The smartest person in Texas, Molly Ivins, died yesterday at age 62. She knew Dubya better than he did. She will be missed.
If there was one thing Molly wanted us to understand, it's that the world of politics is absurd. Since we can't cry, we might as well laugh. And in case we ever forgot, Molly would remind us, several times a week, in her own unique style.
[T]here was more to Molly Ivins than insightful political commentary packaged in an aw-shucks Southern charm. In the coming days, much will be made of Molly's contributions to the liberal cause, how important she was as an authentic female voice on opinion pages across the country, her passionate and eloquent defense of the poorest and the weakest among us against the corruption of the most powerful, and the joy she took in celebrating the uniqueness of American culture—and all of this is true. But more than that, Molly Ivins was a woman who loved and cared deeply for the world around her. And her warm and generous spirit was apparent in all her words and deeds.
The President (for no more than 721 days and 13 hours more) signed an executive order that puts a political office in each executive department for the purpose of clearing what the department publishes. In other words, factual reports generated by the government will have to go through a political hack for approval before publication, instead of just being published by the generally apolitical civil service as they are today:
In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.
Now for the laugh line:
In an interview on Monday, Jeffrey A. Rosen, general counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said, "This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable."
Let's not forget, the Administration wants to reduce the credibility of government. This may be a good way to do just that.
Via Talking Points Memo, this reminder that on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog...but they do know what terminal you're using:
In late August, someone with an IP address that originated from the National Institutes of Health drastically edited the Wikipedia entry for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which operates within NIH. Wikipedia determined the edit to be vandalism and automatically changed the definition back to the original. On Sept. 18, the NIH vandal returned, according to a history of the site's edits posted by Wikipedia. This time, the definition was gradually changed, presumably to avoid the vandalism detector.
People forget about this quite a bit. On the Internet, your browser must send a request to a Web server to get a Web page. In order for the Web server to respond, it has to know where to send the page; ergo, every time you hit a Web site, you tell that site who you are. Wikipedia uses this simple fact to help determine the value of contributions. In this case, it worked perfectly.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reports that an enormous block of airspace around Washington is off-limits to general aviation tonight because of the State of the Union Address:
During the president's speech to Congress and the nation, no flights are allowed to or from any of the 21 airports within the Washington, D.C., ADIZ, including pattern work. The special ingress/egress procedures for the "DC-3" airports inside the Flight Restricted Zone are also suspended. Only IFR flights to and from Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) airports will be allowed.
This is what security expert Bruce Schneier calls "security theater."
The Bears going to the Superbowl has caused a ripple effect through Chicago karma.
I first noticed it on the train this morning. Ordinarily, an express train picks up almost a full load of people at the stop right before mine, then whisks them to the Loop, allowing the local train that follows three minutes later to pick all of us up without making us sit on each others' laps. Today, the express train apparently followed the local train, so by the time the local got to me, we were sitting on each others' laps. (It's not as fun as it sounds, actually.)
Then, it turns out I am in total agreement with a well-written statement by—wait for it—Pam Anderson:
Anderson, a staunch animal-rights activist and a vocal member of PETA, has blasted KFC for its treatment of chickens and has been part of a long-standing campaign on behalf of the feathered critters. “Honoring a man whose legacy involves breaking animals’ bones and scalding animals to death in defeathering tanks is contrary to the values of most compassionate citizens, and I hope that you’ll deny KFC’s request,” Anderson wrote in a letter to Postmaster General John E. Potter. “How about another Elvis stamp instead?”
I hope the Postmaster General agrees as well.
I'll be looking for other karmic re-balancing today, which means I'll probably find it. And I'm wondering what will happen if the Bears win on February 4th?
It's worth remembering what President Eisenhower said in his farewell address, on this day in 1961:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
If you don't study this speech, you might get involved in a land war in Asia, which, as even Vizzini knew, never ends well for anyone.
"Many of you may ask why this strategy will work when previous strategies have not."
"The majority of Iraqi Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace."
"We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to solve problems along their border." (Like, for example, the million or so Kurds who are fed up with both.)
"Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned..."
"There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship." (Well, sure; I mean, how would Terrorism sign a treaty?)
"Acting on the good advice of Sen. Joe Lieberman and other key legislators..."
Not so much a laugh-line, but: what's all this about Al-Queda "still" being in Iraq? They didn't move in until after we invaded.
Did anyone else notice all the books behind him?
Did anyone else notice that he's not taking questions?
Wal-Mart will soon start scheduling employees based on predicted customer loads, requiring the employees to be more "flexible:"
The move promises more productivity and consumer satisfaction, but could demand more flexibility and availability from workers in place of reliable shifts and predictable pay checks, the Journal reported.
Wal-Mart started using the system for some workers, including cashiers and accounting-office personnel, last year, the paper also reported.
This is an example of software developers forgetting their work sometimes has human consequences. The idea of micro-managing employees through software didn't occur to Wal-Mart just recently; in fact, I worked on a system that would have scheduled call-center employees' potty breaks down to 6-second increments almost 10 years ago. I quit, because I thought the software, however profitable, was immoral.
Perhaps I have an extreme view, but really, I think a company has to believe its employees are no more than cattle to treat them like this. Absolutely companies need software to predict customer loads and marketing approaches, and I'm happy to assist. Scheduling employees to this level of precision just goes too far.
The thing is, the people writing the software, like the people paying for it, would never tolerate that kind of control over their own lives. Tell the CEO of a company that he has to take a potty break between 10:15:06 and 10:15:42 and he might clock you (no pun intended). Make his salary dependent on that kind of intrusion and she'll simply go to another company.
The people affected by this kind of scheduling don't have as many options; that's why they work for Wal-Mart. Once Wal-Mart has crushed all the other businesses in the area, the only thing between the employees and indentured servitude might be the state's anemic minimum-wage laws.
What Wal-Mart is doing is legal, but only possible because twenty years of Republican legislatures and right-wing propaganda have stripped workers of the power they accumulated in the 20th Century. It's the early industrial revolution again, with working people getting shafted in new, high-tech ways.
The huddled masses yearning to breathe free live here now.
Richard Clarke reminds the Administration (751 days, 2 hours) that Iraq isn't the only problem we face, even though it's consuming all of the Administration's bandwidth via Talking Points Memo):
National Security Council veteran Rand Beers has called this the "7-year-old's soccer syndrome"—just like little kids playing soccer, everyone forgets their particular positions and responsibilities and runs like a herd after the ball.
Without the distraction of the Iraq war, the administration would have spent this past year—indeed, every year since Sept. 11, 2001—focused on al-Qaeda. But beyond al-Qaeda and the broader struggle for peaceful coexistence with (and within) Islam, seven key "fires in the in-box" national security issues remain unattended, deteriorating and threatening, all while Washington's grown-up 7-year-olds play herd ball with Iraq.
Clarke's list of crises that merit attention, but haven't gotten any from the White House, will surprise exactly no one who has paid attention for the last five years.