Friday, November 30, 2007

Don't confuse me with the facts

Republican pollster, Frank Luntz, explaining why it doesn't matter if Rudy keeps making things up.
“When he talks about New York, people see it,” Mr. Luntz said of Mr. Giuliani, “and they feel it, and if a number isn’t quite right, or is off by a small amount, nobody will care, because it rings true to them.”
Luntz is famous for teaching Republican candidates how to put lipstick on a pig. Here are some more of his words of wisdom:
A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The political risks of being right

Barack Obama in Austin. Image originally uploaded by That Other Paper.

Peter Beinart, arguing that Americans are too short-sighted to remember the start of the Iraq war, thinks that Obama has a problem:
Recent American history is littered with candidates who were right about war and weren't rewarded at election time.
Really? Is that right?

Lets see. What happened to the 23 Senators who voted against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iraq?
  • Paul Wellstone, died in a plane crash
  • Jon Corzine got promoted to Governor of NJ and was replaced by a Democrat
  • Paul Sarbanes retired and was replaced by a Democrat
  • Mark Dayton retired and was replaced by a Democrat
  • Bob Graham retired and was replaced by a Republican
  • Lincoln Chafee (the only Republican) lost to a Democrat
So 1 lost his seat (the Republican, for siding with Bush too often - to an anti-war Democrat). All the rest are still in the Senate. That doesn't seem too bad for the group that were "right about the war".

How did the 77 who voted for the Iraq war fare?
  • Democrats Carnahan and Cleland lost their bids for reelection a month after the vote. (They were accused of being soft on the terrorists). Both were replaced by Republicans.
  • Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle lost his majority that November too, then lost his own seat to a Republican.
  • Republicans Allen and Santorum lost their seats to anti-war Democrats in 2006.
  • Joe Lieberman was kicked out of his party and almost lost his seat.
  • Bill Frist lost the Republican majority and quit.
  • John Edwards resigned and was replaced by a Republican
  • Zell Miller resigned and was replaced by a Republican
  • John Breaux resigned and was replaced by a Republican
  • Fritz Hollings resigned and was replaced by a Republican
  • Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell resigned and was replaced by a Democrat
  • Republican Peter Fitzgerald resigned and was replaced by Barack Obama
  • John Kerry lost his bid for the presidency - his famous last words "I voted for it before I voted against it".
So 11 of the Senators voting for the Iraq war ultimately lost their seats to a member of the opposite party. That doesn't seem like the electorate was rewarding anyone who was "wrong on the war".

Beinart cites the primary loss of Howard Dean in 2004 as proof of his point. But while Dean surged briefly in the polls, he was only 1 of 10 candidates for the nomination and was always considered a long-shot. Famously pro-war Joe Lieberman was the original front runner and ended up in "a 3-way tie for 3rd place" before he dropped out of the race. Edwards and Kerry weren't helped much by their votes for the war, either.

And of course Barack Obama, a man who spoke publicly against the war at a time when it was considered political suicide, was a rare ray of sunshine for the Democratic party in 2004.

Did I mention that he's the one Beinart thinks has a problem?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chalk up another one for Al Gore

Polar Bear. Image originally uploaded by ironmanixs

You might remember that Al Gore was accused of alarmism, exaggeration, and even outright lying in his film "An Inconvenient Truth". Fox News and other right wing critics giddily published columns with titles like "Convenient Untruths" after a British judge decided there were 9 significant errors in the film.

The Washington Post's Fact Checker also focused on that decision on the day that it was announced that Gore had received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change.
[T]he judge described Gore's film as "broadly accurate" in its presentation of climate change. At the same time he also listed nine significant errors in the movie which, he said, reflected a general context of "alarmism and exaggeration" surrounding climate change.
These 9 significant errors rapidly dropped to 3 errors or omissions once the Fact Checker bothered to ask people who actually understood the science.
By the Gore camp's own admission, some scenes in the movie have been over-simplified. As Kreider points out, science does not transfer easily to the big screen. Scientists sympathetic to Gore have effectively conceded several errors or omissions in the movie:
Among the remaining errors Fact Checker listed was this:
Drowning polar bears. Gore cited a scientific study showing that polar bears had drowned by "swimming long distances--up to 60 miles--to find the ice." According to Andrew Derocher, chair of the polar bear group at the World Conservation Union, studies show that there is a good chance that the polar bears died by drowning but no definitive proof. Storms and hypothermia are other major concerns.
Well the science is rapidly coming down on Gore's side of the argument:
A census of polar bears in Canada’s Hudson Bay has lent some hard numbers to the long-held fear that retreating sea ice is causing some bears to starve or drown.

Now, looking at 20 years of data from bears captured along the coast of Hudson Bay, a team of scientists from the United States and Canada has found that fewer of the youngest and oldest bears survived in years when the ice broke early.

“Survivorship has dropped in the cubs, subadults and very old animals and is directly related to the date of break-up,” says Ian Stirling, a biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Edmonton, Alberta, and an author on the report.
The Fact Checker's last column on the debate ended with this line:
In their zeal to draw attention to the cause, even Nobel peace prize laureates can make mistakes or shade the truth a little. I award Al Gore one Pinocchio.
I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether the Fact Checker was being too zealous in its attempt to be "evenhanded" in the global warming debate.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Remember, this is what we're fighting for in Iraq.

President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general "hasn't crossed the line" and "truly is somebody who believes in democracy."

Bush spoke nearly three weeks after Musharraf declared emergency rule, sacked members of the Supreme Court and began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. Musharraf's government yesterday released about 3,000 political prisoners, although 2,000 remain in custody, according to the Interior Ministry.
Musharraf, you see, is a decider, and deciders decide in a democracy. Bush elaborated on this point during the interview:
we didn't necessarily agree with his decision, to impose emergency rule
He didn't necessarily disagree, either.

Let's face it, George Bush has supported Musharraf since he led a coup against the elected government of Pakistan 8 years ago. Musharraf has never been elected himself, and he is not a democrat.

He's had opposition leaders arrested, rivals exiled, had the country's constitution rewritten to his ends, censored the media, purged members of the Supreme Court for voting against him, placed them under house arrest, replaced them with his own lackeys and required those justices to sign an oath to military rule and to Musharraf himself. (All in the name of protecting the country against terrorists)

In other words, Musharraf is the president George Bush always dreamed he would be.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Don't forget to look up, occasionally

Composite color image of Comet Holmes (November 1, 2007) showing the concentric shells of dust surrounding the main body. A faint tail can be seen emanating at the bottom right. Image credit A. Dyer via ESA and NASA

The normally sedate Comet Holmes made a bright splash in the sky about two weeks ago, unexpectedly becoming a million times brighter than normal overnight and causing a stir among astronomers.

The comet and its expanding ball of dust have become the biggest object in the solar system, with a diameter appearing even bigger than the sun.
For the next few months, the comet will be in the constellation Perseus, near Cassiopeia. Check out these star maps if you're curious.

Anti-terror laws in Pakistan

Protesters in London demonstrating against Pakistan's "state of emergency". Image originally uploaded by Orhan

Not so great at catching actual terrorists, but very good for stifling dissent:
Another opposition figure contacted by Bhutto earlier in the week, cricket legend Imran Khan, was moved to Lahore's biggest prison early Thursday after being charged under anti-terror laws for protesting against emergency rule.

Musharraf said in a series of interviews that he would not consider quitting until the turmoil in the country was over, telling Sky News: "I am not a dictator, I want a democracy."
Anyone who thinks that we need to make a devil's bargain with Musharraf to avoid having the bomb fall into the hands of radicals should remember these points:
  • It was the Pakistani military, with the help of A.Q. Khan, that sold nuclear weapons technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

  • It was the Pakistani military which backed the Taliban in Afghanistan before 9/11.

  • Musharraf signed a deal with the Taliban in September of 2006 that effectively gave them safe haven in Waziristan and has allowed them to relaunch attacks on Afghanistan. 2007 has been the most violent year in Afghanistan, since the 2001 invasion.
  • And while Musharraf has now disbanded his country's secular courts and turned his forces against protestors demanding a return to democracy, this is how the war against Pakistan's radical militants is going:
    [I]n the last several days, the militants have extended their reach, capturing more territory in Pakistan’s settled areas and chasing away frightened policemen, local government officials said.

    As inconspicuous as it might be in a nation of 160 million people, the takeover of the small Alpuri district headquarters this week was considered a particular embarrassment for General Musharraf. It showed how the militants could still thumb their noses at the Pakistani Army.

    In fact, local officials and Western diplomats said, there is little evidence that the 12-day-old emergency decree has increased the government’s leverage in fighting the militants, or that General Musharraf has used the decree to take any extraordinary steps to combat them.
    h/t John Cole

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    Who cares about planted questions?

    "And I think this little flap in Iowa over did Hillary Clinton plant questions at her rallies, just is part of all that, who cares!" - Cokie Roberts on This Week
    Who cares? Well, you're supposed to Cokie.

    After 7 years of staged photo ops, invitation only town hall meetings, free-speech zones, columnists being paid to plant propaganda in their papers, not to mention the accusation that Washington's political journalists are nothing more than a pack of stenographers - well, you think you'd be a little sensitive to this sort of thing.

    The only thing that prevents every politician from pulling these stunts is the fear of embarrassment.

    Friday, November 9, 2007

    A 5th planet is found orbiting another star.

    The newest planet found orbiting 55 Cancri is a gas giant roughly half the size of Saturn (shown here in an image taken by the Cassini spacecraft). Image courtesy of NASA/JPL.

    According to lead author Debra Fischer, assistant professor of astronomy at San Francisco State University, the fifth planet is within the star's habitable zone in which water could exist as a liquid. Though the planet is a giant ball of gas, liquid water could exist on the surface of a moon or on other, rocky planets that may yet be found within the zone. "Right now, we are looking at a gap between the 260-day orbit of the new planet and the 14-year orbit of another gas giant, and if you had to bet, you'd bet that there is more orbiting stuff there."

    "We haven't found a twin of our solar system, because the four planets close to the star are all the size of Neptune or bigger," Marcy said, but he added that he's optimistic that continued observations will reveal a rocky planet within five years.

    It's only been about 15 years since the first extra-solar planet was discovered. Since then over 200 have been found orbiting other stars. 55 Cancri is the first star (other than our own) known to have more than 4 planets.

    La Niña forecasts continued drought in the Southern U.S.

    Image of the the tropical Pacific Ocean in mid-October. Blue indicates colder waters (called La Niña). Image courtesy of NASA/JPL Ocean Surface Topography Team.

    "After eight very dry years on the Colorado River watershed and a record-breaking dry winter in Southern California in 2006-2007, the situation in the American Southwest is dangerously dry," said oceanographer Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "This La Niña could deepen the drought in the already parched Southwest and Southeast United States."

    Thursday, November 8, 2007

    Barack Obama: America can’t engage in piecemeal diplomacy

    Q. The Bush administration has little influence on Iranian behavior in Iraq. How would you elicit cooperation from Iran and Syria that the Bush administration has failed to obtain? Would we offer assurances that we would not be engaged in a policy of regime change. What would you do?

    A. You’ve got the Bush administration expecting Crocker to make progress on the very narrow issue of helping Shia militias at the same time as you’ve got Dick Cheney giving a speech saying it is very likely that we may engage in military action in Iran and the United States Senate passing a resolution, suggesting that our force structure inside Iraq is dependent in someway on blunting Iranian influence. You can’t engage in diplomacy in isolation. There’s got to be a broader strategic context to it.

    The Iranians and the Syrians are acting irresponsibly inside Iraq. They perceive that it is a way to leverage or impact or weaken us at a time when they’re worried about United States action in a broader context. I’ve already said, I would meet directly with Iranian leaders. I would meet directly with Syrian leaders. We would engage in a level of aggressive personal diplomacy in which a whole host of issues are on the table. We’re not looking at Iraq, just in isolation. Iran and Syria would start changing their behavior if they started seeing that they had some incentives to do so, but right now the only incentive that exists is our president suggesting that if you do what we tell you, we may not blow you up.

    My belief about the regional powers in the Middle East is that they don’t respond well to that kind of bluster. They haven’t in the past, there’s no reason to think they will in the future. On the other hand, what we know, is that, for example, in the early days of our Afghanistan offensive, the Iranians we’re willing to cooperate when we had more open lines of dialogue and we were able to identify interests that were compatible with theirs.”

    Barack Obama would withdraw from Iraq over 16 months

    Q. Following that up, what is your schedule for withdrawing forces from Iraq? How fast would these withdrawals be carried out? What time frame?

    A. [W]e believe that you can get one to two brigades out a month. At that pace, the forces would be out in approximately 16 months from the time that we began. That would be the time frame that I would be setting up. That also gives us time to make sure that we are strengthening the Iraqi forces. Obviously, I would prefer that we start this process now, but let’s assume that there are 100,000 troops when I get there, that means that we’re talking 14 to 15 months from now.

    During that 16 months, I’m engaging in very systematic, tough diplomacy, not just with the various factions in the region, but also with Iran, with Syria, the Saudis, Jordan, with the United Nationals Security Council program members. Once it’s clear that we are not intending to stay there for 10 years or 20 years, all these parties have an interest in figuring out how do we adjust in a way that stabilizes the situation. They’re all going to have a series of complex differences and we’re going to, obviously, have to monitor it carefully about what those interests are to make sure our interests are protected. But what I don’t want to do is to make our withdrawal contingent on the Iraqi government doing the right thing because that empowers them to make strategic decisions that should be made by the president of the United States.”

    Monday, November 5, 2007

    George Bush has always supported the dictator of Pakistan

    A lot of people are astonished that the man who overthrew the Pakistani government in a coup 8 years ago might not actually believe in democracy.
    US scolds Musharraf but smothers talk of aid cuts

    US President George W Bush today urged Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf to lift a state of emergency, quit as army chief, and hold elections soon - but left unclear whether US aid hung in the balance.

    Asked what he would do if Musharraf spurns such advice, Bush replied: "All we can do is continue to work with the president, as well as others in the Pak government, to make it abundantly clear the position of the United States."
    Now why would anyone think George Bush was going to suspend aid?

    Here were his views in 1999, a year before George Bush was elected, 2 years before 9/11 changed everything and 3 weeks after Pervaiz Musharraf overthrew the elected government.
    "Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?" Hiller asked, inquiring about Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf, who seized control of the country October 12.

    Bush, in answering the question about the leader of Pakistan, also said: "The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected -- not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent."
    Musharraf is a military dictator. Let's not act surprised when he acts like one.

    Live Free or Die

    Ron Paul's 4th quarter donor map. (States with the highest per capita donors are green) Image originally from Ron Paul Graphs.
    On Monday, a group of Paul supporters helped raised more than $3.68 million in one day — more than half of what the campaign raised in the entire last quarter
    Is it just me or does this map say a lot about the state of the Republican party today? Ron Paul's strongest support comes from the more independence minded Western states (plus New Hampshire) whose voters traditionally want the federal government to keep out of their business.

    He does most poorly in the Bible belt.

    It's undoubtedly a reflection of the fact that he's the only Republican running who can honestly claim to believe in small government and individual rights. Republicans have campaigned on libertarian ideas of personal freedom for decades, but the party that attempted to abolish habeas corpus, began covertly spying on the phone calls and daily lives of American citizens and declared that the president has extra legal powers during wartime has lost all claim to the libertarian vote.

    Rudy Giuliani strives to be as corrupt as Bernie Kerik

    Seriously, why is Ron Paul supposed to be the crazy one in the Republican field?

    Mr. Giuliani said that he had erred in not thoroughly vetting Mr. Kerik, who is now under a federal investigation for accepting free renovations while he was working for Mr. Giuliani from a construction firm suspected of having links to organized crime. But Mr. Giuliani said that Mr. Kerik’s wrongdoing did not diminish what he had accomplished for the city.

    “Sure, there were issues,” Mr. Giuliani added, “but if I have the same degree of success and failure as president of the United States, this country will be in great shape.”

    Mr. Kerik is now facing a possible indictment on a range of federal felony charges, including perhaps tax evasion and bribery, stemming in part from his acceptance of $165,000 in renovations to his Bronx apartment paid for by the construction firm, Interstate Industrial. In June 2006, Mr. Kerik pleaded guilty in the Bronx to state misdemeanor charges relating to the same renovations.
    Rudy Giuliani and Bernie Kerik image originally uploaded by fecke

    Sunday, November 4, 2007

    Do you really want to go there Rudy?

    Rudy Giuliani, explaining why it's important to allow the police to bend the rules a bit:
    MR. GIULIANI: Now, intensive questioning works. If I didn't use intensive questioning, there would be a lot of mafia guys running around New York right now and crime would be a lot higher in New York than it is. Intensive questioning has to be used. Torture should not be used. The line between the two is a difficult one.
    First let's quit with the cute euphemisms for torture where simulated drowning becomes waterboarding becomes enhanced interrogation becomes intensive questioning.

    Now what could he possibly be referring to? This?
    Officers in Bronx Fire 41 Shots, And an Unarmed Man Is Killed

    Four New York City police officers fire 41 shots at unarmed West African immigrant with no criminal record, killing him in doorway of his Bronx apartment building; it is unclear why police officers opened fire on man, Amadou Diallo, 22, who worked as street peddler in Manhattan;
    Or this?
    Mayor Asserts That Grand Jury Blamed Shooting Death on Victim

    New York City Mayor Rudolph W Giuliani asserts to largely black audience in Crown Heights section of Brooklyn that grand jury had found that Patrick M Dorismond, the unarmed black man shot dead last March by the police, was responsible for his own death because of 'violent way he acted outside Manhattan bar'
    Or this?
    Giuliani Sneers, and Even Friends Bridle

    Analysis of Mayor Rudolph W Giuliani's sarcastic response to final report of task force he created to examine relations between New York City's residents and Police Dept following beating and torture of Abner Louima in Brooklyn police station house; says Giuliani's dismissive attitude leaves open question of whether he ever intended to take panel's findings seriously, once he was re-elected; says even his supporters on panel could not mask their disappointment
    Or this?
    Police May Have Understated Street Searches, Spitzer Says

    New York State Atty Gen Eliot L Spitzer says elite police unit that includes four officers who shot Amadou Diallo may have vastly underreported number of people it has stopped and searched on streets in last two years; Spitzer, whose office is investigating whether stop-and-frisk practices of Street Crime Unit have violated civil rights of minorities, says unit may have searched hundreds of thousands of people without finding any basis for arresting them
    I'd have to guess this:
    Giuliani Dismisses Police Proposals by His Task Force

    Mayor Rudolph W Giuliani caustically dismisses most of recommendations of task force he appointed last summer to examine relations between New York City's residents and its Police Dept; says panel failed to recognize department's recent success in reducing crime; Giuliani makes no mention of impetus behind task force--beating and torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in Brooklyn precinct station house; nor does he discuss any of panel's primary recommendations