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Showing posts from March, 2007

JibJab releases another video

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(Don't click this picture; it's just a screen capture. Try the link below.)

"What We Call the News" isn't JibJabs best work (I think they have yet to surpass "This Land". Even though its topic is obsolete it's still funny), but it's a pretty funny take on the state of our media. I suppose Internal Monologue is as guilty of ratings whoring (in its own small) way as any of the news channels, though.

More Catholic rules fun: the fast track to sainthood

Sullivan points us to this dicussion of the beatification process for Pope John Paul II. Money quote:
Second, and more immediately, Pope Benedict--supposedly a by-the-book-sort guy--has already bent the rules for his predecessor, waiving the five-year waiting period after death for the beatification process to begin. To which any Catholic--past, present, future, or perpetual--really has to ask: If the Baseball Hall of Fame could wait five years after Cal Ripken's retirement before voting him in, where does the Vicar of Christ on Earth get off? This would be like inducting The Strokes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after the release of their debut.

Did McCain consider becoming a Democrat?

If this pans out, it will be hilarious:
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions," reports The Hill.

"Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist." I can't imagine this would go over well with Republican primary voters, but given the choices in front of them, where else do they have to go?

Is Pakistan coming apart?

I saw this on SSquirrel and it's rather troubling. Pakistan has nukes:
President Pervez Musharraf’s regime in Pakistan is resorting to increasingly heavy-handed methods to quell protests against him that are growing by the day. In Islamabad yesterday hundreds of police fought protesters outside the Supreme Court. And as the protests continued, riot police stormed the Geo private television station, which was broadcasting pictures of the protests, tear-gassed the staff and smashed up the studio.Several high-profile figures were arrested for taking part in demonstrations around the country, including a former president and the leader of one of the main opposition parties. An MP claimed he had been beaten by police at the demonstrations.

A glimpse into the other reality...

Following this link from Sullivan, I found myself deep in the conservative blogosphere at the National Review Online (NRO). I don't normally venture this deep into Right Blogistan (but I do keep track of what they're talking about via the Blogometer), so ending up on Mark Levin's blog gave me a glimpse into a world I don't normally inhabit. This statement in particular (made in the context of belittling the Gonzales scandal) jumped out at me:
When Reno sent armed federal agents to snatch Elian Gonzalez from his relatives and hand him to Fidel Castro's thugs, the Democrat didn't criticize her. Um, Mr. Levin, Elian Gonzalez was not handed over to "Fidel Castro's thugs". He was handed over to his own father. While you may side with those who think his Florida relatives should have been allowed to keep him (I don't--both legally and morally it seems to me that a 6-year-old belongs with his parent), characterizing the conflict in this way seems t…

The God Simulator

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While not giving nearly enough options to create a convincing experience of being a divine being, this God Simulator (via rubber hose) addresses the problem of theodicy far more incisively than any non-interactive medium can. By putting you in the role of God, you can really get a feel for the moral content of God's choices.


WARNING: SPOILER (but I suppose if you're omniscient you already know what I'm about to write!)




Should you be so cruel as to emulate the path that Christian orthodoxy claims God actually took, I agree wholeheartedly with the simulator's judgement of your behavior:
It is next to impossible for an omnipotent God to completely screw things up, but You did. Your actions are matched in absurdity only by the actions of the Christian God Yahweh. You may continue to enjoy the pleasures and happiness of Heaven, while the ignorant humans burn in the Hell You created for them, or You may make everything right again at any time.As sovereign Lord of the Universe, …

Internal Monologue is 1 year old

Actually, it was one year old last Sunday. On March 25th 2006, I announced:
Welcome to my thoughts on things, which are certainly more important than your thoughts on things.A lot has happened since then. The biggest event for me personally has been the birth of my son, Quinn. The biggest political event has been the November 2006 election.

Thanks to all my readers, and thanks to all those who have linked to me.

I wonder what the next year will bring...

Atheist of the Day: Joss Whedon

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(Photo from Sideshow Collectibles)

The Celebrity Atheist List site seems to be down. Must be all the traffic they're getting from here. Not. Anyway, let's not let that stop us. Today's atheist of the day is Buffy and Firefly creator Joss Whedon. Quote: "I'm a very hard-line, angry atheist. Yet I am fascinated by the concept of devotion." Additional documentation here: "Joss Whedon has said time and time again that he is an atheist..."

Giant 50-foot tall Michael Jackson robot in Vegas?

Can this even remotely be true (HT: Mad Latinist)?
Michael Jackson is in discussions about creating a 50-foot robotic replica of himself to roam the Las Vegas desert, according to reports. The pop legend is currently understood to be living in the city, as he considers making a comeback after 2004's turbulent child sex case. It has now been claimed that his plans include an elaborate show in Vegas, which would feature the giant Jacko striding around the desert, firing laser beams.It would be pretty cool if they could make a 50-foot tall robot actually do the moonwalk. But the real question we're all asking ourselves is this: Will they make 30-foot robot boys for the 50-foot Michael Jackson robot to have dubious relationships with?

Bwahahaha! McCain MySpace page LEGALLY hacked

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This is too frickin' hilarious to pass up:
Visitors to Sen. John McCain's MySpace page were likely surprised Tuesday by a statement that the Senator has reversed his position on gay marriage and "come out in full support of gay marriage ... particularly marriage between passionate females." Most won't be surprised that the statement was apparently posted as a prank.The co-founder of an online news site, who said he designed the MySpace template used for McCain's page, claimed responsibility for changing the site. Mike Davidson, cofounder of Newsvine, said on his Web site that he commandeered the MySpace page because McCain's office used a design template of his without providing him credit. Davidson also said his imagery was used on the page and his server is used serve up McCain's MySpace images. Here are before and after pics (from LunkHead on Kos):

Let this be a lesson to website makers everywhere: Don't "hotlink" images from other site…

A letter to Sullivan

UPDATE: Sullivan didn't post my email, but did post one expressing a similar objection.

After reading this post in which Andrew Sullivan shares an e-mail from a repentant neocon reader, I felt compelled to respond:

Dear Mr. Sullivan,

Your reader writes: "But conservatives and a lot of moderates rallied around Bush and Co. because of the unfair attacks from the left and the media, whose objectivity was never in evidence,[...]"

How can the attacks on Bush from the "left and the media" be "unfair" if the past few years have shown them to be correct? Was it "unfair" for leftists to see the truth about Bush a few years before this neocon? Do liberals have some "unfair" ability to see authoritariansim and willful ignorance that others lack? Should leftists have refrained from using this foresight in order to be "fair" to neocons who were slower on the uptake? Was the left supposed to keep its collective mouth shut as the Ir…

Imagine: you bite into a wonderful oatmeal chocolate chip cookie...

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(Photo from Who Wants Seconds?)

...only to discover it is an oatmeal raisin cookie.

Of course, you continue to eat. But deep inside your heart, a small child is weeping. Weeping beside a dead pony. A dead pony named "chip".

That feeling is one of the greatest disappointments in the world. I always check my cookies beforehand to avoid this.

Don't let this happen to you...

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Friend Who's Into Politics Makes You Feel Stupid AgainCHICAGO—Nate Carney, 28, your well-read, politically minded friend of eight years, made you feel ignorant again Tuesday with his incisive... ...read Internal Monologue for all the latest political news! OK, make than all the latest political news that captures Zachary Drake's attention and about which he has the urge to post and which doesn't get superceded by his chilcare, family, professional, recreational, and physioligcal duties.

The Onion scores again

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The Onion's formula doesn't have the explosive jolt of novelty it once had, but its deadpan satire sometimes strikes harder than all of Glenn Greenwald's well-researched debunking or Digby's impassioned polemics. Here's their latest front page story:
Heroic Secret Service Agent Takes Question Intended For BushWASHINGTON, DC—Agent Anthony Panucci dives in between the president and a hostile reporter.

Quote of the Day: Slacktivist on Purgegate

Slacktivist:
My new theory is that President Bush really does hear the voice of God directly. Unfortunately, he's also dyslexic. So when God says what God is always saying -- that politics must be shaped by justice -- Bush gets this mixed up and decides that the Department of Justice must be shaped by politics.

The trouble with GOP candidates

Ross Douthat on The American Scene (HT: Sullivan, who call the post "must read") gives his analysis of the GOP candidates, and why someone like Thompson could suddenly appear out of nowhere:
The major contenders, in other words, have a worst-of-both-worlds problem. Their ideological untrustworthiness will give them fits in the primary season without winning them many swing voters come the general election. (John McCain, should he get the nomination, isn't going to pick up blue-collar voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania because he broke with his party to champion campaign-finance restrictions. Rudy Giuliani isn't going to win over any of the Montanans who went for Jon Tester or the Virginians who went for Jim Webb because he split the national GOP on gun control or welfare reform.) And because they're considered ideologically untrustworthy, they're vulnerable to a dark horse challenge not from the kind of creative reform conservative that the party desperately need…

Army recruiter goes on racist, homophobic rant

...using her military email address, no less:
"GO BACK TO AFRICA AND DO YOUR GAY VOODOO LIMBO TANGO AND WANGO DANCE AND JUMP AROUND AND PRANCE AND RUN ALL OVER THE PLACE HALF NAKED THERE."
– U.S. Army recruiter Sgt. Marcia Ramode, using her military email address to respond to Jersey City resident Corey Andrew, after Ramode learned Andrew was gay.And you wonder why they're having trouble meeting their recruiting goals. Of course, our 4-year-plus long blunder in Iraq and even longer stay in Afghanistan probably have something to do with it, too.

TIME panders to US audience with different cover

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TIME's cover everywhere else in the world except the United States (it says "Talibanistan"):

TIME's cover in the United States:

(HT: debel u on Kos) Pathetic. I understand customizing your product for certain markets, but this is just sad. Sad that TIME's pandering to American sensibilities in this way (can't have stories about America losing a war, that doesn't move copies), and sad that American sensibilities are such that this is probably a good way to pander to them.

I want my job as a TV pundit!

Really, the people who go on television and opine about what "Americans want" need to make sure that they actually know what they're talking about. Glenn Greenwald points out this howler from Chris Matthews show:
Mr. STENGEL: I am so uninterested in the Democrats wanting Karl Rove, because it is so bad for them. Because it shows business as usual, tit for tat, vengeance. That's not what voters want to see. Ms. BORGER: Mm-hmm.This directly contradicts a USA Today poll that came out this weekend:
14. Do you think Congress should -- or should not -- investigate the involvement of White House officials in this matter? Yes, should - 72%; No, should not - 21% 15. If Congress investigates these dismissals, in your view, should President Bush and his aides -- [ROTATED: invoke "executive privilege" to protect the White House decision making process (or should they) drop the claim of executive privilege and answer all questions being investigated]? Invoke executiv…

Good analysis of Iran capture/hostage situation

It seems at least one American in Iran is just as confused as everyone about why Iran would capture 15 British sailors:
Have you ever had a time when nothing is going well for you? Yesterday’s capture of the British Navy personnel by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Naval Corps is just another bad thing at a time when most Iranians feel nothing is going well for them. Considering Iran’s situation, one would think that we would do everything to improve its position in the world, and would do everything possible to make sure that the UN Security Council would not pass another damaging series of economic sanctions against it. But that is when you are rational and you are not looking for crises.I still don’t understand what happened yesterday. But since yesterday I have been trying to figure out why Iran captured British Navy personnel at the moment when every eye in the world is upon us. Thanks to Grishnash for pointing this out, as well as this little take on the Iran capture situation out. A…

Gonzales Senior Counselor pleads the 5th

Drip, drip, drip...the Gonzales scandal continues to unfold (via Sullivan):
The senior counselor to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales will refuse to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the unfolding U.S. attorneys scandal, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, her attorneys said today.Monica M. Goodling -- who is on an indefinite leave of absence from Gonzales's office -- also alleges in a sworn declaration that a "senior Department of Justice official" has admitted he was "not entirely candid" in his Senate testimony and has blamed Goodling and others for not fully briefing him.In a way, all the Republican lies, stonewalling, and delay tactics are just making it worse by prolonging the scandal. I think Machiavelli said that if you have good news or favors to give people, dribble them out a bit at a time, but if you have bad news or people you have to punish, do it all at once.

More Purity Ball Porn

For those of you who can't get enough of this cultural practice, here's the latest video. (Via Feministing, where Jessica says: "Pretty little hymens, all in a row[...]Puke.") The video is rather tedious, unfortunately.

It's funny because the music during the dance around the cross section is exactly the kind of music that the guy in my previous post was calling inherently ungodly due to its underlying rhythm.

I also find it weird that while the fathers recite a pledge, the daughters don't seem to speak. After all, it's the daughter's purity that is of concenrn. Souldn't she say something? The whole daughter's-virginity-as-property-of-the-father thing is just too creepy for me.

I like what this commenter said:
it also highlights how incredibly, sadly starved a tremendous number of Americans are for anything that is special, a ritual, a tradition. Our lives are pointedly devoid of such things - I bet a lot of these girls are just really, really exc…

Rhythms of Satan

One advantage Christianity has had in the West is that a lot of really good music has been made in praise of its (non-existent) God. But at least one Christain preacher seems intent on surrendering that advantage. Slacktivist's commentary is great:
Ives' routine involves lecturing about the inherent sinfulness of certain kinds of rhythm. In short, he believes "godly" music should be a march in 4/4 time. Anything else is the Devil's work. Ives specifically condemns the boogie-woogie, the back beat and the break-beat -- playing examples of each on the church piano -- as music that is ungodly because "it makes the body want to dance."The remarkable -- and pitiable -- thing about Ives presentation is the way he seems to relish the samples of "ungodly" music he performs. It becomes clear that when he talks about this music's irresistible effect on "the body" he's really talking about his body. If it's got a back beat he can'…

Greenwald on 15 British captured by Iran

As usual, Greenwald has an excellent article. It's worth waiting through the Salon.com ad. Some highlights:

One reason we should get out of Iraq is because our being creates numerous opportunities for this sort of thing to happen:
The ongoing presence of 150,000 troops in the middle of Iraq, under the direction of this administration, entails grave risk of escalation beyond Iraq, whether deliberately or unintentionally -- a fact that is almost completely ignored in our "debate" over whether to withdraw troops. The seizure this week of 15 British sailors by Iran illustrates how grave those risks are.The only third-party opinion as to whether the 15 British were in Iranian waters or not actually supports Iran's side of the story:
The Iraqi military commander of the country's territorial waters cast doubt on claims the Britons were in Iraqi waters. "We were informed by Iraqi fishermen after they had returned from sea that there were British gunboats in an area tha…

Gonzales was involved in firing decisions

No big surprise here, but it's nice to have the documentation:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting, according to documents released Friday that contradict earlier claims that he was not closely involved in the dismissals.I want to know what's in that 18-day gap, though.

Impeach Gonzales

Kargo X on Kos quotes this Boston Globe editorial, making the case for impeachment of Gonzales:
Referring to the White House invocation of executive privilege, Specter warned, "If there is to be a confrontation, it's going to take two years or more to get it resolved in court." Exactly so. By contrast, an impeachment inquiry could be completed in a matter of months. The White House, knowing the stakes, would find it much harder to stonewall. And Gonzales might well be asked to resign rather than exposing the administration to more possible evidence of illegality.Kargo X goes on to say:
Warm up the machinery with the low-hanging fruit.Sounds good to me. Goodness knows this administration won't take heed of anything less.

What is going on? 15 British soldiers captured by Iran

OK, 15 British naval soldiers were captured by Iran. Iran claims that they were committing agression in Iranian waters, and that they confessed to being in Iranian waters. Britain disputes this, claiming they were in Iraqi waters.

What is going on here? Is this an Iranian provocation? A misunderstanding behind which Iran has decided to stand to score "defying the imperialists" points? Is this a case of one Iranian faction acting out of line, or did this come from the top (and when I say "the top", I mean the Supreme Leader Khamenei, not President Ahmadinejad whom everyone's been obsessing about recently. The Iranian president doesn't control the military.) Were the British in fact provoking Iran? Why would they do that? The facts we know so far could support all different kinds of scenarios.

Could this be the explanation:
The sailors, taken at gunpoint Friday by Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Al Quds soldiers were captured intentionally and are to be used as …

How toxic is your favorite drug?

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Here's an interesting little chart from American Scientist via Sullivan:


Now look at which drugs are available freely (nutmeg), pretty much available freely (alcohol), perscription only (codeine), and banned outright (marijuana). Conclusion: whatever scheme is used to classify recreational drugs, it seems to have little to do with toxicity. I've said it many times but it bears repeating: The "War on Drugs" is stupid, immoral, and a colossal waste of resources.

Kos supports de facto Feb 5 national primary

Kos is in favor of the development of every state pushing up their primary to Feb 5th. His reasons:
"Candidates are being seen outside of NH and IA."..."It encourages people-powered candidates."...
"Yes, this calendar will cost a lot of money, but if a candidate can't raise money, do we really want him or her as our nominee against the GOP money juggernaut?"..."This one is the cherry on top -- it's driving Iowa and New Hampshire crazy. The two states might have to find an alternate identity beyond "we hold the presidential candidates hostage for a year.""I don't know if a national primary is the best way to correct it, but there's absolutely no reason that frickin' Iowa and New Hampshire should be entitled to wield the power they do. That has always struck me as downright silly.

Atheist of the Day: Katharine Hepburn

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(Photo from here.)
Here's the quote:
In an interview in the October 1991 Ladies' Home Journal that was advertised as her "most candid" ever, Hepburn said, "I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other." p.215

More troops than ever

Over 4 years after this war started, there will soon be more American troops in Iraq than at any other time during the war. Here's Newsweek via Meteor Blades on Kos:
Baghdad, March 22, 2007: There will soon be more American soldiers in Iraq than at any point in the war so far. The incoming surge of 21,500 troops is only part of that picture; in addition, the U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has asked for an additional Army aviation brigade, as well as a couple thousand military police. Other support troops will be coming in to Iraq as well, and they weren't all included in the original 21,500 estimate announced by President Bush last month. When all this is complete, sometime in July, the grand total of U.S. troops in Iraq will be 173,000, U.S. military officials here confirmed on background, apparently because of the sensitivity of these details. And it's likely that U.S. troop numbers will stay at that level for months more, perhaps even into 2008.

Republican Party in Decline...

...is the headline of this Political Wire post:
"Public allegiance to the Republican Party has plunged since the second year of George W. Bush's presidency, as attitudes have edged away from some of the conservative values that fueled GOP political dominance for more than a decade," according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

UPDATE: Sullivan has read the whole thing and has a reaction:
It's a devastating indictment of the Bush-Rove strategy for conservatism and the Republican party. They may have created the most loyally Democratic generation since the New Deal with the under 25s. But check the other findings out. Party identification is now 50 percent Dem and 35 percent GOP.[...]It turns out that Karl Rove has gone a long way toward securing a permanent majority in American politics ... for liberals and Democrats. The collapse of a coherent, freedom-loving, reality-based conservatism is surely part of the reason.

Kaiser Permanente

Doesn't "Kaiser Permanente" sound like the title of some egomaniacal dictator of a small, impoverished, strife-ridden country?

How statistics come to rule us: The Wire

Slacktivist uses the HBO show The Wire (excellent--Sarah and I highly recommend it) to make a general point on how performance measurements often corrupt the very process they were meant to measure:
It happens everywhere. A perfectly useful measurement gradually becomes more important that it has any right to be and soon everyone's life is shaped by the slightest variations in that measurement. People quickly figure out how to improve their "score" in dozens of ways that do not improve the performance or outcome that score was originally designed to measure and the institution eventually takes on the character of those whose power and influence rises because they are particularly skilled at gaming the stats.Note: Sarah and I watch The Wire on DVD via Netflix, so we just finished season three. Please, no spoilers from the current season.

Mitt Romney endorsed a DailyKos diarist

Kos has video of Mitt Romney endorsing Salt Lake City Mayor and DailyKos diaristRocky Anderson. Anderson has endorsed impeachment of Bush. Kos asks:
How many strikes like this one does Romney get before he loses all support to the "Draft Thompson" effort?
Who knows? The supposedly rabidly conservative Republican base is going for a corss-dressing, pro-choice, pro-gun control adulterer, so who's to say they won't go for a guy who endorsed an outspoken lefty?

Atheist of the Day: Bruce Lee

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(Photo taken from here.)

Yes, "The Dragon" was an unbeliever:
When asked by journalist Alex Ben Block in the summer of 1972 what his religious affiliation was, Lee answered: 'None whatsoever.' Block then pressed him further, asking him if he then believed in God: 'To be perfectly frank, I really do not.' So Bruce Lee is our Atheist of the Day!

Edwards to suspend campaign? NO (UPDATED)

A blogger on The Politico says Edwards will suspend his campaign to look after his wife's health, and that he may drop out completely. Best wishes to Elizabeth Edwards on her health.

UPDATE: Politico was wrong. His wife's cancer is back, but Edwards will not be suspending or dropping out.

UPDATE II: Here's Politico'smea culpa.

Mysterious Edwards press conference Thursday

At noon Eastern time, Edwards and his wife are having a press conference. There's speculation that they will make some announcement about his wife's health. There's this NYT piece:
Mr. Edwards canceled an appearance in Iowa on Wednesday, so he could go to a follow-up doctor’s appointment with his wife. Early in the day, associates of Mr. Edwards said they had no reason to believe the check-up was anything to worry about, but late Wednesday evening two friends said they believed the news was bad.

After the campaign announced its intention to hold a press conference on Thursday in North Carolina, concern quickly among former and current aides to the Edwards family. One close family friend reached Wednesday evening declined to comment on the announcement, but said it would affect at least temporarily the future of the campaign.It would be sad if he had to drop out. He's one of the few prominent Democrats to make poverty a major issue. I also like that he said no to the prop…

"Curved Talk Weinermobile"

Daily Show on McCain's attempt to revive the "Straight Talk Expess" campaign bus. Pretty darn funny, especially where McCain makes that wonderful flub about losing the war.

An excellent depiction of Bush

From TBogg via Atrios:
One thing that is fascinating about George Bush is how little he has grown in office. No, that's not right. It's not that he hasn't grown, he has gotten smaller; less Presidential, more sad little man watching his paper boat circle the drain. After six years of playing The Decider he should at least have a thin candy shell of gravitas as opposed to coming across like one of those guys on Peoples Court who not only has an unshakable belief that people won't see through his bullshit, but that no one will notice his artful comb-over either.

Music intellectual property in the New Digital Age

This post by Atrios and its sequel match my views pretty well:
It's bizarre to me that an industry notorious for its payola scandals - paying radio stations to p[l]ay their crap so that people can hear it for free - simultaneously obsesses about the possibility that people might actually throw up a song on the internet so that people can hear it for free. It's called promotion.[...]
The point is simply that the industry has spent the last decade or so focused on trying to maintain their old marketing/distribution models instead of recognizing the new reality and figuring out how to exploit it. That may, in fact, involve giving away lots of content for free. Or maybe not. But radio stations have been giving away content for free for decades, sometimes after large checks were written to them by record companies.

Tony Snow on the 18-day gap

The Whitehouse spokesperson looks pretty uncomfortable in this clip as he has no good answer about the 18 day e-mail gap.

Also, Atrios points out the following:
CNN: I think also, another thing to look at, I followed up a question about executive privilege. You heard Tony Snow at the end there saying the president has no recollection of being involved in this decision to fire the US attorneys. So we asked the question then, well why are you citing executive privilege - or at least suggesting you will, and yesterday the president said the principle at stake here is candid advice from his advisers to the president - if the president was not involved in the decision, then how can you cite executive privilege on something he was really not involved in? And Tony Snow basically said, it's a good question and I don't know the answer. That's a pretty good point. Could this be "the one" that finally pulls this shameful administration down? Let us hope.

Atheist of the Day: Ani DiFranco

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(Photo stolen from here. Probably orignally from Rolling Stone.)

I know there are some Ani DiFranco fans who read Internal Monologue, so they should appreciate that I have selected the singer/songwriter/record label owner as today's Atheist of the Day. The documentation is pretty solid. Here's a piece:
The Onion: Is there a God? Ani DiFranco: Well, it depends on how you mean. In my book, no. I guess the quick answer would be "no" for me. I think, whatever my spiritual leanings are, that the deities are many and that we possess them. I do not assign responsibility to a higher being. I think that we're responsible to each other, and God is a metaphor.

Missing purgegate e-mails

I think I'm going to go to Costco and get a big old case of popcorn. Here's Kos' post on "The 18-minute gap, Bush-style":
The Bush Administration is working overtime to make this attorney scandal look more and more like Watergate by the day.In DOJ documents that were publicly posted by the House Judiciary Committee, there is a gap from mid-November to early December in e-mails and other memos, which was a critical period as the White House and Justice Department reviewed, then approved, which U.S. attorneys would be fired while also developing a political and communications strategy for countering any fallout from the firings. Expect the phrases "constitutional crisis", "impeachment", and "inherent contempt" to start making the rounds. I've always wondered about these "document dumps". What's to prevent someone from removing the incriminating stuff before turning things over? I guess it's the risk of getting caugh…

Ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

This would be awesome:
The very simple solution to Don't Ask, Don't Tell is this: On April 1st, every GLB Serviceperson stands up and tells their superior, "I'm gay and I want to serve my country." Either the military loses tens of thousands of qualified soldiers and is forced to draw down in Iraq, or they eliminate this stupid rule. Bush would have to choose between his beloved base and the War on Terror. Interesting to watch, eh?There are no good reasons for this policy. Both Israel and the UK allow gays to openly serve, and it doesn't seem to have destroyed the military capacity of those nations. It's past time we rid ourselves of this legacy of homophobia.

Atheist of the Day: John Malkovich

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(Photo stolen from EragonMania.com, who I suspect stole it from somewhere else.)

Here's another Atheist of the Day...Hollywood once more, but this time male: actor John Malkovich:
I also particularly like him [Freud] because he was an atheist, and I grew tired of religion some time not long after birth. I believe in people, I believe in humans, I believe in a car, but I don't believe something I can't have absolutely no evidence of for millenniums. And it's funny -- people think analysis or psychiatry is mad, and THEY go to CHURCH..."By the way for this series, I'm avoiding obvious atheists like Daniel Dennet, Richard Dawkins, and Steven Pinker (some of my favorite authors). No one is going to be surprised that the author of "The God Delusion" is an atheist. This is the celebrity gossip portion of the blog, not a list of serious thinkers who have advanced the anti-supernaturalist cause.

It's the adultery, stupid!

Once again Kevin Drum:
This otherwise delightful development [focusing on the marital difficulties of GOP candidates for pres.], however, has one bothersome aspect: journalists keep portraying it as a controversy about how many divorces various Republican presidential hopefuls have under their belts. Even the usually spin-savvy Greg Sargent falls for this. But the truth is that divorce ain't that big a deal, even in conservative circles (think Reagan). McCain, Giuliani and Gingrich are in trouble with the base because they cheated on their wives--serially in the case of the latter two. So print it out in big bold letters, folks, and tape it to your computer screens: "It's the Adultery, Stupid!"

Purgegate in a nutshell

There's a lot of right-wing spin out there on how the Purgegate scandal is completely overblown because US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and because they are replaced all the time and because Clinton did it, etc. If you encounter that baloney, here's how you counter it: Yes, those attorneys can be replaced, but you can't mess with their current investigations or try to coerce them into investigating something by threatening to replace them. That interferes with their independence, and is illegal and wrong.

Kevin Drum sums it up:
If seven U.S. Attorneys were fired that day for poor performance, that would be fine. If they were fired for insufficient commitment to Bush administration policies, that would be fine too. But there's considerable reason to believe that at least some of them were fired because either (a) they were too aggressive about investigating Republican corruption or (b) they weren't aggressive enough about investigating Democrats.Al…

Obama draws huge crowds

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(Photo stolen from here.)

Obama drew an enormous crowd at his Oakland appearance:Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama spoke in Oakland Saturday before a crowd of at least 10,000 that whooped and hollered like you usually only hear in the final days of a winning campaign for President. Not only was the crowd huge for this stage of the Presidential campaign, it was also made up of a diverse blend of all races, ages, and walks of life. There was a tilt towards the young--voters in their 20's, many of whom had not been all that active in politics. Some for sure came out of curiosity, but many expressed their feeling that Obama is a different kind of candidate and told me they want to get involved in his campaign.Atrios:10,000 people showing up to see Obama in March of '07 means...something. Not just about Obama (though about him, too), but about the willingness of large numbers of people to show up for a political rally. Something's up.

Political Irony Photo of the Day

Lynching the Confederate Battle Flag...hmm...while I appreciate the rich irony, I want lynchings of all kinds to end. (So I'm not posting the photo, only linking to it.) I think that flag represents a lot of ugly things: slavery, racism, ethnic violence, treason and rebellion on behalf of those things, and pathetic nostalgia for those things. (In V. S. Naipaul's Turn in the South, he draws a parallel between Confederate nostalgia and Shiite fetishization of their defeat in the early Islamic schism. I found it pretty convincing.) Rather than lynch the Confederate Battle Flag, I think we should rather hold a funeral service for it, cremate it, bury it, and then get on with the business of fixing and improving our country. But I guess for a lot of people, that flag represents something still living, so a funeral would be premature, and burning it would be some kind of sacrilege.

According to the post that goes along with the photo, it is illegal to publicly desecrate the Confede…

Atheist of the Day: Julianne Moore

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(Photo stolen from here via Google image search, as usual)

Today's Atheist of the Day is also an attractive female Hollywood actor: Julianne Moore. The documentation on this isn't as air-tight as some of the others:
Moore was interview on the Actor’s Studio (Episode # 9.7 - 22 December 2002) The host asked (paraphrased) "What would you say to God at the pearly gates?" Moore answered (not paraphrased) "Wow, I was wrong, you really do exist." Perhaps she was joking, but we'll take it. Internal Monologue's standards in this area are not particularly high.

Dumbest D&D group ever: "Head of Vecna"

If you like hearing stories about players in Dungeons & Dragons doing stupid things, it's pretty hard to beat this "Head of Vecna" story. True D&D geeks will be able to tell where this is going just from the title. HT: Mad Latinist.

Sabotage...or tawdry ratings ploy?

Hardcore porn interrupts an NBC News broadcast.

Maybe I should interrupt my blog posts with occasional hardcore porn. I'm sure my Sitemeter stats would go up. But alas, my agreement with Google Ads forbids such traffic-boosting tactics.

Bill Richardson signs medical marijuana law

A Democratic candidate for president steps up (HT: Sullivan). Awesome. Richardson's not getting as much buzz as some other candidates (I just heard the folks on Chris Matthews' show say this), but I think he's worth looking at.

Quote of the Day

Bill Maher: "I mail myself a copy of the Constitution every morning just on the hope they'll open it and see what it says."

See the video on Crooks and Liars. Or here (for a longer version):

Graphic of the Day

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Nice montage of Gonzales scandal news clips

Via DailyKos, we have this YouTube montage:

Intrade market prediction on Gonzales' resignation

Here's the contract if you want to look at it or bet on it(HT: rubber hose). When I checked, the March contract last traded below 50, implying a less than 50% chance of resignation before the end of March. But the June and September contracts were trading at 78.5 and 90, respectively. It might be worth keeping an eye on these, but my understanding is that these future markets do little more than track current conventional wisdom. Still, that can be useful.

Plame was covert

Crooks and Liars:
The favorite meme of the right-wing apologists has long been that there was no crime committed in exposing Valerie Plame's identity because she was not a covert agent at the time of Novak's article (see here, here, here, here, and here). Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD) devoted his entire first round of questioning today to clarifying whether or not Valerie Plame was indeed "covert" at the time of her outing. Let this be the video that sets the record straight once and for all. I don't anticipate an apology from the wingnuts anytime soon, however.(You can see the video here).

Bush's dilemma: Firing attorneys was illegal unless Bush did it

Mary2002 on Kos makes an interesting point: If these US Attorneys were removed without Bush's knowledge, then removing them was illegal, since only the president can remove them. But if they were removed with the president's knowledge, that puts Bush on the hook for removing a US Attorney for purely partisan reasons.

There is a lot of debate in the comments section of the post about whether the fact that the attorneys were asked to resign makes a difference, and whether Bush can delegate his removal power. I don't understand it.

What certainly seems clear is that Gonzales lied his ass off to Congress, which as I understand it is a crime even when you're not under oath.

And what's this about Gonzales' Chief of Staff not resigning, but instead getting reassigned?

Certainly, I echo the calls for getting rid of Gonzales. I think he is one of the more despicable members of this administration, with his pro-torture views and dictatorial notions of presidential power. But…

Yay!!!!

This is Sarah posting just for kicks. Yay, Zac! I love your funny blog. I promise not to do this too often as I know my husband has many serious readers.

McCain is frozen by condom question

Poor John McCain. He used to have so much fun aggrivating right-wingers. Now that he has to kow-tow to them, he's all off his game. Here's theWashington Post's campaign blog:
More questions: Do condoms stop sexually transmitted disease?A long pause.A stern look."I've never gotten into these issues or thought much about them," he said, almost crying uncle. "Obviously, we all want to stop the spread of AIDS. Everybody wants to do that. What's the most viable way of doing that?"Well? The reporters asked?In a last ditch attempt to rescue himself, McCain told an aide to go get a briefing paper prepared by Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, a doctor, who he said has been advising him on "these issues." But the aide couldn't find the briefing paper. "We've lost it," McCain mumbled."Whether I support government funding for them or not, I don't know," McCain said about contraceptives. He then said he'd look into it for…

Atheist of the Day: Isaac Asimov

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(Image from here)

Just to prove that this series is not entirely an excuse to post pictures of attractive Hollywood women, today's atheist is the late Isaac Asimov. The prolific author, best known for his science fiction (Foundation novels, Robot novels, etc) but who wrote on a myriad of subjects, was an unbeliever:
I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time. -- Isaac Asimov, in "Free Inquiry", Spring 1982, vol.2 no.2, p. 9

John Edwards says homosexuality is not immoral

Kudos to Edwards:
Yesterday Edwards was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on his show The The Situation Room:BLITZER: Let's talk about General Peter Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs. He suggested today, his own personal opinion, homosexuality, he said, was immoral. As a result, don't change the don't ask, don't tell policy.First of all, in your opinion, is homosexuality immoral?EDWARDS: I don't -- don't share that view."

Atheist of the Day: Jodie Joster

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In celebration of Rep. Stark (D-CA) coming out as an unbeliever, I've decided to launch an "atheist of the day" feature to gratuitously boost my post count (and post picutres of attractive women). Most of the "atheists of the day" will come from this list of famous atheists, so if you want to completely spoil the surprises you can go there. The first atheist of the day is...actor Jodie Foster:
On an HBO special report interviewing the characters of the movie Contact Matthew McConaughey said he did believe in god just as his character did in the movie, however Jodie Foster said she did not believe in god and had no religion. She stated that science comes closest to finding the truth.
Note that "Atheist of the Day" does not mean I will post one every day. Just when I feel like it.

Brainwashing of Bush

Ever wonder how Bush can live in that ridiculous bubble of denial and certainty? Glenn Greenwald gives us a glimpse of how it happens:
Stelzer's account provides truly illuminating insight into what neoconservatives have been filling the President's head with for years now, and demonstrates how they have managed to keep him firmly on board with their agenda. The most critical priority is to convince the President to continue to ignore the will of the American people and to maintain full-fledged loyalty to the neoconservative agenda, no matter how unpopular it becomes. To do this, they have convinced the President that he has tapped into a much higher authority than the American people -- namely, God-mandated, objective morality -- and as long as he adheres to that (which is achieved by continuing his militaristic policies in the Middle East, whereby he is fighting Evil and defending Good), God and history will vindicate him...
Truly frightening.

Daily Show on Cheney

Democratic shilly-shallying on morality of homosexuality

Both Hillary Clinton and Obama have recently made evasive statements in response to questions about whether homosexuality is "immoral". Lame. If Republican Senator John Warner can flatly disagree with General Pace's comment on the immorality of homosexuality, why can't Democratic presidential candidates?

Let's get some leadership on this, please. Yes, there's still homophobia out there. But it's dying off. Let the Republicans be the anti-gay party. It is demographic death for them. Let us be the party that recognizes that sexual orientation is not inherently "immoral", any more than gender or race.

Introducing: The iRak

Apple has had many "i" products, but none have had a marketing campaign like this one...introducing...the iRak!


This is pretty darn funny.

News Hour's Rosenblatt fails sling/slingshot distinction

Oh my God! I was listening to NPR yesterday and they were broadcasting the News Hour and there was a Roger Rosenblatt essay about that photo of the Palestinian with the slingI blogged about yesterday and he called the weapon a slingshot:
Remove the background, replace it, say, with a playground, and his act of war turns innocent. One sees a kid with a slingshot behaving like a kid.Die Mr. Rosenblatt, die!! You have failed the most basic test of not annoying me!!! OK, you don't have to die, that was hyperbolic overreaction. But you must learn, lest you spread your ignorance far and wide and create even more annoying people who don't know the difference! In lieu of death, I will accept a public correction of your heinous error.

And to think that my post had been up for a few hours before the show, giving Mr. Rosenblatt plenty of time to read Internal Monologue and correct his horrendous error! At any rate, I have gone to the News Hour feedback page and let them know the error of t…

Saw Stephen Hawking last night

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(Photo from here, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

OK, I didn't actually see him at Zellerbach hall. I was in the overflow area (Wheeler auditorium) watching on simulcast. Most of it was pretty basic Einsteinian cosmology with which I was familiar, but I did learn a few new things:
Hawking believes that the funamental constants of the universe do not have arbitrary values, but that they can all (in theory) be derived from principles. There's no need for "God" to "seed" these values in advance to generate a universe. I knew this was a point of debate, and I didn't know which side Hawking was on
The universe initially expanded extremely rapidly, then slowed down, but is now speeding up its expansion again, and there is no good theoretical explanation for why this is happening. (I think "Dark Energy" is the current explanation, and it has always struck me as something of a kludge.) I guess I knew this, but the weirdness of it struck me when Hawking men…

Happy Pi day!

Happy Pi Day! (HT: Mad Latinist)

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399
37510582097494459230781640628620899

That's as far as I know. (I required a little restudy to freshen up).

Personality and Music Preferences

This article is pretty frickin' interesting (HT: Sullivan). I always had a pet theory that you should be able to learn about someone's personality by their music preferences. I bet a lot of people had that theory. It turns out there's some data to back it up. Factor analysis on musical preference data yields four large dimensions along which music preference tends to vary:
"Reflective and Complex," which included the genres blues, jazz, classical, and folk"Intense and Rebellious," which included rock, alternative, and heavy metal"Upbeat and Conventional," including country, sound tracks, religious, and pop"Energetic and Rhythmic," including rap and hip/hop, soul and funk, as well as electronica and dance.Then:...they looked at the correlation between the different dimensions of musical preferences and different personality traits using several different measures of personality, including the Big Five Index, tests of social dominance, …

Air America offers to host Republican presidential debate

Ha ha ha! In response to all the right-wing concern trolling about the Democrats pulling out of a FOX-hosted debate ("But going on FOX would let you reach out to so many people..."), liberal radio network Air America has offered Republicans a chance to show up the Democrats. It has offered to host a debate of Republican presidential candidates:
Dear Republican Chairman Ray Hoffmann of Iowa, Republican Chairman Paul Willis of Nevada, Republican Chairman Katon Dawson of South Carolina and Republican Chairman Fergus Cullen of New Hampshire,

As the new president of Air America, I'd like to offer to host or co-host one of your upcoming presidential debates.

Why us? First, this would allow your debate to reach many voters. Combining our 2 million radio audience, along with our satellite, internet and web audiences, means that some 2.5 million Americans would hear or read about the debate..

Second, it would allow Republicans to differentiate themselves from Democrats – embracing a …

Prosecutor Purge scandal is huge

Gonzales is toast. I must echo Hunter on Kos:
But here's the thing -- and forgive me for lapsing into exasperation, at this point, but the mind-numbing stupidity of what we are being asked to believe, and what some news outlets are repeating with apparent seriousness -- that is, without any large winking emoticons, or circus music, or Benny Hill end credits, or a parade of small dogs in sweaters, or any of the other things that should be overlayed onto the video of Gonzales' statements, in order to give them the only gravity they could possibly merit -- it is too much. A little too damn ridiculous for a Tuesday.

Purged sorority itself purged

That sorority that threw out a bunch of its ethnic minority and insufficiently thin members in an effort to bolster its own popularity has itself been thrown out of DePauw University:
“The arrangement we have with Greek organizations is that they’re guests of ours and we expect them to live up to university standards, and in this case Delta Zeta did not,” Dr. Bottoms said. “This means that sorority can’t exist on our campus as an organization beginning in the fall.” Robert P. Hershberger, the chairman of DePauw’s modern languages department, who earlier this year circulated a faculty petition criticizing Delta Zeta’s treatment of the women, said yesterday in an interview: “This was the right thing to do. I doubt there will be many people here upset about this.”Hey Delta Zeta, exclusivity cuts both ways.

Slingshot vs. Sling

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This front page photo in yesterday's New York Times reminded me of a little pet peeve of mine. No, not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a different pet peeve: people who confuse slings with slingshots. The most common manifestation of this confusion is showing or describing the Biblical character David killing Goliath with a slingshot. This is wrong. It was a sling, which is a different thing altogether.

The weapon shown in the picture above is a sling. It's the weapon David used to kill Goliath. (I wonder if the Palestinian youth is aware of the irony of using a sling against Israel.) You put a projectile in the pouch, twirl it around, and release one of the strands at the right time, sending the projectile flying at the target.

A slingshot looks like this (image from Wikipedia):
There. Now you know the difference and won't be one of those people that annoys me so much.