Saturday, October 29, 2005

Twenty-First Century Scriptures

Greater love hath no man than that he giveth up his Medicaid for Paris Hilton's tax cut.

- the inimitable Gen JC Christian, Patriot

Friday, October 28, 2005

Impeccable, Inpenetrable Logic

I have a lot of faith in the corporate world because it's always going to be there, so you may as well have faith in it.

- Luke McCabe of Chris and Luke, two college kids who offered themselves for sponsorship, as featured in the compelling and disturbing documentary, The Corporation.
Also discussed in the documentary: Did you know that in 1980, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the ability to patent life forms--all forms of life except a full-birth human being? Companies are patenting genes as they discover them: the breast cancer gene, the cystic fibrosis gene, whatever.
If this goes unchallenged within the world community, within less than ten years, a handful of global companies will own directly or through license the actual genes that make up the evolution of our species.

- Jeremy Rifkin, President, Foundation on Economic Trends
Shades of Gattaca, eh?

And did you know that water was privatized in Bolivia, so that Bechtel actually owned the rainwater. Yes, it was illegal to collect rainwater. People rioted. A 17-year-old kid was killed. To protect the interests of the company and its property.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Insufferapundit Glenn Reynolds serves us this little nugget today:
Jayne Meynardie emails: "Mouse or rabbit or whatever, if he knowingly lied to a grand jury, he should be punished, and no one should feel the least bit bad for him." True enough -- but it's hardly what we were promised in the run-up to today, is it? Perhaps more will materialize, as I noted above -- but as I also noted above, if this is all there is, it doesn't live up to the hoopla.
For some reason, these sentiments strike a chord with me. It's like--it's almost as if I've heard them before. Can't quite put a finger on it.

(Only this time the lies involve national security, not nubile stimulancy.)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers' Homework Late?

The NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez is reporting that Harriet Miers still hasn't submitted her rewritten questionnaire.

Hmm, could this mean Mier's is withdrawing from consideration soon? After all, if you know you're dropping out of school soon, do you hand in your homework anyway? Or do you just drop it?

Update: Um, yeah, that's a roger.

Of Condi & Crescents

Michelle Malkin has worked herself into a froth over some apparent photoshopping of a Condi Rice picture, and Crooks and Liars asks if anyone sees a red crescent anywhere in the same photo.

I do. Anyone can see that Condi's lips have been cleverly photoshopped by the Commie press to resemble two red Islamic crescents, two luscious red crescents . . .
Oh Condi Condi beggin’ on my knees
Open up your heart and let me in wontcha please
Got no money but everybody knows
I love you Condi and I’ll never let you go
Sweet and dandy pretty as can be
You be the flower and I’ll be the bumble bee
Oh she loves me oops she loves me not
People say you’re cold but I think you’re hot

Oh, Condi, Condi
Oh, Condi, Condi

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Best Quarter Ever! . . . Again!

Ten months ago, I wrote about Exxon's having the best quarter ever of any company in U.S. history. Guess what ya'll: they've done it again!

While you're spending $50 to fill the tank on your Mini Minor, Exxon's apparently about to announce that they pulled in almost $9 billion over the past three months. (Compare with 6.2 billion during the same quarter of 2004). That's the largest corporate quarterly profit ever.

As the WP points out, all these profits are making things a little awkward for big oil, and the companies--BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, et al--have ratcheted up the volume of their advertising to remind us whose side they're on. Ours, of course!

BP, for example, rebrands itself as "Beyond Petroleum," eschewing images of oil refineries for solar panel--despite the fact that BP actually makes the overwhelming majority of its profits from the ol' black gold.

Personally, I think the solution comes down to changing our way of thinking. When you're standing at the pump and watching those digits flip into the 30s, 40s, 50s, just remind yourself that you personally are helping oil companies break records for company profits left, right and center!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Music to Make You Smile

If you haven't seen Where the Hell is Matt?, you simply must watch him dance his way around the world. Says visitor Chris Walken, " It's amazing. The internet...it astonishes me. There oughta be a medal that I can give to this guy. He's beautiful."
Hurra Torpedo
Then you hafta check out red-headed Norwegian band Hurra Torpedo's inspired take on "Total Eclipse of the Heart," accompanied by guitar, icebox and, er, stove top. Warning: rampant male ass cleavage on display.

And to round off this evening's entertainment we'll drop in on Two Chinese Boys as they sing along to "I Want It That Way."

You're welcome.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

My, My Miers

George Will writes a[nother] withering column about the Miers nomination:
Such is the perfect perversity of the nomination of Harriet Miers that it discredits, and even degrades, all who toil at justifying it. Many of their justifications cannot be dignified as arguments. ...

As for Republicans, any who vote for Miers will thereafter be ineligible to argue that it is important to elect Republicans because they are conscientious conservers of the judicial branch's invaluable dignity. Finally, any Republican senator who supinely acquiesces in President Bush's reckless abuse of presidential discretion -- or who does not recognize the Miers nomination as such -- can never be considered presidential material.
Will also has some thoughts for the Left:
And Democrats, with their zest for gender politics, need this reminder: To give a woman a seat on a crowded bus because she is a woman is gallantry. To give a woman a seat on the Supreme Court because she is a woman is a dereliction of senatorial duty. It also is an affront to mature feminism, which may bridle at gallantry but should recoil from condescension.
I somewhat agree, but I don't think the Dems are giving her a pass because she's a woman; I think they're largely just sitting back and letting the Republicans do their work for them for once. On the other hand, I definitely don't think anyone should support Miers simply because so many conservatives are upset by her nomination--even if they do percieve she possesses some liberal leanings. Not only because those leanings--and they've only ever been hinted at--are easily counter-balanced by some very explicit and simplistic conservative thought, but, more importantly, if she's under-qualified, she's under-qualified. Her political and religious leanings should be irrelevant. You shouldn't get to become a Supreme Court judge simply because you're a nice gal. Ms. Miers seems like a decent person, but she's failed every tests that's been presented to her so far. And, as John Stewart pointed out, getting on the Supreme Court shouldn't be like passing high school Spanish. You don't just get to take the test again.

Oh, yeah, and there's also the whole cronyism thing, but as others have pointed out, that wouldn't matter so much if we had a President upon whose taste and judgment we could rely.

Update: Indri directs us to Nine Scorpions who expresses another point about Miers, which I'd considered but hadn't seen articulated elsewhere:
Miers has never, in her long career, evinced any inclination whatsoever for serious legal scholarship. ...

What I mean is that she has never shown a capacity for taking difficult, analytical legal issues and teasing them out into a rational order.
This, of course, is why she doesn't have much of a paper trail - except for greeting cards and thank you notes. She hasn't seemed particularly interested in law or the Constitution intellectually. (This doesn't disqualify her from Bush's perspective, I guess, because he's on record for verbally expressing his disdain for intellectualism.)

Putting Miers on the Supreme Court would be akin to making a freshman English major Chairman of the English department, despite having no journal-published writings. Only about 100 times worse.

None of this should sound elitist. It wouldn't be elitist not to promote a neophyte to the highest position in her profession in any other realm. It certainly shouldn't be considered as such when you're talking about a 20, 30 year run on the nation's highest court.

Blogging in a Media Vacuum

Reporters Without Borders offers this freebie handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents in PDF form. As they explain, "Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest." In this article, Reports Without Borders describes North Korea and Turkmenistan as "the world's black holes for news," but also criticizes the United States for its imprisonment of the NYT's Judith Miller.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Little Penguin for Penguins

Did you know "penguin" is geek speak for being particularly ideological or religious about something? It's an allusion to the seeming fanaticism some display for the Linux platform.

Well, as you'll recall some folks have recently waxed a little penguin about penguins.

Thankfully, the director of March of the Penguins has thrown a little cold water on the idea that the cuddly creatures in his documentary extol the virtues of monogomy and reflect the "theory" of intelligent design.

If they're monogamous, Luc Jacquet says, they're only serially so:
If you want an example of monogamy, penguins are not a good choice. The divorce rate in emperor penguins is 80 to 90 per cent each year. After they see the chick is OK, most of them divorce. They change every year.
Not exactly roles models for life-time commitment.

Where ID's concerned, Jacquet is quite clear, too:
For me there is no doubt about evolution. I am a scientist. The intelligent design theory is a step back to the thinking of 300 years ago. My film is not supposed to be interpreted in this way. Some scientists I know find the film interesting because it can be a good argument against intelligent design. People should not jump on these bandwagons.
Amen brother.

(Via Huffington Post)

Patriotism

You'll never have a quiet world until you knock the patriotism out of the human race. - George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Arena Schmarena



The new Charlotte Bobcats Arena opens today. The sculptures are interesting. Looks a little like they were snatched from an infant. But they're colorful. The building looks kinda cool, if squat (as arenas typically are), nestled among the big banking towers. Its construction, however, interrupted the neatly crosshatched streets in the vicinity,



bulging as it does
across what was a straight avenue
(5th near Caldwell), like an aneurysm in a city vein.



The word is that tickets aren't selling too well, though. Pity. The majority of us round here expressly told local government we didn't want it. Didn't want to pay for it. We got it anyway for $265 million, paid for with local tourism taxes.

So, the Stones rock into town tomorrow night to get things rolling. Tickets run from $60 to $350. And U2 play there in November, too, though they "sold out" within an hour. I say "sold out" because you can apparently still buy tix online through alternate venues, if you're willing to pay through the nose for them. (I found some here starting, starting at $230 and going for up to $863 a pop.) I'm thinking scalpers have figured out a way to hack Ticketmaster or similar sites, so they can buy stax of tix as soon as they're released. Clearly, the Web has encouraged a new breed of ├╝ber scalper. The scalperati.

What's the common thread through all this, of course? Money, money, money.

'Cos that's how we play it here in the Queen City.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ms POTUS

ABC's new Commander in Chief is good, cheesey fun. You've got a female President portrayed by the lovely, the statuesque actor cum archer Geena Davis. (Not, we're told, not modeled on Hilary.) And you've got the ever watchable and gleefully sinister Donald Sutherland in the role of Karl Rove Republican Speaker of the House, Nathan Templeton. In tonight's episode, she chastens the Russian president and he drops his head like a shamed schoolboy. In the first episode, the President pressured the military into rescuing a young African girl from certain execution in Nigeria for having a child out of wedlock. (That's based on a true happening--minus the rescue by American forces. That woman was freed by a Nigerian court because of a technicality.) A strong, intelligent, President with integrity? Ah, well, we can dream, can't we.

Monday, October 17, 2005

McCain on NPR's This I Believe

If we had to have a Republican President, why couldn't it have been this guy:
To me, that was faith: a faith that unites and never divides, a faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. It is the faith that we are all equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is the faith I would die to defend. ...

My determination to act with honor and integrity impels me to work in service to my country. I have believed that the means to real happiness and the true worth of a person is measured by how faithfully we serve a cause greater than our self-interest. In America, we celebrate the virtues of the quiet hero -- the modest man who does his duty without complaint or expectation of praise; the man who listens closely for the call of his country, and when she calls, he answers without reservation, not for fame or reward, but for love.
If it weren't for that unconscionably nasty business down in South Carolina.

Exercise: Compare & Contrast


Compare and contrast the following statements. Your essay should comment on common rhetorical devices and discuss the difference between perception versus reality in political discourse:
"[T]here's also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality." - President George Bush, on hurricane relief in address to the nation, September 15, 2005

"[T]his poverty has roots in generations of segregation and discrimination that closed many doors of opportunity. As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality." - President George Bush, speaking about the poverty revealed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, September 16, 2005

"[I]n a speech from New Orleans on Sept. 15, President Bush had promised the nation 'bold action' to tackle poverty, which, he said, 'has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America.' It's now four weeks later, and that bold action has yet to materialize.

"Instead, cruelly, Congress is talking of moving in the opposite direction, cutting programs for the poor to pay for hurricane relief." - News-Sentinel editorial, Fort Wayne, Texas, September 15, 2005

"Items on the agenda in Washington include the extension of tax cuts on investment income and repealing the estate tax, both aimed at the wealthy. Also proposed are tens of billions of dollars of cuts to services like food stamps, federal student loans and Medicaid, the health insurance for the low-income Americans.

"The president's vow to pay for reconstruction in New Orleans without raising taxes means further services are likely to be cut. Democrats have also attacked the Bush administration for suspending the minimum wage requirement for companies working in the hurricane-hit region. The minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not in any case been increased since 1997: adjusted for inflation it is at its lowest level since 1956." - David Teather in The Guardian, October 17, 2005

Sunday, October 16, 2005

If Only

If it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
I know from experience that many on the conservative right revere Solzhenitsyn, imprisoned as he was for standing up to the commies. I hope that in embracing his actions, they'll also carefully consider his thoughts. Left or right, though, conservative or liberal, seems we'd all benefit from keeping the above in mind.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Moira Hahn



California artist Moira Hahn has redesigned her site and it is lovely. Be sure to check out the exhaustive gallery of her stunning paintings.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Stata Center



Detail of The Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT in Boston. Architect: Frank Gehry, of course. I recognized his distinctive style from a good block away at night and went back in daylight for a better look a couple of times. What a wonderful working and activity space: coffee shop, cafe, offices, classrooms, random study areas, a tres chic bar up near the roof. Winding staircases and sporadically-placed elevators that only seem to go up half a floor or so.

Flow

Here at the User Interface 10 Conference in Boston, and I thought I'd blog a thing or two, but it hasn't happened. However, I am about to hear Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ("Me-hi Chick-sent-me-hi-lee," he pronounces it - I always refer to him as "the guy who wrote Flow") speak, so I thought I'd at least blog that, so anyone reading who's familiar with him will be jealous. Heh-heh.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Once I Was Blind

From The Business, a conservative British paper comes this astonishing quote:
This newspaper is second to none in its pro-American sentiments; in the early Bush years it devoted much ink to defending the President against the often malevolent and ignorant attacks of a congenitally anti-American European media. But we know a lost cause when we see one: the longer President Bush occupies the White House the more it becomes clear that his big-government domestic policies, his preference for Republican and business cronies over talented administrators, his lack of a clear intellectual compass and his superficial and often wrong-headed grasp of international affairs – all have done more to destroy the legacy of Ronald Reagan, a President who halted then reversed America’s post-Vietnam decline, than any left-liberal Democrat or European America-hater could ever have dreamt of. As one astute American conservative commentator has already observed, President Bush has morphed into the Manchurian Candidate, behaving as if placed among Americans by their enemies to do them damage.
(Filched from Andy Sullivan)

But, wait, there's more:
This [announcement of 200 billion for Katrina aid] merely completed Mr Bush’s demise among America’s wisest conservatives, who have always regarded his big-government conservatism as the greatest betrayal of all. Nor is it just the White House that is contaminated by it: when senior Republican leaders in Congress, who have presided over an orgy of public spending and pork-barrel, claimed that there was no fat left to cut in federal spending and that “after 11 years of Republican majority we’ve pared it down pretty good”, it was clear that the inmates had indeed taken over the asylum.
And, finally, I loved this line: "There is now a distinctive fin de regime stink about Republican Washington."

Aren't the British just the greatest writers?

Wander over to the NRO, too, and you'll find an inordinate amount of Bush-bashing--even among some of his most servile supporters. None other than Kathryn Jean Lopez had this to say about Bush's testimony on behalf of Harriet Miers this week:
The president just took some questions. To sum up his message: She's my girl. She's a good girl. Trust me.

I hate this groaning-when-the-president speaks reflex I've had all week on this issue.
Kevin Drum sent over his condolences and welcomed KJL to the fold.

Forget Miers, conservatives are now saying things about the President's qualifications, that some of us were saying before he was elected the first time. Still, at this point in the game, there's not much thrill left in being able to say, "I told you so."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Did you know Brad Pitt is working with Frank Gehry? Seriously. Yes, that Brad Pitt. He's actually designing a restaurant and penthouse for a new Gehry project, too. (Via kottke)

You might also remember that Daniel Day Lewis dropped out of acting for a while and became a cobbler in Florence before returning as Bill the Butcher in Scorsese's Gangs of New York.

It's kinda cool to see guys like this do something a little less predictable with their careers, innit?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Disorderly Conduct

Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic catechism teach that homosexuals are “objectively” and “intrinsically disordered.” With that in mind, the church is preparing to ban gays from the priesthood. Now, mental health professionals have not considered homosexuality a disorder since 1973 and the APA removed it from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders at that time. However, the DSM does list alcoholism as a disorder. The question is then, to be consistent, will the Pope soon ban all alcoholic men from the priesthood?

Of course, if the Pope were really disqualifying men from the priesthood for their disorders, he'd have to purge much of the priesthood. But the church isn't really disqualifying gays because homosexuality is a disorder; they're disqualifying gays because they still consider homosexuality a sin, "an abomination." It just doesn't sound very sophisticated for them to say so in the 21st century. So, instead, the church couches bigotry in anachronistic pseudo-psychiatric jargon.

Update 10/08: Andy Sullivan direct us to National Catholic Reporter which says Pope Benedict may be back-peddling on a complete ban of gay priests. Sort of. The statements still clearly include an implicit belief that homosexuality itself is sinful.

Of course, this could be considered somewhat progressive compared to fundamentalist Protestants, since it allows that someone be gay but not practicing and still serve as a priest. I don't think fundamentalist Baptists would consider a celibate gay much better than a practicing one. The fact that someone would accept the label "gay" for himself would be simply unacceptable.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Dept of Now You've Gone and Done It

Remember Josh Rushing the young military public affairs officer in the documentary Control Room? Well, apparently, he'll soon be reporting for Al-Jazeera. I would pay money to see Donald Rumsfeld's face when he first hears that. For those who read consider Al-Jazeera "the enemy," I'd encourage you to watch Control Room. You may come away with a different take on the TV network.

Says Rushing:
What the Marines trained me to do was to represent the best of what America stands for to a foreign audience. That's exactly what I'm going to do.
While we're on the subject of Rummy, can we agree that any time he gestures like this,

Rummy prevaricating

he's likely prevaricating?

Educating With Caveats

Indri directs us to these useful textbook disclaimer stickers. One for every occasion!

Sample:
This textbook contains material on gravity. Gravity is a theory, not a fact, regarding a force that cannot be directly seen. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
Amen. Remember kids, gravity, like evolution, is just a theory.

One of the disclaimers includes a link to this excellent explanation of the difference between scientific laws, hypotheses, and theories. Every one who this evolution is just a theory should read that to understand exactly what a theory is.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Two Words

Advertising idiocy. Yes, that's really a mosque in the background. Does anyone believe they didn't know that when they were brainstorming the ad? Way to win the hearts and minds of the Middle East, ya'll.

(Via Crooks and Liars.)

Ouch! Doh! Ouch!

It's not as bad as Caligula putting his horse in the Senate. - Richard Brookhiser, NRO. (Via Andy Sullivan)
That has to be a strong contender for quote of the week already. And from a hard-right conservative no less. I feel for Miers!

And conservative warlord Bill Kristol entitled his column in response to her nomination "Disappointed, Depressed and Demoralized." Has Bush's cronyism (not to mention hubris) finally caught up with him? This blogger even coined the expression "Brownie Moment" to describe his epiphany after Bush's recent "heck of a job" comment, and he applies it, er, liberally to Miers's nomination:
[I]n the wake of the deteriorating situation in Iraq, [Bush's] political impotence at implementing his agenda, the profligate expansion of government under his watch, and his failure to veto a single bill during five years in office, the Brownie comment was just too much.

That was my Brownie moment. And there’s a whole country full of gobsmacked Republicans who just had theirs this morning.
With Bush's re-election safely behind them, are some of his staunchest allies finally allowing the scales to fall away from their eyes?

Miers herself has called Bush the smartest man she's ever known. Doesn't that disqualify her already?

And here's the most ironic commentary. From the site actually called, wait for it, Confirm Them:
Where’s my Scalia? Where’s my Thomas? Harriet Miers? Are you freakin’ kidding me?!

Can someone–anyone–make the case for Justice Miers on the merits? Seriously, this is the best the president could do? ...

Oh, and if any of you RNC staffers are reading, you can take my name off the mailing list. I am not giving the national Republican Party another dime.
Ahem. Confirm them?

National Corruption Awareness Week

Apparently, in addition to being Banned Books Week, last week must've been National Corruption Awareness Week, what with the revelations about Frist, Delay, and, rounding out the week, this story: Federal auditors have found the Bush administration guilty of disseminating "'covert propaganda' inside the United States, in violation of a longstanding, explicit statutory ban." The audit report doesn't just slap the administration on the hand for its actions, many of which we've heard over time (Armstrong Williams), it declares them illegal. Hopefully, that's not the last we'll hear of their findings.

Looks like it's National Corruption Awareness Month though: Tom Delay's just been indicted again. (Oh yeah, then there's this whole Maggie Thatcher/Tom Delay thing.)