July 30, 2007

Khalilzad Accuses the Saudis of Undermining the US in Iraq

Don't you know that Condi Rice and Bob Gates are just thrilled that our UN Ambassador made these comments just before they visit Saudi Arabia? I presume the administration planned this, but talk about a way to make some difficult meetings all the more uncomfortable.

Posted by armand at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why "Critical Mass" Matters

The argument that a "critical mass" of any population is necessary before adequate representation can occur is often found in discussions of electoral politics (some examples from my area of the world). Pandagon has a discussion of this article, about women at MIT who worked together to publicize and address the systematic discrimination they faced.

Sneaking around the nation's most prestigious institute of science in 1994, 15 women went office to office comparing how much space MIT awarded women with what men of equal status got. It was less by about half.

Salaries were less, too. As was the research money given to women. And the numbers of women on committees that made decisions about hiring and funding.

There were no women department heads and never had been. And while MIT lavished raises on men who got job offers elsewhere, it simply let the women leave. They might have been expected to leave, anyway, since MIT had made most of them so miserable.

MIT responded well, unlike many institutions, by recognizing the problem, and taking steps to address it. However nothing would ever have happened without the efforts of the women, but also the effect of having enough of them there to talk to each other:

It's all because three unhappy women professors happened to compare notes one day.

Without the critical mass, it's all to easy to think "it's something about me," but with the similarity of stories, these women pieced together the idea that it was about something else (emphasis mine):

The story of how these women got MIT to recognize and acknowledge bias offers a portrait of how discrimination works, often so subtly that many women themselves don't believe it exists.

''I have always believed that contemporary gender discrimination within universities is part reality and part perception,'' MIT president Charles M. Vest wrote in a letter prefacing the report. ''True, but I now understand that reality is by far the greater part of the balance.''

It might have been easy in 1995 to dismiss the numbers as a reflection of the national picture. A full academic generation into the women's movement, only 26 percent of tenured faculty nationwide were women, compared with 18 percent in 1975. It's not that women aren't entering academia; in 1995, 43 percent of faculty in tenure-track positions nationwide were women, according to the American Association of University Professors. The problem has been especially pronounced at elite universities.

Because the numbers were so small, a woman who suspected discrimination might as easily conclude that she was the victim of circumstances particular to her case.

There is a glaring example cited in the article, about a woman who developed a course, and then a man who had been added to team teach it with her was given the task of making it into a CD-Rom, solo, and she was told her course had been discontinued. However Amanda latches onto a more general problem, one that is applicable outside academia.

This article by Shankar Vedantam about the pay gap between men and women and the role of sexism is really interesting. It's been well understood for a long time now that one reason that men get paid more than women is that men haggle over salaries more often. Vedantam trots out the usual evidence for this: Male doctoral students are more aggressive about asking for teaching assignments than female doctoral students, in experiments where subjects are given money to perform tasks men will ask for more than women more often, men are far more willing than women to haggle over salaries when they're hired or ask for promotions.


But Linda C. Babcock and Hannah Riley Bowles addressed what's always bothered me about the parameters of the debate-what if, instead of saying that men are more aggressive, we rephrased the assertion to be, "Women are more docile by training." It doesn't initially seem like a big change, but if you refocus the question on what training women receive to be more docile, then you've repositioned the debate on actual discrimination that causes the pay gap. Women are more docile than men, because they've been trained to be more docile. And the way we are trained to be more docile is by having our attempts to ask for more smacked down while men's attempts to ask for more are rewarded, aka discrimination. Therefore, women’s lack of aggression stems from a realistic assessment of the likelihood that asserting themselves will work, as is men's.

Which is to say, if when asking the same question, women mostly hear no and men mostly hear yes, men will keep asking and women will start giving up and find better uses of their time than constant rejection.

This point resonates with me, as someone who almost never haggled, and on those rare instances of trying, got a pretty quick and definitive "no." I think back to when I was getting my PhD, and the kinds of things my advisor talked to me about. Negotiating salary was never one of them. The extent of his haggling advice was "ask for the best computer they will give you" so you can crunch lots of data. Not, "ask for more money so you will have a higher base salary" or "tell them 'no' if they decide to assign you a big class," or "insist on field research leave, and money for it." And like the article points out, I originally didn't consider gender as a factor in my reticence, and in my (so-called) willingness to "take 'no' for an answer." I thought perhaps it could be class, having come from a background where people had bosses, and bosses held the power of decision.

The good news, hopefully, is that some institutions like MIT are recognizing the problem, and taking steps to address it. As the critical mass shifts, there are more advisors who are teaching their female students how to play the game. However, the larger context still presents a problem, across job types (emphasis mine):

None of this is to say there’s anything wrong with teaching young girls to be more assertive—aka, concentrating on overcoming the sexist desire to slap down girls who assert themselves and treat girls more like boys. If people become more used to assertive women, then it might help erode the nasty retaliation against women who have the nerve to feel entitled to the same treatment men get. But we have to be realistic. The assumption that a woman who manages to keep her aggression levels in business as high as a man’s will go as far as him is simply wrong. There’s a realistic chance that such a woman will actually do less well than someone who keeps her head down, works hard, and takes her small raises and promotions with a smile while her male colleagues with equal or less talent blaze past her.

So what do we do? It seems like an impossible conundrum—if women are assertive, they don’t move forward but if they can’t use the same tools as men, they also won’t move forward.


One woman who says, “Hey, this is sexist!” will be written off as sour grapes. But if women as a class come forward together against the problem, it’s much harder to ignore.

All of a sudden, I'm hungry for an omelette.

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


I loved that movie. Loved it. The most fun I've had in a movie theater in quite a bit.

Now I should say at the outset I never saw the original movie or the stage show so I can't compare it to those. But on its own it's an enormously winning piece of entertainment. So sugary sweet you risk diabetes, but what's wrong with that? It looks great, has a wonderful spirit, a quick-witted script, and is blessed with a fantastic ensemble. That last bit is hugely important (and impressive) as the cast is huge - and they are all superb ... well, with the possible exception of John Travolta (he's not much of a singer), but hey even he's still at least okay. They are all so good I hate to pick favorites, but what the hell. Amanda Bynes is flat-out hysterical and sweet and wonderful as Tracy's friend Penny. But really, pretty much the whole cast is very, very good.

Sure, it's not for everyone I suppose. But I thought it was great, and if you are looking for some really fun light entertainment (which also has a great and fun design) I recommend it.

Posted by armand at 12:02 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

July 29, 2007

Take That Geena Davis

Geena Davis' win of the 1988 Best Supporting Actress Oscar was one of the first times it dawned on me that the Oscars really aren't about "the best". When I caught up with this fillm and performance (I forget when, but I didn't see it in the theater) I found her to be irritating, and guilty of doing a stunningly poor job of making us understand some of her key behaviors - which is especially odd since she's in so much of the movie and really isn't "supporting". It was one of those early, key "what were they thinking?" revelations. Happily the Smackdowners have smacked her down good and awarded their 1988 prize to Sigourney Weaver instead. She deserved the prize soooooooo much more. But then that could be said of all 4 ladies nominated alongside Davis (and I didn't even like Michelle Pfeiffer that much).

Posted by armand at 07:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Prisoner: Or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair

So I finally watched this documentary. If you are interested seeing the life of a man wrongly-accused and locked up by Americans in Iraq, it's a pretty well-constructed piece. I thought it was really interesting to include one of the US guards that was close to him later in his imprisonment. It's only 70 minutes or so, but you get a good feel for some of the key issues and problems that accompanied the first year of the war/occupation. And the look inside the prison camps is a bit interesting. I didn't LOVE it, but if you are interested in these topics it might well be worth your time.

Posted by armand at 06:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2007

Finally, a Useful Website.

If you have any religious questions (trying to understand the nature of the universe; what is our role; what is God's role, etc.), you can find all the answers at the Official God FAQ page.

Lots of info; this clearly took time to create. It's particularly impressive that they constantly update the site based on the latest information (read the footnotes).

Posted by baltar at 09:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Obama, Clinton, Judgment and the Value of Negotiations

Hilzoy has her say on the week-long argument between the Clinton and Obama camps stemming from the YouTube debate.

Posted by armand at 06:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On the Verge of Massive Arms Sales to the Middle East

$50 billion. Massive increases in arms sales to both Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies - that's what we need to bring about peace in the Middle East, right?

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

North Carolina to Adopt Awful Electoral College Reform

I'll never understand this idea. It's bad enough that we have the electoral college. But if we are going to keep it, history and federalism are really the only reasons to do so - which, it would seem to me, would call for letting the actual states keep their electoral college votes. Now if you want to represent voters and not states, fine - then what you should do (again, if we MUST keep the college) is award the electors proportionally based on how many votes they get from the people of each state. But this whole divide up electors by congressional district thing ... I ask you, why? It's not truly proportional. It's not holding up the tradition of the states. Congressional district boundaries are largely meaningless in terms of what they represent. They are made to elect particular members of Congress - so what's the connection to electing a president? Why should these amorphous shapes designed for parochial concerns shape who's elected to lead the country? And of course in the case of this state (and matters tied to the Voting Rights Act), you are quite possibly messing with a host of equal-rights issues as black voters are unusually highly concentrated in a small number of congressional districts. I get that the Democrats want a handful of votes in North Carolina - but it's a silly reform.

Posted by armand at 11:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 27, 2007

Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) Needs a New Communications Director

ThinkProgress has a story (with video) on Rep. Turner (R) of Ohio trying to fight back against Larry Korb, not by actually dealing with his arguments and positions, but instead by trying (and largely failing) to nail him with personal attacks and insinuations. It's a sad affair on a number of levels, but the real jaw-dropping moment comes when Turner's Communications Director responds to questions about these events.

ThinkProgress contacted Turner’s office for comment on the incident. Andy Bloom, communications director for Turner, told us that Turner has never served in the military and has no substantive military experience. Asked if Turner was participating in a coordinated effort to smear Korb, Bloom said, "I can't be certain."

Way to defend your boss, man.

Posted by armand at 06:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush: Fix Pay Discrimination? No!

Because, you see, judges are already too busy. And just because you are being discriminated against ... well that's not nearly as important as a busy judge, is it? Oy. I look forward to this being thrown back at him from here on out when he calls for more laws - against the dope smokin' hippies for example.

Posted by armand at 04:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abuse of the Those Building the US Embassy in Baghdad

So the Subcommittee on National Security & Foreign Affairs of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has been investigating charges that the workers building the new US Embassy in Iraq are being abused. Here's coverage from McClatchy and The Washington Post. The stories are distressing. Some of the workers seem to have been essentially kidnapped.

Rory Mayberry, who said he had been a medic on the site for five days, said First Kuwaiti had asked him to escort 51 Filipino men from Kuwait to Baghdad but not to tell them where they were going. Their tickets showed that they were flying to Dubai, Mayberry said. They screamed protests when they discovered on the flight that they were headed to Baghdad, he said.
Posted by armand at 09:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Are We Doing This?

In today's New York Times:

WASHINGTON, July 26 - Three years after President Bush urged global rules to stop additional nations from making nuclear fuel, the White House will announce on Friday that it is carving out an exception for India, in a last-ditch effort to seal a civilian nuclear deal between the countries.

The scheduled announcement, described Thursday by senior American officials, follows more than a year of negotiations intended to keep an unusual arrangement between the countries from being defeated in New Delhi.

Until the overall deal was approved by Congress last year, the United States was prohibited by federal law from selling civilian nuclear technology to India because it has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The legislation passed by Congress allows the United States to sell both commercial nuclear technology and fuel to India, but would require a cutoff in nuclear assistance if India again tests a nuclear weapon. India's Parliament balked at the deal, with many politicians there complaining that the requirements infringed on India's sovereignty.

Under the arrangement that is to be announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush has agreed to go beyond the terms of the deal that Congress approved, promising to help India build a nuclear fuel repository and find alternative sources of nuclear fuel in the event of an American cutoff, skirting some of the provisions of the law.

Some comments:

1. This was a dumb deal from the get-go. India is clearly a rising power (economic, military, regional, etc.); it makes sense for the US to make friends with India. That being said, what does the US get out of this deal? India breaks the NPT, and we give it more fuel...and get nothing in return. No economic benefits, no foreign policy benefits, no military benefits, no nothing. Why are we doing this?

2. And Pakistan will feel how about this? Remind me again - where are all the Al Qaeda camps?

3. And Iran will feel how about this? How is this India-US deal any substantially different from the Iran-Russia deal that the US keeps trying to block?

4. Congress was a bunch of morons to pass the law that allowed the US to violate the NPT; I remain convinced that the Republican-led Congresses that coincided with Bush's first six years in office will go down in history as some of the worst ever.

5. Did anyone else catch the sly little violation of the spirit of the law (if not the letter) in the fourth paragraph? The NPT exemption that Congress passed cuts off US nuclear fuel to India if they set off another bomb (until they set off another bomb, we'll give them nuclear fuel). This idiotic administration will work to find alternative sources so that if India does set off a bomb, they'll have lots of other fuel when the US cut-off starts. This is in direct violation of the spirit of the law Congress passed. Has their ever been an administration with more contempt for Congress than this one? Their public claims of respect for the Constitution don't remotely jibe with their actions.

Posted by baltar at 07:50 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

July 26, 2007

Does Mitt Romney Think Snowmen Are Sentient?

Just asking.

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

If Obama Is JFK, Who's Hillary?

Mark Kleiman thinks we should keep the words of President Kennedy in mind when evaluating the Clinton/Obama talk-or-not verbal brawl.

Posted by armand at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is a New Second Party Possible?


Posted by armand at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2007

The US House Votes to Ban Permanent Bases in Iraq

This is interesting.

Today, the House passed H.R. 2929, Banning Permanent U.S. Bases in Iraq. This bill states that it is the policy of the United States not to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing a permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq. It also states that it is the policy of the United States not to exercise U.S. control of the oil resources of Iraq. The measure bars the use of any funds provided by any law from being used to carry out any policy that contradicts these statements of policy.

Only 24 members, all Republicans, voted against it. Would President Bush really sign such a bill into law?

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

The Mines of Moria

Remember the scene when Pippin knocks the skeleton down the hole, and then the drums begin, beating a slow, regular cadence that heralds the imminent doom of the journey through Moria?

Every summer, summer begins to end with the sound of the drums, the high school marching band trying out its new recruits for the drum line, endlessly synchronizing (at least an attempt at it) the row of bass drums standing out in front of the gym.

They started today.

Posted by binky at 10:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 24, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Just finished it moments ago. All in all I liked it, but I think the series peaks in books 3-5, and I think the last third of it suffers from some rather severe structural problems. And I truly loathed the epilogue, but thankfully that was brief. But I won't post any spoilers up here. If you want to talk details, we can do that in the comments. All in all, an appropriate ending I guess.

Posted by armand at 09:46 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

"God created the dog to be man's companion"

Part One and Part Two of Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd's speech about dog fighting.

Fourth in line.

Posted by binky at 08:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Just How Feminist Is Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Heroine Content discusses.

Posted by armand at 05:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


I'm having a hard time reintegrating after so moishe vacayshuns.

Your Score: Serious Cat

40% Affectionate, 24% Excitable, 53% Hungry

Hungry for knowledge in any internet forum, you demand decorum. Any off-topic remarks, absurd statements, or tomfoolery on the interweb is deeply frowned upon by you. Truth has no room for drollery.

To see all possible results, checka dis.

The Which Lolcat Are You? Test written by GumOtaku on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Does WV's Promise Scholarship Discriminate Against Mormons?

A federal court will soon consider that issue.

Posted by armand at 02:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Goldstein on the Republicans' Not-So Short List for the Supreme Court

Recently I linked to his short list for a Democratic president who might be elected in 2008. Here's his list of potential nominees a Republican winner in 2008 might choose from. Orin Kerr responds here.

Posted by armand at 02:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ellis Dies at 93

Since Morris is back and Armand is talking psych, I wanted to note that Albert Ellis passed away:

Albert Ellis, whose streamlined, confrontational approach to psychotherapy made him one of the most influential and provocative figures in modern psychology, died early today at his home in an apartment above the institute he founded Manhattan. He was 93. The cause was kidney and heart failure, said a friend and associate, Gayle Rosellini.


Where the Freudians maintained that a painstaking exploration of childhood experience was critical to understanding neurosis and curing it, Dr. Ellis believed in short-term therapy that called on patients to focus on what was happening in their lives at the moment and to take immediate action to change their behavior. Neurosis, he said, was "just a high-class word for whining."

"The trouble with most therapy is that it helps you feel better," he told The New York Times in an interview in 2004. "But you don't get better. You have to back it up with action, action, action."

If his ideas broke with conventions, so did his manner of imparting them. Irreverent, charismatic, he was called the Lenny Bruce of psychotherapy. In popular Friday evening seminars that ran for decades, he counseled, prodded, provoked and entertained groups of 100 or more students, psychologists and others looking for answers, often lacing his comments with obscenities for effect.

Posted by binky at 02:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 23, 2007

The CNN/YouTube Debate - The Democrats

So let's see, clear winners include Sen. Obama and Anderson Cooper. The latter ran the debate better than just about any moderator I'd ever seen - forcing candidates to stay on topic and actually answer the questions posed. Sen. Clinton did pretty well too, which as the front-runner is probably all she needed. But Obama shone. Duds? Biden's style (which I liked before) is wearing thin, and his gun answer was condescending. Richardson puts me to sleep whenever he opens his mouth. Kucinich continually slams the other Democrats (and remains generally weird). Edwards seemed to mention Elizabeth every time he opened his mouth - maybe she should be running (I imagine she'd be doing better in the race than he is). And Gravel ... as if. Dodd was perfectly respectable, but didn't make much of an impact on me. But again, for winners, I'd pick Obama and Cooper.

Posted by armand at 11:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Surge in the Use of the Filibuster

Everyone, their brother, and their red-headed stepchild is linking to this nice piece of reporting done by McClatchy. It shows that the Senate (or more accurately Republicans in the Senate) are using the filibuster at a record-setting pace. Actually that barely describes it - they are on pace to basically triple the old record this session. This is troubling. So given current events I ask the question - is the filibuster worth keeping? For that matter, is the (undemocratic in many other ways) Senate worth keeping?

Posted by armand at 04:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Fun of Turkey's Election System

Turkey's ruling party, the AKP (typically described as "Islamist"), won a great result in last weekend's elections. They did even better than they did in the last national elections, in which they did very well. But given Turkey's electoral system they'll have fewer seats in the new parliament than they did in the last one.

Posted by armand at 04:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


If you are looking for something light and funny today, you might enjoy this. I did.

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

Kleiman's Plan B

Mark Kleiman isn't a fan of impeaching Bush or Cheney. Not because he doesn't think they deserve it, but because they won't be convicted. That being the case, he proposes this alternative proposal for reining in executive branch bad acts.

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

July 22, 2007

Lindsay Sloane

I've been on the futon for much of the weekend, and from there there has been one clear bright spot in my weekend of too much sickliness - Lindsay Sloane. I'd known her as Big Red in Bring It On. And now I'm viewing her in a much different role as I screen episodes of Grosse Pointe. She's funny. Really funny. And when you are feeling sickly you really appreciate comic talent.

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

July 21, 2007

Hilzoy's 10 Lessons From the Iraq War

Read them here.

Posted by armand at 05:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

On Clinton, Gates and Edelman

Senator Clinton's response to Undersecretary Edelman's attack on her is quite right on a number of levels, and I also wonder if she's trying to turn up the intra-Bush administration fights up a notch. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've had the sense that Edelman is one of Cheney's people. And if she's putting Gates in a position to be raked over the coals because of the actions of a Cheney surrogate ... well I imagine Gates will be quite pissed (in the American understanding of that word) and try to limit Edelman's role further. Pass the sno-caps.

Posted by armand at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Our Troops Are Funding Our Anti-War Presidential Candidates

Well this is interesting. Who's getting the most contributions from military personnel and veterans? Ron Paul and Barack Obama. More generally, anti-war candidates are getting much more in funding from military personnel and veterans in these numbers.

Posted by armand at 08:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2007

The Emmy Nominees

Okay, I'm back here for a second. I don't know when I'll have a chance to go throw the spam and look for real comments (since there are thousands and thousands of pieces of spam), but I did want to take a moment to note that there are a few good things in the new Emmy nominations. Now I imagine they'll receive heaps of criticism for being rather dull (or worse). But hey, if you look down the list you'll note that the nominees include Minnie Driver, "Ben" from Lost and Kathy freakin' Griffin. What's not to love there? The best set of nominees? Quite possibly supporting actor in a comedy - Ari, Drama and Barney are all nominated. Yay!

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

July 14, 2007

A Short Break from Blogging

Okay, I am going to try to take a short break from blogging for another few days. With a family get-together in my immediate future ... well, I'm likely to be distracted for a bit. Again, I'm not sure when Binky and Baltar will be posting again. But I'm sure we'll be active again in the second half of next week. Between now and then enjoy the weekend. And as soon as I return to this I'll update you on my latest foray into the land of nerds (I've finally gotten into Doctor Who) and what I've learned about some big news that's likely going to shake up the US Senate race in Oregon.

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

July 13, 2007

Last Term's Civil Rights Cases at the Supreme Court

SCOTUSBlog has a review - and the analysis may have Justices Brennan and Marshall spinning in their graves.

Perhaps what is most notable about the civil rights subset of this term’s docket is that Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito found themselves in the majority in every case. When it came to civil rights this term, there is no question that the conservatives carried the day.
Posted by armand at 04:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Anti-Hindu Hecklers and Justice Scalia

Michael Dorf argues that those who disrupted a Hindu's attempt to offer the daily prayer in the Senate likely have more than one Supreme Court justice on their side:

So fear not, you monotheists who worry that Hinduism may become the official religion of the United States: You have at least two votes (and by now probably four votes) on the Supreme Court for making this an officially monotheist country in which polytheists and atheists are not directly persecuted but are excluded from participation in public rituals that monotheists lead and enjoy.

It's interesting enough (in a troubling way) post. And as an added bonus, down in the comments is a great Emo Phillips joke.

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you christian or buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you episcopalian or baptist?" He said, "Baptist!" I said,"Wow! Me too! Are you baptist church of god or baptist church of the lord?" He said, "Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you original baptist church of god, or are you reformed baptist church of god?" He said,"Reformed Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off.
Posted by armand at 04:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The White House Report on "Progress" in Iraq

Outrageous. A sham. Dismal. Deliberately distorted. Dismaying. I think the Bush administration's mendacity has Fred Kaplan on the verge of a Howard Beale-moment. The Bush administration's distortions are that extreme.

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


Wow. That was so good. Quite possibly the best Pixar film yet (well, this or The Incredibles). Lives up to the hype. The story is good, it looks great, and there are several marvelous setpieces. You should definitely check this out on the big screen before it leaves the theaters.

And step back for a second and think about Brad Bird's career - this followed The Incredibles which followed The Iron Giant (looooove that). It appears he can do no wrong, but do a multitude of things oh so very right.

Oh, and it was fun of them to play Lifted (one of last year's Oscar-nominated animated short films) in front of the feature. That was cute.

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

July 12, 2007

Observations from ISPP

Last weekend the blog was silent because I was off in Portland (Oregon) at the annual meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology. It was the first time I'd attended that conference, despite the fact that normally it's held in highly appealing European cities (next year it's in Paris). Earlier I'd noted I might say a thing or two about that trip, but never got beyond my hatred of the Las Vegas airport. So with that in mind, here are a few quick observations dealing with what I saw at the conference.

Given that it's a multidisciplinary field, I was curious to see who would be attending. It turns out that both poli sci and psychology were well represented. And there were some participants from other fields as well (like the Volokh conspirator who is working on a Ph.D. in sociology). It felt to me like a younger than usual crowd. There were lots and lots of women there. And for whatever it's worth, the crowd appeared mostly white and coupled (lots of rings).

As to the work presented, the papers and roundtables were of a good quality. And of course it's always good to hear that current research is reinforcing some trends people in the field have noted before: the power of subliminal messages; the unequal effects of positive and negative stimuli (negative stimuli have a greater impact); that anxiety leads one to collect more information than one would otherwise (well, presuming one cares and thinks more information might prove useful) while anger leads you to shut out information and turn back to what you already know; those who read newspapers have quite different perceptions of politics than those who don't; a large majority of political leaders show low integrative complexity; and the Iranian leadership has extraordinarily high cognitive complexity, high levels of distrust and little belief in their ability to control events. And some of the newer observations were interesting too, for example how Ronald Reagan's behavior and style closely matched many traits one would expect in the child of an alcoholic, and Jimmy Carter's audacious decision to transform the vice presidency, and how that decision shaped who he selected as his running mate.

Finally, going to conferences means I also catch up on television, as something about being in a hotel room draws me to cable (and the Embassy Suites downtown is quite nice - it's the old Multnomah Hotel, built back in 1912). So with that in mind I can say that Entourage still rocks. Even the guest star selections are perfect (Lisa Rinna and Colleen Camp! oh, and yeah, Dennis Hopper). Of course the Transformer Stewie Griffin owns is Starscream. And The Devil Wears Prada holds up very well. Emily Blunt remains fabulous with a capital F, and on a second viewing I think I better understood all the praise Stanley Tucci received.

Posted by armand at 08:20 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

The House Vote on the Responsible Redeployment Act

Could the differences between the parties on Iraq be more stark? It passed 223-201. All but 10 Democrats voted yea (the 10 were mostly conservatives, plus Kucinich). They were joined by 4 Republicans (Duncan, Emerson, Jones and Gilchrest). That's 4 out of 201. A handful Republicans might say they want a change in policy on Iraq - but the number actually willing to work with Democrats to achieve that is even smaller.

Posted by armand at 06:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Goldstein's Take on the Democratic (Not So) Supreme Court Short List

I love little more than discussions about who'll next be appointed to the Supreme Court, so if someone as thoughtful as Tom Goldstein chooses to address the topic, I'm definitely going to link to his thoughts. After all, he picked John Roberts before most of the pundits had ever heard of john Roberts. So with that in mind, here's a detailed list that Goldstein and his colleagues have put together of likely Supreme Court nominees, if a Democrat wins the presidency.

Honestly, I disagree about the premium he puts on racial minorities, but I do agree that the next choice will be a woman, and it wouldn't surprise me if the next choice or two after that are also women. He eventually comes down to Kim McLane Wardlaw, Deval Patrick and Elena Kagan being the 3 Democratic picks to replace Souter, Stevens and Ginsburg. All those names are entirely reasonable and should be on short lists - though obviously whether or not Patrick would want to give up the governorship is questionable, as is whether a Democratic president would want to nominate someone, like Wardlaw, who is from the "controversial" 9th Circuit (though she's hardly the most liberal member of that court). Still those 3 make a lot of sense, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them as the first three picked. I'd also throw Diane Wood and Kathleen Sullivan into the mix as making the short short list. Still, Goldstein and his colleagues have done a lot of work on this and unearthed several names I'm not familiar with, so ... who knows? He's not on Goldstein's page, but perhaps even one of my favorite bloggers could make the list?

Posted by armand at 02:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Costs of the "War on Drugs"

This clock will likely have you gathering the torches and pitchforks and heading to DC and the governor's office nearest you.

Posted by armand at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2007

HRC and Logo's "Gay" Presidential Debate

Andrew Sullivan's intense dislike of the Human Rights Campaign is well established, so it's not too shocking that he would be the one to unearth the fact that the debate that the HRC is touting as historic isn't really (a similar forum was held in 2003). But while it might not be that an historic first, I don't know that it deserves the mocking that Sullivan gives it. He's annoyed with the "ghettoized" nature of it. This strikes me as really silly. It's a debate designed to address gay issues, so of course it's going to be "ghettoized" to a degree. And what Sullivan is probably really annoyed with is that there isn't any room for gay Republicans as questioners, or Republican politicians among the participants - to which I'd respond that 1) most gays vote Democratic, so unless you are going to have a large panel of questioners it probably makes sense to have Democrats asking the questions and 2) obviously the current crop of Republican presidential candidates would sooner openly dine with Satan than be at an event like this, so that's hardly the HRC's fault. Though I think it's appropriate for the press to ask why Republican candidates are uninterested in this kind of debate, or the one focused on issues in the black community that was held at Howard last month. And I also think Sullivan is a bit off base in praising having a Sam Donaldson-type asking the questions and demeaning having the gay-rights activists asking the questions. If it's a debate about issues that matter to the gay community ... well, why on Earth would you ask a Sam Donaldson or Tim Russert to moderate such a thing, as opposed to someone who's actually versed in those issues?

I think a lot of the jabs Sullivan throws out at the HRC from time to time are fair. But when it comes to how to best run a debate in which politicians address gay issues, I think he's rather off base.

Posted by armand at 12:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Justice Thomas's (Slippery) Originalism

Original meaning or original application ... or whichever one takes him to the result he wants? Jack Balkin has this post on how Justice Thomas's originalism, and how his readings of history shape his decisions.

Posted by armand at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2007

George W. Bush - Worse Than Pirates

As they say, it's funny because it's true.

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

2 Questions for the Christianists

Via Andrew Sullivan, comes this from David Boaz:

I’d like to see a pollster ask conservative Christians two questions:

1. Would you support a presidential candidate who is divorced, has estranged relations with his children, never sees his grandchildren, rarely attends church, strongly opposes a law to ban gays from teaching school, and as governor signed the nation’s most liberal abortion law?

2. Would you support him if you knew his name was Ronald Reagan?

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

Sen. Vitter (R-LA) and Prostitution

David Vitter is a liar, a hypocrite, and Rudy Giuliani's Southern regional chair. But the big picture out of Pamela Martin's revelations probably shouldn't be that a Southern Republican, "values" senator employed prostitutes (though given the workings of our naughtiness-by-celebrities oriented media that's what we'll get), it's what Yglesias and Lemieux point out - that the Republicans who do these things (again and again and again - and of course hypocritical Democrats do 'em too) never feel any call to alter the legal systems they are violating. And when it comes to our laws against prostitution, those are in great need of reform.

Posted by armand at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Video for The Heinrich Manuever

Interpol's latest video. I've got to say I like it, and I'm happy that people still find ways to do these that are original and interesting. This definitely fits those two categories better than most videos I've seen for, well, the last several years.

Posted by armand at 12:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2007

Brazil's Most Famous Statue

I think the New 7 Wonders idea was an interesting one, as was its voting procedure. But is anyone else surprised by what did and didn't make the final list? 6 of the final 7 I can see. But the Christ Redeemer statue in Brazil? It struck me that both that and the Statue of Liberty were unlikely finalists. Is there "wonder" in these large statues that I don't appreciate? They are impressive, sure - but as impressive as some of the other structures that didn't make the cut? Maybe I have some anti-statue bias or something, but I just don't see that work in the top 7.

Posted by armand at 04:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Graphing the Response to the Libby Commutation

Wow. Just wow. Talk about an unpopular act. And it does seem to open the door to calling Libby up to Capitol Hill.

Posted by armand at 02:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clinton Leads Giuliani and McCain in West Virginia

Interesting. And Obama is in dead heats with the two Republicans in the Mountaineer state. For a little perspective on these numbers, Bush beat Kerry here by about 13 points. If the Republicans are at risk in a state like that things are really grim for the GOP.

Posted by armand at 02:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Paris, Je T'aime

Greetings. I am back from Portland, so I will be back to blogging for the next few days. I don't know when Binky and Baltar will be posting again, but hopefully that'll be sooner rather than later - though it might be later, as I don't know when/where they will/won't have internet access.

I'll likely post a little note on my latest trip in a bit (touching on the ghastly US Airways and pain in the ass that is McCarran airport), but for now I'll just want to recommend Paris, Je T'Aime to you. I think Carina Chocano's review in the Los Angeles Times does a nice job of describing the film. I didn't know much about it before walking into the theater. But it really is quite engaging and for the most part quite enjoyable. The directing and acting talent assembled for these 18 shorts is extraordinary, and I really liked all the different moods and shifts in style that were represented in the project. Happily most of the weakest (relatively speaking) works are early in the film, and it ends on a rather wonderful, wistful and funny note with Alexander Payne's film starring Margo Martindale. While the pieces by the Coen brothers (starring a perfectly cast Steve Buscemi), Christopher Doyle, and Sylvain Chomet were hilarious, I probably laughed most at that last entry, which is really rather surprising given its plot and tone - and I suppose that speaks to what a gem of a short film it is. Anyway, this is not a perfect movie, but except for the Gus Van Sant piece (which is predictable a bit boring ... and why does he always name Elias McConnell Eli in his films?) and maybe that vampire number with Elijah Wood there aren't really weak parts to this, and the highs are really quite strong. So if you are in the mood to fall in love with the moods of Paris or an interesting combination of shorts by top filmmakers, I happily recommend this. I quite liked it.

Posted by armand at 12:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 05, 2007

Fred Thompson's Helpful Call to the Nixon Administration

Soooo ... the press is spilling more ink writing about the son of a non-candidate and the hair of a candidate (still?!?) than stories like this? That's all too predictable. I think Hilzoy's got it right.

Think about this for a minute. A committee conducting an investigation into serious charges learns that there is crucial evidence concerning the crimes they are investigating. A lawyer on that committee then takes it upon himself to inform the lawyer of the person being investigated of this discovery. That's crazy, and it's just plain wrong. It gives the person being investigated a chance to destroy or alter the evidence -- for instance, by erasing 18 1/2 minutes of one of the tapes.

The very best possible spin that you can put on it is that the lawyer who did this was very, very trusting, very, very dumb, and wholly unprofessional. In this case, we'd probably have to add: very ambitious, and willing to but ambition ahead of principle and professionalism. The worst interpretation, of course, is that he was participating in the obstruction of justice. In neither case, however, should he be President. Especially not now, when we need someone who will at least try to restore people's trust in the rule of law and the basic fairness of our institutions.

Posted by armand at 03:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wilner on Early Veep Choices

As you know if you read this site often I tend to think very little of The Politico. But even by their feature-heavy, random-musing-of-their-minds standards this piece by Elizabeth Wilner is pretty weak stuff. She's excited about the possibility of early Veep choices being made. Which would be fine as a political story goes - except that she doesn't talk to a single person at a single campaign about that being a possibility. Instead she's just riffing on a variety of thoughts and imagining: 1) We could see an earlier choice because the presidential candidates will be picked earlier than ever next year [yep, probably about one month earlier - if those chosen in March usually wait until summer why can't those chosen in February wait too?]; 2) This way the candidates get to control a news cycle [ummm, for no more than a few days - and wouldn't they likely want to control a news cycle closer to the election?]; 3) If the presidential candidates wait, their nominees will bump up against each other and they won't get the same bounce [uh - just how long does she think this story dominates the news?] ... and then she goes off on spending closer to half her story on how the presidential nominees might pick someone from a different party or an independent, again basing her story on no reporting whatsoever.

The Politico really is pretty damn awful. It's kind of embarrassing that the powers that be pay attention to it.

Posted by armand at 09:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 04, 2007

South Korea Loses the Winter Olympics, Again

So let's see, South Korea and Austria came in second and third in the balloting for the 2010 Winter Olympics. So who would come in second and third in the balloting for the 2014 Winter Olympics? Why South Korea and Austria, naturally. The two lost out to Russia for the right to host the 2014 games (the 2010 games will be in Canada).

Posted by armand at 09:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tanzania Is Sending Them Back

This is the kind of story that has huge international implications, but which I imagine the US media won't cover at all. I mean it's much more important that we see pics of high school bands and great big flags and are educated on the dangers setting off explosives in one's hands, right? What's te plight of a half million refugees and the stability of a volatile region of the world compared to the Boston Pops and giant cakes with red, white and blue icing?

Posted by armand at 04:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Presidential Favorables

These Rasmussen favorability ratings of all the US presidents are kind of interesting. First off, it's interesting the number of people who won't ever give an uninformed rating of some of the 19th century presidents. The "not sure" ratings of 7 presidents exceed 50% (Tyler being the most unknown at 74%). Secondly, it's interesting that if the American people think they know a president, they like him. Out of all the presidents who were rated by 90% or more of the respondents, only 2 received favorability ratings under 55% (George W. Bush at 41 and Richard Nixon at 32).

And of course I used the phrase "people think they know" because I'm convinced that a lot of these ratings are based on much more on national/historical pride and associations than facts about the presidents and their presidencies. It's startling that John "Alien & Sedition Acts" Adams and James "War of 1812" Madison have such low unfavorables, and I presume that's because most of their favorability stems from an association with one or two acts they did long before they became president.

Anyway, some national history poll numbers to ponder if you aren't going out and doing something else patriotic today.

Posted by armand at 03:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Third of July

Last night as I was busily getting tanked packing for my upcoming vacation, I was stunned to hear some boom crackle boomity booms coming from the downtown area. I should have known, given that earlier I had heard copius blowing of sirens, which can only mean parade. Yes, our town decided that July Fourth was really July Third.

At least Hoffmania still has last year's fireworks up so I can see some today. Click on the black screen to target the explosions.

Have a happy fourth, and then some. I'll be back in just over two weeks. Actually, all of us will be away for awhile on our summer vacations. We won't have forgotten the blog, but will be camping, beaching, and lazing about without internet access.

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

July 03, 2007

Better Than Your Average Covers

So since the Coup is about to splinter for a bit, how about a friendly music question on this night - the last for a bit when we'll all be in town. Last week Julian Sanchez had a post up asking his readers for their favorite covers. So tonight's question is - What are yours? I guess a key qualification here should be that the cover should be better than the original. There are a lot of covers that are quite enjoyable, but part of that might stem from them being from great or fun songs to begin with (personal favorites of mine that pop to mind in this vein include The Pixies doing Head On, Failure doing Enjoy the Silence, Iron and Wine doing Such Great Heights, and covers of various Human League songs by Stars, Future Bible Heroes, The 6ths/Lloyd Cole and The Aluminum Group). So without straining your memory too hard - what covers do you REALLY like? As for me, two favorites mentioned in Sanchez's comments are Joan Jett doing Crimson & Clover and Travis doing Hit Me Baby One More Time. I'm also really high on Rufus Wainwright's Hallelujah.

Posted by armand at 10:55 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Froomkin on Commuting the Libby Sentence

This is a typically incisive overview by Dan Froomkin of The Washington Post, which links to loads of people and organizations reacting to the president's actions.

We know, for instance, that Cheney was the first person to tell Libby about Plame's identity. We know that Cheney told Libby to leak Plame's identity to the New York Times in an attempt to discredit her husband, who had accused the administration of manipulating prewar intelligence. We know that Cheney wrote talking points that may have encouraged Libby and others to mention Plame to reporters. We know that Cheney once talked to Bush about Libby's assignment, and got permission from the president for Libby to leak hitherto classified information to the Times ...

All of this means that Bush's decision yesterday to commute Libby's prison sentence isn't just a matter of unequal justice. It is also a potentially self-serving and corrupt act ...

Bush's order grants Libby everything he needs in the short run while still keeping open the possibility of a pardon in the long run, as Bush heads out the door. And to law-and-order types, Bush's message may actually be more galling. For Bush to state he believed Libby to be innocent would at least have been defensible. Instead, what Bush is saying is that acknowledges the guilty verdict -- but, when it comes to his friends and colleagues, he just doesn't care what the justice system concluded was a fitting punishment.

He also raises some questions he thinks enterprising reporters should ask. These include:

What did Bush know and when did he know it? When did he find out that Karl Rove and Libby had both leaked Plame's identity? Before or after he vowed that any leakers would be fired? Did anyone lie to him about their role? Why didn't he fire them?

Answering these seems both necessary and appropriate, and it's really rather amazing that the White House has evaded answering them for so long.

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

Do You Think Bill Frist Is Jealous?

Of Fred Thompson I mean. They were elected to the Senate in the same year. Frist caught the eye of the powers that be almost immediately and became a prominent figure within the chamber - while Thompson remained a relatively low-energy guy who often was out on the edges of the caucus with his buddy John McCain. But now, twelve and a half years after they won their seats, Thompson is the rising star on the national stage and Frist is out of politics (at least for now).

And by the way, is there something about representing Tennessee in the Senate that automatically gets you discussed as someone who could be on a national ticket? Kefauver, the two Gores, Baker, Frist, Thompson - it seems like the Volunteer state has had an unusually high number of its senators competing for a slot on the national ticket.

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

Just Sayin': Britain's Terror Bombings

Has anyone noticed that Britain's response to the round/wave of bombings is to use the law, arrest people according to the law (technically, they can "hold" them for 28 days before arresting them or letting them go, but the law allows that), and to investigate them according to the law?

In other words, unlike the United States, Britain hasn't done anything illegal.

Just sayin'.

Posted by baltar at 09:21 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 02, 2007

Libby's Leaking of the Wilson Trip Report

While we get annoyed with the president's decision to commute Libby's sentence, we might want to keep in mind Libby's other bad deeds - so that we remember just what a corrupt piece of work this man (and the administration in which he's been such a prominent player) is. Emptywheel put up a post earlier today on Libby's leaking of the report on Joe Wilson's trip to Niger. I note this simply to remind us of the fact that the bad behavoir we keep noticing is likely not the only bad behavior that's been happening.

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

Fargin Icehole

You fargin sneaky bastage!

W slips one in on a Monday evening when people are talking about Putin's fish.

Posted by binky at 06:33 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Good George Packer Post on Iraq

George Packer (who wrote a great book on Iraq last year) also has a blog over at the New Yorker. He muses about Phil Carter (who runs Intel-Dump, a great military blog), who has served in Iraq and now feels that the continued war is almost hopeless. It's a short post, but the money quote has to be:

It's almost impossible for soldiers to accept this [that the war might be lost - ed.] psychologically while they're still in the fight, especially if the fight has been as costly as the Iraq war. While Phil Carter was in Baquba, he thought that he needed more time, more money, more equipment. He had to come home to realize that there were much larger forces preventing him from achieving his mission. Dave Kilcullen returns from Iraq this week; when I see him in a few days, I'll be embarrassed to ask these questions of someone who's just had his whole heart in the war. It's part of the tragedy and the waste: the more good people struggle and suffer, the harder it is to write it all off.

In other words, the people over there fighting have a great deal invested in winning (on a personal level), and may not be the best to judge our overall effectiveness or chance of success. This isn't to say that we discount them (they are over there, after all, and perhaps have the best information), but that we shouldn't accept their arguments as "truth" either.

In any event, the Packer post is good.

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

Astronomic "civil remedial fees"

Attention drivers... our neighbors to the southeast have come up with a bit of unpleasantness:

Starting July 1, an array of traffic offenses, from expired licenses to speeding, come with a "civil remedial fee" attached. That means a motorist convicted of reckless driving (75 mph in a 55 zone would qualify) faces not only a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail, but a non-negotiable $350-a-year tax for three years. The law forbids judges from waiving or reducing the fee.

And if you've had prior offenses, you pay higher and more fees. Zing!

Posted by binky at 11:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease

From the big Washington Post story everyone is talking about:

"You don't get any feeling of somebody crouching down in the bunker," said Irwin M. Stelzer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who was part of one group of scholars who met with Bush. "This is either extraordinary self-confidence or out of touch with reality. I can't tell you which."

Ummm, I think you just did. As as to this ... wow. Just wow.

Some aides see it as Bush refusing to accept reality. "The president thinks cutting and running on his friends shows weakness," said an exasperated senior official. "Change shows weakness. Doing what everyone knows has to be done shows weakness." Another former aide said that no matter how many people Bush consults, he heeds only two or three.

Responding to necessity? That's sooooo reality-based.

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

Good Ideas

Also from Neatorama, a simple modification to a time worn practice: water jugs that roll, so people without running water can transport more easily.

Posted by binky at 12:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Work It Make It Do It

It's a slow start, but really picks up half way through. I like to imagine that the reason some of our students aren't doing well in our classes is that they are really working up creative stuff like this instead of doing political science.


Posted by binky at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 01, 2007

"I Want to Get Down on My Knees, and Start Pleasing Jesus"

"I want to feel his salvation, all over my face ..."

That classic Cartman line repeatedly came to mind as I drove through central Pennsylvania today. That part of the state may or may not equal Alabama. It might (or might not) "just (be) this state that's in your way when you want to get somewhere else." It may or may not have paintings. But this much I do know - it loves its Christian rock.

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