Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cheney gets to keep his funding

Rahm Emmanuel's "Defund Cheney" amendment failed. Why did 24 Democrats vote against it? I'm going to remember that and if any of those 24 Dems get primaried, I'll definitely consider giving more money to the challenger than I otherwise would.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blogger loot!

KA-CHING!!!! My first actual money from Google Ads has been deposited in my account! Selling out to giant corporations has its rewards, and I just reaped one of them. W00T!
June 2007
Jun 26 Payment issued - details
($121.38)

Now how should I spend my big ol' pile o' loot?

Friday baby blogging

It's a phone camera picture, so the quality isn't so great. But you can see Quinn in the baby swing at the park near our house, wearing his cool new sunglasses. He likes the swing a lot. He has two teeth poking through is gums now, and he can bang two objects together.

The drums of impeachment continue to beat

UPDATE: More impeachment gossip from Alegre on DailyKos.

An impassioned plea from teacherken on DailyKos:
To me the crisis is immediate. I am hoping that the normal process of oversight can solve some of what is wrong, but I fear that this administration believes it can bully the Congress into backing down, and if not, that it has sufficiently stacked the Courts that it will win any legal confrontation. I am not absolute in that perspective - after all, it has lost repeatedly on the matter of the prisoners and the military commissions, etc. And despite my occasional rhetorical outbursts, I am not by nature confrontational. I would hope there would be some other way of righting our country.

But here's my problem. I see no evidence that this administration is willing to be limited - by Congress or by Courts. It is perfectly prepared to try to run out the clock, and in the process destroy as much of the fabric of our society as it can - it will be not only public education and civil liberties, it will be the economic supports of the New Deal and the Great Society. It WILL use its pardon power to prevent prosecution after it leaves office, if it does leave office. And it will use every power it has to destroy records so that a subsequent administration, unable to prosecute the wrongdoing because of pardons, will also be unable to expose the depths of the corruption of our democracy.

Teacherken concludes:
If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy.
On the other hand, I like what Sullivan has to say:
We once executed Nazis for the same techniques as Cheney has approved and enforced. I don't want to see him impeached. I want to see him prosecuted under American and international law as a criminal.
Amen. Maybe in order to get impeachment, we should be talking about criminal prosecution. Then impeachment will seem "sensible" and "serious" to the reflexive pseudo-centrism that wields so much power in our political discourse. And what does is say when a conservative (in the obsolete sense of the word) like Andrew Sullivan is advocating a stronger form of reigning in this administration than the diarists on DailyKos?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Flight of the Conchords: "The Humans Are Dead"

Here's a musical version of the Robotron 2084 Scenario that I've blogged about before:

Married sex ("Business Time" by Flight of the Conchords)


(HT: Sullivan) I don't know what they're talking about. It's never like that for us.

Bush thinks he's immune to subpoenas

Bush won't provide the documents that Congress has subpoenaed. Congress responds. Leahy:

This is a further shift by the Bush Administration into Nixonian stonewalling and more evidence of their disdain for our system of checks and balances. This White House cannot have it both ways. They cannot stonewall congressional investigations by refusing to provide documents and witnesses, while claiming nothing improper occurred.

Increasingly, the President and Vice President feel they are above the law --- in America no one is above law.

BarbinMD on DailyKos asks:
Strong words. Now the question is, what will they do about it? More words, empty threats, or action?
No bullshit compromises, please. May I remind Congress that Bush is deeply unpopular. But regardless of his popularity, letting Bush's contempt for checks and balances and rule of law slide would set an awful, craven precedent. I ask you simply to your jobs and not let the inevitable accusations of "partisan witch hunting" deter you.

Pincer people crossing


From Grishnash via email (who adds: I got that image from a posting by JohnnySlick on the Snopes message board at http://message.snopes.com in the Humor thread).

7 days on a boat with wingnuts

Johann Hari writes about the 7 days he spent on the cruise for readers of The National Review. He doesn't like what he hears:
There is something strange about this discussion, and it takes me a few moments to realize exactly what it is. All the tropes conservatives usually deny in public--that Iraq is another Vietnam, that Bush is fighting a class war on behalf of the rich--are embraced on this shining ship in the middle of the ocean. Yes, they concede, we are fighting another Vietnam; and this time we won't let the weak-kneed liberals lose it. "It's customary to say we lost the Vietnam war, but who's 'we'?" Dinesh D'Souza asks angrily. "The left won by demanding America's humiliation." On this ship, there are no Viet Cong, no three million dead. There is only liberal treachery. Yes, D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."
This is how Hari depicts the reaction when a speaker strays from right-wing orthodoxy:

Then, with a judder, the panel runs momentarily aground. Rich Lowry, the preppy, handsome 38-year-old editor of National Review, announces, "The American public isn't concluding we're losing in Iraq for any irrational reason. They're looking at the cold, hard facts." The Vista Lounge is, as one, perplexed. Lowry continues, "I wish it was true that, because we're a superpower, we can't lose. But it's not."

No one argues with him. They just look away, in the same manner that people avoid glancing at a crazy person yelling at a bus stop. Then they return to hyperbole and accusations of treachery against people like their editor. The aging historian Bernard Lewis declares, "The election in the U.S. is being seen by [the bin Ladenists] as a victory on a par with the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should be prepared for whatever comes next." This is why the guests paid up to $6,000. This is what they came for. They give him a wheezing, stooping ovation and break for coffee.

The piece has provoked a lot of reactions: James Wolcott, Digby, and Sadly, No! all chime in.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Instability in Iran

Maybe Dick Cheney will rescue the mullahs who rule Iran by starting a bombing campaign and driving everyone back into the arms of the hard-liners. After all, our foreign policy since 9/11 seems custom-made to bolster the power of the Iranian government. But right now, things there are very unstable: riots over gasoline rationing are breaking out. Whether this could lead to the downfall of the regime or if it's just small scale rioting is hard to tell from the reports.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jon Stewart's job is too easy


You know The Daily Show couldn't let Cheney's recent ridiculous arguments about not being part of the executive branch pass without some comment. Crooks and Liars is your source for TDS political videos.

Not only are Cheney's arguments ridiculous, they contradict stances he's taken about "executive privilege" in the past:
That's quite opposite the argument Cheney made in 2001, when he said that a congressional probe into the workings of his energy task force "would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch." Cheney has, in effect, declared himself to be neither fish nor fowl but an exotic, extraconstitutional beast who answers to no one.
Question for Democrats in Congress: How outlandish does Cheney have to get before you impeach him? (Republicans, feel free to reply.)

Congressional Democrats are doing some nice countering, though:

Over on the House side of the Capitol, the chairman of the Democratic caucus, Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), was equally unforgiving. He wants Congress to cut funding for the executive branch to reflect the fact that the Office of the Vice President is no longer part of that branch.

Cruelly, Emanuel said he would also oppose any attempt by Cheney to play in the congressional baseball game, held last night. "He would remake the rules to his liking," the congressman explained.

Not only is Cheney very bad, he's also an embarrassment to the nation. We should impeach him if only to preserve some sense of national honor.

The "polarizing figure" canard

I sent an e-mail to Andrew Sullivan, in response to this post, in which he quotes Larry Sabato:
Let's suppose Mrs. Clinton wins in November 2008. Democrats would have to live with the consequences. There is simply no question that Senator Clinton would be the third deeply polarizing President in a row, following her husband's divisive and partially wasted tenure and George W. Bush's deeply disappointing turn at bat. We bet that she would have a short honeymoon and would be unable to convince her millions of critics and detractors that she had changed - or was different than they long ago concluded she was. At a time when the nation could use a unifier and a healer - to the extent that any President can perform those roles - partisan warfare would be at fever pitch from Day One.
Here's my response:
While I agree with Sabato and others that Senator Clinton would be a highly polarizing candidate, I highly doubt the right wing will sit mutely on its megaphones and allow any Democratic president much of a honeymoon. Sen. Clinton seems like the most polarizing candidate now, because she's already been demonized (not that there aren't legitimate reasons not to like her; she's the least favorite Dem for me right now). But once the Democratic nominee is chosen, I think whoever it is will get the same treatment. Are all the talk radio hosts and Republican political operatives who make a living attacking Democrats going to stop if Clinton doesn't get the nomination? Not likeley. They'll just turn their guns on the new target.

In 2004, Democrats thought they could diffuse the right-wing attacks by nominating a decorated war veteran like Kerry, but that strategy failed. The smears happened anyway. Maybe this time the Democrats will nominate a Southerner (Edwards) or someone who talks about faith alot (Obama) or someone with an impeccable resume (Richardson). One would think these people would be well positioned to unite much of the country. But would any of these people get a pass from Rush Limbaugh, the Christianists, or the torture apologists? I don't picture it. I think Clinton hatred is more a symptom of this country's polarization than a cause of it. James Dobson is not going to allow anyone who doesn't share his agenda to be a "unifier and a healer", and secular leftys like myself are not interested in "unifying" with those we consider to be peddling hatred. We want them to stop and change their ways, or failing that we want to defeat them politically.

-Zachary Drake
zdrake.blogspot.com

Monday, June 25, 2007

Go west, young (single) man...

...while your female counterpart goes east, apparently:
Map originally from National Geographic

(HT: Feministing) It seems as though single people do not sort themselves by gender in a geographically equitable manner? Is it because men leave for high tech or other jobs on the West Coast? Or do women flock to the Atlantic Seaboard for careers in government or the arts? A lot of speculation along these lines in the comments here. People bring up immigration patterns, and the fact that men might be more willing to pick up and move. More data would be nice. Another good point:

The graph is quite misleading since it records absolute excess single people, not the excess single people relative to the total local population.

185 000 extra single women in New York-Newark isn't that big a deal because it's taken from a population of 20 million, i.e., the excess is less than 1% of the population.

All this graph does is to pick out centres of high population. (Notice that the big dots are in California and the North-East Atlantic coast.)

I suspect that the imbalances people perceive ("There are no good men/ women/ gays/ lesbians/ etc in this city!") are more attributable to their subculture, work environment, or even their specific group of friends and acquaintances than to broad demographic inequalities.

US boogeyman in Iraq: Iran or Al Qaeda?

VLWC points out how the administration keeps changing who the big evil bad guy in Iraq is. He's starting a pool to bet on when the administration shifts from its current rhetoric about Al Qaeda back to seeing Iran's involvement in every single bit of violence.

I'll do him one better: pretty soon, the administration will be saying that Iran and Al Qaeda are working together! It's been pretty obvious they don't know jack about any of the factions that operate there. They just churn out whatever rhetoric they feel like.

Does my poo have to pay royalties to UPS?

ALL YOUR BROWN ARE BELONG TO US

Get this: my wife just discovered that the UPS corporation has trademarked the color brown. Yes, you got that right. Go to their corporate homepage, and click on the "trademarks" link at the bottom. Download their trademarks PDF. You will find the following text on the front page:
Published by UPS Brand Management.
© Copyright 2003 United Parcel Service of America, Inc.
UPS, the UPS brandmark and the color brown are registered trademarks of United Parcel Service of America, Inc. All rights reserved.
Trademarks in the U.S.
2005-2007 United Parcel Service of America, Inc. Rev. 4/07
(emphasis added.) Looking inside, you can see some of the other terms they've trademarked:
Big Brown Truck®
Brown®
Color Brown®
Um, dude, that is totally wack.

The Grand List Of Console Role Playing Game Clichés

Mad Latinist sent me this list. I don't play console games very much (I'm a PC guy) but the cliches of the genre are often cross-platform. Here are some samples:

  • "No! My beloved peasant village!"
    The hero's home town, city, slum, or planet will usually be annihilated in a spectacular fashion before the end of the game, and often before the end of the opening scene.

  • Let's Start From The Very Beginning (Yuna Rule)
    Whenever there is a sequel to an RPG that features the same main character as the previous game, that character will always start with beginner skills. Everything that they learned in the previous game will be gone, as will all their ultra-powerful weapons and equipment.

  • "Silly Squall, bringing a sword to a gunfight..."
    No matter what timeframe the game is set in -- past, present, or future -- the main hero and his antagonist will both use a sword for a weapon. (Therefore, you can identify your antagonist pretty easily right from the start of the game just by looking for the other guy who uses a sword.) These swords will be far more powerful than any gun and often capable of distance attacks.
  • Dimensional Transcendence Principle
    Buildings are much, much larger on the inside than on the outside, and that doesn't even count the secret maze of tunnels behind the clock in the basement.
  • Local Control Rule
    Although the boss monster terrorizing the first city in the game is less powerful than the non-boss monsters that are only casual nuisances to cities later in the game, nobody from the first city ever thinks of hiring a few mercenaries from the later cities to kill the monster.
  • Nostradamus Rule
    All legends are 100% accurate. All rumors are entirely factual. All prophecies will come true, and not just someday but almost immediately.
  • More on Cheney's bizarre claims about the vice-presidency

    Quiddity:
    Cheney's fourth branch claims:
    • The story has legs.
    • The story is a good source of jokes.
    • Most important of all, the story makes Bush look weak.
    George W. Bush: so pathetic he can't even control a vice-president. Ha ha ha! Let's get rid of them both, please. Internal Monologue's editorial board has been endorsing impeachment for the both of them for quite some time.

    Sunday, June 24, 2007

    Everyone we kill in Iraq is a member of Al Qaeda...

    ...at least according to the latest government propaganda and the dutiful journalists who unquestioningly parrot the official line. Greenwald:
    What is so amazing about this new rhetorical development -- not only from our military, but also from our "journalists" -- is that, for years, it was too shameless and false even for the Bush administration to use. Even at the height of their propaganda offensives about the war, the furthest Bush officials were willing to go was to use the generic term "terrorists" for everyone we are fighting in Iraq, as in: "we cannot surrender to the terrorists by withdrawing" and "we must stay on the offensive against terrorists."
    [...]
    But now, support for the war is at an all-time low and war supporters are truly desperate to find a way to stay in Iraq. So the administration has thrown any remnants of rhetorical caution to the wind, overtly calling everyone we are fighting "Al Qaeda." This strategy was first unveiled by Joe Lieberman when he went on Meet the Press in January and claimed that the U.S. was "attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that we're fighting in Iraq today". Though Lieberman was widely mocked at the time for his incomparable willingness to spew even the most patent falsehoods to justify the occupation, our intrepid political press corps now dutifully follows right along.
    Pathetic.

    Saturday, June 23, 2007

    Bush ABBA Waterloo

    Does this mean we can exile the Bush administration to St. Helena? (HT: Sullivan)

    My blog is rated "R"

    What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

    My blog got an "R" rating from Mingle2.com. Here's why:

    This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

    • sex (8x)
    • dick (2x)
    • torture (1x)
    HT: rubber hose.

    Images of George W. Bush

    Stamp image from Tennessee Guerrilla Women


    Limbo image from The Dark Stuff.

    ...because Bush is someone who can't be disrespected enough. How contemptuous does America have to become of this guy before the Democratic Congress really starts standing up to him?

    I got these images via Quiddity at uggabugga.

    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Shrinking George W. Bush: Meta-stupidity

    I have said numerous times that the problem with George W. Bush is not so much stupidity (he's not brilliant, but he's smart enough), but rather a profound lack of curiosity combined with arrogance and stubbornness. Kevin Drum links to a research paper about the phenomenon of metacognitive incompetence: it turns out that people who are really bad at something (oh, say, American foreign policy), are often completely unaware that they are bad at it. Indeed, the very traits that make them bad at something also make them unable to see how bad they are. I'm reading the whole paper, but here's the abstract for you:
    People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.

    How many branches of government does the US have?

    This is how USA for Kids views the U.S. Government.
    It is not how our vice president views it.

    "Three" is the answer we learned in school. But Dick Cheney apparently thinks otherwise:
    Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government, and therefore not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies, according to a new letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to Cheney.

    Bill Leonard, head of the government's Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), told Waxman's staff that Cheney's office has refused to provide his staff with details regarding classified documents or submit to a routine inspection as required by presidential order, according to Waxman.

    In pointed letters released today by Waxman, ISOO's Leonard twice questioned Cheney's office on its assertion it was exempt from the rules. He received no reply, but the vice president later tried to get rid of Leonard's office entirely, according to Waxman.

    Emphasis added. HT: Sullivan. The Vice-presidency not being part of the executive branch? Does that mean he's immune to impeachment, too?

    A much better response to terrorism


    A much better response to terrorism than the American government has managed.

    Our wonderful ally Pakistan

    That's Sir Salman Rushdie, to you, bub.
    Image from the CBC.

    The religious affairs minister of Pakistan was not happy that Salman Rushdie is to be knighted:

    Today, Pakistan's religious affairs minister suggested that the knighthood was so grave an offence that any Muslim anywhere in the world would be justified in taking violent action.

    "If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet then it is justified," Mr ul-Haq told the National Assembly.

    The minister, the son of Zia ul-Haq, the military dictator who died in a plane crash in 1988, later retracted his statement in parliament, then told the AFP news agency that he meant to say that knighting Rushdie would foster extremism.

    (HT: Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy) The minister goes on to say Pakistan should cut off diplomatic relations with the UK. Remember folks: Pakistan is allegedly our ally in the struggle against militarized Islamists. Of course, Iran's not happy about it either.

    In this I'm totally on the side of those giving Rushdie the honor. Blasphemy is not a crime in civilized countries or among civilized people. (Yes, I'm making a dreaded "value judgment" about another culture.) The ire Rushdie has earned in the Islamic world is truly frightening and baffling to me. If some guy wants to make fun of your religion in his book or on his blog in some editorial cartoon, the proper reaction is to make fun of them back, or start a boycott, or publish a defense, or do some public service work to show that your religion is a force for good. The hysteria that ensues whenever some high-profile "blasphemy" incident gets the attention of certain folks in the Islamic world seems to be diagnostic of something very wrong.

    (And from what I know, Rushdie wasn't even that blasphemous, but rather used the conventions of the literary genre "magical realism" when depicting The Prophet. But I haven't read Satanic Verses. Tried to, but it didn't catch fire with me. Midnight's Children drew me in more.)

    It's stuff like this that makes me glad I'm an American, as screwed up as our government is.

    If Mick Jagger can be knighted, surely Rushdie can be. I would think that those with pious, puritanical sensibilities would find the former a good deal more offensive than the latter. Egad.

    Aren't they all in the military?

    Here's something I don't get about Maxim's latest photo spread: aren't all Israeli women required to be in the military at some point? So isn't having a photo series of female Israeli soldiers the same thing as having a photo series of female Israelis above military age? Another thing I don't get: the military-themed pinup. Does nothin' for me. But to each his own, I guess.

    "Dog Bites Man" story: Bush approval hits new low

    I don't normally announce new Bush approval rating lows on Internal Monologue, because they happen so often recently that they cease to amaze. But every once in a while one ought to take stock: 26%. He's beaten Carter's nadir of 28% (though the polls were done by different firms, so the ratings may not be directly comparable). Kos thinks he'll beat Nixon's 23% before leaving office.

    Every time Bush hits a new low, Atrios posts a picture of a toy pony on his blog. This has happened so many times that Atrios is having to range pretty far in search of new pony pictures:

    Thursday, June 21, 2007

    Condoms: OK for disease prevention, not OK for contraception


    That seems to be the attitude of FOX and CBS, who are refusing to air this ad for Trojan condoms. FOX gave Trojan the following justification, according to the New York Times:
    In a written response to Trojan, though, Fox said that it had rejected the spot because, “Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.”
    Actually, this ad doesn't mention pregnancy. It just implies that having a condom will make you more attractive to the hot woman. But I'm somewhat bewildered by FOX preference for disease prevention uses over contraceptive uses. What gives? I guess condom ads are supposed to talk about scary AIDS and nasty STDs, not pregnancy prevention. I know that in some religions birth control is evil, but I suspect those religions would consider any sex that required a condom evil, so how does making it about disease help? Maybe talking about disease makes sex seem sufficiently dangerous and yucky that the puritans are OK with it? I thought this sort of thing had fallen by the wayside, especially among the young, affluent demographic that people who trade television ad time fetishize. But I guess not. The puritans still exert their control. And who knows what CBS's justification was.

    Here's Amanda Marcotte's take on Pandagon:

    Translation: We can accept advertising of sexual devices if they are advertised as benefiting men. But if they insinuate something as crazy as the concept that men should respect women’s bodies, health, and choices, then they’re way out of line.

    The good news is that the gloves are off. The networks are cowering because they’re scared to death of anti-choicers writing in and bitching about the idea that sluts should escape their due punishment for having sex. Make no mistake, this is not about the fetuses. Not even the most crazy anti-choicer can convince himself that condoms kill babies. The idea of preventing unwanted pregnancy—and therefore preventing abortion, actually—is the source of the angst. Once more with feeling: It’s not about the babies, it’s about punishing women for having sex.

    One of her commenters remarks:

    Let me get this straight–it’s OK to use sex to sell everything from cars to shoes, but run a commercial that suggests that buying your own condoms might make you more attractive to women?

    Yeah, that’s beyond the pale.

    Yes. You can use sex appeal to sell anything, but you can't sell sex itself, because it's evil. This is what happens when rampant commercialism and puritanical Calvinism jump into the back seat of American culture and make a bunch of babies. Not always a pretty sight.

    Looking at it from another angle, could Trojan have crafted the ad specifically to be rejected, so that it would get free press coverage here on Internal Monologue (and elsewhere, of course)? Well, using condoms is a good message to spread, so if the Trojan folks get a little free publicity from me, I suppose that's not entirely a bad thing.

    And he wonders why progressive bloggers don't like him


    Not only is Lieberman advocating more war, he's raising money for a Republican Senator, Susan Collins (corrected-originally I said Olympia Snowe) of Maine. DailyKos and ActBlue have responded by holding an online counter-fundraiser for Snowe's Democratic opponent, Tom Allen. You can participate here. (I did.)

    I think all the Democrats who supported Lieberman over Lamont, even after Lamont won the Democratic primary, should look at Lieberman's recent behavior and feel pretty foolish.

    Neocon strategy: genocide with a shrug

    It really is repellent how casually some American warmongers talk of killing other people. Greenwald is on the case, of course:
    Nothing could be more boring to Tony Snow than the question of how many Iraqi civilians we have killed as a result of our invasion and occupation. His yawn is virtually audible. What could be less relevant than that? It is better if we do not know. We can just keep repeating over and over that we are "killing Al Qaeda" -- a "fact" which Michael Gordon and The New York Times will be happy repeatedly to re-inforce -- and we can ignore the rest.

    What Norman Podhoretz is advocating -- blowing Iran into "smithereens" -- is criminal and morally twisted for reasons that should require no elaboration. But the far more significant fact is that such advocacy does not relegate him to the fringes. Quite the contrary, the movement of which he is an integral part, on whose behalf he speaks, is well within the political mainstream as depicted by our political press. And it is doubtful that there is anything he (and his comrades) could do or say which would change that.

    I am proud to be a member of the organization that produced this ad


    The organization is the Drug Policy Alliance, who have long enjoyed a much-coveted spot in Internal Monologue's right-hand sidebar. The spot is for "Incarcerex", a drug politicians can take to relieve electile dysfunction. It's pretty funny.

    Sullivan links to this video.

    The "war on drugs" is very stupid, immoral and wasteful. It's also been on the back burner quite a bit. I wish some prominent politicians would start acting sensibly on this.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Puffin eating eels


    Majikthise posts FlickrFinds like this one. I don't have any particular reason for posting this, other than that it looks cool.

    GDP equivalents map

    Here's a fun little map: each state is labeled with the name of a country with equivalent GDP. From strange maps via Sullivan.

    One interesting thought this map provokes is that Iran, the latest uber-bogey man of the neocon warmongers, has an economy similar in size to that of Alabama. I think that gives some much needed perspective.

    Digby revealed

    Image from Firedoglake

    Digby is one of my favorite bloggers. I've never known what she looked like, or even that she is a woman. Here she is speaking at Campaign for America's Future.

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    The age of no consequences

    Digby assigned this Mark Danner piece as "homework" for Hullabaloo readers:

    ...One of the most painful principles of our age is that scandals are doomed to be revealed — and to remain stinking there before us, unexcised, unpunished, unfinished.

    If this Age of Rhetoric has a tragic symbol, then surely this is it: the frozen scandal, doomed to be revealed, and revealed, and revealed, in a never-ending torture familiar to the rock-bound Prometheus and his poor half-eaten liver. A full three years ago, the photographs from Abu Ghraib were broadcast by CBS on Sixty Minutes II and published by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker; nearly as far back I wrote a book entitled Torture and Truth, made up largely of Bush administration documents that detailed the decision to use “extreme interrogation techniques” or — in the First President of Rhetoric’s phrase — “an alternative set of procedures” on prisoners in the War on Terror.

    And yet nothing happens. The Democratic Congress could change that. But first, it looks like we will have to change the Democrats. And maybe wake up a bit ourselves.

    More evidence of Rumsfeld's culpability

    Now that Taguba is talking to Seymour Hersh, Rumsfeld's culpability for war crimes is becoming more clear. Sullivan is tracking the story:

    So you're secretary of defense and have been informed that your troops have grotesquely violated the Geneva Conventions - on tape and JPGs - and you decide you don't want to look into it for months because you don't want to jeopardize the investigation? Are we really supposed to believe this? Now look at who Sy Hersh's source is: not an anonymous leaker, but a general of impeccable integrity and credibility whom the Pentagon had itself relied on to do the investigation. It doesn't get more damning than this.

    The obvious explanation, of course, is much, much more plausible than Rumsfeld's ludicrous grandstanding. It is that Rumsfeld knew what he had authorized - and knew the consequences.

    Hamas steals Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize


    Image of Nobel medal from Citizen Journalism Nepal.

    How many layers of sadness, irony, and hilarity are contained in this little tidbit from the Jerusalem Post:

    Enraged Fatah leaders on Saturday accused Hamas militiamen of looting the home of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza City.

    "They stole almost everything inside the house, including Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize medal," said Ramallah-based Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdel Rahman. "Hamas militiamen and gangsters blew up the main entrance to the house before storming it. They stole many of Arafat's documents and files, gifts he had received from world leaders and even his military outfits."

    (emphasis added). The Hotline's Blogometer rounds up some of the expected snarky reactions.

    I don't have any particular insight into the latest Hamas vs. Fatah fighting. It sucks, and bodes ill for the region of course. And it sort of highlights the problems with Bush's "elections for everyone" strategy. What do you do when Hamas gets elected? I don't have any slick, easy answers. I doubt there are any.

    Internal Monologue vacation

    I'm going to be on vacation in a low tech environment until tomorrow evening, so you'll have to look elsewhere for blogospheric enlightenment.

    The American auto industry

    Here's a sad sight to behold: union workers fighting environmentalists about fuel efficiency standards. It always saddens me when two groups that could be allies in a broader progressive movement fight each other.

    I must say I side with the environmentalists on this one. The cars produced by American auto companies are very fuel inefficient, if those graphs in An Inconvenient Truth are accurate. American auto companies have fought increased fuel efficiency standards tooth and nail. Meanwhile, Toyota, maker of the Prius among other things, has displaced GM as the world's largest auto company. I don't suppose it's occurred to the big three (I guess that term doesn't really apply any more) automakers that if they'd accepted higher fuel efficiency standards back in the 1980's, maybe Japanese automakers wouldn't be eating their lunch right now. And just wait until China starts making cars.

    I don't see why the auto industry is whining so much: if Congress doesn't force them to be fuel efficient now, the marketplace will later. Getting a few senators to do your bidding is easy. Toyota, the global oil market, and the world automobile consumer are much harder to control. And I'm convinced that within several years, pressure to do something about carbon emissions and global climate change will only increase. Even if in the United States corporate and union interests keep environmental laws at bay, the rest of the world will move forward.

    What I like about the post I linked to above is it describes an alternative model in the steel industry. Stricter environmental regulation let to increased efficiency, which later turned into a strategic advantage. I would love to see the American auto industry take a similar course. But every time I read about their lobbying efforts, it always seems they just want to pollute as much as they want.

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    Changing standards of what is considered "scandalous"

    Here's Atrios:
    Watching "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and it occurs to me that while the interracial relationship is perceived as freakishly weird, the fact that the 37 year old distinguished doctor picks up a young 23 year old thing at a "Dean's party" after lecturing at a university is seen as perfectly normal.
    I admit I am quite shocked when I hear about romantic relationships involving large age differences (and I'd consider 37 and 23 to be largely different). Such things scandalize me to a surprisingly high degree. I've never been in such a relationship. I think the biggest age difference I've had with a partner has been less than 4 years (and I was in my 20's before I had any romantic relationships at all).

    Whenever I hear about such a "May-December" pairing, I always think: so when I'm 37, does that mean I get hit on 23 year olds? (Well, now that I'm married such thinking is of course extremely hypothetical in nature.) Well, actually, it doesn't shock me that a 37 year old would hit on a 23 year old. But getting into a relationship with a 23 year old...23 year olds already seem very young to me and I'm only 33. But of course if I were single (which I am definitely not), maybe 23 year olds wouldn't seem so young, even if I were 37.

    Of course different people are looking for different things in relationships. So if it works for you...

    GOP crackup

    It seems like the GOP coalition is having some major problems holding itself together. Apparently Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), who supported the stalled immigration reform bill, recently complained that “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.” This is pretty interesting. Talk radio has been one of the most powerful weapons in the right wing arsenal. To hear Trent Lott describe it as a "problem" is quite stunning.

    Needless to say, digby is not terribly sympathetic to the GOP's current woes:
    No wonder Bush is sweating bullets. Aside from the small matter of turning the country into a rogue super power, his lasting political legacy may be overseeing his party's decline to a minority faction of racists and malcontents because they foolishly empowered a bunch of shrieking wingnut gasbags to speak for them in the national media --- and now they can't control them. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.
    Although it heartens me to see the savage id of the GOP turning against its political leaders and corporate paymasters (and vice versa), one must remember that this same id will be shrieking against the Democrats, should they regain power. Democrats need to learn how to persevere in the face of this noise, or they won't be able to accomplish anything.

    The president of France, shloshed


    (HT: Sullivan)

    Saturday, June 16, 2007

    Daily Show catches Tony Snow lying

    It's almost too easy.

    Party head asks Lieberman to resign...

    ...is the headline at C&L. But isn't Lieberman an independent? No, he's a member of Connecticut for Lieberman! Remember them? The dummy party Joementum created so he could run? And how it got taken over? Well the guy who took it over is asking Lieberman to resign because of his insane bomb Iran comments.

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    The opera singing cell-phone salesperson

    Paul Potts, the geeky opera singer guy I posted the clip of a few days ago has gone to the semi-finals. It's not as magical because now you already know he can sing:

    Lieberman loves Kristol

    Chait found this:

    Perusing the Weekly Standard's promotional package (which isn't online), I came across this testimonial from Joe Lieberman:

    "If Kristol says what I'm doing is right, it must be right."

    And Lieberman is shocked, shocked, that anti-war Democrats can't stand him. When you grant Bill Kristol infallibility, you can't exactly expect progressive bloggers to look favorably upon you.

    How obsession with "masculinity" twists our politics

    Greenwald:

    [...] our dominant political discourse is comprised of people like Rush Limbaugh calling others "wimps and sissies" for not supporting the torture policies he loves, and people like Joe Lieberman wanting to start new wars because they think it is a way that they become "powerful," and "journalists" like Chris Matthews, on a nightly basis, deciding who the best presidential candidates are based upon who emanates the strongest cigar odors from their bodies.

    None of this is about psychoanalyzing anyone. Unfortunately, all of this comes explicitly from their own mouths, and is tragically unavoidable. And there is simply no way to understand our degraded political discourse and the radical militarism of the last six years without thinking about these twisted character traits, which their carriers tout quite overtly and even proudly.
    Digby (from July 2005):
    We are dealing with a group of right wing glory seekers who chose long ago to eschew putting themselves on the line in favor of tough talk and empty posturing --- the Vietnam chickenhawks and their recently hatched offspring of the new Global War On Terrorism. These are men (mostly) driven by the desire to prove their manhood but who refuse to actually test their physical courage. Neither are they able to prove their virility as they are held hostage by prudish theocrats and their own shortcomings. So they adopt the pose of warrior but never actually place themselves under fire. This is a psychologically difficult position to uphold. Bullshitting yourself is never without a cost.

    [...]

    [W]e are seeing much of the same pathology among younger warhawks as well. This is why we hear the shrill war cries of inchoate bloodlust from these quarters every time the terrorists strike. It's a primal scream of inner confusion and self-loathing. These are people whose highest aspirations and deepest longings are wrapped up in their masculinity, and yet they are flaccid failures. They are in a state of arrested development, never having faced their fears, never becoming men, remaining boys standing in the corner of the darkened hallway watching Bill Clinton emerge from a co-ed's dorm room to lead a rousing all night strategy session --- and sitting in the bus station on the way home for Christmas vacation as Chuck Hagel and John Kerry in uniform, looking stalwart and strong, clap each other on the back in brotherly solidarity and prepare to see what they are really made of. They have never been part of anything but an effete political movement in which the stakes go no higher than repeal of the death tax.
    Harsh words. But there has to be some explanation for why Republicans are falling all over themselves to prove how ready to torture, invade, and bomb (McCain being something of an exception, though his desire to kiss up to the Republican establishment often seems to outweigh his abhorrence of torture).

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Gay marriage victory in Massachusetts

    Banning same-sex marriage won't be on the MA ballot. It couldn't even get the 50 of 200 votes necessary to make it onto the 2008 ballot. The next opportunity would be 2012. Looks like gay marriage is here to stay, in one state at least.

    "The shrieking harpies are about to go berserk"

    ...says digby, because Scooter Libby has been denied bail and has to go to jail. I don't know what all the fuss is about. A convicted felon goes to jail. What's more routine than that?

    Our new "strategy" of arming the Sunni insurgents

    Crooks and Liars, your source for Daily Show political clips

    Jon Stewart couldn't let something this crazy and stupid go by without taking a look at it. It's a pretty funny clip, but the insanity of our "strategy" is making his job too easy. I know its a good idea to exploit divisions among your enemies, but giving weapons to the very folks who have been most responsible for attacks against our troops? If we're going to be stupid and cruel enough to add weapons to a multi-party civil war, can we at least be selfish enough to get our own troops out of the way first? Isn't the first rule of quelling ethnic and sectarian conflict "Don't add a bunch of free weapons into the mix?"

    I'm a broken record, but: Impeach Bush and Cheney now. Congress should use its constitutional power to end our involvement in this debacle.

    Dress like sperm! That will convince them!

    People protesting against gay civil unions and reproductive rights in San Juan, Puerto Rico decided that dressing like sperm would somehow make their point more convincing. Well, at least it helped them get coverage in Internal Monologue. I'll forgo the obvious Monty Python reference. (HT: Ann on Feministing, who does not forgo the obvious Monty Python reference.)

    Dude, did someone steal Bush's watch?

    Check out the Reuters video. It looks like someone swiped Bush's watch. Tony Snow denied it, but looking at the video it doesn't look like he put it in his pocket. There's supposedly another video out there that makes it clear he did put it in his pocket. But I haven't seen it yet.

    UPDATE: Here's the new video. It looks like it wasn't stolen:

    Washington DC on its way to getting vote in House

    The resolution made it out of committee 9-1:
    Washington, DC - DC Vote applauds the strong, bipartisan vote today of 9-1 in favor of granting DC its first-ever voting member of Congress. All the Democrats on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted in favor of the bill. They were joined by three key Republicans: Senators Susan Collins (ME), Norm Coleman (MN) and George Voinovich (OH)...

    Your tax dollars at work, graphed

    A graphical representation of Bush's proposed budget for 2008. 67% defense/national security seems awfully high. But this poster doesn't include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid which are funded by their own taxes. (HT: Political Wire).

    The Senate can be very weird


    Quiddity on uggabugga gives us a brief graphical demonstration of how un-democratic (with a small 'd') the Senate can be:
    Under a worse case scenario, Senators from the 21 least-populous states could block legislation. How many people are in those 21 states?

    If you look at the List of U.S. states by population, we find that out of a total of 300 million for the country, there are 37 million in the 21 least-populous states. That amounts to 12.4% of the population, or one in eight. [...]

    Taking this further, it's possible that in each of the 21 least-populous states, the senator was elected with a vote of 50% +1. Effectively half the population of each state. So it could take as little as 18 milliion people to elect enough senators to stop action on a particular bill. That's one in 16 people. And that explains, in part, how anti-democratic (and pro-plutocratic) the Senate can be.
    Of course, the House, with its "majority can do anything it wants" rules, can be problematic in its own way.

    A guide for American troops in Iraq from 1943

    Oh, this is rich: a guide to Iraq for American troops stationed there, published by the War and Navy departments during WWII. Maybe the architects of this occupation should have read it before blundering in mucking things up. Sullivan quotes this part:

    You can usually tell a mosque by its high tower. Keep away from mosques. If you try to enter one, you will be thrown out, probably with a severe beating.

    There are four towns in Iraq which are particularly sacred to the Iraq Moslems: Kerbala, Najaf, Samarra, and Kadhiman. Unless you are ordered to these towns it is advisable to stay away from them.

    Moslems here are divided into two factions something like our division into Catholic and Protestant denominations - so don't put in your two cents when Iraqis argue about religion.

    There are political differences in Iraq that have puzzled diplomats and statesmen. You won't help matters any by getting mixed up in them.

    But here's my favorite bit:

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Who's on our side now, again?

    I get dizzy trying to keep track of which band of armed thugs the United States is backing in Iraq. Now I guess Sunni insurgent groups are our allies. It's truly mind-boggling.

    Who knows what talents lurk within the geek?

    A "classic YouTube moment" via Sullivan:

    Church attendance positively correlated with evolution denial

    It could be that disbelief in evolution and church attendance both have a hidden third cause (stupidity?), but this Gallup poll strongly suggests that going to church makes you doubt one of the bedrock scientific ideas of our day. Of course, it could be that Republicanism causes this, as 68% of Republicans don't believe in evolution. But as Pharyngula points out, when people are asked why they don't believe in evolution, the majority of answers are straight out of Sunday school:

    %
    I believe in Jesus Christ 19
    I believe in the almighty God, creator of Heaven and Earth 16
    Due to my religion and faith 16
    Not enough scientific evidence to prove otherwise 14
    I believe in what I read in the Bible 12
    I'm a Christian 9
    I don't believe humans come from beasts/monkeys 3
    Other 5
    No reason in particular 2
    No opinion 3

    There are some positions that should be argued against, and some that should be ridiculed and held in utter contempt. I put disbelief in evolution in the latter category. It's thinking like this that is going to contribute to the economic decline of our country. If you were looking for a country to set up a bioresearch lab or medical startup, wouldn't looking at those numbers make you think twice about the United States?

    It's polls like this that make you realize George W. Bush is unfortunately not an aberration, but in fact a genuine representative of the faith-based reality denial in which a huge swath of our country indulges. Of course, not every creationist supports George W. Bush. But the kind of thinking at work seems to be the same: God told me the answer, so I don't need to check in with reality to see whether I'm right or not.

    Fortunately, Internal Monologue will single-handedly reverse this trend of ignorance. I have to keep thinking positively.

    Free the 700 MHz spectrum!

    Kevin Drum calls for an open auction of the 700 MHz spectrum that will soon come available when the UHF channels have to vacate it:
    ...a better policy would be to auction off a piece of the spectrum under the usual rules, but to reserve another chunk to be auctioned off under "open access" rules that require the spectrum to be open to anyone who wants to lease it and to any device that's capable of running on it. This would allow small innovators to enter the market and would open up the spectrum to interesting new devices in the same way that the Supreme Court's 1969 Carterphone decision revolutionized the phone industry by opening up the old telephone network to answering machines and cordless phones not made by AT&T. But none of this will happen if the entire spectrum gets auctioned off to the usual suspects.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    A good argument for gay marriage from a conservative perspective

    Here's Jon Rauch on why gay marriage should be normalized:
    Suffice it to say that, in a society riddled with divorce and fatherlessness, family policy’s essential task is to shore up marriage’s status as a norm. In a world where gay couples look married, act married, talk married, raise kids together, and are increasingly accepted as married, the best way to preserve marriage’s normative status is to bring gay couples inside the tent. Failing to do so, over time, will tar marriage as discriminatory, legitimize co-habitation and other kinds of non-marriage, and turn every successful gay couple into a cultural advertisement for the expendability of matrimony.
    Via Sullivan, naturally. It's interesting to see how to get to gay marriage from a traditionalist path.

    The gay bomb

    This has been all over the Internets already, but I suppose I should mention the odd military proposal to create a weaponized aphrodisiac that would render enemy troops insatiably homosexual. They didn't actually try to make it, but a watchdog group is claiming the proposal got farther than the Pentagon is admitting:
    However, Hammond said the government records he obtained suggest the military gave the plan much stronger consideration than it has acknowledged.

    "The truth of the matter is it would have never come to my attention if it was dismissed at the time it was proposed," he said. "In fact, the Pentagon has used it repeatedly and subsequently in an effort to promote non-lethal weapons, and in fact they submitted it to the highest scientific review body in the country for them to consider."

    Military officials insisted Friday to KPIX-TV that they are not currently working on any such idea and that the past plan was abandoned.
    (HT: Mad Latinist via email and a zillion other places)

    Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain...

    ...at least in the United States. 7 in 10 Republicans don't believe in evolution. 4 in 10 Democrats don't. And even scarier:
    The data indicate some seeming confusion on the part of Americans on this issue. About a quarter of Americans say they believe both in evolution's explanation that humans evolved over millions of years and in the creationist explanation that humans were created as is about 10,000 years ago...
    We can't even be consistently stupid. We must be self-contradictorily stupid. This is one area where supernaturalism isn't just a harmless indulgence, but an actual active force of ignorance. And things aren't getting better:
    A 2005 Harris poll showed 6% fewer Americans believing in human evolution than they had in 1994.
    It's stuff like this that makes me believe that perhaps the fall of America from its position of global dominance would be a good thing. But then I take a look at what the Chinese government is like and change my mind.

    Individual human beings can be wonderful, but as a lot we're pretty hopeless.

    Gonzales no-confidence measure fails in Senate

    The Republicans stood up for Alberto "I don't recall" Gonzales and blocked the measure from coming up for a vote:

    As predicted, the no confidence vote on Gonzale didn't make cloture, with a vote of 53-38, with one voting "present." Also as expected, the skunk at everyone's picnic Lieberman voted no.

    But look at which Republican Senators voted aye: Coleman, Collins, Hagel, Smith, Specter, Snowe, Sununu. Ok, so five of them are clearly looking ahead to saving their political skins in November of '08, nonetheless, they should be applauded for putting their votes where their mouths have been in recent months.

    However, this vote should be considered just the beginning, more than just a procedural vote to put some Republicans on the spot. It should be considered a critical step forward in building the case to remove Gonzales from office. Senators Schumer, Whitehouse and Reid laid out a clear and empassioned case for Gonzales's removal. It can't end here. We can't have another colossal Dem cave-in to match the Iraq supplemental.

    If they are serious in having no confidence in Gonzales (and who couldn't be, outside of Bush?) then it's time to begin the process for the next step: impeachment.

    Why Democrats shouldn't ignore their base

    Democratic Party politicians seem to be forever distancing themselves from their own base. While a certain amount of centrism is necessary, I think the party has taken it too far. Chris Bowers on MyDD explains what the Democratic party loses by alienating its base:
    However, leaving aside actual polling numbers for a moment, there are other reasons why catering to mythical, center-right swing voters and other 1990's chimeras should not always be the number one priority of the Democratic leadership. For one thing, swing voters don't contribute money, they don't volunteer for campaigns, they don't challenge right-wing media narratives, they don't keep Democrats active and energized to vote, and they don't expand the electoral playing field. Rather, these are tasks all carried out by the progressive activist base that Rothenberg thinks has "nowhere else to go" and which the Democratic Party "risks very little, at least at this point, in disappointing." The fact is that the resources and political machinery Democrats need in order to win elections are derived, in large part, from its progressive, activist base. Further, for all of the reasons mentioned above, which I outlined in more detail for an article for the Democratic Strategist), the rise of the progressive movement is the main reason that the Democratic Party has closed the resource and political machinery gap on Republicans since 2002. Thus, alienating that movement is extremely high-risk for Democrats, since participants in the progressive movement may not be swing voters, but they are certainly swing activists. Losing our support can be very dangerous.

    Washington insiders rally to protect one of their own (a convicted felon)

    Seeing the outpouring of neocon/wingnut support for convicted felon Scooter Libby is bad enough. The argument seems to go something like: "Libby lied to protect Dick Cheney. Therefore he is a loyal soldier who shouldn't be abandoned to liberal partisans. Therefore Bush should pardon him." (Never mind that both the prosecutor who convicted him and the judge presiding in the case were Republicans and George W. Bush appointees to boot.)

    But when allegedly liberal "heavyweights" like Joe Klein rally to Libby's defense, you really have to scratch your head (Klein is not talking about a pardon here, but rather saying Libby shouldn't have to spend time in jail):
    I have a different feeling about Libby. His "perjury"--not telling the truth about which reporters he talked to--would never be considered significant enough to reach trial, much less sentencing, much less time in stir if he weren't Dick Cheney's hatchet man.[...]

    But jail time? Do we really want to spend our tax dollars keeping Scooter Libby behind bars? I don't think so. This "perjury" case only exists because of his celebrity--just as the ridiculous "perjury" case against Bill Clinton, which ballooned into the fantastically stupid and destructive impeachment proceedings.
    Wait a sec, this case doesn't just exist because of Libby's "celebrity". A lot of "celebrities" were questioned by Fitzgerald in the investigation (including Rove), and they didn't get convicted on multiple perjury and obstruction of justice counts. And why does Klein put the word "perjury" in quotation marks? It makes it sound like it wasn't really perjury. The guy was convicted of perjury. It doesn't get any more real than that.

    In the very same piece, Klein argues that Paris Hilton should go to jail for violating her DUI parole, because it sends the right message:
    But jail time for Hilton, however "unfair," strikes me as a public service--it is exemplary: It sends the message, as Gilmore suggests, that even rich twits can't avoid the law.
    So let me get this straight: rich twits shouldn't be able to avoid the law, unless they're members of the Bush administration. Maybe Paris Hilton should have gotten herself appointed Attorney General. Then all the Washington folks would decry her imprisonment as "needless partisan witch hunting."

    (I promised myself I wouldn't mention Paris Hilton on this blog, but she managed to creep in nonetheless. Going to jail was an excellent career move on her part. If I were her agent, I'd be pumping my fist and making "ka-ching!" exclamations all the way to the bank.)

    Greenwald's explanation is that in Washington, the insider vs. outsider distinction trumps the Democrat vs. Republican distinction, and indeed all other distinctions. Scooter Libby was an insider, and so other insiders naturally rally to his defense:

    It is difficult to recall a single episode which has been more revealing of our political culture than the collective Beltway horror over the plight of the poor, maltreated and persecuted (and convicted felon) Lewis Libby. It is hardly surprising that the right-wing movement of which he is a part operates from the premise that their comrades ought to be exempt from criminal prosecution even when they commit felonies. That "principle" is a central and defining one for that movement, applied religiously to the Leader and everyone on down the right-wing food chain.

    But what the Libby case demonstrates is that so many establishment journalists believe this just as religiously. To our media stars, "Beltway crime" is an oxymoron, at least when it is committed by a high-level political official. In exactly the way they treated all prior acts of lawbreaking by Bush officials as innocuous political controversies, the Beltway press speaks of Lewis Libby's felonies as being something other than a "real crime," all so plainly based on the premise that Libby -- as a dignified member in good standing of the elevated and all-important Beltway court -- ought to be exempt from the type of punishment doled out to "real criminals" who commit "real crimes."

    When I heard Markos speak in Berkeley a while back, he spoke about this insider-outsider distinction and how important it was to understanding Washington , and how destructive it was to our politics. At the time, I didn't quite realize how important it was. But I'm finding he was right.

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt needs a medium

    From Political Wire:

    Leavitt Requests Meeting with Dead Senator

    The office of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt called Sen. Craig Thomas's (R-WY) office Thursday afternoon to request a meeting with the late senator, the Washington Post reports.

    Thomas passed away on Monday after a seven month battle with leukemia.

    "Needless to say, grief-stricken Thomas staffers were stunned."

    Knocked Up

    As an early Father's Day present, my wonderful yummy wife hired a babysitter and took me on an afternoon lunch/movie date. This was one of our favorite activities from our pre-baby days that we had not yet been able to enjoy. We saw the movie Knocked Up and loved it. It's by the writer/director of "The 40 Year-Old Virgin", so some of the humor is quite crude, and it features similar slacker/loser characters. But it was very funny, especially for those people who have been through pregnancy together. Here's a deleted scene from the movie. It's laden with profanity and crass sexual imagery, but doesn't have any spoilers. Definitely not work safe, though. Enjoy.

    The Creationist mindset


    BlueGrassRoots takes a tour of the creationist museum. It includes the admonition “Don’t think, just listen and believe” and a nice justification of Cain's incest with his sister (pictured above). There's some really wacky stuff in there.

    P.S.: The guy they cast as "Adam" in one of their videos turned out to have a life incompatible with the philosophy of the museum. As a result, they pulled the video.

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    Before making ROBOTRONS, you must make Robochildren

    Supposedly, this robot, CB2, was made to help researchers learn about child development:

    Minoru Asada, a professor at Osaka University who leads the project, said the robot was developed to learn more about child development.

    "Our goal is to study human recognition development such as how the child learns a language, recognizes objects and learns to communicate with his father and mother," he said.

    I'm not sure how making a robot helps you do this. I suspect this is something of a publicity stunt. Or else its part of a secret plan to develop the ROBOTRONS.

    McDonalds wants to alter definition of word "McJob"

    Good luck with that, Ronald. (HT: C&L)

    The more I read about guerilla warfare...

    ...the more hopeless our occupation of Iraq seems to me. I just read this post on Firedoglake:
    This is the most important point in this entire essay [Mao's essay on Guerrilla warfare], and indeed the most important thing you need to know about guerrilla warfare, occupations, terrorism and insurgency. If the movement has the support of the population, they cannot be destroyed. Period. No matter how many you manage to kill, there will always be more. Now support doesn’t mean “do you prefer the guerrilla movement” in a poll, it means practical support - are they willing to feed them, hide them and act as their ears and eyes. The general estimate is that if a guerrilla movement has between 10% to 20% of the population of an area behind it, until you can break that support of the population for the guerrillas, any victories over them will be purely temporary.(2)
    [emphasis added.] Between 10% and 20% is all you need to make all victories futile? Well, back in September 2006, there was this poll:
    WASHINGTON -- About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, according to a poll in that country.
    Well, as the previous paragraph says, answering a poll is different than providing real support. But if six in ten say they support attacks on U.S. forces, it doesn't take too large a proportion of that 60% to push the percentage of active supporters into that 10%-20% range. The range where all victories over the guerrillas are purely temporary.

    My zombie nieces



    Maybe they had an unfortunate encounter with our zombie president. My nieces can be such clowns.

    When tortises attack

    New Star Wars RPG is out


    WARNING: This post is likely to be uninteresting to the non-RPG gaming folks among my readership.

    The new edition of the Star Wars Roleplaying game is out. Here's a link to the list of preview pages WotC put up. I have it and have been reading through it. Many of us D&D players are poring over the system, because many of the changes that might be coming to the D&D system are being "test driven" in the Star Wars system. (Both systems are based on the same d20 mechanic.) Here are some highlights of the new system:
    • Skills have been simplified. Many have been combined. For example, Search, Spot, Listen, and Sense Motive are now all part of the Perception skill. Skill ranks have been eliminated: either you're trained in a skill or not. The skill focus feat has been boosted to +5, and feats are more available. Skill synergies and racial bonuses to skills have been eliminated. Generating a high-level character can now be done much more quickly, and "guessing" the skill check of a high-level character is much easier.
    • Combat has changed a good deal. Most of these changes are designed to speed things up. Swift actions have been incorporated into the core mechanics (of course). Characters no longer gain multiple attacks just for having a high base attack bonus. But characters get a bonus to damage equal to half character level. There are feats which grant multiple attacks, but all attacks end up being at the same attack bonus, rather than at the "descending by 5" pattern of previous editions.
    • Armor class and the reflex save have now been combined into "reflex defense". Saving throws have been eliminated: the attacker must now beat the "fortitude defense" or "will defense" of the target.
    • Hit points are back, but there's also a condition track that determines how functional a character is.
    • Critical hits are back to "natural 20 = auto hit and double damage". Some feats can change this, but there is no "confirming" a critical hit anymore.
    • Characters' starting hp are much higher: they get "triple maximum" hit points at first level.
    They have a fun example of a combat from Return of the Jedi (the battle over Sarlacc pit) done in terms of the Star Wars game.

    Mostly, I think these changes should help the game. Of course, not everything that works for a Star Wars game would work in Dungeons & Dragons, but it's good to see the game constantly evolving and getting better. I haven't seen any of these new changes in play. But perhaps at GenCon I'll have an opportunity to check out the new system.