Friday, March 31, 2006
"Together we can stop graveyard babies!"
Spoken by the weird, twitchy sheriff in last Saturday's Sci-Fi Possibly Original Feature, Mortuary, directed by Tobe Hooper and featuring Denise Crosby, Bug Hall, and Lee Garlington. Quality!!!
And, of course, there'll be other people's dogs...
I was kinda going for a two-headed dog effect, but this was the best I could manage.
NYC is a bit more of an architectural goldmine than Pittsburgh, but I'll get by.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Buried at the end of the NY Daily News' "Gatecrasher" gossip column:
Confessed terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui testified that he used the code name Shaquille while plotting in Malaysia, because he thought it was an equally common Western and Muslim name. "Like Shaquille O'Neal, the basketball player," he said. So if Shaq finds himself on a no-fly list, that's why.
Yep. The very embodiment of a criminal mastermind.
Ya know, as the kidnappers kept setting deadlines and then not killing her, I began to suspect that for whatever reason, they really didn't want to kill her.
I will now look forward to the right-wing pundits complaining that her reporting doesn't sufficiently emphasize all the time she was in Iraq when she wasn't kidnapped and repeatedly threatened with death...
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
No. Just... No.
In other weirdness, any spam that begins with, "Probably my releasd paper about the schematic design of a practical spacewarp can be considered as one of your favorites" really has to be shared...
Hello Eli,the wacky Timecube guy...
Probably my releasd paper about the schematic design of a practical spacewarp can be considered as one of your favorites. That's placed on: http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0511086 The aim of this email to you is providing the possibility of introducing it to more numbers of people which I believe that's in favor of improving the science and a service to the mankind. However, your personal opinion on my work is important to me too. I guess you might be able and/or interested to help me at least via making a link of the above address within your page(s) or presenting it to more media. So, please give a clear answer to my request. Best Regards
P.S.: A simplified description of my work is viewable on:
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
No real point to make here, I just thought it was kind of amazing:
...[T]oday we pause to note the death of Adwaitya, an Aldabran tortoise who died last Wednesday at the Calcutta zoo. He is believed to have been about 250, nearly 80 years older than the next-oldest animal, a 176-year-old Galapagos tortoise living in Australia....Whoa. It's that last sentence there that really drives it home for me.
He had lived in the Calcutta zoo since 1875 and was one of four tortoises captured from Aldabra — which one tortoise historian calls a "low coralline atoll ... in a little-visited part of the Indian Ocean about 400 kilometers north of Madagascar" — and presented to Lord Robert Clive, who was the architect, if that is the word, of the British empire in India. If Adwaitya was truly 250, he was born in the same year as Mozart.
An Afghan man who had faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity has been released from prison after the case was dropped, the justice minister said Tuesday.Well, no wonder he needs asylum! He's insane!
The announcement came after the United Nations said Abdul Rahman has appealed for asylum outside Afghanistan and that the world body was working to find a country willing to take him.
(snip)Deputy Attorney General Mohammed Eshak Aloko told the AP that prosecutors had issued a letter calling for Rahman's release because ''he was mentally unfit to stand trial.'' He also said he did not know where he was being held.
He said Rahman may be sent overseas for medical treatment.
Hours earlier, hundreds of clerics, students and others chanting ''Death to Christians!'' marched through the northern Afghan Mazar-i-Sharif to protest the court's decision Sunday to dismiss the case.
''Abdul Rahman must be killed. Islam demands it,'' said senior Cleric Faiez Mohammed, from the nearby northern city of Kunduz. ''The Christian foreigners occupying Afghanistan are attacking our religion.''
Several Muslim clerics have threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is freed, saying that he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.
So everything worked out for the best, and all they had to do to avert catastrophe was to equate Christianity with insanity. They've come such a long way in such a short time, thanks to the Bush Administration's deep understanding of foreign cultures, and its wonkish obsession with planning and detail.
Monday, March 27, 2006
However, if you grant the premise that, despite its non-Americanness the memo is indeed still real, it contains some pretty eye-popping stuff. Even if it does cover some ground we're already been over a few times.
[B]behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.So... the diplomacy was being fixed around the policy?
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.
I see Bush is every bit the deep thinker and perceptive student of history and foreign cultures that I thought he was...
"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."(snip)
The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
At their meeting, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair candidly expressed their doubts that chemical, biological or nuclear weapons would be found in Iraq in the coming weeks, the memo said. The president spoke as if an invasion was unavoidable....This is the part that floors me every time. It sounds like a couple of not-very-bright high school kids trying to figure out an loophole that lets them do something illegal, not a serious strategy discussion between two world leaders. On the other hand, the first two ideas also sound like a lot like the kind of tricks Karl Rove would play on the campaign trail...
Without much elaboration, the memo also says the president raised three possible ways of provoking a confrontation. Since they were first reported last month, neither the White House nor the British government has discussed them.
"The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."
It also described the president as saying, "The U.S. might be able to bring out a defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam's W.M.D," referring to weapons of mass destruction.
A brief clause in the memo refers to a third possibility, mentioned by Mr. Bush, a proposal to assassinate Saddam Hussein. The memo does not indicate how Mr. Blair responded to the idea.
Mr. Jones, the National Security Council spokesman, declined to discuss the proposals, saying, "We are not going to get into discussing private discussions of the two leaders."Well, it's not an ongoing investigation yet...
Regrettably, of course. Because no president wants war, as Bush explained to Helen Thomas. In fairness to the President, he did tell Blair that "he was not itching to go to war," and that he was aware "there were uncertainties and risks" (i.e., what will happen to our, er, Iraq's precious oil wells?). His actions make that awfully to believe, however.
Mr. Bush agreed that the two countries should attempt to get a second resolution, but he added that time was running out. "The U.S. would put its full weight behind efforts to get another [UN] resolution and would twist arms and even threaten," Mr. Bush was paraphrased in the memo as saying.
The document added, "But he had to say that if we ultimately failed, military action would follow anyway."
So yes, to sum up, President Bush was not itching for war, but was prepared to fabricate a bogus provocation, and completely ignore the UN Security Council in order to start one. I suppose we should all be grateful to have a president so willing to put the good of the country ahead of his own personal feelings...
Sunday, March 26, 2006
A microscopic worm may be the key to heart-friendly bacon.This avenue of research raises many troubling questions, such as:
Geneticists have mixed DNA from the roundworm C. elegans and pigs to produce swine with significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids -- the kind believed to stave off heart disease.
''We all can use more omega-3 in our diet,'' said Dr. Jing Kang, the Harvard Medical School researcher who modified the omega-3-making worm gene so it turned on in the pigs.
While boosting Omega-3s doesn't decrease the fat content in pigs, the fatty acids are also important to brain development and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and depression. The American Heart Association recommends at least two weekly servings of fish, particularly fatty fish like trout and salmon, which are naturally high in omega-3s.
o Would it create some kind of horrific Baconstein monster?
o If it's healthy in any way, can it truly be considered bacon?
o Will the modified omega-3 pigs live in porquariums instead of pens?
Such questions are above my paygrade; I leave them to the professional bioethicists.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Friday, March 24, 2006
"I met (name) on the bus. She's a woman now. I know - because the bus was crowded."
Did I mention Brigitte Bardot?
And, of course, there'll be other people's St. Patrick's dogs...
I don't think he was hiding, but he did look a bit nervous.
After the liberal blogosphere unearthed a giant throbbing vein of blatant plagiarism by the Washington Post's prized new right-wing blogger, Ben Domenech, the Post wasted little time getting rid of him. Given his snippy defensiveness following Domenech's hiring, I had expected Post Executive Editor Jim Brady to resist the inevitable, or at least depict Domenech as the hapless victim of a ruthless left-wing vendetta.
But to his credit, Brady basically said, "He's gone right now; plagiarism is an unforgivable sin for a journalist; and we are grateful to everyone who brought this to our attention."
This was probably the minimum required to maintain any semblance of dignity, but still not exactly Snoopy Dance-inspiring:
1) Ricoh Suave was forced/allowed to resign, rather than summarily fired. A technicality, I know.
2) Brady says they were not aware of the plagiarism when they hired him, and that they are now investigating it. Umm... Shouldn't they have done some kind of checking before they hired him?
2a) There is no apology or mia culpa, either personal or institutional, for what was clearly an incredibly bad hiring decision (see #2).
3) Brady's last sentence, "We also remain committed to representing a broad spectrum of ideas and ideologies in our Opinions area," reads to me as, "We are still committed to hiring a blogger to represent the right-wing lunatic point of view, and will do so just as soon as we can find one capable of composing an original thought."
So, good but not great. But at least they didn't go all in like Ricoh's buddies at RedState. Here's Erick, via Atrios:
And now those opposed to Ben have googled prior writings that on the surface appear suspicious, but only because permissions obtained and judgments made offline were not reflected online by an out dated and out of business campus newspaper. But that's all the opponents want - just enough to sabotage a career, though in the process they will sabotage themselves. Facts have no meaning. Only impressions have any bearing on this. The charges of plagarism are false, meant to bring down a good and honest man. The presented facts to prove plagarism are specious -- products of shoddy work. One could easily think the producers of 60 Minutes II were behind them.This is just complete baldfaced lying and obfuscation, as Erick desperately tries to brazen his way out of the facts. Just go to Eschaton and look at Atrios's posts from yesterday - the plagiarism is incredibly blatant and obvious, and impossible to excuse or explain away. It also extended to Domenech's career at the National Review, so it can't just be blamed on the William & Mary student paper. The comparison to "Rathergate" is just asinine - there is absolutely no question of provenance or authenticity here.
Okay, so maybe the argument that there was no plagiarism isn't a winner. Not to worry - trevino comes to Erick's rescue in the comments of the same post:
Assume, for a moment, that the plagiarism charge is true. For the sake of argument, assume that.To plagiarize myself in the Eschaton comments (somewhere), trevino's first point sounds an awful lot like, " 'He killed people and ate them' is the sole critique of Jeffrey Dahmer by the prosecutor with any objective merit." I mean, isn't the plagiarism enough?
Now, having accepted this, what are we left with?
-- Old, dating wholly from Domenech's teen years.
- It is the sole critique of Domenech by the left with any objective merit.
- It does not have much merit, as the profferred examples are:
-- Confined wholly to movie reviews.
Others have already covered the second point quite well, so I'll just observe that "old" and "dating wholly from [his] teen years" don't reinforce each other so well when you're talking about a 24-year-old.
One final, highly subjective point:
The guy just looks like a smug, arrogant prick; the Platonic ideal of a spoiled rich fratboy who expects the world to be handed to him on a silver platter. The sad thing is, it probably still will be.
How Would You Like a Much Bigger Pfg Efl Nfd Iem S?Lord knows, my Eed Sog could stand to be a little bigger.
GAIN UPTO 2-3 Ier Njg Ced Hok Eed Sog !!
Thursday, March 23, 2006
So, some more photos I kinda like. These are actually oldies from the Nikon D70 (I kinda have a backlog)...
Station Square archway thingy, reflected in a puddle.
The ceiling of a roadside rest stop somewhere in Ohio, on the way back from a work-related field trip to Cleveland.
Trees love sculpture!
Gazebo/marquee thingy outside the arena.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
(John Beale, Post-Gazette)
You guys find everything okay?
Between the Insane Project From Hell Which Is Eating My Brain, and the harrowing Pellet Gun Terrorist Episode which gripped Dahntahn Pittsburgh in a grippy grip of fear, I don't have enough CPU cycles left upstairs to say much of anything coherent. Perhaps I will post some photos later, I dunno.
But for now, all I can offer is some random tidbits that have been bouncing around what's left of my brain:
o Is it churlish and mean-spirited of me that one of my pet peeves is people who respond to "Hello" with "Good, how are you?" Responding to "How are you" with "Hello" doesn't seem so bad to me, but the reverse is just weird.
o New record! My PC has been up and running continuously for over 150 straight days now! Woohoo! Did I mention I built it myself?
o Remember the Chris Bliss Juggling video? (sorry for the crappy Youtube video quality; the original is difficult to link to directly) Apparently certain elements of the juggling community have taken offense to its popularity, and one of them has offered a video rebuttal, with five balls, smoother moves, and uneven editing. (Thanks to Bill for the tip)
o And if that's not enough juggling madness for y'all (and who can ever really have enough juggling madness?), there's old-time juggler Kris Kremo, who starts out juggling balls to a cheesy lounge version of the Hawaii Five-O theme, then escalates to top hats and blocks, which have to be seen to be believed. It's not just what I have to assume is virtuoso juggling; it also produces some truly astonishing visual effects.
o Codename V. is Teh awesome. That is all.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
From an NYT blogticle about the brother of one of Google's founders raising money through a "reverse merger" with a barely-existent shell company, an incomprehensible-to-me practice that has oftimes been a hallmark of dodginess:
Jeff Oscodar, Handhelds chief executive officer, conceded during an interview last week that, "Historically, there has been a taint" surrounding reverse mergers. "But," he added, "the taint curve is coming down."
I never knew taint was graded on a curve.(I wonder if I'm behind the taint curve)
I would love to see a compilation of all of these little spam snippets, and I wonder if they all come from one larger spam ur-narrative. But until such a repository is created, I will continue to do my small part, and post them as I find them.
Today's entry in the literary spamstakes is from "Tisha Melvin," and is entitled "information." Enjoy.
"So they'll go up the road and they won't find him, where were? in 1936 Neat. Misery was what she liked; Misery was who she liked, not some foul-talking little spic car-thief from Spanish Harlem. She showed him these with an uneasy defiant sort o...Seriously, can we get some kind of Spam Google or Spam Yahoo (Spoogle? Spoohoo? No, those are probably bad ideas) or something? It's a shame to let all this creativity to go to waste.
Monday, March 20, 2006
What with all the great news coming out of Iraq, the equally brilliant success story that is Afghanistan has been largely overlooked. Let's take a quick peek in and see how that's going, shall we?
This has to be uncomfortable for Bush's religious base (all five of them who are aware of it): They have to either admit that Afghanistan is not quite the enlightened democratic triumph that was advertised, or embrace a government that is willing to execute someone simply for converting to Christianity (kinda puts a damper on proselytization, don't it?).
An Afghan man is being tried in a court in the capital, Kabul, for converting from Islam to Christianity.
Abdul Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam and could face the death sentence under Sharia law unless he recants.
Afghanistan's post-Taleban constitution is based on Sharia law, and prosecutors in the case says this means Abdul Rahman, whose trial began last Thursday, should be put to death.
When he was arrested last month he was found to be carrying a bible and charged with rejecting Islam which is punishable by death in Afghanistan.
Mr Karzai's office says the president will not intervene in the case.
My money's on the latter; they'd rather tell themselves that Rahman's not a "real" Christian than admit that Afghanistan is not a real democracy, and Bush is not a real president.
Thanks to Bill for the tip!
Uh-oh. Dan Balz and Jonathan Weisman are gonna totally get written up for this narrative violation:
Republican efforts to craft a policy and political agenda to carry the party into the midterm elections have stumbled repeatedly as GOP leaders face widespread disaffection and disagreement within the ranks.
Anxiety over President Bush's Iraq policy, internal clashes over such divisive issues as immigration, and rising complaints that the party has abandoned conservative principles on spending restraint have all hobbled the effort to devise an election-year message, said several lawmakers involved in the effort.
While it is a Republican refrain that Democrats criticize Bush but have no positive vision, for now the governing party also has no national platform around which lawmakers are prepared to rally.
Every effort so far to produce such a platform has stumbled.
No! No! Thoughtcrime! Doubleplusungood wrongthink! Only the Democrats can be guilty of messageless disarray! Citizens Balz and Weisman will report to Room 101 for re-education immediately!
I wouldn't worry too much about the Republicans, though. I'm sure they'll find a way to rally the troops against the imminent scary threat of gay terrorist immigrants burning flags at their weddings. They'll probably plotting to release doves infected with bird flu, too...
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Somehow, they're just not quite as funny getting into a car...
Um, y'all might want to move your kids somewhere a little... safer.
I'm sure someone thought this seemed like a good idea at the time, but they probably should have at least tucked the doll's skirt inside the bar. Oy.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
One other strange note: The angry memo from Undersecretary Of Defense For Intelligence Stephen Cambone to Lt. General William Boykin demanding an investigation of Task Force 6-26 was dated... 6/26/04. I don't know if that was pure coincidence, or some kind of elaborate wink-wink, but Boykin claimed he found no evidence of misconduct. Maybe he just adheres to the "organ failure" standard of misconduct...
Hey, how's that "winning hearts and minds" thing working out for us?
Friday, March 17, 2006
I'm not entirely sure what his role in the accordion band is... Speakerweight, maybe?
The traditional parade Throwing Of The Sweets.
The Flags Of Ireland!
Yeah, the heels really "make" the whole inflatable-mascot ensemble...
Welcome to Pittsburgh...
Today's NYT had an article on regional dialects, which might help give you some idea of what it's like to live in Pittsburgh...
[A]n hour south, the woman behind the information desk at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center on Interstate 79 pronounced cot/caught and don/dawn (dahn/dahn) as if they were the same, exactly as Professor Labov's maps predicted would happen once a traveler left the Inland North.They missed "up 'ere"; the fact that "yinz" is often constructed "yinz guys" (which is kinda nonsensical); and the truncation of the passive voice - i.e., "Those gum bands up 'ere need to be redded up" becomes "Those gum bands up 'ere need redded up."
Outside Lou's Little Corner Bar in Pittsburgh's Little Italy, which is known as Bloomfield, it was snowing hard. Inside, a loud argument about the president and weapons of mass destruction was taking place. Did he know? Did he not know? The bartender, Donna Bruno, whose fiancé is in Iraq, did not have an opinion. But on the existence of Pittsburghese, she was clear.
"Of course we talk funny," she said. "We string words together. East Liberty becomes S'liberty. Down the street becomes dahnthestreet. And it's always what yinz doin? Why we talk this way, I don't know, but it might be because each neighborhood was settled by different ethnicities during the steel years." Professor Labov basically concurs with this theory.
Dawn Spring, a waitress working the breakfast shift at Tom's Diner on East Carson Street, had learned from experience that Pittsburghers speak a language of their own. She'd lived in Texas briefly. "I'd say, 'I'm gonna redd up my car,' which means clean up, and no one down there knew what I was talking about. We say yinz, they say y'all. We say gum band for rubber band. We in Pittsburgh may not speak proper English, but we know what we're saying. And that's what matters, right?"
This has been a public service message from The Linguistics Association of My Apartment (LAMA).
"Well, here's to bloody war and quick promotion."
Definitely words to live by in this day and age.
And, of course, there'll be other people's giant yak dogs.
EEEEEK!!! Run away!!!
Thursday, March 16, 2006
|Do you favor or oppose the United States Senate passing a resolution censuring President George W. Bush for authorizing wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining court orders?|
|Do you favor or oppose the United States House of Representatives voting to impeach President George W. Bush?|
So, if we assume that the Independents are a reasonable proxy for undecided swing voters, we can plainly see that a clear plurality oppose censuring the President for illegal wireless wiretapping, and would instead prefer to see him impeached.
Okay, Dems, your lord and master, The Almighty Middle has spoken. Hop to it.
UPDATE: I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out why there's more support for censure than impeachment among Democrats, but the reverse for Independents, and here's what I've come up with:
The Democrats (myself included, to be honest) are wary of impeachment because of the potential for blowback, as happened with Clinton. My theory is that the Independents don't care about that because it's not their party. They want to see Bush nailed to the wall, not just reprimanded.
(Photo courtesy of Rate My Kitten - please don't sue me)
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
How does the current generic ballot edge for Democrats compare to the mood at this time in the 1994 election -- when Republicans retook control of the House for the first time in four decades?On the other hand, I don't want to get too carried away. In addition to the "Politicians are all bums... except my guy, who takes care of me" mentality, There are some significant differences between today and 1994, most of them not so encouraging:
Here's a look at poll numbers from the NBC/Wall Street Journal from the first quarter of 1994 and the first quarter of 2006.
Right Direction Wrong Track Difference
1994 33% 47 -14
2006 31 57 -26
Prez/Approve Prez/Disapprove Difference
1994 55 36 +19
2006 39 54 -15
Congress/Approve Congress/Disapprove Difference
1994 31 58 -27
2006 29 56 -27
Generic/GOP Generic/Dem Difference
1994 29 34 D+5
2006 38 47 D+9
In 1994 Democrats at this point in the cycle held a five-point edge in the generic ballot test and were benefitting from President Bill Clinton's then strong approval ratings. Voters were unhappy with Congress, but a majority were not yet convinced that the country was on the wrong track.
Charlie Cook, a political analyst and founder of the Cook Political Report, explained that in 1994 "the bottom didn't start sagging for Democrats until early summer," adding: "At this point there wasn't even a whisper that there was a tidal wave out there."
1) The art of redistricting has been perfected. There are fewer up-for-grabs seats this year than there were 12 years ago.
2) The Republicans ran a tough and aggressive campaign in 1994. The Democrats have displayed nothing but caution and timidity since at least 2000.
3) Despite conservative protestations to the contrary, the media is heavily biased towards the right, and pushes as hard as it can to boost Republicans and trash Democrats without losing its credibility among casual readers and viewers. The TV and radio punditocracy doesn't even pretend to be anything other than unabashedly conservative, and there are precious few (if any) high-profile liberal counterparts to Limbaugh/Hannity/Coulter/Carlson/Scarborough.
4) Elections are now partially dependent on dodgy electronic voting machines that don't generate a verifiable paper trail, and are vulnerable to hacking and manipulation. Republicans also have sympathetic and unethical secretaries of state in control of their voting apparatus in key states like Ohio, Florida, and now California.
5) War! Terror! There was no fear card for the Democrats to play in 1994 to cling to power. While completely unearned, the Republicans will milk this one dry, as they always do. If the Democrats call the Republicans on how little they've actually done to protect us from terrorists, this could turn into a Democratic advantage. Unfortunately, I don't think they dare, but they will at least point out that the war is not going so well.
The only positive differences I can see are:
6) The rise of the liberal blogs as a fundraising, activist, and propaganda-debunking force, but I'm not convinced that their influence amounts to much more than a nudge at this point. There are a lot of smart, articulate, resourceful, passionate people in the liberal blogosphere, but an overwhelming majority of Americans have no idea what blogs are, much less read them.
7) The sheer number of Republican scandals, investigations, and criminal proceedings is absolutely staggering. Maybe my memory is hazy or selective, but I don't think there was anywhere near this kind of evidence of rampant criminality and incompetence in 1994. And, as the Fix column points out, the president's approval rating is a lot lower than it was in 1994.
As the saying goes, I will hope for the best, but expect the worst.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Sen. Feingold said the following to Fox News’ Trish Turner:
I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide. … Too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004. In the face of this, they’ll say we’d better just focus on domestic issues. … [Democrats shouldn’t] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question the administration, you’re helping the terrorists.
Sad that we even need someone to say this.
(Thanks to ErinPDX)
They headed off to college as the Berlin Wall was coming down, were inspired by globalization and came of age with international terrorism. Freed from a constant nuclear standoff as a dominant fact of international life, members of Generation X no longer fear war or upheaval in the global status quo.
Understand them -- and where they came from -- and suddenly President Bush's Middle East forays, grand democratic experiments and go-it-alone strategies take on a different look....This small group of conservative Gen Xers -- members of an age cohort once all but written off as stand-for-nothing underachievers -- is the first set of American policymakers truly at home in a unipolar world.
Their adulthood has never included a fellow superpower or the need to reach accommodation with an enemy -- a Cold War concept none of the NSC's Gen-X crowd can get their heads around. Instead, their history begins with Sept. 11, 2001. It is the measuring stick they use when discussing their generation's challenge and the sole lens through which they envision the future. "We all built careers in the post-Cold War world," said Meghan O'Sullivan, who at 36 is the deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan. "You have to think about what are the defining features of the age we live in. For me, that's American primacy, globalization, terrorism and WMD, which is why we do what we do. This wasn't applicable during the Cold War."
Generation X has never lived without pop culture and economic prosperity. It missed great moments of national triumph such as the victory of World War II as well as the ignominious defeats of the Vietnam era. Conflict, for Gen X, was the swift 1991 Persian Gulf War, which they watched like a television show.
At the NSC, staffers said the gap is most noticeable when their boss, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, recounts his years as an arms control negotiator during the Cold War. "We're like 'Arms control, what's that?'" said Michael Allen, Hadley's special assistant for legislative affairs.
"I often hear about arms control from the old-timers, but it's so different now. It's about all the places we don't have embassies now and it's very rare, it seems, that [Congress] is lobbying the executive branch to engage. Most of the times it's isolate, how can we isolate a country even more?" said Allen, a lawyer who grew up in Mobile, Ala. and could easily win an Owen Wilson look-alike contest. Don't ask the 32-year-old Allen about the era of bipartisanship; he never experienced it.
For many of the generals with whom O'Sullivan consults in her current job, the painful experience of Vietnam permeates their thinking on Iraq. Not for O'Sullivan. "We are the first post-Vietnam generation, without the baggage of Vietnam, which doesn't mean we don't try to learn some of the lessons from there about counterinsurgency and so forth, but it's not my first frame of reference and I think that's a good thing," said O'Sullivan.
Same goes for Afghanistan, where she and her team guide policy as the United States seeks to stabilize the friendly government of President Hamid Karzai installed after the fall of the Taliban. "If your frame of reference is the Soviet invasion and how they got bogged down, then I think you'd be very modest about what could be achieved in Afghanistan," O'Sullivan said. "That's not how I see it. I see an end of Taliban rule and a nascent democracy."
All riiiight. Out of touch with history and reality, and proud of it. I'm the same age as these people, and I remember the cold war and the Russian disaster in Afghanistan. And while I don't actually remember Vietnam, I'm well aware of it, and it does inform my thinking, especially when it comes to ill-conceived wars of choice.Jesus, no wonder our foreign policy is fucked up - it's being run by people who think history began when they graduated college.
The Democrats are spineless wimps. Their political strategy is nonsensical. Bush's approval rating among Independents is 28%, and 6% among Democrats in the latest CBS poll. Except for his Republican base (74%), Bush is about as unpopular as a president can possibly be. So if Democrats want to play to the middle, fine. The middle hates Bush's guts. But what they're doing is playing to the right, which makes no sense at all, especially when it's at the expense of everyone else.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Of all the reasons that President Bush is in trouble these days, not to be overlooked are inadequate REM cycles. Like chief of staff Card, many of the president's top aides have been by his side nonstop for more than five years, not including the first campaign, recount and transition. This is a White House, according to insiders, that is physically and emotionally exhausted, battered by scandal and drained by political setbacks.
"By the time you get to year six, there's never a break... and you get tired," said Ed Rollins, who served five years in President Ronald Reagan's White House. "There's always a crisis. It wears you down. This has been a White House that hasn't really had much change at all. There is a fatigue factor that builds up. You sometimes don't see the crisis approaching. You're not as on guard as you once were."
[A]t a time when Bush needs his staff to be sharp to help steer past these political shoals and find ways to turn things around, he still has the same core group working since he turned his sights toward the White House....
The succession of crisis after crisis has taken its toll. Some in the White House sound frazzled. While there are few stories of aides nodding off in meetings, some duck outside during the day so the fresh air will wake them up. "We're all burned out," said one White House official who did not want to be named for fear of angering superiors. "People are just tired."
The deliciously bitter irony here is that the White House is actually suffering from the same problem that they've inflicted on the troops in Iraq: Not enough time away from the front lines, not enough fresh blood being rotated in. Of course, when one of Bush's staffers screws up due to fatigue, they don't usually get blown up...
Wow. I admit I've only been paying passing attention to this Claude Allen refund fraud story, but I've been getting a healthy dose of knowledge from today's White House Briefing column (All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin be praised; blessed is his wisdom), and a variety of little tidbits jump out at me:
First, Froomkin himself points out the difference between the official White House reaction to Allen's felony charges vs. their reaction to Libby's - shock and embarrassment about Allen, expressions of support and admiration for Libby:
Spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday night that if the allegations against Allen are true, "no one would be more disappointed, shocked and outraged" than the president.
But it was starkly different than the response to Libby's indictment. In that case, the White House didn't express any misgivings whatsoever. There was no acknowledgement of how serious the charges were, or what it would mean if they were true. There was no expression of even hypothetical disappointment, shock or outrage. There was no suggestion that anyone in the White House might have been lied to. There were no regrets -- except, of course, that Libby had to resign.
Here is the text of Bush's remarks about Libby: "Scooter has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country. He served the Vice President and me through extraordinary times in our nation's history."
Now that the White House has demonstrated the ability to respond in the conventional way to criminal charges filed against a member of its senior staff, it becomes even more abundantly clear that in the Libby matter, it assertively chose not to do so.
The inescapable conclusion is that either Bush and Cheney think Libby's innocent -- or they don't think what he's accused of doing was in any way wrong.
Actually, scratch that. If they thought he was innocent, they could just say so. Nothing wrong with saying: We don't think he did it, but let's allow the legal system to do its job. So that leaves only option B: They don't think that what Libby is accused of doing was wrong.
Froomkin probably could have taken this a step further and observed that A) Libby's alleged wrongdoing was on the administration's behalf, and B) Libby almost certainly has some potentially very embarrassing beans to spill on the culpability of other administration bigshots, so they have a vested interest in not pissing him off.
Onward! Also from the WaPo:
Allen is friends with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: "The two would often go to lunch, sometimes talking about the burdens of being black conservatives. 'He would always say to make sure I conducted myself appropriately,' Allen recalled in an interview last year."
How's that workin' out for ya, Claude?
And finally, from Newsweek, an inside look at the real White House staff reaction:
As one White House aide, who asked for anonymity to avoid embarrassing the administration, put it, "When you hear about a White House official getting busted, you'd hope it would be for something so much better than this, like securities fraud or embezzlement. But robbing a Target? Are you kidding me?"
Ahh, the Republican mindset in all its febrile glory - how dare Allen disgrace the Grand Old Party with such amateurish penny-ante schemes!
Entertaining as it is, I think this is similar to the Cheney-Shot-A-Guy-In-The-Face! story. In itself, it's not a huge deal, largely because it's not particularly damning of Bush or his policies, but it is revelatory about the fundamental Republican character. It's yet another data point in the "Republicans are corrupt, arrogant, and unaccountable" narrative that the Democrats need to be pushing hard this year.
I would actually prefer something along the lines of "The GOP is the party of hypocrisy and moral rot," but I guess that's probably not sufficiently genteel...
I am a liberal. And I make no apologies for it. Hell, I'm proud of it.A-fucking-men, Mr. Clooney. And can someone please remind the Democrats that President Bush's poll numbers are for shit? Even more so when you subtract out the Republicans? There is no reason, I repeat, NONE, to defer to this guy. Even if the Dems want to play to the middle, even the middle hates Bush right now.
Too many people run away from the label. They whisper it like you'd whisper "I'm a Nazi." Like it's dirty word. But turn away from saying "I'm a liberal" and it's like you're turning away from saying that blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus, that women should be able to vote and get paid the same as a man, that McCarthy was wrong, that Vietnam was a mistake. And that Saddam Hussein had no ties to al-Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11.
The fear of been criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bullshit. Which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, "We were misled." It makes me want to shout, "Fuck you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic."
Bottom line: it's not merely our right to question our government, it's our duty. Whatever the consequences. We can't demand freedom of speech then turn around and say, But please don't say bad things about us. You gotta be a grown up and take your hits.I am a liberal. Fire away.
It's not 9/12/01, people. Bush is not an invincible heroic 90% approval president. The American people want to see you opposing, and opposing hard. Not capitulating. If they want capitulating, they can vote for Republicans.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
I'm very pleased with the camera overall. Picture quality is sharp, the camera does an excellent job with color (although the flesh tones could be a little warmer), the rapid-fire continuous shooting mode is impressive. I think even the black & white shots look a little better. Also, I love the USB 2.0, which lets me download the photos about four times faster.
Bored Perry High School drummer. Pretty sure they had to wait at least another hour after I passed them - no wonder she's flipping me off.
Look out! The Daughters of Hibernia are escaping! They mean to gorge themselves on human flesh!
Some young Irish dancers preparing to perform. I am unfamiliar with this particular face-touching ritual - must be an Irish thing.
The Orb is my master. I... must... obey... The Orb...
Friday, March 10, 2006
"He thinks he's an unborn caterpillar. He claims it's safer than being human."
It's all about the evils of PCP! PCP is bad, kids. Don't mess with it.
So, I was walking home, new camera in hand (well, bag), lamenting my lack of cats for Friday Cat Blogging, and the lack of photographic subjects to break in the new camera, and... Voila! Two birds with one stone!
Random Kitty Out Of Nowhere!
Not the greatest showcase for the spiffy new camera, really. But for what it's worth, this is blown up about 4X, was taken at 400 ISO at 1/60s...
Hopefully I can roam around more productively this weekend...
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Fortunately, I believe that I have found it a good home, with someone who loves digital photography almost as much as I do. Godspeed, old friend. Godspeed.
Barring unforeseen circumstance, this is probably the last photo I will ever take with my Nikon D70.
And as long as I'm on a goodbye kick, I think this is also a fitting time to close out the second edition of NYC Photoblogging. There might be a few halfway decent photos left on the table, but I'll let you be the judge if you are so inclined, here and here.
Um... Is that NTodd?
Hey! A bird!
Mmm... Construction equipment...
Why does President Bush think he can get away with ruling more and more like an absolutist? Maybe because that's what the American people really want.Froomkin then links to this very intriguing Jim Hoagland column, which includes this rather alarming quote from a White House aide:
We are engaged in a new kind of war that cannot be fought by old methods. It can only be directed by a strong executive who alone is not subject to the conflicting pressures that legislators or judges face. The public understands and supports that unpleasant reality, whatever the media and intellectuals say."Froomkin then asks for feedback on whether this aide is speaking truth, or is merely engaged in more of that reality-creation that the Bushies are so fond of:
So here are my questions for you readers -- particularly those who support Bush, live in red states, or think you have some insights into the mindset of Bush supporters: Is that an accurate analysis of the situation on the ground? Is there a silent majority out there that understands and supports the need for a strongman in the White House? Is this White House -- so often accused of making up its own reality -- in this case actually more in touch with the "unpleasant reality" of post-9/11 America than the media and intellectuals?
Post your responses over here , in this washingtonpost.com message board. You will have to register for the message boards, if you haven't done so already. And I would ask you to please post using your real name and please treat your fellow posters with respect even if you think they are on crack. Unless things get entirely out of hand, responses that follow the site's rules for discussions will be posted there. If the responses are interesting enough, I'll compile them and publish them tomorrow right here. Extra points for pithiness and/or real life anecdotes.I've read about 20 responses so far and skimmed the rest, and it's fairly interesting stuff. There have only been two or three pro-Bush commenters so far, and they've basically offered up variations on the "War is hard and it takes a tough man who is willing to make tough decisions and do unpleasant things" theme. Most of the other commenters are surrounded by Republicans, or are themselves Republicans disillusioned and disgusted with Bush's ongoing rape of the Constitution. Their observations are mostly along the lines of "people can't be bothered to take an interest, and they just trust the President to do the right thing because he's a Godly man, and it's not our place to second-guess him." Oy.
Check it out, and please contribute any insights you might have into the Bushie-is-all-right-with-me mindset. I wish I had some to contribute myself, but I'm frankly mystified - the best I've been able to come up with is the bully-posse explanation: That people who vote and root for the Republican party as it is constituted today are like the sycophants who tag along with the schoolyard bully because it makes them feel tough and powerful whenever he beats someone up.
(Thanks to politica for the link)
Or if you'd rather be impressed with virtuosity of a different sort, there's this.
(Thanks to Silleigh for this one)
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
I took a bunch of construction pictures. Most of 'em... kinda sucked. I liked this one, though.
Another wheel! In New York City! What are the odds?
I liked the sense of... alienation.
I liked the geometry and shading on this one.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Nothing says power like the Oval Office. The paintings of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The bust of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The desk used by both Roosevelts.
And then there's the rug. Don't forget the rug. President Bush never does.
For whatever reason, Bush seems fixated on his rug. Virtually all visitors to the Oval Office find him regaling them about how it was chosen and what it represents. Turns out, he always says, the first decision any president makes is what carpet he wants in his office. As a take-charge leader, he then explains, he of course made a command decision -- he delegated the decision to Laura Bush, who chose a yellow sunbeam design.
Elizabeth Vargas, the ABC News anchor, was the latest to get the treatment. She went by last week to interview Bush before his trip to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Sure enough, she wasn't in the room but a minute or two before he started telling her about the carpet.
"...Presidents are able to pick their own rugs or design their own rugs."
Bush went on: "The interesting thing about this rug and why I like it in here is 'cause I told Laura one thing. I said, 'Look, I can't pick the colors and all that. But make it say 'optimistic person.' "
(not "strong, decisive leader"?)
Bush has his own touches in the Oval Office -- some Western-themed paintings and an on-loan bust of Winston Churchill courtesy of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. But it is the rug that animates the president.
"He loves his rug," said Nicolle Wallace, the White House communications director. "I've heard him describe it countless times."
Sometimes Bush describes it as a metaphor for leadership. Sometimes he relates how Russian President Vladimir Putin admired the carpet. Sometimes he seems most taken by the lighting qualities.
Not only does the president describe the rug to journalists and foreign leaders, he does so to virtual visitors. During "An Oval Office Tour With President George W. Bush" on the White House site ( http://www.whitehouse.gov ), he wastes no time pointing out the carpet. "It helps make this room an open and optimistic place," Bush tells viewers.
Bush doesn't need the Oval Office to talk about the Oval Office carpet. Lately he's been taking the story on the road, sharing it with workers at a moving company in Sterling on Jan. 19, then with students at Kansas State University on Jan. 23, and again with supporters at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry on Feb. 1.
"If you walk in that Oval Office," Bush said in Sterling, "I think you're going to say, just like you know it, 'This guy's optimistic.' "
It's just plain freaky. I'm not sure if it's an indication of the lengths to which Bush will go to bolster his own Reaganesque mythos (Optimism! Sunny nobility!), or some kind of derangement, or that he just REALLY loves that rug. If only Laura had patterned it after the Constitution...
Can we please get Richard Cohen behind a paywall ASAP? The Washington Post would be doing us all a favor if they would just trade Cohen and a couple of draft picks for Krugman. Besides, Cohen would get along famously with their self-satisfied dishonest fake-reasonable wankers, Brooks and Tierney.
The particular steaming pile of crap that Cohen has favored us with today makes it painfully clear that he is utterly devoid of any sense of right and wrong, but instead operates under some sort of hybrid combination of cronyism and "might makes right." Needless to say, this makes him the perfect apologist for the Bush administration and Republicans in general.
Back behind my high school one day, we all assembled to watch a fistfight. To my immense pleasure, a bully was being bested by his victim. Then the bully's friend stepped in and ended matters with a swift kick to the other guy's midsection. It was an unfair ending to what was supposed to be a fair fight, but it taught me a valuable lesson: You treat your friends differently than you do your enemies.
This elemental principle of life, love and other matters seems utterly lost on so many critics of George Bush's agreement to provide India with civilian nuclear technology. In doing so, we are told, he has done something truly awful -- established a double standard. Well, duh -- yes. India is our friend and Iran, just to pick an example, is not.
(some babble about why Israel is good and Iran and Palestine are bad)
The "double standard" accusation has a schoolyard quality to it. Why a boycott of Cuba and not of China? Because you can with one and not with the other. Why attack Saddam Hussein and not all the other vile dictators? Because you do what you can. Why not ask why you leave your estate to your kids and not strangers? Because your kids are your kids. It is the ultimate double standard.
It is true, of course, that Bush has upended 30 years of American nuclear policy -- and there will be consequences. Maybe, as some of the critics say, he has made it easier for India to increase its nuclear arsenal. But India will make all the weapons it feels it needs -- no matter what the United States does. America is a superpower, but not even a superpower is all-powerful.
Way to airily wave off 30 years of American non-proliferation policy, dude.
The Israeli bomb threatens nobody. An Iranian bomb does. India has transferred its nuclear technology to no one. Pakistan has. No one worries about India or Israel making the technology available to terrorists. Everyone worries about Iran doing that. These are distinctions with great differences. They are, as critics charge, double standards, but to apply a single standard to both friend and enemy, while it might be fair, would be singularly stupid.
I couldn't find any reference to laws or morality, other than in the introduction, where his cruel childhood awakening shakes the scales of conventional notions of right and wrong from his now-incredibly-clear eyes. This really is an incredibly convenient philosophy Cohen has here, as it can be used to justify virtually any action or inaction. Torture, murder, and violations of the Geneva Conventions? Hey, they're our enemies - it's not like we're torturing or killing our friends, for goodness' sake. Mass murder in Darfur? Poverty in the U.S.? We are powerless to help, so why even try? Let's just focus on achievable goals, like cutting taxes for the rich and starting wars we can't win...
I won't even mention that the United Arab Emirates, whose ownership of our ports Cohen has advocated in a previous column, is awfully, ah, Dubaious as a "friend", and has about as much love for Israel as Iran does (one of Cohen's examples of Iran's badness). Oh wait, I just did. But I'm your friend, so it's totally cool.
Monday, March 06, 2006
(Well, crap. I appear to be about four days behind the curve on this one. Oh well, I was about two years behind the curve the last time, and it felt good, so I thought I might try it again...)
A few emailers have asked what I see troubling in the Alito thank-you note to Dr James Dobson. First, Supreme Court Justices should be very careful associating with overtly political entities, and you don't get much more political than Dobson. Secondly, Dobson himself read it out loud on the air to brag of his influence on national affairs. Thirdly, there is more than just a hint of a constitutional quo for a political quid in the letter. That kind of horse-trading undermines the integrity of the court and the impartiality of the justices. Look: I endorsed Alito. But I hoped his jurisprudence would not amount to a carte blanche for whatever the Christianists demand. The letter suggests otherwise.
Sully, have you been paying any attention at all? What ever made you think Alito would be anything other than a tool of the religious right? Have you completely forgotten the anti-gay-marriage amendment you were so outraged about in 2004? When will you finally absorb the fact that the people you regularly cheerlead and apologize for would be only too happy to deport or imprison you and everyone like you? Or were you counting on the Democrats you have such contempt for to protect your privacy, a la Grover Norquist?
(Is it possible to create a paragraph composed entirely of questions?)
Look, I hate to break it to you, but you don't get to endorse right-wing loons and then complain when they turn out to be... right-wing loons. This is the crowd you've chosen to ally yourself with, so either suck it up and deal, or make a clean break and switch sides: Democrat or heterosexual, I don't really care which.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Umm... Some kinda hooky/clampy thing? Really not entirely sure.
Path through Trinity Cemetery.
The nut vendor's cart, in repose.
D'oh! Wrong Watt! This, ah, luminary is John Watt, not James Watt, for whom the unit of measurement was named.
Had I known, I might have made more of an effort to make him not look like he was standing directly in front of a bank of high-powered strobe lights...