Friday, May 28, 2004

Retail Kudzu

Wal-Mart's Growth. Funded by your tax dollars. Despite $9 billion profit last year.

(Via Respectful of Otters)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Small Step

This great government site details the benefits of walking.

I went to Prague for a month two years ago and spent most of the time walking and eating in little cafes and drinking some fine pivo. Lost 10 pounds while I was there.

Call it The Prague Diet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Lebowski Fest

Finally. Something I can believe in.

Not So Hot on Lott

As Kevin Drum points out, Trent Lott may not be Majority Leader any more, but he is still one miserable representative for the Republican party.

His thoughts on Abu Ghraib:
"Frankly, to save some American troops' lives or a unit that could be in danger, I think you should get really rough with them," Lott said. "Some of those people should probably not be in prisons in the first place."

When asked about the photo showing a prisoner being threatened with a dog, Lott was unmoved. "Nothing wrong with holding a dog up there unless it ate him," Lott said. "(They just) scared him with the dog."

Lott was reminded that at least one prisoner had died at the hands of his captors after a beating. "This is not Sunday school," he said. "This is interrogation. This is rough stuff."
Love it when people refer to religion in one breath, then tell you to ignore it in the next. Wonder exactly what they taught lil' Trent in Sunday school. He's certainly fond of referring to the Bible when it suits his arguments: e.g. gay bashing.

America Is Waiting

Or should be waiting anyway. Waiting to hear what the war in Iraq has done to stem the swelling ranks of al-Qaida world-wide. Heard much about the hunt for Osama bin Laden lately? Heard much about the rebuilding of Afghanistan lately?

Abuse Is Abuse

Yes, Andy, it's just as bad when U.N. troops do it.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Are You Done With That?

Seeing this site, Rapture Ready, about, well, readying oneself for the imminent return of Christ for his flock, while the rest of us get left behind made me think: do the people who get raptured mind if we plunder the stuff they leave behind?

I mean, they won't need that Lexus, that big-screen TV, that cabinet full of liquor hidden from their relatives any more, will they? Dang, what about their houses? If Mel Gibson gets raptured, can I have his house?

Some other questions come to mind, of course: Are their pets just gonna starve or do the pets of believers get raptured, too? If the pilot of a plane gets raptured will all the folks left behind, er, die, or will Jesus perform special miracles for them and bring in each plane safely for a landing sans pilote?

Back to the stuff, though. Though I'm a man of modest tastes, I do have a wish list for any generous post-Rapture folks who don't mind us left behinders appropriating their stuff:
  • Honda Civic hybrid (hey, I coulda asked for the Lexus)
  • Bang & Olufson hi-fi (OK, so I'm an audiophile)
  • Stash of red Chilean wine
  • Martin Amis or Julian Barnes first editions
  • CDs (I'm picky, so blanket permission to sift through your collection would be great)
  • Cannondale bike (preferably hybrid)
  • Laptop w/DVD & burner--at least a P4!
  • That's about it really
  • Oh, a collection of fine cheeses would be nice
See, that's not even 10 things! If anybody has any of this stuff and doesn't mind me having it after they're raptured, please just leave a note in the comments.


(Via Boing Boing)

No More Cell Phone Abuse!

Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin posts everything you need to know about Rumsfeld's ban on camera phones in Iraq.

Apparently, it's not the abuse that's the problem, it's the photos of it.

I'm with Clarence Page:
If I had my way, every enlisted man and woman in the military would be issued a digital camera. As we've seen in the scandal about abused Iraqi prisoners, the little gadgets help boost morale by providing snapshots that can be e-mailed back home. They also can come in handy when you need to gather evidence. I like those little cameras because certain power elites don't.
Apparently, Rumsfeld lives in Topsy Turvy World. You know: where right is wrong and wrong is right?

What's the bet in their next war the administration figures embedded journalists ain't such a good idea, either? Now that one they probably won't get away with. Once the press has had access, they're not too happy about giving it up.

Update: I believe it's since been proven that Rumsfeld did not ban camera phones. Nonetheless, the quotes attributed to him lamenting the use of cameras on the battlefield were quite legit.

Bush's Bullshit

Speaking at the Army War College this evening, President Bush just said that the work being done in Iraq right now is making America a safer place.

The death toll for US military in Iraq stands at 801 as he speaks. There have been 911 coalition casualties. (Yes, 911.)

Now, if, rather than going into Iraq, we had continued to help rebuild Afghanistan, had continued to search for Osama Bin Laden, how many of those 911 do you think would still be alive? How many of the uncounted US and other foreign civilians would still be alive? How many innocent Iraqi men, women and children would still be alive?

I thought about changing the title above to something less inflammatory. But, no, it's true, so I'm just gonna leave it as it is.

Do We Really Need Blogging Congressmen?

I disagree with Jeff Jarvis's thinking that our politicians should be bloggers. He refers to a panel discussion with Rep. Andrew Weiner in which he tried to convince the New York democrat that he needs to blog.

Here's the thing: Weiner *doesn't* need to blog. He just needs to do his dern job as a state representative. If he wants to include blogging in his bag of tricks, fine--might be useful for him to consult a few blogs on a weekly basis. To write a blog? Probably not good use of his limited time, though it might be good PR. Might do wonders to humanize him. For the one in a zillion folks who read his blog.

But as a State Representative, he doesn't need to blog anymore than a CEO or Senator or the President needs to.

It's a potentially effective form of communication, sure, but, well, every problem isn't a nail and the solution isn't always a hammer. By way of comparison, poll 100 CEOs and ask how many of them use email. The higher up the food chain, the bigger the company, I’m betting, the less you’ll find they use it. (Or ask how many have a blog if you think that's an apples and oranges comparison--I'm just using another tool for the sake of illustration.) Clinton sent out--what did we recently hear?--two emails his whole time in office? Bush hasn't likely sent out too many more. Certainly not as many as I do in a day. Why? Because it's not an effective means of communication for the President.

Presidents, Senators, State Reps--they shake hands, kiss babies, sit through meetings and have other folks type up the minutes, memos and speeches. They listen to the needs of the people (ideally). They work on some decent legislation together (if we’re lucky). That's their job. So don't expect El Presidente to start up a blog any time soon either. Neither should he.

I'm not arguing that a blog couldn't be an effective means of communication for a State Rep. Just that in the hierarchy of tools at his or her disposal, it's not likely an effective use of time and energy.

Now, should his communications team have a blog? Couldn’t hurt. But you know what that’s gonna be: carefully worded, flowery glowing reviews of everything the politician does. It’s gonna be a psuedo-blog (Depending on your definition, I guess). Train them to do otherwise? Good luck! These are politicians we’re dealing with!

So to Jarvis's point about transparency, maybe what these guys *really* need is an ombudsman.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

How to Dehumanize

Bob Herbert's brief but powerful NYT column "'Gooks' to 'Hajis'" tells the story of Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, a 28-year-old member of the Florida National Guard who has been charged with desertion. He served six months in Iraq, went home, then refused to return to Iraq.

Herbert writes:
Sergeant Mejia's legal defense is complex (among other things, he is seeking conscientious objector status), but his essential point is that war is too terrible to be waged willy-nilly, that there must always be an ethically or morally sound reason for opening the spigots to such horror. And he believes that threshold was never met in Iraq.
Mejia also details some of the horror he saw in Iraq, including an incident in which a friend of his, a sniper, shot dead a 10 year old boy carrying an automatic weapon.

Mejia also describes how some troops refer to all Iraqis as "hajis" in much the same way soldiers called the Vietnamese "gooks." Guess it's much easier to kill innocents when you've dehumanized them that way. Doubtless, not everyone in our military condones that sort of blanket hatred, but you have to wonder just how widespread it is, especially in light of the photos and stories we been hearing about in the past few weeks. Abuse against Iraqi prisoners and journalists. If this stuff we're hearing about, what else is going on out there?

And why are we treating the people we came to liberate this way?

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Manson Mania

Lee Siegel makes an interesting point about Charles Manson in his review of the new TV movie Helter Skelter*:
[I]f one of Manson's victims hadn't been the beautiful young actress Sharon Tate, the wife of Roman Polanski--the questions, the suspicions, the titillation that followed!--and if his disciples hadn't killed her in her glamorous Bel Air mansion, no one would even remember him today.
*TNR membership required

One Man's Trash

Great TNR article about Found Magazine and the inevitable book spin-off.

One thought: some of the stuff one would've once found--the scraps of people's thoughts, desires, ideas, outrages--this stuff can now be found in places like this, too: blogs.

Politics of Truth

Website for Ambassador Joe Wilson's book The Politics of Truth. Says he'll be on Tavis Smiley's show this Monday, the 24th.

Smiley's show has really grown on me since I started listening here in Charlotte about a year or so ago.

He's not as stuffy as some of the other NPR folk (though there's few of them I don't enjoy listening to). Nonetheless, he stays real serious on the issues.

Scrambling up the Slippery Slope

Over at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick breezily but effectively dismisses the lame slippery slope argument against gay marriage.

Richard Goldstein parodies conservative fears of petaphilia over at Village Voice.

The argument that gay marriage will lead to incest, bestiality and polygamy is pretty easily dismissed really: there are arguments against all of those things which simply don't apply to gay marriage--or homosexuality itself for that matter.

The more the dialogue continues, the only argument any on the right are going to have left against homosexuality is that the Bible says it's wrong. Then they'll have to deal with the fact that the Bible puts being gay on equal footing with being rebellious or eating shrimp.

Once they agree that the only argument they have left is on biblical grounds, they'll have to realize that they have to convince the rest of us that the Bible is the inspired word of God before we'll let a two-to-six thousand year old book start bossing us around.

Fat chance.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Reporters Abused

According to Reporters Without Borders, three Reuters reporter were also beaten and sexually humiliated by American soldiers abused in Iraq.

Disappearing Images

This excellent CJR article (from earlier this year) "Little Murders" by Jesse Sunenblick discusses censorship of provocative artwork. Often, sophisticated idea-oriented illustrations are being replaced by heavy-handed and even crass material because it's not as dark or disturbing. Sunenblick concludes that Marshall Arisman has hit upon the reason:
Something an editor at Time had said stuck with him over the years: We're a society that's willing to read all sorts of things about violence, to look at photos about violence. But we're not willing to look at artwork about violence.

Arisman says he asked why that was so. The editor replied that when people look at photos, they think they're looking at reality, not a statement by the artist. But when people look at artwork, they think the artist invented it.
Sunenblick describes rejected (or altered) work by such luminaries as Arisman, whose rejected Time cover on the theme of capital punishment appears above, Robert Grossman, Brad Holland, Mirko Ilic, Stephen Kroninger, and Steve Brodner.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Hitchens Condemns Photographing the Torture of Prisoners

. . . by Hussein's regime.

I've long enjoyed reading Christopher Hitchens, since among angry, scabrous pundits, he's got to be the most talented writer. He's also long been known for high-lighting human rights abuses around the world, even to the point of writing convincingly about the culpability of Mother Theresa (you read that right).

So it's particularly rewarding to read his condemnation of the Hussein regime's practice of photographing and videotaping the torture of prisoners:
...many countries maintain secret police forces and inflict torture on those who disagree.... [R]elatively few states will take photographs or videos of the gang-rape and torture of a young woman in a cellar and then deposit this evidence on the family's doorstep. This eagerness to go the extra mile, as is manifested in Saddam Hussein's regime, probably requires an extra degree of condemnation. And if we are willing to say, as we are, that the devil is in the details, then it may not be an exaggeration to detect a tincture of evil in the excess. We could have a stab at making a clinical definition and define evil as the surplus value of the psychopathic -- an irrational delight in flouting every customary norm of civilization.
Powerful stuff. Let's hope his indignation is just as ripe for those committing such practices who hail from his new homeland. I'd hate to see him joining the game of "But Not as Bad as Saddam" currently being played by some on the far right.

(Via Atrios and No More Mister Nice Blog)

Monday, May 17, 2004

Sometimes the Best Stuff Is in the Comments

Kevin Drum shares the transcript of the Colin Powell/Emily Miller tussle this weekend, and "gilligan" asks in the Comments,
"Will FCC Chairman Michael Powell fine his dad, Colin Powell for saying 'screwed' on prime time TV?"

Michael Moore's Converts

Seems Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is hit at Cannes--well, sure with the French, but also with some of his critics.

Apparently, Moore received a 20-minute standing ovation, the longest in Cannes's history.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Ignoring Geneva

Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker article ends with this quote from Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch:
“In an odd way,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said, “the sexual abuses at Abu Ghraib have become a diversion for the prisoner abuse and the violation of the Geneva Conventions that is authorized.” Since September 11th, Roth added, the military has systematically used third-degree techniques around the world on detainees. “Some jags hate this and are horrified that the tolerance of mistreatment will come back and haunt us in the next war,” Roth told me. “We’re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.”
Haven't had time to read the whole damning thing yet.

"Get Out of the Way, Emily"

Holy cow. I just saw the most bizarre thing on Meet the Press. Tim Russert asked Colin Powell if he was disappointed to find that the evidence he gave to the U.N. last year was faulty. Russert describes an "operative" who gave false evidence to the Bush administration. In the middle of Russert's question, someone tries to pull Powell from the interview. Then all you see is an empty spot where Powell was and you can hear some off-camera discussion. I had stepped out of the room, but it seemed like someone pulled the camera away from Powell.

Russert says something about the interruption being inappropriate and then you hear Powell say--very bluntly--"Get out of the way Emily." Then the camera goes back to Powell, Russert asks the question again and Powell responds by saying something along the lines of his being very disappointed with the discoveries. Under tough circumstances, he gave a brief diplomatic answer with aplomb. End of interview.

Back to Russert who tells us the interview took place earlier this morning and was unedited. He thanks Powell for finishing the interview, despite his press secretary's protestations.

Why does Powell hang around? Why doesn't he just quit? Run for VP with Kerry. (I know it'll never happen, but let me hear a mea culpa from him, and I'm not kidding.)

I have a feeling "Emily" will be out of a job tomorrow.

Update: Drudge has the transcript, though he doesn't maintain links properly, so it may be gone. I'll update later.

Here's what Powell said in response to Russert's question--what Emily Miller apparently thought him incapable of expressing:
I'm very concerned. When I made that presentation in February 2003, it was based on the best information that the Central Intelligence Agency made available to me. We studied it carefully. We looked at the sourcing and the case of the mobile trucks and trains. There was multiple sourcing for that. Unfortunately, that multiple sourcing over time has turned out to be not accurate, and so I'm deeply disappointed.

But I'm also comfortable that at the time that I made the presentation it reflected the collective judgment, the sound judgment, of the intelligence community, but it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that I'm disappointed, and I regret it.
Update: This afternoon on CNN, Wolf Blitzer asked Russert about the interview. Russert said he'd never been interrupted this way in his entire career at Meet the Press.

Goering on War

I may have posted this before, but it bears repeating. Goering's chilling words ring just as true today. What follows is Herman Goering speaking to Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist who was granted free access by the Allies to all the prisoners held in the Nuremberg jail:
Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. . . .

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
Precisely the Bush administration's modus operandi.

A similar quote, supposedly by Julius Ceasar is circulating, but Snopes shows it's a hoax.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Christian Rocker Feels Sad for Britney

Can I feel sad for Rebecca St. James and Britney Spears?

St. James criticized Spears for her "promiscuous fashion," then bragged:
I'm a virgin, I'm 26 and going to stay that way until after I'm married. My philosophy is, if you're committed to waiting then don't even go close to the line and only date people who are committed to waiting as well. Even the guys I date... we talk about making sure we don't go close to the line.
St. James is Australian, but I can't imagine the True Love Waits campaign which she fronts here in the U.S. being too popular in Oz.

Nothing wrong with saving oneself, of course. And if you want to save yourself into your 30s, fine. But don't condescend to the rest of us.

Of course, Christians so adamant that the rest of us maintain our virginity as long as we're single should realize a few things, most of which involve the Bible being written 2000 plus years ago when:
  • People were married off as soon as they hit puberty - in other words, parents ensured their children got married practically before they had the opportunity to have sex
  • They didn't have the variety of birth control we enjoy
  • People knew much less about sexually-transmitted diseases
  • They suffered under a lot of superstitions about human sexuality back then. Oh yeah, we still do, too

Zell Miller R-GA Update

Senator Miller, how many times we gotta ask you: please just change your party membership! "Zell Miller Blasts Fellow Democrat Kerry," the AP reports(sarcastic italics mine). What a farce! Can the Dems swap you for John McCain? Please? No one will mind. It's just an honesty thing. Besides, wouldn't it feel better to come out? I mean, it's not like you're keeping your conservative tendencies a secret any more. The GOP would welcome you with open arms.

The Visual Thesaurus

The Visual Thesaurus is tres cool. Presents synonyms spacially, according to their relevance to the word you entered. Hover over an orange dot between the word you entered and a synonym, and it reveals the connotation the two words share. Very information architecture friendly!

(Thanks Saheli!)

Aside: This new image tool BloggerBot from Hello ain't too bad once you get used to it. I posted the screen shot above with it. You can set it to automatically shrink the image, then link to the fullsize screen shot. You just hafta get used to entering the text (not too user-friendly), and/or go into Blogger to edit it.)

Sam Pelly: Himalaya often has some great modern stuff on display like this photo by Sam Pelly. He took "Himalaya" on a trek through the Himalayas to Everest.

Olbermann Vs. O'Reilly Smackdown

It began when Olbermann recently declared Bill O'Reilly an "abject failure." A Fox News spokeman responded that Olbermann is a "tortured soul." Oblermann replied:
My soul stopped being tortured the day I stopped working for those soul-less clowns at Fox.

More Google News

In response to complaints about their new blog being censored, Google assures us that they're all about getting this blog thing right.

And, in other Google news, Google announces "an exciting new feature to its advertising program."

Ads with images! Woo-hoo!

Wait a minute . . . that's not new. Traditional ads. New to Google maybe. Just plain annoying to the rest of us! Guess it had to happen though.

Sex & Violence

The Charlotte Observer's movie critic Lawrence Toppman says the new Brad Pitt vehicle Troy tells us all we need to know about America's take on sex and violence:
Petersen includes many shots of spears penetrating faces and people drowning in blood after a sword cleaves their necks. Yet he twice reveals Briseis in bed, her body coyly covered with a small sheet, her limbs artfully draped over Pitt's naughty parts. That juxtaposition of images says all you'll ever need to know about the way American audiences respond to violence and sex.

Google Groups

Google has a beta site up for users to create their own discussion groups or Google Groups. Looks awfully familiar, doesn't it?

But then, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

(To be fair, I do note that Yahoo's search doesn't look as much like Google anymore. Since they moved the tabs over to the left and all.)

Sesame Vice

As a child of the '80s, I had to appreciate this entry in Worth 1000's "Mate a T.V. Show" contest.

(Via Boing Boing)

Shifting the Blame 2: If Chuck Said It, I Believe It

Quoting convicted Watergate figure Chuck Colson, the Family Research Council blames MTV and porn for the abuse at Abu Ghraib:
"As Chuck Colson pointed out at FRC's inaugural Pastors' Briefing yesterday, when you mix young people who grew up on a steady diet of MTV and pornography with a prison environment, you get the abuse at Abu Ghriab [sic]."
Of course, the didn't have MTV in Vietnam (or any war for 10,000 years before that), and you didn't have widespread access to porn 100 years ago either. And this type of abuse has been around for centuries (minus the digital photos, of course). But if Chuck said it, I believe it.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I Want You to Poke Me as Hard as You Can

Nerd Club actually turns out to be an ad for

No Additional Comment Needed

Wolfowitz on the Geneva Convention

One of the foremost architects of the war in Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz has been quoted as saying that Rumsfeld is wrong and that proceedings at prison camps in Iraq have breeched the laws of the Geneva convention.

Now, Wolfowitz is your prototypical neocon, and I disagree with much of what I've heard coming out of his mouth. But I have to admit this incident reveals how easy it's been easy to villianize him. I applaud him for taking this stand for human rights.

Note to those downplaying what's been going on at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere as "just hazing" (e.g. all the nice folks over at Little Green Footballs): When Paul Wolfowitz describes what's going on as a human rights abuse, you might wanna pay attention.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Joe Wilson: "True American Hero"*

The more I hear from Ambassador Joe Wilson, the more I'm impressed. And not just
because of his current stand against the Bush administration's misguided foray (understatement?) into Iraq, but also for his astonishing stand against Saddam Hussein a decade ago.

In an interview with Terry Gross on NPR, Wilson described how Hussein threatened anyone harboring foreigners with death. Wilson was supposed to turn in some Americans to be registered, but he feared they'd become hostages. The choice was between their lives or his. Ambassador Wilson appeared at his next press briefing with a noose around his neck, rather than a tie, refusing to turn over the Americans and basically saying, "Here I am, Saddam, come get me."

He also detailed the psychological campaign he waged against Hussein to get him to eventually release all the hostages he had, starting with the women and children after Wilson and crew questioned his manliness.

Wilson was the last American to meet with Hussein before the first Gulf War.

This is a guy who lived in Iraq and stared Hussein down. This is a man who put his own life quite literally on the line to save the lives of American women and children.

This is the man whose family the Bush administration tried to trash when he presented honest evidence that proved contrary to that which they had presented.

Wilson's new memoir is The Politics of Truth.

*As per President George H. W. Bush

Update 06/17/05: Reviewing this post a good year and change later, I have to say my view of Wilson is a little more complex. I suspect, he may not come out of the Plame affair entirely untainted. That doesn't make his actions during the Hussein administration any less heroic. People are complex, aren't they?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

James Cameron's Charlotte, NC

As a Charlottean, I was tickled by this description of Charlotte, North Carolina, which can be found in a "scriptment" for Avatar a sci-fi movie by James Cameron, which has yet to be optioned:
Josh lives in the urban sprawl which has grown like kudzu over the whole eastern US.

His particular part of this undifferentiated concrete rat-warren is Charlotte, NC, but you could be anywhere. Its the same crowded, gray, trash-strewn high-tech squalor.The walls are gray, the sky is gray... the people are gray.
Well, hey now, Charlotte ain't that bad. Yet.

This site has stacks of screenplays which you can download and print-out for your own enjoyment, including classic like Bladerunner and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Inhofe's Outrage

After reading these remarks by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe in which he expresses his outrage over the outrage in response to prison abuse in Iraq, I sent his office the following email:
“But maybe it's better that I wasn't [at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last Friday] because as I watch this outrage that everyone seems to have about the treatment of these prisoners I have to say and I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment."

These remarks by Mr. Inhofe are inexcusable. If he cannot see that American soldiers should be setting the best example for behavior on the battlefield, then Senator Inhofe is a poor representative of any U.S. state.

The fact that someone did the same or worse does not excuse the terrible behavior of what we can only hope proves to be a small minority of our troops. To compare and fingerpoint and excuse is to engage in the sort of moral reasoning most of our parents encouraged us to avoid when we were children.

Perhaps the good people of Oklahoma will elect a Senator who offers ALL humans the same level of respect next time round.
You might like to email him, too.

(Via Atrios)

UPDATE: I've since found out that Inhofe isn't up for re-election next time. Perhaps that's what's allowed him to be so nakedly hateful.

Mr. Inhofe, I was outraged by the hideous violence perpetrated against an innocent American this weekend and broadcast around the world today. But I'll be equally horrified if any American soldier thinks it's OK for him to behead an innocent Iraqi in retaliation. For the retaliation.

I'm no pacifist--not by a long shot--by I do believe that an "eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." And I think many, perhaps even most other Americans, agree that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

So, yes, Mr. Inhofe, I'm outraged. And I'll continue to be.

Creative Non-Profit

Drop off your old computer at this Charlotte-area non-profit Simputer (USA), and they'll refurbish it and give it to a school, special need student and low-income family.

My girlfriend donated her old laptop there a couple of weeks ago. We took it into the crowded little shop--the walls lined with photos of some of the happy recipients--and the founder showed us around. He told us how he'd grown up in India with little access to technology, and how now he enjoys helping disadvantaged people here in the United States.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Blogger Permalinks

Just noticed that Blogger permalinks now include your blog entry title. Much more user friendly! For example, the permalink for the last post is as follows:

Pretty sure it used just use the date and time or something like that. Wonder what it does if you use the same heading though?

P.S. If you don't use headings, it just pulls the first several words from your post.
P.P.S. I'm assuming any old hard-coded permalinks still work?


So, you create a special Blogger email address, which you email your posts to. The subject of your email becomes the title of your post. Great quick way to post, especially if you can't access Blogger. Means I could blog from my PDA, too, and when I synch, the posts will be added. I imagine I'll hafta go back in and reformat each entry. (Wonder if HTML works?) Still. Cool. And, it's another free feature.

Guess those Google ads are paying for all this now?

Update: OK, I cheated and went back in and reformatted this post, but here's what happened:
  • It used my email default font which is Arial, so I had to take the font tags out. I used rich-text email, so I just need to send plain-text emails or change to Verdana.
  • Typing in HTML doesn't work. Too bad. Though formatting with Outlook Express's rich-text editor might work.
  • Rich text italics were changed to bold. This happens to me in Blogger, too, though. Not sure what's up with that.
  • Had to make title bold, but it was in correct font (Verdana) since subject area is in plain text.
  • Had to add a space between the title and the blog entry. Might be able to do that in the email, too.
  • Seemed to add quite a few spaces I don't think were in the email.

The New Blogger Features

Trying out Blogger's new BloggerBot feature (actually Hello's) here to post a photo by Christopher Wray-McCann. It's a bit fiddly. I had to go back into Blogger to format this post properly. Maybe it'll be helpful once I get used to it. It does host photos for you, and links the smaller photos in your blog to a larger version. For free.

I haven't tried this Mail-to-Blogger function yet either, which apparently allows you to email posts to your blog, but that could be very cool.

Is using the new Blogger comments? Are there any advantages to them over Haloscan's?

Thanks Blogger for all the new goodies. Blogger's gotta be one of the best free apps out there. Besides being highly addictive, it contributes to a sense of community on the web.

Hugger Mugger

During these rather depressing times, when stark reminders of man's inhumanity to man plaster the news on a daily basis, it's nice to hear about this guy distributing free hugs in Greenwich Village.

Now, upon seeing some bloke in NYC standing beside a sign which reads "Free Hugs," your first impulse might be to cross the street to avoid him. But this guy appears genuine. The reactions to his offer vary, but often prove entertaining.
"How about a free hug?" he hollered at a man, woman and small boy dressed all in black. "How about not?" the boy shot back.

"I'm trying to cut down," said a banker from Kenya.

"Nothing's free," said another man, as he brushed past with his golden retriever.

The rejections seemed to bounce right off Mr. Littman's toothy smile.

"Ahhhhh!" screamed Faith Smith, 15, of Queens, as she sprinted toward Mr. Littman's open arms and delivered an almost crushing embrace.

"Nobody wants to give him a hug,'' she said. "I feel so bad."
He cheered me up from several states away.


PerversionTracker actually tracks "apparently useless software," not porn, as the filters at my job (The Bank) apparently "thought." I got the usual scary black screen with "Access Denied" in huge red text, plus the word "Sex," supposedly denoting the reason for blocking it. Nice.

Anyway, does this blog lack an archive, or am I just blind? And no previous/next navigation, unless you're in an archived entry? Which presumably you couldn't get to unless it came up in search results? Or is it because the site's configured for Mac users and some incredible, cutting-edge navigation scheme is invisible to us PC plebes?

Friday, May 07, 2004

Lieberman Pats US on the Back

Today Joe Lieberman offered the already tired mantra which I thought was native to the right (well, this is Lieberman) that "the people who attacked us on September 11 never apologized." He continues:
Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized. And those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never received an apology from anybody. [italics mine]
Who apologized isn't the issue, Mr. Lieberman. Now is not a time to revel in some false sense of moral superiority. What was done was done, and comparisons to greater crimes by other people doesn't make it better. Our people screwed up and comparison games are irrelevant. Juvenile even. Another way of putting it might be, "We done bad--but them foreign guys are worse than us." See how that stands up in a court of law.

The last italicized part of his sentence, you may also notice, doesn't make a lick of sense. Guess he meant "never offered an apology to anyone."

As long as you're tracking apologies, Mr. Lieberman, you might like to point out that President President has yet to apologize for sending thousands of young Americans to Iraq for a litany of reasons mostly bolstered by faulty intelligence.

With 768 US fatalities as of this writing.

Bug Me Not!

Don't feel like signing up for a site to read that article? Try They have user names and passwords you can use, so you don't have to hand over all that private info just to read a single article you came across. Thank you BugMeNot!

Mr. Picassohead

You, too, can draw like Picasso.

Shifting the Blame

While, Rush Limbaugh says the soldiers just need some "emotional release," conservative columnist Linda Chavez awkwardly tries to place the blame for the mistreatment of the detained Iraqis on the presence of women in the military.

Her considered conclusion:
But if we want to prevent this type of conduct from ever occurring again, we not only need to punish those responsible but also look at all the possible factors that might give occasion to such abuses -- including the breakdown in discipline and unit cohesion that have gone hand in hand with gender integration in the military.
I think it has a lot less to do with women in the military than it does the human tendency to treat "the other" as something less than human. Misanthropy knows neither national nor gender boundaries. Thankfully, I haven't found a conservative--yet--who's blaming these incidents on gays in the military.

And Cal Thomas wants to blame the Muslims:
Some Arab commentators are repeating the myth that the West has, once again, humiliated Muslims. If there has been humiliation, it isn't the fault of the West. It is Muslims' fault. They took trillions of dollars in oil money, and instead of building a culture dedicated to elevating their people, including women, they have squandered it on agendas and adventures that had the opposite result. Like communism, which blamed the West for its failure to produce a better life for people forced to live under that system, Arab dictatorships must have an external enemy to keep people from blaming their leaders for the misery they have created.
What relevance this has to American military personnel stripping Iraqis and forcing them to masturbate while getting photographed, I'm not sure.

Update 050704: And the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto says the academic left is to blame.

And, of course, someone blamed Bill Clinton. Washington Times writer Joel Himmelfarb in an interview with NPR's Juan Williams:
Now, certainly one thing I will say is that I believe, as, as a lot of folks on the, on the political right believe, that our military has been undermanned for many years, and it's very, very difficult to fight a war like this with a, a military that basically is, is Bill Clinton's military and a military that basically was formed during the days when we were all talking about the "war is peace" dividend.
(Via Eschaton)

Rampant Misanthropy

I think it's reprehensible that Jeff Jarvis would flippantly compare the torture of potentially innocent Iraqi civilians to the mistreatment of criminals on a fictitious TV show (Oz). Similarly, Rush Limbaugh has compared the torture to college hazing, claiming that we need to get over our concern because "these people are being fired at every day." So he explains:
I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?
Additionally, he said, this is "just like anything you'd see Madonna, or Britney Spears do on stage." Not exactly, no, and and if they did, it'd be under their own volition. This may be the lowest I've ever seen Limbaugh descend. Does he really believe this stuff or is it all really only in pursuit of ratings? Either way, this self-proclaimed arbiter of right is morally adrift.

The torture we've seen described isn't remotely like hazing, which also happens to be illegal in many states. College students *elect* to join fraternities which engage in that sort of asinine behavior. That still doesn't justify the way they're treated. But these Iraqis didn't submit themselves to this abuse.

As many people have said: if it were Americans being treated that way by Iraqis--well, what would your response be then?

Futhermore, the argument that what we did isn't nearly as bad as what Saddam or others did is simplistic, juvenile, and morally reprehensible. I thought the United States was supposed to be a *good* example. Supposedly favorable comparisons against Saddam Hussein are irrelevant to the debacle at hand. If I tried to explain that, yes, I just robbed a bank, but I didn't steal as much as the last guy did, you'd think me insane or a simpleton. This is the reasoning of moral infants.

As Digby points out, these are the same people who were revolted by Bill Clinton getting a blowjob. But forcing Iraqi prisoners to masturbate themselves in front of women--that's OK? Just fun and games? A naked Iraqi man, prone on the floor, a leash attached to his neck, held by an American woman? You cool with that?

The hypocrisy on display about these events by some fringe-dwellers on the right--it's nothing short of nauseating. In fact, it's misanthropic. These are haters of mankind.

If the United States is to have any moral authority at all, it must be above this sort of horror. No amount of finger-pointing--look *they* did just as bad, worse--is going to cultivate that sort of authority.

I haven't been an American citizen for long. I don't want to be ashamed of that citizenship.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Just When You Think the World Couldn't Get Any Madder . . .

In March 2002, Macedonian cops staged a raid, killing seven innocent people in an attempt to show they were on board with the U.S. war on terror. The seven illegal Pakistani immigrants were brought into Mecedonia, so they could be framed as terrorists and then they were murdered. To show Macedonian solidarity with the United States. Couple this with recent reports of U.S. and perhaps British military torturing Iraqi prisoners and you have to wonder, has the whole world gone mad?

Of course, I wondered that as soon as Bush started to discuss invading Iraq, and a huge part of the population just nodded along with his reasoning.

Thank God for sane Republicans like John McCain though. When the Sinclair group yanked Nightline from its lineup last week to protest the fact that Ted koppel would spend the whole hour honoroing the dead, McCain, a Vietnam vet, wrote the following in a letter to David Smith, CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group:
Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war's terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves.

Community Prudish Announcement

So what message are we supposed to take away from this inane advertising ? That if you stumble across porn at work, it's OK to destroy company equipment? I thought the Bible said you're supposed to pluck out your own eye (Matthew 5:29 lest you think I'm making this up), not take out your guilt feelings about your dirty little mind on other people's belongings.

Just shows how little reason goes into articulating some folks' beliefs.