Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Truth in numbers

An economist at Harvard wrote a paper estimating the long term health care cost of veterans resulting from the Iraq war. Harvard is touting the research up, featuring it on their website.

The pentegon doesn't like her research. They have a dispute about her baseline numbers of the number of wounded and injured as a result of the war. InsideHigherEd has a somewhat slanted story about the dispute.

It seems she got her numbers from a VA website that gave the total injuries, including wounded, injured from accidents, and hurt from illness. The Pentagon thinks she should only attribute the wounded to the war.

Probably they're both using the wrong numbers. Just normal training exercises back home, with no war, would result in injuries. So some of the injuries should not be attributed to the war, they aren't extra injuries. The pentagon is right about that.

The Pentagon is wrong that none should be counted.

Injuries to National Guard should be counted. Or at least most of them, the Guard wouldn't have many training injuries if they weren't mobilized.

The research should have included an estimate of peacetime injuries and those should be deducted from the total injuries before attribution to war causes.

Both sides of the debate are at least slightly wrong, and I think they're both over reacting.

UPDATE: I hadn't located the article itself when I wrote the above. I've since looked at it. Although I havn't read it closely it looks like she probgably did adjust the numbers somewhat as I suggested above.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rape of an adult woman

Volokh, in a post about a murder case in Louisiana, says --

... precluded by Coker v. Georgia -- which held that the death penalty for rape was unconstitutional, and which many have read as generally foreclosing the death penalty for crimes short of murder (but which the Lousiana Supreme Court has interpreted, controversially, as allowing the death penalty for rape of children)?

I don't see the controversy, the opinion in Coker v. Georgia includes this paragraph --

These recent events evidencing the attitude of state legislatures and sentencing juries do not wholly determine this controversy, for the Constitution contemplates that in the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment. Nevertheless, the legislative rejection of capital punishment for rape strongly confirms our own judgment, which is that death is indeed a disproportionate penalty for the crime of raping an adult woman.

It seems pretty obvious that the court was at best leaving open the question of the death penalty for the rape of a child.

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More on torture

I started to make some comments on the torture bill passed last September and never finished it.

Mark Boyer of the Columbia Journalism Review Blog gives a review of various blog comments on the new torture bill.

The Volokh Conspiracy talked about it http://maxspeak.org/mt/archives/002625.html



Congressional vote

Yoo's thoughts

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Favorite Public Defender Blogs

I read a lot of blogs from Public Defenders and other Defense Attorney types. Some of them make pretty good reading if you're interested in what's going on in the world of keeping this a free country that respects the rule of law and the rights of its citizens.

Some of my favorites are:
The Wretched of the Earth
Of a Public Defenders Life
Grits for Breakfast

There's plenty of other good ones.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, January 22, 2007

Why do they hate us?

Your typical right wing nutcase seems to cringe at the question "Why do they hate us?", tending to tag such a question as a hate America first approach.

Maynard, on Tammy Bruce's blog, finially explained why they tend to have such a knee-jerk reaction. They don't understand the question.

Such statements rest upon an implicit assumption that hatred is somehow, if not reasonable, at least rational. But that's utter nonsense. What did the Jews do to make the Nazis hate them? What did Abel do to make Cain hate him?

The answer to the question doesn't have to be about us. It's more likely about them. It's about how they think, not about what we've done. And, it's important to understand how our enemies think.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Muhammad Ali

An UPDATE Jan 21

After I made this post I realized that there's a lot of people who don't actually realize the place Ali has in our history and culture. Not everybody is as old as I am and some things just don't get passed down in the cable news shows. So, I thought I'd start making some updates to this post, talking about who Mahammad Ali is.

He started life as Cassius Clay. The name Mohammad Ali came later. He became a professional boxer in 1961 (or late 1960) after 2 years as a Golden Gloves champ and winning a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. For those of you who weren't around at the time, a black man winning a gold medal for the USA in 1960 was pretty much a big deal.

More updates later.

A Brit pays tribute
He's always put his money where his mouth is.

Sportswriters pay tribute.
His birthday will pass with calls from his nine children and other relatives. Ali's only request to mark the occasion is a trip to one of his favorite magic shops so he can pick up a new trick or two to show visitors.

Many of our children really don't have any concept of how much Ali impacted our society.

As I don't believe hype, all I really see in Muhammad Ali is some old dude with a neurological disease and a daughter following in his footsteps who has no tits to speak of.

Or maybe he just thinks if he says something really stupid he'll impress some girl.

More comments here.

He might have been a draft dodger, but he's still an American Hero.

At least when he dodged the draft he did it on his own, without running to daddy's friends for protection, and stood up about it.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More feminist posturing.

When I was in the Navy I often stood watches with a Lt(jg) who had gone through the NESEP program. That was a program where an enlisted man could take four years out of his service to get a college degree and then return to service with an Ensign commission. The Navy paid all tuition and paid you PO2 (E5) pay while you were in school. Pretty good deal. Of course they were selective.

One of the things I remember him telling me about it was his experience with part time jobs. He was married and had kids at the time and got himself a parttime job to help out. He got a job at a gas station. (This was back in the 60's when gas stations actually had oil change bays, sold tires, did mechanical work, etc). The Navy made him quit the job becuause it wasn't appropriate for a future US Navy officer to have that kind of mechanics job.

I thought about his experience when I read this feminist tirade about a woman in the AF who posed for Playboy in uniform and is in big trouble with the AF about it.

The point that seems to get missed is that she posed in uniform. That's what sealed the airman's fate (and airman is the right word, like soldier or sailor or marine, airman is gender neutral). Posing in Playboy would have gotten her talked to. Posing in Playboy in uniform gets her in big trouble.

That woman had been in the AF for 13 years. She knew better.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, January 12, 2007

Bush wields the Sword of God

I was reading this article from Harper's on the world view of fundamentalist nutcases by Jeff Sharlet and had some thoughts that partially explains Bush's thinking. (Or at least I think it does.)

Talking of the fundamentalist God, he says:
His invisible hand is everywhere, say His citizen-theologians, caressing and fixing every outcome: Little League games, job searches, test scores, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the success or failure of terrorist attacks (also known as “signs”), victory or defeat in battle, at the ballot box, in bed.

Discussing how their thoughts of God relate to their thoughts of America, Sharlet says,
The Christian nation of which the movement dreams, a government of those chosen by God but democratically elected by a people who freely accept His will as their own, is a far country. The nation they seek does not, at the moment, exist; perhaps it could in the future.

I'm not sure why those passages struck me, and maybe I'm just making a trite observation, but thinking about those statements it occurs to me that Bush actually thinks that his decisons don't affect the future, that outcomes are determined by God, not by his actions. His actions are just a way to implement God's will.

Free will to him is just the ability to choose to do God's will or to not do God's will. God controls the outcomes of his acts.

To Bush The Rapture is coming no matter what he does. His role is to simply do God's will so that he's on the right side when The Rapture does come. Bush thinks he doesn't have a role in whether or not the Middle East explodes and so there's no reason to think about the earthly consequences of his acts.

For some reason that line of thinking comforts me. It provides me an explanation of who that guy thinks, something I've struggle with and havn't been able to come to any conclusion about.

Even insane people have some sort of internal rationality. Their insanity is about their world view, not about their behavior. Their behavior is usually perfectly rational within thier irrational world view. Having a history of bipolar thinking I'm aware of this in a way most people probably aren't. So it's never been satisfactory to me to just write off nutcases like Bush as insane and irrational. That's not really an explanation.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Why nobody takes feminist seriously

Feministing blog takes a position defining feminism.
(Feminism) is about being outraged

Posturing is what it's all about. Some schools even give master's degrees in how to be outraged.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Surge and Escalation

Bush hasn't given his speech yet, but he's told everybody about it, so we already know what he's going to say.

Among others, AlterNet and AmericaBlog have some comments about why the Surge Idea isn't going to accomplish anything.

Unfogged has some thoughts on the surge also.

ColumbiaJournalismReviewDaily has some thoughts on the use of the word "surge" and a summary of other blogger comments on the plan.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Actually, Laura, Kennedy was Right in the Eighties

I was just watching Laura Ingrams being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly about Ted Kennedy's proposal to block Bush's attempts to escalate the Iraqi war.

As evidence that Kennedy is wrong she offered the observation that in the eighties Kennedy claimed that the general believe about the risk we faced from the Soviets was overblown.

Well, Laura, he was right about that. Subsequent events showed that at the time the assessment the CIA was making about the strength of the Soviet economy was just wrong, much as their claimed assessments about the risks we faced from Iraq has been proven wrong.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Support the troops

Now we have soldiers writing Bob and Ray to diagnose mechanical problems with their combat vehicles.

It's great that we have soldiers willing to take the initiative to fix problems. It's great that Bob and Ray are willing to help.

But who the hell bought these vehicles and why aren't the clowns who sold them to the Army in Iraq fixing them?


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Combat or Assasination?

I'm not sure what's going on with these attacks in Somalia. If we're attacking an encampment of Al Quada troops then that's great. I support it and Bush is doing the right thing.

But I just have a hard time connecting Bush with the idea of doing the right thing. I also have a hard time believing anything Bush says.

But it looks like his administration is bragging about having killed some guy who was involved in the planning for the attack on the USS Cole. Some guy on the FBI most wanted list.

If that was the objective of the attack, then that's very different then attacking an encampment of combat troops. Very differerent.

FBI most wanted list implies criminal behavior, not military. Assasination is not how to serve a criminal arrest warrent.

The TV reports are all justifying this attack and killing of a man wanted on criminal charges on intelligent reports. I guess the same kind of reports that told us about the WMD's.

I'm just not sure about this.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

No wonder they can't run a war

Cheney has been at Rolling Rock Country Club in Pennsylvania before.

So when he was invited to a "hunting trip" by some yahoo at Goldman Sachs, he knew they'd just be shooting at some caged birds.

People who don't know the difference between hunting and shooting caged birds really should not be engaged in running an actual war.

I havn't been hunting in a long time, but I'm not anti-hunting. As a kid in Texas I went deer hunting a few times and dove hunting a bunch of times. When I raised homing pigeons I even some dove get into my pigeon cage. But I didn't have somebody release them from my cage by throwing them in front of my gun so I could shoot them.

I think people who do that kind of thing and call it hunting are very, very creepy people. I guess Cheney thinks it's manly to shoot birds in cages. Creepy.

I guess it's not a surprise that he thinks torture is fun.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bush has a plan to win in Iraq

Bush has a plan. We aren't just going to send more troops (troops we don't have, by the way), we're going to lay down the law to the Iraqi government. A NYT article outlines the plan. It seems the key element for the plan is that it will take over two years to see any concrete results. In that sense it's just like his plan to balance the budget.

The plan is basically to tap dance for two years and then let the next president deal with it.

If that's the plan then let's get on with it. Impeach him and move on to the next president. If Cheney doesn't straighten up and get the job done then impeach him.

The plan sets a series of benchmarks for the Iraqi government. The goal now is to reduce sectarian violence. That's the goal of the benchmarks we will set, with the cooperation and agreement of the Iraqi government. This is the same government that we haven't trusted to provide the most basic security.

Balkinization talks about some problems with the execution of Iraq that suggests that we know that Iraq isn't going to be able to meet any benchmarks.

Overall, I think the prospects are not good. Leading democrats are already starting to weasel out of just doing their damn job.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Angry feminist

I'm not sure that feminism is much of a legitimate academic activity. I know some schools actually give degrees in the subject. I know that it's an important area of thought in society. But I'm not sure about it's academic legitimacy. It just seems intellectually empty to me. I guess I just don't get it.

But a recent lawsuit against Duke demonstrates part of the reason I don't get it. Too many feminists just aren't intellectually honest.

I ran across a news story about a former Duke Lacrosse player who's suing the University.

Kyle Dowd, a senior on the Lacrosse team, was two months from graduation when the accusations of the rape started. He was not charged in the rape. Then ....

Dowd, who was not charged in the case, claims in his lawsuit that visiting professor Kim Curtis engaged in "outrageous and unethical conduct" when she gave him an F in a politics and literature class. The lawsuit claims he had earned C's on his assignments until that point.

The university later changed Dowd's grade to a D, citing a calculation error. But Dowd claims the incident nearly kept him from graduating.

There are so many things wrong with that I don't know where to begin.

I started by looking up Kim Curtis. She's not a visiting professor. She's a visiting assistant professor. There is a difference, and it's a pretty big one in my mind.

Her resume is odd. She graduated from college in 1979, got a PhD in 1991, she doesn't say in what fields, and she show no work history at all. None. What the hell is that all about? In 15 years since completing her PhD she has no peer reviewed publications. She did manage to get a book published, so she's accomplished something at least, but still don't understand the lack of work history, academic or other, on her resume. Her book seems to be on some historical feminist so I'm guessing that Curtis thinks of herself as a feminist.

But the thing about the news article that struck me was the details about the students situation. He was a graduating senior. The course, Politics and Literature sounds like an upper level course. F's are simply not the norm in upper level courses and for graduating seniors. They happen, but simply don't believe the University claim that it was an arithmetic error. I've been a college teacher and a college student and I simply don't find that a credible explanaion.

A teacher in a freshman course might accidently give an F. But a teacher in the situation here isn't going to give an F un-noticed. It's not an accident.

They are simply lying about how the F arose. I don't beleive them. That's just not the way things happen in universities.

Given that, I can see no explanation other than some nutcase, smalltime, academically unqualified, angry feminist wanted to teach the frat boy jock a lesson about her Power.

Duke University should be ashamed to house faculty like this, and they should be ashamed that the University Administration is willing to lie to cover up the teacher's incompetence.


Here's some news coverage of the lack of support that Kyle Dowd got from Duke University and the Political Science teacher, Kim Curtis.

Time Magazine, Teacher Support for the Duke Players

Fayetteville Observer Former Duke lacrosse player sues university over failing grade

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In an interview on MSNBC he said that when he voted for the war he knew it was going to be a long, tough, difficult war.

That means that he knew that Bush was completley out of touch with the reality of what the war was going to be and voted for it anyway.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Rehnquist was a drug addict

It appears that that Rehnquist had been addicted to pain killers (before he was on the Supreme Court and the FBI knew about it.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Something's really rotten in Virginia. The Agitator is following the story. Here's a collection of posts. Start at the bottom and work up.

How do we expect to police the world when we can't even control our own small town cops and politicians?

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I was watching a rerun of The Daily Show where Bill Kristol of Fox News and the Weekly Standard was a guest. He and Jon Stewart where talking about Iraq and Kristol made an offhand remark about how the troops say they want to win.

As almost always happens when I hear that word these days, my thought was "What the hell does that mean?"

Win? What is a win?

From the very beginning the goal was confusing. The idea was that we had to remove the weapons of mass destruction from Saddam's control. That was the idea, but it wasn't really th goal becuase we never really tried to do that.

We could have done that with the UN inspection process that was already in progress. We had the Bush administration claiming that not only did we know Saddam had WMD's but we knew where they were.

Okay, if that was true then what was the problem? The inspectors where in country. We had military control of the air in Iraq. If we needed to get troops into the country to escort the inspectors to locations of these WMD we could have done that. It didn't require an invasion, didn't require control of the ground other than the location of these WMD's. But, we didn't do that? Why?

There are a couple of possible explanations. The ones I can think of all involve the Bush administration just flat out being untruthful. Lies to congress, to the American people, to whoever their God is. Just lies.

Maybe they lied when they said they knew where the WMD's are. More likely they lied when they said WMD's where the reason for for the invasion.

But, then, even before we invaded, we kind of switched gears. It became about regime change. The reason for the regime change was the WMD's and the need for regime change was the reason for the invasion.

Then when we acheived that objective we decided the real goal was to have a democratically elected government. We acheived that.

Then it became a need to the new government to establish security. As I pointed out here that quickly became an unatainable goal. No way that's going to happen. I talked here about that.

The whole thing is pointless. We never had a purpose. I don't know why we invaded Iraq. I don't know why we're still there. But I think I do know why we're going to stay awhile. It's because Bush is totally incompetent and doesn't know what else to do because of some kind of psychological fears and because we cowardly congress that is afraid to stand up.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, January 01, 2007

This is just creepy

A 48 year 1st sgt (a pretty senior non-com) in Iraq wrote a 200 page letter to his infant son, so that if he was killed in Iraq his son would have some source material to get a chance to know his dad.

I'm sorry, I know that's supposed to be touching, but I just find it creepy. Creepy and irresponsible.

I know if I was a rifleman in Iraq I'd want my first sgt worrying about keeping us all alive, not worrying about leaving a legacy when he dies. I'm sorry about that, but I just don't want somebody fixated about dying in combat to be leading troops in combat.

I'd want him teaching me how to keep my head down, not teaching his son how to live with a dead father.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

The true lesson of hanging Saddam

Saddam was in US custody until Iraq was ready to execute him.

US custody. Not Iraqi custody. He was on trail in an Iraqi court for offenses committed in Iraq. These were not international crimes, they were not crimes against American or Americans. An Iraqi court for Iraqi crimes. And Saddam Hussein was in the custody of the United States Army?


The US Army said it was to prevent "security breaches". To me it's pretty clear that the United States did not trust Iraq to be able to keep alive one prisoner who everybody knew would eventually be executed. They couldn't protect one man.

Do we think that's because they don't have enough training?

How are they ever going to protect the residents of Baghdad if they cant' protect one man that they can keep locked in a room? How? Are we going to train them to do that?

Forget all about the hanging. About the goons that had to dress up as ninjas with their face masked because of fears of retaliation from Sunni's. Just think about their lack of ability to keep one man alive long enough to hang him. Think about that.

This war is hopeless. If the Iraqi government can't do that one thing (and the US Army didn't think they could) then there is nothing we can do to prop them up. Nothing.

There is not an option. We simply have to get out of Iraq now. Not next week. Now.

We just need to pull a Saturday Night Massacre. That was the night Nixon kept firing Attorney Generals and the next in line until he got to somebody willing to fire the special prosecutor. We need to just start impeaching Presidents and go right down the line with impeachment until we get to one who's in touch with reality strongly enough to just get out.

Iraq can't be trusted to keep one man alive long enough to hang him. You don't need to know anything else to realize it's time to give it up. Fold and walk away.

Of course the hanging of Saddam has been all over the news, and him being kept in US military custody until it was time for the hanging was mentioned in the news, although I've not seen any news story on the implications of that.

And bloggers have covered the whole thing also. Some that have mentioned the custody question (although I don't think bloggers have really talked about the implications either) can be found here and here and here and here and plenty of others.

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