February 28, 2007

How about that photo-op of the wounded gay Marine with George Bush?

The first wounded soldier of the Iraq war too. Marine comes out against 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell':

And I can almost hear it now -- "Oh, yeah, he's that gay Marine." I'm okay with that. The truth is, something's wrong with this ban. I have to say something. I mean, you're asking men and women to lie about their orientation, to keep their personal lives private, so they can defend the rights and freedoms of others in this country, and be told, "Well, oh, yeah, if you ever decide to really meet someone of the same sex and you want the same rights, sorry, buddy, you don't have the right." That's one factor. The other factor is, we're losing probably thousands of men and women that are skilled at certain types of jobs, from air traffic controllers to linguists, because of this broken policy.

Now, watch the wingnuts start mouthing off about how a real - i.e. not gay - soldier wouldn't have stepped on a land mine.

Also on CNN, where there is the video featuring the photo with Bush.

Posted by binky at 10:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Heiress

I suppose a lot of the "classics" don't live up to the hype. You've read about them for years, and by the time you finally get around to seeing them you've built them up so high in your head, or seen so many riffs on their innovations that they don't seem that special any more. Thankfully, that's not the case with The Heiress. This Oscar-winning film from 1949 is great, and doesn't feel too dated (even though it's set in the mid-19th century). Why? The quality of the production and the acting are all excellent - and it deals with situations tied to family and money and love and betrayal that are still quite familiar today. It's tough - brutal even - but very well done. And I can't say enough about the acting. It's wonderful, but also rather fascinating as the principals are all working in rather different styles. But all four of the main performers (Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson and Miriam Hopkins) do terrific things with their roles.

Posted by armand at 03:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why I Aspire to Be Baron Boyce

OK, I admit "random thoughts" don't get much more random than this. But given that I am known to some as an expert on titular heads (or those with titles), it's little wonder that I am envious of Baron Boyce. I mean first he was First Sea Lord (coolest title ever? well, it's right up there). Then he was created Baron Boyce of Pimlico (the Preakness! okay, it's not that Pimlico, but cool nonetheless). And then he was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (a title last held by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother)! How many dramatic titles can one man hold?If for some reason the prime minister also named him Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster I don't know what I'd do.

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

Stupid Hippies...

...projecting your values on capitalist enterprise (emphasis mine):

While many shoppers find the new stores exhilarating places to shop, the company also faces critics who feel it has strayed from its original vision. In angry postings on blogs, they charge that the store is not living up to its core values - in particular, protecting the environment and supporting organic agriculture and local farmers. In interviews, some of the customers who describe themselves as committed to these values say they have become disillusioned and taken their business elsewhere.

MAKING MONEY. That's what the firm's "core values" are. And if pandering to hippies isn't what it takes to MAKE MONEY anymore, Whole Foods doesn't have to keep doing it.

As the market for organic expands, and more stores jump on the bandwagon (not to mention that recent changes in government regulations watering down the organic label, making it easier to say you are organic) the less Whole Foods can rely on being the only game in town. Without having the market cornered, they have to attract people in other ways.

Posted by binky at 12:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Feeling wonky?

Picked up this link over at Crooks and Liars... a bunch of new Congressional Research Service reports:

"Climate Change: Science and Policy Implications," January 25, 2007.

"Foreign Science and Engineering Presence in U.S. Institutions and the Labor Force," updated January 12, 2007.

"U.S. Military Dispositions: Fact Sheet," updated January 30, 2007.

"Navy Ship Names: Background For Congress," updated January 17, 2007.

"Latin America: Terrorism Issues," updated January 22, 2007.

"U.S. National Science Foundation: An Overview," updated January 24, 2007.

"War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance," updated January 16, 2007.

"Laos: Background and U.S. Relations," updated February 5, 2007.

"Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Crisis: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests," updated January 5, 2007.

At the conclusion of a widely cited article on U.S. policy towards Iran in the latest issue of The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh referred to a November 2006 report by CRS "on what it depicted as the Administration’s blurring of the line between C.I.A. activities and strictly military ones."

The referenced report is "Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions," November 2, 2006.

Posted by binky at 11:53 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Wounded Soldiers Punished for Speaking Out


Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.

The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed. And 120 permanent-duty soldiers are expected to arrive by mid-March to take control of the Medical Hold Unit, the soldiers said.

Via Atrios.

Posted by binky at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!"

Would someone please explain this to me:

After 28 months of incarceration, Jabour -- who was described by a counterterrorism official in the U.S. government as "a committed jihadist and a hard-core terrorist who was intent on doing harm to innocent people, including Americans" -- was released eight months ago. U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials confirmed his incarceration and that he was held in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They would not discuss conditions inside black sites or the treatment of any detainee.

Either (A) Jabour is (was) a member of Al Qaeda, and should not be out wandering the streets today, or (B) Jabour was not a member of Al Qaeda (and was likely just guilty of being stupid - hanging around Al Qaeda people), and thus shouldn't have been locked up. What the hell?

Two other notes: first, Jabour, in the article, notes that he was interrogated by something like 45 different Americans while he was being held at a US facility in Afghanistan for two-plus years. This is insane. Far and away, the best interrogation tactic is to treat prisoners well, and have a single interrogator interact with them over a long period (this builds trust, respect, etc.). Having a revolving door of interrogators ruins this approach. Second, the article also notes that when Jabour was released (remember - he was captured in Pakistan, and held in Afghanistan) he was released in Jordan, who (after six weeks) turned him over to the Israelis, who declined to prosecute him (likely because he hadn't done anything to Israel), at which point he was released into Gaza (as, finally, a free man). What the hell? Why release him hundreds of miles away (if he's guilty, why release him? If he's innocent, why release him way over there?)? Why release him to Jordan? Why did they pass him to the Israelis? Does any of this make any sense?

And don't even get me started on the massive human rights abuses and violations of international law over this single case.

Posted by baltar at 08:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2007

How much you wanna bet someone's getting fired?

The someone responsible for filing this report maybe?

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former president Bill Clinton have operated a family charity since 2001, but she failed to list it on annual Senate financial disclosure reports on five occasions.

The Ethics in Government Act requires members of Congress to disclose positions they hold with any outside entity, including nonprofit foundations. Hillary Clinton has served her family foundation as treasurer and secretary since it was established in December 2001, but none of her ethics reports since then have disclosed that fact.

Very sloppy.

Posted by binky at 08:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's Weird the Way People keep Getting Sick

Oh, wait, no it isn't:

The federal agency that's been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago.

The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls.

"We have a food safety crisis on the horizon," said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. (Paging Dr. Gupta blog: Who's leading the food safety charge? )

Between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent, according to a database analysis of federal records by The Associated Press.

That's not all that's dropping at the FDA in terms of food safety. The analysis also shows:

• There are 12 percent fewer FDA employees in field offices who concentrate on food issues.

• Safety tests for U.S.-produced food have dropped nearly 75 percent, from 9,748 in 2003 to 2,455 last year, according to the agency's own statistics.

Maybe I should go back to soaking my veggies in chlorox like I used to during the cholera outbreak.

Posted by binky at 07:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2007

Oscar Fashion

So I know what you thought was the real reason the pretty congregated last night, right? To show off their prettiness in really pretty clothes! So with that in mind, which dresses did you like best? And which were, ummm, not best? Showbuzz has a lot of the gowns here. I know Binky liked Penelope Cruz's and our favorite GU Law student was high on Jodie Foster's (and I liked both of those dressess too). Other than those my three favorites in that particular slideshow were those worn by Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet (yes apparently American women can't dress). And I've got a strangely positive reaction to Emily Blunt's. Strangely because I'm not crazy about the dress itself (is anyone else thinking, Love Boat?) - but I think it's absolutely perfect on her, and frames her features beautifully.

As to outfits not in that photo gallery - I liked Ellen's red velvet, Clive Owen's black dressing down, and Rachel Weisz ... mmm ... Rachel Weisz ... sorry lost my train of thought there, oh, and ... one of the other male presenters had a gorgeous tux, but I've completely forgotten who that was.

As to the misses of the evening - I'd put Nicole Kidman and that red monster on her shoulder atop that list. Well, other than that silly jacket Jennifer Hudson was wearing (what - was she at a yard sale thrown by a former Solid Gold dancer?).

What did you think? Don't hold back the bitchiness. That's what the Monday after is all about, right?

Posted by armand at 12:59 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack


While we here at BloodlessCoup have covered the issue of the White House firing eight US Attorneys before, today's NYT Editorial brought it back to me again.

In addition to looking clearly wrong (what good reason can there be for firing eight US Attorneys at the same time?), I'm amazed at the short-sightedness of this move, although that isn't new. The firing of eight at once, as the editorial notes, has never happened before. Thus, new precedent.

I'm highly suspicious, and generally against breaking precedent - especially with respect to political decisions. The reason is simple: while firing eight US Attorneys might have short term gains for the Bush administration (stopping corruption investigations? Rewarding campaign contributors? Seasoning future candidates? Something else?), it has begun a new precedent. Bluntly, if the Democrats (and they will eventually win the White House back at some point) do the same thing, then the Republicans won't have a leg to stand on when (not if, when) the Democrats do the same thing (and the Democrats will do the same thing, since the Republicans did it and showed that it could be done).

The end result of this is that it make the system more partisan and political: the goalposts of what is "ethical" get moved further and further every year, to the net negative of the American People. It always amazes me that every administration (Democrat and Republican) won't ask a simple question: "Do I really want the other party to have the same new ability that I'm about to grant myself?" Instead, both parties seem focused on short-term gains (short-sightedness).

Posted by baltar at 09:42 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

On "Flicks" and "Plugs"

No doubt Armand is busily preparing his Oscar roundup post, so I have but a brief comment gleaned from the headlines at CNN this morning.

When you go to see a "flick" what do you expect? Fun, lighthearted films? Doris Day romps? Kung Fu?

How about a lecture?

I guess CNN has a different idea of what a constitutes a fun flick given their headlines and titles.

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

February 25, 2007


So, maybe saying that Negroponte isn't an an asshole doesn't even come close.

According to Sy Hersh, Negroponte is "too ethical" for the Bush administration.

Evidently Negroponte has been troubled by the Bush administration's plans due to his experiences in Central America under Reagan.

Posted by binky at 02:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Roman Catholics and the Federal Judiciary

My recent reading (and blogging) of Jan Crawford Greenburg's Supreme Conflict predictably led to me thumbing through Yalof's Pursuit of Justices. While doing so I came across a fascinating tidbit that says volumes about how the place of Roman Catholics has changed in US society over the last 50 years. In the fall of 1956 President Eisenhower was interested in filling "the Catholic seat" on the US Supreme Court, which had been vacant since the death of Frank Murphy in 1949. One of Eisenhower's criteria for considering potential justices was that he didn't want to name anyone to the Court who was over 62. As his aides scanned possible nominees they learned that there were only two Catholics in the entire federal judiciary who met that age criteria. 2! These days we've got 3 Catholics that young on the US Supreme Court alone. Clearly being a Catholic is no longer the barrier to advancement in politics and the law that it was (not all that long ago).

Posted by armand at 01:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I know it works this way for my creations



Posted by binky at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On the subject of protesting too much

It seems to be an epidemic.

No! Could it be?

Posted by binky at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ah, Greek Life. Useless, Discriminatory - Or Both!

Via the NYT, we read about the Delta Zeta sorority at DePauw University. They had declining membership, see, and were described as "socially awkward," see. So the National came to town, and interviewed 35 of the members (what percentage that is of all Delta Zeta sisters isn't noted) to see how committed they were to the life of the chapter, and the ideals of the organization. Of the 35, 23 were asked to leave.

Those 23 included all the sisters who were overweight, and the only minority members of the sorority. The remaining 12 were "slender and popular with fraternity men." (It should be noted that of the 12, 6 were so appalled by this decision that they left as well).

Its rare to see discrimination so blatant in today's social climate - it's usually hidden, or at least given a cover story. Its good to see that some organizations no longer feel the need to hide their motives and actions. Bravo to Delta Zeta's National for being so obvious: even those who score poorly on the "reading comprehension" sections of those standardized tests can see the bias and discrimination here.

Posted by baltar at 08:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Narrow Minded Bigotry Doesn't Win Votes or Money

Headline from the New York Times:

Christian Right Labors to Find '08 Candidate

[Note: not opening paragraph]

Many conservatives have already declared their hostility to Senator John McCain of Arizona, despite his efforts to make amends for having once denounced Christian conservative leaders as "agents of intolerance," and to former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, because of his liberal views on abortion and gay rights and his three marriages.


Although each of the three [ed note: Hunter, Huckabee, Brownback] had supporters, many conservatives expressed concerns about whether any of the candidates could unify their movement or raise enough money to overtake the front-runners, several participants in the meetings said.

So, the Christian Right (the article notes the presence of Grover Norquist as well) can't find a candidate who is (A) as popular as the front runners (McCain, Guiliani) or (B) can raise enough money to compete with the front runners. Which leaves them without a candidate in 2008.

To which the only rational resonse is: BWAHAAAHAAAHAHAAHAAA.

Posted by baltar at 08:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2007

"Guatemala military might use explosion to open clogged sewer main"

Really, what could I come up with that would top that?

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

Gump and The Gimp

John Patterson's list of "Oscar's Greatest Crimes" beings with a delicious (and all too accurate) slap at Forrest Gump:

In 1994, Forrest Gump was the perfect movie tie-in for the Gingrich takeover of Congress the same year. Like the New Right, Gump was culturally retrograde, politically reactionary and self-servingly revisionist about matters ranging from the Ku Klux Klan and Vietnam to the Black Power movement and Aids as God's vengeance for promiscuous, citified women. Writer-director Robert Zemeckis's message was - crudely summarised, as he'd like it - stay stupid, stay home, don't ask questions and hate those who do. It was the biggest-grossing movie of the year, ensuring easy victory over the insurgent indie Pulp Fiction which, for all its shortcomings, was easily the most vigorous and inventive mainstream American movie of the year. Pulp Fiction had a Gump of its own, except he was called the Gimp, and they wisely kept him locked and chained in the basement.

That last line is going to have me quietly chuckling all afternoon.

Posted by armand at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2007

Those Damned Liberals

We don't engage in wholesale conservative bashing here, though we do indulge ourselves every now and again. This is one of those times.

Via Pharyngula, we discover Conservapedia, the wiki that removes the liberal bias that infests Wikipedia.


While I'll admit to some issues in Wikipedia, they are mostly factual (as in: getting things plain wrong), not ideological. But, silly me, I was thinking of facts, when I should have been worried about ideological purity and whatnot.

I'll present (with comments) the from-the-horses-mouth ideological problems with Wikipedia (from the appropriately named Examples of Bias in Wikipedia entry of Conservapedia) below the fold (they aren't that funny or interesting).

In a general sense, the Conservapedia is asking for balance: present both the liberal and conservative side of all the debates (they also have some issues with language, but their criticisms are either single data points - Wikipedia doesn't mention a Christian issues here - or complaints about omissions from Wikipedia which could be corrected in Wikipedia - its open to the public for editing, you know - if they would bother to do so). They want "evidence" of creationism given as much weight and credence as evidence of evolution. They want Christianity to have as much recognition as social, material or political factors in as historical causes of important events. And they complain when Wikipedia doesn't do this.

There are two problems with this. First (and least important), it seems to misunderstand how Wikipedia operates. There isn't any sort of editorial board to police issues of bias or deliberate errors. Entries are left as the last person made them, which generally means they are finally left alone when they've reached some sort of middle-of-the-road position (among those interested in working on Wikipedia, which I'll freely admit isn't like an average cross-section of America). Thus, if there are bias, they reflect the backgrounds and norms of those people who contribute there - and this is by design.

Second, there seems to be a common misperception that the "media" (mainstream and not) is only objective when it provides a pro and a con position on issues (the CNN "Crossfire" idea, which the Conservapedia references at one point in their complaints). While I'll certainly grant that some issues are best understood through a pro-versus-con lens, this isn't true of all issues (basic questions of science come to mind). Moreover, even where there is some debate, the idea that the debate has to be "balanced" in some way seems inaccurate. Take the idea of the round-versus-flat earth. There are people out there who believe in a flat earth. Any discussion of the earth could (I suppose) mention that some people don't believe the earth is round, but why should any Wikipedia entry give equal weight (meaning equal space) to a flat earth idea that only a very small minority give any weight to? Thus, to seek balance (or, similarly, the idea that all view points/causes/theories should be discussed equally) implicitly argues that all theories/arguments are equally "good" (read: logical, backed by evidence, backed by actual experts with evidence, etc.), when this is patently untrue. And a good reference source, including Wikipedia, should reflect that bias (which, if you follow my logic, isn't really a bias). The Conservapedia folks don't seem to understand this (witness their objections), but that's just a reflection of a more widely held view among some on the right wing that they are persecuted and discriminated against in a broad spectrum of issues because they can't get an equal debate (equal time/space/etc.) for their positions (creationism versus evolution is a good example of this).

It isn't the role of a reference source (as Wikipedia is trying to do) to be balanced (in the Conservapedia sense); a reference source should, as much as possible, reflect the accumulated knowledge of the society. Failure to give equal space to ideas and theories that aren't widely accepted is a feature, not a bug, in Wikipedia.

This rant leads naturally to the numerous complaints (some we've discussed here) of the Conservative bend towards anti-science. I think the anti-science position falls naturally from the logic above: they seek to give equal weight to their ideology, and are offended when science wants to argue that their ideology isn't reflective of reality, and thus should be rejected/discarded. The Conservatives see science as attacking their beliefs, which to them is discrimination. It isn't, but that is a longer argument (for another day).

If you really want to see what Conservapedia objects to (all 27 points), you can click on the extended entry, below.

The growing list of examples of bias and errors on Wikipedia. Please add to this, and also contribute entries to Conservapedia.

1. Wikipedia allows the use of B.C.E. instead of B.C. and C.E. instead of A.D. The dates are based on the birth of Jesus, so why pretend otherwise? Conservapedia is Christian-friendly and exposes the CE deception.

And the #1 reason for ignoring Wikipedia is...they put the wrong letters behind the dates? I'm lost. I google the issue, and CE and BCE stand for "Common Era" and "Before Common Era". I'll admit that I'm not grabbed by using these, but is it really that important? Or interesting? Or relevant? How is it a deception, since the numbers are the same? If this is the best they've got, they have some trouble.

2. The entry for the Renaissance in Wikipedia refuses to give any credit to Christianity.

And, since Christianity - according to most historians - didn't have much of a role in causing the Renasissance, why should Wikipedia talk about it? In any event, if the authors of Conservapedia want a section on Christianity in the Renaissance, why don't they put one in?

3. Wikipedia's entry for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a conservative group, features a rant against the group by a British journalist who was a former press officer for the leftist Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.[1] The only cited credential for the journalist is that he works for a television "programme-production company," and there is no citation for any of the factual claims in his intemperate and misleading description of the group, which were prompted by an independent criticism in England of the journalist's own work. After receiving a complaint about this, Wikipedia trimmed this rant but still kept most of it, reflecting Wikipedia's bias. Preserving this unpublished diatribe is against Wikipedia policy (e.g., NPOV), but it Wikipedia administrators insist on keeping it. Wikipedia's entry also features another liberal journalist's swipe at AAPS from ... 40 years ago!

In fact, this long diatribe seems to be wrong. There is no "rant" or any other complaint about the AAPS in Wikipedia (though it is possible it is in one of the footnotes; I didn't look). It looks as if Wikipedia (the community) updated their entry (which happens, like, daily) and Conservapedia didn't. That doesn't speak well of this enterprise.

4. There is a strong anti-American and anti-capitalism bias on Wikipedia. In its description of the post-war Bell Trade Act of 1946, in which the United States gave the Philippines $800 million in exchange for some free trade provisions, Wikipedia omits any mention of the $800 million dollars and instead lambasts the "wrath of Father Capitalism."[2] The agreement was approved by popular vote on the Philippines, but the Wikipedia article omits that fact also.

Uh, no. The entry is about the act passed by the US Congress which gave the Phillipines their independence; there is no mention of capitalism or its wrath. As for factual errors (the popular vote issue), just find a footnote and make a correction to Wikipedia.

5. Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words, even though most English speaking users are American. Look up "Most Favored Nation" on Wikipedia and it automatically converts the spelling to the British spelling "Most Favoured Nation", even there there are far more American than British users. Look up "Division of labor" on Wikipedia and it automatically converts to the British spelling "Division of labour," then insists on the British spelling for "specialization" also.[3]. Enter "Hapsburg" (the European ruling family) and Wikipedia automatically changes the spelling to Habsburg, even though the American spelling has always been "Hapsburg". Within entries British spellings appear in the silliest of places, even when the topic is American. Conservapedia favors American spellings of words.

What? The fact that some words are spelled in alternative spellings (correct ones, mind you) is somehow an example of bias? The British are EVIL!!!! or something.

6. Wikipedia distorts the youthful acceptance of deism by Benjamin Franklin by never acknowledging that he later abandoned it and failing to admit the significance of how Franklin, near the end of his life, proposed the saying of prayers at the Constitutional Convention for divine intervention and assistance in the proceedings,[4] an act that was debatably against the teachings of deism. Wikipedia also omits any acknowledgement of Franklin's praise of Pilgrim's Progress in his autobiography.

"distorts the youthful acceptance" isn't a phrase one usually sees in something attempting to be an encyclopedia. In any event, this isn't bias (or error) but a judgement in Wikipedia that the issues these conservatives are raising are irrelevant (to the life of Franklin) or wrong (I'm guessing the latter). In any event, I think we begin to see the "bias" that Wikipedia has: it neglects to mention every last aspect of religion that might have some bearing on a subject. If Franklin might have suggested prayers to help write the Constitution, how is that fact (even if true) really all that important compared to everything else that Franklin did do?

7. The entry for the Spanish Golden Age does not even tell the reader when it occurred, but makes the doubtful claim that the Spanish Golden Age flourished in Latin America.

As you can see, this one has at least a small point. The entry doesn't list the beginning dates of the Age (though it does list the ending date). It does prominently say that the age lasted while the Habsburgs were on the throne, and their is a convienient link to another Wikipedia article that gives those dates. Thus, a small point here (the dates should be in the entry). As for the issue of whether the Spanish Golden Age "flourished" in Latin America, I'll note that some of the artists the entry discusses (El Greco, etc.) painted/wrote about the empire in the larger sense (conquistadors, etc.). Thus, while the Age didn't flourish in Latin America, it was affected by events in Latin America. Sloppy writing by Wikipedia, but not really bias.

8. Gossip is pervasive on Wikipedia. Many entries read like the National Enquirer. For example, Wikipedia's entry on Nina Totenberg states, "She married H. David Reines, a trauma physician, in 2000. On their honeymoon, he treated her for severe injuries after she was hit by a boat propeller while swimming." That sounds just like the National Enquirer, and reflects a bias towards gossip. Conservapedia avoids gossip and vulgarity, just as a true encyclopedia does.

Well, this is just silly. Perhaps Wikipedia (as noted) suffers from bad writing, but that doesn't make the entry wrong. And a single example of a "bias for gossip" isn't a bias, but a single example. Who cares? I'd rather have the entry accurate (and full of gossip) than inaccurate. And where did the vulgarity comment come from? I've never seen swearing in Wikipedia, have you?

9. Edits to include facts against the theory of evolution are almost immediately censored. On Conservapedia, contributions that meet simple rules are respected to the maximum extent possible.

As they should be. Moreover, I expect that Conservapedia is overstating the case: entries that bring up recognized issues that evolution (and science/biology in general) are still trying to understand wouldn't likely be "censored." However, talking about how the dinosaurs are only 6000 years old is likely to be immediately removed.

10. Wikipedia removed and permanently blocked a page identifying its many biases.

Something like this page? I'd take it out to, for the simple reason that objects to entries should be made in those entries themselves, not spread all over a single page. This seems petulant.

11. Wikipedia claims about 1.5 million articles, but what it does not say is that a large number of those articles have zero educational value. For example, Wikipedia has 1075 separate articles about "Moby" and "song".[5] Many hundreds of thousands of Wikipedia articles -- perhaps over half its website -- are about music, Hollywood, and other topics beneath a regular encyclopedia. This reflects a bias towards popular gossip rather than helpful or enlightening information.

And your point is...? I think the Conservapedia people are missing the point of a Wiki: anyone can put anything in, subject to the whims/votes of the other users. The fact that a bunch of articles have (according to these nuts) "zero educational value" isn't a relevant concern to Wikipedia, and not an issue when articles are considered for deletion. It's user created, not managed like other encyclopedias. This simple fact seems to have slipped through the Conservapedia's fingers.

12. The Wikipedia entry for John Peter Zenger links to an incorrect Wikipedia definition of "Philadelphia lawyer", which Merriam-Webster defines as a lawyer knowledgeable in "even the most minute aspects of the law." Wikipedia claims the term comes from the Zenger trial, but Merriam-Webster puts the first use of that term at over 50 years later. Wikipedia is simply unreliable.

In other words, Merriam-Webster disagrees with Wikipedia. Wikipedia has faults, and has been known to be wrong. It's also free, and online (something other encyclopedias can't claim). This is a known issue, and not really a "bias," but more something to keep in mind when using Wikipedia.

13. Often key facts are missing from Wikipedia entries in favor of meaningless detail. Wikipedia's entry about Indentured Servitude is massive, but it omits any reference to Bacon's Rebellion, which was the turning point for the use of indentured servants in the New World!

Again, this isn't bias, but the weight of the Wiki community. I suspect it can be debated as to whether Bacon's Rebellion is the "turning point" of Indentured Servitude or not; if it's a clear historical point, find a footnote and stick it in the entry in Wikipedia. Where is the bias here?

14. Wikipedia has many entries on "concession", but none explaining its main historical meaning (from imperialism). Quantity is not quality.

No, quantity isn't quality (as evidenced by this list). How is a missing entry on the relationship of "concession" to Imperialism (which I think is here, in any event) evidence of bias? Again, if Wiki has an error, you should correct it, not cry about bias.

15. Unlike most encyclopedias and news outlets, Wikipedia does not exert any centralized authority to take steps to reduce bias or provide balance; it has a "neutral point of view" policy but the policy is followed only to the extent that individual editors acting in social groups choose to follow it. For example, CNN would ensure that Crossfire had a representative of the political right and one from the political left. In contrast, Wikipedia policy allows bias to exist and worsen. For example, even though most Americans (and probably most of the world) reject the theory of evolution,[6] Wikipedia editors commenting on the topic are nearly 100% pro-evolution.[7] Self-selection has a tendency to exacerbate bias in the absence of affirmative steps to limit it. Gresham's Law reflects the problem in economics of bad money driving out good in the absence of corrective action. As a result, Wikipedia is arguably more biased than CNN and other information sources.

Uh, "most Americans (and probably most of the world) reject the theory of evolution"????? I have two comments: (A) NO. (B) If true (highly doubtful), then most of the world is wrong. This has happened before (earth at center of universe, ether in space, flat earth, etc.), so subjecting scientifically verifiable facts to popular votes isn't a very smart thing to do. And the fact that there is no central Wikipedia authority is one of the strengths, by some lights (a biased central authority will create bias everywhere in the organization, where the Wiki model creates local biases, in theory). In any event, none of this is evidence of bias, just carping.

The above paragraph was posted on the Wikipedia entry for "Wikipedia", under bias, but its editors then illustrated their bias by replacing the above with this: "Ojective [sic], or neutrally biased, articles present different opinions as equally legitimate regardless of validity, while unbiased articles focus on accuracy and validity. For example, the evolution article is not objective because it does not present creationism, a counter argument to evolution, as a valid scientific theory. However, this does not make the article biased because evolution is an accepted scientific theory. CNN's Crossfire, on the other hand, was considered objective[citation needed] because it had representatives from the political right from the political left."

I have no idea what any of this means (other than any idiot can post something at Wikipedia, which we already knew). It doesn't make any sense, and isn't really a response to the Conservapedia's point. In any event, to argue that to be unbiased an article (or anything) needs to present two competing sides (like CNN's Crossfire; that paragon of journalism) is moronic. A debate can have two sides, but not everything is a debate. Some things are actually known (Science!), which means you don't need to pretend to have a debate about them. Gravity? Stars? Matter? Round earth? Air? Water? Who wants to be opposed - show of hands please. Judging bias by whether Wikipedia allows opposing viewpoints isn't a good way (especially when the bias of the accusers is showing so clearly)

16. Wikipedia has many entries on mathematical concepts, but lacks any entry on the basic concept of an elementary proof. Elementary proofs require a rigor lacking in many mathematical claims promoted on Wikipedia.

Well, they do have an entry. If it isn't as extensive as you would like, then write up a longer one. How is this bias?

17. The Wikipedia entry for the Piltdown Man omits many key facts, such as how it was taught in schools for an entire generation and how the dating methodology used by evolutionists is fraudulent.

Ah, "the dating methodology used by evolutionists is fradulent." I see. A whole field of biology is just wrong, and the Conservapedia is right. I'm guessing I can ignore this debate.

18. Wikipedia's article on Feudalism is limited to feudalism in Europe and does not mention the feudal systems that developed independently in Japan and India.[8]

And, once again, Conservapedia has decided to complain about this, rather than write up a better entry. And how, by the way, is this any sort of bias?

19. Wikipedia's article on the longest-serving and most powerful Maryland official in its history, William Donald Schaefer, contains about 1900 words, but over two-thirds of those words (1400/1900) are devoted to silly gossip, outright vulgarity and National Enquirer-type material.[9] 406 words, which is over 20% of the entire entry, is devoted to a silly dispute Schaefer had one day with the local newspaper!

Is it factually incorrect? That's the important question. One can quibble with the editorial merits of the objection (and I didn't check Wiki, so I don't know if the entry is still "bad"), but if the facts are correct, why object? What's the bias here?

20. Wikipedia's article about the late Senator John Tower includes a mean-spirited story whose only point seems to be to indicate the degree of his ex-wife's bitterness toward him. The article spells his wife's name incorrectly, and cites no source for the item. The item has been in that state since it was first inserted in May 2006.[10] No real encyclopedia would print such silly gossip.

If true (and at this point I can't be bothered to check), then I ask again whether the entry is accurate or not. Whatever the faults of Wikipedia, it is amazing that inaccurate material seems to be removed fairly quickly. In any event, perhaps Tower was mean-spirited (I had heard that as well), in which case, why is this wrong?

21. Wikipedia's entry for the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) reads like an advertisement for vaccine manufacturers, including unsupported and implausible claims about vaccination.[11] Unsupported claims featured there include "Vaccine makers indicated they would cease production if their proposal for the NCVIA was not enacted" and "concern that the NCVIA may not provide an adequate legal shield." Wikipedia's entry omits references to leading pro-parent websites concerning vaccination,[12] and instead Wikipedia's entry lists pro-government and pro-vaccine-manufacturer websites. Wikipedia's entry even includes this entire paragraph, which is unsupported and is little more than an advertisement for drug companies:

Public health safety, according to backers of the legislation, depends upon the financial viability of pharmaceutical companies, whose ability to produce sufficient supplies in a timely manner could be imperiled by civil litigation on behalf of vaccine injury victims that was mounting rapidly at the time of its passage. Vaccination against infectious illnesses provides protection against contagious diseases and afflictions which may cause permanent disability or even death. Vaccines have reduced morbidity caused by infectious disease; e.g., in the case of smallpox, mass vaccination programs have eradicated a once life-threatening illness.

I'm not sure any of this is wrong. The effects of vaccines are debatable, though (I would argue) generally positive for society. In any event, Wikipedia has gotten in trouble before for having PR people for companies try to change entries to the company's benefit. When discovered, these entries are always changed to remove the PR, and bring the entry back to a more reasonable position. But what is the objection here? Previous compaints by Conservapedia have pointed to an anti-capitalist bias; now they are complaining about a pro-company bias? This isn't consistent: bias is in a single direction, not two contradictory ones at the same time. This argument reinforces the idea that Conservapedia's major objection to Wikipedia isn't particlular issues, but is that Wikipedia doesn't reflect the Conservative viewpoint (inconsistent and biased as it is).

22. Wikipedia displays an obsession with English social distinctions, such as obscure royality, and with unexplained academic distinctions earned in the English college system, such as references to "double first degree." The entry on Henry Liddell illustrates this extreme form of Anglophilia that characterizes many entries in Wikipedia.[13]. That entry fails to tell us when Liddell was dean of Christ Church, Oxford and has a grammatical error in its first sentence, yet describes in painstaking detail four obscure royal titles for Liddell's relatives and his "double first degree" in college. The casual reader of that entry wouldn't even notice a buried reference (well after a description of all the royal lineage) to Liddell's primary claim to fame: his daughter Alice inspired Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The arcane English descriptions in many Wikipedia entries may be due to its copying, verbatim, passages from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. This copying was not disclosed in the debate in late 2005 about whether Wikipedia was as reliable a resource as the Encyclopedia Britannica.[14]

So? The fact that Wikipedia has a penchant for obscure English titles and academic distinctions stems from the fact that there is no single writer or editorial board that polices Wikipedia, and entries reflect the biases of the authors. What is the objection here? That the information isn't accurate? That it is wrong? No, it seems to be not in a form that Conservapedia likes, which isn't much of an objection.

23. Robert McHenry, former Editor-in-Chief for the Encyclopedia Britannica, wrote about Wikipedia's bias and included this observation:[15]

One simple fact that must be accepted as the basis for any intellectual work is that truth – whatever definition of that word you may subscribe to – is not democratically determined.

This isn't an objection, but an observation. And it has nothing to do with bias (and, in fact, would be just as much a rejection of the Conservapedia as the Wikipedia). In any event, it isn't actually true. Some things (truths) are determined democratically (governance, rights, duties), and some aren't (science). I think this is closer to a philosophy of science debate (longer than we have time for here), and not really a bias or criticism.

24. Bob Schmidt observed on the Illinois Review:[16]

I just spent some time in Wikipedia checking if my recollections of its bias are correct. The bias is much worse than I had remembered. I looked only at topics on business and information technology. Clearly there are enthusiasts for certain vendors who are spending a large portion of their time hyping technology in a way that makes their vendor look good in comparison to other vendors. They will set up a set of criteria for the definition of a product that their product will meet. They conveniently omit from the criteria anything that would detract from their favorite. In short, Wikipedia is not objective. It is accurate only within its selective use of facts that are convenient to promote a predetermined outcome. Even for just one area of knowledge, it would take a major time consuming effort for a person or group to have an impact on reducing the bias and improving the accuracy of the entries.

OK, so some guy disagrees with Wikipedia. And has found the same problem Conservapedia noted above (the vaccines thing): since anyone can post to Wikipedia, the PR types will post PR nonsense. This is why Wikipedia isn't always a great source, but this really has nothing to do with bias (since the PR language isn't consistent throughout Wikipedia).

25. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, admitted the following understated bias in an interview in 2006:[17]

I would say that the Wikipedia community is slightly more liberal than the U.S. population on average, because we are global and the international community of English speakers is slightly more liberal than the U.S. population There are no data or surveys to back that [Conservapedia editor: why not? Wales admitted that only about 615 editors are responsible for over 50% of the edits on Wikipedia.[18] Why doesn't Wikipedia survey these editors? Is this deliberate indifference to bias?].

OK. This is the standard canard about academia: since most professors are liberal (mostly unproven), they must be indoctrinating the students to become liberal. While this might make some sense to some people, there is no evidence that this is true. The goal of Wikipedia is to provide information; the goal of the editors is to facilitate that. How their own personal political bias would interfere with that is unclear.

26. Many people know how a prominent Tennessee journalist John Lawrence Seigenthaler was defamed for four months on Wikipedia before it was corrected. He described and criticized this in USA Today, concluding with the following:[19]

When I was a child, my mother lectured me on the evils of "gossip." She held a feather pillow and said, "If I tear this open, the feathers will fly to the four winds, and I could never get them back in the pillow. That's how it is when you spread mean things about people."

Boo Hoo. I've never been much impressed with this argument. I'll be the first to admit that printing inaccurate/incorrect facts is wrong, and what was done to Seigenthaler was, in the same way, wrong. Did it do any damage to his reputation? Almost impossible to prove (one way or the other), but I hazard a "no." Are we supposed to believe that he lost jobs because of the Wikipedia entry? He lost friends because of the entry? Again, the entry was incorrect, and the errors were fixed as soon as the larger Wikipedia community knew about the issue. In any event, how is this bias? This is a flaw in the Wiki system (any Wiki), not a bias.

27. What most people don't know is how many Wikipedia editors savaged Seigenthaler afterwards on a Wikipedia talk page for publicly criticizing the falsehoods about him:[20]

"Mr. Seigenthaler's attitude and actions are reprehensible and ill-formed," said one typical comment. "[He] has the responsibility to learn about his own name and how it is being applied and used, as any celebrity does on the Internet and the world-at-large. Besides, if there is an error whether large or small, he can correct it on Wikipedia. Everyone fails to understand that logic." Another wrote: "Rather than fixing the article himself, he made a legal threat. He's causing Wikipedia a lot of trouble, on purpose."

Are any of these quotes incorrect? They may be mean-spirited (though one wonders if this is an accurate sample of what was written, or is instead biased toward finding the meanest of the comments about Seigenthaler - which, of course, would be that bias thing Conservapedia is talking about), but they aren't really inaccurate. Seigenthaler did threaten to sue Wikipedia, which is sort of silly, since Wikipedia doesn't control the content, and thus isn't responsible for it. In any event, as noted many times, Seigenthaler could fix the entry himself, which would alieviate the issue/problem. Again, it was wrong of someone to post inaccurate information about Seigenthaler, but the problem was fixed. This is how the WIki system works. In any event, again, how is this a bias? Where is the attempt to slant information against a certain point of view here?

In the end, all these complaints amount to an argument that Wikipedia isn't biased so much as (for lack of a better word) "icky" or something. The Conservapedia people argue that Wiki is wrong (when it disagrees with their version of facts), gossipy (when discussion people they approve of), and unresponsive (when the mythical Wiki-politburo fails to correct the problems). All of these complaints are true to some degree or another, but that's how the Wiki system works. Any Wiki (even, perhaps especially, the Conservapedia) will only be as good as the people who populate the Wiki, which means it will be wrong, gossipy, and slow to act (at times).

In any event, there is no substantiated charge of bias anywhere in these points. I told you it wasn't worth reading them.

Posted by baltar at 03:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Interpretive Frameworks

From the Chronicle:

My tenure story is the all-too-familiar tale of the assistant professor hired to start a new program. That program becomes wildly successful, beyond anyone's predictions. Someone has to administer the needs of the program, so the new assistant professor (aka me) handles it. As the program grows, she handles more of its administration. She and another new hire in her field handle the details together, working in remarkable agreement and cooperation.

The program is a runaway success, drawing in half of the majors in the department. The assistant professor, however, is taking it for the team. Every year her evaluations admonish her to do more research and less service, but no one steps up to help with the increasingly crippling service load.

Finally, after four years, the two assistant professors make a major public cry for help, and the department grants both of them release time from teaching a course in exchange for running the program.

By then, though, it is too late to help, if "in print" is the only designation of publication that counts. Our hero, though, gets an article out the door and accepted every year thereafter, believing the institutional rhetoric about flexibility of research requirements in special circumstances. Certainly, these are special circumstances.

I've joked since the day I arrived on the campus that the university would one day say to me, "Thanks for the great program! Good luck finding that new job." And now a good number of my colleagues are, in effect, saying just that.

The most frustrating thing about this situation is the force of the diametrically opposed forces pulling at the young faculty member. If you're a "bitch" people complain you're not collegial and it counts against you. If you say yes then you're a doormat and a typical underachieving woman and it counts against you. If you don't distinguish yourself then your performance is lackluster and it counts against you. If you do distinguish yourself heaven help you because now people notice you exist. And when you get administrative praise for the service to the institution, your colleagues count that against the value of your research. Bringing the situation up to get relief counts against you because it shows you can't handle yourself, but if you don't you're doomed for not reaching out.

Like the endless and painful scrutiny of junior high school. It's enough to make you into a nervous, insecure wreck.

HT to Lurch.

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

Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo

Sandra Day O'Connor?

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas, where she was inducted in 2002

In her secret heart she rides!

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

February 22, 2007

Armand Hearts General Odom

That's not a new thing of course - but besting Hugh Hewitt on Iraq is pretty great.

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

Equal Pay at Wimbledon

The All England Club joined their peers in offering equal pay to women tennis players:

"Tennis is one of the few sports in which women and men compete in the same event at the same time," club chairman Tim Phillips said at a news conference. "We believe our decision to offer equal prize money provides a boost for the game as a whole and recognizes the enormous contribution that women players make to the game and to Wimbledon."

"In short, good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon."

Hat Tip to regular reader, Reagan.

Posted by binky at 07:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ladies Love...

Science, and get recognized for the first time by the Turing award.

Posted by binky at 04:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Would Ernest Borgnine Do?

Something to keep in mind in case you are betting on an Oscar pool - know who the voters are.

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

Fred Dalton Thompson (R-TN) For ...

This new rumor is indeed unlikely to come to pass. But while it's hard to imagine the former senator jumping into the presidential race at this point, I'd have to think he's one of the most appealing choices a Republican could make for Vice President in 2008.

Btw, what does the existence of this rumor say about the state of the presidential race on the Republican side? I am so underwhelmed about this crop of candidates. And you have to wonder if the Haley Barbours of the world are regretting their decisions not to get into the race.

Posted by armand at 01:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 21, 2007

An Anti-Gay Pogrom in Iraq

It's getting even worse.

"Iraqi LGBTs are at daily risk of execution by the Shia death squads of the Badr and Sadr militias," Mr. Hili told delegates at the conference.

"Members of these militias have infiltrated the Iraqi police and are abusing their police authority to pursue a plan to eliminate all homosexuals in Iraq.

"This is happening with the collusion of key ministers in the Iraqi government," he pointed out.

"The Badr and Sadr militias are the armed wings of the two main Shia parties that control the government of Iraq.

"These governing parties – particularly the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq – are complicit in the widespread execution of Iraqi LGBTs.

"What is happening today in Iraq is one of the most organised and systematic sexual cleansings in the history of the world," Mr Hili told the conference.

Referring to the abduction by death squads, and presumed murder, of five members of Iraqi LGBT in Baghdad last November, Mr Hili continued: "For the previous few months these activists had been documenting the killing of lesbians and gays, and relaying details of homophobic executions to our office in London. I have no doubt that they were targeted - not just because they were gay - but also to stop them exposing to the outside world the anti-gay pogrom that is happening in Iraq today," he said.

Of course in many cases the countries that put these events in motion are refusing to grant asylum to Iraqi gays who are seeking to flee the country - in order to save their lives.

Posted by armand at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Am I Still Drunk?

It's really never a good thing to wonder that - but especially when you've been up for hours, had lunch, and it's getting well past noon.

Posted by armand at 12:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 20, 2007

Pit Bull Saves Family

That was the above the fold story in our local paper this morning. Good for them. That headline could have read a lot of different ways (family escapes fire, dog alerts family, barking wakes homeowner) but the paper gave a sweet faced and loyal famliy pet the credit and recognized that a pit bull can be a good dog.

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

Look, Democrats Can Be Assholes Too!


Gov. Ted Strickland delivered a message to President Bush Wednesday - don't send any refugees from the war in Iraq to our state. We also have a message for the governor - show a little compassion...

Strickland said Ohioans can't be expected to welcome these refugees with open arms...Though the state's economy is struggling, we don't think these refugees will place an undue burden on Ohio...

Besides, our country has a moral obligation to help foreigners who have helped us in time of war.

...Strickland's comments are puzzling and downright uncharitable. If Ohio can't absorb a small number of refugees looking to escape war and find a better life for themselves and their children, then we've truly reached a sad state of affairs here


Posted by binky at 11:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 19, 2007

No Wiccan Chaplains in the US Military?

A Pentecostal chaplain had a change of heart. And now he's not a military chaplain any more.

On July 6, he applied to become the first Wiccan chaplain in the U.S. armed forces, setting off an extraordinary chain of events. By year's end, his superiors not only denied his request but also withdrew him from Iraq and removed him from the chaplain corps, despite an unblemished service record ...

By the Pentagon's count, there are now 1,511 self-identified Wiccans in the Air Force and 354 in the Marines. No figures are available for the much larger Army and Navy. Wiccan groups estimate they have at least 4,000 followers in uniform, but they say many active-duty Wiccans hide their beliefs to avoid ridicule and discrimination ...

Richardson says there are simply too few Wiccans in the military to justify a full-time chaplain. According to Pentagon figures, however, some faiths with similarly small numbers in the ranks do have chaplains. Among the nearly 2,900 clergy on active duty are 41 Mormon chaplains for 17,513 Mormons in uniform, 22 rabbis for 4,038 Jews, 11 imams for 3,386 Muslims, six teachers for 636 Christian Scientists, and one Buddhist chaplain for 4,546 Buddhists.

Posted by armand at 03:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Last of the Film Guild Awards Are In

In the last few days the art directors, costume designers, sound folks and editors have announced their best of the year awards and ... it still remains unusually unclear just who is going to walk away with Best Picture next Sunday night.

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

The Math of November 2008 - The Presidential Race

In the last two election cycles we've seen an unusual level of stability. Few states flipped between the Republicans and the Democrats in those two elections, and most states saw quite large victory margins for one party or the other. In fact, in only 12 of the 50 states was the winning margin 5 points or less.

Actually, each party saw wins of 5 points or less in 6 states. And you'd think that these states are likely to be the key battle grounds in the fall of 2008. That means the Republicans will be trying to pick up Wisconsin (Kerry won by a fraction), New Hampshire (Kerry by 2), Pennsylvania (Kerry by 2), Michigan (Kerry by 4), Minnesota (Kerry by 4) amd Oregon (Kerry by 4), while the Democrats will be focuse on Iowa (Bush by 1), New Mexico (Bush by 1), Ohio (Bush by 2), Nevada (Bush by 3), Colorado (Bush by 4) and Florida (Bush by 5). Put that all together and the real goldmine is a line of Great Lakes/Midwestern states stretching from Pennsylvania to Minnesota and Iowa worth a total of 84 electoral votes. Other than that, well Florida's 27 electoral votes are the other big prize.

So keeping that in mind - well, if that's the map of where the election will really be decided, does that affect who you think the parties should nominate for the presidency (if they hope to win)? Or is that map of the truly competitive areas of the country largely irrelevant to who's really the most electable?

Posted by armand at 09:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

When Politics Censors Science

Your kids get lead in their lunch.

Posted by binky at 12:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2007

Are Any of You Following the Libby Trial?

Blogs seem to be doing a vastly superior job of covering it compared to the "mainstream" media. But they've actually done such a good job of it that I can't keep up. While I admire all the work that the folks at Firedoglake and The Next Hurrah have put into this, they've done such a good job of it that I can't keep up with 20% of their posts. So that being the case - is there anyone out there who can, briefly, explain to me what probably happened (regarding the leaks and the cover-up)? Obviously watching courtroom proceedings can often raise as many questions as it answers, but ... any informed guesses?

Posted by armand at 03:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2007

Should Someone Tell Dan Brown?

John Allen has a story on the diminishing power of Opus Dei in Benedict XVI's Vatican. It begins:

With the resignation of Cardinal Julian Herranz as President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts on Thursday, Opus Dei has now lost two of three positions as heads of Vatican offices it once held under Pope John Paul II. The last remaining Opus Dei official who serves as the top official in a Vatican department is Gio Maria Poles, a layman who runs the Labor Office of the Holy See, in effect its personnel office.

Herranz, who will turn 77 in March, was replaced by Auxiliary Bishop Francesco Coccopalmerio of Milan, a protege of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former archbishop of Milan. Coccopalmerio becomes an archbishop upon the appointment. Opus Dei's other high-profile Vatican loss came with the July resignation of Spanish layman Joaquin Navarro-Valls as Vatican spokesperson, who was replaced by Italian Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi.

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

We must unleash the Eagle Claw of Doom

Yes, that will take care of the insurgency.


All the oil in the world won't save you from the cacerolazo

Or so Hugo Chavez might find out.

Entering a supermarket here is a bizarre experience. Shelves are fully stocked with Scotch whiskey, Argentine wines and imported cheeses like brie and Camembert, but basic staples like black beans and desirable cuts of beef like sirloin are often absent. Customers, even those in the government's own Mercal chain of subsidized grocery stores, are left with choices like pork neck bones, rabbit and unusual cuts of lamb.

With shoppers limited to just two large packages of sugar, a black market in sugar has developed among street vendors in parts of Caracas. "This country is going to turn into Cuba, or Chavez will have to give in," said Candida de Gomez, 54, a shopper at a private supermarket in Los Palos Grandes, a district in the capital.

"Unusual cuts of lamb."

Posted by binky at 12:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2007

Silly respondents, you're thinking of libertarians


Many of those interviewed saw atheists as cultural elitists, amoral materialists, or given to criminal behavior or drugs. She states, "Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good."

Late catch, but picked up this link today in the comment thread at Majikthise about whether Shakes and Amanda are more hated for being godless or for being female.

Posted by binky at 10:56 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack


I suppose at this point it's known as "the other Truman Capote movie". Which is kind of too bad, because I liked this one better than Capote. Is it the "better" movie? Perhaps not. But I think it's the more interesting movie, primarily because it is so much like In Cold Blood itself. It clearly adopts all sorts of narative and stylistic choices that the book does. Plus it's much more fun (in parts) than Capote, and Toby Jones is a vastly more believeable Capote than Philip Seymour Hoffman was (though I suppose perhaps we could have a big discussion about what's imitating and what's acting). And the costumes are great, as is Daniel Craig's turn as Perry Smith.

Now is it a great movie, a Top 10 list movie, or a deeply moving drama with an intrusive score (isn't that how we're supposed to tell good movies from bad ones?)? Ummm - perhaps not. But it gets a hell of a lot right if you know Capote, his style and his friends, and it's fundamentally a clever film (which is entirely appropriate given the subject matter). I don't know that I'd watch it again, but it's an entertaining and interesting diversion.

Posted by armand at 09:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Israel Builds an Arab City

Over at the Head Heeb there's an interesting post that highlights a paradox all too common to political divides in Israel - How does one give the Arabs some autonomy without endangering the ability of individual Arabs to integrate into the country? Jonathan's post plays out these ideas when examining two recent news stories. One deals with the building of what "would be Israel's first new Arab community since the founding of the state in 1948". The other deals with the ability of small villages to keep Arabs from moving into them. Throw in Supreme Court rulings, and it's a fasincating, though not especially hopeful, piece.

Posted by armand at 03:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Richard Baker to Challenge Mary Landrieu?

Today The Fix looked at the 2008 Senate line, and had this to say about the reelection race of Mary Landrieu (D) in Louisiana:

If Republican can get Baker to run, which looks more likely than not at the moment, this is their best pick-up chance of the cycle.

Landrieu might well be the most endangered Democrat in the 2008 Senate races, but I have a hard time seeing how that turns on whether or not Baker runs. Sure he's a top Republican on the Financial Services Committee (so he should be able to raise lots of money) and he's been in the House for 20 years, but he has not run statewide, and I can't imagine he has much name recognition outside his base (around Baton Rouge). Plus he'll have his infamous Katrina comment to deal with: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Why wouldn't the Republicans prefer Secretary of State Jay Dardenne (who just won statewide last year) or a Republican whose name recognition will be lifted in this year's statewide races (for example, businessman John Georges)?

Posted by armand at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

I'm not a fan of this mostly useless holiday. Falling about halfway between winter solstice and spring, I'm suspicious of some pagan origins here, but the relentless commercialism of the day makes me gag. According to the commercials, we're supposed to judge our love for our partner by the size (and price) of the various colored rocks we buy them (or the flowers, or the candy...etc.). Moreover, those without a partner are left to feel like second class citizens (that's always annoyed me: I've been single for extended periods of time, and have been perfectly happy).

I think I'm most annoyed by the idea that one is supposed to celebrate the committment to one's partner on this day in some special way. This seems to imply (at least to me) some sort of license to treat people less well the other 364 days of the year, reserving Valentine's Day as a day to make it all up. This violates my sense of how a partnership is supposed to work; hence, my antipathy for this day.

In sum, fuck Hallmark and Whitmans (who's candy is almost inedible).

Now I'm off to attempt to play armand's game. His post is better than this one, anyway. Posted by baltar at 07:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cutesy, Lovey-Dovey Songs

My intense dislike of this supposed holiday is well known. Is it to celebrate love? Romance? Relationships? Russell Stover? Tacky "cute" teddy bears? Some saint that lost his feast day decades ago? It's a vague mess that makes certain singles feel depressed, and leads to shoppers everywhere being assaulted with awful shades of pink and fuschia when then enter retail outlets.

That said, for a moment I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it really is meant to celebrate first love, or steady relationships, and joy producing things like those (as opposed to creating profits for Hallmark and the makers of cheap "chocolate", or simply being mean to those people who wish they were in a happy, steady relationship). Presuming that is what it is supposed to be about - what kind of playlist would you create for such a day?

I ask this because there's not a single person who regularly writes comments or posts on this blog who comes across as particularly cute and cuddly and full of giddy Hollywood-romantic love. So if we are to play the part and celebrate this day ... well how would we do it? And since so many of you are into music - what kind of music is it that you find especially cutesy and lovely-dovey? Songs that would come to mind in my case are "Brand New Colony" by The Postal Service, "Your Charms" by Cinerama, "The Sun Goes Down and the World Goes Dancing" by The Magnetic Fields, "He Didn't" by the 6ths (sung by Bob Mould), and Beaulah's "If We Can Land a Man on the Moon Surely I Can Win Your Heart". What songs do you think are appropriate to Valentine's Day?

And hey if you want to think about Valentine's Day and the movies instead - Edward Copeland has this kind of touching Valentine's Day post on Broadcast News and unrequited love.

Posted by armand at 05:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 13, 2007

"Terrorized Into Quitting Their Jobs"

So now both Shakes and Amanda have resigned their positions. Shakes has been less public about the details of the harassment she has received, but this has gone into the realm of witch hunt.

There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation, but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with vitriol and veiled threats. It is not right-wing bloggers, nor people like Bill Donohue or Bill O'Reilly, who prompted nor deserve credit for my resignation, no matter how much they want it, but individuals who used public criticisms of me as an excuse to unleash frightening ugliness, the likes of which anyone with a modicum of respect for responsible discourse would denounce without hesitation.

There are women all over the blogosphere (and plenty who aren't) who recognize what happened here. Shut your mouth, bitch, if you know what's good for you... And when they initially refused to back down, and failed to follow the script, the howls of fury and shrieks of stung bullies echoed. And the abuse rained down.

An obvious and extreme case of women not being allowed to be angry, to be rude, to be scathing. Why not The Rude One? Why not Jesus' General? Amanda has had the nerve to stand up, to fire back, to expose the rhetoric and politcs of oppression of what they are. Is she nice about it? Fuck no! Why should she be nice to those whose misogynistic ideology, poorly concealed behind a semi-respectable veil of dogma, aims at silencing women and compromising their autonomy? She mocked them, and used their own tortured logic to expose the fear and loathing, and desire to control women's voices and bodies.

Many people when confronted with these images of fighting off attacks dismiss the anger and the parries of writers like Amanda, because they don't see the insidious and relentless assault. They miss the iceberg, and see only the tip, hear only the cries of loudmouth bullies like Donohue. They complain that bloggers like Amanda cry victim, and turn a blind eye to the day-in-and-day out attacks on women's autonomy. And so when attention settles on the abuse that the bullies heap, what gets heard is their howls about being oppressed. The bullies are oppressed when someone stands up to them, because the bullies "consider not being allowed to persecute others a form of persecution against themselves.."

Plenty of bloggers have leapt to Amanda's and Shakes' defense, and many others are pointing out how laughable and contemptible a critic Donohue is. Smashing him isn't the point, easy as it is to find evidence that he definitely has a major problem with women, among others. It's like whack-a-mole.

These people - Donohue, Malkin and the gang - very deliberately unleashed an unholy terror on two women. They heaped abuse on women who dared criticize those whose ideology would impose oppression, who dared call the misogyny out in broad daylight. And in so doing what have Donohue and his allies done?

They have proven their critics absolutely correct.

They have shown themselves to be everything Amanda said they were.

And now, they are walking around feeling victorious for terrorizing two bloggers, for swiftboating two low level campaign workers, for getting the weak-willed Edwards campaign to back down. But what they have really done - and it is evidenced in the sick feeling many people, many, many women, have in their stomachs because they know this kind of bahavior for what it is - is betrayed their true colors. Though they claim to represent the Prince of Peace, these bullies wear the uniforms of, speak the words of, and terrorize like thugs.

Posted by binky at 07:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

As we await the ice storm

It's always nice to think about summer, camping, and patchouli:

The Police - Tool - Widespread Panic - The White Stripes - Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals - Flaming Lips - Wilco - Manu Chao - The String Cheese Incident - Franz Ferdinand - Bob Weir & Ratdog - Damien Rice - Ween - The Roots - Gov't Mule - Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers - The Decemberists - Kings of Leon - Spearhead - Wolfmother - Regina Spektor - The Black Keys - DJ Shadow - Gillian Welch & David Rawlings - Spoon - Keller Williams - Sasha & Digweed - STS9 - Old Crow Medicine Show - The Hold Steady - Galactic - Lily Allen - North Mississippi Allstars - Fountains Of Wayne - Hot Tuna - Feist - Hot Chip - John Butler Trio - Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys - Aesop Rock - The Richard Thompson Band - Xavier Rudd - Tortoise - T-Bone Burnett - Mavis Staples - Clutch - Cold War Kids - Paolo Nutini - Brazilian Girls - RX Bandits - The Slip - Girl Talk - Railroad Earth - Martha Wainright - Rodrigo y Gabriela - Annuals - Tea Leaf Green - Sam Roberts Band - Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Charlie Louven - Sonya Kitchell - Apollo Sunshine - Ryan Shaw - Uncle Earl - The National - The Little Ones

Posted by binky at 04:32 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Adopting Eric Cartman's Marketing Strategy

For whatever reason I know a lot of people who absolutely love the "Cartmanland" episode of South Park (can't say I disagree). In it Eric inherits a million dollars, buys a theme park, and then runs television ads stating how great the park is - but also telling people they can't come to it ("especially Stan and Kyle"). The similarities between that situation and what's happened to Little Children are spooky (and quite sad for those of us who still haven't had a chance to see the film).

Posted by armand at 12:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Deal on North Korean Nukes

As any news source will tell you, there is a general agreement among the six parties to the appropriately named "Six Party Talks" with regard to the North Korean nuclear program.

The general outlines of the argeement are interesting: North Korea will give up their main nuclear plant (shut down, with inspections to insure this), the other five states will cough up about $400 million in cash and prizes fuel, food, and aid. All six agree to get back together again sometime in the future to talk about what North Korea will do with the few nuclear warheads they have around (those are not part of this agreement).


1. This deal is likely the best we could have hoped for. The North Koreans weren't going to give the nuclear program up for nothing; this way everybody got something.

2. This deal looks suspicously like the 1994 "Agreed Framework", which Bush rejected as wrong when he came to office. Seeing his adminstration dance around and explain how this is different ought to be entertaining.

3. The North Koreans have a history of breaking agreements. There isn't much of a guarantee they won't break this one.

4. This has proven to the world that a nuclear program is a valuable thing. You either get nukes (which makes you a regional power, at the very least), or you get paid to not have a program (Or, if you are India, you get both!!). That's win-win. I'll be curious to see if anyone else makes motions towards nukes in the next few years, as a result of this outcome.

5. If I'm Iran, no way in hell I'm giving up my program at this point. Not unless the US/EU coughs up megabucks (if North Korea is worth $400 million, how much is Iran worth?).

6. I'm in favor of non-proliferation (keeping nuclear weapons out of as many hands as possible), but I don't think its realistically possible to put this genie back in the bottle. It is inevitable that more countries will gain the technology to make bombs, and more countries will actually make them. I'd really love to see some attempt at creating a diplomatic framework for preventing them from being used as a backstop to non-proliferation. The Non-Proliferation Treaty has been around since 1968, but it won't hold forever (2 new nuclear power members in the last 10 years - North Korea and Pakistan - after gaining only 2 in the previous 30 years - Israel and India).

Posted by baltar at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

Prison Rape

I found this on Ezra Klein's blog. Why this isn't a bigger deal in our society I'll never understand. That people regularly make jokes about it is nauseating.

When I first came to prison, I had no idea what to expect. Certainly none of this. I'm a tall white male, who unfortunately has a small amount of feminine characteristics. And very shy. These characteristics have got me raped so many times I have no more feelings physically. I have been raped by up to 5 black men and two white men at a time. I've had knifes at my head and throat. I had fought and been beat so hard that I didn't ever think I'd see straight again. One time when I refused to enter a cell, I was brutally attacked by staff and taken to segragation though I had only wanted to prevent the same and worse by not locking up with my cell mate. There is no supervision after lockdown. I was given a conduct report. I explained to the hearing officer what the issue was. He told me that off the record, He suggests I find a man I would/could willingly have sex with to prevent these things from happening. I've requested protective custody only to be denied. It is not available here. He also said there was no where to run to, and it would be best for me to accept things . . . . I probably have AIDS now. I have great difficulty raising food to my mouth from shaking after nightmares or thinking to hard on all this . . . . I've laid down without physical fight to be sodomized. To prevent so much damage in struggles, ripping and tearing. Though in not fighting, it caused my heart and spirit to be raped as well. Something I don't know if I'll ever forgive myself for.
Posted by armand at 12:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Supreme Conflict by Jan Crawford Greenburg

I've been eagerly awaiting reading this book. Greenburg might not be Dahlia Lithwick (the Court reporter Armand worships), but she's one of the top Court reporters in the country, and she had an astonishing level of access to executive branch leaders and documents and even to the justices themselves. So having read the first four chapters ... well I'm surprised I don't like it more.

Well, I suppose the #1 reason I bought it was to learn the behind-the-scenes executive branch power plays that went on in various administrations as they decided who to nominate, and who not to nominate, to the nation's highest Court. And on that point it's not a disappointing book at all, and I'm not even up to the most interesting appointment fights yet (I've seen her cover the appointments of O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter and the elevation of Rehnquist, so far). Reading about the Justice Dept.'s strong anti-Ken Starr position in the first Bush administration is interesting, as is Michael Luttig's strong stand against David Souter. So the book definitely delivers when it comes to the intra-executive branch machinations that it promised (and I can't wait to get to Harriet Miers on that - apparently AG Gonzalez fought a losing battle to block her nomination).

What's irritating is the way the book is framed. Again and again she comes back to the central point (to her text) of why the Court hasn't delivered for conservatives, given that Democratic presidents have only appointed 2 of the last 14 justices. And to that I must respond - hasn't delivered how? OK, sure, the Court hasn't overturned Roe and it hasn't had all the gays in the country locked up or deported, but the Court is much more conservative than it was for most of the second half of the twentieth century on many issues. Her constant privileging of Roe's continued existence as a sign that the Court isn't really conservative is pretty tiresome, and somewhat misleading - though she gets around that my using a lot of modifiers in her writing like "reliably" conservative. Actually some of her modifiers are rather grating, period. "Astonishing" this, or "surprising" that - when the actions they modify aren't necessarily that way, when viewed from a perspective outside her central premise (like how she finds it unbelieveable that liberals would vote against Souter's confirmation, though as she notes repeatedly, Souter was a cipher, so is any senator's vote against him all that shocking?). And of course she never talks about if "liberal" and "conservative" mean the same thing in the 1990's as they did in the 1970's, she equates justices who shouldn't be equated by throwing those labels on them (a 1990's liberal and a 1960's liberal aren't really the same thing on the Supreme Court), and she glides over discussions of legal theory and legal reasoning that might actually explain why the "conservative" justices don't always reach "conservative" outcomes. So basically, so far, when it comes to the substance of the Court's actions, she's adopting a simplistic, right-wing frame, and seems to argue it's all the fault (presuming Roe's existence is a fault) of certain administrations' sloppiness (in the case of Souter) or bad timing (Reagan nominating Scalia then Bork, as opposed to the other way around).

All this said, I'm only through four chapters, and it might be that she gets much more insightful as the book progresses. As it reaches the era when she's covered the Court I'd hope and expect that's the case. And like I said, the book does have some fun insider tidbits that keep my flying through it with interest. But I'd hoped for a rather more thoughtful analysis of the Court's actions. Hopefully, I'll see that in the pages to come.

Posted by armand at 11:19 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

February 11, 2007

Libraries as Obstacles to Research

At one level I knew what I was getting into coming to a university that had virtually no collection in my subfield. On the other, I have never ceased to be astounded at how many ridiculous obstacles to research it is possible to encounter.

My petty rant for the day is with the online access to journals. Some say that online access is the remedy for libraries that have neither the funds or the space to subscribe to journals, and thus they can subscribe to online databases chock full of goodness.

Except. Except.

Today I have been repeatedly frustrated by online databases (to which the university subscribes) that link to specific journals, access to which is denied because the library doesn't electronically subscribe to that specific journal. What the...??!! With others, the university subscribes, but we individuals are blocked by ISP, so that we can only access from campus computers, with no way to bypass and work from home.

Next on the list is the interface itself, with the infinitesimallly small window of opportunity to work before one is required to re-login. Not a big problem right? Well, it wouldn't be if the logout didn't wipe what you were working on. Completely. So that if you have up multiple pages of a search, and click on one link to open in a new window, and your login has expired, it doesn't just block the new window. It asks you for a login, but doesn't take you to what you were trying to open, but the main page. And then, (!!!) when you go back to the prior page, the one with the list of sources to try again to open the link since you have now logged in, guess what? It is wiped too, and has taken you back to the main page. And I'm not talking about leaving your computer for an hour to surf or blog or make a sandwich, I'm talking about the time it takes to open a link, read an abstract and make a decision to download the article.

Grrr! Argh!

I'll let Baltar tell you about the 37 IDs you have to have for inter-library loan.

Posted by binky at 04:31 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


What the Democratic Congress has to look forward to as it starts the cleanup:

Last summer, the Finance Committee was looking into the role of falsified clinical data in the FDA approval of a drug. After Grassley accused the Justice Department of working with HHS to obstruct that investigation, finance committee staff were blocked from interviewing FDA investigators by the Justice Department. Grassley took the extraordinary step of going directly to FDA offices to speak with FDA personnel, but was still not allowed access to them.

In a December hearing of the Judiciary Committee, just before Congress changed hands, Grassley and the panel's then-chairman, Specter, uncovered further evidence of Justice Department collusion in efforts to thwart congressional inquiry and intimidate whistleblowers. This involved the unheard-of step of subpoenaing confidential discussions between a whistleblower and congressional staff.

Posted by binky at 02:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Baltar's Law Of Rock Music

Generally, everything sounds better when run through a Marshall Stack

(Note: I realize this isn't true for everything (Neko Case, which I was listening to as I cooked breakfast this morning, is a clear exception), which is why I put a "generally" in front of the declarative sentence. However, the cases this is true far outweigh the exceptions.)

Posted by baltar at 01:36 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

February 10, 2007

Saturday Evening Quiz

One for Armand. I know he has studied this:

Your results:
You are Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy
Dr. Doom
Dark Phoenix
The Joker
Lex Luthor
Mr. Freeze
Green Goblin
You would go to almost any length for the protection of the environment including manipulation and elimination.
Click here to take the Supervillain Personality Quiz


Posted by binky at 06:58 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

West Virginia vs. UCLA

OK, I realize it's still very early in the second half - but right now the Mountaineers are leading the #2 team in the country 38-25. We could be in for an afternoon and night of some major celebrating in Morgantown.

Posted by armand at 02:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

As if you didn't know Karl Rove was a %@*&

"I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas."

Posted by binky at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Little the "Republic Party" Has to Offer the Country

Congressman Weiner is far from my favorite member of Congress (nope, not remotely), but he's got a good point. If spending a week or more fighting the Speaker's plane/security arrangements is the best the "Republic Party" can offer the country, they'll likely be in the minority for the foreseeable future.

Posted by armand at 12:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Armand and Binky's Big Adventure

Ah, Texas. We scheduled the trip to take advantage of the weather differential to give ourselves a break from the sleet and snow up north, and managed to pick a week in which sleet and icestorms stopped Austin cold. On the last day, before we caught the plane home to more sleet and snow (and lately, 2 degree weather not counting the wind chill), the skies opened, the pork pibil was served, and life was good. As I said to Armand, Baltar is going to be very surprised when he hears that we're all moving to Texas.

I mean, come on, dinosaurs! How can a person resist!?

Posted by binky at 12:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The ongoing travails of comment spam

It's time for a democracy moment.

Or at least an enlightened despot moment.

Here's the deal... we've been getting tons of comment spam. Sometimes I delete over a thousand a day. That doesn't even take into account the ones that Armand and Baltar might delete in addition. Since we made the MT upgrade the good news is that less of it makes it to the main page. The bad news is that everyone else is getting moderated, even the three of us. Because those real comments are in the hopper with all the spam, there is a chance that a bulk delete when someone is sleepy or hasn't had coffee yet (no names, please) will accidentally burn a real comment.

This happened to our regular, Moon, the other day.

So, I'm thinking about turning on the authenticator system which will make everyone have to do the Typekey thing to post comments. That's the bit of hassle. The good news about that is that once you have posted using the authentication system, I can mark you as "trusted" and then your comments (you know who you are here) will be automatically be published, but I can still set the spam catcher to death star level for all the other crap.

Any comments?

Posted by binky at 10:26 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thought you knew your PT, didja?

The Union of Concerned Scientists has made an A to Z Guide of Political Interference in Science. In the form of a Periodic Table, natch.


Posted by binky at 12:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In the blink of an eye

With not much to do on a cold Friday night, after doing some reading I settled down to do some surfing. I hang at a couple of music related discussion boards, and one pretty frequently over the last four years. Tonight, completely by accident, one of the moderators deleted the whole thing. The whole damn thing... thousands of threads just disappeared.


Some people are upset. Others are gleefully trying to put their stamp on the first several dozen spanking new threads. There are a lot of web-based versions of the open-mouthed stare.

I had a page up in an open window, and then left it to go clean spam and check out Neatorama. When I tried to refresh... gonesville. One of the other posters managed to take a screen cap of that brief moment in time.

Lately there had been calls to civility, calls against organized trolling by regulars with aliases, threads about, well, anyone who frequents message boards knows how random stuff is. And stupid. And fun. And informative. And really hilarious. And annoying. And. And. And.

No doubt it won't take long for idiocy to reign again, for threads making puns about penises, and late night discussions about synching albums with movies.

Kind of like politics. The disgust with the sullied, the desire to reform, and the inevitable return to form. THe cycle repeating endlessly.

With oldtimers chastising newbs for degrading the discourse, trolls bleating about anything to get attention, cliques, elites... the free-for-all regenerates community again.

The phoenix rises from the ashes.

The non-lips flame on.

Posted by binky at 12:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 09, 2007

Ian Richardson Has Died

"Nothing lasts forever. Even the longest and most glittering reign must come to an end some day."

If there's been a better overtly political series on television than House of Cards you'll have to remind me what it was. That cutting, smart and darkly comic look at the rise of British prime minister is one of the best television series I've seen, period. And that was due, in no small part, to the excellent work Ian Richardson did in that work (and in To Play the King and The Final Cut, the latter two installments of the trilogy that followed House of Cards). Little bro was kind enough to buy the box set of all three for me for Christmas this past year, and while I have yet to watch the final series again, having watched the first two series again in the last 6 weeks I can say that Richardson's work holds up very well. Francis Urquhart remains a fascinating devil, one of the most watchable and compeling villains in the history of television. Of course I might very well think that - he couldn't possibly comment.

Posted by armand at 04:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

And speaking of the intersection of IR and popular culture...

...I'm looking forward to reading Harry Potter and International Relations.

And while you're over there, you should check out the post after that book review, on why it is so difficult to debate the war in Iraq.

Posted by binky at 09:27 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 08, 2007

A dose of IR geekery

Walzer AND Cylons... what's not to like?

Posted by binky at 05:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Does Homeland Security Enforce Quotas?

A report of air marshalls bring required to submit a quota of suspects whether they suspect them or not:

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.

"Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal.

These unknowing passengers who are doing nothing wrong are landing in a secret government document called a Surveillance Detection Report, or SDR. Air marshals told 7NEWS that managers in Las Vegas created and continue to maintain this potentially dangerous quota system.


7NEWS obtained an internal Homeland Security document defining an SDR as a report designed to identify terrorist surveillance activity.

Terrorist surveillance activity. That's a nice thing to be put on a list for. Thank goodness there are no encouragements to make shit up (emphasis mine).

The body of the memo said, "Each federal air marshal is now expected to generate at least one SDR per month."

"Does that memo read to you that Federal Air Marshal headquarters has set a quota on these reports?" Kovaleski asked.

"Absolutely, no doubt," an air marshal replied.

A second management memo, also dated July 2004, said, "There may come an occasion when you just don't see anything out of the ordinary for a month at a time, but I'm sure that if you are looking for it, you'll see something."

I'm sure.

HT Hoffmania.

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

In case I ever have a moment of insanity and consider working for a political campaign


No, really, fuck.

Actually, fucking fuck fuckity fuck fuck.


Posted by binky at 05:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Term Limits and Leadership in the Florida Legislature

Now it's perhaps not surprising that Florida's term limits have led to people without much experience in government leading its legislative chambers. But I think it's interesting how quickly legislators are settling who will lead them. Take newly elected, 27-year-old Will Weatherford, a Republican from Pasco county. Apparently he's already set himself up to become House Speaker in 2012. That is, after two more not yet sworn in future Speakers complete their terms. These races keep getting settled earlier and earlier - now 5 years in advance.

Current Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Miami, claimed the job after four years in Tallahassee. His presumed successor, Ray Sansom of Destin, secured the votes within three years. And Orlando's Dean Cannon, who is slated to take over in 2010, locked up the pledges after eight months.

I imagine there are some patterns in this that'll make for a great state politics dissertation.

As to other Florida political matters - is it just me, or is new Gov. Charlie Crist (R) proving to be extremely effective in his first month in office? Given the state he leads, should his name start getting thrown into the mix as a potential nominee for Vice President next year?

Posted by armand at 09:55 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 07, 2007

The Science of Sleep

But in my case the problem is that I don't have a girlfriend. And I'm not dead.

Okay, out of context that's not the world's funniest line. But in context, and as played by delicious Gael - I really liked that moment. But of course I liked most of the moments in this movie (I just finished watching it). I think it's a terrific film. Between this and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind it's clear that Gondry not only has a way with inventive construction (of both the text and visuals) and quirky, off-kilter characters, but he's making some of the most romantic films I've seen in years. Sure they lean on the side of disappointed romantic or messed-up romantic, but they are really gems of modern romance all the same. And I adore his characters in this too. So easy to relate to - even the character who's supposed to be fundamentally different from ... everyone. They perfectly capture so many gradaitions of familiar feelings and experiences and you really do get wrapped up on their world. I don't understand why this film didn't get better reviews. The cast performs extremely well. I like the script a lot. And of course the production design is fun. It would definitely grab a spot on Armand's Top 10 films of the year (if Armand ever makes such a list).

Posted by armand at 11:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Note to candidates: don't feed the trolls

On the whole fake outrage Amanda-gate situation, I am watching what the Edwards campaign does in response to the wingnuts' pressure. Campaigns that hire bloggers should know the blogger's work, and be prepared to stand by the employee. A campaign that either a) does not do enough research to know whether or not a blogger uses the word "fuck" with some frequency (and, really, is there a political blogger who hasn't?) or b) upon targeted harassment from Malkin and her ilk considers the future of said blogger's employment is c) not very smart and/or d) not likely to get my support (not that hiring popular bloggers would be enough for that anyway). Malkin's slavering followers are never going to support said candidate anyway, so who (the fuck) cares what they think? By giving in to them, a candidate might alienate the very netroots he (or she, of course) needs in the primaries, or worse, start looking like Hilary Clinton bending in the wind trying to be everything to everyone, satisfying none.

Posted by binky at 12:14 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Why Is Glenn Beck Still Employed?

Honestly, you'd think his employer would have already found broadcasting him embarrassing. And since he seems to acknowledge himself that he's basically just a racist ticking time bomb waiting to explode (again) ...

Posted by armand at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Humidifier, my ass

The whole "get a headache when the barometric pressure drops" thing was fine when I lived in Florida, you know, great for predicting the imminent arrival or hurricanes and all that. But holy mother of, well, all thing holy, do I really need this skill in the mountains? And then when combined with the extreme cold and dry not to mention the normal stresses and strains of life in The Academy, it's the perfect headache storm. So to those helpful websites that suggest getting out for "fresh air" or the use of a humidifier as a remedy... Well, a hearty "ptoo!" in their general direction. There is no humidifier mighty enough.

And yes, I am thinking about creating a new category called something like "self-centered whining and general grumpiness," why do you ask?

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

February 06, 2007

An Appreciation of Judy Davis

I love her so. And any post that enlightens us to largely unseen treasures in her body of work (and in the process praises the perfectly wonderful High Tide) deserves a link.

Posted by armand at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 05, 2007

Ryan Reynolds Is Funny

Yes, that fact is well known and probably doesn't need to be mentioned here - but since I'm having an awful day I figured it would be good to remind myself that I spent a little chunk of the weekend watching Just Friends. On the whole the movie's got more than a few flaws. But large portions of it are extremely amusing due to Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Chris Marquette and Julie Hagerty (honestly, I think the movie would've worked much better if they'd dropped on one or more of the lead storylines and focused on the intra-family stuff since Reynolds, Marquette and Hagerty were all extremely funny and played off each other well).

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

February 04, 2007

"Waxman Invites Witnesses"

Like music to the ears, no?

Rep. Waxman has requested the testimony of three key witnesses regarding Iraq reconstruction efforts at an Oversight Committee hearing on waste, fraud, and abuse, to be held the week of February 6th.

I hope for much more of the same kind of meticulous work that Violet Socks reminds us of w/r/t abstinence only "education." (link to Waxman's PDF report)

HT DIgby

Posted by binky at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And Your Favorite Super Bowl Ad Was ... ?

I missed the first 20 minutes or so of the game, but from what I saw my clear favorite was the Emerald Nuts ad with Robert Goulet. What did you think?

Posted by armand at 10:41 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

The Freeze Miser Must Be Wildly Happy

At the moment, well the phrase FUCKING COLD doesn't even begin to describe how it feels at the moment. And I hear it's not going to be this (ahem) warm (ahem) again until ... Wednesday? Oy. How exactly are we supposed to live through that? Guess I'll learn - but I don't think that's a new experience I'll be happy to experience.

Posted by armand at 10:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

And it's SuperBowl Sunday too...

Rejoice, for in the midst of the destruction, God shall grant you a killer fucking photo op:

Stars and Crosses

Posted by binky at 06:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sad Week

First Molly, now Zeke.

Posted by binky at 03:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The Awards are in. It's too bad there isn't a way to award this special Kip to some deserving soul.

Posted by binky at 12:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2007

Saturday Quiz

Bored youth version:

You know the Bible 82%!

Wow! You are truly a student of the Bible! Some of the questions were difficult, but they didn't slow you down! You know the books, the characters, the events . . . Very impressive!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes


Posted by binky at 01:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Raising SADDAM After Burying Saddam

I guess I've become too cynical and depressed about our policies in the Middle East (at least on this bitterly cold icy day) to raise a passionate call either for or against this move. Though I guess a big reason for my lack of response to it is that I don't see much there there. Is this really an alignment, much less a realignment? The authoritarian Arab states have tended to be united in distrusting Iran for many years now (I mean, why was the GCC created when it was created, if not at least partially as an alignment against Iran), so I don't see any "re" to the realignment. And if they actually are aligning in concrete ways ... what are those exactly? At this point it looks like a lot of Team Bush visions - more talk than action, though even the talk could lead to deleterious consequences that harm US interests.

Posted by armand at 11:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"Collective Forgetting"

So we haven't been posting on the Libby trial. If it's a topic of interest to you, check out the latest analysis from emptywheel and comment below.

And is it just me, or is this getting surprisingly little attention in the mainstream press? Given the general nastiness that it shows the powers that be to be up to - well, I'd have thought Katie and the other anchors would have be spending much more time on it. I mean is there something that people in this country like more than seeing that the powerful are up to no good?

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

February 02, 2007

"Scalia: Bush's Victory Unoconstitutional"

Lemieux's title really says it all. This is pretty incredible, and yet also not that surprising. I don't know how that's possible. But given that we're talking about Scalia and Bush v. Gore ... well, somehow, that's how things have worked out.

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

February 01, 2007

Not That I Have Anything Against Aloysius, But ...

How on Earth do you compress Brideshead Revisited down into two hours (or even less)? It's a truly great novel so I'd certainly be up for seeing it on screen, but ... that'll be a very difficult adaptation job for a screenwriter. And in the comments we've already seen from those behind this future work, I'm nervous we might run into some Mysteries of Pittsburgh problems.

With its theme of love across a religious divide Brideshead is very relevant to our time.

Now the book is about religion, no question, but is it really about "love across a religious divide"? That seems about 100 times more minor than the book as whole.

Posted by armand at 01:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Much More Than Olive Oyl

So last night, without really meaning to, I got sucked into Altman's 3 Women. I don't know what to say about it really, or how one would go about discussing it, but I do want to note that Shelley Duvall did an amazing job. Sissy Spacek was good too, of course, but Duvall - wow.

Posted by armand at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack