Monthly Archives: September 2006

Friday iPod Random Ten

  1. Cassette_1Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles
  2. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
  3. The Want Of A Nail – Soundtrack from the film "Camp"
  4. Not While I’m Around – "Sweeney Todd" (Original Broadway Cast)
  5. Lady Maramalade – Labelle
  6. Breakfast In America -Supertramp
  7. Undertow -Suzanne Vega
  8. Tuesday Afternoon -The Moody Blues
  9. Sunny – Bobby Herb

Too Depressed To Blog About This, But I Will

I don’t think most people understand what happened yesterday.  Our country changed.  In many ways, it changed more yesterday than it did on 9/11/06. 

On that day 5 years ago, many people lost their lives.  But our country’s principle’s were unscathed.  Yesterday, Congress passed a bill which sacrificed much of what this country stands for, effectually doing what our enemies (who hate our freedoms, remember?) could never do to us.

I suspect that many in Congress who voted for the Torture Bill (including the 12 Democrats) didn’t know what they were doing and/or were so afraid of being perceived as "soft on terrorism" in an election year that they didn’t care.  It’s like 2002 all over again, where voting against the Iraq War would have been perceived as weak (in an election year).

WaPo sums up some of the more disturbing features of the new law:

The bill rejects the right to a speedy trial and limits the traditional right to self-representation by requiring that defendants accept military defense attorneys. Panels of military officers need not reach unanimous agreement to win convictions, except in death penalty cases, and appeals must go through a second military panel before reaching a federal civilian court.

By writing into law for the first time the definition of an "unlawful enemy combatant," the bill empowers the executive branch to detain indefinitely anyone it determines to have "purposefully and materially" supported anti-U.S. hostilities. Only foreign nationals among those detainees can be tried by the military commissions, as they are known, and sentenced to decades in jail or put to death.

At the same time, the bill immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year. It gives the president a dominant but not exclusive role in setting the rules for future interrogations of terrorism suspects.

Georgetown University law professor Neal Katyal summed it up nicely:

"If you’re an American citizen, you get the Cadillac system of justice. If you’re a foreigner or a green-card holder, you get this beat-up-Chevy version," he said.

Now comes the inevitable question: Why should we care how terrorist detainees are treated?

Well, for one thing, we detain people who are not terrorists.  We know this to be true.  According to a Defense Department data on the Gitmo detainees:

1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.

3. The Government has detained numerous persons based on mere affiliations with a large number of groups that in fact, are not on the Department of Homeland Security terrorist watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably. Eight percent are detained because they are deemed "fighters for;" 30% considered "members of;" a large majority – 60% — are detained merely because they are "associated with" a group or groups the Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For 2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist group is unidentified.

4. Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies.

5. Finally, the population of persons deemed not to be enemy combatants – mostly Uighers – are in fact accused of more serious allegations than a great many persons still deemed to be enemy combatants.

So when people argue "Why should we give rights to terrorists", they need to understand that we’re not necessarily talking about "terrorists".  We’re not talking about people have been found guilty of committing acts of terrorism, or even been accused of committing terrorism.  Or even accused of anything.  That’s why as much as a third of them have been released (after sitting there for years without indictments or trials of any sort).

In fact, many of these detainees are probably innocent.  How do they end up in our custody?  It’s a scam:

Pakistan’s routine practice of offering rewards running to thousands of dollars for unidentified terror suspects has led to illegal detentions of innocent people, said Claudio Cordone, senior director of research at Amnesty International.

“Bounty hunters – including police officers and local people – have captured individuals of different nationalities, often apparently at random, and sold them into US custody,” he said.

Now, nobody can say for sure how many people being detained by the United States are truly innocent and how many are really, truly, honest-to-God terrorists.  For that, we would need — oh what are those things called — trials.

And therein lies the problem with the new law: it basically allows the Bush Administration not to care.  Worse than that, it allows the Bush Administration to decide who is an "enemy combatant" (yes, even you could be one) and there is not a damn thing any court can do to overrule it.

There is a guiding principle of this country that everyone has the right to defend themselves, and everyone is innocent until proven guilty.  We’ve always taken the position that these rights are not "just for Americans", but for everyone.  Read the preamble to the Declaration of Independence lately?

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

When you are found guilty of committing a crime, you lose your liberty.  But here’s the thing: you have to found guilty first.  This is a founding principle of this country — a principle that we (supposedly) would like to see spread around the world.  A principle that we have defended in war after war.  Even Nazi war criminals had their day in court.

And we’ve just abandoned it.  So how can we take a principled stand against despotism elsewhere, while we sanction it here?

But ultimately, the debate about torture and indefinite detention of detainees doesn’t turn on the issue of what detainees are "entitled" to.  It’s about the kind of country we are.

Is this America?  Do these pictures (reflecting what America has done to detainees) make you proud of your country?

Iraqtorturedcollage

Because Congress yesterday just said this is "okay" — morally and legally.

We are torturers now.  Officially.

So when Senator Mitch McConnell says…

"We are at war against extremists who want to kill our citizens, cripple our economy, and discredit the principles we hold dear–freedom and democracy…"

I want to agree and ask: Then why are you sacrificing those very principles that extremists want to destroy?

When he says…

"This system is exceedingly fair since al-Qaida in no way follows the Geneva Conventions or any other international norm. Al-Qaida respects no law, no authority, no legitimacy but that of its own twisted strain of radical Islam. Al-Qaida grants no procedural rights to Americans they capture."

I want to agree and ask: So how does dragging American to the level of Osama’s cave actually benefit us?

Dream Research

71625382_cd3cdd566e_mHere’s some quotes from an article describing recent dream research:

Liberals are more restless sleepers and have a higher number of bizarre, surreal dreams — including fantasy settings and a wide variety of sexual encounters.

Woo-hoo!

Conservatives’ dreams were, on average, far more mundane and focused on realistic people, situations and settings.

They dream about people having a panel discussion about the Federal Reserve policy.

Liberals were far more likely to have sexual dreams about strangers and a variety of partners, while liberal women showed a greater tendency towards same-sex fantasies than their conservative counterparts (24 versus four per cent).

Woo-hoo!

Conservatives, by comparison, were far more likely to report having sexual dreams about their spouse or current partner.

"I had a dream about my husband clipping his toenails."

While left-wingers might be more adventurous in the subconscious bedroom, they’re also more likely to wake up in a cold sweat.

Well, the reason we wake up that way is because of our passionate dreams.

Overall, conservative males appear to sleep the most soundly and remember the fewest dreams, while liberal women are the most restless sleepers and fantastical dreamers.

Cool.  And then the "researcher" concludes:

"While some of my colleagues think my research reinforces the stereotype of repressed, uptight conservatives, it also shows that many liberals may he hanging on the edge of mental well-being… There may be a lot of hidden distress and unpleasantness in the liberal mind."

Why?  Because I dream about sex?

That got me to wonder about the dream researcher behind the study.  So I did a little research on this "dream researcher" and I should point out that he’s hardly what you would call a "scientist".  His PhD is from University of Chicago Divinity School, and his conservative religious bent appears in much of his articles.  For example, in one article entitled "Dreams and the 2004 Presidential Election", he writes:

A Bush-supporting 28-year old woman from North Carolina had this dream twice within a week in mid-October: “I had a dream that Bush lost.  It was actually set up like, a newspaper article I was reading.  I was reading that Bush only served one 4 year term. (which would lead me to believe he didn’t win) Then I was trying to see who was the new president, but I couldn’t find the name, I assumed it was Kerry but something told me maybe it isn’t.”

Perhaps the Biblical tradition that doubling a dream signals its prophetic truth (Gen. 41:32) enhances the credibility of this woman’s dreams, at least from a conservative Christian perspective.

In my view, injecting a "conservative Christian perspective" into a "scientific" analysis damages this guy’s credibility as a scientist.  Scientists (and I include legitimate dream researchers in that category) should be impartial observers of the natural world.

Still, I thought the whole dream/political thing was interesting.  And his data strikes me as probably accurate, although his analysis of the data leaves much to be desired.

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Your Dead Husband’s A Liar

How embarrassing.

Paul Vance, the lyricist for the early 60’s hit "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini", died earlier this week.  His passing was noted by the Associated Press.

This came as a surprise to the other Paul Vance — the one who really wrote the lyrics to the novelty hit (and who has collected millions of dollars in royalties from it).

The widow of the exposed (dead) imposter stated the obvious:

"If this other man says he did it then my husband’s a liar, or he’s a liar"

She’s standing by her (dead) man, but it must be kind of awkward to know that the "little lie" he told her many many years ago (probably when they were courting) is untrue.

Zombie Protest

Apparently, a bunch of zombies held a protest in Austin this past week:

253890273_5b9af950da

A good time was had by all.

253890214_8eef3177a2

That is, until the pirates showed up, staging a counterprotest.

253890080_63d136df5e

The full photo set is on FlickR.

Why do I bring this up?  As a shameless plug for this:

Zombieprom

I haven’t seen the show, but I hear good things.  Also, I wanted to say that I think this is Jeff Driver’s best poster ever.

P.S.  I should also plug Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Grace & Glorie, both of which I hope to see this weekend (both close this weekend).  I’ve heard nothing but good things about both of them.

And, oh yeah — we’re working really hard to bring you "On Golden Pond" in a few weeks, so mark it  on your calendar.

The Torture Bill’s Biggest Flaws

From the New York Times:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

Nice summary.

Publius points to these quotes:

On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that unite our country.

From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth.

Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. . . .

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right.

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies.

Those quotes are all from Bush’s Second Inaugural Address, and every thing he said is belied by his advocacy of the torture bill — an unconstitutional bill which shows how Bush’s America is opposed to the principles of freedom, human dignity, and the rule of law.

Put another way: The writ of habeas corpus is one of those basic foundations of modern Democracy. Without it, words like liberty and freedom have no meaning.

UPDATE:  Law Professor Bruce Ackerman explains what the legislation means.  If you only remember one thing, remember this:

"The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights."

Glenn may sound hyperbolic, but the fact is, he’s not.

There really is no other way to put it. Issues of torture to the side (a grotesque qualification, I know), we are legalizing tyranny in the United States. Period.

But maybe the last word should go to founding father Patrick Henry:

Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury …necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings–give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else! …Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.

UPDATE – THE SILVER LINING:  Specter’s attempt to put habeus corpus back in the bill failed to pass the Senate by a 51-48 margin.

The good news is that this bill is so transparently unconstitutional (at least, the part suspending habeus corpus) that it simply will not surive the courts.

In the meantime, expect more of this:

The Coolest Thing Ever

If this is what it is cracked up to be, I’m signing up.

Many people have 3 phone numbers: a work number, a home number, and a cell phone number.  How can your friends and family know how (and when) to reach you?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could give your contacts ONE phone number, and their calls would reach you no matter where you were?

That’s the idea behind Grandcentral, a web application that lets YOU decide where to take your calls.

Check it out.

Here’s some interesting features:

(1)  YOU get to pick your Grandcentral number.

(2)  You can switch phones right in the middle of a conversation.  That is, if you are at home talking on your cell, you can pick up the conversation on your home phone without ending the call.

(3)  All your voicemail goes into one centralized location.  You can check your voicemail from (or for) any of your phones.  You can even check your voicemail through the Internet.

(4)  Caller ID, all the time.  You can customize your Grandcentral service so that certain callers automatically go into voicemail, while others find you.

(5)  You can have customized voicemail greetings for whoever calls.

(6)  It’s FREE (for 3 phones or less).

Why Is Mona Lisa Smiling?

MonasmilesScientists think they’ve found the answer.  Using some fancy 3D technology, they’ve determined that the model for Mona Lisa (whose name was Lisa Gherardini, wife of Florentine merchant Francesco de Giocondo) "had just given birth to her second son when she sat for the painting".

They were also able to pinpoint the exact year of the painting: 1503.

Read about it.

NIE, NIE, NIE

If you’re interested in this subject, you’ve probably already discovered the controversial NIE already.  The "key judgments" section  was declassified by Bush and is available here [PDF format].

Even though the released portion of the NIE is three pages long, let me provide a summary of the summary done by Midtopia:

Good news
1. We’ve seriously damaged the leadership of Al-Qaeda.

2. The ultimate political aim of jihadists — conservative Sharia government — is opposed by the vast majority of Muslims.

3. Prominent Muslim clerics have begun condemning Islamic violence with increasing punch and frequency.

Bad news
1. Al-Qaeda remains a serious threat to the U.S. homeland and has grown less centralized, making it harder to penetrate.

2. The number of jihadists is growing, both in numbers and geographic reach.

3. Expect more attacks in Europe, often from home-grown radicals.

4. Iraq is proving a great training and breeding ground for terrorist leaders, breeding a "deep resentment" of the United States and increasing support for jihadist movements.

5. The factors fueling terrorism currently outweigh the factors restraining it, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future.

6. Sunni extremist organizations other than Al-Qaeda are likely to expand their reach unless countered, perhaps obtaining the ability for large-scale terror attacks. However, they pose little threat to the U.S. homeland itself.

Predictions and suggestions
1. Addressing the underlying factors that produce terrorism — autocratic governments that are corrupt and unjust, fear of Western domination, Iraq, lack of social and economic reforms and pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment — will help fight it. But the instability inherent in such transitions will provide jihadists with short-term advantages.

2. If jihadists feel they have lost in Iraq, it will dampen their fervor and hinder recruitment.

I’m sure war supporters will latch on to the first item under "Good news" and the last item under "Predictions" to say "We’re beating Al-Qaeda, and Iraq is where we’ll break the back of terrorism."

But that’s misreading the document. We’ve done great harm to Al-Qaeda, true — and good for us. But that has almost nothing to do with Iraq. And the gist of the NIE is that Al-Qaeda is resilient and still our biggest threat.

As for Iraq, let me break the report down for you.

The NIE first states what is: Iraq is a breeding and training ground for terrorists, and inspiring growth in jihadi ranks worldwide. This is likely to continue for the forseeable future, and the report lists "Iraq" as one of the four underlying factors fueling militant Islam.

On the whole, the NIE is extremely negative, and the bottom line is unambiguous: The Iraq War has worsened the threat of terrorism and made us less safer.

Bush declassified this section (after it was leaked to the New York Times), thinking it would exonerate him.  Specifically, he agreed with the document’s conclusion "that because of our successes against the leadership of al-Qaeda, the enemy is becoming more diffuse and independent."

The problem, as the NIE makes clear, is that a more diffuse and independent enemy is a BAD thing.  Why?  Because we can’t penetrate an enemy that is diffuse and independent.  The report says that explicitly:

New jihadist networks and cells, with anti-American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.

Yesterday, Bush called his critics "naive".  But only Bush, it seems, thinks the NIE actually paints the Iraq War as a good thing in terms of the Global War on Terrorism.  Even Fox News has the headline: "Iraq a ‘Cause Celebre’ for Extremists, Intel Report Says".  And remember, this is only 10% of the complete NIE — the part that Bush released.  How bad is the rest of it  – the part we haven’t seen?

But what really scares me is how the Administration is spinning this thing.  Take a look at this press briefing last night by Homleand Security Advisor Frances Townsend:

Let me just briefly walk you through the key judgments….

It goes on to talk about networks and cells that are spreading and adapting to our counterterrorism efforts, as well as further down that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy and is becoming more diffuse.

Okay.  The report says that our enemy is becoming decentralized.  Hold that thought, and continue.

As you know, the President’s newly released National Strategy for Counterterrorism, on page four of that, does reference this point, remarking that the terrorists today are more dispersed and less centralized. The President, in his speech on September 5th, noted that the terrorist threat is more dispersed and self-directed.

Okay.  So even the President has acknowledged that the terrorist threat is decentralized.  Sounds like everyone is on the same page, right?

This really underscores the President’s point about the importance of our winning in Iraq. On September 5th, the President, in his speech, said, "Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America, it is the central battlefield, where the outcome of this struggle will be decided."

Wait, what?

That’s what we lawyers call a contradiction.  If the enemy has become "decentralized" then how can Iraq be "the central battlefield"?

Will some intrepid reporter ask the President to explain this?

ANOTHER OBSERVATION:  The right-wing talking about about the run-up to the Iraq War is essentially this: "The intelligence was bad, so it’s the fault of the intelligence community."  Well, Bush’s interpretation of the current NIE suggests to me that the maybe the intelligence community is right, and the Bush Administration simply doesn’t know how to read.

UPDATE:  Yeah.  Nothing says it like graphs.  This graph is compiled from data that the CIA gave the State Department.

Comparison_of_significant_attacks_2

ANOTHER GOOD POINT from the New York Times:

Three years ago, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld wrote a memo to his colleagues in the Pentagon posing a critical question in the "long war” against terrorism: Is Washington’s strategy successfully killing or capturing terrorists faster than new enemies are being created?

Until Tuesday, the government had not publicly issued an authoritative answer. But the newly declassified National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism does exactly that, and it concludes that the administration has failed the Rumsfeld test.

THE ANONYMOUS LIBERAL decimates an emerging rightwing meme:

Goldberg writes:

Since when is any large, important, task required to show positive results at every stage? Declaring war on Japan increased the threat of war from Germany dramatically. And waging war on both countries, obviously, made things less safe for Americans in the short run.

But these historical comparisons are entirely inapposite. It is one thing to accept a short-term increase in danger in exchange for eventual victory. But where’s the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq? The ostensible purpose of our invasion of Iraq was to reduce the threat of terrorism, at least in the long term. Does anyone still think that’s a likely outcome?

Moreover, when we fought Japan and Germany, we had very different goals. We were trying to defeat enemy states. We could be confident that if we toppled those regimes, the violence would cease. But when you are fighting a group of stateless jihadists, the only way to make progress is to reduce the number of jihadists. If your strategy results in a net increase in the number of jihadists, it is, almost by definition, a bad strategy.

Sooner or later, the defenders of the Iraq invasion are going to have to face this reality honestly. A losing strategy can only be spun for so long.

Also:

When you are fighting a group of stateless terrorists, you can only win by reducing the total number of terrorists in the world. There’s just no way around that basic equation.

It therefore makes zero sense to pursue a policy that leads to a net increase in terrorists. Is that really so hard to understand?

Studio 60 Update

I Tivo’d but haven’t watched the second episode.  Lance Mannion (who missed the pilot) liveblogged it.  As his wrap-up suggests, he (like me) was a little underwhelmed, but willing to give it a chance:

I’m going to give Studio 60 a couple more chances.  West Wing made me grumpy like this for the first few episodes—and there were things about it that I never stopped being grumpy about—but I was glad I stuck with it.  I stuck with West Wing for Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe. I’m sticking with Studio 60 for Steven Weber and Matt Perry, who so far, seems to be the only character on the show who understands that comedy is harder than dying.

UPDATE:  This is the best written review of Aaron Sorkin and Studio 60 yet.  I agree with everything in it.

For The Unbelievably Lazy

Oh, for crying out loud.  You just have to press a couple of buttons to microwave.  Is that too difficult for people?

Hiwtk203_microwaveredbox_photo_fullsizeDaewoo’s Voice Recognition Microwave Oven:

At first glance, this may seem like a regular microwave, but it’s anything but normal. This voice-activated microwave oven stores up to 40 voice commands and will respond to anyone who talks to it. Tell it what you want to cook, and the oven will automatically start with the correct time and the temperature for your selection. The oven is nearly 95 percent accurate! Having this new friend in the kitchen to talk to doesn’t cost a fortune.

Coming in 2007 to a market near you!

Bush’s Church To Bush: “Get Out Of Iraq”

The United Methodist Church (Bush’s religion of choice) took a stance the past weekend:

United Methodist Church leaders helped launch a week of protest and civil disobedience against the war in Iraq by signing a declaration of peace urging President Bush to pull U.S. troops out of the country.

The Declaration of Peace, signed Sept. 21, is described as a call for nonviolent action to end the war in Iraq. The Washington event was one of 350 that will be staged nationwide to promote the peace initiative. The declaration calls for people to “engage in peaceful protests” if there is not a plan for troop withdrawal established and begun by Sept. 21, days before Congress adjourns for the fall elections.

More than 500 groups, almost half of them faith organizations, are involved in the declaration of peace effort, which recently retired Bishop Susan Morrison said includes “acts of moral witness to seek a new course for our country.”

By signing the peace document in front of the White House, the United Methodists and other protesters hoped not only to make a statement but also to influence congressional races in November by forcing candidates to outline where they stand on the war.

Speakers at the Washington rally, which drew about 100 people to Lafayette Square, castigated Bush, accusing him of lying about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction and launching what they called an illegal offensive.

Good thing Bush doesn’t actually attend church — that might be awkward.

Earth Is Hotter Than Ever

AP reports:

The planet’s temperature has climbed to levels not seen in thousands of years, warming that has begun to affect plants and animals, researchers report in Tuesday’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Earth has been warming at a rate of 0.36 degree Fahrenheit per decade for the last 30 years, according to the research team led by James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

That brings the overall temperature to the warmest in the current interglacial period, which began about 12,000 years ago.

Here’s the dire warning:

"If further global warming reaches 2 or 3 degrees Celsius, we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know. The last time it was that warm was in the middle Pliocene, about 3 million years ago, when sea level was estimated to have been about 25 meters (80 feet) higher than today," Hansen said.

By the way, "An Inconvenient Truth" is still playing in theaters.  Go see it, or wait a few months and see the DVD.

How To Poach Salmon …In Your Dishwasher

Apparently, it works!

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COOK A WHOLE FISH!

1 Place fish packets on the top rack.

2 Add dirty dishes and lemon-scented soap. This optional step is not recommended for novices. However, as long as the salmon’s tightly sealed in its aluminum foil packet, it won’t absorb any soapy taste or smell.

3 Set dishwasher to the "normal" cycle. Modern dishwashers have "economy" and "cool dry" settings, which are undesirable since they conserve heat. However, on the other end of the spectrum, the "pots and pans" setting tends to overcook the fish.

4 Run salmon through the entire wash-and-dry cycle — approximately 50 minutes for most models.

5 When cycle’s complete, take salmon out, discard foil, place one fillet on each plate and spoon a generous serving of dill sauce on top.

More Women Prefer…

Every Tuesday, the folks over at Mental Floss type a search term into Google, and report the trivia that turns up in the results.  They call it "Tuesday Turnip" (get it?).

Today’s Tuesday Turnip was "More women prefer".  Here’s what the Mental Floss folks discovered from searching that phrase in Google:

Dog_and_woman More Women Prefer Dogs Over Husbands: An online poll released by DogCatRadio.com, shows more women would rather have a pet than a husband.

I’m skeptical of this — consider who conducted the poll.

More Women Prefer Looks Over Money: The more money a woman earns, the more likely she is to prefer good looks to money in her man, a new survey reveals.

Not surprising.

More women prefer clean-shaven men (70% of women prefer a clean shave, 20% prefer a goatee, 7% prefer a full beard, 3% do not care about facial hair).

Yeah, the goatee thing is soooooo 90’s.

More women prefer shopping for their children than for their spouse (71% compared to 67% for women aged 16-55).

I think more woman prefer shopping than, well, anything.

Cable TV’s Oxygen Network recently released a report suggesting that technology advertisers are missing out on a large market share by not marketing to women. The survey found that more and more women prefer technological gadgets to jewelry, clothes and shoes, nearly closing the gap between women and men and their technology needs and uses.

Hmmm.  I suppose that depends on the gadget.

Given the option, more and more women prefer Caesarean section to natural birth.

Well, duuuuh.

Paulnewman_1More women prefer blue eyes (36 percent) to brown or dark eyes (30 percent).

Whatever.

When it comes to having their private parts examined, more women prefer a physician of their own sex. But for treating a broken leg, women don’t seem to give physician sex a second thought, according to a Norwegian study of women aged 36 to 55.

They have women in Norway?

According to a Lifetime Women’s Pulse Poll, three times more women prefer to work for a man, with Bill Gates topping the list of ideal male bosses at 38%. But despite this preference for men, the #1 ideal boss is Oprah Winfrey with 58% of the vote.

This doesn’t surprise me.  I think women have more problems working for women then for men.

Facebook Open To All, Starting Today

Go there.  Here’s why it’s better than myspace:

Facebook is clean; you can’t add stupid music videos or sparkly lights or huge text to your profile. It’s much more professional-looking, and the features are quite useful. MySpace, on the other hand, feels like the internet circa-1997. Sure, the kids love it, but it’s uglier than anything else on the net.

I tried MySpace for about a week and gave it up. All of my friends save one or two are on Facebook anyway. I just don’t see MySpace having a future in three or four years, but Facebook could be an internet staple if they play their cards right.

Another testimonial, talking about Facebook’s decision (effective today) to open up registration to everyone:

Well, as an avid facebook user, I think it’s a good move. I think it will become a good alternative to the other social networking sites on the web. Opening up to the public will just help facebook because it has a lot of the privacy features that MySpace lacks. Plus, I don’t have to worry about having an epileptic seizure everytime I go to someone’s profile as with MySpace, and it just a great way to keep in touch, so why not let everyone in?

Or read this testimonial of why Facebook is better than myspace (ironically, it’s on mySpace)

And yes, Facebook is faster and easier to navigate.

I’m telling you people.  MySpace is the afro and bell bottoms of the Internet.  In 3-4 years, nobody except little kids will be using it.

Supreme Court Preview

The first Monday in October is coming, which means it’s time for the Supreme Court to don their robes and do . . . things.

Back in the day, I used to blog more about the Supreme Court, partly because I had to prepare continuing legal education materials as part of my job.  I don’t do that anymore, unless a particular case interests me.  This year’s docket is a little ho-hum, but there are a couple of cases to watch out for:

  • Gonzales v. Carhart: Whether a woman, whose health is endangered by her pregnancy, has a constitutional right to a safe abortion.  This is essentially the same case as Steinberg v Carhart back in 2000, which said that a state law banning partial birth abortions must provide a health exception for the woman.  A defiant conservative Congress basically ignored the Court and wrote the same law — this time it is a federal law.  Under normal circumstances, the Court would try to remain consistent with its prior rulings.  But with the addition of Roberts and Alito, it’s a new court — and this could mark a turning point not only for the "right to choose", but with respect to other protected rights.
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Environmental Agency: Whether the Clean Air Act imposes a mandate on the EPA to issue rules restricting greenhouse gas emmisions.  It’s rare that an environmental case makes it to the Supreme Court.  But this is an important one.  The EPA takes the position that under the Clean Air Act, it cannot regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which means that we don’t have laws to deal with global warming.  Sadly, the EPA is probably right, and I suspect that SCOTUS will find in their favor.  Of course, all Congress has to do is pass a new environmental law, but that’s no going to happen while Republicans are in control.
  • Philip Morris USA v. Williams: To what extent a court may impose punitive damages on a company engaged in "highly reprehensible" acts.  I’m interested in this for purely personal reasons.  Philip Morris got slammed hard in a tobacco litigation with punitive damages.  The question is whether there is a limit to the amount of punitive damages.  if the court goes against the tobacco company, that means I have more less job security.  Nuff said.
  • Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District #1 Meredith v. Jefferson County Bd. of Education: Whether local school boards can use race as a factor in assigning children to schools

The Clinton-Wallace Smackdown, or “What Did Bush Do To Combat Terrorists Pre-9/11”?

I have little to say about the whole controversy, except this: Clinton was right.

Hirsch explains:

Clinton_fox90[W]hen Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace gently asked the former president “why didn’t you do more” to put Al Qaeda “out of business,” he sparked an unexpected blast. Clinton, who had granted Wallace an interview at his signature Global Initiative Forum in New York last week, accused the host of being a conservative hit man. The former president said his anti-bin Laden efforts had far exceeded those of the Bush administration before 9/11. “At least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now,” Clinton said, thrusting his face into the mild-mannered Wallace’s. “They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try.”

For the record, that is mostly true. Clinton and his national security advisor, Sandy Berger, who is ridiculed in the ABC mini-series for allegedly shrinking from efforts to assassinate bin Laden, regularly discussed the Al Qaeda problem and repeatedly pressed the U.S. military for more options against bin Laden. It was mainly the military, which feared another Desert One debacle, when eight U.S. commandoes died in a botched effort to rescue the American hostages in Tehran, that shrank from taking more aggressive action than cruise missile strikes. “No operation that was ever recommended to the president was ever turned down,” says Jim Steinberg, Berger’s former deputy and now dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin.

And for the record, the Bush administration barely paid attention to bin Laden before 9/11, as documented by the 9/11 Commission and other inquiries. On Jan. 26, 2001—six days after Bush’s inauguration—an FBI report for the first time conclusively tied the USS Cole bombing in Yemen to Al Qaeda. A few weeks later, CIA Director George Tenet raised the stakes, calling bin Laden’s global terror network "the most immediate and serious threat" to U.S. national security. Yet there was no retaliation for the Cole or any other Al Qaeda attack for eight months—the “principals” did not even hold a meeting on how to deal with the terrorist group—despite Tenet’s increasingly urgent warnings about an Al Qaeda attack in the summer of 2001. Even today, the Bush administration is spending more time, resources and energy on supposed state sponsors of terror, like Iraq, than on the terrorists themselves.

Rice, by the way, is lying here when she says:

"What we did in the [first] eight months [of the Bush Administration] was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years"

No, dear.  On August 6, 2001, Bush received this Presidential Daily Briefing [PDF format].  The memo specifically warns:

  • a large attack was planned
  • the attack would be on United States soil
  • target cities of attacks included New York City and Washington, D.C.
  • the World Trade Center bombing was explicitly mentioned
  • hijacked plane missions were anticipated
  • people living in, or traveling to, the United States were involved
  • recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York by al Qaeda

Something was in the wind, and the President was warned.  What did you do, Condi?  Nothing.  And why?  Let’s see what you told Congress:

"It did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States."

No new threat information?  A "historical" document?  It talks about "recent" surveillance of building in New York as well as "anticipated" hijackings of planes.

Now, Condi — obviously you might not have been able to know precisely when and where the 9/11 events would take place.  But you did nothing in response to this memo — you didn’t even have a meeting (whereas Clinton held a meeting on Al Qaeda every week of his presidency, whether or not there was new information or not).

So to say that the Bush Administraion was "just as aggressive" as Clinton is a flat-out, bald-faced lie.

UPDATE:  Wow.  This TIME story from 2002 is worth a re-read.  The title alone, which refers to the Clinton Administration, says it all — "They Had A Plan":

Berger attended only one of the briefings–the session that dealt with the threat posed to the U.S. by international terrorism, and especially by al-Qaeda. "I’m coming to this briefing," he says he told Rice, "to underscore how important I think this subject is." Later, alone in his office with Rice, Berger says he told her, "I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject."

The terrorism briefing was delivered by Richard Clarke, a career bureaucrat who had served in the first Bush Administration and risen during the Clinton years to become the White House’s point man on terrorism. As chair of the interagency Counter-Terrorism Security Group (CSG), Clarke was known as a bit of an obsessive–just the sort of person you want in a job of that kind. Since the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000–an attack that left 17 Americans dead–he had been working on an aggressive plan to take the fight to al-Qaeda. The result was a strategy paper that he had presented to Berger and the other national security "principals" on Dec. 20. But Berger and the principals decided to shelve the plan and let the next Administration take it up. With less than a month left in office, they did not think it appropriate to launch a major initiative against Osama bin Laden. "We would be handing [the Bush Administration] a war when they took office on Jan. 20," says a former senior Clinton aide. "That wasn’t going to happen." Now it was up to Rice’s team to consider what Clarke had put together.

Berger had left the room by the time Clarke, using a Powerpoint presentation, outlined his thinking to Rice. A senior Bush Administration official denies being handed a formal plan to take the offensive against al-Qaeda, and says Clarke’s materials merely dealt with whether the new Administration should take "a more active approach" to the terrorist group. (Rice declined to comment, but through a spokeswoman said she recalled no briefing at which Berger was present.) Other senior officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations, however, say that Clarke had a set of proposals to "roll back" al-Qaeda. In fact, the heading on Slide 14 of the Powerpoint presentation reads, "Response to al Qaeda: Roll back." Clarke’s proposals called for the "breakup" of al-Qaeda cells and the arrest of their personnel. The financial support for its terrorist activities would be systematically attacked, its assets frozen, its funding from fake charities stopped. Nations where al-Qaeda was causing trouble–Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Yemen–would be given aid to fight the terrorists. Most important, Clarke wanted to see a dramatic increase in covert action in Afghanistan to "eliminate the sanctuary" where al-Qaeda had its terrorist training camps and bin Laden was being protected by the radical Islamic Taliban regime. The Taliban had come to power in 1996, bringing a sort of order to a nation that had been riven by bloody feuds between ethnic warlords since the Soviets had pulled out. Clarke supported a substantial increase in American support for the Northern Alliance, the last remaining resistance to the Taliban. That way, terrorists graduating from the training camps would have been forced to stay in Afghanistan, fighting (and dying) for the Taliban on the front lines. At the same time, the U.S. military would start planning for air strikes on the camps and for the introduction of special-operations forces into Afghanistan. The plan was estimated to cost "several hundreds of millions of dollars." In the words of a senior Bush Administration official, the proposals amounted to "everything we’ve done since 9/11."

And that’s the point. The proposals Clarke developed in the winter of 2000-01 were not given another hearing by top decision makers until late April, and then spent another four months making their laborious way through the bureaucracy before they were readied for approval by President Bush. It is quite true that nobody predicted Sept. 11–that nobody guessed in advance how and when the attacks would come. But other things are true too. By last summer, many of those in the know–the spooks, the buttoned-down bureaucrats, the law-enforcement professionals in a dozen countries–were almost frantic with worry that a major terrorist attack against American interests was imminent. It wasn’t averted because 2001 saw a systematic collapse in the ability of Washington’s national-security apparatus to handle the terrorist threat.

MORE OF THE SAME FROM THINK PROGRESS:

In her interview with the New York Post, Condoleezza Rice claims that the Clinton Administration did not develop a strategy to fight al Qaeda:

The secretary of state also sharply disputed Clinton’s claim that he “left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy” for the incoming Bush team during the presidential transition in 2001.

We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda,” Rice responded during the hourlong session.

Here’s what the 9/11 Commission Report has to say about it:

As the Clinton administration drew to a close, Clarke and his staff developed a policy paper of their own [which] incorporated the CIA’s new ideas from the Blue Sky memo, and posed several near-term policy options. Clarke and his staff proposed a goal to “roll back” al Qaeda over a period of three to five years …[including] covert aid to the Northern Alliance, covert aid to Uzbekistan, and renewed Predator flights in March 2001. A sentence called for military action to destroy al Qaeda command-and control targets and infrastructure and Taliban military and command assets. The paper also expressed concern about the presence of al Qaeda operatives in the United States.” [p. 197]

Clarke, who also worked for the Bush administration, wrote Condoleezza Rice a memo as soon as the Bush administration took office, stating, “[W]e urgently need…a Principals level review of the al Qida network.” His request was denied.

YET EVEN MORE:

The Guardian from 2002:

[Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft] also sent a memorandum to his heads of departments, stating his seven priorities. Counter-terrorism was not on the list. He turned down an FBI request for hundreds more agents to be assigned to tracking terrorist threats.

***

According to yesterday’s edition of Newsweek, he had a showdown on counter-terrorism with the outgoing FBI director, Louis Freeh, in the spring of last year in Quantico, Virginia, at an annual meeting of special agents.

People at the meeting said the two disagreed fundamentally on their priorities.

Mr Ashcroft’s agenda comprised "basically violent crime and drugs" and when Mr Freeh began to talk about his concern about the terrorist threat facing the country, "Ashcroft didn’t want to hear about it".

Thanks, But Can You See How That Doesn’t Help?

New York Times, 9/25/06:

Col. Tom James, who commands the division’s Second Brigade, acknowledged that his unit’s equipment levels had fallen so low that it now had no tanks or other armored vehicles to use in training and that his soldiers were rated as largely untrained in attack and defense.

The enormous strains on equipment and personnel, because of longer-than-expected deployments, have left active Army units with little combat power in reserve.

Agapepress, 9/25/06

It’s strong as stainless steel and sturdy as a Samsonite suitcase. Well, maybe not exactly. But it is a waterproof, tear-resistant Bible

Bardin & Marsee’s camouflage-covered Gospel of John will be almost weightless — 1.4 ounces — and folded to be highly portable. The company, hardly more than a year old, is seeking churches and individuals to be a part of spreading the Gospel through Light of the World 2006

"This is certainly a great idea," said American Family Association president Tim Wildmon. "What better gift could we send our troops? For a believer it can be encouragement and strength; for an unbeliever, it may be the very thing that leads him to Christ."

Bush Busted In A Huge Lie

Glenn Greenwald says "this report alone ought to dictate the outcome of the election."

If you haven’t heard the news, a leaked internal government report — a government report from the Bush Administration — says "No".

A classified intelligence report concludes that the Iraq war has worsened the terrorist threat to the United States, U.S. officials told CNN Sunday.

Some intelligence officials have said as much in the past, but the newly revealed document is the first formal report on global trends in terrorism by the National Intelligence Estimate, which is put out by the National Intelligence Council.

Now, this isn’t some minor memo from some little rinky-dink intelligence office.  The National Intelligence Estimate is the consensus judgment of the entire US intelligence community, with input from all the different agencies, from CIA and DIA to INR and FBI and all the others. In other words, this is the collaborative judgment of the people actually fighting the War on Terror.

The report is six weeks old, and while it has no doubt been read by Bush, he has been out there saying the OPPOSITE thing.  Here’s what he said on August 21:

You know, I’ve heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of “we’re going to stir up the hornet’s nest” theory. It just doesn’t hold water, as far as I’m concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

He said that, knowing that his entire intelligence community — 16 separate spy services from the FBI to the CIA to other acronyms — all said just the opposite!

Josh Marshall puts this in perspective:

For the last six weeks and, in fact, the last six months, the White House and the president have been engaged in a coordinated campaign to convince the public that despite the setbacks and mistakes, the war in Iraq is a critical component of fighting the War on Terror. Making that argument is their plan for the next six weeks until the election. All the while, they’ve been sitting on a report that says that’s flat wrong, a lie and that precisely the opposite is the case.

That’s a cover-up in every meaningful sense of the word, a calculated effort to hide information from and deceive the public.

Back to Glenn Greenwald:

So, a recap of the Iraq war: there were never any WMDs. The proliferation of government death squads and militias in Iraq means that, compared to the Saddam era, human rights have worsened and torture has increased to record levels. Iranian influence has massively increased, as a result of a Shiite fundamentalist government loyal to Tehran replacing the former anti-Iranian regime. We’ve squandered hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives. And we have — according to the consensus of our own intelligence community — directly worsened the terrorist problem with our invasion, and continue to worsen it with our ongoing occupation.

How can anyone claim with a straight face that this war was a good idea?

RELATED:  Definitely a bad weekend for Bush.  Not only the NIE report, but his comment on CNN that that history will show that the 2,700 dead U.S. soldiers in Iraq will be viewed as "just a comma"

Oy.

Generals Against The War

Can’t let this pass unnoticed:

Retired military officers on Monday bluntly accused Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of bungling the war in Iraq, saying U.S. troops were sent to fight without the best equipment and that critical facts were hidden from the public.

"I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," retired Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste said in remarks prepared for a hearing by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

A second witness, retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, assessed Rumsfeld as "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically …."

"Mr. Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making," he added in testimony prepared for the hearing, held six weeks before the November 7 midterm elections, in which the war is a central issue.

The conflict, now in its fourth year, has claimed the lives of more than 2,600 American troops and cost more than $300 billion.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota, the committee chairman, told reporters last week that he hoped the hearing would shed light on the planning and conduct of the war. He said majority Republicans had failed to conduct hearings on the issue, adding, "if they won’t … we will."

Since he spoke, a government-produced National Intelligence Estimate became public that concluded the war has helped create a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Batiste, who commanded the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, also blamed Congress for failing to ask "the tough questions."

He said Rumsfeld at one point threatened to fire the next person who mentioned the need for a postwar plan in Iraq.

Batiste said if full consideration had been given to the requirements for war, it’s likely the U.S. would have kept its focus on Afghanistan, "not fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents."

Hammes said in his prepared remarks that not providing the best equipment was a "serious moral failure on the part of our leadership."

Heckuva job, Rummie.

What Happens To Your Email After You Die

It turns out, it’s actually kind of a problem:

Talcott, 69, a friend of beatnik Neil Cassidy, apparently took his password to the grave.

It’s a vexing, and increasingly common problem for families mourning the loss of loved ones. As more and more people move their lives, address books, calendars, financial information, online, they are taking a risk that some information formerly filed away in folders and desks might never be recovered. That is, unless they share their passwords, which poses security threats.

"He did not keep a hard copy address book. I think everything was online," said Talcott’s daughter, Julie Talcott-Fuller. "There were people he knew that I haven’t been able to contact. It’s been very hard."

"Yahoo (his e-mail provider) said it wouldn’t give out the information due to privacy laws, but my dad is dead so I don’t understand that," she said.

In another situation, Yahoo only gave out email passwords only when forced by a court order.  Google and America Online are a little more understanding:

Google will provide access to a deceased Gmail user’s account if the person seeking it provides a copy of the death certificate and a copy of a document giving the person power of attorney over the e-mail account, said a Google spokeswoman.

America Online follows the same policy, according to spokesman Andrew Weinstein.

Of course, the best thing to do is to avoid this problem in the first place:

The dilemma can be avoided by putting passwords to e-mail, photo, music and other online accounts in an estate planning document, attorneys say. E-mail providers don’t typically offer access to accounts of deceased unless without relevant documentation.

A will?  I’m supposed to have a will?

Get Over Yourself, Bill

158322601xBill O’Reilly boasts to Barbara Walters, saying he is on al Qaeda’s "death list".  He knows this because the FBI told him.

The FBI responds:

"I’m not aware of any FBI agents warning anyone at Fox News of their presence on any list….For that matter, I’m not aware of any Al Qaeda hit list targeting journalists. Agents from the D.C. field office, FBI headquarters, and a hostage negotiator went to Fox’s offices in New York last month to advise them specifically on the Gaza kidnapping [of Fox employees Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig]. But they only talked to management, they didn’t talk to any individual journalists."

It’s almost sad to ssee him lie to exaggerate his own importance.

Getting Emergency Contraception

Everyone has been linking to this harrowing account of what it’s like to get emergency contraception (EC) in rural Ohio, so I will too.

This woman’s doctor told her to call the ER.  She did.  Then a parade of nurses hemmed and hawed over the phone, until finally a fourth nurse told her what was going on:

"Well see," he begins, his voice dropping a little, "the problem is that you have to meet the doctor’s criteria before he’ll dispense it to you."

"Criteria?" I question.

"Well," the nurse sounds decidedly nervous as though what he really wanted to do was hang up the phone completely, "Yes, his criteria. I mean…ummm…well, are you ok? Is there any, ummm….trauma?" he asks me.

My face changes expression and I hurry to explain, "No, no" I said, "No. I haven’t been raped. This was consensual sex."

"Oh…" he trails off.

I wait expectantly.

"Well, ummm….*clears throat*…So you haven’t been raped?" he asks again.

"No. I have not been raped. The condom broke". I state, becoming very frustrated at this point and wondering what the hell is going on.

"Ok, well ummm….Are you married?" he mumbles the words so low I can barely hear them.

Suddenly I get this image of the poor nurse standing at the hospital reading from a cue card that was given to him by a doctor.

"No." I state plainly. "I am not married. I’ve been in a relationship for several years and I have three children, I don’t want a fourth." I respond tersely.

"Oh, I see." He says and then he hurries on, "Well, see. *I* understand. I want you to know that I understand what you’re saying. But see, the problem is that we have 4 doctors here right now but only one of them ever writes EC prescriptions. But see, the thing is that he’ll interview you and see if you meet his criteria. Now, I called the pharmacy but I also talked to him and well….*clears throat*….you can come down and try to get it. You know, if you meet his criteria he’ll give you a prescription, I mean, there’s really no harm in trying." the nurse trails off, his voice falters as I realize what I’m being told.

….I was told by every urgent care I called and every emergency room that I was shit out of luck. I was asked my age. My marital status. How many children I had. If I had been raped and when I became uncomfortable with the questions I was told, "Well Ma’am, try to understand that you will be interviewed and the doctor has ‘criteria’ that you need to meet before he will prescribe it for you."

Hopefully, when Plan B is available OTC at your pharmacy without a prescription, we won’t hear stories like this.

Assuming, that is, that the pharmacies are willing to sell it….

Marty Lederman: “U.S. to be First Nation to Authorize Violations of Geneva”

Professor Lederman looks at the new detainee bill and speaks his mind:

[I]t only takes 30 seconds or so to see that the Senators have capitualted entirely, that the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva Conventions by engaging in Cold Cell, Long Time Standing, etc., and that there will be very little pretense about it. In addition to the elimination of habeas rights in section 6, the bill would delegate to the President the authority to interpret "the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions" "for the United States," except that the bill itself would define certain "grave breaches" of Common Article 3 to be war crimes. Some Senators apparently are taking comfort in the fact that the Administration’s interpretation would have to be made, and defended, publicly. That’s a small consolation, I suppose; but I’m confident the creative folks in my former shop at OLC — you know, those who concluded that waterboarding is not torture — will come up with something. After all, the Administration is already on record as saying that the CIA "program" can continue under this bill, so the die apparently is cast. And the courts would be precluded from reviewing it.

Others are weighing in too:

Washington Post –"The Abuse Can Continue":

"In effect, the agreement means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress’s tacit assent. If they do, America’s standing in the world will continue to suffer, as will the fight against terrorism. . . .

"Mr. Bush will go down in history for his embrace of tortue and bear responsibility for the enormous damage he has caused."

New York Times – "A Bad Bargain":

"[The bill] allows the president to declare any foreigner, anywhere, an ‘illegal enemy combatant’ using a dangerously broad definition, and detain him without any trial. It not only fails to deal with the fact that many of the Guantanamo detainees are not terrorists and will never be charged, but it also chokes off any judicial review.

"The Democrats have largely stood silent and allowed the trio of Republicans to do the lifting. It’s time for them to either try to fix this bill or delay it until after the election. The American people expect their leaders to clean up this mess without endangering U.S. troops, eviscerating American standards of justice, or further harming the nation’s severely damaged reputation."

So now we’re officially sanctioning torture in violation of the Geneva Convention.  Well, well.  Wasn’t too long ago I heard this:

No one can argue that the Iraqi people would be better off with the thugs and murderers back in the palaces. Who would prefer that Saddam’s torture chambers still be open?

George W. Bush
Speech Marking First Anniversary of Iraq Invasion
March 19, 2004

Of course that was then… this is now:

Torture in Iraq is reportedly worse now than it was under deposed president Saddam Hussein, the United Nations’ chief anti-torture expert said Thursday.

Manfred Nowak described a situation where militias, insurgent groups, government forces and others disregard rules on the humane treatment of prisoners.

"What most people tell you is that the situation as far as torture is concerned now in Iraq is totally out of hand," said Nowak, the global body’s special investigator on torture. "The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein."

Associated Press
Torture reaches new depths in Iraq
September 21, 2006

Tristero asks:

So tell me, my fellow Americans:

How does it feel knowing that your government will pass laws permitting the violation of the Geneva Conventions against torture?

How does it feel knowing the taxes you pay from money you earned are going towards the salary of legally sanctioned torturers?

How does it feel knowing that the only political party with an organization large enough to stand in opposition to the American fascists in charge of this country’s legislature and executive were actually boasting that they were not going to get involved in one of the most important moral debates of our time?

And how does it feel to have George W. Bush, that paragon of moral probity, mental stability, and well-informed intelligence, granted the legal right to determine what is and isn’t torture?

I’ll tell you how I feel. I am outraged and ashamed.

Me, too.

This Week Is “Unmarried and Single Americans Week”

You probably don’t get a floating holiday for it though.

Still, in honor of people like me (as opposed to, say, certain other people), here are some fun facts:

95.7 million
Number of unmarried and single Americans. This group comprises 43 percent of all U.S. residents age 15 and over.

54%
Percentage of unmarried and single Americans who are women

14.5 million
Number of unmarried and single Americans age 65 and over. These older Americans comprise 15 percent of all unmarried and single people.

63%
Percentage of unmarried and single Americans who have never been married. Another 23 percent are divorced, and 14 percent are widowed.

13.3 million
The number of people, ages 25 to 34 in 2000, who have never been married; this number represents 35 percent of all people in this age group.

6.9 million
The number of people, ages 35 to 44 in 2000, who have never been married; this number represents 15 percent of all people in this age group. [Hey, that’s me!]

86
Number of unmarried men age 15 and over for every 100 unmarried women in the United States

52.6 million
Number of households maintained by unmarried men and women. These households comprise
48 percent of households nationwide.

28.8 million
Number of people who live alone. These one-person households comprise 26 percent of all U.S. households.

25.1 and 26.8
The estimated U.S. median ages at first marriage in 2000 for women and men, respectively. The age for women equaled the 20th century high reached in 1999 and is up 4.3 years since 1970. The age for men, even though it dipped 0.3 years since reaching a 20th century high in 1996, was still up 3.6 years from 1970.

Yup.  "Unmarried and single" is the new black.

Woodsy The Owl To Be Cremated

Woodsyposter"Give a hoot, don’t pollute".

That’s what Woodsy the Owl used to say.

I guess that message no longer conforms to the Bush Administration, who now wants to do away with the environmentally-correct mascot.*

In fact, they really want to do away with him.  Here are actual instructions from the USDA Forest Service website:

Destroying Old Woodsy Owl Costumes – Guidelines

1. Incinerate the complete costume with the oversight of an official USDA Forest Service law enforcement officer*.

2. The entire Woodsy Owl costume including each of the separate pieces is to be destroyed beyond recognition.

* If you do not have access to an official USDA Forest Service law enforcement representative, arrangements will be made for dealing with your costume by contacting the USDA-FS Washington Office at:

Woodsy Owl
C/o National Symbols Program

* Okay.  They’re not really doing away with Woodsy Owl.  They’re just updating his look, so he now has a new costume. 

Still, one wonders why the old costumes have to be burned to a crisp and "destroyed beyond recognition".  I guess we don’t want them to fall into enemy hands.

Quote Of The Day

"I am sick of Karl Rove’s bullshit."Bill Clinton in the latest New Yorker.

Sadly, the New Yorker doesn’t have the interview in its online version, but apparently that’s what the Big Dog actually said.

Other Clinton quotes from the article:

  • Clinton on the Kerry campaign: "Like a deer caught in the headlights."
  • Clinton on watching the World Cup Final in Berlin: "I’m totally psyched for this."
  • Clinton on the vote to go into Iraq: "I’m sick and tired of being told that if you voted for authorization you voted for the war. It was a mistake, and I would have made it, too….The administration did not shoot straight on the nuclear issue or on Saddam’s supposed ties to Al Qaeda prior to 9/11.
  • Clinton on the Bush administration: "It just makes me mad…I just wish I were there trying to articulate an alternative vision."
  • Something Which May Make MySpace Bearable

    There are a lot of reasons I hate Myspace, but mostly I hate the idea of it.  It’s like one huge crowded online pickup bar, except with tacky decor, no booze, and a high school cafeteria mentality.  It’s easy to understand why college students abandon Myspace and go to something like Facebook.  And why adults prefer Blogger or Typepad or LiveJournal.

    I mean — sure, it’s nice to visit "friends" on Myspace — if you have to — but it’s all the same.

    Sure, some people try to individualize the "look" of their Myspace space, but mostly what you end up looking at (assuming you can navigate through to their space) is tiny unreadable words against a LOUD backdrop. 

    People, people, people — you don’t need to take a class in website design to know what is and isn’t crappy looking.  If you want me to visit your Myspace, make it an enjoyable experience for me — don’t throw buckets of flashing neon pixels in my face.  It gives me seizures.

    Fortunately, there may be a solution.  This program, a script for Greasemonkey, removes all the "style sheets’ that Myspace users force on you.  Instead, everything appears in Myspace’s bland (but readable) default style.

    Unfortunately, Greasemonkey is an add-on program for the Firefox browser, and not Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.  Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

    An Average Day In The Life Of Joe Republican

    A pretty decent explanation of why I’m a bleeding heart liberal pinko commie:

    Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

    All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Joe gets it, too.

    He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

    In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

    Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

    He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation costs because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

    Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.

    If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or an unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

    It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

    Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the country would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that his in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state-funded university.

    Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the taxpayer- funded roads.

    He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans.

    The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

    He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberals made sure Dad could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

    Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of himself, just like I have.”

    Jim Wallis vs. Ralph Reed

    Jim Wallis, author of the book God’s Politics, has a new blog discussing, well, religion and politics.  Wallis is often thought of as a "liberal Christian", but that would be an inaccurate charactorization.  The theme of Wallis’s book is quite simple: God belongs to no single political party and true faith transcends political categorization.

    This week, Wallis is having an on-going (and extremely civil) on-line debate with former Christian Conservative leader Ralph Reed.  Good reading.

    NASA Scientists Want To Turn Moon Into Earth’s Attic

    Interesting idea:

    There’s one place you may not have thought to store your valuable computer information. Just look up.

    Hollow lava tubes on the Moon could be used as a giant digital library. That’s one commercial possibility for the Moon put forth in a white paper by a NASA scientist.

    In addition to being able to relay information to Earth like geosynchronous satellites, a lunar-based system could also process and store information, says David McKay.

    The lunar computers could be buried in lunar soil, put at the bottom of craters or set into lava tubes, which are subsurface caves in which lava used to flow. Previously, scientists have suggested using lava tubes for human habitation.

    Commercial data stored on Earth can be destroyed by natural disasters, wars or fires. In 500 BC, the Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt housed records of the ancient world, and the entire library or at least some collections were ruined in a fire. The benefits of lunar storage are that there is no oxygen to erode the material, constant sub-freezing temperature and the Moon is currently free of all of the havoc wreaked by humankind.

    Astronauts on lunar missions could set up the data communication and storage system if they return to the Moon.

    The Moon could be used like Noah’s ark, hosting a collection of plant and animal material, proposes McKay, who made headlines a decade ago when he and others announced that Martian meteorite ALH 84001 had rod-like structures that appeared to be fossilised microbes.

    Families could even pay a fee to preserve photographs in the lunar library for future civilizations. McKay calls it the "ultimate time capsule."

    Betty And Barney Hill

    I was sooo into this story when I was young.  It happened 45 years ago today:

    On September 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were heading home to Portsmouth when they encountered aliens — or so they believed. Whether true or not, their story catapulted them into national celebrity.

    ***

    Geuu_03_img0647It was September 19, 1961, and the weather report predicted a hurricane along the New Hampshire coast, so Betty and Barney Hill cut their long weekend in Montreal short and headed back to Portsmouth in their 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

    They stopped at a restaurant in Colebrook, where Betty ate a piece of chocolate layer cake and Barney ate a hamburger. At 10:05 p.m. they were back on Route 3 heading toward the White Mountains.

    The sky was clear, and just past Lancaster Betty noticed a bright light close to the nearly full moon. As it got closer and brighter, she pointed it out to Barney, a World War II veteran who knew something about planes. He assumed it was a satellite, perhaps off-course.

    Their dachshund, Delsey, was getting antsy, so they pulled over to let her out. Betty took binoculars from the car. With hyperbolic finesse, Fuller described the moment this way: "Betty put the binoculars up to her eyes and focused carefully. What they both were about to see was to change their lives forever, and as some observers claim, change the history of the world."

    Afterward, Barney was disinclined to discuss what he had seen, but Betty did so in a letter she wrote soon after to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. "He did see several figures scurrying about as though they were making some kind of hurried type of preparation. One figure was observing us from the windows . . . and seemed to be dressed in some type of shiny black uniform," she wrote. "At this point, my husband became shocked and got back in the car, in a hysterical condition, laughing and repeating that they were going to capture us."

    Back in the car, Barney drove wildly in an effort to escape. Past Franconia Notch they left Route 3 and headed down a smaller road.

    Betty Hill said recently she was more curious than afraid at the time. "I understood something’s going to happen and I don’t know what it is, but I’m ready for it. At that point I rolled down the window and waved hello to the craft," she said, laughing into the crook of her arm. "At this time I was sure it was a flying saucer, but I didn’t say so."

    Suddenly a cluster of beings was blocking their way. Barney stopped the car, but could not restart it. The men came toward them.

    24349_943For almost three years, their memories would stop at that scene, only to pick up sometime later that night, when they found themselves driving south near Ashland.

    The following day Barney, a fastidious dresser, noticed the tops of shoes were badly scuffed. Betty’s dress, which she still can retrieve in a flash from her living-room closet, was ripped near the zipper and covered with powdery pink stains. There were shiny spots on the car trunk that caused a compass to flutter.

    Against Barney’s wishes, Betty told her sister about the incident. On her sister’s advice, she reported it to Pease Air Force Base, which took the sighting seriously. According to Pease records, officials there, too, had logged an "unknown" at about 2 a.m. the same morning.

    Only after investigators from NICAP and other scientific organizations visited the Hills did they realize their trip had taken at least two hours longer than it should have. They remained haunted by the feeling that something unexplained had happened to them. Betty had recurring nightmares.

    In February, the Hills began making pilgrimages to the White Mountains to try to retrace their route. They were unsuccessful, but they did meet many people in the region who had seen strange lights and flying objects.

    "Actually, that was just the beginning," Hill said of the initial encounter.

    Their public lives continued more or less as usual after their UFO encounter, but by 1964 their psychological anxiety still had not abated. Barney had an ulcer that was not responding to treatment. He missed work and both were depressed.

    Eventually they were referred to the Boston office of Dr. Benjamin Simon, a noted psychiatrist who specialized in hypnosis. The conversations that transpired during their trances became a permanent chapter in the annals of ufology.

    Fuller made liberal use of the tape recordings of the hypnosis sessions, which revealed episodes of rapture and terror.

    "BARNEY: Heh, heh, Betty. That’s the funniest thing, Betty. They funniest thing. I never believed in flying saucers but – I don’t know. Mighty mysterious. Yeah, well, I guess I won’t say anything to anybody about this. It’s too ridiculous, isn’t it? Oh yes, really funny. Wonder where they came from? Oh gee, I wish I had the – I wish I had gone with them . . .

    DOCTOR: You wish you had gone with them?

    BARNEY: Yes. Oh what an experience to go to some distant planet. (A pause as he reflects, then:) Maybe this will prove the existence of God. (Another brief pause.) Isn’t that funny? To look for the existence of God on another planet?"

    Betty was interviewed separately. "BETTY: (She is beginning to get upset again.) It won’t hurt me. And I ask him what, and he said he just wants to put it in my navel, it’s just a simple test. (More rapid sobbing) And I tell him, no, it will hurt, don’t do it. And I’m crying, and I’m telling him, ‘It’s hurting, it’s hurting, take it out, take it out!’ And the leader comes over and he puts his hand, rubs his hand in front of my eyes, and he says it will be all right. I won’t feel it."

    471641797lbetty_barney_hillMUFON’s Geremia has listened to the tapes. "It’s enough to make you not sleep at night," he said. "There’s one particular portion, when Barney is reliving what happened, really reliving every moment, and he lets out a scream on that tape that’s absolutely bone-chilling."

    After months of hypnosis, a fantastic story had emerged. Simon could not entirely dismiss or accept the results; he did not think they were lying, but he attributed their story to some kind of shared fantasy, perhaps a folie a deux.

    The Hills recounted that they were taken on board by beings whose eyes were disproportionately large and slanted. Betty said one of them spoke English to her, though not very well.

    They were medically examined – flakes of skin scraped off Betty’s arm, her reflexes tested, and a needle inserted in her navel. Although it does not appear in Fuller’s book, Mack reports that a semen sample was taken from Barney, who was examined in a different room from Betty.

    When they finished with her, Betty asked the "leader" where he was from and he showed her a complicated cosmic map, which Betty later drew. She asked for proof of their visit and he gave her a book written in strange symbols, but then changed his mind and took it back.

    "I recognized the importance of what was happening," Hill said recently. "I knew these were astronauts from another solar system. I told the leader, ‘This has been the most wonderful experience of my life,’ and that I really appreciated meeting him and would he please come back because I had a lot of friends who would like to meet him."

    Read the whole thing.

    Betty20hill20july202002I basically bought into the Betty and Barney Hill story, chronicled in the book "The Interrupted Journey".  But years after the publication of that book, Betty just kept on seeing those UFOs, right up to her death in 2004 (Barney died back in 1969).

    She claims to have more than 250 photographs of UFOs. To this day she sees them, sometimes flying over her house in Portsmouth, or hovering above her yard, where her cats and chickens roam.

    And when those stories started coming out, that’s when I got off the bus.

    [H/T: Mom]

    RELATED:  Today there’s news that the space shuttle Atlantis spotted a UFO — 45 years to the day after Betty and Barney’s abduction.  Coincidence?!? 

    The truth is out there.

    Quote Of The Day

    Eugene Robinson:

    "It is not possible for our elected representatives to hold any sort of honorable "debate" over torture. Bush says he is waging a "struggle for civilization," but civilized nations do not debate slavery or genocide, and they don’t debate torture, either. This spectacle insults and dishonors every American."

    One Night In Bangkok

    CNN and MSNBC are reporting that there may be a coup attempt in Thailand….

    This story is only minutes old — even AP has nothing.

    UPDATE: 12:10 p.m. – Okay, everyone’s got the story now.  Still, some good blogger coverage at Bangkok Pundit and 2bangkok.

    I confess.  I have absolutely no knowledge of Thai politics.  I couldn’t even hazard a guess.  So I have no idea if the coup is a good thing or a bad thing. 

    But usually, military coups are a bad thing.  So, I’ll go with "bad thing". 

    Our economy is affected by Thailand.  We have many manufacturers there (you know, cheap labor) so anything destabalizing to that country (and I think an armed military coup probably qualifies) is not a good thing.

    And I Say “A Pox On Both Their Houses”

    Let’s summarize:

    1. The Pope trotted out a 14th-century insult of Islam: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman"
    2. He issued one of those fake apologies, where you say you regret that people were upset, instead of saying you were wrong and feel bad about your words or deeds
    3. The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei put the Iran into ironic, by saying people who consider his religion violent "should be targeted with attacks"

    Studio 60: A Hasty Review

    Studiopass_promoteAaron Sorkin’s new show —  Studio 60 at Sunset Strip — debuted last night on NBC.

    Sorkin is, in my humble estimation, a writing god.  His previous two television shows — Sports Night and The West Wing — are among my top 3 favorite shows of all time.  Like his previous ventures, Sorkin works with director Thomas Schlamme in Studio 60 — a winning combination.  So you can imagine how much I anticipated Studio 60.  (Actually, I forgot about it, but that’s what TIVOs are for). 

    Most everybody is familiar with The West Wing, Sorkin’s drama about the White House.  Even non-fans of the show know that the first three seasons were classic, and the last three — after Sorkin left — were uneven and sometimes ridiculous.

    Sports Night remains a short-lived classic.  Unlike The West Wing, Sports Night was a half hour taped comedy.  It contained some of the best dialogue ever written for television, second only (perhaps) to The West Wing.  Starring a pre-Desparate Housewives Felicity Hoffman, Sports Night was a behind-the-scenes sitcom about the making of a sports show (like ESPN’s SportsCenter).  When co-star Robert Guillaume suffered a stroke in real life, Sorkin deftly worked it into the plot, with Guillaume continuing in his role.  Sadly, the show was cancelled after two seasons, but West Wing fans should really buy or rent the boxed DVD set.

    All I knew about Studio 60 was that it was another behind-the-scenes-of-a-TV-show setting — this time behind the cameras of a fictional Saturday Night Live-like show.  But was it to be like Sports Night or The West Wing?

    Well, to be honest, it was a little of both.  But more heavily on the drama, and that left me slightly underwhelmed.  Studio 60 is a TV show about a comedy TV show, so I expected it to contain more humor.  But the dark lighting and angry characters gave it a little bit of West Wing gravitas, which I’m not sure worked.

    Not that it was bad, but I wasn’t blown away like I was when I saw the first episode of West Wing or the first episode of Sports Night.

    But was it better than the standard TV fare?  Hell, YES!

    The pilot episode centered around the in-show show Studio 60.  Like the real life SNL, Studio 60 has been on for decades and it’s, well, not funny anymore.  It’s lost its edge.  During the live airing of its show (where Felicity Huffman appears, playing herself as the guest host), the show’s producer (played by Judd Hirsch in a guest role) stops the opening sketch, and launches into an on-air tirade against networks, censors, and the FCC — all because he was forced at the last minute to cut a sketch which would, he was told, offend the religious right.  The comparison to Howard Beale in Network were obvious and Sorkin makes many Network references.

    That very night, new NBS president Jordan McDeere ("NBS" = NBC), played by Amanda Peet, decides she is going to save Studio 60 by bringing back its two best writers who left the show in disgust several years earlier to go into movies.  They are Danny Tripp (played Bradley Whitford, formerly known as "Josh" on The West Wing) and Matt Albie (played by Matthew Parry, who also had a short stint on The West Wing, as well as some other show). Both Tripp and Albie are reluctant to return to TV.

    The characters are drawn from Sorkin’s life.  For example, Albie is reluctant to return to Studio 60 because he just broke up with Harriet Hayes, one of Studio 60’s cast members — she’s a born again Christian who sang on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club; he’s really not down with that.  The Hayes character (played by Sarah Paulson) is supposedly based on Kristin Chenowith, whom Sorkin dated once.

    And Tripp has had some cocaine problems (like the real life Aaron Sorkin).  As a result, he can’t go through with his intended film directorial debut (like the real life Aaron Sorkin).  So he agrees to go back to television (like the real life Aaron Sorkin) and "save" Studio 60.

    Sound a litte dry?  Yeah, it kind of was.  But Sorkin’s forte isn’t plot; it’s dialogue — and Studio 60, like Sorkin’s other works, is full of sharp crisp rapparte.  And fans of Sports Night and The West Wing will recognize director Schlamme’s style, including his trademark "walk and talks" (where the actors carry on long stretches of dialogue while working their way through the halls of a hustling bustling workplace).

    The cast of Studio 60 is full of talent.  Timothy Busfield plays the show’s director.  Two of the cast members of the in-show Studio 60 are D.L. Hughly and Nate Cordry (who had a brief stint as a correspondent on The Daily Show).  Both can act.  And Stephen Weber plays the chairman of NBS; he’s going to be the evil "suit".

    It was a lot to absorb for one hour, and it’s hard for me to care about the characters yet (none of them got a chance to be fully three-dimensional).  There’s also a lot of L.A. cynicism, something I can’t entirely relate to.  And someone needs to tell directors Thomas Schlamme and Chris Misiano (who also is a West Wing and Sports Night veteran) that it’s really okay to light the set; not everything has to take place in shadows and dark (it is, after all, a TV studio full of bright lights).

    Perhaps my biggest disappointment, however, is that there weren’t enough random asides — meaningless trivia-filled dialogue and crosstalk between the characters that is the staple of Sorkin’s TV work.

    But it’s Sorkin and a talented cast, so I’m confident that Studio 60 will find its stride.  Even given my slight disappointment with the pilot, it still is one of the best things on television.

    By the way, if you want to read the pilot’s rough draft, it’s on the Internets.  Or hell — just watch the full premiere episode (or a two-minute "summary clip") here.

    In Bush’s America

    …it’s okay to kidnap a Canadian citizen (a software engineer), lie to Canada about his whereabouts (Canada is an ally, right?), and ship the poor guy off to Syria (our enemy, right?) for a year or so.  In Syria, he’s tortured and beaten with a metal cable until he confesses that he received training in Afghanistan.

    As is often the case, when you are being beaten and tortured, you will say anything to make it stop (which is why torture doesn’t work!).  Turns out the guy never received training in Afghanistan.  Turns out he’s never even been to Afghanistan.

    In fact, turns out he’s not guilty of anything.

    Yup.  It really happened.

    A government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

    The report on the engineer, Maher Arar, said American officials had apparently acted on inaccurate information from Canadian investigators and then misled Canadian authorities about their plans for Mr. Arar before transporting him to Syria. […]

    But its conclusions about a case that had emerged as one of the most infamous examples of rendition — the transfer of terrorism suspects to other nations for interrogation — draw new attention to the Bush administration’s handling of detainees. And it comes as the White House and Congress are contesting legislation that would set standards for the treatment and interrogation of prisoners.

    "The American authorities who handled Mr. Arar’s case treated Mr. Arar in a most regrettable fashion," Justice O’Connor wrote in a three-volume report, not all of which was made public. "They removed him to Syria against his wishes and in the face of his statements that he would be tortured if sent there. Moreover, they dealt with Canadian officials involved with Mr. Arar’s case in a less than forthcoming manner."

    What Singer Is Most Often Quoted In Judicial Legal Opinions?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    The answer?  Dylan, by a mile.  He’s also the favorite in scholarly legal journals.

    Artist Number of Citations in Legal Journals Number of Citations in Judicial Opinions Total
    1. Bob Dylan 160 26 186
    2. The Beatles 71 3 74
    3. Bruce Springsteen 64 5 69
    4. Paul Simon 51 8 59
    5. Woody Guthrie 42 1 43
    6. Rolling Stones 35 4 39
    7. Grateful Dead 30 2 32
    8. Simon & Garfunkel 26 4 30
    9. Joni Mitchell 27 1 28
    10. R.E.M. 27 0 27

    Other artists narrowly missing the cut include Pink Floyd (26), Billy Joel (21), and Johnny Cash (21). The most notable absence, at least in terms of record sales and cultural significance, would be one Mr. Elvis Aron Presley.

    Consumer Advice

    This makes sense:

    Don’t sign the back of your credit card. It’s useless as a deterrent, as anyone who takes your card then has a sample of your signature which they can not only use on any charge slip, but on your checks as well. However, do not leave the white strip blank. In that space, write: "Ask For Picture ID," and be prepared to back that up someday when you’re in a hurry and the clerk wants to see a driver’s license as well as the card. It makes the charge transaction a little longer, but a lot safer.

    The Gay Scare Of 1957

    For many of my friends, I point to this good article in the local paper looking back on 50 years ago, just down the road.

    On Feb. 4, 1957, a Guilford County grand jury emerged from its closed session and issued a bundle of indictments of a scope unlike any before or since — against 32 men accused of being homosexual.

    After witnesses named the men during police interrogations, the suspects were tried one by one in a Greensboro courtroom for crimes against nature, almost exclusively with consenting adults.

    The now-obscure episode, which some longtime residents came to call "the purge," was the largest attempted roundup of homosexuals in Greensboro history and marked one of the most intense gay scares of the 1950s.

    ***

    Some 32 trials in the winter and spring of 1957 would end in guilty verdicts, 24 of them resulting in prison terms of five to 20 years, with some defendants assigned to highway chain gangs.

    Read the whole thing.  Hard to believe, but then again, not really.

    FOOTNOTE:  Following the likes of Durham, Chapel Hill and other NC communities, Greensboro is moving toward granting domestic partnership benefits.