July 31, 2005

More Budget Follies

Baltar will have to excuse my appropriation of the phrase, but we really are in the "silly season" with budgets. It's like a bunch of drunken bees in the clover fields. Work is getting done, but the delirium is just too much. There's this image in my mind of punchdrunk members of Congress, giggling over the absurdity contained in the details of spending bills.

From a roundup at Bitch Ph.D., this story from USA Today. Our fine Senator suggests there was some kind of misunderstanding. There certainly seems to be some interactive effect of the two actions: redistributing security people AND budget cuts. The real pisser, for those of us in the Ohio Valley is the veeeery last sentence, when describing the redistribution of personnel:

The big winners: Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport, Houston's Intercontinental and Los Angeles International Airport, which opened seven new security lanes this month to alleviate some of the longest lines in the USA. "It will be a great help," LAX spokesman Tom Winfrey said.
Big losers: New York's Kennedy, Pittsburgh and Portland, Ore.

So much for squeaking onto a flight if you're running late. And so much for happy passengers on USAirways. As if there weren't enough reasons to avoid flying them out of the 'burgh.

Posted by binky at 04:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Back When Americans Liked the French ...

I suppose that by many historical standards perhaps the biggest event to ever happen on July 31 was the Mamluk victory at Acre that ended the Crusades in 1291. After 6 formal crusades, and a number of informal ones, the crusaders were driven out of Palestine. But the historical event that really caught my eye in the local paper's "Today in History" column is that on this day in 1777 the 19 year old Marquis de Lafayette was made a major-general in the American Continental Army. Given our country's views of immigrants, 19 year olds and the French, it's tough to imagine that such a thing was ever possible.

Posted by armand at 12:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 30, 2005

Could CAFTA Put Heath Shuler in Congress?

I have my doubts about the candidacy of the former quarterback of the Tennessee Volunteers and Washington Redskins (which have more to do with how weak the incumbent he's challenging actually is than with Shuler - this has long been viewed as a swing district, but Rep. Taylor's held it since 1990). But CAFTA is a vote with big political implications, and the ridiculous comments Taylor is making about the supposed snafu relating to his vote could enhance Shuler's prospects. Taylor says there was a problem with his voting card, and he didn't notice the mistake until the next day. But the former appears to be a fishy claim, and the latter doesn't seem very plausible. Taylor won with only 55% in 2004, so if the voters hold this against him, and Shuler gets another break or two, we may indeed see a former SEC star elected to Congress in 2006 (sorry Gator fans).

Posted by armand at 05:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2005

Strange Visual Picture

As I'm passing the line of public-access computers upstairs in the local library today, I see two people standing behind some random (or it looked that way to me) citizen, pointing and whispering.

Said random person was reading websites in Arabic.

The half a dozen people reading sites in English were, I guess, not odd enough.

I guess I feel safer.

Posted by baltar at 07:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday's Test Day

Since I started out my day being accused of being a totalitarian, it reminded me of this test. Take at your own peril. My result?

The Expatriate
Congratulations! You are not susceptible to brainwashing, your values and cares extend beyond the borders of your own country, and your Blind Patriotism ("patriotism" for short) does not reach unhealthy levels. In Germany in the 30s, you would've left the country.


Did you know that many of the smartest Germans departed prior to the beginning of World War II, because they knew some evil shit was brewing? Brain Drain. Many of them were scientists. It is very possible you could be one of them, depending on your age.

For the truly funny, there is this quiz which measures what kind of funny you are (mine in the extended entry). Enjoy!

the Cutting Edge
(56% dark, 43% spontaneous, 27% vulgar)
your humor style:

Your humor's mostly innocent and off-the-cuff, but somehow there's something slightly menacing about you. Part of your humor is making people a little uncomfortable, even if the things you say aren't in and of themselves confrontational. You probably have a very dry delivery, or are seriously over-the-top. Your type is the most likely to appreciate a good insult and/or broken bone and/or very very fat person dancing.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: David Letterman - John Belushi

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 76% on dark
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 7% on spontaneous
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 30% on vulgar
Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid
Posted by binky at 11:34 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Kudos to Jeffery Gettleman and Patrick Leahy

I applaud (the extremely handsome) Gettleman for covering this story, and Leahy for taking an interest in this issue and helping out. If we want to the US to be better liked in Iraq over the long term, something that would seem essential for the success of US foreign policy, we need to be cognizant of these needs and do something about them. Otherwise, predictably, it will be yet another reason for the population there to view us with a great deal of resentment.

Posted by armand at 09:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 28, 2005

Guns? Jesus? Guns?! Jesus?!

So maybe you've seen the hubbub at The Poor Man and elsewhere about the funding of Boy Scouts by the US government. The short version, which you can read more about in the links above, is that a U.S. District Court ruled that the U.S. government could not fund the Scout Jamboree, because the Boy Scouts "meet the standard of a religious organization" which violates the establishment clause. Since they have nothing else important to do, Congress stepped in. The Senate passed an amendment to a spending bill to make sure the government support of the Jamboree would continue as the "Boy Scouts of America's National Scout Jamboree is a unique training event for the Armed Forces." I've put the whole amendment in the extended entry for your amusement. Because really, if we can't laugh, we'll cry! Security of ports and highways? Who knows!? Even if the rest of us are melted into glass the Boy Scouts will have their miltary training eve... oops, "Jamboree."

SA 1342. Mr. FRIST (for himself, Mr. ALEXANDER, Mr. ALLARD, Mr. ALLEN, Mr. BENNETT, Mr. BINGAMAN, Mr. BOND, Mr. BROWNBACK, Mr. BUNNING, Mr. BURNS, Mr. BURR, Mr. CHAMBLISS, Mr. COBURN, Mr. COCHRAN, Mr. COLEMAN, Ms. COLLINS, Mr. CORNYN, Mr. CRAIG, Mr. CRAPO, Mr. DEMINT, Mrs. DOLE, Mr. DOMENICI, Mr. ENSIGN, Mr. ENZI, Mr. GRAHAM, Mr. GRASSLEY, Mr. HAGEL, Mr. HATCH, Mrs. HUTCHISON, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. ISAKSON, Mr. KYL, Mrs. LINCOLN, Mr. LOTT, Mr. LUGAR, Mr. MARTINEZ, Mr. MCCONNELL, Ms. MURKOWSKI, Mr. NELSON of Florida, Mr. NELSON of Nebraska, Mr. PRYOR, Mr. ROBERTS, Mr. SANTORUM, Mr. SESSIONS, Mr. SHELBY, Mr. SMITH, Mr. STEVENS, Mr. SUNUNU, Mr. TALENT, Mr. THOMAS, Mr. THUNE, Mr. VITTER, Ms. LANDRIEU, and Mr. WARNER) proposed an amendment to the bill S. 1042, to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2006 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe personnel strengths for such fiscal year for the Armed Forces, and for other purposes; as follows:
At the end of subtitle G of title X, insert the following:
(a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Support Our Scouts Act of 2005''.
(b) Support for Youth Organizations.--
(1) DEFINITIONS.--In this subsection--
(A) the term ``Federal agency'' means each department, agency, instrumentality, or other entity of the United States Government; and
(B) the term ``youth organization''--
(i) means any organization that is designated by the President as an organization that is primarily intended to--
(I) serve individuals under the age of 21 years;
(II) provide training in citizenship, leadership, physical fitness, service to community, and teamwork; and
(III) promote the development of character and ethical and moral values; and
(ii) shall include--
(I) the Boy Scouts of America;
(II) the Girl Scouts of the United States of America;
(III) the Boys Clubs of America;
(IV) the Girls Clubs of America;
(V) the Young Men's Christian Association;
(VI) the Young Women's Christian Association;
(VII) the Civil Air Patrol;
(VIII) the United States Olympic Committee;
(IX) the Special Olympics;
(X) Campfire USA;
(XI) the Young Marines;
(XII) the Naval Sea Cadets Corps;
(XIII) 4-H Clubs;
(XIV) the Police Athletic League;
(XV) Big Brothers--Big Sisters of America; and
(XVI) National Guard Youth Challenge.
(A) SUPPORT FOR YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS.--No Federal law (including any rule, regulation, directive, instruction, or order) shall be construed to limit any Federal agency from providing any form of support for a youth organization (including the Boy Scouts of America or any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America) that would result in that Federal agency providing less support to that youth organization (or any similar organization chartered under the chapter of title 36, United States Code, relating to that youth organization) than was provided during the preceding fiscal year.
(B) TYPES OF SUPPORT.--Support described under this paragraph shall include--
(i) holding meetings, camping events, or other activities on Federal property;
(ii) hosting any official event of such organization;
(iii) loaning equipment; and
(iv) providing personnel services and logistical support.
(c) Support for Scout Jamborees.--
(1) FINDINGS.--Congress makes the following findings:
(A) Section 8 of article I of the Constitution of the United States commits exclusively to Congress the powers to raise and support armies, provide and maintain a Navy, and make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.
(B) Under those powers conferred by section 8 of article I of the Constitution of the United States to provide, support, and maintain the Armed Forces, it lies within the discretion of Congress to provide opportunities to train the Armed Forces.
(C) The primary purpose of the Armed Forces is to defend our national security and prepare for combat should the need arise.
(D) One of the most critical elements in defending the Nation and preparing for combat is training in conditions that simulate the preparation, logistics, and leadership required for defense and combat.
(E) Support for youth organization events simulates the preparation, logistics, and leadership required for defending our national security and preparing for combat.
(F) For example, Boy Scouts of America's National Scout Jamboree is a unique training event for the Armed Forces, as it requires the construction, maintenance, and disassembly of a ``tent city'' capable of supporting tens of thousands of people for a week or longer. Camporees at the United States Military Academy for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts provide similar training opportunities on a smaller scale.
(2) SUPPORT.--Section 2554 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
``(i)(1) The Secretary of Defense shall provide at least the same level of support under this section for a national or world Boy Scout Jamboree as was provided under this section for the preceding national or world Boy Scout Jamboree.
``(2) The Secretary of Defense may waive paragraph (1), if the Secretary--
``(A) determines that providing the support subject to paragraph (1) would be detrimental to the national security of the United States; and
``(B) reports such a determination to the Congress in a timely manner, and before such support is not provided.''.
[Page: S8687] GPO's PDF
(d) Equal Access for Youth Organizations.--Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5309) is amended--
(1) in the first sentence of subsection (b) by inserting ``or (e)'' after ``subsection (a)''; and
(2) by adding at the end the following:
``(e) Equal Access.--
``(1) DEFINITION.--In this subsection, the term `youth organization' means any organization described under part B of subtitle II of title 36, United States Code, that is intended to serve individuals under the age of 21 years.
``(2) IN GENERAL.--No State or unit of general local government that has a designated open forum, limited public forum, or nonpublic forum and that is a recipient of assistance under this chapter shall deny equal access or a fair opportunity to meet to, or discriminate against, any youth organization, including the Boy Scouts of America or any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, that wishes to conduct a meeting or otherwise participate in that designated open forum, limited public forum, or nonpublic forum.''.

And yes, I know other organizations are mentioned in here, but the main focus is the Boy Scouts.

Posted by binky at 10:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Apes in Trees

One of the things I really miss about the last two academic institutions I worked at is the vast library collections in my area of research and teaching. Both institutions are fortunate to be leaders in this particular field, and therefore the administrations have an interest in supporting healthy programs, departments, centers and special library collections. Contrast this with our current institution, which has recently spent a good deal of money to build a spiffy new library expansion, but has cut back on some holdings - particularly in the area of journals - and whose new library resembles a computer lab more than a library sometimes.

In addition to the lack of actual useful volumes - and I do understand the challenges and expenses of maintaining a broad academic library while satisfying the particular specialties of a diverse faculty - I miss the ability to do snowball browsing. That, is, the ability to walk to a general area, and grab a book, then look and see what is around it. Maybe the abstract or introduction that I skim has some keywords that remind me to look in another section, where I can pick up and discard volumes, searching, sorting, surpising myself with sudden bursts of thought I wouldn't have expected. I miss that feeling of indulging my curiousity, of going to the library for one or two books, and coming out with ten or eleven.

This evening I was surfing around, reading this and that, and decided to go through the archives of "Dan Drezner's academia posts, and found this explanation that is much better than mine. Read down to the metaphor about apes swinging through trees. It's very apt.

He doesn't wax nostalgic, however, about the ancient leatherbound books of Portuguese poetry in the University of Florida stacks, which were not quite one story tall. Picking these books off the shelves, creaking them open and sitting in an old leather chair under a bare bulb in the corner...now, that is satisfaction.

Posted by binky at 07:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Sausage Factory of Democracy at Work

I am really rather taken aback by the silliness of a certain segement of the blogging commuinity who seems to be shocked and appalled by the wheeling and dealing that went on during the vote on CAFTA last night. Euguene at Demagogue even goes so far as to title his post on this "Republicans at Work" - implying that these icky doing are exactly what you'd expect from nefarious Republicans.

Now I'm not saying he doesn't have a point. This is indeed exactly what you'd expect (well, actually, I'm surprised it wasn't even more creepily corrupt). But what I find bizarre is the partisan tinge to this commentary. What, these kinds of things wouldn't happen if the Democrats were in charge? That's silly. They have happened under Democratic leadership and they (hopefully) will again. It's just a different set of interests getting bought off. Is it rather unseemly that Congress works this way? Perhaps. But, democracy is messy and entails finding ways for groups that don't have much in common to come together. And since that's the system, it seems entirely reasonable for a member of Congress to ask for something in return for their vote if they can get it.

After doing this and much worse over the last four years the Republicans shouldn't drone on about how they are changing the tone of politics and acting with dignity, or that they are fighting extra-hard on the budget deficit and spending. That's obviously untrue. But nobody should expect that the creation of a big piece of legislation can be accomplished without often distasteful deals and compromises.

Posted by armand at 01:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

And My Harry Potter Alter Ego Is ...?

You scored as Albus Dumbledore. Strong and powerful you admirably defend your world and your charges against those who would seek to harm them. However sometimes you can fail to do what you must because you care too much to cause suffering.

Albus Dumbledore


Remus Lupin


Hermione Granger


Severus Snape


Sirius Black


Ron Weasley


Ginny Weasley


Harry Potter


Lord Voldemort


Draco Malfoy


Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with QuizFarm.com

I can't seem to stay away from these things today.

Posted by armand at 12:57 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Which O.C. Character Are You?

Apparently I'm Kirsten. Now I'll have to start watching it so that I can learn the meaning of these results.



























What OC character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Posted by armand at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

Give It Up.

OK. Thanks for all the pretty pictures, and the Hubble, and the moving (mostly tragic) moments.

It's time to hang it up. Finally.

Yahoo News Service/Via AP SPACE CENTER, Houston - NASA said Wednesday it is grounding future shuttle flights because foam debris that brought down Columbia is still a risk — and might have doomed Discovery if the big chunk of broken insulation had come off just a bit earlier and slammed into the spacecraft.

Norbizness said it better than I can:

As somebody who grew up in the aeronautics-laden community of Clear Lake, south of Houston, and who loved going to the Johnson Space Center's old visitor center to look at Gemini spacecraft and moonrocks, and who personally witnessed a Space Shuttle lifting off from Cape Canaveral in 1982, and who was semi-traumatized by the Challenger explosion in 1986 (the day after my 13th birthday) which killed a few parents of classmates of mine, and who loves space-based documentaries like For All Mankind (Criterion Collection), and who is fascinated by astronomy and interplanetary research, let me be the first to say the following on the day of the Shuttle's re-return to space:
Shouldn't we have killed the Shuttle program over fifteen years ago? What the fuck? It's like watching those washed-up choads from INXS trying to get a new lead singer! Or trying to repair a Fiero after it's been through three engine overhauls! What's the point?
I wish everybody up in the sky right now a safe and successful mission, but let's move on to some visionary 21st century goals for space travel and research (and no, going back to the moon doesn't count), and get NASA some new R & D money so it doesn't turn out like Norma Desmond, watching her old silent pictures.

I wasn't born, or lived, in Houston or near Cape Canaveral. I can't claim to have any geographical, familial, business or direct connection to the space program. I have two vivid memories: first, I remember one of the space flights (must have been one of the Apollos) doing a space walk on the old 1970s TVs as my sister took her first steps. Second, I was walking around the halls of my high school when the Challenger exploded, and remember sitting around the radio with the head of my high school (just a few of us science geeks) listening to the coverage.

NASA has been the forgotten child of the massive military budget explosions of the 1980s and 2000s. It's heyday was a good thirty-five years ago (not coincidently, when initial planning for the Space Shuttle got started). It hasn't had any sort of real executive or congressional support since then. It's due.

Space, man, it's still the final frontier. Nothing else really means as much. Human genome? Brain chemistry? Screw it, let's go to Io and really see if their is life under the frozen oceans.

Posted by baltar at 07:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Help! Help! I'm Being Oppressed!!!

Greate King George and Ye Olde Parchment Paladins in Deviltry Most Villianous!!!!!

via Crooked Timber

Posted by binky at 07:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Highest Law

Where do you look for the highest law? The Constitution? The Ten Commandments? The Light of Reason puts the nomination of John Roberts and his answer to that question under a bright light:

Roberts said that he might have to recuse himself from certain cases, precisely because his religious beliefs would compel one conclusion—while the Constitution and applicable law might dictate another one. He would be unable to resolve that conflict—because he places the two authorities on equal footing.

He draws a link to anti-Catholicism and the candidacy of John F. Kennedy, and the ultimate authority must be the Constitution of the United States:

The critical point is that, in Roberts’ case, the other authority happens to be a religious one—but as my counterexample shows, religion is not the only possible other source. And no such additional source is proper—not in terms of the ultimate authority for determining the constitutionality of a given law and/or its application. So it is not a religious test in that sense at all: the “test” goes only to the manner in which a particular nominee holds his own religious beliefs, and the weight he gives them. It is not his religion as such that disqualifies him, but the fact that he gives his religion equal weight with the Constitution in deciding legal matters. That is not permissible—by the terms of our intentionally God-less constitution itself.


imagine the howls of outrage that would be emitted by Hannity himself and all those of similar “conservative” beliefs, if a Supreme Court nominee said that, when confronted by certain questions, he would view generally accepted views as enunciated in international or foreign law as of equal importance to the principles set forth in the Constitution and the laws of the United States.


Remember all of this, and this sentence in particular: “I do not speak for my church on public matters—and the church does not speak for me.” That is the principle that Roberts does not appear to understand.

Posted by binky at 07:16 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Another Reason to Loathe Sen. Blanche Lincoln

She should be ashamed of herself for proposing this - both for the sensationalism of this proposal, and incorporation of such a ridiculous matter in US tax policy. Besides - aren't DLC Democrats like her supposed to be against new taxes?

Posted by armand at 12:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

First, Shoot All The Lawyers (Torture Memos Update)

Via Crooked Timber, a link to Marty Lederman's blog Balkinization. Lederman details the history of an extrordinary series of back-and-forths between the Pentagon's Judge Advocate General Office (JAG, like the TV show) and the Department of Justice regarding the use and authorization of "extreme interrogation techniques". These memos are dated from early in 2003.

What's unreal is how every single ranking officer from all four services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) who is in charge of the lawyers (the JAGs) for that service comes out against the expansion of military personel being involved. From the memos themselves:

2. (U) Several of the more extreme interrogation techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law and the UCMJ (e.g., assault). Applying the more extreme techniques during the interrogation of detainees places the interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations domestically. Although a wide range of defenses to these accusations theoretically apply, it is impossible to be certain that any defense will be successful at trial; our domestic courts may well disagree with DoJ/OLC's interpretation of the law. Further, while the current administration is not likely to pursue prosecution, it is impossible to predict how future administrations will view the use of such techniques...
5. (U) Finally, the use of the more extreme interrogation techniques simply is not how the U.S. armed forces have operated in recent history. We have taken the legal and moral "high-road" in the conduct of our military operations regardless of how others may operate. Our forces are trained in this legal and moral mindset beginning the day they enter active duty. It should be noted that law of armed conflict and code of conduct training have been mandated by Congress and emphasized since the Viet Nam conflict when our POWs were subjected to torture by their captors. We need to consider the overall impact of approving extreme interrogation techniques as giving official approval and legal sanction to the application of interrogation techniques that U.S. forces have consistently been trained are unlawful.

The author of those two paragraphs is not some bleeding-heart liberal, Democratic US Senator, or left-wing blogger. That was Major General Jack Rives (US Air Force) in March 2003. The top lawyer, and a Major General to boot, sets out in plain black and white that the interrogation techniques they are being asked to use are just, plain wrong. Read the entire memos (they are not long, and they are remarkably plain and clear).

I'll put two more paragraphs up, just unbelievable stuff. Remember, this is the Pentagon arguing with political lawyers in Bush's Ashcroft Department of Justice. And the Pentagon is arguing that the proposed DOJ changes are just wrong. These next paragraphs are from Major General Thomas Romig, US Army:

3. (U) While the OLC [note: Office of Legal Counsel, part of the DOJ] analysis speaks to a number of defenses that could be raised on behalf of those who engage in interrogation techniques later perceived to be illegal, the "bottom line" defense proffered by OLC is an exceptionally broad concept of "necessity." This defense is based upon the premise that any existing federal statutory provision or international obligation is unconstitutional per se, where it otherwise prohibits conduct viewed by the President, acting in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, as essential to his capacity to wage war. I question whether this theory would ultimately prevail in either the U.S. courts or in any international forum. If such a defense is not available, soldiers ordered to use otherwise illegal techniques run a substantial risk of criminal prosecution or personal liability arising from a civil lawsuit.
4. (U) The OLC opinion states further that customary international law cannot bind the U.S. Executive Branch as it is not part of the federal law. As such, any presidential decision made in the context of the ongoing war on terrorism constitutes a "controlling" Executive act; one that immediately and automatically displaces any contrary provision of customary international law. This view runs contrary to the historic position taken by the United States Government concerning such laws and, in our opinion, could adversely impact DOD interests worldwide. On the one hand, such a policy will open us to international criticism that the "U.S. is a law unto itself." On the other, implementation of questionable techniques will very likely establish a new baseline for acceptable practice in this area, putting our service personnel at far greater risk and vitiating many of the POW/detainee safeguards the U.S. has worked hard to establish over the past five decades.

In other words, (in the paragraph numbered 3) the DOJ/OLC argued that if any soldiers were actually brought up on charges (either UCMJ - military law - or civilian arrest, or lawsuit), that a valid defense is that any law or international treaty (this is the paragraph numbered 4) that hampers the President's powers as Commander-in-Chief is by definition unconstitutional since those powers (according to the DOJ reading of the constitution) cannot be abridged or restrained. The Pentagon here is formally rejecting that logic, arguing that it wouldn't stand up in an actual courtroom. It is worth pausing to note that the Department of Justice seriously argued that any law or international treaty that could in any fashion affect the President's ability to order military personel to act is unconstitutional, and hence can be ignored. Any. Law. Any. Treaty. Basically, the DOJ position is that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, can order anyone military to do anything, and there are no legal restraints or punishments. Is their anyone in America who remotely remembers the phrase "separation of powers" or "checks and balances"?

Seriously, go and read the two posts by Lederman. Won't take long. This stuff frightens the living snot out of me.

Posted by baltar at 11:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Didn't Know It Was Deja Vu

This post has been up for awhile, but it only recently came to my attention via the Big Brass Blog. Given the amount of time I spend on the road in the southeast, for some time I've been seeing these. Not all the time, not ubiquitous, but several. Usually the thought that comes to my mind is "asshole" and then I drive on. Orcinus shows us a much more disturbing interpretation.

Posted by binky at 10:21 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Hot and Dry?

In graduate school, one of my colleagues insisted that water would be the "new oil" in the future of IR, the scarce resource that causes conflict, negotiation, and global action. Here's a piece that talks about the science of mapping water. It turns out that water molecules have fingerprints, and these can be used to trace the path of water, leading to better management:

For instance, if the method reveals that the water in a well is young and recently derived from rain, villagers can pump away vigorously. But if it turns out to be very old - what scientists call fossil water - they need to move gingerly, taking care not to exhaust the water supply.

Like any technology, this also has the potential for divisions, in the way that the Northwest and California have fought over whose water it is. An interesting bit of science, regardless, and confirmation of my friend's ideas.

Posted by binky at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2005

The Fordham Spire

Since Calatrava is designing it, and Donald Trump is disdainful of it, it's quite predictable that I'm all for it.

Posted by armand at 03:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mudhoney, Primus, Dinosaur Jr. and Other Irritating 90's Music

Uh, what I meant to say is "timeless classics of the 1990's". Norbizness has ideas for a two disc set. Binky will no doubt be infuriated by the jab at Wayne Coyne's fashion sense. As to my reaction - I quite like "The Sweater Song", and the video has nothing to do with it. Though I can't believe the depths to which Weezer has fallen. "Beverly Hills" is awful.

Posted by armand at 12:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Publius Has Caught Hillary Fever

I remain immune, happy to say. Still, his analysis makes some very interesting points - particularly in his discussions about exactly where she has moved to the center, and where she's unlikely to. And I have to agree that the creation of an "opportunity society" would be a great theme for a campaign.

This post argues that the only room for an effective challenge to her in the '08 primaries is from the left. I'm not sure I agree with that, but that could well be the case, and it's surprising that that possibility isn't discussed more often.

Posted by armand at 12:16 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


When you find your niche, exploit the hell out of it, I say! Mel Gibson is making a movie in Mayan.

Bix a bel Mel?

Posted by binky at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2005

And Nate Is .... ?

My guess is that he's currently in some sort of vegetative/ Terri Schaivo state (given all the discussion recently about whether the baby he's having with Brenda is disabled in some way), but that he'll be dead by the end of the next episode or two (given that David referred to the current state of Nate's will last night, though there was little need to bring that up). But of course he could already be dead.

If you've got any thoughts on this shocking end to last night's 6 Feet Under, fire away in the comments.

Posted by armand at 03:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Funny Feeling in my Tummy

Of all the potentially bothersome things about the Roberts nomination, today's AP story about his refusal to comment on his reported Federalist Society leadership can be filed under the heartburn category:

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts declined Monday to say why he was listed in a leadership directory of the Federalist Society and the White House said he has no recollection of belonging to the conservative group.(italics added)

Why not: "he is not a member" or "he has never been a member" or simply "he declines comment"? No, it's "he has no recollection." Urgh. Where are the Tums?

Posted by binky at 02:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

We Have a Winner in the War on Terror!

But it's not who you think. Apropos of Baltar's post below, Marc Lynch brings us this discussion of the present state of things in the Constructivist/Realist "debate" that has been a prominent part of discussions of international relations theory for several years now. While it might not be clear when the war on terror is going to end, one victor in the whole ugly mess is constructivist theory.

Btw, I highly recommend the volumes edited by Katzenstein and Barnett and Telhami that he mentions. They are very illuminating.

Posted by armand at 01:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Toothless and Snarky

Gosh golly gee whiz. We can't think of anything original to say, so we'll just kick West Virginia some more! It's 'cause we're all stupid Republicans (forgetting about Byrd and Rockefeller, no doubt) who don't brush, not that our rural state lacks adequate health care for all citizens or that employers don't provide insurance to part-timers (you know, the old "work 39 1/2 hours per week thing) and even if you're a full-timer working for the state you don't get dental. Insert eyeroll here.

Posted by binky at 12:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Update on the London Shooting

The man shot five times at point blank range on the subway in London turns out to be a Brazilian electrician. O Globo (registration required, in Portuguese) reports that the electrician had overstayed his visa. In addition the police are described as "disfarçados" (disguised or undercover).

A shame. A waste. A pity. A terrible way to "prevent" terror. Hopefully a wake-up call to re-examine the policy.

UPDATE: It was eight times, not five. Read the BBC.

Posted by binky at 10:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2005

Can You Say "Bipolar"?

One of the debates among international affairs scholars relates to the "polarity" of the world; how the number of big, important states with global reach affects the politics of the globe. We're right now in a "unipolar" world (only the US has global reach and power). We used to be in a "bipolar" world (Cold War: the US and the USSR each had global reach and power). The Cold War was characterized by hostility between the "poles" that never quite reached open warfare, but came close. It was not a happy, smiley-faced, sort of time. Once the USSR died as a "pole", the world got to address a whole bunch of issues that had been left dying while the Cold War was fought out: human rights, AIDS, global poverty, etc. Hence, many IR scholars look at a "bipolar" world with some degree of fear or trepidation: do two powerful states automatically become hostile to each other?

They wonder if another pole might rise up, and which other state it might be to challenge the US's global reach and power. Hmmmmm.....

His new 25-bedroom palace is clad in midnight-blue Chinese roof tiles. His air force trains on Chinese jets. His subjects wear Chinese shoes, ride Chinese buses and, lately, zip around the country in Chinese propjets. He has even urged his countrymen to learn Mandarin and nurture a taste for Chinese cuisine.
That President Robert G. Mugabe rules Zimbabwe, which resembles China about as much as African corn porridge tastes like moo shu pork, is irrelevant. Tightening his embrace of all things Chinese, the 81-year-old Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe's canny autocrat for 25 years, arrived in Beijing on Saturday for six days of talks with China's leaders, led by President Hu Jintao.


The Chinese are widely reported to covet a stake in Zimbabwe's platinum mines, which have the world's second largest reserves, and Mr. Mugabe's government has hinted at a desire to accommodate them. The mines' principal operator denies being pressured to deal with the Chinese, but negotiations are under way to sell a stake to as-yet-unidentified Zimbabweans. The operator has postponed major spending on the mines, citing political uncertainty.
Meanwhile, from Angolan oil to Zambian copper mines, China is investing billions of dollars securing access to resources for its fast-growing economy. And because they show few scruples about their partners' human rights policies, the Chinese are becoming entrenched in some states, including Zimbabwe and Sudan, that bridle at Western criticism.

Big country, lots of people, big appetite for resources, growing armed forces (including an explanding blue-water navy), and lots of money (courtesy of the US's ever-expanding need for cheap consumer goods; thanks Wal-Mart).

The US declares that Saudi Arabia's sovereignty is critical to our national security, and we base some of our military there and sometimes fight wars, because of the resources that Saudi Arabia has that are critical to our economy. Now, if the Chinese make essentially the same argument (parts of Africa are critical to our economy, those countries invited us in, we're going to start basing the Chinese military there), can we really have a leg to stand on if we argue against them?

Everyone say it with me now, "Bipolar".

(Pretty soon it'll just roll off your tongue; you'll be saying it a lot.)

Posted by baltar at 09:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Very Articulate Iraqi Twins

Via CNN, we get two interesting statements. The first one:

"'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the ISF and all of Iraq. They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified."

Number two:

"'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the children and all of Iraq,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified. 'They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists.'"

The first paragraph was from an official US Army statement following one of the innumerable attacks in Iraq. The statement was issued today. The second paragraphs was from an official US Army statement following one of the innumerable attacks in Iraq; this one was from July 13th.

Most people are assuming that the US Army manufactured the quotes, and just slipped up and re-used one. Nonsense. I think it's perfectly obvious that either (A)The same person was interviewed twice, eleven days apart, and liked his earlier quote so much that he re-used it (not the Army's fault), or (B)A pair of identical Iraqi twins were interviews separately, but since they were inseparable from birth, they think identically, and came up with the same quote in very similar circumstances.

I'm leaning towards B; it's more poetic.

Posted by baltar at 09:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What Are We Trying To Do?

The "Global War on Terror" has been going on for almost four years (three years, ten and a half months). For all the sturm and drang from both the left and the right, there have clearly been some successes (no subsequent attacks in the US, toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan, the removal of Saddam Hussein) and failures (bombins in Spain, Indonesia and Britain, the revival of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the almost uniformly negative view of the US in the rest of the world).

However, I want to ask a blunt question: when does the war end?

I've been mulling over this question for a while, but finally got around to articulating it as a result of this New York Times story, which discusses the fact that many members of the military are confused and upset that in this "global war" the only sacrifice being made is by them (and their families and communities), but not by the rest of us:

The Bush administration's rallying call that America is a nation at war is increasingly ringing hollow to men and women in uniform, who argue in frustration that America is not a nation at war, but a nation with only its military at war.
From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?
There is no serious talk of a draft to share the burden of fighting across the broad citizenry, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq, Afghanistan and new counterterrorism missions.

It has been abundantly clear that this administration has chosen to take a very low-key approach with respect to the homeland during this "war". No sacrificed was asked for after Sept. 11th. I have a vague memory of Bush asking everyone to go back to shopping and work (I can't find a quote); asking everyone to return to a normal life.

At the same time, the Army (less so, the Navy and Air Force) has been stretched to it's limits. We have seen the largest call up of reservists/guard units posted overseas in half a century, and exploding bill (that no other country will help pay, in contrast to the last Gulf War) that no increased taxes are defraying (the first time in US history that taxes have not increased during conflict). The disconnect between the military's sense of urgency and the rest of the country's is profound.

This disconnect cannot, as the sentiment behind the NYT story makes clear, continue. The drain on morale that this situation creates is worsening, not getting better. Given that the Army is made up of citizens, a growing disconnect between them and the rest of the country is both a political and a moral problem.

The disconnect is that the military has been told, and is waging, a war while the rest of the country is at peace. One, or the other, must change.

What are our aims? Who are we trying to defeat? We can't really be trying to wipe out terrorism all over the globe. Terrorism has been going on for several millenium. Remember the Roman Legions and the Roman Empire? Do you know where the word "decimate" comes from? To paraphrase a graduate student, how many languages (Latin) even have a word for killing every tenth person. Thats the defintion of "decimate". If you march through a village, and wipe out a tenth of the people, they aren't likely to annoy you further. Of course, you achieve this "peace" through terror: the fear that you might come back and kill the remaining nine tenths. Terrorism, as a policy, has been around forever, and we won't win any war against it.

Are we fighting Islamic extremists? That seems to be the general understanding, but how do we know when we've won that fight? We have Christian extremists (Koresh, IRA), Muslim extremists (Al Qaeda), Hindu extremists (in India), Native American extremists (AIM, back in the 1970s, but still around I think), Shinto/Japanese extremists (they had a hand in starting WWII, and are still extremely nationalist, xenophobic, and militarist today). What religion doesn't have extremists? Those, like terrorism, have been around for as long as the major religions have been, and are not likely to go away.

So, what, exactly, are we fighting to achieve? How do we measure our success? How do we know when we've won?

This, I would argue, is the fundamental root of the disconnect that all those soldiers quoted in the NYT article are grappling with. They are on a war footing (and worried about fighting the daily battles with extremists on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan and holding their families together while they do this; they don't have time to worry about grand strategy issues like this question), while we are not.

I have no pat answers; I'm not writing a post that reflexively argues against the war on terror, or argues to bring the troops home. It's more of a plea for some sort of rational understanding of what the realistic goals we (as a country) hope to achieve. We can't end terrorism. We can't end Islamic extremism. Those are clearly unrealistic goals. So, then, what are the realistic ones?

This isn't my most articulate post. I'm frustrated by the lack of a national debate that takes account of what, to me, seem absolutely fundamental questions. This "war", as noted, has been going on for just under four years. In the 1940s, in that less than that time frame (Dec. 1941 to August 1945: that's three years and nine months) this country created an army to rival none ever seen, marched thousands of miles across the Pacific at the same time pushed hundreds of thousands of soldiers onto the European continent. And invented and used the atomic bomb. What have we accomplished in the equivalent length of time in this war?

We can't achieve the national consensus that the soldiers desperately seek until the country debates and agrees on the realistic goals of this latest use of our armed forces. We won't begin that debate until some of our political leaders (of either side) begin to address these questions.

Are we trying to create peace in Iraq? Who's peace? Do we really care about peace in Iraq, if we can reduce the threat of terrorism at home? How do we achieve that? Is a continued US presence in Afghanistan actually making us safer, or would the troops be of more use in Iraq (if we pull out, Afghanistan reverts back to chaos, but do we really care?) Are we legitimately trying to help other countries fight Islamic terrorism, or do we really just care about ourselves? Does our need for oil create a gaping weakness to attemps to minimize our footprint in the Middle East, thus reducing threats to us? How serious is the domestic terrorist threat?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but even if I did, the important answers are the country's collective responses, which would lead logically to clear goals and strategies, and a clear national movement to accomplish them. Which would reduce the disconnect between our military (fighting) and the rest of the country (not fighting). What we need is the beginnings of this national debate.

What I do know is that it is unfair to ask our military to put their lives on the line fighting for an inarticulate national policy. They deserve better.

Posted by baltar at 09:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Bomb Egyptians?

Matt Davis has the obvious answer.

And yeah, I realize it's in poor taste to joke about this - but's it's also rather horrifying that the president of the United States spreads a line like that to a citizenry that, in my experience, sincerely wants to better understand the causes of terrorism.

Posted by armand at 08:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Totally F***ed Up

Since Gregg Araki's latest, Mysterious Skin, starring Joseph Gordon Levitt of 3rd Rock from the Sun fame (he's also featured in such personal faves as 10 Things I Hate About You and the short-lived sitcom The Powers That Be), has been getting the best reviews of Araki's career, I figured I'd dip into one of his past films this weekend. I liked his Nowhere (in a silly, over-the-top, wacky kind of way), thought The Living End was passable given the era it was made in, and found Splendor to be excruciating, even though the leads were really, and I mean REALLY, hot. Sadly this film, though it's the work that followed The Living End, is much closer to Splendor in terms of quality. It's both pointless and dull. What more needs to be said?

Posted by armand at 07:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Judas Was Innocent

Gen. JC Christian on whether you've got to leak a name in order to leak someone's identity.

Posted by armand at 03:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Instability in Yemen, But No Changes in Treatment of Al Jazeera

Massive riots with deadly results hit Yemen this week. Marc Lynch notes one entirely predictable result: "Yemeni authorities yesterday demonstrated that one of the new but already timeless laws of Arab politics still applies: when trouble hits your country... arrest the al-Jazeera correspondent."

Posted by armand at 10:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2005

Sen. Byrd is Scared of the Jungles of Africa

... and he's against the "mollycoddling of criminals" too. For someone who seems to love the sound of his own voice so much you'd think he'd be a little more careful about obviously playing into the steroetypes of him that exist.

Posted by armand at 12:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Choosing Wiley Ruteldge

Eric Muller reminds us of a time when a war president actually wanted a liberal on the US Supreme Court. Of course that was a time long ago and far away, years before my parents were born.

Posted by armand at 12:33 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Pre-Fab Blab

The usual morning information absorption starts with news (BBC, CNN to check in on Michael Jackson, NYT, O Globo) then meanders over to blogs (Bitch Ph.D., where I get bogged down with such goodness that I often don't make it any further). Then, if there is a car ride, local AM radio supplies the conservative side of things, Boortz, Rush, and if my stomach is feeling steady, Hannity.

A couple of weeks ago, in one of the conservative car phases, Boortz and his crew were very excited about catching a Florida newspaper printing two plagiarized (aka form) letters right next to each other. Supposedly it exposed the liberal bias, the ideological rigidity of liberals, and the stupidity of liberals in general. Never heard that before, right? Anyway, at the time I was thinking "what political organization of the right or left doesn't use form letters to reach the media? This is definitely pot and kettle territory." As often happens, composing blog posts that require research while driving is next to impossible, and I never got back around to finding some conservative letter generators.

Yesterday, Bitch, Ph.D. linked to a bit about how the GOP has a handy letter generator, which can be used to send five letters, using pre-written text, to five papers of your choosing.

[This is the moment, dear readers, where if you have ever played Age of Empires and created a Wonder and won the game, and heard the vocal chorus, and remember that chorus, you should imagine it for yourself. Either that or the phone ringing from In Like Flint, if it makes you happy.

So, I've revised the opinion - from the Boortz page linked above - about the semi-literate democrats who can't write letters for themselves. In the parody below I've edited in the words in italics to replace the original democrat-bashing. It's kind of in the whole cut-and-paste spirit of the thing, no?

Ahhhh. You picked up on it right away, didn't you? That's because you read lefty blogs!. That makes you just a bit brighter than the average letter writer who used the GOP generator. Yes ... using the generator might give him exactly the same wording as some other lazy citizen uses in his letter! You will notice, I'm sure, some minor alterations to mask the plagiarism, but the process here is clear. Now the home-school-educated typical Republican voter might tell you that he and his fellow lazy citizen just accidentally happened onto the same wording because they are kindred spirits in the effort to make the world safe for gutting social security! You will excuse us if we think otherwise, for the truth here is that both he and his lazy fellow citizen went to some website or to some email message they received, downloaded the basic text of their letters to the editor, and then made some superficial changes to create the illusion of an individual and independent effort! One can go just a bit further into the right's looneyism than the next person because he can add his feelings that continuing to support one of the most succesful programs in U.S. history is just like getting in bed with Uncle Joe Stalin unless we set up private accounts for social security. No matter. By the time we get beyond the script in the letter we won't be expecting cogent thought anyway.
Amazing! The right just loves to talk about we bloggers getting our talking points from MoveOn.org, and here is all the proof you need that Republicans who write letters to the editors of various newspapers aren't even able to express their own thoughts! They have to take some sort of a form letter provided to them by their Republican operatives .. and then they wrack their brains trying to personalize those letters by adding a word here, a word there, a quick accusation about blocking private accounts... and presto! Your own opinion printed in the pages of Your Local Paper?
Wouldn't it be fun to engage these Republicans in some sort of a debate while denying them access to their party-provided crib notes?
Come on users of the GOP website! Spill the beans! We want to know who told you what to write! Where did you get the basic template? And the most important question ----- are either one of you capable of forming a rational thought on your own?

Posted by binky at 10:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday Morning News

I just love reading the news on Saturday morning. It's long been a favorite tactic of the government (left or right) to release news that they really don't want to talk about on Friday afternoon: too late for the Friday evening newscasts to do a story on it (even though Friday's news shows are the worst rated of the week), and not much time for the Saturday papers to do any real research (and Saturday's newspapers are the lowest circulation). It's a way to bury news they don't like.

Today, we discover that the Justice Department is refusing to release further Abu Ghraib photos, even though they are under court order to do so. Not only are they not releasing the photos, but they won't even explain why they aren't releasing the photos (a sealed explanation will follow).

The Army has replaced Gen. Petraeus, the man responsible for training the Iraqi police and Army. This is a scheduled rotation (his year is up), but clearly not something desired right now. Given that fixing Iraq is a multi-yera process, how are we ever going to succeed if we keep replacing people after a year? It's got to take about a year to get the people in the new Iraqi government to trust you, for you to learn how best to get things done, to learn the most important tasks, etc. By the time you learn, you've been replaced, and a new person has to re-learn everything all over. Dumb policy.

In more Iraq-related news, the US Army is raising the maximum age for recruits from 35 to 42. This isn't the age for the Guard or Reserves, this is the age for actual active-duty soldiers. The reason for this, of course, is that the Army is having trouble recruiting enough people to serve, given the strains of having most of our combat forces serving in Iraq.

The US House of Representatives passed legislation reauthorizing the program that allows loans for college. Buried in the story we see that the Democrats opposed this, as it raises the interests rates for consolidation loans in order to raise money to plug the gaping hole that is the deficit. So the cost of going to college is unchanged (or better, as they also allows potential students to borrow more), but the cost of paying the loans back after college is higher. Nice. Remember, this is the education President.

That's all I could find. Saturday continues to be the "Bad News" day for government announcements. Play along next week!

Posted by baltar at 08:41 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 22, 2005

Two Gay Teens Hanged in Iran

I'm rather at a loss for words about this. Of course Iran isn't the only place on Earth where you can be killed for being gay. Far from it. But it's still rather striking to see the killings formally carried out by government authorities. One group claims that 4,000 Iranians have been executed for homosexuality since the Iranian revolution.

Posted by armand at 01:44 PM | Comments (12)

Egyptian Elections?

"Five months after Mubarak announced that Egypt would introduce multi-party presidential elections, it's looking less like a race than ever."

So begins Jonathan's latest coverage of the wave of democracy sweeping (or not) across the Middle East.

Posted by armand at 01:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


It's a Larry Clark (Kids) film, so you know it's as feel-good as Capra and as subtle as Bergman. OK, I kid. But hey - it's got Bijou Phillips naked! Though, is she ever on film clothed? Off topic. Sorry. This is based on a real-life story involving a group of teenagers in Florida who get together and murder a nasty and abusive piece of work played by Nick Stahl. He's been beating his "best friend" Marty (Brad Renfro) for years, and he rapes two of the female characters in the film - that should give you an idea of this guy's cuddly-ness. The film is interesting on a variety of levels - as a look at wayward delinquients who are more or less happy to be slackers and losers, failing family relationships, and the tendency of groups to take more extreme actions than the individuals who comprise them ever would on their own. And it's interesting in that it shows the idiocy and lack of planning that goes into so many of the major crimes committed in this country (movies notwithstanding, lots of unpleasant folks don't set off on their work after carefully constructing a cunning plan), and the fact that often people only marginally involved get caught up in them to a scary degree.

Roger Ebert has called this film a masterpiece. I wouldn't go that far. In particular, I think he's a bit kind regarding some of the acting (not that Michael Pitt and Bijou, among others, aren't just right and highly watchable). But even if it's not a major comment on our times, or technically perfect in every way, it did hold my interest, and it dealt with serious matters in an interesting and sometime funny way. Masterpiece? Probably not. But it is diverting.

Posted by armand at 12:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Congress Wants Us to Feel Sunny!

Not that real energy saving, investment in alternative fuels, or acknowledging global warming would make us feel "cloudy." Oh wait, they did call for a study. Maybe I feel only partly cloudy after all. From the AP:

An agreement was reached Thursday to extend daylight-saving time in an effort to conserve energy, but not to the extent the House approved in April.
House and Senate negotiators on an energy bill agreed to begin daylight-saving time three weeks earlier, on the second Sunday in March, and extend it by one week to the first Sunday in November. The House bill would have added a month in the spring and another in the fall.
According to some senators, farmers complained that a two-month extension could adversely affect livestock, and airline officials said it would have complicated scheduling of international flights.
"We ought to take a hard look at this before we jump into it," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who questioned how much oil savings the extension would produce.
Reps. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Fred Upton, R-Michigan, agreed to scale back their original proposal, and Senate negotiators accepted the new version, along with a call for a study on how much daylight-saving time actually affects oil consumption.
"The beauty of daylight-saving time is that it just makes everyone feel sunnier," said Markey.
Upton noted that the extension means daylight-saving time will continue through Halloween, adding to safety. "Kids across the nation will soon rejoice," said Upton, because they'll have another hour of daylight trick-or-treating.
Lawmakers said they hoped to complete the energy legislation next week.
Posted by binky at 12:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Should John Roberts Be Questioned About?

Apparently Orrin Hatch, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and someone who will no doubt be a leader in the Roberts nomination process, said the following on Fox News:

"I think senators can ask any questions they want. I've said, no matter how dumb the question may be. But the, the nominee doesn't have to answer them and he should not, under the canons of judicial ethics, he should not answer questions on any issue that possibly would come before the Supreme Court. Otherwise, he would be foretelling how he would vote on those issues and then they would hold that against him. So it's a little bit like Biblical Pharisees, you know, who basically are always trying to undermine Jesus Christ, you know, it goes on the same way."

Now putting aside the comparisons of Roberts to Jesus and liberal groups to the Pharisees, do you agree with this? My thought is this - why on Earth would members of the Senate be interested in anything about Roberts other than matters he was likely to deal with on the Court. I mean sure, if he can recommend a great sushi place on Capitol Hill, I suppose there is no harm in asking him for directions to it (and about the availability of parking). But it strikes me that if you are going to give someone life tenure on the most powerful court in the land (arguably, in the world), and you only have a limited amount of time to question him to determine his fitness for the job and consider his likely future behavior, what exactly is more important than quizzing him on matters that can give us insights into the kind of justice he'll be, and the kinds of rulings he'll make?

Posted by armand at 11:34 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Not Nice at All

As always, discussions on the internet always have to come back around to talking about men and their interests. Funny how that happens, eh? However Bitch, Ph.D. hits the nail on the head, as usual. While reading her description of nice guys and bitchy women, I kept nodding my head and thinking that she must have been snooping around in my closets because she knows about my life. Go read her summary and comment, and follow her links, for an overview of the kerfuffle.

In my opinion, the confusion over the lament of the "nice guy" is one of duality of meanings and interpretation. Men think "nice" is something good, and something to be aspired to. In many cases when women call a man "nice" it means something entirely different, but generally is not something we seek. And Bitch, Ph.D. hits on this. It's not that we don't want men that are nice, but we don't call them nice. We describe them for who they are. To me, nice has always been a multi-syllabled dropped pitch word, as in "well, he's ni-i-ice," that is always followed by a "but." It means, well, he seems nice, or has all the characteristics that we are told make up the category of nice, but there's something I don't like. It means, he is doing all the right things but I don't think he's doing them to please me, but rather to compete or show off or make it all about him and how good he is (see the beginning of this post). The worst case is when it means "this guy is creepy but hasn't done anything weird yet, but it's only a matter of time until someone says 'Johnny was such a quiet boy.'"

So fellas, aspire to "wonderful," "deep," "sweet," "sexy," or just about anything else. "Nice," is not nice at all.

Posted by binky at 10:56 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Shooting in London

This morning, police in London shot and killed a man on the subway. This is the first time ever that I've read about a police shooting or death in London, or in all of England for that matter. The article doesn't confirm whether the man was a bomber only that he was suspected of wearing a bomb belt.

For some reason this shooting really sobered me. Police in London shooting people on the Tube. Everything they've been through with modern history, including the IRA, and now we (and I know that they happen now that some police have guns there) begin to hear about police shootings in the Tube. It's shocking how the bombings change things that seem permanent, like the childhood image of English police.

Posted by binky at 09:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2005

Shared Surnames on the US Supreme Court

Marshall, Jackson, White, Harlan and (probably) Roberts - learn more about some of the greats and definitely not greats of US legal history here.

Posted by armand at 02:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Catholics Please Forgive Me

This avatar is the funniest I've seen in ages.

Credit to Natmo

Posted by binky at 01:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Hogan & Hartson Summer Associate's View of John Roberts

"I am proud that a citizen of John Roberts’s ability and character has been honored by our President in a way that, in a sense, he so richly deserves. But at the same time, I harbor some deep reservations."

This post (by a summer associate at Hogan and Hartson who had Roberts as his mentor) brings up some interesting points about Roberts' virtues and their relevance to how we judge his nomination.

Posted by armand at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Floats and Pegs

In a major shift in economic policy, China announced that it will cease to peg the yuan to the dollar. This will open the market further, but not completely, as the "float" will be moderated, only allowed to fluctuate within .3 percent from the previous day. The initial move was accompanied by a 2.1 percent revaluation. A chronic complaint against China by trading partners has been that the undervalued yuan and peg to the dollar gave Chinese goods an unfair advantage. The NYT has an article with more details.

UPDATE: Krugma has an analysis what the float will actually do for the world economy.

Posted by binky at 09:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

London Bombings

It looks less severe so far, but there were more bombings in London today. This time the explosions seemed minor, only one injury has been reported so far, and the authorities are not treating it as "a major incident yet." Obviously there has been no word on whether these explosions are related to the earlier bombings, or are copycat attacks.

UPDATE: Police Chief Sir Ian Blair now says that this is a "serious incident" but no additional injuries have been reported.

Posted by binky at 09:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2005


Too good to pass up is a quote from Chuck D in the latest issue of Bust Magazine:

I think men have periods and they're called wars.

Posted by binky at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

It was good. Rowling certainly has a way with building a story and ingeniously inserting all kinds of details in creating her own (or Harry's own) universe. I didn't like it as much as Order of the Phoenix, a few bits were painfully predictably, and her endings her becoming too similar. But nonetheless, it's a diverting read. And I like where this is taking us for the last book.

Posted by armand at 02:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ronnie Paris Jr. Is Going to Jail

I'd say a life term without parole is appropriate, though I realize he won't get that. And, honestly, given the way they apparently view the world - I'd feel better if his parents, wife and public defender were behind bars too (though I presume only his wife will join him). This is just sickening.

Posted by armand at 02:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Roberts Media Whirlwind

OK, so this is my favorite line that I've read on the nomination of John Roberts this morning:

``I don't see ideological underpinnings,'' said A.E. Dick Howard, a law professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. ``Conservative, yes, but ideology, no,''

What, are only liberals ideological? I presume what the esteemed professor Howard means (or one of the things he means) is that he's conservative, but he doesn't breathe fire like Janice Rogers Brown who's at least straightforward about the ultimate results of her reasoning.

All in all my initial impression is that Roberts will be a solid conservative, but will be better mannered than Scalia, and he seems likely to follow in the Rehnquist mold of a justice who's very concerned about the power and role of the Court. He also seems to have the political skills and demeanor to be far more successful than Scalia in creating right-wing majorities, though he also has a Breyer-ian pragmatic streak. Given his lack of a lengthy paper trail I presume he'll make it through the confirmation process fairly easily, and the result will be that the Court will shift further to the right (and of course in some areas like business law and criminal law it's already further to the right than is often discussed). Go check out The Supreme Court Nomination Blog if you want to read more on the opinions he's written and the media reaction to his nomination. This post by Lyle Denniston points out how a Justice Roberts on the Court will likely move to the fulcrum of power to a "Gang of 3" (Roberts, Kennedy and Breyer) - though personally I'd have added Rehnquist to that list since while hard-right he's a rather different sort of conservative than Scalia and Thomas.

All in all, conservatives have much to be happy about, and as for the left ... well, at least Roberts isn't a partisan hack or Garza or Jones. He's one of the most respectable choices Bush could have made, though I still fear for reproductive rights (among others) in the wake of this pick.

UPDATE: Article III Groupie reminds us that Roberts is the #5 Hottie of the federal judiciary (I dearly wish President Bush would have picked the #1 Hottie instead). Actually she has a lot of information on Roberts at Underneath Their Robes.

UPDATE II: Randy Barnett has some words on this nomination that are worth reading.

Posted by armand at 11:11 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

And the Bricks Will Fall Out of the Bell Tower

While we twitter around analyzing every possible aspect of the Roberts nomination and worry what it will mean for the rights of women in the U.S., a couple of items from abroad on the position of women:

First, from Uganda, an offer from a politician to pay for women's college education should they graduate as virgins. Let me count the ways that this this is wrong-headed: the intrusiveness of a physical exam? the lack of a connection between virginity and success in college? the physical inconsistencies of virginity? that years of hard work in college could be rewarded by a job? that no one cares what happens to men? I could go on, but there's plenty of room in the comments to continue the list.

Second, more good news from Iraq! Not only is the constitutional review considering eliminating the mandate for women's participation in parliament, but a "working draft" has language that resticts women's right in divorce and inheritance. Of course it does, because women derive power from economic independence. The draft constitution would revert women's decisions to families and "court cases dealing with matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance to be judged according to the law practiced by the family's sect or religion." That means sharia law, in many cases.

Posted by binky at 10:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Auditory Hallucinations

Is it just me, or does John Roberts sound awfully close to Bob Roberts?

Posted by baltar at 09:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 19, 2005

A Scarlet "L" on My Shirt

Two in fact. For "lewd" and "lascivious." That's because I live in a state that not only has no common law marriage, but also has a law that says unmarried couples living together are engaged in "lewd and lascivious cohabitation." This pleases me no end, first because it makes it sound like my life is much more interesting than it actually is, and second because I do not want to be married, and was worried that our great state would backdoor me into an institution I've been avoiding like the plague. The Big Brass Blog has a post about such laws in a number of states, as well as the legal challenges winding their ways through the courts. The challenges are trying to end discrimination against unmarried heterosexual couples by the removal of such laws, and the implications may extended to same sex couples. Ah well, at least we were lewd and lascivious for awhile.

Posted by binky at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Supremes

Surely Armand will have a brilliant analysis when the announcement is made (especially if it is Judge Clement, as CNN is predicting), however, the timing of this whole thing is driving me nuts. No doubt it is supposed to. I read the analyses in the weekend papers that the administration was delaying to shorten the time for debate. The WaPo Sunday had an analysis of all the debate times of various justices, and how the period the Congress has left for whomever is appointed will fall within the shortest of periods, less than average, less than for Scalia, Bader-Ginsburg or the outlier Thomas. Today the report came that there would be an announcement this afternoon, but the afternoon announcement was that the real announcement was to be at 9pm. 9pm?! Oh yes, prime time for high drama.

Posted by binky at 01:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I give it a big thumbs up. Some reviews, say Roger Ebert's or Film Threat's, are oddly obsessed with their irriation at Depp's performance as Wonka reminding them of Michael Jackson. Get over it guys. Wonka has always been a weirdo who likes innocent boys, and given that he's been living in a factory for years he's likely peculiar in other ways, and extremely pale. If Jackson is like that too ... well, it has nothing to do with whether or not this is a good movie, or a good adaptation of the story - and this film succeeds well on both of those counts. Wonka, Charlie and his whole family, really all the characters, are performed beautifully. The sets are dazzling (if also quite similar in style to various early Tim Burton works). The script is funny. All in all, there are many high points - almost too many to name. Are there low points? Well, it is hard to make out all the words in the songs. And there is one truly horrible aspect to this work - all that tiresome and ridiculous backstory about Wonka's childhood. I hated that with a blinding fury since it was unnecessary, slowed the film down tremendously, and prevented us from spending more time with the funny characters. But I'm willing to overlook it.

This film was brilliantly realized, inventive, and both Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket (and Grandpa Joe) were played beautifully. It's worth your time.

Posted by armand at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


A couple of weeks ago, NPR ran a special on remembering the Scopes Trial. At the time I was in the car, and had to make a mad reach for paper and a pen to jot this down (right..I won't talk on the cell phone but will blog while driving) and just now re-discovered the scrap of paper, hence the delay. One of the anti-evolution people interviewed said that without evolution, we'd have no abortion and no homosexuals. A literal parsing sounds like homosexuals are more highly evolved than the rest of us, but I suppose the person really meant that accepting evolution started us down the slippery slope. My favorite assertion about the teaching of evolution to children in school:

They have a right to know heroin is bad, marijuana is bad...they should know about who believes in evolution.

They should know about who believes in evolution. Not about what's wrong with evolution, but who believes in evolution. Science teachers are the equivalent of drug pushers, and evolution is like heroin. It'll ruin your life! Make you an addict to secularism! You'll lose your house, your cars paying for it! Go to jail!

Posted by binky at 01:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2005

Laws and Bushes

No, not those Bushes, or these bushes, but the kind of bush for which one might use this coupon.

From Feministing, a link to this story about legislation in Missouri to prevent underage waxing. The idea is that if you are underage, getting a bikini wax requires parental consent. That's right, if a teen wants to go cue-ball bald from shaving in the privacy of her own home, that's perfectly fine, but if she wants to avoid razor stubble and go to the salon or spa for a wax she needs parental consent.

From the Riverfront Times:

Tucked within Missouri Senate Bill 280, now awaiting Governor Matt Blunt's signature, is a single sentence that's sure to have repercussions at poolside chaises and in steamy backseats across the state: "The written informed consent of a minor's parent or legal guardian... must be obtained prior to providing body waxing on or near the genitalia."
If Blunt signs the bill -- which he's fully expected to do -- budding bikini-wearers interested in ripping the pubic hair from their nether-regions will have to convince Mom or Dad to sign off.
"That's so a child under the age of eighteen can’t go in and do a complete Brazilian wax without parental consent,” explains Darla Fox, executive director of the Missouri State Board of Cosmetology, which proposed the law.
“Twelve- and thirteen-year-old little girls think they’re eighteen and nineteen in this day and age,” Fox continues. “Sometimes they can become very rebellious, and if they think this is something that their folks can come unglued about, that’s what they’re going to do.”

Huh! Who knew that Missouri had an epidemic of 12 and 13 year old girls getting bikini waxes. Or that it was such a distressing problem it required legislative action!

The hair-removal method, “the barest form of erotic shaving,” gained prominence in the mid-’90s as skimpy thongs made their way into wardrobes. Rather than simply trim the hair escaping from the cloth triangle, women (and men) started paying to have it waxed off. The added bonus is increased sensitivity. And, in a culture where some teens don’t consider oral sex to be sex at all, a good waxing can double the pleasure.
“We use a wax substance specifically made for [Brazilian waxing],” says Chris Duello, marketing director for The Face & The Body, a Clayton day spa that offers the procedure for $60. “It tends to be very sticky. The wax is applied carefully where you want to remove the hair, and then a piece of cloth, usually a muslin, is applied to that, and it’s smoothed in the direction of the hair growth.”
With one stern rip and a few days of healing, the pubic area and butt crack are as fresh as the morning dew and remain so for a couple of months.

And this section - and no, I'm not even going to comment on the turn of phrase "a butt crack...as fresh as the morning dew" - the implication is made that bikini waxing is somehow contributing to promiscuity. While late in the piece body builders are mentioned (in the past tense) and the language of the bill specifies "minors" without reference to gender, clearly this bill is about controlling young women's bodies. There is no mention of being skeeved out by a 15 year old boy wearing a banana hammock. Nuh-uh. It's "little girls." Little girls. Like those high school cheerleaders the football fellahs like to watch wearing the little skirts that probably require a significant amount of hair removal. Uh-huh. It is maddening to me not only that time is wasted on legislation like this - that if you read carefully, the market is already pretty much taking care of - but that the targets of this sort of thing are young women. What next? Don't cut any of your hair because it's unseemly? No pants, because it might show your girl parts?

And no, I am not immune to the concern that competition and the pervasive view of women as sexual objects puts a great deal of pressure on women - especially young women - to emphasize their sexuality over their strength, their intelligence or their creativity. Should twelve year olds try to be Carrie from Sex and the City? Most of us probably agree they should not. Yet I can't help thinking that the worry over the bikini wax - without any data to prove its negative consequences - rings a little bit too much of trouble with a capital T that rhymes with B that stands for Bikini.

Look, I used to live in a city where every woman who had pubic hair waxed the heck out of it, from teens to pregnant women to grandmas. And they did it because they all wore a variation of this. Rio de Janeiro, for all its body obsession and plastic surgery, was in practice a very democratic place in terms of the actual use of small bathing suits. And let me tell you, it worked for the guys too, where you would see both tight young abs and big beer bellies hanging over the sungas of the men. One year, there was even a fashion statement that women made with their bikinis, holding back on the waxing. It was called the bigodinho or "little mustache" (I'll let you figure it out, but think in terms of the Black Crowes album cover that got spiked). You think that if that was the fashion here among teenage girls it would be any more popular with those who want to regulate young women's bodies?

As Feministe points out, even supporters of personal choices in young women's lives can see that there are complexities here:

Yet it still presents an interesting predicament: While I ardently believe in personal autonomy, at the same time, the idea of thirteen-year-olds waxing off their shrubbery when they've barely taken the damn thing out for a spin gives me the willies.

Yet this is one more example of how our political system reinforces the message to women that they cannot be trusted to make decisions for themselves - even trivial decisions about body hair. In combination with the message of objectification, what are we telling them? No waxes when you're young, but you know, all the guys like it when you're of age and don't forget to get your ass bleached too while you're at it. Until a certain age you're no good if you're not pure and unthinking, and after that age you're no good if you're not a sexual object (and are unthinking). Where does it end?

Posted by binky at 03:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

DVD Rentals this July

I've catching up on a variety of things on dvd this month. Here are a few thoughts on some of the things I've watched.

Entourage, Season 1 – Since I don’t have HBO, I didn’t see these episodes when they first aired. I have made a point though to try and catch the current season. This dynamic show is about a bunch of buddies from “the neighborhood” (Queens) living the high life in Hollywood, benefiting from the fact that one of them (the perfectly cast, as well as drop-dead gorgeous Adrien Grenier) is a rising movie star. This show is both well written and often exceptionally well directed. And it’s shot at what are indeed “it” locales in the Los Angeles area, and features big stars in cameos. All the star’s buddies do a nice job (his brother and his manager are especially good), and some of the female characters are also quite well done – though in the atmosphere of this show they often seem secondary and are treated rather badly. The universally acknowledged scene stealer is Ari Gold, the star’s agent, played by Jeremy Piven. I’d love to see him win the Emmy he was just nominated for. I've definitely become a fan of this, even if it's also sort of appalling.

The Jacket – I don’t understand why this film wasn’t better received. It stars Adrien Brody, and the primary secondary characters are played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keira Knightley and Kris Kristofferson. All are just right for their parts, and the mystery in this really sucks you in. The plot centers on Jack Starks who is committed to an asylum after being arrested for shooting a police officer – a crime he doesn’t remember committing. It is perhaps more of a mystery than a thriller, but it’s compelling, and it has a bit of Sliding Doors thing going on. I recommend it.

Short Cuts – Why is this film so highly thought of? I like a lot of Altman movies, but I didn’t find this one very interesting. Frances McDormand rocks of course. But otherwise, this is disappointing. Though for you Andie McDowell haters out there - I'd say this features her worst performance I've ever seen.

The Aviator – It’s no Goodfellas or The Age of Innocence. The appropriate description is uneven. There are bits of it that are very good. And then there are other sections. And since it's really long, there are too many of those other sections. Much like the movie as a whole, there are times when Leo does a really nice job, and there are times when he seems terribly miscast. Some of the supporting cast though is very well chosen (Alec Baldwin and Alan Alda leap to mind, and of course Cate Blanchett is the best thing about the film).

Any Given Sunday – Much like its director at times, this is over the top, and spins out of control. Still … isn’t that somehow right for a movie about the NFL? The ending really is terrible, and why is Cameron Diaz in this movie? Still, there are some great moments in it, and I think Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Jamie Foxx and Lauren Holly are all effective. And some of the game sequences are far better than those seen in most football films before it.

Posted by armand at 01:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Foucault Flakes

This morning as I was drinking my coffee celebrating the absence of dried mud, I browsed the big news sites. Krugman examines inconsistencies in the conclusions drawn from labor market data. He also mentioned the website of Brad DeLong which I had never visited. Somewhere down the page he has posted some thoughts about a time as a grad student when he was in thrall to postmodernism for a time. Having experienced such a thing myself - having Political Theory as one of your PhD comprehensive fields in the 1990s kind of would do that to a person - it got me thinking about a cartoon that someone gave me as I was emerging from the mists. This cartoon was called "Breakfast Theory: A Morning Methodology," and it spoofed the whole theoretical kit-n-caboodle's dry and flavorless (or empty) taste. For awhile, this was My Favorite Cartoon Ever when I was seized with the spirit of rejection for all things I had just supposedly mastered. Given that this was ten years ago, I had my doubts about finding a copy. I never should have doubted the Power of the Web. Enjoy!

Posted by binky at 09:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 17, 2005

Go Read This

Can I say once again how much I love Bitch, Ph.D.? She has a truly wonderful post, that links to a journalism dust-up that should hit all of us close to home. Her post reflects on two pieces: one a Modern Love column from the NYT (login required, of course) and two a response from the (in the opinion of many in the blogosphere) unfairly maligned blog author. Read the comments too, for an excellent perspective. This whole thing ought to resonate with all of us academic - especially literary academic - bloggers out there. Not only is there a direct relation to the upstairs/downstairs parallel of today's world with the Victorian novel, but the whole business reveals a great deal about the upstairs/downstairs relationships of "real" journalism to blogging as well.

And further on the issue, you should read this post about a Chronicle of Higher Education article. The CHE article really illustrates the generation gap in academia ("God forbid they have a life, write about it and [shudder] use a computer to do it!"), and is in my opinion part of the reason bright young scholars are thinking about things other than teaching for their "life's work." Further analysis here and here.

Posted by binky at 03:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2005

Binky Reports In From PatchouliLand

Binky, risking life, limb and her sense of smell for the rest of her life, went off to the AllGood Festival yesterday. She went (obviously, for those that know her) mostly to see the The Flaming Lips, but was content to sit through the rest of the hippie-jam-band music/experience. She reported in this morning:

1. The Flaming Lips were awesome. They played a long set, including "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "War Pigs", and finished around 3:30AM. They remain the most awesomest band ever.
2. The traffic getting into the festival was bad. It took 6 hours to drive 2 miles. Someone didn't plan well.
3. Les Claypool wasn't bad, had some sort of strange bass/mic-stand combination thingy that he beat on with a stick, and wasn't too tricky/techy/Geddy Lee like (older people will understand that reference).
4. It has rained much in the last two days. There is mud. Lots of mud.
5. There are no showers. She danced around a bunch last night. There is mud (see #4, above). Draw your own conclusions.
6. Her original plan called for her to return tonight. Since no plan survives contact with the enemy (see #4, above), that plan has been discarded in favor of attempting to drive out of the mud in daylight, to reduce the chances of getting her car stuck up to its axles in, well, mud. Hence, she now plans to return tomorrow.
7. Her cellphone works. Sort of. In high places. Sometimes.
8. It is 85, with 70% humidity, and there is no shade. It is "hot".
9. She has peanut butter and Starbucks Doubleshots, and thus won't starve or get cranky
10. She is having fun.
11. The Flaming Lips were, are, and will be awesome (see #1, above)

Mud, hippie-jam-band-shit, oppresive humidity, peanut butter and hippies. I think I'm glad I'm here. Good luck, binky.

(I'm sure we'll get some sort of report from her in a day or two. We might even get another update today. Stay tuned...)

Posted by baltar at 09:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 15, 2005

News of the Weird

Odd stories from other spots on the worldinterwidenetweb:

Mariah Carey's Glitter flopped because of Sept. 11th I'll bet Casablanca would have flopped, too, Mariah.

Sen. Santorum's Communications Director is gay, out and black. No mention of whether he owns any pets.

US Congressman suggests we might bomb Mecca if we are attacked again. Match, meet gasoline. Gasoline, meet match.

Engine Pictures are the Beaver Shots of Car Porn. What did you expect? No one gets excited by steering wheels.

Study shows a third of all studies are inaccurate. And the odds of this being correct are...

Civilian Casualties in Iraq Insurgency are over 800 a month (not including those killed by the US) In other news, people are still dying in Iraq.

Posted by baltar at 02:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2005

Odd Bit of Whatnot

Oh, the things you'll find on the internet. Like jumping cats.

Posted by binky at 12:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

This Whole Rove Thing

I understand we are a cat's whisker away from a full-scale red-alert major media feeding frenzy over Karl Rove, Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson, Matt Cooper, Judith Miller and Robert Novak. These things happen. They usually don't lead anywhere productive (like, towards the truth), but they do seem to fall from the sky every few years. This one is interesting, because W's administration hasn't had one yet. We'll get to see how the various personalities handle unpleasant press. This isn't really as important as, say, Iraq policy or North Korea or the idiotic energy bill that's under everybody's radar, but no one seems to care. Hell, it even seems to have bumped that whole Aruba/kidnapping/murder thing off the air.

I realize no one has asked me for my advice, but as a public service I'm going to provide it:

For the LeftBlogosphere: Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Repeat a dozen times. Take your hands away from the keyboards and go and eat something or take a shower. There is a judical process underway. Justice hasn't been swift in this country for many decades, so this will all take a little time. Stop screaming about Rove and Bush and ScottyMcC. Yes, something bad happened. Someone is, right now, investigating this. Those people will let us know what they know. Just not today. No matter how much you beg and whine. Find something else to write about. Iraq policy still sucks. Iran recently elected someone who hates us more than the average Iranian. North Korea returned to the negotiating table. 52 people died in London. There are more important things than Karl Rove. Stop obsessing.
For the RightBlogosphere: You, also, should cease writing immediately. You are not helping your cause. Someone clearly did something wrong here. Parsing the words of the various lawyers or individuals in an attempt to "prove" that whoever leaked this did no wrong makes you look dumb. Minimizing the actions that the leaker did in revealing Valerie Plame's name and occupation does not make you look intelligent or correct. Admit that this was a criminal act, and if sufficient evidence can be found to convict anyone of doing it, this would be correct. It would even be moral: you remember morals. You talk about them all the time. Let's have some here.
For the Media: Yes, this is a story. No, this isn't the second coming or another terrorist attack. Get some perspective, think rationally, and write intelligent articles about what, if any, damage this has done. How has it hurt the CIA? The War on Terror? Recruiting for the CIA? How badly has this contributed to the politization of the intelligence services? Do some journalism, for pete's sake.
For Matt Cooper: You should immediately quit your job. I don't care what the courts say (they have to worry about laws and stuff), reporters never reveal confidential sources. Yes, I know, you were against this, and only went along with it when your employer, Time Magazine, caved. That doesn't absolve you.
For Judith Miller: Good on you. Stay quiet. This doesn't fully absolve you of some awful reporting on the whole WMD issue, but it helps. Very few people are looking good out of this affair, but you are one of them.
For Time Magazine: I'll never look at your stuff ever again. You should immediately cease publishing, apologize to everyone, and just leave the scene. See, I agree with the court decision (no one has the right to avoid testifying in the prosecution of a crime) from a legal perspective. However, morals trump legalities any day, and the moral position was to take your lumps, pay your fines and send your reporter to jail (with full pay). You failed to do this, and have lost all credibility with me forever. Just go away.
For the Administration: Stop stonewalling. Look, you are on record as saying anyone who did this should be fired. You can't refuse to acknowledge those words, you can't ignore them, and you can't close your collective eyes in hope this all goes away. This president ran (in 2000) a campaign based in part on the "bring dignity back to the White House" slogan. You need to live up to that. Just say, calmly, that of course if anyone in the White House did anything legally wrong, they will resign. Hell, say that they'll resign even if they are charged (you can hire them back later, if they are found not guilty). You screwed up by commenting on this issue years ago, so you can't now claim you won't comment. Just remember: scandals always get worse the more you stonewall and avoid. Just take the lumps now, before the become critical damage in future months.
For Karl Rove: If you did this, even if you didn't actually mention the name "Valerie Plame" to Cooper, you should resign. It's wrong. Morally. Legally. It hurt National Security (every single country where Plame's company did business for the last few decades has been checking where every employee was, who they talked to, and what they might know. Hence, all those countries now know what the US intelligence might know, which makes it not really useful intelligence. This is bad.). If you didn't, then your failure to speak to the press is good (it cuts down the frenzy aspect), but put a leash on your lawyer. He's parsing too much. Save that for a courtroom, where it might save your ass, but not for the public sphere. It makes you look cheap, petty, and (an insult in terms you might understand) Clintonian. That's not good.

If anyone else acts up, I'll give them some unsolicited advice too.

Posted by baltar at 11:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Downhill Side of Summer

Summer is funny the way it sends signals that it is over, long before the weather actually turns. There are the gradually waning days, the lunchboxes appearing in the grocery store, the petering out of blooming herbs, and the sudden realization that planning a weekend summer getaway can't happen because there are only so many summer weekends left, and they are all already planned. There's another one here where I live: the marching band. My house is a half a block away from a high school, which is not as bad as it sounds or as people made it out to be when I bought the place. Many of the kids live in the neighborhood. Some stop to pet my dogs on their way by, and the blue-haired drama kids know that this is a house that will buy those bags of M&Ms to support their production of Grease. The week after the fourth of July is when band camp starts. In the beginning, it is the endless noodling of the drummers, as they sit around waiting for something to happen. Then the drummers move into something more regular, practicing rhythmic sets. And finally, they work out their marching cadences. Band geek that I am, I occasionally catch myself listening to see if they are doing one of the well-known DCI cadences. I barely even remember them anymore, though we used to check out other bands and rate them by who they chose to emulate ("Aw man, those losers are doing the Suncoast Sound cadence? They should have gone for Bridgemen!"). When the cadences stop, as they are bound to over the next week, then the full band, baton team and all, starts marching around the neighborhood, practicing their eight-to-five and parade rows. Suddenly, it's fall, even though it doesn't feel like fall. Football, mascots, textbooks, notebook paper, the screech of bus wheels at 7 am, the roaring off of student drivers at 2:45. For now, though, I hear the drummers, trying to get it together as a team before they practice the year's marching cadence. There's still time, there's still summer.

Posted by binky at 09:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

Carmina Burana, Hannity and the Flaming Lips: Or How an Unpleasant Situation Can Generate Happy Thoughts

Just now, driving through town, I had the radio tuned to the local AM talk station, and after the local news (interesting item, see extended entry) the intro music for the Sean Hannity show came on. This is the Unpleasant Situation part. The intro song has this, oh, I don't know, America-Kicks-Ass/Retribution/Nasty-but-Sung-Sweetly vibe to it:

.... Let freedom ring, Let the white dove sing Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay It's Independence Day

Then the song transitions to Carmina Burana, a very stirring classical piece (though others have discussed it, and this intro before.) And there I was thinking not only was it bad enough to hear the "roll the stone away let guilty pay" part which manages top put top man of peace Jesus in the same vicinity as, oh well, you get the picture, but that Orff's piece was every day associated with the (along with some other hideous uses in movies, including the not-very-much-redeeming-value-besides-a-hot-young-Helen-Mirren Excalibur ) delights that flow from Hannity's mouth.

Then, oh yes, I had a Happy Thought. And oh! what a Happy Thought it was, because I then remembered the other thing that is regularly introduced by the playing of Carmina Burana. You lucky few know what I am talking about, yes indeedy, I am talking about the live show of the Flaming Lips. And rather than being followed by Sean Hannity, Carmina Burana is accompanied by the frenzied swatting of giant multicolored balloons and followed by (at least in the most recent concert tour) Race for the Prize, confetti and delirious fun.

The Happiest Thought yet? At this weekend's Allgood Festival I am going to see those very same Flaming Lips, which tickles me pink. And the whole thing fit really, in a Lips-y sort of way. From an interview with lead Lip Wayne Coyne:

"Life is a lot better if you don’t have to escape from it all the time. If you can deal with the bad then the good’s gonna come just by accident. Imagine the good days after that!"

Ah yes, Orff and balloons and confetti. Very good days indeed.

As we at Bloodless Coup speculated some time ago, the US military has been having troubles meeting its recruitment quotas. Last month the targets were missed by over 14%. West Virginia recruiting, however, does not follow that pattern, and its National Guard units are at 100% or better. The report said that in Washington, WV was considered a "shining jewel" because of its recruiting success. Hope they remember that when they reexamine the base closings.

Posted by binky at 04:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Skull Mantra

Yesterday I was sitting on my back porch thinking that there is no greater solitary pleasure than reading. [you, with your minds in the gutter. stop it.] A few seconds later I felt guilty and elitist for thinking that, remembering that others may find just as much pleasure in their garden, on the links, or playing Diablo. In the end, I decided that it was that I was reading a book that had not only the power to compel one's attention to the story, but the ability to take the reader somewhere else.

The Skull Mantra by Eliot Pattison is a detective novel. It's also a look inside the gulag, a religious education, a cultural history, and a political cry of outrage. Set in Tibet, at a prison camp for political, religious and cultural criminals the Chinese government has put to work building roads, it follows the path of Shan, a former government investigator whose commitment to the truth was more important than his commitment to the party. Shan has been sent to remote Tibet, where he is imprisoned with the religious and cultural criminals, that is, those monks and faithful who refuse to give up their traditions in the campaign to eliminate the Four Olds (ideas, culture, customs and habits). Although he is a prisoner, and a Han Chinese in the middle of Tibet, Shan is removed from his hut to investigate the murder of a party official. Webs of deceit, corruption, and misunderstanding shroud the truth that Shan is trying to uncover, on a timeline to prevent a hermit/monk from being executed. The surface conflicts hide much deeper secrets, and the past itself becomes an actor in the story.

The best thing about this book, to me, was not the plot (and don't get me wrong, the plot was gripping, and the book won an Edgar Award) but the crafting of the entire novel. Few books are subtle enough to truly suspend your existence in your world and lift you into theirs, and few novels with a political axe to grind can avoid beating you in the head with their message. This book is one that can. Rather than sitting on the porch on a ninety degree summer evening, I was in the chilling mists of Tibet. Suddenly I was starving for dumplings, like the characters (although not being in the gulag all I had to do was place a call to The Great Wall, $3.75 for a half dozen, steamed). I felt a bite and smacked a stinging ant, and felt an instant - albeit an instant's - remorse after reading about the mantras said over sandals that they would not be the instruments of destruction for any insect creatures.

There are sequels, and I've just begun one that does not grip me in the same way, but it's a bit early to deliver a final judgment. The Skull Mantra however, is definitely worth your time.

Posted by binky at 03:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


When you are away from home and work, returning can feel like arriving in some alien landscape. Even in the smallest ways, things shift in ways that make you feel slightly unhinged. It reminds me of reading the Heinlein book where the couple wakes up every day in an alternate universe of the same place. This morning, I've gotten to the bottom of one of the mysterious shifts that occurred while I was away during the last, oh, six weeks.

It seems that the people who live behind us had acquired a new noisemaker of the living variety. Now, I know, that is not a normal category. But here's the thing: this couple has a reputation among the neighbors for being reclusive. They are not misanthropic. They just don't mingle. And they seem not to do much outside, except the man occasionally wanders around the backyard talking on the phone. I don't think I have ever seen his wife (partner? honeybunch?). When they were moving in, I went around to introduce myself, but that was pretty much the last time we talked. Our neighbors behind and kitty corner (next door to the people who live behind us) have had a similar experience with these folk. So, the noises emanating from behind the fence had no context. I ultimately decided that they had either had a baby (never seeing the woman, it's possible she passed an entire pregnancy without us knowing) or bought a parrot. I checked with the kitty corner neighbors, and they voted for parrot, having also not seen a woman, much less a pregnant woman (and yes, I know you can get an infant without bearing one) in the vicinity. My cat certainly was voting with his whiskers: PARROT! When the noise occurs, he sits on his cat tower on the back porch, eyes wide, whiskers twitching, bird stalking crouch activated.

Lo and behold, today the whiskers were atwitch, the noises coming across the fence, and the man emerged talking on the cellphone, and what did I see on his shoulder but... a baby.

Frames of reference settled all over the neighborhood. Or at least in my backyard.

Posted by binky at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2005

Death by Stoning in Nigeria

Given the fact that several states in Nigeria have adopted horrifying, reactionary religious legal codes I'd advise you not to go there and engage in sodomy, or, if you are a woman, sex outside of marriage. If you do - you could be stoned to death. That's the sentence awaiting at least one poor soul in democratic Nigeria.

Posted by armand at 01:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 08, 2005

A Great (though depressing) Example of Why Funding Education Matters

Toyota gives up on stupid Americans. They can't even be bought off with huge government subsidies because our workers are that inept. Yikes.

The factory will cost $800 million to build, with the federal and provincial governments kicking in $125 million of that to help cover research, training and infrastructure costs.

Several U.S. states were reportedly prepared to offer more than double that amount of subsidy. But Fedchun said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project.

He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

Posted by armand at 10:58 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Iran to Give Iraq $1 Billion in Aid

Do you think this is the sort of ally the Bush team wanted to be taking a lead role in assisting in the reconstruction of Iraq?

Posted by armand at 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2005

Random Idiots

FYI: No, your car does not give you magic invisibility powers. And yes, I can see you picking your nose. Now please stop.

Posted by binky at 12:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The New Lebanese Cabinet

Jonathan has the details - it's dominated by members of the Hariri faction, and for the first time in history Hizbollah is part of the government.

Posted by armand at 10:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

End of the Free Trade Democrats?

I think Dan Drezner is being too hyperbolic in this generally quite insightful post on the Democratic Party and CAFTA. Is it troubling for trade-supporting Democrats like me that only 5 members of the Democratic caucus in the US House (Moran, Jefferson, Cuellar, Dicks and Tanner) are openly committed to approving the trade pact? Yes. But a few things are important to mention. The Democrats in the US House have been less supportive of free trade than many other Democratic leaders for a considerable period of time. For just one example, take NAFTA. It was passed with more votes from Republicans than from Democrats - though Democrats controlled the House at the time. But that doesn't mean that the party is composed of nothing but opponents of trade. The presidential nominee last year was a NAFTA supporter. And during the Clinton era many more business and trade friendly Democrats came into leadership positions in the party, and many of them are still active. The article by Jonathan Weisman that Drezner cites refers to "50 pro-trade Democrats ... voting against CAFTA", so obviously there are some Democrats in the House who are still open to trade deals. The article also notes that some of the most impressive members of the Clinton cabinet, people like former Secretaries Perry, Shalala and Glickman, have been openly supporting the agreement. And of course, should a Democrat ever retake the White House, there is ever reason to believe that that individual will be more supportive of international trade agreements than the likes of Sander Levin, Marcy Kaptur or Gene Taylor. Are the Democrats more likely to oppose free trade without one of their own living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? Of course. But I wouldn't start writing the post mortem for trade-friendly Democrats just yet.

Posted by armand at 10:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 06, 2005

Activist 5th Ciruict Judges Soon to Join the Supremes?

"I am amazed that our en banc court would have the audacity to turn around and reach the same result the Supreme Court just vacated," 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harold DeMoss Jr.

One reason that the Supreme Court rulings of the last few years might not appear to be quite as conservative as some observors would expect is that one could quite reasonably argue that some of the federal Circuit Courts have moved notably to the right of the Supremes in several key areas of the law - and that in some cases they have shown little deference to Supreme Court rulings - which has led to the Supremes swatting down what it sees as their excesses. The courts that are probably best known for this behavior are the 4th and 5th Circuits. The 5th has in fact become known for a positively egregious level of judicial actvisim (if one minds that sort of thing) in areas of criminal law and sentencing. This report gives some examples. And keep in mind that no fewer than 4 members of the 5th Circuit are considered leading candidates to replace Justice O'Connor - Judges Emilio Garza, Edith Brown Clement, Priscilla Owen and Edith Hollan Jones (aka "the horsewoman of the right-wing apocalypse).

Posted by armand at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Dead in the SEAL Rescue Attempts Include Afghanis Too

Armchair Generalist makes a good point in this post that addresses the heavy losses that have been suffered by both Americans and Afghanis in the operations that have been carried out in an attempt to rescue a missing SEAL reconnaissance team - "when you're trying to win over Afghanis to support your side, DON'T BOMB THEM."

Posted by armand at 10:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2005

We're Back!

We seem to have solved all of our behind-the-scenes technical problems. The site seems to be up and working, including comments (if they aren't, please let us know).

However, there is one caveat: the comment-spam blocking software operates by matching common spam-phrases to whatever is in the comment someone is trying to post. Hence, if you write a comment that uses the words "texas holdem", "viagra", "anal sluts" or something similar, it is likely that when you try to post your comment, it won't appear. Do not fret. Any comment that seems suspicious gets dumped to a list of comments that we (the moderators) have to approve before it gets public. It may take a few hours before one of us can OK it, but it shouldn't (fingers crossed) actually disappear.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Posted by baltar at 02:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack