Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gail Collins Lightens My Day

as usual, writing about politics and age.
(Let’s take a minute out and try to imagine what would happen if a series of crises struck the country so that we ran through the line of succession in rather short order. Governed by Dick Cheney. Then Nancy Pelosi. Then Robert Byrd. Then Condoleezza Rice. It sounds like the kind of experiment they perform on lab rats.)

From Kollywood, Apparently

It's not Sexy Beijing or anything, but it is pretty funny.
For those of you who cannot abide ambiguity, it's all explained here.

Best Scenes From Movies

you've probably never heard of (I know I hadn't). Fun to watch.
Okay, I did see Dead Calm, but it was a long time ago.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Find O' Teh Day

Okay, I didn't find it. Virginia Heffernan did. But she gets paid, I just do this to avoid paying my bills. And remember, I know about Virginia Heffernan so you don't have to.

Torture Memo: Day Three

The ABC News story Wednesday night that revealed key cabinet members, advisors and even the man the bloggoes like to call Darth Cheney were intimately involved in planning torture for suspected terrorists in U.S. custody spawned an AP story that has had widespread circulation, since AP is a co-op with member newspapers all over the country.
So, it's not only out there, but there's preliminary official Congressional attention.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-MI, has invited all to testify before his committee about meetings of the so-called Principals Committee in the Situation Room in the White House basement.
The list includes former AG John Ashcroft, former CIA head George Tenet, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Chief of Staff to the Vice President David Addington and former Asst. AG Daniel Levin.
As David Kurtz at TPM notes, not likely to happen without subpoenas, executive privilege claims and "a few trips to court."
My take since the Yoo memo surfaced last week is that he would be the scapegoat on all this, but now that the ABC story is getting traction, Yoo may become just a footnote buried on a law school faculty.
(Note here, Conyers' committee's action on contempt of Congress grounds to get a court to order Harriet Meyers and Josh Bolton to testify re: the White House involvement in U.S. attorney firings had its first hearing this week.)
Notably absent from Conyers' list is Cheney himself, Colin Powell and Condi.
In the meantime, the chairman of UC Berkley's law school says he's not going to fire John Yoo, author of the infamous torture memo, because it's Yoo's bosses who are directly accountable.
Despite a hot primary season of hairdos and bowling, the saga continues.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Torture Update

Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post probably has the best summary of the fallout over ABC's torture story Wednesday night that revealed the involvement of top administration officials.
So far, there are almost 300 stories on Google news.
He notes that a couple prominent lawyer bloggers say there can be no war crimes prosecutions in this country, in case you were wondering. Read it to find out why.
He also notes a large flaw in the ABC story related to the credibility of one of the detainees.
I've seen the whole thing discussed on numerous threads today, usually with the opinion that traditional media will likely not pick up on this story. Can't blame people for believing that, especially given ABC's flub, but it looks like it could have legs.
Teddy's making public noises, I expect there will be some move toward Congressional hearings.
I'm just gonna hang out now waiting for Charlie Rose's interview with George Soros.
P.S. Here's a petition asking for Condi's resignation because of her responsibility as chair of the committee. (Thanks, E.)

Astonishing Story O' Teh Day

Compliments of MetaFilter member.
Wearing an old-fashioned diving suit, William "Diver Bill" Walker worked in 14 feet of murky water beneath Winchester Cathedral, digging out the old timber and peat foundations and replacing them with bags of concrete cement and concrete blocks. Staying underwater six hours per day for five years (1906-1911), Diver Bill moved 25,800 bags of concrete and laid 114,900 concrete blocks, saving the Norman building from certain collapse.

Metafilter is cool. Just found it today.

Did We Win One?

The Hill is reporting that House Republicans appear to have abandoned their campaign to pass a surveillance bill with telecom amnesty in favor of another try to get the Bush tax cuts made permanent.
You may remember this was a very big deal for a very long time and the Senate approved a horrid version that gave retroactive immunity, but the House dug in its heels and refused.
The blogs like Glenn Greenwald's and Firedoglake and Daily Kos and whole lot of others in partnership with MoveOn, the ACLU and Electronic Freedom Foundation put up a real fight and drew an outpouring from online dwellers and other activists who rallied to the cause, calling, Faxing and emailing their Congress critters.
Is it over? As the talking heads say, time will tell.

50 Days of Laffs

Can't turn it down, can you?
Neither can I, I'm posting the site where the YouTube videos reside, the results of a judging of the 50 best TV comedy sketches.
I haven't read through the whole list, so my guess is there's no Honeymooners, Sic (heh-heh, Sid) Cesar, Steve Allen. Which is too bad, but the winner is...wait for it...wait for it.
Of course, the Dead Parrot sketch from Monty Python.
And now that I've found it, I see they have Ernie Kovacs and Abbot and Costello up there, so maybe some of the aforementioned oldies are there, too. Enjoy.

Forget Rev. Wright

Foreign Policy says these are the religious leaders to pay attention to. Hat tip Andrew Sullivan.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Torture: Who Was In On It?

What do we call this, the audacity of corruption?
From ABC News.

But this is the first time sources have disclosed that a handful of the most senior advisers in the White House explicitly approved the details of the program. According to multiple sources, it was members of the Principals Committee that not only discussed specific plans and specific interrogation methods, but approved them.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

A year later, amidst the outcry over unrelated abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the controversial 2002 legal memo, which gave formal legal authorization for the CIA interrogation program of the top al Qaeda suspects, leaked to the press. A new senior official in the Justice Department, Jack Goldsmith, withdrew the legal memo -- the Golden Shield -- that authorized the program.

Spring, Paris, Ah!

Actually, I hate this ensemble, but the doubletake is worth a thousand words. Spring. Paris. Ah!
From the Sartorialist, of course. Style is personal expression. Mine is underground, in pajamas. Not likely to encounter a camera.

Iraq War: Six Months At A Time

The six months at a time theme is apparently a winner for Democrats, as well as the "100 years" theme. Pass it along.

Afghan Farmers Switch Crops

I spent way too much time on a Daily Kos thread last night reading about skyrocketing commodity prices, developing food shortages, hoarding and predictions of doom.
It started for me with a recent post by Paul Krugman on his blog about the subject, increased news stories about protests and riots (in Haiti, not unusual, but also widespread in other countries.)
Needless to say, I went to bed fatally depressed. The blogs'll do that to you if you're not careful. Just be glad I read it for you.
Not doing Global Warming today. Nope, not gonna go there.
Anyway, Krugman and others had this up today, and I'm passing it along in the above context.

In parts of Helmand Afghan farmers are this year sowing wheat instead of poppy - not because they have suddenly been converted to the argument that producing heroin is not in the national interest.

Market forces have been the deciding factor - with wheat prices doubling in the past year, and the street price of heroin falling, it is now more cost effective to grow wheat.

Some People Like

this. Maybe you will, too. Shrug.


is what they call it, it's been up for three weeks and I didn't know anything about it. The new Web site for women 40 and over is occupied by about 15 celebrity types and otherwise heavy hitters.
Lily Tomlin and Whoopie, Leslie Stahl, Candace Bergen, Miss Manners.
I haven't fully explored the site, but it's definitely about, blogging...but they didn't once use the term blog when four of them appeared on Charlie Rose tonight.
Check it out. Tell me what you think. Should Contrarienne fold up her tent and steal away?

(I learned Miss Manners has second home in Venice.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Matthew Diaz

I don't think his name or his deed or his punishment registered with me at the time, which is probably a pretty good indication that they registered with few Americans.
Yesterday, he was given an award and today Scott Horton retells the tale.
One of the crimes the Administration committed was withholding from the Red Cross a list of the detainees at Guantánamo, effectively making them into secret detainees. Before the arrival of the Bush Administration, the United States had taken the axiomatic position that holding persons in secret detention for prolonged periods outside the rule of law (a practice known as “disappearing”) was not merely unlawful, but in fact a rarified “crime against humanity.” Now the United States was engaged in the active practice of this crime.

The decision to withhold the information had been taken, in defiance of law, by senior political figures in the Bush Administration. Diaz was aware of it, and he knew it was unlawful. He printed out a copy of the names and sent them to a civil rights lawyer who had requested them in federal court proceedings.

Diaz was aware when he did this that he was violating regulations and that he could and would, if caught, be subjected to severe sanction. What he did was a violation of law, even as it was an effort to cure a more severe act of lawlessness by the Government.

Actions, Not Just Words

This is all over the tubes today. From Jim Mortin of the Miami Herald.

Is The Claimed Colbert Bump Real?

Apparently so, if you're a Democrat.
Some academic did a study and found out that donations to Democratic candidates who appeared on Comedy Central's Colbert Report jumped an average of 44 percent. Republicans, not so much. Not at all, actually.

Leave Iraq, Or Stay To "Win"?

If you're plugged in to the talking heads, you'd never know what Americans really think.
Luckily, there are always facts.
If you haven't yet signed the petition attached to the Responsible Plan to End the War, go here.

White Voters

Who's got the problem? Wait for it...wait for it...hint, the initials are HRC.
Race has been the subtext, the backstory throughout the campaign. And as various versions of the race card were played starting in January, the background noise got louder.
And the TV punditry didn't help, given that they're not prone to serious analysis much less simple factchecking.
But this is the internet, folks. Just Google!
although Hillary Clinton leads McCain among white women by three points, she trails among white men by twenty-three points. Meanwhile, Obama trails among white women by just one point, and trails among white men by fifteen. Obama's net margin relative to Clinton drops by four points among white women, but increases by eight points among white men.

Overall, that means Obama is doing slightly better with white voters than is Hillary Clinton.

And this is according to a poll conducted entirely after the Wright controversy played itself out.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Time's Blog Index

Time Magazine invited votes for best blogs and here are the results for the top 25 and worst five.
Alas, Contrarienne is on neither list, but some of her favorites are, thereby proving once again, "I read it so you don't have to."

P.S. Contrarienne quit reading Time altogether right after Jay Carney and his editor dismissed the importance of the U.S. Attorney scandal and they hired Mr. Smirky, Mark Halperin. Oh, okay, they got rid of Bill Kristol, but they've still got Joe Klein and I'm mad at former Wonkette Ana Marie Cox for pretending to be a reporter when all she is is a blogger.

Global Warming More Dire

Hate to repeat the bummer news, but all is not lost if we get involved.

One of the world's leading climate scientists warns today that the EU and its international partners must urgently rethink targets for cutting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because of fears they have grossly underestimated the scale of the problem.

In a startling reappraisal of the threat, James Hansen, head of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, calls for a sharp reduction in C02 limits.

Hansen says the EU target of 550 parts per million of C02 - the most stringent in the world - should be slashed to 350ppm. He argues the cut is needed if "humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilisation developed"

Here's a place to register for more information on a new initiative.

Aww 'o teh Day

I Love Lawrence O'Donnell

even though he pisses me off sometimes (I think he supports Hillary).
Anyway, they asked the former West Wing writer to do something on a brokered convention, and it's kinda good.

The leadership considers going to Hillary and telling her it’s time to drop out. They all know there will be blood if they do that. Someone suggests trying to get Barack to drop out.

Reid: Barack sure is a lot easier to talk to.
Pelosi: Are we really gonna ask him to drop out just because he’s easier to talk to?

Okay, So The Intertubes Beez Obsolete?

So, I canz haz cheeseburger?
I can't pretend I get it. FYI only.
The real goal of the grid is, however, to work with the LHC in tracking down nature’s most elusive particle, the Higgs boson. Predicted in theory but never yet found, the Higgs is supposed to be what gives matter mass.

The LHC has been designed to hunt out this particle - but even at optimum performance it will generate only a few thousand of the particles a year. Analysing the mountain of data will be such a large task that it will keep even the grid’s huge capacity busy for years to come.

Is Hillary Pandering To Me?

Well, duh.
So she's on Ellen today and she's promising an extra $300 million in breast cancer research, etc.
And that's supposed to make tens of millions of American women who may have been wavering or already in the Obama camp come back to her.
These are the same tens of millions of women who don't know that they're much more likely to die of a heart attack or lung cancer than they are of breast cancer.
The same tens of millions of women who don't know that — thanks to very well organized activism among victims and their families and friends —breast cancer causes are relatively heavily funded compared to other equally frequently occurring diseases.
I'm not against breast cancer research, it's what has reduced breast cancer deaths by so much in the last decade.
And, yes, I've known many women who got breast cancer and I do take the risk personally. Getting my mammo on Thursday, actually.
But of all the things she could be promising, this one stinks of pandering, just like the pre-New Hampshire challenges the campaign put out questioning Obama's position on choice.
Hillary is pandering to me, and I take that personally, too.
In fact, it pisses me off.
End of rant.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

50 Jokes

and, maybe, ten giggles. Happy Sunday.


A doctor tells a guy: "I have bad news. You have Alzheimer's, and you have cancer." Guy says, "Thank God I don't have cancer."

Willpower and You

Need to diet? Quit smoking? Quit spending? It's all about blood sugar, apparently. Oh, and your brain.
Most cognitive functions are unaffected by minor blood sugar fluctuations over the course of a day, but planning and self-control are sensitive to such small changes. Exerting self-control lowers blood sugar, which reduces the capacity for further self-control. People who drink a glass of lemonade between completing one task requiring self-control and beginning a second one perform equally well on both tasks, while people who drink sugarless diet lemonade make more errors on the second task than on the first. Foods that persistently elevate blood sugar, like those containing protein or complex carbohydrates, might enhance willpower for longer periods.

Iraq War Refresher Course

It's impossible to keep track of everything written about the war, but as Petreaus and Crocker prepare to brief Congress this week, Frank Rich at the New York Times gives a good summary for us — and John McCain, not that he'll listen, of course.
But Mr. McCain’s bigger strategic picture, immutable no matter what happens on the ground, is foggier still. Like Mr. Bush, he keeps selling Iraq as the central front in the war on Al Qaeda. But Al Qaeda was not even a participant in the Basra battle, which was an eruption of a Shiite-vs.-Shiite civil war. (Al Qaeda is busy enough in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the actual central front in the war on terror.)

For You Bookies

a pretty good interview with Salman Rushdie. Again, thanks to Huffpo today.
I've never read Rushdie, didn't really know all that much about him.
But the new book, The Enchantress of Florence, is definitely the one I'm going to read.

Clinton Tax Returns

Huffington Post is turning into a pretty good resource today, and they've got a bunch of videos up from last night's SNL, which is good because I'm too old to stay up and watch it. Sorry about the ads, NBC has to pay the bills you know.

April Is National Poetry Month

and you can sign up for an emailed poem-a-day here.
Apparently they skip weekends because the one below is for April 4.
There are all sorts of other features here.
Poet John Lundberg announced it all today on Huffington Post, and got this comment:
I celebrate National Poetry Month at my high school library with contests (including one which parodies Kilmer's poem Trees), poetry pillars and walls, magnetic poetry, and more. I asked the office to announce the contests, and the student who read my announcement said, "It's National Pottery Month" which one teacher interpreted as National Potty Mouth. I give up on student announcers. I'm doing my own announcement on Monday.

Assault to Abjury
by Raymond McDaniel

Rain commenced, and wind did.

A crippled ship slid ashore.

Our swimmer's limbs went heavy.

The sand had been flattened.

The primary dune, the secondary dune, both leveled.

The maritime forest, extracted.

Every yard of the shore was shocked with jellyfish.

The blue pillow of the man o' war empty in the afterlight.

The threads of the jellyfish, spent.

Disaster weirdly neatened the beach.

We cultivated the debris field.

Castaway trash, our treasure.

Jewel box, spoon ring, sack of rock candy.

A bicycle exoskeleton without wheels, grasshopper green.

Our dead ten speed.

We rested in red mangrove and sheltered in sheets.

Our bruises blushed backwards, our blisters did.

is it true is it true

God help us we tried to stay shattered but we just got better.

We grew adept, we caught the fish as they fled.

We skinned the fish, our knife clicked like an edict.

We were harmed, and then we healed.

From Saltwater Empire by Raymond McDaniel. Copyright © 2008 by Raymond McDaniel. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

So You Don't Have To

Once again, Jason Linkins at Huffington Post does his snarky best to summarize the Sunday talk shows, relieving us of the burden of having to actually watch the clowns from inside what some outsiders refer to as "the Village."
Some also say it's called Stepford.