Friday, December 28, 2007

Peggy Noonan slap-down

To some extent, Peggy Noonan is responsible for the vacuity and empty flag waving and cross bearing of today's political rhetoric. Not that demagoguery are anything new or unique to our time, but today's Bush speeches and Thompson declarations owe as much to her speeches for Reagan as any other influence. Nowadays her posture as some sort of "reasonable" elder statesperson simply because she's not quite as rabid and reactionary as today's bunch of Republican neo-conservatives is incredibly irritating, since she's just as annoying as ever and only benefits by comparison to the likes of Tom Tancredo, Dick Cheney, Ann Coulter, and Michael Savage.

So it's nice to see Glenn Greenwald do a full-on takedown:
What a stupid and vapid woman this is, but respected and admired by our media class because she fits right in with them -- endlessly impressed by her own sophistication, maturity and insight while drooling out platitudes one never hears except in seventh-grade cafeterias and on our political talk shows. As always, this isn't worth noting because the adolescent stupidity on display here is unique to Noonan, but precisely because it isn't. This is how our national elections are decided: by people like her, spewing things like this.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Scrambly Fox News Anchors

First, I think it's very interesting in and of itself that a rising Republican is taking on Huckabee's absolutely shameful (sincere–I don't think he's pandering–but shameful) Christmas message. This is a direct slap at those who've elevated religion to a fetish while co-opting the modern Republican Party (who's co-opted who is certainly a matter for discussion).

But what I think is really interesting is what happens at 1:19 into the clip. The Fox talking head is absolutely compelled to interject and "clear up" Paul's fascism jab. Oh, Heaven's no, that's not what he's talking about! Fox, fair and balanced, absolutely no dogs in that fight. Excellent work.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I have to say that I'm as excited about Walk Hard as I've been about any movie in a long time.

Also, in case you haven't seen it, Transformers sucks yak ass. It's so amazingly terrible that I was sort of stunned. It's complete and utter unmitigated garbage. If you haven't seen it, I beg of you to take that hour and a half of your life and do something constructive with it, like trying to beat a face-shaped indentation into a concrete wall somewhere.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What the hell?

Well, I'm glad that he's OK, in as much as I don't wish anyone to be injured in a car accident, and a big "get well soon" to those who were injured.

But what the hell? Why is Orlando Bloom driving around in a frickin' Toyota Matrix? I think the Pirates franchise paid well enough to not have to scrimp up a ride that goes sub $20K fully loaded.

By extension, I've never understood why Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Kiefer Sutherland, and their ilk all go driving around all hammered and acting like dipshits and getting DUIs. Yes, they have substance abuse problems, I get that. So OK, just assume you're gonna end up shit-faced and GET. A. FUCKING. DRIVER. I can't afford a driver, so I take the train up to Hollywood and walk or take cabs around, because I'M NOT FUCKING STUPID.

Of course, some would say that the problem lies in the "acting like a dipshit" part of my question and that they're not acting at all and just plain 100% pure-D dipshits. Probably so.

I'm not saying Orlando Bloom was driving drunk or that he's a dipshit. I have no idea. But I still don't know why he's driving a Toyota Matrix.

Shark jumping

I think the phrase "jump the shark" has probably now jumped the shark itself, but there's really no more appropriate way to describe this:
On the same wave as Geraghty and Hanson today, Rush Limbaugh just called on Al Gore to hand over this prize to "genuine agents of peace: General Petraus, the U.S. military, and its commander-in-chief."
OK, maybe a way to describe it that's just as appropriate is "stark bat-shit raving insane." Do these folks understand how much like Animal Farm they sound?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Childrens do learn

Once again, we can see the lasting impact of early childhood education and how important it is. Also, it's important to not be stupid.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Missing the point on Ahmadinejad

So Mitt Romney is outraged that Columbia allowed Ahmadinejad to speak at their World Leaders Forum.

Here's the thing: Ahmadinejad is an asshole. He also happens to be a world leader, thus fitting into the world leader part of the forum. He isn't the leader I would choose to have and there's a good case to be made that he's not the leader the Iranian people would have chosen nor would currently choose, if given their druthers.

But what do we gain from stomping our feet and ignoring people like Ahmadinejad, or perhaps even worse, acting like our own little version of vitriol-spouting hateful anti-intellectual demagogues? Let's be smart, people: give the man a little rope and he'll make the most of it!

I entitled this post "Missing the point on Ahmadinejad." So what do I mean, what point am I saying that Romney and many others who protested Ahmadinejad's appearance are missing? Simply this: many people were protesting Columbia allowing Ahmadinejad to speak. Instead, protest against Ahmadinejad himself. We should be actively supporting Columbia for providing a clown like Ahmadinejad the platform and opportunity to expose to the world the stupidity and incoherence of his ideas and positions (please, if there are no homosexuals in Iran, who are those people you've been hanging for homosexuality?).

So go ahead and protest. Just protest the right thing, the repressive theocratic wanna-be dictator, and not the wrong thing, the organization that gives that repressive theocratic wanna-be dictator the opportunity to demonstrate his moral and intellectual bankruptcy for all the world to see.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hooray for Hollywood!

Here's one of the reasons why living in Los Angeles is great. Getting a view inside the magic of movie making is priceless.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Gruden deserves to be fired

I say fire Gruden. He deserves it. In the 4th quarter, Jeremy Stevens coughs it up, only to be saved by a roughing the QB penalty against the Hawks. Then, what, three plays later someone else coughs it up? Penalties, crappy ball handling, a bullshit series of plays at the end of the first, the team out of time outs with over 2 minutes left in the game. That's crappy coaching. Gruden may be a good motivator and that's what we needed to get to and win the Super Bowl. He's terrible at preparing the team in fundamentals and discipline. Fire him.

He's going to have to do an awful lot to redeem himself over the rest of the season. I don't think he's going to be able to do it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

In the wake of Gonzo's final demise

So you've probably heard that Alberto Gonzales has resigned. This is good news for many reasons. Of course, the immediate question comes up: why haven't I gotten a cup of coffee yet this morning? There is no good answer to this question and I'll resolve the issue shortly (it will also probably involve an English muffin or perhaps a bagel).

OK, I have coffee. I skipped the bread products because I didn't have time to run over to the cafeteria. I am a working man, after all.

So now. The second question that comes up right after that is that of who will replace Gonzales. Michael Chertoff has had his name bandied about even while Gonzales was swearing up and down that he couldn't leave because he had to stay and protect the children. This rumor was probably instigated by the administration to build up some momentum for his hearings and confirmation. This is a real stand-up moment for the Dems. I was super disappointed and infuriated by the passage of the recent surveillance laws. I mean, I've defended some Dem moves in the past for technical and political reasons, but there was no defense for that one. Likewise, if the Senate caves and approves yet another apparatchik, that's another huge strike against the Dem leadership.

This is an extraordinary opportunity to get in someone who will operate independently, not in the thrall of the administration. If they don't take that opportunity and fold on some political grounds, I'll be prepared to admit defeat and that the Dem leadership sucks. The fact is that getting someone in there with some backbone and independence would provide much greater political opportunity down the line, with ease of prosecution of administration misdeeds, more aggressive monitoring of administration programs, etc.

Even more importantly than that, it should begin to restore some of the faith and credibility in the legal system that has been defenestrated by Gonzo and his Gepetto.

Friday, August 10, 2007

American Soldier Held In Lockdown

We love the troops... until they start saying things we don't like. Summary: the Army claims Beauchamp's article was false and he's admitted that to them. But the Army won't provide any proof that his article was false and the Army won't provide Beauchamp: he's been held incommunicado since the Army's "investigation" began.

What is really going on here? I mean, the article that Beauchamp wrote was mildly embarrassing to the Army, but not that bad. It certainly pales in comparison to the shame of Abu Ghraib and Haditha. So why risk so much more bad publicity by essentially imprisoning an active duty Iraq War veteran? This is what really puzzles me about this situation.

Best blog post ever

No, not from me. From this guy. I love meat. I love processing meat. This is one of my end goals.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Scott Thomas Beauchamp blowback

If you didn't hear about the whole Scott Thomas uproar last week, here's a good resource to catch up on the story. Suffice to say that right-wing bloggers and Web sites, including Michelle Malkin and the Free Republic, piled on the guy, accusing him of pretty much everything from treason to slander to fabrication.

Now TNR has released a further update on the matter after re-reporting many important aspects of the reportage. Suffice to say that there are no significant issues in the initial story. And a lot of progressive bloggers have noted this refutation of the conservative attacks against Beauchamp. But only one of those responses noted what I find to be the most disturbing part of this:
[L]ate last week, the Army began its own investigation, short-circuiting our efforts. Beauchamp had his cell-phone and computer taken away and is currently unable to speak to even his family. His fellow soldiers no longer feel comfortable communicating with reporters.
So... Beauchamp's been essentially disappeared by the military for talking about something that included no testimony of war crimes, contained no sensitive intelligence, gave away no operational secrets, or anything else. I know that's what we're dealing with nowadays and I also understand that the military is different from civilian life. But this still reeks of persecution and the right-wing slander machine tail wagging the military dog.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

From the "War Is Peace" File

Condoleeza Rice says that pouring more than $63 billion in arms into the Middle East will promote peace and stability there.
"This effort will help bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran," she said.
In what way? Where is the cause and effect there? So the Middle East is ravaged by war, threatened war, and terrorism, and the best course here is to send more arms.
Burns said the sales to Saudi Arabia are in the U.S. interest because they serve to keep stability in the region.
Yes, and that is obviously Saudi Arabia's primary motivation:
The Saudi monarchy has methodically focused its military on pomp and equipment and spiffy uniforms, ensuring that it not acquire any real offensive capacity or the ability to operate as a coherent force. It does not want a competent, independent military contemplating a coup. These toys are really for the battalions of princes to play with.
I... really just can't stand it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Again with the Executive Privilege

Just a funny note on something Tony snow said yesterday when talking about Congress's attempts to get members of the administration to testify about the U.S. Attorneys firings:
And so now we have a situation where there is an attempt to do something that's never been done in American history, which is to assail the concept of executive privilege, which hails back to the administration of George Washington...
Regarding Washington, that's true as far as it goes, but I don't think that particular case is really helpful for the administration, since Washington actually gave the information to the Senate because of their role in formulating treaties, which would seem to indicate that the administration should give the Senate the information for which they are asking because of the role of the Senate in confirming U.S. Attorneys.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about.

Instead, it's the mind-bogglingly retarded statement that "assail[ing] the concept of executive privilege" has "never been done before in American history." As Steve Benen notes, Nixon's claims of executive privilege were pretty well "assailed". But more than that, we don't even have to go back as far as Watergate, nor back to Democrats (who clearly don't understand how our leaders are trying to protect open discourse within the administration) trying to bring down Republicans (protectors of the right to free speech in service of this great nation). No sir, assailing executive privilege was all the rage amongst the current "sanctity of internal administration debate" crowd.

It's funny how perspective changes over time, even for the "strict constructionist" crowd.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

John Yoo on Executive Privilege

I think I've made it pretty clear in the past that I'm not a big fan of John Yoo, to put it mildly.

Glenn Greenwald has a nice piece today on Yoo's take on executive privilege... then and now. The Reader's Digest version (without the right-wing slant, of course) is: against it for Clinton, for it for Bush.

This has always been my argument with supporters of the various statist and powerful executive powers claimed for Bush nowadays: change the name of the President to Clinton and tell me how much you support these powers then. It's pretty simple.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More solutions for Golden Gate Park

In the Chronicle today, Nevious says:
[I]f you are in Golden Gate Park, a far greater danger [than coyotes] is that you, or your child, or your pet, will step on a dirty hypodermic needle. Step off the paths, and you'll have plenty of chances.
Which is true. I lived in the Upper Haight for quite a few years and the little grungy groder kids were always a blight on the park. I'm not a big fan. So.

My proposal is that we use the same solution as with the coyotes. Whaddaya think? Groders are too hard to trap (plus then you have to give them habeas corpus and who's got time for that?). I say issue licenses and have groder hunting season in the park. It'll be awesome.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Good for the NFL

Mike Vick has been barred by the NFL from attending training camp. Strictly logistically this had to be done, but morally I think it was required too. No, Vick hasn't been proven guilty in a court of law, but you don't have to be proven guilty of a crime to be fired from your job, just found to be unsuitable for your employment. Mike Vick is now unsuitable for his job as the face of the Atlanta Falcons and one of the ambassadors of the NFL.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Let's clarify what we mean by "nature"

OK, first some background. There were a couple of coyotes in Golden Gate Park who attacked some dogs and stalked a dog walker. The Department of Fish and Game eventually opted to kill the coyotes. In response, the citizens of the city of St. Francis played their duly appointed role and wept and gnashed their teeth over the barbarity perpetrated on these noble canines.

I hang out most days on a private IRC channel with a number of friends of mine, most of whom I know from my days in the Bay Area, with a number of them ex-roommates from one period or another in San Francisco, the heady days of the dot-com period. I commented on this IRC channel that this very reaction is exactly why many people think that people in the Bay Area generally but San Francisco specifically are, for lack of a better word, dipshits. They're not stupid, by a long sight. But as Paul Kantner never tires of saying (although I do get tired of hearing him say it), "San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality."

So my friend John has replied to my assertion that many people in San Francisco are dipshits. I'm not going to respond in the comments section, because it requires you to register with and I'd just as soon gnaw my own leg off (get it? It's an "animal in a trap" reference, plays off the whole coyote thing!). So I'll just do it here. Let's fisk the fucker.
I felt bad for the coyotes.
Considering that the meat of this post is about John's desire to blast raccoons into visceral mist in spite of city firearms laws and the overwhelming population of raccoons in the area as well as his various experiments in drowning and other extinguishing the life force of various rodents, I have to wonder as to the genesis of his sudden affection towards and respect for the life of some varmint species. My guess? Its sheer exoticness. In San Francisco at least, coyotes aren't rats or raccoons or gophers, NO! They are a symbol of the free and wide open Wild West, a noble totem of the Native Americans whose appearance in Golden Gate Park heralds the return of the spirit of Gaia to displace the emptiness of our modern world.

Of course, if you live or have ever lived anywhere where there actually is a coyote population, you'll know that they're just as fucking annoying as raccoons and rats and any other vermin. They're considered a pest to be controlled. They are not threatened or endangered.
A friend of mine, Rick, from LA was on IRC and posted the article where San Franciscans were pissed that who ever the fuck just killed those two coyotes in Golden Gate Park and he said, "This is why people make fun of San Francisco."
First, I'm not "from LA". I've only visited Louisiana a couple of times. But I'm assuming he actually means "L.A." or Los Angeles. I do own a home in Long Beach, which is in Los Angeles County, but I'm not from there, as he well knows. This comes up again later, which is why I mention it.
Hmmm, well, first off, they didn't need to kill the coyotes, they could have trapped them and relocated them.
Why? To what end? To save the dwindling populations of coyotes in the American West? As noted, there is no dwindling population of coyotes. They're doing fine. Why doesn't John support the trapping and relocation of his raccoons and gophers? If he's so squeamish about killing animals nowadays, why doesn't he divest himself of his sizeable collection of animal skins and body parts, become a vegetarian, and working on living alongside of as opposed to instead of his rodentine and ursine neighbors? Because raccoons and gophers piss him off. He hasn't been bitten on the ass by a coyote yet, which would change his tune, I betcha.

The issue with trapping is that it's not particularly easy to trap a particular animal. Reggie the Alligator lived in a lake in Harbor City (right across the ports from Long Beach). It took two years to catch him and then he basically had to walk into their arms. This is an alligator. In a lake. And it's not a big lake (compare that to Golden Gate Park at the same zoom level).

So it'll take a while to trap the coyotes and in the meantime they're still loose in the park. According to the spokesperson for DFG, "animal officials had been receiving calls reporting the aggressive pair for about a week." So for a week these animals have been reported, they have physically attacked dogs in the park, and DFG and the city are just supposed to let them wander around, saying, "Hey, we set some traps, we're doing what we can do, wouldn't wanna hurt 'em, y'know."
Secondly, those coyotes were probably protecting some pups who are now long dead.
Nope: "Experts had theorized Sunday that the pair may have been acting so aggressive because they had a litter of pups. But today, [the DFG spokesperson] said no pups had been found and the female coyote was not lactating." So that wasn't it. And even if it was, what's that matter? We have a problem with two coyotes in the park, so we want to make sure that they can have some more? That's stupid.
Oh, and there was a line, "God Forbid, they'd have attacked a child..." well, that's the breaks people. A Dingo ate my baby. Watch your kids. How DARE nature come back to some place where it was millions of years before we built our artificial society and where it will return once we've killed ourselves off.
OK, now here's where John descends into pure dipshittery. Our "artificial" society? This from a guy who works QA for an Internet search company and lives in the Sunset? I have to say that it's hard to take this kind of back-to-nature bullshit from someone who lives in one of the densest urban environments in the country and just wrote an entire post about snuffing small animals. Give me a fucking break, my friend.

Furthermore, coyotes wouldn't be returning to nature in Golden Gate Park. Golden Gate Park itself is an artificial environment, a faux sylvan woodland erected by human ingenuity and enterprise in a place where only sand and seagrass once flourished. There were no lakes. There were no waterfalls. There were no trees. There was dick-all, and that's about it.

This is not nature, red in tooth and claw. Golden Gate Park is a park, the third most visited city park in the country. I have little sympathy for someone who wanders around in Yosemite or any truly wild area and has a run-in with a wild animal that ends badly: that's the damned deal with "wild". Golden Gate Park, though, is not wild: it's a park and it's generally accepted that parks are exempt from the "baby dragged into the bushes" part of the wild animal equation. That's not the breaks and, if you don't believe me, speculate on what sort of jury award would have resulted if the city had known about threats from these animals, had equivocated and tried to trap them in the name of humane treatment of animals, and then the animals had injured or killed a pet or kid (or, if the animals had been or become rabid, infected an adult). Can the city really afford to pay out in a case like that?
Fuck LA, Fuck Michael Vick and fuck Fish and Game for killing the Golden Gate Coyotes instead of trapping them. Fuck LA mostly for the traffic, their shallow reality broadcast across the universe, the smog, and most of all the Dodgers.
I'm not really certain how L.A. is to blame for this. I agree with the traffic part, which is one of the reasons I'm ready to abandon southern California. The smog sucks, but I've seen plenty of brown days in the Bay Area too. And absolutely fuck the Dodgers. They are the most hated franchise in sports to me.

But the complaint about the "shallow reality broadcast across the universe" rings pretty hollow coming from a guy that watches American Idol and Project Runway. Give me a fucking break. This is one of those little short-hand things that everyone "knows" about L.A.: "Oh, everyone's so shallow." No, you're shallow because you mistake the idiocy that you see broadcast about celebutards for the entire depth of a region of 24 million people.
So anyway, I've got Gophers and fuck them.
So here we see the truth: it's all relative. If it's goring John's ox, well, fuck it. If John doesn't have an issue with it, well you shouldn't either, so fuck you. Sure, fuck Mike Vick. But there's a huge distance between getting entertainment value out of the suffering and death of animals and exterminating animals that have exhibited threatening behavior in the middle of a densely populated city.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tony Soprano's Outro

Have you seen this? I had heard a few references to this post (or at least one similar, but I'd guess it was this one) in the immediate aftermath of the Sopranos finale, but I just dug it up and read it myself today. I have to say that I find it pretty convincing. When the various references and allusions are dug out and presented, it's hard to argue with the point.

Whither now for Mike Vick and the NFL?

So in case you hadn't heard, Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons was indicted on charges (PDF) of being involved with a dog-fighting operation run out of his house in Virginia.


Now, as a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, I will admit to being what is known as a Michael Vick "hatah," in the parlance of our times. I hate the Falcons, maybe not with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns as I do the Dodgers, but like about 999 suns or something. 998 suns. A lot of suns, a lot of heat. They are my most hated team in the NFL. OK? Just so that's clear.

And Michael Vick has irritated and annoyed me his entire career because he sucks. Oh, he's a great athlete: he's just a shite quarterback. So I love every game between the Bucs and the Falcons where we're told that this is the game where Vick's speed and developing passing acumen will tear up the Bucs' defense and... then he gets bitchslapped. And before bringing up the fact that the Falcons did much better last year, it's worth noting that the offense in the September 16 was primarily run yardage. Vick passed 10/15 for 92 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. That's a passer rating of 77.6. Not exactly evidence of becoming a feared passer. He fared worse in his next game against Tampa, with a rating of 62.7 on 14/23 passing for 155 yards, no TDs, and an INT.

And before any accusations of racism arise against me... that's not the issue. There are a number of black quarterbacks I really like. McNabb, Culpepper (whether he'll be able to come back from the knee injury remains to be seen), Leftwich (ditto on his injuries), Cunningham, Moon, Steve McNair, guys that are good athletes and smart quarterbacks, whether they fit the "athletic" mold or not (Mcnabb did, but doesn't any more, Leftwich never did, etc.). There are also black quarterbacks that suck: Aaron Brooks, Quincy Carter, Kordell Stewart (the latter of which I blame for the momentary fascination with quarterbacks that double as running backs and consequently the immediate fascination with Vick when he was drafted). Black quarterbacks are, in other words, much like quarterbacks in general: some are great, many are good, and some suck.

So now that my complete lack of impartiality is completely established...

The NFL should suspend Michael Vick. Now. Yes, he's only been indicted, not convicted. But it's worth noting that Pacman Jones was suspended before being indicted, meaning that Vick was vulnerable even before yesterday. The league doesn't really have a leg to stand on to not suspend Vick other than they'd rather not have to suspend one of their superstar players. But then they'd rather one of their superstar players was not associated with this disaster in the first place. To remove the onus from the league, Roger Goodell needs to suspend Michael Vick now.

Len Pasquarelli provides a potential rationale for not suspending Vick right away:

It should be pointed out, however, that, unlike the players suspended by Goodell to this point, Vick is not a repeat offender in the eyes of the NFL. His actions at times have been offensive, but have never earned him a demerit under Goodell's stewardship. So the Tuesday indictments, in and of themselves, may not be grounds for action by the commissioner.

It's a fair point, although even Pacman Jones wasn't a "repeat offender" since he'd never officially legally offended, because, again, he had not been convicted or even indicted at the point at which he was suspended. But let's remember that Vick's had a few episodes (Ron Mexico, the airport water bottle incident, and I believe a few other minor fracases.

But to me, that's not the most compelling reason to suspend Vick. Instead, the fact is simple: even the best case scenario for Michael Vick shows negligence and a lack of personal responsibility on Vick's part. Even if his culpability is limited to owning the property on which these dogs were raised and trained (because at the very least he's guilty of that), he has to take responsibility for that. This should be an object lesson to every player in the NFL: what you own, what you enable your posse to do, your property is your responsibility.

There is no dispute: Michael Vick owned that property. An on-going criminal enterprise used that property. You can't just have a place and let your crew run roughshod over it, then just proclaim ignorance. And that's the least worst possibility in this scenario for Vick.

And from what I've seen thus far, there's little reason to think that the least worst possibility is the actual truth. My guess at this point, my belief, is that Vick was in this stuff up to his eyeballs. He trained and sold fighting dogs, hosted fights on his property, and gambled big money on dogfights. It's absolutely reprehensible activity, he was fully involved, and any support given by the league or team to this guy now that these activities have come to light can only be considered complicity or implicit acceptance of his activities. Neither is acceptable.

I'd suggest contacting the Falcons and the NFL until they've taken action against this guy (and no, it's not just to keep him from playing against the Bucs; if I had my druthers, we'd get to play against him and knock the slobber out of him).

To contact the Falcons, you can write:

Atlanta Falcons
4400 Falcon Parkway
Flowery Branch, GA 30542

You can also contact them through their Web site.

To contact the NFL, you can write to:

National Football League
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017

And again, you can also contact them through their Web site.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Speaking of travel (which I wasn't, but writing about Paris always makes me want to travel there or wherever), one of my big travel porn fantasies is to go to Wulingyuan. The Times had a nice write-up on it the other day. The name of the place may not be familiar, but the images of stone towers floating above the top of misty clouds certainly should be.

Just a nice thought as I hunker down for another hot humid day in St. Louis...

Monday, July 16, 2007

La ville des bicyclettes, redux

As per this post, it's begun. Pretty sweet. If anyone tries these out and cares to report on the experience, please drop me a line!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Executive privilege end game

John Dean has written an article that I think would be very interesting to anyone who's wondering about what will happen in the current struggle over executive privilege between the administration and Congress. I confess to not having a clear picture about what Congress's recourse may be if the administration continues to stonewall and ignore subpoenas, etc. The fact that this may fall into the hands of the current Supreme Court frightens the hell out of me.

In 2000, when I argued with people who claimed there wasn't a jot of difference between Gore and Bush and they were both in the thrall of their corporate paymasters, blah blah blah, I emphasized repeatedly that the biggest difference between the two was the justices that they would appoint both to SCOTUS and other federal courts. Now, I think that many other legs on which the "not a jot of difference" angle stood have fallen to the wayside (does anyone really believe that Al Gore would have been so massively incompetent or such a whore to corporate interests? Or really Bush isn't even a whore to corporate interests, he simply embodies them to his core...). But the justices angle has proven, on many occasions in the thus-far short tenure of the Roberts court, to be a disaster and will continue to be a disaster for literally decades.

And it is that federal judicial level of authoritarians who will rule on these issues of executive privilege in the light of the "theory of the unitary executive". I mean, does it make anyone else queasy that this decision essentially rests in the hands of Justice Anthony Kennedy and that the votes of Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas are pretty much already written in stone? Scary.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nowhere in the Anals of History... Or uh... Annals...

OK, I understand that there are some engineering reasons for this design, but come on, they can not seriously think that this thing should be built.

I thought the proposed design for San Diego was bad, but wow. I'm quite open minded, but that thing is obscene.

Semi-related: Have you ever seen the original cover art for the Little Mermaid video? Regardless of any of the explanations given by Snopes as to why this particular "urban legend" is false, those things are cocks. I had never heard of that "urban legend" when I was at a friend's house and saw the cover. I don't go looking for dicks in things, but I was shocked, handed her the cover of the video, and just pointed. She looked and did a double take, seeing what I was pointing at as soon as she looked at the details.

Is It Possible... (DSL Question)

I currently have Charter cable internet access. I'm thinking about switching to DSL of some sort. Verizon is an evil demon from hell, so I don't want to use their DSL. In fact, I'm trying to become un-Verizoned, cell phone and home phone-wise, so I want to get DSL from someone and get Vonage.*

So is there a DSL provider where:
  • I don't have to have a home phone that's NOT VOIP
  • Good broadband speeds and high reliability
  • Decent customer service and tech support

If not DSL, is there some other broadband access means I'm missing? We're restricted to Charter cable in our area, so much for free market competition...

* Or some other VOIP? What's the Vonage's status? Note that the problems with Vonage are all caused by Verizon, witness again Verizon being evil demon from hell.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Did Bush Commit A Felony?

A friend of mine poses the question. To me, the short answer is, yeah, duh. But he raises some good points:

Did Bush Commit A Felony?

  • 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1505: ... Whoever corruptly ... influences, obstructs, or impedes ... the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress ... [s]hall be fined under this title, [or] imprisoned not more than 5 years ... or both.
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1515(b): As used in section 1505, the term "corruptly" means acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including ... withholding, [or] concealing ... information.

Well, I think so, but...

As a legal matter, of course, the argument of executive privilege is that they're not influencing anything, just keeping the world safe for democracy, literally, in that if the executive branch can't have frank discussions then they won't be able to adequately discuss all policy options, blah blah blah. They are not obstructing, they're merely preserving their right to have open policy debates without fear of penalty or judgment in hindsight (some call "judgment in hindsight" learning from your mistakes, but this is another matter). And of course they would argue the application of the adverb "corruptly" in that they debated in good faith and are protecting themselves in good faith.

Is it bullshit? Of course. Just like the commutation of Libby's sentence is bullshit (the man who executed a record number of people getting all a-twitter at the injustice of some poor undeserving soul spending a whole 30 months in the hoosegaw...). The issue is getting that charge of bullshit to do anything worth a goddamned while. Bullshit is like hearsay: you may trust the charge, but that doesn't make it admissible in a court of law (and impeachment proceedings are basically a court of law).

There was recently an impeachment kerfuffle between me and a group of friends (which includes the person who asked the felony question here) and I don't think I made this clear enough when I argued against impeachment in that discussion (or not really against, but lectured as to the infeasibility and impracticality of that procedure at this point in time): I yearn for impeachment. I long for Bush and Cheney to be paraded down the National Mall on rails, tarred and feathered. I especially long for Cheney to suffer some kind of justice for the wrongs, for the evils, that he's wrought upon the world.

The only problem is that the practical part of doing this is not yet there. It's getting close, God knows. Even after our e-mail uproar over this, there was yet more shit to come out about the horrific dishonesties, dissembling, disgusting mess of practices that these fuckers have brought about.

And it's not as if I didn't always think that the Bush Administration was doing this type of thing anyways. But it's like junkies in the Mission: I always knew they were there, but that doesn't mean I didn't come close to puking when I stumbled across some dudes shooting up in an alley and saw the needles and the blood streaking their arms and one guy digging at his crotch because his veins were so collapsed elsewhere that the only place he could shoot up was behind his scrotum.

And every day and week that passes, the hope of achieving justice, or at least throwing these fuckers out before they can do something desperate and terrible (more so than already, e.g. war with Iran), becomes slimmer because their time in office becomes slimmer. Remember, Clinton was impeached in '97, with well over three years left in office. The only gilding on this sow of an administration is that it's thankfully close to being writ in history as the worst administration in the history of the United States of America.

File under "Duh..."

So apparently another former Bush Administration official has claimed that the administration maybe wasn't quite as concerned with facts as it was with political considerations:

Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.

I mean, I'm not sure what to say. The guy did come into office in 2002 and describes himself as "politically naïve," so I'd give him the benefit of the doubt. But for those who have followed the administration's course on such matters, this is not a surprise. It's just discouraging because this is the lead health official in this country. If someone can't let a damned doctor operate with concern only towards the truth, that shows the regard (or disregard) they have for the people of this country. It's not about us: it's all about them.

Satellite Internet Service: What's Up?

Speaking of broadband access in rural areas, I ran into an interesting issue out at my folks' place this summer. I was staying with them during Bonnaroo and stayed on afterwards to work from their house for the next week. Well, as mentioned, they live out in the boondocks, so they can't get DSL or cable internet. After a nightmarish ordeal with Verizon's wireless broadband service (basically the Verizon EV-DO card ate their Mac... twice), they finally went with Hughes Net. It's a little expensive, $60 per month as compared to about $30 to $40 for most cable and DSL services. But if it's all you got, it's not too bad a deal.

And, wow, smoking speed! I did a speed test to see how fast the connection was. I got 1,000 kbps downstream and 640 kbps upstream. That's great!

But when I connected to my work VPN, it just got miserable. Top downstream speeds of 124 kbps, down to as low as 14 kbps. Like, almost dial-up modem speeds.

So what's the deal with this? Partly there was a geographical thing going on: I was in Tennessee, but my link point to the rest of the world was not. Since it's satellite, of course, my gateway to the Internet so somewhere else. I got a little bump up when I switched from the Northridge (Southern California) VPN gateway to the Seattle gateway. But even then it was still miserable (that's the gateway on which I got the scorching 124 kbps).

No, there's something else going on there. My mom had run into an issue where her access had slowed to a crawl. The customer service person tried to tell my mom that there was an FCC regulation that each user has a 300 MB or 400 MB download quota before their access is throttled. This is bollocks, as far as I can tell: the FCC does have jurisdiction over Internet access pricing of sorts, but I know they don't control the amount that I can download or upload.

But maybe there's something about the traffic being on satellite? In that milieu, limiting the amount of traffic per user might make sense. Or maybe it's just some jabber to limit Hughes's costs. The problem is not limited to my mom, as these posts show, editorial and grammatical flaws notwithstanding (and obvious bias towards complaints as opposed to kudos).

Or, as opposed to limit costs, maybe it's to drum up some more money from subscribers' pockets? Because look at this:

Stated speeds are not guaranteed. Actual upload speed will likely be lower than speed indicated during peak hours. Click here for more info on typical speeds. Download speeds may also be temporarily slowed in cases when patterns of system usage exceed the download threshold for an extended period of time. See the HughesNet Fair Access Policy for more information. If you choose to run VPN over satellite, your data speeds may be reduced by as much as 50–75%. Despite the high speeds, time-sensitive applications, such as multi-player “twitch” games, are also not recommended over HughesNet.

Now here's their "Fair Access Policy". Note the "it's not us!" exception: all high-speed Internet Service Providers utilize “Shared Bandwidth Technology." This is that old chestnut about the web geek or teen-aged porn freak sucking up all the cable access in your neighborhood. Said chestnut has never affected me in all my years of cable internet access, which includes various stints with AT&T, Comcast, Cox, and now Charter (which has been the weakest of them, limited mainly by crap upstream speeds, although for a while my router was actually the most limiting factor in my upload capabilities).

Also, I like that VPN qualifier on there: why is VPN access in particular slowed down? There's a constant data heartbeat, yes, and the traffic is encrypted, where the rule of thumb is that that adds 20% to the size. But why? And it's high-speed access, but not high speed in the sense that... it's fast?

Are there any other satellite providers (Hughes was DirecTV, so that's the only other provider I've heard about)? Do or would they have these same restrictions? Is Hughes just predatory or are there good reasons for this crap-tastic "Fair Access Policy," even with the 50% premium over cable or DSL for basic broadband access?

Wi-Fi Mobile Phone from T-Mobile

This was lost in the iPhone rush, but is pretty neat, I think. My parents live in a rural area and have Verizon because that is the only provider that has service out there. This would make that omission inoperative.

It's been a long long time, but...

I'm going to try to pick up posting again. Yay, my mom rejoices. Maybe. If she ever reads this. Oh well.

It's been a busy summer thus far. My wife has a summer associate position with a law firm in St. Louis, so I've been splitting my time between there, Long Beach, and Tennessee. My daughter's been splitting time between Long Beach, Phoenix, Tennessee, and St. Louis. My wife's been, y'know, working, so that keeps her busy. We've done a lot and it's kept me from having any time to write, play music (although I've been fitting in more mandolin play than usual), or much else!

But once again, I try to rededicate myself. Look for upcoming posts on music, baseball, football, politics, and technical issues. Like, right now, I have to figure out my .Net web application isn't properly loading a class instance from an external assembly. Grrr...

Saturday, May 05, 2007


That's the only thing I have to say to Doug Feith's observations on George Tenet (found on The Corner):
Anyone can make an honest mistake. But the problem with George Tenet is that he doesn't seem to care to get his facts straight. He is not meticulous. He is willing to make up stories that suit his purposes and to suppress information that does not.

Look, I'm not carrying water for Tenet here, but let's keep in mind that this is Doug Feith—Douglas J. Feith, he of "alternative intelligence assessments" and surreptitious White House briefings outside any review process—with the audacity to accuse someone of being "willing to make up stories that suit his purposes and to suppress information that does not."

The stones, the stones...

Media Complicity in the White House's Image Building Machinery

In today's N.Y. Times, there's an article entitled For Queen and First Lady, Bush Will Try White Tie. This is notable because of the picture it paints of the "aw shucks" hayseed salt of the Earth George W. and his encounter with the oh-so-particular Queen and the fusty niceties of high society:
How does George W. Bush, a towel-snapping Texan who puts his feet on the coffee table, drinks water straight from the bottle and was once caught on tape talking with food in his mouth prepare for a state dinner with the queen?

It will be closely watched by the social elite for its collision of cultures — Texas swagger meets British prim. Dinner attire is white tie and tails, the first and, perhaps, only white-tie affair of the Bush administration. The president was said to be none too keen on that, but bowed to a higher power, his wife.
The meat of the article goes on to paint the President, the First Lady, and entire administration machinery being as giddy as schoolgirls getting ready for the prom. Bush is being prepped ("Don't drink water straight from the bottle! The Queen is Your Majesty and the prince is Your Royal Highness! Don't chew with your mouth open!"), flowers are being arranged, and ever so nervously the country bumpkins in D.C. will put their best foot forward to not offend the company.

But this is, quite deliberately, bullshit. Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jim Rutenberg are basically carrying water for the administration here. In fact, Bush is no stranger to this environment in the slightest. Let's keep in mind that his roots are not those of some Dust Bowl Okie or oil-wrangling roughneck, but instead Bush has shown himself to be more than comfortable in the upper crust Yankee milieu from which he actually comes.

In fact (and this point is finally disclosed in one of the last paragraphs of the article), Bush 43 and his wife were guests at the last state dinner for Queen Elizabeth. The fact is that the Bushes are old hands at this type of thing. What type of thing? Well, at moving in the elite of monied society, pretending that they're not the elite of monied society, and getting the compliant media to spin the image that they want to project.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fred Thompson as Tabula Rasa

Fred Thompson is the savior of the Republican Party! Favored by 934% of the Republican base! He's the guy who can bring... whatever it is that he's got to whatever it is that your favorite GOP activist desires!


Thompson has surged ahead in the GOP polls recently, greatly aided by John McCain's slow motion autodefenestration, Rudy Guiliani's overall weirdness, and Mitt Romney's Mormonism and hair. Why is this? Which of Thompson's many attributes has led to this sudden burst of popularity for a guy who's not even an actual Presidential candidate at this point?

It's probably his positions on... something. Or something. Right? What are his positions?

He's actually not particularly religious and was a bit of a whore in his wilder days. His policy positions may indeed jibe with yours, but I can only say that because no one knows what his policy positions are, leaving open the possibility that they do indeed jibe with yours. So will he meet the strict standards of the Club for Growth? Does he love war enough to sit well with the solons at AEI? Who knows?

The fact is that the GOP is desperately scrambling for someone salable to both the base and the general electorate. McCain and Guiliani are both non-starters with the base and at this point might have a pretty hard time with everyone else too. Romney is just not setting anyone on fire. Thompson sounds great and everyone knows he's a competent and fair manager, capable of being tough yet sensitive when necessary, conservative but not dogmatic, able to kick ass when required but sympathetic to the personal impact of abstract legalisms and political positions.

Wait, that's Arthur Branch, his character on Law and Order. So I don't know. But maybe it's too much to expect a decent second-tier character to explode magically into reality fully formed.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Lucie Videos

So I've got a channel set up at YouTube with some really cute videos of Lucie. Drop by and check 'em out. Here's one to start you off:

Fair warning: make sure the volume's not cranked!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Newt Gingrich is an asshat

You can do a whole round-up of the stuff that people have blamed the killings at Virginia Tech on:

But Newt Gingrich is a leader. He's a trailblazer. He's willing to speak the hard truths. Also, he's an asshat.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

By way of comparison

While the U.S. is mourning the deaths of 32 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech, what are they doing in Baghdad? I say this not to belittle the tragedy in Blacksburg, but conversely to illustrate just how horrible it is to be an Iraqi: just today, almost five times as many people were killed in this Baghdad attack as died at Seung Cho's hand. And this happens every day in every city across Iraq.

Flags are half-staff across America. Think there's any chance people in Iraq might be a bit upset too?

Glenn Greenwald on the "unconservative conservatism"

I was unaware that there was a federal database containing records of citizens' pharmaceutical consumption. I'm extremely interested in that. But anyways, Glenn's recall of the infamous "jackbooted thugs/black U.N. helicopters" hysteria from the right in the late '90s is exactly what I was thinking of, also. How do you go from that to "more surveillance, please"? I think it's a matter of who holds the power. Once it wasn't Clinton, then an all-powerful omniscient federal government could be trusted, it would be right, if only the solons of America had the correct letter to the right of their names (George W. Bush, R), then we could make sure that everyone followed the straight and narrow.

Let's just make sure that we don't hear a bunch of bullshit from the GOP about individual rights and freedom from government interference again when their brief and tawdry moment in the sun is over...

This is what conservatism has come to

Better more surveillance than another 9/11. Man. I'm not an absolutist when it comes to privacy rights, but I find it amazing that the pro-surveillance group comes from two active contributors to the National Review and that an active (if relatively conservative) contributor to the New Republic is the anti-surveillance group. Can we now agree that the Bush Administration has stood the old concepts of conservative and liberal on their head?

Bob Barr, at least, remains consistent.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Democrats to hold fast on Iraq benchmarks in new spending bill

How do I know? Check this out:

Cheney... predicted that Democrats will be forced to cave... [saying that] Congress will end up passing a "clean" bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without any troop withdrawal timetables. "They will not leave the troops in the field without the resources they need," Cheney said of the Democrats... "I'm willing to bet the other way -- that, in fact, they will."

So Dick Cheney is making a prediction. This is the guy who predicted that our troops would be greeted as liberators. That there were multiple significant connections between the 9/11 plotters and Iraq. That the Iraqi insurgency was in its last throes. And who can't even manage to shoot caged quails without occasionally catching his buddies in the face with a wad of buckshot.

You know your loser friends who fail at everything and you joke that you would go to them for advice if only so you'd know what not to do? Cheney's that guy and if he's predicting the Democrats will fold, I feel much more comfortable now that the Democrats will stand fast on the benchmarks in the new spending bill.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

La ville des bicyclettes

Now this is cool. The interesting thing about living in Paris (especially for an American from somewhere other than New York City or maybe Boston) is just how small the city is. It's a long walk to go from my old haunts down in the Marais out to my apartment in the hinterlands of the dix-septième arrondissement, but it was walkable and I did it occasionally. Of course, generally I would take the Metro and at night I would take a taxi, costing about 60 to 70 FF (around $10).

But that's because the streets were insane and especially at night it would have been quite dangerous to ride a bicycle around the city. Thinking back on it, I can't remember seeing a bicycle on the streets of the city outside of the final circuit race stage of the Tour de France. But that's because there is no space allocated for bikes on the streets. Reducing the population of cars and giving over space to bikes (not to mention raising the visibility of bikes and making the enforcement of motor safety laws aimed at protecting bicycle traffic) would do a lot to eliminate that problem.

I think that this is a really interesting statement: "A recent study analyzed different trips in the city 'with a car, bike, taxi and walking, and the bikes were always the fastest.'" It makes sense: in a dense urban environment, the ability of a bicycle to react to changing conditions and integrate more easily with the city, as well as the lower density of vehicles on the road, should lead to a much greater efficiency in traffic flow.

I think that this will be a really great addition to the city, a transforming addition. Assuming that it takes (and I think it will: it will let the French both be cheap and have something else to lord over fat lazy Americans, so what's not to like?), then 10 years from today, the city will be pretty profoundly transformed: much less traffic congestion, much less pollution, especially in the hot summer months when the Seine valley can become quite still and impacted, and quieter. It should be lovely. A very good move.

Now to convince my wife that we need to move back to Paris.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

lol roflwtfbbqPWND

Pat Leahy gets in touch with his inner bad ass:
"[Karl Rove] can appear voluntarily if he wants," [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont,] said... "If he doesn't, I will subpoena him."

Leahy added, "The attorney general said, 'Well, there are some staff people or lower level people -- I am not sure whether I want to allow them to testify or not.' I said, 'Frankly, Mr. attorney general, it's not your decision, it's mine and the committee's.' We will have some subpoenas."
As the kids say: lolz3rs, in ur constitution invoking ur separation of powers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Which is it, young feller?

So Gonzales just said in his press conference that he didn't know about the USA firings and that there were issues with communications. But his chief of staff sure did know and seemed to communicate just fine. So that brings up a question that seems to surface a lot with regards to this administration...

Are you incompetent or lying? That's really the only choices. You are either total crap at your job with no control over what should be your most trusted direct report or you are lying through your teeth.

So which is it? I know what I think, but in the end it doesn't really matter, does it? In either case, you are unqualified for your position and should resign.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Questions on the conservative petition against Ann Coulter

On one level, at least I can applaud these guys for taking a stand against Ann Coulter's invective. But I also have to take issue with a couple of points in their petition:
Coulter... [referred] to John Edwards... as a “faggot.” Such offensive language... may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering...

Within a day of Coulter’s remark John Edwards sent out a fundraising email that used Coulter’s words to raise money for his faltering campaign.
First, where do they get the idea that calling someone a "faggot" is tolerated on liberal web sites? Isn't the standard conservative stereotype of liberals that of trembling P.C. thought police, afraid to apply almost any unqualified terminology for fear of offending people? I'm guessing that the reference is to "liberal hate speech" and our supposed tendency to insult people who don't agree with us, but, even if that were the case and it's not, Coulter's latest broadside is nothing more than schoolyard taunting. I don't recall anyone calling another person "faggot" since high school and even then it was dwindling from the frequency in junior high.

Also, is the Edwards campaign really faltering? Not by any measure that I've seen. He may not be the front-runner, but it's also early yet. Would they refer to the faltering McCain campaign? I dunno, maybe so, but I think it's an inaccurate characterization of Edwards's campaign. Of course he exploited the visibility and anger generated by Coulter's comments (or his fundraisers did). But you'd have to be an idiot to not try to take advantage of that. That doesn't in and of itself indicate that his campaign is struggling.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

This is scary

I don't really know what this means.

News from Afghanistan

My primary opposition to the war in Iraq was not based on my certainty about the weakness (or downright fallaciousness) of the evidence against Iraq. I doubted it, but I didn't know and I saw where a rationale case could be made for war against Iraq. But even given the possibility that that war could be justified, I saw no reason it had to be done when it was done. The "smoking gun and mushroom cloud" scenario was obviously overwrought and there was no reason that, given the position of weapons inspectors in Iraq, we couldn't wait at least another year to invade, or two or three... (OK, no reason but the political and psychological reasons that in the end drove the decision for the administration in the first place).

Well, after Iraq, Afghanistan became the new Forgotten War. That's started to change again as Afghanistan has become scarier. So hearing something at least somewhat heartening is a good thing.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A personal question about Ann Coulter

This question has bugged me for a while. Let's think about Ann Coulter's position. She's the hero of the right-wing Christian conservative faction of the Republican Party. Now, I've never heard her talk about the role of Jesus and religion in her life, other than to declare that they do indeed play a part in her life. She claims that, "I'm a Christian first and a mean-spirited, bigoted conservative second, and don't you ever forget it."1

Well, I guess I'm guilty of forgetting that, but I blame her a little bit for not reminding me. Because she never writes about it. At all. Check out her archives. No mention of Jesus or God in any title (other than when she's positing that liberals are godless, mainly in service of promoting her book of the same name). In fact, her site brings up only a few relatively tangential hits talking about Jesus at all and certainly nothing describing Ann's devotion to her faith.

OK, but I would be the first to say that your religious or spiritual life is your business and is not a fair target for political discussion. For example, I have many issues with Mitt Romney as a candidate, but the fact that he's LDS is of little or no consequence to me. I would certainly feel the same about a public person's particular Protestant denomination or Catholicism or Judaism or Muslim...ism or whatever the hell the correct word would be in that grammatical context.

But I have a question that, again, I would never ask about almost anyone unless they made people's personal lives an issue. If Ann didn't condemn people for their sexual habits, then her personal and sexual life would be, outside of criminal conduct, absolutely inappropriate for public discussion. But Ann does. Let's leave aside her involvement in the Paula Jones and Bill Clinton brou-ha-ha. This can be explained away (rather disingenuously, I think, but never mind that) as being about the exploitation of power by Clinton and the subsequent perjury Clinton committed when trying to avoid accountability for his malfeasance. So let's just not deal with that.

But Ann doesn't like homosexuality. Against Christianity and against the Bible. And premarital sex is obviously right out the door. All programs run by the government that deal even tangentially with sex should focus, not just primarily, but exclusively on abstinence. This is Godly and any intimation otherwise just encourages promiscuity, homosexuality, and all the other "ity"s that irritate James Dobson and his compatriots.

So Ann's a virgin, right?

I mean, she's 45 years old and has never been married. Never been married, although she's had a few boyfriends. Her official bio is pretty much all professional stuff, which would be fair for people who don't make the point of their professional career spearheading a movement that demands a high level of intrusiveness into people's lives in order to pass judgment on the morality and acceptability of their personal practices.

So I have to know, Ann, are you a virgin? In the years since you have accepted Christ into your life, have you had sex (obviously out of wedlock, since you're not married)? If you are on solid enough moral ground to call a married man a faggot, it's only fair of us to demand of you: are you practicing what you preach? Which is it, Ann: virgin spinster or hypocritical Jezebel?

1. Not linked to actual source because it's subscription only.

Blogging Hiatus

Yes, I have been on one. Basically. I just haven't blogged. Busy busy. My audience of one and a half is crushed. I'm going to try to get back in the swing of it.

I've also been thinking about exactly what I'm trying to do with this Slapfest. Most of my posts are political rants, but I'd like to branch into some other types of writing. I'm not normally a particularly confessional sort of person, so discourses on my breakfast and how it made me feel are probably out. But there's lots of other topics I'd like to cover:
  • Sports, especially football and baseball
  • Music
  • Writing
  • Code
But I already have my next post in the queue and it's political, so let's see how this idea of changing (or at least enhancing) what I'm writing works out.

The other thing is that I'm not so good at "blogging" as such. Many of my posts, like many of my e-mails and phone calls and so on, tend to be long. I write dissertations as opposed to nice succinct little bits. I'm really going to also try to put up thoughts and observations in addition to dissertations on why John Yoo should be strung up by his goddamned toe-nails.

So... we'll see how that goes.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A couple of must sees...

This leads to a news segment by CBS News that was never broadcast, although it is, for now, available on their Web site. It's very hard to reconcile the noises that anyone makes on the pro-escalation side of the argument, especially at its far end with Cheney's recent comments about how swell things are going, with the bleak picture painted by this piece. To even think that we're talking about our inability to control a majority traffic artery less than two miles from the seat of the Iraqi government and the nexus of American interests and that government...

To even have to consider that we can accomplish that seemingly simple task should make anyone wonder how we can trust any judgment that this administration and its ideological backers and justifiers have in regard to how we should carry out and terminate this conflict.

For another interesting perspective on Iraq, here’s a video of a Humvee driving thru Baghdad traffic. It’s of surprisingly good quality.

This confirms my suspicion that nothing could be more depressing and terrifying than being a soldier in Iraq. I mean, I think for the most part American soldiers in Vietnam had it better. At least there were colors besides, whatever that is, sand color, I guess, in Vietnam.

Some people I know have been shocked at the brusqueness and aggressiveness of the driving of the American soldiers in the Humvee. "They won a lot of hearts and minds," someone said. And I’m sure it pisses people off in the general Baghdad population, too, it can’t but piss you off.

But I was actually surprised at how casually people took it. Yes, it would suck if you lived in that neighborhood, but if the general perception of the Baghdadi population were abject fear and panic at the approach of the American menace, then I really would not have expected those guys walking along the median as the Humvee shot by to be so damned casual. There were guys right next to the truck in the median as it went by, not panicking at all, maybe smoking a cigarette or something. To me, that indicates that they feel that the behavior of the Humvee is adequately predictable and assimilable into their regular view of the world. It sucks and causes resentment, sure, but it’s also not the semi-random careening violence that it appears to someone not familiar with it. It is, instead, sadly routine. People there pull to the side of the road just as they do here when an ambulance screams by.

I'm not sure which is more damning, overall. Is it that our soldiers are regularly so aggressive as they drive through the civilian population (and in spite of the inarguable insurgent danger there, most of the people on the city streets are innocents)? Or is it that everyone simply accepts that aggressiveness as the required mode in which everyone has to live because the overall situation is so savage and dehumanizing?

In the end, I can't help but sympathize with the guys driving the Humvee, doubly damned. Once in their immediate environment by those who seethe against and hate them for their role in bringing such death and chaos down upon the Iraqi people. And twice for being in the position that they're in, to have to cause such chaos simply as the price of making it out of there alive. Not accomplishing their mission, where sometimes an unfortunate but unavoidable sacrifice has to be made. But just making it out alive, with no idea of what their mission is and no clear connection between what they do each day and how what they do will somehow contribute to making the tragedy end. It may be OK to take part in tragedy to avoid a greater tragedy. I think even amongst the warriors in Iraq that it's becoming clear that we're veering into the greater tragedy now.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Who lost Iraq? David Frum's a bit unclear on history...

So I'm listening to Hugh Hewitt today, because every once in a while I need to remind myself that there are people as doctrinaire and oblivious as... well, Hugh Hewitt. So today promised to be an extra crispy bowl of right-wing nuts, because David Frum was on. This whole David-Hugh lovefest was basically paving the way for the President's speech tonight, sort of setting the scene of all the unanticipated obstacles and challenges, as well as illustrating how the American people needed to have the spine for the inevitable challenges that everyone should have known we would face in Iraq in spite of the Administration and the right-wing press, talk radio, and bloggers' insistence that it wouldn't be a challenge.

OK, never mind all that. I expect that, it's par for the course. The thing that really took me aback was a fairly simple statement by Frum that was so amazingly transparently untruthful and dishonest. It really illustrated the utter lack of respect for their audience that Hewitt and Frum have.

Frum said something to the effect that one of the big obstacles we faced in Iraq was the lack of a continuous government in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein (note that I've tried to find a transcript of this interview, but haven't been able to yet, so this is all paraphrased from memory; if I can find a transcript, I'll post a link to it). This was compared to the fact that, after the fall of Imperial Japan in WWII, the government continued to function, which is what helped Japan on its transition to a parliamentary democracy.

That's true enough, I'll grant him that. But then he went on to wax poetic (again, paraphrased):
Iraq was like a picture from a satellite, where we could see all of the power lines in the picture and we thought everything was fine, we could just show up and everything would continue working. But we didn't realize that Saddam's rule had really destroyed all of that and when we showed up it all just crumbled. That's what the government was like. We thought there was a functioning government, but when we showed up it just fell apart.
Which is a really interesting take on it. It just fell apart like the desiccated pages of an old book as we tried to open it to read. Or, you know, we figured out which pages we didn't like and ripped them all out then got pissed at the lack of continuity:
L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, issued two sweeping orders in May 2003: one outlawed the Baath Party and dismissed all senior members from their government posts; the other dissolved Iraq's 500,000-member military and intelligence services... Bremer's first order led to the firing of about 30,000 ex-Baathists from various ministries.
Huh. I wonder if that had any effect. Now, it's fair to ask, how would Bremer know anything about this? In a Stalinist state like Iraq, it must be very difficult to determine how deep the tendrils of control delve into the functioning of society, government, and all of the other machinery of state. I mean, it would take someone brilliant, like an Atlantic Monthly reporter back in 1979, to figure this out:
The [Ba'ath] party still retains much of the secret compartmentalized structure and the clandestine methods by which, like many revolutionary parties, it has ensured its survival... They function everywhere-in the workplace, in the neighborhoods, and in all ranks of the military forces... Since its emergence from the underground, and following a decade of experience in power, the Baath leadership had been able to train a second elite group to operate at all levels of the bureaucracy and the military forces.

This is of course a hallmark of totalitarian control. In fact, the Japanese bureaucracy and ministries were jam packed with people who loved the dickens out of the Emperor. And the reason that Japan didn't have the same continuity problems as Iraq is that we didn't summarily bounce them all out of the government! In fact, it's worth noting we didn't even depose the Emperor himself!

And Frum has to know this. He's not an idiot. Hewitt has to know this. And yet they sat there and discussed it as if, well shucks, who could have anticipated such a thing? Well, all the people who warned that we shouldn't rush into Iraq because of the consequences that were difficult to foresee, the ones who were dismissed by the likes of Frum and Hewitt as insufficiently bold to grab the gold ring that lay before us with world utopia and the downfall of the terrorist threat lying tantalizingly on the other side. Those guys, obviously, but who else, was there anyone that could be trusted?

I'm willing to have an honest discussion about Iraq. Maybe with a large enough force, we really could pacify Iraq and give the fledgling government time to consolidate as a truly representative government of all the Iraqi people. I doubted it could be done before the war and I really doubt it could be done now, but we can discuss it. But not if those who already strong-armed the debate in the beginning through lies, manipulations, and untruths insist on continuing to try to construct their own reality that ignores such mundance concerns as cause and effect, culpability, and the recognition that simply stating something does not make it so.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Next under the bus is....

Congratulations, General George Casey, you're the next to go under the wheels!
Over the past 12 months, as optimism collided with reality, Mr. Bush increasingly found himself uneasy with General Casey’s strategy. And now... Mr. Bush seems all but certain not only to reverse the strategy that General Casey championed, but also to accelerate the general’s departure from Iraq, according to senior military officials.
See? Stay the course, but Bush, as it turns out, was uneasy with that course. Not his fault. It was Casey's fault. The problem, really, is that Casey is just a shirker:
But as Baghdad spun further out of control, some of the president’s advisers now say, Mr. Bush grew concerned that General Casey, among others, had become more fixated on withdrawal than victory... Mr. Bush came to worry that it was not just his critics and Democrats in Congress who were looking for what he dismissed last month as a strategy of “graceful exit...” Mr. Bush made it clear that he was not interested in any ideas that would simply allow American forces to stabilize the violence.
Plenty more tasty incompetence and serial stupidity in there. Check out the whole article.

File under "Well, duh..."

The headline screams: "Teens binge drink!"

In other earth-shattering news, the sky is blue. Please don't panic at these startling revelations.