Wednesday, April 28, 2004

anti-woman indeed

See this article: Making women's issues go away.

now for something completely different....

Got this from Shelley Power's blog, BurningBird:

1. Grab the nearest book
2. Open the book to page 23
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions

Nearest book was Maureen Tan's AKA Jane:

"We're making a brief detour."

Not sure how enlighting that is. Next sentence reads "I stashed some ammo out here."

Anyway, AKA Jane is a good read about an MI-5 counter terrorism agent, Jane Nichols, who's decided to retire. Naturally complications ensue. Even as Jane struggles to distance herself from her former work in Savannah, Georgia, she stumbles across the terrorist responsible for murdering her fiance.

jon stewart brilliantly explained the Gravity Probe B

...but for those of you wanting more, stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

feminism and abortion

To be a feminist does not necessarily mean to be pro-abortion or even pro-choice. To be a feminist and pro-life has always meant being at odds with the overwhelming majority of your peers.

I'd like to spend more time trying to articulate my views on this subject. But in the meantime, here's Teresa Heinz Kerry on the subject: "I don't view abortion as just a nothing."

That is certainly a sentiment I agree with. It has everything to do with addressing the deeper issues of feminism. As a woman who reached puberty after 1973, perhaps I am failing to understand the true state of affairs prior to Roe v. Wade. But advocating legal abortion has always felt like a quick fix, a short cut, a wad of chewing gum to stop a leak instead of replacing the pipe.

And maybe the quick fix was vitally necessary in 1973. But it seems to me that this stop gap can only be justified if we used the time it bought to improve women's lots to the point at which no one need ever have an abortion in order to survive in our society. (Surviving medically is, of course, an entirely different matter.)

I really do want to explore this issue more. One important point to make, however. Although being feminist and pro-life has never been unconflicted, the stance has become a thousand times more complex in the past 3 years. This is because the most recognized pro-life movement, which has so gained in power during this time, is almost as virulently anti-woman as it is pro-life.

The pro-choice movement basically elevates women's rights over those of the unborn. The pro-life movement elevates unborn rights over women's. Nothing made this position so clear as the recent ban on partial-birth abortions, in which no allowance is made to protect a woman's life. All arguments as to whether the circumstance might or might not come up are specious for obvious reasons. The law is just about as overtly anti-woman as you can get.

So in spite of my stance against abortion, it frightens me witless that Roe v. Wade might be overturned. And that's because the pro-life fight today is so completely dismissive of the welfare of women. It tells me that, in spite of the great strides we've made since 1973 in women's rights and in creating a more open society, we're still on the edge.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

:: John Kerry for President - John Kerry's Military Records ::

Want to read up on Kerry the Vietnam Vet? See here: :: John Kerry for President - John Kerry's Military Records ::.

Contrast that with the gleaned records of a certain Army Reserve Lt.: The Military records of George Walker Bush. Note that the maintainers of this site are not fans of GWB, but as far as I know there are no other records publically out there that this site is omitting.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

speaking of space and time....

Is this cool or what?

poll numbers

Mildly depressing, but that serves me right for being a daily poll watcher. Bottom line: Kerry needs to get himself an image.

Why is it that Democrats persist in characterizing their candidate as the necessary evil? Does it make them feel morally virtuous? Can't we start focusing on the good things about Kerry--and there are plenty of them. He is NOT Bush, not Bush Lite. He's not Lieberman, he's not Clinton. He's also not Kucinich, which is one of the major reasons he's actually viable against Bush.

too quiet on the western front

Haven't had the time or inclination to post the past few days. Spent last week preparing for a major job interview with the "largest software company in the world", and then spent the weekend recovering. Also had new furniture delivered, which discombobulated the entire household, and now both computers are trapped behind an outgoing chest of drawers and a stack of chairs. Ah well.

I'm thinking about doing a daily point on Kerry. I keep hearing people say they don't know what Kerry's all about, doesn't seem to stand for anything. Not to mention the whole flip-flopper, expedient voter reputation seems to be sliding smoothly out of people's mouths--maybe because it's the first and only thing they associate with him. So, like Liberal Oasis counsels, it's time for Dems to stand up and carry some water.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

legacy for future presidents?

Late in last night's Bush press conference, in responding to Ann Compton's question about his plans for reforming our intelligence agencies, Bush said this:

"What I'm saying is let the discussions begin. And I won't prejudge the conclusion. As the president, I will encourage and foster these kinds of discussions, because one of the jobs of the president is to leave behind a legacy that will enable other presidents to better deal with the threat that we face. We are in a long war. The war on terror is not going to end immediately."

I guess this can go onto Bush's very short list of "lessons learned", because he sure didn't do much with the Clinton legacy on counterterrorism. At the minimum, the Bush administration ignored urgent warnings from the Clinton administration and essentially circle-filed the recommendations from the three-year Hart-Rudman effort.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

is dissent the wrong message?

I'm listening to Bush's speech/press conference. He just characterized the Iraq/Vietnam analogy as wrong and "sending the wrong message to the troops" in the field as well as our enemies. Old old justification to condemn that deserves only contempt.

But here's a response to that argument I haven't heard yet. It seems reasonable to ask espousers of such justification how, in theory, people should take action to stop an unjust war. Do they seriously propose that it is more desirable that we continue a poorly conceived and mis-directed war purely for the sake of troop morale? Do they suggest that no war is ever wrong or unjust? That it is always a noble endeavor? That our leaders will always be accurate and well-meaning?

Monday, April 12, 2004

Why Americans still think invading Iraq was the right decision

The latest Newsweek poll shows that a majority of Americans continue to believe that the US "did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq. This number has been hovering around 57% since last October. Why, in the face of more and more solid evidence that the Bush Administration jazzed up and faked evidence about WMDs, do people persist in supporting this initial decision?

The answer, I think, is that people are continuing to defend their own decision. More specifically, they are defending an emotionally powerful decision that they willingly shouted across the rooftops.

Of course, the fact that they support the initial invasion because their own ego is tied to it doesn't mean they won't turn against Bush in light of the outcome. The more time that elapses the thinner the relationship gets between supporting the invasion and supporting Bush policies.

Of course, these are the people who will bounce back to the Bush side as soon as any good news shows its face.

Presidential Daily Briefing 8/6/01: Read it for yourself

Go here. Read this before you listen to the thousand or so pundits, columnists and other journalists, and then you'll see who's spinning what.

Historical document my ass.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

more on blaming clinton

I've just been reminded (by CAP) that the Bush Administration is trying to shore up their story of the "pre-9/11 mindset" by trying to obscure just how far the Clinton Administration had escalated their activities against al-Queda.

Is there really any more that needs to be said?

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

partisan enemies

Here's something i've been thinking about re Richard Clarke and other intelligence experts who've been slowing quitting or being forced out of their lifetime career jobs over the past two or three years. See this Reuters story: Yahoo! News - U.S. Terrorism Policy Spawns Steady Staff Exodus.

I've noted this exodus as it happened, mostly because Josh Marshall (see the links list) took care to point them out as they happened, particularly Clarke and Beers in Jan 2003.

The Bush Administration likes to cheapen the opinion Clarke (and Beers) as purely partisan rhetoric. But the fact is they weren't partisan until they actually had to work for the Bushies.

the fallacy of blaming clinton

In honor of Dr. Rice's appearance before the 9/11 commission tomorrow, let's go back and revisit why it is disingenuous, dishonest, and dis-...dis-... well just plain wrong for the Bush administration to defend itself by pointing fingers at the Clinton administration.

First, is it really necessary to point out that the "he did it first!" defense doesn't work for six-year-olds, let alone national leaders?

I read today that Rice is expected to fall back on the "pre-9/11 mindset" argument to justify why the Bush crowd weren't sufficiently vigilant (i.e., they didn't stop it). But she continues to argue, in the face of contradictions from Bush himself, that they were "focused aggressively on terrorism" in those first eight months.

This argument could be seen as a sort of backhanded cover for Clinton, born out of necessity because they couldn't figure out how to use it to get Bush off the hook and still leave Clinton hanging. But what it really does is obscure the truth.

The issue is not whether Bush administration actions were appropriate for pre-9/11. The issue is whether their actions were appropriate for post-African embassy bombings, post-Sudan, post-USS Cole. Where they appropriate for a team of so-called leaders who had received briefings by Sandy Berger and others, who had been handed the findings of a three-year, who had access to a score of top-level intelligence professionals, like Clarke and Beers, who acted out of experience rather than political aspirations.

What is obscured is the function of time. And it is quite clear that Clinton staff escalated their approach over time and events. They used diplomacy, they used law-enforcement tactics, and finally they used military force. They became more and more focused on eradicating al-Queda over time until their time ran out. When it did, they handed over the body of their experience and research and planning, and had every right to expect that the next watch wouldn't ignore everything that came before. We, the American people, had every right to expect continuity on such a vital subject.

I don't know why the media seems so much more comfortable saying Bush screwed up as long as they can say Clinton screwed up to. Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler has his own set of theories--go check them out. I think it's just weakness, its a heck of a lot easier, safer, and pseudo-savvy to pronounce them all crooks instead of actually making and defending a judgment call, however justified.

But make no mistake: when Condi Rice says "who knew" there were evil minds who could conceive of using planes as weapons, this is not an excuse. It is an indictment. Similarly, when she characterizes some pre-9/11 mindset, it is not an excuse. It is an indictment.

And here's another point. When the Bush administration tries to paint the Clinton administration as equally unprepared for 9/11, it's not simply cover for incompetence they're looking for. The truth was that Clinton was far more prepared in January 2001 than Bush was in September 2001, and would only have gotten more so, had he remained in office. Of course Clinton would not have remained, but someone else would have, someone else far more predisposed to pick up the ball and run in the right direction with it. I heard plenty of people say, post 9/11, "thank God, thank God that Gore wasn't in office, he'd never have been capable of rising to the challenge like Bush did". Personally, I think that's just a bunch of sentimental pap mixed up with some reflexive anti-Gore invective left over from 2000.

But the point is that Gore's ability to deal with this disaster is irrelevant. The truth is there's a good chance he would not have had to at all. And that's the truth that Rice and Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush are trying desperately to obscure.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

who appointed fitzgerald?

The answer to my earlier question is: Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Comey.

According to this CNN report on December 31, 2003, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the Plame investigation. Comey became the acting attorney general for this case, and immediately appointed Patrick Fitzgerald as special prosecutor for the investigation.

So now the question becomes: who is James Comey?

See, this is the type of question an average bird like me asks today. A Washington insider or, like, an actual professional journalist would already know this and may not think to inform the rest of us. So this is a service I can provide.

Aha! Apparently I'm not the only one asking this question today. Here's a profile of Comey, which incidentally also provides insight into Comey's "close friend and colleague" Patrick Fitzgerald. The last line is what I found to be most interesting and encouraging about both men: "If it's a politically charged issue, he (Comey) will call it straight," Fitzgerald said. "At the end, he'll walk out with his integrity."


Josh Marshall notes that the Plame investigator, Patrick Fitzgerald, has a history of going after this White House. That may be true, but it really begs the question why was he chosen?

We (those of us less than enamored of the Bush crowd) talk pretty freely about this administration's ready willingness to shunt responsibility onto anyone else, shut down criticism, and generally play every dirty trick in the book to stay in power. This administration has given us chapter and verse on how to brazenly stack every deck in sight.

So why put Fitzgerald in charge of the most potentially damaging investigation on the books--the one that is quite likely to end in criminal indictments? Who did appoint Fitzgerald, and under what circumstances? I'll check into this and report back later.

(metanote: I can see if I keep on with blogging I'm going to have to start minding my metaphors. And my alliteration.)

(...should have said "hackneyed metaphors" but why ruin the joke in favor of versimillitude?)

Monday, April 05, 2004

light and time

Last one was about politics, now how about some science?

I'm reading (or trying to) The Elegant Universe , by Brian Greene, which attempts to lay out superstring theory for non-physicists like me. Well I found almost right away that I wanted to get a much better understanding of Enstein's relativity theories than I currently have, not to mention quantum mechanics, so I'm tripping through a little book called Physics for the Rest of Us. The first chapter is on the Special Theory of Relativity.

Now it seems that the key to this theory is light, or rather the speed of light. That's mainly because light has this weird unique property in that it does not seem to be bound by its frame of reference--that is, it appears to be moving the same speed whether you're watching it move away or whether it's coming right at you. Okay, I say to myself, and exactly how did someone figure this out? After all, watching light move is not exactly like watching cars along a freeway. So that's my first question: how did we figure out what the speed of light is? It seems we did it using the movement of stars (later Michelson used revolving mirrors and a strobe light but that just refined the number), but in order to use stars wouldn't we have to know the distances first? And if so, how did we figure out the distances?

Well that conundrum stopped me for a while, but at last I decided to accept it and move on. And now I'm working on the theory of relative simultaneity. This theory seems to simply postulate that movement in time is as relative (between frames of reference) as movement in the other three dimensions. But it seems that the only way we can measure the relativity of time is by measuring the movement of light.

This stopped me again. Is it completely moronic to wonder if light is not a function of the first 3 dimensions but rather of time? Is it possible that light is a physical manifestation of time? I read somewhere in my recent studies that light can only be observed in movement (that is across time) and only as it moves past us (kind of like the present time), which makes sense, because after all, unlike a beach ball, light does not fly past us to some destination, stop and take up residence somewhere. Also there's the question of the wave vs. particle debate--light hasn't even been classified yet. Okay, it bends around objects and changes speed in different mediums, but if I remember my college physics, Einsten postulates time does that as well, at least it distorts around large objects. This is something I'll learn later in the chapter, presumably. But really, you have to wonder, when watching a sunset, are we literally watching time pass by?

I know this is all kind of silly. My mind is racing ahead to prove my whimsies wrong before I even get them down in words. Sure would love to have an afternoon with a whiteboard and a physicist!

who's to blame?

OK, so here's the question in my mind at the moment: what's the significance that people seem to be blaming both Clinton and Bush administrations equally for 9/11? See latest CBS News poll at Polling Report: Based on the facts coming out of the 9/11 commission, it seems clear that the Clinton administation was significantly more focused (more on this later). So why does there seem to be the (false) perception that both administrations were equally lax?

In this case, I think I have an answer to my own question, although I'll be looking to see if someone more savvy than me takes up the issue. Here's what I think: the most obvious conclusion, based on the poll data, isn't true.

Now it's easy for anyone not liking poll numbers to simply choose not to believe them. Stupid citizens, we say, believing the spin and ignoring the facts. And maybe there's a bit of that here, blaming Clinton has certainly been high on the Bush spin top 40. But I'm going to go even farther out on a creaky limb and say I'm not sure poll respondents believe what they said they believe. I think people have their own little spin machine going.

Americans don't want to think their president sat back on the range in Crawford and let 9/11 happen. It's a sickening thought, and too many people have invested their faith and admiration into GWB these past two years to make indicting him in any way comfortable. So they're facing facts, but doing so is giving rise to a lot of tension. And they're blowing off that tension by blaming Clinton as well.

"mission statement"

A seattlebird's eye view of American politics, culture, and anything else that catches the eye. Being a non-expert on just about every subject imaginable, this blog will, at least initially be all about questions. When something happens, what do I want to know more about? What does it make me think about? And most important: is there anyone out there with the answers I'm looking for?