Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hamsher on Saddam's execution

Greenwald links to Jane Hamsher's take on Saddam's Execution:
[...]Any sympathy I might feel for Saddam's plight would find him standing at the end of a very long line of victims of this war, and it's not even an abhorrance of the death penalty that moves me today (although I most certainly feel that this is nothing a civilized nation has any place engaging in). That sickened feeling in my stomach seems to mark some kind of new low to which we have fallen, murder as PR to inch the arctic approval ratings of the pathalogical boy king and his disastrous war incrementally upward. Codpiece justice and death-as-photo-op reign supreme. Perhaps this is just the last, gruesome swan song of a morally bankrupt right wing as it exits center stage, the perverse final chorus it sings in its death throes.

It is nonetheless hideous to behold.

That pretty much captures how I feel about it. Even one of the good things to come from this disasterous war, the fall and capture of Saddam Hussein, has ended in a ridiculous show trial with a forgone conclusion. It's sad, because a just and fair trial would have certainly found him guilty.

Maybe some clever American general or politician will be able to use this to convince Bush that we can get our troops out of there now. "Sir, now that Hussein is dead our job in Iraq is done and we can bring the troops home with honor." Bullshit, of course. There's no reason Hussein's execution should have any effect on whether we stay or not. But if the reasons we're there are stupid lies, why not have the reason we leave be a stupid lie, too? Anything to convince our derranged boy-king that ending our participation in the Iraq debacle won't cause his penis to shrink is fine by me.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Grand Canyon age denial story: a hoax?

UPDATE: The story is apparently not a hoax. The park website and the park rangers are saying different things. The Kos diarist told me to keep the website secret from the creationists, as it is our "last citadel".
(Photo stolen from Travis Swicegood)

I hope this is an exaggeration:

HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY — Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

(HT: pinche tejano on Kos) I took a quick look over at the National Park Service Grand Canyon Site, and as I point out on Kos, someone over there didn't get the creationist message:
Did You Know?
The Cambrian seas of the Grand Canyon were home to several kinds of trilobite, whose closest living relative is the modern horsehoe crab. They left their fossil record in the mud of the Bright Angel Shale over 500 million years ago.
And from the Grand Canyon FAQ:

How old is the Canyon?

That's a tricky question. Although rocks exposed in the walls of the canyon are geologically quite old, the Canyon itself is a fairly young feature. The oldest rocks at the canyon bottom are close to 2000 million years old. The Canyon itself - an erosional feature - has formed only in the past five or six million years. Geologically speaking, Grand Canyon is very young.
(Emphasis added.) So is the PEER story wrong? Or are we soon going to see some changes to the FAQ and other sections of the website?

Friday, December 29, 2006

AP Poll: Bush bigger villain than Satan...


...but also a bigger hero than Jesus (but by a lesser margin). How did this happen?

At first I thought this was a joke, but it appears to be legit. The AP did a poll asking 1,004 American adults who the biggest villain of 2006 was. Bush topped the list at 25%, handily beating the first runner-up, Osama bin Laden, who only managed to garner 8%. Here's a quote:
DULLES, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new poll from The Associated Press and AOL News has discovered that Americans are torn in terms of their perception of President George W. Bush and his performance in 2006. When asked to name the past years biggest villain, Bush was far and away the #1 choice, commanding 25% of the vote, distantly trailed by Osama Bin Laden (8%), Saddam Hussein (6%), President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran (5%), North Korean leader Kim Jong II (2%) and Donald Rumsfeld (2%). Satan only took in 1% of the vote, as did Hugo Chavez, Tom Cruise, Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Rosie ODonnell, among others.

On the flipside, Bush also claimed the top spot when Americans were asked to name the years biggest hero, but with only a trifling 13% of the vote. The troops in Iraq came in second (6%), followed by Jesus Christ (3%), Barack Obama (3%), Oprah Winfrey (3%), and rock star/philanthropist Bono (2%). Other do-gooders of 2006, receiving 1% each, included luminaries, business leaders and politicos such as Warren Buffett, George Clooney, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Billy Graham, Angelina Jolie, Colin Powell, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Condoleeza Rice.

US troops skeptical of escalation

US Troops actually in Iraq don't seem very sanguine about this proposed escalation (HT: Atrios):
In dozens of interviews with soldiers of the Army's 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment as they patrolled the streets of eastern Baghdad, many said the Iraqi capital is embroiled in civil warfare between majority Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs that no number of American troops can stop.

[...]

Spc. Don Roberts, who was stationed in Baghdad in 2004, said the situation had gotten worse because of increasing violence between Shiites and Sunnis.

"I don't know what could help at this point," said Roberts, 22, of Paonia, Colo. "What would more guys do? We can't pick sides. It's almost like we have to watch them kill each other, then ask questions."

"Debate shift" on Iraq not enough

Jonathan Singer makes a very good point: Yes, the debate on Iraq has shifted. People talk more openly about getting out of there, even the Bush administration doesn't insist we're winning there any more. But despite this shift in debate, there has been no corresponding shift in policy, nor is there any sign of one. All signs point to policy shifting in the opposite direction of the debate: Bush is talking about escalating our committment by throwing more troops into the violence.

"Shifting the debate" is all well and good, but to actually change the reality the Democratic congress is going to have to do more: cut off funds, revoke the "use of force" resolution, something with some teeth to it. No bipartisan group of "wise men" is going to sit down with Bush and convince him of the error of his ways. Really, the time for "debate" on the Iraq issue is long over. I want to see the Democrats take some concrete steps. And my support for the 2008 presidential nomination is up for grabs. Whoever can convince me they have the best plan for getting out of there (let's face it--it's very likely we'll still be there in January of 2009) has a good shot at getting Internal Monologue's endorsement.

Daily Show's Samantha Bee "helps" Al Jazeera

The Daily Show tries to help English-language Al-Jazeera adapt to the American market (HT: Clive on Sullivan). A pretty funny spoof on our news style.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Are brain parasites making you slutty?

Via Feministing, we get a link to a study that makes a rather shocking claim:
Parasite turns women into 'sex kittens'
The article goes on to explain:

"Interestingly, the effect of infection is different between men and women," Dr Boulter writes in the latest issue of Australasian Science magazine.

"Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women.

"On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls.

Given that around 40% of the world's population is infected with this (Toxoplasma gondii), I suspect that the "sex kitten" transformation does not happen in all cases (unless there are a lot more nymphos out there that I missed out on in my single days).

I actually have some experience studying this organism. When in high school, I had a research internship at Hennepin County Medical Center. We were studying the life cycle of this organism because it was the leading cause of AIDS-induced encephalitis (and probably still is, though I haven't kept up on things). Ususally, it just sits around in your brain in these horrid cysts and doesn't do much (or so we thought at the time (1991)--maybe it changes behavior). But if you get immuno-compromised (i.e. lose your immune system) they can cause all kinds of problems and kill you.

When I was working on this organism, one of the researchers told me that 90% of French women are infected with this, due to their fondness for cats and rare meat (I didn't learn the male infection rate; Wikipedia entry has a similar stat). Could personality changes induced by this organism be responsible for certain national stereotypes? Could anti "toxo" (the researchers I worked with usually just called it "toxo" for short) treatments reverse those personality changes? Here's a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) picutre of Toxoplasma gondii similar to the ones I spent some time looking at. I stole it from Johns Hopkins Medecine (only the best for Internal Monologue readers):

The toxos are the dark blobs. It still creeps me out that zillions of those could be infecting my brain at this very moment. Yuck.

American Kulturkampf

From this Kos diary about the culture wars in America:

Thank God we got the criminals, and America got the Puritans!

~ Australian folk saying

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bush got more Americans killed than 9/11

Another milestone in our march of stupidity.

Why someone joins Unitarian Universalism

Here's Aidan's explanation of why he decided to covenant with the UUs. Welcome!

Pachelbel's Canon in D: The most overplayed melody

Before there was Stairway to Heaven or Hotel California or Bohemian Rhapsody (all great songs), there was Pachelbel's Canon in D. I first remember encountering this music in the TV show Cosmos with Carl Sagan. Needless to say, I have bumped into it many times since. I've even put it on a mix CD for my wife, so I'm guilty of spreading it, too. Apparently, a comedian by the name of Rob Paravonian has had enough of that melody and the countless places it turns up. Here's what he has to say (HT: Mad Latinist).

Monday, December 25, 2006

A passionate blogging apologia

Sarah Robinson at Orcinus champions our cause:
...I realized that my old professors had lived through some golden years that were gone, and would not likely be coming back again.

But I was wrong about that. It turns out that the public never did lose its appetite for passionate, compassionate, opinionated, incendiary reporting. Rather, the mainstream media simply refused to feed it anything but corporatized journalistic junk food -- leaving the market wide open for millions of mom-and-pop blogs serving up big platters of home-cooked news with a generous side order of personal flair.

So I tell my family's clucking elders this: Why on earth would I want to go hang out with the Kewl Kidz of Beltway High, when I can come here and do the job the way it was done in its best days -- days you yourselves remember -- when there were many papers with many voices, daily re-engaging an opinionated and often contentious conversation about whose dreams, whose priorities, and whose interests would determine the future of their communities? Unruly? Of course we are, because democracy always is. Unkempt? Often, especially if I'm blogging from bed. Unpaid? You bet -- Mr. Himmel's first paycheck, in unconverted 1940s dollars, was still more than I've ever made from blogging. Unbiased? If a fierce commitment to the common good is a bias, count me guilty, and don't bother waiting around for an apology.
Well, I'm not entirely unpaid. For nine months of blogging, my Google Ad revenue account has a whopping $54.04 in it. Only $45.96 to go before I get my first transfer of funds!

Elf Yourself

This has been around for a while already, but if you haven't seen "Elf Yourself" yet, take a look. Here's baby Quinn, elfed.

Get on Up: James Brown 1933-2006


James Brown died today. (Photo from here.)

Have a Cthulhu Christmas!


I might not be able to post very much over the next couple days, so here's wishing you a "Cthulhu Christmas". Or should that be: "Here's wishing you Hastur Holidays"? Or should it be: "Sacrifice Bill O'Reilly to Nyarlathotep"?

Tacking right, Romney runs into trouble

Remember back when I said that watching Giuliani tack desperately to the right in order to get the Republican nomination was going to be one of the more entertaining political spectacles of the season? (The same could be said of McCain.) Well, I might have been wrong: it could be that watching Romney tack desperately to the right will be the most fun. He's been having trouble: he supported gay rights, he hoped "the moderates" would control the Senate, "not the Jesse Helmeses", and to top it off, apparently he voted for liberal Democrat Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic primary:
It just gets worse and worse for Mitt Romney: It's now emerged that Romney actually voted for a liberal Democrat in 1992. Today's Washington Post piece on the criticism Romney's been taking from conservatives also contains the news that Romney, who was an independent in the early 1990s, voted for Tsongas in the 1992 Dem primary. That means that Romney was not only not conservative early in his career but wasn't even a moderate Republican. The man he voted for was a liberal Democrat who of course vocally supported all the things Romney now claims he's against — gay rights and abortion rights, to name just two.

His affiliation with the LDS (Mormon) church could be the least of his worries.

At least he could be expected to fund is own race...

The logical progression of geek power:



I'd love to hear Bill Gates talk about this "surge" of troops in Baghdad: "We pay you how much to think like that?!? That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard!" (Those are actual quotes attributed to Gates by my Microsoft co-workers when I was there 1996-2000.) He has a sort of "benevolent nerd" public persona, but in private meetings was notoriously blunt and brutal. I hear he's mellowed out quite a bit though.

Republican press aide tries to hack college grades

Jerry Lundegaard, the William H. Macy character in Fargo, did a better job of hiring criminals than this guy:
The communications director for Montana's lone congressman solicited the services of two men he falsely believed to be criminally minded hackers-for-hire -- with the expressed goal of jacking up his college GPA -- during an exchange that spanned 22 e-mails over two weeks this past summer.
Teh Internets be R0xxx0rs. The transcript is hilarious. I sort of feel sorry for the guy, becasue now everyone knows what he tried to do. Anyone who Googles his name (Todd Shriber) will now find this story. It's much harder to run away from your past these days. Maybe because of this, we need to be more forgiving.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas greeting controversy solution

Here's an idea: Instead of saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", why not around this time of year we greet each other with a hearty "Fuck Bill O'Reilly"?

Quiddity wonders if he'll take on Google...

Pope: Yo Bush, torture is bad!

Of course, he phrases it more delicately, and doesn't mention Bush by name.
The new shape of conflicts, especially since the terrorist threat unleashed new forms of violence, demands that the international community reaffirm international humanitarian law...
I often knock the Catholic Church for its stance on human sexuality and its inflated sense of its own importance, but when all of the United States seems gripped by war hysteria and the desire to inflict pain on those "other people", the Catholic Church is often a strong moral voice speaking out against killing and torture. Kudos to Benedict XVI for taking our government to task.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Shrinking the Shrub: Tele-diagnosing Bush, part II

Kos diarist paul minot takes a stab at armchair psychiatric evaluation of George W. Bush:
But in the political/clinical tradition of Dr. Bill Frist's school of diagnostics, I have a distinct clinical impression that I think explains most of his visible pathology.

First and foremost, George W. Bush is a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What this means, mostly, is that he has rather desperate insecurities about himself, and compensates by constructing a grandiose self-image. Most of his relationships are either mirroring relationships--people who flatter him and reinforce his grandiosity--or idealized self-objects--people that he himself thinks alot of, and hence feels flattered by his association. Some likely perform both functions. Hence his weakness for sycophants like Harriet Miers, and powerful personalities like Dick Cheney.

There's a lot more interesting stuff, go take a look. This tele-diagnosis fits in with the "dry drunk" theory I espoused back in June.


Humans can track scents?

It's amazing what you can do if you actually try...apparently humans can track a scent:
If the results are surprising, that might be because no one ever tried putting a bunch of college undergraduates in a field wearing blindfolds and sound-muffling headphones, then having them crawl in the grass after a scent.

When researchers at the University of California, Berkeley did try that, they found that most of the students could follow a 30-foot trail of chocolate perfume; they even changed direction precisely where the invisible path took a turn. What's more, the subjects were able to smell in stereo: When researchers blocked their ability to smell independently with each nostril, the students' scent-tracking accuracy dropped off drastically.

OK, this is interesting, but the article doesn't say how strong the scent was, or how humans performed compared to bloodhounds or other animals with a keen sense of smell.

One thing I noticed when my wife was pregnant was that her sense of smell became very sensitive, especially early in the pregnancy. It would be interesting to see if pregnant women did better on the tracking task. The human subjects committee would probably give you a hard time though.


What the Bush administration tries to keep secret...

A handy list of all the information the Bush administration has tried to re-classify or bury has been compiled here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Goode (R-Virginia) thinks Muslims shouldn't be in Congress

Nice piece of Christianist bigotry right out in the open here: Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Virginia) sent this letter out to hundreds (HT: shock on Kos):
Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.[...]
God forbid that an incoming representative should be Muslim and swear an oath on the text he considers sacred. (Actually, God won't be forbidding it, because she doesn't exist.) We should make him swear using the Bible; that'll make him take his oath of office seriously. Never mind that the ceremony doesn't require any book at all.

Yo: all you people who don't think there's a Christianist movement to enshrine one particular monotheistic delusion in the heart of our Democracy should wake up. It's pretty frickin' obvious. The don't believe in that whole "no religious test" thing in that moldy old document--what's it called--oh yeah, the Constitution.

UPDATE: Keith Ellison (the Muslim Democratic Representative-elect from MN) responds to this wingnuttery with much more graciousness than I do.

I will control the Robotrons...WITH MY BRAIN!!!


Scientists at the University of Washington are busy developing the interface I will use to control my robot army to take over the world (HT: Corrente):
University of Washington researchers have discovered a method to control the movement of a humanoid robot with signals from a human brain.

Rajesh Rao, associate professor of computer science and engineering, and his students have demonstrated that an individual can "order" a robot to move to specific locations and pick up specific objects by generating the proper brain waves that reflect the individual's instructions. The results were presented last week at the Current Trends in Brain-Computer Interfacing meeting in Whistler, British Columbia.

Actually, it doesn't sound that impressive. I already knew we could make a mind-controlled computer mouse. Ordering around a robot doesn't seem much harder than that.

I don't think we can yet get "fine grain" signals via external electrodes yet. And we need to figure out how to get fine grain, real-time sensory information from the robot back to the brain.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Treating Bush as he deserves to be treated...


The Daily Show on the recent turn in the Bush administration's use of the term "winning".

Lieberman falsely accused bloggers of hacking his site

Remember when Lieberman's website went down right before he lost the primary to Lamont? Lieberman accused the Lamont campaign and/or bloggers of hacking his site? Well, the FBI and State Attorney General have concluded that the Lieberman campaign's accusations are completely groundless.

What happened was that they had a cheap host and the pre-primary traffic spike (easily predictable) exceeded the allocated bandwidth. So of course the site went down. Ironically, the Lamont campaign offered to help get it back up, IIRC.

Lefty reactions summarized here. Basically, the Lieberman campaign got numerous MSM outlets to take the accusations seriously, when bloggers had already debunked the accusations very quickly. Let's see if Lieberman apologizes...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another JibJab animation

This one summarizes the year 2006. (It might be here instead.) I don't think anything they've done since has had the impact of their original Bush-Kerry "This Land is Your Land" parody, but it's still fun.

Reid wants out of Iraq

There were cries of liberal dismay (including from me) when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made a statement that seemed to condone the proposed "surge" of more troops in Iraq. Turns out he's not in favor of it. It's just that he's willing to look at any plan that will get us out of there. Here's his post on Huffingtonpost.com:
Frankly, I don't believe that more troops is the answer for Iraq. It's a civil war and America should not be policing a Sunni-Shia conflict. In addition, we don't have the additional forces to put in there. We obviously want to support what commanders in the field say they need, but apparently even the Joint Chiefs do not support increased combat forces for Baghdad. My position on Iraq is simple:

1. I believe we should start redeploying troops in 4 to 6 months (The Levin-Reed Plan) and complete the withdrawal of combat forces by the first quarter of 2008. (As laid out by the Iraq Study Group)

2. The President must understand that there can only be a political solution in Iraq, and he must end our nation's open-ended military commitment to that country.

3. These priorities need to be coupled with a renewed diplomatic effort and regional strategy.

I do not support an escalation of the conflict. I support finding a way to bring our troops home and would look at any plan that gave a roadmap to this goal.

It's been two weeks since the Iraq Study Group released its plan to change the course and bring our troops home. Since then, the President has been on a fact finding tour of his own administration -- apparently ignoring the facts presented by those in the military who know best. The President needs to put forth a plan as soon as possible, one that reflects the reality on the ground in Iraq and that withdraws our troops from the middle of this deadly civil war.
Pretty soon, I think Bush's dog is going to issue a statement saying we should get out of there.

Poll: Clinton beats McCain, ties Giuliani

Good news for Hillary:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton beats John McCain and ties Rudolph Giuliani in a new Newsweek national poll, a stunning counterpoint to recent surveys showing the former first lady trailing the GOP's dueling presidential frontrunners. The poll, taken earlier this month, shows Clinton besting McCain 50 to 43 percent among 1,000 registered voters nationwide. It also showed her in a dead heat with McCain among independents, a group that has proven stubbornly resistant to her centrist message.
I think as McCain allies himself with the Iraq escalation (dude, if I was his campaign manager, I'd be telling him to back off this "surge" crap), we can expect to see his numbers de-escalate. If only Hillary was a more staunch anti-occupation voice.

Will the Republicans eventually want to impeach Bush?

This diary by BooMan23 on Kos lays out why he thinks the impeachment of Bush and Cheney will actually happen:
So, the first reason why I think Republicans know Bush has to go is that the situation demands it and the logic is compelling. The second reason is that it is in their best interests. They have no reason to back this President in a disastrous foreign policy that they do not see as working. They do not want to go into 2008 still defending this President on the war.
I'm not as sanguine about impeachment possibilities as this BooMan23, but I do agree that Republicans don't want Iraq around their necks in 2008. It was an unambiguous drag on their performance in 2006, and in two years people will only be more fed up, more wanting to get out, more angry at those who got us into this mess. If Iraq is still an issue in 2008, the Republicans will get an electoral shellacking that will make their decisive rebuke in 2006 look as mild as Republican spin-meisters have been claiming it is.

It's pretty clear at this point that Bush is not going to get us out of there by Nov 2008. He's talking about increasing our troop presence. Republicans up for re-election in '08 are already having public fits. Probably the most outspoken of these has been Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon), who said the war effort "may even be criminal".

Given the horrors that are going on in Iraq, it seems callous to be analyzing the US domestic political fallout. But US domestic politics is what got us there in the first place, and I hope it can now be used to get us out, disasterous as that will probably be (but less disasterous than staying). Here's what David Brooks picutures happening:
So what’s going to happen? These Republicans do not want to run in 2008 with Iraq hanging over. They never want to face another election like that. So at some point, six months, eight months, there’s going to be men in gray suits. There’s going to be a delegation going into that White House saying to President Bush, “You are not destroying our party over this.” And Bush will push back. But that’s going to be the, the tension. Talk about world—American support for the war, it’s Republican support in Washington for the war that the president needs to worry about.
Let's hope those "men in gray suits" do a better job of kicking Bush's ass than James Baker and the ISG.

Joint Chiefs of Staff say no to Iraq "surge"

Someone's talking sense, thank (non-existent) God (HT: digby). Will Bush listen? Probably not. I'd hate to be a military commander under that guy. Of course, I'd hate to be a military soldier even more.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A couple items between bouts of baby screaming...

Sullivan on the Mary Cheney baby.

Colin Powell gets on the reality bus (three years late, but all the same welcome aboard).

10 years for a blowjob!?!? This is a travesty

A 17 year old boy in Georgia is getting a 10 year prison sentence for having oral sex with a 15 year old girl.

That is utterly ridiculous. What's even more ridiculous is that if he had vaginal intercourse with her, his penalty would be less.

Here's contact info for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (email) and the Georgia Governor (who could grant clemency or a pardon).

Monday, December 18, 2006

Most Iraqis think they were better off under Hussein

Here's a depressing blurb that rubber hose links to:
More than 90 per cent of Iraqis believe the country is worse off now than before the war in 2003, according to new research obtained by Al Jazeera.

A survey of 2,000 people by the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies found that 95 per cent of respondents believe the security situation has deteriorated since the arrival of US forces.

The findings follow a poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal that found that less than one in four Americans approves of George Bush's administration’s handling of the conflict in Iraq.
Pretty frickin' sad that people think they were better off under Saddam Hussein. Of course, given the data on violence, electricity output, etc., it's not surprising. One more time: this invasion was stupid; this occupation is stupid; let's get the hell out.

Whistling Past Dixie


A great post on this subject by digby, which includes this quote:

The very heart of his argument is a taboo notion: that the South votes Republican because the Republicans have perfected their appeal to Southern racism, and that Democrats simply can't (and shouldn't) compete.

But, among scholars, this is hardly news. Schaller builds this conclusion on one of the most impressive papers in recent political science, "Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South," by Nicholas Valentino and David Sears. Running regressions on a massive data set of ideological opinions, Sears and Valentino demonstrate with precision that, for example, a white Southern man who calls himself a "conservative," controlling for racial attitudes, is no less likely to chance a vote for a Democratic presidential candidate than a Northerner who calls himself a conservative. Likewise, a pro-life or hawkish Southern white man is no less likely--again controlling for racial attitudes--than a pro-life or hawkish Northerner to vote for the Democrat. But, on the other hand, when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions (such as whether one agrees "If blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites," or choosing whether blacks are "lazy" or "hardworking"), an untoward result jumps out: white Southerners are twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. Schaller's writes: "Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters ... the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past."
I think what is important to keep in mind here is that while racism exists everywhere, it's more likely to make you a Republican in the South than elsewhere.

I am definitely of the opinion that the Democratic party should not dilute its brand by attempting to appeal to those who for reasons of racism or tribal identity are very difficult to persuade. There's too much to be gained among too many other groups to be sidetracked by the quest for the Confederate battle flag.

Of course, I think the Democratic party should have a presence and fight everywhere. But when figuring out what positions to take nationally, we should not try to chase the "Southern vote" off a rightward cliff. I think the last election showed that the Democrats can form a majority coalition with only limited encroachments into the more liberal areas in this region (e.g. Virginia, Florida). Let the Republicans be the fundie, racist, xenophobic, homophobic party they've spent so much effort and propaganda becoming. All those hot-button "family values" issues they've "turned out the base" with. Good for them. Yes, it won them some elections, but it's demographic doom. Angry white folk aren't breeding fast enough (despite the efforts of these weirdos) to make it work.

Don't fall for it, Harry Reid!

No! Don't offer Bush/McCain's Iraq "surge" bi-partisan approval! Unless you actually think it will work (and you're not that dumb, are you?), you're just letting Bush say "Well, Dems approved it, too" when it turns out not to work. I urge the Democrats to call for a pullout within six months. A majority of Americans approve of this (to say nothing of the fact that a majority of Iraqis want it, too), and that majority is only going to grow as things get worse.

And when I say "six months" (one "Freidman"), I mean six months from now, i.e. by June 2007. Not six months from whenever you happen to be reading this, or six months from whenever that last corner got turned.

UPDATE: Turns out Reid is not so hot on the surge, after all. He was just saying he'd support any plan that got us out of there.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I am TIME magazine's "Person of the Year"!

Really, it's true. What an incredible honor! (HT: Minipundit) Unfortunately for my ego, "You" are also TIME's Person of the Year. So is everybody else. Lame.

A pessimistic take on Iraq


Here's General Odom (HT: Heraldblog) with his six brutal truths about Iraq:
Truth No. 1: No "deal" of any kind can be made among the warring parties in Iraq that will bring stability and order, even temporarily.

Truth No. 2: There was no way to have "done it right" in Iraq so that U.S. war aims could have been achieved.

Truth No. 3: The theory that "we broke it and therefore we own it," with all the moral baggage it implies, is simply untrue because it is not within U.S. power to "fix it." [I'm glad to hear he thinks the "Pottery Barn" rule is bunk. So do I.]

Truth No. 4: The demand that the administration engage Iran and Syria directly, asking them to help stabilize Iraq, is patently naïve or cynically irresponsible until American forces begin withdrawing – and rapidly – so that there is no ambiguity about their complete and total departure.

Truth No. 5: The United States cannot prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Truth No. 6: It is simply not possible to prevent more tragic Iraqi deaths in Iraq.
Go read the article for more details.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Please Sir, can I have some more...troops?


Congratulations to Bill Richardson for calling out McCain for wanting to escalate in Iraq. I think the left-wing noise machine has got to start hammering "St. John" now, and this deeply unpopular war is an important issue on which to do so. (UPDATE: Atrios has been saying this for quite some time, and does so again here.)

As far as policy goes, I think this adding 20,000-50,000 more troops plan is stupid. According to the New York Times, we have about 17,000 troops "actively involved in the effort to secure Baghdad". A cursory Google scan puts Baghdad's population around 6-7 million people. This gives a ratio of troops to population of about 1:350. Adding even 50,000 more troops (and this is probably more than is presently possible) would improve that ratio to about 1:90. But according to this RAND review (and they can hardly be accused of being pacifist surrender-monkeys, although I'm sure they have been), past successful counterinsurgency operations have had a ratio of 1:50 or better (and I think Baghdad is now worse than Northern Ireland ever was, though I don't know for sure).

So even if Bush, McCain, and Lieberman somehow squeeze 50,000 more troops out of our already over-taxed military, they will still only have slightly more than half the troops they need to have a decent shot at providing stability. It's "just enough to lose" all over again. Of course, these numbers don't include any Iraqi police, army, or militia. But from what I understand, these Iraqi units are often part of the security problem, rather than forces of stability. So I don't think they can be counted.

I find it hard to believe that this adding more troops idea is getting any political traction at all. The American public is against it, if recent polling is to be believed. I don't see any strategic reason why it would work. McCain and Lieberman are just as deluded as Bush when it comes to the Occupation. I hawk a big loogie of disrespect on their alleged "centrism" and "moderation". They have their good qualities, to be sure. But recently they've been behaving like grasping hacks, toying with other people's lives for their own political benefit. Enough of them.

Unitarians on CNN!


We're such a small denomination (220,000 members in the US according to this segment) that when we get on TV we get excited. This is a pretty good segment. It emphasizes the role of the Unitarian Universalist church as a place where people of faith can worship without some of the dogmatic or creedal requirements of other churches.

Of course, for me it's a place where I can derive some of the benefits of organized religion (e.g. picking up women, though that no longer applies to me) without having to check my brain at the door. Since church brain check clerks are notoriously unscrupulous, I enjoy being able to take my brain into the service with me: I once had my left hemisphere stolen at a Seventh Day Adventist church in Topeka. Fortunately, I am left-handed and was able to use my remaining right hemisphere to beat up the old lady who had taken it until she revealed its location (a rusty file cabinet in the sacristy). I was lucky I was able to understand her, as language is often localized in the left hemisphere, but in left-handed people it is often distributed across both hemispheres, as must have be the case with me.

Deceased officer's stick-figure guide to winning in Iraq

One of 18 slides from a PowerPoint presentation by an American captain

This was pretty interesting to look at, and funny to boot. I wonder if it would have worked. Somehow, looking at this PowerPoint presentation (HT: Sullivan) and knowing its author was killed by an IED brings home the sadness of this war.

I didn't know that cultural thing about the moustaches. Had any IM readers heard of this before? It would certainly explain Saddam Hussein's. Some quick Googling reveals that the Japanese were aware of this:
But favourable Iraqi reaction to the mustachioed Colonel Masahisa Sato, the leader of an advance party dispatched to the southern Iraqi town of Samawa last month, seems to have proved the advantages of facial hair.

"What a magnificent moustache. He looks just like an Iraqi," a Japanese newspaper quoted one local resident as saying.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Lieberman is full of shit on Iraq occupation

Atrios lays it out pretty plainly: First Lieberman says things are getting better and we'll be able to withdraw troops soon. Then, during the campaign against Lamont, he claims that he wants to end the war. Now, he stands with McCain and calls for MORE troops. What a crock of shit. Why do people still take him seriously? Doesn't it matter that he was completely wrong? Or that his stance in the campaign was a transparent lie? No, not in the current distorted discourse. In these times, one must be a "centrist", even if that "center" is complete bullshit. Actually having been right that the war would be a disaster doesn't count for shit. Not one member of the ISG opposed the war, as far as I know. Only the people who were wrong get to make policy. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

By the way, the NCTimes article I link to above lists Lieberman as "Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn." That is just wrong. He caucuses with the Democrats (for which I am grateful), but his party is "Connecticut for Lieberman". So he should be "Joseph Lieberman, Lieberman-Conn." which is pretty fitting.

An Atheist on popular atheism

This is a very good article (HT: Sullivan) from an atheist critiquing some of the recent atheist literature:
The End of Faith starts well and then becomes a bit predictable, because it begins to follow the rules of its rather thin genre. Letter to a Christian Nation, which is an open letter to the many Christians who wrote to Harris in complaint, is even thinner. I have an almost infinite capacity for the consumption of atheistic texts, but there is a limit to how many times one can stub one's toe on the thick idiocy of some mullah or pastor. There is a limit to the number of times one can be told that the Bible is a shaky text, and that Leviticus and Deuteronomy are full of really nasty things. Ratio vincit omnia, but the page-by-page demonstration of this rationalist conquering can become wearisome. This may be no especial insult to Harris so much as to his family; Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian made a great initial impact on me when I was a teenager--it was like seeing someone in the nude, for the first time--until I began to get bored with its self-exposure. Russell complaining that Jesus was not a moral teacher, that he was really rather a bad example because he threw the money lenders out of the temples and cursed the fig tree, seemed somehow a little undignified. Russell is reliably at his least philosophical when he is at his most atheistical.
I thinkthe article does a good job of pointing out some of the dismissiveness that authors like Harris, Dawkins, and Dennett exude (and which I feel myself sharing--they are some of my favorite authors-Dawkins and Dennett in particular). It think it is very hard for us atheists to get ourselves into an empathic space regarding believers. I can much more easily identify with political positions I disagree with than theological ones I don't believe in. I can see how someone would be anti-immigration (I don't feel threatened by it, but I can see why people would) much more easily than I can see how someone would believe in a loving, omnipotent God.

For me, the most useful book in bridging this gap has been William James' classic The Varieties of Religious Experience. It is very light on theology, and just tries to explain what it is like to believe, to have a mystical experience, to be saved, as well as what it is like not to believe, not to feel anything religious, etc. This focus on human experience gets away from theology and metaphysics and concentrates on what is going on inside the person.

If I had some of the experiences described in that book, I can see how I might find belief in God much more compelling. I still don't think these religious experiences prove God's existence; I find psychological explanations more convincing. But I can understand how someone who, in response to prayer, felt an overwhelming wave of comfort, love, release, and serenity, would come to think that there's definitely something to this whole God business. Since I don't have such experiences when in religious settings, I hope theists can understand why I'm a bit skeptical about the whole supernaturalist racket. Aside from all the reasons not to believe it, it also just doesn't work for me. It feels good to sing gospel music, but it also feels good to sing other kinds of music, and the Gospel part doesn't "turn it up to 11" for me the way it does for many.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How about bribery instead of occupation?

In this post on Sullivan's blog, a reader writes:
With that in mind, I think it is our responsibility to throw everything we have at this to fix it. If it means doubling the Army by starting the draft again, let's do it. If it means paying every Iraqi $1000 to stop fighting, lets raise those taxes and start sending checks.
I'd just like to point out that paying every Iraqi $1000 would only cost about 27 billion dollars, according to the population stats I've seen. Frankly, that's not that much compared to the approximately 350 billion that this site claims we've already spent. I don't expect that this would work well, though. If someone murdered a member of my family, $1000 wouldn't make me calm down.

Still, I think bribery might be a lot more effective than a botched occupation. Handing out a stream of money to key leaders of the insurgency, and tying it to decrease in the violence might not be a bad idea. Aren't bribery and corruption Republicans fortes? And the best thing is, if it fails, American soldiers don't have to die. And the cost of trying this would be spread over the whole country (in the form of taxes or more likely, increased debt) rather than focused unfairly on our troops.

Someone ought to at least look into this: what leaders are bribable, how much would it take, etc. Are we already doing this? Shouldn't we have done it a long time ago? Ideally, it should have been set up before the invasion so that everyone important and dangerous would have been on the "payroll" already. Of course, instead we disbanded the whole army, kicking a bunch of people with lots of weapons and training off the payroll.

Does anyone in the Bush administration take this occupation seriously? From appearances, no.

Two quick things before bed

John Stewart on the conclusion of the 109th Congress.
Some wingnut thinks soy products make you gay.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Righty bloggers hate BOTH Andrew Sullivans

OK, this is pretty funny. Right Wing News had a little blogging awards poll of bloggers, and Andrew Sullivan was named both #1 "Most annoying right-of-center blogger" and #2 "Most annoying left-of-center blogger", losing only to Kos. (HT: Sullivan who else?) There's no pleasing some people. He also won #2 for most overrated blog. For my part, I like his blog a lot, though of course I think his early cheerleading for the war was pretty reprehensible. I can't think of anyone who's come around to a different point of view more forcefully, though.

Check out the link, it's a good glimpse into who right-wing bloggers like (e.g. Little Green Footballs) and don't like (e.g. Paul Krugman).

My home state going blue?


Just thought I'd pass along some Kossian speculation on the 2008 Minnesota senate race. Norm Coleman, the Republican who took Wellstone's seat (boo!) is considered very vulnerable. There's talk of Al Franken running for the Democratic nomination. Here's Kos quoting subscription-only Roll Call:

Regardless of what happens to “The Al Franken Show,” rarely has there been a major event recently for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democratic Party is known in Minnesota, without Franken making an appearance.

“He is not acting like someone who is just trying to help,” said Barry Casselman, a Minnesota-based political analyst. “He’s a much sought-after person for fundraisers and he’s been very helpful to DFL candidates. For over a year now, you see him everywhere.”

Franken also launched a political action committee, Midwest Values, in 2005. The PAC distributed more than $240,000 to candidates and other committees as of Oct. 18. That, combined with his trips through the political circuit and stint as an emcee for fundraisers, has helped endear him to the party faithful.

“He’s built up a lot of good will within the party,” said one Minnesota Democratic operative who did not want to be named. “He has positioned himself very well if he is going to run.”

"Teh Gay" strikes again

Isn't wonderfully ironic how all of these outed Evangelicals are confirming the view of homosexuality as in innate orientation, rather than some sort of "choice"? Here's another one from Colorado (HT: Sullivan):
“I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy,” Barnes, 54, said in the videotaped message. “... I can’t tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away.”
Compare this to Haggard's confession:
"There is part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life," Haggard said in the letter...
Doesn't sound too "choicey" either. If evangelical pastors cannot rid themselves of "teh gay" by "choice", who can?

And even if it was a "choice", what's so wrong about it? In some ways, I feel the whole "is it a choice?" debate is a red herring. If two people of the same sex fall in love, shouldn't they be able to be together, regardless of whether their feelings are a "choice" or not? If homosexuality was somehow inherently destructive and evil, it wouldn't matter whether it was a "choice" or not. It would be wrong either way. But I don't think homosexuality (or heterosexuality, for that matter) is the evil that puritans make it out to be. So whether it's a "choice" or not is really irrelevant to me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Victim or perpetrator? How about both!

Remember in the movie Adaptation, the main character's brother has this idea for a screenplay called The Three? It's about a detective trying to track down a serial killer before he kills his next victim. Pretty standard, right? The twist is that the detective, serial killer, and victim, are all actually the same person. Whoa, dude. Fight Club's got nothin' on that one.

Well, this isn't quite that weird. But apparently, Utah legal authorities are somewhat perplexed by a situation in which a 13-year-old girl and her 12-year-old boyfriend are both simultaneously the perpetrators and victims of the same crime: having sex with each other (HT: Feministing):
Utah Supreme Court justices acknowledged Tuesday that they were struggling to wrap their minds around the concept that a 13-year-old Ogden girl could be both an offender and a victim for the same act - in this case, having consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend.

The girl was put in this odd position because she was found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits sex with someone under age 14. She also was the victim in the case against her boyfriend, who was found guilty of the same violation by engaging in sexual activity with her.
I'm not really sure what great insight I'm trying to communicate by posting this story on my blog. Probably it's just lurid tabloid sensationalism. Maybe my readers can help.

Iranian fundies mad at Ahmadinejad for looking at women

Can you feel the sexual corruption oozing out to seduce the Iranian president? I know I'm getting hot just looking at all those microscopic performers. Just the thought that some of them might be unveiled women gets me all hot & bothered. (Photo of 15th Asian Games opening ceremony stolen from here.)

Apparently, he's not quite puritanical enough (HT: Feministing)
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who flaunts his ideological fervour, has been accused of undermining Iran's Islamic revolution after television footage appeared to show him watching a female song and dance show.

The famously austere Mr Ahmadinejad has been criticised by his own allies after attending the lavish opening ceremony of the Asian games in Qatar, a sporting competition involving 13,000 athletes from 39 countries. The ceremony featured Indian and Egyptian dancers and female vocalists. Many were not wearing veils.

Wow. Really brings home the level of sexual repression that exists in Iran. I mean, this is crazy:
Women are forbidden to sing and dance before a male audience under Iran's Islamic legal code. Officials are expected to excuse themselves from such engagements when abroad but TV pictures showed Mr Ahmadinejad sitting with President Bashar Assad of Syria and Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, during last Friday's ceremony in Doha.
I guess I knew these sorts of rules existed in Iran after reading Reading Lolita in Tehran. But wow. I am so lucky to live in a relatively free country. In some ways, I'm happy to see Ahmadinejad catch flack from the puritans to whom he apparently caters. But really, what was the guy supposed to do? Snub the president of Syria and the Palestinian prime minister and the Asian games by getting up and walking out?

And it's not like he was front row at some Qatari burlesque show with a 20 Rial note in his mouth (Actually, I just checked and there are no 20 Rial notes in circulation now. So let's say it's a 50-Rial note. I'm sure with the price of oil as high as it's been he could afford it) Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Ahmadinejad's proximity to these unveiled performers. I mean, this was a huge statium show. He was way far away from these temptresses. Unless heads of state are given special close-range oggling seats.

Here's another image (from the same Vietnamese source) that I'm sure will be permanently seared into Iranian president's erotic imagination, transforming his dreams of attaining nuclear weapons and regional dominance into pornographic reveries involving immodest Egyptian vocalists:

Now pardon me while I clean my keyboard.

Throw Rahm Emmanuel under the bus?

Did DCCC Chair Rahm Emmanuel (and other Dems in the DCCC) know about the Foley emails, and sit on them to make the scandal happen closer to the midterm elections? After reading the House Ethics Committee report, Greenwald says yes.

If there were Democrats who knew about this and sat on it for political purposes, they have to go. This would be an excellent, highly-visible way of showing that we are better than the Republicans. I want to find out more, but it doesn't look good.

Creeping Theocracy watch: Fundies get better prison cells

Um, OK, this pisses me off:
But the only way an inmate could qualify for this kinder mutation of prison life was to enter an intensely religious rehabilitation program and satisfy the evangelical Christians running it that he was making acceptable spiritual progress. The program — which grew from a project started in 1997 at a Texas prison with the support of George W. Bush, who was governor at the time — says on its Web site that it seeks “to ‘cure’ prisoners by identifying sin as the root of their problems” and showing inmates “how God can heal them permanently, if they turn from their sinful past.”
This seems to be a pretty blatant form of religious discrimination. I'm glad its getting some scrutiny.

There's been some hand-wringing recently about "Evangelical Atheists" and how "strident" and "arrogant" and "intolerant" they are. I think the reason is that people just aren't used to atheists being outspoken. We have gotten so used to Christian evangelism that people are habituated to it. We tune it out. But when the atheists start preaching and asking people to give up their theistic delusions, it comes across as harsh, just because we're not accustomed to it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Video Game competitors might be drug tested

I suppose as video game competitions increased in size and prize and sponsorship money, this is inevitable:
Those looking to enhance their performance in the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) next year had best read the entry rules very carefully.

There will be a new clause in player contracts which allows the CPL to test participants for drugs, reports Tom’s Hardware.

(Emphasis added.) I wonder when the competitive video gaming players will have their first doping scandal. Then we'll know video gaming has arrived.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Little girl rants on my favorite subjects

I great little piece of video theater, found here.



Video games, religion, Republicans, atheism, South Park, it's all there.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday cat blogging with quadruple baby bonus

Sphinx-like, Kitty guards four babies, including my own Quinn, far right.


The four babies suddenly become ninjas, demonstrating their martial arts moves against each other with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Taylor Marsh and NYT on Iraq Study Group report

Here's her opinion. Her main criticism:
The flaw at the center of the report is the belief that America can control events in Iraq. The report concedes that combat operations by the United States military will not rescue Iraq. Indeed, it calls for a complete withdrawal of all American combat troops by early 2008. However, the report then subscribes to the misguided notion that the problem in Iraq can be solved by training Iraqi security forces:
I haven't read the report yet, only the executive summary. But the fundamental problem does seem to be that the security forces we are training seem to be loyal to their ethno-religious faction rather than to the nation as a whole. Indeed, the government itself (over which Shiite militia leader Moqtada al Sader wields great influence) seems to have the same problem: it isn't seen as genuinely representing the interests of Iraq as whole. Indeed, the very notion of "Iraq as a whole" seems to be coming apart. I don't see how any amount of military training can solve this problem. What we would need to do is forge a new sense of national loyalty and identity, which would be extraordinarily difficult, to say the least. The Kurds seem to want to be as independent as possible, and Shiites and Sunnis are either trying to kill each other or trying to avoid getting killed by each other. Not the stuff with which to build a unified country.

The New York Times depicts the ISG report as a "rebuke" to Bush, who has apparently already backed away from 2 of its key recommendations:
Mr. Bush, making his first extended comments on the study, seemed to push back against two of its most fundamental recommendations: pulling back American combat brigades from Iraq over the next 15 months, and engaging in direct talks with Iran and Syria. He said he needed to be “flexible and realistic” in making decisions about troop movements, and he set conditions for talks with Iran and Syria that neither country was likely to accept.
My guess is that it's going to take more than a report to get Bush to change his thinking. It would take a full-scale Republican policy rebellion, fully supported by the top military brass. And even then I'm not so sure Bush would wake up. I think the Democratic congress will either have to impeach or cut off funds. Or else we're still going to be there in 2008.

Gratuitous Republican zombie love picture

Oh, the things one must endure to get the Republican nomination! Courtesy of this post from Taylor Marsh. I see Bush's zombie ability to turn other people into zombies is not limited to Merchant Marine Academy graduates.

Cheney's pregnancy causing homophobic cognitive dissonance

Republican lesbians having a baby!

The Republicans are the party of homophobic bigotry...except when they aren't. Dick Cheney's openly lesbian daughter is now pregnant. And the Bushes and Cheneys are all excited about the arrival of a new grandchild. You see folks, the Bushes and Cheneys aren't sincerely anti-gay. They only cynically support bigoted, anti-gay policies for political purposes. Personally, they're just fine with people being gay. I think this makes them worse than homophopes, who are at least sincere in their anti-gay feelings.

Wingers have had some interesting reactions. I like Sullivan's take:
There is surely coming a point at which the sheer dissonance between what the GOP base believes and the way even the most conservative vice-president in modern times deals with the reality of his own family must surely prompt some kind of Republican adjustment.

You cannot be a party that sees gay love, marriage and parenthood as the work of Satan and have a vice-presidential family that is busy building a lesbian family as an integral part of it.
I would hasten to add that one should never underestimate the ability of humans in general, and homophobes in particular, to hold diametrically opposing ideas in their heads simultaneously. Imagine the cognitive dissonance and denial that must be necessary to maintain the idea "George W. Bush is a good president". Yet many people are able to so. (Fewer than in the past certainly, but still quite a few.)

No Israeli army security clearance for me


UPDATE: Mad Latinist has confirmed this story via an Israeli contact, who says that this is "ancient news", and who claims to know "a lot" of role-players in "key positions in the army". Those of you who read Hebrew can go here and do a search for the topic.

Via GamePolitics.com, we have this Feb 2005 article from ynetnews.com
Does the Israel Defense Forces believe incoming recruits and soldiers who play Dungeons and Dragons are unfit for elite units? Ynet has learned that 18-year-olds who tell recruiters they play the popular fantasy game are automatically given low security clearance.

“They're detached from reality and suscepitble to influence,” the army says.

Fans of the popular roleplaying game had spoken of rumors of this strange policy by the IDF, but now the army has confirmed that it has a negative image of teens who play the game and labels them as problematic in regard to their draft status.
While I doubt this will ever affect me directly, I must declare my solidarity with my fellow Israeli gamers. This sounds like a pretty stupid policy. What other hobbies do they screen for? Do they have any evidence that D&D players are more of a security risk than people who collect stamps, build model railroads, play a lot of golf, or windsurf? Maybe if the Israeli army had more D&D players, they could come up with more creative solutions when combatting Hezbollah. Once again, I must take the vaunted reputation of the Israeli military down a notch or two. I don't know; maybe they read this post and generalized too much.

Here's a tidbit from that article I didn't know:
Many of them are from the former Soviet Union, where the game [D&D] is very popular.
Well, here's a shout-out to all my fellow D&Ders in the former Soviet Union. I didn't know you existed! I hope you're having as much fun with it as we are here. Too bad you can't be in sensitive postions in the Israeli military.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Oh dear, Hillary joins video game ratings campaign


Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Joe Lieberman (CT for Lieberman-CT) are joining the ESRB in a public service ad campaign (HT: Kos). I guess it's not too bad, because it's just a campaign to raise awareness of the existing rating system. But please. This schoolmarmish "decency" pandering is pretty pathetic. How about doing something about the real violence in Iraq or against detainees in US custody? As Huffington says:
Oh. My. God.

The violence in Iraq is becoming more savage by the minute -- among the dead yesterday were 45 bullet-riddled corpses found in Baghdad, many of whom had been tortured before being executed -- and Hillary is worried about video game violence? Are you kidding me?

Could she be any more politically tone deaf?

Update: This is getting a lot of blog press: MyDD and VLWC have both picked it up. I like what MyDD has to say:

If there's any way to ensure that youth feel no reason to vote in 2008, this is it. Remember, Senator Clinton is on record saying that young people today "think work is a four-letter word".

A progressive American is necessarily going to be composed of the largest and youngest generation of progressive voters that have ever existed. It's not a good idea to insult them out of the process, unless, well, you're not progressive.


But we've only had five years to get any Arab linguists...

Regarding yesterday's post about the FBI's lack of agents with advanced Arabic skills, Sullivan quotes White House spokesperson Tony Snow:
"You don't snap your fingers and have the Arabic speakers you need overnight."
Yes. It probably takes years to learn Arabic well. And we've only known we need better Arabic skills since last night. Becuase you know, time actually stopped and it is really September 12, 2001. Everything that has happened since then has been a delusion fostered on us by the Demiurge (I wish). We're living in Phillip K. Dick reality...speaking of whom I just found this quote from his famous essay "How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later":
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." That's all I could come up with. That was back in 1972. Since then I haven't been able to define reality any more lucidly. But the problem is a real one, not a mere intellectual game. Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups — and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener.
I wish we could resurrect Dick so he could write about George W. Bush, because it takes someone who can grapple with insanity and warped reality as deftly and compellingly as Dick to do this administration justice. Of course, being Dick, I'm sure he already did write the book about this administration. I just haven't yet remembered which one it is.