The Talking Lion

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Oh yeah, us too...

We here at the Talking Lion would also like to announce or content shift from blog to online magazine. Nothing will change about anything. But we're now a magazine. Awesome.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, don't worry.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Canada Undermines Western Civilization...

This great news.
Same-sex marriage law passes 158-133

The Liberals' controversial same-sex marriage legislation has passed final reading in the House of Commons, sailing through in a 158-133 vote.

Way to go Canada! Perhaps one day the United States will be in a place where it can pass simillar legislation.

Obligatory shrill attack of Bush speech...

Sigh.

Let's begin.

...

You know what? Fuck it. This is his speech in a nutshell:
"They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001."
False equivalence and "trust me", that's all he said last night. The tried-and-true formula of "Iraq? Well, 9/11..." worked in 2004, and 2003, and 2002, so it's not much of a surprise when he tries it again in Twenty-ot-five.
"The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression -- by toppling governments, by driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror."

Hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. Hmmm. That sounds an awful lot like, well the Republican Party. Lets examine:

Hates Freedom: How bout freedom of religion, more to the point, freedom from religion. I would point you to Justice Sunday crusaders who currently make up the leadership in the Republican legislators.

Rejects Tolerance:
You know we have a shortage of Arabic translators, crucial to fast digestion of intelligence. Well this of course has been exacerbated by the firing of a bunch of Arabic translators because they were gay. What about the presidential support of the anti-gay marriage amendment? Very tolerant, sirs.

Despises Dissent:
Just watch any of Bush's faux townhall
color-coordinated, feel-good sessions. Or how about the folks that were unlawfully imprisoned during the Republican National Convention? Go to pier 57 and read a bit.

So every time he or one of his lackeys spews the same tired crap about hating us for our freedoms, remember that Bush does too.

If you're eating at the Just Deserts Cafe, get the Humble Pie

Well, if you make a silly decision you can't expect not to be burned. The decision I am referring to of course is the Supreme Court's 5-4 vote in favor New London (in the case Kelo v. City of New London):
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that local governments may force property owners to sell out and make way for private economic development when officials decide it would benefit the public, even if the property is not blighted and the new project's success is not guaranteed.

The 5 to 4 ruling provided the strong affirmation that state and local governments had sought for their increasing use of eminent domain for urban revitalization, especially in the Northeast, where many city centers have decayed and the suburban land supply is dwindling.

In some bizarro world twist, the 5 didn't include the 3 biggest douchebags on the court (Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist) but the (generally) good Justices:

Stevens was joined in the majority by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Kennedy's vote was something of a surprise because he had expressed strong sympathy for property-rights claims in past cases. But in a brief concurring opinion he explained that the New London plan showed no sign of improper favoritism toward any one private developer.

O'Connor was joined in her dissent by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. They wrote that the majority had tilted in favor of those with "disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

And in a separate dissent, Thomas sounded a rare note of agreement with liberal groups such as the NAACP, which had sided with the property owners in the case.

He protested that urban renewal has historically resulted in displacement of minorities, the elderly and the poor."

Regrettably, the predictable consequence of the Court's decision will be to exacerbate these effects," he wrote.

What?!?! Clarence Thomas siding in favor of African-Americans? IS THIS SOME CRAZY OPPOSITE LAND WHERE HOT SNOW FALLS UP?!?!

Well, this story isn't over yet. This case has already been invoked to try to snatch someone's property (press realease):

Weare, New Hampshire (PRWEB) Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Nice. But this isn't the best part. Let's continue:
Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Ok, well of course these guys are libertarians/objectivists, which sucks, but on this issue it's easy to agree with them. I wouldnt mind some apple cobbler at the Just Deserts Cafe...

I tend to over-do it...

I love The Criterion Collection. Under the intoxicating influence of Barnes and Noble's (disclaimer, I am an employee) buy 2 DVDs get the 3rd free sale, I made the following purchases: 8 1/2, Solaris, Kagemusha, L'Eclisse, The Seventh Seal, I Am Curious. That's the Russian Solaris, not the American remake. I really overdo it. Need to get watching... Arun, you're lucky we're roommates.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Little Guy Wins, Dischord!

Nike is pulling their hideous ad campaign that co-opts seminal band Minor Threat album artwork to sell their shitty shoes:

June 27, 2005

To: Minor Threat, Dischord Records and fans of both

Re: Major Threat East Coast Tour Poster

Nike Skateboarding sincerely apologizes for the creation of a tour poster inspired by Minor Threat's album cover. Despite rumors being circulated, Wieden & Kennedy and Odopod had nothing to do with the creation of this tour poster and should not be held accountable. To set the record straight, Nike Skateboarding's "Major Threat" Tour poster was designed, executed and promoted by skateboarders, for skateboarders. All of Nike employees responsible for the creation of the tour flyer are fans of both Minor Threat and Dischord Records and have nothing but respect for both.

Minor Threat's music and iconographic album cover have been an inspiration to countless skateboarders since the album came out in 1984. And for members of the Nike Skateboarding staff, this is no different. Because of the album's strong imagery and because our East Coast tour ends in Washington, DC, we felt that it was a perfect fit. This was a poor judgment call and should not have been executed without consulting Minor Threat and Dischord Records.

We apologize for any problems this may have caused, and want to make very clear that we have no relationship with the members of Minor Threat, Dischord Records and they have not endorsed our products.

Every effort has been made to remove and dispose of all flyers (both print and digital). Again, Nike Skateboarding sincerely apologizes to Minor Threat and Dischord Records.

Sincerely,
Nike Skateboarding

Score one for the good guys!

Monday, June 27, 2005

10 Commandments apparently aren't religious...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
- The Constitution, you jerks.

Ok, now that thats been said. The Supreme Court has decided to disagree (not completey, but enough to piss me off):
The Supreme Court ruled today that displaying the Ten Commandments on government property does not necessarily violate the constitutional principle that there must be a separation between church and state.

In a pair of 5-to-4 rulings, the court said the display of the Ten Commandments in a 22-acre park at the Texas State Capitol was proper, but that the displays of the Commandments in two county courthouses in Kentucky were so overtly religious as to be impermissible.

Ok, there must be a really good reason why there is a difference. Right? Lets see:
Writing for the court, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist noted that at the Texas Capitol in Austin, a six-foot monolith displaying the Commandments was just one of 17 sculptures. "The inclusion of the Commandments monument in this group has a dual significance, partaking of both religion and government, that cannot be said to violate the Establishment Clause," the chief justice wrote.

Ahem. What? The point is that the Commandments should not be "partaking in both religion and government." Lets continue:
"While the Commandments are religious, they have an undeniable historical meaning," Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote. "Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause."

But he added pointedly, "There are, of course, limits to the government's display of religious messages or symbols."
Umm. Of course they have a historical meaning: a foundation of a few religions. The point here is that any historical meaning is drowned out by the fact that its a religious monument on state grounds. This monument is without any disclaimer nearby explaining that its just a historic and not a religious statement. Sigh.

So why was the Kentucky courthouse 10C's monument over the line, justices?
"The reasonable observer could only think that the counties meant to emphasize and celebrate the religious message," the majority held. "The display's unstinting focus was on religious passages, showing that the counties posted the Commandments precisely because of their sectarian content."
Right, but having it at the state capitol grounds is not emphasizing and celebrating the religious messages therein? I'm not seeing a difference here (although I don't blame Kennedy from siding in favor of the 10C's on this one, I don't think he can afford more Xtians mad at him after that Schiavo mess).

We like-minded individuals should get the money together and finance a Skeptics & Unbelievers monument for the Texas Capitol. I mean how could they refuse a gift that represents a significant portion of the population and has a deep history in the founding of this country? Somehow I don't think they would display our statue no matter how glorious it would be...

Amanda has a great post on this at Pandagon.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Imagology

I recently finished reading Immortality (1990) by Franco-Czech novelist Milan Kundera, and a point he makes in the novel, and what I’m about to write will in no way reveal anything about it, or ruin anything for you, but will more likely intrigue you and push you in the direction of Kundera-reading, an extremely noble activity, makes a very good addition to what I had to say in my last post, regarding the war of images and metaphors in contemporary political discourse, rather than reason and fact (or more likely, reason and fact have been subsumed by metaphor). What Kundera describes is the triumph of “imagology":
The advertising agencies of the Communist Party (the so-called agitprop departments) have long forgotten the practical goal of their activity (to make the communist system better liked) and have become an end in themselves: they have created their own language, their formulas, their aesthetics (the heads of these agencies once had absolute power over art in their countries), their idea of the right life-style, which they cultivate, disseminate, and force upon their unfortunate peoples.

Are you objecting that advertising and propaganda cannot be compared, because one serves commerce and the other ideology? You understand nothing. Some one hundred years ago in Russia, persecuted Marxists began to gather secretly in small circles in order to study Marx's manifesto; they simplified the contents of this simple ideology in order to disseminate it to other circles, whose members, simplifying further and further this simplification of the simple, kept passing it on and on, so that when Marxism became known and powerful on the whole planet, all that was left of it was a collection of six or seven slogans so poorly linked that it can hardly be called an ideology. And precisely because the remnants of Marx no longer form any logical system of ideas, but only a series of suggestive images and slogans (a smiling worker with a hammer, black, white, and yellow men fraternally holding hands, the dove of peace rising to the sky, and so on and so on), we can rightfully talk of a gradual, general, planetary transformation of ideology into imagology.

...Nowadays, however, the imagologue not only does not try to hide his activity, but often even speaks for his politician clients, explains to the public what he taught them to do or not to do, how he told them to behave, what formula they are likely to use, and what tie they are likely to wear. We needn't be surprised by this self-confidence: in the last few decades, imagology has gained a historic victory over ideology.

All ideologies have been defeated: in the end their dogmas were unmasked as illusions and people stopped taking them seriously....Reality was stronger than ideology. And it is in this sense that imagology surpassed it: imagology is stronger than reality...

Public opinion polls are the critical instrument of imagology's power, because they enable imagology to live in absolute harmony with the people....And since for contemporary man reality is a continent visited less and less often and besides, justifiably disliked, the findings of polls have become a kind of higher reality, or to put it differently: they have become the truth. Public opinion polls are a parliament in permanent session, whose function it is to create truth, the most democratic truth that has ever existed. Because it will never be at variance with the parliament of truth, the power of imagologues will always live in truth, and although I know that everything human is mortal, I cannot imagine anything that could break this power.

I want to add to this comparison of ideology and imagology: ideology was like a set of enormous wheels at the back of the stage, turning and setting in motion wars, revolutions, reforms. The wheels of imagology turn without having any effect upon history. Ideologies fought with one another, and each of them was capable of filling a whole epoch with its thinking. Imagology organizes peaceful alternation of its systems in lively seasonal rhythms. In Paul's [a character in the novel] words: ideology belonged to history, while the reign of imagology begins where history ends.

Imagologues create systems of ideals and anti-ideals, systems of short duration that are quickly replaced by other systems but that influence our behavior, our political opinions and aesthetic tastes, the color of carpets and the selection of books, just as in the past we have been ruled by the systems of ideologues.

That's a nice selection of quotes that will give you a fairly good illustration of Kundera's idea, and I think it should be obvious how this hooks up with the conclusions of my last post, so what I want to briefly discuss is the veracity of his diagnosis of the contemporary political and cultural climate, and of "history" as such.

What I'm most immediately struck by is a "that's exactly right" intuition which I've been trying to get at for quite some time but which I haven't exactly been able to put my conceptual finger on--our contemporary political and cultural discourse creates "truths" totally divorced from reality. Furthermore, I think that on the surface the "culture war" (an imagologistic slogan if there ever was one) represents imagologies in conflict (liberal v. conservative, or whatever labels we come up with) rather than ideologies.

However, there is nothing I am more skeptical of that dogmas that announce an "end to history"--and this is what all ideologies, political or religious, in some sense try to do: they promise us a terminal point, either salvation or utopia or whatever, beyond which things stop and justice is meted out and everything is perfect.* (Wrench from oneself the urge to see in the world ends to history!) I think the lesson to take is that we have reached a point in which our talking is not connected to reality in any causal way, so our thoughts are easily manipulated, but I am skeptical of the idea that at any time the common person's view of the world has been more "reality based" (to use a current terme d'art)--reality is always open only to an elite, and it is the elite constituted by the honest and the curious.

My tentative thesis is that our situation is just another episode in history, and that it is intricately tied into having a literate public, and capitalism and democracy. That every person takes in media allows them to be controlled by the media, unless they are of great thoughtfulness. Information is the new mode of production, and the mode of production contains within itself the means of control and the inducement to conformity. So while much of this is regrettable, what in history isn't? Furthermore, I would not rule out ideology as still playing a roll, but it is a roll several layers deep into the world onion, whereas imagology exists on the outer layers. The war on Iraq was motivated by an ideology of sorts, one with its roots in capitalism and imperialism. That is just an example. However, because we live in the country we do, in which some deference must be made to the opinions of the public, it is necessary to control those opinions. Hence imagology. So there are two things going on: 1) imagology is a tool of more covert ideologies that an elite are allowed access to and 2) in terms of culture at large imagology is its own master.

* I am not of course accusing Kundera of an "end of history ideology"--for one thing, this is a novel, and more importantly, I think what he is saying is perfectly compatible with my view.

Back to the 'Burgh


I don't anyone actually calls it the Burgh. I'm going back to Pittsburgh.

Post will continue probably later tonight.

Stay tuned. The good news is i just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico.

In other news...this is the coolest tatoo I have ever seen:







If I ever become a Rap Superstar, my name will be MC Escher. Word.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Ball and Cheney

As Arun said, this whole bullshit spewing by the VP and others in the Bush administration about us treating the prisoners at Guantanomo like royalty needs to stop.

From the Inter Press service, via Common Dreams:

UN Experts Cite Credible Reports of Torture at Guantánamo

The request to be allowed to visit was based on "information from reliable sources of serious allegations of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, arbitrary detention, violations of their right to health and their due process rights," said the U.N. specialists.

Despite the lack of cooperation from U.S. authorities, the investigators said they would carry out a joint investigation into "all issues around Guantánamo Bay detention facilities," by studying reports and evidence from credible sources, including declassified U.S. documents.



This is problematic for so many reasons. And the adminsitration is purposefully deceiving people into thinking that the detainees have room service and a fucking masseuse at their beckoning call. That's not how it works. Americans need to wake up and smell the lies. It smells like a growing insurgency...

Why aren't you dead yet?

You're such a Dick:

Mr. Cheney dismissed calls to close the facility, which holds terrorism suspects. "They got a brand new facility down at Guantánamo," Mr. Cheney said in an interview with CNN. "We spent a lot of money to build it. They're very well treated down there."

"They're living in the tropics," he added. "They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want. There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people."


I mean, he's a fucking liar. In a nutshell, they're not being treated well (theyre being tortured), they most assuredly don't have anything they could possibly want, you fucking asshole, and the vast majority of them don't deserve to be incarcerated in the first place. So Cheney, you're a fucking Dick (<-- may not be clever, but truer things are seldom said).

Sigh. From Durbin to Rove.

Durbin should not have apologized.

Rove should. From the Washington Post:
In his speech, Rove said no issue better illustrated the philosophical difference between liberals and conservatives than national security. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war," he said in a prepared text released by the White House. "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments
and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."


Rove went on to say that conservatives wanted to "unleash the might and power" of the military against the Taliban in Afghanistan, while liberals wanted to submit petitions. He cited a petition he said was backed by MoveOn.org that called for "moderation and restraint" in responding to the attacks.


First of all: Fuck you too, Karl. I mean, god forbid, we understand the enemy and why they fight us. Who knows, maybe our soldiers would no longer be dying in Afganistan and Iraq, you know, just one..

Of course, instead of capitulating and offering apologies in proxy, Republicans are circling the wagons (take notes you fucking centrist Dems):
Democratic leaders angrily demanded a retraction from White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove yesterday after he accused liberals of responding with restraint and timidity to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but White House and Republican officials rallied to his defense and rebuffed calls for an apology.

Democrats accused Rove, President Bush's top political strategist, of impugning their patriotism, misrepresenting the support they gave Bush after terrorists hit the United States and demeaning the memories of victims. Republicans accused Democrats of overreacting to what they said were accurate characterizations of reactions among some liberals and of having defended slanderous statements against the U.S. military.

10 bucks says Rove continues to use this brand of rhetoric. He has to, its the only way Republicans seem strong; all their programs and big ideas are failing and theyre losing ground.

Sigh.

PS. My lack of posts is due to the shitty computer in my parents house, when I get back to Pittsburgh it'll be back to normal, I promise.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Frank Rich is the new black.

(Or, more likely, a nice cultural compliment to the "harder"--and by that I mean subject matter, economics--Paul Krugman. The NYT op-ed page may still be salvageable.)

In his column from a few days ago, he takes on what I think cultural historians will see as one of the most powerful forces in our culture--the total disconnect of fact from fiction. Now, there has always been a blurring between these two things, but if we confine our view to modern America--America since mass journalism arose at the end of the 19th Century--I think it's pretty clear that what matters more is slogans, programming, and buzz, than actual knowledge. Opinion reigns supreme. Rich pulls out several intertwined threads: lax, profit-driven journalism; the political theatre tied to the 24 hours news cycle, which instead of analyzing and criticizing, actually just becomes a part of the theatre; the cult of celebrity in this country; "reality" television...

The boundary between reality and fiction has now been blurred to such an extent by show business, the news business and government alike that almost no shows produced by any of them are instantly accepted as truth. The market for fake news has become so oversaturated that a skeptical public is finally dismissing most of it as hooey until proven otherwise (unless it is labeled as fake news from the get-go, as it is by Jon Stewart).

While I think his diagnosis is correct, I think that Rich is overly optimistic about the skeptical public. True, Bush's Social Security proposal is not succeeding, but I think that the problem cuts quite a bit deeper. I think that Americans have lost the difference, to a great extent, to discern fantasy from reality. So even though we are winning the Social Security fight, it isn't because we are getting through to people in a rational way, we have just gotten the images out there better. Indeed, the increasing success of creationism/intelligent-design shows that Americans are no so saturated with "fair and balanced" that anything can be put into the public discourse, because we don't use actual information and evidence anymore, just slogans and images. So even if on certain issues, we might win, it is increasingly winning within a framework detached from reality.

Congrats to my little bother, er brother

My younger brother graduates from highschool today. He's off to college in the fall and he'll soon be driving me to my old-folks home, apparently.

Way to go, Anand.


PS. I hope the speeches don't blow as hard as they did when I graduated...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

In other news...

You gotta love it when you hear the songs of classic punk bands, like The Ramones or The Clash, in commercials...

Fuck you, Cingular Wireless. That goes double for you, Jaguar.

Don't fret, Dick

Durbin.

Fox apparently began their Dick Durbin smear campaign todayon Fox & Friends (from Newshound):
Enough is never enough on Fox when there's a Democrat ripe for smearing.The campaign against Dick Durbin began this morning on Fox&Friends with a formal statement from Kay Bailey Hutchinson at 9:17AM.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson,appropriately garbed in red, recited the talking points about Al-Jazeera reporting Durbins comment and how he has inspired the insurgents. Hutchinson added that Gitmo is the best option and they are people trying to kill Americans.

[Ryan] Lizza repeated that these kinds of comments are nothing new in politics but Pemmaraju wouldn't accept this." At the same time the stakes are higher now." She went on saying there could be "harm to our soldiers and folks at home."

Ok, let's assume that Dick Durbin's comments (and not, you know, the U.S. torturing Iraqis) have aided the enemy insurgents in someway. What he said still needed to be said.

This administration has not and will not regulate itself. If Durbin didn't compare Gitmo to gulags and concentration camps, then Bush and his band of fools wouldn't give what they'v been doing a second thought. If Durbin's comments are the catalyst needed to finish Gitmo and our slew secret prisons around the world than its worth the alleged aid to the insurgency (a tough statement to write/read but it's true in the long run).

WashPost, Vietnam, and human rights...

The Post has a deceptively terrible lead editorial today on our recent increase in relations with Vietnam:
Vietnam and Human Rights

PRESIDENT BUSH meets Vietnam's prime minister, Phan Van Khai, today at the White House, a mark of the transformation in U.S.-Vietnamese relations since the war that ended 30 years ago. Mr. Khai is visiting the United States with a large entourage of officials and business executives; he has toured a Boeing plant and dropped in on Bill Gates of Microsoft; he is due to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and visit Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These symbols of warming relations are mostly welcome. But they should not obscure the fact that Vietnam remains a place where a citizen can be sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for the crime of denigrating Communist Party officials in e-mails.

[...]

But these agendas -- economic and military -- must be balanced against the equally important agenda of democracy and human rights.

The problem with this, of course, is that the United States has no legs to stand on. Until we shut down Gitmo; until we punish those who are truly accoutnable for Abu Ghraib, any country that abuses human rights can throw these two very public examples in our face at any discussion of their human rights abuses.
Precisely because the United States has an interest in stable development in East Asia, it should be skeptical of a development model that's based on government control of the media and the imprisonment of dissidents; if a government fears its own people, how stable can it be? Equally, the United States is most likely to be influential in the region if it is seen to stand by its appealing values rather than making opportunistic alliances with dictators, as it has to its own detriment in the Middle East. For these reasons, Mr. Bush must use today's meeting to push a two-sided agenda: more economic and military cooperation on the one hand, more democracy and freedom on the other.

Hmm. Where to begin? I mean, I guess I could make a snappy remark about the government control of our press, but perhaps that would offend the delicate sensibilities of Senator Frist ("Waah, you called Gitmo comparable to Soviet gulags! Take that back, that completely accurate comparison hurts my feewings, sniffle).

Basically, this editorial is fine in its overall message, but it drops the (crucial) ball by not discussing the United States' diminshing credibilty in all things human rights.

Like I said, House (see: all) Republicans are jerks...

Well, here is a good reason that I am not a Representative:

GOP Congressman Calls Democrats Anti-Christian
Remarks in Floor Debate Stir Protest

Business on the floor of the House was halted for 45 minutes yesterday after Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.) accused Democrats of "denigrating and demonizing Christians," prompting a furious protest from across the aisle.

The House was debating a Democratic amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill that would have required the Air Force Academy to develop a plan for preventing "coercive and abusive religious proselytizing."

Hostettler, speaking against the amendment, asserted that "the long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the House of Representatives" and "continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats."

"Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians," he said.


You see, if I was in the same room as this putz I might have taken a swing at him, or I may have vomitted, I'm not sure. It's not worth my time to argue against this kind of pandering/stupidity (see: synonyms), but it is telling that this worthwile ammendmant was voted down by 12 votes (198-210). However a version of this anti-proselytizing-by-federal-employees ammendment was passed, it just has no teeth or even a mouth:
..the Democratic amendment was defeated, 210 to 198, and on a voice vote the Air Force was required to say how it is promoting religious tolerance before the overall appropriations bill passed, 398 to 19.

Well, I mean, I haven't read the stipulations of said requirement, I just know that with that kind of near unanimity, there's no way the Air Force's feet are anywhere near the fire, so to speak.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I'm back, and forever changed

THAT was an intense weekend. Let me just say that Italian cinema produced something truly perverse in 1975, and leave it at that. Also, do yourself a favor and go read "Three Versions of Judas," a short story by Jose Luis Borges. It blew my mind. Like, for a good fifteen minutes after reading it I was totally a believer.

Anyway, I am here to recommend this NYT Op-ed by the science fiction novelist Neal Stephenson. It argues that advanced civilization is built upon a certain percentage of the population being complete geeks. Essentially, we geeks are basically the most important people in terms of keeping the wheels of civilization turning, so appreciate us! A taste:

Scientists and technologists have the same uneasy status in our society as the Jedi in the Galactic Republic. They are scorned by the cultural left and the cultural right, and young people avoid science and math classes in hordes. The tedious particulars of keeping ourselves alive, comfortable and free are being taken offline to countries where people are happy to sweat the details, as long as we have some foreign exchange left to send their way. Nothing is more seductive than to think that we, like the Jedi, could be masters of the most advanced technologies while living simple lives: to have a geek standard of living and spend our copious leisure time vegging out.

Way to go, Dems.

And not sarcastically for once.

Democrats Block Attempt to Confirm Bolton

Senate Democrats today rebuffed President Bush's call for an immediate vote on his nomination of John R. Bolton to be the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, instead opting to keep debate open until the administration provides documents that Democratic leaders have requested.


The vote of 54 to 38 in favor of cutting off debate and sending the nomination to a floor vote fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed to invoke cloture. It was the second time that Senate Democrats had blocked an "up-or-down" confirmation vote on the Bolton nomination as demanded by Bush and Republican lawmakers.


Among those voting against the cloture motion were Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.). Crossing the aisle to vote with the GOP in favor of cutting off debate were Democratic senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.


Well, they didn't huddle in the fetal position; it's a start. My senator had some stiff remarks for the Dems:
Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) charged that Democrats were "on a fishing expedition" against Bolton and said the effect of holding up the nomination was to "keep obstructing reform of the United Nations."

Man, who writes for these people?

Anyway, blue-staters everywhere can breathe a little and at the very least not be completely embarassed to be Democrats.

Figthing Back

Ted Rall pretty much sums up the way the Dems wage political war these days.

This needs to change. Now.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I'm on the Biden bandwagon

No, that's not just your imagination. I did use alliteration. I mean "Biden bandwagon" just rolls so smoothly off the toungue. It's destiny. Swear him in right now.

Biden announced earlier today that he plans to seek the Democratic presidential nomination for 2008 and frankly, I'm glad to hear it. Right now, I think he is far and away the most qualified AND the most electable candidate, a difficult combination to find. He's certainly a better option than Hillary.

We're talking about a guy who is not one of those Dems that doesn't have the balls to stand up to President Bush. He has foreign policy credentials as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations commitee and is actually a very articulate public speaker. On the several occasions I've heard this guy speak on the Sunday mornign talk shows and the prime time cable news shows, I've been very impressed. He makes a lot of sense and he is someone who would be able to do what John Kerry couldn't: Articulate the issues in a clear matter and show the country how fatally flawed the Bush administration really is.

Among other things, he has been outspoken about shutting down Gitmo and continues to demand that Bush give Americans the facts when it comes to what's going on in Iraq.

Biden could be described as a moderate, but I think he takes the right positions on the most important issues and I really believe he could be an effective leader AND be a formiddable candidate for whoever the GOP throws out there.

Sundays are forever for recovery

Yeah, I'm bloody spent from a crazy weekend with Pat.

Here's some great posts from people who aren't too tired to put together sentences:

Amanda (Pandagon) has a great time making mince out of Brooks

Ross, recently added contributor to The Talent Show, has a fantastic post about his penis (indirectly)

Ezra Klein has a great post about centrism and stuff..

Read that shit and I'll close my eyes and rest. Look for a late post by me tomorrow as I am going home to DC for my brother's highschool graduation.

Yeah, I felt like a picture of George would be nice. Sue me.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

If you ignore a problem, it will just go away

This, at least, is the strategy the Bush administration seems to be taking in regard to the Downing Street Memo.

Chris Matthews brought the topic up two different times in an interview with the Secretary of State you can read here. Both times Condi had interesting things to say in her attempt to avoid the topic at hand. In response to Matthews' first question, Rice said:

David Manning is a fine public servant and an extraordinary foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Blair. And we had a number of conversations. I don't remember this one in particular. But I would just note, Chris, that that was a year before the actual invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime. We had not yet gone to the United Nations to try and resolve the issue through diplomatic means. But a lot of planning went on between March of 2002 and March of 2003.


Obviously, a lot of planning went on in the 12 months leading up to the war. There is a fine line, however, between planning for the use of force as a last option after diplomacy fails and gearing up for war as if it were the only option. Condi does not address the point of the memo at all here, so Matthews brings it up again a couple of questions later:

MATTHEWS: Before we go on, that second memorandum that has been talked about—the one that was originally dubbed the Downing Street memo—said that the
intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy. What do you make of that word, “fixed?” Is that an assertion that we were fixing the argument, making a case for intel that said there was a connection with al Qaida, a connection with the WMD, just to get the war started?
RICE: Well, I don't understand—I can't go back and judge what was said.
MATTHEWS: But the word “fixed,” which is like fixed the way you fix the World Series.
RICE: Right.
MATTHEWS: Or is it British sense, which means just put things together.
RICE: Put things together. And I know the people who were involved in this, and someone like the head at that time of the British intelligence services was very much involved in the discussions we were having on intelligence. A lot of the intelligence was from Great Britain, from British sources. And the entire world thought that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. I think if the world had not thought that he had weapons of mass destruction, we wouldn't have had him under sanctions for 12 years, trying to deal with these weapons of mass destruction. And there's good reason to have thought that he did, given that he'd used them before, that in 1991 he'd been much closer to a nuclear weapon than anyone thought.


So basically, she's saying that even if the administration was manipulating intelligence to fit the policy of going to war with Iraq it doesn't matter, because the whole world knew Saddam had weapons and needed to be overthrown anyway. Fantastic. The only problem is that was not what the administration was saying at the time. All diplomatic options were supposed to have been exhausted first before there was war, and Congress voted to allow the use of force only under this condition.

Rice is avoiding the issue at hand and instead simply making the same old exuses for intelligence failures and the lack of WMDs. She claims she doesn't remember the specific conversation with Manning that is discussed in the memo, but she never really addresses the specific issue at hand -- the fact that the head of British Intelligence made a damning assertion that the United States had already made up its mind to go to war. Rice dances around the questions, obviously hoping the issue will just go away soon.

Here's hoping that this is not the last time Rice will have to answer questions on this subject.

Nothing said today...

Pats in town, so we're off enjoying Pittsburgh. Posts will continue tomorrow.

Update: And then Sean goes and makes me a liar by postig above. What a jerk!

Friday, June 17, 2005

"At the next hearing, we could use a little subpoena power."

Decieving the American people about your extramarital affair is one thing. But manipulating intelligence to fit the policy? Lying to our citizens in the run up to the war with Iraq? If the first offense is impeachable, I don't see how these crimes committed by the Bush administration should go unexamined.

Maybe Bush doesn't deserve to get impeached. After all, there's certainly not enough evidence at present to make such a claim. But with the leaking of the Downing Street Memo combined with the lack of WMDs and the toll this war has taken on the American people in the form of over 1,700 soldiers killed and thousands more wounded, there needs to be an investigation. Things should be looked into.

Dana Milbank discussed yesterday's "mock impeachment hearing" held by the Democrats in his Washington Sketch column in today's WP. Milbank referred to the participants in the simulated hearing as "Conyers and his hearty band of playmates," and basically dismisses the whole thing as a few leftist activists "playing house." The unfortunate thing is, he's pretty much dead on in this analysis. After all, as Milbank points out,

A search of the congressional record yesterday found that of the 535 members of Congress, only one -- Conyers -- had mentioned the memo on the floor of either chamber. House Democratic leaders did not join in Conyers's session, and Senate Democrats, who have the power to hold such events in real committee rooms, have not troubled themselves.


While this is true, it's important to remember that you have to start somewhere. The DSM has suddenly come onto the radar screen of the mainstream media over this past week, even if it has yet to make major headway on the front pages or the network news. While yesterday's event may have simply been a game of make-believe, it will hopefully be the beginning of something much more serious. Congress owes the American people at least that much.

Fastest Revolving Door in Washington...

So yeah, I haven't talked much about this (former White House environmental official) Philip Cooney character. He's, well, to be honest, a bit of a tool.

Here's the breakdown (Guardian):
A senior White House official accused of doctoring government reports on climate change to play down the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming has taken a job with ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company.

Philip Cooney, who resigned as chief of staff of the White House council on environment quality at the weekend, will begin work at the oil giant in the autumn.

So, he works on energy policy and five days after he resigns... Exxon happens to snatch him up. Well, I guess that could just be a coincidence. Lets read on:

It emerged last week that Mr Cooney, who has a law degree and no scientific training, watered down scientific papers on climate change and played up uncertainties in the scientific literature.

He had previously worked for the American Petroleum Institute, a lobby group that was vocal in countering the virtual consensus by scientists that manmade emissions are warming the planet.

A White House spokeswoman told the Associated Press his resignation was "completely unrelated" to the disclosure in the New York Times two days earlier that he had made changes in several government climate change reports issued in 2002 and 2003.

The spokeswoman added, "Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge... Oh, GOD I HATE MY LIFE..."


Alright, I may have edited that last line a tad... I didn't edit this though:

An ExxonMobil spokesman said Mr Cooney had been hired before the doctoring stories broke.

Ummm. So you hired him while he was doctoring shit for your benefit? I mean, thats not too much better. Doesn't a respectable company such as ExxonMobil have higher standards for their employee? I mean Cooney cheated his responsibilities? Right? Am I right or what? Sigh...

Anyway, this bullshit surrounding Cooney is a appropriate backdrop to this story on the front page (!) of todays Washington Post:

U.S. Pressure Weakens G-8 Climate Plan
Global-Warming Science Assailed

Bush administration officials working behind the scenes have succeeded in weakening key sections of a proposal for joint action by the eight major industrialized nations to curb climate change.

Under U.S. pressure, negotiators in the past month have agreed to delete language that would detail how rising temperatures are affecting the globe, set ambitious targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions and set stricter environmental standards for World Bank-funded power projects, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Super sweet. I love my country but that doesn't mean it doesn't make me embarassed/murderous...

Its Friday and I'm in love...

Well, maybe not the latter bit.

Hey, but if you're looking for new tunes, heres what I am spinning:
Bear Vs. Shark - Terrorhawk
Boards of Canada - Geogaddi
Menomena - I Am The Fun Blame Monster!

Only Terrorhawk was released this year, but the other two are recent finds for me so I thought I'd share...

real post in a few minutes. It's Friday, chill out.

Must read...

The Black Commentator responds to the recent anti-lynching resolution that passed in Congress. It is a must read.

There will be a real post when I wake up. I promise.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mercury will mess you up...

I cannot do the necessary re-reading of this story in Salon. It just makes me too angry. I am in fits right now. Read it.

Basic summary:

"When a study revealed that mercury in childhood vaccines may have caused autism in thousands of kids, the government rushed to conceal the data -- and to prevent parents from suing drug companies for their role in the epidemic."

I'll try to write something on this in a bit. No promises.

UPDATE: I may have jumped the gun on this article(here's Orac's methodical response). The Salon article apparently really poorly researched and it's conclusions are unfounded. Well I'm fucking glad. Hey, errybody makes mistakes. My bad.

Hmmm. If this is true...

Ok. I just read this article by Paul Loeb, author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear. This article begins with a great line and ends with some pretty startling claims:
It's bad enough that the Bush administration had so little international support for the Iraqi war that their "coalition of the willing" meant the U.S., Britain, and the equivalent of a child's imaginary friends. It's even worse that, as the Downing Street memo confirms, they had so little evidence of real threats that they knew from the start that they were going to have manufacture excuses to go to war. What's more damning still is that they effectively began this war even before the congressional vote.

He goes on to say that the United States began operations in Iraq before congressional approval in October 2002. Citing the Nation's Jeremy Schill:
"Approximately 100 US and British planes flew from Kuwait into Iraqi airspace," Scahill writes. "At least seven types of aircraft were part of this massive operation, including US F-15 Strike Eagles and Royal Air Force Tornado ground-attack planes. They dropped precision-guided munitions on Saddam Hussein's major western air-defense facility, clearing the path for Special Forces helicopters that lay in wait in Jordan. Earlier attacks had been carried out against Iraqi command and control centers, radar detection systems, Revolutionary Guard units, communication centers and mobile air-defense systems. The Pentagon's goal was clear: Destroy Iraq's ability to resist."

Why aren't we talking about this? As Scahill points out, this was a month before the Congressional vote, and two before the UN resolution. Supposedly part of enforcing "no fly zones," the bombings were actually systematic assaults on Iraq's capacity to defend itself. The US had never declared war. Bush had no authorization, not even a fig leaf. He was simply attacking another nation because he'd decided to do so. This preemptive war preempted our own Congress, as well as international law.

We should be talking about this. It's beyond infuriating. This shit is the definitition of impeachable. He finishes strong:
If coverage of the Downing St memo continues to increase, I suspect the administration will try to dismiss it as mere diplomatic talk, just inside baseball. But they weren't just manipulating intelligence so they could attack no matter how Saddam Hussein responded. They weren't only bribing would-be allies into participation. They were fighting a war they'd planned long before. They just didn't bother to tell the American public.

I am speechless.

Because I can...

On a lighter note, and becuase I'm feeling giddy that the Washigton Post has an article on the Downing Street Memo, even if it is Howard Kurtz's Media Notes. Here's a fantastic comic published in today's CavDaily (UVa student paper, Sean used to work there, lingerie editor or something, you can ask him):

Self-Proclaimed by Daniel Gantz

Click it for a readable one, its too big for this blogs formating. And also its too good.

A Uniter, Not a Divider...

The House, that hotbed of idiots and wingnuts, has actually done something good:
House Votes To Curb Patriot Act
FBI's Power to Seize Library Records Would Be Halted

The House handed President Bush the first defeat in his effort to preserve the broad powers of the USA Patriot Act, voting yesterday to curtail the FBI's ability to seize library and bookstore records for terrorism investigations.

Bush has threatened to veto any measure that weakens those powers. The surprise 238 to 187 rebuke to the White House was produced when a handful of conservative Republicans, worried about government intrusion, joined with Democrats who are concerned about personal privacy.

Well, when you're a jerk for 5 years like GWB has been you gotta expect some backlash right? What amazing and outstanding changes did they make to the PATRIOT Act?
Under the House change, officials would have to get search warrants from a judge or subpoenas from a grand jury to seize records about a suspect's reading habits.

I mean, god forbid the the authorities have a warrant, this is America after all. I still think its shitty that library records can be seized at all. Baby steps. Baby steps, I say.

Also, apparently there are Republicans in the House who not only are somewhat rational, but can read!
House Administration Committee Chairman Robert W. Ney (Ohio), one of three House Republicans who opposed the Patriot Act when it was enacted in 2001, voted yesterday to curtail agents' power to seize the records.

"Everybody's against terrorism, but there has to be reason in the way that we fight it," Ney said. "The government doesn't need to be sifting through library records. I talked to my libraries, and they felt very strongly about this."

It's not proof that all of them can read, but like I said: baby steps. Republicans arent all happy, there is 187 of them that voted against these measures:
House Republican leaders are not accustomed to losing, and they did not hide their anger about the result. One aide to a House leader referred to the victorious coalition as "the crazies on the left and the crazies on the right, meeting in the middle."

Yep. That's right, we're the crazies. Good joke.

Keep the good news coming.


The shit is finally starting to hit the fan?

Although it was on page A16 on the bottom of the page, I was happy to see that this piece made it into today's NYT.

With the headline "'Exit Strategy' Is More Than a Whisper in Washington, With Lawmakers Speaking Out" the story mentions the Downing Street Memo and cites it as a factor in the recent push to come up with a way to get our troops out of Iraq. Among those calling for the development of an exit strategy? The "Freedom Fries" guy. No joke. Check it out:

The flurry began over the weekend, when Representative Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, a conservative Republican, called for the Bush administration to set specific goals for leaving Iraq. That came from the man who was once so upset about French opposition to the war that he insisted that House cafeterias change the name "French fries" to "freedom fries."

But it does not end there.

Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, has introduced in the Senate a measure similar to the nonbinding resolution that Mr. Jones is offering. In the House, the International Relations Committee last week voted overwhelmingly, 32 to 9, to call on the White House to develop and submit a plan to Congress for establishing a stable government and military in Iraq that would "permit a decreased U.S. presence" there.

On Thursday, Representative John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat, will convene a forum on the so-called Downing Street Memo, a leaked document that appeared to suggest the White House had made a decision to go to war in the summer of 2002. Next week, Representative Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat, is planning to read on the House floor the names of approximately 1,700 Americans who have died in the war.

Though most Republicans are steering clear of the exit strategy discussion, a handful are joining in. One, Representative Ron Paul of Texas, a longtime opponent of the war, has signed onto Mr. Jones's resolution and will join him in meeting reporters on Thursday. Another, Representative Howard Coble of North Carolina, is considering it.

"I'm not suggesting pulling out tomorrow or next month," Mr. Coble, who favored going to war, said Wednesday, "but I want that to be an option. I don't want us to spend an eternity in Iraq. So conceptually, I'm inclined to embrace Walter Jones's proposal."

This is defintiely very promising and more than I ever expected at this point in the game. Of course, this disappointing thing is this story was buried inside the paper and, from what I could tell, there was no talk of this in today's Washington Post at all. But, I guess it's got to start somewhere. Hopefully this will gather some momentum and get more play in the mainstream media. I'm not banking on it, but I'm feeling hesitantly optimistic at this point. After all, the "Freedom Fries" guy is calling on the administration to set specific goals for leaving Iraq. Do you think the Bush administration ever thought it would get to that point?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Now that's what I call excellence in broadcasting

Amnesty International called it the gulag of our time. Rush Limbaugh, however, has a slightly different analogy in mind when it comes to Gunatanamo Bay. He believes a more accurate comparison would be a luxury resort.

And from this proposterous conclusion comes one of the most offensive things I've seen in awhile: Club Gitmo merchandise and the Club Gitmo brochure along with a special kid's section.

I think we've all heard the whole "prisoners are treated to well" spiel from the right when it comes to Americans in jail. As little merit as these arguments have, there is a hint of merit in them. After all, these are criminals who have been convicted by a jury of their peers. At least most of the time, these people are guilty, and probably shouldn't be treated to a life of luxury. To call prison a luxury is ridiculous of course and doesn't even take into consideration what prison life is like and the fact that these people have no freedom at all.

But let's give this argument the benefit of the doubt for a second. Maybe the American prison population shouldn't have access to cable TV. That's fine, I don't have a huge problem with that.

What Rush and many other fail to acknowledge when it comes to the deatinees at Guantanamo is the fact that these men and women have not been found guilty of any crime whatsoever. They were simply picked up by the United States government, swept away, and labeled as enemy comabatents without any access to lawyers or any sort of trial to argue their case. The least we can do is provide these people with prayer mats and a proper Islamic diet because they have not commited any sort of crime. The government just considers them to be dangerous and locks them away for an indefinite amount of time.

That is the whole problem with Gitmo to begin with. Almost half of the detainees should not have been there to begin with (see my post from earlier today). If we're going to continue this practice of holding "suspected terrorists" in Guantanomo indefinitely the absolute least we should do is provide them with the materials they need to practice their religion.

In yesterday's New York Times, VP Dick Cheney strongly defended Guantanomo and cited a couple of examples of detainees who, once released from the prison, returned to Afghanistan to become involved with the Taliban.

Did it ever occur to Cheney that the United States itself possibly ignited this extremism inside these former detainees? Maybe the fact that we had been holding them without good reason led them to be pretty pissed at the American government as well as it's people and inspired them to join up with terrorist forces?

Instead of making America safer, these methods are creating more terrorists. This is what we should be concerned about, not the number of prayer mats the United States is giving out to detainees.

Come on, you're not serious. Guys? Seriously, shut up...

Deep breaths, Arun. Pant Pant Gasp. Can't. Believe. Eyes. Gah...

From Haaretz:

The United States has asked Israel to check the possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa. The request came in a telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.

Um. God, is my country being run by complete idiots or fucking assholes? Don't we have enough death and destruction on our hands in Iraq without adding
riots brought about as soon as the first drop of Iraqi oil is SENT TO FUCKING ISRAEL?!?!?

Do we ENJOY FILLING THE FUCKING RECRUITMENT QUOTAS OF both Iraqi INSURGENTS AND TEH TERRORISTS?

Can the United States make one, JUST ONE, good decision? At this point, it is all I (can) ask.

If it wasn't for that damn wind blowing in from the ocean...

... spending a Sunday morning/afternoon getting through the entire Sunday New York Times while lying out on the beach would be my ideal way to spend a good chunk of my day. So, it looks like I'm going to enjoy being old.

But anyway, that's what I spent most of this past Sunday doing, as I was in the Bahamas and the beach was right there for my enjoyment. Some highlights:

Frank Rich wrote a spot on column in the ol' Week In Review section about the lapdog media, and was not afraid to call out his own employer on the failure to see through the bullshit that the administration put out there as rationale for the War in Iraq. Also, he goes into the Downing Street Memo, and how the media is barely paying attention to the document when it deserves so much more:

The attacks continue to be so successful that even now, long after many news organizations, including The Times, have been found guilty of failing to puncture the administration's prewar W.M.D. hype, new details on that same story are still being ignored or left uninvestigated. The July 2002 "Downing Street memo," the minutes of a meeting in which Tony Blair and his advisers learned of a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq, was published by The London Sunday Times on May 1. Yet in the 19 daily Scott McClellan briefings that followed, the memo was the subject of only 2 out of the approximately 940 questions asked by the White House press corps, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon.


For what its worth, it was somewhat comforting to see that the memo issue is getting play in the New York Times, even if it is on the Op-Ed Page.

Also, there was a fantastic piece in the Magazine on interrogation tactics by Joseph Lelyveld you can access here. It's long and reads somewhat like an academic piece, but it really asks the kind of questions that are not getting asked enough: Are coercive tactics effective at all? If so, how far should American interrogators go when dealing with captured insurgents? Also, there were some sidelights in the story that were more than slightly disturbing. Like the fact that Cheney was saying shit that sounded as if it was coming straight out of aprtheid era South Africa:

It made me uncomfortable to hear our own leaders telling us what a security police chief in apartheid-era South Africa long ago said to me -- that we should ''let the experts fight it out with the terrorists in the shadows.'' (''We also have to work . . . sort of the dark side, if you will,'' Vice President Dick Cheney said shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. ''We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will haveto be done quietly, without any discussion. . . . '')


Additionally, there's the whole Gitmo thing and the fact that almost half of the detainees have no ties to terroism at all:

Only after a new commanding officer had arrived and official inquiries had issued their reports did we learn that 40 percent of those penned up at Guantanamo never belonged there in the first place. At Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the record was even worse: two-thirds of the detainees were eventually said to have been innocent of terrorist links. At least when they were picked up. Who knows what leanings they developed or links they forged during and after theirinterrogations?


And then there's the fact that the Bush administration killed a proposal by John McCain concering interrogation tactics. Which is kind of weird considering McCain is the only guy who can actually attest to what it is like to be on the other end:

Senator John McCain has the heavy distinction of being the only member of the Senate who has ever suffered torture. He says he was ''stunned'' last year when the White House resisted an amendment he helped sponsor to the Intelligence Reform Act that declared simply that the C.I.A. was obliged to respect all laws and international treaties against cruel and inhuman interrogation practices andtorture.


But I put nothing past this administration, so I guess it wasn't that surprising.

The Onion > actual onions

The Onion is my lover.

Weighing in on the medical marijuana decision with perfect pitch:

Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the federal government's right to ban marijuana use, even in states that allow it for medical reasons. What do
you think?

Brian Netter
"I was surprised by the judges' reaction to this whole thing. Especially Scalia, because, y'know, he's cool." Brian Netter, Tile Setter
Robert Yablon
"The Court made the right decision. Once you legalize the medical use of marijuana, it's only a matter of time before you start seeing medical use of harder narcotics, like morphine." Robert Yablon, Banker
Daniel S. Korobkin
"Dude, the small-government-advocating, states-rights-supporting conservatives must've been totally high when they wrote that decision." Daniel S. Korobkin, Podiatirst


Word.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Oh, John Tierney, you salty dog, you

Gah. Todays column from Tierney is about as bad as his always are and it doesnt help to have his stupid smile on the NYTimes.com page. He looks like he's either laughing at you or about to eat you, his eyes just look so empty. GAH, I can't tell.

Anyway, "to the meat", I say!

His column is a support of raising the retirement age. He's impressed by athletic septagenarians so he's confident that every 70-year-old is as spry as the lady who threw a discus.
Men in their 70's raced on bikes for 40 kilometers in this month's National Senior Games in Pittsburgh. A 68-year-old woman threw the discus 85 feet, and a 69-year-old man hurled the javelin nearly half the length of a football field.

Is it possible that people this age are still physically capable of putting in a full day's work at the office?

Oh! How clever. Go on.
Americans now feel entitled to spend nearly a third of their adult lives in retirement. Their jobs are less physically demanding than their parents' were, but they're retiring younger and typically start collecting Social Security by age 62. Most could keep working - fewer than 10 percent of people 65 to 75 are in poor health - but, like Bartleby the Scrivener, they prefer not to.

The problem isn't that Americans have gotten intrinsically lazier. They're just responding to a wonderfully intentioned system that in practice promotes greed and sloth. Social Security is widely thought of as a kumbaya program that unites Americans in caring for the elderly, but it actually creates ugly political battles among generations.


Jeez, where to begin. Ah: snark! Their jobs are less "physically demanding"? Who's they? I mean, all old people are nags but similarity doesnt extend to the wide spectrum of elderly labor. I think lifting shit into/out of trucks is just as tough as it was way-back-then-when-everything-was-bright-and-sunny. Also, kudos on making Social Security equivalent to hippie songs; your subtlety is not lost on me. Jerk.

Social Security creates ugly political battles. Well, it's ugly becuase rich people (in power) want more money and pretty much don't care where it comes from.

If the elderly were willing to work longer, there would be lower taxes on everyone and fewer struggling young families. There would be more national wealth and tax revenue available to help the needy, including people no longer able to work as well as the many elderly below the poverty line because they get so little Social Security.
He keeps using "the elderly" as if every member of this group shares a common life. AARP or no AARP, "the elderly" is not a cohesive group. The only each member of "the elderly" have in common is that they like jello, but who doesn't? Here's the little fact he's clearly overlooking:

Raising the retirement age will only affect the middle class and poor.

It will be especially tough on the poorest Americans. A 69 year-old janitor will be forced to mop highschool floors for ungrateful snot-nosed bitches until he can retire. You won't see this "elderly" throwing javelins. Furthermore, this person deserves to retire at 62. S/he's lived a life of poverty and hardship, s/he's entitled his time off.

I'll bet my lawn-mowing money that those athletes Tierney cites are well-off white folk. They can afford to retire when they damn please. But the abuelita washing dishes or being a nanny to some javelin throwing woman's bratty grandkids, she's the one that earned her rest.

Tierney goes on to describe the interesting Chilean pension stuff. It sounds interesting and I'm doing a little research on it, but I'm skeptical. Mainly becuase Johnnyboy here is in support of it.

Sigh. Tierney's a bit of a punching bag.

Reading is FUNdamental

I'm currently reading Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. It's about Mormonism and Mormon fundamentalism. It's a great read and though I haven't finished it, I would recomend it.


Also, a real post is being created. And I will post on the book when I finish it. Get off my case, damn.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Onion contributes to my laughweeping

Hey remember that place in Sudan where all that genocide is happening? You don't?

Here's the latest from my homeboy, The Onion:

Well, I GuessThat Genocide in Sudan Must've Worked Itself Out On Its Own

I was pretty worried a year or so ago when the news came out that thousands of people had been indiscriminately slaughtered in Darfur
. It was unsettling to hear that citizens of one ethnicity (Arab, maybe?) were systematically mass-murdering the population of some other ethnicity (Was it the Ganjaweeds? It's been so long since I've read their names!) But lately, the main stories in the news seem to be about Deep Throat, the new summer blockbusters, and something about stem cells. Since I'm sure I would have remembered if the U.S. had intervened in some way to stop it, I can only assume that the whole genocide-in-Darfur thing has somehow worked itself out.

[...]

...since I haven't seen any petitions or heard any emotional entreaties for somebody—anybody—to please, for God's sake, do something... Well, I'm gonna guess that the major humanitarian crisis must be over. And thank God, too! The whole situation sounded really awful.

Not that I wanted to be an alarmist, but when I first heard about the Darfur conflict, I thought to myself, "Uh oh! Sounds like another massive ethnic cleansing, not unlike Bosnia and Rwanda!" Those genocides sure were unfathomable! And not only because of the inhumanity of the acts, either—the blind indifference with which the world allowed the killings to continue unchecked was upsetting, too.

[...]

What a great turn of events! Frankly, I'm relieved that all the horror, death, and human agony is over. I mean, after all those reports of ongoing murder, rape, and looting, I confess I was a little surprised when I didn't hear much more about it, beyond some international sanctions and aid packages. Ah, but what's the point in belaboring the grisly details? Why go on and on about which paramilitary militias were killing and raping which women and children? The important thing is that the conflict's apparently over.

Evidently, the hatred has been healed, peace has been restored, and the perpetrators of this unimaginable crime have been brought to justice. It sure is good to know it all must've turned out all right. It's like they say: No news is good news! Right?



Hahaha. Sob.