Bush's tax cuts at, um, work

How about this new economy of ours? It turns out that all of the (net) jobs created during the Bush presidency are government jobs:
The mere fact that the projected job growth resulting from increased defense and other government spending exceeds the actual number of jobs projected to be added to the economy through 2006 clearly indicates that the tax cuts hardly seem plausible as the engine of the modest job growth in the economy since 2001. 

Something to think about while the President blows smoke up your ass tonight.

How to keep losing elections

By advocating compromise first, the Democratic Party has lost the confidence of its base and the sympathy of the people. That's why arguing for just winning elections is not pragmatic, even though the advocates think they are being intensely pragmatic. Moreover, the "elections first" crowd always ends up debating tactics, not strategy; concessions, not convictions; practicality, not principle. That group is never bold or open in its thinking. It is hopeful primarily that the other side stumble, not that it actually win. Perhaps most dangerous, the "elections first" crowd inspires no passion, and has no hope of changing the culture -- which in the end is the goal of all politics.
| Reed Hundt at TPMCafe |

Back in our unreachable archives, our brilliant and influential community of bloggers have argued this point extensively. In those discussions, I have wholeheartedly endorsed Hundt's view. I will certainly argue for it in the future, as well. But now, as the 2006 elections season is just beginning to sap our very souls, I am taking this moment to concede that one cannot completely abandon pragmatism.

In practice, the "pragmatic" and "principled" camps always end up in an uneasy compromise. If I were, say, a Naderite, I would be urging my cohorts to swing a bit towards the tactics-based, pragmatic camp.
I still believe that the Democratic party is currently adrift in a fog of confused pragmatism. A swing towards principles is in order. But there are times where a small concession here and there to consolidate a majority can indeed achieve our political aims.

Here's Hundt again:

I can't think of a single reform movement in history that started with the mantra of "just win, baby," to use Al Davis' phrasing. Every reformer in the history of ideas and politics has sought to define a point of view in debate first, and compromised in order to win elections second. This is, for instance, how the Republican Party got started; same thing with Populism and Progressivism; same thing with the Reagan-Bush version of the Republican neo-con party.

Since he doesn't address any of the issues on which the Democrats are compromising, Hundt is erecting a bit of a straw man. What we need in these parts is a more specifics-based discussion....

(paging Mr. Henderson... come in, Henderson)

Free Internet Security Links

Hurrah! Originally uploaded by ftruijens.
For those of us who are not fortunate enough to use Apple products that are relatively free from viruses, the online world is a very scary place with viruses, trojans, spam, key loggers, spyware, and spam.

In order to help make the world a better place, Safety Neal and the Bellman are providing some links to free computer security programs, to help keep the malware away.

  • Site Advisor is a new product that uses an artificial intelligence program to visit websites, fill in their forms, submits a unique email address, downloads their freeware products & then monitors the amount of spam, spyware, and malware that results.

    It’s not yet been publicly released, but you can use it as a tester if you want to be bleeding edge.

    I’ve been running it in Firefox for 2 weeks now and haven’t had a single problem.

  • Panda Free Anti-Virus Scan allows you to scan your hard drive manually.

  • Zone Labs Free Personal Firewall that allows you to decide if you want to allow programs to activate other processes as well as if you want to allow programs to access the Internet. In theory, even if you were infected with a worm, this program would keep the worm from reaching out to other computers. In practice, I find people often click through the warnings from their personal firewalls without reading them...human error is unavoidable.

  • Lavasoft's Free Anti-Spyware Utility Ad Aware will scan your computer for spyware.

  • Spybot's Free Anti-Spyware Search and Destroy has a built-in pop-up blocker that helps prevent spyware from being installed. It also destroys keystroke loggers.


If you build it, they will hack it

Originally uploaded by piet_db99.
The new Dutch biometric passports have already been hacked.

So, it good to know that European data security is as worthless as our American versions.

I think RFID is a fantastic technology for barcoding commercial items, pallets, and other items in a supply chain. But when it comes to my confidential data, I'd like to see something a bit more secure.

Why Republicans hate science, part 2,942

The analysis found that substantial majorities of Americans, liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces — evidence of implicit bias. But districts that registered higher levels of bias systematically produced more votes for Bush.

“Obviously, such research does not speak at all to the question of the prejudice level of the president,” said Banaji, “but it does show that George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice.”

--from the WaPo, via the E.A., which, as an aside, is possibly the only blog any of us need to read.


The Gathering Storm

war at home
Originally uploaded by ocularsmith
I saw this quote at the Wall Street Journal this morning:

"I am glad that Hamas won ... It's better to deal with a pure enemy: Fight him ruthlessly while he is your enemy, and sit down and talk to him when he is genuinely willing to cut a deal." - Um Dromi, Israel Democracy Institute

Then I popped over to CNN to see that Hamas is suggesting that the Palestinians should create an army.

We live in interesting times, my friends.


[French 'carmin', from Medieval Latin 'carminium', probably blend of Arabic 'qirmiz', kermes, and Latin 'minium', cinnabar]

A strong to vivid red.
2. A crimson pigment derived from cochineal.

Strong to vivid red.


[French 'cochenille', from Spanish 'cochinilla', cochineal insect, probably from Vulgar Latin 'coccinella', from feminine diminutive of Latin 'coccinus', scarlet, from Greek 'kokkinos', from 'kokkos', kermes berry]

A red dye made of the dried and pulverized bodies of female cochineal insects. It is used as a biological stain and as an indicator in acid-base titrations.
2. A vivid red.

Just wrong

The FDA ruled out banning the use of the colorings since it found no evidence of a "significant hazard" to the general population. It also declined to require that labels disclose the colorings are made from insects, as the Center for Science in the Public Interest had asked.

"Why not use a word that people can understand?" said center executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Sending people scurrying to the dictionary or to Google to figure out what 'carmine' or 'cochineal' means is just plain sneaky. Call these colorings what they are: insect-based."
|CNN -- FDA:You're eating crushed bug juice|

I agree that the old practice of labeling such products as "color added" was deceptive, but what in the world is so burdensome about taking a few minutes to consult a reference work? Maybe the Center for Science in the Public Interest should consider promoting research into why Americans are so damn lazy.


Instant carat gonna get you

A LifeGem is a certified, high quality diamond created from the carbon of your loved one as a memorial to their unique and wonderful life.

The LifeGem diamond is more than a memorial to visit on the weekends… it is a way to embrace your loved one's memory day by day. The LifeGem is the most unique and timeless memorial available for creating a testimony to their unique life.

We hope and believe that your LifeGem memorial will offer comfort and support when and where you need it, and provide a lasting memory that endures just as a diamond does. Forever. |LifeGem|

I'm betting on door #2

Given the one-two punch of announcements from Sens. Kerry and Reid, one of two things is going on here. One, the Democratic caucus is so poorly managed that they still can’t bother to coordinate with each other and send a unified message on something as important as the confirmation of a man who will completely shake up the Supreme Court. Two, the Democrats have a “good cop / bad cop” strategy going on by having their highest profile member (with the safest seat) rile up the base and have all the bloggers shouting “Give ‘em hell, Kerry”, while their leader does the only thing Democrats seem especially good at : kissing moderate ass. |Greg Saunders|

Friday dumb game blogging, our hirsute cousins edition

Monkey Lander.



I'm no optimist when it comes to the Israeli/Palestenian, ahem, question, and no apologist for suicide bombing, but, please, a little perspective. Here’s what George W. Bush had to say when he learned that Hamas won an electoral victory in the Palestenian Authority:

"And I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if your party has got an armed wing."

And here, from the official website of the Israeli Defense Forces, is a description of the Nahal Brigade:
"Nahal" is the Hebrew acronym for "Noar Halutzi Lohem" - Fighting Pioneer Youth - a military cadre unique to Israel. It is a framework which combines military service in a combat unit with civilian service in a newly founded kibbutz or moshav (collective and semi-collective agricultural settlements).


The Nahal was established during the 1948 War of Independence by David Ben-Gurion. It was the natural continuation of the pioneering values and customs of the nascent state and the legacy of the elite underground Palmach unit. The aim of the Nahal was to ensure security and settlement, combining the sword and the ploughshare (the Nahal official emblem). The Nahal was created as a subdivision of the Gadna (pre-military age youth battalions). The unit's function was to maintain Gar'inim ('nuclei'), or groups of youths who had united for the purpose of founding new settlements or joining existing ones, in the framework of youth movements. At the time, 17 year-olds were drafted along with these groups of youths in times of national emergency. From its inception, the Nahal included women in its ranks. The aim of the Nahal Gar'in was to provide its soldiers with extensive military capability as well as the basic tools for life on a new kibbutz or moshav. Since its establishment, The Nahal has helped found at least 108 new settlements and has assisted in the development of many more.

I understand that there are some apples and oranges issues here. The IDF, and hence the Nahal Brigade, is an arm of the Israeli state, not a wing of a particular party. But Bush’s statement only makes sense if he’s saying that being a partner in peace, for a Palestenian, means renouncing the capability to engage Israel militarily. And I think it’s abundantly clear that this is a double standard.

John Kerry seeking an Alito filibuster

He's looking around to find the 41 votes he will need.

I think this is a Good Thing. The one thing that would make this a Bad Thing is if the Dems can't get out there and clearly articulate why.

The Thin Green Line and the Commander in Chief

Manchester Park Monument
Originally uploaded by sponng.

Zwichenzug's recent post on the moral dimensions of the use of force reminded me of an interview I read last week.

The French philosopher and journalist Bernard-Henri Lévy has written a book titled War, Evil and the End of History.

Lévy was interviewed in the January 21st Wall Street Journal's Weekend Edition. Unlike many French intellectuals, Lévy recognizes the pivotal role (for good or ill) of the United States in world politics.

Mr. [Bernard-Henri Lévy] describes Mr. Huntington's last book, [Who Are We : The Challenges to America's National Identity] as "racist," and rejects the notion that there is in the world, or has been, a clash of civilizations:

"We are engaged in a war against terrorism, but the war is a political one, not a religious one, not a civilizational one. It is, I stress, a political war."

...I make the distinction because I believe that you have some Muslims who do not hate the West. Being an enemy of the West is not a necessary condition of being Muslim, of adoring the God of Islam."..."It is suicide to say that this is a civilizational war, because if it is such, it is an endless war, bloc against bloc. If you say 'political' you make a bet on the outcome."....

"I think [the Iraq war] was morally justified and politically a disaster." ...he added, referring to the Iraqis, "you cannot liberate un peuple somnambule" -- a people sleepwalking.
|WSJ|[Sub'n Req'd](emphasis and links added)

The War on Terror (WOT) has been sold to the American people as a never-ending war and the Bush administration in formulating the War on Terror has essentially criminalized all groups who threaten the existing political order, even if the group is fighting a vicious and corrupt dictatorship. Just look at the autocrats the U.S. is propping up in the oil-rich Black Sea region despite human rights abuses in Kazakhstan and suspected genocide in Tajikistan.

By invading Iraq, the Bushies were picking an easy target. The U.S. Air Force already patrolled the skies of Iraq and the embargoes had starved the country (literally and figuratively) for years.

The Bush administration thought the U.S. Army should be able to easily overrun the country and make Iraq a vassal state. They were half right.

Maybe if any of the chickenhawks in the Bush administration had ever seen combat, they might have realized some of the limitations of our Armed Forces.

A recent report commissioned by the Pentagon concludes "that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency." |MSNBC|

Pony made a good observation in a comment to a recent post. Pony wrote:
Just out of curiosity, what does it take to mount an effective counter-insurgency? And is it something that our government is politically willing to do? Are there collateral issues that we're afraid of? Given that they were more than willing to go to war against an enemy who had yet to actually threaten us I don't see what would hold us back other than really awful leadership. Something tells me that with all the money and expertise available to our military that an effective counter-insurgency is entirely within our capability. Wasn't insurgency our game in the 80's?|Bellman Comment|
I think the first lesson of fighting a guerrilla war is to avoid them whenever possible. As Commander in Chief, if you can avoid a long, protracted, costly war against an irregular foe... avoid it.

One of the most tragic things about the Iraq war is that it was an elective war. Our current leadership chose to go to war for a variety of reasons (including overweaning pride), but an imminent threat was not one of them.

The second lesson of fighting a guerrilla is to use proxies whenever possible. The U.S. used this approach throughout the Cold War because we were leery of another Vietnam and we wanted to avoid open warfare with the Soviets. Now that the Soviets are gone the Bushies want to flex our military muscle and show how powerful we are. Unfortunately, a few rag-tag warriors with a cell phone and some high explosive are showing that the U.S. Army has severe limitations in counter-insurgency.

Before the invasion of Iraq commenced I kept saying that we should get the Turks to take over Iraq for us and use them as our puppets. Instead, the adminstration bungled its relationship with the Turks so badly that they wouldn't even let us stage our troops out of Turkey.

The third lesson of fighting a guerrilla war is that if you must fight, and you cannot obtain proxies, then you should seek out strategic alliances. The lack of speakers of Arabic in the U.S. Army is a great hindrance to counter-insurgency operations. The US should have secured advisors and other Arabic-speaking support personnel from Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt before invading Iraq.

The first Gulf War had a huge Arab component...while the second one had very little international representation of any stripe.

The current Iraq war is an glaring example of failed leadership and incompetence.

Where do we go from here? First, I'd suggest using technology to our advantage. The British who developed an incredible distributed sensor network in Northern Ireland to detect and surveil terrorists. We should have cameras and microphones all over Baghdad. According to some reports, the Special Air Service would send troopers to live in the attics of occupied homes without ever letting the people in the house know of their presence...while this may be apocryphal, it at least suggests a strategy of surveillance rather than SWAT style raids for gathering intelligence that this administration seems to favor.

Of course, surveillance doesn't do much good if you don't have the translators to sort through the information.

One might object that this strategy would also be incredibly expensive and difficult. Dublin is a city of half a million while Baghdad is moving up on 6 million people. Well, refer back to lessons one and two for dealing with a guerrilla war.

At the very least, electronic surveillance would help control key intersections and snoop for intelligence.

I don't think the U.S. Army or Marine Corps are well-suited to counter-insurgency by their nature. To that end, if I were President, I would seek to develop a new branch of the service specialize in counter-insurgency and espionage.

And I would use them as liaisons and commanders of the proxies that I would use instead of the Army and Marines whenever possible.

It's a huge mistake for the U.S. to commit itself to a never-ending war against terrorism and for our leadership to demand that we, as a nation, sacrifice our fundamental freedoms to fight a shadowy enemy.

While Al Qaeda is real...this threat is exaggerated by our country's fears and distrust of other nationalities, especially our distrust of Arabs and the century-old tensions between Chrisitans and Muslims.

Invading Iraq was a political choice and a damned poor one. We picked a fight we weren't ready to finish because while our Army is the best in the world at kicking ass and taking names, they aren't set up for low intensity warfare.

We need a new strategy and a new Commander in Chief who understands international diplomacy, respects the rule of law, and knows what our armed forces can and cannot do well.

More of a "dork," I guess

I am nerdier than 24% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Seems pretty freakin' low to me.

Just one Vince Young post

And really only an instapost, at that, but I thought this was funny:

Like Jordan, Vince Young will go third in this year's NFL draft. Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart will be the Sam Bowie and Akeem Olajuwan of their time. I'm not saying which is which.

| guest blogger at Altercation |


How wrong is this?

After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.

I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.

But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.

And sometimes, for reasons I don't understand, you get to just hang out in Germany. |LA Times: Joel Stein|

(Via Ezra Klein)

I'm not sure. There are so many issues whirling around here that all I can do is suggest a few questions. Is there a kind of virtuous life that is a soldier's life? If there is a virtuous marshall life, does the possibility of living such a life depend on living within a state which only fights just wars? How responsible are soldiers when they fight in unjust wars? Assuming that there isn't really such a thing as marshall virtue, how responsible are individuals in our society for thinking that there is? For acting on such judgements? In blaming the troops, isn't Stein avoiding his own responsibility as a citizen? And so on.

Very quick NYU strike update

Item: GSOC is still striking, and whatever nonsense you've heard about academic decisionmaking the issue is still whether graduate employees have a right to bargain collectively.

Item: The strikers aren't getting paychecks but still need to eat.

Item: You can help the strikers eat (and thereby fight the man) by donating to the strike fund.


What are the legal limits on wiretapping?

Since I've got pretty limited internet time these days I haven't been doing my due diligence over in red blogtopia. One upshot is that while I've certainly heard Bush and his cohort claiming that the NSA surveillance program is legal, I haven't seen a single theory for how that could be so. Surely somebody's got one.

So consider part one of this post to be a research request directed at the hive mind: what arguments are being offered in defense of the legality of the NSA's domestic spying program?

Now for part two, in which I play devil's advocate and offer a naive justification or three for the legality of such programs. Here goes:

The Fourth Amendment protects not against a search simpliciter, but against a search conjoined with a seizure. The theory under which a wiretap is a violation of this provision, then, must show that the wiretap is, in some sense, a seizure. The doctrine currently accepted by the courts holds that a wiretap is a seizure because each citizen has a reasonable expectation of privacy, the violation of which constitutes a seizure. So, when a wiretap intrudes into an area in which a person had a reasonable expectation of freedom from government then the person has a constitutional right such that the intrusion be reasonable.

The two obvious lines of argument here are, first, that the NSA program doesn't intrude into an area where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy and, second, that even if it does the intrusion is reasonable. On the first point it could be said that one does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when placing overseas calls, especially when those calls are made to known terrorists or their associates. On the second point the argument is that the reasonableness of an intrusion is determined by balancing the threat posed against the infringement of liberty committed, and that the vastness of the terrorist threat is such that the sorts infringements associated with wiretapping are easily outweighed.

Just for the record, I think the first line of argument is much stronger, since it has the resources to explain why court oversight was unnecessary. I also suspect that a zealous advocate could do better than I did in articulating just why there is no reasonable expectation of privacy here.

What's really interesting, though, is a third line of argument. I'll call it the wingnut fantasy argument. The WFA holds that the received legal doctrine is entirely incorrect. That is, the argument claims that the Fourth Amendment is meant to protect property rights and since no property is threatened with seizure by a wiretap, no Constitutional protections are available. The best part is that what the WFA rejects is the very idea that the Constitution recognizes and protects an arena of personal privacy. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Old Skool Spying

Wait, so the NSA wiretapping is not a huge data mining op? You mean we could have just used the FISA court after all?

Tang Pie

1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 C. Tang® powder drink mix
1/2 C. sour cream
1 (9 oz.) tub Cool Whip®
1 graham cracker pie crust

Mix condensed milk and Tang. Add in sour cream until well blended. Then fold in tub of Cool Whip. Pour into pie crust and refrigerate for 4 hours or until set and cold.

(Blame Exploding Aardvaark)

Finding a port in a political storm

Hale Library
Originally uploaded by mes9193.
Our fine president visited my alma mater today, Kansas State University, because it is one of the most boring and conservative places on Earth. Now, I still remember Kansas State fondly...but I would never live in Manhattan again.

Every time I go back there I am struck by the veritable sea of crewcuts. Between the soldiers, the frat boys, and the farm boys it's hard to find any male with hair down to his collar or an open mind.

Not impossible...but not easy.

Of course, that's why Dubya likes it.

NPR's Morning Edition finds some parallels between Dubya's visit today and Tricky Dick's visit in the 1970's.


Is this really better than the Army could do?

The argument for outsourcing is that private companies can perform certain tasks better and cheaper than the military can. With Halliburton, however, neither "better" nor "cheaper" seem to be working.

For the latest example, check out this post at Main and Central about a snafu that lead to the company supplying our troops in Iraq with contaminated drinking water. Not just untreated water from the Euphrates, either. The water had twice the level of contaminants as the untreated water. That's what I call value-added!

Pithy last line from the post:
Just what our troops in Iraq need. Republican water. Full of shit.

Good lead, bad headline

First, the lead:
The world's first face transplant recipient is using her new lips to take up smoking again, which doctors fear could interfere with her healing and raise the risk of tissue rejection.
|Detroit Free Press, Thursday, January 19, 10A|

The actual headline: Her new lips are used to smoke again

Suggested headline: New lips, old habits


Fire is the Devil's Only Friend

Image created by MatthewBradley.
In case you missed it, Karl Rove gave a speech last Friday in which he went back on the offensive. He didn't discuss the outing of Valerie Plame or the indictment of Tom DeLay, but rather wanted to talk about the national discussions we need to have.

Many analysts have pointed to this speech as a sneak preview of Republican tactics in the midterm elections. So what does the Republican sage have to say?

It is important to understand the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before our work is done and victory is won....This is an issue worthy of a public debate.

Another is the Patriot Act....Republicans want to renew the Patriot Act - and Democrat leaders take special delight in trying to kill it. This is an issue worthy of a public debate.

Because of a New York Times story, our enemies now know that in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to intercept communications where one of the parties is outside the United States and there is a reasonable basis to conclude the conversation involves a member of, or someone affiliated with, al Qaeda....

Let me be as clear as I can: President Bush believes if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why. Some important Democrats clearly disagree. This is an issue worthy of a public debate.

|Transcript|(emphasis added)

Forgive me if I'm not impressed. The key advisor to the most secretive administration in at least fifty years thinks we ought to all of the sudden have a national discussion on these issues?

In one breath Rove points out that the only reason the country is discussing domestic surveillance is because someone tattled to the NYT. Then in the next breath he claims we should discuss this nationally. Puh-leeze.

The other rhetorical move that I would highlight in this excerpt is his claim that the Republicans want to eavesdrop on Al-Qaeda while the Democrats want to let them conduct their activities in peace.

The frustrating thing about Al Qaeda is that they don't wear uniforms or list their affiliation in the phone book. If we knew who they were, we would arrest them and then the Republicans would torture them. But they keep their activities secret and try to blend into the civilian population. So, to the Republican mind, that simply means that we should eavesdrop on everyone. In secret.

And when they get caught abrogating the Constitution, well, then it's an issue worthy of bombast.

Since we're discussing issues that need national discussion, I think we ought to come to a national conclusion of how we feel about torturing people who we think might be associated with Al Qaeda. If we decide that is acceptable, then we need to decide how we compensate someone who ultimately turns out to be innocent that we tortured.

I'd like to hear what Mr. Rove has to say on that topic.

UPDATE: James Hamilton sent me a link to MOQUOL's take on the emerging Republican Strategy:

Section One: Karl Rove's "Battle Plan"

1) Terror, terror, terror.

2) DIPSO (Damned Illegal Presidential Spying Operation) is vital, and only mimsy Democrats with a 9/10 mindset don't understand that.

3) War in Iraq is a success.

4) Tax cuts are good for everyone.

5) Bush's judicial appointments are strong and mainstream.

6) Corruption is not a Republican problem, it's a Washington problem

Follow this link to read MOQUOLS's engaging Section Two: How to combat this plan.



I suppose it's a little bit ridiculous for me to link to Safety Neal's blog since he could have cross posted this and chose not to, but geez, it's about ROBOTS!

A few more data points

Something to remember next time somebody's telling you how efficient capitalism is:
The difficulty is that if some of your products are cheap, you may lose money from customers who would willingly have paid more. So, businesses try to discourage their more lavish customers from trading down by making their cheap products look or sound unattractive, or, in the case of Starbucks, making the cheap product invisible. The British supermarket Tesco has a "value" line of products with infamously ugly packaging, not because good designers are unavailable but because the supermarket wants to scare away customers who would willingly spend more. "The bottom end of any market tends to get distorted," says McManus. "The more market power firms have, the less attractive they make the cheaper products."

That observation is important. A firm in a perfectly competitive market would suffer if it sabotaged its cheapest products because rivals would jump at the opportunity to steal alienated customers. Starbucks, with its coffee supremacy, can afford this kind of price discrimination, thanks to loyal, or just plain lazy, customers.

The practice is hundreds of years old. The French economist Emile Dupuit wrote about the early days of the railways, when third-class carriages were built without roofs, even though roofs were cheap: "What the company is trying to do is prevent the passengers who can pay the second-class fare from traveling third class; it hits the poor, not because it wants to hurt them, but to frighten the rich."

The modern equivalent is the airport departure lounge. Airports could create nicer spaces, but that would frustrate the ability of airlines to charge substantial premiums for club-class departure lounges. |Starbucks Economics|

Just to be clear, the point as I see it is that 'efficiency' when used in defense of capitalism doesn't mean the same thing that it's taken to mean when used in a critique of command economies. When criticizing command economies as inefficient, the clear sense of the objection is that the economies are to be condemned because they do not produce a high ratio of goods to inputs. In contrast, when corporations are praised for their efficiency what is meant is that they produce a high ratio of profit to investment. What these examples demonstrate is that the highest profit/investment ratio is not the same as the highest goods/input ratio. Natch.

Notes from Michigan

Bloggy blogging after the jump.
  • The proper term for a resident of the state is 'Michigander.' A step up from, 'Illinoisian', to be sure, but it lacks the clean simplicity of 'Kansan.'

  • Cragslist is definitely the way to go if you must rent an apartment sight unseen, but if you're working on a short timetable you might have to make allowance. My new pad is cheap, cheap, cheap -- but there's a reason for that. The living area and the kitchen/bathroom area are located in different parts of an old house. So if I feel like getting a drink of water, or getting rid of a drink of water, I have to leave my apartment, walk across a shared landing, unlock my kitchen, and enter my apartment.

    Did I mention that the place is cheap?

  • I had heard that Michigan was cold in the winter, but it's 33 degrees and sunny right now, and tomorrow's high is supposed to be 39. Not balmy, but not frigid either.

  • My apartment came furnished, and the furnishings included a huge color TV. For the first week the cable gods smiled upon me and I had fifty channels free of charge. So I got to see the first episode of rollergirls. It was ok. I also saw Andrw Bynum dunk on Shaq. It was awesome.

  • Apparently, I'm a natural at shuffleboard.

  • If I weren't blogging I'd have no choice but to do my laundry. Or finish unpacking my dishes. Or finally hanging a few things on the walls. Those who believeth in the internet shall not perish, but shall have everlasting procrastination.

  • Best. Grad. Union. Contract. Clause. Ever.
    Article XXIV, Section C.

    Where coffee making facilities exist such that Employees have access to and utilize such facilities, Employees shall continue to have access to these facilities.

  • Just for kicks, a random ten
    1. Are you hep to the jive? / Cab Calloway
    2. Ringfinger / Nine Inch Nails
    3. Selah / Poor Righteous Teachers
    4. Congeniality / Ornette Coleman
    5. Bahleli bonke / Miriam Makeba
    6. Honky tonkin' / Hank Williams
    7. Leave me alone / Michael Jackson
    8. She's not for you / Willie Nelson
    9. That's how I escaped my certain fate / Mission of Burma
    10. Since you were gone / Chromeo


And just so we don't leave any TAPPED contributors out of this link fest

As I noted in detail last summer, virtually every left organization that relies on volunteer labor succeeds because of the labor of female volunteers, who comprise the vast bulk of such low-level workers, and when Democrats have won at the national level in the past 40 years, it has been because of their appeal to female voters.

It's true that the progressive movement, such as it is, has not made great use of its human resources. But to the extent that the progressive base is about 60 percent female, according to research by The Breakthrough Institute, progressive conferences in 2006 that are 92 percent male would seem to suggest that something even more problematic than a lack of resources is undermining the left's ability to strategically invest in human capital. |Garance Franke-Ruta|

follow the link for links

Yes yes yes

For some of these folks, the War on Terror isn't about protecting Americans or eradicating al-Qaeda, but about the vicarious thrill of participating, even in a passive, peripheral way, in a global, epochal conflict. And only those who sense the moment's historicity can be considered equal to the task. So Bush may be playing Mr. Magoo on the world stage, but at least he "gets it," and that's far preferable to some small-minded man who won't validate the neocon's clash-of-civilations-style fantasies. |Ezra Klein|

Friday dumb game blogging, wrong wrong wrong edition

Tactical Assassin

Addendum: 29


Truce or Consequences

Originally uploaded by philip broadway.
Red Letter Day is a blog by a Kansan named Mike Silverman who is also a friend of my wife.

Mr. Silverman outlines Bin Laden's conditions for a truce here.

In other news, some Muslims are sending death threats to newspapers in Denmark and Norway for publishing political cartoons that feature a likeness of the prophet Mohammed, which is blasphemy according to (at least some) fundamentalist Muslims.

Yglesias on "earmarking"

Check out this column by Matt Yglesias in which he points out that the Abramoff lawbreaking, and corruption in general, has nothing to do with earmarking. Sure, earmarking is bad, but I see his point: Earmarking reform is another way to "clean up the Hill" without actually addressing the actual criminal acts which everybody was just fine with until recently.


Zut alors! Il faut habite un beret...

Two principles:
  • Necessarily, if you do not know precisely what is wrong with the title of this post then wearing a beret is a bad fashion choice for you.

  • Knowing precisely what is wrong with the title of this post is not sufficient to establish that wearing a beret is a good fashion choice for you.


Jim Hamilton on capitalism

In the comments to Neal's post on suburbia, below, Jim Hamilton wrote:
Capitalism succeeds? Under what fantasy is that true? Without massive government subsidy, very few corporations would have any purchase; they are overweight, overextended, bloated bureaucracies that manage only by means of favorable legislation to minimize costs (of labor, of access to raw materials, of environmental protection) and maximize profits. Without major corporations, capitalism would collapse.

To which I flippantly replied:
Are you referring to our current, consumeristic and marketing-based form of "capitalism?" I'm not a fan of hands-off capitalism, but even Adam Smith would be somewhat taken aback at the sheer number of people employed to make fashionable clothing for our dogs and cats.

I am not one of those who thinks that capitalism is inherently just, and I would certainly not trust the marketplace to address all, or even most, social concerns. But to say it's not successful seems to run contrary to even the claims of folks who are quite hostile to capitalism.

Since I can't figure out what he means, I invite him to answer the question:

What is Jim Hamilton talking about?


By the time we get to (online) Arizona

On this MLK day, I was all set to send out some choice quotes from Dr. King about class injustices that go beyond race. The kinds of quotes you don't hear on CNN or in your high-school civics class. Turns out, however, what is quoted on CNN and by Mr. Pesarisi are still in dispute in some fetid corners of the internets. I really don't know how widespread the following views are, but they are common enough online to turn up for many, many searches regarding MLK.

Every January, the media go into a kind of almost spastic frenzy of adulation for the so-called "Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr." King has even had a national holiday declared in his honor, an honor accorded to no other American, not Washington, not Jefferson, not Lincoln. (Washington and Lincoln no longer have holidays -- they share the generic-sounding "President's Day.") A liberal judge has sealed the FBI files on King until the year 2027. What are they hiding? Let's take a look at this modern-day plastic god.

| some crazy website |

That's not even one of the bad ones. That site combines some accurate and interesting information to give a broader view of King. But the underlying message is one of right-wing, anti-semitic paranoia. If you want to see the message slightly more blatant, check out this much crazier website from "The Christian Party":

"Martin Luther King" is not his real name. The jews insisted he change his name to discredit the real Martin Luther.

It gets worse from there.

What does this remind me of? Today, it reminds me of this:

Iran to host Holocaust Validity Conference

It's one thing to reject the deification of folks like Martin Luther King and, to take another example, Abraham Lincoln. Those who want to understand history should know that these were flawed men. But the motivation to attack and discredit MLK is not, I think, driven by a passion for complete histories.

Updated to fix link to crazier website.


...I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. |Letter from a Birmingham City Jail|


Dumb game blogging, Saturday xtra

Omigod this is addictive to me. My high score is 24, but I don't think I can replicate it. I'm usually lucky to get 20.


Teach a man to amortize and he'll be liquid forever

On the one hand, I agree with ai that there's something a little fishy about the latest City Journal tirade, this screed denouncing law schools for sponsoring left-leaning legal clinics. The comedy begins in the first sentence, which Heather MacDonald opens with, "To understand how politically one-sided law schools are..."

That's right: The American legal profession is dominated by bleeding heart liberals. City Journal has the goods.

The thing you've got to love about conservative unrealism is its endless creativity.

On the other hand, underneath the rhetoric the article has at least one promising suggestion. Namely, that legal clinics might do more good if, rather than serving as a nexus for political advocacy, they instead focused on providing legal services for low income would-be entrepreneurs. For example:
Yet only a handful of law schools would have any interest in providing legal assistance to Shawna Spencer, an inner-city Chicagoan who hopes to turn her passion for shoes into a booming business. Already overextended on every possible credit line, Spencer couldn’t afford an attorney to negotiate a lease for the shoe store she wanted to open. Fortunately, the University of Chicago Law School offers one of the few clinics to take struggling for-profit entrepreneurs as clients. "I couldn’t have opened without my 'attorneys,'" Spencer says of the Chicago law students.

For the most part, the pro bono legal services available to low income folks are crisis centered. And perhaps it ought to be said that such services are desperately needed. But it's also true that one of the underlying factors that deepens vulnerability to such crises is a lack of access to the kinds of routine legal expertise that higher income earners take for granted. Legal clinics could provide a resource which helps to level the playing-field. At the very least, the idea is worth looking into.

The battle over suburbia

nyc at sunset
Originally uploaded by dream awakener.

Joel Kotkin writes an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal in defense of urban sprawl and the growth of suburbs. He feels there is an anti-sprawl bias among urban planning academics and city planning departments who have tried to slow suburban growth. Mr. Kotkin cites statistics that indicate that these anti-sprawl crusaders are failing and suburbia continues to spread like a fungus around the globe.
Perhaps the best-known case of anti-sprawl legislation has been the "urban growth boundary," adopted in the late '70s to restrict development to areas closer to established urban areas. To slow the spread of suburban, single-family-home growth, the Portland region adopted a "grow up, not out" planning regime, which stressed dense, multistory development. Mass transit was given priority over road construction, which was deemed to be sprawl-inducing.

Experts differ on the impact of these regulations, but it certainly has not created the new urbanist nirvana widely promoted by Portland's boosters. Strict growth limits have driven population and job growth further out, in part by raising the price of land within the growth boundary, to communities across the Columbia River in Washington state and to distant places in Oregon. Suburbia has not been crushed, but simply pushed farther away. Portland's dispersing trend appears to have intensified since 2000: The city's population growth has slowed considerably, and 95% of regional population increase has taken place outside the city limits.

This experience may soon be repeated elsewhere as planners and self-proclaimed visionaries run up against people's aspirations for a single-family home and low-to-moderate-density environment. Such desires may constitute, as late Robert Moses once noted, "details too intimate" to merit the attention of the university-trained. Even around cities like Paris, London, Toronto and Tokyo -- all places with a strong tradition of central planning -- growth continues to follow the preference of citizens to look for lower-density communities. High energy prices and convenient transit have not stopped most of these cities from continuing to lose population to their ever-expanding suburban rings.

But nowhere is this commitment to low-density living greater than in the U.S. Roughly 51% of Americans, according to recent polls, prefer to live in the suburbs, while only 13% opt for life in a dense urban place. A third would go for an even more low-density existence in the countryside. The preference for suburban-style living continues to be particularly strong among younger families. Market trends parallel these opinions. Despite widespread media exposure about a massive "return to the city," demographic data suggest that the tide continues to go out toward suburbia, which now accounts for two-thirds of the population in our large metropolitan areas. Since 2000, suburbs have accounted for 85% of all growth in these areas. And much of the growth credited to "cities" has actually taken place in the totally suburb-like fringes of places like Phoenix, Orlando and Las Vegas.|WSJ|[Sub'n Req'd]

I suspect that he is right, which is all the more sad.

I've often thought that communism fails because it expects too much of human nature and capitalism succeeds because it panders to the most base appetites of humans.

That is why we need regulatory agencies to try to balance out the base appetites with some forethought and central planning. The goal is to bring about a prosperous yet fair and sustainable economy. Alas, the Republicans are totally hostile to reasonable regulation and assume the market will always regulate itself. This belief in the market seems almost religious to me in its unquestioned nature.

To my mind, suburban sprawl is another symptom of overpopulation. As population growth continues exponentially, and everyone wants a house and backyard, we will continue to see the growth of suburbia into farmland, wetlands, and wilderness areas.

If we could rein in population growth and develop sustainable energy sources then there would not be a problem with everyone having a house with a backyard.

However, our current patterns of consumption and overpopulation cannot continue unabated. The coming crisis from climate change, the end of cheap oil and the decline of farming productivity (related to the loss of fossil-fuel based fertilizer, cheap fuel for farm equipment and the shift in climate patterns) will make us eventually realize what a horribly myopic race we are and bring on an economic correction that will make the Great Depression look like a bad weekend. Well, that's enough metaphor mixing for now.

Let me conclude by raising a toast to suburbia. Let us enjoy our decadent American lifestyle while it lasts.


Dumb game open thread

Speaking of irregular internet access, it turns out that I don't currently have access to any computers that are configured with that fancy flash and shockwave business that all the cool kids have been talking about. Which makes it pretty tough for me to playtest the dumb games.

You could throw up your hands, give up on dumb game blogging, and head over to Jay is Games, but why settle for a smart gaming experience? Better by far to suggest your own dumb game in comments.



[From Latin 'exiguus', from 'exigere', to measure out, demand]

Extremely scanty; meager.

Zwichenzug's exiguous posting was a result of his irregular access to the internet following his move.

In order to save the village, it became necessary to destroy it

Mushroom Cloud
Originally uploaded by XAlpha.
A British general responsible for training Iraqi forces has gone on record criticizing the US Army for its inability to think creatively in the War in Iraq.

The failure of the administration to understand the concepts of nuance, graduated response, and exit strategy continue to take their toll on our nation and its heavy-handed approach has increasingly alienated the Iraqi population. This is a war against a nimble enemy who blends into the civilian population and doesn't have many high-value industrial or communication facilities.

The US Army is very good at blowing stuff up, but they are not very good at counter-insurgency. I thought we'd all learned that lesson from Vietnam. At least those of us who read books and weren't drunk and high throughout the 1970's.

A senior British officer has criticised the US army for its conduct in Iraq, accusing it of institutional racism, moral righteousness, misplaced optimism, and of being ill-suited to engage in counter-insurgency operations.

The blistering critique, by Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was the second most senior officer responsible for training Iraqi security forces, reflects criticism and frustration voiced by British commanders of American military tactics.

What is startling is the severity of his comments - and the decision by Military Review, a US army magazine, to publish them.

American soldiers, says Brig Aylwin-Foster, were "almost unfailingly courteous and considerate". But he says "at times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably amounted to institutional racism".

The US army, he says, is imbued with an unparalleled sense of patriotism, duty, passion and talent. "Yet it seemed weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a predisposition to offensive operations and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on."

Brig Aylwin-Foster says the American army's laudable "can-do" approach paradoxically led to another trait, namely "damaging optimism". Such an ethos, he says, "is unhelpful if it discourages junior commanders from reporting unwelcome news up the chain of command".

But his central theme is that US military commanders have failed to train and educate their soldiers in the art of counter-insurgency operations and the need to cultivate the "hearts and minds" of the local population.

While US officers in Iraq criticised their allies for being too reluctant to use force, their strategy was "to kill or capture all terrorists and insurgents: they saw military destruction of the enemy as a strategic goal in its own right". In short, the brigadier says, "the US army has developed over time a singular focus on conventional warfare, of a particularly swift and violent kind".

Such an unsophisticated approach, ingrained in American military doctrine, is counter-productive, exacerbating the task the US faced by alienating significant sections of the population, argues Brig Aylwin-Foster.|Guardian|

The Bush administration keeps saying that failure is not an option. Failure is what happens when you run out of options. Unfortunately they've never been interested in any of the options other than making the rubble bounce.


Military Industrial Complex Infighting

Originally uploaded by daemon_boy13.
The Bush administration has used the National Guard to an unprecedented degree to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This use of the Guard for adventures abroad has made recruiting difficult. The Pentagon is now planning to freeze the current number of Guard personnel, meaning a permanent reduction in the force.|Govexec|

The National Guard commanders argue that this will decrease the number of troops available to defend the Homeland. (The Homeland has such a great 3rd Reich ring to it.)

My suspicion is that the Bushies aren't concerned about the fewer guardsmen (and women), because they have decided to entirely abrogate Posse Comitatus and will use active duty military personnel to crush political dissent respond to any terrorist attacks.


Eh? What's that you say?

Gotta Love the IPod
Originally uploaded by goinonbro.
Pete Townsend of The Who blames headphones for his hearing loss on his blog. As sales of Ipods soar, some doctors fear a coming epidemic of hearing loss. While medical technology has extended our ability to live longer, it does not necessarily increase our ability to mitigate the ravages of time.

The loss of hearing at a young age for audiophiles seems an especially cruel irony.

Jane Spencer writes:
Hearing specialists at centers such as the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, Children's Hospital Boston and the American Academy of Audiology say the effect they are seeing now may be only the beginning, because accumulated noise damage can take years before it causes noticeable problems. "We're only seeing a few teenagers with hearing loss at this point," says Brian Fligor, director of diagnostic audiology at Children's Hospital Boston. But, he adds that many others may have subtle hearing loss that they have yet to recognize, "and by the time they do, they'll have done substantial damage."....

"We have really good information on how much noise exposure you can have over time," says Jennifer Derebery, an otolaryngologist at the House Ear Clinic. "But we have absolutely no idea if those levels are valid for a direct feed of sound into the ear."

The concerns are emerging as sales of MP3 players explode. Roughly 38 million MP3 players were shipped to U.S. retailers in 2005, according to forecasts by the research firm IDC, and an estimated 28% of the U.S. population owns a player. Apple controls about 70% of the MP3 player market, according to the research firm NPD Group. At peak levels iPods can hit volumes close to 115 decibels, research has found -- a level that falls somewhere between a chainsaw and jackhammer -- but all MP3 players pose an equal theoretical risk.|Wall Street Journal| (sub'n req'd)(emphasis added)

Liberal IQ tests

Atrios misses Yglesias' point. Atrios writes:

But I don't know these fantasy liberals who don't think that IQ tests don't measure anything. They measure something, certainly, and something we associate with "intelligence," no matter how imperfect a measure of a complicated thing they may be.

What liberals generally don't think is that IQ tests generally and the AFQT score specifically are a measure of "innate" intelligence, and certainly not a measure of genetically-drive-only-innate intelligence.

Yglesias didn't say that at all. In the paragraph Atrios himself quotes, Ygelsias makes no claim about what the liberals actually think. He says that, in the realm of political argument, "most liberals prefer to shy away from the topic." No obviously, Atrios does not prefer to shy away from the topic, but he isn't addressing Ygesias' point.


I better start practicing my ohmmmmm

Meditation makes you smarter:

But with the aid of advanced brainscanning technology, researchers are beginning to show that meditation directly affects the function and structure of the brain, changing it in ways that appear to increase attention span, sharpen focus and improve memory.

One recent study found evidence that the daily practice of meditation thickened the parts of the brain's cerebral cortex responsible for decision making, attention and memory. Sara Lazar, a research scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, presented preliminary results last November that showed that the gray matter of 20 men and women who meditated for just 40 minutes a day was thicker than that of people who did not. Unlike in previous studies focusing on Buddhist monks, the subjects were Boston-area workers practicing a Western-style of meditation called mindfulness or insight meditation. "We showed for the first time that you don't have to do it all day for similar results," says Lazar. What's more, her research suggests that meditation may slow the natural thinning of that section of the cortex that occurs with age.

Dutch debate drug tourism response

My Babies on my Balcony
Originally uploaded by Ani (mator).
The Dutch Parliament is evaluating whether it should change its stance on the decriminalization of cannabis. Should they push their neighbors to relax their laws or should they crack down on drug tourists?
Mayor Leers [of the Maastricth] has told the Dutch parliament that the licensing system that allows coffee shops to sell 5g of cannabis to each customer should be extended, to allow them to grow their own plants.

"They should have a permit to grow their own cannabis so that they can cut their ties with the criminals," the mayor says. "That way we can control things. At the moment our system is so hypocritical."

...[On the other side of the spectrum:]

Right-wing politicians in the Netherlands say that drugs tourism, and the contradictions this has revealed in the cannabis laws, show that liberalisation has had its day. They oppose the Maastricht mayor's call for coffee shops to be given growers' licences.

"That would only mean more drugs tourists and encourage the criminals," says Christian Democrat MP Cisca Joldersma.

She wants most of the coffee shops to be closed down and a different sort of licence to be issued - an identity card for Dutch cannabis users, so that foreigners would be kept out of the shops that remained.

"The drugs market is a global market," Mrs Joldersma says. "So we cannot have our liberal policy in isolation."|BBC|

Personally, I think it's ridiculous that marijuana is illegal. Alcohol is far more socially harmful than marijuana, yet it's legal.
The dangers of drugs should not be underestimated, but nor should they be exaggerated. With the exception of heroin, drugs contribute to far fewer deaths among their users than either nicotine or alcohol. In America, for instance, tobacco kills proportionately more smokers than heroin kills its users, and alcohol kills more drinkers than cocaine kills its devotees.|Link|

And that neglects all of the bar brawls, stabbings, and gunplay associated with alcohol. And then there's drunk driving, as well.

The public policy test to be used in evaluating whether a drug should be legalized (or at least decriminalized) is whether the drug is more harmful when legal than the harms associated with its criminalization.

There are certainly costs and benefits associated with prohibition and legalization of any drug. And we are a society of drug users from oxycotin to paxil to halcyon to viagra to alcohol.

Remind me again why marijuana is illegal? I think the case for legalizing marijuana is pretty clear.

The Economist in 2001 wrote:
It may seem distasteful to think of drugs as a business, responding to normal economic signals. To do so, however, is not to deny the fact that the drugs trade rewards some of the world's nastiest people and most disagreeable countries. Nor is it to underestimate the harm that misuse of drugs can do to the health of individuals, or the moral fury that drug-taking can arouse. For many people, indeed, the debate is a moral one, akin to debates about allowing divorce, say, or abortion. But moral outrage has turned out to be a poor basis for policy.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the United States. Here is the world's most expensive drugs policy, absorbing $35 billion-40 billion a year of taxpayers' cash. It has eroded civil liberties, locked up unprecedented numbers of young blacks and Hispanics, and corroded foreign policy. It has proved a dismal rerun of America's attempt, in 1920-33, to prohibit the sale of alcohol. That experiment—not copied in any other big country—inflated alcohol prices, promoted bootleg suppliers, encouraged the spread of guns and crime, increased hard-liquor drinking and corrupted a quarter of the federal enforcement agents, all within a decade. Half a century from now, America's current drugs policy may seem just as perverse as Prohibition. |Link|

Personally, I blame the current poor public policy regarding drugs on the Republicans. I think they're in bed with the pharmaceutical industry which wants to keep its monopoly on prescription tranquilizers and anti-depressants.

Just look at the huge windfall the Republicans gave the pharmaceutical industry with their misguided prescription drug plan in 2003.

Instant karma is gonna get ya

Some octogenarian idiot in New Mexico caught a mouse in his house. Instead of doing the humane thing and letting the mouse go free outside, he chose petty sadism and tossed the mouse in a pile of burning leaves.

The mouse, now on fire, repaid this act by running back into the man's house. The fire spread quickly. "The house, and everything in it, was destroyed."

This website is now criminal

That is, any time we annoy anyone. So... yeah.


Japan receives record snowfall

Zenkoji's pagoda in snow scene
Originally uploaded by tabito.
Japan has experienced its heaviest snowfall on record.

Is this another sign of global warming or merely normal weather aberration?

This storm has already claimed over sixty lives and the death toll looks to march higher. Another powerful example of how climate change threatens human civilization.

One concerned blogger frames the question this way:
Will our current environmental crisis lead to the economic or social collapse of civilization? In the face of patently unsustainable consumption of natural resources, and the almost complete lack of political awareness of our leaders and most of the public, is this not inevitable? Global warming is now in progress, food production per capita has been declining for decades, oil production may peak in the next five years or so, soil erosion and deforestation are rampant, water tables are falling almost everywhere that it matters. |Link|

Roller Derby Renaissance

Rock & Roll
Originally uploaded by zeiss66super.
Roller Derby is enjoying a resurgence in the U.S.

A&E has a new docu-series titled Rollergirls about the LoneStar Rollergirls of TXRD that you can catch Monday nights. Yahoo!TV has a sneak peak and as well as local TV listings.

The LoneStar Rollergirls use a banked track which increases the speed of play, but there are also teams using a flat track, such as the Minnesota Rollergirls in my home state.


Photo Blogging and Open Worldcat

Veteran's Memorial Bridge
Originally uploaded by Aprevit.
flickr has made photo blogging incredibly easy. And so long as the poster's privacy settings allow, you can blog any photo on Flickr.

Another wonderful development for blogging is the launch of the Open Worldcat initiative. Open Worldcat now allows bloggers to provide an authoritative bibliographic record for print resources. Worldcat will then help people find that print resources at a physical library near them. You can also download a Worldcat interface for your browser's toolbar (IE and Firefox).


Somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man

Hmmm. I can't seem to make the comments work over at zach's blog, so I guess I'll post my comment here. Here it is:
Actually, I think the recommendations are spot on. The original Planet of the Apes movies were chock full of anti-racist social commentary, though it's easy enough to miss it if you're distracted by the spectacle of talking apes (or, alternately, talking humans). By grouping Planet with those other films, Wal-Mart is pushing a reading of the film that progressives ought to embrace.

What the heck am I talking about? This controversy. Apparently, when shoppers at Wal-Mart's web site clicked on the DVD of the original Planet of the Apes they were shown recommendations for "four movies about King, actress Dorothy Dandridge, boxer Jack Johnson and singer Tina Turner." Outrage ensued, Wal-Mart apologized (blaming a 'computer error'), and now we are once again free to see Planet as pure popcorn.

Addendum: I'm guessing that the reason my comment wouldn't take over at zach's was that he was updating the post to include a link to this story. The added wrinkle there is that similar recommendations were given for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. No defense of that from me, though I stand by what I wrote above.

Friday dumb game blogging, breakfast of champions edition

Egg Fighter



A tip of the hat to Exploding Aardvark for tracking down this promising recipe:
Bacon snack bars

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 pkg. (2.8 oz.) OSCAR MAYER Real Bacon Recipe Pieces

4 tsp. TANG Orange Flavor Drink Mix

3 cups POST HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS Cereal, any variety

MIX sugar and syrup in large saucepan. Bring just to boil on medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

ADD peanut butter; stir until well blended. Stir in bacon pieces and drink mix. Add cereal; mix well.

PRESS evenly into greased 8-inch square pan. Cool completely before cutting into 12 bars to serve.


What did the congested spy say?

"I got a code in my nose"

But seriously folks, I have a death cold, which is why my blogging has been especially sporadic and sucky. Which brings me to a question: Does the new methamphetamine-free cold medicine actually work?

You go, girl!

That's a great G.O.P. talking point: some Democrats are so sleazy, they get involved with the likes of us.

| link |

Now you tell us

Today's New York Times has an article in which Peter Kalikow, chairman of the MTA, admits to a mistake:
"I put out a proposal that I thought would be most palatable to the union, and it turns out I was wrong," he said in an interview. Before the strike, Roger Toussaint, the president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, had repeatedly said he would not accept a pension plan that did not treat future workers the same as current ones.

Mr. Kalikow, who was appointed by Gov. George E. Pataki in 2001, defended the settlement reached last week as fair. He said the union's main concession - having workers for the first time pay part of their health-insurance premiums - was more valuable than the pension demands that were ultimately abandoned.

"It didn't matter to me where I got the savings," he said.

The curious thing here is that before the strike Kalikow insisted that the pension demand would not be withdrawn. That sort of brinksmanship looks downright stupid if, as he says now, he didn't care where the savings came from.

The tendency of management to act irrationally when dealing with labor unions is a pervasive feature of contemporary labor management relations. Managers frequently goad unions into striking by refusing to budge on issues where the cost of a management concession is swamped by the cost of a strike. My best shot at an explanation is that managers can't quite get their heads around the idea that the union gets a say in how the business is run.

But why is that so hard? It's not like managers are dictators unaccustomed to negotiating with anybody about anything. The deep problem, it seems to me, is that the hierarchies of the workplace give managers the idea that workers aren't their equals. This perception of inequality, in turn, seems to legitimize a practice of imposing conditions rather than bargaining in good faith.



[from Middle English, tedden]

tr. v.
To strew or spread (newly mown grass, for example) for drying.

It's right here, under this veil

One Senate Republican aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Republicans soon will unveil ethics reform legislation in an effort to blunt criticism from Democrats that they have fostered a "culture of corruption" in Washington.

Hey, didn't the Republicans come to power by promising to eliminate the "culture of corruption?" Well as DeLay knows personally, the most profitable exterminators make sure the infestation comes back.



Congratulations GOP!

You've managed to transform public criticism of a clearly illegal program of domestic spying into a discussion of the ethics of leaking the details of (illegal) classified operations. Keep it up! Remember, if we can erode civil liberties enough, the evildoers will have no reason to hate us.


And another thing

This, from Jane Hamsher over at firedoglake, is right on, but I would add one thing. If a news report is a summary of, or even if it prominently mentions, a document of any kind then a link to that document should be provided as a matter of course. Don't just quote me an excerpt from a press release, give me the whole thing. And for God's sake, if you're writing about a court decision, give me some help finding the text.[1]

1 And if a link is too much to ask, how about providing a clear enough citiation for me to look it up for myself?

Hey look

Dru took a picture of J.Son, me, and a much more successful blogger. I'm the one with the coffee.

Which reminds me that I still haven't emailed Dru a thank you for the invite. What a jerk I am!


The new The Bellman: all sex all the time for 2006

My union organizing gig starts in a few days so I spent some time today researching an area they've focused on that I don't know much about. Namely, transgender issues. But that's not what this post is about.

During the course of my wide ranging googling, I came across tiny nibbles which, if you happen to be in the market for a sex blog, is top notch. The writer, Violet Blue, also does a podcast called Open Source Sex and I'm so entranced by the blog that I'm thinking about breaking my I-shall-never-listen-to-a-podcast oath. Consider, for example, this excerpt from a post about Violet Blue's first lap dance:
Out on the stage came four women, and one got so excited when she saw us she barely did her routine before jumping off the stage and landing in my lap, grabbing my boobs and pulling me into her chest. It was the beginning of what was to be our nonconsensual relationship. She grabbed my head and pushed my face between her tits -- of steel. My nose hit her breastbone -- bonk! She smashed her boobs together around my face -- bonk, bonk! Hard, everything was hard. My nose hurt. I didn’t know what to do -- there was no pleasant squishiness, like when you nuzzle a pair of soft, yummy boobies. Suddenly I was covered in perfume, ack. The woman and her blonde coworker summoned us into the other room, with another stage and several padded tables surrounded by chairs. We sat at a table near the stage, (which was on hydraulics and I thought was pretty neato) and after a song the same two women came over to our table, led mostly by the hard-boob lady, who was actually enthusiastic and cute. They threw a blanket over the table, got up on it, and performed cunnilingus for about one minute, with the blonde in my lap and the other with her legs spread in my face and her left high heel hooked around Hornboy's neck. I was beginning to appreciate subtlety in all its forms. This wasn't it.

But that's not really what this post is about either. Though before I get to the point I want to mention that Violet Blue is a very well rounded sex blogger. In addition to blogging, podcasting, fleshbot editing, and writing actual real books she's a machine artist working with an outfit that goes by the name of Survival Research Labs. I'm not even going to try to explain what that entails, but maybe you'll enjoy this video

What this post is really about is The Extra Action Marching Band which looks to me like a brassier -- and probably queerer -- Crash Worship. Now, I've only been to the one Crash Worship show, but it was...well, words fail me. What I most clearly remember about my introduction to Crash Worship, though, was being utterly surprised both that the band existed and that I hadn't known that the band existed. Seems to me that that's probably a pretty common reaction to The Extra Action Marching Band. The first part, anyway. So the point of this post is to say, "Hey look at this thing that exists. Who'd'a thunk?"

I love the internets.


Terra Nova has a post exploring massive multiplayer online erotic games. For instance, Naughty America: The Game claims to be the evolution of dating. Until virtual reality interfaces improve, I seriously doubt that. But it will undoubtedly change the connotation of opening your ports for an MMO...

Captain Ed rides to the rescue!

Captain Ed breathlessly reports that the US policy of Extraordinary Rendition began under Clinton in 1995, and lambasts publications for not putting this on their front pages.

Well, of course, Clinton mentioned this himself earlier this year, and it is regularly mentioned in stories about rendition. I guess the Captain was too busy regurgitating the swift boat veterans for truth to take notice at the time.
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