December 31, 2005

The Voice of Reason

Interested in the whole cookie flap?

The National Security Agency is a cream-of-the-crop spy operation; it has some of the best spooks that money and calls to patriotism (or coërcion) can buy; and it has a black-box budget. Anti-spyware and cookie deletion utilities bought at Elmer's Discount House o' Software aren't going to stop spies who want to know what you're doing; and manually going into the cookies folder on your computer, finding a cookie with the name "Joe@nsa.txt," and deleting it does not in any way, shape, or form give you bragging rights for outsmarting the National Security Agency.

If spies want you to know they've been in your computer, they'll make it so you can see that they've been there. If those same spies don't want you to know they've been there, they'll make sure you don't.

This is related to the matter of why it is that the U.S. releases people from detention where they've been tortured, knowing full well those people, once they're freed, are going to run around screaming, "I've been tortured! I've been tortured!" If our good national security folks don't want it known that someone was tortured, it won't be known. In the same way, if our good national security folks don't want it known that they've been watching you, then you won't know.

In most instances, when we "discover" something the spies have been doing, it's either because they don't care or more likely because they want to advertise, and all the howling upon discovery of the obvious gives them a megaphone at the same time the howling throws in the value-added red herring for their purposes.

To believe otherwise is to assign to our spooks the same level of stupidity possessed by our President and his cabal of crooked, incompetent cronies. Rest assured that, unlike George W. Bush, the operational-level folks at the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, and all the other agencies of ill intent are not stupid, nor are they incompetent.

They are dangerous, mean, frightening, untrustworthy, vicious, and nasty; but they're not stupid.

From The Dark Wraith, whom I should link to far more often.

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

Lost - The First 8 Episodes

Over the last couple of weeks I've watched the first 8 episodes of Lost on dvd. I'd never seen an episode, but figured I should check it out given the praise it's received and simply to be a bit more culturally aware. So having seen the first eight episodes I have one question to ask people who've stayed with the series and watch it at least semi-regularly. Does it get markedly better over time? Because what I've seen so far is atrocious nonsense. The improbablities are simply too much to overlook (everybody just happens to stand aside for a long time while a young woman suffocates? there just happens to be a former Iraqi torturer from TIKRIT among the survivors? I could go on - but please, c'mon), they've taken to ending the episodes in sugary montages, the episodes are filled with one lame-ass, dull backstory after another. I'll grant you that it's got great production values, a few good actors and as I noted yesterday, Ian Somerhalder is really, really handsome. But the writing manages to be a tedious combination of absurd, ridiculous and completely predictable. I suppose that's some kind of special feat in itself - but not something that would make me want to keep watching the show.

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

Timely Quote

Happy New Year everyone!

Drunk guy: Here's hoping you're in Heaven ten minutes before the devil knows you're dead.
Drunk girl: What's that mean?
Drunk guy: It's an Irish toast.
Drunk girl: Oh. Well, here's to bread, eggs and cinnamon.
Drunk guy: Huh?
Drunk girl: That's French toast.

From Overheard in New York. Where else?

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

December 30, 2005

The High School Quiz

Via Pharyngula.

Let the dorkitude reign! (below the fold)

Where did you graduate from and what year?

Forest Hill High School 1986

Who was your significant other?

David C.

Was your Prom a night to remember?

I suppose. My mom called all my friends' parents at 3am to find out where I was.

What was your favorite song you danced to the night of Prom?

I didn't dance.

Do you own all 4 yearbooks?


What was your favorite movie in high school?

Breakfast Club. Oh, come on, it was high school.

What was your number 1 choice of college in high school?

The one for which I didn't have to fill out an essay on the application. I received one stamped "pre-approved" and there I went. For an Honor student, I was such the lazy fucker.

What radio station did you jam out to in high school?

103 WSHE She's only rock and roll.

Were you involved in any organizations or clubs?

Band! All four years. Honor society, Leo Club.

What was your favorite class in high school?

Chemistry, English, Comparative Political Systems, Latin.

Who was your big crush in high school?

Hmmm, assuming this means unrequited it had to be Danny Broderick.

Would you say you’ve changed a lot since highschool?

Some ways, yes, especially in the comforming to suburban norms department. Some ways, hell no, as the geek flag still flies high.

What do you miss the most about it?

Playing music every day. Or maybe going to the beach with my friends several times a week.

Your worst memory of HS?

The constant pain of being a dork. So, really, not bad.

Did you have a car ?

Oh yeah. The 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix baby. V8 rear whell drive. These kids today don't know from drifting.

What were your school colors?

Red White and Blue.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Glenna Starr (Latin), Jane Sturgis (Comparative Political Studies) and Cindy Wilson (English) I loved as humans and teachers. Alan King was an awesome math teacher. Mr. Miller (Chemistry) was a freak, and posted a map "on the rear bulkhead" with all the communist countries outlined in red, and the iffy ones in dashed red. I still remember what he taught, even if he wasn't a favorite.

Did you own a cell phone in high school?

They did not exist. I didn't even have a cordless phone.

Did you leave campus for lunch?


If so, where was your favorite place to go eat?


Were you always late to class?


Did you ever have to stay for Sat. School?

We didn't have that, and I wasn't bad enough to deserve it.

Did you ever ditch?

Yes. Three times.

When it comes time for the reunion will you be there?

Good grief no. The people I still care about from high school are still in touch, and none care about the reunion. I've missed a few already, I think. Our 20th is next year, and I have no interest.

Posted by binky at 05:41 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Who's Not Appreciated?

And so that I don't spend all Friday looking like the shallowest man on Earth (given the quiz below), here's another one. This week's post on Political Animal about Adm. James Stockdale (perhaps the epitome of a brave patriot) got me thinking - what other 20th century Americans do you think haven't gotten the respect they are due? Or who else do you think society has really benefited from that's been largely forgotten - but shouldn't be?

Posted by armand at 01:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Who's Hot, Who's Not

OK, so since no one else has put up a Friday quiz yet (though Binky or Baltar should feel free to post another) I propose the following (stemming from conversations over pizza last night):

1. List the Hollywood celebrities you think are the hottest (either gender, or both).

2. List those people that apparently other people consider hot, but who do nothing for you - in fact, you might find them rather grotesque.

3. List at least one person that most other Americans would NOT consider hot, but that nonetheless does something for you.

Posted by armand at 01:07 PM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

Transport Flour, Rot in Jail for 3 Weeks

I hope she gets every cent she's asking for.

This story is so horrifying on so many levels - and of course a scary reminder of the fact that we might be putting people in prison on the basis of botched tests with some frequency. At least in this case the wrongly accused has been vindicated - but it's troubling that this ever happens in the first place.

Posted by armand at 12:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What price, backlash?

In the WaPo today, an op-ed from a Lt. Colonel who wonders what will be the repercussions from domestic spying.

As Americans take stock of the news that the government has been involved in domestic warrantless eavesdropping as well as surveillance of "potentially threatening people or organizations inside the United States," many people are troubled, including me.

Although the government may be interested in my ACLU membership, my wife's participation in war protests or my affiliation with the liberal United Church of Christ, my real anxiety stems from the fact that I am a soldier and may now be under suspicion from my friends and neighbors.


"Paranoia," some may say. The only people who need to worry are those with something to hide. This may be true. In fact, being with the president or against him in the war on terrorism may be the current controversy, but I can envision a time when antiabortion groups and churches might fear soldiers attending meetings or services if such groups are labeled "threats" by a subsequent administration. Are they sincere pro-lifers or moles? Perhaps gun owners' groups might feel that soldiers are joining to get access to membership lists or activities if such groups are deemed "dangerous." Is one a Second Amendment defender or domestic spy?

Yes, I took an oath to defend the United States against all enemies "foreign and domestic," but the implication of domestic intelligence-gathering by the military, even by a limited number of soldiers, should be sufficiently disturbing for American citizens in and out of uniform that we think long and hard about crossing the line, even a little.

Posted by binky at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Alito Should Not Be Confirmed

Or, I suppose more accurately the post should be titled: Why Alito Should Be Very Closely Questioned About Issues Related to Executive Branch Legal and Constitutional Limits of Power During War, Non-War, and Peace; And If He Answers The Questions Incorrectly (I.E., In A Manner That Gives the Executive Branch Unwarranted - And Unconstitutional - Powers) Why He Should Be Rejected.

However, the actual post title is simpler, so I went with it.

Go read Balkinization. With all the discussions of NSA wiretapping, NSA cookies, CIA Programs (from today's Washington Post; well worth a read), and executive branch powers, Alito's nomination hearings should be interesting.

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

The Squid and the Whale

I highly recommend it. Noah Baumbach wrote some of the true gems of the last decade of cinema - Kicking and Screaming (1995), The Life Aquatic. This family/divorce drama might not be quite as amusing as those films, but it hits the nail on the head perfectly in capturing one family's story - a story that, no doubt, lots and lots of families in this country can relate to, even if some of the characters are rather ridiculous people. It captures both the family turmoil and the setting (life in the mid-1980's Park Slope) beautifully, and it's very well acted. Best film of the year? No. But it's a very good one.

Posted by armand at 10:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 29, 2005

New commenter, cool site, scary link

Via Mikevotes at Born at the Crest of the Empire, a link to this story:

Known Islamic militants should be electronically tagged so their movements can be tracked, a regional German interior minister proposed on Wednesday.

"This would allow us to monitor the roughly 3,000 Islamists who are prone to violence, hate preachers and fighters trained in terrorist camps," Lower Saxony Interior Minister Uwe Schuenemann said in an interview with Die Welt newspaper.

And in an unrelated note triggered by the name of the site, go read Rubicon. It's a bit fluffy (I wanted waaaay more substantive footnotes), but interesting.

Posted by binky at 07:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What the fuck?

Via Digby, the LaTimes:

Heading a military service isn't quite the position of power it used to be. In a Bush administration revision of plans for Pentagon succession in a doomsday scenario, three of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's most loyal advisers moved ahead of the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

A little-noticed holiday week executive order from President Bush moved the Pentagon's intelligence chief to the No. 3 spot in the succession hierarchy behind Rumsfeld. The second spot would be the deputy secretary of defense, but that position currently is vacant. The Army secretary, which long held the No. 3 spot, was dropped to sixth.

The changes, announced last week, are the second in six months and reflect the administration's new emphasis on intelligence gathering versus combat in 21st century war fighting.

Posted by binky at 06:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

You can't go home again

Ezra has a link to a story about high housing costs. Havng recently been home to another coastal state with insanely spiraling real estate values, I can identify with the sentiment.

As the attentive reader may have noticed, Bloodless Coup is in West Virginia. One of the many charms of this state is the affordability of property. However, the downside to this is that if one invests in a home here, one is investing in a losing proposition if one ever plans to move. That is, it's great to be able to buy a three bedroom house for a hundred grand, but if you want to move to coastal Carolina, you'd better be trading up big time in terms of salary, because you're accumulating equity in a Pinto rather than a Ferrari.

I went home over the holidays, and talked with my family about how scarce real estate had become, and how formerly "normal" (read: lower middle class) houses in the neighborhood now had Porsches parked out front because they were worth scads more than before. It really hit me that I could never move back home without inheriting property. Even then, I might not make enough to afford the property taxes and electric bills.

And I was lying about West Virginia. It sucks. It's ugly, expensive, and full of horrible people. Really. Stay away.

Posted by binky at 06:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Well, what do you know?

Even though people are gullible, many of them eventually figure out that the government lies like a rug and change their minds.

However, all of these beliefs and others have declined sharply since the questions were asked in February 2005. For example:

-- Those who think Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda have fallen from 64 to 41 percent.

-- Those who believe that Iraq was a serious threat to U.S. security are down from 61 to 48 percent.

-- Those who think Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11 are down from 47 to 22 percent.

-- Those who think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction are down from 36 to 26 percent.

-- Those who think Iraqi hijackers attacked the United States on 9/11 have fallen from 44 to 24 percent.

It's still bad, but given the high levels of misinformation, the drops are encouraging.

Via Atrios.

Posted by binky at 06:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wiretap Summary at ObWi

Charles posts a Delayed Reaction to NSA Wiretapping. A summary of the main points:

Did it violate the Fourth Amendment?
Probably not, since the surveillances involved international calls and e-mails, and there is a plausible argument that border search exceptions exist.

Did it violate FISA?
Probably so.

Was it allowed under the Authorization to Use Military Force?
Probably not, according to Kerr, but I'm leaning toward "probably so".

Does Article II of the Constitution give the president the authority?
Kerr is not convinced since most of the administration's arguments tended toward a relaxed Fourth Amendment, and not directly addressing whether Article II made certain Congressional requirements inoperative.

Was it an impeachable offense?
Opinions will vary.

Posted by binky at 05:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Four More Interesting Than Seven?

Yeah, I know all the cool kids are doing the seven, but I saw this one at Beautiful Horizons and liked it better.

Four jobs you've had in your life: Orange Julius maker, professor, clerical staff, government contractor.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Constantine, The Professional, Ronin, Fearless Freaks.

Four places you've lived: Gainesville, Pittsburgh, Rio, Iowa City.

Four TV shows you love to watch: L-Word, Emergency Vets, eh, no TV.

Four places you've been on vacation: Paris, New York, Piriopolis, Paraty.

Four websites you visit daily: BBC, Pandagon, Feministe, CNN.

Four of your favorite foods: Coconut, coffee, avocado, cheese.

Four places you'd rather be: At the beach, in the city, climbing a rock, on a 10 mile run.

Four albums you can't live without: Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd, Soft Bulletin - The Flaming Lips, Live at the Roseland - Portishead, Pablo Honey - Radiohead.

Posted by binky at 04:39 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

I've got gas!

And the only thing coming out my ass is money to pay for it.

Several of my friends - and most everyone in this part of the state no doubt - received the lovely missives from the gas company this week. Even though I set my thermostat to 59 degrees, put an extra comforter on my bed, wore a toboggan in the house, and put that ugly plastic shit all over my windows, my gas bill was nearly four hundred dollars.

The kicker was the "extras" in the bill. First, unlike every other gas bill I've ever gotten, this one did not come with the option to pay the budget amount. Nope. For the first time ever, they want the thing paid in full. Second, it came with a nifty little additional page with a chart explaining why the bill was so much higher. The usual bill has a histogram that shows your monthly usage over the last year. This one has an extra special histogram that shows your monthly charges. Get it? It looks just like the one that shows usage so at first glance you think, "oh this makes sense I used three times as much!" Uh-uh.

What the chart really shows is that between this month and last month the rate per unit of gas went up 12% and that they adjusted the bill for "actual reading following estimate." Funny how that works too, since they did the same thing last year, and this year's correction was more than twice the size of last year's correction. Last year they underestimated the bill by around 6%, but this year underestimated it at close to 10%, in a year when they already warned that prices would be going up. So, combine the correction for their underestimation with the rate jack, and you get the beauty of the most massive gas bill I've ever seen, combined with a deceptive explanatory histogram.

No wonder I don't feel warm and fuzzy.

Posted by binky at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pamuk Trial to Continue

If you were part of the EU, and you valued freedom and liberty, would you really want Turkey to join the group while this continues?

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

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

If you liked those old movies from the 1970's - movies with an anti-hero, someone who's bad, but also a very well-drawn and interesting character, someone often involved in crime; films that were often as much characters studies of someone lost in a dark place as they were driven by any developed plot - you should love this. To me this French film far exceeds most of those types of things - works often associated Scorsese, De Niro, Frankenheimer or Pacino. It is intense, in spots rather violent, but on the whole, mesmerizing. Romain Duris plays Thomas Seyr - a man who does very bad things, but feels and dreams the life of a concert pianist. Whether he's seeking to escape to a new future or into the few warm spots of his past (or both) Thomas desperately wants to play the piano. But day-in, day-out he's often distracted by the dark, criminal world that surrounds him. Duris is superb in this role - coiled up tighter than a feral cat about to pounce, better than a lot of those men who made wildly successful careers playing similar parts decades ago. He's a tragic, wounded, violent, fascinating figure. And it's not just the acting of Duris that makes this film stand out. The production values and techniques involved in it are first-rate. It's a very good film.

And since I'm praising a (sort of) crime drama set in France I'll also take a second to briefly recommend another one - The Good Thief, directed by Neil Jordan and starring Nick Nolte. Not that many people saw it when it came out a couple of years ago, and that's a shame. It's very entertaining and well worth the price of a rental.

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

December 27, 2005

Juan Cole's 10 Myths About Iraq in 2005

The famed historian has created a list that features observations that both Bush fans and Bush critics will find points of agreement with. Taken as a whole they remind us just how difficult things will be there, both for Iraqis and for American interests, for many, many years to come, regardless of what course of action the US takes in the immediate future.

Posted by armand at 03:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Leaving Gifted Children Behind

As anyone who discusses education policy with me for more than a few minutes is well aware, I positively loathe No Child Left Behind. There are a number of ways in which this law as harmful, but Susan Goodkin disucsses one that's not often enough discussed - it may very well be harming the education we are giving to our best and brightest. Read her whole piece here, but these excerpts will give you a sense of her argument - and why we should all be concerned.

Conspicuously missing from the debate over the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is a discussion of how it has hurt many of our most capable children. By forcing schools to focus their time and funding almost entirely on bringing low-achieving students up to proficiency, NCLB sacrifices the education of the gifted students who will become our future biomedical researchers, computer engineers and other scientific leaders.

The drafters of this legislation didn't have to be rocket scientists to foresee that it would harm high-performing students. The act's laudable goal was to bring every child up to "proficiency" in language arts and math, as measured by standardized tests, by 2014. But to reach this goal, the act imposes increasingly draconian penalties on schools that fail to make "adequate yearly progress" toward bringing low-scoring students up to proficiency. While administrators and teachers can lose their jobs for failing to improve the test scores of low-performing students, they face no penalties for failing to meet the needs of high-scoring students.

Given the act's incentives, teachers must contend with constant pressure to focus their attention simply on bringing all students to proficiency on grade-level standards. My district's elementary school report card vividly illustrates the overriding interest in mere proficiency. The highest "grade" a child can receive indicates only that he or she "meets/exceeds the standard." The unmistakable message to teachers -- and to students -- is that it makes no difference whether a child barely meets the proficiency standard or far exceeds it ...

Surely we can find a way to help low-achieving children reach proficiency without neglecting the needs of our gifted learners. If we continue to ignore gifted children, the NCLB may end up producing an entire generation of merely proficient students -- a generation that will end up working for the science leaders produced by other countries.

Posted by armand at 02:22 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 26, 2005

King George Bush and Wiretaps - Tall Tales, Big Lies

Oy. As Ezra notes ...

So, the two primary examples Bush used to support his program were total fabrications. And yet we're supposed to blindly trust him to carry out a massive, secret espionage operation.

Apparently - but hopefully we won't be so naive. Or stupid.

And quite apart from the issues related to our threatened constitutional protections, I for one would feel a lot safer in this age of terrorism if the president wasn't so mind-bogglingly inept. I mean the one thing this guy and Karl Rove are supposedly good at is framing issues and winning a sort of vague backing for their course of action (at least the backing of 50.01% on issues tied to terrorism and security). If the White House is suddenly unable to come up with even plausible lies to use in selling their side of the story ... just how out of control are things in the West Wing?

Posted by armand at 04:37 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


Well, aren't we a bunch of suckers. The Mao kid was lying. Asshole.

Posted by binky at 01:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas

It's a slow few days around here as we travel to spend time with our families. We're still thinking of you, dear readers, and hoping that you are happy. Whatever it is that you may or may not be celebrating.

Warm thoughts,

The Bloodless Crew

Posted by binky at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vast and Widespread


The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

The government's collection and analysis of phone and Internet traffic have raised questions among some law enforcement and judicial officials familiar with the program. One issue of concern to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has reviewed some separate warrant applications growing out of the N.S.A.'s surveillance program, is whether the court has legal authority over calls outside the United States that happen to pass through American-based telephonic "switches," according to officials familiar with the matter.


The F.B.I. and the Energy Department have conducted thousands of searches for radioactive materials at private sites around the country in the last three years, government officials confirmed on Friday.

The existence of the search program was disclosed on Thursday by U.S. News & World Report, on its Web site. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, government agencies have disclosed that they have installed radiation-detection equipment at ports, subway stations and other public locations, but extensive surreptitious monitoring of private property has not been publicly known.

The federal government has given thousands of radiation alarms, worn like cellphones on the belt, to police and fire departments in major cities.

A spokesman for the Justice Department, Brian Roehrkasse, confirmed that law enforcement personnel were conducting "passive operations in publicly accessible areas to detect the presence of radiological materials, in a manner that protects U.S. constitutional rights."

U.S. News, citing people it did not name, said many of the sites that federal agents had monitored were mosques or the homes or businesses of Muslims, and the report set off a dispute between a Muslim group here and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement: "This disturbing revelation, coupled with recent reports of domestic surveillance without warrant, could lead to the perception that we are no longer a nation ruled by law, but instead one in which fear trumps constitutional rights. All Americans should be concerned about the apparent trend toward a two-tiered system of justice, with full rights for most citizens, and another diminished set of rights for Muslims."

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

December 22, 2005

Reading Assigment

Your assignment today is to go read the medium-length Washington Post story on the disaster that was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Short version: a bureaucratic mess.


(Seriously, a great read. Well worth your time.)

Posted by baltar at 10:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 21, 2005

Is That One of Bush's Arms On The Floor?

Bunch of Conservative Federal Judges to President Bush: Bite Me:

A federal appeals court delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration today, refusing to allow the transfer of Jose Padilla from military custody to civilian law enforcement authorities to face terrorism charges in criminal court.


What made today's action by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., so startling, lawyers and others said, was that it came from a panel of judges who had provided the administration with a major court victory in September, saying that President Bush had the authority to detain Mr. Padilla, an American citizen, as an enemy combatant.

You know, if you poke the tiger in the cage enough times you (A) start to think that the tiger has no claws or teeth, and (B) eventually get scratched/bit/dismembered. Don't piss on (or off) the Federal Judges, no matter what party they are in.

Posted by baltar at 09:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

So you think women are hysterical...

...when they say they are worried about "tips" and "icebergs", eh? That limiting or outlawing abortion has nothing to do with controlling women, and only saving the babies, eh? That contraception is off the table, eh? Why don't we ask Scott McClellan what the president thinks about birth control, eh?

Q There are news reports this morning that parents and children who were guests of the President, when they visited Congress, wore stickers with the wording, "I was an embryo." And my question is, since all of us were once embryos, and all of us were once part sperm and egg, is the President also opposed to contraception, which stops this union and kills both sperm and egg?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has made his views known on these issues, and his views known --

Q You know, but what I asked, is he opposed -- he's not opposed to contraception, is he?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and you've made your views known, as well. The President --

Q No, no, but is he opposed to contraception, Scott? Could you just tell us yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think that this question is --

Q Well, is he? Does he oppose contraception?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think the President's views are very clear when it comes to building a culture of life --

Q If they were clear, I wouldn't have asked.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and if you want to ask those questions, that's fine. I'm just not going to dignify them with a response.

Well, that clears things up.

Via Feministing.

Posted by binky at 02:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Check out the Fifth Carnival of the Feminists and Second Carnival of the Liberals!

Posted by binky at 12:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

On second thought....

Maybe Christmas spirit isn't what we need. Via Pandagon, the Fetus Tree:

Lorinda Hartzler, co-owner of Body Boutique, said that when Birthright of Lawrence asked about providing the tree it said it had no political agenda and wanted only to assist pregnant women in their decision-making process.

"It's not like the babies are morbid," Hartzler said of the tiny figures in the tree. "It's not graphic at all."

The tree had about a dozen blue and pink stockings, each stuffed with a plastic figure and attached card that labeled the dolls as being "between 11 and 12 weeks old."

Coupons for Birthright videos, pamphlets and children's clothes were also in the tree. Coupons included savings on a video titled "After the Choice," another video showing abortion procedures and a brochure on emergency contraception known as the "morning-after pill."

Hartzler said the tree was not intended to upset clients.

"I didn't want to offend anyone," Hartzler said.

Offend? No! Harass, shame, convert... sure!

Birthright volunteer Carol Rao said she would consider removing the tree if people are complaining about it.

"We're not here to fight a fight. We're here to help," Rao said.

I would love to know how plastic fetuses in a tree at a gym constitute help.

A Christmas tree that a pregnancy counseling organization provided to a women's fitness center prompted three people to cancel their memberships because the tree is decorated with plastic figures meant to represent fetuses.

"This is insidious," said Kelly Jones, one of the women who quit Body Boutique last week. "This is in my gym."

I'm not so sure it's insidious. My vote goes for obnoxious. Repellent even.

At least they weren't handing there directly handing out bloody fetus pamplets to the ho-ho-hoes!

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

Holiday Spirit

At least someone has the holiday spirit.

Posted by binky at 11:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More On Domestic Spying

Larry Johnson discusses a case where the FISA wiretaps were timely and effective, then speculates on why the Bush adminstration would want more:

Now for the real story.

Mosquera was grabbed thanks to a roving wiretap. I've heard the story from friends who were involved with the operation. DEA officials learned that Mosquera's mom was going to call him. They moved quickly to set up a roving wiretap. They knew he was in New York but did not know where. Mosquera took many precautions, including having the in bound call bounce around the United States. He sent a third party to answer the phone. Once certain the coast was clear Mosquera climbed out of his car. DEA agents closed in and put a major league killer in jail. He was later convicted and is serving a long sentence in a high security US penal facility. The FISA authorization was obtained subsequently.

So, President Bush is wrong. You don't have to break a law to get quick action. Not only can you catch terrorists using FISA, we have caught terrorists. The real story behind the unauthorized wiretaps authorized by President Bush probably concerns the source of the info. It appears the most likely explanation is that the Bush Administration did not want to have to tell a Federal judge that they were using information obtained from interrogations that violated the spirit and the letter of the Geneva Conventions. Instead of protecting the nation the President may be covering his derrier.

Next up, Tom Daschle says that contrary to its claims, the Bush administration did not seek Congress' advice and consent (emphasis mine):

Between 2002 and 2004, the White House notified me in classified briefings about NSA programs related to the war on terrorism. The briefers made clear they were not seeking my advice or consent, but were simply informing me about new actions. If subsequent public accounts are accurate, it now also appears the briefers omitted key details, including important information about the scope of the program.

Even with some of the more troublesome - and potentially illegal - details omitted, I still raised significant concern about these actions. As such, I am surprised and disappointed that the White House would now suggest that none of us informed of the program objected.

As a result of the significant legal and security concerns raised by the President's actions, I believe it is incumbent on the President to explain the specific legal justification for his actions, for the Congress to fully investigate these actions, and for the Administration to fully cooperate with that investigation.

Of course, it's easy to say now that they complained then. At least Rockefeller was smart enough to save his memo. It's easy to look back and say what they should have done, but I wish someone had raised some warnings before the coast was clear to pile on.

And via Hoffmania, an Ynigo Montoya moment ("I do not think it means what you think it means"):

In confirming the existence of a top-secret domestic spying program, President Bush offered one case as proof that authorities desperately needed the eavesdropping ability in order to plug a hole in the counter-terrorism firewall that had allowed the Sept. 11 plot to go undetected.


But some current and former high-ranking U.S. counter-terrorism officials say that the still-classified details of the case undermine the president's rationale for the recently disclosed domestic spying program.

Indeed, a 2002 inquiry into the case by the House and Senate intelligence committees blamed interagency communication breakdowns — not shortcomings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or any other intelligence-gathering guidelines.

I predict (or just hope for) snowballing on this practive of the media actually checking the veracity of the President's statements. I know they are rusty, but Snoopgate might be like oil to the Tin Man.

Posted by binky at 10:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Good News about Foreign Aid

Dan Drezner points us to this survey showing that the public opinion about the US in Pakistan is dramatically better, and linked to earthquake relief.

For the first time since 9/11, more Pakistanis are now favorable to the United States than unfavorable.

78% of Pakistanis have a more favorable opinion of the United States because of the American response to the earthquake, with the strongest support among those under 35.

79% of those with confidence in Bin Laden now have a more favorable view of the US because of American earthquake aid.

81% said that earthquake relief was important for them in forming their overall opinion of the United States.

Before anyone takes this as a mandate, note this:

While opinion of the United States itself improved significantly, this did not translate into increased support for US-led efforts to fight terrorism. Tellingly, those who oppose US efforts against terrorism grew, from 52% in May to 64% now.

Posted by binky at 10:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 20, 2005

Don't be going after my man Bob Graham

I don't think they should be saying Bob Graham is the "misremembering" type of guy.

Former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Senate intelligence committee and is the only participant thus far to describe the meetings extensively and on the record, said in interviews Friday night and yesterday that he remembers "no discussion about expanding [NSA eavesdropping] to include conversations of U.S. citizens or conversations that originated or ended in the United States" -- and no mention of the president's intent to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

"I came out of the room with the full sense that we were dealing with a change in technology but not policy," Graham said, with new opportunities to intercept overseas calls that passed through U.S. switches. He believed eavesdropping would continue to be limited to "calls that initiated outside the United States, had a destination outside the United States but that transferred through a U.S.-based communications system."

Graham said the latest disclosures suggest that the president decided to go "beyond foreign communications to using this as a pretext for listening to U.S. citizens' communications. There was no discussion of anything like that in the meeting with Cheney."

The high-ranking intelligence official, who spoke with White House permission but said he was not authorized to be identified by name, said Graham is "misremembering the briefings," which in fact were "very, very comprehensive." The official declined to describe any of the substance of the meetings, but said they were intended "to make sure the Hill knows this program in its entirety, in order to never, ever be faced with the circumstance that someone says, 'I was briefed on this but I had no idea that -- ' and you can fill in the rest."

Posted by binky at 04:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Now what do I do?

Sorry but the Liberal Avenger is unavailable right now

We are peddling as fast as we can to get this thing back up and running.
Until we fix whatever the problem is you might want to

  • Go read the archives
  • Make a sandwich.
  • Turn off the computer and go outside

If you are still unsure what to do you could just sit there and wait until we fix the problem.


Outside? It's 16 degrees!

Posted by binky at 04:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Go see it. Now.

I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain or Munich or most of the other "best" movies of 2005. But I'll be very pleasantly surprised to see any that surpass this film, easily one of the best movies about politics, commerce and the state of the world that's been made in the last several years. If Stephen Gaghan is not an Oscar nominee for his screenplay it will be an outrage. This film does a superb job of threading together how the issues dealt with in this film affect an extremely broad swath of characters - including corporate chieftans, investment bankers, princes and kings, terrorists, immigrant workers, government bureaucrats, spies, consultants, and even the family connections of these people. It's a masterful achievement. And if you really want to get a broader perspective on the complexities of these issues, which are so important to us all, I encourage you to see this movie. Hell, I implore you to. It's just that good.

And of course it has pluses beyond the screenplay. It is a tense and suspenseful drama. In general, it's very well made. And while it might feel a little long in spots, all those moments feel worthwhile in the end. And of course the acting is very strong. George Clooney seems to be gaining the most attention in that regard, but to me the two clear standouts were Alexander Siddig (I wish he'd get an Oscar nomination for his work in this, he's wonderful) and Chris Cooper. I've long been a big Chris Cooper fan, but his work in this ... well, my admiration and respect for what he can do continues to increase.

The story in the film is basically a tragedy. But it's an engrossing one. And while entertaining, it can also help us better understand just how complicated and difficult many parts of our world are - platitudes from Crawford or Washington notwithstanding.

Posted by armand at 03:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Link Dump

Lots out there today. Just follow the worldinterwebwidenet around:

Kevin Drum explains the legalities behind the NSA wiretapping issues.

Kung Fu Monkey on W's law breakin'.

Norbizness has a bunch of links to stories you probably haven't seen.

A pair (one and two) of massive threads at Obsidian Wings (the first on whether the NSA thing means the sky is falling in a civil rights sense and the second on whether Bush's Iraq speech means anything at all).

Whiled View takes down Secretary of State Rice's weekend Op-Ed on "The Democratic Peace".


Posted by baltar at 02:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Retroactive Warrants

I presume we all know this by now, but since we are all in a big Bush/FISA fit let's lay it out in its own post to make it entirely clear - the argument that the president had to act illegally so that he wouldn't have to wait on the FISA courts to issue a warrant is a big, gigantic, bald-faced lie. A wiretap can be put through immediately. All that's required is that you go to a judge for approval of it in the next three days. That's it. You are not slowing down the gathering of vital intelligence by acting within the law. So, again, this notion that the president had to act illegally because of a short time constraint is a big, gigantic, bald-faced lie. As Ezra notes:

I want to say this very clearly as it is absolutely the heart of the issue: there is no possible circumstance under which FISA would slow Bush's ability to respond. None. Any emergency can be handled instantaneously, with all oversight conducted retroactively. Add in that the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Courts have denied a total of three applications out of around 20,000 and you get a sense of how deliberately non-invasive this law is. FISA does nothing but ensure Bush doesn't use the NSA improperly. Nothing.

The president could have both followed the constitution and defended the country. He simply chose not to.

Posted by armand at 02:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Porn Spam

We get tons of porn spam in our trackbacks. No news there. However repeatedly we keep getting it from - well, I doubt it's really from there - the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

What the...?

Posted by binky at 02:32 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Baathist Poker Whoopsie

Remember that embarrassing PR gambit that featured major Iraqi figures as characters in a deck of cards? It would appear that not all of those "most wanted" figures were really so important after all, since we are releasing some of them.

Posted by armand at 02:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More on Secret Spying Inside the United States

Feeling a little distressed over this whole violation of civil liberties business, I went over to read what Tim F. at Balloon Juice had to say about it all. Well, confession, I went to see what John Cole had to say, but Tim F. has the goods on both the domestic spying and the circumventing FISA stuff. The domestic spying had the desired effect, reminding us of that chasing commies (and their substitutes) is old business that we can handle. The wiretap story, however, scared the shit out of me, mostly because of the link to this site:

A few current and former signals intelligence guys have been checking in since this NSA domestic spying story broke. Their reactions range between midly creeped out and completely pissed off.

All of the sigint specialists emphasized repeatedly that keeping tabs on Americans is way beyond the bounds of what they ordinarily do -- no matter what the conspiracy crowd may think.

"It's drilled into you from minute one that you should not ever, ever, ever, under any fucking circumstances turn this massive apparatus on an American citizen," one source says. "You do a lot of weird shit. But at least you don't fuck with your own people."


That points to a diferent type of technology at work, as I suggested the other day. Senator Jay Rockefeller, in a remarkable pair of handwritten letters (one kept for safe keeping, in case someone tried to say later on that he approved of the program) seems to back this point of view.

As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveillance.

TIA, of course, would be "Total Information Awareness," Darpa's effort to find potential enemies of the state in the data trails of ordinary folks. The program was cancelled a few years back. But a whole bunch of similar efforts continue throughout the government.

A former sigint type -- who also talked to Ryan, apparently -- suggests a different technological approach: the NSA "may have compromised a hardware manufacturer -- say Motorola or a satellite phone manufacturer, a telecom carrier or a satellite(s)."


Posted by binky at 01:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


From Pharyngula:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

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

One more, on Cheney this time

Cheney says:

Cheney said the program had "saved thousands of lives."

Here's my question. How does the use of secret illegal wiretaps save thousands of lives more than the legal ones?

That seems to be his implication here. Does this mean that these thousands of lives were saved in addition to the regularly approved ones? How do we know? How many FISA wiretaps have been approved, and how many lives have they saved?

I don't think I have the ability to get the answers to these questions myself. I hope someone is, because I'm pretty confused. Why? Because FISA already provided for lots of secret applications, and the Senate was considering expanding further under the Patriot Act (emphasis mine):

· Further expands time limits for FISA surveillance. The Senate Intelligence Committee bill significantly expands the amount of time some FISA surveillance authorities remain in effect (already greatly expanded by Patriot Act section 207, which the bill makes permanent), further minimizing judicial review of this rapidly-expanding secret form of government surveillance.

· Exacerbates using FISA as "end-run" around stricter safeguards for criminal surveillance. The bill further exacerbates the danger of using FISA to evade criminal probable cause by providing that FISA secret searches and surveillance (such as the secret search of Brandon Mayfield's home) can be initiated for the sole purpose of criminal prosecution for certain crimes, such as terrorism and espionage. Currently, the acquisition of foreign intelligence must be a "significant" purpose. This change is described as a codification of the FISA Court of Review's decision upholding section 218 of the Patriot Act (which the bill also makes permanent), but it appears to go significantly beyond that decision. In particular, the bill provides express statutory authorization for a search, without probable cause of crime, for the sole purpose of gathering evidence for a criminal prosecution and, as a result, is plainly unconstitutional.

· Creates new statutory authority for intelligence investigators to track mail of ordinary citizens. The bill adds an entire new section to FISA on "mail covers" which allows intelligence investigators to track, without probable cause, the outside of any sealed mail sent or received or the contents of any unsealed mail. The authors say this is a codification of an existing regulatory power, but this rationale has been the excuse for virtually every new power added to FISA surveillance since its enactment (e.g., physical searches). FISA was originally intended to provide some check on electronic surveillance for national security purposes, instead of criminal investigations. FISA is not necessarily based on any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

· Expands greatly the amount of information obtained without probable cause through Internet surveillance. The bill expands substantially the amount of information that can be obtained, with a court order but without probable cause, from surveillance of so-called "routing information" through the Internet (pen registers and trap and trace devices). Pen registers and trap and trace device capture information like telephone numbers dialed or received, the header of an e-mail, or the web address of a web site or web page viewed. They are based on a rubber-stamp standard of relevance, rather than any individual suspicion. The bill would require, for FISA pen registers and trap and trace devices, a host of additional information to be supplied by the service provider on this rubber stamp standard, including: name, address, telephone number or IP address of the device, how long the subscriber has used the services, method of payment (including credit card numbers), and the periods of the subscriber's usage.

So, it's not like using FISA would publish the government's activity in the newspaper. And the Senate was working on legislation to expand the the scope and secrecy of FISA. Doesn't sound to me like the Senate was going around screaming secret data from the rooftops, but rather that they were working on making legal (if, from the ACLU perspective and mine, dangerous) frameworks for the continued acquisition of secret data.

Again I ask, what is it that is so special about the secrecy of the warrantless search as opposed to the secret warranted search provided for by FISA?

Posted by binky at 11:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bald-Faced Lies From the President

As we all know, he has admitted to authorizing warrantless wiretaps.

How many remember that in 2004, he said they didn't exist? Lies from the White House:

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

Via Atrios

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

Rockefeller on the Record in 2003

The hand-written message (PDF) from Rockefeller to Cheney gives some context to the inscrutable behavior.

Note the mention of Poindexter. Also note the last paragraph, which shows his suspicion that his protest would be buried or denied.

From the Democratic Party.

Posted by binky at 10:58 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

When John Dean Says You're Impeachable...'ve definitely got some 'splainin' to do.

Posted by binky at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is Your Catholic Church Breeding Bolsheviks?

Apparently the Bush administration thinks so:

One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology."

Are you surprised that most of the targeted groups were not GOP approved?

Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.


The latest batch of documents, parts of which the A.C.L.U. plans to release publicly on Tuesday, totals more than 2,300 pages and centers on references in internal files to a handful of groups, including PETA, the environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group, which promotes antipoverty efforts and social causes.

You know, when I made up the "J. Edgar Hoover" tag I was joking. Playing up the tinfoil hat angle. Kidding around. Being sarcastic.

"You look at these documents," Ms. Beeson said, "and you think, wow, we have really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when you see in F.B.I. files that they're talking about a group like the Catholic Workers league as having a communist ideology."

For all the anti-French rhetoric from the right, really, they might have more in common than they think. Remember the Rainbow Warrior?

But the groups mentioned in the newly disclosed F.B.I. files questioned both the propriety of characterizing such investigations as related to "terrorism" and the necessity of diverting counterterrorism personnel from more pressing investigations.

"The fact that we're even mentioned in the F.B.I. files in connection with terrorism is really troubling," said Tom Wetterer, general counsel for Greenpeace. "There's no property damage or physical injury caused in our activities, and under any definition of terrorism, we'd take issue with that."


Posted by binky at 09:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 19, 2005

Supreme Court Ruling on Warrantless Surveillance

Maybe someone who knows more about this than I might weigh in? (Moon, cough, Moon, cough cough):

In a 1972 case, the Supremes held that even in the face of great harm, the President is not allowed to authorize warrantless surveillance. U.S. v. U.S. District Court, 407 US 297

The case was regarding 3 suspects that were planning to bomb something in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The government surveillance was conducted without a warrant and the DOJ argued that should be acceptable because of the potential danger to national security. The Supremes rejected that argument.

Via Daily Kos.

Posted by binky at 01:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

"Thank you all for coming. Happy holidays to you. Appreciate it."

Did anyone else listen to the press conference? Nice tone, eh?

Posted by binky at 01:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Here's a little Christmas Cheer to Warm the Cockles and all that

From Amygdala:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's AIDS charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle, according to tax returns providing the first financial accounting of the presidential hopeful's nonprofit.


Political experts said both the size of charity's big donations and its consulting fees raise questions about whether the tax-exempt group benefited Frist's political ambitions.

"One of the things people who are running for president try to do is keep their fundraising staff and political people close at hand. And one of the ways you can do that is by putting them in some sort of organization you run," said Larry Noble, the government's former chief election lawyer who now runs the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics that studies fundraising.

Kent Cooper, the Federal Election Commission's former public disclosure chief, said the big donors' motives are also suspect.

"These tax deductible gifts were earmarked through Senator Frist," Cooper said. "They were raised in the political arena at the 2004 Republican Convention and the natural question is were they given to the Senate majority leader to gain favor or were they given for true charitable purposes?"

Cooper said the consulting fees were "excessively high" and the fact that they were "paid to primarily political consultants also raises questions about the long-range strategic benefits for the 2008 presidential race."

My cockles are warm, aren't yours?

Posted by binky at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Big Deal

News is coming out that WTO negotiators may have reached an agreement on agricultural subsidies. This is not just a deal, it's a big deal, a huge deal, if they can pull it off.

WTO negotiators reached a breakthrough on the most contentious issue of the six-day talks, agreeing that wealthy countries would eliminate farm export subsidies by 2013, paving the way for a broader agreement to cut trade barriers across various sectors, according to a copy of the final draft agreement obtained by journalists.

The breakthrough, coming after all-night negotiations, appeared to save the World Trade Organization meeting from an embarrassing collapse provided the final draft is approved by all 149 member nations and territories who are meeting later Sunday.

The story says it has been the biggest issue in the six day talks. That's something of an understatement, as it has been the issue for some time.

Drezner says he's talked to some EU people who swear the Brazilians are pushing for a better timeline, and potentially threatening the deal, but I agree with him that they are just pushing. Getting Europe to set a date on eliminating agricultural subsidies is such a major event that it's doubtful the Brazilians would risk it for a minor shift.

Drezner has had excellent analysis of the talks, so dig into his archives for more, if you are interested.

Posted by binky at 11:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It Can't Happen Here

Saw a comment about this book today:

PICTURE THIS: A folksy, self-consciously plainspoken Southern politician rises to power during a period of profound unrest in America. The nation is facing one of the half-dozen or so of its worst existential crises to date, and the people, once sunny, confident, and striving, are now scared, angry, and disillusioned.

This politician, a ''Professional Common Man,'' executes his rise by relentlessly attacking the liberal media, fancy-talking intellectuals, shiftless progressives, pinkos, promiscuity, and welfare hangers-on, all the while clamoring for a return to traditional values, to love of country, to the pie-scented days of old when things made sense and Americans were indisputably American. He speaks almost entirely in ''noble but slippery abstractions''-Liberty, Freedom, Equality-and people love him, even if they can't fully articulate why without resorting to abstractions themselves.

Through a combination of factors-his easy bearing chief among them (along with massive cash donations from Big Business; disorganization in the liberal opposition; a stuffy, aloof opponent; and support from religious fanatics who feel they've been unfairly marginalized)-he wins the presidential election.

Once in, he appoints his friends and political advisers to high-level positions, stocks the Supreme Court with ''surprisingly unknown lawyers who called [him] by his first name,'' declaws Congress, allows Big Business to dictate policy, consolidates the media, and fills newspapers with ''syndicated gossip from Hollywood.'' Carping newspapermen worry that America is moving backward to a time when anti-German politicians renamed sauerkraut ''Liberty Cabbage'' and ''hick legislators...set up shop as scientific experts and made the world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution,'' but newspaper readers, wary of excessive negativity, pay no mind.

Given the nature of ''powerful and secret enemies'' of America-who are ''planning their last charge'' to take away our freedom-an indefinite state of crisis is declared, and that freedom is stowed away for safekeeping. When the threat passes, we can have it back, but in the meantime, citizens are asked to ''bear with'' the president.

Sure, some say these methods are extreme, but the plain folks are tired of wishy-washy leaders, and feel the president's decisiveness is its own excuse. Besides, as one man says, a fascist dictatorship ''couldn't happen here in America...we're a country of freemen!''

How's the paranoia? Feeling strong? It's a Joe Keohane story about a Sinclair Lewis book from 1935. And it might have been Huey Long that was the model for Lewis' dictator, Windrip.

Windrip's economic policies are disastrous, his figures often incorrect, and his platform seems to change depending on who he's talking to, but none of that matters as long as he keeps expressing himself decisively. ''I want to stand up on my hind legs,'' he writes in ''Zero Hour,'' his widely read pre-campaign book, ''and not just admit but frankly holler right out that...we've got to change our system a lot, maybe even change the whole Constitution (but change it legally, not by violence)....The Executive has got to have a freer hand and be able to move quick in an emergency, and not be tied down by dumb shyster lawyer congressmen taking months to shoot off their mouths in debates.''

When Windrip is elected, all hell breaks loose. Dissent is crushed, the Bill of Rights is gutted, war is declared (on Mexico), and labor camps are established to help shore up Windrip's vaunted ''New Freedom,'' which is more like a freedom from freedom. All that's really left of the old America are the flags and patriotic ditties, which for many is more than enough. But to Lewis it's not entirely the fault of those who will gladly abide America's principles being gutted. The blame also falls on the ''it can't happen here'' crowd, those yet to realize that being American doesn't change your human nature; whatever it is that attracts people to tyranny is in Americans like it's in anyone else.

When Lewis embarked on ''It Can't Happen Here,'' his wife wondered if a dictatorship could happen in this country, whether complacent Babbitt, as she put it, could be taught to march ''quickly enough.'' It was a question that Lewis had already answered. There's a scene in ''Babbitt'' where the title character blows up at his wife and admits for the first time in years that he's not as thrilled with his lot as he lets on. His wife soothes him and sends him off to bed, where, ''For many minutes, for many hours, for a bleak eternity, he lay awake, shivering, reduced to primitive terror, comprehending that he had won freedom, and wondering what he could do with anything so unknown and so embarrassing as freedom.''

Posted by binky at 10:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 18, 2005

"Washington's Nightmare"

Have you ever had a really busy time in your life, where nothing but your own problems have concerned you? And you live in a nice place, and you have good neighbors, for the most part. But the ones who used to know you really well and who gave you the benefit of the doubt when you were kind of a jerk and didn't mow your lawn and stuff like that, well, those folks took jobs in another city. And then, one day, even though you haven't really been doing much to help out the block lately, you didn't pick up the trash that blew into your front yard, or you left your grass clippings in the street, and maybe just maybe you got in a fight with your neighbor one day over who gets to park in front of your house even though the street belongs to everyone, then, one day, you find that one of your neighbors is running for the leadership position in his block of the neighborhood association? And the neighbor who is running doesn't like your ass one bit? And suddenly you realize that he's not the only one? And he's probably going to win? And even though there's not much he can really do to make you change the way you live your life, he's going to bandwagon with all the other neighborhood assholes (from your perspective at least) to give you a hard time?

Well then, this makes total sense to you.

Evo Morales, who has promised to become Washington's "nightmare," held an unexpectedly strong lead over his conservative rival in Sunday's election, according to two independent exit polls.

The wide margin means Morales, a coca farmer who has said he will end a U.S.-backed anti-drug campaign aimed at eradicating the crop used to make cocaine, will likely be declared president in January.


Morales counts Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez among his friends, along with leftists in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay who have gained power at the ballot box this decade. After the exit polls were released, an AP reporter at Morales' home in Cochabamba said he immediately received a phone call from Chavez.

And on a personal alma mater cheer, check out the quote from Eduardo Gamarra:

Eduardo Gamarra, a Bolivian political expert, said Morales' bid to become the latest South American leftist to win election was fueled by support that went undetected in pre-election projections. Many Indians blame the country's free-market policies for enriching white elite at the expense of the majority poor.

"I think there were people who didn't want to say openly that they wanted to vote for Evo Morales," said Gamarra, head of the Latin American studies department at Florida International University.

Posted by binky at 08:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why Morris Is Wrong

Morris, in comments to a previous post, chided me for not taking the threat of terrorism seriously:

That's essentially the argument you're making, saying that we shouldn't adapt to this threat until it's stronger than we are. And that is all well and good in an ivory tower, but every time terrorists kill hundreds of people, they probably think in their last breath of life that the threat is potent enough to adapt to.

My response is stolen from Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

And this is what's so chilling about Bush's defenders, which is a common feature of wartime violations of civil liberties: their fundamentally auhoritarian mindset. Ess0entially, defending this policy depends on the assumption of a zero-sum game between civil liberties and national security. Defenders of the policy simply assume, without any independent logic, that because this policy violated civil liberties that it must, somehow, contribute to protecting national security. But there's simply no reason to believe that it does. Even if you believe that formally illegal measures may be defensible in emergency situations, the national security justifications in this case don't come remotely close to meeting the necessary burden. This policy is simply transparent illegality in the service of nothing but the power aggrandizement of the Bush Administration. [edited to correct spelling mistake]

Morris, why do you assume the President's actions have actually helped? What evidence do you have that this policy is actually beneficial to stopping terrorism. We know the policy does reduce civil liberties (that's clear from the reporting), but there is no evidence that it has benefitted the national security of the country. Why, as Lemieux asks above, are you willing to accept that the President illegally suspended warrants when it was unnecessary, as the law allows wiretaps without warrants temporarily? (See this Hilzoy post for an explanation of the relevant laws, the FISA.) Or, in other words, the President willingly violated the law for no reason. Isn't that something you should at least think about?

Just to follow up: (A)The FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) procedures allowed Bush to get a wiretap on anybody he wanted at any time, with no delay; (B)Bush repeatedly signed off on this executive order, which clearly violated the (very minor) restrictions of FISA; (C)There is no evidence that the illegal wiretapping has actually been useful/successful in the war on terrorism (the original NYT story quoted administration officials as saying the NSA program was responsible for stopping the bombing of the Brooklyn Bridge and a plot in Britain; these are unsubstantiated claims). Thus, we have seen a dimunition of our civil liberties (directly ordered by the President) for either no or little gain in security. It's that simple.

As a second, and related point, if all the Conservatives/Republicans are in favor of violations of civil liberties in order to save American lives, I've got a much better idea: lets start banning the things that kill Americans. Via this chart:

Annual Causes of Death in the United States

Tobacco 435,0001
Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,0001
Alcohol 85,000 1
Microbial Agents 75,0001
Toxic Agents 55,0001
Motor Vehicle Crashes 26,3471
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,0002
Suicide 30,6223
Incidents Involving Firearms 29,0001
Homicide 20,3084
Sexual Behaviors 20,0001
All Illicit Drug Use, Direct and Indirect 17,0001,
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,6006
Marijuana 07

(You can follow the link to the original chart and read all the footnotes if you want. Also, the data in the charts dates from 1996 to 2001.)

If the primary purpose of government is to save our lives and make the country safer (in order to preserve our lives), the chart presents many, many much more efficient and effective ways for the government to remove our civil liberties in order to save us. First, and most obviously, ban tobacco. Tobacco kills about half a million Americans a year (note: Al Qaeda has killed, at most, just over 3000 Ameicans). Banning tobacco, while a violation of our civil liberties, would save about 150 times as many as Americans in one year as Al Qaeda has killed in over a decade. Banning firearms (again, a violation of the Constitution and our civil liberties) would save in one year over 9 times as many Americans as Al Qaeda has killed. Merely banning asprin would save, in one year, more than double the number of Americans Al Qaeda has killed (of course, that would also violate our civil liberties, but we've already determined that the President can do that in order to save lives).

The President violated the law. He may have had good intentions when he did so (I'm more partial to the "he thinks the laws don't apply to him" explanation, but I can be charitable), but that doesn't excuse the violation. The fact that so many Americans are willing to accept the President's authoritarian approach to national security boogles my mind.


Posted by baltar at 03:57 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Ivo Daalder on the (Extremely) Fuzzy Logic of Condi Rice

All week I've hoped to have time to write a post rebuking the silly piece of illogical sloganeering that Condi Rice put in last Sunday's Washington Post. Sadly, I've never had the time given how busy things have been at work. But still, I think we should have some critique of it handy - so I give you the response of Ivo Daalder.

And of course Daalder doesn't even get into the specifics of the Middle East section of the text. That part's really funny. She sets up a straw-man - supposedly opponents of Bush thought things were "just peachy" in the Middle East before the president launched his liberal crusade - then goes on about the evils and ills of the region (deserved knocking the president's opponents, but quite silent about the autocrats that support Mr. Bush), and then argues that everything good that's happened in the region is the result of Mr. Bush's policies (not simply prideful and arrogant, but obviously inaccurate). And in the middle of this bit of Pollyanna nonsense she actually applauds Egypt/Mubarak. Of course Condi lies, but here she's just being ridiculous - or setting the bar for what we should want out of foreign policy so low that she can't be serious.

Posted by armand at 03:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Roy Moore, Strom Thurmond and President Ahmadinejad

Publius proposes that the recent anti-Israeli tirades by the president of Iran are essentially a Middle Eastern variation on the race-baiting and Ten Commandments thumping tirades of American politicians practicing the "Southern strategy".

Posted by armand at 02:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Oh Dear

Sharon hospitalized.

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

Bob Barr vs. Dana Rohrabacher on Whether We Should Be Proud of Our Law-Breaking President

The arch-conservative former Congressman from Georgia thinks it's a bad thing when presidents break the law. The conservative friend of the Taliban who's currently serving as a US Congressman from California is proud that we have a president who breaks the law.

I kid you not, Rohrabacher actually says he's proud of the president ordering criminal behavior. Read about it here (I'm linking to Atrios on this b/c I think we can never see that photo of Rohrabacher and his Taliban friends often enough).

Posted by armand at 11:33 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Republican Congress - A Bunch of Jew Haters?

Well, while they were passing resolutions to protect Christmas, they made it abundantly clear that their interest wasn't to respect all people of faith or religious traditions - in fact they explicitly refused to protect Chanukah in the say way they want to protect the symbols of Christmas.

War in Iraq, war against terrorism, war in Afghanistan, move over -- today, House GOP leaders have decided there is a more pressing war to attend to: the fictional war against Christmas, which apparently requires protection for Christmas symbols. And what happened when Democrats asked that the symbols of Chanukah be protected along with the symbols of Christmas? The House GOP simply said "no."

This afternoon, 26 House Republicans -- together with the GOP leadership -- will be forcing the full House to vote on whether House members support the "symbols and traditions" of Christmas, and whether they disapprove of the utterly mythical "attempts to ban references to Christmas." Today's roll call vote comes on the heels of a House floor debate held last night regarding H. Res. 579, a resolution "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected." During the debate, Democratic members asked the Republican author of the resolution, Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), if she would permit the symbols of Chanukah and other holidays to be included in the protection of the resolution -- and she refused.

Personally, I think Congress should be banned from passing ANY sense of Congress reslutions. Save praising Mother Teresa, Christmas, apple pie or the latest NCAA winner until after you finish up with the war, fix the nation's energy problems and see to it that Americans can get affordable health insurance. But if you are going to engage in these kinds of actions ... well, in this case they've made it abundantly clear that they aren't interested in protecting religious expression or the rights of people of faith. They are interested in giving special rights to the adherents of one religion, and basically telling the rest to fuck off.

Posted by armand at 11:13 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Stacking the Deck Against Reproductive Rights

"Rampant malicious scoundrels are in charge".

Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, said he was upset that the report is filled with dishonest statements and is biased toward one religion....

"The report is theologically based, has patent untruths and misrepresentations, and no reasonable attention was paid to any amendments," the senator said.

The series should be interesting. The Well-Timed Period is always top notch on the scientific side of reproductive issues.

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

Justification for the War on Christmas

That Santa guy is really scary.

From Feministe, via Norbizness.

Posted by binky at 12:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 17, 2005

Thank God I Have My Own Copy

Although, I was considering titling this post "We're Fucked," since amongst the three of us who study war, revolution, authoritarianism, political leadership and the middle east, our book list is a lot more scary that some undergrad at UMass-Darmouth working on a term paper. That and we have traveled abroad, extensively, sometimes all with each other. Yeah yeah yeah, like Homeland Security cares that it was for ISA. After all, it was to Montreal, where they speak French!

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program. The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."


The eavesdropping was apparently done without warrants.

The Little Red Book, is a collection of quotations and speech excerpts from Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung.

In the 1950s and '60s, during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was required reading. Although there are abridged versions available, the student asked for a version translated directly from the original book.

The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that the Homeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.

Dr. Williams said in his research, he regularly contacts people in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other Muslim hot spots, and suspects that some of his calls are monitored.

"My instinct is that there is a lot more monitoring than we think," he said.

Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.

"I shudder to think of all the students I've had monitoring al-Qaeda Web sites, what the government must think of that," he said. "Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless."

That's right. We can't keep a hold on Zarqawi, but damn we're good at catching people who are reading books.

You know, shit like this is really dangerous:

"What really counts in the world is conscientiousness, and the Communist Party is most particular about being conscientious."

Talk at a meeting with Chinese students and trainees in Moscow (November 17, 1957).

I've always loved Mao's Little Red Book. Seriously. It's hilarious. No authoritarians ever have better rhetoric than the communist authoritarians. Capitalist roaders? The communists. Each one of us brought a shovel, a gravedigger's shovel? Communists. Struggle towards victory forever! Communists.

Look, I know that Che Guevara read Mao, and the US government is still pissed at him for running around Latin America trying to start a hemispheric uprising even though he's been dead for decades. Got it. I also will be one of the first to line up and tell you how much communist totalitarianism sucks.

However reacting to perceived threats by engaging in the very same monitoring of dissent as "the enemy" isn't much of a strategy. And doing it in the clownish and ridiculous way the Bush administration has been creates an extremely high noise to signal ratio. Not only is it stupid, it's worthless. And illegal and un-American to boot.

Seriously though, really. One of the best ways to understand what makes the United States great is understanding why other kinds of government, more efficient kinds of government even, are disasters for the humans who live under them. It's likely lost on the FBI snoopers that those who followed Mao via Che in Cuba, and their descendants, are under the exact same kinds of surveillance as U.S. citizens. We're not imprisoning librarians, though I wonder what would happen if one firmly resisted a national security letter. Jailed for contempt? Obstruction? In Cuba, people can't talk about or study things that embarrass the government. One of my "favorite" experiences there was trying to get a straight answer out of economists about GDP growth rates since the Special Period. Im-poss-i-ble. You might get a nice adulatory statment about the "triumph of the revolution," but nothing that might reflect badly on the government. Read outside textbooks about political systems? Riiight. The Ministry of the Interior, in part through its local networks which monitor things like education history, keeps an eye out for that. No one wants a "friendly" visit from the neighborhood cederista for reading the wrong book, because among other things it signals the beginning of more intensive surveillance, and could damage your future (that "damage" sounds a bit euphemistic even for me).

As Digby notes:

If that's the case, then I would assume that reading any revolutionary, historical or political tract that a terrorist has been known to read makes one a terrorist suspect. That's an extremely broad brush and the only way that anyone could ensure that he or she is not going to come into the cross hairs of the government would be to not read any of those books, not criticize the government, not study terrorism, marxism, or even the American and French revolutions since a terrorist somewhere may have read about those things too.

And, in typical Bushian blowback this will result in less understanding of terrorism:

Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.

On top of everything else, our government is mind-bogglingly stupid. I know I feel safer.

Posted by binky at 05:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bush Knowingly Endangers Vital Intelligence Sources

And no, I'm not talking about Ms. Plame - I'm talking about this catch by Mark Kleiman.

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

New Appointees for the PA Supreme Court and 9th Circuit

It looks like the unexpectedly open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is going to be filled without much controversy. Governor Rendell is going to nominate Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Cynthia Baldwin to fill that vacancy. Judge Trott's seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals? There may be more of a fight over that one as the president is trying to name a judge from Idaho to fill a "California seat".

Posted by armand at 02:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 16, 2005


Another day, another Constitutional atrocity by the Bush Administration. It's a good one this time: the National Security Agency has been spying on Americans, without a court-approved warrant. A few selected highlights from the long article:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials. (That's the opening lede.)


Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.

Yup, a bunch of NSA spooks were so worried about the legal issues, that they came forward to the media. Notice, by the way, that the "leakers" aren't political (read: Republican), but are professional spys. If the spys think you're going too far, I think that's a sign of trouble.

Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States - including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners - is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation.

So, goes the argument, this is all nice and legal because Congress allowed the President to order this when Congress passed the legislation allowing the "War on Terror" and associated attacks against Afghanistan. In other words, Congress (according to this interpretation) allowed the President to fight this war, and the President decided we needed more information, and that the courts were too slow and unwieldy to get actual warrants, so Bush decreed that the NSA could spy on American citizens, in America, talking to people overseas without asking anyone from the Judicial branch for permission (note: purely domestic calls - where both parties are within the country - seem to be excluded from this, though that is somewhat unclear). Recognize in this twisted logic that no one argued that Congress doesn't have the authority to authorize violations of the Constitution in the first place. Congress can authorize any bloody thing they want; that doesn't make it legal or right.

President Bush did not ask Congress to include provisions for the N.S.A. domestic surveillance program as part of the Patriot Act and has not sought any other laws to authorize the operation. Bush administration lawyers argued that such new laws were unnecessary, because they believed that the Congressional resolution on the campaign against terrorism provided ample authorization, officials said.

Having put forward the logic that allowed them to do this, the administration has not revisited the legal basis for this, and shows no signs of wanting to.

As best I can tell, this administration views the Constitution as optional (at best) or a quaint little historical document (at worst). The first (and often only) legal position this administration takes is "We're at war, and the President's authority to take action during war is unlimited in order to protect the country." I'm serious: think about the list of things this government does that it claims are legal and necessary: rendition, torture, "enemy combatants", secret prisons, National Security Letters, looking at your library books, the Pentagon collecting information on private citizens, the Patriot act, and today's bit of wonderful news. All legal, and necessary, to protect us.

This disturbs the living heck out of me, though the vast majority of Americans don't seem to give a shit. Other than the ACLU (who are promptly labeled "kooks") and Sen. Feingold, the slow drip-drip-drip of the passing of Constitutional protections seems unnoticed by the rest of the country.

I'm generally a pessimist (or a misanthrope, take your pick). I don't, actually, believe that Americans are somehow inherently better than any other group of people on the planet. We're not naturally smarter, taller, more moral, or more "good" than others. People are people. America is a better place than others because we have laws that prevent people from acting on their baser urges, and we have a system of checks and balances that prevents the government (or, more accurately, the individuals in the government) from acting on it's more baser urges. Once you remove those written protections, it's only a matter of time (in my misanthropic view) before the tyranny of the majority sets in, we slide back towards authoritarianism (which has always been more "efficient" than any form of democracy), and I'm forced to live in the woods with many, many guns. I do not believe that I'm safer because a "good" George W. Bush (however moral he may be) is taking immoral and illegal actions to protect this country. I want a "good" person as President; I also want that "good" person surrounded by lots and lots of limits and checks on their authority, even (or, rather, especially) in wartime (which, by the way, last I checked, we're not, as Congress hasn't declared war since 1941). My freedoms depend on the laws that limit your ability to tell me what I can and can't do (which means, for the idiots out there, that your freedoms exist because I can't tell you what you can and can't do). America is great because of those legally and Constitutionally protected freedoms, not because our people are "better" than any others.

For some reason, this reasoning seems to escape a large majority of people. They see Bush as "good" and no longer question his ability to do whatever needs doing (in Bush's opinion) to protect the country. They trust him, and through that trust abdicate their basic responsibilities (as citizens) to oversee what the President does in their name. "He's a good man, he'll do the right thing." This attitude (in my misanthropic, cynical view) makes them the moral equivalent of sheep. I eat sheep; I don't want to live among them.

Do I think that a dictatorship is just around the corner in the USA? No, not even close. However, any little tilt in that direction is always cause for alarm, and the past four years have seem more than a "little tilt". The fact that this has occured with hardly any national debate (much less national disapproval) is further cause for alarm.

Merry fuckin' Christmas or Happy fuckin' Holidays (whichever floats your boat). If anyone wants to buy me a present, I'm thinking of something in a .45 caliber (or mutton).

Posted by baltar at 12:03 PM | Comments (46) | TrackBack

Science Makes White Supremacists Cry...

...with the mapping of the human genome.

Scientists said yesterday that they have discovered a tiny genetic mutation that largely explains the first appearance of white skin in humans tens of thousands of years ago, a finding that helps solve one of biology's most enduring mysteries and illuminates one of humanity's greatest sources of strife.

The work suggests that the skin-whitening mutation occurred by chance in a single individual after the first human exodus from Africa, when all people were brown-skinned. That person's offspring apparently thrived as humans moved northward into what is now Europe, helping to give rise to the lightest of the world's races.

Leaders of the study, at Penn State University, warned against interpreting the finding as a discovery of "the race gene." Race is a vaguely defined biological, social and political concept, they noted, and skin color is only part of what race is -- and is not.

In fact, several scientists said, the new work shows just how small a biological difference is reflected by skin color. The newly found mutation involves a change of just one letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome -- the complete instructions for making a human being.


To their surprise, they found virtually identical pigment-building genes in humans, chickens, dogs, cows and many others species, an indication of its biological value.


Recent revelations that all people are more than 99.9 percent genetically identical has proved that race has almost no biological validity. Yet geneticists' claims that race is a phony construct have not rung true to many nonscientists -- and understandably so, said Vivian Ota Wang of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda.

I suppose they can always seek refuge in Kansas to avoid the "bad" news.

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

December 15, 2005

"It appears that the homosexual lifestyle is as addictive as smoking."

John Cole finds someone - who Cole suggests should be nominated for stupidest quotes of 2005 - who is frothing at the lack of anti-gay campaigns, as we have against smoking. Cole's response?

I hope Cliff and his buddies act fast, because although I have been interested in women my entire life, without quick action by the media in the form of an anti-gay lifestyle campaign, I might catch a nasty and deadly case of the “gay.” Last night I almost watched an old episode of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” but thankfully came to my senses and decided to watch the much more heterosexual “Boston Legal.” But for fate, I might have started to get addicted to the gay lifestyle.

You can’t make this shit up.

Posted by binky at 09:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 14, 2005

I'm sure Jesus would approve

After all, he's the reason for the season. Celebrate by decorating!

Posted by binky at 06:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Does anyone else remember this skit?

Their eyes were on their breasts!

Posted by binky at 05:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sharon's Happy Dance (Mofaz Variation)

Ariel Sharon must be doing the happy dance in his office (hard to picture, but...)

C'mon, how could I not link to a bit of Israeli political analysis containing that line? Yes, it's very hard to picture. But you've got to imagine that Sharon is jubilant on the news that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz will be leaving Likud to join Sharon's new Kadima party. And of course Allison is right to point out that this deepens our awareness of what an astoundlingly bad politician Bibi Netanyahu can be. But then I've long marveled at his following given his long history of political blunders.

Posted by armand at 02:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Franklin Pierce in Your Pocket

I love the state quarter program, but I think this is a truly horrible idea. Why? In the first place it really perverts our understanding of history to focus on the contributions of only a handful of dead white guys to the historical flow. Did some of these men matter? Yes, tremendously. But there are much broader systemic forces that explain a lot of history that this People-magazine approach ignores. Secondly, why are we giving this kind of honor to Nixon, Truman, Harding, Harrison #1, etc.? There are a lot of presidents I don't think very much of (some of whom already have loads of things named after them, be it airports or aircraft carriers, or both), and a lot of people I'd prefer to see the country honor.

And that's before we even get to the "politics is Hollywood for ugly people" problem. The state quarters opened up all kinds of interesting design possibilities. Here we'll get ... lots of bland bone structure.

Posted by armand at 02:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Len Downie on the Froomkin Controversy

A lot of people have noticed the recent "controversy" (incredibly silly whining seems a better description to me) that basically involves complaints by Republicans that Dan Froomkin occasionally says negative things about the White House on his Washington Post weblog. These complainers say the blog should be renamed so that people don't think Froomkin's an actual White House reporter. You know, because people reading the blog are apparently too stupid to figure this out - though I don't recall the Republicans having any similar concerns when it came to the infamous, asymmetrical Florida butterfly ballot.

Today's installment of this controversy has mostly focused on the response of Post editor Len Downie: "We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion," Downie told E&P. "And that readers of the Web site understand that, too."

Now understandably this has taken a lot of criticism as it makes it clear that the Post's top concern in this matter is pleasing the White House (something that will come as no surprise to people who've looked at their editorial page since 2000). But what I think has been undercommented on is that this also makes the White House look truly terrible too, and perhaps even worse than the Post. This is what the White House staff is concerned with? The title of a weblog? And a little bit of negative analysis by one employee of the Washington Post? Their hyper-sensitivity, pettiness and suppression of dissent seems to expand almost exponentially on a monthly basis. And while that's not good (to put it mildly) for the country in general, it's also terrible for the staff in the White House. Having a cloistered, out-of-touch president who can't defend himself is not at all conducive to accomplishing anything that requires significant public support, something needed for a lot of the president's policy aims.

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

Armand Hearts Viggo Mortensen

He's not just a rather talented pretty face. He's got sane standards about political behavior too:

“I’m not anti-Bush; I’m anti-Bush behavior,” Mortensen told Progressive magazine. “In other words, I’m against cheating, greed, cruelty, racism, imperialism, religious fundamentalism, treason, and the seemingly limitless capacity for hypocrisy shown by Bush and his administration.”
Posted by armand at 01:15 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Who said WTO meetings were dull?

Not Dan Drezner:

The result is that the events that capture the most attention are the ones with the greatest celebrity or the greatest divergence of views. Yesterday, for example, OxFam attracted a great deal of press coverage for its handoff of a petition to WTO Director General Pascal Lamy. Part of this was because Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal was there as official OxFam presenter (Bernal also succeeded in generating a fair amount of swooning from many of the female attendants and not a small number of male ones).

Posted by binky at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

Sick of grading?

Take a test instead:

Fidel Castro
You scored 75 Wisdom, 16 Tactics, 74 Guts, and 80 Ruthlessness!
has led Cuba since 1959, when, leading the 26th of July Movement, he overthrew Fulgencio Batista, and transformed Cuba into the first Communist Party-led state in the Western Hemisphere. During his more than 47-years of leadership, he has emerged as one of the more controversial political figures in the world. Internationally, his leadership has been marked by tensions with the United States (peaking in the Cuban Missile Crisis) and a close partnership with the Soviet Union. Domestically, he has overseen the implementation of radical land reform followed by the collectivization of agriculture, nationalization of leading Cuban industries, and social programs that instituted universal healthcare and expanded public education. Castro's government initially won general support among Cubans but alienated many as the regime nationalized industries and suppressed all opposition. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have left Cuba for the U.S., particularly to the nearby city of Miami, Florida. U.S. census 1990 figures are 689,825 [1]> Many Cubans who had claim to Spanish citizenship have left.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 86% on Unorthodox
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Tactics
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 96% on Guts
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 98% on Ruthlessness
Link: The Which Historic General Are You Test written by dasnyds on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

I confess, the first time I took it I scored "hippie," who knew nothing about battles or tactics and was better off loving nature or some shit. Then I took it and tried to choose all the Maximum Asshole answers. Voila! Fidel! Baltar scored Julius Caesar, of course. Via Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Posted by binky at 11:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Battle of the River Plate

While a minor battle in terms of numbers of ships, the Battle of the River Plate was defining in publicly defining the limits of German naval strength for the Second World War.

The battle came about somewhat accidentally: the Admiral Graf Spee, a modern German "pocket battleship", was sent to sea before the official start of World War II to operate independently in the South Atlantic and prey on merchant shipping, generally disrupting the commerce that was utterly critical to the Great Britain, an island nation. The Graf Spee was moderately successful at this (sinking nine merchant ships in the three months since the beginning of the war). The Royal Navy decided that it couldn't allow a German ship this powerful to go unchallenged and unopposed, so it detailed a small task group (three cruisers: Exeter, Ajax, and Achilles) to remove the threat.

On December 13, 1939, the Graf Spee met the British task group outside Montevideo. When the smoke had cleared, the Exeter was significantly damaged, while the Ajax and Achilles had moderate to light damage; the Graf Spee was either significantly damaged (according to the Captain, Langsdorff) or only superficially damaged (according to the other officers). In any event, the Graf Spee turned towards Montevideo, and sought shelter in that neutral harbor. The wounded British ships remained outside.

Under intense diplomatic pressure, Uruguay announced that the Graf Spee couldn't stay, and Langsdorff decided to scuttle the ship rather than let it be interned, captured, or sunk by the British in a second fight.

This was the first significant naval battle of the Second World War, and it was a moderate military defeat for the Germans (the Graf Spee should have been able to stand off three lesser ships) and a significant public relations disaster for the Germans (running away, followed by scuttling, didn't fit with their intended global image). However, this battle does showcase how the German Navy operated in the war: it never attempted a fleet action against the British (or, later, the Americans), instead using it's few surface combatants as commerce raiders operating alone or in very small groups. The German Navy concentrated almost entirely on submarines for the war. While not certain, the public relations disaster of the Graf Spee, likely influenced Hitler to avoid building surface ships (which could be very publicly sunk) and concentrate on submarines.

The Battle of the River Plate was 66 years ago, today.

Posted by baltar at 04:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sen. Allen (R-VA) DOES Flip-Flop on Hate Crimes

The latest move by the man many perceive as the next Republican nominee for president - a blatant show of political cowardice.

When it comes before the Senate again, he will vote against adding sexual orientation to federal hate-crimes statutes," Mike Thomas, Allen's state director, said yesterday. In 2004, Allen voted the opposite way on an amendment in the Senate.

"I wouldn't define it as a flip-flop," Thomas added.

That's George Allen ladies and gentlemen - not only a cowardly, pathetic weasel, but a liar too.

Posted by armand at 01:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Patriot Act - Criminalizing Political Speech

From the horribly depressing files of "duh" (or what happens when you put power-mad, secretive, uber-sensitive dullards who can't see beyond the end of their self-obsessed noses in charge of the country) ...

Section 602 makes holding an un-authorised sign at a Democratic or Republican National Convention, a Presidential, VP, or Candidate appearance, and any other event designated by the Secret Service as a "national special security event" a felony punishable by a year imprisonment. A not much more farfetched interpretation would have made felons of the entire Wisconsin Delegation to the 1968 Democratic Convention when Mayor Daley ruled them out of order for moving to adjourn the Convention and reconvene outside Daley's bailiwick.

Section 603 makes a seperate offence of entering the Convention (or other designated event) with forged credentials, possessing such, or even perhaps the time-honored tradition of passing ones' entry pass to a friend.

Much like I find it not just appalling but simply astonishing that we now live in a time when supposedly respectable Americans regularly advocate torture, I'm similarly appalled and astonished that even in this millenium when live in an age when the Republican powers that be are intent on making even the smallest forms of dissent or political engagement felonies.

God Bless the ACLU for fighting these fights and protecting freedom and democracy (and Majikthise for alerting readers to this outrage and the fun of Go Fug Yourself).

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

So Bad, It's Fugly

OK, this is my favorite site today - Go Fug Yourself. On top of noting fashion choices gone almost criminally wrong, the bitchy writing's funny. Example? On Jude and Sienna:

Dear Jude and Sienna,

We don't care anymore.

Love, The World

PS: Jude, if any of us could be bothered -- which, as I mentioned, we can't be -- we'd probably mention that you have got to stop it with the skinny dingy scarfs layered over low-necked undershirts. You do this all the time, and it makes you look like a grimy prevert.

PPS: Sienna, if I wasn't totally bored of you and your stupid outfits and your on-again/off-again relationship with old Scrawny McMuffler, I might mention that your coat is totally cute. But see the body of my letter.

And it is a totally cute coat - though the pics of Debbie Gibson, Gwen Stefani, Kristin Davis ... you might not want to surf over to that site on a full stomach.

Posted by armand at 12:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Happy Endings

Happy Endings, written and directed by Don Roos who's probably best known for being the writer/director of The Opposite of Sex, is rather hard to describe. There are so many interlocking stories that it's hard to say exactly how they fit together in anything approaching a brief description. There are a lot of secrets being hidden, and a lot of manipulation going on. Still, for most of the characters things end rather well, so I guess you might label it a "serious and touching comedy", even if most of it isn't exactly funny. The varied cast (including, among others, Lisa Kudrow, Tom Arnold, Bobby Cannavale, Steve Coogan, Jason Ritter and Jesse Bradford) puts in some good turns - and Maggie Gyllenhaal sings! Actually maybe I should pick up the soundtrack - I kind of like her singing, even if at one point she does cover Billy Joel. So while it's not nearly my favorite rental from the last few months - I'm still very high on Mysterious Skin and I quite liked Heights - it's a largely enjoyable diversion.

Posted by armand at 12:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 12, 2005

Uh, Bill Bennett Loses It Again.

Via Tbogg, we get this National Review column by Bill Bennett asking everyone to die their fingers purple (yes, you read that correctly):

Starting on Monday, December 12th, I — and tens of thousands of others across America — will be marking my right index finger with purple ink to show those in Iraq we support them. Based on suggestions from listeners on my nationally syndicated radio show, I — and we — are asking you (to the degree physically feasible) to make available an ink pad or marker at your check-out counters for your customers, to mark their fingers with ink as they leave your store.

There also seems to be a supporting organization and website: Purple Finger For Freedom.

I'm a bit taken aback by this. I'm certainly not against voting in general, nor do I discourage Iraqis from voting in elections in three days (some preliminary voting started today). However, exactly what is the purpose of this? The Iraqis, caught up in a civil war, will likely never hear about this (and if they do, will they really care?). I'd have to argue that all the ink-stained fingers in the country are worth less, say, than an additional brigade of combat troops (which we don't have to spare). In other words, while moral support isn't likely to hurt, a more concrete expression of help/support for Iraq would likely be better (for them and us).

However, the last paragraph of the Bennett column might give a hint as to the other (perhaps primary?) motives of this campaign:

Just as I believe in a politics of liberty, I also believe in an economy based on free market principles. Making an ink pad available for your customers who would like to show their support for those principles in your stores through December 15th is what I am asking, in support of that politics and that economy. You may wish to alert your local media of your doing this, for added publicity of the cause outlined above, and your support of it. (Emphasis added)

Hmmm. Could it be that this is a campaign aimed primarily at US citizens (who, generally, don't agree with the President's Iraq policy)? Perhaps by giving people an obvious reminder of the good things in democracy (voting) that they will be forced to stare at for a few days until the ink wears off, they might begin to like the President a bit more? No, the Republicans would never use an important election in another country for cheap, domestic political support, would they? Posted by baltar at 04:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review

And the 2005 film awards keep coming.

The New York Film Critics Circle has joined the Brokeback Mountain bandwagon. They gave it the prizes for best film, best director and best actor (Heath Ledger). Among their other picks - Reese Witherspoon as best actress for Walk the Line, Noah Baumbach won best screenplay for The Squid and the Whale, 2046 won best foreign film and best cinematography, and Howl's Moving Castle won best animated feature.

The National Board of Review though is a little different from these others. While still awarding Ang Lee the best director honor for Brokeback Mountain, they picked Good Night, and Good Luck as best film. Among the others they honored were Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) as best actor, Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) as best supporting actor, The Corpse Bride (for best animated feature), and Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) won the screenplay awards.

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

More Assassinations and Torture Prisons in Iraq

As Iraq goes through the process of getting close to totally shut down so that elections can happen there this week, it's worth remembering what the parties who are likely to win are up to. As Riverbend writes from Iraq:

blockquote>Who needs Al-Qaeda to recruit 'terrorists' when you have Da’awa, SCIRI and an American occupation?

Is it really that bad? She makes a moving case case against our "allies" - be in terms of the assasinations the carry out or the torture prisons they run, one more of which was exposed today - with the eyes of someone who's on the ground in the area, and having to live with this every day of her life.

Why are we training and supporting these monsters, spending incomprehensible sums of money and losing American lives? A pragmatic case can be made for it. But it's an ugly case - not one to be proud of, and one that has little to do with what most Americans think of when they hear the word "freedom".

Posted by armand at 01:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Our Friends Came Back

Good to see you, but really, I swear, there are no nuclear subs here. Promise!

Domain Name ? (Military)IP Address 140.32.16.# (Naval Ocean Systems Center)
ISP Naval Ocean Systems CenterLocation 
Continent : North America
Country : United States  (Facts)
State : California
City : Sacramento
Lat/Long : 38.534, -121.4435 (Map)
Language unknownOperating System Microsoft WinXPBrowser Internet Explorer 6.0
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
Javascript disabledTime of Visit Dec 11 2005 9:36:41 pm

Posted by binky at 01:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Los Angeles and Boston Film Critics Awards

The awards season for 2005's best films has begun, and the film critis in L.A. and Boston both like Brokeback Mountain. It earned top honors from both sets of critics, as did its director, Ang Lee. Likewise, Capote's Philip Seymour Hoffman nabbed the Best Actor award from both groups and Dan Futterman earned the best screenplay prize from both groups for his work on Capote (though actually he shared the L.A. prize with Noah Baumbach who was honored for his work on The Squid and the Whale; I've been a big Baumbach fan for years because of Kicking and Screaming and The Life Aquatic). Futterman might be better known to many people for his work as an actor (in films like Urbania, and he played Vincent on the television drama Judging Amy). And just for Binky and Baltar I'll note which film won the Best Foreign Film prize from the Boston critics - Kung Fu Hustle (the L.A. critics liked Cache, and picked 2046 as their runner-up).

In other award news, Tom O'Neil notes the horrible inclusions and exclusions on the American Film Institute's lists of the Top 10 movie and TV shows of 2005 in this blog entry. Putting The 40 Year Old Virgin on that film list is horrible, but that TV list ... OMG!!!

Posted by armand at 10:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 11, 2005

Sen. Gene McCarthy as the Butterfly Flapping Its Wings

Mark Kleiman thinks the late Sen. McCarthy (the Minnesota Democrat, not the Wisconsin Republican) has a lot to answer for:

McCarthy's major political accomplishment was the election of Richard M. Nixon to the Presidency, and thus, among other disasters, the prolongation of the War in Vietnam and its expansion into Cambodia, along with the ascendancy of the Strom Thurmond wing of the Republican Party and the replacement of Earl Warren by William Rehnquist. For a man whose two primary political commitments were advocacy of civil rights and opposition to the war, that's a sad epitaph, but it's the truth.
Posted by armand at 02:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2005


John Cole has this story of a man who thought his house was being invaded by burglers, defended himself and his family, and now has been sentenced to death.

Wind Rider has sent a letter to the Mississippi governor, asking him to take a fresh look at a man who has been sentenced to death for shooting a police officer. The mention of that kind of crime alone is generally enough to have someone put to death in this state and quickly. However, in this case it would be a mistake. In fact, charges never should have been brought in the first place.

To begin with, the police were executing a no-knock raid in the middle of the night and did not identify themselves upon entering the residence. By itself, this is a profoundly stupid policy. A man with no prior criminal record is woken in the middle of the night as people crash through his door and he has a wife and child, as well as a duty to protect them. He acts on that duty only to find out that the person he shot was a cop.

Given that they didn’t identify themselves, they must bear most of the blame in this situation. When someone breaks into your house in the middle of the night any reasonable person would assume they are criminals until told otherwise. Charges should have never been brought and the state should have reconsidered the wisdom of doing these kinds of home entries.

To make matters worse, the police broke into the wrong house. The man was living in a duplex and they broke into the wrong half of it. With the hysteria around the case — usually justified when a police officer is killed — it’s highly unlikely that any reasoned thought was brought to bear in reaching this verdict. I hope Wind Rider is successful in his appeal to Governor Barbour.

Posted by binky at 07:25 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

I'm a liar

I did think I was done posting, then I went to Blondesense and found the link to this:

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”

And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of the United States is little more than toilet paper stained from all the shit that this group of power-mad despots have dumped on the freedoms that “goddamned piece of paper” used to guarantee.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White House counsel, wrote that the “Constitution is an outdated document.”

Put aside, for a moment, political affiliation or personal beliefs. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent. It doesn’t matter if you support the invasion or Iraq or not. Despite our differences, the Constitution has stood for two centuries as the defining document of our government, the final source to determine – in the end – if something is legal or right.

Every federal official – including the President – who takes an oath of office swears to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States."

I wonder about the sources for stuff like this, and whether at some point in the future, there's going to be a gusher.

Posted by binky at 02:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Since I've posted in three languages in less than 24 hours, my work here is done (for today). Instead of a post, I offer a referral to Ampersand who picks apart the "women are crowding men out of college" argument.

The problem is that both Brad and the Washington Post article are getting facts wrong.

Charts and graphs and everything (oh my!). Check it out.

Posted by binky at 01:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Egypt: Ugly "Elections", Troubling Results

So just how is that spreadin' democracy in the Middle East thing goin'? In particular, how's it going in the country we give more foreign aid to than all but one other country in the entire world?

Throughout the three rounds of the election, police and mobs organized by the ruling party tried to scare voters away from the polls and human rights groups complained of vote-buying and ballot box-stuffing. Then, on Wednesday, the final day of voting, eight people were killed by police, bringing the death toll of the month-long voting period to 10.

Oh yeah, we're really pushing hard for democratic reforms and in Egypt, aren't we? Not.

And of course to the degree that opponents of the current dictator could actually cast votes for other leaders, who did they choose? Why the Muslim Brotherhood of course.

The contrast underscored a stunning shift in Egyptian politics. The Tomorrow Party and other legal, secular opposition groups were all but wiped out in the election -- together, they won no more than 10 seats. Candidates running as independents but representing the Muslim Brotherhood, which is formally banned from politics, won 88 seats and became the leading voice of dissent against President Hosni Mubarak's quarter-century rule.

So to sum up our Middle East policies in the Bush administration are that 1) we don't like and support authoritarian tyrants - except of course when we do like and support them, and 2) we want more elections in the region - though apparently that will often be to the benefit of staunchly Islamist parties, who may have some really nasty allies.

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

Metropolitan to Get the Criterion Treatment

Whoo-hoo! On February 28, 2006 the Criterion Collection will release its treatment of Whit Stillman's divine Metropolitan - at once one of the sweetest, wittiest and artistically coherent independent films every made. There are so many reasons to love this look at friendships and loves forming and shattering over one deb season/Christmas vacation in New York, not so very long ago (it appears to be set in the very early 1970's). I suppose the shattered innocence of the characters (some of whom are so well-meaning and obtuse it's just too adoreable for words - though happily they are balanced by some who are exceptionally funny, jaded and cutting) is both a commentary on the collapsing world the film is set in, and the nature of both young loves and over-intellectualizing the world. But quite apart from it's deeper meanings, watching it is a simply lovely way to spend an afternoon - listening to these 19 year olds go on and on about Fourierism, the immensely dumb sea gulls of East Hampton, and the virtues of detachable collars. It's highly entertaining, and like I said, very sweet. And those lines, those highly amusing lines:

Nick: I guess you could say it's extremely vulgar, I like it a lot.

Nick: Rick Von Slonecker is tall, rich, good looking, stupid, dishonest, conceited, a bully, liar, drunk and thief, an egomaniac, and probably psychotic. In short, highly attractive to women.

Tom: I've never been this drunk before. The problem is, with Fred no longer drinking, I can't pace myself.

Fred: Men are dates, date substitutes or potential dates.

Audrey: What Jane Austen novels have you read? Tom: None. I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it's all just made up by the author.

Nick: The cha cha is no more ridiculous than life itself.

And those aren't even many of the best lines (for example, the opening to the bridge game slays me more than any of the above). And I haven't even gotten to the virtues of the characters themselves (how could you not love Nick and Audrey - though I suppose I'm more Charlie myself; and sadly I was sooooo Tom when the film came out - even the right age). Watching this film was for years a personal holiday tradition, and it will be one of the first dvds I buy in 2006.

Now if someone would just get around to releasing The Last Days of Disco on dvd...

Posted by armand at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

O jogo bonito

Ai, ai aidê é jogo bonito que eu quero ver

Ai, ai aidê é jogo bonito que eu quero aprender

OK, so not exactly that jogo bonito. The other one. BBC:

Costa Rica

Trinidad & Tobago

Ivory Coast
Serbia & Montenegro


Czech Republic


South Korea

Saudi Arabia

Steve Gilliard says:

The Brits want a 40 year repeat of 1966, so expect a lot of bad WWII analogies in the British papers next year. Anything short of that, and heads will roll. Into the Thames.

The question dogging them is can Beckham keep his head in a crucial match and can the Brits live up to their talent. Besides Brazil, England has the most talented team on the pitch, man for man, but not the best team as a team. Euro 2004 was the latest point to emphasize this.

We like the French and Brazilians ourselves, besides the US.

He highlights the key...can a group of great individuals be the best team. Needless to say, I like Brazil. Rumo ao sexta!

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

December 09, 2005

Puta mierda del estado!

At first I though, no me jodas!, Kansas again?!

As if we needed more evidence that Kansas was hell bent on ruining the job prospects of every young person in that godforsaken state:

"It was, like, totally not in the classroom," the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. "We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he's like, 'Me prestas un dolar?' ['Will you lend me a dollar?'] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I'm like, 'No problema.' "

But that conversation turned out to be a big problem for the staff at the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in an ethnically mixed blue-collar neighborhood. A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.

Watts, whom students describe as a disciplinarian, said she can't discuss the case. But in a written "discipline referral" explaining her decision to suspend Zach for 1 1/2 days, she noted: "This is not the first time we have [asked] Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school."

So, in a country with a globalizing economy, in which the fastest growing population is hispanic, and where "20 percent of the U.S. school-age population is Latino," not to mention the fact that being multilingual is a skill that most people in the United States can't be bothered to even attempt, and where there are rural schools that have to hire itinerant foreign language teachers to drive all over hell's half acre just to get kids basic training, it's also a country "where schools want to ban foreign languages."

And of course, I'm sure it chapped their asses to have it pointed out by the young man's U.S. citizen father:

Rubio, a U.S. citizen, credits U.S. immigration law for his decision to fight his son's suspension.

"You can't just walk in and become a citizen," he said. "They make you take this government test. I studied for that test, and I learned that in America, they can't punish you unless you violate a written policy."

Rubio said he remembered that lesson on Nov. 28, when he received a call from Endeavor Alternative saying his son had been suspended.

"So I went to the principal and said, 'My son, he's not suspended for fighting, right? He's not suspended for disrespecting anyone. He's suspended for speaking Spanish in the hall?' So I asked her to show me the written policy about that. But they didn't have" one.

Hey, guess what? There are some "real Americans" in Kansas. And it looks to me like they speak Spanish:

Said Rubio: "I'm mainly doing this for other Mexican families, where the legal status is kind of shaky and they are afraid to speak up. Punished for speaking Spanish? Somebody has to stand up and say: This is wrong."

Qué coñazo! Pinche profesor! Kansas es mas feo que un culo!

WaPo via Crooks and Liars.

Esperen un minuto! Ya tenemos una actualización! Pandagon y Esteban.

Posted by binky at 07:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Friday Quiz

You scored 93 masculinity and 36 femininity!
You scored high on masculinity and low on femininity. You have a traditionally masculine personality.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 96% on masculinity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 4% on femininity
Link: The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test written by weirdscience on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Via Feministe.

Posted by binky at 05:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 08, 2005

Scott Crapp, er, Stapp

Scott Stapp:

"I just felt hated so I wanted to go away," he says.

Dude, you didn't just feel hated. You were hated, and are hated for the crap you put out and called music. And this statement isn't helping:

"Creed's sound is my sound," Stapp says, lounging on a sofa backstage before an appearance on "The Tonight Show." "I think my record is going to speak for itself to the Creed fans. I think it's going to be like when Sting left The Police."

Oh, I see. When a decent pop band disintegrated and the self-centered lead singer went out to create a decade of worthless pap. The worthless pap part I get, but the decent pop band, no effing way dude.

Oh, and by the way, enjoy him while he's 7, because in a couple of years, he's going to hate your ass for giving him a really stupid, pretentious name that says more about your ego than anything else.

Stapp's first priority was rededicating himself to his son, Jagger, now 7. His second was getting back to making music.

What would I do without CNN?

Posted by binky at 10:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

War on Christmas III: "Secular" Central

Watch it at Crooks and Liars.

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

Pro-Life? Anti-Murder? Want to Save Babies?

“The leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in American today is murder,” Paltrow coolly informs the SDTFSA. Perhaps “a Task Force to examine why men commit violence against women…would reflect true valuing of mothers, pregnant women and their families, and life itself.”

Via Pandagon.

Posted by binky at 02:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Would that I were so feisty at 87

Mike Wallace:

Q. President George W. Bush has declined to be interviewed by you. What would you ask him if you had the chance?

A. What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?

Via Atrios.

Posted by binky at 02:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Note to self

1. Avoid being Brazilian and riding the subway.

2. Avoid flying, especially if it interferes with regular ingestion of meds.

3. If 1 and 2 are unavoidable, make sure will is up-to-date.

Posted by binky at 12:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pearl Harbor Day

Pearl Harbor day is likely the most familiar date people know from World War II. Other memorable dates have mostly been forgotten, and even Pearl Harbor will fade (especially for the next generations in the shadow of 9/11).

While the importance of 9/11 is still unclear (Did it change history? Forever change US policy?), and while the primary focus of the Pearl Harbor rememberance is on the loss of life, the unannounced attack, and the "infamy", there is likely a more significant loss that is mostly forgotten from December 7, 1941.

While it is difficult for anyone today to acknowledge (and, given the passage of time, "remember" doesn't really work), at one point the US was a fairly isolationist country. People legitimately thought that (and ran political campaigns based on) the United States was better off having less interaction (trade, diplomacy, immigration, contact, etc.) with the rest of the world. The "isolationists" started in decline as America grew in power early in the 20th Century, but were still somewhat of a political force as late as the 1930s.

Pearl Harbor changed that. In one stroke, it not only galvanized the country for the Second World War (making possible the massive industrial expansion and army put together for the war effort), but clearly and decisively ended isolationism as a political force for all time. Americans, from this point forward, recognized that they were a part of the world, and couldn't argue with any degree of crediblity that America would be better off ignoring what happens elsewhere. In many senses, December 7, 1941, was the first day of the hegemony of the US, and it's dominance to world politics. Not because the power of the US was large relative to the rest of the world on that day, but because the Japanese attack changed the basic understanding America had of it's place in the rest of the world. Whether or not we wanted to be isolated, the world wouldn't allow it, and (for better or worse; on balance, for better) the US has been the key player in international politics ever since.

Sure, the US was relevant pre-Pearl Harbor (World War I, League of Nations), but it was only after December 7, 1941 that the US became critical in every international event of significance.

And that was 64 years ago today (well, yesterday).

Posted by baltar at 12:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

George Bush and Dick Cheney: More Cruel Than Torquemada

Even Torquemada considered water-boarding to be torture. But not Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, etc., etc., etc. ... Why in the world do people defend these barbaric and dangerously incompetent fools? Well, I know the answer to that. But it's horrifying.

Our president - such the follower of Jesus (like Torquemada?) and "compassionate" conservative.

Posted by armand at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) Impresses

While Gov. Warner of course hasn't officially entered the race for president in 2008, he's making good impressions at every turn. Many people noted the very visible role he played in making sure that Lt. Governor Tim Kaine won the race to succeed him. He's followed that up with breaking fundraising records in Virginia (his new PAC, Forward Together, netted $2.5 million in its first fundraiser) and thrilling the biggest names in the party in South Carolina. He appears to be the biggest threat to Hillary Clinton at this stage in the race.

Posted by armand at 11:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 07, 2005

Carnival of the Liberals

The first ever Carnival of the Liberals is up today!

And yes, it's a shameless plug, because they picked up my Planned Parenthood post.

Posted by binky at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

President Bush Is in Need of a Religious Calendar

Isn't there something a bit insulting about a man who talks constantly about his respect for religion observing Hanukkah weeks before it actually begins?

Posted by armand at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

KU Professor Assaulted (by Intelligent Design Supporters?)

The chairman of the Religious Studies Department was beaten by two men who apparently perceive themselves to be Christians.

Posted by armand at 09:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2005

The Navy Loves Us?

I wonder what a someone from the Major Shared Resource Center was doing visiting Bloodless Coup? It came up in the site meter as a simple, but nothing comes up for that site. What comes up from google is this:

DoD Warning

This Department of Defense computer system is subject to monitoring at all times.
Unauthorized access is prohibited by Public Law 99-474
(The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986).
WARNING!!! This is a Department of Defense computer system. All DoD computer systems are subject to monitoring at all times to ensure proper functioning of equipment and systems, including security devices and systems, to prevent unauthorized use and violations of statutes and security regulations, to deter criminal activity, and for other similar purposes. If monitoring of this or any other DoD computer system reveals possible evidence of violation of criminal statutes, this evidence and any other related information, including identification information about the user may be provided to law enforcement officials. Use of this computer system constitutes a consent to monitoring at all times. If monitoring reveals possible criminal activities or violations of security regulations, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

Well, I suppose I should say welcome to some DoD person, who is visitor 15,370.

Domain Name ? (Military)IP Address 140.32.16.# (Naval Ocean Systems Center)
ISP Naval Ocean Systems CenterLocation 
Continent : North America
Country : United States  (Facts)
State : California
City : Sacramento
Lat/Long : 38.534, -121.4435 (Map)
Language unknownOperating System Microsoft WinXPBrowser Internet Explorer 6.0
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
Javascript disabledTime of Visit Dec 6 2005 3:26:00 pmLast Page View Dec 6 2005 3:26:00 pmVisit Length 0 secondsPage Views 1Referring URLunknownVisit Entry Page Exit Page Zone unknownVisitor's Time UnknownVisit Number 15,370

I wonder if they were referred by someone in the Navy.

Domain Name ? (Military)IP Address 205.67.218.# (Naval Ocean Systems Center)
ISP Naval Ocean Systems CenterLocation 
Continent : North America
Country : United States  (Facts)
State : Rhode Island
City : Prudence Island
Lat/Long : 41.6152, -71.3168 (Map)
Language unknownOperating System Microsoft Win2000Browser Internet Explorer 6.0
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.0; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
Javascript disabledTime of Visit Dec 5 2005 4:39:40 pmLast Page View Dec 5 2005 4:39:40 pmVisit Length 0 secondsPage Views 1Referring URLunknownVisit Entry Page Exit Page Zone unknownVisitor's Time UnknownVisit Number 15,318  

From coast to coast, it looks like the Naval Oceans System people have a thing for Bloodless Coup.

Or maybe not. Searching the IP address brings this:

OrgName: DoD Network Information Center


Address: 3990 E. Broad Street

City: Columbus

StateProv: OH

PostalCode: 43218

Country: US

NetRange: -


NetName: SUM-DET-5

NetHandle: NET-140-32-0-0-1

Parent: NET-140-0-0-0-0

NetType: Direct Assignment

NameServer: NS1.ARL.ARMY.MIL

NameServer: NS1.NOSC.MIL


Comment: DoD HPCMO

Comment: 1010 North Glebe Rd

Comment: Arlington, VA 22201 US

RegDate: 1990-04-08

Updated: 2005-11-03

Let's see, that includes the flyover state of Ohio, and doesn't have anything to do with Oceans. And then there is Arlington, metro DC area, and Army tags.

Trying to go to NOSC.MIL redirects here. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

SPAWAR Command Information

Mission Statement
SPAWAR Enterprise “delivers” FORCEnet – "transforming information into decisive effects."

Vision Statement
“FORCEnet is the decisive weapon for the future Force”

“We are dedicated to the Joint warfighters, who stand in harms way preserving our peace and defending our nation and its allies against aggression at home and abroad.”

Hey, it is the Navy after all. And they have this fun-looking thing called FORCEnet.

FORCEnet is not an IT program or even a series of programs. It is a foundation and catalyst -- an ..."operational construct and architectural framework for Naval Warfare in the Information Age which integrates Warriors, sensors, networks, command and control, platforms, and weapons into a networked, distributed combat force, scalable across the spectrum of conflict from seabed to space and sea to land."

-- CNO Strategic Study Group XXI Definition

If you check out their handy organizational chart, it shows where the SPAWAR fits in with other missions (below "ships," evidently). Clicking on the orgchart takes you to the Program Executive Office, which obviously has people reading Dilbert, since their motto is "Setting a Course: Acquiring IT for an Evolving Enterprise." Very catchy.

Now, I'm a computer dummy in the scheme of things. I just had some time on my hands today because my brain was fried from too much grading, and I decided to visit our sitemeter stats while cleaning out more porn spam from the comments and pings. If someone was really trying to hide, and throw up these IPs as a screen, I'd be fooled, and I wouldn't have the skills to track it down. I do know people in the industry because of my line of work, and they are far too smart to visit my website from their work computers, and they aren't in the Navy part of the industry anyway. So, what the hell?

Moral of the story? Do you play with your sitemeter and ARINWHOIS? Maybe you should.

And I should add a beret tip to Jesus' General who started me thinking about all this awhile ago after he found special visitors at his site.

Posted by binky at 07:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

David Cameron Wins

The Conservative Party in the UK has a new leader, David Cameron. He crushed David Davis in the balloting. If I was a Labour Party political strategist I'd be very worried.

Posted by armand at 05:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Helpful Tips for Buying and Wearing Cologne

Last week I asked a friend of mine who works as an expert for a major upscale store that specializes in things like make-up and colognes why my Gucci cologne stays on so much longer than the other three that I occasionally wear (Marc Jacobs, Bulgari's Aqua and Kenneth Cole's Black). Her response was very lengthy, but if you are interested in knowing how colognes are made and how they work, also very informative. So I figured I would post it here in case any of you have wondered the same thing, or would soon be doing some holiday shopping and wanted to enter stores better informed about what it is that you are really looking for. She has some helpful shopping tips, both in terms of offering some informative insights into the ones I wear, and in terms of simply knowing what you need to be careful of when you shop for cologne, how to shop smarter, and what you should definitely avoid.

The following is the note from Expert X:

A fragrance is traditionally comprised of three notes, those being the top, second, and base notes. It can be more or less than that, but most perfumers and professional noses stick with the three per fragrance rule. A note is the essence of what made up the fragrance. So a note can be a class(white flowers is a common one), a single ingredient (tender pink rose), or a blend of many different things (musk, sandalwood, and patchouli).

Your top notes are what you always smell first in a fragrance, and most people choose their fragrance based on what the top notes are. This is actually not the best way to chose a fragrance, but it is the most common. Spraying a fragrance strip and smelling it two seconds later - that's all top note. The top notes are what is going to fade away fastest as well - usually within the first hour. So even though the things in a top note might be pretty or clean or whatever, decades of experience has taught the perfumers that these scents do not last much over an hour (some considerably less). In the top note category would be almost all white flowers, all citrus.... most anything that would be described as clean, fresh, or crisp.

Your second note is what many perfumers consider to be the true essence of the fragrance, or the heart. This adds a little mystery to the fragrance, because these are the things that will last the longest and will remain in your memory where you don't think they are. Perfect example of this - rose. Rose is a second note, and even though you can smell it initially, it gains momentum in the 1-3 hour range. It settles down and deepens to a different scent, and pretty much all people around our age thing of our grandmothers when we smell it. It is for that reason that the second note, or the heart, that most perfumers are concerned with. Lots of ingredients fall in this category: light vanillas, vetyvier, apple, pear, blackberry (most all fruits except citrus), heartier flowers like iris, rose, honeysuckle; water based scents (like sand and salt and other things of the ocean), butter, sugar, chocolate, grass...... lots of shit.

The base note is what gives a fragrance it's depth, and once again, even though sometimes you will smell it initially, it will deepen and expand as the hours go by, and by the 4th hour this is usually all you can smell. For me, this is the most important part of a fragrance, mostly because I like spicy scents and they are in this category. Strangely enough, if a fragrance has enough base notes, it can hold the second note (or the heart) of the fragrance longer. They have to work together though. So... some base notes are patchouli, sandalwood, most all spices, musk, amber, that sort of stuff. Things that make you think of a heavy fragrance are probably loaded with base notes.

You asked about a chemical reaction - I am assuming you mean the reaction when a person sprays something on their skin, and how their skin accepts the fragrance. This is sometimes called the fourth note - the one that cannot be planned for! Every person has a different Ph balance to their skin which can affect a fragrance, as well as the foods they eat, the products they use, etc. There are some fragrances that can be very different on each person as a result. This can be a good or bad thing. Romance from Ralph Lauren for women is like that - it's good because it smells different on every woman, but it always smells like a classic floral. Angel for women is just the opposite - this pungent atrocity is made up of chocolate, patchouli and something that smells like a dirty vagina. Lots of women love this fragrance, and most men hate it. It's strong and almost vulgar (perhaps because it smells like a dirty vagina). It doesn't matter what a womans chemistry is - this fragrance smells the same on everyone. It smells like you work at a brothel.

Now then.... this whole lesson brings us to the question you posed: what makes one fragrance stay longer than another? Now that you know what makes up a fragrance, you should go check out what each of them smell like again and see what is going on there. You said that Kenneth Cole Black fades the fastest - this doesn't surprise me. Many mens fragrances are made up of top notes with no base notes at all (or very little). Lots of mens stuff is very light, clean, crisp... not the sort of things that will last. I am actually not that familiar with Black, but it must be a lot of top notes (which is weird to me because of the name).

I am familiar with Marc Jacobs. That is one of the only mens fragrances that is almost entirely floral, and mostly white flowers at that. It's pretty unusual to make a mens fragrance with nothing but flowers, but we usually don't tell men that when selling it because they would never buy it. So, white flowers and some other deeper flowers.... only top and second notes.

Aqua by Bulgari is a pacific note, so it has lots of the salt, sand, and other oceanic things in it. It also has grass and other second notes. But Bulgari has been making fragrances for years, and they have a really good nose working for them (that's the professional smeller - what an awesome job). Traditionally their fragrances smell light and fresh, but have lots of undetectible base notes so they last for a pretty long time. That is a great quality to have in a fragrance - longevity without being heavy.

Gucci is made up of lots of base note fragrances, which is why it's lasting all day. It is loaded with woods and spices, particuliarly white pepper. It has amber and papyrus wood in it as well, which are other base notes. Personally, I think this is a very manly fragrance - which is why Brian wears this one. Also he had to like it, but you know. It's all about me.

So there you have it - that's why some of your fragrances are lasting and some are fading. Lots of people consider some fragrances winter and some summer, and also some are considered night and day. Day fragrances are lots like summer fragrances - the lighter, crisp, fresh ones. So when you are going to teach all day, you might wear the kenneth cole or the marc jacobs. Night or winter fragrances are spicier woodier ones. So if you were going on a hot date, you might wear Gucci or Aqua. And of course, never change fragrances throughout the day - whatever you started the day with you have to end it with, or you'll just smell like a big ol mess.

Posted by armand at 01:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

9 Songs

What should one make of this? The most respectable porno ever? A one-sided glimpse at a relationship - not a narrative about it, just a look at it? Sex scenes interrupted by some trips to music venues? Metaphors about being in love and spending time in Antarctica?

Director Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs is all of that. An unusually frank and explicit observation of a relationship - heavy on the memories of supposedly steamy (for the characters involved) sex scenes.

But me - I was rather bored. Just watching a couple of people who are smitten with one another - well, it's rather dull, no matter what the characters are doing. Still, it's interesting as a film-making experiment I suppose. And some of the music performances are fun. Me being me, I liked Franz Ferdinand the best, though the performances by The Dandy Warhols (doing a surprising pretty, quiet and chill rendition of one of my favorite songs, "You Were the Last High"), Primal Scream and Super Furry Animals were good too. So I guess I didn't really enjoy this film, but it's not awful.

Posted by armand at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lowell Weicker Excites, Then Maybe Disappoints

The former governor and senator from Connecticut (actually the Republican Senator Joe Lieberman defeated in 1988 - by running to Weicker's right) is considering challenging Joe Lieberman in the 2006 election. Now of course Lieberman is very popular in Connecticut (almost unbeatable really), the last time they face off Weicker lost, and Weicker himself doesn't want to run. But if Weicker defeated Lieberman, that would be beautiful.

UPDATE: Maybe that was a really short-lived trial balloon. Though the first story is actually dated more recently.

Posted by armand at 10:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 05, 2005

That time of year

No, not the holidays. Finals. And there's not much time to do more than clean the porn spam out of the comments and pings. It's an amusing ritual by this point because the latest MTBlacklist is really nice, and I can crank it out in a few minutes while reading email.

Tonight I decided to check in before bed, and zap a few baddies. I've seen every variation on bad porn pings that exist... no "moose cock" but almost everything else, in every vile and ridiculous combination possible. Or I thought I had. Tonight there was "hentai lesbian." Huh? How do you know the monster squid is a she? And no, I'm not going to ask PZ Myers.

Posted by binky at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 04, 2005

John McCain Working for Rick Santorum

And speaking of guys I find ever scarier, I hope all you McCain fans will pay attention to the kind of people John McCain is working to elect to Congress.

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

More Reasons to Fear Judge Alito?

I continue to become more and more worried.

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

Walk the Line

Expect it to pick up a lot of Oscar nominations, including ones for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress. I finally saw it last night and came away very impressed. The performances are outstanding, the music is sensational. In addition, I think the story will resonate around the country, and I bet the box office ends up being a lot bigger than the studio hoped.

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

December 03, 2005

Israel's Political Divisions - Moving Forward to the Past

Yossi Verter has this interesting observation - Israel's "new" political alignment is really a return to its old political alignment.

The political "bang" whose shock waves are still rocking the foundations of the system, has created a new party: Kadima. But although the name of the party means "forward," its establishment has actually taken the country dozens of years backward. Kadima is a kind of reincarnation of the historic Mapai, Labor's predecessor - a party of ministers, of security officials, of doers, with an elderly and white-haired leader at its head. The Labor Party, on the other hand, has become Mapam: a social-democratic, left-wing party interested in helping the weak in society, the workers. They hardly mention political issues. Everything is sculpted in the image of Amir Peretz, Avishay Braverman and Shelly Yachimovich. And then there's the Likud, which is returning to its roots: the historic Herut movement of Menachem Begin, a withered party with 10-15 seats, most of whose members will apparently belong to the right-wing, Revisionist branch of the movement. And as for Shinui, it is going through a destructive process of its own; soon it will resemble the defunct Independent Liberals, a small bourgeois party whose members "wear their pants above the navel" - that is, reasonable people, good folks, in the bad sense of the word.

And fitting with that analysis, the latest polls from Israel look very good for Sharon's Kadima party - and little short of disasterous for Likud and Shinui.

Posted by armand at 01:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Israelis Want to Stick With Assad?

This funny bit of sarcasm by Josh Marshall is wrapped around an interesting foreign policy point that is rarely discussed - many of the so-called neocons in the Bush administration who are supposedly so pro-Israli are also pushing for a policy of "regime change" in Syria. That's something that a lot of the Israeli leadership doesn't think is in Israel's best interests.

Posted by armand at 01:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 02, 2005

What's So Christian About "Merry" Christmas?

All this Christmas madness by the Bill O'Reillys of the world makes me wonder the following - are we being bad Christians if we say "Happy Christmas"? I mean, "merry"? What's that about? Why are O'Reilly and his ilk insisting on that? I don't recall ever seeing it in the Bible - do I have a bad translation?

Posted by armand at 01:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Just How "Probable" Must Probable Cause Be?

" ... probable cause can exist so long as there is more than a five- to ten-percent chance that evidence will be present in the place to be searched."

Those are Howard Bashman's words describing a recent position taken by Sixth Circuit Chief Judge Danny Boggs, one of the most prominent conservative appealate judges in the country. I'm not necessarily one for limiting the powers of the state to conduct investigations ... but c'mon. He's got to be kidding, right? What would the founders think? Not to mention the folks at Webster's Dictionary.

Posted by armand at 12:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

We Won, Let's Leave

So sayeth the Downtown Lad.

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

I'm Getting Sick of Using "Highly Unusual" When Talking About Bush

Nice, really nice, headline in the Washington Post:

Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal: Voting Rights Finding On Map Pushed by DeLay Was Overruled

The money paragraph:

Mark Posner, a longtime Justice Department lawyer who now teaches law at American University, said it was "highly unusual" for political appointees to overrule a unanimous finding such as the one in the Texas case.

So, Delay's slimy (and now, apparently, illegal) redistricting in Texas that was only done to give the Republicans an even bigger majority than they already have was found to violate the Voting Rights Act by actual professionals in the Department of Justice. Political appointees overturned that finding, which people are now calling "highly unusual".

How many times have we used "highly unusual" for this administration? "Plan B" in the FDA. New Source Review for the Clean Air Act. Bypassing the UN and invading Iraq. Those are just off the top of my head.

When does this end?

I'm sick of this. I'm tired and have to run a marathon on Sunday. I'm going to bed.

Posted by baltar at 01:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 01, 2005

South Africa to Have Same-Sex Marriages

South Africa, which was the first country on Earth to explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orienation in its constitution, will soon become the first country in Africa to allow same-sex marriages. The country's highest court has given the legislature a year to amend marriage laws so that they fit with the requirements of the constitution. South Africa will be the fifth country, and the most populous one, to allow such marriages. The others are Spain, Canada, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Posted by armand at 04:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"Slob is the new slut"

That should have been her post title.

Personally, I'm a huge believer in what Hirschman calls "ignorance and dust"--not caring about tidiness and not cultivating any special skills to produce domestic order. One of the way society controls women is by setting unrealistic bourgeois aesthetic standards and foisting them on women. One way women can resist the patriarchy is by rejecting these standards as unreasonable.

If you don't let other people shame you for your sex life, don't let them shame you about ironing the sheets, either. Slob is the new slut.

Absolutely on target. Hence my cultivation of the "Einstein" look for hair and blatant disregard for dustbunnies. I get frustrated with clutter (another meal standing up because the table is covered with papers? damn!), and will clean for big events (so that there are places to sit and the ones there are don't leave inch think coatings of pet hair on the guests), but I'm increasingly of the attitude that if someone doesn't like me because I am a mess, they can fuck off. I have a job, and it's not cleaning the house. I have hobbies, and guess what, they aren't cleaning the house. Love me? Love my disarray.

Posted by binky at 01:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How the Labor Party Benefits from Peres Leaving It

I agree with everything Jonathan Zasloff writes here. The Labor party is better off without Shimon Peres - Peres' considerable accomplishments notwithstanding.

Posted by armand at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


OK, I've got to begin my comments on this film by saying that I'd never seen Rent on stage or heard any of the songs except for "Seasons of Love" before seeing this film. I think that makes all the difference in the world in how you are likely to respond to this movie. A large portion of the audience will walk in already loving this work. And so they'll be thrilled to see (most of) the Broadway cast, and happy to hear a lot of songs they already love, and intrigued to see the show presented in so much more "cinematic" surroundings - for example, staging "Take Me or Leave Me" at a big country club party and the enormous set and dozens of dancers brought in for "Tango: Maureen". I didn't walk in able to respond in those ways. I walked in as someone who likes certain musicals, but who knew next to nothing about this one beyond the basics of the plot and one song.

So, that said, what do I think? Well, I'm afraid I can't recommend it. Why? It's entirely the fault of Jonathan Larson. I simply found the book absurd, ridiculous and, in a way, offensive. The story is flat-out awful, and there were a couple of spots when it was just so "ooooh-look-at-us-noble-bohemians-who-are-above-paying-rent-or-living-in-supportive-relationships" that I hated it with a level of passion I can rarely muster against a movie. I mean c'mon, there I was sitting with friends in comfie chairs in a Hollywood Theater, and still I was somehwere between incensed and furiously annoyed.

Now to be fair I have noticed that I like it more thinking back on it. Some of the numbers are successful. Some of the directing choices are surprisingly good (I feared the worst when I heard that Chris Columbus was going to be doing this - it's not really his milieu). Angel's costumes were good. And some of the performances were extremely good. One person I was with who worships the show was amazed by Jesse Martin. Personally, I found Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thoms (the two major cast members who don't come from the Broadway show) to be the best, followed by Adam Pascal and Wilson Jermaine Heredia (who won a Tony for playing Angel on Broadway). And some of the numbers, particularly Pascal's and Dawson's I liked a lot. And hey, for pure T&A value alone, you might want to go see the movie just to see Dawson perform "Out Tonight" - one of the sexiest things I've ever seen in a movie in my life.

So I guess my final evaluation of it is that if you are interested in musicals it's worth checking out. There are a few performances and numbers that are quite entertaining. But if you go, try not to let the film's childish and insipid plot/politics get in the way of your enjoyment of songs you might otherwise enjoy.

Posted by armand at 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Building Legitimate Indigenous Democracy

No comment.

Titled "The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq," an article written this week for publication in the Iraqi press was scornful of outsiders' pessimism about the country's future.

"Western press and frequently those self-styled 'objective' observers of Iraq are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation," the article began. Quoting the Prophet Muhammad, it pleaded for unity and nonviolence.

But far from being the heartfelt opinion of an Iraqi writer, as its language implied, the article was prepared by the United States military as part of a multimillion-dollar covert campaign to plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media and pay friendly Iraqi journalists monthly stipends, military contractors and officials said.

Posted by binky at 10:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

World AIDS Day

Support World AIDS Day

Posted by binky at 09:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack