March 31, 2006

Rebecca Gayheart - Superb Comedienne

She's been in a number of things I've enjoyed - Dead Like Me, Harvard Man - but after watching Urban Legend again, I really wonder why Rebecca Gayheart hasn't taken off more as an actress - why she hasn't become an even bigger star. She's impossibly beautiful of course. Which you'd think would help. And as the last section of Urban Legend shows, she's truly hilarious and has a wonderful, enveloping presence. You just don't want to talk your eyes off her (true, she's working opposite the personality-impaired Alicia Witt, but evenso ...). Ah well. So much in Hollywood is the scripts you get and matters of timing. Maybe she's just suffered from relatively bad luck.

Posted by armand at 01:29 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Pick the fruits?!

I've been trying to stay away from blogging for a few days due to some serious real world work demands, but this is just too much:

House conservatives criticized President Bush, accused the Senate of fouling the air, said prisoners rather than illegal farm workers should pick America's crops and denounced the use of Mexican flags by protesters Thursday in a vehement attack on legislation to liberalize U.S. immigration laws.

"I say let the prisoners pick the fruits," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, one of more than a dozen Republicans who took turns condemning a Senate bill that offers an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants an opportunity for citizenship.


Referring to a wave of demonstrations in recent weeks, Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia said, "I say if you are here illegally and want to fly the Mexican flag, go to Mexico and wave the American flag."

But the confederate flag is probably just fine and dandy, right? Not to mention that sentence is completely incomprehensible.

[wishing I had something pissy, but end up with a Bloom County-esque "ooo...oooo...hmph!" out of frustration and exhaustion.]

Posted by binky at 01:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 30, 2006

Coca Cola Meets Turkey Gravy

That's what it looks like where the Rio Negro meets the Rio Solimões, one clear and dark, the other cloudy and light. Right here.

The NYT has a travel story up about Manaus. It talks about cupuaçu, a fruit that I find to be too sweet and musky (I like umbu, which is a lot more sour), the opera house (which everyone seems to know about, but not necessarily the stories of well-off women sending their opera clothes abroad to be properly laundered), and has a brief mention of the boi-bumbá, a local incarnation of a festival dance.

One of life's great pleasures... dancing boi-bumbá on the shores of the Amazon, under the stars.

Correctly, the article recommends eating tambaqui and tucunaré (piranha are too greasy and bony), but fail to say that the best way to have them - or your pirarucu - is with something called pirão, which is like a loose polenta, but made with manioc flour and fish stock.

The slide show focuses mostly on the dock and the market, and doesn't really have a good shot of the three decker boats, with hammocks crowded side-by-side for the journeys up and down river to towns that can only be reached by boat. Nary a picture of the floating gas stations, looking like little houseboats but for the Shell sign and red and yellow paint. It's worth a watch anyway, especially for the shot of the man carrying the 200 pound pirarucu.

There is absolutely no mention of the much-feared candirú.

Too bad. I always enjoy telling people about the candirú, even more than telling them about the trypanosoma cruzi.

Posted by binky at 06:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Two Sperm Meet and Talk in an Airport

And people think Israeli politics is all about bombs and violence. Hardly. I imagine it'll be some time before campaign ads in the US look like this.

Posted by armand at 04:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Deeply Unpopular President

He's under 50% in Mississippi, Alaska and Nebraska. He's only over 50% in 3 states. Wow. Those numbers (and the colors on that map) are stunning. If only voters in Ohio, Iowa and Arkansas (states he won in '04, but where he's now got an approval rate in the low 30's) could call for a do-over.

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

MA High Court: Not All Gay Couples Can Marry Here

An interesting turn of events:

The court that made Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage ruled Thursday that same-sex couples from other states where gay marriage is prohibited, including Connecticut, cannot marry here.
Posted by armand at 11:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Menand on Fukuyama Breaking from the NeoCons

I really don't get the fuss about Francis Fukuyama's latest book. To me, many of the ideas in it are pretty obvious (but then I always thought going to war in March 2003 was a bad idea). And in terms of this text being a great heresy against the NeoCons from a core NeoCon believer - well, that's not really an accurate way to read it. As Louis Menand's review points out, Fukuyama wasn't really firmly ensconced in that group.

But at least the book has prompted some reviews that are quite amusing, while also dealing with the work seriously, and on its own terms. Menand rightly notes that Fukuyama is an interesting fellow who thinks big thoughts so it's interesting to see where his mind is lately. Menand believes Fukuyama's thoughts deserve attention. But ...

Such attention might begin, in the case of the present book, with the observation: No duh. It took Fukuyama until February, 2004, to realize that Charles Krauthammer, who has been saying basically the same thing since the end of the Cold War, is the intellectual cheerleader of a politics of American supremacy that appears to recognize no limit to its exercise of power? And that the Bush Administration, to the extent that it has any philosophical self-conception at all, operates on the basis of the crudest form of American exceptionalism? And that neoconservatism, whatever merits it once had as a corrective to liberal wishfulness and the amorality of realpolitik, long ago stiffened into a posture of reflexive moral belligerence about everything from foreign policy to literary criticism?

Still, even if this book's arguments fall into the "No duh" category, Menand is kind enough to favorably review some of Fukuyama's other ideas, and in doing so Menand comes up with what I think is the best line of the article - "Jihadism is an antibody generated by our way of life, not a virus indigenous to Islam."

Posted by armand at 09:35 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 29, 2006

Getting to Know John Raese (R-WV)

So this morning I was treated to an interview (sort of - think of it as a softball extravaganva) on the local NPR affiliate with John Raese, the likely Republican nominee against Sen. Robert C. Byrd this fall. When I saw his poorly designed signs I figured this was a guy who, despite having run statewide back in the 1980's and having lots of family money to spend and family interests to defend, seemed to have surprisingly poor political instincts (political signs should be clear and bold, not pretty and vague). It turns out that he seems to have also thought very little about developing an appealing message. In fact, everything he said seemed to turn on three words - free enterprise, deregulation. For example, that was his response to mine safety - no new government regulations, the businesses and the miners should work it out. Hmmmm. I thought that was the system that created the problems in the first place?

Moving on, the number one issue in West Virginia, according to him is the decline of the steel industry and Weirton Steel in particular. And he wanted to know why Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Byrd weren't doing more to fix the decline of the state's steel industry. Uh, Mr. Raese, you just said the government is the problem, not the solution. That being the case, what non-governmental actions are you calling on our veteran senators to take?

And when it came to Iraq, I'd basically describe his views as pathetically simple-minded. When asked what he wanted to see happen there, what we should be doing, he responded with 4 words: "We win, they lose". Apparently taken aback at the brevity of the answer, the reporter then asked - ooookay - well what's winning? His response: "Defeating your opponent". Yes, on the dominant question in the political discourse right now, he had 7 words to say. Seven words he didn't explain anything (who is "they" exactly?), and seven words that seemed to point to him being totally out of his depth and disinterested in any topics that didn't involve removing what he sees as burdensome regulations on his businesses. Oh, excuse me - America's businesses. I'm not a Byrd fan (to put it extremely mildly), but after this interview I might just have to vote for the incumbent. Raese seems to be a self-interested, dim, weasel.

Posted by armand at 12:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lithwick on Yesterday's Arguments in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

It's official. We are living in a Kafka novel. I strongly encourage you to read her whole article. But here is some of her report

One of the most dramatic moments in today's oral argument in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld comes when an uncharacteristically agitated Justice David Souter presses Solicitor General Paul Clement about whether Congress last December effectively stripped the Supreme Court of the right to hear habeas corpus claims from any of the hundreds of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. Clement says it's not necessary for Congress to have "consciously thought it was suspending the Writ." Perhaps the lawmakers just "stumbled on the suspension of the Writ," which would also be fine, Clement suggests.

Souter stops him, amazed. "The suspension of the Writ," the justice sputters, is the most "stupendously significant act" Congress can undertake. "Are you really saying Congress may validly suspend it inadvertently?" ...

This war is like every other war except to the extent that it differs from those other wars. We follow the laws of war except to the extent that they do not apply to us. These prisoners have all the rights to which they are entitled by law, except to the extent that we have changed the law to limit their rights.

In other words, there is almost no question for which the government cannot find a circular answer ...

"You can't have it both ways, " Souter retorts. The government can't say the president is operating under the laws of war, as recognized by Congress, and then for purposes of defining those laws, say the Geneva Conventions don't apply.

Sure it can. Clement replies that if a detainee has such a claim, he should bring it before the military courts. Even Kennedy seems alarmed now. He confesses that he's troubled by the notion of bringing challenges about the structure of the tribunal to the tribunal itself. "If a group is going to try some people, do you first have the trial and then challenge the legitimacy of the tribunal?" he asks incredulously ...

"You can't say both," chides Stevens. So this is where Clement claims that Congress could have accidentally suspended the writ, the way you might accidentally drop your eyeglasses into a punchbowl. "Wait a minute," replies Souter, and I think he's angrier than I have ever seen him. "The writ is the writ. … You're saying the writ was suspended by inadvertence!"

Later Breyer will add: "You want to say that these are war crimes. But this is not a war. These are not war crimes. And this is not a war crimes tribunal. If the president can do this, he can set up a commission and go to Toledo and arrest an immigrant and try him." To which Clement's answer is the fail-safe: "This is a war."

And even as it starts to be clear that he is losing Kennedy—who asks whether Hamdan isn't "uniquely vulnerable" and thus entitled to the theoretical protection of the Geneva Conventions—Clement stands firm in his claim that the Guantanamo detainees are different from regular POWs because, well, they are ...

For today at least, it appeared that the Bush administration would not readily marshal five votes for its core legal proposition: that if you just refuse to offer answers, the questions will go away.

Posted by armand at 10:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 28, 2006

One for Norbizness

C'mon, you know you can make this quiz cry!

For the record, I beat it with Mike Watt, Kim's Watermelon Gun, and Wayne Coyne. It got me on theramin at 16 questions, and Flock of Seagulls at 29.

Posted by binky at 09:57 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Betty Wiley for Mon County Commission

On May 9th voters around here have two important decisions to make in local elections. First, they'll need to pick their party's nominees for the state legislature. Second, they'll pick their party's nominee to fill one of the 3 seats on the country commission. The incumbent (Asel Kennedy) is arrogant, can't be bothered to deal with anyone who disagrees with him, consituent or not, and is pro-growth in the worst, cheapest, can-I-please-be-a-whore-for-slumlords-and-polluters kinds of ways. I urge you, extremely strongly, to back Betty Wiley instead.

Posted by armand at 04:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Caspar Weinberger Died Today

Not my most favorite SecDef, but he seemed somehow better than most of the rest of the cast of characters that Reagan surrounded himself with.He was 88. WaPo obituary.

Of course, his greatest moment was this:

And the reply, of course:

Dear Mr. Breathed,

Many a morn I've longed to see
A comic strip be kind to me.
On 30 March, before my eyes
A penguin watched a warm sunrise.
In this land of so much bouty
Could I have that great Bloom County?


Caspar Weinberger.

That had class.

Posted by baltar at 11:55 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Lord of the Rings Comes to the Stage

Ben Brantley is merciless:

An hour or so into what feels like eons of stage time, one wise, scared little hobbit manages to express the feelings of multitudes. "This place is too dim and tree-ish for me," mutters a round-ish, twee-ish creature named Pippin, groping through a shadowy forest in the second act of the very expensive, largely incomprehensible musical version of "The Lord of the Rings," which opened Thursday at the Princess of Wales Theater here.

You speak not the half of it, O cherub-cheeked lad of Middle Earth. The production in which you exist so perilously is indeed a murky, labyrinthine wood from which no one emerges with head unmuddled, eyes unblurred or eardrums unrattled. Everyone and everything winds up lost in this $25 million adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's cult-inspiring trilogy of fantasy novels. That includes plot, character and the patience of most ordinary theatergoers.

Sounds like some ents are needed to send rivers following through the theater, washing this flop away.

Posted by armand at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Josh Bolten - More of the Same

The president's inability to work with anyone he hasn't deeply trusted for years, in fact anyone who hasn't been in his eye-line several times a week for years, continues. Rice, Gonzalez, Spellings, Bolten - there's no reason why the people who were the 2nd, 4th, 9th, 86th best person for the job in 2001 (well, that's as high as he was willing to name these types when they first took office) can't be trusted with more powerful positions now. They've shown they are willing to stick with the team. And as we all know, in this White House being loyal to Bush is much more important than competence or bringing in new ideas.

Posted by armand at 09:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Biting our blog style...

...or our words, as the case may be.

The AP doesn't think it is necessary to cite or credit blogs, and the Raw Story has it on tape:

We contacted an AP senior editor and ombudsmen both and both admitted to having had the article passed on to them, and both stated that they viewed us as a blog and because we were a blog, they did not need to credit us. What we are or are not is frankly irrelevant. What is relevant is that by using a term like blog to somehow excuse plagiarism, the mainstream press continues to lower the bar for acceptable behavior. It need not matter where the AP got the information, research, and actual wording from. What matters is that if they use it in part or in whole, they must attribute properly. A blog or a small press publication or grads students working in the corner of a library all equally deserve credit for their work, period.

Unfortunately this is far too common and has happened to me and to other writers and bloggers far too frequently. This time, however, we made a point of tape recording the AP apparatchiks admitting to taking our work and using it without attribution, stating "we do not credit blogs".

Total, utter thieving. And they have the nerve to admit it to the people they stole it from.

Via Feministe.

Posted by binky at 09:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

SwiftBoat Veterans For Raese?

In case you hadn't heard, there is a US Senate election in West Virginia this year. The incumbent, Byrd (D-Arbitrarily Coherent), is running against John Raese (R-Completely Unknown Now, Will Lose In November, Footnote For History).

The election will almost certainly be about issues, and their impact on West Virginia. The debates will be brutally frank exchanges between the two candidates that will redefine how elections should be run. (/sarcasm).

How do I know this? Raese has hired the PR team that did "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" to help his campaign. I suspect that Raese's campaign can't be helped by anything short of pictures of Byrd with a dead girl or live boy (even his death would likely make him more popular), but I'm just speculating.

Hat Tip: Josh Marshall/TPM

Posted by baltar at 08:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 27, 2006

Democracy in Action

Peaceful, mass protest.

In Los Angeles, dozens of schools experienced walkouts, with the major events downtown, where several thousand students converged on City Hall, and on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley.

At midafternoon, student marchers descended onto the heavily-traveled 101 Freeway near downtown, snarling traffic and creating safety hazards, according to televised reports. The northbound freeway was restricted to one lane. The freeway later reopened after students exited on an off-ramp in Echo Park.


Earlier, California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante told the demonstrators they are sending an important message to Washington.

"Let's remember why we are all here," Bustamante said. "Your voice will be carried all the way to Washington. That's why we're here."

As of midafternoon, more than 22,000 students had walked out of classes in "little bits here and there," according to Ellen Morgan, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District. A total of 60 schools were involved.

Many students waved Mexican flags as they poured out of schools and onto city streets.

"Everything has been calm and there have been no reports of injuries or incidents," said Morgan.

What's the matter with these kids today? Absolutely nothing.

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

DeVos Ties Granholm

One of the things that I'm worried about when I look at the current political mood is that current events won't lead to an anti-Republican tide in November. Instead they could lead to an anti-incumbent tide. Now that would still largely benefit the Democrats, but relatively weak Democrats, say Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), could suffer. And incumbent Democrats in areas where fuel prices and job cuts are creating an angry populace could be in particular trouble. For example, look at the latest (not Binky) Rasmussen poll out of Michigan. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is no longer leading Amway heir Dick DeVos. The race is tied, 44-44.

The kind of trend I'm talking about might not appear, and the Granholm/DeVos race might not be affected by national trends. But I think it's something to keep an eye on.

Posted by armand at 09:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


It's inappropriate that we, as a culture, spend so much time focused on what celebrities are doing.

So, it's inappropriate that everyone is so curious about what TomKat are doing for the birth of their child.

And it would, of course, be inappropriate of me to comment on their personal plans.

On the other hand, it might be something along the lines of inappropriate to tell a women what she can and cannot do during childbirth, including telling her she must be absolutely silent with no screaming, talking music, or anything else going on.

Likewise, it might be inappropriate for me to say that not touching or cuddling or holding or loving an infant child for a week after birth is seriously fucked up.

OK. Back to your regularly scheduled inappropriateness.

Posted by binky at 08:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stuart Rothenberg - So Naive It's Both Cute and Scary

I mean the guy is a seasoned expert, he's seen this president for 5 years, and of course his time covering politics goes back far before the current president. And yet he writes the following:

Frankly, I was shocked at the question, since the underlying premise was that the president of the United States would respond to the possible execution primarily in the context of domestic political pressures. I guess the people working on the story had visions of the president, Karl Rove and a couple of other White House staffers sitting around talking about what the president had to say to make Pat Robertson, James Dobson or Gary Bauer happy.

The Carpetbagger is almost certainly correct, of course domestic politics had something to do with the administration's prioritization of this action. The president stands by while people are executed all the time. This was clearly an unusual situation - and the fact that this involved someone being executed for converting to Christianty is what made it different. Rothenberg is living in a happier world - but one that doesn't match reality.

Posted by armand at 07:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Opponents of (NAFTA-Produced) Large-Scale Immigration

Quiddity has an interesting post linking together Paul Krugman's "North of the Border" column with a piece by Harold Myerson. Krugman sees little economic benefit from large-scale immigration and thinks both the president's guest worker plan and the immigration plan passed by the House are horrible ideas (in fact he calls the latter immoral). Myerson fits into the picture by noting how NAFTA has greatly increased the number of Mexicans coming to the US. It's a really interesting (if depressing) read. Plus ca change and all that. Check it out.

Posted by armand at 02:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who's Your Daddy?

Your blog, evidently.

25 %

My weblog owns 25 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

Via PZ Myers.

Posted by binky at 11:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The World Will End In 2015...

...when the infinite-bladed razors create blackholes that destroy the earth.

Think optimistically: only two more presidential election cycles until everything is sucked into a multi-bladed, cleanly-shaven, black hole.

(Hat Tip: Crooked Timber.)

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

Dear Wendy

This tale of of misfit pacifists who love their guns (they name themselves "the dandies") is, for a while, quite diverting. Structurally, it feels like a lot of the other Lars von Trier (Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves) fables about America (though written by von Trier it's directed by Thomas Vinterberg who's best known for the excellent The Celebration). It's highly stylized, stars Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, The Chumscrubber), who I love, and the dominant music in the film is the work of The Zombies.

So far, so good. Very good even. Well, I guess if you don't like von Trier's writing you might have a number of problems with it. There are dark undertones throughout that some might see it in, if they are looking for them (they aren't explicit though). One could see this as something pointing out problems with American society including: hubris, dangerous idealism, a love for violent toys, an inability to deal with sex, racial intolerance, irresponsibility (not noticing the potential grave consequences of our fun). But as long as you don't see that, or don't mind it, the movie is interesting - until one plot turn ruins it all. It's not that I object to the outcome. You probably had to get there eventually. But it's the way the plot gets there. Why would a dandy take those actions and risks, seemingly in defense of someone who's actions, unexpected and incomprehensible though they may be, strike at the very heart of everything that a dandy is supposed to stand for (and it should be said that they take ideas, particularly those at the center of their identity, extremely seriously)? That I don't get, and there the movie lost me.

So I don't know that I can recommend it. It becomes inane. But the set-up before the fall is entertaining.

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

Account suspended?

Is anyone else getting this weirdness when they try to visit Pandagon?

UPDATE: Via Ampersand ..they are overloaded with hits and workig to get back up.


Pandagon is temporarily down, due to the broken promises of our new (soon to be old) server host. After the Crack Pandagon Geek Squad sleeps off the despair-driven bender we went on, we'll be moving the site yet again. Please bear with us.

Posted by binky at 10:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 26, 2006

Repeat this, loudly and often

Bitch PhD reminds us (emphasis mine):


Also check out Amp's table of side-by-side comparisons of the policy implications of "pro-life" policies. As he concludes:

Almost none of their policies make sense if they really see no difference between the death of a fetus and the death of a four-year-old. However, nearly all their policies make sense if they're seeking to make sure that women who have sex are punished. After years of seeing this pattern repeated again and again, it's difficult to take them at their word.

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

Madeleine Albright's Largely Realist Plan for Iran

Given the post on Realism from a few days ago, I thought I'd link to this Steve Clemons post. In it he discusses Secretary Albright's current views on what's going on in the Middle East, and what the US should do about it. She thinks anyone jumping for joy over US successes is kidding themselves.

The president's "march of freedom" is not the big story in the Muslim world, where Shia Muslims suddenly have more power than they have had in 1,000 years; it is not the big story in Lebanon, where Iran is filling the vacuum left by Syria; it is not the story among Palestinians, who voted - in western eyes - freely, and wrongly; it is not even the big story in Iraq, where the top three factions in the recent elections were all supported by decidedly undemocratic militias.

But beyond simply discussing her views, Clemons goes into how Albright's foreign policy views fit with the traditional categories of foreign policy belief systems. So if you are interested in that, go take a look.

Posted by armand at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Corinthian Injured, Out of the Kentucky Derby

It's just a little more than a month until the Kentucky Derby. You know what that means - mint juleps at Lara's! Well that, and all too often injuries that knock some of the most impressive three year olds in the country out of the Derby picture, long before the the sounds of My Old Kentucky Home are heard on that Saturday in May. The most recent victim was one of my favorites to take the Run for the Roses, Corinthian. He's got a hairline fracture in an ankle. He should race again, but probably not before the summer.

It's really too bad that so much talent never makes the race. But hey, as long as the mint juleps keep coming, I guess we can still enjoy the race.

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

Two Days to Go

Jonathan's got a nice, concise post on the politics and mechanics of the national election that Israeli is (finally) having on Tuesday. And for those of you who are into election systems, the first comment is from Matthew Shugat on the intricacies of the d'Hondt sysetm, and the second comment deals with the unusual way in which it's used in Israel.

Oh, in other news related to this election and its political aftermath, Ehud Olmert has announced that it's his intention to make Tzipi Livni (who's the first woman to serve as Israel's Foreign Minister since Golda Meir) his Deputy in the new government. In the wake of Prime Minister Sharon's stroke, that post is being treated with a new level of seriousness.

Posted by armand at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2006

The War is On!

Mad Melancholic Feminista has a series of posts on the rising attempts to hunt liberals down on campus.

In the first post, she goes through the manual one group produced to help start similar groups on campus. I read through the handbook too. It's full of fun tips, like how to target whole departments (suggested lefty hotbeds? Women's Studies, Native American Studies, American Studies, among others, but history, political science and sociology are also "fertile" ground).

There is a lot of sleight-o'-hand going on in this document, which gives the appearance of non-partisan and noble aims, but close examination reveals that, indeed, the emperor has no clothes.

I thought I would think out loud for here with my readers. I am particularly interested in two SAF moves that makes a case for "Abuses of Academic Freedom." First of all, SAF use two phrases to describe, what I can only surmise is the same thing (a scholarly viewpoint), but use different descriptions based on how well it jibes with their own unstated pro-conservative politics. Either SAF describes a scholarly viewpoint in terms such as "the spectrum of scholarly viewpoints" or "intellectually significant dissenting views" when they are making a case for including "conservative" views, or they refer to "narrow perspective" or "political and ideological persuasion" to refer to faculty positions that criticize some of the tenets of mainstream conservative thought...


On first blush, this seems like a reasonable statement of purpose. Sure, we are finite beings, limited in our skills to unlock all the mysteries of the universe, and so unfettered, critical inquiry is the best way to get closer to understand the way the world works. But, SAF tends to emphasize a particular relativist reading of this statement. They focus on the "never-ending pursuit" and "no party or intellectual faction can be assumed to have a monopoly on wisdom" and interpret this to mean that no position is bettter than another, and that every position put forward in the classroom should be considered in relation to the contrary position. If you make a case for "affirmative action," then you should immediately make a case against affirmative action. Now, in the arena of ethical issues, I do think its important to consider a variety of arguments, and evaluate how well each is argued and reasoned. But, do we also need to necessarily teach creationism next to evolutionary biology? Should every Micro and Macro Economics course include equal time on Marx's Das Kapital?

Ah, I smell a whiff of ID! Is the next suggestion going to be "teach the controvery?"

Seriously, however, this short description illustrates in the manual the very relativism that the group claims to despise in its liberal targets.

SAF doesn't give its recruits any reliable standard by which to ferret out a good scholary viewpoint from a bad scholarly viewpoint. They assume the worst kind of relativism--that all knowledge is inherently politics--and the views of those in power necessarily prevail over those who are not in power. Given this postmodern relativism, SAF has to then establish (which they do from bogus studies) that college campuses are dominated by one political party who has a monopoly on wisdom. Once you convince people that liberals are in power on college campuses and "indoctrinating" students to their ideology, then you can make a case for bringing in government to stop this abuse of free speech. (I should add that the whole concept of "free speech seems problematic when ideas are the products of groups in power). SAF ultimately wants to get State legislatures to adopt its Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) that would give state governments the right to regulate what gets taught in your classroom. The arbiters of what counts as a "scholarly significant viewpoint" would then be whomever was elected, regardless of whether or not they know anything about molecular biology or Chinese. The standards get hashed out in legislatures, and, in my nasty imagination, I forsee special interests all over this debate: trying to get a certain textbook adopted, or particular lab equipment, etc. What SAF would ultimately achieve if its movement is successful is a thorough politicization of knowledge. What you learn is a product of whomever is in power or capable of manipulating state governments.

She says that like this isn't the goal. Neither does she address the assumption about which movement will be able to maintain that power.

MMF's analysis of the language of the manual clarifies the inconsistency, but she's still focusing on how it's incorrect and inconsistent. I don't think those that wish to police the academy really care. Reading the manual, and browsing the websites, what's readily apparent is that there is a movement being assembled to use power to attempt to control the flow information in higher education.

Of couse, this isn't really new, and it's only part of the effort to wrest "control" (and I dispute that anyone in particular has control) of information from the "reality based" community and let the spin doctors play fast and loose with information. We saw it with NASA, and we've certainly seen it with regard to science education in the public schools (see PZ Myers ongoing commentary).

But back to MMF, and the criteria the manual suggests for violations of students rights. Yes, I emphasized rights, because it is quite unclear which rights are supposedly being violated (and of couse, whether any violations are occurring at all).

This passage amused me, particularly having just finished reading My Freshman Year.

As a college professor I operate with the assumption that the students are mature enough to do the reading I have assigned, to ask me questions if they don't understand the reading, and then to participate in class discussions that test out hypothesis, consider counterarguments, or pursue the consequences of a certain line of argument. I view the students to have a rather active role in their own education in college. I don't see my role as one who merely transmits what is already in the reading to them during a class period. That is a waste of all of our times.

I think there are serious differences in how professors and students see the role of the professor. There is a relatively funny way to view the consequence, which leads professors to become frustrated when their students "just sit there." There was a Doonesbury cartoon (and no, I can't find a link to it) where as the class just wrote and wrote and paid no attention, the professor made increasingly absurd statements to see if anyone was paying attention and thinking, rather than simply transcribing.

The not so benign consequence is when students, like the group that MMF describes, act like those Doonesbury characters, and themselves imbue the lecture with absolute meaning. I think this can be a real problem, especially in a class like philosophy, where professors challenge students to argue for or think through an argument in direct opposition to their own values, in order to understand the logic, or rhetoric. That is, instead of being absent-minded (or manipulative) prostletyzing, it's a learning tool. People on debate teams have to be prepared for this, for example, in order to understand both sides of an argument.

Similarly, being challenged forces you to think. Last night a former student of mine was in town, and we went out for some beers and ended up talking about social science, the learning process, and our respective graduate programs, inluding the receptivity - or lack thereof - of graduate students to being challenged. I was very touched when my student said that of all the undergraduate classes, mine was really the only one which really challenged the student to think differently or think about contradictory ideas, and challenge the kinds of "the world is X" ideas. And I don't even teach a class in the student's major. For the record, my student did not become my political clone, and honestly, I am not sure the student really knows what my political beliefs are. The experience of being challenged, rather than turn students into liberal - or conservative - zombies, should fundamentally make them think about how they know what they know, and why they believe certain things to be true. It doesn't mean "swap my beliefs for yours," but rather "be aware of how you know and think."

In other words, and as many people have said already about this, being presented with a different way of thinking (if that is indeed the case, which as we will see below is not necessarily true) doesn't come with an evil intent to brainwash. As I often tell my students, my job is not to make them believe anything, but to teach them how to interpret (and create) explanations about how to understand things.

Worse than the misunderstanding of teaching method, or the conflation of understanding with believing, or the pernicious assumption by students they are being indoctrinated (deliberately fostered by organizations like the one MMF describes), is the liklihood that the actions of these organizations will lead to distortions, validation of baseless rumors, and outright lies that could damage individual professors, as well as the academy in general.

Mad Melancholic Feminista found out first hand, when conservative students on her campus targeted her for smearing as a "looney liberal," and made up lies about her and started distributing them on campus (emphasis mine):

I highlighted the accusation that I said the September 11th attacks weren't that bad, for two reasons: (1) I never said anything like this in my class and (2) it is exactly the kind of accusation conservative students are trained to make of their marks. I discovered this when I attended their conference and watched an entire session run by a college junior teach the students present how to get your professor fired or in trouble with the trustees. His examples were either send out emails that expose their terrorist sympathizing or their opposition of ROTC. I discovered this post about me only after I had attended that session and knew that I was lucky enough to be one of the professors they wanted to go after.

A quick note: when I showed this piece of propaganda to my father, what pissed him off the most is that he was called a Hippie. As a Goldwater man, Ronald Reagan devotee, and long supporter of the Republican party, he was incensed that anyone would call him a hippie. Oh well, at least he was upset.

Making things up to "get your professor fired of in trouble with the trustees." Not a professor about whom there were serious issues, but one they wanted to go after. These same groups, who on the front page of their website called Gloria Steinham a "bra burning psycho." A psycho. Not to mention that the whole bra burning thing is apocryphal.

There are many things that people do not understand about academia, and one of them is why free speech and the institution of tenure were so important in the first place. They are a corrective from the days in which the church could tell you that your science was incorrect, or that you could be fired when a new governor came in and got rid of all the professors appointed by his predecessor.

These movements also overlook something fundamental about education: if students are not presented with new and different information, they can't learn. No one is obliged to change religion, political party, or favorite color as the result of what a professor says. Students are required to show mastery of the material. What they do with the knowledge after the class is over, is their own business.

Finally, the big lie being perpetrated by these organizations MMF describes is that liberal professors run academic institutions like some evil cult, and that conservative students are babes in the woods.

It's either that, or the liberals are right, and young indoctrinated conservatives won't be able to resist the siren song of liberalism, and therefore it must quashed.

Either way, that's a pretty patronizing view of young conservative adults in college. If my party viewed me as unable to think for myself, I'd be damn insulted.

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

The Pink Bunny Knows

Morgaine reminds us of where baby bunnies come from, and offers hope for the new:

In the continuing Christian assault on everything sacred, you're going to start hearing about a "war on Easter" amidst their delusory "war on Christianity." The real Oestara just passed, known to the cowan as "the vernal equinox." The bunnies brought me some much needed sleep this year, for which I am in their debt. Being as tired as I was, I didn't get to do eggs this year. I might do some, still, though, because Pagan rituals give me such pleasure when they fly in the face of the patriarchs. Coloring eggs all pretty colors is a lovely way to tell the Xtians to fuck off, because they can change the name, and move it from the Equinox to the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Equinox, and cry and pray and tell us that a gentle man being crucified makes a day "good," but in our Pagan hearts and DNA we KNOW Oestara is about FORNICATING and making babies - baby ducks, baby chicks, tender buds on trees and bushes, hyacinths and lillies, and lots and lots of baby RABBITS!

Rabbits, you may recall, are the ancient symbol of Virginity - no, not the kind where you don't get any. The kind of virginity where a young woman is whole in and of herself, belonging and beholden to no one, ripe and ready to go out and live life. She's Diana on the hunt, running free and unfettered, shaking off the Winter's frost and running through the rain. Oestara is the planetary Menarche, the beginning of true potential. What's awakening in us all now will come to fruition at the next high holy day of Beltane - May Day - when the faithful celebrate life by observing our prime directive - fucking like beasts - by the light of the Beltane fires.


For the next month or so, be a young girl - fall in love with love, love your life, find something to be excited about. (That's not easy these days, but I'm going to do it anyway.) Giggle, skip, wear pink - guys, too. No, guys especially. You boys take yourselves too seriously - that's why you shoot people and drop bombs over things like money and ideology. There's not a word to be spoken or a treasure to be gained that is worth even 1 precious life. If we're going to save this world we need to remember that it is worth saving. It's only as grim as we make it and it's as light as we'll let it be.

Pink Bunny.

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

Matthew Teague's "Double Blind"

I finally finished the most recent issue of The Atlantic today. If there's one article in it you should read, I'd say it's the cover story. It's a chilling (and sometimes nauseating) tale of the British infiltration of the IRA. While a lot of useful information about the terrorists was gained, this also led to British agents standing-by as terrorist attacks went forward, and sometimes even taking part in attacks. And sometimes, they even attacked other British agents. It's a horrifying tale - but an important one as we consider what the US should and shouldn't do as it fights terrorist groups today.

Posted by armand at 02:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bridget Jones's Diary > Pride and Prejudice

I know I made this comment to a few of you last weekend, after I returned from my brief beach getaway. But I figured I'd post the observation here too, in case anyone else felt like chiming in. I finally saw the latest film adaptation of Pride & Prejudice a couple of weeks ago (the one starring Keira Knightley). Shortly after that, I watched Bridget Jones's Diary again. Seeing them both so close to each other produced the following observations: 1) Pride & Prejudice is fine, but if people had it on the 10 Best Films of 2005 lists, that's kind of odd; 2) Bridget Jones is a much better film than a lot of people give it credit for; 3) Bridget Jones is a better film in many ways than Pride & Prejudice; and a key reason why is that 4) the makers of Pride & Prejudice seem to have totally overlooked the fact that humor is an essential ingredient to Austen's works. The failure to appreciate that leaves the Knightley movie a flawed adaptation. Bridget Jones's Diary's strengths, points that make it one of the best romantic comedies of the last few years, aren't limited to an appreciation of that fact. But it does, in a way, make Jones the work that's really more true to Austen's style and meaning.

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

Albany - Architectural Schizophrenia?

Early on in the amazing classic cartoon "Duck Amuck" Daffy Duck walks, skis, etc. through a series of settings that are right next to each other - yet seem to have no conceivable connection to one another. Each frame is hopelessly out of place when compared to the setting he had just passed through, and Daffy finds this most irksome. I suppose one can get the same feeling going through downtown Albany. After all it features the neo-gothic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception near the modern (in the most thrilling and dated senses of the term) Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, at the end of which is the state capital. And the capital is, of course, itself a grand mishmash of Italianate and Romanesque styles. Some find this an unsightly combination, and some loathe some of these buildings. But I disagree. I think it's a really convenient way to check out a lot of interesting architecture at once.

Posted by armand at 11:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 24, 2006

Right Wing Blog Etiquette

This blog is coming up on it's second anniversary. I can't speak for binky or armand, but I got into blogging as a way of expanding the circle of people to argue and debate with. I had read blogs for maybe a year before beginning the process of making one of my own, and thought I understood the general norms of the environment.

For me, the exchange of ideas was critical to blogs: the ability to have a comments section where people could offer praise and rebuttal to your argument is a fundamental part of blogs. Open exchange of ideas is also a fundamental part of education and learning (the scientific method, the original reason for tenure) and was codified into the First Amendment because free speech allows for open debate, which is critical to preventing authoritarianism.

Thus, the choice of many right wing blogs to avoid open comments (Insty, Malkin, Hewitt, etc.) struck me as both against the norm of the blogosphere, and arguably against the norm of open political discourse. If you can't stand other people pointing out the flaws in your argument, how good is your argument?

The whole Domenech/Plagiarism thing (good roundup here) isn't my central point (if you care my opinion is that Domenech should be fired by the WaPo; great newspapers - ones with their eye on Pulitzers and real journalism - don't employ proven plagiarists, no matter how much a youthful indiscretion). It did, however, allow me to discover the following exchange at Redstate.

I will reproduce this exchange from RedState verbatim, but with formatting changes (they use a different system then we, so it won't look the same). I will provide links to the specific comments I'm posting. However, Redstate has a policy of (sometimes) denying links; in other words, if they don't like the site that links them, any attempt to move directly from this site to Redstate causes an error message along the lines of " has refused a connection. Try again later" (or some such; I'm paraphrasing). Redstate is somewhat unusual in the RightWingBlogoSphere, in that they allow comments. However, they "police" the comments by disallowing links from sites they disagree with (described above) and banning commenters whose views they do not like.

With that being said, the following comments are from a Redstate thread on the link between home schooling and the Domenech controversy (one of the founders of Redstate, Josh Trevino - Tacitus, in an older time - argues that the left wing is using the plagiarism charges to attack home schooling; the actual issue under discussion is irrelevant to the following exchange, however). The exchange begins when a (clearly left-wing) commenter named "thoughtful" attempts to demonstrate Domenech's plagiarism with some side-by-side comparisons:

thoughtful: Some Substantiation:

Cribbed from a posting by "Oregon Guy", and a followup posting by "silence" at DailyKos:

From a Ben Domenech review of Bringing Out the Dead in "FlatHat", which appears to be a student publication at Ben's alma mater of William and Mary:

Instead of allowing for the incredible nuances that Cage always brings to his performances, the character of Frank sews it all up for him.

But there are those moments that allow Cage to do what he does best. When he's trying to revive Mary's father, the man's family fanned out around him in the living room in frozen semi-circle, he blurts out, "Do you have any music?"

From a review posted on, published about a week earlier:

Instead of allowing for the incredible nuance that Cage always brings to his performances, the character of Frank sews it all up for him. ...

But there are those moments that allow Cage to do what he does best. When he's trying to revive Mary's father, the man's family fanned out around him in the living room in frozen semi-circle, he blurts out, "Do you have any music?"

or this one:

From PJ O'Rourke in his book "Modern Manners" (p 176):

Small Parties

Small parties are very easy to plan. An old Supremes tape, a gram of cocaine, a fifth of Stolichnaya, and some copies of Penthouse from the 70s when it was really dirty make for a perfect small party without the bother and complication of guests.

Large Parties

Large parties require much more than a gram of cocaine and, usually, other people besides yourself.

From Ben's editorial contributions at William and Mary:

Small parties are very easy to plan. An old Supremes tape, a case of beer, a fifth of Stolichnaya and a pack of cigarettes make for a perfect small party without the bother and complication of guests.

Large parties require much more than a gram of cocaine and, usually, other people besides yourself.

Great minds think alike, I suppose. I notice he deleted the dated "Penthouse" reference. Does that make it his work?

Honestly folks, this tendency of the right to favoring ideology over competence doesn't help your cause any.

I'm guessing Ben's probably gone before the weekend is out.

For what it's worth, that evidence looks pretty damning on the charge of plagiarism. The idea that someone would find almost exactly the same text as a previous author is unlikely, and the idea that it could happen multiple times is "beyond a reasonable doubt." However, Domenech's problems are not the focus here. The focus is on the response to "thoughtful's" attempt to provide actual evidence that Domenech had transgressed. Notice what happens when someone responds to "thoughtful"; the next post (not chronologically, but in reply to "thoughtful") is a reply by "Nick Danger", presumably one of the Redstate founders/owners:

Nick Danger: Plonk:

I'm guessing Ben's probably gone before the weekend is out.

You beat him by three days.

In other words (to translate), "thoughtful" was banned ("thoughtful": Ben...gone before...weekend. "Nick Danger": You beat him by three days.) for his attempt to provide actual evidence that Domenech had plagiarized (on a thread about Domenech's plagiarism). Websites are owned by people; they are private property in the sense that people can be banned by the "owners" of a domain name/address from participating - I'm certainly not arguing that Redstate/"Nick Danger" didn't have the right to ban "thoughtful". I'm arguing that it is a clear violation of the norms of thoughtful political speech (which is critical to democracy) to ban (curtail the free speech)of people just for (rationally and reasonably) stating an opposing position. Just for the record, Redstate's Posting Rules are very vague (people can be banned for "disruptive behavior" among other things), but nothing "thoughtful" did seemed to violate any of the stated posting rules.

However, the story doesn't end there. A different commenter jumps in to argue, essentially, what I'm arguing here - that banning "thoughtful" for what seemed to be NOT violating the posting rules was the wrong thing to do:

bpalmer: Banning:

And, as is so often the case, I wonder if the redstate editors uphold their own stated policy regarding banning. thoughtful did as asked, the bulk of his post providing the evidence that plagiarism took place (with apparent links to the original items, so that Redstate people don't even have to deal with the DailyKos diaries & comments).

One non-substantive comment at the end, which was in an ideological sense identifiably only "non right",  which acknowledged that this was a conservative community, which avoided profanity, personal attacks, or harassment -- and apparently was banned by an editor.

The editors here sure seem trigger-happy -- it's not surprising that echo chambers build, if people who provide evidence to support their claims are immediately banned.

This reasonable (to me) request to think about the instant ban of "thoughtful" (which, by the Redstate posting rules, was supposed to be preceded by a warning to "thoughtful" about the violation of the posting rules that was done) resulted in the immediate banning of "bpalmer":

thomas: I'm so, so sorry:

  1. The proprietors of this site are the sole and final judges and enforcers of this policy.
  2. Your problem is now fixed. Hope you feel better.

Thus, in the space of two consecutive (and rational and reasonable) comments, two different editors/owners/founders (I have no idea who "thomas" or "Nick Danger" are, or what their role/position in Redstate is) banned commenters. Again, I find nothing "bannable" in what either of the two commenters did to be worthy of the response.

Why is it that the right-wing blogosphere finds it necessary to curtail free speech? Most don't allow comments (which certainly solves this problem), but I applauded Redstate for doing so. However, this aspect seems worse. Moreover, it fosters a continuing split between the left and the right - if the right won't argue with the left at the left's websites, and the left isn't allowed to argue with the right (no comments or banning) at their websites, the polarization of American political discourse continues. Which harms everybody.

As I argued above, free speech is critical to democracy. The phrase "echo chamber" is bandied about far too easily these days, yet what else does one call Redstate? If all opposing viewpoints (even the reasonable and rational ones) are banned, and if people are banned for even suggesting that people shouldn't be banned, then all that will remain is a collection of people who already agree with each other. Thus "groupthink", and associated other problems (for example, one aspect of a closed group is that they self-reinforce each others views, become avoid outsiders, and the group becomes more aggressive than any individual member might; one could argue that these qualities are seen in the management and content at Redstate). Echo chamber isn't a stretch, at this point.

I honestly don't care about Domenech; he's a triviality at best and a non-issue at worst. I'm more concerned with the failure of the bright lights of the right wing to accept political discourse as natural, or even to encourage it. Instead, most seem fearful. If you don't like someone's post - ignore it. If you find their comment uncomfortable - consider it. Perhaps you might learn something. At least consider the possibility of replying to a thoughtful critic - you might convince them of your position.

The death of discourse is a slow process, but painful.

Posted by baltar at 03:15 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Iran Willing to Publicly Talk to the Great Satan

This is big, and potentially a great thing. We've had back-channel communications quite frequently (and Iraq might well be a much more dangerous place right now if we hadn't), but publicly-recognized discussions, no.

Iran offered Thursday to enter into talks with the United States aimed at stabilizing Iraq, the first time the Islamic republic has agreed to negotiate with the superpower it calls the "Great Satan."

Our response doesn't strike me as helpful, but hopefully it's just a negotating ploy.

Posted by armand at 01:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Mountaineers

They played their hearts out, and lost by one shot at the buzzer.

Went down fighting. And didn't make anyone from Texas bleed either.

Posted by binky at 12:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

The Libertine Opens Here Tomorrow

For those of us here in town, a Johnny Depp film will open tomorrow at the Warner. True, it's a Depp film that hasn't gotten especially good reviews (though on the whole Manhola Dargis and Roger Ebert liked it), but hey, I'm almost always up for a Depp movie. And a Depp movie in which he plays a famously debaucherous historical figure would seem to have plenty of possibilities.

Posted by armand at 03:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lawyers...can this be refused?

In Kansas, at roadside stops the police are going to start taking fingerprints?

If you are stopped by police in Kansas, don’t be surprised if the officer pulls out a little black box and takes your fingerprints.


Posted by binky at 01:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

What is hot?

I always thought this version was pretty damn hot.

I suppose some people prefer this one, but I'm still attached to the early model.

I can tell you this much, however. A lot of people, at this moment, are really hot for this.

Posted by binky at 11:48 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Realism and Israel

I have really attempted to avoid getting stuck in the silliness that is the debate over the Mearsheimer & Walt article (full pdf version here). The whole debate seems useless to me.

Mearsheimer and Walt are both "realists", which is a form of international relations theory that believes power is the prime motivator in all forms of international politics, and the study of power (who has it, why they say they use it versus why they really use it, who will have it, who is losing it, etc.) is key to understanding all relations between states (note: I'm summarizing many decades of theory here, but that's the idea).

Mearsheimer and Walt have written an article arguing that US policy with respect to Israel for a long time (decades) makes no sense (in a realist framework; in other words, US policy with respect to Israel and other neighboring states cannot be explained just by power relations and disparities between the various countries). Since it makes no sense (again, for realism), then something must be interfering with the US's "realist" policies, and that "something" must be domestic. Mearsheimer and Walt call it "the Israeli lobby" and argue that domestic Jewish voters formed an interest group, and Presidential candidates and Presidents move US policy in a pro-Israeli direction because of the benefits (money, votes, etc.) that the interest group offers. Thus, the circle is squared and realism can explain everything again (using this domestic group to explain away an anomaly in realism).

I'm not bright enough to have a profound comment on this. If you want profundity, go see Lawyers, Guns, and Money (first post, third post, fourth post), or Dan Drezner, or Pithlord. Whatever you do (I'm not even going to bother to link this), don't go read various Right-Wing-Nut'O-Sphere blogs (Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt, Powerline) which are in a frenzy declaring that Mearsheimer and Walt are lefty-nutball-ivory-tower-Jew-hating-goobers. (They are goobers, but not lefty-nutball-ivory-tower-Jew-hating-goobers, and I'll get to that in a minute.)

I have two points to make. 1) Realists, by definition, can't be lefty-nutball-goobers, and 2) Mearsheimer and Walt are goobers. I'll take them in that order.

Realists (and again, I'm massively simplifying here) believe in power. They believe that states take actions to "gain, maintain, or display" their power (the quote might be Morganthau, but I could be wrong; I don't think it is Waltz - armand, do you remember?). In other words, states only take actions that gain them power (more power gives them both more security from being attacked by other states and greater ability to take power/riches/wealth from other states), maintain their power (don't let other states creep or leap up to you; take actions to maintain your lead of power over others), or display their power (if you can instantly vaporize any attacking army, but no one knows you can do this, they may attack you and force you to use up some energy vaporizing them; the best thing to do is to vaporize a local small forest to prove you can, so then no one will attack you). This, in a nutshell, is realism.

Does anyone, anywhere, see anything "lefty" about any of that? States, according to this logic, will only take actions to help their power. They won't do anything for humanitarian needs, human rights needs, bringing democracy, removing authoritarianism, or saving a puppy (all of these actions dissipate power, which makes you weaker, which states don't do). Thus, most of the common "lefty" things are left off the list. So, for example, Carter declaring that the US will evaluate all relationships based on that state's human rights record (a "lefty" policy) isn't very realist (a realist doesn't give a dog's left nut if an ally tortures poodles; allies are allies - they help the US).

To declare (as most of the WingNutOSphere cited above does) that Mearsheimer and Walt are left wing nuts is basically crazy. Mearsheimer is known to be fairly right of center (or was, a few years ago; where he falls in today's warped political spectrum is anyone's guess). Walt's politics are unknown to me. Given that he is a realist, I'm not guessing he writes in "Chomsky" for President every four years. If the nutballs on the right want to complain about this article, at least find something accurate to hang on the authors.

Which brings me to point numero duo. Mearsheimer and Walt are just plain wrong. I don't feel like a long discourse on the innumerable ways they are wrong (see Drezner, above, for the full takedown). I'll merely note that realism, as a theory, argues that the domestic politics of a state are more or less irrelevant (states are states; whether they are democratic or authoritarian or capitalist or socialist they all focus on and respond to power). Thus, to look inside a state to find explanations for why the state isn't acting as it should is odd for a realist (it isn't impossible; Snyder's "Myths of Empire", Kupchan's "The Vulnerability of Empire", or the classic Gilpin's "War and Change" are all realist or neorealist; note - "neorealist" does not equal "neoconservative", because that's something else entirely). Moreover, realists aren't usually very good at sorting out interest groups, domestic factions, decision-making models, and the other necessary pieces of analysis used to sort out how states actually make decisions. Thus, it should come as no real surprise that Mearsheimer and Walt make a few errors along the way. To cite Drezner here (a different post than the one above):

A) They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability;
B) They ascribe U.S. foreign policy behavior almost exclusively to the activities of the "Israel Lobby"; and
C) They omit consderation of contradictory policies and countervailing foreign policy lobbies.

I'm lazy, so Drezner does fine for me. I think (being lazy) that you could shorten Drezner: they don't show that domestic politics creates the policies they ascribe to domestic actors. However, that may shorten the criticism beyond the point of coherence.

So, to review. No, there is too much - to summarize:

1. Realists don't make good left-wing-squishy-fruitballs. Before you call someone any form of "lefty", see if they really are one.

2. Nobody really knows or understands what International Relations scholars argue about. This may be a good thing.

3. Realists don't really understand domestic politics (and having just read 700 pages on the decision-making behind US troop committments to Vietnam from November 1963 to the summer of 1965, let me tell you - there isn't a lot that realism can explain about Johnson and his whole dysfunctional executive branch).

4. Nobody likes poodles.

5. Bush sucks (Hi Morris - did you get this far!)

If IR theory invades your life again, duck and cover until I can get there to explain the various absurdities.

Posted by baltar at 09:18 PM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

Small Blessings...

Twisty has a post up about two women who talk about weight gain and desire in terms of what they do for their husbands, or feel guilty about not being able to do for their husbands (including losing baby weight). Twisty, of course, laments the "prison" of female beauty.

The one sentence made me want to cry, and to shake some guy I've never met until his teeth rattled (not really, ok?):

“Hub,” writes L., “didn`t want me to go to his office Christmas party, nor has he invited anyone from work to our house. When I joked that this was because I was ‘no longer a wife worth showing off,’ he got very quiet. Saying nothing at all was infinitely worse than anything he could have possibly said.”

That's right. A guy who is ashamed of the way his wife looks, based on the consequences of bearing their children.

I'm trying very hard not to speculate if these partners who want the perfect wife have lost any hair. Or better, if any of that hair has migrated from their head to their back, which is often the natural progression of aging. Beer belly? Sagging butt? No, I am not going to speculate about that at all. Especially not with a snarky turn of phrase that says something about how he didn't even have to bear a child and have bleeding gums and hemorroids and high blood pressure and loosened joints that made none of his shoes fit anymore or wild hormonal shifts that made his body seem like not his own to get that physical change. Nope.

And the reason is that I would rather focus on the positive, and count my not-so-small blessings.

You see, I used to be married to someone like that. Who would, unsolicited, point out to me that on my 5'11" frame, that a shift from 130 to 135 pounds made my ass look fat. Or who when standing in line at the grocery store, when I commented favorably on a lovely green velvet low cut spaghetti strap dress on the cover of a women's magazine, he took a look at my (underwire reinforced) D-cups and said "maybe in a gravity free environment."

Oh yes, that was one of my personal favorites. And that was in the good days. The "honeymoon" as it were.

Yeah, I know. Caveat emptor and all that. It was a very skillful bait and switch.

And here's the thing. The women talking about the physical stuff, as if it was a bait and switch that they had perpetrated on their husbands... they haven't done a bait and switch at all.

People age. Babies change women's bodies. Forever. Our lives get mapped in our physical form, and leave traces, and stories, and history.

It's natural. It's normal. It's human.

To deny the physical transformations everyone undergoes is to deny life itself. We get slower, creakier, fatter, softer, droopier, smarter, wiser, more patient, with better stories to tell and much more interesting lines in our faces when we smile and laugh.

And when you are watching the person that you love change over time, and realize that you are changing too, that you are changing together, you remember the wonderful days at the beach that helped contribute to both of your wrinkles. You remember the surgery your beloved had that made that scar, when she puked all over you from the pain meds. You still love to touch your sweetie's hair, even though there's a little less of it and some of it is getting grey at the temples. And when your love smiles at you, all twinkling eyes and crinkles at eye corners, you don't see crow's feet. You see boundless love, and you know the smile is oh so real because of the depth of those lines between twinkly eyes and grey temples.

Heh. Didn't know I was a mush ball, eh?

That's the other part, you know. That the person who loves you because of what many people call physical flaws also loves you for your inconsistencies, your constant traits, your "hard-ass" and your "marshmallow."

And because I'm hopefully talking about your small blessings, but am really talking about my small blessings, that person loves you whether you shave your pits or let the hair grow to your knees, whether or not your hair looks like Einstein's, and regardless of the fearsome snoring or paint peeling farts that come out of you. That person finds those grooming choices to be interesting experiments. That person aids and abets your desire to be judged by your heart, your mind and your deeds, not your looks, but still finds your looks, however you choose to let them be, utterly compelling.

Much more than small blessings.

Posted by binky at 09:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Elizabethtown - The First 37 Minutes

I've been a Cameron Crowe fan. Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, Jerry Maguire, I liked all of them a lot, and how can you not like the script for Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Therefore, the first few minutes of Elizabethtown left me a little wobbly. Then I was stunned. Then I came to the realization that yes, this really is unfolding in front of me, I'm not dreaming, I'm watching a truly atrocious movie. A truly awful horror. The script was seemingly written by a 19 teen year old, and then they turned it (and a pretty big budget) over to a 13 year old to direct it. These actors aren't usually this bad. Crowe, famous for his use of music in his films, doesn't usually use it in such an oppressive, worst-Kodak-ad-ever kind of a way. What was he thinking? It's not even bad in any sort of amusing or entertaining way. It's simply crap.

So my question to those of you've who've seen it is this - should I keep watching this fiasco? So far it's the worst thing I've watched in ages - much worse than The Brothers Grimm even. Does it get better?

Posted by armand at 11:33 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Too Ridicuous to Pass Up

Pat Robertson, of course.

ROBERTSON: Ladies and gentleman this is a fascinating book. If you want to, you'd better take your blood pressure medicine before you read it, but it's "The Professors: The 101 most dangerous academics in America" and that's just a short list of the 30-40,000 of them, they're like termites that have worked into the woodwork of our academic society and it's appalling. This is available at and book stores everywhere, and you really ought to read it and be informed.

TERRI: It’s interesting that so many conservatives haven't seen this because decades ago we were told that infiltrating education was the way to take over the country, we should have been on alert.

ROBERTSON: They gamed it, these guys are out and out communists, they are radicals, you know some of them killers, and they are propagandists of the first order and they don't want anybody else except them. That's why Regent University for example is so terrifically important and why we're setting up an undergraduate program that hopefully will see shortly 10,000 students, and then from there 250,000 because you don't want your child to be brainwashed by these radicals, you just don't want it to happen. Not only brainwashed but beat up, they beat these people up, cower them into submission. Ahhh! "The Professors", read it.

That's me. Bloodthirsty killer!

At least that's what my students say after taking my midterm.

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March 21, 2006

Baltar was right

You should all be afraid. Very afraid of what I will do with this new knowledge.


Posted by binky at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The March '06 Kos Poll for the '08 Nomination

Wow, that censure resolution sure seems to have helped Russ Feingold's standing with the engaged, liberal and blogging base of the Democratic party. And Wes Clark's numbers are (predictably) sliding.

Posted by armand at 01:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Three Years

Everyone else has been recognizing the date with facts and figures, with policy evaluations, and with predictions for the immediate (and long term) future of U.S. involvement in Iraq.

They've all done a fine job, and I'm not in the mood to either do it or link to it. Throw a rock. You'll hit something.

Three years ago, when the Iraq War started, I was in an authoritarian country for ten days. Why? In part, to teach a bunch of undergraduates about history, culture, and how the alternatives to liberal democracy can really, really suck.

As citizens of the United States, on a prior trip and before the war started, we couldn't have been more golden. Sure, the state apparatus didn't really want us spreading around anything but our money, and any significant swerve in a conversation to something real was quickly diverted (las paredes tienen oídos, sabes?). But with good will, some competent language skills, and the international language (no, not that one) of smiles and gestures, everything was OK.

And then. And then. Happy fucking birthday Binky.

For the first time ever did I encounter a personal confrontation of anti-Americanism en las Americas. In twenty years. And no, I'm not that naive to think I've never been the target of the view, or even the words, from a distance. The beginning of the Iraq war was the first time that someone came up to me, asked me if I was from the US or Canada, and then went off.

It was frustrating, and kind of scary, given the relative isolation and the fact that I was keeping an eye on a bunch of kids. It was also sad. The promise of freedom that generated the common friendly welcome of people from the US, even if not of their government's foreign policy, well, it wasn't working.

And that was just the beginning.

I haven't been back since the war started. Personal, professional and diplomatic events have conspired to keep me in Smalltown, USA, so I don't know what the medium term impact is. I hope that in the long run, we can regain that affection - albeit tinged with frustration for the nation of aborrescentes - even as part of me mourns the innocence that I had managed to hold onto until my thirty fifth birthday.

The night I drank way too much rum, and stayed awake all night to watch a new day dawn in the haze from the Malecón.

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Since I have nothing at stake, perhaps I can avoid the Wrath of Baltar (TM) as I encourage you to head over the vote for the Koufax Awards. There are great folks nominated. Support the home team, and all that.

Posted by binky at 12:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

That Hippie, Jesus, Is Going Down Next

Yeah, that Shakespeare , commie pinko that he is. He always looked kinda funny anyway. Long hair, moustache, funny bloomers and all that. What's next? A beard and a dress?

via Majikthise.

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March 20, 2006

A Mountaineer is Always Pink

Hey Kids!

In case you were wondering what to wear to the F*%d P&%$#s protest coming up during Pride week, well, you're in luck!

I made some special t-shirts just for you!

How about a nice Brokeback Mountaineer t-shirt in black or white? And why not accessorize with a lovely fag enabler pin? Fag enabler camis for the ladies!

Fridge magnet ten pack? Anyone? Anyone?

Posted by binky at 10:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be...

Eh, you read it.

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The co

Via Balloon Juice.

Posted by binky at 10:01 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Herzog and de Meuron

The latest issue of The New Yorker has a nice article on the work of Herzog and de Meuron (winners of the 2001 Pritzker Prize). It focused primarily on the stadium they have built in Munich and the one they are building for the 2008 Olympics in Bejing - see #11). It also mentioned some of their other prominent works like the Walker Art Center in Minnesota, the Tate Modern in London, and the gorgeous condos Ian Schrager is building on Bond St. But unless I overlooked it, Goldberger's article doesn't mention the cool new Philharmonic Hall that they've designed for Hamburg. It's an interesting melding of the old, the new and the hall's surroundings. Take a look.

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

Bias in the classroom

From Inside Higher Ed coverage of a PS piece on bias in the classroom.

Turns out those commie liberal professors are viewed positively by students, who believe they are more likely to let students think for themselves.

  • Most students feel confident that they know their professors’ political inclinations and that they are not hidden. Asked if they knew their professors’ leanings, 15 percent said that they were “positive,” 32 percent said that they were “very confident,” 40 percent were “somewhat confident,” and only 11 percent were “not at all confident.”

  • Students considered 77 percent of their professors to be left of center, and 7 percent right of center. (While the authors of the students didn’t verify that the professors indeed held those views, they note that such findings would be consistent with other surveys of the profession.) While more students in the survey identified themselves as liberal than as conservative, the split was such that the student body in this study was more conservative than the professors — as perceived by students.

  • Professors who students think are conservative are generally rated more favorably by students on whether they present material objectively.

  • Professors who students think are liberal are generally rated more favorably by students on whether students are encouraged to present their own viewpoints, whether grading is fair, whether the learning environment is comfortable, and whether they care about the success of students.

  • Of course, the students don't believe that what the professor says is objective, which is an interesting connection. If the liberal professor is more likely to encourage students to speak their minds, does this mean that they think that this is all the professors are doing? Especially interesting given something I was just reading on the Socratic method, in which is says that by just listening to information that students tend to learn to recognize information, but that by being engaged in the socratic me thod and having to think for themeselves, they actually learn. So could it be that students are actually learning more from those dastardly liberals?

    Via Bitch PhD.

    Posted by binky at 04:03 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    "Their mistakes become magnified and their successes minimized"

    Steve Gilliard comments on the article in Sunday's New York Times about why women still don't make partner at big law firms, even though there have been equal numbers of women in law school since the 1970s:

    The answer I came up with? They hire and fund the people who are like them.

    This is all talk.

    They don't want women as partners and women quickly realize that unless they swallow shit or find a mentor, they are never gonna make it. Their mistakes become magnified and their successes minimized.

    I remember an old WaPo article about minority lawyers in big law firms who quit after a few years, realizing they aren't ever going to get the brass ring. So they strike out on their own.

    What most women realize, like most minorities, is that the only way for them to become a star is either to become a prosecutor or go out on their own. Johnnie Cochran and Willie Gary weren't going to be head of any firm they didn't build on their own.

    This could just as easily be the case for minorities, or women, in much of academia.

    Or science. It reminded me of this post from the Eight Carnival of the Feminists, which I linked to a while ago.

    being a women in physics, statistics, and computer science often requires that one be either a bit heroic - or one of the guys.

    Time and generational shifts help to a degree, but it takes self- awareness and a commitment to action to reduce persistent structures and patterns. Some of the law firms in the article have it. Some academic departments have it. Unfortunately, it's an uncomfortable process, which means that it is all too easy to slide lazily into ignoring the evidence right in front of us, and coming up with coping strategies to ease the cognitive dissonance. As Echidne says:

    When something happens that clashes with a person's worldview it's usually the evidence that will be reinterpreted so that the worldview can stay. Fixing worldviews is a major psychological undertaking, and few of us want to do it.

    We're all so invested in believing things about ourselves, that we're smart, rational, fair, that considering the possibility that we're not causes great anguish. Changing thinking, changing the feelings about these challenges, is hard work, and most people don't want to do it.

    There's been a bunch of discussions lately about disagreements within the feminist community, and over the notion of privilege (I'd link to the ones at Feministe, but alas, they seem to be down). One of the most insightful, and critical, was from Dark Daughta (for some of you, NSFW due to images aimed at radical reclaiming of female beauty, i.e. the amazing nude background image of DD's voluptuous pregnant female form). In this post she challenges the "feminist cred" of some in the blogosphere by asking us all (riffing on a post by Kevin) to question our classism and elitism. She does a neat job of showing where the weak spots lie, and how many of us probably realize it, and and how quickly defensiveness sets in when we are confronted with our insularity and unwillingness to really challenge ourselves. While she is talking about another issue, her comments are illustrative of why, as Steve Gilliard points out, "this is all talk" about the reasons why more women don't make partner. For women (in this case) to "make it," serious, painful and consistent work will have to be done. As Dark Daughta says:

    This work isn't fun. This work isn't popular. ... This work may very well be completely invisible and go unnoted. They will be feared and gossiped about and avoided by other men who are not doing this work. They will feel the sting of isolation and ostracism doing this work. They won't be perceived as so gentle or likeable while doing this work. They will have to watch their backs doing this work. They will have to wear armour doing this work.

    She also turns to the perpetual cry of "courtesy" in the blogsphere, and political debate, and reveals it as the tool of oppression it can be. This goes to the point Gilliard makes as well, about swallowing shit. What he doesn't say, but what Dark Daughta recognizes, is the there is a consistent message that you (the oppressed) have to swallow shit. And that message is to not challenge, to not be rude, to be courteous and play along.

    But what does playing along and swallowing shit get you, if you are, in the case of the article, a woman seeking to become partner? Is it really an effective strategy? By the numbers of women partners, it is not.

    I can hear it already. Angry gasps and defensive comments being hatched in brains right now. I hear the defensive armor clanking as you start to put on your "don't condemn me with the rest" and "I'm not one of those sex(rac)ists" and "It's not fair to be aggressive with your friends." As Dark Daughta says - though she is not alone - are we really doing anyone favors by not speaking truth?

    It reminds me of the discussion I had with a regular commenter, that ended with his comment that "allies are allies are allies." What I wanted to discuss, and ended up not being able to because of real world intrusion into blogging, was that allies are not always equal. In the arena of democratic politics and women's reproductive autonomy (the issue we were discussing that day) that some "allies" are more like fair weather friends. That when it's rainy, and muddy, and shitty, and there is hard, nasty filthy work to be done, those "allies" aren't willing to do the work. Because the work involves looking inside. It involves asking oneself hard questions. It involves admitting that we don't always act in accordance with the enlightened picture we like to paint of ourselves. It involves accepting ourselves as flawed human beings, and admitting that we aren't really better than those other flawed human beings.

    And getting upset when people call you on your shit is most definitely human. But that doesn't mean the next thing to do is eliminate the calling, shout it down or silence it with calls to decorum. Maybe that means it's time to reflect and think, why am I so angry and defensive about the implications of that criticism? Is there a possibility that I am not all that I present myself to be? Am I willing to do the work to consider the consequences of my (in)actions, and make changes?

    The call to courtesy stifles the probably painful, but important opportunity for growth. Dark Daughta again (emphasis mine):

    Courtesy is different than affection and nurturing. Courtesy is invites equivocation and avoidance. Courtesy isn't something you request of those you stand in solidarity with. Better to request truth and forthrightness. Courtesy covers rage, suppressed, leading to (passive) aggression. Courtesy stunts insight gleaned through accessing emotion. Courtesy forces the oppressed to forever engage with those who will not do their own work. Courtesy is a tool utilized by those who harm and oppress to maintain the status quo. Courtesy is a ring around the neck and shackles around the arms and feet of those who need to move vigorously and powerfully and quickly in order to shake themselves awake enough to resist their own oppression.

    The lack of courtesy, the rudeness, and failure to play nice... these are the qualities that are used to justify the "hysterical feminist" label. Reading Dark Daughta (and I recommend probing more deeply into her writings, but be warned, you'll get sucked in so block off some time!) gave me some of those uncomfortable itchy feelings that we are trained to deflect with defensive affirmations. So why is our blogroll full of privileged voices?

    Again, I hear the defenses coming up. Mine did. When she asked the question I immediately started thinking, "but but...the blogosphere is anonymous..." The I started turning it over in my head. It is anonymous, but it isn't. As Kevin pointed out, there are open representations of alternative worldviews. Now, to some degree, I accept that we limit our blogroll for disciplinary reason, as we are (sometimes more, sometimes less) a political science blog. That means we have links to other scientists, and "laypeople" whose interests overlap our scientific interest. Not all of the links fall into this category. Why don't we? We aren't interested? Okay, that's one answer. But why not? Do we not care? Do we not have the time? Okay. What factors lead us to prioritize the way we do?

    I'm not suggested that overnight Bloodless Coup is going to transform itself into a radical feminist queer studies blog. That's not what I mean. What I'm trying to get at is that few of us really pay attention to why we do the things we do. We accept as "is" things that we are absently choosing by default. And we don't stop to think about how our actions and words either contribute to perpetuating certain patterns, or fail to check or turn them back.

    Back to Steve Gilliard. He is indirectly (because he doesn't identify it explicitly) talking about privilege, and how women and minorities in law firms recognize, painfully, certain things that those in privileged positions don't have to realize. And often don't want to realize.

    Who wants to have to be a superhero every day? It seems like that is what it will take, to give people the shove that unbalances their complacency, and allows them to see. The shove hurts, and it's not going to be the only one coming. Once you start seeing, it's hard to turn it off.

    This is what I think is the most scary. That staying in the protective bubble of ignorance - not even ignorance, of not understanding what we seem to know intellectually - is so important because it's the defense against the first step, which will lead to a longer path of discomfort. Self-doubt. Change.

    In the end though, is not this the only way to be fully human?

    Posted by binky at 02:56 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    The "New" Afghanistan - Where They Execute Christians


    An Afghan man is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death on a charge of converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under this country's Islamic laws, a judge said Sunday.
    Posted by armand at 01:49 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Iraqi Civil War

    Is there a civil war in Iraq?

    Yes, though it does not immediately threaten the Iraqi Government.

    Interesting post, and lots of good information.

    Posted by baltar at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Santa Croce

    I was recently reading a book on Michelangelo and was surprised when I saw the facade of the church in Florence where he is buried. Isn't it odd to have a large Catholic church decorated with a big Star of David? Or is it less unusual than I realize?

    Posted by armand at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


    The good news about the war in Iraq is that more service men and women are getting medical care and surviving their injuries. The bad news is that as a nation we are already dropping the ball on their care. When the mental and emotional toll is factored in, the long-term impact of this conflict has barely surfaced. Some things to consider:

    Besides bringing antibiotics and painkillers, military personnel nationwide are heading back to Iraq with a cache of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications.

    The psychotropic drugs are a bow to a little-discussed truth fraught with implications: Mentally ill service mem-bers are being returned to combat.

    The redeployments are legal, and the service members are often eager to go. But veterans groups, lawmakers and mental-health professionals fear that the practice lacks adequate civilian oversight. They also worry that such redeployments are becoming more frequent as multiple combat tours become the norm and traumatized service members are retained out of loyalty or wartime pressures to maintain troop numbers.

    Born at the Crest of the Empire and Bob Geiger remind us that one of the most important ways to support the troops, is to provide for their health care, something the country has yet to do to with any serious commitment.

    The Stealth Badger has been participating for some months in a vigil outside Walter Reed. As he says, their presence is "a reminder to the country that these wounded are not just numbers, and to the wounded that their supporters come in different political and ideological stripes."

    One of the things that supporters of all stripes can do is focus their attention on reminding their elected representatives that the effects of war don't stop when service men and women come home. And because those who served have borne the costs with their bodies and mind, the country should commit to bearing the costs of their care and rehabilitation.

    Posted by binky at 10:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    March 19, 2006

    Go 'Eers!

    West Virginia wins over Northwestern State!

    Posted by binky at 05:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Grand Ayatollah Sistani on Executing Gays

    Ah, you knew the right-wing had to have something special in mind when they started to realign the Middle East in a way that would strengthen the power of Islamic religious figures and the Islamic theocracy in Iran (not things that would obviously seem to be in their interest). Perhaps what they had in mind was making it easier and more legitimate to kill the gays. At least that effeect of our invasion is what this post on Pandagon pointed out as one of the consequences of our work in Iraq.

    Juan Cole's responded to it, apparently in an attempt to defend Sistani. But it's a peculiar attempt at a defense. It's cluttered with largely irrelevant historical data, and then points out that Sistani doesn't want to be in the government and making laws himself. Still, it's abundantly clear where Sistani is on this issue, and in the end Cole is entirely straightforward.

    But there isn't any doubt that Sistani does advocate making gay relations a capital crime. If Iraq took a strong turn toward implementation of religious law, which is entirely possible given that the December 15 election mainly put religious fundamentalist parties in parliament, then such severe penalties for homosexual relations could be imposed, despite the human rights language in the constitution.

    Cole rightly notes that this turn was entirely predictable - "I don't know what people were expecting to happen if the secular Baath was overthrown and replaced by primordial ethnic identities". Uh, well, it seems plausible to think that maybe some people were expecting this to happen. True, they could have been complete bumbling idiots and not noticed that outside of the Kurdish areas of the country all the organizational powers and political groups of any size and influence that would fill the political void in Iraq were extremely conservative religious entities, most of which were allied with Iran. And true, some of our leaders were possibly just that clueless. But not everyone in DC is a complete moron (thankfully), so maybe this isn't the biggest surprise in certain corners of the Republican leadership after all. And the sweet air of freedom that they sought to send sweeping over the sands of the Middle East was a particular sort of air of freedom - one that our country's reactionary right would be particularly supportive of. And if this wasn't a desired outcome (at least by part of the pro-war coalition),and part of a cunning plan, the people in charge of setting US foreign and security policy really are dangerously inept.

    Posted by armand at 03:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    South Park's Trapped in the Closet

    For a public figure, Tom Cruise sure is a whiner. If you want to see what all the latest whining is about (Viacom refusing to rerun the latest South Park episode, Chef leaving the show, etc.) watch "Trapped in the Closet". It's a pretty good epiosde (or as good as one can be the features very little of Cartman and Kyle, and doesn't show Butters at all).

    Posted by armand at 02:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    "A Few Rotten Apples" My Ass.

    Long New York Times story today about the "secret" US prison/interrogation facility in Baghdad. Suffice it to say, the abuse their was on par with (or exceeded) the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

    It gets harder and harder to argue that there wasn't at least an unofficial sanction for this type of activity when it is found in multiple places in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Cuba, alleged to be in secret prisons in Poland, the White House claims we don't do it (but refuses to disclose to Congress what they did do), and argues that no law passed by Congress removes from the President the right to use whatever interrogation techniques are necessary for the national security.

    Still depressing. Still going on.

    Posted by baltar at 02:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Guilty? Innocent? Throw Them In Jail And Sort It Out Later.

    It's a few days old, but the first page of this New York Times story on anti-globalization protests in New York City in 2002 is worth reading.

    Long story short, the police arrested a number of people (the article says "about 30") who were guilty of (wait for it...) looking like they were going to break the law. These were obviously protesters (still legal, as far as I know), who were wearing or carrying things that made the police think they were going to break the law at some point in the future. Thus, they were arrested (and most let go, without charges, later).

    Silly me, I was under the impression that one had to actually break the law before one could be arrested. What a quaint, old fashioned, notion.

    A brief rant: this is why electing "good" people is important. Look at the incentives here: the NYPD has no reason not to arrest anyone who looks funny. If they fail to keep order, they'll be blamed (and high-up individuals fired/demoted); thus, arresting anyone in sight (and violating the Constitution) seems reasonable - they manage to keep order, and any lawsuits are paid by the City (not NYPD), and likely no one gets fired or demoted for strong law and order actions (even if unconstitutional). Moreover, by the time the lawsuits are over, it's years down the line (in this case, four years), and nobody cares. Thus, in a choice between violating the constitution (and keeping order) or not violating the constitution (and perhaps having riots in the streets), the police opt to break the law. Only a strong political leader (and, clearly, neither Bloomsberg or Guiliani - whoever was in power in 2002 - was a strong leader) can force the police to choose the more legal option (no pre-emptive arrests) over the "safer" (but illegal) arresting people option.

    I understand why the police would choose to do this; that doesn't make it right. This also tells me everything I need to know about Guiliani/Bloomberg, if either should choose to run for another office.

    Posted by baltar at 02:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Tomorrow's Security Threats

    The latest issue of The Atlantic includes an interesting poll. They asked a large, bipartisan group of experts (practitioners, academics and people who've worked as both) which states they thought would pose the greatest threat to the United States over the next decade. The respondents included many well-known names (Eagleburger, Albright, Gelb, Pollack, Zinni, Grossman, Feith, Boot, Adelman, Brzezinski, Daalder and Nye, just to name some of them). They were given a list of 7 countries and asked to rank the 4 most-threatening states. #1 got 4 votes, #2 3 votes, etc. The results: Iran 116, North Korea 74, Pakistan 59.5, China 57, Saudi Arabia 30.5, Iraq 27 and Russia 21. Egypt and Venezuela each received 1 point from write-in votes. So I ask you, gentle readers - on that list, what would you rank 1, 2, 3 and 4?

    And of course feel free to chime in on any other things that interest you about this poll. Is there any state that you find it peculiar that the creators of the poll didn't include on their list? Nigeria perhaps? Something else? Do you find it odd that non-nuclear Iran is ranked higher than nuclear-armed North Korea and Pakistan? I do.

    My ranking? Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, North Korea.

    Posted by armand at 01:21 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

    On the "Liberal" Base

    Posted without comment, but with a few added emphases, 'cause he said it well already :

    Per the Washington Post's logic, this Newsweek poll shows that 50% of the American people are unhappy with Republicans leading Congress, and the Post teaches us that only the liberal base of the Democratic party is unhappy with Republicans, so 50% of the American people must be the liberal base of the Democratic party.

    Oh, what a sad marginalized lot we are:

    Both houses of Congress are now controlled by the Republicans, but public opinion now favors a Democratic takeover this November by a margin of 50 percent to 34 percent. Among Independents, the Democrats are preferred by more than a two-to-one margin: 51 percent to 22 percent.

    And on censure, we find the same thing - nearly half the American people are part of the liberal base of the Democratic party:

    Four in 10 (42 percent) of the adults in the general public say they would support Congressional censure of the president, while half (50 percent) say they would not. Censure

    And even just amongst Democrats, the "liberal base of the party" seems to be actually half the entire party:

    Among Democrats, almost half (49 percent) support impeachment

    Is that possible that the "base" of the party can be actually "half" the party? That would be the majority of the party, not the base, no?

    And finally, we find out that actually 65% of the American people are the liberal base of the Democratic party.

    only 29 percent of the people questioned approved Bush?s handling of the situation in Iraq. Fully 65 percent disapprove.

    I bring all of this up to make a simple point. The Washington Post and the New York Times are lazy, and the Post in particular will do anything to shill for the Bush administration. Because the traditional media can't quite internalize the fact that their favorite president is an abysmal failure, and roundly deplored by 65% of the American people, they need to keep marginalizing Bush's critics as a somewhat kooky hysterical fringe minority

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

    The things you learn reading other people's comment threads

    Our neighboring state - I'm talking to you Ohio - harbors extremists who would prevent the free movement of citizens of the United States, and would give property rights over women's reproductive organs to third parties.

    No, I am not "making this shit up."

    Submitted, for your disapproval, Ohio House Bills 228 and 287.

    The first (making its way through the legislature) removes the ability of a woman to sue her doctor for withholding information that might have led to her being able to abort her pregnancy. This presumably includes withholding details of fetal health.

    Sec.2305.116. (A) No person has a civil action or may receive an award of damages in a civil action, and no other person shall be liable in a civil action, upon a medical claim that because of an act or omission by the other person the person was not aborted.

    (B) No person has a civil action or may receive an award of damages in a civil action, and no other person shall be liable in a civil action, upon a medical claim that because of an act or omission by the other person a child was not aborted.

    That is, if a doctor omits to inform a woman that she may have cause to choose to abort a pregnancy because his favorite magic pixie told him not to, she cannot seek civil action against the doctor. That's right. It's a license to withold information from women about their own medical condition. And if they get uppity and think they can sue the doctor, the state legislature is handing out this get out of lawsuit free card, just to make sure that women realize they are not allowed to make decisions for themselves.

    Next up, a law that will make you think HB 287 is middle of the road. This Ohio bill (not moving as quickly) is chock full of nausea-inducing authoritarianism. Without further delay, HB 228:

    (C) Whoever violates division (B)(1) of this section is liable to the pregnant woman, to the person who was the father of the fetus or embryo that was the subject of the abortion, and, if the pregnant woman was a minor at the time of the abortion, to her parents, guardian, or custodian for civil compensatory and exemplary damages.

    There you go ladies. A law, that if passed, shows that other people own your uteruses, and can seek damages if you sneak off an have an abortion.

    And when Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout) introduced the bill, he thought of all the special touches to rein in the full citizenship of his female constituents.

    From Common Ground, Common Sense:

    Anticipating that, Brinkman's bill also prohibits transporting a woman across county or state lines for an abortion. Doing so would carry the same charge as an in-state abortion: first- or second-degree felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

    Look what got struck out:

    (1) "Medical emergency" means a condition of a pregnant woman that, in the reasonable judgment of the physician who is attending the woman, creates an immediate threat of serious risk to the life or physical health of the woman from the continuation of the pregnancy necessitating the immediate performance or inducement of an abortion.

    You read it correctly. "An immediate threat of serious risk to the life" of a woman is no exemption from the ban.

    This is insane. Not just if you are a woman, but if you love a woman in your life, and want her to keep on living.

    If you read through the whole bill, which I suggest you do despite the urge to retch brought on by absolutism, you will perhaps notice something.

    Don't think about red.

    Did you hear me? Don't think about red.


    (1) Materials that inform the pregnant woman women about family planning information, of publicly funded agencies that are available to assist in family planning, and of public and private agencies and services that are available to assist her them through the their pregnancy, upon childbirth, and while the their child is dependent, including, but not limited to, adoption agencies. The materials shall be geographically indexed; include a comprehensive list of the available agencies, a description of the services offered by the agencies, and the telephone numbers and addresses of the agencies; and inform the pregnant woman women about available medical assistance benefits for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care and about the support obligations of the father of a child who is born alive. The department shall ensure that the materials described in division (C)(A)(1) of this section are comprehensive and do not directly or indirectly promote, exclude, or discourage the use of any agency or service described in this division.

    (2) Materials that inform the pregnant woman women of the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the their zygote, blastocyte, embryo, or fetus at two-week gestational increments for the first sixteen weeks of pregnancy and at four-week gestational increments from the seventeenth week of pregnancy to full term, including any relevant information regarding the time at which the their fetus possibly would be viable. The department shall cause these materials to be published only after it consults with the Ohio state medical association and the Ohio section of the American college of obstetricians and gynecologists relative to the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of a zygote, blastocyte, embryo, or fetus at the various gestational increments. The materials shall use language that is understandable by the average person who is not medically trained, shall be objective and nonjudgmental, and shall include only accurate scientific information about the zygote, blastocyte, embryo, or fetus at the various gestational increments. If the materials use a pictorial, photographic, or other depiction to provide information regarding the zygote, blastocyte, embryo, or fetus, the materials shall include, in a conspicuous manner, a scale or other explanation that is understandable by the average person and that can be used to determine the actual size of the zygote, blastocyte, embryo, or fetus at a particular gestational increment as contrasted with the depicted size of the zygote, blastocyte, embryo, or fetus at that gestational increment.

    ...don't think about abortion.

    And just in case you wondered about who is human:

    (B)(1)(a) Subject to division (B)(2) of this section, as used in any section contained in Title XXIX of the Revised Code that sets forth a criminal offense, "person" includes all of the following:

    (i) An individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, and association;

    (ii) An unborn human who is viable.

    (b) As used in any section contained in Title XXIX of the Revised Code that does not set forth a criminal offense, "person" includes an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, and association.

    (c) As used in division (B)(1)(a) of this section:

    (i) "Unborn human" means an individual organism of the species Homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth.

    (ii) "Viable" means the stage of development of a human fetus at which there is a realistic possibility of maintaining and nourishing of a life outside the womb with or without temporary artificial life-sustaining support.

    Again, yes, you guessed it.

    I wonder if they've considered the science behind the struggle between fetus and host, in which the fetus could well be responsible for killing the woman carrying it.

    Does that mean the fetus-human could be prosecuted for murder? Involuntary manslaughter at least? No? Yeah, you're right. They'll call it self-defense.

    But then, the woman has no right to self-defense, and the fetus does, so women must not be included in "(B)(1)(a)(i) An individual..."

    And on the subject of individual women, there seem to be some confusion in what they can and cannot do:

    (2) Notwithstanding division (B)(1)(a) of this section, in no case shall the portion of the definition of the term "person" that is set forth in division (B)(1)(a)(ii) of this section be applied or construed in any section contained in Title XXIX of the Revised Code that sets forth a criminal offense in any of the following manners:

    (a) Except as otherwise provided in division (B)(2)(a) of this section, in a manner so that the offense prohibits or is construed as prohibiting any pregnant woman or her physician from performing an abortion with the consent of the pregnant woman, with the consent of the pregnant woman implied by law in a medical emergency, or with the approval of one otherwise authorized by law to consent to medical treatment on behalf of the pregnant woman. An abortion that violates the conditions described in the immediately preceding sentence may be punished as a violation of section 2903.01, 2903.02, 2903.03, 2903.04, 2903.05, 2903.06, 2903.08, 2903.11, 2903.12, 2903.13, 2903.14, 2903.21, or 2903.22 of the Revised Code, as applicable. An abortion that does not violate the conditions described in the second immediately preceding sentence, but that does violate section 2919.12, division (B) of section 2919.13, or section 2919.151, 2919.17, or 2919.18 of the Revised Code, may be punished as a violation of section 2919.12, division (B) of section 2919.13, or section 2919.151, 2919.17, or 2919.18 of the Revised Code, as applicable. Consent is sufficient under this division if it is of the type otherwise adequate to permit medical treatment to the pregnant woman, even if it does not comply with section 2919.12 of the Revised Code.

    (b) In a manner so that the offense is applied or is construed as applying to a woman based on an act or omission of the woman that occurs while she is or was pregnant and that results in any of the following:

    (i)(a) Her delivery of a stillborn baby;

    (ii)(b) Her causing, in any other manner, the death in utero of a viable, unborn human that she is carrying;

    (iii)(c) Her causing the death of her child who is born alive but who dies from one or more injuries that are sustained while the child is a viable, unborn human;

    (iv)(d) Her causing her child who is born alive to sustain one or more injuries while the child is a viable, unborn human;

    (v)(e) Her causing, threatening to cause, or attempting to cause, in any other manner, an injury, illness, or other physiological impairment, regardless of its duration or gravity, or a mental illness or condition, regardless of its duration or gravity, to a viable, unborn human that she is carrying.

    On the other hand, when it comes to individuals and others:

    (A) "Unlawful termination of another's pregnancy" means causing the death of an unborn member of the species homo sapiens, who is or was carried in the womb of another, as a result of injuries inflicted during the period that begins with fertilization and that continues unless and until live birth occurs.

    Phew! So it looks like you menstruate and flush out that fertilized egg l'il human that failed to implant and actually become a pregnancy, you are in the clear. If you help someone else do it, you're in trouble.

    No mention of whether or not helping a friend dispose of the Kotex is "accessory" to murder.

    Of course, this is intended to criminalize the use of Plan B, but the ignorant authoritarians forget to check the science on Plan B, which does not cause an abortion.

    RU 486 (safer than Viagra!) is right out:

    Sec.2919.123.(A) No person shall knowingly give, sell, dispense, administer, otherwise provide, or prescribe RU-486 (mifepristone) to another for the purpose of inducing an abortion in any person or enabling the other person to induce an abortion in any person

    Random fun fact:

    a child is "emancipated" if the child has married

    A male child maybe. If she's female, her husband and family still have property rights over her uterus.

    And, hey, in case you still had doubts about whether there was any pro-woman content, check out what got axed:

    Sec.3701.341. (A) The public health council, pursuant to Chapter 119. and consistent with section 2317.56 of the Revised Code, shall adopt rules relating to abortions and the following subjects:

    (1) Post-abortion procedures to protect the health of the pregnant woman;

    (2) Reporting forms;

    (3) Pathological reports;

    (4) Humane disposition of the product of human conception;

    (5) Counseling.

    Hang on, hold the phone. I found something I agree with:

    (B)(1) No person shall be ordered by a public agency or any person to submit to an abortion.

    Now, if only the idiots responsible for the amendments to that bill (which has all kind of employment law, school regulations, and sex offender law in it) had the logical capacity to understand that forcing abortion on a woman who wants to be pregnant and forcing pregnancy on a woman who does not want to be pregnant are two sides of the same coin: authoritarian state controlled natal policy.

    Silly me. There I go thinking that the fine legislators care about women as citizens and human beings. It's all about favoring the fetus in the mano a mano contest Hell, it's no contest. Women can fuck off get back in the kitchen and shut up.

    While there are several cooks involved in this dish, Tom Brinkman stands out above his peers:

    Brinkman himself talks up the consistency of his pro-life platform, which includes opposition to the death penalty. Yet the only sex education he condones is for what he calls "the only 100 percent effective birth control" -- abstinence.

    "I was abstinent," he says.

    Given the fine specimen of manhood he turned out to be, I think I have some ideas about why it was so easy for him to remain abstinent.

    Motivation to do the research from pslade.

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

    Gay People Are Insecure

    No, not that way.

    According to the Bush administration, sexual orientation may be used to deny security clearances.

    The administration rewrote a 1997 regulation that had said sexual orientation “may not be used as a basis” for denying clearances or determining whether individuals should be eligible to access classified information unless it could make them vulnerable to coercion or exploitation.

    President Bush’s updated language says security clearances cannot be denied “solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual.”

    Of course, the White House made pains to point out that “There’s no change in our policy.”

    Excuse me for asking, but if there's no change in policy, shouldn't there be no change in the written policy?

    Via Pandagon.

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

    March 18, 2006

    The Strawman

    Bush talks about him all the time.

    A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.

    "It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people," Fields said. "All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent. What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff."

    Bush has caricatured the other side for years, trying to tilt legislative debates in his favor or score election-season points with voters.


    Straw men have made more frequent appearances in recent months, often on national security — once Bush's strong suit with the public but at the center of some of his difficulties today. Under fire for a domestic eavesdropping program, a ports-management deal and the rising violence in Iraq, Bush now sees his approval ratings hovering around the lowest of his presidency.

    Said Jamieson, "You would expect people to do that as they feel more threatened."

    Now, if we could just do something about the use of the Strawfeminist.

    Posted by binky at 08:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Once upon a time, before entering the land of burning couches...

    ...Binky bled Orange and Blue. Sometimes it still happens.

    Go Gators!

    Posted by binky at 06:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Knowledge is power

    Angry Black Bitch talks about the work she does volunteering with teenage mothers. For any who have ever uttered - or allowed to flit through their minds - the thought "how can someone be so dumb as to get pregnant accidentally?" her post should make you reconsider the thought. Women can't acquire knowledge in a vacuum. With increasing assaults not only on reproductive choice, but on basic contraception and sex education, how are young women supposed to learn about their bodies, and make intelligent, well-informed choices? How can they understand the trimester system, if they don't even have the information to understand the mechanics of contraception? (emphasis mine)

    As most of you now, a bitch volunteers with teenage mothers at several local shelters. Some of these mothers chose to have their babies and some of them were simply too far along in their pregnancies to have any viable choices beyond adoption or keeping the child post birth. This illuminates the issue of ‘choice’ in Missouri and many other states within the union. Choice has not been as simple as choice for quite some time.

    Freedom of choice requires freedom of information. The anti-choice movement has steadily been restricting access to reproductive information for years. Most of my current disgust at the advocates of anti-choice policies stems from that fact.

    See, a bitch would like abortion to be rare as a motherfucker. Safe is followed by legal, which is followed by rare. My ass is one of millions of Americans who works diligently to educate my community…both men and women…on the various choices they have and options available that will assist in lowering the number of unplanned pregnancies. And a bitch averages at least 5 women per 6 month class session who have no fucking idea how their reproductive system works, what the real health risks and advantages are associated to contraception and what family planning is.

    An average of 5 women…usually out of a total of 10 to 15…have to be educated about their reproductive cycle, how sex may result in pregnancy, what contraceptive methods are available to them and/or how to choose the best method. And Average of 5 women per class cycle relate misinformation about contraception…feel that using the pill may make them unable to have a baby in the future…believe that the pill may protect them against sexually transmitted diseases…feel that it is inappropriate to ask their sexual partner to use a condom because it ‘assumes that they are sick’…strongly believe that they can not contract a sexually transmitted disease from oral sex…think the withdrawal method works...think that you can ‘tell by looking at someone’ if they have a sexually transmitted disease…and do not feel that they need to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases until they are pregnant because they ‘feel fine’.

    A bitch has met the victims of rape, incest and exploitation who believed that they could douche the problem away. A bitch has listened to women who have three or four chil’ren but ‘aren’t sure if they have ever had an orgasm’ and ‘did it because they needed to keep their man’.

    One current student engaged in over 60 unprotected sexual encounters in an effort to ‘get rid of those sinful feelings for women’ and sincerely hopes that her child ‘helps her not be a dyke anymore’.


    The sad reality is that anti-choice advocates are creating more unplanned pregnancies through their ignorance is bliss policies…and those of us in the trenches are shoveling in a downpour. A bitch struggles to understand the logic and finds that there is none.

    Any group that wants to decrease the number of unplanned pregnancies in America needs to start with comprehensive education. Abstinence…yes! And…oh, and that ‘and’ is one massive motherfucking word…comprehensive sex education so that each individual is armed with the facts, the options and the tools to make an educated decision about their life and their body.

    Women aren't dumb. Too many are uneducated and misinformed, a result of puritanical approaches to sex education. Teaching abstinence only - or teaching nothing - doesn't make people less likely to have sex. It makes them less likely to make informed decisions about sex.

    Posted by binky at 05:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    I have a question...

    ...for the backers of the anti-contraception legislation rearing its ugly head around the country these days:

    Are you now or have you ever been a contraceptor?

    I wonder what the hypocrisy factor would be?

    The question arose while pondering this post.

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

    Tracking the decline

    This red/blue/purple map of the US tracks the percent change in presidential approval rating by month. Looking pretty chilly!

    Hat tip Echidne.

    Posted by binky at 02:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    March 17, 2006

    Ban Pregnancy

    To protect women's lives, of course.


    This can be the only conclusion, based on the concern shown about two deaths which may be related to RU 486. It is unclear if they were, and if so, if they were caused by inappropriate use or follow up. But surely, with pregnancy posing the much greater danger, it should be banned immediately.

    And we'd better damn sure ban viagra. Look at the number of deaths! Such a risk! It dwarfs the figures on RU 486. In the hundreds!

    Ban aspirin too! Over 7,000 deaths per year.

    Oh, that's right. How silly of me. The people who take those drugs are informed consumers taking a calculated risk. Unlike the not-capable-of-rational-thought women seeking abortions.

    Likewise silly of me to think that news coverage of the issue would emphasize scientific tests, likelihood of appropriate use, and other factors. Instead we get:

    Two Senate abortion foes, Republicans Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, urged passage of legislation that would suspend sales of RU-486 until the Government Accountability Office reviews how the FDA approved it.

    "RU-486 is a deadly drug that is killing pregnant women," DeMint said. "This drug should never have been approved, and it must be suspended immediately."

    Any South Carolinians out there? Want to call up for a little constituent service and ask for DeMint to consider having the government suspend sales of Viagra and review the FDA approval process? Oklahomans?

    Posted by binky at 11:52 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Up by 12 at halftime...

    Thank goodness for ESPN gamecast.

    Up by 20 with 2 minutes to go!

    FINAL SCORE: 64 WV 46 those guys who lost!

    Posted by binky at 04:25 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning

    News about the "first trillionth of a second" of the universe:

    In that trillionth of a second after the big bang, the universe expanded from the size of a marble to a volume larger than all of observable space through a process known as inflation. At the same time, the seeds were planted for the formation of stars, galaxies, planets and every other object in the universe.

    "It's giving us our first clues about how inflation took place," said Michael Turner, assistant director for mathematics and physical sciences at the National Science Foundation. "This is absolutely amazing."

    Researchers found this long-sought "smoking gun" evidence by looking at the cosmic microwave background, the oldest light in the universe. The light was produced when the universe was about 300,000 years old -- a long time ago, but still hundreds of millennia after inflation had done its work.

    Even so, the pattern of light in the cosmic microwave background offers clues about what came before it, just as a fossil tells a paleontologist about long-extinct life. Of special interest to physicists are subtle brightness variations that give images of the microwave background a lumpy appearance.

    Physicists presented new measurements of those variations during a news conference Thursday at Princeton University. The measurements were made by a spaceborne instrument called the Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe, or WMAP, launched by NASA in 2001.

    "It amazes me that we can say anything at all about what transpired in the first trillionth of a second of the universe," said Charles Bennett, a Johns Hopkins University physicist who presented the research along with Lyman Page and David Spergel, both of Princeton.

    Earlier studies of WMAP data have determined that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, give or take a few hundred thousand years. They have also measured variations in the cosmic microwave background so huge that they stretch across the entire sky. Those earlier observations are strong indicators of inflation, but no smoking gun, said Turner, who was not involved in the research. They represent tiny inhomogeneities -- dense spots in the superhot primordial soup that was the universe in the first stages of inflation -- blown up to hundreds of light-years in size by the subsequent expansion of the universe.

    The new analysis was able to characterize variations in the microwave background over smaller patches of sky -- only billions of light-years across compared to hundreds of billions. Due to some weird aspects of quantum physics, those smaller lumps popped into existence during the middle and end of the inflationary process as tiny subatomic particles.

    Then they would have expanded with the space they occupied to become of today's stars and galaxies. Slightly denser than their surroundings, they would have pulled additional material in by gravity, building up into the massive galaxies and superclusters observable today.

    "Galaxies are nothing but quantum mechanics writ large across the sky," said Brian Greene, a Columbia University physicist.

    Science is cool.

    Posted by binky at 12:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Hmmmm, I may have to temper my excitement.

    I was sorta/kinda interested in "V for Vendetta". I wasn't going to line up days before to get tickets, or anything, but I thought a movie that had connections to "The Matrix", and some reasonably kool actors/actresses, and a moderately interesting rebellious storyline might be worth seeing.

    I guess not. Washington Post:

    In "1984," George Orwell really worked out the engineering details of such a place and understood its conceptual underpinnings, how the essence of totalitarianism was control of language, education and history. But that was a work of art and genius, where "V for Vendetta" is a piece of pulp claptrap; it has no insights whatsoever into totalitarian psychology and settles always for the cheesiest kinds of demagoguery and harangue as its emblems of evil.

    New York Times:

    Unlike the Count [of Monte Cristo], V remains a lone avenging angel to the big-bang end, which does help give this sluggish affair a much-needed resuscitating jolt. Made mostly on sound stages and computers, with 3-D models doubling for monuments, the film looks and sounds as canned as a Buck Rogers serial, though this weighs in less like a conscious aesthetic strategy than a function of poor technique.

    I guess I'll wait for the video. I seem to be saying that alot these days.

    (Oh, CNN sort of liked it, but what do they know.)

    Posted by baltar at 10:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    March 16, 2006

    Freedom of the Press

    Been meaning to post this for a couple of days.

    The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office has seized four computer hard drives from a Lancaster newspaper, the Intelligencer Journal, as part of a grand-jury investigation into leaks to reporters. The state Supreme Court declined last week to take the case, which allows agents to begin analyzing the data.

    The decision has alarmed free-press advocates as word of the seizure spreads. "This is horrifying, an editor's worst nightmare," Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "For the government to actually physically have those hard drives from a newsroom is amazing. I'm just flabbergasted to hear of this."

    Pennsylvania's shield law, and the federal Privacy Protection, let down the Intelligencer Journal, the president and CEO of the Lancaster newspaper's publishing company said Tuesday.

    Harold E. Miller, president and CEO of Lancaster Newspapers Inc., told E&P in a telephone interview that the paper had gone as far as it could in appealing the seizure order. "It's our concern that the protections afforded by the Pennsylvania Shield Law, the First Amendment, and the Privacy Protection Act weren't applied in this case," he said. "That's what's disappointing because a lot of our argument hinged on the shied law and privacy protection law."

    In a decision little noticed outside of southeastern Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court last week ruled that the state Attorney General's Office can search four of the newspaper's computer hard disks as part of its ongoing investigation into allegations that the Lancaster County coroner gave his computer password to Intelligencer Journal reporters, giving them access to a Web site restricted for use by law enforcement only.

    Prosecutors allege the access to the site, where unreported details of crimes are available, amounts to a felony.

    The reporters maintain the coroner, Dr. G. Gary Kirchner, gave them the passwords and permission to access the site. Kirchner has denied that. A grand jury is investigating the alleged breach, but no one has yet been charged in the case.

    According to an article in the Lancaster New Era by Janet Kelley and Ad Crable, court documents show the Intelligencer Journal offered to give investigators printed versions of items they requested, including e-mails, but the state attorney's office said it wanted to scan the hard drives for material related to the restricted site, known as the Lancaster County-Wide Communications' Computer Assisted Dispatch. (The Intelligencer Journal and the New Era are owned by Lancaster Newspapers, and operate with separate and independent staffs.)

    In court, the state's attorney's office said it could scan for only material relevant to the investigation.

    Senior Judge Barry F. Feudale, who is presiding over the grand jury, said he would personally review all the material before it is turned over to prosecutors, the New Era reported.

    Those "strict guidelines" for the disk scanning are small comfort, Miller said.

    "It seemed to us that protecting this kind of material from government seizure is the point of the shield law," Miller said. "What the court said was, we hear you, but we think there's more merit on the other side of this, on the state's ... argument."

    The newspaper's fear now, he added, is that the decision will discourage sources from bringing important information to the attention of journalists.

    "What happens when another issue pops up, and people see that the shield law didn't protect us?" Miller said. "It will have a dampening effect on our ability to bring news and information to the public, and that's what the shield law is all about."

    Someone, anyone, find me some good news about government and liberty.

    Posted by binky at 06:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Abortion Statistics

    Via this Lawyers, Guns, and Money post, I found the comments by the Missouri Republican Party interesting:

    An attempt to resume state spending on birth control got shot down Wednesday by House members who argued it would have amounted to an endorsement of promiscuous lifestyles.
    Missouri stopped providing money for family planning and certain women's health services when Republicans gained control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2003.
    The House voted 96-59 to delete the funding for contraception and infertility treatments after Rep. Susan Phillips told lawmakers that anti-abortion groups such as Missouri Right to Life were opposed to the spending.
    "If you hand out contraception to single women, we're saying promiscuity is OK as a state, and I am not in support of that," Phillips, R-Kansas City, said in an interview.
    Others, including some lawmakers who described themselves as "pro-life," said it was illogical for anti-abortion lawmakers to deny money for contraception to low-income people who use public health clinics.
    "It's going to have the opposite effect of what the intention is, which will be more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions," said Rep. Kate Meiners, D-Kansas City.

    In other words, the pro-life/anti-abortion crowd in Missouri (and, implicitly, nationwide) is not only anti-abortion, but anti-contraception, anti-education, anti-choice, and anti-women. Given a choice between spending a little money to further contraception (and, hence, reduce abortions) or spending less money (and reducing the availability of contraception, and thus increasing abortions), the Missouri Republican Party choose to spend less.

    Moreover, they did so explicitly by arguing that, morally, supporting contraception supports "promiscuity" (which is assumed to be bad). This goes far beyond the "traditional" pro-life stance, and argues for a much larger (and significantly more invasive of people's personal lives) moral code.

    This got me thinking. Is it true that unmarried women are more promiscious? Who has abortions?

    The Guttmacher Institute (note: the institute is affiliated with some pro-choice organizations - I don't think this distorts their statistics, but I'm disclosing fully here) has some data on this. They indicate that of all abortions, 67% are to unmarried women, about 16% to divorced/widowed women, and 16% to married women. However, those three groups of women are not equal in the overall US population. There are significantly more married women than unmarried women (in fact, according to the Census about 60% of all women (over 18) are married, about 20% are unmarried, and another 20% are divorced/widowed). Thus, the percentages above are somewhat inaccurate. What is more interesting are the rates of abortion (per 1000 women) for each group:

    Married women had a rate of eight abortions per 1,000 in 2000, while rates for previously married and never-married women were much higher—29 and 35 per 1,000, respectively. Between 1994 and 2000, abortion rates declined by 11-14% for women in all three marital-status groups, continuing a decline that started in the late 1980s. The abortion rates of women in the different marital-status groups are influenced by age, which differs sharply by subgroup. Estimates of age-standardized abortion rates by marital status (not shown) revealed that if women in each marital-status group had the same age distribution as all women aged 15-44, the highest abortion rate would be among previously married rather than never-married women (50 vs. 30 per 1,000); married women would still have the lowest rate (11 per 1,000)[italics mine].

    What the italicized portion of the quote argues is that, while different groups have abortions at different rates, age is also a prime influence on abortion (younger people have abortions at a much higher rate than older). Thus, looking at the rates of abortion for each group is still not sufficient: you need to adjust for the relative differences in age for each group (unmarried people tend to be younger than divorced people, for example). Once you do that, the age-adjusted abortion rates for social groups are finally clear: 11 per 1000 married women, 30 per 1000 never-married women, 50 per 1000 divorced women.

    This is a surprise (or, at least it was to me): previously-married (I guess that means divorced? It would include widowed, however.) women are about five times more likely to have abortions than married women (of the same age), while never-married women are only three times more likely than married women (of the same age).

    So, do contraception programs promote promiscuity? (This ignores the question of whether the government should have any say in promiscuity questions; I'm a reformed libertarian, so my answer is an emphatic "no".) The Missouri Republicans never asked. They assumed the answer. If one wanted to use the government to tinker with societal morals (about an evil an idea as I could think of), the statistics argue that one should promote marriage and discourage divorce to reduce abortions. While unmarried women are more likely to get abortions than married women, "previously married" women are significantly more likely (assuming equal ages) than either of the other two groups. Discouraging divorce will reduce abortion. That, however, seems basically absent from any Right-Wing social program I've heard about recently (not saying it isn't there, just saying it isn't a significant part of their proposals).

    Actions like the Missouri vote, and the stance by the Missouri Republicans, argue more and more that the "pro-life" movement isn't (in fact) anti-abortion, but anti-women (they would like to see women make the "correct" choices with respect to sexual and social decisions; reducing abortion is one consequence of that). This isn't "new" news (binky has been complaing about this and linking to numerous stories), but does showcase the dangers of the "left" trying to co-opt this issue by having a more strident moral tone. It seems clear that, even if all the democrats together chide enough women and succeed in reducing the abortion rate, that will not be sufficient to "win" the culture wars - the abortion issue is only the tip of the iceberg for the social conservatives out there. A successful abortion-reduction program (of whatever variety) isn't a "win" for the right, as they want not only less abortions, but less abortions through "correct" moral and social choices. As the Missouri vote shows, merely reducing abortion isn't the goal. Moreover, as the Missouri vote shows, if they can't reduce abortions they way they want, they'll take their ball home and not play. This is not a mindset that allows compromise, and the quicker the Democrats learn to avoid their game, the quicker they can "win" this issue (a majority of Americans favor some form of legal abortion; I imagine an even higher majority favor divorce laws) and succeed in blunting the Republican sweeps of the "red" states.

    Hey, even if all this was spitting into the wind, the abortion statistics were interesting.

    Posted by baltar at 12:23 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

    March 15, 2006

    If the government wants the benefit of my knowledge for a task force...

    ...they can hire me and pay me for my professional services by appointment and contract, not show up unannounced at my office hours, pump me for incriminating information and harass my students.

    Sheriff Lee Baca said Friday that his deputies were doing nothing more than gathering information on the political situation in Venezuela for a federal anti-terrorism task force coordinated by the FBI. But he said he would discourage workplace interviews in the future, especially with members of academia.


    Plain and simple, baldfaced bullshit. How many of you academics who have done government consulting have ever been approached this way? It's either the "government hired you and jump through a million paperwork hoops" version or the "someone you know recommends you and you get a call from someone smart in the government who informally wants your opinion" version. Not the "sheriff's deputies show up to your office hours and ask you impertinent questions version.


    Professor Miguel Tinker-Salas said the deputies entered his office without an appointment Tuesday during hours normally set aside for student conferences. He said the deputies were there for about 25 minutes and asked him about the Venezuelan community and his relationship with it. They also told him he was not the subject of an investigation.

    "They cast the Venezuelan community as a threat," said Tinker-Salas, an outspoken critic of U.S. policy in Latin America who was born in Venezuela. "They asked me if the Venezuelan government had influenced me one way or another. I think they were fishing to see if I had any information they could use."


    "They asked me about the Venezuelan community. Where do they congregate? Do they have a leadership?" he said. "They asked about the consulate and the embassy. They wanted to know if I had contact with the Venezuelan government."

    Tinker-Salas said the deputies also questioned waiting students about him and examined cartoons on his office door.

    "They asked them about my classes," he said. "My students were intimidated."

    Cartoons on his door? Questioning students about a professor's classes? Sending a little signal to the kiddies and professor, perhaps? Can we say "counterproductive" boys and girls?

    Of course, when called on it, law enforcement doesn't seem particularly concerned about it being wrong wrong, but merely wrong as in ineffective by being too public.

    Pomona College President David Oxtoby said Friday that he was "extremely concerned about the chilling effect this kind of intrusive government interest could have on free scholarly and political discourse. I am also concerned about the negative message it sends to students who are considering the pursuit of important areas of international study, in which they may now feel exposed to unwarranted official scrutiny."

    Oxtoby said the school, in Claremont, was consulting with legal advisors about the strongest way to protest Tinker-Salas' questioning. "He's a national expert," Oxtoby said. The deputies "could have called. They could have made an appointment."

    The Venezuelan government weighed in as well Friday, issuing a statement that called the questioning "a violation of freedoms of expression, thought and academic inquiry," and said the government "views the move as a desperate attempt to link Venezuela to terrorism."

    U.S. law enforcement officials said Friday that the concerns raised about the interview have only underscored the importance for federal agents — or others handling interviews — to follow accepted procedures.

    "We're mindful of the need to be sensitive about these discussions, no matter how benign the subject may be," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the controversy the incident has generated.

    In a statement, the FBI said law enforcement officials should be mindful of the timing and location of an informational interview. As for the Pomona College meeting, the FBI said there was no intent "to place the professor, his students or Pomona College in an uncomfortable situation."

    Baca, meanwhile, said the deputies were not working on any particular case. But he said he would have preferred it if the deputies had avoided the college grounds or at least called ahead.

    "It is important not to go to college campuses and interview professors and students in such a way that leads to questions like, 'Why are they under suspicion?' " he said.

    See, they want to make sure the time and location of the interview doesn't raise suspicion. Better to do it in secret, so there are no witnesses to raise a stink.

    Here again is the problem with the ever expanding security state. When the decentralization and delegation of authority to interrogate anyone anywhere. To get all Arthur for a minute and quote myself:

    The problem is that there are individuals ... 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.

    Call bullshit. Shine the light.

    Posted by binky at 10:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    March 14, 2006

    An Experiment

    Posted by binky at 11:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


    I don't often comment on the workings of the "blogosphere" or whatever it's called these days (in fact, this may be my first post on the subject). Recently, however, I noted two events that seemed worthy of comment:

    1. Orin Kerr, who founded The Volokh Conspiracy, has (partially) moved on to start a new blog (the stunningly original He does this for a variety of reasons. First:

    I find myself increasingly drawn to more legal and less political blogging topics, and I'm not sure I like the juxtaposition of the two that is common at the VC. I gather lots of readers like the combination — the VC's sitemeter stats are proof enough — but for a range of reasons I'm interested in creating a sharper divide between the two.

    And second:

    [S]tarting a new blog will let me try a new approach to comments. At the new blog, most comments will be by invitation only. I explain the details in my first post, but the idea is to promote comments by a specific group of legal experts and commenters rather the general public. This isn't very populist of me, I realize, but I think it fits the focus of the new blog: Comments can add tremendous value to a blog post, but legal experts and informed commenters tend to add the most value to blog posts about the law.

    Mr. Kerr can do anything he wants. It's a free country, and (at least for now) a free blogosphere. That being said, a blog that seeks to be more elitist (no open comments; more "technical") and tries to cast itself as more specific to legal issues and less political (as if "law" isn't inherently political) seems remarkably anti-blog. If Mr. Kerr wants to write to a more legal-specific audience, with limited commenting ability, then let him write law journal articles (only lawyers read them, and "comments" are similar to letters-to-the-editor, which by definition are screened by editors) Why turn a blog into something that already exists.

    My final comment on Mr. Kerr: Yes, that's exactly what lawyers need - one of their own becoming more elitist and claiming that what he does is more technical and less relevant to everyday people. That'll help the image.

    2. The Koufax Awards voting closed last night. I have nothing against the Koufax awards (blog-nominated and blog-voted awards for various writing categories, mostly left-wing). I think it is a great idea to highlight quality writing and research by often-overlooked blogs and writers.

    That being said, I dislike intently the self-promotion that goes on for these awards. (And those are just the few I could find in ten minutes; and some of my favorite blogs. Sigh.)

    Again, I don't object to the awards - I object to blogs asking for votes. The contest is supposed to be about rewarding "blogging" excellence (whatever that is). When people lobby for votes, that turns it away from a "quality" award and towards a "quantity" award: the blogs that win are the ones with the most traffic, who can send their minions (maybe we'll have minions some day - we can but dream) to vote for them. This defeats, in my opinion, the purpose of the awards. Moreover, the begging for votes is unseemly (and yes, that's a moral observation). I didn't start blogging in order to win awards, or make money, or attract fame (and/or fortune). I did it to provide an outlet for comments I wanted to make about society and politics. I understand that some people blog as a way of jumpstarting careers (cough-Wonkette-cough), but I quickly lose interest in those (the naked ambition seems to shine through too much - it makes the blog less interesting, and not worth reading). Thus, when I see people begging for votes, I think less of their blog. I'll admit I'm being judgemental (and possibly elitist), but that's my opinion. (Your mileage may vary.)

    I'd love to see the Koufax awards open to everyone for nominations, but then see the Koufax people sift through and make their own choices for winners (or ask a bunch of recognized-high-quality bloggers do some judging or something). As it stands, it has become a straight-forward popularity contest. The blogging equivalent of "American Idol" or (worse) "America's Top Model".

    I don't watch TV. I've got no interest in the same dynamic appearing in the blogs I read.

    Posted by baltar at 10:39 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

    March 13, 2006

    (Louisiana) Factory Girl

    So am I the only one surprised to learn that a movie about Edie Sedgwick focusing on her Andy Warhol days just finished shooting in Shreveport, Louisiana? I know a lot of locations can look like a lot of other locations, and the run-down sections of a Louisiana town can resemble run-down sections of New York - but still, I find it a surprising choice.

    Posted by armand at 02:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Religious Extremists with Cameras

    From Feministing, the story of a Fargo ND man who, though barred from getting close to a women's health clinic by a restraining order, decided to get close anyway. With close-ups of people entering and exiting the clinic, that he will post on the internet.

    An anti-abortion activist is posting Internet pictures of women entering an abortion clinic here.

    Martin Wishnatsky, who is banned from going within 150 feet of the Red River Women's Clinic, said he usually stands on a street corner to take the photos.

    "I have a little zoom lens," he said.

    "I felt it would really give the average person who doesn't visit there a firsthand view of what it looks like to someone who is there," Wishnatsky said. "I hope this might contribute to turning people's hearts back to life."

    Along with the photographs, Wishnatsky has posted the license plates of cars driven by people entering the clinic.

    Give the average person a firsthand view. Right. If that were the case, then what he would publish would be a photo from the perspective of a harassed women stopping to get a pap smear and renew her birth control prescription, as she spots the slavering wingnut with an unhealthy interest in her vagina spying on her from across the street.

    The clinic is advising women not to park across the street and to wear a hat, scarf or sunglasses and no distinctive clothing, she said.

    Women have to wear a disguise to get checkups, cancer screenings, and prenatal care. So much for the idea of healthy women/healthy babies.

    Jennifer Ring, the director of American Civil Liberties Union Dakota chapter, said a number of tactics have been used to identify abortion clinic staff members in other parts of the country. She said they can endanger the lives of the staff, and "can get very scary, very quickly."

    Especially when the scope switches from lensfinder, to rifle.

    Ring said she would speak to an attorney about Wishnatsky's activities.

    "My first instinct is, as disgusting as it is and as dangerous as it is, it's probably legal," she said.

    Women entering the clinic are not necessarily there for abortions, Ring said.

    "How does he know that one of these people isn't, for instance, delivering coffee for someone who works there?" she said.

    Not that the extremist in question would make a distinction, because consorting with the enemy is sin enough.

    But let's get back to the legality question for a moment. It seems our dear Mr. - or should I say Dr. (" name is Martin Wishnatsky. I am a resident of Fargo and hold a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University.") - Wishnatsky, is no stranger to law and the courts.

    It seems he has a bit of history (PDF):

    Martin Wishnatsky is a resident of Fargo, North Dakota, with a history of commenting on matters of public concern.

    That seems to be an understatement.

    He wants to get "pagan" statues out of the courthouse (note the third link below the statue link... the series on "homo-fascism").

    Themis, the ancient Greek goddess of law and order, traditionally has been a symbol at U.S. courthouses, her eyes blindfolded and holding the scales of justice. Her statue has been atop the Grand Forks County Courthouse for nearly 90 years.

    "As a Christian, I find such representations of pagan religious figures in public places very distressing," Wishnatsky wrote to Rovner.


    "Unfortunately, I do not possess the expertise properly to research the pagan religious origins of the Themis statue and to present the facts demonstrating its roots in heathen worship," Wishnatsky wrote Rovner. "I request the assistance of the clinical education program in developing a lawsuit on the same basis as that granted to the atheistic North Dakota State University professors to bring suit against the city of Fargo over the Ten Commandments monument."

    I wonder if it's not just the Greekness, but the, you know, womanness of the statue that's so offensive.

    Not only did he want to sue, but he wanted to be provided with free legal counsel from the local law clinic. !!!

    Let's see, moving on... He was a write in candidate (11 whole votes!!!) for President in 2004.

    And let's not forget his testimony to the ND legislature:

    There are two solutions for abortion: we outlaw it, or God deals with us over it. There is no third alternative of continuing to sin and avoiding the penalty.

    What is your responsibility as a legislator? Representative Sandvig at Peter Crary's request has forced the issue: Shall we have abortion in North Dakota, or shall we not? They are responding to the urgency of God on this matter. They are a prophetic voice: repent or perish.

    It is not the abortionist, nor indeed even the Supreme Court, which shall bring the wrath of God on America. It is the consent that we as citizens of this state give to their acts and decrees by allowing these practices to continue that will seal our judgment.

    This is very exactly-drawn legislation. It creates legal equivalency between the born and the unborn. It treats the unborn exactly as the born. It erases the line of demarcation between person and non-person. It ends the lethal discrimination against our own brothers and sisters in the womb, and applies to them the full protection of the law.

    Under HB 1242, deliberate killing of an unborn child is the same grade of crime as intentional killing of a born person: first-degree murder, a Class AA felony.

    I can assure you that this legislation satisfies God's requirement for exempting North Dakota from his judgment for the abortion holocaust - because it ends the abortion holocaust in North Dakota, decisively and unequivocally.

    Then there is the more mundane, frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars. He tried to barge into someone's office, and had the door shut in his face. Apparently, this was quite traumatic (emphasis mine, as always):

    [¶9] Wishnatsky responded to Huey's motion for summary judgment with an affidavit of Crary and with his own affidavit stating in part:

    1. I am a born-again Christian and cultivate holiness in my life. [A]s a result I am very sensitive to evil spirits and am greatly disturbed by the demonic. However, in Christ there is victory.
    2. On January 9, 1996, Mr. David Huey of the North Dakota Attorney General's office, visited the ministry where I was working at 16 Broadway in Fargo, North Dakota with an ex parte court order.
    3. The following morning I entered the office of Peter Crary, an attorney for whom I do paralegal work, to give him certain papers that had been requested. Mr. Crary was speaking with Mr. David Huey at the time. As I began to enter the office Mr Huey threw his body weight against the door and forced me out into the hall. I had not said a word to him. At the same time, he snarled: "You get out of here." This was very shocking and frightening to me. In all the time I have been working as an aide to Mr. Crary, I have never been physically assaulted or spoken to in a harsh and brutal manner. My blood pressure began to rise, my heart beat accelerated and I felt waves of fear in the pit of my stomach. My hands began to shake and my body to tremble. Composing myself, I reentered the office, whereupon Mr. Huey began a half-demented tirade against me and stormed out into the hall. I looked at Mr. Crary in wonder.

    Oh dear! Rising blood pressure, racing heart and waves of fear! Oh my!

    The response of the courts?

    [¶10] We certainly agree with the Supreme Court's determination that when Wishnatsky attempted to enter the room in which Huey was conversing with Crary, "Huey apparently reacted in a rude and abrupt manner in attempting to exclude Wishnatsky from that conversation." Wishnatsky v. Huey, 1997 ND 35, ¶ 15, 560 N.W.2d 878. As a matter of law, however, Huey's "rude and abrupt" conduct did not rise to the level of battery.

    [¶11] The evidence presented to the trial court demonstrates Wishnatsky is "unduly sensitive as to his personal dignity." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 19 cmt. a (1965). Without knocking or otherwise announcing his intentions, Wishnatsky opened the door to the office in which Huey and Crary were having a private conversation and attempted to enter. Huey closed the door opened by Wishnatsky, thereby stopping Wishnatsky's forward progress and pushing him back into the hall. The bodily contact was momentary, indirect, and incidental. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Wishnatsky, and giving him the benefit of all favorable inferences which can reasonably be drawn from the evidence, we conclude Huey's conduct in response to Wishnatsky's intrusion into his private conversation with Crary, while "rude and abrupt," would not "be offensive to a reasonable sense of personal dignity." In short, an "ordinary person . . . not unduly sensitive as to his personal dignity" intruding upon a private conversation in Wishnatsky's manner would not have been offended by Huey's response to the intrusion. We conclude that Huey's conduct did not constitute an offensive-contact-battery, as a matter of law, and the trial court did not err in granting Huey's motion for summary judgment dismissing Wishnatsky's action.

    You might wonder why I spent so much time detailing the antics of one clearly disturbed and obviously lunatic fringe extremist who is dancing on the border of Ted Kacinzki territory. It's because this is what I meant by emboldended. These are the people who want to make laws representing a mythical covenant that has nothing to do with the history or founding principles of this nation.

    And before someone says that Dr. Wingnutski is drawing on the founding fathers' judeo-christian ethics, let's take a look at how he feels about his past as a Jew, when the testmony of a Christian led him from Judaism...:

    ...from darkness to light, from the power to Satan to Jesus Christ.

    Well, it's good to know that Harvard PhDs in political science are putting those degrees to good use, writing about the evils of Mormons:

    It has not been easy to tell the truth about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — to conduct a controlled extraction of the teeth of this cunning dragon. The Ku Klux Klan, by comparison, is a model of sincerity. Under the pretense of "bearing a message from Jesus Christ," Mormon missionaries seek to lure the unwary into an oath-bound organization from which there is no escape except on terror of death. At least an initiate into the Ku Klux Klan understands the nature of the institution he is joining.

    Or if you're not interested in the Mormons, how about how Sherlock Holmes is a Christian ideal:

    The enduring attraction of the Holmes stories, I believe, is not related solely to Holmes unusual power of reasoning but also to the attractiveness of his moral character which is grounded in the Christian civilization in which he lived. Not only Holmes, but also the other protagonists in the stories, share a common Biblical vision of reality. Holmes virtues as well as his mental ability create a well-rounded character -- morally and intellectually. His pursuit of justice and his Christian humility make him a small, albeit fictional, hero of the faith. His sins, especially the use of hard drugs, are overbalanced by his recognition of the common frailty of others. His suspicion of pride is particularly attractive in one as mentally gifted as he is. He also eschewed the grosser sins of the flesh...

    The grosser sins of the flesh. Once again, it comes back to the nastiness of human carnal desire. The idea that someone, somewhere, might be having teh s-e-x.

    Although Wishnatsky can't seem to look in the mirror and see the pride and arrogance of one who claims to know what everyone else should be forced to do.

    Martin Wishnatsky letter: Fornication is fruit of cohabitation
    The Forum - 01/19/2005

    Far from being "hypocrisy at its worst," (Forum editorial, Jan. 14), the North Dakota cohabitation law is sensible public policy aimed at deterring people from living as married when they are not. The fruit of cohabitation ("fornication") is abortion. Society is entitled to discourage irresponsible behavior which is often fatally harmful to children (85 percent of abortions are performed on unmarried women).

    If the cohabitation law is gutted, landlords will have no recourse to refuse to rent their properties to fornicators. In 2001, the North Dakota Supreme Court refused to force landlords to rent to cohabiters solely because the criminal law prohibited the behavior. North Dakota Fair Housing Council, Inc. v. Peterson, 2001 N.D. 81, 625 N.W.2d 551. If § 12.1-20-10 of the Century Code loses its current cohabiting prohibition, landlords will be forced, as they are in California and Massachusetts, to rent to those whose behavior offends their religious principles.

    The Forum's habitual and wearisome attack on morality is consistent with its general support of abortion and sexual perversion. The community deserves better than to have its remnants of morality further shredded by its daily newspaper.

    Martin Wishnatsky


    It's not just anti-american to impose religious orthodoxy in this way, it's anti-human.

    This guy is but one of the people, who are trying to change the law of this country to restrict not just the liberty of women, but the rights of anyone who departs from their worldview. The feminist, the liberal, the gay, the contracepting married couple. This is the movement emboldened by the party in power, and which is scurrying out from the dark corners of their obsession with sex, obedience and authority to try to control what the rest of us do with our bodies, our religions, our families, our lives.

    Shine the light on it. Shine it bright and shine it long.

    One man who shines with the light of a blowtorch, via Clean Cut Kid.

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

    March 12, 2006

    The writers should have consulted Baltar

    Armand will be glad that he didn't join Baltar and me to watch Episode 10 of the L-Word. It's been hard going sitting through this season, and we make an effort to see it (as none of us have cable). I just don't know if I can take it anymore. To quote someone from one of the many threads on the L-Word message boards:

    This show has become laborious to watch... Since the continuity on this show is so bad, maybe the writers will forget they killed off Dana this season and bring her back next season...

    It's gotten so bad, people are talking about dream sequences. Dream sequences, people. As if they are a good thing.

    Posted by binky at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Henry K: "A Sad, Sad Old Guy"

    We now take you to Helena Cobban acting like a poorly-informed ass:

    Why did anyone ever take this sorry old guy's "intellect" seriously at all? He strikes me as just a muddled, highly irresponsible, imperialistic old bully.

    I like Helena's blog a lot, visit it frequently, and think she does some really interesting, thoughtful work - so I was rather taken aback at this easy, lazy slam. I'm far from a Kissinger fan, but c'mon. I find the assertion that he's not actually a really bright guy to be just plain silly. He's viewed as one of the foremost thinkers and practitioners of Realism for a reason. Did he also succeed because of his political skills? Sure. But brain power was key to his rise as well. As to the rest - being "muddled" in 2006 has nothing to do with his mind or skills in the 1970's; and taking personal responsibility for failures associated with the outcomes of the policies they support isn't something that more than a tiny fraction of US leaders do - so it's not really fair to single out Kissinger on that point. The man's easy to dislike, but I think there are fairer and more accurate ways to criticize him.

    Posted by armand at 05:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Ezra's "Garden State" Argument for Health Care Reform

    Well, it's original.

    At the end the movie, it's clear that Natalie Portman (Sam) and Zach Braff (Andrew) are screwed. As an actor, Andrew needs to live in Los Angeles. As an epileptic paralegal in a firm with an "amazing" health plan, Sam can't afford to lose her insurance. So she can't move to be with him and he'd have to give up his profession to be with her. And all because of the employer-based health care system. Not only is it an impediment to economic efficiency on both the worker and employer side, but it obstructs true love.

    "It obstructs true love" - I'm sure I speak for most fans of The Princess Bride when I say we've got to put the kibosh on explensive and intrusive policies that obstruct true love. This calls for a new and very different round of Harry and Louise ads - call them the Sam and Andrew ads.

    Posted by armand at 02:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    March 11, 2006

    MacArthur and Roosevelt

    March 11th turns out to be an important day twice in World War II history. On this day in 1941 Roosevelt's Lend-Lease program got underway. In March of 1941 the US was not at war (Pearl Harbor is nine months away); while Roosevelt is deeply committed to the Allied (i.e., British) cause in the war, the country is split between "interventionists" and "isolationists". In this politial climate, Roosevelt can only manage this "Lend-Lease" program by which the US will "lend" munitions and economic supplies to Britain and get them back (or the value of them) later. Through this program, the US economy could support the struggling British and Roosevelt could continue to claim that the US was being neutral (after all, we were just lending some stuff to a friend). The best quotation to explain how Roosevelt was able to sell this program to the US public comes from one of Roosevelt's radio broadcasts:

    Franklin Roosevelt, eager to assure public consent for this controversial plan, explained to the public and the press that his plan was comparable to one neighbor's lending another a garden hose to put out a fire in his home. "What do I do in such a crisis?" the president asked at a press conference. "I don't say……, 'Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it.' …I don't want $15 — I want my garden hose back after the fire is over."

    With "Lend-Lease", the US (unofficially) began mobilizing the US economy and moving towards active participation in World War II.

    A year later (March 11, 1942), however, saw one of the worst moments for America in the war. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Navy, supported (reluctantly) by the Japanese Army, moved to take over multiple islands in the South Pacific as part of the Japanese attempt to justify the attack on America. Japan founded the Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere as political cover for the naked imperialism that Japan was following in order to find greater and greater resources to pay for the war in China (see Kupchan for an explanation). Thus, the attack on Pearl Harbor was, in many senses, a diversion to draw the Americans off while the important attacks were made against Indonesia (Dutch East Indies, at the time) and Phillipines (to protect the supply lines from Indonesia to Japan).

    The invasion of the Phillipines began only days after Pearl Harbor, and went badly for the Americans (and Phillipinos) quickly. While the fighting went on for months (the last US troops surrendered on May 6, 1942), the famous commanding general Douglas MacArthur was ordered to withrdraw from the Phillipines (in order to save either his reputation or a competent general; there is still much debate). Thus, on March 11, 1942, MacArthur gave his famous "I will return" line and left the Phillipines. He moved to become commander of all allied forces in the south Pacific, and from that position returned to the Phillipines in 1944.

    MacArthur's retreat/withdrawal, and subsequent defeat of US forces, continued to make the first six months of 1942 a series of agonizing losses by the Americans in the Pacific.

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

    Claude Allen: Bush Advisor, Judicial Nominee, Felon?

    Claude Allen had quite the resume and quite the conservative fan base. A former law clerk to famously right-wing Judge David Sentelle of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, he went on to work at Baker Botts, served as the Deputy Secretary of HHS, then as President Bush's domestic policy adviser, and between those last two senior positions President Bush had nominated Allen to a life-tenured slot on the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals - the famously right-wing circuit court that sadly includes West Virginia. Allen wasn't confirmed to the bench, but not because of anything to do with his far-right credentials or ideology. He was blocked because the senators from Maryland objected to a "Maryland seat" on that court going to a Virginian (don't you just love the way the Senate works?). Still, even though he didn't get that post, his career was on the rise, he was playing a central role in the Bush administration, and he was one of the best known and most influential conservative African Americans in Washington. When he mysteriously resigned recently the White House officially stated (ok, lied) that it was so that he could spend more time with his family, and there was much specualtion that he was resigning over a point of principle - that this celebrated social conservative was distressed over the lack of accomodation being given to military chaplains who wanted to preach their particular faith.

    So why exactly did Allen resign? Well, let's say that he appears to be yet another social conservative who finds it impossible to practices what he preaches. And like a number of people associated with President Bush, it appears he may have broken the law. But unlike most of that rogues gallery of supposedly honorable and dignified men - Allen's actually been charged with felonies. I wonder if Boyden Gray might now rethink his remarks about the man's fitness to be a federal judge.

    Posted by armand at 09:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    March 10, 2006

    Somebody Write This Down: I Agree With Bush

    This doesn't happen very often (and when it does, I usually need to think twice to make sure I'm not doing something stupid), but I agree fully with President Bush's position on this whole Dubai port ownership business.

    President Bush said today that he was concerned that United States alliances would be weakened in the Middle East by fallout from the aborted takeover of American port terminal operations by a Dubai company. "I'm concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East," Mr. Bush told a conference of the National Newspaper Association. "In order to win the war on terror, we have got to strengthen our relationships and friendships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East."

    Who cares who ownes the damn company that actually manages the port operations? Moreover, if the proposed owner is a moderate Arab ally, why fight it? This whole thing has been silly, and likely (as Bush notes) damaging to our repuation and strength in the region.

    I'm especially ashamed of the Democrats, who should take the high road on this. Declare that Bush's entire economic and political foreign policy is a disaster, but don't fight this issue. It makes us look like xenophobic, racist idiots. Hey, the US is having an image problem in the Middle East - why did we just make it worse?

    Posted by baltar at 03:38 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

    Liddy Dole's Campaign Against Uppity, Horny Black Men

    There are some popular political beliefs and perceptions that are so absurd on their face that I am struck dumb when people bring them up - these include positive views of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Senator Elizabeth Dole relating to their supposed competence or political skill. Dole's presidential campaign was a disaster, she's a poor politician, doesn't seem to get North Carolina its share of earmarks and spending, and her famous Republican Convention speech was one of the most fawning and fatuous things I've seen since I started observing politics at the end of the 1980's. And of course the notion that these 3 individuals are truly "nice" and "decent" is highly questionable (and that's being extraordinarily kind) given the politics and policies they support.

    The latest bit of nastiest on Dole's part that makes her appear much more vile than her smiling facade - this. A "Big Pimpin'" anti-Harold Ford web site. I'm not a Ford fan. I mean it's great that there are at least a tiny handful of at least marginally good-looking people in Congress, and if he were to disappear then their numbers would fall by one (a big hit given how tiny the non-hideous caucus is). But his politics are marginally appealing, at best. Still, even if I don't like him, this is far from the type of politics a truly classy person would likely favor, and it implies a belief in winning races through nasty personal attacks, not serious consideration of important national issues. It would be nice if reporters and the public would keep actions like this in mind the next time they choose adjectives to use when describing Senator Dole.

    Posted by armand at 11:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    John Edwards Blogs

    Honestly, John Edwards didn't impress me that much during the 2004 presidential campaign. But I've been very impressed by the moves I've seen him take since then, and I'd say that at this point along with Mark Warner he looks to me like the most promising of the likely candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. If you want to follow what he's up to (and more and more he seems to be prioritizing the fight against poverty and in favor of a better health care system for all Americans) he's started a fancy new blog.

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

    March 09, 2006

    Judge Kleinfeld on Computers and Privacy

    Howard Bashman has a set of links and comments to an interesting case before an en banc panel of the (supposedly notoriously liberal) 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Their decision held "that an individual's subscription to web site offering both legal adult pornography and illegal child pornography provides a lawful basis to issue a search warrant to search the person's computer for evidence of child pornography". There are a few interesting things about this case that Bashman notes and are worth checking out, but I'd particularly alert you to an excerpt from the dissent of Judge Kleinfeld (it was a 9-2 decision with Bush I appointee Kleinfeld and old liberal lion Reinhardt in dissent) that I think is an interesting and largely accurate observation about Americans, computers, and privacy expectations. It's interesting to note though that, to my knowledge, few of Kleinfeld's (and the country's) concerns seem to work themselves into US law.

    Posted by armand at 04:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Maybe I'll Go Back To Sleep

    I realize I've had my head down recently (dissertation), but I surfaced just long enough to see this NYT story. Last I checked, the Administration was spying on Americans without even a FISA warrant. This violates both FISA and some parts of the Constitution. The Administration was defending this "terrorist surveillance program" by claiming (A) that the AUFM that Congress passed in late 2001 gives Bush the right to fight terrorism anyway he wants, (B) Bush's Constitutionally mandated powers as Commander-in-Chief give him the power to order the executive branch to do anything he wants in wartime, and (C) most of the Constitution is optional anyway (I think I'm kidding on that last one, but I'm not sure).

    I sorta figured that Bush's attitude and somewhere-between-surprising-and-illegal interpretation of the AUMF and Constitution would cause a fight between Bush and Congress. You know, "checks and balances", "separate but equal branches of government", "Congressional oversight" and all that.

    So I was somewhat surprised to find the above-linked NYT article, which states (in clear black and white) that Congress and the President had found a peaceful solution:

    The Republican proposal would give Congressional approval to the eavesdropping program much as it was secretly authorized by Mr. Bush after the 2001 terrorist attacks, with limited notification to a handful of Congressional leaders. The N.S.A. would be permitted to intercept the international phone calls and e-mail messages of people in the United States if there was "probable cause to believe that one party to the communication is a member, affiliate, or working in support of a terrorist group or organization," according to a written summary of the proposal issued by its Republican sponsors. The finding of probable cause would not be reviewed by any court.
    But after 45 days, the attorney general would be required to drop the eavesdropping on that target, seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or explain under oath to two new Congressional oversight subcommittees why he could not seek a warrant.

    So, if I read this correctly:

    Old FISA law: Can spy on Americans for 3 days without a warrant; then must go before FISA judge (in secret) to get warrant. Must inform Congress of all intelligence activities (per the 1947 National Security Act, which created the CIA among other things).

    This law (actually passed by Congress, and signed by the President) has been replaced by an "agreement" (not passed by Congress, or debated in Congress, or even debated with Congressional Democrats on the Intelligence Committee - just given to them and told how it will be from now on).

    New "Agreement": Can spy on any American for 45 days, then must go to FISA judge to get permission, or go to Congress and explain why they didn't go to FISA to get permission. Implicitly argues that all previous spying (which, on the face of it, seems to violate FISA, and - hence - the law) was fine, since no part of Congress will hold public or private hearings on the issue.

    Uh, how is the New "Agreement" better than the old FISA law? Am I missing something here? I mean, as best I can tell, the order of this is (1) President violates law (spying on Americans without warrant); (2) This becomes public; (3) Congress makes threatening noises; (4) Congress decides solution to Presidential-law-breakage is to ignore the actual law and gives President permission to continue doing what he was already doing (which the President claims he doesn't need Congressional authority to do anyway).

    Am I confused, or did Congress just avoid a constitutional fight by, basically, closing their eyes and saying "Violation, what violation? We didn't see any violation?"

    I think I should go back to sleep.

    Posted by baltar at 12:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    March 08, 2006

    Maybe they want to recruit us?

    Alas, we are too old.

    ISP HQ, USMEPCOMLocation 

    Continent : North America
    Country : United States  (Facts)
    State : Illinois
    City : North Chicago
    Lat/Long : 42.3473, -87.963 (Map)
    Language unknownOperating System Microsoft WinXPBrowser Internet Explorer 6.0
    Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)
    Javascript disabledTime of Visit Mar 8 2006 11:37:00 amLast Page View Mar 8 2006 11:37:00 amVisit Length 0 secondsPage Views 1Referring URLunknownVisit Entry Page Exit Page Zone unknownVisitor's Time UnknownVisit Number 20,693

    Among other disqualifiers.

    Posted by binky at 10:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Can terrorists have lobbyists?

    Tonight I was listening to Fresh Air, and as Terry Gross interviewed James Thurber about the possibilities of congressional reform on lobbying, he reaffirmed that lobbying was part of our political rights. He went on to say that it is legal for anyone to organize to represent any interest in the United States, as long as he or she wasn't lobbying for "al Qaeda, the Communist Party, or Hamas."

    "You can organize around anything in America as long as it's not a terrorist organization like al Qaeda or the Communist Party or Hamas..."

    Based on the context, it sounded like he implied that lobbying for the Communist party is illegal. Maybe he just meant "it's looked down upon," but when he said "a terrorist organization like al Qaeda or the Communist Party," that was a fairly clear statement of comparison.

    Seriously, though, I'm wondering about the legality issue. Because when I do a web search for "can terrorists have lobbyists al qaeda united states" all I get is Juan Cole on jack Abramoff.

    Posted by binky at 09:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    The Latest on Bush's Illegal Domestic Spying Program

    Basically - the Senate Republicans are embarrassing themselves, and cutting the legs out from under the notion that Congress should have any say on the what the government does. But, really, it's arguably even worse than that. Read all of this post by Glenn Greenwald for the latest on this depressing story. It includes some well-deserved hits at Senators Snowe and Specter (as I've written before, I don't think the Hagel should be grouped with them since his voting record shows him to definitely be a conservative's conservative, even if his penchant for honesty leads him to break from the Bush-approved mantra occasionally):

    Sen. Specter is, of course, of the same rancid strain as Sens. Snowe and Hagel -- the group that struts around self-lovingly preening as some sort of "independent Republicans" only invariably to fall in line, meekly and without exception, with White House commands.

    But the post goes much further than throwing around punchy insults at those who are supposedly independent-minded but kowtow to President Bush with great regularity. It notes what we should fear in this mess. But it also points to one point that might make us optimistic that all is not lost forever on this front - if we can afford optimism at a time when the Congress' response to a president breaking the law with impunity is simply to legalize his actions and make further oversight even more difficult.

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

    March 07, 2006

    Tomasky's Politics Quiz

    OK, since no one is biting on my "disturbing images" quiz below - I'll throw out another one. Mike Tomasky (Morgantown native and WVU grad) has written up this quiz, partially in response to him being a little disappointed that John Edwards doesn't know who James Q. Wilson is (personally, I think knowing that just shows you've read some things that are in many ways wastes of your time). It's a politics and intellectual history quiz. So for those of you who can't make it down to the bar tonight, you can play this instead.

    Personally I did great on the international and "general political history" sections, but had trouble elsewhere. I was at least able to answer the $1000 question in each of the other 3 categories, though in the "intellectual history" category that was the only one I could answer (though I really shouldn't have missed the $400 question).

    Posted by armand at 05:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Punishing Stillbirth with Murder Convictions

    And other legal follies.

    South Dakota, like many other states, has adopted numerous laws that seek to establish the unborn as full legal persons. For example, South Dakota has a feticide statute that makes the killing of an "unborn child" at any stage of prenatal development fetal homicide, manslaughter or vehicular homicide, as well as a law that requires doctors to tell women that an abortion ends the life of "a whole, separate, unique living human being." The new law banning virtually all abortions states that it is based on the conclusion "that life begins at the time of conception," and that "each human being is totally unique immediately at fertilization."

    If the unborn are legal persons, as numerous South Dakota laws assert, then a pregnant woman who has an abortion can be prosecuted as a murderer under already existing homicide laws.

    Farfetched? Not at all.

    Prosecutors all over the country have been experimenting with this approach for years. In South Carolina, Regina McKnight is serving a 12-year sentence for homicide by child abuse. Why? Because she suffered an unintentional stillbirth. The prosecutors said she caused the stillbirth by using cocaine, yet, they did not charge her with having an illegal abortion — a crime that in South Carolina has a three-year sentence. Rather, they charged and convicted her of homicide — a crime with a 20- year sentence. They obtained this conviction in spite of evidence that McKnight's stillbirth was caused by an infection.

    Thus far, South Carolina is the only state whose courts have upheld the legitimacy of such prosecutions. But in fact, women in states across the country, including South Dakota, have already been arrested as child abusers or murderers — without any new legislation authorizing such arrests. In Oklahoma, Teresa Hernandez is sitting in jail on first-degree murder charges for having suffered an unintentional stillbirth. In Utah, a woman was charged with murder based on the claim that she caused a stillbirth by refusing to have a C-section earlier in her pregnancy.

    South Dakota lawmakers don't want their constituents to know or face the likely results of their actions. Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, notes that federal and state law enforcement agencies have grown significantly in the past 30 years. He warns that in states where abortion is recriminalized, people should expect strict enforcement with the use of stings, informants, wiretaps, computers and databases to gather evidence and obtain guilty pleas.

    Rather than admit that this law will hurt pregnant women and mothers, South Dakota's legislators pretend it protects them. Indeed, the authors of this bill call it "The Women's Health and Human Life Protection Act." In another age we might expect that legislation so-named would address such urgent women's health problems as breast and cervical cancer, the fact that 88,350 South Dakotans are without health insurance, the equivalent of 12 percent of the state's population, or the fact that South Dakota guarantees no paid maternity leave for the many mothers who must continue working in order to feed their families.

    So after they marry you off, you might just luck out if your wife has a stillbirth, and gets sent to jail for 20 years. More here.

    And not that anyone's going to get access to it anytime soon, but there's even more evidence that Plan B isn't abortion. It wasn't ever, but these new results cut into the anti-Plan B rhetoric.

    Supporters of ready access to Plan B point out that the drug does not harm an implanted embryo and, thus, does not terminate a pregnancy. However, they have not challenged the underlying assumption that Plan B causes changes to the uterus that can prevent implantation.

    It appears that that assumption is unfounded.

    Recent studies justify the conclusion that Plan B does not produce a "hostile uterus." Rather, it prevents conception by delaying ovulation.

    Prior to these recent studies, it was reasonable to believe that Plan B interfered with the implantation of an early embryo in the uterus. The active ingredient in Plan B, levonorgestrel, is a drug that has been used in birth control pills for 35 years. Taken on a daily basis as a birth control pill, levonorgestrel causes changes in the uterine lining that are believed to make the uterus inhospitable to embryos.

    Or would, if the anti-Plan B forces didn't love falsehood so much.

    Via Feministe also tiring of living in a political climate where defending women's basic freedoms has to be a daily occurrence.

    Posted by binky at 02:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


    This is old, but I think it's a great quiz in terms of telling others what's really going on inside your head: List (and explain if you want) 5 movies or TV shows that contained scenes or images that branded themselves onto your imagination, disturbing or moving you and profoundly altering your view of entertainment and/or life. Interpret that however you wish.

    Posted by armand at 11:10 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


    Uh, -er -er.

    Posted by binky at 12:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


    Let's see, we can't trust women, and we can't trust high school students, and, hmm, who else can't we trust to think for themselves? Wait! I know! soldiers!

    Unfortunately anonomizers don't work out here (never have). Anyway, I had a few minutes today and thought I'd look and see what else was banned on the Marine web here. I think the results speak for themselves:

    • Wonkette – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Forum/Bulletin Boards, Politics/Opinion.”
    • Bill O’Reilly ( – OK
    • Air America ( – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
    • Rush Limbaugh ( – OK
    • ABC News “The Note” – OK
    • Website of the Al Franken Show ( – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
    • G. Gordon Liddy Show ( – OK
    • Don & Mike Show ( – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Profanity, Entertainment/Recreation/Hobbies.”

    And, uh, now we're just a wee bit suspicious. And even more upset than before, actually — they're making them read the goddam Note? No fucking wonder 72% of 'em want to get the hell out of there.

    hat tip

    Posted by binky at 12:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Yes, do, please

    You might or might not be a devotee, but this is a lovely post. Absolutely he should write more of these fabulous sisters.

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

    March 06, 2006

    Yoohoo! Hey! Guys?

    Regarding both my earlier joke about reciprocal control of men's bodies as well as the current discussion in the comments about empathy for another's position, I thought these quotes might be interesting to the fellahs.

    We've been talking about how criticizing patriarchy doesn't mean the same thing as criticizing all men (or women) who are enmeshed in the social structures, and also about how patriarchy doesn't just hurt women, but men too. I didn't even have to go looking and an example landed in my lap. South Dakota, of course, where the Governor has just signed the abortion ban which contains no exceptions for rape or incest. One of the supporters starting thinking out loud about what a rape exception might look like. It does sound like he has a vivid picture in his head.

    BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

    So, for the married woman who was not a virgin, no exception. Huh. And, I wonder what kind of sex ed this man has had, because last I knew, sodomy and pregnancy had nothing to do with each other. But I digress. The part to which I wanted to draw the gentleman commenters' attention is below:

    BILL NAPOLI: When I was growing up here in the wild west, if a young man got a girl pregnant out of wedlock, they got married, and the whole darned neighborhood was involved in that wedding. I mean, you just didn't allow that sort of thing to happen, you know? I mean, they wanted that child to be brought up in a home with two parents, you know, that whole story. And so I happen to believe that can happen again.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: You really do?

    BILL NAPOLI: Yes, I do. I don't think we're so far beyond that, that we can't go back to that.

    See that? He just moved on from controlling women's lives via their uteruses, to controlling men's lives too. He wants to tell you to get married, and how you have to raise your kids.

    Or maybe, perhaps, you would look fetching wearing this?

    And since I know you love her work, you know who.

    Posted by binky at 04:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Got the Ill Communication

    Like Ma Bell!

    10,000 pink slips.

    Oscar Fashion 2006

    OK, I'm not going to think too hard about that last award last night. Instead, I'm going to move my mind to what the Oscars are really about - unusually pretty people looking their prettiest. So I throw the topic to the crowd - who made good fashion decisions, and who really missed the mark?

    Personally, I thought that Amy Adams, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Catherine Keener had the best dresses. As to the worst choice - well, Charlize Theron's gown was the ugliest that got a lot of screen time. But I imagine that Go Fug Yourself will be noting other aesthetic atrocities later today.

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

    Everyone is talking about Crash vs Brokeback

    However given the current consideration of legislation in West Virginia:

    For all the passions they generate, laws that require minors to notify their parents or get permission to have an abortion do not appear to have produced the sharp drop in teenage abortion rates that some advocates hoped for, an analysis by The New York Times shows.

    The analysis, which looked at six states that introduced parental involvement laws in the last decade and is believed to be the first study to include data from years after 1999, found instead a scattering of divergent trends.

    For instance, in Tennessee, the abortion rate went down when a federal court suspended a parental consent requirement, then rose when the law went back into effect. In Texas, the rate fell after a notification law went into effect, but not as fast as it did in the years before the law. In Virginia, the rate barely moved when the state introduced a notification law in 1998, but fell after the requirement was changed to parental consent in 2003.


    A separate analysis, considered whether the existence or absence of a law could be used to predict whether abortions went up or down. It could not. The six states studied are in the South and West: Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. (A seventh state, Oklahoma, also passed a parental notification law in this period, but did not gather abortion data before 2000.)

    Supporters of the laws say they promote better decision-making and reduce teenage abortions; opponents say they chip away at abortion rights and endanger young lives by exposing them to potentially violent reaction from some parents.

    Why is our legislature wasting time on unecessary laws that affect so few young women, and don't live up to the claims of the laws proponents?

    Posted by binky at 12:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    March 05, 2006

    Oye Paraguay


    Posted by binky at 05:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Less Sheep, More Hot Gay Sex

    That's what the flaming heterosexual Matthew Yglesias thinks Brokeback Mountain really needed. I'd say he's probably right. If such a deeply passionate movie about impossible longing were made about a couple of heterosexuals, the sex would have likely be veritably dripping off the screen. But he's also probably right about why we got more sheep instead. And I can't say I mind that much. It's still an extremely well-made and moving film. And I'll be pulling for it to win lots of Oscars tonight.

    Actually of the 6 awards I'd most like to see go to my favorites tonight, 5 are associated with Brokeback Mountain.

    Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Score & Director - Brokeback Mountain.

    Best Supporting Actor - Jake Gyllenhaal of Brokeback Mounatin.

    Best Supporting Actress - Amy Adams of Junebug.

    What/whom are you going to be pulling for?

    Posted by armand at 01:58 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Women Are as Human as Men Are

    No, I don't think I'm better than you.

    However, I also don't think you are better than me.

    Posted by binky at 11:47 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

    The Moral of the Story Is: Don't Pay Your Debt?

    Homeland Security wants to know if you're paying more than your monthly norm:

    What got him so upset might seem trivial to some people who have learned to accept small infringements on their freedom as just part of the way things are in this age of terror-fed paranoia. It's that "everything changed after 9/11" thing.

    But not Walter.

    "We're a product of the '60s," he said. "We believe government should be way away from us in that regard."

    He was referring to the recent decision by him and his wife to be responsible, to do the kind of thing that just about anyone would say makes good, solid financial sense.

    They paid down some debt. The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522.

    And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable.

    And all they did was pay down their debt. They didn't call a suspected terrorist on their cell phone. They didn't try to sneak a machine gun through customs.

    They just paid a hefty chunk of their credit card balance. And they learned how frighteningly wide the net of suspicion has been cast.

    Via Born at the Crest of the Empire.

    Posted by binky at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    March 04, 2006

    Bush's Unilateralism Continues: The Proposed Indian Nuke Deal

    Fred Kaplan isn't happy with the president's nuclear proposals with India - and it sees it as a continuation of a distressing pattern.

    The pattern is hair-raising. In Iraq, Bush & Co. crashed the gates with no plan for what to do after the country crumbled. In North Korea, they called off nuclear talks and waited for the tyrant's regime to collapse with no plan for how to stop his weapons program if he managed to stay at the helm. In the Palestinian territories, they pushed for elections with no plan for how to react if the wrong side won.

    He's got a point, and he's got a lot to say about these proposals.

    In other words, India would receive the same rewards as countries that had signed the NPT—without actually having to sign it and thus to put up with its restraints. (America's reward would be that India buys the nuclear materials, as well as a lot of other products, from U.S. companies.) The deal violates the NPT—and a treaty governing the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, an organization of 44 nations that sets rules on importing and exporting nuclear materials ...

    But a few things are worth noting. First, the United States has no authority to grant such an exemption on its own. The NPT is a treaty signed by 187 nations; it is enforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency; and it is, in effect, administered by the five nations that the treaty recognizes as nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France). This point is not a legal nicety. If the United States can cut a separate deal with India, what is to prevent China or Russia from doing the same with Pakistan or Iran? If India demands special treatment on the grounds that it's a stable democracy, what is to keep Japan, Brazil, or Germany from picking up on the precedent?

    Second, the India deal would violate not just international agreements but also several U.S. laws regulating the export of nuclear materials.

    President Bush, who's restored "honor and dignity" to the White House, making lots of noise and calling for US laws to be broken - who'd have expected that?

    The amazing thing is, President Bush just went ahead and made the pledge, without so much as the pretense of consultation—as if all these actors, with their prerogatives over treaties and laws (to say nothing of their concerns for very real dilemmas), didn't exist.

    Again, I'm shocked, just shocked. I wish. Remember back when we expected American presidents to obey the law - or at the very least not proudly trumpet their law breaking? How far our country has fallen under this presidency.

    Posted by armand at 05:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    March 03, 2006

    Shout Out to New Jersey

    Thank you for visiting, number 20,460, USAISC-CECOM.

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


    From Crooks and Liars, a bill in the Missouri legislature:

    Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

    House Concurrent Resolution 13 has is pending in the state legislature.

    Many Missouri residents had not heard about the bill until Thursday.

    This is why what Armand and I were talking about is so important. People don't know what is going on in their state legislatures, and assume that their elected representatives are actually representing mainstream american values.

    Karen Aroesty of the Anti-defamation league, along with other watch-groups, began a letter writing and email campaign to stop the resolution.

    The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

    The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."

    This is why I don't trust the rhetoric of Judeo-Christian values. It turns out that the "judeo" part is fine as long it means "the people who gave s the old testament," but not in respecting their religious practice today. Much as with the support of Israel, only insofar as that support will lead to its destruction in the end times, and bring on the Rapture.

    State representative David Sater of Cassville in southwestern Missouri, sponsored the resolution, but he has refused to talk about it on camera or over the phone.

    So, the elected representative in unacountable to the people when they catch him playing fast and loose with the Constitution.

    KMOV also contacted Gov. Matt Blunt's office to see where he stands on the resolution, but he has yet to respond.

    This is the same Blunt that Fired Up Missouri has criticized for his opposition to birth control: "Governor Matt Blunt believes that "The Pill" is the same thing as an abortion. He equates ordinary birth control with abortion."

    They are all crawling out of the woodwork. They're not hiding in the dark anymore, emboldened by the control of the federal government, and the appointments to the supreme court. As I've been urging recently, this is exactly the time to shine the full light of democratic discussion and participation on what is being done in our names. It's time for the majority of citizens to speak up for our values of freedom and tolerance, and reject the extremists' ideology of exclusion.

    Posted by binky at 01:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    We don't usually do this around here...

    ...but here's some Friday cat blogging. I'm sure lots of you have already seen that, but it still cracks me up.

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

    Prosecuting Anti-Abortion Extremists as Terrorists

    At least, that's what I expect next given the outcome of this case.

    A federal jury using an anti-terrorism law for the first time convicted six animal rights activists on Thursday for a campaign to drive a company out of business.


    During the three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson, jurors heard that defendants urged sympathizers to harass Huntingdon employees, vandalize their cars and publish the names, addresses and phone numbers of their families on a Web site.

    SHAC members also used their Web site in an attempt to stop other companies from doing business with Huntingdon in the hope that if they succeeded, Huntingdon itself would be unable to operate.

    Their tactics included sending thousands of e-mails to the targeted companies to disrupt their computers, and sending "black faxes" to prevent fax machines from operating.

    Some companies ended their relationship with Huntingdon as a result of SHAC's campaign, prosecutors said.

    "We'll be at their offices, at their doorsteps, on their phones, or in their computers. There will be no rest for the wicked," the SHAC Web site said, according to prosecutors.

    Defense attorneys argued that the defendants were exercising their constitutional rights of free speech and had not themselves committed the acts advocated by their Web site. SHAC said it was the victim of a government crackdown on dissent.

    So if it isn't racketeering, maybe it is terrorism. Anyone want to lay money on the chances?

    UPDATE: Forgot the hat tip to Mikevotes.

    Posted by binky at 11:40 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

    Where the Truth Lies

    Yikes, what the hell happened to Atom Egoyan? Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter were superb, two of the first dvds I ever acquired. And I admire Ararat - it has a lot to say, is very well made and moving. And then to follow that, one of the best movies made lately about people's need to believe in things and be a part of something he makes - this? I'm perplexed.

    It's not just that the writing here is much weaker, or that in this supposed mystery the first 90% is entirely predictable and the last 10% is just plain silly and almost impossible to believe. It's that plus the fact that his female lead's performance is ... well, I believed her in the role. I believed her in the role for maybe about 7 minutes in this entire film. Alison Lohman comes across as the 12th best actress in a 4th rate collegiate drama program. Honestly - her "acting" makes you want to giggle. I mean she's pretty, and that comes in handy when she's not wearing anything, but otherwise ...

    So what are we left with? Colin Firth - good. Kevin Bacon - sure. The production design and look of the film and the way it's shot - all good too. I mean this is an Egoyan film. But the script - uh, as if, and the performance at the center of the film - best forgotten. If this is in your Netflix queue - delete it now.

    Posted by armand at 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Blogging and real politics

    There is a lot of talk about whether or not blogs matter in politics. The efforts of Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher, among others, to use the net to mobilize calls and letters to media outlets and elected representatives is one way that blogs can matter.

    Blogs can matter in a different way. It's not something I talk about a lot here, but I do a fair amount of writing to my elected representatives. I don't do the crazy nutter inundation, and tinfoil hat writing, but a few times a year, on important issues, I write. And you know what? Blogging has made me a better citizen. When I hear about issues from blogs, I check our legislature to see if we have something happening here. And the letters I write are often informed and improved by the writing I do here.

    So, the research and writing I did for a recent post about the deceptive callers ended up affecting this letter, which I sent to my state representatives:

    As a citizen of West Virginia I am deeply concerned about and strongly opposed to the changes to the parental notification law that have been proposed in this legislative session (HB 2112 and SB 519). The changes proposed are unneeded and are an unnecessary intrusion into the lives of West Virginia's families.

    The vast majority of young women in West Virginia who become pregnant and seek abortion already involve their parents in this decision. Of the 122 abortions obtained by teens in WV last year, only 19 received the kind of waiver that is the target of this bill. All of this legislative activity is over a medical procedure that affects 19 young women (and 1 other received a judicial waiver), who are among the most vulnerable, yet are still able to seek out and pursue their own health care.

    The current law works. The vast majority of young women in WV already seek reproductive health care in consultation with their families. These proposed changes to the bills would not affect this. What this bill would do is endanger the lives of the most vulnerable young women, those most fearful of their parents. Those young women would now be forced to not only notify, but get the consent of those parents. We would all like to think that WV families are the kind that most of those 122 young women have, but the in reality this is not the case. For those women from fractured homes or abusive homes, they may be desperate to avoid violence or further abuse. The pregnancy may even be a result of the abuse suffered in the family. And this law could force abused young women to receive the permission of their abusers for reproductive care.

    In regions of the south of the US that have restricted access to abortion, the number of illegal abortions is already on rise, and those who are affected are in the same group would would be endangers by HB2112 and SB 519. From an article by Carole Joffe, professor sociology at UC-Davis describing this upsurge: “Our local hospital tells me they see 12-20 patients per year, who have already self-induced or had illegal abortions. Some make it, some don’t. They are underage or poor women mostly, and a few daughters of pro-life families...“Most commonly, they ingest a whole bottle of quinine pills, with castor oil...we try to get them to the ER before their cardiac rhythm is interrupted...Sometimes they douche with very caustic products like bleach. We had a patient, a teen, who burned herself so badly with bleach that we couldn’t even examine her, her vaginal tissue was so painful....” Is this what we want for WV? The proposed changes to WV law may bring statistics like this to our state, if desperate young women no longer have the ability to seek waivers.

    This proposed legislation will hurt young women in WV, and is an unnecessary use of the legislature's time that will only intrude on the private decisions of WV families. There are many urgent problems in our state that the legislature could address instead of making changes to existing law that works, and I am deeply concerned about the legislative priorities that these bills reveal. As your constituent, I urge you all to consider the dangerous impact this legislation will have on the very small number of young women it is designed to control. They are not well-served by these proposed changes, nor are the rest of the citizens of this great state.

    Maybe now I can get back to blogging about international affairs.

    Posted by binky at 10:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    March 02, 2006


    She calls it a modest proposal. Actually I think it's a little too modest. I've been trying to come up with pithy slogans. Maybe I should start a contest:

    Since every sperm is sacred, we'll be monitoring male masturbation from now on. You think Kid Rock had it bad, look who your buddy will be.

    Don't just send the doctors to jail, send the men too, because they're so powerful they caused the abortion in the first place (by knocking up that creature who you think has no ability to make decisions on her own).

    See? Just not pithy enough. They need brevity, surely. This gets a little closer:

    If you want to control my uterus, I've got a little surprise for you.

    But still, something missing. We'll have to keep working on it. Something with "testicles" maybe.

    Posted by binky at 11:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Ignorance in Our State Leads to a Man's Death

    Via Pam Spaulding.

    A federal discrimination lawsuit was filed Thursday by the surviving family members of a man who died of a heart attack after the police chief allegedly prevented his friend from performing CPR.

    The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the family, says that Welch, W.Va. Chief of Police Robert K. Bowman physically blocked Billy Snead from performing CPR on Claude Green, Jr. after Green suffered a heart attack while driving with Snead last summer in their hometown of Welch.

    According papers filed in court Thursday Snead had begun performing CPR by the side of the road when Bowman arrived and told Snead to stop because Green was HIV positive.

    When Snead didn't stop the CPR, Bowman grabbed Snead by the shoulders and physically barred Snead from continuing CPR at a critical point in Green's resuscitation.  Snead, who had not realized at first that Bowman was a police officer, obeyed his commands.

    While Green fought to stay alive, Bowman prevented anyone else from aiding Green until EMS workers arrived approximately 10 minutes later.

    While they were putting Green in the ambulance, Bowman informed EMS workers that Green was HIV positive.

    Although the EMS workers ignored Bowman's warnings and performed CPR on Green, he passed away shortly after arriving at the hospital. He did not have HIV. The court papers said that Bowman based his assumption that Green was HIV+ because he knew Green was gay.

    "I'm heartbroken that I have lost my son over such ignorance and bigotry," said Green's mother told a news conference Thursday.

    "I can't understand how someone who is supposed to protect the people of Welch could physically block another human from saving my son's life. It's always difficult for a mother to lose a child, but to have lost my son so needlessly will be with me for the rest of my life."

    The lawsuit charges that Bowman discriminated against Green by preventing others from providing life-saving medical care to Green because of his sexual orientation and/or perceived HIV status. The lawsuit also charges that Bowman violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against someone he perceived to be HIV positive.

    "Bowman's actions were a frightening abuse of power," said Rose Saxe, a staff attorney with the ACLU's AIDS Project.

    "It's hard to say what was more shameful: that Chief Bowman assumed Claude Green was HIV positive solely because he was gay, or that Bowman was so ignorant about HIV that he felt you couldn't safely perform CPR on an HIV positive person."

    Green's sister, Anita Tickle, said that the family brought the suit to "stop Police Chief Bowman from hurting more people."

    Bowman refutes the allegations in the lawsuit calling them a "boldface lie."

    "No one refused him CPR," Bowman said.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been no documented instances of HIV transmission through CPR.

    Posted by binky at 10:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


    How many of us get this?

    Funnily enough, I had one of these shit-I'm-so-behind-I-can't-move-ahhh-help-me-please days today. Fortunately, as I was arriving on campus after an argument with Mr. B. at the ridiculously late-running procrastinatory time of mid-afternoon, I happened to rush past my cool mentor on my way to the elevator. She was talking to someone in the hall, and I decided, "fuck it, I am going to go dump my bag in my office, put up a note saying that my office hours will start a bit late today, and come back down here and beg her to come grab coffee with me and dole out a little bit of emotional support because she's totally cool and is always offering emotional support which I am too ashamed to accept but today is the day, by god." So I did--dump my bag and put up a note, I mean--and then I went back down, knocked on her door, said "do you have ten minutes, please? I really need to talk"; she replied, "you know, I'm glad you're here because yesterday when I saw you you had the body language of someone who is putting up a good front and I was thinking earlier that, as a friend, I should make some time to ask you how you're doing," so we went over to the library, got some coffee (because I really, desperately needed more caffeine to fuel my mental hamster, not) and I 'fessed up about various and sundry crap that I've been putting off/want to do/can't manage, etc. etc.

    And, as always, Cool Mentor empathized, pointed out that the real problem is essentially an embarrassment of good things, did a little bit of supportive commisserating griping of her own (it's so reassuring when people we admire admit their own frustrations), said, "ok, your priorities are A and B, in that order" and asked me to keep her posted on how things shape up for the rest of the month. So I wandered off, did A and B during my office hours (god bless the students for not showing up today), dealt with a couple of other stupid things I've been putting off, tried to deal with another and realized I'd lost the necessary paperwork, decided not to futz around trying to cover up for having lost it and sent a frank email to the paperwork provider saying, "please send me this again, I've misplaced the original" and went home, where I took a nap.

    I'm glad for Bitch PhD, but can't help wishing we all had someone like this in our academic lives.

    Posted by binky at 10:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Holding Our Leaders Accountable When We Are at War

    As Alex notes, in the past, in the midst of much more threatening situations than we happen to be in at the moment, we managed to both prosecute a war and hold people who failed to lead or competently defend the country accountable for their failures. To me that's essential for our country's success, and there's nothing un-American about it. In fact this notion that every bit of accountability and resposivness in government should cease just because we face a difficult situation strikes me as appalling claim of weakness - both in terms of our capabilities and in terms of our moral character - and those are hardly characteristics we should want to put out in front of the rest of the world, particularly when we are engaged in fights like we are now. It's too bad Victor David Hanson has such an unfortunate lack of faith in the country's ability to practice what it preaches. It's also too bad he doesn't crack a book and do some research before drawing analogies from World War II.

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

    Linkity link link

    Via C&L a reminder of Frank Zappa kicking ass for free expression.

    Also via C&L, the goverment does a shitting job on Quaker surveillance.

    Like government, like GOP, collecting information on voters.

    Alito writes thank you notes to Dr. Dobson. In related news, he sends Fuck off card to the women of the US, including a picture of the device he suggests they use for their illegal abortions.

    Feministing has a pile of depressing news: the feminization of poverty, the domino states on banning abortion, fathers who rape and impregnate their daughters in Utah have the right to decide whether the young women can get abortions, and a judge tries to force a teenage rape victim to watch her rape - in which while unconscious she is violated and has obscenties written on her body - in court.

    Perhaps they could move to Florida, where the founder of Dominos is using his money to create a town where there will be no contraceptives along with other sinful things like porn and abortion. Jebby was there for the ribbong cutting.

    The Italian Parliament thinks the Soviet Union was behind the shooting of the Pope.

    Well, at least Charlie is still cute.

    Posted by binky at 06:07 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    Mardi Gras 2006

    What follows is a note from one of my good friends - a friend who until now would never, ever miss a Mardi Gras for any reason, ever. Now she doesn't think she's ever going to go back to New Orleans again. Ever. I think it's an interesting personal response to the tragedy, and timely given today's reporting showing that President Bush got a very clear warning that a devastating threat was approaching, and that there were lots of problems with the existsing response plans.

    We also took a Katrina tour, which was unbelievable and horrible. I'm glad I did it, but wow - you have no idea how much that city has changed now. It will never ever be the same again. The devastation stretches so much further than any photos from TV can seem to explain. There is no part of the city that is unaffected - even the french quarter. There are buildings everywhere that are still abandoned - it looks like mexico. Once you cross elysian fields and head into the marigny, you begin to see the # of rescued or found spray painted on every house. 1/2 way through the marigny the power gets sketchy, and by the time you get to the bywater, theres rubble and trash in the street, abandoned businesses and houses, etc. Of course once you cross over the levee it's total chaos - everything in the 9th ward is totally uninhabitable now, every house has been moved off of its foundation by the force of the water. Theres a barge sitting in the middle of the 9th ward. A FUCKING BARGE!!!!! It's like 30 feet tall and god knows how long, just sitting on about 6 lots that no longer have houses on them anyway because the water pushed the houses down the road about a 1/2 mile. But what really got me was how far out it all stretched - Its SOOOO much worse in person.

    Like, all of Chalmette is gone. The entire fucking town. Actually, all of the St Bernard parish was completely destroyed - theres nothing working, theres no power, theres not one house that is inhabitable. Even huge places like Wal Mart are abandoned. I don't know how far east and south the desctruction goes because I began feeling sick and asked if we could turn around, but I can tell you that there is pretty much no New Orleans at all after the east side of the quarter. Also, anything higher than Rampart (once again, right out of the quarter) was flooded enough that the houses all got pretty damaged, and about 90% of them are still empty. Theres a tent city in City Park where people are living. No houses are yet inhabitable and none of the street lights are working anywhere in the area between the highway all the way to the lake (so like uptown, midtown, lakefront, UNO), where the houses were totally washed away just like the 9th ward. Theres pretty much no one living all the way to Metairie, on the other side of that levee. The people in Chalmette and Uptown who have actually been able to clear some trash away are living in FEMA trailers on their lawns - and they have been for 6 months. The ONLY part of the city that didn't get destroyed is the French Quarter. Everything else is a fucking mess. Even if the levee didn't break near it, like over on magazine, there was still such strong wind and intense flooding (just from all the water) that it's completely destroyed. No electricity over there as well - garden district, you name it. The whole city looks like a war happened. And even though the Quarter didn't get flooded, the lack of business for 4 months took its toll on many places, and the lack of city services has as well. There's all sorts of places that are closed down and boarded up, the mall is still closed, Virgin Records, BIG places that you would think could recover from such a thing. Especially in time for Mardi Gras, which is their big chance to make enough money again.

    And I didn't even mention the mountains of garbage. These are about 15 feet high, and they are all over the city. Garbage is being collected in the quarter, but not that often, so theres less there, but in the rest of the city it's amazing and it smells horrible.

    I have to go to work now, but I will tell you this - I don't think I'm ever going back there.

    Posted by armand at 01:39 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


    Hmmmm, he's wearin' a funny hat...


    I wonder why he's wearin' a funny hat? I wonder if I could get a funny hat?! Hmmmm.....

    Posted by binky at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The Evidence

    Hoffmania has the AP video on Katrina documentation.

    Posted by binky at 11:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Supreme Court Hears the DeLay/Texas Redistricting Case

    All the country's major papers are running articles today on yesterday's arguments in the Supreme Court over the latest round of congressional redistricting in Texas (see this Dana Milbank article for an example). But, as you might as expect, for cutting to the heart of the matter you should check out the post at Election Law. It feature a number of observations from attorneys and political scientists who were in the gallery, and it's interesting to see their reactions - both to what was discussed, and particularly to what wasn't discussed.

    What should the Court decide? Rick Hasen's thoughts are here.

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

    Women in Chains

    It's time for the practice of shackling women in labor to end.

    Many states justify restraints because the prisoners remain escape risks, though there have apparently been no instances of escape attempts by women in labor.

    Then why do they do it?

    Shawanna Nelson, a prisoner at the McPherson Unit in Newport, Ark., had been in labor for more than 12 hours when she arrived at Newport Hospital on Sept. 20, 2003. Ms. Nelson, whose legs were shackled together and who had been given nothing stronger than Tylenol all day, begged, according to court papers, to have the shackles removed.

    Though her doctor and two nurses joined in the request, her lawsuit says, the guard in charge of her refused.

    "She was shackled all through labor," said Ms. Nelson's lawyer, Cathleen V. Compton. "The doctor who was delivering the baby made them remove the shackles for the actual delivery at the very end."


    "Here this young woman was in active labor," Ms. Simpson wrote, "handcuffed to the armed guard, wearing shackles, in her orange outfit that was dripping wet with amniotic fluid. Her age: 15!"


    Ms. Nelson was serving time for identity fraud and writing bad checks when she gave birth at age 30. She weighed a little more than 100 pounds, and her baby, it turned out, weighed nine and a half pounds.

    The experience of giving birth without anesthesia while largely immobilized has left her with lasting back pain and damage to her sciatic nerve, according to her lawsuit against prison officials and a private company, Correctional Medical Services.


    Merica Erato, serving time for negligent homicide after a car accident, went through labor with chains around her ankles in Fond du Lac, Wis., in May, her husband, Steve, said in an interview.

    "It is unbelievable that in this day and age a child is born to a woman in shackles," Mr. Erato said. "It sounds like something from slavery 200 years ago."

    Unfortunately, it sounds all too possible.

    Posted by binky at 09:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Money More Important Than Safety

    Will anyone say "we told you so?"

    In its drive to foster a more cooperative relationship with mining companies, the Bush administration has decreased major fines for safety violations since 2001, and in nearly half the cases, it has not collected the fines.

    That'll wake you up in the morning. Here's another good one:

    Mr. Fillpot also said delinquent cases had not moved to the Treasury Department since 2003 because of computer problems.

    Computer problems? Three years? This administration is supposed to be working on business model, with a CEO president. What business would let one of its departments not do its job for three years, and let it offer up the lame excuse of computer problems? My undergraduates come up with more sophisticated excuses than that!

    Business model. More like Soviet model.

    Posted by binky at 08:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    March 01, 2006

    Bush's "Surprise" Visit to Afghanistan

    Why is every headline writer in the US calling the president's visit to Afghanistan a "surprise" visit? True, it wasn't on his officially distributed schedule (for security reasons I would expect). But given that Bush was going to Pakistan, well, is there any person on the planet who's even heard of Bush that wouldn't have expected him to visit Afghanistan on his way to Pakistan? Is there a new rule in press coverage that says everything that's not on an official document and highlighted by fireworks, sparklers, marching bands and Vegas showgirls is a surprise?

    Posted by armand at 02:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    William Arkin: Fed Up With Pakistan, and Bush's Support for It

    Gosh, tell us how you really feel.

    President Bush and Osama bin Laden are visiting the same country this week ...

    If ever there were an unreliable partner, one who says one thing and does another, it is Pakistan ...

    Pakistan on the other hand, gets preferential treatment and granted equivalence because it also holds America hostage in the war on terror. But Pakistan is a military dictatorship with a central government that can not even control its own territory. What is more, then objective signs indicate that it doesn't really desire to ...

    Pakistan was itself a source of much Islamic extremism, a nuclear rogue state, and President Pervez Musharraf, who had seized power in a 1999 coup, had provided many of the same services to al Qaeda and the Taliban in a quest to manage Afghan internal struggles. The Pakistani intelligence service had even directly undermined U.S. counter-terrorism operations prior to 9/11 ...

    The bottom line is the Musharraf, like Bush, uses the state of war to mask a lack of change.

    The President says that Musharraf "leads a country that the terrorists seek to use as a base of operations, and they take advantage of every opportunity to create chaos and destabilize the country."

    Mr. President, terrorists do use the country as a base. Say hi to bin Laden while our there.

    I've got to say that it is a rather remarkable thing to see the president of the United States making an official state visit to the country that harbors Usama bin Laden.

    Posted by armand at 11:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Pres. Bush - Disciple of Emily Post or Pathetically Needy?

    So either he's really insistent on thank you notes, or he's extraordinarily in need of thanks and admiration and desperate to lord his (our) generousity over the poor people who have to rely on it.

    In Bremer's account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States. But there is no evidence that he cared about the specific questions that counted: Would the new prime minister have a broad base of support? Would he be able to bridge Iraq's ethnic divisions? What political values should he have? Instead, Bush had only one demand: "It's important to have someone who's willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq." According to Bremer, he came back to this single point three times in the same meeting. Similarly, Ghazi al-Yawar, an obscure Sunni Arab businessman, became Bush's candidate for president of Iraq's interim government because, as Bremer reports, Bush had "been favorably impressed with his open thanks to the Coalition."
    Posted by armand at 11:06 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack