February 28, 2006

Matt Zoller Seitz Despises Crash

There are whispers that Paul Haggis’ “Crash” might take Best Picture from Ang Lee's gentle-spirited presumptive frontrunner “Brokeback Mountain.” I really hope it doesn’t, because if it does, I'll be so angry that I’ll have to retire my long-term posture of benign condescension towards the Oscars and start hating them on general principle.

So begins the best critique I've read yet of the terrible-yet-praised Paul Haggis film Crash. Whether you love or hate the film, if you are interested in thinking about it you should read this. It takes the laziness and lies at the heart of it head-on. The following is just a small taste. Read the whole thing for his full argument.

Haggis doesn’t care about such distinctions because deep down he doesn’t actually want to say something useful about the modern state of race relations. He just wants to be able to play with racially charged material and be acclaimed for his bravery. The up-to-the-minute realities of American racism are too subtle and elusive for Haggis and his cowriter to grasp, and require too much care to dramatize. Even if Haggis acknowledged the need for subtlety, he'd probably ignore it anyway, because it would clash with his preferred directorial mode, monumental primitivism. This filmmaker wants blood and thunder in CinemaScope and Dolby digital. He wants to shake you up. So he lays bare the American psyche circa 1971, dresses it in 2005 fashions and hopes we’re too stunned and moved to notice that he’s lied to us ...

Haggis' depiction of a world where everyone's thoughts and words are filtered through a kind of racist translator chip -- like a Spike Lee slur montage padded out to feature length -- and then spat into casual conversation is ungenerous, because it depicts every character as an actual or potential acid-spitting bigot, and it's untrue to life, because it ignores the American impulse to at least pretend one isn't a racist for fear of being ostracized by one's peers. (That why hardcore big city bigots keep their voices down when discussing race in public; they don't want to get their asses kicked.)

Haggis' depiction of modern race consciousness is so wrongheaded in so many ways that the film's critical and financial success might actually inflict damage on the culture, by making apoplectic, paranoid racism seem like the norm and encouraging audience members (particularly the young) to think Haggis is tearing off society's mask and showing how things really are, all of which will allow those same ticket buyers to feel superior to the people in the movie and think themselves incapable of "real" racism, the type depicted in "Crash." ...

Haggis and the film's defenders can pretend this is evidence of complexity and contradiction all they want; it's really just evidence of Haggis' version of Powerful Dramaturgy, which mixes the schematic earnestness of an old afterschool special and the Zen pulp grandiosity of Michael Mann in full-on existential dread mode, complete with pulsing synth music, massive telephoto closeups and time-suspending action montages. This movie should have been called "Mess." ...

Posted by armand at 10:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The IR Folk Have Time on Their Hands

create your own visited countries map

create your own visited states map

Duck of Minerva, baby!


Sorry, couldn't help myself.

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Freep it Baby, One More Time!

The party poopers reset the quiz. Vote!

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Nine Lives

The horror, the voyeuristic, pretentious - no that's not strong enough - agonizingly self-important and self-impressed horror. I just finished watching this monstrosity written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, and felt the need to blog about it immediately - if I can save even one soul from viewing it, perhaps I've made my life worthwhile by that act alone.

There is something positively painful and arrogant about the concept - just dropping us into the lives of a string of characters at moments of great stress - turning point moments devoid of much context. But that can at times kind of work. For instance, that's not why I loathed Crash - that's a film that for all its faults, and there are lots and lots of them, still made the ridiculous and extreme situations sort of work given the structure of the film. But even there you got a broader scope and more connections. Here though you get 15 minutes of character A, then the same for B, etc. - but all to what purpose? You've got me. You've got hysterical sobbing and mania and many types of fights - and I'm flumoxed as to why I should give a damn. This isn't showing is the strength of women or whatever the pitch was that got this crap produced and put on film. It's a string of largely uninteresting vignettes, often worded and directed in ways that are meant to convey MEANING and ACTING to the n-th degree.

I get close to nauseous thinking back on it.

Well, ok to be fair I can't hate 100% of something that lets me glance upon the talent of Holly Hunter and Jason Isaacs for a few minutes. But given how awful this thing is, that's small compensation. Can't someone please save us from these Paul Thomas Anderson wanna-bes!

Posted by armand at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Bird flu jumps to mammals.

The deadly strain of bird flu was confirmed Tuesday in a cat in northern Germany, the first time the virus has been identified in a mammal in the 25 nations of the European Union.

The cat was on the northern island of Ruegen, where most of the more than 100 wild birds infected by the H5N1 strain were found, the Friedrich Loeffler institute said.

The cat was found dead over the weekend and then tested positive for H5N1, laboratory leader Thomas Mettenleiter said.

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Lederman on Specter's Plan to Destroy FISA

If you haven't read this post by Marty Lederman yet, you need to if you have any interest in the FISA/domestic spying/4th Amendment debates. Senator Specter's proposal to "reform" FISA essentially guts it and gives the executive branch the kind of spying power that paranoid autocrats would lust for. Here are some passages from (the usually much more reserved) Lederman's analysis. He notes he hasn't had time to read it as closely as he'd like - but he hasn't substantially updated this post since Sunday.

It would give the Executive branch everything it has always wanted, and much more: The punishment for having broken the law with impunity would be a wholesale repeal of the law that has governed electronic surveillance for almost 30 years (and not only with respect to Al Qaeda or terrorism). In one fell swoop, the Specter legislation would undo the detailed regulatory scheme that both political branches have so carefully calibrated over more than a quarter-century ...

...if you've ever had any communication with a foreign government or organization, or its U.S. agents or employees -- that is to say, if there's "probable cause" that you live and breathe here in the U.S. -- this bill would permit the President to wiretap you indefinitely, without any showing that any of your phone calls have anything to do with a foreign entity, let alone Al Qaeda. [UPDATE: Not quite indefinitely. "Continuous" surveillance could only last 90 days, after which the NSA would have to obtain a traditional FISA order, or perhaps merely skip a day and start the surveillance anew, so that it's not "continuous" for more than 90 days.]

In other words, there would no longer be any meaningful substantive statutory restriction on the federal government's electronic domestic surveillance of U.S. persons -- the end of FISA as we know it. The only check would be an odd constitutional check: The FISA court would be required to certify that the program as a whole (again, not any particular surveillance) is "consistent with" the Fourth Amendment. This would, if I'm not mistaken, bring us right back to the pre-FISA days, when the Fourth Amendment was the only legal constraint on domestic electronic surveillance by the federal government. To be sure, under the Specter bill the Fourth Amemdent bona fides would have to be approved in advance, by the FISA court. But the proceedings would be secret, and ex parte. Moreover, the FISA Court could not possibly review the surveillance for, e.g., the "particularity" that the Fourth Amendment requires, because the FISA Court would be tasked not with determining whether any particular interception is constutitional, but somehow with making "wholesale" determinations that the program writ large is "consistent with" the Constitution. That seems untenable, at least on first glance.

Posted by armand at 01:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Delays in comments appearing

It's totally us, not you. Midterms are keeping us away from our duties. I just approved a batch of first time comments, so check back in your threads to catch up.

Mil perdones!

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The Gas Companies: Anyone Keeping an Eye on Price Gouging?

Now I fully understand the laws of supply and demand, and sure, I expected higher heating bills this winter. And of course this is perhaps a subject that I of all people shouldn't be bringing up here since I'm the one part of the Coup who lives in an apartment, not a big, old house. But I find it a little peculiar that my February heating bill is four times what it was last year (not double, not tripled, four times!) - particularly given that this February was 5 degrees warmer than last February. Is something fishy up with Dominion Hope - or are gas bills really that much higher this winter?

Posted by armand at 11:02 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 27, 2006

This is total crap

Women on Accutane will be required to have their uteruses monitored in case they accidentally get pregnant, because the drug is associated with severe birth defects. Adult women, in consultation with their doctors, taking a medicine to prevent pain and scarring. Have you ever known anyone who takes Accutane? It's a godsend (or whatever secular equivalent descriptor you want to use). I had a friend on it some years ago and it completely changed her life. More from Ema.

On the other hand, a splinter religious cult can take child brides and move them in and out of consanguinous polygynous marriages against their will, to the effect that they give birth to children with severe genetic defects in increasing numbers, and no one does anything.

Oh wait. That's because the child brides already have a patriarchy controlling their reproduction. Right.

I'm really going to have to stop with these posts. It's too easy, and too damn depressing.

Posted by binky at 11:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

By the Light of Burning Couches...

Pitt got Pitsnogled!

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Your tax dollar at work

Tom Delay needs to be scraped off of the sole of our collective shoe:

The Internal Revenue Service recently audited the books of a Texas nonprofit group that was critical of campaign spending by former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) after receiving a request for the audit from one of DeLay's political allies in the House.

The lawmaker, House Ways and Means Committee member Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), was in turn responding to a complaint about the group, Texans for Public Justice, from Barnaby W. Zall, a Washington lawyer close to DeLay and his fundraising apparatus, according to IRS documents.

The result of the inquiry?

No tax violations were found, according to a letter the IRS sent the group.

Officially, I'm changing it: What's the Matter with Texas? (with full apologies to Amanda, Norbiz, Molly Ivins, etc. and so forth).

Posted by binky at 03:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Why the Dems Need John Edwards Against John McCain

I don't think Neil the Ethical Werewolf is as clear on this point as he could be, but I think that there's more than a little bit of smart analysis in his argument. If the Democrats are going to successfully explode the rather ridiculous "bipartisan" and "moderate" reputation that John McCain and his fawning media have created, having someone with working-class roots, a great smile and an aw-shucks manner as their nominee in 2008 would be a great help to their cause. For better or for worse we are stuck with a political system in which style counts for a great deal - and John Edwards can probably much more easily make the case that he's the candidate of the middle strata of the country, not the candidate of elite interests and partisans, than someone like John Kerry or Hillary Clinton can.

Posted by armand at 03:35 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

President Bush: The Bubble Boy

This piece by Dick Polman in the Philadelphia Inquirer is worth a look. Of course the fact that the president exists in a self-segregated bubble surrounded by yes-people and all the new he's likely to like isn't anything remotely new. That's been exceedingly well documented - and the dangerous, depressing comparisons to Wilson, Nixon and LBJ have long been made. But this article notes something else that I think is important - and why this often disasterous decision-making flaw is something we need to be concerned about, now more than ever. Bush is now in the sixth year of his presidency, and a lot of the people who've been around since the start 1) don't have fresh eyes to really see things clearly and 2) are exhausted. Working at the White House is about as grueling a regimen as can be imagined (well, for the staff). It's a problem that every second-term president faces - keep around the people you think are the best, but who might really be burned out at this point, or start promoting the second and third best people. It's an enduring problem, a structural problem in our system of government. But its flaws and dangers can be greatly magnified when the president walls himself off from everyone else in the country, even his fellow partisans on Capitol Hill.

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

Gov. Fletcher's (R-KY) Latest Unethical Outrage

Neato - if I'm ever appealing a ruling before a Supreme Court, I hope I also get to appoint the judges who'll hear the case:

Judge Burdette's contributions were to Fletcher's 2003 gubernatorial campaign, and he gave the maximum contribution in the general election. One month after Fletcher was sworn-in, Burdette was rewarded with a judicial appointment by Fletcher after a vacancy occurred. Now Fletcher asks Burdette to sit on the Supreme Court to hear his final appeal in his capacity as governor -- which Burdette helped him win. This is breathtakingly audacious.

Promoting some of your campaign contributors for the purposes of hearing a single case, a case in which you are one of the parties - no, there's nothing remotely fishy about that.

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

This just in...

Michael Berube is 1.86 times as dangerous as Noam Chomsky:

Michael Berube Penn State University 266502

Noam Chomsky Massachusetts Institute of Technology 143390

Don't forget to vote for your favorite!

Posted by binky at 11:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What is and what isn't about South Dakota

My recent blogging has not been about South Dakota. Then, as I got to thinking about it, I decided, yeah, it is about South Dakota.

Not about actual South Dakota, but lurking around the edges of what South Dakota symbolizes, what it means.

Echidne of the Snakes also has not written about South Dakota. But she has:

The disadvantage the pro-choice faction is laboring under is that very few people now remember the pre-Roe era personally. Very few people have personal experiences of someone bleeding to death in a hotel room, of women being kicked out of their homes for becoming pregnant, of the double-standards that let a pregnant woman be lectured at in a church while the man who got her pregnant sits smugly in the choir. All stories that I have been told by older relatives. Young women today have not heard such stories, on the whole, and they have Roe v. Wade to thank for it. But it is hard to be grateful for something you take for granted, hard to see how the world would change if Roe was no longer there to be taken for granted. Hard, but we still have to find a way to tell these stories, to make it clear what is at stake at least for the poorest women if states like South Dakota become the rule.

Posted by binky at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2006

Tricksy Callers

Right to life activists are claiming that clinics encourage pedopiles, and put up audio to "prove" it. Unfortunately, taping a receptionist telling a caller that her birth control is "strictly confidential" doesn't prove anything except that Planned Parenthood is obeying the law. It also proves that the Right to Life organization is wasting taxpayer dollars and the legislature's time in order to pursue a change pushed by out of state interest groups and that only affects a fraction of young women seeking abortion in the state.

The right to life people say that Planned Parenthood is encouraging sexual predators by protecting patient confidentiality. In fact, they are obeying HIPAA.

The acronym HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. HIPAA is the law that brought us health care reform by allowing employees to maintain insurance coverage between jobs, prohibiting denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, and creating medical savings accounts. HIPAA also increased funding for fraud and abuse enforcement. Finally, HIPAA set forth new rules for 1) processing electronic transactions such as billing and eligibility verification, 2) protecting the security of health information, and 3) ensuring the privacy of health information.

Under HIPAA, health care providers must not notify the parents without the consent of the minor.

The health information of minors will be treated like any other health information except for the following special rules:

* As provided in West Virginia law, both parents of a child will have equal access to the child�s records, except as limited by court order or other West Virginia law. The parent objecting to a release of records to the other parent has the duty to provide us with a court order prohibiting the release.

* As provided in West Virginia law, records of the diagnosis, treatment or counseling of a minor for drug or alcohol abuse or addiction will not be released to parents or guardians without the consent of the minor.

* As provided in West Virginia law, records of the diagnosis, testing or treatment of a minor for a sexually transmitted disease will not be released to parents or guardians without the consent of the minor.

* As provided in West Virginia law, records involving the use of birth control by a minor, or of prenatal care rendered to a minor, will not be released to parents or guardians without the consent of the minor.

So why is a Texas organization calling clinics around the country, and trying to use the taped phone conversations as "proof"?

The state House of delegates will not take up the parental notification abortion bill. Supporters of the bill held a closed door meeting yesterday with house leadership and today the leadership said it would not take up the bill, but would consider it if it comes from the state senate.

Monongalia County state senator Mike Oliverio supports the bill and says so do a lot of other senators.

Marion County state senator Roman Prezioso introduced the bill and it will have to be passed by Wednesday, which is the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin.

The bill would eliminate what supporters say is a loophole in the current parental notification law that allows pregnant girls in certain situations to bypass their parents permission for an abortion through a physician's waiver. It would instead require a judicial waiver.

The most recent information available shows there were 19 physician waivers in West Virginia in the last year.

The proposed bill:

H. B. 2112

(By Delegates Blair and Sumner)
[Introduced January 11, 2006; referred to the
Committee on Health and Human Resources then the Judiciary.]

A BILL to amend and reenact §16-2F-3 of the code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to requiring a physician to receive written consent from at least one parent or legal guardian before an abortion is performed on an unemancipated minor; and providing a criminal penalty for failure to comply.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §16-2F-3 of the code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:

§16-2F-3. Parental consent and notification of at least one parent or guardian for abortions performed on unemancipated minors; waiver; notice to minor of right of petition to circuit court; minor to be referred for counseling; penalty

(a) No physician may perform an abortion upon an unemancipated minor unless such the physician has written consent from at least one of the parents or legal guardians, and has given or caused to be given at least twenty-four hours actual notice to one of the parents or to the legal guardian of the pregnant minor of his intention to perform the abortion, or, if the parent or guardian cannot be found and notified after a reasonable effort to do so, without first having given at least forty-eight hours constructive notice computed from the time of mailing to the parent or to the legal guardian of the minor: Provided, That prior to giving the notification required by this section, the physician shall advise the unemancipated minor of the right of petition to the circuit court for waiver of consent and notification: Provided, however, That any such consent and notification may be waived by a duly acknowledged writing signed by a parent or the guardian of the minor.
(b) Upon notification being given to any parent or to the legal guardian of such a pregnant minor, the physician shall refer such the pregnant minor to a counselor or caseworker of any church or school or of the department of human services or of any other comparable agency for the purpose of arranging or accompanying such the pregnant minor in consultation with her parents. Such The counselor shall thereafter be authorized to monitor the circumstances and the continued relationship of and between such minor and her parents.
(c) Parental consent and notification required by subsection (a) of this section may be waived by a physician, other than the physician who is to perform the abortion, if such other physician finds that the minor is mature enough to make the abortion decision independently or that consent and notification would not be in the minor's best interest: Provided, That such other physician shall not be associated professionally or financially with the physician proposing to perform the abortion.
(d) Any physician that fails to receive written consent from at least one parent or legal guardian, or fails to provide notification to at least one parent or legal guardian as required by this section, before performing an abortion on an unemancipated minor, except in cases where these requirements are properly waived pursuant to this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to require a physician to receive written consent from at least one parent or legal guardian before an abortion is performed on an unemancipated minor; and provides for a penalty.

Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.

And, by the way, West Virginia denies (PDF) clergy penitent privilege.

In West Virginia, health care workers, clergy and others must report abuse if the abuse meets the following:


Reasonable cause to suspect

When believe

Have observed

Now, how does one suspect, believe, observe, or report abuse from an anonymous phone call? How does one observe, believe, or have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse with no name, no ID, and in which the caller might be lying through her teeth, which was in fact the case?

That's right, getting the caller to come to a health care provider, who, if abuse is reasonably suspected, believed, or observed, will then make a report. If the caller does bring in the boyfriend (the scenario in the taped call) then the health care worker has a better chance to observe, and collect information about whether abuse has occurred, and what the ages of the involved actually are.

Is the best way to find out if a young woman has been abused to demand that an anonymous caller report her fiance as a statuatory rapist? It sounds more like a fast track to a hang up. The right to life group's argument that because a receptionist did not immediately tell the caller to report abuse, Planned Parenthood is encouraging pedophiles is unfounded. Just as I can speculate about the receptionist wanting to get the client in so that the health care workers could make a report, the group that made the calls speculates that the clinic would have encouraged pedophilia. Of course, given that the clinic can't discourage or report pedophilia with actually seeing the patient is not something the calling group will admit. They simply have no idea, based on one fake phone call, what the clinic does in cases of suspected abuse. There is nothing, however, that anyone can do to report abuse without more knowledge. I would include in that knowledge, the knowledge of whether the caller is even in the same state or if she is a real patient who is actually pregnant.

The group making the calls is based in Texas, and has been linked to the intrusive efforts of the Kansas Attorney General to subpoena the medical records of women who have sought abortions. Of course, Kansas allows girls as young as 12 to be married with parental consent.

In WV, the age of marriage is 18, but "(e) Younger parties may obtain license in case of pregnancy or birth of child."

And, in (PDF) West Virginia:

Depending on the state, defendants may be exempt from prosecution if they are married to the victim. In some states, marriage is a defense to all of the crimes listed (e.g., Alaska, District of Columbia, West Virginia); other states exclude some of the more aggravated offenses from this exemption (e.g., Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi).15 In a few states, the criminal statutes identify age limits for the marriage exemptions.16 Individual state summaries note those crimes that include spousal exemptions.17

So, the caller can get a waiver of age of consent and parental consent to marry if she is pregnant, and if she gets married, then the marriage is an exemption to all crimes:

2. Definition of Offenses States’ laws addressing sexual activity involving minors are usually included in the section of the criminal code devoted to sexual offenses. Each state summary (Section III) includes a table detailing all of the offenses in the statute that deal with statutory rape.

As noted above, most states do not have laws that specifically use the term “statutory rape;” only five include the offense of statutory rape.12 More often, state statutes include a variety of offenses addressing voluntary sexual activity involving minors. In New Jersey, for example, sexual activities involving minors is addressed in three offenses: criminal sexual contact, sexual assault, and aggravated sexual assault. The ages of the victim and the defendant as well as the nature of the sexual activity dictate under which offense the conduct falls.

In some cases, provisions addressing statutory rape are embedded in rape or sexual assault laws that typically apply to violent offenses. For example, New Hampshire defines “felonious sexual assault” as voluntary sexual penetration with someone who is at least 13 years of age and under 16 years of age, as well as acts involving the use of physical force irrespective of the age of either party. Other states have separate offenses specifically concerned with sexual crimes involving a minor. For example, Alaska’s statute includes four offenses that deal specifically with the sexual abuse of a minor.

State statutes also use a variety of terms when referring to sexual acts (e.g., sexual intercourse, sexual penetration, sexual contact, indecent contact), and the definitions of these terms are not always consistent across states. The descriptions of the offenses within each state summary use the specific terms from the statutes and the summaries include footnoted definitions of these terms whenever the statutes provide them.

Understanding the different terms used in a state statute is especially important in those states where an individual may be able to legally consent to one type of sexual activity but not another. For example, Alabama’s laws regarding the legality of sexual activities with individuals who are under 16 years of age and more than 12 years of age differ depending on the nature of the activities. In cases involving sexual intercourse, defendants over 16 years of age who are at least 2 years older than the victim are guilty of rape in the second degree. However, sexual contact is only illegal in cases where the defendant is at least 19 years of age.

More often though, all of the acts will be illegal (with the same age requirements), but the severity of the punishment will differ based on the type of sexual activity. In Kentucky for example, sexual activities with children under 12 years of age are illegal regardless of the age of the defendant. If the activities amount to sexual contact, the defendant is guilty of first degree sexual abuse (a Class D felony); if they amount to sexual intercourse, the defendant is guilty of first degree rape (a Class A felony).

This means that the caller - if she were real and actually pregnant - could use the pregnancy to get a waiver to marry her 22 year old fiance, the (imaginary, of course) one that the Right to Life group is claiming is a pedophile for impregnating her. And, if she is married, then she is exempt from the parental notification required to get an abortion in the state. A Planned Parenthood receptionist promising confidentiality about birth control is no more encouraging of the abuse of young women by older men than WV state law, which provides loopholes to further tie the young woman to the man. Then again, for the Right to Life group, it seems like what happens to the young woman's life is far less important than what happens to the pregnancy.

So what does all this tell us? Navigating the requirements of the law - both HIPAA and child abuse reporting - in the case of a young woman seeking birth control or abortion is complicated. In the already difficult circumstances of trying to get reproductive health care in an underserved state, young women face a huge burden. We also know that a right-to-life organization in Texas is targeting Planned Parenthood clinics WV and elsewhere, making calls and pretending to be pregnant teens. Then the organization claims the phone conversation is actually the same as actions on the part of the clinic, and that because a receptionist stressed confidentiality and urged the caller to come in for an appointment, that this means the clinic is encouraging pedophiles rather than reporting them. It's a specious argument, based on extremely selective interpretations. It clearly illustrates the patent mendacity of the campaign.

Instead of What's the Matter with Kansas, how about what the matter with Texas? I find it curious that the right to life people are so outraged that someone on the phone might not give a definitive answer. After all, they are hardly paragons of truth themselves.

In addition, the focus on making changes to this particular law is revealing. It changes notification to consent, and seeks to remove the medical exemption - as opposed to a judicial exemption - from parental involvement. Last year 19 of 122 young women who had abortions received medical waivers for parental consent, and one received a judge's waiver. Nineteen. I'm curious about why this is such a crucial problem to be solved. What about the rest of the one hundred and twenty two who became pregnant and got abortions with their parents' involvement? Why not focus on getting birth control to the populations to avoid the 80% of unplanned teen pregnancies? Or prenatal care to the remaining ten percent who miscarried?

And what about those who had abortion with their parents' consent? This shows that the vast majority of the cases of young women seeking abortions in West Virginia do not need this change to the law, because they already involved their families in the decision. Why focus on the nineteen young women who sought waivers? Not to mention the absurdity of how it is that a group in Texas has more right to affect the lives of young women in West Virginia than the women's own health care providers, clergy or counselors?

After digging through the law and the facts about young women seeking abortion and birth control, as well as reading the regulations about underage marriage (I couldn't find a statistic about the number who get the pregnancy exemption for underage marriage) and sexual abuse in West Virginia, it's evident that the proposed change to the law does very little but mask an overreaching agenda in which out of state interest groups engage in the manipulation of people and information.

It's astounding the lengths that these people will go to in order to maintain control over nineteen uteruses. Then again, if they can get control over those nineteen, next they'll be after the uteruses of the 2000 adult women who get abortions every year in West Virginia. And everyone else's too.

Posted by binky at 04:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

These are the people in your neighborhood...

A story in the NYT about family, housing, and local ordinances. It turns out that "pro-family" actually meant "like-us-waspy-suburbanites."

For decades, the family has been at the center of America's culture wars. Often, the quarrelers break into predictable camps. The traditionalist side takes the family for something natural, self-evident and unchanging, with certain absolute rights that no government can violate. The reformist side holds that the family is a "social construct" that is destined to change as individuals make choices and governments pass laws that reflect new mores.

But look now. The traditionalists are hoist with their own petard. When the real desiderata of American life — convenient parking and garbage-free sidewalks — are at stake, Joe Sixpack is as willing to meddle with the traditional family as are Heather's Two Mommies. And sheltering distant relatives in various kinds of trouble — the laid-off, the dropped-out, the pregnant — is what American (extended) families have always been for. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, handed a rare opportunity to cast its foes as un-American, was planning to sue Manassas not just because it "targets families based on their nationality" but also for "an unconstitutional government infringement on the right of family members to live together." The new ordinance began to look like a losing hand. In January, the city repealed it.

But the battle may only be beginning. After all, the restrictive definition of family that was just drubbed in Manassas differs little from standard suburban operating procedure. In threatening Manassas with a lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. cited a 1977 Supreme Court decision that rejected an attempt to limit tenants to members of a nuclear family. "The tradition of uncles, aunts, cousins and especially grandparents sharing a household along with parents and children," wrote Justice Lewis Powell Jr., "has roots equally venerable and equally deserving of constitutional recognition." This is little help. Powell's words may be soaring enough to bully small-town politicians with, but they date from before the days of, for instance, covenanted child-free apartment complexes. The day-care industry, Medicaid and assisted living have all made the multigenerational family less desirable, less workable and less "normal." In short, no one in the Virginia case came up with an idea of the "single-family home" that possessed a sturdy internal logic.

Perhaps that means that, in Manassas and towns like it, it has lost its logic. The crisis in Manassas had two aspects. On the one hand, Latino immigrants do retain a robust esteem for the extended family, which many other Americans have fallen away from. On the other, whether legal or illegal, they crowd into these houses at least partly because they cannot afford to do anything else. There are now entire regions of the country — including parts of Northern Virginia — where there is no affordable traditional housing for those who work at, or near, the minimum wage.

Whether we think the purpose of families is producing babies, fostering love, tending the aged or protecting chastity, they have one thing in common. They are organized to address concrete problems, not to dispense utopian malarkey. Governments can kick problems down the road in a way that families cannot — whether the problem is a husband drinking his wages away or housing prices that have lost their apparent logical relation to hourly pay. The immigrants in Manassas are behaving like families in this sense. They are adapting their city's "single-family" housing stock to the realities of the labor market — with an indifference to government say-so that used to be called Yankee ingenuity.

This story reminded me of growing up in South Florida, and the culture clash between old Florida and Latin American Florida. Of course, I realize that oldest Florida is Hispanic, and Native American, and African, but old Florida in this sense is pre-Castro. After the Triumph of the Revolution Castro came to power, and even before for those who saw the writing on the wall, the lack of cultural comprehension was there too.

One of the things I remember hearing was "why do the Cubans leave their front doors open all the time?" I suppose, if there is going to be a misunderstanding, puzzled head scratching over door locking habits is probably not so bad. As a small child, it never occurred to me that the person who was puzzled might just ask his neighbor, "hey, do you mind if I ask...?" Not to mention that I didn't understand that "why do the Cubans" meant something more than "why does that family at the end of the block..."

As an adult, when I go home, I see this gap, and the improbability of bridging it, with a different eye. A view colored by studying social science, by living in several countries in Latin America and visiting more, by degrees in Latin American studies, and proficiency in the language of the region. And the gap is more complicated but class and race than it used to be, as the white middle class that fled the Cuban revolutionary transformation has become more diverse since the 1980s, as Central Americans and Haitians have become larger proportions of the population.

A few years ago I took a trip home, and it turned out that the cheapest flight was not to Palm Beach International airport, but to Miami. So I flew to Miami, and took the Tri-Rail up to West Palm Beach, where my family could pick me up at the train station. There are two main groups - that I could tell - that used the Tri-Rail that day. Local retirees, and tourists (plus me, of course). On the train, there were a couple of tourists, middle aged, middle class ladies who were, I found out later, from Central America. They were clearly confused about where they were and where they were going, and had a map out, trying to figure out where to get off the train and catch the bus to the mall. I'd never been on the Tri-Rail before, and I sure as hell didn't know anything about the Miami bus system, but as I sat there and watched the retirees look down their noses at the tourists, I had that same old feeling: why don't you people just get up and talk? So, I did, and with my semi-rusty portuñol (though in all liklihood the women probably spoke some English, but since they were chatting to each other in Spanish, I took the plunge), asked the ladies if they were lost, asked them what they were trying to find, apologized for not being totally familiar with the bus but at least familiar enough with the train map to get them to the right stop, listened to them talk about their girls' shopping vacation to Florida for a minute, and wished them a pleasant stay and happy shopping as they left the train. The retirees glared at me. I think I was supposed to feel chastised for violating some social norm. I couldn't help thinking that had these glaring people taken a cruise to a Caribbean port, and not been greeted by helpful people speaking English, they would have been insulted. And thinking about it now, I'll bet those retirees had more in common with the ladies from Honduras than they did with me, since they were probably all middle class moms who like shopping, and were out for an excursion with their female friends. The barriers to asking, to talking, to understanding, however, were stronger than the incentives to stand up and find the plentiful common ground.

This New York Times piece reminded me of that train trip because it's another manifestation of how class, race, language and nationality interfere with the recognition of shared values. And how we find out that the rhetoric of values frequently masks the fear of difference.

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I passed!

You Passed 8th Grade Math
Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!
Could You Pass 8th Grade Math?

Via PZ Myers. I have to say, however, that they almost got me on the ^ thingy. After all these years of studying portuguese, I like, "huh? since when does math have a circumflex? Ê uma loucura, gente!

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February 25, 2006

Bill Hicks

Love him. Gone too soon.

If you've never heard "suckin satan's cock," you haven't lived.

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Thoughtful Post on Summers, Academic Freedom

From one of my favorite blogs, a post on civility and censorship.

Posted by binky at 09:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Morgantown's Own

Don Knotts died yesterday. He was too ill to make it back for Don Knotts day here last year, and I don't know if he ever got to see Don Knotts Boulevard along the Monongahela River.

When I was a kid my dad and I always watched the Andy Griffith show - which when I was small, I mangled into The Andy and Mayberry Show - and I thought Barney Fife was the best, even when he moved away to Mt. Pilot.

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Bush Fans - Ever Heard of Karl Popper?

This is one of the things I find most fascinating about Bush-world - all is always well. No matter what is going on, the President is always right.

Posted by armand at 02:25 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

And as long as I'm not posting anything substantive...


From PerezHilton.

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I wonder if this will be as successful as the Libertarian colonization of New Hampshire?

This time it's Christians looking to establish "constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles" in South Carolina.

We are violated in our right to Life:

  • Unborn babies are subject to slaughter by abortionists and their own mothers under any pretext whatsoever.
  • The elderly, infirm, and disabled are subject to forced starvation and involuntary euthanasia. 1
  • Citizens are subjected to the perils of imperialist entanglements abroad, and left unprotected from alien invaders at home.

We are violated in our right to Liberty:

  • Abortion continues against the wishes of many States and in violation of the reserved powers of the States under the 10th Amendment.
  • Christians are denied their rights to free speech, freedom of the press, the display of religious monuments, and other expressions of faith in the public sphere. 1 2 3
  • Citizens are denied their rights to keep and bear arms sufficient for the restraint of tyranny.
  • Men, women, and children are involuntarily exposed to the corrupting influences of homosexuality, pornography, and other perversities protected and financed by the national government.
  • Sodomy is now legal and celebrated as "diversity" by order of the U.S. Supreme Court rather than condemned as perversion. Another usurpation of the rights of the States by the federal government.
  • Families are subject to the trauma of no-fault divorce, often used to unjustly deny fathers equal protection under law and fundamental family rights.
  • Children are seized from good parents arbitrarily and under false pretexts, and placed in the care of the state, as driven by federal funding.
  • Federal courts prevent children in public schools from freely practicing Christianity.
  • Children who pray in public schools are subject to prosecution. 1
  • Federal expenditures on education are unconstitutional and promote revisionist history and statist sociology. Our schools continue to teach the discredited theory of Darwinian evolution. 1

We are violated in our right to Property:

  • Private property is subject to unreasonable restrictions upon use and development by illegal federal environmental and zoning regulations.
  • Private homes may now be arbitrarily seized by government for any reason whatsoever.
  • Private commerce is restricted by overbearing and unwarranted government regulation and taxation.
  • Citizens are taxed without their consent in ways that are unjust, unreasonable, and contrary to the public welfare.

As Bob's guest blogger points out, why not South Dakota?

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General Hospital


I am of a certain age that I remember when General Hospital was the shit. Now they're trying to bring back the magic.

Of course, the "magic" includes a plot line where Luke raped Laura and then they married in the biggest daytime wedding event of the decade.

La la la la la Noah Drake la la la la la!

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February 24, 2006

More Good News From Iraq

The only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded to a level requiring them to fight with American troops backing them up, the Pentagon said Friday.

The battalion, made up of 700 to 800 Iraqi Army soldiers, has repeatedly been offered by the U.S. as an example of the growing independence of the Iraqi military.

The competence of the Iraqi military has been cited as a key factor in when U.S. troops will be able to return home.

"As we see more of these Iraqi forces in the lead, we will be able to continue with our stated strategy that says as Iraqi forces stand up, we will stand down," President Bush said last month.

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Guess I Screwed That One Up

Your Scholastic Strength Is Deep Thinking
You aren't afraid to delve head first into a difficult subject, with mastery as your goal.
You are talented at adapting, motivating others, managing resources, and analyzing risk.

You should major in:

Foreign language
What Should You Major In?

Note what isn't on that list. And, I find it interesting that it's also not considered "deep thinking."

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He called 'em "hypocritical!"

What do you know, Rockefeller's releasing his correspondence again. This time he gets in a slap at Woodward too.

Since I joined the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2001 and became Vice Chairman in 2003, I increasingly have been disturbed by the amount of classified material that finds its way into the public realm. This problem has been with us for as long as governments have tried to keep secrets, but I have observed a marked acceleration of the practice in the last five years.

As you well know, the disclosure of classified information does serious damage to our intelligence programs and undermines our national security. On this point, I am in agreement with sentiment expressed by Porter Goss, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in his February 10, 2006, op-ed in the New York Times. He accurately describes many of the negative effects these revelations can have.

I am surprised and puzzled, however, that Director Goss chose to lay the blame for this damage on what he describes as misguided whistleblowers. Clearly "leaks" and damaging revelations of intelligence sources and methods are generated primarily by Executive Branch officials pushing a particular policy, and not by the rank-and-file employees of the intelligence agencies.

For conformation we need look no further than press reports from the past few days. On February 9th the National Journal reported that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a grand jury that he was "authorized" by Vice President Cheney and other White House superiors to disclose classified information from a National Intelligence Estimate to the press to defend the Administration's use of pre-war intelligence in making the case to go-to war in Iraq.

This blatant abuse of intelligence information for political purposes is inexcusable, but all too common. Throughout the period leading up to the Iraq war the Administration selectively declassified or leaked information related to Iraq's acquisition of aluminum tubes, the alleged purchase uranium, the non-existent operational connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, and numerous other issues.

The leaks associated with the Iraq war were a continuation of a pattern of using classified material for political gain that began after the September 11 attacks. In his 2002 book, Bush at War, Bob Woodward described almost unfettered access to classified material of the most sensitive nature. According to his account he was provided information related to sources and. methods, extremely sensitive covert actions, and foreign intelligence liaison relationships. It is no wonder that, as Director Goss wrote, "because of the number of recent news reports discussing our relationships with other intelligence services, some of these critical partners have even informed the C.I.A. that they are reconsidering their participation in some of our most important antiterrorism ventures."

I wrote both fonner Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet and Acting DCI John McLaughlin seeking to detennine what steps were being taken to address the appalling disclosures contained in Bush at War. The only response I received was to indicate that the leaks had been authorized by the Administration. The CIA has still not responded to a follow-up letter I sent a year and a half ago on September 1, 2004, trying to pin down which officials were authorized to meet with Mr. Woodward and by whom, and what intelligence information was conveyed during these authorized exchanges.

Unfortunately, this pattern continues.


Given the Administration's continuing abuse of intelligence information for political purposes, its criticism of leaks is extraordinarily hypocritical. Preventing damage to intelligence sources and methods from media leaks will not be possible until the highest levels of the Administration cease to disclose classified information on a selective basis for political purposes. The President and other senior members of the Administration must set the example for others to follow.

PDF file at Think Progress.

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Newsflash: College Republican Says You Spot teh Gays by the Way They Talk

Ann Coulter gave a speech at Indiana University. When a student asked her whether or not, since she hated democrats so much, she would advocate for a dictatorship to simply oppress them. Her response?

"You don't want the Republicans in power, does that mean you want a dictatorship, gay boy?" she said.

About what you'd expect from Coulter.

But wait, there's more:

IU College Republicans President Shane Kennedy defended Coulter's comments by stressing that the speech was for entertainment and attendees should have expected Coulter to say controversial comments.

"I think the guy could have been more respectful to her," he said. "I mean, we already know that she was going to be controversial and she was just saying what people were thinking. If you are going to talk like you are gay, then Ann Coulter is going to call you gay. Of course, she said it in a spiteful tone, but it was expected."

Hmm, maybe someone need to let Jesus' General and the Operation Yellow Elephant people know about this college republican. Not only is he a potential recruit, but he can spot teh gays and successfully weed them out at the new kinder gentler boot camp.

Posted by binky at 09:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"Fuck them! They think you smell like ass!"

But of course, it's The Daily Show.

Posted by binky at 02:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

They aren't born that way

It's a lifestyle choice, not genetics. And we have to protect the children from their sordid influence:

“credible research” shows that adopted children raised in [their] households are more at risk for developing “emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities.”

No, not teh gays. The Republicans!

State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents." The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship.

On Thursday, the Youngstown Democrat said he had not yet found a co-sponsor.

Hagan said his "tongue was planted firmly in cheek" when he drafted the proposed legislation. However, Hagan said that the point he is trying to make is nonetheless very serious.

Hagan said his legislation was written in response to a bill introduced in the Ohio House this month by state Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, that is aimed at prohibiting gay adoption.

"We need to see what we are doing," said Hagan, who called Hood's proposed bill blatantly discriminatory and extremely divisive. Hagan called Hood and the eight other conservative House Republicans who backed the anti-gay adoption bill "homophobic."

Posted by binky at 01:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Parental Choice and Twins

The New York Times has an article today about the practice of separating twins and other multiples into separate classrooms. The long-standing - and widespread - practice is done in order to foster the independence of children. Parents who witness this trauma their kids go through, and some researchers, are starting to question the effectiveness of the policy, and have results from studies that show potentially negative long-term effects on emotional health from separating twins to early.

I'm not a twin, but this article brought up one of my most traumatic things that happened to me in elementary school (yes, I remember). An offhand comment in the article:

"In our culture we appreciate uniqueness," Dr. Segal said, "and people wrongly equate twin closeness with a lack of individuality." The insistence on separating twins, she added, flies in the face of what psychologists know about friendship.

"There's research that suggests that when friends are in the same class, they're more exploratory, they cling to the teacher less," she said. "So if we're worried about individuality, why do we let best friends go to school together?"

Actually, we don't.

There were three of us who were so close we were like sisters: Beverly, Lisa and me. We did everything together from the time we were tiny. Our families went to the same church. We were in Sunday school together. We were in the Pee-Wee choir, and sang "Jesus Loves Me" in choir robes that barely covered our little butts, they were so short. We - and our grandparents and even some cousins - lived within about a six block radius. Lisa's mom worked for my dad. Beverly's dad taught my older siblings geometry at the high school. We went to kindergarden together.

And then, when it was time to assign us to first grade classes, the school separated us. And they did it on purpose. They thought we were too close. We were too good of friends. And my mom wasn't happy. Lisa and I were upset. I can still remember the feeling that they "took" Beverly away from us. Took her, and put her with some other kids. They took our Beverly and gave her to some other kids.

We were miserable. Her class was across the hall, but we didn't get to mingle. In our new class there was a boy who tormented me, who "liked" me, but was bad. He wasn't bad bad, he was unruly. He turned out to be a nice, handsome young man by high school, but in first grade he was one of those little hellions. So what did the teacher do? As an incentive to get him to behave, because he adored me, the teacher reassigned him to sit with me. We had those dual desks, that were actually like mini tables with a drawer for each student. So he sat next to me. And plagued me. Lisa sat across the room. I can remember looking at her over there, watching her suck her finger. She wasn't a thumbsucker, but a pinkysucker. At least she had her pinky. I had Rodolfo. And the kids across the hall had Beverly.

In hindsight, I think they probably did it for some of the same reasons they cite in the article. That one twin is more verbal, or speaks for the others. Beverly was the most outgoing, Lisa the most shy. They probably thought it would be a chance for Lisa, and maybe me, but I don't remember being either shy or outgoing, to have a chance to shine alone, and not be in the shadow of our outgoing companion. Did it work? I don't know. Lisa stilled sucked her finger all the way through first grade. And I had Rodolfo to deal with, and I remember trying to get as far away from him as I could at our little desk, and trying to be as still as possible, to create a zone of calm, a cone of well, you get the idea. And yes, I could write a whole feminist blog post about why was it my job as a good little girl to socialize a rowdy little boy, or why getting him to calm down - again, I remember the teacher talking about how I was to help him be good by being his example - was seen to be more important than letting me do my work in peace.

We stayed friends, Lisa, Beverly and I. Things happened though. The next year I got moved to another school that had a gifted program. Beverly's mom died of cancer a couple years after that. We were in Girl Scouts together. Our families still went to church together. We were still in choir, and we would pair up on Sundays as the acolytes, then sit in the back pews and roll our eyes.

By the time we were reunited in high school, where Beverly's dad taught us geometry, we were on different tracks. I was already a full fledged dork. Beverly was doing student council. Lisa was doing newspaper and yearbook. We were still friends, but we grew apart, as kids do. I can't say whether or not the first grade separation was part of it. I remember feeling like it was, and wondering why.

Posted by binky at 11:39 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Boy Who's a Thorn in the Side of the Brits and the FBI?

You've got to be kidding me. This is who's now being investigated as a post 9/11 threat? Does anyone remember North Korea? Pakistan? Don't our government agents have more useful things to do? Why are we expending resources examining 80's music icons?

Posted by armand at 10:46 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 23, 2006

Scary View of Future Past

It's about time to start tracking statistics on tubal ligations. An interesting chart from the UN shows contraception rates. Something many readers might not know is that female sterilization is considered as contraception in most population data.

So why did I link to a story about the abortion ban and criminalization in South Dakota, but write about sterilization?

The news from South Dakota, and from around the country, about the efforts of religious extremists to remove women's reproductive autonomy against the will of the majority of the population of the United States, has me thinking about Brazil. Thinking about the women I knew there, and many I didn't, and what they did to try to control their fertility in a political system that restricted their ability to make decisions for themselves. The ones who were lucky and had access to oral contraceptives, the many - also fortunate - who had IUDs, the less lucky who self-aborted with Cytotec. It has me thinking about the dual nature of sterilization, which has been used both to forcibly remove women's reproductive autonomy and a last resort for women who had neither access to contraception nor abortion, but could get the procedure tacked on while in the hospital to give birth. If they couldn't have the choice to decide how many more children they could have, they chose none.

It's been a few years since I had a graduate course on demography, and I was curious about the correlation between sterilization rates and abortion rates, wondering if sterilizations went up as abortion became more restricted. I started looking for some sources, and found this excellent excerpt from a book on global population control. The search did not turn up the kind of data I was looking for, but the Harvard link shows a great deal of complexity. It raised new questions too, as I was thinking about if the anti-abortion crusaders are really pro-natalist, if they understand the consequences of trying to force women to reproduce, and the potential consequences of success. The section on sterilization in India is eye-opening. Also worth considering, if one really cares about women's autonomy, is the consideration the article gives to post-sterilization regret, which is striking in comparison to the much lesser regret after abortion. Yet women will choose sterilization.

And when thinking about the dangers, injustices and loss of freedom for women that comes from the state intervening where it does not belong, the train eventually leads to Romania.

Bottom line: Even the Communists, the garbage stuck to the bottom of humanity's drain, never pretended that prohibiting women to make their own medical decisions was anything other than a coerced sacrifice to the altar of state ideology. If, in today's America, we reach a point where not only are female patients, and their families, subject to communist policies, but the policies are implemented under the guise of noble intentions and consequences [not only is the loss of control over your internal organs for your own good and you must accept it, you must also appreciate, and be thankful for, it], one must ask: What kind of America is this?

Furthermore, while the various efforts--marches, petitions, public statements, blog posts--to raise public awareness of the issues at hand by people who think female patients should be allowed to make their own medical decisions are commendable, I don't think they are very effective. Granted, the enormity of the negative impact of female patients losing the ability to have a say in what happens to their health and their life is difficult to convey in the abstract. Difficult, but not impossible. For example, here's a more realistic alternative. Regardless of your gender, beliefs, thirst for power, etc., next time you have to consent to a medical procedure, 1) refuse to sign the consent, and 2) insist that your doctor only perform the procedure after contacting your local politician and securing his/her permission. This should help put some things in perspective. As would complications from a septic abortion--the great clarifier. But I digress.


The government responded in 1966 with a decree that prohibited abortion on demand and introduced other pronatalist policies to increase birthrates. The decree stipulated that abortion would be allowed only when pregnancy endangered the life of a woman or was the result of rape or incest, or if the child was likely to have a congenital disease or deformity. Also an abortion could be performed if the woman was over forty-five years of age or had given birth to at least four children who remained under her care. Any abortion performed for any other reason became a criminal offense, and the penal code was revised to provide penalties for those who sought or performed illegal abortions.

Other punitive policies were introduced. Men and women who remained childless after the age of twenty-five, whether married or single, were liable for a special tax amounting to between 10 and 20 percent of their income. The government also targeted the rising divorce rates and made divorce much more difficult. By government decree, a marriage could be dissolved only in exceptional cases. The ruling was rigidly enforced, as only 28 divorces were allowed nationwide in 1967, compared with 26,000 the preceding year.

Some pronatalist policies were introduced that held out the carrot instead of the stick. Family allowances paid by the state were raised, with each child bringing a small increase. Monetary awards were granted to mothers beginning with the birth of the third child. In addition, the income tax rate for parents of three or more children was reduced by 30 percent.

Because contraceptives were not manufactured in Romania, and all legal importation of them had stopped, the sudden unavailability of abortion made birth control extremely difficult. Sex had traditionally been a taboo subject, and sex education, even in the 1980s, was practically nonexistent. Consequently the pronatalist policies had an immediate impact, with the number of live births rising from 273,687 in 1966 to 527,764 in 1967--an increase of 92.8 percent. Legal abortions fell just as dramatically with only 52,000 performed in 1967 as compared to more than 1 million in 1965. This success was due in part to the presence of police in hospitals to ensure that no illegal abortions would be performed. But the policy's initial success was marred by rising maternal and infant mortality rates closely associated with the restrictions on abortion.

The increase in live births was short-lived. After the police returned to more normal duties, the number of abortions categorized as legal rose dramatically, as did the number of spontaneous abortions. The material incentives provided by the state, even when coupled with draconian regulation and coercion, were not enough to sustain an increase in birthrates, which again began to decline. As the rate of population growth declined, the government continued efforts to increase birthrates. In 1974 revisions in the labor code attempted to address the problem by granting special allowances for pregnant women and nursing mothers, giving them a lighter work load that excluded overtime and hazardous work and allowed time off to care for children without loss of benefits.

The Ceausescu regime took more aggressive steps in the 1980s. By 1983 the birthrate had fallen to 14.3 per 1,000, the rate of annual increase in population had dipped to 3.7 per 1,000, and the number of abortions (421,386) again exceeded the number of live births (321,489). Ceausescu complained that only some 9 percent of the abortions performed had the necessary medical justification. In 1984 the ,b>legal age for marriage was lowered to fifteen years for women, and additional taxes were levied on childless individuals over twenty-five years of age. Monthly gynecological examinations for all women of childbearing age were instituted, even for pubescent girls, to identify pregnancies in the earliest stages and to monitor pregnant women to ensure that their pregnancies came to term. Miscarriages were to be investigated and illegal abortions prosecuted, resulting in prison terms of one year for the women concerned and up to five years for doctors and other medical personnel performing the procedure. Doctors and nurses involved in gynecology came under increasing pressure, especially after 1985, when "demographic command units" were set up to ensure that all women were gynecologically examined at their place of work. These units not only monitored pregnancies and ensured deliveries but also investigated childless women and couples, asked detailed questions about their sex lives and the general health of their reproductive systems, and recommended treatment for infertility.

Furthermore, by 1985 a woman had to have had five children, with all five still under her care, or be more than forty-five years old to qualify for an abortion. Even when an abortion was legally justified, after 1985 a party representative had to be present to authorize and supervise the procedure. Other steps to increase material incentives to have children included raising taxes for childless individuals, increasing monthly allowances to families with children by 27 percent, and giving bonuses for the birth of the second and third child.

Although government expenditures on material incentives rose by 470 percent between 1967 and 1983, the birthrate actually decreased during that time by 40 percent. After 1983, despite the extreme measures taken by the regime to combat the decline, there was only a slight increase, from 14.3 to 15.5 per 1,000 in 1984 and 16 per 1,000 in 1985. After more than two decades of draconian anti- abortion regulation and expenditures for material incentives that by 1985 equalled half the amount budgeted for defense, Romanian birthrates were only a fraction higher than those rates in countries permitting abortion on demand.

Romanian demographic policies continued to be unsuccessful largely because they ignored the relationship of socioeconomic development and demographics. The development of heavy industry captured most of the country's investment capital and left little for the consumer goods sector. Thus the woman's double burden of child care and full-time work was not eased by consumer durables that save time and labor in the home. The debt crisis of the 1980s reduced the standard of living to that of a Third World country, as Romanians endured rationing of basic food items and shortages of other essential household goods, including diapers. Apartments were not only overcrowded and cramped, but often unheated. In the face of such bleak conditions, increased material incentives that in 1985 amounted to approximately 3.61 lei per child per day--enough to buy 43 grams of preserved milk--were not enough to overcome the reluctance of Romanian women to bear children.

In 1989 abortion remained the only means of fertility control available to an increasingly desperate population. The number of quasi-legal abortions continued to rise, as women resorted to whatever means necessary to secure permission for the procedure. Women who failed to get official approval were forced to seek illegal abortions, which could be had for a carton of Kent cigarettes.

Despite the obvious reluctance of women to bear children because of socioeconomic conditions, the Ceausescu regime continued its crusade to raise birthrates, using a somewhat more subliminal approach. In 1986 mass media campaigns were launched, extolling the virtues of the large families of the past and of family life in general. Less subtle were the pronouncements that procreation was the patriotic duty and moral obligation of all citizens. The campaign called for competition among judete (counties) for the highest birthrates and even encouraged single women to have children despite the fact that illegitimacy carried a considerable social stigma.

Critics call Amanda ill-tempered, hysterical, and worse for taking a collection of proposed restrictions on women's autonomy and following them through to their cumulative impact.

It's practically a full-time job to keep up with all the assaults on women's liberty and autonomy: Lies in abstinence education, Pro-natalist trolls at Pharyngula, not really about babies, anti-abortion activists also attack contraception and family planning.

Outright falsehoods employed in the attack on contraception? I've seen so many discussions that are full of misinformation, that Plan B causes abortion (it doesn't) that hormonal contraception, by thinning the uterine lining causes abortions (it doesn't).

And you think the idea that reproduction and nationalism in the United States couldn't be further from Romania? How about your patriotic duty to reproduce from Townhall? Because of course, you're not really a woman unless you are "capable of becoming pregnant"? Anti-contraception for married couples?

It's not even necessary to focus on the right to abortion or calls to patriotic reproduction to find calls to restrict women's freedoms, just because they don't deserve it: there the proliferation and normalization of MRA anti-woman rhetoric, argument about men's right to women's bodies, especially in marriage with patriarchal ideology and spousal consent.

Think the pro-birth madness can't get any weirder, that the crusaders won't be happy until everyone possible is knocked up? Think again: lawmakers who want to control (read: prevent) people who want to reproduce about which I also posted.

Think that at least in all of this the pro-natalists will want to protect women's reproductive systems - especially the all important cervix - and their lives? blocking anti cancer vaccine for fear it would cause promiscuity and Twisty's view of it.

I've barely grazed the surface of Dear Spinster Aunt Twisty who has her own view of all this, and haven't even started on the systematic picking apart of the policy implications by Scott Lemieux.

How can we possibly compare the US to the abuse of women's human rights in the worst communist state? The majority of the people in this country don't want that kind of control over women's - and men's - lives. The majority want to continue to make such decisions themselves, with their families, in consultation with their doctors, their God(s) or Goddess(es). Make no mistake about the crusaders. They don't care who you are, what you know, who you worship, if you worship, or whether or not you vote. They care more about their self-righteous, self-indulgent, authoritarian worldview.

And it might just be that to preserve their own reproductive freedom, women might freely choose to permanently forgo reproduction entirely, might risk their lives, to avoid submission to a government sanctioned religious ideology based on the control over and enforced inequality of women.

Posted by binky at 07:39 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Declining Income

Because Bloodless Coup is based in a poor state, we're used to hearing bad news about the economic picture, or at least to the idea that there are a significant number of people who are not doing OK economically. But because West Virginia is fairly cheap in some respects (barring the boomtowns of the Eastern Panhandle) a dollar, especially a housing dollar, tends to go far enough.

Then I followed a link to this this AP story.

Average incomes after adjusting for inflation actually fell from 2001 to 2004, and the growth in net worth was the weakest in a decade, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday.

Many families were struggling in the aftermath of the 2001 recession and the bursting of the stock market bubble in 2000, the Fed's latest "Survey of Consumer Finances" showed. The comprehensive look at household balance sheets comes every three years.

Average family incomes, after adjusting for inflation, fell to $70,700 in 2004, a drop of 2.3 percent when compared with 2001. That was the weakest showing since a decline of 11.3 percent from 1989 to 1992, a period that also covered a recession.

"Also covered a recession." Does that mean that the period covered the decline and also covered a recession, or that this period covers a recession and that period also covered a recession? Ah writing.

The average incomes had soared by 17.3 percent in the 1998-2001 period and 12.3 percent from 1995 to 1998 as the country enjoyed the longest economic expansion in history.

The median family income, the point where half the families made more and half made less, rose a tiny 1.6 percent to $43,200 in 2004 compared with 2001.

Thank dog that the only mouths I have to feed are furry, because a youngish college professor in the social sciences in West Virginia makes below the median family income. But please, don't say anything in front of the p-e-t-s because they think they are p-e-o-p-l-e, maybe even b-a-b-i-e-s. Capisce?

The gap between the very wealthy and other income groups widened during the period.

The top 10 percent of households saw their net worth rise by 6.1 percent to an average of $3.11 million while the bottom 10 percent suffered a decline from a net worth in which their assets equaled their liabilities in 2001 to owing $1,400 more than their total assets in 2004.

"This is the continuing story of the rich getting richer," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York. "Clearly, the gains in wealth are going to the top end."

Surprise, surprise, surprise!

Well, at least we are a growing ownership society.

The Fed survey found that the percentage of Americans who owned stocks, either directly or through a mutual fund, fell by 3.3 percentage points to 48.6 percent in 2004, down from 51.9 percent in 2001. Analysts said this was an indication that investors burned by plunging stock prices in the decade's early years have been leery about getting back into the market.

The share of Americans' financial assets invested in stocks dipped to 17.6 percent in 2004, down from 21.7 percent in 2001. But reflecting the housing boom, the share of assets made up by home ownership rose to 50.3 percent in 2004, compared with 46.9 percent in 2001.

The Fed survey found that debts as a percent of total assets rose to 15 percent in 2004, up from 12.1 percent in 2001. Mortgages to finance home purchases were by far the biggest share of total debt at 75.2 percent in 2004, unchanged from the 2001 level.

So much for the payback on that patriotic spending.

And if you were wondering, yes, I screwed up the time stamp on the big female sterilization and abortion rights post. Oops!

Posted by binky at 06:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Currently leading the pack with over 20,000 votes...

...the most dangerous professor in America, Michael Bérubé.

He's running a campaign. Help a commie pinko mind warper out and vote whydontcha?

UPDATE: A few short hours later, at midnight, he's up over 100,000 votes. Danger, danger, danger!

Posted by binky at 05:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

baby steps

We passed 20,000 visits today. I was going to identify our lucky 20,000th guest by state, but it's someone who is using an anonymizer. So, hey, thanks for stopping by, whoever you are!

Oh, and we got a visit from the Senate Sergeant at Arms today, but alas, it was 20,009.

Posted by binky at 04:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let's Destroy the Electoral College

Since there's so much talk of democracy going around in the comments threads, I thought I should note this effort. I doubt it's going anywhere (who knew Birch Bayh and John Anderson were still alive?), but it would be great to abandon the current system by which we elect out presidents. It's not democratic, could possibly explode into a horrifying fiasco if the election is turned over the US House of Representatives, and it could produce the ugliest and most capricious political wheeling and dealing imagineable (which is saying a hell of a lot). Don't believe me? Well, reflect on the Wallace campaign in 1968 or Jeff Greenfield's novel The People's Choice (and shudder appropriately).

Posted by armand at 01:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

"Clearly Inebriated"

[EDIT: popular consensus says this is total crap.]

Secret Service agents say Cheney was drunk when he shot lawyer. And yes, I know what you're thinking. So does the author of the piece.

I'm still not all that interested in this. However I find it interesting - if this is true - that insiders are leaking on this.

Via the Liberal Avenger.

Posted by binky at 08:58 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 22, 2006

Movies and Public Safety

Who knew there was a connection?

The actors who star in movie The Road to Guantanamo were questioned by police at Luton airport under anti-terrorism legislation, it has emerged.

The men, who play British inmates at the detention camp, were returning from the Berlin Film Festival where the movie won a Silver Bear award.

One of the actors, Rizwan Ahmed, said a police officer asked him if he intended to make any more "political" films.

The men were released quickly and not arrested, said Bedfordshire police.

"Six people were stopped under the Terrorism Act. This is something that happens all the time and obviously at airports and train stations," said a spokeswoman.

"There is a heightened state of security since the London bombings. Public safety is paramount."

Mikevotes found it first.

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

The White Figure by James Lee Byars

At some point I really should make a post dealing with the works of a couple of the other artists in this show, Robert Irwin and Dan Flavin (and related artists like James Turrell), whose creations focusing on light and color and perception I find fascinating - and really, really, really like. But for today's moment of Zen I'll instead link to this. What do you think? Creepy? Majestic? Powerful? Perfect? I don't like it in the way that I like the work of the artists I mentioned above. But particularly in this setting, I think it's both peaceful and disquieting all at once. And that's rather interesting.

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

Where else but California?

Behold the power of poop.

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

Deaths of Those in US Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan

The latest tally - 98.

The report defines the 34 cases classified as homicides as "caused by intentional or reckless behaviour". It says another 11 cases have been deemed suspicious and that between eight and 12 prisoners were tortured to death.

Aren't you glad George Bush has restored honor and dignity to the White House?

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

Critics to Olympic Ice Skaters: That Costume is So Gay!

Not that they'd say that of course.

Then there's three-time American champ Johnny Weir. For the short program to Camille Saint-Saens' "The Swan," he was dressed as the bird itself. The bottom of his costume was black with cutouts that look like feathers. The silver-and-white top appeared to be covered in feathers, and a red glove on his right hand -- he's dubbed it Camille -- made his arm look like a swan when he raised it.

It was, uh, interesting. And it could have been worse. The designer's idea was to have molting blue feathers running down the left arm, on top of the fishnet.

"I thought that was a little much," Weir said.

You think?

[UPDATE: Original title "Don't be so gay." Hey, I feel more clever at 2 am.]

Posted by binky at 12:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Samarra Shrine's Golden Dome "Heavily Damaged"

This is merely "heavily damaged"? That's how I heard the damage described on NPR this morning. That's how they've captioned the pictures at The New York Times. And I guess if they are talking about the entire shrine that's largely accurate. But if they are talking about the dome, and a lot of news reports today are explicitly talking about that, to my eye "completely destroyed" is a more accurate description.

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

Snarky E-mails the Key to Success in the Bush/Rice State Dept.

Why save the most telling part of what's really going on the State Department reorganization for the last three paragraphs?

Instead, a relatively junior Foreign Service officer, who is outranked by several officials in the bureau but who is considered skeptical of the IAEA, was named acting head of the office. Last year, two months before ElBaradei and the IAEA were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the official sent an e-mail to his colleagues ridiculing the idea. The subject line read: "A Nobel for the IAEA? Please."

Three officials familiar with the reorganization said the actions were necessary because this office -- and others -- had been openly opposed to administration policies and thus was perceived as incompetent. "You can't expect everyone to agree with you. But you do expect results," one official said. "The office became a black hole and was very ineffective."

Supporters of these officials acknowledge that they were sometimes appalled by administration positions, with several saying they had at times been embarrassed for the United States. But they also noted that the IG report had praised the office as being effective, well-run and having high morale -- in contrast to the assessment of its counterpart in the arms-control bureau.

I miss Colin Powell.

Posted by armand at 10:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bush to Veto Anti-Dubai Deal Legislation?


Put another way - as if.

Look, I'm sure the president and vice president and their "big oil" buddies are chummy with certain leaders of Dubai. And hey, despite being Muslims, some of the we-are-so-much-more-Christian-than-thou crowd might support the deal too (once they are informed that gays are executed in the UAE). But among every other set of the electorate this is such an enormous political loser that Karl Rove would likely break both of the president's arms before he'd let Bush use the first veto of his presidency on this measure.

That the president is publicly fighting back on this is a political dream come true for the Democrats. And if he were to actually go through with a veto - well it would be like Mardi Gras and Christmas all rolled into one for Harry Reid and his pals. In calling the president politically "tone deaf" on this issue Sen. Graham (R-SC) is being much to kind.

Though in a way the president's "how dare you question my authoriteh" response is pretty amusing and predictable. Yet more Bush huffing and puffing, all hat and no cattle nonsense. But speaking as a Democrat, please Mr. President - don't stop!

Posted by armand at 10:00 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

February 21, 2006

More Re-Secreting

And unlike the last one, we can blame this one on the Bush administration.

Sometimes it’s the small abuses scurrying below radar that reveal how profoundly the Bush administration has changed America in the name of national security. Buried within the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 is a regulation that bars most public access to birth and death certificates for 70 to 100 years. In much of the country, these records have long been invaluable tools for activists, lawyers, and reporters to uncover patterns of illness and pollution that officials miss or ignore.

In These Times has obtained a draft of the proposed regulations now causing widespread concern among state officials. It reveals plans to create a vast database of vital records to be centralized in Washington, and details measures that states must implement–and pay millions for—before next year’s scheduled implementation.

The draft lays out how some 60,000 already strapped town and county offices must keep the birth and death records under lock and key and report all document requests to Washington. Individuals who show up in person will still be able to obtain their own birth certificates, and in some cases, the birth and death records of an immediate relative; and “legitimate” research institutions may be able to access files. But reporters and activists won’t be allowed to fish through records; many family members looking for genetic clues will be out of luck; and people wanting to trace adoptions will dead-end. If you are homeless and need your own birth certificate, forget it: no address, no service.

Consider the public health implications. A few years back, a doctor in a tiny Vermont town noticed that two patients who lived on the same hill had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hearing rumors of more cases of the relatively rare and always fatal disease, the doctor notified the health department. Citing lack of resources, it declined to investigate. The doc then told a reporter, who searched the death certificates filed in the town office only to find that ALS had already killed five of the town’s 1,300 residents. It was statistically possible, but unlikely, that this 10-times higher-than-normal incidence was simply chance. Since no one knows what causes ALS, clusters like this one, once revealed, help epidemiologists assess risk factors, warn doctors to watch for symptoms, and alert neighbors and activists.

Activists in Colorado already know what it is like when states bar access to vital records. For years, they fought the Cotter Corporation, claiming that its uranium mining operations were killing residents and workers. Unwilling to rely on the health department, which they claimed had a “cozy” relationship with the polluters, the activists tried to access death records, only to be told that it was illegal in this closed-record state. An editorial in Colorado’s Longmont Daily Times-Call lamented, “If there’s a situation that makes the case for why death certificates should be available to the public, it is th[is] Superfund area.”

Some of state officials around the country are questioning whether the new regulations themselves illegally tread on states’ rights. But the feds have been coy. Richard McCoy, public health statistic chief in Vermont, one of the nation’s 14 open records states, says, “No state is mandated to meet the regs. However if they don’t, then residents of that state will not be able to access any federal services, including social security and passports. States have no choice.”

But while the public loses access to records, the federal government gains a gargantuan national database easily cross-referenced in the name of national security. The feds’ claim that increased security will deter identity theft and terrorism is facile. Wholesale corporate data gathering is the major nexis of identity theft. As for terrorism, all the 9/11 perpetrators had valid identification.

No more Erin Brockovich!

Via Atrios.

Posted by binky at 01:38 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

I was thinking about a link dump

But Jill did it already.

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

Secret Re-Secreting of, Uh, Secret Stuff that Should have Stayed Secret (Sorta)

NYT (emphasis mine):

In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.

The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.

But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy — governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved — it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.

Mr. Aid was struck by what seemed to him the innocuous contents of the documents — mostly decades-old State Department reports from the Korean War and the early cold war. He found that eight reclassified documents had been previously published in the State Department's history series, "Foreign Relations of the United States."

"The stuff they pulled should never have been removed," he said. "Some of it is mundane, and some of it is outright ridiculous."

And they laugh when we say this administration is obsessed with secrecy. Ooh wait, I see why. They're going to use this on Massachusetts!

Among the 50 withdrawn documents that Mr. Aid found in his own files is a 1948 memorandum on a C.I.A. scheme to float balloons over countries behind the Iron Curtain and drop propaganda leaflets. It was reclassified in 2001 even though it had been published by the State Department in 1996.

It all becomes clear!

While some of the choices made by the security reviewers at the archives are baffling, others seem guided by an old bureaucratic reflex: to cover up embarrassments, even if they occurred a half-century ago.

Now, that makes perfect sense, or does it?

"It doesn't make sense to create a category of documents that are classified but that everyone already has," said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel of the National Security Archive, a research group at George Washington University. "These documents were on open shelves for years."

Oh, what the hell! Who cares how much it costs... there are plenty of forests to sell!

Yet again, the question that keeps coming up about whether things like this are directed from a conspiratorial administration, or whether the culture fostered under that administration encourages behavior like this. I know there is plenty of tinfoil hattism, but I'm leaning toward culture too.

But the historians say the program is removing material that can do no conceivable harm to national security. They say it is part of a marked trend toward greater secrecy under the Bush administration, which has increased the pace of classifying documents, slowed declassification and discouraged the release of some material under the Freedom of Information Act.

Experts on government secrecy believe the C.I.A. and other spy agencies, not the White House, are the driving force behind the reclassification program.

"I think it's driven by the individual agencies, which have bureaucratic sensitivities to protect," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, editor of the online weekly Secrecy News. "But it was clearly encouraged by the administration's overall embrace of secrecy."

Oh, and the grounds for the secret re-secreting?

The explanation, said Mr. Leonard, the head of the office, is a bureaucratic quirk. The intelligence agencies take the position that the reclassified documents were never properly declassified, even though they were reviewed, stamped "declassified," freely given to researchers and even published, he said.

Thus, the agencies argue, the documents remain classified — and pulling them from public access is not really reclassification.


Posted by binky at 12:03 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 20, 2006

How to Balance the Budget

Sell off public land to raise money for the faith-based marriage initiative.

I know, it's not a bake sale. Just fun to see where the money's going.

Posted by binky at 11:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I can't wait!

Look out Baltar, you've got competition for Spielberg slamming!

Posted by binky at 08:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Holy Fucking Moly

From Jesus' General a hair-raiser of DHS harassment (long, but worth it):

"Bottom line: My rights are very dear to me. I served my country to defend them," he says. "And one of the things I was defending was free speech. It's the First Amendment for a reason--not the last, not the middle. The first."

Once, last year, some conservative-minded ladies objected about the "BUSHIT" sticker in Scarbrough's passenger-side window. Scarbrough and his supervisor reviewed all the federal rules concerning bumper stickers on employee vehicles, and discovered that nothing he had displayed could be considered illegal. But for once, Scarbrough simply removed the sticker. Indeed, his current lineup is quite sparse by his standards, he says.

But on this day, apparently it was still too much.

Around 2:15 p.m., Scarbrough says, he answered his office phone and found himself talking to a man who identified himself as Officer R. of the Department of Homeland Security. (I'm withholding the officer's name; you know, what with Plamegate and all.) Scarbrough was told that he was in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations, the set of rules that govern all executive departments and agencies, and that he was in danger of being cited unless he came out to the parking lot or let the officer come up to his office. Scarbrough chose the first option, and took along a co-worker--also a veteran--and, being an experienced peace activist, a tape recorder. Downstairs, they found two armed officers with "Homeland Security" insignia patches on their shoulders, waiting for them in large white SUVs. Scarbrough informed the officers that he would record their conversation, and what follows is the transcript of that recording.

Officer: Step back here please.

Dwight Scarbrough: Let's have a seat.

O: I'd like to talk to you.

DS: Let's have a seat.

O: Sir, come over here please.

DS: I don't want to come over there. I want to sit down.

O: Let me tell you what's going on here. OK, there's a violation of the code of federal regulations.

DS: For what?

O: The CFR. 41, CFR, 102, 74, 415. Posting or affixing signs, pamphlets, handbills or flyers on federal property. Do you understand that?

DS: I'm not doing anything on federal property.

O: Yes, sir, you've got signs posted on your vehicle. I'm informing you that you're in violation.

DS: That's not illegal. That's not illegal.

O: You're posting ...

DS: I ... All right.

O: Would you like to listen to me before ... sir...

DS: [To his co-worker] Would you go get [their supervisor]?

O: I need you to listen when I'm talking, sir.

DS: [To co-worker]. Would you go get [him] please? [To officer] I'm listening.

O: Okay.

DS: You're at my place of work, first of all. And you're harassing me.

O: Sir, you're in violation of the code of federal regulations.

DS: I'm not in violation.

O: You're posting signs on this property.

DS: I am not posting signs. That's on a private vehicle.

O: Sir, I'm here to tell you now that you have to remove those signs.

DS: Was the law just changed?

O: No, there was no law just changed.

DS: Then it's not a violation.

O: I just told you what the law is, sir.

DS: It is not a violation. I've read the statutes already.

O: If you do not comply with my order to remove the signs from the property, I will cite you for it, OK? Do you understand that?

DS: You know what? This is harassment.

O: No, sir, it's not.

DS: Yes, it is.

O: No, it's not.

DS: Say it again, please. (Holds up microphone.) This is harassment.

O: Do you understand what I've told you?

DS: I understand what you've told me, but I've also read the statute that as a federal employee--

O: I've just given you an order and told you to remove those signs from the property.

DS: I will move my vehicle off the property.

O: That will be fine. That will comply with it, and we don't have to ...

DS: You know this is total B.S., though. Because--will you get [his supervisor], please?--I've already had this conversation once, and we've already looked up all the statues and laws covering personal vehicles with stick ... with anything on them on government property. And it is not illegal.

O: It's in 41 CFR. Look that up.

D: "Why don't you look it up?" I have.

O: 41 CF4 102--

D: What is the violation?

O: Posting of signs on--

D: Which one?

O: I just told you the violation.

D: Those are not signs.

O: Twice now I've told you.

D: Those are not signs.

O: Yes, sir, they are. What are they then?

D: So any vehicle that comes on with, like, a police sign, or with delivery or FedEx or something, that's not a sign?

O: All signs are prohibited--

D: You know you're harassing me. You know you're harassing me.

O: No, sir, I'm not.

D: You know the Department of Homeland Security is giving me harassment--

O: Sir--

D: --because I'm a person who happens to express my viewpoints on my vehicle.

O: I need you to comply with my order and remove the signs...

D: Who has filed a complaint?

O: ...you said you'd do that, that's fine ...

D: Who has filed a complaint? Who has filed a complaint?

O: No one has filed a complaint, sir.

D: Well, then what's the complaint?

O: It's law enforcement on federal property.

D: You know this is ... I would like my supervisor down here, please.

O: This doesn't concern him at all.

D: Yes, it does, because I've already had this discussion with him, and I've already been asked to change the signs, and I did. And I looked up all the statutes.

O: (Muffled)

D: Do you have a piece of paper with the number then, please?

O: I told you the number.

D: I would like to write it down, then.

O: I will give you a piece of paper ...

D: Just write it down. That's all I'm asking.

O: But I need you to comply with my instructions to remove the--

D: You're harassing me, in other words.

O: Sir, this is not harassment.

D: It's crap, and you know it.

O: No, sir, it is not.

D: It is. Okay, go ahead.

O: 41, C-F-R...

D: 41, C-F-R...

O: 102 ...

D: 102 ...

O: 74 ...

D: 74 ...

O: Subpart C ...

D: Subpart C ...

O: Paragraph 415.

D: Paragraph 415.

O: And they are posted at the entrances to federal facilities, as they are here, and it is referenced.

D: And this defines exactly what "signs" are, right?

O: It says "signs," sir.

D: Yeah. You're harassing me. I'll be back in a minute. I don't have my keys with me.

O: Sir--

D: I don't have my car keys with me.

O: Okay.

D: I had no clue what you were here to bother me about ... (walks toward door)... this is your buddy, your boss and my boss harassing people for expressing political viewpoints. And you know it. There's nothing illegal about it. (Door beeps).

Scarbrough moved his car to the parking lot in front of a nearby Goodwill store, a private property where it could legally be towed if the managers objected to his decorations. It wasn't towed, but according to his co-worker, Scarbrough was still "very distraught"--both by the accusations and by the way the officers maneuvered themselves between Scarbrough and his coworker, isolating them in a classic police crowd-control technique.

Revisiting the arguments expressed in this thread, among other places, this is one of those times where the ordinary citizen is right in standing up to defend the principles and values of this country, and not letting them be trampled for ideological authoritarianism.

Nice to know that our tax dollars are being spent to police bumper stickers, in violation of the first amendment. Oh, and if you want to track down where your tax dollars are going?

If you're unfamiliar with the Boise office of the Federal Department of Homeland Security, you're not alone. There's not a listing for it in the most recent federal government listings in the local phonebook. The representative from Idaho State Bureau of Homeland Security, located at the Gowen Field Air National Guard Base behind the Boise Airport, hadn't even heard there was an office when I contacted him. Neither had the receptionist at the local U.S. Marshal's office, though she was able to track down a number for the local office of the Federal Protective Service, the section of DHS in charge of protecting federally owned and leased facilities, after putting me on hold for a few minutes (It's (208) 334-9374, in case you're curious. Your taxes fund it, after all.).

I was only able to confirm the location of the office after asking the security officer at the Natural Resource Complex, whose job (ostensibly, at least) it is to enforce the rules concerning pamphlets, dogs and other controlled substances on federal property. He would not comment about the incident, saying, "If this is about what I think it's about, I'm not allowed to say nothing." He referred me to "FPS, Federal Courthouse, Department of Homeland Security," to find someone who would be able to comment. When I asked who I should say referred me, he covered his nameplate with his hand.

Go read the whole thing, and read about Scarbrough's background. Veteran, scientist and peace activist...no wonder they don't like him!

Posted by binky at 06:23 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Hackett's Op Reseach on Sherrod Brown Publicized

That there are people on the left/progressive side of the blogs who continue to defend Paul Hackett mystifies me. First, instead of being the fighter for the people of Ohio that he's claimed to be for months, he storms off in a huff and abandons politics altogether. That shows a cowardly, me-me-me! attitude - it is not the mark of man who could really be trusted to firmly fight the tough fights that the US will face in the future. Now someone associated with his campaign has leaked its opposition research on US Rep. Sherrod Brown, who is sure to be the Democratic nominee for the US Senate in Ohio now that Hacket has petulantly stormed off the scene. The only people this helps are Team Bush and the Republicans.

Paul Hackett - I hope the door did hit your self-aggrandizing, Repug-helping ass as you left Ohio politics.

And for you supposedly "progressive" Hackett defenders - take a look at what Hackett considered to be "oppo research" and marks against Brown. His supposed sins include things like supporting declassifying the country's intelligence budget. To me, that's a sign that Brown wants an open, responsive, responsible government. That's a bad thing?

Posted by armand at 02:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Arizona Politicians Take Up the Fight Against Rick Moody

The war on class assignments that one or two college students find icky continues.

Sen. Thayer Verschoor introduced the bill after a community college student complained to him after he was assigned to read Rick Moody's The Ice Storm, which contains scenes of sexuality and drug use.

So why doesn't this little whiner do what all other students do instead of read the book - watch the movie. It's superb! Eh, well, there's drug usage in that too, and I suppose seeing a film depiction of drug use might be even more scary and threatening than reading about it. And we wouldn't want to threaten this poor dear by exposing him to something he personally doesn't like. Better not to acknowledge the existence of something - I mean that's what education is all about, right?

On a more practical note for all the profs out there - can you imagine the administrative nightmare and work overload that would result if every single student in all of your classes demanded a syllabus that only fit with their own preexisting beliefs? Quite apart from that gutting the very notion of education, if this were to actually become policy the Arizona state senate better be ready to support huge spending increases in its education budget to pay for all the new professors that will be needed to carry this silliness out to its logical end.

Posted by armand at 02:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hold Me Now

Even after 20 years (or something like that) this Thompson Twins song pleases me a great deal. Other people in the office might be behaving like assholes, but listening to this washes that away (at least briefly).

Posted by armand at 01:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

At least they created it right? We should be happy!

Safeguarding America's freedom, ayup!

For Americans troubled by the prospect of federal agents eavesdropping on their phone conversations or combing through their Internet records, there is good news: A little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose is to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the fight against terrorism.

Someday, it might actually meet.

Initially proposed by the bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was created by the intelligence overhaul that President Bush signed into law in December 2004.

More than a year later, it exists only on paper.

Posted by binky at 09:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is the deal with the NYT and the Colin Farrell movie?

Are they advertising that heavily everywhere? Or do they think we Times readers are especially likely to want to see Farrell's micro-range of acting skills? Oh, wait, maybe it's that they know Baltar reads the Times and they want to make sure he doesn't miss the new film, seeing how he loved that other Colin Farrell movie so much.

Posted by binky at 09:19 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 19, 2006

Democracy and Vice-President Cheney

Jonathan Alter's column this week is about Cheney, and his relationship with the press and (by extension) democracy. For me, the money quote is:

So Cheney has quietly figured out how to avoid answering the messy questions that are a vital part of a modern democracy. His message to the Washington press corps is the same as the one he delivered to Sen. Patrick Leahy in the Senate cloakroom, when the Democrat had the temerity to criticize him: "Go f--- yourself." By not holding a press conference since 2002, Cheney is telling the men and women assigned to cover the White House that they are irrelevant. No wonder they went crazy after learning of the shooting accident from a Texas paper. [emphasis added]

I guess this must be true (they have to pay some intern to check facts at newsweek); it's certainly extraordinary. I understand that (normally) the Vice-President isn't interesing or newsworthy; Cheney certainly is. He holds (and wields) more power than any other Vice-President in history. How could he not have a public press conference in four years?

Quiet. That sound you hear is the slow, almost imperceptible, evaporation of democracy in America.

Posted by baltar at 09:03 PM | Comments (53) | TrackBack

Ebert's Oscar Predictions

For those of you who will be taking part in betting pools on Oscar night, here's a crib sheet.

And OMG! Is the tide really turning against Brokeback Mountain? It's horrifying that Crash's ridiculous script is going to be almost certainly be winning an Oscar. If that ridicule-worthy bit of supposedly smart claptrap really ends up winning Best Picture - ugh, I don't want to think about it.

Posted by armand at 07:54 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Why does it always have to end up here?

Generally I like Wolcott, and criticism of Matalin's defense of Cheney is understandable. However, when it's a woman, why does it always come back to her appearance? [emphasis mine]

Mary Matalin's pout-fest (I'm sure Arianna will issue a full forensics report later), but she made quite a petulant spectacle of herself, shaking her head from side to side in silent, lemon-puss disagreement whenever Maureen Dowd and David Gregory made mildly critical comments about Shotgun Cheney. ... Even without the immature pouting and pissy expression, Matalin would have been a car wreck in repose: With a bad haircut topping a mistaken facelift and a ghastly floral pin that looked like spray-painted aluminum, she looked like the Beltway's Madwoman of Chaillot.

MoDo was on the same panel, and she has been the target of a lot of this from both the right and the left, though not from this Wolcott post. It's a cheap shot. There is plenty of material for criticism, but it gets old to focus on women's appearance, and to infantilize their behavior.

Posted by binky at 06:07 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

So You Want Elections, But Your Side Might Lose ...

Helena Cobban notes strategies employed by those who want elections - but not a situation in which the people and policies of supported by most of a country's population actually rule.

Posted by armand at 03:03 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

OK, Then Why Are We In Iraq?

That George Bush has kept this doofus employed for the last few years is astonishing - and in and of itself merits ranking this president's job performance alongside that of the other greatest incompetents and failures who have held the office.

Posted by armand at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Nohari/Johari Personality Mapping

OK, for those of you who continue to want to label those of us at Bloodless and the close friends of Bloodless:

If you know her, please contribute to Jane Veglia R's Johari window.

And I know you've been waiting to let me know how you REALLY feel about me - so contribute to Armand's Nohari window.

Posted by armand at 12:06 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


It's 55 degrees in my kitchen, which isn't so bad compared to the single digit temperature outside.

Posted by binky at 11:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 18, 2006

A fun fisking with which to console myself...

The Mountaineers fought well, but succumbed to UCONN in the end. The article fisked at Sadly, No! fears the same. Except replace "Mountaineers" with "nice, normal heterosexuals" and "UCONN" with "teh gay."

The Boston-based Article 8 Alliance has posted an op-ed on their website, noting that it's "one of the most powerful articles we've seen" about homosexuals. The piece describes the horrors that await unsuspecting straight folks who walk into gay bookstores:

The Truth About the Homosexual Rights Movement
By Ronald G. Lee

There was a "gay" bookstore called Lobo's in Austin, Texas, when I was living there as a grad student. The layout was interesting. Looking inside from the street all you saw were books. It looked like any other bookstore. There was a section devoted to classic "gay" fiction by writers such as Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, and W.H. Auden. There were biographies of prominent "gay" icons, some of whom, like Walt Whitman, would probably have accepted the homosexual label, but many of whom, like Whitman's idol, President Lincoln, had been commandeered for the cause on the basis of evidence no stronger than a bad marriage or an intense same-sex friendship. There were impassioned modern "gay" memoirs, and historical accounts of the origins and development of the "gay rights" movement. It all looked so innocuous and disarmingly bourgeois.

Not to mention gay.

But if you went inside to browse, before long you noticed another section, behind the books, a section not visible from the street. The pornography section. Hundreds and hundreds of pornographic videos, all involving men, but otherwise catering to every conceivable sexual taste or fantasy. And you would notice something else too. There were no customers in the front. All the customers were in the back, rooting through the videos. As far as I know, I am the only person who ever actually purchased a book at Lobo's. The books were, in every sense of the word, a front for the porn.

OK, so lots of homosexuals are more interested in watching pornography than reading classic literature. How this makes them different from most heterosexuals is beyond me.

So why waste thousands of dollars on books that no one was going to buy? It was clear from the large "on sale" section that only a pitifully small number of books were ever purchased at their original price. The owners of Lobo's were apparently wasting a lot of money on gay novels and works of gay history, when all the real money was in pornography. But the money spent on books wasn't wasted. It was used to purchase a commodity that is more precious than gold to the gay rights establishment. Respectability. Respectability and the appearance of normalcy.

Which is funny, because reading Oscar Wilde is far less normal for most people than watching porn.

I've given you but a tasty morsel, and none of the visual aids.

Posted by binky at 07:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ah, vanity!

Via PZ Myers, the Simpsons generator.

Simpsons Binky

They didn't have the right musical instrument, but hey, close enough. I am trying to learn guitar.

Posted by binky at 03:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It's Just So Wrong: The Saturday Edition

In North Carolina, the GOP is requesting membership directories from churches. Tax exempt status...anyone? anyone?

Disney is shilling some kind of mouseketeer bullshit Devo cover tween band.

Whittington apologizes for being shot. Screencap.

Contract for wifely expectations, via Twisty. Fucking Iowa.

Girls can't ski jump because it shakes up their girl parts. But it's great for testicles!

And this is so wrong, but oh so right: Bon Scott's grave declared an historic site.

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

Looks like our productivity might be safe for a while longer

"A recent report from Merill Lynch indicates that the Playstation 3 could be delayed until 2007 in the United States, and may cost up to $900 at launch. All the information below is based on the released Merill Lynch PDF.

Merill Lynch predicts the PS3's 2007 launch in the United States based on an inside colleague and also states that the PS3's Blu-Ray drive and Cell processor are the reasons behind the increased cost of the Playstation 3.

"In particular, Sony’s decision to implement an ambitious new processor architecture – the Cell – not only took a great deal of design effort, but also has resulted in a processor that we think will cost Sony at least $230 per unit initially."

"The Blu-Ray drive also looks expensive at an estimated $350, and Sony will not be able to leverage off additional Blu-Ray shipments in DVD players because the standard is still so new.""

Posted by binky at 01:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


If you're interested, FOIA'd notes of Rummy's 9/11 comments urging a link to Saddam: here.

Via Laura Rozen.

Posted by binky at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2006

Teh Suck...

...or not teh suck. That is the question.

Yes, those links at the top are to GNR demos. The rocking bits are not entirely teh suck, but the adult contemporary bits in between sound like the soundtrack from Firefly.

Posted by binky at 06:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Guantanamo Evidence False

Here's a snip, but check out the whole thing:

DIGGING INTO GUANTANAMO....I'm quite late getting to last week's National Journal cover story about the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, but thanks to Jon Henke at QandO I've now figured out how many separate articles there are (four) and how they relate to each other. Taken together, they tell a chilling story.

The basic message from these four pieces is that the evidence against an awful lot of the Guantanamo prisoners isn't just weak, it's known to be flatly false. For example, here's an account of Mohammed al-Tumani, a prisoner who was lucky enough to be assigned a "personal representative" who discovered that his primary accuser was a busy man indeed:

Tumani's enterprising representative looked at the classified evidence against the Syrian youth and found that just one man — the aforementioned accuser — had placed Tumani at the terrorist training camp. And he had placed Tumani there three months before the teenager had even entered Afghanistan. The curious U.S. officer pulled the classified file of the accuser, saw that he had accused 60 men, and, suddenly skeptical, pulled the files of every detainee the accuser had placed at the one training camp. None of the men had been in Afghanistan at the time the accuser said he saw them at the camp.

The tribunal declared Tumani an enemy combatant anyway.

There's more like this, and the story it tells is that the problem at Guantanamo isn't just that it's difficult separating fact from fiction when prisoners have been captured in the heat of battle and the witnesses against them are thousands of miles away and untrustworthy to boot. That's a genuine problem, and not one that's easily resolved.

You'll note the effort of the US officer. Those people are doing an incredibly difficult job, under extremely difficult circumstances, without much support - and often with the opposite - to uphold the standards of law. This is what I meant by: Democracy is a lot of work, and part of that work is done by regular people who have the courage to call bullshit on policies - well-meaning or not - that infringe on our liberty.

Posted by binky at 06:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Those Damn Liberals

It really has to stop. The liberals cannot believe they can leak information that gives al Qaeda important information and think they are going to get away with it!

Mr. Cover Up. For those who haven't been paying close attention to the chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, the NYT argues today that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan) is a White House toady. And this related Post piece on some legislation Roberts is considering reintroducing? It's worth remembering its fine pedigree. Originally proposed by Roberts' predessor Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) in 2001, the anti-leak legislation had an interesting coda, when it was determined that Shelby himself was the one who leaked highly classified NSA intercepts to the media, according to several reports. (See Washington Post, "Investigators Conclude Shelby Leaked Message.") A leak that apparently led top al Qaeda leaders to drastically reduce their use of a certain sat phone. Glass houses, and all that. Maybe Roberts would do better to prepare an internal memo to his Republican colleagues, and see if he can't get it leaked to Fox News.

Um, oh, right. That's an "R" isn't it? "Shelby" sounds kind of feminine and all, so I thought it must have been a democrat.

Posted by binky at 05:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Joe Lieberman - Beatable?

I sure wouldn't have thought so. His approval level is quite high (of course Republicans in Connecticut love him). Still, Kos looks at the latest poll and notes here that the junior senator from Connecticut could very well be defeated. Among Democrats his numbers aren't particularly strong.

Posted by armand at 04:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senator Hagel on Vice President Cheney and Gun Safety


Referring to Cheney's repeated draft deferrals during the Vietnam War, Hagel said, "If he'd been in the military, he would have learned gun safety."

Yeah I am a Hagel fan, even if he does vote a far right-wing line. But giving that he'll actually say things like this in public, can you blame me?

Posted by armand at 03:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Party Like It's 1929

Bérubé :

Sean Hannity on academe, this week on Hannity and Colmes:

Kids are indoctrinated. They’re a captive audience. What can be done to remove these professors with these radical ideas from campus?

My reply (not that I was on Hannity and Colmes at the time):

That’s a great question, Sean.  Let’s break it down into two parts.

Kids are indoctrinated. They’re a captive audience.

The process all starts with the captivity, really.  As you know, Sean, in America, students are assigned to their universities by the Federal Education and Re-education Committee.  Once they arrive on campus, they are subjected to a rigorous system of mandatory coursework.  We like to call it “basic training,” and let me tell you, the foreign language requirements are especially punitive.  Now, the FERC records tell of a student who tried, in 1988, to “choose” an “elective” course at a Big Ten university.  That student was sentenced to twenty years in the Nevada silver mines, where she works today.  And I don’t think I have to tell you what happens to undergraduates who violate curfew!


Now, you mentioned indoctrination.  Let me dilate on that for a bit. 

Once they get into my course (required for graduation), Advanced America-Blaming and Applied Appeasement of Terrorists, they are graded primarily on attendance and recitation.  They are also required to turn in two essays, one in which they blame America first, the other in which they propose a strategy for appeasing a terrorist enemy.  I am very strict about these essays.  I demand that their essays conform to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition, and that they spell America with a k.  (Extra credit for three k’s!)

The results are quite dramatic.  Many of my students come from conservative backgrounds, but by the tenth week of class, they can chant “all power to the Supreme Soviet” with the best of them.  Basically, we party like it’s 1929.  At the end of the semester, they leave my classroom and plaster the campus with posters reading “Meat is Murder” and “Bush is Hitler.” Two years ago, one enterprising student came up with a “Meat is Hitler” poster.  I have recommended that student to some of the nation’s top graduate schools.

Posted by binky at 02:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Four-Color Queers

Does anyone know anything about this film? It's a history of homosexuality in comics, and the trailer looks really good.

Hat tip to Emp.

Posted by binky at 01:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Strange News Roundup

Toilet water cleaner than fast food ice.

The situation in Zimbabwe is dire. CNN's coverage is bizarre.

Press censorship in Russia. Oh, wait, that's not strange after all.

Posted by binky at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pet Post

One of my cats has started doing this weird thing, where if you are wearing something fuzzy like a bathrobe or a fleece, she comes up to you, sinks her teeth into the fabric, and shakes her head like a dog with a sock toy. Cats.

Posted by binky at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

File Under: This Has to Be Parody?

This can't be real. Can it?

If this country's legislature and judiciary are supposed to reflect the values and beliefs of The People, then send them a message that they are WAY off course!

If you are tired of secularists telling you that The Lord has no place in our government and our public institutions, then show them that you disagree.

This symbol, this site, and this car magnet have been created for the millions of Americans who support the President and his vision for a government that embraces religion, morality, and family values. It shows worship to the Lord, respect for the President, and hope for all.

Join the millions of Americans who believe that President Bush’s faith- based administration presents the best hope for America’s future. The future is in your hands. Stand up and be counted!

Order a BushFish for yourself or a loved one today.

Found the link here.

Posted by binky at 10:37 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Mission Creep

In the comments of the Political Religion thread, we've been discussing just how worried we should be about the possible manipulations or permutations of Homeland Security policy. One of our regular commenters suggested that we need the political leadership to steer the state away from dangerous waters, and that interfering with their decisions can be a danger in itself. I argued that ignoring the possibility that humans, and human leaders, are not universally pure, can lead us into equally dangerous waters (or onto the beach, to torture the metaphor a bit more). Of particular concern to me, and the reason I linked to the Neiwert post originally, is that there are unintended - thinking charitably - and extremely negative potential consequences of homeland security policies.

It's just like the internet to serve up a tasty example at the moment when we need it:

Two uniformed men strolled into the main room of the Little Falls library in Bethesda one day last week and demanded the attention of all patrons using the computers. Then they made their announcement: The viewing of Internet pornography was forbidden.

The men looked stern and wore baseball caps emblazoned with the words "Homeland Security." The bizarre scene unfolded Feb. 9, leaving some residents confused and forcing county officials to explain how employees assigned to protect county buildings against terrorists came to see it as their job to police the viewing of pornography.

After the two men made their announcement, one of them challenged an Internet user's choice of viewing material and asked him to step outside, according to a witness. A librarian intervened, and the two men went into the library's work area to discuss the matter. A police officer arrived. In the end, no one had to step outside except the uniformed men.

They were officers of the security division of Montgomery County's Homeland Security Department, an unarmed force that patrols about 300 county buildings -- but is not responsible for enforcing obscenity laws.

In the post-9/11 era, even suburban counties have homeland security departments. Montgomery County will not specify how many officers are in the department's security division, citing security reasons. Its annual budget, including salaries, is $3.6 million.

Later that afternoon, Montgomery County's chief administrative officer, Bruce Romer, issued a statement calling the incident "unfortunate" and "regrettable" -- two words that bureaucrats often deploy when things have gone awry. He said the officers had been reassigned to other duties.

Romer said the officers believed they were enforcing the county's sexual harassment policy but "overstepped their authority" and had to be reminded that Montgomery "supports the rights of patrons to view the materials of their choice."

As our regular commenter will likely assert, this is not an example of Bush sending out the brownshirts to impose his morals on the public. It doesn't have to be. The problem is that there are individuals - in this case, a pair - who believed themselves to be empowered by the law to act this way. It doesn't have to be a national directive. However if the national policy creates ripe circumstances for such actors to engage in this kind of behavior, we have to call attention to it.

This was why I linked to Neiwert's original post. The idea that no one can see it coming, or can see that the constellation of policies could be exploited in undemocratic ways, or that there is a growing culture that fosters this misuse, is mistaken. We can see it. We choose not to see it, or not to see it as important. Democracy is a lot of work, and part of that work is done by regular people who have the courage to call bullshit on policies - well-meaning or not - that infringe on our liberty.

Let me close by saying that librarians rule.

Finder's fee on the story to Balloon Juice.

Posted by binky at 10:11 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

February 16, 2006

Bull Durham

Remember how Crash is supposed to train the rookie about what to say at the end of the game?

Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews.

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?

Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring.

Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.

OK. Now, read this statement from Sherrod Brown's team:

Brown campaign spokesperson Joanna Kuebler declined to respond to the rumors. She offered this prepared statement: “This campaign has never been about Paul Hackett or about Sherrod Brown. This campaign is about the hard working people of Ohio, and what Republican corruption has done to them.”

Read the whole article. It looks like Hackett thought he was ready for "the show," but he wasn't quite senatorial enough for the party. If he decides to "learn his clichés" and "work on his interviews," it could still be interesting.

Posted by binky at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Political Religion

David Neiwert excels at unraveling political trends and giving you cold fear in the pit of your stomach.

But as much as I agree with Greenwald, I think there is a difference between his argument and mine. Greenwald argues that this is a Bush-specific cult, and for good reason, but Atrios points to the important caveat in all this:

The interesting paradox is, as I've written before, that they'll dump Bush and transfer the cult onto the next Daddy figure that comes along.

Along the same lines was Digby's take, in which he also identifies the conservative movement as an "authoritarian cult," but notes:

So, it isn't precisely a cult of George W. Bush. It's a cult of Republican power. We know this because when a Democratic president last sat in the oval office, there was non-stop hysteria about presidential power and overreach. Every possible tool to emasculate the executive branch was brought to bear, including the nuclear option, impeachment. Now we are told that the "Presidency" is virtually infallible. The only difference between now and then is that a Republican is the executive instead of a Democrat.

(Be sure to read his followup post too.)

I wonder if there isn't another way of framing this that can help progressives get a handle on what we're dealing with. Particularly, I wonder if it wouldn't help to think of the discrete conservative movement as a political religion.br>


Another significant resemblance is the religion's reliance on fear: "The state often helps maintain its power base by instilling fear of some kind in the population." It also consistently externalizes the blame for the nation's problems, either on Muslims, Hispanics, or just "unAmerican" liberals. And there is no shortage conservative propaganda to be found on the airwaves and in print.

Now, there are obvious differences between the current state of the conservative movement and the mature, state-based political religions described here. No one has mandated the construction of W statues. Loyalty oaths have not been prescribed, nor are there reeducation camps. There are no mandated leisure or cultural activities, and there is no secret police.

Not yet. And yet we can see hints even of these things: Why exactly, for example, does Bush want to create a uniformed Secret Service police, and empower them to arrest protesters under Patriot Act II?

Using this model to frame the discussion, I think what we can readily see is that -- as with pseudo-fascism -- the conservative movement is still in a somewhat nascent stage as a political religion. The examples of more mature religions provide us with a fairly clear picture of where it's headed, however.

And it won't necessarily be under the leadership of George W. Bush. The discrete conservative movement is structured such that it needs a "charismatic" figure at its head; it's essentially a psychological imperative for this kind of belief system.

So if the leader it elevates happens not, in fact, to actually be charismatic, as Bush really is not, then the movement will tailor its reality to make him so. True Believers -- having been steadily propagandized with Fox News and RNC talking points about Bush's superior character -- now really do see Bush as a charismatic figure, which leaves most non-believers shaking their heads.

But he is in essence disposable, an empty suit filled by the psychological needs of the movement he leads. He's sort of like a Fraternity President on steroids: Bush's presidency is all about popularity, not policy. He's a figurehead, a blank slate upon which the movement's followers can project their own notions of what a good president is about. And when his term is up, the movement will create a new "charismatic" leader.

Leaders like this, as True Believers themselves, usually have a symbiotic relationship with the movement they lead. Most of the time, his initiatives and policies are perfectly in synch with the rest of the movement, and they feed off the cues they give one another. But the movement itself will quickly reel in any leader who presumes that the movement is about him.

This explains, for instance, seeming anomalies (cited much by Greenwald's critics) like the uproar over Bush's attempts to place Harriet Myers on the Supreme Court. Bush consistently tried to sell her to conservatives on the basis that she was personally loyal to him; but she did not meet muster with the movement itself, and in the end was jettisoned for someone who did.

The reality I think we're all seeing is that genuine conservatism has been usurped by a political religion in metastasis that is no longer conservative but simply power-mad. Communicating that to the public is going to be an essential problem for progressives in the coming campaigns, especially given the deep emotional and psychological investment in the movement that so many followers have made.

Posted by binky at 10:55 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Maybe we can make peace with Iran

They're just like us afterall:

Iranians love Danish pastries, but when they look for the flaky dessert at the bakery they now have to ask for "Roses of the Prophet Mohammed."

Suppose they'd like them with a side of freedom fries?

And, I have to say, that "roses of the prophet" sounds kind of...nevermind.

Posted by binky at 08:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Eavesdropping program not subject to Senate scrutiny

The Senate Intelligence Committee decided today not to investigate President Bush's domestic surveillance program, at least for the time being.

Gee, thanks guys. Glad to know you're up there looking out for our civil liberties. And you know, conducting oversight to make sure that all that surveillance we're doing will actually catch some evildoers, as opposed to bloggers or some guy who got called by his cousin's sister's boyfriend's aunt's brother-in-law in Pakistan.

Posted by binky at 06:39 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Say what you like...

...but I think Willie Nelson is great.

Posted by binky at 04:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What should I do with all the money I will save...

...now that I'm never buying another record again?

Just in case you thought that buying that CD meant that you have the "fair use" right to rip it to your iPod, the RIAA would like to remind you that you are a fucking chump:

It is no secret that the entertainment oligopolists are not happy about space-shifting and format-shifting. But surely ripping your own CDs to your own iPod passes muster, right? In fact, didn't they admit as much in front of the Supreme Court during the MGM v. Grokster argument last year?

Apparently not.

As part of the on-going DMCA rule-making proceedings, the RIAA and other copyright industry associations submitted a filing that included this gem as part of their argument that space-shifting and format-shifting do not count as noninfringing uses, even when you are talking about making copies of your own CDs:

"Nor does the fact that permission to make a copy in particular circumstances is often or even routinely granted, necessarily establish that the copying is a fair use when the copyright owner withholds that authorization. In this regard, the statement attributed to counsel for copyright owners in the MGM v. Grokster case is simply a statement about authorization, not about fair use."

For those who may not remember, here's what Don Verrilli said to the Supreme Court last year:

"The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it's been on their website for some time now, that it's perfectly lawful to take a CD that you've purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod."

If I understand what the RIAA is saying, "perfectly lawful" means "lawful until we change our mind." So your ability to continue to make copies of your own CDs on your own iPod is entirely a matter of their sufferance. What about all the indie label CDs? Do you have to ask each of them for permission before ripping your CDs? And what about all the major label artists who control their own copyrights? Do we all need to ask them, as well?

P.S.: The same filing also had this to say: "Similarly, creating a back-up copy of a music CD is not a non-infringing use...."

These people are assholing themselves out of customers.

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

Thursday roundup

Keep your eye on the ball:

The Bush administration is trying - perhaps successfully - to kill the Congressional inquiry into illegal domestic spying.

Lawmakers cite senators such as Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) to illustrate the administration's success in cooling congressional zeal for an investigation. On Dec. 20, she was among two Republicans and two Democrats who signed a letter expressing "our profound concern about recent revelations that the United States Government may have engaged in domestic electronic surveillance without appropriate legal authority." The letter urged the Senate's intelligence and judiciary committees to "jointly undertake an inquiry into the facts and law surrounding these allegations."

In an interview yesterday, Snowe said, "I'm not sure it's going to be essential or necessary" to conduct an inquiry "if we can address the legislative standpoint" that would provide oversight of the surveillance program. "We're learning a lot and we're going to learn more," she said.

She cited last week's briefings before the full House and Senate intelligence committees by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and former NSA director Michael V. Hayden.

Olympia, I'm so disappointed. So much for my plan to move to Maine.

Glenn Greenwald is on it. (He also catches Glenn Reynolds at his own game and makes an argument about why so-called conservatives have no ideology and are rather motivated by abject fealty.

Born at the Crest of the Empire reminds us that the AG still has some emails up his sleeve on the Plame leaks, and they might point to Mr. Secrecy himself.

Meanwhile, Cheney says he has the power to declassify information, apparently including the identity of covert CIA agents.

The Iraqi interior ministry has been the home of death squads, 22 members of which were apprehended as they were on their way to kidnap a Sunni "to be shot dead."

Laura Rozen is sad about losing Turkey, and links to the new Abu Ghraib scandals that may lose even more.

For me, this is one of the saddest results of the past five years of the Bush administration's blunders at home and abroad. Losing Turkey and Turkish hearts and minds.

More Abu Ghraib abuses and torture documented in photographs released by Australian TV. More from the NYT.

A bipartisan group of Congressmen wants the White House to reconsider outsourcing port security to a private British firm with base operations in the UAE.

Those pussy, cheese-eating, surrender-monkey French (ahem) are coming out hard after the Iranian nuclear program, saying that there is no way it's a civilian operation: "No civilian nuclear program can explain the Iranian nuclear program. So it is a clandestine Iranian military nuclear program."

Which of course, might have been something Valeria Plame had been working to head off at the pass when she was outed. And go back to Cole's main page, he's got some great links the last couple of days, as well as a top ten Whttitington/Iraq comparo.

And if you don't like it, you'll love that you've been the target of more than a $1.6 billion in government PR designed to change your mind over the last couple of years.

Disaster (possibly) averted in Haiti as a deal is reached to let frontrunner Preval become the President.

If you can't resist the distraction of Cheney, Slate interviewed some of Whittington's colleagues and they are p.o.'ed about their boss being blamed for the accident. Fire Dog Lake has more coverage than I would have thought possible. It's getting a little OJ, but if that's your bag... In that vein Dershowitz speculates on the costs and benefits of a delay in talking with the local authorities if one has been involved in a hunting accident. Letterman has some fun with video edit, at Cheney's expense.

Speaking of Cheney's expense, how about another gripping edition of the Keyboard Kommando Komix?>

And last but not least a distant cousin of Charlie's (yes, I'm stretching it) escaped its crate on the tarmac and is lost in the marsh after competing in the NY dog show.

Posted by binky at 01:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 15, 2006

Oh beautiful

It's our responsibility...

Via Body and Soul.

Posted by binky at 11:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pennebaker's Film of Sondheim's Company

I recently watched D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary on the creation of the Origial Cast Album of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company. If you’re interested in musicals or Sondheim it’s well worth a look. And it’ll only require 60 minutes of your life. It’s interesting to watch the process by which they recorded this thing – both the numbers that seemed accomplished with relative ease (for example, Pamela Myers’s powerful rendition of “Another Hundred People”) and those that were a terrible chore (getting a useable version of Elaine Stritch singing “The Ladies Who Lunch”). I love both those songs, and there are some other good one on here too (like amusingly dark take on relationships, "The Little Things You Do Together").

The documentary is interesting in another way too - at least for someone my age who’s been pretty knowledgeable and aware of movies, TV, and theater throughout his life. This was made before I was born, and yet it’s filled with people that I’ve seen and heard about for years. I mean Stritch is still a huge star, and Dean Jones and Barbara Barrie were all over the movies and TV shows of my childhood. I don’t know how many times I watched Beth Howland inhabit the role of Vera on the old sitcom Alice, and I’ve seen Charles Kimbrough in a host of things for ages, though I suppose I most associate him with Murphy Brown. Seeing all these people (relatively) younger and engaging in an entirely different type of performing is interesting to watch.

And of course there’s one other thing about the documentary that makes it interesting to watch – the clothes, make-up, and hairstyles. 1970 was a very specific time in terms of these matters, and observing these people in that milieu brings up a number of observations. For example, how in the hell did the cravat ever become popular? And is there anything we can do to ensure that cravats never come back?

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

Mr. Justice Alito's Clerks

They might be a tad more diverse than the Scalia crew, but these names would seem to suggest that the impression that Alito bats from the right - maybe the far right - is accurate.

Posted by armand at 03:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Quizziness

Too much grading, too little time to write.

Hat tip to Duck of Minerva and Balloon Juice. Should I be worried that I score the same as Drezner and Cole? Oh my liberal cred!

You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


Moya (Farscape)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

And I thought for sure since I strongly agreed with the pet questions I'd end up on Bebop. Alas, no.

Posted by binky at 02:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Separated at Birth?





Posted by binky at 10:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It's the spam...

The comment spam keeps on coming. And there is still the glut of "midget porn," "dirty sluts" and "anal anal anal," there has been a huge burst of a new kind of spam, the "Hi! Nice site!" and "great work, admin!" and "keep it up!" It carries the usual links, but behind chirpy messages.

And it reminds me of a joke, told by my friend Dan:

A guy goes into a bar one afternoon, sits at the far end, and orders a beer. After serving the beer and putting a bowl of peanuts in front of the guy, the bartender turns to polishing glasses at the opposite end of the bar.

The guy sits, drinking, and hears: "Nice pants!"

He looks around, seeing no one in the bar, and the bartender far away.

A couple of minutes later he hears "Great haircut!" and looks around again. No one.

"Good looking shirt!"

At this point, he's wondering if the bartender is a ventriloquist, so he says, "hey, bartender? are you saying things to me about how I look?"

And the bartender says, "No sir, it's the peanuts. They're complimentary."

Ba dum bum ching!

Posted by binky at 09:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 14, 2006

For your perusal

The Inimitable Twisty Faster.


Joan Jett she might not be, but damn she deserves the tribute of a black heart on v-day.

Posted by binky at 08:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just a flesh wound?

This just gets more and more bizarre:

The fellow hunter who was shot and wounded by Vice President Dick Cheney has suffered a "minor heart attack" after a piece of birdshot migrated to his heart, a hospital spokesman said Tuesday.

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

Big Oil Flush With Untold Billions as Louisiana Suffers Economic Collapse

Oh yeah, this is fair. But I guess when it's what happens when you put supposed oil men (not real oil men, but big business cronies who equate being successful businessmen with cronyism) in charge of the country.

New projections, buried in the Interior Department's just-published budget plan, anticipate that the government will let companies pump about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal territory over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government. Based on the administration figures, the government will give up more than $7 billion in payments between now and 2011. The companies are expected to get the largess, known as royalty relief, even though the administration assumes that oil prices will remain above $50 a barrel throughout that period.

Post-Katrina Louisiana (which, I'm not sure, but I want to say is our country's #1 crude oil producer - if it's not #1 it's near the top) is an economic basket case of the first order. And it's going to be that way for years to come. And for years Sen. Mary Landrieu has been trying to get more aid to the state from petroleum taxes (which almost all go to the feds, not the state) to help combat coastal erosion and wetland destruction, which the big oil companies have had more than a little to do with. Yet the big oil companies are going to make a freakin' fortune off "royalty relief" - while the people who let the companies make that cash are forced to slice education and health care budgets to shreds.

Posted by armand at 11:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 13, 2006


Blogosphere's darling pushed aside by Democratic party:

Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran and popular Democratic candidate in Ohio's closely watched Senate contest, said yesterday that he was dropping out of the race and leaving politics altogether as a result of pressure from party leaders.

Mr. Hackett said Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, the same party leaders who he said persuaded him last August to enter the Senate race, had pushed him to step aside so that Representative Sherrod Brown, a longtime member of Congress, could take on Senator Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent.

Mr. Hackett staged a surprisingly strong Congressional run last year in an overwhelmingly Republican district and gained national prominence for his scathing criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq War. It was his performance in the Congressional race that led party leaders to recruit him for the Senate race.

But for the last two weeks, he said, state and national Democratic Party leaders have urged him to drop his Senate campaign and again run for Congress.

"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me," said Mr. Hackett, whose announcement comes two days before the state's filing deadline for candidates. He said he was outraged to learn that party leaders were calling his donors and asking them to stop giving and said he would not enter the Second District Congressional race.

"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."

Mr. Hackett was the first Iraq war veteran to seek national office, and the decision to steer him away from the Senate race has surprised those who see him as a symbol for Democrats who oppose the war but want to appear strong on national security.

"Alienating Hackett is not just a bad idea for the party, but it also sends a chill through the rest of the 56 or so veterans that we've worked to run for Congress," said Mike Lyon, executive director for the Band of Brothers, a group dedicated to electing Democratic veterans to national office. "Now is a time for Democrats to be courting, not blocking, veterans who want to run."


The Ancient Booer: Boo. Boo. Boo.

Buttercup: Why do you do this?

The Ancient Booer: Because you had love in your hands, and you gave it up.

Buttercup: But they would have killed Westley if I hadn't done it.

The Ancient Booer: Your true love lives. And you marry another. True Love saved her in the Fire Swamp, and she treated it like garbage. And that's what she is, the Queen of Refuse. So bow down to her if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo.

I predict massive twisty knickers over at Kos.

Posted by binky at 11:21 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Undermining Democracy in the Middle East

File under: be careful what you wish for.

The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.

The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.

The officials also argue that a close look at the election results shows that Hamas won a smaller mandate than previously understood.

The officials and diplomats, who said this approach was being discussed at the highest levels of the State Department and the Israeli government, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

They say Hamas will be given a choice: recognize Israel's right to exist, forswear violence and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements — as called for by the United Nations and the West — or face isolation and collapse.

Opinion polls show that Hamas's promise to better the lives of the Palestinian people was the main reason it won. But the United States and Israel say Palestinian life will only get harder if Hamas does not meet those three demands. They say Hamas plans to build up its militias and increase violence and must be starved out of power.

The Bush administration vocally supports democracy in the middle east. Except for groups it doesn't like?

Oh, that's right, because Hamas are terrorists. Hmm. You'd think we would have thought of that before the election eh? U.S. foreign policy purred along fairly nicely (depending on your definition of nice, of course) for decades by supporting stable bad guys rather than roll the dice on elections.

Enter stable bad guys.

"Fatah now is obsessed with undoing this election as soon as possible," he said. "Israel and Washington want to do it over too. The Palestinian Authority could collapse in six months."

New Hamas legislators were unimpressed. Farhat Asaad, a Hamas spokesman, and Nasser Abdaljawad, who won a seat in Salfit where two Fatah candidates split the vote, gave the United States "a year or two" to come around to the idea of dealing openly with Hamas.

Mr. Asaad, a former Israeli prisoner, said: "We hope it isn't U.S. policy. Because those who try to isolate us will be isolated in the region."

Hamas will move on two parallel fronts, he said: the first, to reform Palestinian political life, and the second, "to break the isolation of our government." If Hamas succeeds on both fronts, he said, "we will achieve a great thing for our people, a normal life with security and a state of law, where no one can abuse power."

Hamas will find the money it needs from the Muslim world, said Mr. Abdaljawad, who spent 12 years in jail and got a Ph.D. while there. Hamas will save money by ending corruption and providing efficiency. Hamas will break the Palestinian dependency on Israel, he said.

Mr. Asaad laughed and added: "First, I thank the United States that they have given us this weapon of democracy. But there is no way to retreat now. It's not possible for the U.S. and the world to turn its back on an elected democracy."

Ah, so it's back to Fatah, is it? Of course, they have never been anywhere near terrorism.

Lest my post be misunderstood, let me put out a few direct points. There are a range of suboptimal choices (from the US foreign policy perspective) when dealing with leadership and the Palestinian Authority. There is always a risk, when calling for and supporting steps towards electoral democracy, that you will exchange the devil you know, for the devil you don't. At this point the milk has spilled, and Hamas won the elections. Working openly to bring down a democratically elected government isn't going to do much to enhance the US reputation as a friend of democracy in the middle east.

And, to IR geek out a bit, there is the question of signalling. The hope for Hamas (and I will defer to Armand's analysis on the chances of any of this) would be an IRA type resolution. Giving them a stake in the system and the power to succeed within might be a significant incentive to get them to play the politics game. The hard line about destabilization in the NYT story may very well be some strong credible signalling from the US and Israel, some added reinforcement to the message that Hamas really needs to commit to the political - rather than insurgent - model. Plus, there is always signalling to the base (US and Israeli) which wants to hear that its government is taking a tough stance against terrorism.

Lots of overlapping explanations, but this is a tough line to tread, especially when the situation is volatile. The signal is transmitted broadly, and while the intended target may very well receive the intended message, it is also broadcast to a wider audience, who might not be in on the game.

Posted by binky at 10:52 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Luis Posada - A Vicious Terrorist the Bush Administration Loves

I've blogged on this before, but recent events demand I alert you to the latest in the story - because the irony is enough to make you fall to the floor laughing, if you can manage to hold back the vomit that might spew forth as you gradually process the fact that the Bush administration is quite likely about to let Posada free. And this is a man who masterminded blowing up an airliner, and a series of hotel bombings. This behavior by President Bush and his administration is a slap in the face to everyone who sincerely believes in the war on terrorism.

Posted by armand at 09:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday Kind of Quiz

This may or may not work for the general blog reader population, because it's not really a quiz. It's more of a survey, one that gauges the difference between how you see your self, and how others see you. Some of you readers actually know me and might want to weigh in. For the rest of you, I thought it would be interesting to pass on so that you could try it with your friends and family.

Now, onto what on earth I am talking about: the Johari Window.

A Johari window is a metaphorical tool intended to help people better understand their interpersonal communication and relationships. It is used primarily in self-help groups and corporate settings as a heuristic device to encourage people to open up to another in self-disclosure. The concept was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram, who combined their first names to create the name of the tool.

The test consists of a list of terms, each of which is an adjective relating to a personality trait. (For example, the list might begin with "accepting", "adaptable", "bold", "brave", "calm", "cheerful", and "complex".) A subject will select a few of these terms which he feels describes himself best. Each of his peers will then select a few terms which that person feels describes the subject best.

The terms are then plotted in a square grid divided along two axes into four quadrants. One axis represents "known (or not known) to self", and the other represents "known (or not known) to others."

Terms selected by both the subject and his peers are placed into the Arena quadrant, representing the fact that everyone involved knows these particular pieces of information about the subject individual; they have been openly communicated.

Terms selected only by the subject, but not by any of his peers, are placed into the Façade quadrant, representing information about himself of which his peers are unaware. The choice is then up to the first individual to bring the information into the open (self-disclosure) or to use it to his advantage.

Terms selected not by the subject but by his peers are placed into the Blind Spot quadrant. These represent information of which the subject is not aware, but his peers are, and they can decide whether and how to inform the individual about his "blind spot".

Terms which were not selected by either the subject or his peers remain in the Unknown quadrant, representing the subject's behaviors or motives which were not recognized by anyone participating.

To make your own window, go here. You will have to choose five or six adjectives to describe yourself. Then you will get a page to send your friends and family (they suggest and colleagues, but, you know, whatever) to for their contribution.

If you want to contribute to the Binky window, go here. For the haters, alas, there is no "shrill," and neither are there "moonbat," "lefty" or "tinfoil hatter."

If you do set one up, consider sharing. It would be kind of interesting to see how what we are trying to project in our blog personas differs from how others perceive us. Of course, the real thing (I found this on a friend's site, who presumably is interested in real life not blog identity) and how it differs from blog personality would be neat too. Of course, I'm fouling all the data by combining both people who know only Virtual Binky and those who know IRL Binky.

UPDATE: I feel just like Lisa Simpson desperately pleading with her mother to grade and evaluate her - OK everybody, have at Armand Knight.

Posted by binky at 04:59 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

My Little Crony: Part...???

Via Atrios, Bush appointments to the Fed:

Bush's nomination of the 35-year-old White House aide -- a lawyer by training who would become one of only two members of the Fed's seven-member board of governors without a Ph.D. in economics -- has been greeted by criticism and bewilderment by some former Fed officials and economists. They point to his political connections and inexperience, and say the White House could have found a better-known, more qualified choice.

``Kevin Warsh is not a good idea,'' said former Fed Vice Chairman Preston Martin, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1982. ``If I were on the Senate Banking Committee,'' which must approve Fed nominees, ``I would vote against him.''

``The Warsh nomination came out of left field,'' said Tom Schlesinger, executive director of the Financial Markets Center, a Howardsville, Virginia-based group that monitors the Fed.

The nomination of Warsh, who has been executive secretary of the president's National Economic Council, was one of two that Bush made on Jan. 27 to fill vacancies on the Fed. The other nominee, Randall Kroszner, 43, is a University of Chicago professor and a former Fed visiting scholar with a doctorate in economics from Harvard University.

No comment. Just, no comment.

Posted by binky at 02:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day (and a reading suggestion)

Not that this is new news, but winning the (smaller) war in Iraq and the (larger) war against fundamentalist Islam will be harder than we thought, and take longer than we want:

...the number of books translated by the whole Arab world over the past thousand years is equivalent to the numbers of books translated by Spain in one year...

Go and read the whole article by David Corn (World War IV as Fourth-Generation Warfare in Policy Review).

I'm not convinced he's right, and he's a bit too sympathetic to the NeoCons for my taste, but he makes some points that are at least worthy of larger debate. In particular, the argument that we need to focus our efforts not on Muslim women and youth (Corn claims that's the target today), but on the Muslim clergy and the Muslim military (the uniformed militaries of the states of the region) is an interesting hypothesis. In any event, worth the read.

(The Corn article was found via this WaPo Op-Ed in Sunday's paper, which also cited the translation statistic.)

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

Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to

Misinformation, sedition:

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has asked Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson for a thorough inquiry of his agency's investigation into whether a V.A. nurse's letter to the editor criticizing the Bush administration amounted to "sedition."

Merely opposing government policies and expressing a desire to change course "does not provide reason to believe that a person is involved in illegal subversive activity," he said. Bingaman said such investigations raise "a very real possibility of chilling legitimate political speech."

Laura Berg, a clinical nurse specialist for 15 years, wrote a letter in September to a weekly Albuquerque newspaper criticizing how the administration handled Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq Wwr. She urged people to "act forcefully" by bringing criminal charges against top administration officials, including the president, to remove them from power because they played games of "vicious deceit." She added: "This country needs to get out of Iraq now and return to our original vision and priorities of caring for land and people and resources rather than killing for oil....Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times."

The agency seized her office computer and launched an investigation. Berg is not talking to the press, but reportedly fears losing her job.

Via Crooks and Liars.

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


Netflix isn't playing nice:

Manuel Villanueva realizes he has been getting a pretty good deal since he signed up for Netflix Inc.'s online DVD rental service 2-1/2 years ago, but he still feels shortchanged.

That's because the $17.99 monthly fee that he pays to rent up to three DVDs at a time would amount to an even bigger bargain if the company didn't penalize him for returning his movies so quickly.

Netflix typically sends about 13 movies a month to Villanueva's home in Warren, Michigan -- down from the 18 to 22 DVDs he once received before the company's automated system identified him as a heavy renter and began delaying his shipments to protect its profits.

The same Netflix formula also shoves Villanueva to the back of the line for the most-wanted DVDs, so the service can send those popular flicks to new subscribers and infrequent renters.

The little-known practice, called "throttling" by critics, means Netflix customers who pay the same price for the same service are often treated differently, depending on their rental patterns.

"I wouldn't have a problem with it if they didn't advertise 'unlimited rentals,' " Villanueva said. "The fact is that they go out of their way to make sure you don't go over whatever secret limit they have set up for your account."

Posted by binky at 11:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 12, 2006

Maison Hermes, Tokyo

I'd never seen a picture of this building before. It's a remarkable piece of work, fitting both the nature of the company's image and the tower's location in the Ginza district.

Posted by armand at 09:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

WVU 69, Georgetown 56

Yeah I've got a link to both schools, but I'm very happy to see that the #10 Mountaineers defeated the #16 Hoyas tonight.

Posted by armand at 09:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

And speaking of cartoonists...

...it's good to know some people could give a rat's patootie about fake controversy.

Posted by binky at 07:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Will you leave with me?

I find it rather remarkable that in as sumptuous and sometimes melodramatic a work of art as 2046, cuttingly real and wise remarks about the nature of love are presented. And that so much about something so important to life can be so far beyond our control and subject to the whims of timing and chance …Well, if the deepest calls of the heart can appear cruelly capricious they are also matters that define how we see the world and live our lives.

This film concerns how we choose to (or choose not to) deal with memories of lost love, and the fundamental role such actions play in shaping our behavior. It’s probably not worth it to say more about the plot than that – because in a way the details seem beside the point. This is simply a tale of memories and love – about as fundamental motivators of human behavior as one can imagine.

But just because it centers on basic human drives, that should not imply it is a simple tale. If you studied it long enough you could problem find a host of instances of intriguing doubling. And the film glides over matters of politics and changing social norms that themselves could be said to be key to its meaning. But, understandably, the thing that many people will most associate with this work is its style – and there’s nothing the slightest bit simple about that. It’s amazingly beautiful. All parts of the crafting are superbly done, from the computer effects to the make-up, from the acting to the lighting, from the music to the cinematography. It’s an appropriately sensual, mysterious, dream-like world – whether the world happens to be imaginary or not.

Posted by armand at 07:18 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Shame on Yoo

This is hilarious - in a you've-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me kind of a way. Is Yoo not only one of the most dangerous attorneys in the country, but also a hypocrite of jaw-dropping proportions? You be the judge.

Posted by armand at 07:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Just because I'm paranoid...

...doesn't mean they aren't out to get bloggers. (emphasis mine)

The government concluded its "Cyber Storm" wargame Friday, its biggest-ever exercise to test how it would respond to devastating attacks over the Internet from anti-globalization activists, underground hackers and bloggers.


Participants confirmed parts of the worldwide simulation challenged government officials and industry executives to respond to deliberate misinformation campaigns and activist calls by Internet bloggers, online diarists whose "Web logs" include political rantings and musings about current events.

Dudes, we're fucked. Especially if they mean the "devastating attacks" on W's fee-fees everytime some blogger calls him an idiot. I'm surprised they didn't have an element of the wargame for cartoonists too.

Booman Tribune does an 8-point "why bloggers are terrorist enemies to the government" list.

Our tax dollars at work. Damn. Can't get that Osama asshole, but mebbe we can round up some bloggers!

Just come back where I came from,
Looks the same as something's wrong.
And all my friends that used to be,
Have gone and turned their backs on me.
Everyone's got different views,
Now I'm all shook up and all confused.

East is west, left is right,
Up is down, and black is white,
Inside-out, wrong is right,
It's back to front and I'm all uptight.

I've just come back from fantasy,
Right back to reality.
Stayed away too long but now I've found,
My world is turning upside-down.
I don't fit in but I don't stand out,
I should stay cool but want to shout.

East is west, left is right,
Up is down, and black is white,
Inside-out, wrong is right,
It's back to front and I'm all uptight.

No one knows where I come from,
Who are you and what do you want?
You've thrown away all that we had,
It's down the drain, it's all gone mad.
The word is out, I've seen the sign,
So you go your way, I go mine.

East is west, left is right,
Up is down, and black is white,
Inside-out, wrong is right,
It's back to front and I'm all uptight.

East is west, left is right,
Up is down, and black is white,
Inside-out, wrong is right,
It's back to front and I'm all uptight (alright).
It's back to front and I'm all uptight (alright, alright, alright, alright).

Are you listening?
Well then, I'll have to do it all over again!

Posted by binky at 06:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sadr Instrumental in Jaafari Pick

Remember when the US military was engaged in multiple military operations against him, shutting down his newspapers, and considering him the #1 destabilizing force in Iraq? Well, guess who's picked the Iraqi Prime Minister.

Posted by armand at 02:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Amazon's Business

The NY Times today did a nice little piece on Amazon.com. The article isn't about anything new at Amazon, but about their business model. It turns out that Amazon makes money from (according to the article) three things: selling other people's stuff through their website, partnering with larger stores (like Target) and selling their stuff (isn't that like the first thing?), and selling their own inventory (books, etc.). The people the NYT interviewed seem to think that Amazon makes money from the first two, but barely breaks even with the third.

I'll admit to using Amazon (you'll note that my links to books, music, and movies all point to them). I find them simple, with a deep inventory (I can find stuff when no one else has them), and they have really good prices when they decide to put something on sale. Thus, I was surprised to read this (from the article):

"Academic research shows pretty convincingly that people have separate accounts in mind, one for the item itself and one for shipping," said John Morgan, an economist who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. Using eBay auctions as his real-world laboratory, he showed that changing the ratio of item price to shipping charge, while keeping the total price constant, produces sharply different customer responses.
On eBay, Mr. Morgan found that bidders happily accepted outrageously high shipping charges if they thought they were getting a good deal on the item price of a used CD. Amazon, however, faces the opposite problem: its customers accord more weight to the shipping charge, even if modest, than to the discount on the item itself. Why should this be? Perhaps it is the online customer's chafing at being asked to pay for the privilege of waiting for a delivery.

Does this jibe with other people? I don't use ebay, so I can't comment on that part of the quote, but I don't honestly pay much attention to shipping at Amazon. I don't pay for the express (overnight or two-day) shipping, but the regular ground shipping usually only costs a few dollars, and it gets here within three or four business days (sometimes faster). I'll admit, as well, that I often don't even pay attention to the shipping costs: I'll glance them over to make sure that I'm not paying a lot, but I just treat them like taxes (you have to pay them) and keep moving. I've never been chased away from buying on Amazon by shipping charges. I buy from them because they have what I need (when no one locally does) at a reasonable price.

This wasn't earth shattering, but seemed interesting.

(PS: Amazon, according to the article, doesn't discuss anything - it discloses very minimal financial information, and keeps everybody guessing about what they do, and what part of the business makes money and what doesn't. Interesting business model - don't tell anybody anything.

Posted by baltar at 01:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 11, 2006

Go John Sullivan! Go Brokeback!

I'm on the cusp of getting seriously annoyed by two seemingly growing phenomena. While I love all the blog love that's going to Ciro Rodriguez in his primary battle against Henry Cuellar, an awful excuse for a Democrat in the US House, why isn't there more attention also being paid to John Sullivan's campaign against Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), another awful excuse for a Democrat. Let's replace both Cuellar and Lipinski! Let's show some support for Sullivan!

And I am getting more and more nervous as I read reports from supposed insiders about how Brokeback Mountain is too gay for the supposedly left-leaning Oscar voters. There have been a host of little columns and posts suggesting that Crash might yet beat Brokeback for Best Picture because a lot of the old men in Hollywood just don't want to watch Brokeback. If the over-rated pile of celluloid banalities that is Crash wins Best Picture (it's horrifying enough that it seems a lock for screenplay) it will really show (yet again) that merit has little to do with Oscar race victories.

Posted by armand at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Can They Protect It?

A reminder of the stakes involved in national security - and why the Republicans aren't merely incompetent at providing it, they spend almost every minute of the year telling lies about their opponents in a pathetic (and dangerous) attempt to distract people from their failures.

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

The New Yorker Catches a Great (Whoops!) Obituary

Ezra recommends the current issue of The New Yorker. I strongly agree. It's really strong, and I haven't even gotten to the latest Murakami story they've published or read all the critics pieces yet. And there's much to recommend beyond what he comments on - I enjoyed Nancy Fanklin's love/hate review of 24, and Steve Coll's piece on the nuclear threat involving India and Pakistan is very good, important, and disturbing. But I think my favorite bit of the whole issue might be this week's Correction feature (this week picking up on a mistake in the Boston Globe):

… Dr. Arleigh Dygert Richardson III, former teacher at Lawrence Academy in Groton, was described in his obituary yesterday as favoring tacky pants with tweed jackets and Oxford shirts. Dr. Richardson favored khaki pants.
Posted by armand at 12:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

Stealing Other People's Blog Posts Which Morphed Into A Long Rant

There's a lot in the news this past week. Bats Left Throws Right has a good summary:

In the space of twenty-four hours, we get:
• Libby says Cheney made him do it.
• Bush says we saved Los Angeles a while back, just sayin'.
• FAUX illustrates that story with a clip from Armaggedon.
• DeLay named to Judiciary appropriations subcommittee.
• Bush sneaks Social Security program he couldn't sell into the budget.
• Fox edits 2/3 of the applause out of its Rev. Lowery clip, leading Mort Kondracke to comment on how short the applause was.
• Lieberman says he's sure McCain meant well. Oh, wait, he's a Democrat.
• Michael Brown threatens blackmail.
• Bush explains executive privilege by reading from My Pet Goat.
• Scott McClellan responds to a question about NSA surveillance by saying, "Hey, waddya gonna do?"
• Domestic black people flap overlaps international brown people flap.

Sheesh. I'm out of bullets.

I just stole the whole thing. I'm in a sort of "where do I start" endless cycle. My own list:

1. The White House knew the levies broke in New Orleans many hours before they admit to knowing they knew. They did nothing.

2. "Scooter" Libby had been given permission to discuss classified data with reporters by his "superiors", according to his sworn grand jury testimony. Somehow this helps his defense against perjury.

3. NASA hired, then recently fired, an idiot in their PR department who didn't have a college degree (though he claimed he did), and told scientists what they were allowed say and what they weren't. How did he get the job at NASA? He was a journalism major, and worked for Bush's re-election campaign. That's qualified!

4. The fallout from the Republican attempt to turn PBS into Fox News II (Return of Fox) continues, as some of the right-wingers who got jobs under Tomlinson scurry out from under the failed scheme.

5. The guy who ran the CIA's Middle East desk from 2000 to 2005 (and now newly retired) claims that the administration "cherry picked" intelligence in order to move the country towards war. We've heard this story before, but the claims are coming from more and more credible sources as time passes.

6. Earlier this week, Attorney General Gonzalez decided that the "separation of powers" doctrine in the Constitution was antiquated and ignorable. Thus (via Balkinization ) a recap of the Attorney General's testimony:

What we did was legal, or, in our opinion, could have been legal. Since there are arguments on both sides, we will rely on our opinion. However, we won't let a court decide the question, because then we wouldn't be able to rely on our own opinion. We won't answer hypothetical questions about what we can do legally or constitutionally. We also won't tell you what we've actually done or plan to do; hence every question you ask will about legality be in effect a hypothetical, and therefore we can refuse to answer it.

That sound you hear is the rumbling of the earth as the founding fathers collective are turning over in their graves.

7. Coretta Scott King died, and at her funeral some people decided to point out that social and racial justice in this country isn't as advanced as it could be. The wingnutosphere went wingnuttier, verging on racist, in decrying the politization of the funeral. Uh, she (and her husband) were clearly left-of-center politically, and worked most of their lives (some times more successfully, sometimes less) to reveal and fix problems of social and racial injustice. The fact that this was pointed out at her funeral isn't really cause for upset. It is, in fact, appropriate. If they had lied about her, or her efforts, (as they did about Reagan), then I could see getting upset. Since they didn't, I'd like to request that the entire right wing keep their pants on.

This list of events doesn't even include the interesting foreign news (Reuters is reporting that the Hamas leadership has been invited to Moscow for talks, and that France is in favor. WTF?), nor entertainment news (Grammy winners here, and all of them - every last one - useless. I think a Grammy should be a kiss of death. Go listen to the new Gossip or Black Mountain, or Pelican. Mariah Carey can eat my shorts. Oh, and the Rolling Stones can blow me too.).

In any event, there is too much going on for me to focus on any one thing. Hence this rather messy blow up. Maybe I should watch a bad movie or two and learn some focus.

You are now free to continue what you were doing.

Posted by baltar at 12:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

More on NASA PR Idiot

I realize Binky has already covered this story, but I did want to point out one additional major-grade idiocy in ex-NASA PR idiot Deutsch's NYTimesstory:

In an e-mail message, Mr. Deutsch said that remarks about religious views on the creation of the universe sent last October to a Web designer working on a presentation on Albert Einstein were "personal observations" and never were reflected in the material that was posted online.
"We are both Christians, and I was sharing with him my personal opinions on the Big Bang theory versus intelligent design," Mr. Deutsch wrote to The Times. "What I said about intelligent design did not affect the presentation of the Big Bang theory in the subsequent Einstein Web story. This is a very important point, because I have been accused of trying to insert religion into this story, which I was not trying to do." (emphasis added)

Two points: A) If you are an official spokesidiot for any organization, you don't ever mention "personal opinions" when you are on the phone with someone you are providing information to in the course of your job. That's just idiotic. B) He still doesn't get it. Deutsch is still calling it the "big bang theory", even though that's what got him into trouble. Its a theory in the same way that gravity is a theory (both the big bang and gravity are considered theories by science, but I'll guarantee that Deutsch doesn't know the difference between a scientist using the word "theory" and a layperson using the word "theory"; and he got a job at NASA). Deutsch has managed to confirm he's an idiot within a few days of everyone suspecting it.

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

Surprising Turns in Israel and the UK

The head of Shin Bet says that the Israelis may miss Saddam Hussein. I repeat, that was said by the head of SHIN BET - in public! Whatever will George Bush and Joe Lieberman say in response?

The Liberal Democrats, in the wake of recent leadership scandals, have scored an astounding by-election win over Labour in a district in Scotland (a constituency that borders that of Chancellor Gordon Brown's). Suddenly they have new life, and David Cameron's Tories and (especially) Labour look like they have previously unseen (or unconfirmed) weaknesses.

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

Libby: The Tip of the Iceberg?

Juan Cole has created a post (with photos!) in which he connects the dots in despicable abuses of Lewis Libby (et al.?).

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

Corby Kummer on New Orleans Restaurants

If you care about New Orleans, its restaurants and its food (and its Sazeracs!) you'll likely be interested in this article in the March issue of The Atlantic. So go buy it on a newstand now. It's a tale of loss (Bayonna's wine cellar, housing for pretty much everyone involved in the industry, the lives and livelihoods of familiar faces) and rebirth. There are tales of great sacrifice, food and a belief in how important it is to bring back this party of the city.

And it ends on a pretty hopeful note - and reminds me that it's long past time I dined at Upperline (which has reopened).

Some people come across really well (those kind souls who are been taking others into their homes for months on end, the Brennan family), some come across really poorly (I'd urge boycotts of Ruth's Chris Steak House and Galatoire's), and the story makes it clear that despite the implications of news reports, all the French Quarter and Garden District clearly did suffer from Katrina. But more than anything else it's hopeful - and honestly I am now much more eager to return to the city than I had been before reading this article.

Posted by armand at 11:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My Resume

Binky Rasmussen

Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Billionaire Philanthropist

Nobel Prize for Medicine

Discovered Cure for Cancer

Single Handedly Brought Peace to the Middle East

Yes, all of it


Kind to Little Dogs and Stray Cats

What? I anticipate doing those things. Hint: third paragraph from the end.

And just for the record, I am already kind to little dogs and stray cats.

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

Mmm Mmm Tasty

Crow, that is:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Marty Bahamonde, first heard of a major levee breach Monday morning. By late Monday afternoon, Mr. Bahamonde had hitched a ride on a Coast Guard helicopter over the breach at the 17th Street Canal to confirm the extensive flooding. He then telephoned his report to FEMA headquarters in Washington, which notified the Homeland Security Department.

"FYI from FEMA," said an e-mail message from the agency's public affairs staff describing the helicopter flight, sent Monday night at 9:27 to the chief of staff of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and recently unearthed by investigators. Conditions, the message said, "are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting. Finding extensive flooding and more stranded people than they had thought — also a number of fires."

Michael D. Brown, who was the director of FEMA until he resigned under pressure on Sept. 12, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he personally notified the White House of this news that night, though he declined to identify the official he spoke to.

White House officials have confirmed to Congressional investigators that the report of the levee break arrived there at midnight, and Trent Duffy, the White House spokesman, acknowledged as much in an interview this week, though he said it was surrounded with conflicting reports.

But the alert did not seem to register. Even the next morning, President Bush, on vacation in Texas, was feeling relieved that New Orleans had "dodged the bullet," he later recalled. Mr. Chertoff, similarly confident, flew Tuesday to Atlanta for a briefing on avian flu. With power out from the high winds and movement limited, even news reporters in New Orleans remained unaware of the full extent of the levee breaches until Tuesday.

The federal government let out a sigh of relief when in fact it should have been sounding an "all hands on deck" alarm, the investigators have found.

I'm not going to say it, but you know what I'm thinking.

Posted by binky at 12:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 09, 2006

Another Fightin' Dem - Joe Sestak to Challenge Curt Weldon

With candidates with a resume like his (and of course it's not just him, there are a host of veterans running for Congress this year as Democrats), how exactly does the perception that Democrats are weak on defense continue to exist?

Joe Sestak, a retired Vice Admiral has announced that he's going to challenge Curt Weldon (R-PA) in this fall's elections. Weldon is the #2 Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and is in line to chair it in the not-to-distant future (if Republicans maintain their majority). Sestak vs. Weldon is a race that should get a lot of media attention give the players, and given Weldon's Moonie ties, well, in my view it can't possibly get enough. Go Adniral Sestak!

Posted by armand at 09:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

More Visits From Military Intelligence

Today we got a little bit excited to see that we had a visit from someone at C-Span (Baltar says "Go Congress!"):

Domain Name c-span.org ? (Organization)IP Address 12.40.160.# (NATIONAL CABLE AND SATELLITE CORP)
ISP AT&T WorldNet ServicesLocation 
Continent : North America
Country : United States  (Facts)
State : Maryland
City : Dayton
Lat/Long : 39.2402, -77.0037 (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 Feb 9 2006 4:05:48 pmLast Page View Feb 9 2006 4:05:48 pm

And then we noticed this:

Domain Name army.mil ? (Military)IP Address 192.172.8.# (USAISC-CECOM)
Continent : North America
Country : United States  (Facts)
State : New Jersey
City : Fort Monmouth
Lat/Long : 40.3145, -74.0417 (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; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)
Javascript disabledTime of Visit Feb 9 2006 11:15:11 amLast Page View Feb 9 2006 11:15:11 amVisit Length 0 secondsPage Views 1Referring URLunknownVisit Entry Page http://www.bloodlesscoup.com/blog/Visit Exit Page http://www.bloodlesscoup.com/blog/Time Zone unknownVisitor's Time UnknownVisit Number 19,073

Yes, that's right, visitor 19,073...come on dooowwwwnnnnn!

What's behind door number 19,073? Well, funny you should ask:

USAISC-CECOM in a google search brings up some websites who have received hits and do not like it as well as a WhoIs search (plus some nutty stuff, skip that). For further information on USAISC and CECOM, there are some google searches.

To find the websites directly: USAISC and CECOM.

According to Global Security here's a little background on our visitors:

The mission of the US Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) is to develop, acquire and sustain superior information technologies and integrated systems, enabling battlespace dominance for America's warfighters. CECOM provides the architectural framework and systems engineering to insure joint interoperability and horizontal technology integration across the TOTAL battlespace. CECOM executes its mission throughout the lifecycle of warfighting systems and platforms through an integrated process of technology generation and application, acquisition excellence, logistics power projection, project management and depot operations. The command furthers joint interoperability through an alliance with its counterpart commands in the Navy and Air Force, and through a jointly staffed Commanders in Chief (CINC) Interoperability Program Office (CIPO) at Fort Monmouth.

Fort Monmouth is home to a wide variety of Army, Department of Defense (DoD) and other government activities. CECOM, although geographically dispersed at various locations in the US and around the world, is the host and largest activity at Fort Monmouth. Among the government organizations located on Fort Monmouth are two Army Program Executive Offices - Command, Control and Communications Systems (PEO-C3S) and Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO-IEWS); the Defense Information Systems Agency/Joint Interoperability Engineering Organization; and numerous other resident activities. To accomplish CECOM's vision to be the Universally Recognized Leader in Providing Information Dominance Capabilities to America's Warfighters, "...So Overwhelming That Decisive Victory is Achieved,"

CECOM relies on seven major organizational components: the Research, Development and Engineering Center (RDEC); Software Engineering Center (SEC); Information Systems Engineering Command (ISEC); Deputy for Systems Acquisition/Systems Management Center (DSA/SMC); Logistics and Readiness Center (LRC); Tobyhanna Army Depot; and CECOM Acquisition Center (AC).

I've been chatting on and off about this very subject over at Born At the Crest of the Empire. Most recent thread here, which MikeVotes updates to link to the Topsail/TIA story that I mentioned here. He posts a link to a Defense Tech analysis on the "rebooting" of TIA:

We all knew that Total Information Awareness and its uber-database progeny weren't going away. It was just a question of what names TIA's bastard children were now using, and what government agencies had decided to give 'em a home.

iaologo.gifToday, we find out about two of the not-so-little stinkers. Newsweek, in a brutal assessment of the NSA and other intelligence agencies ("Wanted: Competent Big Brothers"), tucks in this nugget:

Today, very quietly, the core of TIA survives with a new codename of Topsail... two officials privy to the intelligence tell NEWSWEEK. It is in programs like these that real data mining is going on and—considering the furor over TIA—with fewer intrusions on civil liberties than occur under the NSA surveillance program. "It’s the best thing to come out of American intelligence in decades," says John Arquilla, an intelligence expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. "It is truly Poindexter’s brainchild. Of all the people in the intelligence business, he has the keenest appreciation of using advanced information technology for intelligence gathering." Poindexter, who lives just outside Washington in Rockville, Md., could not be reached for comment on whether he is still involved with Topsail.

Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor has discovered a new data-mining program over at the Homeland Security Department. It's called Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement -- "ADVISE," for short.

What sets ADVISE apart is its scope. It would collect a vast array of corporate and public online information - from financial records to CNN news stories - and cross-reference it against US intelligence and law-enforcement records. The system would then store it as "entities" - linked data about people, places, things, organizations, and events, according to a report summarizing a 2004 DHS conference in Alexandria, Va. The storage requirements alone are huge - enough to retain information about 1 quadrillion entities, the report estimated. If each entity were a penny, they would collectively form a cube a half-mile high - roughly double the height of the Empire State Building.

But ADVISE and related DHS technologies aim to do much more, according to Joseph Kielman, manager of the TVTA [Threat and Vulnerability, Testing and Assessment] portfolio. The key is not merely to identify terrorists, or sift for key words, but to identify critical patterns in data that illumine their motives and intentions, he wrote in a presentation at a November conference in Richland, Wash.

For example: Is a burst of Internet traffic between a few people the plotting of terrorists, or just bloggers arguing? ADVISE algorithms would try to determine that before flagging the data pattern for a human analyst's review.

Your tax dollars at work. And in the meantime, the government might know there are some terrorists running around in the US, but just can't seem to find them.

All this Reagan era flashback stuff is making me feel old, dammit, because I remember these jokers these convicted felons from the last teflon president.

As always, I feel much much safer.

Posted by binky at 07:05 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

I know I'm being a Bad Feminist When I Give This Link But...

Tool of the Patriarchy!!!

Why oh why did I even look at the grammy coverage? Oh yeah, the Gorillaz and Madonna mashup (just a smidge, in the middle).

Posted by binky at 06:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Poll: Loony? Or Linkable?

The Washington Times. Whaddya say?

Because, you know, if they are linkable, this is very provocative:

1) The article makes clear that Bush is spying on Americans talking to Americans inside the United States, even when neither of the two Americans are members of Al Qaeda or an affiliate.

2) The article makes clear that Bush's domestic spy program is totally ineffective and unnecessary as Al Qaeda stopped using the phones and email a long time ago.

3) The article says that the Bush teams knows of specific Al Qaeda members in the US at the moment, but because of Bush's incompetence he has been unable to find them.


Posted by binky at 05:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Frist and the Back Room Deal

It's always nice when the news outlets in a Senator's home state use words like "rig bill for drug firms" in their headlines referring to said Senator.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert engineered a backroom legislative maneuver to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits, say witnesses to the pre-Christmas power play.

The language was tucked into a Defense Department appropriations bill at the last minute without the approval of members of a House-Senate conference committee, say several witnesses, including a top Republican staff member.

snippity snip

Beyond the issue of vaccine liability protection, some say going around the longstanding practice of bipartisan House-Senate conference committees' working out compromises on legislation is a dangerous power grab by Republican congressional leaders that subverts democracy.

"It is a travesty of the legislative process," said Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"It vests enormous power in the hands of congressional leaders and private interests, minimizes transparency and denies legitimate opportunities for all interested parties, in Congress and outside, to weigh in on important policy questions."

At issue is what happened Dec. 18 as Congress scrambled to finish its business and head home for the Christmas holiday.

That day, a conference committee made up of 38 senators and House members met several times to work out differences on the 2006 Defense Department appropriations bill.

He said, he said.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the ranking minority House member on the conference committee, said he asked Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the conference chairman, whether the vaccine liability language was in the massive bill or would be placed in it.

Obey and four others at the meeting said Stevens told him no. Committee members signed off on the bill and the conference broke up.

Uh-oh, witnesses.

A spokeswoman for Stevens, Courtney Boone, said last week that the vaccine liability language was in the bill when conferees approved it. Stevens was not made available for comment.

Can you say "fallguy" boys and girls?

During a January interview, Frist agreed. Asked about the claim that the vaccine language was inserted after the conference members signed off on the bill, he replied: "To my knowledge, that is incorrect. It was my understanding, you'd have to sort of confirm, that the vaccine liability which had been signed off by leaders of the conference, signed off by the leadership in the United States Senate, signed off by the leadership of the House, it was my understanding throughout that that was part of that conference report."

Ooh, Gumby! So twisty and flexible!

But Keith Kennedy, who works for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., as staff director for the Senate Appropriations Committee, said at a seminar for reporters last month that the language was inserted by Frist and Hastert, R-Ill., after the conference committee ended its work.

"There should be no dispute. That was an absolute travesty," Kennedy said at a videotaped Washington, D.C., forum sponsored by the Center on Congress at Indiana University.

Red alert! Red alert! A spine! Ah, but we know those Mississippi Republicans are really borderline commies, right?

"It was added after the conference had concluded. It was added at the specific direction of the speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate. The conferees did not vote on it. It's a true travesty of the process."

After the conference committee broke up, a meeting was called in Hastert's office, Kennedy said. Also at the meeting, according to a congressional staffer, were Frist, Stevens and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

"They (committee staff members) were given the language and then it was put in the document," Kennedy said.

About 10 or 10:30 p.m., Democratic staff members were handed the language and told it was now in the bill, Obey said.

He took to the House floor in a rage. He called Frist and Hastert "a couple of musclemen in Congress who think they have a right to tell everybody else that they have to do their bidding."

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., also was critical of inserting the vaccine language after the conference committee had adjourned.

"It sucks," he told Congress Daily that night.

Now that's bipartisan! Not to mention highly professional language.

"What an insult to the legislative process," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., a member of the conference committee. Byrd is considered the authority on legislative rules and tradition.

Oh, come on, you knew he was going to be in there. Plus it gives me one more chance to reiterate that Sen. Byrd will be getting no money or vote from me in his bid for re-election for his massive failure on the Alito vote.

Even though Byrd thinks it's an insult to the legislative process...

"[t]he practice of adding to a compromise bill worked out by bipartisan House-Senate conference committees, while highly unusual, is not thought to violate congressional rules."

Not thought by whom? Unnamed others who are not "the authority on legislative rules and tradition," apparently.

Frist has received $271,523 in campaign donations from the pharmaceutical and health products industry since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.

Snippity do dah...

Frist has long advocated liability protection for vaccine makers, and it was widely reported that he would attempt to attach the legislation to the Defense Appropriations bill because it is considered must-pass legislation.

Long advocated. Since 1989 perhaps?

Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that, while the group favors liability protection, it did not take a position nor did it lobby on behalf of the law that passed.

Well, shoot, why would they have to lobby when Frist was bought and paid for already? Besides, with 2008 looming, I'm sure they'll have the chance to show their appreciation.

Via AmericaBlog.

UPDATE: Tim F. at Balloon Juice refreshes our memory about Cheney's feelings on the issue when the democracts worked the rule book fine print.

Posted by binky at 04:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Always the last to know:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday he was blindsided by President Bush's announcement of new details on a purported 2002 hijacking plot aimed at a downtown skyscraper, and described communication with the White House as "nonexistent."

"I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the mayor told The Associated Press. "I don't expect a call from the president - but somebody."

Posted by binky at 04:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Link Dump (of the day) 2: Feminist Blogging Boogaloo

The Happy Feminist ON TURNING INTO A PUMPKIN AT DUSK explores why "the cultural assumptions regarding women's need for male protection often do a disservice to both women and men."

Scott Lemieux describes Phylis Schlafly's love for spousal rapists and hatred for the "malicious feminists who have lobbied for laws that punish spousal rape just like stranger rape." Considering that most rape is not stranger rape, good old Phylis must have plenty of fodder for her righteous rape-apologizing indignation.

La Twisty hypothesizes about race and tolerance for domestic violence, sparked by: "For European women aged 16-44 violence in the home is the primary cause of injury and death, more lethal than road accidents and cancer."

Last but not least, the Eighth Carnival of the Feminists. Lots of good stuff there, but I especially liked this post from Mickle about how having a career in "science often requires that one be either a bit heroic - or one of the guys," and how being the first is nearly as difficult as the second sometimes.

Posted by binky at 02:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kicking Widows and Orphans, Why Religion and Medicine Don't Mix, & Various Bloggy Tidbits

From Pandagon a letter to the editor from a woman whose doctor - who is hopefully being sued to the high heavens for malpractice - wouldn't inform her of the need for or perform an emergency D&C when she miscarried. That's right, even though the fetus was dead and she could have died, the "doctor" wouldn't perform an "abortion" and advised the woman to "practice abstinence and get married."

Steve Gilliard reminds us how the new budget will support the troops: by cutting off one-time death benefits to their widows and children. It would also terminate monthly surivor checks to minors who are not full-time students. So, if your dad gets killed in Iraq, better not freak out from grief and quit going to school. And lest we forget [a]lmost a third of the 141 targeted programs are in education...[and]would among other things reduce inflation adjustments for hospitals, nursing homes, home health care providers and hospices..

Yahoo sucks. And Majikthise reminds us that we may be more tied to them than we think, underscoring a related point that was made at Wampum a while ago when they stopped trackback pings to Yahoo (among others).

The pile on against the story that implies it's better to be crazy and beautiful than fan and sane starts with Shakespeare's Sister (links within her post). Plus Amp has up the first Big Fat Carnival.

Evidence that the FISA courts may have used illegal wiretaps to get warrants.

Quick! We better do something about this leaker before he releases more information that helps the evildoers!

In the latest in bird flu (maybe), 45,000 chickens died suspicious deaths in Nigeria.

MikeVotes has two posts on the fate of total information awareness and links to a CSMonitor story discussing how electronic surveillance could mistake a blogswarm for a terrorist plot.

No wonder I wish I could do this instead of facing the world.

Posted by binky at 01:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Danish Cartoons: More Evidence Samuel Huntington's Wrong

As if more were needed ...

That's the implication of this Olivier Roy column, and of course Roy knows vastly more about Islamic politics than Huntington. Roy notes that what we are seeing isn't a "Clash of Civilizations" between the West and the Islamic world. What we are really seeing are the deep divisions that exist within the Islamic world.

For more on who's incited this political circus, I refer you to this article in today's New York Times.

Posted by armand at 01:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2006

Robert C. Byrd - 1 of the 11 Votes Against Justice Marshall

I came across that little bit of political trivia this morning. Lovely. Not.

The senior Democrat in the US Senate voted against the first African-American nominee to our nation's highest court, one of the country's most prominent civil rights attorneys, but for the nomination of Justice Alito.

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

President Bush IS Spying on His Opponents

And he's using government resources, including your money, to do it. Just a brief reminder to point out that it was completely appropriate for President Carter to bring up the current surveillance controversy (and illegalities) Coretta Scott King's funeral. Mrs. King bravely exposed corruption and fought off attempts to silence her - and the world is a better place because of her actions. It's entirely appropriate that in praising her life President Cartet would remind the audience that the fights she fought are our fights too. And if we want to be true to her legacy she shouldn't let her down.

Posted by armand at 12:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

James Webb (D-VA) Will Run for the Senate

Raising Kaine's campaign to Draft James Webb has worked. The former 9/11 Commission member who prominently served as Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan has let it be known he is going to run for the Senate seat currently held by US Senator George Allen (R-VA), considered by many to be the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Webb's no bull-shit, direct style should make for an exciting campaign. In order to get the chance to Allen he'll first have to get by Harris Miller though. Miller, who's been a big fundraiser for Virginia Democrats, entered the race with former Gov. Mark Warner's support. One issue in that intra-party contest will likely be Webb's support for Sen. Allen in his race against then incumbent Sen. Chuck Robb (D-VA) in 2000 (though it should perhaps be noted that Webb backed Robb in his 1994 race against Oliver North).

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

Lynn Swann Will Be the GOP Candidate Against Rendell

Former Lt. Governor Bill Scranton has dropped out of the race for governor of Pennsylvania. This means that former Steelers WR Lynn Swann will almost certainly be the Republican candidate for governor this fall. I wouldn't count him out given that Gov. Ed Rendell's poll numbers have been surprisingly soft of late. Rendell will likely have a big cash advantage and incumbent PA governors are almost never defeated when they run for reelection. But Swann's candidacy should be taken very seriously - even though that's a concept a lot of people are going to have trouble getting their head around.

Posted by armand at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cronies Sans Credentials Censor Science

Remember this story about the NASA scientist being blocked? Looks like the little scamp who restricted his speech is also more than a little liar:

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.

Maybe he can get a job helping Brownie consult on disaster management. They both have the same qualifications.

Posted by binky at 10:53 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Covering Coretta's Funeral

Crooks and Liar's links to Countdown's coverage of the Coretta Scott King funeral - a remarkable event honoring a remarkable woman. Losing her is terrible loss.

If you are interested in a vapid and insulting Republican response - which ran along the lines of "oh those mean, evil, Democrats are politicizing a great woman's funeral" (to which one might note - uh, she was a political activist who opposed pretty much everything the president stands for and was the subject of a host of big-government abuses including wiretaps you dumbasses ... so, what? people aren't supposed to honor her work and her interests at her funeral?) - Crooks and Liars also links to Kate O'Beirne being an asshole and Chris Matthew beings pointless at best (aren't you just shocked?).

Posted by armand at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chicken News Network?

Usually we joke about it being the Celebutainment News Network, but we might have to change the -elebutainment to -hicken:

Chicken saved by mouth-to-beak resuscitation

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

February 07, 2006

When the Iranians and Israelis Were "Thick as Thieves"

Michael O'Hare remembers a different age - not one necessarily full of cute kittens and snuggly bunnies, but relatively ...

Posted by armand at 03:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who is left?

From the WaPo:

Grenier's departure comes at a time when the agency is bleeding top talent, robbing the CIA of institutional memory and damaging morale among case officers and analysts. Since Porter J. Goss became director in September 2004, well over a dozen senior officials -- several of whom were promoted under Goss -- have resigned, have retired early or have requested reassignment. Grenier was the third person to be head of counterterrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Like Grenier, most of those leaving the agency had spent their career in the clandestine service and had years of experience in the Middle East and, more specifically, with al Qaeda. Charlie Siddel, the station chief in Amman, Jordan, took early retirement late last year when he was recalled to headquarters. In the fall, the head of the European division, whose undercover role included overseeing the hunt for al Qaeda on the continent, also left.

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

Gonzales/NSA Hearings

I haven't seen any of the hearings (they went on for seven hours yesterday, and some people have other lives), but I have tried to follow the news reports (WaPo and NYTimes). The general gist I get of yesterday's hearing was that Gonzales failed to clarify anything. His testimony was that the AUMF that Congress passed in 2001 granted the President virtually unlimited (my phrasing) authority to do whatever is necessary to pursue the war against terrorism. In other words, the President is following the law, and the administration is under no compulsion to discuss publically (or, presumably, privately) what they are doing, to who, how many, why, or how. To do so, Gonzales argued yesterday, would be to reveal information to the terrorists, which hurts our security. Even to approach Congress, in order to get them to revise FISA, is both risky (discussion of the revision would reveal too much information, compromising security) and unnecessary (the adminstration isn't violating any law now, so changing FISA is unnecessary).

This seems damn close to a constitutional crisis, or as close a one as we've had since Ollie North took responsibility for Iran-Contra and headed off that constitutional crisis.

Make no mistake, this is a constitutional crisis on the Congress' part. They have both the authority and constitutional obligation to pass legislation (that the executive oversees) and to oversee the executive's implementation of those laws. The administration position here is that no laws are being violated and (for security reasons) they can't reveal the actual implementation. So Congress will have to trust the administration that nothing bad (or illegal) is happening. The administration may be correct (I doubt it, but its possible). However, that's irrelevant. It's Congress' legal, constitutional, and moral responsibility to serve as an effective and timely check and/or balance to the over-reach of either of the other branches of government (just as it would be the legal, constitutional, and moral responsibility of the executive or courts to check Congress, were they over-reaching). The executive has no power to prevent Congress from overseeing any aspect of their administration - that is, after all, Congress' job. Congress not only has the legal and constitutional right to demand to know what the administration is doing, but has the obligation to do so. Failure to exercise that right is a grave error by Congress.

Congress hasn't fully failed yet; this is only the first day of hearings, and they may choose to have more hearings or in some way further pursue this issue. However, if they pack it in (as they show some signs of doing; Gonzales was not put under oath), that will create a very quiet (but very profound) constitutional crisis: the executive will have claimed a precedent for refusing oversight by Congress. That's the real issue here - I'm worried about my civil liberties, but I'm significantly more worried that the executive will shrug off Congress and take that as carte blanche to move forward in further ways outside the oversight of Congress.

And that's a full-blown constitutional crisis.

Posted by baltar at 09:05 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

February 06, 2006

Iraqi Electricity

Into the "corruption and stupidity really matter" files, goes this story about the attempts to get the power turned back on in Iraq. I won't quote any bits; it's a short blog post - go read it.

I'll add the usual disclaimer: it's one anecdotal story, not actual data. That being said, if this is an accurate measure of how the US is putting the country back together, we're in a heap of trouble.

Oh, and what actual data exist (in the first couple of paragraphs) note that electricity production has gone from 4400 megawatts in early 2003 (prewar), to 3560 megawatts in May of 2005, to 3600 megawatts in January 2006 (according to Brookings). Things are not good.

Posted by baltar at 09:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hick Chooses to Stay Mayor

Wow. I thought he was going to run. But no, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D), who would have been a heavy favorite if he'd opted to run for governor later this year, has decided not to make that race. This now becomes a much more even race (actually probably a race that leans in favor of the Republicans) and Democrats might see a ugly primary fight between anti-choice DA Bill Ritter and State House Majority Leader Alice Madden.

Posted by armand at 08:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Vatican's Response to the Cartoon Controversy

Francis Fukuyama is short-sighted and the Vatican gets a key point about liberty completely wrong - what's next? The sun rising in the East?

Posted by armand at 07:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Some Froth on your Cappuchino?

Baltar and Kung Fu Monkey: separated at birth?

Posted by binky at 03:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Scalia's 06/07 Clerks: Nino Thinking Firmly Inside Box

Gosh they look an awful lot like this year's clerks. Once again, 4 men who have clerked for prominent right-leaning Circuit Court of Appeals judges. In fact, in the cases of the Wilkinson, Kozinski and Luttig clerks - they come from the very same chambers. So many phrases jump to mind - groupthink, echo chamber, ostrich with his head in the sand, fat white guy threatened by change ...

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

February 05, 2006

Number Five for the Steelers!


Posted by binky at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Are you ready?


Yinz better be rootin' for the Stillers!

Posted by binky at 03:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

David Yassky's a Fundraising Machine

For those of you with Brooklyn connections ...

The voters in New York's 11th US House district will choose a successor to 12-term Rep. Major Owens later this year. This black-majority Brooklyn district is seeing a spirited Democratic primary featuring the congressman's son Chris, New York City Councilwoman Yvette Clark (daughter of Una), state senator Carl Andrews (who might jump out of this race if he can secure the position as the next head of the Democratic caucus in the New York State Senate - the current Minority Leader is running for Lieutenant Governor on a ticket with Eliot Spitzer), and New York City Councilman, Yale Law grad and former Chuck Schumer aide David Yassky (who represents Williamsburg, Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, among other areas, on the city council). As unlikely as a Yassky win would seem in this area where racial and ethnic politics can be very strong, his campaign has one clear strength - money. The National Journal noted that David had the best 4th quarter fundraising of any Democrat running for Congress and his cash-on-hand figures dwarf those of his opponents.

Posted by armand at 03:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

George Bush's (Probably Illegal) Wiretaps Are Largely Useless

The latest:

Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.

Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as "terrorist surveillance" and summed it up by declaring that "if you're talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why." But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no ...

That's George Bush for you ladies and gentlemen - he'll lie to you, lie right to your face.

The article also notes what this might mean for the constitutionality of this entire enterprise.

The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush's circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program's lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged "reasonable" if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable.
Posted by armand at 02:50 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Religion Blocks Science

Liz has a musing on religion, science and trolls. She links to this story about Susan Wood, who quit the FDA in protest over the anti-science shutdown of Plan B. I'm not going to say much, because I know Baltar has a long post about science, religion and politics in the works. Here's a little taste, but the whole thing is a bit jaw dropping.

Wood paints a bleak picture for the future. The FDA's decision regarding Plan B undermines both science and good governance, she says. And she believes a shadow has been cast over the FDA and all impartial government agencies.

"This is connected clearly to contraception and family planning and things like that," she says, "but it's also connected to the larger issues of how an agency that we count on so much is not making its decisions based on the evidence. We and the health professionals should be able to count on FDA, as well as other agencies, for factual information. People shouldn't have to sit there and worry: 'Is this information that's coming to me no longer based on the facts?'"

Perhaps most disturbing is Wood's concern that other drugs might get mired in the abstinence debate. For example, FDA officials are currently reviewing a vaccine to prevent the human papilloma virus, which is mainly spread through sexual contact. "This virus is linked very strongly to causing cervical cancer," Wood says. "There are two vaccines now pending before the agency. I can't say that I think anything funny is going to go on at the agency, but then again I can't assure you that it won't. These same people who are opposed to emergency contraception have also started to lay the groundwork for being opposed to the human papilloma virus vaccine."

If it's approved, says Wood, the vaccine would be administered at around age 11 or 12 when children receive other immunizations. But social conservatives, she says, "don't want it to be widely available and routinely given because it might counter the abstinence message."

And, she adds: "I just ask the question: If they're raising concerns about emergency contraception, and the same concerns get raised astoundingly about a vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer, what will happen if and when there's ever an AIDS vaccine?"

Posted by binky at 02:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Didn't this guy see Footloose?

In the end, this guy is not the one who wins.


The attorney general of Kansas has mounted a steady assault on the privacy of doctor patient confidentiality, all in the name of protecting young women.

Kline subpoenaed the medical records of women who had abortions, with the stated purpose of prosecuting statuatory rape cases. He also sued the Governor to stop medicaid in Kansas from paying for the abortions of poor women, including victims of incest or rape.

It all started with Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. You may remember Kline from such earlier pro-life Movies of the Week as Phill Kline Subpoenas 90 Women's Abortion Records on Child-Rape-Fighting Pretext, as well as Phill Kline Files Suit To Terminate State Funding of Abortions for Medicaid Beneficiaries. The Kansas Supreme Court will issue a decision in the former suit tomorrow. A judge dismissed the latter suit last week, which attempted to define the instant of conception as the beginning of life—to bolster his argument that abortion violates the right to life under the state constitution, despite the clear constitutional rule announced in Roe v. Wade.

Not content to limit himself to obsessing over teenage girls' vaginas, he has expanded his repertoire to include what they are doing with their lips and tongues. His latest venture, the exercise of which has Jesus' General brainstorming about undercover operations, is the mandatory reporting of any underage sexual activity by doctors, nurses, counselors, and other adults (link added).

Kline's written interpretation of Kansas' reporting law makes it the only state requiring that doctors, nurses, counselors, and all other care providers report—as abuse—any sexual interaction between teens under 16. Failure to report is a misdemeanor. Under Kline's view, professionals must report even when the sex is consensual, committed with partners their age, and where there is no suspicion of injury. The plaintiffs who filed suit—a group of doctors, nurses, and counselors—contend that under Kline's policy, even evidence of teen necking must be reported.

As Jill at Feministe points out, doctor/patient confidentiality does not evaporate when the patient is underage. Likewise, doctors and counselors are already required by law and professional ethics to report suspected cases of abuse. In addition, removing the safe space of confidentiality makes it more likely that real abuse will go undiscovered, by scaring off young women from talking to the adults who could help them.

In their complaint, the health care providers, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, urge that while they support the reporting of all suspected sexual abuse of minors, the reporting of all nonabusive consensual sexual activity threatens their confidential relationships and would have a chilling effect on teen efforts to seek healthcare—including lifesaving HIV testing, birth control, and counseling. The attorney general's office argues that there is a legitimate state interest in stopping child abuse.

Back in July of 2004, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten enjoined enforcement of Kline's view of the law until the case was resolved on its merits. He found that the reporting law violated the clients' and professionals' privacy rights without serving a significant state interest. Last week that injunction was lifted in a 2-1 decision of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that the state interest in preventing crime outweighed the minors' privacy interests. On Monday the trial opened in Wichita, again before Judge Marten.

And while Kline offers some rhetoric to indicate that his concern with youthful female reproductive organs is about limiting child abuse, others of his statements are a lot more focused on his desire for knowledge about mature women.

Kline's position is the same one he's taken in demanding to see abortion clinic records: This is part of a comprehensive plan to protect children from sexual abuse. But as is the case with the clinic records, the tools he's chosen are too crude. In one case, he wants to see unredacted abortion clinic records to sift for evidence of child sexual abuse, yet many of the 90 files he demands involve adult women, not minors. In this case, he says he needs to be advised of every breast that's been fondled around the state because each such incident is a crime, yet the vast majority of such fondlings harm no one, as he is well aware. As one expert testified Monday, wading through those thousands of benign reports will make the genuine abuse cases harder to pursue.

But I don't think Kline's real intent is to nail child abusers. In that sense it is entirely duplicative: The law already provides that any professional who suspects any form of child abuse must report it. Kline is merely saying he can better recognize some kinds of abuse than the doctors and counselors who treat it. That's curious. One may well wonder how state officials will know more from paper reports than treating providers. The more worrisome problem: Why did Kline stop trusting these providers in the first place?

Well, as it turns out, he still does trust most of them. On Tuesday Kline told an adoring Bill O'Reilly that the real target of the law is (surprise!) abortion clinics: "I get those [abuse] reports from medical offices, from hospitals, from doctor's offices, virtually every other health care provider. I do not get them from the abortion clinics." Indeed, as his 2003 opinion expressly states, its focus in broadening the rules was almost exclusively on "abortion providers." Is there something about abortion clinics that makes them less likely to report abuse? Or does Kline simply need to be informed about every single teen who seeks an abortion?


Finally, Kline takes the not-illogical position that since all consensual teen sex is criminal, all teen abortion records provide vital evidence of that crime. Why, then, doesn't he subpoena all hospital records for evidence of all teen births? Is it possible that he is less interested in pursuing the real crime of teen sex than the non-crime of abortion?

A bigger problem than teen on teen sexual activity is the predatory exploitation of teenaged women by older men. The percentage of births to teen mothers in this category accounts for one half to two thirds of the total in recent years (mixed bag on those stats, but that's what a quick search will get you).

Once again, we see a policy that claims to be designed to help women, but that instead would reduce the chances that those who need help the most would get it. The efforts of the attorney general throughout his term of office are a not even thinly veiled attempt to further harass women and abortion providers. This new case continues that effort by going after the health care professionals who might assist young women in getting an abortion. Heavy emphasis on might, of course, as the largest category of women having abortions is women over 24 years of age. Kline claims to concerned about teens, but the impact of his efforts to harass health care providers will fall disproportionately on adult women.

If Kline is truly serious about stamping out teen sexual activity, however, the General has some good ideas.

Think about it. You'd have six weeks to catch the eye of the head cheerleader. Then when she goes for the gold on prom night, you can arrest her personally as the Action Eyewitness Kansas Today News 5 team comments on it, live. After that, you could lead your Special Anti-Fornication Squad into the parking lots and under the bleachers rounding up every last fornicating freshman. It might even make the O'Reilly factor if you can catch a couple engaging in a little falafel and loofah action.

I'm sure Kline is just salivating at the chance to come upon a bunch of horny teenagers in flagrante delicto, so he can round them up and protect them. He might even jump for joy.

Posted by binky at 12:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 04, 2006

Extra Credit

Just what is going on at NYU? Is there something in the water?

Chick: I've already slept with 6 professors and it's only two weeks into the semester.

Guy: Tell me about it. I slept with this one prof last night...he really taught me a thing or two.

--4th & Mercer

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

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan, whose manifesto ''The Feminine Mystique'' became a best seller in the 1960s and laid the groundwork for the modern feminist movement, died Saturday, her birthday. She was 85.

Friedan died at her home of congestive heart failure, according to a cousin, Emily Bazelon.

Friedan's assertion in her 1963 best seller that having a husband and babies was not everything and that women should aspire to separate identities as individuals, was highly unusual, if not revolutionary, just after the baby and suburban booms of the Eisenhower era.

The feminine mystique, she said, was a phony bill of goods society sold to women that left them unfulfilled, suffering from ''the problem that has no name'' and seeking a solution in tranquilizers and psychoanalysis.

''A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, `Who am I, and what do I want out of life?' She mustn't feel selfish and neurotic if she wants goals of her own, outside of husband and children,'' Friedan said.

Posted by binky at 05:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And on the subject of drinking...

The Bloodless crew helped a friend celebrate a birthday last night. Many consumables were, uh, consumed, so this quizlet is kind of appropriate. While I did not drink my beverage of choice last night, the quiz tells me it is "a bitter drink for bitter people." Well.

Link found at BlondeSense.

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

Facebook Pics Become a Congressional Campaign Issue

Since when do Republicans have a problem with not-yet-legal coeds drinking? Would these (really disgustingly sleazy) people working with Rep. Hostettler's campaign (people who should be ashamed of themselves for essentially running a campaign against their opponent's daughter) dare bring this up if this poor teenager was named Barbara or Jenna?

Posted by armand at 03:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 03, 2006

The General's Fundraising Advice for Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA)


Perhaps you could run ads with tag lines like "Don Sherwood will strangle big government like it's a sassy mistress" or "Don Sherwood believes in family values, so much so that he's willing to strangle his mistress in their defense." If that doesn't work, you might consider playing on a redemption theme with something like, "Don Sherwood: he hasn't strangled anyone in over sixteen months," or "Don Sherwood: he doesn't strangle people anymore."
Posted by armand at 06:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Next "S-G"

Richard Holbrooke updates readers on the race to succeed Kofi Annan as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Annan's second (and final) term will end on December 31st.

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

Classifying Judge Posner

Responding to a comment by Kevin Drum, Professor Bainbridge has asserted that Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is not a conservative. Now at one level I find classifying judges as "liberals" or "conservatives" to be a really silly enterprise as there's not just one strand of either belief, and often in their drive to make points commentators try far too hard to put round labels on square judges. I've written on the topic several times - see here and here - and Orin Ker has written on the topic, proposing that there are at least 7 types of conservatives. But at the same time there still is a certain utility in knowing how a judge is likely to approach the law - and that especially holds true for someone like Posner who's one of the most influential judges in the country. So I ask you gentle readers - what exactly IS Judge Posner? How would you classify him? I think in terms of the results he produces he leans to the right, most certainly on matters of commerce. Is that results-oriented approach to looking at him sufficient? What would you call him?

Posted by armand at 12:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 02, 2006

Posted Without Comment

It's late and I'm tired.

The demonstrators arrived angry, departed furious. The police had herded them into pens. Stopped them from handing out fliers. Threatened them with arrest for standing on public sidewalks. Made notes on which politicians they cheered and which ones they razzed.

Meanwhile, officers from a special unit videotaped their faces, evoking for one demonstrator the unblinking eye of George Orwell's "1984."

"That's Big Brother watching you," the demonstrator, Walter Liddy, said in a deposition.

Mr. Liddy's complaint about police tactics, while hardly novel from a big-city protester, stands out because of his job: He is a New York City police officer. The rallies he attended were organized in the summer of 2004 by his union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, to protest the pace of contract talks with the city.

Now the officers, through their union, are suing the city, charging that the police procedures at their demonstrations — many of them routinely used at war protests, antipoverty marches and mass bike rides — were so heavy-handed and intimidating that their First Amendment rights were violated.

A lawyer for the city said the police union members were treated no differently than hundreds of thousands of people at other gatherings, with public safety and free speech both protected. The department observes all constitutional requirements, the city maintains.

So, that's supposed to make the rest of us feel better?

Posted by binky at 10:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


"It was the gentlest handshake and kindest voice I'd heard in a while."

Does this quote refer to:

a) a counselor specializing in grief

b) a minister visiting wounded soldiers

c) a male neonatal nurse

d) a gay former football player

e) a DEA agent who found puppy mules

Answer below the fold.

Gay former NFL player tackles demons

When Roy Simmons walked in to the studio to sit down for our interview, the first thing I noticed was how big he was. Take one look at this former NFL offensive lineman and it becomes obvious pretty quickly that he played professional ball.

Then Simmons shook my hand. It was the gentlest handshake and kindest voice I'd heard in a while. Not quite what you'd expect from a guy who had knocked helmets for the New York Giants and went to the Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins in 1984.

Why is it that even when trying to break stereotypes (no gays allowed in the NFL) that the media have to rely on them (he's different than regular men, sweet and gentle).

Or is it just me wishing it was possible to talk about discrimination without the "soft" signals?

Posted by binky at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

John Boehner, the New House Majority Leader

The far-right guy from Western Ohio beat the far-right guy from Southern Missouri, and the rightie-blog-favorite from Arizona (the "true conservative" endorsed by many right-wing stalwarts and John McCain) lagged, far, far behind.

Does this matter? Maybe, maybe not - but any time a Blunt loses, especially a Blunt who's a Tom DeLay protege, I'm happy.

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

Fashion That'll Make You Physically Ill

If you are feeling the need to laugh or puke check out Pepto, Stefani and the Hoff. Words can't fully express the horror.

And just so that I don't seem like a total bitch this morning - I strongly disagree with Jessica about Man Paris and his jeans. That ensemble meets with my approval.

Posted by armand at 10:53 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

How about a nice cup of steaming links?

From Majikthise: a group of constitutional scholars weighs in on NSA Spying and Wikipedia IP bans Congress because its staffers don't play nice.

Pam's House Blend shows some wingers are already worried that Alito isn't conservative enough.

Hoffmania reminds us we might have free money sitting around somewhere, and tells us how to find it.

Surprise surprise surprise, the White House Defends Delay's Redistricting.

And the House votes to cut programs to the poor and elderly, saying "entitle this, bitches!"

Evil drug traffickers sew heroin into puppies' tummies.

Duck of Minerva serves up a nice post on planets and social construction.

Posted by binky at 09:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Live long...

...and build nukes?


Sometimes I wonder about the picture selection at CNN.

Posted by binky at 08:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Just so we're clear on this: the legal justifications for the secret/classified NSA warrantless wiretapping program are, themselves, secret and classified.

Or, in other words, "What the NSA is doing is legal and constitutional, but we can't tell you why."

I swear this whole thing gets stranger every day.

(Oh, and by the way, Bush's energy plan - the one from 36 hours ago - is already dead on arrival. It seems that alternative fuels have no real political support in Congress, and the Saudi's are annoyed at Bush for trying to buy less oil from them. Shouldn't a plan put forth by the President of the United States last longer than a snowball in hell?

Posted by baltar at 08:14 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

February 01, 2006

People Keep Saying He's No Reagan

I'm not so sure.

Oh my.

Fitzgerald, who is fighting Libby's request, said in a letter to Libby's lawyers that many e-mails from Cheney's office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy.

Of course, this is rather unsurpring given that barely remarked upon action by Abu Gonzales:

Washington -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday that he spoke with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card immediately after learning that the Justice Department had begun a criminal investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity. But Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time, waited 12 hours before officially notifying the rest of the staff of the inquiry.

Scrub scrub scrub...

Too bad no one has Farrah Fawcett hair.

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

My Neck Feels Funny

"Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports":

One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.


Posted by binky at 08:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The T-Shirt Scourge

From the Carpetbagger:

* In August 2004, John Prather, a mild-mannered math professor at Ohio University, was removed by security from a presidential event on public property because he wore a shirt that promoted John Kerry.

* On July 4, 2004, Nicole and Jeff Rank were arrested at a Bush event in West Virginia for wearing T-shirts that criticized the president. (About the same time the Ranks were being taken away in handcuffs, Bush was reminding the audience, "On this 4th of July, we confirm our love of freedom, the freedom for people to speak their minds." Gotta love irony.)

* In August 2004, campaign workers removed a family from a presidential event in Michigan because one woman, a 50-year-old chemist, carried in a rolled-up T-shirt emblazoned with a pro-choice slogan. She later said, "I just wanted to see my president," and brought the extra shirt in case she got cold.

* In July 2004, Jayson Nelson, a county supervisor in Appleton, Wis., was thrown out of a presidential event because of a pro-Kerry T-shirt. An event staffer saw the shirt, snatched the VIP ticket, and called for police. "Look at his shirt! Look at his shirt!" Nelson recalled the woman telling the Ashwaubenon Public Safety officer who answered the call. Nelson said the officer told him, "You gotta go," and sternly directed him to a Secret Service contingent that spent seven or eight minutes checking him over before ejecting him from the property.

* In October 2004, three Oregon schoolteachers were removed from a Bush event and threatened with arrest for wearing t-shirts that said "Protect Our Civil Liberties."

In each instance, the "accused" had tickets to see the president. Moreover, none were disturbing the peace, disrupting the event, or causing a ruckus. Their crime was their shirt.

Posted by binky at 07:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mining Halt Declared

Count me in favor of mine safety, but unconvinced by political posturing.

Posted by binky at 07:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More cute

Pass the nip, yo.

Posted by binky at 07:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What about it?


Posted by binky at 06:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Bush Administration Falls Madly in (Hetero) Love With Iranian Foriegn Policy

When, you know, it comes to oppressing the gays.

I guess there are some times when the president is damn happy it's "held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and oppressing its people" (to use the president's own words from last night.

This vote put us on the same side as Iran and Sudan (whose governments execute gays), and a host of states that flog and/or imprison gays for, you know, daring to be alive, and some states that simply stand aside and look on disinterestedly when vigilante and mobs choose to kill. Nice group of buddies you choose to associate our country with Mr. President. Oh and lovely job you are doing of protecting freedom and liberty, and giving the world's people access to lobby the governments of the world.

Posted by armand at 04:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"GAO Faults Federal Government for Katrina Response"

Remember all the protests about how the liberals were blaming the federal government for something that wasn't its fault, and how they were just using Katrina as an excuse to Bush bash?

Despite plenty of advance disaster warning and decade-old recommendations on preparedness, the federal government failed to exercise adequate leadership in response to Hurricane Katrina and was slow to determine the scope of the catastrophe, the Government Accountability Office reported today.

It's so tiresome being right all the time.

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

Wearing a T-Shirt is Unlawful Conduct

Cindy Sheehan was arrested for refusing to cover up a t-shirt which read: "2245 Dead. How many more?"

"She was asked to cover it up. She did not," said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman.

I'm not interested in whether what she did was inappropriate, rude, disprespectful, savvy, clever, patriotic, stupid, brilliant or ridiculous. I really don't care.

Since when is wearing a t-shirt with a political message, written in polite language, defined as "unlawful conduct?"

The administration is counting on negative opinion of Sheehan, and tsk-tsking over disprespecting the sanctity of the SOTU to outweigh the cowardice of the arrest, and the disrespect they have shown to the Constitution.

Maybe Cindy Sheehan is an asshole. However this is the greatest country in the world because we have the protected right to be just that in our political speech.

And with maneuvers like the arrest last night, it almost looks George Bush hates America because of our freedom.

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

Yes, that was milk coming out my nose

I swear, Olbermann is getting to be the funniest guy on TV. Watch him parry O'Reilly's clumsy thrust.

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

Indiana, again

Lawmakers in Indiana are trying to pass a bill establishing that life begins at conception.

I wonder if the sponsor, a political science major, has ever heard of ectopic pregnancy?

Appreciative nod to Pandagon.

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