Wednesday, February 28, 2007

EFP's may not be Iranian after all

Remember all those "Iranian" munitions that were shown to reporters a couple weeks ago? Of course, we had our doubts, given the administration's current anti-Iranian propaganda goals. Now, it turns out that a raid in southern Iraq has uncovered a facility that could very well be the source of these "Iranian" devices. Here's TPMmuckraker via Tristero on Hullabaloo:
A raid in southern Iraq on Saturday seems to have complicated the case. There, The Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.), troops "uncovered a makeshift factory used to construct advanced roadside bombs that the U.S. had thought were made only in Iran." The main feature of the find were several copper liners that are the main component of EFPs. But, The New York Times reports, "while the find gave experts much more information on the makings of the E.F.P.’s, which the American military has repeatedly argued must originate in Iran, the cache also included items that appeared to cloud the issue."

Would Democrats in Congress please end this war?

It looks like our recently elected Democratic Congress has decided to go soft on actually ending our stupid occupation of Iraq. Chris Bowers writes about his disappointment on MyDD:
It is hard for me to decide what pisses me off about this the most. It angers me to no end that Democrats are crushing aside a strategy, the Murtha plan, which has overwhelming popular support. The Democratic majority in congress, when considered as a whole, is clearly far behind the public on Iraq.

It also angers me that one of the main reasons Democrats are backing away, if not the main reason, is that Democrats are too scared of Republican talking points to do anything that might anger the Republican Noise Machine. Even though the public never did, Democrats on the hill bought so thoroughly into the "cutting off funding" for troops in the field line that they were too scared to do anything. Clearly, Democrats are far more scared of the Republican media machine than they are of the people who put them in power.

It further angers me that we won't even get a roll call vote on Murtha's plan, or on binding legislation to rewrite the AUMF. If they are not going to push for a roll call vote, I can only assume that there is no majority for Murtha's plan in the House. We need to know which Democrats are in opposition to it, but we are not going to. Instead of pushing members to support Murtha's plan, the leadership is dumping the plan altogether, and not even forcing the Democrats who oppose it to stand up and be counted. The leadership is covering for these cowardly Democrats, rather than leading them.
I feel Bowers' disappointment, too. When you can't get a Democratic congress to act in defiance of Bush on something that has enormous popular support, you get some idea of how broken our political system is. The emergence of the netroots left is a start of a correction, but there's a long way to go.

2008 should be, among other things, a year in which the netroots left supports primary challenge those Dems in congress who don't have the guts to stand up to the right-wing noise machine/Washington DC conventional "wisdom" even with the wind of popular opinion at their backs. There needs to be some consequence for this kind of spinelessness, otherwise our representatives will just drift along with whatever the "wise centrists" (why do they always seem to be warmongers?) think is the consensus.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Iraq insanity

OK, is it just me or are we now supporting two sides in Iraq's civil war/violent meltdown? On the one hand, we back Maliki's government, which gets its support from Shiite militia factions and is generally seen as favoring dominance of the Shiite majority. On the other hand, apparently the US is embarking on a strategy of countering Iran's influence by supporting Sunni extremists:
The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh has a stunning new article out, describing new Bush administration efforts to intervene in Iraq’s civil war, siding with Saudi-backed Sunni extremists in the hopes of stemming the Shia influence backed by Iran. The result of the strategy is U.S. payments to Sunni groups with ties to al Qaeda, without congressional oversight.
If this article is at all accurate, how do we know these Sunni extremists won't just give our money to Al Qaeda, or use it to attack our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan? Our Mideast policy is so self-contradictory and self-defeating I don't even know where to begin. Impeaching Cheney and Bush might be a good place to start.

Slacktivist takes apart phrase "people of faith"

Slacktivist (an Evangelical Christian) takes on that hideous phrase of nebulous sanctimony, "people of faith":

Such statements are obviously exclusive toward people of no faith. By explicitly excluding only those of that minority persuasion ("First they came for ...") such statements might seem otherwise inclusive, which is how they are intended to sound. But this appeal to a squishy, contentless "faith" -- this "kind of very comprehensive supreme being, Seeger-type thing"* -- also excludes those of us who believe that the substance of faith matters more than the depth of personal sentiment.

A bigger problem for Romney is that he takes the phrase "person of faith" at face value instead of recognizing that this is a dog-whistle term -- a code-word for "Christians like us and the few Jews who agree to play by our rules." This is another example of nominally religious language that also carries a great deal of unspoken cultural/political meaning.

Why Mitt Romney is talking about religious faith is somewhat mysterious to me, because every single other Democratic and Republican candidate (that I know of) has a more "mainstream" faith than he does.

Slacktivist also takes the trouble to point out this section of Article VI of the American Constitution:
no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Hearing politicians talk is often painful enough. But when Mitt Romney says things like "we need to have a person of faith lead the country" I just want to bludgeon him on his oft-praised coiffure with a rolled-up copy of our Constitution. Of course, watching him desperately suck up to the James Dobson crowd (along with McCain & Giuliani) is kind of fun. It doesn't seem to be working.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Joe Lieberman is a mendacious warmongering twit

Glenn Greenwald, who is worth sitting through a Salon.com ad to read, picks apart Joementum's Wall Street Journal (where else?) editorial:

Just compare these two statements:

Joe Lieberman, today: "previously there weren't enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias."

Joe Lieberman, 2005: "The administration's recent use of the banner 'clear, hold, and build' accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week."

How can Joe Lieberman claim today that we previously lacked sufficient troop strength to hold neighborhoods after they were cleared, when he insisted a year ago that we were holding neighborhoods -- he saw it himself -- and that we were therefore on the verge of success?

The Gun Lobby devours one of its own

Some famous hunter guy who said that hunting with assult rifles is too much gets his career destroyed by the gun lobby, despite an apology. Read about it on Hullabaloo:
"Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity," Zumbo wrote in his blog on the Outdoor Life Web site. The Feb. 16 posting has since been taken down. "As hunters, we don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them. . . . I'll go so far as to call them 'terrorist' rifles."

The reaction -- from tens of thousands of owners of assault rifles across the country, from media and manufacturers rooted in the gun business, and from the National Rifle Association -- has been swift, severe and unforgiving. Despite a profuse public apology and a vow to go hunting soon with an assault weapon, Zumbo's career appears to be over.
Our political establishment's inability to stand up to the gun lobby is one of the current system's pathetic weaknesses. But it also shows the power that a relatively small group of people can have if they're willing to play political hardball.

White House scrubbing its website of embarrassing statements

Fortunately, their ability to scrub history is limited, thanks to the vigilant left-wing blogosphere:

On March 16, 2003 Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press. His absurd claims in that interview have since become politically embarrassing to the White House. For example, he declared...

I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.

You won't any longer find a link to this transcript on the White House website—nor, indeed, are there links to most of Cheney's interviews from before 2006. Don't believe me? Just do a search for that infamous sentence at www.whitehouse.gov.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

US Generals to quit if ordered to attack Iran

Bravo for these folks:

Wow. Just ... wow. From the Sunday Times in London:

US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack

Some of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What would George W. Bush do?

You don't really need a diagram to understand his thought processes, but here's one anyway:

(Origninally from Wellington Grey.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Term of the Day: Overton Window

In a lot of political blog posts, you'll find references to the "Overton Window". This refers to the range of opinions on a subject which are considered acceptable in the current political discourse. People often talk of "moving the Overton Window" so that a formerly unacceptable idea can become mainstream. For example, this Kos diary by One Pissed Off Liberal claims "We’re moving that Overton window! All of our screaming and bitching has changed the national discourse!" on the issue of impeaching Bush and Cheney. It used to be that talk of impeachment was considered "beyond the pale", but now more and more liberal activists are seriously considering it. (Not only have I considered it, I think it would be a very good idea.)

One common technique for getting an idea into the Overton Window is to get a more extreme version of the idea out there. Then the original idea looks more reasonable. So all those wingnuts spouting extremist nonsense are furthering the right-wing agenda: rather than making the right look stupid, their hateful, eliminationist rhetoric ("God hates fags and wants them to die!") serves to make policies that are merely bigoted ("Gay relationships shouldn't have any legal protections") sound "reasonable", "serious", and "centrist" in comparison.

Senate Dems to revoke Iraq 2002 AUMF

Amen! Crooks and Liars:
Determined to challenge President Bush, Senate Democrats are drafting legislation to limit the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq, effectively revoking the broad authority Congress granted in 2002, officials said Thursday.
This sounds like it has some teeth. Of course, Republicans will obstruct and if it passes Bush will veto. But Republicans will have to live with that in 2008. And who knows? The country has soured on this occupation, and maybe enough Republicans will go along (or at least not get in the way) that it will pass.

Yo Democrats, FOX News is not your friend

Who's idea was it to have the first debate for Democratic presidential candidates on FOX? A lot of Democratic activists think that is a colossally stupid idea, and are pressuring the party to go to a different network. I agree FOX is not a legitimate news network. It has an obvious partisan agenda. I'd respect them a lot more if they'd simply own up to it. There's no reason for Dems to associate themselves with FOX.

Here's Kos quoting ThePetitionSite.com (you can go there about what happened last time FOX hosted a Democratic debate:
For an example of how disrespectful and counterproductive such Fox News-sponsored Democratic debates are, consider the September 9, 2003 Democratic debate in Baltimore, Maryland, hosted by Fox News in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus. Fox News graphics, as well as a banner over the stage, titled the event as the "Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate," a misconstruction of "Democrat" used as an an epithet Fox News then summarized the debate with a story titled, "Democratic Candidates Offer Grim View of America," continuing with such jabs as, "The depiction of the president as the root of all evil began at the top of Tuesday night's debate...." Controversial questions included the accusation that Howard Dean had a racist gun policy by Fox News analyst Juan Williams. There were also multiple interruptions by protesters throughout the debate, leading to four arrests.

Lieberman openly talks about party switch over Iraq

If there is any Democratic party member who reads this blog and still thinks Joe Lieberman in on our side, please revise your view. Here's The Politico (via MyDD):
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut told the Politico on Thursday that he has no immediate plans to switch parties but suggested that Democratic opposition to funding the war in Iraq might change his mind.
Here's a big "I told you so!" to all the prominent Democrats who supported Lieberman over Lamont. Lieberman has drunk the Kool-Aid on Iraq, as much as Bush and McCain. He is a major obstacle to getting us out of that occupation. He lied about his Iraq opinions to win the CT Senate election. He is a big part of the problem.

I still think Lieberman won't swtich, because in 2008 the Dems will likely take the Senate back with or without him, and he'd end up in the minority. And the Senate organization won't change, because the way they set it up the rules were set at the start of the session and would require more than a simple majority to change.

UPDATE: Sirota thinks it wouldn't be such a bad thing if he did switch:
I hope Lieberman switches because A) it would be advantageous for Democrats in the long-term B) it wouldn't hurt Democrats or progressives in the short-term, if Senate Democrats developed the spine to filibuster horrible nominees (admittedly an "if") and C) while he already is politically irrelevant in terms of actual power, Lieberman's switch would, finally, make him widely perceived as irrelevant, meaning that he would cease to have any effect on the national debate and that his melting, Emperor-from-Star-Wars face would stop appearing on my television set and freaking out my dog, Monty.

Wes Clark and VoteVets.org petition to stop war against Iran

Stop the iran war

I don't think petitions like this are going to be enough to sway the Bush administration, but at least it's something. Only about 13,300 people has signed it as of this post. Let's see if we can get that higher. The sane folk of this country cannot remain idle as this administration steers us towards another stupid, immoral, and counter-productive war.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The latest in Quixotic techno-performance art

Some people are trying to make a giant banana float over Texas (HT: Mad Latinist). Best of luck to them.

New trend: brainy women more likely to get married

Via Sullivan, we have this from boston.com:
In fact, educated women nationwide now have a better chance of marrying, especially at an older age, than other women. In a historic reversal of past trends - one that is good news for young girls who like to use big words - college graduates and high-earning women are now more likely to marry than women with less education and lower earnings, although they are older when they do so. Even women with PhDs no longer face a "success penalty" in their nuptial prospects. It might feel that way in their 20s, when women with advanced degrees marry at a lower rate than other women the same age. But by their 30s, women with advanced degrees catch up, marrying at a higher rate than their same-aged counterparts with less education.
And apparently they (along with their husbands) have better sex lives, too:
According to sociologist Virginia Rutter of Framingham State College, surveys show that educated couples engage in more variety in their sex lives. They are, for example, more likely to participate in oral sex, and educated women are more likely to receive oral sex as well as perform it.
Finally, an untrumpable justification for higher education: You are more likely to get oral sex. Of course, who knows which way the arrows of causality are pointing: maybe it's easier to finish a degree when you're getting oral sex. Or maybe both education and oral sex are caused by some outside factor.

It's nice to see some data countering the stereotype of the brainy/powerful woman who can't find marital/sexual satisfaction. It looks like progress is being made.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Once again, atheists win oppression poker!

Crooks and Liars:
Asked if they'd be willing to vote for a "generally well-qualified" candidate with the followign characterisitics, here's how the tally went in the Feb. 9- 11 poll.

Black 94%
Jewish 92%
A woman 88%
Hispanic 87%
Mormon 72%
Married for third time 67%
72 years of age 57%
A homosexual 55%
An atheist 45%
(Emphasis & link added.) Woohoo! What a wonderful run-down of American prejudice. Note that the traits that the Republican front-runners have are towards the bottom of the list (Mormon, 3rd marriage, 72 years). Of course, it's early, so these polls don't reflect set-in-stone opinions.

Just for the record, I don't think any of these traits would stop me from voting for a candidate I otherwise liked. However, someone who has been married three times (barring exceptional extenuating circumstances) definitely does not get to go on about "family values" without getting a big thwack from the hypocricy stick.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What to do when Bush finally leaves office

Gary Kamiya in Salon, via Greenwald:

The first thing, of course, is celebrate. That giant sucking sound you hear coming from San Francisco on Jan. 20, 2009, will be the contents of a very expensive bottle of wine going down my gullet. And trust me, I won't be alone. There will be be more partying on that night than during a Roman Saturnalia.

If form holds, a host of pious pundits will step forward to bleat that this celebration is "mean-spirited." These are the same smarmy aunties who decry Bush hatred as "extreme" and "obsessive" and fatuously intone that Bush "appears to have driven some people on the left crazy." Rubbish. Those of us who will be celebrating will be giving thanks for the end of a president who launched a totally unnecessary and disastrous war, declared a radical new doctrine of limitless presidential power, threw gasoline on what was once a small jihadi fire, severely weakened the economy, approved of torture and domestic spying, let bin Laden get away, accelerated the destruction of the environment, bashed science, engaged in vicious illegal vendattas against his opponents, winked at gay-bashing, handed out tax breaks to billionaires, lied constantly, made the U.S. hated around the world, and did it all while talking loudly in public on his personal hotline to Jesus. And that's just the short list.

To assist in the celebration, one can of course use some help from Kool and the Gang:

Washington Cluelessness

Michael May in the LA Times via War and Piece via Crooks and Liars:

Consider the record. Washington didn't predict the fall of the shah in Iran, or the end of the Cold War, or the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Nor did our pundits (whether left, right or center) predict the war between Vietnam and China after the U.S. lost more than 50,000 service members in the region to prevent the spread of monolithic communism, or, for that matter, China's turn toward becoming a capitalistic and trading giant. There are innumerable other examples in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

Everything is fine as long as nothing much is happening. But when something happens, especially if it's sudden or revolutionary, we usually don't see it coming. Since World War II at least, Washington's success rate at predicting change in countries with which we have a hostile relationship is close to zero.

Why this failure when most of the events mentioned were years in the making? In part, it's that we don't look at the right things. Our intelligence apparatus is better at counting missiles than at following the intricate politics of a central committee or overhearing the street talk in Tehran — or Baghdad. But even good intelligence on those matters would have had a hard time making it into the Washington debate.

Getting someone killed in the rural South

UPDATED
OK, this panders to some pretty awful stereotypes, but since these areas are so damn Republican they deserve to be mocked in retaliation for inflicting George W. Bush on us and the world. Via Crooks and Liars, three guys from the British show "Top Gear" get a "challenge" when driving through Alabama: paint something on the other guy's car that will get them killed! What do they come up with? Watch the segment to find out. It's scary how close it comes to working.

To their credit, these guys end up donating their cars to New Orleans residents hit by Katrina. The footage of the devastation still hits hard, as does their British bewilderment that the richest country in the world hasn't reconstructed. But let's face it, much of the US is a very poor country tacked on to a very rich one.

OK, the YouTube video has been pulled. One guy gets "NASCAR SUCKS" on his car, along with "COUNTRY WESTERN IS RUBBISH". Another gets "HILLARY FOR PRESIDENT". The last guy gets "I'M BI" and "MAN LOVE OK WITH ME" on his pickup truck. They get heckled by people at a gas station and people start throwing rocks at them. They run off, drive away, and wash the writing off their cars.

McCain as Janus

A great image (from Crooks and Liars) debunking one of St. John McCain's talking points about himself. Here's Matt Ortega:

McCain on Roe v. Wade, Associated Press, 2/18/07:

I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned,” the Arizona senator told about 800 people in South Carolina, one of the early voting states. [emphasis added]

McCain on Roe v. Wade, Washington Post, 8/24/99:

“I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary,” McCain told the Chronicle in an article published Friday. “But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.” [emphasis added]

The John McCain Presidential Pander Parade continues.

Indeed. It seems like McCain is in big trouble. Giuliani is leading in most polls of Republicans that I've seen (e.g. this one from CBS).

Monday, February 19, 2007

Greenwald picks up "their reality has lapped our satire" meme

Greenwald is now on Salon and requires a subscription or brief ad view to see. But if anyone is worth it, he is. I just wanted to mention that he's picked up on the notion that it really is impossible to parody the wingnuts:
Did the Courageous Warriors who formed the cyber "Victory Caucus" purposely choose a similar logo [to V for Vendetta] in a knowing act of self-mocking irony, or is this just yet another instance where political satire and science fiction cannot keep pace with the ever-expanding radicalism and reality detachment of the Bush administration and its hardest-core followers? It really is true that the hardest job on the planet is to be a satirist of the pro-Bush Republicans, because it is almost impossible to create caricatures extreme enough to stay ahead of what they actually become in reality.
(Emphasis mine.) Maybe I should spend less time in the blogosphere, because exposure to wingnut thinking can seriously increase my contempt for humanity. Maybe I have an inflated notion of the prevalence of this kind of thinking, they way people who watch too much television news have a distorted view of the amount of child kidnapping that goes in this country. On the other hand, about a third of the country still seems to approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president. So there must be either a lot of wingnut thinking still going on, or a lot of not thinking. Neither option paints too pretty a picture. What would it take for that last 30% or so to see that he's not a good president?

Violent video games do not appear to increase aggressive behavior

Here's a snippet of GamePolitics' coverage of a meta-analysis performed by Christopher Ferguson, a professor at Texas A&M International:

Results from the current meta-analysis found that there were about 25 recent studies on violent video game effects, with conflicting results.

Overall results of the study found that although violent video games appear to increase people’s aggressive thoughts (which it would not be surprising that people are still thinking about what they were just playing), violent games do not appear to increase aggressive behavior.

(Emphasis mine.) The study has not yet been published, and of course GamePolitics.com is an advocate for the gaming industry, so keep those biases in mind. Still, it's nice to see some counter to the endlesss anti-video game propaganda that politicians attempt to scare up votes with.

Quote of the Day

From this NY Times article via rubber hose:
We are against sectarianism, and God is with the Sunnis.
That pretty much sums up human nature in a nutshell for you. If there is a God, I hope it is more forgiving than I am.

Can Giuliani appeal to the reactionist Republican base?

No way, according to this snippet:
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says Giuliani is a non-starter for the religious base.
I've heard a lot of talk about Giuliani and the difficulties his stances on social issues (gays, guns, gametes) will create with the Republican base. I've speculated myself about the contortions he will have to go through to get the nomination.

But one thing to remember is that the Republican base has an authoritarian cast to it, and I can see Giuliani fitting himself to that yearing for a "strong leader" by playing up his associations with 9/11. (Which, as far as I can tell, consist of not being a completely incompetent mayor duing and after the attacks.)

Also, these are the same folks who are convinced that George W. Bush is divinely annointed to be our president. If they can believe something like that, why couldn't they believe the same thing about Giuliani? I don't yet see any limit to their ability to pour their desires into whatever candidate they are told is the chosen one.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Republicans: doing their best to live up to the stereotype of the fanatical dumbfuck

Not only are they attempting to deny Darwinian evolution, but now it turns out they are linking to websites that dispute the Copernican model of the solar system. Really. Here's Slacktivist:

Oh for the love of Ganymede, this can't be real:

"Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion,” reads the letter that went out under [Republican Georgia State House Rep. Ben] Bridges' name. “This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.” ...

The letter goes on to say directs readers to a Web site that says “the earth is not rotating … nor is it going around the sun.”

Originally, this letter was sent out by a Republican Georgia state legislator. Then theRepublican chair of the appropriations committee of the Texas House of Reps picked it up and started passing it around. The TPM article has the details. I must echo Slacktivist's comment:
OK. Wait. I'm going to need to process this some more. I'm going to have to, yet again, recalibrate what I think of as "over the top" caricatures of goofball illiterate literalist Republicans. If Josh's story is true, if this isn't a parody, then I'm not sure parody even remains a possibility.
Like others have said before, their reality has lapped our satire.

Giuliani's high fidelity first class travelling set and he thinks he needs a Gulfstream IV jet

The Smoking Gun has the whole speaking contract. These are the same folks who published Dick Cheney's a while back. But apparently Giuliani is even more demanding:
The former New York mayor has been banking a whopping $100,000 per speech to corporations, trade groups, and university audiences, according to his standard appearance contract. The document, a copy of which you'll find below, notes that Giuliani, 62, requires private air transportation to his gigs. But, the contract states, any old plane won't do: "Please note that the private aircraft MUST BE a Gulfstream IV or bigger."
Who does this guy think he is? Even Bill Gates will fly on regular commercial airliners. Some people live in a world of entitlement even affluent Yale-boys-who-worked-at-Microsoft-in-the-90's like me have difficulty comprehending.

On the other hand, as The Carpetbagger Report notes: "At least he didn’t specify which M&Ms were to be removed from his dressing room."

Baby Quinn in car seat

Quinn's uncle Miguel took this photo when he visited at the end of January.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I'm back

Wow. I think that's the longest dry spell ever for Internal Monologue. Things should be returning to normal now.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Posting may be light over the next couple days

I'm going to Tuscon for a couple days with my wife and baby while the former presents at a conference. Don't worry, Kitty will be looked after in our absence.

Iraq vet returns home to marry


This portrait won first place in the portraits category in the World Press Photo Contest (HT: BAGnewsNotes via an ad on Hullabaloo.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

McCain to deliver keynote speech to creationists

He wants the fundies real bad (HT: Atrios).

Amanda Marcotte resigns

Mikey on Kos wonders:

Option 1: This should be taken at face value. Knowing that you might be a liability should you ever make one snarky joke would really suck the life out of blogging pretty quickly, I think. You want to go out on your own terms, but it's clear that this fight is going to hurt you. I think this is still the most likely option.

Option 2: This was The Plan. Edwards's strategists got together and decided they couldn't go out without a show of strength to the netroots, an then asked for a resignation a few days later. I'm skeptical of this one, not least because I don't think Amanda would agree to it.

Option 3: Edwards changed his mind. After sticking with her early, he bailed and asked for a resignation when he saw the right didn't go away. Ick, but I think it's still a possibility, though I like John Edwards and would hope not.

Option 4: ???

Calling bullshit on Iran weapons "evidence"

Cenk Uygur calls bullshit on the Iran-linking:
The presentation wasn't just shoddy, it was pathetic.

First, no one would go on the record. Why? There is no conceivable reason why a US defense official can't say who he is and what his expertise is when talking about very serious charges we are making against another country. As Eason Jordan has pointed out, it is inexcusable.


They don't want to go on the record because what they are doing is literally embarrassing. They don't want to be pointed out for ridicule later when the charges and the so-called evidence turn out to be fabricated. I was having an aluminum tube flashback just reading the story.

Wes Clark, in a diary on Kos, calls for a diplomatic/political solution:
The American troop surge is not likely to impact Iran's on-the-ground influence in Iraq. Their presence serves the interests of some in Iraq; and they are deeply embedded and widely active. Only their perception of new interests and opportunities is likely to do this. They would need to see their situation through a different lens. It is asking a lot. But, cannot the world's most powerful nation deign speak to the resentful and scheming regional power that is Iran? Can we not speak of the interests of others, work to establish a sustained dialogue, and seek to benefit the people of Iran and the region? Could not such a dialogue, properly conducted, begin a process that could, over time, help realign hardened attitudes and polarizing views within the region? And isn't it easier to undertake such a dialogue now, before more die, and more martyrs are created to feed extremist passions? And, finally, if every effort should fail, before we take military action, don't we at least want the moral, legal and political "high ground" of knowing we did everything possible to avert it?

Military hardware wonks counter anti-Iran propaganda

Continuing Internal Monologue's quest to offer at least some resistance to the tide of warmongering propaganda coming out of the Bush administration ("Those Iranians are backing some Shiites in Iraq, therefore bombing them would be a smart thing to do.") and dutifully scribed by The New York Times, we offer some links and analysis from our resident military hardware geek, Maniak. Maniak recommends this story from NewsHog:
And as expected, it falls far short of a "slam dunk" case. The anonymous briefing at which no recording devices were allowed involved a lot of claims and not a whole lot of actual evidence.
And this follow-up on NewsHog:
...you will notice that, after spending so much time explaining why the tail-fin on the mortar round proves it is Iranian the picture the reporters were given to take away is positioned and composed in such a way that the tail-fin is the very bit not shown...
And adds some commentary:
I have to agree that those look like Iranian mortar shells... Which of course also look pretty much like Pakistani, Israeli, British and American shells, etc. Yes, it's possible to narrow down the country of manufacture with an indepth analysis of the manufacture techniques, metallurgy, etc. But not with 6 photos on a CD, which is the point of those articles. I do disagree with some of the deeper links on those articles. Specifically the claim that Iran uses Russian 82-mm shells exclusively is dead wrong. Iran's main artillery supplier up to 1979 was Israel, and they've kept the 81-mm design that Israel and most European militaries use. The Farsi marking thing is a bit of a red herring too. English markings are very widespread even in militaries of non-English-speaking countries. It's not impossible that these are Iranian, but it's not anywhere near proven. This smells like the "biological weapons vans".
I don't doubt that at some level Iran is backing somebody in Iraq. And that somebody probably has weapons, because everyone there has weapons: disarming Iraqis means limiting them to one AK-47 per family. But none of this means that bombing Iran is anything other than stupidity. It is unlikely that we could do much lasting damage to any secret weapons programs they might have, and it is an absolute certainty that it will radicalize the nation against us. It's not enought to demonstrate, however feebly, that Iran's government is doing bad things. To justify bombing, you have to show how it would make things better, not worse. And I haven't seen one lick of evidence backing that idea.

Monday, February 12, 2007

If you smoke pot and get caught...

...you can't be the next American Idol, but you can be the leader of the British Conservative Party (HT: Sullivan). What kind of world are we living in when pop singers can't smoke pot but Tory politicians can? America's criminalizing attitude towards drugs is sheer stupidity. It must stop. It is embarrassing.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

How Photoshop makes you feel like you have bad skin


(Photos taken from bressane.com (via Pandagon) where you can see more like them)

(HT: The recently not-fired-by-Edwards Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon.) Never trust any image you see in the mass media. Calibrate your expectations looking at real people or your head is going to get severely messed up. I suspect that this is very difficult to do in practice, as we don't have conscious access to the mechanisms that set our expectations about what skin should look like. Those mechanisms evolved in a time when the images of people we saw tended to be actual people. But we can at least look at before-and-after sets like these to remind ourselves that what is out there is a fantasy.

"War on Drugs" idiocy watch

From Majikthise:
The administration has asked for a 31 percent increase in funding for the advertising campaign that a nearly five-year study concluded had increased the likelihood that all teens would smoke marijuana. The White House proposal would increase the program's budget to $130 million over the next year.
Maybe the desperate Republican party is now taking soft money from pot growers. Truly, this "Drug War" is one of the most shameful stupidities of our time. And it spawns stupidities and immoralities in areas as diverse as the exploitation of prisoners to our struggle against the Taliban. Would some politicians please take the lead on this? Yo Dems: No faster way to an Internal Monologue endorsement than calling bullshit on the "Drug War". Hell, I'll even cross party lines and give props to Republicans who come out on this, though I won't vote for them unless the party undergoes some kind of radical transformation.

Gratuitous YouTube comedy montage

Ted Haggard claiming to be "completely heterosexual" is one of those things that should never happen, because it makes comedians' jobs too easy.

Impeach Cheney

The calls are sounding...from a Daily Kos diarist, at least. Sullivan wonders if there's precedent for it. The LaRouche folks have been saying "Impeach Cheney first" for a while now. I don't really know what they're about, but they have petition tables outside the Trader Joe's near my home.

I think Cheney's claim that the Vice-Presidency constitutes a heretofore undiscovered 4th branch of government will add momentum to this movement. I would consider myself a supporter of it.

Are we living in a computer simulation?

As our computing capabilities increase, we are forced to realize that eventually (whether in a few decades or a few hundred years) we will be able to make computers so powerful that they could simulate entire worlds, complete with virtual inhabitants who may not be aware of their of their simulated status.

But this forces to ask, "How do we know that this hasn't happened already?" We may be those simulated inhabitants! Nick Bostrom argues that it is very possible, even likely, that we are (HT: Mad Latinist via email):
ABSTRACT. This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.
I don't think that this possibility should have much impact on our daily lives, but it is fun to think about. It does introduce a frightening possibility though: that our own computational devices could "crash" or "hang" the computer running our universe! Of course, I suspect we wouldn't be aware of any slowdowns in the computer running us, any more than a character in astory is aware if the story is being read quickly or slowly. But if the simulation were to end, that would be bad. Of course, I don't think we'd have any way of knowing what would or would not cause the simulation to end. So I'm still going to go about doing what I'm doing.

Anthony Weiner (D-NY) lectures the "Republic Party"

Both Atrios and Kos link to this speech:

I'm glad to hear a member of the Democratic party retaliate for Bush's use of "Democrat Party" as a perjoritave term. But I'm more glad to hear the general tone of the speech. I like it when Democrats sound like this.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

O'Reilly gets cancelled

(Not from FOXNews) Remember the "blame the victim" stuff O'Reilly was saying regarding the child abduction case? Turns out the Center for Missing and Exploited Children wasn't to happy about that and has cancelled his speech.

Analyzing the Edwards blogger bruhaha

Seems like everyone's got something to say. Here's Jane Galt (HT: Sullivan):
Nonetheless, I'm afraid that I, like Julian, will be much happier not living in a world in which every stupid thing one ever said on one's blog generates pseudooutrage from political opponents trying to cleanse the marketplace of ideas, preferably by getting one fired and evicted.
She goes on to say some interesting things on the place of religious ideas in politics:
...my admittedly limited knowlege of Non-Coastal-Elite-America indicates that in most of the country, slagging off the Pope, or indeed making fun of religion qua religion, is mostly verboten.

[...]

In practice, of course, almost everyone only actually objects to religiously motivated beliefs they disagree with; the civil rights movement, and the abolitionists, are well regarded by everyone even though they were sustained by religious beliefs that most modern liberals and libertarians would find frankly nuts (and no, my little chickadees, I do not buy the argument that they were involved with churches simply as a matter of convenience. Listen to Martin Luther King's speeches and then come back and tell me he was not a religious nut on a crusade.
Salon points out the central dilemma facing presidential candidates:
The major candidates are trying to do two conflicting things: channel the authenticity of the blogosphere while simultaneously maintaining the rigid image and message control that is crucial to any presidential campaign. It's a ready-made car wreck because bloggers are tough to domesticate. They want to demonstrate they haven't sold out once they get onto a politician's payroll. Their regulars readers will be turned off if they tame themselves, and if they don't, they're likely to be coarse and brash.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out for other campaigns. It echoes what I said earlier:
If you were going to fire a blogger for past statements that include foul language or are offensive to some group, is there any blogger, left or right, of any standing that could be hired by anyone?
Glenn Greenwald takes in the implications of how this story developed:
The blogosphere fundamentally altered the arc of this story. All of the balancing information which made its way into the national press within a very short period of time was found by bloggers, amplified by other bloggers and by groups such as Media Matters, and that shaped the story -- both how it was discussed and its ultimate outcome -- in numerous ways. And it re-inforced the idea that the rotted network composed of the Michelle Malkins and Bill O'Reillys and Bill Donohues cannot drive media stories unilaterally anymore and cannot force major presidential candidates to capitulate to their demands.

Netherlands discriminates against fathers to placate Muslims

I'm not very happy about this (HT: Sullivan):
This morning a neighbour asked me whether I wouldn’t be interested in enrolling my son for such a pre-playgroup. But, she added, it’s only for mothers, fathers are not allowed. Apparently the justification is that otherwise mothers from certain ethnic minorities, where gender segregation is an important issue, would not attend with their children.
Can't they have some mixed gender groups so fathers can attend? I'm not from the Netherlands, but I am a father who does a lot of daytime childcare while my wife finishes her PhD thesis. So I am offended on behalf of my Dutch counterparts. I understand the need to accommodate various cultural needs, but when that means denying a childcare resource to all fathers, that seems unfair.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Jonah Goldberg Day

What is it? Here's an explanation. Basically, it's a day commemorating the fact that you can be colossally wrong about very important things and still have your opinion taken seriously and get very highly paid for it. The feedback system is broken. That's what the blogs are for.

Props for Edwards

As a reward for standing up to the right-wing smear machine, Edwards gets a link to his campaign website. I'm not yet endorsing any Democrat, but I'm keeping track of what they do.

Bloggers kick some MSM ass

The New Republic Online (no stranger to blogger ass-kickings) has the story (HT: Sullivan):

Moments later, a writer identifying himself as "TomT" pointed out an error in Carney's "nut graf" that would have earned a failing grade for a first-year journalism major: "Clinton's approval rating in January [of 1995] was 47 percent. It was not mired in the 30s." At 9:12, the blogger Atrios, also known as Duncan Black, alerted his readers to the gaffe, and they descended on the Time blog like locusts--and, to mix the Biblical metaphor, served Jay Carney's head up on a charger.

They tabulated several more boneheaded errors: Carney wrote that 1995 was Clinton's first State of the Union "with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole seated behind him as Speaker and Senate Majority Leader"; but, of course, it is the vice president, not the Senate majority leader, who sits behind the president. He also wrote of Clinton's "recovery... during Monica, in 1999"--but, as a commenter reminded him, "Clinton never had to 'recover' from Monica, unless polls in the high 50s and 60s are something you have to recover from."

To be fair, this was actually an example of veteran bloggers kicking MSM-figure-recently-turned-blogger ass. It can be quite shocking for many traditional media writers when they turn to blogging and find the reactions coming in so quickly and brutally.

This whole episode leads to the question:
[W]hy was it, again, that we were supposed to defer to the authority of newsweeklies (and the mainstream press) in the first place? [Time D.C. bureau chief] Carney was rude and wrong. The barbaric yawpers of the netroots were rude and right.
The MSM isn't going away, nor should it. But the days when they could spout B.S. and not be called on it are over.

Creationist faith threatened by fossils

Creationists want to protect you from the evil "Turkana Boy" fossil. Even though he's been dead 1.6 million years, he is still capable of corrupting the faith of little museum-going children!

So of course they want to hide the fossils (HT: Sullivan):

Kenya's world-class collection of hominid bones - primates belonging to a family of which the modern human being is the only species still in existence - is at the centre of a silent but intense war being waged by a section of the evangelical churches.

The priceless National Museums of Kenya (NMK) fossils pointing to man's evolution risk being relegated to the abyss as a section of the Church renews its war on science insisting that the evolution theory contradicts the biblical story of creation.

Bishop Boniface Adoyo of Nairobi Pentecostal Church (NPC), Christ is the Answer Ministries, is championing the 'hide-the-fossils' campaign, which has left scientists and historians perplexed.

Homophobia has no future

This graph from this Sullivan post (he recently moved to theatlantic.com) illustrates it pretty clearly:

Note that if you look at the dates in the first graph, the trend of acceptance appears to be accelerating: from '82 to '92 acceptance only increased 4%, while from '97 to '06 (a shorter time period), it increased 12%. As Sullivan points out, basing your political strategy on homophobia (as Rove and other Republicans have done) seems like a good way to plant the seeds of the destruction of your movement. Let us hope it comes soon.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Edwards stands behind his bloggers

I was waiting for Edwards' announcement before reporting on this. Edwards' wasn't as fast or decisive as he should have been, but bottom line is he didn't hand the scalps of his bloggers over to the right wing. Kudos to him for that. You can't let the howlers on the right dictate your personnel. Obviously, you should vet your hires. If upon doing so, you think they're acceptable, you can't let the smear machine intimidate you. There are certain people who will attack Democrats no matter who they are. Trying to appease them won't buy us anyting.

If you were going to fire a blogger for past statements that include foul language or are offensive to some group, is there any blogger, left or right, of any standing that could be hired by anyone? I certainly couldn't be hired under those criteria, and I've been blogging less than a year. If the blogosphere confined itself to nice words and kow-towed to every sacred cow in our culture, what would be the point of its existence? We can get plenty of that from other sources.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

O'Reilly blames missing child, then delivers keynote speech for missing children

UPDATE: The Center has cancelled O'Reilly's speech.

Bill O'Reilly recently blamed the victim in a very high-profile youth abduction and rape case:

O`REILLY: I don`t believe this kid today. I think when it all comes

down, what`s going to happen is there was an element here that this kid

liked about his circumstance.

This is an 11-year old boy who was abducted, allegedly repeatedly raped and threatened with a gun. Naturally, there was much outrage in the blogosphere at these remarks of Mr. O'Reilly (see this Media Matters link or this Google Search). But here's the whopper: Mr. O'Reilly is scheduled to deliver the keynote address to a local chapter of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And apparently, they aren't cancelling:

But the local chapter stands by its decision to have Mr. O'Reilly deliver the keynote address at a March 9th **fund-raising** gala at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida.
Um, OK. Because those missing children? It's their fault. Ooph. What are they thinking? Here's Keith Olbermann's coverage of the matter.

New York Times covers Nowak astronaut love case

You can read their article here, but of course you don't need to because since late Monday night you could read about it right here on Internal Monologue. Eat my dust, old media! Of course, The Times with their vastly greater resources, managed to find a cute photo of Nowak and the object of her affection:

Scott Audette/Reuters

Go read their article and subcribe to their newspaper and click on a bunch of their ads so that they won't sue me for stealing their photo.

Sen. Clinton does not regret Iraq vote

Clinton loses some points in my book:
The biggest news, however, is that Hillary Clinton has just stated, flat-out, that she does not regret her war vote. At the same time, she is still trying to campaign as though she is against the war, claiming that she wouldn't have started it, and that she would end it. Basically, it is the same thing we saw from Lieberman during the general election against Lamont: an absolute hawk trying to appear anti-war in order to pick up Democratic votes.
So far, I think I like Obama better than Clinton and Edwards. But I still haven't studied the candidates in depth.

Internal Monologue celebrates its 20,000th visitor

Someone from Orlando, FL came here via Technorati looking for info on the "astronaut love gone bad" story. They were using WinXP and IE 6.0 and stayed for zero seconds. Their monitor was running at 800x600, though, which is much a lower resolution than my target demographic, so I suppose it's OK that they left in a hurry ;) But this person still has the honor of being visitor 20,000.

According to Site Meter, people have spent 723.7 hours actually visiting Internal Monologue. Or about two hours per day. Which is probably less time than I spend writing it, or maybe about the same.

Pray away the gay in only THREE WEEKS!

This is just too damn funny (HT: Pam's House Blend):
The Rev. Ted Haggard emerged from three weeks of intensive counseling convinced he is "completely heterosexual" and told an oversight board that his sexual contact with men was limited to his accuser.

[...]

Why Haggard chose to act out in that manner is something Haggard and his advisers are trying to discern, Ralph said.
Um, yeah. His advisers are "trying to discern" why Haggard engaged in furtive homosexual prostitution. To quote a character in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, "Need we look far?" Perhaps he acted out in that manner because he is gay and in major denial about it. After all, this is a guy who claimed he's struggled with homosexual feelings "all of [his] adult life".

That must have been some pretty "intensive counseling". This stuff is just too silly.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Obama introduces bill to end our involvement in the Iraq war

Someone just got a few points towards the coveted Internal Monologue Democratic Presidential Nomination endorsement. From Atrios:
Today, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA) called for a stop to President Bush's escalation in Iraq and for an end to the war. At a press conference in the U.S. Capitol, Senator Obama and Reps. Thompson and Murphy discussed the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007 - legislation they introduced in the Senate and the House which puts forward a plan to stop the recent escalation in forces and a plan to redeploy American troops from Iraq starting May 1, 2007. Senator Obama introduced the bill in the Senate and Reps. Thompson and Murphy introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Kos's reaction:
All "serious" Senate and House Democrats should get behind this imminently "sensible" and "responsible" piece of legislation. It is, in fact, the "centrist" position to take, considering that it's what the majority of the American people want (and isn't that the definition of "centrist"?). And yes, it'll fail in the Senate as Republicans work not just to defeat it, but to stifle debate. But that's fine, because it'll remind the American people, once again, just whose side the Republicans are on.

I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag

This song is more appropriate than ever. Country Joe McDonald is a Berkeley local and actually attends the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, where Sarah and I met and used to be members (we're now members of a different UU church). I'll reprint the famous chorus here:

And it's one, two, three
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Here he is at Woodstock singing the song:

The partisan divide on global climate change

In case there are any people left who don't believe there's much difference between Democrats and Republicans, I raise an issue in which the differences could not be clearer: global climate change. Take a look at this poll of Members of Congress (HT: Digby):

Well, if you ever doubted that partisan outlook has a major correlation with how you look at scientific evidence, doubt no longer. To me, this is just more evidence that Republicans in their current incarnation are simply unfit to govern this country. They need to free themselves of the idiocies holding them in thrall if I am to regain any respect for them.

When astronaut love goes bad: Lisa Nowak arrested

Ah Love, you can be cruel! Cruel enough to turn the upstanding astronaut on the left into the desperate criminal on the right (Photo stolen from FOXNews).

UPDATE: She's been charged with attempted first-degree murder. Of course her Wikipedia entry is up-to-date. The family has issued a statement. Apparently she and her husband separated a few weeks ago. She's been released on bond. Of course there's a media frenzy. Even Internal Monologue is seeing a massive traffic spike.

I can't make too much sense out of this (HT Grishnash, who says he's not surprised Oefelein's connected with this):

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- An astronaut drove 900 miles and donned a disguise to confront a woman she believed was her rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot, police said. She was arrested Monday and charged with attempted kidnapping and other counts.

U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew last July on a shuttle mission to the international space station, was also charged with attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery. She was denied bail.

Apparently Nowak was carrying some weird stuff when arrested:
During a check of the parking lot, an officer followed Nowak and watched her throw away a bag containing the wig and BB gun. They also found a steel mallet, a 4-inch folding knife, rubber tubing, $600 and garbage bags inside a bag Nowak was carrying when she was arrested, authorities said.
There's gotta be more to learn. I trust Grishnash will keep me posted. You do have to ask yourself though: Is this Oefelein guy worth it?

(Photo stolen from the same place.)

Re-regulate the airline industry?

Following stories of a harrowing 8-hour delay on the runway, calls for a "passengers' bill of rights" have once again been heard in Congress. Like many people, I'm pretty displeased with the overall level of service in the airline industry. They'll treat you like crap if some spreadsheet says that's the optimal way for them to function. So my libertarian instincts in this case are being trumped by my populism and downright annoyance with the airline industry. I should probably learn more about what's in this proposed legislation (any links would be helpful!), but lets just say I'm in a supportive mood. (Maybe calling something a "Bill of Rights" is a bit over-the-top, however.)

In general, I think the free market works best, but the market for air travel is not one where the customer has unlimited freedom to choose from different carriers. Many routes and destinations are only servieced by a few airlines. So in situations where market mechnisms don't work their magic, I think it is appropriate for government to step in and do some regulating.

Here's Amanda on Pandagon on the proposed "Passengers' Bill of Rights":
This is an idea whose time has come. The vast majority of the time that I fly, I am absolutely made miserable by delays, cancellations, and other problems. You can just tell that the poor airline employees are told that they have to be able to keep as many butts in seats on a plane when they’re running late and going to cause you to miss your connecting flight, amongst other things. Which means, much to my dismay, that you have to be aggressive with airline employees in order to make sure that you get home in a reasonable amount of time. Which I hate, because it’s not their fault at all. They’re just having to do dishonest things (like tell you that you’re totally going to make your connection or telling you the flight is going to leave any minute now when it’s definitely not going to) in order to get you to stay on.
This echoes sentiments I expresses in my "Corporations without Faces" rant: the airlines stick an overworked, disempowered flunky in your face to block your anger from landing on its rightful target (those who create the dishonest policies that lead to these annoyances).

Slacktivist critiques evangelical teetotalers

Biblical literalists often aren't:

Thus wherever the word "wine" appears in the Bible -- which is a lot -- these folks read it as "grape juice." But then they get to a passage like Ephesians 5:18, "Do not get drunk on wine," and suddenly decide that the same exact word they have insisted should not be read as "wine" now means "wine" after all.

And Slacktivist doesn't take their abstention very seriously:

The teetotalism of American evangelicals is in itself a relatively minor quirk, a vestigial remnant of the 19th-century "temperance" movement. It exists today as merely the kind of arbitrary symbolic gesture that wholly conformed and assimilated religious groups tend to make as a desperate attempt to distinguish themselves from their otherwise indistinguishable neighbors.

So even though Perkins sounds like he wants to re-establish Prohibition, he doesn't really. If the rest of the country stopped drinking, or dancing, then he and his people would have to find some other symbolic characteristic to set themselves apart. They'd have to prohibit sugar or carpeting or something else, devising some way of reading this prohibition back into the Bible and then tricking themselves all over again into believing that it was something they found there instead of something they inserted into the text, Y for X.


Planned Parenthood petitions Hogwarts to include Sex Ed for wizards

Via Feministing, we have this petition.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Live action Ms. Pac-Man

OK this is mildly entertaining (HT: Mad Latinist):

But it could have been much better. First of all, where is Sue, the orange ghost? (And for you purists out there, I know that they are techically monsters, not ghosts) Everyone knows that there are 4 ghosts in Ms. Pac-Man. Second, the ghosts chasing Ms. Pac-Man is only one aspect of the game. What about eating dots? Eating bouncing bonus fruits? And of course there's the great moment of eating an energizer/power dot, forcing the ghosts to turn blue and being able to eat them. And then the ghosts become eyes and have to retreat Nazgûl-like to the ghost box and get regenerated. And what about those fun little intermission scenes? And the warp tunnels that make you appear on the other side of the board? And of course every serious Ms. Pac-Man player knows that all the ghosts travel at different speeds, a subtlety that was completely ignored in this adaptation.

So two cheers for a fun little YouTube video. But they should have hired me or Grishnash (a commenter here) as a Pac-authenticity consultant. Heck, in elementary school we came up with a playground version of Pac-Man (similar to tag) that was a better adaptation of the game than this. We didn't have the costumes, though.

Surprise surprise: Murdoch admits shilling Bush agenda

From Crooks and Liars:
While at Davos, Rupert Murdoch discusses the rise of the Internet and digital media, but tells us he used News Corp. to manipulate the news.

Asked if his News Corp. managed to shape the agenda on the war in Iraq, Murdoch said: "No, I don't think so. We tried." Asked by Rose for further comment, he said: "We basically supported the Bush policy in the Middle East…but we have been very critical of his execution."

Am I reading this correctly? I found the webcast and it seems they haven't included Rupert's admission in the 9 minutes or so that they posted? I emailed The World Economic Forum for the full video. A memo to Murdock: A news organization is supposed to report—–— the news, not support an agenda.

Froomkin to the press: Do your job

Via Greenwald, we get Dan Froomkin's advice to the press corps:
Lessons we thought had been learned from Vietnam were forgotten in the rush to invade Iraq. And now, as we cover President Bush’s ratcheting up of the rhetoric against Iran, it’s looking like the lessons we should have learned from Iraq may not have been learned at all. So at the risk of stating the obvious, here are some thoughts about what those lessons were[...]

Humanizing images of Tehran

Here's a series of humanizing images of Iran and Iranians, shown to the tune of "Peace Train". I'm posting this as a counter to the incessant militarism we're hearing from the administration and its supporters. I have yet to hear from them how a military strike or invasion would actually solve anything. Anything we blow up with air strikes could probably be rebuilt, and it's not like we're going to occupy the country. We don't have the troops and Iran is much larger than Iraq in both population and area. If I got attacked by the US, that would just make me want to get a nuclear weapon faster and hide it better. And I would point to that attack as justification for acquiring the nuclear weapon in the first place.

The images linked to above show a lot of Iranian women doing various activities. This is a very different impression than you get from Reading Lolita in Tehran, which depicts women living in a very restricted way. But both the book and these images remind you that Iranians are human beings. War has costs, and I think we Americans would be less eager to rush to war if the costs were more in our face.

Coke's "Grand Theft Auto" ad to air during super bowl

Apparently, the Coke "Grand Theft Auto" ad I linked to earlier is going to air during the Superbowl. Here's a YouTube embed:

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dan Savage vs. Mary Cheney

Dan Savage replies to Mary Cheney's defense of her choice to have a child (HT: Sullivan):

Nice try, Mary.

Yes, it’s a baby, not a prop. My kid isn’t a prop either, but that never stopped right-wingers from attacking me and my boyfriend over our decision to become parents. The fitness of same-sex couples to parent is very much part of the political debate thanks to the GOP and the Christian bigots that make up its lunatic “base.” You’re a Republican, Mary, you worked on both of your father’s campaigns, and you kept your mouth clamped shut while Karl Rove and George Bush ran around the country attacking gay people, gay parents, and our children in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. It’s a little late to declare the private choices of gays and lesbians unfit for public debate, Mary.

Children are off limits...except when they're not

(Photo: Crooks and Liars. Go there and click on ads to make up for this blatant theft of their intellectual property. Which they probably stole from Comedy Central.)

Dick Cheney's least favorite topic is the discrepancy between his loving, accepting attitude towards his lesbian daughter and his party's blatant pandering to homophobia, specifically the Republican drive to prevent gay couples from gaining any legal protections for themselves and their children.

Dick Cheney has been insisting that this hypocricy topic is somehow off-limits. I think that's bullshit. So does The Daily Show.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ebay bans sale of "virtual" items

GamePolitics.com has the story:

As reported by CNET and other outlets, the online auction giant has announced that it will no longer accept listings for virtual items and accounts for online games like World of Warcraft.

With eBay stepping out of the lucrative real money trading (RMT) business, it seems likely that direct sales from RMT vendors like IGE will see an increase in volume. CNET’s Daniel Terdiman cites estimates that value the virtual goods market as high as $880 million annually.

Personally, I think game companies who try to regulate the markets of their virtual worlds are shooting themselves in the foot. Why doesn't Blizzard sell virtual World of Warcraft stuff themselves? If that $880 million figure is anywhere close to accurate, there must be an enormous market they are walking away from. Instead, they try to shut it down with End User License Agreements, Tems of Service, and lawsuits. I understand that the economy of the game needs to be "balanced", but why not simply take into account the reality of the market when "balancing" your game? Or make a game in which transferable assets like gold and items are worth less?

I like the approach of Second Life: it actually encourages such activity:
One MMO, however, gets a pass on the eBay ruling due to its special circumstances. Players of the MMO Second Life can create items and the game’s user license specifies that players own items which they create or possess.


As for all those people who think buying and selling virtual magic swords and clothes and gold is stupid because the stuff isn't "real", I would point out that options, derivatives, and futures are also "virtual" items. No one turns their nose up at trading those. Indeed, cash itself is something of a "virtual" item: if people stopped valuing it, it would be worthless. Most bank accounts are just bits in a computer, just like your World of Warcraft character. So if anyone wants to rid themselves of those stupid virtual "dollar" items from the financial game account at their bank, I suggest using the Paypal button at the top of the right-hand sidebar.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The fall of John McCain


No one has summed up disillusionment with John McCain better than Death Wore a Feathered Mullet (HT: Crooks and Liars):
Senator John McCain, Arizona

A few years ago, even many liberals had a respect for John McCain. It's kind of like having a few drinks with a whore, and thinking "This whore isn't like the other whores. She's different." Then you wake up in a bathtub full of ice with one less kidney. And your wallet is missing. And you have the Clap.

Just for the record, I'm against attacking Iran

Not that anyone in this administration gives a shit, but attacking Iran would be a colossally stupid idea. What better way to drive Iranians into the arms of anti-US hardliners? What better incentive is there for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon than the threat of US attack? Do we think we're going to occupy Iran, whose population and area are both much larger than Iraq?

I think Congress needs to get out ahead of this, because there are all kinds of signs that this administration is gearing up for some sort of conflict with Iran. Of course, this administration is pretty contemptuous of Congress. So ultimately I think cutting off funds for any attack or Iran may be Congress' only choice. That or impeachment.

If this rumor about dumping Cheney is true, maybe that will help. Then maybe Joe Liberman can be vice-president. But then he's a deluded warmonger, too.

It's really hard to get around the fact that as far as foreign policy is concerned, we're pretty much fucked until we can replace the current administration. January 2009 is still two years away.

Um, stick to the Bobos, David Brooks

Greenwald does a great take-down of Brooks' recent Times Column (which you probably can't read because it's behind a subscription wall):
One of the most common tactics among pundits of all types, but particularly Bush-supporting and pro-war pundits, is to take whatever their own personal opinion happens to be, and then -- rather than stating that opinion and providing rationale or documentation for it -- they instead preface it with the phrase "Americans believe" or "most Americans think," thereby anointing themselves as Spokesman for The American People and casting the appearance that they speak on behalf of the Silent, Noble American Majority.

Not only do they make these assertions about what "Americans believe" and what "the country wants" with no empirical evidence of any kind, but worse -- especially now that "Americans" have come to overwhelmingly reject them and their belief system -- they equate their own views with what "Americans want" in the face of mountains of empirical evidence which proves that the opposite is true. John McCain, as but one example, does this almost every time he speaks about Iraq and what "Americans think" about the war.
"Just say no" to pseudo-majoritarian appeals! David Brooks has yet to update his database on where America actually is on the issue of military interventionism.

I used to be frustrated because I felt the American public was further to the right than me on some issues that I cared about (e.g. drug prohibition and gay marriage). But that concern has been completely overshadowed by the fact that this administration is far to the right of where the American people are. A lot of today's "political consensus" is not based on what the majority of Americans think, but rather which lobby groups are better funded, which people are considered "mainstream and serious" by the punditocracy, etc.

One very beneficial side effect of all this is that the progressive cause is now a majoritarian cause. No longer must progressives try to drag the American people leftward. Rather, progressives must drag the government leftward to where the American people already are. I think it is far easier to change the character of a government than to change the character of a people. The November 2006 elections were the beginning of a re-assertion of the political will of the American people, one that I hope will continue to unfold in 2008.

Of course, I'd like it if the American people moved leftward. And on the issues of drug prohibition and gay marriage, my sense is that we are moving that way. But this administration doesn't seem to care where the American people are. And David Brooks doesn't seem to know where the American people are (at least as far its appetite for warmongering is concerned). It is the job of the progressive movement to oppose the former (and replace it if necessary) and call bullshit on the latter.