Friday, July 29, 2005

Quote/thought for the weekend

A rabbi asked his students, "When is it at dawn that one can tell the light from the darkness?"
weedy pond at dusk
One student replied, "When I can tell a goat from a donkey."
"No," answered the rabbi.

Another said, "When I can tell a palm tree from a fig."
"No," answered the rabbi again.

"Well, then what is the answer?" his students pressed him.
"Only when you look into the face of every man and every woman and see your brother and your sister," said the rabbi. "Only then have you seen the light. All else is still darkness."
(via A Mindful Life)

From my local papers

I usually keep on top of the local papers for my Philadelphia blog (see sidebar), but these two stories caught my interest for non-regional reasons. I apologize if either site requires registration -- I can no longer remember...
  1. The Inquirer headlines the release of the first medicine for blacks only, that is, a drug designed specifically for the way that African-Americans respond to heart medication (which has differed consistently from the responses of Caucasian patients).
    The FDA on June 23 approved BiDil for "self-identified African Americans," leaving room for interpretation. The agency has looked at race before, but only to warn against, not encourage, patients' use of certain drugs.
    The article focuses more on the ethics of race-specific drug development than on how or why patients of different races appear to experience heart disease differently (which I might have found more interesting)...
    "If we can find a drug that works, by all means we should use that," said Charles R. Bridges, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital. "But this should not be misinterpreted to reinforce the concept that race is a useful way of defining" biological differences.
  2. The front-page story in this week's CityPaper is called "Ms. deYoung Goes to Washington," and is about one woman's testimony to the unseen domestic costs of the war in Iraq -- not just in casualties, but in programs that have been sacrificed to the pricetag of the war.
    By letting Americans see that specific examples of waste in Iraq can equate — dollar for dollar — to a service that's been cut in their own community, she thinks voters might force their elected officials' hands.
    . . .
    It seems today's United States is nothing like it was in the World War II era, when a Democratic senator named Harry Truman forced a Democratic administration to answer allegations of war profiteering. His committee was given an initial budget of $15,000. It saved Americans $15 billion. Now, the party in power would just as soon sweep the issue under Cheney's bunker rug. Not a single Republican lawmaker has broken ranks and said, hey, maybe we ought to take a look at these allegations, embarrassment be damned. This is what the matronly woman who never had children of her own is up against.
    Their focus is on money squandered on poorly accounted-for charges from contractors like Haliburton, but the argument could eaily be expanded to a guns-versus-butter reassessment of the entire undertaking.

Gratuitous Sid-blogging

What with all the blatant kitten-bragging, I've left the Sid-crazy masses rather deprived of their favorite blog mascot -- that, and I've committed the cardinal crime of neglecting the older pets in the face of a new arrival, a policy that leads only to resentment and maladjustment. To make up for all of the above, this tiny increment of Sid-blogging:
Sid foot
Classic Sid face icon
Sporty Sid racquetball foot

whoot! look at me, using a table in a blog post!

This blows my mind

NYTimes reporter Judith Miller has attracted the negative attention of many liberals for her promotion of bad intelligence (*cough*Chalabi*cough*) and for writing in a way that seemed to be as much about advocating policy positions as about reporting facts. But this story, in which she muscles an entire military operation into putting her guidance above military judgement, just drops my jaw.

[It's also on top of this grim picture of her involvement in the Plame debacle.]

How justices do in the Senate

This NPR opinion column has some interesting historical perspective for those looking ahead to the Roberts hearings this fall -- it reviews the confirmation votes of the current Supreme Court Justices and lists who voted against them. Several were confirmed unanimously, but others had anywhere from around a third to nearly half the Senators against them. Also some other historical tidbits about courts and legislatures.

(via How Appealing)

Removing any doubt

Santorum goes on the record as saying that birth-control is harmful to women and society, and he doesn't support it. I somehow suspect he's missed the majority viewpoint on that one... (as though the patronizing moralism weren't off-putting enough)

(via Atrios)

Update: Medley has more to say on this, perhaps more productive than my silent apoplexy...

Some things really are more distracting than others

When legislation started covering cell phone usage, many people made the counter-argument that speaking with a passenger should be just as distracting, but the evidence indicated otherwise. don't talk: drive! Now scientists have some insight into the difference: variations in the signal level of a cell phone in a moving car, even below the level of conscious detection (like few-hundred millisecond gaps), mean that a listener has to work harder to keep track of the conversation. More good reasons for pulling over if you need to use the phone.

(via Follow Me Here)

Get some answers

A group of Senate Democrats, conspicuously female, is asking the web to suggest the questions they'd like to see asked of John Roberts during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Perhaps they're looking for good wording? Compiling statistics to give them cover in getting serious with their inquiries? Either way, here's your chance for some input. Armando has a couple of suggestions to get the ball rolling, but I'm sure many of you have had a chance to wonder many things about this dark horse by now...

Tinfoil hats

Tom Tomorrow reports on the latest conspiracy theory (which also, just coincidentally, helps with the desire for self-justification --what luck). I'm with him in not knowing whether to laugh or cry when I read such things...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Groggy afternoon

neon randomnessThree silly distractions in case you're having a slow end of the week too...
  • 24 ways to lace shoes, from the practical to the decorative. (Not tie: lace) (via

  • A group of delightful (and perplexing, of course) Japanese smoking etiquette signs... (via mimi smartypants)

  • A basic primer on napkin folding, for those looking for a new artistic outlet. (Confession: I was really into this as a kid.) (via a Medley furling)
Happy surfing!!

A bizarre display of priorities

The Republican leadership apparently pulled the entire defense spending bill rather than allow some anti-torture amendments to be discussed.
In the face of a series of amendments by Republican Senators McCain, Warner and Graham that would have instituted new rules against torture, as well as other Republican-backed attempts to strengthen veterans benefits and delay base closures until after the Iraq War, Bill Frist has simply pulled the entire $450 billion defense bill from the Senate floor. Funding the troops now won't be reconsidered until after the summer recess.
Because being against torture is anti-American! oh, no, wait...

Same the world over

That is, widespread dismay at the specter of the uppity political wife. How dare she have an intellectual life of her own! Doesn't she realize that her husband has become Somebody Important?? Sigh.

For Democratic infighting spectators

Hunter at dailyKos has a good post looking at the controversy of the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) within the party, as well as at its tendency to call for solutions rather than offering concrete proposals. And a lot of other stuff.
What we see, in both the DLC and among other Democratic pundits and strategists, is a modern Democratic leadership so focused on triangulation and exposition, so obsessed with precise and intentionally puddle-shallow framing, that it is categorically unable to react to the changing circumstances of actual campaigns, much less of leadership.
donkey Interesting if you're intrigued by the factionalism, and also if you're trying to think generally about what the Dems need to do to start succeeding more on the national front.

More handshake deals

The House just approved CAFTA, an extension of NAFTA to Central America -- but the final vote had a margin of only 2 votes and apparently involved some last-minute whip-cracking that kept the vote open for extra hours. I'm sure we'll eventually see the results of the deals made with the undecided Republican legislators in order to secure their votes.

If that's what it takes

We live in strange times -- enough said.

The Citizens' Guide to Refusing New York Subway Searches

Also links to good advice on decorum in other contexts in which you have contact with police.
(via Follow Me Here)

Update: and of course, the obligatory pre-labeled 4th amendment messenger bag.
(via boing boing)

Thursday Pixel blogging

Lest any reader lack for kitteny cuteness, a fresh pair of shots from the homefront:
(click for larger versions, if desired)

kill the sock!
What could be better than a sock to kill?
(This obsession reminds me of the classic Mutts cat...)

whatya lookin' at?

There's our cutie in full view!
(11.5 weeks old...)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Thought for the day

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 "wolves" inside us all.

blades of grassOne is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy,sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
(via my pOp)

Presidential speculations

Well, Pennsylvania Democrats may be afraid to take him at his word, but apparently nationally prominent Republicans are not: Santorum's announcement that he won't try for President in 2008 has stirred the pot of other potential condenders who might benefit from the lack of competition for his blocs or primary voters.

(via Edico)

Update: Well that didn't take long! Whew, the room has stopped spinning.

Roberts, the made man

Josh Marshall notes that Roberts was more involved in the 2000 recount/election case than previously acknowledged.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts played a broader behind-the-scenes role for the Republican camp in the aftermath of the 2000 election than previously reported -- as legal consultant, lawsuit editor and prep coach for arguments before the nation's highest court, according to the man who drafted him for the job.
More info for the increasing heap of evidence that while this man may be a cipher to the outside world, he's a plenty known entity to Administration insiders...

Times, they are a-changin'...

yellow hard hatOne of the enduring domestic images of the Vietnam war was the dichotomy between the "long-hairs," students protesting US involvement in the conflict, and the "hard-hats," construction guys and other union stiffs who waved the flag and beat the crap out of naysayers (see, e.g., the opening paragraphs of this). I distinctly remember classic Doonesbury cartoons (from the first or second anthology) that involve a college student's trepidation over taking a summer job on a construction site...

Well, the Iraq conflict may be the "new Vietnam" to many, but its reception at home is quite a different matter than in 1970. Today the AFL-CIO officially announced it's call to bring the troops home. They make reference in part to the fact that the greatest toll comes among the children of the working class, but they also express a sense that greater accountability is required from our leaders and their on-the-ground planners.

(via pal Lois)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

No sacrifices on the homefront

Because backing out of the Kyoto Accord wasn't enough, U.S. legislators are seeking ever new ways to disregard both international climate woes and the geopolitical fallout of our national dependence on oil.
Working furiously to try to strike a deal on broad energy legislation, Congressional negotiators on Monday killed two major provisions aimed at curbing consumption of traditional fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal.

House members rejected an effort to incorporate a plan passed by the Senate to require utilities to use more renewable energy like wind and solar power to generate electricity. They also defeated a bid to direct the president to find ways to cut the nation's appetite for oil by one million barrels a day.
Lots of other pro-conservation amendments had already been cut in the Senate, but these compromise measures were the last hope of requiring any sort of rationality from U.S. energy policy -- apparently the House wants them cut because GOP legislators don't want to anger their friends in the oil industry outrage over "mandatory carpooling" to endanger their biennial re-elections. Inspiring stuff.
"It's a bad bill," [Rep. Henry A. Waxman] said. "It wastes taxpayers' money. It doesn't make us any more energy self-sufficient. We're still going to have increased demand for importing oil from the Middle East."
Well, we never have any trouble with that part of the world, do we?
(Last quote from the more upbeat LA Times piece here.)

(via MyDD)

Update: anybody wondering about the post title can see this.

Update 2: On the good news front, a consortium of educational institutions here in PA is picking up where the feds are dropping out, by committing to an increasing reliance on wind power.

Getting away from it all...

City life too overwhelming -- wish you could find some solitude amidst the clamor? hop right in! Alternatively, have you wanted to be someplace unseen to observe the goings on? Perhaps you need this portable structure, which can transform one person into an innocuous-looking piece of the urban infrastructure...

City Hideout

(via boing boing)

In happier news

An unusual humanitarian effort is underway in New Mexico, spearheaded by one determined guy: dropping water to migrants crossing the desert in the attempt to reach the US.
At least 262 migrants who were crossing the border with Mexico have been found dead since October, a sharp increase from 178 in the comparable period last year, said Salvador Zamora, a spokesman for the United States Border Patrol in Washington. With summer temperatures above 100 degrees, most of the deaths are a result of dehydration and heat stroke.
The group takes no political position, and the Border Patrol does not object to their actions. The economic and social problems that lead people to risk their lives for a shot at crummy jobs obviously need larger solutions, but a little human aid along the way seems a wonderful gift. As one laborer put it, "The Paisanos bring a little bit of dignity and hope to a trip that nobody wants to make."

(via Bitch Ph.D.)

Natural selection in action

Pressure on Asian elephant populations from poachers looking for ivory is starting to affect the species in a striking way: once-rare tuskless elephants are becoming more prevalent in China. If most of the tusked ones get killed, the ones that are left, however unusual or poorly adapted, will be the ones that survive. A grim kind of evolution -- it shows that nature can be resilient, but I'd sure rather see humans do a better job of stewardship than that the planet end up legless trying to stay out of our way...

(via boing boing)

Stewart v. Santorum

Except that it wasn't. I mean, Jon Stewart made no bones about the fact that they disagreed on almost everything ("ok first, some common ground: ice-cream is delicious!"), but otherwise he was professional and nonconfrontational, taking an "it's amazing that we can both be decent folks and just have such incompatible world views" approach. I'd have liked to see him push a bit more, especially in places where Santorum has ruffled a lot of feathers, like by claiming that women who work outside the home are selfish. But none of that -- just a little about his incomprehension at the dismissal of gays and their families, and then some softballs about "what do Santorum critics get wrong?" and the like. Sigh.

The scariest part to me was that Santorum looked pretty sane, pretty good-humored and thoughtful. Despite his being one of my Senators, I hadn't heard him speak before, and the worst I could say of his performance was that he looked a bit goody-goody, used the word "virtue" anachronistically often, and had helmet hair -- no Zell Miller-style frothing at the mouth to give his extremism away. Makes me think that convincing voters to distrust him may be mighty hard going...
the TEE-vee!
Haven't found any online links to the video or transcript, but will post such a thing if I find it.

Update: a quick summary provided here. Must be something better soon. This blogger points out that Rick said overtly that he thought governments should legislate ideals; there are some unfortunate precedents for that...

Update 2:
belatedly, the video, a partial transcript, and some more rants.

Monday, July 25, 2005

An unscripted moment

An alert journalist catches Roberts in an odd claim -- suggesting that he might have to recuse himself from any case which involved a strong teaching of the Catholic church. People have said that a man's religion isn't fair game in confirmations anymore, and I think that's good, but as DavidNYC notes, this could have boggling ramifications...
(Expect a retraction correction at the speed of light.)

Quote for the day

quiet flowerRemember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand.
-Emily Kimbrough,
author and broadcaster (1899-1989)
(via A.W.A.D.)

The wisdom of age

A group of war protesters called the "Raging Grannies of Tucson" were arrested outside of a military recruiting center in Arizona.
The group, mostly women in their 60s and 70s, said they wanted to go to Iraq so their grandchildren could come home.
How unspeakably apt. If only our leaders valued our future to the same degree.

(via Echidne)

Update: Bitch PhD posts the Grannies' statement of their motives and their hopes.
The Raging Grannies are angry about the U.S. maintaining a Permanent War Economy, using military might as the U.S.'s primary tool of Foreign Policy.
Man, if my granny weren't nearing 100, I'd hope she was just this mad. Heck, let's all get angry without waiting to become grandparents...

It takes a strong stomach

One gets the feeling that Echidne of the Snakes will not be first in line to buy Santorum's new book . . .
Santorum is a two-faced fuckwit. In any sane society we wouldn't even know about this guy. In this one, he is harboring ambitions to run for the president of the United States.
heh. Lemme know when that sane society shows up.
There's some more citational and critical analysis in there too.

Lost innocence...

New research shows that by the age of 7, children are able to take statements with a grain of salt, specifically when the speaker may have a bias toward a certain outcome. They subsequently learn how to parse out motives behind misleading statements.
By age 11, children were shown to be able to perceive situational bias as well as deliberate deception as possible explanations for what people said. In short, at least by age 7, children can be cynical, recognizing that people's statements may be influenced by their own interests. Yet the 7-year-olds' blindness to unintentional bias as an explanation suggests that a full understanding of how self-interests influence what people say and do develops over childhood.
I don't think such cynicism would surprise any veteran of the playground, but still, neat to see the stages quantified.

(via Follow Me Here)

Friday, July 22, 2005

A victory for Big Brother

If the House has its way, the increased government surveillance powers granted by the Patriot Act will be extended to infinity (not clear yet what the Senate will say). Billmon summarizes why that is bad, for those distracted by Plame and Court carnivals. It's a scary list of civil-liberty-skewering provisions...

Sometimes it's hard to tell...

signs of difficult feminist times...who your friends are. Markos has a rant today at NARAL for their endorsement choices in some recent (and upcoming) races. He points to some recent votes which make it clear that the lines between personal beliefs and policy choices, between pro-choice and anti-abortion legislators, and between Democrats and Republicans are sometimes not as clear as you might think they were.
Anti-abortion Democrats like Harry Reid voted against Janice Brown. Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, another target of the Choice groups, would've also voted against her. Despite that, NOW's president claims there isn't a single bit of difference, regarding women's issues, between Casey and Santorum! Yet another example where single-issue groups myopic vision obscures the broader picture -- one in which Democrats will always be a party of privacy and choice, and the Republicans will always seek to criminalize abortion.
Again, of course, things aren't that simple either. But he makes a good point, and it's one that issue supporters and voters interested in a whole host of arenas will have to try to sort out in a more nuanced way.

Speaking of internal memos

Atrios has a cryptic comment about what appears to be a Democratic strategy memo -- I have to say that I personally find this part heartening:
Barring an unexpected revelation about the judge's background, "Our strategy now is to essentially let Roberts go...then get back on Rove, Social Security and the Iraq war," says a senior Congressional aide.
Good -- let's stay focused on the things that really matter, and where it's just possible that there's room to make a difference. The judicial hearings will proceed on their own . . .

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More than you wanted to know

Kos has the entire Republican internal briefing on John Roberts, including his bio, summaries of some of his opinions (as a judge) and court briefs (as a lawyer), and especially the expected playbook -- ripostes to each anticipated attack from the left. Interesting, although way longer than I was willing to read. However, a good resource to check back with during future discussions (and, I hope, a useful resource for those who might like to open a line of attack that *isn't* anticipated). This nominee will go through, so Dems should just decide what strategic points they want to make along the way.

Aim high, hit foot?

Kurdish leaders suggest a tweaked map of Iraq, which, um, just happens to reflect their claims for a larger territory... (maybe nobody will notice!!)

Quote of the day

pebbleTrue religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess.
- Louis Nizer,
lawyer (1902-1994)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Design innovation

Neat: a totally different take on the billboard, in a way that exactly reflects the client's needs. There is just a lot of cleverness out there in the world!

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Democracy should only spread *so far*!

Looks like one group is getting the shaft in the new Iraqi constitution, and it's not a religious minority but the country's women.
One of the critical passages is in Article 14 of the chapter, a sweeping measure that would require court cases dealing with matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance to be judged according to the law practiced by the family's sect or religion.

Under that measure, Shiite women in Iraq, no matter what their age, generally could not marry without their families' permission. Under some interpretations of Shariah, men could attain a divorce simply by stating their intention three times in their wives' presence.

Article 14 would replace a body of Iraqi law that has for decades been considered one of the most progressive in the Middle East in protecting the rights of women, giving them the freedom to choose a husband and requiring divorce cases to be decided by a judge.
(The draft also removed the requirement that some minimum number of women be represented in parliament.) Local groups have protested, but only time will tell whether the three weeks remaining will be long enough, or principled American influence strong enough, to get this revised to a more equitable form. If not, it will be a real blow both to the prospects of Iraqi women and to the illusion that our presence in that country has brought about social or political progress.

(via Alas, a blog)

Fat or sexy?

Apparently viewers' judgements of a photo depend to a remarkable extent on the accompanying caption -- in fact, their view of the woman in the picture (esp. her self-confidence) seemed to be colored by the wording. Amazing, and not.

Thursday kitty porn

(Beating the rush, don't you know...)

Well, she's definitely starting to feel like part of the family, but very much in the mold of a newborn baby -- lots of interruptions to sleep as she careens around the room, knocks over the trash, or mews for attention. [yawn] Chewed through a phone cord, much to our chagrin, but otherwise the relationship is mostly purrs from both sides...

watch out!
R managed to get a shot that really shows her face well.

Here she is enjoying the sun and showing off her spots!
You can tell in this that she's still a bitty kitty....

Update: The kitten is going to the vet this morning, so we figured we should pick a name from our short list and stick with it. So I'm proud to announce the official debut of Pixel!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More good news from the military front

That is, in order to keep the war machine fueled, they're having to raise the maximum recruitment age to 42. Aren't there a lot of war supporters with college-age children? Why the problem...?

(via kos)

Nontrivial choices

femsignNick Kiddle at Alas, a blog, is doing the great service of sharing some of her experiences with pregnancy, both theoretical and practical. Not just mommy-blogging, but how the experience colors or gives insight into her takes on debates over abortion. Really good. In particular, I'd recommend these two:

"I'm glad you decided not to kill it" -- choosing to become pregnant is not the same as choosing to bypass abortion, and one can support the right of others to choose a course you have not had to pursue.

Pregnancy is a process: even when you're thrilled, it's a life-hijacking experience, and nobody should dismiss that cost when considering coercing women to carry all pregnancies to term.

Go, read.

What came of the filibuster fight

I'm getting a late start to my day, so I presume that anybody reading this has already been deluged with the announcement of Bush's Supreme Court nominee. acbonin at dailyKos offers an insightful perspective, arguing that this choice represents Bush's desire to avoid a big show-down in the Senate over a real documented radical and a disinterest in revisiting the nuclear option.
You don't nominate John Roberts if you believe you can (and should) ram through a nominee with 50+1 votes. You only choose someone like Roberts if you believe you need as many votes and as smooth a ride as possible, and that you don't want to risk having 41 Senators block your nominee. Had the Republicans succeeded in executing the nuclear options, John Roberts would not have been the nominee. Period.
We may not know as much about him as we'd like, but we *do* know that he's not the kind of documented "originalist" or other controversial judicial philosopher that the right wing would have liked. Take your victories where you can.

Update: good speculative profile of the nominee at (found via the Alas cheat sheet from earlier this month).

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

No, no -- look over *there*!!

The Rove business must be starting to make the Bushies hot under the collar, because they've moved up the deadline for announcing their Supreme Court nominee until 9:00 tonight (from "end of the month"). Guess we're off to the races tomorrow!

There is much speculation about Edith Brown being the pick, apparently because she has so few written opinions to be taken to task over. Along those lines, Armando at dailyKos has a useful post on what do you ask a blank slate? (More on Brown is available here or here.) [Of course, the blank slate thing holds for Roberts too.]

Update: White House essentially admits announcing early because of the Rove mess.

Update 2: Here's evidence that it largely worked.

Nanny-gate, 2005

It's a striking story, and there are a lot of ways to analyze it or its implications. A journalist throws a tantrum after reading her nanny's blog, brings a big stick, and ends up covered with mud. No idea whether she learned anything along the way, but some other folks have made it quite interesting. I was almost going to skip mentioning the whole thing until Daniel Rubin did the job of summarizing the saga and analysis on Blinq, his newspaper-based blog.
As I said, the Olen piece reminded me of a blog. But by appearing in the Times, it underscores the power play between master and servant, mainstream media and blogger. It is sensitive business, plucking a blog from anonymity and bringing into a larger well-lighted room. It has to be done right.
Indeed. One needs some time to get to know the character and voice of a blogger, as well as enough other blogs to put that voice in perspective, let alone to know enough to extract bits with sufficient context. Probably not an approach compatible with maternal defensive flame-out.

Thought for the day

candleWhen you realize that your life is important, valuable, precious, hard to get and easy to lose you will not idle it away. You will appreciate it more and use it to better purpose. You will not waste it by making yourself uselessly miserable or worrying too much about small things. If something goes wrong, then all right, it goes wrong, but you still have your life, which is very precious. If you understand this deeply, then even if you have nothing else, absolutely nothing except your life, you still have your most important possession.
- Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
(via whiskey river)

Can't trust those kids to make their own decisions

The Iraqis, I mean. Hersh at the New Yorker is back to trouble-making, this time with evidence that the Bush administration tried to influence the outcome of the Iraq elections.
A former senior intelligence official told me, “The election clock was running down, and people were panicking. The polls showed that the Shiites were going to run off with the store. The Administration had to do something. How?”

By then, the men in charge of the C.I.A. were “dying to help out, and make sure the election went the right way,” the recently retired C.I.A. official recalled. It was known inside the intelligence community, he added, that the Iranians and others were providing under-the-table assistance to various factions. The concern, he said, was that “the bad guys would win.”
I'm no big fan of Iranian puppets, but we don't like it when South Americans elect popular socialist leaders, or basically when anybody elects people who don't see things Our Way (even in the US, to judge by GOP shenanigans in 2000 and 2004). Some force for democracy.

(via Follow Me Here)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Why can't people just leave sushi alone?

But no, here's another sushi-themed non-sushi food: cookie sushi
Sigh. It is elegantly done. And at least it's not twinkies...

(via mimi smartypants)

Look out -- rabbit-hole coming!

This makes my head spin:
*there's* an idea!
Outsource your own job (and make more money)

(via PhillyFuture)

That gaggle is a barrel of fun

It's just tough being the front man these days...

McClellan grilled on C-SPAN
Q. ..dancing around definitional issue. You're telling us there's nothing new in what the president said today, yet you said before that someone would be fired if they were even involved in the leak. The president appears to have set up a higher bar. They are not the same thing on their face.

A. I would not read anything into it more than what the president said.
Is it warm in here, or is that just me?

Update: more on the rhetoric wars here.

Update 2: Looks like the majority of Americans think they're being misled, and that Rove should go if he was involved at all. (But who needs a majority when you already have a mandate?!) (via dailyKos)

You *must* be kidding!

!!!Visitors to Disney World in Florida must now submit to a fingerprint scan before entering the park.
Disney officials said the scans help keep track of who is using legitimate tickets, Local 6 News reported.
?????? You must be kidding me! What could possibly justify this kind of privacy invasion for every single visitor to an amusement park? And whose databases are they going to check this against? To say that I would never visit Disney again is far too weak an expression of how appalled I am.

(via Follow Me Here)

Update: Educated Guess speculates that this is more about preventing people from sharing multiday passes than about checking identities. I guess biometrics is cheaper than staff to check ID. And yet I find myself in no way reassured.

Update 2: More complete story here. Their defense is that they don't store the whole print but just some characteristic point numbers. great.

The ghost of Tricky Dick

Government paranoia didn't pass away with Nixon's resignation nor with the end of J.Edgar Hoover's reign of terror at the F.B.I. Not only are legislators pushing to extend the PATRIOT ACT, but it turns out that we're back to keeping tabs on domestic organizations that pester the government, even tracking their legitimate First Amendment activities:
The FBI has thousands of pages of records in its files relating to the monitoring of civil rights, environmental and similar advocacy groups, the Justice Department acknowledges. The organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Greenpeace, are suing for the release of the documents.
. . .
"This administration has a history of using its powers against its peaceful critics. If, in fact, the FBI has been deployed to help in that effort, that would be quite shocking," [Greenpeace director] Passacantando said.
Most disturbing, this surveillance is being carried out using resources intended for anti-terrorism work, which could surely be put to better use than tracking attendance at peaceful antiwar rallies. As Medley says,
Not only is it deeply offensive from a Constitutional and civil liberties perspective, but it is deeply offensive from a safety and security perspective as well. These crack counterterrorism units could be focused on actual terrorists - you know, Osama bin Forgotten? Remember him? Or on developing actual security strategies for public transportation and not just security theatre.
But this Administration has made clear that loyalty is a far greater concern to them than security, so nobody should really be surprised...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

New arrival!!

Well, we're now 36 hours into owning a 9-week old bengal kitten (name still pending).
Welcome to the household! (at least from the people...)

frolicking kitten!

lazing kitten...

Hope to settle on a name soon and to introduce her to the big cats in the house later this week (after a vet trip, mayhaps), but meantime she is playful and affectionate and has a major set of lungs on her! mew!! Man, is this fun!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Tests of faith

A striking story today about a Christian adoption agency applying a fine razor to questions of faith and their mission:
A Christian adoption agency that receives money from Choose Life license plate fees said it does not place children with Roman Catholic couples because their religion conflicts with the agency's "Statement of Faith."
Maybe at some point American conservatives will remember that the founders of our country came here to escape oppression by other religious folk, not by atheists. But meantime, a schizm, I suppose...

(via Atrios)

Things you never knew you needed

How to grow a chia-couch in your backyard. A new take on "lawn furniture," I guess...

(via boing boing)

Things closely observed

Paula's House of Toast has been filled with great musings and engrossing photographs lately, each a little trip through the garden at a level of magnification we tend to toss aside as adults. Beautiful. If you need a restful aside or some visual stimulation, you couldn't do better than a few of these:
single blossom
They speak for themselves
Garden after rain
Stages of a sunflower's demise
Eastern gamma grass
Reflections on roundness


Quote for the day/weekend

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
-- The Talmud
(via A Mindful Life)

Karl Rove's America

ouch!!Paul Krugman's column in today's NYTimes is a must-read (and relatively short) -- probably one of the most insightfully depressing pieces I've seen in a long time. He credits Karl Rove with making a critical discovery about American political life (I would argue that he helped create this reality more than discovered it, but the result is the same):
What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern.
I think he has captured the phenomenon perfectly. Only time will tell whether recognizing the beast is enough to help us slay it.

(via Medley)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Cool weather

Or at least, cool weather photographs, compliments of the researchers at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. I've never heard of "mammatus clouds," but they're trippy. Click on the other photo galleries for amazing shots of lightning and other meteorological fun.

(via boing boing)

Great headline of the day

hah!Research: Third of study results don't hold up

(via pstupidonymous)

Court news bits

Update: Rehnquist firm on intent to keep his post.
  • Bush demonstrates commitment to a consensus nominee by consulting Jerry Falwell. I take no solice in the latter's decision not to make any suggestions... (via Alas, a blog)
Update: more complete coverage of Bush's consultations (with Senate leaders, his wife, and whomever else) here. (via Echidne)

Quote for the day (and the years 2000-2008)

It is a glorious thing to be indifferent to suffering, but only to one's own suffering.
- Robert Lynd,
writer (1879-1949)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Enough about that, then

Tom Tomorrow excerpts a few other people to deliver a clear message to those on the right who complain that biased coverage keeps us from hearing the good news out of Iraq. The basic answer is that the only people who think that there *is* good news are those living in the Green Zone, not out with the Iraqis. We all wish it were otherwise.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

In other internet news

Two bits for those who like to think about the shape of this medium:computers!
  • The New Scientist looks at the culture of forwarding, concluding that the sharing of links and other internet tidbits has become a key aspect of how we stay in touch and express the value we place on our friendships.
    Forwarding a quirky email or an amusing link or video attachment to colleagues may seem innocent enough, but it is the modern equivalent of ritual gift exchange and carries with it similar social implications, say US researchers.
  • Meanwhile, the international community isn't sure that the US should maintain its primacy in control of the Internet (spawn of NSF or not), and is likely to recommend a new oversight board under the auspices of the U.N.
    At issue is who decides key questions like adding new top-level domains, assigning chunks of numeric Internet addresses, and operating the root servers that keep the Net humming. Other suggested responsibilities for this new organization include Internet surveillance, "consumer protection," and perhaps even the power to tax domain names to pay for "universal access."
    Unsurprisingly, this suggestion has gone over like lead bricks with the Bush Administration...
(via boing boing)

Shooting the messenger

One of the greatest resources for the information age is the Internet Archive with its searchable interface called the Way-back Machine, which serve to record the evolving history of the Internet and its contents. This archive of all posted web pages is an invaluable tool for history researchers, nostalgic surfers, and those attempting to verify previous web content for personal or business purposes. Unfortunately, that means that it sometimes has records of web pages that their posters would prefer had vanished into the void, rather than being continuously available.

Exactly this latter category of page is the basis for a lawsuit against the archive brought by the plaintiff in a trademark case. The case has to do with fine points about how web pages are or aren't added to the archive, but it seems like blaming the library for having a newspaper on file with a letter-to-the-editor that you wish you hadn't written...
Mr. Patry also noted that despite Healthcare Advocates' desire to prevent people from seeing its old pages now, the archived pages were once posted openly by the company. He asserted that gathering them as part of fending off a lawsuit fell well within the bounds of fair use.
yeah, duh...

(via boing boing)

Oh yeah, workplace productivity

The average working American admits to squandering an average of 2 hours per workday (not including lunch), from spacing out to web surfing and gossiping. It's probably good that they didn't survey bloggers separately...

(via Blinq)

High-tech meets household safety

The futuristic modern faucet could help prevent scalding by indicating the temperature of the water with a real-time LED indicator. Pretty spiff!

Don't talk and drive

Cell phone users should take no comfort in the availability of hands-free sets for cars: they're no safer.
A study of cellphone use by motorists suggests that they aren't any better off using a headset in the car than holding the phone to their ear: They're still four times more likely to end up in a crash and injured than if they weren't using the phone.
It's just not credible to expect your mind to be alert to road hazards while it's concentrating on the social (and other) content of a conversation -- as one of the researchers said, "Your brain can only perform so many tasks at once."

(via the Huffington Post)

bumper stickerUpdate: See Click & Clack's section on Drive Now, Talk Later for more arguments against use of cell phones in the car, with both scientific and anecdotal evidence and a great set of bumperstickers.

But of course

Apparently Santorum actually thinks that "hypocrisy can be a social good" -- guess that makes sense of a lot of his actions . . .

(via Atrios)

Arianna does the math

This post at the Huffington Post pretty much nails the current state of affairs with regard to Rove, Plame, and the Whitehouse.chalkboard math In essence, the Bushies are relying on the formal investigation to bear the burden, rather than admitting the political (and moral) reality of Rove's action themselves, thus sidestepping once again any need to assess blame or take responsibility.
By linking the potential political fallout to the legal issue at hand, the White House can then hem, haw, and stall -- claiming that we need to let the legal system run its course -- and then hope that if special prosecutor Fitzgerald can't clear the high legal bar and indict Rove, it'll be able to claim that he's somehow been exonerated for his political sins as well.
Clever writing (go read) along the way to a serious conclusion. Maybe the newly invigorated media will really hang onto this one (even after the next court nominee hits the water) and keep the administration honest. But I'm not holding my breath.

(via Atrios)

Update: meantime Rove keeps up the attack, working a smear campaign against his critics from behind the fence...

Update2: Top Dems in House Intelligence call for Rove's clearance to be revoked.

Time for a new plan

Democrats feel certain that Bush's handling of Iraq and terrorism is wrong; it's been harder for them to agree on an alternative proposal for either that is easy to explain and resonates widely. Wes Clark offers one suggestion that is pretty coherent for a better way to think about and deal with terrorim.
Preventing attacks probably can't be accomplished by the administration's preference for taking out "state sponsors." And it's going to be very difficult to employ military means. National intelligence efforts, special police activities and local community policing efforts, which focus on identifying and targeting terrorist individuals and organizations, are required.
. . .
But fighting terrorism at home isn't just a matter of "killing terrorists." Terrorists aren't born that way. They are created by their interaction with their surroundings. To win this war, we must defeat the ideology of terrorism, depriving angry young people of their ability to justify their hateful actions in the name of Allah.
. . .
The United States will win the war on terror when we bring to bear all the elements of our power — not just our military might, civilian workforce and diplomatic skills, but also the power to persuade our allies in general and those in the Muslim community specifically to engage the culture of hate and terror and change it to reflect the best in all of us.
Lots of other good stuff in there. Too bad nobody listens to the minority party anymore...

(via Armando at dailyKos)

Brilliant and terrible

A flash game that combines a sense of intellectual exercise with the addictive mindlessness of pointing and clicking:


Don't say I didn't warn you . . .
(via Medley)

Quote of the morning

I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
- James Baldwin,
writer (1924-1987)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Neo-Victorian era

Just in time for the Talibanization of our nation, enterprising capitalists have jumped to provide anachronistic modesty-wear for the proper right-wing gal. femsign This includes bathing suits that, with the mere substitution of modern athletic fabric for water-logging wool, could be right out of the 19th century. There appear to be Laura Ingels Wilder fashions following right behind. If only our nation had a tradion of burkhas to mine!

(by the way, thanks to Knotted Knickers for turning me onto gendergeek, an excellent blog)

Satisfying snark

Tom Tomorrow delivers a fact-smack to Fox "pundits" about Rove, Wilson, Plame, and what is and isn't obvious in the world.

Update: Greg Saunders sidesteps the gotcha game to point out why this is a serious issue and why we should be upset about it -- it's not the politics, it's the interruption of entire operations aimed at getting rid of weapons of mass destruction.
I don't know what's more frightening. Being kept up at night with neurotic fears about mushroom-clouds and evil terrorists, or the suspicion that the people who are supposed to be taking this fight seriously aren't having the same nightmares.

Monday, July 11, 2005

On a lighter note...

film reelThe American Film Institute apparently compiled a list of the Top 100 Movie Quotes of all time (from US movies). They seem to be those that have worked their way into common usage, from "Frankly my dear..." to "May the force be with you." A mix of the familiar and some unwatched (by me) classics.

The loyal opposition

Brief signs of life from the Democrats: a letter from Conyers to Bush about the Plame affair.
We hope you agree with us that such behavior should never be tolerated by any Administration. While it is acceptable for a private citizen to use every legal tool at his or her disposal to protect himself against legal liability, high-ranking members of your Administration who are involved in any effort to smear a private citizen or to disseminate information regarding a CIA operative should be expected to meet a far higher standard of ethical behavior and forthrightness.
Well, *I* certainly agree with that, but the evidence about the Bush folk kind of indicates that they're ok with crooks...

even the press gaggle has noticed this time:
For two years, the White House has insisted that presidential adviser Karl Rove had nothing to do with the leak of a CIA officer's identity. And President Bush said the leaker would be fired.

But Bush's spokesman wouldn't repeat any of those assertions Monday in the face of Rove's own lawyer saying his client spoke with at least one reporter about Valerie Plame's role at the CIA before she was identified in a newspaper column.

No quick picks for SCOTUS

President Bush plans to meet with leaders of both parties today and tomorrow, but has signalled that nobody should expect an announced Supreme Court nominee until the end of July. Lots of time for hand-wringing and obscene fundraising on both sides of the spectrum by then...

Nothing starts your week off better . . .

. . . than the headline "Experts fear 'endless' terror war" especially when it includes the notion that "we're at the point where jihad is self-sustaining" . . .

(via Plutonium Page at dailyKos)

Sometimes the market is telling

...even if it wasn't what our leaders wanted to hear. A big Toyota plant decided to locate in Canada rather than in the U.S. because of the better educated workers and their subsidized health care. You mean that stuff can benefit the individual and big businesses too? Imagine! The diarist points out that the states competing for the plant were willing to offer millions in subsidies to attract a business, but are apparently incapable of seeing the benefits of putting that same amount into their local educational and health infrastructures instead...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Quote for the weekend

autumn blurMethinks I would share every creature’s suffering for the sake of its experience and joy. The song sparrow and the transient fox-colored sparrow,—have they brought me no message this year? Do they go to lead heroic lives in Rupert’s Land? They are so small, I think their destinies must be large. Have I heard what this tiny passenger has to say, while it flits thus from tree to tree? Is not the coming of the fox-colored sparrow something more earnest and significant than I have dreamed of? Can I forgive myself if I let it go to Rupert’s Land before I have appreciated it? God did not make this world in jest; no, nor in indifference. These migrating sparrows all bear messages that concern my life. I do not pluck the fruits in their season. I love the birds and beasts because they are mythologically in earnest. I see that the sparrow cheeps and flits and sings adequately to the great design of the universe; that man does not communicate with it, understand its language, because he is not one with nature. I reproach myself because I have regarded with indifference the passage of the birds; I have thought them no better than I.
Henry David Thoreau
Journal entry of March 31, 1852

Cool or creepy?

New technology could allow data storage on a human fingernail. (Gardeners, beware!)

(via boing boing)

Don't say I didn't warn you...

Addictive. Frustrating. Fun.

flash minigolf

(via "Bill in Portland Maine" at dailyKos)

Notch another one for the "unsurprising discovery" count

wads of bucksIt looks like skyrocketing healthcare costs are mostly the fault of insurance companies, not trial lawyers, whatever conservatives may claim...
The report said malpractice insurers as a group raised their net premiums between 2000 and 2004 by 120.2 percent, to about $4.2 billion, even though their net claim payments rose by only 5.7 percent, to about $1.4 billion.
Even if they're anticipating future pay-outs on current claims/suits, that sounds pretty much like a heist.

Just the latest

The news and blogs are full of London coverage, but it's worth noting that these attacks are only the most visible, not unique, signs of increased terrorism -- in fact, terrorist attacks have been increasing throughout Bush's time in office (see especially the bar graph at the bottom), perhaps a sign that our assault on Iraq is not having the desired effect...

Who's taking the losses?

The Palm Beach Post offers a different look at US casualties in Iraq: a map which represents the hometowns of those who have been killed with dots to show the distribution and density of the losses. (At high res., you can even get a java pop-up with the specific names and other info.)

(via Philly Future)

Morning quote

The most tyrannical of governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts.
-Baruch Spinoza,
philosopher (1632-1677)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Thursday, July 07, 2005


In response to the recent Supreme Court decision expanding the state's powers of eminent domain (see previous post here), a group in Weare, NH has filed a claim for a parcel of land that just happens to contain the home of Justice Souter.
Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC said: "This is not a prank. The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development." Clements' plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors to erect his new "Lost Liberty Hotel".
castle in the skyheh. "Just Desserts Cafe" suggested for next door too, of course. [More available here.]

(heard on "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" on NPR)

A different take on O'Connor's departure

Rather than focusing on her swing-voting and future confirmation battles, Ed Lazarus looks at the reason behind her choice to retire now, and what it means about differences between the sexes and expectations about them.
Observers - mostly male - expected her to want to stay on the Court to preserve the core of her own day-to-day life as she coped with the difficulties of her husband's illness. We expected she would look to work as, perhaps, a needed respite from family responsibilities. We thought that if caretaking need to be done, she would leave it to others.

In short, we expected O'Connor to behave just as the male justices traditionally have. And that was a big mistake. She has made a very different choice - a choice that paves the way for other Justices, including men, to do the same if they so choose.
I appreciate just knowing that she has an ailing husband at home whom she wants to spend time with; the retirement struck me as out of the blue. Feminist ruminations are icing on the cake. O'Connor has always done things her own way, and it's fitting that this decision too comes from a basis we didn't anticipate.

(via How Appealing)

The least of many evils?

It's galling to think of Alberto Gonzales in any position of national power, with his glib acceptance of torture and seeming opinion that Presidential powers are virtually unlimited. scales of justice And yet the fierceness with which the right wing went into immediate anti-Gonzales frenzies after O'Connor's announcement is intriguing. And he appears much more moderate than many of the other short-listers for the Supreme Court. Markos makes a strong case that the left should go quietly if Gonzales is the nominee (although other dailyKos regulars feel otherwise). Most intriguing to me was this quote from People for the American Way:
As a Texas Supreme Court Justice, Gonzales repeatedly wrote or joined criticism of [Justice Priscilla] Owen's aggressive right-wing judicial activism.
Maybe he'd find the courts the right place to let loose his inner moderate. Bush likes him just enough that he might risk the wrath of his wingers to reward a long-time man-at-arms . . .


Apparently there were a series of explosions in London, which Blair is now calling a terrorist attack. There should be news coverage of this all day.

Who'd design *this* thing?

An editorial in the LA Times takes on "Intelligent Design" from the vantage of obvious design flaws in human beings -- exactly the sort of things that make sense in the context of gradual evolution of form and function, but no sense in terms of directed design. A good contribution to the debunking oeuvre.

(via Follow Me Here)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Thought for the day

According to recent research, older people do not tend toward increased crabbiness with age. If anything, their relationships tend to be more peaceful. The suggestion is that as we get wiser with experience, we spend less time trying to change people into our image and likeness. We spend more time taking people as they are and enjoying them in any way we can.

ensoI think it's a trend that could work at any age, and if anything, postponing this sage insight simply lacks merit. In part, it's an expectation that no one person - even we! - cannot be all things to all people. It's a good day when we can be one good thing to each person. In the world of culinary metaphors, why would we depend on any ingredient to offer all of the value of the others? Why wouldn't we enjoy the simplicity of value scope offered by each ingredient?

There is a unique peace when we receive just what people have to offer, and nothing more, and nothing less.
--Jack Ricciuto
(via A Mindful Life)

Who's an activist judge?

Hunter at DailyKos suggests a reasonable definition: an activist judge is one who frequently rules to overturn laws passed by the legislature. By that measure "activism" is directly correlated with conservative outlook, with Thomas at the top of the list. Hope that can be used to muzzle some rhetorical stupidity that is going around . . .

Today's randomness

A sort of screen-saver graphical exercise. An object with set bending rules interacts with passing bubbles. But, um, it's a human body. Transfixing, yet disturbing...

(via Fables of the reconstruction)

Remind me why this is surprising, again?

Santorum has written a book, and excerpts reveal that he is a jerk. Shock and dismay on many fronts.

Well, would you look at that!

Apparently somebody over on Capitol Hill was alert when the last Defense funding bill was passed -- it built in some reporting requirements for the White House about their Iraq plans.
Under a little-noticed provision of the defense spending bill passed by Congress in May, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has until July 11 to send Capitol Hill a "comprehensive set of performance indicators and measures of stability and security" two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein [...]

. . . It directs Rumsfeld to provide -- either in public or in classified annexes -- an estimate of U.S. military forces needed in Iraq through the end of calendar 2006 and the criteria the administration will use to determine when it is safe to begin withdrawing forces.
Well! That should keep the State office busy between now and Monday!

(via kos)

You *must* be kidding!

beep-beepApparently the U.K. is looking to improve road safety by letting Big Brother drive your car for you -- not content to photograph light-runners or ticket speeders, they are testing out a system that actually applies the brakes if you are going too fast. The trial is voluntary (participants pay less of a "congestion fee" for entering crowded cities), but it involves modification of the cars and "smart technology" to compare GPS info with known local speed limits and the like.
The DfT says it has no plans to make speed limiters mandatory but admits that it is considering creating a digital map of all Britain’s roads which would pave the way for a national ISA system.
Yes, that makes me feel much better...

(via Follow Me Here)

Uncomfortable parallels... for somebody

The right in our country likes to say that anybody who disagrees with them is supporting our enemies in fact or spirit. But it's hard not to see the right-wing crazies (especially the rabid religious right) as having much more in common with the world-view and aspirations of Islamic fundamentalists than with those of our Founding Fathers. Kos has had a couple of posts on this theme, with additions from commenters, coming up with a laundry list of parallels between the American Taliban and their mideast counterparts. Just a couple examples:
Foreign Policy
Al Qaida/Taliban: World domination - do it our way or we attack
American Taliban: World domination - do it our way or we attack
Liberals: Peace and international cooperation
Executing Minors
Al Qaida/Taliban: Executing Minors OK
American Taliban: Executing Minors OK
Liberals: Find this to be a barbaric and embarrassing practice
Free Speech
Al Qaida/Taliban: Anyone who disagrees with us is an infidel and must be silenced
American Taliban: Anyone who disagrees with us is a traitor and must be silenced
Liberals: Anyone who disagrees with us is in for a spirited discussion
I have to agree with his take on the whole thing (the parallels and the pointless namecalling):
The reasons we hate the American Taliban are the same reasons we hate fundamentalists of all stripes -- they seek to impose their own moral code on the rest of society, and do so with the zeal and moral absolutism possible only from those who believe they are doing "God's work".
Let's stop looking for the right kind of loyalty, and instead try to look at how we can all live and let live, at least a little. Don't we have consitutional principles and secular political philosophy for just that reason? Sigh.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Eye on Vermont

David Sirota argues that the most important Senate race in 2006 isn't the high-profile favorites like Santorum v. Casey; rather, it is the race to replace retiring VT Senator Jeffords -- not because of the odious candidate we hope to replace, but because of the opportunity to put a real progressive into the Senate, current Congressman Bernie Sanders. A heartening prospect!

Quote of the day

dried grassheadsThe morning wind forever blows; the poem of the world is uninterrupted, but few are the ears that hear it. Forever that strain of the harp which soothed the Cerberus and called me back to life is sounding. Olympus is the outside of the earth everywhere.
Henry David Thoreau
Journal entry, May 30, 1853

Fox in the henhouse

The other big news at the end of last week is that the outing of Valerie Plame (an undercover CIA agent who had the misfortune of being married to a diplomat that the Administration wanted to punish; see summary here) may have come directly from Karl Rove -- see more on that here. I'd sure like to see outrage on the right at this treasonous act, but I'm not holding my breath, anymore than I'm waiting for Rumsfeld to resign over mishandling of Iraq. sigh.

Supreme happenings

Well, obviously, one of the two the biggest things that happened while I was away from the helm here was the surprise announcement that the first Supreme Court retirement of Bush's reign would be not Rehnquist (perhaps keeping busy keeps him going, as Specter speculated) but continual swing-voter Sandra Day O'Connor. Medley summarized the grim news here and Ampersand thinks that liberals have already lost the battle for a reasonable candidate. Short-term solace can be taken in the fact that the pro-choice decisions had an edge of 6-3, not 5-4, so this doesn't spell the immediate death of those precedents. But there are plenty of hot issues on which the new judge will be a decisive vote (the recent Ten Commandments decision, for example), so the battle will be fierce.

A SCOTUSblog offshoot takes a look at 5-4 decisions including O'Connor where a more conservative replacement might lead the court toward re-examining precedent, including cases around affirmative action, religious schooling, campaign finance, and other issues.

Even before I left a week ago, folks were circulating short-lists of replacements (for Rehnquist, they thought) -- the analysis will now go into overdrive. One pretty thorough summary is over at Alas, where the record of each prospect on a variety of liberal issues is examined and summarized handily.

In related thoughts, a dailyKos post tracks some recent history of Presidents actually asking Judicial Committee heads for advice in selecting nominees. I noted in the Sunday NYTimes that Specter had suggested to Bush that he meet with a group of four leaders (majority and minority leaders from each of the whole Senate and from the Judiciary Committee) and that Bush had scheduled just such an appointment. I hope that a sane nominee arises from such consultations -- Specter appears to prefer not to suggest additional names, but maybe there's space for considering such, especially with another judicial pick on the not-too-distant horizon.

Another beaut.

colonial flagAppropriate for yesterday's holiday celebrations is this great diary at dailyKos which speculates on how the Declaration of Independence might have been covered by today's media voices.
In a move termed a "last-ditch plea for relevance from a defeated insurgency" by a British Army spokesman, the Continental Congress yesterday gave final approval of a Declaration of Independence.
Really, read (or at least skim) the whole thing -- very well done, with quotes and pundit remarks and all . . .


August at XOverboard does an excellent job of skewering the Administration's doubletalk about progress in Iraq (and the whole rhetorical debate about what it means for an insurgency to be in its "last throes") in this cartoon. Jon Stewart's gang had a great send-up early last week as well, but this boils it down pretty well...

Santorum blames priest pedophila on liberalism

Rick Santorum has an article coming out in Catholic Online in which he bemoans the recent clergy scandals and hopes that they will lead to a re-examination and revitalization of the faith. In it he seems rather comfortable placing the blame for this and other problems outside the church:
It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.
In fact, he calls on Catholic seminaries to cleanse themselves of liberalism, as well as on the Catholic church as a whole to turn away from its evil influences (including Vatican II-uinfluenced Cardinals).
A new hierarchy must similarly fight against an array of "isms"-moral relativism, cultural liberalism-inside and outside of the Church.
Amazing how even the failings of the conservative mainstream and its leaders can somehow all be laid at the feet of the liberal elite and turned into new weapons for nationwide eliminationist crusades!

(via pal Bill H.)

Update: this article is actually from 2002 -- my bad for not catching that. Still, I doubt his feelings have changed in this matter; it's just been bumped from the news by other issues.

Uncovering justice

With Ashcroft's departure, wags everywhere wondered, would the modesty curtains hanging over the statues of "Spirit of Justice" and "Majesty of Law" in the Justice Department rotunda finally come down? Apparently so:
With barely a word about it, workers at the Justice Department Friday removed the blue drapes that have famously covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3 1/2 years.

Spirit of Justice, with her one breast exposed and her arms raised, and the bare-chested male Majesty of Law basked in the late afternoon light of Justice's ceremonial Great Hall.
Can't remember what this is all about? Ah, human folly...
Ashcroft and JusticeThe drapes, installed in 2002 at a cost of $8,000, allowed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures. They also provoked jokes about and criticism of the deeply religious Ashcroft.
Of course, there's now a fancy conference room in the building for most news conferences, but I'm sure that the rotunda looks much less ridiculous without the blue drapes shielding visitors from its classical sculptures...

(hat tip to BB)