January 31, 2006

Good News About Alito!!

Actually, it sort of is. Digby has an interesting (if a bit long, and overwrought at the end) post arguing that the Alito filibuster is actually good news:

I know it hurts to lose this one. I won't say that I'm not disappointed. But it was a very long shot from the outset and we managed to make some noise and get ourselves heard. The idea that it is somehow a sign of weakness because we only got 25 members of the Senate, including the entire leadership, to vote to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee is funny to me. Two years ago I would have thought somebody was on crack if they even suggested it was possible. [emphasis in original]

Read the whole thing. It's interesing, at least. I'm not sure I disagree, but I'm also not sure I agree. Yes, it's good that some Democrats were willing to vote to stop a nominee that most (those that aren't insane) agree was at least questionable (and "questionable" shouldn't be confirmed). However, they didn't get enough. And comparing this vote to Scalia isn't accurate: Scalia (at the time) wasn't thought to be as extreme as he has turned out to be, and (more importantly) the balance on the court at the time was more moderate, and giving the wingers a wacko candidate (and avoiding the fight) seemed more reasonable. In hindsight, that was an error. The point is that in today's environment, the Alito vote should have been closer, and the fact that it wasn't is ugly for the prospects of the Democratic party.

(You'll note, by the way, from the post time on this that I'm not watching the State of the Union. Ha.)

Posted by baltar at 09:04 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) - Staggeringly Clueless

Again, from the files of "duh" ... but even given Allen's usual standards of out-of-touchness meets out-to-lunchness this is pretty damn appalling. This guy is the 2008 GOP frontrunner? Wow - what did even the Republicans do to deserve that? Oh, yeah, that's right - they lowered the bar for competence and responsibility to an obscenely low level.

Posted by armand at 05:20 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Landrieu to Challenge New Orlean Mayor Nagin

Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu will run against incumbent New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Hallelujah.

Posted by armand at 04:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Daily Dose of Culture

If you want to raise your IQ, or win some money on TV game shows, go check out the hundred best first lines from novels (via tbogg).

It is unclear what the criteria for this is. Makes you want to read the book? Most famous? Most interesting?

You'll also note that very, very few are from books past, say 1980.

Posted by baltar at 01:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Invertebrate Humor

C'mon, you have to laugh, or otherwise you'd cry. The spineless:

Akaka, Daniel K. (Coward-HI)
Baucus, Max (Doormat-MT)
Bingaman, Jeff (Toady-NM)
Byrd, Robert C. (Ditherer-WV)
Cantwell, Maria (One-termer-WA)
Carper, Thomas R. (Lickspittle-DE)
Conrad, Kent (Stooge-ND)
Dorgan, Byron L. (Loser-ND)
Inouye, Daniel K. (Pawn-HI)
Johnson, Tim (Milksop-SD)
Kohl, Herb (Flunky-WI)
Landrieu, Mary L. (Parasite-LA)
Lieberman, Joseph I. (Sycophant-CT)
Lincoln, Blanche L. (Puppet-AR)
Nelson, Bill (Candy-ass-FL)
Nelson, E. Benjamin (Lowlife-NE)
Pryor, Mark L. (Chicken-AR)
Rockefeller, John D., IV (Weasel-WV)
Salazar, Ken (Dissembler-CO)

Posted by binky at 09:54 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The 2006 Oscar Nominations

The Alito vote in the Senate? The State of the Union? C'mon we know what today's real news story is - the Oscar nominations are out!

So what do we have? Well, Brokeback Mountain was the heavy favorite for Best Picture prior to the nominations and it remains so today. It got the most nominations, and the movie that gets the most nominations usually wins Best Picture. I've seen 3 of the films nominated for Best Picture, and give then competition, I'm surprised Walk the Line didn't make the cut in this category. I thought it was superior to Capote and so much better than Crash that the two don't belong in the same sentence.

The men's acting categories? Congratulations Terrence Howard! He snagged a nomination in the Best Actor category for Hustle & Flow. Somehow I still haven't seen that, but many of my friends absolutely love it, and I thought he and Don Cheadle were clearly the best things in Crash, so it's nice to see him get the recognition. I can't comment on David Strathairn's performance in Good Night, and Good Luck since I haven't seen it. Of the three I have seen - I'd probably vote for Joaquin over Heath, but that's a tough call. I would not vote for Philip Seymour Hoffman (his was, at best, the #5 performance by a straight guy playing a gay guy that I saw this year), but whether or not I like it, Hoffman is likely to win. As for the supporting actor nominations, since Syriana's Alexander Siddig sadly wasn't nominated, it's not even close - Jake Gyllenhaal deserves to win this category. Sadly, he probably won't. But he should. And what the hell is William Hurt doing with a nomination? His performance was ridiculous.

Actress in a Leading Role? I've only seen one of the nominees. Go Reese! She was great. Actress in a Supporting Role? Wow, look at those nominees. How do you choose? Well, I haven't seen The Constant Gardner so I can't evaluate what I hear is spectacular work by Ms. Weisz. I always love Frances McDormand, but I haven't seen North Country either. I love Ms. Keener, and she was perfect in Capote, but it's probably too understated a performance to win. Amy Adams and Michelle Williams both gave absolutely wonderful performances, and were keys to the success of two of the year's best films. Geez, pretty much anyone of these actress can walk home with the prize and I'll be happy - though at this point in time I think my vote would go to Amy Adams if for no other reason than it might get more people to watch Junebug. You should. It's great.

As to the other awards - as far as I'm concerned (and, again, not having seen Good Night, and Good Luck) Brokeback Mountain should definitely win the directing, screenplay and Best Picture prizes. As to the other screenplay award, I'd go with Syriana (though I haven't seen Match Point). And just to be different, I'll pull for Howl's Moving Castle in the best animated film category - well, to be different and because I liked it?

So did anything you really liked get snubbed (me? I saw the Alexander Siddig snub coming obviously, though I am a bit surprised The Beat That My Heart Skipped didn't get nominated for the foreign film award). Is there anything or anyone you want to cheer for? Comment below.

Posted by armand at 09:10 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

First teh gays, then teh evil feminists

Feeling a bit defeated this morning, Amanda notices a little something about right wing rhetoric:

I just thought I’d like to point out something interesting I noticed while perusing Townhall, the internet presence of everyone’s favorite propaganda mill conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. In the opinion column, here’s a sample of some of the more obvious headlines:

Debunking militant feminist orthodoxy

Why I don’t take feminists seriously, Part V

When sexual “harassment” is a joke

There’s also an opinion column trying to convince the readership that regular church attendance is the key to a happy marriage that implies that the only people who attend church regularly are conservatives dedicated to “traditional” (read: male-dominated) marriages and a column by Rebecca Hagelin that implies that anti-contraceptive legislation is good for families.

That’s a lot of column inches devoted to bashing women and women’s rights.

Buckle your seatbelts, folks.

Posted by binky at 08:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abramoff Visual

Via the Stealthbadger, a extremely nice graphical representation of the so-called "bi-partisan" scandal. It shows that while both parties had been receiving "legal tribal money" what Abramoff did (the illegal part) was increase the Republicans' reception of money from those sources by 135%. The graph also shows why this isn't a bi-partisan scandal.

It's amazing how useful a picture can be. This reminds me of a graduate course in Latin American Politics I had, and how we discussed the case of the Challenger as a failure to present data in an understandable way. One of the problems with the O-ring failure that caused the crash was that it was known they would fail, but the presentation of the data failed to show the dramatic increase in risk below certain temperatures. For further reading, check out Tufte.

Posted by binky at 06:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

War and Rehabilitation

The NYT has a multipage story about the long-term rehabilitation of those injured in the war. If there is something everyone can get behind, it is to make sure the government maintains its commitment to these folks.

Posted by binky at 05:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Further Evidence that Condi's Inept or a Huge Liar (so, from the Files of Duh)

I mean if neither I nor my graduate students is that suprised, we are in a seriously fucked-up mess if our Secretary of State was taken by surprise by HAMAS's victory. Sadly (for the lives and interests of Americans), it's not the first time. Take it away Larry Johnson.

Posted by armand at 12:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 30, 2006

2006 State of the Union

Is anyone planning on watching the SotU tomorrow? I must admit that I can't bring myself to. Its not that I can't stand the President (I can't), its just that its so, well, boring. There isn't any drama (no new policy proposals), and there isn't any real useful politics (how many times people give standing ovations isn't really politics).

If I'm lucky, I'll read the thing on Wednesday.

Posted by baltar at 09:40 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Filibuster Dead

From CNN:

"The Senate kills off an attempt to filibuster Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination with a 72-25 vote to end debate."

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

More Lipinski (D-IL) Dirty Tricks

In March Democrats have the opportunity to defeat two embarrassments to the party that currently serve in Congress - Henry Cuellar of Texas and Dan Lipinski of Illinois. Let's hope both suffer humiliating defeats.

Posted by armand at 05:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cover Band

This rocks.

Dude, where's the theramin?

Posted by binky at 03:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not Everybody In This Administration Believes In Unlimited Executive Power

Via numerous sources (War and Piece and Kevin Drum), this Newsweek story about the internal fights in the Bush Whitehouse, Vice President's office, and Department of Justice about what the limits of Presidential authority are. Surprisingly, it turns out that there were a few people who put roadblocks up in front of the President.

These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. They did so at their peril; ostracized, some were denied promotions, while others left for more comfortable climes in private law firms and academia. Some went so far as to line up private lawyers in 2004, anticipating that the president's eavesdropping program would draw scrutiny from Congress, if not prosecutors. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men.

Of course, most of them have now left the administration. Aren't we lucky.

By the way, read that last sentence in the quoted paragraph again ("These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men.") Uh, no. If we were a nation of laws, then the proper system of checks and balances (courts and/or Congress) would have stepped in. Instead, it took men to risk their careers to step into the breach left by the failure of the institutions. The reporter is an idiot.

Still, very much worth a read.

Posted by baltar at 01:23 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Judge Alito

The junior senator from Rhode Island was in, by his own staff's admission, a lose-lose situation. If he votes against Judge Alito he strengthens the hand of his more conservative primary opponent. If he votes for Judge Alito he strengthens the hand of the two prominent Democrats who are running for his Senate seat. So what does he do? Why he makes a "principled" statement and comes out as a vote against Alito - but at the same time appears to come down on the side of opposing a filibuster to block the Alito nomination. Uh, senator, if Alito is as bad as you say he is, and you are in a position to stop him from sitting on the Supreme Court for 30+ years, uh - shouldn't you try a tiny bit harder to stop him from taking that seat? My read on this is that Chafee turned a lose-lose situation into a really-lose, piss-off-everyone situation.

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

Good News for Kentucky Democrats

Former Rep. Ken Lucas has announced he's going to run for his old seat. He'll battle freshman Republican Geoff Davis.

Now if the party could only rid itself of its offensive state party chairman.

Posted by armand at 12:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Does anyone besides me wonder why it's front page news when an anchor is wounded, but the fact that more than 80 others have been killed gets little to no attention? Or why we don't hear more about the thousands of wounded servicemen and women, and those who suffer PTSD and other emotional problems after their service ends?

It's not that we shouldn't care about Woodruff. I just wish it wasn't instead of seeing the larger context of threats to all journalists and servicepeople.

Posted by binky at 11:29 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


Just when Armand and I were enjoying ourselves by maligning the Celebutainment News Network, they have this headline as the main story on the homepage:

FEMA's big kiss-off?

Huh. Actual news.

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

Fundamentalists Engage in Religious Persecution

Discriminating against a patient on the basis of his or her religious beliefs is religious persecution.

The problem is not that health care providers practice a religion that interferes with their profession. The problem is that their patients have a different religion, or none, and on that basis choose different health care options.

Persecuting patients because of their religious beliefs is wrong, and those who do it are hiding behind the language of religious freedom to deny that same freedom to others.

As with the debate over evolution, the major papers drop the ball. The Washington Post focuses this article on health workers' choice. The focus is on how to protect the health care workers' religious expression, not the religious (or not) expression of the patients.

Why are the religious freedoms of the health care workers more important than the religious freedoms of the patients?

Oh, that's right. They're not more important. The free exercise of religion applies to everyone, not just those who seek to deny contraception to women or medical treatment to gays and lesbians. And any lawmaker that panders to those seeking special religious privilege at the expense of others should remember that.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Posted by binky at 09:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Other Side of the Pond

While it's always good to now that foreign heads of state have taken abstinence pledges, it's also nice to move away from the celebutainmet of CNN now and again to see what the grownups consider to be the pressing news of the day:

1. Curbing climate change is unlikely as "rising concentrations of greenhouse gases may have more serious impacts than previously believed."

2. The EU is set to hold last-minute talks with Iran - at Tehran's request - to try to resolve a stand-off over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

CNN has the SAG awards.

Posted by binky at 12:17 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 29, 2006

My last Alito post

Razza frazzin frickin frackin...ooh! ooh! stupid friggin' democrats!

Yeah I know Kinsley was complaining about kicking Democrats being a pastime and all, but come on! If the Conservatives are saying things like these, what kind of crack do you have to be smoking to delude yourself into thinking Alito is going to be..argh! &%*@!!!

In 1982, the year after Mr. Alito first joined the Reagan administration, that movement was little more than the handful of legal scholars who gathered at Yale for the first meeting of the Federalist Society, a newly formed conservative legal group.

Judge Alito's ascent to join Chief Justice Roberts on the court "would have been beyond our best expectations," said Spencer Abraham, one of the society's founders, a former secretary of energy under President Bush and now the chairman of the Committee for Justice, one of many conservative organizations set up to support judicial nominees.

He added, "I don't think we would have put a lot of money on it in a friendly wager."

Judge Alito's confirmation is also the culmination of a disciplined campaign begun by the Reagan administration to seed the lower federal judiciary with like-minded jurists who could reorient the federal courts toward a view of the Constitution much closer to its 18th-century authors' intent, including a much less expansive view of its application to individual rights and federal power. It was a philosophy promulgated by Edwin Meese III, attorney general in the Reagan administration, that became the gospel of the Federalist Society and the nascent conservative legal movement.

18th Century. Right. Remind me again about the rights women and brown people had in the 18th Century?

It's beyond their wildest dreams, and the Democrats can't manage the backbone to ask tough questions, and heaven forbid they get together now for a filibuster.

Senator Byrd loves the Constitution more than his friends. He may love the Constitution, but he's just promised to vote for a justice who may take its interpretation back in time.

I'm working on weaving "a tapestry of profanity" which will remain "hovering somewhere over" the Ohio Valley.

I have since heard of people under extreme duress speaking in strange tongues. I became conscious that a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds was pouring out of me as I screamed.

Gah! "Beyond our best expectations!!!" Their best expectations.



Posted by binky at 11:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Mine Safety

The evils of the nanny state! Excess regulation! However Canadian miners trapped by fires have access to safe rooms with food, supplies, and 36 hours of oxygen.

Fire broke out Sunday in a mine in central Canada, forcing some 70 miners trapped underground to retreat to emergency rooms with oxygen and supplies, a mine official said.

Marshall Hamilton, a spokesman for Mosaic Company, the Minnesota-based firm that operates the potash mine, said the fire broke out around 3 a.m. nearly a mile underground in the province of Saskatchewan.

The miners reported smoke and headed for safe refuge rooms where they waited for firefighters to put out the blaze and for air quality in the mine to improve.

"In those refuge stations, they can seal themselves off and there's oxygen, food and water," Hamilton told CBC Radio. "And they can stay in there for at least 36 hours."

This was underground in a potash mine in Saskatchewan, so I don't know if the technology is feasible for coal in WV, but if it is, our miners in WV should have this kind of emergency equipment.

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

Fifty Thousand

The number kept in the military through the stop loss program.

Acknowledging nod to Born at the Crest of the Empire.

Posted by binky at 06:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Consequences of Reducing Women's Reproductive Autonomy

As efforts to reduce women's access to basic reproductive healthcare, contraception, and abortion continue, it pays to remember the consequences. The efforts of those who think they and their god have more to say about your body than you do have been showing results in restricted and reduced access to reproductive health care for women. The real consequences in women's lives?

More U.S. women are having unwanted babies.

U.S. women of childbearing age who were surveyed in 2002 revealed that 14 percent of their recent births were unwanted at the time of conception, federal researchers said Monday.

In a similar 1995 survey, only 9 percent were unwanted at the time of conception.

The article notes that the anti-choice view is that the country is experiencing a moral shift away from abortion. If they were right though, wouldn't the reports of unwanted pregnancies show a downward trend, reflecting a shift toward the acceptance of pregnancy (i.e. every pregnancy is wanted)? Rather than measuring a deep realignment of moral values (given that those reporting unwanted pregnancies is up not down) it is likely those numbers reflect the difficulty women have in getting access to clinics for birth control, and abortion. As I pointed out before, clinics don't just provide abortion, but also birth control, education, and care for those who want to be pregnant.

The number of U.S. abortion providers fell steadily in the last decade, from 2,400 in 1992 to 1,800 in 2000. The reason is not clearly known, although increasing government restrictions of abortions have made it increasingly difficult to provide the procedure, Finer said.

And in addition to the women who are continuing unwanted pregnancies, there are those who aren't. Illegal abortions are on the rise in the United States (hat tip Feministing).

However, Jen's abortion-providing colleagues in other parts of the country, who communicate their experiences through a listserv, share her observation of a recent perceptible rise in illegal abortion in their clinics as well. Indeed, in another eerie echo from the pre-Roe era, the increase in illegal abortion in Jen's area is so significant that a doctor from the hospital mentioned above contacted her. He asked for her help in setting up a special ward for the treatment of illegal abortions when Roe is overturned, because he knows the caseload will mushroom then. "He didn't say 'if' -- he said 'when,'" Jen said. "Chills ran down my spine."


The physical tragedies we are witnessing due to the return of illegal abortion are compounded by the social ones. Recently, two teenage couples, one in Michigan and the other in Texas, faced unwanted pregnancies. Both states have parental consent provisions; in both cases, the young couples received misleading information (in one instance from an anti-abortion "Crisis Pregnancy Center;" in the other, from a private physician's office) about how to obtain a legal abortion. In Michigan, the young man, with his girlfriend's approval, hit her abdomen repeatedly with a baseball bat until she miscarried; in Texas, again with the girlfriend's consent, the male stomped on his girlfriend's belly, producing a stillbirth of twins. Both young men were arrested, and the Texan, Geraldo Flores, is now serving a life sentence for fetal homicide.

It's sick that people would resort to this. It's sick that they can't get accurate information and access to medical care. It's sick that a young woman would submit to this kind of treatment from someone who was supposed to love her. And it's sick that the Crisis Pregnancy Centers are complicit in outcomes like this.

Finally, maternal death from pregnancy complication also increases where access to abortion is reduced. Statistically, as more pregnancies come to term, more women will suffer complications. In additional to "normal" complications to "normal" - though unwanted - pregnancies, there are the women for whom pregnancy carries significant physical and mental threats to her health and well-being, and who would be prevented from safe access to abortion. The WHO reports that "maternal deaths, not abortions, is the most visible consequence of legal restrictions on abortion."

That WHO report is cited in this Planned Parenthood report. People look at reports like that and think that it makes no sense to compare the United States to developing countries, and they think that it can't happen here. One of the tables shows that even in the US, where legal abortion is safer than pregnancy, that the death rate for illegal abortion is over 50 times higher than the rate for legal abortion (again, according to the WHO).

These are real consequences for women, for wives, for students, for mothers, and for everyone who loves a woman and wants her life to be healthy and independent and equally free to pursue her life, her liberty, and her happiness.

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

Word Cloud


Do yours.

Via Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

Posted by binky at 02:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fox News Pays DeLay $14,000 for an Interview

What the hell? Just when you thought Fox "News" couldn't be any worse ...

Posted by armand at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In case you couldn't tell...

...by the blogging burst, it's a cold, rainy, shitty day, and I am sitting in front of my gas log with all my creatures, variously reading the NYT and WaPo, a book on which I am writing a review for a journal, and various amounts of bloggy goodness. In all of this reading, I think I have found my sentence of the day, from Michael Bérubé's excellent essay on academic freedom:

My colleagues in the Department of Statistics call this kind of thing “Cherry-Picking 101.” But even if the numbers were good, what, in the end, would those numbers tell you? When you know someone’s party registration, what do you know about him or her as a psychologist or a plant botanist or an electrical engineer? An anthropology department stocked with registered Democrats can still be a contentious, unruly, even dysfunctional department, as can an economics department stocked with registered Republicans. And I can assure you that even in English, with all our registered Democrats, no faculty-meeting debate—about the direction of the graduate program, about the finalists for a new assistant professorship, about a new initiative from the dean’s office—gets resolved when someone stands up and says, “people, people—why are we arguing about the staffing of undergraduate courses and the desirability of hiring a medievalist? Surely we can all find common ground in hating George Bush.”

Still, conservatives insist that they are outnumbered 10 or 11 or 30 to 1. Apparently, a comprehensive study of over 55,000 faculty members’ self-descriptions, revealing that liberals outnumber conservatives by a ratio of 2.67 to 1 (48 to 18 percent) at over four hundred institutions, is just not good enough. No, they have to go and look up the party registrations of eighteen hundred faculty members in liberal fields at twenty-one institutions, because the data are tastier when the data are cooked.

That gives me the sillies. Almost as good as Mancur Olsen's "torture the data until it confesses."

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

Ang Lee Wins the DGA Prize for Brokeback Mountain

Ang Lee has won the top directorial prize from the Director's Guild of American for his work on Brokeback Mountain. This award is a great predictor of who will win the Best Director Oscar - in the last 20 years the DGA winner has gone on to win the Oscar all but three times. Of course in one of those 3 occasions Ang Lee won the DGA prize (for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) but lost the Oscar to Stephen Soderbergh (for Traffic).

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

Inconvenient Science

The administration doesn't want to hear about Climate Change, and it doesn't want you to hear about it either. Especially not from scientists.

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.

But she added: "I'm a career civil servant and Jim Hansen is a scientist. That's not our job. That's not our mission. The inference was that Hansen was disloyal."

This is getting out of control.

In an interview on Friday, Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's leading independent scientific body, praised Dr. Hansen's scientific contributions and said he had always seemed to describe his public statements clearly as his personal views.

"He really is one of the most productive and creative scientists in the world," Dr. Cicerone said. "I've heard Hansen speak many times and I've read many of his papers, starting in the late 70's. Every single time, in writing or when I've heard him speak, he's always clear that he's speaking for himself, not for NASA or the administration, whichever administration it's been."

The fight between Dr. Hansen and administration officials echoes other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone.

Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions on extracurricular lectures or writing.

One example is Indur M. Goklany, assistant director of science and technology policy in the policy office of the Interior Department. For years, Dr. Goklany, an electrical engineer by training, has written in papers and books that it may be better not to force cuts in greenhouse gases because the added prosperity from unfettered economic activity would allow countries to exploit benefits of warming and adapt to problems.

In an e-mail exchange on Friday, Dr. Goklany said that in the Clinton administration he was shifted to nonclimate-related work, but added that he had never had to stop his outside writing, as long as he identified the views as his own.

"One reason why I still continue to do the extracurricular stuff," he wrote, "is because one doesn't have to get clearance for what I plan on saying or writing."

Posted by binky at 10:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

So far from God...

This article is about Haiti, not Mexico, but the old phrase applies.

The multi-page (I've linked you to the single page version, not the 11 page version) article dissects the U.S. involvement in Haiti, and how official foreign policy was undermined by the International Republican Institute, "one of several prominent nonprofit groups that receive federal funds to help countries develop the mechanisms of democracy."

Of all the groups, though, the I.R.I. is closest to the administration. President Bush picked its president, Lorne W. Craner, to run his administration's democracy-building efforts. The institute, which works in more than 60 countries, has seen its federal financing nearly triple in three years, from $26 million in 2003 to $75 million in 2005. Last spring, at an I.R.I. fund-raiser, Mr. Bush called democracy-building "a growth industry."

Let's not forget what else I.R.I. has supported in Latin America:

A year later, the I.R.I. created a stir when it issued a press release praising the attempted overthrow of Hugo Chávez, the elected president of Venezuela and a confrontational populist, who, like Mr. Aristide, was seen as a threat by some in Washington. The institute has since told The Times that praising the attempted coup was wrong.

Ah yes, democracy in action: the attempted coup.

"There was a change in policy that was perhaps not well perceived by some people in the embassy," Mr. Reich said, referring to Mr. Curran. "We wanted to change, to give the Haitians an opportunity to choose a democratic leader," said Mr. Reich, one of a group of newly ascendant policy makers who feared the rise of leftist governments in Latin America.

Told of that statement, Mr. Curran said, "That Reich would admit that a different policy was in effect totally vindicates my suspicions, as well as confirms what an amateur crowd was in charge in Washington."

In essence, the institute worked in opposition to the State Department, claimed to represent the Bush adminstration and that the State Department did not, and got involved in internal partisan struggles inside Haiti.

Bridging the divide between Mr. Aristide and his opponents would have been difficult in even the best of circumstances. But what emerges from the events in Haiti is a portrait of how the effort to nurture democracy became entangled in the ideological wars and partisan rivalries of Washington.

"What you had was the constant undermining of the credibility of the negotiators," said Luigi R. Einaudi, a respected veteran diplomat who led the international effort to find a political settlement on behalf of the Organization of American States.

Looks like I'm going to be having more Reagan foreign policy flashbacks.

Mr. Curran said he wanted to believe in Mr. Aristide but slowly became disillusioned. "I had many conversations with him about the police, about human rights abuses," Mr. Curran said. "And in the end, he disappointed me."

Even so, Mr. Curran said, his mission was clear. "The promotion of democracy was at the very heart of what I was doing in Haiti," he said. Clear, too, was how to go about that: supporting Mr. Aristide's right to office while working to foster a compromise. "That was the officially stated policy," Mr. Curran said. "Those were my instructions."

Mr. Curran was supposed to have help from the I.R.I., which had been active in Haiti since 1990. Along with the National Democratic Institute, the I.R.I. was formed in the early 1980's after President Ronald Reagan called on Americans to fight totalitarianism.

Its board includes Republican foreign-policy heavyweights and lobbyists, and its chairman is Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, who did not answer requests for an interview. The group's financing comes from the Agency for International Development, as well as the State Department, foundations and corporations like Halliburton and Chevron.

McCain! What a maverick!

Of course, the Bush team was a fine collection of experts.

Mr. Curran sent his cables to the Bush administration's Latin American policy team, records show. In addition to Mr. Reich, then assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs, that group included Elliott L. Abrams, a special assistant to the president and senior director for democracy and human rights, and Daniel W. Fisk, a deputy to Mr. Reich.

These men were veteran fighters against the spread of leftist political ideology in Latin America, beginning with Fidel Castro and Cuba. Mr. Fisk's former boss, Jesse Helms, then a Republican senator from North Carolina, had once called Mr. Aristide a "psychopath," based on a C.I.A. report about his mental condition that turned out to be false.

In the 1980's, Mr. Reich and Mr. Abrams had become ensnared in investigations of Reagan administration activities opposing the socialist government of Nicaragua. The comptroller general determined in 1987 that a public diplomacy office run by the Cuban-born Mr. Reich had "engaged in prohibited, covert propaganda activities." In 1991, Mr. Abrams pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress in connection with the Iran-contra affair. He was pardoned by the first President Bush.

The I.R.I. did democracy training seminars, in the Dominican Republic, at a hotel owned by the Fanjul family. The Fanjul connection is a story in itself, as the Fanjuls in Florida are linked to anti-communism and anti-Castro activity, not to mention their political reach into both parties...Some more. That the hotel is own by the Fanjuls is less remarkable than that the democracy training only included those who were opposed to the elected government of Haiti. So Aristide didn't need any democracy training?

Among the trainers brought in was Brian Berry, who worked on George W. Bush's 1994 primary campaign for Texas governor.

Mr. Berry had an interest in the Caribbean. He said he had a small bag of sand from the Bay of Pigs; he said he looked forward to returning it to "a free Cuba beach" when Mr. Castro was gone. Mr. Berry said he volunteered for I.R.I., to further the cause of democracy.

It gets even better. At these meetings, there were reportedly another set of parallel, secret sessions, in which the participants discussed how to depose Aristide. The bonus? Armed rebels claim to have been participants.

For those who are not familiar with the actions of the rebels, the article goes through a summary, but the short version is that they seized power in February 2004, and Haiti has degenerated ever farther into violence and misery.

But that's not even the worst of it. On top of everything else, I saved the best for last. I.R.I. and the man who most people in this story point to as the lynchpin in the failed democracy building effort?:

When Mr. Curran and Mr. Einaudi went to Haiti, they said, they believed that working with the elected government, whatever its flaws, would help a young but already sputtering democracy take hold. They said they believed that the people making policy in Washington shared that hope. Then, they said, they ran into something larger.

"Haiti is a tragedy, and it is a tragedy of partisanship and hate and hostility," Mr. Einaudi said. "These were divides among Haitians and they are also divides among Americans, because Haiti came to symbolize within the United States a point of friction between Democrats and Republicans that did not facilitate bipartisanship or stable policy or communication."

Mr. Fauriol said that the I.R.I., too, was frustrated with the interim government. "We've got to deal with reality and the reality is rather imperfect," he said. Even so, he wrote last spring that "Haiti's democratic hopes have been given another chance." The institute's activities in Haiti no longer include Mr. Lucas. He now works for the group's Afghanistan program.

Afghanistan. Great!

Posted by binky at 09:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

For the TMI Files


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is famous for his ambitious promises, but he is unlikely to be called to task if he breaks his latest pledge: not to have sex before the April 9 general election.

At a party rally in Sardinia on Saturday, the media tycoon received the blessing of television preacher Massimiliano Pusceddu, who thanked him for opposing gay marriage and defending family values.

"Thank you dear Father Massimiliano, I'll try not to let you down and I promise you two and a half months of complete sexual abstinence until April 9," Berlusconi replied, in comments reported on Sunday by the daily Il Giornale.

Posted by binky at 09:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2006

The Challenger

Twenty years.


I remember watching this happen over I95, on my way back to school after lunch at McDonalds, and going into Ms. Jane Sturgis' class on Comparative Political Systems, knowing what they were going to say when the announcements came on, because no space shuttle I'd ever seen left a trail like that, and feeling really really bad because "Lady Jane" - as we called her - was such an amazing woman, and all I could think about was that some other kids had lost their Jane, but her name was Christa.

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We are the enemy?

Via Hoffmania this BBC report about "the US military's plans for "information operations" - from psychological operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks."

Some tidbits, but the BBC piece is long:

The declassified document is called "Information Operations Roadmap". It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act.

Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it.


Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.


It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to an enemy weapons system.

"Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will 'fight the net' as it would an enemy weapons system," it reads.

The slogan "fight the net" appears several times throughout the roadmap.


US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum".

Consider that for a moment.

The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet.

Are these plans the pipe dreams of self-aggrandising bureaucrats? Or are they real?

The fact that the "Information Operations Roadmap" is approved by the Secretary of Defense suggests that these plans are taken very seriously indeed in the Pentagon.

As Hoffmania pointed out, this is a "hold onto your tinfoil hats" kind of story. It's got the approval of Rumsfeld. It got the attention of the BBC. Should it have ours too?

Posted by binky at 04:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Truth about Consequences

Moiv's post for the Blogging for Choice Day reminds us what happens when abortion is illegal, and why those who call themselves "pro-life" while campaigning against education and contraception are the worst kind of liars.

Moiv has a long section of excerpts. Here's one:

When I was a first-year intern at the Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, the first patient I had was a woman who'd had 11 children and had self-aborted herself, because she couldn't get a legal abortion, with some instrument of some kind. And I was in charge of her case, as a young intern, with her intestine coming out of her vagina because she'd perforated the vagina with the instrument. And she had massive infection, multiple abscesses in all the vital organs in the body and she died.

I still remember that patient. I remember exactly what she looked like. I remember the bed she was in on Ward 1418 in Barnes Hospital. I remember seeing her in the emergency room when she came in, and she told us that she was desperate because she had a husband that was gone most of the time and a troublemaker. And she could not raise another child. She could not feed another child. She had not been able to find any doctor that would help her. I'll never forget that.

Many [women] ended up with illegal abortions, and many of them died. And for 25 years prior to Roe v. Wade in my state of Missouri, the most common cause of death in women of childbearing age was death due to infected, illegal, self-induced abortion.

Posted by binky at 04:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Remember North Korea?

Jeffrey Stacey asks a good question - "Why is the U.S. devoting so much time to an Iran that is ten years away from producing nuclear weapons compared with a rocket-proliferating regime that is now actively producing nuclear bombs?"

You should read his whole take on this, and let's keep this issue at the forefront of US foreign policy. I mean what should be a bigger priority than a member of the "Axis of Evil" that's currently building nuclear weapon after nuclear weapon?

Posted by armand at 04:13 PM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Sometimes Tom Friedman's Love of His Own Voice is Funny

For the rest of us, I mean. For an ass-kisser of Friedman-esque proportions this must have been embarrassing. One more sign of the dangers of being a pontificating wind-bag - don't try it at home kids.

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

Brokeback Mountain

It finally came to West Virginia yesterday, so I went go see it last night, and I can say that I won't be suprised if it wins a slew of Oscars. It's a beautifully made film, and everything in it is so very right for the story, and it all fits together so perfectly that I'll be stunned if Ang Lee doesn't win the best director Oscar for his work in this. There's not one wrong step in the entire picture (though I wouldn't strongly argue with anyone who thought the final section of the film is a tad long).

A few things struck me about it, most of which have already been said, but I'll repeat them. Calling this a "gay cowboy" movie is silly. There's really not all that much that's "gay" on the screen (though one of those moments did provoke a few inappropriate reactions from one or more insecure guys in the audience) and the fact that at one point the two leads are cowboys is rather beside the point. The movie is about wanting something terribly, not having and/or pursuing it, and what that does to the lives of the people involved, and those around them - the consequences of living with what you think you have to have, and being denied what you most dearly want. The emotions the movie deals with are things every human might confront, whether they are gay or not. It's about being torn apart by not being able to possess the intimacy that matters to you most in the world. And the movie does a superb job of showing us that in this story (yes, it's a sad tale).

Every part of the film is very good, and that includes the acting that has been getting so much attention. Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams (who plays his wife) are both great and if they walk away with little gold statues on March 5th I won't mind it one bit - but I'd say that Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway (who plays his wife) are just as good, if not better.

I also found the audience in the theater (I attended a 7:15 Friday evening showing) to be interesting. My impression was that it skewed very young, and while there were certainly a lot of gay people who had come out to see the movie, it also looked to me like there was a not insignificant number of heterosexual couples who'd come to see it as a "date movie". And actually, it makes a lot of sense to see it as that - as this is a movie about love, longing, passion and trying to make relationships work, even in impossible situations.

Posted by armand at 02:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 27, 2006

Hot dogs? Ham? Loin? Roast?

The Bush adminstration has got it right here.


Back again!

Domain Name navy.mil ? (Military)IP Address 128.160.133.# (Naval Research Laboratory)
ISP Naval Research LaboratoryLocation 
Continent : North America
Country : United States  (Facts)
State : Mississippi
City : Diamondhead
Lat/Long : 30.3728, -89.3779 (Map)
Language unknownOperating System Microsoft WinXPBrowser Internet Explorer 6.0
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)
Javascript disabledTime of Visit Jan 27 2006 4:06:22 pmLast Page View Jan 27 2006 4:06:22 pm

Posted by binky at 06:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What a face!


I swear, his is my new favorite site.

Posted by binky at 04:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wage Gap

The easy explanations are garbage, and Echidne of the Snakes does a careful job showing us why.

Why would men on average receive higher wages (or salaries, but I will use wages for simplicity from now on)? At the risk of tremendous oversimplification, I offer three basic explanations:

1. Men are better workers than women, on average.

2. Women want to work in jobs which pay less.

3. Women are treated unfairly at work.

An excellent three part series.

Posted by binky at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Politics is about power, motherfuckers. Use it or lose it."

The Rude One has spoken:

Then here's a brief list of reasons to filibuster Alito that have nothing to do with Savage Sammy:
- Because President Bush authorizes spying on Americans without a warrant.
- Because President Bush authorized torture by Americans and through renditioning.
- Because President Bush detains people without charge for an indefinite period.
- Because President Bush ignores whatever laws he wants, even if he signs them.
- Because President Bush lied about Iraq to get us into the war.
- Because the Army is stretched "to the breaking point."
- Because the reconstruction of Iraq is being fucked up, too.
- Because President Bush refuses to acknowledge what it's gonna take to help the people of the Gulf Coast.
- Because Ford is getting rid of 30,000 employees.
- Because Karl Rove still has a job.
- Because President Bush and the Republicans fail to fully fund the bullshit "No Child Left Behind" program.
- Because President Bush denies the existence of global warming.
- Because the Medicare prescription drug program is a clusterfuck that will end up in people dying because of its existence.
- Because President Bush denies any connection to Jack Abramoff.
- Because President Bush refuses to speak before any audience that doesn't adore him.
- Because Dick Cheney exists.
- Because Osama Bin Laden is either living free or died free.
- Because Donald Rumsfeld still has a job.
- Because the White House has stymied every investigation into its fuck-ups.
- Because President Bush calls spying "terrorist surveillance" and pollution "Clean Skies" and money to churches "Faith-Based Initiatives."
- Because Richard Scaife doesn't need another tax cut.
- Because there has to be a line in the sand, somewhere; otherwise, it's just one long desert until who-knows-when.

Posted by binky at 02:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The General Engages in a Little Poetic License with the Constitution

While I was thinking about the Declaration of Independence, it turns out that Jesus' General was thinking about the Constitution.

The real thing.

Posted by binky at 01:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 26, 2006

New Bloggy Stuff

Discovered on the web: Blue Force, a "blue" state national security blog. Interesting stuff (from whatever direction you come from).

For those interested in the subject, Arms and Influence is also good, as well as Armchair Generalist.

Also, Crooked Timber has a thread going on Vietnam/Iraq comparisons. Worth reading.

Blogs are cool.

Posted by baltar at 11:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yeah, this'll work

Won't it?

A la Pandagon.

Posted by binky at 08:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Imperial Designs

And we're not talking Faberge eggs.

The administration does not need Congress to extend the USA Patriot Act in order to keep using the law's investigative powers against terror suspects.

That's from a Boston Globe story about domestic spying, and Atty. General Gonzales' 42 page memo response. That little quote comes from the fine print.

Mikevotes says:

If this is the case, at what limit does the executive's powers lie?

A secondary issue in all ths is that the power to designate someone as a terror suspect is currently solely claimed by the executive as well, a designation they have been attempting to extend to include "environmental terrorists" and "narco-terrorists" (drug dealers.) There is no ability to challenge the status of "terror suspect" and as far as I can tell, no burden of proof, and no review by anyone outside the administration.

It also calls into question the official status of the antiwar protesters who showed up on the DoD's watch list. The NSA is a part of the Defense Department, so does an appearance on the DoD's threats list warrant terrorist status avail the government the justification during "war time" to tap their phones and conduct "sneak and peek" no notification searches?

In effect, the Bush administration has claimed the ability to spy on anyone. But it's worse than that.

Once a subject is designated as a terror suspect, this administration has claimed the power to tap their phones, and examine any business records without warrant(medical, financial, psychological,) and search their residence all without review. To then detain them without charge, to ship them off to a "black site" base or "friendly" country for aggressive interrogation or outright torture. And then to use that information to designate others as "terror suspects" and potentially repeat the whole process in an exponentially exapanding tree.

He goes on:

Explain again to me just freedoms you are protecting, Mr. Bush. The freedom of "security of person" is the base right from which all other gurantees flow. It is the first guarantted right in the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the US is a signatory.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Didn't Bolton use that for TP right after he got his sneaky recess appointment.

Posted by binky at 08:16 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

What is Bush Afraid Of?

They're just photos!

In his press conference today, President Bush suggested that the existence of photographs of himself and Jack Abramoff are no big deal and generally pooh-poohed the press's focus on the story. But our reporting suggests that the White House is actively involved in covering up and possibly destroying photographic evidence of the two men together.

Golly gee, it was just a simple business decision!

Amos very straightforwardly told me that the photographs had been removed and that they had been removed because they showed Abramoff and the president in the same picture. The photos were, she told me, "not relevant."

When I asked her who had instructed her to remove the photos, she told me she was the president of the company. She did it. It was "her business decision" to remove the photographs. She told me she had done so within the last month.

Not a cover-up!

a total of $4,000 to the RNC and $2,000 to the Bush campaign from Joanne Amos, and $4,150 to the RNC and $2,000 to the Bush campaign from Steven Amos, who I believe is Joanne's brother and business partner. (Earl had double counted some donations below, I think.) That's a total of $12,150 from the Amos/Reflections Photography family. Pretty soon, we'll be adding up to real money.

Via Crooks and Liars

Posted by binky at 08:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Kerry says he "will attempt a filibuster to block the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court."

I just emailed Byrd and Rockefeller. Find your senator, and give 'em some feedback if you want them to join the effort.

Posted by binky at 08:00 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Yet Another Gay Revelation in the Lib Dem Leadership Race

WTF!?! I have nothing against gays in high office, but you'd think some people would have a better sense of timing about when to be honest about their sexuality.

The Liberal Democrats, the UK's third largest party, are in the middle of a leadership election. Charles Kennedy, their last leader, recently announced he had a drinking problem and stepped down. This came at a time when the party is terrified that the new Tory leader's (David Cameron) attempts to move his party to the political center will come at their expense. The leadership race had four contenders, but Mark Oaten dropped out of the running after it was revealed he had a relationship with a male prostitute. Now Simon Hughes, who once ran for parliament as "the straight candidate", has acknowledged past gay relationships. It's unclear how this news will (or won't) affect the leadership race or the standing of the Liberal Democrats.

Posted by armand at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sen. Byrd - A Pro-Alito Vote

Well, this is a bit of a surprise, even though last I heard calls to Byrd's office were coming in at a 9-1 ratio in favor of the Alito nomination. Of course it reinforces my usual strong dislike for Sen. Byrd (D-WV). But more than that, I think it really should make the man a subject of ridicule. Bob Byrd, supposedly the legislative lion who believes in checks and balances, and an important role for the US Senate in our country's affairs, is going to vote for a man who's argued for unprecedented levels of presidential power. Alito might turn out to be a more interesting justice than I expect, but that's neither here nor there. What's clear from this is that Byrd is a weak-willed follower, not a leader, and not a man who's willing stand up and play a key role in protecting the vital role of the US Senate in our republic.

Posted by armand at 04:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mauresmo vs. Henin-Hardenne

She's been in the top-tier of women's professional tennis for years, but for whatever reason Amelie Mauresmo has repeatedly underperformed in the Grand Slam events. Until this week she had only made it to one Slam final - and she lost that match (in the 1999 Australian Open) to Martina Hingis. But maybe her time has come. She will play Justine Henin-Hardenne this weekend for the 2006 Australian championship.

Posted by armand at 10:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What's a Young Aristocrat to Do?

If you didn't get enough of him in Born Rich, you can read this interview with Cody Franchetti (conducted over dinner at Le Bernadin).

Posted by armand at 10:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 25, 2006

Which Sports Car Are You?

While I'm quite happy with my current car, one of these could be fun too.

Take the quiz.

Posted by armand at 02:01 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Have We Finally Found a *SEX* Side to the Abramoff Scandal?

Just when you thought that Abramoff and DeLay couldn't look worse, along comes this report. If something turns up here, I think it'll be big news. This is something TV networks and viewers can understand.

Of course I'd be cautious about reading too much into a Cindy Adams column. The woman is a self-involved parasite who often comes across as, well, evil. But that doesn't mean her sources aren't good - often they turn out to know exactly who is sleeping with whom.

Posted by armand at 01:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

John Raese to Run Against Sen. Byrd

Sometimes West Virginia resident John Raese (R-Palm Beach, FL) has committed to running against Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV). I guess those of us who are in range of Raese media outlets (like the Morgantown paper) can now look forward to them becoming even more Republican-friendly (presuming such a thing is possible).

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


Yellow-bellied, lily-livered, sap-sucking, chicken-hearted, pusillanimous...

The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.

Posted by binky at 12:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lemieux, Alito, Casey and Pennacchio

Scott Lemieux notes here why Pennsylvania Democrats should vote for Chuck Pennacchio in the upcoming Senate primary - Bob Casey Jr. has endorsed Sam Alito.

Posted by armand at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2006

As if "submit" wasn't attractive enough on its own...

...they threw in "kitchen" too.

Still have any doubts about the rest of the agenda?

Finder's fee to Pandagon.

Posted by binky at 10:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Will someone please make the president take some pronunication classes? Or at least fire Homer Simpson as his diction coach? Half the time I say that word in class I mess it up because I've had to hear the president mangle it for year after year after year - and he was doing it again just yesterday. Arghhhhh!

Posted by armand at 01:35 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Check out the pipes...

...on Twisty. Listen here.


UPDATE: More tunes!

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

Dumpity Doo Dah

More stuff I'd like to write about, if I had the time.

Via Hullabaloo, a NYT story about profits, oil/gas, and the Bush administration:

But an often byzantine set of federal regulations, largely shaped and fiercely defended by the energy industry itself, allowed companies producing natural gas to provide the Interior Department with much lower sale prices - the crucial determinant for calculating government royalties - than they reported to their shareholders.

As a result, the nation's taxpayers, collectively, the biggest owner of American oil and gas reserves, have missed much of the recent energy bonanza.

The disparities in gas prices parallel those uncovered just five years ago in a wave of scandals involving royalty payments for oil. From 1998 to 2001, a dozen major companies, while admitting no wrongdoing, paid a total of $438 million to settle charges that they had fraudulently understated their sale prices for oil.

Since then, the government has tightened its rules for oil payments. But with natural gas, the Bush administration recently loosened the rules and eased its audits intended to uncover cheating.

The FDA won't approve Plan B, but it might approve some anal leakage.

But "the problem with Orlistat are the side effects," notes Johns Hopkins endocrinologist Aniket Sidhaye, co-author with Cheskin of a recent scientific review of Orlistat and other prescription weight loss drugs.

At the current recommended prescription dose -- 120 milligrams taken up to three times per day, for example up to 360 milligrams daily -- about 70 percent of users experience gastrointestinal complications, Klein says. They range from flatulence and increased bowel movements to diarrhea and anal leakage.

Make your marriage like a job:

Haltzman says that due to differences in brain structure and chemistry, men are inclined to cull the savannah for food; women maintain the cave. Women communicate; men fix. Women remember events and emotions; men remember the dimensions of the deck. Men are from cerebral cortex, women are from amygdala, so to speak.

So, if a guy doesn't have the right tools to cope with conventional marriage counseling -- yet wants a good marriage -- what can he do?

The White House had early warning on Katrina:

In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show.

A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), was delivered by e-mail to the White House's "situation room," the nerve center where crises are handled, at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet accompanying the document.

The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.

The hurricane's Category 4 storm surge "could greatly overtop levees and protective systems" and destroy nearly 90 percent of city structures, the FEMA report said. It further predicted "incredible search and rescue needs (60,000-plus)" and the displacement of more than a million residents.

Congress helps the insurance industry to the tune of $22 billion:

House and Senate GOP negotiators, meeting behind closed doors last month to complete a major budget-cutting bill, agreed on a change to Senate-passed Medicare legislation that would save the health insurance industry $22 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate version would have targeted private HMOs participating in Medicare by changing the formula that governs their reimbursement, lowering payments $26 billion over the next decade. But after lobbying by the health insurance industry, the final version made a critical change that had the effect of eliminating all but $4 billion of the projected savings, according to CBO and other health policy experts.


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

Do We Have a "Brownie" as Secretary of the Army?

What the f*%k?

Posted by armand at 10:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Just what you've been waiting for...

From CNN.

Rawson Marshall Thurber ("Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story") has signed on to write and direct the big-screen adaptation of "Magnum P.I.," the 1980s series that made Tom Selleck a star.

We can all breathe easier now.

Posted by binky at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2006

Post Vacation Link Dump

Good stuff I missed. Maybe you did too?

A few via Hoffmania:

Molly Ivins won't back Hillary.

Time has photos of George Bush with Jack Abramoff.

The EPA is drawing up rules for human testing where unintentional exposure of children and pregnant women to pesticides is not ok (but unintentional might be?).

Amp has a well-thought about post on economics, abortion, and birth rate.

Via the Stealth Badger a link to the Dark Wraith (for whom I have econ geek love to rival the poli sci dork admiration I have for Lemieux) who pulls back the curtain on the Bush economy.

Sadly, Lauren from Feministe is hanging up her keyboard. But as it goes, long live the queen, she will continue with new personnel.

Amanda fisks an idiot who is lucky he ever got laid, much less married three times and to become a father, which initiated revulsion (no son, no sex, no couth).

Pam describes the Icarus' flight of a GLBTQ friendly web site from the US government.

Pharyngula teaches us about the OctoDog.

Jane of FireDogLake is pithier than thou on the WaPo Attack of the Vapors Blog Situation.

I still have a crush on Charlie.

John Cole and everyone on the plane back to Pittsburgh with me are delighted (myself included) that the Stillers are going to the super bowl. Here we go!

Posted by binky at 10:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What a coinkydink!

And I missed it!

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 22, 2006, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to reaffirm our commitment to respecting and defending the life and dignity of every human being.

Shucky durn! And I coulda' run off and got married and tried to get myself knocked up yesterday! And if there was time left over, I could have gone out and protested the death penalty!

Ooops, wait, that's not part of the culture of life, is it.

National Sanctity of Human Life Day is an opportunity to strengthen our resolve in creating a society where every life has meaning and our most vulnerable members are protected and defended including unborn children, the sick and dying, and persons with disabilities and birth defects.

Yup. No death row inmates* included there.

* For the record, I am against the death penalty but not because I think someone like Tookie can redeem himself by writing children's books. I oppose it because in its application we have been too often wrong and too often racially biased, not to mention that I find it fundamentally stupid to kill people to show that killing people is wrong.

And on the hat tip to Pandagon, I don't think there was any question of the President "understanding the irony." I'm sure it as meant more as an iron, as in iron cudgel.

Posted by binky at 09:56 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

We knew he wasn't much of a reader

On the Declaration of Independence:

"You believe, as I do, that every human life has value, that the strong have a duty to protect the weak, and that the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence apply to everyone, not just to those considered healthy or wanted or convenient," Bush told the abortion foes.

"These principles call us to defend the sick and the dying, persons with disabilities and birth defects, all who are weak and vulnerable, especially unborn children," the president said.

I know the stretch he is making with the Declaration of Independence. It has the word "life" in it, therefore it must be anti-choice, right? Of course, that means we ignore the parts about "liberty" and the "pursuit of happiness" for the women.

The sick and the dying? The weak and the vulnerable?

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

I do want to hear his spin about "Nature's God." Sounds like some kind of Spinoza pantheism or something.

And I suppose it wouldn't do for us to remember the rest of the Declaration. But I have one question, do Ridge, Chertoff and Brownie constitute a "swarm?"

Posted by binky at 09:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just what we need...

Fr*d P**lps is coming to West Virginia. From the flier, posted at G*d H*t*s F*gs:

West Virginia is by far the worst. Murderous, blood-thirsty thugs is not too strong. Foul-mouthed issuers of terroristic threats - which is felonious conduct in most states. Not the Castro faggot district in San Francisco; not New York's sodomite Village; nor any of the lesser famous hotbeds of perversion like the French Quarter of New Orleans - all of which places WBC has picketed on multiple occasions - none rivals West Virginia for filthiness.


WBC to picket the fag-infested University of West Virginia in Morgantown on the first day of their shameful, infamous Gay Pride Week -- Monday, April 3 - in religious protest 8T warning: "God is not mocked!" God Hates Fags! Fag- Enablers! Ergo, God hates West Virginia.

- And -

WBC will picket a sampling of sodomite whorehouses masquerading as Morgantown churches - Sunday, April 2 - for abandoning God and the KJV Bible and thereby creating the hellish zeitgeist wherein fag activists and their enablers have seized control of America reducing the nation to a homo-fascist regime now irreversibly cursed of God.

- And -

WBC will picket Sago Baptist Church in Tallmansville - Sunday, April 2 - for blasphemously misrepresenting the sovereign, predestined providences of The Almighty in the Sago Mine matter. When God punishes a nation with deathdealing lightning bolts, hurricanes, and IEDs, it slanders the Great King to utter maudlin preacher-lies in vain attempts to gloss over GodJs condign wrath so as to avoid repentance.

These are some seriously sick individuals, and the last thing anyone in Sago needs right now, not that anyone in Morgantown wants to see them either.

Posted by binky at 07:57 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

How the Israeli Bombing of Osirak Made Saddam a Bigger Threat

I hope the people who are charged with making Iran policy in the Bush administration read this piece by Joseph Cirincione. The popular legend about the Israeli bombing isn't accurate - and the facts of that incident are among the many reasons that the US should be extremely cautious when it comes to weighing the use of military power against Iran.

Posted by armand at 05:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 22, 2006

Alan Hollinghurst's The Folding Star

The Folding Star is the third of Alan Hollinghurst’s novels that I have read. This one and The Swimming Pool Library are fine. More than fine really, since Hollinghurst’s prose is magnificent – The New Republic has described it as “lavish, poised, sinuously alert”. But both this and The Swimming Pool Library struck me as notably minor works compared to The Line of Beauty (which won the Man Booker Prize). They are principally about longing, passion, and the pluses and minuses of getting (or not getting) your deepest desires. The Line of Beauty weighs a ton, but if you are really interested in trying out this author, someone who can do things with the English language that few people can, that’s probably the book you should read. It’s not merely a beautiful collection of words and scenes, but it says something much grander than the other books of his that I have read (while also incorporating the elements and themes he usually addresses). The Folding Star has some interesting moments, and the writing is lovely, but it’s not on the same level as The Line of Beauty.

Posted by armand at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Not Just Ask Him to Pick a Watermelon?

Should we add yet another negative adjective to describe NBC's Tim Russert (something to add to unethical, narcissistic, ...)?

Posted by armand at 10:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The BAFTA Nominations

So the BAFTA nominations came out last week. These are basically the British version of the Oscars, and most of the films and performances on their lists are pretty similar to the lists of "bests" we've been seeing on this side of the Atlantic (lots of honors for Brokeback Mountain, Crash, The Constant Gardener, Good Night, and Good Luck, etc.). One category did stand out to me though. If you scroll down to the nominees for Best Supporting Actor, what do you find? You find two guys from Crash, Jake Gyllenhaal, George Clooney and George Clooney. Yeah, you read that right. George Clooney AND George Clooney. He was nominated twice in the same category (once for Good Night, and Good Luck and once for Syriana). That being the case, I'm guessing that when the Supporting Actor prize is handed out Mr. Clooney will have to be content with the honor of a nomination - or in this case, two nominations. But never fear Clooney fans. He's s nominated for two other BAFTA's as well (directing, screenplay), so maybe he'll take home one of those prizes.

Posted by armand at 04:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 22nd Blogging for Choice

A quick on-the-road post...

As I've been traveling the last few days, I mulled over what to write about for today's blogging for choice commitment. So many things to say, so many that have already been said, by me, and by others more eloquent than me. I've been thinking about a story about the choice made by someone I know, and how supporting reproductive autonomy means supporting the lives of women and the children they choose to have. Too often there is plenty of condemnation of young single women who choose to have a child, but not plenty of support.

And too often, the stigma of being a young single mother and the "shame" of being on welfare discourage women from using the resources available to help them. This is one of the reasons I am skeptical of the pro-life label for the parts of the movement that are heavily invested in "slut-shaming," because the best interest of the mother who chooses to have a child, is that she is able to access resources to help them both be healthy and care for before and after birth. A young woman who wants to keep her child, but has few resources and no family in the area has few options besides the government, and a strong stigma discouraging her from going "on welfare," as well as a lingering social stigma of single motherhood (about which Lauren at Feministe has written recently).

And so I am reminded of the woman I know, who while going through a difficult time in her life, and in an abusive relationship, accidentally got pregnant. In the disorder of everything else in her life, choosing to have a child was something stable, important, and able to turn her life around. An uninsured student on financial aid, she needed healthcare. She had to drop out to have the baby, and didn't have the financial aid, so she needed public assistance. And after the baby came, she needed WIC to help pay for her child's needs.

Every negative possibility the right could throw at you, eh? Unmarried in a bad relationship, an accidental pregnancy, welfare...

And four years later, a college education, a full time job, a happy child, and an independent woman.

The power of choice. I wish it were more common.

Posted by binky at 02:48 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Bush Spending Millions of US Dollars to Favor the Palestinian Authority in This Week's Elections

Throwing around lots of cash and trying to manipulate election results - would we expect anything else of the Bush administration? It's not that I'm necessarily opposed to this operation. But it makes it abundantly clear that it's not the "character" of a regime that matters - or at least if not by character you mean democracy/non-democracy. We like democracies if the elections are won by the parties we want to see win. Otherwise - not so much. Yet more evidence that a lot less has changed since 9/11 than Bush and Rice claim. Oh, and more evidence that they are huge, gigantic, Jon-Lovitz-level liars - but, again, we knew that already.

And of course, sadly, probably more evidence that this is the most dangerously inept administration (at least in terms of foreign policy) in decades. I mean does any one really think that Palestinian voters are likely to vote for "our" guys (Abbas and the Palestinian Authority) when they find out we are funding them? Isn't that likely to just make them appear even more like corrupt, selfish, surrender-monkeys (their #1 perception problem in the Palestinian electorate at the moment)? And the more that perception is strengthened - the stronger HAMAS is likely to do in the elections.

I really, really wish the Bush administration's dangerous incompetence didn't make my head hurt so much - but I wish even more that that wasn't one of the most minor negative outcomes of their ineptness.

Posted by armand at 11:44 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

January 21, 2006



I just don't get the big deal. I realize I differ from most of the country's top critics and most of my friends, but to me it's a 3 star film, not a 4 star film. Oh, it's got the lighting and intrusive score and emotional development of a 4 star film. It goes through all the motions that a serious art-house (or blockbuster) film is supposed to go through. It just didn't impress me that much. It's not that it's bad, it's just not great. And there are several 2005 releases I liked a lot more - Junebug, Mysterious Skin and Syriana among them. It's basically just a well-done biopic (and out of the 2005 biopics I liked Walk the Line much more than this).

And I suppose if I'm commenting on this film I have to comment on Philip Seymour Hoffman. I kind of hate to since I like him much less than a lot of my friends. I think he's done some great work (Happiness, Punch Drunk Love, Boogie Nights), but too often I think he (REALLY) overacts. Of course I think that about a number of our most respected actors. People like Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino have turned in superb performances, but more than once .... But I digress. P.S. Hoffman has talent, there's no question about that. And when he really makes a turn in a character it can be as sharp and direct and devastating as the work of any actor in the business. But he also returns to a lot of the same body tics again and again and again - and honestly I thought a lot of his work in this film was a one-note impersonation. A good impersonation - but that's not acting in a sense that I find especially compelling. Again, as with the film, it's not that I think he's bad in this. But I've seen a lot of actors this year put out work that I preferred - Joseph Gordon Levitt, Romain Duris, Cillian Murphy and Joaquin Phoenix among them.

So, if I was grading this movie I'd give it a B. It's a solid effort - but I think the hype about it is exaggerated.

Posted by armand at 08:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Breakfast on Pluto and The Chumscrubber

I'd give both of these films 3 stars, on a 4 star scale. Binky and I saw Breakfast on Pluto a couple of weeks ago, but it occurs to me that neither one of us ever posted about it on the blog. It's a fable of sorts - an Irish, Catholic transvestite lives life, and endures all kinds of awful things (and a few lovely moments) while drifting through the 1970's - but Kitten stays true to Kitten, and all turns out well in the end. Or as well as can be expected. I mean we are talking about a time and place when apparently the "Christian" thing to do - after a priest takes the homeless Kitten and a soon-to-be single mother into his church and home - is to fire-bomb the church and parsonage. It's a little long, but the film is well-crafted, the music is extremely good, and Cillian Murphy gives one of the best performances of the year in the lead role. He really should get an Oscar nomination.

While Breakfast on Pluto's quality is pretty much constant throughout, the same can't be said for The Chumscrubber. There are times when it is an extremely good movie. But, sadly, there are times when it's a big mess. Still, it's enjoyable and I bet it would even be better on multiple viewings, so I'll give it 3 stars too. It covers ground that's been covered many times before, and on several key points it lacks anything remotely resembling subtlety (we are talking JoAnne Worley, Gong Show-clanging, over-the-top, been-there-done-that obviousness). It's about suburbia, and isolation, and our druggie society (in all shapes and forms), and alienation, and suicide, and generations not communicating, and a sort of new age spiritual connection between us all (well, between some of us). So, basically it's something like 8 after-school specials rolled into one. But while the themes lack originality, it's structured and presented and acted in a way that makes it worth watching, at times very much so. I like the set design and the score and the way in which a lot of the scenes were shot. But it's the acting and casting really stands out. It's hard to take your eyes off some of these people, particularly Jamie Bell (the star, best known as Billy Elliott), Ralph Fiennes, Allison Janney and Carrie-Anne Moss - and some of the younger actors are quite good too. Well, for that matter a lot of the other older actors are as well (how did this little movie get casting this good - look it up on imdb, it's remarkable). So, basically, even if it's not saying much new, and even if parts of it are so done and predictable that they really are excruciating, there are still several things about this movie that I quite liked and on the whole I enjoyed it.

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

January 20, 2006


Ebert gets it exactly right:

"Junebug is a movie that understands, profoundly and with love and sadness, the world of small towns; it captures ways of talking and living I remember from my childhood, with the complexity and precision of great fiction. It observes small details that are important because they are details. It has sympathy for every character in the story and avoids two temptations: It doesn't portray the small-town characters as provincial hicks, and it doesn't portray the city slickers as shallow materialists. Phil Morrison, who directed this movie, and Angus MacLachlan, who wrote it, understand how people everywhere have good intentions, and how life can assign them roles where they can't realize them."

Junebug is a great movie that includes a pitch-perfect depiction of the lives of folks - both those who live in, and those who visit, a small North Carolina town. I have very rarely seen one so accurate, much less one that tells such a real and honest family story. The script, acting, shot selection, set design, music (by Yo La Tengo!) ... everything works together to capture these characters so well I could hardly believe it. It might not be the most entertaining movie of the year. But it's certainly one of the most real movies of the year. And, I'd wager, one of the 5 best US movies released in 2005. I'd never heard of the script writer or the director before, but this is astonishly good work. And all of the actors (not just Amy Adams who's won a bunch of critics prizes for her performance) turn in splendid work. I highly recommend this movie.

Posted by armand at 12:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

An Earthquake in Hawaii Politics

The 2006 elections in Hawaii were already looking unusual. Though by many measures it's the most Democratic state in the union, incumbent Republican Gov. Linda Lingle apears a lock for reelection. But it turns out that a Republican winning the gubenatorial race for the second time in a row might not be Hawaii's big political story this year after all. Incumbent Democratic Congressman Ed Case (cousin of AOL's Steve Case) has decided to challenge incumbent Democrat Daniel Akaka. Akaka, the country's first senator of Hawaiian ancestry, and its only Chinese-American member, has been a senator since 1990 and had appeared to have one of the safest seats in the Senate. But Case, noting that both Akaka and his senate colleague Daniel Inouye are 81, believes it is time for a new generation of political leadership to take the lead in Hawaii. Inouye, Neil Abercrombie (Hawaii's other member of the US House), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the old-guard leadership of Hawaii's Democratic Party will all be backing Akaka - but Case (who is more of a moderate than Akaka, one of the Senate's most liberal members) has proven to have a good deal of popular appeal. So while I expect Akaka to win, it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Posted by armand at 10:51 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

January 19, 2006

Washington Post = Boo Hoo Babies

Loose paraphrase:

Gee, we got called on something and people are criticizing us on our blog. Some of them use profanity! And called us names! Oh no!

But there are things that we said we would not allow, including personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech. Because a significant number of folks who have posted in this blog have refused to follow any of those relatively simple rules, we've decided not to allow comments for the time being. It's a shame that it's come to this. Transparency and reasoned debate are crucial parts of the Web culture, and it's a disappointment to us that we have not been able to maintain a civil conversation, especially about issues that people feel strongly (and differently) about.


What we're not willing to do is allow the comments area to turn into a place where it's OK to unleash vicious, name-calling attacks on anyone, whether they are Post reporters, public figures or other commenters. And that's exactly what was happening. That leads into the second complaint. The reason that people were not routinely seeing the problematic posts I mentioned were that we were trying to remove them as fast as we could in order to preserve the reasoned arguments many others were making. We removed hundreds of these posts over the past few days, and it was becoming a significant burden on us to try and keep the comments area free of profanity and name-calling. So we eventually chose to turn off comments until we can come up with a better way to handle situations like this, where we have a significant amount of people who refuse to abide by the rules we set out.

Boo fucking hoo. Seriously. Oh, our poor finger got tired deleting the nasty nasty comments.

Welcome to Blogville, baby! That's what the rest of us bloggers do. We have to keep an eye on things, delete what breaks the rules, and listen to people say ugly things about us in public. We have to hear people call us nasty things and use profanity. Sometimes both: Asshat, shitheel, fucktwit.

Crooks and Liars:

Deborah Howell can misrepresent important facts that have an outcome on the views of millions of people that depend on the Post for information and that seems to be fine with Brady, but as soon as there is a backlash about it-he shuts down the only means to (outside of an email that will never be returned) comment about it visibly. Way to go, blame the readers for actually reading what was written and responding. They could have easily deleted the offending comments off if they felt the need to. Nice way to perpetuate the warm-fuzzy feelings we are all having about the Washington Post. Keep submitting those GOP talking points as news.

Steve Gilliard:

Mr. Brady

Your answer simply lacks credibility.


Because in the last 30 days, John Harris made a jackass of himself by attacking one of your own columnists, Dan Froomkin, and was roundly humiliated online for seeming to kowtow to the White House

Then, your "ombudsman" Deborah Howell, not only incorrectly claimed that Democrats had taken money from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramhoff, when several news sources, including the AP, said otherwise, she refused to admit her error. When Geneva Overholtzer was ombudsman, she brought a great deal of credibility to both the Post and to the idea nationally. Howell is fast becoming a joke.

Now, if profanity and "hate speech" were a problem, you could have deleted those comments and set up filters to prevent future postings of such words. The people who post to your site agree to abide by your rules.

Do you really think pulling the comments will lessen the furor over this? Instead, every major blog will now post this story and use it as an example of your inability to handle issues on the internet.

We are no longer passive consumers of news. We can and will hold your staff accountable for their reporting and commentary. If Ms. Howell repeats an erroneous statement of fact and refuses to correct it, it will no longer go uncommented upon. The fact that the comments were so vigorous was due to Ms. Howell's obstinancy on the issue. If she is unable to explain the positions of the paper and answer criticism, which Ms. Overholzer did, then perhaps she needs a new position at the Washington Post.

Because critical comments on your newspaper and it's reporting will go on whether on or off your site.


Stephen Gilliard

And that man knows from hateful comments. Plus, he forgot to mention the Z-listers like us who will let our moms and dads, er, regular readers know too.

Jerome, Chris, Jonathon, and Scott just appointed me ombudsman of MyDD.  As such, I will now represent the readers, so that you have a voice and that commentary isn't as one-sided as it has been to date.  I have heard complaints, for instance, that there are personal attacks of a nature that is personal posted on the web-blog, and that is bothersome.  And uncivil-like.  I have heard that the people who post them, known as 'citizens', often come on to web-logs like this one, or web-sites like that of the Washington Post, and point out 'errors' and 'factual inaccuracies'.  

This type of uncivil discourse is not appropriate for this web site, or any other web site.  Transparency and reasoned debate are crucial parts of the Web culture, and it's a disappointment to us that we have not been able to maintain a civil conversation, especially about issues that people feel strongly (and differently) about.  In other words, I have decided to close comments.  Greatly awesome fabulous web sites like this one thrive on criticism, and we can handle it.  But not, you know, on Thursdays.

We're not giving up on the concept of having a healthy public dialogue with our readers, but this experience shows that we need to think more carefully about how we do it. Any thoughtful feedback on that (or any other issue) is welcome, and you can send it to executive.editor@washingtonpost.com myass@idontgiveafuck.com.

UPDATE: Dammit, how do I close comments?!? Curse you, internet!

Yeah, I'd say that closing comments and trying to hide from the rat's nest the WP made for itself is going to make all the criticism go away. Yup.

And what is it our friend the Stealth Badger always says? Something about "furry" and "butt"?

Posted by binky at 09:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


So, a couple of my favorite blogs have switched over to WordPress, and like with Typepad, you can register so you don't have to go through comment moderation and all that. But unlike Typepad, you can't - or I haven't been able to - just sign in with the same username and password, without going to each site, signing up for my name by email, they mail me a password, and I change it to the same one as I have for the other sites (since it won't just let me log in with that information).

I know I am not the savviest of the web savvy, but you'd think they (the WordPad folk, not the lovely bloggers) could make it a little more simple.

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

Team of Rivals

It'll be some time before I can give it the full attention it deserves, but from having read only about half of it I can already recommend (and very highly recommd at that) this examination of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. The first half of the book mostly deals with their rise, while the second half focuses on their behavior during the Civil War. It's a superb history - much more impressive than some of the over-praised hagiographies by David McCullough. Her approach is original (among Lincoln studies), and even though I'm someone who already knows a lot about Lincoln, Seward and company, I'm still learning quite a few new things.

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

IR Theory According to Condi Rice, Ph.D.

"The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power."

So this is my question to the other members of the Coup (and anyone else who'd like to chime in) - do you think she'd still pass a comprehensive doctoral exam in theories of international relations if she was taking it today? Or would she fail it, if this is the assumption on which she's basing US foreign policy?

Posted by armand at 09:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Do you like these things?

* The right to due process
* The right to a jury of one's peers
* The right to assemble peacefully
* The right to distribute religious literature
* The right to hold union meetings
* The right to travel freely between states

Michelle Malkin wants you to take a stand against working to protect them. Why? She wants you to take a stand against the ACLU.

Posted by binky at 09:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Restrictions on Free Speech

The government detained nearly 80 activists and cut off mobile phone services Thursday to foil organizers of an anti-government rally.

Full quote?

Nepal's royalist government detained nearly 80 activists and cut off mobile phone services Thursday to foil organizers of an anti-government rally.

Nice to know the company we are in on our protest policies.

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

January 18, 2006

Is this guy running for anything soon?

Because if he is, I'm gonna' send him some money. CNN:

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, said after a morning meeting with Alito that he would vote against President Bush's Supreme Court nominee as too far outside the mainstream of judicial thinking.

Her too:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, also said she would vote against Alito. "I have a lot of unanswered questions," Mikulski said after attending the swearing-in of new Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey.

This guy, on the other hand, we put in the lifeboat with Lieberman. The guys from across the aisle can pick them up.

Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, announced Tuesday in a statement that he had made up his mind to support Alito "because of his impeccable judicial credentials, the American Bar Association's strong recommendation and his pledge that he would not bring a political agenda to the court."

As for Snowe, say it isn't so, Olympia!.

Posted by binky at 11:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It's possible I haven't said this publicly

I love me some Twisty! Even in the midst of chemo, she has the energy for a Patriarchy Blame-o-rama!

Posted by binky at 11:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What would you add (or subtract)?

LGM posts ten flicks that define America. What do you think?

If it were truly America and not the US, I would add Man Facing Southeast, Pixote, City of God, Orfeu Negro, Fresa y chocolate, O Que e Isso, Companheiro?, El Lado Oscuro del Corazon, and some others I will no doubt remember as soon as I hit "publish" (though none of them will have featured Xuxa).

US films? American Heart (Jeff Bridges in this movie...wow, what a job), The Wizard of Oz, Dr. Strangelove, Rocky (the first one), Matewan, and again, probably more as soon as I publish.

Whaddaya say?

Posted by binky at 10:58 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Over 3,000 still missing

From Katrina.

Posted by binky at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Justice Scalia Interprets the Commerce Clause

I used to really like Publius. Now I really *LIKE* Publius. I doubt I read another post this funny (in a crying multiple types of tears kind of way) this week - hell, maybe not for the rest of January.

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

Bush, Cheney and Gonzalez - Secretly French?

Or at least desperately wishing to emulate the Jerry Lewis-lovers (who, the report notes, have what are arguably the most aggressive and successful anti-terrorism policies in Europe)?

Posted by armand at 04:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Battling "Extremist" Faculty at UCLA

And if I am wrong about Andrew Jones and his group, my apologies. But I know how these things work, and in order to get funding from the ‘right’ groups, they are going to have to try to ruin some good people in the process by making charges that are unfair or dishonest.

I think John Cole is being far too kind to this group. Are there some loud, obnoxious extremists at UCLA? I'm sure there must be as it is a big place. And sure, abusive teachers who feel it's their right to indoctrinate instead of teach need to be held accountable. [Or I should say "try" to indoctrinate - the people who get riled up over who's teaching what in the nation's schools always seem to imply that students will come to believe and worship every single little idea put before them by every teacher - a ridiculous assumption if ever there was one.] But that will be a tiny minority of teachers, it's likely a matter best handled by the relevant department and university administrators - the people who actually know the details of what a teacher's job is, and what their contracts require.

And even if we wanted some sort of outside observors keeping tabs on this to make sure that problem cases were properly dealt with, a quick glance at this website shows that the people involved in this website shouldn't be let within 100 yards of an institution where learning and critical analysis is valued. Quite simply, a quick skimming of the site makes it abundantly clear that the people behind UCLA Profs.com simply don't want facts that clash with their narrow worldviews presented or discussed. Facts, schmaks. They just want their bigoted feelings reinforced, they don't want to learn anything.

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

O'Connor's Ayotte Opinion: Endangering Women?

Lyle Denniston on today's big (though short) Supreme Court ruling:

Read most broadly, though, the opinion could be understood as laying down a new limit on lower court judges' authority to issue sweeping decisions that nullify new abortion laws, end to end. It quite clearly calls for a much more discrete, refined review of the ways in which a law might be enforced validly.

If, in fact, that is the way the decision is applied by lower courts in this and other cases, it could amount to a narrowing of abortion rights. That is because it would amount as a legal matter to less reliance upon an individual doctor's professional judgment in individual cases, especially when the abortion option is not considered in a truly emergency situation, but is only deemed medically advisable for a given patient.

Posted by armand at 12:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What the Hell is Google Advertising?

This line just showed up at the top of my Gmail Inbox:

Suicide Thoughts? - www.GodTest.com - Take this quick test to find answers.

I'm not about to click that link, and anyone who's trying to make some quick cash off suicidal people instead of referring them to a doctor is an odious individual.

Posted by armand at 09:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MRAs Planned to Kidnap Tony Blair's Son

Men's rights avocates in England planned to kidnap Tony Blair's youngest child.

Fathers' rights campaigners planned to kidnap British Prime Minister Tony Blair's youngest son for a publicity stunt, according to reports in the British media.


The statement said: "F4J say they condemn any such action unreservedly and that the group is increasingly having it's name 'hijacked' by a growing number of militant extremists and that it would seriously consider the long-term viability of the campaign.

There's a lot of ugly stuff out there connected to the MRAs and FRAs. And there are some people around the blogosphere (The Countess, Feministe, Hugo Schwyzer, Ampersand and others) who have done lots of work picking some of the worst of it apart. Yet it's a movement that many people know absolutely nothing about, that sounds relatively benign (who could possibly be against fathers, right?) and that has a very nasty edge to it.

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

Who Does Krauthammer Hate More - Iran or Europe?

Now Charles Krauthammer is well known for columns that border somewhere between the inane and nonsensical - but even for him, this is a doozy.

He thinks Europeans are weak-willed whiners who ... well, what exactly? He spends the whole time decrying Europe's actions (though a reasonable case can certainly be made that Europe's actions have slowed-down Iran's nuclear development) and agitating about what the Europeans REALLY want (quite the crystal ball he has - or maybe, like a couple of Republican senators, he can diagnose their internal problems from afar), and getting mad that they won't back sanctions (why should they when it's abundantly clear that it's impossible for workable sanctions that won't have a crippling economic impact on the world to be achieved), but in terms of what he wants them to do ... well, I guess he's mad that they won't sign on to the approach of Team Bush. But of course the approach of Team Bush (to the degree there is one) is completely unworkable. And why, all of a sudden is Krauthammer seemingly thinking that the Europeans should take the lead on a grave matter of international security? I don't recall him thinking that should be the case in other matters involving terrorist-supporting states possibly going nuclear. Shouldn't he expect the US to be doing something? If you are as worked up over this issue as Krauthammer is, should it be the lack of American action that's the outrage? After all, we are the superpower.

It's really rather sad that the Washington Post continues to employ a guy who huffs and puffs but really has so little to say beyond making (sometimes unfounded) insulting comments against those he dislikes. But given what both their editorial and op-ed pages look like sometimes, maybe they've just expanded the Funnies and forgotten to reindex the pages.

Posted by armand at 09:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 17, 2006

Where have all the froggies gone?

They may be dying from a fungus enabled by global warming.

The researchers implicate global warming, as opposed to local variations in temperature or other conditions. Their conclusion is based on their finding that patterns of fungus outbreaks and extinctions in widely dispersed patches of habitat were synchronized in a way that could not be explained by chance.


Posted by binky at 08:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 16, 2006

Gore's Speech

The Stealth Badger was there, and has created a most excellent write-up. Check it out.

Posted by binky at 11:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

On Unchecked Power, Hoover, and Civil Rights

Quote of the day: "Our freedom is too precious, and too much blood has been shed to preserve it, to entrust it to a single person, however sincere and however well intentioned."

Armand sent me this link to an LA Times commentary by former Attorney General Katzenbach. He draws comparisons between his time at DoJ and the current political climate. He describes the bias and paranoia of Hoover, and his position of power:

Hoover had built a great institution in the FBI, essentially from nothing. In the public eye it stood for fair and decent law enforcement — the rule of law — and was a model of integrity and efficiency. Hoover was a national hero, responsible for putting killers like John Dillinger behind bars. Kids wore Junior G-Man badges. During World War II, he fought Nazi spies, and during the Cold War he went after members of the communist conspiracy.

But Hoover was getting old. He believed the world was questioning and rejecting the values he held out as fundamental — patriotism, respect for law and order, sexual mores grounded in marriage and family, the work ethic. He detested what he saw as a growing culture of permissiveness, and, as a conservative Southerner, he seriously questioned the idea of racial equality.

In addition, Hoover hated being questioned or criticized:

What bothered him even more, however, was the frequent public criticism by King and his followers of the FBI for not protecting demonstrators from local sheriff's deputies. One did not have to be long in the Justice Department to learn that to criticize the FBI was an inexcusable sin in Hoover's eyes.


To understand just how explosive, one has to remember that Hoover was both popular and enormously powerful, with great support in Congress. Some of that support was based on admiration, some on fear that he had damaging personal information in his files. Much support came from conservative Southern Democrats, opposed to King, who chaired virtually every important congressional committee. Hoover was formally a subordinate of the attorney general who could, technically, fire and replace him. That's a big "technically." No attorney general, including RFK and myself when I succeeded him, could fully exercise control over him. And none did.

When Hoover asked for the wiretaps, Bobby consulted me (I was then his deputy) and Burke Marshall, head of the Civil Rights Division. Both of us agreed to the tap because we believed a refusal would lend credence to the allegation of communist influence, while permitting the tap, we hoped, would demonstrate the contrary. I think the decision was the right one, under the circumstances. But that doesn't mean that the tap was right. King was suspected of no crime, but the government invaded his privacy until I removed the tap two years later when I became attorney general. It also invaded the privacy of every person he talked to on that phone, not just Levinson.

But what we didn't know during this period was that Hoover was doing a lot more than tapping King's phones. As King's criticism of the FBI continued, and as Hoover became more and more convinced there must be communist influence even though no evidence ever materialized, he determined to discredit and destroy King. He went further, putting bugs in King's hotel bedrooms across the country. (He claimed that Atty. Gen. Herbert Brownell had authorized him to use such listening devices in cases involving "national security" back in the 1950s, and that he did not require further permission from the current attorney general, who in any case had no idea that the FBI was doing it.)

Is it really ancient history, as he says?

It was only years later, at the Church Committee hearings held after Hoover's death, that the full scope of Hoover's anti-King activities became known. I was — and am — appalled. And sad. This man who was a national symbol of law and order ended up grossly violating the nation's trust and respect in the name, he said, of national security. And the man he attacked so viciously was a great leader who never violated the law and who helped this nation realize rights guaranteed by the very Constitution Hoover was sworn to uphold.

Ask questions. Keep criticizing. Know what is being done in our name. Don't cower when they call you a communist. Fight for everyone's rights.

That's the history we should repeat. Not the shame of unchecked power.

Posted by binky at 06:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Get the lady a dictionary

When's the last time you remember seeing Al Gore in the headlines? How about trying to insert himself in the headlines? Can't remember? Me either.

"Al Gore's incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of understanding of the threats facing America," Tracey Schmitt, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.

Translation: Someparty just got pwned and they wish you weren't paying attention or asking them about it.

Regards to Hoffmania.

Posted by binky at 06:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thumbs up or down

On Al Gore's speech today?

I've never been a huge fan, and I didn't hear the speech, but Ive gone over the text. I like the "overreach and regret" theme. I understand linking to MLK and COINTELPRO today of all days. I certainly buy the Wilson references (I've got a half done post around here somewhere about that very thing).

Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of the abuses experienced by Dr. King and thousands of others.

But in each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

And he makes a case for why this might not be just another case of "excess and regret" that will be corrected in time, in a smack on Alito. The cognoscenti will get it, but I don't know if anyone else will.

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended. This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

Nice ties to the stuff that scares everyone about the bad old days.

The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control. This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive Branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive Branch employees. For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases. Ironically, that is exactly what happened to FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's view that Dr. King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division said that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated and pressured. "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street.... The men and I discussed how to get out of trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These men were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. ... so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."

A nice thumb in the eye to the Federalist folk:

The Constitution's framers understood this dilemma as well, as Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 73)

Which I admit I do like, since it galls me when one party claims certain heritage or thinkers for themselves.

The Orwell is overdone, I'd say. I mean, around here, sure, but I'm not convinced. Orwell does fire up the civil libertarians though, and that's the most likely area for broader cooperation across parties.

In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.

The judicial stuff (trotting out the "umpire" metaphor) is OK, but I'm more pleased that he discussed the weakening of the legislature.

But the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.

Although I thought his support for that line of argument was weak. Can't work in Congress because you're too busy raising money? That may be true, but it's off the mark for the rest of the speech. When he focuses on Congress being complacent in its own evisceration, I think he's adding to the money issue with negative views of the institution. I see it, I just think he could have played it better.

The Executive Branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.

Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed that they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the intelligence committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to VP Cheney and placed a copy in his own safe.

Positive points for mentionng Abramoff - which I think should be done early and often by the democrats - but where's he going with the broken Congress thing?

The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg that threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.

It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by our Executive Branch which now threatens a radical transformation of the American system.

I'm just not sure that telling the American public that the legislative branch is "pitiful" is the best way to go about getting the American people to trust it to fix the situation. Because, of course, it's not going to be the executive branch and sure as hell not going to be the Supreme Court. Maybe he's trying to get the loser democrats in Congress to shape up, cast off their defeatism and Bork Alito.

Again, favorale points for citing Jefferson and Locke:

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government. This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."

Again with the money and television stuff. Yawn.

And here there is cause for both concern and great hope. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates./p>

Good call on global warming. It's his bread and butter.

To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training. And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.

Excellent point...knock some reality into the Keyboard Commandos.

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

Insert bipartisan call here.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.

And protect the internet? What's up with that? Why did that come here in the wrap up? With nothing on the MSM? What, does the Creator of the Internet know something about all of us being spied upon?

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.

And the summing up and quoting from Dr. King.

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."

Things I liked, things I didn't. Al gets a kick in the pants for not mentioning how control extends to the desire to have control over women's uteruses. Once again, women's rights are left out. He gets a C for substituting TV and money for a better and broader statement about the protection of rights.

UPDATE: Already. Go check out Hoffmania for several posts with links. Seems others were more pleased after watching Gore, and not just reading. Guess he got really fired up when talking about special counsel.

UPDATE 2: Yeah, I'm listening to it. It comes across better live. Go to Crooks and Liars and have a listen.

Posted by binky at 05:08 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Harsh Questions

From BlondeSense:

Oh Supremest Court, please save us from our own minds and bodies that we can do your bidding. Keep us from the burden of being our own fully realized person? Make me safe from the wicked world and keep me home raising child after child after child. If we can't make that decision, we can't make other decisions. Please don't make me think about whether I have the constitutionally protected right to use birth control. Thank God that men and governments can make all our decisions for us. To work or not work, to procreate or not procreate, to ride at the front or the back of the bus.

Posted by binky at 02:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thinking about equality

Marriage equality, in particular.

Ten Reasons Gay Marriage Is Wrong

1. Being gay is not natural. And as you know Americans have always rejected unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because, as you know, a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed. The sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Found at Ampersand's Place.

Posted by binky at 02:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nothing Better

There really is nothing better, on a cold day, than curling up with some homework - and a laptop, natch - with your urban zoo, watching pups have exciting dreams where you just know that the muffled barking and foot flapping you can see must translate into them downing cheeseburgers on the hoof. Or something like that.

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

Isn't democracy great?

Chile elected a new president yesterday, their first woman president, and one whose history gives her a very interesting position from which to govern. On the down side, she has never held elected office before - though she has held two appointed cabinet positions - and faces several major challenges, including repairing the nation's broken social security system. Some tidbits from a NYT profile.

Michelle Bachelet, who was elected Sunday as president of this male-dominated, prosperous and deeply religious nation of 16 million, is a woman and an agnostic, a guitar-strumming child of the 60's, a former exile who spent part of her childhood in the United States, and a physician who has never before held elective office.

Running as a Socialist on a platform that promised "change with continuity" and showcased her warmth and affinity with ordinary people, Ms. Bachelet, a fair-haired, vibrant 54-year-old, won more than 53 percent of the vote, according to the official tally. She made few promises beyond "social inclusion" - vowing to better meet the needs of women and the poor - and preserving Chile's economy, the most dynamic in Latin America, and the country's close ties with the United States.

But Ms. Bachelet has other qualities that explain how, in barely a decade, she has gone from being a pediatrician at a humble, underfinanced clinic here to the first woman to be her country's chief of state, and one of only a handful of women elected to lead any country in the Americas.

Some of those qualities are personal, while others stem from her real and symbolic connections to Chile's recent history. She is a toughened survivor of the Pinochet dictatorship, which was responsible for her father's death and her imprisonment, torture and exile, and she embodies for many Chile's painful reconciliation with those dark years.

"Violence ravaged my life," Ms. Bachelet said Sunday night, in an impassioned victory speech to a jubilant crowd gathered on the main downtown avenue here. "I was a victim of hatred, and I have dedicated my life to reversing that hatred."


In 1994, after having worked in AIDS and epidemiological programs, she became an adviser to the Ministry of Health. But she retained her familial fascination with military affairs, and in 1996 enrolled in a program in strategic studies at the national war college.

Ms. Bachelet excelled there, and was invited to study at the Inter-American Defense College in Washington. She did so in 1997, and after her return, she went to work in the Defense Ministry and was also elected to the political commission of the Socialist Party, specializing in defense and military issues.

Six years ago this month, Chile elected a Socialist president, Ricardo Lagos, for the first time since the fall of Mr. Allende. Mr. Lagos appointed Ms. Bachelet minister of health. In that capacity, she became identified with a partly successful campaign to reduce waiting time for patients and emerged as a familiar figure at hospitals and clinics all over Chile.

After two years, Ms. Bachelet was shifted to lead the Defense Ministry, becoming the first woman to hold that post, and she became nationally known, photographed in an armored vehicle, inspecting troops and wearing army camouflage or an aviator's leather jacket on her official rounds.

The symbolism of her leadership of the institution that had killed her father appealed greatly to Chileans trying to reconcile with their bitter past.

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

Why Winning In Iraq is Complicated, Part 293

It's a three day old story, but it showcases something important. Galloway (one of the prominent KnightRidder reporters in Iraq) wrote about the downing of a US helicopter on Friday (three days ago). More recent reports have indicated that the helicopter was shot down (not an accident). What really caught my eye were these paragraphs at the end of Gallloway's report:

Charlie Company's commanding officer, Capt. Kent Park of Houston, rolled in and swiftly followed up on the OH-58D [helicopter] wingman's report that the helicopters had received ground fire from the vicinity of a nearby mosque.
At the al-Sadiq Mosque, the sidewalks and gutters were littered with hundreds of empty shell casings. With their Iraqi translators, Park and others went house to house asking neighbors what they had seen and heard. They also talked to the imam at the mosque.
Iraqi police arrived in their blue-and-white SUVs and pickups after about two hours and shed some light on the shell casings. They said they had been outside the mosque when insurgents fired on them from two directions and they fought them off.
The incident may have had nothing to do with the downing of the OH-58D helicopter and the deaths of the two Americans.

Read that second-to-last paragraph again. Two hours after the helicopter went down, while the US was investigating evidence of a many guns being fired (and what would, naturally, look to everybody like evidence of people shooting down a helicopter), the Iraqi police showed up and annouced that the shell casings had nothing to do with a helicopter, but were a gunfight the police had been in hours and hours ago.

Notice three things: (A)No one in the US military knew the Iraqi police had been in a gunfight. What does this say about the level of communication moving from the Iraqis to the US? (B)It took the Iraqi police two hours to respond to a helicopter crash? Are they that undermanned? What else was happening that was of more concern? How long does it take then to respond to "normal" crimes like murder? (C)Did the US military inform the Iraqi police of the incident, or did the Iraqi police just happen to find out. What does this say about the level of communication moving from the US military to the Iraqis?

I would argue that the single most important factor in counter-insurgency is information/intelligence. The more information/intelligence you have, the better you are able to prevent violence, kill the bad guys, disrupt their logistics, and help the civilians (thus, making more people on "your" side, and fewer on the bad guys side). In an ideal world, with omnicient, perfect information there wouldn't be an insurgency (you'd know who the bad guys were, and could just arrest them).

What does it say about the state of our intelligence if we don't know about gunfights between Iraqi police and insurgents, and if the Iraqi police don't know about our gunfights with insurgents?

Long war ahead.

Posted by baltar at 11:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Travesties of Justice

I'll make the assertion that Mohammed Yousry should not be in prison. Read the article yourself, and tell me what you think.

I'll also assert that "juror 39" is a moral coward. I can't adequately express my feelings for people who won't do the right thing when there are no negative costs to doing the right thing.

There ought to be a way to remove people's citizenship.

Posted by baltar at 11:07 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

January 14, 2006

Paul Elie's "Year of Two Popes"

As people who were reading this blog back in the spring of 2005 likely remember (since I posted on the decline of John Paul II and the process of electing his successor many times - see here, here, here, here and here for just a few tastes of that - and just go back and scroll through our archives for the first three weeks in April if you want much, much more), the papacy and the College of Cardinals are among my (perhaps unexpected) interests. If you are interested in such matters too, you might be interested in reading Paul Elie's cover story in the most recent issue of The Atlantic. It contains a lot of backstage drama about the (very cosiderable) decline of the last pope, and the machinations that put the new one in office. I thought it was pretty interesting. It provides further confirmation that the guy I thought would get the job (the Archbishop of Buenos Aires) came in second in the balloting, and it uncovers the importance of some matters I didn't know much about previously - like the timing of Cardinal Gantin stepping down as Dean of the College and the conflicts between Benedict XVI and the Secretary of State.

Posted by armand at 10:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lies in the classroom

But, you know, since it's an elective, no one should be upset, right? (note: I'm linking to the story, because I can't get the javascript video link to work).

When asked if his teacher had tried to persuade the students, one said:

Student: She hasn't told us any of her opinions, and she just us lets us think for ourselves.

When asked what he had learned in class, another student said:

Student: I've learned that evolution has become over the years more and more...more and more people decide that it's not completely true...and that there has to be another belief or another thing that replaces it.

Reporter: And what is that?

Student: That is an intelligent designer.

Reporter: Meaning God?

Student: Yes. God. The Christian God, created the Earth in six days.

Well, shoot, if all we want is for students to think for themselves and not learn facts, why send them to school at all? Let them think about astrology rather than study astronomy. Let them think about hw gRamer aN sinTAx sux instead of studying English. And let them think about how the earth was created in six days instead of studying biology.

Good gracious, I don't know how poor PZ Myers has the stomach to deal with this stuff all the time. Bless him (with the great noodly appendage).

Posted by binky at 09:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Such a sucker...

..for the little furries, that sometimes random things make me sad, like the fact that a little doggie used to play here, but now it looks like this.

Posted by binky at 09:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Nikon plans to stop making 35mm film cameras.

Nikon will discontinue seven film-camera models, leaving in production only the current top-line model, the F6, and a low-end manual-focus model, the FM10.

It will also stop making most of its manual-focus lenses.

If you're old school like me, it's time to go shopping.

Unusually, Nikon has maintained the same lens mount over the years, meaning most lenses from 1959 will fit today's digital models and vice versa, albeit with functional restrictions.

That means if you want to pick up one of their old metal body SLRs, or any lenses, on the used market, get hopping. Collectors' items cost more than old stuff.

I took all these with my old plastic body EM (the first plastic body camera Nikon made). I've got a digital whosis, and I grimace every time I buy film and pay for processing, but still, there a magic and surprise to taking pictures with film.

No doubt we'll hear the same thing about Baltar's internal combustion engines in a few years too, but that doesn't make me feel any better.

Posted by binky at 06:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Anyone Want To Go To Texas in March?

Via No Rock 'N Roll Fun, the entire list of performers for this year's Austin, Texas, annual South by Southwest (or SXSW) festival. Some selected highlights I'd like to see:

Animal Collective
Antietam (rocky folky stuff; reunited)
Athelete (supposed to be Radioheadish; I can't find the album anywhere)
The Atomic Bitchwax
Bobby Bare Jr. (rocking country-punk)
Blanche (saw them once; only OK, but worth seeing if they've toned down the theatrics and spent more time on music)
Brazilian Girl (much buzz)
The Brian Jonestown Massacre (should be a trainwreck) Cooper Temple Clause
The Datsuns (70s riffing rock revival)
Andy Dick (?? I'd see him just to see what he'd do)
Echo and the Bunnymen (they're still around?)
Goblin Cock (metal parody, heavy riffing)
Gogol Bordello (much buzz)
Goldfrapp (ditto)
The Gossip (punky)
Helmet (90s NY metal/punk returns!)
Juliette and the Licks (Juliette Lewis' band)
Ladytron (supposed to be good)
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (might be the best band there)
Lucero (missed them when they were here)
Mates of State (heard buzz, can't find the album)
The New Pornographers (new album is really, really good)
Oceansize (big radioheadish riffing rock)
Radio 4 (NY rock/punk - CMJ compared them to The Clash)
Roger Sisters
Saves the Day (emo!)
The Secret Machines (supposedly Flaming Lips like)
The Starlite Mints (ditto)
Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet (what the hell?)

That would certainly keep me busy for a week. The tickets cost what? Last I checked, either the actual Holy Grail or Bill Gates' Amex card. (But you get in free, if you bring Bono).

Posted by baltar at 03:31 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

The Romances of Ayala Amar

It seems a lot of people around the world want marriage between gays banned. Maybe for everyone's safety it would be best if all marriages were banned. Check out this tale and link from Allison Kaplan Sommer (who, in her brief post, doesn't even mention that among those attending the ceremony was the president of Israel).

Posted by armand at 11:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Vice President Cheney - Bin Laden's Best Ally in 2001?

And as long as I'm linking to posts that have deeply depressing final paragraphs, it seems appropriate to link to this one too. It's not exactly a new thought, but it is one worth remembering.

These guys did a miserable job protecting the country, and then they got reelected because they are supposedly so strong, noble and brave. Ugh. The triumph of PR and character assassination over substance.

And yet it continues. Just look at this weekend's Republican Party, uh, I mean Bob Novak, column - if you can stomach it. It's yet another attack on Rep. John Murtha, long a stalwart support of the US armed forces, a decorated Marine, and, I think, the first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress (that was in 1974). And true to Bush/Rove form it's not a substantive disagreement with Murtha's position that would actually help educate, inform or seriously persuade the American people. That's something you'd think they might to do if they were really serious about readying the American public to support a long involvement in Iraq - and that appears to be their strategy. If such a strategy is to succeed, convincing people of the merits of that involvement is essential (as scores of articles and books on the links between US public opinion and the support for the use of force abroad make abundantly clear). But instead the column merely notes that Murtha took part in a meeting with some people who Novak thinks shouldn't be taken seriously and maybe Murtha got cooties from them. This is their defense of their failures? That's how these morons are going to maintain public support for a huge foreign policy endeavor that's costing vast sums of dollars and a lot of American lives? And that's what they think the debate on this issue should be like? These guys are both odious and pathetic beyond words.

Posted by armand at 10:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The 1991 Iraq War - Balancing Sarin, Mass Murder and Shiite Power

Did we really "win" the 1991 Iraq War? We achieved our main publicly stated goal. But I find it interesting that in the public imagination that's viewed as such a smashing US victory - given that after 100 hours of fighting the US government (then led by Cheney, Powell, Wolfowitz, and a man named Bush) made several greivous errors.

I was reminded of this just now when I read the last paragraph in this post. Seeing that number and the reason why we didn't act, and then thinking about what's going on today - well, it hit my gut on this point so much more than, say, watching Three Kings did (though you should so watch that if you haven't - it's a great film).

Posted by armand at 09:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 13, 2006

Did you watch Star Trek?

The original series? Remember the guys with the red suits? And how you'd think, "dude! when they hand you the red suit? run away!"

It's getting to be that way with Bin Laden's number three man. Could it be starting with Number Two?

Posted by binky at 10:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

We're really branching out!

Now if we could only get Congress, the Air Force and the Marines, we'd have a full house!

Domain Name gsa.gov ? (United States Government)
Time of Visit Jan 13 2006 2:35:02 pm
Last Page View Jan 13 2006 2:36:18 pm

Visit Length 1 minute 16 seconds

Posted by binky at 06:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oh and by the way...

Not only is it not an IED...

It wasn't even a fucking bomb. It was a fucking flashlight.

A thanks to the Stealth Badger for inadvertently reminding me to update.

Posted by binky at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Things learned from watching Alito's hearings

Or reading the NYT:

We learned that Judge Alito had once declared that Judge Robert Bork - whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated because of his legal extremism - "was one of the most outstanding nominees" of the 20th century. We heard Judge Alito refuse to call Roe v. Wade "settled law," as Chief Justice John Roberts did at his confirmation hearings. And we learned that Judge Alito subscribes to troubling views about presidential power.

Those are just a few of the quiet bombshells that have dropped. In his deadpan bureaucrat's voice, Judge Alito has said some truly disturbing things about his view of the law. In three days of testimony, he has given the American people reasons to be worried - and senators reasons to oppose his nomination. Among those reasons are the following:

EVIDENCE OF EXTREMISM Judge Alito's extraordinary praise of Judge Bork is unsettling, given that Judge Bork's radical legal views included rejecting the Supreme Court's entire line of privacy cases, even its 1965 ruling striking down a state law banning sales of contraceptives. Judge Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton - a group whose offensive views about women, minorities and AIDS victims were discussed in greater detail at yesterday's hearing - is also deeply troubling, as is his unconvincing claim not to remember joining it.

OPPOSITION TO ROE V. WADE In 1985, Judge Alito made it clear that he believed the Constitution does not protect abortion rights. He had many chances this week to say he had changed his mind, but he refused. When offered the chance to say that Roe is a "super-precedent," entitled to special deference because it has been upheld so often, he refused that, too. As Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, noted in particularly pointed questioning, since Judge Alito was willing to say that other doctrines, like one person one vote, are settled law, his unwillingness to say the same about Roe strongly suggests that he still believes what he believed in 1985.

SUPPORT FOR AN IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY Judge Alito has backed a controversial theory known as the "unitary executive," and argued that the attorney general should be immune from lawsuits when he installs illegal wiretaps. Judge Alito backed away from one of his most extreme statements in this area - his assertion, in a 1985 job application, that he believed "very strongly" in "the supremacy of the elected branches of government." But he left a disturbing impression that as a justice, he would undermine the Supreme Court's critical role in putting a check on presidential excesses.

INSENSITIVITY TO ORDINARY AMERICANS' RIGHTS Time and again, as a lawyer and a judge, the nominee has taken the side of big corporations against the "little guy," supported employers against employees, and routinely rejected the claims of women, racial minorities and the disabled. The hearing shed new light on his especially troubling dissent from a ruling by two Reagan-appointed judges, who said that workers at a coal-processing site were covered by Mine Safety and Health Act protections.

DOUBTS ABOUT THE NOMINEE'S HONESTY Judge Alito's explanation of his involvement with Concerned Alumni of Princeton is hard to believe. In a 1985 job application, he proudly pointed to his membership in the organization. Now he says he remembers nothing of it - except why he joined, which he insists had nothing to do with the group's core concerns. His explanation for why he broke his promise to Congress to recuse himself in any case involving Vanguard companies is also unpersuasive. As for his repeated claims that his past statements on subjects like abortion and Judge Bork never represented his personal views or were intended to impress prospective employers - all that did was make us wonder why we should give any credence to what he says now.

Posted by binky at 04:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Herber and Company on a Roll

If you'd told me back on New Years Eve that WVU would win every one of its first three Big East games (against South Florida, Villanova and Georgetown) and be on a big (I think it's 9) game winning streak after defeating Georgetown I'd have likely congratulated you on your optimism, patted you on the shoulder, and rolled my eyes when you turned around. Yet, as difficult as those feats have been to achieve, the Mountaineer men's basketball team has done just that. Let's hope this streak continues.

Posted by armand at 02:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A picture tells of a thousand tragedies


Via LiberalServing

Posted by binky at 12:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

It's the Small Stories out of Iraq that Kill Me.

The Washington Post reported today that one of Saddam's palaces had been looted.

Big deal, right?

Yes and no. This palace was one that hadn't previously been looted, because it had been a base for US soldiers up until it was turned over to the Iraqi government on November 22, 2005:

But in the days after American forces and the Iraqi brass band pulled out of the circular palace drive on a bluff overlooking the Tigris River, local officials now say, looters moved in, ripping out doors, air conditioners, ceiling fans and light-switch plates from some of the compound's 136 palaces, leaving little more than plaster and dangling electric wires.


[Governor of the Province] Shekti, like police officials, blamed Iraqi soldiers at the palaces and his own deputy. "The palace was turned over to the Iraqi army units in the presence of Deputy Governor Abdullah Naji Jabara," he said. "Two weeks later I heard the place was looted. Now who can I accuse of the looting?"

Read the whole story. It's not long. The sum of it is that the US turned over the palace to the Iraqis on Nov. 22nd (at a ceremony where the US Ambassador and Commanding General were in attendance), and within two weeks the looting had begun. How much was looted, and over what time frame, is unknown, as the Washington Post didn't get a look at the place until recently. The US military, as the story notes, didn't have a clue the place had been looted: they thought the place was just as we had left it.

Is this a major incident? No. However, it does a pretty good job of showcasing the huge mountain we still have to climb in Iraq. If there is still looting two and half years after the end of the war (and looting of an Iraqi government office by people in the government itself), how can we possibly be anywhere close to Iraq becoming stable, much less "an ally in the war on terror" as our President claimed was a victory condition last month.

No, not a big deal. But a useful story to showcase how far we have to go. Anyone who thinks we'll be withdrawing anytime in 2006 should think again.

Posted by baltar at 11:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More Evidence Seniority Doesn't Matter in the US House

As someone who's interested in the workings of the US government, I think one of the more interesting phenomena we've witnessed in the last 10-20 years is the demise of the seniority system in Congress. Of course it's not completely dead in the Senate, and the Democrats continue to hold to it (much) more than the Republicans do. But if you cracked open a US government textbook from the late-1980's on how Congress is organized it would be glaringly out of date.

I bring this up because we are the verge of leadership elections in the US House, and I haven't seen it noted that neither of the men who are likely to be the next Majority Leader and Majority Whip (Roy Blunt of Missouri and Eric Cantor of Virginia) have been in Congress for even 10 years. In fact, Cantor was only elected in 2000. For comparison's sake I'll note that Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) has served longer in the House than either of the likely future leaders. Back in the days of Jim Wright and Bob Michel that would have been close to unimagineable.

Posted by armand at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2006

If You Live Close to Buffalo ...

... there are two sudden turns in the news that might be of interest to you. First, if you are a Bills fan (and isn't there a law that you have to be if you live in Buffalo?) you'll want to read the stories in tomorrow's papers on the sudden resignation of Bills coach Mike Mularkey (who leaves after just 2 seasons as the Bills' head coach). Secondly, if you care about Canadian politics, check out the tracking polls. Canada's election is just 2 weeks away, and there has been a sudden surge in the last two days toward Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. That level of support could certainly slide, but it's a sharp change from where the polls were just a few days ago.

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

Someone at CNN does teh funny

"Robertson apologizes for divine contribution comment"

Or maybe it was just a slip. Can you spot it?

Posted by binky at 05:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

I know my ass is getting big...

...but it's not this big!

Domain Name navy.mil ? (Military)IP Address 128.160.133.# (Naval Research Laboratory)
ISP Naval Research LaboratoryLocation 
Continent : North America
Country : United States  (Facts)
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Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)
Javascript disabledTime of Visit Jan 12 2006 2:17:05 pmLast Page View Jan 12 2006 2:25:27 pmVisit Length 8 minutes 22 seconds

Hi guys! [waves vigorously]

Posted by binky at 05:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Urgent Need for Social Security Reform

In Chile. According to both the candidate of the Left and the Right.

Michelle Bachelet is a pediatrician and a Socialist, while Sebastián Piñera is a billionaire businessman and a conservative. They may agree on little as the opposing candidates in Chile's election for president, but they concur on one important point: the country's much vaunted and much copied privatized pension system needs immediate repair.

The Chilean system of personalized accounts managed by private funds has inspired a score of other countries since the pioneer effort to create it here 25 years ago. It is endorsed by President Bush, who has called it "a great example" from which the United States can "take some lessons." Here at home, though, dissatisfaction with the system has emerged as one of the hot-button issues in the election, a runoff that will take place on Sunday.

"Most people perceive the costs of pensions and the pensions themselves as unfair," said Patricio Navia, a political science professor at New York University and at Diego Portales University here. "Many of those who started work when the system was first adopted are realizing that they have not been able to contribute enough to get a significant pension," Mr. Navia said, adding that they resent "overhead costs that are so high" and that have led to record profits for the pension funds that manage contributions automatically deducted from workers' paychecks.

Lest we forget, this is the kind of scheme George Bush is still trying to sell us.

But why would he continue when it doesn't work?

According to a recent study here, Chile's pension funds, whose number has shrunk to 6 from more than 20 as competition has diminished, recorded an average annual profitability of more than 50 percent during a recent five-year period. Other studies, including one conducted by the World Bank, indicate that pension funds retain between a quarter and a third of workers' contributions in the form of commissions, insurance and other administrative fees.

Oh. That.

Then again, there are some people out there *cough* idiot Greens who voted for Nader *cough* who think a Leninist strategy to spur revolution isn't so bad. I'd not call the backlash in Chile a revolution, but the Socialist Party candidate is leading in the election. A Senator elect:

"I am going to do away with these thieves in jackets and ties," Mr. Girardi vowed. "We are going to defend the citizenry from these funds that rob people of their pensions."

In addition threats from the potential for backlash, there is also the functioning of the system itself:

"Chile's social security system requires deep reforms in all sectors, because half of Chileans have no pension coverage, and of those who do, 40 percent are going to find it hard to reach the minimum level," Mr. Piñera said in a televised debate with Ms. Bachelet on Wednesday.

Well, there's seomthing to aspire to...20% with at least minimum coverage. Zoinks!

Posted by binky at 05:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Substantive Thoughts on the Alito Hearings

In the comments section of another thread Moon has raised a reasonable point- while there is a good bit of posturing and theater in this thing (I'm looking right at you Senator Coburn) there have also been moments of honest discussion about serious legal/constitutional issues. So if any one has any comments or thoughts about those that they'd like to share with us, please post those comments here. Did you learn anything? Were fears reinforced? Are you happy or relieved because now he seems more supportive of something or other than he did before? Let us know.

Posted by armand at 11:12 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

January 11, 2006

Corporate U.

The latest in "convenience" for students from the collaboration of university and corporations: someone else holds onto your financial aid money until they're sure you're not going to spend it at their store! And they call it the "Reserve Convenience Account."

Sounds great, doesn't it?

I'd give you a link, but our local paper that ran the story requires a paid subscription, and it's not worth it. Here's the gist.

If a student has excess financial aid money after covering tuition and student housing, normally the student gets a check for the balance. According to the news story out today, the new plan with Barnes and Noble "withholds up to $500 of students' refund checks." The campus bookstore - which is run by Barnes and Noble - likes this because it "streamlines" their billing process, and "cuts down on the paperwork." Students who paid for their books using their financial aid used to have to go through a special line at the bookstore (gasp!) and fill out a form (the horror!). Now they can go through any line.

No doubt it is ever so slightly easier for the students because they don't have to actually look which line they are in (an onerous task, for sure). The primary beneficiaries seem to be the paper pushers at the university - and here I'll guess that it's not just our university - and Barnes and Noble.

I just have one question though.

When that money is just sitting around, being held, waiting to be used... who gets the interest it earns? If it was sitting in the students' interest bearing checking accounts, they would. It wouldn't be much, but it would be theirs. Think of it... on a campus of 25,000, if they held back $500 bucks per student, that would be $12.5 million. What's the going rate on short term interest? I have no idea if either universities or Barnes and Noble get the interest, but the students are not getting it from depositing the check in their savings accounts.

But it's convenient!

Unless you are a competitor, already suffering from the official contract Barnes and Noble has with the university that is supposed to direct traffic to them the campus bookstore managed by Barnes and Noble. [Side note, our campus has an exclusive Coke contract too. No Pepsi products are allowed in any vending machines.]

And unless you are a student, of course, who has to wait for your money. Some students, bless their suspicious little souls, are upset about having to get involved with oversight, tracking down if money was held, how much, for how long, and making sure it is eventually returned.


Posted by binky at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Music sucked in 2005, Too.

Following on from my complaining about 2005 movies, I'm prepared to argue that there were few good music releases in 2005 (and what was good didn't sell much and was obscure). The charts back me up:

During the last 12 months, CD sales took two steps back, rather than one step forward, retreating about 8% to 2003 unit volume levels, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Even with blossoming digital download sales factored in, total music sales are still running behind 2004 by 4%.

And look at the Top Ten Best Selling Albums of 2005:

1. "The Emancipation of Mimi", Mariah Carey, 2005, 5.0 million.
2. "The Massacre", 50 Cent, 2005, 4.8 million.
3. "Breakaway", Kelly Clarkson, 2004, 3.5 million.
4. "American Idiot", Green Day, 2004, 3.4 million.
5. "Monkey Business", Black Eyed Peas, 2005, 3.0 million.
6. "X&Y", Coldplay, 2005, 2.6 million.
7. "Feels Like Today", Rascal Flatts, 2004, 2.5 million.
8. "Love. Angel. Music. Baby", Gwen Stefani, 2004, 2.5 million.
9. "Late Registration", Kanye West, 2005, 2.4 million.
10. "Documentary", The Game, 2005, 2.2 million.

Recognize several things. First, the top selling album of 2004 (when the industry saw sales rise for the first time in two or three years) was some album by Usher, who sold double (about 8 million) what either of the top two in 2005 sold. Second, #s 3,4,7, and 8 off the 2005 best sellers were released in 2004. Music this year pretty much sucked.

Looking back at what I listened to in 2005, I realized I was mostly listening to things released in 2004 (and earlier): Drive By Truckers, Isis, Killswitch Engage, Mastondon's utterly epic Leviathan, Rainer Maria's neat pop-punk Long Knives Drawn, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists' just perfect Hearts of Oak; those stand out (among others).

This isn't to say that good music didn't come out in 2005 (though you can't prove it by the chart above; I don't think I own any of them). While I'm certain no one will believe me, some really great metal came out in 2005: Cave In's almost magesterial Perfect Pitch Black, some weird proggy-metal in Old Dead Tree's Perpetual Motion, Pelican's heir-to-Rush's-proggy-roots-but-with-more-balls (and best album title of the year)The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw, (not quite as good, but still excellent) Porcupine Tree's Deadwing, and the concept album got a shot in the arm with Vendetta Red's bloody Sisters of the Red Death. More conventional, but still good, is Between The Buried And Me's Alaska.

Lest anyone think I just banged my head all year, there were really strong albums from Bloc Party and the quirky, upbeat, indie New Pornographer's Twin Cinema.

What 2005 lacked was an artistically good album that sold well, like Radiohead, U2, OutKast or the Beastie Boys. And, to forestall binky, there was no Flaming Lips album in 2005 (which makes it automatically suck, I suppose). I suspect 2006 will be better. I hope so.

Posted by baltar at 10:00 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

People are idiots

And this is a prime example:

Random House will refund readers who bought James Frey's drug and alcohol memoir "A Million Little Pieces" directly from the publisher, a move believed to be unprecedented, after the author was accused of exaggerating his story.

Was the book entertaining? Well-written? Enjoyable? Yes?

Great. Now just move it from the non-fiction to the fiction side of your shelf.

Posted by binky at 02:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Do you do cute?

Really cute?

Look at the kitty! Extreme close up kitty!

Posted by binky at 02:06 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


Now DOJ:

Domain Name usdoj.gov ? (United States Government)IP Address 149.101.1.# (US Dept of Justice)
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Posted by binky at 01:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Harvey Mansfield's Dishonesty

If you read only one blog post today, you might very well want to make it this critique of a reprehensible and stunningly dishonest column by Harvey Mansfield (one of the Ivy League's preeminent right-wingers - yes Bush America, the Ivies employ several noted right-wingers) in which he defends (lauds?) the veritably imperial (authoritarian?) powers that the president has claimed to possess. It's not so much that Mansfield is wrong or dishonest, though of course he is. What's remakrable about this column, as David Luban notes, is the breath-taking scale of its dishonesty. Luban describes it thusly - "nearly every sentence in it is false".

Posted by armand at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Fujimori must be confused to think it's a good idea to register to run for President while in jail in Chile after having hidden out in Japan for five years because in his home country of Peru they want to try him for corruption and human rights violations stemming from his last presidency after the election to which he conducted a self-coup and dissolved Congress.

The election board, however, is not confused.

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

Too Old to Execute?

Oh please, give me a break. I'm not a fan of the death penalty. But if we are going to have it, let's have it. I thought the Supreme Court decision making it unconstitutional to execute people in their mid-teens was wrongly decided, and I think this is just as wrong. No, actually I think this is worse. C'mon.

Posted by armand at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Whatever you do, don't panic

However, just to be on the safe side, avoid poultry like the plague. So says the WHO to Turkey:

World Health Organization officials urged people not to panic, but said it was crucial to avoid all contact with sick or dead poultry

Um, dead as in "bought at the market" dead? Or "dead on the side of the road" dead?

"The worst situation is a panic situation," Dr. Marc Danzon, WHO regional director for Europe, told reporters at a joint press conference with Turkish Health Minister Recep Adkdag. "There is no reason for panic."

Nope. No reason.

"The more humans infected with the avian virus, the more chance it has to adapt. We may be playing with fire," said Guenael Rodier, a senior WHO communicable disease specialist who was dispatched to Turkey to investigate the outbreak.

Rodier said in an interview that cases of infected birds are being reported in areas of Turkey that animal health officials had considered free of the virus. "It seems like it has spread much more widely in animals and in more districts than was initially thought," he said.

But as long as people avoid dead birds, they're fine, right?

It is not surprising that children contracted bird flu because, in villages, they often play with domestic fowls and keep them as pets, Rodier said. "With sick chickens, it is easier to catch them than healthy ones," he said.

Oops. Or playing with live ones that are infected. Which are known to be infected because they are "easier to catch."

Michael L. Perdue, who is running WHO's response to the Turkish outbreaks from the agency's headquarters in Geneva, said initial genetic sequencing of human and animal samples from Turkey indicate there have been "interesting changes" in the makeup of H5N1. He said that the agency received this information Tuesday and that it would take several weeks for experts to determine whether these genetic changes were significant for the behavior of the virus.

But he said researchers had already been able to determine from this sequencing information that the virus infecting people in Turkey was almost identical to that in poultry. "They are very similar to each other, so it verifies that the animal seems to be the source for the human infection, which we assumed," Perdue told journalists in a teleconference.

This is almost too much to bear. Avian flu in Turkey being studied by Perdue. It's too much.

Posted by binky at 10:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Justice in Afghanistan in 2006

I supported the war. And actually I might well have supported an operation to remove the Taliban from power prior to 9/11. But news like this should remind us all that "regime change" can only solve so much. And just because the US played a large role in putting the current government there in place, that doesn't mean it's going to act in ways most Americans would approve of. And, clearly, a lot of things are going on under the new government (the one we're backing) that would leave many Americans aghast.

Posted by armand at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Joe Biden's Approach to Questioning Sam Alito

Yikes. Somebody stop him. Please. Not only is it a horrifying waste of a once in a life-time opportunity - it's also really annoying.

Posted by armand at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2006


I haven't watch a single minute of the hearings. I haven't read a single story about them.

What's the point? The first day was all prepared speeches - if anyone said anything surprising, let me know and I'll be glad to check it out. I don't think I'll hold my breath waiting. The back-and-forth stuff started today, but since Congress has this rule that you can't actually ask Supreme Court nominees about issues, the Constitution, or their own legal beliefs, the rest of the hearings are likely to degenerate into long speeches followed by short refusals to answer questions. In other words, utterly pointless. Does anyone want to explain to me how we got here? I mean, why, exactly, can't we ask any nominee about any case, or potential case? Isn't that why we're having the hearings?

Look, I realize that democracy is the worst system of government except for all the other ones that are even worse. I realize that watching democracy is like watch sausage get made: there are some things you just don't want to see. Fine. But these confirmation hearings have degenerated into utter futility.

Honestly, what's the point?

Posted by baltar at 07:16 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

How is your income related to your political affiliation?

The IRS wants to know.

As it hunted down tax scofflaws, the Internal Revenue Service collected information on the political party affiliations of taxpayers in 20 states.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of an appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the IRS, said the practice was an “outrageous violation of the public trust” that could undermine the agency’s credibility.

IRS officials acknowledged that party affiliation information was routinely collected by a vendor for several months. They told the vendor last month to screen the information out.

“The bottom line is that we have never used this information,” said John Lipold, an IRS spokesman. “There are strict laws in place that forbid it.”

Well, as always, that makes me feel so much safer.

Via Big Brass Blog.

And yes, I know we should be blogging our little socks off with Alito and Abramoff and all kinds of things. Guess what kiddies? It's the first week of school. At least for me, blogging takes a back seat for a few days, unless I feel pissy late at night and need to do some cussing. Mil perdones.

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Jody Richards - Pawn of Knuckle Draggers or One Himself?

And as long as I'm targeting my ire this morning at some of the most disappointing Democrats in the country, I bring you this disappointing story about Kentucky House Speaker Jody Richards. It's the latest bit of "intelligent design" politics. I certainly hope Richards doesn't win the gubenatorial nomination in 2007 (he almost did in 2003).

Posted by armand at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Run Ned Run!

Meet the man who might challenge Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary this summer.

Posted by armand at 09:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2006

It's a fucking bomb, people

A bomb was found at a Starbucks in San Francisco.

"If it had detonated, it would have caused damage," Gittens said. "It was what we consider an IED," an improvised explosive device.

I am vehemently opposed to calling it an IED. Jesus fucking Christ. It's a bomb. A B.O.M.B. BOMB.

Fuck. It's San Francisco, not Iraq.

And San Francisco cops so do not need to get all paramilitary on our asses.




This has been your profanity laden post for the day. Good night.

Posted by binky at 09:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

David Broder - Senile? Hapless? Both?

Publius has a hilarious (in a horrifying, it makes you want to cry kind of a way) catch in the latest Broder column on Samuel Alito. I look forward to Broder's compeling report in which he learns from Roy Cohn that Joe McCarthy is misunderstood and fair-minded.

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

Visiting the High Museum

I was in Atlanta last week and the highlight of my trip was a visit to the High Museum. I'd really wanted to go ever since they opened up the new building (designed by Renzo Piano). It's beautiful, and a great exhibit space, and fits with the old Richard Meier building (one of the great American public buildings of the last few decades) very, very well. I was very impressed.

But happily the interesting and beautiful things about the High didn't end at its architecture. I highly recommend a visit to it. At the moment there's a great Andrew Wyeth exhibit going on, but really it's generally remarkable for a museum of its size in terms of the breadth of its offerings. It's light on photography (though it's got a few gems including a portrait by Man Ray in which he's using the Sabattier effect), but has many beautiful pieces across a wide range of media. It's got great clocks, funky furniture, religious paintings by old Masters, important pieces of American glassworks, and I could go on and on. Personally, I loved the Wyeth exhibit (I exited thinking a lot more of his work than I did previously, and I liked him before), there's a cool, sort of evil, Durer engraving, and great Gorky painting of figures relaxing at a resort, a great "skyscraper" bookcase, a lot of wonderful furniture by the Herter brothers, and ... well, many beautiful things. So if you are looking for an interesting way to spend a couple of hours in Atlanta, you should definitely check out the High Museum.

That said, I noticed two strikes against it. First, the Starbucks in the basement is quite possibly the worst in the world. Secondly, I found the caption on one of the paintings something between bizarre and horrifying. The painting (depicting a scene shortly before a figure in the Bible is raped) is an exceptionally beautiful piece of art. But in the caption the museum opts not to refer to the event depicted as a rape. Instead the caption relies on innuendo and refers to "violent love". Am I the only guy who finds that extremely inappropriate?

Posted by armand at 08:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bad Year At The Movies

Via Andrew Sullivan, the movie critic of the New Yorker (Anthony Lane) thinks 2005 was underwhelming (or, more critically, just rotten) for movies.

I think I agree. I don't think I saw anything this year that was very good. I also think 2005 saw the fewest number of movies I've seen in a theater in many a year.

Posted by baltar at 03:56 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Blog for Choice

It's January 22nd.

In the mean time, read more Lemieux on Alito, and contact your senators to register your opinion.

Posted by binky at 01:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Prenatal Child Abuse

One of four pieces of draft egislation (PDF, see p. 19) to be considered in the 2006 session of the West Virginia State House proposes to expand the definition of child abuse to include prenatal abuse related to drugs and alcohol. The legislation is still being worked on (it's on today's agenda for the Select Committee A - Child Protective Services and Other Matters in the WV Legislature). An excerpt from the Interim Highlights (emphasis mine):

The third measure would relate to examining prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol and include prenatal exposure of methamphetamine and other illegal drugs as well as alcohol to the definition of child abuse The Department of Health and Human Resources, stated that there are roughly 65 meth referrals monthly, but that doesn’t mean an exact number of addicted infants, since some children are covered in multiple reports.

Note that the summary does not address women's health or fetal health, merely the expansion of child abuse to include certain behaviors by pregnant women.

This is only one of four pieces of legislation the committee is working on, including another establishing a registry of convicted child abusers, similar to that for sex offenders:

Finally, a fourth proposed bill would set up a registry of convicted child abusers similar to the registry of sex offenders maintained by the State Police. An internal registry of such offenders would be used to track them within various agencies of government, it was explained. It wouldn’t however be available to the public, drawing a distinction between the proposal and the current sex offender registry that appears on-line.

A representative from the Department of Health and Human Resources stated creating a registry would be helpful but said the special State Police unit shouldn’t be viewed as the sole realm for digging into abuse, and must be used in coordination with other agencies.

Theoretically, if both pass, a woman could have a permanent child abuser record for being caught having one drink while pregnant.

We've been around the issue of fetal alcohol syndrome in our comments before, and before we get sidetracked on that issue again, I will point out a few things.

First, I can't find a copy of the draft legislation. If and when it becomes available, I hope to get a look at it and update this post. Second, from the summary, it appears that this legislation is all about punishment, and does nothing to actually protect children or pregnant women. Third, it addresses only a small part of legal and illegal drugs that might affect - the might because of a very large question mark about the scientific certainty about effects - fetal development. No mention is made, for example, of legal prescription drugs with damaging side effects. Finally, it's yet another example of a backdoor attempt to get elevate fetal "rights" above the health and autonomy of women.

And from the looks of it, this legislation won't even do much to protect the children born to mothers with addiction problems at the same time it casts a wide net and infringes on women's reproductive autonomy. It will punish "bad mothers" but does nothing to help them improve their health or provide better opportunities for their children.

Posted by binky at 08:36 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

January 08, 2006

You don't mind the government reading your love letters , do you?

Hope not.

“I had no idea (Homeland Security) would open personal letters,” Goodman told MSNBC.com in a phone interview. “That’s why I alerted the media. I thought it should be known publicly that this is going on,” he said. Goodman originally showed the letter to his own local newspaper, the Kansas-based Lawrence Journal-World.

“I was shocked and there was a certain degree of disbelief in the beginning,” Goodman said when he noticed the letter had been tampered with, adding that he felt his privacy had been invaded. “I think I must be under some kind of surveillance.”

Most of us are probably thinking about our own selves, and working up some nice outrage at more domestic spying. Yeah, sure. The thing that bothers me about this story is slightly different.

In the 50 years that Grant Goodman has known and corresponded with a colleague in the Philippines he never had any reason to suspect that their friendship was anything but spectacularly ordinary.

But now he believes that the relationship has somehow sparked the interest of the Department of Homeland Security and led the agency to place him under surveillance.

Hopefully Professor Goodman and the rest of us are protected by the Constitution, and can continue to enjoy the luxury of being pissed off about having our mail read.

But what about the foreign colleague? What happens when her government finds out she's under surveillance from Homeland Security? What, that's not going to happen? HS isn't going to contact its allies over there?

Maintaining international friendships is complicated. For some, by the fact of living in a less democratic state and coming under suspicion for even having contacts with Americans. In places like Cuba, for example, the likelihood of a U.S. citizen running into trouble with the Cuban government for talking about democracy with a Cuban is low. The risk for the Cuban is high. In the case of letters being opened, for the U.S. citizen there is the fear and outrage of government snooping. For the foreign friend, the stakes might be considerably higher.

Why should we care? Aside from the concern about our civil liberties, aside from the concern about the impact of U.S. policies on the human rights of people in other countries, we should be concerned because if ever there is a time that the U.S. needs friends abroad - especially in countries "on the U.S. government’s radar screen as a potential spawning ground for Muslim-related terrorism" - it is now.

Posted by binky at 04:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 07, 2006

Women have value because of their uteruses

Just like cows.

Word got out that a South Dakota politician compared pregnant women to cows, saying that they were more valuable when pregnant. No one got good notes, so some ex post facto questions were asked:

Gordon also apologized for the remark. He said he only meant to say that South Dakotans value life. If we value unborn livestock, he said, why wouldn’t we value the lives of unborn human beings. “I freely admit I said that very poorly,” Gordon said.

When contacted to verify his statement, Howie obliged:

"We place value on life in South Dakota, and even with a mother cow, as soon as you can demonstrate she is pregnant, an even higher value is placed just because she is pregnant," Howie said. "I said that, and it was a clumsy way to make a point. I probably deserve to be beat upon the head and shoulders for it."

He prefaced his recollection by saying, "I admit up front that I am prone to saying stupid things, and I want to apologize to anyone who may have taken offense." Howie said he "enrages" people who don't share his views "because I just don't mince words. I don't choose them well, either. ... Any person who really knows who I am knows I don't place women and livestock on the same level."

Aw shucks. Enraged people are pissed because he doesn't mince words. Nor because his "attitude is so abhorrent" or because his comments came "in response to questions from the audience about how he could reconcile his views on limited government with his views supporting further government intervention into matters relating to a woman's body."

We should give ol' Gordon a break, huh? He's just a plain spoken guy. Clearly he doesn't equate women with cattle. Why, heck, he's never even bought a diamond for his favorite heifer. Now, as for the little filly:

"My wife told me I was going to get in trouble for that," he told me. "I was not attempting in any way to compare women to livestock."

See, just because he compared women to livestock, doesn't mean he was comparing women to livestock. Gosh!

Via Pandagon, MediaGirl, and South Dakota War College.

Posted by binky at 06:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

This is so wrong

I mean, really, really wrong.

Posted by binky at 04:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Question 1: Provide a wingy rationale for how discussing the patent failure by the government to equip American servicemen and women with proper armor is equivalent to:

a) being un-American

b) supporting al Qaeda

c) delighting in American Failure in Iraq

d) all of the above

From the NYT (italics mine, to reflect that this only addresses a subset of injuries, not all casualties):

A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.


"Our preliminary research suggests that as many as 42 percent of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas of the vest," the study concludes. Another 23 percent might have been saved with side plates that extend below the arms, while 15 percent more could have benefited from shoulder plates, the report says. In all, 526 marines have been killed in combat in Iraq. A total of 1,706 American troops have died in combat.

Posted by binky at 03:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Liberal Linkage

The Third Carnival of the Liberals is up!

Posted by binky at 02:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 06, 2006

Chad. Yes, Chad.

Chad is a country in central-north Africa. It is also the butt of many jokes in the classes I teach: it has no port, it's poor, it's been invaded by Libya a few times, and it's filled with sand. In other words, if something in global politics actually affects Chad, it must be a big deal. It's a poor joke (people in Chad are, in fact, very poor, and relatively miserable).

Which is why, a few months back, there was mediocre news from Chad: they found oil. Why mediocre you ask? Well, the history of oil in Africa is not good: countries with oil revenues tend to use the money on military expendatures or to line the pockets of the government. Very little of the oil revenue money makes it to the people who need it.

In order to turn this mediocre news into good news, Chad tried something else. No country can afford the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to get the oil out of the ground and flowing (regularly) to a port. Thus, outside money is needed to get projects started. Chad publicly committed to using a large percentage of the oil revenue money for poverty eradication (ensuring that it would go to the citizens and not the military/government), and allowed an external committee oversite over the accounting (to reduce corruption). With this pledge/agreement, Chad got the money and a small ray of sunshine shown on a country that hadn't had much to cheer about.

That light has now gone out. The New York Times is reporting that Chad has reneged on the agreement, and is using the oil revenues for goverment expenditures, including military. As a result of this, the World Bank has suspended loans for the further development of the oil fields.

Chad claims that it is a sovereign country, that the oil is clearly Chad's, and that they have the right to spend the oil revenue as they see fit. The World Bank claims that Chad made the agreement in years past in good faith, and cannot renege at this point.

While the politicians (on both sides) argue, it's worth pointing out that (as the link notes) 8 of 10 people in Chad live on less than $1 a day.

Awfully dim there, this time of year.

Posted by baltar at 11:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Oh No!" they said

"It's only those crunchy nutbars in Indiana" they said.

"It's only an isolated incident" they said, "not a legislative agenda."

And then I said, "Bullshit!"

Guess what? There are crunchy nutbars in Virginia too! And somehow they've developed the notion that the mechanisms of women's fertility are somehow their fucking business. Wait, or is that "somehow they've developed the notion that the mechanisms of women's fertility are somehow the state's fucking business?" Well, you get the idea.

Offered January 11, 2006
Prefiled January 2, 2006
A BILL to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 54.1-2403.4, relating to prohibition on the provision of certain intervening medical technology to unmarried women.
Patron-- Marshall, R.G.
Committee Referral Pending

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 54.1-2403.4 as follows:

§ 54.1-2403.4. Prohibition on the provision of certain intervening medical technology for unmarried women.

No individual licensed by a health regulatory board shall assist with or perform any intervening medical technology, whether in vivo or in vitro, for or on an unmarried woman that completely or partially replaces sexual intercourse as the means of conception, including, but not limited to, artifical insemination by donor, cryopreservation of gametes and embryos, invitro fertilization, embryo transfer, gamete intrafallopian tube transfer, and low tubal ovum transfer.

Isolated incident, my fanny.

Via the shiny happy sparkly new Pandagon.

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


Driftglass shows - in detail - how 9/11 changed everything.

Pierce the mists of time and visit the faraway land of 1998 to see what Republicans were saying about military action in Iraq, impeachment and the Rule of Law…


All of that solemn talk about the Rule of Law…as long as it was a Democrat in the dock.

All of that awe and reverence for the supremacy of the Constitution…and long as it was a Democrat who was slated for a public flogging.

All of that lying, puerile Republican jabber about a their moral duty to impeach a President for the breaking of the law – any law, regardless of conditions and circumstances…as long as the President’s name isn’t Bush.

9/11 sure as shit changed everything, didn’t it?

Posted by binky at 01:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Six Degrees of Christiane Amanpour

From AmericaBlog:

But before you say "yeah, go for it," consider the implications of tapping Christiane Amanpour's phones:

1. Such a wiretap would likely include her home, office, and cell phones, and email correspondence, at the very least.

2. That means anyone Christiane has conversed with in the past four years, at least by phone or email, could have had their conversation taped by the US government.

3. That also means that anyone who uses any of Christiane's telephones or computers (work or home) could also have had their conversation bugged.

4. This includes Christiane's husband, former Clinton administration senior official Jamie Rubin, who was spokesman for the State Department.

5. Jamie Rubin was also chief foreign policy adviser to General Wesley Clark's presidential campaign, and then worked as a senior national security adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign.

6. Did Jamie Rubin ever use his home phone, his wife's work phone, his wife's cell phone, her home computer or her work computer to communicate with John Kerry or Wesley Clark? If so, those conversations would have been bugged if Bush was tapping Amanpour.

7. Did Jamie Rubin ever in the past four years communicate with any elected officials in Washington, DC - any Senators or members of the US House? Any senior members of the Democratic party?

8. Has Rubin spoken with Bill Clinton, his former boss, in the past 4 years?

Now you understand how potentially broad a violation of privacy the Bush doctrine on illegal domestic spying really is. Everyone who's anyone is a degree or two of separation away from a terrorist.

Posted by binky at 12:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 05, 2006

Talk Radio

I happened to be in a different radio market this morning, and as is my wont, tuned into talk radio to see how their local hour was different from ours. The talk down here, of course, was focused on the deaths at the Sago mine. The Pittsburgh station had a national show broadcast out of Philadelphia. The host bills himself as someone who leans libertarian, but supports traditional family values.

No, this isn't going where you think it's going.

The regular host is on vacation, so they had a guest host on, talking about detainees and the war on terror.

He said that we should tattoo detainees so they will always be able to be identified.

Sick. Just sick.

And I'm not sure what's worse, that he would knowingly and casually reference one of the practices of the Nazis in the concentration camps, or that he is so ignorant of history and holds such evil in his heart as to talk about tattooing people in camps.


Posted by binky at 07:53 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Christ, the Golden Arches, and Mel Gibson

It's a small post, so I'll violate a couple of copyright laws and just reproduce the entire post:

So McDonald's now has Chronicles of Narnia Happy Meals.
Each comes with one of several plastic Narnia figurines -- Tumnus, Lucy, Edmund. Aslan.
They're selling plastic Aslans at McDonald's.
Plastic Aslans. At McDonald's.
I ...
Plastic Aslans at McDonald's. The crucifixion-nail pendants were pretty awful, but at least Mel had the decency not to license Happy Meals.

Would someone please explain to me, again, the relationship between the Bible, modern Christianity, and US culture/society in the 21st Century?

Posted by baltar at 07:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Movie Review(s): Dukes of Hazzard, Fantastic Four, Tombstone, and Serenity

Very short version: hire good writers = make better movie.

I can't get worked up over any of these movies, as I managed for "War of the Worlds" or a few others. Mostly (exceptions noted below), these movies were bad. Not shoot-yourself-before-watching bad, but pretty bad. What was interesting, however, was that by watching all four movies within about ten days, it showed me clearly that writers make all the difference - not stars, not CGI, not directors or anything else. Sure, having stars, CGI, a budget, a competent director and other sundries would certainly improve a movie, but if you don't have an intelligible (note: not intelligent, though that would be nice too) storyline, then you've made a bad movie. It's that simple.

"The Dukes of Hazzard" was plainly awful. Awful acting, awful idea, awful nostalgia trip. However, it wasn't painfully awful. Why? Restraint. They didn't try to make anything more than a B- movie. No earth shattering character changes (Boss Hog: still bad; Dukes: still good), no characters saving the world, and a 1969 Dodge Charger still drifting through every corner. Simple. What was the story? Same as a Dukes of Hazard episode from 20 years back: Boss Hog tries to steal some land to strip mine it and make money. OK, fine, they worked the environment in, but they left out politics, terrorism, Islam (heck, any religion), Iraq, or anything else. Nobody acted too bright (in keeping with the TV show), and everybody played their roles correctly (which is to say they overacted like mad, but it seemed fine). Most importantly, everybody looked like they were having fun making a (relatively) cheap B-grade action/adventure piece of fluff. That relaxed sort of acting method played out in a movie that didn't take itself seriously, was casual about it's jokes, and wasn't trying to say anything other than "Hey, just look at us for an hour and half, then worry about the bills." This was a bad movie, made better by competant writing and nobody trying to hard.

An additional note about two of the actor/actresses. Willie Neslon was pretty damn funny as Jesse Duke. Especially funny is (in the extras) seeing him tell one-liners to Johnny Knoxville while they are supposedly tooling down the road throwing Molotov-cocktails made from their moonshine at the bad guys. Funny jokes. Jessica Simpson should never be allowed near a camera again. I think the director knew this, as she never appears (or says a line) other than trying to get people to look at her ass, boobs, or (actually, that's it). She's remarkably irrelevant to the movie (and that's just fine).

"The Fantastic Four" was easily the worst movie of the bunch. It's actually worse than Kingdom of Heaven, but it's not worth the effort to make a long review that points out its myriad faults. The key problem was writing. Sure, the teenagers hired to play the superheroes couldn't act their way out of a wet paper bag. Yeah, fine, the director loved CGI and everything was pretty. Big deal. The story was so awful that a constipated dog could shit out a more interesting/coherent idea after eating this month's "Vanity Fair" (dogs can't write, so the dog needs to get some words from somewhere). Evil business tycoon becomes evil bad guy; check. Clean cut young people working to save humanity get blasted by radiation, get superpowers; check. Rest of humanity nervous about superheroes; check. Superheroes have trouble adjusting to new powers; check. Yawn.

Look, the movie cost (literally) millions to make. Probably a hundred million or so. Why didn't they spend ten grand (note: that's 0.01% of the entire budget) getting someone to write a better movie is beyond me. Why does Hollywood sink so much money into these things, and so little money into the screenwriters? Really, this was a piece of shit, and should be avoided at all costs. This was a shoot-yourself-before-watching kinda movie.

Tombstone was something of a surprise. This had flown under my radar as just another Hollywood-western from the mid-90s. Actually, that's what it is, but it could have been so much better. Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Robert Mitchum, Charton Heston, Sam Elliot, Billy Zane, Dana Delaney, and the list goes on. There were some seriously heavy actors in this (and I'll bet the budget was high, too). The outline of the story - Wyatt Earp - certainly has legs, and could be made into something interesting. What happened?

Not sure. Could be the writer's fault, could be the director, could be some sort of miscommunication/incoherence between the two. The story is (supposedly) the more-or-less-true story of Wyatt Earp. I don't know the reality of it, so I can't comment on the truthfulness of the movie. There wasn't anything wrong with the story, but the actual writing of the line (the actual lines the actors say) was some of the worst crap I've heard. I guess they were trying for some Terminator-esque "I'll be back" lines, but they all just ended up sounding silly. I think the actors were trying to hard. It wasn't boring, but it drifted in that direction. It seemed sort of aimless and wandering (in a storytelling sense, not a plot sense).

The one bright part of this was Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. He was absolutely brilliant. His Doc Holliday had TB (accuracy?), but drank and smoked continuously. He didn't like anyone (except Earp), and generally insulted everyone he met. Whoever wrote his lines was concentrating hard (maybe Kilmer paid somebody to work his stuff over?). In any event, a great performance, and easily worth putting up with the other stuff (i.e., the rest of the movie) just to watch him.Finally, Serenity. Here is the clearest example of what writing will do for you. The budget wasn't high. Just about none of the actors had any name recognition (Venus Flytrap from "WKRP in Cincinnati" was the only actor I actually recognized). The CGI was decent, but not "Lord of the Rings" quality. Yet, for all those faults, it was easily the best movie of the bunch. Why?

Writing. The story was a straight-forward SciFi retread (evil empire, plucky rebels, escaping convict, etc.), but details of the background (why the rebels lost, what the empire is trying to do) were fresh, the characters (while predictable) had crisp lines, funny where they needed to be, angsty where they needed to be. The actors played everything well - no overacting or Tom-Cruise-Like moments in the whole movie. It was just a simple, well thought out, B-Grade throwaway movie that wasn't trying to change the world. Well made escapism. Or, to put it another way, it was "The Dukes of Hazzard" with a decent writer and some creativity (not in terms of plot, obviously, but in terms of where it fits into "Hollywood"). Worth a couple of bucks for an evening rental, if SciFi is your thing (if not, skip it; it's not that good).

To Sum Up: movies tell stories. Telling a story involves plot, dialogue, movement, action, etc. To put all of those things together into a coherent whole requires a story-teller, or a "writer". A good writer makes good (or at least better) movies. A bad writer makes bad movies. You don't need CGI, Tom Cruise, Oliver Stone or Legolas in order to make a good movie (they don't hurt, when used right, but they don't automatically help). You need (as in: required) a writer who knows what they are doing. Sure, the Fantastic Four can be entertaining/amazing. They can fly around, and break stuff. Of course, if all I wanted to see was flying and breaking stuff, I could throw a steak at my cat, and watch my dogs try to take it away from him (actually, that would be significantly more entertaining than the movie I watched). In order to make the Fantastic Four (or Wyatt Earp, or Bo and Luke Duke, or the plucky rebels, or Alexander the Great, or a Knight in the Crusades, or...you get my point) interesting, you need to tell a good story. I'm tempted to argue that no character has ever been inherently interesting; that everyone requires a story of some kind, but I'm sure there is one character out there that proves my absolute assertion wrong. Lets just leave it at: characters require stories, and stories are told by writers. If you are making a movie and your writer is (1) an idiot, (2) you don't know who or where they are, (3) unable to explain why any character is doing any particular thing, (4) enamored with things blowing up/getting shot/getting naked/set on fire, (5) working for you for minimum wage, (6) less than, say, 22 years old, (7) lives at home, (8) owns less than, say, 100 books, or (9) any combination of 1 through 8, then fire them and find someone who fits the qualifications. Then you might have a prayer of making a decent movie.

To Sum Up The Summing Up: watch Serenity if you like SciFi; avoid The Fantastic Four like the avian bird flu; get moderately drunk with friends and watch The Dukes of Hazzard (play a drinking game: anyone who can get a food substance to stick to Jessica Simpsons ass while it's on screen can make someone else drink); and then clean off the TV screen and (while still drunk) watch Val Kilmer out act everybody in the movie in Tombstone.

Or not. You won't be missing much.

Posted by baltar at 06:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

College Football - Who's #4?

OK, I'll admit it's a trivial question, but who do you think should be ranked as the 4th best football team in the country following the Rose Bowl (it looks fairly obvious to me after the bowls that Texas, USC and Ohio State will be 1,2,3)? Two teams stand out to me - WVU and LSU (I wasn't remotely impressed by Penn State in the Orange Bowl) - and I'm really inclined to pick WVU given that Georgia convincingly beat LSU (not to mention their other loss). Thoughts?

Posted by armand at 08:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 04, 2006

We are NOT a nuclear sub!

Look! Our friends/'bots are back!

Domain Name hpc.mil ? (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 Jan 4 2006 9:54:24 pmLast Page View Jan 4 2006 9:54:24 pm
Posted by binky at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

McCaskill Leads Talent by 3!

This one is just for Crystal. In Missouri, Claire McCaskill (D) is leading incumbent Sen. Jim Talent (R) 46-43 in the latest Rasmussen (no relation to our Binky) poll.

Posted by armand at 09:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Turns out Bush wasn't driving the bus

And lo and behold, members of Congress complained when the NSA acted without the President's approval to expand its domestic spting operations (emphasis mine):

The National Security Agency acted on its own authority, without a formal directive from President Bush, to expand its domestic surveillance operations in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to declassified documents released Tuesday.

The N.S.A. operation prompted questions from a leading Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who said in an Oct. 11, 2001, letter to a top intelligence official that she was concerned about the agency's legal authority to expand its domestic operations, the documents showed.

Ms. Pelosi's letter, which was declassified at her request, showed much earlier concerns among lawmakers about the agency's domestic surveillance operations than had been previously known. Similar objections were expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, in a secret letter to Vice President Dick Cheney nearly two years later.

The congresswoman wrote to Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then head of the N.S.A., to express her concerns after she and other members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees received a classified briefing from General Hayden on Oct. 1, 2001, about the agency's operations.

This has some similarities - more informing of Congress without opportunity for debate and consent - and differences - the NSA acting (evidently) without Presidential approval - with the other information coming out in recent weeks.

Yesterday, the Bush adinistration said that the NSA acted within the scope of an executive order during the Reagan administration:

Bush administration officials said on Tuesday that General Hayden, now the country's No. 2 intelligence official, had acted on the authority previously granted to the N.S.A., relying on an intelligence directive known as Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. That order set guidelines for the collection of intelligence, including by the N.S.A.

That may very well be, but it still concerns me that now the president has been saying that he has been in charge, when we have de-classified (still with large portions blacked out) documents showing that the surveillance was undertaken without a formal directive until nearly a year later. The former head of the NSA is concerned as well (emphasis mine):

The way the N.S.A.'s role has expanded has prompted concern even from some of its former leaders, like Bobby R. Inman, a retired admiral who was N.S.A. director from 1977 to 1981. Admiral Inman said that while he supported the decision to step up eavesdropping against potential terrorists immediately after the 2001 attacks, the Bush administration should have tried to change the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to provide explicit legal authorization for what N.S.A. was doing.

"What I don't understand is why when you're proposing the Patriot Act, you don't set up an oversight mechanism for this?" Admiral Inman said in an interview. "I would have preferred an approach to try to gain legislation to try to operate with new technology and with an audit of how this technology was used."

"Try to gain legislation," that is, engage the democratic process.

And for all those howling that the democrats are traitors for revealing this information now, I think the surfacing of this information shows the opposite. They've been sitting on this information for years, working within the community of those with "secret" clearance. Asking for the de-classification of her letter was smart by Pelosi not only politically (because it shows how early she was on the record on this) but because by going through the formal declassification process, it clearly protects any information contained in the letter.

It is also heartening to see that even though I wish Congress has been able to do more in standing up to potential threats to civil liberties, they may not have rolled over as much as we thought. This information coming out seems to indicate that some of their inaction was because they were commited to national security in a time of crisis. That this information is coming out now is positive, and part of the inevitable balancing that many have desribed as coming after expanded war time powers.

Posted by binky at 08:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 03, 2006

Duly chastened...

...because I haven't linked since December 19th.

Read the whole post, you'll get my title by the first sentence of the second paragraph.

A good roundup about how we're getting distracted by potentially irrelevant side issues and why data mining is scarier than you think.

Posted by binky at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shocked, I tell you! Shocked!

Gee, I wonder what happened:

Music retailers suffered their steepest sales decline in three years during 2005.

Compared with 2004 -- which, in a tic of the calendar, had a 53-week retail year -- the market for CDs plunged more than 10 percent. Based on a 52-week year, sales were down nearly 8 percent.

This crash -- the worst since 2002, which witnessed a plummet of 10.7 percent -- was all the more dizzying for retailers because the business appeared to be rebounding in 2004, when sales rose a modest but encouraging 3.8 percent.

Let's see... shit music, complete and utter condescension toward the customer, malware, shit music, uh, gee. I have no idea why people don't want to buy major label CDs. Ashley Simpson? Garth Brooks?

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

Chris Quinn Elected Speaker

Being a fan of both New York and politics, I've been keeping an eye on who would succeed Gifford Miller as Speaker of the City Council. It'll be Chris Quinn. That's what I'd been hoping for. She's from Manhattan, the mayor likes her (though she's more "combative" than Giff), Giff likes her, and hey, as an added bonus for the tabloids, apparently she's a lesbian (something I didn't know until this morning). The key to her victory appears to have been winning over the Queens machine. Now I'm not generally a fan of Tom Manton and company - but it strikes me that New York could be in worse hand for the next couple of years than those of Michael Bloomberg and Chris Quinn.

Posted by armand at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Does Anyone Smell Smoke?

If the town of Morgantown (WV) is a pile of smouldering cinders by morning, it will be because West Virginia University just won the Sugar Bowl, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs (the SEC champions).

WVU hasn't had very good luck in Bowl games in the last few years, so winning this "big" bowl is a big deal.

Historically, WVU students have celebrated major sporting victories by burning all their couches, which they pull off their porches and carefully place in the middle of the streets (wouldn't want to burn down their houses). The police/fire/state police/wouldn't-surprise-me-to-see-National-Guard don't really like this display of student hijinks, and have enacted several ordinances to prevent it.

From the sounds outside, they don't seem to have worked.

Check back with us in the morning.

Posted by baltar at 01:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 02, 2006


This post from Driftglass must have taken a long time, a lot of emotion, and and is well worth your time to page all the way through.

All the way to HST and Pryor.

Posted by binky at 06:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Perfectly Good Reasons to Let Al Qaeda Run Around the U.S.

John at Americablog asks a question about the President's statement "that some of the calls he's illegally tapping are being made FROM the US and that the people making them are Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda affiliates":

Really? So now there are Al Qaeda members and Al Qaeda affiliates inside the United States making phone calls, we know who they are, and:

1) Bush is letting known terrorists and known terrorist affiliates roam around our country free, which begs the question: Why aren't they under arrest?

There's a very good answer to that question (and not the one he's expecting): so we can eavesdrop on and follow them around, hoping they'll lead us to other (read: more important) targets.

That's kind of a dumb question, really. Deep breath time. Say it with me non IR people: yes Virginia, there is a need to spy.

As we've said here before, and repeatedly in comments, we of all people are not ones to take dogmatic pacifist positions, especially about international conflict. However there are a couple of simple rules we would like the government to follow. First, if you're gonna do it, do it right. Second, if you're gonna do it, follow the law, or use the effing democratic process to amend the law so that you can follow the law. Third, above all else, respect the Constitution.

Now, that's not so hard, is it?

Oh wait, apparently for our administration, it is.

And in completely petty snark mode, negative points assigned to the original post for misusing "begging the question." I'm going to have to get all Inigo Montoya in a minute.

Posted by binky at 05:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Help me out here...

Republicans like tax cuts so they can invest their own money, and they invest it in the stock market, and they like Bush because he helps with this right? Right?

In other words, after five years of Bush's presidency, the stock market has a cumulative gain of negative 15 points.

Under Reagan, the Dow went up 148%. Under Clinton, it grew 187%. After five years, Bush isn't quite breaking even.

Well, maybe if he clears some more brush, that will help. Washington Monthly.

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

Bush - I'll Still Torture When I Wanna; Will McCain Respond?

So it's come to this - the president is reserving his right to break the law in ANOTHER area (other than FISA I mean - what's next? arson? printing off 10's and 20's in the residence?). Putting aside Mr. Bush's staggering arrogance, elitism, utter disrespect for AMERICAN LAW and the democratic traditions thousands of brave Americans have fought and died to protect for centuries (because sadly he's made it abundantly clear that he is just that sort of "patriot"), what's John McCain going to do now? If he doesn't respond he'll show himself to be just a headline-grabbing weasel, right? I mean he stalled action on arguably the most important vote matter of the year to defend what he viewed as a vital matter of principle. If he let's the president simply choose to disobey the law on that vital matter (and the course of action backed by no fewer than 90 senators from both parties) - is McCain really as noble, tough and principled as his supporters say? I'd think not. He needs to stand up on this - very loudly - if he wants to maintain his credibility.

UPDATE!: Hilzoy has the best post on this latest bit of "I don't give a friggin' damn what the Congress wants or the Courts might require - the law is what I damn well say it is (even if the words themselves clearly don't say what I say)" presidential misbehavior.

"Respect Mah Authoritah!!!!!"

It's very much worth your time, and includes zingers about how Bush is perverting both the McCain and (Lindsay) Graham amnedments, how he's seeking to deny appeals to men who've been cleared by military tribunals, and a well-deserved smack at John Yoo (someone who clearly seems to hate democracy and much that America's government stands for - yet was prominetly employed by our dear leader and, sadly for us, has abetted his worst authoritarian impulses).

Posted by armand at 02:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dropkick Flutie

I've thought this for years, but it bears repeating: Doug Flutie is cool as shit

Dropkick. Made it. Couldn’t have kicked it any better. Any cleaner. The Dolphins were hypnotized, reduced to stonelike figurines on the sidelines. Hey, did I just see ...


Nobody in the NFL had dropkicked since 1941. Yesterday it was done by a guy who only stepped on the field once, and had never tried one before. Funny thing about playing football teams from Miami. Flutie’s always doing something for the ages, eh?

Posted by binky at 01:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The NFL Coaching Carousel

Looking for a job? If you've got the qualifications to become an NFL head coach you're in luck! The regular season only ended hours ago, but by the end of today there will be at least 6 coaching vacancies (Detroit, Green Bay, St. Louis, Kansas City, Minnesota, Houston). And the rash of firings isn't likely to be over yet. So start polishing your resumes.

Posted by armand at 11:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 01, 2006

My More-Spy-Rant-ing Jacket

My displeasure with Sony (and other record companies hiding stuff on computers) reaches new levels. And I'm not alone:

The web has been outraged by the pure evil that is the Sony Music rootkit. Why bring this up here? Well, My Morning Jacket's latest offering "Z" on Sony/Columbia, is one of the releases so infected by Sony's malicious, computer burrowing rootkit. And while many year-end Best of 2005 lists have been compiled with My Morning Jacket's album as a fine example of exemplary work, you will find their work tainted like an underage Thai prostitute with a .us web domain operating at a time of international shortage on condoms, ziplock bags or saran wrap.

I'd buy this (Quicktime) if the CD didn't contain rootkit mal-ware. Maybe I should write another love letter?

Posted by binky at 03:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Is it a pun-de-plume?

Today's NYT Magazine has a "The Way We Live Now" piece on vaginal plastic surgery, and other ridiculous genital beautifications women feel the need to undergo in order to be more appealing. Pardon me if I don't use time on the first day of what promises to be a lovely 2006 recording my outrage over the idea, especially since the usual suspects have already done a fine job. I only wanted to note the name of the author of the column: Daphne Merkin. Merkin. Merkin?!?

Tell me that someone informed her before getting her to write the piece. Please.

Posted by binky at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I missed this...

...but the Stealth Badger didn't:

The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority "in the United States" in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.

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