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Showing posts from November, 2007

Latest fundie lunacy: Interstate 35 is "Way of Holiness"

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Does this mean you're just 1/4 miles from heaven? Or that you're about to enter hell?
Image from Interstate Guide.

I guess the Bob Dylan song "Highway 61 Revisited" was wrong: it turns out God prefers Interstate 35:
Running right through the heart of the Twin Cities is a spiritual road that dozens of evangelical churches say is specifically mentioned in the Bible as the "Way of Holiness." They call it the "Highway of Holiness." Others call it Interstate 35. Evangelicals throughout the Midwest, from Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minn., have been praying at 24-hour prayer rooms for a month for Interstate 35 in order to "light the highway." Young people in the movement have been holding "purity sieges" in front of LGBT businesses, abortion clinics and stores that sell pornography. So far, Minnesota has been spared of "purity sieges," but 24-hour prayer rooms have been set up in Minneapolis, Albert Lea and Duluth. The scriptural…

Republican Senate candidate has a Geocities site as official page

Kos sneers at Republican John Kennedy (running for Senate in Louisiana) for having a website hosted by Geocities. Indeed, if you go to http://www.johnkennedy.com/ and look at the page source, you'll find it's a redirect tohttp://www.geocities.com/treasurerkennedy/index.htm.
That is the Web equivalent of setting up your campaign headquarters in cardboard box in a deserted alley in a seedy neighborhood.

To be fair, I too have a Geocities page. But it's just a placeholder to point to this blog, which is I guess the Web equivalent of a handwritten message thumb-tacked to a public bulletin board at the local library. And I'm not running for Senate.

Of course, maybe John Kennedy is getting some super-deluxe Geocities hosting package, rather than the crappy free hosting just anyone can sign up for. In other words, maybe Geocities is being gentrified.

Control video games with your mind!

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Emotiv Systems is trying to make it happen (Disclosure: I had a job interview with them this morning).

Giuliani in BIG trouble

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"Don't worry, my dear, my taxpayer-funded escort will protect us during our adulterous trysts, and by billing it to the Office for People with Disabilities (among others), no one will ever find out!"
Image from New York Daily News

Expensing your adultery to the City of New York is not cool. Trapper John on DailyKos claims "Beginning tonight, Rudy is more likely than not done as a serious candidate." I'm not so sure. Never underestimate people's ability to forgive those they look up to for things they would never tolerate in others.

Now it makes sense that the Mayor of New York should have 24-hour security. But why hide the expenses this creates in obscure branches of the municipal government? And is it really right for taxpayers to fund your escort to the Hamptons (where your mistress happens to live) eleven times? Now perhaps some of these times Giuliani had legitimate business there. Three of those trips were on his official schedule. But 11 times doesn&…

I love it when other people think like me

I was worried that I was going out on a limb when I wrote this a few days ago:
I think what Republican primary voters want to hear is that you're such a partisan hack that you'll say anything, repudiate any position, dissociate yourself from any vote, sell out any principle, in order toe the party line and pay homage to the dear leader. Republicans eat that stuff up. Far from being a disadvantage, these transparently opportunistic position changes send a signal that says: "Don't worry: if elected, I won't let my integrity get in the way of pandering to you."Republicans lap it up.But here's Scott Horton of Harper's saying something quite similar:
But polling has shown that the core group of Republican primary voters are not terribly troubled by the charlatan like qualities of candidates—they seem to take a certain perverse pleasure in it.So if I'm out on a limb, at least I have some company.

Will the Euro become the new reserve currency?

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Image from Bank of Finland

Jerome a Paris on DailyKos looks forward to it. Given Republican reckless mismanagement of our nation's finances, I wouldn't be surprised if the Euro becomes the new "safe" currency. I hate to see America weakened, but I can't blame people for betting against the dollar right now.

Of course, a Democratic administration might start to clean things up, just as Bill Clinton helped do in the 1990's (with a huge assist from a booming economy). But the destructive Republican ideology will still be there, ready to waste it all on wars, giveaways to the rich, and corporate handouts. Looking at America from the outside, I might be thinking, "Do I really want to bet on a country that re-elected Bush in 2004? Sure, they might get their act together, but why risk it?"

We need more than just a Democratic victory in 2008. We need a re-alignment of our politics. I don't see how else we can regain our moral and financial standing in the …

Romney says he wouldn't appoint qualified Muslim to cabinet

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"Don't judge people by their religions...wait, I mean don't judge me by my religion. It's OK to judge other people by their religions. Especially if Republican primary voters have a prejudice against that religion. Yeah. Oh wait, I mean especially if Republicans don't like that religion, unless that religion is the Church of Latter Day Saints, in which case not liking it would mean you're being unfair."
Image from Out in Hollywood (and no, Romney isn't gay as far as anyone knows.)

Romney's statement isn't surprising, given the anti-Muslim bias of those he's catering to, but pretty execrable nonetheless. Here's the quote:
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as…

Game with unique interface banned in Belgium

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Image from engadget.

Nintendo has a unique controller called the Wii, but this game has an even more unconventional interface: your wee wee. Too bad the Belgian police banned it:
As reported by Engadget, Place to Pee, a driving game controlled via urination, has been given the chop by police in Gent. The game was on display at the GamePower Expo, but cops there ultimately found it indecent.

Oprah will be stumping for Obama

It will be interesting to see what kind of impact Oprah has on Obama's campaign. She's got an enormous media empire and a huge audience, but will that translate into votes in a primary election?

Electric cars on the way

This front page story on Kos has some pictures and previews of electric vehicles on the near horizon.

Giuliani voted for McGovern over Nixon...

...and is now backpedaling furiously:
"I had traditionally been a Democrat," Giuliani told me in a recent interview in Las Vegas. "It was almost like a reflex mode. I actually remember saying to myself, 'If I was a person really deciding who should be president right now, I'd probably vote for Nixon, because I think the country would be safer with Nixon.'"What does it say about today's Republican party that Giuliani has to defend a vote against the disgraced Richard Nixon? The guy was a crook. Of course, this is the same Republican party that demands fealty to Bush, the most reviled president since...Richard Nixon. OK, maybe it makes sense.

I think what Republican primary voters want to hear is that you're such a partisan hack that you'll say anything, repudiate any position, dissociate yourself from any vote, sell out any principle, in order toe the party line and pay homage to the dear leader. Republicans eat that stuff up. Far from being a …

What conservatives think about

Well, we don't really know. But we do know what the most viewed pages on Conservapedia are (as of this posting):
Main Page‎ [1,935,866]Homosexuality‎ [1,625,236]Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [518,141]Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [434,518]Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [422,222]Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [402,128]Homosexual Couples‎ [374,132]Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [332,115]Homosexuality and Anal Cancer‎ [294,478]Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [293,805](via The Agonist via Crooks and Liars)

When I read this list aloud to my wife, she innocently asked, "Is Conservapedia a gay site?"

I'm sad to see that the famous Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus page didn't make the list. Oh, they removed it.

Doonesbury on the possibility of an atheist president

A good one on a favorite subject of mine (HT: Bill in Minneapolis via email).

What do forced pregnancy people think the penalty for abortion should be?

Digby is pointing out an interesting wrinkle in the abortion debate: If the anti-choicers really believe that abortion is killing a human being, shouldn't women who get them and the doctors who perform them be prosecuted for murder? Do anti-choicers want this? Apparently not:
MATTHEWS: I have always wondered something about the pro-life movement. If—if you believe that killing—well, killing a fetus or killing an unborn child is—is murder, why don‘t you bring murder charge or seek a murder penalty against a woman who has an abortion? Why do you let her off, if you really believe it‘s murder?

O‘STEEN: We have never sought criminal penalties against a woman.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

O‘STEEN: There haven‘t been criminal penalties against a woman.

MATTHEWS: Well, why not?

O‘STEEN: Well, you don‘t know the circumstances and how she‘s been forced into this. And that‘s...

MATTHEWS: Forced into it?

(CROSSTALK)

O‘STEEN: ... to be effective.

We‘re out—we‘re not out—we‘re out to try to protect unborn…

Financing solar panels on homes

An interesting post on Berkeley's program to have the city help finance people installing solar panels on their roofs:
Berkeley's City Council has a plan for the city to finance solar panels for its residents to then have the homeowners pay for their panels through a 20-year additional assessment on their homes that is guaranteed not to exceed what their electricity would cost from the utility. There are a number of genius elements to this path. One is that the city government will be able to achieve lower cost financing that, by definition, will lower the long-term cost of each installation. And, the City's commitment will foster educated inspectors (a real issue), a concentration of installers, knowledge in the community, etc, capacity for executing installations. The increasing number of installations (along with lower hassles for installers, like inspectors who know what they're doing) will also drive down costs as quantity of installations mount.This does seem lik…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Take a minute away from bemoaning the insanity of the Republicans and the ineffectiveness of the Democrats in stopping it and be be thankful for the things we do have. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Who needs science fiction when you have reality?

Neuromancer author William Gibson in an interview with Rolling Stone:
You made your name as a science-fiction writer, but in your last two novels
you've moved squarely into the present. Have you lost interest in the future?
It has to do with the nature of the present. If one had gone to talk to a
publisher in 1977 with a scenario for a science-fiction novel that was in effect
the scenario for the year 2007, nobody would buy anything like it. It's too
complex, with too many huge sci-fi tropes: global warming; the lethal, sexually
transmitted immune-system disease; the United States, attacked by crazy
terrorists, invading the wrong country. Any one of these would have been more
than adequate for a science-fiction novel. But if you suggested doing them all
and presenting that as an imaginary future, they'd not only show you the door,
they'd probably call security.

This is the future, man.

Bush and Musharraf: kindred spirits

Bush seems to be climbing in bed with Pakistan's military dictator:
President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general "hasn't crossed the line" and "truly is somebody who believes in democracy."
Bush spoke nearly three weeks after Musharraf declared emergency rule, sacked members of the Supreme Court and began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. Musharraf's government yesterday released about 3,000 political prisoners, although 2,000 remain in custody, according to the Interior Ministry.Let me go on record as predicting that this backing of Musharraf is going to blow up in our faces. I hope not literally, but that's a possibility. I'm no Pakistan expert, but from where I'm sitting Musharraf looks like bad news. And he's not even useful to us. The guy is a military dictator with nulclear weapons who is duping the United States into giving hi…

Military wants signing bonuses of wounded soldiers back

This is 100% batshit insane:
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) ―The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments. To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.Kos and Sullivan both react. Fortunately, a member of Congress has introduced a bill to put the kibosh on this sort of thing:
Mr. Altmire's legislation, the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act, would require the Defense Department to pay bonuses in full within 30 days to veterans discharged because of combat-related wounds.I'm proud it's a Democrat doing this, but I imagine such a bill would have bi-partisan support.

There have been so many examples of our veterans being treated poorly recently. It's a disgrace. How about we defund some weapons progra…

What if all the action movie characters fought each other?

The Ultimate Showdown for Ultimate Destiny:

What has happened to our politics?

I think Republican Mike Huckabee has jumped the shark with this Chuck Norris ad currently playing in Iowa. Yeah, it's kinda funny. But what does it say about our level of political discourse that this is the ad he's running in Iowa?

Lots of people are reacting to this ad:

Ezra Klein: It's increasingly hard not to really, really like Mike Huckabee. I'm definitely going to vote for him for neighbor, or possibly for friend. That said, this is Huckabee's first ad in Iowa, and it seems strangely conceived. Chuck Norris facts are very well known amongst plugged-in hipsters who read Gawker. They are not very well known, I'd guess, among Iowans. If this were a web-only ad meant to get the campaign some YouTube pick-up, it would be very well-designed. As an introduction to Iowans? I think it'll confuse more than it will convert.

Pam Spaulding on Pandagon: This is funny, but probably not for the reasons Mike Huckabee thinks it is.

Quote of the Day

"Imbecility that is not even meek, ceases to be pitiable, and becomes simply odious."

-George Eliot, "Evangelical Teaching", from The Portable Atheist anthology

When I read this recently, I immediately thought of the Bush administration.

A flood of spam

I didn't realize how bad it had become, and it's getting worse all the time. Here's a message from the sysadmin of Macalester:
Since the volume of spam we receive was a critical factor in causing the e-mail delay problem, we'd like to take an opportunity to make clear just how bad the situation with spam really is. During October and November, the average number of incoming e-mail messages has been between 800,000 and 1,000,000 per day. Of this traffic, between 90% and 99% is spam. (For comparison, a year ago our daily traffic load was approximately 200,000 messages per day, of which approximately 80% was
spam.

Worst of all, this proportion of spam to legitimate traffic is not unique to Macalester. It's a worldwide problem, and affects everyone's e-mail everywhere. Thankfully, all but a handful of such spams are blocked before reaching your Inbox. It's a sobering thought, but realize that for every spam message you receive, there are thousands…

Maybe I should start using bigger words

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I guess the fact that I can reach a young audience is a good thing. Gotta let the yunguns know about how cool atheism is and how not-cool Republicans are. But some snobby part of me would have liked to have had a higher level of education required to comprehend my sublime profundity.

That's Mario, but who's the other guy?

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Image from the joystiq story

It's Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper! Americans aren't the only ones stunningly ignorant of politics:
Mario is more recognizable to Canadian citizens than their own prime minister, according to a Harris/Decima survey. As reported by Joystiq, researchers found that more Canadians could identify a picture of Nintendo’s famed plumber than they could of PM Stephen Harper, who has been on the job for nearly two years.On the other hand, Nintendo commissioned the survey.To be fair, I wouldn't have recognized Stephen Harper either. Until now, that is.

OK, looking at the report on the survey, the quote above isn't really accurate. Only in some areas of Canada was Mario more recognizable. Nationwide, they both have 70% name recognition:
Even in Calgary, which includes Harper's home riding of Calgary Southwest, Mario was more recognizable (47 per cent vs. 41 per cent). More women across Canada were also able to identify Mario than the country&#…

Yo NYT: a billion is a THOUSAND millions

If you read the lead editorial in the paper version today's New York Times, you would have come across this shocking line:
House Democrats distinguished themselves this week when they stood up to the White House’s latest military funding steamroller: approving only $50 million of the additional $196 million the president requested for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Their editorials need an editor. If Bush only asked for $196 million for wars, Congress would give it to him no problem. And no one who knows anything about military budgets would describe such a paltry sum as a "funding steamroller". Of course, the editorial writers meant to say "billion", not "million". That they could make such a mistake is truly frightening. A billion is nothing like a million. In fact, a billion is what you get when you take a thousand millions and add them together. It's like mistaking gallon jug for a shot glass. (Here's a good post from Dean Baker on innume…

Classic movie lines...if there were no writers

I support the striking writers. They should get something from Internet sales. It may be hard to make money on the net, but that doesn't mean the writers shouldn't get a cut of what money does get made. It should be just like any other distribution channel. In fact, this whole divvying things up by distribution channel is weird. They're all merging together, but old arrangements are slow to adapt. Why don't they just get some small cut of the take, regardless of medium?

As an actor, I run into this weirdness every time I try to explain to someone the different jurisdictions of SAG and AFTRA: SAG is film, and AFTRA is TV and radio. But some TV is SAG if it's shot on film or if it meets some other weird criteria. Some "industrials" (in-house corporate videos used for training, promotion, or other purposes) are SAG and some aren't. It's all very abstruse.

Anyway, via Eschaton, we have this funny look at some classic movie lines as if they had been writ…

David Brooks defense of Reagan annihilated

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Reagan speaking at the Neshoba County fair in 1980.
Image from the Neshoba County Fair website.

David Brooks recently penned a column in which he claimed that Reagan mentioning "state's rights" in a speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi (site of three infamous murders of civil rights workers) was not a coded appeal to racists:
Still, the agitprop version of this week — that Reagan opened his campaign with an appeal to racism — is a distortion, as honest investigators ranging from Bruce Bartlett, who worked for the Reagan administration and is the author of “Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy,” to Kevin Drum, who writes for Washington Monthly, have concluded.Well I don't know about Bartlett, Kevin Drum doesn't exactly exonerate Reagan. Indeed, he calls Reagan's speech "a genuine blight on his record" and says Reagan deserves criticism for it and that Reagan's civil rights record was "pretty abominable&q…

RISKAY on how to tell if your man is cheating

I suppose it would work:
Why you comin' home
At five in the morn?
Something's going on.
Can I smell yo dick?

Don't play me like a fool
Cuz that ain't cool
What you need to do is
Let me smell yo dick!(via RazzyBlog)

Why Republicans don't shame Democrats into closing hedge fund tax loophole

Democrats should close the "carried interest" loophole that allows hedge fund managers to get taxed at 15% while the rest of us get taxed much higher. Unfortunately, hedge fund managers give a lot of money to Democrats and that buys influence. Matt Yglesias asks why Republicans don't shame Democrats into closing the loophole. It would be a pretty easy way to score some political points and show how the Democrats are in hock to narrow moneyed interests. Kevin Drum responds:
Silly Matt. Virtually every Republican in Congress has signed — using the blood of their first-born child — Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge. Everyone knows that "closing a loophole" is just crafty liberalspeak for "increasing your taxes," so voting to tax hedge fund managers at normal rates would cause all pledge-abiding members of the GOP caucus to explode. Or, in any case, open them up to Grover Norquist saying mean things about them.Besides, you know the old saying. "Fi…

Why are so many Islamic terrorists engineers?

Engineering seems to be the field of choice for many Islamic terrorists. Why? This paper, by Oxford Sociologists Gambetta and Hertog, tries to figure it out. Here's the abstract:
We find that graduates from subjects such as science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the Muslim world, though not among the extremist Islamic groups which have emerged in Western countries more recently. We also find that engineers alone are strongly over-represented among graduates in violent groups in both realms. This is all the more puzzling for engineers are virtually absent from left-wing violent extremists and only present rather than over-represented among right-wing extremists. We consider four hypotheses that could explain this pattern. Is the engineers’ prominence among violent Islamists an accident of history amplified through network links, or do their technical skills make them attractive recruits? Do engineers have a ‘mindset’ that makes th…

Southern Baptist pedophile scandal

Orcinus wonders why this hasn't gotten the same attention that the Catholic Church's scandal has:
And so here it is -- in the form of hundreds of young women and men coming forward to tell their stories to judges and juries, exposing a decades-long pattern of unchecked predatory behavior on the part of their Baptist pastors. This parade, too, has gone on nearly non-stop and just as fast for nearly a year now -- so where are the reporters, the cameras, the headlines?

A few national papers have picked up on this, as has ABC's 20/20 (which did a report in April). Among bloggers, the perspicacious Pam Spaulding has been on the case. But mostly, the coverage has been confined to the local papers -- each one treating its own hometown pastor scandal as an isolated incident, without putting it in the context of a larger national trend. As long as the dots aren't being connected, this isn't getting anything like the 24/7/365 coverage that the Catholic scandal did.

We have to w…

Senator Vitter (R-LA) gets subpoena to testify about escorts

Those of us who enjoy watching Republicans squirm on the spit of sexual hypocrisy should pencil in November 28th on our calendars:
WASHINGTON -- The "D.C. Madam" served a subpoena Tuesday on Sen. David Vitter, R-La., requiring him to testify about his use of the Washington, D.C., escort service federal prosecutors say was a prostitution ring. The subpoena calls on the freshman senator to testify at a federal court hearing Nov. 28 looking into the business operations of the $2 million escort service Deborah Jeane Palfrey operated in the nation's capital for 13 years. (via The Carpetbagger Report). Remember the Internal Monologue offer: any politician who comes forth and proposes decriminalization of prostitution, or even gets a good discussion going on how we should deal with sexual matters in our culture, will get a pass from Internal Monologue when it comes to sex scandals.

Torture is wrong

The Military Commissions Act is one of the more hideous pieces of legislation the US Congress has passed (if you care about civil rights, human rights, and the moral standing of the United States, that is). Here's a site devoted to fighting it: torturelaw.org. (HT: Pablo).

The writers' strike, explained by a Daily Show writer

Fashion horrors of JC Penny 1977

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I have complained about the baggy pants fashion among today's youth, but I suppose I should be thankful that it is no longer 1977 and we were subject to stuff like this:

(HT: Bryan via email.) There's so much more. Follow this link, if you dare:
Last weekend I put an exhaust fan in the ceiling for my wife's grandfather. After a bunch of hours spent in The Hottest Attic In The Universe, he had a ceiling fan that ducted to the side of his house.

While my brother-in-law and I were fitting the fan in between the joists, we found something under the insulation. What we found was this [...]

A JC Penney catalog from 1977. It's not often blog fodder just falls in my lap, but holy hell this was two solid inches of it, right there for the taking.

Airline Security: Annoying AND Useless

All the annoyances we put ourselves through at airport security are basically forms of voodoo: by going through a ritual that looks like it has something to do with security, our magical minds convince us that we are actually more safe. The charade is pretty transparent though, and it annoys the crap out of me. Now that I have a baby son, all those annoyances are magnified tenfold. And these measures don't even stop relatively straightforward attempts to get dangerous devices on planes:
A report made public Wednesday said government investigators smuggled liquid explosives and detonators past airport security, exposing a dangerous hole in the nation's ability to keep these forbidden items off of airplanes.The investigators learned about the components to make an improvised explosive device and an improvised incendiary device on the Internet and purchased the parts at local stores, said the report by the Government Accountability Office. Investigators were able to purchase the c…

Alabama sex toy ban will stand

The Supreme Court won't hear the case:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a challenge to Alabama's ban on the sale of sex toys, ending a nine-year legal battle and sending a warning to store owners to clean off their shelves.Now purveyors of sex toys will have to call them medical devices if they want to avoid rather stiff penalties:
Up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine for a first offense. A second offense carries a prison sentence of one to 10 years. This story does little to change my stereotyped thinking about The South. Aren't people just embarrassed by this kind of law? Fortunately, Alabamans can still buy this stuff from other states and online.

Sweet home Alabama
Ain't no dildo sellin' here
You buy as many guns as you want
It's those butt plugs that we fear

HT: RazzyBlog

Vocabulary quiz that gives rice to charity

Here's a fun vocab quiz that dynamically adjusts its difficulty to make itself very hard for you. I got up to level 47, but I tend to bounce around 43-46. Each correct answer causes the sponsors to donate 10 grains of rice to UN famine relief. (HT: My wonderful wife Sarah via email.)

How to successfully interrogate people

When the FBI interrogated Saddam Hussein, it did it the right way:
Instead of bright lights, loud music or waterboarding, the Beirut-born Arabic speaker - who immigrated to the U.S. as a teen - built a rapport with the dictator nabbed in a spider hole. He treated him with respect and took care of his every need. On his birthday, Piro showed Saddam news clippings showing that Iraqis no longer celebrated the date. But then the agent gave him baklava Piro's Lebanese mother sent him in Baghdad. They talked about sports and Saddam's pulp novels, and soon the despot was spilling his guts over thick cups of Folger's.This is what you do when you actually want to get information from someone. Torture is for getting false confessions and for practicing cruelty.

It's Veteran's Day

Let's take a moment to remember that it's Veteran's Day.

Don't be intimidated by wine experts

They don't really know what they are talking about:
In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn't stop the experts from describing the "red" wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its "jamminess," while another enjoyed its "crushed red fruit." Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine. The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave…

Get your flu shot

If you have any sense of civic duty whatsoever, get your flu shot. According to this post on Marginal Revolution, Influenza kills 36,000 people a year. By getting your flu shot, you're not only protecting yourself, you're protecting other people by making it more difficult for the flu virus to use your body as a Xerox machine to make copies of itself and infect other people. Indeed, depending on the circumstances, you may on average be preventing more flu infections in other people than you are in yourself.

(via Sullivan)

Humans don't have supernatural powers

If you can demonstrate otherwise, you should go to this guy and win $1 million dollars.

Bush's key enabler: Dianne Feinstein

She's not up for re-election until 2012, so no wonder she feels she can blow off her constituents (including yours truly). Greenwald:
Feinstein is not merely voting reliably for the most extremist Bush policies, though she is doing that. Far more than that, she has become, time and again, the linchpin of Bush's ability to have his most radical policies approved by the Senate. Could the universe be any larger between what Feinstein's constituents want and what she is doing in the Senate? Here are the latest views of California voters of the President to whose agenda Feinstein is displaying such ferocious fidelity:Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as President? Approve -- 28% Disapprove -- 70%Among California Democrats, a grand total of 9% approve of Feinstein's beloved President; 90% disapprove. Obviously, nothing could be less relevant to Feinstein than the views of her constituents, but still, the disparity between what they believe a…

Abstinence Only doesn't work; comprehensive does

This is one of those truths that I fear bears repeating, because it hasn't yets unken into the collective consciousness: Abstinence Only sex education doesn't work. Here is a quote from a recent study by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy:
At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners. In addition, there is strong evidence from multiple randomized trials demonstrating that some abstinence programs chosen for evaluation because they were believed to be promising actually had no impact on teen sexual behavior. That is, they did not delay the initiation of sex, increase the return to abstinence or decrease the number of sexual partners."1(p. 15)

In contrast, a substantial majority of the comprehensive sex education programs reviewed—which receive no comparable federal funding—are effective. The positive outcomes …

How to get information from the Internet

Don't go onto some site and ask a question, like "What's the best sushi restaurant in such-and-such neighborhood?" That won't get you the best information. Instead, go up on some site and post "Restaurant X is the best sushi restaurant in such-and-such neighborhood, and anyone who disagrees with me is a damn fool." This will trigger a tremendous outpouring of "nerdfury" in which you are rebutted by an angry mob that will describe in great detail exactly how you are wrong and what the real best sushi restaurant in that neighborhood is and how stupid you are, etc. But you will get much better information than if you just innocently asked for the information you wanted. (Insight from this post. Kevin Drum responds: "Anybody who doesn't immediately recognize the truth of this is obviously spending too much time in the real world and not enough time online.")

The religious right falls in line like docile sheep

We keep hearing stories about how social conservatives will never accept Giuliani, how the religious right would abandon the Republican party if he's the nominee, etc. I'm starting to believe it's all baloney. It seems as though the authoritarian style Giuliani projects trumps all those "deeply held moral principles" about abortion, sanctity of marriage, homosexuality, gender roles, etc. It's not as if there aren't Republican candidates that have a strong record on those social issues. But Giuliani continues to lead. Of course, it could be that most people aren't paying attention yet. It's easy for us political junkies to forget that for most people, this is still way far off.

There's still more of this to play out, but I think that among the American right-wing, the need for belligerent, macho posturing is much stronger than the need to express puritanism.

Why do Senate Democrats let themselves get punked?

Greenwald, who is almost always worth reading:
But it isn't true that there is a "60-vote requirement," [to get anything done in the Senate] because only Republicans are willing to impose it. Democrats won't, even on what they claim are the gravest of matters, such as confirming someone as Attorney General who is "dead wrong on torture" and who won't even "tell the president that he cannot ignore the laws passed by Congress." The so-called "60-vote requirement" applies only when it is time to do something to limit the Bush administration. It is merely the excuse Senate Democrats use to explain away their chronic failure/unwillingness to limit the President, and it is what the media uses to depict the GOP filibuster as something normal and benign. There obviously is no "60-vote requirement" when it comes to having the Senate comply with the President's demands, as the 53-vote confirmation of Michael Mukasey amply demons…

Falafel tracking fails to uncover any terrorist plots

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No terrorists in this one...but there are still four more to check!
Image from Sugar and Spice.

A short-lived FBI program that sought to ferret out Iranian operatives in the Bay Area by tracking sales of Middle Eastern food items in local grocery stores has apparently not yielded any results:
Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area. The brainchild of top FBI counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon, according to well-informed sources, the project didn’t last long. It was torpedoed by the head of the FBI’s criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, who argued that putting somebody on a terrorist …

Why is the US government not more concerned about Pakistani dictatorship?

You'd think that when a military dictator of a nuclear-armed country seized power and suspended the constitution, this would be some cause for concern for the US government. But then I saw this darkly humorous comparison chart:

Signs To Look Out ForUSAPakistanUnitary ExecutiveCheck!Check!Stolen ElectionsCheck!Check!Military Loyal To President, Not ConstitutionCheck!Check!VP Shoots People In FaceCheck!Not so muchCriminalization of Political OppositionCheck!Check!Constitution SuspendedCheck!Check!People Noticed Constitution SuspendedCheck!Check!Media Noticed Constitution SuspendedNot so muchCheck!Judiciary Stands Up for Rule Of LawNo, but they do stretch their arms from time to timeHad to fire the whole lot of them!Lawyers revolt over lawlessness of governmentYou're kidding, right?Check!President as popular as syphilisCheck!Check!
If we don't fight unbridled executive license here at home, is it any wonder we're not fighting it abroad?

A few quick things

Christians who got in bed with Republicans are waking up with torturers. Some are not pleased. Let's hope we hear more from them.

Smoking pot didn't harm Swiss teenagers in a recent study, but only if they didn't use pot and tobacco:
The study did not confirm the hypothesis that those who abstained from marijuana and tobacco functioned better overall, the authors said.In fact, those who used only marijuana were "more socially driven ... significantly more likely to practice sports and they have a better relationship with their peers" than abstainers, it said.Bush may suffer his first veto override on a water infrastructure bill. Even Republicans don't want to get flooded.

Ron Paul is getting hoards of cash, and Glenn Greenwald asks why this isn't a bigger story. Kos admires the Paul campaign, and wishes it was a Democrat rather than a Republican "and a crazy one at that" doing all this people-powered stuff.

Democrats did prettywell in elections last…

Nobody wants to run for Congress as a Republican

The Republicans are apparently having a hard time recruiting people to run for Congress:
A recruiting surge anticipated by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in recent weeks has yet to take shape as promised. The NRCC said in late September that it would have challengers emerge in five specific top-targeted districts within a few weeks, but so far only one of those races has a nationally recruited challenger officially in the race.They are also having some major financial problems. Jonathan Singer of MyDD:Compounding the NRCC's relative recruitment problems, of course, are the committee's fundraising woes. As of the end of September the NRCC trailed its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, $28,334,264.70 to $1,598,505.61 in cash-on-hand -- and $25,351,765.09 to negative $2,251,494.39 when debts and obligations are taken into account. That's right -- the Democrats have more than a $27.6 million advantage in terms of act…

What's wrong with the system

Time's blog covers the Donna Edwards primary challenge to Al Wynn. Here's Pelosi's response to the progressive blogosphere's fundraising for Edwards:
Pelosi's spokesman Brendan Daly is unfazed. "He's an incumbent. That's what we do," he told me when I asked him about Pelosi's appearance for Wynn. "We help our incumbents."Yes, you do, despite the fact that this incumbent cast some very troubling pro-Republican votes AND there's a credible progressive challenger AND there's no chance that the challenger will throw the district to the Republicans. That is NOT effective leadership. I think the Iron Law of Institutions is in effect here: Pelosi seems more concerned about securing Al Wynn's vote should any challenge arise to Pelosi's Speakership than with shoring up the unity of the Democratic caucus or fighting for progressive causes.

I can understand Democratic party leaders distancing themselves from lefty activists when w…

Why is Pakistan our ally and Iran our enemy?

OK, the news of Musharraf grabbing emergency powers and suspending the constitution in Pakistan makes me wonder: why do we like this guy, again? Pakistan has nuclear weapons, sold nuclear weapons technology on the black market (the A. Q. Khan scandal), and supported the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Why are we continuing to give the guy billions in military aid? Here's what we've spent:
While the total dollar amount of American aid to Pakistan is unclear, a study published in August by the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated it to be “at least $10 billion in Pakistan since 9/11, excluding covert funds.” Sixty percent of that has gone to “Coalition Support Funds,” essentially direct payments to the Pakistani military, and 15 percent to purchase major weapons systems. Another 15 percent has been for general budget support for the Pakistani government; only 10 percent for development or humanitarian assistance.Sounds like an American defense industry boon…

More Democrats, BETTER Democrats.

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This post is about the latter part of that slogan. Given that this is primary season, we need to be thinking about replacing some of the more egregious "pre-emptive capitulationists" within the Democratic ranks. (Maybe they aren't capitulating to the Bush administration- maybe they actually agree with the Bush administration, in which case the need to defeat them is all the more pressing.)

In Maryland, there is a Congressperson named Al Wynn. He is a Democrat, but his voting record leaves an enormous amount to be desired from a progressive standpoint:
People within Wynn's district often cite a number of poor votes on Wynn's part for their dissatisfaction. These include his votes for the Terri Schiavo legislation, his support of the Bush/Cheney Energy Policy, his vote for the Bankruptcy Bill, his vote to repeal the Estate Tax, his lack of support for net neutrality, and his vote to gut the Endangered Species Act. [See the campaign's Halloween You Tube ad, Al W…

Quinn can crawl!

Quinn crawled forward across his bedroom multiple times this evening before going to bed. He had been able to scooch and roll before, but never has he so determinedly progressed forward with such proficiency and for such distance. A new era in self-mobility has begun!

Senator Schumer and Senator Feinstein don't know if waterboarding is torture

These two have decided to vote to confirm "I'm not sure if waterboarding is torture, despite the fact the US has prosecuted people for doing it" Mukasey as Attorney General. I guess my email to Feinstein didn't persuade her. Boy am I pissed at these two.

We need more Democrats, and we need better Democrats. This instance is an example of the latter. So much work to do to turn our polity around. The problem isn't just Bush.

There are no more "Red States"

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In October 2007, Bush managed a stunning achievement: He is below 50% approval rating in every single state of our great nation. (Note that some of these are based on estimates put together by a DailyKos poster.) Even Republican stalwart Utah is at 47%.

John Cole is now a Democrat

I guess I'll have to find a different Republican blogger to read, because one of the few I could stomach, John Cole, has become a Democrat:
Long story short, I got up there to register as an independent, said “Fuck it,” and now I am a Democrat. I certainly don’t agree with all their positions, but they are not bat-shit crazy like the GOP. That has to count for something.Yes, not being bat-shit crazy should count for something. Let's reform the Democratic party to the point where we can give voters more reasons other than "they are not bat-shit crazy" to vote for us.

Kos: just say no to political junk snail mail

Kos is pissed at the amount of paper political campaigns waste:
It really is infuriating. I blame direct mail consultants who charge per piece sent. They must love these growing contributor lists because they get to send more crap to people who OBVIOUSLY prefer to donate online. I get direct mail from campaigns and it goes straight into the shredder and recycling bin.So here's what I'm going to do -- starting in December, I will NOT FUNDRAISE for any candidate who does not pledge to stop direct mail to people who contribute via ActBlue.It's a waste of money, and it's degrading to the environment. I'm tired of it. People are tired of it. And if campaigns won't listen, then I'm through with them.Amen! And it's sick that consultants get paid per piece sent, just like it's sick that campaign consultants get paid a percentage of television ad spending. What a crappy incentive system! That needs to be thrown out, too. I never give money to direct mail soli…

CENTCOM public affairs scandal

One of the many disturbing trends that has emerged from the fiasco of the Iraq occupation has been the extreme politicization of the military. General Petraeus and other military figures have been given us overly-optimistic assessments of the situation that curiously coincide with Republican talking points and invariably conclude that we should stay in Iraq. ("Violence is up! We can't quit until it drops!" "Violence is down! We can't quit while we're winning!".) Heck, CENTCOM's PR flaks even dropped by Internal Monologue a while back to leave some drive-by spam in the comments section of an Iraq-related post.

Now, there's the curious case of Petraeus' spokesperson, Col. Boylan. Apparently he sent an angry email to one of my favorite bloggers, Glenn Greenwald of Salon. Greenwald had been writing about the politicization of the military and Col. Boylan apparently took offense. Greenwald, surprised to hear from Col. Boylan, asked Boylan to confi…