Archive for December, 2007


Just Calling It As I See It

December 31, 2007

I just thought I’d post something that I feel strengthens my status as a bit of a maverick when it comes to blogging on political issues. 

The other day, I received another “hat tip” from Noel Sheppard at, for pointing out that the netizens at Daily Kos (dubbed Kossacks) don’t seem to follow their own rules:

Hmmm. So even the Great Kos recognizes how “unreliable” articles from Jason Leopold are.

As this diary was HIGHLY recommended by hundreds of Kossacks, it will be very interesting to see if they all get banned.

Thanks for the great catch, CZ.

Now, I’m not sure he’s aware of it, but this is the same Noel Sheppard that I called out over there for overly gratuitous use of the word “delicious”: Noel Sheppard’s favorite adjective? 

Just for the record.

And, also for the record, the reason why I was aware of diary protocols over at Daily Kos is because I am, in fact, a Kossack


Who Takes Credit For The “Surge”?

December 30, 2007

This entry was something that I’ve been considering for some time, but today I’ve decided to post something due to the inspiration that hit me when I saw the news that the Sunday Telegraph had picked their person of the year: General Petraeus: man with a message of hope

The decision seemed to be based on the opinion that the “surge” has been relatively successful, and that Petraeus’ leadership and poise in this against-all-odds scenario was instrumental in bringing Iraq back from the brink of disaster:

But the reason for picking Petraeus is simple. Iraq, whatever the current crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan, remains the West’s biggest foreign policy challenge of this decade, and if he can halt its slide into all-out anarchy, Gen Petraeus may save more than Iraqi lives.

A failed Iraq would not just be a second Vietnam, nor would it just be America’s problem.

It would be a symbolic victory for al-Qaeda, a safe haven for jihadists to plot future September 11s and July 7s, and a battleground for a Shia-Sunni struggle that could draw in the entire Middle East. Our future peace and prosperity depend, in part, on fixing this mess. And, a year ago, few had much hope.

While we could debate how accurate or significant that all is, I think that the most fundamental element missing here lies in the fact that Petraeus, as great as he is, couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be doing what he’s doing without the series of events that led to his ascendancy into command over the operation, or even the crafting of the “surge” plan itself.

So who really can take credit?  Bush?  The Republicans?  The Senate?  The AEI?  Or, as I’m about the make the case, the American people?

While it’s easy to take a look to powers that be who ultimately confirmed Petraeus or the think-tankers that came up with the “new way forward”, most people forget what forced the implementation of the whole change in strategy in the first place:  the results of the November 2006 elections.

Indeed, one might cringe at the thought of a situation where Rumsfeld is still Defense Secretary and a continuation of the status quo in Iraq, but that is quite possibly where we’d be if it weren’t for the Democrat’s landslide victory.  Just look at the chronology:

  • Nov. 7, 2006 Democratic Party captures the House of Representatives and Senate. 
  • Nov. 8, 2006 Rumsfeld resigns
  • Nov. 9, 2006 Heritage Foundation conference “The New Way Forward: Refocusing the Conservative Agenda”
  • Dec. 11-14 2006 Bush meets with State Dept. advisers, Iraqi experts, the Joint Chiefs to gather info for the “new way forward”.
  • Dec. 14, 2006 AEI announces the release of a report that will call for a “sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad”, releasing their final report Jan 5.
  • Jan. 5, 2007 Announcements of more shakeups in Bush administration personnel, including John Negroponte, Zalmay Khalilzad, Harriet Miers, and Gen. George Casey
  • Jan. 23, 2007 State of the Union address, outlining the plan to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.

It’s unconscionable that the Bush administration would decide to make a policy change on Iraq based not on the situation in Baghdad, but on the political ramifications that a “thumpin'” (as he put it) in Washington had dealt them, but that appears to be exactly what happened.  Anyone can speculate how many additional lives could have been spared had Bush not been so stubborn.

So, before anyone begins to give praise to anyone with regards to any relative turnaround of the situation in Iraq, just remember that a policy change had been an option since early in the war, and only the collective actions of the American people finally prompted that change.  In my opinion, if there’s anyone to thank, it would be the people who voted Democrat in 2006. Political Blogger Alliance


…And Now For Some Billy Mays

December 28, 2007

These days, it’s hard to avoid the incredibly annoying pitchman named Billy Mays.  It seems that he shows up on just about any channel to SHOUT you into buying anything from the Hercules Hook to Samurai Shark to Lint-B-Gone.  You know, this guy…the new Mr. As-Seen-On-TV:


From a salesmanship perspective, he’s obviously good at what he does.  To me, however, I don’t think there is anyone else on TV that forces my finger towards the channel + button on the remote as quickly.  So if you’re like me, you’ll probably get a kick out of this:

Also, be sure to check out the humorous comments and sound bites over at Billy Mays Mayhem.

And as long as we’re on the subject, I might as well try my hand at a Billy Mays impersonation for a little shameless self-promotion…










Sometimes, “Cowardly” Isn’t The Best Antonym For “Heroic”

December 27, 2007

There is reaction all over the blogosphere to the news that Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today, but I thought I’d comment on what George Bush said this morning.  Specifically, this part:

The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy. Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice.

I could have sworn that the Bush’s use of the phase “cowardly act” sounded familiar.  Indeed, Bush used it after the terrorist attacks of 9/11:

Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.

Researching further, one finds that Bush has a penchant for using the adverb “cowardly” to describe a suicide bombing whenever the need to condemn it arises, whether it happened in Jerusalem, Jordan, Bali, or Lebanon

I don’t know about you readers out there, but when I think of someone giving their life for a cause, “cowardly” isn’t the first word that comes to mind (regardless if innocents are killed).  It certainly isn’t what I thought when 9/11 happened.  In fact, I remember finding myself on a level of agreement with Bill Maher when he infamously said this:

“We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away: That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”

Say what you want about it…but it is hard to describe the lobbing of cruise missiles as “brave” or “heroic”, that much I know, but to call it something else doesn’t mean you abhor the act, does it?  

Must all acts of war have a courage meter?  After all, the most important aspect of any particular method of warfare is its effectiveness from a tactical perspective.  Somewhere along the lines, American troops abandoned bright red coats, drums, and marching straight into lead volleys, eventually switching to camouflage, silence, and taking cover.  If George Washington were alive today, how would he describe an attack via cruise missile?  I’m not sure it makes sense to go down this road. 

Surely, there is a more accurate and descriptive adverb that one can attach to acts that falls far short of connotations of respect.  “Foul”, “despicable”, and “contemptible” would be perfectly acceptable.  So why “cowardly”?   Over at Slate, Tim Noah pondered the same thing after 9/11 (also citing Clinton’s and Reagan’s use of the word), and I think he nailed it:

In truth, notions of “cowardice” and “bravery” are entirely irrelevant when we contemplate the horrors of terrorism. To call a terrorist “cowardly” is to substitute testosterone for morality. Somehow it isn’t enough to abhor an act of terrorism or even to promise to make the terrorist pay dearly. The rules demand that the terrorist be branded a sissy. This is not only a childish reflex, but one that weakens the moral force of the condemnation and thereby dishonors terrorism’s victims. After all, we don’t want brave people to slaughter innocent people any more than we want cowardly people to do so. Still, the public seems to demand that our presidents call terrorists cowards, and our presidents are too–well, cowardly–to deny them. (h/t Paul Krugman) Political Blogger Alliance


Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2007

This is the Chamber’s first Christmas, so I thought I’d jazz up the blog a bit with some snow, a neat header, and some Jingle Bells

We had some carolers come to the door last night, and the family and I sang right along with them.  It was great. 

Thanks for stopping by!



Never Make A Promise You Can’t Keep

December 23, 2007

Cliché?  Probably.  But I’d still consider it a good rule to live by.  Leaving aside the ethics, in my experience, the short term benefits of breaking the rule don’t outweigh the headaches that you’d deal with in the long term.  This meme was even one of the “10 Commandments” that I was expected to memorize in my old sales job.  It’s something that really should apply to everyone, everywhere…

…unless, of course, you’re a politician.

Case in point, Hillary Clinton:

Elect me and oil prices instantly drop, says Hillary Clinton in Iowa

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Hillary Clinton predicted Saturday that just electing her President will cut the price of oil.

When the world hears her commitment at her inauguration about ending American dependence on foreign fuel, Clinton says, oil-pumping countries will lower prices to stifle America’s incentive to develop alternative energy.

“I predict to you, the oil-producing countries will drop the price of oil,” Clinton said, speaking at the Manchester YWCA*. “They will once again assume, once the cost pressure is off, Americans and our political process will recede.”


*The headline says Iowa, but the piece says she was in Manchester. (?) Political Blogger Alliance


Who Gives A Flying ___ If Romney’s Pop Marched With MLK?

December 22, 2007

Seriously.  I thought that I was beginning to understand the dynamics of this war that those of us in America call the electoral process, but my mind can’t avoid being ravaged by the effects of bewilderment when I see some of the crap that is dragged into the theater.  After all, the minor embellishment that forces the analyzation of the meaning of what “saw” means has little to do with 99.9% of the much more critical situations that our country faces at the moment.   No one really saw it coming, yet, here it is:

Mike Allen / The Politico:

Witnesses recall Romney-MLK march  —  Shirley Basore, 72, says she was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair in wealthy Grosse Pointe, Mich., back in 1963 when a rumpus started and she discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her governor, George Romney, were marching for civil rights — right past the window.


Michael Luo / New York Times:

Romney Learns That ‘Facts Are Stubborn Things’  —  FORT DODGE, Iowa — There was the period last spring when Mitt Romney claimed while campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire that he had been a hunter “pretty much all my life,” only to have to admit later he had seriously hunted on only two occasions.

 And I know that its probably poor form to just copy/paste all those links from memeorandum like that.  I don’t care.   If the media really wants to run with this crap, well, I guess I can’t stop them, but at least I can call out the bloggers for taking part.  

Of all the things to focus on from Romney’s big speech (aka “The Speech”), this seems like the most surreal of the bunch.  I mean, we’re talking about a claim that has absolutely nothing to do with anything beyond an attempt to shore up a vote that the guy probably wouldn’t have had anyway.  A footnote, really. 


Just remember that, somehow, Americans everywhere have let the disingenuousness of the current administration slide right by (on issues that were, literally, a matter of life and death), while this -in comparison- is something that anyone with a pulse and a brain might throw into #135th column on the list of things that are actually important when it comes to choosing the next president of the United States. 

Did Mitt actually “see” it?  Maybe not.  Was Romney Sr. pro-MLK?  Sure.  What the ___ difference does it really make then?


But, by all means, have at it.


We Got Mail!

December 21, 2007

I recently received an email that I thought was kinda interesting, and I figured I should share it with the rest of the Alliance:

Dear ChenZhen,

we are a team of European researchers creating the US Election 2008 Web Monitor.
We measure the canditates’ performance on the web.

As we cover and contrast the blogosphere, news media from the US, UK, Canada,
Australia and New Zealand, the Fortune 1,000, and Environmental Organizations,
we found out about your Political Blogger Alliance.

We produced a screencast of the system which is available in the download
section and on youtube, might be of interest to you as well.

Cheers, Arno
MODUL University Vienna

It’s worth a look. Political Blogger Alliance


Noel Sheppard’s Favorite Adjective

December 18, 2007

As I mentioned a little while back, I was approved for an account on the righty media watchdog site NewsBusters.  I kinda like the site, so I hope that this post doesn’t put my membership in jeopardy.  After all, this is just an observation, but it didn’t take long for me to notice that Noel (one of the site’s prominent front-page contributors) appears to like to use the word “delicious” (or “deliciously”) when he posts: 

Clinton Front Group Cherry-picks a Fight with NewsBusters

…More deliciously…

Matthews Panel Hates Hillary, Hearts Huckabee

…Deliciously, when Sullivan said…

Plummeting Ratings Cause NBC to Give Refunds to Advertisers

…As deliciously reported

NBC Lawyer Who Blocked Pro-Troops Ad Gives Generously to Dems

…possibly more delicious side of this story…

Bill O’Reilly Calls Helen Thomas a ‘Pinhead’

…deliciously smacked down…

 David Gregory Slams Both Clintons for Bill’s Iraq War Flip-flop

…How delicious…

Antiwar Film ‘Lions for Lambs’ Could Lose $25 Million

…As deliciously reported

 Helen Thomas Smacked Down by Press Secretary Perino

…watch the entire delicious exchange…

And that’s just so far in December

The best variation I’ve seen?  Why, it has to be “exquisitely delicious“!

Of course, I couldn’t help but ponder the question:  What the heck is so yummy over there? 

Read the rest of this entry ?



December 17, 2007

Well, Comcast customers finally got it here in Minneapolis*. 


Anderson Cooper has never looked clearer.  Although I’m not exactly sure if that’s a good thing. 

*Channel 213 where I live.


Wherever I May Roam

December 16, 2007

Here’s another housekeeping thread, so bear with me, but this is one I’m pretty excited about…

As stated on my “about” page, the Chamber serves as my home base, but the reality is that I’m often engaged in discussions all over the blogosphere.  In fact, I’ve probably posted thousands of comments on hundreds of blogs and message boards using the handle “ChenZhen” (picking up a “Schmooze Award” along the way), so it’s safe to say that  the majority of the stuff I post doesn’t appear on this site. 

For awhile now, I’ve been a little frustrated by the fact that it’s hard to keep track of a lot of these engagements.  Sure, I’ll make an effort to follow up on most of my comments and check for responses within a few hours or maybe even the next day, but eventually I have to move on.  If there is a downside of the blogs, I think that #1 on the list is this short attention span dynamic.  Moreover, on occasion, I’ll remember making some really good point somewhere including a link or whatnot over a month ago and I won’t be able to find it (or at least I’ll conclude that the search for it wouldn’t be worth the added effort; most blogs don’t enable comment searches) at a point where it might come in particularly handy. 

Well, I’ve discovered a tool that might alleviate some of this frustration and provide myself (and Chamber visitors) an easy way to track all the comments I’m posting all over the web, coComment:

My coComments

I’m still getting the hang of it and testing it out, but it appears that this will keep a log of every comment I post at any blog ( will track comments that users will leave on their blogs, but it’s fairly limited in scope), as well as any subsequent responses.  This is very cool, as it basically turns the entire blogosphere into a giant message board.*

Even better, I can share my latest adventures with Chamber readers via the power of a simple RSS feed.   I’m going to call it “track CZ sightings” and place it convieniently under the “CZ roams” widget in the sidebar.  From what I can tell, the most recently active threads occupy the top of the feed (similar to a message board), making it easier to keep an eye on what’s hot. 

And if I ever have a “stalker”, I suppose it would enable such a person to chase me all over the blogosphere.  To those brave netizens, I would echo George Bush and say ..

..”Bring ’em On!”. 

*So far, the only sites I’ve come across that appear to complicate this process are those that require you to click “preview” before posting (like Daily Kos and NewsBusters).  As I learn more, I’ll see if there is a way to get around this.

(h/t: guru timethief)

Update:  I’ve been experimenting with using the RSS feed for “my conversations” (which tracks others’ comments in the threads) and “my comments”  (which is just my most recent comments, and doesn’t reflect which threads are “hot”), and for the time being I’ve decided to stick with the latter.  So, that feed in my sidebar simply tracks the most recent comments I’ve made on any site that is compatible with coComment.  If you scroll over the various links, you can see what I actually posted.

My biggest disappointment so far with the coComment thing is it’s spotty compatibility with blogger ( sites).   That, and the inconsistent way that it grabs titles for the the threads.  I’m sure that the coComment people are working on this, but until all the blogs (and blog services) out there decide to integrate this compatibility, I’m afraid that it won’t be perfect.  In concept, however, it is a very cool thing, so I’m going to stick with it and hope that, over time, many of these little issues will be worked out.


Chamber Music

December 14, 2007

Hello Chamber readers!  If you have your computer speakers turned on, you might notice that I’ve added sound to this blog.  Enjoy!

Truth be told, I actually agonized over this decision somewhat.  The Sonific feature has been available to bloggers for a while now, but I noticed that the vast majority of the sites that I’ve visited in the past don’t use it.  In fact, most blogs in general don’t have sound, probably because it’s viewed as a distraction or… downright annoying.   This was probably the main reason for my hesitation.

Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a try.  After much internal debate, and a significant amount of searching the Sonific library, I finally chose a selection that I feel would enhance the character the Chamber.  I really wanted to stay within the parameters of the theme I’m working with here, so I chose “Sounds of the Chen and Sui Dynasties” by Min Xiao-Fen.  In addition to the fact that this piece delivers the “kung fu movie” feel that I was looking for, I think it’s kinda neat that my handle is included in the title (I had no idea there was a Chen dynasty, incidentally),  along with the added bonus that the album cover even matches the color scheme.   I might add to the playlist; we’ll see.

Anyway, for now, I’ve placed player at the very bottom of the sidebar.  If it’s drivin’ ya nuts, you can click the pause button to stop it.  

Update:  I’ve noticed that the track starts at the beginning whenever you go to a different page or post (or if you refresh the page), so I’ve decided to buffer the track with a sound effect.  That way, if you’re quickly jumping around on the blog you wouldn’t hear the first few seconds of the track each time you clicked (which would sound like a broken record, I suppose).  Instead, you’ll hear a couple of nifty explosions.  Like: Boom!  New page.


“Merry Christmas” When It Ain’t Christmas

December 13, 2007

This post was inspired by something that happened at work today.  Specifically, I did a favor for a client, and instead of a “Thank you”, I got a “Merry Christmas”.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting it, and my reply was a timid “Same to you”.  Why I couldn’t say the words in response, I’m not exactly sure.  I don’t have a problem with Christmas.  The exchange sat in the back of my mind for the rest of the day:  What’s my problem?  Am I a Scrooge?  Or, could it be that Christmas is still…

11 Days
3 Hours
16 Minutes

..from now?

So, why do people say “Merry Christmas” when it isn’t Christmas, anyway?  “Happy Holidays”, or even “Seasons Greetings”, I can understand, as they reference a time of the year when there are a number of holidays in close proximity on the calendar.  But to me, saying “Merry Christmas” on any day besides Christmas Day (or, perhaps, Christmas Eve) seems a little illogical. 

There, I said it.  Now I’ll have the AFA on my ass for sure.  And Gibson/OReilly.  Oh, and these guys:


While I’m at it, I guess this thread becomes my official “War on Christmas” depot by default, where I track evidence that there is a organized movement to destroy Santa.

There.  Done. Political Blogger Alliance


Flame Warrior Profile: The Sphinx Vs. Red Tulips

December 11, 2007

For this episode of FWP, I’m going to highlight the very entertaining and perpetual battle between two netizens:  The Sphinx and Red Tulips.


What’s noteworthy about this ongoing feud is the level of honorable and polite debate.  I’ve haven’t witnessed either of these Flame Warriors resort to name-calling or ad hominem attacks, as happens so often on blogs and message boards when push comes to shove.  As for the quality of discourse, we’re not talking about tit-for-tat volleys of short one-liners;  the majority of the responses are thoughtful, thorough, and contain links to back up the argument at hand.  And when it comes to the arena of combat, the blogosphere is their battleground.   The remnants of past exchanges can be found at The Sphinx’s site, Red Tulips’ site, LGF Watch (aka The Dreaded Blog Of Blasphemy) and even here in the Chamber.  

I think Kip put it pretty succinctly:  “Boy, you guys really get into it.”

So, consider this post as a big Boba Fett style nod from CZ.  For those about to blog…I salute you.