Wednesday, October 31, 2007

a Navy SEAL discusses his experience with waterboarding

and he says it's torture. This is probably the best discussion out there of exactly what waterboarding constitutes, the sensation it creates, and why it's torture.

It sounds horrific.

Fletcher going to get his goose cooked

to the tune of 60-36 in Kentucky's gubernatorial race by Democrat Steve Beshear. Elections are next week, folks; this baby's over. Congrats to our KY friends.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

a biodiesel H3 that gets 60mpg and goes 0-60 in 5 seconds

This guy is unbelievable. He's done what the big 3 claim can't be done, and with an 8th grade education.

Clear Channel gets political?

Clear Channel has decided not to play Springsteen's liberal music despite the fact that it's no.1 on Billboard top album sales. Doesn't necessarily mean it's political, but it's an odd choice, and the company has a history of contributing heavily to Republicans.

Huckabee surging

David Yepsen thinks Huckabee can win Iowa, which would be a pretty stunning coup. It's hard to tell sometimes in these horserace-y elections whether there's a genuine darkhorse, or whether the press is just trying to make it seem more exciting, but I think there's something substantial in Huckabee's surge. For one, it's the Democratic race, not the Republican one, that needs a little injection of excitement; the Republican race is already pretty exciting, what with Giuliani leading national polls but Romney comfortably ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire and Fred Thompson's surging, then stagnating numbers.

Second, the Huckabee surge is confirmed by numerous polling outfits.

Third, Huckabee makes by far the most sense as a GOP candidate. I've been dumbfounded at his lack of support all this time. Look at his credentials: he's a relatively popular governor, a lifelong conservative (and not like a Fred Thompson "I-lobbied-for-pro-choice-groups" conservative, but an actual, bonafide conservative), and a Baptist minister. He's a humble, likable speaker, and has an interesting and endearing personal story: he used to be morbidly obese, and by cleaning up his life he lost 110 lbs. It might not seem like much, but it makes him seem much more "real"-- or to use the political buzzword, "authentic"-- than the other guys.

And don't think for a second that he's unelectable. Huckabee may not be perfect, but he's a hell of a lot more ideologically pure than Romney, Giuliani, Thompson, or McCain, and comes off as more likable than them as well. He'd have no tougher of a time against Hillary Clinton than the others, and unlike some of them, he could actually beat her in a personality contest.

Not that the Huckster isn't without baggage. He suffers from much of the ignorance and sexual Puritanism one would expect from a southern Baptist minister: he doesn't believe in evolution, for instance (you're right, Mike, man didn't come from monkeys. Humans actually descended from primates), which bothers me considering what happened the last time a president refused to listen to information that didn't conform to his beliefs. He also listens a little too much to rightwing conspiracy theories, which ultimately led to make his extremely stupid and myopic decision to free a convicted rapist, against the advice of every advisory position in Arkansas, because he thought Clinton framed the man.

That rapist later raped and murdered a young woman in Missouri, and has since died in prison.

Of course, he's also kind of a dipshit, but let's be honest, Republicans, and some independents, have been falling for the "dipshit with common sense" routine over and over for the last 20 years at least.

And, apropos of the last link, he's the worst kind of anti-Roe: the kind that really just wants women to stop having sex except when called upon to do their duty as baby-farms. He doesn't want abortion to be legal, but he really doesn't want people having safe sex, either, hence the apprehension about condoms. I guess life is a sacred, wonderful thing that comes as a gift from God as punishment for defiling one's body.

the ninja parade

Ninja Parade Slips Through Town Unnoticed Once Again

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dan in Real Life

It's funny sometimes, the things you read that make you want to blog. I just read all about Giuliani wondering aloud if waterboarding qualifies as "torture" and joking about sleep deprivation that it must mean he is being tortured on the campaign trail. Yup, he's our favorite little fascist. Yet what I actually want to talk about is a great little review of the new Judd Apatow movie "Dan in Real Life" in Salon. Two things, specifically.

Stephanie Zacharek talks about how, even though he gets it right in this movie, Steve Carell doesn't normally do "heartwarming" well. I suspect, by the way, that has A LOT to do with our expectations of him; you don't think heartwarming when you think of a comedian who made a name for himself debating Stephen Colbert on Daily Show and as the voice of Gary in "The Ambiguously Gay Duo". Says Zacharek: "When Judd Apatow was making "The 40 Year Old Virgin," a Universal executive, after watching some of the dailies, remarked that Carell looked like a serial killer..."

I got a kick out of that bit.

She also lays into Dane Cook several times in the article. She says early on: "...Dane Cook appears in a fearsomely large supporting role. In other words, there are plenty of things not to like about [the movie]." This just before calling him a "frighteningly uncharismatic faux-comedian." Sounds pretty harsh, but I gotta say I can't argue with her. I've never understood Cook's routine or his following. There have been several moments where I'm watching him on TV and I'm thinking to myself that the joke he told seems like it should be funny, but I'm not laughing. I'm nowhere remotely near laughing. I also inevitably feel the same emotions when I watch him: empathetic embarrassment occasionally mixed with mild annoyance. Yet I know at least one person who's obsessed with Dane Cook and thinks he's the greatest comedian around, and clearly there must be more or he would never have made it off the intarwebz. Maybe Stephanie and I (and almost everyone I know) aren't getting something, because I think he may be the single most unfunny comic I've ever seen.

And I've been to a comedy club.

This can't be blamed on the guy, but here is a snippet from Dane Cook's bio on Yahoo! Movies:
But this “hottest comic no one has heard of,” ended up cold-cocking the comedy world with his rock ‘n’ roll persona and hilarious observational bits on everyday life and pop cultural touchstones.

Mmmm, that's some tasty cliche! Did anyone else roll their eyes so hard they hurt themselves?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

is Ron Paul going to make a 3rd party bid?

From Political Insider:
During an MSNBC interview Wednesday, Rep. Ron Paul was asked if he would run for president as a third-party candidate. Paul replied, "No, I don't plan to run in a third party. That's not my goal. But if we have a candidate that loves the war and loves the neocon position of promoting--" Interviewer Norah O'Donnell cut Paul off at that point, and did not return to the topic during the rest of the interview.

Does anyone else find it so delicious that the reporter cut Paul off right as he was about to bash the kind of people running Giuliani's campaign and Bush's foreign policy? Right as he was getting to the juicy stuff? It was like the whole national discourse in microcosm!

I put the odds at about 1000:1, but it would really be something if Giuliani won, and then both the Christian Right and Ron Paul made a 3rd party run. The one thing that keeps me from saying this definitely couldn't happen is that there is already, in existence and on the ballot in most states, a party tailor-made for each of them.

Then again, I think the last thing anyone wants is for that kind of realignment to stick: that would mean a viable Constitution Party.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

shout out to Barmecide

who's in the hospital having his bionic leg implants replaced. Get well soon, and enjoy your drugs in the meantime!

Take me out into the black

A great piece of Firefly trivia from IMDB:
The DVDs of Firefly were flown up to the International Space Station by astronaut Steven Swanson on board the shuttle Atlantis during it's [sic] June 2007 STS-117 mission.

He also took a DVD of Serenity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hoosier politics: Governor Daniels' property tax plan

Here's the text of it. I've also found a pretty good LA Times article on the subject here that focuses on the role of overly numerous and unqualified tax assessors in the problem, an issue Daniels appears to be trying to fix. There's a particularly interesting episode they recount (in maddening little detail) about business properties in Marion County that were significantly undervalued. If this is a common phenomenon, then I suspect that may go a long way toward explaining just why local and state revenues keep falling so short.

What can I say? I have a sneaking suspicion the shortfall isn't due to overly lavish attention being paid to Indiana schools. Nor to cracking down on Indiana's very average crime rating.

I have one serious issue with it, though: what's up with capping taxes on rental property higher than other homes? Is this not asking the poor to carry a disproportionally high property tax burden, i.e., making property taxes regressive? Anyone got an answer for this?

Come to think of it, I'm also surprised about the insistence on a constitutional amendment. Why is simple legislation not good enough, especially in case the government falls on real hard times at some point and needs a temporary increase? Then again, the Indy Star reports that a constitutional amendment would send a tax cutting referendum to the people at the same time as the governor's own election.

Suddenly it all becomes clear.

WSBT (I believe) interviewed John Broden, my local rep, and he had something especially interesting to say: several of Daniels' proposals have already been legislated. So much for the no-nonsense problem solving of my man Mitch.

is that the cousin of Amanda Hugginkiss?

CNN gets the Moe's Tavern treatment.

outed and offed

Oh my God! From Larry Johnson, former CIA agent and classmate of Plame:
In 2004 the FBI received intelligence that Al Qaeda hit teams were enroute to the United States to kill Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Valerie Plame. The FBI informed Valerie of this threat... As the mother of two pre-school children, her first thoughts were about protecting her kids. She took the threat seriously and asked for help.

When the White House learned of these threats they sprung into action. They beefed up Secret Service protection for Vice President Cheney and provided security protection to Karl Rove. But they declined to do anything for Valerie. That was a CIA problem.

Valerie contacted the office of Security at CIA and requested assistance. They told her too fucking bad and to go pound sand. They did not use those exact words, but they told her she was on her own.
So if you have wondered why Joe and Val are a little pissed off, this might help shed some additional light on the matter. Not only did the Bush Administration out a covert intelligence officer working on the most sensitive national security issues in a time of war, but when that officer faced a direct threat to her life and her family’s safety because of that public exposure, they did not do a goddamn thing to help.

Apparently Plame recounts this story in her new book, Fair Game. I heard Terry Gross interviewing her yesterday, and when conversation turned to the Bush Administration and the exposure of her identity to the Prince of Darkness, Plame actually dropped the T-bomb ("treason"). That's a pretty serious charge to be throwing around,* and I don't know that I've ever actually heard someone in a non-elected, non-appointed government office use that word before.

My guess at the time was that someone she knew and had been working closely with had died because of that exposure. She was mad as hell.

*-- Not that Plame's characterization of the outing of a covert CIA operative is necessarily wrong or right, mind you; it's just that it's much stronger than the language I think most people are accustomed to hearing.

coercing confessions, FBI-style

An amazing story here:
The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy "confesses" and he's processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back.

Can you believe this shit? Well, the good news is that he sues, and the judge rules that he is entitled to damages. However, then something strange happens after the opinion is posted online: the court has to take down the opinion and redact it, because the details of the FBI coercion are classified.

Imagine that.

Monday, October 22, 2007

political compass

An oldie but a goodie. It's a test created by (so it sounds, at least) political scientists in the UK that plots your political ideology on an X/Y axis. The X axis-- that's the horizontal one for the geometrically challenged-- represents the economic spectrum. Thus, people on the positive, or right, side believe in varying degrees that the government should not meddle in the market, while those on the left believe the government is obligated to provide certain basic services and ensure fair play in the marketplace.

The Y axis is related more directly to political power, specifically whether it should be located in the authorities (for those with positive scores) or in individuals (for the negatives). This is your quintessential fascists vs. hippies axis.

My score this time: -6.0, -5.23
My score 2 years ago: -6.25, -4.92

Apparently I'm slowly becoming less leftist and more civil libertarian.

They've since added some helpful info. Here they've tracked all the candidates currently running for president. I think Republican primary voters would be especially shocked to see this, though you lefties won't be so surprised. And here, even more shockingly, is the graph of the 2004 presidential election. I really think that this shows what Kerry campaigned as in the general, rather than his record as a senator, because I'm virtually positive that he's well to the left of where they put him.

putting the "oral" back in Oral Roberts University

I think we've been on this merry-go-round before.
Mrs. Roberts was crestfallen upon hearing her secrets exposed.

Conspicuous consumption. Living to excess. Public drunkenness. Sleeping with minors. Just another day in the Christian Right.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Here is a great little rant on the treatment Al Gore has received both of late and long ago. Some things never change.

bu-dum, pssssshhhh...

From AP:
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate John McCain took one look at a nursing school's training mannequin and asked if the dummy's name was Hillary.

Campaigning Thursday at the University of South Carolina Upstate nursing school, McCain couldn't resist a swipe at Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I was very glad to meet the dummy, named 'Hillary,'" McCain said to laughter after a tour of the school. "Is that the name?"

It wasn't. The dummy, or human simulator, doesn't have a name.

"Oh, that's a good one, Senator! Say, maybe you'd like to see the cadaver we let the students train with. We call it, 'John McCain's relevance.'"

Obama got blindsided by his own

So the Senate introduces a bill granting telcos immunity from lawsuits.

Dodd releases a statement condemning the bill.

Then the lefty blogs organize to lobby Chris Dodd to put a hold on the bill.

Then he does.

Then the lefty blogs crucify Obama for not beating Dodd to the punch?

Kudos to Dodd, but does Obama really deserve to take so much heat for this? Sure, Dodd put out a statement before he did, but wouldn't this be more fair if, I dunno, the lefty blogs had lobbied both Obama and Dodd?

And why is Edwards taking no flack for this? I know he can't put a hold on the bill, but to my knowledge he hasn't even released any statement condemning it. Neither has Clinton, and she is in a position to do something.

Furthermore, just 3 days ago Bush's nomination to the Federal Election Commission of Hans von Spakovsky, the mastermind behind the infamous purging of the Florida voter rolls in 2000 that literally cost Gore the election, was derailed by a hold in the Senate. What do you think would be our chances of ever having fair elections again if a guy like that gets his hands on the FEC? I'm thinking maybe that was a pretty important hold.

You probably can tell where I'm going with this. Who put that hold on him? Barack Obama. And yet Kos had the gall to say yesterday: "...for a guy who claims he's going to "challenge the status quo", Obama sure as heck has done none of that as of late." How quickly our deeds tumble down the memory hole.

Maybe us dirty bloggers should be happy that we at least have the 2-man team of Obama and Dodd keeping the Senate from handing W our entire democracy while Hillary Clinton sits by and wonders how tasty those powers will be in 2009.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

poor Aggies

I didn't do this earlier, so here's my little gloat before we go to Columbia:

How do you get an Aggie to stop masturbating?

Answer: Paint his junk red and black. He won't beat it for 4 years.

35-7, bitchez.

"a hot circle of garbage"

Office fans, check it out.

Time: the Supremes don't matter anymore anyway,

so it's ok to vote for Giuliani.

Maybe it sounds like I'm impugning the motive of the writer, but how else can you explain an article that says this:
The irony is that the Court's ideology is playing a dwindling role in the lives of Americans. The familiar hot-button controversies--abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, police powers and so on--have been around so long, sifted and resifted so many times, that they now arrive at the court in highly specific cases affecting few, if any, real people. And it's not clear that Roberts wants to alter that trend.

Yeah, except that the death penalty has now been halted by the court not once but twice in the last 3 weeks. And one of the liberal Supremes, John Paul Stevens, was appointed practically during Reconstruction. And the GOP frontrunner for president is screaming from the rooftops that he'll put more Scalias on the bench, and everyone who's not a complete f**king fool (or a writer for Time Magazine, apparently) knows that one more Scalia = the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

worst. majority. ever.

From the Washington Post:
Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government's domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources.

Disclosure of the deal followed a decision by House Democratic leaders to pull a competing version of the measure from the floor because they lacked the votes to prevail over Republican opponents and GOP parliamentary maneuvers.

The collapse marked the first time since Democrats took control of the chamber that a major bill was withdrawn from consideration before a scheduled vote. It was a victory for President Bush, whose aides lobbied heavily against the Democrats' bill, and an embarrassment for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had pushed for the measure's passage.

Why? Why would you do this, Democrats? What kind of gutless chickenshits do you have to be to sell out the 4th Amendment just so the least popular president in history won't call you names?

News flash: he's going to call you names anyway.

I swear to God, only the Democrats would watch their approval ratings slip to 11% and then conclude that it's because they haven't been caving enough.

Greenwald reflects on how utterly inappropriate of a use of congressional power this is, since it's basically Congress intervening in a number of active litigations asking the very same questions as Congress, at least one of which AT&T recently lost, on behalf of major campaign contributors Verizon and AT&T.

And here's Kagro X with the rundown of the wording of the law and all the backdoor dealings that went down between the telecoms and the government.

"I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat." --Will Rogers

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

King Wilkie

Great new band out of Charlottesville, VA. Get on iTunes and check out their song "Wrecking Ball." It was on 91.1 Globe Radio this morning, and it's been in my head ever since.

what's wrong with renewables?

Just read this article on the GOP candidates' response to climate change, and I noticed something new: several of the candidates were willing to admit that global warming is real, and several even laid out "comprehensive" solutions, but none included current renewable energy technology (wind/solar/tidal/geothermal) in their grand solutions to stop climate change. Not one.

Why is that? What is it about renewable energy that is so offensive to conservatives?

I have a theory: because they're actual solutions. Notice the other things McCain and Romney and the others mention to stop climate change: clean coal, nuclear power, drilling in ANWR, more refineries, ethanol. ANWR and more refineries don't do anything to solve climate change (those are energy independence fixes). Nuclear power and ethanol are boondoggles, as ethanol barely produces more energy than it takes to produce it (and, apparently, drives up the price of corn), and nuclear power is enormously expensive-- moreso than anything but photovoltaics-- when you include all the hidden costs. There's a reason why power companies that invest in nuclear often have to ask the government for handouts a couple of years later to recoup their "stranded costs."

And, of course, there is no such thing as clean coal. Clean coal with carbon capture and sequestration (coal burning that doesn't contribute to climate change) is still in the "experimental phase." Like hydrogen fuel cells (yet another popular GOP chimera), time travel, and establishing colonies on Mars.

They did also mention conservation, but Republican lawmakers will often say they want conservation, but when pushed they admit that they only mean making a public service announcement asking people to "turn off their lights when they leave the house."

Renewable energy, on the other hand, is real, it is viable right now, and in some forms, it's even cheap! It can be established, at least to a degree, on an individual basis; any shmoe can put a wind turbine in his backyard or a solar panel on his roof. Farmers and ranchers can use it to supplement their income, becoming small-time energy producers in their own right. It creates jobs (someone has to build the things, right?). And, most importantly, it produces no CO2, nor any pollution of any kind (only the generators themselves are left over).

Pushing renewables, however, means cutting into the profit margins of oil, gas, coal, and electric companies. It means making some real change in the fabric of our country that doesn't involve the reversion to some utopian caricature of the 1950's. It means admitting that liberals were right on the environment--and the worst kind of liberal: the hippies. It means admitting that what's best for big business is not always what's best for America.

Thinking about it, this is merely another aspect of e. coli conservatism, the willingness to sacrifice the health and safety of your own constituents to protect the profit margins of big business. Sometimes it's the natural consequence of the doctrinaire, free market fundamentalist belief that deregulation is always good. To these people, the unfettered market is like Divine Providence on X, giddily weaving its way around the room touching all the worthy people. Other times it's merely because the politician in question is a wholly bought-and-owned susidiary of the companies that lobby him/her. Whether it's meat infested with bacteria, lead-painted toys, or climate change-causing coal, these conservatives are more than happy to subject you to it all day long if it means shares of ExxonMobil or Conagra gain $.40.

Do you really want one of these characters in the White House? Correction: do you really want another one of these characters in the White House?


Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

you ran as a WHAT?

The GOP is on the verge of nominating for president a guy who self-identified as liberal only 10 years ago. 1996.

That's how badly W torched the brand.

Are you starting to get a sense of why Giuliani hasn't been too enthused about a Youtube debate?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blackwater pulled guns on US soldiers

The colonel was furious. "Can you believe it? They actually drew their weapons on U.S. soldiers." He was describing a 2006 car accident, in which an SUV full of Blackwater operatives had crashed into a U.S. Army Humvee on a street in Baghdad's Green Zone. The colonel, who was involved in a follow-up investigation and spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV. His account was confirmed by the head of another private security company.
Unlike nearly everyone else who enters the Green Zone, said an American soldier who guards a gate, Blackwater gunmen refuse to stop and clear their weapons of live ammunition once inside. One military contractor, who spoke anonymously for fear of retribution in his industry, recounted the story of a Blackwater operative who answered a Marine officer's order to put his pistol on safety when entering a base post office by saying, "This is my safety," and wiggling his trigger finger in the air. "Their attitude was, 'We're f---ing security; we don't have to answer to anybody'."

You pay with your tax dollars for Blackwater agents to pull their firearms on American servicemen and -women, disarm them, and make them lie flat in the streets of Baghdad.

Here's a couple of questions I have: what if the soldiers hadn't backed down? Would the mercenaries have shot them? How long until there IS a firefight between Blackwater and the US Army? How long until one of the mercenaries kills an American soldier? And what, exactly, could the US government, by whose laws Blackwater is not bound in Iraq, do about it?

take back your pot pies

Unbelievable. ANOTHER recall, this time by (surprise!) big Ag company Conagra. From The Chicago Tribune:
ConAgra Foods Inc. recalled all its Banquet pot pies and store brand varieties Thursday after the products were linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak. The company included beef pot pies in the recall after initially saying only the chicken and turkey pot pies should not be eaten. ConAgra issued a consumer alert Tuesday and asked stores nationwide to stop selling the poultry pot pies, but the company stopped short of a recall until Thursday evening.
The pot pies made by ConAgra have been linked to at least 165 cases of salmonella in 31 states. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 30 people have been hospitalized as part of the ongoing outbreak, but so far no deaths have been linked to the pot pies. The company and federal officials warned customers not to eat the pot pies and to throw them away, and ConAgra is offering refunds. The store brand versions are sold under the names of Albertson's, Hill Country Fare, Food Lion, Great Value (sold at Wal-Mart stores), Kirkwood, Kroger, Meijer and Western Family.

And the USDA did nothing; Conagra had to initiate the recall themselves because so many people were getting sick and they were getting sued, but the USDA dragged their feet and failed to figure out the meat was diseased until after it had already been a) slaughtered b) cut up into small pieces c) blended into little pies, d) frozen, e)shipped to Wal-Marts all over the country, f) unpacked from trucks and moved into storage in the stores, g) moved to the front of the shelves after all the older pies were sold, h) bought, i) taken home, and j) baked.

But remember, folks: government regulation is bad for big business, and what's bad for big business is bad for America. Another win for e. coli conservatism!

Funny how every single one of these recalls, be they food, toys, or whatever, always seems to involve stuff sold at Wal-Mart.

Salmonella thrives best in conditions where lots of chicken are couped close to each other, exposed to each other's feces and whatnot, like in industrial feedlots. Free range chickens are far less likely to cause salmonella, unless, of course, they're processed in slaughterhouses/meat packing plants that also kill industrially raised chickens.

Salmonella also is found in eggs, which is just great news for those of us who like them sunny side up.

Cowboys vs. Patriots

CBS, 4:15ET on Sunday is the game of the season (potentially). The old powerhouse vs. the new powerhouse? Tom Brady vs. the next Tom Brady? Once great, not-quite-washed-up receiver with an attitude problem vs.... uh...? Does Dallas have the D to get this done? Is it even possible to stop an offense with Tom Brady AND Randy Moss? What does it mean if the Patriots win, if anything? Who's it gonna be?

My pick is the Patriots, who I wanna hate but kinda like, over the Cowboys, who I really hate but actually love, and always root for in spite of myself. I wonder if this is what William Faulkner would feel like while watching Ken Burns' Civil War documentary.

In other news, big chance on Saturday for the Red Raiders against A&M, coming to Lubbock, as always, with a suspect pass D (the Aggies haven't won there in 15 years), which, coincidentally, is sorta like playing Boston College with a weak secondary, or for that matter a herd of inexperienced running backs. I say a "herd" because they might be large beasts that run fast, but when they get spooked they just close their eyes and bolt; they don't really know where they're going.

The winner of the game in Lubbock, in all likelihood, will be ranked next week. The winner of the game in South Bend, on the other hand, will still be #4.

UPDATE: Aggies got their heads kicked in, 35-7. Delicious.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

John McCain's health care plan

A strong dose of finger-wagging at patients for not buying insurance, getting too much care, eating too much, and always suing their doctors, combined with a solid regimen of cutting the number of procedures Medicare covers and using that money to subsidize HMO profits.

If that's not a winning combination, I don't know what is!

Oh, and a message for the Mitthead and Ru9/11dy: ya know what's the most "portable" insurer of health care? Medicare.

neato test

Are you right-brained or left-brained? Most people are left-brained, which means they see the dancer in the link moving counter-clockwise. I saw her moving clockwise, so I guess I'm right-brained (though I did get her to change direction!)

Apparently that means I'm big on these functions:
uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

UPDATE: I'm starting to wonder if they didn't screw up this test. Sounds like everyone sees the dancer going clockwise.

Notre Dame needs more Jesuits

Dan Wetzel makes a point apropos of many of our ND discussions:
Boston College has a whole bunch of numbers going for it right now. There is the record (6-0), the national ranking (No. 4) and the possible position in the Heisman race for quarterback Matt Ryan (No. 1).

Then there is the number that makes the Eagles one of the most unlikely national title contenders in years: 93.

That's the graduation rate for BC football players according to the latest NCAA figures. The Eagles finished third in the country behind Navy (95) and Northwestern (94).

Wetzel also notes that the Admissions Dept. at BC doesn't lower its standards for student-athletes.

I'm pulling this out because I think BC puts the lie to the old Theismann canard that ND needs to decide whether it's gonna have academic integrity or a quality football program, because "athletes" (generally assumed to be African American football recruits with 4.3 40's) just can't perform to strong academic standards and will always turn such a program down for a school that lets them merely pretend to be in college. It just ain't so.

In fact, I think Notre Dame's commitment to both athletic AND academic excellence is one of the (few) great philosophical stances the school has taken. Notre Dame doesn't separate the meatheads from the nerds, because it believes brains and brawn don't always have to be separate; balance both within a student body and within a student's body are possible, even preferable.

There's a second, and perhaps even more important, lesson in the BC/ND tack as well: you don't have to sacrifice your principles to be successful. If there's anything religious institutions like Notre Dame and Boston College try to ingrain in their students, that is it.

ENDA benda

Sorry, Susan Stryker, Aravosis is right. According to him, ENDA can pass if transsexuals are taken off the protected list, but it's certain to fail if they stay on. Since Aravosis is exceedingly well-connected in Washington, and there's no other evidence that I know of whatsoever to evaluate ENDA's chances with GLBT rights vis-a-vis merely GLB rights, and since neither Stryker nor anyone else has contested his synopsis of the politicking going on right now, I'm going to assume his evaluation of ENDA's electoral chances is correct. Simply put, there are 2 schools of thought on this: 1 that says it's morally wrong to leave transsexuals hanging, and another that says you take what you can get now, and come back for the rest when you can get it. I belong to the second group.

I get the feeling that transsexuals' advocates are worried that a non-discrimination bill for them won't pass Congress at any point in the near future unless it's part of a larger bill that's less controversial, in this case a GLB non-discrimination bill. That is certainly a legitimate concern. My guess, however, is that transsexual employment rights will stand on its own eventually. It makes little sense to me, then, to keep discrimination of GLB's legal simply because you can't also get the T's yet.

But hey, what do I know?

Again, this all assumes that ENDA passes with GLB rights but fails when the T is added on. My position, admittedly, may also be colored by the fact that I found Stryker's article particularly sneering, patronizing, and sanctimonious. Yeah, we get it: you've got a Ph.D. There's no need to keep reminding us ignorant yokels what big, fancy words "you and your academic colleagues" come up with (and people wonder how conservative stereotypes of academics are perpetuated!). And what do you think really are the chances that someone who reads Salon and pays enough attention to GLBT issues to read this article and be able to compare to Aravosis' one hasn't ever heard the term "heteronormative" before?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

James Dobson is to Christianity as George W. Bush is to the GOP

This study on generational shifts in perceptions of Christians is fascinating. It confirms suspicions many of us non-brownshirt Christians have had for a while-- namely, that the Christian Right is soiling Christ's good name and turning the masses away from the faith.

Simply put, the bigots are f*%king everything up for the rest of us.

The "duck your head and wait for liberalism to blow over" tactic (I actually had a conservative Catholic theology MA use those words to explain the best strategy for the Church to handle these trying new times), while easier than actually adapting to our constantly deepening understanding of humans and creation, may well go down in history as the most boneheaded idea ever conceived. Even more than trickle-down economics, Napoleon's march on Russia, and no longer stopping the clock on first down, and that's saying something.

maybe I didn't spend enough time in church,

but I actually don't think I understand what is being described here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Seth Myers, quoting Rudy Giuliani as he puts down his cellphone:

"That was my wife reminding me to pick up some milk at the nine-eleven."

Yes, he can be that bad. And you know why he's that bad about constantly tossing 9/11 in there? Because he has no f**king idea what he's talking about on most major issues; for a presidential candidate, his knowledge base on economics, health care, and foreign are at times shockingly shallow. See this, for example, during last night's debate:
As the Republicans' latest presidential debate began in Michigan this afternoon, Chris Matthews asked Rudy Giuliani to explain how private equity firms make "billions of dollars" and whether there's "any downside to this amazing bonanza."
Here's the entirety of what Giuliani said as he ran out the clock on Matthews' question:

"Well, I mean the market is a wonderful thing. I mean, the free market is our -- one of our greatest assets. And the leading Democratic candidate once said that the unfettered free market is the most destructive force in modern America. I mean, just get an idea of where the philosophy comes from.

"The free market is the asset that has allowed us to -- the sky's the limit. The reality is that what we have to do is look at the fundamentals. A president can't be an economic forecaster. A president's not going to be any better an economic forecaster than you are a baseball forecaster -- and I'm not a particularly [good] baseball forecaster this afternoon.

"So the reality is, a president has to work on the fundamentals. What are the fundamentals? Keep taxes low. Keep regulations moderate. Keep spending under control. That's an area where we need a lot of help. And make sure you do something about legal reform so that our legal system doesn't -- it's 2.2 percent of our GDP now, is spent on all these frivolous lawsuits. It's double any other industrialized nation. If we don't get control of that, that's another way in which we're going to eat up our future.

"So we got a prospect on the Democratic side of overspending, overtaxing, overregulating, and oversuing, and I think you need a Republican alternative to that, which is an emphasis on the pillars of growth that I mentioned."

What Rudy had nothing to say about, presumably because he knows nothing about them: hedge funds and private equity firms, which was the subject of the question.

And of course, I wonder if anyone ever explained to Rudnine Eleviani that "an unfettered free market" is sort of what you have when you don't "keep regulations moderate."

Seriously, I've watched a fair number of debates in my lifetime, but this answer is one of the silliest, most jingoistic, least informed answers I've ever heard. "The sky's the limit?" What the hell is he even talking about?

your liberal media

From Huffington Post, re: NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams:
For Williams, it all went back to Sept. 11, 2001. As a citizen, he thought on that fateful day, thank God that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell were on the team.

the importance of Iowa

A lot of people who are pinning their hopes on Edwards/Obama/whoever to pull the nomination out from under Hillary Clinton point to Dean's historic meltdown in the week before the 2004 Iowa Caucus. So I was wondering: how much does Iowa matter, and what tea leaves are there from Iowa 2004 to read for today?

First, let's look at the Dean meltdown itself. Here's the point at which Kerry pulled ahead in Iowa (January 14th). It really is an epic flameout when you look at the numbers; Dean went from 10-point frontrunner to 5-point underdog in 1 week. That being said, Dean was only the favorite in Iowa for a short time, having pulled ahead of Gephardt sometime in November or December.

Now, check this out, the NH numbers according to ARG around the time of the Iowa Caucus. On January 3, Dean has 39% support to Kerry's 14%. By the 17th, that number has dipped to 28%, nearly the entirety of the difference flowing to Kerry over the next couple of days to 19% (after a dip to 10%). Closer, but Dean's still clearly ahead 28-19%. Dean's numbers hold steady until the 19th, the day of the Iowa Caucus, after which they drop a breathtaking 12 points in 5 days, with nearly the entire difference going to Kerry. By the 24th, Kerry led Dean 38-16%.

So yeah, Iowa matters. It wouldn't be the first time the cornfed kingmakers lifted a moribund campaign to instant anointed frontrunner status. And it is easy to forget how moribund the Kerry campaign appeared: I distinctly remember Jay Leno telling a joke in late 2003 about how the Kerry campaign was "on life support."

However, looking at national polls, Dean even in his heyday never commanded nearly the numbers of Clinton. This particular poll, from Dec. 2003, only gives Dean 23% to everyone else's 10%-- over 50% were still undecided. Comparatively, Clinton currently polls in the forties, and one poll had her poking over 50%.

Furthermore, the '04 candidates were far less charitable to the front-runner than Obama and Edwards are to Clinton. Dean joked about how he knew he was ahead because he was picking so much buckshot from his backside. He was treated as an outsider from the very beginning, a rabble-rousing yokel from out of town who just didn't know how things are done. Kerry and Lieberman let him have it frequently, and Gephardt burned his entire warchest in a knock-down drag-out in Iowa that drove up Dean's negatives in that state and may have won the caucus for Kerry.

In fact, I have heard rumors from people on the ground in Iowa at the time that Gephardt saw the writing on the wall and intentionally immolated himself killing Dean for Kerry's sake. It would explain this rather strange moment in the middle of the campaign:
In December, Mr. Kerry, in an unguarded moment, did not hesitate when asked whom he would support if he were not in the race: ''Gephardt.'' Similarly, Mr. Gephardt did not hesitate when he was eliminated from the Democratic race the night of the Iowa caucuses to say whom he would support.

Perhaps it is still early, but Clinton has no Gephardt at this point willing to empty his clip on her, no DLC working to undermine her, and no Kerry or Lieberman legitimizing her attackers.

Yes, it is true that Dean didn't start his descent until January of '04, and yes it is true that he dropped some 25 points over 3 weeks, and a similar drop from Hillary would be enough for Obama or Edwards to run away with it. However, Dean was working under far more adverse circumstances than Clinton and never had a lead as large as hers. So I'm not saying such a comeback is impossible in '08; I just don't see a mass exodus away from Hillary like what happened to Dean.

Then again, I didn't see USC dropping one to Stanford, either, so what do I know?

Monday, October 08, 2007

History ...liberally biased?

Some time ago I made a comment about what, to me, is what distinguishes Obama from the rest of the crowd. Now, for the purposes of illustration, I have its exact opposite. From ESPN:
"I made my arguments and went down in flames. History will prove me right." -- Texas Rangers owner George W. Bush after voting against realignment and a new wild-card system during a Major League Baseball owners meeting in September 1993. Bush was the lone dissenter in a 27-1 vote.

As Dr. Phil would say, hey MLB, how's that workin' out for ya?
Selig, who spent last week watching games at Miller Park* and channel-switching at home, called his old pal, former Boston Red Sox** CEO John Harrington, and they marveled at the direction the game has taken.

"John said, 'Commissioner, did you ever think when we were designing all this that it could be this good?'" Selig said. "The answer is no. I thought it would be great, and so did John. But are you kidding me?"

Baseball's playoff system is so popular, even Bob Costas is no longer on a soapbox on behalf of purists everywhere. The only people with reason to complain, it seems, are those unfortunate division champions who keep getting sent home prematurely by upstart wild-card clubs.

*-Miller Park is the home of the Wild Card Colorado Rockies, who swept the Phillies last weekend.

**- 3 years ago the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in one of Major League Baseball's most memorable postseasons, rallying in the AL Championship Series from 3 down against the arch-nemesis New York Yankees... as a Wild Card.

Friday, October 05, 2007

true patriotism

Really all there is to say about that:
Said Sean Hannity: “Why do we wear [flag lapel] pins? Because our country is under attack!”

"they come at night and murder the monks"

Here's an good article from Der Spiegel on the crisis in Myanmar. It is truly awful to just sit by while tragedy unfolds there, waiting for someone to do something.

Bush Administration tried to cow Chris Matthews

This is very interesting, and I very seriously hope some enterprising reporter takes this up. From the Examiner (c/o ThinkProgress):
After praising the drafters of the First Amendment for allowing him to make a living, he outlined what he said was the fundamental difference between the Bush and Clinton administrations.

The Clinton camp, he said, never put pressure on his bosses to silence him.

“Not so this crowd,” he added, explaining that Bush White House officials -- especially those from Vice President Cheney's office -- called MSNBC brass to complain about the content of his show and attempted to influence its editorial content. "They will not silence me!" Matthews declared.

Are we going to have to add intimidation of national media figures to the list of the Bush Administration's unpunished crimes?

Being a pundit means never having to say you're sorry

David Brooks: if conservatives had all been "centrist" like I say I am these last 5 years, and not advocating the stuff I was advocating, they'd still be in power.

Of course, David Brooks is a respected pundit, which apparently means he's given carte blanche to pretend like he didn't argue forcefully for us to go into Iraq, or concoct a speech for Bush arguing that we should "spread democracy" now, and we can change Middle Eastern society in 20 years, or defend warantless wiretapping, or dissemble on l'Affair Schiavo while calling the "moral high ground" for the Christian Right.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

"Massachusetts values"

Hysterical. The Log Cabin Republicans figure out how to take Romney down for going whole hog against the gay community. They're running this ad... Iowa.

See, this is why the idea of a Romney campaign seems so absurd to me. I mean, this is all the Dems would do on TV, because let me tell you people, if you think John Kerry was a flip-flopper, this guy will blow you away!

Of course, on the other hand, unlike Rudy, at least the Christian Right hasn't said they'll mount a 3rd party challenge if he wins the nomination.

raw deal

More trouble in the massive meat recall we touched upon here. From The Chicago Tribune:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture waited 18 days after learning that millions of pounds of ground beef made by Topps Meat Co. could be contaminated with E coli bacteria before it concluded that a recall was necessary, an e-mail from an agency inspection official shows.

The Topps hamburger recall, which is now the third largest hamburger recall in USDA history, was first announced Sept. 25. The Elizabeth, N.J., company initially recalled 331,000 pounds of hamburger, but last Saturday expanded the recall to include 21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburger.
The USDA also announced its recall only as New York state published its own Sept. 25 consumer alert regarding possible E coli contamination in Topps hamburger. Claudia Hutton, a spokeswoman for the New York Department of Health, said that state investigators confirmed the E coli in Topps beef on Sept. 24 during tests in its Wadsworth Center Laboratories.

New York state actually issued its Sept. 25 consumer alert before the Topps recall was announced by the company and USDA, according to Jessica Chittenden, a New York Department of Agriculture and Markets spokewoman.

The meat, as you probably guessed, was sold by Wal-Mart. The Trib also lists Indiana as one of the affected states.

I wonder how much longer the USDA would have waited to tell people there's shit in Topps' meat if the state of New York hadn't found out when they did. I wonder, also, why the USDA isn't compelled to tell the public when they find e. coli in meat, like the New York Dept. of Health. And I wonder most of all if voters really think it's worth risking e. coli to protect lazy, greedy meat companies.

It can't be said enough: this is what deregulation looks like. Have you seen enough yet?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

they still exist

Freaky. Yes, these are the very same with which Garrett threatens Swearengen, and Hearst ultimately calls up in Deadwood, and that guard the coach in 3:10 to Yuma.

Of course, these guys are their successors.

thugs in harmony

Did you ever think we would live in a country where a legislator could: a) say this to another legislator, and b) it not be all over the headlines:
If Henry Waxman today wants to go to Iraq and do an investigation, Blackwater will be his support team. His protection team. Do you think he really wants to investigate directly?

That was Congressman Darrel Issa, a Republican (of course), making a veiled threat of violence toward the head of the House Oversight Committee on behalf of a mercenary enterprise run by (of course) extremely well-connected Republicans.

But don't worry, Brian Williams will make sure that tonight you hear all about how there are fewer airline crashes lately.


Freakin' brilliant (even despite the fact that Maroon 5 makes me want to take an icepick to my eardrums--don't worry, this is not a Maroon 5 video).

Chicago Trib goes to bat for Big Ag

From Chicago's conservative rag:
Because of a little-noticed legislative change buried deep within the 2007 farm bill approved in July by the House, only state inspections would be required for some meat products.

The measure was planted in the farm bill by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), according to congressional staffers familiar with the bill. It would be a boon to small meat processing companies whose products must remain in the state of origin because they lack a federal inspection stamp.
The debate over the state inspections is unfolding during the recall of 21.7 million pounds of hamburger produced by Topps Meat Co. of Elizabeth, N.J., because of E. coli contamination.
Other large beef recalls include a 2002 action by Con Agra, which recalled 19 million pounds of ground beef because of E. coli, and a 1997 recall of 25 million pounds of beef made by Hudson Foods.
Topps is a large-enough meat processor to require the presence of one of the USDA's 6,500 meat inspectors in its plant. But many companies aren't that big. The requirement for a USDA inspection and stamp on meat that will be sold interstate hampers sales for smaller meat processors, according to beef industry advocates.

Shorter Trib: Big meat packing companies with federal inspectors on site abuse the public trust by using such skeezy practices that we have to recall 20 million lbs. of meat every year. Therefore, smaller companies should continue to be shut out of the market.

The agricultural market (in meat, especially) is not a capitalistic system; it's been rigged against smaller companies, farmers, and ranchers by decades of unfair regulation aimed solely at preserving their oligopolies. Smaller meat packers can't get their meat federally inspected because the inspectors won't give you the time of day unless you have a million dollar operation, yet they're blocked by federal regulation from moving their meat to more lucrative markets across state lines and thus making the kind of money it takes to get the inspectors. And that's only the beginning.

Michael Pollan writes in The Omnivore's Dilemma that one organic farmer he talked to in Pennsylvania was told that, if they wanted a single inspector for his operation, he would have to change to a purely indoor facility, even though the meat from his outdoor one always tested lower rates of E. coli than of the federally inspected facilities (at first that sounds weird, but when you think about it, an enclosed slaughterhouse is actually a cesspool, even if you could totally clean it regularly). He would also have to build the inspector his own bathroom, among other absurdities.

Yet despite this incredible burden on small companies, and the presence on site of federal meat inspectors at the big companies, how much safer is your meat compared to even 10 years ago (or at last year's rate, 2,500,000,000 lbs. of recalled meat ago)?

I can say this: when my parents were my age, they could eat rare steak without losing a wink of sleep over it. E. coli was virtually unheard of.

I think it's safe to say that the small-time companies aren't the problem.

Our food system is plagued by a whole myriad of deformities, most of them stemming from the monopolistic, exploitative, and negligent behavior of Big Foods, of companies like Topps and Conagra. It's long past time to start breaking down the old system and moving toward a more localized, sustainable way of producing food.

Monday, October 01, 2007

healthcare, and the candidates' answers for it

Here is a great article by Ezra Klein in The LA Times outlining the difference between the Dems and Reps' health care plans. Klein's diagnosis:
On each side, the plans are basically united. The Republican plans make you pay more for your healthcare so you'll buy less. They do this by weakening the protection that insurance offers from health expenses. The Democratic plans bring everyone into the system, then use that leverage to reform the insurers and extract savings through efficiencies of scale.

You read that right: the GOP candidates think the problem is that you have too much health insurance.


This would be positively poetic.

one freaky lookin' AP Top 25 poll

1. LSU (33)
2. USC (32)
3. California
4. Ohio State
5. Wisconsin
6. South Florida
7. Boston College
8. Kentucky
9. Florida
10. Oklahoma
11. South Carolina
12. Georgia
13. West Virginia
14. Oregon
15. Virginia Tech
16. Hawaii
17. Missouri
18. Arizona State
19. Texas
20. Cincinnati
21. Rutgers
22. Clemson
23. Purdue
24. Kansas State
25. Nebraska

Yes, folks, number 6 in the nation: the University of South Florida Bulls. And yes, Kentucky is #8... over Florida. A couple of spots down you have the Gamecocks of South Carolina at #11. Other strange faces (most of whom I don't even know the mascots) include Hawaii, Missouri, Arizona St., Cincinnati, and Kansas St.