August 31, 2006

Bye Bye Linc

It's looking more and more like Senator Chafee (R-RI) will be ousted in next month's primary. So what will be next for him - returning to his days as a blacksmith? Well, regardless, it's looking more and more like the Democrats will pick up this Senate seat, and that it will be filled by one of the more interestingly named politicians in the country.

Posted by armand at 03:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sleeping Funny

I can't remember it, but I must have slept funny, on an arm or shoulder maybe.

My hand/fingers/wrist on that hand have been tingly all day. And now I have a muscle spasm in between my index finger and thumb that is making my finger jump sideways.

My appendages are creeping me out!

Posted by binky at 01:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2006

Your IR/IO Trivia Question of the Day

OK, everybody knows that there are 5 states that are permanently on the UN Security Council. But the permanent members aren't the only countries that have been on the Council for several years (though, yes, they've been on far, far longer than any of the other states). What 3 countries have most often won one of the elected seats on the Council? If for some reason it will help you, each has been elected 8 or 9 times.

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

A point so basic even CNN can get it

Sort of. It did come from the AP after all.

Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.


While "fascism" once referred to the rigid nationalistic one-party dictatorship first instituted in Italy, it has "been used very loosely in all kinds of ways for a long time," said Wayne Fields, a specialist in presidential rhetoric at Washington University in St. Louis.

"Typically, the Bush administration finds its vocabulary someplace in the middle ground of popular culture. It seems to me that they're trying to find something that resonates, without any effort to really define what they mean," Fields said.


Pollster Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, said the "fascist" label may evoke comparisons to World War II and remind Americans of the lack of personal freedoms in fundamentalist countries. "But this could only affect public opinion on the margins," he said.

Somehow, I'm not convinced that using the word "fascist" is going to suddenly stir up a lot of support for the war in Iraq.

Posted by binky at 09:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Naguib Mahfouz

The author of the fabulous Cairo Trilogy has passed away, after a long life and brilliant writing career:

Naguib Mahfouz, who became the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for his novels depicting Egyptian life in his beloved corner of ancient Cairo, died Wednesday, his doctor said. He was 94.

Mahfouz, who was accused of blasphemy by an Islamic militant and survived a stabbing attack 12 years ago, was admitted to the hospital last month after falling in his home and injuring his head. He died Wednesday morning after his health declined sharply, said Dr. Hossam Mowafi, head of a medical team supervising his treatment at the Police Hospital.

''His wife last night was whispering on his ears and he was smiling and nodding,'' Mowafi said.

The Nobel Prize, awarded to Mahfouz in 1988, brought international acclaim to the author, even though he had already established himself as one of the Middle East's finest and most beloved writers and a strong voice for moderation and religious tolerance. But fame had its perils.

In 1994, an attacker inspired by a militant cleric's ruling that a Mahfouz novel written decades before was blasphemous stabbed the then-82-year-old author as he left his Cairo home.

Mahfouz survived, but the attack damaged nerves leading to his right arm, seriously impairing his ability to write. A man who had once worked for hours at a time -- writing in longhand -- found it a struggle to ''form legible words running in more or less straight lines,'' he wrote in the aftermath.

''Mahfouz was a cultural light ... who brought Arab literature to the world,'' Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in a statement. ''He expressed with his creativity the values shared by all, the values of enlightenment and tolerance that reject extremism.''

Mahfouz maintained a busy schedule well into his 90s. In his final years, he would go out six nights a week to meet friends at Cairo's literary watering holes, trading jokes, ideas for stories and news of the day.

He continued to work, producing short stories, sometimes only a few paragraphs long, dictating each day to a friend who would also read him the newspapers. His final published major work came in 2005 -- a collection of stories about the afterlife entitled ''The Seventh Heaven.''

''I wrote 'The Seventh Heaven' because I want to believe something good will happen to me after death,'' the wispy-bearded writer told The Associated Press at his 94th birthday in December 2005. ''Spirituality for me is of high importance and continuously provides inspiration for me.''

Across the span of 34 novels, hundreds of short stories and essays, dozens of movie scripts and five plays, Mahfouz depicted with startling realism the Egyptian ''Everyman'' balancing between tradition and the modern world. Often the scene of the novels did not stretch beyond a few familiar blocks of Islamic Cairo, the 1,000-year-old quarter of the capital where Mahfouz was born.

The crowded neighborhood of alleys and centuries-old mosques is the setting for his masterpiece ''Cairo Trilogy.'' The trilogy -- ''Palace Walk,'' ''Palace of Desire'' and ''Sugar Street,'' all of which were published in the 1950s -- details the adventures and misadventures of a Muslim merchant family not unlike Mahfouz's own.

I don't know his work well, but have always been entranced by the Cairo Trilogy. They are books that transport the reader, consistently over all the books. A wonderful read.

Posted by binky at 09:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2006

We Haven't Had A Quiz in Awhile

For Lesbians... Where Do You Fall on the Butch-Femme Continuum?

You are a plain butch. On a scale of 1-10, one being femme and ten being butch, you'd be somewhere between 7-9... your call.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla | Join | Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Found at Nick Kiddle's LiveJournal.

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

Praising Mark Green, Criticizing Andrew Cuomo

I'm not a big Mark Green fan, but I actively dislike Andrew Cuomo - so I am of course please by The New York Times endorsing Green (in the race to succeed Eliot Spitzer as AG of New York), and deliciously not endorsing Cuomo.

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

There Are Going To Be Gay Conservative Rabbis!

One more turn in the on-going debates inside various religions about whether or not gay people can serve as religious leaders.

The ordination of gay rabbis and the sanctioning of same-sex marriage within Conservative Judaism is near certain, according to movement leaders who spoke at a meeting in New York on Thursday night.
Posted by armand at 09:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UN Security Council Elections

On NPR this morning there was a story on the race between Venezuela and Guatemala for a seat on the UN Security Council. If you want to know more about the processes involved in Security Council elections, and the other races for the 2007-2008 term, go to this link.

Posted by armand at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2006

Chris Bowers Examines the House Races

Chris Bowers of MyDD has completed his 2006 House race forecast. What's special about this one as opposed to others? Well, there's a bit more data. Particularly interesting is the issue of money - he's got updated numbers on the relative cash on hand. Looking at those I'm throwing out my own suggestions for potentially winnable races that desperately need more Democratic dollars thrown at the Democractic candidates. These are races that likely won't be won without more money going to:

Ken Lucas and John Yarmuth's challenges in Kentucky. Lucas in particular is one of the party's best recruits this cycle - but he's at a big cash disadvantage.

Whoever is running against son-of-Bilirakis in Florida 9. From what I hear son-of-Bilirakis isn't awe-inspiring, and that's not a hugely Republican district.

Mary Jo Kilroy, in Ohio, has the best shot at taking out a member of the Republican leadership this November.

Tessa Hafen needs more money in Nevada. Porter's district isn't that red.

The Democratic challengers in Arizona 1 and Arizona 5. The first is a purple district, the latter features the strongest Democratic candidate imagineable and having Gov. Napolitano at the top of the ticket should mean a better than usual year for the party's candidates there.

Finally, the Seals and Pavich challenges in Illinois 10 and 11 (which feature a purple district and a very beatable incumbent, respectively), the Walz challenge in Minnesota 1, the challenge to Rep. Walsh in New York 25 (he inherited what's beomce a blue district years ago and hasn't had a tough race in ages), and Ciro Rodriguez in Texas 23 (the recent redistricting there means the Democrats are starting from nothing in a very winnable district).

Now that typing's basically for nothing since I don't control the DCCC, but if I did ...

For what it's worth, like other observers I think that if the election was held today the Democrats would likely win control of the House. At the moment I'd predict gains of 13-22 seats - and they need 15 seats to take control. Of course keep in mind though that if such a thing were to happen their control would be tenuous, and it would be interesting to see to what degree they could maintain party discipline.

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

This Week in the Race for the 2008 Party Conventions

You'd think Ernesto would kill off Tampa's attempt to win the Republican convention. I mean it's supposed to hit Florida tomorrow, August 29. Guess what's supposed to start on August 29, 2008. Yes, that would be the Republican convention. Does the GOP really want to put its big marketing party in the potential path of another hurricane? And what will Pat Robertson say if such a hurricane takes direct aim at a group getting ready to annoint John McCain?

As to the other party, Denver's been a heavy favorite to win the Democratic convention. But will its lack of a unionized hotel kill its bid? Even Denver's own representatives are admitting that their bid is in trouble.

If both Tampa and Denver's bids falter we could very well be looking forward to conventions in the tourist meccas of Cleveland and St. Paul.

Posted by armand at 03:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Fourth Amendment, Thermal Imaging, and Judges Doing Bad Science

Since I find Kyllo one of the more troubling things to come down from the country's highest court in the last decade, I tend to take an interest when discussions of it come up. And Orin Kerr notes an interesting way in which it's problematic. He thinks it should be a contender for "winning" the following question: "What is the most scientifically irresponsible passage in the United States Reports?" As for why, see here and here.

Jim Chen proposes a different answer to that question - but again the culprit is Justice Scalia.

Posted by armand at 12:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gerson Just Doesn't Get It (But He Sure Can Draw Straw Men)

Where can I sign up with the skeptical realists? Where do I get my membership card and toaster?

OK, more seriously, that link is to yet another great post by Greg at Belgravia Dispatch. And yeah, I realize that understanding the huge number of variants of Realism is one of my things, so I'm going to be more annoyed by this than most, but damn is Gerson irritating. I mean there already exist a host of realisms, but if you can't fit your visions into even one of them there's a a good chance that what you are talking about isn't a realist argument of any sort. And of course you might even be asserting (as Gerson may be, and has done before in the president's speeches) that whole schools of thought exist, that few if any people actually believe in.

Posted by armand at 12:07 PM | TrackBack


Tired, I tell you, tired of reading the phrase sex without consequences.

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

August 27, 2006

And the 2006 Emmy Goes to ...

The first big winner of the night is Megan Mullally. Yay!!!!!! She's far and away the best thing about Will and Grace, and quite possibly the only reason that show last for 8 years (though whether or not that was a good thing is obviously open to debate). Mullally had been nominated for 7 straight Emmys for her hilarious performance as Karen Walker. This is her second win. She first won in 2000, the first year she was nominated. She won the prize for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy.

The second big prize of the night, outstanding supporting actor in a drama, went to Alan Alda for his performance as the Republican presidential candidate on The West Wing. I haven't seen all of his competition, but I did see Alda, and he was indeed pretty good. So far - some good calls - but the law of averages (and the lists of nominees) suggests there will be a some bad ones later tonight.

... and speaking of, Blythe Danner wins supporting actress in a drama for Huff? Ummm, maybe she's great, I've never seen that show, but she's not who I would have expected to win. I mean the ladies of Grey's Anatomy are on the hot show, Jean Smart is on the often praised 24, and Candice Bergen is Hollywood royalty.

But who gives a damn really because ARI GOLD WON!!! Jeremy Piven, I mean. He makes Entourage, and you could make a case that his is the best comedic part on television at the moment. I'm thrilled he won (even if I'm a bit sad for Will Arnett who's also great).

Well, I'll have more to say on these awards later - I'm heading off to watch the finales of Deadwood and Entourage.

UPDATE: OK, I'm back. That's wasn't at all the way that I expected the season of Deadwood to end, but nonetheless it felt right for the show. And Entourage - hmmm hmmm hmmm, that creates some interesting possibilities for next season. But back to the Emmys ...

Awards for The Daily Show and Tony Shaloub are always good things. Both are excellent. But Mariska Hargitay winning best actress in a drama for Law and Order: SVU !?! Really? Over Frances Conroy, Allison Janney, Geena Davis and Kyra Sedgwick? I find that ... ok, I'll be really nice tonight and say I find that "puzzling". Julia Louis-Dreyfus winning best actress in a comedy though, well that's a pick I can get behind and support. And Keifer Sutherland won best actor in a drama for 24, and 24 won the award for best drama series too, so if Mikey cares at all about the Emmys (which I doubt - do any of us really care?) he's likely pleased.

Posted by armand at 08:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Spenders? Savers? Workers?

Money magazine has a story about how to balance a relationship with both a spender and a saver. Buried in there is a tossaway half-sentence (emphasis mine):

A series of recent events have exacerbated the differences in their financial styles. In January, Michael was offered a job in Phoenix, prompting the couple to move there from Chicago with their daughter Ava, 19 months. But Michael's new position pays mostly on a commission basis, and Brittany's hunt for part-time work has been stymied by the news that she's expecting their second child in January.

And why has it been stymied? Has it anything to do with her (gasp!) pregnancy?

Mamas cant get a break. Especially on the job market.

I can't tell you how many female academics I know who have agonized over what to do on the job market while pregnant. The ones who were not visibly so were the most tortured. To tell, not to tell, to try to work out a deal. On the other hand, I am not sure they were in the worst position. They had to deal with it, and actually confront the issue by talking to their potential employers about how to manage the time off (if it was available). THe worst story I ever heard was from a colleague at an institution that didn't have maternity leave. And she couldn't take enough time off with medical leave to cover her pregnancy. So what did they make her do? The department made her take her pre-tenure research leave in order to get time off to have the baby. For those who aren't familiar with the idea, the leave is the chance to work like a dog to get publications necessary for tenure. Many of us don't get the chance to have such an opportunity in the first place, but those who have them have a better chance of turning them into quality publications. Making someone burn a research leave for medical/health reasons is ridiculous. And what are we whining for anyway? Like teachers, at least we can schedule around summer, where work time is flex time.

The thing that gets me about the Money article is the idea that the worst thing in the whole situation is how to manage the spender/saver dissonance. Not that the woman had to give up her work to travel halfway across the country for her husband's new job at a major reduction in salary. Not that he was making her be the "mommy," the responsible one. Not that she couldn't find a job because she was pregnant.

Posted by binky at 07:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blogging the Plane Crash in Lexington

If you are interested in the topic, but haven't been following the coverage (or even if you have), Mark Nickolas has been doing an amazing job of blogging on the plane crash in Lexington, Kentucky. He's currently on Update #42.

Posted by armand at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bernardini Easily Wins the Travers

Last month Bernardini posted one of the most overwhelming victories in the history of the Jim Dandy. Yesterday he won the Travers by the largest margin in 27 years. It was his fifth consecutive win, and he's clearly established himself as the star 3 year old this season.

Posted by armand at 09:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 26, 2006

Bob Geiger's Saturday Cartoons

An excellent collection this week. I particularly enjoyed the Kim Jong Il.

Posted by binky at 09:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 25, 2006

Digby Doubleshot

Digby posts the "comment of the day" in response to the stupidity lies flowing from the mouths of pro-lifers now that Plan B has limited approval.

Yesterday, they said life begins with conception.

Today, they say life begins with intercourse.

Tomorrow, they will tell us life begins with dinner and a movie.

The explanation for the "comment of the day" is the post just below it.

Posted by binky at 10:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Colorado? What the....???

This makes about as much sense as freedom fries. A geography teacher is suspended for hanging flags of other countries in his classroom. What the heck is going on out there? Was the legislature snorting Coors during the session that produced this nonsense? No wait, it's so stupid, they had to have been injecting, just like Nikki Sixx.

Posted by binky at 10:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel, asking Latin Americanists to participate in the project.

I found the questions about who is an influential scholar - discipline wide and for your own research - to be especially interesting. I don't know if you read the Duck of Minerva (or Rodger Payne) examinations of influence in IR, but you should: here, here, here, and here. In my response to the survey, I reinforced Rodger Payne's view, in that my list included Finnemore, Sikkink, Moravcsik, and Checkel. [ed note: stop laughing Baltar].

For the more than slightly curious, a PDF of the report based on the last survey.

Posted by binky at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

All-American High School Student

Who is it? Answer after the jump.

He attended the elite Thomas Jefferson High School, where he had a 4.1 grade-point average and scored 1550 on his SATs. He was a member of the chess club and the Spanish Honor Society and participated in the quiz show "It's Academic." At 6 feet 4 inches tall, he also played defensive end, tight end, punter and kicker for the school's football team.

Who is it? Shekar Ramanuja Sidarth, also known as Macaca.

Spotted at AmericaBlog.

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

A Would Be Groundbreaker Is Off the Ballot in Alabama

A Democratic Party committee Thursday night disqualified an openly gay candidate for the Alabama Legislature and the woman she defeated in the primary runoff because both women violated a party rule that party officials said no other candidate has obeyed since 1988.

And that of course includes other candidates who are running this year too.

Attorney Bobby Segall told the committee earlier Thursday that if the party disqualified Todd for not filing a financial disclosure form with the party chairman it would also have to disqualify the party's nominee for governor, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, and for lieutenant governor, former Gov. Jim Folsom Jr.

Silly attorney, "would also have to" assumes that the Alabama Democrats have to act consistently. It doesn't appear to me from this that consistency on their part is actually required (or at least likely to be enforced).

For whatever it's worth, the winning candidate (you know, the one that Alabama voters, not party officials, chose) doesn't think she's being ousted because she's gay - she thinks she's being ousted because she's white. Todd would have been the first openly gay member of the Alabama legislature.

UPDATE: Hmmm - will this stand given this?

UPDATE 2: Whoo-hoo. The ruling's been reversed - score one for democracy.

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

I'm not going to call this something stupid like "flying high now"

It was just recently that I wrote about Maynard Ferguson, after seeing a clip at Crooks and Liars. Now he's gone.

Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, known for his soaring high notes and for his recording of "Gonna Fly Now," a hit version of the theme from the "Rocky" movies, has died. He was 78.


Ferguson, also a much admired teacher, became identified with ear-piercing power and dizzying high notes that he was still able to play with precision. He was named Down Beat magazine's "trumpeter of the year" three times.

"My instrument is a thing of pleasure, and I play it only because I enjoy it," he once said. "The most important thing is doing what feels right for me."

The trumpeter -- who stood just 5 feet 9 -- credited yoga with enabling him to harness the full capacity of his lungs and routinely hit a double-high-C.

"He will be remembered for his soaring high notes, he'll be remembered as Stan Kenton's lead trumpet player and he'll be remembered for movie soundtracks like `The Ten Commandments,"' Schankman said. "But what they should remember him for is his work as an educator.

"He played for students, visiting high schools, to raise money for instruments and music programs. And he left them with an inspiring remark."

Posted by binky at 09:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Turkey Bombs Kurdish Bases in Northern Iraq

I think this could be said of lots and lots of things happening in Iraq right now - but really, how in the hell is this not bigger news? Has any US tv news network covered it?

Posted by armand at 08:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 24, 2006

Practicing Medicine Without A License

Sounds kind of scary, huh?

Not as scary as the thought that pro-lifers, eager to whisk abortion susceptible women into their clinics for unnecessary (and sometimes repeated) ultrasounds administered by non-medical personnel, might be irreparable harm to the fetuses they are so intent on saving.

A human price could be paid for the thousands of medically unjustifiable "free" ultrasound exams performed in CPCs -- "pro-life ministries" sponsored by the religious right and financed by public grants -- that fly below the radar of FDA regulation.

Troubling studies have repeatedly demonstrated [pdf link] that prolonged exposure to ultrasound can produce damaging effects upon the tissues of the developing human fetus.

A 1993 study published in the Lancet cautioned that it was "plausible" that multiple ultrasound scans were responsible for retarded fetal growth. In a 1990 article, Dr. Kenneth J.W. Taylor -- Professor of Diagnostic Radiology and Chief of the Ultrasound Section at Yale University School of Medicine -- said, "I would not let anybody get near my infant's head with a transducer unless I knew what the output was."

Good advice, since a 2001 Mayo Foundation study found that prenatal ultrasounds expose a fetus to sound levels registering at 100 decibels, as loud as "a subway train coming into a station." And University of Calgary researchers concluded that "[a]n association between prenatal ultrasonography exposure and delayed speech was found."

Now new research strongly suggests that overexposure to ultrasound affects fetal brain development, contributing to disorders ranging from "mental retardation and childhood epilepsy to developmental dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia." The researchers' conclusion is that "ultrasound ... exposure should be kept low and unregulated uses should be avoided."

This is but a small excerpt. The piece is long, chock full of links to outside sources.

Found at Mike's Blog Roundup.

Posted by binky at 05:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

There are three things going through my mind about this story

It's no one's business but hers, and we (including me on this blog) shouldn't be commenting on it.

On the other hand, good for her. Really and truly, good for her that she is well and happy.

And on my left foot, of course we hear about pregnancy and moving closer to home, expected women's activities. Wouldn't want to hear about these women instead.

But my right foot butts in and says "stick with the other hand."

So, good for her, that she's happy.

Posted by binky at 05:11 PM

Stupid Reality Television Is Actually Good for Something

Like allowing Rush Limbaugh to demonstrate what a racist he is (and then deny it).

Posted by binky at 04:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

George W. Bush's IQ

Since we've made all kinds of remarks here lately about the president's intelligence, I just thought I'd note that Simonton has a piece out that comes up with IQ scores for every president (yes, feel free to smack the methods around). According to that work, Bush is not stupid. But his IQ does appear to be lower than just about every other president of the last 100 years (maybe not Harding, but other than him ...). As to whether or not IQ is the proper measure of intelligence or stupidity, well that's a whole other discussion.

Oh in case you were wondering, the president with the highest IQ was (apparently) John Quincy Adams.

Posted by armand at 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rep. Bill Jefferson's (Many) Hurdles to Reelection

This piece from last week nicely runs down the various strengths that Congressman Bill Jefferson's (D-LA) opponents have as they battle to knock the eight-term incumbent out of Congress.

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

Joe Biden's Partition Plan

I'm not judging if it's a good or bad idea, and Biden's far from the first to share these thoughts, I just have one question - Is Iraq ours to divide? And isn't this proposal rather short on saying how we'd get to a position where this is what most Iraqis want?

Oh, and I have some issues with the Bosnia analogy.

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

Politics Trumps Reason

It's getting to the point where the Administration (and supporters) just don't need any intelligence services at all. They already know everything they need to know about the world. Just ask them:

Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.

Hey, I've got an idea: why not let the intelligence people give their best (educated) guess about what Iran might do or build (and when). You know, let them really research the question and use actual evidency stuff, icky numbers and things, and all that ugly science crap the adminstration doesn't understand to build an actual (hopefully close to accurate) picture of what Iran has done and will do. Then, armed with that best guess, we can decide how and what to talk to them about (and how and what not to talk to them about).

Naw. That'll never work.

The new [Congressional] report, from the House Intelligence Committee, led by Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, portrayed Iran as a growing threat and criticized American spy agencies for cautious assessments about Iran's weapons programs. "Intelligence community managers and analysts must provide their best analytical judgments about Iranian W.M.D. programs and not shy away from provocative conclusions or bury disagreements in consensus assessments," the report said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction like nuclear arms.

I was right: that didn't work. I expected my forlorn hope to last longer than a paragraph. I was sadly mistaken.

Oh, point of logic: if the present Intel Community Assessment (which is likely their "best analystical judement") of Iran is that it isn't as large a threat as we thought (and as some hope), doesn't that count as "provocative." And if they are being "provocative," why does the House Intel Committee need to issue a report, telling them to be more "provocative"? Actually, that means that the Intel Community has provoked the House Intelligence Committee! Hey, pre-emptive provocation! The Intel Community responded before the report was even written!

Unless, of course, "provocative" means something else. Like, "issues reports that agree with what I think is happening." That's a definition of "provocative" that likely isn't supported by very many dictionaries.

I wonder how long it will be in the article before some Republican says something completely silly?

At the same time, Mr. Fingar dismissed the notion that intelligence analysts should try merely to connect random intelligence findings. "As a 40-year analyst, I'm offended by the notion of 'connecting dots,' "’he said. "If you had enough monkeys you could do that."

The consensus of the intelligence agencies is that Iran is still years away from building a nuclear weapon. Such an assessment angers some in Washington, who say that it ignores the prospect that Iran could be aided by current nuclear powers like North Korea. “When the intelligence community says Iran is 5 to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon, I ask: ‘If North Korea were to ship them a nuke tomorrow, how close would they be then?” said Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

Ding Ding Ding! A winner! While it is true that "if North Korea ships Iran a nuke tommorow," then Iran would have a nuke, it is also true that if space aliens show up tomorrow and give me a Destucto-Ray, I could take over the world. It is also true that if monkeys were to fly out of my butt, I'd likely either be rich, or in a circus sideshow. The word "if" should be banned from serious news articles.

I'd also like to point out that the 40-year veteran intelligence analyst noted that "monkeys could connect dots," and then Newt Gingrich did just that in the next paragraph. Thus (by the associative property), showing that Newt is a monkey. It's probably just the liberal bias of the reporter (this is the NYT, after all).


Posted by baltar at 11:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Reason Trumps Politics

Hey, what do you know:

The Food and Drug Administration today approved over-the-counter sales of the "morning-after" contraceptive pill to women 18 and older, resolving one of the most contentious issues in the agency's 100-year history.

I'm still not sure why this was a fight in the first place.

Posted by baltar at 11:35 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 23, 2006

I just got push-polled

The anti-Mollohan brigade is out in force.

I wonder if they'll be able to code my answer to "do you consider yourself to be a Republican?"

Posted by binky at 08:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Your 25 Favorite TV Characters

This seems to be the new big list going around - list your 25 favorite TV characters. The rules? They must be a regular on the series, miniseries don't count, and neither do cartoons. So he's my list which is basically top-of-the-head thoughts. It could be somewhat different tomorrow. Oh, and I didn't consider shows that I know I loved as a child, but don't remember much at all now. My other personal rule - all the shows I'm drawing characters from were on when I was alive. I love Morticia Addams and Ethel (of Lucy fame), but if I'd started thinking about all those shows from years ago I would never have gotten the list down to 25. So, in no particular order:

Jerri Blank from Strangers with Candy. So very wrong - yet so very right.

Elaine and George from Seinfeld. I just plain liked Elaine. Yeah, she was a pain, but she was truly funny. George? Bad luck and sloth were rarely so entertaining. And he delivered some classic lines perfectly.

Mary Cherry and Nicole Julian from Popular (I love Popular, thank you - the insane hijinks, the cutting lines ...).

Bob Newhart in all Bob Newhart shows. He was the master at getting understated laughs.

Michael Bluth - maybe an odd pick, but I love all of Arrested Development's cast, and the show wouldn't work without Michael (who's very well played by Jason Bateman).

Tabitha Lenox. I don't watch day-time tv, but if I did I'd be watching her. C'mon she's evil, a wacky witch with atrocious fashion sense.

Leland Palmer and Audrey Horne. I think they were the most interesting and watchable people on Twin Peaks, but obviously there were some other great people on that too.

Niles Crane. Tough to pick a favorite on Frasier, but he's mine.

Karen Walker and Peg Bundy. C'mon, I started the list with Jerri Blank - of course I love these two.

Rachel Green was always my favorite Friend.

Mike Kellerman. An unconventional choice, but for some reason he spoke to me more than the other characters in Homicide's outstanding cast.

Adrian Monk. Funny - and he can solve bizarre murders.

Susan Mayer and Bree van de Kamp from Desperate Housewives. I suppose being unable to choose between 'em shows my clutzy heart of gold within, while also my appreciation of neatness and style, and a willingness to do very bad things if pressed.

Miss Parker from The Pretender. Oh ... my. Those legs, that attitude, all the best things about power, efficiency and a short skirt rolled into ... an actually interesting and complex character. Who'd thunk it?

Rose Nyland from the Golden Girls. One of the best written and performed comic characters in the last few decades.

Oh, and I still haven't gotten to my Joss Whedon characters: OK, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anya (of course) and Spike, and from Angel, Doyle (perhaps the only time I've ever stopped watching a show because they killed off a character) and Cordelia Chase. Bet you didn't see the latter coming did you? Well, I liked her, and "You're Welcome" seals her position on this list. I can't say enough good things about that - and a lot of the other characters from Angel I might have put on here (Lindsey and Lilah for example) weren't really regulars.

OK, I think I've hit 24, so I'll throw one more name out there - Quark. Probably my favorite character in all of the Star Trek universes.

UPDATE: In case you wanted to see Mr. Whedon's list ...

Posted by armand at 07:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Making Used Car Dealers Look Honorable

Ever since I read Pinko Feminist Hellcat's post about the abuses by collection agencies (trying to make people pay debt they don't owe), I've been working on a low level seethe.

The tactics collectors use on those who owe debt are bad enough, but turning the harassment to people who either no longer owe, or who never owed in the first place, is truly offensive.

Lo and behold, MSN offers something semi-useful: a how to avoid "sleazy new debt collector tactics."

Know your rights. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has prepared a fact sheet for consumers dealing with third-party debt collectors.

Get the name of the collector, its address and a telephone number. You can tell the collector on the phone to stop calling, but that won't preserve your rights under federal law.

Send a certified letter, return receipt requested. Make it clear the collector has contacted the wrong party, that you don't owe the debt and that you don't want to be called again.

Contact regulators. If the collector continues to call, seek help. Typically, your state's attorney general's office handles complaints against collectors. You can also complain to the Federal Trade Commission, which typically doesn't intervene in individual cases but may act if it sees a pattern of abuses.

Monitor your credit reports. If a collection agency posts a bogus debt on your credit report, dispute the item immediately with the credit bureaus. Include copies of the certified letter you sent the collector and any complaints you filed with regulators. Don't wait until you're about to apply for a loan to check your credit report; you'll want at least a few months' head start to dispute any errors.

Consider a lawsuit. Consumers can bring lawsuits against collectors that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, either on their own behalf or as part of a class action. Contact the National Association of Consumer Advocates for referrals to attorneys who handle such cases.

The advice about the Attorney General's office is right on. You already pay them, and this is what they do. And as I found out when my phone service was illegally "slammed", the Attorney General's office folks are even happy to do the job.

Furthermore, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has put together a helpful guide with tips, laws, and even sample letters.

Give 'em hell.

Posted by binky at 07:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Law Minded Folk (I'm talking to you, Moon)

Is this an accurate representation of what happened with the the recent decision? That is, is it accurate to suggest that because the US government didn't offer a rebuttal of certain points that they conceded them? And while we can't really know the reason, does the idea that the motivation for such an act could be attributed to the belief that secrecy would be the kicker to kill the case?

​In a nutshell Greenwald points out that in civil litigation, if the plaintiff makes an argument which the defendant cannot or will not answer then the court is obligated to consider that point undisputed.

Unlike a law professor who searches out "the literature" in order to find every argument on an issue about which they opine, courts - especially District Court Judges - decide issues on the facts and arguments before them, i.e., those that are raised by the parties. If a party does not raise a certain legal defense, then the judge is under no obligation to address it (and it is arguably improper if she does). If a party fails to dispute a particular fact, then it is improper for the court to do anything other than treat the fact as undisputed.

Although a judge might go searching for legal arguments to consider if, for instance, there is a pro se litigant as part of the case, where, as here, the DoJ is before the court arguing in favor of presidential powers, the District Court has every right to assume that the issues raised by the DoJ are the ones that need to be addressed, and no others.

Put simply, it appears that the DOJ never offered any argument that the government did not break the law. Judge Taylor considered these points undisputed for the simple reason that nobody disputed them. Rather the DOJ argued first that the AUMF supercedes FISA, which Judge Taylor took time to swat down and which Hamdan suggests will be a sure loser when it reaches the Supreme Court. Second the DOJ argued that the president's Article II powers cannot be restricted by Congress, which Judge Taylor also spent considerable time answering. Once again reflect for a minute on how conservatives have finally decided that America should be ruled not by a president but a king. The walls, man, they're melting.

Beside those two arguments the DOJ apparently bet the farm on shutting down the case with a State Secrets claim. Perhaps the 6th Circuit, if it accepts the case, will hear the substantive arguments that the DOJ chose not to present in Judge Taylor's court. But on the other hand if the government thought that it had a legally solid case then it seems sensible to present it before they have a humiliating loss under their belt. If the best they have to offer is what they have already presented then it seems unlikely that a sensible court will find enough wrong with Judge Taylor's decision to overturn it.

Posted by binky at 07:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rummy on the Outs? If so, Why?

OK, sure there are dozens, scores, hundreds or reasons why he should be unpopular in the White House - but those have been true for some time. If Laura's reading the president's words (and lack thereof) correctly, it would appear his stock has fallen with the president. If so, why now? Could it have to do with what's in some of Seymour Hersh's recent reporting (in the August 21st issue of The New Yorker), that Secretary Rumsfeld was rather less enthusaistic than others in the administration about Israel's war in Lebanon?

Posted by armand at 07:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Will I Have to Skip the Mysteries of Pittsburgh Movie?

I would never have thought so. It's one of my favorite books (Michael Chabon's best known work before the also terrific Wonder Boys). But if they are rewriting the story like it looks like they may be rewriting the story (de-gaying it, cutting a major character ... well basically changing the focus of the whole thing) I think I'll stay home. The book's far too good to merit such changes for theater audiences.

Posted by armand at 06:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Economic Inequality and Memory Lane

Because of a post of a Paul Krugman email by Brad DeLong that was picked up by Kevin Drum, I have two things to say:

1) Of course we can do something about inequality, but we choose not to.

2) Baltar, do you remember sitting through Larry Bartels' lecture at the ICPSR?

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

We're All Doomed! Oh, and Bush is Dumb - Really Dumb

That seems to be the gist of Fred Kaplan's utterly depressing "What a Moronic Presidential Press Conference!".

Posted by armand at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2006

The Kommisar Evolutionary Biologist Vanishes

Alternative title: No Scholarship for You, Godless Liberal!

Like a gap in the fossil record, evolutionary biology is missing from a list of majors that the U.S. Department of Education has deemed eligible for a new federal grant program designed to reward students majoring in engineering, mathematics, science, or certain foreign languages.

That absence apparently indicates that students in the evolutionary sciences do not qualify for the grants, and some observers are wondering whether the omission was deliberate.

The question arises at a time when evolution has become a political hot potato at all levels of education. While the theory of evolution has overwhelming support from scientists, some conservative Christian groups argue for alternative explanations of the origins of life, including "intelligent design," which holds that an intelligent agent guided the creation of life.

Even President Bush has weighed in, advocating teaching "both sides of the debate."

The awards in question -- known as Smart Grants, for the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent program -- were created by Congress this year, with strong support from the president. The grants are worth up to $4,000 and are awarded in addition to Pell grants.

Recipients must be college juniors or seniors enrolled in one of the technical fields of study that the Department of Education has deemed eligible for funds. Many different topics, as varied as astronomy and Arabic, qualify.

But evolutionary biology is absent.

Who says there's never anything interesting in the Chronicle?

Hat tip to Balloon Juice. Also at Pharyngula.

Posted by binky at 08:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Quick, someone call Horowitz and tell him he can STFU already

Liberals aren't made in college by commie professors... they're born! And since liberals aren't reproducing liberals, they're going to die out anyway.

The usual suspects.

But the data on young Americans tell a different story. Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.

Because, of course, liberals are only born not made.

So, who knows how we got Baltar (conservative child of liberal parents), Binky (belonged-to-both-parties-now liberal child of conservative parents) and Armand (belonged-to-both-parties-now liberal child of ??? parents).

Via Feministe.

Posted by binky at 07:48 PM | Comments (11)

The 2005 Horse of the Year is Dead

How sad - Saint Liam was euthanized after fracturing one of his hind legs.

Posted by armand at 07:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Bedwetting Panic Over Sex Masquerading as Conservatism

Why are these people so interested in what you do in your bed?

Now, they want to make sure that when you're sleeping in a rented bed, you can't have any fun either. And, naturally, they want big government to intrude into not only the privacy of the bedroom, but they want big government intervention into the free market.

A coalition of 13 conservative groups -- including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America -- took out full-page ads in some editions of USA Today earlier this month urging the Justice Department and FBI to investigate whether some of the pay-per-view movies widely available in hotels violate federal and state obscenity laws.

The coalition also is trying to draw attention to, a directory of hotels and motels nationwide that pledge to exclude adult offerings from their in-room entertainment service.

Yeah, I don't know from motel porn... since I've never seen it I imagine it's the porn equivalent of the same crap that 's on most TV channels. But see, since I don't care to watch it, nor do I care about what anyone else is (consensually) doing in their beds, I think that we ought to keep big government out of both the bedroom and the market.

Now, who is it that loves the nanny state?

Posted by binky at 05:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Laura's Big Secret

So who did President Bush offer Rummy's job to? Any informed guesses?

Posted by armand at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Annual Party School List is Out

And WVU comes in at number 3! You just know President Hardesty is thrilled. Oh, and Texas is number 1. Hmmm - do you think there's some sort of Elizabeth E effect going on here?

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

Bush Decides - Another 2 Years and 5 Months in Iraq

Does anyone else find it peculiar that in the coverage (what there's been of it) of the president's statement that he's never going to leave Iraq there doesn't seem to be much of a focus on the fact that he's apparently decided not to listen to either the US military or the Iraqis on this important issue? Apparently nothing said by either group will sway his feelings on the matter.

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

Brian Ulrich Recommends Ansari's Confronting Iran

I think I'll definitely be reading this book. It appears to be a fascinating examination of the current conflict between the United States and Iran, with a focus on highly negative images of the other, constructed national identities, and misperpereptions and mistakes being among the forces driving the two states further apart.

Posted by armand at 07:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2006

Today's Trivia Question

I'm sure Baltar's not the only person around town to feel the need for a drink. The first day of school can do that to you. But what if you wanted a special drink? What if you wanted a drink in the highest bar (not restaurant) in the world? Where would you have to go?

Posted by armand at 04:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Saints vs. Cowboys on Monday Night Football

In case anyone was wondering what my mother's up to tonight, she and Chuck will be at this game in Shreveport.

Given the date, the location, and the teams involved, the commentators will likely reference Katrina frequently. If they are going to insist on doing that, here's hoping they also talk about the impact of Rita too. It came much closer to Shreveport than Katrina did, and was a stronger (though thankfully not deadlier) storm. Yep, Louisiana got hit by the two strongest Gulf of Mexico storms on record within a period of only 3 weeks. 2005 was not a good year for the Sportsmen's Paradise.

Posted by armand at 02:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Will Peretz Lose the Labor Party Leadership in Israel?

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz appears to be facing a strong challenge for the party leadership, in the wake of the war in Lebanon.

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

Cold War Realists Better Get Started Cleaning Out Their Books

They might be holding classified information.

Yes, it's the next installment of the re-classification follies! Although it's incorrect to say reclassification, because some of this stuff was never classified in the first place.

The Bush administration has begun designating as secret some information that the government long provided even to its enemy the former Soviet Union: the numbers of strategic weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.

The Pentagon and the Department of Energy are treating as national security secrets the historical totals of Minuteman, Titan II and other missiles, blacking out the information on previously public documents, according to a new report by the National Security Archive. The archive is a nonprofit research library housed at George Washington University.

"It would be difficult to find more dramatic examples of unjustifiable secrecy than these decisions to classify the numbers of U.S. strategic weapons," wrote William Burr, a senior analyst at the archive who compiled the report. " . . . The Pentagon is now trying to keep secret numbers of strategic weapons that have never been classified before."


Maj. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said officials strive to properly apply rules governing what should be classified and are researching why the missile information cited in the archive report was blacked out. The report was released Friday.

"The Department of Defense takes the responsibility of classifying information seriously," Ryder said. "This includes classifying information at the lowest level possible."

Baltar is more acquainted with this stuff than I am, but I imagine that this information is fairly widely circulated (in some circles). What happens to anyone who cites, reprints, or discusses the information?

Posted by binky at 12:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Did Hezbollah Win? Does It Want to Win?

James Wimberley has some interesting thoughts on the wants, motivations and goals of Hezbollah. To me, the key lines are these - "Like the Knights Templars or the arms industry in different contexts, Hezbollah needs its conflict with Israel to continue as a stalemate. This way it can ensure its own survival, a flow of funding and weapons from Iran, continued control over the Lebanese Shia and a shot at power in Beirut."

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


Ah, the sweet smell of exhaust as all 25,000 people try to find places to park. The looks of confusion on the faces of first time entrants to our building, as they realize the stairs don't go all the way to the basement, where their class is. The professor mainlining espresso.

Must be the first day of classes!

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

August 20, 2006

Let's Declare Victory

This morning James Fallows was interviewed on NPR. If you haven't read his cover story ("Declaring Victory") in the current issue of The Atlantic, I recommend it. There's not a lot new in it exactly. For example, some of it is quiet similar to John Mueller's article on the perils of fighting terrorism that we need to avoid. But it's a nice overview of several key point pertaining to the fight - his basic point being that we've been our own worst enemy in the conflict - and it's time to declare victory in the war on terrorism. And his interviews with people involved the fight around the globe are interesting in terms of the scope of the agreement he found among those he interviewed. Some highlights:

This is what David Kilcullen meant in saying that the response to terrorism was potentially far more destructive than the deed itself. And it is why most people I spoke with said that three kinds of American reaction—the war in Iraq, the economic consequences of willy-nilly spending on security, and the erosion of America’s moral authority—were responsible for such strength as al-Qaeda now maintained. “You only have to look at the Iraq War to see how much damage you can do to yourself by your response,” Kilcullen told me ...

So far the war in Iraq has advanced the jihadist cause because it generates a steady supply of Islamic victims, or martyrs; because it seems to prove Osama bin Laden’s contention that America lusts to occupy Islam’s sacred sites, abuse Muslim people, and steal Muslim resources; and because it raises the tantalizing possibility that humble Muslim insurgents, with cheap, primitive weapons, can once more hobble and ultimately destroy a superpower, as they believe they did to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan twenty years ago ...

The fictional al-Qaeda strategist in Brian Jenkins’s book tells Osama bin Laden that the U.S. presence in Iraq “surely is a gift from Allah,” because it has trapped American soldiers “where they are vulnerable to the kind of warfare the jihadists wage best: lying in wait to attack; carrying out assassinations, kidnappings, ambushes, and suicide attacks; destroying the economy; making the enemy’s life untenable.” The Egyptian militants profiled in Journey of the Jihadist told Fawaz Gerges that they were repelled by al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks and deaf to its appeals to undertake jihad against the United States. But that all changed, they said, when the United States invaded Iraq ...

Documents captured after 9/11 showed that bin Laden hoped to provoke the United States into an invasion and occupation that would entail all the complications that have arisen in Iraq. His only error was to think that the place where Americans would get stuck would be Afghanistan.

While those points are net negatives, Fallows notes there's also a lot to be pleased with, and that al Qaeda and its allies have several inherent weaknesses. All in all, it's an interesting article.

Posted by armand at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iran and Hizbollah Victorious

Olivier Roy is right, as he often is - the "winners" of the fighting in Lebanon are Hizbollah and Iran, and if they can actually get some "old" Europeans tied down in Southern Lebanon it will be that much more of a victory for them. It's amazing how far we've come in the last 5 years in terms of the influence of Iran and a larger Shiite politics friendly with the Iranian regime - and I don't mean "amazing" in any good way. The US and the Israeli governments have made them stronger than they could have ever gotten on their own (despite decades of trying - read Gilles Kepel's Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam if you want that tale).

For more on this topic (where I found the link, actually) - see Belgravia Dispatch.

Posted by armand at 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

Being Julia and Brick

As I've been utterly exhausted today (at the level of starting to collapse to the ground/pass out for no apparent reason) I opted to skip this evening's social revelries (since apparently last night's almost did me in) and curl up with some rentals that had been sitting in the media room for far too long (I hadn't watched a new-to-me dvd since Merci Pour La Chocolat 2 weekends ago).

Being Julia was fine. Enjoyable. There's not much more I have to say about it. Yes, Annette Bening was good. Oscar-level good (she was nominated)? Eh maybe, though that year Kate Winslet sooooo should have won for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (though sadly the prize went to Ms. Swank). But yes she was good, though actually in terms of acting a few of the people with tiny roles really caught my eye (like the always great Juliet Stevenson, and young Tom Sturridge). On the whole it's a perfectly nice and diverting film.

Brick was pretty much just what I thought it would be (film noir in high school), and it was also entertaining. The tone is just right (no minor feat), the dialogue fun, and if I have some quibbles with the directing here and there, well it was shot on a tiny budget, and the flaws don't obscure its overall strengths. And while perhaps the writing is what makes it stand out from most films, the acting is quite good (or at least quite right) in this too. Of course I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. So much - I was vastly more impressed with him in Mysterious Skin than I was with Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning turn in Capote. And a number of the smaller roles are quite well done, like the ill-fated character played by Lost's Emilie de Ravin. My favorite of those performances? Lukas Haas's the Pin. Haas is great (and I still think Stacy Cochran's Boys is underrated). As to his character, well I'll let Julian Sanchez be the judge of that.

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

I know Baltar likes to see how many of his students can't identify California as part of the US...

...but this poll tops even that. Usually the shock is that people know some trivial pop culture factoid, but not an important political reality.

In this case, it is shown that people in the US are even stupid in regard to pop culture:

Three quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Snow White's seven dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court Justices, according to a poll on pop culture released on Monday.

According to the poll by Zogby International, commissioned by the makers of a new online game on pop culture called "Gold Rush," 57 percent of Americans could identify J.K. Rowling's fictional boy wizard as Harry Potter, while only 50 percent could name the British prime minister, Tony Blair.

The pollsters spoke to 1,213 people across the United States. The results had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Just over 60 percent of respondents were able to name Bart as Homer's son on the television show "The Simpsons," while only 20.5 percent were able to name one of the ancient Greek poet Homer's epic poems, "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey."

Asked what planet Superman was from, 60 percent named the fictional planet Krypton, while only 37 percent knew that Mercury is the planet closest to the sun.

Respondents were far more familiar with the Three Stooges -- Larry, Curly and Moe -- than the three branches of the U.S. government -- judicial, executive and legislative. Seventy-four percent identified the former, 42 percent the latter.

Twice as many people (23 percent) were able to identify the most recent winner of the television talent show "American Idol," Taylor Hicks, as were able to name the Supreme Court Justice confirmed in January 2006, Samuel Alito (11 percent).

Only 60% know who Bart Simpson is? Come on!


Posted by binky at 07:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


-ly bad?

And that'd better be Dave Grohl in the Devil suit.

Posted by binky at 02:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And the Winner Isn't - 20 Missed Calls by the Academy

Josh R has a list of 20 superb performances that were overlooked by the Academy Awards. I agree with some of his comments/choices (I'd say The Last Hurrah is Tracy's best work). In fact I'm delighted by some of them. I wouldn't have thought of the Robert Walker or Shelley Winters selections, but they are great picks. And I am floored to be reminded of the fact that Cary Grant never won a competitive Oscar race. That is so very, very wrong. Really the Academy should disband itself in shame over that.

Oh, out of these specific performances who do I think was most deserving/snubbed? As much as I love Walker in Strangers on a Train and Katharine Hepbrun in Bringing Up Baby, I've got to say the most shameful miss was not honoring Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. She was amazing.

Posted by armand at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Early Islamic Principles of Governance

Perhaps President Bush might want to think about importing some traditional principles of governance from the Islamic world, instead of being focused so exclusively on exporting a few political notions that he personally favors.

Posted by armand at 11:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Plan Colombia a Bust

There has been virtually no impact on the drug supply in the US, six years and $4.7 billion later.

Yet recent data show the following results:

¶As much coca is cultivated today in Colombia as was grown at the start of the large-scale aerial fumigation effort in 2000, according to State Department figures.

¶Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the leading sources of coca and cocaine, produce more than enough cocaine to satisfy world demand, and possibly as much as in the mid-1990’s, the United Nations says.

¶In the United States, the government’s tracking over the past quarter century shows that the price of cocaine has tumbled and that purity remains high, signs that the drug is as available as ever.

Over all, demand in the United States has dipped in recent years, but experts say that may be a result of many factors, including changing social fads and better law enforcement techniques at home. Meanwhile, demand is rising in Brazil, Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

“If we were to evaluate Plan Colombia by its initial overriding criteria, the results of the drug war have been dubious at best,” said Russell Crandall, a former adviser to the White House and the author of “Driven by Drugs,” a book on the drug war in the Andes.

“We can switch metaphors — saying it is first and 10, second and 4, light at the end of the tunnel — but what’s left are often discouraging results on reducing the amount of drugs and cocaine in the United States,” he added.

Posted by binky at 10:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

Friday Night Videos

The Bands I've Seen Live Edition

An incomplete list, at best. And you're all really missing out, because I couldn't find a good one of Sepultura.

A blast from the Brazilian past

This is not...

The beginning of the downhill slide, but a good tour nonetheless

Very fun live...too bad the studio product has been so, eh...

And on the other hand, studio product quite fun, but live, eh...

Once of the scariest shows ever.

Not her, but that the arena caught fire and there was a stampede.

Worth another go, for sure.

Spin says U2, but I think they're at the top of the Live acts list

But the last time I saw U2 was...

Yes, I still have that t-shirt they showed at the beginning.

And one I never have, but wish I would have when they were still around.

Wish I could do an adequate job of translating that. It looks like a bunch of hippies cavorting in a field, but the lyrics are quite a harsh condemnation of social ills.

If these guys come near you, go, go go. Don't miss them.

And Spin puts them far too low on the I offer a cover twofer.

I was at this show. And I dragged poor Baltar. I thought he was going to kill some snotty kids.

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

Advanced Age Associated with Miscarriage

Father's age, an effect that holds regardless of the age of the mother.

According to new research published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, those pregnancies conceived with older fathers are more likely to end in miscarriage, irrespective of the age of the mother.

Dr. Karine Kleinhaus, who led the study while with the Columbia University School of Public Health in New York, and colleagues found that the risk of miscarriage of a fetus conceived by a father over age 40 was 60 percent greater than if the father were 25 to 29, irrespective of other factors that have been linked with increased miscarriage risk in the past. These factors include the mother's age, maternal diabetes, poor maternal health and smoking during pregnancy.

The increased risk of miscarriage does not just apply to fathers in their 40s, however. The miscarriage risk in a pregnancy involving a father aged 35 to 39 was three times higher than the risk if the father were under 25.

It's hardly happy news for those who are struggling with fertility. Yet I can't help noting that given all the hysteria about delayed childbearing for women, and the responsibility of career women delaying families, this story doesn't get much attention. I found it in our "move-in" day student newspaper, where it had been pulled from the U-Wire (along with a whole bunch of other filler they used to, well, fill the pages).

Posted by binky at 08:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

One more for the "correlation does not equal causation" files

I do, however, wish that people were half as concerned about encouraging physically and mentally healthy women as they are about big tits.

Women with breast implants commit suicide at a higher-than-average rate.

"These findings agree fundamentally with those of past reports," Morrison said. "The one thing that lights up is this increased suicide risk."

Though this study could not dig for the reasons, Morrison noted that other studies have found poorer self-esteem and elevated rates of depression and other psychiatric disorders among women who opt for breast augmentation.

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

I wonder if this applies to processed chocolate too?

From our fine institution's campus drug and alcohol policy, sent to everyone via the campus email system:

Federal Drug Trafficking Laws

Federal law penalizes the manufacture, distribution, possession with intent to manufacture drugs (“controlled substances”). 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). Listed below are the sentencing guidelines for violation of the Controlled Substances Act.4

A. Subsection 841(a)(1)(A) - Trafficking Offenses

Any compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of COCOA LEAVES or COCAINE or ECGONINE

Any compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of COCOA LEAVES or COCAINE or ECGONINE which contains cocaine base

No cake for you!

Posted by binky at 05:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Portraying the Triumph of Realism, and Upending Nationalist Sensibilities

This is an interesting little feature on a painting puchased by the Northern Ireland government over 70 years ago. It seems some were most displeased to find that the ancient canvas represented not only William III's triumphant arrival in Ireland, but also Pope Innocent XI's alliance with the Protestant king. This led to it being vandalized, and after that it's exact whereabouts were unknown for almost forty years.

Posted by armand at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is Something Wrong With Gmail?

Am I the only person who can't open gmail today?

Posted by armand at 11:31 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 17, 2006

Smoke Rings

Mother Nature's blowing smoke.


Posted by binky at 04:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

G-n-Rmerican Idol

Oh, yes, she did. With Metal Skool.

Posted by binky at 04:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

WV Makes Homeland Security News

And I didn't even know this town had an airport.

Posted by binky at 03:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Warrantless Wiretapping Unconstitutional

UPDATE II: The (PDF) decision, via Feministe. From the conclusion (read through the argument citing separation of powers, first amendment and fourth, as well as other grounds).

For all of the reasons outlined above, this court is constrained to grant to Plaintiffs the Partial Summary Judgment requested, and holds that the TSP violates the APA; the Separation of Powers doctrine; the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution; and the statutory law.


The Permanent Injunction of the TSP requested by Plaintiffs is granted inasmuch as each of the factors required to be met to sustain such an injunction have undisputedly been met.59 The irreparable injury necessary to warrant injunctive relief is clear, as the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Plaintiffs are violated by the TSP. See Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479 (1965). The irreparable injury conversely sustained by Defendants under this injunction may be rectified by compliance with our Constitution and/or statutory law, as amended if necessary. Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution.

And then she cites U.S. v. Robel:

Implicit in the term ‘national defense’ is the notion of defending those values and ideas which set this Nation apart. . . . It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of . . . those liberties . . . which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile. Id. at 264.

Zuzu highlights the money quote from the document, which I'll repeat here::

In this case, the President has acted, undisputedly, as FISA forbids. FISA is the expressed statutory policy of our Congress. The presidential power, therefore, was exercised at its lowest ebb and cannot be sustained.


From CNN:

A federal judge has ruled that the federal government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered it ended immediately.

There is going to be a hurricane of "I told you so" flying around. Also a lot of celebrating. I'm anxious to see what the decision really says (beyond the CNN breaking news headline).


U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the U.S. and people in other countries.

The government argued that the program is well within the president's authority, but said proving that would require revealing state secrets.

The ACLU said the state-secrets argument was irrelevant because the Bush administration already had publicly revealed enough information about the program for Taylor to rule.

Posted by binky at 12:33 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

I'm going to live forever

Oh yes, yes I am:

Larger quantities of coffee seem to be especially helpful in diabetes prevention. In a report that combined statistical data from many studies, researchers found that people who drank four to six cups of coffee a day had a 28 percent reduced risk compared with people who drank two or fewer. Those who drank more than six had a 35 percent risk reduction.

Some studies show that cardiovascular risk also decreases with coffee consumption. Using data on more than 27,000 women ages 55 to 69 in the Iowa Women’s Health Study who were followed for 15 years, Norwegian researchers found that women who drank one to three cups a day reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 24 percent compared with those drinking no coffee at all.

But as the quantity increased, the benefit decreased. At more than six cups a day, the risk was not significantly reduced. Still, after controlling for age, smoking and alcohol consumption, women who drank one to five cups a day — caffeinated or decaffeinated — reduced their risk of death from all causes during the study by 15 to 19 percent compared with those who drank none.

The findings, which appeared in May in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that antioxidants in coffee may dampen inflammation, reducing the risk of disorders related to it, like cardiovascular disease. Several compounds in coffee may contribute to its antioxidant capacity, including phenols, volatile aroma compounds and oxazoles that are efficiently absorbed.

In another analysis, published in July in the same journal, researchers found that a typical serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than typical servings of grape juice, blueberries, raspberries and oranges.

“We were surprised to learn that coffee quantitatively is the major contributor of antioxidants in the diet both in Norway and in the U.S.A.,” said Rune Blomhoff, the senior author of both studies and a professor of nutrition at the University of Oslo.

These same anti-inflammatory properties may explain why coffee appears to decrease the risk of alcohol-related cirrhosis and liver cancer. This effect was first observed in 1992. Recent studies,published in June in The Archives of Internal Medicine, confirmed the finding.

HT to Feministe.

Posted by binky at 10:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The 8/18 (Tomorrow's) Changes at the Warner

Tonight's your last chance to see Strangers With Candy and Superman downtown. Tomorrow Clerks II and A Scanner Darkly will begin their runs there.

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

Dance Dance Dance

So after finishing this Haruki Murakami novel published in 1994 I searched around to read what others have written about it, and honestly I don't think many of the reviews get it quite right. But this line on it Amazon page comes close to the mark.

"If Kafka were to find himself imprisoned in a novel that had been written by Raymond Chandler and was then forced to develop a sense of humor, the resultant voice might likely resemble that of the protagonist in this latest delight from one of Japan's leading contemporary writers."

If you like Murakami you'll like this - and I do so I did. It's got yet another alienated protagonist, disconnected from the world he's supposed to live in, still somewhat hurt by past losses. And eventually that leads to him going to look for something. And it's got a lot of the usual touches - a knowing teenage girl, worlds that aren't here, ominous and threatening surroundings, the powerful imprint of the past. Basically it's Murakami through and through. And to me, that's praise.

That said, I still think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is the best of his works that I've read.

Posted by armand at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Summer Semi-Hiatus Blogging Malaise

It would make sense if summer was a time a increased blogging creativity and frequency. After all, all those daily irritations of the rest of the year are smoothed out, leaving more time and energy for thinking and writing. The benefits in a college town are even better, with a vastly reduced number of people on the roads clogging up the narrow streets, no large sections of a hundred or more students who all seem to have at least one emailed question per day, and let's face it, no real reason to go into the office and see your colleagues (the ones who are around, anyway) either. In short: ah, sweet freedom!

Somehow, though, it doesn't seem to work out that way. All I can seem to manage is a blurb here and a link there. So much for the freedom to produce.

Then again, maybe blogging tastes sweetest when it's a refuge from the worst days, which rarely fall in the summer. And in that case, it's looking like my summer semi-hiatus blogging malaise is about to end, because I'm really dreading Monday.

Posted by binky at 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I could almost watch 105 minutes of this

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

August 16, 2006

AOL leaked searches

I wonder what kind of idiot does searches like these.

16006693 nak
16006693 nack
16006693 sharona
16006693 knack
16006693 knack downloads
16006693 oakrige boys
16006693 oakridge boys
16006693 oakridge boys downloads free
16006693 jokes about dick cheney
16006693 jokes about dick cheney but not george bush
16006693 dick cheney creep
16006693 dick cheney dickhead
16006693 rummy dickhead
16006693 where is iraq
16006693 where is lebenon
16006693 his bullets
16006693 his bullies
16006693 shiits
16006693 shee-ites
16006693 bush appruval
16006693 bush approvel
16006693 bush drops below
16006693 dead reporters
16006693 dead reporters fotos
16006693 dead reporters pix
16006693 disembowled reporters pix
16006693 disembowled new york times
16006693 love thine enemas
16006693 love thine enemies
16006693 bible quote of the day
16006693 insperation from bible
16006693 george bush great president
16006693 george w bush great president
16006693 dream on
16006693 oakridge boys lyrics dream on
16006693 how to run country
16006693 how to run country when not really inerested
16006693 people to run country for you
16006693 over work
16006693 overwork
16006693 stress
16006693 best place to retire
16006693 places like crawford but without cindy sheehan
16006693 crawford the town not cindy crawford
16006693 crawford tx
16006693 like crawford tx but not so hot
16006693 best places to retire not hot
16006693 best places to retire global warming
16006693 global warming mith
16006693 global warming myth
16006693 crawford hot
16006693 cindy crawford hot
16006693 rice hot
16006693 rice hot not recipes
16006693 rice naked
16006693 rice nude
16006693 bible quotes resisting temptation
16006693 oakridge boys i'll be true to you
16006693 oakridge boys trying to love two women
16006693 rice and beans
16006693 tex mex
16006693 tex mex not music
16006693 tex mex takeout
16006693 tex mex takeout dc
16006693 heart burn
16006693 heartburn

Shamelessly ripped off from Mister Ed

And there really is such a thing as AOL Stalker.

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

Greatest Paragraph Ever Written About Thomas Friedman

The World is Flat is a book by Thomas Friedman. As I refuse to recognize Thomas Friedman's right to exist, I decided to read Cobra II by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor instead.

Found at Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

Posted by baltar at 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just to share...

... a thought that those around me on a regular basis have heard a million times: power point is the devil.

Posted by binky at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yes, He's Really That Dumb.

The New York Times had a headline this morning: Bush Said to Be Frustrated by Level of Public Support in Iraq. The article goes on to describe a meeting Bush had with advisors last week, where the President seem annoyed that more Iraqis haven't endorsed/accepted/rejoiced over the level of American support for their young Democracy (a young democracy, by the way, where more and more Iraqis are dying every day). Considering the lack of US public support Bush is getting for his Iraq policy, I can understand a certain level of frustration over how the US is percieved in Iraq (I'm not sympathetic, but I can understand his frustration). On the other hand:

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended.

Yes, he's really that dumb. He still doesn't get, six years into his term and three years into the invasion, that Israel isn't liked for all manner of sins (real and imagined, recent and historical), and US support for Israel makes the US guilty by association.

OK, how about this: If Bush is frustrated by the lack of "Yay Americaism" in Iraq, I'm frustrated that our President still doesn't understand that most political issues in the Middle East have some sort of connection to the greater Palestinian/Israeli problem. Could someone please sit him down and give him a 15 minute lecture on Middle East Politics? Use stick figures and hand puppets.

Posted by baltar at 09:00 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

I know, I know

Yes, I know the bottom of the page looks wonky.

No, I am not sure what happened with that.

Yes, I know that in my effort to scan the last few posts for causal errors I deleted them.

No, it wasn't on purpose.

Yes, school starts in a few days and I am working on my syllabi.

And no, I don't really have the time or concentration to fiddle with code today.

But yes, I'm working on it.

Posted by binky at 11:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 13, 2006

Sunday Night Links

The Sunday papers didn't excite me. Yeah, yeah, cease-fire in Lebanon (I'll believe it when I see it). British look for more terrorists. The FAA decides that banning lipstick won't make anyone safer. I'm unexcited.

If you haven't read this commentary on the "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic Christian novels, you should (start at the bottom).

Kung-Fu Monkey doesn't do much politics, but when he does, its good. Well worth a read.

Every Sunday, Lawyers, Guns, and Money puts up a different history of some battleship. Very interesting, especially for those who geek out on naval stuff.

If you aren't reading The Cunning Realist, you should.

If you aren't reading The Comics Curmudgeon, you aren't getting everything out of the daily newspaper funnies that you should.

That's all. Alternative suggestions are welcome.

Posted by baltar at 10:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 12, 2006

Quick...the US and Turkey rank closely together...

...on what score?

Attitudes towards evolution.

Posted by binky at 01:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Someone left the cake out in the rain

Crooks and Liars has their late night music clip up, of a young Maynard Ferguson. I am waiting for the haters to start up in the comments.

The thing about Maynard, though, is that even with the kitschy stuff (the Rocky theme) and the covers (MacArthur Park), it's hard to hate him the way it's easy to hate Kenny G. I've been to a show or two in my time, and to this day one of the best (if we exclude the Flaming Lips, of course, and the Pink Floyd show where they came on promptly at 8pm and played until midnight, with only one short break and two - count 'em two - long encores) was seeing Maynard Ferguson at the Florida Theater in something like, 1986? 1987?

Hey, it was college. A few things are a little hazy.

Most of the time I was developing an interest in "progressive" music, listening to the Cure and the Smiths, or still hanging on to my Pink Floyd/Led Zeppelin roots, but I also traveled in serious band geek circles. And having dated a trumpet player or hmm, let's say two, in my time, I can still remember the way people talked about Maynard in hushed tones. Did you hear his version of Country Road? or I heard he had all his teeth pulled so he could play higher or Dude, I am so going to buy a jet tone. Dating someone who had a beautiful, melodious tone was a long exercise in hearing about the Jet Tone, because, of course, one needed to wail like a motherfucker to be a real trumpet player. *cough* Because when they spoke about Mark Zauss at the All State Band, they talked about how the director wouldn't let him play down an octave during practice, and they got to hear him... a kid our age, play like Maynard.

Anyway, even back in the 80s Maynard was an old dude. And he rocked. Seriously, there was no "Fat Elvis" going on. The guy was up there putting on a show. And he was gracious, and acknowledged all the kids in the audience and encouraged them. I was kind of stunned, because I was sort of "in tow" with my brass buddies (you know, sax players couldn't be really into it or anything) but I was blown away. For a smallish crowd in a dinky(ish) college town, he brought the show.

Maybe there is more to the connection with the Flaming Lips, because one of the things I appreciate about them is the professionalism and dedication in putting on the show, but also the sense that they are still having fun and are glad to be there. Why else would you still be on tour like this as you approached your 80th birthday, if it wasn't for the love of music?

Posted by binky at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 10, 2006

A preview

While catching up on (yet more) dissertation defenses and other things put on hold for the last week or so - including a blog post related to this link - I have a little something for you to ponder.

Spotted at Crooks and Liars.

Posted by binky at 06:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Woodrow Wilson 2.0: Now With Full Action Flight Suit!

By now everyone and his brother (well, maybe not my brother) seems to have adopted the view that the Bush administartion is basically an series of effective sales pitches masking a series of unworkable, dangerous or incoherent policies. And yes, that's troubling. But of late I'm finding the president's seemingly increasing disconnect from the reality-cased community (aka, planet Earth and our actual lives) even more troubling.

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

All I have to say about this is that...'s a good thing the British aren't taking a law enforcement approach to terror.

British police acted urgently overnight, arresting 21 people in what U.S. government officials said privately could have been the biggest terrorist attack since 9/11.

Goodness. I think my sarcastometer is stuck, buried in the red.

Posted by binky at 02:41 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

You know things are weird when...

...millionaire businessmen are the new radical left fringe.

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

August 09, 2006

I are enplyed at CNN


Posted by binky at 09:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Marty Peretz Is ... Is There Something More Kooky Than Batshit Crazy?

So by way of Scott Lemieux (and be sure to read the comments on the thread) I found the latest exercise in illogic from Marty Peretz - and I've got to say he's outdoing himself, trying to dig ever deeper to create a new low on the crazy scale. Peretz blames the Clintons for Lieberman's loss ....

Yeah, you can read that again - but you processed the words correctly the first time. Peretz thinks Bill Clinton is deeply unpopular with Democratic primary voters (duh-what?!?), and Clinton coming into the state to back Lieberman sunk Lieberman.

OK, that's nuts - the most popular president in memory campaigning in a state he won twice among his own partisans ... But wait, it gets better.

The common wisdom is that Al Gore would have won in 2000 had he embraced Clinton more or had he allowed Clinton to embrace him. Well, look at what happened to Joe.

Ummm, how in the hell did this man pass 4th grade (or, to be more charitable, 6th grade)? And he actually controls one of the leading media megaphones (well, according to some) among the DC elite. Ugh.

Posted by armand at 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Splitting Tickets, but not Ideology, in Connecticut

Of course the Senate primary is getting more attention, especially since the Republican incumbent is sure to win reelection. But something rather interesting happened in the Democratic primaries for governor and lt. governor - the mayor of New Haven narrowly nabbed the gubenatorial nomination while his opponent's running-mate easily won the lt. governor slot. From the news coverage on the odd phenomenon (which is very limited), the best I can figure is that it was just a day that was good for the statewide candidates who were perceived to be more liberal than their opponenets (Lamont, DeStefano and Glassman).

Posted by armand at 09:31 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

August 08, 2006

Today - More Than Just the Lieberman Race

Though you'd never know if from national news coverage, there are actually five states holding primaries today. Three members of Congress are in trouble. The best known of these is of course Senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman started the campaign arguing that Ned Lamont was too close to the Republicans, but he has shifted his tone and now argues that Lamont's simply an anti-war candidate supported by bloggers (who knew there were so many bloggers in the Connecticut electorate?). Two other incumbents are also in tight races. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) is widely expected to lose her seat, and pro-choice Republican Joe Schwarz may lose his seat in Michigan.

Look for loads of silly overanalysis tomorrow. C'mon people - pre-Lamont who exactly saw Lieberman as the face of (even a fraction of) the Democratic Party? Or saw the Connecticut primary electorate as representative of the party nation-wide? And if McKinney loses, as she did in 2002, isn't that a sign that even in strongly Democratic constituenices Democrats are perfectly happy to bounce shrill liberals? Maybe voters simply don't want narcissists representing them, be they on the left (McKinney) or moderate (Liebeman). Basically, to me, this race is simply making 2 things clear - people are fed up with "staying the course" in Iraq, and people (especially DEMOCRATS IN A BLUE STATE) don't want a senator who all too often embraces the role of Bush's bitch. Neither one of these things should be remotely surprising if one's watched the polls this year.

Posted by armand at 09:05 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

August 07, 2006

Force and Politics

I'm disturbed by the continued arguments (most, though not exclusively, right wing) that the use of force solves problems for states. I'm not going to bother with a laundry list of sites who argue this, but it's inherent in the PNAC idea (liberate Iraq, create liberal, secular, democratic, capitalist state), and continues into various arguments (again mostly, though not exclusively, right wing) that solving our problems in Iraq (and, by extension, Israel's issues with Hezbollah in Lebanon) would be solved by greater application of force. If we were either more aggressive, more ruthless, and/or willing to "take off the gloves", we'd be able to succeed.

I'm mostly disturbed by these arguments by their lack of historical accuracy.

We need to define some terms before proceeding, or at least set some limits. States have used violence for as long (actually, longer) than there have been states. However, what's argued by those in favor of more force is the idea that violence can solve the problems that states have with each other. That goes beyond the idea that violence is inherent in the international system, and argues that states can use force as a method of resolving issues between them. Violence is inherently political (pace Clauzwitz), but violence as a solution (a resolution between states such that no further dispute remains) is, I would argue, very rare. Yet, it seems to me, this is the argument that the "more force will produce results" school seems to believe: if we use more force (in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, etc.), we can "win" against those who fight against us. More force will produce a victory (defeat, from their perspective) so profound (so complete, so extensive) that the opposition will actually realize they are beaten and will "give up" (interpreted as letting us achieve the best possible policy outcome). If we "take off the gloves" we can hurt them so badly, so completely, that their will to resist the changes we want to impose (suggest, if we want to be nice) will disappear, and we will have "won." All that is preventing us from succeeding (in Iraq, North Korea, etc.) is our own will, our own culture, our own rules. If we'd just ignore our own doubts and self-imposed restrictions, we could "win".

Again, I think this point of view (granted, the above is likely a mis-characterization, but not entirely) misses the historical record. The use of force by the US has been characterized more by the use of force to achieve limited objectives (minimizing present policy differences; using force to accomplish a minimum acceptable win-set for the US) as opposed to complete victory (where the policies of the opponents changes to the point where they are never a threat or opponent). I want to discuss some historical uses of force by the US (limited to US cases; obviously one could expand the data to other countries), and re-acquaint people with the limits to what US use of force has accomplished.

Spanish-American War (1898): Yes, this was a very long time ago. However, this is a good case. The US entered this war (of choice) with a remarkably limited set of objectives (remove Cuba from Spanish influence). We succeeded in that very limited aim (and added the Phillippines, and a few other Pacific Islands as well). There are two points worth making here. First, we had very limited war aims (seize an island ninety-odd miles from Florida, protected by a country some three thousand miles away). However, we wanted to "liberate" Cuba, and provide "freedom" to it's people. In a strict sense, we accomplished this goal (we kicked the Spanish out of Cuba, rather easily). However (and this is the second point), we were unable to effectively "control" either Cuba or the Phillippines. In both cases the US found itself involved in guerilla wars fairly quickly after the actual war (with Spain) had ended. In the Phillippines, we "won" the civil war (the US put down the local insurgents, though we gave the island up for independence after World War II), though in Cuba we "lost" (we gave the Cubans their independence after it became clear that the insurgency/violence would escalate). The war we started achieved our limited war aims (Spain no longer controlled Cuba), but force was ultimately unsuccessful in providing a complete victory (we were drawn into lengthy guerilla wars, though we won only one of those).

World War I: The conventional wisdom here is that we saved Europe from Germany. This is only partially true. While the US entered the war in late 1917 (it began in 1914), our troops didn't enter combat until the summer of 1918 - after Germany's final offensive, which broke against almost entirely British and French defenses. In the end, Germany surrendered - with conditions - rather than face invasion by French/British/US forces. US force was instrumental in achieving the conditional Germany surrender (technically, it was the clear threat of a massive US buildup leading to an invasion of Germany proper that led to the surrender), but in the end, even considering the massive loss of life and property over the war, the settlement left a great deal to be desired in terms of fixing the underlying conditions that led to the war in the first place. While the US may have been willing in 1918 to continue the war into Germany itself (in hopes of a surrender of a more unconditional sort), there was both domestic US pressure to end the war as well as a lack of willingness by Britain and France (exhausted from the war) to continue. In the end, the use of force succeeded in ending the threat of German aggression (temporarily), but didn't solve the underlying policy disagreements. Bluntly, even though several million people lost their lives in this war, the loss by Germany was not (in the language of the PNAC) sufficiently sever that their will to resist was broken. We know this because World War II was, in part, directly tied to the disconnect between the political resolution (Versailles) and the military one (Germany signed an Armistice, not a surrender; and German forces were never routed - the war ended with German troops on French/Belgian soil, not German).

World War II, Europe: This is as close a case as we can come to where force succeeded in defeating the will of the enemy, to the point where the underlying political disagreements were completely eliminated (some time post-war): the states became allies. World War II (in Europe) ended with the unconditional surrender of Germany (I'm ignoring Italy here). However, the military cost of achieving that unconditional surrender was the complete occupation of almost the entire country (while I don't have figures, I'd imagine that the allies had managed to take over 90+% of Germany before the German surrender in April of 1945, and they occupied the rest short afterward). Occupying Germany took several hundred thousand American soldiers, a hundred thousand or so British troops, tens of thousands of French troops, and likely a million or so Soviet troops. This concentration of force was so overwhelming that little resistance (insurgency) was seen after the war ended. In contrast, Iraq (170,000 square miles, versus 140,000 square miles for Germany) was occupied by only about 150,000 American troops in 2003. Force, in this case, was successful at "solving" the political problems with Germany, but it was a great deal ("overwhelming" wouldn't be too strong a phrase) of force. It is telling that the German/World War II case is held up as the template of "winning" a war, while the cost (in lives, property, and - most importantly - active soldiers standing over the defeated enemy civillian population) is often forgotten.

World War II, Japan: Japan is an interesting case. Yes, they surrendered, as Germany did. They surrendered mostly unconditionally: they kept their Emperor. This isn't a trivial point: this was a significant condition to their surrender. Moreover, the Emperor was instrumental in getting the surrender, and in enforcing the post-war reconstruction/rehabilitation. Japan's military government was fully prepared (and actively preparing) to resist a planned invasion of the main islands by the Americans (the US was planning this invasion for the spring of 1946). Given the fanatical resistance by most Japanese military forces in defending the islands in the Pacific the US invaded leading to Japan, the operating assumption by US military planners was that an invasion would be possible, but with heavy loss of US life and even heavier loss of Japanese life. The Japanese knew this as well. The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki force the Emperor to consider the cost to his country of continued fighting. In the end, he ordered the government to surrender. All the bombs dropped on Japan never broke the will of the population to resist America - in the end it was the actions by a single individual to force an end to the fighting. Again, force was successful in completely changing the nature of politics between the US and Japan, though it was again overwhelming force. In other words, the lengthy island-hopping campaign that brought the US within the range of heavy bombers to fire-bomb Japanese cities failed to break the will of the Japanese state to resist the US, and failed to end the war. The atomic weapons also failed in this regard. It is only the actions of a single individual (the Emperor) that lead to the surrender without invasion. It is hard to argue that overwhelming force achieved the political solution (expect through the actions of the Emperor).

The Korean War: A clear failure, except in the very narrow sense of preserving South Korea. While this was an initial war aim (following the North Korean invasion), the US/UN aims were quickly expanded to the idea of reunifying the entire nation. This, clearly, failed to happen. The more limited war aims (protecting South Korea) were achieved. However, in no way did force of arms succeed in "defeating" either the North Korean military (who were demoralized and retreating, but never surrendered) or Chinese military (who fought the US/UN to a stalemate, which is where the war ended). Force succeeded in limiting the North Korean aggression, but was not successful at imposing political conditions on the North Koreans (and clearly not the Chinese).

Vietnam: An abject failure. While it is true that the US "never lost a battle to the North Vietnamese", it is just as true that the US lost the war (an American military officer is supposed to have made a remark to a North Vietnamese military officer at the talks in Paris in the 1970s to this effect). The US had massive force, and used over half a million troops (at our peak in 1968). We were never successful in defeating either the Viet Cong or North Vietnam (to the degree they were different). Force was clearly unsuccessful at achieving a military solution, much less a political one.

US military actions post Vietnam have followed the Vietnam pattern: force was successful in a limited sense (solving the immediate problems), but unsuccessful in a larger sense: the display of force by the US never succeeded in causing something resembling unconditional surrender in our opponents (with the possible exception of Panama in 1989). There is a long list of US actions: Lebanon, 1983; Grenada, 1984; Panama, 1989; Gulf War I, 1990 - 1991; Somalia, 1993; Bosnia/Serbia 1996/1998; Afghanistan, 2001; and Iraq, 2003. Perhaps the greatest US success through force of arms was Grenada, though it is hard to argue Grenada was any sort of actual (or potential) threat: it is clear that US force was overwhelming and ended any sort of quasi-Communist actions by Grenada. Panama is a similiar case: the US invasion removed any issues the US had with Panama (though I think one can reasonably argue the disagreements the US had with Panama were mostly the result of Noriega). Other than Grenada and Panama, US uses of force have often succeeded in their limited intents (Gulf War I, ending Saddam's aggression; Bosnia/Serbia, ending the violence; Afghanistan, removing the Taliban; Gulf War II, removing Saddam) and sometimes failed in their limited missions (Lebanon, didn't succeed in stabilizing the government; Somalia; we didn't succeed in restoring order). In no case did the use of US force succeed in "overwhelming" the opposing forces such that we were able to impose optimal (for us) solutions. We pushed Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991, but failed to reform his aggressive/revisionist manner through our defeat of his military forces. We (along with Europe) were able to impose a cease-fire on both Bosnia (and later Serbia) in the late 1990s, but our use of force did not end the ethnic cleansing. We removed the Taliban government in 2001, but have clearly failed to end the Taliban ideology (they have returned in 2003, in strength). We removed Saddam in 2003, but a raging insurgency was not cowed by the precision of US arms, and threatens to turn Iraq into a civil war (if it isn't there already).

This isn't to say that violence hasn't succeeded in limited aims. It clearly has. The historical record, however, argues that violence is not an effective tool at achieving the imposition of political solutions that remove the underlying political disagreements. We have not been able to use force to affect political change in the sense of being able to remake states/societies to the point where they are (at best) allies or (at worst) neutral to the US. I want to make clear, again, that I'm not arguing that force is useless (it clearly isn't), nor am I arguing that force is wrong (that's a moral position, and I'm not debating morality here). I'm arguing that force is, historically, a limited instrument that is best employed in pursuit of limited ends. Historically, very few uses of force have resulted in political solutions that didn't rebound back onto the US (require future diplomatic/political/military effort) at some point in the future.

This isn't anything resembling a formal study. This is more in the way of a hypothesis, or thought experiment. However, anyone with a reasonable knowledge of history should look at the PNAC/WingNut argument that more force will solve our problems in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, by extension, Israel's problems in Lebanon) with a significantly jaundiced eye.

Posted by baltar at 08:03 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Machiavelli's Liberal Republican Legacy, Paul Rahe (ed.)

If I had $75 to spare I'd likely buy this book. I'm neither a trained historian nor a political philosopher, so if you want a quick description of what this book's really about and where it fits in current philosophical debates you'll get a better understanding of that from the reviewers on the book's website than any brief description I could offer. I'll just note that I found it to be thought-provoking and some of the chapters are quite interesting (at least to readers, like me, who are interested in Machiavelli, Enlightenment political philosophy or the founding of the United States). I found Markus Fischer's prologue and the chapters on connecting Machiavelli to (and distinguishing him from) Locke, Montesquieu and Hamilton to be especially interesting and worthwhile. Obviously this Cambridge Press book isn't for everyone, but if you are interested in the these topics or individuals it's worth your time.

Posted by armand at 07:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush Commits US Soldiers to Fighting in Iraq's Civil War?

The early blog coverage of these comments by the president seems focused on his uh, interesting, take on the relationship between elections and civil wars. For an example, see Atrios. Coming in the wake of Peter Galbraith's comments that before the war Bush lacked an understanding that there were 2 main sects of Muslims in Iraq, this reading of the president's words reinforces the widely-held belief that our leader is poorly informed and out of touch with the politics of Iraq.

But looking at the orginal link (to Think Progress's transcript of the president's words) the bigger story here isn't the bumbling, poorly-informed president (that's old news) - it's the bumbling, poorly-informed president who wants to apparently put US troops straight in the middle of an Iraqi civil war.

And it’s going to be up to the Maliki government, with U.S. help, to use the trained forces and eventually a trained police force to take care of those who are trying to foment sectarian violence.

Am I reading that wrong? It looks to me like that's what he's saying. And that chills me to the bone.

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

Nathaniel Hearts The Purple Rose of Cairo

Who doesn't? It's wonderful. But what makes this post so nice is that it does a good job of explaining why it's so wonderful.

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

The 2007 Race for Governor of Kentucky

Mark Nickolas provides an early look at the contenders (ranking the potential Republican and Democratic candidates). Understandably, he ranks embattled and deeply unpopular Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) at the top of the Republican list - but his renomination is far from assured.

Posted by armand at 11:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I kinda did, but didn't mean to. A family emergency pulled me away, and I'm on dial-up (a pulse line! not even tone dialing!) for a few quick seconds. Thanks to Armand for holding down the fort. Vignettes of southern family life to come in a few days.

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

Bob Ney (R-OH) Will Not Seek Reelection

The road to a Democratic House in 2007 just got a little tougher. Bob Ney (R-OH), the most endangered House incumbent, is dropping out of his race. He will apparently be replaced by state senator Joy Padgett.

Posted by armand at 08:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Does the US Really Want Democracy in Egypt?

Praktike thinks the recent actions of the Egyptian opposition (in response to the war in Lebanon and Israel) show it can't be trusted with power.

That's something you'd think the White House would have considered before they wedded themselves to the promotion of democracy in the Middle East - I mean the fact that elections in many of these countries would produce regimes much more hostile to Israel than the current regimes. But since it's been depressingly obvious that this White House rarely thinks more than 5 minutes ahead, I guess it's not too shocking that they wouldn't stop to think about who their dear elections might actually put in power.

Posted by armand at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2006

Merci Pour La Chocolat

You can often count on Claude Chabrol movies to provide a world where, regardless of the well-appointed rooms filled with bright people, something very dark is lurking just out of sight. And you can always count on Isabelle Huppert to turn in a strong performance. She's one of the top actresses working today and there's always a strength of will in her, and a coiled intensity behind her placid expressions. Put the two together and you can have a fascinating, compeling, deeply-disturbing film of elegance and devastating horror. Or, that's what they produced together in La Ceremonie. Merci Pour La Chocolat is a different animal, basically because the script is too simple and straightforward. It doesn't start out that way, the first two scenes seem to present a host of possibilities, but once the characters are all connected and have their direction (each becomes obvious all to quickly) it simply ... plays out. Chabrol's directing and Huppert's acting leave you wondering. Their skill makes you hope something interesting is afoot. But there's not, unless you count another interesting to watch Huppert perfomance. And happily those are to be found in better movies. If you want a recommendation for one of those that's not on the usual list of her highlights, I really enjoyed The School of Flesh.

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

An Iran/Hezbollah Link Regarding the July 12 Attack?

Greg Sargent notes an oddly under-reported revelation regarding the war raging in Lebanon and Israel.

Officials also say that available intelligence does not offer proof that Iran inspired or directed the Hezbollah kidnappings and rocket launchings that set off the war with Israel... [I]ntelligence analysts say there is little evidence that the Hezbollah raid more than three weeks ago that touched off the current fighting was ordered by Tehran, or that Iran is directly coordinating the steady attacks on Israeli targets. "Nobody thinks that the Iranians have walked off the field, but we are just not seeing any direct control of things from Tehran," said an intelligence official who was given anonymity to discuss classified intelligence. Another administration official said there was no proof that Iran was pulling the strings in southern Lebanon today ...

He asks - "Whether or not you believe what these intel officials are saying, shouldn't the fact that they are saying it at least have some sort of role in a conversation about why Iran is or isn't "behind" the Hezbollah attacks?"

The answer to that is, of course, yes.

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

August 05, 2006

McCain - Bad Calls, More Bad Calls and an Ewww Factor

Shakes responds to the idea that John McCain is unbeatable in 2008 by providing an overview of the man, the myth, the opportunistic Bush-lovin' conservative Republican senior senator from Arizona. Of course he's beatable.

Posted by armand at 04:40 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

The Scrapping of the France (or Norway or Blue Lady)

The SS France (later the Norway, and now in her last days the Blue Lady) was one of the most popular cruise ships of the second half of the twentieth century (and the first few years of this century). It was one of the last great liners to be built like a ship (as opposed to a giant land-based hotel or casino), and was the longest passenger ship in the world for over 40 years (until the gigantic Queen Mary II). It has sailed its last cruise though. She was never fully repaired following a boiler explosion in 2003. And for the last two years there has been much discussion of what to do with her, as the 500 tons of asbestos on board was thought by many to make her too dangerous to scrap (similar complaints forced the old French aircraft carrier Clemenceau back to France after Indian authorities said scrapping her woul violate environmental laws). However Indian authorties have now ruled that the shipbreakers can have at her, so she will be beached, broken apart, and an old (and popular) era in cruises will finally come to and end.

Posted by armand at 08:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 04, 2006

Keeping an Eye on Egypt

In this morning's links Juan Cole provides updates on the horrors in Lebanon (the bombings and destruction of course, but also the effects of Israel shutting off fuel shipments to Lebanon), but he also keeps an eye on Gaza (big tank movements and yet more deaths there too) and Egypt. The news from Egypt isn't good, neither from the Mubaraks nor from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Posted by armand at 08:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2006

Sen. Robert C. Byrd - On the Wrong Side Again

Byrd's voting record leaves a lot to be desired, and his actions that would annoy many Democrats extend far beyond his votes for Justice Alito, Chief Justice Roberts and former Attorney General Ashcroft. He's made lots of unfortunate calls on economic policy - and he made another today. On the cloture vote that would have allowed the "Paris Hilton" estate tax cuts to become permanent, he sided with the Republican majority (and presumably Ms. Hilton), and against the position supported by Sen. Rockefeller and the vast majority of the Democratic caucus (the other Democrats who joined him in supporting the giveaway to the fabulously rich were Blanche Lincoln and the two Nelsons). Sens. Chafee and Voinovich crossed the aisle to vote with most of the Democrats which, fortunately, helped kill the proposal. It was not able to muster the 60 votes it needed to pass - no thanks to Sen. Byrd.

Posted by armand at 11:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dan Nexon Plays Legal Analyst

Well what do you know? I'm not the only IR guy who'd sometimes rather spend his time following what the country's appeals courts are up to. It seems he doesn't think much of the reasoning in the recent Washington state gay-marriage decision. I sure hope he doesn't read the recent decision from New York's top court on the topic - the reasoning in that one's considerably worse.

Posted by armand at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Peretz v. Olmert on Expanded Operations in Lebanon

Interesting - the head of Labor is apparently pushing for a major military offensive on the ground in Lebanon, and the head of Likud (oh, sorry Kadima - most of what used to be Likud) is reluctant to push that. A nice reminder than when it comes to world politics a lot of our heuristics (oh the leftist party MUST want smaller military moves than the successor to Jabotinsky) are merely that, and won't necessarily with with expected behaviors 100% of the time. But I guess why I think it's really interesting is the contrast to 1982. But then Olmert's not Begin and Peretz isn't Peres.

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

Cavanaugh, Pape and Hezbollah as an Organization

C'mon, how can you not love this?

If I may channel my inner Raphael Patai for one generalization ...
Really though, Cavanaugh raises a very interesting point. I'm not sure if he's right or if Pape is (my first response is to say that they both are depending on the precise context, but in and of itself that backs up Cavanaugh's position), but it's an important thing to think about.

Posted by armand at 07:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iris Young, 1949 - 2006.

She taught at Pitt while I was there, and I had the fortunate experience of being in a few of her unofficial seminars.


Posted by baltar at 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2006


Posted without comment.

Not Surprising, Just Funny


The Bush administration said it viewed attempts by Venezuela or other countries to influence the transition in Cuba as unwarranted intervention. “The president is worried about people in the neighborhood who seek to destabilize neighbors using economic or other means,” Mr. Snow said.

Posted by binky at 06:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


How many times have we used that word in recent months? In the last six years? Are we stupid? Naive? Hopelessly optimistic to think that calling attention to this shameful disregard, this soiling of a democratic system, will have any effect? From the WaPo (emphasis mine):

A draft Bush administration plan for special military courts seeks to expand the reach and authority of such "commissions" to include trials, for the first time, of people who are not members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and are not directly involved in acts of international terrorism, according to officials familiar with the proposal.

The plan, which would replace a military trial system ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June, would also allow the secretary of defense to add crimes at will to those under the military court's jurisdiction. The two provisions would be likely to put more individuals than previously expected before military juries, officials and independent experts said.

The draft proposed legislation, set to be discussed at two Senate hearings today, is controversial inside and outside the administration because defendants would be denied many protections guaranteed by the civilian and traditional military criminal justice systems.

Under the proposed procedures, defendants would lack rights to confront accusers, exclude hearsay accusations, or bar evidence obtained through rough or coercive interrogations. They would not be guaranteed a public or speedy trial and would lack the right to choose their military counsel, who in turn would not be guaranteed equal access to evidence held by prosecutors.

Detainees would also not be guaranteed the right to be present at their own trials, if their absence is deemed necessary to protect national security or individuals.

An early draft of the new measure prepared by civilian political appointees and leaked to the media last week has been modified in response to criticism from uniformed military lawyers. But the provisions allowing a future expansion of the courts to cover new crimes and more prisoners were retained, according to government officials familiar with the deliberations.

The military lawyers received the draft after the rest of the government had agreed on it. They have argued in recent days for retaining some routine protections for defendants that the political appointees sought to jettison, an administration official said.

They objected in particular to the provision allowing defendants to be tried in absentia, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to describe the deliberations. Another source in contact with top military lawyers said, "Their initial impression is that the draft was unacceptable and sloppy." The source added that "it did not have enough due-process rights" and could further tarnish America's image.

The military lawyers nonetheless supported extending the jurisdiction of the commissions to cover those accused of joining or associating with terrorist groups engaged in anti-U.S. hostilities, and of committing or aiding hostile acts by such groups, whether or not they are part of al-Qaeda, two U.S. officials said.

That language gives the commissions broader reach than anticipated in a November 2001 executive order from President Bush that focused only on members of al-Qaeda, those who commit international terrorist acts and those who harbor such individuals.

Some independent experts say the new procedures diverge inappropriately from existing criminal procedures and provide no more protections than the ones struck down by the Supreme Court as inadequate. John D. Hutson, the Navy's top uniformed lawyer from 1997 to 2000, said the rules would evidently allow the government to tell a prisoner: "We know you're guilty. We can't tell you why, but there's a guy, we can't tell you who, who told us something. We can't tell you what, but you're guilty."

Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general during the Reagan administration, said after reviewing the leaked draft that "the theme of the government seems to be 'They are guilty anyway, and therefore due process can be slighted.' " With these procedures, Fein said, "there is a real danger of getting a wrong verdict" that would let a lower-echelon detainee "rot for 30 years" at Guantanamo Bay because of evidence contrived by personal enemies.

Or, as AmericaBlog points out, a real danger of that section being used against journalists, or dissidents.

[head shake] We are talking about the potential for dissidents in the US. [head shake]

Administration officials have said that the exceptional trial procedures are warranted because the fight against terrorism requires heavy reliance on classified information or on evidence obtained from a defendant's collaborators, which cannot be shared with the accused. The draft legislation cites the goal of ensuring fair treatment without unduly diverting military personnel from wartime assignments to present evidence in trials.

Of course! Diverting personnel is out of the question, but trampling on constitutional rights?

John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer who helped draft the earlier plan, said Bush administration officials essentially "took DOD regulations" for the trials "and turned them into a statute for Congress to pass." He said the drafters were obviously "trying to return the law to where it was before Hamdan " by writing language into the draft that challenges key aspects of the court's decision.

"Basically, this is trying to overrule the Hamdan case," said Neal K. Katyal, a Georgetown University law professor who was Hamdan's lead attorney.

The plan calls for commissions of five military officers appointed by the defense secretary to try defendants for any of 25 listed crimes. It gives the secretary the unilateral right to "specify other violations of the laws of war that may be tried by military commission." The secretary would be empowered to prescribe detailed procedures for carrying out the trials, including "modes of proof" and the use of hearsay evidence.

Unlike the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the commissions could rely on hearsay as the basis for a conviction. Unlike routine military courts-martial, in which prosecutors must overcome several hurdles to use such evidence, the draft legislation would put the burden on the defense team to block its use.

Nice touch there, showing how even those UN loving courts won't rely on hearsay.

The admission of hearsay is a serious problem, said Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch, because defendants might not know if it was gained through torture and would have difficulty challenging it on that basis. Nothing in the draft law prohibits using evidence obtained through cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that falls short of torture, Malinowski said.

The U.S. official countered that a military judge "would look hard" at the origins of such evidence and that defendants would have to count on "the trustworthiness of the system."

To secure a death penalty under the draft legislation, at least five jurors must agree, two fewer than under the administration's earlier plan. Courts-martial and federal civilian trials require that 12 jurors agree.

Look hard indeed. The harder I look, the more Stalinist it appears.

Posted by binky at 03:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

More Evidence that Politics is Hollywood for Ugly People

Well since I was on The Hill's site looking at that piece on Wakim, I surfed around and came across this depressing feature - the 50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill. After checking out the top 20 (Senator Ensign of Nevada is the highest rankking member of Congress on the list, coming in at #20), I couldn't bear to look any further. There are pretty people on the Hill - but these aren't them. Ok, number 1 is pretty, but except for her the women are rather ordinary. And except for a 38 year old lobbyist at #9, the guys ... well, it is to laugh. That dude at #2? As if. Exactly who (oh, that poor poor soul) did he sleep with to get ranked at #2? But it's not of course just him - he leads of a set of largely mediocre guys.

Anyway head on over there if you want to laugh at somebody's peculiar definition of hot - or you just want to witness a certain type of karmic balance (yeah these people might be influential or have bright futures - but hey, you're prettier than them).

Posted by armand at 12:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

To Explain Wakim's (R-WV) Military Service, Here's His Wife - Morgan Fairchild

The White House has prioritized taking down our veteran, middle-of-the-road congressman, Alan Mollohan (D-WV). To accomplish this task they are strongly backing state legislator Chris Wakim. Wakim has indeeded served in the state legislature, but it appears that some of the rest of his resume, is ...uh, well, inflated seems a good word for it.

I'm willing to let the Harvard thing slide, but the "Gulf War veteran" claim is, I think, pretty clearly misleading.

Wakim’s campaign website also says that he is a "Gulf War veteran." "That’s not an exaggeration; it's in the law that I am indeed a Gulf War veteran," he told reporters, explaining that he had not been deployed to the Middle East but instead trained soldiers in Massachusetts during the war.

“To be considered a veteran of the first Gulf War, one must receive the Southwest Asia Service Medal. The absence of the medal makes one a Gulf War-era veteran,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Wakim said he does not have that medal.

For what it's worth, on last week's edition of Hotline TV the editors rated Mollohan as the 4th most endangered incumbent House Democrat in the country (though they seemed to think that only two incumbent Democrats were in deep trouble - Boswell of Iowa and Bean of Illinois).

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

August 01, 2006

Maybe it's really hot there too

The DMZ got a little warm today.

Border guards of the two Koreas briefly traded fire Monday but there were no South Korean casualties, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Tuesday.

The shootout occurred around 7:35 p.m. in Yanggu in the eastern portion of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), as North Korean soldiers fired two bullets towards a South Korean guard post, said a JCS official.

South Korean soldiers immediately fired back six rounds but there was no response, the official said, requesting anonymity.

"According to our rules of engagement on GOPs (general outposts), we should return fire if North Korea makes provocative acts," he said.

One of the two North Korean bullets hit a South Korean guard post inside the DMZ, but it didn't kill or injure South Korean soldiers, JCS officials said. The other North Korean bullet fell near the guard post, they said.

It is not immediately known whether there were any North Korean casualties.

Monday's incident took place amid rising tension over North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs. On July 5, North Korea conducted multiple missile tests, ignoring repeated international warnings not to do so.

HT Crooks and Liars.

Posted by binky at 06:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I'll just say this about that

The weather, she is brutal.

Posted by binky at 06:17 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack


So I watched this last night. Starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, it's interesting in that it's deeply loved by some critics, reviled by others, and you can quite easily see the reasons for both.

Many American viewers would likely detest it. I didn't though. I found it rather interesting, no minor feet given that it moves at a snail's pace. The craftwork (directing, staging, lighting, costumes, etc.) is very well done, and if you simply look at it as a film that's about how uncomfortable both watching and being watched are, and what being in those positions does to a person (or perhaps as an exercise in the stresses that the world experiences due to the way we perceive events) it's very good. And there are a few great scenes (like the one with Auteuil and his mother) and the family-life events feel real.

But there's a lot to loathe too. One point in particular (and it's a big plot point) makes no sense no matter one's perspective, and a lot of people might not buy the Auteuil character's actions (though I can see them making sense to him at the time). And then there's the matter of end of the film ...

But that said, it could actually be an important film that I should watch again before judging too harshly. So until I do that, I guess I'll leave my comments there.

Posted by armand at 10:36 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Fidel Death Watch

It's like wildfire. The news about Fidel's 'temporary" handover of power to Raul, and subsequent lack of information, is fanning the flames of speculation. I'm inclined to think this is very serious, and not temporary, given the time frame (several months of rest?) and the fact that Raul has been in the press a lot more leading up to this "intestinal surgery." Some other places to read:

Miami streets burst with joy

The Babalu Blog

The Florida Masochist has links to other blogs

The NYT has a story that strikes me as funny, because it talks about intestinal bleeding, as if that has much to do with anyone's interest in the story

Of course Granma only has the offical statement, plus the usual anti-imperialist blather.

Posted by binky at 10:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack