit of blue sky. I'll take whatever I can get at this point.

[That's all, folks]

Monday, April 10, 2006

White House Leaks: The Chron Gets It Right

Everybody has been talking about yesterday's ludicrously awful Washington Post editorial on White House leaking. I don't have anything to add, but just for contrast I want to highlight the Chronicle's editorial on the same topic last Friday:

PRESIDENT BUSH can stop complaining about leaks of classified information for political motivation. A new court filing suggests the president himself authorized the release of classified prewar intelligence about Iraq to discredit administration critics.

The White House had two reactions to the revelation -- neither of which is acceptable in our democracy. The official word from the White House press secretary was no comment...The other response...came from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He told a congressional committee that the president has the "inherent authority to decide who should have classified information."

In other words, by definition, the president can leak anything he wants, for whatever reason he wants.
The rest is just as good. Sometimes the Chronicle really does get it right, and I think it's worth rewarding them whenever they do.

[That's all, folks]

All Battle Cry, All the Time

Okay, okay--I know I'm starting to sound obsessed...but it's the blog gift that keeps on giving. And today's gift is an apparent scoop from the Chronicle's Leah Garchik:

And among those at last week's Christian youth rallies at the ballpark was Alexandra Pelosi, who's making a documentary on the movement for HBO.
This doesn't sound like great news to me. I never saw Journeys With George, but most of the people whose opinions I respect considered it pretty softball; its non-judgmental, let-the-subject-speak-for-himself approach would, for reasons I keep repeating, be disastrously wrong for Ron Luce and his organization. It will be interesting to see if she includes the creepy wingnut politics beneath the upbeat surface of Ron Luce, Inc. If not, I'm sure a lot of people will be happy to help correct the record.

[That's all, folks]

Stealth Wingnuts

Dobsonite theocrat Ron Luce takes great pains to project an image of good old non-political evangelism in his teen ministry; he seems to be succeeding. The Catholic Church sponsors a media campaign designed to project an image of moderation for the anti-choice side. Welcome to the future. Christian authoritarians are becoming less like Fred Phelps and more like Ron Luce and Monika Rodman. The public face is friendly and non-threatening; the reality is Vision America and Operation Rescue.

We need to keep up with them. We need to keep getting better about identifying these people, about making their hidden agendas public, about exposing them for the scary wingnuts they really are.

The other thing we need to do is to learn from them. We embrace values and ideas that should appeal to the broadest possible range of Americans, and yet most of our agenda isn't even on the table. Wingnuts are making their extreme ideas sound reasonable, and we can't even make moderate policies appeal to moderates. We need to get better and smarter about this. We need to transform public opinion from the ground up. This is the great project for liberals--bigger than any election or court nominee or legislation. This is the one we need to win.

[That's all, folks]

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday Sierrablogging

Upper Twin Island Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness.

[That's all, folks]

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Questions for Anti-Abortion 'Moderates'

Some of you in the Bay Area may remember the ads that appeared a few months ago (in BART, on bus shelters, etc.) with the tagline "Abortion - have we gone too far?" The ads were put out by the Second Look Project, a Catholic Church-sponsored organization designed to give a moderate face to the anti-choice movement. The ads focus on what they portray as the 'extreme' nature of Roe v. Wade; they are designed to give the impression that these people just want 'sensible' limits on abortion, not to outlaw it altogether.

Yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle carried an op-ed piece by Monika Rodman, who works for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland and coordinates the local Second Look Project. The piece was written to give the same impression--'we're all reasonable people, let's have a conversation and meet in the middle', yadda yadda yadda. After reading it, I'm afraid I'm not entirely convinced. I have a few follow-up questions for Ms. Rodman...

Americans' thinking on abortion is beginning to shift. First, new appointments to the U. S. Supreme Court have changed the character of the court and the debate. Then, last month South Dakota's governor signed a ban on all abortions except those few performed to preserve the life of the mother.

In response, Planned Parenthood's national president lamented, "It's a sad day for the women of South Dakota." The governor retorted that "the true test of a civilization" is "how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society," citing unborn children among those who need and deserve protection.

Such statements appear only to reinforce the polarization that has governed this debate for four decades: abortion rights supporters talk about the woman; abortion opponents talk about the child.
Question #1: You do not put quotation marks around 'child', which suggests that you endorse that designation. Are you prepared to agree that a fetus is not a child? If not, if you believe a fetus is a child, how does that position reduce polarization on the issue?
Many wonder if the debate has gone anywhere in 40 years; many more feel pulled between their own moral sensibilities and their allegiance to partners, friends and family who have been through abortion.

There is, however, an evolution of sorts underway that could lead to a real conversation in the place of the usual shooting match of mutual denunciations. Consider these two Bay Area developments:

On this year's Roe vs. Wade anniversary, San Francisco's second annual "Walk for Life West Coast" drew a youthful and ethnically diverse crowd of 15,000. The event focused less on law, and more on life.
Question #2: Statements on the Walk for Life website refer to "the value of every human life from conception"; "protection for the unborn"; "our most precious citizens, whose....lives [have been] destroyed"; "the pro-choice side of another great moral issue, the issue of slavery"; and "this holocaust of abortion". In what way do these statements promote 'conversation' on the issue of abortion?
It voiced a message both sides might agree on: Women deserve better than abortion.
Question #3: If women 'deserve better than abortion', in a sense that 'both sides might agree on', does that mean they (and you) are advocating for wider access to contraception (including, for example, Plan B)?
Those gathered were challenged to practice solidarity with women and couples considering abortion. Abortion was treated not as a "right," nor as a sin, but as the act of violence it is against women and children.
Question #4: If abortion is an 'act of violence', there must be a victim; the victim must be the fetus; the fetus must be a human life; and terminating the human life must be murder. Why, then, do you say 'act of violence' when what you really mean is 'murder'?
A diverse platform of speakers was united in a common message: One can be feminist, Democrat, of any race or ethnicity, have gone through one or more abortions and still stand proudly on the side of a nonviolent response to unwanted pregnancies.
Question #5: On what basis do you contend that coercing women into giving birth is 'non-violent'?
Even in the Bay Area, most folks I talk with simply do not support the Roe-Doe status quo.
Question #6: Who are these 'most'? Do you contend that the people you talk with are representative of the Bay Area as a whole? If so, on what basis?
Many concede the need for more humane limits on abortion practice. It is a conversation about such limits that our campaign promotes.
Question #7: The position of your employer is that abortion is murder; your own reference to 'violence' above implies that you agree. Are you opposing the position of your employer and your own beliefs in saying abortion should merely be limited? Or are you being dishonest about your true agenda?
Not a single anti-abortion supporter I know proposes that a woman be thrown in prison for seeking abortion.
Question #8: If you believe abortion is murder (see above), why would you oppose criminal penalties for the person ordering the killing?
She is our neighbor and friend; she did not become pregnant alone, nor, in most cases, does she resort to abortion alone. Despite ceaseless repetition of the mantra, "It's a woman's choice," real life abortions frequently are coerced.
Question #9: If, as you claim, abortions are frequently coerced, how does coercing other women into giving birth solve the problem?
Abortion opponents are open to reasoned dialogue on appropriate ways to enforce appropriate laws.
Question #10: If, as you apparently believe, abortion is 'murder', where is there room for 'reasoned dialogue' about 'appropriate laws'? Murder is murder, isn't it?
Numerous studies indicate that abortion can hurt women psychologically and compromise their future childbearing capacity. Infertility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and premature births are often correlated to internal scarring or a weakened cervix resulting from past abortions.
Question #11: Is it appropriate to coerce women into giving birth in order to save them from the potential physical and psychological complications from abortion?

Question #12: Is it your contention that there are no physical or emotional complications caused by giving birth?
If abortion practice is restricted, both private and publicly funded support to those facing pregnancy in difficult circumstances must continue and expand.
Question #13: Given the current political climate, do you believe that public funding will actually expand to the level necessary to meet the need caused by restrictions on abortion?
We invite our neighbors to join us in conversation about what happens next on this issue of such consequence to individuals, families and our nation.
Question #14: If you believe abortion is murder, what the hell is there to talk about?

[That's all, folks]

The Pivot/Lipton Meme

Kvatch, over at Blognonymous, started a meme based on Bernard Pivot's ten questions (as popularized by James Lipton on Inside the Actor's Studio). I got tagged, or sort of tagged myself, so here goes:

What is your favorite word? Eviscerate.

What is your least favorite word? Timesheets.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Wilderness. The Sierra, in particular.

What turns you off? Suburbia.

What is your favorite curse word? Motherfucker. I say 'eviscerate the motherfucker' a lot.

What sound or noise do you love? Thunder, when it's really close and lasts a long time.

What sound or noise do you hate? James fucking Blunt. Okay, I could name about a thousand others...but he's a particular annoyance right now.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Bush pilot in Alaska.

What profession would you not like to do? Waste management. Legit or not.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "Here, have a martini. And by the way, you look really goddamn good for 175 years old."

Tag, you're it: Deborah, Maurinsky, and KarenM.

Update: Deborah, Maurinsky and KarenM have all posted their answers.

Other update: When I tagged Deborah, Maurinsky, and Karen, I didn't mean to un-tag anybody else. Everyone is welcome to play. Enjoy!

[That's all, folks]

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday Random Ten: Seasonal Affective Disorder Edition

This is what 30 days of rain do to you:

The Residents - Ramblin' Man
Roxy Music - In Every Dream Home a Heartache
Nick Cave - Loom of the Land
Nick Cave - The Weeping Song
Cracker - Loser
Thin White Rope - The Napkin Song
Portishead - Half Day Closing
The Mekons - Nocturne
Julee Cruise - Summer Kisses, Winter Tears
Tom Waits - Dirt in the Ground

[That's all, folks]

Thursday, April 06, 2006

An Abortion Wedge

I think this (via Atrios) is excellent politics:

The Prevention First Act is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), one of few congressional Democrats considered anti-abortion. The bill, which Reid introduced at the start of the Congress, has the support of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), presumptive front-runner in the 2008 presidential primary and 21 other Democrats.

The bill would prohibit group health plans from excluding contraceptive drugs, devices and outpatient services if they cover the cost of other prescription drugs and outpatient services. It would also require the secretary of health and human services to disseminate information on emergency contraception to healthcare providers and require hospitals receiving federal money to provide emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault.

The bill would also mandate that federally funded programs provide information about contraceptives that is medically accurate and includes data on health benefits and failure rates.
Note that it a) has very broad appeal, even among many voters who oppose abortion (and here the symbolism of having Reid sponsor the bill is important), but b) doesn't compromise on our commitment to choice; is c) substantively a good bill; and d) will be completely unacceptable to the wingnuts who run the Republican party (whose opposition to abortion is belied by their efforts to make it more necessary).

Instant Wedge.

I think this is one of those cases where we don't have to choose between appealing to moderate voters and satisfying the base. I would hope that everyone on the Democratic side agrees that better access to contraceptives (and contraceptive information) is a Good Thing, and the best possible way to reduce unwanted pregnancies. I also think that, while I disagree with Reid on abortion rights, this tells me that at least he isn't a hypocrite about it.

[That's all, folks]