May 31, 2007

My Mom on Pirates #3

Wow. My mom is the sort who can find at least something to like in most movies. And apparently she hated the latest Pirates installment. If a film-making team loses even her ... I'd say my likelihood of going to see it has fallen from 20% to zero.

Posted by armand at 10:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

About the Zoellick Nomination ...

I have yet to see this question answered in any of the press I've read on Zoellick's nomination to be the next head of the World Bank, so I'll ask ya'll in case you might know - Is he nominated for a full term as president, or is he nominated to finish out the term that Wolfowitz began?

Posted by armand at 06:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Entering the Uncharted...

I now have a Mac.

Technically, a MacBook Pro. I'm still trying to figure it out. Apple seems to do everything differently from Microsoft. I hope, in time, this will prove to be "better," not just "different." Thus far, everything is on a normal learning curve (meaning, I can't figure it out immediately, but fiddling works, and I've only had to retreat to the help menus a couple of times).

Further updates as warranted.

Posted by baltar at 02:05 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 30, 2007

What If Belle de Jour Starred Shirley Manson?

Turns out that you no longer have to wonder what that would look like - as Garbage has answered the question in their latest video. I like the song, and it's certainly an interesting video, and I imagine Binky might like that crescendo a little over halfway through - the one with the strings and percussion, stairs and everso shiny black boots. Actually those clothes (and hey, throw in the hairstyles) were reason enough to make the video.

Posted by armand at 09:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The US Men Lose in France - All of Them

Well that didn't take long. In the worst performance the US team has ever posted in the Open era (which stretches back to the days of LBJ) every single one of their men lost in the 1st Round at the French Open. All 9 of them - including the 3 seed (Roddick) and the 8 seed (Blake).

Posted by armand at 09:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2007

Did You Know About Charles Nelson Reilly?

The death of the veteran game show contestant (and actor/director) is bringing a number of tributes and remembrances. My question to you today, those of you who like me watched him on game shows when you were a kid, is - did you know he was gay? I mean looking at it with the eyes of an adult, yeah, obviously. But for those of us who were tiny tykes in the 1970's, and really weren't focused on issues of sexuality ... was I the only one who just thought he was weird and stuffily dressed? Paul Lynde struck me as gay. Reilly just seemed odd and reminiscent of various side characters from old Warner Brothers cartoons. Am I alone in having that reaction?

Posted by armand at 04:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 27, 2007

Shrek the Third

Binky and I suffered so you don't have to. Since it's the third, 3 reactions: 1) Amazing animation - just astonishing and impressive work, 2) Lame script - and that's being kind, 3) Not nearly enough Puss and Donkey. And since little can save a movie from a bad script, we can't recommend it. Nope, no way. Though Binky had a good idea - wait for the dvd and rent it for the "making of" feature on the animation as that would be worth watching. Because the animation really is extremely impressive.

Posted by armand at 05:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Labor Leadership Election in Israel

Will it be the general or the admiral? It sure as hell isn't going to be the current party leader, the Defense Minister. Ami Ayalon, a former head of the navy and former head of Shin Bet is likely to emerge victorious - if not tomorrow then in a run-off next month (presumably against former prime minister Ehud Barak). And that may produce big changes - not simply in Labor, but in the government and in Israel as a whole. Will we see early elections? That would be highly dangerous at this point as Likud would likely win them at the moment. But how long can the new Labor leader keep his party in an Olmert government given that the current prime minister is about as popular as sexually transmitted diseases?

Posted by armand at 05:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 26, 2007

Some people stop living long before they die

Live it up this weekend, and travel safe, wherever the holiday weekend takes you.

Posted by binky at 05:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Post-War Iraq: The CIA Predicted It Before the War

Of course we already knew this to a degree (remember the White House's war against the CIA), but a new Senate Intelligence Committee report featuring previously classified information shows that the intelligence committee accurately predicted the dangerous mess that would follow a US invasion.

Posted by armand at 09:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2007

Only 14 Nays in the Senate on the Iraq Appropriations Bill?

In the US House most Democrats voted against the Iraq appropriations bill - but in the Senate only 14 members (and only 10 Democrats!) voted against the bill. Of course among those 14 were 3 presidential candidates (Clinton, Dodd and Obama - Biden voted yea, but his candidacy is a hopeless cause). I find it odd that more members of the majority party didn't vote against the bill, since all the polls seem to point to that being the popular side nationwide. That only 14 would vote against the White House is ... odd. All four senators from our area voted for the bill.

Posted by armand at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's Frelinghuysen to the Resuce!

It's not every day a 61 year old Republican congressman gives chase and helps police arrest an 18 year old pick-pocket. For the record it was the congressman's own wallet that had been stolen.

Oh, and since Rod Frelinghuysen is in the news for this, it reminds me to note that his family's absence from the latest "Primary Sources" section of The Atlantic is a bizarre omission on their part. That section includes a graphic on the most prolific congressional dynasties but fails to include the Frelinghuysens, 6 of whom have served in Congress. It does list though families like the Adams and Lodges, fewer of whom have served. The monthly might want to be a little more careful with fact checking a section of their publication that's all about facts.

Posted by armand at 04:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I tell ya' if we listened to those feminists, marriage as we know it would be a thing of the past

...I mean, come on! Who wants better relationships?

* So-called "egalitarian marriages" where wives work outside the home and husbands do their share of housework and childcare are more likely to last versus the marriages where wives don't work.

* These "egalitarian marriages" increased from 1980 to 2000 and are happier than traditional marriages.

* More equitable housework may help marital stability since wives initiate about two-thirds of U.S. divorces.

* In 1980 as well as 2000, childless couples were generally happier than those with children.

Posted by binky at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2007

"Well, my little pretty, I can cause accidents, too! "

"And now, my beauties, something with poison in it. Poppies... Poppies."


Posted by binky at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

She Blinded Me!

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. I'm not one of them myself, although I play one online. They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Angry Atheist


Militant Atheist


Apathetic Atheist




Spiritual Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
created with

HT PZ, who is a bit more scientific, a lot more militant, and a lot less angry than I am.

Posted by binky at 06:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Educating Rudy

This is a savvy move by Ron Paul - the topic, the location, and the guest all show he knows how to build on the press he got from the debate.

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

May 22, 2007

Regarding early 90s alt rock

Whether this is a mark in the "pro" or "con" column of indie rockness, I still haven't decided, but I pretty much missed out on all that early 90s alt rock stuff. For example, as a Flaming Lips lover (shut up Baltar) I completely missed the "She Don't Use Jelly" thing. I didn't hear it until, hmm, I think Yoshimi but definitely after Soft Bulletin (one of the top albums of the 90s, and not just in my biased opinion).

My 1990s list, below the jump.

Paralamas do Successo: Arquivo

LegiĆ£o Urbana: O Descobrimento do Brasil

Marisa Monte: Verde, Anil, Cor de Rosa e Carvao

Special bonus, I saw her play with the Titas, and the ceiling of the arena caught on fire. Exciting!

And there were the Titas

One of the better live shows I've ever seen, Sepultura

Of course, there was a fair amount of this (one of my favorite local clubs, Circo Voador, where I would go ballroom dancing in the open air)

Overlook the fearsome mullet, because Armandinho with Epoca de Ouro is great string work. I saw them record a live show in, hmm, 1993? 1994? in a fairly intimate bar with an old friend of mine. The whole thing turned into the best kind of sing along (as bars in Rio often do):

And there was some Olodum, Cidade Negra, Margareth Menenzes, Daniela Mercury (more here), Carlinhos Brown, and if you only watch one of these, which has nothing to do with rock, it should be Caetano e Gil, Desde Que o Samba e o Samba:

Posted by binky at 09:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Calling on Baltar, Man of Music

What say you?

Some interesting picks, although I think he misses the boat with my band by going too early and skipping the powerhouse from 1999.

Posted by binky at 07:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 21, 2007

The WaPost - Covering Celebrities, Even When They Don't Know Who They Are

From the land of "why did this end up in print?" - Why in the world does the Washington Post send a guy to the Vanity Fair party at Cannes if he can't identify the likes of Jemima Khan and Pavlos of Greece? It's a bizarre and pointless article, and if I was paying his salary (or that of his editor) I'd be seriously annoyed.

Of course why the Post would send anyone to that party in the first place is a whole separate question.

Posted by armand at 11:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The US Is Setting Israeli Foreign Policy?

This definitely isn't the first time I've heard of such a thing. But it's pretty remarkable nonetheless, and one does wonder about the circumstance under which Israel decided to cede sovreignty over its dealing with a state it's at war with to the US. It's a humilitating situation, and one more embarrassing news story for the Olmert government.

Washington has given Israel the green light to accept Syrian President Bashar Assad's call for peace talks, in a change of position accompanied by several preconditions. The Bush administration has given Israel permission to discuss the future of the Golan Heights, security arrangements and Israeli-Syrian peace accords if it agrees to talks with Syria.
Posted by armand at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2007

The Preakness

It should be a pretty day in Baltimore for the Preakness. I'm sticking with the two horses I liked in the Kentucky Derby - Street Sense (remember favorites tend to do really well in the Preakness) and Circular Quay. Steve Haskin has more.

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

Goldstein on the Court and the 2008 Election

Tom Goldstein discusses how post-2008 retirements, and who has the power to choose the replacements for retiring justices, will affect the Supreme Court here. He expects the next president to replace Justice Stevens and Justice Souter, and possibly (if the next president is a Democrat) Justice Ginsburg. So obviously you could have three younger Democratic appointees who will be in a position to enforce the current "detente" between the left and the right factions on the Court for many years to come. Or you could have a huge swing to right on the Court if a Republican president is elected in 2008.

I would quibble though with his interpretations of the shifts we've seen over the last 20 years. There might have only been one glaring case of a new justice being hugely different from the man he replaced (Thomas replacing Marshall) but most of the rest have been pretty clearly more conservative than their predecessors, and that's definitey pushed the Court to the right. In fact its interesting to keep in mind that there have only been 2 Democratic appointees to the Court since the 1960s - and only one of those 2 was more liberal than the justice she replaced. The shift we've seen over the last couple of decades has been considerable. And if a Republican gets to replace Stevens, Souter and possibly Ginsburg - look out.

Posted by armand at 09:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Magic of the Intertubes

It's like having Antiques Road Show at your fingertips.

There's this guitar that my mom let me take last year, as I was once again muttering about learning guitar. Of all the instruments - normal and exotic - I play, I've always felt a deficiency for not having given guitar a try. It's somehow un-american or something.

Anyway, when I opened the case, I found the guitar strung tight, with (what look to be) heavy steel strings. Cursing a bit, I pulled it out and started giving a closer inspection. It turns out that not only were the strings so tight that they had pulled the bridge pins sideways, but the top looked like it may have gotten a small bulge. And on even closer inspection, right where the bridge joins the wood, the force was enough to cause the wood to begin to splinter and separate.

So much for learning the guitar on this instrument, at least for now.

Well, the semester just ended, and I've got a little more flexible time on my hands (a lot of which I am using to delete the thousands of "anal spycam" comment spams we've been getting, but that's another story), so I decided to think about getting the thing fixed. I know a luthier, but this is someone who crafts beautiful multi-thousand dollar works of art, and I've been kind of embarrassed to bring up my little relic with a guy I only know casually. On the other hand, chatting with musician friends, bringing up the words "vintage Gibson acoustic" made a few of them get a little drool-y thinking that I might have a Hummingbird or something. Hell, I even got a little excited myself thinking that at minimum, the instrument might be worth enough to make getting it fixed worthwhile. The only starting information I had was that my mother bought this guitar sometime between my siblings' births (starting in 1954) and mine (1968).

Enter the intertubes.

The Gibson site (not very useful) was my starting point. I thought that it would be a simple matter to plug in the serial number and at least get a ballpark year, or model. Those of you who know guitars are laughing at me right now, I know. For the uninitiated, Gibson has used several number designations on their guitars over the last century, and only some of them relate to model and year. Of those, only the ones after 1975 are searchable on the Gibson website.

On to obsessive collectors and internet capitalists! Seriously, these are the people who know the information, have compiled it, and are willing to share it on their websites, crossed referenced with helpful photos and diagrams. Scanning a bunch of photos of guitars from the 1950s and 1960s wasn't very helpful. Again, people who know guitars are laughing at me, because they know the vast range of models available.

It turns out that there is a way to match your serial number to a rough time period. Given what I knew about the guitar in terms of birth order, and having the six digit number stamped on the back of the pegboard, within a certain range, I figured that this instrument was from 1966.

1966, when my mom was 35 and had 3 middle school aged children, but as of yet no caboose. Plenty of time to take up a new hobby.

Even within the year 1966, however, I wasn't finding anything in pictures that looked like my mom's guitar. I started thinking that maybe this was a rare thing indeed, and that it really might be worth fixing.

Once again, those of you who know guitars are laughing at me. Another thing I have since figured out doing research about guitars on the internet, is that the more exotic and valuable they are, the more likely you are to find photos of them. Being highly coveted and hard to get, they exist only in pictures for most people, and those that have them are eager to display their prizes.

At this point I got out the flashlight, and started peering inside again, looking for something, anything that might help me further narrow the search. On first inspection I saw something that looked like a smudge, but this time, looking closer and quinting it looked like the word "LOO" had been stamped inside the guitar.

A clue!

Knowing that there was an L-series, I started looking through pictures. There are some really nice Ls, with great tone, beautiful work, and obviously, worth getting fixed. There is an L00 from 1936. Wow. I decided to download the Blue Book for vintage Gibson acoustics. And what I found was a picture of my mom's guitar, and a full description.

LG-0 - mahogany top, round soundhole, black pickguard, bound body, 1 stripe rosette, mahogany back/sides/neck, 14/20 fret rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlay, rosewood straight bridge with pearl dot inlay, white bridge pins, blackface peghead with screened logo, 3 per side nickel tuners with plastic buttons. Available in Natural finish. Mfd. 1958 to 1974.

And then the bad news. Average value? $250-$300, maybe $500 in mint condition.

Even so, it was my mom's guitar, and I wanted to have it fixed so I could I could play it, and for sentimental reasons. My mom got this guitar when she was about my current age, right before she had me. I remember looking at the guitar in its case - but not being allowed to pick it up - when I was very small. She kept it in her cedar closet. I can't ever remembering hearing my mom play the guitar, but I remember the red felt on the inside of the case, and the way it smelled like wood and oil. And I remember that it had no marks or smudges or scratches or anything on it. My mom's a perfectionist that way. She also would iron things that no other human would, with perfect creases and starch. But through the years, having been loaned to my brother and my nephew, the guitar has picked up a few ding and scratches, but remarkably few. It's as if the guitar was protected by my mother's will. Or more likely, we all know what happens when you violate the mom rules of preservation of things bought with hard earned money. Growing up in the 1930s with a single mother made my mother very thrifty, and to this day concerned about preserving things just so.

Except that whoever had their hands on the guitar last not only left it strung tight, but with the wrong strings.

In my research one of the things I found was that this guitar is a student model, not one of the best products Gibson ever made. Part of what made it accessible is that these were extremely light instruments, easy to handle and use. As a consequence, they were delicate - which strikes me as strange for a student model - particularly in terms of their susceptibility to torque. That is, some of the internet commentary I read says that the LG-0 should only ever be strung with extra-light or light (at the very most) strings, because their construction is such that they will literally come apart at the seams if put under the stress of being strung tight with heavy strings. In addition, they are not solid wood flat tops. Kindly, this means that their surface is veneer. Less kind (OK, snobbish) guitar aficionado sites mention the "p" word: plywood. Thus, my mother's pretty little guitar behaved as expected when put away with tight steel strings, something she was never designed for, and resisted for years (I say this because those strings were used, and thus the instrument had been played with them on there) until put away, still stretched to the limit.

So here I am with this guitar, which it turns out, isn't so great, but I'd still like to get fixed it I can, not least to have something on which to finally learn to play. If it's not prohibitively expensive, I think I'll ask around and see if anyone can fix it without killing my wallet or the tone of the guitar.

I called my mom, excited to share all the news about the information I had gathered, information that had been lost to the mists of time. "Before anything else," I asked her, "tell me if you bought this guitar in 1966." She said that sounded about right. I then went on to tell her all about my research, what I had found, and how I had gone about it, finally determining what the guitar was, and why what happened had happened. Now, I remember her guarding this guitar, keeping it safe and pristine, nestled in its case. So what she said surprised me. She said that maybe I could donate it to the school. After all, "I only paid eighty bucks for it."

Posted by binky at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 18, 2007

Who Will Be Gordon Brown's Deputy?

While the race to replace Tony Blair is no race at all - Gordon Brown's is the only name in contention - the Labour party is seeing a competitive contest to replace John Prescott as Deputy Leader. Hillary Benn managed to finally get the parliamentary support necessary to enter the contest (every candidate had to get the signatures of 45 MPs to enter the race), so there are 6 contenders. The Guardian has a very impressive page devoted to the contest if you are interested in learning about the contenders or in following the campaign.

Posted by armand at 05:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dissertation Surveys

In the last couple of months, I have filled out two online surveys of regular blog readers, both part of dissertation projects by political science graduate students at the same university, and both referred by Bitch, PhD. This is a program that runs heavily in political psychology, and American Politics.

There's this nagging feeling about both that makes me question their research design, and especially their underlying assumptions about how people respond to politics. The thing is, that both had the survey takers read a passage, answer some questions, and then respond (via a closed set) about how reading the passage made them feel. No questions about thinking (and most of the other questions were also not about thinking, but rather belief systems).

Feelings, American politics is nothing more than, fee-lings...

Argh. And I can't get it out of my head.

Posted by binky at 03:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 17, 2007

"That's the difference between a free media and propaganda."

One of the prime problems with US policy in the Mid East (if not the world) is that everyone believes that the US hates all of them, wants to bomb everybody, and generally couldn't give a dead rat what happens elsewhere. This is called "public relations," and we suck at it.

In (insufficient) response to the PR deficit, the US established "Al Hurra," a US-financed TV station to compete with Al Jazeera. Hearing were held in DC this week to let idiotic Congresspeople complain that the station puts people on the air who are unfriendly to US interests, and might even be hostile to the US:

In recent weeks both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats have attacked Al Hurra for, in the words of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page last week, providing "friendly coverage of camera-ready extremists from Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups."

In particular, critics of the network, which was founded in 2003 as an Arabic-language, American-financed counter to Al Jazeera, are particularly annoyed that the network broadcast a 30-minute speech by the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, in December.

[Representative] Ackerman also complained during the hearing that the network gave extensive coverage to Iran's conference in December on denying the Holocaust and, more recently, showed Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister (and Hamas leader), discussing the faltering Palestinian unity government.

"How does it happen that terrorists take over? Is there no supervision?" Mr. Ackerman asked.

Uh, folks, it's called "news" and any station (especially one that wants to compete with Al Jazeera) had better show the people from the region who make the news. If we don't like them, that 's fine, but banning everyone from the TV who is antithetical to US policy will quickly make the station worse than useless, as all it will turn into will be a parrot for official US government views (in other words, "Fox News"). The way to win the PR battle is to let the people onto the air, then challenge their (incorrectly held) beliefs with actual facts (or in interviews). Banning them will only cause loss of viewers, not help the overall problem. Limiting the programming (and the people you are willing to put on the air) moves the station from news to propaganda, and that certainly won't work.

On the other hand, I'd guess that "Al Hurra" is doomed. See if you can figure out why:

For decades, the United States has provided funds for radio and television stations dedicated to promoting American values and views. During the cold war, Radio Free Europe sought to counter the state-controlled Soviet media by broadcasting pro-American views.

The first President George Bush created TV Marti, to beam American programming into Fidel Castro's Cuba, though Mr. Castro managed to jam it for years so people in Cuba could not actually see it.

Al Hurra was supposed to follow that tradition. But the station's executives admitted Wednesday that they could not be completely sure that Al Hurra was doing so, because none of the top executives speak Arabic.

"How do you know that they're being true to the mission if you don't know what's being said?" [Representative] Ackerman demanded.

Joaquin F. Blaya, a Hurra executive, testified that network officials made sure to question the Arabic-speaking staff about what went on the air.

Yes, none of the people actually running the station speak Arabic, and thus have no idea what is being said on their station. I'm sure this organizational structure is working splendidly.

I wonder if someday we'll discover that what we think are interviews with Rice, Bush, and other US officials are actually elaborate "Crank Yankers" spoofs. We certainly have no idea today if that is true.

Posted by baltar at 11:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 16, 2007

Smart Writing

I think I'm in love:

"the dumb just clings to her words like fresh morning dew"

Oh yeah.

Posted by binky at 08:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Right-Wing Noise Machine Is Out to Get Ron Paul

Remember how a few months ago I said that if he got treated as a serious candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) would be a really interesting presence in the primaries, someone who a lot of Republicans would agree with, and someone who'd be more intellectually honest about what the GOP supposedly stands for than a lot of his opponents? Well, he has been that way in this still fresh campaign season, and it has indeed won him support (he was in 2nd place in Fox's post-debate poll last night). But it's clear that the Republican powers that be want him silenced. Andrew Sullivan has an interesting post up on that topic. Here's the bulk of it:

The conservative pundits are now referring to Ron Paul as a "crackpot." Hannity predictably savaged him last night (see above). The Hewitt site has an image of a man in a tin-foil hat; Dean Barnett and Hugh Hewitt both call for removing Paul from the debates, when he has been the best thing about them so far. Bill Benett wants him out. I'm getting the usual ridicule for taking him seriously from the usual GOP apparatchiks. They're scared, aren't they? The Internet polls show real support for him. Fox News' own internet poll placed him a close second, with 25 percent of the votes from Fox News viewers. We have a real phenomenon here - because someone has to stand up for what conservatism once stood for. Whether you agree with him or not ( and I know few outside doctrinaire libertarians who agree with everything he says), he has already elevated the debates by injecting into them a legitimate, if now suppressed, strain of conservatism that is actually deeper in this country than the neoconservative aggression that now captures the party elite and has trapped the US in the Iraq nightmare. Last night, Fox News tried to destroy him. Today the right-wing blogs will.

And indeed they have, as since he wrote this post earlier today, Sullivan's followed it up with by noting anti-Paul posts and actions by RedState and LGF. Clearly that party "apparatchiks" don't appreciate him going off the party/president's script.

Posted by armand at 04:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Let the festivities begin!

And please join us in a very enthusiastic round of applause for Armand, who has just received promotion and tenure!

Posted by binky at 02:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Fiscal Fitness"

In the mail today arrived the health newsletter sent to all those on the state insurance plan. Generally it is full of useless tidbits and bland advice about various healthy living items. Presumably, the prevention advice will save the subscribers illness and the company money since they won't have to pay for the illnesses.

Today there was something different: a box about "fiscal fitness."

And what a doozy it is.

"5 things mothers should tell daughters about money and retirement."

First, the illustration, of a Victorian woman with conservative dress, a small child in her lap and another at her knee. it wasn't this, but something along these lines.

Nice, especially since this goes out to modern working women and men.

Second, the advice. Several of the items are good, all around statements that apply to everyone (so, why the mother/daughter thing, I don't know). These are: "start saving early," "develop good habits," "protect your credit rating," and "participate in a retirement plan." Nothing wrong there, aside from being the type of broad and meaningless platitudes found anywhere.

And this brings me to the special, number one (1!) piece of advice mothers (wearing their lace and long skirts by the fire, chatting in domestic bliss with their female children) should share with their daughters. Ready?

Women live longer and earn less than men.

Insert head slap here. A few things that ran through my head, but that I am left too mute from spluttering to elaborate:

A confession from my employer that it engages in unequal pay! Hot damn!

The State of West Virginia... master of the obvious!

Coming from the employer, that's not really something they ought to be broadcasting, eh?

What about "don't depend on a man for your financial stability"?

What on earth does this have to do with health insurance?

A confession from my employer that it engages in unequal pay! Hot damn!


Posted by binky at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Only 29 Votes for Feingold-Reid

Given its wording I think Feingold-Reid matches the popular will - fight al-Qaeda, protect Americans, but don't continue to ramp up operations to protect the dismally-functioning (and basically dismal) Iraqi government. According to my reading of the polls, that's clearly where the country is. But it's clearly not where the US Senate is, as only 29 senators backed the proposal. All Democrats running for president supported it. Every Republican in the Senate opposed it - as did over 20 Democrats. And we're not just talking about the Blanche Lincolns, Ken Salazars and the two Nelsons. Some of the big progressive favorites of last year like Jon Tester and Jim Webb voted against it, as did our own Jay Rockefeller and Pennsylvania's Bob Casey. With a vote like this (and the vote on the McGovern amendment last week on which almost 60 Democrats voted with the Republicans) it's clear that it can't be said that the Democratic party is doing what's politically popular regarding this war. But the party's presidential candidates are, and that's likely to be important in 17 months.

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

If Only Karen Walker Chose the Music for All Weddings

I recently decided to revisit Will & Grace. I pretty much stopped watching the show about halfway through its run because while I didn't hate it, it was uneven, the lead characters were uninteresting and too often hard to like, and the show seemed to quickly become, basically, a stage for that week's guest stars (it really was like The Love Boat, but with fewer stars or stars in the making per week - though happily if often featured much more talented guest stars than that Spelling show). So why revisit it? Well, a lot of the guest star turns were awfully fun, when the writers had the chance to build to full-on farce it often worked, and because of Karen of course. Sure Megan Mullally's character become wildly over the top pretty damn fast. But hey, she always added some fun to the show, and did what she was supposed to do exceedingly well - and she amused me in the process.

So with fond memories of Karen in mind I decided to rent season 6 of the show. And it played mostly to form. Will was pretty boring, Grace was self-centered, there were a lot of fun little guest star appearances by the likes of Blythe Danner, Dave Foley, Minnie Driver and Mira Sorvino, the show worked best when the writers were able to stage the whole thing around one big whirling set piece (like a dinner party, or a trip out to a restaurant), and then there was Karen who was just as fun and outrageous as I remembered (if more into women than I'd remembered). My favorite Karen bit though came in the two-part finale when she's getting married to a character played by John Cleese. She and Jack are having a conversation about the wedding music and she says that she's going to have "Sympathy for the Devil" played as she walks down the aisle, because it would be in bad taste to play Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" - because after all that's the traditional song for 5th weddings and this is only her 4th.

And you know, you put lines like that together with Mullally's superb timing and delivery and I think I might at some point have to watch more of that old show on dvd. And yeah, nothing against Mendelssohn's march, but I do wish I heard "Sympathy for the Devil" played more often at weddings. That would really liven 'em up.

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

So Do US Right-Wingers Still Love Sarkozy?

One of the oddest bits of spin of the last month had to be the joy with which American "conservative" activists greeted the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France. They clearly betrayed their lack of knowledge of French politics and/or Sarkozy by seeming to expect that he'd suddenly take up their foreign policy causes of the moment. And if any of them are still observing the scene over there, I can't wait to see what they make of his attempt to name Bernard Kouchner foreign minister. I think that should take the bloom of the Sarkozy rose (in their eyes) quite quickly. That said, from Sarkozy's perspective, I think it's a rather brilliant move.

Posted by armand at 09:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2007

There's terrorism and then there's terrorism

It's been that busy time of year where interesting thoughts about potential blog posts are as fleeting as the happy feeling one gets from reading a well-argued paper ("what well-argued paper?" you ask... "precisely, my dears!" I reply). One of those blips that rattled around a bit but got left behind in grade calculations was about the stories on Eric Rudolph, the domestic terrorist, who continues to harass his victims and collaborates with violent groups from jail. Zuzu does a nice roundup:

What's the difference between Padilla and Rudolph? Rudolph has killed two and wounded 117 people in three separate terrorist attacks, while the government has backed off charges that Padilla was plotting to plant a dirty bomb and have now charged him with, essentially, money laundering. But of course, that can't explain why Padilla can't speak to anyone - it took years and the intervention of the Supreme Court before he could see a lawyer at all - and Rudolph can send as many letters as he wants to the Army of God just begging for another abortion-clinic bombing.

Oh, could it be that Padilla is a Muslim, and Rudolph is a Christian?

Paddy at Cliff Schecter did a little reimagining of the article, changing "Eric Rudolph" to "Osama bin Laden" and "Army of God" to "Al Qaeda," and asked whether prison officials would be so sanguine about screening Rudolph's mail if the religions were switched (though, to be (somewhat) fair, the Supermax prison in Florence seems to be a bit lax in the mail-screening department, allowing a number of missives from the 1993 World Trade Center bombers to reach supporters overseas). Her conclusion:

Any of the prisoners in Gitmo get to send mail to their fans?

Terrorism is Terrorism, no matter which God you offer it up to.

Of course, as we've seen time and again, terrorism by Christians against abortion clinics doesn't count. Note that the AP described Rudolph as an "anti-abortion extremist" rather than a terrorist. And that of the victims or their families interviewed, only the people connected with the abortion clinic were concerned about repeat terrorist attacks.

I definitely think she is onto something (as many have noted) about the ease with which people accept the label of terrorist for Muslims and foreigners, but don't apply that label to Rudolph. She points to the targets (abortion clinics, gays) and religion (Christianity), but I think there is also a foreign and domestic element to this lack of identification too. I think there is an assumption that terrorists come from somewhere else. Yes, in this time and place they are assumed to come from a specific somewhere else (the Middle East) and be a specific kind of someone, but in the history of terrorist acts, this is often not the case. Terrorism happens within states, to the people who live there, perpetrated by some other people who live there. And in the region I have spent the most time studying, the "terrorist" was often the state, engaging in seemingly random acts designed to spread fear among the population. Of course, today, when "terror" and "state" are mentioned together, most people think "state sponsors of terror" as in states who fund non-state actors who engage in terrorist tactics. It's easy to forget the application of state terror against its own citizens.

What Zuzu highlights is not just a feminist issue, that religious violence escalating to terrorist acts designed to spread fear in the population and coerce its behavior doesn't really "count" as much when it's done by homegrown actors who target certain groups. It's also an important general policy issue, because blind spots in assumptions about who the terrorists are likely to be leaves holes in the defenses.

And since it's grading time, I'll pitch this as a classic social science/statistics problem of Type I and Type II errors (i.e. false positives versus false negatives). The Type I error is the false positive, too easily accepting that someone (say, who fits our assumptions) is a terrorist when in fact this is not the case. This type, as traumatic as it may be for the person wrongly accused, is in some way, at least in the short term, safer, as it identifies someone for observation or arrest who has a low probability of really engaging in the acts. Of course, casting the net too broadly is inefficient, wastes important resources that could be spent on "real" terrorists, can violate human rights, and not least create longer term repercussions. The Type II error, the false negative, is failing to identify that someone (say, who doesn't fit our assumptions) is a terrorist when in fact this is the case.

At this point, the poli sci rambling should be coming back in line with Zuzu's post, by the way.

By failing to routinely identify Rudolph as a terrorist and subject him to the same standards as those who fit the assumptions, we (as a society) commit several errors. First, we do a grave disservice to the subset of the population targetted by the terrorist acts, by not taking the impact on them seriously and by minimalizing their rights in comparison to the rest of the population. Civil rights activists have done an amazing job documenting the systematic attacks on minorities, designed to coerce them away from being able to exercise their rights. In this case, it minimizes the threat to women, women's health, and the LGBTQ community who were targetted by Rudolph and the organization he has been associated with. His ongoing acts of free soliciatation (which, the article also notes seems to have been permitted to some international terrorists as well) continue the effects. Second, we make the error of making terrorism an identity instead of a criminal act. In this way, a person who doesn't fit the assumed identity, is not identified as a terrorist. I would argue that this is dangerous for the rule of law and basic system of civil rights, in which individuals are not criminals for who they are but because of what they do. Third, we waste resources and generate hostility by making Type I errors. And finally, the attitude Zuzu points out leaves us open to making dangerous Type II errors, overlooking the real dangers right in front of us because they don't match our assumptions.

Posted by binky at 11:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Rally Against Allegheny Power's Giant New Power Lines

As some of you may be aware Allegheny Power is trying to get more power to the East Coast, not by building power plants there, but by building a gigantic set line of huge power lines that will cut across a swath of West Virginia, destroying a good bit of our land, to say nothing of our views, and of course adding more pollution to the state - all for a cause that doesn't benefit the state or its citizens in the slightest. Even our local right-wing rag (errr, newspaper) has been raging against this for weeks, and opposing it seems a political slamdunk - yet somehow these plans continue to move forward. I mean, wtf? Anyway, if you'd like to be part of the battle against this, there's a meeting of the Public Service Commission tomorrow night at 7pm at South Jr. High School (which is next to White Park in the First Ward section of Morgantown).

Posted by armand at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hot Fuzz

By the power of Greyskull ...

I would have thought one of the others here at the Coup would have written about it by now, but since they haven't I'll simply note that it's funny. Really funny. Could they have shortened it, and shaved off the last 120 seconds or so? Sure. But imperfections aside, it's still really funny.

Posted by armand at 03:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What Will Clinton and Obama Do on Feingold-Reid?

The legislation requires the president to begin the "safe, phased withdrawal of U.S. forces" within 120 days. After March 31, 2008, all funds would be cut off for the deployment of troops in Iraq, with three exceptions: "targeted operations" against al-Qaida and other terrorists; security of U.S. facilities and personnel; training and equipping of Iraqi security forces.

John Edwards and Chris Dodd are in favor of it. Where will the other Democratic contenders come down on this proposal? Can a Democrat win the nomination after opposing something like this?

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

A Billion Dollar Presidential Campaign?

Wow. Third party candidacies tend not to have much of a shot - but if the candidate is willing to throw in a billion dollars of his own money, that definitely changes the equation.

Any initial reactions to a Bloomberg candidacy? Would you be willing to consider him if he gets in the race?

Posted by armand at 08:20 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 14, 2007

Mayor Lois Griffin (Who's Apparently Advised By Karl Rove)

We have intelligence that suggests that Hitler is plotting with The Legion of Doom to assassinate Jesus ...

This bit from The Family Guy is hilarious - and disturbingly on target. Play the clip - that's not even the best line.

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Dark Territory


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Lederman's 10 Points on the Vote Suppression/US Attorneys Scandal

There are other sides to the scandal associated with the firing of the US Attorneys last year. Prominent among them are the gross mismanagement of the Justice Department (by Alberto Gonzalez and Monica Goodling, among others), and the very fishy circumstances surrounding the firing of Carol Lam (was the White House blocking the CIA/Dusty Foggo investigation?). But the Republican Party/US Dept. of Justice's zeal to suppress votes for Democratic candidates is pretty clearly a central part of all this, and on that side of the scandal Marty Lederman (building on reporting by Dan Eggan and Emily Goldstein) has a summary of 10 key points. Read it and weep.

Posted by armand at 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

John Edwards' College Plan

I know he may be the strongest general election candidate the Democrats have (as he's both the only white guy in the first tier, and he's not Hillary Clinton), but all these proposals former Senator Edwards keeps putting out make it ever more apparent that he's the biggest lefty in first tier of candidates - and I've got some problems with that on both political and policy grounds. His latest plan is aimed at providing more money for would-be college students. Now I'm all about getting rid of the stranglehold of Sallie Mae, and the cuts in college student funding by the Bush administration have been horrible, but I'm not at all sure that this is really the way to go.

First off, what kind of answer to the perceived problem is this, if it only deals with the first year of college? Secondly, there are the tiresome social engineering aspects to the plan - breeding little do-gooders who are doing "service" (what qualifies as service? that's potentially a hugely controversial matter), and kicking kids out of the program if they do drugs or alcohol. And while I don't necessarily see a huge amount of harm in helping to pay for one year of school, one can raise a reasonable point and argue that college education shouldn't be an entitlement, and that people and families should have to pay for services that'll provide them with wealth and opportunities in the future.

Color me rather unimpressed.

Posted by armand at 12:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

You really can have it both ways

At least you can if you are the Pope (emphasis mine):

Pope Benedict XVI blamed Marxism and unbridled capitalism for Latin America's problems on Sunday, and urged bishops to mold a new generation of Roman Catholic leaders in politics to reverse the church's declining influence in the region.

Ending a five-day trip to the church's biggest stronghold on the planet, Benedict also warned that legalized contraception and abortion in Latin America threaten "the future of the peoples" and said the historic Catholic identity of the region is under assault.

Like his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, Benedict criticized capitalism's negative effects and Marxist influences that have motivated some grass-roots Catholic activists, remnants of the Liberation theology he moved to crush when he was a cardinal.

"The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit," Benedict said as he opened a two-week bishops' conference aimed at re-energizing the church's influence in Latin America.

But he added that unfettered capitalism and globalization, blamed by many in the region for the deep divide between the rich and poor, gives "rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness."

Fucking modernity, eh?

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May 12, 2007

Monica Goodling and the Politicization of the Justice Department

Read the whole thing. Excerpts won't do this piece by Eric Lipton justice. That Goodling had this power is disturbing. That she behaved in this way is deeply disturbing. And whether it's now or a month or two from now, AG Gonzalez must go. If not through resignation, then through impeachment. Mismanagement, of this type and on this scale, of what's arguably the most important arm of the US government can't be tolerated.

Posted by armand at 08:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 10, 2007

A Major Bombing in Irbil

The McClatchy correspondents write that today's deadly truck bombing is the first major attack in the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region in 3 years. The specific target - the Interior Ministry.

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

Is Dick Cheney a Persian Mole?

That question is asked and answered by the War Nerd in this interesting discussion of who won the war in Iraq (hint, it's neither the US nor Iraq). Actually he goes on to make some thoughtful observations about who wins and loses wars, generally.

Posted by armand at 01:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2007

Becoming Justice Blackmun

So I finally read Linda Greenhouse's book on Justice Blackmun. As she explicitly states at the start of the text, it's not a traditional biography, nor is it comprehensive study of the justice's years on the nation's highest Court. It's something much more personal than that, even though most of the book deals with his years on the Supreme Court. It really is an examination of Harry Blackmun, the man and the justice - how you couldn't neatly separate the two, and how each informed the other over time. You definitely get to know Justice Blackmun, and the workings of the Burger and Rehnquist Courts. And its interesting to see how Blackmun's shifts as justice seem related to the workings of the Burger Court, and Blackmun's relationship with the Chief Justice (who he'd known for over fifty years before joining the Court). In addition, on the areas of the law that she deals with, Greenhouse provides an interesting history of how several major ideas and topics developed at the Court over the years. So while it's not like a lot of other books on the topic, it's insightful, and a work that those interested in Blackmun, Roe v. Wade, or the Burger Court could learn from.

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

The War's Devastating Effects on Iraq's Christians

This is awful, though also sadly predictable.

As many as 50 percent of Iraq's Christians may already have left the country, according to a report issued Wednesday by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal monitoring and advisory group in Washington D.C. ...

Islamic extremists have also targeted liquor stores, hair salons and other Christian-owned businesses, saying they violate Islam, the report said ...

In Saddam-era Iraq, the country's 800,000 Christians - many of them Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians, with small numbers of Roman Catholics - were generally left alone. Many, such as Saddam Hussein's foreign minister and deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, reached the highest levels of power. But after U.S. forces toppled Saddam, insurgents launched a coordinated bombing campaign in the summer of 2004 against Baghdad churches, sending some Christians fleeing in fear. A second wave of anti-Christian attacks hit last September after Pope Benedict XVI made comments perceived to be anti-Islam. Church bombings spiked and a priest in the northern city of Mosul was kidnapped and later found beheaded. In the recent violence, residents of the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora said gunmen knocked on the doors of Christian families, demanding they either pay jizya - a special tax traditionally levied on non-Muslims - or leave. The jizya has not been imposed in Muslim nations in about 100 years.

Posted by armand at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Difference Between the Obama Base and the Clinton Base

MSNBC, on the occasion of Gov. O'Malley's (D-MD) endorsement of Sen. Clinton, puts forward the idea that the difference between her supporters and Sen. Obama's supporters (who include the Democratic governor of neighboring Virginia) is a "divide inside the Democratic Party between old-line establishment Democrats lining up behind Clinton (O'Malley) and new, less-conventional types lining up behind Obama (Tim Kaine)". The Hotline reads it differently saying "the axis is between blue collar/union household Dems and professional class/aspirational Dems". Is either one of these analyses accurate? Are both? Does either observation help tell us who'll win next year?

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

May 05, 2007

President Reagan - Cozy Friend of Terrorists

I'm behind the curve on posting on this, as I've been busy grading and engaging in a few end of the year social activities. But happily Hilzoy and others have posted on it so I don't have to. The record is that Ronald Reagan's presidency was a complete disaster when it came to dealing with Islamic terrorists - and the fact that praise for him and his toughness on foreign policy at the Republican debate the other night became a veritable mantra is nothing short of obscene.

Reagan provided arms to Khomeini's Iran. We're not even talking about today's disturbing conservative Iran, we are talking 1980's full-on radical, Khomenei-led Iran.

Reagan negotiated for the release of hostages.

Reagan pulled US forces out of Lebanon, more or less with our tail between our legs, after not one, not two, but three huge attacks against major US positions that result in the deaths of hundreds of US public servants and soldiers. Three huge, deadly attacks - and Reagan's response was essentially retreat, of if you prefer, surrender.

Reagan propped up the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, who at least according to the current occupant of the White House, was a big supporter of international terrorism.

In the context of indirectly fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan the Reagan administration helped lay the groundwork for the rise of Osama Bin Laden and his band of murderous zealots.

So with that being the record - why is Reagan praised by the same people who seem to believe that fighting a global war on Islamic terrorism is our country's top priority?

Posted by armand at 03:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 04, 2007

Weird Spam

So, I'm at that point in the grading cycle where even despamming Bloodless is a happy diversion, and my brain gets attracted by weird language in the spam trap queue. The one that got me just now was "incest hentai" juxtaposed with a travel site that said "great work and pretty colors!" Yeah, that's us, great work, pretty colors, and an excellent spot to post comment spam about bizarre hentai (as if it didn't seem superflous to add that "bizarre" as a modifier).


Fun's over, back to grading.

Posted by binky at 06:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2007

The Cap Arcona Catastrophe and Government Secrecy

Today is the sixty-second anniversary of the sinking of the Cap Arcona (and two other ships) by the RAF. Between the four attacks by the RAF, and the fact that the SS mowed down many people trying to get to shore from the sinking vessels, somewhere around 8,000 people died in these attacks. The great majority of these people were prisoners from concentration camps, including thousands of prisoners of war. It's an ugly and brutal tale, and one that should not be forgotten. It should be remembered, examined and understood. However, there's a little problem with that. According to the Wikipedia entry on the disaster the British government has sealed its records on the matter until 2045. Now I understand the need for secrecy in military matters and government affairs - but am I the only person who has considerable doubts about there being a legitimate need to keep these particular records secret for one hundred years? Might this simply be a matter of the British wanting to keep their dirty laundry locked away for generations?

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

What's Up With Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY)?

So Amato put up the list of the seven House Democrats who chose not to vote to override President Bush's veto of the Iraq War spending bill. Six of those seven names are awfully predictable. They vote against Democrats often, and come from rather "conservative" districts. But then there is the seventh who comes from the area around Albany, New York. Has McNulty explained his pro-Bush position somewhere?

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

May 02, 2007

Sen. McCaskill Unwelcome at Her Daughter's Catholic School

Archbishop Burke has blocked the junior senator from Missouri from speaking at the commencement festivities at St. Joseph's Academy.

McCaskill's spokeswoman, Adrianne Marsh, said that St. Joseph's officials had made the initial invitation after the students had requested the senator. Officials then called McCaskill to say that they were rescinding it. Marsh said McCaskill's people were told Burke made the decision.

McCaskill, a Catholic, said she was disappointed. "I was thrilled that the great, young women at St. Joseph's Academy invited me to speak at their graduation,," McCaskill said in a statement. "It was a special opportunity because my daughter is one of the graduates. I'm disappointed that the archbishop has made this decision."

One wonders if the archbishop similarly plans to block doctors and scientists from speaking at the school, as it appears a key fault of the senator (in Burke's ideological eyes) is her support for stem-cell research.

By the way, is the following weird or what? Makes Burke seem rather peculiar.

The disinvitation of McCaskill comes less than a week after Burke resigned from the board of the Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center Foundation because singer Sheryl Crow - an outspoken supporter of embryonic stem cell research - was scheduled to headline the annual fundraiser and concert.

He can't even stand to be associated (and extremely vaguely associated) with singers whose views he disagrees with?

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

May 01, 2007

Where Are They Now? Tony Blair's First Cabinet

An interesting feature on the BBC - Over the last 10 years, what's become of Tony Blair's first cabinet?

Three quarters of them are now out of the cabinet, and of those who remain only Blair, Chancellor (and soon to be Prime Minister) Brown and Deputy Prime Minister Prescott still have jobs they had back in May of '97 (and of course though he's kept the Deputy Leadership, Prescott's lost his key ministerial positions). It'll be interesting to see which of these people assume key roles in the Brown cabinet. Two of those who've held on since the start of Blair's term, Leader of the House of Commons Jack Straw and Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling, look set to continue hold prominent places in the next cabinet. Oh, and if you are interested, Blair's current cabinet is here.

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

Turkey - Looks Like It'll Be Early Elections

Wow. The secular opposition won the day in their fight to block Foreign Minister Gul's election to the presidency. The Constitutional Court decided that since their boycott of the election meant there was not the 2/3's quorum called for, the first round of voting (which takes place in the national legislature) was illegitimate. Prime Minister Erdogan has now said he may call for early general elections as soon as June 24 - and campaign for the direct election of Turkey's president by the people (currently the president is elected by the national legislature).

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

Sampson, Goodling and the Bush (not US) Dept. of Justice

I suppose we should post a link on the news that Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling were granted by AG Al Gonzalez what amounts to essentially complete hiring and firing authority inside the DOJ. This news was of course a closely guarded secret (apparently even kept from Deputy AG McNulty), and the scope of what's wrong with it almost defies belief. For details, read Hilzoy (I highly recommend the post), but if you are looking for a few lines to summarize the whole ugly affair, how about these?

Waas, whom I've found to be very reliable, quotes his "senior executive branch official familiar with the delegation of authority" as saying that "It was an attempt to make the department more responsive to the political side of the White House and to do it in such a way that people would not know it was going on".

Because if there's one thing that's good for the country obviously it's making, say, the Criminal Division at Justice beholden to the White House. This is just sickening.

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

4 Days Until the Kentucky Derby

As many of you know, I sort of follow it most years. It's kind of silly really as it's a terribly unrepresentative horse race - 20 horses running in one race is nuts - but at the same time it's an event that calls for serious fun and rituals, and who doesn't like that? Plus it features some of the most impressive animals on the planet. So if you want to be ready for Saturday, you might want to start reading up on the contenders at sites like Bloodhorse, Kentucky Derby 133, or of course the massive coverage provided by the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Posted by armand at 11:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The World's Tallest Pagoda

Will this set off a pagoda race? I mean if we tend to be fearful when China comes in #1 on some measure ...

Okay, I kid. It's far from my favorite building design, but building one measuring over 500 feet high is definitely an interesting feat.

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