Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Precioussss...

This is just telling on so many levels...
Julie Mason of the Houston Chronicle writes in her pool report from Air Force One, on the way back from Texas back to Washington yesterday: "En route, Karl Rove appeared in the press cabin, brandishing a round tin filled with chocolate-covered pecans. Those who daintily took just one were admonished by the bearer to 'take more, take more.' He made a quick round of the cabin and paused on his way back out to declare, 'Sweets for my sweets.'"
Just how many chocolate-covered nuts will it take to get the White House press corps (and the rest of the media, for that matter) to start doing their damn jobs and challenging the Republican spin instead of channeling it? I'll be happy to take up a collection, even I have to get a whole tin for each reporter. Hell, I'll even throw in some cocktail weenies if it helps remind them that they are not Karl Rove's huckleberry.

Please Tell Me They Won't Screw This Up...

This could be either very good or very bad...
Stanley Kubrick never threw anything away. On the other hand, he didn’t have much of a filing system, and when he moved — permanently, it turned out — from Hollywood to London in 1962, a great many things went astray. Among them was the sole copy of a film treatment called “Lunatic at Large,” which Mr. Kubrick had commissioned in the late ’50s from the noir pulp novelist Jim Thompson, with whom he had worked on “The Killing,” a 1956 bank-heist story that became his first successful feature, and then on 1957’s “Paths of Glory.”

The manuscript remained lost until after Mr. Kubrick’s death, in 1999, when his son-in-law, Philip Hobbs, working with an archivist, turned it up, along with a couple of other scripts, and set about trying to make it into a movie.


“When Stanley died, he left behind lots of paperwork,” Mr. Hobbs said in a telephone interview. “We ended up going through trunks of it, and one day we came across ‘Lunatic at Large.’ I knew what it was right away, because I remember Stanley talking about ‘Lunatic.’ He was always saying he wished he knew where it was, because it was such a great idea.”

Speaking from her home in Britain, Mr. Kubrick’s widow, Christiane, said: “My husband always had a drawerful of ideas. There were always a lot of stories on the go, things he started, things he left lying around. It was like being in a waterfall. I remember he was very excited at the time about ‘Lunatic at Large,’ but then other things happened.”


Despite its title, “Lunatic at Large” is not a horror story. It’s a dark and surprising mystery of sorts, in which the greatest puzzle is who, among several plausible candidates, is the true escapee from a nearby mental hospital. Mr. Clarke, the screenwriter, said that the recovered treatment... was a “gem” but also “pretty basic,” and that he expanded it a bit, adding a new subplot, among other things, to make the solution less obvious. Mr. Clarke’s experience consists mostly of writing for British television, so he prepared for his new task by rereading Mr. Thompson and studying old Bogart films.

His finished screenplay has the feel of authentic Thompsonian pulpiness. Set in New York in 1956, it tells the story of Johnnie Sheppard, an ex-carnival worker with serious anger-management issues, and Joyce, a nervous, attractive barfly he picks up in a Hopperesque tavern scene. There’s a newsboy who flashes a portentous headline, a car chase over a railroad crossing with a train bearing down, and a romantic interlude in a spooky, deserted mountain lodge.

The great set piece is a nighttime carnival sequence in which Joyce, lost and afraid, wanders among the tents and encounters a sideshow’s worth of familiar carnie types: the Alligator Man, the Mule-Faced Woman, the Midget Monkey Girl, the Human Blockhead, with the inevitable noggin full of nails.


The director hired for “Lunatic at Large,” Mr. Palmer, is in roughly the position Ridley Scott was in before “The Duellists.” He’s an acclaimed London director of commercials, that is, who has never made a feature film.

But Mr. Hobbs is untroubled. “You have to remember that before he got his big chance, Stanley had only made one or two films,” he said. “And you can’t go to just anyone with a Kubrick idea; it does have a bit of provenance. A lot of people would be frightened to take it on.”
Mmm... Midget Monkey Girl...

I really do wish this had been made 40-50 years ago, when it was supposed to. And by Kubrick, in black & white. Or at least Sam Fuller.

Please Tell Me This Is A Joke...

They'll need a telescope to see the shark...
“Guiding Light” and Marvel Comics have teamed up for an episode of this long-running series, to be shown at 10 a.m. tomorrow on CBS. In the episode, “She’s a Marvel,” Beth Ehlers, as Harley Davidson Cooper, one of the show’s main characters, has an accident that gives her superpowers. To commemorate the occasion, Marvel has produced an eight-page comic.


The episode is a mix of slapstick (a thief is shocked by the heroine, and his hair stands on end) and drama (are the powers worth possibly losing her husband?). Transitions between scenes feature comic book panels by Alex Chung.

Mr. Chung is also the artist of “A New Light,” the eight-page story from Marvel that is commemorating the collaboration. The story will be included in several Marvel titles, arriving last week, today and on Nov. 8.

The script for “A New Light” was a balancing act, said Jim McCann, the writer of the comic. He said he had to give readers enough information about “Guiding Light” characters and also fill them in on Marvel superheroes and villains.

“I tried to make it as universal and as accessible as possible for both sides,” Mr. McCann said. “I threw in a couple of little things for ‘Guiding Light’ fans, so they would know I really did my homework on their show.”
My brain hurts.

Great Moments In Sportswriting

I kinda like this one, actually...
"I'm no Isaac Newton," guard Pete Kendall said yesterday, "but it seems to me that if he wasn't pushed, he would've come down inbounds."

Unfortunately for the Jets, the 17th-century English scientist wasn't the field judge in Sunday's 20-13 loss to the Browns.
I like the visual. Reminds me of those Burger King football commercials, but less weird.

Monday, October 30, 2006


It's all about Karl:
By many calculations, Democrats are ready to make big gains in the midterm elections, enough to take over the House and possibly the Senate. But White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten says there is one reason he is feeling upbeat amid so much Republican gloom.

"I believe Karl Rove," Bolten said in an interview in his West Wing office Friday. "Karl Rove, somewhere inside that massive brain of his, has figured out the political landscape more clearly than the entire collection of conventional-wisdom pundits and pollsters in the entire city of Washington."

That was true for two elections in a row, in 2002 and 2004, and President Bush's senior adviser has insisted to West Wing colleagues and party faithful alike that it will be again. But Rove is just eight days from having his genius designation revoked -- or upgraded to platinum status.

Even within Rove's own party, expectations are widespread that the Nov. 7 elections will mark a repudiation for the base-rallying, contrast-drawing brand of politics with which he and Bush have been so closely aligned. But it is a mark of the particular place Rove holds in the Washington psyche that even the most exuberant Democrats are wondering why he seems so confident.

There are two questions. Is Rove just acting cocky as a way of lifting GOP morale, or does he really believe it? And, if the latter, is he deluding himself, or does he once again know something that Democrats do not?


If the Republicans were to lose control of at least one chamber, those in the party who have long seen Rove's approach as polarizing would feel emboldened....

"The architect may find his engineering plans were faulty," said one former senior official of past GOP administrations, who has watched the current one with increasing dismay. "Turning out the base this year may not be a winning or a governing strategy. America seems to be looking forward to making things work together, rather than dividing people across the board."


The flip side of adulation is paranoia. Many Democrats are convinced Rove has some trick up his sleeve -- Osama bin Laden in the freezer, perhaps, ready for release just before Election Day -- that will save the Republicans from electoral disaster this fall.
I am particularly intrigued by the part I bolded, about Republicans feeling that Rove's strategy is "polarizing." Well, no duh. What's telling is that they apparently only consider this a problem if it loses elections. The DLC wing of the Democratic party establishment has the opposite problem: They have embraced a Republican-lite philosophy of right-wing pandering and capitulation in the name of winning elections. Of course, in their case, it doesn't actually win elections, but we'll let that pass - they do.

It's a dilemma that's probably been around at least as long as there have been elections: On the one hand, you want to stick to your core principles; but on the other hand, you want to get elected, or else you can't defend your core principles at all. What's twisted about today's political environment is that either party would probably do a lot better with their voters if they actually did stick to their core principles, but they've become so cynical and focus-grouped and obsessed with pandering to the cowardly bigoted lowest common denominator that they've totally lost their way.

Can't we just slaughter all the consultants on both sides and start fresh?

"Smooth Operator," By de Sade

From Der Spiegel, by way of The All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: With all your access to high-level sources, have you come across anyone who still thinks it is a good idea for the U.S. to torture people?

Suskind: No. Most of the folks involved say that we made mistakes at the start. The president wants to keep all options open because he never wants his hands tied in any fashion, as he says, because he doesn't know what's ahead. But those involved in the interrogation protocol, I think are more or less in concert in saying that, in our panic in the early days, we made some mistakes.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because they could have gotten information through normal interrogations . . . .

Suskind: . . . yes, and without paying this terrific price, namely: America's moral standing. We poured plenteous gasoline on the fires of jihadist recruitment.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the average interrogator at a Black Site understands more about the mistakes made than the president?

Suskind: The president understands more about the mistakes than he lets on. He knows what the most-skilled interrogators know too. He gets briefed, and he was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. The president loves to talk to operators.
Am I the only one who finds that last bit kinda unsettling and creepy? Like Bush hangs on the torturers' every word, panting and begging for ever more cruel and gory detail? (God help them if they're bald; he'd never leave them alone...)

Maybe he can be an interrogator after his term finally, mercifully expires. He has the temperament and the total lack of empathy for it.

Monday Media Blogging

Special Dee D. Jackson Disco Edition:

Her automatic lover's antenna seems a bit, uh, floppy. Maybe he needs some C3POalis?

Dunno what it is with Dee D. and the superhero costumes... This video was actually how I accidentally discovered her, while searching for The One Funny Scene from Robert Townsend's otherwise awful Meteor Man.

And if you just can't get enough Dee D...

It's just not the same without the sci-fi theme, really.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What Color Is The Sky On Bobo's World?

Because I am unwilling to pay $50 a year for the privilege of reading David Brooks' drivel, all I have to go by is the title and the blurb for his latest column:

Political Theater and the Real Rick Santorum

After Election Day, the underprivileged will probably have lost one of their least cuddly but most effective champions.


Eli's Obsession With The Google

On the first page of search results for science hate and "blogger sucks" october 2006, and...

The #1 search result for hot insect brother sister... if you're Dutch. Wonderbaarlijk.

Google Search Of The Day

#3 result for turd lifestyle.

I don't even want to know why someone was searching for that, but hopefully my blog was a great disappointment to them...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

"I Like To Hit People."

Go, Holley!
Nick Mangold, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound rookie starting center for the Jets, is not the only football player in his family. His 16-year-old sister, Holley, a backup on the offensive line at Archbishop Alter High School, played on special teams Friday night during the Knights’ 33-15 victory against their archrival, Chaminade-Julienne.

Ed Domsitz, the high school coach of both Mangolds, said, “Holley might be a tad meaner.”

Mr. Domsitz said her size, technique and tenacity had allowed Holley to compete at this level. She is on track to earn a varsity letter in football as a junior this year. “She’s an in-your-face, knock-you-on-your-tail offensive lineman,” Mr. Domsitz said.

Holley’s father, Vern Mangold, said she was the state’s first high school girl to play a down from scrimmage. At 5-9 and 310 pounds, she is an imposing presence on a team with only a couple of other players that size.

Off the field, Holley carries herself with the aplomb of a runway model. She strolled into the school secretary’s office for an interview after a gym class this week, wearing brown sweat pants and a black collared Alter High shirt, with her shoulder-length blond hair in a ponytail. Her fingernail polish was burgundy.


Holley has tried 11 sports, by her count, including swimming, softball and roller skating. Only football has held her passion. “I like to hit people,” she said.
Awesome. I'm totally rooting for her.

Troll Identity Revealed!

It's like deja vu or something...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Reason #612 Why The Shadowy & Mysterious Codename V. Rocks

From her review of The Grudge 2: Electric Boogaloo:
Q: So it's a haunted house film?
A: Well, no. Conventional wisdom teaches us that when confronted with a haunted house, the best course of action is to leave ASAP. Once you're out of the haunted house you're okay. See also: The Amityville Horror, The Legend of Hell House.

The difference with the Grudge films is, once you've set foot in the house, you're screwed. Totally screwed. It's not haunted, it's cursed, and the curse might kill you in the house, but more likely it's going to follow you home. And most likely it's going to mess with your head for a few days and make you crap your pants and then kill you. And that's part of what makes these films so disturbing: there's no getting away from it

Q: So who goes into this house, then?
A: Idiots.

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

This week's quote is timeless words of wisdom from Sleepless In Seattle:

"Don't mention the IRS or the federal prison system."

Sigh. I never listen...

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

Squish encore!

That really is a damn cute kitty.

I Just Won A Lifetime Supply Of Free Audits!

Was looking through my Sitemeter logs as I am wont to do, and lo & behold, this blog got at least one visit from the IRS, looking at this post specifically.

I am so screwed.

IRS Loves Bushie!

No, this doesn't sound fishy at all...
The commissioner of internal revenue has ordered his agency to delay collecting back taxes from Hurricane Katrina victims until after the Nov. 7 elections and the holiday season, saying he did so in part to avoid negative publicity.

The commissioner, Mark W. Everson, who has close ties to the White House, said in an interview that postponing collections until after the midterm elections, along with postponing notices to people who failed to file tax returns, was a routine effort to avoid casting the Internal Revenue Service in a bad light.

“We are very sensitive to political perceptions,” Mr. Everson said Wednesday, adding that he regularly discussed with his senior staff members when to take actions and make announcements in light of whether they would annoy a powerful member of Congress or get lost in the flow of news.

The tax agency has broad discretion to change filing deadlines in the case of disasters and has traditionally eased off tax collections before the December holidays.

But four former I.R.S. commissioners, who served under presidents of both parties, said that doing so because of an election was improper and indefensible.

Mr. Everson issued the order to delay enforcement in an Oct. 10 conference call with some of the career civil servants working on tax enforcement in the areas that were devastated by the 2005 hurricane.

“We just spoke with commissioner on the enforcement issue in the gulf,” wrote Beth Tucker, the I.R.S. executive in charge of dealing with Hurricane Katrina victims, in an e-mail message to her team obtained by The New York Times. “He prefers that we do not resume any enforcement actions until after Dec. 31 due to the upcoming elections, holiday season, etc.”

Former Commissioner Jerome Kurtz, who served under President Jimmy Carter, responded, “Never, never, never,” when asked if he would have considered delaying broad-based enforcement actions like sending notices because of any election, national or local. “Oh my God, that is unthinkable,” Mr. Kurtz said.

On the other hand, Mark E. Matthews, the I.R.S. deputy director of services and enforcement, who participated in the conference call with Mr. Everson, said that “the reference to elections was in a litany of things we were running through here” and that “I did not read it as being politicized.” Mr. Matthews noted that he is a Democrat who worked in the Clinton administration. [Big whoop. So's Rahm Emanuel.]


Mr. Everson was deputy director of the White House budget office in January 2003 when he was nominated by President Bush to be I.R.S. commissioner. His wife, Nanette, was until February the chief ethics lawyer in the Bush White House. [Well, that explains a lot...] There is no indication that anyone in the White House was aware of the order to delay the tax collections.


Charles O. Rossotti, the commissioner under President Bill Clinton and President Bush, said, “That’s not appropriate.” Mr. Rossotti added that “given the culture of the Treasury and the I.R.S., I just can’t imagine anyone would even bring anything like that up.” [Dude, have you been living in a cave for the last six years?]


Alex P. Trostorff, a tax partner at the New Orleans law firm Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrère & Denègre, said that despite the filing extension offered by the I.R.S., the agency continued to send overdue notices to many people in New Orleans.

“A lot of people are upset,” Mr. Trostorff said.

So, let me see if I understand the rationale here. The IRS wants to avoid bad press and ill will by easing up on enforcement actions during the holiday season, which now includes... Election Day? I just can't imagine anyone saying, "What kind of heartless bastards would send a collection notice on Election Day?" Well, anyone outside the Republican Party, that is...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bug's Eye View Photoblogging

It took a little while, but while fooling around with the Wee Backup Camera at the dinner table, I discovered its Special Purpose. Between the smallness and the lack of a viewfinder, I found that it was really great for getting a "Land Of The Giants" perspective on everyday objects that's hard to get with a giant SLR. I mean, yeah, I could get down to table level with my main camera, but quite frankly I would look like even more of a freak, and would effectively be removing myself from the conversation pretty dramatically. It's also a lot better for candid photos, although I probably won't post any of those unless I get an okay.

But with a small camera, it's like sending a tiny little avatar of yourself down into Table World, to wander around taking gawky tourist pictures of the enormous landmarks it encounters. Fun stuff.

The forks are not to be trusted.

My glasses.

All gone!

My uncle attempts to hide behind some enormous and festive flowers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


With all the Vietnam deja vu that the Iraqi occupation is generating lately, I think it's only fair to ask:

Did someone bury Vietnam in a Tet Sematary?

We don't want to live our strife again.

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging

Another timeless mystery solved:
Ground-penetrating radar studies have revealed sheaves of inscribed animal skins beneath the ancient rock of Stonehenge.

The discovery may have finally clinched the identity of these mysterious monuments.

"I believe the monoliths are primitive staples binding the earliest known writing in the British Isles," said Dr. William Atkinson, director of the Stonehenge excavation.

Every staple was probably placed by hand since no device existed for driving the staples through the animal skins--though Bronze Age rock carvings of a machine long interpreted to be a catapult or similar siege engine may represent an early design for such a device.

"In any case, stapling was rather a lot of work, so they gave up," Dr. Atkinson said. "We didn't see another staple in human history until the McMurphy Company patented a 'Single-Stroke Staple Driver' 4500 years later, in 1877."

Atkinson's work has forced a complete re-imagining of Stonehenge. Scientists now understand the ancient stones' alignment with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset as an attempt to maximize natural reading light.


In the meantime, Dr. Atkinson has moved on to new research in Egypt, working on a controversial theory that Thutmosis III habitally opened papyrus letters with the tip of his obelisk.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Fascinating and poignant article in today's NYT about an artist who painted self-portraits to document the progression of his Alzheimer's. Be sure to check out the slideshow; by the end of the sequence he's barely even recognizable as a person.

The first thing I thought of was the cat art of Louis Wain, and William Kurelek's incredible, Bosch-like painting, The Maze, two dramatic examples of the profound effect that mental disorders can have on the creative process. And yes, they both were in that Time-Life book on The Mind - what of it?

Anyway, I don't really have a point, except that I think this sort of thing is really cool, but at the same time I feel kind of ghoulish and guilty for doing so.

Random Sick 'n' Cranky Blogging

1) Sick. Sick as the sixth sheik's sixth sheep since Saturday evening. This was when my sinuses responded to some perceived affront by drawing all the mucus and moisture from my throat up into the vicinity of my left nostril. It's a bit like the process by which pearls are created, but with a considerably less valuable work product.

By Sunday night, the combination of liquefied sinuses and bone-dry throat produced a sensation not unlike simultaneously drowning and inhaling cigarette smoke - after gargling ground glass. There was some kind of awful synergy with my bad ear (too much headphone-wearing in my misspent data-entering youth) too, which just added to the overall soreness and misery. I probably got about four hours of sleep while trying to fight it off, which my subconscious or unconscious attempted to render into terms I could relate to (I'm hazy on the details, but I'm pretty sure I had to go through some kind of approval process to request temporary passageways that I could breathe through).

After that, it wasn't so bad. I'm a bit lightheaded, and my throat is still kinda sore (not so dry now - I've even started coughing), and my nose is still stuffy, and I have to periodically retire to the men's room to make elephant-graveyard noises. But this too shall pass. If this runs its typical course, I expect that by tomorrow I will feel fine but sound awful.

Well. That was considerably longer than I expected, and was not really intended as a woe-is-me-my-life-is-miserable post; I've certainly been through worse. There was probably only about an 8-12 hour period on Sunday night where I was sick enough that I would have had to call off from work (my benchmark for "really really sick").

2) Disgusting Hypothetical Invention I Would Totally Pay Money For Right Now: "Nostril Vacuum".

3) One of my favorite Phillip Glass pieces is "Open The Kingdom," from Songs Of Liquid Days, but it always makes me think "Open The Kingdome." I suppose "Demolish The Kingdome" would be more apt.

4) The word for "lawyer" in French and possibly Spanish is very similar to "avocado" - is this a coincidence, or did lawyers used to be greener and bumpier in Ye Olden Tymes?

Wee Backup Camera Photoblogging

Here are some pictures I took with my new shirt-pocket-sized Panasonic Lumix backup camera, which is a pretty decent 6-megapixel camera in its own right:

This was the first picture I took to test out the new camera.

Random hubcap I saw on the way to work.

Yes, the new camera can take pictures in color...

Monday, October 23, 2006

What Am I Missing Here?

Legalities aside, this AP story baffles me:
Prosecutors won't seek charges against two men who exhumed the remains of a man who claimed to be the outlaw Billy the Kid.

Tom Sullivan, former sheriff of Lincoln County, N.M., and Steve Sederwall, former mayor of Capitan, N.M., dug up the bones of John Miller in May 2005. Miller was buried at the state-owned Pioneers' Home Cemetery in Prescott nearly 70 years ago.

"It appears officials in charge of the facility gave permission and the people who were attempting to recover samples of the remains believed they had permission to do so," said Bill FitzGerald, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which made the decision not to seek charges.

Sullivan and Sederwall obtained DNA from Miller's remains. The samples were sent to a Dallas lab to compare Miller's DNA to blood traces taken from a bench that is believed to be the one Kid's body was placed on after he was shot to death in 1881.

Sullivan and Sederwall have been hunting for the Kid's bones since 2003.

They began their quest in Fort Sumner, N.M., where history says the Kid was buried after then-Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett gunned him down in 1881.

But at least two men -- Miller and Ollie "Brushy Bill" Roberts of Texas -- claimed prior to their deaths that they were Billy the Kid. Their stories presuppose that Garrett killed the wrong man and lied about it.

Let me see if I have this straight: Their theory is that Pat Garrett killed Not-Billy-The-Kid, and the real Billy The Kid escaped and lived to a ripe old age.

Okay, fine - I can handle that; I like a good "Elvis Lives!" yarn as much as the next guy. But what the hell does comparing their DNA to the guy Garrett shot actually prove, other than that Miller or "Brushy Bill" were not killed by Pat Garrett, which to me already seems pretty obvious? What's the logic here?

Multi Medium Random Google Search Of The Day

First page of results for bottomless christian.

At least when I got the hit from chicago ruled by spider people, it was because I, y'know, wrote about Chicago ruled by spider people.

Great Moments In Sportswriting

I wish there was some way I could unread this...
Washington's signature play was his 16-yard touchdown with 4:51 left in the fourth quarter, a sideline run in which he tip-toed on an imaginary tightrope - the rope that became the noose around the Lions' neck.

Gah. Just... Gah.

Monday Media Blogging

Well, I was gonna introduce y'all to one of my favorite bands that no-one's ever heard of, but...

Shrimp on a treadmill, people! Shrimp. On. A. Treadmill.

It's both bizarre and... well, kinda cruel.

Wanker Of The Day

John Spencer:
Hillary Clinton's Republican challenger is getting personal and it's not pretty: He says the senator used to be ugly - and speculates she got "millions of dollars" in plastic surgery.

"You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew," said John Spencer of Clinton's younger days.

"I don't know why Bill married her," he said of the Clintons, who celebrated their 31st anniversary this month.

Noting Hillary Clinton looks much different now, he chalked it up to "millions of dollars" of "work" - plastic surgery.

"She looks good now," he said.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Yes, I Still Have A Camera.

In case anyone's been wondering about the recent dearth of photoblogging, I've been doing a lot of volunteer data entry for some of the local progressive organizations on my nights and weekends, so I haven't had a lot of time for photographical oot-and-abootness. Hopefully the situation will improve after the election.

I have managed to take a few pictures, plus I have some more stashed away on my wee backup camera which look like they might not suck too awfully.

This guy again.

Backlit flower back.

And another.

Friday, October 20, 2006


First search result for chicago ruled by spider people.

Life just doesn't get much better than that.

Now That's Something I'd Like To See...

There's an intriguing little tidbit at the end of this pretty good but a bit too a-pox-on-both-their-houses editorial in the NYT:
The head of Google, Eric Schmidt, is cautioning politicians stuck in the sound-bite era that “truth predictor” software is in the works so that computer-wise voters will be instantaneously able to check on the probability, if not the certainty, of what candidates claim as fact.
I wonder how exactly that would work, both in terms of determination and delivery. Maybe you can just highlight text and then right-click or hover, and the software shows you some kind of "truth rating" for the selected text? But how would it derive the truth rating?

Jeez, if everyone used the internets, this would put the Republicans out of business in a matter of weeks.

Youthful Indiscretions

See, it's really not so bad as all that...
A priest living in Malta has admitted having intimate contact with Mark Foley when he worked at the former congressman’s childhood church in the 1960’s. But the state attorney’s office in Palm Beach County and the Archdiocese of Miami would not say on Thursday whether he was the priest Mr. Foley has said molested him.


Father Mercieca told of skinny-dipping and lounging naked in saunas with Mr. Foley and massaging him while the boy was unclothed. He said that once, while on tranquilizers, he might have done something that Mr. Foley found inappropriate but that he could not recall the details.


“Once maybe I touched him,” he told the television station. “It’s not something you call, I mean, rape or penetration or anything like that, you know. We were just fondling.”


Asked what he would tell Mr. Foley, he said, “Remember the good times we had together, you know, and how well we enjoyed each other’s company.” He added, “Don’t keep dwelling on this thing, you know?”

It kinda-sorta vaguely reminded me of something...

"I don't think he kissed me, he leaned over and gave me a hug and said 'thank you for being a patriotic American.'"

Blogger Continues To Suck...

Well, my last post doubled because Blogger was completely non-responsive and I couldn't tell what was going on. (Can someone please tell me what the hell they were doing when they made that big dramatic Upgrade That Will Fix Everything earlier this year? 'Cause it sure hell didn't fix anything.) And I can't delete posts from my phone, so all I can do is edit it into a new post, even if all I have to say is that I don't understand how it is that I can have hardly any body hair, have scraggly feeble facial hair, and yet appear to be developing a unibrow. TMIWTF?

The Constitution's Body Isn't Even Cold Yet...

Habeas Constitution corpus...
Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.


Habeas corpus, a Latin term meaning "you have the body," is one of the oldest principles of English and American law. It requires the government to show a legal basis for holding a prisoner. A series of unresolved federal court cases brought against the administration over the last several years by lawyers representing the detainees had left the question in limbo.

Two years ago, in Rasul v. Bush, which gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detention before a U.S. court, and in this year's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , the Supreme Court appeared to settle the issue in favor of the detainees. But the new legislation approved by Congress last month, which gives Bush the authority to try detainees before military commissions, included a provision removing judicial review for all habeas claims.


A number of legal scholars and members of Congress, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), have said that the habeas provision of the new law violates a clause of the Constitution that says the right to challenge detention "shall not be suspended" except in cases of "rebellion or invasion." Historically, the Constitution has been interpreted to apply equally to citizens and noncitizens under U.S. jurisdiction.
Riiight. Arlen is so concerned about the Constitution that he happily voted for the very law that he's complaining about. This is what the damn thing was for. Well, this and torture; but as long as the president doesn't call it torture, it's totally okay.
"We and other habeas counsel are going to vigorously oppose dismissal of these cases," Warren said. "We are going to challenge that law as violating the Constitution on several grounds." Whichever side loses in the upcoming court battles, he said, will then appeal to the Supreme Court.
And that is what Roberts and Alito are for.

The fate of our democracy rests in the hands of Anthony Kennedy and Tony Scalia. God help us all.

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

This week's quote is from the David Cronenberg plastic-surgery-on-porn-star-gone-horribly-wrong classic, Rabid:
Daddy didn't think my nose was different enough, so I'm back for more alterations.

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

My brother's new kitty, Squish.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Watching Mashine

Whoa. That is one impressive commercial.

Hat tip to David Pogue at NYT.

Higher quality version here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Multi Medium Scoops The World!!!

I called in some favors, because I am A Very Influential Man with Top Secret Highly Placed Sources, and I am proud to present to you this exclusive photograph of Congressman Jerry Weller (R-Illin') with his secret page girlfriend.

Um, assuming there is one, of course (nothing's confirmed yet)...

And if there is - how long did Hastert know about her?

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging

Caterina Bruno remains in stable condition tonight after her fall in this week's Meridien Gymnastics Championships. According to a Bruno family spokesperson, the devoutly-Christian athlete's recurrent--and inconveniently-timed--stigmata was to blame for the accident.

Such supernatural manifestations of blood on Ms. Bruno's palms have been loosening the athlete's grip on gymnastics equipment since last June's semi-finals in St. Paul.

Caterina's fall has likely ended one of the most promising careers in the sport's history. The young gymnast has practiced the austerities of Olympic training since her sixth birthday, when she was discovered by U.S. coach Boris Renning. In St. Paul, she became the first woman to perform an Iron Cross during competition.

"And that's where the trouble started," Caterina recalled.

At this crucial moment in her St. Paul routine, stigmata saturated the wrappings on Ms. Bruno's hands, harming her form and ruining her chances to compete in the 2006 Turin Olympics.


Recurrences of the stigmata eventually damaged more than Caterina's scores. In Aachen, Ms. Bruno shattered both feet, and punctured the side of her body after landing on one of the uneven bars.


"I still have a couple surgeries ahead of me, some transfusions and transplants. There's some blood waiting for me back home in Siena, and a kidney in Venice. I'm like a saint already, with relics all over the place."

"The most important thing is, I have absolutely no regrets," she said. "I'm ready to move on. Gymnastics was just heaven's way of teaching me flexibility."

Her availability for the Turin Olympics remains shrouded in mystery...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

This'll Be A Big Help...

Good luck with that, Mr. Steele:
Boxing promoter Don King brought his flag-waving, rhinestone-wearing, Bible-quoting flair to Senate candidate Michael S. Steele's campaign yesterday, imploring black voters in particular to act as "apostles" in turning out next month for the African American candidate.


"We're talking about Maryland. We're not talking about Democrats or Republicans," said King, who teamed up with Steele in 2004 to campaign for President Bush.

King quickly pounced on what he considered a dearth of diversity at the top of the Democratic ticket in Maryland, lamenting former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume's second-place finish in the party's U.S. Senate primary last month.

"The change will come if you find a black that is qualified," King said of Steele. "We'll put some color in that Senate that will give them an identification and a relation with those who have been the left-outs. What we want to do is to be included."


King unabashedly professed his love for Bush for putting blacks in prominent positions in his administration. Throughout the campaign, Steele's Democratic opponent, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin , has tried to use Steele's connections to the unpopular president against him.

When asked whether he shared King's love for Bush, Steele turned to the Bible: "My mother taught me as a young boy to love my neighbor as myself."
But wait, it gets better...
U.S. Senate candidate Michael S. Steele garnered support from an unlikely source Monday -- former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.

At the news conference in Ohio, where he will return to the ring Friday night, Tyson wore a white-and-blue "Steele for U.S. Senate" T-shirt as he posed for photos with fans and signed autographs.

Tyson said he used to believe black Republicans were "sellouts," but he said he changed his mind after researching the Maryland lieutenant governor.


Tyson, 40, said fans should not expect much of a fight when he steps back into the ring, but he promised an entertaining show Friday night when he launches the "Mike Tyson's World Tour" in Youngstown.

At a news conference at an Italian restaurant, Tyson said he would likely go just four rounds and that future stops on the tour might include bouts with women, possibly professional boxer Ann Wolfe.

Wolfe, from Waco, Texas, is 21-1 with 15 knockouts.

"She's such a prominent, dominant woman in the boxing field," Tyson said.

When asked if he was joking about fighting women, Tyson said, "I'm very serious."
Wow. Just... wow. Interesting constituency Steele is courting there.


Scout prime catches BushCo adding 2 and 2 together to get 5:
So W signed the torture bill during National Character Counts Week.
Un. Frickin'. Believable.

Wedgie Issues

While I search for my lost blogging mojo (please let me know if you happen to find it), here is the latest entry in the ongoing series, Amusing Google Searches That Take You To My Blog:

Number 1 search result for wedgies and crime.

Some of the other search result looked pretty intriguing but I haven't had a chance to check them out yet.

Maybe I should carve out a unique niche for myself as a wedgieblogger. It might be a bit of a stretch, but surely it can't be that tough a market to crack - I expect the underlying demand would be pretty elastic.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday Media Blogging

Special Mets Edition:

This was the first thing I heard after the Mets won Game 7, except that the version I heard had audio highlights instead of Joe Piscopo and "Let's go, Mets go, let's go, Mets go." So you'll just have to take my word for it that Bob Murphy calling a Mookie Wilson RBI triple is one of the sweetest sounds there is.

This was the next thing I heard after "Let's Go, Mets." Well, maybe not this exact version...

I was going to post The Superbowl Shuffle for contrast, and because Gary Fencik trying to rap is A Hilarious Funny Thing, but apparently there are copyright issues (the mind boggles). Nertz.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Moron More On Oedipus Tex

Thomas DeFrank in the NY Daily News has a terribly entertaining story on the open hostility heated rivalry between the Bush I and Bush II camps:
...[O]ne of the worst-kept secrets in Bush World is the dismay, in some cases disdain, harbored by many senior aides of the former President toward the administration of his son....

For five years, the 41s have bit their collective tongues as, they complain, the 43s ignored their counsel. But as the war in Iraq has worsened and public support for the current administration has tanked, loyalists of the elder Bush have found it impossible to suppress their disillusionment - particularly their belief that many of 43's policies are a stick in the eye of his father.

"Forty-three has now repudiated everything 41 stands for, and still he won't say a word," a key member of the elder Bush alumni said. "Personally, I think he's dying inside."

To 41 loyalists, the bill of indictment is voluminous. Some alleged 43 has betrayed his father's middle-of-the-road philosophy by governing as a divider, not the uniter he promised in the 2000 campaign. Others, like former 41 speechwriter Curt Smith, argue 43 isn't conservative enough.

"Conservatives want limited government, a balanced Middle East approach, a foreign policy that builds, not destroys, and general, not special, interest," Smith said. "Bush 41 endorsed all of the above. Bush 43 supports none."


While the 41s do most of the finger-pointing, aides to the current President reject the criticism as nitpicking from out-of-touch malcontents.

They also bash the 41s for going public, charging much of the damaging material in Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial," was provided by 41 partisans.

"Nobody has a monopoly on wisdom," a 43 staffer said, "especially those whose information may not be as good as when they were in power."


"Everyone knew how Rumsfeld acts," another key 41 assistant said. "Everyone knew 43 didn't have an attention span. Everyone knew Condi [Rice] wouldn't be able to stand up to Cheney and Rumsfeld. We told them all of this, and we were told we don't know what we're doing."

Another top former 41 loyalist confided that several ex-colleagues remarked on a perceived "stature gap" between father and son as they sat on the dais.

The 41s concede their broadsides are awkward for their ex-boss, but say they're motivated by a desire to protect his legacy.

In fact, the 41s suggest a singular irony: the unpopularity of the son's administration may be rehabilitating the father's.

"By comparison, the old man looks better and better," a senior 41 hand said, with undisguised satisfaction.
Hell, by comparison with 43, Richard Nixon looks better and better. Bush I may have been a mediocre failure as a president, but at least he took the job seriously, and had a healthy respect for the office and its responsibilities. Bush II, on the other hand, treats the presidency like something he won on a reality show. He is the first American president with no sense of accountability to the people he serves. Indeed, Bush II is the first American president to believe that the people serve him and not vice versa.

I keep thinking of this SNL sketch from the 2000 campaign, which now seems eerily prescient...

Welcome To Sunny Cimmerfornia

Today's NYT has a fascinating article about new CGI software for mapping actors' movements and expressions onto those of computer animated characters without having to cover them in blue dots or phosphorescent powder.

Very cool stuff, but as I'm reading through some of the upcoming practical applications, I see this:
As for reanimating former movie stars? “That sounds terrific,” said Chris deFaria, head of visual effects for Warner Brothers. “I’d love to see it.” But, he added, “There are real complexities involved with that.”

Undoubtedly so. But at least one former movie star thinks the ideas holds some promise. Arnold Schwarzenegger, now the governor of California, has conducted tests with Image Metrics to use his Conan the Barbarian character in political ads.
Ugh. Hopefully CA voters have figured out that Ahnold is not actually Conan, or Terminator, or any of the other can-do badass characters that he's played.

Friday, October 13, 2006

1 Out Of 10 Ain't Bad...

I have an early pick for the winner of Survivor: Bill Of Rights - see if you can guess who it is:

Once upon a time, Rudy Giuliani said, "Someone who now voted to roll back the assault-weapons ban would really be demonstrating that special-interest politics mean more to them than life-or-death issues." Indeed, when the GOP Congress let the Clinton-era assault-weapons ban expire in 2004, Giuliani was among the high-profile Republican critics to denounce the move. The availability of assault weapons like AK-47s at gun shows and gun shops has emerged as a major concern for U.S. law enforcement grappling with terrorism in the post-9/11 era. Giuliani's commitment to limiting access to assault weapons, however, apparently evaporated this week when he came to Seattle to stump for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mike McGavick, who's running against Democrat Maria Cantwell.

Speaking to a group of reporters at the Sheraton Hotel downtown, where he was hosting a $1,000—$2,100-a-plate fundraiser for McGavick on Monday, October 9, Giuliani said this: "I don't think [the assault-weapons ban] is one of the most critical issues right now."


What's most galling about Giuliani's flip-flop on assault weapons is that his pro-McGavick stump speech was squarely focused on homeland security. "We need senators who understand that we have to be on offense against terrorism," he said. "Cantwell's ambiguous support for the effort against terrorism probably concerns me more than anything else."

For someone who claims to be so vigilant, Giuliani's shirking of his commitment to regulating AK-47s (which you can currently buy in about 15 minutes at Butch's Gun Shop on Aurora Avenue North, according to a salesperson there) is laughable.

An al Qaeda manual entitled How Can I Train Myself for Jihad, found by United States Special Forces in the ruins of a training camp in Afghanistan (and posted on a suspected terrorist's website in 2004), tellingly singles out the United States for its easy availability of firearms, and stipulates that al Qaeda members living in the U.S. "obtain an assault weapon legally, preferably an AK-47 or variations."

Already eliminated:

1st Amendment (Freedom of speech/religion)

4th Amendment (No unreasonable search & seizure without a warrant)

5th Amendment (No imprisonment or execution without due process)

6th Amendment (The right to a fair and speedy trial)

8th Amendment (No cruel and unusual punishment)

9th Amendment (Rights not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution can still be valid)

10th Amendment ("States' rights")

As you can see, we're down to just three contestants now, so we're well into the special two-hour finale.

(hat tip to Atrios)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lost Art

By way of Pink Tentacle:
These photos show painted cardboard shelters in the homeless city that took root in the underground sprawl of Shinjuku station’s western wing in the mid-1990s. A deadly fire swept through the community in February 1998, forcing the inhabitants out and conveniently allowing the city to proceed with long-awaited plans to construct the moving walkway that now exists there. The paintings were also lost in the fire.
Be sure to check out the photo galleries here and here. Fascinating stuff.

Hoist By Their Own Pedophile

Oh my:
Yesterday, a source close to Foley explained to THE NEW REPUBLIC that in early 2006 the congressman had all but decided to retire from the House and set up shop on K Street. "Mark's a friend of mine," says this source. "He told me, 'I'm thinking about getting out of it and becoming a lobbyist.'"

But when Foley's friend saw the Congressman again this spring, something had changed. To the source's surprise, Foley told him he would indeed be standing for re-election. What happened? Karl Rove intervened.

According to the source, Foley said he was being pressured by "the White House and Rove gang," who insisted that Foley run. If he didn't, Foley was told, it might impact his lobbying career.

"He said, 'The White House made it very clear I have to run,'" explains Foley's friend, adding that Foley told him that the White House promised that if Foley served for two more years it would "enhance his success" as a lobbyist. "I said, 'I thought you wanted out of this?' And he said, 'I do, but they're scared of losing the House and the thought of two years of Congressional hearings, so I have two more years of duty.'"

The White House declined a request for comment on the matter, but obviously the plan hasn't worked out quite as Rove hoped it would.

Heh. Indeed.

To me the most fascinating and damning facet of this story is the fact that Rove was so afraid of congressional investigations that he would pressure a sexual predator to run for re-election - in a safe district, no less. I think it's pretty safe to say that serious investigations might... uncover a few things.

Of course, it backfired epically, so instead of a small risk of losing one seat, the Republicans now have a rather large risk of losing 20 or 30 seats, and Rove's worst fear may soon become a reality.


(hat tip to the hullabalicious Digby)

Demolition Photoblogging

Taken while on my way to do some data entry for Clean Water Action.

Mmm... Link-Belt...

I thought this seemed somehow... metaphorical, for the way everyone goes about their lives, and ignores all the ruin and wreckage in the background.

Dress Up is about to come down.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Why The Nork Nukes Are Clinton's Fault

McCain is right, but for the wrong reason. You see, one of Bush's core policy imperatives is to always do the opposite of whatever Clinton did. So by implementing a modestly successful agreement with North Korea, Clinton all but guaranteed the situation we have today.

Now, if only he had had the vision to close out his term by ignoring al Qaeda, telling Israel and Palestine to work things out for themselves, talking wistfully about invading Iraq to spread democracy, slashing taxes for the rich, rolling back environmental protections... well, you get the idea.

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging

Mushroom Madness!!!
KANSAS CITY-A mushroom erupted through the Quality Hill District today, damaging several downtown businesses, roads, gas and water conduits. No one was hurt.

Mycologists deployed by the city's Office of Emergency Management have identified the mushroom as neither poisonous nor hallucinogenic, and have begun to coordinate a citywide cleanup operation.

Eyewitness Ken Summer, a medic at St. Mark's Southland Hospital, described the mushroom's sudden appearance:

"I watched as the ivory column grew and changed color. Then the sun disappeared and I couldn't see anything in the dark. There was a strange smell, delicate and musky. I pinched my nose, but I could still smell it. Then a dark rain fell, and marinated the streets."

City authorities suspect that the giant mushroom may be linked to a prizewinning specimen documented in 1897 at a local county fair. "This city was all farmland then," said Department of Agriculture spokesman Ben Soper. "And I'm sure that the recessive giantism gene that harmlessly won the blue ribbon in those days has been dormant in the mushroom population for a century, waiting to strike."

Local leaders remain divided about what to do with the enormous fungus. Real estate developers have been evaluating the cap, which they plan to split into lots for residential and commercial buildings.

"It's like getting a new skyscraper, free of charge," said developer Ross Marti. "And the view of the city from the subdivisions up there is just incomparable. We've got a slogan: 'Move up to the Mushroom: the stakes are too high for you to stay home.'"

Some city authorities look forward to an increase in tourism as a result of the botanical anomaly. But mycologists warn of a 'Mushroom Winter' caused by the mile-wide cap's obstruction of sunlight. And the threat of giant spores looms over the city.

"We just can't handle another mushroom," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Despite the lack of casualties, the domed fungus deeply frightens many Kansas City residents. One citizen, paralegal Kelly Martin, dreads her next commute, which will bring her within two blocks of the vast mushroom.

"It's forever changed the flavor of this city," she said.

This could totally happen. At least it's not poisonous.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Apparently Some Congresscritters Get It

Well. Based on today's E.J. Dionne column, it looks like Rush Holt may be reading my blog.
I do not pretend to know how large a threat [electronic vote tampering] is. I do know that it's a threat to democracy when so many Americans doubt that their votes will be recorded accurately. And I also know that smart, computer-savvy people are concerned about these machines.

The perfectly obvious thing is for the entire country to do what a number of states have already done: require paper trails so that if we have a close election or suspect something went wrong, we have the option to go back and check the results.

So it is heartening that a diverse group -- Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives -- in Congress has proposed legislation to give everyone, even the supposedly paranoid, confidence that our elections are on the level.

The bill has been pushed by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), with strong support from Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.). It has 219 co-sponsors, which happens to be a majority of House members.

The bill requires that voting machines produce a permanent paper record that voters themselves can verify. It requires random, unannounced hand-count audits in 2 percent of all precincts to make sure the machines recorded votes properly.


"The winners will always believe the results of elections," says Holt. "But it eats away at democracy if the loser thinks that something went wrong, for accidental or malicious reasons."
That is the money quote at the end there. If the Republicans care about anything other than giving democracy the finger to prove how much they can get away with and make us effete elitist egghead liberals stamp our little feet in impotent fury, they need to back election reform. Rather than showing off their power to manipulate the electoral system, they should want to affirm the legitimacy of their electoral success.

I considered the idea that provoking craaaazy conspiracy theories about stolen elections is actually part of the plan, a tactic to marginalize the left as a bunch of hysterical, paranoid cranks. But I think it's too dangerous a game, because if those theories gain a toehold in mainstream discourse, the Republicans are in a whole world of pain. And frankly, I don't think they're sophisticated enough to calculate just how much tampering they can get away with before it becomes a legitimate story that respectable people talk about. So I think they're just in it for the votes, and the marginalization is simply their strategy for turning the fallout into a positive.

My biggest problem with this reform bill is that it doesn't go nearly far enough. Dodgy electronic voting is only one part of the puzzle, and it is necessarily a small one, because there are limits to what it can achieve without creating suspicious discrepancies in exit polling like we had in 2004. Where the real bang for the buck lies is in vote suppression, through purges of voter rolls, voter ID requirements, voter intimidation, and withholding of voting machines. These techniques keep undesirable Democratic votes out of the system entirely, and leave no slime trail of clear-cut illegality. Until these issues are addressed and repaired, Republicans can easily afford to concede paperless e-voting and make themselves look like bipartisan reformers in the process.

spork_incident has blogged on this as well. He also has conclusive proof that there is a God.


Today's Rudy Park tickles me. (Click to view full size)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday Media Blogging

A cat with hands sounds fairly innocuous, right?

I blame the shadowy and mysterious Codename V.

More Unsolicited Advice For Democrats

Regarding the Foliasco (I also like Foleyaanisqatsi, but it's probably too obscure), I would like to make two common-sense suggestions. I'm probably not the first with either of them, but oh well.

1) Make it clear that this is not an isolated incident, but a pure and crystalline distillation of the way the Republicans do things: They abuse their power for personal gratification, then cover up, lie, spin, obfuscate, and blame/smear the victims and the Democrats when the story begins to leak out.

Use the phrase "moral rot" as often as possible.

2) Practice zero tolerance for wrongdoing on your own side. The Democrats must "brand" themselves as the party of responsibility and accountability. If you find out about a dirty Democrat (i.e., Jefferson, Mollohan, or God forbid, a Democratic Foley), kick them the hell out immediately before the media or the Republicans force your hand. Do not allow the Republicans to reclaim the moral high ground.

It may be painful, but remember that the next time the Republicans get caught waist-deep in the cookie jar and start sputtering that a Democrat did it too, you can smugly say, "Yeah, and we got rid of them the second we found out about it, because we take government seriously. We don't stand for dishonesty and corruption like Republicans do." Just think how satisfying that will be. Also, if everyone in your caucus knows you won't cover for them, they might be just a teensy bit more likely to keep their noses clean.

This has been your Bleeding Obvious 101 class for the day. Midterms will be on November 7th. Finals will be in November 2008.

Turd Dissolves In Bottomless Kool-Aid Punchbowl

Amazing what you can believe if you work hard enough at it:
As word of Representative Mark Foley’s sexually explicit e-mail messages to former pages spread last week, Republican strategists worried — and Democrats hoped — that the sordid nature of the scandal would discourage conservative Christians from going to the polls.

But in dozens of interviews here in southeastern Virginia, a conservative Christian stronghold that is a battleground in races for the House and Senate, many said the episode only reinforced their reasons to vote for their two Republican incumbents in neck-and-neck re-election fights, Representative Thelma Drake and Senator George Allen.

“This is Foley’s lifestyle,” said Ron Gwaltney, a home builder, as he waited with his family outside a Christian rock concert last Thursday in Norfolk. “He tried to keep it quiet from his family and his voters. He is responsible for what he did. He is paying a price for what he did. I am not sure how much farther it needs to go.”

The Democratic Party is “the party that is tolerant of, maybe more so than Republicans, that lifestyle,” Mr. Gwaltney said, referring to homosexuality.

Most of the evangelical Christians interviewed said that so far they saw Mr. Foley’s behavior as a matter of personal morality, not institutional dysfunction.

All said the question of broader responsibility had quickly devolved into a storm of partisan charges and countercharges. And all insisted the episode would have little impact on their intentions to vote.


[A]as far as culpability in the Foley case, Mr. Dunn said, House Republicans may benefit from the evangelical conception of sin. Where liberals tend to think of collective responsibility, conservative Christians focus on personal morality. “The conservative Christian audience or base has this acute moral lens through which they look at this, and it is very personal,” Mr. Dunn said. “This is Foley’s personal sin.”


Republicans have put up a vigorous defense, mainly through conservative allies and on talk radio. An e-mail message to talk-radio hosts from the Republican Party last week asked, “How would Democrats react if one of their own had a sexual relationship with an intern, was found out, then lied to a grand jury in an attempt to cover it up?”


[M]any conservative churchgoers said that what stood out for them was not the politics but the individual sin. “It is not going to affect my vote because I don’t live in Florida,” said Scott O’Connell, a mechanical engineer who described himself as a fundamentalist. “But there is a bigger moral issue which I would say is the prism I view this through: I do not believe in homosexuality.”
Arrrgh. As Henry Rollins once wrote to a friend of mine: "They don't like their brains." I simply do not believe that these evangelicals (an unscientific and hopefully unrepresentative sample) made an honest moral and religious decision here. With the help of Fox News and talk radio and their own church leadership, they instead elected to view it through the most absurd and pro-Republican prism possible. ("Well, yeah, this may have been a purely Republican scandal, but it's the sort of thing Democrats would do, so I'm going to keep voting Republican.")

I am not nearly evolved or enlightened enough to be a good Christian, but I am apparently far too evolved and enlightened to be a bad one.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Scariest headline of the year:

Reinventing Menudo
If the recent return of such '80s phenomena as skinny jeans, "Miami Vice" and a good Mets team isn't enough to make you feel like you've gone back to the future, now comes the reemergence of perhaps the decade's most important contribution to pop culture.

No, the mullet isn't coming back. Menudo is.

The prefab, revolving-door boy band that set countless teenybopper hearts aflutter across Latin America and the United States throughout the 1980s - and gave the world Ricky Martin - is in the process of being revived, recast and reinvented.


...Menudo will be promoted through a pop-culture marriage of '80s nostalgia and a decidedly 21st-century entertainment trend - the reality show.

The boys will star in a "Making the Band"-style series, in which they'll all live together in New York City.

Let's review the math here: Menudo + Reality TV = Ultimate Suck.

Morticians Are Dead Sexy.

Didn't see this coming...
Forget the foxy firemen of the FDNY.

The Men of Mortuaries, a group of flexing funeral directors, are currently starring in their own morbid calendar - and they're hitting the streets of New York.

These calendar boys' shots range from campy to downright bizarre, with plenty of dark humor thrown in. The calendar is the brainstorm of funeral-home owner Ken McKenzie, who created it in the hopes of changing people's impressions of morticians: i.e., they're not all Dr. Frankensteins. Proceeds will go to KAMM Cares, a nonprofit benefiting women suffering from breast cancer that McKenzie helped create after his sister was diagnosed with the disease.

Well, at least it's for a good cause. You can order yours here.

UPDATE: How did I miss this?

What do you expect from a date?

"I want a date to do some research about what I want and what I don't want and make that happen. Call the mortuary and ask "What does he like? What does he not like? What does he want to do?"

Ken McKenzie, Mr. June, 40

Um. Don't hold your breath, Mr. June.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Most Inexplicable Commercial Ever?

Well, okay, probably not. But it's up there.

From punto de fuga, and presumably Chilean.

Thanks For Nothing, Sandra D.

Oh, so now Sandra Day O'Connor decides she's not ready to retire???
Federal Appeals Court in Manhattan will be in session Wednesday with an especially distinguished jurist on the bench - former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

After retiring in January, O'Connor will again don the black robe to hear five cases on the morning calendar - one criminal, one bankruptcy and three civil.

It happens infrequently but it is not unusual for a former justice to sit on an appeals panel. Former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall sat for a week on a 2nd Circuit panel here in 1992 after retiring from the high court a year earlier. Justice Byron White heard appeals cases after he retired from the Supreme Court in 1993.

"This is not ceremonial," said the appeals court's new chief judge, Dennis Jacobs. "The cases that are on the calendar represent the bread-and-butter work of our court. They are various, and they are interesting."

Hrmf. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and allow that she didn't want to give up judging completely, but wanted to downshift to something with less pressure and less time-commitment. But now we're stuck with Alito on the Supreme Court for the next 30-40 years. Surely she knew Bush would appoint a right-wing crazy person to replace her; I guess she just didn't care.


R.I.P., Buck O'Neil.

A man who had all kinds of reasons to be bitter, but was always anything but.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Career Advice

Now that Rove aide Susan Ralston has resigned, I expect she'll go into the lobbying business to take advantage of her A-list Republican contacts and all the tricks she must have learned from Jack Abramoff.

My recommendation: Entice White House spokeswoman Dana Perino into partnering with her. Call the new firm "Ralston-Perino."

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

This week's quote is from the bizarre and unsuccessful movie version of The Avengers, starring Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery as the bad guy:

"Talk to the pipe. That usually helps."

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

Graveyard Kitty giving me the evil eye.

I Hadn't Thought Of That...

Eugene Robinson brings up a rather disturbing angle on conservatives' outrage about the Foliasco:
I don't think hypocrisy alone is enough to explain why the Foley mess is such a big deal. I think it goes deeper.

One of the central tenets of anti-homosexual doctrine is the notion of "recruitment" -- that adult gay people lure young people into homosexuality as a way of increasing their numbers. The most extreme anti-gay activists perceive a full-fledged conspiracy. The Traditional Values Coalition, a group whose homophobia can only be called rabid, goes so far as to claim that, after being enticed into sexual acts, the "young 'initiates' into the strange world of homosexuality are to be trained to reject the moral beliefs of their parents."


In any event, the recruitment myth helps explain why social conservatives, who make up perhaps the most loyal and energetic segment of the Republican Party's base, are so up in arms. And that outrage, in turn, helps explain why the party has been so frantic all week, so uncharacteristically slow to come up with a game plan for responding to the scandal. Social conservatives were already grumbling that the Republicans talk a good game but never get around to addressing their core issues. Now comes this.
In other words, the reason they're pissed off is not that Foley abused his position of power, but that he was using it to recruit more young boys into the Army Of Gay, the conservatives' mortal enemy.

The storyline about gay staffers being the real coverer-uppers takes on a whole new dimension now. Obviously, they were all assisting Foley in his capacity as an ace recruiter for their insidious agenda.

The Things You Learn From The Gossip Columns...

Coupla interesting tidbits from today's Rush & Molloy column:
Rep. Charlie Rangel, former Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins and a few other Democrats were welcomed at Wednesday's 10th-anniversary party for Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel. But Rachel Sheedy, who handles talent at the Don Buchwald Agency, got the bum's rush when she showed up wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with rapper Kanye West's assertion, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Sheedy tells us, "I was approved and about to step on the red carpet when a woman from Fox yelled, 'Get her out of here!'" Sheedy, who was promptly ushered to the sidewalk, says she expected "to raise a few eyebrows" in a crowd that included Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter, "but I thought they could handle it." A Fox spokeswoman argues, "We didn't care what she was wearing. She was thrown out because she wasn't invited by anyone. She was a nobody." Sheedy, who reps actors Malik Yoba and Ralph Macchio, maintains: "My name was at the door."
Shocking. Republicans are usually such good sports.

Washington wags are tittering about the last line of an editorial in The Hill, a prominent Captol Hill newspaper: "[Dennis] Hastert and [John] Boehner need to get on the same page or Republican troubles will continue to mount." Speaking of that sex scandal, FTD just announced its National Coming-Out Day Bouquet. The first person who got one: former Rep. Mark Foley.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

More Video Fun

Yet another cool video courtesy of the shadowy and mysterious Codename V:

I am officially a Gnarls Barkley fan now. Be sure to watch for the extremely bizarre montage at the end...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

One More Quick Foley Comment (Maybe)

The Foley scandal is just like everything else the Bush Republicans have done over the past five years, but repackaged for the Jerry Springer audience.

Hopefully they'll get it now.

Tough Guys And Narrative Dissonance

I don't usually post more than once or twice on the same topic, other than maybe The Genius That Is The Weekly World News, but the Foliasco is just a goldmine of material, and I keep finding new aspects and angles on it.

The latest thought that's occurred to me is the idea of narrative dissonance - that this scandal makes it much harder for Republicans to maintain their illusions about themselves and the party they have triple-duct-taped themselves to.

I think there are basically two primary types of die-hard Republican true believers at this point. There's the tough guys who fancy themselves like Extra-Special Agent Jack Bauer on "24", ruthless and steely-eyed, willing to do absolutely anything to achieve their ends (or more accurately, have absolutely anything done on their behalf), and so what if there's a little lawbreaking or collateral damage along the way. These are the same people who hung out with the school bully as kids, or wanted to, so they could feel tough by association. Of course, they see liberals and Democrats as weak, ineffectual hand-wringers who want to hold them back with nitpicky insistence on obeying stupid trivial little laws like FISA and the Geneva Conventions and the Constitution.

And then there's the Kool-Aid Khristians (mostly fundies/evangelicals), who believe that Bush in particular, and the Republicans in general, are Good Christian Men fighting the good fight against the Godless Heathen Liberals who believe in Evolution and want to force everyone to have gay sex and abortions (if you're virulently anti-abortion, wouldn't that make gay sex kind of a good thing?), and against the terrorists who want... well, pretty much the same things the fundies want, but they give God a funny name.

Most of the horrible things the Republicans have done are not at all horrible to these groups. Torture, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention without trial, outing a CIA agent? Necessary hardball tactics, perfectly justified against The Enemy. Suppressing science, denying equal rights to gays, banning abortion in all circumstances, even in the case of incest or rape or life-threatening conditions? That's just upholding God's covenant on Earth. The various corruption scandals are a little trickier for them to reconcile, but I think the true believers from both camps have been able to tell themselves that's just The Way Things Work in Washington, everyone knows it, even if no-one admits it. They're just doing what they have to do to keep protecting us from islamofascists and progressofascists (I might need to tweak that second one, it sounds too much like "Soup Nazis").

But a congressman sexually harassing (at the least) underage pages? Everyone knows real Tough Guys would take him out back and work him over with a tire iron, not look the other way and pass the buck and make lame excuses. And it sure as hell doesn't fit in with the religious right's hyper-moralism either (I'm not entirely sure what the right-wing Christian equivalent of the tire iron would be...).

In other words, what the Foley scandal has done is made it much much harder for Republican voters to self-identify as belonging to either a party of Manly Tough Guy Badasses or Saintly Angels Who Walk The Earth. Might not be enough to get them to vote Democrat, but it might be enough to keep them home on Election Day, which may be all we need.

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging

The Weekly World News makes it official:
Attention all sports teams and their supporters, those who pray to God before each game for victory:

"The Supreme Being told us he regrets that He can no longer devote time to deciding which team is worthy of winning a sporting contest," said Jeremiah Gottlieb, a spokesman for Unified Voice, an organization that claims to get messages directly from God.

Gottlieb said the Almighty entrusted him with this message after a recent highschool football game between Erasmus High and Dan Quayle High.
"Both teams prayed to Him before the game, which is not unusual. But God said, 'There are great kids on both teams. How am I supposed to pick a favorite?'

"God also said He has nothing to do with who wins an Emmy, a Tony or a Good Citizenship award from the local Rotary Club.

"Frankly, to use a metaphor, God doesn't want to take His eye off the ball," Gottlieb said. "Which is more important, directing a 15-yearold's field goal kick through the uprights or looking after an island being slammed by a hurricane?"

"I thought God could do everything," said weeping 15-year-old field goal kicker Bobby L. O'Heem after missing a game-losing kick. "I guess next time I'll just have to help myself."
"Bobby L. O'Heem." Heh.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Oh Dear.

Ordinarily, I would post something like this for Monday Media Blogging, but the shadowy and mysterious Codename V. is like unto a force of nature, and cannot bound by the trivial schedules of others.

Charlie The Unicorn takes a Magical Journey to Candy Mountain.

Not to be confused with Hard Candy Mountain.

UPDATE: It appears that the shadowy and mysterious Codename V. is attempting to entice me to Candy Mountain. This can only end badly.

Weird Science

Freaky Brain Stuff has always fascinated me, especially when it reveals just how tenuous our hold on sanity really is. Just a little bit of damage or imbalance in just the right spot, and all of a sudden you're inhabiting a completely different reality, like the guy whose right brain hated his wife (actually, that's a pretty mild example - I just thought it was fascinating, and the stuff horror movies are made of).

Today's NYT has thoughtfully provided more strangeness for my prurient delectation:
They are eerie sensations, more common than one might think: A man describes feeling a shadowy figure standing behind him, then turning around to find no one there. A woman feels herself leaving her body and floating in space, looking down on her corporeal self.

Such experiences are often attributed by those who have them to paranormal forces.

But according to recent work by neuroscientists, they can be induced by delivering mild electric current to specific spots in the brain. In one woman, for example, a zap to a brain region called the angular gyrus resulted in a sensation that she was hanging from the ceiling, looking down at her body. In another woman, electrical current delivered to the angular gyrus produced an uncanny feeling that someone was behind her, intent on interfering with her actions.


“The research shows that the self can be detached from the body and can live a phantom existence on its own, as in an out-of-body experience, or it can be felt outside of personal space, as in a sense of a presence,” Dr. Brugger said.

Scientists have gained new understanding of these odd bodily sensations as they have learned more about how the brain works, Dr. Blanke said. For example, researchers have discovered that some areas of the brain combine information from several senses. Vision, hearing and touch are initially processed in the primary sensory regions. But then they flow together, like tributaries into a river, to create the wholeness of a person’s perceptions. A dog is visually recognized far more quickly if it is simultaneously accompanied by the sound of its bark.

These multisensory processing regions also build up perceptions of the body as it moves through the world, Dr. Blanke said. Sensors in the skin provide information about pressure, pain, heat, cold and similar sensations. Sensors in the joints, tendons and bones tell the brain where the body is positioned in space. Sensors in the ears track the sense of balance. And sensors in the internal organs, including the heart, liver and intestines, provide a readout of a person’s emotional state.

Real-time information from the body, the space around the body and the subjective feelings from the body are also represented in multisensory regions, Dr. Blanke said. And if these regions are directly simulated by an electric current, as in the cases of the two women he studied, the integrity of the sense of body can be altered.

As an example, Dr. Blanke described the case of a 22-year-old student who had electrodes implanted into the left side of her brain in 2004.

“We were checking language areas,” Dr. Blanke said, when the woman turned her head to the right. That made no sense, he said, because the electrode was nowhere near areas involved in the control of movement. Instead, the current was stimulating a multisensory area called the angular gyrus.

Dr. Blanke applied the current again. Again, the woman turned her head to the right. “Why are you doing this?” he asked.

The woman replied that she had a weird sensation that another person was lying beneath her on the bed. The figure, she said, felt like a “shadow” that did not speak or move; it was young, more like a man than a woman, and it wanted to interfere with her.

When Dr. Blanke turned off the current, the woman stopped looking to the right, and said the strange presence had gone away. Each time he reapplied the current, she once again turned her head to try to see the shadow figure.

When the woman sat up, leaned forward and hugged her knees, she said that she felt as if the shadow man was also sitting and that he was clasping her in his arms. She said it felt unpleasant. When she held a card in her right hand, she reported that the shadow figure tried to take it from her. “He doesn’t want me to read,” she said.

Because the presence closely mimicked the patient’s body posture and position, Dr. Blanke concluded that the patient was experiencing an unusual perception of her own body, as a double. But for reasons that scientists have not been able to explain, he said, she did not recognize that it was her own body she was sensing.


Six years ago, another of Dr. Blanke’s patients underwent brain stimulation to a different multisensory area, the angular gyrus, which blends vision with the body sense. The patient experienced a complete out-of-body experience.

When the current flowed, she said: “I am at the ceiling. I am looking down at my legs.”

When the current ceased, she said: “I’m back on the table now. What happened?”


Because the woman’s felt position in space and her actual position in space did not match, her mind cast about for the best way to turn her confusion into a coherent experience, Dr. Blanke said. She concluded that she must be floating up and away while looking downward.


[T]he sense of body integrity is rather easily duped, Dr. Blanke said.

Um, I don't really have anything to add, I just wanted to share this as yet another example of the precariousness of normalcy.