Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wednesday Softball Blogging

Well, I have managed to wrangle my way into a Wednesday night softball game by way of one of the Sunday softballers (thanks, Anders!). They're a slightly older crowd, but very good players, and a pleasantly loose, friendly atmosphere. I had a great line-drive batting practice, but it didn't translate well to the actual game, where I went 5-10 with two runs and a double, including a line shot right at somebody. Was pretty decent in the outfield with some nice running catches, but got burned a few times by balls that got over me or past me (very deep leftfield). Weirdest play was a shallow fly ball I couldn't quite get to, that bounced off my knee... right to second base for a forceout. They don't keep score, so I'm not entirely sure who won.

No pictures for now, since I don't really know anyone yet.

Current Stats: 14 games, .583 BA (56-96), 9 2B, 29 runs, 15 RBI.

Human Rights Are On The March!

Jaysus. How is this not news? Bad enough that we're torturing detainees, but torturing children??? What the HELL has happened to America?

...before the transfer of sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority to an Iraqi interim government a year ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported registering 107 detainees under 18 during visits to six prisons controlled by coalition troops. Some detainees were as young as 8.

Since that time, Human Rights Watch reports that the number has risen. The figures from Afghanistan are still more alarming: the journalist Seymour Hersh wrote last month in the British newspaper The Guardian that a memo addressed to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shortly after the 2001 invasion reported "800-900 Pakistani boys 13-15 years of age in custody."

Juvenile detainees in American facilities like Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base have been subject to the same mistreatment as adults. The International Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Pentagon itself have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children, bolstered by accounts from soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse.


A Pentagon investigation last year by Maj. Gen. George Fay reported that in January 2004, a leashed but unmuzzled military guard dog was allowed into a cell holding two children. The intention was for the dog to " 'go nuts on the kids,' barking and scaring them." The children were screaming and the smaller one tried to hide behind the larger, the report said, as a soldier allowed the dog to get within about one foot of them. A girl named Juda Hafez Ahmad told Amnesty International that when she was held in Abu Ghraib she "saw one of the guards allow his dog to bite a 14-year-old boy on the leg."

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, formerly in charge of Abu Ghraib, told Maj. General Fay about visiting a weeping 11-year-old detainee in the prison's notorious Cellblock 1B, which housed prisoners designated high risk. "He told me he was almost 12," General Karpinski recalled, and that "he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother."

Children like this 11 year old held at Abu Ghraib have been denied the right to see their parents, a lawyer, or anyone else. They were not told why they were detained, let alone for how long. A Pentagon spokesman told Mr. Hersh that juveniles received some special care, but added, "Age is not a determining factor in detention." The United States has found, the spokesman said, that "age does not necessarily diminish threat potential."

Well, I hope all you Republicans and torture apologists are pleased with yourselves. Bravo. Well done. Keep focusing on that legacy, President Bush.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Why Does Science Hate America?

This is not entirely surprising, but it's disturbing, and it explains a lot.

I'll sum up: Essentially, an Emory psychiatrist/neuroscientist conducted an updated version of a 50s experiment on social conformity, wherein test subjects were shown pictures of three-dimensional objects from different angles and asked to identify whether or not they were pictures of the same object. The trick is, they conducted the test with four other "subjects" who were ringers who would give unanimously incorrect responses to some of the pictures, which the real subject would see before making his or her own decision.

The end result was that the subjects went along with the group on wrong answers 41% of the time. Additionally, the real subjects were hooked up to an MRI scanner to monitor their brain activity in an attempt to determine whether decision-making/conflict-resolution or perceptual regions lit up. In other words, did the subjects give in to an urge to go along with their "peers", or did they actually "see" the same thing they thought everyone else did?

If I'm reading the article correctly, the perceptual centers were activated when the subjects went along with the group, meaning their actual perceptions of reality were altered by social pressures. Also interesting, the subjects who disagreed with the group had activity in their emotional regions, suggesting some degree of stress in resisting the majority.

Assuming the study can be taken seriously (I don't have enough science-fu to judge), this explains a whole lot about the seemingly inexplicable success of the Republican party. It provides scientific validation of their strategy of manufacturing inevitability and fostering the perception that their positions and talking points represent the conventional wisdom and consensus of a vast, "silent" majority, with any dissenters representing a marginalized radical fringe.

To me, this explains how good people can still support the Republicans. Thanks to the media (which I also believe to be an effective proxy for "the majority"), they think that most people believe what the Republicans are saying, and therefore it must be true. Anything that conflicts with that is just an annoying buzzing sound in the background, or the propagandist rantings of those frustrated liberal wackos.


I knew it!

THE FACTS Think of all the hours Americans will spend beside pools and lingering on beaches this summer, counting the minutes since their last meal to avoid violating a fundamental rule of swimming: never get into the water on a full stomach.

The only problem, according to experts, is that the warning is yet another old wives' tale that should be laid to rest. The theory is that the process of digestion increases blood flow to the stomach - away from the muscles needed for swimming - and leads to cramps, which increase the risk of drowning.

Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at the New York University School of Medicine, said that while swimming strenuously on a full stomach could conceivably lead to cramps, for most recreational swimmers the chances are small. And at least one study that looked at drownings in the United States found that fewer than 1 percent occurred after the victim ate a meal, she added.

But meals that include a drink or two are another story. In 1989, for example, a study in the journal Pediatrics looked at almost 100 adolescents who drowned in Washington and found that 25 percent had been intoxicated. One year later, a study of hundreds of drowning deaths among adults in California found that 41 percent were alcohol related.

THE BOTTOM LINE Swimming after a meal will not increase the risk of drowning, unless alcohol is involved.

Lunchtime, Doubly So


Specifically, time and time travel, one of my favorite subjects. Some highlights:

Space and time, some quantum gravity theorists say, are most likely a sort of illusion - or less sensationally, an "approximation" - doomed to be replaced by some more fundamental idea. If only they could think of what that idea is.

"By convention there is space, by convention time," Dr. David J. Gross... said recently, paraphrasing the Greek philosopher Democritus, "in reality there is. ... ?" his voice trailing off.


Looked at closely enough, with an imaginary microscope that could see lengths down to 10-33 centimeters, quantum gravity theorists say, even ordinary space and time dissolve into a boiling mess that Dr. John Wheeler, the Princeton physicist and phrasemaker, called "space-time foam." At that level of reality, which exists underneath all our fingernails, clocks and rulers as we know them cease to exist.

So far, so good. But here's where it gets really wacky:

Most scientists, including Einstein, resisted the idea of time travel until 1988 when Dr. Kip Thorne, a gravitational theorist at the California Institute of Technology, and two of his graduate students, Dr. Mike Morris and Dr. Ulvi Yurtsever, published a pair of papers concluding that the laws of physics may allow you to use wormholes, which are like tunnels through space connecting distant points, to travel in time.

These holes, technically called Einstein-Rosen bridges, have long been predicted as a solution of Einstein's equations. But physicists dismissed them because calculations predicted that gravity would slam them shut.

...Dr. Thorne and his colleagues imagined that such holes could be kept from collapsing and thus maintained to be used as a galactic subway, at least in principle, by threading them with something called Casimir energy... which is a sort of quantum suction produced when two parallel metal plates are placed very close together. According to Einstein's equations, this suction, or negative pressure, would have an antigravitational effect, keeping the walls of the wormhole apart.

If one mouth of a wormhole was then grabbed by a spaceship and taken on a high-speed trip, according to relativity, its clock would run slow compared with the other end of the wormhole. So the wormhole would become a portal between two different times as well as places.


Some mysterious "dark energy," astronomers say, is pushing space apart and accelerating the expansion of the universe. The race is on to measure this energy precisely and find out what it is.

Among the weirder and more disturbing explanations for this cosmic riddle is something called phantom energy, which is so virulently antigravitational that it would eventually rip planets, people and even atoms apart, ending everything. As it happens this bizarre stuff would also be perfect for propping open a wormhole, Dr. Lobo of Lisbon recently pointed out. "This certainly is an interesting prospect for an absurdly advanced civilization, as phantom energy probably comprises of 70 percent of the universe," Dr. Lobo wrote in an e-mail message....

...Dr. Lobo suggested that as the universe was stretched and stretched under phantom energy, microscopic holes in the quantum "space-time foam" might grow to macroscopic usable size. "One could also imagine an advanced civilization mining the cosmic fluid for phantom energy necessary to construct and sustain a traversable wormhole," he wrote.


In another recent paper, Dr. Amos Ori of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa describes a time machine that he claims can be built by moving around colossal masses to warp the space inside a doughnut of regular empty space into a particular configuration, something an advanced civilization may be able to do in 100 or 200 years.

The space inside the doughnut, he said, will then naturally evolve according to Einstein's laws into a time machine.

Mmm... Einsteinian time doughtnut...

Dr. Ori admits that he doesn't know if his machine would be stable. Time machines could blow up as soon as you turned them on, say some physicists, including Dr. Hawking, who has proposed what he calls the "chronology protection" conjecture to keep the past safe for historians. Random microscopic fluctuations in matter and energy and space itself, they argue, would be amplified by going around and around boundaries of the machine or the wormhole, and finally blow it up.

Dr. Gott and his colleague Dr. Li-Xin Li have shown that there are at least some cases where the time machine does not blow up. But until gravity marries quantum theory, they admit, nobody knows how to predict exactly what the fluctuations would be.

I recommend reading the full article - it's long, but it has all kinds of nifty stuff about time paradoxes and quantum physics and string theory and stuff.

They Get Letters

Some very good letters to the NYT today on the subject of Iraq. Some of my favorite bits:

All we hear is that there is no timetable and that we want a free and democratic Iraq. That is not a plan. That is a wish. Judging from this administration's actions in Iraq, the plan is not to have a plan, to send in troops but not anticipate their needs or those of the Iraqis, and to tell people things are getting better while everyone sees a deteriorating quagmire.

It really is amazing how even now the administration appears to have no plan other than to just keep scrounging to maintain troop levels and hope that something good eventually happens.

It's true, as the White House argues, that telling an enemy when you plan to leave gives the enemy an opportunity to wait you out. But this is true only if the enemy can wait you out. The White House admits that the enemy can wait us out, a fact that contradicts its assertion that there is "steady and substantial progress" in defeating the insurgents.

If we were making such progress, and if the ranks of the insurgents were limited, we could indeed sketch out a rough timetable. The facts are that we are still at war in Iraq and that the White House has no workable plan to defeat the insurgency.

Why has no-one pointed this out before? (If they have, I totally missed it) If the insurgency really is in its "last throes," why should we care about unveiling a timetable for withdrawal? Can we get Reid and Dean to start hammering at this point, please?


The shadowy and mysterious Codename V. has found a real corker, yes indeed.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Lord, I Was Born A Rambling Ma-aann...

In which I veer wildly across topic lanes without signalling.

Okay, I'm still completely mystified by this whole "moral values" thing. Just reading a couple of days' worth of NYT, I see a Frank Rich piece documenting multiple baldfaced lies and a significant whiff of corruption around the head of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, fallout from an article about extraordinary rendition (about half the letter-writers are outraged that the NYT would dare to expose the CIA's top-secret kidnapping aeroplane like that), and letters expressing horror at the complicity of American psychiatrists in the torture at Gitmo, in violation of every applicable tenet of medical ethics. And somewhat less recently, we apparently have the administration admitting to torture, or at least abuse, at Gitmo (thanks to smalfish for the link!).

I continue to be amazed at how this is all apparently okay. Head of the CPB is a nakedly partisan pathological liar? No problem. Kidnapping people and covertly flying them to countries that will torture them for us? Shrug. Psychiatrists wiping their asses with the Hippocratic Oath at the Gitmo Torture Factory? Hey, shit happens.

All of which indirectly goes back to filkertom's question and driftglass's recurring theme about how Republicans and so-called conservatives can be okay with all the evil done in their name. To expand on my comments on his post a little bit more, I think the Republicans can be very roughly broken down into two groups:

The first group, the genuinely evil group, are the people who really don't care about right or wrong, just so long as the government advances their agenda, be it accumulating and retaining wealth or indulging their hatred of The Other, be they brown, black, female, gay, or simply not-fundie. These are the rich/corporate and religious leadership of the Republican party, embodied by Grover Norquist and James Dobson, respectively. They also have an abundant army of selfish executives, wannabe entrepreneurs, racists, and fundamentalists at their disposal.

The second group, which I certainly hope is the larger, are the mostly decent people who get all their news from the TV, and simply don't realize what is being done in their name. They uncritically absorb all the talking points the first group feeds them, and genuinely believe that invading Iraq will ultimately lead to democracy and drain the terrorist swamp, that the poor just need to stop being coddled so they have to stop loafing and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and that AIDS could be eliminated if people would just stop sleeping around so much. And any mistreatment of prisoners is either the actions of a few bad apples, or is simply not so bad (two types of fruit!). If you tune out dissenting voices and don't examine it too critically, it's a fairly benevolent and compelling narrative that allows these Republicans to believe that they're still on the side of righteousness and America and apple pie.

Obviously, there's no way to persuade the first group - they know the score, and they like it. The question is, how do we persuade the second group, especially when they desperately want to go on believing that their team is the good guys? How do we convince them without making them stick their fingers in their ears, yelling "La la la la la, I'm not listening!" Yes, we can peel some of them off on a one-to-one basis, but is that enough to consign the Republicans to the wilderness where they belong? Is there any way to start reaching them wholesale?

The media has gotten a little bit better, but when it comes to subjects like the DSM, they're reluctant to cover and eager to drop, and even then only because of the liberal blogosphere going positively big brass ballistic about it. And as long as the Republicans control the media, they control reality. The blogosphere's nice, but it's not exactly widespread, and there are enough right-wing blogs that it's not necessarily a given that replacing the media with the blogosphere would be a clear-cut liberal victory. AAR and Pacifica are good too, but again, not nearly pervasive enough, especially when compared to their right-wing radio counterparts.

So yeah, filk's questions are good ones, but I just don't know how we're going to get them out there where the right people will read them, or how to get them to really think about them rather than dismissing them as liberal propaganda. I'm open to suggestions, but I'm not sure "pray for Soros to launch an insanely popular liberal news network" is sufficiently realistic.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


Save The Green Planet was awesome!!! I don't want to go into a lot of detail because it's best not to know what to expect, but suffice it to say that the battle of wills between the cunning, amoral CEO and his unhinged abductor who believes him to be an alien infiltrator from Andromeda is just epic. It's leavened with some wicked humor, but it escalates and gets progressively more and more intense and brutal and dark as the movie progresses.

If the opportunity presents itself, I can't recommend it enough. There are some good movies coming out of Korea - Oldboy, Into The Mirror, A Tale Of Two Sisters, and Tell Me Something are all excellent. The preview for 3-Iron looks really good too...

Sunday Softball Blogging

Damn, it was hot today. Turnout was... not. We didn't have enough players at first, so we just had batting practice. We were just about to give up when a couple more people showed up, and we played a short 5-on-5 game, which is kinda goofy. Basically, right field is foul, and the batting team has to supply their own pitcher, catcher, and first baseman. If you get any more than one person on base, you need to have "ghost runners." Crazy.

Anyway, we won in the bottom of the fifth, and I went 4 for 5 with a run and an RBI (and the one out was a shot that was caught at the warning track). Had a really good day in the field, running all over the place and catching pretty much everything - I even had a nice over-the-shoulder catch on a ball over my head during batting practice. Gotta love that.

Then to Piper's Pub for an incredibly messy portabello burger, and I will shortly be heading out to see Save The Green Planet at Pittsburgh Filmmakers with Rich. It's an insane Korean movie about a guy who becomes convinced that a CEO is really a member of an alien race plotting to invade the Earth. Fun stuff.

Current Stats: 13 games, .593 BA (51-86), 8 2B, 27 runs, 15 RBI.

Hot day. Very hot. Posted by Hello

Whoo, Science!

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Well, I entered that MIT weblog survey thingy. Moderately interesting, not entirely sure what purpose it serves, but click on the logo there to fill out one of your own, thus advancing Science's ethereal march.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

More B&W Blogging

Friday was a pretty good day all around, and I think I may have rediscovered my grunge aesthetic after rather a lot of cloud photography...

The underside of the USX building. Fortunately managed to avoid any security guards, who I have learned are the natural enemies of photographers.

There were two or three of these in the general vicinity of the USX building; they seem to serve some sort of utility purpose, but I have no idea what - the innards of this one just seem to have junk in them.

Part of an overpass. I liked the alien-skin texture on the column.Posted by Hello

Thought Of The Day

Rove means never having to say you're sorry.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

"You’re old and you’re getting foolish and you’ve made a mistake. It’s me you should have hung. Because now I hate you in a way I didn’t know a human could hate. Take a good long look at me, T.C. You won’t see me again until the day I take your world away from you."

- Spoken by Barbara Stanwyck's character in The Furies to her father, who has just lynched her boyfriend. Needless to say, she dedicates herself to doing just exactly what she says. Possibly the most beautifully impassioned, furious rant I've seen in any movie.

Sorry, no cats this week - I'm still trying to get the new laptop sorted.

Black & White Local Color

One of the bridges between Dahntahn and the North Side. I should probably know which one it is...

Wilbur "Pops" Stargell in front of PNC Park. NYC transplant that I am, I'm not a huge Pirates fan, but it's hard not to like Willie.

This just begged to be B&W.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Thanks, Mom!

For not being this woman:

I understand that some home-schooled children miss not playing in competitive sports, but most children doubtless have some complaint about their education whether they are schooled at home or in public or private school.

Part of being a good parent-teacher is educating our children to accept that.

When I decided to home-school, I took it upon myself to provide, or to procure at my own cost, everything my children needed for their education.

For me, part of the happiness of home-schooling is not burdening my neighbors with taxes to educate my children.

It's true that home-schoolers pay taxes for public education, but so do parents of children enrolled in private schools. If I enroll my children in Catholic school, should I then expect them to play on the public school's competitive teams or in the orchestra?

In truth, this is a downside of homeschooling that never occurred to me, and it's hard to make a persuasive case for allowing homeschooled kids to play on school teams. But I still find it hard to believe that a good parent can't come up with a better alternative than callously "educating" their kid to just accept that they don't get to be on a team. That deprives them of one of the fundamental experiences of being a kid (granted, some kids aren't into it, but that doesn't make it okay to deprive the kids who are). And this is coming from someone who was one of the least sporty kids in recorded human history (well, okay, I kicked ass at dodgeball - in a cagy, cautious kind of way...).

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Le Petit Mort

Aptly named, indeed.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- New research indicates parts of the brain that govern fear and anxiety are switched off when a woman is having an orgasm but remain active if she is faking.

In the first study to map brain function during orgasm, scientists from the Netherlands also found that as a woman climaxes, an area of the brain governing emotional control is largely deactivated.


When women faked orgasm, the cortex, the part of the brain governing conscious action, lit up. It was not activated during a genuine orgasm.

Even the body movements made during a real orgasm were unconscious, Holstege said.

The most striking results were seen in the parts of the brain that shut down, or deactivated. Deactivation was visible in the amygdala, a part of the brain thought to be involved in the neurobiology of fear and anxiety.

"During orgasm, there was strong, enormous deactivation in the brain. During fake orgasm, there was no deactivation of the brain at all. None," Holstege said.

Shutting down the brain during orgasm may ensure that obstacles such as fear and stress did not get in the way, Holstege proposed. "Deactivation of these very important parts of the brain might be the most important necessity for having an orgasm," he said.

Donald Pfaff, professor of neurobiology and behavior at Rockefeller University in New York, said the interpretations were reasonable. "It makes poetic sense," said Pfaff, who was not connected with the research.
I really have nothing to add to this, other than to note that the section on methodology was a bit more interesting than the average scientific article not involving monkey economics...

Umm... Kay.


An attempt to erect the world's largest Popsicle in a city square ended with a scene straight out of a disaster film -- but much stickier.

The 25-foot-tall, 17 1/2-ton treat of frozen Snapple juice melted faster than expected Tuesday, flooding Union Square in downtown Manhattan with kiwi-strawberry-flavored fluid that sent pedestrians scurrying for higher ground.


Snapple had been trying to promote a new line of frozen treats by setting a record for the world's largest Popsicle, but called off the stunt before it was pulled fully upright by a construction crane. Authorities said they were worried the thing would collapse in the 80-degree, first-day-of-summer heat.

"What was unsettling was that the fluid just kept coming," Stuart Claxton of the Guinness Book of World Records told the Daily News. "It was quite a lot of fluid. On a hot day like this, you have to move fast."

That last paragraph also qualifies for Quote Of The Day honors.

A Mobile Proposal

"'Bush gets very upset when cell phones go off in his presence,' McFeatters noted. 'He just hates it.'"

Okay, so. Given a hatred of cellphones that rivals my own, and a peevish and petulant nature beneath a thin veneer of phony bonhomie, maybe we should be trying to sneak "ringers" of a completely different nature into Bush's public appearances. No confrontational questions or dramatic gestures, just a few ringing cellphones at every event (especially televised ones), and perhaps we can get the mask to slip a few times.

This would probably only work directly a few times before his handlers wised up, but even so, the sure-to-be-disproportionately-harsh treatment of the initial offenders (i.e., hustled roughly away by Secret Service or Fake Secret Service, or physically attacked by Bush loyalists) and subsequent body cavity searches for cellphones would be pure PR gold.

Granted, this would have been much better as a pre-election strategy, but even now, I still think there's a huge benefit to exposing him for the snarly creep that he is: it would further weaken his ability to push his agenda; it would generally diminish the public's appetite for more Bushes in the White House; and it might help tarnish the Reagan halo he's being fitted for.

It sure would be nice to see the obnoxiousness of cellphones being used for good for a change. And if it backfires, maybe inconsiderate public cellphone use will be caught up in the backlash, which would be a good thing in its own right.

Quickie Photo Break

Took a quick break this afternoon to try to wake myself up, and figured I might as well take my camera along...

Yet another one of them orangey flower thingies what some people are saying are hibisciruses.

I think I have a dry winter picture of this fountain around somewhere; not sure if I ever posted it here or not. Posted by Hello

There was another picture I really wanted, but just didn't work out - there was a very corporate looking guy in a green jacket, who sat down on one of the benches and just looked completely zen and blissed out looking at the fountain. I tried taking a picture of him through a gap in the fountain and the water, but there was just too much spray to get a good shot.

Oh well. People photography and me really don't mix.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Here's hoping he lives another 80 years... in prison.

An 80-year-old former Ku Klux Klansman was convicted of manslaughter Tuesday in the slayings of three civil rights workers exactly 41 years ago in a notorious case that inspired the movie "Mississippi Burning."

The jury of nine whites and three blacks reached the verdict on their second day of deliberations, rejecting murder charges against Edgar Ray Killen but also turning aside defense claims that he wasn't involved at all.

Yet another racist murderer held accountable after leading a long, full life. Hooray...

Ack! Ack! Ptui!

Well, I guess four out of five ain't bad...

Discovery Channel viewers have less than a week to determine who will be the "Greatest American." The big relief? It's not going to be a celebrity. The viewer vote-in show's host, Matt Lauer, announced the top five candidates for the series on Sunday: Benjamin Franklin , Martin Luther King Jr. , Abraham Lincoln , Ronald Reagan and George Washington . Nominations began in January; the winner will at last be revealed Sunday.


The top 25 list puts such modern luminaries as President Bush (No. 6)and Oprah Winfrey (9) ahead of historical giants Albert Einstein (14) and Thomas Jefferson (12).

America is doomed.


Some more semi-random thoughts about Gitmo:

One of the chilling but (IMO) underexamined wrinkles of the latest Gitmo torture revelations has been the reaction, as compared to the reaction to Abu Ghraib. When the Abu Ghraib photos leaked, there was near-universal outrage at the depravity on display, which the White House successfully deflected away as the independent actions of a few "bad apples."

But as the Gitmo stories have come out, the lion's share of the outrage has been directed at those who have tried to call attention to the immorality of what is going on there (Newsweek, Amnesty International, Dick Durbin), rather than on the torturers themselves, or their highly-placed enablers. It could be the way the news has dribbled out unaccompanied by lurid photos, as opposed to Abu Ghraib's sudden slap to the face, but I fear that it also means that Abu Ghraib has desensitized the American people to torture and abuse. Sadly, I just do not sense the same kind of disgust and visceral horror that was floating around the zeitgeist in the wake of Abu Ghraib.

Another underemphasized aspect of Guantanamo is its retroactive debunking of the "bad apples" canard. It's a lot harder to blame Abu Ghraib on a few rogue guards when similar techniques are enshrined as standard practice at Gitmo. Unfortunately, I see no sign that this idea is getting any traction at all, and Abu Ghraib itself is becoming nothing more than a faded memory of something bad we did once, but which doesn't really matter now.

Veering wildly over to the torture apologists themselves, it looks like the Republican party line is that what's happening at Gitmo isn't really torture torture, not like Saddam's Iraq or Auschwitz or the gulags. I'm willing to concede that very narrow point, but that doesn't exactly let anyone off the hook. Consider:

o As outlined in the Anthony Lewis op-ed linked below, even degrading, inhumane treatment that falls short of the Gonzales/Bybee organ-failure/limb-amputation definition of torture is still forbidden by two UN conventions and our own military code.

o Is this really the face that we want America to present to the rest of the world? That of an arrogant, unaccountable torturer? What happened to America the shining moral beacon and noble champion of human rights? (Yes, I know it's largely a fiction, but at least we used to want to believe it, and I think many people worldwide really did... once)
Do we really want to settle for "a little bit better than Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union"? Our moral baseline should be the ideals of decency and fair play that America supposedly stands for, not the practices of brutal dictatorships.

o Does sending prisoners to other countries for the more hardcore forms of torture really absolve us of moral responsibility? Is outsourcing torture really enough to keep our own hands clean? I'll skip any populist lament for all the American torturers that this puts out of work...

o By embracing and defending even the entry-level torture and mistreatment at Gitmo, we are sending the message that this is acceptable treatment of prisoners. Are the torture apologists really okay with the idea of our own captured soldiers being subjected to such treatment? Themselves? Their kids?

o And speaking of kids, how do you explain this to them? Do you tell them it's okay to be mean to the prisoners because they're bad people? (And how do you know they're bad? Because someone said so?) Or brown people? What kind of values are these kids going to grow up with?

o For those of you claiming to be Christians, can you really, honestly, for one second picture Jesus looking down approvingly at what we're doing at Gitmo? I sure as hell can't.

o More peripheral to the central issue of Torture, but how do you square "invisible" prisoners and indefinite imprisonment without counsel or trial with the US Constitution, which does not distinguish between Americans and foreigners in its due-process provisions.

Right, then. I think I'm done. I suppose I should feel better for having gotten it out of my system, but if anything, I think I'm even more pissed off now.

Anthony Lewis Nails It

There have been a lot of good anti-torture pieces, but I thought former columnist Anthony Lewis did an especially good job in the NYT today. I particularly liked how he pointed out that the Geneva Convention, UN Convention Against Torture, and Uniform Code Of Military Justice all prohibit inhumane and degrading treatment, not just the fingernail-pulling and genital-shocking that torture apologists consider to be the true limit of acceptable interrogation techniques.

Of course, if the US got busted using those, they would just find a way to move the goalposts even further ("At least we're not force-feeding them honey and then tying them to an anthill with a beehive in their underwear!").

Come back, Tony, we need you!

Serendipity II

I was just insomniacally photo-processing away when this one kinda jumped out at me. I'm starting to think the Pittsbirds are all total camera hogs or something... Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005

Quote Of The Day

"It was just after he was released from jail in the early 1990's that Johnson... turned to evangelical Christianity and clown dancing more or less simultaneously."

From NYT's Sunday Magazine article about krumping.


Maybe it's just me, but I have a sneaking suspicion that when this is how your defense wraps up, your chances may not be all that good...

The defense rested its case today in the trial of Edgar Ray Killen, a former Ku Klux Klansman who is being tried for his role in the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi.

The final witness for the defense was a former mayor of the rural town of Philadelphia, Harlan Majure, who testified before a packed courtroom that the white-supremacist group was a "peaceful organization," according to The Associated Press. Mr. Majure said that Mr. Killen was a good man and that he "did a lot of good up here," The A.P. reported.

Hey, a lot of Islamic terrorist organizations do charitable good works too! Maybe we should cut them a break!

And no, I don't want to hear about "Ku Klux Kleagle Byrd" - yes, I think it's appalling that he was ever in the Klan, but he's repudiated it and apologized again and again, and I do believe that he genuinely regrets it. He did not downplay the KKK's evil or claim it was a peaceful charity organization.

Sadly, even if Killin'- er, Killen, is convicted and imprisoned, well, so what? He's 80 years old now. He's lived a full life already, and had 41 years that his victims never will. If there's a Hell, he'll burn in it just as surely regardless of whether he is convicted in the courts of man.

Yes, I am assuming his guilt. When you have three people killed by Klansmen, I think it's pretty safe to assume that an admitted Klan poobah damn well had something to do with it, even if he wasn't there personally. I hope he does burn in Hell, and I hope I don't have to sit next to him.

And Now For Something Completely Different: Torture Profiteering!

Just when you think they couldn't sink any lower...

More from Froomkin:

Carol Rosenberg writes in the Miami Herald [free registration required]: "The Pentagon
capped a week of intense debate on the future of its prison for terrorism suspects Friday with an announcement that Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm will build a new, $30 million 220-cell prison block at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

"Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root received the work under a $500 million Navy contract from July 2004, according to a Defense Department contract announcement e-mailed to The Herald on Friday."

Pat Riley For Preznit!

And for those of you who don't like sport... There's sport.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing leads with a bunch of "Has Bush lost his touch?" stuff, suggesting that Bush's salesmanship is somehow on the wane. I don't think that's exactly what's going on. I think Bush's approach is the same one he's been using for the last four years, and that in itself is the problem.

It's not that his skills have eroded, it's that his act is starting to wear thin, and more and more people are seeing though it or tuning him out. Those of you who follow sports are well aware of this phenomenon - no matter how great the coach, they all ultimately hit a wall where their players have heard every motivational trick in the book, and it just doesn't have the same impact any more.

And it's not like Bush is a great coach. He's abusive; he plays favorites and turns his players against each other; he misleads them about their role on the team; he likes to go with his gut and call risky plays that usually backfire; he jealously guards his own authority and turf; and, quite frankly, the team has completely gone into the toilet since he took over.

I could probably stretch the metaphor further (and is he the "coach" of America, or just of the Republican party?), but really, my central point is that maybe, just maybe, the country is starting to experience some much-needed Bush Fatigue, or better yet, Republican Fatigue. I only have two questions: Will it last? and WHY DID IT TAKE FOUR YEARS???
Again, this is not Sparky Anderson or Pat Riley (80s edition) we're talking about here. We're talking Billy Martin at best, but probably more like Rich Kotite or Ray Handley... Or possibly Jim Fassel or Wayne Fontes, two mediocre-to-bad coaches who always pulled off winning streaks just as they were about to lose their jobs. Until one day they couldn't anymore. Let's hope that day has finally come for Coach Bush, and maybe for the Republicans as a whole.

Pro-Torture Not Enough

Well. Apparently Abu "Torture Memo" Gonzales, the guy who thinks the Geneva Conventions are outdated and "quaint", may be too moderate to be nominated as Rehnquist's replacement.

A Gonzales appointment would be a politically appealing "first" that could ease the confirmation process among Democrats and help expand the Republican base, according to some strategists. But many conservative leaders see him as too moderate on issues such as abortion and affirmative action, and a Gonzales-for-Rehnquist trade would effectively move the court somewhat to the left.


...a Gonzales nomination could trigger internal dissension among GOP activists, some of whom have warned the White House against naming the attorney general. At a meeting of conservative groups last week to plot strategy for a possible Supreme Court nomination, one leader spoke out against a Gonzales appointment, according to people in the room.

"Some of the groups share that concern," said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the Concerned Women for America.... While she noted that her organization has not taken a position, she predicted that if Gonzales is chosen, some activists "may not as vigorously support" the nomination, while Roberts or Luttig "would certainly have broader support across the coalition of conservatives."

"Everyone in my circle crinkles their nose when his name comes up," another activist said of Gonzales. "It would be a disaster if that happened."

My God, this is just terrifying. This pro-torture creep who shouldn't be allowed to practice law at any level isn't conservative enough???

My prediction is that Bush will nominate him anyway because Gonzales is his creature, one of those loyalists who would take a bullet for him. And better yet, it'll give the right yet another cherished opportunity to accuse Democrats of racism and hypocrisy for opposing an awful nominee who happens to be a minority.

Sunday Softball Blogging

Well, this one was pret-ty damn lopsided - I think we won by more than 20 runs or something. Kind of a mediocre game for me, 5 for 10 with 3 runs but 3 pop-ups. I did have one caught at the fence that probably would have gone out if there hadn't been a fielder there. Oh well. Fielding was less than brilliant, but I didn't really get much action in left.

Current Stats: 12 games, .580 BA (47-81), 8 2B, 26 runs, 14 RBI.

There's no shirt-wearing in baseball!

Well, okay. Red shirts are all right. But stay away from alien planets. Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Saturday Black & White Blogging

I usually don't have a lot to say on weekends, so I'll just post some photos.

Not sure *what* this is supposed to be, really...

Not a big pigeon fan, but there was something regal about this one perched on the incongruous concrete thingies... Posted by Hello

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

"Mankind is just a component of the device which creates the devil."

- Naked, which features a tour-de-force performance by David Thewlis as an over-intelligent and cold-blooded drifter. He gave me the impression of someone impatiently channel-surfing through life.

Oh, look! A cat!

Mom's friend's cat, Sweet Pea. And a box. Posted by Hello


Well, I guess it's not all that surprising - Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are engaged. Tra-la-la. But check out the last sentence of the AP article and see if it doesn't make your skin crawl:

"The former star of television's 'Dawson's Creek' has said she grew up wanting to marry Cruise."

More Like This, Please.

John Danforth strikes again!

People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.


In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.

By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

I think the unspoken distinction here is between Old Testament Christians and New Testament Christians. It's the difference between defining mindsets of "Thou Shalt Not" vs. "Be Excellent To Each Other."


I'm sure today's Krugman column has been done to death already; I just want to nibble around the edges a little bit.

Now, politicians and businessmen are always in a position to do each other lucrative favors. Government is relatively clean when politicians are sufficiently afraid of scandal to resist temptation. But when a political machine controls all branches of government, and those officials charged with oversight are also reliably partisan, politicians feel safe from investigation. Their inhibitions dissolve, and they take full advantage of their position, until the scandals become too big to hide.

In other words, Ohio's state government today is a lot like Boss Tweed's New York. Unfortunately, a lot of other state governments look similar - and so does Washington.

Since their 1994 takeover of Congress, and even more so since the 2000 election, Republican leaders have sought to make their political dominance permanent. They redistricted Texas to lock in their control of the House. Through the "K Street Project" they have put lobbying firms under partisan control, starving the Democrats of campaign funds. And they are, of course, trying to pack the courts with partisan loyalists.

In effect, they're trying to turn America into a giant version of the elder Richard Daley's Chicago.

These efforts have already created an environment in which politicians from the right party and businessmen with the right connections believe, with good reason, that they have immunity.


The message from Ohio is that long-term dominance by a political machine leads to corruption, regardless of the policies that machine follows or the ideology it claims to represent.

First off, I feel obliged to smugly point out that this reinforces my earlier post about how the Republicans have replaced accountability with impunity (will provide link when I get home), which also gets into root causes and potential solutions.

Second off, I believe Krugman's last paragraph is incomplete. It does not address the chilling fact that Washington has proven that the dominance doesn't even have to be long-term to lead to corruption. In the Republicans' case, it seems to have been almost instantaneous (Enron, Energy Task Force), although it continues to worsen by the day.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Talking Downing

The Big Brass Alliance bloggers are probably all over this already, but if you haven't read WaPo's online chat with Michael Smith, the Sunday Times reporter who's been covering all the Damning Downing Documents, you should do so right away.

He has all kinds of interesting tidbits, like his belief that there's more out there that could ultimately create a public outcry for impeachment, the fact that he's a Conservative- voting ex-soldier who initially supported the war, and that the Geneva Convention obligates an occupier to stay until the occupied country can stand on its own (how quaint!).

He also agrees with me that all the impeachment talk is probably counterproductive right now, and makes Democrats look, well, a lot like Republicans did in '98.

Go! Read! Now!

Loud Is Good

Here's another idea that I've floated here and there but never given its own post. This one's pretty simple: A large part of Dean's role as DNC chair should be that of a promoter. By this I mean that whenever another Democrat has an especially important message to get out and is being ignored by the media, Dean should make an address to underline and call attention to it.

I know this is far from the traditional role of a party chair, which I understand to be more behind-the-scenes fundraising and strategizing. But Dean is unique among all the Dems (except possibly the Clintons) in his ability to get media coverage, which is an absolutely invaluable counter to the Republicans' media stranglehold. Better yet, his blunt and confrontational style is exactly what the Dems need right now, not the mush-mouthed equivocation and appeasement that has garnered their current milquetoast reputation. A few well-timed "Joe Biden/Joe Lieberman/John Edwards does not speak for the Democratic Party" jabs wouldn't hurt either, but I emphasize "a few," and only when they wander off the reservation and start making Republican noises.

I say we ride the Ho-Ho horse as long as we can, until Howard Fatigue sets in, if ever. In the meantime, we need to build up a bullpen of firebrands to reinforce the message, take some of the burden off of Dean, and provide a pool of strong successors as DNC chair and/or voice of the Democratic party.

A Practical Question

I could be mistaken, but given the diminishing effectiveness of my popup blockers, I'm pretty sure that there is an ongoing arms race between popup blockers and popup advertisers. My question is, Why would you want to force popups on someone who has gone to the trouble to install software to block them? Isn't it more likely that you'll just piss them off and make them vow to never buy your product? Are they really going to admire your popup's spunky can-do attitude?

Anyway, it's just a thought, and perhaps too perplexing for the pestilent popup people.

Dealing In Death And Donuts

Well, this is creepybadwrong. Bob Herbert on the Army's "School Recruiting Program Handbook":

"The football team usually starts practicing in August," the handbook says. "Contact the coach and volunteer to assist in leading calisthenics or calling cadence during team runs."

"Homecoming normally happens in October," the handbook says. "Coordinate with the homecoming committee to get involved with the parade."

"Recruiters are urged to deliver doughnuts and coffee to the faculty once a month, and to eat lunch in the school cafeteria several times a month. And the book recommends that they assiduously cultivate the students that other students admire: "Some influential students such as the student president or the captain of the football team may not enlist; however, they can and will provide you with referrals who will enlist."

That last quote is a particularly creepy microcosm of the "only the little people fight wars" mentality..

"If you wait until they're seniors, it's probably too late," the book says. It also says, "Don't forget the administrative staff. ... Have something to give them (pen, calendar, cup, donuts, etc.) and always remember secretary's week, with a card or flowers."

The sense of desperation is palpable: "Get involved with local Boy Scout troops. Scoutmasters are typically happy to get any assistance you can offer. Many scouts are [high school] students and potential enlistees or student influencers."

I'm not a parent (nor likely to be), but this is still disturbing as hell. Herbert also points out that these efforts are, of course, targeted primarily at lower income public schools where the students have limited life options after graduation.

Democrats really need to start publicizing this - I can't believe a whole lot of parents would be okay with the idea of recruiters cozying up to scoutmasters. If we can't get poor red-staters on pocketbook issues, let's appeal to their concern for their children. Make them decide whether they're really more afraid of gay recruiters than Army recruiters. Highlighting the desperation also underlines just how close to a draft we really are, and how unprepared for another pre-emptive war of choice.

Right now, every time the White House talks tough about Iran, Syria, or North Korea, the blue-collar red-staters puff their chests out and say, "That's my brave, manly president! USA! USA!" I want them to start nervously pulling their children closer instead.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bring 'Em On!

Ugh. I guess it was inevitable that Bush would try to paint the Democrats as obstructionists who don't stand for anything, and make them the scapegoats for his own failed and unpopular policies.

For now, I'll just pretend to ignore the fact that the Democrats have been forced into the unpleasant role of that killjoy who's always trying to take the drunk's car keys away. If preventing someone from driving off a cliff or mowing down pedestrians is obstructionist, well, we need more of it.

At any rate, I think Bush may have unwittingly given the Democrats an opportunity, if they're smart and aggressive enough to take it.

From some fundraising dinner for rich people and porn stars (thanks for the reminder, A. Scott!):

On issue after issue, they stand for nothing except obstruction, and this is not leadership. (Applause.) It is the philosophy of the stop sign, the agenda of the roadblock, and our country and our children deserve better. (Applause.)

Political parties that choose the path of obstruction will not gain the trust of the American people. If leaders of the other party have innovative ideas, let's hear them. But if they have no ideas or policies except obstruction, they should step aside and let others lead. (Applause.)

Okay, now, I seem to recall that Harry Reid offered up a very compelling Democratic version of the Contract With America earlier this year, but of course there's no chance at all that any of it could pass a Republican Senate.

So with that in mind, I would love to see Reid call Bush's bluff on this. Remind him that the Democrats do have ideas and plans, remind everyone what they are (and that they've been out there for months, and any specific examples of the Republicans shutting them down), and challenge the Republicans to stop blocking them. Oh, and also point out that blocking bad policies and nominees protects America, and is what Congressmen are supposed to do; when the Republican agenda is no longer toxic, the Democrats will be happy to wave it through.

I know there's a school of thought that says you shouldn't dignify this sort of smear with a response (and look how well that worked out for Kerry last year), but I think this is a winner: It gives the Democrats a platform to promote their own agenda while essentially calling Bush a divisive, partisan liar at the same time. And perhaps even more importantly, not responding would be an implicit admission that Bush is right,and that is just not acceptable.

One minor tactical point: I think the most appropriate way to publicize this would be an initial response from Reid (or a joint response by Reid and Pelosi), followed by a Dean address calling attention to it, in order to assure media coverage.

Here's hoping the Democrats fight back on this. Dean seems to have found his voice after a fairly quiet start, so I'm cautiously optimistic.


Remember that girl who pitched an all-strikeout perfect game?

Now, the National Baseball Hall of Fame wants to put her jersey on display in the same shrine that includes items which once belonged to legends such as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron. In fact, the hall will host a program for Katie and her Dodger teammates on July 7, during which the young pitcher will donate her jersey.

Way cool.

Ooo, Good Question!

Letter to the NYT about Krugman's national healthcare column:

I find Paul Krugman's column disturbing. If 72 percent of Americans want a national health insurance program but insurance companies have the power to override that majority, what does that say about the health of our democracy?

I wish that question applied only to healthcare, but it seems like it applies to, well, pretty much everything these days.

Kindred Spirits


At a time when Pakistan is supposed to be going after Al Qaeda terrorists who make merry within the country's borders, our colleague Nicholas Kristof reports that Mr. Musharraf's government has instead arrested a victim of sanctioned gang rape for planning a visit to the United States. Mukhtaran Bibi was sentenced by a tribal council to be gang-raped because her [12-year-old] younger brother supposedly had relations with a woman from a higher caste. After the rape by four men, she was forced by village leaders to walk home nearly naked in front of a jeering crowd.

They've also released the rapists for no apparent reason.

Tell me again about President Bush's deep and abiding love for freedom and democracy and human rights, and how that led him to oh-so-reluctantly invade Iraq?

Oh well, at least it's not like we're friends with anyone who boils people alive - Oops. Never mind.

Random Photoblogging

Just 'cuz. I think I've been slacking on the photos a little lately.

I liked this in B&W as well.

This came out a whole lot better than I expected... Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Boy, I Really Overshot With That 400...

The Christopher Walken census sketch strikes again!
Apparently his character is working for the Justice Department now...

Flanked by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush said that "federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted."

Those statistics have been used repeatedly by Bush and other administration officials, including Gonzales and his predecessor, John D. Ashcroft, to characterize the government's efforts against terrorism.

But the numbers are misleading at best.

An analysis of the Justice Department's own list of terrorism prosecutions by The Washington Post shows that 39 people -- not 200, as officials have implied -- were convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security.

Most of the others were convicted of relatively minor crimes such as making false statements and violating immigration law -- and had nothing to do with terrorism, the analysis shows. For the entire list, the median sentence was just 11 months.

So once again, our famously plain-talking president resorts to carefully parsed sentences that are not technically outright lies. Yes, it's true that 400 people have been charged, and 200 convicted, as a result of federal terrorism investigations - it's just that almost none of them actually have anything to do with, y'know, terrorism.

But I still feel ever so much safer, yesirree. At least for the next 11 months.

Headline Of The Day

From the NY Newsday sports section:

Matsui swollen, hopeful

Monday, June 13, 2005

Why I'm Not Impeachy Keen

The Downing Street Memo/Minutes revelations and the various other damning documents originating from those loose-lipped Brits have a whole bunch of my liberal brethren talking giddily about impeachment, but I have to confess to considerably less enthusiasm. Not only do I consider it unlikely, but I actually think it could be counterproductive.

Firstly, while there are some tentative signs of principled Republican resistance to the Bush agenda and questioning of the war and the Bolton nomination, and even Social Security reform, it looks more like butt-covering than genuine opposition. When it's come right down to it on votes like bankruptcy reform and confirming horrible, unqualified right-wing judges, they've been in perfect, bootlicking lockstep. If they're not going to vote against Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown, they're sure as hell not going to vote to impeach Bush himself, enthralling a fantasy as it may be (I do have a caveat about that, which I'll get to later).

Secondly, I have to ask the question, what does impeachment buy us, really? Yes, we all hate Bush, and I think we all agree that he's the worst president of all time and want to see him humiliated and exposed for the criminal he is, but let's not lose sight of the big picture here. Bush himself is not truly the problem, but only a symptom of the corruption and arrogance that has become the Republican core. What Democrats need to do is discredit and expose the entire Republican party and its media mouthpieces, allowing them to retake control of Congress and start fixing everything that's been broken. They need to cast themselves as the party of grown-ups, who sometimes ask us to make sacrifices and take our medicine and do our homework so we stay healthy and smart and get good jobs.

Impeachment does nothing to advance this; in fact, it essentially absolves congressional Republicans of all responsibility, by allowing Bush to take the blame for everything that's gone wrong, while portraying themselves as innocent dupes. Worse yet, unless there is overwhelming public demand for it (the only scenario in which I can see any realistic chance of a successful impeachment), the attempt would backfire badly and make Bush a heroic martyr of the Republican cause, unfairly attacked by small-minded liberal Democrats blinded by hate and vengeance. Just imagine the backlash against the Clinton circus, magnified by a Republican media avidly hyping the Bush-Under-Siege meme. And if there is overwhelming public demand for it, then the Republicans will see which way the wind is blowing and vote for impeachment, thus making themselves noble heroes who heavy-heartedly put country before party, thus inoculating themselves even more thoroughly from any accountability for Bush's depredations.

And for what? What would impeachment buy us, beyond the I-told-you-so satisfaction? Even if we do manage to impeach Bush, that still leaves us with President Cheney, which is even worse (yes, I know he has zero charisma, but this has consistently been spun as a positive - proof of Cheney's seriousness and steady competence). If we manage to impeach both of them, we end up with President Hastert, which is only a marginal improvement at best. Yes, it could potentially be President Pelosi, but the chances of Democrats retaking the house next year are slim, and I don't think the pro-impeachmentpeople are really looking to wait until 2007 anyway.

My gut feeling is that impeachment talk is premature, and maybe makes us look a little fanatical and crazy. We absolutely need to keep the story alive, and keep hammering away at the message that Bush is a sociopathic liar, but we need to focus more on ways to make the war an albatross around all the Republicans' necks in 2006, not just the lame duck's.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sunday Softball Blogging

Another good day at the plate - 6 for 7 with 5 runs, and a laser RBI ground-rule double to the left-center gap, and my team won 10-5 (I think). A little mixed in the outfield - I was really sharp on fly balls again, but pretty crappy at cutting off anything on the ground.

I've switched to a heavier bat (which I hit the double with) because I'm starting to have doubts about the structural integrity of my regular bat, which seems to have no sweet spot lately - it makes kind of a clanky sound, and the ball doesn't seem to travel real well. It's not just me that it does this with, either.

Current Stats: 11 games, .592 BA (42-71), 8 2B, 23 runs, 14 RBI.

Juuuust a bit late... Posted by Hello

First There Is An Orange Thing, Then There Is No Orange Thing, Then There Is... Or Not.

What do these two things have in common, besides being orange?

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Answer: Both disappeared off the face of the Earth the day after I photographed them. I also took a couple of completely unsuccessful shots of a scraggly tree obscuring a Stop sign; the tree was gone within a week. I'm not sure if the lag was due to the photos being crap, or the fact that the Stop sign was more red than orange - some further experimentation may be needed.

In any case, I'm really not sure I'm comfortable wielding this sort of power, and if anyone comes to EschaCon wearing orange or red, please do not be offended if I refuse to photograph you.

Geek Update

My PC has now been up and running continuously for 90 straight days (Windows XP Pro).


*awkwardly attempt high-fives and hurt myself*

Friday, June 10, 2005

I Could Get Better Frames At Lenscrafters

This is another post that probably isn't really news, but which distills bits and pieces of thoughts I've had and expressed elsewhere.

We are all well aware that the Republicans are frighteningly, appallingly, shamelessly good at framing, and Frankly, there's not a whole lot Democrats can do to diminish their talent for it. However, that doesn't mean they should leave them with a clear field to trot out whatever deceitful spin they like. Democrats need to get a lot better at their own framing, and they need to get a lot better at countering the Republicans' framing.

What bugs me the most is the Democratic/liberal stereotype that the Republicans have successfully installed in the public psyche. Not only is it inaccurate, but it is in fact a more accurate description of the Republicans themselves. What I would love to see is Democrats begin describing Republican politicians and their masters as morally relativist, soft-on-terror, America-hating elitists who think they know what's best for everyone else.

I'd like to go through that point-by-point to clarify it a bit further:

Morally relativist: While I grant that Democrats have had their share of scandals, they have nothing that compares to the sheer quantity of scandals and dodginess on display in the Republican party. Just off the top of my head, we've got Coingate, Plamegate, DeLay's myriad ethics violations (and a bunch of others who have had shady dealings with Abramoff), a gay prostitute gaining privileged access to the White House and its press corps despite no legitimate journalistic credentials, more sexually creepy behavior than you can shake a stick at, and, oh yeah, lying us into a neverending, immoral war in which torture and murder are a-okay.

Soft-on-terror: Bush and the Republican Congress have been dragging their feet on securing Russian nukes, port and nuclear plant security, playing regional pork politics with local-level homeland security funding, and putting corporate interests ahead of chemical plant security.

President Bush also demonstrated a lack of commitment and a short attention span when he had an opportunity to beef up security and anti-terror activities prior to 9/11, and in his efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in the aftermath. And as a special bonus, the invasion and botched occupation of Iraq is not only a magnificent terrorist recruiting tool, but an ineffectual or puppet "democratic" government there would almost certainly undermine the credibility of democracy in the Middle East as a whole.

America-hating: Republicans have shown themselves to be implacable enemies of the Constitution, especially the checks and balances between the branches; due process; free, open, and fair elections; and the First Amendment's protection of free speech (i.e., dissent, unfavorable media coverage) and prohibitions against mixing religion and government. Their rabid anti-environmentalism also makes them enemies of America's very physical being - they would be perfectly happy to see the purple mountains' majesty turned into strip-mines.

Elitists: The Republicans are the party of the rich, the aristocratic, and the corporate, and their policies (corporate welfare, including bankruptcy and tort reform, tax cuts grossly weighted towards capital and upper income brackets) are dedicated to making the rich even richer, at the poor's expense. Yes, there are wealthy and intellectual Democrats, but enriching their peers is generally not one of their policy goals. Sadly, there are exceptions (I'm looking at you, Joe Biden), but they are not exactly held up as exemplars of the Democratic ideal.

Think they know what's best for everyone else: This is the one that has always blown my mind the most, and I've never been entirely sure what it referred to. Yes, there is some degree of political correctness, and it can be aggravating at times, but the Democratic legislative priorities have always been focused on providing aid and opportunity. The Republicans are the party of limiting choices because they know best, making only token, trojan-horse efforts to improve education, while fighting to defend anti-sodomy laws, outlaw abortion and stem-cell research, censor anything remotely racy in TV or movies, and generally impose hard-right, allegedly Christian moral values on the entire nation.

Howard Dean took some steps towards addressing some of this in his comments about Republicans being a white Christian party and not working an honest day in their lives (elitism), which predictably resulted in howls of outrage from Republicans and even some of the tamer Democrats. Here's hoping he keeps the pressure on and refuses to bow to intimidation - with the caveat that he does need to do a better job of clarifying when he is talking about the Republican leadership, including government officials and influential non-governmental individuals like Dobson and Norquist.

Tune in next week for: "The Republican leadership cannot be reasoned with; they are sexist, intolerant religious fanatics who hate America for its freedoms, and will not rest until it is destroyed."

Friday Quote Blogging

"They switch you off when life is good, and switch you back on when they're up to their noses in life's bitter droppings."

From a supercheesy Grade Z sci-fi movie called Forbidden World, whose only claim to fame that I can recall is that the cast featured June Chadwick (the girlfriend from Hell in This Is Spinal Tap), and Fox Harris (the crazy Malibu driver in Repo Man). The character speaking is some kind of troubleshooter who has been sent to stop the rampaging creature that's killing everybody, and which he calls a "dingwopper" a few times.

UPDATE: I just remembered - I don't think the quote is the troubleshooter waxing metaphorical; I think there was actually a cranky robot in this movie, so the quote is meant literally. Well, except for the noses and the bitter droppings.

No cats in the movie, so I provide one here:

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Eek in a basket!

Bolo's World

This is just silly:

Thomas Benya wore a braided bolo tie under his purple graduation gown this week as a subtle tribute to his Native American heritage.

Administrators at his Charles County school decided the string tie was too skinny. They denied him his diploma, at least temporarily, as punishment.


The courts have ruled that students have limited rights to express themselves at school as long as their behavior is not disruptive.... David Rocah, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said there are limits to those rights. Carrying political placards or wearing a clown suit to graduation would presumably be disruptive. The question, he said, is whether a bolo tie under a gown is disruptive.

"There's nothing wrong with wanting graduation to be a formal occasion," he said, "but the idea that everyone should look the same -- they're not all the same."

Rocah called the school's interpretation a "narrow and cramped view of personal autonomy."

Jeez, lighten up! It's just a tie! Give the poor kid his diploma already! Yes, I'm sure the school doesn't want to set some kind of Dangerous Precedent, but come on. A bolo tie may be unconventional, but there's nothing inherently distracting about it. Yes, there are lurid bolo ties (mine are, Benya's is not), but the same is true of "regular" ties, and the school has no restrictions on those.

Graduation Day is supposed to be about the students, not the school or, God forbid, its administrators. So stop digging in your heels to defend the letter of the law, and do the right thing. Kids only get one high school graduation, and it should be an occasion of joy and pride, not an occasion for struggling against bureaucracy. There'll be plenty of time for that later on, I promise.

UPDATE: I think this may be a little outside my usual "beat", but the thing is, in high school and college I was the guy who dressed like a nut. No intent to be disruptive, really - the bizarre 70s clothes just tickled my fancy, and I enjoyed dressing that way as an expression of my eccentricity. So maybe that makes me a little hypersensitive to heavyhanded attempts to stifle sartorial self-expression.

He Blinded Us From Science!

Reading some letters to the editor about Philip Cooney's selective editing of government global-warming reports, I can't help but wonder if there's a memo buried out there somewhere that talks about how "the science and facts are being fixed around the policy"...

Friday Church Door Blogging

I'm trying to get back to photoblogging a little more - I've been taking pictures, but I've gotten a little lax on posting them, partly because BloggerBot has gotten so thoroughly unreliable. It also looks like the scaling-down of the images has gotten a lot less smooth, but you can always click on them to see them full-size (and smoother).

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Church door closed...

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Church door open.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I'm Too Sexy For My Hair

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Wow. I guess the haircut must have made me paler.

NYT Nails It

From one of today's editorials, on the former anti-environmental oil industry lawyer who has "been fighting the same fight in his new job" by editing government reports on climate change to downplay or discredit global warming:

"It's sad to think of a White House run by people who believe that a problem can be edited out of existence."

And it's downright scary to think of a White House that doesn't believe there's a problem that can't be edited (or spun, or denied) out of existence, and, worse yet, believes that this is preferable to actually fixing the problem.

Yes, it may be easier to paper over problems than it is to actually solve them, but it's disastrous in the long run, and it's not a hallmark of accountability or resolute, courageous leadership, which President Bush supposedly personifies.

A Picture's Worth... About Four Words.

I. Need. A. Haircut. Posted by Hello

Did Somebody Say...

Cloud Blogging? Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Memepire Strikes Back

Okay, I admit, I've kinda been procrastinating on this book meme that Phila tagged me with, because I, like, already did one, and I've been generally distracted by various goings-on, but here goes:

Number of books I own: Jeez, that's a toughie. I'd guess I probably have at least four or five hundred here, and maybe two or three times that in my mom's garage in California. So we'll call it an even 2,000. Of course, I'm about as good at estimating this sort of thing as Christopher Walken was in that census sketch...

Last book I bought: I'm not sure if that's actually changed since the last book meme, so I'll say either 1602, a graphic novel that takes place in an alternate past where a whole bunch of the Marvel heroes were roaming around in 1602 instead of modern times, or Gridlink'd, by Neal Asher, "where the main character is a government agent who has been gridlinked (connected to the cyberuniverse in realtime) for so long that he's started to forget how to be human. His eccentric and mysterious boss has him disconnect from the net to reconnect with his humanity while investigating a massive teleportation disaster, while being chased by a crazy vengeful terrorist and his goons and evil psychotic android." And did I mention that the terrorist may be in the pay of an enigmatic space alien composed of a three giant spheres that calls itself "Dragon" and is able to create dinosaur-men to do its bidding? Or that the evil psychotic android likes to collect souvenirs from its victims (kid stuff, like a rubber ball or binoculars) and arrange them around himself when he's not killing people?

Last book I read: Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. I think I had just started in on it when the last book meme rolled around. Essentially, the main character is some sort of terrorist or anarchist, who was killed and had his mind (which was stored on a hard drive at the base of his skull, as is customary) put in deep storage for a while, but got pulled out of it and "resleeved" in a new body to investigate a 350-year-old filthy-rich guy's apparent suicide, because the filthy-rich guy doesn't believe that he would kill himself when he knows full well that he has a backup copy of his mind in a remote storage facility. Devious, twisty stuff, set in a very intriguing, seedy and coherent universe that hangs together very well. May one day be a Major Motion Picture, although that looks like it's stalled right now.

Five books that mean a lot to me: Wow, that's another serious toughie. There are a lot of books that I really like, but I don't ordinarily form emotional attachments to them. I'll take a stab at it, but my choices are going to be a little strange...

Queen Of Angels, by Greg Bear. I scrounged this from my older brother's paperback collection many many years ago, and it totally blew my mind. Not only was it the first book I read to really explore the possibilities of nanotechnology, but it had a description of how the mind works that profoundly resonated with me - very compartmentalized, with independent agents and personalities for different tasks and functions.

The Book Of Strange Facts And Useless Information, by George H. Morris. My first and very favorite book of trivia, which I got when I was probably about 10 or 11. I'm pretty sure my love of trivia started here.

National Geographic Atlas, 1981 Edition. Just a bloody huge honkin' book with all kinds of good stuff in it. I loved that book as a kid, and used it to memorize state and world capitols, and to find weird/cool place names, like Sexmoan in the Phillippines. I also remember noticing that almost every town & city in Madagascar started with an A.

World Almanac And Book Of Facts, 1989 Edition. Another great source of trivia, with fascinating facts like the number of female urologists in the US between the ages of 55 & 64 (two), which I tormented my college suitemates with for weeks, if not months. Plus I needed to get caught up on my world capitols, since there were some new ones.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson. I only have a hazy recollection of the actual content, but I have fond memories of my dad reading it to me as a kid. My dad is very cool. And a bit weird.

Theoretically, I'm supposed to pass this along to five more people, but I'm a little hesitant to do that, since this is so similar to the book meme that passed through the blogosphere just two months ago. So I'm going to make my link in the chain more of a voluntary, opt-in one: If you didn't get the last book meme, or if you'd like to do another, please do, and let me know so I can take lots of credit for it.

Codename V. has already asked to be included.