Observations on the world today.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

A Native Son Returns 

Boston.com / News / Nation / Town turns against conduct of the war
Outside, the people of Wellsburg began lining Route 2, already festooned with yellow ribbons, to wait for the funeral procession as it rolled back through town to Kadesh cemetery. John Paugh, 21, who had served with Smith as a volunteer firefighter before the invasion of Iraq, sat in a rescue squad van and expressed his disgust for Bush. "I just don't believe anymore in what he's doing over there," Paugh said.

The war that Bush and many of his countrymen thought had come to an easy end a year ago has not. That point was driven home with the deepest pain in the hometowns of 136 soldiers in April alone. Wellsburg, where residents have turned sharply against Bush over his handling of the war, is one such town.
This is a good piece. It captures the flavor of this valley pretty well.

One thing the writer fails to note is that West Virginia is Robert Byrd country. Byrd is vehemently anti-Bush and has made numerous excellent speeches advancing that case, and the people of West by-God Virginia do listen to Robert Byrd.



The New JFK 

Just a random thought. In 1960, the US elected a Roman Catholic president with the initials JFK into the whitehouse. The apparent good times that followed were known affectionately as Camelot. Camelot was the mythical relm of a benevolent leader who (upon his passing at the hand of his scheming regent) was said to have been whisked away in spirit to a mystical land known as Avalon. After his passing, Camelot was lost. But legend has it that when the times are right, the spirit of the benevolent leader will return to reclaim Camelot.

In 1992, the groundwork was laid for a new Camelot. There was prosperity, general peace, and we all were brought into this time with theme music as Fleetwood Mac kept reminding us: "Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorow." But, alas, just as in the legend, that Camelot was temporarilly lost due to an infidelity. A modern day Mordred now sits upon the usurped throne of Camelot. The theme music that brought him in? "Livin' La Vida Loca".

But do not stop thinking about tomorrow. It'll soon be here. And when it comes, bringing with it another Roman Catholic JFK, what better song to have played at his inauguration than this?
The rain may never fall till after sundown
By 8 the morning fog must disappear
In short there's simply not
A more congenial spot
for happily ever-aftering
Than here in Camelot
I know it gives a person pause....
But in Camelot.........Camelot
Those are the legal laws
The snow may never slush upon the hillside
By 9pm the moonlight must appear
In short there's simply not
A more congenial spot
for happily ever-aftering
Than here in Camelot
Can you imagine how badly that would piss off Karl Rove and Karen Hughes? Bwahahahaha!



Observations on Nightline's "The Fallen" 

I just finished watching the Nightline program of Ted Koppel reading the names of the American fallen. Over 700 names read without commentary, and it took him over a half hour to get through them all.

Who will read these names?

Yahoo! News - AP Toll Says 1,361 Iraqis Killed in April
Official and complete death counts for Iraqis nationwide are unavailable. But a count by The Associated Press found that around 1,361 Iraqis were killed from April 1 to April 30 — 10 times the figure of at least 136 U.S. troops who died during the same period.
A few observations of note on the ABC program. I was watching the Pittsburgh feed from channel 4 (not owned by Sinclair broadcasting, thankfully) and the second commercial break included Bush's ad where he accuses Kerry of voting against defense programs. Now, aside from the fact that the ad is a lie, I wonder if the Bush people did this intentionally. If they did, it was callously brazen. If not, if it was a simple case of a block-time buy, somebody at WTAE either had their head up their ass or had an agenda to push. Ad placement is not random. I know. I've worked in the media. For example, in print media, you have to always be careful not to run coupons on the back of one another on opposite non-facing pages. And you never, never run an ad for strip joints on the same page as the Sunday sermon listings.

To me, this felt like an ad for a den of iniquity being run on the obits page.



Friday, April 30, 2004

Bush Gets His "End of Days" Omen 

Swarm of Locusts Descends on Washington: Plague of Frogs to Follow

Okay, so that's not the real headline; but I think I've made my point.

Okay, so I don't actually have a point. I just thought the fake headline was funny.



Her Beautiful Mind My Ass 

Her Beautiful Mind:
What could be behind the Bush Administration's decision to censor the photographs of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq? Could it really be, as the government says, to respect 'the privacy of the families?' Or is it to hide the realities of war for political reasons? Or is it to protect the delicate sensitivities of the ruling class as Americans die to build them an empire?

As the argument over this censorship continues, I hope people remember a widely-quoted remark made by the president's mother, Barbara Bush, last year during the build-up of the war - the lying time.

"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths," Barbara Bush said on ABC's 'Good Morning America' on March 18, 2003. "Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"
Right. Sure. Whatever, Babs.



Hiroshima Redux 

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Deal to End Falluja Standoff Takes Shape; 10 Americans Die 
Marine commanders agreed today to a tentative plan to deploy a new Iraqi force led by former Iraqi army officers in the rebellious city and to ease their three-week seige by pulling back from some positions inside the city.

The Iraqi force, to be called the Falluja Protective Army, was negotiated at a meeting this morning that included the commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway. The tentative plan replaced one to deploy joint patrols of the marines and the American-recruited security force known as the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
Now, I'm no expert, but couldn't we have accomplished this BEFORE we dumped all those 500 pound bombs down their throats? For that matter, seeing as how Saddam's former army under the command of one of Saddam's former generals is in control of the city, couldn't we have accomplished this by just packing up and leaving last Christmas?

I'm reminded of how in WWII, the Japanese asked for a truce which we rejected because it required that we recognize the authority of the Emperor. Then we dropped two atomic bombs and then accepted their terms of surrender in which we officially recognized the authority of the Emperor.



Thursday, April 29, 2004

Bury That Poll! 

CNN.com - Poll: Iraqis conflicted about war, its impact - Apr 28, 2004:
Iraqi interviewers conducted face-to-face surveys with 3,444 adults in Arabic and Kurdish in respondents' homes. The poll covered urban and rural areas throughout Iraq, representing about 93 percent of the population. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Nearly half -- 47 percent -- said they believed attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq could not be justified, while 52 percent said those attacks could be justified some or all of the time.

Thirty-three percent of those polled said the war had done more good than harm, while 46 percent said it had done more harm than good.

Forty-two percent said Iraq was better off because of the war, while 39 percent said it was worse off. Given the sampling error, those figures indicated a dead heat.
There's more. Some good, some not-so-good. Mostly not-so-good.

How can anybody still think this was a war of liberation?



Wednesday, April 28, 2004

My Pledge 

Most of us by now know the history of the Pledge to the flag, so we know that it is not presently read in its original form. Some older folks who learned the pledge by rote may have the old versions of it still ingrained in their psyches.

Personally, I have never understood the value of pledging allegiance to a symbol. So I don't. When everyone around me is intoning their oaths to old Glory, I can be heard (if you have a real good ear and are so inclined) reciting my own promise of fidelity.

But today, that vow was tweaked. I was "blogging" on the hour three thread at Majority Report and posted my version of the pledge:
I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and to the republic which it established, one nation, lead by humans, with the ideal of liberty and justice for all.
...and a fellow blogger enjoyed what he read, adopted it for his own and tweaked it. I like his version better than my own, so from now on, this is my pledge:
I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and to the republic which it creates, one nation, the people sovereign, seeking liberty and justice for all.
Doesn't that rock?



Generalisimo Francisco Franco is Still Dead 

Yahoo! News - U.S. Warplane Fires on Fallujah Targets:
The U.S. actions brought new international condemnation, and joint patrols by Marines and Iraqi police that were to have started Thursday were delayed by a day.
...bombing of Guernica



Iran and N. Korea to Bush; Nyeh Nyeh 

"As I've said in my speeches, every situation requires a different response and a different analysis, and so in Iran there is no question they're in danger, but the international community is now trying to convince Iran to get rid of its nuclear weapons program. And on the Korean peninsula, now the United States and China, along with South Korea and Japan and Russia, are sending a clear message to Kim Jung Il, if you are interested in a different relationship, disclose and destroy your program in a transparent way.

"In other words, the policy of this administration is to be — is to be clear and straightforward and to be realistic about the different threats that we face." -- Geoge W. Bush -- NBC's "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert
Transcript for Feb. 8
N. Korea Nuclear Estimate To Rise (washingtonpost.com)
With Democrat John F. Kerry's presidential campaign planning to highlight the dangers of nuclear proliferation, the leap in Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities during President Bush's tenure could leave the administration vulnerable to charges that it has mishandled the North Korea crisis. Experts said an arsenal of eight weapons means that North Korea could use its weapons to attack neighbors, instead of merely deterring a possible attack.
CNN.com - Iran 'rushing to build nuke bomb' - Apr 27, 2004
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) says in a summary of its findings that Iran is rushing to complete a first nuclear bomb in "between one and two years."
State of the Union Address, Tuesday, January 20, 2004; 9:10 PM
Different threats require different strategies. Along with nations in the region, we are insisting that North Korea eliminate its nuclear program. America and the international community are demanding that Iran meet its commitments and not develop nuclear weapons. America is committed to keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous regimes.
The Bush Doctrine has failed.



1971 My Ass 

Daily Kos || SCLM strikes again
Check out the cover of the current issue of U.S. News & World Report:

The headline reads:
1971 The Way They Were: A Defining Year in the Lives of John Kerry and George W. Bush.
Screw 1971! What about 1968?

According to Mother Jones, in 1968, Kerry was promoted to Lieutenant, arrived in Vietnam and was awarded his first purple heart. Meanwhile, also in 1968, Bush was getting ready to graduate Yale which would have meant the end of his deferment, so he took an Air Force Officer's test and scored a meager 25% in the pilot aptitude portion. It's also the year that he declared on his enlistment form that he did not want to serve overseas. He then jumped to the top of the waiting list for a position in the Texas Air National Guard with the help of Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes. Bush then performed basic training and was immediately placed in inactive duty "to act as gopher on Florida Senator Edward J. Gurney's campaign."

Yep, 1968. The year I started Kindergarten. That's the defining year in the lives of John Kerry and George W. Bush.



Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Hail the PAC 

MoveOn.org: Democracy in Action

Moveon's latest ad is available at the link above. It directly compares Kerry's record with that of Bush. When I first watched it, I thought it was an excellent ad, but I don't think Kerry's people will rally behind it. Not that it is in any way something they need to shirk, but because they want to let others make this kind of statement, while they remain officially aloof from it. I have no problem with that, but I can see how it will agitate the right.

I can hear Limbaugh now in that phony bass-voice he uses. "Kerry is sending out the attack dogs and pretending that he doesn't want to benefit from it."

The problem is that it might also turn off the moderate undecideds. Not on an intellectual level, but at an emotional level.

My second reaction, as the video played, was - how can they do this as a 527? Then at the end they announce that it was paid for by the Moveon PAC.

That's great news. A PAC is allowed to promote candidates. 527s can only promote broad ideas, like ABB. But it's a little worrisome also. It means that donations can no longer be tax deductible. If you give money to the Moveon PAC, it is not money that you can declare for a write-off on your 2004 tax return come next April.



Monday, April 26, 2004

Honor Over Politics 

The deaths brought the total number of American soldiers killed so far in April to 111

Here are the photos of their flag-draped coffins presented as a tribute to their sacrifice.



Silencing Sibel 

The Bush administration will today seek to prevent a former FBI translator from providing evidence about 11 September intelligence failures to a group of relatives and survivors who have accused international banks and officials of aiding al-Qa'ida.

Sibel Edmonds was subpoenaed by a law firm representing more than 500 family members and survivors of the attacks to testify that she had seen information proving there was considerable evidence before September 2001 that al-Qa'ida was planning to strike the US with aircraft. The lawyers made their demand after reading comments Mrs Edmonds had made to The Independent.

But the US Justice Department is seeking to stop her from testifying, citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege". Today in a federal court in Washington, senior government lawyers will try to gag Mrs Edmonds, claiming that disclosure of her evidence "would cause serious damage to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States".
What we need are clearer rules on what constitutes National Security. I know that Condi ("We didn't think that national defense was our job") Rice would benefit from it.


That Catholic Thing 

Just in case anyone was baffled about why the day before yesterday I posted a list of republican Catholics who support the death penalty, Atrios at Eschaton clears that up here:
A question has been gnawing at Frank A. McNeirney since he read that some Roman Catholic bishops want to deny Communion to Catholic politicians, such as Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, whose public positions are at odds with church doctrine.

"Does this only apply to abortion?" asked McNeirney, 67, of Bethesda. "What about the death penalty?"

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Fun With Fractles 

MyDD :: Fractal Map
This image, done by proportional representation of voting population in the electoral college, rather than landsize, best shows the closeness of the 2000 election (from The Nation Divided: Shifting Shades, by the WaPost).

Okay, that shows how the electoral college turned out in 2001 after the USSC finished with it. But the other day, I posted a fantasy of mine wherein Bush wins all of his Y2K states except one, and Kerry wins all of Gore's 2000 states plus Ohio. In my fantasy, it's a landslide for Bush in all the states he wins, and it's close in all states Kerry wins. And the clincher is Ohio, which Kerry wins by 535 votes.


Here's how that would look:

But actually, due to reassignment of some electors after the 2000 census, the actual tallies would now be Bush 258 Kerry 280.




Yahoo! News - Bush: Family Privacy Trumps Photos' Value:
President Bush considers the release of photographs of flag-draped military coffins a reminder of the fallen troops' sacrifice, but believes family privacy should be respected, the White House said.
The story contains some of the images. I challenge anyone to tell me which families' privacy was interfered with by these images. All they are is coffin-shaped flags. Totally anonymous. Suggesting that this is a privacy issue is like saying that the tomb of the unknown soldier interferes with the privacy rights of the family of the soldier who is buried there.

We have now lost 700 brave men and women in Iraq. I say it honors them to show their pictures. The only person it dishonors is the boob who thinks not showing the pictures will keep us from remembering that it was his mistakes that led to their deaths.

Well, here are many of their pictures, and a reminder of whom is ultimately responsible.

Image from Photomatt.net


Gini Coefficient in a Bottleneck 

The Gini coefficient is defined as
a number between 0 and 1, where 0 means perfect equality (everyone has the same income) and 1 means perfect inequality (one person has all the income, everyone else earns nothing).
Of course, this is an exagerated simplification, but I will explain more on that soon. The Gini Coeficient is determined by first plotting a curve called the Lorenze curve which is defined as:
a graph that shows, for the bottom x% of households, the percentage y% of the total income which they have. The percentage of households is plotted on the x axis, the percentage of income on the y axis.

A perfectly equal income distribution in a society would be one in which every person has the same income. In this case, the bottom N% of society would always have N% of the income. Thus a perfectly equal distribution can be depicted by the straight line y=x; we call this line the line of perfect equality.

A perfectly inequal distribution, by contrast, would be one in which one person has all the income and everyone else has none. In that case, the curve would be at y=0 for all x<100, and y=100 when x=100. We call this curve the line of perfect inequality.
An example of a Lorenze curve is given on the linked page and looks like this:

If everyone had the same income, the red line would travel along the green line and the Gini would equal zero. If all of the money was in the hands of a single individual, the red line would travel along the base line and up the blue line on the right, and the Gini would equal one.

To determine the Gini, the total area of the triangle formed by the green, blue and base lines is divided by the total area inside the curve or the area defined by the green and red lines. Then that number is converted into a decimal. I estimate that in this example, the curve has an area of roughly 3.915% of the triagle, so it has a Gini of roughly .3915.

However, according to the US census bureau, this country has not had a Gini that good since well before 1985. (See page 32 of this pdf) The most recent Gini is .462 and that is based on the disparity in incomes in this country, which has been growing at an alarming rate. The current disparity levels are as follows:
Lowest quintile = 3.5% of overall income
Second quintile = 8.8% of overall income
Third quintile = 14.8% of overall income
Fourth quintile = 23.3% of overall income
Highest quintile = 49.7% of overall income
The groups who have been hit the hardest by this widening gap in the last few years have been the second and third quintiles. Since Bush took office, these two groups have seen their actual income levels drop 5.8% and 3% respectively. And that is not even adjusted for inflation, which would probably make it worse.

Incidentally, if you want to se that Gini plotted on a Lorenz curve:

Okay, that's probably not accurate. Hey, gimme a break. I'm not a mathematician.


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