Monthly Archives: May 2007

“Stupid In Space”

I heard this interview on NPR this morning too, and I almost fell out of the bed:

Showing that there is no place safe from idiocy, here’s an absolutely astronomically stupid comment from NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.  A statement so stupid, it makes the invasion of Iraq and the management of Katrina look like genius.

Michael Griffin NASA Administrator has told America’s National Public Radio that while he has no doubt a trend of global warming exists "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with."

Griffin confirms that global warming exists, and in fact only hours before NASA had issued a report showing that ice in the Arctic was being lost at higher rates than previously predicted.  So what’s behind Griffin’s Qué será, será attitude?  Is it a fatalistic view that we can’t do anything about global warming?  Nope.   

In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep that will air in Thursday’s edition of NPR News’ Morning Edition, Administrator Griffin explains: "I guess I would ask which human beings – where and when – are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take."

There you go.  Trying to stop global warming is arrogant.  Who are you to say folks in Norway that they can’t have palm trees!

The part that Griffin seems to be forgetting is the billions of people who would die if our current economy collapses due to sinking cities and shifting growing regions.  Might the future inhabitants of tropical Greenland be happy as they gaze southward over the swollen sea?  Maybe.  But I’m not anxious to sink Miami to find out.  Idiot. 

Oh, and expect this to become part of the standard kit for those on the right.  I give it ten hours before Rush gets around to "trying to stop global warming is racist."  Start your stopwatch.

Griffin’s remarks are stunning, coming just days after his own agency released a report warning of the “disastrous effects” of climate change:

Even “moderate additional” greenhouse emissions are likely to push Earth past “critical tipping points” with “dangerous consequences for the planet,” according to research conducted by NASA and the Columbia University Earth Institute.

With just 10 more years of “business as usual” emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas, says the NASA/Columbia paper, “it becomes impractical” to avoid “disastrous effects.”

Chris Mooney weighs in on this too:

What Griffin is ignoring is the whole issue of risk and its distribution. Our global society is set up for–adapted to–the current climate. But now we’re moving in the direction of raising the sea level considerably–even as much of the global population is coastal–and melting large amounts of ice, while also altering the occurrence of phenomena, such as droughts, that could have a dramatic impact on food and water supplies.

How can anyone think this is not a tremendous societal risk, even if there might be some people–in, say, Buffalo, New York–who may actually have more pleasant weather under global warming?

NASA is already backtracking. James Hansen, the agency’s top climatologist, is slamming his boss. Assuredly there will be many more jeers and groans over the course of the day.

It’s All About the White Christian Male Power Structure

At least O’Reilly admits it:

O’REILLY: But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you’re a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right. So I say you’ve got to cap with a number.

MCCAIN: In America today we’ve got a very strong economy and low unemployment, so we need addition farm workers, including by the way agriculture, but there may come a time where we have an economic downturn, and we don’t need so many.

O’REILLY: But in this bill, you guys have got to cap it. Because estimation is 12 million, there may be 20 [million]. You don’t know, I don’t know. We’ve got to cap it.

MCCAIN: We do, we do. I agree with you.

And there you have it.  If your a woman, non-Christian, and/or a minority, the white Christian man owns you.

More On The Scripps National Spelling Bee

Oh, someone is liveblogging it! (UPDATE: Another bee blog here)

(You can also get updates of the results of each round here).

UPDATE:  Come on, Joshua!  The local boy is still in it, having correctly spelled "hybrid" in Round Two (not very tough, I admit) and "chattel" in Round Three.

It should be noted that two Italian food-related words — "ricotta" and "minestrone" — knocked out 2 of the 6 North Carolina kids in Round Three.  I’m not sure what significance to read into that…

UPDATE (4:30 pm):  Looks like Round Four has begun, with 94 still in the competition, and the words are a lot harder.  Several casualties already.

UPDATE (5:45 pm):  Winston-Salem’s Joshua Wright made it through Round Four, correctly spelling "unguiculate" (a medical term meaning "having claws or nails"), so he’ll be in the televised rounds tomorrow.  Otherwise, Round Four is turning out to be a bloodbath.

Heather & Jeff Maggs Do Not Need To Be Quarantined


A man with a form of tuberculosis so dangerous he is under the first U.S. government-ordered quarantine since 1963 had health officials around the world scrambling Wednesday to find about 80 passengers who sat within five rows of him on two trans-Atlantic flights.

The man told a newspaper he took the first flight from Atlanta to Europe for his wedding, then the second flight home because he feared he might die without treatment in the U.S.


He flew to Paris on May 12 aboard Air France Flight 385, also listed as Delta Air Lines codeshare Flight 8517. While he was in Europe, health authorities reached him with the news that further tests had revealed his TB was a rare, "extensively drug-resistant" form, far more dangerous than he knew. They ordered him into isolation, saying he should turn himself over to Italian officials.

On reading this, I immediately had to see when Heather flew to Paris on her honeymoon.

Sunday, May 13.  Out of Greensboro.  Okay, I figured.  But I just wanted to be extra sure.

By the way, how adorable is this?


Speaking of diseases, doesn’t this lede sentence in another AP news story strike you as a tad alarming:

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

That’s right.  The Bush administration is vowing to keep meatbackers from testing for mad cow disease.

And why?  Because one responsible meatpacking company wants to do it:

A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

And if one company chooses to be socially responsible, what does that mean?

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

So now, the government is trying to restrict Creekstone from performing mad cow testing.

This is bizarro.  The conservative mantra is that business should be self-regulating, without government interference.  Well, along comes a company that is trying to do the right thing and protect social wefare, and the Bush Administration wants it to not do it.

Go figure.

Imagine, if you will, that the Bush Administration is successful in blocking the testing for mad cow.  And then imagine, if you will, an outbreak of mad cow here in the United States.  Kind of reminds you of the August 2001 "Bin Laden Determined to Attack U.S." memo that the Bush team ignored, yes?

Rick Perlstein comments:

There’s your conservatism, America: not extremism in defense of liberty. State socialism in defense of Mad Cow.

Lou Dobbs Has A “Flexible Relationship With Reality”

Lou Dobbs reported in April 2005 (and repeated several times since then), that 7,000 immigrants into the U.S over the past three years have been diagnosed with leprosy.  FACT:  There have been only 7,000 cases of leprosy in the United States over the past thirty years, and not all of them are from immigrants.

Lou Dobbs reported in November 2003 that one-third of the federal prison population is illegal immigrants.  Way off.  According to the Justice Department, 6 percent of prisoners in this country are noncitizens (compared with 7 percent of the population). For a variety of reasons, the crime rate is actually lower among immigrants than natives.

He’s also provided microphones to nutjobs with "intriguing assertions" (Lou’s words) — like the guy who claimed that Hurricane Katrina was actually the result of eco-terrorism committed by terrorists.

Nice to see the New York Times do a number on Mr. Dobbs: Read Truth, Fiction and Lou Dobbs.

“Verschärfte Vernehmung”

Jur503Earlier this month, the Republican contenders for President were asked a debate question by moderator Brit Hume:

Imagine, Hume told the candidates, that hundreds of Americans have been killed in three major suicide bombings and "a fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured … and taken to Guantanamo…. U.S. intelligence believes that another, larger attack is planned…. How aggressively would you interrogate" the captured suspects?

This was where the GOP candidates — with the exception of John McCain (a man who actually was tortured) and Ron Paul (a man with an actual brain and sense of morality) — dropped their pants and showed the country just how BIG they were.  What would they do?  The answers were typified by Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo:

"We’re wondering about whether water-boarding would be a — a bad thing to do? I’m looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you."

Yup, most of them would torture, just like you see on teevee (because teevee is, you know, real).

Of course, the most "presidential" of the pack — candidates like Romney and Guiliani — couldn’t bring themselves to actually use the word "torture":

"Enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used."

"Enhanced interrogation techniques".  Wink, wink.  Not "torture".  Get it?  Wink, wink. wink.

Well, Andrew Sullivan does a little research and discovers that the phrase "enhanced interrogation" was coined by — you guessed it — the Nazis:

It’s a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the president.

Sullivan continues, invoking Godwin’s Law, and making it stick:

Here’s a document from Norway’s 1948 war-crimes trials detailing the prosecution of Nazis convicted of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the Second World War. Money quote from the cases of three Germans convicted of war crimes for "enhanced interrogation":

Between 1942 and 1945, Bruns used the method of "verschärfte Vernehmung" on 11 Norwegian citizens. This method involved the use of various implements of torture, cold baths and blows and kicks in the face and all over the body. Most of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the injuries received during those interrogations.

Between 1942 and 1945, Schubert gave 14 Norwegian prisoners "verschärfte Vernehmung," using various instruments of torture and hitting them in the face and over the body. Many of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the effects of injuries they received.

On 1st February, 1945, Clemens shot a second Norwegian prisoner from a distance of 1.5 metres while he was trying to escape. Between 1943 and 1945, Clemens employed the method of " verschäfte Vernehmung " on 23 Norwegian prisoners. He used various instruments of torture and cold baths. Some of the prisoners continued for a considerable time to suffer from injuries received at his hands.

Freezing prisoners to near-death, repeated beatings, long forced-standing, waterboarding, cold showers in air-conditioned rooms, stress positions [Arrest mit Verschaerfung], withholding of medicine and leaving wounded or sick prisoners alone in cells for days on end – all these have occurred at US detention camps under the command of president George W. Bush. Over a hundred documented deaths have occurred in these interrogation sessions. The Pentagon itself has conceded homocide by torture in multiple cases.

He concludes:

Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I’m not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture – "enhanced interrogation techniques" – is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

So, as the issue comes up in the run-up to the ’08 elections, remember one thing: "enhanced interrogation techniques" = "torture".  They’re the same thing.  One just sounds nicer to our ears, but to the person at the receiving end, there is no distinguishable difference.

And why shouldn’t we engage in torture enhanced interrogation techniques?  Because we’re not Nazis, that’s why.  Keep America safe?  Sure.  But it makes no sense to try to preserve American ideals through techniques that run counter American ideals.

Didn’t We Settle This Before?

In a court filing today, Patrick Fitzgerald provides a summary of Valerie Plame Wilson’s status with the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division at the time she was outed to the press by members of the Bush administration. Guess what? She was covert:

While assigned to CPD, Ms. Wilson engaged in temporary duty (TDY) travel overseas on official business. She traveled at least seven times to more than ten countries. When traveling overseas, Ms. Wilson always traveled under a cover identity — sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias — but always using cover — whether official or non-official cover (NOC) — with no ostensible relationship to the CIA.

At the time of the initial unauthorized disclosure in the media of Ms. Wilson’s employment relationship with the CIA on 14 July 2003, Ms. Wilson was a covert employee for whom the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States.

For years, the rightwing blogosphere and Fox News pundits were crowing to anyone who would listen, that Plame was not a covert agent.  They were wrong then, as we all knew.  Glenn Greenwald looks back.

Christy Hardin Smith weighs in:

Now, let’s see. Who called this correctly? Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, the Boris and Natasha of bobbleheads, who shilled their asinine fact-free "oh no, clearly not covert" bullshit on every talk show from here to China and back again? Nope.  Wrong. Over and over again. Completely wrong.  On cable teevee. In the WaPo. You name it.  And did I mention they were wrong?

Oh wait…and to Congress.

Waxman: Ms. Toensing, I just only can say that we are pleased to accommodate the request of the Minority to have you as a witness and some of the statements you’ve made without any doubt and with great authority I understand may not be accurate so we’re going to check the information and we’re going to hold the record open to put in other things that might contradict some of what you had to say.

Oooopsie.  Wonder if the time has elapsed to revise and extend Ms. Toensing’s remarks to Rep. Waxman’s committee?  Sure hope not, because I hear a perjury charge can really set you back.

Two Years Ago

On May 30, 2005, Vice President Cheney declared that the insurgency in Iraq was in its “last throes” and predicted “the level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline.”

Uh, not so much, Dick:

Increased military activity throughout Iraq has pushed U.S. troop deaths to their highest level for any two-month period of the war.

Pentagon records show that 115 troops have been killed so far in May. That raises the total for the past two months to 219, exceeding the 215 who died in April and May of 2004, when U.S. forces fought insurgents in Fallujah.

80th Annual (Not Putnam County) Spelling Bee

BeeStarts today.  Semifinals air on ESPN tomorrow from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.  Final round airs on primetime ABC — 8:00 to 10:00 pm — tomorrow night.  If you get a chance to see it — even if it’s for ten minutes — do so.  These kids are amazing, and the competition is nail-biting. 

Here’s some stats from the Scripps National Spelling Bee website:

This is the greatest number of spellers in the history of the event.

139 boys (48.6%) and 147 girls (51.4%)
This year’s gender statistics are typical of previous years’ gender statistics.

11 ten-year-olds (3.84%)
28 eleven-year-olds (9.79%)
66 twelve-year-olds (23.1%)
105 thirteen-year-olds (36.71%)
75 fourteen-year-olds (26.22%)
1 fifteen-year-old (.34%)
This year’s age statistics are typical of previous years’ age statistics.

2 fourth graders (.7%)
23 fifth graders (8.04%)
36 sixth graders (12.6%)
88 seventh graders (30.76%)
137 eighth graders (47.9%)
This year’s grade statistics are typical of previous years’ grade statistics.

School Type:
192 public (67.13%)
38 private (13.29%)
36 home (12.59%)
14 parochial (4.9%)
5 charter (1.75%)
1 virtual (.34%)
Of last year’s 274 spellers, 195 were public-schooled, 37 were home-schooled, 26 were private-schooled, 13 were parochial-schooled, and 3 were charter-schooled.

Forty (40) spellers are only children. The remaining 246 spellers have 243 sisters and 254 brothers among them. Spellers 64 and 273 are fraternal twins, and Speller 4 is an identical twin.
This year’s siblings statistics are typical of previous years’ siblings statistics.

Family Ties:
19 spellers have at least one relative (mother, brother, sister, uncle, or cousin) who has competed in previous national finals. They are spellers 7, 17, 84, 87, 90, 96, 121, 122, 126, 134, 145, 153, 197, 199, 206, 225, 226, 240, and 254.
This year’s family ties statistics are typical of previous years’ family ties statistics.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Up until only a few weeks ago, Price Floyd was the media affairs director at the U.S. State Department.  Now that he’s left that post, he reflects back on why the United States has failed to convince the world of the virtues of U.S. foreign policy. 

It’s not for lack of trying — U.S. state department officials have been on an international P.R. blitz for years.  The problem, Floyd writes, is that what the U.S. says it does cannot be reconciled with the shit that it actually, you know, does:

We have eroded not only the good will of the post-9-11 days but also any residual appreciation from the countries we supported during the Cold War. This is due to several actions taken by the Bush administration, including pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol (environment), refusing to take part in the International Criminal Court (rule of law), and pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (arms control). The prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and the continuing controversy over the detainees in Guantanamo also sullied the image of America.

Collectively, these actions have sent an unequivocal message: The U.S. does not want to be a collaborative partner. That is the policy we have been "selling" through our actions, which speak the loudest of all.

As the director of media affairs at State, this is the conundrum that I faced every day. I tried through the traditional domestic media and, for the first time, through the pan-Arab TV and print media — Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, Al Hayat — to reach people in the U.S. and abroad and to convince them that we should not be judged by our actions, only our words.

I was not a newcomer to these issues. I had served at the State Department for more than 17 years, through the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, numerous episodes of the Middle Eastern peace process and discussions in North Korea on its nuclear programs.

During each of these crises, we at least appeared to be working with others, even if we took actions with which others did not agree. We were talking to our enemies as well as our allies. Our actions and our words were in sync, we were transparent, our agenda was there for all to see, and our actions matched it.

This is not the case today. Much of our audience either doesn’t listen or perceives our efforts to be meaningless U.S. propaganda.

We need a president who will enable the U.S. to return to its rightful place as the "beacon on a hill" — a country that others want to emulate, not hate; a country that proves through words and deeds that it is free, not afraid.

Read the whole thing.

Dr. Pepper Screws With Your DNA?

Soda_64As does Fanta, Sprite, Coke, and almost all other soft drinks.  The real culprit here is sodium benzoate, a natural item found in berries.  It’s normally harmless, but when ingested in large quantities, it screws with your mitochondria, the cells that power your DNA.

Sodium benzoate is used in many sodas, as well as pickle juice and sauces.

The problem – more usually associated with ageing and alcohol abuse – can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

This could be something on the level of the classic saccarine-causes-cancer alarm*, so don’t worry about it yet.  Read more here, if interested.

* …if you drink 100 Tabs per day, which you can’t do because they don’t make Tab anymore.

Auspicious Circumlocution Or A Loquacious Lexicon? You Be The Omnipotent Yeoman

0618374124The American Heritage Dictionary has just come out with a list of "100 Words That All High School Graduate — And Their Parents — Should Know".

I think I know most of these words, but some of them — well, if I were to ever use those words, or even know them, I’d end up in the Nerd Hall of Fame.  I mean, "impeach", "paradigm", "epiphany", "soliloquy" and "hubris" (to name a few) are all fine words.  But c’mon — "quotidian"?  "abstemious"? "moiety"?

Anyway, here’s the list.  How many do you know?

laissez faire

Our Xanadu In Baghdad

The $600 million new U.S. “embassy” in Baghdad certainly looks nice:



Yup, that’s a pool, surrounded by palm trees.  And those are tennis courts in the background.

It’s going to be the largest embassy on the planet, covering over 104 acres — very swiggity-sweet:

This self-contained compound will include the embassy itself, residences for the ambassador and staff, PX, commissary, cinema, retail and shopping, restaurants, schools, fire station and supporting facilities such as power generation, water purification system, telecommunications, and waste water treatment facilities.

But trouble looms on the horizon:

Admittedly, it may be hard to take that refreshing dip or catch a few sets of tennis in Baghdad’s heat if the present order for all U.S. personnel in the Green Zone to wear flak jackets and helmets at all times remains in effect — or if, as in the present palace/embassy, the pool (and ping-pong tables) are declared, thanks to increasing mortar and missile attacks, temporarily "off limits." In that case, more time will probably be spent in the massive, largely windowless-looking Recreation Center, one of over 20 blast-resistant buildings BDY has planned. Perhaps this will house the promised embassy cinema. (Pirates of the Middle East, anyone?) Perhaps hours will be wiled away in the no less massive-looking, low-slung Post Exchange/Community Center, or in the promised commissary, the "retail and shopping areas," the restaurants, or even, so the BDY website assures us, the "schools" (though it’s a difficult to imagine the State Department allowing children at this particular post).

Ah, the spoils of war….

UPDATE:  Think Progress has more, and throws in a little photo-juxtaposin’….


FYI:  May, which isn’t over yet, has become the deadliest month of 2007 (so far) for U.S. troops in Iraq.  Ten soldiers died ironic deaths on Memorial Day.

Bug — The Movie Review


From Christian Answers:

The movie has no lack of foul language, and the F-word is the most prevalent, being used more than 60 times. There are at least 60 other cuss words as well, including about 20 misuses of God’s name.

The number of minutes spent on real or implied nudity seemed to far outweigh the time spent on horror scenes. The two major scenes of the movie have both the main characters walking around in the buff or having sex. Some of this is implied, but we still see full male and female rear nudity a few times, and a naked couple having sex once. There is also female frontal nudity above the waist and full frontal male nudity. The man’s genital area, however, is obscured by lighting, and what is seen is a silhouette.

The whole premise of “Bug” is about relationships—not little creatures on the skin. As such, its teaching is contrary to what God says we are supposed to be like. The movie seems to say that no one can be trusted. And while it is true that we can’t go beyond reason in regard to trusting other people, there are people who are trustworthy around us. And even more so, there is one we can trust 100% of the time—Jesus Christ.


That said, the reviews tend to be positive (with lots of praise for Ashley Judd), especially from those critics who tend to understand that this is not a horror movie per se, but a movie about madness and paranoia, with some offbeat humor.

I have an interest in this film, since I plan to be auditioning for the play in July.

Flypaper Theory Rebuked

In 2003, then-war-supporter Andrew Sullivan wrote:

One of the many layers of the arguments for invading Iraq focused on the difficulties of waging a serious war on terror from a distant remove. Being based in Iraq helpsus notonly because of actual bases; but because the American presence there diverts terrorist attention away from elsewhere. By confronting them directly in Iraq, we get to engage them in a military setting that plays to our strengths rather than to theirs’. Continued conflict in Iraq, in other words, needn’t always be bad news. It may be a sign that we are drawing the terrorists out of the woodwork and tackling them in the open.

This was the essence of the so-called "flypaper theory" — the notion being that if the U.S. had presence in Iraq, all the "bad guys" would flock to Iraq to fight us, and we could fight them there — out in the open.  That way, we wouldn’t have to run all around the world fighting the evil-doers.

Turns out, that’s not happening at all.  In fact, the opposite is happening.  There is an outward flow of jihadists from Iraq into neighboring countries, like Lebanon and Jordan.  The New York Times explains:

The Iraq war, which for years has drawn militants from around the world, is beginning to export fighters and the tactics they have honed in the insurgency to neighboring countries and beyond, according to American, European and Middle Eastern government officials and interviews with militant leaders in Lebanon, Jordan and London.

Some of the fighters appear to be leaving as part of the waves of Iraqi refugees crossing borders that government officials acknowledge they struggle to control. But others are dispatched from Iraq for specific missions. In the Jordanian airport plot, the authorities said they believed that the bomb maker flew from Baghdad to prepare the explosives for Mr. Darsi.

Estimating the number of fighters leaving Iraq is at least as difficult as it has been to count foreign militants joining the insurgency. But early signs of an exodus are clear, and officials in the United States and the Middle East say the potential for veterans of the insurgency to spread far beyond Iraq is significant.

I Stand Corrected

My Mom just learned that you "home in" on something, not — as she always believed — "hone in" on something.  She’s been saying it wrong all these years.

So have I.

P.S.  At least I knew it was a "dog-eat-dog world", not a "doggie dog world".

UPDATE:  If you look at the post directly above this one, you’ll see a large quote from the New York Times, which includes this sentence: "The Iraq war, which for years has drawn militants from around the world, is beginning to export fighters and the tactics they have honed in the insurgency to neighboring countries and beyond…." [Emphasis added]

Memorial Day Rembrances

Powerful and moving stuff from B.U. professor Andrew Bacevich.  Bacevich is a vocal opponent of the Iraq War.  Earlier this month, his sone was killed in that war:

I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty.

Parents who lose children, whether through accident or illness, inevitably wonder what they could have done to prevent their loss. When my son was killed in Iraq earlier this month at age 27, I found myself pondering my responsibility for his death.

Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son’s death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.

This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war. By encouraging "the terrorists," opponents of the Iraq conflict increase the risk to U.S. troops. Although the First Amendment protects antiwar critics from being tried for treason, it provides no protection for the hardly less serious charge of failing to support the troops — today’s civic equivalent of dereliction of duty.

What exactly is a father’s duty when his son is sent into harm’s way?

The rest of the article, and my favorite bit, below the fold….

The Long Weekend & Charles Nelson Reilly

Well, obviously no blogging for a few days there.  I had pretty productive weekend.  Managed to clean the pool and fill it — almost ready for use!  Did some major yardwork.  A couple of Full Monty rehearsals.  Played an $11-entry-fee online poker tournament and walked away with $2,450.00.

Couldn’t get my new kitchen faucet installed.  I tried — I’m just no handyman.  Wasn’t able to see Kelly in Open Season.  Next weekend, I hope.

I didn’t pay much attention to the news, except to note that Charles Nelson Reilly, who originated the role of Sydney Lipton on Broadway in Neil Simon’s God’s Favorite (a role I just finished up here), died.  I mostly know him from Match Game, but he was also a revered acting instructor.

Full Monty: The Cast

Just announced:

JERRY LUKOWSKI:  Neil Shepherd

NATHAN LUKOWSKI:  1) W.J. Jessup for first and third weekend performances and 2) Jake Markley for second and fourth weekend performances





HAROLD NICHOLS:  Scott Stevens

VICKI NICHOLS:  Heather Maggs


ETHAN GIRARD:  Scott Terrill

NOAH "HORSE" T. SIMMONS:  Elliott Lowery












To be honest, if I were directing, and based on the auditions I saw, this is exactly how I would have cast it.  I won’t hide my disappointment at not getting "Dave" — especially if it would have meant playing opposite to Emily — but Eric Dowdy was good.  And I’m always excited to work with people like Heather, Emily, Neil, and Gray, from whom I can learn.  This Scott Stevens guy looks like a player, too.

UPDATE:  Hey, I think I’m the nightclub owner!!!

I think it’s going to be a good show, and I’m very happy (especially for Neil and Gray).

NC Witnesses Can Swear on Quran In Court

Ks11845I’ve been following this story for a while, and frankly, I’m not sure why it was an issue to begin with:

The issue surfaced when Muslims tried to donate copies of the Quran to Guilford County’s two courthouses. Two judges declined to accept the texts, saying that taking an oath on the Quran was illegal under state law.

What exactly is the North Carolina state law regarding this?

Judges and other persons who may be empowered to administer oaths, shall (except in the cases in this Chapter excepted) require the party to be sworn to lay his hand upon the Holy Scriptures, in token of his engagement to speak the truth and in further token that, if he should swerve from the truth, he may be justly deprived of all the blessings of that holy book and made liable to that vengeance which he has imprecated on his own head.

There is also a provision that a witness can make an affirmation without resort to the Scriptures or God.  (This is for the benefit of both atheists, as well as people whose religious forbids them to "swear" to God).

The ACLU intervened and a lawsuit was filed.  Today, we got a result:

Any religious text, and not just the Bible, can be used to swear in a witness or juror in North Carolina’s courtrooms, a Wake County judge ruled Thursday.

"As of today, all people can use the holy text of their choice," said Seth Cohen, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who argued the case. "We think it’s a great victory."

The ruling from Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway came after the ACLU argued that limiting the text to the Bible was unconstitutional because it favored Christianity over other religions. Citing common law and precedent of the state Supreme Court, he said those taking a court oath can use a text "most sacred and obligatory upon their conscience."

This, of course, is the right decision by the Court. 

Remember, the point of taking an oath is so that the jurors can be assured that the witness is telling the truth.  Imagine yourself as a juror, and the witness (to say, a car accident) is asked to testify about what he saw.  But before he testifies, he’s asked to swear to tell the truth on the Bible, a book he doesn’t believe in!  How much is "swearing on the Bible" going to have to a person who practices the religion of Islam?  Not much.  But if he ask him to "swear to tell the truth" on a religious text that is sacred to the witness, you are more likely to get honest testimony.

The state of North Carolina lost this case (thankfully).  They have 30 days to review, and decide if they want to appeal.  Let’s hope they don’t.

Bird Poops On President

…just as he’s saying (again) how much he supports Alberto Gonzales.

If that’s not a metaphor for something, I don’t know what is.

Wonkette snarks:

Reached in outer space Thursday afternoon, God said he made a little bird shit on Dubya “to show My disgust with this administration.”

After being shit upon, “Bush tried several times to wipe [it] off. ” But he failed.

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann: “Must’ve been a dove.

Cute Overload

Not a lot of time or inclination to do another installment of "1980’s Videos Explained", so instead, I’ll simply show a video of a cat with baby bunnies….

Frankly, I think it is a disaster waiting to happen….

Full Monty: The Callbacks [UPDATED]

Fullmonty_000 Well, let me make a correction to yesterday’s post.  I said (several times) that there were five guys who made up the set of unemployed steelworkers who decide to strip.  I was wrong.  It’s six.

That said, I went to callbacks this evening with a lot of trepidation.  Since it was the last day of regular auditions, callbacks didn’t start until 8:15ish.

I noticed tonight that many women showed up, and only a couple of guys.  That’s good.  The women included Emily (yay!), Heather, and an ex-girlfriend who — well, never mind.  I also learned that a couple of women did in fact audition earlier this week in Winston-Salem.  But only a couple.

Heather greeted me with a "you bastard" or something like that, because this morning I had persuaded her to audition.  She didn’t know the show OR the music, but you wouldn’t know from the way she auditioned.  I’m glad she did.  I never got a chance to talk to her about her honeymoon though.

Only 4 women were called back.  Of course, they will cast more than just four.  Emily and Heather were, naturally, two of them.  They sang, they read a few scenes.  I got to read for the "Dave" role opposite Heather, which was cool.  She nailed it.

As for the guys, there were about 8 of us.  And they were clearly looking for guys to fill the spots of four of the six strippers — Jerry (lead), Dave (his "fat bastard" buddy), Harold (the suprevisor), and Malcolm (the nebbishy guy).  There were, for example, no black guys there for the role of "Horse".

And for the part of Dave, they were clearly only looking at me and this other guy named Eric.

A caveat that I would do well to keep in mind: the absence of someone at callbacks doesn’t mean they aren’t being considered.  It could mean they just had a conflict.  For example, Jeff Agular wasn’t there, but I don’t think it was for any other reason other than a conflict.  But Neil was there, Gray was there, that guy Scott was there (from last night), and a few faces I didn’t know.

So just because it looked like they were only reading me and another guy for Dave, doesn’t mean it’s just down to us two.  For all I know, they may have found the perfect Dave three days ago.

It’s impossible to tea-leaf-read these things.  Neil and Gray were phenomenal.  Heather and Emily were phenomenal.  I’m not even in the same league, and I know it.  As for the guy who I was "competing" with for Dave, he was good — a bit younger than me.  I generally liked my readings better, but his interpretation was influenced by Jamie’s direction (which he followed well).  Sadly, during one of my readings, I got a little tongue-tied, but I don’t think it was fatal.

They started us off with singing.  For each male role they were looking at, the musical director selected the songs with the highest notes.  There was a lot of screeching for the men (this is a VERY hard show musically).  Even Neil and Gray were struggling, but they’re such consummate singers, they pulled it off.  Me?  Well, not so much.  I did the best I could.  There were just a couple notes I couldn’t hit — I switched to my falsetto and got close.  And I was a bit self-conscious that I went flat on notes that I should have hit.  Ugh.  I don’t want to think about that.

No dance movement though.

Jamie’s got a tough task.  I know he probably has formulated his "cast" in his head, but of course, he has to contend with the viewpoints of Dauna (the choreographer) and April (the musical director), as well as — to a perhaps lesser extent — the input of the artistic directors of both CTG and Little Theatre of Winston-Salem (both of whom were there for callbacks).  You get five creative people in one room trying to cast a show, and it’s — well — it has the potential for ugliness.  Or maybe not.  You never know with these things.

In any event, we were told we would get a call by 1:00 tomorrow.  I don’t know if that means we’ll get a call if we didn’t get cast, or if we’ll only get called if we did.  And the first rehearsal is tomorrow evening.  Yup, it’s a tight schedule — opening night is July 6, which is in six weeks, an incredibly short time for an ambitious musical like this.

But right now, I’m going to bed.  I can’t do anything more at this point.

UPDATE:  Well, it’s 11:50 a.m. the next day, and no word.  This probably means I didn’t get cast as Dave.  Oh, well.  Just hope I can get involved in some way.

UPDATE No. 2 (1:00 p.m.):  Got cast in chorus/various roles.  That other guy, Eric, got the "Dave" part.  Technically, I am "SAL/MINISTER/TONY/BALLROOM DANCE INSTRUCTOR (DANCES WITH

Full Monty: The Audition [UPDATED]

Check for updates below…

Well, for those who have been following my sorry excuse for a life, tonight was my audition night for the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem/Community Theatre of Greensboro production of the musical "The Full Monty", based on the movie of the same name. 

When I first saw this show in New York on Broadway (and I went reluctantly), I remember sitting there having such fun, and thinking, "If I ever get the chance to do this show, I should really make a stab at doing it."  Of course, I doubted such a chance would reveal itself, but it did.

For those who don’t know the show or movie, it’s about five six unemployed steel mill workers who decide to earn some extra money performing — well, dancing — okay, stripping, at a local club in Buffalo.  Will they or won’t they go all the way (i.e., "the full monty")?  How will it effect their relationships with their wives, girlfriends and children?  What happens to five six guys when they suddenly find themselves objectified as sex objects?  It’s a very very funny and warm show, culminating in this showstopping number (as performed by the original Broadway cast at the Tony Awards several years ago):

Now, there are four days of auditions — two in Winston-Salem (earlier this week, Monday and Tuesday) and two in Greensboro (this evening and tomorrow evening), with callbacks tomorrow evening as well.  The scuttlebutt for months was that a LOT of guys in the Triad area were auditioning, and I didn’t think I held out much of a chance.  Of the five six leads (the guys who actually go the full monty), I realistically thought — because of my age — that I had a shot at only one of the "five six guys" roles: the role of Harold (the former steel plant supervisor of the other guys).  He’s also the only baritone of the five six(except for the black guy, which I can’t do), and I’m a baritone.

So I shot for Harold (even though, to be honest, I was waffling back on forth for a few days about whether to try out at all).  I even got my hair cut conservatively (for me) yesterday. But I didn’t audition in Winston-Salem either Monday or Tuesday.  I just wasn’t well-rested or prepared.  I wasn’t very rested today either, but I left work a couple hours earlier, worked on my audition song ("A Marriage Proposal" from March of the Falsettos), and silently prayed — and sang – as I drove to Greensboro.

I arrived in Greensboro early for the audition with a knot in my stomach, assisted I suspect by a hot dog I grabbed on the way at one of those convenience/gas station places — you know the kind of hot dogs that have probably been sitting there all day?  (What was I thinking?!?  Stupid, Ken, stupid.) 

Something about musical auditions really freaks me out — probably because I am not a strong singer or dancer.

Let me cut to the chase: I quickly learned that only 14 people — fourteen! — had tried out Monday and yesterday in Winston-Salem.  I had expected 30 or so.  That uplifted my spirits a bit.  Unfortunately, all those people were guys, but still…. only 14 guys?  That’s not as stiff competition as I thought.

At tonight’s audition, there were about 14 people, about 10 of them were guys.  I knew most of them.  Neil Sheppard for one.  I knew he would try out, and I sort of figured him as Dave (the "fat one").  But then I saw how much weight he had lost, and realized that he could be either Jerry (the lead) or Malcolm (another of the guys).  I knew most of the other men who auditioned there, too: Lee Huggins, Jeff Aguilar, Steve Collier, to name a few.  I was also familiar with a few others from other local productions (CTG’s "Beauty and the Beast", "Just Kidding", etc.)

So how did I do?  First came the musical audition.  And to put it bluntly, I tanked.  I did my best, but I think nerves got in the way.  All my preparation just failed me.  I guess I was tired too — it’s been a rough few days.  I mean, I didn’t butcher it, but I know I could have done better. 

The reason I know I didn’t impress them is because they ran scales for the people who obviously could sing (you could hear them through the walls), and they didn’t run them for me and a couple others.  Besides, there was another guy there who sang and acted great, and he was a baritone.  He was perfect for Harold, and I knew it right away.

Dancing was next.  That was fine.  I had worked with Donna (the choreographer) before.  She’s a sassy, foul-mouthed black woman, and I just love her to death.  Of course, the joke of the show is that these guys can’t dance very sexy, but she wanted to see what we could do anyhow.  I think I did fine, at least compared to most of the guys (except, of course, for real dancers like Jeff).

Then came the reading.  Now, I’ve worked with Jamie (the director) many times before, and he — like most directors — has an idea of what part he would like you to audition for, even if it’s not what you had in mind.  And it’s clear that he was looking to me as a possible Dave, the "fat guy" and the best friend of Jerry (the lead role).  It’s like a few years ago, when I auditioned for Jamie for "Gilligan’s Island: The Musical" — I auditioned for The Professor; Jamie cast me as The Skipper.

Anyway, I read a few times for Harold, but by then, it was clear to me that this other guy was far far better on every metric (looks, singing, etc.) for the Harold part.  So I gave all I had for the Dave readings.  It was hard switching gears, because I had been thinking Harold for months — Harold is upper-class and rich; Dave is an average Joe Sixpack.  Actually, Dave is a larger/better role than Harold’s, but I dismissed him early because the songs he sings are SO HIGH that I just figured I wouldn’t stand a chance.

And Neil Sheppard — what can I say?  I read with him.  Man, he is such a giving actor.  I mean, he is so great.  He gave me looks to play off of — it was phenomenal.  What a pleasure just to read with him. 

My "fantasy" — now that the whole thing is over — is that I would play Dave opposite Neil playing Jerry (and he was outstanding as Jerry).  Of course, not knowing what transpired the other two audition nights and who showed up, I have no idea what my chances are.  I’m sure the musical director would NOT want me as one of the five six guys.  Realistically, the only way I could get Dave is if nobody decent tries out with my, um, girth (I have mixed feelings about this, seeing as how I’m 30 pounds lighter than a couple of years ago, but….).  And listening to the soundtrack on the way home after auditioning, I think I can pull Dave off.

So, callbacks are tomorrow.  I haven’t the slightest idea if I will be called back.  None at all.  Of course, if I don’t, that doesn’t mean I won’t be cast — it’ll probably just mean I’m not one of the five six guys.  I think I’ll be disappointed if that happens, but I’ll survive and be over it in a day.  I went into this thinking it was a longshot.

But I’ll be devastated if I don’t get cast at all, as anything.

Anyway, I’m surprised turnout was so low for men, and even more surprised that it was so low for women.  There are a lot of good women parts in this show.  And only four showed up in three days?  I know Emily is auditioning tomorrow — maybe others will as well.

Well, time will tell.  To be continued….

(Or perhaps not)

UPDATE (12:05 p.m., Thursday):  Spent all morning in the dentist’s chair, hoping I would get some news by the time I got out.  It’s now noon on Thursday — so far, nothing.  No message at home, or cell, or work.  No email.  Doesn’t look good.  Had a nice email exchange with Heather who is still on the fence about auditioning.  Hope she makes the right choice.

UPDATE NO. 2 (1:35 p.m., Thursday):  Got the callback for tonight.  Wish I had more than three hours sleep last night.

Goodling Answers Questions

GoodlingMonica Goodling, a 33-year-old graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University with six months of prosecutorial experience — the woman who helped purge prosecutors who failed to be partisan enough — the woman who refused to hire attorneys because they were "too liberal" (a violation of federal law) — is testifying today.

She’s weaseled her way to receiving immunity, so one wonders whether or not, and to what extent, she’ll implicate the White House (Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, etc).  I don’t hold out much hope.  [UPDATE: Kevin Drum notes that she is expected to be "forthcoming" today]

Firedoglake, once again, outdoes the mainstream media with its liveblogging coverage.

UPDATE:  Well, so far she’s merely suggesting White House involvement, but it’s early in the day.

One observer’s   so far: "There seem to be two narratives going on in Goodling’s testimony. The first is that she was a nobody with little power who may have inadvertently overstepped her authority occasionally. The second narrative line intrudes into the other from time to time. In this one (call it the Type A narrative), Goodling has the power to make and break people, a power that she repeatedly exercises."

On Jihadists

Like Glenn Greenwald, I am getting increasingly tired of the Malkin-types who make it their daily mission to try to scare everybody into thinking that Muslims — even American Muslins — are all hell-bent on committing acts of terrorists

If an imam prays to Mecca before boarding a plane in some remote airport, the right wing punditry — Rush, Malkin, the Fox kids — run with it for days, hyping outrageous fear and loathing …despite the fact that the imam was merely practicing his religion.

If olive-skinned Americans are buying a lot of cellphones all of a sudden, its time to alert the authorities (never mind that it is the holiday season, and everybody is buying cellphones as gifts).

For the fearmongers, the drumbeat goes on and on and on…

What then, I wonder, would they make of this?

Even in death, the Rev. Jerry Falwell rouses the most volatile of emotions.

A small group of protesters gathered near the funeral services to criticize the man who mobilized Christian evangelicals and made them a major force in American politics — often by playing on social prejudices.

A group of students from Falwell’s Liberty University staged a counterprotest.

And Campbell County authorities arrested a Liberty University student for having several homemade bombs in his car.

The student, 19-year-old Mark D. Uhl of Amissville, Va., reportedly told authorities that he was making the bombs to stop protesters from disrupting the funeral service. The devices were made of a combination of gasoline and detergent, a law enforcement official told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas. They were "slow burn," according to the official, and would not have been very destructive.

"There were indications that there were others involved in the manufacturing of these devices and we are still investigating these individuals with the assistance of ATF [Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms], Virginia State Police and FBI. At this time it is not believed that these devices were going to be used to interrupt the funeral services at Liberty University," the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office said in a release.

Three other suspects are being sought, one of whom is a soldier from Fort Benning, Ga., and another is a high school student. No information was available on the third suspect.

This is the MySpace page for the alleged Liberty University bomber, Mark David Uhl. He lists his religion as "Christian," claims to be Caucasian and straight, says that among the types of music he enjoys is "worship" music, and vows that he "will join the ARMY as an officer after college" (emphasis in original). He also indicates that he is now in the Army ROTC, and advises that his name, "Mark," means "Mighty Warrior."

His favorite book is the Bible. He claims to be a "Solider of Christ." The first MySpace friend he lists is "Jesus".

His is not an isolated case:

A couple of weeks ago, Dave Neiwert examined an arrest in Austin, Texas of a pro-life activist planning an Eric-Rudolph-like bombing of an abortion clinic, along with the arrests of members of the "Alabama Free Militia" who were stockpiling grenades (h/t Hume’s Ghost). Just today, USA Today reported on the problems law enforcement is facing from vigilantes and other lawbreakers who resort to violence to advance their anti-immigration agenda, and a Free Republic employee and anti-immigration activist was recently arrested for bringing large numbers of weapons to an anti-immigration protest and having Molotov cocktails in his home (h/t reader BR).

My point is not to say that anyone who is Christian is a potential bomber.  That, of course, is not only silly, but insulting.  My point is to suggest that if the religion had been changed — if the Liberty University bomber had been Islamic and a follower of the Koran — Malkin and her ilk would condemn not only the man, but ALL believers of Islam ("See?  Islam is a religion of peace?  Well, what about this guy?!?")

The vast majority of American Christians, anti-abortionists, anti-immigration people — like the vast majority of American Muslims — are peaceful and sincere and condemn all forms of terrorism.  It is wrong to paint an entire swath of people — of any faith — based on the criminal and evil activities of a few outliers.

Extremism is the enemy here.  Islamic extremism, Christian extremism — it’s all bad.  But that should never be used to condemn Islamism or Christianity or anything else as a whole.


President Bush’s approval rating, a record low, in a new American Research Group poll. His approval is 33 percent in a new Rasmussen poll, another record low.

But I don’t want to be pessimistic about record lows, so here’s a record high: gas prices

Gas prices hit record levels in the Triad on Tuesday, surging past previous highs set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded jumped to $3.134 , an increase of nearly three cents from Monday, AAA Carolinas reported.

The previous high, $3.129 , had been set Sept. 6, 2005.

The national average jumped a penny Tuesday, reaching $3.209, also a record.

But you knew that didn’t you?

Oh, How I LOVE Kaye Grogan!

My favorite conservative columnist has come back after a far-too-long absence.  Guess what?  She’s really riled about something.  Who would have thought???  She’s angry about immigrants, a favorite topic of hers.  Here’s how she starts:

While everyone is running around like chickens with their heads cut off, sending "say no to amnesty" faxes to their representatives, the only way to stop the out-of-control congress is to launch a massive recall program with the required signatures to replace the hard heads immediately — in every state.

Sputter, sputter, garrr-umph!

By the time the next election rolls around our beloved America may have already been given away to lawless illegal immigrants, who will benefit greatly from their prior disrespect for our immigration laws.

That’s right.  In less than two years, the ENTIRE country (Alaska and Hawaii included) will be in the hands of those greasy Mexicans.

A bit alarmist, yes?

Kaye rebuts some arguments:

How many times have we heard the lazy agricultural farmers making the pitch: if they don’t have Mexicans to pick crops, the cost of food will triple? What’s wrong with their cotton-picking fingers?

Well, Kaye.  It’s hard for a single farmer to pick several hundred acres of food.  They’re not lazy — they just are few in number.

Well, to them I say: as long as there is dirt around, I will grow and pick my own tomatoes, etc.

Etc.?  You grow cotton, Kaye?

Besides, people would be better off paying $6 for a pound of tomatoes in comparison of being taxed beyond oblivion, so millions of foreigners can enjoy the good life at the expense of taxpayers.

Ah, yes.  The good life.  You know, she’s right.  I’m so SICK of these Mexican foreigners coming into our country, taking all the good seats at the country club, lying back on their fat asses and sipping gin and tonics by the pool.  They have it sooooooo easy and lush.

Later, Kaye launches into some tangents about, well, whatever crosses her head:

Let’s look at a few of the provocative hot-issue buttons, that have failed miserably in the past. Since the legalization of whiskey, control is a big joke.

Right.  Whiskey is legal, so we don’t control it.  It’s not a failure of control, Kaye — it’s decision not to control it.

The drug war is an even bigger joke. Medicinal drugs are abused — much less street drugs.

Well, screw it, then.  Let’s just outlaw Tylenol, Kaye.  Is that what you’re saying?

Many schools are promoting and pimping sex in sex education classes to our young children in-between sexual abuse from many educators.

I’ve heard they occasionally do alegbra, though.

Later, Kaye writes:

The American people are not required to provide other nationalities a chance to pursue the American Dream in our country.

Right on!  Because we occupied this land first!!

And to Senator Lindsey Graham I say: "I beg your pardon — this is my country!…and if you want to call this bigotry — go right ahead!"

(Pssst, Kaye.  It is bigotry, at least in your case.  There are a lot of different viewpoints on the issue of immigration, but your viewpoint rests on one undenable truth: you just don’t like them)

And then there’s this:

Here’s the brutal facts: If over 47 million babies had not been wiped out through atrocious abortions — the amount of taxes this many people would have generated, and the jobs they would have filled here in America, would have made a tremendous difference in our economy.

Except, um, that those 47 million taxpayers also would have been tax consumers.  They would need to be fed, attend public schools, have Social Security, etc.

THEN we get to Kaye’s paranoia:

But the real reason behind changing the geometric numbers and faces in America, is designed and formulated to replace the white conservative Christian citizens, with people the government feels they have a better chance of creating a dictatorship type of environment.

"Dammit!  America is supposed to be a Christian dicatorship!  All that crap about ‘all people created equal’ and ‘give us your tired, you poor, your hungry, yearning to breathe free’ — that’s all nonsense!!"

If this type of scenario wasn’t so dangerous — it would be quite amusing to watch as everything blows up in their faces. Unfortunately, there is nothing amusing about watching our beloved country going down the drain faster than a newly unstopped sink.

Damn ferners!  Sputter, sputter!!

How Does A Kangaroo Keep Cool?

I’m a bit intrigued by Google’s new offering: Google Trends.  It’s a service (I guess you can call it that) which shows "surges" in what people are googling, but it employs an algorithm that takes out the obvious stuff (like "weather" or "porn").

I check it out right now, and #4 on the trend list is: how does a kangaroo keep cool.  Why, I wonder, are people all of a sudden interested in this?  Here’s the graph showing the surge:


Google Trends also notes that many of these Google searches on keeping kangaroos cool come from the Tampa and Orlando area.

My guess: it’s a trivia question on some morning talk show or something.

There also seems to be a lot of interest in harry belafonte s daughter

A Good Reason To Watch Idol Tonight

I no longer have any interest, since Melinda Doolittle was voted off last week.  But then again, maybe this might be worth checking out:

Paula Abdul broke her nose over the weekend after she fell while trying to avoid stepping on her Chihuahua, her publicist said Monday.

A Heavy Sleeper Indeed

Man sleeps through gunshot to the head:

A small-caliber bullet struck the 37-year-old Altizer man in the head as he slept Sunday morning, but he didn’t realize it until he awoke nearly four hours later and noticed blood coming from his head, said Cpl. R.H. McQuaid of the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department.

The bullet that struck him was one of five that someone sprayed across his mobile home and truck at about 4:20 a.m. Sunday, McQuaid said. The one the struck Lusher apparently lost velocity as it traveled through two walls.

"We’re just glad he didn’t suffer any life-threatening injuries with a head wound," he said.

Lusher came home from a night on the town about an hour before he was shot while lying in bed, McQuaid said.

Science To The Rescue!!

HamsterNew Scientist is reporting that extremely small doses of Viagra help hamsters deal with their jet lag:

Hamsters that received small doses of sildenafil, sold under the name Viagra, adjusted more quickly to laboratory simulations of a six-hour time-zone change than animals in the control group.

The researchers found that a single dose of sildenafil helped the animals adapt up to 50% faster than usual.

Well it’s about time that somebody looked into this!!  I just hate it when I take my hamster on international flights to Europe, only to find that he’s soooo groggy and grumpy that he won’t even run in the wheel!

Pressure Getting To McCain?

This isn’t very presidential:

On Friday, during a back-room discussion on the new immigration-reform package, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) started shouting at Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who dared to disagree with him on the legislation. Apparently, McCain accused Cornyn of raising petty objections, and Cornyn accused McCain of having dropped in without taking part in the negotiations. “F**k you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room,” McCain reportedly shouted. Paul Kane added that McCain also “used a curse word associated with chickens.”

There’s Modesty And Then There’s TOO Modest

If you got it, flaunt it, they say.  But for some of us (myself included), bathing suit season makes us self-conscious.  Well, now there’s a solution —

Our Waterwear is the first to be introduced because the need for modesty in swimwear is greatest and the supply is non-existent.  Swimwear that "highlights the face, rather than the body" includes an undergarment with bright colors at the neck and shoulders to draw the eye to the face.

Here’s an example:


Those are actual swimsuits.  Here’s the online catalogue — you’ll notice that most of the swimsuits are in the festive color of… black.  (I also note: no modest swimsuits for men…]

I can’t think of a better way to communicate to the whole world "Hey! I really hate my body so much that I am doing you a favor by covering it up as much as possible."

Now, to be fair, we’ve all witnessed the horror of flabby middle-aged men who apparently think that wearing a speedo will actually make them look fit.  And yes, people like that should be fined heavily by the fashion police. 

But do we have to be so prurient that we cannot show just a little flesh?  I mean, by all means, I see the virtue in leaving something to the imagination.  But come on!!  What’s next — burqua swimsuits?!?  [UPDATE: I had to ask…]

None of us are as pretty as the models in TV and commercials.  Including the models themselves.  Time for an oldie but goodie:

[H/T: Lee Ann Chrisco]

Is America Ready For A Six Foot Tall First Lady With A Tongue Stud?

There are many many good reasons not to vote for Dennis Kucinich for President in ’08.  There are also some bad reasons not to vote for him too, and most of them center around his wife:

  • She’s hot.  I mean — she’s really hot.
  • She likes Coldplay
  • She’s British
  • The signature line of her emails is a quote from the Kama Sutra
  • She agreed to marry Kucinich on their second date
  • She’s 31 years younger and, like, 3 feet taller — than her husband
  • She wears a tongue stud
  • Actual quote, on the subject of her husband maybe being president one day: "“Can you imagine what it would be like to have real love in the White House and a true union between the masculine and the feminine?”

Why The Scandal Matters

N.Y. Times editorial:

The Justice Department is no ordinary agency. Its 93 United States attorney offices, scattered across the country, prosecute federal crimes ranging from public corruption to terrorism. These prosecutors have enormous power: they can wiretap people’s homes, seize property and put people in jail for life. They can destroy businesses, and affect the outcomes of elections. It has always been understood that although they are appointed by a president, usually from his own party, once in office they must operate in a nonpartisan way, and be insulated from outside pressures.

This understanding has badly broken down. It is now clear that United States attorneys were pressured to act in the interests of the Republican Party, and lost their job if they failed to do so. The firing offenses of the nine prosecutors who were purged last year were that they would not indict Democrats, they investigated important Republicans, or they would not try to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning groups with baseless election fraud cases.

The degree of partisanship in the department is shocking. A study by two professors, Donald Shields of the University of Missouri at St. Louis and John Cragan of Illinois State University, found that the Bush Justice Department has investigated Democratic officeholders and office seekers about four times as often as Republican ones.

What’s shocking, to be honest, is that the New York Times HAS TO write an editorial which states the obvious.  The subversion of not just justice, but the whole justice department of the federal government, shouldn’t require an explanation of why it is bad.  It is, on its face, very very bad.

History Repeats Itself

Thirty years ago today:

Q: So what in a sense you’re saying is that there are certain situations…where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.

NIXON: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.

Q: By definition.

NIXON: Exactly, exactly.

The Rush To Fight, And The Consequences

Yup.  Another "What Digby Said" moment:

The Bush administration and its neocon muses have long said that the most dangerous thing the US could do would be to give the terrorists a victory by "proving" that we don’t have the ballocks to stand and fight. They firmly believe that a failure to kick ass and take names, going all the way back to Reagan and the bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut, is what caused the Islamofascists to think they could attack us. They know this because bin Laden has trash talked this line on various tapes and missives over the years so it must be true. (He wouldn’t lie, would he?)

And when they hear him saying "bring it" like big dumb bulls they see red and immediately start snorting and stomping the ground and rush headlong into some half baked scheme designed to prove that we can’t be intimidated. But what if the Islamoboogeymen are actually waving their capes in front of the big, dumb United States in order to get them to do exactly that?

A major CIA effort launched last year to hunt down Osama bin Laden has produced no significant leads on his whereabouts, but has helped track an alarming increase in the movement of Al Qaeda operatives and money into Pakistan’s tribal territories, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation.

In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda’s command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network’s operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

The influx of money has bolstered Al Qaeda’s leadership ranks at a time when the core command is regrouping and reasserting influence over its far-flung network. The trend also signals a reversal in the traditional flow of Al Qaeda funds, with the network’s leadership surviving to a large extent on money coming in from its most profitable franchise, rather than distributing funds from headquarters to distant cells.

Al Qaeda’s efforts were aided, intelligence officials said, by Pakistan’s withdrawal in September of tens of thousands of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghanistan border where Bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, are believed to be hiding.

Little more than a year ago, Al Qaeda’s core command was thought to be in a financial crunch. But U.S. officials said cash shipped from Iraq has eased those troubles.

"Iraq is a big moneymaker for them," said a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official.

Basing your decisions upon your stated enemy’s threats and taunts and holding fast so they can’t yell "psych!" is not a foreign policy — it’s a WWF advertising campaign. It isn’t real and it doesn’t address any real problem. The US is the most powerful country on earth and the Islamoboogeymen are not going to take over our government and make us all wear burkas and pray to mecca. Really. Sophisticated thinkers would find solutions to the real problems of islamic fundamentalism and energy dependence and Israel and all the rest rather than launch invasions as PR exercises, but this is what we are dealing with. Marketing is the only thing the Mayberry Machiavellis know.

This isn’t some scripted TV "throw-down." It’s a serious and complicated challenge and we desperately need to get some people in power who don’t depend on "Jack Baur" for their policy prescriptions. Every single day these jokers continue with their little playground game, they make things worse.

It’s interesting, by the way, that after five or six months of wasting time — an more importantly, American lives — with this "surge" bullshit, it looks like the Bush administration may be reconsidering the Iraq Study Group recommendations that were handed down lat last year.

The U.S. Palace In Baghdad

Rising from the dust of the city’s Green Zone it is destined, at $592m (£300m), to become the biggest and most expensive US embassy on earth when it opens in September.

It will cover 104 acres (42 hectares) of land, about the size of the Vatican. It will include 27 separate buildings and house about 615 people behind bomb-proof walls. Most of the embassy staff will live in simple, if not quite monastic, accommodation in one-bedroom apartments.

The US ambassador, however, will enjoy a little more elbow room in a high-security home on the compound reported to fill 16,000 square feet (1,500 sq metres). His deputy will have to make do with a more modest 9,500 sq ft.

They will have a pool, gym and communal living areas, and the embassy will have its own power and water supplies.

What better way to give the impression that we came as conquerors, not "liberators"?

“We Became Friends”

An interesting eulogy of Jerry Falwell …by his nemesis, pornographer Larry Flynt:

To my amazement, we won. It wasn’t until after I won the case and read the justices’ unanimous decision in my favor that I realized fully the significance of what had happened. The justices held that a parody of a public figure was protected under the 1st Amendment even if it was outrageous, even if it was "doubtless gross and repugnant," as they put it, and even if it was designed to inflict emotional distress. In a unanimous decision — written by, of all people, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist — the court reasoned that if it supported Falwell’s lower-court victory, no one would ever have to prove something was false and libelous to win a judgment. All anyone would have to prove is that "he upset me" or "she made me feel bad." The lawsuits would be endless, and that would be the end of free speech.

Everyone was shocked at our victory — and no one more so than Falwell, who on the day of the decision called me a "sleaze merchant" hiding behind the 1st Amendment. Still, over time, Falwell was forced to publicly come to grips with the reality that this is America, where you can make fun of anyone you want. That hadn’t been absolutely clear before our case, but now it’s being taught in law schools all over the country, and our case is being hailed as one of the most important free-speech cases of the 20th century.


My mother always told me that no matter how repugnant you find a person, when you meet them face to face you will always find something about them to like. The more I got to know Falwell, the more I began to see that his public portrayals were caricatures of himself. There was a dichotomy between the real Falwell and the one he showed the public.

He was definitely selling brimstone religion and would do anything to add another member to his mailing list. But in the end, I knew what he was selling, and he knew what I was selling, and we found a way to communicate.

I always kicked his ass about his crazy ideas and the things he said. Every time I’d call him, I’d get put right through, and he’d let me berate him about his views. When he was getting blasted for his ridiculous homophobic comments after he wrote his "Tinky Winky" article cautioning parents that the purple Teletubby character was in fact gay, I called him in Florida and yelled at him to "leave the Tinky Winkies alone."

When he referred to Ellen Degeneres in print as Ellen "Degenerate," I called him and said, "What are you doing? You don’t need to poison the whole lake with your venom." I could hear him mumbling out of the side of his mouth, "These lesbians just drive me crazy." I’m sure I never changed his mind about anything, just as he never changed mine.

I’ll never admire him for his views or his opinions. To this day, I’m not sure if his television embrace was meant to mend fences, to show himself to the public as a generous and forgiving preacher or merely to make me uneasy, but the ultimate result was one I never expected and was just as shocking a turn to me as was winning that famous Supreme Court case: We became friends.

Read the whole thing.