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March 31, 2005
Finally, R.I.P. Terri Schiavo

The New York Times > Schiavo Dies Nearly Two Weeks After Removal of Feeding Tube

Compare and Contrast

Exhibit A

During a talk show-style "conversation" at a nearby community college, Bush appealed to opponents of his approach to enter into constructive negotiations on legislation to close Social Security's long-term funding gap.

"If you've got an idea, I expect you to be at the table," he said. "We want to listen to good ideas."

LA Times

Exhibit B

DENVER -- The U.S. Secret Service on Monday said it was investigating the claims of three people who said they were removed from President Bush's town hall meeting on Social Security last week after being singled out because of a bumper sticker on their car.


Besides being unconscionably hypocritical, Bush's statement is also pathetically cowardly, as Kevin Drum points out.

There are only two ways to significantly improve Social Security's finances: benefit cuts and tax increases. Bush is too gutless to propose either one, so he's desperately trying to sucker someone -- anyone -- into proposing them first. Nobody with half a brain should oblige him.

Until Bush has the political courage to step up to the plate and send a serious proposal of his own to Congress, he shouldn't expect anyone else to do it either. In the meantime, he deserves nothing but scorn. His sustained display of political cowardice is setting a standard for generations to come.

Washington Monthly

Cheeseburger 911

A lady calls 911 because the Burger King employees got her order wrong, hilarity ensues.

WMA Audio File.

It's really too bad that the operator didn't keep her on the phone long enough so we could hear her get arrested for abusing the 911 system.

"What?!? You're arresting me?!?! My kids just got back from Tae Kwon Do!!"

March 30, 2005
More on Grokster

Matthew cites my post yesterday noting that record sales have actually risen in the past year, and then goes on to explain that, in his view, even this argument concedes too much to the content industry.

I'm inclined to agree, but before I do, here's a little more on how the RIAA calculates losses, very interesting. Upshot: Nobody really knows. More accurate upshot: The RIAA is being deliberately deceptive.

There is only one logical integration of all these statistics with the recent Soundscan data: even though actual point-of-purchase sales are up by about 9% in the US - and the industry sold over 13,000,000 more units in 2004 (1st quarter) than in 2003 (1st quarter) - the Industry is still claiming a loss of 7% because RIAA members shipped 7% fewer records than in 2003.

Forget the confusing percentages, here's an oversimplified example: I shipped 1000 units last year and sold 700 of them. This year I sold 770 units but shipped only 930 units. I shipped 10% less units this year. And this is what the RIAA wants the public to accept as "a loss."


But back to me agreeing with Yglesias. Here I go.

Protecting intellectual property is not a proper goal of intellectual property law. Rather, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution gives the congress the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Protecting innovation is the only legitimate goal of intellectual property law. What needs to be balanced here is the promotion of musical innovation versus the promotion of innovation in the fields of data storage, duplication, transfer, and access.

Matthew Yglesias

And then this..

If the music is getting made, and the music is getting listened to, well then, that's a healthy IP environment. The creation and consumption of new works is the end, sales are merely a means to that end.

Matthew Yglesias

Exactly. Somehow the notion that intellectual property laws are designed to protect profits and guarantee that content creators can muscle everyone else has become the dominant understanding, but it just ain't so. It's the wrong approach to analyze the impact on sales, not only because that impact is nearly impossible to accurately measure, but because it's not the right test. The "progress of science and useful arts" is not threatened.

Demonstrably At Odds

Many of us knew a long time ago (and have been shouting about it for ages) that the Bush administration and the current Congressional leadership are not on our side, but it's nice to hear it coming from a federal judge.

A federal appeals court in Atlanta refused Wednesday to reconsider the case of Terri Schiavo, with one of the judges rebuking President Bush and Congress for acting "in a manner demonstrably at odds with our founding fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people."

The New York Times

Oh, snap! That's some pretty serious criticism. And this concurring opinion was written by a Bush I appointee.

"When the fervor of political passions moves the executive and legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene," wrote Judge Birch, who has a reputation as consistently conservative. "If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow."


Yes! Yes, yes, yes.

In particular, Judge Birch wrote, a provision of the new law requiring a fresh federal review of all the evidence presented in the case made it unconstitutional. Because that provision constitutes "legislative dictation of how a federal court should exercise its judicial functions," he wrote, it "invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle."


Legal scholars have noted that these are remarkable statements coming from Judge Birch, a conservative Republican, particularly on social issues.

So, while I can't really get too enamored of the guy, considering his writing the ruling which upheld a Florida law prohibiting gays from adopting children (dick!), you take the victories where you can get 'em.

So, in this very specific instance, Judge Birch, I salute you.

For the rest of your career as far as I know, screw you.

Wolcott on Schiavo


On Grokster

Matthew Yglesias is doing a fine job of dissecting the MGM vs. Grokster case now being argued before the Supreme Court.

Today he takes on the Washington Post's misguided editorial on the subject.

If you're not familiar with the case, this is the one where the RIAA and the movie studios are trying to shut down the latest incarnation of P2P networks (think Napster), which they claim facilitate and promote theft and are a threat to their business, despite the fact that their sales of CDs and other music products rose 2 percent last year.

It appears that the justices have been fairly receptive to the Grokster side of the issue, though the outcome is far from certain.

As many have pointed out, this is no different as a matter of law than the challenges the content creation industry has mounted against nearly every new recording or distribution technology to come along since the piano roll. They are not interested in serving their customers, they're interested in maximizing profits and choking off competition.

It's basic business evolution. These new technologies are here and they're not going away. Adapt or die.

Feeding Tube II: This Time, It's Papal
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - In the latest dramatic twist in Pope John Paul's health, the Vatican said Wednesday doctors were feeding the ailing Pontiff through a nasal tube to boost his strength and help his recovery from throat surgery.

The surprise statement by chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls was the first medical bulletin on the Pope's condition since March 10, three days before he was released from hospital where he underwent a tracheotomy to help him breathe.

"To improve his caloric intake and promote an efficient recovery of his strength, nutrition via the positioning of a nasal-gastric tube has begun," Navarro-Valls said in a written statement.


Bumper Sticker'd

Via Daily Kos, who was emailed this account by one of the people thrown out of one of Bush's roadshow events because the car that dropped them off sported a "No More Blood For Oil" bumper sticker.

Very rarely does the everyday public get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes in a normally-secret Bush Administration.

But Monday, March 28, the Secret Service called three everyday people into their offices to discuss why we were kicked out of a presidential event in Denver last week where Bush promoted his plan to privatize Social Security. What they revealed to us and our lawyer was fascinating.

There we were - three people who had personally picked up tickets from Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez's office and went to a presidential event. But as we entered, we were told that we had been "ID'ed" and were warned that any disruption would get us arrested.

After being seated in the audience we were forcibly removed before the President arrived, even though we had not been disruptive. We were shocked when told that this presidential event was a "private event" and were commanded to leave.

More astonishingly, when the Secret Service was contacted the next day they agreed to meet with us this Monday, March 28 to discuss the circumstances surrounding our removal. We had two big questions going into this meeting:

  1. How is the Bush Administration "ID'ing" citizens before presidential events?
  2. Why was an official taxpayer-funded event called a "private event" - leading to citizens being kicked out?
Most shocking of all, we got answers to both questions. The Secret Service revealed that we were "ID'ed" when local Republican staffers saw a bumper sticker on the car we drove which said "No More Blood For Oil." Evidently, the free speech expressed on one bumper sticker is cause enough to eject three citizens from a presidential event. (Similarly, someone was ejected from Bush's Social Security privatization event in Arizona the same day simply for wearing a Democratic t-shirt.)

The Secret Service also revealed that ticket distribution and staffing of the Social Security event was run by the local Republican Party. They wanted us to be clear that it was a Republican staffer - not the Secret Service - who kicked us out of the presidential event. But this revealed something else that should be startling to all Americans.

After allowing taxpayers to finance his privatization events (let's call them what they really are after all,) and after using the White House communications apparatus to set them up, Bush is privatizing the ticket distribution and security staffing at his events to the Republican Party. The losers are not just taxpayers, but anyone who values the First Amendment. Under the banner of a "private event" the Republican Party is excluding citizens from seeing their president because of the lone sin of expressing the wrong idea on a bumper sticker or t-shirt.  The question for Americans is - will we allow our freedom to be privatized?

Karen Bauer, Leslie Weise. Alexander Young
Denver residents

Daily Kos

March 29, 2005
Boy Scout Youth Protector Not So Much

scout leader

Boy Scouts of America’s National Director of Programs Douglas B. Smith will appear in a Dallas courtroom tomorrow to face charges of distributing child pornography, according to reports by NBC News.

At one point, Smith served as Chairman of the Scout’s Youth Protection Task Force, according to a website operated by the Western Alaska Council of the Boy Scouts of America, RAWSTORYQ has discovered.


Schindlers To Sell Supporters Personal Info

This is really nice..

If you happen to have been a supporter of Terri Schiavo's parents, prepare to be flooded with anti-abortion and other conservative mass-mailings.

The parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters, making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups.

"These compassionate pro-lifers donated toward Bob Schindler's legal battle to keep Terri's estranged husband from removing the feeding tube from Terri," says a description of the list on the Web site of the firm, Response Unlimited, which is asking $150 a month for 6,000 names and $500 a month for 4,000 e-mail addresses of people who responded last month to an e-mail plea from Ms. Schiavo's father. "These individuals are passionate about the way they value human life, adamantly oppose euthanasia and are pro-life in every sense of the word!"

Privacy experts said the sale of the list was legal and even predictable, if ghoulish.

"I think it's amusing," said Robert Gellman, a privacy and information policy consultant. "I think it's absolutely classic America. Everything is for sale in America, every type of personal information."

The New York Times

Not Funny Anymore

As Josh Marshall asks, when will stuff like this be taken seriously?

DENVER -- The U.S. Secret Service on Monday said it was investigating the claims of three people who said they were removed from President Bush's town hall meeting on Social Security last week after being singled out because of a bumper sticker on their car.

The three said they had obtained tickets through the office of Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., had passed through security and were preparing to take their seats when they were approached by what they thought was a Secret Service agent who asked them to leave.


Alex Young, 25, an Internet technology worker from Denver who was among the three removed from the event March 17 at Wings over the Rockies, said officials told them the next day they were identified as belonging to the "No Blood for Oil" group.

Young said they belong to no such group, but the car they drove to the event had a bumper sticker that read: "No More Blood for Oil."

"I don't think a bumper sticker on a friend's car should disqualify me from seeing the president," Young said.


Ugh. And I thought I was nauseated after seeing the Enormous Omelet.

I've asked this before and I'll ask it again: How can anyone possibly defend this insanity? Really, I want to know in what twisted vision of America this is even close to acceptable.

Have It (Coronary Disease) Your Way

Responding to America's obesity crisis, Burger King has just introduced the Enormous Omelet breakfast sandwich.

enormous omelet

Wake up to a mouthful of breakfast with the Enormous Omelet Sandwich. Two slices of melted, American cheese, two fluffy eggs stuffed with three crispy strips of bacon, and a sizzling sausage patty, piled high on a toasted bun.

My first reaction was, "Well, two eggs, some bacon, sausage, cheese, and bread.. That's not too bad, really." But check out the "nutritional" info.

nutritional info

Via Marshal, who wants to vomit.

The Culture of Life Marches On

Via Billmon and Atrios..

Bill Tierney is one of the protesters outside of Terri Schiavo's hospice in Florida..

The legal battle over the life of Terri Schiavo may have ended, but a thick, fervent crowd remains in the makeshift encampment outside the Woodside Hospice House here . . .

No, we're not going to go home," said Bill Tierney, a young daughter at his side. "Terri is not dead until she's dead" . . .

Mr. Tierney, a former military intelligence officer in Iraq who works as a translator and investigator for private companies, cried as he talked about watching the Schiavo spectacle on television and feeling the utter need to be at the hospice.

New York Times

Turns out this isn't the first time this guy has been in the news. He is in fact a former interrogator for U.S. forces in Iraq.

''The Brits came up with an expression – wog,'' Tierney said. ''That stands for Wily Oriental Gentleman. There's a lot of wiliness in that part of the world.''. . .

After explaining his various psychological tactics to the audience, interrogator Bill Tierney (a private contractor working with the Army) said, ''I tried to be nuanced and culturally aware. But the suspects didn't break.''

Suddenly Tierney's temper rose. ''They did not break!'' he shouted. ''I'm here to win. I'm here so our civilization beats theirs! Now what are you willing to do to win?'' he asked, pointing to a woman in the front row. ''You are the interrogators, you are the ones who have to get the information from the Iraqis. What do you do? That word 'torture'. You immediately think, 'That's not me.' But are we litigating this war or fighting it?'' . . .

Asked about Abu Ghraib, Tierney said that for an interrogator, ''sadism is always right over the hill. You have to admit it. Don't fool yourself – there is a part of you that will say, 'This is fun.' ''

Boston Globe

Atrios dug up some more great stuff from this guy, from just before and just after the start of the war.

Former weapons inspector Bill Tierney... said on the Sean Hannity radio show that we will be shocked with what we are going to find in Iraq. He has no doubt we will find huge amounts of what Iraq swears it does not have.

In addition, Tierney said that he has told our government where Hussein has hidden an underground uranium plant. Tierney said "I can drive there with my eyes shut."

Free Republic

Wow. That's pretty confident. How would he possibly know such a thing? Here's how..

Tierney's methods of ascertaining this location were rather unconventional. "I would ask God and just get a sense if something was valid or not, and then know if I needed to pursue it," he said. His assessments through prayer were then confirmed to him by a friend's clairvoyant dream, where he was able to find the location on a map. "Everything she said lined up. This place meets the criteria," Tierney said of a power generator plant near the Tigris River that he believes is actually a cover for a secret uranium facility.

Coast to Coast AM

March 28, 2005
Wither Smart Policies?

Tom Friedman wonders why George Bush doesn't adopt a pro-environment strategy.

How will future historians explain it? How will they possibly explain why President George W. Bush decided to ignore the energy crisis staring us in the face and chose instead to spend all his electoral capital on a futile effort to undo the New Deal, by partially privatizing Social Security? We are, quite simply, witnessing one of the greatest examples of misplaced priorities in the history of the U.S. presidency.

"Ah, Friedman, but you overstate the case." No, I understate it. Look at the opportunities our country is missing - and the risks we are assuming - by having a president and vice president who refuse to lift a finger to put together a "geo-green" strategy that would marry geopolitics, energy policy and environmentalism.

By doing nothing to lower U.S. oil consumption, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism and strengthening the worst governments in the world. That is, we are financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars and we are financing the jihadists - and the Saudi, Sudanese and Iranian mosques and charities that support them - through our gasoline purchases. The oil boom is also entrenching the autocrats in Russia and Venezuela, which is becoming Castro's Cuba with oil. By doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are also setting up a global competition with China for energy resources, including right on our doorstep in Canada and Venezuela. Don't kid yourself: China's foreign policy today is very simple - holding on to Taiwan and looking for oil.

The New York Times

All very true.

He's also right on about higher, semi-fixed gas prices and heavier tax burdens on over-polluting industry to encourage them to modernize, though I'm not sure about building a bunch of nuclear plants. Didn't he see what happened on 24 a few weeks ago?

He concludes..

Imagine if George Bush declared that he was getting rid of his limousine for an armor-plated Ford Escape hybrid, adopting a geo-green strategy and building an alliance of neocons, evangelicals and greens to sustain it. His popularity at home - and abroad - would soar. The country is dying to be led on this. Instead, he prefers to squander his personal energy trying to take apart the New Deal and throwing red meat to right-to-life fanatics. What a waste of a presidency. How will future historians explain it?

This all seems nice and neat, doesn't it? Why doesn't George Bush just adopt these policies? He would be popular at home and abroad! He would save the planet! Why doesn't he enact these smart ideas?





While these policies would make him popular at home and abroad, they would make him very unpopular with the energy industry, and they'd stop sending him money. Not to mention the U.S. auto industry, which is by god determined to destroy itself in it's own good time, thank-you-very-much, by constantly lagging about a decade behind Europe and Japan.

Enacting any of these measures would also validate any number of realities that his administration has spent years denying. If they suddenly own up to global warming now, everyone will know they've been lying all this time. The idea that humans in general and Americans in particular have domain over the earth and it's resources, and were meant to use these resources for our profit, is also deeply ingrained in their philosophy.

And finally, hastening the death of the planet is a good thing if you're a psychotic end-times evangelical Christian.

They want the world to end.

They're positively thrilled that they might be lucky enough to be around when it does.

"Ah, Hecht, but you overstate the case."

No, I understate it.

Diagnose Me!

You may remember how Dr. Bill Frist (R -TN), the Senate Majority Leader, showed off his doctorin' chops last week by diagnosing Terri Schiavo's condition based on four-year-old video tapes.

You may also remember that Dr. Frist stands firmly as the only doctor on earth who isn't sure if you can get AIDS from tears and sweat, but that's not strictly relevant to this particular example.

A few days ago, DriveDemocracy.Org launched a campaign to have people send photographs and/or descriptions of their ailements, no matter how small, to the good doctor's office so he could use his incredible diagnostic powers to help all of us.

Apparently a a lot of people actually did it.

Aren't the internets neat?

Coulter's Trail of Tears

Pointing out sickening nutjobbery in the writings of Ann Coulter is like shooting fish in a barrel, but, also like shooting fish in a barrel, it's kind of fun.

Last week, Ann penned a nice column, stretching her wings a little to declare that liberals are bad, bad, bad. She ends by encouraging Florida Governor Jeb Bush to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, and backs up this advise thusly..

President Andrew Jackson is supposed to have said of a Supreme Court ruling he opposed: "Well, John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." The court's ruling was ignored. And yet, somehow, the republic survived.


Yes, Ann, you're right, the republic did survive. The Cherokee Nation, though, didn't do quite as well.

The Supreme Court order that Andrew Jackson refused to abide by was one that granted the Cherokee Indians the right to stay on their ancestral land and not be driven out because white people had discovered gold there. The tribe sued the government, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee. Jackson defied the court and sent troops to Georgia to force the Cherokee west along the infamous Trail of Tears. Two thousand Cherokee died on this death march, and their proud culture was decimated.

So, yes, good advice Ann, you insufferable nitwit.

Via Think Progress

Slow Burn

Believe it or not, sometimes people disagree with the things I write here. No, it's true! Sometimes they send me mean emails or leave acerbic comments. Occasionally they travel my links and call my friends Nazis.

Now you have another option. Burn the site down, trample it with dinosaurs, or flood the whole place. It'll take weeks for everything to dry out.
Go nuts


Life, Liberty and Security of Person

Excerpts from China's report on the Human Rights Record of the US, published each year in response to our State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practises, which was particularly ironic this year in chastising other countries for human rights abuses like "sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening them with dogs."

China hits back:

Life, Liberty and Security of Person

American society is characterized with rampant violent crimes, severe infringement of people's rights by law enforcement departments and lack of guarantee for people's rights to life, liberty and security of person.

The United States has the biggest number of gun owners, and gun violence has affected lots of innocent lives. About 31,000 Americans are killed and 75,000 wounded by firearms each year, which means more than 80 people are shot dead each day.

The United States characterizes itself as "a paradise for free people," but the ratio of its citizens deprived of freedom has remained among the highest.

According to statistics from the Department of Justice, the number of inmates in the United States jumped from 320,000 in 1980 to two million in 2000, a hike by six times. The number of convicted offenders may total more than six million if parolees and probationers are also counted.

People's Daily

And then this from the Political Rights and Freedom section...

The United States claims to be "a paragon of democracy," but American democracy is manipulated by the rich and malpractices are common. Elections in the United States are in fact a contest of money. The presidential and Congressional elections last year cost nearly $4 billion.

Campaign advertisement and political debates were full of distorted facts, false information and lies.


One could point out that China can put out a report like this easily since the statistics on all of this are a matter of public record around here, while their official policy is that nothing bad ever happened in China, but that wouldn't make many of their conclusions any less accurate.

Not to mention that we're accelerating towards a "nothing bad ever happened here" mentality pretty quickly ourselves.

Pogo? Sure, let's do Pogo again.


Bush Concerned About School Shooting, Now

Last week, President Bush cut short one of his cherished vacations to "save" Terri Schiavo from the tyranny of her own wishes.

On Saturday, Bush publicly expressed his regret over the school shooting on the Red Lake Chippewa reservation in Minnesota.

No word on why it took him 5 days to pretend to give a shit. I wonder what his response would have been if a bunch of white kids in a high school in Texas had been slaughtered. Maybe it would have been the same; maybe his sick callousness is truly colorblind, but I wonder...

"As we help the families in this community, we must do everything in our power to prevent tragedies like this from happening," Bush said.


Everything, that is, short of enacting any gun control laws whatsoever, or addressing the crippling poverty and lack of opportunity on Native American reservations, or considering what living in a culture of fear and vengeance does to our collective morality.

Everything in our power.

March 27, 2005
Sanctity of Life Crowd Issue Death Threats

As Terri Schiavo inches ever closer to her death and her family tries to end the madness, some who feel that life must always be protected are issuing death threats to the judges who have presided over her case.

Amid the pitched legal battle over Terri Schiavo that has been fought through his court, Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer has been under the protection of armed guards, and friends say his family also is protected.

Death threats have been made against him for allowing Michael Schiavo to remove the feeding tube that has kept his 41-year-old wife alive for the past 15 years, and the Southern Baptist church that Greer belonged to for years has asked him to leave the congregation.


Once again, the inability of some people to understand even their own religion, let alone the religious beliefs of anyone else, astounds me. It's like they read one or two pages of the bible and figured that was all they needed to know.

And they didn't even read that page all that closely.

Clearly they didn't read this page, wherein, it is written..

Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, "Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him.

"You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man's presence, for the judgment is God's.

the bible

Props are due to Judge Greer for standing up to the crazies, even though it means he is now under police guard and had to quit his church. You're better off without them, Judge. Thank you for doing your job.

Also, Terri's family deserves our respect and admiration for their general composure throughout their public crisis. While those who claim to speak for them have been vicious, they as a rule have not, and now they are making it very clear that the protesters who are disturbing their last moments with their daughter do not speak for them.

Police protecting the hospice were loudly heckled, prompting Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, to come out and ask the protesters to tone down their behavior.

"We are not going to solve the problem today by getting arrested," he told the restless crowd of about three dozen people. "We can change laws, but we are not going to change them today. ... You are not speaking for our family.'"


March 24, 2005
Google Map Bombs

Try a Google Maps search for hateful fearmongers in washington, dc.

Greenspan Takes a Bath


I just realized that I neglected to post this when it came out, but my friend Wil S. Hylton has a fascinating look at Alan Greenspan's career and influence in this month's GQ.

The most powerful man you know nothing about.

Godless Scientists Discover Dinosaur Soft Tissue

In a paper to be published tomorrow in Science, a team of pagan scientists describe the discovery of soft tissues, including blood vessels and possibly cells, in a 70-million-year-old T-Rex in Montana.

The paper says that the blood vessels are "virtually indistinguishable" from blood vessels in modern Ostrich bones. Many scientists believe that birds are the closest living relatives of ancient dinosaurs.

The researchers believe it may be possible to recover intact proteins from the find, which would in turn make it possible to finally clone us up an army of dinosaurs to help out with the war on terror. Look out, Osama.

I can only assume that the proponents of Intelligent Design and other such nonsense will do everything in their power to keep this exciting find from polluting the minds of the nation's children.

Story - The New York Times

Supreme Court Won't Intervene in Schiavo Case
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted, rejecting a desperate appeal by her parents to keep their severely brain-damaged daughter alive.

The decision, announced in a terse one-page order, marked the end of a dramatic and disheartening four-day dash through the federal court system by Bob and Mary Schindler.

Justices did not explain their decision, which was at least the fifth time they have declined to get involved in the Schiavo case.

Associate Press

March 23, 2005
Schiavo Case To Go to Supreme Court

Terri Schiavo's parents have filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, while Jeb Bush tries to make the governor of Florida the most powerful office in the land. I guess he's just practicing.

Gov. Bush succeeded this afternoon in getting a Florida state court to hear new motions in the case, after an affidavit was filed by a Christian conservative bioethicist, Dr. William P. Cheshire, saying that Schiavo has been misdiagnosed lo these 15 long years and is in fact "minimally conscious."

Jeb Bush and others think they may be able to wrest custody of Terri Schiavo from her husband and give it, not to her parents, but to the state.

My god, what are these people thinking? Can you imagine the precedent something like that could set?

Oh, and I'm damn tired of conservatives' pathetic talking points on this issue (see the comments on this post). The best is when they try to excuse their own hypocrisy on issues like state's rights by pointing out that liberals are hypocritical, too. Good argument.

Face it, the position staked out by the Congressional leadership and the White House flies directly in the face of core conservative principles. They are pandering to the religious ultra-right and to the anti-abortion movement.

The whole thing is just so sad. I hope it's over soon.

Appeals Court Will Not Order Feeding Tube Reinserted

Breaking -- The three-judge Circuit Court panel in Atlanta has declined to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted.

The panel voted 2-1 to reject Schiavo's parents' appeal, and in one sentence, summed up the whole affair quite well.

In its 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said the woman's parents "failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims."

"There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo," the ruling read. "We all have our own family, our own loved ones, and our own children. However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision concerning a question of law."

AP, via NYT

Next stop, Supreme Court, where it's very hard for me to imagine a much different outcome.

March 22, 2005
Pixel Roller

Wow. This is really cool.

pixel roller

Primed for Bench-Clearing Brawl

I'd like to call attention to the following passage from a New York Times article discussing how conservatives see the Terri Schiavo case as big moment in their push to stack the country's courts with far-right conservatives.

Conservatives, already disdainful of the way judges have handled subjects like same-sex marriage and abortion, say the court treatment of the Schiavo case illustrates a judiciary that is willing to ignore the will of the public and elected officials.

Within a few hours of the decision by Judge James D. Whittemore of Federal District Court in Tampa, who refused to order nutrition restored to Ms. Schiavo, conservatives were expressing their outrage, accusing the judge of giving no deference to the legislation rushed through Congress.

New York Times

This clearly shows how much more is at stake here than the life of Terri Schiavo. Her life, harsh as it may sound, is largely over. Whether she stay biologically alive or not won't have a significant direct impact on anything. The ultimate disposition of her case, though, could have a huge impact.

It has obvious implications for states' rights and the right to refuse medical care, as has been extensively discussed. But the above passage shows what's really at stake, and how completely out of touch these Republicans are.

First, the District Court judge did not "ignore the will of the public." His opinion was right in line with public opinion. Not to mention that it is not in any way the role of the courts to follow the will of the public. If it were, we would still have separate water fountains.

Further, the judge had no responsibility to give "deference to the legislation rushed through Congress." His role was to decide the case on its merits, and to determine if there was enough reason to overturn 20-plus previous court decisions. Congress rushed through legislation, and most Americans feel that they overstepped their bounds. In a very real sense, judge Whittemore;s role was not to "defer" to the political maneuverings of lawmakers, but to consider carefully if their machinations warrant the overturning of the extensive precedent already established in this case. In other words, he was doing his job. Conservatives have cried that he had no right to "take so long" to make this decision, as if the ideal would be to have federal judges who make snap decisions.

We have to make sure that these people remember that the decisions so far by the courts - by ALL of the courts - are not "outside of the mainstream," but right smack in the middle of it. Just because conservative Christians make a lot of noise doesn't mean they're opinion is the majority view. The facts clearly show otherwise. It couldn't be more important that we don't let this issue become a galvanizing point for arch-conservatives to continue their attack on the judiciary branch of our government.

And that's what this is. The view of judges and judging that conservatives have recently pushed is fundamentally at odds with the core intention of our legal system and our system of checks and balances. Of course the judiciary has always and forever been political, but what they're trying to do goes far beyond that. They want the federal courts to be a rubber stamp for the majority opinion in Congress or the White House, just so long as those majorities are both Republican. Watch them change their tune when they're no longer in power, or look to the history books to see how they've argued in the past. They have no interest in the rule of law, they are only interested in power.

Latest on Schiavo

The District Court judge denied Terri Schiavo's parents' request to restore the feeding tube this morning, who immediately appealed to the Circuit Court, which is considering the case now.

Judeg Whittemore if the Tampa District Court said in a 13-page ruling that the case had already been "exhaustively litigated" and that the Terri's parents had failed to show a sufficient likelihood of success in a new trial to overturn the rulings of the previous 20 judges.

Full details from The New York Times.

Not Appropriate

schiavo poll

Kevin Drum and Think Progress point to a very interesting new poll released today by ABC News on the Schiavo case.

So not only do fully 70% of those polled think Congress' intervention is inappropriate, but 67% aren't buying the motivation of political leaders, either.

Further, it seems that even the "base" that the nuts are trying to excite doesn't much agree with them. Among evangelical Protestants, 46% support the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube, while 44% oppose, and they oppose Congressional intervention by a majority of 50 to 44 percent. Close numbers, sure, but keep in mind these are the evangelicals. If you add in non-evangelical Protestants and Catholics, the majorities climb to about two-thirds.

March 21, 2005

Remember Jeff/James Gannon/Guckert? Well, he's still an idiot, and featured in The New York Times' Magazine's "20 Questions" column this week. An excerpt..

Scott McClellan, the press secretary to President Bush, called on you and allowed you to ask questions on a nearly daily basis. What, exactly, is your relationship with him?

I was just another guy in the press room. Did I try to curry favor with him? Sure. When he got married, I left a wedding card for him in the press office. People are saying this proves there is some link. But as Einstein said, "Sometimes a wedding card is just a wedding card.''

You mean like "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar''? That wasn't Einstein. That was Freud.

Oh, Freud. O.K. I got my old Jewish men confused.

The New York Times Magazine

Bush All Wet On Presumption of Life

When George Bush signed S. 686 into law this morning, throwing jurisdiction in the Schiavo case to the federal courts, he had this to say..

"In cases like this one our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favour of life. This presumption is especially critical for those like Terri Schiavo who live at the mercy of others."


In 1999, then Texas Governor Bush signed into law the Texas futile care law, which allows doctors, with the support of a hospital ethics committee, to overrule the wishes of family members and end remove life-support measure from patients if they determine that further care is futile. The hospitals are required only to give the family 10 days notice so that they can shop around for another facility that will agree to continue care.

This law was enforced last week, as Wanda Hudson watched her 5-month-old son die after a judge ordered his life-support be removed against his mother's wishes.

As far as anyone knows, no one from the federal government attempted to intervene.

In other news, the bounds of George W. Bush's hypocrisy have yet to be discovered, with some experts claiming they may be beyond the limits of our imaginations.

Networks Ignore Polls on Schiavo Case

Salon.com points out that nearly every major media outlet has completely ignored the fact that in every public opinion poll done in the past few weeks, Americans overwhelmingly support Michael Schiavo's right to make life-or-death decisions on his wife's behalf. Despite all their high-flung rhetoric, Republicans in Congress are ignoring that fully 87% of Americans (ABC News and Washington Post poll) would want their feeding tubes removed if they were in Terri Schiavo's condition.

Salon rightly points out that this incredible disregard for public opinion by politicians and the media is not simply another example of the crapiness of the modern corporate media, but shows just how far right the Republican leadership is and how far they're willing to go to impose their morality on the public, regardless of what the public wants.

Imagine how differently the televised debate would have unfolded over the past few days if journalists had simply done their job and asked Terri Schiavo's pro-life proponents why an overwhelming percentage of Americans disagree with them about this case. Indeed, polls taken over the past two years show that Americans are adamant that the spouse, and not the parents, should decide on a loved one's right to die. And in the past week, an overwhelming majority -- 87 percent -- of Americans polled by ABC News and the Washington Post said that if they were in the same state as Terri Schiavo, they too would want their feeding tube removed.

Just as every judge who has heard the Schiavo case so far has ruled in Michael's favor, so has every poll taken shown that the majority of the public supports the husband's position. In survey after survey dating from 2003 to the present, asked who should have the final right-to-die decision, the majority of Americans have answered: the spouse. From national polls (e.g., ABC News/Washington Post, 65-25; and Fox News, 50-31) to statewide polls (e.g., KING-TV in Washington, 67-19; and St. Petersburg Times in Florida, 75-13) to unscientific, interactive polls (e.g., CNN, 65-26; and MSNBC, 63-37), the response has always been the same. A 2003 poll by CNN/USA Today had a similar result: Eighty percent agreed that a spouse should be allowed to decide whether to end the life of a person in a persistent vegetative state.

Salon.com (subscription or ad-watching required)

Even the outlets who sponsored the polls have suddenly stopped talking about them since the case became a political football.

On March 15, when ABC devoted its "Nightline" program to the Schiavo story, host Chris Bury informed the audience, "A new ABC News poll suggests that a clear majority of Americans, 65 percent, believe that husbands and wives should have the final say in family disputes over life support. Only 25 percent say parents should make that decision. And when asked, 'Would you want to be kept alive in Terri Schiavo's condition?' an overwhelming number, 87 percent, said no."

The next morning, ABC's "Good Morning America" repeated the poll's finding. On March 17, however, as conservative Republicans in Congress announced that they would try to intervene on Terri's behalf by passing legislation, it became clear that the story was morphing from a legal and ethical one into a political one. That night ABC's "World News Tonight" covered the story, but suddenly any references to the network's own poll had disappeared. The next night the same program opened with three straight reports about the day's developments in the Schiavo story. But again, not once did anchor Peter Jennings or ABC reporters inform viewers that just a few days earlier 87 percent of Americans had said they would not want to go on living with a feeding tube if they were in Schiavo's condition, or that they sided with the husband in this saga by a margin of nearly 3-to-1.


Death With Dignity

I've been thinking a lot about this Terri Schiavo case these past few days - it's almost literally impossible to avoid - and here's how I see it.

The whole case boils down to the right to refuse medical care. People who do not believe in the use of modern medicine to prolong life - Jehovah's Witnesses, etc - exercise this right all the time. They get cancer, and instead of being treated, they pray, and they usually die. Their right to do so has never been successfully challenged.

In the Schiavo case, 11 separate courts have decided that the best evidence we have is that Terri communicated to her husband, her best friend, and her brother-in-law that she would not want to be kept alive with "tubes" and would not want to be in a completely dependent state, as she clearly is. In my opinion, that's the end of the argument. There is no compelling evidence that she has changed her wishes, so you have to fall back to what you know.

Sure, it's possible that her husband is lying about her wishes, but why the hell would he do that? No one can come up with a reasonable motive. He stands to gain nothing from her death. The only thing the other side can come up with are wild conspiracies that he's trying to cover something up, they know not what.

The TV is constantly showing video of Terri, and seeing those videos can cloud the issue for the best of us. Seeing her look around and appear to smile, our instinct is to assign all the qualities of human life that we associate with those looks. But that's just us. That's not her. More importantly, though, that's not the point.

Whatever she looks like, whether she appears to be in pain or not, the only information we have points to her indicating she would not want to be kept alive. Our laws are not about keeping alive anyone who makes us feel something or who appears to be free from pain; they are about keeping alive those who wish to be kept alive, and allowing those who do not to die in peace.

At least, those used to be our laws.

Finally, I can't end without quoting the following exchange between Larry King and John MacArthur, pastor of the Grace Community Church, just because it's so mind-blowingly hypocritical.

KING: Let's assume that he's [Michael Schiavo] telling the truth with what she said. What do you owe morally, the promise to someone when you promise someone something. He promised her he would do that. What does he owe her?

MACARTHUR: I think, that's a bad promise. You've got to take that one back.

KING: Bad promise.

MACARTHUR: Yes, you've got to take that one back. You can't take a life. The Bible says, God says, I give life, I take life, I am the Lord.

KING: So, therefore, you're against capital punishment?



March 19, 2005
The DeLay Distraction

You know Tom DeLay is just loving that this Schiavo case came along when it did. Facing endless criticism over his ethical lapses and general assiness, DeLay was practically beaming today when he announced that the Congress had, in record time, passed legislation forcing the Schiavo case into the federal courts.

Congressional leaders reached a compromise Saturday on legislation to force the case of Terri Schiavo into federal court, an extraordinary intervention intended to prolong the life of the brain-damaged woman whose condition has reignited a painful national debate over when medical treatment should be withdrawn.

Top lawmakers in both the House and the Senate said they hoped to pass the compromise bill as early as Sunday. They said it would allow Ms. Schiavo's parents to ask a federal judge to restore her feeding tube on the grounds that their daughter's constitutional rights were being violated by the withholding of nutrition needed to keep her alive.

Conservative lawmakers had scrambled to find a way to override a Florida judge's order Friday to remove her feeding tube. Ms. Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, has maintained for years that his wife would not want to be kept alive in her current state by such artificial means.

The New York Times

So Delay gets his distraction, and court decisions are now apparently overturned at the whim of Republican leaders in Congress.

IMAX Films Fail "What Most People In Kansas Think" Test

As you can well imagine, this makes me very angry.

Several Imax theaters, including some in science museums, are refusing to show movies that mention the subject - or the Big Bang or the geology of the earth - fearing protests from people who object to films that contradict biblical descriptions of the origin of Earth and its creatures.

The number of theaters rejecting such films is small, people in the industry say - perhaps a dozen or fewer, most in the South. But because only a few dozen Imax theaters routinely show science documentaries, the decisions of a few can have a big impact on a film's bottom line - or a producer's decision to make a documentary in the first place.

People who follow trends at commercial and institutional Imax theaters say that in recent years, religious controversy has adversely affected the distribution of a number of films, including "Cosmic Voyage," which depicts the universe in dimensions running from the scale of subatomic particles to clusters of galaxies; "Galápagos," about the islands where Darwin theorized about evolution; and "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," an underwater epic about the bizarre creatures that flourish in the hot, sulfurous emanations from vents in the ocean floor.

"Volcanoes," released in 2003 and sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and Rutgers University, has been turned down at about a dozen science centers, mostly in the South, said Dr. Richard Lutz, the Rutgers oceanographer who was chief scientist for the film. He said theater officials rejected the film because of its brief references to evolution, in particular to the possibility that life on Earth originated at the undersea vents.

Carol Murray, director of marketing for the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, said the museum decided not to offer the movie after showing it to a sample audience, a practice often followed by managers of Imax theaters. Ms. Murray said 137 people participated in the survey, and while some thought it was well done, "some people said it was blasphemous."


"If it's not going to draw a crowd and it is going to create controversy," she said, "from a marketing standpoint I cannot make a recommendation" to show it.

The New York Times

Besides the obvious outrage of science museums rejecting scientific films because religious people object, this "director of marketing" should be well aware that if a film creates controversy, ticket sales will almost certainly go through the roof. Controversy is almost never bad for the bottom line.

Carol Murray's lack of marketing savvy not withstanding, this whole religion vs. science thing is really getting out of control. It seems to me that a lot of people who don't care to live in a fundamentalist theocracy (see Afghanistan and Iran for examples) - we'll call these people the "Not-Insanes" - don't take this issue seriously enough. For rational people, the whole thing is too absurd to be real. We can't really imagine that so many people can be so narrow-minded. It hurts the head. It's reason versus fantasy, and reason is losing. We have to fight harder.

The article ends with this anecdote..

Dr. Lutz, the Rutgers oceanographer, recalled a showing of "Volcanoes" he and Mr. Low attended at the New England Aquarium. When the movie ended, a little girl stood in the audience to challenge Mr. Low on the film's suggestion that Earth might have formed billions of years ago in the explosion of a star. "I thought God created the Earth," she said.

He replied, "Maybe that's how God did it."

Conservatives would see this exchange as an attack on the poor little girl's beliefs. She's just seen a film that contradicts what her preacher told her. How dare a science museum so abuse an innocent little girl?

The reason for this reaction is fear. They are afraid to have to try to explain to the little girl that the world is a complex place, and that there may not be any easy answers. They are afraid of dealing with their religion's texts as metaphors or allegories because it's hard. It's much easier to take everything at its literal word and stop thinking. Mostly, though, they are afraid of letting the little girl make up her own mind. In other words, they hate freedom.

The answer the scientist gives to the little girl is a good one, and demonstrates that an understanding of science and religious faith need not be mutually exclusive. His answer begs many more questions, and that's a GOOD THING. Instead of putting bags on their children's heads and sending them out into the world to fail, fundamentalists could maybe try exercising their god-given power to reason. They want to honor god by denying the powers he gave them. Frankly, the god that they believe in would seem to be profoundly cruel to have given man a rational mind and all this empirical evidence, and then demand that he ignore it.

It is their religious duty to go against their nature, and to prevent their children - and ours! - from exercising theirs.

March 18, 2005
Feeding Tubes and Vegetable Subpoenas

Terry Schiavo's feeding tube was removed this afternoon, despite an absurdly heavy-handed attempt by Congressional Republicans to prevent it.

Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, after a heart attack deprived her brain of oxygen. Republicans attempted to subpoena her to appear before them, because of the protection provided to future witnesses before Congress.

A hard case, to be sure, but feeding tubes are removed from people in her condition every day. The government's intervention in Terri's case is political, not moral. Bush vaguely claims he wants to "build a culture of life." Nice words from the most executin'-est governor we've ever had.

The courts have decided again and again that Schiavo's husband has the right to carry out the wishes she communicated to him before she fell ill, but Jeb Bush and now Republicans in Congress keep interfering. Who's being an "activist" in this situation?

She won't recover. Let her die. It's the right thing to do.

Oh, and get yourself a living will, lest you too suffer the ignominy of having your most personal and grave decisions, or those of your loved ones, made by Bill Frist.

Lil' Prison Time

lil kim

No! Say it ain't so, Lil' Kim!

Grammy-winning rapper Lil' Kim was convicted on Thursday of conspiracy and perjury for lying to a grand jury investigating two of her friends involved in a 2001 shootout outside a Manhattan radio station.

But Lil' Kim, whose real name is Kimberly Jones, was acquitted of the most serious charge, obstructing justice, which could have put her behind bars for up to 10 years.

The 30-year-old performer could still face significant prison time. The three perjury counts and the conspiracy charge carry maximum terms of five years each.


The judge has indicated that Kim could get a more lenient sentence if she owns up to her crime. Prosecutors argued that the rapper thinks she's "above the law" because she's a rapper.

Not smart.

March 17, 2005
Why Does Baseball Hate America?


Congress began holding hearings on steroid use in baseball today, demonstrating that they really, really have nothing to do.

So, if you have any ideas for some stuff they could look into, if you have a problem with potholes on your street or ornery garbage men, say, maybe now would be a good time to give your representatives in Washington a jingle. They're bored as hell.

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday said a national anti-steroid policy might be needed to deter the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs among Major League Baseball players and the student athletes who idolize them.

As a high-profile showdown between Congress and baseball got underway, lawmakers said the sport bore responsibility for spiraling rates of illegal steroid use among high school athletes and needed to do more to clean up its act.

"You can't do this just by sending people into the classrooms and talking about it. You've got to start from the top down," said Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the House of Representatives Government Reform Committee.

Other lawmakers suggested Congress could revoke the sport's antitrust exemption that has shielded it from competition.


Okay, a few things here...

One, who cares.

Two, why the hell does baseball have an antitrust exemption? That should be revoked whether they clean up the 'roids or not. Ridiculous.

More seriously, though, this issue is silly. Major league athletes use performance enhancing drugs because the game is filled with obscene amounts of money. End of story. With the kind of money they make, it's ridiculous to expect them not to do everything humanly possible to gain a tiny advantage. Nearly anyone would do it.

Further, using drugs is not the only way they enhance performance. Will the Congress hold hearings on laser eye surgery? Is it really fair if some players (who have no vision problems) have the shape of their corneas altered so that they have the vision of a hawk? How about Tommy John surgery, where the ligaments in the forearm are rearranged to produce a more powerful pitcher? Is that fair? (Currently this surgery is only being done on pitchers who have had arm injuries, but it surely won't be long before someone finds a doctor to do it electively.)

Congress justifies its attention to this issue by claiming they're doing it for "the children." If pro ballplayers use drugs to get ahead, kids will see that it's the only way to make it in the big leagues and will follow suit. Well, if they're not naturally one of the top 50 or 100 athletes on the planet, then they're probably right.

But if it's all about the children, then why no hearings on alcohol advertising associated with pro sports? What about basketball players jumping into the stands and kicking the shit out of the fans, where are the hearings on that?

Of course I'm being a bit facetious. The point here is dual: 1 - Congress has much more important things to deal with. The committee that's holding these hearings is called the House Government Reform Committee. Maybe they should focus on that. 2 - They can't win on this issue. The way to get drugs out of the game is with economic pressure from the fans in the form of not buying tickets, not through legislation.

Bush Nominates Wolf As Henhouse Guard

Props to Rich for the headline...

I haven't weighed in on Wolfowitz's nomination for head of the World Bank, because, well, I've been busy, but this article from Salon pretty well sums it up.

The nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to be president of the World Bank, following his commission of a long and costly series of blunders as deputy secretary of defense in George W. Bush's first term, comes as no surprise to those familiar with his career. Wolfowitz is the Mr. Magoo of American foreign policy. Like the myopic cartoon character, Wolfowitz stumbles onward blindly and serenely, leaving wreckage and confusion behind.

Critics are wrong to portray Wolfowitz as a malevolent genius. In fact, he's friendly, soft-spoken, well meaning and thoughtful. He would be the model of a scholar and a statesman but for one fact: He is completely inept. His three-decade career in U.S. foreign policy can be summed up by the term that President Bush coined to describe the war in Iraq that Wolfowitz promoted and helped to oversee: a "catastrophic success."

Even the greatest statesman makes some mistakes. But Wolfowitz is perfectly incompetent. He is the Mozart of ineptitude, the Einstein of incapacity. To be sure, he has his virtues, the foremost of which is consistency. He has been consistently wrong about foreign policy for 30 years.


Alterman had an interesting encounter with Wolfie a few days ago, and he shows, as others have, that Wolfowitz really isn't evil in the style of Rove or Cheney. He's a true believer, he really think these policies will work. Of course, he's out of his mind, as decades of evidence have shown. But still, he's only, like, 55% bad. And these days, that's pretty good.

But should he run the World Bank? Uhhh, no.

March 16, 2005
Only On Fox

Via Media Matters...


A perfect little example of the kind of crap that FOXNews attempts to pass off as journalism.

It seems some lady was driving around in her monster truck (she keeps saying she couldn't tell what was going on because she is "so high up") with a couple of Bush stickers on the back when she was accosted by another driver, who honked his horn, pointed, and showed her a handmade sign that said, "Never forget Bush's illegal oil war murdered thousands in Iraq."

There was a nasty exchange that resulted in this guy getting out of his car and chasing her. No physical contact was described.

Your basic difference of opinion, right?

Well, as the lady is telling her story, the host keeps referring to the man's actions as "trying to run you off the road." He asks her if the man could see that she had children in the car ("No, I'm too high up."), because then his "running her off the road" would be that much worse.

She never corrects him that nobody tried to "run her off the road." There is never any mention, except from the host, of her being in any physical danger.

Oh, and she allows that "she might have given him the finger." The host doesn't seem to think that could be relevant to the incident.

Of course, the guy getting out of his car and chasing her is ridiculous, and his little sign is a bit over the top, but the point here is that FOX sucks. They're dirty liars.

FOX sucks.

Senate Votes, Caribou Lose
The Senate endorsed oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge today, giving President Bush and others who favor exploration of the Alaska wilderness a major victory.

The 51-to-49 vote was in favor of a budget resolution that assumes revenues of some $5 billion from drilling fees over the next decade, with the federal government and the state of Alaska to split the money.

While this afternoon's vote is not the final word on the issue, it nevertheless made drilling in the wilds of Alaska - an idea favored by the oil industry and fiercely opposed by environmental groups - far more likely than before.

For drilling to take place, the Senate will later have to pass a measure explicitly authorizing the opening of the wildlife refuge to drilling, something that until now has been prohibited. Then the House of Representatives would have to explicitly authorize drilling as well.

New York Times

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski took the time before the vote to tell Senators that "the price of oil just jumped up to 56 bucks a barrel this morning," clearly implying that opening ANWR to drilling would have a significant effect on oil prices, which it won't. It will, however, have a significant effect on the profits of oil companies and produce a huge influx of cash to Alaska.

Conservatives are full of shit on this issue. They consistently cite recoverable oil figures that assume that the entire area would be usable, when if fact huge parts of the refuge present recovery challenges too expensive to make drilling economically sensible. While they use recoverable oil figures from the entire refuge, from the other side of their mouths they cite that only 2,000 acres out of 19 million would be affected. They also ignore all of the impact from building the infrastructure to support drilling on those 2,000 acres - roads, pipelines, etc.

The biggest problem with the scheme is that it just won't make much difference. A USGS report shows that the mean expected oil recovery would be 7.7 billion barrels. The U.S. currently consumes 7.3 billion barrels of oil a year. Naturally this output would be spread over many years, but you get the idea. It's not as much as they say.

Finally, conservatives love to justify this plan by saying we should reduce our dependence on Mid-East oil. True enough. Meanwhile, they steadfastly oppose conservation measures (they're "conservatives" remember) that would do exactly that, and do it permanently rather than the temporary non-fix of ANWR drilling.

If we want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we should try consuming less oil. Seems pretty simple.

AOL Listens!

In a startling show of corporate responsibility and attentiveness to customer demands, AOL has changed it's Terms of Service after all the hubbub last week about their claiming rights to your IM conversations.

They spent a few days trying to spin their way out, but that didn't work, so they capitulated. Good for them.

The new TOS clarifies that they do not monitor IM conversations and that their claims of rights applies only to information posted to "public areas on AIM products," like message boards and chat rooms.

As explained in detail in the AIM Privacy Policy, AOL does not read your private online communications when you use any of the communication tools on AIM Products. If, however, you use these tools to post Content or other information to public areas on AIM Products (for example, in chat rooms or online message boards), other online users will have access to this information and Content.   You may only post Content to public areas on AIM Products that you created or which the owner of the Content has given you permission to post. You may not post or distribute Content to public areas on AIM Products that is illegal or that violates these Terms of Service. By posting or submitting Content to public areas of AIM Products, you represent and warrant that (i) you own all the rights to this Content or are authorized to use and distribute this Content to public areas of AIM Products and (ii) this Content does not and will not infringe any copyright or any other third-party right nor violate any applicable law or regulation.   You or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to public areas of any AIM Product. However, by submitting or posting Content to public areas of AIM Products (for example, posting a message on a message board or submitting your picture for the "Rate-A-Buddy" feature), you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. Once you submit or post Content to any public area on an AIM Product, AOL does not need to give you any further right to inspect or approve uses of such Content or to compensate you for any such uses. AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating Content posted to public areas of AIM Products.


March 14, 2005
Behind Enemy Lines

Liz and I went to a screening of Behind Enemy Lines as part of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival tonight. Some thoughts...

Wait.. first, a synopsis.

An Israeli police officer and a Palestinian journalist - once friends, now on bitterly divided sides of national conflict - reunite for an emotional journey through Jerusalem and the landscape of the Intifada, as each attempts to convince the other of his own truth. Benny Hernes, a captain in the Israeli police force, first met journalist Adnan Joulani on a peace mission to Japan four years ago, and they formed a surprising and optimistic friendship. In the intervening time, however, a member of Adnan's family has been killed by settlers, and Adnan's frustration rises as he covers the conflict daily as a journalist. Benny has meanwhile become a settler and trains special Israeli forces to combat Palestinian militants. In Dov Gil-Har's moving and compassionate documentary, Benny and Adnan agree to meet again, spending four days traveling to locations that each has chosen to represent his own reality. From the Holocaust Memorial of Yad Vashem and the Temple Mount, to the Jenin refugee camp, Benny and Adnan struggle to find a way past the violence that separates them, and for a moment to see through the other's eyes.

Seattle Jewish Film Festival

The film was excellent, not for it's production or execution, but for presenting a truly unique perspective on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Personal, gut-wrenching, and relatively even-handed, it leaves many more questions than it answers, as most good documentaries do.

Of note was the sign on the door to the Cinerama, which alerted patrons that all bags would be subject to search, a chilling reminder of how volatile a subject the film deals with. Also noted: nearly every single person in Seattle's Jewish community seems to know every other. There is a very distinct common culture and style among many American Jewish communities - I was reminded constantly of people I knew growing up in Northwest Baltimore. Finally, the Israeli police officer featured in the film, Benny, wears a t-shirt for the last 20 minutes or so that reads, "FBI - Female Body Inspector" like he's a 16 year old at Daytona Beach in 1987.

As for the meat of the matter, that conflict is... how do you say... a giant fucking mess. It's hard to imagine a peaceful resolution when the beliefs of the two sides are so fundamentally opposed. When each side sees the other as an infidel, an evil presence on their holy soil, what common ground can be reached? Each side displays the exact same stubbornness, ironically born of nearly the same ideas. This is their land, and they will die before they are run off of it.

I have to fall back to my position on this issue, first laid out when I announced my bid for the presidency over 2 years ago: No one gets to live there. It's a basic parenting technique. If you can't share, nobody gets it. The holy land becomes an International Peace City or something; you can go visit, but you can't stay. Go, say your prayers, kiss your wall, buy a nice souvenir, and go home. Don't make me turn this car around.

Again: Religion is Not Science

I've made my position on this crap clear before, but whenever I come across an article like this one, I can't help but reiterate, once again, that religion is not science.

It literally makes me a little sick to my stomach to think that people are making progress at getting the idea that evolution is unproven out there and into the science classes of our children.

Let's be perfectly clear about this: Evolution is a fact. It is only a theory in the sense that everything known to science is strictly speaking, "only" a theory. There is no absolute truth in science, but there are many scientific truths. That is, there are many "facts" about the natural world that it would simply be absurd to deny.

When you drop a brick on Earth, it will fall to the ground. You can rely on that. It's possible, however, that one day you'll drop a brick and it will just hover there. The chances are incredibly slim, but it is possible. This, of course, does not call the fact of the existence of gravity into question is any relevant way.

The same is true of evolution. While there is plenty to debate about the mechanism by which evolution takes place, there is no debate over whether or not organisms evolve. They do. That's it. They do. We've seen it.

Evolution is a fact and a theory. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Well evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.

Moreover, "fact" doesn't mean "absolute certainty"; there ain't no such animal in an exciting and complex world. The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us falsely for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

Evolutionists have been very clear about this distinction of fact and theory from the very beginning, if only because we have always acknowledged how far we are from completely understanding the mechanisms (theory) by which evolution (fact) occurred. Darwin continually emphasized the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory--natural selection--to explain the mechanism of evolution.

Stephen J. Gould

Or this...

The honest scientist, like the philosopher, will tell you that nothing whatever can be or has been proved with fully 100% certainty, not even that you or I exist, nor anyone except himself, since he might be dreaming the whole thing. Thus there is no sharp line between speculation, hypothesis, theory, principle, and fact, but only a difference along a sliding scale, in the degree of probability of the idea. When we say a thing is a fact, then, we only mean that its probability is an extremely high one: so high that we are not bothered by doubt about it and are ready to act accordingly. Now in this use of the term fact, the only proper one, evolution is a fact. For the evidence in favor of it is as voluminous, diverse, and convincing as in the case of any other well established fact of science concerning the existence of things that cannot be directly seen, such as atoms, neutrons, or solar gravitation ...

So enormous, ramifying, and consistent has the evidence for evolution become that if anyone could now disprove it, I should have my conception of the orderliness of the universe so shaken as to lead me to doubt even my own existence. If you like, then, I will grant you that in an absolute sense evolution is not a fact, or rather, that it is no more a fact than that you are hearing or reading these words.

H. J. Muller (quoted on talkorigins.org)

Compare these reasoned arguments with the argument of Southern Baptist minister Terry Fox of Kansas...

"... most people in Kansas don't think we came from monkeys."

Washington Post

So here's the choice we face right now: Do we want our children to be taught the basic natural science that has been tested and proven by generations of natural scientists using rigorous scientific methods, or do we want them to learn ideas that have met the truth standard of "what most people in Kansas think"?

seal of approval

March 13, 2005
Pressure Mounts on DeLay

Oh please, oh please, oh please..

I can't WAIT to watch this bastard go down.

Hopefully, he'll to fight it long enough to take a good bit of his party's "credibility" with him.


Those of you who use AOL's Instant Messenger service, which is nearly everyone who uses any instant messenger service, may be interested in the recent update they've made to their Terms of Service.

Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.

(emphasis mine)

So yeah, isn't that great? They can eavesdrop on your conversations, log them, keep them forever, use them in promotional materials or make a movie out of them, and there's nothing you can do about it.

This is basically like the phone company telling you that you give up all rights to privacy by communicating through their equipment. If they want to record your calls and all tell the world your business, they can. You have no right to privacy, it's their network.

Of course this is one of those things that was dreamed up to protect AOL, and I'm not so conspiracy-minded to think that they have any real intention of using this power. That, however, is not the point, nor does it make this any less outrageous.

More and more, companies are getting you to agree to things you would never agree to, giving up rights you would naturally assume are yours forever, simply by putting this kind of language in a "Terms of Service" contract that you automatically agree to simply by using the product. You have no power to negotiate the terms, they are dictated to you. Sure, you can just not use the product, but as these technologies become more and more basic and fundamental to the way people communicate, that starts to present a problem.

Meanwhile, Congress is busy investigating the scourge of steroid use in baseball, a vital use of their time and our money.

Via Thrashing Through Cyberspace.

March 10, 2005

Top Stories in my Reuters "Late U.S. Headlines" email...


March 9, 2005
Senate Backs Rich, Screws Poor

Well, it looks like this bankruptcy bill will almost certainly pass. In the interest of expedience, the majority in the Senate has decided to leave open massive loopholes for the obscenely wealthy while refraining from softening the impact on the working poor.

God bless 'em.

Hey, guys, why not vote yourselves another pay raise while you're in there?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Efforts to soften the effect of tougher bankruptcy rules on families with children and close a loophole for the wealthy were rejected by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as the legislation moved toward expected passage.


With Senate approval virtually assured after the bill cleared two key hurdles on Tuesday, backers on Wednesday rejected proposals to ease the impact of the legislation on families with children, young people below age 21 and people with below-median incomes.

They also turned thumbs down on a proposal by Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy to close a loophole that benefits wealthier individuals in states with unlimited homestead exemptions, such as Texas and Florida.

"Millionaire deadbeats buy a huge mansion in Florida and Texas to shield their wealth from creditors. The harsh rules of bankruptcy being established by this bill will trap hard working middle class families, but the unlimited homestead exemption will allow rich debtors to escape," Kennedy argued.

His amendment would have capped the amount allowed for homestead exemptions at $300,000. It was rejected 47-53.

Senate backers of the bill said they were trying avoid amendments because House of Representatives leaders have pledged to act promptly if the Senate does not make major changes


That's nice, isn't it? They're not voting on amendments with consideration to the justice of the law they're passing, but just to move things along. Sure, it protects the rich and screws the poor, but what did you want them to do, argue all week about it? They have fundraisers to get to.

The Last Credit Card of a Scoundrel

Today I received a new version of my Discover card.

Here's what my old one looked like...

And here's what my new one looks like...

Nobody ever asked me what kind of new card I wanted, so I guess crass nationalism is the default card now. I had to call to activate it, and I almost asked if they would send me something else, but I figured that would be a sure-fire way onto a no fly list, so I didn't. Thankfully, I never use the card, so I won't have to actually hand this tacky piece of crap over to anyone in person.

UPDATE: I went on the website and requested a different card.

Mais oui!

March 8, 2005
Homosexual Tyranny

In my capacity as Main Web Thingie Guy for The Stranger, I get to see all the wacko far-right hate mail that flows into the office. Generally I delete it with extreme prejudice, but occasionally something catches my eye and I present it here, in a segment I like to call, "Right Wing Nutballs Are Bad and I Don't Like Them." Latest installment...

This one came from the "Traditional Values Coalition." Their name, of course, refers to the fine tradition of bigotry.

This one was about the Connecticut legislature's consideration of extending civil union rights to homosexuals. The argument is that the fight for civil unions is just the opening round in the larger battle for full marriage rights, which, as we all know, will lead directly to the gruesome deaths of millions of innocent children.

Currently, Connecticut state law clearly states that marriage is limited to a union of one man and one woman, but the incrementalists are seeking to hijack state law and create a situation where leftist judges will be more than willing to impose a homosexual tyranny upon the people of Connecticut.

The fact is that homosexuals are not really interested in monogamous marriage. They’re interested in undermining and completely redefining the institution of marriage to include polyamorous relationships and what can be accurately called consensual infidelity as practiced by most homosexuals--especially males--who maintain regular partnerships but also seek out dangerous liaisons on the side. This is a well-documented fact and many homosexuals openly admit this to be true.

The citizens of Connecticut must demand that their legislators vote overwhelmingly against this stealth effort to undermine traditional marriage. The future of the family and of the emotional well-being of children is at stake.


The words "undermining and completely redefining" link to a separate screed in which it is argued that the real aim of homosexuals is not simply to get the same rights as everyone else, but to get state endorsement of polygamy and group sex. This ridiculous piece of shit provides a list of statements by gay activists that are supposed to show that, "Their ultimate goal is to abolish all prohibitions against sex with multiple partners."

Uhhh... there are prohibitions against sex with multiple partners? Exactly what prohibitions are those?

Interestingly, only one of the examples they cite mentions anything relating to multiple partners, and that's Andrew Sullivan stupidly declaring that gay men need more sex than "regular" people. Sully, of course, is crazy.

The other six quotations don't mention multiple partners or polygamy at all.

I really hope I live long enough to see these attitudes go the way of segregationism and to watch these people try to explain themselves.

Wage War

More than 80% of Americans support raising the minimum wage, still a shameful $5.15 an hour.

Still, the Senate won't let overwhelming public support stop them from keeping many Americans in crippling poverty as they yesterday rejected two proposals to raise the wage.

Kennedy wanted to raise the wage to $7.25 - his amendment was defeated 46-49 - while Rick "Poochie" Santorum proposed raising it to $6.25 and also eliminating overtime and taking away paychecks from people who make tips. His bill went down 61-38.

The minimum wage hasn't been raised since 1996. In the past five years, Congress has given itself raises totaling $28,500.

Bastards. Seriously.

These proposals were not in a vacuum, of course. They were riders on the bankruptcy "reform" bill, fiercely sought by the credit card and banking industries and no one else.

Republicans claim that raising the minimum wage is really harmful, because it, "prices some workers out of the market." They've been spewing this nonsense for years. They're doing you a favor! Making a poverty wage is good for you! If wages kept pace with the economy, you would have a situation where the workforce - the people who do the actual work - would be taking home some of their companies' precious profits, and that would weaken the economy. Don't you see? Do just be thankful for your $10,712 a year. You're luck to get it.

Via Think Progress.

March 7, 2005
Bolton Tabbed

I could be wrong, but isn't the phrase "tapped" and not "tabbed"?

bolton tabbed

I only point this out because it's the Washington Times, and they suck. Of course, if it turns out that the phrase is indeed "tabbed," I'll look pretty stupid.

Okay, I looked it up...

A Google search for "nominee tabbed" actually turns up quite a few instances of this usage, though I can't find a reference to it in the dictionary. The entry for tapped, however, does list "To select, as for membership in an organization; designate." as a definition.



Exploding Soccer Kids

Via Boing Boing.

land mines ad

A new United Nations campaign designed to get the public involved in the global fight against landmines is apparently too explosive for American television, as it depicts children being blown apart on a soccer field.

The 60-second public-service announcement titled "Kickoff" shows a match in progress before a buried mine on the playing field is detonated. (Editor's note: Click here to view the ad, some content is graphic.)

The explosion appears to kill and injure some girls, sparking panic and chaos among parents and other children. Shrieks of horror are heard through much of the spot, and a father is shown cradling his daughter's lifeless body, moments after celebrating a goal she had scored.

It closes with a tag line reading: "If there were landmines here, would you stand for them anywhere? Help the U.N. eradicate landmines everywhere."

World Net Daily

First, I didn't find the spot to be all that graphic. Certainly more tame than many of the police dramas on TV now. It certainly has a lot of shock value, since you're hardly expecting the kid to blow up after she scores a goal, but that's the whole point. Millions of people around the world live with this danger on a daily basis, and the tag line of the ad sums it up perfectly. We have no idea of what it really is to live under terror.

Americans hate to be reminded of the horrors many other people face. It makes us feel bad. It makes us feel like we're not doing enough, and most of us aren't. I would not hesitate to include myself in that group. But I don't get upset at the people who remind me; I thank them.

Bush Nominates U.N. Critic To U.N. Post

Hoping to further strain U.N. - U.S. relations, President Bush today nominated John Bolton, a "blunt long-time critic of the United Nations" to be the U.S. Ambassador the the United Nations.

Bolton, who keeps a model hand grenade conspicuously on a table in his office, stressed what he called "his support for effective multilateral diplomacy" when he appeared with Rice for the nomination announcement.


Dumbass Of The Year

I know 2005 is young yet, but it's going to take a truly brilliant act of stupidity to top Larry Lee Ned.

larry lee ned

The day after being signed to the Arizona Cardinals, running back Larry Lee Ned was passing through the security checkpoint at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport, which, incidentally, is the winner of the Most Cumbersomely Redundant Airport Name. As Ned emerged from the metal detector, he spotted the laptop of a fellow passenger who was still being screened, and like any highly paid professional athlete would, he decided to grab it and make for the shitter.

The Phoenix police found him hiding in the men's room a few minutes later.

The following evening, the Cardinals canceled his contract.

And for the final absurdity, he has a degree in Criminal Justice from San Diego State.

Well done, Larry.


A final vote on the new bankruptcy legislation (see here and here) in the Senate is scheduled for tomorrow. Several proposed amendments that would have tightened loopholes for the rich have been rejected by the Republican majority.

If you are so moved, use this handy tool to write to your Senators and tell them you oppose this bill.

The Center for American Progress offers some brief talking points on the subject..

* Why are senators allowing multi-millionaires to shield their assets but not average families? Under the bill, the very wealthy would be able to shield millions in assets after declaring bankruptcy by setting up "asset protection trusts." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced an amendment that would have limited the use of these trusts. The amendment failed 39 to 56. Schumer lamented "now we have a bill that says a family won't be protected if it has $50,000, but it will if it has $5 million.

* Why are senators going after seniors with huge medical bills? The bill will be especially hard on elderly Americans, who are bankrupted by medical bills with increasing frequency. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced an amendment that would have shielded their homes (up to a modest $75,000) from seizure after declaring bankruptcy. The amendment failed 40-59.

* Democratic and Republican senators should put the interests of Americans above those of the credit card industry. The credit card industry raked in $30 billion in profits last year, some of which is clearly being spent to grease the palms of Washington politicians. Bankruptcy hasn't hurt the credit card companies one iota. The LA Times reports, "by charging customers different interest rates depending on how likely they are to repay their debts and by adding substantial fees for an array of items such as late payments...the major card companies have managed to keep their profits rising steadily even as personal bankruptcies have soared." In other words, "companies have found ways to make money even on cardholders who eventually go broke."

American Progress

March 6, 2005
Rich on Thompson, Gannon

Frank Rich with another great column, this time on Jeff Gannon, Hunter Thompson, and what's happened to the "news." Why this guy is still writing in the Arts section is beyond me.

A close reading of the transcripts of televised White House press conferences reveals that at uncannily crucial moments he was called on by the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, to stanch tough questioning on such topics as Abu Ghraib and Mr. Rove's possible involvement in the outing of the C.I.A. spy Valerie Plame. We still don't know how this Zelig, using a false name, was given a daily White House pass every day for two years. Last weekend, Jim Pinkerton, a former official in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses, said on "Fox News Watch," no less, that such a feat "takes an incredible amount of intervention from somebody high up in the White House," that it had to be "conscious" and that "some investigation should proceed and they should find that out."

New York Times

Sunday Night TeeVee Roundup

In The Simpsons' sub-plot tonight, Homer takes a job at "Sprawl Mart," setting up some nice jabs at Wal-Mart.

The giant Sprawl-Mart sign outside has a banner hanging under it that reads three different things - "Not a parody of Wal-Mart," "Don't Watch 60 Minutes Tonight," and "If You Worked Here, You'd Be Poor By Now." Good stuff.

And then there were other things.

Speaking of 60 Minutes, they offered a look at the CIA's "Rendition" program, whereby our government sends suspects, many never charged with a crime, to countries that undoubtedly torture them. Our rationale is that we don't "know" they're being tortured, wink wink, so it's okay. Next up was a story about video game violence.. yawn.. Finally, a story about Tom DeLay's legal problems. I do so hope that slimebag gets indicted, convicted, and slapped in the head with a bag of dimes.

Who's On First, Movie Edition

This made me laugh out loud 4 - 6 times.

Who's on First?

Via Kottke.

The Italian Job

When I first heard that U.S. forces had wounded an Italian journalist shortly after she had been freed from her captors in Iraq, my initial reaction was to give our forces the benefit of the doubt. It's a war zone, after all, and people get shot in war zones, very often by mistake.

But now, in an article published today in Italy, the journalist herself strongly disputes the U.S.'s version of events. And really, our version of events seems pretty ridiculous.

Here's our story:

The U.S. military said Sgrena's car rapidly approached a checkpoint Friday night, and those inside ignored repeated warnings to stop.

Troops used arm signals and flashing white lights, fired warning shots in front of the car, and shot into the engine block when the driver did not stop, the military said in a statement.


That sounds good, exactly by the book. But does it seem realistic? Why the hell would the Italian security detail not stop after such warnings? They fired into the engine block and they still didn't stop? I can't imagine how this could happen.

Of course, having never been fired upon in my car, I can't say for sure that I would notice, but my feeling is that I would. Surely if someone was shining a bright white light at the car at the same time, and had previously fired across my bow, I think I would know something was going on.

I don't really think it's likely that this was premeditated, more likely it was a gross accident involving blatant breaking of the rules of engagement and we don't want to admit it.

March 5, 2005
Google Tricks

For no particular reason, herewith a few cool Google tricks you may not be aware of.

  • Movie Search - search for "movie: [movie name] [location]" (location is optional) to get reviews and showtimes for your area. If you select "Remember this location" it will do just that. You can also try describing the movie you're interested in (movie: gangster deniro). Get all showtimes for your city by searching "movie: zip or city, state". Cool.
  • Google Maps. Maptastic.
  • Google Video. Searches television programs. Shows screen grabs and transcript snippets from the relevant parts. Try frontline iraq. Put "title:" in front of your search to find specific shows. More info.
  • Weather. Search for "weather [your city]" and get a four day forecast. weather seattle.
  • Google Calculator. Search on an equation, get the answer. Also does unit conversions. Handy! Examples: 5+2*2, 420 rods in miles, pi divided by the speed of light times the square root of e. Okay, the last one's maybe not so handy.
  • Definitions. Search "define [word or phrase]" and get the definition as the first result. To get a list culled from sources found, use "define:[word]" (no space). Examples: define petulant or define:petulant.
  • Google SMS. If you have text messaging on your cell phone, try sending a query to 46645 (GOOGL). Look up business listings, movie times, people in the phone book, definitions, product prices, and more. How to use Google SMS.

That's all. This list is as much for me as it is for you, as I've known about a lot of these features for a while, but I always forget they're there, so it take me unnecessary seconds to find the information I'm looking for. No more!

Freedom On The March, Part II

Thanks to Representative Phil King (R-Weatherford), Texas has become the latest state to introduce legislation banning cities from setting up wireless internet access for their citizens.

You may recall the dustup late last year when Verizon successfully pushed a similar bill through in Pennsylvania.

Naturally, this is all done in the interest of protecting the giant telecommunications companies from the insidious force of public competition. If governments get in on their business, it is argued, these companies could not continue to so successfully gouge the public for the benefit of their shareholders. It's just not fair!

In many cases, this argument could be true. We don't want the government to start making cars, for example, or computers, for many reasons. They wouldn't make them well, they wouldn't make them fast, they wouldn't innovate, and they would drive all other companies out of business.

Internet access is clearly different and should be treated as such. Resisting the idea that the internet is on it's way to becoming a basic public utility like water or electricity is silly. Having access is a vital factor in having equal opportunity, and we all have an interest in cheap, fast and universal connections.

Freedom, Zombies On The March


Now kids, remember, if you're thinking of becoming a writer of fiction, better wait until you're out of high school to start practicing your craft. Particularly in Kentucky, where it's a felony to have an imagination.

A George Rogers Clark High School junior arrested Tuesday for making terrorist threats told LEX 18 News Thursday that the "writings" that got him arrested are being taken out of context.

Winchester police say William Poole, 18, was taken into custody Tuesday morning. Investigators say they discovered materials at Poole's home that outline possible acts of violence aimed at students, teachers, and police.

Poole told LEX 18 that the whole incident is a big misunderstanding. He claims that what his grandparents found in his journal and turned into police was a short story he wrote for English class.

"My story is based on fiction," said Poole, who faces a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. "It's a fake story. I made it up. I've been working on one of my short stories, (and) the short story they found was about zombies. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies."

Even so, police say the nature of the story makes it a felony. "Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it's a felony in the state of Kentucky," said Winchester Police detective Steven Caudill.

Poole disputes that he was threatening anyone.

"It didn't mention nobody who lives in Clark County, didn't mention (George Rogers Clark High School), didn't mention no principal or cops, nothing," said Poole. "Half the people at high school know me. They know I'm not that stupid, that crazy."

On Thursday, a judge raised Poole's bond from one to five thousand dollars after prosecutors requested it, citing the seriousness of the charge.


Again: "Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it's a felony in the state of Kentucky."

It's good that the judge raised the bond. If this kid is released, he's sure to ramp up his plans to release an army of the undead on his classmates and teachers.

March 4, 2005
Rotten Apple

rotten apple

I'm a big fan of a lot of Apple's hardware and software, but this fight they're having with a couple of websites over the "leaking" of information about upcoming Apple products is honking me off.

A judge in one of the cases tentatively ruled yesterday that Apple can force the websites to reveal the sources of the leaks, and agreed with Apple's assertion that protection of confidential sources does not apply to websites because they are not "legitimate members of the press."

This seems like a pretty scary argument to make. What makes someone a "legitimate member of the press"? Are we going to make a list of organizations that qualify for constitutional protection and everyone else is screwed?

Their attitude reminds me of the White House's, which is truly sad. If information gets out, it's out. Just because you want to be the one to make the announcement, or you want to keep something secret, should that make it illegal for someone to find out and tell others?

As Thomas Goldstein, former Dean of Columbia's Journalism School said in a brief, "Just because Apple does not want these publications to report on its activities does not mean that they are not news publications."

The worst part about Apple's actions is that they're suing people for being big fans of their products. The people who run these sites spend spend a major part of their lives going on and on (and on) about Apple's latest iThing, surely driving sales, and this is the thanks they get. Going after your biggest fans and most loyal customers is just not smart. If they're mad that secrets got out, they'll just have to try to control their information better. Once it's out, it's out.

Note: In case anyone wants to make comparisons to the Valerie Plame affair, I think this is pretty different. That case involved the outing of an active secret agent; this is about some stupid audio breakout box. Apple's "secrets" about product launches benefit only them and there's nothing illegal about telling someone what you heard about a new product. Outing a secret agent is specifically illegal. Which is reason #427 that Bob Novak should be in jail, or at least tarred and feathered.

Giant Steps

It takes a little while to load (wait for it to count to 100), but this is one of the most creative little flash movies I've seen. Synesthesia for the non-Synesthetic. Make sure you have the sound turned on.

giant steps

Martha Stewart is Free!

And I still don't care.


Search Query O' The Day - Nay - The Month

While usually surprisingly boring, sometimes looking through my referral logs produces some real quality stuff...


A Boyle on the Fourth Circuit

One of the wackos President Bush has renominated for a judicial appointment is Terry Boyle of North Carolina, for the Fourth Circuit.

Bush says this guy is "vitally needed" on the Fourth Circuit.

Judge Boyle -- Judge Terry Boyle of North Carolina has waited for a vote since May of 2001. And there's no reason why this good man should have been kept waiting for so long. He's an exceptional candidate for the appeals court. He was appointed to the district court in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, and has spent the last seven years as Chief Judge of the Eastern District of North Carolina. He'd make a superb addition to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and he is vitally needed on that court.

White House

Which is weird because the Fourth Circuit has reversed Boyle's District Court decisions 150 times for errors in judgment and fundamental legal mistakes.

He's opposed by countless major legal organizations, has been reversed by just about every high court in the land - including several times by the Supreme Court (pdf) - and once argued that North Carolina should be exempt from federal anti-discrimination laws regarding women because such laws violated the state's "culture."

From his decision in that case...

Our federal form of government prohibits finding any particular state to be guilty of having violated some federal law because its statistical abstract does not conform to what might be found in other states . . . Our form of government presumes that people in different states will act differently. Nothing is more offensive to the idea of federalism than the notion that the federal government will punish a state for having a non-conforming culture -–for being different from other states . . .

Quite the contrary, federal law owes its existence to North Carolina's absolute right to turn out differently than the other forty-nine states. The Constitution by which the original sovereigns, including North Carolina, created the federal government was ratified only on the understanding that a Bill of Rights would be adopted acknowledging the states' and their peoples' retention of sovereignty in all matters not explicitly ceded to the national government . . . It is most emphatically not the purpose of federal law to impose a uniformity of cultural outcome upon the individual states.

People for the American Way

Nice. So his interpretation of states' rights is that it is the right of every state to discriminate against whomsoever it chooses, if that is it's culture. We wouldn't want every state to be the same, would we? Who would want to live in a country where everyone was treated equally, everywhere? That's like, totally commie, man.

In summary, if anyone cares, I completely oppose this asshole going anywhere near a courtroom every again. He should be so lucky as to pump my gas.

March 2, 2005
Compassionate Conservatives At It Again

The "Young Conservatives of Texas" (motto: Shaping Texas Politics for Over 25 Years") recently demonstrated their class and compassion by celebrating "Capture an Illegal Immigrant Day."

Since these people don't actually known any dark-skinned people, the role of the illegal immigrant was played by really stupid white boys.

illegal immigrant

I'm looking forward to the pictures from their upcoming "Snitch On That Osama-Lookin' Fella What Works At The Drive-In Day".

The Bible, The Bible, The Bible is on Fire

fire bible

When was the last time your class saw how "HOT" God's Word is? Open this authentic looking "bible" and begin to share the scripture for the day as real flames are seen coming from your "bible". This full size book comes with a battery operated ignition system. All you supply are the batteries, lighter fluid and composure as your class gets excited. (special note: Fed-Ex shipping is available if you absolutely have to have the Fire Bible for this Sunday!)

Only $44.95!


Via Engadget.

Arizona Lawmakers Okay Rocket Launchers in Schools, Anywhere

Uhhhh... WTF?

PHOENIX - The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to let people carry weapons - including guns, grenades, rockets, mines and sawed-off shotguns - into schools, polling places and nuclear plants if they claim they're only trying to protect themselves.   The vote on the legislation came after Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, pointed out it would bar prosecution of those who want to bring a weapon into the House or Senate. Despite that, lawmakers gave it preliminary approval on a 30-16 margin.   But what's in House Bill 2666 surprised even Rep. Doug Quelland, R-Phoenix, who introduced the legislation and shepherded it through the House. He said he had no idea the legislation, crafted by constituents he wouldn't identify, was so broad that it would provide a catchall exemption in the state's weapons laws.


He [Quelland] said that, if it were up to him, anyone would be able to carry a weapon in a pocket or purse or in a holster beneath a jacket without getting state permission. Quelland said only people who prey on others should be prosecuted under gun laws.

The Arizona Daily Star

Yeah, genius, and how much more likely is it for someone to get "preyed on" when every dimwit in Tucson is walking around with a sawed-off shotgun under his coat?

I mean, sure, let people do whatever they want! We'll only prosecute them once they've actually killed someone. If they're only planning or preparing to kill people, where's the harm in that?

Hasn't the idea that having lots of weapons around is an effective form of protection been pretty much debunked by now? Does it really need to be pointed out that the only time people ever get shot with a gun is when a gun is available?

Arizona is also considering another gun law this year, HB 2325, which would allow "anyone who gets a permit to carry a concealed weapon to keep that permission for life. Gone would be the requirement to renew the license every four years, undergo a new background check and attend a firearms refresher course."
HB 2325 also would cut the required hours of initial training to get a permit in half, to eight hours.

Fucking idiots have been out in the sun too long. Come inside, have an iced tea, and chill the fuck out! My god, what is the matter with you people?

Senator Byrd and the Nuclear Option

Senator Robert Byrd (D - WV) is by a considerable margin one of the best speakers we have in our government. He is also a distinguished historian of the Senate, with a great talent for putting current events in historical perspective.

Yesterday, he gave an amazing speech on the "nuclear option" (see here), which the Republicans are threatening to invoke in order to take away the minority party's power to stop the President's judicial nominations.

How Bill Frist can listen to this speech and then go home, kiss his wife, and sleep is truly beyond my imagination.

I'll just quote the whole thing.. well worth your time. I bolded the best parts.

In 1939, one of the most famous American movies of all time, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," hit the box office. Initially received with a combination of lavish praise and angry blasts, the film went on to win numerous awards, and to inspire millions around the globe. The director, the legendary Frank Capra, in his autobiography "Frank Capra: The Name Above the Title," cites this moving review of the film, appearing in "The Hollywood Reporter," November 4, 1942:

Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," chosen by French Theaters as the final English language film to be shown before the recent Nazi-ordered countrywide ban on American and British films went into effect, was roundly cheered...

Storms of spontaneous applause broke out at the sequence when, under the Abraham Lincoln monument in the Capital, the word, "Liberty," appeared on the screen and the Stars and Stripes began fluttering over the head of the great Emancipator in the cause of liberty.

Similarly cheers and acclamation punctuated the famous speech of the young senator on man's rights and dignity. 'It was...as though the joys, suffering, love and hatred, the hopes and wishes of an entire people who value freedom above everything, found expression for the last time...

For those who may not have seen it, "Mr. Smith" is the fictional story of one young Senator's crusade against forces of corruption, and his lengthy filibuster for the values he holds dear.

My, how times have changed. These days Smith would be called "an obstructionist." Rumor has it that there is a plot afoot in the Senate to curtail the right of extended debate in this hallowed chamber, not in accordance with its rules, mind you, but by fiat from the Chair.

The so-called "nuclear option" purports to be directed solely at the Senate's advice and consent prerogatives regarding federal judges. But, the claim that no right exists to filibuster judges aims an arrow straight at the heart of the Senate's long tradition of unlimited debate.

The Framers of the Constitution envisioned the Senate as a kind of executive council; a small body of legislators, featuring longer terms, designed to insulate members from the passions of the day.

The Senate was to serve as a "check" on the Executive Branch, particularly in the areas of appointments and treaties, where, under the Constitution, the Senate passes judgement absent the House of Representatives. James Madison wanted to grant the Senate the power to select judicial appointees with the Executive relegated to the sidelines. But a compromise brought the present arrangement; appointees selected by the Executive, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Note that nowhere in the Constitution is a vote on appointments mandated.

When it comes to the Senate, numbers can deceive. The Senate was never intended to be a majoritarian body. That was the role of the House of Representatives, with its membership based on the populations of states. The Great Compromise of July 16, 1787, satisfied the need for smaller states to have equal status in one House of Congress: the Senate.

The Senate, with its two members per state, regardless of population is, then, the forum of the states. Indeed, in the last Congress, 52 members, a majority, representing the 26 smallest states accounted for just 17.06 percent of the US population. In other words, a majority in the Senate does not necessarily represent a majority of the population. The Senate is intended for deliberation not point scoring. It is a place designed from its inception, as expressive of minority views. Even 60 Senators, the number required for cloture, would represent just 24 percent of the population, if they happened to all hail from the 30 smallest states. Unfettered debate, the right to be heard at length, is the means by which we perpetuate the equality of the states.

In fact, it was 1917, before any curtailing of debate was attempted, which means that from 1806 to 1917, some 111 years, the Senate rejected any limits to debate. Democracy flourished along with the filibuster. The first actual cloture rule in 1917, was enacted in response to a filibuster by those who opposed U.S. intervention in World War I.

But, even after its enactment, the Senate was slow to embrace cloture, understanding the pitfalls of muzzling debate. In 1949, the 1917 cloture rule was modified to make cloture more difficult to invoke, not less, mandating that the number needed to stop debate would be not two-thirds of those present and voting, but two-thirds of all Senators.

Indeed, from 1919 to 1962, the Senate voted on cloture petitions only 27 times and invoked cloture just four times over those 43 years.

On January 4, 1957, Senator William Ezra Jenner of Indiana spoke in opposition to invoking cloture by majority vote. He stated with conviction:

We may have a duty to legislate, but we also have a duty to inform and deliberate. In the past quarter century we have seen a phenomenal growth in the power of the executive branch. If this continues at such a fast pace, our system of checks and balances will be destroyed. One of the main bulwarks against this growing power is free debate in the Senate...So long as there is free debate, men of courage and understanding will rise to defend against potential dictators...The Senate today is one place where, no matter what else may exist, there is still a chance to be heard, an opportunity to speak, the duty to examine, and the obligation to protect. It is one of the few refuges of democracy. Minorities have an illustrious past, full of suffering, torture, smear, and even death. Jesus Christ was killed by a majority; Columbus was smeared; and Christians have been tortured. Had the United States Senate existed during those trying times, I am sure these people would have found an advocate. Nowhere else can any political, social, or religious group, finding itself under sustained attack, receive a better refuge.

Senator Jenner was right. The Senate was deliberately conceived to be what he called a "better refuge," meaning one styled as guardian of the rights of the minority.

The Senate is the "watchdog" because majorities can be wrong, and filibusters can highlight injustices. History is full of examples.

In March 1911, Senator Robert Owen of Oklahoma filibustered the New Mexico statehood bill, arguing that Arizona should also be allowed to become a state. President Taft opposed the inclusion of Arizona's statehood in the bill because Arizona's state constitution allowed the recall of judges. Arizona attained statehood a year later, at least in part because Senator Owen and the minority took time to make their point the year before.

In 1914, a Republican minority led a 10-day filibuster of a bill that would have appropriated more than $50,000,000 for rivers and harbors. On an issue near and dear to the hearts of our current majority, Republican opponents spoke until members of the Commerce Committee agreed to cut the appropriations by more than half.

Perhaps more directly relevant to our discussion of the "nuclear option" are the seven days in 1937, from July 6 to 13 of that year, when the Senate blocked Franklin Roosevelt's Supreme Court-packing plan.

Earlier that year, in February 1937, FDR sent the Congress a bill drastically reorganizing the judiciary. The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the bill, calling it " an invasion of judicial power such as has never before been attempted in this country" and finding it "essential to the continuance of our constitutional democracy that the judiciary be completely independent of both the executive and legislative branches of the Government." The committee recommended the rejection of the court-packing bill, calling it "a needless, futile, and utterly dangerous abandonment of constitutional principle....without precedent and without justification."

What followed was an extended debate on the Senate Floor lasting for seven days until the Majority Leader, Joseph T. Robinson of Arkansas, a supporter of the plan, suffered a heart attack and died on July 14. Eight days later, by a vote of 70 to 20, the Senate sent the judicial reform bill back to committee, where FDR's controversial, court-packing language was finally stripped. A determined, vocal group of Senators properly prevented a powerful President from corrupting our nation's judiciary.

Free and open debate on the Senate floor ensures citizens a say in their government. The American people are heard, through their Senator, before their money is spent, before their civil liberties are curtailed, or before a judicial nominee is confirmed for a lifetime appointment. We are the guardians, the stewards, the protectors of our people. Our voices are their voices.

If we restrain debate on judges today, what will be next: the rights of the elderly to receive social security; the rights of the handicapped to be treated fairly; the rights of the poor to obtain a decent education? Will all debate soon fall before majority rule?

Will the majority someday trample on the rights of lumber companies to harvest timber, or the rights of mining companies to mine silver, coal, or iron ore? What about the rights of energy companies to drill for new sources of oil and gas? How will the insurance, banking, and securities industries fare when a majority can move against their interests and prevail by a simple majority vote? What about farmers who can be forced to lose their subsidies, or Western Senators who will no longer be able to stop a majority determined to wrest control of ranchers' precious water or grazing rights? With no right of debate, what will forestall plain muscle and mob rule?

Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men.

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler's dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that "Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact." And he succeeded.

Hitler's originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.

And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

It seeks to alter the rules by sidestepping the rules, thus making the impermissible the rule. Employing the "nuclear option", engaging a pernicious, procedural maneuver to serve immediate partisan goals, risks violating our nation's core democratic values and poisoning the Senate's deliberative process.

For the temporary gain of a hand-full of "out of the mainstream" judges, some in the Senate are ready to callously incinerate each Senator's right of extended debate. Note that I said each Senator. For the damage will devastate not just the minority party. It will cripple the ability of each member to do what each was sent here to do - - represent the people of his or her state. Without the filibuster or the threat of extended debate, there exists no leverage with which to bargain for the offering of an amendment. All force to effect compromise between the two political parties is lost. Demands for hearings can languish. The President can simply rule, almost by Executive Order if his party controls both houses of Congress, and Majority Rule reins supreme. In such a world, the Minority is crushed; the power of dissenting views diminished; and freedom of speech attenuated. The uniquely American concept of the independent individual, asserting his or her own views, proclaiming personal dignity through the courage of free speech will, forever, have been blighted. And the American spirit, that stubborn, feisty, contrarian, and glorious urge to loudly disagree, and proclaim, despite all opposition, what is honest and true, will be sorely manacled.

Yes, we believe in Majority rule, but we thrive because the minority can challenge, agitate, and question. We must never become a nation cowed by fear, sheeplike in our submission to the power of any majority demanding absolute control.

Generations of men and women have lived, fought and died for the right to map their own destiny, think their own thoughts, and speak their minds. If we start, here, in this Senate, to chip away at that essential mark of freedom - - here of all places, in a body designed to guarantee the power of even a single individual through the device of extended debate - - we are on the road to refuting the Preamble to our own Constitution and the very principles upon which it rests.

In the eloquent, homespun words of that illustrious, obstructionist, Senator Smith, "Liberty is too precious to get buried in books. Men ought to hold it up in front of them every day of their lives, and say, 'I am free--to think--to speak. My ancestors couldn't. I can. My children will."


Kill 'Em All

Via Kevin Drum...

Texas Republican Congressman Sam Johnson proudly told his constituents at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas that he'd like to nuke Syria. Yes, that's right, he said this in a church.

Johnson said he told the president that night, "Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em and I'll make one pass. We won't have to worry about Syria anymore."

The Carpet Bagger Report

Because, as everyone knows, every last person in Syria is a terrorist.

You could dismiss this as a joke and say it was taken out of context if it had just been an overheard comment, but the fact that the Congressman went home and told a church full of people about it pretty well squashes that argument.

White House Backs Down on Privitization

Via Think Progress.

The Congressional Quarterly is reporting that Treasury Secretary John Snow has said that the administration would "accept a Social Security overhaul that does not divert the program's payroll taxes in personal retirement accounts."

This certainly shows that they're getting desperate, and that they're well aware that they have little - and dwindling - support for their original plan.

But, as Josh Marshall points out, that's really all it shows. They're trying to appear to make concessions, but their ultimate goal is still to "overhaul" the Social Security system, which is code for "put it in a state that guarantees it will go away in a few decades."

It's good that they're feeling the pressure, but this is not a sign to take the pressure off.

Here's a Graphic of the latest poll results from the New York Times.

Some highlights:
Q: Does the Bush administration have the same priorities as most Americans on domestic issues?
Same Priorities: 31%
Different Priorities: 63%
No Opinion: 6%

Foreign policy issues?
Same Priorities: 37%
Different Priorities: 58%
No Opinion: 8%

Q: Do you have confidence in President Bush's ability to make the right decisions about Social Security, or are you uneasy about his approach?
Confident: 31%
Uneasy: 63%
No Opinion: 6%

Q: Should it be the government's responsibility to provide a decent standard of living for the elderly?
Should: 79%
Should Not: 17%
No Opinion: 4%

See? They think we're a bunch of free-marketers, but deep down, we're socialists. Most of us think a country as wealthy as ours should take reasonable care of it's citizens. Go figure.

Stupid Headline o' the Day

Things that make you go "Duh."

Slaying of Chicago Judge's Family Raises Security Concern


Just Say No To Court Stacking

From Move On...

As we write this, the Senate is debating the nomination of mining and cattle industry lobbyist William Myers III for a lifetime appointment to the Circuit Court of Appeals -- the second highest court in the land. Myers is the first of 20 nominees Bush has re-submitted in his second term. All 20 repeat nominees were rejected last term by Senate Democrats (as compared to 204 judges they accepted) because these nominees consistently sided with corporate special interests over the rights of ordinary Americans.

The Senate has the power to approve or reject judicial nominations because judges -- above all else -- must be trusted by Americans on all sides to rule fairly. So why does Bush refuse to send new nominees both parties can agree on? Because while his presidency will be over in 4 years, the judges he appoints will be on the bench for the rest of their lives. This is Bush's big push to lock in his hard right, corporate-friendly ideology for decades to come -- and that is exactly why we must not back down now.

The fight begins today. The Myers vote is a key test -- and may well determine whether Bush can stack the judiciary, all the way up to the Supreme Court, with a steady stream of hard right, pro-corporate judges. It's crucial that our Senators know that we out here in America are counting on them to hold the line against all 20 of Bush's rejected, partisan judges.

Sign the petition.

William Myers III has never been a judge and spent most of his career as a lobbyist for the cattle and mining industry. He has written that all habitat conservation laws are unconstitutional because they interfere with potential profit. In 2001, Bush appointed him as the chief lawyer for the Department of the Interior. In that role he continued as a champion of corporate interests, setting his agenda in meetings with former employers he promised not to speak with, and even illegally giving away sacred Native American land to be strip mined.

On ABC Nightly News last night, they had a story about the Supremos striking down the juvenile death penalty. The reporter ended by explaining that conservatives are upset that Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, wrote the majority decision on this and that they consider it more evidence that they have to get judges who they can "rely on" not to change their positions over time. Because, you know, what you want in a good judge is someone who follows ideology blindly and refuses to rethink anything.

Many of the appointments Congress will be considering are for life. And Bill Frist has been threatening to go "nuclear" to prevent Democrats from blocking the President's nominations. This is bad.

Sign the petition. Call or write your Senators.

The NFL's Naughty Words

The NFL has provided yet another clear example of why trying to build automated "profanity filters" is one of the stupidest exercises in technology. Yet, it's one that gets repeated again and again.

This example involves their customized jersey shop, where you can, ostensibly, get your name on the back of a football jersey.

Unless, that is, your last name happens to be "Gay". According to NameStatistics.com, Gay is the 774th most common last name in the U.S., with around 37,500 Gays living among us.

They can't have no team jerseys though. Fans of New England Patriots cornerback Randall Gay are apparently out of luck.

Outsports.com details how stupid this is, and prints a response from the NFL to someone whose last name is Gay informing him that "there is no way around this issue."

They also show that the main reason these kinds of filters are absurd is because they don't work. See the jerseys below, rejected names with an X, acceptable with a check.

NFL jerseys

The entire list of banned words (culled from a now-removed javascript) can be found here.

No jersey for you, Mr. Spermbag.

March 1, 2005
The African Cliff


africa life expectancy

"As a result of its lethality and the relative youth of its victims, HIV/AIDs has reduced life expectancy by more than 20 years in many African countries. Life expectancy in some countries is projected to fall to roughly 30 years within the next decade, whereas in the absence of HIV/AIDS some were expected to approach or exceed 70 years."

From the Economic Report of The President, 2005.

Via Ben Muse.

Jefferson Starbucks

Finally I can post this, now that I won't be scooping the paper where I work.

Last week, Starbucks had a motivational leadership conference here in Seattle. During one event - the "Licensed Stores Award Ceremony" - there was a performance that must be heard to be believed.

I'll let David Schmader, The Stranger's "Last Days" columnist, describe it, because he's funny.

Today brings what the ages will hail as the most mind-boggling Hot Tip in Last Days' history, courtesy of worship-worthy Hot Tipper Cilantro. The scene: The Starbucks Licensed Stores Awards ceremony, a celebratory/motivational leadership conference, held this evening in the fourth-floor ballroom of the Washington State Convention Center. "Boring stuff, as usual corporate things go," writes our man Cilantro. But things took a turn for the surreal when the emcee announced "something special for you all--Jefferson Starbucks!" after which the hydraulic stage rotated to reveal a pretend band comprised of the upper-management folk the audience had heard speak earlier in the evening. "They were standing in front of a huge American Bandstand-esque 45 single dangling in the air," writes Cilantro. "And they all had on rock 'n' roll Halloween costumes: pink glitter wigs, white fishnet shirts, fake leather pants, as well as big fake instruments--a huge, oversized piñata guitar and keyboards. It was like a living cake decoration." From this most promising of plateaus, Jefferson Starbucks quickly ascended to the heavens, lip-synching their way through a company-specific rewrite of Jefferson Starship's "We Built This City," the 1985 anthem that made fresh headlines last year by topping an international critics' poll of the worst songs ever. But tonight, Starship's crap was Starbucks' gold, as "We Built This City On Rock 'n' Roll" was reborn as "We Built This Starbucks on Heart and Soul!" with lyrics rewritten to celebrate the Starbucks way:

Knee-deep in the mocha/making coffee right
So many partners/working late at night
We just want to build here--IMDS, does it pass?
We call on development to complete the task!
Living the way of being,
In the Green Apron Book!
Don't you remember?
We built this Starbucks on heart and soul!

The rewrite even replicated the weird helicopter news report that appears in the middle of the original: "I'm looking out over hundreds of partners on another fantastic leadership conference and I'm seeing a bunch of everyday heroes!" "I couldn't fucking believe it," writes Cilantro. "The rest of the crowd was stunned, too. Eventually, the emcee berated them--'Come on you guys! Dance! This is your band! This is for you!'--and the crowd half-heartedly got up and just stood there." (A moment of silence for the million silent deaths experienced by the audience during the song's merciless four-minute-and-48-second running time.)
The Stranger

Again, the song. Go. Listen. Laugh. Cry. For there are people in the world, apparently, who think this is good.

The best description I've heard so far, "It's like a vicious Simpsons parody brought horrifyingly to life."

So true.

No More Kiddie Death Penalty
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday abolished the death penalty for juveniles, an important victory for opponents of capital punishment in the only country that gave official sanction to such executions.

In a 5-4 ruling that cited the "overwhelming weight of international opinion," the high court declared unconstitutional the death penalty for those under the age of 18 when they committed their crimes.

The decision in the case of a 1993 Missouri killing could affect more than 70 death-row inmates who face execution for murders done when they were 16 or 17 years old. The total U.S. death-row population is nearly 3,500.


The United States was the only country in the world that still gave official sanction to the juvenile death penalty, Kennedy said in his ruling.

He noted the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the juvenile death penalty, has been ratified by every country except Somalia and the United States.

Only seven countries other than the United States have executed juvenile offenders since 1990, he said. They are Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and China.

Since 1990, each of the seven countries has abolished capital punishment for juveniles or made public disavowal of the practice, Kennedy said.



Today the State Department released their annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, a "key part of this Administration’s activities to promote human rights and democracy around the world--part of President Bush’s forward strategy of freedom."

The hypocrisy contained in this report is simply staggering. It's one thing for our government to blatantly lie to us and to the world. It's worse for our government to scold other governments for abuses that we regularly practice, and even to go so far as to reprimand countries where we secretly send prisoners for their treatment of those disappeared people.

The State Department's annual human rights report released yesterday criticized countries for a range of interrogation practices it labeled as torture, including sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening them with dogs -- methods similar to those approved at times by the Bush administration for use on detainees in U.S. custody.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved in December 2002 a number of severe measures, including the stripping of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and using dogs to frighten them. He later rescinded those tactics and signed off on a shorter list of "exceptional techniques," including 20-hour interrogations, face slapping, stripping detainees to create "a feeling of helplessness and dependence," and using dogs to increase anxiety.

The State Department report also harshly attacked the treatment of prisoners in such countries as Syria and Egypt, where the United States has shipped terrorism suspects under a practice known as "rendition."

Washington Post

For more on the government's not-so-secret rendition program, see this Washington Post article and for a much more in depth look, see this excellend New Yorker piece. The title of the story is "Outsourcing Torture," which is precisely what is going on.

[Maher] Arar, a thirty-four-year-old graduate of McGill University whose family emigrated to Canada when he was a teen-ager, was arrested on September 26, 2002, at John F. Kennedy Airport. He was changing planes; he had been on vacation with his family in Tunisia, and was returning to Canada. Arar was detained because his name had been placed on the United States Watch List of terrorist suspects. He was held for the next thirteen days, as American officials questioned him about possible links to another suspected terrorist. Arar said that he barely knew the suspect, although he had worked with the man’s brother. Arar, who was not formally charged, was placed in handcuffs and leg irons by plainclothes officials and transferred to an executive jet. The plane flew to Washington, continued to Portland, Maine, stopped in Rome, Italy, then landed in Amman, Jordan.

During the flight, Arar said, he heard the pilots and crew identify themselves in radio communications as members of “the Special Removal Unit.” The Americans, he learned, planned to take him next to Syria. Having been told by his parents about the barbaric practices of the police in Syria, Arar begged crew members not to send him there, arguing that he would surely be tortured. His captors did not respond to his request; instead, they invited him to watch a spy thriller that was aired on board.

Ten hours after landing in Jordan, Arar said, he was driven to Syria, where interrogators, after a day of threats, “just began beating on me.” They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell that he likened to a grave. “Not even animals could withstand it,” he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say. “You just give up,” he said. “You become like an animal.”

The New Yorker

"Promoting human rights is not just an element of our foreign policy--it is the bedrock of our policy, and our foremost concern. These reports put dictators and corrupt officials on notice that they are being watched by the civilized world, and that there are consequences for their actions."

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, introducing the report
State Department

So scary.