Monday, April 30, 2007

Mission accomplished

The State Department is reporting that terrorism rose 25% in 2006. There were 3000 more attacks and 5800 more deaths than in 2005.

And the really insane thing is that you just know that the Republicans are going to try to use these figures to claim we need another Republican in office (or really I should say the "hawks" will use the report in this fashion since some of the Dems seem just as invested in the notion of a global war on terror.

Really it's madness.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Things I will not eat

Via Boing Boing comes a video of perhaps the most disgusting meal I've ever been exposed to. I would probably starve to death if sustanance depended on eating that.

Sartoral genius

Okay, I do have to give the devil her due and say that Hillary Clinton has some brilliant folks dressing her these days. Yesterday she managed to make the entire field of candidates look like her back-up band. Genius.

More reasons not to like Clinton

This just plain scares me:

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Brian, I think that, as a senator from New York, it is something that I've worked on very hard ever since 9/11 to try to convince the administration to do those things that would actually work to make us safer. And I think there's a big disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality.

You know, we haven't secured our borders, our ports, our mass transit systems. You can go across this country and see so much that has not been done. The resources haven't gotten to the front lines where decisions are made in local government the way that they need to, and I think that this administration has consistently tried to hype the fear without delivering on the promise of making America safer. And its foreign policy around the world, as you've heard from all of my colleagues here, has also made the world less stable, which, of course, has a ripple effect with respect to what we're going to face in the future.
This is where she wants to put her efforts? Does she really think that border controls and metal detectors can make America safe? Oh dear.

My favorite unelectable candidate

I've always liked Kucinich but I like him even more after this:

MR. WILLIAMS: A second show of hands question: do you believe there is such a thing as a global war on terror?

Let's try Congressman Kucinich. Why is your hand not up?

REP. KUCINICH: Because the fact of the matter is that the global war on terror has been a pretext for aggressive war.

As president of the United States, I intend to take America in a different direction, rejecting war as an instrument of policy, reconnecting with the nations of the world, so that we can address the real issues that affect security all over the globe and affect our security at home -- getting rid of all nuclear weapons; the United States participating in the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, the small arms treaty, the land mine treaty; joining the International Criminal Court; signing the Kyoto climate change treaty.
But here's the really scary thing: Clinton, Edwards, and Obama all raised their hands. I want to like Obama. I even want to like Edwards (I admit I do not want to like Clinton) but why do they make it so hard?

Why I'm not a "liberal"

The first in a series of posts on yesterday's Democratic debate. From the transcript posted at the NYT:

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Clinton, overall, is Wal-Mart a good thing or a bad thing for the United States of America? (Laughter.)

SEN. CLINTON: Well, it's a mixed blessing.


SEN. CLINTON: Well, because when Wal-Mart started, it brought goods into rural areas, like rural Arkansas, where I was happy to live for 18 years, and gave people a chance to stretch their dollar further.

As they grew much bigger, though, they have raised serious questions about the responsibility of corporations and how they need to be a leader when it comes to providing health care and having, you know, safe working conditions and not discriminating on the basis of sex or race or any other category.
And here I am reminded of a business class I took a bazillion years ago. It was an introductory course and it was taught by a complete and total tool--a guy who quoted The Greaseman and who wore flip-flops to class. Anyway, in addition to being a tasteless and classless racist, he was just a moron. Sadly, he was also my instructor. One day he was raving about the virtues of capitalism and what a great system it is because we make so much stuff. We've got stuff. Lots of stuff. Way more stuff than communists and socialists could ever dream of. Well, I raised my hand and said something about homeless people or something like that--the poor--something. And he said, "I'm talking about production. You're talking about distribution. That's a totally different matter." Thus endeth the debate.

I am reminded of this because the shortsightedness of, let me say, many liberals (I was going to just say "liberals" but that might not be entirely fair) bears a striking resemblance to flip-flop man's economic autism. First of all, it's a system; you can't disconnect distribution and production. Why was Walmart able to supply those goods so cheaply? Why do food coops often charge so much? Give it some thought Hillary. Are you saying that on a small scale underpaid workers with no insurance selling sweat-shop produced goods is okay?

And second of all, we just don't need so much stuff. Why do we need 8000 kinds of soap for chrissakes? With shea butter. Without shea butter. Pomegranite scented. With moisturizing beads. Why is this an unqualified good?

Don't get me wrong. I like stuff. But enough already.

Why you should support Obama over Clinton (and Edwards)

Okay, this is the last of the debate posts. Here is one of the most telling moments in my opinion:
MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, if, God forbid a thousand times, while we were gathered here tonight, we learned that two American cities had been hit simultaneously by terrorists, and we further learned beyond the shadow of a doubt it had been the work of al Qaeda, how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas as a result?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, the first thing we'd have to do is make sure that we've got an effective emergency response, something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans. And I think that we have to review how we operate in the event of not only a natural disaster, but also a terrorist attack.

The second thing is to make sure that we've got good intelligence, A, to find out that we don't have other threats and attacks potentially out there; and B, to find out do we have any intelligence on who might have carried it out so that we can take potentially some action to dismantle that network.

But what we can't do is then alienate the world community based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast. Instead, the next thing we would have to do, in addition to talking to the American people, is making sure that we are talking to the international community.

Because as has already been stated, we're not going to defeat terrorists on our own. We've got to strengthen our intelligence relationships with them, and they've got to feel a stake in our security by recognizing that we have mutual security interests at stake.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.

Senator Edwards, same question: God forbid, two simultaneous attacks tonight, we knew it was al Qaeda. What would you change about U.S. military stance overseas.

MR. EDWARDS: Well, the first thing I would do is be certain I knew who was responsible, and I would act swiftly and strongly to hold them responsible for that. The second thing I would do, and some of these have been mentioned already, is find out how that this happened without our intelligence operations finding out that it was in a planning stage.

How did they get through what we all recognize is a fairly porous homeland security system that we have in this country that has not been built the way it needed to be built? You know, did the weapons that created this -- these two simultaneous strikes come through our ports? Were they in one of the containers that have not been checked? How did these weapons get here? And how do we stop this from happening again? I believe -- and this goes to the question you asked earlier, just a few minutes ago -- global war on terror. I think there are dangerous people and dangerous leaders in the world that America must deal with and deal with strongly, but we have more tools available to us than bombs. And America needs to use the tools that are available to them so that these people who are sitting on the fence, who terrorists are trying to recruit, the next generation, get pushed to our side, not to the other side. We've had no long-term strategy, and we need one, and I will provide one.

MR. WILLIAMS: We're out of time. Thank you.

Senator Clinton, same question.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, again, having been a senator during 9/11, I understand very well the extraordinary horror of that kind of an attack and the impact that it has far beyond those who are directly affected. I think a president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate. If we are attacked and we can determine who was behind that attack, and if there were nations that supported or gave material aid to those who attacked us, I believe we should quickly respond. Now, that doesn't mean we go looking for other fights. You know,

I supported President Bush when he went after al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. And then when he decided to divert attention to Iraq, it was not a decisions that I would have made had I been president, because we still haven't found bin Laden. So let's focus on those who have attacked us and do everything we can to destroy them.
So let's recap: Obama would first make sure we could properly attend to the victims and the emergency in the United States. Then he would investigate to make sure the country isn't in further danger and to "potentially" take action. Then he would work on diplomatic relations to coordinate an international response.

Edwards would somehow magically "be certain" he knew who is responsible and then he would "act swiftly and strongly" to hold them responsible. He would also work to strengthen intelligence (read: spy more) and fix our "fairly pourous" Homeland Security. (National identity cards anyone?)

Clinton would also "swiftly. . . retaliate." In particular I love the point where she says she understands the horror such an attack can produce and so...she would "retaliate."

Hmmm...disaster relief and diplomacy...versus war...versus war.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

First up against the wall

Okay, maybe evil does exist. I've been wrong before. (Thanks to the Snack Pack for the link.)

Dictionary shmictionary

In the latest episode of "don't let the language get you down," the administration is claiming "sectarian violence" has declined dramatically since troop levels have been increased in Iraq. If this seems counter-intuitive to those of you who log onto your news source every day to read of more carnage...well, trust your instincts. Bush and company are not counting bombs as violence:
President Bush explained why in a television interview on Tuesday. "If the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory," he told TV interviewer Charlie Rose.
Well, shit, let's go all the way and call suicide bombs and exploding cars a raging success why don't we? That will take the wind out of those extremist sails.

"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."

A man's man

In one of my many almost-spam emails today there was an ad for Anita Shreve's latest book, and that got me wondering about Shreve. I've never read any of her stuff, and I wasn't sure whether she was more of a romance-y writer (and thus someone I probably wouldn't like) or more like an Anne Tyler/Barbara Kingsolver type of writer. (My cursory research seems to indicate the former.) In the course of trying to figure that out I came across this review in Amazon:
Another Shreve Masterpiece

I may be a man, and not just a man, but a businessman, and the only times that I am not going over a spreadsheet or quarterly report are when I am on a plane, but that is when I like to prop a cheap airline pillow behind my neck, wrap myself in a thin airline blanket, and dive into the latest Anita Shreve novel.

I usually wrap another dust jacket over the book, something with "Success" or "Winning" in the title, but underneath the fake jacket I am unwrapping the lives, histories, and fates of complicated and compelling characters, and I often finish a Shreve novel in tears at the sheer power of her vivid and powerful descriptions of the turmoil within the human heart, at which point a flight attendant or a fellow passenger will ask if anything's wrong, and I usually reply, "These success/winning/business strategies are just so powerful (sniff)... I can bench 200 pounds." . . .
Good stuff.

It all started with Dr Spock

It's so clear to me now. We have school shootings because we are giving out condoms and allowing reproductive freedom. Why didn't I think of that before.

Bat-shit crazy Christians.

Now that's adaptation

The New Scientist reports that urban robins are singing at night. Either it's too loud for female birds to hear them during the day (and girl robins apparently pick boy robins on the basis of their singing repetoire) or the guys are having trouble meeting girl birds because that's life in the big city:

If this is the case, says Fuller, the night-time singers could be sacrificing other activities such as feeding and preening in order to maximise their singing time.

"There's a possibility these are unmated males that are really struggling. It could be in their best interest to sing as much as they can," he says.

. . .

Several studies have already shown that urban noise is causing city birds to change the characteristics of their song. A study in December 2006 showed that birds across Europe sing at a higher pitch to avoid being drowned out by the low-frequency din of traffic.

Other birds just sing louder. In Germany, some nightingales sing so loud they break European sound pollution regulations.
Somehow I have this vision of a cluster of German boy robins hoisting tiny beer steins in their wings as they belt out their tunes.

(This link and the following come courtesy of this week's Activate.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Site of the day

JewTube. It's mostly music videos and clips from Israeli Idol, but even so it makes me wish I could speak/read Hebrew. The site is part of a Jewish book site which includes a grab bag of other goodies like a blog, Ofrah's Book Club, and a collection of procrastination-worthy links such as Jdaters Anonymous, whose blogroll is one of the funniest I've seen in a good long while (including Chai Expectations and Jewbiquitous). Anyway, I'm not much of a Jew (don't believe in God, think gefilte fish and tongue are disgusting, and find the concept of a bris barbaric), but something resonates inside me when I see a blog whose tag line is "my life--what were you expecting?"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The F word

Last week when I was listening to the Gonzales hearings it occured to me, yet again, how much further down the slippery slope toward fascism we have slid. An amendment to the Patriot Act made it possible for the executive to fire the attorneys without oversight by Congress. With the checks and balances removed, the executive branch quickly took action to eliminate dissenters from the judiciary. And now when we're trying to shut the barn door after the horse has run away, they are lying about it. Brazenly.

The Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC does a fine job illustrating how a fascist regime develops. The top floor of the museum is devoted to Germany before the Final Solution--the erosion of legal protections, the rise of xenophobia--and it's hard not to think about it when listening to Gonzo say "I don't remember" for the ten thousanth time and realizing that most fellow citizens still care far more about American Idol than the US Constitution.

So the thrust of Naomi Wolf's article from The Guardian this morning, "Fascist America in Ten Easy Steps," is not shocking. Though I admit I learned some things from it. (I did not know, for instance, that so many embedded journalists have been fired on by US troups.) Anyway, thanks to C for the article. It may not be shocking but it certainly is distressing.

This paragraph in particular gave me pause:
History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani--because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.
What to do now?

Monday, April 23, 2007


First, Hot Fuzz. So, so good.

Second, Poison Friends, a movie about a grad student friendship gone way wrong, featuring a charismatic intellectual who gets off on manipulating his friends. Directed by no less than Pierre Bourdieu's son!

I know I am a terrific geek, but I confess to an intellectual crush on Pierre Bourdieu.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Checks and balances, foxes and hen houses

Truthout is blogging the Gonzales hearings as they progress with tidbits like this at 12:45:
According to C-SPAN, Gonzales has said "I don't recall" some 55 times so far ... and there's still a long way left to go today.
I have been listening here at work but I don't know how much more of this I can take, frankly.
"To be sure, I should have been more precise when discussing this matter. I understand why some of my statements generated confusion, and I have subsequently tried to clarify my words."
What you're trying to say, AG, is you're a liar. You lied and then you got caught lying.

I have a hard time imagining how a person could demonstrate more disdain for the Constitution. Though I'm sure Gonzales will show us if we give him the chance.

The 80s revival

I have been doing my best to stomach the resurgence of these

and these

but this is just a bridge too far.

If we are going to enter complete Groundhog Day hell, can we at least get some good dance tunes out of it?

(The original for those of you too young to remember.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


George W on SCOTUS' "all your embryo are belong to us" decision:

Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America.
Bitch PhD, as you might expect, has a cogent post on the issues. The quote of the day, in fact, comes from the comments thread.