Saturday, September 29, 2007

Line of the Day: 2007-09-29

Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second.
-- Phil Kerby (attributed)

This comes from the American Library Association's site, where they have all kinds of great pages celebrating Banned Book Week.

As my referers [sic, cf. para. 3], the good people at Unshelved, remind you:

Read Irresponsibly

The shirt is still vaporware, but only for a few more days. But the good news is, while you're waiting to buy it, you can read the comics!

And go get yourself a banned book. They can't throw all of us in Gitmo, can they?


P.S. Better hurry. Last year's most challenged book? It was about penguins.


Got A Grip

I just happened across a really funny short bit of standup, posted on Garden Behind The Hedge. Not often that you laugh out loud when you're by yourself. See if it has the same effect on you.

Friday, September 28, 2007


(Updated below)

I hate to put the whammy on it until we've buried it, dug it up, and killed it again just to be sure, but it looks like the Republican effort to split the California electoral vote is dead. The L.A. Times has the good news.

The LAT claims credit for breaking this story back in July. Well done, Andrew Malcolm. Kudos, as well, to Bob Herbert for getting the word out, and for reiterating it, to those of us who spend too much time reading the other Times.

If you don't know about this, here's the short version. California, like almost every state, assigns electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. Its 55 electoral votes are key to a Democratic victory in the presidential race (270 are needed to win). The plan that just died would have apportioned California's electoral votes based on the voting in the state's individual Congressional districts. This would likely would have cost the Democrats about 20 electoral votes. Based on recent history, this would almost certainly kill any chance to put a Democrat in the White House in 2008, and for the foreseeable future.

There are any number of good arguments to be made for reforming -- or downright abolishing -- the Electoral College system, but doing it one state at a time is hardly the way to go about it. For my Republican friends, I invite you to contemplate passage of the same initiative, but instead, only in Texas.

Anyway, the interesting thing is that the death of the effort is being blamed on lack of money -- evidently, fundraising efforts failed miserably. And we're not talking astronomical amounts here. The backers of the plan, the LAT says, would have needed about $2 million to get the initiative onto the June 2008 ballot. (By comparison, all of the major candidates have already raised tens of millions of dollars.) And it's not like you'd need a grass-roots effort to get the money. As the LAT notes:

Unlike federal campaign law, California law permits corporations to make political donations. And though there are caps on the size of donations to federal candidates, state and federal law permits donations of unlimited size to support or oppose ballot measures.

Granted, getting the initiative on the ballot is just the first step. A lot more money would have been needed to campaign for its passage. But still, when you think about the number of really rich people out there who you'd think would like nothing finer than a permanent Republican presence in the White House …

Good thing Richard Mellon Scaife forgot to get a pre-nup, I guess.

(h/t: Political Animal, via Lawyers, Guns and Money)


2007-09-28 12:22 EDT

Via email, Cousin AK checks in with this:

The man behind the money was an a$$ chomper (literally)

By which AK meant: read this article.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

That was fast

From a NYT story that I read this morning:

Saying it had the right to block "controversial or unsavory" text messages, Verizon Wireless has rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program.


In turning down the program, Verizon, one of the nation’s two largest wireless carriers, told Naral that it does not accept programs from any group "that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users."

From a NYT story that I read this afternoon:

"The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident," Jeffrey Nelson, a company spokesman, said in a statement.


Mr. Nelson noted that text messaging is "harnessed by organizations and individuals communicating their diverse opinions about issues and topics" and said Verizon has "great respect for this free flow of ideas."


Nah. That's unfair. Congratulations to Verizon for seeing the light. And I'm sure, all by itself, without any outside help.

(h/t for the update: TBogg)

Line of the Day: 2007-09-27

In the past week, Congress has voted down three separate proposals that would have supported our troops and helped end the war. But yesterday, the House did manage to join the Senate in condemning MoveOn.

When the only thing our elected representatives can agree on is to silence war critics, it's time to get louder.
-- Nita Chaudhary, via email

Noted in the same email: video of Bill Clinton on CNN, castigating the Republicans' feigned outrage over the Betray Us ad.

Get FRCed

I've mentioned my distaste for Tony Perkins once or twice before. If that name doesn't ring a bell, he's the head of the FRC. Some would say this expands to Family Research Council. I think of it as Freaks Rewriting Christ.

To that end, I am very happy to note the Rude Pundit's latest take on Perkins. Perkins, it seems, wants to mobilize prayer teams against Hillary Clinton's health care proposal, not to mention renewal of SCHIP, because it would mean …

…higher taxes for rich people.

I'll let the Rude Pundit take it from here.

NB: If you're new to the RP, be aware that Rude means Rude. But, as in virtually all of his posts, what he criticizes is far more obscene than his prose.

Worst Idea Ever

You know, there's blind love. There's wingnuttery. There's batshit insane. And then there's Kathryn Jean Lopez.

I usually let the good people at Outside The Tent and Sadly, No! dispose of the ruminations of K-Lo. But I couldn't let this one go:

Whatever your nits to pick, can anyone (who's not wrong!) disagree that George W. Bush is a human-rights leader of the kind that would be great to have at the United Nations when his term is over? Dubya for secretary general!

For the moment, let's ignore considerations of geographical cluelessness and a tendency to channel Nero in the face of natural disasters. Leave aside, as well, the worldwide hatred engendered by Bush's warmongering. What about, you know, class?

Do we really want the world's top diplomat to be someone who talks with his mouth full, and who believes the way to relate to female dignitaries is via winking and groping?

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Confirming Your Suspicions About the Bush Administration, Part 2349732

Sit down before you read this. I'm sure you'll be stunned.

From today's NYT:

The Interior Department’s program to collect billions of dollars annually from oil and gas companies that drill on federal lands is troubled by mismanagement, ethical lapses and fears of retaliation against whistle-blowers …


It [the report] suggested that the agency was too cozy with oil companies and that internal critics had good reason to fear punishment.


In one case, senior officials decided that it would impose a "hardship" on oil companies to demand that they calculate the back interest they owed after having been caught underpaying.

and it gets even worse. Read the whole story, if you can bear it.

White Fright

Bill Ice-T

(click pic to zoom)

The story of Bill O'Reilly's trip to Sylvia's is a few days old, but I think it's worth keeping alive.

I am unsure whether to wish for a jihad, a la Imus, or if it's better to keep this blowhard around as the face of the right wing. But I'm sure about one thing: if I were a regular patron of Sylvia's, I totally know how I'd be ordering my beverages from now on.

Full story.

Picture credits: 1, 2, 3.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Open Letter to David Frum

After listening to the diavlog between Robert Wright and David Frum, I was moved to put a little effort into responding, in the form of an open letter to Mr. Frum. I got some compliments from the tough crowd that makes up the commenting regulars, an occasion so exceedingly rare that I thought I'd celebrate with a little shameless self-promotion. So, if you'd like to read my screed, here it is. (Update: or just scroll down -- I added a copy of it to the end of this post.)

With the exception of the first paragraph -- an inside joke -- I don't think you'll need to have watched the diavlog to get the context of my remarks. But of course, the video is available. Click here and it'll start playing automatically, a few seconds after the page loads. An audio-only link is also available, on the same page. Just stop the video and scroll down a little -- it's in the right-hand column.

You can comment on my comment on the site if you're willing to register (painless and free) or you can come back here. (But see Update, below.)

Piscivorous: if you're reading this, I really am sorry.


2008-08-01 00:55

Fixed link to forum posting. changed over their forum software in the time since I posted the open letter, which means it appears in an archive section of the site. You can still read the letter, but if you want to comment on it, it might be a little tricky to leave it over there, under the old thread. And even if you manage to do so, the odds are no one else will ever see your comment. So, probably best to comment on it here, as of today. Thanks.


2008-11-19 08:19

Decided to copy and paste the contents of the original forum post, since this is the second time I've referred to it from elsewhere on my blog.

Here's your test data, Bob: Asparagus. I'll ask you to forward this to Mr. Frum. Maybe *he'd* like to fork over the fifty bucks, in the spirit of sharing the benefits of the tax cuts his president pushed through.

I see by some of the comments already posted that not everyone made it through to the end. I'm not sure why I did. But I did, and here are my reactions, expressed as an open letter to David Frum.


Dear Mr. Frum:

One of the reasons that I listened to the entire diavlog, and have done so the other times you've appeared on, is that I do respect your intellect. I try very hard not to reject out of hand political viewpoints so at odds with my own, especially if those viewpoints sound original to the speaker.

Having listened to the whole thing, then, I feel confident in stating that your supposed "rethinking" about the Iraq invasion is very hard to distinguish from anything I've heard you say in the past. How, exactly, has anything changed with you? As far as I can tell, you aren't doing anything other than looking for a new way to rephrase the "bad planning/bad execution/bad selling job" meme. Maybe you think you said more than that, but that's not what I heard, and believe me, I listened -- I was hoping that you would apologize as handsomely as Andrew Sullivan did, and I was looking for any evidence to support that hope. By the way, I'll point out you've had considerably more time to see the light; Sullivan's mea culpa came more than eighteen months ago, when it was less obvious that Iraq was lost.

You don't get to keep blaming it all on Bush, Mr. Frum. You own a lot of the divisiveness and ad hominem style of selling the Iraq invasion, and you own a lot of the responsibility for making a really bad policy call. Time for you to stop protesting that you were a bit player, and to own up more completely.

But all of that is quibbling around the edges. Here's 99% of my problem with you: You still seem to insist that the basic idea to invade Iraq when we did was the right thing to do. You don't even seem to express any uncertainty about that, despite four-plus years' worth of evidence to the contrary. You still seem unwilling to admit that Saddam was not an immediate threat, even in retrospect, and that, looking back, we could have at least postponed the invasion without any risk to U.S. national security. I am therefore led to believe that you either are personally paranoid about Arab boogeymen or professionally obsessed with not being seen as "going soft." Whatever your motivations, I must say that your continued rigidity on this issue makes me question your ability to be realistic about any future issues.

I'm glad Bob called you on much of this. I'm reiterating it because I had the same reaction as he did, and I think it's a point important enough to bear repeating.

Here are a few specific things that you said during the diavlog that also bothered me.

You claimed, at about 23:00, that the Arab world was "overwhelmingly hostile" to the U.S. "almost immediately after 9/11" and said that you had polling data to back this up. I don't have sources immediately at hand, but I do want to register that this struck me as an outright misstatement of fact, or, at best, a cherry-picking of polling data. This is certainly not my memory. In any case, I don't think you would wish to dispute that, apart from the Arab world, there is no doubt that every other country has shown significantly increased negative feelings about the U.S. since the invasion. We had most of the world, including Iran, ready and willing to support the U.S. after 9/11. Your side's policies and postures blew more good will than has ever been blown before.

Shortly afterward, you asserted (I paraphrase here): "No matter what, Arab hatred of the U.S. will never go away, no matter what we do, so we might as well forcibly change their governments." How is this any different from Ann Coulter's mantra of "invade their countries, kill their men, and convert the rest to Christianity?"

At around 40:45, you said you wished that people wouldn't say "the neocons" and instead, cite individuals. This did not ring very credibly, since earlier in the diavlog, you seemed all too willing to sum up the majority opinion in this country as "the MoveOn crowd."

Near the end of the discussion about Iraq, you said three things which struck me as admirably realistic, and I want to list them here, as a way of tipping my hat. You said some smart things about not over-selling the supposed success in Anbar, that we should be leery of handing out arms willy-nilly, and that we should abandon the false hope that we're going to be able to establish a working central government in Iraq. All good points. And now back to the criticism.

You and Bob finished the diavlog by revisiting the disagreement that you and Mark Schmitt had about reverence for 9/11. You are certainly entitled to feel more sorrow about the anniversary of that day than others do, but the fact that you can't see that Schmitt's perspective is also reasonable appalls me. I agree with Schmitt, and might even go farther than him. I feel nothing but irritability in early September, and have felt this way for at least the past four years. Here's why.

The Bush Administration and its cronies showed no hesitation to exploit 9/11 at every turn to advance their political agenda on all fronts. Your side threw around accusations of "treason" at the drop of a hat, you smeared opposition politicians, including genuine war heroes, as being on the side of the terrorists, and you accused half the country of being "unpatriotic" whenever we asked you not to trample too heavily on our Constitutional rights. In short, the right used, and continues to use, 9/11 as an ideological club. Your side also never stops playing 9/11 as a get-out-of-jail free card every time the Bush Administration screws something up, or gets caught outright breaking the law.

As I said, your belief that one should continue to mourn 9/11 is reasonable, and I don't deny your right to feel this way. Please extend to others the same consideration.

Finally, right at the very end, you made a little summing-up speech about liking to live in Washington, because you liked listening to "well-informed people" whose views differ from yours, and you liked "having a debate," and "that's how the government is supposed to work." I can't decide whether this was nauseating or a howler. Probably, it was some of both. Where were these noble pronouncements and olive branches when the Republicans controlled all three branches of government? It's nice to call for respect and bipartisanship, but it lacks all credibility that you only start doing so when your side is on the skids.

If there's any justice in this world, and any intelligence in the American electorate, the Democrats will run the table in 2008. When and if they do, I hope they'll be a little less dictatorial than you all were through late 2006. But you know what? If your tone during this diavlog is representative of your side's continued attitude, then I won't blame the Democrats if they shut you out completely. Unless you back off from your obstinate insistence that there's no choice but to use military force to crush the Arab world, and until you start acknowledging that other people's opinions are as valid as yours, my side has no choice but to be as rigid as you.


Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers

Doghouse Riley, a happy new-to-me find, has another excellent post up: "De-Bunker Mentality." He starts off by ripping the MSM in a manner that George Carlin would be proud to have written. The main section takes Slate's media critic, Jack Shafer, to task for hyping a new web site that purports to fact-check the presidential candidates.

Devastating. Highly recommended.

If you've got some time, browse his archives. And definitely add his feed to your RSS reader.

Hitchens on Gore

Christopher Hitchens has an interesting bit of speculation up on Slate: if Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize, will he then announce for President?

I agree with Hitchens far more on religious issues than I do on political ones, but he always makes me think. Plus, he's a fine writer in any case, and his thinking here is especially intriguing. Plus, you gotta like a guy who not only uses the word etiolated, but renders it as a hyperlink, for your convenience in looking it up.

Word. Power. That's my Hitch.

Line of the Day: 2007-09-25

King Kaufman's take on the big steroid bust, clearly applicable to a much larger range of substances:

Forgive me for not jumping for joy. It's just that the drug cops have been making busts like this one since the days of Eliot Ness, and there's no evidence that it does anybody any good, except the drug cops maybe, for whom it provides a living.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Indulge This

I thought the Roman Catholic Church didn't believe in indulgences anymore.

Evidently, one of the lectors at St. Francis Xavier Church in Metairie still does, and it seems as though he's doing his best to avoid excommunication. From the Tony Perkins division of the Republican Party, I mean.

From the Times-Picayune:

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., earmarked $100,000 in a spending bill for a Louisiana Christian group that has challenged the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public school system and to which he has political ties.

The money is included in the labor, health and education financing bill for fiscal 2008 and specifies payment to the Louisiana Family Forum "to develop a plan to promote better science education."


The nonprofit Louisiana Family Forum, launched in Baton Rouge in 1999 by former state Rep. Tony Perkins, has in recent years taken the lead in promoting "origins science," which includes the possibility of divine intervention in the creation of the universe.

The group's stated mission is to "persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking." Until recently, its Web site contained a "battle plan to combat evolution," which called the theory a "dangerous" concept that "has no place in the classroom." The document was removed after a reporter's inquiry.

The group's tax-exempt status prohibits the Louisiana Family Forum from political activity, but Vitter has close ties to the group. Dan Richey, the group's grass-roots coordinator, was paid $17,250 as a consultant in Vitter's 2004 Senate race. Records also show that Vitter's campaign employed Beryl Amedee, the education resource council chairwoman for the Louisiana Family Forum.

The group has been an advocate for the senator, who was elected as a strong supporter of conservative social issues. When Vitter's use of a Washington, D.C., call-girl service drew comparisons last month to the arrest of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, in what an undercover officer said was a solicitation for sex in an airport men's room, Family Forum Executive Director Gene Mills came to Vitter's defense.

In a video clip the group posted on the Internet site YouTube, Mills said the two senators' situations are far different. "Craig is denying the allegations," he said. "Vitter has repented of the allegations. He sought forgiveness, reconciliation and counseling."

Maybe it'd be better if he really did wear diapers. At least that way he wouldn't be pooping on the Constitution.

(h/t: Kristjan Wager, via PZ)

How Creepy is Pat Boone?

Pat Boone.  Creep.

Glad you asked. Here's a new measure: he now writes for WorldNetDaily.

If you don't know WND, suffice it to say that the most linked-to story on their entire site is headlined "Soy is making kids 'gay'." Really.

Anyway, Pat has just posted his version of the fable of Snow White.

To give you a flavor, the Seven Dwarfs are:

... bound by strange, liberal and sometimes seditious beliefs. Some of them were teachers and others members of what was called a "civil liberties union."

Read as you can stand and then head on over to Sadly, No! for a much needed antidote.

Microsoft the Munificent

Feel the love from Redmond:

There is no extra charge for the downgrade rights.

You just have to buy Vista and realize how crappy it is, first.

Full story.

Can We Call a Brief Timeout?

(Updated below)

PZ Myers calls attention to another way to look at the cost of Bush's Endless WarTM:

Hmmm. Estimates of the cost of the war in Iraq range from $4.4 to 7.1 billion per month. If I assume about $5 billion, it looks like we're throwing away about $7 million per hour in that effort; so it looks like a little bit more than a half-hours worth of bloody war costs us $4 million. So let's just stop for about 40 minutes, OK?

What was the point of that calculation? The government is threatening to shut down the Arecibo Observatory unless they can cough up $4 million dollars for its operating budget for the next three years. Wow.

When you hear "Arecibo telescope," you might think, "Isn't that the one that looks for ETs?" And you'd be right. But only partly.

From a WaPo link in PZ's post (emph. added):

But among astronomers, Arecibo is an icon of hard science. Its instruments have netted a decades-long string of discoveries about the structure and evolution of the universe. Its high-powered radar has mapped in exquisite detail the surfaces and interiors of neighboring planets.

And it is the only facility on the planet able to track asteroids with enough precision to tell which ones might plow into Earth -- a disaster that could cause as many as a billion deaths and that experts say is preventable with enough warning.

You know, I hate to hurl back in the face of our beloved Vice President the words "One Percent Doctrine," but …


2007-09-25 15:23 EDT

Jesus' General has another nice perspective, for a different trade-off.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What's In A Name?

Do you know Mitt Romney's real first name? I just found out. Thus, an update of the original movie poster seems appropriate.

Willard 2007

Oh, The Irony

Via Andrew Sullivan, here's a laugher from life online:

Sana Klaric and husband Adnan, who used the names "Sweetie" and "Prince of Joy" in an online chatroom, spent hours telling each other about their marriage troubles, reported.

The truth emerged when the two turned up for a date. Now the pair, from Zenica in central Bosnia, are divorcing after accusing each other of being unfaithful.

Andrew doesn't say so, but I wonder if he noted this story as part of his ongoing campaign to show how the threat of gay marriage is ruining the institution.

(Quibblers with the last line should re-read the title.)

I like my version better

Click to zoom.

No extermination is complete

(h/t: C & L, via Bitch Ph.D.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Can't Make This Stuff Up

Opening sentences from Section 2 of the George W. Bush entry:

Economic Issues

Though the liberal media continues to disparage Bush's handling of the economy, they often neglect to report the many aspects of the economy that Bush has improved. For example, during his term Exxon Mobil has posted the largest profit of any company in a single year, and executive salaries have greatly increased as well.

Care to guess the source?

And before you enemies of freedom get any revisionist history ideas in your heads, pay close attention to the top of the page:

Preserve the Truth

(Click image to zoom)

Way, WAY Inside the Beltway

Doesn't McCain's weak explanation of why he's an unbaptized Baptist:

I didn't find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs …

remind you of another famous line from another infamous Washingtonian?

I had other priorities …

Has Firefox Gone Microsoft?

The newest version is The year is 2007. Sounds a lot like Office 2007, doesn't it? Coincidence???

I think so.

Turns out to be a security patch, to fix a hole in QuickTime. (More details.)

I didn't get an auto-notification, but that's probably due to my browser having been open since before the patch was posted. You can always use Help -> Check for Updates, if you're as impatient or paranoid as I am.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Half-Buried Lede

The lede from a story in Saturday's NYT:

One of the most influential business books ever written is a 1,200-page novel published 50 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1957. It is still drawing readers; it ranks 388th on's best-seller list.

Twenty-eight paragraphs later:

Every year, 400,000 copies of Rand’s novels are offered free to Advanced Placement high school programs. They are paid for by the Ayn Rand Institute …

I shrugged.

The story is currently the fifth-most emailed. It is unclear whether all transmissions are stemming from the ARI, or if some have also come from the Cato Institute.

Free At Last

There's been a lot of buzz about the impending death of the pay wall known as TimesSelect. I have resisted the temptation to report the rumors, although I have been reading them avidly for months. (Thanks, Google Alert!)

Now: It's. Official.

Money quote (was there ever a better chance to use this phrase?) from the first:

Those who have paid in advance for access to TimesSelect will be reimbursed on a prorated basis.

The NYT may be into me for a double sawbuck, but I'll file that one under "Don't hold your breath."

Nonetheless, I'm glad that the NYT has opened up access to some of their best. Now I can link to Paul Krugman and Frank Rich, and Selena Roberts and William C. Rhoden, and Clyde Haberman and Dick Cavett, and Gretchen Morgenson and Joe Nocera, with impunity, and retire the tiresome [T$] link. Maybe the sunlight will help Mo D will get her mojo back, and (okay, now I'm really dreaming) expose the need to put out to pasture The Moustache of Understanding.

I still think, as followers of the [T$] link will have noted, that what the NYT tried was a worthwhile experiment. TANSTAAFL, as the old master said. It may be that ad links will carry the day in supporting good reporting and commentary. I sure hope so. As amazing as Wikipedia and the blogosphere are, there's no lack of need for dedicated -- and supported -- reporting. As another old master said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." We need the pros.

I have not added the AdBlock extension to my Firefox browser, although I do employ Flashblock. I can tolerate some ads on a page I'm reading, and I think most others can, too. The problem is a matter of degree: intrusiveness and distraction.

I've just finished reading a collection of essays by E. B. White, The Points of My Compass. This is the best dollar I've ever spent (thanks, used book sales!). The essays were all composed in the late 1950s. One of them was about television ads, and it is amazingly resonant with today's Web.

It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Monday, September 17, 2007


I was all set to compose yet another screed on yet another former government official whose recent mea culpa provoked yet another response of "now he tells us."

But why compete with Mr. Krugman?

Money quote:

As it turns out, Mr. Greenspan's fears that the federal government would quickly pay off its debt were, shall we say, exaggerated. And Mr. Greenspan has just published a book in which he castigates the Bush administration for its fiscal irresponsibility.

Well, I'm sorry, but that criticism comes six years late and a trillion dollars short.

Ironic Sentence of the Day: 2007-09-17

From a NYT editorial calling for investigation into the 2002 phone-jamming case (remember that?):

It is shocking to think that anyone in the White House was involved in a dirty trick designed to prevent Americans from exercising their democratic rights.

Runner-up, from the same source:

Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House oversight committee, has a lot to investigate these days …

Seven Minutes of Pure Delight

A video well worth watching closely, even if it doesn't have actual moving pictures. Ladies and gentleman, Marcus Brigstocke:

(Embedded video not working? Try this link.)

For more minutes of pure delight, here's Marcus:

PZ Myers, who introduced me to Marcus, hosts another short bit.

Another Benchmark Deemed Unimportant

No, no. Come back. This has nothing to do with Iraq.

This is slightly old news, but I just heard about it. The headline:


The United States has quietly withdrawn from an international study comparing math and science students.

Guess we didn't need to prove that we could whup Cyprus and South Africa again.

I'm a little dubious about linking to the full story, since this appears to be that source's notion of "fair and balanced" reporting [emph. added]:

Conspiracy theorists suggest that the U.S. government withdrew from the study without making any announcement because it anticipated another poor showing. "Maybe they don’t want to hear more bad news, says John Ewing, executive director of the American Mathematical Society.

I could probably find another source, but I'm too busy picking the first reason to bang my head on the desk.

Friday, September 14, 2007

And speaking of ducks ...

... even the branding now sounds lame.

Mission Accomplished

Stay the Course

Plan for Victory

And now (all new!!!):

Return on Success

Of course, I did not watch the latest "speech." But, despite the sinister machinations of the Liberal MediaSM to suppress The TruthTM, somehow …

Message: I got.

You might, after nine or eleven beers, be interested in the official Spin Fact Sheet offered by the Bushies prior to the speech. Sample excerpts (I am not making the words, bolding, or excessive capitalization up):

The Way Forward … General Petraeus Believes We Have Now Reached The Point … So We Can Adjust Our Military And Civilian Resources Accordingly … If We Withdraw Prematurely, Violent Extremists Would Be Emboldened, And We Would Leave To Our Children A Far More Dangerous World.

Message: Ears hurt.

Maybe they shouldn't have let the grammar maven go.

Please Cull Again

Via KK:

Shut happens

(Suggestions for a more clever title for this post most welcome. Put 'em in the Comments.)

A Stench Republican

Okay, so the original story called him "a staunch Republican."

But Bill Maher had it right, as he so often does:

You knew he was a Republican, because even in death, he was still wasting gas.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Shrinking Vocabulary? Like, No.

(Update: minor typo fix)

Did you see, recently, a story about the declining vocabulary of today's high school students? I remember noting such a headline in the past few days, but didn't have the heart to read the story.

Fortunately, Cecil Adams is on the case. A nice piece of debunking.

Imagine No Longer

Rolling Stone has posted audio files made from tapes of an interview with John Lennon, done in December 1970. The interviewer is Jann S. Wenner, the co-founder of the magazine. Yoko Ono jumps in from time to time.

The interview, as you might imagine, is a bit low fidelity. As a voiceover notes in the lead-in to Part 1, Lennon was miked, but Wenner was not. Whoever remixed it did a nice job of boosting the volume when Wenner speaks, and I found that after a minute or two, this was not a distraction. Mostly, the only thing you notice is a jump in tape hiss when Wenner is speaking.

The interview may be a bit hard to listen to in other ways. It takes some time for Lennon to settle down and open up. After a few minutes, though, he stops sounding like he's just going through a "Tonight Show" promo bit, and honesty starts leaking out.

And then, it may get harder to listen to. The interview was done shortly after the Beatles had broken up, and a lot of bitterness comes across. There's also a boorish claim or two, some defensiveness, a few moments of stridency, and the occasional eye-roller that makes you say, "Just started doing therapy, have you?" If you still have stars in your eyes about the Beatles -- or any of them in particular -- and you'd prefer not to have your illusions shattered, don't listen to it.

No. That goes too far. It's not that awful. Or even that dishy. I'd say it's what a gifted artist sounds like if he hasn't had media training. I found it to be quite a listen. By the end (okay, as of mid-way through Part 3), I still find John Lennon an admirable human being.

(h/t: The Guardian)

Thought for the Day: 2007-09-10

I just read of a panel discussion held in Colorado whose subject was the number of levels of reality present if Stephen Colbert were to interview Sacha Baron Cohen.
-- John Allen Paulos


NB: edited slightly. Details in Comments.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Thought for the Day: 2007-09-08

In a post detailing the twisty path that is Charles Krauthammer's thinking, Matthew Yglesias concludes:

And such is the war in Iraq as seen through neocon lenses. Mistakes are always in the past. The current policy is always working. When the mistakes are being made, those who point out the mistakes are tarred as near-treasonous. Then, after another year or two of pointless, futile bloodshed, it's conceded that mistakes were made in the past. But now we're right on track. And the liberals, once again, just don't get it.

More good insight from Matt on the Iraq mess can be found in the second half of his latest appearance on As I said in the Comments for that episode, "I think Matt made the most coherent argument against staying the course that I have ever heard."

Giuliani Seen As Consistent On Secrey, Wiretapping

From tomorrow's NYT Magazine:

The campaign is unusually guarded with routine information, giving out only Giuliani's public schedule, and almost no one associated with the campaign will talk to a reporter without a press aide listening in on the line.

I think we can guess the real slogan of Giuliani-for-President. All together now, people. "Four more years! Four more years!"

Great cover shot for the mag, too.

4-Year Old Seen As Nation's Most Insighful Political Analyst

Romney campaigning (cropped)

Littleton, NH -- The world of campaign punditry was rocked by rumors of mass layoffs today, after a local resident managed to express the country's feelings about Mitt Romney in less than one second, without uttering a word.

(Photo credit: Cheryl Senter/NYT)

Further Proof of the "Liberal Media"

Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter who left the paper amid tumult over her role in the Plame/CIA leak case, has accepted a position at the the conservative Manhattan Institute in New York City.


Oh, wait. That's right. I forgot. She was the only non-liberal, so we had to force her out.

(Oops. Was I supposed to let that out?)

(h/t: Digby)

Okay, this is almost embarrassing ...

... but I can't resist linking to Dawkins reviewing Hitchens.

I have no idea why this review was just (5 Sep 2007) published. Maybe God is Not Great just got released in the U.K.?

Whatever. The review is as much fun as you'd expect.

No. It's even better than that.

(h/t: Pharyngula)

Excerpts You Haven't Yet Seen

Brando. Masterful.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Charlie Savage on Fresh Air

I've written about Charlie Savage before. He's the national legal affairs correspondent for the Boston Globe. He is tireless in documenting the Bush Administration's signing statements and the other legal shenanigans they indulge in, in their pursuit of the idea of the "unitary executive."

Savage was interviewed by Terry Gross on today's Fresh Air. (Audio link available on this page.) If you want an understanding of the machinations behind the scene in the White House, including before 9/11, I highly recommend you listen to it.

One bit of discomfort for all true-blue Americans: Savage does add a bit of ammunition to the meme that John Ashcroft was actually, occasionally, trying to the right thing. Just keep this in mind: if John Ashcroft was the good guy in this Administration, what, exactly does that say about the rest of this bunch?

Coincidentally (*wink*), Savage has a new book out, released today. It's called Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. I'm proud to call attention to it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Democrats missed many chances to argue against the quest for imperial power. All they had to do was to ask the Limbaugh crowd, "How are you going to feel when President Hillary has these powers?"

Here's hoping the Dems run the table in 2008, and make as a first order of business undoing the sinister legal framework that has been installed without many people noticing.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sailboat Fuel

You probably have the vague sense that there's been a lot of money wasted in Iraq, some sort of awareness that private contractors have parlayed cozy relationships with the Bush Administration to cash in heavily. Maybe you think, eh, every war has its profiteers.

But considering that Bush is planning to ask for another $50 billion and that the upcoming Petraeus "report" will undoubtedly amount to version 29.71 of "stay the course," it's probably worth learning about how all this money is being spent.

Matt Taibbi provides extensive details. Read 'em and weep.

(h/t: Jonathan Schwarz)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fiscal Responsibility

Do not miss today's Doonesbury.