Monthly Archives: August 2006

Can’t Hide The Truth

Bush kas launched a public relations offensive designed to convince you how swimmingly Iraq is, and how Iraq nay-sayers (which constitute two-thirds of all Americans) are a bunch of terrorist-kissing pansy appeasers.

His problem, of course, is that facts impede the lies message that Bush is trying to convey.  Here’s a screen capture from CNN earlier today.  Bush is giving a speech about how great things are in Iraq, but "breaking news" (aka "reality") overshadows his message:

Bushnews

RELATED:  Keith Olberman channels Edward R. MurrowSee it now:

Olbermann delivered this commentary with fire and passion while highlighting how Rumsfeld’s comments echoes other times in our world’s history when anyone who questioned the administration was coined as a traitor, unpatriotic, communist or any other colorful term. Luckily we pulled out of those times and we will pull out of these times.

Remember – Rumsfeld did not just call the Democrats out yesterday, he called out a majority of this country. This wasn’t only a partisan attack, but more so an attack against the majority of Americans.

MORE:  Other commentary on Rumsfeld’s speech.  From Seattle:

Rumsfeld told an American Legion convention that Winston Churchill had once said attempting to accommodate Adolf Hitler was "a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last." Rumsfeld went on: "Can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?"

Of course, no one is calling for negotiations with Osama bin Laden. But the Bush administration has a record of twisting critics’ views to create false choices.

As any administration knows, rhetorical misdirection can help win the immediate argument. Rumsfeld received a standing ovation. But resolute administration avoidance of the real issues has contributed to the widening disillusionment even among former supporters of the war from both parties over failure to address fundamental problems in the incoherent, poorly executed Iraq campaign.

Rumsfeld employs tactics of distraction, diversion and delay with both the public and critics within the administration. When some of the sharpest attacks on his leadership are coming from former generals, Rumsfeld’s crying appeasement is audacious, misleading and manipulative, but completely in character.

ALSO RELATED:  WaPo:

U.S. military leaders in Baghdad have put out for bid a two-year, $20 million public relations contract that calls for extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq.

Let me get this straight.  Over 60% of the country is opposed to the War in Iraq, which is paid for with our tax dollars.  Now we have to pay for a public relations firm so that we can be convinced that our disapproval is wrong?

“The Scream” Found

Reuters:

Screampainting_1OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian police recovered "The Scream" and another stolen masterpiece by Edvard Munch on Thursday, two years after the works were seized from a museum by gunmen.

"We are 100 percent certain they are the originals," police chief Iver Stensrud told a news conference. "The damage was much less than feared."

"The Scream" depicts a terrified figure under a blood-red sky. The other, "Madonna," shows a bare-breasted woman with long black hair.

McDonalds Hearts Hedgehogs

McflurryI don’t think I’ve ever had a McFlurry, but to those who have: Do you know they kill hedgehogs?

Yup.  Apparently the discarded McFlurry containers trap hedgehogs who stick their head in to get some of that McFlurry McGoodness.  And the hedgehogs.

But thanks to the fine efforts of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (or NAMBLA), those little bastards won’t be dyin’ no more.  McDonalds announced today that they are redesigning the containers.  The Hedgehog Society people are really happy.

My Prediction: The Next Media Frenzy

With the JonBenet/Karr non-story now officially dead, I predict that the media will now swarm over this story.  It’s got all the elements: sex (child molestation) and murder.  Plus, it involves white people in a Connecticut suburb:

EdingtonFAIRFIELD, Connecticut (AP) — A lawyer climbed through a neighbor’s bedroom window and stabbed him to death after being told by a family member that the man had molested his 2-year-old daughter, authorities say.

Barry James, 58, was stabbed in the chest nearly a dozen times Monday. The lawyer, Jonathon Edington, 29, was charged with murder and burglary and was released on $1 million bail Wednesday.

Capt. Gary MacNamara said that police had not received a complaint about the child being assaulted before the killing, and "we have no indication it’s true or not true." (Watch how killing shocks quiet Connecticut neighborhood — 1:32)

Edington’s attorney, Michael Sherman, said the information came from Edington’s wife. "The daughter gave the mother information which was alarming and disturbing. The mom relayed it to her husband. That was the spark," Sherman said.

James’ 87-year-old mother discovered his body. When officers went to Edington’s home, they found him standing by his kitchen sink with what appeared to be blood on him, and a large kitchen knife next to him on a counter, authorities said

"He’s in shock," Edington’s attorney said. "This is the most unexpected turn of events one can imagine with this young man’s background."

Expect this story to be 24/7 for a while.

Student Wins First Amendment Case

I don’t know why, but I’m always drawn to First Amendment cases involving public schools.  This story warmed my heart:

Court Sides With Student In Bush T-Shirt Flap

(AP) Vermont schoolboy was within his rights to wear a T-shirt depicting George W. Bush as a chicken and accusing him of being a former alcohol and cocaine abuser, an appeals court ruled.

Zachary Guiles’ school violated the First Amendment when it ordered him to cover parts of the shirt, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said Wednesday.

Guiles was a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Williamstown Middle High School in Williamstown, Vt., in May 2004 when he wore the shirt, which he had bought at an anti-war rally, to classes once a week for two months. Complaints from a fellow student and her mother who had different political views caused school officials to take a closer look.

Although teachers had told the complaining student that the shirt was political speech and protected by the Constitution, the mother complained to a student support specialist, who decided images of drugs and alcohol violated the school’s dress code, the appeals court said.

The front of the shirt had Bush’s name and the words "Chicken-Hawk-In-Chief" beneath it. Below the words was a large picture of the president’s head, wearing a helmet, superimposed on the body of a chicken.

To one side of the president on the T-shirt, three lines of cocaine, a razor blade and a straw appear. Elsewhere on the shirt, the president is shown holding a martini glass with an olive in it.

After the school official ordered Guiles to turn the shirt inside out, tape over the shirt’s images of drugs and alcohol or change shirts, he returned to school another day with duct tape covering the offending images and "Censored" scrawled on the tape.

After Guiles, who was suspended for one day because of the shirt, sued school officials in U.S. District Court in Vermont, a judge found that his First Amendment rights were violated but that the school could censor some images on the shirt.

The appeals court said the school had no right to censor any part of the shirt.

"The pictures are an important part of the political message Guiles wished to convey, accentuating the anti-drug (and anti-Bush) message," the appeals court wrote. "By covering them defendants diluted Guiles’s message, blunting its force and impact."

Having read the opinion, it should be stressed that the only controversy with the shirt was the fact that it depicted drugs, not the anti-Bush sentiment.

Darwin Award Nominee

Oh, my:

A PRIEST has died after trying to demonstrate how Jesus walked on water.

Evangelist preacher Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation he could repeat the biblical miracle.

But he drowned after walking out to sea from a beach in the capital Libreville in Gabon, west Africa.

One eyewitness said: "He told churchgoers he’d had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus.

"He took his congregation to the beach saying he would walk across the Komo estuary, which takes 20 minutes by boat.

"He walked into the water, which soon passed over his head and he never came back."

Well, Which Is It?

Listerine label:

Listerine_1

The label says Listerine is "as effective as floss".

But it also tells me to "floss daily".  Why should I floss daily if Listerine is as effective as floss?

Yes, these are the things that cross my mind from time to time.

RELATED:  Speaking of dentistry, check out this hellish dental instrument from 1939:

GnathographDevice Takes Measure of the Teeth

WITH the aid of the “gnathograph,” an instrument as mouth-filling as its name, a dentist’s patients may now be assured of a perfect fit for artificial teeth. Fitted to the jaws as shown above, the new device registers the arrangement of the teeth and the direction of the “bite,” to guide the dentist in straightening teeth or fitting inlays, crowns, bridges, and plates.

The Dumbest, Poorest, and Fattest

Several studies have come out recently — all from different organizations — that rank states on various metrics.  The good folks at Hotline have combined these studies into one handy-dandy chart, showing where each state ranks in SAT scores (the higher, the dumber), Obesity (the higher, the fatter), and poverty (the higher, the poorer):

                 SAT   Obesity   Poverty      Average Alabama           37         2         8        15.67 Alaska            19        15        34        22.67 Arizona           26        43        16        28.33 Arkansas          39         7         7        17.67 California        17        30        21        22.67 Colorado          35        51        36        40.67 Connecticut       21        46        49        38.67 Delaware           7        29         3        13.00 DC                 1        39        40        26.67 Florida            4        35        25        21.33 Georgia            6        12        14        10.67 Hawaii             2        50        45        32.33 Idaho             30        31        18        26.33 Illinois          49        23        29        33.67 Indiana           12         8        28        16.00 Iowa              50        21        38        36.33 Kansas            44        26        32        34.00 Kentucky          36         5         9        16.67 Louisiana         40         4         2        15.33 Maine             13        34        26        24.33 Maryland          16        24        50        30.00 Massachusetts     23        49        41        37.67 Michigan          38        11        23        24.00 Minnesota         46        27        47        40.00 Mississippi       33         1         1        11.67 Missouri          45        14        22        27.00 Montana           29        45        15        29.67 Nebraska          43        20        39        34.00 Nevada            10        42        37        29.67 New Hampshire     24        36        51        37.00 New Jersey        15        40        48        34.33 New Mexico        32        40         4        25.33 New York           9        36        19        21.33 North Carolina    14        17        13        14.67 North Dakota      51        18        35        34.67 Ohio              28        15        24        22.33 Oklahoma          41        13        10        21.33 Oregon            25        33        17        25.00 Pennsylvania       5        19        30        18.00 Rhode Island      11        47        27        28.33 South Carolina     3         8        11         7.33 South Dakota      48        22        20        30.00 Tennessee         42         6        12        20.00 Texas              8        10         6         8.00 Utah              34        43        42        39.67 Vermont           20        47        33        33.33 Virginia          18        25        44        29.00 Washington        27        31        31        29.67 West Virginia     22         3         5        10.00 Wisconsin         47        28        43        39.33 Wyoming           31        36        46        37.67 

It should be noted that Mississippi is both the fattest and the poorest in the country.

The Ten Commandments As The Basis Of Our Law?

Rep. Katherine Harris, the Republican who oversaw the Florida Presidential elections in 2000, and who is now seeking office herself (and failing badly):

Asked whether the U.S. should be a secular country, Harris said: "I think that our laws, I mean, I look at how the law originated, even from Moses, the 10 Commandments. And I don’t believe, that uh . . . That’s how all of our laws originated in the United States, period. I think that’s the basis of our rule of law."

Now, that’s just bullshit.  And The Carpetbagger Report explains why so that I don’t have to:

You don’t need to be a constitutional scholar or have a doctorate in history to debunk the claim — you just need to look at the Commandments themselves. If the "basis" of our laws "originated" from the Decalogue, it’d be pretty obvious — we could look at the Ten Commandments and see how similar they are to our legal traditions.

The reality, of course, is that the opposite happens.

* The Commandments say people shall not worship false gods. Any laws against this? Strike one.

* The Commandments say people shall not make graven images. Any laws against this? Strike two.

* The Commandments say people shall not take the name of the Lord in vain. Any laws against this? Strike three.

* The Commandments say people must honor a Sabbath day. Any laws mandating this? Strike four.

* The Commandments say people must honor their parents. Any laws mandating this? Strike five.

If Harris is right, and the American legal tradition was formed based on the Ten Commandments, the Founding Fathers and two centuries of lawmakers have done a really bad job.

Either Harris doesn’t know what the Ten Commandments are, or she’s just spewing nonsense.

The “Secret Hold”

It is a very very very rare thing when the right side of the political blogosphere and the left side of the political blogosphere are in total agreement.  It’s even rarer when they work together.

But that is what has been happening the past few days, and it is fun to watch.

The issue is Senate Bill 2590, also known as the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2590).  It was introduced by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK), Barack Obama (D-IL), Thomas Carper (D-DE) and John McCain (R-AZ).  The purpose of the proposed law?  To create an online public database that itemizes federal funding.

The bill ensures that the taxpayers will now know how their money is being spent.  It’s a great idea — every citizen in this country, after all, should have the right to know what organizations and activities are being funded with their hard-earned tax dollars.

That’s why it has overwhelming support.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed the measure July 27th, and S.2590 seemed to be speeding on its way to full Senate passage when, in the dark of night, an unknown Senator placed a "secret hold" on the bill. According to Senate courtesies, the bill will never come to a vote as long as the hold continues.

So who’s the culprit?

The blogosphere on the left and the right united, and over the past few days, people have been calling their Senators’ offices to see if their Senator was the one who blocked the bill.  A tally is being kept here, among other places.  The united effort has become, in essesnce, an online parlor game: "Guess The Secret Senator".

Stevens2Right now, there are only five senators who haven’t denied being responsible for the "secret hold": Byrd, Robert C.(D – WV), Gregg, Judd (R – NH); Hatch, Orrin G.(R – UT); Stevens, Ted (R – AK), and
Bennett, Robert F (R – UT).

Most people now believe the culprit is Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, the testy old curmodgeon famous for the now-legendary "bridge to nowhere", a $233 million bridge in Alaska (named after Stevens himself) which went to a small island with only a handful of inhabitants.

In other words, this bill is designed to make wasteful government spending very apparent to American citizens.  It’s no surprise that the most wasteful government spender, Ted Stevens, is behind the "secret hold" on the bill.

P.S.  Ted Stevens is also the man famous for his explanation of the Internet as "a series of tubes" and "not a truck".  He also calls his e-mail by the word "Internet", as in "I received an internet last night…."

In short, the guy is as corrupt as he is stupid.

UPDATE:  Stevens admits it.

What We’re Surfing For

These are the top viewed pages at Wikipedia for the past 4 days.  It sort of serves as a good bookmark of what people are interested in as they surf for information on the internets.

My only question is: why all the interest in Irukandji jellyfish?

Views per day Percent Title
1700750 ± 20% 4.1629% 1. Main Page
56000 ± 114% 0.1371% 2. Wikipedia
51250 ± 119% 0.1254% 3. United States
49750 ± 121% 0.1218% 4. JonBenét Ramsey
37000 ± 140% 0.0906% 5. List of big-bust models and performers
35250 ± 144% 0.0863% 6. Pluto
35000 ± 144% 0.0857% 7. Irukandji jellyfish
34000 ± 146% 0.0832% 8. Hurricane Katrina
32000 ± 151% 0.0783% 9. Wiki
29500 ± 157% 0.0722% 10. Jeff Hardy
29250 ± 158% 0.0716% 11. List of sex positions
28750 ± 159% 0.0704% 12. World Wrestling Entertainment roster
27750 ± 162% 0.0679% 13. Wii
27250 ± 163% 0.0667% 14. List of female porn stars
26000 ± 167% 0.0636% 15. Pokémon
25750 ± 168% 0.0630% 16. Pornography
24250 ± 173% 0.0594% 17. Celebrity sex tape
23250 ± 177% 0.0569% 18. Neighbours
22500 ± 180% 0.0551% 19. Volkswagen Type 2
22500 ± 180% 0.0551% 20. Priyanka Chopra

Stick A Fork In Them. They’re Done.

They’re even throwing in the towel over at the Red Sox Blog:

YankeessuckkidI’ve never thrown in the towel this early in the season before. I don’t even have plans for the weekend, and I usually plan things well in advance according to the broadcast schedule. Not anymore. Stick a fork in me. I’m done. I won’t be watching any baseball this weekend. Not unless the Sox sign that lefty from Columbus, Georgia, and give him a start. Or put that 6′ 8" Saudi Arabian kid at first. What are they feeding that boy? Virgins?

I’ve invested far too much emotional energy this year. Spent too many sleepless nights after late-inning collapses. I just can’t do it any more. I’ve divorced myself from the season and am looking forward to the winter meetings, spring training and the 2007 season.

***

It all fell apart so quickly after that extra-inning game in Chicago just before the All-Star break. The bum knees, wrists and backs. "The massacre." And now heart palpitations for the man carrying the team. [Here’s what he’s talking about – Ed.]

The Red Sox have the worst record in baseball during the month of August. In baseball! What else is there to say? 

Maybe They Just Shouldn’t Watch

CBS is planning to air the documentary "9/11" on September 10.

For those who haven’t seen it (I have), it’s a documentary about a rookie fireman.  Or, at least, that’s what it started to be.  The two documentarians, a couple of French brothers, were following the story of a rookie fireman in his new ladder company in lower Manhattan.  You know the famous footage of the first plane crashing into the WTC?  That was shot by the makers of this documentary.

What most people don’t know is that, on that fateful day, the filmmakers went into the World Trade Center when the firemen responded.  It is the only footage from inside the World Trade Center on that day.

It is gripping and gritty, as you might expect.

It also contains a lot of foul language.  "Holy shit" was the phrase of the day, and it is said a lot.

Enter the American Family Association, who wants to sanitize what happened:

CBS To Air Profanity-Laden Program

It is time to tell CBS and the other networks that enough is enough!.

Not content with all the profanity already on TV, CBS has decided to air the profanity-laden unedited version of "9/11" on Sept. 10. The decision by CBS is a slap in the face to the FCC and Congress, which recently raised indecency fines to $325,000 per incident.

"9/11," which will be shown in prime-time, contains a tremendous amount of hardcore profanity. CBS has stated they have not, and will not, make any cuts in the amount and degree of profanity. CBS will ignore the law. The network is suing the FCC over the indecency law, saying they should be able to show whatever they desire whenever they desire. CBS wants no limits.

This is a test case for CBS to see how far they can go. If there is no out-pouring of complaints from the public, they will go further the next time.

The profanity is so bad that CBS has warned their affiliates that they could be subject to huge fines. The FCC says it will fine not only the networks, but also affiliates if the law is violated. Under the new Broadcast Decency Act the $325,000 per incident could run into millions of dollars not only for the network but also for local affiliates.

CBS could very easily bleep out the profanity, but they refuse. The goal of CBS is to be able to show whatever they want at anytime. The network wants no restraints on their programming. If they are allowed to get away with this, they will simply air even more profanity in the future.

You know what, AMA?  This is history.  If you can’t handle ugly reality, including the fact that some people say "Holy Shit" when skyscrapers collapse, maybe you should just rent "Cars" or turn to the Disney Channel.

Early American Textbooks

A strange editorial in the Wall Street Journal seems wistful for the days of 200 years ago:

In early American public schools, there was no separation between church and state. Tenets of Christianity were embedded in almost every lesson and book, including spelling, reading, history, grammar, arithmetic and science.

***

The schoolbooks used by early Americans were supposed to teach literacy and knowledge, but they also had a broader purpose: to create a national character, instilling children with a belief in God and a moral code appropriate to the pious citizens of a new republic. While learning to read, students also had to absorb messages about religion, patriotism and other virtues, such as thrift, diligence and honesty.

Yea, right.

Tenlittle2

Debbie Pictures

I’ll probably do a full online "album" in a few days, but here’s some pictures from the show (stolen from Heather’s media page):

Debbie20does20dallas20033_1

"Jock Rock" (Girls [L-R]: Teresa, Rebecca, Heather, Cheryl, Emily; Guys [L-R]: Ken, David, Derrick)

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Debbie20does20dallas20061

Mr. Greenfelt propositions Debbie: "I’ll give you ten dollars to look at your breasts"

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Debbie20does20dallas20064

He not only looks at them; he touches them.  Heather ("Debbie"), money in hand, has a priceless pained expression on her face.  I’m sure Heather is just "acting" that expression.  *Ahem*

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Debbie20backstage

Backstagebananas

Backstage photos:

Chicks ([L-R]: Emily, Heather, Cheryl, Teresa, Rebecca)

…and Chiquitas ([L-R]: Heather, Teresa, Emily)

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Nice_1

The cast with director Jamie

Katrina Anniversary

First, some one-year-after-the-fact facts:

Less than half of the city’s pre-storm population of 460,000 has returned, putting the population at roughly what it was in 1880.

Nearly a third of the trash has yet to be picked up.

Sixty percent of homes still lack electricity.

Seventeen percent of the buses are operational.

Half of the physicians have left, and there is a shortage of 1,000 nurses.

Six of the nine hospitals remain closed.

Sixty-six percent of public schools have reopened.

– A 40 percent hike in rental rates, disproportionately affecting black and low-income families.

– A 300 percent increase in the suicide rate.

Everyone’s got their opinion out what Katrina — one year later — "means", but mine is much like Paul Krugman’s (registration required):

Apologists for the administration will doubtless claim that blame for the lack of progress rests not with Mr. Bush, but with the inherent inefficiency of government bureaucracies. That’s the great thing about being an antigovernment conservative: even when you fail at the task of governing, you can claim vindication for your ideology. But bureaucracies don’t have to be this inefficient. The failure to get moving on reconstruction reflects lack of leadership at the top.

Mr. Bush could have moved quickly to turn his promises of reconstruction into reality. But he didn’t. As months dragged by with little sign of White House action, all urgency about developing a plan for reconstruction ebbed away.

Mr. Bush could have appointed someone visible and energetic to oversee the Gulf Coast’s recovery, someone who could act as an advocate for families and local governments in need of help. But he didn’t. How many people can even name the supposed reconstruction "czar"?

Mr. Bush could have tried to fix FEMA, the agency whose effectiveness he destroyed through cronyism and privatization. But he didn’t. FEMA remains a demoralized organization, unable to replenish its ranks: it currently has fewer than 84 percent of its authorized personnel.

Maybe the aid promised to the gulf region will actually arrive some day. But by then it will probably be too late. Many former residents and small-business owners, tired of waiting for help that never comes, will have permanently relocated elsewhere; those businesses that stayed open, or reopened after the storm, will have gone under for lack of customers. In America as in Iraq, reconstruction delayed is reconstruction denied — and Mr. Bush has, once again, broken a promise.

20050903drownbathtubKrugman is right.  Government bureaucracies are a problem, and everybody acknowledges it.  But we’ve elected leaders who merely choose to wallow in the problem, and even perpetuate it.  The problem becomes the excuse for their failures.  What is needed, of course, is leadership that not only recognizes the problem, but has the desire and ability to fix it.

Or… as one person has said:  “It does indeed logically stand to reason that if one elects into office people who don’t believe the government has any real business existing (beyond the bare necessities of a standing military) that disaster relief will be handled horrifically. Garbage in, garbage out…”

More Homobigotry from UNC Professor Mike Adams

Seriously, why is this guy still employed?

Here’s Mike Adams, professor of criminology at UNC-Wilmington:

Several years ago, I began writing columns questioning the so-called gay rights movement. I prefer to call it the “gay privileges” movement because gays are not presently deprived of anything that is rightfully theirs. A gay man has the same right I have to marry a woman.

Oy.

But here is the thesis of his latest screed:

There is nothing wrong with discriminating against a class of people who are afflicted with an emotional or mental illness that is relevant to the completion of a given task – especially if that task is crucial to the well-being of the society at large. That is why I am opposed to the idea of gays adopting or teaching our children.

The only problem is that the American Psychological Association has long rejected the notion that homosexuality is an emotional or mental illness.

But if we are going to set up absurd standards for who should and shouldn’t be teaching our kids, let’s look at this tidbit:

For the record, I have never cheated on my wife. I did, however, attempt to cheat on my wife one time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past Ms. [Ann] Coulter’s bodyguard.

In my humble opinion, anyone who wants to commit adultery with Ann Coulter has a serious mental and emotional problem, and should not be teaching.

Now here is "Professor" Adams attempt at humor.  He’s talking about criticism of his gay-bashing columns:

Frequently, the criticism would come en masse from gay groups who would post my columns on PRIDE websites or chat rooms at universities like UNC-Greensboro, which is also known as UNC-Gonorrhea.

Get it?  Because he took the "G" in UNC-G and changed it from "Greensboro" to "Gonorrhea".  Hahahahahaha!  That’s so funny and clever!  He’s like — I don’t know — Oscar Wilde or something!

The nutcase readers at Free Republic respond with typical bigotted homophobic approval, including this little gem:

UNC-Greensboro is very gay. Literally something like 50% of the male students are homosexual. However, if you’re a straight young man, you can be ugly and dumb and still have a harem, since 70% of the student population is female. Even after accounting for lesbians, you’ve got about 4:1 odds. I used to know a smoking hot young lady from my hometown who went there who always complained about not having a boyfriend.

And UNCGers out there agree?

Okay, Bye!*

*Post title ripped off from Emily

I’m done doing Debbie, and having a cigarette.

If any theater experience can be described as "too much of a good thing", that pretty much sums up my present feelings about "Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical".  I’m spent.

What a great experience.  It was an incredible.  A dream cast — both onstage and off — and a stellar crew.  Fantastic audiences.  Perhaps my best theatrical partaking ever.

But now it is time to shower off, and clean up my website.  And take a trip to Golden Pond (which I am directing).

Spoke Too Soon?

Last Friday:

A U.S. military commander in Baghdad says significant progress is being made in reducing attacks against security forces and civilians in the Iraqi capital since a large-scale operation was launched several weeks ago. Army Colonel Robert Scurlock made the remarks during a teleconference from Baghdad.

Over the weekend:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Gunmen and bombers claimed at least 69 lives in Iraq on Sunday, even as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki repeated the assertions of Iraqi and U.S. leaders that violence was easing from a wartime high set earlier this summer.

The U.S. military said seven American soldiers were killed in and around Baghdad over the weekend: four died when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in northern Baghdad, one was killed by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad and one by gunfire in the eastern part of the capital.

An American soldier also was killed Saturday in a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad, making it one of the deadliest weekends for the U.S. military.

Improv Everywhere Strikes Again

The date:  August 19, 2006

The target:  Home Depot’s mega-store in Manhatten

The mission:  225 participants (or "agents") entered the Home Depot posing as ordinary customers, scattered throughout the store and then proceeded to shop . . . in slow motion.  At a pre-determined time, they all froze for five minutes.

The results:  Full recounting, with video and photos, here.  Unlike previous ventures, the employees of Home Depot weren’t pricks about it.  They were understandably confused (as were regular customers), but they seemed to laugh rather than get annoyed.

YouTube video:

I don’t think this one was as good as the "Best Buy" mission from last April.  In that one, 80 Improv Everywhere agents entered a Manhattan Best Buy megastore, all dressed in the "Best Buy" blue shirt and tan khakis worn by Best Buy employees.  And they just stood around.  This upset the real Best Buy employees a lot (and confused many many customers).  The NYPD was called in, and many of the Improv Everywhere agents were escorted from the store.  Here’s that video:

UPDATE:  Oh, what the hell — more Improv Everywhere antics.  This one, from December 2005, is self-explanatory:

Other missions:

Posing as U2 and performing a rooftop concert (ended in arrests)

Getting 120 people to check in their backs at the Strand Bookstore, only to have the cell phones in the bags start ringing at the same time

And of course their yearly Ride the Subway With No Pants Event

My favorite though is Romantic Comedy Cab, an improv mission played solely to one person, an unsuspecting cabbie.  It’s a really sweet improv — but too complicated to explain.  Follow the link and read.

Red Sox Showing Signs Of Life

Yay:

Josh Beckett rebounded from one of the worst outings of his career to pitch six strong innings, David Ortiz hit his 46th homer, and the Boston Red Soxbeat the Los Angeles Angels 2-1 Thursday night to hand rookie Jered Weaver his first loss.

Ooops.  Did I say "signs of life"?  Maybe not:

Ortiz confirmed an Internet report that he spent last Saturday night at Massachusetts General Hospital while an irregular heartbeat was monitored…

RELATED:  I love this:

Frogs2004Former major league pitcher Jim Bouton announced Thursday the launch of an organization that will play by 19th century rules: The Vintage Base Ball Federation. Yup, back then baseball was two words.

It will be six balls for a walk, and a foul ball won’t count as a strike — unless it’s caught, in which case the batter will be out. A foul ball caught on a bounce counts for an out, and a hit batter is only a ball, with no base awarded.

Gloves will be tiny, bat handles will be thick and the ball — that’s right, one ball will be used per game unless it falls apart or is lost — will be dead. There aren’t any pitcher’s mounds, and there’s no such thing as a balk on pickoff attempts.

In a mixture of sport and theater, umpires must be addressed as "sir." Fans — called "cranks" — will be encouraged to wear period costumes, so ladies get out those flowered hats and gentlemen doff your straw boaters.

Barney & “Friends”

An actual Letter-To-The Editor from The Villiage News (of Fallbrook, CA):

On Tuesday, August 8, I took my family out to Daniel’s for groceries. I have a 6-year-old daughter who learned how to read from the Barney and Friends book series. As we stepped out of the family van, she was very excited to see a Barney movie being advertised on the Daniel’s Market lit sign. She said, “Look, Daddy, a Barney movie!” I couldn’t see it, so she guided my eyes to the vulgar obscenity arranged there on the sign. “Look! Up there! Barney’s p***s!” I was shocked when I saw the words arranged on the sign. I quickly averted her eyes and escorted her into the store.

Since then, she has not stopped mentioning Barney’s p***s. This has shaken the bedrock of our family. I made an emergency call to our church’s pastor about this bombshell in my daughter’s life and he is unsure how it will affect her future.

This sort of sick joke is typical of unlawful teenagers across the country, but I just didn’t think the little town of Fallbrook was home to such hoodlums. I am frightened for my daughter’s future; she won’t stop bringing up this horrible movie title! I would like Daniel’s Market to apologize for traumatizing my daughter, and I would like the pranksters to know just how vile their criminal act was.

"Frightened for my daughter’s future?"

Dude, she’s six.  Maybe if you let it go, so will she.

By the way, if you’re so obsessed with your daughter’s exposure to things, exactly how does your daughter know the word "penis"?

Miss Bin Laden If You’re Nasty

Much snickering lately about the new book by Kola Boof, a woman who claims to have been bin Laden’s sex slave for several years.  She claims, among other things, that Osama was obsessed with Whitney Houston, loved the B-52’s and was more or less fixated on women’s rears.

Now comes word that the book already has "movie deal" on it, with the role of Ms. Boof (bin Laden’s sex slave) possibly being played by …Janet Jackson.

I think I’ll pass.

Unless it’s a comedy.

Or if Philip Seymour Hoffman plays bin Laden.  That would be cool (in a train wreck kind of way).

Didn’t We Resolve This, Like, 50 Years Ago?

Oy:

COUSHATTA — Nine black children attending Red River Elementary School were directed last week to the back of the school bus by a white driver who designated the front seats for white children.

The situation has outraged relatives of the black children who have filed a complaint with school officials.

Why Racial Profiling Won’t Work

Case Study One: Sohail Ashraf and Khurram Zeb

Sol_228x155

Race/Religion:  Asian Muslims

Occupation:  University students

Accused "crime":  Apart from being Muslim-looking, these two wore leather jackets on a Monarch Airlines flight from Malaga to Manchester, prompting the passengers to "mutiny" for fear of becoming terrorist victims.  Sohail and Khurram were escorted off the plane, interrogated for hours, and eventually released.

Actual crime:  None

Case Study TwoRichard Reid

_41582488_reid

Race/Religion:  London-born son of English (caucasion) mother and Jamaican father (both non-Muslims); converted to Islam

Occupation:  None

"Accused" crime:  Tried to ignite his shoes, which contained plastic explosives, on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami

Actual crime:  Tried to ignite his shoes, which contained plastic explosives, on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami

****************

You see, the White/Jamaican looking guy, who spoke perfect unbroken English (being born and raised in London) was the Islamic terrorist.  Not the Muslim-looking kids.

Now admittedly, Richard Reid does look pretty ugly in his mug shot, but the point is still valid — anyone who thinks we can prevent terrorism simply by relying on looks is barking up the wrong tree.

Necessity Is The Mother Of Silly Inventions

Take a gander at some of the stupid inventions that people have come with over at the Delphion Gallery Of Obscure Patents.  Here’s some of my favorite patents actually filed with the U.S. Patent Office:

Us05356330__ US05356330
Apparatus for simulating a ‘high five’

…providing the user with a convenient outlet for the release of excitement.

Us05971829__US05971829
Motorized ice cream cone

…for imparting rotation upon the cup and rotationally feeding its contents against a person’s outstretched tongue.

Us05830035__ US05830035
Toe puppet

…mounted on a single human digit for providing animated motion of a figurine

Us05523741__ US05523741
Santa Claus Detector

… Christmas Stocking device useful for visually signalling the arrival of Santa Claus …

Jesus Loves Mrs. Turner’s Baby More Than Yours

We’ve delighted in the appearances of Jeebus and the Blessed Virgin Mary in pasta dishes, burnt toast, tree trunks, water stains, drywall, grilled chess sandwiches, potato chips, and dripped chocolate.

Now, He’s showing up . . . in a womb.  Here’s the ultrasound of Laura Turner of Warwickshire, England:

Sonogod

Now, with all due respect to Mrs. Turner, it’s great that the Our Lord and Savior has manifested himself in your belly.  Well done.

But what does this say about the millions of other pregnant women who don’t have Christ in the uterus?  Has God foresaken their children?  Just wondering…

UPDATE:  Oh, He’s EVERYWHERE!  He’s just like those gremlins in that movie whose name I can’t recall (it began with a "G") — even in our medical equipment!

Why do I say that?  Well, aside from showing up in an ultrasound in England, He is also on an MRI scan in Pittburgh.

Jesusmri

Where will he show up next?  A tomato being sold on e-BayA shrimp in San Jose?

Rove Misleads The American Public

This is the kind of thing that drives me batshit crazy:

TOLEDO, Ohio — Presidential adviser Karl Rove criticized a federal judge’s order for an immediate end to the government’s warrantless surveillance program, saying Wednesday such a program might have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Rove said the government should be free to listen if al-Qaida is calling someone within the U.S.

"Imagine if we could have done that before 9/11. It might have been a different outcome," he said.

This type of statement prays on ignorance. 

The facts are quite simple: the government has always been able to listen in on phone calls from al-Qaida to the United States.  There is a law — called FISA — which has been around for three decades (i.e., long before 9/11).  It allows the government to listen in on these conversations.  So, if al-Qaida is calling someone within the United States, all the government has to do is go to a judge a get a warrant.  It takes an hour.  They can even get the warrant after they’ve done the wiretap (within 48 hours).

You know what might have made a difference "before 9/11"?  If Bush had responded to his August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing memo which said that al-Qaida was determined to attack the United States — specifically, that the FBI had noted patterns indicating possible hijacking attempts and the fact that al-Qaida was surveilling buildings in New York.  But it was August, and Bush was clearing brush in Crawford.

Christian Coalition Is Disintegrating

About time, too:

Aug 23, 2006 (AP)— Three disgruntled state affiliates have severed ties with the Christian Coalition of America, one of the nation’s most powerful conservative groups during the 1990s but now buffeted by complaints over finances, leadership and its plans to veer into nontraditional policy areas.

***

The coalition, which claims more than 2 million members, was founded in 1989 by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and became politically powerful under Executive Director Ralph Reed before he left in 1997. Robertson, who turned over the presidency to Combs in 2002, has been criticized for provocative public statements, while Reed lost an election in Georgia last month after being linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Jim Backlin, the coalition’s vice president for legislative affairs, said the Reed situation harmed the organization because of heavy media coverage that constantly mentioned his past role with the coalition.

Backlin insisted, however, that the coalition remained influential among conservatives in Congress.

"Many of the congressional offices always look for Christian Coalition support right away when trying to get their bosses’ legislation passed," he said.

On the political left, an activist who monitors conservative organizations said the coalition never recovered from Reed’s departure with its staff and annual budget shrinking.

"They’ve been in free-fall ever since," said Peter Montgomery of the liberal group People for the American Way. "It’s not surprising that local affiliates want to distance themselves from this floundering organization."

Not only corruption, but I think many people — including those on the right now — are fed up with the tension that comes when you mix religion and politics.

It’s Official – Pluto Not A Planet

Hst_pluto_charonThere are literally millions of objects orbiting the sun, but some of them are as tiny as your hand.  And some of them, while quite large (i.e., the surface area of the United States, say), are not spherical.  Are those technically "planets"?

You may have heard about the gathering of world’s astronomers in Prague.  Their mission: to define what a "planet" is.

Today, the body of smart people (2,409 of them, from 75 countries) were to vote on this definition of a "planet":

A planet is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
A dwarf planet is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.
All other objects orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".

The resolution passed, and Pluto does not fit the definition of a classical planet.  It does, however, fit the definition of a "dwarf planet".

Sorry to shake up your universe like that, but I thought you would like to know.

Plan B Approved

This is sure to set the Christian right into fits of apoplexy, but the breaking news off the wires is that Plan B — the "morning after" pill — has been officially approved by the FDA.  It will be available over-the-counter — without a prescription.  However, girls 17 and under will need a doctor’s note in order to purchase the pills.

Welcome To My Party Of Death

This is one of the best take-downs of Ramesh Ponnuru’s book The Party Of Death that I have read.  Here’s a snippet:

In the seventh chapter of his new book, The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life, Ramesh Ponnuru draws a distinction:

There is a radical difference that separates both an adult human being and a human embryo from a kitten and a sperm cell. The first two are complete, living human organisms and the second two are not. Yet the party of death ignores that basic difference while making a difference of degree — the adult’s greater age and development of his capacities — the basis of a radical difference in treatment. To draw distinctions in this way is to violate the most basic canons of justice.

I think that killing the kitten would be worse than killing the embryo. If you agree, dear reader, you stand beside me in the party of death. We don’t think the lives of all human organisms have equal value. For my part, I hold that moral status depends on the nature of a creature’s mind. This means that the lives of creatures that can think and feel — regardless of their species — are of greater value than the lives of creatures that cannot.

***

According to liberals and other ordinary people, the moral status of something depends on what mental capacities it has. Do as you please with a baseball — it has no mind, and thus no moral status. It’s wrong, however, to beat a dog, because he can feel pain. But since dogs lack the understanding to participate in politics, they have no right to vote. Young humans can’t vote until they’ve reached an age where we can expect mental qualities like maturity, rationality, and political awareness from them. Then they achieve a moral status such that denying them the vote, and many other rights, would be an injustice.

***

[W]e often base rights on continuously variable mental qualities. Two-year-olds don’t have the right to vote because they lack the required rationality, maturity, and political awareness. All of these mental qualities increase on a continuous scale. Testing everyone for these qualities before letting them vote is impractical and open to abuse, so we let people vote when their age allows us to assume that they have these qualities. Determining the beginning of the right to life may be weightier than determining the beginning of the right to vote, but there’s no obvious reason to do it in a radically different way. Birth provides a clear and natural line for the inception of a right to life. It also fits into our general scheme of rights nicely, marking the point when any fetal right to life and a woman’s privacy rights over her body are disentangled. (I’m always baffled by the conservative claim — echoed by Ponnuru — that a woman’s privacy rights aren’t violated when the government forces her to continue growing a fetus inside her uterus. In comparison, the privacy rights a person has over what happens in his home seem trivial and derivative.)

Read the whole thing.

The Incomprehensible War

What Anonymous Liberal says (emphases mine);

It really is incomprehensible. It’s now been over three years since we invaded Iraq, and still, remarkably, no one can say with any certainty why we did it. There’s a tendency among political commentators (and I’m certainly as guilty of this as anyone) to discuss the Bush administration as if it were some monolithic entity, rather than a collection of people with differing priorities and different motives for lining up behind any given policy.

There were no doubt some administration officials–Paul Wolfowitz, for instance–who, from the beginning, subscribed to the neocon fantasy of bringing democracy to the Middle East by force, one country at a time. I suspect others–particularly Donald Rumsfeld–were just eager for the opportunity to test out our new "leaner and meaner" military. Still others–Cheney comes to mind–likely saw Iraq as an opportunity to demonstrate American strength, to, as Michael Ledeen put it, "pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business." Karl Rove likely saw the war as an opportunity to further cement the President’s image as a strong wartime leader (he probably had the whole flightsuit/aircraft carrier photo-op planned out well before the invasion). There were clearly other factors at play as well, like Saddam’s supposed WMD, Bush’s desire to finish what his father had started, and the perceived strategic value of Iraq’s oil supply.

To this day it is still not clear, even to those of us who follow politics very closely, which of these various rationales was the "real" reason we went to war. And if it’s unclear to us, it’s really unclear to the average American, who doesn’t have the time (or desire) to wade through all the propaganda. The Bush administration’s public rationale for invading Iraq has gone through any number of iterations over the last three years. But at all points along the way, the message has been muddled and filled with rhetoric designed to confuse people and foster pre-existing misunderstandings.

In the lead up to the invasion, Bush and his surrogates repeatedly conflated Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda, and the events of 9/11, leading a sizable majority of Americans to believe that Saddam was involved in planning the 9/11 attacks. I haven’t seen any recent polling on this question, but I suspect this misunderstanding is still common. After all, a full 50% of Americans still believe that Saddam had WMD.

From the beginning, Bush’s public statements about Iraq have referred cryptically to "terrorists" or "our enemy" or "they," making little, if any, attempt to explain to Americans the differences between Al Qaeda, Sunni Baathists, Shiite militiamen, etc. I suspect that for a great many of those who support the war, the logic behind it has always been pretty simple: "they" attacked us, so now we’re attacking "them." And if that’s what you believe, the Iraq war makes every bit as much sense as the war against Japan in World War II.

We’d all like to assume that most people have a more nuanced understanding of foreign policy, but is there any reason to believe that’s true? I’m not suggesting that Americans are stupid, just that many aren’t really following the plot, so to speak.

But as Iraq descends into civil war, an increasing number of Americans are beginning to see the enormous disconnect between the events of 9/11 and the self-inflicted debacle that is the Iraq War.

This really is an entirely incomprehensible war. No one knows why we’re there. No one knows how to "win." And no one knows how to go about extricating ourselves without causing even more chaos and violence.

Still Alive

We were all supposed to die yesterday.  Did you know that?

Here’s a list of gloom-and-doom articles from the right-wing press, foretelling that August 22 was the day in which Iran would wreak nuclear kick-ass on all us Westerners (or, at least, Israelis).

Wall Street Journal: August 22

World News Daily: Iran Cataclysm Forecast Aug. 22

FrontPageMag: Iran’s Day of Terror?

Free Republic: Why Aug 22? Iran Planning To Make A Bigger Splash?

NewsMax: Iran Hints at Aug. 22 Doomsday For Israel

Glenn Beck on CNN (video): Iran v. America

Didn’t happen, of course.

It seems to me that one goal of terrorism is to create terror.  Therefore, I truly believe that these conservative pants-wetters only aid and abet the enemy when they scream (needlessly) that the sky is about to fall.  They’re doing the work of bin Laden.

9/11: The Comic Book

Sorry, it’s not a "comic book" — it’s a "graphic adaptation".

Bits of it are being excerpted on Slate, but I can tell you now that if it didn’t cover such a monsterous event in history, it would be unintentionally funny.  Take, for example, this panel showing Bush on 9/11 going to speak to grade school kids in Florida:

911comix

As Wonkette points out, it’s clear that Karl Rove is being protrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman.  But what cracks me up is Bush’s Superman-like stature.  I mean, who stands like that?

Oy, These Kids Today

The Beloit College Mindset List is an informal study conducted each year of incoming college freshmen.  It gives a snapshot of their world and reference point.

If you want to feel old, check out these items which reflect the mindset of the Class of 2010 (most of whom were born in 1988):

  • The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
  • They have known only two presidents.
  • They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.
  • A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents’.
  • DNA fingerprinting has always been admissible evidence in court.
  • They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.
  • "Google" has always been a verb.
  • Text messaging is their email.
  • Phantom of the Opera has always been on Broadway.
  • Carbon copies are oddities found in their grandparents’ attics.
  • Reality shows have always been on television.
  • They have no idea why we needed to ask "…can we all get along?"
  • Young women’s fashions have never been concerned with where the waist is.
  • They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.
  • "So" as in "Sooooo New York," has always been a drawn-out adjective modifying a proper noun, which in turn modifies something else.
  • They are not aware that "flock of seagulls hair" has nothing to do with birds flying into it.
  • They never played the game of state license plates in the car.
  • Sara Lee has always made underwear.
  • They never saw Bernard Shaw on CNN.
  • Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.
  • They grew up with virtual pets to feed, water, and play games with, lest they die.

I remember, as a freshman in college, being told that they have this "new thing" where the bank gives you a card and you can go to a machine and get money, thereby avoiding the muss and fuss of writing a check and standing in line to see a bank teller.

Restoring Dignity To The White House

Remember how people claimed that Bush would restore dignity to the White House, something supposedly missing from the Clinton years?  Well, this is what we got – a frat boy:

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we’re learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he’s still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can’t get enough of fart jokes. He’s also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.

So is he Beavis or Butthead?

“Beautiful Dead Girls”

Since the media is once again obsessed with the death of adorable little Jon-Benet Ramsey, Kos diarist "hrh" thought he would shine the spotlight on some other beautiful dead girls — the ones the media doesn’t talk about.  Read it.

RELATED: Juan Cole has thoughts of his own, comparing the saturation news coverage of Jon-Benet Ramsey with another case:

But although I mind this pollution of the air waves with something that is not, whatever it is, news, the main thing I mind is the racism.

The case of Abeer al-Janabi, the little fourteen-year old Iraqi girl who was allegedly raped and killed after being stalked by a US serviceman would never be given the wall to wall coverage treatment.

That is frankly because the victim was not a blonde, blue-eyed American, but a black-eyed, brunette Iraqi. Both victims were pretty little girls. Both were killed by sick predators. But whereas endless speculation about the Ramsey case, to the exclusion of important real news stories, is thought incumbent in cabalnewsland, Abeer al-Janabi’s death is not treated obsessively in the same way. In the hyperlinked story above, CNN even calls the little girl a “woman” at first mention, because the US military indictment did so. Only later in the article is it revealed that she was a little girl. The very pedophiliac nature of the crime is more or less covered up in the case of al-Janabi, even as looped video of Ramsay as too grown up is endlessly inflicted on us.

The message US cable news is sending by this privileging of some such stories over others of a similar nature is that some lives are worth more than others, and some people are “us” whereas other people are “Other” and therefore lesser. Indeed, it is precisely this subtle message sent by American media that authorized so much taking of innocent Iraqi life in the first place. British officers have repeatedly complained that too many of those serving in the US military in Iraq view Iraqis as subhuman (one used the term Untermeschen). Where did they get that idea?

NOAA Doesn’t Do Debbie

So far this hurricane season, we had tropical storm Alberto, tropical storm Beryl, and tropical storm Chris.

The next one was supposed to be named "Debby", giving me an obvious tie-in to "Debbie Does Dallas".

But for some reason, NOAA is calling the recently-formed tropical storm "Tropical Depression FOUR".

DebhurricaneUh, guys?  What about Debby?

UPDATE:  Oh, I see.  Tropical Storm FOUR is only a depression.  It won’t become a "Debby" until it’s upgraded to an actual STORM (which isn’t expected through Wednesday).

UPDATE AGAIN:  On the other hand, CNN has the headline "Depression in Atlantic may become Tropical Storm Debby"

Pictured at right: Tropical Depression Four and Debbie Benton (insert)