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May 31, 2005
Bush Stalls Democrats, Citing Stalling By Democrats
President Bush denounced Senate Democrats today for "stalling" a vote on John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations, and indicated that he would not grant Democrats access to intelligence documents they want to review before allowing the confirmation to go ahead.

New York Times

So let me get this straight... The Democrats want to review intelligence documents before confirming his nominee. He is refusing to grant this access. And the Democrats are stalling.

Bush then proceeded to use the phrase "up or down vote" about 97 times, as required by the latest Republican mind-meld.

Bush 'Disassembles' Amnesty Report

WARNING: The following may make your head explode.

During Bush's press conference today (brought to you by Low Approval Ratings), the President was asked about the recent Amnesty International report on the United States' human rights abuses.

The question was specific and fair. The answer? Not so much.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Mr. President, recently, Amnesty International said you have established "a new gulag" of prisons around the world, beyond the reach of the law and decency. I'd like your reaction to that, and also your assessment of how it came to this, that that is a view not just held by extremists and anti-Americans, but by groups that have allied themselves with the United States government in the past -- and what the strategic impact is that in many places of the world, the United States these days, under your leadership, is no longer seen as the good guy.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that is -- promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way. It's just an absurd allegation.

In terms of the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is.

whitehouse.gov

ssssssssssssssssssssBOOM!!

You have to give him credit, he can really pack the nonsense in. In only two paragraphs, he manages to talk about how much we love freedom, how much the bad guys hate freedom and America, how we transparently investigate all allegations (a bald-faced lie), and to give an hilariously wrong little vocabulary lesson.

He never addresses that having major international human rights groups united against us is unprecedented. That nearly all of our former allies have been highly critical of many of our actions. To him, this is all simply absurd. No explanation needed. It's absurd because we're right and they're wrong. We're right because we say so and because we're better.

This is the level of logic and intellectual engagement we're getting from the most powerful man in the world.

He could at least pay lip-service to these major allegations, instead of dismissing them out-of-hand, but I guess that would give people the impression that Amnesty International is anything but a leftist, commie, terrorist front organization whose sole purpose is to bring down the government of the United States. It's simply "absurd" to think that they have any other goal. They're spending millions of donated dollars to fabricate all of this stuff just to embarrass us. Isn't it obvious?

Now whose version is the conspiracy theory?

Who are the real "dissemblers"?

May 27, 2005
Qu'ran Mishandled, Not Flushed

Does it strike anyone else as completely absurd how much emphasis they're now putting on the fact that, while American military and/or intelligence personnel may have mishandled the Muslim holy book, there is no credible evidence that it was actually flushed down a toilet.

Is it me, or this splitting hairs? How retarded are we as we collectively fall for one pathetic euphemism after another?

Whatever it is, it's carefully explained in the first paragraph of every story I've seen on this, presented as if it's some kind of excuse.

"Sure, we desecrated their scripture, but come on, we DID NOT flush it. We just crapped on it, set it on fire, you know, stuff like that."

Ah, yes. You see, we only placed the Qu'ran in "stress positions." The Qu'ran was under no circumstances flushed.

An American military inquiry has uncovered five instances in which guards or interrogators at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba mishandled the Koran, but found "no credible evidence" to substantiate claims that it was ever flushed down a toilet, the chief of the investigation said on Thursday.

All but one of the five incidents appear to have taken place before January 2003. In three cases, the mishandling of the Koran appears to have been deliberate, and in two it was accidental or unintentional, the commander said, adding that four cases involved guards, and one an interrogator. Two service members have been punished for their conduct, one recently.

New York Times

Notice also, that we hear nothing in the way of an apology coming from the administration. Newsweek apologized and retracted their story, and THEY WERE RIGHT. The Bush administration shamelessly exploited the situation, blamed the story for many deaths, but is strangely silent now.

In fact, Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita, who 10 days ago said he "had not seen specific, credible allegations," yesterday responded to a question of whether the Pentagon was going to apologize to the Arab community by asking, "For what?".

At this point, seriously, anyone who supports these clowns is a fool.

Wiccans Are People Too

Seriously, how does someone become the chief judge of a county Superior Court without knowing the first thing about American law?

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

Indystar.com

There's a fine line between the actual massive overstepping of religious fundamentalists that has been going on in the public sphere for some time and just stories of idiots. This, I would say, falls squarely in the second category.

It's crazy, it's absurd, but this kind of thing I don't believe is truly indicative of anything or a significant result of the larger trend. This judge is obviously out of his mind, and a ruling like this can't possibly withstand a constitutional challenge.

If the parents appeal and this decision is upheld, well then we'll have something to worry about. For now, it is only to laugh.

May 26, 2005
Flushed

Well, what do you know... It turns out that the Newsweek Qu'ran flushing story may very well have been true, and it was in fact the administration and other clamoring Republicans who were lying and exploiting the situation for political advantage.

That's weird, huh?

Newly released documents show that detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, complained repeatedly to F.B.I. agents about disrespectful handling of the Koran by military personnel and, in one case in 2002, said they had flushed a Koran down a toilet.

The prisoners' accounts are described by the agents in detailed summaries of interrogations at Guantánamo in 2002 and 2003. The documents were among more than 300 pages turned over by the F.B.I. to the American Civil Liberties Union in recent days and publicly disclosed Wednesday.

NY Times

In related news, Amnesty International released a report citing the Bush administration for condoning and authorizing "attrocious" human rights violations and operating the "gulag of our times" at Guantanamo Bay.

By way of response, Scott McClellan issued this Orwellian nonsense..

"I think the allegations are ridiculous, and unsupported by the facts. The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity. We have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have worked to advance freedom and democracy in the world so that people are governed under a rule of law, that there are protections in place for minority rights, that women's rights are advanced so that women can fully participate in societies where now they cannot."

The rule of law? These guys break, change, and make up laws like it's a bodily function.

Human dignity? I wonder which "stress position" makes our un-indicted prisoners feel the most dignified... Is it the waterboarding? I think it's probably the waterboarding.

Might want to keep a lightning rod handy, McClellan..

May 25, 2005
Flushed Qu'rans and the Victory of Propaganda

This guy probably owns at least one object that says, "What would Jesus do?" Is there any possibly reality in which it would be this?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The pastor of a small Baptist church has refused calls to take down a sign posted in front of his church reading "The Koran needs to be flushed," saying Tuesday he has nothing to apologize for. "My creed is the Bible, which tells me I am supposed to stand up and defend my faith," said the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the 55-member Danieltown Baptist Church in Forest City. "I don't hate Muslims, I just hate their false doctrines."

The Herald Sun

The Light of Reason has a nice post on the propaganda spin on the Newsweek story that gave this lunatic the idea for his little sign.

Similar to my post from a couple of days ago, Silber deftly explains how the administration and their thousands of repeaters have implanted the idea that the Newsweek story caused the rioting and deaths in Afghanistan simply because they occurred afterwards. It was this one story that caused all of those deaths, you see, and not our country's actual record on respect for the Muslim faith.

Now that it seems that the riots were actually only marginally related, and Afghan President Karzai has said that they were not the result of the Newsweek story, the administration is flat-out lying about ever having said that.

The absolute kicker comes again from Reverend Lovelace...

When Lovelace was asked whether he considered before he put the sign up that there may be some consequences or that some people may be angered, he said he was aware of the likelihood of angering some people.

"Well, I thought about it and I said there may be people who are offended by it but the way I look at it, Jesus told his followers that if the world hates you, don't feel bad because they hated me first," said Lovelace. "If we stand for what is right and for God's word and for Christianity then the world is going to condemn us and so right away when I got a complaint I said 'well somebody's mad, somebody's offended, so we must be doing something right.'"

The Digital Courier

That's beautiful. Now if only we would be attacked by terrorists again.. Then we'll really know we're right.

May 24, 2005
Store Wars

store wars

As Luke points out, there is no shortage of Star Wars parodies, each generally more asinine than the next. This one, though, must be noted — not for it's message, though it is a good, if not particularly sexy message, but for it's sheer awful pun density. I honestly can't recall when I've come across a greater concentration of ghastly plays-on-words.

It's also a good illustration of two other principles:
1) Some people seem to have an amazing amount of free time and/or money, and
2) No matter how much free time and/or money you have, it's really hard to make buying organic sound like fun. It still sounds like nagging.

Don't get me wrong, I completely agree with this stuff. That's what worries me — I'm on board and it still sounds like nagging.

What we really need to employ to get people to care about what they eat is fear, not funny. Once we start getting a lot of mutant, asarcastic children who can't smell or turn to the left running around, people will wise up.

Yeah, That's REALLY Interesting

If you didn't understand the first paragraph of my last post, or you suddenly thought I'd gone all wacko religious conservative, it may be because your ventromedial prefrontal cortex isn't functioning correctly.

brain

Scientists in Israel have found the area of the brain that controls understanding sarcasm. Seriously. They have.

I have noted the sad condition of being "asarcastic" in several friends or acquaintances over the years, and it's nice to hear that the science of their pathetic condition is becoming more understood. There is no sign of a cure yet, but every little bit of progress gives some hope to these tragic souls.

Why Judges Are Good

Just another example of "activist judges" running roughshod over the rights of religious zealots to pollute the minds of our nations children... When will we ever learn?

Workers in Cobb County have begun removing controversial evolution disclaimer stickers from science textbooks to comply with a judges order.

By the end of the day Monday, several thousand stickers, which said evolution was a theory and not a fact, had been scraped off. The school district had put 34,452 stickers on textbooks across the county.The evolution disclaimers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

MSNBC.com

Yay. I can't tell you how pleased I am to hear about even a small reversal in the fight against these "intelligent design" nutjobs. If I could put the word "intelligent" inside more than one set of quotes, I would. Provided, of course, that the quote sets didn't cancel each other out. I don't think bullshit quotes are like math though.

Anyway.. Yay.

And to reiterate why """""intelligent""""" design is completely absurd, I'll refer you again to this article, and to Scientific American's 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense.

Get 'Em While They're Lame

In case you haven't gotten one of the new, ultra-hip Gmail accounts (I have gobs of invites, if'n anyone wants one), but you're still looking for a fresh, crisp, never bitter email address that doesn't let you down in the taste department, head on over to Budweiser for your very own Budweiser.com email address.

budweiser email

I'm sure they will safeguard your personal correspondence with all the technical know-how and attention to electronic security they put into every bottle.

May 23, 2005
Filibuster Compromise
A bipartisan group of 14 senators struck a last-second agreement on Monday that defused - at least for now - a potentially explosive parliamentary showdown over eliminating Senate filibusters against judicial nominees.

Under a compromise reached by an assortment of moderates, mavericks and senior statesmen just as the Senate was headed into a climactic overnight debate on the filibuster, three previously blocked appeals court nominees - Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor and Priscilla R. Owen - will get floor votes. No commitment was made on the fate of two others, William Myers and Henry Saad.

New York Times

I knew this would happen.

I don't remember if I wrote it here, and I'm not in the mood to look it up, but I've been saying they would push this all the way to the brink and then back off. That's more or less what happened, although the "compromise" isn't much of a compromise, we're still going to get a bunch of nutjob judges confirmed, and the Dems vowed to use the filibuster only under "extraordinary" circumstances. These are extraordinary times, Senators.

The more I look at this deal, the more it appears to be a knuckle-under for the Democrats. The problem is they appeared to have little choice. I don't know what I would have recommended. Do they let the Republicans go and change the rules, confident that it will prove to be a bad move over the long haul?

I think maybe what they should have done is the same thing they should have been doing for the past 5 years: Communicating. They should have gotten together on a tougher message, gone after the majority as fiercely as they were being attacked. They should turn this "values" crap on its head and expose the Congressional leadership for the extremists they are. They tried, I'll give them some credit for that, but everything they did came across as weak and wishy-washy. These guys just really have to grow some balls. Stop worrying about elections and just start getting their message out. The reason what they say doesn't resonate is because they don't say it with enough conviction. Sure, it's the nature of liberal thought to embrace many viewpoints and not to be absolute and dogmatic, but it is possible to be forceful and liberal. You don't have to browbeat to convince people, but you do have to make sense and be consistent.

For once, won't somebody be consistent?

Frist's Bald-Faced Lies
"The moment draws closer when all 100 senators must decide a basic question of principle - whether to restore the precedent of a fair up-or-down vote for judicial nominees on this floor or to enshrine a new tyranny of the minority into the Senate rules forever," Dr. Frist said

New York Times

This motherfucker personally filibustered one of President Clinton's judicial nominees. But now that the Republicans control everything, it's a "new tyranny."

Son of a bitch.

They keep going on and on about how the filibustering of judges is "unconstitutional" but they can't say how. Nor can they explain how the tactic was constitutional when they used it.

Liars, cheats, evil, power-grabbing monkeys. My only solace is that this one is so going to bite them in the ass. It might not be until 2008, or possibly even later, but they're going to live to regret this unbelievable assault on our country's principles.

Another example of the level-headed rhetoric coming from the Right...

"The other side has no other way to advance its ultraliberal agenda," said Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky. "They cannot pass their laws through this Congress or through state legislatures. They cannot even get elected by running on these issues. So they must turn to the courts, the last holdout of active liberal power."

Idib.

Ugh. Intelligent conservatives? Hello? Where the hell are you? Does no-one in your party have the balls to stand up to these lunatics? You know damn well they're fucking things up for everyone. Your silence is even more shameful than their ranting.

May 22, 2005
Bush: Kill Some of 'Em

On Friday, President Bush announced that he would veto any legislation that would allow further research into embryonic stem cells.

I've made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life - I'm against that. And therefore if the bill does that, I will veto it.

Seems like he's standing on principle here, huh? He considers a bundle of cells that would otherwise be discarded to be a human life, and he feels that destroying such a life in order to save other lives is wrong. I might not agree, but it sounds like this is a principled stand.

But then again...

I have been supportive of the death penalty, both as governor and President. … And I happen to believe that the death penalty, when properly applied, saves lives of others.

Address to American Society of Newspaper Editors Convention, April 14, 2005

Whoa! That's weird. Executing criminals saves the lives of others, so it's okay. Researching on stem cells destroys the stem cells - again, they would be discarded anyway - so it's not okay.

This despite the fact that countless studies show that the death penalty has no more deterrent effect than other forms of punishment and stem cell research has the real potential to save millions of lives.

Educate yourself on stem cells with the National Institutes of Health's thorough primer.

Quick, before they're forced to take it down.

Via Think Progress.

O'Reilly: Kill 'em All

I'm sure you've heard all about how us liberals are "outside of the mainstream." Our insistence on human rights, rational policy choices, and ethical consistency just doesn't mesh with the way most Americans think.

That being the case, here's a nice example of mainstream thinking from one of the many self-appointed representatives of the putrid trickle that is that "mainstream", Bill O'Reilly.

O'Reilly is responding to an LA Times editorial in which the editorial board argues that America's reputation abroad and ability to successfully fight terrorism would be improved if we granted detainees at Guantanamo legal rights and representation. In other words, if we even pretended to live up to the principles on which this country was founded.

O'REILLY: No, no. I want you to read it. Go to LATimes.com. I want everybody in the country to read this editorial, 'cause it just -- I mean, you'll be sitting there pounding the table like I did. How can they -- how can they think this way? How can anyone think this way? You know, "Shutting down Guantànamo and giving suspected terrorists legal protections would help restore our reputation abroad." No, it wouldn't. I mean that's like saying, well, if we're nicer to the people who want to KILL US, then the other people who want to KILL US will like us more. Does that make any sense to you? Do you think Osama [bin Laden] is gonna be more favorably disposed to the U.S. if we give the Guantànamo people lawyers?

E.D. HILL (co-host): No, of course not.

O'REILLY: I mean, but this is what they're saying. It is just -- you just sit there, you go, "They'll never get it until they grab Michael Kinsley out of his little house and they cut his head off." And maybe when the blade sinks in, he'll go, "Perhaps O'Reilly was right."

Media Matters

So there you go. Liberals will never understand why it's wrong to treat suspected terrorists fairly until terrorists cut our heads off. This man has his own TV show.

In the first part of his blood-thirsty tirade, he is actually attempting to make a point, though it couldn't possibly be more pinheaded.

Being "nicer to the people who want to kill us" naturally won't make the other people who want to kill us like us more. The pathetically obvious point that Bill is missing here is that that's not the point. Nobody thinks we're going to change many of the minds of the people who hate us. But maybe, just maybe, we could spend a few minutes thinking about how our actions create more people who want to kill us.

Treating people with fairness and according to our own laws would help in this fight - the fight to stop the creation of more and more violent Islamic fundamentalists. And it is this fight, and this fight only, that is the true "war on terror."

Maybe when the blade is sinking into Bill O'Reilly's throat he'll understand that.

May 19, 2005
One Giant Leap

With all necessary humility, I'd like to point out today's launch of The Stranger's brand new website. I've been working my ass off on this for weeks, nay months, so there ya go. It's up.

the stranger

If you never saw what the site looked like before, consider yourself lucky.

May 17, 2005
Newsweek Flap

This story about Newsweek printing a story about U.S. soldiers desecrating the Quran at Guantanamo that turned out to be - possibly - false is really becoming very disturbing.

It's not disturbing because a major media outlet reported something that turned out to be false, that happens all the time.

It's disturbing because the Bush administration has jumped on this as an opportunity to 1) whitewash their record with regard to respect for Muslims and 2) further ingrain the idea that the media is unreliable in the mind of a public that already has scary views on the role of the media.

Notice how they have dragged out the one story that turned out to be false while ignoring and minimizing the hundreds of stories that are undoubtedly true. Muslims in U.S. custody have been tortured. They have been tortured in ways specifically designed to play on their religion. We know this to be true.

Yet the administration takes one example of a story about such abuse that turns out to be true and plays it as proof that they are in fact very respectful of the Muslim faith. The logic is so shoddy that it will probably work. It's already working.

The second benefit they realize from this whole thing is the further erosion of people's confidence in journalists to tell them what's going on. This also serves to ensure that journalists will have less access and less funding to investigate real stories. You watch, they will keep this story front and center for as long as they possibly can.

In other news, one of the soldiers photographed smiling over the body of a tortured Iraqi and behind a pyramid of naked detainees was given a sentence of 6 months in prison today. Defense lawyers credit their showing of pictures of the soldier, Spc. Sabrina Harman, being nice to Iraqi children. As everyone knows, evidence that someone has been nice before is good reason to forgive them for committing horrible acts of violence and denigration later on.

This shit is making me sick.

May 16, 2005
New Survey Shows Very Sad, Scary Things

Oh save me, Jeebus...

A survey to be released Monday reveals a wide gap on many media issues between a group of journalists and the general public. In one finding, 43% of the public says the press has too much freedom, while only 3% of journalists agree. And just 14% of the public can name "freedom of the press" as a guarantee in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in the major poll conducted by the University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy.

Six in ten among the public feel the media show bias in reporting the news, and 22% say the government should be allowed to censor the press. More than 7 in 10 journalists believe the media does a good or excellent job on accuracy -- but only 4 in 10 among the public feel that way. And a solid 53% of the public thinks stories with unnamed sources should not be published at all.

Editor and Publisher

Naturally, shocking survey results like this - when you are forced to consider that the vast majority of your countrymen & women are stupid to a terrifying degree - should be examined fairly closely. You can really prove anything with a poll if you ask the right (or wrong) questions.

So here are the full survey questions and results.

The question that yielded the "43% think the press has too much freedom" result was:

Overall, do you think the PRESS IN AMERICA has too much freedom to do what it wants, too little freedom to do what it wants, or is the amount of freedom the press has about right?

That seems fair, huh? And yet 43% of the general population answered "Too much freedom."

Basically, it appears that many people not only have a terrifyingly thin grasp of what it means to have freedom, but their opinions don't even actually make any sense.

Consider this, keeping in mind that 43% of these same people think the press has too much freedom...

65% felt it was "very important" for the news media to educate the public about complex issues, while 91% felt it was "very important" for the news media to report information accurately.

A question, Mr. and Mrs. Average American: How exactly is the media supposed to do that without freedom? I thought we were, like, all about freedom. Captain Shock and Awe has been going on and on about it for years.

Finally, my favorite statistic from this survey:

5% felt it was "not very important" (3%) or "not important at all" (2%) that "the news media keep public officials accountable."

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that they asked how important we feel that the news media keep celebrities accountable for their weight loss and/or gain.

May 14, 2005
Also Not Shocking

Via JewishyIrishy..

You scored as Postmodernist. Postmodernism is the belief in complete open interpretation. You see the universe as a collection of information with varying ways of putting it together. There is no absolute truth for you; even the most hardened facts are open to interpretation. Meaning relies on context and even the language you use to describe things should be subject to analysis.

Existentialist
81%
Postmodernist
81%
Materialist
75%
Cultural Creative
63%
Modernist
56%
Idealist
50%
Romanticist
31%
Fundamentalist
13%

What is Your World View?
created with QuizFarm.com

So sayeth the very short quiz.

May 12, 2005
Global Catastrophe

Apologies for the dearth of posts of late, not to mention the banality of those that have made it up. I've been so very busy. Busy busy busy.

I recently finished the third part of Elizabeth Kolbert's excellent series of articles for The New Yorker on global warming. (Part I, Part II, Part III)

I can't really recommend these enough. Instead of thinking of them as long magazine articles, think of it as a very short book. If you only read one, though, read the last one.

The conclusion, basically, is that we're killing ourselves. Further, the United States is not only the cause of more of the problem than any other country, but also presents to biggest obstacle - in the form of George W. Bush - to doing anything about the problem. It's one shocking statistic and example of U.S. irresponsibility in the face of clear evidence after another.

Let's put it this way.. Imagine that we are the dinosaurs, living 65 million years ago, but instead of being dumb as sticks, we're smart and we've learned - literally beyond all doubt - that a massive space rock is hurtling directly at the Earth. It won't get here for about 100 or maybe even 200 years, but it's undeniably coming, and it will cause unbelievable destruction, possibly pushing our entire species to extinction.

This is, almost literally, the situation we find ourselves in. Of course, climate change is not as dramatic as a comet smashing into the planet, and we can't predict exactly how events will play out nor exactly when, but the end result is no less severe, and of that we're certain.

So the question is, what do we do about it? Should we just assume, correctly, that we'll personally be dead before anything really bad happens and just go about our business of getting stuck in tar pits? Or should we all get together and do something about it?

Nearly every government on earth is choosing the second option, but our government is choosing the first. And because of the massive part we play in the whole scenario by virtue of our greed and short-sightedness, our choice renders the choice of everyone else nearly moot.

Some things to think about:

• Experts estimate that if we made carbon emissions carry a financial cost of about $100 per ton, many of the alternative energy sources we already have at our disposal would become economically viable. Assuming this cost were passed on from the energy industry to you and me, the price of a kilowatt-hour if coal-generated power would rise by about 2 cents, or about $15 a month to the average American family.

• The "Star Wars" missile defense program - which hasn't yielded anything close to a working system - has cost us about $100 billion. Imagine investing $10 billion a year into alternative energy sources for 10 years. Good chance we'd come up with something a bit more useful than a collection habitually errant missiles.

• Republicans and their strategists are specifically and deliberately confusing the public about global warming. Consider this from a memo by Frank Luntz circulated a couple years ago: "The scientific debate is closing (against us) but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming in the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly." Luntz also advised, "The most important principle in any discussion of global warming is your commitment to sound science."

The use of the phrase "sound science" tickles the public's misconception about the nature of scientific research in general, and is the same technique used in the evolution "debate." The goal of science has never been and never will be to find absolute truth. Again, a theory is not simply an opinion.

• Countless energy industry front groups with Orwellian names like the "Greening Earth Society" and "Americans for Balanced Energy Choices" have websites that spew misinformation, like this, "Predicting weather conditions a day or two in advance is hard enough, so just imagine how hard it is to forecast what our climate will be."

Their point is, as always, to confuse people and sow the seeds of doubt. It's the same strategy they use for nearly every issue that they know they would lose terribly if people knew the truth. They reinforce people's preconceived ideas and prejudices to further their own selfish goals, and they do it with malice aforethought.

... the Environmental Protection Agency delivered a two-hundred-and-sixty-three-page report to the U.N. which stated that “continuing growth in greenhouse gas emissions is likely to lead to annual average warming over the United States that could be as much as several degrees Celsius (roughly 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit) during the 21st century." The President dismissed the report—the product of years of work by federal researchers—as something "put out by the bureaucracy." The following spring, the E.P.A. made another effort to give an objective summary of climate science, in a report on the state of the environment. The White House interfered so insistently in the writing of the global-warming section—at one point, it tried to insert excerpts from a study partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute—that, in an internal memo, agency staff members complained that the section "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus." (When the E.P.A. finally published the report, the climate-science section was missing entirely.

The New Yorker

The only way for the world to begin to really do anything about this problem is for the United States to lead the way. Instead, we are the greatest obstacle. We pulled out of the Kyoto agreement because we didn't think it was fair that developing countries didn't have to curb their emissions at the same time that we did. We've insisted that we'll only agree to reductions that apply to everyone.

The problem with this logic is that it's completely self-serving. We have been an industrialized society for over 100 years. We have reaped the benefits of using massive quantities of fossil fuels and depositing the byproducts into the atmosphere - everyone's atmosphere. Our technology has progressed rapidly and we are now a post-industrial nation. We have the knowledge and the capital to switch to cleaner energy sources.

Developing countries deserve a chance to catch up. If required to live up to the same standards as we are immediately, their growth will be forever crippled relative to the more modernized countries. They should be required to move forward to alternative sources quickly, but their contribution to this problem thus far has been minimal. It's our mess, and we should lead the way in cleaning it up.

Suppose for a moment that the total anthropogenic CO2 that can be emitted into the atmosphere were a big ice-cream cake. If the aim is to keep concentrations below five hundred parts per million, then roughly half that cake has already been consumed, and, of that half, the lion's share has been polished off by the industrialized world. To insist now that all countries cut their emissions simultaneously amounts to advocating that industrialized nations be allocated most of the remaining slices, on the ground that they've already gobbled up so much. In a year, the average American produces the same greenhouse-gas emissions as four and a half Mexicans, or eighteen Indians, or ninety-nine Bangladeshis. If both the U.S. and India were to reduce their emissions proportionately, then the average Bostonian could continue indefinitely producing eighteen times as much greenhouse gases as the average Bangalorean. But why should anyone have the right to emit more than anyone else? At a climate meeting in New Delhi three years ago, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then the Indian prime minister, told world leaders, "Our per capita greenhouse gas emissions are only a fraction of the world average and an order of magnitude below that of many developed countries. We do not believe that the ethos of democracy can support any norm other than equal per capita rights to global environmental resources."

Ibid.

This process is certainly not ideal, but that's a pathetically flimsy excuse for not doing anything at all. We have to start somewhere.

Pieter van Geel, the Dutch environment secretary, who is a member of the Netherlands' center-right Christian Democratic Party, described the European outlook to me as follows: "We cannot say, 'Well, we have our wealth, based on the use of fossil fuels for the last three hundred years, and, now that your countries are growing, you may not grow at this rate, because we have a climate-change problem.' We should show moral leadership by giving the example. That's the only way we can ask something of these other countries."

Ibid.

Note that this man is a member of a center-right, Christian political party. And lookee, he's advocating actual Christian morals. Weird.

Fixing this problem will not be easy, and there's some chance that we won't even be able to fix it. There is also a chance that things won't get as bad as we think as fast as we think. The point, though, is not to wait for what the Bush administration likes to call "sound science" — by which they mean science that supports their position, regardless of the source — the point is to take what we know, which is a lot, and act.

Robert Socolow of Princeton University explains that society has faced choices like this before.

"I think it's the kind of issue where something looked extremely difficult, and not worth it, and then people changed their minds. Take child labor. We decided we would not have child labor and goods would become more expensive. It's a changed preference system. Slavery also had some of those characteristics a hundred and fifty years ago. Some people thought it was wrong, and they made their arguments, and they didn't carry the day. And then something happened and all of a sudden it was wrong and we didn't do it anymore. And there were social costs to that. I suppose cotton was more expensive. We said, 'That's the trade-off; we don't want to do this anymore.'

Ibid.

This is exactly right. And comparing those who refuse to acknowledge the problem and consistently oppose any attempts at a solution to those who opposed the abolition of slavery as a threat to the economy is perfectly apt. It's a matter of what we're willing to sacrifice to maintain the economic status quo. From my knowledge of history, it's not the societies that stick their heads in the sand that thrive, on the contrary, this is a sign of a culture on the decline. Societies that move forward face giant challenges with innovation, ingenuity, and without fear. We're on the wrong side of history on this, and we're dragging the entire planet along with us.

Socolow again...

"... we may look at this and say, 'We are tampering with the earth.' The earth is a twitchy system. It's clear from the record that it does things that we don't fully understand. And we're not going to understand them in the time period we have to make these decisions. We just know they're there. We may say, 'We just don't want to do this to ourselves.' If it's a problem like that, then asking whether it's practical or not is really not going to help very much. Whether it's practical depends on how much we give a damn."

(emphasis mine)

Ibid.

May 10, 2005
Now Playing

Remember a few months ago when I ranted and raved about commercials before the feature at the movie theaters? I tried to start a grassroots movement to walk out of theaters during the ads and demand a refund. That didn't work out. I have no influence whatsoever.

Or so it seemed.

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, and others were even madder. So mad, in fact, that they created websites about the problem. Here's one.

And guess what happened.. Loews caved. Well, sort of.

Last week Loews announced that, starting this June, they will include the information that "the feature presentation starts 10 to 15 minutes after the posted show time" in their listings.

This is not exactly the right thing to do - that would be to actually just tell us the time the movie starts - but it's pretty close. For crowded screenings of popular movies, people will still arrive early to get kick-ass seats and the freshest Hot Tamales, but for the weird movies on a Tuesday, we'll know we can show up "10-15 minutes" later. Of course, the imprecision of that "10-15 minutes" will completely screw with our minds, filling us with the fear of missing the first 5 minutes, but we'll just have to live with that fear.

A small price for freedom.

May 9, 2005
V-TV Day

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals today struck down the Broadcast Flag, a set of rules which intended to restrict what you can do with television programs after you've received them. In other words, it would have embedded a flag that identified something as having come from broadcast television and prevented you from transferring that material to a portable player, say.

Boing Boing has the full story.

If The Media Would Please Step Outside...

Via The Carpetbagger Report.

It seems that President Bush was forced to face questions from people who - and I'm as appalled as you are - were not pre-screened and had signed no loyalty oath whatsoever! He even had to endure questions that were made up - I know - by the people asking them. Seriously, it didn't seem like there was one lickspittle in the whole crowd! Where is Jeff Gannon when you need him?

Of course, the people I'm speaking of were not Americans, they were Dutch, and luckily, the media were ushered out of the room once the questions got a little too pointed.

At home, President Bush regularly travels the nation for "conversations" with hand-picked audiences who routinely shower him and his policies with praise. But abroad on Sunday, some youths in Holland had a rare, unscripted opportunity to ask questions that some Americans might want to pose if given the chance.

..snip..

"I have a question … concerning the terrorism," said the first student to be called on, a young woman. "And you made many laws after 9/11, many — many laws and many measures. And I'm wondering, will there be a time when you drop those laws and when you decrease the measures?"

"Look," Bush replied, "a free society such as ours, obviously, must balance the government's most important duty, which is to protect the American people from harm, with the civil liberties of our citizens. And every law we passed that was aimed to protect us in this new era of threats from abroad and the willingness for people to kill without mercy has been scrutinized and, of course, balanced by our Constitution."

LA Times

My favorite part about Bush's answer, besides that cute way he has of beginning his replies with "Look," or "Listen," was the way he was telling the DUTCH about what it's like to live in a free society.

The next question — the last heard by reporters or included in the White House transcript — concerned the cost of the Iraq war.

The unidentified questioner noted that the U.S. had been involved in "a lot of wars," and wondered about the impact on Americans at home.

She said she had recently received a brochure seeking donations for poor people in the United States and asked Bush: "What's the balance between the responsibility to the world and the responsibility to your own people?"

Said Bush: "I think we have a responsibility to both." Reverting to what resembled a campaign stump speech, he then listed the value of small businesses in creating jobs and spoke of the United States' role in fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa and safeguarding freedom around the world.

Media were then asked to leave, though the meeting, held in a window-lined room at a glorious chateau near Maastricht, went on for another half-hour.

Ibid.

Isn't that lovely. Not only were the media asked to leave, but the White House cut it all from the transcript. I seem to recall some pretty thorough transcripts of his stateside "town hall meetings"...

Really, the shame here lies less with George Bush - he's just being himself - and with the media - they also seem to suck reflexively these days - as it does with us, you and me. He is our president.

How sad is that?

Pat Robertson's Gaydar

pat robertson

Watch this video, in which Pat Robertson reveals his amazing power to determine people's sexual orientation by talking to them on the phone.

It is also interesting for it's revelations into media spin. His handlers tell him that, no matter what anyone asks him, he should just talk about what he wants to talk about. It's a lovely game.

May 8, 2005
My God, George Will Is Right!

A little late on this one - it's been sitting in my browser for almost a week - but it's still worth noting, as an occurrence like this is so rare.. George Will is making sense.

The state of America's political discourse is such that the president has felt it necessary to declare that unbelievers can be good Americans. In last week's prime-time news conference, he said: "If you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship."

So Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes and a long, luminous list of other skeptics can be spared the posthumous ignominy of being stricken from the rolls of exemplary Americans. And almost 30 million living Americans welcomed that presidential benediction.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey, Americans who answer "none" when asked to identify their religion numbered 29.4 million in 2001, more than double the 14.3 million in 1990. If unbelievers had their own state -- the state of None -- its population would be more than twice that of New England's six states, and None would be the nation's second-largest state...

Washington Post

He concludes..

Unbelievers should not cavil about this acknowledgment of majority sensibilities. But Republicans should not seem to require, de facto, what the Constitution forbids, de jure: "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust."

Damn right.

What's really irritating about the times we live in is that it is so rare to see someone criticize the members of their own "team." Conservatives rarely if ever criticize the President, even if he's clearly being an unbelievable ass. Democrats are just as bad. If someone suggests that a Republican may have made a good decision, they are stripped of their liberal cred.

What would be better would be if people would champion causes and principles, not parties and individuals. I know that's asking for a lot, but I think that it's the ideas that matter. It's hard, I know. I am certainly no stranger to the temptation to paint Republicans and their dirty little schemes with a broad brush, but at least I try to be honest about it. I'm not doing cartwheels to justify things I clearly do not believe in just because it was a "liberal" idea or a "conservative" idea. I just want people to make sense, that's all.

It's my birthday on Thursday, and really and truly, that's all I want. I also have a wishlist on Amazon.com, in case they're out of People Making Sense.

Hotlinking

This will be of interest to perhaps 1% of you, but I'm getting irritated with people stealing my bandwidth.

If you have a website and you browse your referrer logs every now and then, you'll probably notice all kinds of hits from weird sites, usually blogs, forums, or teenagers Xanga sites that you've never heard of. Makes you feel popular for a second until you click through and see that they didn't link to your site, they just linked to an image on your site.

See, if you want to display an image on a website, you can either put it on your server or, if the image is on someone else's site, you can just enter the full URL pointing directly to the image on their server, thereby serving the image on your page with their bandwidth. I pay for my bandwidth. It's mine. When I go over my limits, it costs me. So this is bad.

For a while, when I noticed a particularly egregious offender, I would just change the name of the image, thereby breaking the image on their site. This works, but it's a pain. So now I'm looking into more serious solutions that will prevent people from doing this in the first place. I'll probably go with this technique.

That's it. I'm done. Just had to get that out. If you have a website and you "hotlink" images, stop it. It's basically stealing. Download the image and put it on your own server.

That is all.

May 7, 2005
Nuclear Nonsense

The Week again, this time with a rundown of what's happening in the world of world destruction, also known as nuclear weapons.

Conservative columnists all over the place, and donald Rumsfeld, are saying that we should respond to North Korea and Iran's refusal to disarm by investing billions in fancy, new, fancier, even more holocaustic nuclear weapons.

The thinking here is so terrifyingly simplistic it makes my blood run cold. A nuclear war will destroy everything. EVERYTHING. Nobody will win. Haven't we figured that out by now?

Face it, said Frank Gaffney Jr. in The Washington Times, the U.S. is on its own. We can't rely on Russia or China to police rogue nations, and we certainly can't rely on the NPT. Only one thing will make the U.S. safer—a strong deterrent. Our response to North Korea and Iran should be to upgrade our own nuclear arsenal; that'll send a strong message to "nations who have exploited this broken treaty."

The Week

And what exactly is that message? That we're prepared to kill millions if they don't comply? That we'll sacrifice the entirety of western civilization to protect our fragile ego?

If we really want to "send a message" to rogue states, we would stop funding new nuclear weapons. That doesn't mean we'll be unprotected, we can keep one pointed right at them if it'll make you feel better, but it will show that they're on the wrong side of basic humanity on this, instead of what we're doing now, which is acting like insecure children.

Insecure children with the power to wipeout millions.

Paris, Please

From the Gossip section of the current issue of The Week:

• The party's finally over, says Paris Hilton. After years as an A-list social butterfly, the hotel heiress says she wants to get serious about her business empire, citing Donald Trump and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs as role models. "I'm glad I got the partying out of my system when I was young, because I'm so over it and I can focus on my career," says Hilton, 24. Hilton already has her own line of perfume, and owns the Club Paris nightclub in Orlando. A movie career gets underway with this month's House of Wax. She will attend parties, she said, if paid to do so; her standard fee is $150,000 to $200,000 just for showing up for 20 minutes.

I wonder what she'd charge to let me kick the fucking shit out of her? I better start saving up.

May 6, 2005
Microsoft Caves to Non-Psychos

Hey, lookit! A giant monopolistic corporation does the right thing! A red-letter day, I tells ya.

Microsoft will formally support efforts to pass gay rights legislation in Washington state, Chief Executive Steve Ballmer told employees today in an e-mail addressing a flap over the company's earlier decision to take a neutral stance on the issue in Olympia this year.

"Obviously, the Washington state legislative session has concluded for this year, but if legislation similar to HB 1515 is introduced in future sessions, we will support it,'' he said.

Ballmer said the company will also continue supporting efforts to pass similar national legislation.

Seattle Times

It's a shame that this came up at all, but at least they're doing the right thing now. It really shouldn't be so hard, though.

May 5, 2005
Go Team Go

no cheer

The Texas House of Representatives voted 85-55 yesterday to ban "overtly sexually suggestive" routines by high school cheerleaders.

Seriously. I'm not making that up.

It seems that the fall of the Taliban has left a gaping void in the fabric of world society for a repressive, fear-based culture that American Conservatives are only too happy to be rushing to fill.

It's too bad that the dirty old men in the Texas House were reminded of their sinful desire to nail teenage girls when they went to football games, but do they have to ruin it for the rest of us?

Coming soon to a high school near you... burkas!

Stockpile

nuclear stockpile

A dramatic illustration of the billions we're spending to build and maintain the worlds' largest collection of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

May 3, 2005
Joint Chiefs to Bush: Eeeeennnhh

During last Thursday's press conference, President Bush was asked about our presence in Iraq limiting our military's ability to deal with crises elsewhere.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I appreciate that question. The person to ask that to, the person I ask that to, at least, is to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, my top military advisor. I say, do you feel that we've limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq? And the answer is, no, he doesn't feel we're limited. He feels like we've got plenty of capacity.

whitehouse.gov

Okedokee, why don't we go see what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers, has to say..

The Defense Department acknowledged yesterday that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the U.S. military to a point where it is at higher risk of less swiftly and easily defeating potential foes, though officials maintained that U.S. forces could handle any military threat that presents itself.

An annual risk assessment by Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded that commanders are having difficulty meeting the higher standards imposed on them by conflicts around the world, including the military effort against terrorism. Presented to members of Congress yesterday, the assessment found that the risk has increased but is trending lower, according to defense and military officials who briefed reporters at the Pentagon yesterday.

Underscoring the stress facing the armed services, the Army reported separately yesterday that its recruiting efforts are continuing to slip, as recruiters nationwide obtained less than 60 percent of the April goal of 6,600 new recruits into the active-duty force. It was the third straight month in which the Army missed its recruiting goal, and it represents a significant downward trend.

(emphasis mine)

Washington Post

Two possibilities here: The President doesn't actually talk (or doesn't actually listen) to his top military advisor, or the President is lying about what they've talked about.

Actually, even if it's the first possibility, he was still lying. So he either knows that our military is strained and less effective overall because of Iraq and he's lying about the fact of it, or he doesn't know and he's lying about knowing it.

Either way, doesn't he just make your skin crawl?

May 2, 2005
Zell Miller Is Nuts

zell miller

Okay, I know that's not a big news flash, but wow. He was on The Daily Show tonight (catch a rerun if you can, or watch here for when they post it online), acting civilized, but making very little sense as usual. He has a new book, called A Deficit of Decency in which he apparently argues that one of the biggest dangers facing our country right now is "gangster rap." And steroids in baseball.

"I don't think when our Founding Fathers came along that they expected freedom of speech to mean that you could have this gangster rap going in kids' ears... I mean, Oliver Wendell Holmes ... he said that freedom of speech does not mean that you can shout fire in a crowded theater. Well I'm not so sure freedom of speech means that you can shout filth in my grandkids' ears."

- Zell Miller

Right. It's clear to any student of American history that the intent of the First Amendment is to promote decency. When they wrote, "shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech," what they really meant to say was, "At such a time as each generation gets old enough to not care for the music of their descendants, that music shall then be declared unconstitutional and be forever banned. This is the true meaning of freedom."

Yeah, and another thing, Senator Stupid - Yelling fire in a theater isn't protected speech because it puts people in direct physical danger. Gangster rap is music you don't like. If Oliver Wendell Holmes were alive, he would surely challenge you to a duel for that crap.

Jon Stewart, god bless him, pointed out to the Senator that the so called "good old days" included such "decencies" as segregation and baseball players who were brawling alcoholics. He also made the point that some may say that making it harder for the sick to get bankruptcy protection in order to enrich credit card companies is the real indecency, among many others that Miller doesn't seem all that exercised over.

The foreword to Miller's book was written by the patron saint of decency himself, Sean Hannity.

Lynndie Pleads Guilty, Stupid

Lynndie England pleaded guilty to seven charges of abuse today, though the judge hasn't decided yet whether to accept her plea.

Her lawyers are hoping that she'll get a reduced sentence because she's an ignorant half-wit.

Hard to argue with that.

Questioned by Pohl about the incident portrayed in the leash picture, England, 22, said she had visited that section of the sprawling prison to see Sgt. Charles Graner, with whom she was involved sexually.

"(Graner) handed me the leash and said hold this, I'm going to take a picture," the diminutive soldier said. "He wanted it to look more ... humiliating if a female of my size would hold it."

She added: "I assumed it was OK because he was an MP (military policeman). He had the background as a corrections officer and with him being older than me I thought he knew what he was doing."

Graner, a former prisons office by whom England has since had a child, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a military tribunal in January for his part in the abuse. He is expected to testify this week in England's sentencing hearing.

Under a plea deal, two of the nine charges against England, who had low-level clerk duties at Abu Ghraib, were dropped. The sentencing phase was expected to start on Tuesday.

England, of Fort Ashby, West Virginia, said she was just followed orders and her lawyer, Capt. Jonathan Crisp, has said he hopes she will receive a reduced punishment because of mental shortcomings.

Reuters

Der Cruise

I file this one under Religion only in the loosest sense of the word...

tom cruise

Der Spiegel interviews Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg about their upcoming film War of the Worlds, but the interviewer really just wants to make fun of Cruise for being a Scientologist. (Germans hate Scientologists, it's one of the few countries that generally recognizes it as a freaky cult and not a "real" religion, whatever that is.)

SPIEGEL: Do you see it as your job to recruit new followers for Scientology?

Cruise: I'm a helper. For instance, I myself have helped hundreds of people get off drugs. In Scientology, we have the only successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. It's called Narconon.

SPIEGEL: That's not correct. Yours is never mentioned among the recognized detox programs. Independent experts warn against it because it is rooted in pseudo science.

Cruise: You don't understand what I am saying. It's a statistically proven fact that there is only one successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. Period.

SPIEGEL: With all due respect, we doubt that.

SPIEGEL ONLINE

Yeah, I doubt it too. And I have reason to doubt it, as would anyone who did the slightest amount of research.