31 October 2005

Sam and Nam

Attywood has a good post on how Samuel Alito, President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, may have used family connections to get into the Army Reserves:

[EXCEPTS] In February 1972, the service held its draft lottery for 1973 inductions -- and Alito, in essence, lost. His birthday, April 1, came up as No. 12 that year, a certain ticket to induction, or so it seemed.

In fact, the draft class of 1973 would never be called. The U.S. involvement in Vietnam was substantially winding down in 1972, to just 49,000 troops from a high in the 1960s of more than half a million. But as Richard Nixon's Christmas bombings that year showed, no one had a crystal ball to predict the final American withdrawal at the start of 1973. By then, young Sam Alito -- who was graduating Princeton on his way to Yale Law School -- was already in the Army Reserves . . .

How did he get that coveted slot? The judge's father, Sam Alito Sr., was the director of New Jersey's Office of Legislative Services in 1972, so he surely knew some powerful politicians. Did someone make a phone call? We're curious.

This is great. Now when they all get together at the ranch, Shrub, Dick and Sam can all swap avoiding-the-war stories. (Who knows? Maybe they can even invite Clinton in the name of bi-partisanship cooperation.) Don't get me wrong. I feel that it was every American's duty to avoid that war. But it's interesting to see the ranks of the chicken-hawks swell with birds of a feather.

WMDs

Well at last those pesky WMDs have been found!

(Thanks goes to Cut to the Chase for this breaking news.)

Fight Club

I watched Fight Club yesterday. It was better than expected--a rightfully twisted and convoluted flick that sticks its finger in the eye of post-modern consumerism. Not that the film doesn't have its problems. A lot of the plot strands die with a whimper instead of leading to the appropriate bang. But it's daring, though-provoking, and most importantly, entertaining. Go see it (but not after taking steroids.)

30 October 2005

Women and men

While many men rashly conclude that women are somehow "inscrutible" or "illogical," scientists are fortunately approaching the differences between the sexes with a more objective frame of mind, relying solely on hard data. For this reason, I was pleased to come across this research cited on Trailing Edge Blog:

A study conducted by UCLA's Department of Psychiatry has revealed that the kind of face a woman finds attractive on a man can differ depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle. For example: If she is ovulating, she is attracted to men with rugged and masculine features. However, if she is menstruating or menopausal, she tends to be more attracted to a man with scissors lodged in his temple and a bat jammed up his ass while he is on fire. Further studies are expected.

28 October 2005

"I" stands for Indictment

Vice presidential adviser I. Lewis "Scooter' Jr. was indicted today on charges of obstruction of justice, making a false statement and perjury in the CIA leak case. He has resigned. Rove's still under investigation.

Blogments from around the net:

Reidblog: What's key here is that the withheld information might have shifted the Senate Intelligence Committee's focus away from blaming the CIA for faulty WMD data in the run-up to war, and shifted it onto the neocons in the White House and Pentagon, and specifically onto Cheney, Libby and other vice presidential aides like David Wurmser and John Hannah -- both of whom are rumored to be cooperating with the grand jury in an attempt to save themselves. Again, putting it all together, it's looking more and more like a conspiracy to lie to Congress before the war, to jin up the case against Iraq, and then to discredit any critic who tried to get in the way (or to derail the war case after the fact). What's not yet known is how deep Fitzgerald is prepared to go in what almost certainly will be indictments, possibly tomorrow.

Instapundit: THE MOUNTAIN HAS LABORED AND BROUGHT FORTH A MOUSE: At least if this report from the Post is true: No Rove indictment, and only a lame False Statements Act charge against Libby, which wouldn't even relate to the underlying issue. This will be a blue Fitzmas for some people if it works out that way . . .

Princeton Progressive Nation: With the indictment of Lewis Libby, we can be certain of one thing: this is an Administration that is corrupt thorugh to its upper echelons. Literally. This is the worst Administration in American history, and the most immoral.

I Cite: It's not Watergate. No Democratic Congress--and even if there were, today's democrats are spineless squids. No real press--instead, we got 24/7 press light, all speculation, all entertainment, all the time. But, I remember the days, my friends. I remember when scandal was more than jumping the shark. Sometimes, unindictments can say quite a bit. Co-conspirators, just you wait.


Can you believe this guy's mug? He looks like a mob henchman!
Other Blogments can be found at: Cut to the Chase, The Next Left, and The Truth is Out There

Tags: , , , and

27 October 2005

What is to be done

The ever-erudite and insightful Jodi at I Cite has an excellent post that touches on our love of speculation about the near future and willful ignorance of the past. The post ends:

One might think that an orientation toward the future would be a good guide for action, for thinking ahead. One would act with an eye to fulfilling a plan or bringing something new into being. But, the kind of forecasting that accompanies communicative capitalism seems averse to such big pictures, such planning, such connecting of dots and drawing of lines. What will happen, in other words, is a radically different question from what is to be done.

I would add that this adversity to the big picture haunts current debate about virtually every issue. We're supposed to believe that the current Middle East crisis erupted out of nowhere--out of some nebulous nefarious nexus of inscrutible ethnic hatreds and religious rage. But there is a history to current problems. And if we put the mythologies aside (both Western and Arab), we see that the Middle East isn't some monolithic area impervious to historical change. The current crises have roots to the past--a past that America had an active hand in shaping. The lessons of the past, if we could listen to them, would be useful now, providing us with a much better guide to "what is to be done" than the armchair analysts on Fox Views.

Myers

So Myers has finally gone. I think this whole episode casts a great deal of light on the way Bush works. Some claim that the nomination was simply stupid, a mis-step, but I think there's more at work here. Basically, Bush likes operating behind the scenes with a group of absolutely loyal friends who can get the dirty deeds done without having to mess around with public scrutiny. For this to work, he needs people he can absolutely trust who are either part of the original clique of insiders familiar to his father or are people who completely owe their positions to his good graces. What better way to ensure influence on the high court that to select a less qualified candidate?

26 October 2005

So now you're against it...

I just saw Kerry on the idiot-box self-righteously castigating Shrub for the Iraqi War. I'd like to know why in the hell he and other Democrats essentially wrote the President a blank check, authorizing him to carry out war pretty much anywhere and anytime he wanted. Personally, I'd like to see everyone on the left declare that in the next election they won't vote for any candidate who supported the war. Most of us, including those of us without extensive expertise in the Middle East, knew that this was a disaster and that the intel was cooked long before the war began. And a large group of ex-military and CIA experts were saying the same thing. It strikes me as a bit too ironic that Kerry and others suddenly decide they want to jump onto a boat that isn't sinking.

25 October 2005

Rosa Parks

has passed away. I like her photo since it reminds us of the reality of political struggles. The struggle against injustice often requires that we take on the powerful--even our government. The Civil Rights struggle, as led by MLK, was a beautiful and righteous movement--a part or mankind's history that we can all be proud of.

Lexical laxness

Frist recently claimed that the Repbublicans are the party of "conviction." He apparently meant to say, "We are the party of convicts," but ended up adding an extra syllable at the end.

24 October 2005

Hit the road Jack...

Via Just World News:

The Daily Telegraph has been shown the results of a poll that the British Ministry of Defence recently (and secretly) commissioned in Iraq, which showed that:

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;
• 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;
• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;
• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;
• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;
• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces...


I'm actually surprised to see this much support. The fifth of the population that doesn't hate the U.S. being there must have found gainful employment as base shoe-shine boys. I wonder what the results would have been just prior to the invasion. My guess is that the U.S. at that time, even with Saddam's propaganda machine running full tilt, would have enjoyed better support. Isn't there a saying...something like:

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

On the other hand, maybe if the U.S. stays there longer, the population will suddenly come to love being occupied. Maybe that 18% who's simply "oppose" or are "ambivalent" (versus "strongly opposed") can convince everyone else that the Christian West is just what Muslim Iraq needs to set it on a straight course. Perhaps, perhaps, . . . perhaps.

The end of Edison's bulb?

For your next camping trip, I would definitely recommend an LED. The little lights last forever and just two or three triple-A batteries. I've always wondered why we don't find them everywhere. Then I came across the following story on Scrutiny Hooligans:

Scientists Lighting the Way

[PIC - The crude hybrid white-light LED that Bowers made by mixing magic-sized quantum dots with Minwax and using the mixture to coat a blue LED.]

Live Science: "The main light source of the future will almost surely not be a bulb. It might be a table, a wall, or even a fork.

An accidental discovery announced this week has taken LED lighting to a new level, suggesting it could soon offer a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to the traditional light bulb. The miniature breakthrough adds to a growing trend that is likely to eventually make Thomas Edison's bright invention obsolete."
[...]
"Michael Bowers, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, was just trying to make really small quantum dots, which are crystals generally only a few nanometers big. That's less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair.

Quantum dots contain anywhere from 100 to 1,000 electrons. They're easily excited bundles of energy, and the smaller they are, the more excited they get. Each dot in Bower's particular batch was exceptionally small, containing only 33 or 34 pairs of atoms.

When you shine a light on quantum dots or apply electricity to them, they react by producing their own light, normally a bright, vibrant color. But when Bowers shined a laser on his batch of dots, something unexpected happened.

"I was surprised when a white glow covered the table," Bowers said. "The quantum dots were supposed to emit blue light, but instead they were giving off a beautiful white glow."

Then Bowers and another student got the idea to stir the dots into polyurethane and coat a blue LED light bulb with the mix. The lumpy bulb wasn't pretty, but it produced white light similar to a regular light bulb."
[...]
"LEDs produce twice as much light as a regular 60 watt bulb and burn for over 50,000 hours. The Department of Energy estimates LED lighting could reduce U.S. energy consumption for lighting by 29 percent by 2025. LEDs don't emit heat, so they're also more energy efficient. And they're much harder to break.

If the new process can be developed into commercial production, light won't come just from newfangled bulbs. Quantum dot mixtures could be painted on just about anything and electrically excited to produce a rainbow of colors, including white."

Happy days

I guess when Reagan and other Republicans vowed to bring the country back to a simpler era, they really meant it. According to stats cited on Lenin's Tomb, the current minimum wage, in real terms, is lower than it was in 1955. As part of this return to the golden past, infant mortality in the US has been rising (it is now slightly higher than Cuba). This, despite the fact that the US has the most expensive healthcare system in the world. With Shrub in charge, we seem to be combining the harsher aspects of the 50s with the quagmires of foreign involvement that we remember from the 60s.

23 October 2005

Shrub Down Under

As pointed out by MGK, Australia under Howard (a sort of Shrub down under) has proposed an anti-terrorism law that would determine what kind of speech can be deemed sedition. The proposed law leaves enough latitude to drive a truck (or is it "lorry") through. As mentioned by MGK, Shub Down-Under's " draft daft terrorism laws would repeal sections 24A-F of the Crimes Act of 1914 and replace them with a new, but similar definition of seditious intention."

Seditious intention means an intention to effect any of thefollowing purposes:

(a) to bring the Sovereign into hatred or contempt;
(b) to urge disaffection against the following:
(i) the Constitution;
(ii) the Government of the Commonwealth;
(iii) either House of the Parliament;
(c) to urge another person to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, to procure a change to any matter established by law in the Commonwealth;
(d) to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different groups so as to threaten the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth.


MGK: However, as usual, the devil is in the detail. Gone from the 1914 Crimes Act is the specification that seditious enterprises must be committed in the course of encitement of others to overthrow the government by force in order to be an indictable offence. It doesn’t appear that you must necessarily have the intention of overthrowing of the government by force. Under HoWARd’s proposal, all you have to do to be guilty of seditious intention is ‘urge disaffection against the Government.

George Orwell had a name for HoWARd style sedition: thoughtcrime. You feeling safer yet?

Hopefully, Shrub Down-Under won't try to have me extradited for bringing "the sovereign into contempt." The new law could have profound effects on protesting, it would seem. I imagine groups of disgruntled Aussies parading around with signs that say something like, "We're unhappy about something, but can't say what it is lest we commit an act of terrorism."

22 October 2005

SuperSpam

I have word verification on but recently received two pieces of scam that I'm just about sure came from an automated program. Please don't tell me that the evil spammers of the world have figured out a way to breach the word verification. For spammers and other scumbags, we really need to bring back public flogging.

NY Times article

Well, we knew this would happen sooner or later...

21 October 2005

Bungee Jumping of Their Own

I just watched Bungee Jumping Of Their Own, a Korean film starring Lee Byeong-Heon, Lee Eun-Ju, and Hong Su-Hyeon. Lee Eun-Ju was the young Korean actress who recently committed suicide (supposedly because of depression stemming from her appearance naked in a film.) She's been in some very innovative films. The Scarlet Letter (Jeoksaek Yuhok) in particular stands out as something quite daring. The complex thriller contains numerous completely unpredictable plot twist that would doom most films but the director somehow manages to keep this one together as a unified piece. In Bungee Jumping, a teacher is shocked to come across a male student who is inexplicably similar to his first love (who mysteriously disappeared). Putting forth the idea that love transcends gender, the film is probably one of the more serious treatments of gay love to be found in popular film. Anyway, if you get a chance to see the film, come back and tell me what you think.

Right, right, you're bloody well right

Jonathan Chait had an excellent editorial in the L.A. Times (posted below with my comments):

Suddenly, it's a vast left-wing conspiracy

I'VE BEEN waiting for quite a while now for conservatives to come up with a theory to explain why large chunks of the Republican Party are, or soon will be, under indictment. The argument I've been anticipating has finally arrived, in the form of a long lead editorial in the latest edition of the influential conservative magazine the Weekly Standard.

Of course, conservative blogs have beaten the Weekly Standard to the punch on this one.

The editorial, written by Standard Editor William Kristol and longtime conservative activist Jeffrey Bell, begins by acknowledging the uncomfortable fact that "the most prominent promoters of the conservative agenda of the Bush administration" are facing legal troubles of one kind or another. It cites the legal imbroglios of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. It neglects to mention David Safavian, the chief of staff at the General Services Administration in the Bush administration; conservative activist/superlobbyists Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon; and Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe) and Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), and perhaps some others I'm forgetting.

Yep. My theory is that this is a conspiracy of the right. By bringing up a net so full of fish, they figure we won't notice if a few of the slippier suckers flipflop their way back into the murky water.

Anyway, one conclusion you could draw from all these examples is that the Republican Party has gotten a bit corrupt.

Most of us have known for a long time that it's hopelessly corrupt. We just didn't know these bozos were foolish enough to get caught.

The Standard does not, however, draw this conclusion. Another possibility is that it's all just a coincidence. The Standard doesn't conclude that, either. Instead, the editorial declares, "a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives." The wording here is instructive. The authors have obviously chosen to use the passive voice to avoid having to spell out just who has implemented this comprehensive strategy of criminalization. That's because answering that question would expose just how silly their theory is. DeLay is being pursued by Texas Dist. Atty. Ronnie Earle. Frist is being pursued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Rove and Libby are in trouble with Republican prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. So apparently disparate elements of the criminal justice system are working in concert to undermine conservatives. That sure is a comprehensive strategy.

When I first read this editorial, the argument sounded vaguely familiar. And then it hit me. An old "Simpsons" episode featured a Rush Limbaugh-like talk show host bemoaning the conviction of attempted murderer and Republican loyalist Sideshow Bob. "My friends, isn't this just typical? Another intelligent conservative here, railroaded by our liberal justice system," he tells his listeners in disgust. When it appeared on "The Simpsons," this line of reasoning was self-evident parody. Now it's being put forward in complete earnestness by one of the leading intellectual journals of the right.

The Simpsons is fast becoming the perfect metaphor for the country: a bone-head population who's sole link to reality are 30-second news blurbs spouting propaganda.

More comic still is the Standard's effort to explain away the underlying alleged offenses. Rove and Libby could be indicted for allegedly leaking the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. But the editorial complains, "Is the identity of Valerie Plame the most consequential leak of the last four years? … Do no employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (almost universally anti-Bush and anti-conservative) ever leak anything?" To answer the questions: No, the Plame leak is not the most consequential one, and yes, CIA staffers leak information. The point is that the Plame leak, unlike most Washington leaking, was illegal. Allegedly.

The principle here is a phrase the Standard and other conservatives used endlessly during the Clinton administration: "rule of law." Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky wasn't consequential, either. But the Standard insisted that didn't matter. The rule of law, it heatedly insisted, required that Clinton be impeached, however inconsequential the underlying offense.

Rule of law? What's that? I thought we were supposed to only use the vocabulary listed in our New Speak dictionaries.

Now, as a criminal-coddling liberal, I happen to believe that the rule of law ought to allow for some consideration of proportionality. (For that matter, I think that Frist — who indicated a desire to sell his family stock before the company learned its value would drop — may well be innocent of insider trading.) So I'm not certain that the whole top echelon of the GOP should be led off to prison merely because they broke a law.

They should be sent on a vacation to the Carribean on a Navy Frigate operated by leftwing bloggers.

Allegedly.But what about the right? I don't want to say they've abandoned their principles en masse when they've become inconvenient. I'll just suggest that a comprehensive strategy of principle abandonment has been implemented.

Principles? What the hell you talking about Jonathan! The conservative clowns we have in Congress didn't get their through adherence to principles! They got there by handing out favors to the highest bidder!

20 October 2005

Liberal vs. Left

I don't know if anyone's noticed, but I've tried to avoid the use of the term "liberal" to refer to my own ideas here, preferring to use the term "left." While the two terms are synonymous in many people's minds, I use them to represent two radically different perspectives. The Saddam trial provides a good opportunity to reflect on this. Let's use this opportunity to look at the two reactions to the trial:

The Liberal Reaction: In spite of the fact that massive numbers of innocent people are being killed throughout the world, we should spend as much of our resources as possible protesting trivial minutiae related to the legal procedure being followed. We'll ignore the Iraqi villagers being shot by local village gangs or the young innocent kid in a U.S. prison who's had a broomstick shoved up his ass. By demonstrating compassion for such an obviously guilty schmuck like Saddam, we'll prove ourselves as altruistic saints far superior to all around us.

A Leftist Reaction: Take Saddam out in the street and shoot him through his noggin. His death will be one of the few reasons to celebrate the current Iraqi mess. But before we pull the trigger, have him cough up all the names of those who supported him, to include all the contractors, CIA agents, or whoever. And let's also put these people on trial, and to the extent that they're culpable, punish them. Put the people who sold him poisoness gas or biological weapons on trial. Grab the CIA agents who supported his initial coup. Bring Rummy in to answer some very pointed questions (at the end of a pointed gun). And be harsh enough to make sure that third-world thugs and their first-world backers think twice the next time they decide to trade poor people's lives and security for profits.

In short, the liberal reaction contains no analysis of power, no analysis of the situation. Basically Kissinger and the other realists have it right. This whole mess is part of a cynical power game. The problem isn't Kissinger's analysis, it's the side he's on. Kissinger and the neocons are on the side of a small class of wealthy individuals. The left is on the side of the poor masses. And Saddam is on the wrong side (in the wrong place at the wrong time). He's been done in by his former bedfellows, but that makes his demise just that much sweeter.

19 October 2005

Appoint me! Appoint me!

It seems like the price of just about everything's going up these days. Back in Clinton's second term, it used to be that you could buy an appointment as an ambassador for the price of a used car. (Of course, if you wanted to get the much-coveted position of ambassador to France, you might have to pay over half a million to the Democratic political machine.) In the Shrubian era, things have gotten so spendy. Ronald Spogli had to fork over $697,807 to be ambassador to Italy. (I agree with his taste--Italian food and parties are definitely better than anything in France.) William Timken Jr. paid just short of a half a million to be sent to Germany, and David Mulford paid $235,551 to go to India. The number of ambassadors getting their position for free went from 3 under Clinton to 1 under Shrub. All told, Clinton's 12 second-term appointees forked over $831,636 while Shrub's dirty dozen donated $1,768,678. Hmmm. I'd be happy if they'd send me anywhere. Could I donate my used car for an ambassadorial position in Bhutan? Someone in the government needs to publish a list of what these positions cost so that those of us who live outside Washington can join in the bidding.

Now by citing all these numbers, I certainly don't wish to imply that ambassadors and other politicians in our great nation do nothing but eat good food and make secret deals for no-bid contractors. They also concern themselves with highly important matters affecting the state of the nation. Recently, for example, several members of congress took time out of their busy party schedules to protest to Egypt over the shortage of palm fronds (lulavs). Egypt had limited the cutting of the fronds to protect the fruit-bearing trees, causing a shortage of lulavs for the Jewish Sukkot celebration. I wonder if they'll next turn their attention to the shortage of beads available for Buddhist rosaries. Maybe we can get Ambassador Mulford to twist India's arm so that they allow more sandalwood exports.

[Source of the stats cited: WaPo, Oct. 17, 2005, A13]

18 October 2005

Bush speech

I finally got a chance to hear Bush's last speech to the nation--the one where he accidently took a swig of truth serum right before he went up to the podium. You can listen to it here.

Spyware decision

This is great news!

A federal trial court in Chicago has ruled recently that the ancient legal doctrine of trespass to chattels (meaning trespass to personal property) applies to the interference caused to home computers by spyware. Information technology has advanced at warp speed with the law struggling to keep up, and this is an example of a court needing to use historical legal theories to grapple with new and previously unforeseen contexts in Cyberspace.

Now if we can just pass a law to allow summary execution of these people.

Hats tip to Ratboy's Anvil for this story.

Bush and lightbulbs

How many members of the Bush administration does it take to change a lightbulb?

Ten.

  1. One to deny that a lightbulb needs to be changed.
  2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the lightbulb needs to be changed.
  3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the lightbulb.
  4. One to tell the nations of the world that they are either for changing the lightbulb or for eternal darkness.
  5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for the new lightbulb.
  6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a stepladder under the banner "Bulb Accomplished."
  7. One administration insider to resign and in detail reveal how Bush was literally ‘in the dark’ the whole time.
  8. One to give the wealthy a tax-cut to promote more light-bulb use.
  9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong lightbulb-changing policy all along.
  10. And finally, one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a lightbulb and screwing the country.

Plutocracy uber alles

Lest anyone say that the current administration has failed to take the lead, we should keep in mind that the year 2004 currently ranks number one, according to the comptroller general, among the fiscally most reckless years in U.S. history. (Did one of them free spending libruls sneak into the White House when the president was away chasing ponies on his ranch?)

And while we're cutting corners on our funding of Amtrak and the U.S. infrastructure, we should reflect on the fact that by the year 2050, we're projected to pay out $285,000,000,000 in disability payments. (And if my discussions with Gulf War vets is representative, this money won't even begin to compensate the actually losses sustained by vets.)

Of course, our tax money does do some positive things like aid other countries. (With a whopping 25% of it going to "help" countries by supplying or repairing their weapons.)

Some of the other 75% goes to things like drug elimination. In Afghanistan, we spent $780, 000,000 getting rid of poppies. (It's estimated that it would cost $600,000,000 to simply buy the entire annual poppy crop.)

But at least the newly freed countries are learning the values of American plutocracy. (Bribes paid to Russian government plutocrats rose 800% since 2001 and now represent 250% of the nation's federal revenues.)

Source: The current edition of Harper's

17 October 2005

Doh!

Just when Arab perceptions of Americans were at their lowest, some station has started showing a transmogrified version of the Simpsons in the Middle East. Homer has become Omar Shamshoon. (Has Marge agreed to wear a veil?) Fortunately, Omar, as opposed to his American counterpart, has given up beer and bacon. But even so? Who's in charge of American PR? Now, in addition to thinking that the West is evil and conniving, the Arab countries will realize that we're also inept.

The Angry Arab News Service had this to say:

This is just beyond the pale. Those who know me know that I am a huge fan of the Simpsons (and recently discovered The Family Guy). And I find Homer Simpson to be hilarious and adorable, although his hygiene is quite bad. MBC TV is planning on airing soon an Arabic version of the Simpsons, titled The House of Shamshun (Al Shamshun). I watched a promo segment, and it was just painful. They were so unfunny and so annoying those Arab actors that they brought to play the various characters. And the guy who played Homer Simpson was one of the most unfunny people I ever watched. Just drop the project, and air reruns of Tony Danza's show instead. It is less painful.

16 October 2005

Terrorists, peanut butter sandwiches, and deer in the headlights

It's always a bit unnerving when the left and right consistently agree on something (aren't the two sides supposed to be polar opposites?) but it's even more disconcerting when the one point they choose to agree on is a complete misconception. So I was disappointed when I read an article on Green Left about how to stop terrorist incidents such as the bombings. The article, while differing completely in its analysis of the problem, basically agrees with the rightwing view that terrorism is a major plague in the world, something that should occupy the top of our agenda. While differing in their analysis, both the left and right seem to agree that small acts of terrorism here and there should be the driving force determining U.S. policy abroad.

Let's put this in perspective. Out of the billions of people occupying the planet, a few will get killed in acts of terrorism. Yet my guess is that most of us could spend an entire day walking around a city asking everyone we met if they had personally known anyone who had been killed in a terrorist attack and many of us would come back without meeting anyone. Try that now with cancer or heart disease. Or accidents. Or pretty much anything else. The fact is that a quarter of us (excluding a few of the younger bloggers) will probably get heart disease or cancer in the next 10 years and about half will sustain an injury. Most of us are probably much more likely of dying from a collision with a deer. Objectively, the most threatening people to us are those in our family, or perhaps our neighbor who will shoot us over that argument about the fence.

If we look at a Paling Perspective Scale, we'd have to vastly expand the graph to fit in such unlikely events as terrorism.





I think that both the left and right have completely fallen for the B.S. of those with an agenda. The best way to conquer is to allow it to have absolutely no effect on our international or domestic politics. We don't fly off onto century-long crusades everytime a child dies from a bee sting. Terrorism is essentially drama. By looking at it rationally, we deny it any force. For those unconvinced by my rantings, I would recommend that you look at the book Fear Less.

13 October 2005

The man behind the man

For all of you who thought that there was no method behind Shrub's incompetence, someone has put together this little video clip.

Poll

Americans Favor Bush's Impeachment If He Lied about Iraq

By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq, according to a new poll commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org, a grassroots coalition that supports a Congressional investigation of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, the highly-regarded non-partisan polling company. The poll interviewed 1,001 U.S. adults on October 6-9. The poll found that 50% agreed with the statement: "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable by impeaching him." 44% disagreed, and 6% said they didn't know or declined to answer. The poll has a +/- 3.1% margin of error. Among those who felt strongly either way, 39% strongly agreed, while 30% strongly disagreed.


"The results of this poll are truly astonishing," said AfterDowningStreet.org co-founder Bob Fertik. "Bush's record-low approval ratings tell just half of the story, which is how much Americans oppose Bush's policies on Iraq and other issues. But this poll tells the other half of the story - that a solid plurality of Americans want Congress to consider removing Bush from the White House."

Impeachment Supported by Majorities of Many Groups

Responses varied by political party affiliation: 72% of Democrats favored impeachment, compared to 56% of Independents and 20% of Republicans. Responses also varied by age and income. Solid majorities of those under age 55 (54%), as well as those with household incomes below $50,000 (57%), support impeachment. Majorities favored impeachment in the Northeast (53%), West (51%), and even the South (50%).


Support for Impeachment Surged Since June

The Ipsos poll shows a dramatic transformation in support for Bush's impeachment since late June. (This is only the second poll that has asked Americans about their support for impeaching Bush in 2005, despite his record-low approval ratings.) The Zogby poll conducted June 27-29 of 905 likely voters found that 42% agreed and 50% disagreed with a statement virtually identical to the one used by Ipsos Public Affairs. (see footnote below)

Ipsos 10/8-9
Zogby 6/27-29
Net Change
Support Impeachment
50%
42%
+8%
Oppose Impeachment
44%
50%
+6%
Impeachment Margin
+6%
-8%
+14%

After the June poll, pollster John Zogby told the Washington Post that support for impeachment "was much higher than I expected." At the time, impeachment supporters trailed opponents by 8%. Now supporters outnumber opponents by 6%, a remarkable shift of 14%. Support for Clinton impeachment was much lower.

Map of the world

The CIA, in its latest update to its handbook, has published a revised map of the world showing more exact detail.

Don't drink that Coors with lunch!

Unreal. Someone in D.C. has been arrested for having a point 0.03 blood alcohol content. That's what--the equivalent of being tested about two ours after havinng a single 12 oz. Coors Light. I think we need to start testing our Congressmen for the percentage of laughing gas in their blood.

12 October 2005

The End of Suburbia

Last night I watched the documentary The End of Surburbia. The film incorporates a lot of early film footage from the 50s or 60s in its description of the forces that led to the creation of suburbia (huge government subsidies towards an automobile infrastructure) and the forces that will be its undoing (a decline in oil). As Kevid Airgid mentions in his review, the rather dry documentary has a somewhat "fatalistic view." This isn't the film to watch to find solutions to the problem. Rather, it's a clarion call.

As several of the experts in the film point out, the steps to break free of this crisis requires leadership that's willing to take decisive steps now since the infrastructure to replace suburbia and the automobile culture will take decades to build. For this reason, I find it unfortunate that so many conservatives (Gringrich comes to mind) lambast the government's meagre subsidies to the train system while completely ignoring the enormous subsidies that go towards roads.

In spite of the film's dystopian predictions, I think there might be a silver lining in all of this. Having spent years living overseas outside of suburbia, I can vouch for the fact (driven home in the film) that suburbia is a soul-less place lacking the advantages of both country and city living. If the film's predictions come true, we may all find ourselves in tightnit communities using more and more local products. Such a lifestyle would have important implications for the capitalist system that relies on endless growth that allows payment for the rent of capital.

The film is also discussed by Bill Doskoch, Chandrasutra, and Press Action.

10 October 2005

Proposal for an American solidarity movement

I finally got a chance to read some of the blog discussions about the formation of a political coalition to challenge the status quo. Newshog has a good post titled Dinosaur Democrats that lists a number of reasons why we shouldn't buy into the naysayers' attitude that the Dems are the only option. When discussing a model for such a coalition, Newshog mentions some single-issue parties that have been able to put pressure on standard parties during close races. I really hope that this isn't the sort of thing other people are talking about. The Left's already balkanized enough. I'd personally like to see things turn the other way. Why can't we have a broad coalition--broad enough to even appeal to many conservates--that would leave behind trivial issues and focus on the real bread-and-butter sort of stuff?

The first item on the agenda should be to kick all the plutocrats out of office. At the same time, we can get rid of the entire system of corporate lobbyists. A broad coalition outside of the main parties should be able to find a handful of people among millions of Americans who are completely untainted by corporate money and secret business connections, someone with the right personal qualities from the right sort of background. In my opinion, anyone with extensive business ties (foreign or domestic) or with ties to former Democratic or Republican administrations should be immediately stricken from any list of potential candidates for office. There are plenty of people to choose from--why pick an insider?

Government intrusion into our lives is another issue where there's broad agreement. If we can just get people to turn off the boobtube and take their red pills for a few days running, I think we can even convince the vast majority of Americans that the current "international crisis" is a complete fabrication. Within the vast assortment of ills (potential and current) afflicting mankind, terrorism doesn't even make the list. I remember reading some news report on "all" the terrible acts of terrorism that Al Qaeda (or somebody...) has recently committed throughout the Middle East, and the number, viewed objectively, was miniscule. I'm sure more people die falling off ladders on any given day. Instead of the eventual trillion spent in Iraq, we could have saved everyone much trouble and spent a billion in research funds on improved ladder technology. If we would have simply stood unfazed by terrorist plots, terrorism would be proven to be just what it is--a violent drama staged by out-of-work mercenaries. These are the people we should target--not entire societies.

I also think that we could get support for new technological projects. If we stopped spending more than the rest of the world combined on defense, we could put the money into some bold initiative to set up windmills across the central U.S. This would employ people and put the U.S. on the forefront of a technological revolution. Unlike Bush's tax-cuts for the wealthy, this use of the nation's wealth would produce something that would ensure a bright future. Our grandchildren, instead of cursing us for using up all the oil close to the surface, would be praising us for our wisdom and hard work.

The first step in all of this is to get ALL of the current crowd of corporate-backed cronies out of power. And replace them with ordinary people who don't know any Saudi princes or Texas oilmen. And who don't even know each other. I think a broad coalition could do this. A first step might be to construct a list of the types of candidates that we would all be willing to vote for. We should also facilitate the creation of a political process that doesn't rely on huge amounts of money. Perhaps we could create an internal vetting process that would put us in charge of determining whether any given candidate had any long-term chances. Such a list could have excluded both Bush and Kerry at the outset of the last election. Any ideas?

Napoleon

In a half-hearted attempt to fill that large gap in my knowledge related to European history, I recently read a book on Napoleon. While reading, I was struck by the parallels between Napoleonic France and the American conservative movement in terms of the formation of a popular coalition. Napoleon, while clearly having no personal interest in religion (much like Shrub), immediately saw the religious faction (suppressed during the revolution) as a key element of support. He therefore went to extensive lengths to court Catholics. At the same time, he presented a very nationalistic view of France that was somehow coupled to international ambitions. (Sound familiar?) As is happening today, public discourse often revolved around an extremely militarized view of history. Fortunately, the U.S. conservative movement has failed to produce a charismatic leader. I suppose the small pool of trusted plutocrats makes a poor field to choose from.

Proposal for an American solidarity movement

American Samizdat, Newshog and others have discussed the idea of an movement. I'll discuss this more after I've read what's being put forward but I'd like to hear what you all think.

9 October 2005

Diamonds, death, and fast circuits

Diamonds have been the much talked about topic as of late. This weekend, one paper (the Wall Street Journal?) had an article about someone growing perfect daimonds in their garage using a new technology employing presured gases. DeBeers is of course upset about this and is trying to develop testing methods to distinguish these from natural diamonds. (Are people really so vain? Just put a piece of glass inside the ring and spend the rest of your money on a nice vacation.)

The exciting part of this is that these grown diamonds can be created in any shape we desire, allowing computer manufacturers to create components that are much faster and don't heat up when they're in computer chips.

Just when I thought I had the coolest diamond story, I came across a gem of a story over at Cut to the Chase. Someone is now offering to press the remains of your loved one into a diamond. Couldn't we combine these processes and have our deceased love ones pressed into computer chips? (I can see some good fiction coming out of this.)

8 October 2005

Reading between the numbers

Tonight I watched Hotel Rwanda. The film's very moving and does a good job of showing the tragedy. I especially like the way that it depicts the surreal aspect of war--for example, the scene of people peeking out from a wealthy home as their neighbors get massacred. War, as depicted in films, often occurs on battlefields (in other words, as seen from the perspective of the troops fighting the war). But from the standpoint of the civilian population, war is never so neat. If you're a civilian, the war's happening in your garden or kitchen.

Our view of war and history seems to be very biased towards our national interests as defined by our politicians and culture. The other day, I looked down the stats listed on the site Death Tolls of Wars and noticed that some of the conflicts that produced the largest number of casualties in the 20th century weren't even familiar to me. Around 8 million are said to have died in the Congo Free State (1886-1908), for example (a good portion after 1900) but who would know anything about this?

If you go down the list and look at U.S. interventions, American policy seems to have been largely unaffected (one way or another) by concerns over mass-murders. Chiang Kai-shek's armies are estimated to have killed over 10 million people; yet he received U.S. support before and after fleeing to Taiwan. Saddam Hussein is said to have killed around a quarter of a million of his own people--probably most of these killings were done while the U.S. supported him. Then Iraq killed about a million people in the Iran-Iraq war in which Saddam received direct U.S. support. I mention this not because I think U.S. policy has been immoral but rather because it has been amoral. What bothers me the most about this, I guess, is that it can be amoral.

I don't think the average American is so callous as to simply not care. The problem, I think, is that our information is filtered through fixed outlets that give the information a particular shape. There are, I'm sure, a lot of people who still think that the U.S. interest in Iraq has been primarily to save the Iraqi people from the butcher of Baghdad. But if we think about it, a tiny fraction of the troops needed for Iraq could have probably stopped the Rwanda genocide at a mere fraction of the cost and commitment required for Iraq.

6 October 2005

One scruple-challenged blogger to another

This is rich. Fox News is telling the world that we bloggers "have no ethics or scruples." I'm quite taken back by this remark. I was under the impression that Fox News prohibited its employees from uttering dirty words like "ethics."

Around the blogosphere

Helena discusses the Senate's vote to set new limits on interrogating detainees in Iraq and elsewhere. In her post, Helena considers the question, "Is this also the beginning of a broader process whereby the US Congress attempts to regain more control of the country's war-fighting processes and decision-making in a broader sense?" We can only hope. At any rate, it's uplifting to see representatives actually ask questions and otherwise represent their constituencies instead of serving as a rubber-stamp organization.

Elsewhere on the internets, Needlenose provides a phrase-by-phrase commentary on the latest Shrub pep-rally--a commentary so acerb that it properly belongs over here on Swerve Left but I will leave it where it is. I wouldn't want be accused of harshing the Department of Homeland Security's mellow.

Elsewhere, Nashville Truth urges Christians to abandon the big-government of the current conservative movement in favor of Libertarianism. And on Fatcat, we find probably the most reasonable analysis of the Mier's nomination.

5 October 2005

No (misoshrubist) child left behind

When I came across the following story, I had to wonder how many years we are from the day when it will be a felony to rip up the president-elect-for-life's sacred picture? And who exactly are these Secret Service agents? Do any of you out there who work for the government really think that we-the-tax-payers are paying your salary to have you chase around high school kids who express the "wrong" political viewpoints? It's stories like this that make me believe our intelligence services are a much greater threat to us than any enemy.


Wal-Mart Turns in Student’s Anti-Bush Photo, Secret Service Investigates Him
Matthew Rothschild
October 4, 2005

Selina Jarvis is the chair of the social studies department at Currituck County High School in North Carolina, and she is not used to having the Secret Service question her or one of her students.

But that’s what happened on September 20.

Jarvis had assigned her senior civics and economics class “to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights,” she says. One student “had taken a photo of George Bush out of a magazine and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb’s down sign with his own hand next to the President’s picture, and he had a photo taken of that, and he pasted it on a poster.”

According to Jarvis, the student, who remains anonymous, was just doing his assignment, illustrating the right to dissent.

But over at the Kitty Hawk Wal-Mart, where the student took his film to be developed, this right is evidently suspect.

An employee in that Wal-Mart photo department called the Kitty Hawk police on the student. And the Kitty Hawk police turned the matter over to the Secret Service.

On Tuesday, September 20, the Secret Service came to Currituck High.“At 1:35, the student came to me and told me that the Secret Service had taken his poster,” Jarvis says. “I didn’t believe him at first. But they had come into my room when I wasn’t there and had taken his poster, which was in a stack with all the others.”

She says the student was upset.

“He was nervous, he was scared, and his parents were out of town on business,” says Jarvis.

She, too, had to talk to the Secret Service.

“Halfway through my afternoon class, the assistant principal got me out of class and took me to the office conference room,” she says. “Two men from the Secret Service were there. They asked me what I knew about the student. I told them he was a great kid, that he was in the homecoming court, and that he’d never been in any trouble.”

Then they got down to his poster.

“They asked me, didn’t I think that it was suspicious,” she recalls. “I said no, it was a Bill of Rights project!”

At the end of the meeting, they told her the incident “would be interpreted by the U.S. attorney, who would decide whether the student could be indicted,” she says.

The student was not indicted, and the Secret Service did not pursue the case further.

“I blame Wal-Mart more than anybody,” she says. “I was really disgusted with them. But everyone was using poor judgment, from Wal-Mart up to the Secret Service.”

A person in the photo department at the Wal-Mart in Kitty Hawk said, “You have to call either the home office or the authorities to get any information about that.”

Jacquie Young, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart at company headquarters, did not provide comment within a 24-hour period.

Sharon Davenport of the Kitty Hawk Police Department said, “We just handed it over” to the Secret Service. “No investigative report was filed.”

Jonathan Scherry, spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington, D.C., said, “We ertainly respect artistic freedom, but we also have the responsibility to look into incidents when necessary. In this case, it was brought to our attention from a private citizen, a photo lab employee.”

Jarvis uses one word to describe the whole incident: “ridiculous.”



So what do our students now learn in Civics? That they're free to express their political views but only if these views are approved by the powers-that-be.

4 October 2005

True Patriotism

Today, a well-educated Japanese acquaintance, discussing Michael Moore, asked me why the U.S. president didn't just "shut him up." Without trying to sound overly pedantic or patrionizing, I tried to explain that most of us in this country insist on our right to say whatever we choose and try to respect other's right to do so as well. I could have continued by saying that this right, unfortunately, is always under threat--not by ex-CIA-supported thugs in third-world countries but by our very own neighbors who claim to value such rights more than anything.

With this thought in mind, we should revisit an article that William F. Jasper penned a few years back titled "True Patriotism." Jasper begins with a discussion of the rightwing schmegegge about everyone who opposes Shrub being a traitor:

The words "treason" and "sedition" are being applied promiscuously to any and all who dissent from the president’s position. Nationally syndicated shock radio host Michael Savage apparently leads the charge on this note, seconded by a host of lesser lights who have turned their radio microphones into non-stop war tocsins. Mr. Savage’s website features a section titled: "The Sedition Act — Time to Act. Time to Arrest the Leaders of the Anti-War Movement, Once we Go to War."

A February 6th New York Sun editorial took up this treason theme relative to the planned anti-war march in front of the UN. The Sun editors quoted the U.S. Constitution concerning treason: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."

I give the Sun editors more credit than Jasper does. I must admit that the Constitution, if read broadly here, would seem to stamp out even the most remote possibility of dissent. If, for example, we had attacked Gandhi's India and peace protesters had held candle-light vigils in praise of non-violence, the Constitution would seem to say that these people could be rounded up as traitors for giving "comfort" to the nation's non-violent enemy.

For this reason, I strongly feel that we need to be very clear about one thing: The U.S. government may be wise enough to recognize our basic rights but it does not give us inalienabe rights, such as the right to freely voice our opinions. Such rights are "inalienable" precisely because they can't be bestowed on us by kings or governments. If someone ever comes to my house under official orders, hoping to arrest me for "sedition," they need not bother with the paperwork. I can guarantee that the matter will be settled at my doorstep one way or another long before we get to a court.

Jasper asks the rhetorical question of who the real patriots are. He answers:

It does seem extremely ironic that this country’s staunchest patriots, warning for decades about the very dangers that now beset us, are being accused — by those who earlier disregarded their warnings — of being unpatriotic, or even of siding with the enemy.

Fair enough. Back in the day, I was against supporting the Taliban and Saddam. I'm not so sure I agree with Jasper that this opposition really makes me "patriotic." I hope not. I personally take the position that peace isn't patriotic. If you really love "nation," then the inevitable logic of enlarging the nation's power in competition with other nations leads to constant brutal warfare. If, on the other hand, you love mankind, this leads to a viewing of issues from a radically different perspective that is, in a sense, traitorous towards nationalism.

People can accuse me of being overly idealistic but both love of nation and love of mankind involve dedication to an utterly abstract notion. And like any values, these ideals end up taking one in different directions and for this reason really can't be held simultaneously. Love of nation actually reaches its zenith in fascism--not in democratic states with minimal governments (the so-called conservative ideal). So my conclusion, which in a bizarre twist superficially agrees with the rhetoric of the right, is that peace is indeed not patriotic. I'm a traitor to the nationalist cause. But frankly, I don't give a damn.

Two New Road Maps

One thing I love about blogs is the juxtaposition of people's personal perspective with novel topics. Today I've added two new blogs to my road maps category. Sanchon Hunjang has an excellent discussion of Korean related topics. I especially like the site's interesting posts on classical poetry (with the original poems included). I've also added Taste of Africa--a Phillipine woman's excellent blog on her experiences in Somalia.

No one more deserving

Tom DeLay has now also been charged of conspiring to launder money and money laundering. The latter charge carries the maximum penalty of life in prison. Now that's a sweet thought. Imagine DeLay rotting away in a bare prison cell, Pink Floyd lyrics in the background . . . "I have never heard before. Of someone more deserving of the full penalty of law."

3 October 2005

Dumb mobs

I think I've figured out the latest Republican strategy. They've decided to have so many scandals simultaneously that none of us can keep track of them. How can we launch a public campaign against the vermin when there are a hundred to choose from? Each time we take aim, another weasel jumps up to the left then to the right. I think it's time for the nuclear option. We need to simply fire the whole bunch.

Cut and Run in Iraq?

General Odom (retired) has an interesting article out titled, "What Wrong with Cutting and Running." Also check out the article on Abu Ghraib by Ray McGovern (a very conservative high-ranking CIA agent--retired, of course).

Political Views Test

I recently took one of these silly internet tests and was told that I was sort of a midling

"Social Liberal"
(71% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(25% permissive)


The test would have been much better had it offered a few of those none-of-the-above sorts of responses. The results continue . . . I am "best described as" a:

Democrat




A Democrat? I'm probably one of the few left-leaning people taking the test who isn't a registered Democrat! So much for surveys.

Link: The Politics Test

Death in Gaza

I recently watched Death in Gaza (2003), a documentary created by James Miller and Saira Shah. The film sets out to chronicle the effect of the culture of hate on children growing up in Palestine and Israel. The film's extremely depressing in its narration of the seemingly endless cycle of hate and violence and its depiction of the stark conditions of Palestinians. Miller had planned to spend half of the film talking about the conflict's effects on Israeli children but he was shot and killed by Israeli forces before he could do so.

1 October 2005

Nixon Now

Has the U.S., ever had so many high-ranking government officials under investigation at the same time? The Bush administration is going to make tricky Dick's debacle look like a cake walk. Federal auditors now say that the Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party. The investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, say that the Bush administration has disseminated "covert propaganda" in the United States, in violation of U.S. law. This makes sense to me. When I pay my taxes, I don't expect it to go to the newly founded Bush Ministry of Propaganda. And this in the wake of the indictment and that Martha-wannabe . I think Shrub's purpose in life is to make even the most anti-Nixon among us realize that tricky-Dick really wasn't as bad as it gets.

Bali bombing

Another terrorist bombing has just hit Bali, killing around 25 people and injuring around one hundred. As before, the attacks targeted Kuta and other resorts popular with foreigners. These attacks are sure to have a devastating effect on Indonesian tourism. The country already suffers enough from a reputation as an extremely seedy place where government corruption is ubiquitous and violent gangs operate openly, even in plain sight of police.

Other blogments can be found at: Two Years in China, Ciqua (Spanish), the Nascar Liberal, this Japanese blog (saying he's headed to Bali in spite of the blast!), and this Indonesian blog (Does anyone know Indonesian? I'd love to hear what the locals have to say about all of this.)

For news, check out this CNN report.