Thursday, May 31, 2007

Withdrawal, Withdrawal, I love you, Withdrawal...'re always six months away! Atrios is doing a great favor for all of us by marking his calendar whenever a politician says we'll be able to withdraw from Iraq at some future date. Here's one that just came due:
One senior Republican adviser says Bush has "until April or May" to improve things in Iraq. If he cannot, he could face a GOP rebellion that could result in reductions in spending for the conflict and legislation to start bringing the troops home.
Is there a GOP rebellion in the works? All I hear are chirping crickets... Here's another one, this time from Iraq's Prime Minister:
AMMAN, Jordan - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Thursday that his country's forces would be able to assume security command by June 2007 — which could allow the United States to start withdrawing its troops.

"I cannot answer on behalf of the U.S. administration but I can tell you that from our side our forces will be ready by June 2007," Maliki told ABC television after meeting President Bush on Thursday in Jordan.
Can we get out of there already? They day of reckoning will never come if we leave it up to the "sensible" folks in Washington. How many times must the football be yanked away before they stop trying to kick it?

One reason we're losing militarily against insurgents

Short version: they're being resourceful, we're being corrupt. Longer version in Wired magazine (HT: Devilstower on DailyKos). I think the American defense industry has become more about enriching itself than actually increasing our military capability. This kind of story seems to be cropping up a lot lately. It's outrageous enough that we spend so much money on military things. The fact that our troops still seem to have trouble getting equipment is an absolute disgrace.

Note that I don't think de-corrupting and streamlining the military procurement process would fundamentally alter the dynamic in Iraq. They don't want us there. But fixing the procurement bureaucracy might make life a bit easier for our troops until our broken political process can get them out of there.

I'm glad I'm not the project manager on this game

Yes, apparently someone thought that this concept could recoup the costs required to implement it. Who knows? After all, Deer Hunter sold bajillions of copies and spawned numerous sequels. (From here via Feministe.)

Bush thinks we should be in Iraq for decades

Korea is the new model for Iraq, I guess. Apparently, Bush thinksthat it would be good for us to have a multi-decade presence there. I don't think that would be a good idea. For one, the Koreans aren't trying to blow us up. Negative reactions to this very bad idea can be read on Daily Kos, Crooks & Liars, and Eschaton. And those are just the ones I've stumbled on already.

Another thing computers can do better than humans now

Computer face recognition is apparently getting better and better:
Sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the match up of face-recognition algorithms showed that machine recognition of human individuals has improved tenfold since 2002 and a hundredfold since 1995. Indeed, the best face-recognition algorithms now perform more accurately than most humans can manage.
Won't it be cool (and terrifying) when you can submit a picture of a face to Google and get a name back? Wouldn't it be cool to wear a device that whispers the name of who you are talking to into your ear? I'd love that. I'm always forgetting people's names. The fun possibilities are endless. As are the creepy Big Brother possibilities. We have to reform our government, because the technology that is available to it is just going to get more and more powerful.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I Can't believe it isn't soy!

Image from here

What is BOFU(TM)?

BOFU(TM) is a product that looks, tastes, and feels exactly like regular tofu, but is made from 100% beef.


When you want to enjoy a dish that calls for tofu, but want to avoid the feminizing qualities of soy products and the hippie, tree-hugging, blue-state liberal associations that come with tofu, BOFU(TM) is the product for you.

For some time now, vegetarians have been able to enjoy traditional meat dishes by using vegetable-based substitutes like veggie burgers, Quorn, and tofu. But meat lovers have been unable to enjoy traditional tofu dishes (like mapo dofu) without sullying their carnivorous reputations by consuming a sissy food like tofu. This culinary unbalance has been a form of discrimination against meat eaters. But now, we carnivores are fighting back against anti-meat prejudice, with BOFU(TM) as our weapon!

How is BOFU(TM) made?

The actual recipe for BOFU(TM) is a closely-guarded trade secret. But you can rest assured that everything that goes into making BOFU is 100% pure USDA-certified beef. No vegetable products of any kind are used at any point in our manufacturing process. We take this promise seriously. Even the lubricants for our machinery are derived from beef tallow and other cow byproducts. When you eat a piece of BOFU(TM), you know that you are consuming 100% unadulterated dead animal flesh.

What does BOFU(TM) taste like?

Amazingly, BOFU(TM) tastes exactly like real tofu. You won't be able to tell the difference! Our company employs an expert panel of tofu-eating wussies who sample and test every batch of BOFU(TM) before it leaves our slaughterhouse. If they can tell the difference between our product and the real thing, the batch is rejected and destroyed. Beware of cheap imitation products like BOVASOY(TM) and COW FU(TM) that retain some of beef's texture and flavor. We know that if you want to taste beef, you'll order a steak. BOFU(TM) is for those who want all of the machismo and negative environmental impact of beef, but none of the flavor.

Maybe you've seen our commercials where we slip BOFU(TM) into dishes served to vegetarians, and then tell them what they've been eating. Those commercials are not staged! The shock and horror on their faces are real, as is the vomiting. But you'll notice that none of those herbivorous sissies vomit before they've been told, because none of them can tell the difference! Not even the vegans!

Does BOFU(TM) come in different levels of firmness?

Yes! By altering our manufacturing process slightly, we are able to duplicate the texture of any existing tofu product. Right now, BOFU(TM) comes in 4 varieties: silken, soft, medium, and firm. You use these varieties of BOFU(TM) exactly as you would use the different varieties of tofu

Do I need to adjust my recipes in any way when using BOFU(TM) instead of tofu?

No. Simply replace the tofu with an equal quantity of BOFU(TM). We promise you won't be able to tell the difference.

I love the idea of BOFU(TM)! Where can I get it?

Unfortunately, you can't, because I just made it up. But since BOFU(TM) tastes exactly like real tofu, you already know what it tastes like. Just imagine the bland texturelessness of tofu, enhanced by the spice of knowing that a large, friendly mammal died to give it to you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Nazis were executed for "enhanced interrogation"

This Sullivan post is quite chilling. It describes Nazi "Verschärfte Vernehmung", which is variously translated as "sharpened interrogation", "intensified interrogation", or of course "enhanced interrogation":

Sound familliar? Sullivan states his case simply:
Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.
The punishment in 1948 for doing what we are now doing was death. I don't support the death penalty, but when people in positions of power turn the apparatus of the state into a means of torturing people, they should be punished severely. I would support sending all administration officials who supported and enabled the current spate of abuses to some kind of international tribunal to face justice. The shrieking of the torture-mongers (who form a substantial portion of this country) would be deafening. But the message it sent about our moral authority and our committment to justice would be indisputable. It certainly would do more for our reputation and ultimately our security than any bombing raid or foreign occupation.

Americans shouldn't be fooled by the idea that we're automatically different or better than others who torture or have tortured. Americans are better when we act better. Let's start doing so immediately. I think the first step is impeachment.

Memorial Day

I think Internal Monologue will take the day off. It's Memorial Day. Remember those who have lost their lives in military service.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lethal injection takes so long victim gets a bathroom break

You can't make this shit up. Here's CNN:
But Newton, who had insisted on the death penalty as punishment and made no attempt to appeal, chatted and laughed with prison staff throughout the delay. It took so long that the staff paused to allow Newton a bathroom break.
Emphasis added.

Just in case you thought Bush would withdraw from Iraq...

Remember yesterday's front-page article in the New York Times about Bush drawing up plans to lower the number of troops in Iraq? Here's the opening:
WASHINGTON, May 25 — The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.

It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.
Well, apparently that was just some wishful leaker talking, or some bogus trial balloon floating, or some pure bullshit, because Bush is furious about the report. Here's Think Progress:
If there was ever any lingering doubt about whether the White House might finally be considering a redeployment, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol put those hopes to bed this morning on Fox News. He revealed that Bush is “furious” over the NYT report and that the White House is aggressively pushing back on the story over the Memorial Day weekend. Kristol said:

The president apparently was furious about the New York Times article Saturday. One senior White House official went out of his way to call me Saturday and left me a voicemail saying that. So, since they don’t normally do that on Saturdays, I think maybe it’s even true.

This is not the first time this sort of phantom withdrawal idea has been floated out there. War supporters have been claiming that we'll be able to begin withdrawal "soon" since before the war even began. Greenwald has a great post on the subject, cataloging these phony promises. Atrios sums it up: "As I keep saying, Bush is never leaving."

How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)

Image of Paris from here.

Answer: I guess you can't. Apparently, May 23 2007 was the day scientists estimated the worlds population became more urban than rural:
There’s no big countdown billboard or sign in Times Square to denote it, but Wednesday, May 23, 2007, represents a major demographic shift, according to scientists from North Carolina State University and the University of Georgia: For the first time in human history, the earth’s population will be more urban than rural.
(HT: Sullivan) In the U.S., this happened in the late 1910's. Here's a link to the song referenced in the title of this post.

Turning our military into thugs

"Grr, I'm Evil Asymmetrically Face-Scrunched Man! Torture torture torture!"
Image from The Raw Story

Let me get this: the War on Terror(TM) is an eternal war that is being fought everywhere. Now Cheney implicitly criticizes the notion that those caught in the War on Terror(TM) should have rights under the Geneva conventions:

"Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States," the Vice President said in the Saturday morning speech. "Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away."

Cheney delivered the remarks in the context of moral and ethical lessons that the graduating cadets at West Point had learned in the course of their study.

So it seems that according to Cheney nobody captured in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else (as long as it's part of the War on Terror(TM), and these days, what isn't?) should be treated according to the Geneva Conventions. How eager these people are to destroy any notions of decency, and any claim The United States might have to moral authority. Send Cheney to The Hague.

HT: Sullivan, who I'll quote here:

In one of his most egregious statements yet, the vice-president attacked the Geneva Conventions at the West Point graduation. Sending this signal from the vice-president's office to the future officer corps is a staggering attack on the rule of law, American military honor and a virtual green flag for more torture. This war criminal must eventually be brought to justice.

Their reality has lapped our satire

This Brownback supporter has a post entitled:

Heliocentrism is an Atheist Doctrine

Normally, I refrain from linking to wingnuts, but I'd love it if this one was spread far and wide. Here's the opening:

What’s even worse than the debate raging in American schools about the teaching of the soulless doctrine of evolution, is the non-debate over an issue that rational Americans have foolishly conceded to the secular among us: the issue of Heliocentrism, or the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Now, it has to be granted that there may be some mathematical evidence going either way; mathematically speaking, Copernicus may be on ground nearly as firm as that of Tycho Brahe. Right-thinking people know the correct doctrine, however:

Heliocentrism is the view that the sun is at the center of the universe. It was proposed by some ancient Greeks,[1] and became the dominant view in the 1700s and 1800s. It was abandoned in the 20th century.

Since the advent of relativity theory in the early 1900s, the laws of physics have been written in covariant equations, meaning that they are equally valid in any frame. Heliocentric and geocentric theories are both used today, depending on which allows more convenient calculations

It seems clear that it may occasionally be convenient to assume that the calculations of Copernicus and Kepler were mathematically sound. However, for both moral and theological reasons, we should always bear in mind that the Earth does not move. If it moved, we would feel it moving. That’s called empiricism, the experience of the senses. Don’t take my word for it, or the evidence of your own senses, Copernicans. There’s also the Word of the Lord[...]

Something funny for you while I'm playing D&D

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Stewart on Goodling testimony, to which is appended a discourse on stooges

Want to hear a summary of the latest round of bullshit testimony from DoJ officials? Tune in to The Daily Show: "Listening to their testimony, it's like the entire Department of Justice is taking a shit inside my head!" They would have us believe that the list of attorneys to be fired spontaneously generated itself out of thin air.

Let's hawk a big loogie of disrespect upon Alberto Gonzales, Ultimate Stooge of the Universe, and all the lesser stooges who covered for him.

And now:
A discourse on the nature of stooges, and
inquiry into the nature of the Ultimate Stooge

If Person A is the stooge of person B who is the stooge of person C (in that case at hand, A=Goodling, B=Gonzales, and C=Bush), and person B is declared "Ultimate Stooge of the Universe" by an authoritative political commentator, what does that make person A? Isn't person A a bigger stooge than person B? The stooge of a stooge is more stoogey than a mere stooge, no matter how deep in stoogeitude the latter may be. Of course, one could argue that Bush himself is a stooge, but the argument still holds: whether Bush is a stooge or not, Goodling certainly has a greater degree of stoogeity than her boss; this follows directly from the nature of stoogeity. Whereby it follows that no one who has any underlings can really be declared "Ultimate Stooge of the Universe", since their flunkies will always out-stooge them. What we can say about Gonzales, however, is that he has maximized the possible stoogieness of his current position relative to Bush. Goodling may be a bigger stooge overall, but her stoogieness relative to Gonzales comes no where near Gonzales' stoogieness to Bush. So Gonzales is in fact deserving of the "Ultimate Stooge of the Universe" moniker, because he has attained the greatest degree of stoogeosity that it is possible to achieve, given his position in the hierarchy. And that is all that one can demand of a craven, boot-licking minion, i.e. a stooge.

Reminder: Cheney thinks he can start wars

OK, I knew infighting like this plagued the Bush administration, but I didn't know it was this serious or this bad:

This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.

The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.


According to this official, Cheney believes that Bush can not be counted on to make the "right decision" when it comes to dealing with Iran and thus Cheney believes that he must tie the President's hands.

Juan Cole summarizes:
Cheney and his staff are colluding with the Neoconservatives at the American Enterprise Institute and with Israeli hawks to sideline Condi Rice's negotiations with Iran by getting up an Israeli cruise missile strike on Iranian civilian nuclear research facilities at Natanz, in hopes that this move will push the US into a war posture with Iran.

Clemons is very well connected in Washington and assures me he has multiple-sourced this story. It seems entirely plausible to me.
Now this story is based on anonymous Washington insider dish, so despite Cole's assurances, I remain a bit skeptical. But it seems plausible to me, too. It wouldn't be the first time Cheney has undercut Rice's diplomatic efforts. But is Bush really such a cipher that Cheney feels he can go around him and start a war? (Unfortunately, the answer is probably "yes".) Isn't this pretty humiliating for Bush? If my Vice-President were trying to do something like this to me, I'd strip the VP of all power and ask my buddies in Congress to impeach.

Clinton and Obama vote against Iraq supplemental

Why do people get so drunk they can't walk?

Image from
Yes, there are entire websites devoted to the genre.
I was surprised by this. I shouldn't have been.

Mark Morford on asks a good question:
What the hell is the appeal of severe, excessive drinking, over and over again, to the point of illness and physical collapse and extreme stupidity and brain-melting moronism?
I have never understood the appeal either. The author goes on at great length explaining that he's not talking about getting "buzzed" or even just "drunk", but actually drinking so much you get incapacitated. And he's not talking about people who have an alchohol addiction, either. After trying out a few explanations (generally crappy life, a desperate attempt to connect, sadness and self-loathing), he goes on to say:

Or maybe it's none of those things, and what I see and what you see every weekend in bars and street fairs and house parties across America is merely the way of the culture, just everyday people blowin' off steam in the only legal way they know how, not really knowing when to stop because, for whatever reason, they simply do not have the proper mechanism, or forgot they were supposed to cultivate a mechanism in the first place.

Which is, not at all ironically, the exact problem of our national character, our global identity as a whole. Huh. Go figure.

"or forgot they were supposed to cultivate a mechanism in the first place." Are people really like that? I don't have much contact with heavy drug users of any kind, legal or illegal. So I don't have any particular insight into their functioning. My reaction to stories of this kind of drunkeness are remarkably traditionalist in tone: How vulgar! Don't they know any better? Who brought them up to be like that? They're destroying themselves! I wouldn't want to live in a neighborhood where such people were visible!

Getting drunk as a form of hedonism or as a form of release from social pressure or to lower inhibitions or to engage in a bonding ritual: all these things I can understand. And indeed I have even engaged in one or more of them on occasion. But all those goals are achievable without completely crippling one's mental and physical functioning. What is it that pushes people into that zone of staggering sickness?

Orwell's "Politics and the English Language"

Image of Orwell from

I just read "Politics and the English Language" (HT: Sullivan). I probably should have read it before I started political blogging. But I'm glad I read it. This passage reaches out of 1946 and punches you in the face:
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

‘While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.’

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.
Sullivan points out the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" as a prime example of "defending the indefensible" by "euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness". I think our politicians should be embarrassed to talk like that.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Even sparrows are Democrats now

from C&L

And now, an utterly substance free tidbit from Internal Monologue:

Channelling public opinion, a passing bird took a shit on Bush during his press conference. Were I an animist, I would say that Nature herself has become appalled at Bush's behavior. Since I do not believe in supernaturalism of any kind, I will take what is essentially a random, meaningless event, and using my human capacity to imbue the world with meaning, applaud the bird's action and say a great Nietzschean/Yoko Onoian "Yes!" to it.

Jon Stewart rightly skewers Democrats on Iraq

I hate to engage in too much Dem bashing, because ultimately I think the Democratic party will be the vehicle for a real people-powered re-alignment in this country. Even in their current condition they are so much better than the Republicans. But they do need to be kicked for this latest Iraq capitulation, and Jon Stewart helps. See the video on Crooks and Liars.

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan!

Image from here.

Bob Dylan is 66 today. I don't normally do birthdays on Internal Monologue, but someone on Kos mentioned it. I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice if there was a new Bob Dylan who could channel the popular outrage about the Iraq situation?" But then I realized we don't need a new Bob Dylan, because the old Bob Dylan is (sad to say) just as relevant now he was when writing "Masters of War", "Blowin' in the Wind", and "Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall".

Why progressives must take over the Democratic party

Chris Bowers has a post on MyDD that tries to answer Why Some Democrats Are More Scared Of Bush Than Their Base:
By now, I'm sure most people have seen this:
Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break -- the second recess since the financing fight began -- and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.
This isn't just a reporter putting words in Democratic mouths. As Matt showed earlier today, several specific Democrats are actually scared of Bush on this. Now, if you think it seems more than a little inane to be scared of a guy whose approval rating just hit an all-time low today, especially when it comes to a war which just reached its all-time low in terms of support today, and when, on Tuesday, centrist beltway firm GQR released a report showing that Republicans were being significantly damaged by the Iraq War debate, then you are probably right. I mean, given all of that, there is an outside chance you are right. Maybe.
I've been wracking my brain, trying to come up with an answer to this. Those who read this blog have heard my cries of anguish on this subject multiple times. Bowers has an explanation for this phenomenon, and it strikes me as very paranoid, and indicative of major dysfunction in the Democratic party. But it's the only one I've come across that begins to explain the bizarre phenomena we're witnessing:
Keep in mind that while a demoralized progressive activist base has negative repercussions for Democratic electoral fortunes in general elections, in terms of intra-party power struggles, a demoralized, progressive, grassroots activist base actually strengthens the position of neoliberals, LieberDems, and the DLC-nexus within the Democratic Party power structure.
People power vs. party power. I thought that with the success of the Nov. 2006 elections, the party insiders had come to see the netroots activists as a positive force. But Bowers is painting a picture where many of the party insiders just wish we'd roll over and die. Well, we aren't. Both Bowers on MyDD and Kos present the same solution: KEEP FIGHTING.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Edwards and Dodd get it on Iraq funding

Edwards just gained a lot of respect from me, as has Dodd:
Edwards told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City today that the current war-funding bill is a "capitulation" to President Bush, since it does not include a timetable to begin a troop withdrawal.

"Congress should send the president the same bill he vetoed again and again until he realizes he has no choice but to start bringing our troops home," Edwards said. "We need to get out of Iraq on our own timetable, not when we are forced to do so by events."

On Wednesday Dodd announced that he will vote against the measure, calling it another "blank check" for the president.

Meanwhile, Clinton and Obama dither on the issue:
Two front-runners, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, declined to say how they intended to vote on the measure.

Yo Democrats, you were elected to get us out of Iraq

In the most scathing "special comment" I have yet seen, Olbermann denounces the Democrats for caving compltetely to Bush, despite the extremely clear mandate they received in Nov. 2006. And he excoriates Bush for taking our troops hostage to enhance his power in the political game of chicken he's playing with the Democrats. His sense of outrage and disgust mirrors what I feel exactly.

The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq.

You, the men and women elected with the simplest of directions - Stop The War - have traded your strength, your bargaining position, and the uniform support of those who elected you… for a handful of magic beans.

Perverse incentives: no wonder Osama hasn't been caught

Crooks and Liars:
NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports on how the Bush administration pays the Pakistani government $1 billion a year to hunt down Osama bin Laden, and demands zero accountability as to how that money is spent.
I like Slacktivist's analogies:

Imagine this happens to you:

Some big Manhattan publisher gives you a $100,000 advance to write the Great American Novel. Then you look at the fine print and you realize that your deal gives you $100,000 every year until you finish the book.

You call to double check. "Does this mean I get $100,000/year forever?" you ask.

"Not forever," the publisher says, "just until whenever you're finished writing." And once the book is completed, the publisher says, you will receive a $2,500 bonus.


Let's try one more analogy. Imagine you're Halliburton. You've been hired by the U.S. government to rebuild Iraq's refineries and oil infrastructure. In the meantime, until that job is completed, you've also been hired to supply Iraq with gasoline at whatever prices you see fit to charge. So, do you diligently work to complete the first task, thus killing the goose that lays the golden egg? Or do you do the economically sensible thing and ensure that the lucrative "meantime" lasts as long as possible?

This analogy, unfortunately, is not hypothetical.

Another victim of the dildo police

Another doozy from the "real people get whacked by stupid laws" category:
LUBBOCK, TX -- An obscure law sends one local lingerie store clerk to jail. And now she may forever have to register as a sex offender.

The lingerie store, Somethin’ Sexy was raided by police last week for violating Lubbock`s sexually oriented business ordinance.


What’s illegal and what’s not when it comes to sexual devices comes down to marketing and intentions.

"If the seller is selling it as a novelty and the buyer is buying it as a novelty to make fun of, then it probably has not reached the level of an obscenity" says [Assistant DA] Grace.

According to state law, it’s illegal to sell obscene devices with the intention of sexual gratification. But what is an obscene device and who`s going to be the judge of that?

"What’s considered obscene in LA is different than Lubbock and different than Des Moines. The community ultimately decides what is obscene" says Grace.

(HT: Sullivan) The "local standards" definition of obscenity is really problematic. What if Berkeley decides that the Republican Party is obscene? They condone torture after all, and what's more obscene than that? Maybe we can arrest them and throw them in jail for promoting obscenity.

This whole incident just seems ridiculous. What legitimate interest is the state defending by prohibiting the sale of sex toys? Isn't that the very definition of the sort of thing the government has no business sticking its nose into? Can we please get these stupid laws off the books so we can avoid embarrassments like this? It's the United States of America in 2007, fer cryin' out loud.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Your tax dollars at work: broadcasting terrorist messages

With screw-ups like this, is it any wonder we're faring so poorly in our multitude of taks in the Middle East?
Al Hurra television, the U.S. government's $63 million-a-year effort at public diplomacy broadcasting in the Middle East, is run by executives and officials who cannot speak Arabic, according to a senior official who oversees the program.

That might explain why critics say the service has recently been caught broadcasting terrorist messages, including an hour-long tirade on the importance of anti-Jewish violence, among other questionable pieces.

(HT: C&L) Ouch. I think this is kind of symbolic of all our efforts in Iraq: We make some ham-fisted attempt to win hearts and minds, appoint a bunch of people who don't know what they're doing to run it, and then discover our efforts have been infiltrated or co-opted by those who wish us ill.

Senate-House conference disappoints on Iraq bill

Why is a Democratically controlled congress sending Bush a blank check to continue this war when a majority of Americans want to start getting out of there? Meteor Blades on Kos:

It would be hard to find a progressive who had a good Tuesday as far as Iraq is concerned. The Senate-House conference committee put together an ugly compromise that would give Mister Bush tens of billions of dollars to continue the catastrophe in Iraq. Call it what you will - a blank check, a sell-out, a surrender - it ultimately amounts to failure, unless victory is defined as getting a signable bill on the President's desk regardless of its contents.

Compromise is when two sides each give up something they want in order to get something they want in return. But from this compromise among themselves, what exactly is it that the Democrats will be getting in return from the White House?

Nothing. Because the President refuses to compromise.

Clearly, some people need to primaried. This is a disgrace. We still have a chance to correct this: now that it's out of the conference committee, the bill goes back to each chamber to be voted on. I urge my representative, Barbara Lee, and my Senators, Boxer and Feinstein, to vote NO on this bill. (I also want to thank them for voting YES on McGovern and Feingold-Reid, the bills/amendments that would have redeployed us out of there.)

Speaker Pelosi has said she will vote against this bill. The progressive movement clearly has a lot of fighting left to do to drag the Democratic party to where the American people already are. That's what galls me about this: no one is asking Congress to do something right, but unpopular. We're asking Congress to do something right and very popular. Why are things so broken that this is so hard?

Impeach Gonzales petition

Image of Alberto Gonzales surrounded by
what he has enabled from

I think we need to get rid of Bush and Cheney, but getting rid of Gonzales would free the Justice Department from the grip of one of Bush's most servile cronies. Any replacement Attorney General would have to be confirmed by a Democratically controlled Sentate. It might also warm-up the impeachment process and remind America that it's there. So I support it. You can sign a petition here. (HT: rubber hose)

(Busy day today, sorry for the light posting.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Right Said World of Warcraft

(HT: Sullivan)

A New Cosmology

This poster was taped to the wall of my church. I saw it yesterday an thought it was worthy of sharing with you. Yes, it presents a theistic worldview. But I still think it's awesome.

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Coalition of the Willing" about to wilt

Hmmm...I'm not so keen on this whole Iraq thing...

Image of Gordon Brown from

It seems Tony Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, has not drunk from Bush's Kool-Aid bowl as much as his predecessor:
Gordon Brown is prepared to risk the future of the "special relationship" with the United States by reversing Tony Blair's support for the Iraq war, President George W Bush has been warned.

He has been briefed by White House officials to expect an announcement on British troop withdrawals from Mr Brown during his first 100 days in power. It would be designed to boost the new prime minister's popularity in the opinion polls.

The President recently discussed with a senior White House adviser how to handle the fallout from the expected loss of Washington's main ally in Iraq, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

(HT: C&L) Nobody thinks this occupation is a good idea, Mr. Bush. Get us out of there before we figure out a way to get you out of there. (There being Iraq and the White House, respectively.)

In this case, Justice is also mute...

Apparently, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has only spoken 281 words during oral arguments since October 2004, when the court began identifying individual justices in its transcripts (HT: C&L). That's a whopping rate of 1.29 words per hour of oral argument. The last time Thomas asked a question was over a year ago on Feb 22, 2006. I know Supreme Court Justices have duties aside from participating in oral arguments. But that is the public face of their work. Would it kill the guy to ask a lawyer a question or two now and again?

No More Mister Nice Blog speculates why this might be the case. I suspect it's because Thomas isn't that great a justice and doesn't really have much to say that his fellow right-wingers can't say better. But NMMNB does make the following pertinent inquiry:
...[W]hat was it about George Bush the Elder? Why did he stick us with so many people who can't put two sentences together? Dan Quayle. Clarence Thomas. His namesake son. Is it because he couldn't talk very well, either? It's like a cheap horror movie in which a sick mad scientist tries to infest the population with carriers of his own disease.

Very disturbing torture poll

Military Times is doing an online poll about the use of torture. Now, it could have been freeped, but right now the results are pretty disturbing:

Equally disturbing is the U.S. Central Command study mentioned in the poll question:
A recent U.S. Central Command study found that 36 percent of soldiers and 39 percent of Marines who recently served in the war zone believe torture should be allowed to gather information about insurgents.
Sullivan comments:
Those two categories basically make torture an option for all soldiers in a dangerous war-zone. Six years after Bush's approval, 70 percent of Military Times readers endorse torture - not even the newspeak "enhanced interrogation techniques" - as a routine military option. Congratulations, Mr President. Bonus congrats to Joel Surnow and Fox.
What the hell has happened to our country? Or was it always like this and I just didn't know it? We desperately need some moral leadership on this. And Bush is our president. Argh. Torture combines utter evil and utter stupidity. And our nation is eagerly leaping into both. Stop, stop, stop, stop.

Good thing the Center for Victims of Torture is in my home town of Minneapolis. If things keep going this way, at least I can visit my family between treatments. I just gave them a small donation, partially to do something constructive with my disgust at that poll, and partially in hopes that it will let me get ahead on the waiting list should I have need their services in the future.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

You'd think a game so simple wouldn't need a strategy guide, but of course thanks to the Web it has one (HT: Sullivan). Of course, it also has an extensive Wikipedia entry. My favorite bit the section about variations of this game from different cultures:
For example in Japan there is a variation which uses a tiger, a chief and the chief's mother as the three elements (the tiger beating the chief's mother, the chief beating the tiger and the chief's mother beating the chief). In Indonesia another version is played with the elements as an elephant, a man and an ant (the elephant crushing the man, the man crushing the ant and ant humorously defeating the elephant by crawling into the animal's ear and making it go insane).
It also has competitive tournaments with cash prizes. And I thought my hobbies were a bit silly.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Doctors Without Borders founder now Foreign Minister of France

Interesting tidbit I picked up over at Jeff Weintraub:
[New Foreign Minister] Kouchner, on the other hand, is a veteran humanitarian and human-rights activist, a founder of Doctors Without Borders, the first UN Commissioner in Kosovo after the 1999 war, a strong proponent of international measures to prevent genocide and other mass atrocities, and one of the few important figures in French politics who supported serious international action against Saddam Hussein & his regime (long-time clients of France).
I don't know much about French politics, but this seems to signal that France will be taking international human rights issues very seriously.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Friday baby blogging

You can see our family's public photo albums here.

Flatland meets quasi-extreme perfomance art?

I love the 1884 novella Flatland, by Edwin Abbot Abbot. Essentially, I think it is a story about expanding your mind, though it's also a satire on victorian social mores and a fun bit of alternate universe science fiction.

I'm not convinced that this performance art stunt is really worthy of the name Flatland:
In this semi-extreme performance, 6 curious artists strip away not only most of modern life's familiar structures, but an entire dimension: they have elected to inhabit a structure that effectively forces them to live in 2 dimensions.

The structure is 4 stories high, 24 feet wide, and 24 inches deep, covered in transparent plastic (vinyl). It resembles a terrarium or "ant farm" and is inspired by the 19th century science fiction novel it is named after, "Flatland".
(HT: Sullivan)

Daily Show on Comey testimony

Image from Crooks and Liars, of course.

Sometimes it's hard to keep track of what's going on in the USA attorney firing scandal. For a fun summary of the latest developments, check out this The Daily Show segment, in which Jon Stewart marvels at Gonzales' sudden recovery of his memory, now that he is no longer under oath:
Gonzales on April 19: “Looking back, things that I would have done differently…? I think I would have had the Deputy Attorney General more involved, directly involved.”

Gonzales on May 15: “The Deputy Attorney General would know best about the qualifications and experiences of the minds; it’s a community and he signed off on the names.”

What Glenn Greenwald said

Just because you said "no" to Bush once doesn't make you a saint:
Compared to the likes of, say, David Addington and John Yoo, it is certainly true that James Comey, John Ashcroft and Jack Goldsmith had slightly greater limits on what they would tolerate. But the praise for the latter has become excessive. The "heroic" trio still ultimately endorsed the unquestionably illegal warrantless eavesdropping program, along with the whole host of other radical and lawless Bush policies, from the indefinite and process-less detention of even U.S. citizens on U.S. soil to secret Eastern European prisons and a whole range of "enhanced interrogation techniques."
The issue is that to canonize them -- to pretend that they are some sort of Crusaders for the Rule of Law -- is to ignore the fact that they have endorsed and enabled some of the most radical and lawless presidential behavior in our country's history. Their "rebellion" is quite redolent of the rebellion from the McCain/Warner/Graham trio on torture, where they dramatically opposed the administration only to then acquiesce and endorse the crux of the radicalism in exchange for a handful of relatively minor modifications on the margins.
The danger from this misleading ritual is that the faux "dissenters" -- who are in fact loyal Bush ideologues in every meaningful sense -- come to been seen as principled heroes and thus define the outer limits of legitimate deviation from the Bush agenda. And any objections to whatever policies they endorse come to be seen as shrill and unserious (after all, even the Principled, Nonpartisan and Independent James Comey/John McCain/Arlen Specter have accepted it).
This as been another edition of What Glenn Greenwald said. I am so sick and tired of the bullshit "principled Republican resistance" to Bush's policies. It never produces anything meaningful, and as Greenwald points out, only serves to make real opposition to Bush look bad. As far as I'm concerned, if you have an 'R' after your name, you're a Bush enabler and part of the problem. I'd love to see a revolution within the Republican party, but I think they're going to have to lose a few more times before that's going to happen. (Non-existent) God help us if the Republicans win in 2008, because that will be a vindication of everything that has been going on under this administration.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Smart insurgents and terrorists, dumb United States responses

Shorter David Brooks: Terrorists and insurgents are smarter than we are.

I often find myself supremely annoyed with Brooks, but I think he's right about this.

Here's an excerpt from the column:
That’s because setbacks in the war on terror [how annoying that Brooks uses this ridiculous phrase!] don’t only flow from the mistakes of individual leaders and generals. They’re structural. Thanks to a series of organizational technological innovations, guerrilla insurgencies are increasingly able to take on and defeat nation-states.
There are between 70 and 100 groups that make up the Iraqi insurgency, and they are organized, Robb says, like a bazaar. It’s pointless to decapitate the head of the insurgency or disrupt its command structure, because the insurgency doesn’t have these things. Instead, it is a swarm of disparate companies that share information, learn from each other’s experiments and respond quickly to environmental signals.
Robb is pessimistic (excessively so) that top-heavy, pork-driven institutions like the Defense Department or the Department of Homeland Security can ever keep up with open-source insurgencies. Since 9/11, he believes, big government institutions have engaged in a process of hindsight re-engineering designed to reduce future risk, when in fact, the very nature of the threat is that it’s random and cannot be anticipated.
I don't like Brooks' use of the "war on terror" frame. I believe our lumping insurgencies, sectarian conflict, 9/11 terrorism, and failed-state lawlessness into this one idea of "the war on terror" is folly. It's a major reason why we are having such difficulty dealing with all these things.

But Brooks is right about the structural advantages all these small groups have over our lumbering, bureaucratic, behemoths. Having someone as willfully ignorant and unable to adapt to reality as Bush at the top doesn't help us. But even if the president lacked these crippling attributes, I think there would still be an organizational gap.

Stepping back to a meta-level (which gets me all warm and fuzzy; I hope it does the same for you), I think one of the over-arching meta-narratives of our times is going to be: New, open-source, bottom-up, people-powered, technology-enabled movements come into conflict with old, information-hoarding, top-down, heirarchy-driven, change-resistant institutions; and how the former eventually prevailed over the later. There are both positive and negative stories that I believe fit this meta-narrative:
  • The netroots taking on the Democratic political establishment, bringing it more in line with the wants and needs of the American people.
  • The Catholic church losing ground to numerous small Evangelical Protestant and Islamic groups throughout the world.
  • Established pundits in all areas of expertise reacting with fear and disdain to the reality that with the Web, anyone can practice punditry. And that the collective wisdom that emerges from a swarm of amateurs bickering can equal or exceed the pontificating of credentialed professionals.
  • The inability of the nation-state militaries to cope with decentralized, non-state threats (including drug traffickers) until they adopt more flexible approaches
  • The recording industry completely flubbing the arrival of new technology, seeking at every turn to squelch mp3's, file-sharing, etc. while their old business model crumbles.

Republicans won't change

You'd think that after the Nov 2006 electoral drubbing and with Bush's approval ratings in hideous territory, Republican presidential candidates would be doing everything they can to distance themselves from him. But they aren't. The Republican base still loves Bush, and these are the people who need to be wooed to win the Republican primary. Paul Krugman takes note of this in his NYT column today:
But the leading contenders for the Republican nomination have given us little reason to believe they would behave differently. Why should they? The principles Mr. Bush has betrayed are principles today’s G.O.P., dominated by movement conservatives, no longer honors. In fact, rank-and-file Republicans continue to approve strongly of Mr. Bush’s policies — and the more un-American the policy, the more they support it.
But aside from John McCain, who to his credit echoed Gen. Petraeus (and was met with stony silence), the candidates spoke enthusiastically in favor of torture and against the rule of law. Rudy Giuliani endorsed waterboarding. Mitt Romney declared that he wants accused terrorists at Guantánamo, “where they don’t get the access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil ... My view is, we ought to double Guantánamo.” His remarks were greeted with wild applause.
What we need to realize is that the infamous “Bush bubble,” the administration’s no-reality zone, extends a long way beyond the White House. Millions of Americans believe that patriotic torturers are keeping us safe, that there’s a vast Islamic axis of evil, that victory in Iraq is just around the corner, that Bush appointees are doing a heckuva job — and that news reports contradicting these beliefs reflect liberal media bias.

And the Republican nomination will go either to someone who shares these beliefs, and would therefore run the country the same way Mr. Bush has, or to a very, very good liar.

It won't be enough just to get rid of Bush and Cheney, though that would be a wonderful start. We must defeat their whole way of thinking. Yes, Bush and Cheney are particularly awful exemplars of a catastrophic way of doing things, but they are not freak aberrations. They are representative of their movement. This movement has suffered some setbacks, but it is still enormously powerful. And if the snippets of the Republican debates I'm seeing mean anything, this movement has not lost its grip on the Republican party.

Settlers of Catan is the new Monopoly

Image from

It has been my personal quest to have the game Settlers of Catan replace Monopoly as the national default boardgame. JonMichael Ramsus of Flak magazine says that in some ways, it already has:
Has [Settlers] become the new Monopoly? In many ways, yes. It won the Game of the Year award in Germany, the vanguard of the modern boardgaming world. It has released not less than 25 expansions, rethemings and sequels, all of which significantly change gameplay and offer varied degrees of difficulty. Settlers has sold (and continues to sell) millions of copies in Europe and the United States and thousands of game are played daily on Internet gaming sites and, now, on Xbox Live Arcade, for those who believe "putting away the game" should involve hitting an off switch. Heck, there's even a junior edition called the Kids of Catan — it's gotta be better than Chutes and Ladders. You may think, "If there was a game that was on its way to being regarded as the next Monopoly, I would have heard about it." Well, you just did.
Here are the ways in which I feel Settlers of Catan is superior to Monopoly:
  • Playing time is shorter for Settlers; games are usually over within 90 minutes.
  • Players are not eliminated from the game, whereas in Monopoly a player can be eliminated long before the game is over.
  • There are fewer "meaningless events" in Settlers; many game events in Monopoly (e.g. most "Chance" and "Community Chest" cards, landing on cheap properties, etc.) are completely trivial and have very little impact on the game.
  • Even when it is not your turn, there are numerous things you may get to do as a player: collect resources, trade, etc.
  • The board in Settlers can be reconfigured, giving each game a slightly different feel.
  • In Settlers, there are more ways for players to gang up on a player who is ahead of the others. This tends to create close, exciting games. Monopoly often reaches a tipping point where one player achieves a dominant position, but their inevitable victory still takes a tedious amount of time to play out.
  • In my experience, there are more interesting decisions to make in Settlers than in Monopoly, though that may be because it's been a long time since I've played Monopoly.

The limitations of the Democrats

This blog is a partisan pro-Democratic blog, but there are times when the Democrats disappoint. The Reid-Feingold amendment in the Senate to bring a close to the Iraq occupation was defeated 29-67. The defeat was expected. A majority of Democrats voted for the amendment, which is good. But many did not, including some darlings of the netroots like Tester, Webb, and McCaskill. I just want to let them know that I'm disappointed in them, and that their actions will have reprecussions. When those e-mail solicitations for money come around, or when I'm scanning ActBlue's donation page, I will remember this list (or dig back through my blog to find it). Here are the Democrats who voted no:

Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Levin (D-MI)
Lincoln (D-AR)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Tester (D-MT)
Webb (D-VA)

Here's what Big Tent Democrat on TalkLeft has to say:

Today's vote on Reid-Feingold should have a salutary effect on the creeping hometeamism that had captured progressive activists and the Netroots and brings into stark relief what still ails the Democratic Party - political cowardice.

For months the cheerleading from progressives and the Netroots for the House Supplemental and all the noisemaking coming from the Democratic Party has been a serious impediment to efforts to truly end the Iraq Debacle.

We kept hearing about the need to "ratchet up the pressure" on Bush and the Republicans. I think it is clear now that the pressure needs to be placed on those segments of the Democratic Party that likes to talk a lot about ending the war but clearly has felt no pressure from its base to do what is necessary to end this catastrophic war.

(HT: Blogometer) Kudos to my Senators, Boxer and Feinstein, for voting yea. And to Clinton and Obama for doing likewise. Boos for McCain, who along with three others didn't even show up to vote. (Check here to see how your Senators voted.)

With Falwell dead, I guess he had to work for someone else

The photo is titled "Made 5000 Fishwiches Out Of Five Buns And Two Cod", by Matthew Baldwin. (From defective yeti via rubber hose.)

Bush dodges question about Comey's story

I'm assuming my readers have heard about the Comey's testimony about how he raced to Ashcroft's hospital room to prevent Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales from getting Ashcroft to sign off on an illegal wiretapping program. Well, of course Bush was asked about it (actually, I shouldn't say "of course"; it's exactly the sort of question the press hasn't asked Bush enough of), and of course Bush dodged the question.

The overall question is: how long is Congress going to take this kind of stonewalling? How long are our pundits going to take? And how long are the American people going to take it? Well, as you can probably guess, this American person has had enough already and thinks it's time to throw the Bush administration out via impeachment.

In 1981, Moral Majority hated the future

This is just weird. It's a 1981 North Carolina Moral Majority pamphlet containing a list of prohibitions for students. It's really strange some of the stuff that's on there. It's not what you might think, and it's very chilling. A few are actually good bits of advice. Here are the points:

Don'ts for students.

1. Don't get into science-fiction values discussions or trust a teacher who dwells on science fiction in his/her "teaching."

2. Don't discuss the future or future social arrangements or governments in class.

3. Don't discuss values.

4. Don't write a family history.

5. Don't answer personal questions or questions about members of your family.

6. Don't play blindfolded games in class.

7. Don't exchange "opinions" on political or social issues.

8. Don't write an autobiography.

9. Don't keep a journal of your opinions, activities and feelings.

10. Don't take intelligence tests. Write tests only on your lessons. Force others to judge you on your own personal achievement.

11. Don't discuss boy-girl or parent-child relationships in class.

12. Don't confide in teachers, particularly sociology or social studies and english teachers.

13. Don't judge a teacher by his/her appearance or personality, but on his/her competence as a teacher of solid knowledge.

14. Don't think a teacher is doing you a favor if he/she gives you a good grade for poor work or in useless subjects.

15. Don't join any social action or social work group.

16. Don't take "social studies" or "future studies." Demand course definition: history, geography, civics, French, English, etc.

17. Don't role-play or participate in socio-dramas.

18. Don't worry about the race or color of your classmates. Education is of the mind, not the body.

19. Don't get involved in school-sponsored or government-sponsored exchange or camping programs which place you in the homes of strangers.

20. Don't be afraid to say "no" to morally corrupting literature, games and activities.

21. Don't submit to psychological testing.

22. Don't fall for books like "Future Shock," which are intended to put readers in a state of panic about "change" so they will be willing to accept slavery. Advances in science and technology don't drive people into shock. It is government and vain-brain intrusions in private lives, which cause much of the unbalance in nature and in people.

23. Don't get into classroom discussions which b[egin]: What would you do if....? What if....? Should we....? Do you suppose....? Do you think....? What is your opinion of....? Who should....? What might happen if....? Do you value....? Is it moral to....?

24. Don't sell out important principles for money, a scholarship, a diploma, popularity or a feeling of importance.

25. Don't think you have to associate with morally corrupt people or sanction their corruption just because "society" now accepts such behavior.

26. Don't get discouraged. If you stick to firm principles, others will respect you for it and perhaps gain courage from your example.

Dust Storm at Oakland Museum June 1 and 3

Photo by Christopher Irion

Just another reminder about my one-person show, Dust Storm. It's Friday, June 1 at 7pm and Sunday, June 3 at 2pm. Here's the Oakland Museum's flyer for the event, and you can also see it on their calendar for June. You can learn more about the show itself here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Clear Impeachable Offence"

The latest revelations in the Wiretapping scandal, especially the recent testimoney by Comey, paint a picture of a "clear impeachable offence", according to Prof. Jonathan Turley. He spoke on Olbermann's Countdown. See Crooks and Liars for the video.

I am losing respect for Congress. When they let Bush's lawbreaking and Gonzales' whoppers slide, they start looking like spineless fools.

Hitchens unleashes on Falwell

Amen! I don't always agree with Hitchens (who does?), but I love the fact that he's not afraid to call Falwell and his ilk what they are. Money quote:
You can get away with the most extraordinary offenses, to morality and to truth in this country, if you will just get yourself called "Reverend". Who would--even at your network [CNN] have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification? People like that should be out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup.
(HT: Pharyngula via Sullivan)

Cyborg people are already here

Image by Stephanos Neofytidis from here.

Soon, I bet we'll be able to purchase extra senses the way we now purchase extra peripherals for our personal computers. Sullivan links to a Wired article about someone who gave themselves an inherent sense of which way was north, via a vibrating belt:

For six weird weeks in the fall of 2004, Udo Wächter had an unerring sense of direction. Every morning after he got out of the shower, Wächter, a sysadmin at the University of Osnabrück in Germany, put on a wide beige belt lined with 13 vibrating pads — the same weight-and-gear modules that make a cell phone judder. On the outside of the belt were a power supply and a sensor that detected Earth's magnetic field. Whichever buzzer was pointing north would go off. Constantly.

"It was slightly strange at first," Wächter says, "though on the bike, it was great." He started to become more aware of the peregrinations he had to make while trying to reach a destination. "I finally understood just how much roads actually wind," he says. He learned to deal with the stares he got in the library, his belt humming like a distant chain saw. Deep into the experiment, Wächter says, "I suddenly realized that my perception had shifted. I had some kind of internal map of the city in my head. I could always find my way home. Eventually, I felt I couldn't get lost, even in a completely new place."

One of the coolest abilities that humans have is to take external tools and sense-enhancers and integrate them into our very psyche. This is the thesis of the book Natural Born Cyborgs, and it seems to be supported by the Wired article quoted above:
So here's the solution: Figure out how to change the sensory data you want — the electromagnetic fields, the ultrasound, the infrared — into something that the human brain is already wired to accept, like touch or sight. The brain, it turns out, is dramatically more flexible than anyone previously thought, as if we had unused sensory ports just waiting for the right plug-ins. Now it's time to build them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Can Ron Paul save the Republican party?

I didn't see the second Republican debate, but there seems to be a lot of talk about Ron Paul. Little Green Footballs (a right-wing site) has banned him from their presidential polls, ostensibly due to excessive freeping by Paul supporters. Sullivan thinks it's because they're scared. Apparently, Paul is very libertarian. While I'm not a libertarian, I would much rather be facing a Republican party dominated by libertarians than one dominated by Khmer Rouge-emulating torture freaks and those who applaud the use of torture repeatedly.

eHarmony doesn't allow gay people to sign up

I didn't know about eHarmony's right-wing associations. For one thing, they don't accept gay people on their site. Another site,, has been poking fun at eHarmony in their ads for this. I'm disappointed in eHarmony, because I think there probably is something to their methodology of using extensive personality profiling to match people. I don't know if eHarmony's specific implementation is great or anything. But it seems like a good idea to look at happy couples, see what you can find out about how their personalities and values fit together, then recommend that people get with other people whose personalities and values have a good "track record" of success together. (HT: Pandagon via Sullivan)

I don't see why the same methodology wouldn't work for gay people.

Jerry Falwell is dead

Image of Falwell from Peace Corps Online.

Let us hope his brand of hatred fades from American public life (and private life, now that I think about it). Slate has a nice compilation of some of Falwell's most outrageous statements. Here are a few:

On Sept. 11: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.' "

On AIDS: "AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals."

On the separation of church and state: "There is no separation of church and state."

On feminists: "I listen to feminists and all these radical gals. ... These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men; that's their problem."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Latino Citizenship Drive

Image from here
Backed by the largest Spanish-language broadcast network in the U.S., a massive campaign by Latino media and grass-roots groups to spur millions of eligible Hispanic residents to become U.S. citizens is showing results that could influence the agenda and outcome of the 2008 election.

More than eight million green-card holders -- that is, legal permanent residents -- are eligible to become U.S. citizens, and the majority are immigrants of Latin American origin, according to U.S. government data. Now, Univision Communications Inc. is using its considerable clout with the Spanish-speaking community in the U.S. to turn this latent voting bloc into an active and potentially potent force. (...)

(From the Wall Street Journal via Obsidian Wings via Sullivan.) Right now, Latino voters trend Democratic. So this could contribute to further Democratic gains in 2008. If Democrats (or anybody) can find a way to similarly mobilize single women, then we might see a major political realignment.