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Showing posts from October, 2007

New York Times: Please replace Maureen Dowd with Digby

Maureen Dowd's gossipy style has always bothered me. It seems to reduce politics to some sort of middle school playground ritual about who is cool and who is not. And Dowd seems to often use silly comparisons and inversions that don't really illuminate anything, like this one in today's column:
Cécilia Sarkozy acts so American, while Hillary Clinton acts so French. Cécilia at one point left her marriage to go to New York and seek love American-style, while Hillary lost the public love in the ’90s when she tried French-style health care reform.What is "American" about Cécilia Sarkozy spending time in another country and taking a lover while remaining in a marriage? And what was "French" about reforming American health care? Every industrialized nation has some kind of national health care, not just the French. She could have called it European, or Canadian, or British. And even if these characterizations were accurate, what do the alleged American-ness o…

Presidential candidate stances on gay marriage

I was curious about what the various presidential candidates positions were on the gay marriage issue (which I support fully). Boystowners compiled a list of positions on April 25 2007, and I don't think the positions have changed significantly since then. The only candidates in favor of Gay Marriage are Democrats Mike Gravel (Democratic Senator from Virginia) and Dennis Kucinich (Democratic Congressperson from Ohio). The rest of the Democrats support civil unions.

On the Republican side, Ron Paul thinks the federal government should have no role in deciding what a marriage is, and McCain is personally opposed to gay marriage but thinks it's an issue for the states to decide. The rest of the Republicans are opposed to gay marriage and civil unions. Rudy Giuliani has in the past been more gay friendly, but is now pandering to the homophobic base of the Republican party. So who knows how he'd act if elected.

The Boystowners site notes that Republicans feature their anti-gay ma…

Another Republican gay sex hooker scandal

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Images of Republican state lawmaker Richard Curtis and
sex worker Cody Castenega taken from Dan Savage's blog.

Man, it just doesn't stop with these people. This is a highly entertaining, sordid story involving lingerie, a toy stethoscope, attempted blackmail, a police sting operation, bareback sex, and of course a Republican lawmaker from Washington state. Dan Savage blogs about it.

Come out of the closet, people. It's so crowded in there I'm worried about your health. And barebacking (having unprotected sex) with a stranger you met in an erotic boutique is not safe, man. Think of the example you're setting.

Pablo on David Brooks' latest column

UPDATE: Amanda Marcotte has a reaction, as does Ezra Klein.

Pablo on Brooks:
Okay, I think David Brooks has taken his autumn rake, made a huge heap of clipped copies of his own past columns, lit it on fire, and spent an hour getting high inhaling the fumes from his own bonfire. And this column is what he wrote in that state. I didn't find that Brooks column as annoying as some of his other ones, like the one in which he states: "[Democratic politicians] also know that a Democratic president is going to face challenges from Iran and elsewhere that are going to require hard-line, hawkish responses." (emphasis added). Even though he can't possibly know what the challenges will be in 2009-2012, he does know that the the Democrats will have to be "hawkish", because... well, because David Brooks says so. Annoying.

I actually liked Brooks' 10/26/07 column about outsourcing your brain's functions to electronic devices various websites:
...I had thought that …

Mukasey won't say if waterboarding is torture...

...but in 1947, Americans were sure enough that it was torture that they sentenced a Japanese officer to 15 years hard labor for doing it. Here' Pensito Review's take:
Immoral Relativism: George Bush’s nomination of Michael Mukasey for U.S. attorney general — once thought to be smooth sailing — is experiencing a bit of turbulence. The problem is, Mukasey can’t bring himself to say whether or not waterboarding is torture:
During his confirmation hearings earlier this month, Mukasey said he believes torture violates the Constitution, but he refused to be pinned down on whether he believes specific interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, are constitutional.“I don’t know what’s involved in the techniques. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional,” he said.But after World War II, the United States government was quite clear about the fact that waterboarding was torture, at least when it was done to U.S. citizens:[In] 1947, the United States charged a Japan…

If conservatives love Reagan so much...

...perhaps they should emulate Reagan's stance on torture:
"The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiations of the Convention [Against Torture]. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today," - president Ronald Reagan, 1988.Now whether Reagan lived up to this I don't know. He certainly seemed to be fine supporting a number of regimes that used torture (e.g. apartheid South Africa). But you compare this rhetoric to what the current crop of Republican contenders is spewing at the debates and it's night and day.

I never really grokked the cult of Reagan worship among the American right. There isn't an equivalent on the American left: we certainly prefer …

Bill Maher's "New Rules"

I haven't linked to Bill Maher as much as I have to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but his political commentary is often quite good and quite funny. Here's a recent clip (via Mahablog):

Pumpkin Quinn

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More family pictures available at the usual place.

Turkey doesn't like us anymore

This graph is rather ominous. But understandable given the situation in northern Iraq.

Which candidate do you agree with on the issues?

Here's a fun little quiz to determine which candidate most agrees with your positions on some issues. For me, Kucinich and Richardson tied for first, with Gravel and Edwards coming after. Clinton and Obama were my lowest-ranked Democrats, which is sad because at the moment they are the front-runners. The highest ranked Republican for me was libertarian Ron Paul (no surprise), and the lowest ranked was Jim Gilmore. All Republicans were ranked lower than all Democrats for me. So I suppose I'm a good little Democratic partisan.

Of course, there are other considerations besides issue agreement one should take into account when voting in primaries (experience, electability, charisma, character, what interest groups they are beholden to, what kind of people they surround themselves with, etc.) . But it is good to have some inkling of which candidates agree with you the most on some of these things.

Right now, I'm undecided as to who to vote for in the Democratic primary. The progr…

The New Gay Stereotype

Check it out (HT: Mad Latinist via email).

Will this cause right wing head explosion?

Condi talks to two of the American right wing's all-time greatest villains:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Anxious not to repeat mistakes of past Middle East peace-making, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has turned to former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter for tips ahead of her own conference this year.

Rice invited Carter, a vocal critic of Bush administration policies, to the State Department on Wednesday where the two discussed his Arab-Israeli peacemaking efforts in the 1970s, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday.
HT: C&L.

Bush Administration = War Criminals

Several human rights groups have filed charges in a French court that Donald Rumsfeld authorized torture. Here's the Center for Constitutional Rights press release.

It's sad that these rights groups feel they have to go to a French court. (They're claiming the fact that since Rumsfeld is visiting France, this gives the French jurisdiction to apprehend and investigate him.) The U.S. should investigate its own war criminals.

I doubt the French will take Rumsfeld into custody or launch an investigation. They'll probably punt for diplomatic reasons. But it would be nice to see a U.S. official held accountable for policies of torture, extraordinary rendition, and arbitrary imprisonment.

So much work to be done to get ourselves out of our moral hole.

Jon Stewart greatest gay segments

Now that Comedy Central has put up their massive Daily Show archive, people have been combing it for segments on their favorite subjects. Sullivan links to this compilation of Jon Stewart's greatest gay hits, and writes:
I should say I feel an enormous debt to Stewart and his writers. To hear and watch a straight guy consistently and passionately defend the rights and dignity of gay people, and to see him skewer so much of the pompous, irrational and hateful blather that comes out of today's degenerate GOP is a mitzvah. He does it better than our often-lame gay groups. And he doesn't have to do any of it. Thanks, Mr Stewart. History will be kind to you.

No more extraterritoriality for military contractors in Iraq

Military contractors working in Iraq are now no longer immune to prosecution by Iraqi authorites. This should create some interesting showdowns in the near future. Imagine that: Iraq acting like a sovereign nation, not like some dominated 19th-century Asian state.

And what will happen if the Iraqi government publicly asks our regular military to get out?

Organizations right-wingers consider dangerous

Crooks and Liars pointed me to this list on Family Security Matters. It's Jason Rantz's list of what he considers the ten most dangerous propaganda organizations in America. Here they are:
10 ) Think Progress9 ) Muslim Student Association8 ) CodePINK7 ) American Civil Liberties Union, National6 ) Family Research Council5 ) Center for American Progress 4 ) League of the South3 ) MoveOn.org2 ) Universities and Colleges1 ) Media Matters for AmericaThere are right-wing organizations on this list, but only two: Family Research Council and League of the South. The rest are generally considered lefty, though I don't know what the politics of the Muslim Student Association are. The fact that "Universities and Colleges" is on this list is pretty funny. Who'd have thought that the local community college is dangerous to America.

I'm proud to say that I'm a member of two of these "dangerous" organizations: the ACLU and MoveOn.org (though I think I'm …

Rudy Giuliani: postmodern moral relativist nonpareil

Here's Giuliani on the subject of waterboarding:
Ms. Gustitus said: “He said he didn’t know if waterboarding is torture.” Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, I’m not sure it is either. I’m not sure it is either. It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it. I think the way it’s been defined in the media, it shouldn’t be done. The way in which they have described it, particularly in the liberal media. So I would say, if that’s the description of it, then I can agree, that it shouldn’t be done. But I have to see what the real description of it is. Because I’ve learned something being in public life as long as I have. And I hate to shock anybody with this, but the newspapers don’t always describe it accurately.”Emphasis added. Sullivan's reaction:
If the Khmer Rouge does it, it's torture. If the United States does it, it's not. This man cannot be allowed to be president of the United States. He believes that the United States is above morals…

Shrinking of the polar ice cap

(via Sullivan)

Is facebook worth $15 billion?

The business development folks at my old employer, Microsoft, seem to think so:
The two companies said on Wednesday that Microsoft would pay $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook. The investment values Facebook, which is three and a half years old and will bring in about $150 million in revenue this year, at $15 billion. The deal throws the value of the holdings of Facebook investors into the stratosphere. Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old Facebook founder who followed the path of Bill Gates by dropping out of Harvard to build a company, owns a 20 percent share that may now be worth as much as $3 billion. Accel Partners, the venture capital firm that invested $12.7 million in May 2005, now holds stock that could be worth $1.65 billion.Color me skeptical. I know Facebook is the flavor of the month right now. But these networking sites seem to fall victim to fashion trends pretty quickly. First it was Friendster, then Tribe, then MySpace, etc. The article talks about how invest…

Democrats and the Iron Law of Institutions

Some interesting thoughts on how the Iron Law of Institutions plays out in the Democratic Party from Chris Bowers:
Thinking back over the past decade and applying this line of thought to the major progressive electoral challenges, it seems pretty obvious now that centrist Democratic elites are far, far more threatened by attempted progressive take-overs of the Democratic Party than they are by progressive threats of third party splits. There was tremendous elite hysteria over Nader in 2000, Dean in 2004, and Lamont in 2006, but the nature and outcomes of that hysteria was different. First, Nader in no way threatened the power of Democratic leaders within the Democratic Party, and only threatened the power of the Democratic coalition relative to the Republican coalition. This is probably why there was as much, if not more, Democratic activist anger at Nader and his supporters than there was elite Democratic attacks against him. Further, unlike the Nader 2000 campaign, the Dean and Lamon…

Green Party: you gotta admit, they have a point

Recently, my friend Paul sent me this email from the Green Party:
> HOW TO END THE IRAQ WAR:
> VOTE GREEN
>
> It's time to face the truth: voting for Democrats
> is not going to end the war or change the
> direction of the US.
>
> • Democratic Party leaders supported the invasion
> of Iraq from the beginning. In October 2002,
> they voted with Republicans to surrender
> Congress's constitutional war power over to the
> Bush White House.
>
> • Democrats won't use their power in Congress to
> stall on Bush's requests for more war funding,
> which would result in a quick withdrawal of US
> troops. According to an Associated Press news
> report on October 10, congressional Democrats
> have put troop withdrawals "on the back burner."
>
> • Democratic Party leaders will only support
> vague and delayed timetables for bringing home US
> troops. Clinton and Obama won't promise that all
> US combat tro…

The Republican Dream Candidate

I don't know, he looks a little too foreign to me. (Follow link to a Tom Tomorrow cartoon)

Huckabee's Theocratic Delusions

Republican candidate Mike Huckabee made a completely wacky statement during the recent FOX debate:
When our founding fathers put their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, those 56 brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen, they said that we have certain inalienable rights given to us by our creator, and among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, life being one of them. I still believe that.Emphasis added. Well, perhaps Huckabee has a different definition of "clergyman" than the rest of us. Either that, or he has a radically different concept of the term "most". Or he's just flat-out wrong:
Only one of the 56 was an active clergyman, and that was John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). A few more of the signers were former clergymen, though it's a little unclear just how many. The conservative Heritage Foundation said two other signe…

RedState bans Ron Paul talk by new users

The one Republican candidate that seems to be generating genuine excitement, Ron Paul, has been banned by RedState (the right-wing version of DailyKos). Now I think Ron Paul has some pretty wacky ideas (going back to the gold standard?), but banning new users from talking about him seems pretty desperate. Where else can the libertarian wing of the Republican party go? Obviously they are no longer welcome in the right-wing coalition.

I like Ron Paul's stances on the Iraq occupation and the Drug War (against both). I hope he continues to drive the GOP establishment nuts.

A conservate scion's messy divorce

Conservative activist and billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife is getting divorced, at it's getting very ugly. There's a lot of stuff involved. Here's my favorite example:
"Defendant has and continues to unlawfully hold in his possession six pairs of asparagus tongs manufactured by Mappin & Webb, Birmingham, 1926 weighing 10 ounces total," reads one of dozens of paragraphs. "The last-known location for these items was at 'Vallamont,' 132 Pheasant Circle, Ligonier, Pa. 15658. The estimated cost for these items is $1,800."(HT: Sullivan) Maybe when I'm a billionaire, I can get some $300 asparagus tongs. Of course there's adultery, assault, and dognapping, too. But I don't think those things can compare to the asparagus tongs. I didn't even know there was such a thing as asparagus tongs.

4th Edition D&D delayed until June 6 2008

From D&D Insider:
Finally, I wanted to share this last bit of exciting news with everyone. After conferring with our various trade partners, the Sales Team here at Wizards came back with word that they'd rather have the three core rulebooks release in the same month than over three consecutive months. As that's how we originally wanted to release them, Brand and R&D got together with our Production Team to see if we could accommodate the request.The answer is YES! The new release schedule looks like this:April: D&D Miniatures Game Starter and Dungeons of Dread boosters. May: H1: Keep on the Shadowfell 4th Edition D&D adventure with Quick-Start Rules. June 6: 4th Edition Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual.We delay the original release date of the first book by a couple of weeks, but we put all three books on the shelves at the same time. Many of you asked us to do this, and I'm glad to report that we can make it happen. Al…

The disturbing truth about Star Wars fans

The frightening truth about we Star Wars fans:
There is a diabolical twist to Star Wars fandom, you see, that defies comprehension, and yet is the life-blood of all Star Wars fans. It is this:

Star Wars fans hate Star Wars. (HT: Grishnash via email) Read the full article. It's quite true. Here's my theory: the real Star Wars is in fact incredibly amazing and cool, but the real Star Wars is a Platonic ideal that exists in a childlike fantasy realm of dreams: it is an idea, a holy grail, an ultimate awesomeness always out of reach. The Star Wars stuff that actually exists is often quite lame. But the existence of the real, uber-cool Star Wars can be inferred from the hideous fragments that Lucas and others have created, just as the existence of a beautiful soaring eagle can be inferred from a disgusting piece of bird poo. We know the beautiful bird is there, we just wish we could see more of the bird and less of the turd.

Indeed this goes a long way to explain why Star Wars fans a…

Pic of the day

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From IM favorite Crooks and Liars.

Unitarian Atheist Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA)

He lays into Bush for the SCHIP veto:

You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement. This bill would provide healthcare for 10 million children and unlike the President's own kids, these children can't see a doctor or receive necessary care. [...]
But President Bush's statements about children's health shouldn't be taken any more seriously than his lies about the war in Iraq. The truth is that Bush just likes to blow things up. In Iraq, in the United States and in Congress. Sullivan gave Stark a Moore award nomination (for "intemperate left-wing rhetoric") for making this statement. Frankly, I'd like to see more Democratic legislators engaging in some intemperate left-wing rhetoric. Better yet, let's get some intemperate left-wing action happening. Hec…

Excruciating Dilemmas for Republican candidates

From John Cole via Sullivan:
1.) “Would you have sex with a man to stop a terrorist attack?”
2.) “If lowering taxes results in increased revenues then would lowering taxes to zero result in infinite revenues?”
3.) “If you had a time machine, would you travel back in time and abort Bin Laden?”
4.) “Would you torture and kill Jesus to ensure mankind’s salvation? And how does that work?”
*** Update ***
5.) “If Russia entered Turkey from the rear would Greece help?”
6.) For Rudy specifically: “How many alimony checks does the sanctity of marriage cost?”

Bush at 24% in Zogby poll

Americans don't like Bush, and they don't like Congress either. Republicans taking solace from the latter fact should be aware that the reason we don't like Congress is that it has not opposed Bush enough. 24% is a record low for the Zogby poll. I suspect this is the result of the SCHIP expansion veto which has gotten a lot of publicity.

The phony or the maniac?

Looking at the Republican nominees, Josh Marshall would prefer Romney to Giuliani:
I know I've said before that Romney's profound and almost incalculable phoniness is a terrifying prospect to behold in a possible president. But the danger of phoniness, aesthetic or otherwise, cannot hold a candle to the truly catastrophic foreign policy Giuliani would likely pursue if he got anywhere near the Oval Office. Watching him campaign it's pretty clear that the guy has no real sense that posturing and pandering to ethnic paranoia in New York City simply isn't the same as running a national foreign policy. The people he's coalescing around himself as his foreign policy advisors are the ones who are going to help him learn as he goes. And they are simply the most dangerous, deranged and deluded folks you can find in American political and foreign policy circles today. It's really not an exaggeration. Scrape the bottom of the "Global War on Terror" Islamofascism …

More than you ever wanted to know...

...about those Real Dolls I mentioned in my previous post. Imagine how creepy those dolls will be when they are actually robots.

Marriage to a robot?

Long a staple of science fiction, the idea of human-robot romanto-erotic relationships is getting more mainstream attention:
Humans could marry robots within the century. And consummate those vows. "My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots," artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands told LiveScience. Levy recently completed his Ph.D. work on the subject of human-robot relationships, covering many of the privileges and practices that generally come with marriage as well as outside of it. At first, sex with robots might be considered geeky, "but once you have a story like 'I had sex with a robot, and it was great!' appear someplace like Cosmo magazine, I'd expect many people to jump on the bandwagon," Levy said.Before you laugh, consider that some guys are already having "relationships" with REALDOLLs [not wo…

Department of bad timing

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) is inducted into the Idaho hall of fame:
Craig was chosen for induction last spring, well before his sex-sting arrest and many Idahoans say they're glad Craig still received the honor for a quarter century of political work in this state.

Amy Henderson said, "I think he's done a lot for Idaho and I think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I think his personal issues should be personal."

Fred Bauer told CBS 2 Eyewitness News, "I think it's appropriate. I think what he had done for the state has been suburb."

Others believe it's not the hall of fame he should be in, but the hall of shame, "I think he made a joke out of Idaho, so I don't think he should be inducted," Kasey Swinford said.I think he should come out. Then, instead of being a joke, he'd be an incredibly brave man. It's time for this country as a whole to shed its denial of homosexuality.

The psycholinguistics of swearing

A fun Pinker article on swearing.

Internal Monologue Book Club: Three Cups of Tea

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Image from City College of San Francisco I've been meaning to blog about this book I recently read for some time now. Three Cups of Teais about Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber turned activist who builds schools in Central Asia. I liked this book for a number of reasons: It depicts the people of western Pakistan and Afghanistan in an intimate and humanizing way. With all the messages and images we get of terrorists, Taliban, etc. it's important to realize that the vast majority of the people in these regions are extremely poor and far more concerned with surviving and bettering their lives than with ideology. It seems this books is a great primer on this region of the world, though not being an expert I can't properly critique the picture the authors paint. The book depicts an American doing something GOOD in this region of the world, and acting with humility, determination, and a sensitivity to local customs. Given the behavior of our current administration, it is refresh…

Gore and IPCC win Nobel Peace Prize for work on climate change

Congrats Al Gore and IPCC. Take that, climate change deniers!

Krugman defends Graeme Frost

Paul Krugman exposes right-wing smears of a 12-year old child who had the audacity to advocate for the enormously popular expansion of the SCHIP program:
All in all, the Graeme Frost case is a perfect illustration of the modern right-wing political machine at work, and in particular its routine reliance on character assassination in place of honest debate. If service members oppose a Republican war, they’re “phony soldiers”; if Michael J. Fox opposes Bush policy on stem cells, he’s faking his Parkinson’s symptoms; if an injured 12-year-old child makes the case for a government health insurance program, he’s a fraud.Meanwhile, leading conservative politicians, far from trying to distance themselves from these smears, rush to embrace them. And some people in the news media are still willing to be used as patsies.Politics aside, the Graeme Frost case demonstrates the true depth of the health care crisis: every other advanced country has universal health insurance, but in America, insuranc…

Careful what you lobby for...you might actually persuade people

I really like this point slacktivist makes:
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have loudly insisted for years that they are technologically incompetent. They have spent millions of lobbying dollars to explain all the things they cannot do, all the improvements they are unable to make, all the ways their abilities, designs and engineering are inferior to those of their competitors. All of that money spent advertising their limits and incompetency has had an impact. American car buyers listened. We believed them.Consider, for example, CAFE standards -- targets for corporate average fuel economy. Every time that Congress or Al Gore or the Sierra Club has suggested these standards should be higher, Detroit shrieks that they can't take the pressure, that it couldn't possibly be done, that they don't have the skill, the know-how or the basic competence to pull it off. Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and Volkswagen, on the other hand, just said, "More fuel-efficient vehicles? Hai. Ja.

Turkey threatening to send troops to Iraq?

This is not good:
BAGHDAD, Oct. 11 — A Kurdish lawmaker in the Iraqi Parliament today condemned preparations by Turkey’s government for potential cross-border military action against Kurdish rebels in Iraq, even as he reported that the Turkish military was mobilizing on the border and Turkish warplanes were flying close to Iraq.(HT: DHinMI on Kos, who has lengthy commentary on this.)

Friday baby blogging

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Quinn with one of his favorite blocks.


Quinn asleep in the baby backpack at the Albany Bulb.

As always, more on our family album.

My latest addiction

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Titan Quest is basically Diablo 2 with 3-D graphics and a classical mythology setting. It's very addictive. My character follows the disciplines of Warfare and Strom, and is optimized for very high damage output at the expense of defense and subtlety. I figure this lets me get through the game faster: focusing on defense might make my character more survivable, but it would take longer to kill the monsters so overall progress through the game would be slower. Since healing is very easy (just press a key to drink a potion), the damage my character does take can be easily remedied in most cases.

Freaky multiple personality voice montage

This is the freakiest thing I've heard in a while: "I just am who we are". It's a montage of voices--each one from a separate personality of someone suffering from multiple personality disorder. It starts around 1:50 into the clip. Very disturbing, and one of the voices sings a song about sexual abuse, so be warned.

Right wingers think smearing 12-year old kid is a good tactic

A 12-year old whose family benefited from the SCHIP program gave the Democrat's weekly radio address last week. He apparently talked about how the program helped him and his brain-damaged sister get health care. Right wing bloggers and radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh have proceeded to smear him, saying his family must be wealthy and bilking the government.

These people are vicious. They are desperate. They are losing.

How do you face Mecca when you're in space?

Malaysia has published a guidebook for Muslim space workers aboard the International Space Station:
The book, entitled Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites at the International Space Station, teaches the Muslim astronaut how to perform ablutions, determine the location of Mecca when praying, prayer times, and how to fast in space, the Star newspaper reported on Saturday. (HT: Progressive Gold) If you want to know why I use the term "space worker" instead of "astronaut", "cosmonaut", or, in the case of Malaysia, "angkasawan", see this post.

But the story doesn't give any details. I want to know the specifics! (I've wanted to know for over a year; see this post.)

Old Blackwater keep on rollin'... out of Iraq

The Iraqis want Blackwater out:
BAGHDAD - Iraqi authorities want the U.S. government to sever all contracts in Iraq with Blackwater USA within six months. They also want the firm to pay $8 million in compensation to families of each of the 17 people killed when its guards sprayed a traffic circle with heavy machine gun fire last month.
(HT: The Carpetbagger Report)

Republican candidate bumber stickers

By Hunter on Kos:
Rudy Giuliani
My other wife is 9/11Millionares for Mitt
Because dogs and poor people suck.Vote Tancredo
Because Sam Brownback isn't insane enough.Vote Sam Brownback
Doesn't "Tancredo" sound ethnic to you?McCain
I'm a still a maverick. Now give me a dollar.Fred Thompson for President
Hey, baby. This is what passes for sexy.Huckabee '08
I'm running too, goddamn it!Kids for Ron Paul
Like Optimus Prime, but with lower taxes.

Question of the Day

From Quiddity at uggabugga:
If you waterboard someone while wearing an American flag lapel pin, is it therefore legal and moral?

Stewart on SCHIP veto

The lines practically write themselves:
BUSH: …I believe in private medicine, not the federal government running the healthcare system…STEWART: Yes, I don’t think there’s an uninsured kid out there who wants to be suckered into some slippery slope socialized medicine scheme. These kids don’t want the government telling them what they can or cannot die from. It’s just wrong.Republicans: people who veto health care for poor children.

Sledgehammer Irony

White House spokesperson Dana Perino:
Well, unfortunately, intimidation and force can chill peaceful demonstrations. And reports about very innocent people being thrown into detention, where they could be held for years without any representation or charges, is distressing; and we understand that some of the monasteries have been sealed. Now, obviously, this has, again, a chilling effect on protestors, but we would ask that everyone show restraint and allow those who want to express themselves to be able to do so in Burma.
Emphasis added. Can you imagine the scorn and derision statements like that inspire around the world? It inspires scorn and derision in me, and I like this country; it's been extremely good to me and my family. I can just hear the members of the Burmese junta laughing their asses off at us. It sickens me that Bush has managed to shrink the moral distance between my government and these repressive thugs so greatly.

Some have pointed to this incident and declared t…

Humanizing Iran

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This image is from a series of pictures of people and places in Iran (HT: Greenwald). I'd like to remind the Bush administration and its supporters that those are real people they are talking about bombing. It's a shame that we have to remind ourselves of that.

Yes, we have many conflicts with the government of Iran, many areas where our interests are at odds. But we need to throw some very cold water on the fantasy that violence is the easy solution to all the world's problems.

This photo series made me ask myself: when was the last time I saw a picture of an Iranian other than Ahmadinejad or someone about to be executed? What if the only images of America someone saw were images of George W. Bush and the atrocities at Abu Ghraib? Wouldn't you want to show that person some other pictures? Take a look at these images from Iran (and one from California that got put in by mistake).

Sprinklers don't work in $592 million Baghdad US embassy

If this happened in a novel or movie, I might chide the author for being a bit heavy handed with the symbolism. Yahoo! news via Sullivan:
The latest problem with the trouble-plagued new U.S. embassy complex in Iraq is that the sprinkler systems meant to contain a fire do not work, according to officials in Congress and the State Department.

The previously undisclosed problem in the $592 million project was discovered several weeks ago when the fire-safety systems were tested and pipe joints burst, State Department representatives recently informed Congress .

Europe: better off than conservatives depict it

Via Atrios, a Washington Post opinion piece challenging following 5 assumptions about the European economy:
1. The sclerotic European economy is incapable of leading the world.
2. Nobody wants to invest in European companies and economies because lack of competitiveness makes them a poor bet.
3.Europe is the land of double-digit unemployment.
4. The European "welfare state" hamstrings businesses and hurts the economy.
5. Europe is likely to be held hostage to its dependence on Russia and the Middle East for most of its energy needs.Not true, says Steven Hill.

Quinn's physical stats

For those of you who can't get enough data about my son:
> your child is 23.5 pounds, and that is
> at the 57th percentile for weight.
>
> your child is 32 inches, and that is
> at the 95th percentile for height. Quinn's head circumference is also in the 95th percentile (49.5 cm).

Christian churches resort to Halo 3 as recruiting tool

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"Suffer the children to come unto me," sayeth Master Chief.
Image fromclubskill.com.

Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.

If those don't work, use highly-popular M-rated violent video games:
Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.(HT: Pablo via email.)

I do object to the following remark in the article:
“If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it,” said James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a nonprofit group that assesses denominational policies. “My own take is you can do better than that.”Um, dude, I bet if a minister tried to lure teenage boys into a church by offering free alcohol and porn, the teenage boys would (rightly) flee in the opposite direction as fast as their…

Democrats, Clinton, and "polarization"

I think some people are under the illusion that if Democrats don't choose Hillary Clinton as the nominee, then the right-wing hate machine will close up shop and go home. This is a ridiculous delusion. Kevin Drum has this to say on the subject:
But there's a huge difference here. A guy like Giuliani is polarizing because he actively chooses to be. It's part of his persona. He wants people to hate himHillary, by contrast, is polarizing not because she wants to be, but because the right-wing attack machine made her that way. She's "polarizing" only because a certain deranged slice of conservative nutjobs detest her.And guess what? By this standard, Jimmy Carter is polarizing. Bill Clinton is polarizing. Al Gore is polarizing. John Kerry is polarizing. Do you see the trend here?There are plenty of good reasons to oppose Hillary Clinton. But anyone who opposes her because she's polarizing is allowing the bottom feeders of modern movement conservatism to dicta…

Republican presidential candidates follow Bush over the SCHIP cliff

Because those seeking the Republican presidential nomination must prove they hate American children more than the other nomination seekers, Romney, McCain, Giuliani, and Thompson have all come in support of Bush's veto of the popular SCHIP expansion:
The four leading Republican presidential candidates have aligned themselves with President Bush’s veto on Wednesday of an expanded health insurance program for children, once again testing the political risk of appearing in lock step with a president who has low approval ratings and some critics of the veto within their party.
Crooks and Liars says the following:
Perhaps more than any policy decision this year, the president’s decision to veto expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) was spectacularly dumb. It was bad politics, bad policy, and based on bad reasoning. Lawmakers from both parties, governors from both parties, medical professionals, and children’s’ advocates all agree that Bush’s nonsensical decis…

Republicans have confused "the closet" with "the restroom stall"

This probably won't be huge scandal, because he's not a national figure, but another Republican is retiring due to revelations involving public restrooms.

Republican Convention logo features "wide stance" elephant

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Kos is having a blast mocking this logo:
And yes, this is real, not an extremely clever photoshop job, and truly encapsulates what the Republican Party is all about.Wide stance? Check.In Minneapolis? Check.Prison stripe-wearing? Check.Starry eyed? Check.As for the elephant humping the "2008"...Are they going for a "Still screwing the country in 2008" theme, or is it a reference to hypocritical adulterers like David Vitter and just about the entire Republican presidential field?All of the above? Check!Apparently they ran out of space for a collapsing bridge.There are some funny bits from the comment section as well.

James Dobson: We won't vote for a pro-choice Republican

I don't normally link to Dobson Op-Ed pieces, but this relates to my earlier post on speculation that the Christianists might bolt the Republican party if Rudy Giuliani is the nominee. Here's Dobson on the NYT editorial page:
After two hours of deliberation, we voted on a resolution that can be summarized as follows: If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate. Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result was almost unanimous. The other issue discussed at length concerned the advisability of creating a third party if Democrats and Republicans do indeed abandon the sanctity of human life and other traditional family values. Though there was some support for the proposal, no consensus emerged.Emphasis added. Dobson sounds pretty serious. But I wouldn't be surprised if these folks figure out some way to reco…

At highest levels, US condoned torture

Front page the New York Times:
But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.
After World War II, we executed people for doing this kind of thing. It seems pretty clear that the Bush administration contains people who should be prosecuted for war crimes.Others writing about this story:
Sullivan:There is no doubt - no doubt at all - that these tactics are torture and subject to prosecution as war crimes. We know this because the law is very clear when you don'…

FBI agents investigating Blackwater to be guarded by....Blackwater

It seems like the US government can't do a damn thing in Iraq without the help of mercenaries. While investigating the Blackwater shooting incident, FBI agents working in Iraq will be protected by...Blackwater security agents. Why doesn't the FBI just do what the State Department did and outsource the investigation itself to Blackwater?

Time to quote Machiavelli's The Prince, chapter 12:
Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.

More UU fame for me & my family

We appear for about 1 second at 9 minutes, 8 seconds into this 10 minute video about Unitarian Universalism. No autographs, please.

Their reality has lapped our satire

I know from my super-top-secret contact in the State Department (codename: Maestro) that State is in a big personnel crunch right now, what with the passport backlog and all. So it's natural that it might turn to outside contractors for help. But please, when writing an initial report investigating the Blackwater shooting incident, please don't outsource the job to a Blackwater employee:
A Blackwater contractor wrote an initial U.S. government report describing contractors' involvement in a September 16 incident in which Iraqi civilians were shot, government and industry sources told CNN.
[...]
Blackwater contractor Darren Hanner drafted the two-page spot report on the letterhead of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security for the embassy's Tactical Operations Center, said a source involved in diplomatic security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Hanner, listed on the report as the center's watch officer, was working for Blackwater at the time the report was written -- just a…