Friday, October 28, 2005

Where do they find so many creeps?

First speculations on Libby's possible replacement = David Addington, Cheney's current chief council. And quite a piece of work he is:
Colleagues say Addington stands out for his devotion to secrecy in an administration noted for its confidentiality.
. . .
Even in a White House known for its dedication to conservative philosophy, Addington is known as an ideologue, an adherent of an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that favors an extraordinarily powerful president.
I'm just glad I don't have to run coffee for meetings at the White House these days or I'd be reeking from the triple necklace of garlic...

(via Atrios)

One down, more to come

Libby indicted on 5 counts, including the charge that he endangered national security (what? by gutting a secret anti-nuclear operation?); official press briefing scheduled for 2pm according to Fitzgerald's website... state(They also note that Cheney is not to be indicted today, but still under investigation.)

**Update** Libby resigns!

Update 2: full text of the indictment, as well as a press release summarizing the highlights, are now available in the "news" section of the Fitzgerald website.

Update 3: (paraphrase from the Q&A at the press conference) "We will be keeping a Grand Jury open to look into additional matters." Veeery interesting. Should keep the speculators in business!

Gratuitous Friday cuteness

I apologize for the image-heaviness of this blog at the moment, what with Thursday kittens and Rosa Parks tributes and the rest, but WHEN YOU HAVE A NIECE THIS CUTE HOW CAN YOU IGNORE IT?!? I mean, get real! (sorry for all the shouting, ahem.)

the Soph-inator

Sophie, future heart-throb.
It's just too much.

New math (new millenium edition)

My, those Pentagon boys do some creative figuring!
[L]ast year American commanders estimated that there were no more than 5,000 active insurgents in Iraq.

Those same commanders have reported that some 1,300 insurgents have been killed since the end of January 2005 and another 8,260 have been detained.

But wait! Before you declare the war over, consider this: Gen. John Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command, said on Oct. 2 that he estimates that there now are 20,000 insurgents.
My head is starting to hurt, with all this success...

Super-wealth doesn't necessitate blindness to inequity

money talkRafe at rc3 has some out-takes from Warren Buffet on the idea of a flat tax and on the estate tax that I wish more Republicans would pay attention to. In particular, he notes that high payroll taxes mean that average working folks pay a much higher percentage of their income than do big investors.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Where science and intuition meet

Ever try to eat at a table that's wobbling because its feet aren't all level? Ever try rotating it to get all the feet solidly on the ground? It seems to always work, and now a physicist has mathematically proven that it must always be possible. Very nice.

(via boing boing)

Quote of the day (turning seasons edition)

This is the coolest day thus far, reminding me that I have only a half-thick coat on. The easterly wind comes cold into my ear, as yet unused to it. Yet this first decided coolness—not to say wintriness—is not only bracing but exhilarating and concentrating [to] our forces. So much the more I have a hearth and heart within me. We step more briskly, and brace ourselves against the winter.
Henry David Thoreau
Journal entry of October 25, 1858
(via the Thoreau Blog)

The power of "harmless fun"

Gendergeek has a very pointed look at the misogynistic views that are implicit in much of what she calls "lad's magazines." She cites examples of analogues to the typical women's mag quiz and column features, which here run along the lines of "calculate how much you are paying for sex" and "how can I get my girlfriend to do things in bed that she doesn't want to?" Eeek.
I don't have much familiarity with such magazines, so I have no idea of the degree to which this is a symptom of a particular British excess of jaunty chauvinism versus an endemic problem in the genre on both sides of the pond. Anyway, read the whole post -- it makes many other good points about the way that an existing power structure can disallow questioning of its mores (as by accusing the questioner of having "no sense of humor")...

Don't pack up your office yet, Sandra

The right-wingers have hounded Miers out of contention before her hearings even get underway. It's hard to mourn the loss of what appears to have been an extremely unqualified pick, but I doubt that the next nominee will be somebody that the left (or even center) can feel good about.
"President Bush’s complete capitulation to the far-right interest groups is astounding. The ultra-right wing dominance of Republican Party politics is complete, and they have dealt a terrible blow to an already weakened President and his administration," said [People for the American Way President Ralph] Neas.
(quote from this dailyKos response) Especially if Bush decides to stick with women, we're likely to hear quite a bit more about such extremist harpies as Priscilla Owen. yippee.

(hat tip to BF)

August thinks this is a win. I'm not certain I agree with him, but his point about the weakness of the White House and thus the unpalatability of both other cronies (Gonzales was one I was wondering about) and extremists is an interesting one. Only time will tell.

Thursday kitten blogging: Focus on Pasha

Last week Pixel got some close-up exposure (here), so this week a few shots of Pasha looking her cutest at 15 weeks of age. (As always, click any image for a larger view.)

lolling cuteness
A little lazy glamor.

More typical action shot.

the TV lean
As a bonus, this wide-eyed look at the world
at 11 weeks (leaning off the edge)...

Previous Pasha solo appearances: 2nd look, arrival, teaser3, teaser2, teaser1, homepage

A picture worth 2000 words

Reminding us once again of the power of the visual, cartoonist Mike Luckovich asks the only real question about our latest casualty figures from Iraq.

(via This Modern World)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Well! sometimes good does prevail

Perhaps after hearing about consequences like these, the Bush administration has backed off of its policy suspending the prevailing wages for New Orleans reconstruction work. Apparently it took some congressional gamesmanship, but maybe it also just looked worse when it might have to be generalized to the more recent Florida disaster as well (brotherhood being thicker than compassion for these guys, after all) . . .

(via PaulVA at dailyKos)

Meet Edgar Allen Seuss

That is, Horton Hears a Heart, a clever mash-up of "Horton hatches the egg" (and other Seuss bits) with "The telltale heart." Other clever titles listed at the bottom; might future installments be in store?

(oh woe! I've lost my referrer. apologies!)

If we ignore it, will it go away?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is no: despite the fact that torture of detainees by US soldiers is "old news," it's become a routine part of operations in Iraq. All the chilling signs are there, the dehumanizing epithets (PUCs for "persons under control"), the casual jokes, the routine willingness of medical personnel to sign off on new injuries as having been derived from the capture process. This isn't a few bad apples; this is standard procedure for American treatment of prisoners of war. Such huge steps backward for our civilization and for the souls of those who come to accept their involvement in this grim status quo . . .

Quote of the day

ladybugI slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.
-- Rabindranath Tagore,
philosopher, author, songwriter, painter, educator,
composer, Nobel laureate (1861-1941)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Necessity isn't the only mother of invention

Sometimes it's serendipity: an accidental discovery could make conventional lightbulbs obsolete, a bright idea replacing them with a combination of LEDs and quantum dots that cuts power usage and gives longer-life light sources.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Legally inscrutable

An interesting piece at the Christian Science Monitor looks at how laws really get passed and why sometimes judges have to "legislate from the bench" in order for a measure to have any meaning at all.
Often enough the final version suffers what Dean Acheson called "agreement by exhaustion." After all, legislators have a final luxury: They can leave it to the courts to decide what they really meant - indeed, what they really said.
Sometimes contradictory language is left in the final version, or it contains sections that lawmakers didn't even know about. All very pretty, and it puts the lie to those who claim that textual literalism is possible.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Hardly even noticed

The inevitable mile marker: 2000 dead in Iraq. Demonstrations and vigils are planned in many parts of the country, likely to be as effective as the last set . . . Sigh.

(via BookNotes)

Update: check MoveOn's listings for a vigil being planned near you for Wednesday night (October 26).

Update 2: MyDD points out how much bigger the total loss of life is than this (already too large) fraction.

A snack-pack of neologisms

The latest wonder to emerge from the thoroughly wonderful Wikipedia is a collection of made-up words used on the Simpsons. Some are pretty obscure, but others (such as "embiggened") have become part of common, if flip, parlance. Don't click the link if you don't have a chunk of time to waste!

(via Alas, a blog)

The passing of a historic icon

recent photoRosa Parks passed away last night. She was an icon of the civil rights movement, and a quiet example of strength and conviction for more than a generation of Americans. Always sad to see a bright light go out, but her life was long and her legacy immeasurable.

Here are an assortment of good Rosa Parks resources:
  1. A biography and interview at the Academy of Achievement.

  2. The profile from Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential Figures of the 20th century.

  3. A partial timeline of her life.young, on a bus

  4. A collection of quotes from famous folks in response to her death (from the AP).

  5. A site calling itself the Rosa Parks portal, with links to many more resources, newspaper articles, and other good stuff.
(original news via XOverboard)

Update: here's a nice gallery of photos at the Washington Post. It also has this great quote:
I am leaving this legacy to all of you... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die -- the dream of freedom and peace.
( via Bitch, PhD)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Tips on cutting fuel costs

The Car Talk Guys offer timely tips on conserving gas and protecting your pocketbook, from finding new ways to commute to improving mileage through maintenance. Worth a visit by anybody who owns or is considering a car.

Needed: new puppeteer

Many vaunted heads may be on the block when special prosecutor Fitzgerald finally announces his Plame/Iraq-related indictments, and apparently the Bush folks are making sure that replacements will be lined up and ready to go. Like ants before the boot, and yet I find little pleasure at the prospect -- would that the nation had been spared them all instead.

Quote of the day


There is nothing you can see that is not a flower;
There is nothing you can think that is not the moon.
- Basho

(via whiskey river)

Greenspan not immortal, rumors show

Actually, his successor has now been named, and it's Ben Bernanke, who appears both well known and qualified. Imagine!

(via Atrios)

First wheel about to come off?

There are rumors that Miers SC nomination may be about to be pulled. Not that surprising, given the pre-hearing assaults from both sides, her lack of any evidence of intellectual qualification, and the appalling show of cronyism she represents. But still, it appears that this decision is a reflection of the insiders' growing awareness that their imperial wagon isn't riding along a smooth road like it once did . . .

(via Follow Me Here)

I don't know why this surprises me

femsign...but it does. That is, more than a quarter of Americans wouldn't vote for a woman for President no matter what her political affiliation or other qualifications. Even among women under age 45 it's still 16%. Maybe this would seem better if I knew comparable numbers from past decades; is the question itself entirely new?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Some linky goodness to tide you through

Another long weekend for me (family matters), and hopefully the last for a while, as I'm downright tired of traveling. To tide you through a postless Friday, a few bits of silliness collected in recent weeks:
  • I have to admit that the biathlon has always amused me, but I recognize that its quirky combination of skiing with sharp-shooting probably captures some skill combination once critical to survival in wintery climes. Even that leaves me completely unprepared for the modern strangeness that is chess-boxing (yes, they pause between rounds for timed chess moves). I guess it favors those whose defenses are good enough to stave off muddle-headedness...
    (via NPR's "Whadya Know?")

  • Here's a little film satire positing that Bush's verbal gaffs and hesitations are all part of a fiendishly clever public relations/image plan.
    (via Booknotes)

  • The New Yorker offers a wonderful pan of pretentious restaurants.
    The chef is also offering a personal favorite, his hot spiced rocks. These are igneous and sedimentary varietals, half-washed and heated to nine hundred degrees Fahrenheit, then gleefully sprinkled with international peppers.
    It's all too wonderful.
    (via kottke)

  • For those striving for a simple route to cool, here are directions on how to shuffle cards with only one hand.
    (via Medley)

  • And finally, here's a strange and amusing blog whose name only begins to hint at its reach: Libelous Claims About Large Corporations.
    (via Philadelphia Will Do)

The outing of the cabal

Use of the term "cabal" for the power structure running our country is no longer limited to pinkos and anarchists: Colin Powell's former chief of staff says that Cheney and Rumsfield made decisions in secret on a range of critical foreign policy issues.
In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

"Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences."
Poor choices on everything from Korean diplomacy to military deployment were the result. Is the country even capable of hearing this?

(via Talking Points Memo)

A rare opportunity to observe ecological linkages

The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park a decade ago has had much wider effects than anybody imagined: it's not just that potential prey species change in number, but their behavior and distribution have changed, resulting in changes in major plant life and ripples throughout the food chain. A fascinating reminder of how little we understand complex systems and how amazing the interlinkages in nature can be.

(via Follow Me Here)

Thursday kittens: up-close edition

Today's kitten-blogging features close-ups of Pixel, our bengal cat, at about 5 months old. I hope to get some good face pictures of her playmate Pasha in time for next week.

She's a pretty cat. This image is my current wallpaper.

Pixel profile
Here's a demure profile . . .

Past solo appearances of Pixel (in reverse order):
bonus2, bonus, doh!, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, arrival, teaser

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Students with vision

Check out this amazing graphic run as an ad in a student newspaper, in an attempt to dissuade fellow students from signing up for military service. It's certainly worth suggesting to anybody that they consider all their options.

Quote of the day

I used to think the brain was the most wonderful organ in the body.
Then I realized who was telling me this.
- Phil Soltanec
(via whiskey river)

Remember when

...Social Security was in imminent danger? I guess when Plan A appeared unpopular, the klaxons ceased to sound. Must have been an odd kind of crisis...
(Heck, even has closed its shutters!)

(via Atrios)

Showing how much we care

owowow! :(Jeanne catches a story that shows how badly the "reconstruction" of New Orleans has gotten off on the wrong foot. Not only did Bush suspend decent wages for working there (appalling on its face; see here), but the results have been (1) that local workers are being pushed aside for those brought from outside, often ending up living in their cars, and (2) the outside workers are getting mistreated (on pay and food/shelter fronts) as the low wages bring Latino workers perennially abused by their bosses and now subject to hatred from both blacks and whites in the area. What a mess -- your heart bleeds at the terrible triumph of capital over compassion.

Arrest warrant issued for DeLay

Well! I think most of us never thought we'd see the day. Mugshots and fingerprints anticipated. Enough schadenfreude to block out the sun...

(via kos)

I never had sex with that woman!

Bush said over and over that he didn't know how CIA agent Valerie Plame got outed, and that he'd chase out anybody in his administration shown to have something to do with it. But it turns out that he knew all along that Rove was involved and was even mad at him for it for quite a while.

Surely neither the press nor our legislators will stand for having been lied to like this!

Fighting Dems

I can't decide quite what to make of this new branding effort among progressives. On the one hand, it's intriguing to me that there are a notable number of Iraq veterans running for office among Democrats and virtually none on the Republican side, and their CV's probably give them credibility for making arguments against the war, should they choose to do so (although we've seen that even decorated soldiers can be slimed by a dirty enough machine). On the other hand, will we ever come to a time when experience with violence isn't considered a major qualification for leadership?helmet I'd like to think that most of these candidates would stand out as excellent choices for office even without the buzz cuts. sigh.

(via kos)

Don't let the hair-splitting fool you

Harriet Miers, nominee to the Supreme Court, thinks that abortion should be banned at a federal level. That's not a moderate position -- she could well be open to the specifics of cases that come before her, but her starting stance is way out in right field.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

This gave me a giggle

The Swiss Army Brick

"Eight corners, six sides, thirty-three functions."

Plame scandal about to go nuclear?

Apparently a Cheney aide is cooperating with the federal prosecutor looking into the outing of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent, as pay-back to her husband Joe Wilson. The critical paragraph is here:
Those close to the investigation said in June 2003, Hannah was given orders by higher-ups in Cheney’s office to leak Plame’s covert status and identity in an attempt to muzzle Wilson, who had been a thorn in the side of the administration since May 2003, when he started questioning the administration’s claims that Iraq was an imminent threat to the U.S. and its neighbors in the Middle East.
Spy vs. SpyLook out! Here come the fireworks!!

(via pontificator at dailyKos)

Not just bad science

An article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer (registration required) looks at the Intelligent Design debate going on to its west from a less common perspective: that it makes for bad theology too.
[U. Penn. anatomy professor Peter] Dodson, who has lectured on the relationship between religion and science, said the intelligent-design argument falls into an old philosophical notion called "God of the gaps" - the search for signs of the supernatural in otherwise unexplainable natural phenomena.
. . .
The trouble with this as theology is that when science fills these gaps in, Dodson said, it can squeeze the role of God out. Just as physics later found natural explanations for what Newton attributed to God's outreach, so biology may more fully explain complex cellular machinery in the future.
Those who seem most insistant on forcing their religion on the masses seem also to be those whose grounding in it is the most fragile...

Putting words in her mouth

Armando at dailyKos nails it when he says that Harriet Miers gets misunderstood a lot -- that is, if we are to believe that she didn't tell some judge friends about her views on Roe v. Wade (1) and didn't tell Senator Specter about her support for a right to privacy (2). Of course, she's never given these matters any thought, and she must speak in such generalizations that each listener interpolates what they want to hear. Yep, sure.

Perceived boundaries

An interesting new study attempts to come up with physical representations of people's working geographies -- e.g., where does New York City end and Upstate New York begin? An interesting undertaking, both philosophical and practical in import; they specifically mention the fight against gerrymandering as a potential application. (They're also looking at who roots for which sports teams as a marker for self-identity.)

We've had some interesting discussions locally about where various neighborhoods in Philadelphia begin and end -- it's partly historic, partly evolving, and partly aspirational. But in no degree does it correspond to political or other physical boundaries. Would love to be able to poll everybody in town and come up with a map that way...

(via Follow Me Here)

Someday "Minority Report" will look overly realistic

the matrix coming at you!We wouldn't want to go more than a minute or two between brainwashings with advertising. To help in that effort is a new company that puts ads on supermarket check-out conveyor belts. The visual assault goes up a notch! Add this to the addition of blaring TVs in every sitting room (even my veterinarian feels the need to bombard me with Good Pet Owner advice while I sit with my mewling cat) and eventually I won't want to come out of my house.

(via GirlHacker)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Quote of the day (humility installment)

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!
Henry David Thoreau
Journal entry of August 19, 1851
(via Thoreau blog)

Treating more than just ourselves

It seems that we have almost unlimited means for adversely affecting our natural environment. The latest is effects of prescription drugs in the sewage system (registration required). Examples include birth control hormones causing bizarre sexual development in fish, and Prozac killing tadpoles and disorienting the survivors. I'm not surprised as much that these drugs would be harmful to other species as I am that such quantities seem to pass through our systems intact. I guess we're going to have to think even more about how we treat our physical wastes; saving money won't seem so smart when we run out of fish, let alone start filling our drinking water with other people's prescriptions!

(via Booknotes)

More good citizenship from WalMart

That is, if you consider it good citizenship to turn people in to federal authorities because of political content in the photos they bring in to have developed. Unbelievable.

(via Follow Me Here)

Collateral damage

matters of stateMany have protested the Bush Administration's distortion of government, from ousting those who are disloyal enough to ask questions to suppressing reports that don't provide ammunition for the chosen policy line (see some recent wailings here). Tom Engelhardt suggests a memorial wall to those who have resigned in principled protest or been driven out for trying to do their jobs. It's an impressive/depressing collection of expertise and dedication thrown away in the name of ideology. When will their cries be heard? sigh.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Greatest hits of the first year

I decided that the confluence of JBS's first blogaverary with the passing of the 10,000 unique visitors milestone merited a little retrospective. An interesting trip back through a rollercoaster of hope and frustration, political anguish and cultural rumination, led to this attempt to come up with the Best of the Best. These posts are less the Most Shocking/Fascinating Events documented here than they are those to which I felt I made the most original contribution, of writing or synthesis of differing sources, the posts of which I was most proud for my part in the analysis, not just the publicity. So here, in chronological order, are the eventual winners after several rounds of winnowing:
  1. A look at the 2004 election results through a good news/bad news lens.

  2. Some advice to get over your germ obsession and just wash your #$%*@! hands.

  3. A tangential expression of all I can really say about the war in Iraq.

  4. A tribute to Susan Sontag upon the occasion of her death.

  5. Some glimpses of the Martin Luther King we tend not to roll out on his holiday; perhaps a more challenging voice than we know how to address.

  6. A personal response to the hijacking of Christianity by the right, spoken through the voices of others.

  7. Strong words about the notion of Intelligent Design disclaimers in the public schools, both as bad science and bad educational philosophy.
In the perhaps less gruelling category of Most Fascinating Things I Bumped Across, top winners include mind-bending analysis of the undecided voter, delightful experiments with toll booth attendants, disturbing parallels in intellectual repression, a simple design change that could save lives, a pointed depiction of what it means to be poor, and a fabulous charity that connects people to people. Tough choices, all of the above, and lots of amazing things falling by the wayside. Thanks for giving me a reason to put fingers to keyboard.

Friday Josh-blogging: mystery edition

This photo is taken from Josh's online honeymoon photo album. We have one major question: is this a veiled attempt to send a reassuring message to the older generation about future intentions with regard to fertility? The imagination falters . . .

Josh with phallus
Behold, the giant phallus!

Miers through a different lens

While the conservatives mud-wrestle over whether Miers is reactionary enough in her religious and political views to pass muster with The Movement, David Brooks raises a different question: can she express a coherent argument? He gives examples of meandering and vacuous prose, and concludes:
It's not that Miers didn't attempt to tackle interesting subjects. She wrote about unequal access to the justice system, about the underrepresentation of minorities in the law and about whether pro bono work should be mandatory. But she presents no arguments or ideas, except the repetition of the bromide that bad things can be eliminated if people of good will come together to eliminate bad things.
Not pretty. These Republicans really like to nominate great minds for top positions -- "judges like Clarence Thomas" indeed...

Maybe it's just me...

...but I can think of about 1001 snarky uses for this photo, in blogistan and beyond.
(The inset is what makes it.)

(found at local blog upyernoz, in this random post)

I believe everything I'm told

rolling in money!I mean, everyone knows that Dick Cheney has no financial ties to Haliburton, right?? That would be, what do they call it, a conflict of interest, and he wouldn't want that!

(via The Daou Report)

Ever more unreal

Bush responds to new lows in popularity polling by turning to the military once again -- but the farce is exposed when (1) he's willing to speak to the troops only from a safe remove and (2) the questions and answers are rehearsed right down to the passing of the microphone between soldiers. But hey, everything over in Iraq is looking just great!

Breaking the cycle

Two stories via Rebecca's Pocket having to do with studies of poor areas and their residents:
  1. A new study finds that when poor people live clustered together, their chances of breaking free of poverty are significantly decreased, largely because the resources they need to improve their lives are physically out of reach.
    "It's not that people who live in impoverished areas don't want to work or don't want better lives or don't want their children to go to good schools -- they just can't access it."
    The failure of many large housing projects are a symptom of this; folks need to be integrated into functioning communities if they are to overcome their obstacles.

  2. Students in San Jose, CA, are helping poor communities map their neighborhoods in terms of the buildings and public resources, to help hold local government accountable for overlooking their needs.
    Many poor neighborhoods lack the political framework to voice concerns. With computers and GPS receivers in hand, residents from these areas can report specific problems to city officials and expect results.
    This seems like a good extension of the "broken window theory" (see, e.g., here) -- making sure that cracked sidewalks and dangling streetlights get fixed right away helps keep the neighborhood from sliding into disrepair and the residents from giving up.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Quote of the day

tiny flameThe line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil. It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.
--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
(via A Mindful Life)

Painful realities

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and nothing makes one more aware of the burdens of that illness than watching somebody go through it. Twisty is blogging her trip, and it's not easy to share (there are even some photos), but it's real and it's vivid. I particularly appreciate this post about the well-intended wishes of friends that serve only to make things worse. Best is to try to be there for those you care about in whatever way they need, but that's a high standard of understanding...

Oh, and Bitch, Ph.D, provides the links to information about recent advice, self-exams, and other resources.

Rising to the occasion

Jeanne looks at the comparisons made between 9/11 and the aftermath of hurricane Katarina and takes issue with the populcar characterization of both the governmental response and the way that ordinary people on the ground behaved. The media tends to focus on the contrasts, but in fact both tell the story of the collapse of authority and the way that everyday folks set aside their bickering and rise to fill the gap.
Civil society, in essence, doesn't fall apart -- it becomes strengthened. And it's not chaos and lawlessness that threaten authorities, but the signs of a society functioning without authorities telling it what to do. They need to change the storyline fast, before we realize how good and competent we are.
An important piece, both for our understanding of ourselves and for our resistance to the desire of all governments to wrangle themselves more power.

Patrio-fascist group-think

bumper stickerMan, I hate those yellow ribbon stickers and other jingoistic paraphenalia that adorns SUVs and pick-up trucks all over our country (see previous rant here). Now steps up with a host of smack-down bumperstickers that call the conformity like it is. I may have to get me a couple.

Eating their young

Pat Robertson derides the "movement conservatives" and threatens Republican Senators. Crazy. I guess they should be glad he stopped short of a fatwah!

(via Talking Points Memo)

Thursday kitten blogging -- always more games to be had!

Another installment of bengal kitten olympics from the homefront:

kittens in play
"Beware my pointy ends!!"

kittens in play
the pause before the pounce...

Past kitteny goodness (reverse order):
19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

Somebody's paying attention

African Americans may be being wooed by the Republican Party, but they aren't sleeping through the lullaby: according to an MSNBC poll, Bush's approval rating among blacks is 2%! One suspects that the spectre of Katarina wasn't lost on them (or, if it was, there was always this). Still, that's amazing.

(via XOverboard)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A novel form of tribute

Boing boing captures a Chicago Tribune obituary for a veteran whose relatives request "In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans." Now there's a cause I can work up enthusiasm for!

Blogger sins

A local blogger taking off time for Yom Kippur repents his blogging sins of the last few months. Most of these are maximally funny only if you're from Philadelphia, but the gist carries well. Heh.

Wacky science fun

neon wackinessWe at JBS feel that sometimes we need more than kitten pics (or even Sid!) to shake off the shroud of national frustration, so today we offer some random bits that have come to our attention in recent days, in the category, Scientific Contributions of Immesurable (or at least Questionable) Value.
  1. Hate 3-point turns? Then perhaps you need this car whose cabin can turn itself around, saving you the trouble of changing direction. That could make for some crazy movie car-chase variants!
    (via boing boing)

  2. Wish you could send a loved one a hug from afar? Now you can, with Hugms, a device that converts your squeeze into either a color change at a remote device or just a cell phone "hug" to somebody lacking their own little bot. Strange and appealing.
    (via kottke)

  3. Taking multi-utility to a new level, allowing those low on space at home to combine an armchair with a cooktop and prep space. Um, say what?
    (via Ampersand at Alas)

Real people, real risks

Firedoglake appears to be running nonstop coverage of the news about Plamegate -- whether Rove and other higher-ups will be caught in the prosecutorial net for outing an undercover CIA agent for political payback (see background on story here and here). Lots of folks like to dismiss this issue as political maneouvering, or as way overblown ("heck, she worked in a boring office in public view"), but today RedHedd gives a good description of how her outing affects real people and damages the national interest. It takes years to set up effective information and action networks, and to blow that all away for a moment of self-gratifying retribution (or an extra chip in some beltway game) is unconscionable.

(via Atrios)

We really do live in strange times

Apparently being under indictment on a number of ugly state and federal charges, and losing your congressional leadership position as a result, doesn't have any effect on your actual power. Used to be that scandal was krypton, but apparently today's GOP just can't function without the gods it has annointed for itself...

(via kos)

These guys know how to win friends

In their continuing campaign to Protect Wealth At All Costs, the Bush administration is focused on cutting income taxes on the top income bracket. Flat taxes have been floated, as well as a national sales tax and other ways to shift the tax burden from those who pile up wealth onto those who earn less and spend most of what they get. A tax advisory commission previously recommended slashing the Alternative Minimum Tax, which limits the deductions and loopholes of the rich and requires that they pay *some minimum.* As a result, the commission needs to replace those funds by changes elsewhere in the tax code. This week it indicated its plan to recommend cutting the deductions for mortgages and health insurance contributions, two very popular programs that benefit the middle class and Upstanding Folks around the elephants The Congressional debates on this one should be priceless -- Republicans may never dig themselves out of the pile of crap their leaders are foisting on them...

(via a Medley furling)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Photos for the changing seasons

Kathryn at A Mindful Life takes some great photos. Two seem appropriate for a cold fall day:

The orange of fall pumpkins (offered without comment)
The beautiful hands of older relatives (with ruminations on their lives)

Worth the trip.

Be still, my beating...

The Democratic Party is putting together a positive issues platform that can act as its version of the Contract With America for the next year's discussions and elections.
Among the proposals are: "real security" for America through stronger investments in U.S. armed forces and benchmarks for determining when to bring troops home from Iraq; affordable health insurance for all Americans; energy independence in 10 years; an economic package that includes an increase in the minimum wage and budget restrictions to end deficit spending; and universal college education through scholarships and grants as well as funding for the No Child Left Behind act.
The pessimist in me is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Could... could this be the dawning of willingness to lead? I think I'm getting the vapors!

Quote of the day

You can't do anything about the length of your life,
but you can do something about its width and depth.
-H.L. Mencken,
writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Sometimes snark writes itself

grin!(from this piece)
Venturing into foreign policy, Governor Mitt Romney yesterday told a largely Republican audience that Islamic terrorists "want to bring down our government" and "want to put in place a huge theocracy."
(via Atrios)

Many needs around the world

With the earthquake in Kashmir, the hurricane in Guatamala, and ongoing support for Katarina victims, there is a huge need for emergency relief and direct aid. I encourage all readers to either donate to the Red Cross using the link in the sidebar or to pick one of the great international relief organizations collected here.

(via This Modern World)

Monday, October 10, 2005

What is the journalist's job?

Atrios has a short, pointed note on this question (which comes as a rumination on this prior post). The heart of it:
[T]he press has internalized the notion that the highest ideal is not to report the truth in a way which educates people, but the ideal of appearing unbiased. This isn't balance, it is simply braindead stenography. And, more importantly perhaps, it's the kind of braindead stenography which favors views and viewpoints which are backed by powerful well-funded interests.
The market isn't necessarily the right determiner of what information/viewpoints the public hears...

Rumination for the day

It is somewhat cooler and more autumnal. A great many leaves have fallen and the trees begin to look thin. You incline to sit in a sunny and sheltered place. This season, the fall, which we have now entered on, commenced, I may say, as long ago as when the first frost was seen and felt in low ground in August. From that time, even, the year has been gradually winding up its accounts. ink drawn treeCold, methinks, has been the great agent which has checked the growth of plants, condensed their energies, and caused their fruits to ripen, in September especially. Perchance man never ripens within the tropics.
Henry David Thoreau
Journal entry for October 3, 1859
(via Thoreau blog)

Limits to our wisdom

Many people who support "the right to choose" feel that it's not unreasonable to set the requirement that young women get permission from their parents before deciding how to proceed, or at least let them know. But what does it mean to mandate such a thing, just because we hope that the family would be a natural and even instinctive source of support? This Dear Abby column points up the risks -- girls who don't automatically feel comfortable with telling their parents that they're pregnant may have a very good reason for keeping their secret, whether it's the likelihood of a violent response or the fact that an abusive relative is the father of the child. We need to trust the insights of those who know the situation firsthand, rather than presuming that a faceless government will somehow always "know best" . . .

(via Medley)

Update: by "keeping their secret" I mean the *pregnancy*, not just an abortion, if that's the eventual choice. The letter writer was discussing a case in which Planned Parenthood recommended that she "have the baby and get on with her life." It was her being pregnant at all that got her the beating. (And it's her being pregnant at all that brings all the right-wingers down on her "morality" to the extent that they no longer care about the value of her having a say over her life. hmmm, interesting parallel...)

Specter to do his job

law!That is, to find out everything there is to know about a Supreme Court nominee, even if the apparent source is a religious figure who's hemming and hawing... Well, better late than never.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A closer look at who's shifted

The Conventional Wisdom likes to say that the country has moved to the right in the last decade or two, and that explains the Republican ascendancy. But that explanation obscures the real truth, which is that almost the entire shift in Congress can be attributed to a shift in composition of the Southern delegation (see also part I of this analysis here). That may well be in response to the social and religious issues of the day, which have clearly polarized the whole country, but it's hard not to see that localized change as a rather different phenomenon from a more universal trend! As Chris Bowers puts it,
Neither the country nor the south has become more conservative. However, the south has become a lot more Republican. And that, in a nutshell, is the so-called "Republican revolution."

We value more than what we own

Jeanne has some excellent, as ever, ruminations on money and happiness, and also on what "ownership society" means and what it leaves out.
At some level, I think most people understand that once you have food, clothing, shelter, and a few personally important luxuries (for me -- books and music), the things that add the most to your life -- schools, health care, a clean environment, pleasant surroundings, museums, etc. -- are things that either you can't provide for yourself, or things that function best when everyone shares in them.

So the problem with focusing on making more and more people part of an "ownership society," isn't just that it's a scam, but that even if you really tried to make it happen, society wouldn't necessarily be better off.
[She gives a striking example from current events in Mexico.] Where the nation wishes to invest its (and its people's) dollars isn't always where it will make the most difference to their lives or anyone else's -- see this example too.

Today's news of the weird

Immense python attempts to eat huge alligator, and bursts at the seams.
Apparently there's not so much going on in the world today.

(via the Huffington Post)

Last chance for paranoia/preparedness

logoPandemic Flu Awareness Week ends this weekend (and I won't be posting then). If you don't already know what it's all about, visit the Flu Wiki for the concerns, advice, and preparations you can make in advance. Also, see other folks doing a good job of centralizing information resources, such as Medley's posts here and here.

Croyism meets conspiracy theory

A new take on the Miers (and, really, Roberts) nomination: Bush is stacking the court in anticipation of his own possible impeachment. Heck, if they just shield the dozen of his cronies facing the legal system in the near future, that could be enough.

(via Follow Me Here)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Quote of the day

"The trouble with the world " said the Master with a sigh, "is that human beings refuse to grow up."

"When can a person be said to have grown up?" asked a disciple.

"On the day he does not need to be lied to about anything."
- Anthony de Mello
(via whiskey river)

Thursday kitten blogging: games edition

Yes, today some documentation of the adventures of our bengal kittens, Pixel (5 months, brown) and Pasha (3 months, snow). The goal in getting a second kitten -- find Pixel a playmate and save the older cats from her pestering -- was fully achieved, as they were chasing each other and wrestling (with much growling and fierceness) from about the second time they met. It takes them about 3 hours of full-contact sport to wear each other out enough to take a nap...

under the couch
This looks like a moment of rest, but there's a lot of tension in that foot against the couch,
and 2 seconds later the next round of chase was underway...

batty pat
whap! patty bat!

full wrestle
This is most of what you see.
grrrrr! MROWFFF!

Past kitteny goodness (reverse order): 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

Cronyism: It's not just how it looks

Most people think that cronyism such as the Miers court appointment is bad because (a) it's crass and/or (b) it puts people into positions for which they have no qualifications (e.g., Brown at FEMA). But there are more serious reasons to think that cronyism in this instance is bad, specifically because it interferes with the critical principle of separation of powers. As August puts it (here):
Enter Harriet Miers, the soon-to-be highest-ranking Bush fanboy in the United States of America. Do you really see a Supreme Court Justice Miers ruling to release Bush's sealed records? Or compelling his cronies to testify? Or overturning his executive orders to hide the documents related to his father?
In a similar vein, David Sirota points out that the Founding Fathers explicitly counseled the Senate against approving appointments like this. Not sure they remember that anymore...

(Sirota link via Medley, among others)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


A map of the hurricane Katrina diaspora, based on some 40,000 people who used the internet to find each other or let folks know they were safe. Looks like it could be pretty representative of the whole, and they've gone just about everywhere. Neat.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Imagine Jon Stewart's voice as you read this

oh, helpOh, Digby...
why must you always drain us of all hope?

Strategic musings on the national scene

Two different lines of speculation caught my attention over at dailyKos today:
  1. First, what to make of Harriet Miers and her unknown views on critical issues. Armando wonders what Dobson knows to make him so happy, and Markos points out that O'Connor was seen as a solid pro-lifer before her term began too. darned wimmen -- you never know what they're thinkin'!

  2. Markos also points out an intriguing piece looking at Democratic prospects for taking significant numbers of Senate seats in the 2006 midterms. Sort of a tipping-point thing. Of course it's still an incredible ways off, in voter awareness time. Anyway, people looking for a play-by-play can see this analysis of current standings.

Everything is better with LEDs!

And now your whole bathroom can be aglow in the light of your bathtub and/or sink. heh. As boing boing put it, "It takes a lot of guts to manufacture a tchotchke that weighs hundreds of pounds, takes up half a bathroom, and glows popsicle green." Indeed...

The elephant in the livingroom

Nobody knows what the best solution to the Iraq conflict would be. But it's likely that we have no shot at approximating that anyway, given the political and military situation on the ground there and here at home. And yet, despite the striking change in public support for the war, no politician (let alone party) has been willing to take the take the lead in calling for an end to things, for withdrawel, for peace. In fact, the best candidate for an opposition party, the Democrats, aren't even willing to talk about Iraq, let alone suggest a solution. That makes them look ignorant at best and spineless at worst. It's on everybody's minds; you can't just hope it will go away on its own.monkey on their backs

(via Atrios)

Update: just came across this all-too-apt quotation:

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.
Dante Alighieri
(via A Mindful Life)

Not pretty

Ampersand gives a round-up of recent doings on the battlefront over same-sex marriage, and the tactics of those involved (mostly the opponents, although some hypocrites) are pretty appalling.

Paradoxical response

Proving once again that maintaining a good image is more important to them than national safety, the Bush Administration now requires that National Weather Service employees get permission before speaking to the press. The Commerce Department would then have to sign off on both the meeting and the spokesperson. eesh. (In case the significance of this isn't clear, they're trying to prevent this, apparently already unworried about more of this.)

(via a Medley furling)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


hippo birdy two ewes Well! Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. There was one test post before October 4, but this was the date of the first substantive entry of The Author, snark and anguish already queued up. And now Blogger tells me that this will be post #1072! (and most of those before the kittens came on the scene!)
Thanks for listening, those of you that have . . .

Pardon my spit-take

The state of Indiana apparently thinks that women should ask permission before having sex reproducing.
When asked specifically if she believes marriage should be a requirement for motherhood, and if that is part of the bill's intention, Sen. Miller responded, "Yes. Yes, I do."
Cough, choke.
As the blogger (DuctapeFatwa) says, what with Plan B being pushed off the shelf, it would kinda suck to be a rape victim in Indiana, and suddenly liable to criminal prosecution. Lesbians, of course, are right out. Ductape adds:
But the most exciting element is that this could be another big step toward educating American women that their bodies are the property of the state, who shall be the sole determinant of how their organs of generation shall be utilized, to what end, and by whom.
Yeah, a bit hard not to think of The Handmaid's Tale here...

(via Medley)

Send the marines!

In honor of Pandemic Flu Preparedness Week (see prev.) the Bush administration has announced a new plan for combatting the problem: use the military.
He said the military, perhaps the National Guard, might be needed to enforce quarantines if the feared H5N1 bird flu virus changes enough to cause widespread human infection.
Because (a) why try to prevent or cure a problem when you can just keep it far away from you, and (b) those guys aren't doing anything right now, are they? eesh.

(via dangerous meta)

Update: Bob Harris takes a poll on other moves the Bushies might make...

Redefining prosperity

A fantastic story in the NYTimes today about an entire country that decided that GDP was the wrong way to measure its success and instead focused on Gross National Happiness.
Bhutan, the king said, needed to ensure that prosperity was shared across society and that it was balanced against preserving cultural traditions, protecting the environment and maintaining a responsive government.
Now that's what *I* call a benevolent dictator. More importantly, other nations are studying his example and the more general principles that it represents -- valuing a whole range of the human experience rather than just wealth-production.
Around the world, a growing number of economists, social scientists, corporate leaders and bureaucrats are trying to develop measurements that take into account not just the flow of money but also access to health care, free time with family, conservation of natural resources and other noneconomic factors.

The goal, according to many involved in this effort, is in part to return to a richer definition of the word happiness, more like what the signers of the Declaration of Independence had in mind when they included "the pursuit of happiness" as an inalienable right equal to liberty and life itself.
Somebody pinch me!

(via Follow Me Here)

Bonus kitten pic

Two great souls passing in one week is a bit much in already troubled times. I need a little extra kitteny goodness to see me through.

Pixel the cutlet
Pixel at about 12 weeks, groggy in the spotlight...

Past Pixel appearances: bonus, oops, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, arrival, teaser

Quote of the day

Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.
--Phillips Brooks
(via A Mindful Life)
for David Cohen,

Help from unexpected quarters

daVinci drawingA British heart surgeon came up with a dramatic improvement in a method of repairing the heart's mitral valve after looking at studies of heart function diagrammed by Leonardo daVinci. Man, that guy just saw more deeply into more aspects of life than most of us can ever aspire to!

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

If it's not one thing...

Tom DeLay, fresh from indictment for conspiracy, now gets a second whammy for money laundering.
One count of the new indictment accuses DeLay of conspiracy to commit money-laundering. It says he agreed with one or more associates to launder $190,000 in corporate contributions through an arm of the Republican National Committee in Washington, allowing the funds to be passed illegally into the election campaigns of Republican candidates in Texas. Texas law prohibits the use of corporate money in political campaigns.
That's starting to sound like serious business!

(via Tom Tomorrow)

Update: see this for more analytic speculation about how DeLay's lawyer may have miscalculated (although I've seen elsewhere that Earle had this charge queued up long before the motion was filed).

Monday, October 03, 2005

Jon Stewart in print

A profile/interview/deconstruction of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, courtesy of The Guardian.
If the parties and the media serve the country so badly, why do Americans put up with it? "Because for the majority of Americans life is pretty tolerable," says Stewart. "It's very hard to organise reasonable people with moderate views. Reasonable people with moderate views don't usually light their torches and head out to town with pitchforks shouting, 'Be reasonable.' Shit has to get really bad before people stand up and take notice."
If you aren't already addicted to this show, get your VCR in gear! I mean!!

(via kottke)

Quote of the day

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet drink and botanical medicines. fall woodsIn August live on berries, not dried meats and pemmican, as if you were on shipboard making your way through a waste ocean, or in a northern desert. Be blown on by all the winds. Open all your pores and bathe in all the tides of Nature, in all her streams and oceans, at all seasons. Miasma and infection are from within, not without.
Henry David Thoreau
Journal entry of August 23, 1853
(via Thoreau Blog)

Hey, remember us?

Ah, time was when we worried about the Guantanamo Bay detainees, their rights and their deprivations. But larger storms have stolen the headlines, and even the Iraq war is a bit neglected these days.

Anyway, it turns out that the nearly half the Gitmo inmates are on a hunger-strike demanding better conditions and proper legal recourse. They're avoiding force-feeding by flushing the occasional meal, and Amnesty worries that they're falling into dangerous levels of ill health and may starve themselves to death. There may not be enough press attention to go around, which would only compound the injustices already heaped on these forgotten humans.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

August Wilson passes

Only a month from announcement of his prognosis to the date of his passing -- whew! I put my links in the previous piece, so see there for more about his life and career. Guess he pretty much just held on until he finished his ambitious play cycle, but that's a pretty big gift to leave behind.

Primary reshuffle planned?

One of the things Howard Dean has been talking about, as DNC chair, is shaking up the order of state primaries in Presidential elections, perhaps so that there's a better representation of state types in the early rounds rather than NH and IA carrying so much weight. Now it looks like the Democrats have agreed to add two states to the early primary calendar, probably a southern and a western state. I don't know how these centralized discussions mesh with the opinions of the individual states involved Dem donkey(see here for New Jersey's decision to move up their own primary from June to February)...

(via GregNYC at dailyKos)

A helpful analogy

Ampersand has a good post today about how seemingly rational arguments against single-sex marriage can, in fact, mask underlying homophobic assumptions (even among those who don't hold overtly homophobic points of view).
No one would support laws that kept blacks, or Jews, or women, in legal inequality in order to protect marriage. No one would argue that they should have never have allowed interracial marriage, because the lives of interracial couples should be sacrificed to protect the rest of us from the horror of multiple-marriage or cousins marrying.
. . .
In contrast, SSM opponents implicitly assume that it is acceptable to force queers to remain unequal, in order to "protect marriage as an institution" in an unproven and marginal fashion. In doing so, they endorse a devaluation of same-sex couples that they would never endorse were they talking about blacks, or Jews, or women.
Worth reading the whole thing.

Pandemic awareness

PFAW bannerThis week is Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, and Medley has links to all the resources for becoming better informed about and better prepared for the health risks and general potential fallout of a virulent flu virus arriving at our shores. Also see her earlier (and presumably subsequent) posts about preparation steps she's considering for other regional disasters. A good spur to the complacent...

Update: it looks like the first human-to-human transmissions of the bird flu are occurring, which puts us mighty close to the conditions for an epidemic. eep!
(via boing boing)

Miers it is

Congrats to Will Bunch (and Matt Drudge) for making the call -- most lawyers I know hadn't heard of this woman as recently as this past weekend, and yet she's the new Supreme Court nominee as of this morning. Expect a deluge of news and profiles by this afternoon . . . (and/or see the post below for some background on the rationale for the choice)

Update: best quote on this (heh):
This president can be bamboozled by anyone he feels close to. If a person fawns on him enough, is loyal, works 25 hours a day and says you’re the smartest man I ever met, all of a sudden you’re right for the Supreme Court.
(via Atrios)

Update 2: for more serious thoughts about Miers as a judge and as a political outcome, see Steve Clemons' first take.