Saturday, April 5, 2008

Shine A Light

No, I don't get paid for this, there aren't enough of you. Happy weekend.

Where Do You Get Your Information?

The local newspaper? TV news? The Sunday talk shows? The Internet?
Glenn Greenwald's ongoing critique of traditional media, which influences most people and especially during election season, is also the topic of his new book.
But for today, just consider:

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

"Yoo and torture" - 102

"Mukasey and 9/11" -- 73

"Yoo and Fourth Amendment" -- 16

"Obama and bowling" -- 1,043

"Obama and Wright" -- More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)

"Obama and patriotism" - 1,607

"Clinton and Lewinsky" -- 1,079

And as Eric Boehlert documents, even Iraq -- that little five-year U.S. occupation with no end in sight -- has been virtually written out of the media narrative in favor of mindless, stupid, vapid chatter of the type referenced above. "The Clintons are Rich!!!!" will undoubtedly soon be at the top of this heap within a matter of a day or two.

Best comment so far:

Mass media consumers want info short, uncomplicated, served on a silver platter, entertaining and EASY. They don't want to be presented with Heidgger's "Being and Time" over breakfast coffee.

Will Men Become Extinct?

Some chatterers among the scientific class seems to think so.
The technology to produce artificial sperm, or even create offspring from two females, is already in the pipeline; in addition, genetic evidence has shown that the Y chromosome, the only one that confers maleness, is in a long-term evolutionary decline.

But if it does happen, one expert predicts it will take at least 125,000 years.
The affluent Pennine community, with its smart delicatessens and organic grocers, has become an unlikely centre for Britain’s burgeoning community of lesbian families. Up to one in five of the population of 13,000 is a gay woman. Lesbian couples own many of the bars, restaurants, galleries and other businesses that line the Rochdale canal and the nearby River Calder. Although other large cities have significant gay populations, the concentration in Hebden Bridge is probably greater than anywhere else in the UK. And it is getting bigger. In Marie’s antenatal yoga classes last year, no fewer than 4 out of 10 of the other mothers were part of lesbian couples.

Ya gotta figure, if it's happening in Britain, it's happening here, but no mainstream paper is going to report so extensively on the topic in this country, just too controversial.
Anyway, it's a long, comprehensive story from the Guardian touching not only on social practices and scientific advances, but predictions that women will soon exceed men in educational and income advantages.
I should have something snarky to say, but it's basically just fascinating reading.
I'm not rooting for the girls or anything, and really, it could be the same kind of conjecture that had us all flying our own cars by the 21st century.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Secret to Happy Marriage

Steve Clifford at Crosscuts is almost always worth reading.
I do not practice active listening. I do not practice passive listening. I seldom listen at all. My experience is that any type of listening only encourages 'em.

Hillary, Politics and Religion

The story finally hits the so-called mainstream media. Last night on NBC.
For more, see Frederick Clarkson at Daily Kos.

1968 — 2008

With Miss Nina Simone.

It's A Girl!

Made by a girl, sorta, and her team.
Nexi is her name, and prototype is her game.
For now, Nexi is just a prototype, designed to explore human-machine interactions and social learning. It's not too hard to imagine a real product based on the design, though, is it? The team forsee robots like this having a role in healthcare, eldercare and education.

From Gizmodo.

Torture, Again

and again a caution, Scott Horton's discussion of the torture memo released this week includes another bloody picture of a murdered victim.
That said, this — about the unwarranted classification of the 2003 memo — is striking:
The abusive use of classifications is a matter that cries for Congressional oversight and action. At the close of World War I, Franz Kafka wrote the parable “Before the Law” (“Vor dem Gesetz”) later incorporated into the novel The Trial. This parable operates at several levels, but one of them, signaled by the choice of the word Gesetz, is quite literally anxiety about secret laws. Kafka was concern about a tendency that Max Weber had just warned against, namely that an increasingly authoritarian and secretive state would begin to make even the law itself a secret. The practices of the Bush Administration are increasingly a realization of this nightmare.

40 Years Ago

I was 24. It hurt. It still hurts. All of us.
But instead of some sorry-assed nostalgia, it's necessary to put it in perspective.
No one is better equipped to do that than E.J. Dionne.

WASHINGTON -- Forty years ago, American liberalism suffered a blow from which it has still not recovered. On April 4, 1968, a relatively brief but extraordinary moment of progressive reform ended, and a long period of conservative ascendancy began.

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the ensuing riots that engulfed the nation's capital and big cities across the country signaled the collapse of liberal hopes in a smoky haze of self-doubt and despair. Conservatives, on the run through much of the decade, found a broad new audience for their warnings against the disorders and disruptions bred by reform. A shrewd politician named Richard Nixon sensed the direction of the political winds. When President Johnson's commission on urban unrest released its report in early 1968 and blamed the previous year's rioting on "white racism," Nixon would have none of it. The commission, he said, "blames everybody for the riots except the perpetrators of the riots." He urged "retaliation."

To read it all, go here.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What, Me Worry?

As usual, the ineffable Gail Collins of the New York Times manages to get me to lighten up. Whew, just in time.

The story that McCain said he was prepared to stay in Iraq for 100 years is on one level unfair, although this fall Democrats will be featuring it in commercials about every six seconds.

What he meant was that he’s prepared to keep troops stationed in Iraq for 100 years as long as no one is “injured or harmed or wounded or killed” in the process.

Which is another matter entirely. Estimates on how long McCain is prepared to stay if some injuring or harming or wounding or killing is involved are yet to come.

P.S. John McCain pulls in "hundreds" in Florida today, according to NPR. Whereas Obama pulls in 22,000 in PA. WTF? Why are we debating electability at all? Well, at least I'm not going to do it.

P.S.S. I have promised myself I will never, ever link to Maureen Dowd. If I ever do that, feel free to threaten a boycott.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

4th Amendment, What's That?

''Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States," is the title of the citation, found in a footnote to the torture memo released yesterday. So much for unreasonable search and seizure.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo headlines his notation of the AP story "Always Read the Footnotes," something the press can't always be relied upon to do.
Second that.

"Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations," the footnote states, referring to a document titled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States."

Exactly what domestic military action was covered by the October memo is unclear. But federal documents indicate that the memo relates to the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP.

By the way, this stuff is coming out because the ACLU pushed for the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
"The administration's lawyers believe the president should be permitted to violate statutory law, to violate international treaties, and even to violate the Fourth Amendment inside the U.S. They believe that the president should be above the law," said an ACLU expert.
Somebody's looking out for us and if you haven't joined yet, go here.

Erm, About That Water Thing

Eight glasses a day? Yeah, right.
I've known it was a crock for years but not because I'm just more intelligent. It's just that there's so much crap out there, and I've stepped in a lot of it. Kinda makes ya suspicious. get more than what you need from water, coffee, soda and soup. And she reminds people that 20 percent of their daily water is from solid food, much of which contains water.
"Drink when you're thirsty," said Goldfarb. "That's the way your body is designed."

Scott Horton on Torture Memo

these memoranda have been crafted not as an after-the-fact defense to criminal charges, but rather as a roadmap to committing crimes and getting away with it. They are the sort of handiwork we associate with the consigliere, or mob lawyer. But these consiglieri are government attorneys who have sworn an oath, which they are violating, to uphold the law.

Scott Horton, The Atlantic (oops, Harper's, as anon says)

Horton is one of the top commentators on these issues and, as a lawyer, has long been associated with social justice causes. He is also a former member of the same firm as current AG Michael Mukasey, and initially vouched for Mukasey's integrity.
Caution: when you link to this article, you will see one of the Abu Graib photos that were not widely disseminated. Too bloody.

Two Movies: Inlaws And Outlaws

...and The Trials of Henry Kissinger documentary, which I watched last night, gave me a lot of hope.
First, Inlaws And Outlaws is an affecting accounting by a variety of couples and some singles about marriage with a definite slant toward the gay/lesbian experience. The thing is, the film makers chose people you could really fall in love with as people.
It's not available yet on Netflix, but there's a showing schedule along with DVD buying info and some outtakes available at the Web site.
I just stumbled on it by staying tuned to Channel 9 KCTS after Frontline was over last night.
Now, if you want to set your recorder/Tivo whatever you can also record it at 3 a.m. April 5 on KCTS.
I saw the Kissinger thing on LINK TV, one of the benefits I get as a Direct TV subscriber. It is available from Netflix.
Very well made and when the credits rolled and I saw Alex Gibney's name attached to it, my head jerked and I ran to Google.
Gibney produced Taxi to the Dark Side, a documentary about American torture and murder of an innocent Afghani driver that won this year's Oscar.
He's part of what I call the "vast left wing conspiracy" that includes financing from former eBay president and billionaire Alex Skoll, who's funded a lot of interesting movies with what appears to be a socially progressive intent.
Gibney's finishing a film on gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and another on the U.S. Attorneys scandal is in the works as well as Freakonomics, due out next year.
Boomer trivia: he's William Sloan Coffin's stepson.
Somehow, Mark Cuban and Al Gore figure into business the mix, too.
One of these days I'll do more research and write about the vast left-wing conspiracy.

Torture: Oh, Go Ahead, Be Crude

Gem of a quote from neocon Doug Feith (I know, I know, it's hard to keep them all straight) in the much discussed Vanity Fair article about the administration's tortured torture policies.
“The problem with moral authority,” he said, was “people who should know better, like yourself, siding with the assholes, to put it crudely.”

I'm thinking the reason we got the release yesterday of the infamous memo, or at least one of them, is because the VF story was breaking, but what do I know?
War crimes, anyone? Yeah, right, then why is Henry Kissinger still walking around?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Who Am I?

What Am I?
Well might you ask.
As they put it at Political Compass:
There's abundant evidence for the need of it. The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left', established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?
On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.
Go on over and take the test, it's enlightening. Maybe everyone should take this test before voting, and the results should be included on the rolls.
Nah, probably unconstitutional. Or something.

Don't Believe Anything

the administration says about anything. But you already knew that. I only wish Paul Krugman would tell me who I could trust besides him.
I’ve been disappointed to see some news outlets report as fact the administration’s cover story — the claim that lack of coordination among regulatory agencies was an important factor in our current problems.

The truth is that that’s not at all what happened. The various regulators actually did quite well at acting in a coordinated fashion. Unfortunately, they coordinated in the wrong direction.

For example, there was a 2003 photo-op in which officials from multiple agencies used pruning shears and chainsaws to chop up stacks of banking regulations. The occasion symbolized the shared determination of Bush appointees to suspend adult supervision just as the financial industry was starting to run wild.

Oh, and the Bush administration actively blocked state governments when they tried to protect families against predatory lending.

Military Women and Rape

I love Jane Harman. No, wait, I love Barbara Boxer. Harman's a problem. But not here.
In today’s LA Times, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) sheds light on the staggering number of sexual assaults within the military, stating, “Women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq."

Doctors Favor Universal Health Care

Support is up by ten points, and opposition is down to 33 percent.
More than half of U.S. doctors now favor switching to a national health care plan and fewer than a third oppose the idea, according to a survey published on Monday.

The survey suggests that opinions have changed substantially since the last survey in 2002 and as the country debates serious changes to the health care system

More here.

Feel Good Today, Watch This

In New York City for reasons I no longer recall, fifth-graders must take ballroom dancing. And they have contests up to the final, city-wide danceoff.
Someone made a documentary film about it, and Mad Hot Ballroom is one of my favorite movies.
Go rent it.

The French

invented April Fool's Day. I didn't either.

Best Rant I've Seen on Iraq War

Time once again to eat your vegetables, I can't post painting elephants all the time.

One of the best reasons to read the better blogs is that often people much smarter and more knowdgeable than I are reading them too, and commenting.
Like "Michael Murry" over at Talking Points Memo today.
It's long, but it's worth it.

Reed Hundt has his Vietnam anologies ( reference to Tet Offensive) seriously confused. Essentially, the current Maliki bad-puppet-dependency in Iraq has launched a type of "Operation Lam Son 719" (which occurred between 8 February and 25 March, 1971). Wikipedia has all the details. A more astute commentor (Gregg Gordon) on Juan Cole's "Informed Comment writes:

"Well, so much for Vietnamization. This is starting to look like the biggest military debacle since Thieu invaded Laos. The only question seems to be whether the [Iraqi]government can hold on to even half its troops, or whether the majority will end up going over to the Sadrists."

As a victim/veteran of the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-1972), I can well remember the farcical operation in question, with banner headlines and photos back in the U.S. showing terrified, fleeing South Vietnamese (i.e., Maliki-equivalent-Nguyen-Van-Thieu) conscripts hanging desperately to American helicopter skids as they hauled ass from the severe thumping the NVA gave them (supported by us) in Laos.

Not to worry, though. As with the aftermath of Tet 1968, the aftermath of Lam Son (almost 4 years later) showed that the American press will swallow any propaganda bullshit handed out at our military's fabled "Five O'Clock Follies." A week after the current humiliation in Iraq ends, John McBomb and You-Know-Her will be kissing General Petraeus's ass-kissing ass and claiming that the tipping point will soon turn the corner and begin connecting the dots on the inkstained flypaper dominoes in the tunnel at the end of the light. (Have I missed any of the standard quagmire cliches here?)

As George Orwell said long ago: "Political and military commentators can survive any disaster, because their more devoted followers do not look to them for an appraisal of the facts, but for the stimulation of their nationalistic loyalties." Look for the same old nationalistic-loyalty-stimulating to completely smother any real reporting on Iraq -- if not America as well -- real soon now. Because, as the really with-it press insiders love to assure us untutored peasants: the "maverick" John McBomb and the "experienced" You-Know-Her really have this "foreign policy" shit down to a "science."

As we said back in the day while Vietnamizing the Vietnamese (i.e., Yellowing the Corpses): "We are the unwilling led by the unqualified to do the unnecessary for the ungrateful," because "we're here because we're here because we're here because we're here" to "kill a Commie for Christ" and "a Gook for God" because if we counter-insurgency types "grab them by the balls, then their hearts and minds will follow." Et cetera, et cetera.

Vietnam had one-and-only-one simple lesson to teach America: "Don't do it again." Naturally, our ticket-punching career military lifers wanted no part of learning any such lesson. They couldn't wait to do it again. So they've done it again: screwing pooches and fucking up soup sandwiches like crazy. Too bad for all the dead enlisted men and junior officers. (And something about those "Iraqis" comes to mind, but I can't quite figure out what ...)

Gereral Petraeus ought to have his ass-kissing little ass fired. But he'll probably get another Peter-Principle promotion. Hell, he's gotten THREE of them out of Iraq already -- and he's never once ever FINISHED anything.

John McBomb and You-Know-Her hope they'll get a Peter-Principle "percussive sublimation (i.e., a "kicking upstairs"), too. "Fuck up and move up" has certainly returned with a vengeance, taking us from the Best and the Brightest to the Worst and the Dullest in a single generation. See what plane-crashers marrying young heiresses along with grade-inflation and white-debutante-affirmative-action in expensive private finishing schools can offer formerly first-world countries in the way of "alternatives"?

I don't blame Reed Hundt, though, for not understanding America's War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos). Every single damn Vietnam Veteran in Congress also forgot the greatest national trauma of our generation. Most Americans don't even know about America's failed experience intervening in China after WWII: the "bad proxy-puppet syndrome" that set the pattern America still hasn't broken out of sixty years later.

Oh, well, back to our regularly scheduled nationalistic loyalty stimulation.... I understand that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have another royal crock of shit to sell us in only about a week or two. Remember: You heard it here first, fellow Crimestoppers. Decreasing violence means we have to stay in Iraq. Increasing violence means we have to stay in Iraq. Budget surplusses require tax cuts for the wealtiest Americans. Budget deficits require tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. John McBomb and You-Know-Her really have this "foreign" and "fiscal/monetary" policy shit figured out better than anyone else who doesn't really "love" America. Honest injun. As Jack Paar used to say on the original Tonight show: "I kid you not."

What Does Hillary Really Want?

The Politico story actually starts out with an examination of the looming possibility of a decision by superdelegates sometime in June, maybe at a superdelegate convention, with party leaders weighing in that it will all be settled before July, despite the Clinton campaign's voiced determination to take the contest all the way to the Denver convention in August.
But what caught my eye was the last line:
“They’re trying everything, and nothing is sticking,” said a Clinton family adviser. “It is possible she’s trying to leverage all this into a spot on the ticket.”

Yahoo Wants Your Eyeballs

AP has a story out about a new Yahoo Web site/blog (meaning there's commentary) called Shine (?) directed at women between 24 and 54. I haven't been there for a really long time and even when I was I still probably wouldn't have known who Kate Bosworth is and she's their lead story.
Still, maybe it's a good thing.
There's stuff on sex, love, parenting, work, food, etc. Hardly a political story in the mix, so I guess women aren't supposed to care about who their next president is going to be although there is a headline about "Momocrats" at the California convention.
Check it out. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Too Much Medicine

The medical writer at the Washington Post has a short article today arguing that the medical industry is thriving by scaring us. And we are way too anxious.
Along with osteoporosis and osteopenia, we now have a whole raft of pre-diseases that doctors want to screen us for -- and that drug companies are only too happy to remedy. There's pre-high blood pressure and pre-diabetes, which your doctor can supposedly diagnose even when your blood sugar is perfectly normal. If you've been to the dermatologist lately, maybe you had some "pre-cancerous" spots removed. These may well have been actinic keratoses, which, despite the scary name, almost never develop into an aggressive form of skin cancer. Get them removed if they're unsightly, but there's no cause for alarm if you don't. Then there's the mother of all pre-diseases, high cholesterol -- which is a risk factor, for heaven's sake, not a death sentence. Yet one creepy Pfizer ad for the anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor that appeared a few years ago used a female corpse to exhort women in their 50s to get their cholesterol checked. Know your numbers. Ask your doctor. Be afraid -- be very afraid.

Eat Local, Save a Songbird

Sailor USS Bobolink, 1927

Oh, wait.

Bobolink, Indiana, 2006 J. Gilbert

Farmers in Latin American are growing exotic and off-season foods for the American and European markets and lacing them heavily with pesticides not allowed to farmers in the importing countries.
Result? Migratory bird die-off.
Yeah, and fork over the extra bucks for organic coffee and bananas, too.
From the New York Times today:
Bobolink numbers have plummeted almost 50 percent in the last four decades, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

The birds are being poisoned on their wintering grounds by highly toxic pesticides. Rosalind Renfrew, a biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, captured bobolinks feeding in rice fields in Bolivia and took samples of their blood to test for pesticide exposure. She found that about half of the birds had drastically reduced levels of cholinesterase, an enzyme that affects brain and nerve cells — a sign of exposure to toxic chemicals.

Meet the Talking Heads

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post watches all the Sunday talk shows so I don't have to.

Money quote from Linkins:
"The Iranian-backed central government is fighting Iranian backed militias."

Martin, Bobby and John

Iraq War Explained

There's this comment by oxon over at anti-war vet Brandon Friedman's diary on Daily Kos that puts it all together for me without all those indecipherable foreign words and names.
Just passing it along, FYI.

Pakistan is allied with us because the Indians used to be friendly with the Russians back when the Russians were the Soviets and together we (Pakistan and us) created al-Qaeda, to piss off the Russians and the Indians, who wanted Kashmir, but then, too, so did Pakistan, and Iran got rid of the last guy who was going to hold it altogether for us in the middle-east (the shah), and that scared the saudis because Iran wanted all the shiites to rise up except that a lot of shiites lived on top of the Saudi oil pipelines, so the Saudis thought, hey, we'll help the ISI and CIA whip up some wahabis and get them over to Afghanistan, and then we'll get Iraq to fight Iran at the same time, but that was inconclusive and al Qaeda kept fighting the Russians even after they decided they weren't soviets anymore, but the russians did want to build pipelines in all the areas where al Qaeda was hitting them, like in the Caucasus Isthmus, and that pipeline threatened us because, well, just because, so when Iraq and Iran both said they might ship their oil out over a Russian pipeline / distribution system, which neither al Qaeda nor al Cheney wanted to see happpen, al Qaeda attacked us and we attacked Iraq just to send a warning to Iran not to ship oil with the russians, and we also occupied afghanistan to make sure the Russians didn't come back there, siding with the factions that India had supported, while the other factions ran back to Pakistan. Which is where they are now. Which is why we aren't at war with them any longer.

Got it?

He means it's about the oil.