September 30, 2007

An Earthquake in the College Football Polls

That was bound to happen after yesterday's string of upsets. But still ... LSU as #1? South Florida #6? Boston College #7? Kentucky #8?

South Florida is the highest ranked school in Florida, and 6th nationwide? Kentucky is ranked above Florida, Georgia, and every single SEC school other than LSU?

I think I should go back to bed, because this has to be a dream, right? Right?

Posted by armand at 02:55 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Michael Medved on the Bright Sides of Slavery

I don't post much on the mendacious lunatic ravings of Coulter, Malkin, Hewitt, etc. because they are so fully untethered from reality that there doesn't seem much point. But every so often part of that crew writes something that's so very bizarre that in demands attention (and mocking). This is especially likely to result when they try to interpret US history. With that in mind, Michael Medved has apparently decided that slavery wasn't sucha a bad thing after all. As to the particular claims, the words that come to mind are "holy shit"! It's so jaw-droppingly unhinged that I can barely believe he typed it. But then as it is him ... yeah, sure I can believe it. But still, it's frightful even by his exceedingly low standards.

Posted by armand at 02:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Crime, students and bad advice

Several weeks ago, at the beginning of the semester, there was a story about crime in the campus newspaper. Actually, there were several. One discussed the surge of crime our town experiences when the students come back, pinning the blame on alcohol unleashing fights and vandalism. Another talked about how students aren't accustomed to looking after their things, and are easy targets for property crime. Yet another mentioned what to do if you are a target for crime.

Among the comment and advice given by the university and its public safety division, there are statements like these:

1) "We want to tell people it's a safe community, but if you place yourself in a risky situation in an intoxicated state, you're making (that) job more difficult."

2) "[Public Safety] puts forth a proactive approach and offers tips and advice to students to try and teach people how not to be the victim of any incident."

Avoiding late walks alone and always traveling in pairs are just a few ways to ensure one's safety and lower the overall crime rate on campus.

3) Do not argue or attempt to fight with your assailant. Give them what they want so they can quickly leave the area.

Each time I see one of these articles with their admonishments about safety, I think about how useless and wrongheaded this advice is for young women at risk of sexual assault. Especially the last bit of "advice" irritates me, because even though it is aimed at robbery victims (i.e. your wallet isn't worth your life), following through on the logic for sexual assault is extremely dangerous. I thought of a host of reasons why, but being a busy blogger, filed it in my "to-do" research list. Lucky for me, Melissa McEwan is a better blogger, and in her response to a post about how feminists are doing nothing to help the problem of rape, she hits many of the same points::

Hardly a week goes by that I don't read an article saying the same goddamned thing, whether women are being admonished to "learn common sense" or "be more responsible" or "be aware of barroom risks" or "avoid these places" or "don't dress this way" or whatfuckingever. If Cox wants to make a serious contribution to a conversation about rape prevention, he could try writing something that answers this question: Why is it always more important to lecture women on what they should be doing to avoid rape than to talk to men about the fact that they do not have the right to women's bodies without express consent?


Cox, and all the other victim-blaming rape apologists hiding behind this "feminists aren't helping rape victims" bullshit, can talk to me about what "feminists" should or shouldn't be doing on behalf of rape victims when they've spent as much time as "feminists" have talking about women who are raped on the job and denied captivity benefit for union members for not being held hostage long enough, who are threatened with jail for not wanting to watch the video of her rape, who are threatened with jail because her case didn't result in a conviction, whose rape cases are dropped for lack of a translator, when they've spent as much time as "feminists" have talking about laws that say women can't withdraw consent after sex begins, about judges who blame children for their own rapes, about cops who are rapists, about ministers who blame their underage victims, about women's magazines that engage in preemptive victim-blaming, about the media refusing to call rapists what they are, when they've spent as much time as "feminists" talking about rape being treated as a compliment, about how women are forced to submit to all manner of absolutely hilarious rape jokes, about every last unmitigatingly infuriating detail of the rape culture in which women must walk and talk and live and breathe every fucking day and the perpetuation of which is often integral to male-exclusive bonding.

And the most powerful argument of all:

Left to my own devices, I never would have been raped. The rapist was really the key component to the whole thing. I was sober; hardly scantily clad (another phrase appearing once in the article), I was wearing sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt; I was at home; my sexual history was, literally, nonexistent-I was a virgin; I struggled; I said no. There have been times since when I have been walking home, alone, after a few drinks, wearing something that might have shown a bit of leg or cleavage, and I wasn't raped. The difference was not in what I was doing. The difference was the presence of a rapist.

Posted by binky at 01:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Don't Mind the Politics, I Mind the Lying.

It's a given that any administration has the right to use the executive branch in ways that benefit that party's supporters. That's the political "spoils system" bequeathed to us by Jackson something like 200 years ago. It's not necessarily pretty, but it works, and it makes sense: if you can win the Presidency, then you can govern according to your ideology.

My problem is when the people in the executive branch aren't honest about what they are doing. This administration seems to be the worst. We know they are Republican; we accept that. Why can't they just 'fess up to being Republican?

Take the headline to this Washington Post story: "Bush's EPA is Pursuing Fewer Polluters." This isn't a surprise, I wouldn't think, to may people who pay attention to this. Bush is a Republican, and (it turns out), a fairly right-wing one. The pro-business wing of the party doesn't like the EPA, since it interferes with their ability to make profits (you may not like this, but it is logical). I don't like it, but I accept it: Bush got elected, he can choose to strangle the EPA to the limits of his executive authority. If we (the voters) disapprove, we can vote him out (we failed), or Congress can force the executive to act.

So, then, the opening paragraph of the story isn't really anything surprising (and didn't get my blood boiling):

The Environmental Protection Agency's pursuit of criminal cases against polluters has dropped off sharply during the Bush administration, with the number of prosecutions, new investigations and total convictions all down by more than a third, according to Justice Department and EPA data.

This, as noted, is par for the course. No story here. The problem comes when Bush just ignores the law:

The slower pace of enforcement mirrors a decline in resources for pursuing environmental wrongdoing. The EPA now employs 172 investigators in its Criminal Investigation Division, below the minimum of 200 agents required by the 1990 Pollution Prosecution Act, signed by President George H.W. Bush.

The actual number of investigators available at any time is even smaller, agents said, because they sometimes are diverted to other duties, such as service on EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson's eight-person security detail.

Several points: (1) This is illegal. Bush is mandated to have 200 inspectors, and has 172. That is a violation of law, and someone should be jailed, or at least forced to resign. Bush doesn't have to make the inspectors do anything, or can executively restrict what they inspect, but he has to have 200. The brazen illegalities of this administration are stunning. (2) Why is it that we have only 200 inspectors to ensure the environmental compliance of every single business, building, and piece of land in this country? That's an average of four per state (with none left over for the non-states). Some of those states are large. This is a silly amount of people to enforce the laws. (3) Why does the head of the EPA need an eight-person security detail? How many people does it take to protect the head of an executive branch administrative unit that (just about) no one has ever heard about, and no one cares about? (4) Who is the head of the EPA being protected from, the left-wing nuts or the right-wing nuts?

I digress; the main point is that Bush is violating the law by having fewer than the mandated number of inspectors.

You would think that the EPA, when confronted with this evidence, would note that they are responding to the wants of the American People, who elected them, by giving America as much environmental inspections as they need. The Republicans run the country, would say the EPA spokesperson, and a decrease of environmental inspections is appropriate at a time of international terrorism, a war in Iraq, and a surging Federal budget. From a right-wing perspective, that would be a reasonable defense of decreased inspections. I don't like it, but it's logical. That, of course, isn't what we get:

Administration officials said they are not ignoring the environment but are focusing on major cases that secure more convictions against bigger players.

"We have been on an unprecedented run of success in the enforcement arena," said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. "These are major cases we are pursuing."

Nakayama said that, in the past three fiscal years, the EPA has cut between 890 million and 1.1 billion pounds of air pollution through enforcement, making them "three of the four highest years in the agency's history. . . . You're seeing, I think, a historic period in terms of getting pollution out of the air."

He added that he hopes to boost the number of criminal investigators and said that, over the past five years, the agency has won convictions against 95 percent of the people indicted for environmental crimes.

I'll discuss the multitude of outright lies and obfuscations in a moment, but notice the (Republican) EPA's general response: There is no decline in enforcement. Rather than just 'fess up to doing what everyone expects Republicans to do (enforce less), they are going to deny that they are enforcing the environmental laws any less rigorously than previous EPAs. The denial of reality necessary to make that work is stunning.

On to the obfuscations. First, note the assumption that a smaller number of prosecutions of larger "players" is somehow more enforcement than more prosecutions of players across the spectrum. This is asserted without evidence. Note, also, that this isn't a prosecution of larger polluters, but of larger players. I have no idea what "players" are in polluting circles, but just the fact that more "players" are being prosecuted doesn't (logically) lead to less overall pollution (or, logically, to greater enforcement).

Second, note the complete non-sequiter when the numbers of pollution reduced is thrown around: "We've cut about a billion pounds of air pollution from the air through enforcement" (I'm paraphrasing). This may be true (or may not; I believe nothing anyone in this administration says), but is irrelevant to how many people they have caught for breaking the law. The law (Clean Air Act, I assume) specifies how industry is supposed to govern their air, and which (and how much) of the chemicals they are supposed to take out. The law governs how many pounds of pollutants would be taken out (if everyone followed the law); given that the US economy is growing ever larger, I would think it logical to believe that ever more pounds of pollutants are being removed every year. This has nothing to do with enforcement of the law. The could be (and are, according to the story) enforcing less, but since there are more factories and more potential pollution, the amount taken out will continue to grow even while enforcement actions allow greater and greater amounts of pollution into the air. Thus, the EPA spokesidiot is using a bunch of irrelevant numbers to try to convince you that they are enforcing more, when in fact they are enforcing less. He hasn't lied, he's just depending on the stupidity of Americans to not notice that he isn't answering the question.

(Oh, and point Two-And-A-Half: the EPA is supposed to deal with the air, water, land, and anything else that might get polluted. I'm delighted they've gotten about a billion pounds of pollution out of the air; how's the water? The land? How about all the other things that can be polluted?)

Third, a conviction rate of 95% means nothing. The issue is how many polluters (technically, I guess, "potential polluters" is more accurate) they are prosecuting. Sure, it's nice if they have a good conviction rate, but the key issue is how many they are prosecuting for actually polluting, not how many they convict of polluting. Or, if you prefer the explanation another way, if they only prosecute 20 cases, and win 19, they have a 95% conviction rate. So what? How many did they prosecute? That's the key. Notice that the EPA spokesmoron (who previously noted that, compared to previous years, the EPA is doing great - the "pounds of pollution from the air" argument) doesn't make any reference to previous years conviction rates. How did Clinton do? How did George HW Bush do? Personally, I'd rather have a 90% conviction rate on 500 prosecutions than a 95% conviction rate on a hundred prosecutions. I have no idea whether Bush's EPA would look good with a genuine comparison to previous administrations, but does anyone want to make any guesses as to whether they've been better at catching polluters?

Let's check back in with the story and see if the lies have ceased:

Administration officials acknowledge taking a new approach to environmental enforcement by seeking more settlements and plea bargains that require pollution reductions through new equipment purchases or participation in EPA compliance programs.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department secured $13 billion in such corrective measures from polluters in 2005-06, up from about $4 billion in the final two years of the Clinton administration.

Nope. They lying seems to continue. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but this seems like a load of horseshit to me. Bush's "new approach" seems to involve finding polluters and then (rather than prosecuting them), using the threat of judicial prosecution to get the polluter to install equipment necessary to avoid polluting. In other words, the polluters break the law, and if they are caught, they have to install the equipment they would have had to install if they were going to avoid polluting in the first place (and then, they pay no penalty for the actual polluting). The logic of this escapes me. If I were a business, the logical thing to do is to avoid paying to install the pollution-control devices: if I'm not caught, I save money; if I'm caught, all that happens is that I pay to install stuff the law requires. What's my incentive (other than having some morals) to installing the pollution-control device before I'm caught? This is stupid.

The article next notes that prosecutions, penalties, and jail-time by Federal (Justice Department) cases are at an all-time high (as is the number of lawyers assigned to that part of the Justice department). Good news, right? Well, no:

But environmental prosecutions by U.S. attorneys' offices have sharply dropped as prosecutors facing new pressures on issues such as terrorism and immigration take away resources for environmental prosecutions and try to divert cases to the main Justice Department, EPA agents said.

In other words, environmental prosecutions can come from Justice (in DC) or from each of the US Attorneys around the country. While prosecutions in DC are up, prosecutions by local US Attorneys are down. (Insert your own frowny-face emoticon here.)

Of course, the US Attorneys can only bring cases when investigators (you remember, the EPA has 172 164 (eight are protecting the head of the EPA) out of 200 authorized of them) bring them evidence of a crime. I wonder how the investigators are doing at that?

Prosecutors counter that the EPA has fewer agents and is bringing them fewer cases. "We're not turning away environmental crimes in order to prosecute other crimes. They are just not being presented in the first case," said Don DeGabrielle, the U.S. attorney in Houston.

EPA memos show that investigators also have encountered new obstacles to their long-standing practice of directly referring cases to federal or state prosecutors. A new policy distributed May 25 requires agents to seek prior approval from the head of their division and establishes new paperwork procedures. This has slowed agents' ability to make referrals, congressional investigators said.

Nakayama said he was not "personally familiar" with the new policy and would look into it.

Gee; what a shock. The EPA investigators aren't bringing evidence of crimes to the local US Attorneys because someone in DC has thrown up bureaucratic obstacles. What's the emoticon for angry? Oh, and the EPA spokesretard somehow hasn't heard of this policy. What's the emoticon for drawing and quartering?

Look, as I said before, since the Republican's are running the show, none of this surprises me. I'm annoyed that Bush's EPA is breaking the law (172 agents instead of 200; lots of security for an EPA head no one wants to shoot), but the other stuff (declining prosecutions, declining fines, fewer convictions, etc.) is not news.

What continues to piss me off is how this Administration, when confronted with actual facts, can continue to insist that everything is all right, and in fact everything is better than ever. Black is white. Shit is gold. Iraq is improving. The economy has never been better. The surge is working. al-Qaeda is on the run. Harriet Myers is the most qualified individual ever to be nominated. Alito is the most moderate justice ever to serve.

They are simply lying. And they know they are lying. And they pay no price.

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

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle

Okay, so I could probably watch Jennifer Jason Leigh run errands for 2 hours and still enjoy watching her, and it's always fun to see a giant cast full of familiar faces, but this 1990's film about Mrs. Parker and the Algonquin Round Table really wasn't all that interesting. I mean it's not that the acting or art direction or photography or script is bad. It was just kind of one-note and depressing, and everything you were going to learn you did in the first half hour or so. As witty as they were, a lot of the people featured in the film (at least Mrs. Parker) had rather less than pleasant lives. And so little ever really changed in her life (apparently) that halfway through I was wishing the story was centered on Harold Ross, George S. Kaufman, Jane Grant or Ruth Hale.

Posted by armand at 11:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mitt Romney Making Big Money From Iranian Investments

So I don't know the details behind this, but it's one effective ad - and the last line is hilarious given what comes before.

Posted by armand at 10:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2007

The Senate Votes in Favor of the Biden Plan

By a big, big margin. So what if that's not what the Iraqi people want, it's what the US Senate (which showed such great wisdom in helping get us in this mess in the first place) wants - and that's what matters, right? Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was the only Democrat voting against it (though thankfully Sen. Obama had the good sense to say he'd have voted against it if he'd been in the Senate that day).

UPDATE: I'm bumping this up because of this nice, concise take-down of this idiocy by Marc Lynch. If you are really interested in this be sure to click on the links at the bottom of the post to understand just how bad an idea this is in even more detail - and the jaw-dropping support it nonetheless has across the US political spectrum.

Posted by armand at 04:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happy Birthday Morris

Just posting this to extend my birthday wishes to one of our favorite readers. Happy birthday Mars.

Posted by armand at 02:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Night Climbers

On the one hand this sounds like just my sort of thing.

Ah, the Oxbridge college. The plink of croquet balls, the twist of black ties, the splash of the Cam over your punt pole. Some might wish that world had passed into distant memory. One look at that Bullingdon Club photo of Cameron, Johnson et al, reminds you that they're still alive and inbreeding.

Ivo Stourton's debut is for readers of a tweedy sensibility. Loved The Line of Beauty, mooned over Brideshead, lapped up The Secret History? Then this one's for you. James, a thirtysomething, Hoxton-dwelling city lawyer with a shelf-full of porn and a little black book filled with escort agency numbers, receives an unexpected visit from Jessica, an old university chum. Over the course of one night's reminiscences, we hear the story of his undergraduate years and how, as a fresher at Tudor College, he was enchanted by his social superiors. One climbs in through the window of his rooms, evading the porters on a midnight scramble over the college rooftops. In no time at all, James has inveigled himself into the milieu of weekend hunt balls, secret dining societies and coke-fuelled daredevil stunts.

On the other hand, do we need another version of The Secret History?

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

September 28, 2007

Prime Minister Maliki - Biden's Iraq Plan Is a Catastrophe

If the senior senator from Delaware's campaign wasn't such a sad and pointless affair (which means it really doesn't merit attack ads), opponents could have a lot of fun with this. Biden's presumptuousness (something sadly backed by most senators, though thankfully not Obama) really is something to behold.

Posted by armand at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 27, 2007

Jeffrey Rosen on Justice Stevens

I don't tend to be a fan of Jeffrey Rosen. His raging moderate stances and Very Serious Person persona are rather tedious and rarely enlightening. But if you haven't read it yet, his profile of Justice Stevens that was in the New York Time Magazine last weekend is actually quite good. Nice coverage of the changing politics of the Court, and lots of insights into life and approach of the senior justice. I both learned some things, and was entertained.

Posted by armand at 09:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tim Russert Was Moderating a Democratic Debate?

Uh - why? Who selected Darth Cheney's go-to Sunday morning bloviator for that assignment? And while I'm sure the competition is tough, this might very well have been the most ridiculous question yet asked in the debates. Bigoted much, Tim? And what exactly does that have to do with serving as president?

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

Read your own air travel dossier

Directions here.

Posted by binky at 06:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Anthony Lane on The Kingdom

I'd been looking forward to The Kingdom. It had a pretty decent action trailer, and it's got an appealing cast. But after reading Anthony Lane's review my interest has cooled considerably.

If Frank Capra had ever made a Rambo movie, it would have looked like this.

Did I say cooled? Completely collapsed is more like it. Ah well, 3:10 to Yuma is still out, La Vie En Rose (featuring all but certain Best Actress nominee Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf) opens here tomorrow, and I'm up for seeing Hairspray again.

Posted by armand at 05:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Keep American From Voting Act of 2002

In the mail today I received a notice that my "voter registration will be marked as inactive and cancelled" if I don't send in an enclosed postcard with my name, address, phone, date of birth and driver's license number.

Identity theft anyone?

The card says:

PLEASE REPLY NOW! You have received this notice because our office has been unable to confirm the identification provided when your voter registration card was submitted. In order to complete and ensure accurate voter registration rolls, identification confirmation must be complete in accordance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002. If you do not complete and return this card your voter registration will be marked as inactive and cancelled in accordance with West Virginia Code 3-2-25.

Hmm, 3-2-25, which one would that be... oh! that's right! Systematic purging program for removal of ineligible voters.

Imagine my surprise to read that not only might I be considered ineligible, but that they have been "unable to confirm" my identification. First, because the code specifies checking those who have moved. Second, it says that those who haven't moved, but haven't voted, will also be checked.

Surprising because I always vote. I think I have missed one bond issue because I was at the beach on vacation three years ago, but otherwise I have voted every damn time I have had the opportunity. I live a half block from my precinct and even if I forgot there was an election that day, when I walk outside to let the dogs pee I can see the damn thing from my house and there are always the "no electioneering" signs in plain view, which reminds me. I also find it surprising because the local officials always ask to see picture ID (I know, I know). One time my record was flagged to have picture ID required (and I could not get an answer as to why) and one of the poll workers was one of my students who testified, "I know her! That's Dr. Binky!" but I still had to go back home and get my ID.

Not least, is that I am surprised that they have been "unable to confirm" my identification. No one has called, mailed, sent a telegram, a fax, or a smoke signal until this notification. It's also interesting because I have only ever had one address, one drivers license, and one phone number the entire time I have lived in this state. My car has been registered and renewed at the same address. I even buy frigging dog tags from the the city and county every year. No moves, no changes. Nadita. Nao, nao tem nada nao nunca nao!

Trying real hard to confirm, yes indeedy.

So, having become irate before getting to the end of the instruction paragraph, when I realized they want me to send all this personal information on a frigging postcard for all to see, otherwise I will be disallowed from voting, I started getting really indignant. And with my fancy graduate education in politics and my comfortable wireless-affording income and handy cordless phone, I decided I would call up the Secretary of State and ask just what the heck was going on.

The woman who answered the phone sighed loudly as soon as I said "got a notice about my voter registration." Her response? "They've really been on us about compliance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002, and we have to collect this information." It didn't sound like they really knew why it was being collected, just that it had to be done, and soon. And before I could get to the next question on the tip of my tongue, about did I really have to send in all my personal private information on a postcard, she said, "...and please, don't send that postcard in without putting it in an envelope. I don't know why they did that."

You and me both, lady. You and me both.

So now if I want to vote I have to pay to mail a first class envelope enclosing the post card with my drivers license number which will be used to confirm that I exist. I have the time, the money, and the capacity to do these things. Plus, you know, I drive, so I exist.

I couldn't get a good answer out of the phone flunkie, but I'm thinking about trying to go up the food chain to get a real answer about why my registration (and I don't know if Baltar or Armand - who have lived here fewer years than me - have received this notice) was selected for potential invalidation.

FYI, the HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT OF 2002, relevant section of text after the jump.

(2) Computerized list maintenance.--

(A) In general.--The appropriate State or local election official shall perform list maintenance with respect to the computerized list on a regular basis as follows:

(i) If an individual is to be removed from the computerized list, such individual shall be removed in accordance with the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq.), including subsections (a)(4), (c)(2), (d), and (e) of section 8 of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1973gg-6).

(ii) For purposes of removing names of ineligible voters from the official list of eligible voters--

(I) under section 8(a)(3)(B) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1973gg-6(a)(3)(B)), the State shall coordinate the computerized list with State agency records on felony status; and

(II) by reason of the death of the registrant under section 8(a)(4)(A) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1973gg-6(a)(4)(A)), the State shall coordinate the computerized list with State agency records on death.

(iii) Notwithstanding the preceding provisions of this subparagraph, if a State is described in section 4(b) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg-2(b)), that State shall remove the names of ineligible voters from the computerized list in accordance with State law.

(B) Conduct.--The list maintenance performed under subparagraph (A) shall be conducted in a manner that ensures that--

(i) the name of each registered voter appears in the computerized list;

(ii) only voters who are not registered or who are not eligible to vote are removed from the computerized list; and

(iii) duplicate names are eliminated from the computerized list.

(3) Technological security of computerized list.--The appropriate State or local official shall provide adequate technological security measures to prevent the unauthorized access to the computerized list established under this section.

(4) Minimum standard for accuracy of state voter registration records.--The State election system shall include provisions to ensure that voter registration records in the State are accurate and are updated regularly, including the following:

(A) A system of file maintenance that makes a reasonable effort to remove registrants who are ineligible to vote from the official list of eligible voters. Under such system, consistent with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq.), registrants who have not responded to a notice and who have not voted in 2 consecutive general elections for Federal office shall be removed from the official list of eligible voters, except that no registrant may be removed solely by reason of a failure to vote.

(B) Safeguards to ensure that eligible voters are not removed in error from the official list of eligible voters.

(5) Verification of voter registration information.--

(A) Requiring provision of certain information by applicants.--

(i) In general.--Except as provided in clause (ii), notwithstanding any other provision of law, an application for voter registration for an election for Federal office may not be accepted or processed by a State unless the application includes--

(I) in the case of an applicant who has been issued a current and valid driver's license, the applicant's driver's license number; or

(II) in the case of any other applicant (other than an applicant to whom clause (ii) applies), the last 4 digits of the applicant's social security number.

Posted by binky at 12:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Smiley Face: Faris + Araki + Festival Success, But ...

First Look isn't going to give it a theatrical release? Damn, damn, damn. Tough break for the (considerable) talents involved, and those of us who like laughing at the big screen.

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

September 26, 2007

Another Question ...

Since it's a presidential debate night: If Bush could run for reelection, would he? And if he was going to, would he be handling SCHIP differently?

Posted by armand at 10:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The question...

...that this brings to my mind is, if a person used a taser to attack another person, say, a police officer, with what crime would that attacker be charged?

So, it's a "firearm" when pointed at a police officer, but the other way around is "a good, nonlethal weapon." Uh-huh.

Posted by binky at 10:39 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Big Freakin' Hail

Really cool! Marble sized, all over the yard. This rarely happens up here. And rain! It came hard and fast, but we need it.

I'll still be excited in the morning if there is no damage either to vehicles or arugula.

Posted by binky at 10:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Did 76 US Senators Just Vote to Go to War With Iran?

Josh Marshall thinks that more or less what happened yesterday. Among those voting "yea" on Kyl-Lieberman were Hillary Clinton, and 3 of our 4 regional senators (Rockefeller, Casey and Specter).

UPDATE: Apparently most of the worst language in the amendment was removed before the vote. Follow Talking Points Memo for the details.

Posted by armand at 01:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Secretary Rice: Zarqawi = U.S. Grant & Robt. E. Lee

Oh my. Stop her before she analogizes again. No wonder the Sunday talk shows don't want her on to share this lunacy with the world.

Posted by armand at 01:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

So That's Where Obama's Money Is Going

Iowa. Good strategy, I think. An Obama win there would likely be a fatal blow to the Edwards campaign and produce a huge momentum swing going into New Hampshire.

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

Bill Clinton - The Most Fiscally Responsible of Modern Presidents

Interesting numbers. Not that surprising, but interesting.

Posted by armand at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Defense of the LaSalle Parish DA (Supported by a Black Person!)

This is just sort of sad.

I cannot overemphasize how abhorrent and stupid I find the placing of the nooses on the schoolyard tree in late August 2006. If those who committed that act considered it a prank, their sense of humor is seriously distorted. It was mean-spirited and deserves the condemnation of all decent people.

But it broke no law. I searched the Louisiana criminal code for a crime that I could prosecute. There is none.

Similarly, the United States attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, who is African-American, found no federal law against what was done.

I find the second paragraph very hard to believe . And I find the fact that Walters thought writing that the third paragraph was a good idea hard to believe. Though given the way all this has gone down ... maybe not so hard to believe.

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

Episocopals Give In to Their Right-Wing Minority

No more gay bishops. Any thoughts on why the Episcopal church is trying to keep its rebels inside its walls - whereas under John Paul II and Benedict XVI Roman Catholic Church leaders sharply curtailed the activities of those within it whose views diverted much from the views of the church's leaders?

Posted by armand at 08:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 24, 2007


So in anticipation of Eastern Promises (which I can't wait to see) I made this 1999 thriller my latest Netflix rental. And I'm happy to say that it was and is my favorite David Cronenberg movie - and by a large margin. I realize that's not a widely held view, but there it is. And how great is Jennifer Jason Leigh?

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

This isn't on the college entrance exam!

The title is, To my teacher, with affection:

Yeah, I know I've been slacking on the blogging, but I still have time to read Neatorama.

Posted by binky at 09:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kos Endorses Mark Pera

Well how about that. Kos has two posts up this evening endorsing Mark Pera's primary challenge to Rep. Dan Lipinski. I think it's great that Pera's getting this level of attention. Lipinski is an embarrassingly bad congressman and the fact that he's holding a firmly Democratic seat he "won" throw shameful means is just awful. He needs to be sent packing. Though as Kos notes, the Lipinski/Chicago machine is working hard to keep him in place - so the more attention Pera gets, the better.

Posted by armand at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abortion - Not Just Murder, It's Child Sacrifice!

There is an, mmmmmmmmm let's go with "impassioned", letter in today's campus paper stating that people who have abortions are not merely committing murder - they are sacrificing babies to the god Molech. Errrr, right.

Posted by armand at 01:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sen. David Vitter (R - LA, Whore-Land) Wants to Spend Your Money on Creationism

So does this smell of bribing the Christianists to look the other way on his whorin' by sending big buckets full of taxpayers' dollars to them, or is it just me?

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., earmarked $100,000 in a spending bill for a Louisiana Christian group that has challenged the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public school system and to which he has political ties. The money is included in the labor, health and education financing bill for fiscal 2008 and specifies payment to the Louisiana Family Forum "to develop a plan to promote better science education."

"Better science education" - riiiiight.

Posted by armand at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

About Those Nuclear-Armed Missiles Flown to Barksdale AFB ...

Larry Johnson has post (basically crying "bullshit) about the DoD's latest explanation for this supposed mishap. But what's probably even more interesting is the comment he's posted at the end of his piece. Who leaked that this happened - and more importantly, what was the intended audience of this leak?

Whoopsie! Let's all (and especially the Air Force) be happy that bomber didn't crash.

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

September 22, 2007

Syracuse Over Louisville!?!

Okay, West Virginia's overwhelming win today has got to be good for the Mountaineers. But the fact that the #2 team in the conference (Louisville) has been far behind the Orange Little Sisters of the Poor for much of the afternoon, and seems likely to lose to them ... can't think that'll be good for us in ratings that take into account the quality of our competition.

Posted by armand at 03:08 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 21, 2007

Lynching Fans in Central Louisiana

Threatening racism near Jena, Louisiana? Who would have ever expected that?

Posted by armand at 11:44 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Southland Tales Trailer

Okay it doesn't come out until November, and I've no clue what it's about. But hey, it's the follow-up to Donnie Darko and the trailer is just ... wow. I don't know what the hell it is, but it's interesting - and I'll be there in November.

Posted by armand at 11:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Smacking NPR With "Childish"

Sweet. In a truly pointless interview on NPR, the French foreign minister just called the interviewer's question about "the French" not liking "the Americans" childish (making ridiculously broad assertions about millions of people, and containing no room at all for any subtlety). I so wish more politicians would call out media questions for being stupid (when they are). It would seem a helpful route to improving public debates.

UPDATE: Okay, well the piece they are now running (by Andrea Bernstein) on Giuliani's gun control record - which is heavily Giuliani quotations - is really rather good. Will be interesting to hear how the NRA responds to him.

Posted by armand at 08:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2007


For real.

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

The Craven and Ass-Covering Senators From Maine

So who do you think looks worse in this story, Senator Collins or Senator Snowe? I'd say they both look pretty damn pathetic.

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

Why Only Vote on the MoveOn Petreaus Ad?

Okay first I should state that I am embarrassed beyond words for the country, and rather appalled at the Democrats who you'd think control the Senate floor, that today the US Senate took time to consider the great matter of political importance (ha, as if) that was that MoveOn ad in the New York Times. Whoever brought this up as a matter demanding the Senate's attention while US troops are dying, the country is going broke, and children lack health care, should wear a mark of shame for the rest of their political lives.

That said, if the Senate is going to behave so ridiculously (and ridiculous seems the perfect word), why on Earth didn't Harry Reid also force senators to vote on a resolution decrying the Swift Boats Veterans for Truth ads? I mean if we are going to get into a silly slapping fight over political ads, you'd think the Democrats would've insisted a right-wing ad be decried as well.

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

Bush Mocks the Intelligent (and Revels in the Reign of the Dim) Again

I know I've posted on this before, but I don't have time to find the link. Anyway, he did it again today. President Insecurity Complex put Secretary Rice in her place - she might be smart, and he might not be, but he's president. In short, dude's got issues. And he's kind of mean.

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

Cass Sunstein on the Supreme Court's Lurch to the Right

His point - what was once the center is now the left, and a right-wing that barely existed in 1980 now dominates the highest court in the land. Beyond that, it's the right that's driving the court intellectually. Predictably, this displeases him.

Posted by armand at 12:46 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 19, 2007

The Valet

Since I missed seeing it at the Warner, I watched this French comedy tonight. Silly. Funny. Sweet. If you are looking for something with a good heart that'll make you laugh, this might well do the trick.

Posted by armand at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Senate Republicans - Standing Tall Against Representative Government

So they want to still lots of American blood and treasure exporting democracy to Iraq, but are mostly standing firmly against representative government for hundreds of thousands of Americans.

And what's with Robert C. Byrd voting present?

Posted by armand at 03:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Car Bomb in Lebanon

And yet again an anti-Syrian lawmaker appears to have been the target. He was killed, as were several others.

Posted by armand at 02:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Drum on Obama on Taxes

Kevin's not impressed. And I agree with him that points 2 and 3 aren't good ideas (though I like points 1 and 4).


As to Drum's general point, I'm not sure what to make of it. It's fine and dandy to say you want more "change" espoused from Obama - but without giving examples of what it is that he would want said, I have a bit of trouble with the criticism. To me this is a 2 person race and be it on Iraq, or Cuba, or dealing with the rogue states, or the privileges of the powers that be in DC (to name just a few topics) Obama is more of a "change" candidate than Clinton. And it seems to me that's the relevant standard (how who's actually running compare). Are there areas in which I which he was pulling for more "change"? Of course. But none of us get to run our perfect candidates b/c they tend to not exist.

Posted by armand at 01:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Walk the plank!

It's talk like a pirate day!

Posted by binky at 12:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hillary Clinton and Jerusalem

Yglesias think's she's either a beholden, inept hack, or a beholden, would-be cunning liar. Hmmm - which should we be pulling for?

UPDATE: This isn't a new position for Sen. Clinton, and according to Garance stems from the fact that she's a senator from New York.

Posted by armand at 09:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Weird Dreams

I don't know if it's more of a reflection of what I'm reading, what I'm eating, or how I'm sleeping, but last night I had a dream that Britney Spears moved into the neighborhood, and I called my two-doors-down neighbor Norbizness to tell him that I could see, from my kitchen window, a paparazzo hiding in his back yard.

[head shake]

Posted by binky at 07:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2007

Will the SEIU Back Edwards?

One of the most coveted labor endorsements will be announced soon (presuming the group chooses to make one). As Marc Ambinder explains here, if Obama were to get any big labor endorsement it would be this one. But most are betting they'll endorse Edwards. Is it just me, or doesn't that become a win for the Clinton campaign? Do you really think this is still a 3 person race - because I don't see how Edwards wins the nomination at this point, and anything that helps him seems to me to be splitting the anti-Clinton vote.

Posted by armand at 09:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean Fisher Can't Retire Soon Enough - Or Water Water, not Everywhere

The cover of the DA is today emblazoned with the kind of story that'll get our law school mocked throughout the country. The building is being remodeled/redecorated, and the new rule is you can't take any drink into the redone classrooms - including water. This is stupid, hazardous to health, and really ... who the hell is going to enforce such nonsense? Oh, but it gets better. There are exceptions - at least in the library. There you can't take a bottle of water - but you can take a thermos (filled with coffee or sticky soft drinks or whatever) emblazoned with a logo that the school's made some money on. WVU or Westlaw or whatever. I hope the current dean rescinds this immediately (and so brave he is, leaving the associate dean to defend this inane policy), and if not that his successor changes it. I mean what a great way to make students succeed in law school - deny them hydration!

In other local news, there's another sandwich shop downtown. Great. That makes what 87? 88? And yet we still lack a diner, a donut shop, and a place to get pancakes? Local entrepeneurs are lame (and missing a goldmine or two).

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

September 17, 2007

Best. Movie. Line. Ever.

Andrew Sullivan's quiz is up, if you want to go vote. There are five parts. And from the early voting it doesn't look like any of my favorites have a chance of winning.

Posted by armand at 09:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bill Richardson - More Gaffe-Prone Than ... Everyone?

Please drop out of the race governor. I feel more embarrassed for you every week that goes by.

Posted by armand at 05:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Should Students Hire Presidents and Law School Deans?

So the hiring committee for our new law school dean was announced last week. It features one law student. The committee that hired our new university president earlier this year included two students. I'm just throwing this out there and haven't thought much about the topic - but is this really appropriate? Are students in the best position to know what makes a good president or dean? Are they going to be as affected by the choice as faculty, staff or involved alumni? Are they more likely to bend to the whims of other committee members (perhaps those whose patronage could be quite useful to them in the future)? Thoughts?

Posted by armand at 10:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 16, 2007

51 Points By the Browns

Okay, another post on a subject no one cares about, but for hours now I've been unable to get my head around today's Bengals-Browns game. Last week the Browns shipped their starting quarterback off to the West coast in a trade. Today his replacement, Derek Anderson (go Oregon State!), threw 5 touchdowns. A Browns quarterback threw 5 touchdowns. A guy who'd been the starter for a few days threw 5 touchdowns. A guy who'd been the starter for the Cleveland Browns for a few days threw 5 touchdowns ... no, in my head it just won't add up. But congratulations to Anderson and the Browns though.

Even if it's hard to comprehend, it was still quite the game though, if you like offense. It was the first game since the 1960s - yes, the 1960s - when two quarterbacks in a game both threw for 5 or more touchdowns (Bengals QB Carson Palmer threw 6), and Browns RB Jamal Lewis rushed for 215 yards.

Posted by armand at 11:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The 2007 Emmys

I presume no one gives a damn who wins the little gold statues. But what about the clothes? Or embarrassing dates? Or embarrassing comments? Want to share your thoughts on any of that? If so, comment below. For what it's worth I have the following to say after looking at some red carpet shots. Older and kind of older actresses are the lookers at this thing. In terms of the dresses, the hair and make-up and the altogether "look", the women who look good tonight are (to my eyes) Glenn Close, Helen Mirren, Sally Field, Teri Hatcher (or at least she looks best out of the DHW gals) and Julia Louis Dreyfus. In terms of the ingenues, the only one who I've seen a picture of that I think looks really nice (or at least as good as the ladies mentioned above) is Kristen Bell.

Oh, and it looks like Fox censored part of Sally Fields' acceptance speech - but I can't figure out what that was all about at the moment. I presume it'll be in tomorrow's tv columns though.

Ah, okay, I think it was something along the lines of "let's stop this goddamned war". Yes, we can't say that during the Emmys, can we? After all, it would cut into their time to make 46 jokes about Hayden Panettiere being jailbait.

Posted by armand at 10:47 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Summer into Fall

Not that I had anything else to do this afternoon, but I sat out in the glorious sunshine under blue skies and crocheted a sweater for my dog.

Posted by binky at 05:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wesley Clark Endorses Hillary Clinton

While not surprising, this could help Clinton a good deal with the "netroots" activists, with whom she is rather famously unpopular.

Of course it could also help Clark get additional consideration when she is choosing who to name as her running mate (presuming she wins the nomination). She could do a lot worse (both substantively and politically) than choose Clark. Off the top of my head I'd say only Bob Graham beats him in terms of providing the total package when it comes to what someone wants in a running mate. Though if I was betting money on it I'd still consider former Iowa governor the favorite for that selection (though by no means a heavy favorite).

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


While we here know about "mountain top removal" (ah, the euphimism), seeing it is something else entirely. I found this set of videos via Dark Daughta. Episode One, Mountain Top Removal:

All of the episodes here (in the right hand column).

Posted by binky at 01:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Is Japan's Foreign Policy Turning?

I'm no expert on the leaders of the LDP, but it's interesting how quickly the press and analysis has turned regarding Prime Minister Abe's successor. In a few days it's gone from Aso being a sure thing, to it likely being Fukuda. If it is Fukuda, there may be changes. The BBC describes him as much more "conciliatory" toward China and North Korea than Abe and Aso are.

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

September 15, 2007


"The way you get to Carnegie Hall is to practice, practice practice!"

Leslie Feist said this to the crowd, in Pittsburgh's Carnegie Hall, as she began to lead us in singing three part harmony in accompaniment. Clearly, though, she and her merry band of multiinstrumentalists have done their time in the woodshed.

Like her studio work, the live show brought in a little of everything to the sound, without sounding deliberate, derivative, or inorganic. They were both loose and polished, in the best way bands can sound when they both know their shit and have fun playing it. I kept trying to pin down the "that reminds me of..." feeling, but it never stuck in just one place. Slick and cool like old Joe Jackson here, something very bossa nova there, a little Margo Timmons (but not too much), and even some sticky-floor club. Ultimately I left thinking that Feist reminds me a lot of Marisa Monte, my favorite Brazilian vocalist, with a rich and bell-like voice, which can take on a slight smokiness and that moves across genres from jazz to samba to pop to indie rock. Feist's voice was amazing, just as supple and light as can be, but with just the teeniest rough edge of real.

In addition to turning the crowd into the Pittsburgh Tabernacle Choir, Feist also transformed us into a forest full of birds (and one smart ass, eh, chicken or something). She used vocal looping to sing with a chorus of herself, harmony, melody and chorus. She even turned Sea Lion Woman into a rocker, something that would not have occurred to me listening to more traditional recordings (track 18).

I can't not write about the "nice" thing either. One does not have to be Canadian to be unassuming, polite, and good-humored. However Feist and the band just radiated niceness. Some poor guy in the front row fell asleep (which, in an unairconditioned, closely packed, opera theater, sit-down show, was not completely out of the realm of the possible), and a few people in the balcony yelled at Feist to wake him up. With kindness in her voice, she hushed them, and said that maybe he's not getting "the good sleep" at home, and offered that since she sings lullabyes, it's no wonder people get relaxed, and that maybe the band should offer pillows too. A few songs later, the keyboard player came out with a cup of coffee, got down off the stage and gave it to the sleepy man, commenting that he didn't realize exams had already started, and later on said that it was a "endless cup" with plenty of free refills. Easily this banter could have been sarcastic, and "laughing at" rather than "laughing with," but the mood was intimate, familiar and sweet, right down to when Feist introduced the guitar tech, her "little brother."

It's been ages since I've been to a sit-down show with assigned seats. And it was kind of odd to be in a cushy-seated palace, surrounded by skinny hipsters* in skinny jeans, leggings, and artfully "mussed" hair, for a rock show. I won't say the show was like floating on a fluffy cloud, but it was a great, mostly downtempo show, that left me feeling warm and happy all the way home.

Update: Boosted from comments, Moon found a clip of Secret Heart from the show.

*Aside from the very large, sweaty, alcohol-smelling man sitting next to me - who at one point I thought was masturbating vigorously until I figured out he was merely suffering from a very unfortunate itch and then later had his hand down the back of his pants for most of the standing encore ...

Posted by binky at 05:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Same Bunny Risks

One of the many anagrams of Binky Rasmussen.


Posted by binky at 05:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Can Another Southern Conference Team Top a Big 10 Power?

The Citadel is tied with Wisconsin at halftime, 21-21. If they upset the Badgers ... wow. On top of the Michigan upset that would have to make this the Southern Conference's best year. But hey, there are 30 more minutes to play so I shouldn't get ahead of the game.

Posted by armand at 01:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2007

Top Seven 80's Soundtrack Songs

This is a fun post. And of course Don't You Forget About Me has to be on it, and I love the inclusion of the Lauper song from The Goonies - but any such list of seven that doesn't include OMD's If You Leave isn't to be taken seriously.

And personally I would have thought that Let's Hear It For the Boy would've been the direction one would go with if you were picking a song from Footloose (and not going in the Bonnie Tyler direction), but I guess the title track is iconic enough to be chosen instead. Maybe.

Posted by armand at 04:10 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A Smaller (but Bigger) Navy & What's Up in Syria?

A post for Baltar (and others who may be interested), or rather two posts from Information Dissemination, in case you might be interested in them. First Congress has canceled the fourth Littoral Combat Ship, and more and more it's looking like we're going have a smaller surface fleet composed of larger ships. And what the just what the heck was Israel bombing in Syria? And is the operation still going on? Possibly.

Posted by armand at 09:42 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 13, 2007

Dershowitz, Zbig and Obama

I'm going to lift an Yglesias post in full because it's so right on the nose (and no, that's not a shot at big noses or whatever).

Since there is no Israel lobby, and if there is one it's not influential at all, then obviously these attacks on Zbigniew Brzezinski couldn't possibly be politically damaging, and therefore Barack Obama must be distancing himself from Brzezinski's views on the matter for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the political clout of this non-existent lobby. Obviously, anyone who says otherwise is an anti-semite.
Posted by armand at 04:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Lives of Others

Finally. For the first time in quite a while I really liked a movie I got from Netflix. In this case it was the winner of last year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. Weirdly, this is only the 2nd one of the last 5 winners I've seen. But this was vastly better than the overrated Barbarian Invasions. And generally, it's one of the best films I've seen in the last couple of years, foreign language or not. I did have one not exactly minor problem with it. The plot seemed entirely too convenient in parts (and there are some flow problems). But other than that the whole things was very well done - the acting, the music, the photography, the design and movement. It's a really well made piece of work. And sure, it's a nice political statement too.

Posted by armand at 01:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 12, 2007

"Countries come and go."

Posted without comment, from the Economist (p. 14):

A recent glance at the Low Countries revealed that, nearly three months after its latest general election, Belgium was still without a new government. It may have acquired one by now. But, if so, will anyone notice? And, if not, will anyone mind? Even the Belgians appear indifferent. And what they think of the government they may well think of the country. If Belgium did not already exist, would anyone nowadays take the trouble to invent it?


Belgium industrialised fast; grabbed a large part of Africa and ruled it particularly rapaciously; was itself invaded and occupied by Germany, not once but twice; and then cleverly secured the headquarters of what is now the European Union. Along the way it produced Magritte, Simenon, Tintin, the saxophone and a lot of chocolate. Also frites. No doubt more good things can come out of the swathe of territory once occupied by a tribe known to the Romans as the Belgae. For that, though, they do not need Belgium: they can emerge just as readily from two or three new mini-states, or perhaps from an enlarged France and Netherlands.


In short, Belgium has served its purpose. A praline divorce is in order.

Belgians need not feel too sad. Countries come and go. And perhaps a way can be found to keep the king, if he is still wanted. Since he has never had a country - he has always just been king of the Belgians - he will not miss Belgium. Maybe he can rule a new country, called Gaul. But king of the Gauloises doesn't sound quite right, does it?

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

Gen. Petraeus Is "an Ass-kissing Little Chickenshit"

So says Admiral Fallon. Or, you know, so sources say. Though I would tend to believe it as I hear that Fallon is ... well how should one put it? Let's call it something way past blunt and direct.

Posted by armand at 09:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Murder-Suicide, Gay Sex, and Republicans Galore

So Pam's got a rundown on that bizarre murder-suicide in Florida involving a prominent Republican staffer (sorry, couldn't resist). This story is so tawdry I can't believe the cable news networks aren't sniffing around it. But as they aren't (as far as I know), well, it's hard to tell what all this adds up to. But there's a great deal of really naughty smoke here that could surround quite a fire.

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


Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Oliver North, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Curtis Sliwa...

...Joe Lieberman.

Posted by binky at 08:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

This is not a hillbilly thing

The case of Megan Williams, who was found after being tortured and raped for a week by six people (some of whom had been her "friends") has reached the national press. This horrific crime was committed by six white people who hurled racial epithets at the victim, who is black.

As always, only the bad from West Virginia makes the press, and in this case the spin will be particularly telling, as always sending cultural messages about who is and who is not a victim, who should have known better, and why we should be afraid while at the same time telling ourselves it can't happen to us because we're different than the victim.

"She should have known better. He abused her before and she went back. She was too trusting. Everybody knew those people were trouble." All of these obscure the fact that six (and possibly more) people conspired to commit a heinous crime. This morning, a local radio reporter was relaying the facts of the case, audibly shaken, and said that he had never heard of anything worse in his life.

And the worst lie that can come from the spin is that this is someone else's problem, West Virginia's problem, a hillbilly thing, it couldn't happen elsewhere (read: to us) because we're not like that, we're civilized. Like the nooses in Jena - and the copycats that have popped up elsewhere - West Virginia is no more or less capable of turning out crime. Fear and hatred, violence, racism, and misogyny are all too prevalent throughout this culture.

Not only is blaming the victom wrong in the factual and ethical senses, but it's a dangerous delusion that this kind of thing is someone else's problem and that it can't happen where we live.

Posted by binky at 04:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

War Critic Soldiers Killed in Iraq

Do you think the punditocracy and tv blowhards will pay attention to their op-ed now that they are dead?

Posted by armand at 09:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Royal Alexander: "If You Don't Help Me ..."

A Republican candidate for Attorney General of Louisiana really needs to learn 1) not to threaten people and demand money from them OR 2) not to do so over e-mail.

I tend to be skeptical of money "scandals", because an exchange of cash hardly means an explicit quid pro quo or change in policy against the public interest. However, if politicians are going to come close to extorting money from people in exchange for providing any assistance to them ... yeah, that looks to me more like a scandal. And doing it over e-mail really makes one wonder about Mr. Alexander's competence and intelligence.

Posted by armand at 08:46 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

What Will Obama Say About Iraq?

Given that I find Sen. Clinton's views on the topic to be ... okay, breathe, if you can't say something nice about someone ... okay then, moving on, the 2nd leading Democratic candidate for president is going to be giving a major speech about Iraq on Wed. Hopefully he'll announce that he's going to actually hold the president's feet to the proverbial fire and demand a change in policy now. There is that funding bill that can be used to require changes in policy.

The address on Iraq, the official said, will include new policy proposals on troop withdrawals, diplomacy in Iraq and the region and ideas about what to do about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. He’ll also talk about his ideas for U.S. leadership in the region after the war, the official said.

In January, Obama announced a plan to begin a troop withdrawal that was to have begun by last May. The goal was to have combat brigades out of the country by March 31, 2008.

Obama will be accompanied on this trip by Zbigniew Brezezinski, the national security adviser for Jimmy Carter. Brezezinski announced his support for Obama last month.

UPDATE: I'm bumping this post from Monday up since now we've got some details, and I think they look good - both substantively and politically.

Posted by armand at 08:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gen. Petraeus - We're There As Long Is It Might Unravel

Not only does Petraeus say here that we'll be in Iraq until there's politicial reconciliation, regardless of advances in Iraqi forces' capabilities, we'll apparently be there until the Iraqi state is firmly stable. In other words, Petraeus wants us to stay for a long time.

We have to have some degree of confidence that it wouldn't unravel.
Posted by armand at 08:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2007

West Virginians Vote for a Decent State Slogan

That abomination of "Open for Business" has sparked enough controversy to get Governor Manchin to run a survey for a new state slogan for signs.


For the record, I submitted "Wild and Wonderful."

And stay tuned, because once they collect a fair number of submissions, then there will be a vote.

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

Remix a classic

Lame dead duck...


Posted by binky at 09:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

When Will Bill Donohue Get Around to Roasting in Hell?

The professional outraged bigot, censor, bully, asshole and general embarrasment to the gene pool has gotten the people behind the Emmys to bend to his way of thinking. That's at once horrifying (Donohue shouldn't win anything unless it's a bullying contest) and predictable (we are talking about the doofuses behind nominating Ellen Burtsyn for a 15 second cameo last year). But what makes it a true outrage is that he's censoring Kathy Griffin, and that he's censoring her for ... not thinking Jesus won her Emmy for her? I guess that's it. Why does anyone pay the slightest bit of attention to the ravings of Donohue?

Posted by armand at 05:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Best 9/11 Anniversary Post I've Seen Yet Today

This one wins by a mile - funny, disturbing, unsettling.

By the way, am I the only person today who can't get "where were you when they built the ladder to heaven ..." out of his head head? South Park can have enduring effects it seems.

How do you think 9/11 should be commemorated today? Me? Well among other ways I think every news show should replay the My Pet Goat incident/coverage - and not cut a single second out of it.

Posted by armand at 12:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Bush DoJ and the Case Against former Gov. Siegelman (D-AL)

Ummm, who was so stupid as to write the last line below? And if it wasn't an attack of the stupids that led to this wording ... well that would be quite a Freudian slip, no?

Jill Simpson, an Alabama lawyer who signed an affidavit saying she overheard a Republican political operative connect the prosecution of Mr. Siegelman to Karl Rove, will be questioned under oath this week by investigators for the House Judiciary Committee. The chairman of that committee, Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, has asked the Justice Department to turn over its documents in the case. The department has refused his request, saying in a letter last week to the committee that "we want to avoid any perception that the conduct of our criminal investigations and prosecutions is subject to political influence."

I'm no fan of the former governor, but this case has always been strange and it just keeps getting more odd - though in ways that fit with what we know of the politicization of the Bush DoJ.

Posted by armand at 07:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2007

Duncan Getchell and Steve Matthews Are Nominated to the 4th

So let me get this straight, the noncontroversial nomintion made yesterday (to the US Court of Appeals that oversees our fair state) is the one who's a former president of the South Carolina chapter of the Federalist Society, and managing partner at Haynsworth Sinkler and Boyd (I presume it's named after that Haynsworth). That's the noncontroversial one, eh? Yes that's our president - always playing the role of uniter.

UPDATE: Okay, so I posted this 3 days ago, but I'm bumping it up because Dahlia Lithwick has a post today on these two nominees. And it turns out that the nominee that Senators Warner and Webb are displeased with may actually be the more accomodating nominee, because Matthews ... well just read Dahlia on these guys.

Posted by armand at 09:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lynching and the Price of Cotton

Last week this post went up on Orcinus. Makes perfect sense that patterns in lynching varied this way. As to the broader implications - yeah I think the comparison to today's immigration "debate" is reasonable, and the general dynamics of the economics, elites, and society certainly fit with a lot of classic political philosophy.

Posted by armand at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush, Cheney, Addington, Goldsmith and Authori-tay

This brief Sullivan post seems to get what I've read about the Jacl Goldsmith book in a nutshell. And it's the first time in sometime I've seen a comparison to the Nazis that seems entirely warranted.

Posted by armand at 10:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In the Employ of Terrorists and Aristide

Can you imagine the frothing at the mouth and invective that would be coming from FoxNews, CNN and Drudge (to say nothing of Malkin, Instapundit and that set) if this article was about Clinton, Obama or Edwards (probably especially Edwards) instead of Fred Thompson?

Posted by armand at 10:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NPR Revisits the Lackawanna Six Story

I knock NPR around a lot, so it only seems fair to note when I hear a story of theirs that's well done and that I learn something from. That happened today as they revisited the story of the Lackawanna Six. Dick Cheney just turns up everywhere doesn't he - and never in positive ways.

Posted by armand at 08:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2007

Shoot 'Em Up

Sure it's cartoonish, silly, perhaps even a touch ridiculous, and in a place or two downright stupid. Nonetheless it's still a funny and entertaining ride if you like to see, well, shoot 'em ups. Paul Giamatti obviously has great fun with his villainous turn (which is sort of a smarter Snidely Whiplash, and there are worse things one can do with one's time than watch Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, and acrobatic violence. All in all it was a rollicking diversion.

Posted by armand at 11:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Things That Don't Change

The New York Times is once again buying into the Bush administration's framing of the international security situation. The press is delighting in the folksiness and nice guy image of a rising Republican politician instead of covering his reactionary policy views. And fact-free, right-wing diatribes are the subject of the chattering classes in DC. Well, at least those provide the makings of funny book reviews, as long as one can forget that such things are written by a prominent advisor to the leading Republican presidential candidate. Knowing that such a person puts time into writing "assertions (that) are bold, sweeping and almost wholly unencumbered by evidence", well, that makes such reviews a touch less funny and rather more disturbing.

UPDATE: For more on the Podhoretz book (and the Giuliani connection) you should check out Hilzoy. Of course you should always check out Hilzoy.

UPDATE: I get what the public editor is saying here about why his paper doesn't call Alberto Gonzalez a liar. But that sort of obfuscating and presenting every side without judgment or clear words that helps the batshit insane like Podhoretz to run free in polite policy-making circles. Is that really a good thing?

Posted by armand at 08:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2007

2% (or Less) of Our Adversaries in Iraq Are Al Qaeda in Iraq

So says Gen. Jones, who would seem to be in an excellent position to know. Would it be too much to ask for the news crews to note this fact every time the White House says that if we leave Iraq AQI will take over the country, or that those we are fighting will follow Americans home?

Posted by armand at 06:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Apparently Ohio State and Akron Are Playing Baseball Today

They've entered the 3rd and the score is 3-2. Meanwhile the WVU-Marshall game is scarily close early in the 4th. Personally, I blame Gov. Manchin (D-WV).

Posted by armand at 01:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Abuse, animals

The latest dust-up in the feminist blogosphere serves to remind us all why PETA will never win the hearts and minds of the masses, and how self-important moralizers - be they vegans or religious fundamentalists - excel at creating a kerfuffle.

It's also got me thinking about abuse. And not the kind that the "owning pets equals slavery" crowd is trying to conjure up.

Late to the drama, as always, I read the derivative blog posts long before I read the initial thread, and comment that started the whole ball rolling. When I backtracked, and arrived there (dig if you feel like it, through the links above), what struck me was not thoughts about animal abuse, but thoughts about abusive relationships.

That's right. Abusive relationships. It looks like "mean girls," and the emotional punch radiates like a destabilizing stab of power from very close. "Happy about that new puppy? Here, let me remind you how you suck. And how the people around you think you are no better than a slaveholder. Let me show you how you should doubt yourself, and your decisions. Here's a little poison for your sunny day." Asking for a feminist analysis of pet ownership and lobbing fundamentalist judgemental fireballs in the middle of a cute overload? Just a friendly little question, feminist to feminist? Riiiiight.

It's also a reminder that not everyone who claims to be in a struggle with you is really with you, that the toxicity of the big fight isn't the only - and might not even be the most pernicious - negative force out there. Ultimately each has to live her own life with her own standards. And anyone who does not respect the right to make your own decisions shouldn't be the one casting stones about oppressive behavior. Fundamentalism, is fundamentalism, is fundamentalism.

Having a (big) blog means having a thick skin, I suppose. And I suppose at the end of the day the final word on the matter belongs to the cute pup licking his (huma)ma's face.

Posted by binky at 12:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Who Disbanded the Iraqi Army?"

We don't know. Fred Kaplan guesses it may have been Cheney on Chalabi's advice. But regardless of who had the idea, I think we know who is responsible. Kaplan ends his article this way:

Many stories have since been told about the dysfunctional nature of the Bush administration—the many instances when a decision would be made, in some cases by the president himself, only to be reversed or simply ignored by (most often) Rumsfeld and/or Cheney. But this story had, very possibly, the most destructive consequences.

Did Bush realize the magnitude of the act? Did he so much as read the letter that Bremer later sent to the Times? Did he order an investigation into how this order could have been promulgated? Finally, did he care?

Bush's casual reply to Robert Draper's question about Bremer's orders - "Yeah, I can't remember" - suggests that the answer to all these questions is, pathetically, tragically, "No."

Posted by armand at 09:47 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 07, 2007

And There Goes Peter Keisler

Seriously, other than the SG/Acting AG is there anyone left at the Department of Justice? The head of the Civil Division, a conservative favorite (and DC Circuit Court of Appeals nominee) has added his resignation to a long, long, long list.

Posted by armand at 03:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

About That Report We've Been Hearing About for Months

About that White House report (aka the Petraeus Report) ... well it turns out it won't actually exist. The general is going to give a statement to Congress and ... that's it. I guess that's one way of getting around being accused of skewing the data - simply decline to offer any proof at all for the White House position, aside from some hopeful words.

Posted by armand at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

One More Reason for Republicans to Like Hillary Clinton

Most of her foreign policy advisors backed the Iraq War. Obama's? Like the man himself, they did not. Tom Edsall hits on this point again.

Posted by armand at 09:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An New Osama Bin Laden Tape

So any thoughts on why this is coming out now? My first thought is to influence the debate over the "Petraeus Report". Agree? Disagree? As far as the effect he has on US policy debates this is sort of interesting, if also pretty much as predictable as that recent study that showed guys like hot women.

Posted by armand at 09:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2007

A Bottle of Wine for Breakfast

How about that Winston Churchill, eh? George W. Bush wouldn't have approved of him, and would have doubted his fitness for office, but he nonetheless seems to have accomplished a thing or two - even as a war prime minister.

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

Would Iran Nuke the Al Aksa Mosque?

Joe Klein notes something (in the midst of a very depressed column about the latest Republican presidential debate) that I pretty much never hear in discussions of the possibility that Iran would launch a nuclear attack against Israel:

... the fact that Iran may someday build a nuclear device is a problem, but not an existential threat to the U.S., or Israel, for that matter. Any Iranian nuclear attack on Israel would also kill tens of thousands of Muslims and make the third most holy Islamic site - the Al Aksa mosque - uninhabitable.

You know if the Iranians really are a bunch of religious zealots, and it's that zealotry that would drive them to launch a potentially suicidal attack - well, would they engage in the scenario Klein describes?

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

George Bush Think Strategically

Well, thinks might be be too charitable a word. Think I should use this in class at some point? Unpacking this might make for an interesting discussion of what drives foreign policy, and how it is made.

Posted by armand at 08:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 05, 2007

"I See a Kitten, Gasping for Air"

So hearing how much I loved Amanda Bynes in Hairspray (and I loved her soooooooooooo much), little bro suggested I check out She's The Man. Well, I watched that tonight and I've got to say - it's a trainwreck. The less said about the script the better. Someone thought to turn a very serious Shakespeare play into a madcap cross-dressing soccer comedy? Ummm ... yeah. And really apart from a few of Eunice's lines, there aren't many memorable zingers in the dialogue (and actually on paper those might not be so hot either - but Emily Perkins lights up that role). That said, it is such an explosion of plot and artifice that it gives the actors a lot to play with and it turns out that this ensemble is quite good and really easy to like. Bynes has loads of charisma, and there's not a clunker in the (very big) supporting cast. So as long as you can watch each scene play out on its own it is indeed rather entertaining. But in those sections when you can't distract yourself from the script (which sadly includes pretty much the entire last half hour of the fill) it's hard to watch. Well, you can watch it fine. Bynes lights up the screen and Channing Tatum is topless for most of the film. Just watch the last half hour with the volume off (you probably will still know every single move the script takes at that point).

Posted by armand at 10:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Next SCOTUS Retirment

Looks like it'll likely be Souter or Stevens, because Justice Ginsburg's already hired a clerk for the October '09 term.

Posted by armand at 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Haley Barbour - Make Him Vice President or Impeach Him?

About 2 years ago I thought that the governor of Mississippi had a good chance of ending up as the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Then the stench of Abramoff etc. began to pervade the Republican elite, and that possibility disappeared. However, Marc Ambinder is proposing (not in too serious a way, but suggesting) that he could end up on a national ticket, as Rudy Giuliani's running mate. That is of course provided he isn't impeached first. That's unlikely of course, but Steve Clemons thinks it would be a good idea.

UPDATE: Think Progress also thinks very little of nominating him for Vice President.

Posted by armand at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Go Binky!

Guiding us to 24th place nationwide - that was pretty great.

And yes, I am still embarrassed by my performance on Academy Awards. By the way, Shaw won in 1938 for Pygmalion.

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

September 04, 2007

Joe Biden Is Running for Reelection

Should Democratic voters have faith in the presidential campaign of the six-term senator if he doesn't have faith in his own campaign?

Posted by armand at 07:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Surge Can Not Fail

As Ezra notes, it's impossible.

But that's the genius of the surge strategy: Anything that's good is redefined as Progress, and anything that's Progress is defined as a result of the surge. Meanwhile, anything that's bad -- like the continued killings and instability -- is explained as all the more reason to continue the surge. Heads we lose, tails Iraq loses. Also, heads Iraq loses.
Posted by armand at 02:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Counting Dead Iraqis

You've got to be kidding. Sadly, our government is not.

Posted by armand at 12:27 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Petraeus' Potemkin Village

I'm rather surprised that this hasn't been more framed this way more often. The extent to which the administration and Petraeus are engaging in public relations as opposed to producing on-the-ground success continues to surprise (which you wouldn't think would be possible).

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


Like many people, I use Google alerts to keep track of certain issues I follow. In most categories, I have signed up for tracking of blogs and of news. This morning, I was surprised to find a link to Hot Air (no, I'm not linking to it) in a Google news alert.


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

When Thinking About the "Petraeus Report" ...

Hilzoy says you should keep these 8 points in mind.

Posted by armand at 08:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2007

Let Down

So I'm reading papers write now, listening to Radiohead's "Let Down". It's been 10 years since OK Computer came out, right? Well it's been quite a bit of time at any rate. and I've got to say that that song has probably never left my personal top 10 songs ever since I first heard it.

Posted by armand at 04:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Bush White House - Where There's No Distinction Between War Policy and Domestic Politics

Interesting group that President Bush formally polled when wondering if he should keep Rumsfeld in office.

Posted by armand at 04:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 02, 2007

"Statute of Limitations" Vitter (R-LA)

I propose that we rename the junior senator from Louisiana that. I mean if that's all that's kept him from being run out of the Congress, it's kind of important, right?

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

Nearing the End of an Era - The Audichron

"At the tone the time will be ... "

California's decision to drop its audichron service means that there will soon be only one state in the country where you can hear that once familiar service - Nevada. And Nevada's service is living on "borrowed time". I suppose that device and its end are interesting from a number of angles, but for me ... well I look at it in a different way than most others because in my case there's a little family history that's disappearing too. The Audichron Company was founded by my great-great uncle.

Posted by armand at 04:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Divesting in Iran

In terms of who I read on occasion, I seem to disagree with Matt Stoller more often than any other lefty blogger. And I think this would be another one of those cases. What exactly is so terrible about divesting in Iran? I don't know enough about the specifics to say whether I'd favor the sanctions bill or not, but it seems a perfectly reasonable way to try to influence the Iranian regime - a regime we should be trying to pressure, though not through waging an aggressive war against them. I see Yglesias is against this too, so is there something here I'm missing?

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