The most frightening music video you'll see today

Sexy mustard!

Happy Halloween!

(warning, foul language and sexy steel conglomerate tycoons contained in video)

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I saw this on MSNBC, where there were giving Nelson a tough time for running such a sexually explicit ad during the family hour. The next segment provided tips for baby boomers hoping to improve their sex lives.


Core Bellman constituencies will probably be interested in this post over at eripsa's blog.

And now for something completely different...Michigan politics

We've got three ballot issues here in Michigan this year. Prop 5, if passed, would mandate that education funding rise with inflation. It's pretty clearly going to fail. Prop 3, if passed, would either ban or reinstate the ban or eliminate the ban on hunting what are called 'morning doves' but are actually white pigeons. And then there's Prop 2.

Prop 2, if passed (and I'm betting on it passing), would ban all forms of affirmative action in the state of Michigan. Here's a completely accurate paragraph from the New York Times:
“If voters think about it as being about race, black and white, support goes up,” said Ed Sarpolus, vice president of EPIC-MRA, a polling firm in Lansing. “So the opponents are trying to show that it’s not just race, that it would hurt women, hurt Michigan’s economy, and they’re having some success with that.” |link|

Sometimes it seems like everybody opposes Prop 2 -- the governor, her Republican challenger, the Dems, the Chamber of Commerce -- except for the citizens of Michigan, four out of five of whom are white.

For myself, I'm really torn on the issue of how opponents ought to talk about Prop 2. On the one hand, winning matters and the best chance to win now requires playing down the fact that affirmative action programs benefit racial minorities. On the other hand, winning matters and if opponents of Prop 2 lose this campaign without challenging the electorate to think critically -- and honestly -- about race, then they'll have missed their best chance to push the conversation about race into a new frame.

...and now I think I've pretty much convinced mysel that Prop 2 opponents ought to talk about race. Here's the thing. The core of the argument against affirmative action programs is the claim that race doesn't matter in America. That claim happens to be false, but when supporters of affirmative action avoid talking about race, they themselves make it seem as if it were true. I mean, if we can have a debate about affirmative action without mentioning race, how could it possibly be true that we ever need to think about it?


Ruining a life from around the globe

No Foreign Press

A friend on the Council of Ministers told me one of my blog essays, Iraq Without a Gun, was translated into Kurdish and published in Erbil's daily newspaper. This was news to me. (The concept of intellectual copyright has not made its way to the Middle East yet.)

In that essay I mentioned the lying cheating bastard Mr. Araz who picked me up from the airport. His company wanted to charge me 350 dollars a day for a driver and translator, about twice the going rate. And to make sure I hired a driver every day he told me it was dangerous to go anywhere by myself.

It isn't dangerous in the Kurdish autonomous region. More people are killed from violence in Oregon, where the crime rate is low, than in Northern Iraq. But Mr. Araz played up it up for all it was worth, hoping I would pay extortionist rates to stay safe. (Needless to say, he did not get the job and I was not kidnapped or killed.)

I had no idea when I wrote that piece that it would be translated into Kurdish and published in Mr. Araz's hometown. I had no idea I would instrumental in ruining him, that I would publicly "shame" him in his conservative Muslim society that prides itself on hospitality and friendship with Americans. But that's exactly what I learned had happened.

Somehow, I don't think Totten would go to, say, St. Louis, and later write something harsh about a local without figuring on the locals actually reading it. It's odd that he thought nobody in Kurdistan would read his comments, especially since he has friends and associates there. I don't know if this is a natural mistake for world travelers to make, but it sure seems like a dumb one.

Also consider this. I suspect that foreign correspondents are no less likely than their domestic brothers and sisters to gonzo up a story now and again to sell articles and, furthermore, they are far more insulated from the consequences. If Mr. Araz--whose life was apparently ruined by Totten's article--was slandered by the piece, what is his recourse?

(I don't think that Michael Totten's account of Mr. Araz is false or exaggerated, and his post reads to me as somewhat contrite about the unanticipated outcome. But we all know that some journalists have less attachment to the truth than others.)

Clock radio update

In comments to this post, Midkiff wrote:
Can't you just return the radio? Best Buy has a 30 day return policy. I think it is more damning that you were just gonna throw it away.

Which is right, except that I was never actually planning on throwing the radio away. My plan was to suffer and whine. It turns out, though, that tolerating a substandard alarm clock is more difficult than I had supposed. So now I have a lot of clock parts and no clock.

Here's a philosophical question for you: Is half of an LED display properly described as part of a clock? A clock part?

Laying down the law from state to state

Caught a few seconds of the Castro video on CNN and was happy to see that Fidel rocks the Adidas:

By the by, the photo above is from an August 18 news story (here) because I'm not clever enough to search Google for recent news images. I swear to you though that Castro is wearing Adidas in the new photos as well -- the big difference is that in the new photos Castro's sportswear is monogrammed. Classy!

Michigan politics

Prior to 2006, the record for spending (combined) on the governor's race in Michigan was $38 million. Here are the figures through October 20 this year:
  • DeVos-R             $39.3 Million

  • Granholm-D          $11.6 Million

If anything, DeVos has stepped up his media spending in the last week, so you can bet that his spending number will go up at least another $15 million.[1]

Where does DeVos get all this money? Good question:
Granholm had more cash on hand -- $4 million to DeVos' $1.9 million -- but DeVos can continue to tap into his personal wealth. Since the end of August, he contributed $18.5 million of his own money into the race, bringing his total personal spending on his campaign to nearly $35 million. |source|

Granholm, somehow, has a significant lead in the polls.
1 For what it's worth, last night's local news reported that DeVos had now spent $59 million. It's not worth much though, because they also reported that the previous combined total spending was $18 million, and that figure is demonstrably false.


Why Lou Dobbs gets it Wrong on Immigration

The immigration issue has been a frequent topic of discussion here at the Bellman, from discussing "nativist paroxysms of the Republican base" to proposals for making green cards to guest workers more easily or amnesty programs for illegal immigrants.

Lou Dobbs just wrote a book and has been doing the talk show circuit. One of his big issues is immigration, but I think he gets it badly wrong and I'm curious what other Bellmaniacs think.

For instance, Dobbs wrote for CNN:

"I've said from the beginning that we can't reform immigration laws until we control immigration, and we can't control immigration unless we control our borders and our ports. Constructing the border fence certainly is a good beginning to our efforts to control our borders, but let's be honest about the legislation: It isn't nearly enough, and far more must be done. A congressional victory lap isn't in order for funding only half of a 700-mile fence along a nearly 2,000-mile border." |CNN|

I think Dobbs is making a couple of arguments here. He's been repeating these arguments elsewhere, but I think the above quote is a succinct statement of his view.

He seems to argue that we need to reform our immigration policy, but the prerequisit e for an improved immigration policy is something approaching total control of the immigration across our southern border.

This strikes me as a naïve argument and bad public policy.

It's naïve because in the real world we almost never have the luxury of having total control over a problem and then deciding how we want to regulate it. Some problems are long standing and it seems unlikely that we'll ever be able to control them entirely. I'm thinking of issues other than immigration such as drug abuse, mental illness, poverty, sexism, racism, and resistance to the metric system. Should we wait until we've total control over these issues before improving our laws? Then I think the laws would never be improved.

Law enforcement policies almost never entirely eradicate problems, you don't judge them that way. The best we can hope for by switching law enforcement tactics is to get a comparative advantage1, moving us slightly closer to our desired public policy goal.

It's bad public policy because Dobbs ignores the underlying cause of Mexican immigration: the lack of jobs in Mexico. Our southern border is the only place in the world where a 3rd world country shares a border with a 1st world country according to Charles Bowden's article in Mother Jones.

The way to resolve the immigration problem is to improve the Mexican economy, not to build some stupid fence.

The whole idea that any fence (regardless of funding and congressional support) would stop illegal immigration is absurd. Immigrants will still cross the border in planes, trucks, trains, or simply tunnel under the border.

1 I use comparative advantage in the sense it is used in policy debate |See the Debate Outreach Glossary's entry|, not the term as it is used in economics.|See Globalise Resistance's Glossary|



Thanks to a charming documentary aired last night by the Discovery Channel, I think that I can parse this:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House said Friday that Vice President Dick Cheney was not talking about a torture technique known as "water boarding" when he said dunking terrorism suspects in water during questioning was a "no-brainer."
|CNN via This Modern World|

You see, if your interrogation technique were to involve, say, attaching electrodes to the genitalia of the subject[1], then it would behoove you to first dunk the subject in water for maximum conductivity. Simple.

Do I get a no-prize?
1 Or is it 'object'?

Something like anarchism in the UK

All of our lives would be emptier without Big Bill Saletan. Today, he links to this NY Times article about a movement in the UK to, get this, destroy roadside cameras tasked with catching speeding motorists.

Here's the best bit from the article:
In a recent case, 28-year-old Craig Moore, an engineer from South Yorkshire, ran into trouble when, in the words of a spokesman for the Greater Manchester Police, “instead of just accepting that he had been caught traveling above the speed limit, Moore decided to blow the camera apart.”

Using thermite, a pyrotechnic substance often used in underwater welding, Mr. Moore succeeded in wrecking the camera, but its hard drive survived — along with videotape of his van driving toward it and then driving away, as the picture dissolved in a cloud of fiery sparks. He was sentenced to four months in jail.

Mostly I'm just amused by the whole thing, but it does raise some interesting questions about our relationship to technology. I guess it's fairly obvious why people would be more likely to act out against a camera than a cop, but why is it that being policed by a machine sparks such anger? All I know for sure is that I'm infinitely more likely to kick a soda machine that rips me off than a counterperson who gives me the wrong change.

I suppose that the answer has something to do with the fact that a machine won't listen to reason. The thing is, it hasn't been my experience that cops listen to reason. Maybe it's just that cops look like the sorts of things that listen to reason.

Anyway, for more pics of broken speed cameras, and advice on how to destroy offending cams, check out this site. And don't forget to play their camera spotting game.


[from Latin 'butyrum', butter]

Resembling butter in appearance, consistency, or chemical properties.


What can't Mother Goose do?

File this under neat things I don't know much about. Here's the background for the excerpt below. Scott 'aren't you the Dilbert dude?' Adams suffered from Spasmodic Dysphonia, a rare neural condition in which speech is impaired because (the hypothesis goes) the part of the brain responsible for controlling speech shuts down, with the result that attempts at speech misfire, causing spasms of the vocal chords. The really odd thing about the condition is that those affected can still use their voices for things other than speech. For example, Adams retained his public speaking voice and, like many who suffer from the condition, was able to sing.

Got it? Ok, now check this out:
My theory was that the part of my brain responsible for normal speech was still intact, but for some reason had become disconnected from the neural pathways to my vocal cords. (That’s consistent with any expert’s best guess of what’s happening with Spasmodic Dysphonia. It’s somewhat mysterious.) And so I reasoned that there was some way to remap that connection. All I needed to do was find the type of speaking or context most similar – but still different enough – from normal speech that still worked. Once I could speak in that slightly different context, I would continue to close the gap between the different-context speech and normal speech until my neural pathways remapped. Well, that was my theory. But I’m no brain surgeon.

The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’t considered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.

I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.

My brain remapped.

My speech returned.

Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night. And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times I felt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tuned it back in. By the following night my voice was almost completely normal. |The Dilbert Blog|

Did I mention that the condition is supposed to be permanent?

I don't really know what to say about the notion of 'remapping', and I suppose that misdiagnosis is always a possibility, but I have to say that Adams' plan of therapy makes a lot of sense. I guess the lesson here is that everyone benefits when engineers get sick.

The bubble, it is bursting

I've been hearing anecdotal reports from home-buying friends and friends of friends, but now there's data:
New home prices took their biggest hit in more than 35 years in September, the government said Thursday, the latest sign that builders are struggling to unload a glut of unsold homes as the nation's real estate market cools.

The lower prices may have worked, as the annual pace of new home sales climbed 5.3 percent to 1.08 million last month, according to the Census Bureau report. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a reading of 1.05 million, which would have been flat with the initial August reading.

But the median price of a new home tumbled 9.7 percent from a year earlier to $217,100. It was the sharpest drop since December 1970, when prices posted an 11.2 percent decline, and was the fourth largest year-over-year decline on record. |CNN|

Now I guess we get to see if all those dire predictions about the effects of this were on the money. Personally, I love a surprise.


Thoughts on Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige"

First, a short review: This is a good film, which in some ways improves upon the flawed novel by Christopher Priest. It's a trick film, so if you haven't read the book or seen the film, don't click past the jump!

* When Angier (Hugh Jackman) first meets Nikolai Tesla (David freakin' Bowie), Tesla demonstrates a trick in which a light bulb is powered from, apparently, nothing. The real Tesla did this trick all the time, and nobody actually knows how he did it. We do know how he lit up all the light bulbs sticking out of the ground, however, which was also a real feat by the real Tesla. He filled the entire planet with electricity!

* When Angier is using the drunk actor as a double, there's a funny scene in which Bordon (pretending that he doesn't know the actor is the double), points out that once a double is incorporated into the trick, the double has absolute power over the magician. Midkiff pointed out that once we find out what Bordon's trick actually entails, this speaks to the types of pressures they have put on each other just to keep this secret alive.

* There is a scene in which Bordon and Bordon are trying to figure out how to out-do Angier's final trick. Unlike most of the clever misdirection in the film, this seems forced. Given the nature of Bordon's trick, he could easily match or exceed Angier's "50 meters in a second!"

* It's interesting that it never occurs to Angier to let one or more of his doubles live. With just one use of the machine (and with, therefore, no murder suicide, um, death) Angier could have replicated Bordon's trick using Bordon's method as many times as he liked. Perhaps if he had known about Bordon's double at that point in the narrative, it might have occurred to him. But he might have rejected the idea out of hand: He didn't want to share applause with his actor double, so he probably did not want to share his life with himself. Actually, it's probably just as well that this didn't go to Harold Ramis territory.


For all the Agelistas knocking on doors right now

Shorter Michael Rosen: We must not allow the nazi pope to turn Wisconsin into another Bangladesh!



[American neologism, first attested on 'the show with zefrank', October 19, 2006]

Characterized as having an extensive vocabulary.

Pimp my tiger

via egg.


Existential threats

Apologies for the light posting. I've had three of the following nine hazards to cope with. I'll let you guess which.

via Andart: Warning Signs for Tomorrow


These people are crazy, yo

I just don't understand the basic logic of their lunacy. Take for example, the awful lady who runs the awful blog Atlas Shrugs. She quotes Wesley Clarke as saying:
There's a lot of demonstrations out there against the American government and its policies. We've made some serious, serious mistakes, the latest being - it's hard to pick the latest - but one of them, recently, was the one where we sided with the Israelis in that air campaign in Lebanon. And instead of stopping the bombing, we were cheerleading it. It hurt Israel, it hurt Lebanon, and it hurt us. It helped Iran.

In this quote, she somehow sees anti-semitism.

Life lessons

I'm pretty sure that the Buddha was wrong about attachments. Be that as it may, I've rarely been able to muster the sort of enthusiasm for things[1] that is required for successful navigation of consumer culture. Sometimes this bites me in the ass.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I was browsing in a Best Buy while waiting for a bus and I found myself in the clock radio aisle. Actually, I sought out the clock radio aisle. And I did this for the fairly straightforward reason that I didn't own an alarm clock or a radio, and both seemed like the sort of thing that a fully vested American consumer ought to own.

Two birds with one stone was the idea. Three birds if you count passing the time while waiting for the bus.

So I bought a clock radio. More precisely, I bought the cheapest clock radio in stock. What need do I have, my thinking went, for a top shelf clock radio? They all have clocks. They all have radios. Only a fool, I thought, would pay more than bottom dollar.

The following is an incomplete list, in no particular order, of reasons I've discovered for investing in a better than bottom shelf clock radio:
  • Cheap clock radios are not well shielded. This means that if your cellphone, laptop or other electronic device gets within, say, five feet of the clock radio then the radio will periodically emit sounds which are indistinguishable from the sound of its alarm, except for being noticably louder.
  • Cheap clock radios have crappy reception. Also, digital tuning is probably worth ten bucks.
  • Cheap clock radios have screwed up user interfaces. Where this really hits me with my cheap clock radio is the sleep function. For some reason, it isn't possible to simultaneously use the sleep function to listen to the radio and have the alarm buzzer activated. What this means in practice is that if you want to listen to the radio while going to sleep you need to have the volume turned up loud enough to wake you up.

The list goes on. I suppose that I ought to chuck the radio and buy a new one. But you know what Buddha says: You cannot travel the path until you have become the path.

1 This is assuming that the category of things doesn't include computers. For defense of the claim that computers are not mere things, but are in fact agents, read eripsa's blog.


I'm only about 80% sure that this is funny

At a news conference at an Italian restaurant, [Mike] Tyson said he would likely go just four rounds and that future stops on the tour might include bouts with women, possibly professional boxer Ann Wolfe.

Wolfe, from Waco, Texas, is 21-1 with 15 knockouts.

"She's such a prominent, dominant woman in the boxing field," Tyson said.

When asked if he was joking about fighting women, Tyson said, "I'm very serious."

It helps to read it out loud to yourself using your best Mike Tyson voice for the quotes. I busted out my John Facenda (the NFL Films guy) impression for the rest.


All of you who, like me, love baseball-reference.com, will also love Retrosheet.

How awesome is Retrosheet? Pretty awesome. It took me about two minutes to find the box score for the baseball game I went to on the night that my sister was in labor with my niece. I went with my friend Wade because, despite his claim to have been a lifelong baseball fan, my pops decided to stay home to wait for news. For the record, the Royals lost in fifteen. Mark Gubicza, who was normally a slick fielding pitcher (he always finished his delivery in perfect fielding position) had two errors, both while fielding bunts in the Orioles three run fifth inning.

Now here's a complaint. Game pages show the site's top level url, so a blogger like me can't link to the box score of a game that I want to write about. What's up with that?

Hail to the President!

"As of now, I am in control here in the White House." -- Alexander Haig, March 30, 1981

You really can't blame Al Haig for being confused. Truth be told, the order of Presidential succession is a convoluted topic at the best of times. Throw in Jodie Foster, Travis Bickel, and an actor playing the President, and it's easy to see why a hardened cold warrior like Haig might seek refuge in the comfortable certainty of a Presidential Succession Act of an earlier, simpler time.

Which I mention by way of introducing this story from today's Washington Post. Here are the key paragraphs:
In a little-noticed action taken nearly four years ago, the House amended its rules dealing with the "continuity of Congress" in emergencies and the succession of speakers. The rule, cited recently in Roll Call, directs the speaker to "deliver to the Clerk a list of Members in the order in which each shall act as Speaker pro tempore . . . in the case of a vacancy in the office of Speaker."

Normally, "speaker pro tempore" is the title given for a few hours at a time to various members of the majority who preside over House sessions. But the rules revision made in January 2003, in response to worries about terrorist strikes that could wipe out large numbers of elected officials, appears to bestow upon a newly named replacement all the powers enjoyed by a full-time speaker elected by his peers.

That would include standing behind only the vice president in the line of presidential succession, said Sally Collins, spokeswoman for House administrators. But other House officials said it is extremely unlikely that a speaker pro tempore could assume the presidency before Congress would reconvene and elect a new speaker.

One thing is certain: The identity of the speaker-in-waiting is a closely held secret. Hastert's office declined to discuss the matter, citing security concerns, and the clerk's office confirmed only that Hastert's list is not made public.

As the article makes clear, there are more than a few legal concerns with this scheme of succession. One that the article doesn't mention, but which occurs to me, is that the President pro tempore of the Senate seems to have a pretty strong claim on the office of the Presidency if the President, VP, and Speaker of the House are all incapacitated. But whatever.

The thing that really bothers me about this is the fact that a part of the line of succession is kept secret. For me, this is one of those bang your head against a wall obvious points: In a democracy, the public has a right to know the laws by which it is governed. Clearly, the line of Presidential succession is a pretty important law, and amorphous paranoid fantasies security concerns ought not to trump the public's right to know its content. And yet, that's exactly what seems to have happened.

Just for giggles, and because I can't figure out how else to wrap up this post, here are the traditional lyrics to Hail to the Chief:
Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.

Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that's our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief! |source|


Messed-up democratic strategery

What follows is "shorter Steve Gilliard," and that's not a joke. The dude has a tendency to ramble, so I've pulled in the key points of his post about the fate of the democratic party. I say to you that what follows is just as, if not more, coherent then SG's original post, but if you don't believe me you can read the whole thing. Just to be clear, I agree with this analysis.
You know, when you look back into how the Dems lost [in 2002 and 2004], most of the reasons offered up are, honestly, bullshit.

What the Dems didn't do, while the GOP did, was target and reach their voters over and over, in a trusted setting. For argument's sake we'll call it a church. David Kuo explains in great detail how the White House could and would use government money to buy church votes. The media went on and on about values voters and scared the Dems away from their base. Don't pay too much attention to the blacks or the gays or the urban voters. It was Soccer, then Security moms and NASCAR dads. The Dems were being told repeatedly to compete for voters who had many reason not to vote Democratic......ever.

But for the most part, excluding Carter's evangelical based victory, the Republicans looked for new pools of voters and shaped their messages to meet their needs. Lower taxes isn't just a bromide. but for suburban voters in good school districts, a desperate cry for help. Their tax burdens are serious issues in their finances. And with stagnating wages, it sounds like a solution. It wasn't an issue of services, they wanted to maintain those, but wanted to pay less for them.

Which is why the meme of waste, fraud and abuse was so popular in the late 80's and 90's. People wanted to believe government was pissing their money away. They wanted someone to blame. And since Reagan had provided the subtext that the money was going to the underserving [sic} poor, it was an easy campaign to sell.

The Dems never really answered it, they never defended government and explained how efficent [sic] it was in reality. They were scared off from doing so by the think tanks. Grover and Steve and the rest of the Olin/Scaife mafia was making a cottage industry convincing the public that the market solved all problems.
But the Dean campaign made the same mistakes all Dem campaigns had in that period. A muffled message, a victim of Dem sniping with no reasonable reply, and a poor GOTV strategy. The Cult of Dean didn't help matters. It was the best move for everyone that he became head of the DNC. He knew how to run state races, he got advisers who didn't eat in the original Ben and Jerry's and he had to finally find a way to deal with the Dems diversity.

By the time Bush had gotten to Kerry, who I still think has been unfairly maligned for his campaign, the attacks had already been defined. Kerry ran a good campaign, not great, but good, but the underlying structure doomed him to a close defeat. ACT, GCI and their underpaid staff made GOTV efforts a nightmare. But considering Kerry's liberal record and his manner, his narrow defeat was hardly some epic failure. Despite all of the years of demonizing liberalism, Kerry came within 113,000 votes of winning.

People have claimed it was Diebold which provided that edge. Unlikely, and here's why: remember how people claimed the exit polling indicated fraud? Well, no. It is far more likely to indicate lying. People lied about voting for Kerry when asked. Why? They didn't trust him, they didn't like gays, they thought he was weak. This was a version of the Bradley effect, when people lie about their vote for various reasons, in the 1982 California governor's race, race.

Rove's real secret weapon was the evangelical vote. While the Dems were working the state with ACT, and some genius had the idea of having English newspaper readers send letters to Ohio voters, Rove was working his well sown network. The one which came together in 2002 to hold the House, and then won Ohio for him. If the Dems wanted to claim, with only the thinest of proof, that Diebold didn't work, fine. Rove knew what he really had, and planned on keeping it.

Even if Diebold depressed urban voting, even if it did, Rod Parsley and his evangelical bretheren [sic] had the ability to drive thousands of voters, especially elderly voters, to the polls. I mean, place them in vans and take them to the polls. All organized and planned.
Now, back to the Dean comment. In the months after the election, you had people like Amy Sullivan suggesting that the Dems toss their coalition under the bus. Rove's wet dream.

What many were still transfixed by was the idea of getting white southern men to vote for the right kind of Dem. Which was a wasted effort. The price of that vote would be the entire coalition. Much of that vote was driven by race anyway, but the DC Dems bought into it and a lot of other GOP-sponsored theories.

The Dems had not taken GOTV seriously, not trained people to do it, not thought about expanding the battlefield. Kos was laughed at in Washington and by some idiots online for backing long shot races. They never saw the value of making them competative. [sic]

Howard Dean did. While some people still don't get it, making the GOP defend everywhere means they defend nothing. If we were still targeting races, Chris Shays would have enough money to beat Diane Farrell. Now that you have the House leadership under attack, Tom Reynolds down by double digits, the Dems are on the offense and can pick even more races to press the GOP on.

Dems are now just realizing that their pool is single women, they're just dealing with their issues in a concerted way.

The problem that in assigning losses to Diebold, you ignore the strategic and tactical errors of the Dems which led to defeats. It was seriously flawed thinking which created these problems, mistaken assumptions, bad judgments which cost the Dems their Congressional majorities and lost the White House. Those are the things changing and giving Dems a chance to win.

My own ideas about what we (the Democratic Party) ought to have beeen doing in 2002 and especially in 2004 were also kind of messed up. But it was really depressing to hear other Democrats--especially white, rural men--tell me that unless we sacrificed some of our core (and principled) platform to appeal more to white, rural men, we would never, ever win another election again EVER. It was doubly depressing because this meme seemed to originate from Republican pundits like David Brooks. When your party starts taking their marching orders from the opposition, it's no wonder things go to shit.

Hopefully Gilliard is right, and this meme can be put to bed. Combined with Howard Dean's efforts to actually build a party rather than just run it further into the ground, we might just bring some sanity back to our own party and to Washington over the next few years.


The facts, they are a changin'

The national intelligence office statement said the air samples were collected Wednesday, and analysis found debris that would be consistent with a nuclear test "in the vicinity of Punggye" on Monday.

"Additional analysis is ongoing and will be completed in a few days," the statement said.

The South Korean Defense Ministry told CNN that the United States has informed it that radioactivity has been detected.

The report is in contrast to information provided to CNN earlier Friday from two U.S. government officials with access to classified information. Those officials said that an initial air sampling over North Korea showed no indication of radioactive debris. |CNN|

I don't know what's going on here, but 'debris consistent with a nuclear test' is consistent with 'no indication of radioactive debris', so it's possible that CNN is getting spun.

...it helps to read the whole article. Still, I'd like to know who CNNs original sources were. Are we talking about idiots who didn't know what was up, or are we talking about insiders who believe that the national intelligence office has cooked the data? I lean toward the former, on the theory that my government would never lie about these sorts of things.





This text is really small

It's a fake!

Or, anyway, that's what CNN is reporting. My own personal oh-shit-ometer has its needle pegged on war.

Let's recap. North Korea's economy is so bad that bark soup is the national dish, and yet the state is pumping resources into a nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, Bush's basic foreign policy strategy is to glower a lot, but he's willing to go to war given the flimsiest weapons-of-mass-destruction type excuse. Then there's a report of a nuclear test. To everyone's surprise, Bush and his crew choose to engage in, gasp, diplomacy aimed at setting up an effective sanctions regime rather than preemptively carpet bombing Pyongyang. Apparently disappointed at the lack of bombing, North Korea declares that any additional sanctions would be an "act of war."

And now this.

Who would have thought that the Bush Administration hawks would actually run up against a regime with a bigger hard on for war? We live in a fucked up world.

...Ok, ok. "Non-proof is not proof of a non-event." I'll try to calm down.


Is Miss Carnivorous for real?

A blogger has come by and dropped some extreme right-wing bile (as well as some legit. points) in our comments. But, I'm wondering if she is sincere or whether she is engaged in some long-term parody. Consider this recent article from her site:
Give me a good old homophobic American male any day!

There is a certain safety in being homophobic. The stigma and general creepiness felt by most American straight men keeps them from descending into the Latin American macho/homo practice where men generally engage in gay sex and consider themselves straight as long as they are not the receiving partner.

L, as they say, OL.

For what it's worth, I think she's sincere, given that her posts are fairly consistent and go back to 2005. But in this wacky age of internets, you never really know, do you?

(Welcome to The Bellman, Miss Carnivorous)


Howard Dean IS smart

Kevin Drum:
And here's a thought: if the Republican Party does continue its ongoing implosion, it's going to make Howard Dean look pretty smart, isn't it? It'll mean that Democrats win a historic victory this year and have made two year's worth of progress on improving their state organizations for 2008.

Sure, some of that is just luck. Neither Dean nor anyone else predicted this year's Republican meltdown. But you know what they say: luck favors the well prepared.


Colbert interviews Andy Stern

Mmmmmm propaganda....

Golly, but the cable news networks are atwittter with gossip about Kim Jong Il. I cribbed the following from a 'Facts about Kim Jong Il' graphic on FOXNews, but each of the points seems to be informing the coverage on CNN and MSNBC as well.

Kim Jong Il:
  • is 5' 2" tall;
  • has a reputation as a playboy; and,
  • is rumored to like foreign liquor.

That's all I needed to know. Let the debate commence!



I'm starting to feel sorry for the Republicans. This morning on Face the Nation Rep. Ray LaHood's (R-IL) main defense of Hastert boiled down to, "Denny Hastert is a strong leader because Mark Foley is just one of the many ethically challenged Republican representatives who have resigned from the House (or at least their committee chairmanships) on his watch."

...Hah! LaHood acually said, "mistakes have been made."

In substantive congressional news, even Republican senators are beginning to admit that there isn't a lot of corner turning going on in Iraq.


similar or related to shooting fish in a barrel

Joe Sixpack found this and suggested that perhaps our readers might like to suggest photo captions. Personaly, I'll refrain, because I wouldn't be able to resist the obvious jokes.


1 vanilla bean
6 oz. red wine

Clamp vanilla bean below an inverted wine glass. Heat bean with class-IV laser until mist coats inside of glass. Remove bean, flip glass, fill with wine, and serve.

From "Better Drinking Through Chemistry" at wired

Meet me at the Sears Tower. Bring a mouse.

Indeed, sufficiently small animals cannot be hurt in a fall from any height: A monkey is too big, a squirrel is on the edge, but a mouse is completely safe. The mouse-sized people in Dr. Cyclops could have leapt off the tabletop with a cry of "Geronimo!" secure in the knowledge that they were too small to be hurt. |Source|

Addendum: So I suppose that the mouse business is common knowledge. But what about this?:
However, before pulling the bridge down, the monster extends his tentacles about halfway up the support towers. The top of the support towers stand 500 feet above the deck, itself 220 feet above the high-water mark. At one atmosphere for every 33 feet and an elevation of 470 feet, that's a total pressure of about 14 atmospheres (209 pounds per square inch). For the first time in its life, there was no surrounding mass of water to offset the pressure increase and the full load of this pressure would act to distend its arteries.

The evidence clearly points to the poor cephalopod suffering a sudden and massive cerebral hemorrhage from this excess pressure just as it rips down the Golden Gate Bridge. The subsequent passivity of the giant octopus now makes perfect sense--its higher faculties were gone and the only responses it made were due to peripheral reflexes, grabbing the submarine in response to tactile stimulation, twitching when hit with the diver's spear. |Ibid.|

He's talking about It Came from Beneath the Sea. Obviously.


Bellman culture watch, best country music video ever edition

Attention spammers!

There is empirical evidence that the following teaser text will persuade me to open your email message:
HARI SELDON Crises, the Empire, no amount of har...


From public remarks yesterday by Christopher R. Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs:
“We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea, we are not going to accept it,” he said.

Mr. Hill did not suggest what the American response would be and gave no hint of an economic or military response. But he said of North Korea: “It can have a future or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both.” |NY Times|

I'm guessing that the plan is to have John Bolton smooth any ruffled feathers.

Seriously though, if you think that stopping North Korea's nuclear program is (contrary to appearances) a worthwhile project, what would make you think that naked threats are likely to accomplish that? The Bush Administration must know that the upshot of these existential threats will be to goad North Korea forward in their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

I'm honestly beginning to think that Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, et al. are deliberately trying to start so many wars that the U.S. will have no choice but to regear our economy into a purely militaristic mode.

I'm an idiot. And I VOTE!

Two weeks ago at Caney Creek High School, a tenth grade English class was given "Fahrenheit 451" as a reading assignment. But Diana Verm stopped after a few pages. She said she was offended by "the cussing in it and the burning of the Bible."

This, and other examples of our own religious nutjobs, over at Crooks and Liars:

Culture Warriors In Action

Hearts and minds

The United States Army and Marines are finishing work on a new counterinsurgency doctrine that draws on the hard-learned lessons from Iraq and makes the welfare and protection of civilians a bedrock element of military strategy. |NY Times|



A few days ago I posted something about the Foley scandal just as it was breaking. At the time I didn't realize that the story was going to take over American political discourse. If I had, I would have passed on it.

I mean, Foley seems like a slimeball to me, but I'd really rather be reading about the NIE, habeas corpus, and the fucking NLRB.

Addendum: One of the many things that bothers me about the Foley business is that Democratic exploitation of the scandal seems to require playing to the latent homophobia of the Republican base. Which I mention by way of saying that Jane Galt is exactly right about this:
...I wish people would stop referring to his behaviour as pedophilia. The pages are in their teens. Many heterosexual men are attracted to hot teenage girls, and no one thinks of them as pedophiles. His behaviour is reprehensible because grown men in positions of authority should not hit on teenagers. But it is not the same thing as molesting an eight-year-old, and if he were heterosexual, people would recognize that. |Jane Galt|

Wednesday pop culture blogging

Item: For my money, the most interesting spin-off of the reality television explosion is the growth of shows about everyday people doing everyday jobs. The most famous, though least pure, of these is probably American Chopper, but the two I really like are Airline and Mega Movers. Speaking of Mega Movers, they moved a building a block from where I work this week and amid the road closing chaos the only frustration I could muster was for the fact that there didn't seem to be a TV crew.

Item: The new cds from DJ Shadow and The Decembrists are both pretty good, though I haven't quite figured out whether The Decembrists are recycling musical ideas they've used before or quoting themselves in some high falutin' attempt to create a symbolic language for their art.

Item: The Science of Sleep is really good and you should go see it. You should also scoff at complaints about how difficult it is to track what's really happening in the movie.


Another counter: Counting down to (Mayan) Apocalypse

I can't top the "Hell Counter," which counts the number of people who have died since opening the page. This more traditional ticker counts down to the end of the world, or at least the end of time according to the Maya.

Also on that site is a countdown to the the Y2038 bug, the end of time according to existing UNIX operating systems.
On January 19, 2038, UNIX-based programs and UNIX-like operating systems will run out of time. To be more precise, at 3:14:07 GMT, UNIX will be exactly 1 billion seconds old. Many see this as a milestone, but from a technical point of view, this can mean disaster for computer programs and systems around the world.

Happy Death Clock Challenge!


Hell counter

I can't make it work without crashing the site, but check this out.


Raking the muck

Top House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children’s issues, Republican lawmakers said Saturday. |NY Times|

On Saturday night, the House Republican leadership issued a statement that characterized the communications between Mr. Foley and the former House pages as “unacceptable and abhorrent.”

“It is an obscene breach of trust,” the statement said. “His immediate resignation must now be followed by the full weight of the criminal justice system.” |ibid.|

I guess I don't think of sixteen year olds of either gender as children, but the hypocrisy bothers me a little bit. Honor and dignity, don't you know.
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