October 31, 2005

Well, I feel better!

Bush to unveil super-flu plan on Tuesday.

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

When You Appoint a Criminal to High Office ...

... is it any surprise that high officials commit crimes?

In making his case for five resignations that he thinks we should see in the executive branch (not a chance of that happening of course), Juan Cole reminds me of just how appalling it is that Elliot Abrams works in the White House. I mean c'mon. Seriously. It's just embarrassing beyond words before we even get to how scary it is.

Do you think Fox "News" and the GOP stooges, errrr, Congressional leadership, would have EVER for even ONE SECOND stopped yelling bloody murder if someone with his background had been named to a key national security job by President Clinton? As if.

Posted by armand at 02:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My First Three Thoughts on the Alito Nomination

First, it could have been worse (Luttig, Garza, Jones ...). And as you keep reading about Judge Alito in the weeks to come, keep that in mind. Sure, that's scary (hell, terrifying) and probably hard for some of my leftist buddies to imagine, but that's just how far to the Right the Republican base has moved.

Secondly, before you start decrying his actions in case X or case Y based on a link you read or a story you hear, I strongly urge you to look into the matter yourself. I've already seen a number of inaccuracies in the discussion of the Pennsylvania law that was at issue in Casey.

On this point, I strongly urge you to read Julian Sanchez here.

UPDATE: And Ann Althouse has this, which seems relevant, on his FMLA decision.

Finally, it appears that in many areas Alito is a minimalist when it comes to what the government has authority to do. That might mean you can practice your religion more openly under his understanding of the law - including in "official" settings. And you can own machine guns. And businesses can do what they like. And you can say what you want. But discrimation protections (and other government imposed protections) are more suspect in the Alito-world. [All of these comments are, of course, very, very broad generalizations]. Still, there are some government actions that he appears to feel are legal, and his Casey opinion and the strip searching of that little girl are sure to get attention.

That's all I have to say about it for today. If Binky or Baltar want to post on it, or comment here - fire away.

Posted by armand at 01:08 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

Shuffling the Deck Chairs in the Office of the VPOTUS

Addington and Hannah are replacing Lewis Libby? Uh huh. The more things change ... well, really it appears that nothing's going to change.

UPDATE: More on Addington here.

Posted by armand at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

5 Catholics and 2 Jews

David Bernstein and I were thinking alike this morning (talk about something that's rarer than a blue moon ...). The degree to which anti-Catholic prejudice has declined in this country in the last generation or two is quite remarkable.

Posted by armand at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 30, 2005

Rockefeller? Inscrutable?

JMM thinks so.

Posted by binky at 09:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"An incredible moment of mind-shattering bad taste"

I agree with Ann Althouse - this would be a horrifyingly tacky spectacle. But we are rarely treated to something so hilariously awful. So, since we've been denied the gruesome fun of the Harriet Miers hearings, I really hope the president does this.

Posted by armand at 03:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Mad Rush on Pricey Fish Eggs

Gabriel has this very amusing post on the recent ban on the importation of Beluga caviar.

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

Pleasant Home?

Saint Liam was the star of this year's Breeders Cup. He was the only favorite to win all day, and he won the biggest race of the year that's held in the United States. But to me the horse that really stood out yesterday was Pleasant Home. She won the biggest race of the year featuring female horses. And though she has stellar connections and a very good pedigree, she did it as a 30-1 shot and won by 9 1/4 lengths.

Posted by armand at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 29, 2005

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The plot of this novel, the second by Jonathan Safran Foer, centers on the reaction of nine year old Oskar Schell to his father’s death on 9/11. But really it deals with the aftermath of tragedy and painfully strained relationships more generally (and it also features personal stories of lives devastated in the aftermath of the bombing of Dresden), and is, fortunately, as affecting and moving as one might expect. While it’s also a bit pretentious and at times rather unrealistic (I think Foer’s grasp of nine year olds can be rather tenuous), on the whole it’s very well written, and a fine novel. Nonetheless, if you haven't read a Foer novel yet, I strongly suggest (and I mean EXTREMELY strongly suggest) you start with his first – Everything Is Illuminated. That work was utterly beautiful, sometimes very funny, often terribly sad, and overall a brilliant achievement. Extremely Loud is good, but it’s not in the same league with its predecessor.

Posted by armand at 10:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

Packer on the Bush GOP's Endemic Corruption

The line in the October 24th issue of The New Yorker that seems to have gotten the most attention is William F. Buckley's description of George W. Bush's foreign policy as "surreal". It's a good line, and there are other good lines in that issue (Anthony Lane on Orlando Bloom - "This is one sleeping beauty whom no kiss will ever awaken"; Sean Wilentz calling David McCullough's John Adams "popular history as passive nostalgic spectacle"), but the best lines, by far, are in George Packer's column, "Game Plan". They are (horribly) funny because they are (horribly) true - but they are also important because they lay out exactly where the Democrats can basically eviscerate the GOP - if only they can get people's attention and precisely frame the issue.

So what exactly am I talking about? This, for example:

Bush's philosophy of corporate conservatism - more Harding than Reagan; not anti-government, just anti-good-government, with a tone of authoritarian piety and legislation written by lobbyists - has shown that the Republican unity was always based on a willingness to keep one's mouth shut ...

The Republicans have betrayed basic American principles of honesty, competence, and fairness ... On issue after issue, government by cronyism and corruption has sacrificed the interests of the middle class to those of the Administration's wealthy friends. The deepening inequality in American life threatens families and democracy, and it is neither natural nor inevitable.

Themes opposing this behavior are what the Democrats need to hit again and again and again in the coming years. That will unite Democrats on - the party believes in standing up for and protecting the little guy, tax plans that benefit average Americans - not the heads of Enron, more open and responsive government, and basically, opposing the self-interested moves of the spoiled Establishment that threaten the social safety net. And calling for competence, not cronyism, is a simple slogan that will be widely supported. I can see the ads now - photos of Michael Brown, devastation in New Orleans, Tom DeLay, smoke-filled backrooms and polluted water, Lewis Libby, injured soldiers, the president playing the guitar and holding hands with Saudi royalty ...

If that stays a primary page in the Democratic message book I don't see how it can be defeated by Republicans who'll apparently be running on people's fears of gays and Hispanics. After all, it's very much worth keeping in mind that Al Gore, who ran the most populist national campaign in many years, won a half million votes more than that crony-lover who took up residence in the White House on the order of Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor.

Posted by armand at 03:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Raid on Student Aid

So the Republicans have decided, once more, to shamelessly act like they care about the country's tremendous debt and annual deficit. While one might think this would be a good thing, that notion would likely be premised on the belief that the poor and least advantaged amongst us wouldn't be those who'd be the first to lose needed aid. And if there's anything that the president and the supposedly Christianity-believing Republican Congress have shown a willingness to do in the last five years, it's to cut the legs out from under the neediest Americans, be it poor students who hope to get a good education and better both themselves and the American economy, or veterans who need decent health care.

So, sadly but predictably, who loses in the latest budget cuts? Students (yet again) and children who aren't getting child support. Uh, I thought the family-values party was in charge? I guess we were lied to.

But wait, if you think I'm being too cruel, don't worry - the article makes clear that more cuts in Medicaid and food stamps are yet to come. And through all this, the millionaire's tax relief remains intact.

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

Goldstein Predicts Judge Alito

Tom Goldstein, who saw the John Roberts nomination coming long before anyone else, notes that Jan Crawford Greenburg (who appears to have had the best reporting in the days and weeks leading up to that pick) is saying that the White House is focused on Judges Luttig and Alito. Partially on the basis of that news, Goldstein is predicting that Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement on the Court will be Judge Alito.

That nomination would make more sense to me than probably any other one at this point. Though I wonder if Judge Consuelo Callahan has fallen entirely off the radar screen at the White House.

Posted by armand at 11:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Scooter it is!

UPDATE: Above the original post

Vice presidential adviser I. Lewis "Scooter' Libby Jr. was indicted Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, making a false statement and perjury in the CIA leak case.

And he has resigned.

CNN is saying Libby.

Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe, plans to seek an indictment against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, a lawyer involved in the case told CNN Friday.

The attorney said that Fitzgerald believes Libby misled investigators.

Indictments in the case would cap off a nearly two-year investigation into the public unmasking of an undercover CIA operative. Fitzgerald has scheduled a 2 p.m. ET news conference.

The New York Times reported on Friday that lawyers in the case said Libby will be charged with making false statements to a federal grand jury.

President Bush's top political strategist Karl Rove will not be indicted Friday by the federal grand jury investigating the leak, sources close to the investigation tell CNN. But, the sources said, Rove is not out of legal jeopardy as the matter is still under investigation.

Press conference at 2pm.

Posted by binky at 09:44 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Speak Out Sulu

George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu in all the Star Trek shows and films, has announced that he is gay.

The current social and political climate also motivated Takei's disclosure, he said.

"The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay," he said. "The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young."

The 68-year-old actor said he and his partner, Brad Altman, have been together for 18 years.

Takei, a Japanese-American who lived in a U.S. internment camp from age 4 to 8, said he grew up feeling ashamed of his ethnicity and sexuality. He likened prejudice against gays to racial segregation.

"It's against basic decency and what American values stand for," he said.

Good for him. And damn! he looks good for 68 years old!

Posted by binky at 09:23 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 27, 2005


The beginnings of a scientific project are scratching around in my head, based on the task of grading over the past few days.

Theory: Intelligence is not only associated with the quality of essays, but has direct influence on the choice of essay question.

Definitions: Exam is composed of four essays, of which students choose two to answer. The exam is closed book.

Hypothesis 1: Intelligence of test taker has a direct positive relationship with the score of essay.

Hypothesis 2: Intelligence has a positive, slightly skewed parabolic relationship with the choice (by difficulty) of the test question and choice to attend class/read.

Hypothesis 3: Intelligence has a positive geometric relationship to score on essay when mediated by choice (see hypothesis 2).

I suppose I could have shortened it to the following research question: why do only the Honors students and bottom feeders choose the complicated, sophisticated questions?

The preliminary conclusions are:

1) Honors students recognize the challenge and are up to it, not only choosing but acing the hardest questions.

2) Most of the average students are scared off by the hardest questions, and migrate to the simply hard questions.

3) The chronic truants/non-readers, not being able to distinguish between the challenge level of the questions, take a shot in the dark, some hitting the "simply hard" questions and scoring at the low end of normal, and some hitting the "hardest" questions and scoring in the very pits of despair.

This distribution of essay choice by, shall we say, skill level, produces a geometric distribution where the chronic truants/non-readers who choose the hardest questions anchor the final grade distribution with scores in the 30% range. There is a rapid increase into the 50%-65% range (mixing high chronic truants/non-readers with low average), with the modal score of the average students somewhere around 74%-78%, that tapers off through the 80% to low 90% range to a rare few at the peak of 97%-100%. [note: While not an exact representation, the inverse of this line hits in the ballpark.]

Or maybe I'm overthinking it.

Posted by binky at 07:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

It's been awhile since we had a quiz...

As if there were any doubts about this:

You fit in with:

Your ideals mostly resemble those of an Atheist. You have very little faith and you are very focused on intellectual endeavors. You value objective proof over intuition or subjective thoughts. You enjoy talking about ideas and tend to have a lot of in depth conversations with people.

40% scientific.
100% reason-oriented.

Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com
Posted by binky at 06:09 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Yesterday I Set My Thermostat to 59 Degrees

Atrios bought space heaters. Others have less flexibiliy. Tapped links a WaPo article about the Senate killing an effort to provide funds to the LIHEAP program to help poor people afford winter heating. I've seen estimates from local media that our natural gas bills could go up as much as 50% (on top of the 27% of our health care that Armand wrote about). In a poor mountainous state with rough winters, this is bad news for people at or below the poverty line.

This issue has gotten some attention in the last few months, but people (particularly residents in the West and Midwest, where natural gas heating is most prevalent) are still very likely going to be shocked at what happens to their home heating bills in the next few months. For low-income citizens, the "heat or eat" dilemma posed by cold weather shocks is a very real one (PDF), and this winter's going to pose a particularly acute problem.

Good links to more policy analysis and projections. Check it out.

Posted by binky at 04:48 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Man Has Some Cojones

Karl Rove salutes the media, Wednesday, October 26, 2005. CNN.

Posted by binky at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush Caves on His Proposed Davis-Bacon Change

And given that the president aborting the nomination of Harriet Miers is likely to dominate the news today, I think it's important to remind people that he also caved on something else important this week - his sleazy attempt to lower the wages of workers on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricance Katrina (such a Christian proposal that was). He's running scared.

Posted by armand at 11:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Strange Campaign of Don Siegelman

It takes a lot of [insert the word you think is appropriate here] to be waging a campaign for governor when you are facing the prospect, if convicted, of 300 years in prison. But, that's what the last Democratic governor of Alabama is up to these days.

Posted by armand at 11:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Merely Crappy

I don't know how I got assigned to write the reviews of crappy sort-of-based-on-reality-historical-with-swords movies, but that seems to be my assigned role here at bloodless. Alexander was awful beyond belief, and Troy was only ever so slightly better. In both cases, anyone involved with either movie should be killed for the public good.

In any event, I watched "Kingdom of Heaven". This wasn't completely worthless, merely crappy: within the normal range of crappy Hollywood movies. "Normally" crappy, perhaps. Unlike the first two historical/sword movies which were set a very long time ago, this one happened about 800 years ago. Much like those other pieces of shit, this one took an interesting historical event and distorted it beyond recognition in order to create better photo-ops for the main characters.

The story goes something like this (WARNING: SPOILERS - however, this is a shitty movie you shouldn't see, so don't worry about it): a young blacksmith (I forget his name. Baitan? Seitan? I'm just going to call him Legolas, 'cause that's all anyone remembers him as) is bereft, as his wife died five minutes before the movie started. Schindler shows up and says he's his Dad, and he's a big deal in Jerusalem, and Legolas should come. Legolas refuses. The local priest steals his wife's necklace while burying her, and tells Legolas that he should go because no one in the town wants him around anymore (he's the only blacksmith - I'm sure they can get along fine without him). Legolas sets the priest on fire and takes off. I guess they had a religious disagreement.

Schindler and his merry men aren't far off (heading back to Jerusalem and the Crusades), so Legolas joins them. They seem a very politically correct crowd, with lots of cultures represented (this theme comes back, so don't forget this). Schindler decides to teach Legolas how to fight (this seemed reasonable to me, as - historically - blacksmiths really didn't know how to fight, as they spent all their time learning to be blacksmiths).

It is at this point, a mere 15 minutes into the movie, that the cinematic highpoint is reached. From this point on, everything is sorta boring and alternatively stupid. However, you don't know this. You keep hoping that some actor or scene will rise back up to this level, though it never does.

The scene is this: one of the merry men points out that Legolas has a burn on his hand, and maybe shouldn't practice with the sword right now. I forget the exact line. It doesn't matter; completely irrelevant. Someone says to Legolas something along the lines of, "Hey, that's gonna hurt. Can you fight with that wound?" To which, Schindler replies: (again, paraphrasing the first part of this) "Sure, no problem:"

"I once fought two days with an arrow through my testicle."

That's a direct quote. You can't top that. Hell, the movie can't top that for the next two hours. I could have given up watching at that point (and should have), and been very happy.

So they practice fighting. Legolas (history flys off screaming), of course, proves to be pretty good with a sword. Another group of armed men show up and claim that Legolas killed a priest and must be properly punished. Schindler, Legolas, and the merry men (including a brawny James Hetfield look-alike) take dispute to this, and carve these folks up. War, of course, is serious business, which is why some of the merry men die in the fight (can't have the good guys win without loss; then it would be a silly action flick, and you couldn't get serious actors like Legolas and Schindler involved). However, the Hetfeild-twin died. I sorta liked him in a crazy-viking-berzerker way, so this was somewhat depressing. Schindler gets an arrow through his side, which kills him twenty minutes later.

Anyway, Legolas and the Wounded-But-Not-In-The-Testicle-So-Its-Not-Serious Schindler make their way to Messina ("Gateway to Jerusalem!"), at which point Schindler dies. (Either he read the rest of the script, or his check bounced. Or both.) However, before he expires he Knights Legolas and makes him promise to take care of everyone who needs taking care of. Legolas takes this very seriously, and takes off for Jerusalem. Oh, before he takes off he gets into a pissing match with "Guy de Something", who must be a bad guy, 'cause he's named "Guy" and talks with a french accent, and is an arrogant shit. As you can probably guess, this comes up again.

His boat is shipwrecked on the way. He washes ashore in a strange place near, well, Jerusalem. The only other survivor of the wreck was a horse. Unharmed. Still in a section of the boat that's whole (the only part of the boat that is whole). Still in a stall. He and the horse wander around for a while, and come across two Arabs, one of whom challenges him to a duel over the horse, for no real apparent reason. Legolas kills him, and then lets the other one go. This turns out to be relevant, 'cause the other Arab eventually shows up as one of Saladin's chief lieutenants. Why he was wandering around near Jerusalem with a blood-thirsy Arab is beyond me, and beyond this story.

Anyway, Legolas finds Jerusalem. Someone figures out that he's Schindler's son, and they make him some important official in the Kingdom of Jerusalem (or whatever they call it; again, not important). He has dinner with a bunch of important officials in the Kingdom, including Jeremy "Irons-Man". Irons turns out to be the guy in charge of running the place, since the King is a leper, and basically doesn't do much.

Now, it turns out that the leper king is historically accurate, though completely irrelevant to this movie. The fact that the king is a leper (as opposed to being weak/sickly for any number of other mundane reasons) never really enters the movie - it never drives the plot.

Now, the main source of conflict in the movie is that there are two factions in Jerusalem: the King and "Guy de FlamingAss". The King, and now we're treading off into fairyland here, is very multicultural. Anyone of any religion can worship in Jerusalem. No religion is more priviledged than any other; laws are enforced equally for all. The movie explains this as both morally good, and necessary in order to keep the numerically superior Moslem population relatively content. The alternative position, headed by "Guy de Douchebag" and his Knights Templar, is that Christians are great and right, and shouldn't listen to any non-Christians. The fly in the ointment is Saladin (again, a real historical figure). He has an army of "200,000" hanging around in Damascus. He's under pressure from his people to retake Jerusalem. He (for reasons never really explained) is seems sort of half-hearted about this (he eventually does it, but needs to be provoked before he is willing). So, there is a weak (literally dying) king holding a moderate position (multiculturalism lets everybody get along) against a hardline Christian faction ("Guy de DumbAss") that wants to provoke a war with Saladin in order to finally figure out who owns Jerusalem.

The fact that it took me so long to explain this should be some indication of how boring and idiotic this was.

Along the way, Legolas gets his own little fiefdom. The viewer's initial glimpse of this makes it look like a hot version of hell: a few trees, lots of sand and nothing else. He promptly turns this into some form of multicultural heaven, where everybody gets along, there is lots of food, Legolas finds a water table 10 feet underground (what, nobody dug down 10 feet before?) and (quite literally) turns the place green overnight (I mean literally: the next shot after finding water was a terraced oasis with plants seen in all directions). Oh, and Legolas ends up fooling around with "Guy de EvilFrenchDude"'s wife (who is also the Leper King's sister). The romantic part of this movie was idiotic (what, Legolas is a knight, full of strong morals, but finds it OK to sleep with another knight's wife?), and I won't be talking about it again. The scenes out at "Legolas's Oasis Hideaway, Bar and Casino" were, again, completely irrelevant to the movie.

So, the Leper King dies. "Guy de Wanker", by dint of being married to the new queen, gets to be king. He immediately orders his top henchman to go and attack some Muslins, in order to give Saladin a pretense to attack Jerusalem, which would give him a pretense to attack Saladin. Small, simple, question: if "Guy de DonkeyDicks" wants to attack Saladin, why does he need this complicated plot? Just get the army, and go attack Saladin (in a military sense, going to attack the guy when he doesn't know you are coming is much better than attacking the guy when he knows you are coming. I realize military tactics have improved a lot in 800 years, but even Sun Tzu knew this 2000 years ago).

So Saladin, provoked by some senseless slaughter of random Muslims, mobilizes his "200,000" man army and marches down to Jerusalem. "Guy de Loooooooser", living up to every stereotype that Hollywood ever had about bad guys, declares that Christians don't wait, that their faith will see them succeed (even though they are heavily outnumbered), and that he will go out and kick some Saladin-Ass. It turns out that his army (minus Jeremy "I Am Iron Man" and his knights, who stay behind because, well, Jeremy thought they should, even though it was a command from their king to go and fight, but I guess Knights get to pick and choose which commands they follow) actually needed water, as well as a clue, and a leader, and they mostly die off before even reaching the battlefield. Saladin pauses to pick up prisoners, and massacre a few Christians, and heads off to Jerusalem to re-take the place.

Legolas, our hero, decides the Knightly thing to do is to defend Jerusalem in order to help save the little people. He doesn't have many soldiers, as "Guy de MissingMyHead" took most of them off to die in the desert (NOTE: Supposedly, Legolas has Jeremy "Ironing Board" around with his knights, but I don't remember seeing him after he refuses to go with "Guy de WalkingDeadMan" out into the desert. I guess he cashed his paycheck - or saw the end of the script - and walked out at this point too.). So, he does a mass "elevating" ceremony, where he makes lots of knights out of a bunch of squires and random dudes. Having given them heart, his good old engineering degree (a pre-requisite for being a Mideval blacksmith) allows him to give them a brain by building a bunch of siege weapons to use against Saladin's army. Completing the "Wizard of Oz" troika, Legolas gives them all courage by making some messy multicultural speach about how they should all fight for freedom, equality and individual religious beliefs (this would be major, major heresy in the 13th Century, and the Catholics would have killed Legolas more quickly than anyone else if they had actually heard anyone say this). Thus endowed, Legolas' army fights Saladin to a standstill, and Saladin is forced to offer terms and lets all the non-Muslims leave Jersalem. Legolas (new wife/ex-queen in tow) goes back to the burned out hulk of a blacksmith shop, happy and content. Roll credits.

Some comments:

1. What the hell was the point of this? There wasn't enough sword stuff to rank up there with any of the action/adventure (Mummy, Scorpion King, etc.) movies; it wasn't "epic" enough to run with the Lord of the Rings; it wasn't religious enough to fall anywhere near Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Wanker"; and it wasn't trying to tell a real historical story/fable like Alexander and Troy (they sucked, but they were based on real things/books). This, on the other hand, was fictional. It had some historical characters, but they didn't act like history said they did. So, what was this about?

2. Hollywood will still pay tens of millions for actors, special effects, directors and locations, but not a dime for writers and, in this case, military historians. These people generally acted like complete morons. Schindler teaches Legolas to use a sword fighting technique where you start with the sword way above your head so you can schwing it down on your enemy (nice idea: the Japanese used it. However, their swords were these thin, light little things that were fast as skunk. Legolas and Schindler were using big 'ole European longswords. How long can you hold one of those things over your head?). When Schindler and the merry men are attacked by the people trying to arrest Legolas, they stand and fight (the people attacking are all armed with bows. Arrows always beat swords at a distance. Always). Legolas declares that the weak point of the wall surrounding Jerusalem is an old door that has been walled over (the doors are always the weak points in walled cities: they need to open and close, so they are always weaker and thinner than the walls. But walled over doors aren't any weaker than the walls because you can pile all sorts of shit behind the old door/new wall since no one needs to open it.). There are other examples. My point isn't that you need to be a military historian to see the flaws, but that most of these things are common sense. If you want to make a swords movie, just do a fantasy thing with magic, and then people like me won't expect it to make sense. If, however, you want to make a movie set in the Crusades, well, best I can tell the laws of physics still applied, even if they hadn't been discovered yet.

3. Where did a 13th Century blacksmith learn how to swing a sword (not part of blacksmith training), ride a horse, build siege engines, learn hydrology and agriculture, learn administration (Legolas ran a fiefdom, too), and military strategy and tactics. That was a hell of an education.

4. Why did the Queen (sister to the Leper King, wife to "Guy de ShitHead") never have to spend time with her husband? How was she able to spend what looked to be several months at Legolas' estate without all those noble/honorable knights getting their panties in a wad? Why did she shave off her hair at the end? What the hell was she doing in the movie?

5. Why did Ridley Scott direct this? Doesn't he have something better to do? Was he jealous of the other directors who made historial sword movies (Peterson did "Troy", and Stone did "Alexander")?

6. This movie was relentlessly multicultural. From the merry men of Schindler (a nice group with ethnic origins from Norway to Nigeria) to Legolas' Casino Oasis (where everyone worked together and got along like a big happy family) to the Leper King of Jerusalem (who was trying to allow any religion to operate freely within the city) to the stirring speech by Legolas at the end where he called on all his newly minted knights to fight for the freedom to worship as they saw fit. What the hell? Historically, none of this was accurate. And "inaccurate" is being nice. By the standards of the times this was heresy. And remember, heresy was worse than actual physical sin. For regular sin, you take confession and pay some money; for heresy, they kill you quick (if they killed you slow, you might have time to spread it). Again, having an historian around the set would have helped. See, Martin Luther (you know, the guy who nailed some proclimations on a door in Germany, founded Protestantism, and directly led to centuries of warfare within the Christian religion and the deaths of millions) didn't do his schism thing until the 15th century. So this movie, set in the thirteenth century, had Catholicism as the only form of Chistianity. And that meant the Pope. And that meant absolutely no multiculturalism. None. Especially where the Crusades were concerned. These "heathens" controlled the holiest places in Christendom (at least before the Christians showed up to liberate the place); there was very little quarter given and not much love lost on either side (which is why Saladin is still remembered: he acted reasonably at times, which was out of character for military leaders in that time). Thus, the prominent role of multiculturalism in the movie is both historically wrong, and strange. Why was it necessary? If you wanted to make the Christians the "good guys", just make the Muslims the "bad guys" (looting, massacres, etc.). Or was there an underlying Hollywood political imperative to avoid making Muslims look bad (the Muslims, again contrary to historical record, generally acted "civilized" in the movie; much more so than "Guy de DickWad" - in a very real sense the fight between the "moderate" Christians - Leper King and Legolas - and Saladin was one that used the "civilized" warfare rules more akin to the twentieth century (leave the civilians out of this, treat prisoners well, etc.) than the "normal" rules of warfare for the Crusades - kill everyone in sight.). What this all means is that, compared to "Troy" and "Alexander", this movie made less sense than those. Don't get me wrong: both "Troy and "Alexander" were forms of torture banned by the Geneva Convention. However, this had mostly to do with the casting, acting and writing, not the underlying stories. In fact, what made those movies so awful was that you see the germ of a decent movie under there: the story of Troy, and the intrigues of the Greek heros and Gods is an incredible legend and story. Of course it would make a great movie. The same with Alexander the Great - he conquered pretty much the known world at an incredibly early age. It's an amazing story. The Crusades? Not so much. Europe tries to take lands not theirs, and eventually doesn't succeed. In this case, there wasn't an underlying historically accurate theme, and it was left to hack hollywood screenwriters to cobble something together. Needless to say, this worked about as well as nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. So, unlike "Troy" and "Alexander", here we have acting that doesn't want to make you drive an icepick into your eye, but a story that can't sustain the (still weak) acting. Or, very long story short, it still sucked, but not in the same way as "Troy" or "Alexander". Even shorter: Don't See It.

7. Is Hollywood making any more of these crappy things? Do I have to watch any more?

In summary: watch the first twenty or so minutes, so you can see the "testicle" line, then stop watching this steaming pile of shit. It doesn't make you pull out your hair like "Troy" or make you sterile like "Alexander", but it will bore you just about to death.

Posted by baltar at 09:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Miers Withdraws

Holy moly kids! Harriet's out! Both the NYT and CNN have a breaking news banner.

Posted by binky at 08:58 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

October 25, 2005

Wolf Parade

I've been listening to their new album - Apologies to the Queen Mary - for over a week now. It's excellent. Go buy it now!

Oh, if you want to learn a bit more about them first, this page has links to several features on them, and reviews of their music (including a rave from Pitchfork). So learn about them if you feel like it. But really, they are excellent, and well worth a few ducats.

Posted by armand at 06:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Let's start with a definition:

Emergency contraception is a backup method for preventing pregnancy and is not for routine use. Plan B® can reduce your chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex. For example, if you were using a condom and it broke, if you forgot to take 2 or more of your birth control pills this month, or if you were sexually assaulted, Plan B® may be a good option for you. It is important to know that Plan B® is not RU-486 (the abortion pill). Because Plan B® is used to prevent pregnancy, it will not work if you are already pregnant, and it will not affect an existing pregnancy.

OK, so, birth control to prevent pregnancy. Not to induce abortion.

Remember that you have only a few days to prevent a pregnancy after unprotected sex. If it is taken within 3 days (72 hours) after unprotected sex, it will decrease the chance that you will get pregnant by 89%. That means 7 out of every 8 women who would have gotten pregnant will not get pregnant. And Plan B® works even better if you take it within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex.1 Unprotected sex might happen when your healthcare professional’s office may be closed, such as over a weekend. Getting a prescription for Plan B® in advance means that it will be there for you — in time — if you ever need it.


Take the first tablet as soon as possible within 3 days (72 hours) after unprotected sex.

So far, we have 1) birth control, and 2) limited window of opportunity.

Here we have the case of a rape victim, who was unable to get the birth control prescribed for her.

While calling dozens of Tucson pharmacies trying to fill a prescription for emergency contraception, she found that most did not stock the drug.

When she finally did find a pharmacy with it, she said she was told the pharmacist on duty would not dispense it because of religious and moral objections.


"We have all kinds of compassion for a rape victim - in that case, Plan B is OK, the church has no problem with it," said Ron Johnson, with the Arizona Catholic Conference, which supports the right of any health-care worker to refuse to dispense emergency contraception and lobbied hard for passage of the Arizona law to allow it.

But the biggest roadblock to obtaining emergency contraception was that most pharmacies simply do not stock it, Fladness said. She said she called nearly 50, before finding two that had it and agreed to dispense it.

So, even though this woman was not seeking an abortion, she actually belongs in the category most people are willing to grant an abortion: the rape victim. This is even supported by the Church representative (which I find a little interesting, since, you know, contraception is sinful). The problem for this woman was that she did not report her rape to the police, only to her doctor, because she felt guilt and shame. We could digress into a long discussion about the symptoms women experience after rape, but I'm going to give you a little about.com site to note how common this is, and this link which includes FBI statements abouthow rape is the most underreported crime. To summarize, we have a woman who was raped, who had a pattern of reporting that fits the majority of most rape victims, and those rape victims make up the most cited "compassionate" argument for access to both EC and abortion.

Now, let's consider the refusal of pharmacies to stock and/or dispense EC as cowardly corporate policy.

Dear Target Guest,

Target places a high priority on our role as a community pharmacy and our obligation to meet the needs of the patients we serve. We expect all our team members, including our pharmacists, to provide respectful service to our guests, particularly when it comes to their health care needs.

Like many other retailers, Target has a policy that ensures a guest’s prescription for emergency contraception is filled, whether at Target or at a different pharmacy, in a timely and respectful manner. This policy meets the health care needs of our guests while respecting the diversity of our team members.

Your thoughts help us learn more about what our guests expect, so I’ll be sure to share your feedback with our pharmacy executives.

Thanks for taking the time to share your questions, thoughts and comments. I hope we’ll see you again soon at Target.


Jennifer Hanson Target Executive Offices

Diversity of team members. I'm curious if that diversity also leads them to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills, or to ring up packages of condoms, because those products have the same function as EC. If not, I think we are not talking about respecting diversity, but rather deliberately promoting false information and engaging in dishonest and deceptive manipulation of religious protections to discriminate against women seeking access to certain kinds of birth control.

Bitch, Ph.D. spotlights (rather pithily) the hypocrisy of the supposed religious opposition to EC:

Look, for the umpteenth time. Plan B is not an abortificant. It prevents conception. So there is no goddamn reason for anyone to refuse to provide it, period. Even the goddamn Catholic Church (I can get away with cursing it, I'm Catholic) allows contraceptive use in some circumstances, and has no position on non-Catholics using contraception.

Charlie at Big Brass Blog revisits and argument about why the talk about alternate pharmacies is a red herring, because of the very real situation in rural areas (or, say, in metropolitan Tuscon) where there are no alternatives.

Where does this leave rural areas? Shall we leave out the large percentage of people who live in small towns with only one pharmacy? When there is no competition, the free market is not a viable solution.

Nor is it a valid compromise. As Amanda at Pandagon points out, there is another aspect of small towns: those are the same women who are least able to fight for their rights without suffering social backlash. As Amanda says, "the gossip factory of small towns being what it is, the woman who first makes a stink about getting her pills faces a very high risk of getting tagged as a bitch or a screeching harpy at best, and sexually suspect and slutty at worst." Which is only natural considering that is exactly the opinion of any pharmacist who refuses to fill birth control.

Pharmacists shouldn't be compelled to do what they find repugnant.

I completely agree. But this statement is phrased in a way that obscures an important point: nobody is forced to become a pharmacist. If you find one aspect of any given profession morally repugnant, you shouldn't enter that profession. And let's not forget that there are many alternatives available for pharmacists to minimize their need to fill the medications they find morally questionable, such as positions as hospital pharmacists.

Laws protect physicians and nurses who oppose abortion from being penalized if they refuse to participate in the procedure. Oregon, the only state to allow physician-assisted suicide, cannot force an unwilling doctor to prescribe a lethal dose to a terminally ill patient.

The difference is that doctors and other health care professionals who refuse to participate in abortions are hired in capacities that do not require them to peform those tasks. If doctors routinely accepted jobs at abortion clinics and then refused to participate in abortions on moral grounds, then we would have a good analogy. As it is, we don't. And if this was happening, it wouldn't be a situation that called for compromise, either.

Note the bold that I have added. It's an important point, because there is a legitimate concern about excluding people from jobs they want to do on the basis of religious, gender, and other discrimination. We could also think about it if someone got a job with the TSA, but refused to let some people walk through the metal detector.

Ol Cranky also discusses the employment issue, specifically addressing other conflicts between religion and the provision of health care.

Healthcare workers are required to put the health of the patient first, if they can not do that for all patients they may serve they need to either avoid working in places where the possibility of being involved in the care in cases they can not participate in or ensure there is always someone else working on their team at the same time to fulfill those tasks they can not. A nurse who is a Jehova's witness can not force someone to find another facility or come back at another time if they need a transfusion of blood products (even if the need for transfusion is not emergent), to do so would be refusing to follow the doctor's orders and interfering with the physician prescribed action plan (nurses who are Jehovah's witnesses have another person on staff who is working at the same time do the transfusion). The same goes for a pharmacist, to refuse to fill a valid and legal medical prescription when the medication is in stock (or lie to say it is not in stock) is interefering with the medical care of a patient. A pharmacist who is a Scientologist is not allowed to refuse filling legal and valid prescriptions to patients because use of particular types of medications are proscribed by Scientology as that would be an imposition of Scientologist's personal views on a non-adherent. Similarly, there is no legitimate reason to allow adherents of any other religion to allow their personal views to interfere with the medical treatment of a patient by an appropriately licensed healthcare practitioner.

Pharmacists who have moral issues with certain medications have multiple legitimate alternatives to prevent them from interfering in medical care while continue to work as a pharmacist including: working at a pharmacy that makes it clear they do not stock or fill prescriptions for [insert type or class of medication here]; working at a mail order/internet pharmacy wherehouse with an agreement they will not be involved in filling prescriptions for medications they find offensive/immoral (while not interfering with those medications or the dispensation of them by another), or ensuring there is always another person on staff with them at the same time who will fill and dispense those prescriptions. If the pharmacist feels that compliance with the latter two alternatives and/or referring the patient to another pharmacy after ensuring that pharmacy has someone on duty to fill the offending prescription in a timely fashion when his/her pharmacy really is out of stock would make him/her a party to the sin of using the offending medication, the pharmacist should refrain from working at a pharmacy that stocks those medications (s)he finds morally objectionable.

We do not force people into professions that may require them to perform tasks they find morally objectionable by way of legislation. For all intents and purposes, those who enter the profession of pharmacist choose their course of study and how to utilize their education of their own volition. The only reason a pharmacist would work in a setting in which (s)he may be the only person on duty permitted to fill a prescription their pharmacy stocks is to intentionally set him/herself up in a position by which (s)he can become a barrier to filling those presciptions. This isn't about rape, sex or abortion, this is about the intentional interferance with medical treatment in an effort to impose one's religion on others, and is a direct violation of the first amendment.

Employers are in a difficult position. They should neither discriminate against their employees nor against their customers. They may also be the target of manipulative behavior by employees with an agenda, seeking to politicize the sale EC. John at America Blog does a nice job of explaining how Target is likely setting itself up for being taken advantage of in exactly this way, and how the company is caving to an incorrect interpretation of the law. [note: lawyers, here's your chance to chime in on the Civil Rights Act of 1964]:

Now, the 1964 Civil Rights Act certainly does protect religious folks against discrimination in the workplace. But the kind of discrimination it refers to would be, for example, Target saying "we're not going to hire Christ killers," or, "man we hate those Baptists, none of them get promoted at Target." Yes, that would be illegal under the '64 act.

But Target is now saying, outright, that the 1964 Act covers any action a Target employee takes so long as the employee claims the action is motivated by his or her religion. Though, then they turn around and say that their religious employees have no such rights at all (see further down).


And even better, could a Target manager who is Baptist fire a gay employee simply for being gay, in violation of local civil rights laws protecting gays in employment, because such discrimination is religiously based and federal law protects such religiously-motivated discrimination, per Target's apparent interpretation of the law?

Target needs to come clean. Does Target or doesn't Target give its employees carte blanche to discriminate against its customers so long as the employee claims their religion is offended? And if Target doesn't give its employees carte blanche, then what IS Target's standard for determining when their employees get to play the religion card, and when they don't?

One final legal note to Target. You are going to get your asses sued by your religious employees, and you just gave them the document they need to nail your ass.

At the end of your email above you write the following:

In the unusual event that a Target pharmacist's sincerely held religious beliefs conflict with filling a guest's prescription for emergency contraception, Target policy requires our pharmacists to take responsibility for ensuring that the guest's prescription is filled in a timely and respectful manner. If it is not done in this manner, disciplinary action will be taken.

Well, here's your problem. Your employee thinks abortion is murder and refuses to fill prescriptions that "assist in a murder." You say that his or her refusal to assist in a murder is covered by the '64 Act since it's against their religion. But then you say that your employee is required to assist in the "murder" anyway by making sure the prescription is filled in a timely and respectful manner. So, you're mandating that your religious employees assist be accomplices to murder, something that clearly violates their religious beliefs, yet you previously claim that coercing your employees to take such actions is illegal under the 64 Act. I think you've got a problem here.

If it's assisting murder for your employee to put my pills in a plastic jar and hand them to me, then it's also assisting murder for your employee to pick up the phone and call another pharmacy to place my order for "murder pills." There's no difference. It's like saying it's against my religion for me to murder someone, but I have no problem handing a murderer a gun so that he can murder the pregnant woman standing in front of me.

While I think John could have been more clear that EC is not abortion, and that the hypothetical pharmacist's belief is factually wrong, he does a good job discussing the legal dilemma.

What it comes down to is that there is a conflict between the customer and the access to legal prescribed medication, on the one hand, and the religious beliefs of the employee, on the other. The problem is with the companies trying to weasel around without coming out and saying "we will always fill prescriptions for medicines" or "we stand with our employees in the belief that the use of some medicines is immoral and on those grounds will not guarantee access." In this situation, the behavior of the companies supports the pharmacist over the patient, the rape victim, the woman who is judged by some pharmacist to be more immoral than the "normal" customer seeking her regular birth control pills or his condoms. To some people, there are kinds of birth control that are more moral than others, just like some kinds of reproduction (yeah, that thread). And they are willing to prevent women from access to health care in a way that only guarantees more anxiety and real duress, and which potentially compounds the suffering of rape victims who most people in the US agree should have access not only to contraception, but to abortion.

I have no trouble calling that a radical agenda that is out of the mainstream of values in the United States.

Posted by binky at 04:35 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack


Two thousand.


Posted by binky at 03:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


1) Crooked Timber 2) May Day 2004 3) I don't know of any, maybe MoonOverPittsburgh?

What am I talking about? Via Pharyngula, the Who's Your Daddy project at The Politburo Diktat. The task is to list who inspired you to blog, when you started, and if you have any blog children. Baltar and Armand might have different ideas about the first answer, but for me what gave me the kick in the pants to start was Crooked Timber, first because they were academics (like we are) and second that they had a quality group effort (which I wanted to be, since I was unsure if I could sustain a blog on my own). I don't know that we can claim Moon as a "child" but I'd like to think we encouraged him. Maybe younger brother?

Posted by binky at 12:40 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks passed away at the age of 92. No doubt you've already read many notices, stories and obituaries, most of them praising her for the act of refusing to give up her seat. We should remember her too as a committed organizer and active member of the NAACP and civil rights movement, which required, over time, the long-term extension of the bravery of her most famous act.

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

Jingle Bombshells

It's snowing in WV this morning. Is it Fitzmas?

Posted by binky at 07:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2005

The Nightmare of Health Insurance Costs

I found out this morning, like most of the rest of us who work at the university, that approximately 8 months from now my health insurance premiums are going to be somewhere from 27-30% higher than they are at the moment (there's going to be an increase in January, but thankfully that first one is a mere - cough, cough, groan - 7%). Sadly, those of us here in WV aren't the only people being gouged this way. And of course many Americans are about to face energy price increases that are even worse than the record-breaking gas prices we've already seen this year. Does anyone else smell the potenial for some political white knight to come in and save the day? Or at least start to make some changes? I think the potential is there. And I dearly hope some brave politicians take up the call.

Posted by armand at 02:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Exploding with Democracy

Rachel Dratch, playing a solider in a video conf. with Bush: "The Iraqi people are so full of freedom they could burst. Sometimes an Iraqi will be so full of democracy, they'll walk into a crowded area and explode ... with democracy" ("SNL").

I love Rachel Dratch.

Posted by armand at 01:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The US's Best Relationship in the War on Terror

The last sentences that are included in this review, by Dan Drezner, of former State Department offical Lawrence Wilkerson's recent broadside against the Bush admininstration would likely raise a lot of eyebrows among those who watch cable TV news. And among those who report that news, for that matter. Guess who he says the US had the best working relationship with in the war on terror.

Posted by armand at 12:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A History of Violence

There are parts of this movie that don't belong in this movie - but since I'm still not sure what it's about, it's hard to say which parts. The script and some of the directing choices leave a great deal to be desired (as incoherent as Peggy Noonan, as subtle as Ann Coulter and Chuck Jones' lovechild). I will give it points for the performances. Maria Bello and Ed Harris were especially good, given what they had to work with. And some of the high school stuff was really funny - though I doubt that was on purpose. As to why this film has been so widely praised, I have no idea. Go watch Stay instead.

Posted by armand at 11:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Wilma

Strengthened overnight into a high Cat 3 storm, Wilma has made landfall on the west coast of Southern Florida. Now it's streaking across the peninsula and will come out on the other side. Steve Gregory of the Weather Underground was predicting the center of the eye would pass over Jupiter Island, about 2 miles north of my brother's house on one of the inland waterways (read: canals). Hopefully he had an attack of good sense and drove down to my folks' place, which is about 10 miles south and constructed (by Mom and Dad themselves) old school style with a hip roof and concrete blocks on the only high ground in town. I haven't found much in the way of reports from Naples yet, and the Palm Beach Post is focusing on the east side news.

UPDATE: 8:15 am. Called my mom a few minutes ago, and confirmed that my brother is riding it out at his place. Think it's OK because his main danger is flooding, not wind, and with the fast movement and west to east movement over land, he should be fine. While I was talking to my mom the power went out. Looks like FPL's prediction has started.

Watch local streaming news coverage here on WPTV.

UPDATE II: Just talked to mom again at 11:30. All seems well with the family homesteads, but one neighbor's house across the street lost its roof completely, and another is heavily damaged. Someone else's storm shutters have come off the the house and are rattling on my folks' porch, and wrapping themselves around other people's cars (on the street). A carport has detached and is blowing around the street. No power. Howling and shrieking winds have been very bad, very sustained, though relatively brief as the storm is moving quickly. The eye has almost passed, and they are waiting for the backside, which local media tells them will be nearly as bad. My folks have ridden out every storm since 1953 in this house, and my mom says this one has been the worst for the sustained winds (others were higher speed, but more gusty). She sounds wiped, but the report is mostly good. It sounds like people have property damage, but their safety is not threatened.

Posted by binky at 07:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 23, 2005

Support the Troops...

...by gagging them, and denying that they are allowed to be frustrated. Via Feministe a post at The Tattered Coat about an Operation Truth blogging soldier who was not only silenced (despite, as The Tattered Coat points out, adhering to censorship standards), but forced to recite the following pledge:

For the record, I am officially a supporter of the administration and of her policies. I am a proponent for the war against terror and I believe in the mission in Iraq. I understand my role in that mission, and I accept it. I understand that I signed the contract which makes stop loss legal, and I retract any statements I made in the past that contradict this one. Furthermore, I have the utmost confidence in the leadership of my chain of command, including (but not limited to) the president George Bush and the honorable secretary of defense Rumsfeld. If I have ever written anything on this site or on others that lead the reader to believe otherwise, please consider this a full and complete retraction.

He forgot to add "All Hail Dear Leader!"

goes off muttering about communists masquerading as conservatives. again.

Posted by binky at 06:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ideology, Use of Force and Political Party

Digby excerpts from the Scowcroft piece everyone is talking about:

"I'm not a pacifist," he said. "I believe in the use of force. But there has to be a good reason for using force. And you have to know when to stop using force."

I only vaguely scanned the post, because this quote is something that has been bouncing around in my head for a long time, and that I always try to explain to people when we end up talking about politics and foreign policy. It also says a lot about Bloodless Coup's own electoral coalition, and why we can - from both sides of the aisle - agree on a fair number of things.

I, and daring to speak for Armand and Baltar, we, study states and their interactions. We know that states fight each other, that they always have, and that they likely - at least in the forseeable future - will continue to engage in conflict. That is, conflict in itself is neither evil, nor good. It can have terrible consequences, it can be motivated by what some would certainly call "evil intent," or it can have positive outcomes (which depends greatly on your perspective of winner vs. loser). I expect that if you asked anyone of us to identify ourselves as generally pro-war, anti-war, or pragmatically oriented toward war, we would all choose pragmatic (and, correct me if I'm wrong, compadres).

I had a conversation with a self-described Reaganite about my political ideology, in which based on a couple of points related to social issues (specifically that I am pro-choice and pro-gay) he had extrapolated my supposed foreign policy stance. After we discussed some more, I explained to him that in contrast to what he had supposed, my view of conflict was 1) there are in fact good reasons and also self-interested reasons to enter it, and 2) if a state is going to go to war it should go to win. He said something to the effect of, good grief how can you ever be happy with either party?

The answer to that question often is, I'm not happy. And not only am I not happy, what it means is that since foreign policy is a major concern of mine and neither party really satisfies me, I don't really vote (what is often) my dominant interest. And the current battle between Holy Warriors (Inc.) and Knee Jerk Pacifists doesn't inspire me with any confidence that we will manage to salvage anything good out of Iraq.

*sigh* What's an economic moderate, foreign policy pragmatist, social libertarian to do?

And no, don't tell me we're all Independents (useless) or Libertarians (crazy - sorry Baltar). Neither of those dogs hunt in this two party system.

Posted by binky at 05:52 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Mendacious or Ignorant?

Honestly, I haven't thought about Connie Mack for years, since the days of Walkin' Lawton Chiles decision not to run against him for the Senate, and then Mack subsequently beat Buddy McKay in part by tarring him with the Liberal brush (though there are other opinions out there too). At the time, I was still a registered Republican and remember thinking that Mack wasn't a very good candidate, considering that he had to change his name to that of his grandfather in order to get the name recognition bump to win. That's all water under the (Florida) bridge now, though.

In today's New York Times Magazine, Deborah Solomon interviews Connie Mack (R-FL) in Q&A format. For those who haven't been paying attention, Mack is the chair of the president's tax reform panel. In reading the interview, at first I couldn't decide if Mack was vastly overconfident, completely out of touch, dissembling, or simply, well, simple. Check the excerpt (emphasis mine, also added "Q" and "A" for clarity):

Q: Indeed, he is still calling for tax cuts. He would like to eliminate the estate tax permanently.

A: I think there is a likelihood that Congress will deal with that issue before this term comes to an end. I would vote to eliminate, as we refer to it, the death tax. I think it's an unfair tax.

Q: Really? I think it's a perfect tax. The idea behind it was to allow people to postpone paying taxes until they die, at which point they presumably no longer care. Why do you call it unfair?

A: Well, let's say, if you are in the farming business and you have the desire to pass this farm on to your children. The problem is that when your parents die, you have to come up with cash to pay the estate tax. One thing you don't have is cash. You've got plenty of land. So I just don't believe it's a fair tax.

Q: That strikes me as a red herring. The issue is not really small farms, but zillion-dollar estates made up of stocks and bonds.

A: I don't know what the percentage breakdown is. I still go back to the same notion that these individuals who have accumulated these resources have paid taxes on them many times in their life, and then to say, when you die, now you pay more taxes on it? There is a limit.

Q: Well, the U.S. government has to get money from somewhere. As a two-term former Republican senator from Florida, where do you suggest we get money from?

A: What money?

Q: The money to run this country.

A: We'll borrow it.

Q: I never understand where all this money comes from. When the president says we need another $200 billion for Katrina repairs, does he just go and borrow it from the Saudis?

A: In a sense, we do. Maybe the Chinese.

Q: Is that fair to our children? If we keep borrowing at this level, won't the Arabs or the Chinese eventually own this country?

A: I am not worried about that. We are a huge country producing enormous assets day in and day out. We have great strength, and we have always adjusted to difficulties that faced us, and we will continue to do so.

OK, let's tally here.

If it disproportionately affects less than 3% of deceased individual's families, the issue is "unfair," but if it's a national debt that puts our economy under the control of the Chinese, it's no worry.

SCORE: Overconfident AND out of touch.

Next? Let's take the example of the family farm as the victim of the estate tax. Checking statistics, we find that:

These 440 taxable estates are those for which farm or business assets made up at least half the total value of the estate. They represent only 2 percent of all 18,800 taxable estates in 2004.

SCORE: While I would like to go with "simply simple," there's no way the chair of the tax-reform panel and anti-estate tax crusader hasn't seen these figures, likewise a man of Mack's tax bracket and former banker "knows from" investment patterns. I have to go with dissembling here. He is perfectly on message, however.

Now, let's examine the blanket "I don't know what the percentage breakdown is" statement. Again, I suggest that given the position of Senator Mack, it is unlikely that he is unaware of the general skew of the figures. However, it is entirely possible he has managed to avoid memorizing exact figures so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

SCORE: Ignorant.

Finally, there is the sequence of "What money?" and "We'll borrow it." Now, I know Mack started out as a fiscal conservative, and I suspect he still has a little "starve the beast" in his heart. So that could account for the "What money?" since, as we all know, if we have drowned government in the bathtub, we won't need much money to support it. On the other hand, Mack has come over to the Bush agenda and apparently sees nothing wrong with borrowing pantsloads of foreign money to sustain all the big government that masquerades as conservatism under Bush.

SCORE: This one is difficult, as there are conflicting variables that indicate "overconfident" (debt will be no problem), "completely out of touch" (people won't care about owing our economic souls to the Chinese), "dissembling" (it will be easy to continue borrowing without negative effects to our economy), and "simply, well, simple" (blind faith in the positive outcome). In the end, I think I am going to have add a new score category of "callous indifference."

Side note, I didn't realize how much ire from the right there was on the tax panel.

Posted by binky at 01:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

President Bush as King Ludwig

Cutting taxes and spending like a drunken sailor isn't some new kind of conservatism, it's an old kind of lunatic irresponsibility, the sort of thing the Bavarians put Ludwig in a soft room for.

That's one of the nicer critiques that Michael O'Hare makes in his scathing response to David Brooks' latest column (in which Brooks argues that George W. Bush hasn't destroyed conservatism, he's "modernized" it).

Posted by armand at 01:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Election of a Taliban Governor in Afghanistan

I hate to tear you away from all the attention that's going to that current national crisis - are Nick and Jessica really going to divorce!?! - but since we at Bloodless Coup think matters of international politics and war are equally relevant to your lives, I thought I'd pass along this link:

Mawlawi Mohammed Islam Mohammadi, who was the Taliban's governor of Bamiyan province when the fifth-century Buddha statues were blown up with dynamite and artillery in March 2001, was chosen to represent the neighboring province of Samangan.

Yet more evidence to support the fact that (wildly expensive) elections are not, in and of themselves, the answer to removing nasty and destructive extremists from power.

Posted by armand at 12:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Links for Reading

There are a couple of blog posts fermenting around here (including another craptavaganza movie review from Baltar) but real life grading is calling. I was looking around for some links to keep y'all busy in the mean time, and decided instead to give you just one: Beautiful Horizons. Start at the top and scroll all the way down. Even with some computer problems, Randy Paul has put up several really nice posts over the last couple of weeks.

For some time I have thought that Randy has one of the best Latin America oriented sites out there (he's on our eventual-update-the-blogroll-list), and I always appeciate his insight into culture and politics of the region. I also appreciate that he is not one of those "oba! oba!" Brazilianists (or as one I met said, "não sou de oba oba não") who are so infatuated with the country that they cannot see. Love is blind(ing) and all that. He loves Brazil and Latin America, but doesn't let it obscure his vision of the problems and issues facing the region.

Specific recommendations? A post on human rights and travel restrictions in Cuba and the US (which seems to be missing a permalink, but it's October 20), an analysis - with good links - of the Left schism in Brazil, and whether or not the scandal facing Brazil's president is really the worst ever.

Posted by binky at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 22, 2005

Service with a Smile

While following a link from Pandagon about the White Supremacist version of the Olson Twins I came across another story about so-called "Helicopter Moms" (presumably, they hover).

This story bothers me for two reasons. First, as an educator, I see a further trend toward the continued lack of responsibility on the part of college students as a very bad thing.

But Gail Fagan, Heather's mom, said she'll do it as long as she's needed. And that's a sentiment Lewis would agree with. She'll do as much as she can for as long as she can. She currently drives two hours to Ethan's dorm to clean it up, do his dishes and pick up his laundry twice a month.

In addition to the general independence problems (mentioned in the article) I wonder about whether or not the "as much as she can for as long as she can" applies to schoolwork. It is easy to speculate that at least typing and editing are part of the "secretary" duties. At the high school level there is a not-so-fine line between parental involvement and parental work on homework. The problem of over-involved parents is becoming particularly evident with college admissions essays. I've encountered students whose parents "helped" them with essays to the point that they didn't really know what they were supposed to have written because the parent did most of it.

The article mentions helicopter parents but I am skeptical. I've encountered helicopters, and the moms outnumber the dads five-to-one. My experience also tells me that this is a phenomenon closely related to social class (do a web search on SAHMs and SAHDs, or even follow up on the discussion we had here about that ridiculous NYT story). So, what are these young adults learning from the example of their helicopter moms? That she's there to serve, to wait on them, to be their secretary.

Brendan, a freshman at Arizona State University, also appreciates his mom's help. "It's nice to have someone else who kind of serves as a secretary mom."

"She's like the most selfless person on the face of the planet. I mean, she will give and give and give and give and give, and when she's got nothing left to give she'll keep giving. She has succeeded in every aspect of giving my brother and I everything a kid can ask for," Ethan said.

They are going to be in for a rude awakening when they hit the "real world" of work.

Eric Chester, president of the training and consulting company Generation Why, Inc., sees this high level of parental involvement as a high-level problem for employers, who face a new generation of workers.

"If you've always micromanaged their life, then that kid is going to be dysfunctional in the workplace, regardless of what their skill set is," he said.

Dysfunctional in the workplace. And in relationships? The one mother mentions how she hopes she can be "best friends" with her child's wife.

"When they get married, I'm not going to be the most important person there, and I know that," she said. "You go through a period of withdrawal, and then hopefully, you get to be best friends with their wife. And you have a good relationship, and then she'll call you and tell you what he's doing."

Lady, she's not going to be your best friend when she finds out you've raised up a lazy fucker in the self-maintenance department. Plus, with the economy going the way it has been, chances aren't good that she'll have the luxury of staying at home to continue junior's quality of care.

Posted by binky at 06:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


At the moment I can't write a detailed review of Marc Forester's Stay, which I saw this afternoon. One reason for this is that I lack the time to do so adequately. But I also wouldn't know where to start. It's complicated. And I imagine a lot of viewers aren't going to like it at all. But that's a shame, because I think it's something that really isn't overly complex, simply something that rewards a little thought. But these days, many movie viewers can't be bothered to think - even only a little.

I will say that it's fascinating and one of the best looking movies I've seen in a long time. It's gorgeous, interesting things are done with the camera, and there's a wonderful thing done with the art design that's actually key to solving the central puzzle of the movie. Actually that's one of the beautiful things about this movie - what it is and what it's about are intertwined to an unusual degree, and ... well, if you do see it, I'll say that you should be on your toes for the art school scene (among other things). All in all, it gets a big "thumbs up" from me, and the people I saw it with also really liked it. There are a few things that I'm not sure I've quite put together, but in a way that's a good thing. I like having the opportunity to think about some of the points this film raises. It's a shame that most studios are reluctant to put out any product that reaches even this level of complexity.

Posted by armand at 06:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Only Post I Will Ever Make On What You Should Believe As A Christian

I try to avoid telling people, with respect to religion, that their beliefs are wrong or right. It's religion: it's supposed to be between you, God, and your pastor (if you so choose to have one). However:

You will get into heaven based on how you act, not on what you say you believe.


Posted by baltar at 11:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Hurricane Wilma continues to hammer one of my favorite places in all the world: the Yucatan. In that photo the eye has degraded a bit, from land contact, but the storm will still hit the Ft. Myers area with a bang on Monday. This season my favorite weather blog has definitely been Steve Gregory of Weather Underground. Not only does he post images like this water vapor view of the storm, but his explanations show the science with clarity.

Posted by binky at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

Save the Conspiracy from Maggie Gallagher

And speaking of preachy, poorly-informed people who can't seem to make critical arguments without succumbing to an unfortunate combination of inaccuracy, gross generalization and glaring omissions ... is Maggie Gallagher's presence on the Volokh Conspiracy this week one of the saddest things to happen to the blogophere in weeks, or what? There must be better thinkers on the right to make the case against same-sex marriage. The leaps and failures in her arguments are embarrassing.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum manages to be both merciless and as staid as an Eisenhower-era banker. And a "camel snuff film" - I love that.

Posted by armand at 02:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Peel a Grape, Build a Family

There are many things that James Dobson says that I find infuriating. But there are also the occasional comments that I simply find odd. I was reading one of his columns (in Q&A form) a few weeks ago, and he was writing about how families could become more like the families they see on TV. Or put another way, how you can build those happy, supportive, hug-happy families that dominate our conception of "family" in the popular culture. In order to build these things, he was playing up the importance of creating rituals. He then gave examples of his family's behaviors - behaviors centered around the creation and consumption of special foods on the holidays. For example, "the women" get together and create traditional Thanksgiving feasts with turkey and all the trimmings. Also, "the family" gets togther to peel grapes for ambrosia.

Now this statement has puzzled me for some time now - People still eat ambrosia? James Dobson and "the men" can't be bothered to help out with the tiring and difficult part of a meal, but are happy to sit around and peel grapes? Suddenly the insulting purveyor of gloom and doom seems terribly weak and more than a little odd. And not in the usual ways.

Posted by armand at 02:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2005

Pop Quiz!

Midterms continue, so I provide you with more links to other people who are funnier than I feel like whilst grading. Today's pick of the litter? Billmon. A short excerpt (but go read it all):



Q: Please describe the importance of the U.S. Constitution in our system of government.

A: The Constitution is a very important document which plays a very important role in our system of government. The importance of the Constitution cannot be overstated, because the role it plays is so important. I am certain that as an Associate Justice -- and I plan to be the best ever! -- I will have many opportunities to consider the very important role that the Constitution plays in our system of government. However, as I am still reading the document, I feel it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Q: Do you believe in the doctrine of constitutional interpretation known as "original intent"?

A: The doctrine of original intent is a very important one, and as Associate Justice I will strive to be as original and intentional as possible in my interpretation of the Constitution, which plays such a very important role in our wonderful system of government. I will carefully consider the doctrine of original intent as I continue to review the various articles and clauses of our great Constitution, which as I'm sure you know includes a great number of amendments. These also play very important roles in our system of government, and clearly are intentional, even though they are not original. My boyfriend, who sits on the Texas Supreme Court, has promised to explain them all to me before I am confirmed.

And I don't know if it's sad or funny that I've got a stack of midterms waiting for me with no doubt some veeery similar sentence construction.

Posted by binky at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dude! But were they potloaves with the fishes?

Jesus used marijuana. I knew there was something to that long-haired hippie image he had in the picture on my grandma's wall.

Posted by binky at 04:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let Them Eat, Uh, MREs!

Crooks and Liars is on the job with this gem about how FEMA head Brown put off dealing with reports from inside the Superdome because he needed more time to eat dinner in peace.

Via Hoffmania.

Posted by binky at 04:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Tories Have Their Candidates

In the wake of the last vote by MPs on the matter, David Cameron and David Davis have emerged as the final pair who will fight for the leadership of the United Kingdom's Conservative Party. Party members will get their ballots next month, and the winner will be announced on December 6.

Today's vote among the MPs was 90 for Cameron (up 34 from Tuesday), 57 for Davis (down five from Tuesday) and 51 for Dr. Liam Fox (up 9 from Tuesday). Dr. Fox was eliminated from the competition in this round.

Cameron, 39, has a big lead on Davis in the opinion polls, so it seems likely that in 7 weeks his meteoric rise to the top of the party leadership will be complete - and it seems entirely possible that he'll be the most popular Conservative leader that Prime Minister Blair has had to face since he was elected in 1997.

Posted by armand at 02:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

Bush Knew Rove Outed a CIA Operative 2 Years Ago?

Am I reading this right? If so, it shows again that this administration (and the president himself) willfully lies about national security at the drop of a hat (I am of course referring to the president's vow - lie? - that he'd fire anyone involved in the Plame leak) and has no respect at all for Americans who are daily putting themselves on the line to defend this country. But then what else would you expect from the US president who allowed purple heart "bandages" to be widely displayed at his nominating convention.

I mean I might be reading too much into this - but it looks like Bush has always known. Hardly a shock that, but still ... I thought he was supposed "to restore" honor and integrity to the White House?

Looks like Scott McClellan is going to have another bad day.

Posted by armand at 10:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 18, 2005

Update on Blocking of Comments for "Questionable Content"

Hopefully no one should be getting blocked for "questionable content" anymore. Long story short, a spammer used a relatively common "string" that shows up in lots of comments. I blocked the spammer, and inadvertently blocked everyone else, including myself. Since the string had blocked quite a few comments, I assumed it was the string, not one of several. Unfortunately, because the string was and likely is the tool of evil spammers, if you use it your comment will go to moderation. This means a short wait until the Bloodless crew checks to see that your comment is legit, and not full of links to donkeycock/wrinkledsex/gayporn/viagra/freemp3downloads etc.

As always, if you get blocked for questionable content, please email me and include your comment text so that I can 1) track down the blocked string, and 2) use my superpowers to get your comment posted.

Posted by binky at 07:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Those Left Wing Radicals...

...at the Wall Street Journal think something might be fishy with the (now not so) secret conference call about Harriet Miers' position on Roe v. Wade.

Mr. Dobson quelled the controversy by saying that Karl Rove, the White House's deputy chief of staff, had not given him assurances about how a Justice Miers would vote. "I would have loved to have known how Harriet Miers views Roe v. Wade," Mr. Dobson said last week. "But even if Karl [ed note: on a first name basis, eh?]had known the answer to that--and I'm certain that he didn't because the president himself said he didn't know--Karl would not have told me that. That's the most incendiary information that's out there, and it was never part of our discussion."

It might, however, have been part of another discussion. On Oct. 3, the day the Miers nomination was announced, Mr. Dobson and other religious conservatives held a conference call to discuss the nomination. One of the people on the call took extensive notes, which I have obtained. According to the notes, two of Ms. Miers's close friends--both sitting judges--said during the call that she would vote to overturn Roe.

The call was moderated by the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association. Participating were 13 members of the executive committee of the Arlington Group, an umbrella alliance of 60 religious conservative groups, including Gary Bauer of American Values, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and the Rev. Bill Owens, a black minister. Also on the call were Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court and Judge Ed Kinkeade, a Dallas-based federal trial judge.


According to the notes of the call, Mr. Dobson introduced them by saying, "Karl Rove suggested that we talk with these gentlemen because they can confirm specific reasons why Harriet Miers might be a better candidate than some of us think."

What followed, according to the notes, was a free-wheeling discussion about many topics, including same-sex marriage. Justice Hecht said he had never discussed that issue with Ms. Miers. Then an unidentified voice asked the two men, "Based on your personal knowledge of her, if she had the opportunity, do you believe she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?"

"Absolutely," said Judge Kinkeade.

"I agree with that," said Justice Hecht. "I concur."


The benign interpretation of the comments is that the two judges were speaking on behalf of themselves, not Ms. Miers or the White House, and they were therefore offering a prediction, not an assurance, about how she would come down on Roe v. Wade. But the people I interviewed who were on the call took the comments as an assurance, and at least one based his support for Ms. Miers on them.

The conference call will no doubt prove controversial on Capitol Hill, always a tinderbox for rumors that any judicial nominee has taken a stand on Roe v. Wade. Ms. Miers meets today with Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Chuck Schumer of New York, both stalwart Roe supporters, who surely will be interested to learn more about her views. After Mr. Dobson's initial comments about "things . . . that I probably shouldn't know," Sen. Arlen Specter, the pro-Roe Judiciary Committee chairman, said, "If there are backroom assurances and if there are backroom deals and if there is something that bears on a precondition as to how a nominee is going to vote, I think that's a matter that ought to be known." He and ranking Democrat Pat Leahy of Vermont threatened to subpoena Mr. Dobson as a witness.

Some participants in the Oct. 3 conference call fear that they will be called to testify at Ms. Miers's hearings. "If the call is as you describe it, an effort will be made to subpoena everyone on it," a Judiciary Committee staffer told me. It is possible that a tape or notes of the call are already in the hands of committee staffers. "Some people were on speaker phones allowing other people to listen in, and others could have been on extensions," one participant told me.


President Bush has now gone further in internalizing the lessons of the Bork debacle. Harriet Miers is a "superstealth" nominee--a close friend of the president with no available paper trail who keeps her cards so close to her chest they might as well be plastered on it. If Ms. Miers is confirmed, it will reinforce the popular belief that the Supreme Court is more about political outcomes than the rule of law.

Man, don't you hate it when someone takes notes?

You don't suppose Turd Blossom makes tapes, do you?

Via Big Brass Blog.

Posted by binky at 05:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hurricanes Omicron and Upsilon?

Wilma is upon us, and hurricane season doesn't end until the end of November. So what names will future tropical storms be assigned presuming they develop in the next six weeks (as is highly likely)? Greek letters. Maybe in the future they should start with those, and then when they run out of them move on to more familiar names. I mean really, what are you likely to take more seriously, Hurricane Omega or Hurricane Debby?

Posted by armand at 02:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Tory Leadership Vote, Round 1

And then there were three. The Conservative MPs have shortened the list of men who are competing for their party's leadership from four to three. The results: David Davis 62, David Cameron 56, Liam Fox 42, Kenneth Clarke 38. The Tories acted rather predictably given their behavior of late knocking off the man who many people, regardless of party, considered to be the the Tory who would be the biggest threat to Tony Blair's Labour Party in the next national election.

UPDATE: The commentary on the BBC is interesting. That it's expected that most Clarke voters will move to Cameron isn't surprising. But the results are being interpreted as a huge win for Cameron who exceeded expectations, and a big blow to Davis who underperformed even though he came in first. It seems more and more than the conventional wisdom (all 20 minutes of it) is that Cameron will move on to the final round, but who he will face isn't entirely clear.

Posted by armand at 12:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Real Scholars Don't Blog

And if they do, they shouldn't be dumb enough to do it with their own names and/or let their colleagues/future colleagues know about it.

How do I know this? I've been off being scholarly for a few days, and blogging came up while talking to other scholars. Scholars who found out things they "didn't want to know" about job candidates who were then eliminated from consideration. Scholars who think there's nothing "worth reading" on blogs. Scholars who can't believe anyone would waste "valuable research time" on a blog. Oh, and "there aren't many women bloggers." And scholars who think Dan Drezner should have known better.

Yes, ladles and jellyspoons, the spirit of Ivan Tribble is alive and well.

Posted by binky at 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who Hates Andy Card?

This Anne Kornblutt story continues the thrashing of Andy Card that started a couple of weeks ago. I'm finding this very fishy. So ... all goes well within the White House for 4+ years (from the perspective of the White House), Karl Rove gets the credit, things suddenly look bad, Andy Card is ruining things for the Bush administration. It's looking more and more to me like Rove's allies are desperate to bring Card's reputation down to either keep Rove in the White House after an indictment (and get GOP allies to agree with that as a political necessity even if it's unethical), or to limit Card's power once their protector is gone and to protect their own position.

Slimy, sliming self-interested weasels are well-known to inhabit the White House, they are known more for their spin than for telling the "true" story, and they have a press corps who already believes that Rove is a brilliant tactician who's essential to the smooth running of this White House. So given those facts, and the fact that inner-White House stories are rarely accurate, no matter what administration is being written about - well, keep my theory in mind. And if you are moved to do so, say a prayer for Andy Card. If I'm right, he's in for a lot of abuse in the coming weeks.

Posted by armand at 09:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 17, 2005

The Greatest Working Public Intellectuals of Our Age

Foreign Policy has released the results of its poll. As its discussion of the results notes, the list is heavily weighted to old men from North America, including one (Milton Friedman) who, though brilliant and extremely influential, clearly did not fit the criteria set by the magazine as someone who should be considered for the list (since these are supposed to be people who are still actively working in their fields). Still, like all such lists, it's as much about the rules and encouraging discussion as it is about the final rankings. I've forgotten exactly who I voted for, but people who I'm sure received votes from me came in at #4, #6 and #8.

Posted by armand at 08:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Kevin Drum Wants Supreme Court Term Limits

Yay! Another blogger backing a cause I strongly agree with.

Posted by armand at 07:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Tory Leadership Election

I'll probably discuss this topic a number of times this week since the four remaining candidates will be reduced to two by Thursday. Personally, I think that if the Conservatives want a leader who will take the party forward, maintain the support of the party's base and actually win national elections in the future, though should select David Cameron as their next leader. But given their recent preferences for in-fighting, looking backward and general dullness, it's no suprise that David Davis seems sure to be one of the last two standing. At this point though, the race is still too close to call.

Posted by armand at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Did We Ever Do to Gwen Stefani?

... to be forced to endure "Luxurious"? This post is just for Baltar. My enjoyment of "Cool" as a nice mental getaway and counterpoint to the pressures of tense driving during a rainstorm does not mean I am now a big Gwen Stefani fan. I heard the song "Luxurious" yesterday - or part of it anyway. I couldn't take the pain and switched stations before it ended. That thing is awful. Beyond awful. So, at least when it comes to certain tracks or hers, I'm happy to join you in your belief that Stefani's "music" is basically sloppy, pointless sadism.

Posted by armand at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2005

Rushdie on Pamuk and Turkey's Application to the EU

Salman Rushdie has written an essay asking how Turkey can send its greatest writer to jail and still be considered for membership in the EU.

If you don't know what's going on, it involves public remarks made by the widely admired Orhan Pamuk in which he spoke out on verboten topics - the mass killings of Armenians during World War I and the killings of Kurds in more recent times.

On September 1, 2005, Pamuk was indicted by a district prosecutor for having “blatantly belittled Turkishness” by his remarks. If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail. Article 301/1 of the Turkish penal code, under which Pamuk is to be tried, states that “a person who explicitly insults being a Turk, the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of six months to three years . . . Where insulting being a Turk is committed by a Turkish citizen in a foreign country, the penalty shall be increased by one third.” So, if Pamuk is found guilty, he faces an additional penalty for having made the statement abroad.

Pamuk's trial is set to begin in December.

Posted by armand at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scalia or Thomas - Which One Do the "Conservatives" Really Want?

Everything you've been hearing from the outraged radical right (say, those like Manny Miranda who I can't believe that anyone, Republican or Democrat, really takes seriously, or Robert Bork) who's up in arms over the Miers nomination sounds a lot alike in when it comes to the justice-to-be THEY would have liked to have seen appointed. They want a "strict constructionist" who won't "legislate from the bench" or be an "activist". They want someone who'll hold to "founding" principles and not see the constitution as a "living document". Now, ignoring the fact that some of those preferences are at least partially contradictory, and in some cases clearly not what the speakers of this rhetoric obviously want (many of them are gleeful at the propect of an activist court and want exactly that), and of course the possibility that Miers might yet turn out to be just what they want in terms of substance (or as close to that as possible), they seem to agree that the perfect justice would be another Scalia or Thomas.

The problem with this part of their rhetoric though is that Scalia and Thomas are different in some key respects. For example, Thomas, as the Supreme Court's most ardent originalism, has the least respect for precedent and can therefore look like an "activist" a lot of the time. Scalia, on the other hand is more the strict textualist. And on top of that he's the one who really loves to fulminate outrage in his prose at the moral swamp he thinks America is becoming (why does Antonin Scalia hate Ameria? I kid - sort of). Will Baude wrote a good article on their differences in 2004, and they've continued vote differently on some key cases since then. For example, last term the "conservative" wing of the Court splintered in Granholm v. Heald, the big interstate wine case with Scalia and Kennedy in the majority and Thomas and Rehnquist in dissent, and in Raich, the famous case that came out of California regarding that state's medical marijuana laws, which the Court struck down in a 6-3 vote that featured Scalia and Kennedy again in the majority, and Rehnquist and Thomas again in dissent (once O'Connor retires Thomas will be the only dissenter from Raich still on the Court).

So presuming you are a Miers critic and want another Scalia or Thomas, or you are the president and also want another Scalia or Thomas (as he's said many times), well, which one do you REALLY want? Another Scalia? Or another Thomas?

Posted by armand at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A New Prince in Denmark

Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary have had a son. He'll likely be named Christian. Apparently Australian butchers and bakers are very excited.

And if this news isn't thrilling enough for those of you who can't get enough news about the goings on in the royal familes of Scandinavia, keep in mind that the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway are expecting their second child in December.

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

Reggie Bush

The USC running back remains my favorite Heisman candidate - against Notre Dame he carried the ball 15 times for 160 yeards and 3 touchdowns (even though Notre Dame cheated by not cutting the grass in a sad attempt to slow USC down - didn't work). A phenomonal perdormance in a win for the ages.

As to who else would be on my Heisman ballot if I had one, well, Texas QB Vince Young, and 3 of the following 4 players: Alabama QB Brodie Croyle, Michigan St. QB Drew Stanton, USC QB Matt Leinart and UCLA RB Maurice Drew.

And how about those Mountaineers beating Louisville in the 3rd overtime, 46-44. We've now got an excellent chance to go to a BCS bowl!

Posted by armand at 09:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fire Judith Miller!

She should have been fired long ago - but as Greg Miller points out, in light of her testimony and the coverage in this weekend's Times, she simply must go.

As to specifically damning and "huh?"-raising moments in her tale: Libby wanted to be called a former Hill staffer (that kind of mendacity is both appalling and, possibly, unprecedented)? She had a Secret clearance? The editors couldn't control what she worked on, even after she was specifically banned by them from covering Iraq and WMD issues?

I'm sure as I read more coverage of her story I'm going to find even more things to find troubling (and hopefully we'll all eventually be enlightened as to how she suddenly found that notebook), but all this is more than enough proof to establish that 1) she was happily being played by the administration and was enthusiastically spreading its extraordinarily manipulative spin, 2) she was flat-out telling lies to her bosses, and .... wow, well, if I hit all the points in those articles I'll be making a long list. So suffice to say, if the Times wants to maintain its credibility (or what it has left at the moment) she must be fired.

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

October 15, 2005

American Troops Fighting Syrian Troops

I'm guessing that this will get a fair bit of attention in the news next week. It could be leading up to a US war against another country, and that's not exactly a minor matter. But then again with Rove, Tomkat, and Mary Kate all busy of late, maybe we just won't have time for any more war news on the airwaves until we cross that 2,000 dead in Iraq threshold (though, sadly, that's likely just weeks away). So in case you don't see it elsewhere, here are some highlights from Saturday's article by James Risen and David Sanger:

A series of clashes in the last year between American and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials ...

...other officials, who say they got their information in the field or by talking to Special Operations commanders, say that as American efforts to cut off the flow of fighters have intensified, the operations have spilled over the border - sometimes by accident, sometimes by design.

Some current and former officials add that the United States military is considering plans to conduct special operations inside Syria, using small covert teams for cross-border intelligence gathering ...

Increasingly, officials say, Syria is to the Iraq war what Cambodia was in the Vietnam War ...

Think about the implications of that, and what that may mean to the Americans who hope to see US troops returning home sooner rather than later.

Posted by armand at 01:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

You Can Soon Safely Have a Glass of Wine With Dinner

Whoo-hoo! The government of the Districti of Columbia gets one right. The DC City Council is working on taking away the authority by which the DC police can currently arrest drivers who have any blood alcohol level above .01. Media coverage of an outrage, a legislature spurred by the citizenry to respond - this is how our system is supposed to work.

Posted by armand at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Armand says - skip it.

This film, a Sundance winner, was written by Miranda July, directed by Miranda July, and stars Miranda July. Ms. July might have a bright future ahead of her, and there are times that I liked the tone of this work. But on the whole I didn't enjoy it. The things not in its favor include: 1) it's sooooo overwrought, too earnest and sincere, 2) the oppressive scoring, 3) in places it's badly overwritten, 4) in a few spots it's unfortunately underwritten, 5) and I think some viewers are going to be put off by the section that features a (really cute) 6 year old in a sex chat room.

Which isn't too say it's complete trash. The younger actors are really pretty good, there are a couple of small characters in the movie that are interesting, and a couple more that could have been. But all in all, you've probably got better things to do with your time than sit through this film that bears many of the familiar marking of a failed early work in a filmmaker's career.

Posted by armand at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Insanity '08

If Brownback ever actually becomes President, I'll probably (approaching certainly) move to another country.

How he could think he is qualified, or think his viewpoint represents anything approaching a majority, is beyond me.

Posted by baltar at 09:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 14, 2005

Is the Zawahiri-Zarqawi Letter a Forgery?

Since I posted on it earlier, I think I would be remiss if I didn't note that there several posts on the web questioning it's authenticity. Here's Juan Cole's take on this question (He says that his intuition, the language, tell him it's a fake, but as to who made the fake ... Iran? Iraqi Shiites? the US? That's unclear.) Helena Cobban also thinks it's a fake.

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

October 13, 2005

An Exercise in Transitive Logic

Now follow me here:

The President says that Miers got the nod for the Supreme Court in part because of her religion:

"People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers," Mr. Bush said. "They want to know Harriet Miers's background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions."
"Part of Harriet Miers's life is her religion," Mr. Bush went on, in remarks that may be revived during Ms. Miers's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee several weeks from now. "Part of it has to do with the fact that she was a pioneer woman and a trailblazer in the law in Texas."


Mr. Dobson said he talked to Mr. Rove on Oct. 1, two days before Mr. Bush announced his choice, and had been told that "Harriet Miers is an Evangelical Christian, that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life, that she has taken on the American Bar Association on the issue of abortion and fought for a policy that would not be supportive of abortion, that she had been a member of the Texas Right to Life."

In addition to being Christian, Harriet Miers is a strict "orginalist", we are told.

Now you notice that I haven’t said a word about what her “legal politics” are. What ever that is. To my knowledge she doesn’t have any. She appears, as I have observed, to be a strict constructionist if by that term one means not using the courthouse or the law to ” legislate from the bench.” On more than one occasion I have been in meetings and conferences with her when she would look over at me or someone and say: “what’s the law?” Not, “what result do you want to squeeze out of the question “, but “what’s the law”?

OK. Now here's the kicker:

Amendment I - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So (and follow me here), (Part A) she was chosen (in part or whole) for the religion she believes in, and (Part B) she strictly reads the US Constition, and (Part C) the US Constition says that there should be some sort of wall between religion and government.

If A, and if B, and if C, then logically D: Harriet Miers first act as a Supreme Court judge should be to resign for her appointment violated the first amendment of the Constitution. (If she wants, she can just withdraw now, pointing to this logic.)

I mean, it's just logical, right?

Posted by baltar at 01:01 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Harold Pinter?

I agree with Will Baude. If you are going to give the Nobel Prize for Literature to an aging British playwright, Pinter wouldn't have been my choice.

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

There are "Suicides" and Then There are "Suicides"

Given that we are at war in the region, and that there is often discussion of the US directly confronting Syria itself, you'd think this would be getting more news coverage. Helena Cobban discusses what Kanaan's death might mean here.

UPDATE: More from praktike.

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

Jerry Kilgore Resorts to "Hitler" Ads

Virginia is in the midst of an ugly campaign for governor. I was particularly incensed by one Kilgore ad I heard last week which was pretty close to mendacious (I suppose it could be defended as technically accurate - but the "facts" were taken out of context, and the implications the ad made weren't accurate). But now Kilgore (the Republican candidate) has taken things up a notch and is arguing that Tim Kaine (the Democrat) wouldn't execute Adolph Hitler if he had the chance. [Kaine is personally opposed to the death penalty, but has pledge to enforce it as governor.] I wish I was flabbergasted, but given Kilgore's campaign behavior so far in this race, and the fact that in the last debate he refused to pledge to run mostly positive ads for the remainder of the campaign (Kaine said he would, if Kilgore would too), it's almost predictable. Still - Hitler?!?

The next three weeks are going to feature some truly nasty ads in Virginia.

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

The Vetting of Harriet Miers

John Fund has this fascinating piece on the process, such as it was, that led to the Miers nomination. I'm wondering if the comments about Andy Card should be taken at face value given the recent discussion of an on-going "war" between him and Karl Rove. It's possible that Fund's sources are Rove's allies. But regardless of Card's competence, this is yet more evidence that President Bush's management skills and personnel decisions leave much to be desired.

Oh, and the Bush aide who actually described Miers as "a female trailblazer who will walk in the footsteps of President Bush" needs to go back to spin school.

Posted by armand at 09:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2005

Nothing's the Matter with Kansas

Matt Yglesias links - here - to a paper by Larry Bartels, and a commentary on that paper, that calls into question the foundations of one of the most popular political books of the year.

Posted by armand at 06:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dreier Spiked Because of His Perceived Sexual Orientation?

I am a bit surprised, given that the media tends to be more than a little interested in issues of sex and sexual orientation, that not more has been made of the fact that the Republican caucus appears to have blocked the rise of David Dreier to the position of House Majority Leader largely because of the widespread belief that he's gay. It's not the first time they've acted this way. Steve Gunderson (R-WI) retired because he believed he was blocked from chairing of the Agriculture Committee for a similar reason (well of course - how could America ever trust the government again if an avowed homosexual played a key role in setting the price of corn subsidies). But nonetheless, it's interesting that this isn't openly discussed in the major media. Not that I think it should be open season on closet heterosexuals. I don't. But if this is, in practice, a bar to holding high office in this country, and the Republican party particularly insists on enforcing this code, it would seem appropriate to talk about this openly and end this wink-wink, nudge-nudge business.

Posted by armand at 04:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is Al Qaeda Afraid of Iran?

Justin Logan notes that the Zawahiri-Zarqawi letter seems to imply that Zawahiri isn't in league with the Iranians. I'd go further than that and say that his excerpt implies a considerable fear of Iran. Read the whole letter here.

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

October 11, 2005

Are You There George? It's Me, God

If true this is ... interesting. It seems George Bush is on a mission from God, and he thinks the Palestinians need to know that.

Posted by armand at 01:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

So Now the White House Trusts Nagin and Blanco?

Am I the only one perplexed by the fact that the Bush White House, which spent weeks after Katrina decrying the political leadership in New Orleans and Louisiana, implying that that Blanco and Nagin shouldn't be trusted to organize a church cake walk, now appears perfectly willing to let them manage the rebuilding effort - an effort supported by tens of billions of dollars from the federal government?

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

Samuel Huntington a Racist? Who Knew?!?

In the realm of academia there is probably no one who's grand reputation I understand less than Huntington's. I can understand why it started, but over time he seems to have been wrong more often than he was right. Or maybe it's just that I found Political Order in Changing Societies to be both theoretically flawed and ponderously written. No, his considerable flaws extend beyond that one text. And lately he seems to have given up all pretense at hiding from critics who think of him as a reactionary kook. Latest example? In the November issue of The Atlantic Bernard-Henri Levy quotes him as saying, "The big thing, the big problem with Hispanics, is that they don't like education!" (Emphasis mine of course, but I think it's merited.)

Posted by armand at 11:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mitt Romney Dives into Foreign Policy

And the results aren't pretty.

Oh, and this line, the lead in the Boston Globe story on the poorly worded speech, really sticks out:

Venturing into foreign policy, Governor Mitt Romney yesterday told a largely Republican audience that Islamic terrorists "want to bring down our government" and "want to put in place a huge theocracy."

Is Governor Romney calling the Jim Dobson, Roy Moore and Pat Robertson crowd "Islamic terrorists"!?! Well, no. But it's always disconcerting to see phrases in which "Islamic terrorists" and "Republican leaders" can be used interchangeably.

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

October 10, 2005


It keeps coming.

Kung Fu Monkey continues his blogging for relief. He pledges to match your donation, this time for the Kashmiri earthquake (past recipients, Iraq veterans and hurricane victims).

DailyKos has a list of organizations that are in or planning to be in the region offering aid.

Posted by binky at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

LOTR Goodness

While searching for the translation to "One ring to rule them all..." (for the link to the Making Light post referenced below) this came up in the marvels of google:

The Lord of the Rings: an allegory of the PhD?

The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit, quite bright, a bit dissatisfied with what he's learnt so far and with his mates back home who just seem to want to get jobs and settle down and drink beer. He's also very much in awe of his tutor and mentor, the very senior professor Gandalf, so when Gandalf suggests he take on a short project for him (carrying the Ring to Rivendell), he agrees.

Frodo very quickly encounters the shadowy forces of fear and despair which will haunt the rest of his journey and leave permanent scars on his psyche, but he also makes some useful friends. In particular, he spends an evening down the pub with Aragorn, who has been wandering the world for many years as Gandalf's postdoc and becomes his adviser when Gandalf isn't around.

After Frodo has completed his first project, Gandalf (along with head of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be extended. He assembles a large research group, including visiting students Gimli and Legolas, the foreign postdoc Boromir, and several of Frodo's own friends from his undergraduate days. Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project, though he has mixed feelings about it. ("'I will take the Ring', he said, 'although I do not know the way.'")

Very rapidly, things go wrong. First, Gandalf disappears and has no more interaction with Frodo until everything is over. (Frodo assumes his supervisor is dead: in fact, he's simply found a more interesting topic and is working on that instead.) At his first international conference in Lorien, Frodo is cross-questioned terrifyingly by Galadriel, and betrayed by Boromir, who is anxious to get the credit for the work himself. Frodo cuts himself off from the rest of his team: from now on, he will only discuss his work with Sam, an old friend who doesn't really understand what it's all about, but in any case is prepared to give Frodo credit for being rather cleverer than he is. Then he sets out towards Mordor.

The last and darkest period of Frodo's journey clearly represents the writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount Doom (submission), finding his burden growing heavier and heavier yet more and more a part of himself; more and more terrified of failure; plagued by the figure of Gollum, the student who carried the Ring before him but never wrote up and still hangs around as a burnt-out, jealous shadow; talking less and less even to Sam. When he submits the Ring to the fire, it is in desperate confusion rather than with confidence, and for a while the world seems empty.

Eventually it is over: the Ring is gone, everyone congratulates him, and for a few days he can convince himself that his troubles are over. But there is one more obstacle to overcome: months later, back in the Shire, he must confront the external examiner Saruman, an old enemy of Gandalf, who seeks to humiliate and destroy his rival's protege. With the help of his friends and colleagues, Frodo passes through this ordeal, but discovers at the end that victory has no value left for him. While his friends return to settling down and finding jobs and starting families, Frodo remains in limbo; finally, along with Gandalf, Elrond and many others, he joins the brain drain across the Western ocean to the new land beyond.

This Dave Pritchard is a clever fellow indeed.

Posted by binky at 09:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ash nazg durbatulûk

Making Light has a name for the nine.

Posted by binky at 08:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

They'll Always Have Denny's

A3G provides more dishy gossip into the loves of Harriet Miers. I swear, I really am inching closer and closer to a personal endorsement of her nomination. Her story really is the most bizarre thing I've seen this side of media personalities conducting what are supposedly serious interviews with Bernard Kerik and Louis Freeh.

Posted by armand at 08:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Things Noticed on a Stormy Drive

Thought I'd pass along the following observations from my long drive on Saturday:

Boston College is possibly the most underrated team in college football (now that Alabama is on everyone’s radar). Their victory over a good Virginia Cavaliers team was probably more convincing than the final 11 point margin, and I won’t be at all surprised if they finish the season with a 9-2 record and go to a good bowl game.

The news on NPR lately has gotten really weird. At times it’s far better than any other (sort of) major media outlet at seriously considering the serious events of our times. But some of those features – does anyone care? And I really wish they would get people who’ve actually been on the internet to interview bloggers, but perhaps that’s just a pet peeve.

Unexpected favorites in the cd rotation: Beulah’s The Coast Is Never Clear and Pernice Brothers’ Yours, Mine and Ours. I like both much more than I remembered, and my memory of both was reasonably favorable to start with. A cut below those two was Nada Surf’s Let Go. Hadn’t listend to that in some time. Still good.

Favorite songs heard on the radio on the drive back: “Animal” by Def Leppard, and that pretty current thing by Gwen Stefani (which I presume must be called “Cool”). No, I can’t put my finger on the appeal of that rather odd pairing, but I probably partially like the Stefani because of the ridiculously pretty video. Does anyone, anywhere, actually live in such beautiful surroundings?

Worst song: “Girl Next Door” by Saving Jane. Nothing else came anywhere near being as awful as this monstrosity. The badness of it really boggles the mind. It should soon be challenging “We Built This City” for supremacy of the “worst songs in the last 20 years” lists. The barely mediocre music (and that is being SOOOOOO kind) is bad enough, but those lyrics – talk about a celebration of a would-be violent, bitter, utterly-pathetic, whiny losers. And as if the message wasn’t bad enough, the words, the wording, the prose, the lameness of it, the expectedness of it, the total lack of any imagination or skill - ok, got to stop remembering that before I have some sort of stroke.

Posted by armand at 08:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Is Cardinal Krol Burning in Hell? Will Cardinal Bevilacqua Be Joining Him?

A fair number of Roman Catholics might be asking themselves that question given the cover story in the latest issue of the National Catholic Reporter:

A grand jury that investigated the Philadelphia archdiocese for more than three years has concluded that two former archbishops orchestrated a systematic cover-up spanning four decades that managed to successfully shield from prosecution 63 priests who had sexually abused hundreds of children. In a 418-page report issued Sept. 21, the grand jury said that the two archbishops -- the retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and the late Cardinal John Krol -- “excused and enabled the abuse” by “burying the reports they did receive and covering up the conduct ... to outlast any statutes of limitation.”
Posted by armand at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Amending the (Proposed) Iraqi Constitution

From Sunday's Washington Post:

"Saudi Arabian and Jordanian officials, at the urging of U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, have called on Sunni politicians in Iraq to stick with negotiations until Monday, Iraqi and U.S. officials said. Iraqi lawmakers say Monday is the last possible date for bargaining over the language of the constitution, which will be put to voters next Saturday. Ballots are already being printed at a plant in Europe, and the first of millions of copies of the proposed constitution have been distributed across Iraq."

Democracy really does look different over there, doesn't it? Changing the wording of a national referendum less than a week before the vote - that really promotes the appearance of stability and a fair-minded system the voters can have faith in, no? And that people would be voting on a constitution different from that printed on the "millions of copies" that are being distributed to the populace - just a minor, technical matter I guess.

Posted by armand at 11:01 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

"No More Souters" and the Gang of Fourteen

Put them together, these self-imposed and outside constraints on the administration's choices for the US Supreme Court, and you'll understand why Bush nominated Roberts and Miers. Or so says Michael E. Levine in this interesting post.

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

October 09, 2005

Comment Errors

Mil perdones. Especially to the Stealth Badger.

We upgraded to a new version of MT Blacklist, and occasionally, and inexplicably (at least so far) comments are being denied for "questionable content." It's happened to me, to Armand, to Joshua, and now I find out, to Stealth Badger. We were thinking it was related to posting frequency (reasonable in the case of Armand, Joshua and I, as we light things up with Morris), but I don't see how that applies to our new badger friend. We're going to try to see if we can sort this out, but in the mean time, if you experience the problem, please email me.

Posted by binky at 06:44 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Public Intellectuals

One of my favorite academic bloggers, Dan Drezner, received a "negative tenure decision" at the department level. As he said, "Friday was a pretty bad day." It's devastating news for a bright young scholar, with the added insult that your mind can't help but imagine all the reasons why the people you work with every day don't want you around anymore. It's impossible to know what lies behind the bizarre alchemy of tenure decisions, and none of us really can or should speculate on the reasons.

That being said, Drezner plays on "our team" - Bloodless Coup is an IR squad - and my team in particular, and I'd hate to see him leave the discipline. Let's hope he gets snapped up by an institution where his contribution is seen as an invaluable asset.

Posted by binky at 05:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Forbidden Green Day

I spent most of two days last week on the road to and from Avon, North Carolina (out on the Outer Banks, just a few miles from the Cape Hatteras lighthouse - an area which appears to be nirvana for kiteboarders at this time of year). For much of the 21 hours in which I was on the rode I was listening to the radio. It's rather interesting - both what hear, and what you don't. It seems that the great majority of "news" that you hear on the radio in Virginia and North Carolina is from a Christain perspective, and these shows include all sorts of informative features. For instance, if I hadn't been listening I would never know that psychotherapy is some sort of Eastern infiltration of American culture, and that by bringing its practices into our churches Americans are making room for the devil's representatives in the house of the Lord - just like an incident involving practices in the Temple discussed in the Book of Nehemiah. But what really stuck out to me was, as usual, the types of songs that dominate the airwaves. A lot of it is really awful of course. And it seems that Journey, Styx and Def Leppard will never fade away, and every so often you can hear even older rock (for example, The Who), but that's a good deal more rare. But the one thing that really caught my ear involved Green Day's recent hit song "Holiday".

I think this is a really good song, and when I hear it played I'm happy to think that even though Ashlee Simpson and American Idol exist, all hope for popular music is not lost. But what really perplexed me the more I thought about it was how this song became a hit song. Part of it, I presume, has to do with the video, which is one of the best Green Day has ever made. But of course you'd assume that part of its popularity also stems from the song itself - and that's a little weird since I heard 3 or 4 different versions of the song on the radio, and only 1 time on the entire drive did I hear the whole song (that was on a station in either Lynchburg or Charlottesville). Usually, this section was abbreviated, bleeped, or cut out completely:

The representative from California has the floor Zieg Heil to the president gasman Bombs away is your punishment, Pulverize the Eiffel towers Who criticize your government Bang, Bang goes the broken glass Kill all the fags that don't agree Trials by fire, setting fire Is not a way that's meant for me Just cause, just cause, because we're outlaws, yeah!

So what I'm wondering is - why? What is it about these lyrics that's just too objectional for American ears? Is it the use of "fags"? That's probably the most common deletion - but it's hardly like that's a rarely heard word. And why do some stations delete this entire section of the song? The level of anti-Bush policy feeling? No Bush criticisms allowed? I'm genuinely curious.

Posted by armand at 03:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday Funnies

Zod 2008

Via Amygdala

Posted by binky at 02:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 08, 2005

Yay, Us!

Instead of blogging today, Armand drove a few hundred miles. Binky ran ten miles. Baltar ran seventeen. On second thought: Yay, Baltar!

Posted by binky at 06:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 07, 2005

Can Afghanistan Really Sustain Democracy?

Caught this a few days ago at Intel Dump:

The elections were a huge financial and logistical challenge which Afghanistan could not have done by itself. The total cost was upwards of $149 million dollars, and it required 1,247 donkeys, 300 horses, 24 camels, 1,200 trucks, 9 helicopters, and 39 transport planes to get ballots to the 26,250 polling stations around the country. There were also almost 3,000 external election monitors to insure fairness. All of this was provided or paid for by the US and international community.
According to the Asian Development Bank ***, Afghanistan’s GDP (excluding opium production) for 2004 was estimated at $5.4 billion. The election cost represents about 2.76% of the country’s GPD, and 24% of the government’s estimated $609 million operating budget (2004 estimate). Scheduled at every five years, parliamentary elections will be a recurring expense. On top of this, Afghanistan is still a pauper nation, and its government depends on handouts from the international community in order to function. Free elections in Afghanistan are dependent on the continued generosity of the outside world.

So it costs them about 2.5 to 3.0% of their GDP everytime they have an nationwide election. (Just for comparison, 3% of the US GDP is about $360 billion.) Now, granted, they don't have to have one of these every year (but, one assumes, at least every three). But still, that's a great deal of money to spend just to count the votes.

How soon will someone propose (or implement) a plan where they start pinching pennies by not trying so hard to reach all the remote areas? Which is another way of saying, How long until Afghanistan isn't democratic anymore?

Posted by baltar at 05:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 06, 2005

For the Seriously Geeky

More recommended reading, on constructivism in IR theory. I recommended part of this debate to Baltar a while ago, but continue to follow the discussion about constructivist theory (especially as I am engaged in some myself).

For the uninitiated, constructivism is an alternative to the traditional liberal/realist divide in IR. However there are some who argue that constructivism is really "liberal" while others maintain that it is neutral of such ties.

This series of discussions speaks directly to my comments on Henry's article about academic blogging. It is precisely the kind of things that is not happening enough within the academy, but is flourishing on the internets.

Abu Aardvark

Duck of Minerva

Abu Aardvark again

And when they bring up Habermas, oh dear, how it takes me back to comprehensive exams and my Morning Methodology.

Posted by binky at 12:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Midterm-time, and the posting is lazy

Tests are coming

And the red pens are nigh

The first test's all wrong

And the second is weaker

So hush now readers

We're gonna cry.

In addition, Armand is traveling for a few days now, and I will be out of the country for several days next week. Baltar has 200 exams to grade. Light posting all around.

In the spirit of the midterm miasma, go check out Lawyers, Guns and Money and Mad, Melancholic Feminista (via LGM).

Posted by binky at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Swallow that sip of coffee...

...because spraying it on the keyboard won't do your computer any good. Ready? My Little Crony.

Posted by binky at 09:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 05, 2005

One of the best tag lines out there

"Serenity through viciousness." Yes, it's more tooting of the Rev. Mykeru's horn, and here's another reason why you should read his blog.

Yeah, I know, sometimes the posts remind you of that smart kid in class that annoyed everyone else by asking the questions that made the Professor uncomfortable, and wouldn't let go. The one who really didn't give a damn about the grade, or getting all the notes that day, but who really wanted an answer and to call the blowhard prof on his shit.

The Right Wing Agenda? Sucks to get your ass kicked by the ghost of some former president in a wheelchair, don't it?

Oh yes, and he cusses. Read all the way down to the sweet image of the squirrel on the White House lawn.

Posted by binky at 04:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I Feel Safer!

Via War and Piece, and posted without comment:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Relations between the Department of Homeland Security and some key big-city and state police forces have sunk to a new low, CQ Weekly reports. The magazine's "Spy Talk" column, says the flow of intelligence data between the department and many local forces has been at a virtual standstill since May. At the center of the row is a previously undisclosed May 7 letter to the department from Ed Manavian, chairman of the Joint Regional Information Exchange System, or JRIES -- a state and local police intelligence and information-sharing network. In the letter, addressed to the director of the Homeland Security Operations Center, retired Marine Gen. Matthew Broderick, he called the decision to cut ties "unfortunate."
"[W]e must inform you that the Board unanimously voted to discontinue our relationship with the (Homeland Security Operations Center)," wrote Manavian, who is also chief of the California Department of Justice's Criminal Intelligence Bureau. The letter added it was a "difficult, but necessary, decision. The consensus of the Board is that the (Homeland Security Operations Center) has 'hi-jacked' the system and federalized a successful, cooperative, federal, state, and local project," Manavian wrote. "The failures . . . are a direct result of ignoring the concerns expressed by this Board on numerous occasions." Broderick has yet to answer the five-month old letter, according to CQ Weekly. The magazine reports that some of the most frustrated police officials are responsible for jurisdictions "thought to be among al-Qaida's top targets, such as New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C." (Format edited, emphasis mine)(link)
Posted by baltar at 09:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2005

A Law to Prevent Sluts and Homos from Having Babies? No, We're Protecting the Children!

When the ladies get a little upset about political control over and restrictions on women's autonomy over their own bodies, they always get painted as hysterical. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. WAKE THE FUCK UP ALREADY.

The latest, via Feministing, is a proposed law in Indiana regulating non-penis/vagina fertilization. A key part of the law? You only get access to non-penis/vagina fertilization is if you have a penis-possessor married to a vagina-possessor. And even then, in vitro and other reproductive technology is not guaranteed, as you must submit extensive information about your background, values, lifestyle, faith and whether or not you've ever had an abortion.

See for yourself what the Indiana legislature is up to now [PDF draft of bill]. To get approval to use your own money to pay your own doctor for fertility treatments, you must get the approval of the county court. More from the Booman Tribune (emphasis mine):

The change in Indiana law to require marriage as a condition for motherhood and criminalizing "unauthorized reproduction" was introduced at a summer meeting of the Indiana General Assembly's Health Finance Commission on September 29 and a final version of the bill will come up for a vote at the next meeting at the end of this month.

Republican Senator Patricia Miller is both the Health Finance Commission Chair and the sponsor of the bill. She believes the new law will protect children in the state of Indiana and make parenting laws more explicit.


"Ordinary treatment would be the mother's egg and the father's sperm. But now there are a lot of extraordinary things that raise issues of who has legal rights as parents," she explained when asked what she considers "extraordinary" infertility treatment.

Sen. Miller believes the requirement of marriage for parenting is for the benefit of the children that result from infertility treatments.

"We did want to address the issue of whether or not the law should allow single people to be parents. Studies have shown that a child raised by both parents - a mother and a father - do better. So, we do want to have laws that protect the children," she explained.

When asked specifically if she believes marriage should be a requirement for motherhood, and if that is part of the bill's intention, Sen. Miller responded, "Yes. Yes, I do."

See that one? Motherhood, not parenthood. Parenting laws. What kind of parenting laws are there for people who make babies the old fashioned way? Aside from the ones about child abuse, that is. And this new bill doesn't really address violations like that anyway, beyond including a search for past instances in the background check.

(c) An unmarried person may not be an intended parent.

A trifecta! Prevent the single mothers, those living in sin, and the gays all in one line of legislation.

(b) The assessment must follow the normal practice for assessments in a domestic infant adoption procedure and must include the following information:

(1) The intended parents' purpose for the assisted reproduction.

This one aimed at those just going after the stem cells? The baby-sacrificing Satanists? The ones who plan to abort just for fun?

25 (2) The fertility history of the intended parents, including the pregnancy history and response to pregnancy losses of the woman.

Pregnancy history, and response to losses. What business does the state have requiring this kind of information? What is this, Kansas? And what does how a woman responds to a loss have to do with it? No crying, no invitro?

(4) A list of the intended parents' family and friend support system.

How on earth is this the state's business? What purpose does any of this serve?

Just to be clear here, this is an attempt to regulate who can reproduce, and not only does it restrict "fringe" elements like the unmarried (and of course by extension the gay) it contains elements that affect everyone. One of my favorites? That the "gestational mother" must enter into psychological counseling, and:

The gestational mother may not enter into a gestational agreement unless the person who provided the psychological counseling states in writing that the gestational mother is psychologically competent to enter into the agreement.

I wonder if "crazy feminist" counts as psychologically competent.

A person who enters into a gestational agreement in violation of this chapter commits a Class B misdemeanor.

In Indiana, a Class B misdemeanor includes stalking, and battery.

More goodies from the bill.

(6) Personal information about each intended parent, including the following:

(A) Family of origin.

(B) Values.

(C) Relationships.

(D) Education.

(E) Employment and income.

(F) Hobbies and talents.

(G) Physical description, including the general health of the individual.

(H) Birth verification.

(I) Personality description, including the strengths and weaknesses of each intended parent.

(7) Description of any children residing in the intended parents' home.

(8) A verification and evaluation of the intended parents' marital relationship, including:

(A) the shared values and interests between the individuals;

(B) the manner in which conflict between the individuals is resolved; and

(C) a history of the intended parents' relationship.

(9) Documentation of the dissolution of any prior marriage and an assessment of the impact of the prior marriage on the intended parents' relationship.

(10) A description of the family lifestyle of the intended parents, include a description of individual participation in faith-based or church activities, hobbies, and other interests.

(11) The intended parents' child rearing expectations and values.

(12) A description of the home and community, including verification of the safety and security of the home.

(13) Child care plans.

(14) Statement of the assets, liabilities, investments, and ability of the intended parents to manage finances, including the most recently filed tax forms.

(15) A review of the local police records, the state and violent offender directory, and a criminal history check as set forth in subsection (c).

(16) A letter of reference by a friend or family member.

Local coverage here.

Posted by binky at 02:41 PM | Comments (83) | TrackBack

Blogs and the Academy

Henry of Crooked Timber links to an article he wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education on blogging and academia. A while ago there was an anonymous piece suggesting that blogging was not a good idea, particularly for those on the tenure track, or the job market. Henry takes the opposite perspective, and does a very nice job laying out the reasons why.

For reasons personal and disciplinary, one resonated with me far more than the others.

Why are so many academics beginning to blog? Academic blogs offer the kind of intellectual excitement and engagement that attracted many scholars to the academic life in the first place, but which often get lost in the hustle to secure positions, grants, and disciplinary recognition.


However, academic blogs also provide a carnival of ideas, a lively and exciting interchange of argument and debate that makes many scholarly conversations seem drab and desiccated in comparison.

I'll take it a step further. Not only is it the hustle that limits the ability of academics to engage debates, it's other academics and their lack of interest. Debate each other over departmental governance? Sure. Over theory? Really? Sometimes it seems as if the research we do is as intellectually stimulating as digging a ditch. It has it's appropriate depth, structure, and length, and there's a sense of satisfaction in completion, but excitement? It's like that old cartoon where the dog and the wolf and the sheep all punch the clock and go in to play their roles as guard, hunter and hunted. Thay all know what they are supposed to do, not that they really care about it.

Has The Academy been transformed into a world populated by some version of these clock-punchers? We go through the motions without the passion to really care? Where not even the wolf really wants to eat the sheep (or the scholar to catch the new idea)?

I'm not sure that is the case at all. Rather, the passion remains, the ideas are still bouncing around, and the scholars still want to snap them up, thrash them around, fight over them in a tug-of-war. The problem is that the academics, mostly junior but some senior, who are drawn to blogging have figured out that the academy - or at least in enough of its institutions - is no longer the environment to pursue the intellectual adventure they seek. The division of the disciplines restricts the environment even further, so that the dog and the wolf don't even get to nod at each other when they punch the clock, much less chase each other around. And so being restless and fickle creatures that we are, we go looking for our version of Lenin's coffee house, where we can air out new ideas, get taken to task for lazy ones, figure out what style of argument resonates better, all in an environment where everyone's playing voluntarily, enthusiastically, and from a whole range of backgrounds and interests.

Henry goes on to talk about why this kind of community is not necessarily well-received:

In this respect, the blogosphere resembles not only the Republic of Letters (where a printer's devil could become an internationally renowned intellectual), but the "little magazines" in their golden age, when established scholars, up-and-comers, and amateurs rubbed shoulders on a more or less equal footing. This openness can be discomfiting to those who are attached to established rankings and rituals -- but it also means that blogospheric conversations, when they're good, have a vigor and a liveliness that most academic discussion lacks.


Most important, the scholarly blogosphere offers academics a place where they can reconnect with the public. The links between academic argument and wider public debates are increasingly tenuous and frayed. It's far harder than it used to be for academics to become public intellectuals (not that it was ever very easy, or very common). This has malign consequences, not only for the quality of debate on both sides of the divide, but also for public perceptions of the academy. It's also a source of considerable frustration to many academics, who either believe that their academic expertise could be valuable to a wider audience, or resent the distorted public perception of what they do. Blogging democratizes the function of public intellectual. It's no longer necessary for an academic to lobby the editors of The Washington Post's op-ed page or The New York Review of Books in order to make his or her voice heard. Instead, he or she can start a blog and (with interesting arguments and a bit of luck and self-promotion) begin to have an impact on the public conversation.

Not only is it more intellectually stimulating (read: fun) to blog about ideas, it also makes academics feel useful to engage in public debate about real issues. In the "hustle" to secure the appropriate quantities of those valuable academic commodities (grants, publications, enrollments) it's all too easy for tasks or symbols to outpace (in value) the original object's meaning. How many academics work on an article and think "well, what real impact is this ever going to have?" It's not because the ideas can't have real impact, but that the accepted format virtually insures that it won't.

And I'll let Henry have the last word, with an "Amen, brother."

Not exactly dignified; a little undisciplined; carnivalesque. Sometimes signal, sometimes noise. But exactly because of this, they provide a kind of space for the exuberant debate of ideas, for connecting scholarship to the outside world, which we haven't had for a long while. We should embrace them wholeheartedly.

Posted by binky at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Zth Percentile

The Stealth Badger riffs on the Rev. Mykeru's discussion (such a tame word to describe Mykeru) about the difference between A-list bloggers and "Z-list" bloggers. From Stealth Badger:

How to tell you're a happy Z-Lister:

  • You don't have enough readers for anyone to get paid to twist your words, but you have enough so that you don't feel like you're just primal screaming into your sock drawer.
  • You have time to dink around with your site, doing things that will probably break it for a little while, and your readers will snicker with you rather than complaining with the kind of voice that is usually only heard by tired, underpaid Customer Service Representatives.
  • You have never had the compulsion to say something you know isn't true because you think someone else would like it.
  • You have the freedom to either block 0-signal-to-noise-ratio trolls at the firewall/blog application, be reasonable, or flame the crap out of them as you like. Or all three!
  • You're small enough that if you choose, you can easily and quickly get and interpret the logs for your blog (or know who can in a moment's notice) and allow the information therein to inform your answer to said trolls (such as the people who follow you home from other blogs to act like morons in your house.).
  • Your stylesheet/template can totally suck, and you can somewhat avoid feel guilty about it. *looks over at the ugly, horrible archives listing, which is why my blogroll is on a separate page....* >.>;)
  • Death Before Proofreading is a viable editing strategy.
  • E-mail about your site and comments ON it are rare enough to be a wonderful surprise, and just common enough that you never, ever think about quitting because no-one's interested
  • You're perfectly happy with your fluid, chaotic, undisciplined writing style, free to one day sound like a raving psychotic, the next sounding like a bookkeeper.
  • You can occasionally treasure the illusion that some of your ideas are original, without it some smug jerk mouthing off at you who can't accept that if you thought it up without anyone telling it to you, then you at least get credit for using your goddamn brains.
  • No-one sucks up to you, so you can trust and treasure the compliments that you get.*
  • For that matter, you're small enough that you've got enough time to DO things like be your e-mail admin, site designer, etc. (depending on your individual skills).
  • You feel like you're allowed to make mistakes.
  • Updating your server hardware does not involve issuing a press release.
  • You're still doing it for the reasons you STARTED doing it.
  • It can still occasionally be FUN.
  • Like looking in the mirror. And I especially liked the seventh item on the list.

    And on a final note, I've seen the Stealth Badger around, but never been over to the site, which is surprising, given our love of badgers (at the top of our diversions list, no less). I'm definitely in favor of working Ozymandias into more blog posts.

    Posted by binky at 06:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    October 03, 2005

    And She's 60!

    We've all got our own little things that irk us about the Miers nomination (or two, or six, or ten of them), but one that's really irritating me by this point in the day is the constant harping about how the president did such a terrible thing in nominating a woman of 60 (and one month and 13 days if you are counting) to the Supreme Court. There have been plenty of distinguished justices who were appointed at that age (or older) - Cardozo, Brandeis, Ginsburg and Powell among them - and I'd like to think we could agree on it being a nice thought that we're getting as good a justice as possible when these appointments are made, not the best justice who can can be sure will serve for 30 years so that one individual president can shape the nature of the court long, long after that individual has been chosen by the electoral college. And of course apart from the basic merit argument, or the argument that there should be a bit more accountability or democracy in these appointments - that we shouldn't be stuck with the leftovers of a bygone and possibly rebuked era, there's also the practical matter of it being difficult to know exactly how long a justice will live, even if they are appointed young (Frank Murphy and Wiley Rutledge, two FDR appointees, didn't live to see sixty). But to me the merit point is the key one. And it's one of the reasons that I really would like to see some sort of term-limit reform established. Sadly, I don't think it will happen. But it would be a way to possibly press upon presidents that they should select the best possible justices - not the justices who will live the longest. Presuming Bush actually believes in Miers, he didn't need be reminded of this point. But a lot of "movement" conservatives seem more interested in longevity (among other things)than quality.

    Posted by armand at 07:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Edith, Harriet, Edith, Priscilla, Alice, Janice ...

    It might just be me, but don't the names of the Republican women who've gotten attention as possible Supreme Court nominees this year sound like some odd roll call from classic TV? I'm not saying I'd prefer discussions of the latest opinions and qualifications of Ambers, Madisons, Emmas and Tamikas - but it has added a bit of a strange tinge on these discussions.

    Posted by armand at 01:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Right Really Wants Unprincipled Partisan Judges

    While some of today's criticisms of Harriet Miers may be well deserved, they are also shedding light on the kinds of justice many on the far right would prefer - a judge who actually doesn't have any respect for the law, a judge who sees his or her proper role as an enforcer for particular partisan or ideological propsitions, regardless of their basis in law or on any coherent set of legal principles. Moon eviscerates this notion in this post.

    Posted by armand at 01:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    More on What's Lost in New Orleans

    These two lines jumped out at me from this story in the Washington Post on the future of the Ninth Ward:

    Of the 160,000 buildings in Louisiana declared "uninhabitable" after Katrina, a majority are in the New Orleans neighborhoods that suffered extensive flooding.

    160,000!?! And as if the here and now of this storm's effects weren't bad enough, the history that may be lost may be of a terrible scale, even though the damage in the French Quarter and Uptown appears not to have been cataclysmic:

    New Orleans, with 20 districts on the National Register of Historic Places covering half the city, has the highest concentration of historic structures in the nation ...
    Posted by armand at 01:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Capito Declines to Challenge Byrd

    US Representative Shelley Moore Capito has announced she will not challenge Robert C. Byrd in his quest to win a ninth term in the US Senate next year. While in the short term this may be good news for Byrd, and for Democrats seeking to win control of the Senate in '06, in the longer term it's probably even better news for Capito who will likely remain the most popular GOP politician in the state for some time to come.

    Posted by armand at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Loyalty Versus Experience (We Lose)

    As just about everyone who wakes up this morning will soon realize, Bush has chosen a new nominee to the Supreme Court: Harriet Miers. I'm not a relentless court-watcher, so this name was new to me. I have no idea how conservative or moderate she is (I'll assume she's not liberal). However, just how qualified is she?:

    Miers came with him to the White House in 2001 as staff secretary, the person who screens all the documents that cross the president's desk. She was promoted to deputy chief of staff before Bush named her counsel after his reelection in November. She replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, another longtime Bush confidant, who was elevated to attorney general. (link)

    She only became White House Counsel this past February (only 8 months ago), and before that she did staff work (including screening documents?) in the White House since early 2001. Of course, before that, she worked on Bush's campaign.

    The currents running underneath the Washington Post story seem to hint that she has two prime qualifications: first, she has no paper trail (she's never been a judge before), so the Democrats won't be able to mount an effective attack against her; and second, that she's been with Bush a very long time (she also worked for him as governor of Texas) and is thus very loyal.

    Honestly, how qualified is she to, now, serve for life on the most important court in the country? Since when did stealth and loyalty rise up to be the prime qualifications for the Supreme Court, over intelligence or experience or strong views or even ideology?

    Again, I know nothing about her from a judicial point of view. However, given her "stealth" status, I can only judge her candidacy from the perspective of other, relatively unknown, Texas-connected people that this President has installed into office: Gonzalez, Brown, Rodgers-Brown, Pickering, and on and on. This President values loyalty, it seems, above all other qualifications (including, in the case of Brown, actually being qualified to run FEMA). In other words, once again a bad choice.

    Posted by baltar at 08:13 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

    October 02, 2005

    Why I Hate The Creationists

    What really pisses me off about this whole creationism versus evolution thing is how this is an assault on evolution, not an assault on religion or beliefs. I mean, no biologist, no "darwinist" (does anyone, anywhere identify as a "darwinist"?), no evolution supporter is arguing that scientists should be allowed into the churches to try and convert people. It's always the other way around: it's the creationists (or, if you want to be politically correct, the "intelligent design people") who want science to change to reflect their beliefs, not the scientists who want the Christians to change to reflect what science now knows. You would think that the two sides could leave each other more or less alone: the scientists don't preach, and the creationists don't do science. Very logical.

    Doesn't seem to be happening. In a suburb of Harrisburg (PA), some creationists got themselves elected to the school board and pushed through a change to the biology classes (note: that's a science class, not a religion class) that taught "intelligent design" (AKA creationism) as well. This caused that Great American Tradition: lawsuits. In any event, I really liked a couple of quotes from the New York Times story:

    As for the pastor, after four days of listening to science experts dismantling the case for intelligent design, he was unimpressed..."They're babblers," said the pastor, the Rev. Jim Grove, who leads a 40-member independent Baptist church outside of Dover. "The more Ph.D.'s you get, it seems like the further away from God you get."

    Yup, there's a scientific equation you can take to the bank: More Ph.D.s = Further From God. Remember, this is a science class. Why is it that the creationists get to insult the scientists (and that's OK), but when the scientists toss around terms like "ignorant hicks" that's some sort of slur on religion (when, in fact, it's a slur on hicks). Seriously, though, recognize the pure unadulterated anti-intellectualism in that statement: the more education, the less religion (and that, assumed by ommission, is just wrong).

    During the lunch break on Thursday, Mr. Thompson said he founded the law center [Thomas More Law Center] to defend Christians who he thought were losing the culture wars. The center was initially financed by Thomas Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza. Both men are Roman Catholics..."There are two worldviews that are in conflict," Mr. Thompson said. "I do feel that even though Christians are 86 percent of the population, they have become second-class citizens."

    Yup, once again, a brilliant nugget. 86% of the population is Christian, but they're the oppressed minority who have become second class citizens. Look, Christians in America are about as second class as Hindus in India or Buddists in Tibet. If you want to see "second class", go be a Christian in Iraq, or a Christian in China, or - hell - a Muslim in Alabama. That's "second class".

    Look, this is really simple: the scientists won't preach, and the ministers won't teach biology. Why can't we live with that compromise?

    Posted by baltar at 05:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    The "Second-String" Women on the Supreme Court Short List

    Slate has this profile of three federal appeals court judges who are increasingly being discussed as possible replacements for Justice O'Connor - Judges Karen Williams, Alice Batchelder and Consuela Callahan. I find the idea of a Williams or Batchelder appointment rather disturbing. I don't know much about Callahan.

    Posted by armand at 02:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Reggie Bush Rising?

    Not to take anything away from Vince Young, Brodie Croyle, Brady Quinn, and Marcus Vick (the quarterbacks at Texas, Alabama, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, all of whom looked great yesterday) but if anyone's stock is going to rise in the Heisman race (yeah, I think it's about as meaningful as a Golden Globe ... but that doesn't mean it's not worth discussing) I really think it out to be USC running back Reggie Bush. Yesterday seemed to show that even when the Trojans' vaunted passing attack can be contained, there's still no stopping their running game.

    Posted by armand at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    October 01, 2005

    Scottie knows how to woo the ladies

    On NPR I caught a clip of Scott McClellan commenting on the upcoming search for Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement. He said that the White House hoped that the Democrats wouldn't be prisoner to "liberal special interest groups." That means you, girls.

    There was the snark part of the post, and here is the serious part. Once again the administration and its mouthpieces demonstrate their contempt for the basic foundations of the democratic pluralism our republic is built on. Perhaps contempt isn't wholly correct, as the interest groups are A-OK as long as they are the right ones (Focus on the Family? Anyone?) , and in that case they aren't special. Let's say then, the cynical use of tactics that weaken support for democratic pluralism in order to increase their own power. Not that it's anything new.

    It's even hard to write a post about something like McClellan's comment, because it seems so minor, so silly. It's boring. We're used to it. There are bigger fish to fry. Everyone smears the opposition.

    The opposition is not democracy. Yet even as I type that sentence I imagine inner suspicious voices saying, "oh yeah?" and then thinking about walking and quacking.

    There is a difference in attacking a president versus attacking the presidency. There is a difference in smearing the behavior of a corrupt elected governor and smearing the idea of elected governors. You can call your opponent dumb, corrupt, clueless, whatever you will. But the institutions of democracy? Setting up interest groups as special (like those "special rights") and liberal smears interest group politics as anti-democratic, fringe and suspicious.

    Poor Tocqueville, spinning.

    Posted by binky at 11:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack