Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Granted, it's for a good cause, but it's... peculiar.

...Brooklyn cab driver L.G. Khambache Sherpa hopes New Yorkers will join him in doing just that - crawling on hands and knees with him during his ongoing 15-mile, six-day"Crawl-a-thon" from Inwood to Ground Zero.


Sherpa says the pain is all worth it if he fulfills his goal: raising cash for tsunami victims in Asia and 9/11 emergency workers at Ground Zero - as well as to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first scaling of MountEverest.

"Hopefully, some people will come join this mission and crawl with me - not only physically, but spiritually also."


"I thought he was weird," said Alfredo Garcia, 63, of Inwood. "But he's
doing it for a good cause. I like the idea."

Be sure to check out the photo of him in his crawling costume...

Deep Throat Mystery Comes To A Head

Whoa. Deep Throat revealed!

A former FBI official says he was the source called "Deep Throat" who leaked secrets about President Nixon's Watergate coverup to The Washington Post, Vanity Fair reported Tuesday.

W. Mark Felt, 91, who was second-in-command at the FBI in the early 1970s, kept the secret even from his family until 2002, when he confided to a friend that he had been Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's source, the magazine said.

Well, that's one mystery down. For a non-Washington-insider/wonk like me, it's a bit of a letdown, like in one of those serial killer movies where the killer is revealed, and it's just... some guy. I know he was one of the principal Deep Throat suspects, but he's not exactly one of the sexier names.

Now if we could only get a Deep Throat for Gannongate - although
they would almost certainly insist on a different nickname...

Monday, May 30, 2005

Reeeeaaaaallly Late Sunday Softball Blogging

I really need to cut back on the softball photos. Filled up the damn memory card: 171 shots. Only just finished processing (okay, there were some sci-fi movies). Gah.

Pretty good game! 7-10, two doubles, two runs, and an RBI, didn't screw up too badly in the field. And we won by one run in 11 innings. Followed by yummy Memorial Day cookout with lots of hot dogs, sausage, and ribs. But no plates. Had time to explore around the field with my camera, and found some pretty interesting stuff, like the car wreckage in the woods beyond the right-field fence.

Current Stats: 9 games, .509 BA (29-57), 6 2B, 15 runs, 12 RBI.

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Mmm... rice salad...

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I think this is my favorite piece of debris.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Saturday Sci-Fi Inventory, Part II

Saturday was a very good day for cheesy creature movies...

Snakehead Terror

Star Power: Bruce Boxleitner (Tron!), Carol Alt, Cancer Man from X-Files (also known as "Cigarette Smoking Man", but that's weak, and just too damn long).
Synopsis & Highlights: Human growth hormone dumped in the lake causes snakeheads to grow to carnivorous size (and by "carnivorous", I mean, "man-eating"). Snakeheads eat bear. Snakeheads eat hunter's dog. Snakeheads eat hunter. Snakeheads eat Sheriff Tron's teenage daughter's boyfriend. Hot Scientist Babe (Alt) shows up to help get to the bottom of the mysterious killings and limb-severings. (I counted two severed arms, two severed legs, and two severed heads. Awesome.)

Sheriff Tron's daughter vows revenge on snakeheads and goes on snakehead-hunting expedition with her friends (Hey, kids! Underage drinking and giant carnivorous snakehead hunting do not mix!). Snakehead-hunting expedition goes horribly awry, and the survivors end up holed up in a house with some partially-eaten snakehead victims (did I mention that snakeheads can breathe air and travel over land?). They leave the house, get chased by snakeheads, and go back in the house again, but it's now infested with and surrounded by snakeheads. One of the teenagers gets his head partially eaten during the epic battle against the snakeheads, and his girlfriend's upset.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Tron and Hot Scientist Babe discover that the coroner (Cancer Man) and his brother were the ones dumping the human growth hormone, to improve the fishing and tourism, and they didn't know there were snakeheads, or that human growth hormone would make them carnivorous. Oh, and there's a giant whale-sized snakehead lurking in the lake, too. They manage to find the house with the two remaining teens, who Hot Scientist Babe rescues using a taser-on-a-stick. Then they apply the same principle on a larger scale, dropping a live power line into the lake to electrocute the whale-sized snakehead while Sheriff Tron shoots at it from a burning pier. I don't think Sheriff Tron and Hot Scientist Babe hook up, and I feel vaguely unfulfilled.


Star Power: Costas Mandylor, Bruce Weitz, Charles Napier, Joanna Pacula.
Synopsis & Highlights: Slick, unscrupulous genetic research company creates some kind of super-dinocrocodile for reasons that are completely unclear. Baby dinocroc eats semi-hot scientist babe (and she had just flashed a whole bunch of leg at Bruce Weitz, too!) and escapes. Suddenly full-sized dinocroc bursts out of the water and eats a guy, leaving just a red mist and his lower legs. Awesome. Plus he was apparently trying to feed a three-legged dog to it, so he had it comin'.

Hot Animal Control Babe meets kid looking for his three-legged dog, and it turns out she's had a thing for his dad, Dreamy Artist Man, since they were kids. She's also too compassionate to put any animals to sleep, which becomes a minor plot point later. Anyway, she and Dreamy Artist Man chase after the three-legged dog, but they can't catch it, so they have a splash fight. Bruce Weitz races the dinocroc in his speedboat directly at them, then starts yelling and shooting at them, so they whack him over the head and abduct him in her truck. He tells them about the dinocroc and gives them a tour of the slick, unscrupulous genetic research company (remember this tried-and-true technique if you ever want a tour of a genetics company).

Before he gets eaten, Bruce Weitz and Joanna Pacula hire (and I'm not sure if we see this, or if it's only revealed at the end) Haunted Aussie Crocodile Hunter (Costas Mandylor, who has dreams/flashbacks of someone trying to get out of a crocodile's belly - we later learn that a dinocroc ate his kid) to hunt down the dinocroc. Unlike in Sabretooth, they seem to be okay with him killing it, 'cause it's bad PR for their monster to be out there killing people, and I think they can pretty easily make more.

Anyway, I wasn't watching this one all that closely - I think Haunted Aussie Crocodile Hunter unsuccessfully tries to hit on Hot Animal Control Babe, Hot Animal Control Babe's sheriff dad (Napier) decks Dreamy Artist Man (again, I didn't see it, so they could have been talking about something from back when they were kids...), and the dinocroc eats Dreamy Artist Man's kid (or little brother; I wasn't clear on this) and his bike when the kid sneaks out to look for the three-legged dog while his dad is hooking up with Hot Animal Control Babe. I guess some other people get eaten, but I don't really remember seeing any.

On to the Genius Dinocroc-Killing Plan! Which is to lure the Dinocroc into a tunnel, close both ends, and pump in Deadly Gas. What are they using as bait? Why, the dogs from the pound, of course! Hot Animal Control Babe won't stand for it, so her sheriff dad fires her and arrests her and Dreamy Artist Man. They escape while Haunted Aussie Crocodile Hunter distracts the sheriff with his strange Aussie vocabulary, and start freeing the dogs and fending off the dinocroc with a welding torch. Then Haunted Aussie Crocodile Hunter goes a bit crazy and tries to lure Dinocroc into the tunnel himself by taunting it with a knife. Did I mention that the dinocroc is bipedal?

All the dogs and people make it through and out of the tunnel, they trap the dinocroc and gas it until it stops making noises, and then Joanna Pacula shows up with a TV crew to take credit for her company's bold and decisive action to resolve the maneating dinocroc situation. Not-dead-after-all dinocroc wakes up and eats Joanna Pacula, so Dreamy Artist Man and Hot Animal Control Babe have to lure it in front of a train, and Dreamy Artist Man delivers the coup de grace with a metal pipe. Then they drive off into the sunset, and we see a dinocroc roaming the land, but it's unclear whether it's a new dinocroc, or if the first one is like Dino-Jason Voorhees.


Star Power: Nicholas Lea (Krycek from X-Files), Jamie Luner.
Highlights & Synopsis: I missed the very beginning, so I had to piece some of this together. Astronaut's space capsule apparently gets hit by a meteor or something, which either has Alien Moths or Alien DNA that combines with Earth Moths. Krycek is some kind of government troubleshooter/risk containment guy, and when he goes to check up on the astronaut in the hospital, the astronaut is dead, and his fingers have turned into cocoons, which Alien DNA Moths fly out of and escape. He may also have some flaps in his side where extra arms may have been about to grow out of. Krycek consults with Hot Bug Expert (Luner), who is very concerned about Mystery Gene in Alien Moth DNA whose purpose is unknown - and because insect evolution is very efficient, the Mystery Gene must have a purpose, and it must be sinister and evil.

At cookout, Henpecked Husband gets attacked by Alien Moths which bite the shit out of his hand. Shrewish Wife and Malicious Sister-In-Law make fun of him. Then he disappears for a few days. When he comes back, he's part Alien Moth and grabs Malicious Sister-In-Law with his new Alien Bug Claws and sucks out her innards with his proboscis. We later learn that everyone with B-Negative blood is being turned into Alien Moth-People, and everyone else is proboscis food. Alien Moth-People, now led by Henpecked Alien Moth-Husband, have vague plan that involves swarming and eating all the non-B-Negative people, but they need a lot of wind. Why? I don't know - I guess they wanted to give Grizzled Alien Moth-Sea-Captain some extra lines. Henpecked Alien Moth-Husband also sucks out his Shrewish Wife's innards as well.

Anyway, they figure out where the Alien Moth-People are, and stage a massive government raid on it and kill the Alien Moth-People before they can swarm. Hot Bug Expert shoots her brother's girlfriend in the head because she's an Alien Moth-Person, and Krycek tasers Henpecked Alien Moth-Husband to death. Or maybe I'm thinking of Alien Fury, who knows. Anyway, Krycek and Hot Bug Expert save the day, and Intense Government Honcho gives them the Secret Code To Not Blow Everything Up before he dies from the giant metal pipe Henpecked Alien Moth-Husband put through his torso. Then Krycek and Hot Bug Expert hook up, and frolic around on the beach. Huzzah!

Saturday Sci-Fi Inventory, Part I

On to the Saturday Sci-Fi movies! Looks like there's enough material that I need two posts to contain all of the exciting monster goodness.


Star Power: Adam Baldwin, the Baldwin who is not actually a Baldwin. As with Richard Grieco, sufficient wattage to illuminate an entire film all by his lonesome.
Synopsis & Highlights: Widowered seismologist (Baldwin) on tropical island. Neglected son befriends wee Gadzooky-like creature that likes cheesy poofs. Large T-Rex-like creature that runs funny (both feet leaving the ground simultaneously just looks wrong) pops beachball and attempts to eat a kid. T-Rex-like creature is captured and identified by Seismologist Dad as some sort of giant salamander, and is able to discern its sex from its markings despite the fact that no-one has ever seen one of these things before. Seismologist Dad later refers to it as "Superlizard."

Evil Bad Exploiters attempt to steal the giant salamander, but succeed only in wounding it. A Godzilla-size giant salamander then shows up and goes on Godzilla-like rampage, which includes stepping on a rowboat and accidentally flipping it right at the soldier about to shoot a rocket at him. They then use Gadzooky to lure Salamanderzilla back, and kill it with a rocket launcher. Everyone is inexplicably shocked and mortified by this turn of events, and Gadzooky is traumatized. But wait, there's more! That was just the Momzilla giant salamander! Dadzilla is still out there, and not happy. Because everyone feels so sad about killing Momzilla, they concoct an elaborate, incoherent plan that involves luring Dadzilla out to sea with Gadzooky, a mic, and an underwater speaker, then having the military blow something up so he can't come back. Seismologist Kid has a brief heartfelt underwater farewell with Gadzooky, and observes the parallels between the motherless giant salamander family and his own. And the Evil Bad Exploiters get blown up and/or eaten. Oh, and there's some woman who appears occasionally, who Seismologist Dad never seems to really quite hook up with. Oh well.


Star Power: Vanessa Angel (Kingpin), Gimli, David Keith, Sawyer from Lost. Wow, it's, like, an all-star ensemble cast!
Synopsis & Highlights: Heartless Scientist Babe (Angel) and Unscrupulous Financier (Gimli) create Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger from fossil DNA, in hopes of winning Nobel Prize and making billions of dollars, respectively. I dunno, something to do with accelerating therapeutic organ cloning - I guess a sabretooth tiger was just obviously the most logical choice of experimental subject for a growth-accelerating hormone. Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger eats janitor. Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger escapes when truck carrying it crashes. Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger eats truck driver. Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger eats married couple.

Meanwhile, a Motley Crew Of Trainee Hiking Guides led by a Hot Hiking Guide Babe does some hiking, changing clothes at least twice on a four-hour hike. Motley Crew is comprised of Sawyer from Lost; his equally horny military buddy; Asthmatic Nerd Boy (how do we know he's not one of the nitrogen-breathing space aliens from yesterday?); and Slutty Teenager. Sawyer's military buddy is also the obligatory black-guy-who-gets-killed, and even wears a red shirt to really drive the point home. However, unlike most horror movie black-guys-who-get-killed, this guy seems to be actively trying to get himself killed - There's the clowning around on the rock ledge, the Hey, let's check out the spooky cave, and best of all, the I will fight the giant Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger with a pair of knives! As you might imagine, he finally succeeds with that last one.

Back to Heartless Scientist Babe and Unscrupulous Financier, who hire Nerdy Paleontologist Woman and Mighty Big Game Hunter (Keith) to help them track and capture Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger (Heartless Scientist Babe is very emphatic that they must take Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger alive, and later has impassioned rant about how inhumane traps are, and how the maneating Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger deserves a chance at life). They find the house of the married couple Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger ate earlier, where Heartless Scientist Babe throws away the cellphone so they can't call the police, and tells the not-quite-so-completely-eaten-after-all wife to get the hell away and keep her dyin' to herself. Later on we have amusing exchange where Nerdy Paleontologist Woman rants at Heartless Scientist Babe about how dangerous Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger is, and how it could be right behind her without her even knowing it... and it is!

Asthmatic Nerd Boy makes truly pathetic pass at Slutty Teenager, Slutty Teenager takes her top off and almost gets eaten while fooling around with Sawyer, Asthmatic Nerd Boy gets eaten on a bathroom break, the two groups meet up with each other, everyone gets eaten except Mighty Big Game Hunter, Heartless Scientist Babe, Hot Hiking Guide Babe, and Sawyer. Heartless Scientist Babe attempts to warn Bad CGI Sabretooth Tiger away (Um, hello? It's a predator? And a cat to boot?), and gets dragged off and eaten. Then the Mighty Big Game Hunter kills it with a big stick, and Sawyer and Hot Hiking Guide Babe hook up. I love happy endings!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Friday Sci-Fi Inventory

So, this is Sci-Fi Channel's Memorial Day Weekend monster movie marathon, and as a public service, I thought I would provide a high-level overview of the proceedings thus far, or at least the proceedings that I have watched significant chunks of. I'm no Codename V, but it would be a shame to let such masterpieces go undocumented.

Alien Fury

Star Power: Chyna (allegedly female wrestler), Stephen Tobolowsky (that guy who wanted to sell Bill Murray insurance in Groundhog Day), Paul Schulze (one of Kiefer Sutherland's neverending string of bosses on 24).

Synopsis & Highlights: Nitrogen-breathing space aliens are hiding an invasion fleet on the far side of the moon. Or maybe it's a Department of Defense hoax, perpetrated by Slimy DoD Guy. Or maybe the hoax is a hoax, and Slimy DoD Guy is trying to cover up the reality to protect his alien overlords? Anyway, people with inhalers are not to be trusted, and DoD security chief Chyna likes to kill people with her taser. Oh, and there's a Will Smith-wannabe scrappy cop trying to get to the bottom of his undercover partner's death at Chyna's hands. Bizarre confrontation between cop and Slimy DoD Guy, who turns out to be the head undercover alien, who does variation on Plan Nine From Outer Space "Your stupid minds! Stupid, stupid!" speech. With him out of the way thanks to some inhaler issues, the cop and the undercover alien's wife talk the nitrogen aliens out of invading. I think they might hook up at the end, but I'm not really sure...


Star Power: Richard Grieco. That's it. Just Richard Grieco. Richard Grieco can carry an entire movie all by his lonesome.
Synopsis & Highlights: Richard Grieco and his three dumbass electrician buddies find a Portable Nuclear Generator in an abandoned house they're working in. One of the dumbass buddies immediately fiddles with the Portable Nuclear Generator, activating a Transdimensional Portal. They go through it and find themselves in a parallel Chicago ruled by Evil People-Eating Spider People ruled by a Queen Spider who bites regular people and mutates them into Evil People-Eating Spider People. And she has boobs.

One of the electricians gets killed by the Evil People-Eating Spider People while trying to steal money from an abandoned armored car, and the rest of them meet up with the Anti-Evil-People-Eating-Spider-People Resistance (who will henceforth be known as the AEPESPR), who apparently worship electricians as gods, and tattooed electricians even more so. The non-Richard Grieco electricians escape back through the portal during an Evil People-Eating Spider People attack, then hotwire the Transdimensional Portal to come back for Richard Grieco. Unfortunately, being dumbasses, they do a crap job, and the Transdimensional Portal closes behind them.

Their only hope of return is to help the Old Scientist who created the Transdimensional Portal and got stuck on the spider side to create a new one. There are lots of attacks by the Evil People-Eating Spider People, and everyone gets killed except Richard Grieco and the Hot EAPESPR Ninja Babe that he hooks up with. Richard Grieco electrocutes the busty Queen Spider, and goes through the portal with the Hot EAPESPR Ninja Babe. Unfortunately, it takes them to Tropical Pterodactyl Chicago. Oops. The End.

Will post Saturday's inventory tomorrow. Sabretooths, Dinocrocs, Snakeheads, and severed limbs!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

"Gracious me, was I raving? Please forgive me. I'm mad."

- Brad Dourif as a semi-supernatural serial killer in Exorcist III, which is terribly underrated and creepy. And it has George C. Scott. And Patrick Ewing as an angel!

And for those of you who like cats, we have, um... naked bankers:

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Seriously, what exactly were they thinking here???

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Problem, And Some Possible Solutions

How did it come to this? How did America go so horribly, unrecognizably wrong?

I've been pondering and reflecting on this for a while, and I've commented on it or alluded to it in various places, but I don't think I've ever crystallized it into its own post. Please bear with me, it's kind of long.

My basic, fundamental premise is that accountability is the hallmark of democracy, while impunity is the hallmark of dictatorship. A democratic government must look out for the interests of its citizens, or be voted out (or worse), while a dictatorship has no such worries, other than staving off the occasional coup attempt. Almost every policy disaster, fiasco, and scandal of the past 4+ years can be attributed to the ascendancy of impunity over accountability, as the U.S. under Bush has increasingly come to resemble a banana republic.

So how could accountability have given way to impunity, especially in a country with a robust, well-written Constitution? I believe that the two most important pillars of accountability are elections (obviously) and the news media, which is where most of the electorate finds out about what their elected officials are up to and what it means to them and the country and world in general, and I believe that both have become severely, if not fatally, compromised.

To begin with, the electoral process is no longer a simple, transparent reflection of the will of the people. Republican state officials have abused their power over voter rolls, access to voting machines, and recounts. Companies owned by staunch Republicans supply an overwhelming share of electronic voting machines, and are suspiciously reluctant to give these machines the capacity to generate a paper trail. I don't believe there's any smoking gun evidence of vote-tampering, but the reluctance to provide a paper trail suggests that there is something to hide, and there are numerous instances of suspicious outcomes at both the micro level (touch-screen votes for Kerry registering as votes for Bush; skewed totals for third- party candidates) and macro level (surprising upsets by Republican candidates; consistently unidirectional discrepancies between exit polls and vote tallies). The bottom line is that not everyone who wants to vote gets the opportunity, and many of those who do may very well have had their votes tallied opposite to their intent.

Less overtly alarming but no less harmful are the effects of the massive amounts of money in the campaign process, leading to politicians who increasingly favor the interests of the wealthy individuals and industry lobbies, which are able to give them far more campaign cash than ordinary citizens can ever hope to. Add to that the increasing precision of gerrymandering, leading to safer and safer seats for politicians at the local level, making ideological purity far more valuable than brains, competence, or the ability to play well with others. Much as I would like to claim otherwise, politicians of both parties have been corrupted by campaign finance money and radicalized by gerrymandering.

The media situation is not much better. Just as Republican companies have inserted themselves squarely into the electronic voting sphere, so have loose media ownership rules allowed monolithic and Republican-controlled conglomerates to dominate the media sphere. The end result is a news media with no motivation to investigate or question any possible wrongdoing or incompetence by Republicans, and ample motivation to create a circus around any Democratic indiscretion or misstep. Witness the differences in coverage of "Monicagate," Whitewater, and "Hillarycare," as compared to coverage of "Gannongate," Bush's shady business dealings and TANG history, and the campaign to privatize Social Security.

Yes, the media does occasionally report negatively on the Republican agenda or results, but I believe this is largely the result of a synergy between the need to maintain a minimum level of credibility, and the surfacing of stories that have generated too much international or blogosphere attention to credibly ignore. The media grudgingly reports the story, weathers a storm of right-wing outrage from blogs, talk radio, and Republican officials, and then quietly lets it drop; or if any portion of the story is inadequately sourced, retracts it completely and grovels for forgiveness. In either case, it is quickly back to the business of reporting on Republican manliness, Democratic cravenness, and distracting fluff like finger chili and runaway brides.

Actually, I suspect that the right-wing accusations of media liberal bias may simply be part of the dance, as they provide cover for the media to continue underreporting the liberal perspective, in the guise of attempting to be more "balanced." But even if they aren't, they certainly do provide a powerful inducement for journalists to keep their heads down and avoid reporting on anything that might displease the right-wing noise machine, especially if they can't source it impeccably.

There are some other contributory factors, such as an enormous talent gap between Republican and Democratic political consultants (exacerbated by the 9/11 attacks, which Republicans turned into a golden PR goose); a reality-TV-driven culture which increasingly prizes selfish nastiness and preening ego; and an educational system which is being attacked and diminished - by No Child Left Behind, which pressures educators to "teach to the test" instead of teaching critical thinking and reading comprehension skills; and by religious fanatics such as those in Kansas, seeking to water down or discredit the teaching of science itself.

Indeed, the religious right has become a huge factor in its own right, as it gives unjust and uncompassionate Republican policies a thin veneer of moral decency, and an army of eager culture warriors who will back Republicans to the hilt, and who turn out in droves on Election Day in hopes of turning back the satanic tide of gay marriage, abortion, secular government and, *gasp* Moral Relativism. And both fanatical religion and substandard education increase the pool of voters credulous enough to unquestioningly accept and disseminate GOP talking points.

So what can be done? That is the $64 trillion question. Some of this could theoretically be fixed legislatively. Election reform should be a no-brainer, and should include:

o Reducing the power of statewide officials and prohibit them from serving in any campaign role.

o Banning all voting machines that do not generate a paper trail (I would prefer optical scan to both touchscreen and mechanical).

o Eliminate all voting prohibitions on felons who have paid their debt to society, and the opportunity they provide for selectively purging voter rolls of heavily Democratic minorities.

o Mandate adequate voting machines for every district, so voters cannot be discouraged by long lines.

o Tighten guidelines for election monitors, with provisions for swift removal if they are intimidating voters.

o Significant jail time for any form of election tampering.

Publicly funded campaigns and nonpartisan redistricting would also be a big help, but few congresscritters want to live in a world without big campaign contributions and safe districts, so the judiciary would be the only potential source for these reforms, and that seems a very narrow hope indeed.

Tightening media ownership rules and/or restoring the Fairness Doctrine might improve the media situation slightly, but the former may only have a small impact, while the latter could easily be gamed with carefully chosen representatives of the "liberal" viewpoint (Joementum? Al From? Raving fringe loons who make Democrats look crazy?). I think we've reached a point where meaningful media reform can only be achieved at a grass-roots level, through consumer boycotts of parent corporations, and bloggers digging at and exposing the media's willful blindness. The ideal outcome of the latter would be if some enterprising blogger somehow managed to uncover a massive media coverup or whitewash of Republican malfeasance and/or corruption, outing the media's complicity once and for all, and permanently exploding the myth of Liberal Media Bias.

The problems of education and religion may also require a combination of government intervention and individual conscience; legislation mandating the teaching of critical thinking skills and real science would be great, but if that does not materialize, it will fall to individual teachers to buck the system and teach their students to be rational, modern thinkers. Likewise, legislation or judicial rulings that reaffirm the separation of church and state would be welcome, but we also need more Christian moderates to confront, expose, and discredit Christian extremists as betrayers and hijackers of their faith, just as the US wants to see moderate Muslims take on their own religious extremists.

Admittedly, none of this is especially original or comprehensive. My goal was to identify an overarching theme of how American democracy has gotten so far off track, and what hopes and possible options there are to get it back. What worries me is just how many of the fixes seem incredibly unlikely to me. The only one I would ever even consider betting money on is election reform, and I'd still want at least 5:1 odds.

I guess I could have just said, "We're screwed," and we'd all be home by now...


I was taking one of my usual sky pictures (kinda mediocre, IMO) when this pigeon flew into the frame just as I clicked the shutter. Kinda cool, although it would've been even cooler if I had my aperture cranked down a bit for more depth of field.

And immediately after taking this picture, I was accosted by a strange but friendly man who spat a lot, and had lots of things to say about local history and wind resistance and stonecutting and money and ninja fighting techniques. A photographer had an impact on his life and helped him make some money, and my camera and I triggered an association with that. He also marveled at how photographers see angles and shapes that others don't, which is precisely what fascinates me about photography - that challenge to capture the unseen beauty that hides within the seen.

It was one of those conversations where one part of you keeps telling you to escape, while the other part just has to stay through to the end, to find out where it's all heading... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Stem Cell Madness

Tell ya what: When Dobson and his minions can line up adoptive parents for every single unwanted embryo in America, whether in a fertility clinic or a womb, then, maybe, we can talk about banning stem cell research and some abortions. However, the sad, harsh fact remains that there are always going to be more embryos than there are people who want them, and I see nothing wrong with putting the ones in fertility clinics to good use - if the Dobgoblins want to "rescue" some of them via adoption, good for them, but that doesn't magically invalidate either the enormous research value or the unwantedness of the un-adopted embryos.

And as I think about it some more, please, let them start with the fertility clinic embryos, which are not inside a woman's body and therefore not disrupting anyone's life or future. Get caught up on those, then work their way through the women who don't mind carrying a baby to term but balk at taking care of it for whatever reason (like, say, because those very same anti-abortion crusaders have no interest in any kind of government assistance or support to indigent mothers). Once they've got those unwanted embryos taken care of, then they can work on pioneering non-fatal embryo/fetus extraction techniques to replace abortions for women who don't want to be pregnant (age, health, rape/incest, etc.). No-one has to keep a baby or a pregnancy they don't want, no unborn babies die - everybody wins!

So what are y'all pro-lifers waiting for? You should be getting right on that! What's that? You say you don't want to go through another pregnancy? You can't afford to take care of another baby? How interesting...

Update: With a nod to Otter, the fundies should worry about adopting unwanted born children before they start freaking out over the unborn ones.

Advising & Consenting Adults

As I'm reading a bit about Senators Byrd and Warner making the case that the "advice" in "advice and consent" means, y'know, advice, I find myself wondering once again how Republicans can seriously claim that "advice" means a straight up-or-down vote; that's an awfully peculiar definition of "advice," and it's all the more peculiar when you consider that it's followed closely by "consent."

If a simple vote constitutes "advice," then what on earth would "consent" be, and does it require lubricant?

IMHO, everyone would be a lot better off if presidents - of both parties - began taking the "advice" part a little more seriously. Deeply-felt political convictions are a great thing to have in a president or congresscritter, but they're just about the last thing I want to see in a judge. We would be better served by a system that packs the judiciary with mushy moderates than one that depends on a more-or-less even balance between liberal and conservative extremists to keep the rest of the government in check, which is where I believe a post-nuclear world (whether de facto or de jure) takes us.

The only problem with the "advice" approach is that the first side to employ it would feel they were unilaterally disarming by countering reliable extremists with unpredictable moderates who could swing either way. Of course, since the Republicans have majorities on almost every court, they should have the least to lose by going first, and think what a fine, courageous, non-activist example they would be setting!

Now, where the hell is that bridge I bought? I didn't even get a UPS tracking number or anything...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Quick Follow-Up

Just wanted to make sure it was clear that I didn't intend to make light of OCD, which sounds genuinely nightmarish - I was just... bemused by the inappropriately cutesy acronym being used as an explanation for it, which made me think "mumble mumble mrmf mmf hrmm hmm hmm... Obsessive-Compulsive Panda."
(gratuitous South Park reference)

I've just made it worse, haven't I.

Surreal Quote Of The Day

"[Swedo] suspects that some children are genetically predisposed toward Pandas."

From an NYT Magazine article about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder possibly arising as a result of "Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated With Streptococcal Infection."

Gentle readers, please take heed of the potentially tragic consequences of Dopey, Unintentionally Misleading Bad Acronym Straining Syndrome (DUMBASS).

Monday, May 23, 2005

What Is Reid Smoking???

Yeah, you really gave 'em Hell, Harry...
Under the terms, Democrats would agree to oppose any attempt to filibuster -- and thus block final votes -- on the confirmation of Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor. There is "no commitment to vote for or against" the filibuster against two other conservative nominees, Henry Saad and William Myers.


Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada welcomed the agreement -- although he hastened to say he remains opposed to some of the nominees who will now likely take seats on the appeals court.

"We have sent President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the radical right of the Republican party an undeniable message....the abuse of power will not be tolerated."
Um... WTF???

An Open Question To Reasonable Republicans

Given that the nuclear option of eliminating the filibuster will essentially open the door to the party in power nominating the most extremist judges that it possibly can, knowing that it merely needs a bare majority or tie in the Senate to get them approved:

Are you truly comfortable with the judiciary branch suffering the same fate as the legislative branch, morphing from a deliberative body to one where everything is decided solely on the basis of party identification? For this is the path that the nuclear option is taking us down; a partisan and divided judiciary, diminished in credibility and legitimacy.

Is this really what you want? And before you answer, think about a post-nuclear-option winter where Republican overreach and arrogance (such as, say, deploying the nuclear option) has exiled them from power for, say, 20 or 30 years. Still sound good?

A straight up-or-down vote doesn't sound too bad for appointees or laws, which persist at the sufferance of the party in power, but for someone as permanent as a judge, merely having the support of the majority party should not be enough.

Wanker Of The Day

(Oops; maybe that should be "Wanker Of The Weekend"...)

Dennis Prager's response to Bobo's column about Newsweek being slightly less liberal and evil than the White House claims:

I am very grateful to David Brooks for the kind description of me as "intelligent 99 percent of the time." I certainly feel the same about him. But I do not think that my attribution of Newsweek's Koran error to its liberalism is an example of the 1 percent of the time I betrayed a lack of intelligence.

I have one question: If liberal politics in no way accounts for Newsweek's (or CBS's) error, why can I not think of any mainstream news media reports that erred by falsely depictingAmerica or its military in too positive a light?


*head explodes*

You Go, Girl! - Part II

From NYT:

As the only girl in her upstate Little League, 11-year-old Katie Brownell had already made her mark. An all-star since she was 9, Katie plays hardball better than almost any boy her age in Oakfield, Alabama, Elba and Pembroke, her home turf of farm towns between Rochester and Buffalo.

But nobody expected what happened on Saturday. Katie pitched a perfect game.


But her performance Saturday was rare. Her perfect game was even more perfect than the common definition of the term, which refers to a pitching performance in which every batter is turned back, either by striking out or hitting a ball that results in an out.

Katie made it simpler: She struck out everybody, yielding no more than two balls to any batter.


Even before the game on Saturday, which was her team's third outing this year, Katie demonstrated striking abilities on the mound, relying almost entirely on a fastball that she can "place just about where she wants," Mr. Sage said. In the season's first game, she allowed only one hit and struck out 14 battersin five innings.

She is also a major threat at the plate, with a batting average of .714 after three games.

Awesome. I wish I was that talented.

Important Question

If Jesus was as anti-women as the fundies and the Catholic Church seem to think he was, would that make him a messiahgynist?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sunday Softball Blogging

Another doubleheader, this time a split. Once again started out for crap at the plate (0-3), but came on strong and ended up 5-10 with a double, 4 runs, and 2 RBI. Fielding also started out shaky, but was solid after a nice running catch on a liner to my left. Throwing was pretty decent, too.

I think I'm taking too many pictures now, though - I only just finished processing them all, and I even skipped some.

Current Stats: 8 games, .468 BA (22-47), 4 2B, 13 runs, 11 RBI.

Beautiful day for softball, yes indeed. Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Saturday SkyBlogging

Sky *and* reflection! It just doesn't get any better than this!

I had to grab my camera and head right back out after coming home from work, to take advantage of all the excellent cloudage. Posted by Hello

For those of you who dig the sky photos, I gave them their own gallery.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

"So this is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause."

Senator Princess Amidala in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith.

I haven't actually seen this episode yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. This line to me was more telling and chilling than the "Either you're with me, or you're with the terrorists" one.

And, of course, there'll be cats:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Birthday Eek is decidedly... nonpussed.


This. Must. Not. Stand.

Move over Max Bialystock. Broadway's foremost wheeler-dealer in "The Producers" could be joined by another man enamored by big money. Producers Barry and Fran Weissler and Mark Burnett, with an assist from real-estate mogul Donald Trump, are developing a musical based on "The Apprentice," Trump's hit NBCtelevision series.

"Donald Trump is a larger-than-life character, and the Broadway musical stage may be the only medium large enough for him," Weissler, producer of the current revivals of "Chicago" and "Sweet Charity," said Friday in a statement.

Please excuse me - I need to gouge out my eyes and then take a very long, very hot, very scrubby shower.

This One Time, At Band Camp...

I was just reflecting on people's catchphrases - for instance,
one guy I used to play softball with seemed to start every
anecdote off with "This girl I dated...", and one of
our managers is often associated with the phrase "...knows a
guy who can get us a deal on...", although I only get that one
second-hand. There was also a guy in my high school whose
notorious ultimate rejoinder was, "I've talked to teachers!"

I don't *think* I have a catchphrase (other than maybe "Dude!"),
but I'm not sure if one is ever aware of one's own catchphrase.

Do any of you have a catchphrase, or know anyone with a good
one? Don't be shy, it's not like "This girl I dated" is really
that hard to top...

It slices! It dices! *Now* how much would you pay?

Line of the day (okay, yesterday, if you want to get technical) from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel by way of The All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin:

Among those in the audience was Beth Schuetz, 34, of Mequon, who hoped Bush would talk more about how his plan would be financed. She is part of the Social Security system, receiving disability payments as she fights breast cancer.

"It seemed like an infomercial," she said. "They all just repeated what he said verbatim."

Let's see...

Hand-picked, mindlessly enthusiastic audience: Check.
Canned, artificial patter from insincere salesman: Check.
Credulous and/or dishonest shills offering unconvincing product testimonials: Check.
Dodgy wonder product that superficially looks like a bargain and godsend but doesn't work, or falls apart when you get it home: Check.

Yes, I think we have a winner. Put Bush in a Coogi sweater and make sure to pay all the audience members, and I think you have a pretty exact match...

The article also includes one of Bush's most obnoxious and cringe-inducing applause lines:

"I like to remind people, he's a PhD and I was a C-student," Bush said to laughter, then added, "I want you to take note of who's the president and who's theadviser."

In other words, "I'm stupid and mediocre and proud of it, and now the nerds all work for me 'cuz my Daddy was preznit."


Beefcake! BEEFCAAAAKE!!!

"You can reach your goals - I'm living proof."

And the New York Post has Saddam in his underwear on the cover *why*?

If this is going to be a regular occurrence, he should really consider renting himself out as a human billboard - appears to be something of a growth industry these days...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Invisible Hand Gets Cheeky

More yummy NY Daily News goodness, which totally sabotages my last post...

It's not often a gorgeous woman offers her body for sale, legally.

But that's exactly what 21-year-old sorority girl Courtney VanDunk is selling on eBay. The 5-foot-11 Jersey stunner is auctioning off one month of ad space on her body. And so far, the highest bid is $13,100, made by a dating Web site.

VanDunk, who describes herself as "fit and gorgeous," says she got the idea during a marketing course in college, when she realized that advertisers needed to think outside the commercial.

While VanDunk is only willing to wear a removable tattoo, she says she'll plaster her entire body with the winning bidder's ad and spend her days "jogging in various parks in the north New Jersey area, attending sporting events such as Yankees games and preseason Giants games (my boyfriend is a season-ticket holder) and visiting various malls." She also will head to the Jersey Shore and the Atlantic City casinos, and she boasts about her season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure ("Standing on line is a great time to advertise!").

"I want to make sure the company gets maximum exposure," says VanDunk. "If I'm at the beach in a bikini, I'll wear the ad anywhere, excluding my secrets, of course."

So, is she a pathetic harlot exploiting her own body and setting feminism back a hundred years, or is she the embodiment (cough) of the infinitely resourceful American entrepreneurial spirit?

Also, does Mrs. Invisible Hand know about this?

"Plastic Ain't Fantastic"

More second-hand info via NY Daily News (hey, I have to get my NY sports news fix somewhere), this time from Allure, and it should warm Mistress LJ's cranky heart:
Forget the extreme twigginess of the Olsen twins, the gravity-defying voluptuousness of "Desperate Housewife" Nicollette Sheridan, the Amazonian legginess of supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

To American women, the modern ideal of beauty is older, more ethnic and more unconventional, as lumpy, bumpy and real as Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and Sophia Loren.


In the nationwide survey released yesterday, 91% of women said they are "satisfied" with their looks, and 81% ranked being good at their job as more important than being attractive to others.

And despite all those beer-and-babes clichés, men, for once, seem to be on the same planet as women. Of the 1,705 people surveyed for "The Allure State of Beauty," 66% of men said they would rather their partners skip the plastic surgery, while 49% of women said they'd never consider a cosmetic procedure, be it liposuction or a lip-filler.


  • 62% of women think their romantic partner would call them beautiful.

  • 6% of women don't tell their partners they wax or bleach their facial hair. Only 2% keep their botox shots a secret - but 26% of men wish they didn't know.

  • 79% of women think they look better clothed than naked.

  • 66% of men say they don't want their partner to consider cosmetic surgery.
  • So maybe there's hope for us yet...

    It's My Midget And I'll Blog If I Want To...

    NY Daily News reports on Guitar World's feature on rockers' "Spinal Tap moments":
    "We were doing drugs in the dressing room," says Wood, remembering a concert in the early '80s. "Suddenly the tour manager stuck his head around the door and said, 'The police are here!' We all panicked and threw our drugs in the toilet.

    "Then Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland walked in."


    Ozzy Osbourne remembers when he lost his patience with the midget Black Sabbath hired for a tour. "He showed up late, he drank....It got to me after awhile. So, one night, when he wanted to get on the tour bus, I threw him in the luggage compartment.

    Somebody grabbed me and said: 'What you're doing is not only illegal but it's inhumane.'

    "I lost it. I yelled: 'He's my [bleeping] midget and I'll [bleeping] do what I want with him.' There was a silence and then a small voice emerged from the luggage compartment: 'He's right: I'm his midget and he can do what he wants with me.'"


    Keith Richards remembers shooting a video that called for tramps with dogs. The director thought a dog should be "weird" or "disfigured," so "they called up some agency and the word came back 'We can get you a lame dog by noon. Which leg would you want missing?'"

    I am sooo in the wrong business.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005

    On The Way To Sahara


    I think it's a bit overprocessed; I was trying to punch up the photo on the billboard a little bit.

    Gah. Posted by Hello

    Didn't really have much of a choice, did I... Posted by Hello

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    Tuaregs & Strife!

    Well, I just got back (new definition of just = 90 minutes) from a lovely man-date of dinner and Sahara with a friend, and am still full of Cantonese scallops and banana spring rolls (Mmm...). Unfortunately, the objective was to see Sin City before it departed the big screen (it was inexplicably sold out on our previous attempt a coupla weeks ago), but it's been relegated to a single 9:05 showing, which is just way too late. Sigh.

    Thankfully, Sahara turned out to be not so bad. Some observations:
    • Is there anyone more comfortable in their own skin than Matthew McConaughey? Only other person I can think of off the top of my head is Queen Latifah, who I consider Poise Incarnate. Perhaps this is something I'm attuned to because I'm not especially comfortable in my own skin, although I'm light years better than in, say, high school (then again, who isn't?).
    • I enjoy movies where the main character is a master of improvisation, and this certainly qualifies. It's a big part of the appeal for the James Bond movies for me. Totally not the hot chicks at all. Nope, couldn't care less about 'em, nosiree bob.
    • McConaughey's sidekicks were amusingly feeble, almost childlike at times, which was kinda endearing. On the other hand, much as I like Steve Zahn, I'm not really sure I buy him as an ex-SEAL...
    • The opening sequence with the battle between the Union cannons and the Confederate ironclad was way cool, although a bit murky.
    • Tuaregs are cool, Penelope Cruz has a very thick accent, Delroy Lindo seemed out-of-place and uncomfortable, William H. Macy is always great, and is Lambert Wilson ever gonna play a good guy?
    • I really like banana spring rolls.


    One of the letters to the editor in response to Kristof's column about Bishop Spong's book offering a liberal (i.e., compassionate) interpretation of the Bible:
    Nicholas D. Kristof must have a different version of the Bible than I do. Mine calls for individual responsibility and action, not for a government to take money from people who produce and distribute it to others to make liberals feel good about themselves.
    *splutter incoherently*

    *use sextant and compass to re-acquire fix on location of reality*

    Hello??? Charity? Do unto others? As you do unto the least of these, so you do unto me? The meek shall inherit the earth?

    Driftglass was right - they really *are* using a completely different version of the Bible from everyone else. I think the moneychangers in the temple may have written it, actually...

    Question Of The Day

    Harvard cognitive science professor Steven Pinker asks, "Why didn't evolution shape straight men to react to their gay fellows by thinking: 'Great! More women for me!'"

    Damn good question, really... His own answer boils down to something along the lines of "Because straight people find the thought of sex with their own gender icky, they automatically conclude that it must be immoral and evil as well," which sounds like as good an explanation as any, although it probably doesn't go far enough in the direction of backlash against any behavior outside of accepted social norms, by which I mean Wally and the Beave, not Wally and the Steve. Um, or something.

    Another observation that I found intriguing:

    Cultural conservatives like the talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlesinger ostensibly condemn homosexuality for another reason - that it is a "biological error." Actually, it is she who has made the biological error. What is evolutionarily adaptive and what is morally justifiable have little to do with each other. Many laudable activities - being faithful to one's spouse, turning the other cheek, treating every child as precious, loving thy neighbor as thyself - are "biological errors" and are rare or unknown in the natural world.
    I think this is interesting more for what it says about fundamentalism than what it says about homosexuality - namely that while the New Testament advocates the vast majority of admirable but maladaptive behaviors, the fundamentalists use it as cover to let their atavistic flag fly, as they give in to their most primal and "adaptive" reptilian impulses of selfishness, hate and bloodshed. (Please note, I am specifying fundamentalists, not Christians in general, many of whom actually take the New Testament seriously.)

    They may or may not realize it, but perhaps the fundamentalist extremists are acting as agents of strictly-defined biological adaptiveness, instinctively lashing out at anything and anyone that would not advance the species in a perfectly Hobbesian state of nature (See also: Afghanistan; Iraq; Sudan; Libertarian Heaven).

    Or they could just be cynical, power-mad assholes. Whichever.

    Random Observations

    Just some random thoughts, some fresh, some not-so-fresh:

    1) I have no problem with people praying by themselves in a public space, but please, if you're praying with your eyes closed, don't try to walk at the same time.

    2) If your conversation is echoing, you are talking too loud.

    3) While scrolling through a list of PC/server accessories, I think my favorites are "butt splice" (listed right after "blower", of course) and "nibbler tool". The POS proximity sensor sounds like something that could come in handy, but I'm not sure I'd want a POS accelerometer.

    Mmm... butt splice...


    This sounds like a brilliant idea:

    Celebrating clunky sentences and mixed metaphors, self-indulgent prose and just plain old bad writing, Lit Lite, a weekly literary series, invites performers to select and read from their favorite bad books. And so one evening last week at the Chelsea restaurant Elmo, Greg Walloch, a stand-up comic, chose to deliver passages from two novels by the actor Ethan Hawke, "The Hottest Stat" and "Ash Wednesday."

    "Man, when I first met Christy - and this is no joke, a cliché but no joke - it was like my heart was literally stuck on my esophagus," Mr. Walloch read from "Ash Wednesday" as an audience of more than 40 groaned and giggled. It was soon revealed that Christy is a woman with a posterior so "dynamite," that, "if you looked at her from the back you'd swear she was a black chick." Mr. Walloch, who is white, deadpanned, "That happens to meall the time."

    ....Earlier this month, in keeping with the theme "Women's Problems," performers read excerpts from Rosie O'Donnell's free-verse poetry blog (onceadored.blogspot.com), "Yvonne: An Autobiography," by the actress Yvonne De Carlo, who played Lily Munster in the television series "The Munsters," and Eve Ensler's "Good Body." Tonight, under the banner "Difficult People," Jodi Lennon, a comedy writer, will present "Hold My Gold," a hip-hop how-to guide for white girls.

    I envy all of you who are in NYC and have the opportunity to partake of such giddy entertainments. I especially approve of anything that mocks Ethan Hawke for the pretentious, fatuous twerp he is.

    Also, Flotilla DeBarge may be The Best Drag Queen Name Ever.

    Monday, May 16, 2005


    Arlen Specter calls shenanigans!
    FOR over two decades, Congress has wrestled unsuccessfully with the difficult problem of asbestos. Now, with Congress about to produce legislation that will compensate Americans hurt by asbestos without clogging the courts and causing undue economic hardship, Dick Armey, a Republican and the former House majority leader, has led a huge and misleading advertising campaign to defeat the bill.


    ...in radio ads that have run in 15 states, Mr. Armey says the bill would levy $140 billion in new taxes to create a federal trust fund for asbestos victims. He knows better. Manufacturers, which are liable for asbestos injuries, and their insurers have offered to create the $140 billion trust fund to avoid further liability. The bill is explicit that the federal government would pay nothing into the fund.

    Mr. Armey also asserts that the fund would set aside billions of those tax dollars as payoffs to trial lawyers. In fact, the bill caps lawyers' fees at 5 percent, compared with current contingent fees of 33 percent.

    Just leave the check on the Dresser.

    Sunday, May 15, 2005

    Sunday Softball Blogging

    Doubleheader today! Was pretty crap in the first game, popping stuff up all over the place, which is not like me - I'm the guy who swings at pitches over my head and still manages to pound them into the dirt. We won both games though, so it's all good.

    I resorted to going back to my funky pigeon-toed stance with the leg-kick, and that seemed to get me back into a ground-ball/line-drive groove, thankfully. 6-12 with a double, 5 runs, and 2 RBI overall. Not a whole lot of action in the outfield- one catch, and a few more I couldn't quite get to. Threw the ball better than usual, but didn't actually throw anyone out...

    Current stats: 6 games, .459 BA (17-37), 3 2B, 9 runs, 9 RBI.

    Softball and politics! And beer!Posted by Hello

    Anyone who wants to play softball at EschaCon, please head over there and RSVP. Be sure to let us know what equipment you can bring along (bats, gloves, balls, etc.).

    This Is Almost What We Need...

    Kristof in NYT today, talking about a book by an ex(!)-bishop:
    John Shelby Spong, the former bishop, tosses a hand grenade into the cultural wars with "The Sins of Scripture," which examines why the Bible - for all its message of love and charity - has often been used through history to oppose democracy and women's rights, to justify slavery and even mass murder.


    This book is long overdue, because one of the biggest mistakes liberals have made has been to forfeit battles in which faith plays a crucial role. Religion has always been a central current of American life, and it is becoming more important in politics because of the new Great Awakening unfolding across the United States.

    Yet liberals have tended to stay apart from the fray rather than engaging in it. In fact, when conservatives quote from the Bible to make moral points, they tend to quote very selectively. After all, while Leviticus bans gay sex, it also forbids touching anything made of pigskin (is playing football banned?) - and some biblical passages seem not so much morally uplifting as genocidal.

    "Can we really worship the God found in the Bible who sent the angel of death across the land of Egypt to murder the firstborn males in every Egyptian household?" Bishop Spong asks. Or what about 1 Samuel 15, in which God is quoted as issuing orders to wipe out all the Amalekites: "Kill both man and woman, child and infant." Hmmm. Tough love, or war crimes? As for the New Testament, Revelation 19:17 has an angel handing out invitations to a divine dinner of "the flesh of all people."

    Bishop Spong, who has also taught at Harvard Divinity School, argues that while Christianity historically tried to block advances by women, Jesus himself treated women with unusual dignity and was probably married to Mary Magdalene.


    Bishop Spong particularly denounces preachers who selectively quote Scripture against homosexuality. He also cites various textual reasons for concluding (not very persuasively) that St. Paul was "a frightened gay man condemning other gay people so that he can keep his own homosexuality inside the rigid discipline of his faith."

    The bishop also tries to cast doubt on the idea that Judas betrayed Jesus. He notes that the earliest New Testament writings, of Paul and the source known as Q, don't mention a betrayal by Judas. Bishop Spong contends that after the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem in A.D. 70, early Christians curried favor with Roman gentiles by blaming the Crucifixion on Jewish authorities - nurturing two millennia of anti-Semitism that bigots insisted was biblically sanctioned.

    This book almost sounds like a great thing, but I fear Spong undermines his own credibility by making provocative and sure-to-be-rejected claims about Paul, and Jesus and Mary. But he does attempt to fill a gaping and scary void that desperately needs to be addressed: The lack of discourse about the vast discrepancy between the Christ of the New Testament and the extremist Christians who have appropriated his name to defile His message.

    More like this, please, but a little more mainstream-friendly next time, mmkay?

    Saturday, May 14, 2005

    You Go, Girl!

    NYT has a profile of Iran's first female race car driver. Apparently a pretty damn good one, too.

    "I like competition in everything," the striking 28-year-old said after parking the car and going for tiramisù in a cafe in North Tehran. "I have to move whatever is movable in the world."

    In March, she moved the nation when she won the national championship. State television refused to show the new champ on the victory dais elevated above the men, but photographers captured the moment. She stood quietly while receiving her medal, as she had promised the race organizers she would, with a scarf over her long black hair and a coat over her racing uniform.

    Ms. Seddigh is a lively, energetic symbol of a whole generation of young Iranians who are increasingly testing social boundaries. Seventy percent of Iranians are under 35, and they have gently pushed for, and received, freedoms unimaginable even a few years ago. For women in Tehran, at least, head scarves are often brightly colored and worn loosely over the hair. The obligatory women's overcoats are now often tight and short.


    "I'm not a feminist," she said. "But why should women be lazy and weak? If you're determined, you've got to push."

    Any female race car drivers in Iraq or Afghanistan? How're those invasions working out for the women over there? Will there be any female race car drivers in Iran after we invade?

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Friday Quote Blogging

    This Week's Quote:

    "You like cheese. You like being a man."

    From a parody commercial in Freaked, starring Alex Winter (Not-Keanu in the Bill & Ted movies) and Randy Quaid, with Mr. T as a bearded lady and Bobcat Goldthwait as a sock.

    When my girlfriend posted this in The Movie Quote Contest, that's how I knew she was The One.

    Eek! A cat!

    Eek likes games, too! Posted by Hello

    Tax Cut Question

    I was originally going to ask Atrios this question, but figured he'd be too busy partying in Spain to respond to an e-mail from a nobody like me. SoI'm just going to throw this one out to the world at large.

    I was reading Robert Rubin's NYT piece about the deficit, where he briefly mentions the Clinton tax increases and the economic slowdown that emphatically did not occur afterward, and it got me to wondering:

    How much empirical evidence is there to support the conventional wisdom that tax cuts have a stimulative effect (and the converse)? Are they typically followed by economic booms, or just excuses? I'm struck by the apparently counterintuitive results of Clinton's tax increases and Bush's tax cuts, and wondering if they're truly typical, and if there are any graphs that overlay major tax cuts and increases over a chart of economic growth.

    I have pretty much zero econ-fu, but the two possibilities that came to my mind as to why the Clinton tax increases and the Bush tax cuts had such "unexpected" results were:

    1) Any stimulative impacts of tax cuts are outweighed by a drag effect exerted by an increased deficit (uncertainty, interest rates, interest payments).

    2) Cuts/increases on taxes on wealth and the wealthy have a very different impact from taxes on work, because the damper on incentive and initiative just isn't there - I don't think anyone's going to be discouraged from hoarding and accumulating wealth just because the tax rate on it has gone up. I never really bought the incentive explanation for cutting taxes on work, either - I can't picture someone passing up a six- or seven-figure salary because the government would take too much, so why bother.

    I know, one could argue that Clinton benefitted from the "peace dividend", while Bush had the misfortune of an economy crippled by 9/11 and Iraq, but I just don't buy it. In the short run, maybe, but at this point 9/11 andIraq are just convenient excuses.

    Anyway, I'm sure my question has probably already been asked and answered a thousand times over - I'm hoping someone can direct me to some juicy-yet-intelligible-to-the-dumbass-layman research on it. I did a quick search, but it didn't really yield what I was looking for.

    Very Local Tech News

    My PC has now been up & running for 60 days straight! Yay!

    My A/C is frozen, and I have been instructed not to use it until they come back and fix it tomorrow. Is at least 90 degrees in here (that's how high the thermostatmometer goes). Boo!

    Also, Without A Trace officially jumped the shark tonight. Some incredibly lame, stupid BS where the put Anthony LaPaglia in really bad age makeup as the Missing Person Of The Week, so his FBI character is trying to catch up with his own doppelganger. It ended with what was supposed to be some big cathartic revelation, but it was more like a non sequitur. Just awful.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    This Can Not Be Legit...

    Saw this on my way home. And no, that's not a turd or a dead rat under it, just some kind of wood chippy thing. Posted by Hello

    Lives Of The Monster Dogcats

    No idea how watertiger missed this one, but who wouldn't want a 35lb. giant dogcat?
    They are outlawed in New York City, members of a new designer breed growing in popularity called the Savannah, an offspring of a wildcat - the African serval - and the domestic house cat.


    The cats - which can cost from $4,000 to $10,000 - are visually striking with their long necks and oversized ears, and they can be intimidating. They look like little leopards and grow to more than twice the size of normal cats. They love to leap and splash in water, and they don't mind taking long walks on a leash. Some people describe them as dogs in cats' bodies.
    So, yeah, pretty cool, although there are some downsides aside from the price tag. Just how legal they are to own kinda depends on where you are, plus there's the whole ethical and commonsense aspect of an artificially contrived semi-wild vanity animal living in an inappropriately urban environment...

    But hey, if they were totally tame and domesticated and legal, everybody would want the giant dogcat.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Teh Funny

    "Fire Bad!"

    Okay, I know Howie Kurtz's journalistic neutrality is suspect, to say the least, but I still enjoy his column for all the tidbits he excerpts and links to. Yesterday, he linked to this little gem from internets gazillionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban:

    This week on the ESPN.com Page 2 column, Eric Neel decided to do a parody of what a David Stern blog might contain. No question that it was a fun premise. Unfortunately, part of his article suggested that the readers come over to blogmaverick.com and post the comment “nice hair” on every post.

    And they did.

    I spent hours deleting posts from the idiots that took what he wrote literally. Great threads were pushed aside and filled with this spam.

    Collateral damage and just the cost of writing a blog? Sure. Avoidable, yes. Especially from a major media organization like ESPN.

    I'm speechless and appalled. All I can say is, "Nice hair!"

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005


    My apologies for all the multiple posts - Blogger was bouncing
    back most of my attempts to post by mail, but I have been
    informed that it was posting them anyway. So many thanks to
    Blogger for making me look like a compulsive dumbass...

    Will clean up the mess when I get home - I wonder why Blogger
    is trying so hard to persuade me to stop blogging by mail...

    Nothing To See Here, Part II

    From today's NYT lead editorial:
    Senator Corzine's persistent efforts to upgrade chemical plant security have been thwarted by the chemical industry and by the Bush administration's lack of support. He is now working on a new bill, in collaboration with Senators Susan Collins and Joseph Lieberman, that is likely to make some concessions to the chemical industry to improve its chances of passage. If Congress and the White House are serious about protecting the nation, they will make sure that his bill becomes law in the strongest possible form. There is an urgent need for greater security at
    the plant sites. The industry should also be required to replace dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives. These steps may sound like common sense, but they have run into entrenched political opposition. The Bush administration's antiregulatory philosophy makes it reluctant to impose rules on private industry. And the chemical industry, a major campaign donor, seems intent on not spending the money that a strong safety law would cost it. Christie Whitman, the former E.P.A. administrator, became so frustrated by her inability to make any progress that she asked to be relieved of responsibility for chemical plant safety.
    Tough on terror, my ass. Democrats need to hammer at this. Kerry should have hammered at this. If the Democrats had followed Rove's gameplan of attacking an opponent's supposed strengths, we would have had a Democrat landslide last year, gamed elections or no.

    March Along, Nothing To See Here...

    In other news, John Tierney tells the news media to ease up on reporting suicide bombings, they're *soooo* 2003, plus they really mess up that whole freedom-is-on-the-march narrative thing.

    Why, if they keep this up, people might not realize what a
    peaceful democratic paradise Iraq has become!

    No To Democratic Neuterality!

    E.J. Dionne explains why the Democrats are being such bad sports by not letting the Republicans have absolutely everything they want.
    "The Republican Party is a permanent majority for the future of this country," DeLay declared. "We're going to be able to lead this country in the direction we've been dreaming of for years."

    Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and a leading figure in both the DeLay and Bush political operations, chose more colorful post-election language to describe the future. "Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans," he told Richard Leiby of The Post. "Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant. But when they've been 'fixed,' then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful."

    If you wonder in the coming weeks why Democrats are so reluctant to give ground, remember Norquist's jocular reference to neutering the opposition party. Democrats are neither contented nor cheerful over the prospect of being "fixed." Should that surprise anyone?"

    Some thoughts on Dionne's piece, which also addresses tit-for-tat over judges and Social Security/Hillarycare:

    1. Even assuming that the Republicans can't maintain a permanent majority, eliminating the filibuster's requirement for broad consensus would lead to courts composed entirely of far-left and far-right judges, with court rulings determined solely by which side holds majorities on which courts. Does anyone in their right mind really want this? Would it really be such a tragedy to "stack" the courts with moderates who are excellent jurists, trust their judgment, and let the chips fall where they may? I know it'll never happen, but I would love to see the judiciary excluded from the obsessive struggle for partisan advantage - it's too important, and its membership is too permanent.

    2. I hope the Democrats are as determined to fight for their political relevance as Dionne seems to think they are. I think they're still pulling a lot of punches, and I have the sense that most of them still have no idea what's at stake here. Even supposedly wild & crazy loose cannon screamer Dean has been alarmingly quiet since being elected DNC chair.

    3. Has anyone noticed that Norquist has a really disturbingly *creepy* way with words? First he talks about drowning government in a bathtub, then he compares bipartisanship to date rape, now he gleefully talks about neutering Democrats. This is a man with some serious unresolved issues, and he's leading the charge to reshape our country into, well, I'm not entirely sure what - somesort of laissez-faire social darwinist theocracy, I think.

    Ugh. Just Ugh.

    I think it's pretty safe to say that these are not criminal

    Monday, May 09, 2005


    In today's Talking Points Memo in WaPo, handicapping potential key Senate and House races in 2006, Terry Neal refers to Socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders of VT as a "Left-leaning independent".

    Not sure if this is bias or some weird attempt at tact...

    The Dark Half

    From this week's NYT Magazine:

    It starts out like it has a point, but essentially ends up just being "Isn't the brain weird? It's just crazy, man, crazy!"

    But the weirdness works on its own terms, at least for me - like photos from Voyager or the Hubble, or the deep sea tubeworms, or the Cambrian critters from the Burgess Shale (I enthusiastically recommend Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life), or the works of Escher, Magritte, Dali, Bosch, and Gaudi.

    A few years ago, brain scans of London cabbies showed that the detailed mental maps they had built up in the course of navigating their city's complicated streets were apparent in their brains. Not only was the posterior hippocampus -- one area of the brain where spatial representations are stored -- larger in the drivers; the increase in size was proportional to the number of years they had been on the job.


    Patients with severe epilepsy sometimes used to undergo an operation in which the corpus callosum was severed.... After the operation, the two hemispheres of the brain could no longer directly communicate.... under careful observation, they exhibited some very peculiar behavior. When, for example, the word "hat" was flashed to the left half of the visual field -- and hence to the right (speechless) side of the brain -- the left hand would pick out a hat from a group of concealed objects, even as the patient insisted that he had seen no word. If a picture of a naked woman was flashed to the left visual field of a male patient, he would smile, or maybe blush, without being able to say what he was reacting to -- although he might make a comment like, "That's some machine you've got there." In another case, a female patient's right hemisphere was flashed a scene of one person throwing another into a fire. "I don't know why, but I feel kind of scared," she told the researcher. "I don't like this room, or maybe it's you getting me nervous." The left side of her brain, noticing the negative emotional reaction issuing from theright side, was making a guess about its cause, much the way one person might make a guess about the emotions of another.

    Each side of the brain seemed to have its own awareness, as if there were two selves occupying the same head. (One patient's left hand seemed somewhat hostile to the patient's wife, suggesting that the right hemisphere was not fond of her.) Ordinarily, the two selves got along admirably.... Nevertheless... they lived in ever so slightly different sensory worlds. And even though both understood language, one monopolized speech, while the other was mute. That's why the patient seemed normal to family and friends.

    Pondering such split-brain cases, some scientists and philosophers have raised a disquieting possibility: perhaps each of us really consists of two minds running in harness. In an intact brain, of course, the corpus callosum acts as a constant two-way internal-communications channel between the two hemispheres. So our everyday behavior does not betray the existence of two independent streams of consciousness flowing along within our skulls. It may be, the philosopher Thomas Nagel has written, that "the ordinary, simple idea of a single person will come to seem quaint some day, when the complexities of the human control system become clearer and we become less certain that there is anything very important that we are one of."

    Consciousness, and normal brain function in general, is something that we take for granted as simple and uncomplicated, but it has tricksy biological underpinnings that we are still striving tounderstand, and which can be thrown alarmingly off-kilter by disease, physical damage or chemical imbalance.

    The relationship between the two hemispheres is especially fascinating to me. I had heard of such experiments before, but had never really contemplated the idea of the less-dominant (and creative) right hemisphere as a mute prisoner within the mind, unable to even express itself without its link to the dominant, rational left hemisphere.

    In a sense, we are all siamese twins.

    DeLay In DeCline?

    In today's Washington Post:

    DeLay's prowess in fundraising, for instance, was always a pillar of his power in the House. Lining up a corporate aircraft to ferry him to an event was usually arranged with a single phone call. These days, Republican officials report that they are having trouble finding available aircraft -- as businesses fret that DeLay may be radioactive.

    DeLay, likewise, usually no longer attends joint news conferences of the GOP leadership. His presence, Republicans say, would distract from the party's message about gas prices or other
    topics of the day.

    And through numerous previous controversies, DeLay and his staff always made it a point of pride that once a week when Congress was in session, he would meet reporters in his conference room -- no holds barred. Now, these sessions begin with the leader reciting a preamble about "ground rules" -- all questions not relating to the party's House floor agenda are verboten.

    While my first choice would certainly be to see DeLay unceremoniously dumped from the House after dragging as much of the Republican party as possible through the mud with him, a Republican majority leader who has to walk on eggshells and be cautious in his fundraising doesn'tsound like such a terrible consolation prize.

    This is not to suggest for one second that I don't want to see him go down in lurid sensationalistic flames. Just saying that there may be a silver lining even if he doesn't. Especially if the Democrats can continue to use him as a boogeyman, while at the same time the Republicans can't use his finely-honed boogeyman skills to their fundraising advantage.


    When does Krugman ever not nail it?
    ...defenders of Mr. Bush's Social Security plan now portray benefit cuts for anyone making more than $20,000 a year, cuts that will have their biggest percentage impact on the retirement income of people making about $60,000 a year, as cuts for the wealthy.

    These are people who denounced you as a class warrior if you wanted to tax Paris Hilton's inheritance. Now they say that they're brave populists, because they want to cut the incomeof retired office managers.

    Let's consider the Bush tax cuts and the Bush benefit cuts as a package. Who gains? Who loses?

    Suppose you're a full-time Wal-Mart employee, earning $17,000 a year. You probably didn't get any tax cut. But Mr. Bush says, generously, that he won't cut your Social Security benefits.
    Suppose you're earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

    Suppose, finally, that you're making $1 million a year. You received a tax cut worth about $50,000 per year. By 2045 the Bush plan would reduce benefits for people like you by about $9,400 per year. We have a winner!

    I'm not being unfair. In fact, I've weighted the scales heavily in Mr. Bush's favor, because the tax cuts will cost much more than the benefit cuts would save. Repealing Mr. Bush's tax cuts would yield enough revenue to call off his proposed benefitcuts, and still leave $8 trillion in change.

    The point is that the privatizers consider four years of policies that relentlessly favored the wealthy a fait accompli, not subject to reconsideration. Now that tax cuts have busted the budget, they want us to accept large cuts in Social Security benefits as inevitable. But they demand that we praise Mr. Bush's sense of social justice, because he proposes bigger benefit cuts for themiddle class than for the poor.

    Sorry, but no. Mr. Bush likes to play dress-up, but his Robin Hood costume just doesn't fit.

    This last point is what infuriates me the most, that the Republicans believe that preserving tax cuts for the rich takes precedence over all other considerations, and cannot even be questioned.

    More like this, please.

    MoreOn Media

    I was responding to an e-mail last night, explaining that most of us are aware that a large part of the media's complicity with the Republican agenda has to do with their wealthy/corporate ownership.

    To make a long story short, I said that as long as the media corporations and their parents are still driven by the good old-fashioned profit motive, there is some chance of either activist (protests; boycotts of the parent company's products) or market/Darwinian (declining ratings due to inferior product) pressures having some success. But if their sole purpose is to serve as propaganda outlets, then there's not a whole lot we can do, at least not directly. I don't hold out a lot of hope for the revival of the Fairness Doctrine; my expectation is that it would be manipulated and gamed so that "balance" would be represented by a moderate Republican viewpoint opposing a fanatical right-wing extremist one, or possibly a fanatical left-wing extremist who would be used to paint all Democrats asraving nutcases.

    The idea that makes me most excited, however, is that of an alternative news network that reports all the stories the rest of the media avoids. I think such a network could have a lot of
    success - consider just how many juicy scandals the MSM has passed up out of political loyalty or simple fear. I think people would be all over it, and would savor the feeling of being in the know. I'm partly inspired by the anecdotal stories I read in Eschaton comments, about fellow liberals who have clued reasonable-but-underinformed Republicans in on some of the things "their" leaders have been up to, and the sense of dawning realization that they kindle. I think there are a lot of people who sense that they're not getting the full story, but don't know where to find it.

    Notice that I said "alternative news network" up above, not "liberal news network." Tempting as it is to just create a liberal version of Fox News, dedicated solely to pro-liberal reporting, spin, and punditry, I would like to see the alternative network dedicate itself to more objective reporting, but without the false "balance" seen in the news today. It should have conservative contributors (preferably real ones, and not wingnuts), and it should feel free to report on stories that are unflattering or embarrassing to liberals and Democrats. I know that would sting, especially since the right-wing would use it as the ultimate unimpeachable source - "Even the liberal news network says Al Gore's beard looks stupid!" - but it would go a long way towards establishing credibility with the non- die-hard liberals who we need to reach.

    I would also like to see an emphasis on in-depth factual analysis over opinionated punditry and Runaway Bride fluff, and a commitment to getting to the truth instead of just reporting what each side said and calling it a day (think The Daily Show with less funny and no Moment Of Zen). It should have some respected old-school newsies like, say, Walter Cronkite and Helen Thomas on its board of advisors to keep it honest. And, oh yeah, I sure would love to see Richard Clarke as the resident
    on-air terrorism expert.

    To sum up - if we believe that objective reality has an anti-Republican bias, then objective reality should be all we need to strive to present. I happen to also believe that it will prove more compelling than the fantasies and distractions offered up by the so-called news networks today - and better yet, if the other so-called news networks have any profit motivation at all,they will fall all over themselves trying to copy the formula.

    By all means, let them.

    Are you listening, Mr. Soros?