July 31, 2006

Fidel Hands Power to Raul

It's supposedly temporary while Fidel has surgery.

Cuban President Fidel Castro was undergoing intestinal surgery and provisionally handed over power in the Communist island nation to his brother Raul, according to a statement read on Cuban television Monday night.

Castro will turn 80 on August 13; he is about five years older than Raul, who has been publicly named as his brother's successor as president.

Fidel Castro, Cuba's leader since 1959, joked last week that he had no plans to still hold power when he turns 100, Reuters reported. (Full story)

Castro's surgery came just weeks after a U.S. government report called for the United States to have assistance in Cuba within weeks of Castro's death to support a transitional government and help move the country toward democracy. (Full story)

Keep your eyes peeled.

UPDATE: More from the updated CNN story.

Castro's secretary, Carlos Balenciago, read a letter he said was from the president in which he said stress had forced him into surgery and that he would be in bed for several weeks after the operation was complete. Castro turns 80 on August 13.

Raul Castro also assumes control over the armed forces and the leadership of the Communist Party, according to the statement.

In bed for several weeks? If I were the tinfoil hat type, I might say that sounds like a mighty Kremlin-y thing to do, and would be awfully convenient for shuffling behind the scenes in case something goes seriously wrong.

Or has already.

UPDATE 2: The I'm speculating up a storm edition.

A statement written by the president and read on TV by his personal secretary said Mr Castro had suffered internal bleeding.

The Cuban leader, who turns 80 next month, said a punishing schedule in recent weeks had affected his health.


The BBC's Stephen Gibb in Havana says the fact that the Cuban leader did not appear in person to read the letter has added to speculation about the gravity of his condition.

A major celebration had been planned for 13 August - his 80th birthday - but the event has now been postponed until December.

December. Oh if only I was home in South Florida tonight.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz predicted that the next few days would be ``very tense.''

He called it ''unusual'' that Castro would be willing to cede power, even temporarily, and suggested that it was a sign that the Cuban leader's health was deteriorating sharply.

''Obviously, we're all going to be very, very happy the day that he dies,'' Diaz said. ``We'll be keeping a close eye.''

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If they consider it to the point of yes, this could be pretty good news

FDA "considering" Plan B over the counter again.

Via Pharyngula.

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The Race to Succeed Harold Ford Jr.

Tennessee's primary is Thursday. Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is running for Bill Frist's seat in the Senate, so Ford's seat in the House is vacant. Sometimes I wish more races for federal office featured a broad array of candidates. But, having read this (both amusing and informative) review of the candidates seeking to replace Ford, maybe I shouldn't be too quick to think that more choices is necessarily a good thing.

Btw, I find it really quite interesting that there's a very real possibility that Memphis might soon have a non-African-American congressman.

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Counting Down to Kuyahoga

A little Space Ghost in the afternoon?

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Haass on Bush on Lebanon

The Cunning Realist picks up this pithy comment by Richard Haass (the director of policy planning at State during President Bush's first term), on President Bush's statement that the disaster in Lebanon is an "opportunity":

"An opportunity?" Haass said with an incredulous tone. "Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?"

His reasoning seems sensible.

"The arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction," said Richard N. Haass, who was President Bush's first-term State Department policy planning director. "The biggest danger in the short run is it just increases frustration and alienation from the United States in the Arab world. Not just the Arab world, but in Europe and around the world. People will get a daily drumbeat of suffering in Lebanon and this will just drive up anti-Americanism to new heights."
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Updates on the War in Lebanon and Israel

Marc Lynch notes how the war is gravely weakening (killing off entirely?) the domestic political position of moderating and liberalizing forces in the Arab world.

Since 9/11 this has been a constant refrain among many Arab reformers and liberals: Bush's foreign policy has tended to harm precisely those liberals whose visions of reform he claimed to nurture. Judging not only by Saghiye but by the overwhelming weight of comments I've heard and read in the last two weeks, the American position on the Lebanon war seems to be putting the final killing touches.

And while we are making life impossible for our Arab-world allies (and endangering our own future in the process), al Qaeda is likely doing a giddy dance of joy at the latest ineptitude of the Bush administration. Our policies are strengthening the arguments al Qaeda is trying to make, and thereby increasing their power over the region's historical narrative and understanding of international relations - we are helping them define the world in a way that makes us look like a threatening enemy, and makes them a protector of a culture and society under attack .

Key elements such as: the idea of equating Israel and America as partners in the Zionist-Crusader Alliance against Islam; the idea that the West does not value Muslim lives; the idea that the West will never allow Islamist parties to win democratic elections; the idea that Islam and the West are locked in an eternal struggle which can only be decided by power rather than by dialogue or diplomacy, and that peaceful co-existence is impossible. I'd reckon that such ideas look a lot more common-sensical today than they did a month ago across the Arab and Muslim worlds ... Just as Iraq served al-Qaeda's strategy by supplying an endless stream of images of "heroic mujahideen" fighting against "brutal Americans" - and became less useful as images of dead Iraqi civilians began to complicate the picture - the Lebanon war offers an unending supply of images and actions which powerfully support al-Qaeda's narrative and world-view ... The unilateral use of force, particularly when it resonates so intensely with the narrative frame you are trying to discredit, simply doesn't help in this real war of ideas. The war on terror is a strong reason that the United States should have acted to contain the crisis rather than giving Israel a free hand, not a reason for it to support the war's continuation.

In light of the massive death toll in Qana (to clarify, this year's massive death toll in Qana), Jonathan makes some good Realist points about wars being a policy in the service of political ends - and how this war is being very poorly fought, given its broader purpose. He sees Hezbollah gaining power, not losing power.

... dozens of people died for nothing - in fact, for worse than nothing - in a way that was entirely predictable. The attack that killed them may or may not have been a legal use of force, but it was unquestionably a stupid use of force.

And much as Marc Lynch is worried about the US-supported Israeli actions killing off moderates and liberalizing influences in the region, Juan Cole is noting a growing darkness in Grand Ayatollah Sistani's comments on the fighting - comments that could portend extremely serious consequences in Iraq in the future.

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July 30, 2006

Yet More Secrecy.

Does anyone remember the debates about the numbers of "Level 1" versus "Level 2" Iraqi battalions? You remember, a "Level 1" battalion can stand and fight without US assistance, while a "Level 2" could fight with US support (logistics, air, etc.), while a "Level 3" couldn't fight without active US support in the firefight itself, and "Level 4" wasn't even capable.

Have you seen any recent reports of how many "Level 1"s there are? No, me neither.

Via The Cunning Realist is this six-week-old story I missed:

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has stopped releasing its assessment of the number of Iraqi army units deemed capable of battling insurgents without U.S. military help.

U.S. officials had been releasing a tally every three months of Iraqi military units that were sufficiently trained to operate by themselves, without the aid of U.S. firepower, logistics or transportation.

The decision to stop making the information public came after reports showed a steady decline in the number of qualified Iraqi units. That number now is classified, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Victor Renuart, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Yup, they classified it. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked or upset, but I'm running out of indifference to the way this democracy is being treated by the administration.

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I have work to do, and I just don't feel like it. Anyone want to subcontract on a dissertation prospectus?

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Bush Administration Takes Another Step to Destroy Citizenship, Constitution

No really. Bush administration asks for US citizens to be denied citizenship rights.

U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.

I suppose because they aren't real citizens because they are suspected of terror ties. Got that? Suspected of terror ties. Not proven to have, convicted, caught red-handed knitting Osama a sweater.

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What an asshole a whiner

They're so mean! They keep picking on me!

Presidential adviser Karl Rove said Saturday that journalists often criticize political professionals because they want to draw attention away from the "corrosive role" their own coverage plays in politics and government.

"Some decry the professional role of politics. They would like to see it disappear," Rove told graduating students at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. "Some argue political professionals are ruining American politics -- trapping candidates in daily competition for the news cycle instead of long-term strategic thinking in the best interest of the country."

But Rove turned that criticism on journalists.

"It's odd to me that most of these critics are journalists and columnists," he said. "Perhaps they don't like sharing the field of play. Perhaps they want to draw attention away from the corrosive role their coverage has played focusing attention on process and not substance."

Well, maybe that's because this is a democratic system we live under, and in a democratic system, process matters.

Way to go GW.

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The Australians in 2003 - Limiting the US Attack in Iraq

I found this story off a link on Juan Cole's site - does anyone know about this? It's the first I'd heard of the practice.

In one instance, Major General McNarn vetoed a US plan to drop a range of huge non-precision bombs on Baghdad, causing one angry US Air Force general to call the Australian a "pencil dick".

However, US military command accepted Major General McNarn's objection and the US plans were scrapped ...

As coalition forces prepared plans to take Baghdad, Major General McNarn vetoed three of five proposed US Air Force weapon systems - mostly huge bombs - on the grounds that they were not accurate for a radius of less than 16m and, as a result, were unsuitable for use in a built-up area.

On one occasion, Australia, along with fellow coalition partner Britain, successfully whittled down a list of proposed individuals the US considered legitimate targets.

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Bernardini Takes the Jim Dandy

The 2006 Preakness is probably best remembered for Barbaro's injury - but that race also featured a big win by Bernardini, a son of A.P. Indy. Bernardini raced for the first time since the Preakness yesterday, in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, and he posted another big win. It makes one all the sadder about what happened to Barbaro. If we were looking forward to a fall of races between that colt and the extremely impressive Bernardini horse racing could feature more of the kinds of feature stories and competition that many suggest is necessary for more attention to return to the sport.

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The British Cabinet Strikes the Bush/Blair Tweedleedum/Tweedledee Routine

Mr Blair said he would carry on backing Mr Bush to the hilt. "I will never apologise for Britain being a strong ally of the United States," he told the BBC.

Ummmm, ok Mr. Prime Minister - but if you are losing David Miliband you are in some very serious trouble at home, and that Jack Straw would criticize you so bluntly while you are on a trip to the US ... maybe you won't last another year in power after all.

Mr Straw's public views are shared privately by other senior Cabinet figures, with the row fast becoming the most serious rift between No10 and the rest of the Cabinet since Labour came to power.
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July 29, 2006

No joking this time

I love to joke about Hugo Chavez. "Oh those wacky commies! They say the funniest things!" But I don't buy it, and it's generally a laugh or wince kind of situation as he tries to stick his finger in the eye of the US.

Now Hugo is doing some wince only stuff.

During his visit, Chavez was to inaugurate the new Venezuelan embassy in Tehran and meet Iranian business leaders. He was also to tour Iran-Khodro, Iran's giant public sector automobile manufacturer. The leaders and top officials were expected to sign memorandums of understanding in various fields.

Iranian state television reported that Chavez was also to meet Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"We do not have any limitation in cooperation," Ahmedinejad was quoted as saying. "Iran and Venezuela are next to each other and supporters of each other. Chavez is a source of a progressive and revolutionary current in South America and his stance in restricting imperialism is tangible."

Progressive and revolutionary. Uh-huh. That's why all the visits with old school authoritarians?

Posted by binky at 06:58 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Whither Morality?

This speculative dribble isn't only amoral and outrageous. It's also just plain stupid, and shows an abysmal lack of understanding regarding the most basic tenets of counter-insurgency doctrine ... The fact that any of this passes for hifalutin' commentary, and indeed gets debated in NRO as being even close to the realm of seriousness is, it must be said, rather disturbing ...

Greg has written another great post. I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.

Are we now to stoop to the level of our worst enemies (it is the militias of Moktada al-Sadr, after all, who are slaughtering young Sunni males willy-nilly), pondering politely as if an interesting academic conundrum, with arguments ostensibly of equal merit on both sides, whether we should have fought the war in Iraq by exterminating hundreds of thousands of middle-aged male Sunnis? How then does this make us different than Saddam? How then does this make humanity different in the post-Auschwitz era? What have we learned? How then can we believe in progress, and decency, and history not doomed to cyclical savageries?

Mark Kleiman also takes up the repulsive John Podhoretz column (and isn't Podhoretz being a wee bit too cute, not putting a single declarative sentence in his whole column?), and it's the US is a weak surrender-monkey assumption:

Our civilization is not at risk. To think so reflects cowardice. To persuade others that we are at risk is to spread cowardice. Podhoretz's tough-guy persona hides either a man too terrified to think like a civilized human being or a man who hopes to terrify his fellow-citizens into supporting policies he favors for other reasons. He'd make a good teller of scary stories around a Boy Scout campfire. As a strategic thinker, he'd have to improve a lot to be contemptible.

The lightning-quick speed with which so many of those on the right seem ready to ditch our country's morals when it's convenient to certain desired political aims has always struck me as one of the oddest things that the national political dialgue sometimes seems to let them get away with since 1) it seems like they continually see the US as weak and imperiled (by as little as a couple of wrinkled grannies possibly exchanging wedding vows in some New England hamlet), not as an immense power that's a bright beacon of a better world and 2) it implies that our values and morals really aren't all that important to who we are as a people and we needn't practice what we preach (either, apparently ,for our own righteousness or the soft power that they often say it brings us).

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

Harry Potter - Naked!?!

Daniel Radcliffe will soon be starring in a new production of Peter Shaffer's famous Equus. Veteran actor Richard Griffiths, best known for playing Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon, and the man who won this year's Tony for his performance in The History Boys (the film adaptation of which is one of the most highly anticipated films coming out later this year), will be playing his psychiatrist.

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Bourdain in Beirut

Watching Beirut Die.

Hat tip to Feministe.

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War Games

Cheyenne Mountain is closing down:

The mountain, about 80 miles south of here on the Front Range, was carved out in the 1960's to house the early warning system for nuclear war, and its accouterments and image became the stuff of a whole generation's anxieties.

But those anxieties shifted after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's and even more after Sept. 11, and on Friday military officials in Colorado announced that Norad's day-to-day operations would be consolidated, for purposes of efficiency, in an ordinary building at Peterson Air Force Base in nearby Colorado Springs.

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July 28, 2006

What is it about this headline...

... that's just a little, I don't know, maybe, dehumanizing?

Las Vegas Makes It Illegal to Feed Homeless in Parks

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July 27, 2006

The More Things Don't Change

Remember how back in 2002 the Bush administration waited until a few days after Congress voted on the Iraq War resolution to bother to disclose the extent of North Korea's nuclear activity? Well, in 2006 they've gotten even less subtle. They waited all of HOURS after the US House voted on their (freakishly awful, please-tell-me-you-are-kidding) let's help India build a bigger nuclear program deal (yet more evidence that Bush, Rice and company really can't do diplomacy) to disclose that they'd decided to impose sanctions on 2 Indian firms for engaging in missile-related transactions with Iran.

Posted by armand at 05:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Does this mean Time.com will begin to use the term "ass-fucking"?

Ana Marie Cox is moving up in the big leagues.

Posted by binky at 04:05 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

I can't believe we're still doing this

Rooting out teh gay:

A decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist was dismissed from the U.S. Army under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, though he says he never told his superiors he was gay and his accuser was never identified.

Bleu Copas, 30, told The Associated Press he is gay, but said he was "outed" by a stream of anonymous e-mails to his superiors in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.


An eight-month Army investigation culminated in Copas' honorable discharge on Jan. 30 -- less than four years after he enlisted, he said, out of a post-Sept. 11 sense of duty to his country.


The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, established in 1993, prohibits the military from inquiring about the sex lives of service members, but requires discharges of those who openly acknowledge being gay.

The policy is becoming "a very effective weapon of vengeance in the armed forces" said Steve Ralls, a spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington-based watchdog organization that counseled Copas and is working to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."


Discharging and replacing them has cost the Pentagon nearly $369 million, according to the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Lt. Col. James Zellmer, Copas' commanding officer in the 313th military intelligence battalion, told the AP that "the evidence clearly indicated that Sgt. Copas had engaged in homosexual acts."

While investigators were never able to determine who the accuser was, "in the end, the nature and the volume of the evidence and Sgt. Copas's own sworn statement led me to discharge him," Zellmer said.

Military investigators wrote that Copas "engaged in at least three homosexual relationships, and is dealing with at least two jealous lovers, either of whom could be the anonymous source providing this information."

Shortly after Copas was appointed to the 82nd Airborne's highly visible All-American Chorus last May, the first e-mail came to the chorus director.

"The director brought everyone into the hallway and told us about this e-mail they had just received and blatantly asked, 'Which one of you are gay?'" Copas said.

Copas later complained to the director and his platoon sergeant, saying the questions violated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"They said they would watch it in the future," Copas said. "And they said, even specifically then, 'Well, you are not gay are you?' And I said, 'no.'"

The accuser, who signed his e-mails "John Smith" or "ftbraggman," pressed Copas' superiors to take action against him or "I will inform your entire battalion of the information that I gave you."

On Dec. 2, investigators formally interviewed Copas and asked if he understood the military's policy on homosexuals, if he had any close acquaintances who were gay, and if he was involved in community theater. He answered affirmatively.

Uh oh. Community theater. That's how the army is finding them! 'Cause all theater people are teh gay! And people with funny French names! Who sing!

This country has lost its fucking mind.

Via AmericaBlog.

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What Would Jesus Do?

He would use his fucking turn signal, that's what!*

Posted by binky at 02:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tom Friedman Learned All He Knows About Economics in 6th Grade

Or so it seems, because apparently he feels there is never any context of variation that matters when comes to matters of trade. You see "free trade" is good, not "free trade" is bad, and that's all you need to know - ever. And he's happy to write column after column on good "free trade" bills, even when he hasn't the foggiest idea what's in them.

I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.

OK, that's problematic on a number fronts, but perhaps - for Friedman - one would think it would be most problematic in terms of his employment contract. Does the Times know they have hired a guy who writes about topics he doesn't have the first clue about? If so, why exactly do they continue to employ him instead of someone who, oh I don't know, actually does a little journalism and investigates the topics of their columns? I think Ezra puts it well:

Friedman's comments should trigger a conversation with his editors in which being fired hangs as a distinct possibility: If Tom Friedman is indeed writing about legislation based on his gut reactions to words in their titles, he's probably not the sort of guy the New York Times wants to hand an op-ed page slot to. If he's just lying about the stratagem in order to prove how fully he's bought into the elite consensus on free trade, he should be given paid leave and sent to a psychologist until his self esteem is no longer so low that he's obsessed with being the most enthusiastic lemming in the line. In any case, this is a very stupid statement by someone who's career is predicated on the belief that he's not a very stupid man.
Posted by armand at 12:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Your Thursday YouTube

Courtesy of Stylus - their top 100 videos of all time! That should keep you busy.

This is a surprisingly cool list in that it includes an unusually large variety of music (Judas Priest to Snoop Dogg to Britney to Johnny Cash to Duran Duran to Lisa Loeb to Busta Rhymes etc etc etc), it features great songs with odd videos (Hounds of Love, which maybe shouldn't be on here but I love that song, Move Your Feet, True Faith), great videos for not-so-great songs (Closer), stuff you love, stuff you couldn't possibly miss given the level at which it dominated the music video stations in years gone by (November Rain, Wicked Games, Wild Wild Life, Virtual Insanity, and many more), classics of the 80's (Take on Me, Don't You Want Me, Girls on Film), more modern classics (Heart-Shaped Box, Fell in Love With a Girl), and things you never thought you'd see on a list like this, but that make a certain kind of sense (This is Hardcore, even Popular).

Anyway, there's lots and lots worth watching there if you want to take a break from your day.

Posted by armand at 09:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

This Doctor Should be Fired

This one right here, should be fired for incompetence:

"This is an issue I've struggled with for years," Gish said. "My current feeling is life begins at conception, and I feel that anything that interferes with that" causes an abortion.

Why incompetence? Because clearly he doesn't understand the reproductive cycle, or the difference between ejaculation, fertilization and conception.

Sperm can live in the body for several days before even meeting the egg, and are not even capable of fertilizing an egg for several hours after ejaculation. Once the sperm reaches the egg (which has about 24 hours of viability), then it takes repeated assaults by multiple sperm to fertilize the egg, which occurs over the 24 hours of the egg's viability.

Short version? Even if the doctor "feels" that life begins at conception? That rape victim at the hospital hasn't had time to conceive. The EC will prevent her from ovulating, thus preventing conception.

And let's just imagine that the doctor is not simply incompetent through ignorance of his job. In that case he's deluded or a bald-faced liar, which makes him and his employer actively negligent.

Negligence. Now that's a word that hospital administrators like to hear. Combine it with callous indifference, and I'll bet that would get their attention.

Via BitchPhD. And yes, I thought the article did a poor job of identifying which doctor was whom.

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

July 26, 2006

Was it [hushed pause] the blog?

The Chronicle of Higher education, in a response to the decision not to hire Juan Cole at Yale, has a series of articles (look in the right sidebar) about blogging and its impact on academic careers. Michael Berube has a roundup and some reflections in the usual fine style. He also has links, my favorite of which is this one:

This evening, while on a break from executing Anne Boleyn, it occurred to me that we could save future writers for the CoHE considerable time and effort by supplying an easy-to-follow guide.  For example:

1.  I am
___ writing under a clever pseudonym
___ writing under an uninspired pseudonym
___ using my own name

2.  At present, I am
___ tenured, unfortunately, at a wonderful college
___ tenured, unfortunately, at the campus from hell
___ tenured, unfortunately, at an institution that fails to appreciate my scintillating qualities
___ untenured, unfortunately, at a wonderful college
___ untenured, unfortunately, at the campus from hell
___ untenured, unfortunately, at an institution that fails to appreciate my scintillating qualities
___ a much put-upon administrator
___ a recently-fired (without cause!) administrator

3.  I'm terribly, terribly unhappy, because
___ I thought life after tenure would be bliss, and it's just the same-old, same-old
___ my colleagues fail to appreciate my scintillating qualities
___ there's a poststructuralist/Marxist/cultural materialist/New Historicist/Lacanian/ deconstructionist/other in my department
___ there isn't a poststructuralist/Marxist/cultural materialist/New Historicist/Lacanian/ deconstructionist/other in my department
___ there are politics! in academia!
___ if I had been born fifty years ago, there would have been no politics! in academia!
___ if I had been born fifty years ago, there would have been my kind of politics! in academia!
___ academic work isn't all about Twoo Wuv for your subject
___ people are so mean to me
___ students don't appreciate all the effort I put into teaching them

Talk about inside baseball. Check out the whole thing.

Posted by binky at 01:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Israel, Turkey and US Double Standards

So the president isn't raising a word of concern while the Israelis kill hundreds of Lebanese civilians in response to a few dozen Israelis being killed by Hezbollah troops based in Lebanon. He urges strong action to deal with the Lebanese wrong-doers, even if it leads to a huge slaughter of innocents. Apparently he thinks that's the only way to stop the terrorists. So is the lesson here that states should have a free hand to launch massive attacks aimed at terrorists who lurk just across an international border, if said terrorists are assaulting the people and personnel of that state? Well, no apparently not - or at least he doesn't think that the Turks should be doing this in response to attacks on Turkish troops from Kurdish terrorists based in Iraq.

Posted by armand at 12:19 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

I am so hoping they have this running at Cuyahoga

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"Now you're Spazeboy, and I'm an asshole from the Lieberman campaign"

Looks like Lieberman got more than a kiss... he got campaign tactics!

That kind of stuff is stupid, bad press and contrary to the spirit of democracy. If the guy is so delicate he's going to get his fee-fees hurt by Jane Hamsher, how does he ever survive Washington DC?

Posted by binky at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What do you think Coburn would say if she had someone take her across the border so she could get married and have a baby?

Given that it's done without her parents' knowledge and is much more risky - from natural complications of pregnancy as well as inreased chances of abuse - than an abortion.

I wonder what Coburn thinks how he feels about that Ohio legislation that would prevent adult women from crossing state lines for abortion if it were passed.

A bill that would make it a crime to take a pregnant girl across state lines for an abortion without her parents' knowledge passed the Senate Tuesday, but vast differences with the House version stood between the measure and President Bush's desk.

The 65-34 vote gave the Senate's approval to the bill, which would make taking a pregnant girl to another state for the purposes of evading parental notification laws punishable by fines and up to a year in jail.

The girl and her parents would be exempt from prosecution, and the bill contains an exception for cases when there is a threat to the mother's life.


No one knows how many girls get abortions in this way, or who helps them. But Democrats say the policy would be dangerous to pregnant teens who have abusive or neglectful parents by discouraging other people from helping them.

"We're going to sacrifice a lot of girls' lives," said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, countered that opponents "want to strip the overwhelming majority of good parents their rightful role and responsibility because of the misbehavior of a few." He pointed out that the judicial bypass provision would help pregnant teens with abusive parents get around the law.

A last-minute deal by Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, would cut off the ability of men who impregnate their daughters from taking them out of state for abortions and from suing those who help get the procedure in other states.

During floor negotiations with Boxer, Ensign rejected a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, to protect from prosecution such confidants as grandparents, clergy and others to whom a girl might turn for help.

Another, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, would have encouraged the federal government to provide money for more sex education. That bill failed earlier in the day, 48-51.

"If we do nothing about teen pregnancy yet pass this punitive bill, then it proves that this (bill) is only a political charade and not a serious effort to combat the problem," Lautenberg said.

Abstinence is the best way to prevent teenage pregnancy, responded Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma.

"How many people really think it's in the best interest of young people to be sexually active outside of marriage? Does anything positive ever come from that?" Coburn asked.

What's next? A Fugitive Woman Act?

p.s. I should read before I blog. Two more views: Why Tom Coburn is the last person who should be governing women's lives and the fallacy of the state's rights argument.

Posted by binky at 09:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 25, 2006

Car Ribbons Are So Over?

So have we reached a point where car ribbons are now as silly and overdone as all those old lapel pins that came in a host of colors, each expressing support for a different cause? Whereas it wasn't long ago that they all said Support Our Troops, today I saw some saying, for example, Support a Cure for Diabetes and Support Strippers.

Posted by armand at 07:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Arrested for Looking Freaky

More stupid use of "security" by law enforcement to harass people who don't fit in.

Six friends spruced up in fake blood and tattered clothing were arrested in downtown Minneapolis on suspicion of toting "simulated weapons of mass destruction."

Police said the group were allegedly carrying bags with wires sticking out, making it look like a bomb, while meandering and dancing to music as part of a "zombie dance party" Saturday night.

"They were arrested for behavior that was suspicious and disturbing," said Lt. Gregory Reinhardt, a police spokesman. Police also said the group was uncooperative and intimidated people with their "ghoulish" makeup.

One group member said the "weapons" were actually backpacks modified to carry a homemade stereos and were jailed without reason. None of the six adults and one juvenile arrested have been charged.

"Given the circumstance of them being uncooperative ... why would you have those (bags) if not to intimidate people?" said Inspector Janee Harteau. "It's not a case of (police) overreacting."

Harteau also said police were on high alert because they'd gotten a bulletin about men who wear clown makeup while attacking and robbing people in other states.

Kate Kibby, one of those arrested, said previous zombie dance parties at the Mall of America and on light-rail trains have occurred without incident. Last fall, nearly 200 people took part in a "zombie pub crawl" in northeast Minneapolis.

Kibby said they were cooperative and followed the two officers to the station where they were questioned and eventually loaded into a van and booked into jail.

Yes people, you can be arrested for the clothes you wear.

Promotion of virtue and prevention of vice? Anyone? Anyone?

Via PZ Myers.

And, recall my other rants on the subject of mission creep... here, and here, among others.

Posted by binky at 06:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Letting the Days Go By

Posted by binky at 05:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The 1st Straw Poll in the Race to Succeed Annan

Who Will Be the Next UN Secretary-General? has posted the results of the first Security Council straw poll in the race to succeed Kofi Annan. The members of the Security Council voted on the four individuals who have been formally nominated by member states. South Korea's Ban and India's Tharoor did relatively well, and are viewed more favorably by Security Council members than the candidates from Sri Lanka and Thailand. But there is still a lot of time for other candidates to be nominated, and many observers think that Annan's successor will be someone who's not formally in the race yet. The next straw poll will be held in about a month.

Posted by armand at 02:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Did the Bush Administration Kill the Doha Trade Talks?

Everyone else seems to think so.

This is really pathetic, awful and destabilizing all roled up in one. Yet more big-government lovin'/corporate welfare (subsidies) from Team Bush (though yeah this version is kind of retro and whatnot with the beneficiaries including the likes of Big Cotton), this corporate welfare drives up prices for Americans when they buy a host of products, and it makes it impossible for 3rd world countries to compete in the one economic sector in which they have some advantages, which continues their slide into poverty and instability - which then forces us to spend money on national defense (and every so often humanitarian missions) to clean up the mess these subsidies have had a hand in creating. Can't some competent Republicans save this? It might be too late - and Bob Zoellick has left the administration, so he won't be coming to the rescue this time.

Posted by armand at 02:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nature and the NYT

I know that this is one more in a series of stories from the NYT about rich people and their lives (like the whole Ivy League women dropping out of the workforce "scare"), but I find the rooftop garden to be tremendously appealing. First, I admit that it resonates with me personally. One of the few downsides to living in Rio de Janeiro was that I was in a highrise with no access to gardening, aside from a few pots in the window or on the tiny balcony. I always longed to have a cobertura and be able to have arooftop farm. Second, there are demoonstrable benefits from rooftop gardens, from lowering runoff to improved cooling efficiency (less sun beating right on the roof) to better air quality. Third, with the recent popularity of urban gardening (a la Alice Waters or Bette Midler) there are community building aspects to rooftop gardens (not in this case, but...). The big downside is architectural... can it be done - particularly in retrofit situations - without wrecking the roof and making floods. I don't know. In the case that I win the lotto (which would be miraculous, since I don't play) I've had my eye on a small three story triangular building about a half mile from here. I've got it all planned out, with the ground floor being my pottery studio/classroom/gallery, the second floor for public home space (dining, living, guest rooms) and the top floor for private living (bedroom, spacious bath etc) plus access to the rooftop garden. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

On a less happy note, a recent study has shown high levels of mercury in songbirds. It was previously thought that the spread of mercury in birds was restricted to those that ate fish (which are full of the stuff from living in polluted streams) and that songbird declines were linked to habitat reduction (as well as suburban predators such as the neighborhood kitty cat). This new study shows a wider dissemination of mercury in birds that never eat fish and may implicate mercury in declining populations.

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

The Economist: "The Accidental War"

Does anyone else have a problem with the cover of this week's issue of The Economist? The cover story is "The Accidental War". Am I the only person who doesn't see much "accidental" in this war?

Posted by armand at 01:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Huntington, NATO and Lebanon

Why this is a scary combination. Go. Read.

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

Oh, that Hugo Chavez

Always good for the crazy sound bite:

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday he had forged a strategic alliance to stand up to U.S. imperialism with fellow maverick Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

"Our countries must keep their hands at the ready on the sword," Chavez, in ex-Soviet Belarus as part of a world tour, said on a visit to a military academy.

"After a day of intensive work, we have created a strategic alliance between our countries," he said, speaking through an interpreter. "It is absolutely vital to protect our homeland, to guard against internal and external threats."

"The jaws of imperialism and hegemonism have both us and Belarus in their grip."

Chavez did not give details about what the alliance would involve. He is a bitter critic of the United States and proclaims socialist ideals to unite South America against Washington's influence.

Lukashenko runs a Soviet-style command economy. Washington says he runs the last dictatorship in Europe. Belarus is subject to European Union and U.S. sanctions after Western observers accused him of rigging his own re-election in March.

Imperialism and hegemonism? Hugo's off his game. He usually does much better with the wacky jargon.

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July 24, 2006

Time on your hands?

You could dress up as Captain Jack Sparrow and be mocked.

HT A Socialite's Life.

Posted by binky at 06:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dershowitz's Kung Fu is Weak

Kung Fu Monkey tells a story about a bar, patriotism, and morality.

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

Pakistan Is Trying to Go REALLY Nuclear

This strikes me as a gigantic threat to global stability, the kind of thing that in times of a competent presidency you'd think we'd prioritize stopping. But given the presidency that we have, and the president's current plan to legitimize and perhaps even strengthen India's nuclear arsenal ... well, who knows what we will do in response. But I think it's nearing time to be very afraid, if you aren't already.

Posted by armand at 03:48 PM | Comments (49) | TrackBack

The Big Picture

I rented this, the directorial debut of Christopher Guest (aka: Corky St. Clair, Harlan Pepper, the 5th Baron Haden-Guest, Mr. Jamie Lee Curtis), given my love for his later works Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman. Simply put, this shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath with them. It's got an appealing and interesting cast - but the film's not all that inventive, funny or remotely interesting (ok, maybe the few moments with a scantily clad, big-haired Teri Hatcher; but if that's what you are looking for, the vastly underrated Soapdish is a better movie by leaps and bounds - though really Hatcher's not in either of those films very much).

I don't recommend it.

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

What is Karen Carter Waiting For?

Well her, or one of the Boissieres. I realize the filing deadline is not for a few weeks - but why isn't there a serious threat to Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-LA) in that race yet? C'mon - $90,000 in the freezer! This isn't about him being innocent or guilty, this about a city full of ambitious pols being oddly cautious about taking advantage of the kind of opening that only presents itself once in a very, very, very great while.

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

July 23, 2006

All in the name of national security

We create the conditions that allow the greedy and the power hungry to undermine democracy and enrich themselves on our dime.

An independent investigation has found that imprisoned former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham took advantage of secrecy and badgered congressional aides to help slip items into classified bills that would benefit him and his associates.

The finding comes from Michael Stern, an outside investigator hired by the House Intelligence Committee to look into how Cunningham was able to carry out the scheme. Stern is working with the committee to fix vulnerabilities in the way top-secret legislation is written, said congressional officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the committee still is being briefed on Stern's findings.

Cunningham's case has put a stark spotlight on the oversight of classified -- or "black" -- budgets. Unlike legislation dealing with social and economic issues, intelligence bills and parts of defense bills are written in private, in the name of national security.

What they need to do is keep digging, and not just take Cuningham as the sacrifice. Root it out.

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

Sunday Afternoon Newspaper Roundup

I read the Sunday papers so you don't have to:

Most Interesting Story: The US is reducing our military spending in Africa. Why is this interesting? Al Qaeda (short term) and raw materials (long term). Follow me here. The Republican party has long been against entangling the US in any more international organizations that "reduce our sovereignty"; this policy pre-dates (the most recent) President Bush (Pre-Bush that jocular fellow, Jesse Helms, was strongly opposed and tied the Senate up in knots over these issues). As a result of this, the US has failed to sign onto the International Criminal Court. The ICC is a global organization established by treaty in the mid 1990s (Clinton negotiated parts of the treaty). The purpose of the ICC is to try people for war crimes and genocides when their own states either choose not to or are unable to (failed states). The US (led by Republicans) failed to join because we feared our own troops would be prosecuted for war crimes by the ICC when the US invaded countries (as we do, every now and again). In other words, since the US uses force most often (by far) in the world, the eyes of the ICC would be focused on us frequently, and US soldiers (and politicians) would be at risk for prosecution by this international body. The solution the US proposed was to sign a large number of bilateral treaties with every state in the world whereby the US (and that particular state) would agree that both states wouldn't turn over citizens of the other state to the ICC if the ICC ordered an arrest. If the US signed one of these treaties with every other state that had signed onto the ICC, then the US could join the ICC (since our own citizens/soldiers would be more-or-less immune from prosecution, since they could never be turned over to the ICC). The US needed some sort of carrot/stick to encourage other states to sign these bilateral treaties with the US, and the route chosen back five or six years ago was withholding of military aid (direct money transfers and arms sales). If the states wouldn't sign these bilateral treaties, the US would cut off military aid; if they did sign, the US would continue aid.

Now we come to the NYT article: 9/11 happened, and we're in a global war on terror (or World War III, or World War IV, depending on who you talk to) now. Al Qaeda has been active in Somalia and several other African states, and as part of the Global War, the US would like to help these states fight that war. Except many of these states have signed on with the ICC, but have failed to sign the special-get-out-of-jail-free bilateral treaty with the US. Which means that the US cannot actually give them military aid. Oops. As a result, Al Qaeda grows stronger in these areas, and potentially could set up another base (a la Afghanistan in the late 1990s). In the battle between sovereignty and international terrorism, the US is more fearful of supposedly losing sovereignty than of being effective at fighting terrorism. For example, the US has suspended military aid to Kenya (where an Al Qaeda bomb blew up our embassy in the late 1990s), which is facing a rising Al Qaeda threat.

The other problem here is that another state is stepping up to fill in the gap left by the absence of the US: China. China has a huge appetite for natural resources (2nd largest economy in the world, and growing rapidly, and will need even more and more resources to sustain the growth). China doesn't give a shit about the ICC (totalitarian governments can usually manage to deny/stall/ignore/stonewall anything like the ICC), and is perfectly willing to lock in long-term contracts to secure resources. The longer the US ignores the rise of Chinese influence in Africa (especially Eastern Africa), the harder and harder it will be for the US to regain any influence there, in the long term.

As I said, a really, really interesting article about political trade-offs, unintended consequences, and just what the priorities are for US Foreign Policy. (The article is shorter than my explanation, so worth a read).

In the Washington Post, Thomas Ricks (their military analyst) previews his upcoming book "Fiasco" about how the US Army/Bush Administration completely screwed the pooch in reacting to the growing insurgency in Iraq in the summer of 2003 into late 2004. While previous books (Cobra II) have mostly discussed the political side of the failure, Ricks uses his connections into the Pentagon to discuss the Army's complete failure both to train soldiers and commanders for low-intensity/guerilla conflicts (a failure of foresight and doctrine) and to recognize the growing insurgency and respond with changes in doctrine and tactics on the ground in Iraq for a long period of time. It's easy to take shots at Bush's failure, but Ricks seems to be shooting at the entire Army establishment. This won't make him popular. I've read other books of his, and if you have an interest in this, it's well worth a read. I'm likely to assign the book to my insurgency/4th Generation Warfare class this semester.

Remember that whole debate over the estate/"death" tax? The bill removing the estate tax is stalled in Congress. Given that this President disdains the whole Constitutional-checks-and-balances thing, it should surprise no one that the IRS will fire about 45% of the tax lawyers working on estate tax issues. If you can't change the law, then if you reduce the number of people who can enforce it, it amounts to the same thing, right? (In Bush's defense, previous changes to the estate tax law have reduced the number of returns, thus reducing the workload of the staff.)

And in the "2nd Amendment Follies" section, see this WaPo article about a Maryland gun dealer who has racked up violations for 10 years over paperwork related to sold and missing firearms. The dealer has a total of 900 violations, was ranked 37th out of 80,000 gun dealers nationwide in terms of firearms linked to crimes committed, and in a 2003 audit couldn't find 28% (422 out of 1524) of the guns his paperwork said he had on premises. And they still didn't shut him down until 2004. And he's still selling guns (our beloved Congress passed a law that allows gun dealers to stay in business while they are appealing ATF decisions; in addition, the legislation allows dealers closed by the ATF to continue to sell whatever guns they have in their inventory until they are gone: this fellow still has 700 guns).

What is this fine gentleman's response to the litany of complaints?:

In two hour-long interviews at his store, Abrams repeatedly attacked ATF officials as deceitful sloths who want to put honest gun dealers out of business. "If they remove all the licensees," he said, "they don't have to worry about working anymore."

He said it is impossible not to make mistakes when filling out the nine forms required for the sale of a firearm, some of which have 37 sections. "And some of the forms are going to go missing," he said. "Forms fall behind the counter. Or maybe someone throws it away."

Abrams said "mathematics and logic tells you you're going to have to make errors." He added: "I just screwed up paperwork. . . . There is no crime here."

When asked how it is possible to lose track of hundreds of guns, Abrams responded angrily that law enforcement officials constantly lose firearms. "When the police are perfect," he said, "then you have the right to ask that question."

It should go without saying that Mr. Abrams is on the board of directors for the National Rifle Association. (No, really, he is.)

Posted by baltar at 01:56 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Cursed is the Peacemaker by John Boykin

If any of you are interested in a good, fast read on Lebanon during an Israeli invasion, and US/Israeli interactions during such an event, I recomend John Boykin's Cursed is the Peacemaker. It's primarily the tale of Phil Habib, when Habib was serving as President Reagan's envoy during the war in 1982, but it goes into a variety of other matters such as Lebanon's internal politics, internal White House politics, and, importantly, the degree to which conflicts in the region are very much international conflicts (true, this book's topic was during the Cold War, but the broader point still holds). It doesn't deal with Hezbollah much, as Hezbollah didn't really exist until the war. But a lot of what we see now, we saw then- a weak state (Lebanon), a powerful non-state actor (the PLO), regional states that don't like the non-state actor (to put it mildly), and crushing Israeli military force. Of course back then the US (or many if not all of its officials) was trying to stop the carnage, and the non-state actor wasn't indigenous, but I still thought it was an interesting and insightful read.

Oh, and it should be enlightening to all those who think US and Israeli interests naturally coincide - it's a clear reminder that the Israelis don't always see it that way, and are willing to endanger American lives to get that point across.

Posted by armand at 01:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Charles Whitman's Killing Spree

If for some reason you want to read a harrowing oral history of one of the worst mass murders in the country's history, one that's largely forgotten (quite oddly, given our country's taste for lurid crime stories), read this.

Trying to think about that horrible day in Austin what I find hardest to relate to is there was a time before SWAT teams and the like. I mean I know enough about public policy to know that it often takes a horrible disaster to break routines and provide for organizational change and resource commitments. But this was only 40 years ago - yet an entirely different era in some ways. Obviously changes in education, technology and communications mean that the world that existed in the decade before I was born was very different than the one we have today. But still ... well, this story is just one of those things that makes me realize the scope of the change.

Posted by armand at 11:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 22, 2006

Mini Update from the Garden

Just now I went out to pick some haricots verts, basil, oregano, thyme and parsley for dinner. I wasn't really gardening but I just can't help pulling a weed here, or lifting a leaf there. Just to look. And what did I spy, but three teeny tiny eensie weensie watermelons. One is about an inch in diameter, another about a half inch, and the third, barely a quarter inch in diameter. So adorable in their little pot.

baby watermelon

Posted by binky at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Inner Armand?

The results of this test are rather lengthy, but the details are unusually interesting and detaild, as these things go. And I think it hit me unusually well, but regular readers who know me can be the judge of that. Among my results:

You are an incredibly knowledgeable and intelligent resource and there is no doubt that your investigation and experimentation is more thorough, logical and precise than that of anyone else. Ever since you were a child you questioned those in authority, not explicitly trusting teachers or other leaders to really be qualified enough to deliver the instruction they were delivering. You were open to their thoughts, but quick to identify biases or knowledge gaps in those in authority positions.

In fact, skepticism is one of your defining traits. You don’t trust titular authority, appearances, beliefs, traditions, customs, reputation, degrees, or credentials awarded by any agency or school. This is not conspiracy thinking or suspicion of bad intent, but an honest impersonal belief that no one holds anyone or anything to the high, accurate, objective standard that you do. You will be the judge of someone’s competence and no prior ratings by anyone else will sway your impartial evaluation.

You define time by the event, rather than the reverse. You are certainly capable of making and keeping appointments by clock time, you excel at meeting deadlines, but in your mind you are living in a time interval based on a concept, activity or stage which you can clearly define. For you, a time period ends when a certain activity ceases, when a goal is reached, or when your attention naturally shifts rather than when a certain clock alignment occurs.

You are likely to ask superiors to explain how each assignment relates to the overall mission, and your enthusiasm is likely to dwindle if they cannot or do not explain the connection to your satisfaction. Your constant focus on the larger scheme makes you particularly effective and inspiring as a leader. You quickly brush aside prejudice, custom, convention and tradition for what works and produces results. Although you prefer individual study, you are comfortable giving orders because to you nothing is personal, each task clearly connects to the end goal and must therefore be completed by the most able, available person.

You are eloquent and gifted with language and particularly concerned with the proper definition and usage of individual words. For example, you are likely to notice the error if someone describes something as “very unique.” If something is “unique” then it is incomparable to anything else. It can therefore not be qualified with the word “very,” because that word is necessarily used for comparison. You economize with language, using the fewest words, each highly defined, to get a point across assuming that others will feel bored or insulted if you over-explain something.

You are prone to understatement. You will always err on the side of saying slightly too little, estimating slightly more problems or more cost in terms of time or money, slightly less exciting or beneficial results. This is done completely logically and you could go into more specific estimations if you thought the receiver would take such predictions logically, realistically and unemotionally.

Your special talent is understanding and optimizing complex theoretical systems. You can quickly explain how you personally fit into macro and micro social and economic machinery. It may take time for you to realize that the reason people seem so misguided and misdirected is that they are not capable of (or even interested in) seeing the big picture as objectively as you can.

You are objective and when your friends come to you they know they can count on you to deliver the blunt truth. Like a bullet to the forehead you deliver the facts without any emotion. You recover quickly, if flinching at all, when someone puts you down or criticizes you personally. You realize that either the critique was deserved and you intend to correct it, or the person delivering it was incorrectly biased or misinformed and therefore the criticism was inaccurate and inapplicable. When you criticize yourself it is usually merciless and totally out of proportion to the issue needing correction.

While your patience is limitless with your project and those honestly trying to understand a concept, you are known for your impatience with ignorance, incompetence, small talk, fake people, or too much time given to a small matter. You bring total involvement and attention to each moment in life.

You face each activity with self-improvement in mind. While others think of games, work, even social events as a mere passage of time, you engage each activity as an opportunity to further develop your mastery of the skills involved. For you, even relaxation is scheduled and done with a sense of duty to optimize the rejuvenating effects.

Plato said that the function of your type is to study nature and figure out ways to tame it. You are an intellectual and enjoy logical investigation and theory building. You are honored when someone asks you to explain the rationale behind your project, but often find the audience uninterested in nearly the level of detail with which you are capable of discussing.

You respect yourself to the degree that you act independent of the impositions of other people. You would never just “go with the flow.” Your mind is always in motion and every action you take is by conscious choice.

Your type becomes most obvious in traumatic, stressful situations. While the rest of the world goes insane, you are the one who remains calm and collected, mainly because you realize that this is the best mindset for understanding and resolving whatever issues are at hand.

You are a true utilitarian. Your hallmark is your nearly empty refrigerator, containing exactly enough food for your next food interval and nothing more.

You are the most independent of all personality types and really don’t feel the natural “need” for companionship and company that others feel. This can make it difficult for other people to get to know you.

Posted by armand at 07:42 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Technorati Lies

Having done survey research, and having supervised dissertations that used survey research, I have a soft spot for surveys. Not push-polling, mind you, but surveys, because I know some poor schlub is having the response rate waved in his or her face, and given "encouragement" to up the numbers. Yeah, I know. A sucker.

So when I saw this:


and I was just cruising around wasting time anyway, I thought, what the heck. Plus, there was the clever bit about a cash reward. Of course, seeing the cash reward made me a tad suspicious, but then again, if they offered a discount coupon to something I'd never use, I'd stll have done the survey.

Anyway, it asks questions about your website ownership and management, traffic etc. When asked about how many websites I owned, I clicked two, because I technically own two (this one, and bloodlesscoup.net) but I also have one on the university server (which I don't technically own), a blog on blogspot (don't ask...it's a family thing, but I don't own that either) and I run the website for a local community organization because I serve on its board of directors (I know, so civic minded, but I don't own that one either). Yet, I make decisions about content and technical matters for five websites, but they asked about ownership. So, fine, I look less "important" than I might be. Then come the questions about what you have on your site, and what you might want in the future.

Methinks I sense a sales pitch coming on. But hey, if there's a chance at a coupon or something? It did say "cash reward" didn't it?

So, I go through the whole thing for my "highest traffic site." Fine, whatever. It asks if I would be interested in adding features, such as a calendar, search tools or other doo-dahs. No, not interested. I finish it for bloodless, and it starts asking about my other site that I own. Do you have doo dahs on it? Do you want doo dahs on it? No, I don't and won't (because it's just parked to redirect here).

And, I wish I would have screen capped the message, which has now timed out and I can't use the back arrow to get it (I get redirected to the regular Technorati page, and if I try to click the survey button it says "It seems you have already finished this survey."), but it just popped up a message that said, essentially "you're not what we want." Period. No "I'm sorry," no "thank you very much we'll give you your cash reward for completing the survey" no nothing.

Am I really pissed about not getting a cash reward? Of course not. I don't get really pissed about much, especially not some faux survey sales pitch. It's just kind of shitty.

Posted by binky at 06:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Coal Bowl

Baltar thinks it sucks, but it's looking like the suckage is coming home to roost. How so?

It's only appropriate that we bring you this news on a Thursday, as that strikes us as the appropriate time for a a game between West Virginia and Marshall. The sentiment is a little bit different in the Mountain State where the Coal Bowl actually matters. Representatives for the schools and Big East conference are trying to find a television slot for the game, to no avail. Seems ESPN has decided there are other games on September 2nd that might draw a ton touch more interest.

Alas, this will not help us with the traffic situation.

Or the Thursday night games which prompt the university to ask that the instructors be accomodating on the following Fridays, by not offering things like tests to the poor tired darlings who were busy supporting the home team the night before.

Yeah, back in my day, games at the Swamp were on Saturdays, the way they were meant to be. And the stadium was open, so you could leave at half time and tune up. Not that I got to do that, because I was doing this. But hangovers took place on Sunday, as they were meant to be.

Posted by binky at 06:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The hard, cold - dare I say frozen - slap of reality

In the Is Sam Brownback an odious liar? thread, the discussion turned to the realities of IVF, and the survival rate of embryos necessary to a successful pregnancy.

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan describes why adopting the surplus is a bad idea, and how advocacy for "snowflake adoptions" [and is it just me, or is the whole "snowflake" name kind of skeevy?] is not only medically unsound, it's ideologically contaminated purely ideological. (emphasis mine)

The clinic chooses to implant the embryos that look the healthiest and asks the couple if they want to freeze the rest. The couple also has the option of having the remaining embryos destroyed, donated to other couples, or donated for embryonic stem-cell research.


Actually Snowflakes' estimate of 100,000 embryos is probably very low. Most experts think there are as many as 400,000 embryos frozen in storage in the United States. As of just over a year ago, the Snowflakes program had received about 750 of them and had matched 70 donor couples with 48 other couples seeking to have children. Sixteen babies had been born.


It's great that 16 babies were born last year through the Snowflakes program. That makes it seem as if 16 couples had children who might otherwise have not. But that is not really the case. Nearly all infertility clinics offer couples the option of donating their leftover embryos to other couples. All that Snowflakes has done is brought the rhetoric of adoption into the process.

You might also get the impression that Snowflakes is creating an opportunity for infertile couples to access the 100,000 to 400,000 frozen embryos out there. But that is not really the case either. If you are infertile and are trying to have a baby, your best bet is not to use a frozen embryo made by a couple who had themselves been going through infertility treatment and whose embryos were not used because they did not look healthy enough.

Despite Snowflakes' rhetoric, most frozen embryos are not healthy enough to ever become babies. The chance they will grow to full term is about one in 10 for those frozen less than five years, and even less for those that have been frozen longer. This is why so few couples have taken Snowflakes up on its idea of "adopting" frozen embryos.

Moreover, using terms like "adoption" encourages people to believe that frozen embryos are the equivalent of children. But they are not the same. In fact, infertile couples who want children can frequently make embryos but they cannot make embryos that become fetuses or babies.

The older a woman gets, the less likely her embryos are to become babies. For women over 45, the chance of her embryo becoming a baby is almost zero. The inability to make embryos that become babies is why couples turn to donor eggs or donor sperm. Almost no one who is going to spend $10,000 per try to use IVF is going to want to try it with another infertile couple's frozen embryo whose chances of properly developing grow less with every year it is frozen.

The Bush administration and Congress know all these facts, but have nevertheless poured more than $1 million of taxpayer money into the Snowflakes program and others aimed at facilitating "embryo adoption."

This is a nice way to score points with those who advocate the view that embryos are actual babies and should not be used for research purposes. But it is not the best way to help couples who want to have actual babies.

One million dollars would be far better spent matching fertile couples willing to make embryos with infertile couples, rather than trying to get them to use unhealthy frozen ones.


But when the money is spent on programs like Snowflakes, the only explanation is ideology not medicine.

Via No Blood for Hubris.

UPDATE: A fantastic three part post at the Mahablog: Part I, Part II, Part III.

Posted by binky at 03:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NV and SC Leap Up in the 2008 Election Calendar

The DNC finally got around to doing what I figured they'd do as soon as I heard they'd pick one new (likely Western) state for a caucus right after Iowa, and one new (likely Southern) state for a primary days after New Hampshire's - they overwhelmingly chose Nevada and South Carolina to fill those slots. Nevada was likely selected due to heavy support from labor and Harry Reid, though that was certainly buttressed by it's growing Latino population and the fact that it's a "purple" state. In the last 4 presidential elections less than 4% of the vote has separated the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees - and it's gone with the winner in all four of those races. So the calendar will be: Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina.

Losers in all this? Arizona, Alabama, and perhaps the presidential campaign of Mark Warner. Mame Reiley, Warner's political guru, spoke in favor of Arizona getting the caucus slot, not Nevada.

UPDATE: Oh, and obviously this could possibly help the John Edwards campaign, since he won South Carolina in 2004. And given Harold Ickes's comments, one might assume that various Clinton allies aren't too pleased about that. Actually, given the look of the Edwards campaign so far, he could do very well in both South Carolina and Nevada.

Posted by armand at 02:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The UK Calls Out the US Over Israeli Attacks

Tony Blair stands doesn't disagree with his minister's comments criticizing Israel, and implicitly criticizing the US for not doing more to bring an end to the conflict

"I very much hope that the Americans understand what's happening to Lebanon. The destruction of the infrastructure, the death of so many children and so many people. These have not been surgical strikes. And it's very very difficult I think to understand the kind of military tactics that have been used. You know, if they're chasing Hezbollah, then go for Hezbollah. You don't go for the entire Lebanese nation."
Posted by armand at 01:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Condi Fiddles While Lebanon Burns

"What I won't do is go to some place and try to get a cease-fire that I know isn't going to last," she said.

OK, so how about going to a war zone where innocent lives are being snuffed out every day and trying to get a cease-fire you think will last?

"I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling, and it wouldn't have been clear what I was shuttling to do," she said.

It's not? Really? Well,who's fault is that? If you lack clear goals, I think that's your fault Secretry Rice - or that of your war lovin' "born again" boss.

All in all, this is just pathetic. We're showing less leadership in the region than we have in decades, we are (gradually) getting thousands of endangered Americans out of a war zone at a snails pace, and Secretary Rice doesn't want to be bothered to engage in any type of diplomacy that isn't assured of ending with a heels-clicking escape to a dreamland that probably can't come into existence at all - but that surely can't come into existence (even if it could) without greater US leadership and diplomacy on this matter. Oh, and be sure to check out the pictures.

Posted by armand at 10:41 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

A Good Iraq Post, and Some Inside Baseball for IR Geeks

Duck of Minerva has a retrospective on the buildup and execution of the Iraq War (2003 - 200?):

The overall assumption evident throughout the political appointees of the Administration (and among Neo-con talking heads) was that inside each little Iraqi was an American just waiting to get out. The head of Iraq may have been poisoned by Saddam, but the body was healthy, and if we cut off the head, the body would simply grow a new one more to our liking. But, people are not born as rational economic actors with well-ordered preferences that naturally emerge in a free market--be it political or economic. The free market (both politically and economically) that the neocons (including Cheney and Bremmer) sought to create in Iraq may have been possible to creat, but it could not and would not exist prima-facie in a post-Saddam environment. Indeed, as my colleagues here are quite adept at explaining, the rules of markets are social constructs, and must continually be reinforced through a social process of legitimation.

Perhaps if Bush had a few Constructivists on his NSC, things might have gone a bit better.

(a momentary pause while you stop laughing at the insanity of that last statement)

(The constructivism stuff is the inside baseball. Trust me, the idea of Bush's NSC having any sort of constructivist is genuinely funny).

The whole post is worth a quick read. The point highlighted above is worth reiterating: markets may evolve naturally, but they won't necessarily be markets that US citizens might recognize. Setting a large group of oppressed people free does not immediately translate into efficient markets. This should have been obvious to anyone. That it wasn't obvious to the entire foreign policy decision-making structure of the US Government is both staggering and a disgrace.

Posted by baltar at 11:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Why Is David Broder Still Employed?

I ask that question in all seriousness. The man's pen drips with little but ancient cliches (referring to a world that's rarely existed beyond the confines of his dull, moderate imagination) and a love for civil political discourse that obscures the damage that certain policies are doing to this country - because he spends so much time whining, not about the policy, but about the messiness or meanness of the surrounding debate.

This chat comment illustrates his real concerns:

Seattle, Wash.: "Distorts the positions of both parties"? I think the poster meant the practical aspect of a massive tax burden on the middle class, while their Social Security and Medicare reserves are siphoned away to pay for no-bid contracts for billionaires and multi-millionaires who have an effective tax rate of around 8 percent. That sure sounds like a class war against America by the GOP to me. Doesn't it matter what the practical impacts are, instead of the lying words?

David S. Broder: You make the rational case against President Bush's economic policies. What I objected to in the earlier posting was the ascribing of motives of the worst sort to both Republicans and Democrats. That is what poisons political debate. Your arguments are perfectly phrased, and ought to be at the heart of the coming campaign.

He's forever commenting on the quality of the dialogue (according to his own personal rating system) and prioritizing that over the nature of the politics that actually affects us all. Which would be bad enough if he weren't more easily offended than an antebellum Southern dame, but he appears to be just that easily offended. And of course he never wants to consider for even a moment that anyone would actually have a hidden agenda, or believe something other than what they say.

Basically, he's boring, clueless and a tiresomely ordinary social arbiter - and if that's all he's got to offer (and just read through that chat for more of the same - if you can stomach it), he should have outlasted his welcome at one of the country's leading papers. Why is he still employed?

Oh, one more thing - I don't know what to say about this (look below). I lack the words to describe how insipid it is. It's in some netherworld of helplessness and low expectations that's far beyond insipid. But to that Broder would likely simply respond that I'm just being mean - and fail to defend his painfully inadequate "analysis".

Anonymous: In your July 13 column, you listed seven foreign policy crises and then declared "Bush is largely blameless for all these troubles." A cloud of witnesses testify to the contrary, especially where Iran and North Korea are concerned. Do you actually believe that Bush's mulish refusal to engage in anything resembling diplomacy with these nations has not come back to haunt us?

David S. Broder: Iran and North Korea were both causing big problems for the United States and its allies before our President Bush came to office. Of course, one can question his diplomacy in both instances, but these regimes were troublemakers independently of anything he has done.

Posted by armand at 03:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Joy of Headlines


Posted by binky at 02:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mahmoud Al-Zheimers

The War on Terrorble Diseases.

Posted by binky at 01:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where is the headline?

You know, the one that describes the look on Al Green's face as a smile?

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

And while I think the correlation is real in the long term...

...I think the results of this study are likely overgeneralized. The word of a 'tween on how they will act in regard to sex? Puh-lease:

After participating in a two-week sexual education program designed and implemented by an academic medical center, more middle-school students said they would hold off on having sex for the first time, Texas researchers report.

I'd have to see a longer term panel study to accept that the teens can adequately predict their behavior. The good news is, of course, that if they choose not to delay, then at least they will have accurate information about contraception, STDs, and reproductive health.

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

I hear thunder...

...and it's getting dark. Cross your fingers that this means rain to both break the heat and give my poor thirsty garden some relief (and replenish the rain barrel).

Posted by binky at 01:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Judge Gorsuch of the 10th Circuit Confirmed Without a Fuss

Look, maybe this guy will be a spectacular judge - but if you need evidence that Democrats aren't stalling the vast majority of President Bush's (oftn very conservative) appointees to the federal bench, I give you the case of Neil Gorsuch. He's 38 (so yes, he could be on this Court for quite a few decades to come). He's an official in the Gonzalez-run Justice Department. And he wrote an article title "Liberals 'n Lawsuits" that was published in the National Review just last year. Oh, and his nomination "wasn't deemed controversial", and he sailed through the Senate on a voice vote. And like I said, he might end up being a good judge. But if not a single Democrat objects to someone with that resume, it would seem to illustrate that the Democrats are only blocking the scariest handful of nominees - like Defense Department Counsel William Haynes. Keep that in mind the next time you hear all that silly rhetoric about Democratic obstrictionists.

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

The Race for the US House in Light of 2nd Quarter Money

Barring some change in the dynamics of the races in Arizona and Virginia, I don't see how the Democrats can win control of the US Senate in this election cycle. But the US House looks very much up for grabs. Democrats have been doing a strikingly good job at fundraising, much better than usual, particularly when it comes to funding challengers to incumbents. They "dominate the list of the best-financed challengers". And that's having very clear effects, creating possibilities for victory in districts where Democrats haven't been competitive for years. The result - in this week's rankings of US House races, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post writes that 16 of the 17 districts most likely to flip this November are currently held by Republicans (the lone exception being Leonard Boswell's district in Iowa which he ranks as the 12th most endangered in the country). Presuming no one switches parties, the Democrats need to pick up 15 seats to win control of the House.

Posted by armand at 09:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

The Funships and Warships of Beirut

It's a complicated place with many possibilities, but I still never expected to see this sentence, not even there: "There are so many warships and cruiseliners in the sea in front of Beirut that it looks like a cross between the Battle of Midway and Aruba."

Posted by armand at 08:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Are We Buying A Big Cross in San Diego?

Oy vey - the US House is working hard of late, doing their best to keep the American Taliban happy.

In a different post Steve Benen notes that the president, talking to the NAACP, was again extolling the virtues of ending the estate tax. Because you know while there are literally millions of African-Americans living in poverty, there are also literally dozens of rich black people who have to endure this awful burden that comes with immense wealth. And those extremely rich people, like "successful owner" Bob Johnson, would like to have their taxes cut. And we know that the president and vice president have an especially strong affinity with multi-millionaires who want their taxes cut.

Posted by armand at 08:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I feel remorse for all the recent video wars, and the flaunting of garbage. A token YouTube offering of penitence:

Great song, fun album, crap video.

Great song, cool video, classic collaboration.

Great song, great album, beautifully produced video.

Good song, great concept album, crap video.

Posted by binky at 05:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Can you be a romantic academic?

Can you remember why?

It makes me sad to think how little those motives will be acknowledged if they go on to graduate school. They will probably go for the wrong reasons: to continue their experience as undergraduates. They are romantics who must suddenly become realpolitikers. Maybe that's why most drop out before they complete their doctorates. Those who stay have political commitments (and probably come from undergraduate programs where those commitments are encouraged early), or they develop them as graduate students, or they feign or exaggerate them to get through.

For me, it's strange and wonderful, after receiving tenure, to be able to rediscover my undergraduate self, to nurture in my students the motives that drew me to graduate school in the first place.

The problem is you can't get to where I am now without going through a decade or more of immersion in a highly politicized and anti-literary academic culture. You have to spend so many years conforming that, by the time freedom presents itself, you don't know why you became an English major in the first place. You might even have contempt for your seemingly naïve students, who represent the self that you had to repress in order to be a professional.

It is not that I want to privilege some form of literary dilettantism as a substitute for professionalism. I simply want to demonstrate that the reasons most people get into English are different from the motives that will make them successful in graduate school and in professional life beyond that. They must, ultimately, purge themselves of the romantic motives that drew them to English in the first place - or pretend to do so. If you want to be a literary professional, you must say goodbye to Mr. Keating.

You may be teaching English, but in many academic positions (and certainly in the mainstream of academic publishing), you'll have to fulfill your emotional life in other ways, probably in secret, the way some people sing along with Barry Manilow in their cars.

Or, by the time you get there, if you get there, can you remember how?

Via Dan Drezner.

Posted by binky at 03:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Response to a Post about a Post

A few days ago, I posted about Ugly Gender Politics in Academia, and the case of some MIT faculty using the alleged behavior of a senior scholar during the hiring process to publicly air their intradepartmental dirty laundry. Normal academic ugliness until the naming of the potential hire, who through no choice of her own, now has her name associated with the intradepartmental squabble, and gender politics.

Pinko Punko does a solid point-by-point walk through of the situation, but, I think, makes a misstatement about some of others who have posted on the dust-up. Namely me.

UPDATE: This issue is mentioned by Gilliard here, and others here and here. I view the assumptions of these bloggers to pile on with no evidence a little disturbing, but I think Gilliard is close to the point in a way, as I will discuss below.

Originally I was going to post as a comment over there, but the discussion has died down, so I thought I'd just post it here instead. The short version is that the article provided plenty of evidence of ugliness (taking an internal fight public) and gender politics (the kinds of accusations levelled at the senior scholar in the cited portions of the letter). In addition, my reflections about the article are mostly about my own experiences of ugly academic politics. So, here is my response.

You say "the assumptions of these bloggers to pile on with no evidence a little disturbing."

Does this mean that you don't view the actions of the letter writers as being part of ugly gender politics? Looks like plenty of evidence to me. And mostly I was commenting on my own observations of ugly intra-departmental politics (gendered or not) anyway.

To the question at hand...

The potential hire isn't really involved in the shouting, and can't be, but the background action (the intra-departmental stuff) as reported certainly is ugly and gendered. Others are using her name and gender in what, given my years in academia, I would guess is a long simmering internal conflict. As I pointed out, this to me is the "red flag" of ugly intradepartmental politics, which is as or more important than an allegedly singular, hostile senior scholar. The worst thing about it is, as a hire, unless the hiring process has been tainted in a provable way (e.g. "we don't hire preggos"), the candidate has no recourse. And given the secrecy of the academic hiring process, and the taboo of talking, anything she does only reflects badly on her, even though she had nothing to do with the ugliness or the gender politics (from what we can glean in the news article). The candidate only had the misfortune to interview somewhere with a lot of internal divisions, and colleagues who feel it's OK to drag a potential hire into their fights.

Likewise, the politics behind hiring "new threats" to old power isn't necessarily a gendered game, as I also mentioned. Especially in fractious departments, the "old bulls" want to hire people that they think will form part of their power group (leaving aside for a moment the insignificance of faculty power) or block those that won't help their cabal. Often these group divisions are by or reinforced by subfield, cliques, etc. Were the comments atrributed to the senior scholar true, they wouldn't be surprising if the candidate would have a) not been useful to enhancing his group's reputation and b) actually given visibility/praise to his opponents (who, of course, are trying to make hay out of the situation, even without the successful hire).

The ugliest thing of all is that these supposed colleagues seem to have no problem with attaching an ugly dust-up to the name of a promising young scholar, something of which all the participants should be ashamed. And all the candidate can do is ignore it, because otherwise she's forever associated with something that should never have touched her name in the first place. Few get the chance to weigh in when their personal academic business gets attached to larger fights and picked up in the media.

And on a final note, have been both the candidate and on the hiring committee multiple times, it is amazing how frequently ugliness and gender politics still rear their heads in hiring decisions. I have been told, while ona job interview, that another member of the hiring committee (not present, of course) was a drunk. I have had members of hiring committees try to suss out whether I was the suing type, in case the sexist pig of the department did or said something inappropriate during our individual meeting during the interview process. And those are some of the stories I'll repeat.

In sum, it's hard for academic politics not to be ugly. The turf is so small! And for women in science gender politics are on the front (bunsen) burner.

A small p.s. on women in science. The new Carnival of the Feminists is out, and through it, I found Science + Professor + Woman = Me. Check it out.

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

Materazzi Banned and Fined for Insulting Zidane?

Oh puh-leeze, you have GOT to be kidding me. Trash talking gets Materazzi banned for two games and fined over $2,000? What, Zidane can't possibly play amidst those mean, mean words? I'm disgusted by this penalty.

Posted by armand at 12:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sports Sidekicks

Today's edition of ESPN's Daily Quickie features a list of the supposed greatest sidekicks in the history of sports. Some of them are entirely predictable (Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan, John Stockton to Karl Malone, Fluff Cowan to Tiger Woods), but one less obvious name is the one I love most - Isiah Thomas, as sidekick to James Dolan. That one is both so right and so insulting (to a deserving target), how could I not love it?

Posted by armand at 12:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If only they were Christians, Pat Tillman's parents would be happy

Yeah, it is oh so arrogant, isn't it? I guess atheists also don't deserve a little hustle on the part of investigators to actually find out who shot them:

According to the Army officer who directed the first official inquiry, the Army might have more of a clue about the shooter's identity than it has let on. Asked whether ballistics work was done to identify who fired the fatal shots, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich told ESPN.com, "I think, yeah, they did. And I think they know [who fired]. But I never found out."


"You know what? I don't think it really matters," Kauzlarich said. "And the reason I say that — you got to look at the overall situation here that these guys were fighting in. And somebody hit him. So would you hold that guy [who] hit him responsible for hitting him, when everybody was shooting in that direction, given the situation? We'll see how the [Defense Department Inspector General's] investigation comes out. But I had no issue on not finding a specific person responsible for doing it."


"But there [have] been numerous unfortunate cases of fratricide, and the parents have basically said, 'OK, it was an unfortunate accident.' And they let it go. So this is — I don't know, these people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs."

In a transcript of his interview with Brig. Gen. Gary Jones during a November 2004 investigation, Kauzlarich said he'd learned Kevin Tillman, Pat's brother and fellow Army Ranger who was a part of the battle the night Pat Tillman died, objected to the presence of a chaplain and the saying of prayers during a repatriation ceremony in Germany before his brother's body was returned to the United States.

Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family's unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."

Asked by ESPN.com whether the Tillmans' religious beliefs are a factor in the ongoing investigation, Kauzlarich said, "I think so. There is not a whole lot of trust in the system or faith in the system [by the Tillmans]. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know."

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

Spying on US Citizens Who Protest the War

First it was Quakers, now, college students:

A federal Department of Homeland Security agent passed along information about student protests against military recruiters at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, landing the demonstrations on a database tracking foreign terrorism, according to government documents released Tuesday.

The documents were released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of student groups that protested against recruiters who visited their campuses in April 2005.

The students were angry when they turned up in the database of a Pentagon program called Threat and Local Observation Notice, or TALON, which the government started in 2003 as a way to collect data that could help stop terrorist attacks. Officials have acknowledged that the reports on protests should not have been included.

In the Santa Cruz and Berkeley reports, the source of information was listed as an agent for Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service. The reports were filed by the 902nd Military Intelligence Group, the Army's largest counterespionage unit.

"Oh gee, I guess we shouldn't have! We'll be more careful next time!" Riiight. An inch, a mile...

Spotted at AmericaBlog.

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

Our Iraqi Friends on Our Israeli Friends

Yeah, this is sort of dog bites man stuff - but the vehemence with which the Iraqi prime minister and some of the Shiite clergy are excoriating Israel's actions is kind of interesting.

Obviously our buddies who like Iran less than Iraq does (for example, Saudi Arabia) don't mind the attacks on Hezbollah.

Posted by armand at 09:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Comparing Iraq and Lebanon

Yesterday was the deadliest day yet in Lebanon since the recent fighting broke out, with 55 Lebanese killed. The instability in the region and the ability of reporters to travel there obviously makes it a big news story. But how bad is it? Actually, it's still vastly safer than Iraq. In fact Wed. in Lebanon would have been about an average day in Iraq in January - and the death tolls there have steadily increased since January. Actually they've soared since then - when Wed. in Lebanon was an ordinary day. According to the UN 1,778 civilians were killed in January in Iraq, 2,165 in February, 2,378 in March, 2,284 in April, 2,669 in May and 3,149 in June. So take Wed. in Lebanon, multiply it by two, and have that happen every day. every week, and continually get worse with every passing slaughter.

As much as they decry coverage of Iraq in the press, I think the Bush administration is very lucky that this comparison isn't being made - or that the scale of the bloodbath that's become Iraq seems to have become so expected and ordinary. Though I don't know if that's lucky for the people of Iraq.

Posted by armand at 08:53 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 19, 2006

Like Poseidon, Minus the Wave

The gigantic, brand-new Crown Princess had a wee bit of a mishap.

Holidaymakers clung on for dear life as their luxury cruiseship came close to capsizing, washing people out of the swimming pool "like a mini-tsunami" and scattering furniture overboard.

The freak roll sent passengers aboard the 113,000-ton Crown Princess flying off their sunloungers and smashed them against the railings. Stairwells and lift shafts became waterfalls as the ship’s four pools emptied over the 15 decks, which were left strewn with broken glass and blood.

I still want to go on a cruise at some point, but I think I'm going to avoid this ship - and maybe the whole line, just to be on the safe side.

Posted by armand at 04:08 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Dangers of Believing in "Hidden Hand" Foreign Policy

This post by William Arkin is rather interesting. You might want to read the whole thing.

In this version of the tale, Hamas and Hezbollah are reduced to almost unimportant dupes of Iran and Syria, Lebanon is just a victimized country, and Israel simply is defending itself. The United States and the international community are absolved of responsibility for diplomatic failures, because what the events are part of is a grand conspiracy on which no amount of intervention could have an impact.

Following the same thread, Iran and Syria could "stop" the fighting by snapping their fingers. Even if this is a false characterization, their failure to call off the militants confirms that the Bush administration's approach towards them as the only option. Unhelpful Iran and Syria are thus confirmed as rogue nations along a new axis of evil ...

... by assuming that Iran or Syria or China are all-powerful and thus evil for NOT taking action, we make two mistakes. First, we absolve ourselves -- the United States -- of responsibility for what unfolds in the world, suggesting in turn that we are neutered and that we should not hold our leaders accountable when conflict erupts.

Second though, we misread the dynamics of what happens in the halls of power, thus robbing ourselves of an understanding of the way the world works, and thus any say in the future.

Posted by armand at 03:07 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Bush the Decider, Obstructing the Justice Dept.

I think Steve Benen puts it best.

Stepping back, it's worth noting that Bush believes a) he can tap phones without a warrant; b) he doesn't need judicial oversight; c) he doesn't need to notify Congress; and d) he can personally shut down a legal review of the program at the Justice Department. If the cover-up is always worse than the crime, the president's decision to shut down this investigation is at least as big a deal as the warrantless searches themselves.

Indeed, it shifts the political debate in a way that the GOP may find unhelpful. For months, Republicans have seemed to relish this issue — they get to tout their defense of the so-called "terrorist surveillance program," while arguing that Dems care too much about the rule of law. But this revelation is a curveball. It's not about monitoring suspected bad guys; it's about the president interfering with a legal investigation.

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

Is Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) an Odious Liar?

Yes. Yes he is.

For a more humorous take on little Hannah's "chart" - even though I'm appalled and annoyed, this is sort of funny.

Posted by armand at 08:47 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 18, 2006

Dead Iraqis as a Sign of Progress

As Lawyers, Guns, and Money notes, some 3100 Iraqi civilians died in June alone.

Of course, this is either good news or bad news - depending on your ideological position. The Right Wing will argue that this result is good (from the LGM link, above):

1. Still better than Saddam (which is true, if you wildly inflate estimate of the death toll under Saddam).

2. It's the fault of Iran (these are the wingnuts who remain optimistic).

3. It's the fault of the Iraqis (these are the wingnuts who are ready to move on to "Exterminate the Bastards").

4. It's the fault of the Democrats, except Joe Lieberman (all wingnuts will hew to this one).

5. Lies. All lies.

6. It still compares favorably to living in Detroit/Washington DC/some other city.

7. The spike in the death numbers shows just how desperate the terrorist resistance has become, and is a measure of [how] close President Bush's strategy is to total victory.

8. Something something BILL CLINTON something.

9. Look! Over there! Two homos are fixin' to get married!

10. What are we still talking about Iraq? That's so last year. Now, about this mexicofascist reconquista...

11. You're ugly and your butt smells and you like to smell your own butt.

12. Someone said something outre in a comment section somewhere! WHY WON'T LIBERAL BLOGS TAKE A STAND ON THIS?!??

(Note: numbers six through twelve provided by a commenter at LGM)

I particularly like number nine.

All frivolity aside, how long do you think the Iraq will last as a contigious country given the level of violence seen there on a daily basis. I understand that the somewhat trivial direct ratio comparisons are useless, but if there are 300 million people in the US, and 25 million in Iraq, and Iraq is suffering 3000+ civilian deaths a month (that doesn't even count non-deadly injuries), if you do the conversion, that is 36,000 dead in America per month. The level of violence paralyzes the political decision-making, polarizes the armed forces/police (making them less effective), and generally drives all thoughts of political compromise out of the general populace (they retreat to either anger/rage and more violence, or self-preservation/survival, and disenage from the political process - in any event, they aren't working towards any sort of solution).

Iraq cannot sustain this level of violence for long periods of time. It will either collapse into complete anarchic civil war, or fracture into the Kurd/Sunni/Shiite states that many have advocated.

Posted by baltar at 11:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

An Evacuation to Rival Dunkirk

I'm often not much of a Tony Blair fan, but I'll approvingly note that the British government is going to the rescue of Britons stranded in Lebanon in grand style, sending the fleet flagship and five other warships to do the job.

When the Royal Navy warships arrive off Lebanon on Wednesday, they will be ready to mount the biggest evacuation of British citizens since the Second World War.

Although the Government has not yet decided to issue a “national evacuation order”, HMS Illustrious, the aircraft carrier, and HMS Bulwark, a new commando assault ship, have been sent to the Lebanese coast. They will use their helicopters and landing craft to take thousands of trapped British citizens off the beaches in Beirut if the order to evacuate is given.

And what is the US doing for its own? Why responding with the speed we came to expect during Hurrican Katrina. Well, maybe the response is not quite yet Katrina-like. But our government isn't moving nearly as fast as many of the European governments, and a lot of Americans are suffering in the process.

US reconnaissance teams arrived in the Lebanese capital last night to assess plans to evacuate some 20,000 Americans from Beirut.
Posted by armand at 05:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

He is the decider after all

CNN (emphasis mine):

President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation of the anti-terror eavesdropping program that intercepts Americans' international calls and e-mails, administration officials said Tuesday.

Bush refused to grant security clearances for department investigators who were looking into the role Justice lawyers played in crafting the program, under which the National Security Agency listens in on telephone calls and reads e-mail without court approval, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Without access to the sensitive program, the department's Office of Professional Responsibility closed its investigation in April.

"It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access. Why not OPR?" Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, the committee chairman, asked Gonzales.

"The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales replied.

That's right. The decider in chief. Making decides. Es. Decideses. Ions. Decidesesions. Right. Making 'em.

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

Pop, Soda or Coke?

Outside my office door I have a GIS map of the usage of these terms. I come from a generation in the south where "coke" was the operative term, regardless of the flavor. For example: "Do you want a coke?" "Sure, I'll have a grape Nehi." And yeah, bonus points for any of you who actually know what a grape Nehi is anymore.

Anyway The Happy Feminist has a regional language quiz up for you. There were no telltale New Englandisms like "wicked" or "grinder," so the quiz has its limits. My results:

Your Linguistic Profile:
55% General American English
15% Dixie
15% Upper Midwestern
10% Yankee
0% Midwestern
What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Posted by binky at 04:53 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Stupidly Insulting, or Insultingly Stupid?

Either way, it's Tony Snow:

Helen Thomas asked Snow why the US vetoed a ceasefire resolution and Snow said we did nothing of the kind.

Snow: Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view….

Snow: We didn’t even veto, please get your facts right.

From CNN:

The United States on Thursday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding Israel halt its attacks in Gaza.

John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that "in light of the fluid events on the ground," the United States believed the Qatar-sponsored resolution was untimely and out of date, and would have helped inflame passions in the Middle East.

As one of the five permanent members on the Security Council, the United States has veto power over resolutions.

Well, thank you for the uninformed moron view.

Via Crooks and Liars.

Posted by binky at 03:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

No comment

Bush: Yo, Blair. How are you doing?

So, was that before or after the inappropriate touching?

Posted by binky at 03:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

George Will Has Left the Reservation

He seems to have lost faith in the administration's faith in democracy, and finds how they prove "success" to be disturbing.

Rice called it "shortsighted" to judge the success of the administration's transformational ambitions by a "snapshot" of progress "some couple of years" into the transformation. She seems to consider today's turmoil preferable to the Middle East's "false stability" of the past 60 years, during which U.S. policy "turned a blind eye to the absence of the democratic forces."

There is, however, a sense in which that argument creates a blind eye: It makes instability, no matter how pandemic or lethal, necessarily a sign of progress. Violence is vindication ...

But that's nothing compared to his vitriol for The Weekly Standard.

The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature.

The insults go on from there.

Posted by armand at 09:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 17, 2006

Superman Returns

Yes! A summer movie that's not only not a disappointment - it's a definite success.

What is this? Well, imagine a 1970's heroic tale with the budget, wit and effects that are possible in the new millenium. It's definitely got the feel of the first two Superman movies, and more of their plot and characters than you might expect - but it's much more fun and "better" in most ways. (The extraordinarily handsome) Brandon Routh does a great job, as does almost all of the cast. And even when characterizations that don't hit just right, that's more the fault of the script than the case. OK, it took me a bit to warm to the new Lois Lane (again partially the fault of the script as she is forced to do the stupidest and most unlikely things every so often - oh, and apparently her skin and bones must be made of titanium for all the beatings she takes without ever so much as losing her breath), but apart from her everyone deserves an A. In some ways it's much more reaslitic than the other films, and some of those touches are done surprisingly well (particularly when it comes to James Marsden's Richard), and that's helped along tremendously by the staging which highlights how Metropolis is almost our world. From the familiar and yet not quite right shots of New York, to the name of the wealthy widow who dies at the start of the film ... well, let me just say that Singer threads the line between reality and fantasy beautifully, and also does a remarkably fine job balancing humor and sincerity and throwing in a few bright touches for the fanboys. Finally, I've got to say something about the effects, so I'll just say WOW. Freakishly gorgeous and amazing work. I presume it'll be getting a bunch of Oscar nominations. Oh, and by the way,they've created what's got to be the best and most appealing villian's yacht ever. I desperately want The Gertrude. It puts the Disco Volante to shame.

Put that all together (and looking back on it I'm still taken aback by the brilliance of the script and staging - like the train set piece - brilliant!) and I absolutely loved the first two thirds of this movie. Then ... well then we get hammered continuously with the Jesus metaphor, and the film just won't end. And that's tiresome. But hey, that business doesn't ruin the movie by any means. And yeah, sure it could have used more Kevin Spacey, but its faults notwithstanding, it definitely merits a B+, is a lot of fun, and a most impressive work of filmmaking (but hey, it's Bryan Singer, so I should have expected that).

Posted by armand at 10:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Go Out for a Speedy Moonlit Drive

Today was the most miserably hot day in memory. Tonight, thankfully, it's finally cooling down. Sort of. And right now, it's a great time for a drive. Open up the car (including the roof if you can), crank up The Bravery, Catherine Wheel, Scissor Sisters or whatever works for you, go vroom-vroom-vroom, and contribute to global warming and our dependence on foreign oil. It's a really nice night, at least given what the day was like.

Posted by armand at 10:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Yay! For seemingly the first time in weeks there's some good news to report in foreign policy. However just how good this news really is remains to be seen since this accord has "no central organization or headquarters, and little except fear to bind its members together."

Posted by armand at 01:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Every time I watch Emergency Vets

Which makes me some kind of big softie in comparison.

Posted by binky at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Right-Wing Nutosphere

I try not to feed the right-wing loonies that exist in the world wide internet webby thing. There are sufficient blogs to play that game. However, Hugh Hewitt took a dive off the very, very deep end into solid concrete today:

I would also like nominees for the new blogroll category of "American Appeasement Blogs."  BelgraviaDispatch is the honorary chair, but other nominees are welcome.

This category is reserved for smart, often eloquent proponents of what sounds like, looks like, and walks like British-style appeasment of the '30s.

Uh, Belgravia was pro-invasion, and then pro-increasing troops until about six to nine months ago. Even now, Belgravia wants to win against the insurgents, but recognizes the difficulties of being involved in what looks to be a growing civil war. However, I suspect Belgravia would jump quickly onto any bandwagon that promise any sort of reasonable chance of "winning" (whatever that means) our involvement in Iraq. In any event, Belgravia Dispatch remains required reading for good discussion of foreign policy and defense issues.

Belgravia Dispatch is a far, far cry from an "appeasement blog". Mr. Hewitt's remarks reminded me of an old Monty Python episode:

Well, he's having a lot of mental difficulties with his breakfasts, but this is temperament, caused by a small particle of brain in his skull, and once we've removed that he'll be perfectly all right.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Ken Clean-Air Systems Hugh Hewitt.

(PS: Belgravia responds here.)

Posted by baltar at 11:52 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Richard Epstein on Signing Statements

If you don't know, Epstein is one of the most highly respected law professors of the last few decades. As his approach tends to run toward (I mean race toward at the speed of light) an economic libertarianism that would never pass muster with the general populace of the United States (yes FoxNews, there are a lot of conservative law professors), it's no great shock that he'd be wary of excessive government power. But the guy is insanely brilliant, and it's well worth reading what he has to say about the Bush administration's use and abuse of signing statements.

Since he took office, Bush has used this device to object to more than 500 provisions in more than 100 pieces of legislation--nearly as many as the 575 signing statements issued by all of his predecessors combined. In these statements, the president often has claimed that the new laws violate the Constitution and signaled his intention not to enforce certain provisions, despite having signed them into law.

These statements might be helpful in understanding complex legislation, even if their use were prompted by opportunistic motives. But it is one thing to refer to a signing statement to get some sense of what a law is about, and quite another to treat the statement as though it defines the president's responsibility under law, serving as an explicit order to everyone working in the executive branch ...

Modern understanding of judicial review requires the executive branch to take its marching orders from the Supreme Court. Signing statements, I fear, could be the opening wedge to a presidential posture that judicial decisions may limit the president's ability to use courts to enforce his policies, but cannot stop him from acting unilaterally. On this theory, the president could continue to order wiretaps and surveillance in opposition to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act after a court had determined that he has exceeded his powers--he just couldn't use the evidence acquired in court. Different branches of government have different views of the law, yet the executive marches on. A major check on executive power goes by the boards.

My general view (and one I think a lot of the Founders would back me up on) is this - if a president doesn't like a law (and/or doesn't want to be bound by it) he should veto it (something the current oh-so-manly-brush-clearin'-iron-pumpin' president has never had the courage to do). He shouldn't sign a law and then have the audacity to redefine what it says. That's an insult to the country and its political processes.

Posted by armand at 11:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Our Prez, At It Again (Part 293,494)

Yeah, some of you will write this off as yet-another "Baltar raving about Bush" post, but I think there is an important point here. According to multiple news sources (I'm using the New York Times), Bush said some interesting things into an unsecured microphone:

Mr. Bush then abruptly changed the subject to the Mideast, complaining about Mr. Annan's approach to the crisis, and for holding the view - which is shared by many of the leaders here - that Israel and Hamas and Hezbollah should halt the violence and then hash out their differences. The Americans have said that Israel would likely only stand down if Hamas and Hezbollah returned the soldiers they have kidnapped and ceased their shelling of Israeli towns.

"I don't like the sequence of it," Mr. Bush said. "His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything else happens."

He went on to say the U.N. should directly enlist the Syrians to intervene. "I feel like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen," he said to Mr. Blair, referring to Syria's president, Bashir Assad.

"See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this [expletive]," Mr. Bush said, "and it's over."

The interesting thing here, for me, is how focused on states Bush turns out to be: "...get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop..." This assumes that Syria is controlling Hezbollah, which is a difficult assumption. Moreover, Bush is (implicitly) assuming that the actor with the greatest control of Hezbollah is Syria (not Bashar, not any of Iran's leadership, or the people of Lebanon, etc.). I will likely get some disagreement, but I don't think it's clear that Syria has that sort of control over Hezbollah (especially since the US helped force Syria out of Lebanon after the assassination of Hariri a year or so ago), and Bush is likely barking up the wrong tree here (and Kofi Annan is significantly limited in his power to get anyone to do anything in large part because the US - among others - doesn't want to give the UN any sort of power which the UN might actually use against us at some point).

Bush's focus for six years now has been on states: invade Afghanistan as a response to 9/11, invade Iraq as a response to global islamic terrorism. He seems to fundamentally misunderstand that there are relevant and important actors in international politics that aren't states. Moreover, these non-state actors seem to be gaining in power at the same time that states and sovereignty seem to be fading (this isn't to say that states aren't powerful, just that the balance is beginning to tip against them). The thing is, dealing with non-state actors is very complicated. States have fairly defined channels of communication and rules for interactions that have been built up over centuries of international relations. This isn't the case with non-state actors, and most modern states (not just the US) have struggled to understand, communicate and relate to them. It's a complex world out there.

But Bush seems to be pushing back at that complexity with a child-like "pretend it's not there and make it go away" attitude. Pretending that states are the only actors certainly makes for orderly and regular foreign policy, but won't actually work as a foreign policy in 2006.

Engaging non-state actors is complicated, but if you don't play the game you can't win. You should start by recognizing their existence, at least.

BONUS: Bonus idiocy from our resident ambassador/clown to the UN, John Bolton (from the same NYT link, above):

"You would have a ceasefire in a matter of nanoseconds if Hezbollah and Hamas release their prisoners and stop engaging in rocket attacks and terrorist acts against Israel," Mr. Bolton said.

Shorter Bolton: if Hezbollah and Hamas cease shooting at Israel, there wouldn't be a war.

Really? If one side stops shooting at the other, then the war stops? Who'd a thunk that?

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

Farley on Hezbollah, Iran and the "Resolve" Argument

Robert Farley makes some key, basic points about the connections between Iran and Hezbollah here. It's only three paragraphs, but these are key points that we should keep in mind during this crisis. And among the implications of them are that it's going to be hard to determine precisely who the bad guys are in this case, and how they can best be punished or isolated.

He's also got a brief post up on where things stand at the moment - and the absurdity of the "resolve" argument.

In response to this last point, Alex notes in comments that the withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005 may have left Israel with a reputation for weakness. There are two colossal problems with this argument. The first is that, in order to believe that the withdrawal in 2000 was consequential for terrorist behavior, you have to assert that Israel's reputation for toughness was deterring attacks prior to 2000. This is an absurd claim. Second, the policy implications of this position are appalling. The argument seems to be that having occupied a territory, a state can never withdraw without suffering dire reputational effects. The implications of this argument for US Iraq policy are quite troubling; literally, the US will acquire a reputation for weakness if it EVER withdraws from Iraq. If there are multiple ways of interpreting a particular action (that is, if Hezbollah can interpret as weakness something that Israel interprets as strength) then the logic of the resolve argument collapses. If people can interpret things in any way they see fit then they can never be convinced that strong action actually indicates strength; they will always assert, rather, that it covers weakness.

And this is the empirical problem with the resolve argument. Because there are no measurable indicators of resolve (indeed, by the nature of the beast, such indicators are impossible), partisans of the reputational argument can invariably insist that the bad thing X is the consequence of weak policy Y. What, you beat five guys to death but left two standing? Weakness!!! In response to bad thing Z, which has no evident temporal connection to Y, the policy recommendation is simply "more toughness". It's an empty argument.

Posted by armand at 10:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2006

Gingrich and Biden Do Meet the Press

Two presidential candidates were on TV with Tim Russert this morning (as was Bob Novak - oy, Russert is such a pompous, dishonest tool). I find Biden's bid laughable, but some are taking Gingrich's bid seriously. Or they were. After these comments I'd really hope people wouldn't want to make this man president. His analysis of the present state of world politics and our involvement in the Middle East is ... well, I'll just be REALLY nice and call it peculiar.

Posted by armand at 08:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Attack on the Hanit

Hezbollah's attack on the Hanit raises quite a number of questions, and makes it increasingly difficult to see how a peaceful resolution of this crisis can be achieved - especially if the Lebanese military is giving Hezbollah vital intelligence.

The Israeli Navy has become accustomed to absolute freedom of action in the Mediterranean. But on Friday the Hanit missile ship, fitted with what was supposed to be a peerless defense system, was hit, and four sailors killed, by a sophisticated Iranian-made missile that Israeli intelligence didn't know Hizbullah had.

The attack was facilitated in part by the Lebanese Army, which apparently gave Hizbullah precise information relating to the Hanit - the same Lebanese Army that Israel, in its stated aims for this conflict, has said it insists on seeing deployed in the south as a barrier to a continued Hizbullah threat. With a protective force like that, one might ask, who needs enemies?

But as we think about the geopolitical implications (and what was going on tactically that allowed this ship's defenses to be penetrated), let's not forget those who are being hurt in the crossfire. I've seen very little coverage of the fact that an Egyptian ship was also hit, and subsequently abandoned, in this attack.

Posted by armand at 02:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Smears Against Rep. Mollohan (D-WV) Continue

The Morgantown Dominion-Post continues to set the bar quite high in this year's race to see which paper in the US can engage in the most innuendo aimed at taking down a member of the US Congress. In the Sunday edition they yet again run banner stories proposing that Alan Mollohan might have been up to all sorts of criminal or almost criminal behavior - without presenting readers with evidence that that's actually ever occurred. In this case they are running two stories above the fold (at the top of the front page, and they continue and take up basically all of page 6) on the "investigation" into the supposed wrong-doing of Congressman Mollohan. In fact the lead piece is called "Anatomy of an Investigation". It is quite a piece of work - column after column after column associating Mollohan with wrong-doing (the work is filled with words like bribery and ethics) - but not presenting a single shred of evidence he's done anything wrong. In fact, it doesn't say a single specific thing about what he's supposedly done wrong except to say that he came under notice after filing his 2004 financial disclosure forms. They attracted the attention of a conservative nonprofit (funded by Richard Mellon Scaife) and subsequently the Wall Street Journal and that those leftist-lovin' terrorists at the New York Times wrote stories stemming from the Scaife crowd's (who of course swear they are doing anything partisan) "investigation". And ... that's it. The paper doesn't provide any further discussion of what Mollohan did, or even what he might have done - they merely point to the existence of supposedly questionable financial forms (about which they give us no details) and suggest the nasty stench of corruption is wafting off them.

Not content with this bit of nasty innuendo (which also contains some ridiculous assertions like describing the House Ethics panel as powerful - ha, it is to laugh), right next to it they run a history of unethical behavior in Congress piece by the same reporter - which would seem to implicitly connect Mollohan with people who've gone to jail, had sex with pages, actually taken bribes, and who according to the reporter's language spend many hours of the day trying to pervert the system and get all they can for themselves, no matter the rules of the game (I'm not kidding - her lead actually says they spend long hours figuring out how to act unethically/illegally).

Taken together this is the shoddiest type of political reporting imagineable - coming damn close to being disgraceful. And maybe it is that. And yes, it is worth noting, again, that this newspaper (the only paper in WV's fastest growing city - or one of the two fastest) is owned by the family of John Raese - the Republican nominee for the US Senate this year - so much for that "liberal" media charge.

Posted by armand at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2006

For the record once again...

Those heavy metal ******* have nothing on Rick Nielsen:

Posted by binky at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

You and Art

So here is your "label me" question of the weekend - if you had to pick one piece of art (any genre) that you believe represents who you are (take that however you want - but I'm thinking something along the lines of how you approach the world, your worldview, the way you see the universe and your place in it ...), what piece of art would you choose?

Posted by armand at 05:27 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Oh My

Can you just imagine the Vlogs?

The horror.

Posted by binky at 03:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Redistricting Texas - Yes, Again

In the wake of that hard-to-decipher Supreme Court decision, a number of congressional districts have to be reconfigured. For analysis of the newly proposed maps look here or here.

Posted by armand at 01:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Ugly Gender Politics in Academia

From Steve Gilliard, a story about intra-departmental machinations by a senior scholar to derail the hiring of an up-and-comer.

Eleven MIT professors have accused a powerful colleague, a Nobel laureate, of interfering with the university's efforts to hire a rising female star in neuroscience.

The professors, in a letter to MIT's president, Susan Hockfield , accuse professor Susumu Tonegawa of intimidating Alla Karpova , "a brilliant young scientist," saying that he would not mentor, interact, or collaborate with her if she took the job and that members of his research group would not work with her.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they wrote in their June 30 letter, "allowed a senior faculty member with great power and financial resources to behave in an uncivil, uncollegial, and possibly unethical manner toward a talented young scientist who deserves to be welcomed at MIT." They also wrote that because of Tonegawa's opposition, several other senior faculty members cautioned Karpova not to come to MIT.

She has since declined the job offer.

Of course she did. Not only because, if true, a senior scholar would have been gunning for her head, but because of the behavior of the rest of the department as well. Academia is bad enough, but departments with that level of interpersonal acrimony are like a flashing red light.

I can remember talking about this phenomenon, although not always in regard to gender, years ago. The "star system," and even regular departments can get hooked on a cult of mediocrity, never wanting to hire a serious challenger to the status and power of the old bulls. Cuthroat and defeating at the same time.

Posted by binky at 09:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Sad State of Public Schools

Oh, my bad, I mean, of private, conservative schools :

Students in private schools typically score higher than those in public schools, a finding confirmed in the study. The report then dug deeper to compare students of like racial, economic and social backgrounds. When it did that, the private school advantage disappeared in all areas except eighth-grade reading.

The report separated private schools by type and found that among private school students, those in Lutheran schools performed best, while those in conservative Christian schools did worst.

In eighth-grade reading, children in conservative Christian schools scored no better than comparable children in public schools.

In eighth-grade math, children in Lutheran schools scored significantly better than children in public schools, but those in conservative Christian schools fared worse.

OK, I just picked a provocative section. We'll pore through the data in the morning, and see what the whole report says. My inclination is that it isn't a condemnation of private schools as being terrible for kids, but that what it does show is that public and private schools both do about the same. Which means, all the hubbub about vouchers and what not isn't about quality education, but ideology.

Not that any of us saw that coming.

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

July 14, 2006

Bush's God Squad Quits Over Post-Katrina Funding

Sometimes the White House's opposition to accountability stems from simple negligence - and sometimes it is enforced with impassioned, heedless zeal.

Numerous disagreements ensued, but Jakes and Gray said the last straw was the fund's decision to cut checks to 38 houses of worship, each for $35,000, without first conducting an audit to ensure the church exists

When the Bush White House, which is of course trying hard to funnel more money to churches and religious organizations (obviously) can't stop a slew of religious leaders from resigning in disgust over the administration's behavior - well, just who will be left to defend the president? His mom?

Posted by armand at 11:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

While all hell is breaking loose in the Middle East

Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman are trying to obscure facts with bullshit back here in the US of A. Since I'm staying out of Armand's bailiwick (the ME), let me just point you on over to TPM, which has been doing a bang-up job countering the steaming piles coming out of the GOP spin machine:

Karl Rove still attacking Valeria Plame

Red Herring Egregious Mumbo Jumbo Watch!

The Big Lie about Valeria Plame

Karl Rove, whistleblower... the Comedy!

RNC puts out anti-Wilson smear sheet, TPM fact checks

Bamboozlement spreads, media take the bait

Ferocity and nihilism: the noise machine

Jeff Gannon makes the story more fun

There, that oughta hold you.

Posted by binky at 06:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

John McDonnell for PM?

The race is on. One candidate has stepped forward and formally announced he will be running for the Labour leadership when Tony Blair steps down. And he's not named Gordon Brown. I don't think anyone thinks McDonnell has any chance of winning - but if this becomes an actual contest with more candidates, this could complicate matters considerably for Brown who's long been presumed to be a lock to succeed Blair. What happens if a leading Blairite or some other major figure (perhaps John Reid, David Miliband, or Alan Johnson) decides to throw their hat in the ring?

Posted by armand at 02:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Telekinesis Is Now Real

With the aid of a brain implant a paralyzed man is able to control electronic devices.

In a variety of experiments, the first person to receive the implant, Matthew Nagle, moved a cursor, opened e-mail, played a simple video game called Pong and drew a crude circle on the screen. He could change the channel or volume on a television set, move a robot arm somewhat, and open and close a prosthetic hand.

Although his cursor control was sometimes wobbly, the basic movements were not hard to learn.

"I pretty much had that mastered in four days," Mr. Nagle, 26, said in a telephone interview from the New England Sinai Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Stoughton, Mass. He said the implant did not cause any pain.

All the kinks aren't out - the electrode deteriorates fairly rapidly, and it's not possible for a remote sensor yet - but this is a really promising development.

Posted by binky at 01:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Tyranny of the Mower

Are you down with - or down on - the lawn?

The delawning was accomplished over Memorial Day weekend by a SWAT team of some 15 recruits who read about the project on Mr. Haeg's Web site. Mr. Haeg arrived armed with three rented sod cutters , a roto-tiller and a dozen rakes and shovels, and within three days the yard was transformed.

The new garden has caused much rumbling in the neighborhood, a pin-neat community originally built after World War II for returning G.I.'s where colorful windsocks and plastic yard butterflies prevail. Some neighbors fret about a potential decline in property values, while others worry that all those succulent fruits and vegetables will attract drive-by thieves - as well as opossums and other vermin - in pursuit of Maui onions and Brandywine tomatoes.

But the biggest concern seems to be the breaching of an unspoken perimeter. "What happens in the backyard is their business," said a 40-year-old high-voltage lineman who lives down the street and would give only his initials, Z.V. "But this doesn't seem to me to be a front yard kind of a deal."

This is exactly the attitude my next door neighbors have about my yard. Yes, those neighbors who leave their dog to howl and who blow grass clippings all over the car in my driveway, even though they've been asked politely not to do it. Oh, they'll sniff and look down their noses at the back yard wildness, and enjoy peeking over their fence and through their windows to gather more evidence that the college professor next door is some kind of hippie. But it's ok as long as it's all in the back yard, where it should be, an acknowledgement that garden wildness and lack of lawn is somehow shameful and antisocial in all its exhuberance. The front yard, however, is a whole 'nother story. That's where you pay for the lack of social conformity, for not playing "keeping up with the Joneses," for not validating all the time the neighbors spend on snipping and poisoning and sweeping (yes, sweeping) their grass.

I have been working on replacing the front lawn for several years. I have filled my front yard with raised beds containing an assortment of herbs, flowers and vegetables. And everything I've planted is delicious, whether it's edible to me or for the hummingbirds and butterflies. Where there aren't beds, I'm encouraging clover to replace the grass (it attracts pollinating bees... did you know you can't grow cucumbers without bees, their specialized pollinators?). I do keep a small patch of grass, mostly for the pooches to poop on, but even so I use a reel mower set long. I'm sure that if I didn't have a picket fence that concealed some of it, the neighbors would have already called code enforcement on me for "excessive weeds." I'm not exaggerating...they did it to a family up the street that let flowing vines cover their porch opening (great shade and privacy screen) and gangly shrubs take over their tiny strip of front yard (no more mowing).

It seems to me to be one of those values things that people take as being some kind of comment on them, rather than an expression of, oh, say, personal aesthetics and property rights. From the look on his face, I'd say every time my neighbor looks at my (lack of) lawn, his ass puckers right up, as if my clover and echinacea were a sculpture of a big middle finger pointed right his way.

That wasn't my intention, really. I just love to be outside, working in the garden. With a lawn, there's not much work to be done (contrary to the amount of time that guy spends out there fussing about). You mow, you set sprinklers, you put on some weed 'n feed. Done. With flowers and plants, there's soil preparation, poring over seed catalogs in the winter, starting those seeds in cold frames or windowsills, planting, weeding, tasting, dead-heading monitoring, complaining about slugs (!), harvesting, composting...and it starts all over again. For me it has something to do with being a tropical person transplanted into a temperate climate. There's no way to get my daily dose of outside heat like I did growing up in South Florida or living in Brazil. When it comes back in the spring, I want to soak up as much outside time as possible. The garden is all about me. I'm like a my grapefruit tree, kept inside all winter, wilting and pining for the sun, so that once spring comes around and we can go outside... well, let's just say both of us respond well.

Posted by binky at 12:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Pop Country

My next door neighbor is having some work done on her box gutters, and the guy doing the work is doing a very nice job. He is also quite friendly. His taste in music, on the other hand, sucks a quantity of ass you are just going to have to take my word for, it is so heinous. I think, that in the ten days he has been working, I have heard Brand New Girlfriend two to three times a day. If you think the lyrics are bad, you should hear the whole package. It makes "She thinks my tractor's sexy" sound good in comparison.

Posted by binky at 11:29 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Nature and Nurture

Although I'm not sure why I titled it that, given that there seems to be a near total lack of nurturing - and something more akin to or even beyond active neglect - operating towards women in the sciences.

And for the literalists, I know, that's not the definition of nurture that's implied. It's a play on words. Get it?

As for Nature, they have a piece in this month's issue that tackles the question of women's inferiority in science. Unsurprisingly, it concludes that there are basically no natural differences in the levels of male and female performance, and that discrepancies are due to discrimination against and the concomitant reduction of confidence in women.

I'm very interested to read the whole thing, but even though I have access to the university library electronic subscription to Nature, I can't get the article, because they embargo for twelve months before putting the journal online for institutional sources. Way to boost subscriptions, eh?

So, I'm going to use the short excerpts Amanda used in her post as a teaser, and you can all head down to your local library and read the hard copy. Or pay 18 bucks for the PDF. Or wait a year and get it online.

Anyway, an extended excerpt from Amanda's post, and then some thoughts about how the same sort of thing works in the social sciences, which are supposedly more "soft" and open to women.

Amanda summarizes (italics mine):

Dr. Barres delivers the smackdown to men in academia who want so badly to believe that science must prove their prejudice against the mental abilities of women. Barres argues that existing evidence shows that women fall behind in science because of discrimination, not because of innate inability and that having powerful academics like Larry Summers and Stephen Pinker bloviating about how inferior women are without backing it up with solid evidence of such is an example of just such discrimination.

Despite powerful social factors that discourage women from studying maths and science from a very young age, there is little evidence that gender differences in maths abilities exist, are innate or are even relevant to the lack of advancement of women in science. A study of nearly 20,000 maths scores of children aged 4 to 18, for instance, found little difference between the genders, and despite all the social forces that hold women back from an early age, one-third of the winners of the elite Putnam Math Competition last year were women. Moreover, differences in maths-tests results are not correlated with the gender divide between those who choose to leave science.

One thing that we know for sure, according to Barres, is that in gender-blinding studies, the social belief that women are naturally inferior creates some pretty powerful discrimination against women trying to make it in science.

For instance, one study found that women applying for a research grant needed to be 2.5 times more productive than men in order to be considered equally competent. Even for women lucky enough to obtain an academic job, gender biases can influence the relative resources allocated to faculty, as Nancy Hopkins discovered when she and a senior faculty committee studied the problem at MIT. The data were so convincing that MIT president Charles Vest publically admitted that discrimination was responsible.

He addreses some of the other stereotypes whipped out against women in this debate, and with I might call a bit of cheeky humor.

Mansfield and others claim that women are more emotional than men. There is absolutely no science to support that contention. On the contrary, it is men that commit the most violent crimes in anger—for example, 25 times more murders than women. The only hysteria that exceeded MIT professor Nancy Hopkins’ (well-founded) outrage after Larry Summers’ comments was the shockingly vicious news coverage by male reporters adn commentators. Hopkins also received hundres of hateful and even pornographic messages, nearly all from men, that were all highly emotional.

I loved that passage because it’s such a perfect example of how gender essentialism changes according to the sexist needs of the speaker. Women are more emotional is just a flattering way to express the idea that women aren’t as smart or rational as men. It depends on the audience wanting to believe it so bad that we forget that things like anger are emotions as well.

There is no scientific suport, either, for the contention that women are innately less competitive (although I believe powerful curiousity and the drive to create sustain most scientists far more than the love of competition). However, many girls are discouraged from sports for fear of being labelled tomboys. A 2002 study did find a gender gap in competitiveness in financial tournaments, but the authors suggested that this was due to differences in self-confidence rather than ability. Indeed, again and again, self confidence has been pointed to as a factor influencing why women ‘choose’ to leave science and engineering programmes. When women are repeatedly told they are less good, their self confidence falls and their ambitions dim.

I think there are a couple of reasons why these studies focus on the "hard" sciences. First, because the proportion of women in these positions is among the lowest of any profession. Fewer women get in, and stay in. On the other hand, I also think the "hard" sciences get a lot of attention because of the money. Because the salaries are relatively high (for academics), and lucrative grants greater (again, compared to other fields), it's important to see how women are excluded from the most lucrative career paths.

But what about the social sciences (or the humanities)? Are we really better off? We have more women than the hard sciences, but the salaries are lower, the grants are smaller, and teaching loads higher. It seems to me that in many ways, the social sciences and humanities are the academic equivalent of a pink collar job. Beyond that, within the disciplines (although with some notable exceptions, where women have achieved "critical mass") there's still plenty of the same kind of nurture-vacuum for women that there is in the hard sciences. There's the perception of inferiority that Barres describes, but that's compounded by perceived female and male tracks. Women are the nurturers, the student-centered, the team-players. These perceptions end up creating self-fulfilling prophecies even for those who resist with all their might (and that's pretty much what you have to do, making every day a constant battle to overcome the idea of what other people expect you to be, and it's a lowered expectation at that). And if you're a feminist, well, that means that not only are you more girlie - because feminists are angry and emotional and women are emotional - but it becomes easier to brush off any complaints feminists can get in edgewise because, of course, feminists are always grinding political axes. Feminist scholarship? Outside of some fields and certain departments, it buys a woman a fast ticket to "not being taken seriously." Input on hiring? It's almost possible to hear the tape playing in their heads: "oh god she's going to say we need to include more women on the short list again."

It's not like that everywhere. I have feminist colleagues who are prized by their departments, where women are included in departmental decisions, their research encouraged. On the other hand, I know so many who have left - their jobs, or even academia entirely - because they are worn down, tired out, and sick of trying to overcome the obstacles in their way. Obstacles that their male colleagues refuse to see, deny exist and therefore reinforce. Those of us who stay often wonder if we are champions or chumps, or if we are traitors to consider jumping ship and leaving others to the fight. One of my friends, who was fighting tooth and nail against "girlie tracking" by a dean, decided to flee rather than continue to fight a losing battle, as the dean continued piling on excessive teaching and administration, with no accomodation for the reseach my friend was hired to do and loves the most. She was told by other women at the university that it was her feminist duty to stay and fight. That temptation is strong, to think that one person can change an insitutional culture, or that times are changing and surely those much noticed "liberal academics" are better on gender than the crude sexual harassers and discriminators that women face in other kinds of jobs.

And we educated elites in the social sciences are far better off with our options, our salaries, than women in minimum wage jobs who can't quit because their options for other jobs are so limited. Yet we all experience the same strangling of talents, crushing of ambition. I'll never forget a grad student I knew as a visiting professor who was a good bit older than me who had come to a PhD program by a long and tortured path. She has been a farmer, a social worker, a car mechanic in the 1970s. We talked about discrimination on the job, and the differences between academia and the garage. She put up with a lot to be a mechanic, and the men were "rude, crude and socially unacceptable" when she started. But the academics, well, most of the academics didn't even see her, acknowledge her existence or contribution. Oh, they were happy to let her start their whole distance learning program, but that was scut work. That she had a working class background, was heavy, and was older, made it even worse. She was lucky to have a great advisor (not me... a different field) who believed in her, and stuck by her. The rest of the faculty... nothing. They weren't assholes who put nudie calenders on her locker. They just assumed she couldn't do it, and therefore virtually erased her from their perception.

And if you don't think gender alone determines people's views about the qualifications of women in science, ponder this last statement from Barres:

Shortly after I changed sex, a faculty member was heard to say, "Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s."

Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.

Posted by binky at 08:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

To the hills, companeros!


That was just a sunny warm up, as all good rebels know, to use the natural features of the environment as their allies.

Then, turn the sun into your weapon!

Oh yes, 1973 and 1974, thank goodness I can barely remember either. I might have still been teething on my brother's copy of this.

And for those who haven't been paying attention, and care in the slightest, my personal favorite of the prior early entries. I think what we're doing is the equivalent of a third world proxy war on the fringes of a major superpower conflict, but what the hell, it's fun.

Posted by binky at 11:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Threats to Marriage: Teh Gay and Joss Whedon

I know that some people think teh gays are the biggest threat to marriage, but I'm thinking batshit crazy assholes have to be way closer to the top of the list with all the other A's: abuse, addition, adultery, assholes.*

That and it's all Joss Whedon's fault (read to the bottom of the post).

*So then what are the biggest reasons people are getting divorced? After doing a few Google searches, I have found a lot of conflicting data. But, that isn't to say that there aren't certain trends. (One report may say that adultery is the leading cause of divorce while the next says the leading cause is irresponsible attitudes on the part of either spouse. I even found one page that says adultery doesn't cause divorce. Other top factors (depending on who you listen to) may include physical or emotional abuse, addictive personalities (alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc.), family stress, career concerns, or medical concerns (mental health, physical well-being, terminal illnesses, etc.)

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

Acts of War

UPDATE: Now Israel is bombing bridges and highways.



That's what the Israeli Prime Minister and Lebanese Minister of the Interior are calling it now.

Israeli forces struck Beirut's international airport for the second time Thursday, hitting fuel tanks that exploded into fireballs.

The attack came soon after two rockets struck the northern Israeli port of Haifa on a day of spiraling violence and deepening crisis.

Israel Defense Forces said the Haifa rockets came from Lebanon and blamed the strike on Hezbollah, whose guerrillas triggered the violence when they attacked inside Israel on Wednesday, killing eight Israeli soldiers and capturing two more.

Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said the Haifa attack was "a major, major escalation."

Hezbollah earlier had threatened to hit Haifa, but Lebanese TV reported that the militant group denied launching the attack on the city of 280,000.

Ambulance services said no one was hurt in the attack, which -- if confirmed -- would be the first time Hezbollah rockets have hit so deeply into Israeli territory.

Earlier Thursday Israel's warplanes bombed Beirut's international airport for the first time and its navy began a blockade of Lebanon's ports.

Hundreds of targets from the border north to the capital were attacked, the IDF said.

Hezbollah guerrillas fired scores of rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel in the most intense bombardment in years.

Some 45 people and two soldiers have been killed inside Lebanon since Wednesday, the country's health ministry said, while the rocket attacks killed at least one woman in Israel in the wake of the initial violence that saw the Israeli soldiers killed and captured.

Lebanon also said 103 people were hurt by the Israeli attacks, The Associated Press reported, while the IDF said 90 people had been injured by the rockets hitting Israel.

One rocket attack Thursday on the northern Israeli town of Nahariya hit a group of journalists, the AP said.

Both Israel and Lebanon have said the violence amounts to acts of war.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the attacks and abductions an "act of war" and blamed the Lebanese government, which he said would be held responsible for the two soldiers' safe release.

Lebanese Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat called Israel's retaliatory attack on Beirut airport a "general act of war," saying the strikes had nothing to do with Hezbollah but were instead an attack against the country's "economic interests," especially its tourism industry.

Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport was forced to close after Israeli fighter jets hit all three of its runways, leaving huge craters that made them unusable. All flights have been diverted.

Two other Lebanese airports were attacked Thursday morning, the IDF said.

The Israeli military gave no details, but Lebanese army sources said that the Rayak Air Base in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border had been hit as well as a small military airport in Qulayaat in northern Lebanon.

Israel said it targeted the international airport because it was a transfer point for weapons and supplies to Hezbollah.

Israeli warships were stationed off all of Lebanon's ports to enforce the naval blockade, Reuters news agency reported.


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he fears a "regional war is mounting" with Israel's military campaigns in Lebanon and Gaza, where forces were deployed after last month's capture of an Israeli soldier.

"This is not our interest and will not bring peace and stability to the region," Abbas said, referring to "this [Israeli] aggression."

President Bush said all countries had a right to defend themselves but warned Israel to take care not to "weaken" Lebanon's government.

Bush also stressed during a visit to Germany that Syria "needs to be held to account."

Hezbollah enjoys substantial backing from Syria and Iran and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel. The group holds posts in Lebanon's government.

Israeli Security Cabinet Minister Isaac Herzog said: "We are taking strong measures so that it will be clear to the Lebanese people and government ... that we mean business."


Warplanes also hit al-Manar television station because Hezbollah uses it to incite and recruit activists, the IDF said. A broadcast tower was destroyed and three people injured, but the station was able to continue broadcasting, al-Manar editor Ibrahim Moussawi said.


More than 70 Katyusha rockets have hit Israel in the past 24 hours, the IDF said.

Posted by binky at 04:56 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack


In response to Hezbollah seizing two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, Israel has bombed the Beirut airport, blockaded the Lebanese coast, closed Lebanese airspace, and sent armored columns across the border.

What the hell? I'm sorry two Israeli soldiers got captured. I'm sure Israel feels pissed off about it. But blowing up chunks of Lebanon and running soldiers around southern Lebanon isn't likely to accomplish anything (especially getting the soldiers back). Exactly what is all this supposed to accomplish?

Posted by baltar at 09:53 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

July 12, 2006

Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse

Once again, more evidence for my perpetual lament about the necessity of crafting good laws that are consistent with the Constitution because the stupidity of those who implement them knows no bounds.

This time, it's Tucker Carlson who shows us that the hubbub about illegal immigrants is not only racist, but impossible to enforce, especially when educated people assume US citizens are immigrants just because they are hispanic.

On the July 10 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson said to guest Jesse Diaz, Dallas chapter president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, "you may be counting Hispanic immigrants from Puerto Rico," after Diaz said that "only 55 percent of illegals are of Mexican descent," even though all native Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. During a discussion about illegal immigrant women giving birth at a Dallas hospital, Diaz challenged Carlson's assertion that the United States should "bill Mexico" for services used by illegal immigrants, by pointing out that illegal immigrants come from countries other than Mexico. In response, Carlson recited census data indicating that less than 2 percent of Hispanics living in Dallas are of Puerto Rican or Cuban descent. However, that statistic is irrelevant to the discussion of illegal immigrants -- or "immigrants" at all in the context of Puerto Rico: The Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 granted U.S. citizenship to all residents of Puerto Rico. In addition, almost all Cubans who reach U.S. shores are automatically granted asylum, so few, if any, would be here illegally.

Does anyone think the average person who doesn't have the luxury of a private liberal arts college education - even if they did drop out after four years - is going to be any better at this? "Spot the illegal immigrant" is noxious and disruptive to the social fabric. Dummies. No, idiots. Ooh, even better: Morans!

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

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

Who knew there was a smart (well, sort of) stoner movie? Well, there is at least one. I really liked it a lot. It skewers all kinds of things that deserve skewering, has appealing characters, and is just plain fun. And between this and Undercover Brother (which I adore) I'm developing an ever-deeper love for Neil Patrick Harris.

So, well, it's definitely worth a spot in your NetFlix queue if you are ever in the mood for this kind of thing.

Posted by armand at 03:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

And what about the testicle inspection?

Fetal protectionism is what they're calling it, eh? Here's a hint: if it doesn't really protect fetuses by helping women be healthy, emphasizes punishing women, and has nothing to do with the consequences of male behavior too, it's more likely to deserve a name like "not treating women as adult human beings who are individuals, moral agents, and equal citizens." You could also add :) to that too if you want.

Abortion-rights groups see the wave of fetal protectionism as a setup to make a fetus a person, entitled to constitutional rights, contrary to how the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade.

But anti-abortion forces -- plus some groups with no stake in the fetal-rights debate -- say it's a no-brainer that society do whatever it can to keep developing babies safe and healthy.

And the vessels in which they reside? Those mindless automatons? Those infantile naifs who think they have the power to make decisions about things like an occasional drink during pregnancy in consultation with their doctor instead of their local politicians?

Critics of fetal-rights legislation see a slippery slope in the making. In some states, prosecutors have turned such laws against women when their behavior -- typically methamphetamine or crack use -- may have contributed to a stillbirth or to costly birth defects.

Taken further, could authorities charge a pregnant woman who miscarries after she rejects a doctor's advice to take prenatal vitamins? How about banning pregnant women from playing sports? And why not punish alcoholic men? Their addiction could affect sperm and produce birth defects, studies show.

"What we're seeing is a political trend in which the fetuses are coming first, and the rights of women ... are coming last," said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

"I think 30 years of anti-abortion rhetoric -- 'women killing their babies' -- has led to a moral vilification that doesn't just stick to those who seek to terminate a pregnancy. It's spreading to all pregnant women."

So modest! The moral vilification has spread a lot farther than that. Anyone who is not doing her godly duty while dressed like this is in the crosshairs for some of the those doing the vilifying.

It would be a lot more believeable if those who say they want to protect babies actually did things that created the circumstances for wanted babies and their mothers to be healthy, like support widely available contraception, and create prevention rather than enforcement programs.

Stuff like this is just advanced slut shaming, not to mention anti-democratic and anti-libertarian in the way it uses the authoritarian power of the state to restrict the liberty of women.

Hat tip Feministing.

Posted by binky at 03:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wal-Mart and Port Security

This week I am trying to make it through the last month of The New Yorker (so I am reading through articles some of you might have read some time ago). The latest piece I've found quite interesting is from the June 19 issue – "Watching the Waterfront: Mobsters, Terrorists, and the docks of New York Harbor". It is a feature on port security, among other things. And it also provides yet another reason to loathe Wal-Mart. The retail giant has been leading the fight against supposedly onerous port security measures (and to them onerous is basically anything that would inconvenience them in the slightest).

Always Low Prices? It's more like Always Opposing Strengthening National Security.

Posted by armand at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Blue of Your Eyes Was Infinite

It's well-known to a few that "I Don't Believe You" by the Magnetic Fields is one of my favorite songs. And more than once (or twice, or thrice) I'vereferred to the lyric, "So you're brilliant, gorgeous and ampersand after ampersand". But today the lyric in it that's really hitting me is, "I had a dream and you were in it, the blue of your eyes was infinite, you seemed to be in love with me, which isn't very realistic". It's remarkable that a guy who's written so many of the prettiest melodies of the last several years so often attaches them to some of the most depressing, resigned and/or cutting lyrics in the world of "indie" music.

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

What Should the Warner Do?

The Warner Theatre is considering making some major changes. Help them decide what to do by completing this survery.

Posted by armand at 10:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

On Reagan, Lebanon and Honoring Sacrifice

One of the things that annoys me no end with our political system is that we elect someone to be the leader of the free world, give them a level of power that's pretty close to beyond imagination - and then often can't get them to so much as answer a direct question for the next 4 or 8 years. While I used to find the suggestion that we adopt something akin to "Prime Minister's Questions" absurd (and I still think that specific respons to this problem is somewhat problematic), I'm finding it less and less so (and yes, I felt that way when Clinton was president too).

But let's say we lived in a world where citizens really could ask the president unscripted questions and the president actually had to answer those questions. If we lived in such a world, here's one question I'd like an answer to: "Mr President, you've said we can't leave Iraq because to do so would be to dishonor the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives fighting in that country. Do you believe that President Reagan dishonored by sacrifice of the hundreds of Americans who were killed by terrorists in Lebanon when he pulled troops out of that country, and left that country in the midst of violence and civil war?"

Posted by armand at 10:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lindsey Graham and William Haynes

There are a lot of reasons Democrats should fear Sen. Lindsey Graham, even if the rabid right in South Carolina is unhappy with him. But I think Graham will be doing a considerable service to the nation if he permanently blocks the long-stalled nomination of Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes to the 4th Circuit Court of Appealy (possibly the most conservative federal circuit cout in the country, and the one that West Virginia is in). It appears that he is considering voting no - and that should be enough to end the nomination. Given the very prominent role Haynes has played in many of the executive branch's most highly questionable (and in some cases downright loathsome and laughable) power grabs, putting this man on the bench would appear to be a huge threat to freedom and any hope of maintaining the separation of powers in this country - so I hope Graham votes no.

Posted by armand at 09:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 11, 2006

Do It Again! Do It Again!

Baltar and Binky, given their love for Firefly, are now watching the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've watched a few of those early episodes again too - and it's striking to me how important Spike and Drusilla were to getting that show off the ground and taking it to a new level. They provided many of the series's best moments in season 2. Respect for Spike - well there's loads of that among Buffy fans. But having seen some of these episodes again, I don't think there's enough appreciation for what Drusilla brought to the series. Her combination of whimsy, weakness, black humor and true cruelty was capitivating - and as played by Ms. Landau, well, I never wanted to take my eyes off her when she was on screen. She was great.

Posted by armand at 11:52 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Shine On

Syd Barrett has died at the age of 60.

From the BBC:

Syd Barrett, one of the original members of legendary rock group Pink Floyd, has died at the age of 60 from complications arising from diabetes.

I've never been into the whole Syd cult, and was of a generation where I appreciated his effect out of the band (influencing WIsh You Were Here) more than I really did his contribution in the band. Sad, nonetheless.

Posted by binky at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Major, major change in US Detainee Policy

It's all over the news, and I'm sure we're not the first blog to put it up, but the US government (specifically, the White House via a DoD memo) announced that all detainees worldwide will be treated according to the minimum standards specified in the Geneva Conventions (WaPo).

The devil is in the details (can the Red Cross inspect to ensure compliance? Does this include the "secret" prisoners, like KSM, where we don't even know where they are?), but this is clearly a huge step in the direction of a re-taking the moral high ground so necessary for winning this war. Someone pat the Administration on the back for me.

Posted by baltar at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Two More: Heavy Metal and Christmas!

This is more than starting to be absurd, but there are still arrows in our quivers. Various charges of "doomsday weapons" were much over-rated.

I have no idea who Karkis is, and never hope to meet them. Look at the video: remember, someone paid some serious money for the production here.

That's just the warm-up. Now, choke on this: A Heavy Metal Charlie Brown Christmas.

Singing Japanese octopuses just don't cut it anymore.

Posted by baltar at 12:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

The things you learn from flame wars

Not even going to touch the whole Goldstein extravagana. The joys of being tiny and insignificant.

An idle click over to the Politburo Diktat with a comment by Tbogg did teach me a little piece of code that promises much amusement.

Try it. %&*@!

Kinda cool, huh?

Posted by binky at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Good news from Iraq!

Our knickers would be even more twisty if we had half a clue what was going on over there. Including blacklisting reporters who don't toe the government's line on what's happening in Iraq:

But the military has started censoring many [embedded reporting] arrangements. Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously. They want to know your slant on a story - they use the word slant - what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don't like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn't happy with the work they had done on embed.

I'd just love to see the blacklist.

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

George W. Bush's Presideny, Shameless and Dangerous (Yes, Again)

Oh, puh-leeze, how can anyone - even Tony Snow - suggest that this presidency's approach to North Korea isn't a debacle, and that President Clinton's was somehow worse (and why would that be remotely relevant in the first place, even if it was true?)? As if.

Posted by armand at 04:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Walter v. United States (1980)

Discussing the problems (or not) of splintered Supreme Court opinions, Orin Kerr gives us this description of a real doozy:

The Court split 2-2-1-4, with the fifth vote a real doozy. Two Justices, Stevens and Stewart, said that the private viewing had only eliminated privacy protection for what the private parties had seen: Thus the FBI’s viewing of the rest of the film violated the Fourth Amendment. Two Justices, White and Brennan, said that the private viewing made no difference at all, and that the private viewing had not eliminated any Fourth Amendment rights. On the other side, four Justices, Blackmun, Burger, Powell, and Rehnquist, took the view that the private viewing had eliminated all Fourth Amendment rights. The deciding vote was Justice Marshall’s, but Marshall didn’t join or write any opinion at all. Although he was the “swing vote,” Marshall chose not to express his view. The U.S. Reports simply records, “MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL concurs in the judgment.” So the Fourth Amendment was violated, but no one really knows why. Hmm, how helpful.
Posted by armand at 04:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Does Racial Gerrymandering Hurt Black Politicians?

As someone who got WAY into issues of districting, variation in election laws, voting procedures and the like when I was in grad school I'm familiar with a lot of the arguments for and against different types of gerrymandering. But the Lexington column in the July 8th issue of The Economist brings up a matter I haven't given much thought to: Do we have fewer black statewide elected officials because of racial gerrymandering? I think that's a pretty interesting question. US representatives are (I think) the set of officials most likely to get elected to the Senate and to gubenatorial mansions (and of course governors are most likely to win the presidency). Does the fact that successful black politicians are often segregated into districts that don't look much like their state as a whole, well, does that hurt them when they try to run statewide? I don't know precisely how one would study this, but I think it's an intriguing thought.

Posted by armand at 03:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

As if this would help their dismal education system

Oh wait, that's right, they're trying to run it into the ground so they can convince people to support vouchers and Ave Maria Landia.

The following section, relating to the required curriculum, of the Florida Omnibus Education Bill was recently passed by the Florida legislature and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush (declared, incidentally, by the Weekly Standard on its cover as "the best governor in America"):

(g) The history of the United States, including the

2 period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence,

3 the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its

4 present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights

5 movement to the present. The history of the United States

6 shall be taught as genuine history and shall not follow the

7 revisionist or postmodernist viewpoints of relative truth.

8 American history shall be viewed as factual, not as

9 constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and

10 testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation

11 based largely on the universal principles stated in the

12 Declaration of Independence.

What can this possibly mean? Would it be permissible for a history teaching in Florida to present, say, conflicting views of the Jacksonians and the Cherokees regarding the forced removal from Georgia, on the ground that it is simply a fact, and not constructed, that there were, indeed, conflicting views regarding the forced removal? Query, is it permitted to call it "The Trail of Tears," given that this is certainly a "constructed" term, just as, indeed, is the case with "the Holocaust" (see Peter Novick's excellent book on the subject) or, for that matter, "the French and Indian War, which is the American name for the Seven Years War.

Note that the young must be taught that that it is simply the case (and not a constructed notion) that the "new nation [was] based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence." Does the "largely" allow a Florida teacher to note that these "univeral principles" were denied with regard to (for starters) slaves, women, indentured servants and others without property, Jews, "Mohammedans," in some colonies non-Protestants, etc., or are these "constructed" notions.


Is this legislation basically harmless venting by ignorami who should simply be ridiculed by people like me (and, I suspect, most of the readers of this blog), or is it something "we" should be worried about? I omit, of course, the third option, which is that reasonable people should be grateful that the Florida legislature is willing to stand up to the "relativists" and "post-modernists" who are destroying America. Am I wrong to do so?

If it wasn't so sad, I'd be laughing my ass off at "venting by ignorami."

Via Alas, a blog.

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

July 09, 2006

One Pill a Day

New AIDS medicine:

The first complete treatment for AIDS that is taken once a day as a single pill is expected to be available soon.

The pill, which combines three drugs made by two companies, would be a milestone in improving the simplicity of treatment for the disease, experts say. It should make it easier for people to take their medicine regularly, which is important for keeping the virus that causes the disease in check.

Only a decade ago, when cocktails of AIDS drugs were first used, patients often had to take two or three dozen pills a day, some with food, some without, some so frequently patients had to get up in the middle of the night. Since then, the regimens have been whittled down to as few as two pills a day, and now, one.

"Going down to one pill a day is amazing," said Keith Folger of Washington, who started on 36 pills a day about 11 years ago and expects to switch to the new pill when it becomes available.

Posted by binky at 11:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Roger Federer

I love him so very, very much. Four straight Wimbledon mens' titles (something only Borg and Sampras and now Federer have done), and eight Grand Slam singles titles - and he doesn't even turn 25 until next month. He was simply superb this morning, and if you saw the match you'll know Rafael Nadal was too. It's great to see championship play at that level, and especially by two players that it's so easy to like (even if they play quite different games).

And how about Italia? It was quite a Sunday for international sports.

Posted by armand at 06:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

For the record...

I lobbed this puppy at the Liberal Avenger at lunch. And now The Editors think it is a one punch kill to Sadly, No!? The Liberal Avenger survived, only to bring back this.

The horror. That other Dr. J. in a Chapstick commercial.

My final comment: Here's one for all you motherfuckers!!!

Baltar (who advised on this selection) informs me that this song is over seven minutes long for the following reason: "Do you know how many fucking guitar solos are in it? And they're all bad too.

Posted by binky at 12:00 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 08, 2006

Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy - "Blame Me"

John Kennedy's the guy I wanted to see replace John Breaux in the US Senate, and it's moves like this that make me like him - he's a politician who's willing to be honest, clear, and accept the negative consequences of his policy proposals - proposals he puts out in public for all to see. It's too bad we don't see more politicians in DC and Baton Rouge willing to act the same way.

Posted by armand at 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On the Paucity of Female Clerks at the SCOTUS and New York's Anti-Gay Marriage Ruling

Checking out OrinKerr.com I noticed a couple of interesting posts/links. First, I think I learned more about the 4-2 anti-gay marriage decision by New York's top court in this short comments thread than I did in any of the reporting on the decision. Secondly, he linked to this interesting post on why the (already rather small) number of female clerks at the US Supreme Court has been shrinking. I'm not at all surprised Scalia has hired so few (since his clerks tend to be such mirror images of himself that it's almost laughable), but I'm sort of surprised by Kennedy's numbers. Only Breyer has hired more women than men since the '00 term (16 versus 14 - in that time period Scalia has only hired 2 women compared to 26 men).

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

The Game is On!

Annoying, you say? Reliving your youth, you say? A challenge, you say?

OK, I'll see your annoying, your youth reliving, and your challenge.

Then I'll raise you an ear worm.

Posted by binky at 12:35 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Mauresmo - Wimbledon Champion

Justine Henin-Hardenne might be the Olympic gold medalist, and she might have been in the finals of every grand slam event this year - but it's Amelie Mauresmo who's now won two of this year's slams (the Australian and now Wimbledon). Both women looked strong, but I think Mauresmo's win was a well-deserved one. By the way, she's the first French woman to win the Wimbledon singles title in over 80 years.

Posted by armand at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2006


Double whammy: it's nice out, and I have work to do, which I will be doing on the porch or chaise, since it's nice out. Instead of postage, I have linkage.

Steve Gilliard on the soldier arrested for the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and her family, and the connection to recruiting desperation.

Ampersand does a wonderful job talking about the difference between othering and centering.

The boys left behind in education turns out to be not really a problem. What is a problem is that minority boys are getting left behind, and class is a better predictor than gender. (Via Ampersand)

Granny Gets a Vibrator, who everyone should read more often, has a series up about exploring black culture. She's had some insightful posts on race before (in the way the gym treats her white male versus black male guests), but also lots of great musings on the female body, power, and other good stuff, so dig through the archives.

Amanda as usual, with the pithy title, but also a real question about how anyone could be against a vaccine that prevents cancer.

The Left!

Exit the warrior... more of Norbizness' top 100. No FLaming Lips yet, but I am consoled by the idea that I am not the only dork who prefers Canary in a Coal Mine and When the World is Running Down to the rest of Zenyatta Mondatta.

Student loans are even more out of reach. Thanks, Bush administration!

I think I might reconsider my "I'll stick my hands in anything" policy. Really.

Veterans can't wear peaceful t-shirts in the VA. Or carry Swiss army knives. Via Crooks and Liars.

Why demonize feminists? So you don't have to acknowledge your shortcomings as an ungrateful, lazy free rider.

The Rude One gets no respect.

And just for the hell of it...

Why not a cephalopod?


Another water creature perhaps?


Well then, something that flies.

Posted by binky at 09:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More Stuff Not To Buy

It's so easy to save money when you don't give it to companies that want spokesmodels to look like cokeheads.

Wait, did I say that?

Clarkson looks like she could lose a few pounds. Since the brand is all about fitness and health, she's been put on a strict diet and the deal is secret until she slims down.

Of course, if she actually did the coke, she'd have to be a lot more quiet about it than Kate Moss who violated the cardinal rule of "we want you to look like a drug addict, but don't really want to deal with knowing that you take drugs to stay that skinny.

Posted by binky at 06:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Shrinking of International News Bureaus Continues

Just what Americans need - less knowledge of what's going on in Islamabad, Beirut, Moscow, etc. Sigh.

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

Marcos Baghdatis

The Cypriot who turned 21 a few weeks ago has never won a singles title. So maybe you've never heard of him. But he's the guy who lost to Roger Federer earlier this year in the Australian Open final. And he's the guy who's won the first two sets today (against Nadal) for the right to take on Federer in the finals of Wimbledon (and he's leading in the 3rd set, 3-1).

And, yes, of course Federer won today - did anyone doubt that was going to happen?

UPDATE: My bad - or the Washington Post's - they were listing the score backwards. Nadal beat Baghdatis in straight sets and will face Federer on Sunday.

Posted by armand at 02:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Return of the Good Old Boys in South Carolina?

Say what you will about Kos, but occasionally he links to some interesting pieces. Take this for instance. Maybe it won't come to pass, but Gov. Sanford's performance in the recent primary was awful - so ... maybe it will.

Posted by armand at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dionne on Mexico 2006 and USA 2000

I love this column.

Imagine the global outcry if Mexico chose its president indirectly through some sort of electoral college that gave advantage to smaller states over bigger ones and permitted the loser of the popular vote to become president. The world would be merciless in deriding Mexico as a backward place living under undemocratic laws written in the early 19th century. Mexicans can be proud that this won't happen.

But there are potential problems. Lopez Obrador has had questions about the results in the state of Tabasco. Mr. Calderon and Mr. Lopez Obrador, please, please make sure that you don't have some close relative in charge of things down there.

How would it look if the governor of the state was your own brother? What would people think if the top official in charge of elections was your sibling's partisan ally who made every key decision in your favor?

The American media would go nuts. On Fox, Bill O'Reilly would condemn the sleaze and nepotism while declaring, confidently, "Thank God such a thing could never happen in the United States of America!"

Of course, there's more.

Posted by armand at 12:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rosemary's Baby

Last night I filled one of the gaping holes in my knowledge of English-language cinema. I'd never seen Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, one of the most respected films ever made dealing with evil, the occult, a pervasive creepiness, and the dangerous consquences that can result when you make friends with the neighbors. I'm always a little nervous when I watch a really well-regarded old movie. I'm afraid it won't live up to expectations, or it will have been stolen from and improved upon in later works to such a degree that it's lost its impact. I can happily say that that is not the case with this film. If you are into watching something disturbing or creepy (or if you have a thing for Mia Farrow, which could be related), that sort of cold, something's off or wrong brand of horror - this film still packs a punch. It's well acted of course (Ruth Gordon even won an Oscar for her work), but the real star is Polanski. The way it's shot, the way the camera and characters move, the lighting, the score, it's all put together brilliantly. It even ends better than I would have guessed. So if you like this sort of thing and you've never seen it, check it out.

It's actually gotten me in the mood to see more Ruth Gordon too, so I'm going finally watch Harold and Maude sometime in the next few days.

Posted by armand at 10:44 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Yet Another Wound from Iraq

The headline from the NYT story says it all: Hate Groups Are Infiltrating the Military. The article reports that the Southern Poverty Law Center (granted, a left-of-center group, but one that has a good track record for research in this area) argues that because of problems with recruiting quotas, the military is lowering standards, and taking people they wouldn't otherwise take, including a large number of Aryan Nation and affiliated/related people (who use the Army as free training for the upcoming "race war").

This isn't good on many, many fronts. And I'm sure that "Private Hitler Jr." is doing a bang up job winning hearts and minds in Iraq.

Posted by baltar at 10:08 AM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

July 06, 2006

Not separate, unequal

So, the former Taliban student at Yale has been denied admission.

I disagree with this decision.

Before you get your knickers in a twist, think about it.

If the US government does not see fit to send him to jail, and allows him free movement in the country, why should he be denied access to university studies if he meets the qualifications?

Former criminals of many stripes get to pursue education. Why not him?

Oh, because he was part of a regime that espoused hateful ideology. Hmm. Do universities expel everyone who espouses hateful ideology? What about white supremacists who espouse hateful ideology against Jews? Should anyone be expelled, or harassed out, for beliefs?

Horowitz and his ilk would say "no," no?

Posted by binky at 08:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ah, Summer

My compost smells like lavender. I kid you not.

The four avocado pits that have been languishing in the kitchen window for months have sprouted six inches of pink stalk, with pale olive leaves at the tippy top. They are almost Cute Overload anerable.

The tomatoes are trying so hard in this cool, wet start to summer, I couldn't bear to toss the ones that came up in a "volunteer" clump (heirlooms yellows, by the look of the foliage). I sneaked over to Armand's house while he was away at a wedding and planted a few along his fence, with a couple of the thinned watermelons. Then I planted a couple upside down in hanging pots. The rest I have stuck in a black nursery pot, hoping to come up with either a new idea about where to put them here, or to find a home for them somewhere else.

The haricots verts are growing by leaps and bounds, and there are even a few that have almost exceeded their specs.

The baby banana tree is responding well to it's new pot, and putting out satiny new leaves with ruby pink veins. If it makes enough, I might snitch a couple to make some pollo pibil, although to make it right you have to cook it in a fire pit in the ground.

The florence fennel is catching up to the root fennel, but is still behind. The funny thing is that as obnoxious and invasive as the root fennel is, I really do love the more fragrant - than florence - leaf and the color, which is a greenish burgundy.

Tasty nasturtiums, chive blossoms, endive, arugula, lemon balm...mmm, I think dinner starts with salad.

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

Team Bush's Positively Kissingerian "Support" for Democracy Continues

When it comes to HAMAS it seems this is the rule - If the Palestinians aren't going to elect the people that we want them to elect, why should we support their choice? In fact, we should actively support efforts to remove those who were duly elected, because then maybe they'd elect those we want them to elect. That seems to be our government's current view on the civil and not-so civil wars underway in the Palestinian territories.

Posted by armand at 10:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Turning an Aircraft Carrier into a Reef

This one's for Baltar . Six or seven weeks ago the rusting remains of the Oriskany were towed out to sea and sunk South of Pensacola. It's the biggest warship in history to have been sunk for the purposes of turning it into a reef. And now there are only 4 of the old Essex-class carriers that were the backbone of our navy's firpower in World War left. All are museums - the Intrepid in New York, the Yorktown in South Carolina, the Lexington in Texas and the Hornet in California. If you are interested in seeing what it looks like when a US aircraft carrier sinks (thankfully something that's happened very rarely in our history), check out these pictures.

Posted by armand at 09:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 05, 2006

The Rat

Anyone who knows me, knows I have no love for Disney. What they did to my home state, the sneakiness with which they snapped up the real estate, that they mass merchandised (is that a verb?) my Pooh bear... the horror. And then, and then, there is the crass manipulation of copyrights to the detriment of classic films.

Now, these days, it's cheap and easy to restore old films with digital technology—it can cost as little as $100 to digitize an hour of 8 mm film. Many of these films could, in theory, be easily restored, and released, or put in an archive, for people to watch. But thanks to the CTEA, it's not cheap and easy. Anyone who wanted to restore one of these films would have to track down the owners of the copyright—no small task—and then hire a lawyer, lest they commit a felony. That's way too much effort and expense just to restore some arcane old movie that only a few people might enjoy. So no one does it.

And the worst part is that by the time the copyright for a lot of these obscure films expires, in 2019 and beyond, the film for these movies—which were produced on nitrate-based stock—will have completely dissolved. They'll just be canisters filled with dust. An entire generation of movies really will have vanished, never to be watched again. I guess it's hardly the most important problem on the face of the earth, but culturally, it's a tragedy, and a rather striking example of the insanity of copyright law.

Cute little Mickey my patootie. Not even charming like Mortimer. The Rat.

Via LGM.

Posted by binky at 09:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A WSJ Graphic on Splits at the SCOTUS '05-'06

In case you wanted a quick refresher on who voted how on some of the big split decisions from last term. You can quibble with a few of the categorizations, but it's kind of interesting.

Btw, I know nothing of Jones v. Flowers, but you've got to wonder about what those who are up in arms over Kelo think of the "conservatives" behavior in that case - strikes me as not remotely friendly to property owners..

Posted by armand at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Heitmeier's Running for Louisiana Secretary of State

Wow - who would have expected this - it looks like there's an outbreak of competent people running for office in Louisiana! The old Secretary of State died, so there's a race this fall to replace him. Until now the fireworks, such as they are, have mostly been between two well-known Republicans, Mike Francis and Jay Dardenne. Now it looks like Francis Heitmeier is getting into the race. Heitmeier and Dardenne, while they have rather different political preferences, are two of the members of the State Senate who've long been more impressive and capable than average.

I wish I could say such good things were happening in the state's Insurance Commissioner race (though given how frequently Louisiana's Insurance Commissioners end up in prison, who'd want that job?). James David Cain is running against Jim Donelon (both men are Republicans). Cain has long been among the least appealing, most horribly populist, and often offensive members of a state legislature that has more than a few horribly unappealing characters in it.

Posted by armand at 11:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Time Wastage

Via Slactivist, come a long list of fictional expletives (and the source they came from) at Wikipedia.

Worth a minute or so of your time.

Posted by baltar at 09:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 04, 2006


The other day, I read a discussion about the definition of blasphemy. Well, I think this little number clarifies it a bit.

Posted by binky at 11:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Fireworks at last!

This is damn cool. And in case the applet doesn't load on the direct link, go to the main page and scroll to the July 4 entry (it's on top right now).

Thanks, Hoffmania!

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

Making the Case for President Grant

It's still rather unusual to hear the virtues of the Grant presidency extolled - but that doesn't mean that a reasonable case can't be presented that suggests he was a far better president than he is usually given credit for being.

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

Your Tuesday (July 4th '06) Transformers Trivia

One year from today Michael Bay's Transformers opens in theaters across the country. With that in mind I bring the following bit of trivia - in France Starscream is known as Ego. That seems so very appropriate.

Posted by armand at 10:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In the Name of the Father

In his properly disparaging comments on the lastest attempt by the AFI to praise the same movies it annually praises for one reason or another, Tim Cavanaugh reminds me of one of the best movies of the 1990's, one I'd completely forgotten existed. It is interesting that with all the love and respect The Shawshank Redemption has collected over time (not that I disagree with that), that the other excellent prison movie from that time period has really slipped out of discussions of "great movies".

Are there other prison movies of that quality? I'd say Midnight Express certainly is. That film's superb and was understandably nominated for 6 Oscars (winning 2 - screenplay and score). But am I forgetting anything else?

Posted by armand at 10:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Oh, that Bush administration and its pre-9/11 thinking!

Ready and waiting for any excuse?. Emphasis mine.

The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

Via TPM.

And also this more thorough consideration.

Posted by binky at 12:03 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

July 03, 2006


Just so we're clear on this: if you want to see music videos, go to cliptip, not some unnamed and/or upcoming video blog coming out of the Gawker "Empire" (explanation here).

Gawker doesn't need any more money or exposure. Let the rest of the internet have a chance.

Posted by baltar at 10:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Our President - Disclosing Highly Classified Intelligence for His Own Politcal Gain

Yes, this man has sooooooo clearly restored honor and dignity to the White House. Not.

President Bush told the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case that he directed Vice President Dick Cheney to personally lead an effort to counter allegations made by former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV that his administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq, according to people familiar with the president's statement.

Bush also told federal prosecutors during his June 24, 2004, interview in the Oval Office that he had directed Cheney, as part of that broader effort, to disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson, the sources said.

Posted by armand at 05:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lieberman Will Run as an Independent (If Lamont Wins)

Ugh. How can a man of supposed principle and integrity - whose supposed strength is looking beyond self-interst - run for his party's nomination for the US Senate, while making it entirely clear that he'll run against the nominee of his party if his party doesn't choose him? I ask that since today Lieberman made it entirely clear that that's exactly what he's planning to do.


Posted by armand at 02:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More Iran Stuff

New Seymore Hersh article from the New Yorker is online (here). While it's long, the most interesting stuff is in the first half: the military is really pushing back against Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and their idea of bombing the Iranian nuclear program. Hersh argues that it was the military that got Bush/Rumsfeld to take the idea of using small nukes against the Iranian facilities off the table.

Hersh's track record isn't perfect, so there is no guarantee he's right about this, but he's been good enough before. Its worth a read.

Posted by baltar at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Right-Wing Cafeteria Episcopalians

Several Episcopal dioceses are rejecting the authority of the newly elected presiding bishop - including Pittsburgh and central Florida.

Posted by armand at 09:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

I liked it a lot. It's well-crafted in almost every respect, and it is deeply enjoyable. This isn't a fashion movie - it's a movie about the office and trying to balance your personal life and your ideals with what you have to do at work. All the acting is good, and Ms. Streep is superb. She very much deserves to be on all sorts of award short-lists next winter. The movie has one rather big unfortunate flaw in that the character of the protagonist isn't written very well - why she does what she does is sometimes less than clear (have your epiphany already!), and she often seems less than the bright go-getter she is said to be. But Ms. Hathawy is still quite engaging, and that doesn't come close to destroying the film. A lot of people can relate to this movie, it's fun, it's well-made - so hey, I say you should check it out.

Posted by armand at 11:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


I spent Friday night in Philadelphia and had a surprisingly good time. The area downtown around Market St. is great for going out, drinking, people watching, etc. And there are several good places to eat and fun places to spend time. But if you want the best of the best, I think you need only know one word - Tangerine.

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

Are there any holidays that are celebrated on the actual holiday anymore?

Just now, at 10:39 pm, July 2, 2006, the fireworks started.

There's got to be small-minded bureaucratic thinking behind that decision.

And of course, silly me, sitting at home, thinking that the Fourth of July fireworks might actually get set off on the fourth of July.

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

July 01, 2006

Tristeza nao tem fim...

...felididade, sim.

Posted by binky at 11:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Movable Type 3.2 Update

Not sure how this whole upgrade is going.

Either no one is commenting, or you're all getting blocked. Or, it's fourth of july. [crickets chirp]

Spam is still getting through, though less as I keep cranking up the spamometer. [note: that's not SPAM-o-meter, but spam-OM-eter]

MT 3.2 doesn't do diacritical marks. Or apostrophes. This requires further reseach, else, alguem aqui ficara com uma raiva danada.

As always, if your comments get blocked, zap me.

Posted by binky at 11:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And who do you look like?

Pandagon has up a post using the face recognition software that matches you to a celebrity.

I hope this isn't something homeland security it using, because the results are kinda funky. My top three matches were Julia Roberts (ok), Sophia Loren (rock on!) and Roger Daltry (???). The next three were Andi McDowell, John Cusack, (both hot, so, OK) and then John Denver (???). Next three: Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, and Natalie Portman. Rounding out the Top Ten? Barack Obama.

Conclusion? It's mostly the pose, and the smile.

Up for more fun, I did one of Armand. Top ten: Zamfir, Chris Evert, Heidi Klum, Jean Seiberg (who?), Sally Field, Bing Crosby, Bela Lugosi, Che Guevara, Frank Rijkaard (who?), and Ben Stiller. The only one that makes sense is Bela Lugosi, because Armand was dressed up like a goth (though in my opinion he was more Robert Smith).

On to Baltar. The software is very confused by beards. The first three tries (with one photo, using their focus function to make it brighter each time) got no matches. The second photo I tried also got no matches. The third photo got some matches. The top ten: Brian de Palma, Gary Oldman, Snoop Dog, Ehud Barak, Picasso, Bill Murray, Tung Chee Hwa, Giuseppe Garabaldi, Colin Farrell. Right, it didn't even make it to ten.

In real life, I think Armand looks like a cross between Keving Spacey and Robert Downey Jr. People tell me (quite frequently, although less so since I cut off my long straight hair) that I look like Helen Hunt. And, I think Baltar looks a bit like Boris Johnson with a Scott Ian beard.

Oh well.

Posted by binky at 09:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack