Saturday, December 31, 2005

She's Got Huge... Tracts O' Land.

Am I the only one who finds this... kinda creepy?
YOUR real estate broker can find you the right home, the right buyer, the right mortgage broker, the right contractor and the right architect. But how about Mr. or Ms. Right?

Ali Kleeblatt would say yes. Her real estate agent, David Dubin of the Corcoran Group, introduced Ms. Kleeblatt, a 30-year-old psychologist, to her future fiancé, Brad Hoenig, in the spring of 2004.

And as things were heating up between the couple, Mr. Dubin also found Mr. Hoenig, who was his client, a 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom duplex at the top of the Paladin on the Upper East Side.

Mr. Hoenig, 31, an investment banker, closed on the apartment for $1.325 million in June, and the couple were engaged three months later.

"Its one-stop shopping," Ms. Kleeblatt said, surrounded by stunning northern, western and southern exposures in the couple's new dining room, which was graced by a framed line drawing of the late rocker Kurt Cobain done by Mr. Hoenig. "David knows us so well," she said. "He said Brad would fit in with my family, and it's so true."

Found in many cultures, traditional matchmakers were people who had encyclopedic knowledge of the eligible young people in a community along with their family backgrounds and social standings. Today's real estate agents and brokers, with huge rosters of single clients and intimate knowledge of their finances and lifestyles, would seem equally suited to take up that role.

And some of them are doing just that. Agents and brokers say they want to help out ambitious unattached professionals who have little time to seek out romance. Others say they handle real estate transactions for a large number of divorced or divorcing clients, who need to find a new home for their belongings and sometimes a new partner.


Michael Wilens, 34, a lawyer, went to contract two months ago on a town house in the East 50's, and his broker, Ms. Forbes, felt that his investment in property demonstrated he was primed to make an investment in love. While a well-to-do bachelor seeking a loft downtown may not want to settle down, one seeking a town house with space for a family to grow may be contemplating change, Ms. Forbes said.

"He was always sort of a dater, but the day he signed the contract, I said to him, 'Now that you've found the house, I think you're ready for a wife.' He said fine, and I said, 'I have the perfect girl for you.' "

I think this was the cringey clincher for me:
Even when the matches fall short, some clients of real estate brokers say they are grateful for the service. The first woman Ms. Morgenstern presented to a 26-year-old client, Jamie Schweid, fell through romantically. Mr. Schweid has begun his second round of dating with another of Ms. Morgenstern's clients. Even if this match doesn't work, he said, he appreciates the efforts of his agent.

"If you trust a broker to look at your financials to do a board package, which is a very intrusive process, they can set you up with a girl," said Mr. Schweid, who is a vice president for a ground beef manufacturer.

It all sounds so... procure-y.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Thank You, I'll Be Here My Whole Life. Try The Veal.

You've heard of the Kings Of Comedy? Now get ready for the Justices Of Comedy! Ladies and germs, the comedy stylings of Nino and John!
Justice Antonin Scalia's wit is widely admired, and now it has been quantified. He is, a new study concludes, 19 times as funny as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Justice Scalia was the funniest justice, at 77 "laughing episodes." On average, he was good for slightly more than one laugh - 1.027, to be precise - per argument.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer was next, at 45 laughs. Justice Ginsburg produced but four laughs. Justice Clarence Thomas, who rarely speaks during arguments, gave rise to no laughter at all.

Of course, what passes for humor at the Supreme Court would probably not kill at the local comedy club. Consider, for instance, the golden opportunity on Halloween this year when a light bulb in the courtroom's ceiling exploded during an argument.

It takes two justices, it turns out, to screw up a light bulb joke.

"It's a trick they play on new chief justices all the time," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who joined the court that month, said of the explosion.


"Happy Halloween," Justice Scalia retorted.


And then, the kicker. "We're even more in the dark now than before," Chief Justice Roberts said.


Please! Stop! No more! You're... killing... me!

Professor Wexler concedes that his methodology is imperfect. The court reporters who insert the notations may, for instance, be unreliable or biased.

The simple notation "[laughter]" does not, moreover, distinguish between "a series of small chuckles" and "a joke that brought the house down." Nor, Professor Wexler said, does it separate "the genuine laughter brought about by truly funny or clever humor and the anxious kind of laughter that arises when one feels nervous or uncomfortable or just plain scared for the nation's future."


Sometimes, the laughter that apparently filled the courtroom is hard to comprehend. Chief Justice Roberts, for instance, got a laugh for this observation at an October argument on assisted suicide: "The relationship between the states and the federal government has changed a little since Gibbons v. Ogden," a landmark decision in 1824 about national regulation of the economy.
Gibbons v. Ogden! Oh, my stars! John, you irrepressible scamp, how you do carry on!

*wipes eyes*

Friday Quote & Lizard Blogging

This week's quote is from the book I've almost finished - Dead Lines, by Greg Bear, one of my favorite sci-fi authors:
I finally figured it out. This world is awful - it's bad art.... There's something underneath, something wonderful and full of color. It's happy and it makes sense. I can feel it. Some hifalutin, cruel god has painted over an ancient masterpiece filled with joy.
Hopefully I'll get around to blogging a little more on Dead Lines, but for now, suffice it to say that it's more supernatural than sci-fi, and it goes from aimlessly creepy to Holy Shit! in the span of about five pages.

And, of course, there'll be other people's lizards...

I'm pretty sure Spike doesn't like me. I know I've seen that glare before, but I just... can't... quite...

Ah. There it is. The look of someone who desperately wants me stopped. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Thursday Columbus Circle Blogging

Well, I'm almost on my way back home. I had a lovely time in NYC with flory, spork_incident, watertiger, The Kenosha Kid, steve simels, Thersites, NYMary, ronjazz, Mr. & Mrs. Gummo, and a bunch of others.

I also adequately fulfilled my goal of taking a whole bunch of NYC photos. Final tally somewhere in the vicinity of 420 to 430. It took me about 80 shots just to get out of Columbus Circle. Here's the first batch of photos from said aforementioned Circle.

Ceci n'est pas les pipes.

This one is pretty cool as long as you don't look closely enough to notice that none of it is actually in focus...

Remember the Maine? We do. It's kind of our job. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Quick Comment On The Hi-Def DVD Wars

So I was reading this NYT article about the battle for high-definition DVD supremacy between Blu-Ray (a consortium led by Sony) and HD-DVD (led by Toshiba, and endorsed by Microsoft and Intel), and how the longer it goes on, the worse it will be for the winner. And the thought that came to my mind was, When was the last time Sony ever picked a winner, format-wise? This is the company that backed Betamax, Minidisc, and Memory Stick, all of which became little niche technologies that are only used with Sony products. They're not necessarily bad or inferior, they just never caught on outside the Sonyverse.

So if you're placing bets or investments, my recommendation is to pick the team that has Microsoft and Intel on board.

I don't really have any other point to make here, I just wanted to bash Sony for their inability to create standards.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing Day Lizardblogging

As promised, here is my Christmas roommate, Spike. I had never undressed in front of a lizard before; it made me feel all... funny.

How you doin'?

In other news, if you search Google in Turkish(?) for slavegirl gotta, my blog is the first result. Good to know.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Death To New Year's!!!

Surveillance photograph of my hated arch-enemy, moments before I unleashed my fearsome rocket-launcher barrage.

New Year's doesn't stand a chance. The old man and the baby? Toast!

Merry War On Christmas, Everybody!

And I'm off for Christmas festivities and general overeating.

Y'all behave yourselves... or not.

Whatever it is you're having, have a merry happy one!

Random I-Got-Nothin' Photoblogging

Can't really focus on anything long enough or well enough to post anything substantive, but I do have some photos from the past week that I've just finished processing...

It's a streetlight and a traffic light! I love multitasking!

I liked the the dappling of the light on the church thingy.

Near the Barnes & Noble where I do, well, pretty much all my Christmas shopping... Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Random Airport Blogging

Well, I made it to the airport, with my giant 800-lb. bag full of books. Agggh. Next year everyone gets helium.

As the bus neared the airport, it passed a sign for the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. It occurred to me that PANG might even be a cooler Air National Guard abbreviation than TANG, which then got me to thinking about some of the other possibilities and permutations.

Cool states to be in the Air National Guard of:

Delaware (DANG)
Florida (FANG)
Kansas (KANG)

Uncool states to be in the Air National Guard of:

Hawaii (HANG)
South Anything (SANG)
Washington (WANG)

Hard to say/Depends on your state of mind:

Georgia (GANG)
Massachusetts (MANG)
Rhode Island (RANG)

Do the Bahamas have an Air National Guard?

Probably light blogging until I get back on the 30th, but who knows?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

This week's quote:

"I don't like you, I have never liked you. You are... obscurely evil."

From Mrs. Dalloway, which has the incomparable Vanessa Redgrave, and not much else.

And, of course, there'll be other people's cats...

Once again, Tiger, the cat my coworker found and her sister adopted. Posted by Picasa

Random Musings On THE FUTURE

I know all of us in Liberallandia are eagerly awaiting Abramonukkah, when America's Dirtiest Lobbyist That Anyone's Heard Of rats out everyone he dodgily paid off - but what I'm thinking about now is what happens next. Just how many Republicans is he going to finger, and how will they react? Will they resign in tearful disgrace a la "Duke" Cunningham? Will they serve out their term but decline to run for re-election? Or will they try to bluster and brazen it out like Tom DeLay?

Here's my thinking: That it will come down to two factors, which have nothing to do with character or principle (the fingerees will have neither). I believe that if they're in a state with a Republican governor, they will resign, or be quietly pressured to do so, so the Republican governor can appoint a less obviously tainted replacement to serve out their term and benefit from some sliver of incumbency in 2006. Otherwise, I think they'll either step aside for re-election or try to brazen it out, based on just how solidly and irrationally red they believe their state or district to be. Again, I suspect the Republican party might be whispering in some ears that now is the time for all dodgy men to take a dive for the party. Better an (apparently) untainted unknown than a name-brand criminal.

But regardless of the Republican strategy, if Abramonukkah produces mass indictments, it's going to weaken Republican election prospects terribly in 2006 and possibly 2008. Which brings me to my next thought: What would happen if a Democrat gets elected in 2008, and the imperial presidency has not been dismantled?

Naturally, the Republicans and their creatures would go into full froth about the evils of unchecked government power, and demand that those powers be pared back - for the good of the Republic, of course. So here's my thoroughly impractical, naive, and optimistic thought: The Democrats should graciously accede to these demands because, in point of fact, a super-powerful executive is bad for the Republic. But on one condition: that all the Republicans sign statements swearing their undying opposition to unchecked presidential power (especially in times of war, when it is most tempting), and vowing to either oppose it or resign (or at least not seek re-election), regardless of which party seeks to wield it. Hell, all the Democrats should sign them too, just for good measure.

Do I think any of them would actually abide by those statements? Not really, no. But it would raise the stakes of their hypocrisy, and give the Democrats something concrete to wave in their faces the next time they cravenly enable a power-mad Republican president. It would be concrete proof of their fundamental self-serving dishonesty, and carry more weight than recycled quotes (i.e., Republicans expressing opposition to Clinton's police action in Kosovo). Sure, they'd lie and spin about how the ability to arrest and detain someone indefinitely for "looking like a terrorist" isn't really an expansion of executive power, but I don't think too many people would buy it.

Of course, I can't really imagine this happening, but I'm desperate for some way to hold the Republicans accountable for their peekaboo principles. I'm sure there are lots of better ways, but I can't think of any, not when the media is solidly in the tank for the Republicans, and the blogosphere is barely a blip on most people's radar.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

7-Up, 7-Down

Well, I've been tagged by Phila, NTodd, and scout prime to answer these seven-y things, and I have no idea what I'm going to say. So I'll just start typing and hope some magic happens...

Seven Things To Do Before I Die

1. Orbit the Earth
2. Wave at Bush, Cheney, and Rove as they're frogmarched to the hoosegow.
3. Piss on Bush, Cheney, and Rove's graves.
4. Get a front-row seat to President Bootsie Collins' inaugural address.
5. Hit for the cycle.
6. Learn to make a really killer avocado milkshake.
7. Be a zombie extra in a Sci-Fi Saturday horror movie.

Seven Things I Cannot Do

1. Learn a dance step.
2. Get blogrolled by Atrios.
3. Pay a lot for this muffler.
4. Get to bed on time.
5. Laugh at Howard Stern.
6. Win the lottery.
7. Get my shit organized.

Seven Things That Attract Me To... Blogging

1. Chainsaws.
2. Leaping from tree to tree.
3. My best girl by my side.

Oh, wait a second - blogging with a B? Umm...

4. The need to spew random thoughts into the air.
5. Sense of community.
6. Delusional vanity.
7. The hope that I might someday come up with an idea that helps the Democratic party turn itself around and start kicking some ass. (See: Vanity, delusional.)

Seven Things I Say Most Often

1. "This/these ______ is/are making me thirsty."
2. "I'll come in again."
3. "Okay, so..."
4. "Is it just me, or..."
5. "Lordhelp."
6. "These are not the droids you're looking for."
7. "Is that your final answer?"

Seven Books That I Love

1. Dune - Frank Herbert.
2. The Uplift Trilogy - David Brin.
3. Queen Of Angels - Greg Bear.
4. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever - Stephen R. Donaldson.
5. The Gap Series - Stephen R. Donaldson.
6. Zany Afternoons - Bruce McCall.
7. Science Made Stupid/CVLTVRE MADE STVPID - Tom Weller.

Seven Movies That I Watch Over And Over Again

1. Fatty Drives The Bus.
2. Koyaanisqatsi.
3. Almost anything by the Coen Brothers, esp. Hudsucker, Lebowski, O Brother, and Miller's Crossing.
4. Evil Dead 2/Army Of Darkness.
5. Napoleon Dynamite.
6. The Eye.
7. Blood Dolls.

Seven People That I Want To Join In Too

1. The shadowy and mysterious Codename V.
2. oldwhitelady.
3. Ol' Froth.
4. Neil Shakespeare.
5. Jeffro.
6. Desi.
7. Elmo.

I don't have to do this twice more, do I?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Peter Daou Is Almost Right.

Atrios has linked to a couple of excellent but pessimistic posts by Peter Daou, in which he deconstructs the reasons why liberals and Democrats have been so ineffective in countering Republicans in general, and how they will fail to make the latest NSA spying scandal stick in particular.

On the whole, I think he is disturbingly accurate about the disconnect between the out-of-touch, don't-rock-the-boat Democratic party establishment and the eloquent, and passionate liberal netroots, but it seems to me that he overlooks one very important fact: The law doesn't care. Fitzgerald doesn't care. The Republicans and their media allies can lie and spin all they want, but they can't make indictments go away, and they're piling up. "Duke" Cunningham's already fessed up and resigned. DeLay, Libby, possibly Frist, possibly a whole mess of congresscritters on Abramoff's payroll, are all under indictment now or in the near future. Even a wholly corporate-owned media can't bury that, much less prevent it. And that will be a drag on Republican attempts to further consolidate their power in the 2006 and 2008 elections - especially those candidates who are indicted or otherwise tainted by scandal.

Indeed, Daou himself makes this remarkable statement about this latest outrage:
The story starts blending into a long string of administration scandals, and through skillful use of scandal fatigue, Bush weathers the storm and moves on, further demoralizing his opponents and cementing the press narrative about his 'resolve' and toughness.
When a party's strategy is to "blend" new scandals in with a steaming pile of other scandals, I think it's safe to say they could be in some serious electoral jeopardy, especially at the state and local level. For while that approach may be successful at the national level, I am fairly certain that the voters in indictees' states and districts will echo Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinnie: "Oh yeah. You blend."

This leaves only the president, who, if I understand the process correctly, can only be brought to trial via the impeachment process, which is really quite extraordinary - imagine a murder suspect who has confessed, but can only be indicted if his enemies outvote his friends. Also, what happens if the FOIA succeeds and the NSA is forced to release their list of wiretappees, and one or more of them decide to sue? Could they sue the president, or only the federal government in general? Could Bush face criminal charges when he leaves office? Can any law-talkin' folks help me out here?

In any case, even if there is no impeachment, Bush is still gone in 2009. And if a wave of scandals washes away a whole bunch of Republican reps and senators in 2006, then Bush's reign of terror is effectively over, which is a very important short-term goal.

Did I Mention That I'm Going To Be An Executive Producer?

Okay, I got another blockbuster movie title! Are y'all ready?

Wait for it...

The Dukes Of Biohazard.

I'll come in again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dirty Penguin Whores!

Shaking their dirty penguin asses for, um, rocks and stuff.

By way of fester at Comments From Left Field:
PRACTITIONERS of the oldest profession have been found at work on the icy shores of Antarctica plying their trade in a dress of black and white feathers - they are penguin prostitutes.


Stones are so valuable that they will steal them from each other, though they risk being attacked by the owners of the hard currency. In the journal Auk, Drs Hunter and Davis describe how females have developed another strategy: they lure nearby male penguins for sex in exchange for the rocks. "Females have figured out that one way to steal the stones without being attacked is to swap copulations for them," said Dr Hunter.

They slip away from their partner and wander over to the nest of an unpaired male. Standard courtship follows, with a dip of the head and a coy look from the corner of her eye. If he shows interest, she will lie prone which, in the language of penguin love, is an invitation to mate or carry out what the scientists call "extra-pair copulation".

Once mating is over, the female picks up her payment, a stone, and carries it to her nesting platform. Sometimes their customers are so satisfied that the females can return for second helpings of stones, without having to offer more sex. Other females found that a little courtship was enough to persuade a male to allow them to play with a rock, then cart it away. One especially teasing female managed to collect 62 stones this way, said Dr Hunter. "The males were probably duped into thinking that she was a possible partner."
Coming soon, the can't-miss documentary film Streetwalk Of The Penguins will document all the sordid goings-on in the northern-light district.

But why does this story sound so familiar? Hmm...


I must be hallucinating...

"I don't have any hesitation to be part of a filibuster," said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut.... "This is a tough fight," he added. "But it is a fight worth waging."

Okay, so he was talking about opposing yet another Republican attempt to tack ANWR drilling onto completely unrelated legislation, and not the Alito nomination, but still.


Monday, December 19, 2005

President Bush's Ongoing War Against al Qonstitution - Can It Be Won?

I'm a bit overwhelmed, really. Torture, murder, indefinite detention without charges or trial, secret prisons, and now eavesdropping on phone conversations without warrants. And all of this is supposedly well within the law and the Constitution, according to the administration and its apologists. There's one right-wing spin (okay, outright lie) that the FISA statute really does allow the administration to dispense with warrants altogether, and now the administration has moved on to actually claiming that the congressional authorization to use force in Afghanistan and Iraq somehow encompasses warrantless wiretapping and, I suspect that if pressed, they will insist that it somehow "legalizes" torture, murder, and unlawful detentions as well.

But how much longer will the Bushies be able to get away with trashing the law and the Constitution while insisting, "No, we're buds; it's totally cool"? The gap between the law and their actions is growing ever larger and more obvious. How long before they start hinting that the law is actually a hindrance in the War On Terror, holding Bush and his Grimly Determined Manly Men back from the dirty tricks that are oh-so-sadly necessary to protect us from Osama and his Scary Vampire Ninjas? Has it started already? Will the Democrats resist? Are there enough principled Republicans or outraged voters for resistance to succeed? Barbara Boxer has made a good start, but she needs backup.

Okay, lookit. Bush isn't the first awful president we've had, and he won't be the last. Even great presidents make the occasional stupid decision. But no president has ever made such a determined effort to place himself above the law, and above the Constitution and its carefully calibrated balance of power. FDR was close, but he was a good president, fighting an actual, real, declared war. I'm not trying to excuse or overlook FDR putting Japanese-Americans in camps or stacking the judiciary, but rather to point out that untrammelled executive power magnifies presidential incompetence, hubris, and outright evil. And it has been abundantly clear for several years that Bush is just about the last president that should be trusted with untrammelled executive power.

Of course, ultimately, the question is "What can be done?" One of Bush's biggest advantages throughout his five years of misrule has been a supportive, or at least compliant press corps. They have underreported or overexcused his myriad failures and outright crimes, and shirked their duty to uncover the facts, or even to remember them. As long as their corporate owners enjoy a symbiotic relationship with Bush and the Republican party, this is unlikely to change. But if enough people realize the extent of their duplicity, their credibility will be sorely damaged, and their effectiveness will be crippled. Right-wing accusations of "liberal media bias" will be laughed off, and their attempts to peddle administration spin will be dismissed as the propaganda it is ("Well, of course Pravda thinks Stalin is a wise and compassionate leader..."). Unfortunately, this is not happening any time soon, if at all. And while the blogosphere is a great alternate source of information, its small audience limits it to the role of a whisper factory, generating a subliminal buzz that occasionally leaps into the zeitgeist - usually by way of the corporate media trying to swaddle itself in borrowed hipness or credibility.

The next big problem is the Congress. Not only do Republican loyalists hold a majority in both houses, but the Congressional Democrats' opposition is fitful and inconsistent, often sabotaged by their own members (I'm looking at you, Senators Named Joe). They've been doing a better job of hammering home the Corrupt-Republicans narrative, which is excellent and extremely apt, but they also need to address Bush's Constitution-shredding head-on. As I said before, Senator Boxer has made a good start at moving the ball on illegality and impeachability, but there is an additional strategy I would like to see them employ, one which might actually force Bush and the Republicans to do something constructive for a change.

As I observed over the weekend, Bush's claim that he had to take extraordinary measures to fight terror is at odds with his resolute unwillingness to take ordinary measures against terror. I want to see the Democrats call him on this, and demand to know why, if he's so dedicated to the war on terror, he's opposed to legislation that would require ports or chemical or nuclear plants to improve their security. Why he doesn't want to force freight companies to route trains with hazardous chemicals away from major cities. Why he's not demanding that Congress stop treating homeland security funds like just another flavor of pork. Why he's not full-on, hair-on-fire, pedal-to-the-heavy-metal committed to, nay, obsessed with, the effort to secure Russia's loose nuclear material and warheads. This approach would expose the hypocrisy and incompetence at the heart of Bush's "War On Terror", and remind everyone that paranoia does not equal safety. Sure, there will always be diehards who come up with excuses, but this discrepancy would be very hard to explain away. And who knows? It might even shame the Republicans into doing the right thing for a change.

I'll just touch briefly on my other personal hot-button topic, electoral reform. I still think this is vital and essential to an accountable, and therefore healthy democracy, but if BushCo continues to trample on the Constitution and generally act like power-hungry idiots, they may face a groundswell of voter opposition that voter suppression and Diebold dodginess can't conceal. Even so, people have short memories, and the Republicans are masters at whipping up their base and scaring everyone else with imaginary menaces like immigrants and gay marriage, so it's better to be safe than sorry. And the latest revelations about Diebold hackability coming out of Florida make this a very opportune time to step up the fight for paper trails on all electronic voting machines. After all, how can Republicans credibly argue that there's no real need for them, when the machines can be compromised so easily?

Bush has given the Democrats all kinds of leverage to use against him, and even with all his fuckups, they're still going to need to use every bit of it if they want to start winning elections with any kind of consistency. Well, that and getting rid of Shrum and Brazile, although I fear they may be harder to kill than Rasputin.


Is Gonzales really saying what I think he's saying???

With Democrats and Republicans alike questioning whether President Bush had the legal authority to approve the program, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales argued that Congress had essentially given Bush broad powers to order the domestic surveillance after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"Our position is that the authorization to use military force which was passed by the Congress shortly after Sept. 11 constitutes that authority," said Gonzales.

Domestic surveillance is the same thing as military force???

Oh well, I suppose we should be grateful that Bush limited himself to eavesdropping rather than full-blown home invasions. Can I have America back now, please?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Random Lunch Blogging

Well, it only took me five days to finish processing the photos from my team luncheon at work; or, more accurately, the drive back to work from the team luncheon...

Icicles outside the restaurant.

Some cloud action while on our way back to work.

Still on our way back to work, and we are so trucked. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Breaking The Law Is AWESOME!!!

I haven't blogged about the horrifying revelation that President Bush has gleefully authorized illegal wiretaps, and justified it with the "I will do whatever it takes to protect this country" defense, because my fellow liberal bloggers have been doing a far better job of it than I possibly ever could. However, there is one aspect of it that I haven't seen addressed, and that is the discrepancy between the level of anti-terrorism commitment the Administration pretends to have, vs. the level of commitment they've actually demonstrated thus far.

Bush claims that the War On Terror is so important that he has to break the law in order to wage it effectively. But if that's true, why hasn't he put his foot down that Homeland Security funds be allocated on the basis of need, and not used for air-conditioned garbage trucks or police dog body armor? Why doesn't he buck the nuclear and chemical industries to force them to improve their plant security? Why has he ignored all the recommendations of the 9/11 Committee?

As with torture, it looks as though Bush and the Republicans are only interested in "anti-terror" methods if they are illegal. For me, it begs the question: Is preventing terror attacks the end which justifies the means of violating individual rights, or are those violations an end unto themselves?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Now How Much Would You Pay?

And the line between journalism and paid advertising gets blurrier and blurrier...
A senior scholar at the Cato Institute, the respected libertarian research organization, has resigned after revelations that he took payments from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for writing columns favorable to his clients.

The scholar, Doug Bandow, who wrote a column for the Copley News Service in addition to serving as a Cato fellow, acknowledged to executives at the organization that he had taken money from Mr. Abramoff after he was confronted about the payments by a reporter from BusinessWeek Online.

"He acknowledges he made a lapse in judgment," said Jamie Dettmer, director of communications at Cato. "There's a lot of sadness here."


Mr. Bandow did not take government money, but the source of his payments - around $2,000 an article - is no less controversial. His sometime sponsor, Mr. Abramoff, is at the center of a far-reaching criminal corruption investigation involving several members of Congress, with prosecutors examining whether he sought to bribe lawmakers in exchange for legislative help.

A second scholar, Peter Ferrara, of the Institute for Policy Innovation, acknowledged in the same BusinessWeek Online piece that he had also taken money from Mr. Abramoff in exchange for writing certain opinion articles. But Mr. Ferrara did not apologize for doing so. "I do that all the time," Mr. Ferrara was quoted as saying....

At Cato and similar institutions, adjunct scholars are not always prohibited from accepting outside consulting roles. But at Cato, said Mr. Dettmer, and at the American Enterprise Institute, said a spokeswoman there, rules require scholars to make public all their affiliations, and there is an expectation that scholars will not embarrass the institution.
At what point does the media lose all credibility? Or at least lose their laughable reputation as liberally biased?

(Abramoff, Abramoff... That name sounds so familiar... Truly a man of varied and dizzying talents.)

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Today's quote:

"I know, it's tragic that the others died in their moment of glory, but still - and you deserve it - you have my congratulations."

From 20 Million Miles To Earth, a cheesy 50s sci-fi movie about a reptilian alien from Venus that starts out small but quickly grows to enormous Godzilla size and starts wreaking havoc.

And, of course, there'll be other people's cats...

I had almost forgotten I had this one - this apparently radioactive kitty was looking on with great interest during one of our postgame softball cookouts earlier in the year. Posted by Picasa

Do I Really Want To Know?

Headline for Amy Dickinson's column in today's Newsday:

"Visible panty lines: another great divide"

I ain't clickin' on that, especially not at work.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Now, That's Dedication.

From today's NY Daily News Lowdown gossip column:

That's former Bill Clinton political guru Dick Morris... getting star billing on the state of Connecticut's Top 100 Delinquent Taxpayer Accounts. According to the Nutmeg State's official Web site, Morris is the eighth-biggest scofflaw, owing $259,154.41 in income taxes as of Nov. 1. Morris didn't respond by deadline to Lowdown's request for an explanation.

It's so refreshing to see a Republican actively taking part in the War On Taxes instead of just sitting on his ass and letting the government fight his battles for him.

("Nutmeg State"?)

Keep An Eye On Your Cats, New Yorkers.

This is a rather disturbing/depressing story. This Manhattan woman's cat, Oliver, escaped, was turned over to a shelter, and promptly adopted by someone else, who refuses to give him back. And according to a rather vague 1894 statute, "a pet owner's right to reclaim a lost pet is terminated if the animal is not claimed within 48 hours of being seized by an authorized city agency." So now she has to battle it out in court to get her beloved kitty back. I can't even imagine how much that would suck.

My thoughts:

o Oliver's new owner is a jerk. Yes, she has a legal claim to keep the cat, but for all intents and purposes she has stolen or kidnapped him, and her argument is basically, "Hey, you shouldn't have let him escape - once he gets out, he's fair game." But even if the new owner has indeed bonded with him, Oliver's previous owner should have a stronger claim, unless she was abusive or negligent. Also, consider how cats (and pets in general) are like family for a lot of people. Imagine if your child wandered off one day, the stranger who found him decided to keep him or her, and then argued that you lost the kid because you're a lousy parent.

UPDATE: The NY Daily News covered this story as well, and notes that the first owner had Oliver for four years, while the new owner had him for ONE WEEK before deciding to keep him. I'm going to amend my intial assessment from "jerk" to "completely fucking selfish and evil."

o Didn't Oliver have a nametag with his owner's contact information? If so, why didn't the shelter or the person who found him attempt to contact his owner? If he didn't (it doesn't look like he has one in the photo accompanying the article), why the hell not??? I wouldn't go so far as to say she deserves to lose her cat because she didn't give him a nametag, but she was certainly tempting fate. If I'm the new owner or her lawyer, I would make that front and center in any claims of negligence (the new owner is claiming negligence, but she appears to be using the escape itself as her evidentiary trump card).

o If you have cats or dogs, give them nametags. Hell, give them those tracer chip implants if you can. And if it doesn't exist already, there should be some kind of central lost-pet registry where all the shelters log brief descriptions of any animals they receive, as well as when and where they were found. So if you lose your pet, you can just check the registry rather than going from shelter to shelter. Somehow, I suspect that this will never happen...

Oh, Hooray. Our Honor Is Saved.

Praise Jesus that we have a President with such oustanding character and moral courage that he is able to grudgingly agree to stop pushing for torture in the face of overwhelming opposition!

After months of resistance, the White House has agreed to accept Sen. John McCain's call for a law specifically banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror, several congressional officials said Thursday.


These officials also cautioned the agreement was encountering opposition in the House from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The White House at one point threatened a veto if the ban was included in legislation sent to his desk, and Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to all Republican senators to give an exemption to the CIA.

But congressional sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of the ban, and McCain, who was held and tortured for five years in Vietnam, adopted the issue.

He and the administration have been negotiating for weeks in search of a compromise, but it became increasingly clear that he, not the administration, had the votes in Congress.

Yet another Profiles In Courage moment for BushCo. Too bad it looks like there are still some Congressional Republicans who just can't get enough of that sweet, sweet torture. Or "coercive interrogation", or whateve the hell the euphemism of choice is these days. I'm just going to continue calling it what they'd call it if someone did it to their kids.

They're Not Even Pretending Now...

From today's NYT article about the uncertainty (to put it mildly) about whether Iraq will be able to follow Bush's roadmap to a successful, independent, relatively occupation-free government:

Participants in some of the briefings he has received in the Situation Room in recent weeks say that acknowledgment is in keeping with the far more somber tone of the briefings. Military commanders have described possible situations that range from the best case - drawing American troops down to about 100,000 before the American elections in November - to keeping them at far higher numbers if the new Parliament turns to chaos, civil war threatens, or political leaders are assassinated.

Wow. So, basically, the "best case" in Iraq is one that helps the Republicans get votes in 2006. Interesting criteria for military decision-making.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Deere Santa...

Aww yeah. This is how Santa rolls in the 'Burgh.


I've decided to just periodically yell that at random intervals, to bypass that whole Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays thing. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Help Me, Cactus!

More coworker spam, almost certainly from the same source...

From: Micaela Slaton

Subject: diathermy paramagnetic

have got to be outstanding, so you see I cant mess around with anything that might hurt them. Forgive me, but youre all like kinfolk from a distance, from a time we dont talk about, but its on my mind. Theyre why I need your help. Be clearer, Jason. The Jackals closing in. He found us in Hong Kong and hes zeroing in on me and my family, on my wife and my children. Please, help me. The old mans eyes grew wide under the green shade, a moral fury in his expanded pupils. Does the good doctor know about this? Hes part of it. He may not approve of what Im doing, but if hes honest with himself, he knows that the bottom line is the Jackal and me. Help me, Cactus. The aged black studied his pleading client in the hallway, in the

The spammers really should start stringing these excerpts together into a coherent narrative. If it's compelling enough, then people will keep opening their spam to see how the story turns out. Everybody wins!

All I ask for my genius idea is a mere 1 cent per spam e-mail. And lifetime "spammunity".

Monday, December 12, 2005

Well, That Answers That Question...

I have been mystified for quite some time now about the NYT's bizarre deference to President Bush, but the New Yorker (by way of the NY Daily News) has finally made it clear:

[New Yorker writer Ken Auletta] contends: "Within the newsroom, there is a sense of rudderlessness and a fear that a series of business misjudgments may so weaken the company's finances that the brilliance of The Times … will be at serious risk."

Sulzberger's family has controlled the Gray Lady since 1896. But Times chronicler Gay Talese observes, "You get a bad king every once in awhile."

According to Auletta, Sulzberger "seems to lack the weighty seriousness of his predecessors." His stabs at humor "sometimes strike people as immature or sarcastic."

Among several examples was an editorial lunch with Secretary of State Condi Rice where Sulzberger kept alluding to the fact that a bomb-sniffing dog had thrown up on the carpet. "Thank you for sharing that," said Rice, as "some of the reporters present cringed."

Sources tell Auletta that Sulzberger's most trusted confidante, Times CEO Janet Robinson, discourages staffers from revealing to him what they think.

Well, no wonder Sulzberger goes to bat for Dubya - they're the SAME DAMN PERSON!

Spam Sandwich

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Random Snowless Photoblogging

Okay, no snow shots yet, but it's not like I'll lack for opportunities...

I just looked up, and there it was...

My first photo with the new tripod and the new remote. I believe the exposure was somewhere between 5 and 8 seconds (that's not sunlight). Posted by Picasa

Cause Or Effect?

Interesting article in this week's NYT Sunday Magazine, entitled "What Men Want: Neanderthal TV," about the increasing moral ambiguity of television's role models for young American males:
When word of Michael's desperate mission [to find his kidnapped son] reaches Sawyer - a booze-hoarding, hard-shelled narcissist who in his past killed an innocent man - his reaction is not what you would call sympathetic. "It's every man for hisself," Sawyer snarls.

Not so long ago Sawyer's callousness would have made him a villain, but on "Lost," he is sympathetic, a man whose penchant for dispensing Darwinian truths over kindnesses drives not only the action but the show's underlying theme, that in the social chaos of the modern world, the only sensible reflex is self-interest.

Perhaps not coincidentally Sawyer is also the character on the show with whom young men most identify, according to research conducted by the upstart male-oriented network Spike TV....


The code of such characters, said Brent Hoff, 36, a fan of "Lost," is: "Life is hard. Men gotta do what men gotta do, and if some people have to die in the process, so be it."

"We can relate to them," said Mr. Hoff, a writer from San Francisco. "If you watch Sawyer on 'Lost,' who is fundamentally good even if he does bad things, there's less to feel guilty about in yourself."


The most popular male leads of today stand in stark contrast to the unambiguously moral protagonists of the past.... They are also not simply flawed in the classic sense: men who have the occasional affair or who tip the bottle a little too much. Instead they are unapologetic about killing, stealing, hoarding and beating their way to achieve personal goals that often conflict with the greed, apathy and of course the bureaucracies of the modern world.

"These kinds of characters are so satisfying to male viewers because culture has told them to be powerful and effective and to get things done..." said Robert Thompson, the director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.


Paul Scheer, a 29-year-old actor from Los Angeles and an avid viewer of "Lost," said that not even committing murder alienates an audience. "You don't have to be defined by one act," he said.

"Three people on that island have killed people in cold blood, and they're quote-unquote good people who you're rooting for every week," Mr. Scheer said. The implication for the viewer, he added, is, "You can say 'I'm messed up and I left my wife, but I'm still a good guy.' "

[T]he morally struggling protagonist has been evolving over time, [Fox Entertainment president Peter] Ligouri said, pointing to Detective Andy Sipowicz on "NYPD Blue." Sipowicz was an alcoholic who occasionally fell off the wagon, and he often flouted police procedure in the name of tracking down criminals. Like all good protagonists, Sipowicz was also exceedingly good at his job.
(Jack Bauer of Fox's "24," who seemingly tortures someone every week to get intel on the bad guys, is curiously almost entirely absent from this article, although he is featured in one of the photographs)

As I read all of this, I am struck by the resemblance of the Bush administration to these shady modern protagonists: They lie, cheat, steal and kill, but since it's all for a good cause (War On Terror!), they're still heroes. Indeed, they are even more heroic for not allowing themselves to be bound by the namby-pamby conventions of acceptable and legal behavior. Of course, even that narrative is a lie. The lying, cheating, stealing and killing is an end in itself, or a means to a completely different end from the one they advertised... but their fans don't seem to mind.

So, the question that I have is: Did television pave the way for Americans to embrace the Republican version of morality, or does it simply mirror it? As I outlined in my post about personal narrative, I believe that competitive "reality television" was the phenomenon that introduced this do-anything-to-win mentality into American culture as something truly admirable, something to be emulated. Coincidentally(?), the Reality TV Era coincides almost precisely with the Bush Era, with the nefarious "Survivor" debuting in the year 2000. As I do not believe Bush's presidential "style" was yet apparent when he was elected, I have to conclude that reality TV paved the way for the Bush Era and entered into a symbiotic relationship with it, where real reality and TV reality reinforced each other's expedient amorality.

I don't really want morally conflicted characters to go away; Batman is always much more interesting than Superman. But I would like to see the pendulum start swinging back the other way, to where selfish and amoral behavior is not actively celebrated. And I want to see reality TV go away almost as badly as I want Republican government to. Hopefully, a Democratic victory in 2008 will kill both birds with one stone.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

This week's quote is from Freaked, starring Alex Winter, the Bill & Ted guy who isn't Keanu Reeves.

"So many milkmen on the same route - no wonder they fight."

The freaks are attempting to escape the insane carnie who mutated them, played by Randy Quaid, and have inexplicably all decided to disguise themselves as milkmen. Mr. T plays The Bearded Lady without the slightest hint of femininity, Keanu Reeves plays the Dog Boy, and Bobcat Goldthwait has a sock puppet for a head. Did I mention that Deep Roy, Oompa Loompa Extraordinaire, is in it briefly as a tiny mutated Juan Valdez?

But I digress.

And, of course, there'll be other people's cats!

Mocha peers expectantly. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Certain people have been known to merrily taunt me with spammer fake names whenever I post any intriguing spam that I receive. To which I say, Take this!:

Trapezes O. Decenter
Sparkle Nelson
Exultation R. Politicians
Maxene Natale (Subject "Daniel Works Very Good")
Perpetrating H. Brattiest
Nuada Paff ("Re: Bens to you")
Coxcombs V. Power
Sigismund Ouk
Mollycoddled F. Flimsy
Tauno Sartor ("Herbert Add sense")
Marva Brundidge ("Rodney Very good pro")
Rustiest I. Printing
Riffled V. Emirate
Naivety J. Outsmarted
Outdated Q. Suwanee
Crescenzo Sipp ("Re: Seths think about it")
Palimpsests F. Cyclotrons
Polyhymnia Deckman ("Re: Freddie's Raw story")

Ha! Ha, I say!!!

Random Sky Blogging

Just some random sky & cloud pictures from lunch-hour oot & abootness.


If you look really closely, you can just barely make out the USX Tower hiding behind the brick building!

I like it when the clouds kind of work around the building. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Let's Just Declare Victory Over Terror...

It just gets worse and worse. Yesterday, NYT ran a depressing op-ed column by the chairmen of the 9/11 Committee, and their lead editorial today just piles on:

The former members of the 9/11 commission issued a report card yesterday that gives the federal government shockingly low grades on protecting the nation from another terrorist attack. These disastrous marks, which apply to both Congress and the Homeland Security Department, came at a crucial moment. Right now, Congress may be about to make more terrible decisions in two important areas: the homeland security financing formula and chemical plant security.

There can be little doubt that New York is at the top of Al Qaeda's target list - unless, apparently, you are the Homeland Security Department and you are handing out port security money. In the most recent fiscal year, the department gave the port of New York and New Jersey just $6.6 million in port security grants, almost exactly what it gave to Memphis. Houston got $35.3 million, or more than five times as much.

That must be the "Don't Mess With Texas" rider on the Homeland Security budget...

On antiterrorism funds, experts uniformly agree that money should be allocated based on the risk of an attack and the risk of casualties.

But the Senate - led by Susan Collins of Maine, the Republican chairwoman of the homeland security committee, and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat - is fighting for a formula based not on risk, but on pork. Senator Collins's home state, and other rural states that face little threat, would get a piñata of new programs and equipment under the Senate formula. New York and California would get less money for vitally important programs.

Hey, thanks, Joe! I'm so glad to see that you're still looking out for the country's best interests!

Oh, but wait, it gets even better!

When it comes to failing performances, it's hard to match Congress's thoroughly irresponsible actions on securing chemical plants, where any terrorist attack could cause enormous casualties. To the delight of the chemical industry, a generous contributor to political campaigns, Congress has refused since Sept. 11 to impose reasonable safety standards. Now there is a real danger that Congress will do worse than nothing: it may pass a bill that actually weakens protections.

Congress is considering legislation that would invalidate state laws on chemical plant security. This comes just days after New Jersey, a major chemical manufacturing state, adopted mandatory plant security rules - and shortly after Jon Corzine, a leading supporter of chemical plant safety measures, was elected governor.

It's hard to imagine that Washington will go to war against the states attempting to protect their residents from a potential toxic disaster. If that federal bill is passed, it will be strong evidence that Congress cares more about the chemical plant industry and its political clout than about ordinary Americans at risk in a terrorist attack.

As I keep saying, the Democrats (and Joementum's primary challenger, ohpleasepleaseplease) have to make this a campaign issue in 2006. All Democratic candidates running against Republican incumbents must run campaign ads saying, "The Republicans/my opponent said they/he would keep you safe from the terrorists who want to destroy our way of life. But when it came time for a vote, they voted to divert funds from high-risk target areas like New York and Washington in favor of rural areas that are not in danger. They sided with the chemical industry to weaken chemical plant security regulations. Ask yourself: Which party/candidate is really working to keep you safe?" Some calibration will be necessary for candidates in those rural areas that are recipients of those ill-gotten homeland security funds, i.e., broadening the focus to America's overall safety, and placing more emphasis on chemical plant safety.

As with electoral reform, the Democrats must force the Republicans to defend the indefensible.

Well, This Is A Strange Turn Of Events...

Apparently, as of this moment, this blog is your Number One Online Resource for bad liposuction pictures.

Um, should you need any. (And if you find any here, please let me know where they are)

Please do not ask me to explain this.

Monday, December 05, 2005

We Are All NOLA

This is not exactly news, but the 9/11 Commission confirms that the Bush administration is approaching homeland security with the same kind of zeal and competence they brought to New Orleans, both pre- and post-Katrina:

The 9/11 Commission released its final report today, outlining an array of shortcomings in the government's response to the 2001 terrorist attacks and calling overall progress "disappointing."


The commission... criticized the continued lack of intelligence sharing between government agencies; the lack of progress in curtailing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the failure to establish a uniform standard for treating detainees; and the distribution of Department of Homeland Security money based on politics rather than on potential risk.

In a statement, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the progress report issued by the commissioners today, showed that the Bush administration and Congress were "dangerously neglecting the defensive war on terror we should be fighting here at home."

"The report is a top-to-bottom indictment of the federal government's lack of resources, focus and expertise in fighting the domestic war on terror," Mr. Schumer said. "New York State is particularly hurt by the terribly unfair and inefficient homeland security funding formula and the lack of a federal program for communications interoperability among first responders. We can and must do better."


At a Washington news conference today, members of the commission repeatedly blasted the government... for its lack of progress on pushing through the recommendations.

"None of it is rocket science," said John F. Lehman.... "None of it is in the too-hard category. We all believe it is possible to get all of these things achieved."

Timothy J. Roemer, a Democratic commission member and a former House member from Indiana, asked, "When will our government wake up?" He added, "Al Qaeda is highly dynamic, and we are not."

The commissioners also slammed Congress for turning homeland security funds into just another flavor of pork, to be distributed widely and spent frivolously:

"Federal grants to first responders should be distributed on risk and vulnerability," said [Commission Chairman Thomas] Kean, a former governor of New Jersey. Mr. Kean said the commission had found that one city, which he did not identify, had spent its anti-terrorism money on air conditioning for garbage trucks, while another had bought body armor for dogs.

The Democrats must take a page out of Karl Rove's book and attack the Republicans' supposed strength in 2006 - the Republicans' alleged manly terror-fighting credentials have been their single biggest advantage over the Democrats (remember Dick Cheney saying there would be a terrorist attack if Kerry was elected last year?), but they're a sham. It is vital that the Democrats expose the Republicans' true fecklessness when it comes to terror - not only would it devastate their principal selling point, but it would also provide still another data point in the overall narrative of Republican incompetence and unseriousness when it comes to actual governance.

The Democrats must turn 2004 on its head in 2006, and declare that only the Democrats can keep America safe. All the Republicans know how to do is pick pockets and tell tales.

Must... Control... Fist... Of... Death...

This is one of those occasions where mere words cannot contain my disgust with these people:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chastised Europe leaders today, saying that before they complain about secret jails for terror suspects in European nations, they should realize that interrogations of these suspects have produced information that helped "save European lives."

In her remarks, the Bush Administration's official response to the reports of a network of secret detention centers, Ms. Rice repeatedly emphasized that the United States does not countenance the torture of terrorism suspects, at the hands of either American or foreign captors.

(Oh, I'm sure that makes the Europeans feel much better)

Noting that half-a-dozen international investigations are underway, Ms. Rice did not explicitly confirm the existence of the detentions center. But that was implicit in her remarks.

"We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible," she said. "But there have been many cases where the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option."

"In those cases," she added, "the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in the transfer of a suspect to a third country, which is known as a rendition.

"Sometimes, these efforts are misunderstood," she said.


Ms. Rice insisted that the United States had done nothing wrong.

Many of the imprisoned suspects "are effectively stateless," she maintained, "owing allegiance only to the extremist cause of transnational terrorism. Many are extremely dangerous."

She made an effort to frame the debate as one over the effectiveness of terror enforcement and not over the propriety of holding suspects indefinitely in secret prisons.

"We consider the captured members of Al Qaeda and its allies to be unlawful combatants who may be held, in accordance with the law of war, to keep them from killing innocents," she said. "We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible."

Um, what law of war would that be? The law the President and his merry men and, well, whatever you are make up as you go along don't actually have any international standing, you know.

The European nations must decide, she added, whether they "wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks against their own country or other countries."

Were they given that choice up front (or were they bullied into it)? Or are they only know getting to make that decision after the fact, now that you've been busted?

This crap might still play with American audiences, but I don't think it's fooling the Europeans for a second. Of course, the Europeans don't vote in our elections, so they're probably not the target audience anyway.

Bask In That Reflected Glory! Bask, I Say!

Apparently Samuel Alito and the White House have hit upon a new strategy to make Alito not look like a total racist, sexist jerk. Similar to Bush's fondness for photo ops with troops and heroes in hopes of some kind of heroism-by-association, Alito is now invoking his dear departed father, who was conservative but (supposedly) egalitarian and non-partisan in carrying out his job responsibilities.

When a Democratic senator asked the Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. why he might empathize with the plight of minorities or the poor, he had his answer ready: the example of his late father, an Italian immigrant who in college once defended a black basketball player from discrimination on the team.

When other Democrats pressed Judge Alito about why he had once disagreed with the Warren Court decision that established the "one person, one vote" standard for state districts, he again recalled the legacy of his father, Samuel A. Alito, who worked for three decades as the director of research for the New Jersey Legislature.

In his bedroom at night as a boy, Judge Alito told senators, he could hear his father clicking away at a manual calculator as he struggled to redraw the state's legislative districts with equal populations, people present for the conversations said.

To some senators, Judge Alito has said his father taught him to "revere" the legislative process. He has pointed to his father as a model of bipartisanship.

There is some counterpoint to this rosy portrait:

The elder Mr. Alito did not want to be called "Italian-American," said Arthur Applebaum, his longtime deputy in the legislative research service. "He just didn't care for hyphenated groups," Mr. Applebaum said, suggesting that Mr. Alito may have seen special consideration for certain ethnic groups as a sort of "reverse discrimination."

Colleagues of Judge Alito said he might have inherited the conservative sensibility his father displayed in private, including an instinctive cautiousness and a traditionalist approach to family life and social matters. Until the 1980's, for example, the elder Mr. Alito forbade women who worked for him to wear pants to the statehouse, long after other offices had accepted it.

In any case, this is all beside the point. It really doesn't matter what kind of person Papalito was - he's not the one nominated to the Supreme Court, and there is simply no reason to ascribe the father's virtue to the son.

Let's hope this strategy doesn't work - it sounds like the story about Papalito putting his college career on the line to protest a black player's benching against a segregated opponent had an effect on Dick Durbin, who said, "I thought it was a very moving insight about a life lesson learned from his father about the issue of race."

It may have been a very valuable life lesson, but there is simply no evidence that Alito actually learned it. I would like to see some of the Democratic Senators ask Alito what his beloved father thought about his membership in Concerned Alumni for Princeton, which advocated against admitting women and minorities to Princeton's hallowed halls. Or about what he would have thought about Alito's dissent wherein he argued that a search warrant extended to strip-searching 10-year-old girls.

The best tribute the Senate could pay to Alito's idealized father would be to reject any nominee who does not share his presumed commitment to equality, duty and country over party.

Late Night B&W Blogging

Just a couple of random B&W shots from my lunchtime wanderings.

I continue to rebel against the high school photo teacher who criticized my first good photo because it had a garbage can in it...

I'm being followed by a balloonshadow, balloonshadow, balloonshadow... Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Two Modest Proposals That Will Fix Everything

Well, okay, not really. But I've been thinking about some of the structural problems in our government as it is currently constituted (or un-Constituted, as the case may be), and I have a couple of outlandish ideas for the judicial and legislative branches. I'm open to any suggestions on the executive branch, but I haven't yet come up with anything better than "Don't elect crazy, stupid, and/or evil people."

My first proposal isn't really all that outlandish; it simply requires a shift in perspective and the codification of same. I believe one of the major structural problems with our government is that the judiciary, our last line of defense against unconstitutional laws and government actions, has become an appointed shadow legislature instead. Rather than looking for judges who will interpret the Constitution and the law as objectively as possible, both parties look for judges who will represent their own ideology as much as they can get away with. The end result is that court rulings are often predetermined by the ideological makeup of the court, rather than by any serious attempt to interpret the actual intent of the law.

This flaw is enabled by the notion that the President has wide latitude to pick the judges he wants, and the Senate should only reject them if there's something spectacularly wrong with them. Consequently, the minority party should only use the filibuster in the most extreme cases, like where the nominee is a convicted murderer. If you combine lifetime appointments with the lack of moderation that this attitude engenders, you get a recipe for a lot of ugliness, both on the courts and in the confirmation process.

My recommendation is that we completely change our mindset about the nomination and confirmation process. It should be much, much harder to confirm justices, not easier. Instead of requiring a simple majority, or 60 votes to break a filibuster for extreme cases, make 60 votes the minimum required even for routine approval, or even a two-thirds majority. This would force presidents to nominate consensus picks that the minority party approves of (or even recommends), meaning much more moderate and non-partisan nominees. The end result would be justices and courts which focus solely on the law rather than advancing an agenda, and which would prevent either party from steamrolling over the opposition and the Constitution.

My second proposal is admittedly a little bit out there. The dilemma as I see it is that far too many congressmen (and -women) are far too beholden to corporate contributors, and consequently value corporate interests over those of the people. But on the other hand, I do believe that corporations are deserving of some level of representation - an absolutist, strictly labor/consumer/environmentalist view of utopia would probably be disastrous for business, and that would probably be disastrous for everyone.

So, my suggestion is, carve out a fixed (minority) number of congressional seats for industry, and apportion them - somehow - among the various individual industries (pharma, finance, insurance, energy, etc.) and let them advocate for big business to their heart's content. The rest of the Congress would then be expected to represent the people, and the people only. And if any of them are caught taking so much as one thin dime from a company or industry lobbyist, they would be sent to prison, and barred from ever holding public office ever again, while the company or industry involved would face extreme sanctions as well (a corporate death penalty might not be practical, but it would have to be something painful enough that no company or industry would dare risk it).

This idea could probably be expanded to include non-corporate interest groups as well, such as the NRA, AARP, and the Sierra Club. Granted, at a certain point it would just become absurd, but no more so than the divided loyalties we have in Congress now. The beauty of it for me is that those starry-eyed idealists who go into government to actually help people would be free to do so without having to sacrifice their principles to stay in office. And those who go into government just to suckle at the corporate teat are free to do so as well, but in such a way that their impact can be contained.

Unlike the first proposal, this one presents all kinds of logistical challenges: How do you apportion the corporate/special interest seats fairly? How do you fill them in such a way that the larger companies or interest groups don't have unfair sway? How do you prevent the wealthy from using their money to hijack the people's side of Congress? (I'm thinking either 100% public campaign financing, or else very low contribution limits)

As I said, neither proposal is perfect by a long shot, but I think they might serve as interesting jumping-off points for digging into some of the core problems and their possible solutions. Any feedback is extremely welcome.

Experimental Night Sky Blogging

While I work on my epic post on How To Solve Almost Everything, here's another foray into the world of night photography. What I'm trying for is night shots exposed to look like day, which will hopefully be creepy and wrong-looking.

This is kind of a proof-of-concept attempt - it doesn't quite get there, and I hadn't yet figured out how to use the camera remote, so there's a bit of shake from my manually depressing the shutter (I think this was a 3-second exposure, but I was on the lowest ISO). It's not going to fool anyone into thinking it's day, but it still looks lighter than it actually was (very late twilight, not full-blown night).

This will work a whole lot better now that I have that remote figured out. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Today's Quote:

"Take that man to Ward A and give him lots of... word association!"

From The Troublemaker, a weird obscure Buck Henry/Godfrey Cambridge movie. And that's pretty much all I remember about it.

And of course, there'll be other people's cats...

My brother's cat Nixie, and a rather large chunk of my brother. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 01, 2005

B&W Sky Blogging

Ordinarily, any photo with a nice deep blue sky is a no-brainer to present in color. But every once in a while, some perverse instinct tells me to take a look at it in black & white. And more often than not, I usually like how it turns out. It might be because I used B&W film in my first two years of high school, when I really learned how to be a photographer, and my sympathies just naturally lean that way as a result.

Or it could be that I have Secret Republican Tendencies. Who knows?

I have a strange photographic attraction to the backs of signs. Can't explain it.

Theoretically, this should be a pretty nice color photo (and it is, actually). But for some reason, I just like it better in black & white. Posted by Picasa

Quote Of The Day

The last sentence of today's NYT lead editorial:

"A president who seems less in touch with reality than Richard Nixon needs to get out more."