Guantanamo Tactics: Abusive but not Illegal

Well, it appears that the tactics in use at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility seemed unnecessarily harmful and aggressive to . . . the FBI:

FBI officials who were interrogating terrorism suspects at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002 and 2003 strenuously objected to aggressive techniques the military was using and believed they could be illegal, according to FBI memos released yesterday.

I don’t see how the administration can keep arguing that everything is totally fine with this. Here’s the FBI telling the military that the techniques being used

could easily result in the elicitation of unreliable and legally inadmissible information.

Got that? Just like with the NSA wiretapping scandal, we have the circumvention of established law leading to legal problems. Confessions under torture are famously unreliable, not to mention that torture is not permitted by US laws. Of course, that all depends on what you call torture:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved an expanded list of interrogation tactics in December 2002 for use on an important suspect. Rumsfeld later rescinded the list. A military investigation into allegations of abuse at Guantanamo Bay found that the cumulative effect of the detainee’s treatment was abusive but not illegal.

Oh, good. As long as the treatment is only abusive, that’s cool. Is this really their argument? I am speechless. This is the United States, not some Soviet Gulag. Let me defer to the wisdom of our first President on this one:

“Treat them with humanity,” Washington instructed his lieutenants, noting that accepting the German mercenaries as prisoners of war wasn’t just the right thing to do, it might even sway them to abandon their British paymasters and join the American side in the War of Independence. “Let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British army.”

Absolutely right. Our strength has always been our respect and compassion for all people. That’s what makes the Guantanamo/Abu Ghraib scandals so disheartening: the techniques are inhumane, cruel, and abusive according to the military itself and on top of that they don’t even work!
Sounds like a bad deal to me. You?

Beaver Tailed Sort Of Otter

This enjoyable Washington Post article chronicles the discovery of fossils of a previously unknown mammalian species, an aquatic little fellow who “is the oldest known aquatic mammal, predating the river otter by more than 100 million years.”

Cool stuff! Go check out the article, and remember how science, while it does give us medicinal and technological miracles, is also really, really cool.

Unless you believe that these fossils were put there to test our faith in the 10,00 year old earth, or something.

Cartoon Violence or just Religious Violence?

This horrifying Washington Post story shows an instance of Danish newspaper cartoon related violence, this time in Nigeria, degenerating into regular religious violence.

As the city’s thousands of surviving Muslims struggled to return to their northern homes or huddled as refugees at police stations, Christian residents expressed little remorse for their role in five days of religious violence sparked by anger over the publishing of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

Apparently there were Muslim attacks on churches and Christians over the cartoons, and then retaliatory attacks against Muslims and Muslim-owned businesses. They are still counting the bodies, but the death toll appears likely to top 50. To what extent is this tragedy really about the cartoons though? Here’s an enlightening quote:

“We have to retaliate,” said Justin Ifeanyi, 24. “It is a shame to us if we don’t kill them.”

He also expressed amazement that cartoons published in Europe could set off violence in Africa.

“This thing happened in Denmark,” Ifeanyi said. “How could that be causing havoc in another part of Nigeria?”

I don’t think that the cartoons’ publication did cause this. Various anti-Denmark or anti-Europe campaigns in Arab nations, I can see being related. But this? I think this is violence that results from two religions existing intermingled with each other, two religions that each tell their followers that their way is the only correct way, and that followers of other ways are at best misguided and at worst enemies.

At Onitsha’s ruined central mosque, one of two reportedly destroyed on Tuesday, Ifeanyi Eze, 34, picked up a piece of charred wood and scrawled on a low wall: “Muhammad is a man but Jesus is from above.”

On the blackened walls of the abandoned mosque, where rubble and sheets of rusty tin roofing lay on the floor, others had written “No Muhammad, Jesus Christ is Lord” and “As from today know [sic] more Muhammad.”

In an interview afterward, Eze expressed anger at Muslims for last year’s terrorist attack in London and other troubles. “We don’t want all this mosque any more,” he said. “These are the people who cause problems all over the world . . . because they don’t fear God. We don’t want Muhammad anymore.”

This tragedy is the result of religious fundamentalism on all sides, and shows us how important it is to stress our common humanity above our personal beliefs in every instance–something that gets forgotten here at home sometimes as well.

Ignorance is Bliss

Reading George Will’s column in the Washington Post, a funny thing happened. I found myself agreeing with him. He writes in response to a survey:

A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that conservatives are happier than liberals — in all income groups. While 34 percent of all Americans call themselves “very happy,” only 28 percent of liberal Democrats (and 31 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats) do, compared with 47 percent of conservative Republicans. This finding is niftily self-reinforcing: It depresses liberals.

I don’t have trouble believing this. Liberal Democrats have to deal with reality as it is, not as they wish it to be. Not to mention that, and here I speak from personal experience, having to sit through a State of the Union address that actually mentioned the urgent problem of human animal hybrids did not make me particularly happy. In other words, I don’t see a huge amount in the world to be happy about. I would call this perceptiveness. Will, however, has a slightly different theory:

Conservatives are happier than liberals because they are more pessimistic. . . . Conservatives understand that society in its complexity resembles a giant Calder mobile — touch it here and things jiggle there, and there, and way over there. Hence conservatives acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is: The unintended consequences of bold government undertakings are apt to be larger than, and contrary to, the intended ones.

Watch carefully. Will’s argument could be restated as:

  • Conservatives acknowledge that things are very complicated
  • This complexity means that it’s awfully hard to tell what results will obtain from a given action
  • Therefore, big government is bad

While this argument is delightfully old-school conservative (never touch the machine! Who knows what might happen!), I don’t think it actually makes any logical sense. Luckily, Will clarifies his statement in the next graf:

Conservatives’ pessimism is conducive to their happiness in three ways. First, they are rarely surprised — they are right more often than not about the course of events. Second, when they are wrong, they are happy to be so. Third, because pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes — government — they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. They believe that happiness is an activity — it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness.

But George, I thought it was hard to tell what the results of things were going to be? How, then, are Conservatives “right more often” than they are wrong? That’s only true if you assume they are making some vague, non-predictive guess, like, “the outcome of Medicare Part D is likely to be complicated.” Well, duh. I’m not sure that’s “right” in any meaningful way.

Will has discovered something that I’ve mentioned before though: Conservatives need not be bound by evidence. Will’s argument here is that Conservatives are happier because they’ve decided that it’s impossible to enact meaningful, positive change in the world. Barring that, they pursue happiness in the self-serving, small-minded way that remains–by enjoying luxuries and advancing their own personal standing in the world. He concludes with a list of the things that Liberals fail to enjoy, assumedly implying that Conservatives are happier because they can derive pleasure from immediate sources while pretending that the larger system in which they operate is so complex that it is pointless to wonder about any impact upon it:

But, then, conscientious liberals cannot enjoy automobiles because there is global warming to worry about, and the perils of corporate-driven consumerism, which is the handmaiden of bourgeoisie materialism. And high-powered cars (how many liberals drive Corvettes?) are metaphors (for America’s reckless foreign policy, for machismo rampant, etc.). And then there is — was — all that rustic beauty paved over for highways. (And for those giant parking lots at exurban mega-churches. The less said about them the better.) And automobiles discourage the egalitarian enjoyment of mass transit. And automobiles, by facilitating suburban sprawl, deny sprawl’s victims — that word must make an appearance in liberal laments; and lament is what liberals do — the uplifting communitarian experience of high-density living. And automobiles . . .

I mean, all of that is true, but Liberals worry about those things because those things are worth worrying about! We all live on Earth, after all, and the health of our planet has been declining lately.

Will’s column is a mirror for my own thoughts. In his mind, being happy justifies what you do, which is an ironic twist on the old chestnut they’re always tossing at liberals: that we promote a do-what-feels-good mentality. What other way can we read Will’s column? He concludes with a clever

You see? Liberalism is a complicated and exacting, not to say grim and scolding, creed. And not one conducive to happiness.

Sure. But being happy doesn’t make you right, and being clever doesn’t either. I’ll take an ideology that acknowledges the challenges we face, and that requires us to search for solutions, over an ideology that obviates any need to do so because doing so would be complicated.

The Human Future in Space

I saw this CNN headline (Atlantis Slated to be First Shuttle Retired) and felt a twinge of sadness. I still feel that wondrous feeling when I see photos of a shuttle launch, and I can often shake off a bad mood by remembering that there are humans orbiting the planet right now, performing science experiments and (hopefully) having a good time. In space! It’s so cool.

So, it is a little sad to read that

Atlantis will be the first of NASA’s three space shuttles to be retired, most likely in 2008, as the shuttle program winds down in four years

Four years! I guess I knew it couldn’t go on forever, but it seems like such a short time. I did worry, though, about what (if anything) would replace these ships. What would be the future of human presence in space? I navigated to the NASA website and discovered that the future of human space exploration appears very bright indeed.

First, I’ll quote the clarification in the article of the shuttles’ retirement dates:

The $3 billion shuttle [Atlantis] likely will have four or five more flights to the international space station before retirement.

NASA has planned 17 more shuttle flights before the program ends in 2010. The next-generation vehicles are expected to be ready no later than 2014.

Obviously, I hope the flights go well. I was interested to see what was in the pipeline after that, though, so I navigated over to the NASA website and discovered this page, which reads like a Robert Heinlein story:

Before the end of the next decade, NASA astronauts will again explore the surface of the moon. And this time, we’re going to stay, building outposts and paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond. There are echoes of the iconic images of the past, but it won’t be your grandfather’s moon shot.

How bold! The website is full of renderings of what all the vehicles and bases might look like. It is very, very optimistic, e.g. this description of the program in 2018:

With a minimum of two lunar missions per year, momentum will build quickly toward a permanent outpost. Crews will stay longer and learn to exploit the moon’s resources, while landers make one way trips to deliver cargo. Eventually, the new system could rotate crews to and from a lunar outpost every six months.

How awesome! Finally, things will be like they were in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Except, hold the phone. This amazing set of missions will probably be, you know, expensive. Can we afford it? Is it realistic? This sobering article from the BBC has a few depressing details:

To help pay for 16 shuttle missions to the space station, Nasa plans to divert about $2bn (€1.1bn) from its science programmes and another $1.5bn (€0.9bn) from its new lunar venture between now and 2010.

Atlantis, you traitor! It appears that the space shuttles are taking up all the funding for the lunar base, as well as cutting into research. Which science programs will be cut?

Targeted programmes include the Terrestrial Planet Finder, which aims to locate Earth-like worlds around other stars, and a mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, which may harbour a liquid ocean beneath its crust.

Can’t have anyone discovering life out there, can we? Of course not. How fares the lunar lander?

Although Bush called for a return to the Moon as a stepping-stone toward Mars and other Solar System bodies, Nasa’s budget includes funds for just one lunar flight, at a total projected cost of more than $100bn (€60bn).

Just one? I thought we were going to have a permanent base there.

Suffice it to say that the future is up in the air (ha ha), but it can’t hurt to let your representative or senator know how you feel. I know many people think NASA is too expensive, and that we shouldn’t spend such vast amounts of money when many of our citizens live in poverty, and when the world has such needs for assistance. I believe, though, that the exploration of space is one of the only things that can unite the world in a spirit of cooperation, and so I think that a robust space exploration program is one of the best investments we can make.

Certainly better than another war.

Thoughts on Religion

At first, this disturbing article seemed like a good entry point to talk about the ways that religious belief can inspire people to believe things that are not 100% correlated with reality. Since religions basically instruct people to believe things that are not supported by evidence, it does often have the effect, and I do think that is troubling. However, as I thought more about this

Dena Schlosser saw a TV news story about a boy being mauled by a lion and thought it was a sign of the apocalypse, a delusion that led her to sever the arms of her baby, David Self said.

It occurred to me that things like this would probably happen no matter what the religio-cultural atmosphere. One could make an argument that in an atheistic, rational society, where crazy ideas like this were confronted and erased, it might be less likely to occur. In our society the statement, “God speaks to me,” would not be evaluated as dangerously insane, despite the fact that, on the face of it, it is crazy. Insanity, however, has been with us for a longer time than any of our current religions, so in this case I’ll just mourn the tragedy and hope that the mother can find some peace.

Late Term Abortion Case

Well, CNN is reporting that the late-term abortion case is going to go before the Supreme Court in the fall. Last we saw, this ridiculous law had been overturned:

A federal appeals court had ruled against the government, saying the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 was unconstitutional because it did not provide a health exception to pregnant women facing a medical emergency

Indeed, this is not even the first time a law has had trouble for the same reason:

In 2000, the justices threw out Nebraska’s version banning the “partial birth” procedure. Using an earlier legal standard, the court concluded 5-4 that the state law was an “undue burden” on women because it lacked the critical health exception.

Despite that ruling, the Republican-controlled Congress — backed by the Bush White House — passed its own version three years later.

So why is the Supreme Court even hearing this case? Well, because the Justice Department told them to:

On the federal late-term abortion law, the Justice Department urged the justices to accept the case, saying the lower courts viewed the issue incorrectly.

“That decision overrides Congress’s carefully considered finding, following nine years of hearings and debates, that partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve a mother’s health,” Solicitor General Paul Clement said in a legal brief.

What arrogance! How can they say something will never be necessary? Really, not even in one possible instance? Incredible. These decisions should be left to a doctor and a patient, who are in a much better position to know the risks in a given situation that legislators in a far-off city.

Which is exactly what Cecile Richards, President of The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, had to say:

“Health-care decisions should be made by women, with their doctors and families — not politicians,” Richards added. “Lawmakers should stop playing politics with women’s health and lives.”

Sounds pretty good to me. Aren’t conservatives supposed to keep their noses out of other people’s business? I know, I know, abortion is murder. However, as I’ve written about before, the uncertainty about the status of a fetus means the final decision should be made between a woman and her doctor. Laws that prevent that freedom are unconstitutional and offensive to the spirit of our nation.

Ferrer speaks about NYC Mayoral Election

This American Prospect Article really made me think. Ferrer’s assertions about the way the media treated him, and about the influence of money on the race, resonated with my memory of the campaign. As I thought more about the money issue in particular, I began to wonder why it is legal for different sides of an election to have huge funding disparities. Ferrer puts it this way:

Ferrer’s case is this: Bloomberg’s astronomical spending, left unchecked by the failure of the civic elites to seriously criticize those record expenditures, helped create an atmosphere in which press coverage of Ferrer’s campaign was relentlessly, at times comically, unbalanced

Ferrer estimates that Bloomberg spent $85 million on the campaign. He goes on in the article to detail the ways in which his campaign was crippled and, finally, defeated by the Bloomberg machine. I remember all this because I live in New York City. I remember the Bloomberg advertisements that started running long before the election. I remember the sense of inevitability surrounding a Bloomberg victory. But in this article, Ferrer describes these events in a way that makes clear the larger whole: Bloomberg bought the election, and as the party that always loses the fundraising battle, Democrats should understand how this happened.

Ferrer mentions this specific result of the spending imbalance:

Bloomberg’s well-funded opposition research team was very successful in getting the press to question every assertion Ferrer made. The result, Ferrer says, is that his aides would insist on getting ironclad proof of everything he wanted to say, no matter how inconsequential

This obviously presents a huge problem for a campaign. The fact that it was an asymmetric problem creates a hugely unfair environment, one that springs directly from one side having more money than the other, and one that does not allow for a fair election. I remember the campaign. Bloomberg could pretty much say whatever he wanted, while Ferrer always ended up looking sheepish or silly. Now I know why: the press made him look that way. Indeed, Ferrer clarifies:

What happened was the Bloomberg campaign shoved a daily load of opposition tidbits down the throats of everyone in the press until it was coming out of their ears. My campaign had to be completely defensive–The story got told their way.

Bloomberg was able to purchase the high ground. Once there, he could count on the media playing within the lines of the narrative, which led to stories like the one Ferrer mentiones here:

Ferrer points to several examples of what he sees as unbalanced coverage. One he cites is a front-page New York Times piece headlined, “Clintons give Ferrer a hand while staying at arm’s length.” The piece, which reported that the Clintons were subtly distancing themselves from Ferrer’s floundering candidacy, infuriated some in Hillary’s camp who argued that she’d done far more for Ferrer than any other Dem. And Ferrer points out that not a single Ferrer adviser or supporter was quoted complaining about the Clintons’ supposed distance-keeping — either on or off the record.

I remember this news story well, and I was surprised at the Times. As Ferrer said, there didn’t seem to be any evidence to support the headline. The article neutralized what could have been an energizing moment for Ferrer. Similarly, when Bloomberg neutralized another moment, the media did not seem very curious:

the media refused to ask tough questions when Bloomberg issued a terror alert on the same day that a debate that he was skipping was scheduled to take place. The alert distracted the city from the mayor’s biggest campaign misstep, raising questions about its timing that Ferrer maintains should have been pursued more aggressively. “The press wouldn’t go there,” he says.

Remind you of anyone? I was offended by this Rovian tactic as well, and I was surprised that the news people didn’t seem too interested in rocking the boat.

Armando at Daily Kos has noted that race was a factor in this election, which is no doubt true, but this has never stuck as a comfortable explanation of the Bloomberg invincibility factor by itself. In the days before the vote there was a pervasive feeling that Bloomberg was going to trounce Ferrer. I don’t think this came from racism alone; rather, it came from money. Money used to create the playing field, and money used to manipulate it. How else to put it?

This comes as little surprise, although it does serve to tie together the various threads of the Ferrer campaign’s loss. For our nation, though, the relevant question is: Is this a good way to run an election? After all, when one side of the debate can’t even get past the starting line, it doesn’t seem to be offering much choice to the people.

Consider Bush vs. Kerry. Neither of them took federal financing for the first part of their campaign. Happily, Kerry had a lot of money, so Bush didn’t get a giant head start. But should a candidate have to be a multi-millionaire just to run?

Dollars have replaced votes in our nation. This is bad for us because the Republicans have more of it. Meanwhile, as Matt Yglesias noted over at TAPPED there is not that much money in politics generally, so business interests can invest a modest amount in political races and net huge gains. All bad and anti-democratic.

So why not a universal campaign finance system where all campaigns are given equal amounts by the government, and that’s it? The ideas can fight on equal footing. I know this proposal offends people who think of money as speech, but money is not speech. Speech is. If I support a candidate, I can volunteer, or I can talk her up to my friends. I’m tired of people being able to buy elections. Even though it helps us from time to time (ahem Corzine) it is a losing strategy for us in the long run.

A Museum Shows the Way


I visited the American Museum of Natural History today, and, as usual, I was amazed at the depth and breadth of the exhibits there. It being the Sunday of a holiday weekend, the place was full to bursting, especially with children begging for astronaut ice cream or a stuffed Tyrannosaurus Rex. The museum taught me something else as well, though, something that can help us deal with the growing anti-science movement in this country.

You’ll notice a prominent element in that photograph. Above the statue of Teddy Roosevelt on a horse, a triumphant Galapagos Tortoise adorns the DARWIN banner. I have been to see the exhibit about his life, and one of the elements that surprised me had to do with Darwin’s conflicted feelings on religion. Indeed, as I thought about the different exhibits I saw today, a common element emerged that showed an effective way to approach the feeling in this country that science and religion do not mix.

You see, museums have become one of the new fronts in this debate. The growing number of Americans who feel that evolution is not accurate have, apparently, decided that museums are as guilty as science classrooms of teaching immoral, inappropriate things to innocent children.

It is no secret why some people feel this way. They believe that they already know the correct explanation for why things are the way they are, and any evidence to the contrary must be wrong. The creationists Darksyde profiles for us are excellent examples of this effect. Once knowing, for certain, how everything works becomes an important part of your self worth, it becomes difficult to handle new discoveries.

amnh_dinotreeUpstairs in the museum, I noticed this interesting illustration among the exquisitely reconstructed dinosaur skeletons. By Odin’s beard! It’s an evolutionary tree of the descent of the Tetanuran (Three-Fingered Hand) dinosaurs. And, as I verified from the skeleton evidence all around me, it seems awfully clear and valid. It also did not seem immediately threatening to the moral development of the many children around me.

amnh_walrusI visited the Hall of Marine Mammals, where I saw one of my personal favorites. This fellow was staring out at the busy floor, surrounded by a whole bunch of scientifically accurate and thoroughly evolution-drenched material, and everyone seemed to be okay. Indeed, they seemed to be enjoying themselves. I became more and more confused. I didn’t get why people would object to this stuff.

When I went to the Rose Space Center to see the planetarium show, Passport to the Universe, I was impressed by the clarity of the scientific narrative of the film. It takes a journey from Earth all the way out to the scale of the observable universe, which is, as I learned, very, very large. As I have mentioned before, there were many children in the museum, and just so there were many in the theater as well. When the show ended, with a scientifically questionable rapid transit back to earth via black hole, one of the children began to cry. The child was saying how this was scary, and how she didn’t like it, and I realized something.

The anti-science crusaders are like this child. They are scared of things that challenge their understanding of the universe. They cherish the idea that they know the truth about the world, and new discoveries threaten this perception. This is the crux of the issue: we think of science as a pathway to beneficial and wonderful discoveries, but they see it as a dangerous fountain, sometimes producing benefits, but other times producing strange, unorthodox, and threatening ideas.

On the way out of the museum, I thought this over more and more. How can you talk with someone about these matters if they refuse to budge on their core belief? Well, I figured, the same way you would talk to anyone unfamiliar with new and intimidating terrain. Show them the wondrous parts first, and engage their curiousity. It might not work in every case, but I think if more creationists went to museums, and could see how amazing the universe really is, they would get less attached to teaching garbage to our children.

If you believe in god, there is nothing in a museum to take away from his glory in having created it all. I don’t believe in god, and I can still tear up at a view of the virgo supercluster, with a tiny highlighted sphere that shows where I live.

Top Ten Worst Presidential Mistakes

I noticed an AP article on the CNN website, and reading it made me tilt my head to the side and, like C & C music factory used to say, go hmm. The strange feeling began with the first paragraph:

From engaging in sexual relations with an intern to letting the Vietnam War escalate, U.S. presidents have been blamed for some egregious errors.

I think we all know who that opening refers to. The total incongruity, in terms of scale and consequences, between “letting the Vietnam War escalate” and “engaging in sexual relations with an intern,” gives me pause. Placing Bill Clinton’s escapade at the very beginng of an article about the worst presidential mistakes in history? Surely you jest.

The worst mistake belongs to “President James Buchanan, for failing to avert the Civil War.” Fair enough. That war sucked, for sure. I don’t know enough about Civil War history to know if he could have done anything, but whatever.

According to the article, “The second worst mistake . . . was Andrew Johnson’s decision just after the Civil War to side with Southern whites and oppose improvements in justice for Southern blacks beyond abolishing slavery.” Well, I think that’s one we can all agree with.

Then we revisit the opening mystery with this set of grafs:

Lyndon Johnson earned the No. 3 spot by allowing the Vietnam War to intensify, Gregg said.

Where does Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal rank? Many scholars said it belonged at No. 10, saying that it probably affected Clinton’s presidency more than it did American history and the public.

If you’re like me, your head is tilting at a dangerous angle at this point. The Vietnam War was really horrible in a lot of ways and all that. What justifies immediately interpolating Clinton’s pants-free adventure right after it? No justification can be found in the scholars’ response. If it “probably affected Clinton’s presidency more than it did American history” then what the hell is it doing on the list at all? What distinguishes it from all the other (assumedly more numerous than we know) private sexual forays of other presidents?

Here’s the rest of the list:

4: Woodrow Wilson’s refusal to compromise on the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

5: Richard Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate cover-up.

6: James Madison’s failure to keep the United States out of the War of 1812 with Britain.

7: Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807, a self-imposed prohibition on trade with Europe during the Napoleonic Wars.

8: John F. Kennedy allowing the Bay of Pigs Invasion that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

9: Ronald Reagan and the Iran-Contra Affair, the effort to sell arms to Iran and use the money to finance an armed anti-communist group in Nicaragua.

You’ll notice here that not only was Clinton in the lede of the article, but his was the only “mistake” mentioned out of order twice, to place it in a position of greater prominence. Why is this AP writer trying to (ahem) insert Clinton where he clearly does not belong? It could be to get readers attention with a more current figure.

Which immediately made me think: What other current Presidential types have made mistakes that were more important than Clinton’s? I’ll give you a second. Here are a few hints: he let 9-11 happen, he went to war on false pretences, and, in the immortal words of Amy Poehler (via SNL’s Weekend Update) he let people drown when it rained (you know, in New Orleans).

Where the hell was George W. Bush? No mention whatsoever. Not even something like “we didn’t think it was appropriate to ask about the current guy,” or something, which would have been cowardly but at least forthright. This is just inexcusable. Luckily, there is a poll that asks which was the worst blunder of these three: Buchanan / Civil War, Nixon / Watergate, or Clinton / Lewinsky, and Clinton is at 25% We can do something about that.