November 30, 2007

O! Canada

Bring us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses, afraid of being tortured in the United States:

The United States is not a safe country for refugees, the Federal Court said Thursday as it ruled that Canada will no longer have the right to turn back asylum seekers at the border.

In the surprise judgment, the court found that Safe Third Country Agreement breaches the rights of asylum seekers under the United Nation Refugee Convention or the Convention Against Torture.

The three-year-old agreement denies refugees who have landed first in the U.S. the right to later seek protection in Canada, and vice versa. It has allowed Canada to automatically send refugee claimants at the border back to the United States. There, they are usually either detained or deported.


Citing the example of Maher Arar, Justice Michael Phelan also noted that the U.S. has not been compliant with the Refugee Convention or CAT (Convention Against Torture).

"... The United States' policies and practices do not meet the conditions set down for authorizing Canada to enter into a STCA," Phelan wrote in his 126-page decision.

"The U.S. does not meet the Refugee Convention requirements nor the [UN] Convention Against Torture prohibition (the Maher Arar case being one example). Further, the STCA does not comply with the relevant provisions of the Charter."


Posted by binky at 07:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Republican Voters Love Torture, See Brown People as Inhuman

Those are among the results of Frank Luntz's debate focus group. And that guy's answer as to why he's pro-torture ... can someone explain to me why these yahoos (and that's what they are) just blindly assume our government is only torturing people who are guilty of heinous crimes or know all the information possible to stop a ticking bomb? I'm genuinely curious.

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

The Golden Compass - Tomorrow Night in Granville

Fyi, the eagerly awaited (and controversial) The Golden Compass will be having a sneak-peak showing tomorrow night at the Hollywood theater at 7:10 pm.

Posted by armand at 12:09 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 29, 2007


For any of you who don't know, Taxman is my least favorite song in the universe. I loathe it. Hate it. Despise it. Want to break any stereo playing it.

So I was bored tonight and came out to the coffee shop to have a hot chocolate thinking, hey, gets me out of the house and it is tasty. And it was indeed tasty (if fattening). But then guess what song started playing ...

Guess it's just doomed to be a less than fun night and I should go home and hide under the covers.

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

A Day in the Life of Covering the Hillary Clinton Campaign

Really, you kind of have to wonder why the weeklies and big papers and the networks bother to pay people to watch her from afar. And you've got to kind of wonder why the reporters put up with it.

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Dubious Polling of the GLB Vote

Andrew Sullivan linked to this travesty - and I've got to say that anyone associated with Hunter should be ashamed of themselves (the Human Rights Campaign has long been doing all it can to support Hillary, so their association with this isn't at all surprising). The demographics of this thing are just ridiculous. Maybe this is a fine study of the political attitudes of bisexuals or something, but I've never heard of any study of GLBT communities suggesting that bisexuals are half of that group when taken as a whole, or that women are half of that group. This is really fishy.

Posted by armand at 07:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Campbell Brown, The Latest Right Winger to Join CNN, on MoveOn

The rabid Right's tendency to call CNN the Communist New Network or the Clinton News Network amuses me no end. Most of those CNN puts in front of the camera are no friends of the Democratic Party. The latest example is Ms. Brown, a Louisiana native that the network has hired to replace Paula Zahn. I don't believe Brown, the wife of Republican Party mouthpiece Dan Senor, has officially taken over all her new duties yet. But she's already stickin' it to opponents of the White House. Last night's tasteless example included labeling those opposed to the policies of Gen. David Petraeus as "American insurgents". Uh huh. Why didn't they just hire Rush and get it done with?

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I'm as jaded as the rest of them...


However, even though I agree with the judgements of craptaculence about Do They Know It's Christmas, I think a couple of the criticisms of the lyrics are a bit off.

First, the title lyric itself. Some of the critics seem to be taking it to be very condescending, as if people in "those places" don't celebrate Christmas, and we rich Northerners are here to enlighten them. I always thought the lyric was trying to draw attention to the idea that maybe the kids can't differentiate today from tomorrow, because their daily struggle never changes, and that when you are looking for blades of grass to eat, that there isn't much leftover for prezzies, so that one might forget amidst the daily struggle for survival, that there's something to celebrate on any particular day.

LIkewise the phrase "Well, Tonight Thank God it's Them Instead of You." Rather than meaning that in the literal sense, my interpretation was that is was mocking the affluent ones sitting on their asses saying "thank god that's not me" but not doing anything to help. Said with snark and an eyeroll, it sounds like a kick in the pants to the overfed and undermotivated.

But, just as sarcasm doesn't always transfer well to typing, it's also doesn't always survive the decades.

I wonder, however, without the groundbreaking these folks did (especially Geldof et al) if the path didn't get eased for Bono's advocacy?

And on the subject of rockers and their pet causes, I leave you with Little Steven:

Note the use of "terrorist" in his speech.

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Actually, that's not such a bad idea

So, Roxanne links to this clip to make a point about Sully, and heaven knows I am no Bill Maher fan, but the last thing he says in this clip struck me as being on target, even though it was just a punch line: I'll bet Martina Navratilova would be a way better President than Ah-nold (and a whole bunch of the guys running now).

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Thursday Quizzy


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After the Debate, Dana Goldstein's Advice for the Democrats

Yep, they really need to hit points 2 and 3 - often, and repeatedly. And as to the latter, use campaign contributions from the troops to illustrate the point. That's a data point that the media can understand and will report.

Posted by armand at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Republicans Get the Wrong Abortion Question - Again

Last night's Republican presidential debate featured a waste of a question. We already know that the contenders don't want to charge women who get an abortion with a crime. A much better question, and one I'm honestly curious to hear an on-the-record response to from each of the candidates is - Why don't you believe that women who get abortions should be charged with a crime, given that they are conspiring to kill a human life (according to your "pro-life" views)? I think their answers would say a lot about them. No doubt they don't want to answer that, and it's extremely hard to get a presidential candidate (or president) to answer a question they don't want to answer - but I wish someone would try harder to get a response to that.

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November 28, 2007

Power to the People

Kinda fun, in a hopeless sort of way.

Posted by binky at 10:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


For my nightly Netflix I settled in with this well-reviewed film by the late Adrienne Shelley. No offense to Ms. Shelley, who I think steals the movie (along with Andy Griffith) from the more widely lauded Keri Russell, but I don't get it. This was a perfectly nice little film, it had some bright moments, and the art design is snappy and fun - but I'm not clear on why some people grade this an A film instead of a B film. Well, unless it's the pies. I'm now craving those like mad.

Posted by armand at 10:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Some Dark Spots on Mike Huckabee's Record

Will any of this hurt the Huckabee campaign if these stories get more press? I have my doubts. Though surely there's a great, damaging ad waiting to be made about the DuMond matter. That one could hurt.

Posted by armand at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cardinal Rigali Doesn't Want You to See The Golden Compass

I was reading through this piece on the brouhaha some are making of the filming of The Golden Compass. It's a nice article that addresses the concerns of those who think it's anti-Church, those who fear the books are watered down, the perspectives of its creators, and the position of the company that's behind it (would a similar piece in a US paper be as comprehensive? I wonder). One thing in it jumped out at me. Apparently the archdioscese of Philadelphia is urging parents not to take their children to see this movie. Huh? It hasn't even premiered in this country yet. Think maybe Cardinal Rigali and his minions might want to wait until after they at least had the opportunity to watch it themselves before blasting it as anti-religious and harmful to society?

Posted by armand at 12:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Chief Judge Edith Hollan Jones and Sexual Harrassment

Should the Chief Judge of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals have been overseeing the sexual harrassment investigation of US District Judge Samuel Kent? I'd say no, given her past behavior. Consider her comments during Susan Waltman's suit against International Paper.

A district court dismissed the case and Waltman appealed. At the hearing before a three-judge panel, Waltman's attorney said she "was subjected to virtually every type of sexual harassment imaginable." Jones responded: "Except rape or any serious proposition or any action in which she felt endangered or threatened." When Waltman's attorney mentioned that "one of the guys pinched her breast," Jones said, "Well, he apologized." According to a 1991 account in the Houston Chronicle, witnesses said "gasps could be heard from the courtroom gallery."

Though maybe she'd take this seriously since the people are, like her, white-collar types. Apparently she thinks harrassment laws might apply to them, unlike their blue-collar brethern.

During the hearing Jones noted that "we're not dealing with lawyers here, we are not dealing with the white-collar worker ... We are dealing with people whose standards are different." This class distinction, suggesting that female lawyers have more protection under the law than female factory workers, shows up again in her written opinion: "Similar graffiti probably appear on workplace walls everywhere."
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November 27, 2007

Not quite bloodless...

...but possibly therapeutic for aggravated commenters.

Be sure to try out nuke and the other options.


Hat Tip to punchdrunk

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Fuck the record companies...

... send your money straight to the rockers!

Posted by binky at 09:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Darjeeling Limited

Binky and I saw Wes Anderson's latest on Sunday afternoon. I worship Rushmore and greatly enjoy The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (I'm not so high on Bottle Rocket - it's not awful, I just don't think it's all that special), so I guess I'm this film's intended audience. But be that as it may, I didn't love it. It lagged and didn't have the same kind of heart that the others films had. Nor did it have (to my ears) writing as sharp (he's no longer writing with either Owen Wilson or Noah Baumbach), and I don't know that leaving his more traditional settings really worked. I found myself wishing that he'd made a movie out of the scenes at the end involving the boys' immediate reactions to the stress of their father's death, and their relationship with their mother. Those seemed to me much more effective than the wandering around India bits. And I found his continued reliance on certain tics (especially the slow-motion, please, someone stop him before he uses it again) kind of eye-roll inducing, and the plot (and how it unfolded) painfully predictable.

That said, I do always enjoy his creation of his worlds, and I like how he uses silence and gestures and odd little moments and touches so effectively. And of course pretty much any film with Adrien Brody is worth watching - and hey, if he's wearing Marc Jacobs, little pink boxers, and great glasses ... well as Binky said, sometimes you just stop watching the movie and watch him. So it's not like it was a bad movie. But I didn't like it as much as some of his earlier work.

Posted by armand at 02:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fred Thompson's Voluntary Flat Tax

I don't know if this is as singularly terrible idea as Mike Huckabee's national sales tax proposal, but it's pretty damn bad. And kind of silly and pointless beyond words. I mean ...

For all of its details, Mr. Thompson's plan is missing a few key numbers, most notably a projection about how much it might cost the Treasury in lost revenue.

Hmmm, that's kind of important, no? But apparently no big whoop to the Thompson campaign. After all, they know where some of the money is going to come from.

Mr. Thompson suggested his plan would be funded, in part, by changes to the Social Security system. He has proposed limiting payments to future retirees by cutting their initial benefits.

Oh yeah, that's going to happen. This is pretty clearly red meat for the no-taxes base, and is otherwise not remotely serious.

Posted by armand at 12:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

So What's the DaVinci Code Spin on This?

Morris, something for your bedroom perhaps? :)

Posted by armand at 11:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 26, 2007

Baltar's Comment on the Writer's Guild Strike


Really; what more needs to be said?

Posted by baltar at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iguana get health insurance

The lizard gets it, but the gays don't:

The pets of Palm Beach Community College employees will qualify for discounted group medical insurance beginning in January, but domestic partners are still barred from receiving similar benefits.

And guess what? It wouldn't have cost the college anything to permit the domestic partners to have insurance. That's right. Zero.

Full-time college employees can receive a 5 percent discount on services because of the college's enrollment in the program, which covers dogs and cats, but also hedgehogs, frogs, guinea pigs, geckos, iguanas and sugar gliders - small flying mammals native to Australia.

In August, PBCC trustees voted down a proposal to allow the domestic partners of full-time employees to receive insurance benefits. The plan wouldn't have cost the school anything because it pays employee premiums only, not those of dependents.

So, what's the argument for pets over people?

Grace Truman, PBCC spokesman, said the pet insurance is not part of the employee benefits package, and she draws a distinction between the group discount through VPI Pet Insurance and human health insurance.

She said the pet insurance is the same as other group discount items available to college employees such as 12 percent off Dell computers, 15 percent off on bouquets from 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, and a $40 membership to Sam's Wholesale Club.

"There's really no comparison," Truman said about the pet insurance and domestic partner insurance. "We get discount offers from companies from time to time and we pass them onto employees without our endorsements."

Ah, just an inconvenience for the PR department that the pesky word "insurance" was used.

Side note, I'm the only person in my immediate family who went on to college - all of us to the U of F - without passing through the halls of PBCC, formerly PBJC. When I was little, and my sister went there, I used to call it the Peanut Butter and Jelly College.


Posted by binky at 04:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Replacing Senator Lott

Gov. Barbour is acting like the next Senate election in Mississippi will be in November 2008 - but it looks like it could actually be early next year, if Trent Lott resigns before the end of this year.

UPDATE: Or maybe it will be in November 2008 after all?

Posted by armand at 02:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lebanon - Countries Seeking Presidents

It's a sad situation, but this is a funny way of getting it across:

Failed state seeks new date. Country of good-looking, beach-going people who killed one another for 15 years ISO strong, presidential type. Let's start with reconciliation and statesmanship, and see what happens. We're not into sectarianism, we swear, but our ideal match must be a Maronite Christian. Eloquent and bold in a Nasrallah kinda way, sans the beard and turban. Sedate and reliable like Saniora, except not a crybaby when the Israelis come calling. All inquiries should be sent directly to the American or French embassies (no ticking or oddly shaped packages, please). Letters postmarked Damascus or Tehran will be returned to sender. Can't wait to hear from you! No, seriously, we can't wait ... it's in the constitution.
Posted by armand at 02:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

This time of year...

... there are a lot of days where this pretty much sums it up for how I feel.

Posted by binky at 01:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Media vs. Media: The latte label

Referring to this article, FDL scores it Whedon 1, NYT 0 :

Reporters are funny people. At least, some of the New York Times reporters are. Their story on the strike was the most dispiriting and inaccurate that I read. But it also contained one of my favorite phrases of the month.

"All the trappings of a union protest were there... ...But instead of hard hats and work boots, those at the barricades wore arty glasses and fancy scarves."

Oh my God. Arty glasses and fancy scarves. That is so cute! My head is aflame with images of writers in ruffled collars, silk pantaloons and ribbons upon their buckled shoes. A towering powdered wig upon David Fury's head, and Drew Goddard in his yellow stockings (cross-gartered, needless to say). Such popinjays, we! The entire writers' guild as Leslie Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Delicious.


And as work? Well, in the first place, it IS fun. When it's going well, it's the most fun I can imagine having. (Tim Minear might dispute that.) And when it's not going well, it's often not going well in the company of a bunch of funny, thoughtful people. So how is that work? You got no muscles to show for it (yes, the brain is a muscle, but if you show it to people it's usually because part of your skull has been torn off and that doesn't impress the ladies - unless the ladies are ZOMBIES! Where did this paragraph go?) Writing is enjoyable and ephemeral. And it's hard work.

It's always hard. Not just dealing with obtuse, intrusive studio execs, temperamental stars and family-prohibiting hours. Those are producer issues as much as anything else. Not just trying to get your first script sold, or seen, or finished, when nobody around believes you can/will/should… the ACT of writing is hard. When Buffy was flowing at its flowingest, David Greenwalt used to turn to me at some point during every torturous story-breaking session and say "Why is it still hard? When do we just get to be good at it?" I'll only bore you with one theory: because every good story needs to be completely personal (so there are no guidelines) and completely universal (so it's all been done). It's just never simple.

It's necessary, though. We're talking about story-telling, the most basic human need. Food? That's an animal need. Shelter? That's a luxury item that leads to social grouping, which leads directly to fancy scarves. But human awareness is all about story-telling. The selective narrative of your memory. The story of why the Sky Bully throws lightning at you. From the first, stories, even unspoken, separated us from the other, cooler beasts. And now we're talking about the stories that define our nation's popular culture - a huge part of its identity. These are the people that think those up. Working writers.

"The trappings of a union prote..." You see how that works? Since we aren't real workers, this isn't a real union issue. (We're just a guild!) And that's where all my 'what is a writer' rambling becomes important. Because this IS a union issue, one that will affect not just artists but every member of a community that could find itself at the mercy of a machine that absolutely and unhesitatingly would dismantle every union, remove every benefit, turn every worker into a cowed wage-slave in the singular pursuit of profit. (There is a machine. Its program is 'profit'. This is not a myth.) This is about a fair wage for our work. No different than any other union. The teamsters have recognized the importance of this strike, for which I'm deeply grateful. Hopefully the Times will too.

He's so correct about why writing is work. And important to our culture. And, well, damn, he is such a good writer (love the "delicious" and "ZOMBIES"). Sigh.

Via Atrios, who reminds us that "elite print journalism, a profession of namby pamby arty farty posers, is a heavily unionized profession."

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

November 25, 2007

Aharon Barak on Israel and the US and the Security/Rights Balance

It's a sign of how far the US has moved in the last decade that the current and former heads of Israel's highest court are noting that Israel is much better at protecting human rights than the United States. Of course our systems are very different, but they know a thing or two about dealing with the threat of terrorism and it's less than reassuring that Barak considers our post-9/11 actions to be a "disaster".

Click here if you want the story - which also touches on the Israeli government's current plan to limit the power of its judiciary to hear security-related matters, and the Justice Minister's denunciation of the justices speaking out on supposedly non-judicial matters.

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

Heroes, Season 1

So I started watching Heroes this season, starting from the season premiere. And I've enjoyed it. But I thought I should catch up on what I missed at some point, so I started watching season 1 of the show and I finally finished that today. Having done that some things are now clearer, though I find a few things even more odd than I did previously.

First off, I now totally get the complaints about this season. Yes, this season has definitely been worse (though the last few episodes have been big improvements over how the season started). And it's pretty much entirely the fault of the writers. Basically, there's nothing going on this season that provides the same sort of intensity and fast action that Sylar and the bomb did last season. And as the show's lost pace it's gotten lost for ages in storylines that've gone nowhere (the tiresome twins, Hiro in Japan). Beyond that, we really haven't seen the moral ambiguity that made a lot of last season dramatic. And they've largely sidelined two of the most interesting characters, Nathan and Sylar (Adrian Pasdar and Zachary Quinto). Plus they largely took one of the most interesting mechanisms of the show, the paintings, out of it.

Some things are better this season. I like the less nervous, now more self-assured Peter (and thank the mouse and disco ball that they cut his hair). And I like the introduction of Bob (Stephen Tobolowsky) who's an interesting villain. But compared to season 1, which was a lot of fun, the current season really seems plodding.

A final thought - to me the strength of the show (by far) is in the Petrellis and the Bennets. So how on Earth was it that Masi Oka was the only member of the cast nominated for an Emmy last year? Yeah, sure, I'm trying to find logic in the Emmys, but still. Masi Oka? A buoyant stereotype can be fun, sure - but award worthy? And over Jack Coleman? That's an odd choice.

In any event watching season 1 has me more sure than ever that I will stick with this show. Hopefully the writing will return to that level and stay there.

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

Fred Thompson Takes on Fox News

Nice. I'm not a Thompson fan, but I admire that he has the guts to go on Fox News and call them out on their coverage (which, yes, certainly seems to be biased in favor of Giuliani and against Thompson).

Posted by armand at 12:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 24, 2007

Get your couches ready

From the AP:

Pat White has No. 4 West Virginia on the brink of playing for a national championship.

White rushed for 186 yards and accounted for three touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers to a 66-21 win over No. 20 Connecticut on Saturday night, clinching the Big East championship and a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

With one more win next week against Pittsburgh, the Mountaineers might be headed to the biggest BCS game of all — the championship game on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.

West Virginia (10-1, 5-1 Big East) will move up at least one spot to second in the BCS standings on Sunday following top-ranked LSU's loss to Arkansas on Friday.


White's fourth straight 100-yard rushing effort should improve his status in the Heisman Trophy race. He has 1,144 yards this season, along with 1,498 yards passing. Slaton added 51 yards on the ground and now has 1,039 for the season.

White and Slaton became only the third pair of teammates in the Football Bowl Subdivision to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in consecutive seasons, matching Arkansas' Darren McFadden and Felix Jones this year and Minnesota's Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney in 2003-04.

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

Going to a gossip blog for lessons in diplomacy

On handshaking:

Some politicians (I won't name names, but you know who I mean) won't shake Hugo's hand. It's not that Sarkozy thinks Chavez is a great guy or an example of good governance, but that he appreciates that Chavez is in charge of Venezuela, so he shakes hands. Grownups in general, but diplomats in particular, have to learn to be polite to each other, even when they disagree on basic things like whether Hugo Chavez ought to shut the hell up, or whether Hugo Chavez is a crook, or whether Hugo Chavez is a stain on the face of humanity.

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

Elite Manhattan's Campaign Contributions

The country's coasts tend to provide much of its cash. Much like the people of the South and the "flyover" states benefit from the taxes of the "blue" states being redistributed to them, the coastal elites are also the source of a good deal of the money in political campaigns. So just where is that money going in the 2008 race? Well, the New York Observer just ran an article on which candidates are getting what from Manhattan's priciest and most exclusive addresses. And perhaps not surprisingly, especially in this season when the Republicans are having a terrible time raising money compared to the Democrats, these donors are giving much more money to the Democratic presidential candidates - and especially to Hillary Clinton. Of the major buildings there was only 1 that saw Sen. Obama outraise Sen. Clinton by a great ratio - the El Dorado. The article (and accompanying graphic) show some prominent Republican givers though. Lorne Michaels is supporting the McCain campaign. And Vera Wang is funding both Sen. Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.

While an interesting snapshot, one should be careful of drawing deep conclusions though as only contributions from people's home addresses were counted. If they used their business address they were not. So, for example, Rupert Murdoch's one presidential contribution (it was to Sen. Clinton) was not included in the data.

Posted by armand at 12:03 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

November 23, 2007

Musical Interlude

Yeah, I ate leftovers and decked the halls instead of blogging.

Some more bands I've enjoyed seeing in the last year or two, below the fold...

Posted by binky at 11:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 22, 2007

What Constitutes a Session of Congress?

Marty Lederman has a post up on Senator Reid's attempt to block recess appointments over Thanksgiving break. This may or may not work as it's unclear under what conditions recess appointments can be made, and exactly what constitutes a session of Congress.

Posted by armand at 12:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happy Thanksgiving

The Bloodless Crew wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!

The three of us will be eating some turkey together this afternoon, so no doubt there will be light posting as we cook now and later lie around and pat our full bellies.

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

November 21, 2007

Can anyone?

Queerty asks: Who can say "gay"?

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November 20, 2007

The Latest "Experience" Flap and Sen. Clinton's "Experience"

Hillary herself:

"Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next President will face. I think we need a President with more experience than that."

The Obama campaign:

"Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld have spent time in the White House and traveled to many countries as well, but along with Hillary Clinton they led us into the worst foreign policy disaster in a generation and are now giving George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran. The real choice in this election is between conventional Washington thinking that prizes posture and positioning, or real change that puts judgment and honesty first."

I give the round to Obama as Clinton's point seems childish (or churlish), and Obama again is able to claim the mantle of change while reminding people she supported going to war with Iraq. But beyond that, I'm genuinely curious - When it comes to foreign policy, exactly what experience is it that Hillary Clinton brings to the table. She wasn't active in her husband's presidency on those issues. She hasn't been a foreign policy expert in the Senate. What does her claim to being that much more experienced rest on, when it comes to foreign policy?

UPDATE: Oh, it's on:

"We just had a little exchange, Sen. Clinton and myself today," Obama told voters here. "I had mentioned that one of the reasons that I got it right when it came to Iraq was because I had lived overseas as a child. It gives me some judgment and perspective around what other people think about America and how they might react or respond when we make some of the decisions that we make. "And, of course, both the Republicans in their talking points as well as Sen. Clinton said we don't think that what Sen. Obama did when he was 10 years old is relevant to our national security. I didn't say that. She went on to make up the point, that some of the Republicans have made that she's met with all these world leaders. I was wondering which world leader told her that we needed to invade Iraq because that is the conventional thinking that we're going to have to break."

Posted by armand at 07:38 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Jim Tucker (R-Terrytown) to be LA's Speaker of the House

Democrats won a narrow majority of the state House races in Louisiana (53 to 50, with 2 independents), but a Republican is going to be the next Speaker of the House. Gov.-elect Jindal has come out publicly for Jim Tucker, who also has the support of state Rep. Karen Carter and a number of other black Democratic state representatives. Therefore Tucker will be elected Speaker, not the leading Democratic contender, state Rep. Don Cazayoux.

Posted by armand at 02:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Nouvel Tower Next to MoMA

Fresh off the success of his Mercer St. apartments, one of my favorite architects is going to put up a 75-story tower between 53rd and 54th streets. It

promises to be the most exhilarating addition to the skyline in a generation. Its faceted exterior, tapering to a series of crystalline peaks, suggests an atavistic preoccupation with celestial heights. It brings to mind John Ruskin’s praise for the irrationality of Gothic architecture: "It not only dared, but delighted in, the infringement of every servile principle."

You've got to figure Renzo Piano and the people behind the new New York Times Building are none too thrilled with that "most exhilarating addition to the skyiln in a generation" description. But it does look like an exciting building.

Posted by armand at 01:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Scalia Doesn't Only Hire White Male Catholics

If you follow who gets hired to clerk for Justice Scalia you'll have noted that it's often guys (yes, guys) who seem to be clones of himself demographically. But today Above the Law brings us word of his latest (and last) hire for the October 2008 term, and it turns out that next year his clerks will include two Orthodox Jews (including the handsome Moshe Spinowitz, pictured in the post). Lat also runs down where hiring for the next terms stands, Justices Stevens, Scalia, Thomas and Ginsburg have already hired all their clerks. David Souter has yet to hire any, as far as we know. Should we be worried about him retiring next year?

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

Speier vs. Lantos?

Wow. This is interesting. I was thinking Mark Pera's challenge to awful Democrat/product of nepotism Dan Lipinski in Illinois-3 was going to be the Democratic congressional primary I'd be most interested in next year. And maybe it still will be. But former state senator Jackie Speier taking on Tom Lantos, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in California-12 is right up there with it. Speier, who first gained fame when she was shot multiple times at the airport near Jonestown (she was a staffer to Rep. Leo Ryan, who was killed), is an accomplised legislator, with a lot of support in the area. It's not at all clear she'll be able to knock off the hardened, veteran Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in Congress. But it'll be quite a race.

Posted by armand at 12:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Message of 9/11 Firefighters and Families

Now I understand the reason why the group exists. They are looking to expose the sham that is Rudy Giuliani's reputation on matters tied to 9/11, and particularly focus on his handing of matters tied to the firefighters - those concerns nearest and dearest their hearts, given all their loved ones who died that day. That said, I think if they really want to harm Rudy's reputation for his supposed 9/11 leadership and expose his bad actions the best way to go about it is not to lead with the discussion of his dealings with the firefighters pre-9/11 and the issue of the radios. Instead they should start these townhalls by hitting this point:

"He's cashed in on a national tragedy, and I think it's disgusting."

That will hit people in the gut, many will agree, and after they've focused on that, then they are more likely to really listen to the specific complaints about Rudy's pre-9/11 behavior.

Posted by armand at 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2007

Sullivan's Music Video Poll

So today Andrew Sullivan is running an 80's music video poll. Well, 3 polls actually. There's the best, the worst and the best-worst. The worst list is kind of weak - some of those videos really aren't too terrible, and surely not as bad as many others from the time period. As to the best, I was torn between "Girls on Film" and "Take on Me", but opted to go with Duran Duran. As to the best-worst, it was a little tough deciding between Ms. Benatar and Bonnie Tyler. But then I decided that Bonnie Tyler really kind of exists for the purpose of competitions like these, so I had to go with "Total Eclipse of the Heart".

Posted by armand at 01:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush, Once Again Stickin' It to the Democrats Re: the 4th Circuit

Much like his recent nomination of a Virginian who wasn't backed by that state's senators, the president's nomination of Rod Rosenstein seems to do little more than ensure that the seat doesn't get filled (or at least make that a risky proposition). You'd think that in the waning days of his presidency he'd want to fill as many positions in the federal judiciary as possible. But apparently that's not the case. Sometimes he'd just rather take part in political games.

Posted by armand at 12:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Queer Film Blog-a-Thon

Queering the Apparatus is hosting the Queer Film Blog-a-Thon today. I haven't read through all the links, but there are definitely some good ones already posted. Modern Fabulousity has good Netflix recommendations, Low Resolution lauds the best gay-acting straight people (yeah, that guy in Latter Days was really good), A Blog Next Door discusses Disney's gay villains, and Edward Copeland shows that at least until a couple of years ago only two types of gay characters got Oscar nominations (the outrageous or the lonely and/or killed). And through this I'm being reminded of some movies I should check out or watch again (like Gods and Monsters which I haven't watched since I saw it in the theater). There will be more posts linked throughout the day, so check it out if you think you might be interested.

Posted by armand at 11:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 18, 2007

The Keep by Jennifer Egan

While I don't know that the last section of the book was really necessary, I very much liked Jennifer Egan's The Keep, even more than her Look at Me, which I also enjoyed. It's a little complicated to describe, so if you want a quick description of it that doesn't give away too much, this review offers a nice overview of it.

Posted by armand at 04:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clarkson Returns to the New Orleans City Council and Other LA Results

Jackie Clarkson, mother of the great Patricia Clarkson, was elected to an at-large seat on the New Orleans City Council last night. Her return to the council marks the first time the body's had a white majority in over 20 years, and the first time it's ever had 5 female members (out of seven).

Her win was one of a number of races in the New Orleans area that saw white candidates beat black candidates. In terms of the state races, Buddy Caldwell (D) crushed Royal Alexander (R) in the race for Attorney General, the partisan make-up of the state Senate held steady, while the Republicans picked up seats in the state House. 53 Democrats were elected to the state House (out of 105 members). So it seems entirely possible that a few of them could switch parties and give the Republicans their first majority in the chamber ... since Reconstruction? It is not yet clear who the new Speaker will be. Joel Chaisson (D-Destrehan) appears set to be the new Senate President, and he appears likely to name Mike Michot (R-Lafayette) as chairman of the key Senate Finance Committee.

Posted by armand at 09:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2007

Beowulf in Digital 3D

First thought: Why would anyone see this movie not in 3D? The 3D thing is pretty fun.

Second thought: Wow. This blows. What a lousy movie. And of course the gendered, sexual politics of it all is offensive, but the movie's so embarrassingly bad you are at least at parts distracted from that by all the giggling in the theater around you.

Final thought: Yeah, the animation is cool in an improved-Polar Express kind of way. But that system is still really lousy at doing expressive faces (except, for some reason, Angelina Jolie's - guess she just has the kind of face that can overcome the problems of the process).

Posted by armand at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

While I wish this were true...

I think there are probably some missing variables influencing this report, and that we are looking at correlation, not causation:

The poll by Harris Interactive, an independent research company, showed that 88 percent of people with a post-graduate education were involved in music while in school, and 83 percent of people earning $150,000 or more had a music education.

I'd drop in a control for parents' income, suspecting that higher socioeconomic status predicts both the ability to get involved with music (whether through a better school that still has music programs or through private lessons) and the chances of getting into higher education.

Even so, there is evidence that studying music enhances math ability, and fosters creativity. Not to mention the fact that it probably helps millions of kids deal with the emotional challenges of growing up. There are plenty of reasons to support music education without iffy stats.

HT (and see also File under Duh! also linked from AAW).

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I'll admit it

When I was in grad school, I would host parties where we ate cherry pie, drank coffee an agreed that the owls are not what they seem.

Posted by binky at 01:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Diamonds or Pearls?

The UNLV student says she's not to blame for the idiotic query that ended last night's debate. Instead it appears that the Celebrity News Network (well, when there's not some white chick in danger, or brown people to defame) was living down to its reputation.

As much as the political junkie in me wants to know what goes on in these things, unless Anderson Cooper is moderating they really are close to unwatchable.

Posted by armand at 12:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

When looks conflict with common sense

Go for looks! And threaten to sue your neighbors!

To Susan Taylor, it was a perfect time to hang her laundry out to dry. The 55-year-old mother and part-time nurse strung a clothesline to a tree in her backyard, pinned up some freshly washed flannel sheets -- and, with that, became a renegade.

The regulations of the subdivision in which Ms. Taylor lives effectively prohibit outdoor clotheslines. In a move that has torn apart this otherwise tranquil community, the development's managers have threatened legal action. To the developer and many residents, clotheslines evoke the urban blight they sought to avoid by settling in the Oregon mountains.

"This bombards the senses," interior designer Joan Grundeman says of her neighbor's clothesline. "It can't possibly increase property values and make people think this is a nice neighborhood."

Got that? It can't possibly make people think this is a nice neighborhood. Unlike the assholier than thou move of bringing class warfare to the backyard. This stinks of "we aren't those kind of people." And before you post a comment about contracts and compliance, how much would you like to bet me that there is plenty of noncompliance, but it's only the "low class" kind that gets enforced?

Ms. Taylor responded by pointing out that the subdivision is "blatantly full of noncompliant owners" who display everything from plastic play equipment to exterior paint colors that don't meet the requirement of "medium to dark tones." She added: "Who am I hurting by hanging clothes out to dry?"

I grew up in South Florida, so the covenant nonsense is old hat to me. Down the road in Boca Raton, there are communities where the covenant prohibits parking vans or pickups in the driveway. You have to put in the garage, you tacky people! Wouldn't want anyone to think actual workers lived in this neighborhood. There's even a great Doonesbury series: Sir, step away from the laundry.

My mom always hung laundry. I agree with the comment that it feels and smells different than dryer dried clothes. To me, clothes that come from the dryer often smell like scorched hair. Blech. But clothes from the line smell like fresh air, and they don't get dingy and yellow like they do in the dryer. Even today, when I go home for the holidays, I do all my laundry before packing my suitcase to go home, and bring that fresh smell back with me. If I work it right, I can pull something out of the closet in February or March, and sniff in the sunshine and fresh air, when my windows have been shut for three months and everything in the house smells like a dusty dog.

I'm also attached to hanging laundry for sentimental reasons. It reminds me of spending time with my mom when I was little. She was always a master of having kids be around when she was working, but busy with their own stuff instead of requiring her undivided attention. So while she would hang clothes, I would play, or paddle in the pool, or help by handing up clothespins or small items (when you're short, that's about the extent of it). There's even a story I remember, though I was too small to recall the incident, about her hanging laundry with me in my buggy, and a powerline worker came into the yard and peeked in my buggy. Our dachsund ran up to protect me and clamped her teeth around the heel of his boot. That is, she did until he reached down to pet her and she rolled over and peed on herself.

Fond memories aside, I'm surprised that the upper middle class communities get so snitty about laundry instead of embracing the nostalgia. It seems to me like it fits perfectly in the Martha Stewart stay-at-home and embrace all those 1950s traditions mode that sells so well in that tax bracket. I guess conspicuous consumption hasn't quite been surpassed by conspicuous conservation as the latest "must have" accessory.

Posted by binky at 09:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

For all those pro-lifers who get upset when people use the words "fetus" and "parasite" in the same sentence

STFU already:

The placenta acts like a parasite to avoid attack by a mother's immune system, researchers have discovered.

A University of Reading team found it employs a cloaking device very similar to that used by parasitic worms.


Posted by binky at 09:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 15, 2007

The Big News of Thursday Night

Probably didn't happen at the Democratic debate. The live-blogging of that suggests most saw it as a tame affair that didn't move any of the major candidacies. But another race might well change tonight - the competition to get into the BCS championship game. Oregon QB Dennis Dixon, the favorite for the Heisman trophy, left the game in the 1st quarter after an injury to his knee. #2 Oregon is now down 20 points to lowly Arizona in the 2nd quarter. And of course the #2 ranking has carried something of a curse is this topsy-turvy season. Be sure to keep an eye on this one tonight/tomorrow morning.

Posted by armand at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IR goodness

There are a couple of excellent discussions happening in the IR-o-sphere, one regarding graduate degrees and the other about Dani Rodrik's new book [Warning, NSFNG].

First, a discussion going between the Duck of Minerva and Lawyers Guns and Money, with continuation at PTJ's solo site and chiming in from Dan Drezner about the utility of the terminal M.A. The post that started it all, Farley's response, more from PTJ and comment from Drezner, and more from Farley here.

Some of the same characters are involved in the Dani Rodrik Seminar at Crooked TImber. The posts:

Setting the Stage for Growth

If so many recipes can work, why do so many fail ?

More Politics, Many Recipes

Through the Hourglass

The Undercover Apostate

Experimentalism and Institutional Choice

One Book, Many Reactions

One Economics

And the Response by Rodrik.

Heavy hitters, and lots of good stuff and the kind of scholarly discussion I wish we could see more of more often.

Posted by binky at 04:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why I Spend My Nights Alone

One of Andrew Sullivan's best links ever. We've all been one of (or both of) these people. I can't stop watching this. She's hilarious - and definitely on to something.

Posted by armand at 11:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lars and the Real Girl

That was so terribly sweet. I was actually crying. Sure, it's sad too, but it's a movie filled with characters you want to thank or hug. And the acting is excellent. While I don't expect to see it I'd totally get Oscar nominations for Ryan Gosling or Emily Mortimer. I expected something more ha-ha funny, not something so moving. But regardless of what I thought it would be, it's a good movie.

Posted by armand at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2007

Levy on the Political Math in Israel, Relating to an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Deal

This detailed post is almost a week old, but well worth reviewing if you are interested in Israel/Palestinian issues. Long story short, the Israeli government is actually in a surprisingly good position to approve further deals with the Palestinians when it comes to their internal politics. However, that doesn't mean they are going to come to pass.

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

Huckabee's Nasty Swipe at Romney

Will this hurt Huckabee's reputation in the press as an awww-shucks, nice guy? It should.

"I think Mitt Romney would rather keep people out of college so they can keep working on his lawn," said Huckabee while appearing on the Fox News Channel.
Posted by armand at 12:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Maybe it won't be squid overlords after all...

Go read it all:

John: ... no. We can still control our destiny, through elections.
Tyrone: Like those voting machines are attached to anything --
John: You always say that. But look,the Democrats won in 2006!
Tyrone: Suuuuuuuure they did.
John: What are you -- Congress changed parties! We took over!
Tyrone: Absolutely. Remember when the Democratic Congress ended the war?
John: Ummm ...
Tyrone: How about when they changed the Bankruptcy Bill, so middle class people didn't get reamed. When they passed that children's health care plan over the lame duck president's veto. Or when they finally reclaimed America's moral high ground when they bravely stopped the approval of an Attorney General who thought waterboarding was a grey area. When they shut down Gitmo ...
John: ... *sigh*
Tyrone: Well?
John: How do we get into the good graces of the robot overlords?
Tyrone: Support them early . Urge others to vote for them.
John: I thought you said --
Tyrone: Sure they'll rig the election. But appearance of support is everything in order to curry concessions. Look at the Religious Right.
John: Bumper stickers.
Tyrone: Good. Very simple design. A silhouette of a robot, or one red eye. And a nice clean logline. "Vote Robot Overlord. They'll Know if You Didn't"
John: "Vote Robot Overlord: Like You Have a Choice."
Tyrone: See, you're good at this.
John: That's not a compliment.

Posted by binky at 09:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2007

Whoa, dude...

From Slate:

A study suggests the earlier you lose your virginity, the less likely you are to become a delinquent. Old finding: Kids who have early sex become delinquents. New findings: 1) When you eliminate genetic differences by comparing twins, those who have sex earlier don't become more delinquent. 2) Compared with fraternal twins, identical twins lose their virginity at relatively similar ages, which implies that the age at which you lose your virginity is genetically influenced. 3) In fact, "adolescents who had sex at younger ages were less likely to end up delinquent than those who lost their virginity later." Researchers' conclusions: 1) Early sex and delinquency share a genetic basis, probably in propensity to take risks. 2) For teens with risk-taking genes, "sexual relationships may offer an alternative to trouble." Old advice: Pet your dog, not your date. New advice: Pop a cherry, not a cap. Bonus report: Kids who smoke pot (but not cigarettes) are "significantly more likely to practice sports and they have a better relationship with their peers" than kids who smoke neither. (Related: the case for lowering the age of sexual consent.)

Via Fark

Posted by binky at 01:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


For those who still think that Ron Paul might be a sensible conservative alternative, a really nice rundown of some of his legislative priorities.

Posted by binky at 12:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

File Under: Ruh-Roh

Via Majikthise, we find nuclear security lacking in South Africa:

A brazen attack by four gunmen on the Pelindaba nuclear facility has left a senior emergency officer seriously injured.


He was shot in the chest when the gunmen stormed the facility's emergency response control room in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The shooting comes four months after Necsa's newly appointed services general manager Eric Lerata, 43, was gunned down in front of his Montana home after returning from a business trip in France.

Pelindaba is regarded as one of the country's most secure national key points.

Oh, and emphasis mine. Zoinks!

Posted by binky at 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2007

Applesauce wasn't on the "to do" list

Yeah, well, shit happens.

I'd been holding on to some apples for far too long, and the only thing left was something sauce-ish, given the way that most of them looked. It's a shame, because they are organic and locally grown, and quite delicious. I just let time get away from me, and a few blotches turned into a couple of soft spots turned into pre-compost.

One of the dentists in town also has orchards, in addition to other plantly endeavors, which he grows on the family land. He is as much an historian of agriculture as anything, and he can tell you more about the different varieties and names of apples than anyone I've ever met. When he rolls up at the farmers' market, he's got the names written out, literature on the table, and a story to tell about the earliest known date of cultivation of each. I always end up coming home with more than I intended to bring home, definitely more than I paid for (because he heaps in extras) and certainly more than I can remember the names of all of them. Most of the apples are not what you'd call beauties or well-balanced in shape, but damn are they tasty. Tart, crisp, with chewy skins. If it wasn't for the farmers' market, I wouldn't know what a Mutsu was.

I only have two more things left form the farmers' market... a couple of acorn squash. After this and the applesauce, it'll be back to the store-bought deprivation of winter.

But, in the mean time, it appears that my dentist's apples make some mighty fine sauce.

Posted by binky at 05:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A "shit to do" link dump

Because it's that time of year, and we all have "shit to do. By source:

From the Liberal Avenger, a link to an Air Force Times story on how returning reservists are not getting help to combat employment discrimination. Also, a tip to this story about Chinese subs sneaking up on US ships. Ruh-roh! Finally, a nice littler graph in a post about debt, currency, and inflation.

Over in Shakesville, Melissa reminds us that homegrown terror still gets ignored. She also reminds us that it's not just the bedspread. Ew.

In the land of the Panda, Amanda, as always narrows it down with a mighty pithiness: Divorce has gone down with feminism going up, but at what cost?! Men having to take out trash and learn to eat pussy—it’s truly a terrible loss. And Pam reports on a house divided, nastily and publicly, over a teen's coming out.

Neddie Jingo works the ballot box, and connects history to home.

LGM double teams some pro-life lovin' for spousal abuse (also Jill). What, you didn't know Don Corleone was the poster guy for the pro-life movement? Also, an excerpt from a metaphor about why the market doesn't always work in health care.

Granny (ok, she changed the name of her blog, but I'm attached to the old one) went on a viaje to check out the Day of the Dead a lo Mexicano (the only real way, of course). Check out her ongoing travelogue and groovy photos: here, here, here, here, and here (and I think there is more coming...)

And if that's not enough to keep you busy, then you can go over and congratulate our neighbor (roughly speaking) on the Weblog Award win. I still think he and Baltar ought to have a sit down one of these days, what with the sensible conservatism and fraternizing with lefties and what not.

And when you're done, you can look into the porthole to hell. It's OK, help is on the way!

Posted by binky at 03:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2007

Power Outage=Blog Outage

Small town America, where a log truck into a utillity pole shuts off the power for many hours. Thank goodness the power outage stopped just before the Great Wall, or there would have been no crispy eggrolls for the dinner by candlelight .

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

November 08, 2007

Does anyone still watch Amadeus?

The three of us drank a bottle of wine and watched Spinal Tap tonight. Baltar's comment was that this movie was released in 1984, and it's still hilarious, and really clever. None of us could even remember the Best Picture winner for 1984.

Posted by binky at 11:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Writers' Strike

Posted by binky at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spider-Man III

Way to destroy a franchise. I read the bad reviews in May, and decided I'd wait for it to come out on dvd. But even being aware of the bad reviews I wasn't prepared for the awfulness that was Spider-Man III. Did it have any redeeming qualities? Even one? Perhaps giving James Franco more face time (no not his character, just him), but other than that it was minute after minute after minute of never-ending awfulness.

Posted by armand at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 07, 2007

It Started Snowing Today

But I prefer to think happy thoughts...

Confetti, right? Nature's confetti?

Posted by binky at 06:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 06, 2007

They Forgot One

These lists of missing bloggers have a big blank spot in them.

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

Maybe I'm Back

I sure hope so, because I want to blog about stupidity on the part of school officials in West Virginia, spurred on by idiot parents, who think that they can create something akin to the MPAA to rate liberry books.

Insert head slap here.

Posted by binky at 10:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Binky Still Loves You

She wants you to know that she would be posting, but the upgrade has affected her ability to get into the system. She'll be back as soon as that gets worked out.

Posted by armand at 09:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 05, 2007

Michael Clayton

I finally got around to seeing Michael Clayton last night (beware, at the moment the Warner is without heat). I liked it a lot. It's a taut thriller - about both a guy stuck in a difficult position in life, and about corporate intrigue. And I imagine there will be some Oscar nominations in its future. The most likely would be a Supporting Actor nomination for Tom Wilkinson. On the one hand that wouldn't thrill me as chewing scenery doesn't begin to describe his performance. But on the other hand he does a very nice job with a difficult role. So I'd probably be okay with him being nominated (especially as it would cast more attention on a movie I like). But I'd probably rather see George Clooney nominated as Best Actor for a very understated but effective performance, and I'd definitely rather see Tilda Swinton nominated for a great Supporting Actress turn. She's usually terrific, and here in a tense and uncomfortable and compelling small role she doesn't disappoint. She's the most watchable thing in the movie, which is definitely saying something. I liked everything about her work, and thought the attention to her and her clothes was a really interesting way to convey the character. Finally I'll note that while I liked a lot of the locations and costumes, whoever chose the setting for the final confrontation did a superb job.

Posted by armand at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hey, is this thing on?

Sorry if anyone tried to do anything here in the last 12 hours; we attempted to upgrade to MT4.0 (the blogging software we use), and it completely blew up. We're replaced that with the old software (MT3.??), and we're in consultations about how to proceed.

In any event, things are working now.

UPDATE: It looks like any comments anyone made in the last 12 hours have vanished into the Matrix. If it was important, stick it back up again and we'll let it through.

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

November 04, 2007

Improving Death Toll Numbers in Iraq

Perhaps this is more Baltar's territory than mine, but I think this Charles Bird post is worth linking too, as it's a nice collection of news stories from Iraq that could actually be termed "good news". Now it would be highly problematic to take this too far. It's not the least bit surprising that al Qaeda's favorability numbers have fallen in several countries, and the fact that civilian casualties have dropped could be as much due to ethnic cleansing campaigns having succeeded as to them having been stopped. And of course to the extent that this might suggest that "The Surge" is working in limiting deaths, it doesn't address the fact that it is in many ways an anti-national building plan that could very well bite the US in its ass, or the fact that the plan was put in effect ostensibly to create political progress (and on that point it has failed). Still, there have been fewer killings of civilians and US troops in the last couple months (though there are still too many), so it's at least nice to see those trend lines.

Posted by armand at 11:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2007

So Is Bill Callahan Fired Yet?

Yeah, I know we're still in the 4th quarter of the Kansas game, but given how that game is going (and how the season's gone so far) I seriously wonder if Callahan will be fired before the game ends today.

Posted by armand at 04:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I am stronger than my cat.

My damn cat stole a raw steak off a plate (next to the stove) last night. I first knew something was amiss when I saw him streaking by me (head down from the weight of the steak). I start yelling and screaming (I had no idea at this point what he had done, but given his finky behavior I knew he had done something, thus the pre-emptive screaming and yelling), and lit off after him. He ejected a piece of it (to distract me, I'm convinced) and took off upstairs. I ignored his distraction (it wasn't a big enough piece) and finally tracked him down under the futon. I pulled him out by the last inch of his tail; he was making horrible growling and yowling noises. Since I'm bigger than he is, I took the steak away from him.

Yes, I cooked and ate it anyway. I ate it in front of him just to show him I remained stronger than he.


Posted by baltar at 03:52 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

DiFi Explains Her Support of AG-Nominee Mukasey

Do I loathe the senior senator from California? I might be moving in that direction. Is this a rather ridiculously weak explanation of her support for him? You betcha.

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

Gould's Book of Fish

The last novel I finished was this book by Richard Flanagan. The fantastic tales, wonder, and mundane eternities are captured in the review at the link. And they are quite interesting. But to me it's his writing that really makes the whole thing work. And I can't decribe it at all. But I will say that it is funny and dreamy and full of life - even when telling truly horrible moments.

Posted by armand at 01:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Funniest Line I Overheard on Friday

Growing up I was not naturally social. Even today I go to a Renaissance Fair and ...
Posted by armand at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 01, 2007


I'm just completely reprinting this entire George Packer post from his blog over at Vanity Fair. My level of frustration at our conduct in this war (both on this issue and others - how can America possibly be having a debate about torture?) exceeds my ability to articulate it. I don't like this war; I think it's aims are vague (democracy? WMD? Stability? Why are we in Iraq?), and I think that the original planning (or lack thereof) almost guaranteed failure at a catastrophic level. On top of that, four and a half years into this war, the leadership of this country still won't act seriously to actually do the right thing (again, on this issue and several others). In short, this is a continuing failure the likes of which I cannot fathom, and (I believe) has no historical parallel. America has failed in the past (Lincoln couldn't find a general to fight Lee for several years; American troops were ill-equipped and ill-led when the went into combat the first time in World War II; America completely underestimated the North Koreans), but almost entirely those failures were rectified at some point. Not in Iraq; our failures continue to this day.

We "continued to fail" in Vietnam as well; daily, I'm amazed at the parallels between this conflict and that.

Again, I didn't write this,; George Packer did (though I clearly support the sentiment). If he doesn't want me to quote the whole thing, send me an email, and I'll remove it.

The Disgrace at State

Last January, I spent twenty-four hours in Baghdad with Lieutenant Colonel Steven Miska, an extremely capable deputy brigade commander, who introduced me to some of the Iraqi interpreters on his base. In March, when my article “Betrayed” appeared, Miska wrote me to say that he was going to commit himself to getting his unit’s local staff who were under threat out of Iraq and into the U.S. Now Miska is at the end of his fifteen-month tour and about to leave Iraq. Last night, he wrote in an e-mail:

We have five Iraqis in the US, all interpreters. We have more than two dozen more with packets in various stages of completion. Even though this is the special [immigrant] visa streamlined process, I don’t think the Iraqis could have figured it out without my staff. It took a concerted effort to decipher the system and develop the points of contact at each echelon to work through the red tape. We have had more success than most. Still, the policy calls for the final visa approval to take place in Amman. Iraqis must come up with an alibi to get to Amman, as “I’m going to the U.S. Embassy” will get you quickly turned around at the Jordanian border.We set up a bit of an underground railroad from our location and it has worked.

So here is one soldier who has made it his last mission not to leave his Iraqi friends behind. Many other soldiers are doing the same thing, as individuals and through organizations like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. In the case of the military, the reason is clear: an institutional ethos and shared dangers create a debt of gratitude and a strong bond. A handful of civilian officials from various departments are also pushing on behalf of their Iraqi friends. But the State Department, as an organization, has disgraced itself.

It lobbied against a Senate resolution that would increase the number of special immigrant visas for Iraqis by tenfold and allow applications to be reviewed inside Iraq. After promising to resettle seven thousand Iraqis here this fiscal year, it managed only sixteen hundred and eight. After promising to resettle twelve thousand in fiscal year 2008, it started off with just four hundred and fifty in October. The projected numbers are meaningless P.R., which is how the department treats the issue. Watch this State Department podcast of an interview between the department’s spokesman, Sean McCormack, and Ellen Sauerbrey, the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. Sauerbrey, a political appointee, comes off as a nice person who’s completely out of her depth. Look at her expression, listen to her voice, and tell me that you think Iraqi refugees are in good hands. At one point, McCormack mentions the twelve-thousand figure, asking, “This calendar year?” Sauerbrey doesn’t correct him. Is she ignorant? Deceptive? It doesn’t really matter. Somehow, this twice-defeated candidate for governor of Maryland is serenely certain that “we will easily reach twelve thousand.” She also explains that Iraqis can’t have their applications processed in Baghdad partly because of concern for their safety during the “three to four months of waiting.” And yet, a moment later, she admits that, with all of Iraq’s neighbors shutting their borders to refugees, “there really is no place that Iraqis can go if they are fearful, except to find shelter in another part of Iraq.” In other words: we know that you can’t flee, but we’re too worried about your well-being to help you where you are. Sauerbrey ends this ten-minute propaganda film with a complacent lie: “We feel such a strong moral obligation and commitment to help these Iraqis that did help us.”

There are various official explanations for the delay, and they all have the smell of indifference. Bush has steadily refused to say one word about the issue. The reason isn’t hard to find. “It would be as if the helicopters were flying off the embassy, except in real time, while we’re claiming to be victorious,” Joel Charny, of Refugees International, one of the most vocal advocates of the cause, told me. When I mentioned Steve Miska’s effort on behalf of his interpreters, Charny said, “There’s none of that emotion coming from our State Department interlocutors, who are mainly Ellen. The performance has been shameful. Nothing will happen until the President owns the problem. Until President Bush stands up in the Rose Garden or before an Iraq veterans’ group and says, ‘We have a responsibility and solidarity with people who helped us on this project, and I will make sure my Administration moves heaven and earth to help these people’—until then, nothing significant will happen.”

In the early years of the war, State was the agency where you found level-headed professionals who knew what a mess the ideologues at the Pentagon and the White House were making in Iraq. But now the same institution is defacing itself with a moral black mark that history will record next to the department’s refusal to admit more than a small number of Jewish refugees during the Second World War. Yesterday, a group of department officials complained about mandatory assignments to Iraq. If I were a foreign-service officer, I’d wonder instead how I could continue to work for an organization that is obstructing the effort to save our Iraqi allies from death. A few of those officers who served in Iraq and left behind friends might be asking themselves the same question.

I’m tired of writing about this. I’m sure you’re tired of reading about it. I wish the Administration would do the right thing so I could stop sounding like a self-righteous scold. But the Administration is counting on the soldiers and the journalists and the advocates who have made this their cause to lose interest and move on. So we can’t.

Posted by baltar at 10:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sharon Stone Is Crazy/Fabulous

For whatever reason this made me laugh harder than I have in days. It's just so right given the photo:

You look ... well, crazy/fabulous, of course, but mostly crazy because - leaving aside the question of how many bears or whatever had to die for that thing and/or how many faux fur makers worked their fingers to the bone stitching it - that thing is so big, you basically just look like you're lugging your bedspread down to the cleaners after a particularly rough night of extremely formal party hopping.
Posted by armand at 02:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Waldman on Tim Russert and the Washington Media

Ever for those of you who don't delight in Russert-bashing, this piece is worth your time. Ours is a messed up system - and those who play a key role in messing it up somehow earn praise.

Posted by armand at 12:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

If You Want Another Reason to Loathe Dubai ...

Apparently men can't be raped there - which may come as a surprise to the men who are raped there. Ah, the power of language and identity ...

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