the latest from Joebloggers

if you're not planning on voting with your heart...

A few months ago I mentioned a site, politichoice.com, which dared to suggest you might vote for the candidate whose policies you agreed with most - rather than, say, who you wanted to share a coke or cabernet with - and then tallied up who that candidate might be (after asking you a bunch of questions).

A friend and the New York Times this morning tipped me off to two other such sites - votehelp.org and politicalbase.com.

While nothing can be more fun for a policy wonk-wanna-be like me to sit and ponder endless questions on where I stand on the issues, it turns out - after taking both quizzes - I'm none the wiser on who my policy compadre is. Two quizzes told me I should go for Obama or Kucinich - but the other said Clinton or Romney were my peeps. (My heartthrob McCain was way at the bottom of both lists - alas.)

the media: oh goody, a race war!

Jon Stewart, god bless him, gives the media another good spanking for their coverage of the primaries. It's a must view for how desparate the media can be for a good fight.

Among the choice moments: "[The media] won't let a candidate get away with playing the race card because... that's [the media's] job."

 

terrorist fighting tip #2: pay your phone bills

In November, I mentioned that a good way to fight terrorism is to not give alleged terrorist groups top-secret US intelligence files - which is what the FBI did, by accident, during a case against the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation.

A Washington Post article today brings to mind a second tip: pay your phone bills so that the phone company doesn't cut off your wiretaps. 

These kinds of stories are particularly riling to civil libertarians, like me (and I'm just a mild civvy libby), because in the "war on terror" so often we're told that we have to give up our civil liberties to protect us from terrorists and that, ooh, mayday, mayday, this is serious business, your civil liberties or your life! 

I do think fighting terrorism is important, but before we take away more of our liberties, I'd prefer we try running a competent intelligence operation first.  

The New Hampshire Primary

I'll honestly say, I'm surprised. For one thing, the media kept saying that it looked as though Obama had a significant hold over New Hampshire; that the primary there would be a breeze for him. Then again, though, all of the results were rather surprising. All things considered, all of the results were surprising. I have not really heard all that much about Senator John McCain lately, so finding out that he had won the Republican primary was quite a shock.

Let me just get this out of the way: I don't really have anything wrong with John McCain per say. My only point is that it seems that his only platform is that he spent twenty-two years in the Navy. It's great that he spent so long serving his country, but it seems to me that political and public experience would be a little more desirable. Of course, it does not help that McCain was brought into the Keating Five scandal, though it seems that a small number of people remember this incident.

covert is so over(t)

I'm confused - again.

Today's New York Times piece "US Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan" has my feeble brain churning up questions which it's ill-equipped to answer this morning - Is the media oblivious to its role in global security? Does the New York Times not think Pakistanis read its pages? Is this a thinly veiled NYT activist piece - or is the administration intentionally leaking info about its plans for a reason I can't even grasp at? Or do I just totally misunderstand the meaning of "covert"?

The fairly thoroughly researched article (with five reporters contributing), based on unattributed conversations with "senior administration officials," reports that the Bush administration is talking about okaying "covert" actions in Pakistan to take on Al Qaeda.

the $100 barrel: supply, demand and speculation

In the debate over what's driving up oil prices, I had pretty much bought into the Econ 101 explanation; that in an open market it's the dance of demand and supply that says where the price of oil will land.

And then, a few weeks ago, when I was nosing around looking for a speaker on our upcoming energy talk, I came across something very strange.

A friend had recommended I check out Fadel Geith, an energy analyst at Oppenheimer who's been watching the energy industry for decades and is the oil guru of oil gurus. Well, according to the hard-nosed economist, supply and demand aren't the only things pushing up oil prices these days. Geith thinks commodity traders, the guys and gals betting on the future of oil, are responsible for a good share of the $30/barrel that oil has spiked in the past six months.

Must have a screw loose, I thought. I mean, who else thinks that?

the matter with facts

When I tell people about citizenJoe - how we try to engage more people in talking and learning about issues, without the spin or bias, yadda, yadda - a frequent response I get is "Oh, cool, so you try to tell people what the real facts are."

Well, not exactly.

The problem with real facts is that they don't really exist. A lot of smart, reputable institutions will disagree on what the "facts" are; it's not that they're lying - it's just that facts are often slippier and mushier than they seem.

Take the comparative sizes of China's and the US's economy. As Walter Russell Meade's OpEd in the LA Times today points out, a few weeks ago it was a "fact" that China's economy (specifically its Gross Domestic Product) was almost as big as the US economy.

eyes on the nuclear prize

Never thought I'd be thinking like the Wall Street Journal, but in yesterday's editorial "Target: Pakistan" they're also saying Al Qaeda has set its sights on Pakistan and the nuclear "prize."

Could someone tell the president? According to the Washington Post, the White House has convened emergency meetings to talk about how Bhutto's death might affect places outside Pakistan, like Afghanistan.

Frankly, I don't envy world leaders right now. I have no clue if there's any international strategy that could help calm Pakistan and nudge it toward democracy and stability at the same time.

Ugh, I'm depressed. The one silver lining: maybe we'll give up our bombing Iran plans.

Benazir Bhutto: A Life and Legacy

I did not originally plan to come back to blogging until the start of the new year, but that idea was scrapped when I pulled up the Internet today. The Embarq start page I was presented with told me that Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani prime minister, had been assassinated.

Unfortunately, Embarq didn't have that much to say about how this happened, so I went to my trusted New York Times, and indeed found what I was looking for. According to the article, she was shot by a gunman and was hit by shrapnel from a suicide bomb attack.

Al Qaeda loses interest in Iraq - and makes its move on Pakistan

I'm taking deep breaths and trying not to get morbid, but I can't help thinking Bhutto's assassination is bad, bad, bad.

As I've written about in this blog before Pakistan is a global nightmare waiting to happen. With an increasingly iron-fisted dictator, a disintegrating civil society and a more active Al Qaeda, Pakistan has many of the ingredients to topple it in to chaos and/or revolution that could land it with a fundamentalist regime. Thankfully, Pakistanis weren't born yesterday and might resist such a fate, but at least one other fairly sophisticated state - Iran - has succumbed before.

So the world has one more fundamentalist regime. Big whoop. Oh, I forgot to mention: Pakistan has nuclear warheads - ready to go. There's the whoop.