Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Saturday, September 29, 2007

We shocked the world!

After last week's embarrassing collapse at Wake, the Terps redeem themselves with a big win on the road, knocking off the 10th-ranked Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. Of course, not a conference game, but we'll take it.

Btw, the second-string QB came in early in the second half and led the team to the win, behind a great running attack. (Second string, now, but Turner was actually the pre-season third-stringer.)

This Movie Does Sound Terrible

Check out the review. Note the reviewer's name, btw.

I found that review while searching for this film, not the latest Mormon cinema. I'm not that weird, people.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Those bluetooth "hands-free" headsets are really stupid looking. What's amazing to me is that they've become so common, especially in airports. On Wednesday (this story turns gross), I was standing at a urinal in a major U.S. airport next to a guy carrying on an animated "hands-free" conversation via bluetooth headset. That crosses a line, in my mind.

Car Trouble

As one who grew up in Lansing, MI myself, this article is quite depressing, but oh so true. Back in the days when "company cars" were fashionable, my dad was given a '73 Olds Eighty-Eight, then a '79, then an '84, after which his architectural firm, like just about every other business, stopped giving them out. My first three cars were, you guessed it, a '73 Olds Eighty-Eight, then a '79, and then an '84. Anyone remember when the Olds Cutless Supreme was the best selling car in America? In the mid 1970s my older brother bought a 1964 Cutless 442 and boy could that car haul ass. He ended up working for GM, frequently getting laid off, brought back, laid off, moved to nights, then back to days, then to nights... The last five years he was in the "Jobs Bank" and more often than not was paid to go school or work at charity organizations. You would think that the company's managers could have figured out a way to put these guys to work while they were collecting pay checks, but evidently that was too difficult a problem to solve. He retired this summer at the age of 52. Those days are long gone.

Now that the new UAW contract will sever GM's responsibility for health care in 2 years, the management of GM will no longer have any excuses as to why they can't compete with Toyota and Honda. Of course the real problem isn't the hourly workers, it's that the US government doesn't cover health care and upper level GM managers and CEOs keep asking the workers to assemble crap or cars that nobody wants while making far more than their counterparts in Asia and around the globe. They'd rather take the entire ship down with them than change their mindsets or compensation packages. Well, Michigan economy, ave atque vale; sit tibi terra levis.

Postscript: The question was asked on this blog a week or so back, what was the worst year? In terms of the Michigan economy, it was 1973-74. Just about all construction stopped in the state -- my dad worked 10 months straight without a paycheck. One gets the feeling that the current downturn in Michigan, which is happening when most of the rest of the country is experiencing growth, is beginning to rival the 1973-74 recession. Of course the upside to the 1973-74 crisis was that it happened at a time when companies would not automatically cut loose their workers. Now they do so at even the smallest downturn, or more probably after a buyout or hostile takeover, to appease stock holders. Around 1990 my dad's firm was bought out by a larger firm in Grand Rapids, which within one year shut down the Lansing office and laid off all its workers. My dad was too old and had too much seniority to be hired by another firm, so he was forced to retire earlier than he wanted at 63.

The Golden Rage

#3 laments the darkness:

[A]ll I could think was that there used to be this non-militaristic, generally peace-loving country full of earnest, well-meaning folks, and then . . . those people became subjects to the greatest military power ever, run by a military-industrial complex with ties so close to Congress (and the executive) that actual democracy became impossible.

OK, but when exactly was that? When was the golden age? If WWII was the serpent in the garden, we must be talking about prior history. 1930s? Seems unlikely. 1920s "normalcy"? Really? You want to bring back Harding, Coolidge and Hoover? The heyday of the Klan? 1910s? WWI may have been shorter lived and more successful than this war, but it was also more deadly and provoked much more civil unrest. The affronts to civil liberties tracked closely with today's and may have been worse. I guess the 1900s weren't too bad, but Teddy was pretty imperialist, as WilsonDeGreat points out. Before that, we've got Spanish-American War, Social Darwinism, Civil War and Reconstruction, manifest destiny, and the southern slave power, etc.

I'll concede that there have been some relatively peaceful and prosperous moments along the way. The era of Good Feeling comes to mind. And there have been moments of great suffering and ultimate triumph: the Civil War, the Depression, and WWII. Would any of those eras meet #3's criteria? I doubt it. Did #3 catch Ken Burns's elegiac tone and miss the struggle that is its source? Maybe. One more theory: #3 misses the golden age because we've just left one. Using #3's criteria, the 1990s have to be considered one of the best decades in American history. Bush inherited a benevolent hegemon at the peak of its prosperity and power, and he pissed it all away for vicious partisan gain. When, if ever, has this country been wealthier, less divided, and more competently governed than the 1990s? Given its pettiness and pop culture triviality, it's a hard decade for which to feel a weepy nostalgia. But what beats it?

Charlie Manuel

Do I need to say more?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

Read this book on the plane this morning. It's excellent, although it's not exactly what I expected. The idea is, well, what would the world be like if human beings disappeared from the face of the earth? How long would humanity's mark remain on the surface of the earth--in buildings, pollution, agriculture, radiation (U-238, nuclear power plants). But there's no "big argument." It's a series of investigations, interviews with experts in a number of fields--architecture and engineering, oil refineries, forestry, coral reefs, and many more. Some of the vignettes are less effective than others, but overall, a very strong book.

The interesting thing that comes across is that, despite the damage that human beings have done to the world, the earth will last a long time, and humanity can be largely erased by the passage of time. Few human achievements are all that permanent, especially in geological time. Weisman's conclusion with species extinction is that species have gone extinct many, many times before, in those periodic mass extinction episodes, and new species will develop--just give them a few million years. For example, most of the coral reefs in the world are recent developments, in geological terms. I didn't know that. The deciduous forests of the northeast U.S. weren't there 10,000 years ago--glaciers covered the land. Of course, as a Michigander, I know that. Hell, I grew up on a glacial deposit.

So maybe the takeaway is that the world has more bounce to it than we sometimes imagine.

I was also struck by Weisman's optimism. In one of the last chapters, he actually seems to suggest that the world's people will grapple with overpopulation some time soon by adopting a one-child-per-women worldwide standard! IMO, not so likely.

Anyway, worth a read, if you're looking for something a little different. And the writing is quite strong.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Number Four, Part Deux

Apropos my discussion with da Great one, on the subject of Brett Favre's accuracy, he's only two interceptions away from tying George Blanda's venerable record of 275 career INT's. That's a lot of picks.

Of course, the real question, which I'm too lazy to figure out right now, is the ratio of INT's to pass attempts. My guess is that Favre has a lot more pass attempts than Blanda, given the periods in which they played. So Favre is maybe more accurate than . . . Blanda. I'm not sure that's saying a lot.

Btw, I was under the impression that Dave Krieg still had the career record for fumbles, but that record was "taken" by Warren Moon. Like the INT's record, the career fumbles record is a mark of pride and shame at the same time. You have to take a helluva lot of snaps to fumble a record number of times, folks.

The Pride of the Boro

MSU may be hurtling toward the academic abyss, but MTSU has been producing a new class of statesmen. All hail Jackie and Dunlap.

Work Travel

So tomorrow I set out for three days, two nights in Phoenix for a work conference, and then it's looking like I have to fly to SoCal in the middle of October for one meeting--with a one-night stay-over.

Technologically speaking, travel for a work meeting--as in, sitting around a conference table, talking--seems completely obsolete to me. We have really nice videoconferencing equipment at work, but we don't seem very eager to use it. Conferences seem more sensible to me--much of the interaction of value is "informal," not just sitting in chairs and listening to other people talk. But for me to fly across the country, to talk to a group of people for one hour, answer some questions, and then fly back--aren't we beyond that?

Don't get me wrong--I don't mind a lot of the travel I do. I certainly get to see places that I otherwise wouldn't. But some of the short trips I end up doing are really unnecessary.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Before the Dark Times

This post may permanently mark me as a crazy person . . . [dramatic pause] . . . but does anyone else agree that the Second World War basically destroyed the United States of America?

Watching "The War," all I could think was that there used to be this non-militaristic, generally peace-loving country full of earnest, well-meaning folks, and then . . . those people became subjects to the greatest military power ever, run by a military-industrial complex with ties so close to Congress (and the executive) that actual democracy became impossible. And war, after war, after police action, after war, and rumors of war . . . with Iran.

Heresy? Or truth?

P.S. Remember my Midwestern roots folks. In 1940, my people were probably isolationists. (My guess is that my grandparents voted for Willkie, at least the ones who voted did. But they would have preferred Taft.)

Update: This is not to say that "The War" may not have been a necessary war. We were, after all, attacked--and we then attacked the actual country that attacked us, not . . . some other country. And then the Cold War . . . I'm not denying either the Soviet Union's evil intentions or the need for U.S. resolve. But, from a certain perspective, December 6, 1941, was the last Saturday of a long cultural weekend.

Number Four

That would be Brett Favre, of course. Favre tied Dan Marino's career touchdown record yesterday in Green Bay--next week, unless the Packers get shutout, he'll break the record.

It's interesting if you think about it. Favre has a very strong arm. Indeed, his arm strength is legendary. But he is not a terribly accurate passer . . . so, how is it that he will have teh career record for TD's--a record that will be hard to top (he and Marino have something like 90 TD's more than the #3, Fran Tarkenton).

The reason Favre has the record is that he has rarely played on a team with an above-average running back, so Favre is throwing all the time. The current Packers don't have any running game at all.

I watched the game yesterday. Look at the stats. Favre had 45 passing attempts, with 28 completions--and 369 passing yards. The entire team, including Favre, had 13 rushes for 42 yards.

I'm not a purist on such things, but Vince Lombardi must be rolling over in his grave. Is this football?

Tribal Division

It's great news that the Indians won the AL Central after a hiatus of 6 years. If only the Red Sox could hang on and the Tigers make up ground to exclude the Yankees, then it would be a Field of Dreams.

In other sporting news I see that the other school in Michigan, which was on the receiving end of some snide comments on this blog, is now 4-0 and just think they didn't even riot after beating hapless ND? O yeah, did I forget to mention that the Radar Magazine flunkies who wrote that MSU was the "Worst of the Big 10", because it's a "football school", has high crime and low SATs, evidently didn't see this artcle, eh? As for MSU's poor SAT scores, I suspect it is a moot point since most Michiganders and Midwesterners take the ACT rather than the SAT, but at any rate MSU is the nation's model Land Grant College (at one time known as Michigan Agricultural College or Moo U) and along with that mission there has been more open enrollment by design. Finally, everyone knows that MSU's criminal record looks so bad on paper because of one event every Fall -- the annual Cedar Fest -- to which all the students from Ann Arbor go and create mayhem after getting let outside of the library for one night to have their first beer.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Like a Wave on the Ocean

If you instantly got the Hooters reference . . . I don't know. Is that a good or a bad thing? As one of the least cool humans, I enjoy listening to the '70s and '80s hits station on XM Radio, on which I heard "And We Danced." It's a pretty good song, no?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mobile Nuclear Labs?

This "Israel air raid on Syria" story is odd. So, it's not clear what the Israelis were doing, and the rumor that they were striking at some kind of North Korean nuclear facility transplanted to the Syrian desert is really strange. My impression is that an honest-to-goodness nuclear facility is hard to move. Harder to move halfway around the world, in secret, when . . . just assuming that . . . the U.S. has spy satellites keeping an eye on PRK nuclear facilities.

Not an expert, but this "story" just doesn't make sense to me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We've Been Robbed!

While we were at work yesterday, some evildoers busted into the apartment and robbed us! The thief (the police think it was one guy) crow-barred the iron gate--breaking the bricks in the process--and busted the door. That gives you an idea how quiet the street is during the workday. He got away with some jewelry, an iPod, and two laptops (including my work laptop). Lucky for us, the thief didn't seem interested in identity theft . . . unless someone is planning to hack my computer. (I don't think there's anything that useful on there, though. I don't save passwords, and I had to wipe the cookies about a week ago to better the performance.)

Of course, if the thief opens Safari, this comes up as the homepage. So it's possible the thief might read this? That's strange to think about.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Amercani, ite domum.

There are reports that Iraq's Interior Minister has banned Blackwater mercenaries from Iraq after a shootout in Baghdad killed several bystanders. Anyone wanna bet that the majority of them stay, thus proving once again that Iraqi sovereignty is nothing but a Bush Administration mirage?

Quirin and Precedent

Michael Barone cites the new Goldsmith book about executive power and terrorism, with the following passage:

he rejects the charge that the administration has disregarded the rule of law. Quite the contrary. "The opposite is true: the administration has been strangled by law, and since September 11, 2001, this war has been lawyered to death." There has been a "daily clash inside the Bush administration between fear of another attack, which drives officials into doing whatever they can to prevent it, and the countervailing fear of violating the law, which checks their urge toward prevention."

It was not always so, he points out. In 1942, Franklin Roosevelt ordered military commissions to try the eight Nazi saboteurs who had landed on our shores; the Supreme Court unanimously approved, and six were executed six weeks after they were apprehended, to the applause of the media of the day. But FDR "acted in a permissive legal culture that is barely recognizable to us today."

Of course, it is true that the Nazi saboteurs (most of them) were executed quickly after the military commission found them guilty of violating the laws of war. But it bears remembering that (1) the concrete evidence against them was incontrovertible; (2) one of the saboteurs turned the others in, so there was a "cooperating witness"; and (3) the military commission heard several days of evidence--I believe it was a seventeen-day proceeding, but I'm too lazy to confirm that right now. To compare the Quirin case to the terrorism "proceedings" instituted by the Bush administration is a bit too much to stomach. The best that can be said is that the current situation is very, very different.

For one thing, the Nazi saboteurs proceeding was purely about punishment, not about intelligence-gathering. That seems to me to be where the Bush plans run into problems--like holding suspects incommunicado and, um, interrogating them.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Browns Put up a 51 on the Bengals

Didn't get to see the game on the teevee, but 51-45 . . . must have been a helluva game to see at Browns Stadium.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Movie Recommendation

It's possible that I'm the last one to see this movie, but if you haven't seen Frailty, Bill Paxton's 2002 directorial debut, check it out. Genre: horror, but one with a strange set of twists at the end. You really won't be able to guess the ending. Strong performances by Paxton and God's gift to women (and some men), Matthew McConaughey.

The basic setup: There's a father and his two sons (mother is dead), poor but happy . . . until father starts having visions from God instructing him to start killing "demons." One son believes that the visions are true, the other does not . . .

Worst Year Evah?

While I was debating the relative demerits of GWB and Jimmy Carter on the TNR website last weekend, one of their resident wingers claimed that 1979 was the worst year for the American republic since the Great Depression, citing the economy, gas prices, Iran, and Afghanistan as evidence. Really? Worst year?

I countered that 1968 was a pretty obvious contender for worst year, with Vietnam, MLK, RFK, and Nixon's narrow election all sinking it well below 1979. 1967 wouldn't be far behind. And, if you ignored the traditional January start-time, the one-year span from November 2000 to October 2001 (from stolen election to 9/11 and Bush's response) should also count as much worse than 1979, even if some of the shitstorm was then concealed by a public veneer of national unity. Not many good years in this entire decade. If you look at all the major polls (Gallup, AP, WSJ, etc.), 60% or more of the American public has said we're on the "wrong track" for a solid two years now (roughly 70% in the most recent polls), and there haven't been any net positive results since January 2004--a brief and narrow blip. Overall, the numbers have remained low with the exception of spring 2003 during the initial invasion of Iraq and, before that, the 2002 haze of post-9/11 intoxication. Today's bad seeds were all planted in 2001.

Part of the difficulty here is sorting out years that felt especially bad to the public vs. years where underlying structural damage was being done to the republic, even if it had not yet been detected by the public. It's hard to deny that 1979 had an awful economy. But most of that was the result of the 1973 oil shocks, which eventually proved ephemeral. It was Carter's Federal Reserve pick, Paul Volcker, who eventually turned the economy around by getting inflation under control. And the foreign policy crises that undermined confidence in 1979 look less fearsome in retrospect. Carter negotiated the safe release of the hostages before leaving office, and Afghanistan proved a disaster for the Soviets, not us. I doubt the same can be said for the bonehead economic, foreign policy, and national secuirty decisions of the current era, although time will tell.

So what was the worst year for the republic since the Depression? Any other contenders?


I hear a lot of chatter about whether "chaos in Iraq" would hurt [insert party name here] if [U.S. pulls out of Iraq OR U.S. troops still in Iraq]. The premise of this question is that "the American people" will be troubled by "chaos in Iraq." But this is a non-starter. Think about it. We don't see Iraq on the teevee now--not really. It's too dangerous for any kind of reporting or television coverage. And there are more than 150,000 U.S. combat troops there. If those troops leave, Iraq will disappear altogether from the teevee and front pages.

Do you really think that the MSM will cover "chaos in Iraq" instead of missing white women, Britney's comeback, [insert latest celebrity scandal here]?

In purely political terms, the idea that "chaos in Iraq," or a "full-blown civil war in Iraq," will hurt one party or the other is nonsense. (Morality is a different matter, of course.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Reason #3 to Emigrate to Iceland

Apparently, they don't have a military. Wow.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How Bad?

That's the question football fans are forced to ponder, early in the season, when there isn't much data on how good or bad certain teams are. So, when the Michigan Wolverines fall to Appalachian State (Div. I-AA!) and then Oregon (Ducks!) in consecutive weeks, both losses at home, it leads the inquiring football fan to ask, "How bad are the Wolverines?"

The same goes for Notre Dame, to a great extent. After getting embarrassed by GT, Penn State pretty much thumped them Saturday. "How bad are the Irish?" My guess is that the Wolverines win the upcoming "How Bad" Bowl, because the Irish have a much bigger question mark at QB (not that Michigan doesn't, after last week).

Btw, you have to feel for the frosh Notre Dame quarterback, who went something like 46-0 in high school before meeting defeat in Beaver Stadium. Joe Pa and Penn State gave him a useful lesson this week--how it feels to lose. Kind of a Max Cady moment, if you will.

When the Detroit Lions score 36 points, on the road (West Coast!), on natural turf, and beat the Raiders . . . the inquiring football fan has to ask, "How bad are the Raiders?" Seriously. And with respect to the Browns, I'm actually afraid to look at the box score.

Francesca Annalena

Francesca Annalena: made in America but with final assembly and delivery in Italy. Mother, daughter and father are all doing well.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ga Ga Musical Interlude

It's been quite a year for alternative music, at least if you look at the charts. Huge album debuts from Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, the White Stripes, Wilco, etc. The up-side of internet music sharing? Are people now less likely to actually buy those crappy pop albums, allowing the better rock offerings to climb higher (if not sell more)? Not my expertise. But it certainly seems related.

Luckily, there's actually been some good music this year too. The aforementioned Stripes and Wilco both put out good records. Pitchfork dubbed Wilco's beautifully subdued Sky Blue Sky "dad rock." Fine by me. My ears for the loud stuff ain't what they used to be. In that same vein, I've much enjoyed Patty Griffin's Children Running Through and Ron Sexsmith's Time Being, both of which flatter my desire for smart, tasteful rock & roll that doesn't pitch to the teenybops. (I've also been a little disappointed by Lucinda Williams's West, which drags after the affecting opener/single "Are You All Right?") Is it still "rock & roll" if it is smart and tasteful? The question makes my head hurt. But not as much as rap music does. Damned kids.

The best record I've heard so far this year? No question. Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Even if you don't know Spoon by name, you've still probably heard them. They appear in lots of commercials and provided pretty much all the music for Stranger Than Fiction (with Will Farrell and Emma Thompson). Requisite rock equation: Cracker + Joe Jackson + Stewart Copeland's drumming ca. 1979. The last three Spoon CDs have all been pretty much perfect. Kill the Moonlight (2003) made them a top line alt rock band and got mammoth reviews, but for my money Gimme Fiction (2005) was even better: precise, staccato, new wave ecstasy. How could something so manicured be so visceral? (Oh, yeah, I'm old. Nearly forgot.) And now Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which is brainy pop candy. Among other standouts, it includes "The Underdog" (Spoon's best single) and ends with "Black Like Me," maybe their prettiest and vulnerable song. Unfortunately, Mrs. TMcD's mom ears are aging faster than my dad ears, so she finds Spoon too intense, meaning that the Boo and I have to wait until she runs errands to rock out.

What am I missing? Have you guys heard anything good? (I'm still mentally processing the new Josh Rouse and New Porns.)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Alleged Bin Laden Tape

Some large Italian media are reporting without qualification that the man in the alleged new Bin Laden tape is not the real Bin Laden ("Non è il vero Osama" is what RAI 2 said and scrolled across the bottom of their news cast; RAI 2 is equivalent to an ABC, NBC, CBS or CNN). Although the picture in the video is somewhat distant, it sure doesn't look like the real Bin Laden should look like, especially the beard. A quick check of CNN, NYT, WaPo, HuffPo, Informed Comment... seems to suggest that they all think it's really him, or at least the voice seems to belong to him (this last assertion based on initial testing according to some unidentified American official(s), whom some Itlalian outlets, as well as Al Jazeera, are also quoting). Am I missing something? Are there any American sources saying it's not him or may not be him? Are there any other authoritative opinions besides anonymous American government officials in the world? This seems to me to be a pretty significant difference in reporting that is rather hard to explain.

The Gaul of It

It’s hard to imagine that a regular contributor to the US capital’s leading newspaper can have the Gaul to begin an article by so blithely quoting the opening line of Caesar’s Commentarii de bello gallico -- bane to every beginning Latin student -- to draw a parallel between Caesar’s Gallic Wars and the US’s present situation in Iraq. It’s not that the comparison is inapt – in many ways it is very good – but the sheer, blatant imperial, nature of the comparison without even a trace of blush is what is so astounding. Undoubtedly Krauthammer's subtext is right. In order to have a chance at subduing Iraq and the Middle East, the current major impediments to continued American domination of the globe, we Americans, like the Romans of old, must prepare ourselves for a nine-year stint of merciless killing, betrayals, side-switching, one sect at a time. Most modern-day estimates put the number of dead due to the Gallic Wars at 1,000,000, with another 1,000,000 enslaved, with several hundred cities destroyed including the entire population and city of Avaricum (modern Bourges). All that seems just fine to arm-chair general Krauthammer -- Tantae molis est Americanam condere gentem.

On the other hand, the comparison seems out of touch. Can we realistically expect the Middle East ever to roll over, admit western control and become the quiet allies of America like Gaul did with the Romans? With the new deadly technologies available to insurgents and a track record of successful guerilla warfare, can a military power ever again think it can subdue a nation without utterly destroying it first? I hardly think so.

I’m also sure Krauthammer hasn’t forgotten that the author of this propaganda-laden, third-person, political tract of war (albeit with beautiful, lucid, and simple prose) shortly thereafter did away with the Roman Republic, because the Senate was an impediment and nuisance to the extra-constitutional powers necessary for keeping his political ass alive and expanding the Empire.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Compromised Democrats

There's been a bit of chatter about the Democrats' alleged new-found willingness to compromise on Iraq in the last week. Ummmm, isn't it customary to have a track record of actually holding your ground on something before it can be said that you are "newly willing" to compromise on it?

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

That's News to Me

It never ceases to amaze me how old news can suddenly be recycled as new news. Part of this is undoubtedly attributable to the fact that journalists, especially editors, are in the business of selling news, so whatever they publish, they rely on the fact that people have short memories to peddle their story as the most exclusive, never-been-said-scoop ever to see the light of day. Or perhaps they are terrible researchers who really aren't very good at their own craft. Another cause is that when a story re-breaks, for many people it really is news, even for those who usually have their ear to ground. The latest example of this phaenomenon happened this past weekend with all the "Is the US Planning to Bomb Iran?" stories. A lot of this talk was generated by this London Times exposé, coupled with various other blog threads such as George Packer or Barnett Rubin here and here. This last one is interesting because Barnett says
The Sunday Times of London reports from Washington a story I have not seen in any U.S. media: that "the Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive air strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days."

Josh Marshall over at TPM picks up on this meme of not seeing the Bomb Iran story in the US media saying
I have a well-grounded skepticism about stories about US politics I read fully-formed and attributed in the British press before any American publications seems [sic] to have caught wind of it.

I take Josh's point about the Times' story being "fully...attributed", in this case to Alexis Debat, but Seymour Hersh broke the news on this same story (is there really any doubt this is the same story?) of there being advanced plans to bomb Iran over a year ago in his April 2006 article entitled "The Iran Plans", which article was discussed by #3 on this blog here. Hersh followed up his April 2006 story with another article on March 5, 2007, which discussed the US's plan to "redirect" its assets against Iran.

After each article appeared in the New Yorker he was invited to make the rounds on several shows and he defended his sources two times. So this is old news warmed twice over.

Hell, even the London Times' story on advanced plans to bomb Iran is old news in Britain. See this BBC story from February 20, 2007.

The only real questions about this old news are:

1. Is it false, but based on purposeful and repeated leaks to give Iran a head fake?
2. Is it real?
3. If real, has a decision already been made to put it into action?

Based on this administration's track record on regime change, 2 seems all but certain and 3 looks like a good bet.