It was expected, and yes, it is happening.
Adam Serwer notes the following after seeing that church-goers are more likely to approve of torture:
I feel like I should be making some smart remark about how Jesus was tortured, but I'm really too horrified. Of course, that won't stop me from pointing out the obvious: there is a large amount of people committed to preventing consenting adults from having sex or getting married because of their sexual orientation who nevertheless think it's okay to beat or waterboard people and shove them in tiny boxes.
Taniel says not so fast. He has been running against Democrats since before we were born, and his early acts have included opposing the popular president's budget. And the nominally pro-choice Specter is against one of the president's key nominees, seemingly only because she worked for pro-choice groups. There would certainly seem to be ideological room for a Democrat to take Specter down. But will there be money to do so? It will be interesting to see if Republicans keep up with early spending against him.
The US House today approved an extension of the Hate Crimes Act that will include gay and lesbian Americans. The vote was 249-175, largely along party lines, but with 17 Democrats and 18 Republicans going against the majority of their party. Republicans voting for it included possible Senate candidates Mark Kirk and Mike Castle, Mary Bono Mack, two Louisianans (Cao and Cassidy), three Pennsylvanians (Gerlach, Dent and Platts), and the three Cuban-Americans from South Florida. Democrats voting against it included Alabama gubenatorial candidate Artur Davis, Louisiana's Charlie Melancon (and a lot of other Southerners), Indiana's Ellsworth and Donnelly, Pennsylvania's Chris Carney (a political science professor), and the often anti-gay Collin Peterson of Minnesota. West Virginia's members voted with the majority of their parties, so Ms. Capito was a No vote.
Dumbest question yet goes to Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times - What's surprised, troubled, enchanted, and humbled you the most about serving as president, over the last 100 days? Answering that's taken something like 10 minutes and told us nothing that wasn't predictable.
And what's with the president leaving choice out there hanging in the wind? So the Freedom of Choice Act is not one of his priorities, and he wants to work on issues where pro-choice and pro-life people agree? So that means - basically expect nothing (in terms of legislation) when it comes to protecting the rights of women on these issues?
At least he implicitly said that Team Bush tortured, that Cheney's full of the S-Word (as Justice Scalia would put it), that the pro-torture folks are no Churchill, and that torture is fundamentally un-American.
warning: girly shit below
... that if you wear above a C cup, it is not allowed to possess attractive bras? It's like the Soup Nazi meets foundation garments: no cute bras for you!
Seriously, I want to know.
I know better than to ask for armchair diagnosis. But after seeing the latest headlines about Bachmann's latest fact-free ramblings, I figured I'd throw the question out to the peanut gallery on this rainy afternoon. Is she stupid, crazy, or what?
Westerwelle is the openly gay leader of the FDP party which is polling unusually well at the moment. Should that continue it's forecast that he could become foreign minister this fall. And if that happens a new set of issues might become important to the biggest country in the EU. For example:
The FDP doesn't correspond to either major political party in the U.S., but is typical of liberal parties in Europe, where the word "liberal" denotes both free-market economics and left-leaning social policies that stress diversity and tolerance. The FDP, for instance, supports minority rights, higher immigration and curtailing the state's powers of surveillance. Mr. Westerwelle, who would be Germany's first openly gay foreign minister, has said he would cut development aid to countries that persecute gays. But the position that is winning the party new supporters is Mr. Westerwelle's attacks on the government for its high tax-and-spend policies.
Via every news source known to mankind, it was just announced that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Losing) is now Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Not Losing By Quite So Much).
Paging Al Franken....Paging Sen. Al Franken...Please report to the now-filibuster proof Senate immediately....
Just a reminder - tomorrow is the vote for city council. Typically turnout is under 20% (it hasn't been that high in years), so if there's someone you like, your vote can make a difference.
So, any of you hearing good things about particular candidates? I've heard positive things about Jenny Selin (the incumbent in Ward 4) and George Papandreas (the challenger in Ward 1). And of course some people like Don Spencer's (Ward 7) libertarian instincts.
Steve Chapman reminds us that many of the legal benefits of marriage are denied to gay couples married in Iowa, Vermont or any other state that legalizes gay marriage.
Oh, Iowa can provide recognition to gay marriages under all its laws and policies. But that's a surprisingly small part of what marriage encompasses. Under federal law, there are more than 1,100 rights and privileges that go with being a husband or wife. And none of them is available to married same-sex couples.
Chapman's point is that this isn't the way federalism is supposed to operate. And it's pretty much unheard of in US history.
Back in the segregationist years, Southern states often honored interracial marriages transacted beyond their borders even though they regarded them as "so unnatural that God and nature seem to forbid them."
Chapman thinks federalists should push for DOMA to be scrapped.
So last week's pirate episode complete the first run of South Park's 13th season (it will return in October). Thoughts? I'd say the season has feature 2 great episodes (The Ring and Margaritaville), 2 middling ones (The Coon and Fatbeard), and 3 that I don't ever need to watch again (Fishsticks, Eat, Pray, Queef, and Pinewood Derby).
I think I'll give this movie by Chris Jaymes a C. It's not bad, but in spirit it's like a lot of other things that are out there (think The Celebration, but funnier). To the extent it has a problem it's that it's all over the place, shooting back and forth among the stories of the title character's sons. And I actually quite enjoyed two those. So whenever the camera wasn't on Jeremy Sisto and Eric Michael Cole or on Matt Keeslar and Judy Greer, I was waiting for it to get back to them. Like I said, it's not bad. And there is some good acting in it, by stars I like a lot. And I've never seen a film so filled with Belle & Sebastian songs, so that's good too. So maybe a C is too low. But, like I said, it covers rather familiar territory.
I continue to be confused by the right-wing assertions in this scandal. They've claimed everything from "the techniques we used were not torture" (wrong) to "the Democrats can't/shouldn't change the laws to criminalize acts of the previous administration" (wrong again: nobody anywhere is arguing to change the laws).
Today brings more. One of the themes around today is the "torture was necessary; we were scared of what Al Qaeda might do" idea, as exemplified by a story in today's Washington Post:
Six years after [Khalid Sheik] Mohammed was captured, the scrutiny of the agency's approach seems unfair to some intelligence veterans, who argue that the interrogation program cannot be separated from the atmosphere of the day, when further attacks seemed imminent. At the time, there was little or no dissent, including from congressional Democrats who were briefed on the program, according to former intelligence officials.
The article notes that Mohammed was captured in March 2003, and was (I'll try to use polite language here) subject to enhanced techniques quickly after he was in US custody. Translation: he was tortured very quickly, without any other (non-enhanced) techniques tried first.
I don't want to get into the efficacy argument (did torture work?). That's another day. I want to address the "we were justified in doing this because of the climate of fear that Al Qaeda might attack again at any day" argument that is seen in the paragraph above. I've seen this around in several places, and it seems to be complete bullshit, as far as I can tell. For several very good reasons, this doesn't seem to hold water.
First, if Bush and his administration were so frightened of another attack by Al Qaeda (in March of 2003), why were they on the verge of invading Iraq? How was the invasion of another (unrelated) country supposed to limit the ability of Al Qaeda to attack us? Preparations for the invasion of Iraq required the US military to withdraw resources (troops, special forces, UAVs/drones, etc.) from Afghanistan and stage them in Kuwait; this clearly resulted in less pressure on the remnants of Al Qaeda then we could have mounted, if we wanted to. In short, if the Bush administration was genuinely fearful of further terrorist attacks, then they were deliberately taking actions that made those attacks more likely (assuming Al Qaeda was capable of further attacks). So, the argument that torture was necessary because another attack could be coming any day isn't consistent with other policies the administration was following (drawing down Afghanistan; building up forces for Iraq).
Second, the WaPo article discusses Mohammed's interrogation in March of 2003, some 18 months after 9/11. How long does a "climate of fear" last? The most significant attacks post-9/11 (Spain, England) were still in the future (and were likely the actions of groups sympathetic to Al Qaeda, not Al Qaeda themselves). The 2002 Bali bombings were the actions of another fundamentalist Islamic group, not Al Qaeda. In other words, what fear did we have of additional attacks? Al Qaeda had been silent since 9/11, mostly because they were busy hiding in caves as US and NATO troops tried to dig them out of Tora Bora in Afghanistan. We had clearly done damage to their network, and the ability of Al Qaeda to plan, manage and execute terrorist attacks was likely at its lowest probability ever at this time. So, the argument that "we were scared" seems false on the facts.
Could it have been the Bush administration individually that was scared? That, also, seems unlikely. The individuals involved in planning US government policy at this point were some of the best protected people on the planet. I'll grant you that the buildings they worked in (White House, Pentagon, Washington DC in general) might have been on Al Qaeda's list of targets (then again, maybe not: terrorism is about doing the unexpected to create terror), but these targets, post 9/11, were very well guarded. The odds of another (successful) attack on these government buildings were lower than ever, so the "fear factor" of policy-makers (individually) should also have been lower. So the argument that they were scared of attacks on either themselves or the general populace is ridiculous.
Third, and finally, I'm concerned about the implicit retreat into irrationally (or non-rationality) that the WaPo paragraph (and article) makes into a validating argument. The article implies that fear allows policy-makers a justification for hasty or ill-conceived actions. My previous paragraphs tried to argue that the essential argument (fear) is a lie; there really wasn't any climate of fear. However, even granting a climate of fear, why should we accept that policy-makers should be allowed to justify actions because of it? Don't we hire politicians (and the people they appoint) to act (rationally) in our best interests? Why is it a justification of a policy to be able to say that the policy-makers were stressed and not thinking rationally? If these people are liable to fall to pieces in times of stress, why are they in their jobs? Shouldn't we demand more of the people who make policies for us (representative government)? The argument the defenders of the policy seem to be making is that scared people are allowed to make irrational decisions; I don't accept that. Call me crazy, but we should hold our policy-makers to higher standards.
(As a third-and-a-half, or fourth, point, doesn't it seem like the "we were scared, so that justifies our decisions" argument admits that the decision to torture was sub-optimal? I mean, arguing that "we were scared" is an excuse. You use excuses to explain away decisions that were wrong, or at least not the best. I mean, you don't justify the best decisions by saying, "oh, well, I was just scared." You justify sub-optimal decisions with excuses. So, aren't the apologists admitting that torture wasn't a good choice by trying to justify the decision with an excuse like "we were scared?")
The torture debate is complex, in the sense that the apologists are offering lots of excuses and arguments to justify their actions. I haven't found one that I like yet, and I don't expect to. But the "fear justifies our actions" excuse falls particularly flat.
The Tony-winning star of Maude and The Golden Girls has passed away.
Tom Twyker directing Ben Whishaw and Alan Rickman in a film that often looks great ... I'm going to give this a thumbs-up, right? Sadly, no. It's really watchable, no question about that. And to the extent it's telling the tale and getting across the presumed point, it succeeds. And it's got Dustin Hoffman for some comic relief (of a sort) - and how often do you see him in fancy dress? Honestly, for the last hour or more it felt rather empty, and like it was going through the motions. I didn't hate it by any means. It did succeed at keeping my attention and my eyes on the screen. But once you know where it's going it runs out of steam.
Those would be Thelma Houston's thighs.
Still, "Don't Leave Me This Way" remains a great song.
UPDATE: I don't get the point of having disco week, and then the judges being happiest when contestants sing arrangements that aren't remotely "disco".
... but go fuck yourself:
More Dr. Horrible. Yes please:
A feature-length Dr. Horrible sequel is a serious consideration but not definite. "We've talked about doing an actual studio film, and we've talked about doing an independent tiny little thing," Whedon said. "We've talked about everything in between, the bumper sticker, whatever format."
Including the kind they don't pay for.
Erik Loomis on Texas history and slavery. It's not a happy tale.
I am so glad I'm not a student in the 21st century. Stephen Breyer and company who brought America's teens required drug tests (without any sort of cause) back in the 1990s appear to be just fine with strip-searching them too. Because, you know, they might be carrying excess ibuprofen or something. Or that's how this morning's argument in Safford United School District v. Redding sounded.
Well, at least compared to Roberts and Alito.
I dare you to watch (not that I will). These are the people who turned movie night into a never-ending ode to the talent (ahem) of Bryan Adams. I shudder to think what they'll do with disco night. Anyone care to place bets on what they'll sing? "More Than a Woman" seems their bag. Maybe "Bad Girls"? If Adam Lambert were to sing "I'm Coming Out", that'd be funny. Or even better, "Upside Down".
The 2009 Kentucky Derby is less than two weeks away. Are you ready for a mint julep? And maybe a big hat? A lot of people are saying it's a strong field this year (at the least, stonger than last year). And looking over the top contenders it really stands out how bloodlines matter in this sport. Of the eight horses atop Steve Haskins's most recent Derby Dozen, half of them are descended from A.P. Indy (Friesan Fire, General Quarters, I Want Revenge and Dunkirk). More than half are descended from A.P. Indy's sire, Seattle Slew.
When was the last time a former president or vice president was so prominent in taking part in political debates? When was the last time one was so actively criticizing his successors? When was the last time it was done so soon after his leaving office?
I can't think of anyone else behaving like this in the history of the modern presidency. Can you?
By the way, SCOTUSBlog's latest stat pack is out, looking at the cases decided so far this term. As usual, the Supreme Court reverses most of the lower court decisions it hears. As far as which justices are voting with each other the most, Roberts, Scalia and Alito very rarely disagree. Souter and Ginsberg are also rarely in opposition to each other.
This is a great, if depressing, graphic. It shows job gains/losses since the start of 2007. Texas and the Plains states appear less affected than many others (of course there are few jobs to start with in the latter). Detroit and the Lake Erie area have apparently be as grim as death for a number of years now. But elsewhere this shows considerable variation in boom and bust.
RUMINT (Rumor Intelligence) is always fun, if not necessarily accurate. So, we can wait a day or so for the actual truth to emerge here. That doesn't mean we can't start speculating, however.
Via TMP (just cut and pasted in here):
This story is so radioactive it's hard to know which of fifty different directions to go with it. In brief, Jeff Stein at CQ has a much, much more detailed account of the story, first reported in 2006, of Rep. Jane Harman getting wiretapped allegedly discussing a quid pro quo with "a suspected Israeli."
There are a lot of hairy details on this one. But the gist is that an NSA wiretap recorded Rep. Jane Harman in a conversation with a "suspected Israeli agent" in which Harman allegedly agreed to use her influence with the DOJ to get them to drop the AIPAC spy case in exchange for help lobbying then-Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi to make Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee -- a position she ended up not getting.
The story suggests that the tapes show Harman crossed the line. And the gears were in motion to open a full blown investigation. But then Alberto Gonzales intervened and shutdown the whole thing.
Why? Here's where it gets into the realm of bad novel writing -- because Gonzales (and the White House) needed Harman to go to bat for them on the warrantless wiretaping story that the New York Times was about to publish.
If this turns out to be true, what a mess. And, perhaps first of all, why was the NSA listening to a Congressperson? God, what a mess...
So I finally got around to watching Mike Leigh's award-winner from 2008. And while I suppose it's a good movie on its own terms, I can't say I particularly enjoyed it. The lead character is annoying, and we aren't given much reason to find these people interesting. The acting is largely good, though giving best of the year honors to Eddie Marsan or Sally Hawkins seems going to far. Hawkins clown act as Poppy is fine - but I didn't quite believe that POPPY and the person she played when she wasn't trying to be as irritating as possible were really the same person. So, if this is the sort of thing you think you might enjoy - it's well done. But this one wasn't for me.
It's spring in West Virginia, and I've got three words to describe my delight:
Ramp mashed potatoes
If you don't know, you haven't lived.
So much could be different if Tora Bora had gone differently. That it wasn't a bigger issue in the 2004 campaign amazes me. Kerry tried to make it an issue - but didn't push it enough. And the media really couldn't have cared less. Most Americans know nothing about it. But of course its effects continue to play out in the instability and war in South Asia.
There was a teabag protest in town today. I needed to walk by, both because I had to get home and let the dogs out, and because, well, I needed to see this.
There were about 250 or so gathered in the small square in front of the courthouse. Many more than I expected (they were large enough to have a 3-man counter-protest going even), especially considering the rain. The demographics trended towards old and white; that wasn't much of surprise. I'm always unhappy to see young kids (6 to 8 years old) carrying protest signs around; I figure they'd rather be playing in mud or even in school than standing around a rainy protest carrying signs (I don't remember the exact quote, but something about "Don't spend my money too" - a reference to the intergenerational effects of massive debt, but likely not a political debate a 7 year old has much depth in). The rain caused most of the crowd to huddle together under umbrellas, and cut down on the signage. So the overall effect wasn't very impressive.
It was boring. I wish I could make up stories about how wacky and wingnutty the speakers were, but I could barely hear them. The most entertaining part was that they had set the PA and mike up under a standing tent that was bright gold and blue, with "WVU Mountaineers" all over it. If you were dumb enough, you might think that there was some form of University sponsorship. I suspect laziness instead. The speakers droned on; they didn't get many cheers. From what I could tell, most people were anti-government, not anti-Obama or anti-Democrat. They just didn't like big government, and a big federal budget must mean big government, or something. It was unclear to me.
The signs weren't much to look at either. "No Bailouts." "No Taxation Without Representation." (I thought about pointing out this was incorrect, but figured it wasn't worth it.) "Fair Tax Today." Some of the signs were long and complicated, and didn't write them down. None made me laugh out loud, so you didn't miss much. There weren't any overtly racist signs, or anything that smacked of Rush Limbaugh (or Glenn Beck) inspired craziness. Which was too bad.
I ran into a former student of mine (I also saw, but did not speak to, the wife of one of my colleagues at the University; she was attending, not gawking like me. Hmmmmm....). He and I chatted for a while, and I realized he was a bit crazier than I remembered. He had a sign; something about "Keep the Government out of Capitalism and Everything will Be Fine." Or something along those lines. I pointed out that the government had been interfering in the markets for 350 years or so, and that unregulated markets tend to have their own share of problems. I suggested he read Polanyi; that didn't excite him either. The conversation sort of petered out at that point.
Overall, it was much less crazy and less scary than I hoped or feared. It looked like a bunch of old people standing around. Nobody threatened revolution or sedition. No cops were present; I think I saw one TV camera setting up as I was walking away. No one tried to convert me, and there didn't seem to be any heated arguments going on anywhere (well, the three counter-protester had attracted a small crowed, but they didn't seem to be getting anywhere: when I walked by there were trying to agree on the costs of the Iraq war, and seemed to be several hundred billion dollars apart).
Democracy in America.
Would it kill the news personalities (I won't dignify them with the term journalists) who seem to dominate a dozen channels these days to actually engage the ranters who keep crying "taxation without representation" and ask them what they mean by that phrase? Last I heard there were elections in 2008. And 2006. And 2004. I'd be happy to hear their arguments, but to say that the USA in 2009 is like the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1775 - that's just dumb.
Via Sullivan, does anyone want to take a leap at explaining what this is supposed to do:
Whatever it is supposed to do, it doesn't make me want to go to church.
A friend of the blog interviews Jack White about his new, um, band:
Before you start freaking out about when the next White Stripes album is coming out, or whether the Ambassador of Rock is stretching himself too thin, know this: the Dead Weather is fierce, a sexy/dirty listen that's the sonic equivalent of locking lips with a stranger in the dimmest corner of a dive bar.
Someone just did her first blog from an iPhone. Cracktastic!
My love for David Schuster is burning bright today. This takedown of tea-bagging is hilarious (ah, "tight-lipped" David Vitter).
Vikram Amar has written this piece on two recent Supreme Court decisions dealing with the exclusionary rule, and the important role of Justice Kennedy, who was the only justice in the majority of each of these decisions. It appears that the 4 far-right justices loathe the exclusionary rule and for it to survive, well, it will survive to the extent that Justice Kennedy allows it.
The silent justice speaks. He thinks we focus to much on rights. But he loves loading the dishwasher.
And apparently he wants a more martial, Christian country, one where the citizenry is more focused on its obligations than its rights, one that knows World War II was a big deal. Okay given his love of Douglas MacArthur I presume he doesn't really want to live in Italy during the reign of Victor Emmanuel III, but given the kind of society he yearns for ...
I know there were some things Binky wanted to say about it, but she was going to wait to do that until I'd watched it. Well, now I've watched it. So Binky, what did you think?
I liked it well enough. It is far superior to Woody Allen's two preceding films (the damn bad Scoop and the absolutely atrocious Cassandra's Dream). Of course it plays to a lot of Allen's usual themes (the travails of rich neurotic Americans who are dissatisfied with their sex lives) and desires (do we really think he'd have embraced that three-way if it was guy-guy-girl instead of girl-girl-guy)? But evenso, it was still a pleasing, well-acted diversion even if it was quite familiar. I find it odd it was on so many Top 10 lists, but I'd give it a thumbs-up.
Just now I realized that the actress who played Ellen Tigh on Battlestar also played Benny in Pretty in Pink. I kind of love that connection.
And those who put in endless hours fighting the good fight on her behalf. It took years, but they finally won.
The 7.2 million jury verdict was handed down this afternoon in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of West Virginia. Former Miss West Virginia, Allison Williams, filed a lawsuit in 2005 against 59 defendants who posted advertisements on pornographic websites that falsely indicated that a pornographic video available for downloading depicted "Allison Williams, Miss West Virginia."
Sure the election isn't until 2012, but it takes a long time to build statewide name recognition. The chairman of the State Senate's Judiciary Committee is running to succeed Joe Manchin, even though he can't officially file papers until 2011. Out of the pool of potential candidates I like Kessler more than most.
Okay, so I haven't paid much attention to Idol since Melinda Doolittle was knocked off it years ago (a travesty that was noted as such in a few jokes on Old Christine), and I rarely paid attention before that. But having seen Adam Lambert sing Mad World (in a way clearly influenced by Gary Jules - but to my ears a version that was better than Jules') I'll be surprised if he doesn't win this season no matter how annoying he might be.
I realize that the buildings of the UAE get most of the attention, be they office towers, hotels or mosques. But as remarkable as those are, I think I might like the Bahrain World Trade Center more.
Ummm, it's April 2009, right? I thought it was a little odd when I saw Sen. Specter (R-PA) running ads several weeks ago trumpeting his support of President Obama's initiatives. Now I see he's running television ads blasting Republican Pat Toomey. I know Specter is worried about his job. And he should be. He's in serious trouble. But isn't it a little early for this sort of thing?
Probably seen it already, but it's worth watching again.
Nicked and posted without comment from Petulant:
"Do you need Jesus in your life??"
"Do you want to burn in hell?"
If there are cocktails.
Color me happy. I return to the States, surf around a little, and what do I see - the movie I've long most wanted to see released on dvd (well, a dvd you can actually get) is now on Hulu.
And no, when I'm talking about Glenn Beck, I am not talking about the nice rhyming bits by Hugo Weaving, but rather the crazy, spittle-flecked on-air personality.
Three Pittsburgh police officers were shot and killed today. The report suggests he was distraught over losing his job and "was worried that US President Barack Obama was about to ban guns."
And after all that clicking, blogging, Facebooking and stallwriting, stretch it out!