Friday, January 30, 2004

MikeRoweSoft Update

That Mike Rowe, he's certainly a fine young capitalist in the making.

The 17-year-old settled with Microsoft earlier this week for an Xbox and Microsoft Certification training among other things, and now he's selling the legal documents that company sent him on eBay.

Last check, they were selling for $18,600.

American Anarchist

In case anyone doubts that the rights of individual Americans haven't been violated since 9/11, Sherman Austin is still in jail.

Austin was the 18 year-old web master for Authorities arrested him after they found a link on the anarchist site to information on how to make Molotov cocktails and "Drano bombs." Despite the fact that he didn't write the material and only linked to another site which included the instructions, he's now serving a year and change in prison.

A 1997 law does make it illegal to publish such content when it encourages readers to commit "a federal crime of violence." Austin did not do that. Nonethless, the judge on the case ignored the FBI and Justice Department's recommended sentence of four months in jail and four months community service and gave Austin an entire year in jail instead.

According to Austin, the judge said, "What kind of a message would four months in jail send to other revolutionaries?"

Note to Rush Limbaugh: this is a First Amendment issue.

Killography? I Know It When I See It.

Old story, but I like the idea: we have "pornographic," so why not "killographic"?

"If pornographic is the 'graphic depiction of sex,' then killographic should enter our vocabulary to describe the 'graphic depiction of brutal violence,"' says David Walsh of The National Institute on Media and the Family, an independent, nonprofit group.

Agreed. Similarly, the backwards standards of American TV appall me. It's OK to folks getting killed off in all manner of superviolent ways, but you still can't show a woman's nipple.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Stupid Is as Stupid Says

In a case of right-wing political correctness run amok, some stores are pulling t-shirts form their shelves with the following captions: “Boys Are Stupid,” “Boys Are Smelly,” and “Boys Have Cooties.”

Radio talk show host Glenn Sacks prompted his listeners to complain to stores in Los Angeles and Seattle, which carry the t-shirts.

“I’m sorry if I sound like a humorless zealot," he said, "but I just don’t see the humor in it.”

Humorless indeed. But what's more troubling is that Sacks represents a classic example of a majority group (men) crudely claiming that when a minority group (women) does something it has the same impact and meaning as if the majority group did it.

No, "Boys Are Stupid" isn't the same as "Women are Stupid," Mr. Sacks, for the simple reason that the latter statement comes freighted with millennia of male-dominating behavior. Perhaps if women had subjugated women for hundreds, yea, thousands of years, you might have a case.

Think I'm reading too much between the lines? Read on.

As the AP article points Sacks claims the t-shirts incite anti-male violence. That's patently absurd. And oddly unsophisticated. Maybe willfully unsophisticated would be more accurate.

After all, we need only read of Sacks' sympathy for the "fathers’ rights movement" to learn the real motivation for his bullying boycott. Google that term and see what you come up with. Some scary stuff: affiliations with right wing groups like Promise Keepers, sites throwing words like "feminazi" around.

Sacks' own site describes him as "a men's and fathers' issues columnist and a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host." Which is kind of like being a Caucasian issues columnist, I guess.

His radio show is called "His Side" and a headline on the show's web site warns us "'Boys are Stupid' Shirts Worn in our Schools." It continues with the following distressing news:
Today boys have fallen seriously behind girls at all K-12 levels. By high school the typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing. Girls get better grades than boys and boys are far more likely than girls to drop out of school or to be disciplined, suspended, held back, or expelled. Boys are four times as likely to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as girls, and the vast majority of learning-disabled students are boys. Boys are less likely to graduate high school, go to college, or graduate college than girls.

Allowing girls to wear "Boys Are Stupid" shirts rubs salt in the wound--why are administrators and teachers permitting it?
So Sacks takes some legitimate concerns about recent patterns of boys performing poorly in school and tries to couple that fact with the incidental one that some girls are wearing a silly t-shirt. That doesn't wash. And it's Sacks who's treating us like idiots.

You can buy the t-shirts online from Boys Are Smelly.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Flower Power

In the truly good news column, if only technology were applied this way more often: Aresa Biodetection, a Danish biotech company has engineered a wildflower which can detect landmines. The Thale Cress turns from green to red if it's growing near a landmine. Usually, finding land mines involves dogs or sophisticated detection devices. Could save an awful lot of children's limbs.

From the Aresa site:
Landmines represent a significant problem, especially in the third world, where 26,000 (source:Red Cross) people in average are killed or injured every year. Another significant problem is that large areas of land (in Cambodia estimated 40%, in Angola estimated 90%(source:UN) are unused with severe socio-economic consequences for the population/countries.
This company deserves some sort of humanitarian award.

Wide World of Search

Fascinating depiction of how the biggest search engines share or at least feed one another. Neatly encapsulates who's doing the real work and who the freeloaders are, too. Yahoo!? (Via John Battelle's Search Blog)

Spelling & Web Usability

Misspellings on eBay and other auction sites: some folks lose out, while others gain from their lack of spelling skills - simply opening the dictionary can make you more money.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Muddled Thinking

Note the odd way in which the New York Post's infamous Page Six gossip columnist and would-be journalist, Richard Johnson tries to link Islamic belief and "the U.S. inter vention [sic] in Iraq."

Apparently, a Muslim interrupts a strip tease in a bar because it offends his beliefs (despite the fact that he's drinking alcohol in said bar) and this is a reminder of why we're in Iraq?

It's this kind of muddled thinking that has nigh 70 percent of Americans believing we invaded Iraq because they attacked us on 9/11.

For the record, Mr. Johnson, it's possible for the same brain to harbor the following thoughts:
  • Saddam Hussein was a wicked man and his arrest was an occasion for celebration
  • Still, the U.S. occupation of Iraq was a mistake
  • Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11
  • Some practitioners of Islam harbor odd and even harmful beliefs
  • A small number of these believers may be involved in violence against the United States and its allies
  • Random Muslims drinking in American bars shouldn't be lumped together with vicious terrorists
I could go on, but you get the idea.
CBS & Self Censorship

Although I agree that CBS should air the MoveOn ad, I disagree with those (including MoveOn founder Eli Pariser) who claim the network's decision not to air it presents a free speech issue. Companies and even the media have a right to self-censor, and we certainly have a right to criticize their motivation when they do. But when CBS refuses to air an ad or a program, that's not a violation of free speech. If the government were to prevent CBS from airing the ad, then, yes, that would be a free speech/first amendment issue.

Consider Rush Limbaugh's complaint after he quit ESPN:
It’s such a tempest in a teapot, particularly in the sense that we live in a country where there is supposedly a First Amendment and you can offer opinions. But you can’t, in certain places and at certain times, you can’t offer an opinion.
Rush is wrong. As media attorney Thomas Cafferty points out in the latest issue of DiversityInc magazine (print version only):
He's legally incorrect when he says his free speech was impinged upon because the constitutional protection, whether it's in the state constitution or the federal First Amendment, protects against 'government' interfering and restricting speech."
This make sense. For example, few of us would question a company for firing someone who insisted on distributing hate literature at work, and a printer has the right to refuse to print that same person's brochures. But the government does not have the right to prevent the same person from cranking out those same brochures in his own basement to disseminate by whatever legal means.

So, I have a right to complain to CBS about their absolutely questionable judgment of late, but I only undermine the integrity of my own arguments if I claim CBS is obstructing the First Amendment.

Also heard on NPR: a woman goes into the New Hampshire primaries to vote with a Democrat ballot; admits she's voting for "the weakest candidate" so as to mess with the results.

Pretty reprehensible.

Heard on NPR: Every household in Iraq is allowed an AK-47. A permit is required to carry one outside. A little further research reveals that the U.S. Infantry is enforcing a quota of one pistol an done AK-47 per household.

Update: Death Penalty & Juveniles

Looks like the Supreme Court will consider concerns about the death penalty for juveniles.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

As Amnesty International points out, there are only five nations left in the world which still execute children: China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Pakistan, and the United States.

Two of those countries, China and Pakistan, have banned the death penalty for juveniles (though they're having difficulty enforcing that). So that leaves the United States in the company of Iran and the Congo as the only three countries on the entire planet which still kill kids.

International law forbids the execution of individuals under the age of 18. But 21 U.S. states allow individuals to be executed who were 16 or 17 when they committed their crimes.

Eight juvenile offenders have been executed in Texas alone in the past five years.

Also, "the United States and Somalia are the only countries in the world that have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child." Again, great company.

We ought to be ashamed.


First David Kay and now Colin Powell (finally) admitting that perhaps there were no WMD in Iraq when we went in.

Surely this has gotta mean trouble for the Bush administration or am I just eternally optimistic?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Ohio is deeply engaged in the crusade against gay rights.

CBS Censors Ad

But you can sign this petition asking them to put it back on again.

As MoveOn says:
During this year's Super Bowl, you'll see ads sponsored by beer companies, tobacco companies, and the Bush White House. But you won't see the winning ad in Voter Fund's Bush in 30 Seconds ad contest. CBS refuses to air it.
CBS drops the Reagan mini-series after pressure from right-wingers, drops the Michael Jackson special after he's arrested, but then puts it back on after he agrees to an interview with 60 Minutes. And now this. How does CBS expect their viewers to have a drop of respect left for them?

I only watch CBS for Letterman these days anyway. Apparently, CBS's target audience these days is old fart conservatives.

OK, CBS Sunday Morning is still a tremendous show, too. But let's face it, it's kinda stodgy for most folks. And to think that what passes for 60 Minutes these days is interviews with Michael Jackson and Andy Rooney's weekly diatribes about the old stuff he has accumulating around his house. Has either man had anything relevant to say in the last decade? OK, Andy Rooney did say this about Iraq:
President Bush isn't sitting in his private quarters in the White House watching 60 Minutes, waiting to hear what Andy Rooney thinks. But if he was listening, I think what I'd say is, "Please don't do it alone, Mr President."

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

What Falls Between the Lines

Can you read anything in this sentence that indicates that David Kay's team found WMD in Iraq?
We're seeking all the facts. Already, the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. - from Bush's State of the Union address
Didn't think so, no. But it is artfully constructed to lead people who aren't listening carefully into thinking Kay's mission (which he's about to quit) has been successful.

Pretty slimy, huh? But who does this kind of slippery rhetoric gonna work on? Well, last time I heard, the majority of Americans still believed Iraq attacked us on 9/11. And I think many thoughtful people agree that this really unforgivable misconception arose because of the Bush administrations modus operandi of helpfully lumping subjects together, so that such connections are implied even if they're never stated explicitly. (Though they are stated explicitly by some, too.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Go Mike Row Go!

Noticed the MikeRoweSoft kid's site is back up again. Goodonhim. Microsoft, leave the poor kid alone. He's 17, for Pete's sake. They should be giving him an internship instead of confirming everybody's fears that the company's a big scary humorless monster.

Jeez. I wonder if or are available? Maybe there's more fun to be had.

Copycat Kook

We have our own copycat kook here in North Carolina who tought it was OK to drop a one-ton monument to the Ten Commandments in front of City Hall.

Councilman Vernon Robinson took advantage of City Hall being closed on Martin Luther King Day to sneak his lil' monument onto public property.

What are these people thinking? Nothing. They're clearly just being provocative?

The Mayor of Winston-Salem said it has to go.

Robinson spent two grand of his own money on it. His hero former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore lost his job for refusing to remove his own 2.5 ton monument.

Maybe all the kooks will relieve themselves of their jobs this way.

Google's New Goodies

Ever innovative, Google raises the stakes again this week by adding some incredible functionality:

  • Enter a flight number: results show the flight's status and a map indicating its progress
  • Enter an area code: get a map of that area
  • Enter a UPPS tracking number: receive a page denoting tha package's delivery status
  • Enter a VIN number: get a page with the car's year, make and model
  • Enter a UPC number: results include the product name and sites selling it
Not too shabby. What'll they think of next?

In the future, I want the following:

  • Buy a traditional-looking paper-based book: it incorporates a search engine (voice recognition?) and you can search for any word or phrase in the book - I know you can practically do this online at Amazon already and we'll all have wireless web-based evices within five years or whatever anyway, but . . . this is just a fetish
  • Whistle or sing a tune into any device: it recognizes the song and can name the tune and tell you who wrote, most popular recordings, verisons, etc - never worry what the name of that/who wrote that ear worm again!
  • Replace my own already badly faltering memory
Also, Google may be getting into ad-based email al la Hotmail and Yahoo.

Do Despair

Fun stuff at Despair, Inc. for folks who hate motivational speakers, programs, posters, etc.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Amish Gone Wild

The fascinating documentary The Devil's Playground depicts the period of rumspringa, during which Amish teens pretty much get to run wild--drinking, smoking, sleeping around, whatever. All that fun stuff is pretty much forgiven when they return to the Amish community.They have the option to stay out of the community, too, and when they return, they'll apparently be welcomed with open arms. If they return, however, and later decide abide within the Amish system anymore, then, I believe, they're kicked out for good. Many kids return from rumspringa to lead proper Amish lives. As the documentary depicts their community, these kids are so unprepared for the real world, it's no wonder they come running back to the fold.

Anyway, I should've guessed when I watched the documentary that some joker would come up with an idea for a reality TV show.

Stephen Glass at the New Republic, Jayson Blair at the New York Times. Now add to the liars' club Jack Kelley of USA Today. Nominated by that paper five times for the Pulitzer Prize.

Says former foreign editor of the paper, Johanna Neumann:
"He was this very earnest, moralistic Christian reporter,'' she said. "It made people trust him in ways they didn't trust other reporters. If he was reporting he had the diary of a Serbian girl, and no one else had it, you tended to say: 'He just has a way with people. People just respond to him.' ''
Kelley had claimed to be in possession of a young Serbian girl's diary. He quoted from this diary in his writings, and when the paper asked him to find out her full name so they could authenticate his article, he came up empty, despite help from United NAtions workers in tracking her down.

Kelley later claimed to possess a notebook with notes which linked Slododan Milosevic to "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo. Kelley asked a woman to pose as the translator of the notebook, but eventually admitted--upon confrontation--that he had fabricated her role.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Kakutani on Perle & Frum

Guess we shouldn't be surprised that someone like Richard Perle would have the audacity to name his new book An End to Evil. Perle and David Frum wrote the book to share (as the book's subtitle explains) How to Win the War on Terror. Michiko Kakutani rips the book to shreds in her NYT review.
Making its points with all the subtlety of a pit bull on steroids, "An End to Evil" is smug, shrill and deliberately provocative. Which might not be so surprising given the authors' track records. Mr. Frum, a former White House speechwriter who helped coin the "axis of evil" phrase that President George W. Bush used in his 2002 State of the Union address, adopted a similarly bellicose manner in his 2003 book "The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush." Mr. Perle, a hawkish member of the Defense Policy Board and an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, acquired the Washington nicknames Prince of Darkness and Darth Vader in the 1980's for his combative, take-no-prisoners pronouncements.
David Frum responded in the National Review Online that Kakutani's wrath stems from resentment that "The New York Times no longer decides what Americans will read and what Americans will think about what they read. Rather than look inward, they blame talk radio and the Internet and Fox TV."

No, Mr. Frum, she's enraged by your astonishing arrogance. She is angered by the apparent pride with which you and Mr. Perle espouse policies which are dangerous, uncivil and outmoded. You and Mr. Perle, you just don't get it.

Responding to the Economist's criticism that the book isn't "nuanced" enough, Frum says that "nuance [is] a euphemism for 'accommodationist.'" This argument is typical of the neo-cons: decry a policy as being block-headed and simplistic and they accuse you of not being prepared to defend America.

Kakutani even mentions a quotation from the book to that end in her review:
"There is no middle way for Americans," they write in the opening chapter. "It is victory or holocaust. This book is a manual for victory."
This is the bullying language of dull punks.

Disgust is good. Disgust works.

This New Science article discusses the science of disgust. It doesn't much address the potential for socially-determined disgust to be harmful, though.

Lance Workman, a psychologist at Cardiff University says, "In some parts of the world people eat tarantulas, which is something that would disgust most people." The article says Workman believes such people have learned to suppress their disgust.

Interesting how he supposes that we should have a predisposition towards disgust for tarantulas. What if it's socially acquired? Learned? The article does point out that some people have an irrational disgust for cancer patients, despite the fact that the condition isn't contagious, but it doesn't really discuss the harm that sort of disgust could engender: alienation, deprivation of much-needed touch, affection and compassion.

My concern lies in that I could see some folks justifying their hate, bigotry, homophobia, etcetera, by asserting that it's "natural" disgust for the unclean or the "unnatural," as so many gaybashers like to say. (Interestingly enough, the survey which this study was based on didn't include disgust of a sexual bent.) Just because something is "unnatural" doesn't make it wrong or worthy of our contempt. Or disgust.

In fact, I'd argue that determing what's "natural" versus "unnatural" is an often difficult and sometimes futile enterprise. The idea tha "natural" is somehow automatically better than "unnatural" is certainly fallacious. It's quite "natural" for some creatures to eat their spouses or to kill their young. It might be quite "natural" for a virus to extinguish all of humanity within a matter of weeks. I'm sure we'd all agree, however, that it'd be mighty nice for a scientist to come up with a counteragent, however "unnatural" which would deliver humanity from the brink of extinction.

Another example: It's arguably "unnatural" for us to live into a tenth decade. What's probably "natural" is for us to succumb to some sort of virus or disease in our mid-40s. But few people seems to decry the idea that we should pursue longer lives through science, medication, surgery, cryogenics, whatever--even in pursuit of immortality. Arguably, we're motivated by disgust to pursue immortality, too--by our disgust with death. So, in this case, we're motivated by digust to do something "unnatural."

In other words, we're pretty selective with our disgust. Guess that's because death is something that affects us all.

Proof from Calpundit that Richard Perle truly is a few sandwiches short of a full picnic. His inane ideas about warfare and foreign afairs apparently extend all the way back to Afghanistan in the early 1980s.

But how do guys like this end up running the country? How do they manage to stay so influential for so long? Sheer persistence of will, I suppose. Guess that explains the success of more obvious crazies like Fred Phelps, too.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Good on Wesley Clark for speaking out against the Confederate flag.
“I don’t believe we ought to be standing on keeping that flag out there on state grounds like that. The flag that ought to be flying around this country is the American flag.”
The flag flew atop the Capitol dome until 2000 when it was removed and placed at a Civil War monument--still on the State House grounds. When I lived in South Carolina, it still adorned the Capitol and I wanted to rip it down myself.

The State raised the flag there in 1962, and some believe the all-white legislature did so at the time in direct defiance of the Supreme Court and the Civil Rights movement. Whether that's true or not, the flag has come to reflect a culture of hate for many black people. And that's reason enough for it to go.

Besides, the Confederate States of America surrendered to the Union in 1865. Almost 140 years ago.


And since it's MLK Day on Monday: Even now, in 2004 Greenville is the only county in South Carolina that doesn't observe Martin Luther King Day. County employees cannot take the day off with pay. Given the opportunity to vote on the matter last May county workers rejected the move.

South Carolina only began celebrating the holiday as a state in 2001.

Wal-Mart's in trouble again. This time for locking its workers in over night.
"My ankle was crushed," Mr. Rodriguez said, explaining he had been struck by an electronic cart driven by an employee moving merchandise. "I was yelling and running around like a hurt dog that had been hit by a car. Another worker made some phone calls to reach a manager, and it took an hour for someone to get there and unlock the door."
Apparently, for the past 15 years Wal-Mart has had a policy of locking its employees in many of its Wal-Mart and Sam's stores at night to reduce crime.

Friday, January 16, 2004

For any one who loves David Levine's caricatures, The New York Review of Books has thoughtfully archived them for us here.

The caricature above is of Julian Barnes, one of my favorite writers. The ark is a reference to Barnes' wonderfully satirical book A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters. The part about the flood is told by a stowaway woodworm on the ark.

Florida's Theocracy

According to Miami Daily Business Review, Florida judicial nominees may hafta answer some fairly personal questions about their views on various religious issues. For example:
• Whether they are active in their church.

• Whether the candidate is a "God-fearing person."

• How they feel about the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 ruling striking down a Texas law criminalizing homosexual activity.

• How they would feel about having the Ten Commandments posted in their courtroom.
For real.

One female public defender was even asked the following during a judicial screening:
"Will you be able to balance your duties as a single mother of twins with your duties as a Broward judge?"
Isn't it, like, illegal for employers to ask these questions of anyone? Regardless of he irony isn't amusing. The nominees are being questioned by members of the 15th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nomination Commission.

Apparently, the biggest offender is O'Neal Dozier, the pastor of the fundamentalist Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, Florida. He was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush. As recently as November 30th 200, he was also quoted in the Sun-Sentinel as saying:
"This country is founded on the principles of Christianity, not the principles of Buddhism, not the principles of Judaism. I don't believe the developers of the Constitution would want us to compromise our Christian values."
He also described homosexuality: as "something so nasty and disgusting that it makes God want to vomit."

Quite a theocracy they got going on down there in Florida.

Via TalkLeft.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Very nice. News University: The Poynter Institute and the Knight Foundation will offer online training modules for journalists.

Paul Davies is a professor of natural philosophy at the Australian Center for Astrobiology, at Macquarie University, in Sydney. Last year, he wrote an excellent article for Atlantic Monthly called E.T. and God in which he showed that the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe - like, say, a fossilized bacterium on Mars - could prompt some serious thinking for the more religious among us, perhaps even theological crises for some.

With Spirit taking high-res pics on Mars now and with all the talk of missions to Mars, Davies' piece certainly proves timely. And wouldn't it be ironic if a program initiated by George W. Bush became a catalyst for the advancement of secular thought?

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Lake Superior State University suggests we banish these words in 2004. Good on 'em. And good riddance especially to "metrosexual," "X" anything, "punked," "shock and awe," and "shots rung out." Shouldn't that last phrase have been tossed three decades ago? I mean, don't they tell you to avoid that one in Journalism 101?

LSSU is Michigan's smallest public university and they've been creating this list since 1976. There's even a web site for submitting words.
In case you've been wondering, yes, David Foster Wallace really is a pretentious . . . twerp. Scroll down for Languagehat's critique of Wallace's well-known Harper's piece demanding a return to prescriptive English, "Tense Present: Democrat, English, and the Wars over Usage."

Both these guys know so much about language, though, that I'm cringing at the comma and hyphenation mistakes I likely made in that last paragraph. And is is Foster Wallace or Wallace? After a short fact-checking mission: I'm reasonably sure it's Wallace.

Truly scary. This guy Matt McLaughlin wants to make the Bible "a textbook for grades one through twelve" in California schools "to pupils whose parents do not opt-out by specific objection." (Note: The above links directly to a PDF file.) He tries to spin it by adding that it'd be "for voluntary reading and study" and as part of "as part of a secular program of education." Fine. As long as the Bible is one of several books, say, the texts of the world's five largest religions. That way the kids can get a truly well-rounded religious education.

More on the King James Textbook web site where we learn the following in answer to the predictable question about the separation of church and state:
This initiative provides for the King James Bible to be studied as a great work of literature only. The King James Bible was first published in 1611 and it has become a very important part of our cultural heritage and of the history of the English language.

There is so much to learn by reading the Bible that we should not keep future generations ignorant of one of the most influential books ever written!

The United States Supreme Court has said that studying the Bible is perfectly fine in the public schools when it is presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.

This initiative provides for voluntary study of the King James Bible without devotional or denominational purpose and it allows parents to "opt out" if they do not want their children to participate.

Therefore, because the initiative is for educational purposes only it is Constitutional and does not violate the First Amendment.
Guess that's right. Of course, reading the Koran or, say, Marx's Communist Manifesto would be just as appropriate under those guidelines, too. And just as easy to make sense of for first through twelfth graders, I'm sure.

In the "Just Plain Funny" category: these guys built a "Bond-like" car complete with special gadgets . . . so they could hunt rabbits illegally. Their bunnymobile was even capable of launching a couple of old bicycles behind it to slow the cops down. You read that right.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

This story about a gay father being told by a Tennessee court to stay in the closet when his son is around defies belief. The guy was thrown in jail for telling his son he's gay. (Via Atrios)

A Great Way to Make Dough

As just seen on 60 Minutes: in an economy where most businesses do little more for the community that propriety demands, the Greystone Bakery in Yonkers, NC serves as a role model. Not only do they employ the homeless and former felons to help bake their cakes (which retail for $30+), but they also make a profit, which they then pass on to various charities. Their hiring policy appears literally to be "first come, first served."

These people are real heroes. This is capitalism you can actually believe in.
Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill confirms that the White House planned a pre-emptive war on Iraq before 9/11.

From CNN:
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," O'Neill told CBS, according to excerpts released Saturday by the network. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap."
Perhaps this whole house of cards post-9/11 argument for the war is finally about to come down?

O'Neill also described Bush's presence in his Cabinet meetings as "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people."

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Wes Clark is kicking butt and taking names. Specifically, Carl Rove's butt.
Latest insanity from the Rev. Fred Phelps. He sent the director of Parks and Recreation of Topeka Rogers Brazier a $250 check to sponsor a park bench. The message he wished enscribed thereon: "Matt Shepard in Hell. He Defied God's Law."

Brazier said he'd send the check back, so Phelps said he'd "probably" sue:

"It would be because of the content of the message. That's exactly what the Supreme Court says government cannot regulate. Once you allow memorials and messages of one kind, you have to allow all of it."

The Rev. Phelps is awfully creative when it comes to hating gays, I'll give him that much.
Letter to President Bush on the War on Terrorism. For anyone who believes that the existence of neocons is a conspiracy theory or that mentioning them is akin to anti-Semiticism. These are them, folks. Don't think Francis Fukuyama is Jewish or Bill Bennett either. It ain't about being Jewish. It's about buying into a worldview and that litany of names at the bottom of the page shows you those who do. And the Project for the New American Century couldn't be more real or formidable.

So, Mr. Brooks, are you ready to plead insanity? No, I think as Eric Alterman points out, you know very well what you're doing. Says he:
I know Brooks is too smart to mean what he professes to say. I mean the term [neocon] is self-chosen by the people who operate under its rubric and is used frequently by the likes of Irving Kristol and Norman Podohoretz to describe themselves. I have on the shelf of my library, five books: John Erman’s The Rise of Neoconservatism, Cary Dorrien’s The Neoconservative Mind, Peter Steinfels’ The Neoconservatives, Mark Gerson’s The Essential Neoconservative Reader and Irving Kristol’s Neoconservatism; Autobiography of an Idea. Is Brooks saying all of these people are playing at anti-Semitism? Really, it’s beyond stupid and Brooks is quite smart so he really should apologize before he loses all credibility with his fair-minded (and well-wishing) critics.

That letter was dated September 20th, 2001, folks. The neocons are a smart bunch. Anybody who's given the history of this group even a cursory review knows they wanted to do this long before 9/11. Knows that they'd floated the ideas of pre-emptive attacks and exporting democracy a decade earlier and had been shot down. Soon after September 11th--while bodies were still being ppulled from the rubble-- they saw their opening, knew they'd now have a sympathetic audience, and they seized the day.

Don't play us for fools, Mr. Brooks.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Wonderful little site for fans of the movie Lost in Translation. Links to a video of the Kevin Shields song "City Girl" used in the flick, too.

Now the neocons are claiming that "neocon" is a liberal invention to mask anti-semiticim.

Thanks to Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall and the Daily Howler for jumping all over David Brooks' absurd assertion that "neocon" is a liberal codeword: "Con is short for 'conservative' and neo is short for 'Jewish,'" he claims.

The shame is people believe this crap and soon you'll be hearing on Fox News that every time a left-winger complains about the influence of the neocons , what he's really complaining about is a right-wing Jewish cabal holding sway over the Bush administration. Such rubbish. Even a cursory glance at the origins of the term reveals that the neocons came up with it themselves. Why here, for example, a Wall Street Journal writer, Max Boot questions the use of the term, but admits the following:
The original neocons were a band of liberal intellectuals who rebelled against the Democratic Party's leftward drift on defense issues in the 1970s. At first the neocons clustered around Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a Democrat, but then they aligned themselves with Ronald Reagan and the Republicans, who promised to confront Soviet expansionism. The neocons, in the famous formulation of one of their leaders, Irving Kristol, were "liberals mugged by reality."

Now, he too asserts that the term is sometimes misused by folks to insinuate some sorta Jewish cabal:
When Buchananites toss around "neoconservative" -- and cite names like Wolfowitz and Cohen -- it sometimes sounds as if what they really mean is "Jewish conservative." This is a malicious slur on two levels. First, many of the leading neocons aren't Jewish; Jeane Kirkpatrick, Bill Bennett, Father John Neuhaus and Michael Novak aren't exactly menorah lighters. Second, support for Israel -- a key tenet of neoconservatism -- is hardly confined to Jews; its strongest constituency in America happens to be among evangelical Christians.
Fair enough. At least he has the decency to show the term's used that way by Republicans, too. And he doesn't deny that there truly is a group of neoconservatives who *do* have an influence on the Bush White House:
The most prominent champions of this view inside the administration are Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Their agenda is known as "neoconservatism," though a more accurate term might be "hard Wilsonianism." Advocates of this view embrace Woodrow Wilson's championing of American ideals but reject his reliance on international organizations and treaties to accomplish our objectives. ("Soft Wilsonians," a k a liberals, place their reliance, in Charles Krauthammer's trenchant phrase, on paper, not power.) Like Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, "hard Wilsonians" want to use American might to promote American ideals.
Exactly! Thank you Mr. Boot. Those are *precisely* the neocons I'm referring to when I say "neocon."
Fascinating story about how Philip F. Gura found a photo of Emily Dickinson on eBay. While its authenticity is still being established, it seems increasingly likely that it's the real deal. Previously, scholars had believed there to be only a single surviving photo of the great American poet.

Gura says,
I know it is she, even if I cannot yet absolutely prove it. If the image proves genuine beyond a doubt, I realize that I will have to find a home for it in some institution, for it then would belong in a new way to all people who love Dickinson’s poetry. Right now, however, I can look at this image every day and thus perhaps get as "close" to this elusive woman as anyone can. It is a delightful feeling.
Gura picked up the photo for $481. The starting price had been $24 and only one other individual (Robert Lucas, "a well-known dealer in Dickinsoniana") even bid on it.

Andrew Sullivan makes an excellent point about Britney's annulment and our hyprocrisy in being titillated by it whilst silmultaneously being horrified by the idea of gay unions:

BRITNEY'S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT: Look, I know some of you will object to the logic, but can you not see how something like Britney Spears' insta-marriage in Las Vegas might infuriate long-committed gay couples who, even now, don't have a shred of the rights Ms Spears enjoyed for a few days? It is one thing for people to declare their commitment to traditional marriage - i.e. procreative, life-long, heterosexual. It is another thing when that ideal has almost no relationship to civil marriage as it now exists for straights; and when it is nevertheless used to deny gay people access to the institution. Over the holidays, I found myself watching all those VH1 list shows, and happened across the top ten or twenty (I forget which) shortest Hollywood marriages in history. Ha ha ha. We live a world in which Britney Spears just engaged in something "sacred" (in the president's words), where instant and joke hetero marriages and divorces are a subject of titillation, and where a decades-long monogamous lesbian marriage is a threat to civilization as we know it. Please. Can we have a smidgen of consistency here?

Monday, January 05, 2004

Took this Unabomber Quiz on The Smoking Gun and, thank god, I'm normal. Kinda creepy.

This hare-brained US-VISIT program has just been enacted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to fingerprint and photograph visitors to the United States. Ridiculous! How did the terrorists kill 3000 people? By killing themselves. They're not gonna care about being finger-printed - especially if they're ignorant stooges who haven't even fallen under the radar of the intelligence agencies. I mean how many of the terrorists on those 9/11 jets were *known* terrorists? (Many of them apparently didn't even know what they were in for when they got on those planes - in case, they decided to chicken out. Which doesn't justify their participation, of course.)

Aren't most of the guys actually on any terrorist list usually pulling the trigger from the other side of the pond? Isn't publicizing this program just going to ensure that? OK, so it's a possible deterrant to their setting foot on U.S. soil. But I'm still guessing it's the unknown stooges we've really gotta worry about anyway.

The program's euphemistic label US-VISIT stands for United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology. Sigh.

Remember those three questions they used to ask you at the airport (did you pack your own bags? have your bags been out of your sight? blah, blah, blah?), which they ditched after 9/111, admitting that asking them had never conclusively prevented a crime? Same idea here.

Only thousands of good folks are now going to take that much longer to get into the United States when all they wanna do is spend a few hundred dollars (grand?) at Disneyworld. Well, what's betting that some of 'em just don't come now.

Update (010603): Officals claim false hits on the system amount to less than 0.1 percent in trial runs. OK, I'm no mathematician, but sounds like that means that every 1000 visitors or so there's an error. Any idea how many visitors enter the United States *every day*? Gotta be tens of thousands, right? And what exactly does one of these "false hits" entail? Are they people arrested? Detained? What?

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Excellent commentary by Josh Kun on the sadly ironic mis-use of Gene McDaniel's excellent Vietnam-era protest song, "Compared to What" by Mya on her album and in a Coke ad.

"Real, real, yeah, let's make it really real," Mya sings with Common in the Coke ad in a vague "it's the real thing" sorta vibe. Talk about reducing art to rubbish.

The original lyrics capture a bleaker, but far more powerful picture:
President he's got his war

Folks don't know just what it's for

Nobody gives us rhyme or reason

Have one doubt, they call it treason

We're chicken-feathers

All without one nut -- God damn it

Tryin' to make it real -- compared to what?
Now, those are some truly timeless, lyrics, huh?