January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins

She's gone. Far, far too soon:

Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as "Shrub," has died after a long battle with breast cancer, the managing editor of the Texas Observer said Wednesday. Ivins was 62.

The writer, who made a living poking fun at Texas politicians, whether they were in her home base of Austin or the White House, revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

"Molly was a hero. She was a mentor. She was a liberal. She was a patriot. She was a friend. And she always will be," the Observer said in a statement. "With Molly's death we have lost someone we hold dear. What she has left behind we will hold dearer still."

Posted by binky at 07:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Andrew Jackson's Attacks on Habeas Corpus and Railroad Workers

When Jackson choose to exert his will, things could get ugly. And sadly his love of his own power (and his disrespect for the liberty of others and the rule of law) set a precedent that has affected the country over the many years since he left office. Caleb Crain reviews Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law here.

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January 30, 2007

The 12 sided die... quick!

I could have used some professor magic today:

DESTROY CELL PHONES. Fries circuitry in all cell phones within a 10 ft. radius. Professor must perform a DC 16 Electronics check if his or her own phone is in spell range.

Instead I had to do the stern "you should be writing this down and not text messaging as if I can't see you."


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When Football Analogies Go Awry

From Sen. Richard Lugar's column in today's Washington Post:

We need to recast the geo-strategic reference points of our Iraq policy. Some commentators have compared the Bush plan to a "Hail Mary" pass in football -- a desperate heave deep down the field by a losing team at the end of the game. Actually, a far better analogy for the Bush plan is a draw play on third down with 20 yards to go in the first quarter. The play does have a chance of working if everything goes perfectly, but it is more likely to gain a few yards and set up a punt on the next down, after which the game can be continued under more favorable circumstances.

Can any of you make heads or tails of that? I can't. Calling a draw on 3rd and 20 sounds pretty close to insane (or at least wildly risky), being happy to turn the ball (control) over to your opponent strikes me as odd (you can't win that way, barring a safety), and why on Earth think of this as the 1st quarter? I am quite perplexed by this comparison.

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January 29, 2007

Just How Stupid Is D'Souza?

Really stupid. Really really really stupid. Others can tear his whining to shreds for the blatant inaccuracies and dishonesty that are present in it. But I want to highlight a ridiculous assertion he makes near the end of his "why the left hates me" commentary. He writes:

if a book says things that are obviously untrue and can be disproved, then it is not dangerous -- it is merely fiction and should be ignored. A book is dangerous only if it exposes something in the culture that some people are eager to keep hidden.

You know there are a lot of books I could use as examples here, but the first one that came to mind was The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And I could list a lot more, but after that example, do I need to? Books can clearly be dangerous, and whether or not they are clearly does not turn solely on the veracity of their content.

Posted by armand at 11:27 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Long time no link dump

Busy today, even to assemble a proper link dump. So I'm going to steal from LGM, and encourage you to read Mad Melancholic Feminista on the strict/nurturing dichotomy experienced by young female faculty:

When younger female facutly aren't getting challenged on everything: i.e., when they scheduled tests, why so much work, why they grade so hard, or why they assign so much reading, they are, conversely, sought out for all sorts of nurturing. Students automatically assume that these women are waiting to drop everything to help them not only with their questions about how to do X, but about their personal lives. Many female faculty also get more easily roped into informal committee work that takes away their time. If you add all this up, it's not surprising why they are so damn stressed out.

What was that she said? Stressed? Right. See you later.

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January 28, 2007


It's awesome that Helen Mirren won the award. In this picture, she doesn't even look like herself does she?

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Has Former Secretary Laird Gone Crazy?

What the hell is THIS? Former Republican Congressman and Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Mel Laird seems to have lost his marbles. Either that, or he's being disingenuous in the extreme and not playing by the "civility and bipartisanship" rules he wants the Democrats to follow.

He starts off by saying that the Congress shouldn't cut Defense appropriations for a war because of the lessons he's drawn of what that led to in 1975. Well, there seems to be a giant hole in that analogy, doesn't there? US troops had already been withdrawn from Vietnam prior to the past debate he's addressing. So ... in what universe is that in any way relateable to the funding debates going on now over Iraq? He says Pelosi and Reid are have "begun to squander the trust they were given in Nevmber". Hmmm. It would be nice it he said what exactly they'd done to "squander" it. He says only Hillary Clinton can save us on Iraq, and that without success in Iraq she'll never be president. Hmmm. I think her candidacy is going to turn on a few more issues, though sure, she's dug herself quite a whole on that issue. He says McGovern won only two states because he had no plan of his own regarding Vietnam, he only criticized Vietnamization. Again we see a truly weird assertion of cause and effect that overlooks little points like how one could quite reasonably criticize Vietnamization on a variety of grounds, that McGovern's end goals regarding Vietnam were simply different from Laird's, and the fact that McGovern only won one state, not two. He then proceeds to blame Congress for a host of ills like the lack of civility and bipartisanship (wow, the Democrats have really kicked the legs out from under Washington in a mere two weeks), and the need to focus on a wider peace in the Middle East - and yet he's currently silent on criticizing the White House for its incivility and lack of bipartisanship and years of behavior that have undermined the ability to achieve a wider peace in the region. He then states that we need a bigger military, and that Congress should get behind that - but curiously omits that Democrats have been pulling for that for the past few years, while the White House has blocked it. He then seems to say Congess is to blame for the Iraqi prime minister and should hold him accountable. Hmmm - I thought the president was responsible for foreign and national security policy? Isn't that the reason the White House uses to continually assert it needs unlimited power? And finally he concludes (yes, finally), by asserting that the real enemy is ... much of the Islam? The Third World? Well he's kind of vague on that. I guess because he couldn't find a pithy way to blame it on Nancy Pelosi.

I mean really did Hannity or the White House press office just write up this crap and send it off to Laird for him to sign? Or is he really this dense and/or clueless?

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

January 27, 2007

Smokin' Aces

I realize that it's early to declare the worst movie of 2007, but ...

Yikes. This thing is terrible. The word "abomination" leaps to mind. Now it's got its funny moments, and ... Alicia Keys and Ryan Reynolds are attractive peopls to look at for a couple of hours? Presuming that's not enough to keep your interest in this film, and given how bad it is it almost surely isn't, I guess it I can say it has its funny moments, the best of which (by FAR) come from Jason Bateman (who is so funny in such an unexpected role - and he's fall out of your seat hilarious - that you really have to see it) and someone named Chris Pine (I have no idea who he is, but he's quite appealing). But sadly (oh so sadly for the audience) their screen time is brief. The rest is a complete mess that hasn't the vaguest clue about maintaining any sort of consistent tone. Oh, and the writing is TERRIBLE. But you probably knew that. So ... well Bateman especially is damn funny. But presuming you aren't an obsessed Bateman fan, you should probably skip this one.

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

January 26, 2007

I may know a lot about nothing...

...but Armand knows even more about nothing than me. At least his team did, even though we both lost in the charity trivia competition.

Maybe I should have had some beer.

Posted by binky at 11:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Is Pumpkinhead Cheney's Puppet?

I'm shocked, simply shocked, to learn that the Vice President believed he could regularly use Tim Russert's show as helpful megaphone for disseminating his talking points.

Posted by armand at 09:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 25, 2007

Jessica Read My Mind


My favorite State of the Union moment

From last night's State of the Union address:

"In all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors."

Unless, of course, you have a vagina.

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Do, Dump or Marry?

I'd never heard of this game. It sounds way fun though, and we haven't had a quiz for ages, so here are some threes for you to consider and play with. The idea is that out of each group you get to do one, marry one, and you've got to dump one. So ...

Diane Lane, Maria Bello, Naomi Watts.

Kate Winslet, Angelina Jolie, Uma Thurman.

Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Ashley Judd.

Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom.

Clive Owen, Gael Garcia Bernal, Jake G.

George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Viggo M.

Okay - get shallow and play!

Oh, for the record when it comes to JA's three I'd do Dean, marry Clift, and dump Brando.

Posted by armand at 01:19 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

New Entry in the "Greatest Nutball" Contest

In today's WaPo, in an article titled "Gore Film Sparks Parents' Anger", I want to introduce you to Frosty E. Hardiman (yes, his name is "Frosty", and yes, he has seven kids).

We are not talking about slasher movies (gore = Saw II), we are talking about "An Inconvienient Truth", the movie funded by Al Gore (former Vice-President of the United States, and still, it seems, still capable of whipping wingnuts into frothy cappucinos):

Take it away, Frosty:

"Liberal left is all over Hollywood," he grumbled a few hours after the nomination [Gore's movie was nominated for an Oscar for "Best Documentary"] was announced.

"No you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation -- the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet -- for global warming," Hardiman wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way School Board. The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day.

Needless to say, this whole thing blew up because a seventh-grade science teacher wanted to show the documentary to the class. "Frosty" swung into action, and now (you can see where this is going, right?), the documentary can be shown, but only with "conditions":

That means that "An Inconvenient Truth" may be shown only with the written permission of a principal -- and only when it is balanced by alternative views that are approved by both a principal and the superintendent of schools.

Hardiman was pleased.

"I am happy they are giving the kids as much information as possible," he said.

His daughter's science teacher, meanwhile, said she is struggling to find authoritative articles to counter the information in the Gore documentary.

"The only thing I have found so far is an article in Newsweek called 'The Cooling World,' " Walls said.

It was written 37 years ago.

Words fail me. Note, by the way, that "Frosty" believes that global warming is a sign of the Second Coming of Christ, and even if "Frosty" believed in Global Warming he would want to accelerate it (bringing the Rapture sooner), not stop it.

If "Frosty" (a somewhat ironic name, yes?) doesn't win the award for craziest wingnut, who does?

Posted by baltar at 09:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Roger and Serena Will Be in the Finals (Australian Open '07)

Mr. Practically Perfect in Every Way breezed past Andy Roddick to reach yet another Grand Slam final. And how about the run unseeded Serena Williams is having? She won in straight sets and will face top seed Maria Sharapova in the final on the women's side.

Posted by armand at 08:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 24, 2007

State Of The Union

I was fairly unimpressed by Bush's State of the Union speech last night. The tone was better (more engaged, more animated) than the dreary "library speech" of 10ish days ago, but the content hasn't really changed much.

On domestic policy, Bush took some very tentative steps towards admiting to global warming (but didn't do anything), argued for the US to import less oil (but only after he leaves office, and he didn't really present any concrete plan for achieving this), and proposed some moderate health care initatives (which don't seem so good in the light of day; see Drum and hilzoy). None of this matters: his political standing is lower than whale shit at this point, and he could have proposed a full government take-over of all of healthcare and it wouldn't get a hearing. He's a lame-duck, and he's unpopular. Congress will do what it wants.

On foreign policy, he once again proved he really doesn't know much about the Middle East. He lumped both Shiite and Sunni extremists in the same bag (when they clearly aren't), and (once again) argued that the terrorists attack us because they "hate freedom." Uh, no, they don't. There is not one single terrorist organization anywhere in the world who wish to attack us because of how "free" we are (they wouldn't define us as "free", in any event). They hate us because of our policies, our culture, our actions, and our attempts to get their societies to change (in directions that we think are good: capitalism and democracy). They don't however, hate us because we are "free." If Bush has done nothing else wrong (and he's done plenty), his repetition of this meme has clearly hindered any sort of realistic national dialog about causes, effects and solutions (to terrorism, to Middle East authoritarianism, to poverty in the Middle East, etc.).

As for this surge in Iraq, I think its useless. I'm certainly in favor of "winning" (whatever that means at this point), but an additional 20,000 troops isn't going to accomplish victory. Perhaps an additional 200,000 troops might (an American platoon on every streetcorner in Baghdad would reduce the violence, though it would also increase American casualties), but we don't have an additional 200,000. And even if we did, I think Iraq has decended so far into civil war that no political process can bring the sides back together again. Iraq is dead; now, the question is, what do we do with the body?

I'm also frustrated that everyone calls this surge "bold." No, extending tours for troops in Iraq (keeping them longer) and hurrying other already scheduled in sooner (to "surge" 20,000) troops isn't bold. That's just book-keeping. Bold is stripping all of our combat troops from Japan, South Korea, Europe, and a few of the good National Guard units and running them all into Iraq (and surging something like an additional 75,000 troops). Sure, we'd be up shits creek if North Korea tried anything (but if we parked most of the US Air Force, and all of our aircraft carriers in the area, that might dissuade them, or at least slow them down), and I still don't think it would work, but it is bold, and has a better chance than 20,000. It's also likely to destabilize other parts of the world (move that many soldiers around, and someone, somewhere is likely to react somehow), but its certainly bold.

Of course, bold shouldn't be expected from this guy.

Posted by baltar at 05:49 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

How Tired My Brain

As I was cleaning out the massive comment spam dump we've been getting, I paused on one that said "bullion trading" and thought "first pork bellies, and now soup???

I need to get more sleep.

Posted by binky at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

All the King's Men

There are some movies that lead you to ask - "Why remake it?" Before seeing the new version that was a perfectly understandable question one could have about All the King's Men. After seeing the remake you really, really, really wonder.

The original (from 1949) won Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for 4 more Oscars. This one ... let's just say it's no surprise it didn't do as well in yesterday's Oscar nominations. No, let's say more than that. The remake is almost incomprehensibly bad. The directing, the casting, the acting, the writing - it's bad in basically every possible way. The accents, oh my lord the accents. My favorite former White House attorney said he couldn't understand a word. Given the writing, that might have been a good thing. But really, whose idiotic idea were those? I mean the don't really fit together. I get that they are some sort of "Southern", but beyond that ... And why in the hell make Patty Clarkson, who's actually from Louisiana, contort her voice to go along with that mess. As if that wasn't bad enough for her they cut out all the interesting parts of her character and basically reduced a spirited role to that of a jealous, weak-willed mistress. You are given little in the way of motivations for any of the characters' actions. The way it's shot leaves MUCH to be desired (I quite liked Steve Zaillian's first directing job, Searching for Bobby Fischer, but this ... oh so no). Basically, if you see the box, and are thinking about renting it thinking it'll be a good drama or are impressed by its talented cast of actors - put the box down and slowly back away.

Posted by armand at 09:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2007

"Because I am not mentally stable, you should not be allowed to have an abortion"

That's what this article should have been titled.

It's a terrible shame that this woman has suffered a life of misery starting with sexual abuse by a sibling and being raped at the age of 14, if that was truly the onset and not some earlier horrors left untold in the article. That she regrets having several abortions is clear, as is her long struggle with mental illness.

None of those things have an iota to do with the truth about the relationship between abortion and depression (there isn't one) or the autonomy women have to control their fertillity.

To Arias, that means helping women at the prison who have had abortions to understand how that procedure has stained them, and how it explains what has gone wrong in their lives.


But after the procedure, she says, strange feelings washed over her. "I remember having evil thoughts, about hurting children," she said. "It was like I'd done the worst thing I could possibly do. A piece of evil had entered me."


"In America we have a big drug problem, and we don’t realize it’s because of abortion."

At some level it feels mean to criticize this woman who has suffered so much, and so much at the hands of the patriarchal system she now works to perpetuate. Clearly she has suffered great pain. However her personal pain is no excuse for spreading outright falsehoods.

[T]he idea that abortion is at the root of women’s psychological ills is not supported by the bulk of the research. Instead, the scientific evidence strongly shows that abortion does not increase the risk of depression, drug abuse or any other psychological problem any more than having an unwanted pregnancy or giving birth.

To repeat: "not supported."

Almost 3 million of the 6 million pregnancies that occur each year in the United States are unplanned; about 1.3 million end in abortion. At the current rate, about one-third of women nationally will undergo the procedure by age 45. The number of women who go to abortion-recovery counseling is probably in the tens of thousands, and the number who become dedicated activists is at most a few hundred. And yet they and their cause are emerging as a political force.

No evidence that 1.3 million women believe that something evil entered them. Lots of evidence that women make many decisions about their fertility and autonomy, including pregnancy and abortion.

A study of 13,000 women, conducted in Britain over 11 years, compared those who chose to end an unwanted pregnancy with those who chose to give birth, controlling for psychological history, age, marital status and education level. In 1995, the researchers reported their results: equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.


One percent of them met the criteria for post-traumatic stress and attributed that stress to their abortions. The rate of clinical depression among post-abortive women was 20 percent, the same as the national rate for all women ages 15 to 35, Major says. Another researcher, Nancy Adler, found that up to 10 percent of women have symptoms of depression or other psychological distress after an abortion — the same rates experienced by women after childbirth.

It's not the abortion that causes the problems. It's the (pre-abortion) problems that are the (post-abortion) problems. There is no generalizable causal relationship.

What strikes me most about the woman at the beginning of the article is that her suffering stems from others' violation of her rights, most specifically to bodily integrity and personal safety, but also to self-empowerment and autonomy. The women she draws into her program have suffered as well.

[P]articipants talk about their views of God and of the men in their lives. They fill out an “emotion time line” to chart their lives. They explore the circumstances of their abortions. They’re encouraged to think about whether they were pressured into ending their pregnancies and to connect this with other experiences of feeling powerless. Often, Arias says, they are victims of physical or sexual abuse.

And what she argues for, to end the right on women to have autonomy over their own bodies and act as free human beings, is to do the same to millions of women across the United States.

That's a hell of a case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Rather than go through the whole article (although the end paragraph sounds a key note "You can’t repent depressive symptoms. But you can repent an action."), I'm going to provide a sampling of excellent posts from "Blogging for Choice," which I didn't do this year due to being on the road. As always, my old post about Planned Parenthood including some links to Lemieux's work at LGM.

At Feministe, five postsfrom Jill Blogging for Choice Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, plus one each from Zuzu and Piny.

Jessica Valenti at the Huffington Post.

Scott Lemieux at LGM.

Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon.

Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise.

Shark Fu at Angry Black Bitch.

Lists at both Blog for choice and Feministing.

And last but not least, Bitch PhD.

Posted by binky at 06:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"One of the World's Most Violent Supermodels"

I love that line - and apparently Rio loves her.

Posted by armand at 01:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The 2007 Oscar Nominations

It's a battle of magician movies (among others) for the cinematography award, Volver isn't nominated for best foreign lanaguage film, Dreamgirls isn't nominated for best picture, Mark Wahlberg is in and Jack Nicholson is out when it comes to the best supporting actor nominees ... and no Emily Blunt!?! Well harumph to that.

Feel free to rant or rave about the nominations in the comments.

Posted by armand at 10:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Whites Aren't Welcome in the Congressional Black Caucus

He represents a majority African-American district in Tennessee. Most of his congressional staff, including the Chief of Staff, are African-Americans. He wanted to join the CBC, especially given the shared concerns of his constitutents and those of many of the people CBC members represent. But apparently there's a "no whites allowed" rule, and the color of a lawmaker's skin is more important to the CBC than the needs and interests of his hundreds of thousands of African-American constitutents.

Posted by armand at 09:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Ripped to Shreds

So the Oscar nominations came out this morning. Since Emily Blunt's performance in The Devil Wears Prada did NOT get a nomination, I'm not yet ready to put up a post on that. But hey, if you too have got cinema-related bad news on your mind, you might as well carry that mood forward by reading this review of the screenplay for the film adaptation of Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Sounds like they really are taking a lovely and interesting novel, and making a film out of it that has rather little to do with the source material.

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

January 21, 2007

Drive By Truckers, December 30th and 31st, Variety Theater, Atlanta, GA

Live music is an odd event. The band is, after all, playing something you've (probably) heard before; you have the CD/album/stolen MP3 - so you've likely played the songs before. The live concert, ideally, is supposed to do something the recorded versions don't. Whatever that is, some of it is emotional - seeing people perform music you've heard, if done well, lets you connect with the songs in a way that sitting in your living room (or listening to your Ipod) won't. Not all bands can do this. Smart performers recognize their limitations in this direction (when they have them), and this has led to concerts being more like pageants (costumes, costume changes, pyro, lasers, choreography, etc.), and less about music. These, at least, are entertaining. The bad and dumb performers don't recognize that their music can't carry the concert alone (and should, therefore, hide in pageantry, but don't), and just go out and suck. I'm always confounded/surprised by the ability of some bands to expand studio material into an "event" at a live show, versus those bands that merely hope to re-create their studio performance (and, mostly, fail). It takes a very special talent to just play music live and carry it off; most bands have to retreat to some form of pageantry and make some sort of show out of it.

A year or so ago I got to see Muse live. I liked their album (it was the "Absolution" tour). It sounded like Queen, modernized, and on steroids. It was catchy, and seemed fun. They were coming to Pittsburgh, and I went (got the last unreserved ticket, too). Their live show revealed much about the band, none of it good. It was quickly clear they were a "studio" band (their live show, at best, aspired to re-create the studio sound, and generally failed), and also a one-trick pony: it was obvious that one member of the band had written everything, and the others were just hanging out. It was a good example of "bad" live music: the sounds were close to what the CD was like, and there was little spontaniety or flexibility in the live show. Moreover, there was nothing particularly exciting (or emotional) in the show - it was flat.

I'm also against the stadium concert (I'm picky; sue me). Seeing a band with 20,000 to 50,000 of your closest friends, isn't a musical event as much as it is a social event with live music. Standing back a quarter mile from the band (and only able to see what they are doing via the jumbotron screens) isn't a concert as much as an uncomfortable MTV concert experience. I remember seeing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in the late 80s at largish concert halls in upstate New York, and coming away fairly unimpressed. The bands were far away, I couldn't see what they were doing, and both spent a decent amount of time/effort on theatrics as opposed to just, you know, playing some good music (in their defense, both bands were going through some ugly musical periods).

I'm also not a big fan of the pageantry (costumes, stories, movies, drum kits rotating above my head, fireworks, etc.) of concerts. I don't hate it (as I do stadiums), but pageantry usually detracts from the music (you are too busy watching the spectacle to really listen). Which is fine, but really isn't about the music anymore. So, at least for me, I put those shows closer to seeing live theater than music.

Live music should be an event. I don't need to spend my money, time, and effort to see a band aspiring to produce the music they created on the CD. I can do that at home (at whatever volume and pace I choose). I think this is why I'm so nervous and reluctant to go see live music (I've likely averaged only a single live show a year over 25 years); if I like the studio version, I don't want to spend the time/effort to see the live show just to have it be a version of the studio take. That's a disappointment that will, likely, translate into (perhaps unreasonably) my disliking the studio product, and souring me on the band (for the record, I don't think I've listened to Muse since the concert much; part of that may be related to the fact that their follow-up album, "Black Holes and Revelations," basically sucks.) If I'm happy with the CD, I'm reluctant to see the live act, for fear of losing something I like; if the live show sucks, that can't help but translate into how I feel about the band in general. Thus, seeing a live concert is an exercise in trust for me.

Which means most of my concert-going experience has been in medium-to-small places (which limits my possibilities; neither the Rolling Stones nor Metallica are likely to play local venues, not that I want to see either). While this means I've missed some important bands (Radiohead comes to mind immediately), I'd like to think I've made up for that by actually seeing those bands that I have been to see.

I've reported on the Drive By Truckers before (which was likely a pithier review than this). Seeing them for two consecutive nights gave me a renewed appreciation for their talents (the fact that I was in Atlanta solely for these shows, and thus was a concert-dork and showed up early enough to be at the stage for both shows didn't hurt either). The Variety in Atlanta holds something like 1,000 people (at most), but since I was pressed against the stage both nights, the number of people behind me was irrelevant (I didn't notice them once the concert started). However, small venues allow the bands to actually have interaction with the crowds, which improves the experience.

Moreover, the Truckers had (previously) announced that this pair of shows were their last for some time; they were going on vacation for part of 2007 (solo projects and hopefully a new album), and there were no scheduled concerts after this two-night stand. This had the unexpected (to me) consequence of having a horde of DBT fans arrive from all corners (I happened to be there because the shows were on my way back from family at Christmas; I quickly determined that many of the front-row people had come from NYC, Chapel Hill, LA, and other corners of the country), which had a clear effect on the shows: a largish percent of the crowd knew the words to every song they sang, which (I think) surprised the band on the first night. In any event, the energy of the crowd significantly added to the ambiance of the show.

Not that the band needed any help. Drive By Truckers are clearly a "live" band; their studio work is good (don't get me wrong), but they are a touring/live act (most albums, before the most recent "A Blessing and a Curse" were recorded in a "live" setting in the studio). They clearly surpass my previous standard for superior live performances (Blues Traveller, before the bassist OD'd and they had some sort of hit single). Unique among bands (that I know of, today), they have three lead guitars. What makes them interesting and unique (Molly Hatchet had three lead guitars, so that isn't unique) is that they share songwriting among the three; each has a different voice, which is clearly distinguishable. Moreover, as best I can tell, there seems to be an unwritten rule that whoever writes the song can't take the guitar solo in the song, which makes for some very interesting styles within a single composition. In other words, seeing a DBT show is more like seeing an extended, mashed-together triple bill between Patterson Hood, Mike "Stroker Ace" Cooley, and Jason Isbell where they all play on each-other's songs. Except it's more integrated than I'm making it seem.

And live, its that much better. It's fairly obvious that there is no set list: the band just knows (as best I can tell) every single DBT song, and they play whatever strikes their fancy at any given time. They seem to trade back and forth (Patterson Hood is clearly the leader, and he plays master-of-ceremonies and points to Jason and Cooley when they should launch into whatever they want), but no album or song seems to be off limits. They like to play live - what else could explain the long shows (the Pittsburgh show was 2.5 hours; both Atlanta shows were 3+ hours)? Jason Isbell played a complete show with Centromatic (the opening act in Atlanta - well worth your time to visit their MySpace page and take a listen) both nights (75 minutes) before playing the set with DBT; he certainly wasn't tired.

I'm not any good at describing the concerts themselves: if you know the music, it sounded more alive, raw, and visceral than the studio versions. This, by the way, is a good thing. If you don't know the music, I can't really convey the experience (how do you describe in words how something other people haven't heard sounds live?). I will only note that I've seen DBT three times since October, and will plan to travel to wherever they play when they get back on the road sometime in 2007.

As for the shows themselves, the 30th (Saturday) was a odd show. One of the guitarists (Cooley) was absolutely drunk off his ass (he forgot the lyrics to one of his most popular songs, which just happened to be the show opener; I knew we were in for a ride at that point). If I didn't have tickets for the following night, I think I would have been pissed about this. As it was, the band drinks a great deal (they polished off two 750mls of Jack Daniels, along with beer, during the show; and the drunk guy wasn't drinking), so this is just one of those occupational hazards. As if to compensate for Cooley's drunkenness, the rest of the band played their asses off. In particular, "Sinkhole" (a lament about bankers, and where you can bury their bodies) was rocking, along with "Outfit" (an anthemic Jason song about what being Southern means), "Marry Me" (Cooley, drunk off his ass, still did this well), and the cover of the Stone's "Moonlight Mile" was stunning. On the other hand, having Patterson Hood (soaked through with sweat, after playing for 3 hours) lean into the audience right where I was standing to howl the chorus of "People Who Died" (their traditional show-closer) along with a dozen of us was fairly compelling.

The next night (Sunday, December 31st) was new years eve, the final night of the "Blessing and a Curse" tour, and the last DBT show for several months. They were fired up right from the beginning (Polishing off a 1.75 liter of Jack Daniels likely didn't hurt either; I stole the empty bottle at the end of the show, and it sits proudly in my dining room. I'm such a geek.). "Lookout Mountain" is one of those moderately forgettable studio tracks that is turning into a real regular anthem at concerts (they've played it at all three shows I've seen). "Women Without Whiskey" is a Cooley standard, and it really stood out (perhaps he was trying to make up for the previous night), I heard "Life in the Factory" (an homage to Lynyrd Skynyrd) for the first time (one of my favorites), they started 2007 with "Where the Devil Don't Stay" (and Cooley got the words right), they did a stunning version of "Bulldozers and Dirt" with four-part harmony, a smoking version of "Never Gonna Change", a rocking cover of "Ain't Talkin 'Bout Love" (yes, the Van Halen song, and yes, it really worked for them), and finished (again) with "People Who Died", and Patterson Hood again dipped into the audience for a verse (this time I was in the front row, and he was 18-inches to my left). Everyone (audience and band) looked a little drained by the end (somewhere around 1:30 AM).

I'm always loath to wax philosophical about rock music. I realize there are many, many people who are paid to write about this stuff (everything from Pitchfork to the NYT, and everything in between), and I've never been particularly impressed by any of them (Chuck Klosterman was highly entertaining in describing what heavy metal did for him in North Dakota, but that's an aberration'; the rest suck, and Klosterman has sucked ever since that one book). I'm certainly not going to try to make any grand points about DBT being the "soul of rock" or any such thing (assuming such a thing exists). I'll only note that the trends in rock are away from bands like DBT, and towards more manufactured "rock" (pageants and/or shitty live acts: White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, hipster-metal (Wolfmother), and (of course) anything within spitting distance of the "Top 40" charts). DBT are an antidote to that (though not, of course, the only antidote; if you want other suggestions, let me know, or see my "top 10 of 2006" post). In other words, seeing DBT seems more "real" than seeing other bands, where "real" is reaching towards the sort of spontaneous, anarchic fun that rock seems to represent (to me, at least; YMMV). A DBT show is, if nothing else, characterized by a sort of friendly anarchy; you really don't know what they are going to do next (they don't, either - no set lists), but they're having a hell of a time getting there, and seem genuinely glad to have you along for the ride. I've made it a point not to argue in any of this that DBT are better than other bands out there (its all opinion, anyway), but I will declare that of all the bands I've seen in 20+ years, no other group seems as happy to have you there with them.

One of my signs of "Great Rock" (note the capitals; this is pontificating) is the absence of the aforementioned pageantry in concerts. When a band is confident of their songs, and confident of their ability to play the songs live, they need less costuming, explosions, dancers, and drummers hanging from the ceiling. DBT has as simple a stage as I've seen: there isn't anything up there but amps, drums and musicians. The songwriting is strong, and each singer speaks of their own (mostly Southern) experiences. In the end, the concert is about the music and the storytelling, rather than pageantry, and DBT has whatever it is that bands need to do that well. Really well. There is lots of good music out there, these days, but little live music at the level that DBT carries it off. These pair of shows were clear evidence of that.

Posted by baltar at 11:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 20, 2007

What the Fuck?

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 - Declaring himself a proud conservative before a crowd of cheering supporters waving American flags, Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, on Saturday announced his candidacy for president.

Mr. Brownback, an evangelical Protestant turned Roman Catholic and a former Kansas agriculture secretary, said he would focus on reviving faith and families in America; combating abortion, poverty and wasteful government spending; opposing same-sex marriage; and revamping Social Security and the federal tax system.

"The last thing we need in America is to take God out of our public lives and institutions," Mr. Brownback said during his speech in Topeka, Kan. "We need to embrace our nation's motto, 'In God we trust,' and not be ashamed of it.

"To walk away from the Almighty is to embrace decline for a nation," he said. "To embrace him leads to renewal, for individuals and for nations."

Brownback? BROWNBACK? What the fuck? What's next, Falwelll? Dobson? Look, why don't we just pass a law that all Americans have to be Christian, and maybe these whackjobs might leave us alone. Fuck me.

[Walks away, kicking puppies and kittens, muttering something about "Canada," or "a chateau in the south of France."]

Posted by baltar at 09:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 19, 2007


Some general points, based on the very (very) long view of history:

1. No state (or, for those of a historical bent, pre-state - empire, city-state, etc.) achieves permenant supremacy. They all (ALL) fall at some point (when they fall, is - of course - up for debate).

There really isn't anything else to say. If there is one law of history, it is that political structures rise and fall. Not all of them rise, but those that do all (eventually) fall. Thus, the annoucement that the Chinese have successfully tested a land-based anti-satellite technology (New York Times, and Defense Tech), can only be seen as a challenge to the US (NOTE: to be precise, this is a challenge by one faction in China (clearly the militaristic/expansionist/anti-American one), and may not represent the actual will of either entirety of the Chinese government or the Chinese people. All of this depends on how autonomous the military is in China, which is a complicated debate itself.).

The "shock and awe" of the US military is based fairly heavily on the space-based capability we have. We (the US) can drop bombs literally through windows because of our GPS (Global Positioning System) equipped bombs. Those munitions query satellites to determine their exact location, relative to the window, which allows them to be precise. While the GPS satellites are much further out in orbit than the Chinese test reached (about 12,000 miles out; the Chinese missiles only reached 500 miles out), the difference is presumably capable of being overcome at some point (i.e., the Chinese will eventually be able to reach the GPS satellites, or even the geosychronous communications satellites at 24,000 miles out).

Just about everything the US military does of any significance (communication,targeting, and intelligence) happens though satellites. Thus, the Chinese today demonstrated an eventual capability to make us blind (no intelligence through images or intercepted cell-phone signals), deaf (no communications between far-apart entities), and impotent (can't target a specific window). It's no wonder this was the lead story on the NYT.

This doesn't mean the end of America. We have a long way to go for that (and the Chinese have some significant R&D ahead of them, though I imagine they will succeed). But this was clearly a challenge by (some part of) the Chinese. I'll be curious to see how we respond (anti-anti-satellite weapons? decoys? de-emphasizing satellite-based technology? stealth technology for satellites?), though, as noted, I am not particularly hopeful that we can hold off all challengers forever.

In any event, Bush's foreign policy just got significantly more complicated (for those keeping track at home, Chinese anti-satellite weapons seem more significant/important than Al Qaeda and Iranian nukes, about on par with North Korean nukes, and less important than Pakistani nukes.).

Posted by baltar at 09:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2007

Book Lists

In an attempt to provide content around here while Binky and armand are away, I'll do a book related post. I've done book reviews here in the past, but this will be a list of the books I've got stacked up around the house waiting to be read (this is another word for "filler").

Just thought some of you out there might be interested (and, for the record, these are in the random order I've found them, so don't read anything into the sequence):

N.A.M. Rodger, "The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660 - 1649." The first of three volumes of a complete naval history of the (eventually) Royal Navy. Supposedly Rodgers knows more about the Royal Navy than anyone alive, and his career has been building up to this epic (the first volume is like 700 pages long).

T. Christian Miller, "Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq." The Washington Post recommended this (in their "best of 2006 book review a few weeks back). If Tom Ricks ("Fiasco") explained the military fuckups in Iraq, and Woodward ("State of Denial") explained the political fuckups, this book (supposedly) explains the reconstruction fuckups. I sorta knew about the military and political fuckups, so this book promises to inform me more than usual.

Eldon Thompson, "The Crimson Sword." Random mind-candy fantasy. I'm about 80 pages into this (first, of course, of a trilogy), and nothing surprising has happened yet. I might give it up.

Stephen Biddle, "Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle." Recommendation off of Lawyers, Guns, and Money (the blog, not the song). An academic attempts to analyze who wins modern battles. It's gotten very good reviews, so I'm hopeful.

Anthony Beevor, "The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War, 1936 - 1939." This is the second edition; some new Spanish archives have allowed Beevor to revist a classic, and correct a few errors. Given that the Spanish Civil War is a lead in to World War II (and some have claimed that there is a parallel to the US in Iraq; that if we don't stand up, the next fight will be WWIII), I'm really looking forward to this.

Sarah Ash, "Lord of Snow and Shadows." More fantasy mind-candy. First of a trilogy. Has better reviews than Thompson, so is (hopefully) better.

Taylor Branch, "At Caanan's Edge: America In the King Years, Volume 3." If you haven't read the first two of these, you really don't know what you are missing. A magesterial trilogy that uses ML King as the anchor for an exhaustive description of the entire civil rights movement, and the people that drove it. Stunning.

I've probably got a few more stashed behind the couch, but those are all I can reach. I supposedly have a job, but I really wish someone would just pay me to sit around and read these.

Posted by baltar at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The "Logic" of Team Bush on the Role of the Judiciary in Security Affairs

I know this presidential administration loves to give power to those who aren't fit for their jobs, but ... this is ridiculous, public and just plain weird. How do you reconcile this:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says federal judges are unqualified to make rulings affecting national security policy, ramping up his criticism of how they handle terrorism cases.

With this:

The Bush administration has agreed to let a secret but independent panel of federal judges oversee the government's controversial domestic spying program, the Justice Department said Wednesday. In a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will have final say in approving wiretaps placed on people with suspected terror links.

Gonzalez apparently did these things on the same day. Has he finally given up all pretense of there being any substance or principled belief behind his actions?

Posted by armand at 10:05 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 17, 2007

Now, was that so hard?

Spying goes under FISA:

The Justice Department announced today that the National Security Agency's controversial warrantless surveillance program has been placed under the authority of a secret surveillance court, marking an abrupt change in approach by the Bush administration after more than a year of heated debate.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said that orders issued on Jan. 10 by an unidentified judge puts the NSA program under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret panel that oversees most intelligence surveillance in the United States.

On second thought, don't answer that.

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

The Livonian War

If I just remembered to check Axis of Evel Knievel on Tuesdays before trivia, I might actually do a little better at trivia.

Posted by armand at 11:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

Baltar In Charge

Armand and I are taking a little trip to Tejas so Baltar is going to be driving the bus the rest of the week and all weekend long. Hopefully he will watch a movie and/or write some concert reviews, for your reading pleasure.

Posted by binky at 07:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Go read TPMmuckraker on the Firing of Prosecutors

Armand mentioned the Lam case a couple of days ago, but I just saw via Balloon Juice that the number is possibly up to seven fired prosecutors. As Tim F. says, TPM is doing the work:

Okay, so we already know that the White House has now taken the unprecedented step of firing at least four and likely seven US Attorneys in the middle of their terms of office -- at least some of whom are in the midst of corruption investigations of Bush administration officials and key Republican lawmakers. We also know that they're taking advantage of a handy provision of the USA Patriot Act that allows the White House to replace these fired USAs with appointees who don't need to be approved by the senate.

Given that these new USAs are being plopped into offices currently investigating Republicans and other administration officials and others into states with 2008 presidential candidates, there's certainly ample opportunity for mischief.


We know of seven who have left during the last couple of months, many under unusual circumstances. Here is our list:

San Francisco - 1/16/07 - Kevin V. Ryan - unclear

Nevada - 1/15/07 - Daniel Bogden - pushed out

San Diego - 1/12/07 - Carole Lam - pushed out

New Mexico - 12/19/06 - David Igleslias - pushed out

Arizona - 12/19/06 - Paul K. Charlton - unclear

Seattle - 12/15/06 - John McKay - unclear; likely pushed out

Little Rock (Ark.) - 12/15/06 - Bud Cummins - pushed out

What the hell?

UPDATE: On the patriot Act provisions being used to accomplish the switch, and Feinstein on the floor.

Posted by binky at 06:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Wicked Witch of the Golden Globes

I love Go Fug Yourself so ...

What this photo doesn't show is the burst of flames and smoke that facilitated Elizabeth Perkins's appearance on the red carpet; the broomstick she rode in on; Fritz or Franz, her flying monkeys; her cauldron; or the argument she had with Melvin, her stylist, who told her that wearing the traditional robes of the Witches of Endor would give away her big secret.
Posted by armand at 12:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Dumbest Thing I'll Read in the Campus Paper All Year?

One can't be sure, because so many dumb things are written in it (especially on the opinion page), but Ms. Kathryn LaGamba has set a tough bar to match in her rundown of the Top 5 Film Mistakes of 2005. See, that's a damn dumb start right there - making a mistake in the title of a column about film "mistakes" from 2006. But it gets better (or worse, depending on one's point of view). She awards the worst cinematography of the year award to Children of Men.

D'uh - WHAT!?!

Let's see the cinematographer's guild has it listed in their own top 5 of the year (they don't announce their #1 winner until February 18th), and it's won the cinematography prizes from the LA Film Critics, the Chicago Film Critics, the National Society of Film Critics, the Online Film Critics, at the Venice Film Festival ... well, you get the point. Everyone who understands what cinematography is basically worships the cinematography in this film (and with good reason, it's amazing). But Ms. LaGamba thinks it's the worst of the year because ... it feature hand-held cameras, included blood on the lens, and "seemed more like an independent film than a heavily advertised Hollywood blockbuster".

Oy. I seriously hope this is the last bit of film analysis (at least on technical matters) that I see by this author in the DA.

Posted by armand at 10:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Another way the Bush administration's policies affect the average citizen

Budget cuts are gutting our ability to "understand and predict hurricanes":

The two-year study by the National Academy of Sciences, released yesterday, determined that NASA's earth science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000. It stands to fall further as funding shifts to plans for a manned mission to the moon and Mars. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meanwhile, has experienced enormous cost overruns and schedule delays with its premier weather and climate mission.

The budget for earth science programs for NASA and NOAA increased substantially in the 1990s, and that resulted in an unprecedented number of weather- and climate-monitoring missions in the past five years. But the report found that, as the current satellites deteriorate, the number of space-based Earth-observation missions will decline steadily through 2010, as will the number of instruments in space to gather weather, climate and environmental data.

"If things aren't reversed, we will have passed the high-water mark for our Earth observations," said co-chairman Richard Anthes of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "This country should not be headed in this direction. . . . We need to know more, not less, about long-term aspects of climate change, about trends in droughts and hurricanes, about what's happening in terms of fish stocks and deforestation."

Granted, it looks like there is the usual set of government cock-ups going on with delays and budgets, but the response isn't to let things shrivel and die, but rather effective program maintenance.

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


The NYT reports that 51% of women now live without husbands. And then they say that these women live without spouses. I'd say, You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

For better or worse, women are less dependent on men or the institution of marriage

I wonder what the results would have been if they asked women whether they lived with a partner?

Posted by binky at 12:42 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Yep... that global warming stuff is ALL made up

The north of Greenland is melting:

All over Greenland and the Arctic, rising temperatures are not simply melting ice; they are changing the very geography of coastlines. Nunataks — “lonely mountains” in Inuit — that were encased in the margins of Greenland’s ice sheet are being freed of their age-old bonds, exposing a new chain of islands, and a new opportunity for Arctic explorers to write their names on the landscape.

“We are already in a new era of geography,” said the Arctic explorer Will Steger. “This phenomenon — of an island all of a sudden appearing out of nowhere and the ice melting around it — is a real common phenomenon now.”

In August, Mr. Steger discovered his own new island off the coast of the Norwegian island of Svalbard, high in the polar basin. Glaciers that had surrounded it when his ship passed through only two years earlier were gone this year, leaving only a small island alone in the open ocean.

“We saw it ourselves up there, just how fast the ice is going,” he said.

With 27,555 miles of coastline and thousands of fjords, inlets, bays and straits, Greenland has always been hard to map. Now its geography is becoming obsolete almost as soon as new maps are created.

I can't even write about the polar bears.

Posted by binky at 12:38 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 15, 2007

Time Warp

Let's do it.


Yes, it's coming to our small town, at 11:59 pm on January 27th. Local denizens, mark your calendars and buy your black eyeliner.

Get ready to take your seat!

Posted by binky at 10:52 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Hollywood Foreign Press Loves Brits on TV

Looking down the list of who's won what so far tonight at the Golden Globes, the TV categories show a serious love of British actors. Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Irons and Emily Blunt have all already posted wins tonight (and you've got to think Mirren will win again later in the evening) in television categories. To which I say - hmmm. I love each and every one of those actors, they are all sooooooooo good, and I dearly wish Blunt would get an Oscar nomination for The Devil Wears Prada - but honoring Mirren's acting in Elizabeth I? Actually honoring that miniseries itself? I think that has to be excess adulation that stems entirely from how phenomenally good Mirren was in The Queen. I'll admit to only watching the first half of it, but from what I saw Elizabeth I really wasn't that great and Mirren wasn't too special in it. But hey, she and Irons are usually great, so I don't really begrudge them their honors (they are only Golden Globes after all), and I suppose there are many worse thing than indirectly burnishing the career of the highly appealing (and kind of slutty) Hugh Dancy.

Oh, and I'm pleased that The Queen won the screenplay award. And I find it really hard to get my head around the fact that Best Foreign Language Film was won by a Clint Eastwood movie.

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

Senator Allard (R-CO) to Retire

Confirming the suspicions of many, the senior senator from Colorado has announced he will not seek a third term in 2008. As to whether or not this helps/hurts the GOP or the Democrats, well there are multiple views on that. What is clear is that Colorado's Senate race should be one of the most competitive in the nation, and one of the Democrats' best pick-up opportunities of the cycle. Congressman Mark Udall will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee. The Republicans will likely have a contested primary. The Republican name getting the most discussion at this point seems to be former Congressman Scott McInnis.

For you trivia types, Allard's announcement means that the unusual level of turnover, and especially voluntary retirements, in Colorado's Senate seats will continue. Colorado senators Hart, Armstrong, Wirth, Brown and Campbell and now Allard form a string of consecutively-serving senators who chose to voluntarily retire after only one or two terms in office. And Colorado hasn't had a 3-term senator since Gordon Allott was defeated in 1973. And given the retirements by Senator Campbell and now Senator Allard, it won't have one again until 2017 at the earliest (if Senator Salazar stays in the Senate and keeps getting reelected).

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

I Never Saw Lynyrd Skynyrd

If I had not been at The Rock Show on NYEE and NYE, I would have considered this extravaganza. If you don't have the patience for the whole thing, check it out from about 3 minutes in through Bohemian Rhapsody (until about 21:30). If you do have the patience, hang in for the next song, Suddenly Everything Has Changed, one of my all time favorites off the Soft Bulletin about how grief seizes you when you least expect it. I've never seen it live, and I don't think they've played it in at least 5 or 6 years. You can hear the taper say "Oh My God!" when they start it. Second half of the show here.

The last time Baltar and I saw a show on NYE was this:

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

An Instant Go Fug Yourself Classic

What could Ms. Miller be saying to Ms. Diaz? Maybe it's ...

Look, what do I know? My suggestion for dealing with a public break-up is stomping around the Village in my bathing suit and smoking furiously. Yours is to dress like a elementary school student with a Mod-fixation and a need for orthopedic footwear.
Posted by armand at 02:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Film Re-Make of The Politician's Wife?

The phrase that comes to mind is why-on-Earth?

The Politician's Wife was a great British miniseries that I saw back in the 1990's. It was really good, and quite interesting. And it seemingly caught the eye of one or more Hollywood types, because Picturehouse has announced plans to re-make it into a theatrical release. Now in the original Juliet Stevenson was truly superb. But as she's not a name actress on these shores I doubt she was even considered for the lead in the re-make. Instead the lead will be played by Lynette (die! die! die! you tiresome harpy). This might turnout well, but I really wish people would skip it entirely and watch the original, because I doubt this later version will be nearly as good.

Posted by armand at 01:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush's "Surge" - Making LemonAIDS From His Lemon of a Policy?

Fareed Zakaria isn't remotely as funny as Sarah Silverman (who originated the "when you've got lemons, make lemonaids" joke), but I have a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach that he's right. And one of the worst things that could happen by instituting the president's new plan is "success":

So what will happen if Bush's new plan "succeeds" militarily over the next six months? Sunnis will become more insecure as their militias are dismantled. Shiite militias will lower their profile on the streets and remain as they are now, ensconced within the Iraqi Army and police. That will surely make Sunnis less likely to support the new Iraq. Shiite political leaders, on the other hand, will be emboldened. They refused to make any compromises—on federalism, de-Baathification, oil revenues and jobs—in 2003 when the United States was dominant, in 2005 when the insurgency was raging, and in 2006 when they took over the reins of government fully. Why would they do so as they gain the upper hand militarily? ...

... The greatest danger of Bush's new strategy, then, isn't that it won't work but that it will—and thereby push the country one step further along the road to all-out civil war. Only a sustained strategy of pressure on the Maliki government—unlike anything Bush has been willing to do yet—has any chance of averting this outcome.

Otherwise, American interests and ideals will both be in jeopardy. Al Qaeda in Iraq—the one true national-security threat we face from that country—will gain Sunni support. In addition, as American officers like Duke and Brady have noted, our ideals will be tarnished. The U.S. Army will be actively aiding and assisting in the largest program of ethnic cleansing since Bosnia. Is that the model Bush wanted for the Middle East?

Posted by armand at 01:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Apparently No One I Know Is Gay

How else to explain the fact that no one I know is throwing a Golden Globes party? I mean apart from Halloween isn't tonight the holiest of nights to the gays (or I should say the gays, as seen on tv)?

Posted by armand at 12:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 14, 2007

Sen. Hagel Smacks Lieberman for Lieberman

Yay! It's too bad he didn't go in for the kill, but it's pretty much always a good thing when to watch the self-righteous, scare-mongering and pompous junior senator from Connecticut squirm (oh, and be called on his bullshit on national tv).

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

How Many Dollars Have You Raised Today? How Many Babies Have You Kissed In Ames?

I ask because guess what happens one year from today?

Posted by armand at 10:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 13, 2007

Another one for the "you can't make this shit up" files...

Nice catch from the Duck of Minerva, the 2007 edition of the Counterterrorism (CT) Calendar (PDF):

The US National Counterterrorism Center is pleased to present the 2007 edition of the Counterterrorism (CT) Calendar. This edition, the largest since the Calendar first appeared in a daily planner format in 2003, contains many features across the full range of terrorism-related issues: terrorist groups, wanted terrorists, and technical pages on various threat-related issues. The Calendar marks dates according to the Gregorian and Islamic calendars, and contains significant dates in terrorism history as well as dates that terrorists may believe are important when planning “commemoration-style” attacks.

The CT Calendar is designed for anyone concerned with terrorism or threat: law enforcement,intelligence, military, security personnel, contingency planners, or simply citizens concerned by terrorist threats.


Posted by binky at 03:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The "Christian" Right: Not So Biblical After All

From Crooks and Liars:

HOLY CRAP: Can I get an "Amen"?…A loaded word, loaded with relevance… What does the Christianist Right see when they look at history?  OK, how about when they look at a Bible? 

Posted by binky at 01:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower

So it's a Friday night. Naturally (for me) instead of trying to be sociable and put myself in a position where I'd actually meet new people who might one day become friends and maybe even dateable prospects (I've heard rumors that such humans exist), I chose to sit in a dark room and watch a movie. Now this wasn't simply a case of my INTP tendencies making me uncomfortable with the burden of, you know, having to talk to strangers. There was actually a new movie in town that I'd been looking forward to for months. It promised sumptuous sets, thrilling fight scenes and lots of Gong Li at her most imperious and sexy (or at least cleavage-y). And since I'd been looking forward to it for so long, I'd been thinking for days about seeing it tonight - so I did.

In retrospect perhaps I should have risked talking to strangers - even ones who seemed dim and dull or no better than ordinary aesthetically. They might have provided a better time.

What to say about Curse of the Golden Flower? Well, the colors in the palace are indeed gorgeous. It's a palate I wish I saw every day. It's sumptuous and exuberant and pops. And yeah, there's a lot of Gong Li emoting, and you see her cleavage in something like every fourth frame. But ... well, to start with, there's not much fighting. Now in and of itself that's not the end of the world. I'm totally up for movies about palace intrigues or intrafamilial betrayals from time to time. But see, I'm not often up for bad ones. And this one just isn't interesting on that front. And while the director might be famous for what he can do with fight scenes, he's no better than mediocre at handling drawing room conversations (and that's what most of this movie involves). In fact there was one scene, a scene that I presume is meant to have a lot of emotional heft to it, that had about 75% of the audience I was watching with laughing out loud (yes, including me). Now the film really isn't as bad as these points might suggest. I didn't hate it be any means. But there's just not much special about it beyond the pretty colors. To me it's a C of a movie.

Posted by armand at 11:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Five Things

So I was over at Moon's place, surfing around, and I noticed that two weeks ago he tagged us with the Five Things meme. Now this presents a bit of a problem, because I tend to be the fairly straightforward type, but also the quiet type and the forgetful type. So I really have no idea who knows what about me, though I tend to think there's not much people don't already know (well, that I'd mention on the blog). Anyway, here goes an attempt at a response.

1. If I remember right, the first time I ever did an analysis of who's voting record in Congress was closest to my wishes on votes I cared about, a couple of the politicians I appeared to most strongly approve of (when it came to their votes) were Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Andrews (D-TX). I take a few lessons from this - 1) people who are a bit interested in politics tend to find local issues and votes much more salient in evaluating politicians than some analysts account for; 2) I tended to be much less interested in "social issues" (religion, hatin' the gays) 10 or 15 years ago, and there weren't many votes in Congress on them now (sadly the influence of the hatin' Christianists has grown); 3) high school econ classes are often indoctrination seminars on really simplistic readings of econ theory; 4) as a teenager I guess I didn't care much about the environment.

2. As some of you are likely aware, apart from, say, the Beach Boys and the Beatles, my knowledge of rock and pop before the disco era is shockingly shallow. Who are The Who again? ... Now this doesn't mean I don't recognize certain songs are whatever, or like certain bands (I like The Who), but I know virtually nothing about the history of the key bands, how they fit together, personnel, song titles, who built on what and how ... So if you want to talk about bands post-Madonna, fine. But if you want to discuss music in earlier decades, talk to Baltar and Binky.

3. When I was in middle school I went through a period where probably ever day I spent part of the day drawing pictures of 19th century riverboats. I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm guessing it was the combination of very straight lines and angles, with super-frilly wedding-cake decorations that such a subject allowed me to work with.

4. If there's one image or feeling that's stuck with me longer than any other from high school lit and English classes it's likely the end of Tess of the d'Urbervilles - what a heartbreaking story.

5. Since I don't think I've mentioned it to anyone who reads the blog - I'm strongly inclined to join the Obama bandwagon. I like Clark a ton, but I don't think he can run a viable campaign, so ... let's all Obama-rama!

Posted by armand at 03:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Carol Lam Being Pushed Out as the US Attorney in San Diego

Sure she's competent, but apparently she's not subservient enough.

Lam has had high-profile successes during her tenure, such as the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery case - but she alienated herself from bosses at the Justice Department because she is outspoken and independent, said local lawyers familiar with her policies.

Yup, outspoken is a huge sin isn't it, and the idea that we'd want an independent US Attorney - well who on Earth thinks the Bush/Gonzalez Justice Dept. wants that?

Posted by armand at 03:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2007

Ron Paul for President!

The biggest supporter of small government in Congress, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, is going to seek the Republican presidential nomination. He was the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party in 2008. If the press treats him at all seriously (which I doubt), his entry could be fascinating as he really is the emodiment of the libertarian Republicans, and arguably much more of a classic Goldwater Republican than anyone else in the presidential field (certainly more so than the daddy-state lovin' frontrunner, the man who replaced Goldwater in the US Senate).

Posted by armand at 11:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monster Bunnies!

Could Anya's worst nightmare help save lives in North Korea?

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

Beckham to Los Angeles!

It makes such perfect sense, as long as you take sports out of the equation. There are breaking reports out that David Beckham will soon be joining the LA Galaxy. Europe's #1 "we're so pretty and rich and fashionable" couple should feel right at home in the land of a million D-list celebrities and a million celebrity worshippers.

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

Is Blackadder Relevant to Our Times?

Or British military planning in World War I? AMERICAblog reports, you decide.

Posted by armand at 09:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2007

Factotum and United 93

It's time for another edition of Armand goes to the movies. Or to be more precise, Armand gets dvds from Netflix, cuddles on the sofa with the kitty, and hits play. First up this week was Factotum. My thoughts? It's pretty much exactly what you'd think, though more funny than dark. So I'd say in terms of grades it merits basically a B or a C. It's fine. It did raise two question in my mind though. Why does Matt Dillon always play assholes? And why do I always really like Lili Taylor, even if she's playing a weakling, an asshole, a neurotic mess or even a simple, nice person? She's just great, even when I can't stand her character. So that was Netflix movie #1 this week. Tonight's was the oh-so well-respected United 93. And guess what - it's good! You're shocked, I know. But yeah, it lives up to the hype. I don't know if it's the best movie of the year, but I'm not surprised to see it on a lot of top 10 lists. And yes, the direction (which everyone is talking about) is indeed excellent. I did have a thought or quibble for the first 10-20 minutes. Wouldn't it be interesting if this thing had no dialogue? I mean the layout of the film is such that basically you know exactly what's going on the entire time, whether or not there are words (did I mention the directing was good), and since people might relate to it all the more on their own with their own language ... but I guess making it a silent film would've gone too far and been off-putting and pretentious. And actually the script is very strong. Good stuff indeed. So ... well, maybe I just would've had less dialogue at the start. But whatever, it's still a good movie.

And speaking of good movies, I'm excited about this weekend. Both Children of Men and Curse of the Golden Flower are finally opening at the Hollywood Theater.

Posted by armand at 11:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Uh, I'm Confused.

OK, I just listened to Bush's "New Strategy in Iraq Speech". I remain confused.

We have something like 130,000 US troops in Iraq today. Bush is proposing sending an additional five brigades of troops to Iraq (plus 4,000 to Anbar province; it was unclear if this was included in the five brigades, or in addition to the five brigades), an increase of something like 17,500 combat troops (a brigade is about 3,500 troops). This would bring the total number of US soldiers in Iraq to close to 150,000.

Three years ago, then Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Shinseki argued that it would take "several hundred thousand" troops to secure the country. Several hundred thousand is a somewhat vague term (it could range from 200,000 to 400,000), though I have seen other estimates that used the experience and population of Bosnia to extrapolate the number of troops needed in Iraq, and come up with numbers in the 300,000 range.

So if, after Bush's "surge," we end up at 150,000 troops, how is that going to actually solve the problem? Don't we need even more troops today (since the numbers used in Bosnia didn't have to put down an ongoing and active civil war)?

This was a long way of saying: how does an additional 20,000 troops win Iraq for us?

Posted by baltar at 09:27 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Hey Homeslices!

Have you checked out Centro-matic? You should, at either their home and their MySpace or live if you get the chance. They were the opening act at the shows Baltar and I attended over the holidays (nice life I have here, huh? one co-blogger to see movies with and another to take to shows?) and the best new live music surprise I've had in a long while.

Centro-matic remind me of the good things I loved about REM back in the days of Murmur, but are both rockier and sweeter. And there is also something vaguely ethereal about some of the music too, as if it's cloaked in blues and greens, swimming up to you from the watery deep.

Posted by binky at 02:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who Needs Congress Anyway?

This is all over the internets:

Snow held out hope that the Democrats would come to their senses about opposing this but admitted it could even be a battle royal. But what about calls for the Democrats to halt the build up by denying funding? Snow admitted congress had funding control but also pointed out that the president could ultimately do what he wants. "You know, Congress has the power of the purse," Snow said, then added: "The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way."

Posted by binky at 12:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I May Have Erred, But That's Because Its Worse Than I Thought.

I argued a couple of days ago that Negroponte was an asshole for leaving ONI. The office is too new, and too fragile and important, to play with. I continue to feel that.However, armand brought this to my attention:

Contrary to the bland stories in The New York Times and Washington Post of Friday, Negroponte did not go voluntarily to State from his job as director of intelligence. In fact, there was tremendous administration pressure to get him out of his current job. The chief cause of the quarrel involved Negroponte's balking at a request from Vice President Cheney to increase domestic collection by the National Security Agency on U.S. citizens.

Negroponte flatly refused, Cheney bridled, and from then on the pressure built to get rid of him. (The White House did not return phone calls, but there is nothing new in that.)

The Bush people, chiefly Cheney and the president, were already annoyed by the fact that the Negroponte group has been busy producing drafts of reports that predict utter disaster in Iraq and which are utterly opposed to any increase of troops. Cheney and Bush both flared in wrath over this. Of course, intelligence is simply evaluated information. Its purpose is to help inform decisions by policymakers, as Pat as so often pointed out. But this this administration perceives objectivity as a inadequate commitment or as an absence of complete loyalty.

So, Negroponte didn't leave because he wanted to be at State, he left because he is insufficiently loyal to subvert the Constution. Nice.

You can take this with whatever grains of salt you want: the Washington rumor mill isn't reliable. I haven't seen hint of this in any "mainstream" publication, but that may or may not add credibility.

Posted by baltar at 11:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

How the Bush administration's policies affect the average citizen

From Mr. Populist at DailyKos, the upshot:

This electronic dragnet at Departments of Motor Vehicles in every state was Bush's interpretation of his executive powers under the Patriot Act. This is Bush's idea of fighting domestic terrorism.

And the details:

I went to renew my driver's license on November 27th 2006, and just yesterday, on January 4th 2007, was I able to get my license renewed.

An outstanding warrant from 1984 in Massachusetts popped up the federal crime database, at the Missouri DMV and I was refused a driver's license.  What's relevant is I've never been arrested for a crime in Massachusetts and when I gave that information Missouri DMV clerk, she looked look at me as if to say, "Yeah right, you and 1001 other criminal deadbeats who jumped bail."

She refused to renew my license. So did her supervisor. They wouldn't give me any details on the crime I had allegedly committed  Crime doesn't pay, especially when you when you've never committed it.

Finally, a month and half later I was allowed to renew my driver's license but only AFTER the refusal to renew my driving license, triggered a daisy chain of events happened, between November 27, 2006 and January 4 2007:

After spending 40 hours of being put on hold by various electronic answering services in nearly every Boston area municipal court. I simply wanted to know what the charges were that I allegedly failed to appear in court to settle. All of those phone calls were long distance and are going to cost me a small fortune..

After lobbying two state representatives, one in Missouri and one in Massachusetts

After turning myself in, at my local municipal police station and demanding they arrest me on an outstanding warrant in Massachusetts.

After spending an entire afternoon in a holding cell of that same municipal police station, while the cops checked 3 different national databases for warrants in my name and came up empty handed. When I kept insisting there was a 1984 warrant out for my arrest, the local cops looked at me like I was insane, and told me to go home because they couldn't arrest me.

After spending two weeks on needles and pins wondering what the warrant was all about and if I'd ever get a driving license again. I'd talked to 40 people in two dozen government agencies and nobody would reveal the nature of the criminal charges against me.

After nearly over an hour on the telephone with the Cambridge court clerk who my attorney had to threaten to take to court to get her to check the dead warrants files in the basement morgue of the Cambridge court house for my 22 year old bench warrant.

After that same court clerk took a week to find an outstanding warrant with my name on it for the crime of Posting an Illegal Handbill in Central Square in Cambridge in 1984.

After sending a registered letter the Chief Clerk of the Cambridge Court informing him that the warrant was a mistake.

After getting a letter back from the Chief Clerk of the Cambridge acknowledging the 1984 warrant for posting illegal handbills was a clerical error that happened from mistakenly entering my name on a warrant. I was a witness for the defense on a handbill case in 1984 in Cambridge, not the defendant!

\After driving for 40 days with an expired driver's license, and risking arrest by my local municipal police for actually committing a real crime.

After that, and only after all of that crap and a few hundred dollars later, I could now renew my Missouri driver's license, but only after being assessed a $25 late fee added to the cost of the renewal of my driving license. The late fee was one last kiss-off slap in the face, from the bureaucracy that was the cause of the problem in the first place.

All of this loss of time and money was a result of an administrative decision by the Bush administration to require the state motor vehicle registries to deny driver's licenses to anyone who had an outstanding warrant for any trivial misdemeanor dating back to Civil War Reconstruction.

H/T Alabama Ass Whuppin'

Posted by binky at 11:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Antonin Scalia: The Best Friend of Mexican Criminals on the SCOTUS

You know it's ( sometimes lone) dissents like this that always made me clearly prefer Justice Scalia to the late Chief Justice. Sure, there's a good level of playground "I'm so right and you're so wrong" about his tone. But his willingness to stick his neck out on principle and precision like this has led him to occasionally be "right" on cases in which his brethern might not be (I'm not stating that's true or not in this case).

Posted by armand at 10:59 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bush Relents on 3 Appeals Court Nominees

In the wake of withdrawing (the oddly poorly rated) nomination of Michael Wallace to the very conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the president has chosen not to resubmit the nominations of 3 of his most controversial nominees to the federal bench - William Myers (nominated to the 9th Circuit) and Terrence Boyle and William Haynes (who were both nominated to the 4th Circuit, and who would have therefore have had jurisdiction over West Virginia). I'm particularly pleased that the nomination of Haynes has finally been withdrawn. The idea that the counsel to Donald Rumsfeld's DOD should serve on a federal appeals court chills me to the bone.

Posted by armand at 10:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 09, 2007

Good Eye, Badger

Nice catch:

From kmk at TPMCafe:

I find it hilarious when people who worship Ronald Reagan think actors shouldn’t have political opinions.

Posted by binky at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brain Cloud

Don't you hate it when your brain doesn't cooperate with what you intend for it to do? Like remember that you have a new blog that you really really really like? And that your brain is supposed to remember to read that blog every day? And that beyond reading, it is supposed to remember to put that blog in your blog roll? Especially when that blog does fun things like pile on making fun of Tucker Carlson for being a sissy?

Posted by binky at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michigan's Supreme Court Descends into The Real World: Lansing

I have no idea what the merits are in this dispute, but good golly miss molly, can you imagine being a justice on this Court and having to work with both Chief Justice Taylor and Justice Weaver (the "petulant 'only child'", in Taylor's words)? Generally I think it would be fascinating to work on a state's highest bench, but in this case ...

Posted by armand at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush's Escalation in Iraq

If you take a step back and think about it, it's really rather astonishing that this level of idiocy in our government really isn't all that surprising any more.

It really does make one wish that we had a political system that included a vote of confidence mechanism, at this point and time.

Posted by armand at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happy Happy Joy Joy


Gators make it look easy

The Florida Gators tonight obliterated the Ohio State Buckeyes to win the BCS Championship Game. "Upset" doesn't quite measure up in describing the No. 2 Gators' victory over the undefeated No. 1 Buckeyes. In winning the title game in Glendale, Arizona, the Gators became the first Division I school to hold football and basketball titles at the same time.

I might have to pull out my orange and blue horn and play this a few times for old times sake.

The Boys From Old Florida over at Every Day Should Be Saturday will no doubt have full coverage. Eventually. When they sober up.

Posted by binky at 12:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 08, 2007

Jonathan Renshon

I think "Why Hawks Win" (co-written with the Nobel winner Daniel Kahneman) has been hyped to death on the IR and IR-related blogs. Some interesting thoughts, but the piece seems to have some notable flaws too. That said, it got me to check out what else young Renshon has written and "The Psychological Origins of Preventive War" (coming out this year in Understanding the Bush Doctrine: Psychology and Strategy in an Age of Terrorism, a Praeger book edited by Stanley Renshon and Peter Suedfeld) is much more interesting. Good stuff - particularly from a guy who's still in the first year of his Ph.D. program.

Posted by armand at 03:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's in a Name? An Odd Juxtaposition

As I was walking to school this morning, a few thoughts crossed my mind. Some weren't all that surprising - like, "hmmmm - I'd really love a chocolate glazed donut, but I've been eating so much chocolate since Christmas ..." - but at least one thought was quite unexpected. For some reason I thought of the name of a guy I went to middle school with, then I really noticed his name, and then I thought, "what was up with the language and social studies teachers at my school never pointing THAT out?". And what would THAT be? The unusual combination of names he had - Pax Mars. I guess the teachers never said anything about it because I'm guessing his first name was actually Paxton. But c'mon "Pax Mars" - how does any teacher with a knowledge of Latin or Roman history not tell a tale about that?

Posted by armand at 10:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 07, 2007

Don't Look Now

I disagree with the first two paragraphs (looking dated isn't necessarily a bad thing, given the turns cinema has taken over the last 30 years), but I think the remainder of this review of Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (part of a heavy movie day for Armand, as Binky and I went to see For Your Consideration this afternoon) captures the film quite well. While it might often be classified as a horror movie, it's really much more a mood movie - though of course the dominant mood is one that's quite unsettled and unsettling. I actually like the unusual editing a great deal, and the overall the look of the movie is excellent (makes sense I guess as Roeg started as a cameraman and cinematographer). The settings are perfectly chosen, he manages movement in really interesting ways, and really there's not a moment in the film that's not "right". It works marvelously well as a whole, which is an extraordinary accomplishment given the story and the style it's constructed in. And of course I quite agree with the review about the sex scene. It's very well done, vital to the film, and quite unlike much of anything you'd see in a movie today where nudity and sex are concerned. Actually little in this film's like something you'd see at the movies today - and that's a pity.

Posted by armand at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If the New York Times Critics Picked the Oscar Nominees ...

This is actually interesting. The 3 film critics pick their ideal slate of Oscar nominees in 8 top categories, and there are some unexpected names on the lists. If nothing else, for those people who are bored with a lot of the "best" lists looking alike this year, well here are three lists that don't look all that much alike. About the only thing they agree on is their respect for Letters from Iwo Jima (and Clint Eastwood's direction of that) and Helen Mirren. And there are some things on these lists that really might surprise you - acting nominations for Sacha Baron Cohen (not only for Borat but also for Talladega Nights?), Mia Kirshner (of the L-Word and Exotica fame), Gong Li (not for The Curse of the Golden Flower, but for Miami Vice), writing nods for Nick Cave and Nacho Libre ...

Anyway, if you are interested in such things, they are interesting lists.

Posted by armand at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A provocation to Baltar to do his music post

Or a lame third rate echo of the latest YouTube war on the A-list part of the blogosphere:

Posted by binky at 01:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Rat Tries to Silence Blogger for Showing the Corporation's UN-Family-Friendly Side

Even with carefully documented respect of Fair Use by the blogger, The Rat went after Spocko, who conducted a citizen action campaign to alert advertisers to what they were sponsoring with their dollars. Read about it here and here. The evidence that has Disney's knickers all twisty.

Posted by binky at 12:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spending the 13th Day of Christmas With The Ref

You know what I'm going to get you next Christmas, Mom? A big wooden cross, so that every time you feel unappreciated for your sacrifices, you can climb on up and nail yourself to it.

I love how Kevin Spacey delivers that line.

Yeah, the Christmas season officially ended on Friday, but why not draw it out one more day? That's what I was thinking when I decided to take a break and watch The Ref. Now I remembered being a big fan of this 1994 comedy (starring Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis, Dennis Leary, Christine Baranski and Glynis Johns), and I'm happy to see that it holds up well over time. It's at once one of the best "Christmas movies", a bit dark, and deeply funny. The writing is sharp,as is the direction, the characters are real and well drawn, and the acting is pitch-perfect and often hilarious. It's very much an under-rated comedy, and while a tiny bit dark ("I'm sorry but I have had it! I have never heard of such a Christmas! Sex ...and drugs ... an-an-and women being set on fire!"), still as family friendly and festive as A Christmas Story.

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

January 06, 2007

Secret Santa

For the last three years, I have participated in an online Secret Santa. We're all regulars of a music discussion group. That makes me laugh to say it, because normally music is not what gets discussed. It's more like, a love of music binds everyone together to discuss various and sundry topics. This group of people has - for the most part - never met each other. A few have had encounters at a concert in a distant city, and there are a few who are regular pals from some of the bigger cities. I know I've been at the same place at the same time (without knowing it) as quite a few of them. Young (teens) and old (40 somethings) and in between volunteer to send a $15 gift to some stranger from somewhere around the world (yes, we have international Santas). And yes, I know, giving your addess to random strangers on the internet could lead to your Secret Santa gift being a 57 year old flasher in a raincoat on your front stoop. On the other hand, as in the case of this bunch of folks, it could lead to some of the most fun and thoughtful and wonderfully packaged goodies you can get for the price of entry. As you may imagine, I received my Secret Santa gift this week (hey, we're rock fans... not Swiss watchmakers), and once again am amazed at the perfection of opening a little box of goodies from far away. We may not "know" each other, how we look or dress or what we drive, but somehow manage to hit the target with what we send each other. Maybe ranting and raving about music is the best way to get to know each other after all. Regardless, we've all got the warm fuzzies for our Santas, wherever they may be, and appreciate the thought that went into hunting for so much goodness in a fifteen buck box. Peace on earth, good will towards men and how!

Posted by binky at 06:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's Wrong With the Kansas City Chiefs?

I just clicked over to ESPN to see where things stood in the Colt-Chiefs playoff game, and what the fuck? I'm not surprised that the Colts are up 9-0, but all week long I've heard about how Larry Johnson was supposed to run all over the Colts' terrible rush defense. Yet from the stats I see Johnson has only run for 19 yards (19!) on 8 carries in the first half, and the Chiefs haven't gotten a single first down yet in this game (while the Colts have gotten 15). So ... is something wrong with Johnson or the Chiefs line? Or has the Colts' defense final come to life, now that the regular season is over?

Posted by armand at 05:56 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

It's a Good Day to Be In Louisiana

Why? Because it's Epiphany. And what's so important about that? It's the start of king cake season.

Posted by armand at 04:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Has Jan Crawford Greenburg Become the #1 Supreme Court Journalist?

True, Linda Greenhouse isn't dead, but Jan Crawford Greenburg has recently snagged several extremely high-profile gets, and if she's being compared to Eve Harrington ...

She talks about her recent success in this interview . In it she also talks about her new book, which Penguin is releasing later this month. It sounds like a must read.

I was fortunate enough to talk to nine Supreme Court justices, and a lot of what I heard surprised me. Some of the conventional wisdom is just wrong, especially about Justice Thomas and his early role on the Court. When I was doing the research on his early years, my heart would literally jump up every time I came across a memo or document that was completely at odds with what people have long said about him. The book is about how the Rehnquist Court came to disappoint conservatives--what went wrong from their point of view--and how those perceived missteps influenced the Bush Administration's thinking on Roberts, Miers and Alito.

Oh, and not only does she have an eagerly anticipated new book coming out, she apparently knows the answer to one of the most talked-about mysteries in Washington.

I guess the only interesting thing that didn't make TV or online was that he told me the precise date he (Justice John Paul Stevens) plans to retire.

But I take it she's going to follow the Woodward school of journalism and not share that juicy story with her readers for some time to come.

Posted by armand at 01:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senate Judiciary Changes Its Rules on Judicial Nominations

They are going back to the old system.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said this week that both senators from a state, regardless of party affiliation, will have to concur with a nomination before a nominee will even be considered by his committee.

"Sen. Leahy will abide by the blue-slip policy as he did the last time he was chairman," Tracy Schmaler, Leahy's spokeswoman, said Thursday.

The so-called "blue-slip" policy allows senators to delay a vote on nominations for months if not years by indicating their objections on a piece of blue paper. The rule was eliminated by GOP leaders in 2003, allowing GOP nominees to make it through committee despite objections from Democratic senators.

Posted by armand at 01:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

How Pelosi's House and the Washington Post Treat Economic Concerns

Brad DeLong notes here that the new US House of Representatives is going to take economic responsibility much more seriously than its predecessor, noting these remarkable changes in the House's rules.

He's much less pleased with the economics journalism, or journamalism being practiced (malpracticed?) by The Washington Post - see here and here.

Posted by armand at 09:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 05, 2007

Sneaky Bastages

The Bush administration has no shame.

The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement last spring in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring records identifying visitors to the White House are not open to the public.

The Bush administration did not reveal the existence of the memorandum of understanding until last fall.

The White House is using it to deal with a legal problem on a separate front, a ruling by a federal judge ordering the production of Secret Service logs identifying visitors to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

In a federal appeals court filing three weeks ago, the administration's lawyers used the memo in a legal argument aimed at overturning the judge's ruling. The Washington Post is suing for access to the Secret Service logs.

The five-page document dated May 17 declares that all entry and exit data on White House visitors belongs to the White House as presidential records rather than to the Secret Service as agency records.

Therefore, the agreement states, the material is not subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

In the past, Secret Service logs have revealed the comings and goings of various White House visitors, including Monica Lewinsky and Clinton campaign donor Denise Rich, the wife of fugitive financier Marc Rich, who received a pardon in the closing hours of the Clinton administration.

The memo last spring was signed by the White House and Secret Service the day after a Washington-based group asked a federal judge to impose sanctions on the Secret Service in a dispute over White House visitor logs for Abramoff.

The chief counsel to another Washington-based group suing to get Secret Service logs calls the creation of the memo "a political maneuver couched as a legal one."

"It appears the White House is actually manufacturing evidence to further its own agenda," Anne Weismann, a Justice Department lawyer for 19 years and now chief counsel to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Friday.

Posted by binky at 11:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cowher Resigns


Posted by binky at 03:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Speaker Pelosi

I'll let her speak for herself:

This is an historic moment - for the Congress, and for the women of this country. It is a moment for which we have waited more than 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren't just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal. For our daughters and granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling.

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

Khalilzad Gets the UN Gig, While Fallon and Petraeus Replace Abizaid and Casey

More shuffling of the deck chairs?

The Armchair Generalist has some concerns about the military appointments, while Steve Clemons thinks the pick for the UN is a good one. Ryan Crocker is apparently in line to be the new Ambassador to Iraq.

Posted by armand at 09:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 04, 2007

The Carrier for the 21st Century - the Gerald R. Ford

So the decision has been made and the lead ship of the "CVN-21" class has been named (yeah, it's not going to enter service until 2015, but how can politicians resist naming mutil-billion dollar projects years in advance?). This mighty warship, filled with the latest in technological innovations, that will sail the seas, striking fear in would-be opponents of our country, is getting named ... (drum roll) ... after the oh-so nice and collegial Gerald Ford.

The USS Gerald Ford. Terrifying, no? That'll make terrorists or the Chinese think twice about commiting bad acts, no? Okay, no. Supporters of naming the ship "America" were the big losers in all this, though apparently they are going to keep up their fight and try to get the next carrier after the Gerald Ford named "America".

Wonkette has a funny review of how this cat was let out of the proverbial bag - apparently Donald Rumsfeld was once again breaking protocol and annoying the US military leadership when he announced this decision at the late president's funeral.

In a final public act of sabotage against America’s Military, the hateful little man announced at Ford's funeral that the carrier would bear Jerry's name. The Pentagon, as usual, was furious at Rumsfeld. The name of the ship was supposed to be announced at a ceremony in two weeks, and it was supposed to be a surprise. But Donald Rumsfeld is still a threat, and he’s always plotting against America’s armed forces.
Posted by armand at 06:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

How The Grinch Stole (more) Civil Liberties

Found via Atrios, this from the NYDN:

President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

Bush's move came during the winter congressional recess and a year after his secret domestic electronic eavesdropping program was first revealed. It caught Capitol Hill by surprise.

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Why Didn't Santa Bring Me One Of These?

bunny of doom

Posted by binky at 01:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Negroponte is an asshole.

Via the NYT tonight.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 - John D. Negroponte, whom President Bush installed less than two years ago as the first director of national intelligence, will soon leave his post to become the State Department’s second-ranking official, administration officials said Wednesday.

What the hell? Negroponte hasn't been there long enough to look forward to leaving. Two years isn't enough time to really sort out a brand-new agency and position, and his leaving will cripple attempts to make ONI (Office of National Intelligence) any sort of power in the intelligence community. I really can't believe that Bush is allowing this. The key question is in the article's fourth paragraph:

President Bush has hailed the establishment of the intelligence post as an essential step in helping prevent another terrorist attack. On paper, the director of national intelligence outranks the deputy secretary of state, raising questions about why the White House would seek - and why Mr. Negroponte would agree to - the shift.

Yeah, that's the question. Heading (supposedly) the entire intelligence community of the US is (one assumes) a somewhat more important and prestigious job than being #2 at State. Why is Negroponte moving? Especially at a critical time (Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, etc.)? I'm especially discouraged by the speculation of who will replace him:

Administration officials from two different agencies said Wednesday that the leading candidate to become the new intelligence chief is J. Michael McConnell, a retired vice admiral who led the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996. Admiral McConnell was head of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Gen. Colin L. Powell during the first Persian Gulf war, in 1991.

I don't want to seem to be paranoid or anything here, but if McConnell become head of ONI, that puts a military or ex-military figure in charge of four out of four of the top intelligence agencies (CIA, ONI, NSA, and DIA). While I have no specific objection to this, I have to admit to being nervous. Intelligence, at the strategic level, isn't a military function, and a military point of view isn't really the best for some of these positions. This is more of a vague worry than anything concrete, but I still have it.

Bottom line: Negroponte shouldn't have offered to move (stability at ONI is more important than any expertise on Iraq), and Bush shouldn't have accepted. Goss at CIA was pushed out in favor of Hayden (ex-NSA); Rumsfeld had a mess of intel moved to the Pentagon (so Gates is now sorting it out); and now Negroponte is moving. I don't know how the intelligence community feels about this, but the lack of continuity at the top of most of the agencies bodes ill for our ability to sort out the world these days.

What the hell is this administration up to?

Posted by baltar at 12:57 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

January 03, 2007

The International

Remember late in Metropolitan when Nick Smith is telling Tom about The International, the forced, tacky ball that wasn't a natural outgrowth of a particular u.h.b. social set?

I guess you could say it's extremely vulgar, I like it a lot.

Well, guess what was held for the 52nd time last week? And apparently some attendees hold it in even lower regard than witty Nick. Consider one Freddy Paterson-Morgan's comments. Mr. Paterson-Morgan was one of the escorts of Lady Henrietta Seymour, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Somerset.

"It’s full of room-temperature-IQ Texans, ghastly boring Americans and ugly old people," he said of the party. "It’s ghastly - it's so bloody pretentious. Yes, there are beautiful women here, but their brains are like Down syndrome. Bad breeding, bad brains."

He took a deep pull from his cigarette and exhaled, and continued with equal theater.

"We stopped doing this sort of thing 100 years ago,” he said. “It still goes on now, but it’s lower-class peasants who do it."

Yup, lower class peasants like Ashley and Pierce Bush. You can read about the whole vulgar affair here.

Posted by armand at 07:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Would Caesar, Lincoln, Washington and the Genghis Khan Do With Iraq?

This is a rather interesting historical exercise, albeit arguably one with limited practical applications. The LA Times asked 4 prominent historians to describe what well known political/military leaders from the past would do if they were fighting in Iraq today. If you are interested in how the leadership of George W. Bush differs from that of Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Genghis Khan, give the articles a look.

Posted by armand at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ruth Marcus Wants Obama to Wait - For a Predictable, Dumb Reason

I'm sorry - but if you get space in the Washington Post, shouldn't you use it to put forward something that's original and/or informative? Ruth Marcus wastes her space today by saying that Obama should wait until 2012 to run. Now that wouldn't be the end of the world for a column, if said column actually produced interesting reasons to support that position. But this column only contains two sentences - count 'em, two! - in the entire piece that give reasons for that position. One is a reasons we've already heard endlessly, and the other ... well the other is weird.

He will have learned more -- about the world, about domestic policy, about how to maneuver successfully in Washington.

... also offer the opportunity that Obama hasn't yet had: to set out and achieve legislative goals.

Point one has been hit to death, and by that logic wouldn't you think Robert C. Byrd and Ted Stevens should be the front-runners in 2008, or think that ANYONE who hasn't lived in Washington for decades can't be a good president? Might Obama be a better president with more seasoning? Maybe. But that doesn't mean he couldn't be a perfectly good one now. And her latter point is so stupid (or to be kinder - divorced from the realities of presidential electoral politics) it makes my head hurt. Since when do voters care about whether or not someone has legislative accomplishments when casting their ballots for president? Maybe we should ask presidents Bob Dole, Dick Lugar and Mo Udall?

Press types, if you don't want Obama to run, fine. But give us new reasons why. We've already heard the inexperience argument (many times), which is a little odd in and of itself give how rare it is that a president takes office with lots of experience in DC.

Oh, and no, past drug usage doesn't count as a legitimate argument either - consider who lives in the White House now.

Posted by armand at 10:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Now I remember why I turned down that post-doc...

...Atlanta has way too many people. And they all drive like lunatics. On crack. And meth.

It's good to be back in the sticks.

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

January 02, 2007

General Shali - Let Gays Serve Openly in the Military

The former chief of the JCS has had a change of heart, and thinks it's time to let gays serve openly in the US military. He still thinks his support for "don't ask, don't tell" was appropriate in the early 1990's - but he says times have changed.

Last year I held a number of meetings with gay soldiers and marines, including some with combat experience in Iraq, and an openly gay senior sailor who was serving effectively as a member of a nuclear submarine crew. These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers.

This perception is supported by a new Zogby poll of more than 500 service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, three quarters of whom said they were comfortable interacting with gay people. And 24 foreign nations, including Israel, Britain and other allies in the fight against terrorism, let gays serve openly, with none reporting morale or recruitment problems.

I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.

Posted by armand at 05:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Comas - A Def Needle In Tomorrow

For some reason I've been listening to this old gem from 2000 all afternoon. I guess the "some reason" is that it's damn good. I used to love these guys live. Not because of any great charisma or astonishing production design - they were just excellent musicians. And this album is really good.

Posted by armand at 04:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Speaker Dennis O'Brien

You know Pennsylvania might not jump to mind when people think of which states have the craziest and most dramatic politics. But a couple more dramas like today's election of a new House Speaker might make people reevaluate their view of the workings of the Keystone state.

Posted by armand at 04:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dark Passage

So after watching WVU's remarkable comeback to defeat Georgia Tech and win its first Gator Bowl, a few friends and I dived into what's likely the most obscure of the films in the Bogart-Bacall box set, Dark Passage. Honestly, I can't say I liked it much. It's definitely clunky, though it's always great to see Ms. Bacall and though it does feature some very nice character actor turns (like Tom D'Andrea's, he's great as the oddly helpful cabbie).

Perhaps more than anything else the movie got me thinking of movies with similar structures or plots, and made me appreciate Seconds more than I used to. True, I still find that Frankenheimer classic cold and rather unlikeable - but it's very well crafted in its way.

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

The "McCain Doctrine"

I don't expect to be backing John Edwards in the 2008 presidential contest. However, I must admit that the man has proved on numerous occasions in the last couple of years that he has become much more politically savvy since the Kerry-Edwards ticket lost. The last instance of his improved instincts - focusing on Senator John McCain as the prime supporter of escalating the number of US forces in Iraq. It's an excellent move to tar the (weirdly) popular senator from Arizona with an exceptionally unpopular and prominent policy position. And if he can work "the McCain Doctrine" into the popular discourse, well, good for Edwards - it's both an accurate phrase and likely a highly effective one.

Btw, I think Steph was far too quick to (implicitly) label Edwards' term as naked political posturing. It's also substantively accurate, so the news anchor's dismissive comments weren't called for.

Posted by armand at 01:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Why the Love for Gerald Ford?

The list of pathetic acts of the Bush-Cheney administration is of course close to endless - but I've got to say that pointing to the Ford administration as a symbol of leadership becoming truly understood and respected years later ... well, that's just sad. The president is aspiring to being rated as highly as Gerald Ford? Ummm, okay - a really peculiar ambition, that.

If I'm missing something, please let me know, but why exactly is the former congressman from Michigan receiving so many honors and praising comments? Is it merely because he was kind of inoffensive and avoided death for an unusually long period of time? Or is there (honestly) more to it than that? If so - what exactly? Was his administration a string of endless disasters? No. If nothing else his push for peace in the Middle East was noteworthy and positive. But did he really accomplish all that much? And if so - why did few, if any, realize that until last week?

Posted by armand at 11:28 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

January 01, 2007

Differences in the Votes of Senators Obama and Clinton

Sure, they usually vote the same way - but when they differ, what do they differ on? Shailagh Murray has this report.

Posted by armand at 11:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack