August 31, 2005

Van Impe Asks God to Forgive Pat Robertson

Rexella has long been my favorite Van Impe, but with these comments my opinion of Jack is rising. Robertson shouldn't have said what he said (presuming he's serious about wanting to get rid of Hugo Chavez) and his words could indeed have life and death implications.

Posted by armand at 09:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Way To Help The Katrina Victims

For those looking for some sort of way to help the victims of Katrina, Kung Fu Monkey is matching the funds that are raised through the blog.

This is not a new program. Kung Fu Monkey started it last month, when the charity was the Army Emergency Relief Fund. This month, for obvious reasons, it's the American Red Cross.

The only remote downside to this is that your donation will take a month to get to the Red Cross, as he need to wait until the end of the month to see what sum he has to match for the donation. Other than that, it's a good way of doubling your money.

Posted by baltar at 10:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 30, 2005

Bush Administration Responsible for Levee Failure in New Orleans?

Armand sent this disturbing link to me. It quotes a (now archived) New Orleans Times Picayune article about federal budget cuts to levee programs in New Orleans. The author of the blog is William Bunch, "the senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and its former political writer." The blog he cites (which in turns references the T-P article) is Library Chronicles.

It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.

-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.


That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.

But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.

Bunch also cites New Orleans City Business:

The district has identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations in St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. Those projects are included in a Corps line item called Lake Pontchartrain, where funding is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million this year to $2.9 million in 2006. Naomi said it's enough to pay salaries but little else.

"We'll do some design work. We'll design the contracts and get them ready to go if we get the money. But we don't have the money to put the work in the field, and that's the problem," Naomi said.


The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.

The Lake Pontchartrain project is slated to receive $3.9 million in the president's 2005 budget. Naomi said about $20 million is needed.

"The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink," he said. "I've got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of settling). Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And we're going to have to pay them interest."

And he cites another article from the Times Picayune on June 18:

"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don’t get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can’t stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn’t that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can’t raise them."

Bunch says "The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late. One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach. The levee failure appears to be causing a human tragedy of epic proportions."

And he leaves us with this question: "The president told us that we needed to fight in Iraq to save lives here at home, and yet -- after moving billions of domestic dollars to the Persian Gulf -- there are bodies floating through the streets of Louisana. What does George W. Bush have to say for himself now?"

If you have access to Lexis-Nexis I urge you to read the Times Picayune article of September 22nd, which portrays the fear but also forward thinking of public officials in New Orleans after Hurricane Ivan. The close brush with Ivan really got them thinking about how to fix, in a timely fashion, the chinks in New Orleans' armor that have led to the disastrous consequences of Karina. The article also shows their frustration at their pursuit of public safety being rebuffed for a priority on the war in Iraq.

Posted by binky at 07:06 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Four Years in Row

"The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday."

C'mon, you didn't think it was going to be something good did you? I'm surprised all those people at the Census Bureau haven't been demoted yet.

Posted by binky at 03:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Barak Endorse Peres

Didn't see this coming. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has endorsed former Prime Minister Shimon Peres for the Labor party leadership. Peres is facing a number of challengers in his bid to remain head of the party. Those challengers had included Barak. But Barak is urging all challengers to unite behind Peres in an effort to present a united front in the coming elections, which at this point seem likely to occur next spring.

Of course the announcement today that former Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to challenge Prime Minister Sharon for the leadership of the Likud Party is about as surprising as the sun rising in the East.

Posted by armand at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What a Difference an "H" Makes

My initial reaction to this post by Publius on the importance of rhetoric was considerable puzzlement - and then I finally realized, oh, the Roman guy, not Mr. J. Lo.

Thankfully, I was in a rather more focused state when I read through this post by Publius on originalism. He does a superb (and fun and cutting) job of concisely pointing out just how arrogant and revolutionary an approach to jurisprudence it is. It's not remotely conservative. I strongly recommend reading the post.

Posted by armand at 12:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Katrina's Aftermath

The damage assessments are starting to come in. There is major devastation across the coastal communities of the northern Gulf of Mexico, among them New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, and Gulfport. Access is restricted and it will likely be some time before evacuees can return. FEMA, Homeland Security and local authorities are conducting search, rescue, and recovery operations. If you want to help, the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is an excellent option.

Despite the devastation and significant loss of life, I am deeply uncomfortable with characterizing Hurricane Katrina as "our tsunami" as some media establishments have picked up as their headline. I understand - no I don't understand, but I can empathize with - the people in the zone of destruction seeing their livelihoods and homes washed away, and for some of them, losing family and friends to the flooding, and thus experiencing and expressing those emotions. No matter where you are, Indonesia or Mississippi, losing part of your family is a horror beyond imagining. The 2004 tsunami, however, took over 150,000 lives. Thank whatever you hold holy that this was not "our tsunami."

Posted by binky at 10:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Amanda Panda

Amanda at Pandagon has this very intelligent summary of some academic work about cognition and perception of women's rights as related to reproductive autonomy. It marks out a clear link between world view, and beliefs about contraception and abortion. Very interesting. In addition, it is a very clear illustration of the difference between "thinkers" and "feelers," if you buy into that categorization.

I hadn't thought about the power relations stuff in the US using those frameworks, even though having studied the same thing in the developing world I have read numerous studies that reinforce the finding. Duh. That's what I get for thinking the U.S. is somehow different because of our political "advances."

Posted by binky at 10:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

On the Bandwagon we go!

Via Pandagon and Norbizness, the music thing. Go to Music Outfitters, select the year you graduated from high school (actually, use my link and substitute your graduation year for "1986"), bold your faves, strike the ones you hate (the strike command is "s" in <> to open and "/s" in <> to close), and leave the "eh" things alone. I followed this rule based on what I was into at the time. I put in italics things I could still listen to today.

Most of this stuff near the bottom I never heard. I was listening to Pink Floyd. Reading this list makes me realize how much I just didn't care [to recall an 80s movie "It just doesn't matter....IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!!!"] about top 40 radio. I listened to the music of my (much) older siblings, and 103.5 WSHE "She's only rock and roll" from Miami. The records of then that I still have? Back in Black, The Wall, Dark Side of the Moon, Pyromania.

1. That's What Friends Are For, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight

2. Say You, Say Me, Lionel Richie

3. I Miss You, Klymaxx [note: getting old...don't remember this at all]

4. On My Own , Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald

5. Broken Wings, Mr. Mister

6. How Will I Know, Whitney Houston

7. Party All The Time, Eddie Murphy

8. Burning Heart, Survivor

9. Kyrie, Mr. Mister [note: I am ashamed]

10. Addicted To Love, Robert Palmer

11. Greatest Love Of All, Whitney Houston

12. Secret Lovers, Atlantic Starr [note: don't remember this either]

13. Friends And Lovers, Carl Anderson and Gloria Loring [note: or this]

14. Glory Of Love, Peter Cetera [note: gag me with a spoon!>

15. West End Girls, Pet Shop Boys

16. There'll Be Sad Songs, Billy Ocean

17. Alive And Kicking, Simple Minds

18. Never, Heart

19. Kiss, Prince and The Revolution

20. Higher Love, Steve Winwood

21. Stuck With You, Huey Lewis and The News [note: ???]

22. Holding Back The Years, Simply Red [note: I didn't care then, but HATE this now]

23. Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel

24. Sara, Starship

25. Human, Human League

26. I Can't Wait, Nu Shooz [OMG! I saw them live at Disney Grad Nite!!!]

27. Take My Breath Away, Berlin [ed: high school "music to fuck by"]

28. Rock Me Amadeus, Falco [note: I am so ashamed.]

29. Papa Don't Preach, Madonna

30. You Give Love A Bad Name, Bon Jovi [OMG!!! He is {was} so HOTTT!!!]

31. When The Going Gets Tough, Billy Ocean [note: no memory whatsoever]

32. When I Think Of You, Janet Jackson [note: same]

33. These Dreams, Heart [note: so sad. Nancy is so hot, Anne is amazing, and the outfits were awful]

34. Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone), Glass Tiger

35. Live To Tell, Madonna

36. Mad About You, Belinda Carlisle [note: I could dance to this at 80s nite]

37. Something About You, Level 42

38. Venus, Bananarama [note: ditto on 80s nite]

39. Dancing On The Ceiling, Lionel Richie

40. Conga, Miami Sound Machine

41. True Colors, Cyndi Lauper

42. Danger Zone, Kenny Loggins

43. What Have You Done For Me Lately, Janet Jackson

44. No One Is To Blame, Howard Jones

45. Let's Go All The Way, Sly Fox [note: Now I'm appalled I didn't hate this then]

46. I Didn't Mean To Turn You On, Robert Palmer

47. Words Get In The Way, Miami Sound Machine

48. Manic Monday, Bangles

49. Walk Of Life, Dire Straits

50. Amanda, Boston

51. Two Of Hearts, Stacey Q [note: the worst ear worm ever]

52. Crush On You, Jets [note: huh?]

53. If You Leave, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

54. Invisible Touch, Genesis

55. The Sweetest Taboo, Sade

56. What You Need, INXS [note: saw them live...with P.I.L.]

57. Talk To Me, Stevie Nicks

58. Nasty, Janet Jackson

59. Take Me Home Tonight, Eddie Money

60. We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off, Jermaine Stewart

61. All Cried Out, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam With Full Force

62. Your Love, Outfield

63. I'm Your Man, Wham!

64. Perfect Way, Scritti Politti

65. Living In America, James Brown [note: Rocky. Ew.]

66. R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A., John Cougar Mellencamp

67. Who's Johnny, El Debarge

68. Word Up, Cameo [note: what the hell is this?]

69. Why Can't This Be Love, Van Halen

70. Silent Running, Mike and The Mechanics

71. Typical Male, Tina Turner

72. Small Town, John Cougar Mellencamp

73. Tarzan Boy, Baltimora

74. All I Need Is A Miracle, Mike and The Mechanics

75. Sweet Freedom, Michael McDonald

76. True Blue, Madonna

77. Rumors, Timex Social Club

78. Life In A Northern Town, Dream Academy

79. Bad Boy, Miami Sound Machine

80. Sleeping Bag, ZZ Top [note: even then I knew it was over for ZZ Top]

81. Tonight She Comes, Cars [note: Not because it's good, but I can't dent the Cars love]

82. Love Touch, Rod Stewart [note: more "ew"]

83. A Love Bizarre, Sheila E.

84. Throwing It All Away, Genesis

85. Baby Love, Regina

86. Election Day, Arcadia [note: what was this?]

87. Nikita, Elton John

88. Take Me Home, Phil Collins

89. Walk This Way, Run-D.M.C.

90. Sweet Love, Anita Baker

91. Your Wildest Dreams, Moody Blues [note: didn't like it, the video was dorky/cute]

92. Spies Like Us, Paul McCartney

93. Object Of My Desire, Starpoint

94. Dreamtime, Daryl Hall

95. Tender Love, Force M.D.'s

96. King For A Day, Thompson Twins

97. Love Will Conquer All, Lionel Richie

98. A Different Corner, George Michael

99. I'll Be Over You, Toto

100. Go Home, Stevie Wonder

OK, I was going to put this in comments, but it won't accept the html, so I'm putting it here.

OK, as if you care, I think high school graduation is wrong wrong wrong, and will supply years 13 (following Norbizness) and college graduation as better examples of what I liked. I hope my ratio is better for those than 7/100.


The year of virulent hatred of country. And disco. And Barbra.

1. Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes [thought it was cool to idolize a "bitch"]

2. Endless Love, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie

3. Lady, Kenny Rogers

4. (Just Like) Starting Over, John Lennon

5. Jessie's Girl, Rick Springfield [HOTTT!!! General Hospital!!!]

6. Celebration, Kool and The Gang

7. Kiss On My List, Daryl Hall and John Oates

8. I Love A Rainy Night, Eddie Rabbitt

9. 9 To 5, Dolly Parton

10. Keep On Loving You, REO Speedwagon [jr. high dance make out]

11. Theme From "Greatest American Hero", Joey Scarbury [major dorkage]

12. Morning Train (Nine To Five), Sheena Easton

13. Being With You, Smokey Robinson

14. Queen Of Hearts, Juice Newton

c15. Rapture, Blondie

16. A Woman Needs Love, Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio

17. The Tide Is High, Blondie

18. Just The Two Of Us, Grover Washington Jr.

19. Slow Hand, Pointer Sisters

20. I Love You, Climax Blues Band [jr high make out II]

21. Woman, John Lennon

22. Sukiyaki, A Taste Of Honey

23. The Winner Takes It All, Abba

24. Medley, Stars On 45

25. Angel Of The Morning, Juice Newton

26. Love On The Rocks, Neil Diamond

27. Every Woman In The World, Air Supply [jr. high make out III]

28. The One That You Love, Air Supply[jr. high make out IV]

29. Guilty, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb

30. The Best Of Times, Styx

31. Elvira, Oak Ridge Boys [major country away!]

32. Take It On The Run, REO Speedwagon

33. No Gettin' Over Me, Ronnie Milsap

34. Living Outside Myself, Gino Vannelli [hairy chests were in!]

35. Woman In Love, Barbra Streisand [not.ever. mom. likes. barbra]

36. Boy From New York City, Manhattan Transfer

37. Urgent, Foreigner

38. Passion, Rod Stewart

39. Lady (You Bring Me Up), Commodores [pattern becoming clear...always hated commodores]

40. Crying, Don Mclean

41. Hearts, Marty Balin

42. It's My Turn, Diana Ross

43. You Make My Dreams, Daryl Hall and John Oates

44. I Don't Need You, Kenny Rogers [more country suckage]

45. How 'Bout Us, Champaign [???]

46. Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Pat Benatar

47. The Breakup Song, Greg Kihn Band [uh -oh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uhhhhh]

48. Time, Alan Parsons Project

49. Hungry Heart, Bruce Springsteen

50. Sweetheart, Franke and The Knockouts

51. Someone's Knockin', Terri Gibbs

52. More Than I Can Say, Leo Sayer

53. Together, Tierra

54. Too Much Time On My Hands, Styx

55. What Are We Doin' In Love, Dottie West

56. Who's Crying Now, Journey

57. De Do Do Do, De Da Da, Police [still put this on mixes; before Sting revealed his total Evil]

58. This Little Girl, Gary U.S. Bonds

59. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around, Stevie Nicks With Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

60. Giving It Up For Your Love, Delbert McClinton

61. A Little In Love, Cliff Richard [hey! I was 13!!!]

62. America, Neil Diamond

63. Ain't Even Done With The Night, John Cougar

64. Arthur's Theme, Christopher Cross

65. Another One Bites The Dust, Queen [Freddy rulz!]

66. Games People Play, Alan Parsons Project

67. I Can't Stand It, Eric Clapton

68. While You See A Chance, Steve Winwood

69. Master Blaster, Stevie Wonder

70. Hello Again, Neil Diamond

71. Don't Stand So Close To Me, Police

72. Hey Nineteen, Steely Dan

73. I Ain't Gonna Stand For It, Stevie Wonder

74. All Those Years Ago, George Harrison

75. Step By Step, Eddie Rabbitt

76. The Stroke, Billy Squier

77. Feels So Right, Alabama

78. Sweet Baby, Stanley Clarke and George Duke

79. Same Old Lang Syne, Dan Fogelberg

80. Cool Love, Pablo Cruise

81. Hold On Tight, ELO

82. It's Now Or Never, John Schneider

83. Treat Me Right, Pat Benatar

84. Winning, Santana

85. What Kind Of Fool, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb

86. Watching The Wheels, John Lennon

87. Tell It Like It Is, Heart

88. Smoky Mountain Rain, Ronnie Milsap

89. I Made It Through The Rain, Barry Manilow

90. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', Daryl Hall and John Oates

91. Suddenly, Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard

92. For Your Eyes Only, Sheena Easton [HOTTT!!!]

93. The Beach Boys Medley, Beach Boys [Oh the agony!]

94. Whip It, Devo

95. Modern Girl, Sheena Easton

96. Really Wanna Know You, Gary Wright

97. Seven Year Ache, Rosanne Cash

98. I'm Coming Out, Diana Ross

99. Miss Sun, Boz Scaggs

100. Time Is Time, Andy Gibb

1989: You mean, people wear colors other than black?

1. Look Away, Chicago

2. My Prerogative, Bobby Brown

3. Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Poison

4. Straight Up, Paula Abdul

5. Miss You Much, Janet Jackson

6. Cold Hearted, Paula Abdul

7. Wind Beneath My Wings, Bette Midler

8. Girl You Know Its True, Milli Vanilli

9. Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird, Will To Power

10. Giving You The Best That I Got, Anita Baker

11. Right Here Waiting, Richard Marx

12. Waiting For A Star To Fall, Boy Meets Girl

13. Lost In Your Eyes, Debbie Gibson

14. Don't Wanna Lose You, Gloria Estefan

15. Heavan, Warrant

16. Girl I'm Gonna Miss You, Milli Vanilli

17. The Look, Roxette [dancing in South America was involved]

18. She Drives Me Crazy, Fine Young Cannibals

19. On Our Own, Bobby Brown

20. Two Hearts, Phil Collins

21. Blame It On The Rain, Milli Vanilli

22. Listen To Your Heart, Roxette

23. I'll Be There For You, Bon Jovi

24. If You Don't Know Me By Now, Simply Red [gag]

25. Like A Prayer, Madonna [cool video. Into black Jesus]

26. I'll Be Loving You (Forever), New Kids On The Block

27. How Can I Fall?, Breathe

28. Baby Don't Forget My Number, Milli Vanilli

29. Toy Solider, Martika

30. Forever Your Girl, Paula Abdul

31. The Living Years, Mike and the Mechanics

32. Eternal Flame, The Banglez

33. Wild Thing, Tone Loc [drunk]

34. When I See You Smile, Bad English

35. If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher

36. Buffalo Stance, Neneh Cherry

37. When I'm With You, Sheriff

38. Don't Rush Me, Taylor Dayne

39. Born To Be My Baby, Bon Jovi

40. Good Thing, Fine Young Cannibals

41. The Lover In Me, Sheena Easton

42. Bust A Move, Young M.C.

43. Once Bitten, Twice Shy, Great White [Revulsion]

44. Batdance, Prince

45. Rock On, Michael Damian

46. Real Lov, Jody Watley

47. Love Shack, B-52's [80s nite]

48. Every Little Step, Bobby Brown

49. Hangin' Tough, New Kids On The Block

50. My Heart Can't Tell You No, Rod Stewart

51. So Alive, Love and Rockets

52. You Got It (The Right Stuff), New Kids On The Block

53. Armageddon It, Def Leppard

54. Satisfied, Richard Marx [PUKE!]

55. Express Yourself, Madonna

56. I Like It, Dino

57. Soldier Of Love, Donny Osmond

58. Sowing The Seeds Of Love, Tears For Fears

59. Cherish, Madonna

60. When The Children Cry, White Lion

61. 18 And Life, Skid Row

62. I Don't Want Your Love, Duran Duran [so over it]

63. Second Chances, .38 Special

64. The Way You Love Me, Karyn White

65. Funky Cold Medina, Tone Loc [drunk again]

66. In Your Room, Bangles

67. Miss You Like Crazy, Natalie Cole

68. Love Song, Cure

69. Secret Rendesvous, Karyn White

70. Angel Eyes, Jeff Healey Band

71. Patience, Guns N' Roses

72. Walk On Water, Eddie Money

73. Cover Girl, New Kids On The Block

74. Welcome To The Jungle, Guns N' Roses

75. Shower Me With Your Love, Surface

76. Stand, R.E.M.

77. Close My Eyes Forever, Lita Ford

78. All This Time, Tiffany

79. After All, Cher and Peter Cetera

80. Roni, Bobby Brown

81. Love In An Elevator, Aerosmith

82. Lay Your Hands On Me, Bon Jovi

83. This Promise, When In Rome

84. What I Am, Edie Brickell and The New Bohemians [hippie bullshit]

85. I Remember Holding You, Boys Club

86. Paradise City, Guns N' Roses

87. Iwanna Have Some Fun, Samantha Fox

88. She Wants To Dance With Me, Rick Astley

89. Dreamin', Vanessa Williams

90. It's No Crime, Babyface

91. Poison, Alice Cooper

92. This Time I Know It's For Real, Donna Summer

93. Smooth Criminal, Michael Jackson

94. Heavan Help Me, Deon Estus

95. Rock Wit'cha, Bobby Brown

96. Thinking Of You, Sa-fire

97. What You Don't Know, Expose

98. Surrender To Me, Ann Wilson and Robin Zander [oh Robin, how could you?]

99. The End Of The Innocence, Don Henley

100. Keep On Movin', Soul II Soul

Posted by binky at 07:31 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Basra Goes from Bad to Worse

George Bush's plan to make Iraq into an authoritarian, theocratic Islamic state in which people (especially secular professionals and, among others, Christians) live in constant fear of being tortured and killed by murderous government agents continues to meet with great success.

What? That wasn't the plan?

Well, sadly, that is what seems to be happening.

It is not just Sunnis who are being targeted in this majority Shia city, the professor said, but other Shia as well. All professors - particularly those interested in politics, like himself - are in danger. And not just professors, but judges, and doctors and journalists. And politicians who are seen as secular alternatives to the clergy now in power. And those, especially women, who work for foreigners. And Christians. U.S. and Iraqi sources say it is often police intelligence officers who commit the killings.

Am I the only person who's starting to wonder if we are going to have to invade Iraq again before with invade Iran. Oh, wait, we are still there. And yet this still goes on. Lovely new government we are supporting, no? If this is those who are "with us" .... well, just exactly what kind of measures is the president using to define that whole with us/against us thing?

Posted by armand at 04:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Plan B "Indefinitely Postponed"

Yet another sign that radical clerics control social policies here in the US, and that the Bush administration has no interest in upholding the law if it's politically inconvenient to do so ...

On Friday, the food and drug commissioner, Lester M. Crawford, announced that he would indefinitely postpone a ruling on Plan B, the morning-after pill made by Barr Laboratories. He explained that while the science supported over-the-counter access for women 17 and older, the agency had not figured out how to do that without younger teenagers getting the pills ...

Under federal regulations, the Food and Drug Administration was required to reach a decision on Plan B by January. Nothing happened. Indeed, Barr executives said they had no discussions with the agency after January. Usually when the agency is actively considering an application, there is a constant back-and-forth with the company.

I wish a majority of the voters in Ohio had thought it was important to elect a president who thought that the people should be charge of making their own health care decisions.

Posted by armand at 11:38 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

The Coming Candidacy of Mark Warner

I attended the West Virginia Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Charleston on Saturday night. The featured speaker was Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia. Having now seen Warner in person I can make the following two statements with certainty. First, he is running for president. Secondly, while Senator Clinton must be considered the front-runner for the party's nomination in 2008, Warner should be a serious contender.

His campaign speech could still use some smoothing. In particular, I'd say he needs to work on its flow and drop the use of the phrase "sensible center" (the meaning is fine, but a differnt term would sound better). But he has his core campaign themes down, and I think they will find many receptive ears.

Central to his approach is the need for the Democrats to be a party in which everyone really does have a seat at the table - including blue grass and NASCAR fans. He wants to fight for every person in the country. And he wants to move the country forward, along the lines of the work he's done in Virginia: turning big budget deficits to surpluses; giving bonuses to good teachers who'll commit to staying in tough schools, be they in rural or urban areas; and strongly encouraging innovation and economic growth in a changing world economy. Actually I think that last point is one of the ones he made most effectively. Presenting a story of the kinds of changes currently going on, and talking about what we need to be doing now to keep the US succeeding at a time when we are starting to slip behind in many ways. Hard work and innovation need to be rewarded. I think he was great when he talked about how he didn't really work out as a lawyer (he's the only member of his family to go to college, but he's a Harvard Law grad), and how his first two business ventures failed, but he had a bit of success with his third - Nextel. His vision of an America that will support you if you work hard and take risks and aren't afraid to fail - I think that's something to would find support in many quarters, and something that's essential for our success as a nation. As he presents it, he makes us aware of a stark situation facing us, but at the same time reminds us of our past successes, urges us to work together, to maintain a social safety net and strong educational programs for those at all points of life, and generally to continue to move forward to bigger and better things, staying on the cutting edge.

Other lines which got a lot of applause hit on topics that Democrats should pound constantly - 1) spiraling gas prices and 2) the fact that the out of touch Republican leadership in Washington thinks that the federal government should take immediate action and get involved in the family disputes of the Schiavo family, but not act while 45 million Americans go without health care.

All in all, I think he has the makings of a strong candidate, and he made a very positive first impression.

Posted by armand at 10:55 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Katrina Update

Katrina has made landfall. (Our previous coverage here.

Keep up to date with local news channel WWL. They report that hurricane shelters are suffering major damage: "Chalmette High shelter is losing its roof, and St. Bernard High has plenty of broken windows and glass." Several other reports (CNN, MSNBC, local NO news) say that parts of the Superdome (the major shelter) roof are failing and/or peeling, though the structure should hold. They are updating the web, even though their live stream seems to be in and out.

Posted by binky at 08:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


It strikes again, this time against Bunnatine Greenhouse. She was profiled some months ago for her whistle blowing about Halliburton contracts in Vanity Fair. [bold and italics mine]

Known as a stickler for the rules on competition, Ms. Greenhouse initially received stellar performance ratings, Mr. Kohn said. But her reviews became negative at roughly the time she began objecting to decisions she saw as improperly favoring Kellogg Brown & Root, he said. Often she hand-wrote her concerns on the contract documents, a practice that corps leaders called unprofessional and confusing.

In October 2004, General Strock, citing two consecutive performance reviews that called Ms. Greenhouse an uncooperative manager, informed her that she would be demoted.

Vanity Fair has definitely been anti-Bush, and as part of that position has done a series of articles on the consequences of defying the administration. This month's issue has two articles about whistle-blowers - a translator who reported potential spying and military recruiters who admit to commiting violations to make their numbers - and the punishments they face from the Bush administration for standing up. It's worth the $4.50 to get the issue, just look for Jennifer Aniston half-naked on the cover.

Posted by binky at 01:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2005


At about this time last year, I posted about hurricane Frances. Same time, next year, and the obsession and worry are back. It turns out that the links I posted last year are permanently refreshed satellite views, and will now show you views of Katrina. They are even more frightening and awe-inspiring than of Frances, especially this one.

We are watching the web-streaming coverage from the New Orleans' CBS affiliate here, and hoping everyone gets out safely, and that those who are forced to remain ride the storm out safely. Baltar's grandparents lost a house to Hurricane Hazel, my grandparents rode out the hurricane of 1928 but our generation - luckily - has not seen such a storm. Although Andrew was destructive, mostly from winds, the death toll was relatively low, a credit to advancements in warnings and preparations. The double danger of Katrina is not just the winds of 175 mph (projected to be still at Category 4 or 5 levels on landfall) but those winds could persist for 7-14 hours. That Katrina has been slow moving is not just a threat due to the sustained winds, but also because it had time in the Gulf of Mexico to absorb heat (energy) as it dawdled, and has picked up massive amounts of water. The waves inside the eye are estimated to be 55 feet high, and could be as high 28 feet at landfall. Some areas of coastal Louisiana are scheduled for high tide at around 7am, close to the time Katrina will come ashore. This means that in addition to the pummeling of the winds, the storm surge combined with up to 15 inches rain pose a serious flood threat. Scientists at LSU have prepared a projection of what could happen as a result of the water coming into New Orleans, much of which is below sea level.

Keep up to date with information from the National Hurricane Center. Let's hope that everyone in Louisiana, especially Armand's friends and family, weathers the storm safely.

UPDATE: The newest reports (5pm EDT)) suggest rain of up to 20 inches, and hurricane force winds as far inland as Memphis.

From the National Hurricane Center:



About the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale:

Winds greater than 155 mph (135 kt or 249 km/hr). Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required. Only 3 Category Five Hurricanes have made landfall in the United States since records began: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille (1969), and Hurricane Andrew in August, 1992.

UPDATE 2: Here are some other folks blogging the hurricane.

Chris C. Mooney

Weather Underground

Dark Syde

People are discussing at Daily Kos.

The warning of the expected after-effects of the storm.

Posted by binky at 03:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 27, 2005

How Revolutionary is Rape?

Separatists in India, from the National Liberation Front of Tripura in northeast India are financing their activities by producing pornography. The people in the pornographic films are coerced "captured tribal women, and some men" who are made to participate by "boys standing around with automatic rifles and revolvers." But while forcing tribal women to have sex with them at gunpoint or carrying them away to the rebel camps is not new, using them to produce pornography certainly is.

"This seems to have started a year or two back," says local journalist Manas Paul who began legal proceedings to bring this to the notice of the authorities.

"But it is now rampant, so many of these discs are circulating all over our state and possibly in other parts of northeast India as well," he said.

But in some other northeast Indian states like Manipur, the rebels punish those who produce pornography.

In the state of Manipur, some girls who acted in porn films were shot in the legs, as were the producers.

While rape - and punishing the victims the same way as the perpetrators - is apparantly nothing new, videotaping and selling it is revolutionary.

Posted by binky at 06:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not A Good Week For Justice

You may, or may not, remember the case of a young Afghani who was taken/arrested/seized by the US military and held in Afghanistan. He died in our custody.

This week, after a military investigation and military trials, the punishments were handed down for those who were responsible for his death:

One soldier has been sentenced to two months in prison, another to three months. A third was demoted and given a letter of reprimand and a fine. A fourth was given a reduction in rank and pay.

Just as an aside, the ranks of the four soldiers were one sergent, two specialists and a private first class. No officer was charged with any crime.

I'll leave the outrage to two blogs who can both muster more than I can today, and say it better: Body and Soul and Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings.

This is America. We should act better.

Posted by baltar at 12:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Don Brash, Too Sexist to Win

Ampersand alerts us to a deliciously scathing piece in The Guardian. It seems that the challenger to New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is blaming his poor performance in an election debate on the fact that he had to debate a woman. Seriously. I'm not kidding. Apparently he just can't be direct and tough when dealing with a lady. Happily, it appears that this lame sexist is leading his party to defeat, and Prime Minister Clark should win another term in office. I wonder if that will change Brash's views of women at all?

Posted by armand at 11:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My Architect

After watching this documentary I'm left wondering why it got such good reviews. It seems as much focused on the storyteller (the architect's son) as the architect who's supposedly its focus (Louis Khan). And the picture it paints of both of men is an once incomplete and far from flattering. If the focus was on was supposed to be on their lives, I wasn't left with much in the way of interesting, meaningful insights. And if the focus was supposed to be on Khan's work, there was far too little of that. Still, it did at least offer views of some lovely designs, including two breathtaking pieces of Khan's work - the Salk Institute in La Jolla and the magnificent government center in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Posted by armand at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2005

Onze Vezes

The Guardian tells us the number of shots fired at Jean Charles de Menezes is now "correctly" stated at eleven. Eleven.

Posted by binky at 02:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Post Title I Wish I'd Thought Of

Closing their hospitals is not respecting the troops.
Posted by binky at 09:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

Hugo Chavez and Jesus

Am I the only one who remembers when people used to talk about Hugo Chavez because he name-dropped Jesus all the time? I mean, I know saying that Jesus was the first socialist is not going to endear you to those whose commitment to conservatism outweighs all other considerations, but you'd think old Pat could give a brother (Christian) a break.

Posted by binky at 10:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Ongoing Challenge for Those Who Watch Our Culture...

I have nothing to suggest for The Cunning Realist, today, but I'll be glad to take up his challenge in the future. If anyone has anything to suggest, go and let him know. It's a worthwhile project.

Posted by baltar at 08:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The lottery numbers were bad enough...

...but since when are there bible verses in fortune cookies?

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine?

Posted by binky at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I meant what I said and I said what I meant...

An elephant's faithful one hundred percent.

Publius at the Third Estate shows us what faith to the literal interpretation of the original constitution gets us:

So let's look at the real social consequences of "restoring" the Constitution (and American life) to its 1789 form:

1) Restore slavery

2) Repeal women's right to vote

3) Bar poor people from voting

4) Eliminate the standing army

Like the first four? Keep reading the whole top ten.

And yes, apologies to Dr. Seuss too.

Posted by binky at 03:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Reductio ad egomanium

The Poor Man, er, excuse me, The Poor Man Institute for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony, has a post about the fetishism of credentials in certain sectors. Just this week, I was thinking about two other fetishes.

Fetish 1: Control of comments. Good grief the time and energy spent gerrymandering sets of rules that essentially seek to legitimize the "if I don't like what you say I will delete you and then block your access to my site." The latest was the dust-up between LaShawn Barber and Pandagon in which readers who linked to Barber from Pandagon were redirected to the Teletubbies. So there you infantile liberals! Hah! The pattern: lib web site finds wacky hijinks on conservative site, writes post ripping to shreds said wacky hijinks, conservative blogger comes over swinging, lib commenters intrigued, lib commenters start commenting on conservative blog, conservative blogger deletes comments from libs, citing various and sundry subclauses of a book length policy, lib bloggers attempt to exploit loopholes in said policy, conservo blogger gets pissy and shuts the whole comment thing down, boo hoo. (Also available here. ) These examples are of women, just because they are two blogs I read regularly that had this happen, but I know it happens between male bloggers, and across genders. I read across the aisles, and my impression (from the sites I visit) is that it's the right getting snitty and banning/blocking, but the lefties don't do the same thing. Is this true?

Fetish 2: Latin and associated philosophy terms. Now don't get me wrong. I love Latin. No, really. I can tell you about Caesar conquering the Helvetians (translated in Glenna Starr's class...whereever you are Glenna you were an awesome teacher and human being). I have appropriated (shamelessly ripped off from Mike Dowd) the "how many languages even have a word for killed every tenth person?" quote. Nothing against Latin. Really. Do liberals not take philosophy? Are they not on the debate team? Or is it that they don't feel the need to work on an image that involves spouting bits of dead language? The pattern: conservative blogger finds wacky hijinks on lib blog, writes post ripping to shreds said wacky hijinks, conservative commenters go read wacky lib blog, then come back in collegial backslapping and toss around terms like "circular reasoning" and "ad hominem." (Examples here and here. And like "drawn and quartered," yes I know what ad hominem is, along with reductio ad absurdum and puella pulchra est. The libruls are always the ones getting critiqued for being elitist. What, the common red stater studies Latin? Or is it lawyer-wannabe-ism?

Posted by binky at 12:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Pervez confirms that Khan helped out North Korea. How do you suppose Dear Leader feels about Khan?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling desperate

For the ends of Being and nuclear weapons.

I love thee to the level of everyday's

Most quiet need, to support North Korea's missile aspirations.

I love thee freely, as men strive for nukes;

I love thee purely, as they turn from treaties.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In constructing centrifuges, with thy enrichment.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost nuclear secrets, --- I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if Dear Leader choose,

I shall but love thee better after death and nuclear winter.

Posted by binky at 12:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Believe I Hear the Faint Sound of Civil War...

Via the New York Times, we get the initial rumblings of the avalanche that is to come:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 25 - The National Assembly today called off a meeting that was scheduled to decide on the draft constitution, the Speaker's office said, and no new date for the meeting was immediately announced.
A vote on the document was originally deferred Monday by the Speaker, Hajim al-Hassani, who said three days of talks would be held to try to win over Sunni Arab negotiators.
It appears, however, that no agreement has been reached so far with the Sunnis on the question of federalism, which would essentially set up powerful local regions instead of a strong central government.

The article goes on to point out that there are two options: vote the present constitution (which the Sunni's hate, and would lead to civil war) or wait and try to convince the Sunnis to sign on (which makes the central government look weak, encourages more violence, and is technically illegal, which also makes them look weak, and encourages violence). Neither option is "high quality."

I suspect everyone is screwed. That includes us.

Posted by baltar at 11:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Long Term Impacts of the Flu

Alex Tabarrok has this post over at Marginal Revolution reviewing The Great Influenza.

The great influenza of 1918 probably killed 100 million people, about five percent of the entire world's population. An even higher percentage of young people died and most shockingly all of this occured in about 12 weeks.

As is that wasn't astounding in itself, Tabarrok also links to another article that tracks the long term generation impacts of pandemic. Science is so cool.

Posted by binky at 10:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2005

OK, Now You're Pissing Me Off

Via Pandagon, I find this Associated Press report about the graves at Arlington, the national cemetary:

ARLINGTON, Va. - Unlike earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the slogan-like operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts.
Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom" at no extra charge, whether they are buried in Arlington or elsewhere. A mock-up shown to many families includes the operation names.

As far as I know, every other - every other - gravestone at Arlington is engraved with only name, rank, dates of birth and death and sometimes the conflict (in general terms: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, etc.).

It is not, in any way imaginable, appropriate to use the national cemetary in this manner. Some things, I would have thought, are beyond the pale. I thought wrong.

Whomever thought this up needs to be drawn and quartered. And yes, I know what that means.

Posted by baltar at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Just Wanted To Relive A Moment...

Nobody panic, I just wanted to unearth a Koufax-nominated post from Rude Pundit post from just before the second Presidential Debate; this was only about nine months ago. Oh, how the world can change.

No motive here; just wanted to find this, which I remembed as being fairly funny.

Posted by baltar at 09:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cool enough yet?

Everyone else has been on this bandwagon for awhile now, but I couldn't touch it for fear of boiling over:

“Women’s social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy. We hope they’re there, I think they will be there, but I think we need to [put this into] perspective.”

No, wait. I'm still too hot to discuss it. I'll leave it to you to just ponder the flabbergastingly baldfaced indifference.

UPDATE: For a summary of articles read Billmon's post.

Posted by binky at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Running Heaters in August?

I was thrilled to walk outside this morning and confront an almost chilly breeze. It's an all too rare delight this time of year. But I wish my employers hadn't overreacted to it. I realize it was 55 this morning. But ya'll, it's going to hit at least 80 today so please turn off the heaters in this building. They shouldn't have been switched on in the first place.

Posted by armand at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Truth and Consequences

When the facts are inconvient or ugly, suppress them. If you have employees who refuse to play along and remain wedded to the truth, threaten to take away their pension. This is the consequence threatened to Lawrence A. Greenfeld of the Justic Department of Justice when he refused to conceal the truth about a study on racial profiling.

The demotion of the official, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, whom President Bush named in 2001 to lead the Bureau of Justice Statistics, caps more than three years of simmering tensions over charges of political interference at the agency. And it has stirred anger and tumult among many Justice Department statisticians, who say their independence in analyzing important law enforcement data has been compromised.
Officials at the White House and the Justice Department said no political pressure had been exerted over the statistics branch. But they declined to discuss the job status of Mr. Greenfeld, who told his staff several weeks ago that he had been asked to move on after 23 years of generally high marks as a statistician and supervisor at the agency. Mr. Greenfeld, who was initially threatened with dismissal and the possible loss of some pension benefits, is expected to leave the agency soon for a lesser position at another agency.
With some 50 employees, the Bureau of Justice Statistics is a low-profile agency within the sprawling Justice Department. But it produces dozens of reports a year on issues like crime patterns, drug use, police tactics and prison populations and is widely cited by law enforcement officials, policy makers, social scientists and the news media. Located in an office separate from the Justice Department, it strives to be largely independent to avoid any taint of political influence.
The flashpoint in the tensions between Mr. Greenfeld and his political supervisors came four months ago, when statisticians at the agency were preparing to announce the results of a major study on traffic stops and racial profiling, which found disparities in how racial groups were treated once they were stopped by the police.
Political supervisors within the Office of Justice Programs ordered Mr. Greenfeld to delete certain references to the disparities from a news release that was drafted to announce the findings, according to more than a half-dozen Justice Department officials with knowledge of the situation. The officials, most of whom said they were supporters of Mr. Greenfeld, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.
Mr. Greenfeld refused to delete the racial references, arguing to his supervisors that the omissions would make the public announcement incomplete and misleading. Instead, the Justice Department opted not to issue a news release on the findings and posted the report online.

I'm trying to work up some moral outrage, but my worker-upper is pretty tired out by now. What is it about these statistics that they needed to be buried? Would they reflect badly on the administration's efforts to woo minority voters away from the Democrats? Or is it that the director wouldn't back down, and insisted truth was more important? The higher up who axed the full release of information has now been moved to a "senior position" in Homeland Security. That is naturally a place where toeing the line is more important than finding the truth. Sure. Right. And I've got some swampland in the 'glades to sell you.

Posted by binky at 09:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

"Shining, Happy People"

Things We Are Not Angry About.

(Has anyone noticed how on fire I am today?)

Posted by baltar at 01:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Virtual World Catches Up To The Real World

While posting the previous entry, I found this great post about the real world value of online gaming territory/stuff:

"[I]n an academic paper analyzing the circulation of goods in Sony Online's 430,000-player EverQuest…an economist calculated a full set of macro- and microeconomic statistics for the game's fantasy world, Norrath. Taking the prices fetched in the $5 million EverQuest auctions market as a reflection of in-game property values, professor Edward Castronova of Cal State Fullerton multiplied those dollar amounts by the rate at which players pile up imaginary inventory and came up with an average hourly income of $3.42. He calculated Norrath's GNP at $135 million -- or about the same, per capita, as Bulgaria's. In other words, assuming roughly proportional numbers for other major online role-playing games… the workforce toiling away in these imaginary worlds generates more than $300 million in real wealth each year."
Even more alarming, however, is the fact that this virtual economy has begun to employ exploitative methods more commonly found in the "real world." In a recent U.S. court case, a member of the online gaming world of EverQuest sued Sony Online for its newly enacted ban of virtual object trading. During the course of the case it came to light that the plaintiff had been running a series of Mexican sweatshops in which workers were paid to play these online role-playing games and to virtually farm, forage, and otherwise produce virtual objects that were then sold for real U.S. currency on E-bay and other online trading houses. And this is hardly an isolated incident. According to an article by Tim Guest , in mainland China "people are employed to play the games [from] nine to five, scoring virtual booty which IGE [Internet Gaming Entertainment] can sell on at a profit to Western buyers." And a California-based company known as was employing Romanians to play MMORPGs for ten hours a day, earning $5.40 a day, or the equivalent of $0.54 an hour.

This is really cool. (Not, I mean, the virtual-sweatshops, but the fact that A)people pay money for non-real online things and B)people do research about it. I need a new job. Hey, do you think I could publish a paper seeing if online "states" act like real world states? Or look for Realism, Liberalism, or Constructivism? Hmmmm, it might be a really good test of systemic constructivism, actually...)

(PS - I attempted originally just to put this up as a comment on the previous post of mine, but Movable Type rejected it for "questionable content". I don't see any, but I got sick of fighting with the program. Anyone else had any problems with the comments?

Posted by baltar at 12:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Last of Sheila

I finally watched this classic murder mystery/game/puzzle film from the 1970's last night. Written by Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame) and Stephen Sondheim (the king of musical theater in the USA), this film involves 7 people. James Coburn invites six others to a week-long vacation on his yacht off the South of France. Once there, his guests are forced to play an elaborate game in which they are supposed to learn the secrets of the other guests/players. As one would expect in this kind of thing, a murder occurs, and one is soon wondering just how many games are going on simultaneously.

It's beautifully and effectively shot, and includes a classic 1970's cast. Coburn's guests are played by Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, Ian McShane, Raquel Welch and Joan Hackett. The script is intricate, and it really does keep you guessing - but at the same time it doesn't exactly cheat. There's one thing that struck me as pretty unlikely. But if you pay careful attention, you may be able to figure out the game(s). So if are into solving these kinds of puzzles, or just want a classic drawing-room (or secluded yacht, in this case) mystery to divert you for two hours, this might be something you'd enjoy.

Posted by armand at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

J.S. Mill, Free Will, and Terrorism

Via Majikthise, a very interesting essay on free will, reponsisbility, terrorism and Mill's "most similar systems and most different systems" research design.

Pretty cool.

Posted by baltar at 12:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Finding a Home for the Battleship Iowa

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has blocked an attempt to move the retired battleship Iowa to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. I agree with Professor Volokh on this. There may be some perfectly reasonable arguments against supporting this tied to logistics or financing issues - but blocking what's likely to be a very popular museum piece just because a couple of people on the board don't like the war in Iraq or Don't Ask, Don't Tell is ridiculous.

Posted by armand at 12:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

This Is Not Democracy

I realize that democracy may not be necessay to achieve the minimal set of goals for the US in Iraq, but I'm not sure we're making out job any easier by not even pretending to be democratic:

The head of the committee drafting Iraq's constitution said Tuesday that three days are not enough to win over the Sunni Arabs, and the document they rejected may ultimately have to be approved by parliament as is and submitted to the people in a referendum.cite


The 15 Sunni members of the drafting committee issued a statement saying they had rejected the proposal because the government and the committee did not abide by an agreement for consensus. They said agreement on the document was still far off.

See, if we still want to attempt an actual democracy in Iraq, you can't piss off the Sunnis (who are already the main force behind the insurgency). This will just drive the moderate Sunnis to take up arms and redouble the fighting, this time pointing more clearly towards civil war. You'll need to force (not just twist their arms) them to accept a Constitution that the Sunnis will accept. The price of this is to annoy further the Shiites and Kurds - which is dangerous, and may backfire into violence (al Sadr is still out there somewhere).

And if we don't really care about democracy, and just want stability, then stop pretending: cut the Kurds lose, give the Shiites some tanks and weapons, and wait for the insurgency to end (lots of dead Sunnis this way, but that's what stability requires).

You can't have both (or, rather, neither): the Shiites aren't going to write, much less accept, the constitution that the Sunnis want. They aren't going to work this out, peacefully, on their own. So, we need to pick one, or the other.

Posted by baltar at 10:51 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Just Take 'Em Out

You know, it's easier that way:

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if [Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.


We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

Watch Pat Robertson say it here. Via Pandagon

Posted by binky at 09:44 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Another Excellent Entourage

I suppose most blogging done today about last night's shows on HBO will be focused on the series finale of Six Feet Under. That was good and everything (well, aside from the truly terrible make-up jobs done at the end) - oddly uplifting for that show, and I really liked what they did with Ruth and Claire and Ted. The David stuff was ridiculous, and I wish that Brenda and Billy would have been handled a bit differently, but on the whole it was quite a good finale. But for me what really stole the night was the very funny episode of Entourage that followed SFU. SFU might be gone, but as long as Entourage is around there is still a very good reason to watch HBO on Sunday nights.

Posted by armand at 11:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michelle Yeoh

I watched the simply superb Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon again last night. I probably hadn't seen it in a couple of years - too long. The film has a host of strengths, but I'll simply be shallow for a moment and note the following - even in those cumbersome outfits you can still tell that Michelle Yeoh is probably one of the sexiest women on the planet. That's something of an accomplishment in and of itself, albeit one that's possibly exceeded by many of the films other virtues.

Posted by armand at 11:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sen. Jon Kyl in Trouble in Arizona?

I sure hope so, and the latest polling there seems to indicate that. His challenger is still largely unknown, so his numbers aren't that important at this stage - but Kyl's are far from strong for a two-term incumbent. Of course this could be somewhat temporary, related to the president's poor poll numbers. But then again, those might not be temporary. And next year there will be a very strong Democrat, Gov. Janet Napolitano, at the top of the ballot in Arizona - and the findings that gubenatorial races have at least a small pull/drag effect on down ballot races is pretty strong. This race definitely bears watching.

Posted by armand at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2005

And This Is Capitalism...How?

Since this involves Wal-Mart and Garth Brooks, I shouldn't give a damn, but this is just wrong:

Wal-Mart will soon be ropin' in Garth Brooks.
The country superstar has signed a deal with the retail chain that will make Wal-Mart and its subsidiaries, Sam's Club and, the only place fans will be able to purchase Brooks' entire catalog of music for the indefinite future.
"We understand the Wal-Mart customer and know that bringing them Garth Brooks exclusives in the upcoming years is something that'll excite them as much as it excites us," says Wal-Mart vice president David Porter in a statement. (cite)

I think that last paragraph says everything about a "Wal-Mart shopper" that needs to be said.

Seriously, this is a bad trend for music. Exclusive contracts with stores inevitably reduce competition and choice. That's not good in a capitalist sense, nor good for the state of music as an art form.

Posted by baltar at 04:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Follies in Concert

Being Bloodless Coup's biggest (maybe only) fan of musical theater, I decided to rent Follies in Concert last week. Perhaps I'm more a Stephen Sondheim fan than a musicals fan, hence the choice. Now I'd long heard that Follies was one of Sondheim's weaker shows, so I had felt no strong urge to see it - and having now watched it (or a concert featuring Broadway stars singing songs from the show - this isn't actually a filmed version of the musical), that view was appropriate. It's not that it's bad. It's just not especially interesting and I actually found myself fast-forwarding through a few of the numbers. I think he's done much better work. Still if you are a true Sondheim devotee it's something you should probably see (and you probably already have). And actually if you are really interested in Broadway in the 1980's, it's probably worth watching just for the stellar cast (Mandy Patinkin, Barbara Cook, Carol Burnett, Elaine Stritch, and the list goes on and on). Personally, I thought Lee Remick stole the show, but then that could just be the result of her having my two favorite songs - "Could I Leave You" and "The Story of Lucy & Jessie".

Posted by armand at 02:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Militias in Iraq

"Shiite and Kurdish militias, often operating as part of Iraqi government security forces, have carried out a wave of abductions, assassinations and other acts of intimidation, consolidating their control over territory across northern and southern Iraq and deepening the country's divide along ethnic and sectarian lines, according to political leaders, families of the victims, human rights activists and Iraqi officials."

"While Iraqi representatives wrangle over the drafting of a constitution in Baghdad, the militias, and the Shiite and Kurdish parties that control them, are creating their own institutions of authority, unaccountable to elected governments, the activists and officials said ..."

"I don't see any difference between Saddam and the way the Kurds are running things here," said Nahrain Toma, who heads a human rights organization, Bethnahrain, which has offices in northern Iraq and has faced several death threats. Toma said the tactics were eroding what remained of U.S. credibility as the militias operate under what many Iraqis view as the blessing of American and British forces. "Nobody wants anything to do with the Americans anymore," she said. "Why? Because they gave the power to the Kurds and to the Shiites. No one else has any rights."

If you are even remotely interested in Iraq, this article is a must-read. Hilzoy has a terrific post up on how we got ourselves into this mess.

Posted by armand at 01:54 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Bush Administration: Pro-Theocracy?

No, not here (or not just here). I mean in Iraq. Perhaps they are just trying to get a constitution - any constitution - agreed to. Or perhaps they just want a bigger role for religion (any religion) in government. Either way, this does not bode well for many Iraqis. And you've got to think that a fair number of Americans aren't going to be thrilled that American blood is being spilled to put a government like that in power.

Posted by armand at 01:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 20, 2005

What To Do About Iraq

The public opinion polls on Iraq have shrunk to all-time lows, and the American Public is getting antsy about how, when, and where this whole Iraq adventure will come to some sort of conclusion.

Kevin Drum, over at Washington Monthly, has challenged war supporters to:

So: if you do believe we can win in Iraq, let's hear what you mean by "win" and how you think we can do it, and let's hear it in clear and compelling declarative sentences. "Stay the course" isn't enough. What Bush is doing now obviously isn't working, so what would you do that's significantly different?

I don't consider myself quite a "war supporter", but I'll play this game. I think we need all the good ideas we can push together at this point: failure to "succeed" in Iraq is likely to leave the Middle East worse off, our global security worse off, and increase the threat of Islamic fundamentalism as a terrorist organization everywhere in the world. The stakes really couldn't get much higher.

Recognize the assumptions in Kevin's game: "What Bush is doing now obviously isn't working, so what would you do that's significantly different?" As part of the rules here, the unchallengable assumption is that the present plan isn't succeeding (now), and won't bring success in the future. Hence, what would you do differently to achieve success, and how do you define that success.

Other people have rejected these assumptions. There's a fairly long screaming catfight over at Obsidian Wings where Von has argued that Bush's present plan might just work, and Kevin's original game has no winning hands.

I don't agree with Von - it seems like what we are doing now isn't working fast enough to achieve success before the American Public Opinion forces either a complete or partial withdrawl. In other words, while I'm not convinced that Bush's present Iraqi policies are really working, it is at least clear that they are not working fast enough to satisfy the average American. Hence, I think they can be termed failures (since, if we are forced by our own public opinion to withdraw, that would clearly be a failure no matter how one defines success). So, I'll play Kevin's game:

What is Success: Success, at this point, is defined as a stable Iraq that is not hostile to US interests in the region. I am tossing out the window right at the outset any idea of democracy, a US-like bill of rights, and a secular goverment. Those would have been nice, but were historically unlikely. I don't want to argue about whether different US policies in the past twenty-eight months might have produced any of those outcomes; Iraq has no (zero) historical tradition of democracy, western-style freedoms and rights, the rule of law. Saddam pushed a secular agenda (mostly because he didn't want to compete with Islam for the support of his people, and didn't want to allow a flourishing religion as an alternative to his government), so there is still an outside chance at a non-religious/partially secular regime. I wouldn't hold my breath, and I'm not defining it as part of "winning". Winning is, simply, a government that won't take any active measures against US policy in the region (it won't overtly try to overthrow the Saudi Monarchy, prop up Bathist Syria, or help funnel nuclear secrets to Iran, or officially endorse/support Al Qaeda camps/infrastructure in it's territory, for example) or passively allow other organization to work against US interests (i.e., no Al Qaeda recruiters wandering around freely). In short, Iraq should be neutral. They will not help us, but they will not hurt us. They will not help those states who are opposed to our policies, but they will oppose them either. This is a very limited definition of "success", but one that still leaves us better off than Iraq under Saddam (who did work to oppose our regional interests).

How do we achieve this success? Not easily. However, there are steps, policies and options that increase the chances of achieving success.

Increase the troop strength. We presently have about 130,000 soldiers on the ground. This is clearly insufficient. There are still significant areas of the country that are unpatrolled on a regular basis, and these provide locations for insurgent individuals/units to plan, organize, stockpile and prepare to fight us. This cannot continue. The solution is to bring more soldiers into the fight. The US could, while the army is generally streched pretty thin these days, "surge" some extra regular-army (shorten the down time for units that have returned from Iraq, or send some earlier than scheduled) or national guard (call up extra units) units into Iraq. This is a short-term option, as the army cannot sustain that sort of operational tempo for the long term (people burn out, equipment breaks, etc.). However, for some time, we should be able to put more soldiers on the ground, which will help the ongoing fight. Recognize the assumptions of this plan: the US would not have any significant foot soldiers to use if another conflict were to break out elsewhere. We could still bomb the crap out of anyone who wants to start a fight with us, but that's about all we could do. However, assuming we're not expecting a war elsewhere, we could do this. An additional advantage of this plan is that it keeps units and individuals in Iraq for longer than the one-year deployments now being done. As it stands, units and individuals are just becoming comfortable in their operational areas before they are yanked out and brought home, and their intimate knowledge of the area they have worked goes with them. Leaving units and individuals longer in Iraq increases the efficiency of the army on the ground.

Fire Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld is politically opposed to a large army. He fought it before 9/11, and has championed the idea of "shock and awe". He believes that a high-tech, wired, educated small force can accomplish more than a massive, ponderous, long-logistical-train regular army can. He proved his point in short war that defeated Saddam's army. Since then, reality has come crashing down. Sure, a small, highly trained, superbly equipped army might be able to destroy another traditional army, but you cannot replace "boots on the ground". His ideas are not so much wrong, as grounded on oncorrect assumptions. We won't be fighting anybody's regular army anytime soon. We need (for Iraq, for Afghanistan, for failed states in Africa, etc.) an army of nation-builders, not a division of super-soldiers. Hence, get rid of him, and find someone to head the army we need, not the army we can't use.

Increase the number of active allies. I realize we are not thought of highly in the world, but an Iraq that collapses into chaos and civil war harms everyone, not just us. We need to go, hat in hand, to allies of ours and make the case for other countries to put troops on the ground. The "surge" that we can accomplish by stretching our army is only temporary - it cannot be sustained indefinately. However, it does give us some breathing room to let diplomacy gain us states willing to actively help our effort. However, to gain the trust of the states who can help us (we don't really need Paraguay's help, since they can't send enough troops to make a difference, for example), we will need to make actual diplomatic concessions to other states' interests. These include:

Sign the ICC treaty. The US has refused to sign onto the International Criminal Courts, for fear of the US being prosecuted for something, somewhere. This is unlikely. In any event, this is important to the rest of the world, and we should do it for that reason.
Reinvoke the ABM treaty, and give up our National Missile Defense. The US removed itself from a long-standing international treaty that bans anti-ballistic missle defenses, and is actively building a missile site in Alaska. There are tremendous technological hurdles to this, but more importantly the US policy position makes Russia, China and most of Europe nervous. Since those are states that could contribute soldiers to combat the insurgency, we should change our policy. There are good arguments that National Missile Defense actually makes us less safe (starts a destabilizing arms race in the rest of the world), but the real reason to give it up is to gain favor with allies that can help our position in Iraq.
Actively promote and lobby for the United Nations to head the political efforts to create an Iraqi government. One of the rest of the world's strongest objections to the US in Iraq is how the US has ignored the feelings, considerations, suggestions and objections of the region and world. I'm not arguing that we didn't have good reason to, only that if we expect the rest of the world to actively assist us in Iraq, we will need to cede control over the political process to a mutually-acceptable neutral body - the United Nations. Very simply, if we expect other states to participate in putting down the insurgency, those other states should have some legitimate and real say in the process (political, economic, etc.) of rebuilding the country.
Become actively engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Things there actually seem to be going well, right now. However, the wheels have come off before (and likely will again). We need to be prepared to force both the Israelis and Palestinians to make concessions to find a permenant settlement that leaves a lasting peace. This will go along way towards reducing the hostility against the US in the region. The Israeli-Palestinian issue is a club that almost all the Arab states beat us with. If we solve it (or at least actively participate) then that club is removed, and tensions in the region will fall. That will make it easier for Arab states to work with the US in Iraq, and if we can get Arab governments actively working to fix Iraq, things will go much better, much faster.

Before moving off to other policies, I want to make clear that I recognize that the changes I suggested to US general foreign policy are not ones that are necessarily helpful or beneficial to the US. I clearly see that. However, the focus was on making changes that other states would see as beneficial to them, and thus (in a quid-pro-quo sense) gain us active allies to help us achieve "success" in Iraq. These policy changes are means to an end: ways to gain us additional allies and help in Iraq.

Ally ourselves more closely with the Shiites in Iraq With respect to Iraq itself, we should push the interest of the Shiite majority, even if this comes at the expense of the Kurds and the Sunnis. Remeber, success is stability and neutrality, not democracy and freedom. Empowering the Shiites (while not actively disparaging the other elements) creates relative good-will among the Shiite leaders, who will likely end up ruling the place anyway. If we can make friends with them, even as we see them pushing the government in ways that are not appropriate (role of women, role of religion, friendliness to Iran, oil revenues, etc.), then the future sovereign government of Iraq is significantly more likely to hold to a neutral line and avoid conflict with us. We propped up Marcos, Batista, Pinochet and the Shah during the Cold War; why should propping up the goverment that the majority of the country actually wants bother us?

I'm not convinced this plan will succeed, but I think it will increase the chances of "success" (not winning as Bush has defined it) in Iraq. I also recognize that not all of these policies are optimal for the US. However, this is all about a trade-off: if Iraq falls into a civil war, with chaos and active Al Qaeda train camps, that's much worse for overall US foreign policy than any of the "give-aways" I've detailed above. This is about making the best of a bad situation, and these ideas at least bring success closer than thte present policies.

Posted by baltar at 01:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 19, 2005

What's the Matter With Kline?

The latest round of political activity by the right-wing leadership of the Kansas GOP features a suit by the state Attorney General against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Attorney General Kline wants to block Medicaid funding for abortions in Kansas.

The state is allowed to pay for abortions in instances of rape, incest or the life of the woman is endangered. The money comes from Medicaid, a federal- and state-funded program that provides health care to low-income Kansans.

Since October, the state has allocated $1,907 for seven of these abortions, state officials said. In the year before that, it was $999 for three abortions.

So if you are poor and raped and want to end your pregnancy, or your life is endangered by your pregnancy, well, Kline's basically giving a big old F.U. to the poor women who find themselves in that circumstance. He trusts his own judgment over the views of those women, and he's gonna see to it that those fertilized eggs are protected - no matter how many lives he has to destroy in the process.

Posted by armand at 01:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pope Endorses Reelection of President Mubarak

When we hear of religious leaders staking out public positions in the politics of Arab countries, most people think of leading Islamic figures pushing for the support of certain policies or political leaders - but of course Christian leaders do it too.

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


And you thought people shared too much information on MySpace and Friendster. Now you can bare your sexual past on shagster, and find out who is in your sex network, among other things. " is a site to keep track of your sexual conquests, and give them a rating out of 10 for their troubles." Oh boy!

Posted by binky at 09:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 18, 2005

Freedom, Democracy, and Sept. 11th

Via Crooked Timber, I'll just pass along an ongoing grassroots effort called The September Project:

The September Project is a grassroots effort to encourage public events on freedom, democracy, and citizenship in libraries on or around September 11. Libraries around the world are organizing public and campus events, such as: displays about human rights and historical documents; talks and performances about freedom and cultural difference; and film screenings about issues that matter.

They have a helpful map that shows which librarys are participating. For those near to one of the planned events, I would encourage a visit. As I have argued before, our democracy and the freedoms it is based on are historically rare, and worthy of protecting and discussing at the same time.

Noted without comment: there are no participating libraries in West Virginia, where I happen to reside.

Posted by baltar at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lord Adonis

When Tony Blair created the latest batch of life peers I overlooked the fact that Andrew Adonis was among them. I'm certainly not disparaging his title, but could any man really live up to being known as "Lord Adonis". Well, sure, I suppose. But somehow I doubt a 40-something British politico is likely to live up to the image that name conveys.

Posted by armand at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's Time to Beat Dan Lipinski and Henry Cuellar

There are two freshmen Democrats that I (really, really, really) want to see defeated in their primaries next year. "Cave man" Dan Lipinski (a reactionary social conservative who only has his job because of an egregious act of nepotism) is an utter embarrassment given many of the good things the Democratic Party stands for. In 2004 Henry Cuellar knocked out former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez in a very fishy primary election. He's got two strong candidates running against him - Rodriguez and Richard Raymond - and they are both winning the support of a variety of current and former members of the US House. Here's hoping Democratic challengers send these men packing next year.

Posted by armand at 11:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Boo Hoo Baby

Does he honestly think anyone feels sorry for him?

In "Herding Cats, A Lifetime in Politics," Lott wrote that Sen. Bill Frist, his successor as majority leader, was one of the "main manipulators" in the events that resulted in his own loss of power. Lott lost his post in 2002 after making racially tinged remarks at a 100th birthday party for one-time segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond.
Frist's actions amounted to a "personal betrayal," Lott wrote. "I had taken him under my wing. ... He was my protege. ... We'd been friends off and on the floor, and that's pretty rare in a governmental body loaded with lone wolves and enormous egos."

Posted by binky at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Baby's First Steps

Bloodless Coup has had over ten thousand visits. It seems like a milestone worth commemorating. Thanks for reading!

Posted by binky at 08:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2005

George, are you listening?

And it's not just the liberals talking. Four senators - democrats and republicans - went to Canada's Yukon Territory and northern Alaska. They have a few observations.

Fresh from visits to Canada's Yukon Territory and Alaska's northernmost city, four U.S. senators said on Wednesday that signs of rising temperatures on Earth are obvious and they called on Congress to act.
"If you can go to the Native people and walk away with any doubt about what's going on, I just think you're not listening," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

He's a uniter, not a divider, and this looks like a perfect opportunity to get both sides of the aisle (not to mention the entire scientific community and the rest of the world) to pay attention. Are you listening, George?

Posted by binky at 07:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Time Warp

Kos goes back in time for comments about Clinton's commitment to U.S. intervention in Bosnia:

"You can support the troops but not the president." --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)
"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years." --Joe Scarborough (R-FL)
"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?" --Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99
"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy." --Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)


"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today" --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)
"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." --Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

And a thousand pardons for the dropoff in original content the last couple of days. School starts in days, and we are all staring into the maelstrom.

Posted by binky at 05:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Our Beautiful and Unusual Galaxy

There have been new scientific discoveries about the nature of the Milky Way. It is a barred spiral, and the bar is much longer than it was previously thought to be. Click on this link to learn more details, and see a pretty illustration of our amazing, sparkling galaxy.

On the theological and political implications of these discoveries, the Downtown Lad responds with the following comment:

Look how vast it is. When I look at this picture, it just makes me think how idiotic it is that people are basing their entire lives on what some dude named Jesus did 2000 years ago on some dinky planet called Earth that revolves around a distant star called The Sun.

And if there really is a God, who not only reigns over this one galaxy, but trillions of others, do you really think he sits there and says to himself "I sure hope there aren't two dudes ass-fucking on that planet over there....."

Posted by armand at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005


What on earth does this have to do with "conservative and libertarian intellectual philosophy and politics"? It sounds more like how to become (or enhance your existing status as) an angry, bitter, deceitful obsessive. And of course, it's all about the man. A commenter had this to say:

a potent combination of sliming your ex for not living up to the standards of conservative morality while you bask in the absolute freedom of libertarian amorality

That seems a rather sophisticated analysis.

Via Pandagon.

Posted by binky at 11:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Armand and Lord Voldemort

Apparently, we share the same personality type. We are both INTPs according to the Myers-Briggs Typology.

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

Posted by armand at 01:13 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 15, 2005

10 Years Ago in Britpop

The BBC is starting to a series of articles on the heights of 1990's Britpop. Here they give a review of some of the highlights of the genre in 1995.

Posted by armand at 04:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thwarting God's Will

There is a lot of time and energy spent arguing about the right of women to control their own bodies, generally focused on abortion. Most people assume that the right to privacy to access safe birth control is "off the table," and that when we discuss rolling back women's autonomy, it is limited to the autonomy of those unfortunate sinners who had a birth control failure, were raped, were overwhelmed, were ill, or chose for other reasons not to to continue the pregnancy. A few of us however, being highly suspicious in nature, view that assumption with skepticism.

Jesus' General links to an op-ed by the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, that fans the flames of suspicion:

Christians must recognize that this rebellion against parenthood represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design. The Scripture points to barrenness as a great curse and children as a divine gift. The Psalmist declared: "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate." [Psalm 127: 3-5]
Morally speaking, the epidemic in this regard has nothing to do with those married couples who desire children but are for any reason unable to have them [ed. note: but apparently they remain "cursed" according to the previous paragraph], but in those who are fully capable of having children but reject this intrusion in their lifestyle.


The Scripture does not even envision married couples who choose not to have children. The shocking reality is that some Christians have bought into this lifestyle and claim childlessness as a legitimate option. The rise of modern contraceptives has made this technologically possible. But the fact remains that though childlessness may be made possible by the contraceptive revolution, it remains a form of rebellion against God's design and order.


The church should insist that the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children. This reminds us of our responsibility to raise boys to be husbands and fathers and girls to be wives and mothers. God's glory is seen in this, for the family is a critical arena where the glory of God is either displayed or denied. It is just as simple as that.
The church must help this society regain its sanity on the gift of children. Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex -- but not children -- is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children. That is just the way it is. No kidding.

It's not just anti-abortion position, it's a pro-fecundity position. It's not just "the gays" who offend, it's all non-procreative relationships. Now that we're clear, marriage is between one man who is a daddy and one woman who is a mommy. And any interference with fertility is rebellion against Big Daddy. Got it?

Maybe with as many children as their poor exhausted uteruses can pump out, these rebellious bitches - because of course, in this view women would be no better than bitches in heat - will be too tired to vote and mobilize to protect their rights.

Posted by binky at 12:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Skyrocketing Gas Prices

Why hasn't the president caught more criticism for this? It's not that I think he can wave a magic wand and lower prices. But that he doesn't appear to be doing anything of note to even try to fix the problem - that seems well worth criticizing. And the silence is really rather astonishing - even most Democrats are quiet on this. Is it just that as long as his base loves him the president doesn't need to, you know, work - and that his base would probably still love him if he woke up next to three dead hookers and dined on their bodies for breakfast while American buildings burned from terrorist attacks?

Posted by armand at 12:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Organizing Book Stores

I largely agree with Jesse. I think. Organizing book stores on the basis of the personal characteristics of the author is, at the very least, confusing. Just what do you do with the works of James Baldwin in stores like this? And yeah, it does relegate too many authors to a literary ghetto. That said, there is a certain quick-shopping convenience aspect to this form of organization. But all in all, I think the criticisms of this practice are fair.

Posted by armand at 12:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cutting Crew

OK, this post is the official end to any coolness I ever had, and it dates me with great accuracy - but I've just got to say that a great big smile came across my face yesterday when "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight" came on over the radio in my car yesterday. Mid-80's Top 40 is in some ways a terrible thing - but there's something so sincere and harmless about it, and of course it's also more than a little amusing. So, well, I suppose my response was more laughing at it, than loving it. But hey, not every association I have with the music of my middle school dances is a bad one. I guess that explains why I can still endure Wham!'s "Careless Whisper" too (not that I've heard it ... since the first President Bush was in office?). I guess songs like that bring back certain comfortable feelings and provide a great target for jokes too - so I guess maybe that explains why 80's songs are in such heavy rotation in bars across America.

Of course that gets at the fact that so much of our response to music is emtional and associative rather than having anything to do with the attributes of the tunes themselves. If I had the ability to, I'd destroy every copy of "Tax Man" by The Beatles, though I'll grant you that it's a far superior song by most measures to anything made by the Cutting Crew.

And with that I'll get back to work and listening to Grandaddy (which holds no bad memories for me at all).

Posted by armand at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Baptists Against Thought

Since I criticized the Bishop of Phoenix for somewhat similar appalling behahvior yesterday, it seems appropriate to pass along this follow-and-don't-think gem posted by Amanda Marcotte.

Posted by armand at 10:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 14, 2005

The Skeleton Key

If you are looking for chills on this hot summer day, this movie might supply a few. However, if you are looking for thrills, you had best look elsewhere. This is not a horror film. Instead it is a creepy Southern drama that is heavy on the hoodoo and spanish moss ambience. Director Iain Softley (who long ago helmed Backbeat and The Wings of the Dove) does a nice job of going through all the requisite motions associated with films centered on what goes on after dark in big creaking mansions isolated in the bayou. Kate Hudson plays the overly curious and compassionate outsider appropriately, and Gena Rowlands is great as Violet, the older Southern lady who's obviously protecting crucial secrets. If you can enjoy the predictablity of it all, as well as the languid and lush surrounding, you might very well find your self amused or entertained. It's rather slight, but not bad as a retreat from the summer heat.

Posted by armand at 02:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Who says there's no progress in Afghanistan?

Not the first Mr. Afghanistan!

Posted by binky at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Phoenix Diocese Goes Off the Deep End

There are so many things to get annoyed with in terms of the direction that the Roman Catholic Church is taking of late that I'm surprised that I can still be rather stunned by some of their actions. But hey, some of the bishops continue to dive to ever new lows that even I didn't think likely. Take this, for example. The Bishop of Phoenix has banned pro-choice and pro-gay rights speakers from his churches. That those two positions are made equivalent is eyebrow-raising on its own. But really, banning anyone who holds those views from speaking at all on church property? I understand not giving them communion. I understand not letting them make comments at or disrupt a religious celebration. In other words, I understand passing rules that respect the church's position when it comes to their religious activities. But just banning anyone who might possess those views from ever speaking on church property? Making church proprerty non-free speech zones for a whole class of people just because the bishop doesn't like what someone might think? I guess that's just the way things are in Pope Ratzy's church - inching ever backwards.

Posted by armand at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 13, 2005

Do you smell what the Prez is cooking?

While craning my neck to see the wreckage as I drove by, I mean, while reading CNN this afternoon, I saw this headline: "Bush: Force last resort on Iran" and thought, huh, maybe he will be sensible about this after all. Saying that force in only a last resort sounds somewhat cautious. Then the article went on to quote the president more extensively (emphasis added):

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Israeli television he could consider using force as a last resort to press Iran to give up its nuclear program.
"All options are on the table," Bush, speaking at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, said in the interview broadcast on Saturday.
Asked if that included the use of force, Bush replied: "As I say, all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any president and you know, we've used force in the recent past to secure our country."

So, it's the last option, but it's on the table. Hope you've got a hearty appetite for what the Prez is cooking!

Posted by binky at 01:37 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Saturday News Roundup

Once again, we'll brave the pages of the thin Saturday newspapers to see what Friday announcements are flying under the radar.

First, there is the announcement (via NYT) that the new head of the FBI's National Security Unit is, surprise!, an FBI agent. Not only an FBI agent, but one who last post (only two years ago) was head of the FBI's Counterterrorism bureau, and before that, head of the Washington DC FBI office. He has no formal training in the Middle East, Islam, international politics, or foreign cultures. No problems here!

Second, we learn that in this administration it's fine to torture people, argue for extra-constitutional Presidential powers, fail to accurately describe Iraq's WMD program, or fail to plan for post-war reconstruction, but never, ever have an affair (via NYT). That's right, no one has been fired for all the screwups over the last four years, but they fired a four-star general for having an "consensual adult affair". At least the children are safe now!

A friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger (who just happened to own a couple of tabloid magazines, and be rich) paid "an alleged paramour" $20,000 not to talk about it publicly (via WaPo). I'm just as sure this is completely squeaky clean as I am that this will help his falling poll numbers.

Finally, and I realize this isn't Friday news, but will someone please explain this to me:

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon will hold a massive march and country music concert to mark the fourth anniversary of 9/11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an unusual announcement tucked into an Iraq war briefing yesterday.
"This year the Department of Defense will initiate an America Supports You Freedom Walk," Rumsfeld said, adding that the march would remind people of "the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation."
The march will start at the Pentagon, where nearly 200 people died on 9/11, and end at the National Mall with a show by country star Clint Black.

Other than the obvious insanity of this, can any tell me when the last time the US government (or a branch thereof) organized and promoted some sort of march or concert or event (Fourth of July doesn't count)? This just makes me feel creepingly fascist.

Have a good weekend!

Posted by baltar at 10:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 11, 2005

Pakistan Ups the Ante

Why is no one talking about this? I guess Pakistan test firing cruise missiles, and giving India a big "fuck you" isn't big news (it's buried in the international section on the NYT, and I couldn't find it on CNN). I wouldn't have heard of it at all if I hadn't put on the BBC at like 5:30 this morning and heard their analyst say it was in retaliation for recent coziness between the US and India. So is Musharraf going to be Bush's Saddam, created as an ally and left for us to deal with as an enemy in the future?

Posted by binky at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On the Irreversibility of Homosexuality and Men Showering With Young Boys

This week in the blogsphere much ridicule has (deservedly) been directed at Focus on the Family's "Is My Child Becoming Homosexual" post and at James Dobson's suggested cures for children with homosexual tendencies. Rarely does the radical right look quite as unhinged from reality as it does in these posts. And how can I resist piling on when such a pile of ridiculousness is right there, beckoning to be mocked? On Dobson, I am beyond flumoxed as to this "square peg" business. Does anyone have even the vaguest clue as to what that has to do with anything related to sexuality? That just confuses me. But that's nothing compared to my shock at other parts of his prescriptions. Does he really want gays, even if they are just young gays, checking out each other's packages and playing "rough-and-tumble games" with older men? That doesn't sound like Focus on the Family to me. And what if he's talking about children who have gay fathers? Is he encouraging grown gay men to shower with young boys, press up against them and play rough? I'm shocked and appalled (ok, no, I'm just amused).

The more general Focus on the Family post though is deeply troubling in a host of ways. Profoundly troubling, really. But instead of really getting into that for now, I'll just note one thing. It appears that it's the position of this group that gays are lost to homosexuality once they hit puberty. Does that really fit with the arguments of a lot of these loons on the causes of homosexuality? I thought it was that somehow youngsters were smuggled out to San Fran and locked in leather bars and presto ... or maybe that kids start prancing around, hands on their hips, if they see Just Jack for 60 seconds. This seems to suggest that they see it as something more biological than cultural. Does that strike anyone else as an unexpected position?

Posted by armand at 01:46 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Iraq Roundup

In case you weren't already depressed about the end of summer, here's some more good news from Iraq.

First, the mayor of Baghdad has been ousted in a "municipal coup d'etat" and replaced by a member of a Shiite militia.

With four days to go on the constitution a powerful group of Shiites is making a bid for an autonomous region in the "oil rich South."

There are continued fears that women's rights are going to be restricted by the new constitution.

Ah yes, pluralism on the march.

Posted by binky at 12:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Do These Ships Still "Got Fun"?

Remember back when you saw Kathie Lee singing and dancing "Ain't We Got Fun" on TV commercials for Carnival Cruise Lines? With that long-running advertising theme, it's no coincidence that their some of their liners have names like Ecstasy, Fantasy and Elation. I recently noticed though that there has been a considerable change in what they are naming their ships. Now you can also vacation on the Carnival Valor, Carnival Pride, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Victory and Carnival Glory, among others. Are these really wise choices if you are trying to sell people on your vessels' ability to provide entertainment and relaxation? It's not that I am against valor and victory - but those names hardly bring to mind eating shrimp cocktails on the Lido deck.

Posted by armand at 09:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

Michelle Malkin Can Read the Minds of Dead Soldiers?

Atrios rightly, and amusingly, smacks her for her latest foray deep into the realms of presumptuousness, bad taste, and stupidity. Hey, she can't think she's the only person who can read minds (dead or otherwise) can she?

Posted by armand at 12:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

No Sex for You, General

So no officer is disciplined for the extreme and rampant abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan, but if a general has sex he's gone. I wish I could say I was surprised, but ... ok, I'll feign being stunned and appalled at these bizarre priorities and "values". What is it with this administration, its supporters and sex?

Posted by armand at 11:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Roberts Would Uphold the Assisted Suicide Law?

That's what Sen. Ron Wyden seems to think.

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts declared that, in cases dealing with end-of-life care, he would "start with the supposition that one has the right to be left alone," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said after the two met for an hour Tuesday.

If he holds to that, I think it's a definite point in his favor.

This article notes something other important points too. It appears that Roberts is of the school that legislative history matters. Given his history, that's not too surprising. But it does suggest he could have notable differences with strict textualists. It also appears that he's a fan of the federal system as a political structure that allows for testing and innovation.

Roberts said the basic genius of the federal system is that it affords states the ability to approach problems in a way that is best suited to their different needs; imposing uniformity across the nation would stifle the intent of the founding fathers, Wyden said.
Posted by armand at 11:19 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

August 09, 2005

Two Stories from the BBC

First, a sad piece of news that has been out for a couple of days. Ibrahim Ferrer, of Buena Vista Social Club fame, passed away in Cuba this weekend. Several of the elderly musicians featured in the film have also died since the making of the film.

And on a more upbeat, if stange, side of things, an artist plans to re-create the buddhas destroyed by the Taliban using a laser light show. What I want to know is, dude, are they going to play Dark Side of the Moon too?

Posted by binky at 01:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Is This What Conservatism Is Really All About?

So, I'm reading some SciFi mindcandy Singularity Sky by Charles Stross, 2003 - it's OK. Interesting premise, not played out very well), and I stumble across this exchange at the end of the book that may, I guess, help me to understand the whole "social conservative" thing, the intelligent design debate, the push for the Patriot Act, and other red/blue debates that seems to have taken over the country. This is an exchange between Martin (a spy sent from the higher-technology, more open, democratic system; read "blue stater") and Vassily (a public security official in the heirarchical, closed, state-centric government; read "red stater"). The actual plot of the book is mostly irrelevant (Vassily starts the exchange; I've emphasized a few passages in bold):

"But information isn't free. It can't be. I mean, some things - if anyone could read anything they wanted, they might read things that would tend to deprave and corrupt them, wouldn't they? People might give exactly the same consideration to blasphemous pornography that they pay to the Bible! They could plot against the state, or each other, without the police being able to listen in and stop them!"
Martin sighed. "You're still hooked on the state thing, aren't you?" he said. "Can you just take it from me, there are other ways of organizing your civilization?"
"Well-" Vassily blinked at him in mild confusion. "Are you telling me you let information circulate freely where you come from?"
"It's not a matter of permitting it", Martin pointed out. "We had to admit that we couldn't prevent it. Trying to prevent it was worse than the disease itself."
"But, but lunatics could brew up biological weapons in their kitchens, destroy cities! Anarchists would acquire the power to overthrow the state, and nobody would be able to tell who they were or where they belonged anymore. The more foul nonsense would be spread, and nobody would stop it-" Vassily paused. "You don't believe me," he said plaintively.
"Oh, we believe you alright," Martin said grimly. "It's just - look, change isn't always bad. Sometimes freedom of speech provides a release valve for social tensions that would lead to revolution. And at other times, well - what you're protesting about boils down to a dislike for anything that disturbs the status quo. You see your government as a security blanket, a warm fluffy cover that'll protect everybody from anything bad all the time. There's a lot of that kind of thinking in your system; the idea that people who aren't kept firmly in their place will automatically behave badly. But where I come from, most people have enough common sense to avoid things that'd harm them; and those that don't, need to be taught. Censorship just drives problems underground."
"But, terrorists!"
"Yes," Martin interrupted, "terrorists. There are always people who think they're doing the right thing by inflicting misery on their enemies, kid. And you're perfectly right about brewing up biological weapons and spreading rumors. But-" He shrugged. "We can live with a low background rate of that sort of thing more easily than we can live with total surveillance and total censorship of everyone, all the time."

So, does this whole political left/right thing (at least today) really come down to safety/security versus rights/freedoms? I look at people who believe in intelligent design/creationism as truly nuts: there's mountains of science to refute their position. But that doesn't seem to matter to them. Are they resisting the facts because it challenges their beliefs (and hence, makes them feel less secure and safe)? Bill O'Reilly declared the ACLU is Bin Laden's best ally. I look at that and just shake my head. The ACLU protests (among other things, both good and bad) the government's gathering of information about everyone, and the reduction of civil liberties post-9/11. It's worrying for those of us who feel our civil liberties are a hard-won victory over hundreds of years of monarchy, totalitarianism, and slavery. How can anyone oppose civil liberties? On the other hand, we would certainly be safer (from terrorists) if no one had any.

So, does some significant part of the right-wing political power come from people who just want to feel safer? Physically safer. Mentally, emotionally safer (Don't challenge my beliefs, no matter what they are; don't make me think - I might find I don't believe something, and I'd be insecure). The future is scary and insecure, so let's resist any change. It's the government's job to take care of us (terrorism, criminals, moral decay, jobs, etc.), so let them do what they need to, and don't criticize them. Is that the mindset?

I can respect that, to some degree. Who wouldn't want to feel secure in house, job, life, friends, afterlife, and beliefs? I'm not arguing that what they want is wrong, if that's really how they think.

I'm just worried to all hell about what they'll tear down to get that security. I mean, what?, the Constitution is only 200-odd years old. It was only about 200-odd years ago that regular every-day people finally got to have freedoms and rights (the American and French Revolutions). For most of human history (some 4000 to 5000 years), the everyday person had no real rights or freedoms. No court, no laws to protect them, no government that really gave a rat's ass about them, except to beat them when they didn't produce enough rice/corn/barley/potatoes. From my historical perspective, the 200-odd years where we (the masses) do have rights is balanced precariously on thousands and thousands of years of the ugly side of humanity.

And what's propping up the last 200-odd years? Nothing, really, except the widespread (I would have said universal, but that's clearly wrong now) belief that these rights/freedoms are "inalienable" - that we are given these rights because we are human, that all humans have these rights, and that that they cannot be taken away. If most people stop believing in these "inalienable" rights, they will disappear, and we'll sink back into the normal course of history - where we don't have them. If people, today, really believe that "freedom of speech" doesn't include times of (undeclared) war, when some public criticisms of our policies, personnal and actions could be legitimately seen as aiding and abetting an unseen and unknown enemy (scarry! not secure!), then that freedom begins to be eroded (the courts can only put fingers in the dike for so long, before they bend to public passions). And we slip, ever so slightly, back into the darkness of the normal course of 4000+ years of human history. Each little battle fought, and lost, is a slip in the wrong direction. Intelligent Design in schools. Co-equal branches of government (Congress is supposed to check the executive). Objective and independent press (Fox News). Random searches in the New York subway. Total Information Awareness. Library records. "Enemy Combatants." Rendition. Each slip adds up; soon we're sliding.

I don't want to be insecure. I'm not looking forward to having someone blow me up. I'd like to live a full, healthy, happy and enjoyable life. But neither am I willing to sacrifice these hard won freedoms and rights to make my life more secure.

But that's my take on the security/freedom trade-off. And I'm beginning to think that most of the rest of this place is deciding in the other direction. Each little nibble (slip) doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice (I didn't check out any objectionable books, so why should I worry about them looking through my records?) for what is arguably a gain in security. I suppose I understand that, though I don't agree with it.

We owe it to those who sacrificed themselves hundreds of years ago, working for liberties, rights and freedoms they didn't have. We owe it to those future generations, who deserve the freedom and liberties that we so enjoy. I'm not interested in security, if it leaves me less free. The Constitution isn't a suicide pact, but neither is it a blank check.

Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and others were able to commit the horrors they did because the people were deprived of those "inalienable" rights. In most of those cases, the dictators came to power by replacing corrupt, insecure and weak governments and promising the people greater security, prosperity. They often convinced the populations (once they were in power) to give up freedoms in the name of protecting the state, and being more secure personally (Hitler: it's the Jews, let me take them; Stalin: it's the counter-revolutionaries, let the state collectivize; Pol Pot: it's cities making you weak, everyone leave now). In all of these cases, widespread death, disaster and tragedy followed.

Bin Laden may be a threat, but he's no Stalin, Mao or Hitler. Given a choice, I'll rather worry about being blown up by Bin Laden any day of the week.

Posted by baltar at 11:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More 9/11 Bombshells (Yawn)

I suspect we'll be getting more of these every year or so for a decade, but the latest information to splatter all over the pundasphere is that a US Military intelligence unit identified four of the 9/11 hijackers a year before Sept. 11th. This unit, called "Able Danger", identified Atta and three others as members of a Al Qaeda cell operating in the US. They did this in the spring/summer of 2000.

This is a very sketchily documented story. The NYT talked to US Congressperson Curt Weldon (who has a book that came out on the right-wing boutique press Regnery in June that talks about this) and a "former defense intelligence official" (that almost certainly means a civilian, since military personel wouldn't call themselves that way) who "delivered the chart [a network chart showing the links between cells] in summer 2000 to the Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla." Curt Weldon has no special information to provide (he has a book to flog), and got his information from this official (or perhaps other members of the unit).

For reasons left unexplored in the story, the information about the potential Al Qaeda cell never climbed the chain of command (the story quotes Weldon and the "official" hypothesizing that in pre-9/11 days the military was nervous about turning over info on civilians to the FBI, that's just Weldon's hypothesis), which is the important part. Lets face it, the US government's intelligence services are a huge, messy bunch. We had already turned our attention to Al Qaeda by the summer of 2000 (they had bombed two embassys and a ship, just to name two things), so it would be very surprising if info about 9/11 personel never made it to counter-terrorism people. The part that is more interesting, and seems to be missing from the story, is what the bureaucracy did with the info. We know they messed up (9/11 happened), but who messed up, why, have we fixed it, and does it work now?

I'm fairly unimpressed by this, as it seems at first blush like bad reporting on a tangential story. The bottom line facts are that the Special Operations Command (based not at the Pentagon, but near CENTCOM - the military command responsible for the Middle East - in Florida) had a very secret (at least partially civilian) group who "mined" unclassified INS and public sources to put together a tentative working network of how Al Qaeda was put together, and this group happened to find four of the 19 hijackers. The information (what overall percentage of which was accurate isn't discussed, so we don't know if they just got lucky on the four, or if they really did figure out most of the network) never seems to have left the military command in Florida (which, in and of itself, isn't unusual. The Special Ops people don't talk much to the regular military, and vice versa. It's not a surprise that they were doing intelligence work, likely as part of contingency planning since if the US ever got a fix on part of Al Qaeda, they would be the ones going in to get them, assuming we didn't use a cruise missile).

I really can't get excited over this.

Posted by baltar at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Turn of Phrase

Some of it has to with translation, of course, but Hugo Chavez continues the tradition of Communists have the best (read: strange) propaganda. From these statements at a world youth conference in Venezuela:

...Chavez said late Monday that the U.S. government, which "won't stop caressing the idea of invading Cuba or invading Venezuela," should be warned of the consequences.
"If someday they get the crazy idea of coming to invade us, we'll make them bite the dust defending the freedom of our land," Chavez said to applause.

"Caressing the idea!" Like Dr. Evil with Mr. Bigglesworth?

I'm sure these, ah, young enthusiasts can look forward to a warm welcome at customs and immigration, as well as some TLC from Homeland Security:

More than 300 students from the United States shouted out their disapproval of U.S. President George W. Bush, chanting "Get out Bush!" Other students chanted: "Bush, fascist -- you're a terrorist!"

This kind of behavior is really stupid, for so many reasons. Actively making yourself a propaganda tool for a foreign government, opening yourself up for surveillance back home, and not least, assuming that in other countries everyone has the same rights to speech that we do in the U.S.

Posted by binky at 08:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 08, 2005

Osama bin Laden and "Definitive Intelligence"

Damn those book-writing career CIA officers!

[I]n a forthcoming book, the CIA field commander for the agency's Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora—intelligence operatives had tracked him—and could have been caught. "He was there," Berntsen tells NEWSWEEK. Asked to comment on Berntsen's remarks, National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones passed on 2004 statements from former CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks. "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001," Franks wrote in an Oct. 19 New York Times op-ed. "Bin Laden was never within our grasp." Berntsen says Franks is "a great American. But he was not on the ground out there. I was."

As the Newsweek article mentions, the president denied that we knew where bin Laden was during the campaign:

Bush, Kerry charged, "didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down and kill" the leader of Al Qaeda. The president called his opponent's allegation "the worst kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking." Bush asserted that U.S. commanders on the ground did not know if bin Laden was at the mountain hideaway along the Afghan border.

The piece says that the book portrays the CIA's action on Afghanistan in heroic terms, and draws attention to the extended review process by the CIA (which they do for all former staffers who write books to restrict the accidental release of classified information.

"They're just holding the book," which is scheduled for October release, he says. "CIA officers, Special Forces and U.S. air power drove the Taliban out in 70 days. The CIA has taken roughly 80 days to clear my book."

Posted by binky at 06:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Being Manly

Everyone is talking about Cindy Sheehan waiting for the president to talk to her about soldiers dying in Iraq. Even this guy over in Manland. Yeah, ripping into a dead soldier's mom, telling her she is breaking her own son's heart. That's reeeeaaaally honorable. And further, according to more commentary over there, she is just a weak woman who obviously should be taken care of by her family, but instead has been misused by the predatory left.

On an interesting side note, when searching their archives for "Paul Hackett" to see what they thought of his opposition to the Iraq war (seeing as how instead of some weak woman he was a veteran and might have some credibility on war opposition), this came up on the search engine directions page. The mother hating becomes clear.

Posted by binky at 03:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Muchissimas gracias

To Baltar, who took the time to update our blogroll.

And in surfing some of the new links today found Kung Fu Monkey quoting a friend: "The plural of anecdote is not data." I love it!

Posted by binky at 02:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

You Might Learn Something

Regular readers know I have a love/hate relationship with CNN. I ridicule their infotainment style, but can't resist checking in to see what new frivolity vies for headline space with important world events. It's not to "Bat Boy" levels yet, but I can't resist checking to see.

I have a similar relationship with Rolling Stone. It depresses me to see all the junk - and junk music - in what used be an iconic (or "iconish" as Jessica Simpson would say) magazine. Maybe I've just grown up and the trees don't look as tall anymore. I still flip through it in line at the grocery, and will buy it if there's a P.J. O'Rourke piece, or summer tour coverage, or Flaming Lips news. That's what got me to grab the July 28 issue...some news about the upcoming At War With the Mystics, which supposedly has been influenced by the Lips doing a cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody." [note: I heard it live, and was happily surprised at how much the Lips can still "rock" also including their version of "War Pigs"].

The Rolling Stone has been sitting around the house for a while now, and I just picked it up while waiting for the computer to boot. I flipped to the inside "serious" article, about counterfeiting, a profile about a guy from Chicago who has a technique to make very passable $100 bills. A Secret Service representative said they scored 8-9 on a 10 point scale. That pretty good, considering there has only ever been one perfect ten.

Here's the "you might learn something about international affairs" part: the perfect ten is allegedly made by the North Korean government, on a machine like the one used by the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in "vast quantities." And this was just a one sentence aside in an article about a home grown counterfeiter. By this time the computer was booted up, and I did some searching to find this BBC transcript. I also found a more excitable group's view of such counterfeit activity. Apparently this has been going on since the 1980s.

Posted by binky at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 07, 2005

If Article III Groupie Ran the Judiciary Committee

While I am deeply interested in many matters related to the US Supreme Court and its justices, after having read a raft of stories about the upcoming hearings for John Roberts I fear that a lot of the questions that are likely going to be asked are going to be boring and/or silly (or to be slightly less nice about it - insipid). If only the committee included someone we could be sure would get at the truly important questions - someone like Article III Groupie. To get a sense of just how amusing her questioning could be in this circumstance check out this interview she conducted with the ultra-glamorous and fabulous Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw of the 9th Circuit.

Posted by armand at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's Unconstitutional but not Justiciable?

One thing that fits that category, according to Marty Lederman, is Amb. John Bolton. Somehow it makes the things that are wrong with him - you know, being a dangerous, mind-blowingly inept man whose every perception of what's actually going on in the world seems to be wildly inaccurate (in addition to being a mean, nasty, unkempt bully who spends too much of his time not working to achieve the ends of government but punishing his self-perceived enemies who actually have a clue about reality) - seem so much grander when you can add "unconstitutional" to the list.

Posted by armand at 12:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2005

Falwell's Idea of Education

Via California Patriot Blog, we find the list of "Reprimands and Consquences" at Liberty University. Liberty University is Jerry Falwell's institute of higher learning. Every school has conduct codes, but Liberty University's are stranger than most (edited to take out the boring ones):

$10 Fine:
Disturbance/non-participation during Convocation.
Dress/hair code violation: male or female.
Improper personal contact (anything beyond hand-holding). [Getting to third base will cost you plenty. - ed.]
Unauthorized borrowing (plus financial restitution).
Outside residence hall after curfew.
$25 Fine:
Entering entryway of opposite sex on campus or allowing the same.
Gambling. [It was OK for Bill Bennett? - ed.]
Improper social behavior. [Vague? - ed.]
Possession and/or use of tobacco.
$50 Fine:
Attendance at, possession or viewing of, an "R," "NC-17" or "X"-rated movie. [No one at Liberty has seen "Blazing Saddles". - ed.]
Entering the residence hallway of the opposite sex or allowing the same.
Entering the space above ceiling tiles. [This is worse than gambling or smoking? - ed.]
Participation in an unauthorized petition or demonstration. [There goes freedom of speech! - ed.]
Possession and/or viewing of sexually explicit material. [Does that include biology textbooks? - ed.]
Students of the opposite sex visiting alone at an off-campus residence. [Yes, you are fined if the other sex visits you in your private residence. - ed.]
$250 Fine:
Association with those consuming alcohol.
Commission of a misdemeanor.
Entering a residence hall apartment or quad of the opposite sex or allowing the same.
Entering bedroom of the opposite sex on/off campus or allowing the same.
Failure to properly identify oneself. [?? - ed.]
Racial harassment.
Sexual harassment (i.e., unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other conduct or comments of a sexual nature). [Flirting is right out, and expensive. Must make dating tough. - ed.]
Sexual misconduct and/or any state of undress. [Must make a "shirts vs. skins" football game hard. Maybe they do "bowties vs. ties"? - ed.]
$500 Fine:
Abortion. [I thought life was priceless? - ed.]
Academic dishonesty. [Morally equivalent to abortion? - ed.]
Assault/sexual assault (minimum two semesters out).
Commission/conviction of any felony. [Don't get caught shredding subpoenaed documents on your internship. - ed.]
Failure of three Christian/Community Services without reconciliation. [?? - ed.]
Illegal drugs-association/possession, use/distribution (minimum two semesters out).
Immorality. [Seems vague. - ed.]
Involvement with witchcraft, séances or other satanic or demonic activity. [No Ozzy! - ed.]
Non-participation/disruption/non-compliance (possible removal/exclusion from campus). [Must. Go. To. Church. - ed.]
Possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages. [Note: 20 times worse than smoking or gambling. - ed.]
Refusal to submit to an Alco-Sensor test and/or drug test. [They keep Breathalyzers around? - ed.]
Spending the night with a person of the opposite sex. [You saw this coming. - ed.]
Stealing or possession of stolen property (plus financial restitution; minimum two semesters out).
Two or more individuals of the opposite sex together in motel room without proper permission.
Unauthorized possession/use of weapons. [Note: not "possesion of weapon", but "Unauthorized possesion of weapon." Wouldn't want to violate anyone Second Amendment rights, now. - ed.]

For the record, if you pick up someone (let's assume opposite sex here) for a date in their dorm room, take them out for a nice dinner (and have a glass of wine), then to a real (read: R-Rated) movie, and eventually, being 19 or so, find yourself with them in a motel room with the Kama Sutra (and using it), you'd owe: four "improper personal contacts" (one for each base, $40 total), a "curfew violation ($10), opposite sex entryway violation ($25), probably an "improper social behavior" charge (a date; $25), watched an "R" movie ($50), opposite sex hallway violation ($50), out of the residence hall overnight violation ($50), viewed sexual material violation ($50), alone with opposite sex off-campus violation ($50), association with those consuming alcohol (your date: $250), opposite sex apartment violation (you picked them up: $250), there is probably some sort of immorality violation in the entire night (if you do things right: $500), you've consumed alcohol ($500), you've spent the night with someone of the opposite sex ($500), and finally you've been in a motel room with someone of the opposite sex without permission ($500).

Total cost: $2800 (plus the motel room, contraceptives - don't want to pay the abortion fine, movie, food, wine).

I can't think of anything else to say.

Posted by baltar at 05:29 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Political Scientists Respect Workers' Position in Labor Dispute

Bravo to the American Political Science Association which has chosen to move the location of its 2006 meeting from San Francisco to Philadelphia in light of a labor dispute that has roiled relations between hotel workers and their employers. It's good to see that an organization which epsouses a number of progressive goals is willing to put its money where its mouth is.

Would that all such groups did the same thing. I attended the 2004 meeting of the International Studies Association in Montreal which was held in the midst of a similar situation. It was remarkable the number of supposed friends of labor and progressive groups who had no problem at all with crossing the picket lines. There were even some who seemed somewhere between appalled and stunned that some of the rest of us considered it appropriate to skip a panel just on a silly point of principle relating to what some poor maids were paid. For example, I was berated by my former advisor (staunchly pro-life, but otherwise firmly on the left of the political spectrum) for refusing to attend mine. Thankfully, my panel's discussant was more understanding or I would have been banned from attending the conference the following year.

It's good to see APSA showing the integrity respect for its membership that ISA did not.

Posted by armand at 04:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hot Hot Heat Goodnight, Goodnight

What is it with this band and the double word thing? Anyway, a certain friend of mine made me happy this week when he mailed me Hot Hot Heat's Elevator. I don't know why I'd put off buying it for myself for so long. I mean I really love their Make Up The Breakdown, so it was natural choice to get. And now I have it. And since it was shipped to me from several thousand miles away, I'm saved walking the 60 feet off my walk to work that it would have taken to go into a store and purchase it here in town (I kid). Now I might have more to say about the album as a whole at a later time, but what is hitting me in just the right way today is "Goodnight, Goodnight" - and I have to wonder if part of it has to do with the hand clapping. Yeah, I know I have an unfortuante weakness for that at times (I did go through that The Legends phase, and I still love and adore The Magnetic Fields), but it's rarely put to such perfect dissonant use thematically as in a song that's basically a "get out of my life, and I hope the door does hit your ass on the way out" rant. It's pretty entertaining.

Posted by armand at 04:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

This is Real?!

Via Pandagon, a story about a woman in Washington state who cannot get a divorce because she is pregnant. Her husband is in jail on domestic violence charges. Lovely.

Posted by binky at 03:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More than slightly skewed

Peggy Noonan has a piece on West Virginia. Oh how quaint those poor people are! I love how she goes on about the mountains and trees. It reads like a real estate promo, which it more than likely is. She touches on the land grab, which is eating the Eastern Panhandle as urbanites pour in from D.C. and elsewhere. No mention of mountaintop removal, which is working against the "tall" state she describes. Also note the dig at Byrd...why just look at all those beautiful highways no one uses. And the one eyed man who is (gasp) actually intelligent! Condescending patronizing pap. But you can read it yourself. Via Alicublog

Posted by binky at 03:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Expecting Duncan Hunter (R-CA) to Favor Free Trade

One section of Bob Novak's column this weekend really hit home to me (again) how intensely partisan and devoid of principled action Washington has become. Apparently the House Republican leadership is extremely angry with the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, because he voted against CAFTA. They are of the view that if someone holds a committee chairmanship party loyalty should come above all else in determining how that member of the House should vote. Now they should have known better. Hunter has voted against most everything resembling free trade during his 20+ years in Congress. They might as well have asked him to vote for federal tax credits for recently-married, Communist gay couples. But the thing is, according to the leadership's position, he should have voted for that too if they'd asked him to do it. Or for a five trillion dollar ladder to the moon. Their idea is that whatever they say, a member of Congress is expected to vote for it if that member is to have any role in the leadership, or really any voice at all on the Hill. They don't have any interest in you (or apparently your constituents) unless you provide them with unquestioned loyalty. You are to do as you are told 100% of the time, or you (and those you represent apparently) are dead to them. To a degree, this has always been the case. But when we've hit a point that the leadership is outraged because a member refuses to sign on to what it's been clear for decades is something he strongly thinks is wrong and abhorrent, it does lead one to wonder what room there is for serious consideration of the issues and principled behavior - especially in this case when we are talking about outrage against a man who votes with the leadership something like 95% or 99% of the time, and has taken the lead for years on a wide variety of issues near and dear to the hearts of the far right. Is there no room for principled dissent left in Washington?

And of course this is yet another example of how the classic accounts of the organization of Congress that generations of Americans grew up learning in school are hopelessly out of date. Since Republicans took over the House the committee structure isn't nearly as firm as it once was. The power of committee chairmen has been greatly reduced, chairmen aren't selected on the basis of seniority - essentially, a vareity of institutional checks that limited the power of the party leadership have been dispensed with.

Posted by armand at 10:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 05, 2005

Red Fish Blue Fish

It breaks down in the last couple of panels, but for the most part, funny.

Posted by binky at 01:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

With Pataki Looking to '08 Instead of '06 ...

I'd be worried if I was a New Yorker. For the last 11 years the governor has had to engage in behavior that would win the support of the voters of New York. Now the key group he needs to achieve political success is different. Really different. In trying to win the support of national Republican party activists, well, the governor's veto of the morning-after pill bill could just be the start of remarkably more right-wing behavior. Pataki's still got about a year and a half in office to act this way. So gays, pro-choice groups and other perceived enemies of the Republican activists better watch their collective backs. You'd have to expect they'll be the targets of his wrath as he does what he can to convince people that he's not too moderate to get the Republican presidential nomination.

Posted by armand at 01:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Continuation of the Gremlins Thread

[NOTE: This started as a comment in the Gremlins thread, but then I started picking apart Krugman's piece and it grew to post size. For newcomers (all 2 of you?) to the discussion, the original thread was one of the many in the blogosphere criticizing the president's comments on intelligent design.]

That damn Krugman is going to have to stop reading Bloodless and writing columns about it. (just kidding, folks, just kidding). Note his discussion of the way politics work. Excerpts below with minor snippage, all emphasis mine.

Back in 1978 Mr. Kristol urged corporations to make "philanthropic contributions to scholars and institutions who are likely to advocate preservation of a strong private sector." That was delicately worded, but the clear implication was that corporations that didn't like the results of academic research, however valid, should support people willing to say something more to their liking.
Mr. Kristol led by example, using The Public Interest to promote supply-side economics, a doctrine whose central claim - that tax cuts have such miraculous positive effects on the economy that they pay for themselves - has never been backed by evidence. He would later concede, or perhaps boast, that he had a "cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit."
"Political effectiveness was the priority," he wrote in 1995, "not the accounting deficiencies of government."

OK, this is what I was talking about above. The facts about fringe theories be damned, all opinions are "equal."

Corporations followed his lead, pouring a steady stream of money into think tanks that created a sort of parallel intellectual universe, a world of "scholars" whose careers are based on toeing an ideological line, rather than on doing research that stands up to scrutiny by their peers.

I find it interesting that he doesn't mention tobacco here.

You might have thought that a strategy of creating doubt about inconvenient research results could work only in soft fields like economics. But it turns out that the strategy works equally well when deployed against the hard sciences.
The most spectacular example is the campaign to discredit research on global warming. Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, many people have the impression that the issue is still unresolved. This impression reflects the assiduous work of conservative think tanks, which produce and promote skeptical reports that look like peer-reviewed research, but aren't. And behind it all lies lavish financing from the energy industry, especially ExxonMobil.

Here, about why the average person can't always discriminate between science and propaganda. Note that this does not suggest people are unintelligent, but that they are being deliberately manipulated.

There are several reasons why fake research is so effective. One is that nonscientists sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between research and advocacy - if it's got numbers and charts in it, doesn't that make it science?

Krugman continues to explain how the mainstream media is complicit in this false dichotomy.

Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth." The headlines on many articles about the intelligent design controversy come pretty close.

And here, he gets to the meat of what I think a lot of these debates degenerate into. As baltar pointed out in his post yesterday, and has been on display in numerous comment threads in the blogophere, this argument rapidly generates into "DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO THINK!" vs "DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO BELIEVE!" As baltar said, some people are galled that they cannot make the rest of us live like they do. Others of us are galled that our thinking is not valued as much as other people's believing. Of course, each side believes the other has the wrong mechanism for achieving the final result. The respect for modernity by those of faith and and the respect for faith by "men of science" that allowed some of the great progress - as well as great disasters - of the mid-twentieth century is unraveling but it's not because the scientists are seeking to enter churches and change the bible.

Finally, the self-policing nature of science - scientific truth is determined by peer review, not public opinion - can be exploited by skilled purveyors of cultural resentment. Do virtually all biologists agree that Darwin was right? Well, that just shows that they're elitists who think they're smarter than the rest of us.

Again, calling out the anti-elitism of the opponents is right on target. And again, related to what I said in a comment to baltar's post about it being hard to be an oppressed minority when you are more than three quarters of the population, it's hard to be an "elite" when you (read:scientists and non-scientists who reject creationism) are the vast majority. Yet as explained above, that the elite are the vast majority and the pro-ID people a tiny fraction doesn't matter to those who seek to create and then politically exploit the public's confusion. This is why I focused so heavily on the idea of the much-touted 70 biologists versus literally millions of other scientists. The pro-ID claim that there are two equally valid sides to the argument. That's akin to me insisting that the sky is red while everyone else in my town says it's blue, and then making the claim that both arguments are equally valid. Let me reiterate that what I am talking about here is the cynical political exploitation of the populace in seeking to convince them that two positions are of equal scientific validity when they are not.

Which brings us, finally, to intelligent design. Some of America's most powerful politicians have a deep hatred for Darwinism. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, blamed the theory of evolution for the Columbine school shootings. But sheer political power hasn't been enough to get creationism into the school curriculum. The theory of evolution has overwhelming scientific support, and the country isn't ready - yet - to teach religious doctrine in public schools.
But what if creationists do to evolutionary theory what corporate interests did to global warming: create a widespread impression that the scientific consensus has shaky foundations?

Begging Dr. Krugman's pardon, but I think that if he still thinks it is a question of "what if" he needs to get his head out of his latest book project and pay attention to what's going on in this country.

Creationists failed when they pretended to be engaged in science, not religious indoctrination: "creation science" was too crude to fool anyone. But intelligent design, which spreads doubt about evolution without being too overtly religious, may succeed where creation science failed.
The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom.

So, you see why I teased about him reading our debates. Alas what it probably means is that we have replicated here the sum total of thousands of others. In all the above discussions I have tried to remind us to keep our eyes on the ball - the politics - despite efforts to divert the discussion to "proving" that religious beliefs stand on equal scientific footing with evolutionary theory. Note that I emphsize "equal scientific footing." I do not deny that in societies a particular religion may share footing with other religions as well as with secular ideas and morals in the self-determination of a people. This is why for centuries we have had philosphers.

And see PZ Myers if our little discussion hasn't been enough.

Posted by binky at 12:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Succumbing to Island Records

I had a truly terrifying revelation yesterday. It occurred to me that the last two albums I bought were both products of Island Records. Any indie-boy cred I ever had is probably lost forever, and I feel like I need a string of hot showers.

The bands in question are The Bravery and The Killers. The Bravery are harmless enough. They are neither especially good, nor especially bad. But they are fun and strongly aligned with the neo-New Wave thing that's going around - and that's one of my guilty (or not) pleasures. And they likely won't be noticed much for this record (true, it gotten some press, but that's never taken off) or in the future, so it's not like supporting them and introducing friends to them is going to put big bucks in the pockets of Corporate Rock.

The Killers ... well, that's something else obviously. I can't say that my earlier thoughts on them have changed much. And it's particularly striking just how mediocre their lyrics are. But as I mentioned before "Somebody Told Me" is a brilliantly executed song, so I bought that single last year, and after having heard "Smile Like You Mean It" enough times ... well, even if this band is representative of certain bad trends in the music industry, they can still produce some hypnotically catchy and rather pretty songs. And should I really let my principles get in the way of enjoying some fun music? Apparently I've decided the answer to that is no, and I'm going to buy head-bobbing tunes even if it does mean supporting the icky establishment types at Corporate Rock headquarters.

Posted by armand at 11:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Oh those funny conservative t-shirts! I've been saying essentially the same thing as this one for years. Apparently the irony is lost on the designers. First, the last thing Che would ever have supported would have been his image on a t-shirt being sold. That the shirts being parodied even exist shows the triumph of capitalism. That's a little subtle for them, I suppose. Second, just a smidge down from where they are mocking the "cult of personality" of Che, there are Reagan shirts. Um, OK, so it's not the "cult of personality" that's wrong, it's having the wrong person at the center of the cult!

Posted by binky at 10:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 04, 2005

Was Newt That Bad?

While Kevin Drum is being his usual perceptive self today when it comes to today's John Roberts/gay rights story (that how this got printed and why would likely tell us as much or more as the content of the story itself), I think he misses the mark in his comments on Newt Gingrich. Was Gingrich more willing to at least talk to the moderates than the current Republican leadership in DC? Sure. And yes, in some ways that did indeed make him preferable to the Republicans we've got today. But it remains true that Gingrich was, personally, quite the ideologue. Still, even given that, he's much better than the current leadership of his party. Why? The big thing Gingrich gave us that we lack with Bush and DeLay was honesty and a willingness to make costly choices if it would help him reach his goals (in that way he was "reality based"). While Gingrich trumpeted his desire to cut big government programs, Bush et el. cower in the bushes when they slash, say, medical services for veterans. And the current team absolutely refuses to make many tough decisions, telling Americans that you can have a war and giant government spending and tax cuts all at the same time. This is understandable given the level of outrage that Gingich's actions provoked. But it's also duplicitous and a rather slimy way to run the country, especially if you are going to always going around trumpeting your own hard work and holier than thou morality.

I agree that Newt was better than what we've got now in certain ways - but it has more to do with the fact that he was honest and took ideas about government seriously, and not so much to do with any difference between 1994 and now in terms of the dominant Republican ideology.

Posted by armand at 05:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Republican Washington's Dizzying Spending Habits

I honestly couldn't bring myself to finish this article. They are proud of this? It's appalling. And I mean really, if they are going to insist on being so irresponsible (not that I agree with it), the least they could do is go ahead and throw more cash at grannies who can't afford their meds, and students who drop out and get sucked into the low-wage abyss for life because they've lost federally subsidized loans. Wouldn't that be a truly Christian manuever?

Posted by armand at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2005

Biden Wants McCain at the Naval Observatory

While it's hardly the only reason I won't be jumping on the Biden in '08 bandwagon, the fact that he'd like to have John McCain as his running mate is yet more evidence of why I don't think he'd be much of a standard bearer for the Democratic Party, or someone who should be handed the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Posted by armand at 12:43 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Don't Feed Them After Midnight...

Every party has them, but with his comments on intelligent design, the president not only fed them, he dropped 'em in the water.

Now, of course, the staff is trying to backpedal on what the boss says (and by the way, what other job works like this besides maybe latenight comedy?)

Mr. Marburger said in a telephone interview that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." Mr. Marburger also said that Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the "social context" in science classes.

OK, so here's what we are supposed to interpret to mean "discussed as part of the 'social context'."

Recalling his days as Texas governor, Mr. Bush said in the interview, according to a transcript, "I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught." Asked again by a reporter whether he believed that both sides in the debate between evolution and intelligent design should be taught in the schools, Mr. Bush replied that he did, "so people can understand what the debate is about."

He feels like both sides ought to be properly taught.

Mr. Marburger urges us not to "over-interpret" the comments to indicate that intelligent design and evolution should be given equal time. Apparently, the gremlins didn't get the memo.

But Mr. Bush's conservative supporters said the president had indicated exactly that in his remarks.
"It's what I've been pushing, it's what a lot of us have been pushing," said Richard Land, the president of the ethics and religious liberties commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Land, who has close ties to the White House, said that evolution "is too often taught as fact," and that "if you're going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists."


The Discovery Institute in Seattle, a leader in developing intelligent design, applauded the president's words on Tuesday as a defense of scientists who have been ostracized for advancing the theory.
"We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biological origins," said Stephen Meyer, the director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture. "It's extremely timely and welcome because so many scientists are experiencing recriminations for breaking with Darwinist orthodoxy."
At the White House, intelligent design was the subject of a weekly Bible study class several years ago when Charles W. Colson, the founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, spoke to the group. Mr. Colson has also written a book, "The Good Life," in which a chapter on intelligent design features Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who is an assistant to the president for policy and strategic planning.
"It's part of the buzz of the city among Christians," Mr. Colson said in a telephone interview on Tuesday about intelligent design. "It wouldn't surprise me that it got to George Bush. He reads, he picks stuff up, he talks to people. And he's pretty serious about his own Christian beliefs."

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" Riiiight.

[UPDATE: Further blog action on the subject here.]

Posted by binky at 12:11 PM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

What Religious Persecution?

Two issues come to mind as I'm reading the NYT story about Delay agreeing to be on the "Justice Sunday II" telecast (this is not a surprise, nor is it interesting). What first caught my eye was the second paragraph:

Mr. DeLay's planned appearance adds the imprimatur of a top Republican elected official to the event, which seeks to call attention to what its organizers say is the Supreme Court's hostility to Christianity and traditional families in its decisions about abortion, homosexuality and government support for religion. It will be broadcast to churches and Christian television stations and distributed as a video.(emphasis added)

Now, will someone please point me to the Supreme Court rulings that force people to have abortions? Or the ones that require people to be homosexual? And, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Constitution supposed to explicitly require "hostility to...government support for religion", not favor any particular religion?

I'm going to say this clearly: The fact that people, as Christians, can't force the rest of the country to live like they do is not religious persecution, it's freedom of choice.

If you don't like abortion, then don't have one, or even go out and try to convince others not to have one. But outlawing abortion removes other peoples freedom of choice.

If you don't like homosexuals, then don't associate with them, or even try to convince them not to be. Don't pass laws codifying them as second class citizens. That removes their freedom of choice.

You're not being persecuted when other people do things you don't agree with or like. Persecution is being a Muslim in America on 9/12/01, or being one in Britain over the last month, being Buddhist in Tibet, or being a guy named "Jesus" in Palestine about 2000 years ago. That was some serious persecution. Being Christian in America today is as close to "anti-persecution" as you can imagine.

The second issue I have with the NYT story is further down:

In a televised prayer on Tuesday for Judge Roberts's confirmation...the television evangelist Pat Robertson asked his viewers to pray: "Take control, Lord! We ask for additional vacancies on the court." (A "prayer point" on the Web site for Mr. Robertson's "Supreme Court Freedom Project" includes "additional vacancies" as well.)

Now, that's just out of bounds. Completely wrong. In fact, that might just be some religious persecution. Even if it isn't, I'd argue that there is a double standard. If I was a fairly public person, and I put out a statement saying the country would be better off if a sudden vacancy were to open up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I'd have the Secret Service all over my ass. Robertson calls for something very similar, but you don't see anyone investigating him. Oh, yeah, he's persecuted all right.

Posted by baltar at 12:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

In case you haven't checked the stats in awhile

There are many stories today about the 14 marines killed by a "huge bomb" in Iraq. If you haven't been here, they keep the most accessible running tally of casualties for the US and other actors, including for Iraqi police and guard.

Posted by binky at 11:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Winners and Losers

There are those who say Paul Hackett is a winner even though he's a loser, and those who say he's just a loser like the other losers who are claiming he's a winner. Say that three times fast.

I don't think it's quite so simple. I'm not going to say that Hackett's a "winner." He isn't. He was a relatively inexperienced candidate running in a strong Republican district. Eons of studies about running for Congress tell us those two things often determine a race. He got national attention and support, but it caught on late. He had a lot of qualities that are always pluses in a race for the House: young, handsome, wife and small kids, veteran, passion for politics, articulate about his platform (not necessarily in that order). Hopefully he'll run again, though I am not ready for the Hackett/Obama '08 ticket the way some people are talking.

However last night as I watched - or tried to - election results come out on the web, there was definitely one big loser in this race: the mainstream national media. There was no coverage anywhere. The blogosphere - left and right - and local media were all over this story yet the nationals were nowhere, not even in their politics sections or regional coverage. When your Midwest headline is talking about "couple killed in classic car crash" you'd think maybe there is room for something about a hot special election. And yes, among others (the NYT) I'm talking about you CNN with your "Jennifer Aniston still loves Brad Pitt" and "dead woman gives birth to 1 lb. baby." The traffic on the web was incredible, and both the left and right were panting for information.

In the loser honorable mention category, we have the regional media. Some had little to no coverage. For them, see above. The others, I have a bit more empathy for. The Cincinatti papers and some local sources were getting up the returns, but slowly. They were also not very quick to inform - if they did at all - about the delayed counting in Clermont County. At least some of them tried. It's clear that they also didn't plan well for the traffic they got. I'm slightly empathetic, because it's easy to say "you shoulda seen it coming" but sites crashing was a major problem last night.

Looks like Daily Kos was a big winner. The Ohio Democratic Party had old information - though I admit they were probably pretty busy to be fiddling with their web site - and Kos became report central. I'm curious about what their site traffic was last night, as people sought information (this is finally where I found links to local Ohio news sources), complained, hoped, prayed, hatched theories, and everything else under the moon.

Grassroots democratic organizers are going to be winners, I think. This taste of competitiveness has a lot of people stirred up, and if the party and its organizers can capitalize, they may be able to get closer the right's success at mobilization. Pretty intangible, for sure, but a possibility. The democratic party, if they don't fuck it up, might come out winning from this, getting more good candidates in the pipeline, and gaining momemtum.

Finally, there are some regular people who may benefit from this. Of course there are those who might get a new representative. However I am specifically thinking about veterans of the Iraq war, and especially those returned veterans who aren't marching in lock step with the rhetoric of the Bush administration. In the last couple of years I have met a few veterans like Paul Hackett, volunteers willing to do their duty, but confounded by the mismatch between the politics and the reality of the war. Veterans who are moderate democrats who are no knee-jerk opponents of defense, but who truly support liberty, especially at home. Veterans who think, ah, maybe I should run for office, and then think they can't. I think Hackett's campaign has shown us that they can, and they can be competitive. And if they don't win, they can bring their issues out in campaigns. None of this will see the light of day if they don't run, and I think Hackett's candidacy might give some people who have lots of courage, a little bit more confidence about entering into the political arena.

Posted by binky at 09:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2005

Questionable Content

Yours truly stands accused, by my own creation (baltar, armand, a little license here) of "questionable content." It's almost as bad as having a teenager! Bloodless Coup rejected the following comment:

So, the President put his mouth where our money is and went to the Jamboree to speak.

Surprise one, he mentioned FDR without retching. Surprise two, and a bonus that it's in the same paragraph, I didn't think Bush's speechwriters, I mean, our President, was that insensitive.

Here at the 16th National Scout Jamboree, you're carrying on a tradition that dates back almost seven decades. President Franklin Roosevelt came to the first jamboree in 1937. I don't think he rode in the same kind of helicopter I did, though. (Laughter.) You know, I was looking forward to coming last week, but the thunderstorms got in the way. So I appreciate the rain check. (Laughter and applause.)

If you don't get it, click here.

The reason?

Your comment submission failed for the following reasons:

Your comment was denied for questionable content.

Please correct the error in the form below, then press Post to post your comment.

I tried "retching." Nope. "Looking forward to coming." Nuh-uh. "Put his mouth where." Not that either.

It was in the link.

"Aha!" I thought. It's the "if you don't get it!" The program thinks I am sex spamming. Nope.

It was the link itself.

Why? I can only guess, since removing parts of the link such as "death," "lightning," and "sequoia" didn't help. Maybe Movable Type has begun making editorial comments.

Posted by binky at 05:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Recess Appointments = Flagrant Abuses of Power?

A nice catch over at Demagogue. Republican hypocrisy - who knew?

Posted by armand at 04:47 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Sirota and Davies Are Irksome

So who's annyoing me in the blogsphere today? David Sirota. This "let's punish the pro-CAFTA Democrats" has gotten WAY out of hand. First off, shouldn't he be more interested in punishing the Republicans who saw to it that this was a priority and got a vote? Beyond that, does he think free traders have no place in the party? If so, he should have been seeking to oust Jim Moran from the day he was first elected. Was this a perfect bill? No. Far from it. But the idea that THIS should be a litmus test among Democrats is stupid. Though not as stupid as his suggestion that Democrats should hold back from funding the likes of Dennis Moore and the Senators Nelson. He'd rather see Republicans in their seats? He seriously thinks Moore's not in electoral danger? Does he know anything about politics in Kansas? This whole fit of his is both tiresome and wrong-headed.

I'm not as annoyed with Andrew Davies - but I'm much more confused by him. Uh, if gay sex makes you queasy, maybe you shouldn't have agreed to write a film version of The Line of Beauty to start with. It's sort of like agreeing to write a mafia story, but not wanting to convey that Sicilian Americans might ever break the law. The novel is one of the best I've read in years, so I hope the filmed version works - but if it doesn't contain any gay sex ... well, it's going to be a rather different story than the book it's supposedly based on.

Posted by armand at 04:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

USA Surrenders to Terrorists, Spikes Calatrava Plans

The Downtown Lad is understandably incensed that we are letting the bad guys win. It really is pathetic and disgraceful that some people would rather cower in fear than build a beautiful and inspiring world.

It's much less consequential, but I agree, at least in part, with him on another matter too. I mean you should have a certain level control over your appearance. But if the White House is already so into image control and supposed fashion propriety that they ban jeans, what exactly is the excuse for letting someone represent the US on the world stage looking like this?

Posted by armand at 02:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Race in Ohio's 2nd District

Democratic bloggers and the "netroots" have been strongly pushing the candidacy of Paul Hackett in today's congressional race in Southwestern Ohio. Kos is jumping the gun in saying "Win or lose, we made this a contest when no one thought it possible" - I mean, it's probably appropriate to see the results before you can be sure it's a real contest. But the combination of a lousy Republican candidate, a great Democratic candidate, and scandals swirling in state Republican circles has opened the door for a strong Democratic showing in what's possibly the most Republican district in the state. Given all this, and particularly the raves Hackett's received and the attention the race has garnered in some circles, I'm rather surprised I haven't heard one particular consequence of this mentioned - a Hackett candidacy again US Sen. Mike DeWine. Presuming he loses, and he likely will, well, Hackett seems to be benefiting from all kinds of good will and good press, the Democrats need a candidate, and Hackett wants to serve in Congress. So ... why not the Senate if the Republican nature of the 2nd district is just too strong to overcome?

Posted by armand at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The New Matsui Trade Position

Daniel Weintraub gets at some of the fundamentals of the current political climate affecting international trade in this column. He starts off noting that the widow of Rep. Bob Matsui, long the leading champion of free trade among the Democrats in the US House, voted against CAFTA, and that this is indicative of many DC Democrats becoming less and less willing to support free trade proposals in the last few years. Some of this has to do with what the new Rep. Matsui brings up in explaining her vote - concerns about the ability of the US to compete against other economies that have less stringent labor and environmental standards. But Weintraub argues that what's really driven an increase in opposition to free trade in the Democratic ranks is a growing uneasiness in the self perceptions of many American when it comes to the place of the US in the world economy.

It's tightly written column, and it's interesting to see that the author comes out so directly for free trade, noting how it can benefit workers overseas, and the standards that exist in those countries:

History has shown that countries strengthen their labor and environmental laws as they develop. That's what happened in the United States, even though nobody held a hammer over our heads. And the same thing will happen elsewhere as trade builds a viable working class that demands those changes. The process can be painfully slow, but refusing to trade more with these developing countries will do nothing to improve the condition of their people and land.

It's also interesting to see a columnist directly confront sovereignty concerns:

Matsui's comments sound sensible enough in the abstract. But what she is really talking about is impinging on the sovereignty of the other nations in the agreement, in a way that most citizens of the United States would never want to see happen here.

All in all, it's an unusually lucid, direct, and sensible newspaper column, even if it does seem to bode ill tidings for the future of international economic cooperation.

Posted by armand at 11:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Williamsburgh Savings Bank

Satan's Laundromat has these views of Brooklyn and Manhattan from the historic banking tower (which is soon to be converted into condos and a restaurant) in Fort Greene. Apparently it was once the tallest structure between Manhattan and Paris. If you need a little New York fix this morning, these pics might be just the thing.

Posted by armand at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2005

Only Forty Years?*

Testing the limits, probing the defenses, practicing, see how far you can's happening, this time in Wisconsin. For all the complacent who think that surely those who are interested in "protecting the children" from abortion will do all they can do make sure unwanted pregnancies don't happen, to make sure access to birth control is protected, well, WAKE THE FUCK UP ALREADY.

It's taken a while for the story to get out, and it does look like the governor will not let this by, but this is a very telling bill. Protecting children? More like "punishing sluts," or at least trying to scare the hell out of them so they conform to the puritanical standards. It's not acid thrown at the one without a burqua, but it's a threat to women who dare tread on ground that is fine for men. Birth control encourages promiscuity. Right. That's why our species was in danger of dying out before they invented the pill.

Just so we're clear, no morning after pill, which is really just taking a bunch of your regular birth control pills in a different order over a shorter period of time. No giving a prescription, or referring you to someplace that can (even though it appears the University Hospital is exempted from the gag). Some interpretations suggest that this could do away will regular pill prescriptions which would largely preclude the need for emergency contraception, which is more likely to be a problem with barrier (condom) or "rhythm" (not interrupted in time). This bill makes no allowance for rape. This bill would prohibit doctors from prescribing medicine to adult patients, who have paid for health care via fees.




AN ACT to create 36.11 (49) of the statutes; relating to: prohibiting the University of Wisconsin System from advertising the availability of, prescribing, and dispensing certain hormonal medication or combination of medications and prohibiting persons from advertising, prescribing, or dispensing the medication or combination of medications on University of Wisconsin System property.

This bill prohibits a person employed by or under contract with the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System (UWS) to provide health care services to registered students from dispensing or prescribing a hormonal medication or combination of medications that is administered only after sexual intercourse for the postcoital control of fertility to a registered student or to any other person entitled to receive university health care services or from advertising the availability of the hormonal medication or combination of medications. The bill also prohibits a person from advertising, dispensing, or prescribing the hormonal medication or combination of medications on UWS property, except for the property leased to the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority.


The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:


No person whom the board employs or with whom the board contracts to provide health care services to students registered in the system may advertise the availability of, transmit a prescription order for, or dispense a hormonal medication or combination of medications that is administered only after sexual intercourse for the postcoital control of fertility to a registered student or to any other person entitled to receive university health care services. (c) In addition to the prohibition under par. (b), no person may advertise, prescribe, or dispense a hormonal medication or combination of medications that is administered only after sexual intercourse for the postcoital control of fertility on system property, except for property leased under s. 233.04 (7).




Posted by binky at 11:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Potayto Potahto

Have you heard that the United States is no longer engaged in a global War on Terror? No, really! We have a new and improved product for sale, limited time only: the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism. G-SAVE bargain price, only $5 billion a month, give or take a couple of countries (no nukes included in sale price).

But seriously, if we're not worried about the war on terror anymore, and Iraq is all free and democratic and what not (or will be as soon as they finish up that pesky constitution), then why is it that we are building permanent bases in Iraq?

Sam Graham-Felsen (via the Light of Reason) describes how:

Bush has publicly denied that the United States has permanent designs on Iraq, and on February 17, 2005, Donald Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "I can assure you that we have no intention at the present time of putting permanent bases in Iraq." For all the Bush administration has done to verbally dispel notions that it seeks permanent bases, it continues to plan and construct bases that are built to last, well, permanently.

However, the claim of impermanence is not wholly reassuring:

There is a spectrum of opinion on the exact nature of these bases. "Permanent," of course, is a dirty word in Washington, and even the most anti-war politicians are tentative to designate them as such. Defense expert John Pike of believes the bases lack components of official "permanency" -- such as reinforced steel and ground-level concrete slabs--but admits that military has been deliberately vague and hesitant about releasing detailed information. "Look, if they say they're building these bases as part of a withdrawal plan, that's because the withdrawal plan is victory. And we're not even close to victory, which is exactly why they're building these bases," Pike told me. "We're going to be there by the end of Jeb's second term."

My favorite quote comes from Larry Diamond:

And Larry Diamond, Hoover fellow and former advisor to Paul Bremer, has bluntly declared that the bases are permanent. This past February, he told a UCLA audience: "[W]e could declare ... that we have no permanent military designs on Iraq and we will not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. This one statement would do an enormous amount to undermine the suspicion that we have permanent imperial intentions in Iraq. We aren't going to do that. And the reason we're not going to do that is because we are building permanent military bases in Iraq."

Ah yes, that liberal bastion, the Hoover Institution.

Posted by binky at 09:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Are those angry bees?

Some things from the 80s should remain in the mists of time. Though they don't seem to have gotten nearly as, ah, substantial as the Pixies.

Hat tip to the Non Lips

Posted by binky at 09:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

One of the Things the Matter With Kansas

I don't link to particaulrly snarky posts at Eschaton all that often, but I've got to say that this dig at Sen. Sam Brownback (a likely presidential candidate in '08) is richly deserved. There are moronic comments and then there are STUNNINGLY MORONIC comments.

Posted by armand at 08:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack