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Friday, August 26, 2005  
Thank you, Jesus. I am bone-sick of arguing about Iraq. I am so tired of hearing that it was never about WMDs, that if you read the 2003 state of the union address that there were a whole bunch of other reasons in there, and that it was always about democracy and freedom and democracy, and then they start babbling about painted schools and biased media. This argument, in addition to being the sheerest bullshit, is just not necessary for war supporters to make. Every time I hear this nonsense, I am struck by the fact that but for the utter unwillingness of Bush defenders to admit any mistake whatsoever by their guy, they have a perfectly legitimate argument to make: that the invasion was about WMDs, and Bush acted in good faith on admittedly partial information, but partial is maybe as good as you need in the post 9/11 era. Unfortunately, Bush and his intelligence were wrong, but now we are there, so lets stop whining about the why and start talking about how to stanch the bleeding. I don't agree with the premises of this argument (Bush's good faith, preemption as acceptable), but I recognize it to be a consistent argument that does not intentionally ignore or lie about history. So imagine my great joy in encountering this at Greg Djerejian's right-leaning Belgravia Dispatch:

Look, we don't need to make up fake arguments about why we are in Iraq. We went in because Saddam was an uniquely dangerous individual whom was commonly believed to be in possession of WMD. In a post 9/11 world, caution demanded that the burden of proof that he had disarmed be on him. He never convincingly met this burden, by showing the world beyond a reasonable doubt that his regime didn't possess WMD, and Bush acted pursuant to various UN resolutions to bring him to task. But we were wrong, and he didn't have WMD, yet History had marched on by then. In turn, of course, the goal was not to disarm the regime, in the main, but now to go about the hard work of creating a democratic Iraq. But we are flailing, currently, in achieving this goal. And, if we fail, the ramifications will be immense.

Like I said, I have real problems with some of these premises, but they have the virtue of being honest assessments, rather than assemblages of spin designed to protect a politician. Read it all, it's really a great piece. The broader point of the piece is the offensive stupidity of the so-called "flypaper theory," whispers of which you hear every time you hear the president say, as he does over and over and over again, "We will stay on the offense, fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them at home."

But as Djerejian argues, such a strategy is not only poorly conceived, it is already a catastrophic failure, given the avalanche of terrorist attacks that have swept the globe in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq invasion. Moreover, such an approach, even if it were effective, is completely immoral. Djerjerian quotes this post by the Cunning Realist to render this point:
has anyone thought about why we're justified in using another nation as flypaper in the first place, even if it was a viable, effective strategy? What gives us the right to use a sovereign nation as a catch basin for carnage so we can go on blissfully consuming and merrily flipping real estate here? Instead of flypaper, this should be called the "Night of the Living Dead Nation" strategy---using the undead, zombie-like carcass of a failed state for our own benefit. Beyond the sheer selfish immorality of it, has anyone thought about the potential for blowback? How would you feel if we were invaded by the Chinese on a false pretense, and they stated openly that their strategy was to attract and fight the scum of the earth in the streets of New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago so they did not have to fight in Beijing?

The post excerpted by Djerejian (and the whole blog, really) is worth a read; it's written by a sort of lapsed conservative who blogs from inside some megabank in NYC.


Belgravia Dispatch link via Obsidian Wings.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005  
We join Doctor Fafnir and Doctor Giblets as they race to save a stroke victim through the miracle of pluralistic medicine.

"The brain is irreducibly complex and intelligently designed," says me, "most likely by brain fairies. The only way to save this brain is to lure the stroke fairies outta the brain with delicious fairy snacks."

"You speak madness!" says Giblets. "Your fairy appeasement plan will only encourage these stroke fairies to cause MORE strokes in the future! Only a hardline anti-fairy stance will deter future fairy-designed brain maladies!"

"We won't get anywhere with your dangerous fairy brinksmanship," says me. "I've got a patient to save and the fairies-for-brain trade is the only way to do it!"

"That's just a theory, not a fact," says Giblets. "Giblets knows strokes are really caused by an excess of blood, the only cure for which is an increase in phlegm levels! Get me 50 cc's of phlegm, stat!"

"Oh no we're losin him!" says me. "Get me God on the phone, we need him to create thrombolysis!"

"No time for that, he'll take at least six days and that's not counting the time to tempt it into eternal damnation!" says Giblets.

"He has only one hope now: the artificial replacement brain!" says me.

"Giblets has it right here!" says Giblets scoopin out the brain an stickin in a bag a Stop-U-Mart ice.

"Doctor Giblets I must protest," says me. "How's the patient gonna think with a bag a Stop-U-Mart ice."

"He won't," says Giblets. "He'll think with his heart and use his new artificial ice brain to cool his blood and prevent heated disruptions of the humours like everybody else!"

Seriously....just go read it...

You know what else is funny? The Aristocrats, that's what. But no kidding with the NC-17. This movie could scorch impressionable minds from 200 yards, and through walls. Oh, jeebus. "The Spacedock. It's where you [INCREDIBLY OFFENSIVE CONTENT DELETED]. I don't think anyone has ever actually done that one, though."


Tuesday, August 23, 2005  
Some fuss has arisen over the results of this Harris poll showing that a large majority of Americans would prefer both evolution and ID to be taught in schools (see Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias). While that was indeed a surprising statistic, I think that the rest of the poll could only be described as terrifying:

"Do you think human beings developed from earlier species or not?"
2005: Did: 38% Did Not: 54% Unsure: 8%
Did: 44% Did Not: 46% Unsure: 10%

"Which of the following do you believe about how human beings came to be? Human beings evolved from earlier species. Human beings were created directly by God. Human beings are so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them."
Evolved From Earlier Species: 22%
Created Directly By God: 64%
Powerful Force/Intelligent Being: 10%
Unsure: 4%

So, it isn't just that Americans wish to see pseudo-science in the classroom, and it's not just that most Americans have been taken in by some ID disinformation campaign. No such campaign was necessary. The real problem is that most Americans are ID sympathizers because they are, in fact, creationists who do not believe in evolution. One wonders, having accepted the basic Adam-n'-Eve premise, what other talismanic certainties they are dubious about. The big bang? The immutability of the speed of light? The sun-centered solar system?

I often dance around it out of politeness, but it must be said - I do not live on the same planet as those people who believe that humanity was created in the garden of eden directly by god a matter of millenia ago. We do not walk on the same earth. Mine is a speck of rock in the middle of an incomprehensibly vast, incomprehensibly empty clockwork spanning great reaches of space and time. Their earth lies safely nestled in the palm of god's hand, under his ever-attentive eye, tucked into a jewelers box with a tuft of pure white watchcotton. If humans were created, why not everything else? The scientific view of the universe brings the earth to immense, buzzing life, detail and change impregnating everything, the universe alive with self-creation and constant destruction, even this tabletop hiding great reaches of space and dancing energy masked by the seeming solidity of a firm knock. But the creationist walks through a stage set, mere scenery. His world is a papier-mache construct built to contain him and only him, such a beautiful, perfect culmination of the work of god himself. He lifts a rock, and sees insects teeming because they were put there for him to see. To me, such a world is static, muffled, and dead, like a hand clapped over a jar.

Oh, and by the way, I don't know anything much about Paul Hackett, except that (a) he is a democrat, (b) he is an Iraq war veteran, (c) that he ran in a special congressional election earlier this month in a heavily republican Ohio district, and lost by barely 4% of the vote (for context, the republican margin of victory in 2004 was 44%), and (d) he has been floated as a possible challenger to Ohio senator Mike DeWine in 2006. So, that's all very nice. But what I like is this exchange, on the Ed Schultz Show, after Rush Limbaugh accused Hackett of going to Iraq to "pad his political resume."
SCHULTZ: In fact, the No. 1 conservative talker in this country, Rush Limbaugh, said you went to Iraq to pad your resumé. How do you take that kind of conversation?

HACKETT: That's typical for that fat-ass drug addict to come up with something like that. There's a guy -- I didn't hear this, but actually when I was on drill this weekend, I've got to tell you, he lost a lot of Republican supporters with his comments. Because they were coming up to me, telling me, "I can't believe he said that! And besides that, he called you a soldier. He doesn't know the difference between a soldier and a Marine!

As I said, I don't know anything about Hackett, but hearing someone punch back at a whinging shitbag like Limbaugh just makes me wonder why more people don't. The right wing pundits have had it their way for a long, long time. I tried to come up with some brilliant conclusion to this bit, but I couldn't. Rush Limbaugh is an ass. Ho-hum. Oh, well, I guess once again outrage will have to substitute for eloquence, as we go out with a bang: Did you see this fucking crazy-ass bullshit?


Thursday, August 18, 2005  
I am no expert on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I don't even have a coherent position on the matter. Both sides seem able to draw on great reservoirs of righteousness and victimhood to justify...well, almost anything, from suicide attacks by children to indiscriminate rocket attacks on residential neighborhoods. Everything, every single act by both sides is cited as a reprisal, as justice.

Which is just a mealy-mouthed way of saying I have no idea what to do there, or whether the ongoing Gaza pullout is a good idea, or a prelude to another, if different, chapter of darkness. The settlements, to be sure, are an agressive irritant in the peace process, and their expansion is justly pointed to as evidence of Israeli bad faith - the Israelis swear at the bargaining table that the settlements will stop, and no sooner do they return to the capital than more settlements are approved. The Palestinians swear again and again to seek to curb the violence,* but their leaders live in a constant nod-wink relationship with the intifadah, unwilling to risk their political lives by excessively criticizing the prevailing ideology of their citizens.

But what is happening here is a new thing -- I can't think of anything like it in my memory:

Israeli Riot Police Storm Gaza Synagogue

KFAR DAROM, Gaza Strip (AP) - Riot troops stormed synagogues in two hardline Jewish settlements Thursday to evict hundreds of militant holdouts who locked arms in a human chain and pelted soldiers with acid, oil and sand, the most violent clashes in Israel's historic Gaza pullout.

By the close of the day, Israel's 14,000 unarmed forces had cleared all but four of Gaza's 21 settlements - including Kfar Darom and Neve Dekalim, pillars of resistance to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to cede Gaza to Palestinians and alter the course of Mideast peacemaking.

Holy fuck, pelted soldiers with acid? That is nuts. I don't have much beyond the link, just an observation, and a question. First, on its surface, this looks like a significant gesture by Israel. This is undeniably a genuine rollback of settlement activity, and a major political sacrifice by Sharon. There are of course wheels within wheels here, but considering that this is one of the very things that Israel's critics have insisted on as a critical first step to a meaningful two-state solution, Israel must be given credit for acting. Some Palestinian militants see Israel's exit as simply an opportunity to declare victory and consolidate power, and some see it as a prelude to expanded settlements in the West bank. Who knows.

And my question is, what happens to all the houses? Are they knocked down? Sold? Simply abandonded in return for a government payment? I don't know.

So, until next time, ain't no one dope as me!

* Yes, I know no government can stop violence with a wave of its hand, but I haven't seen any Palestinian government even try to break the power of Hamas and its ilk over the public mind.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005  
Discovery lands without incident. Well, that's a relief. I remember in winter of 2003, waking up and watching CNN and thinking wow, why are they replaying the Challenger footage? That's kind of a grim way to welcome back the shuttle. Then I saw the live shot, and I figured it out. So, welcome back, Discovery. What this means for the future of the shuttle program, I can't say.

In other science news, the biggest explosion in the universe has been discovered by the Chandra orbiting x-ray telescope. The explosion (well, technically, eruption) is centered on a black hole the size of the solar system which formed the center of a distant galaxy. Apparently, the acceleration and movement of the vast clouds of heated gas traveling towards the inhaling maw of the black hole created "intense electromagnetic fields" that tipped past some balancing point and ejected two vast fountains of highly energized gas that, essentially, ripped apart the galaxy playing host to the supermassive black hole and flung huge arms of dispersed gas and ejecta out into a formation about 600 times the size of the Milky Way. Click the links for x-ray images of the blast.

Lest you think I have lost focus on politics to pursue my long-standing fascinations with astrophysics and graffiti, I bring you this wonderful news - the appointment of a Deputy Commissioner of Bowdlerization by the FCC:
FCC Hires Conservative Indecency Critic
The Federal Communications Commission has hired as an advisor an anti-pornography activist and former lobbyist for groups that push for Christian precepts in public policy. The move may herald a reinvigorated campaign against broadcast indecency and bring renewed pressure on cable to reconsider its racy offerings.

Penny Nance, until recently a board member of Concerned Women for America, is working as a special advisor in the FCC’s Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, said aides to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

The strategic planning office helps develop agency policy. Concerned Women for America describes its mission as “helping…to bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” In recent weeks Nance, a longtime supporter, stepped down from the organization’s board, said an official with the Washington, D.C.-based group.

Oh, joy. Betty Bowers, policymaker. I can't wait.

Now, I know that some bloggers, when the silences get longer and longer, tend to make it official and drop off the page altogether, hanging up the blogging shoes and going about their lives, unfettered by the nagging feeling of leaving something undone every day they don't post. Well, fuck that, says I. Though the silences be long, they be not eternal, except unto the great silence of the grave.* Thanks for checking back.

* Or perhaps even the grave will not stop me.


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