Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ceiling cat

Strangest image ever:

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Think about it...

Underwater Friends

I've been such a downer lately, so here's something to brighten things up a bit, helpfully devoid of any context whatsoever:

I'm already tired of making jokes

The Blog Larry Gelbart: One From the Spleen The Huffington Post

Since it's easier to link to other people's writing than to come up with an entirely original piece of writing, I will let Larry Gelbart express my feeling about presidential jokes:

He has the flexibility of an I-beam combined with the IQ of a houseplant, and I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep shaking my tiny little fist, employing whatever is left of my wits and my wit to point out that not only is the emperor naked, but that his new clothes come with two pair of pants.


Writing jokes about him has become far too easy. This messianic miscreant is much too convenient a straight line -- a line that is surely leading him -- a whole lot of dutifully blogging stragglers in tow -- even further into a hell which we all stood by and watched him create, while we continued to fire our funny bullets at him.

I suppose I should note, for my part, that "funny bullets" is purely metaphorical.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

More on D'Souza's horsecrap

The Blog Ellis Weiner: "D" is for Diabolical The Huffington Post

Just read it. It's gold.

Conservatives want America to give in to Al Qaeda, but they are really encouraging all manner of vice and sin...

If one is to believe certain rhetoric, we were attacked on September 11, 2001, because of the excesses of American culture--specifically the parts of thge culture right-wingers don't like. Now, it would seem that the best way to remove the threat of terrorism is to eliminate those parts of the culture that right-wingers don't like. Admittedly, I haven't read Dinesh D'Souza's new book (I'll stop by Book People one day and read it in store, so I don't have to pay money for it), but that seems to be the logical conclusion of what I believe to be his thesis. Never mind that, if you talk to anyone who knows anything about the situation in the Middle East and Central Asia, you would likely find out that our culture is the least of their concerns.

I think the key concept to take from all this, though, is that the goals of many homegrown conservatives and the goals they impute to "the terrorists" are disturbingly similar, if not one and the same. That they can suggest that Americans themselves (ones they, coincidentally, have been railing against for some time) are to blame for America's woes while their Chief Necromonger can go on TV and say this:

But the biggest problem we face right now is the danger that the United States will validate the terrorist's [sic] strategy, that in fact what will happen here, with all of the debate over whether or not we ought to stay in Iraq, with the pressure from some quarters to get out of Iraq, if we were to do that, we would simply validate the terrorist's strategy that says the Americans will not stay to complete the task...

Let me play a little logic game here, so keep in mind that I am not particularly advocating anything, just playing. In Cheney's worldview, withdrawal from Iraq would "validate the terrorists' strategy," presumably because they want the U.S. to withdraw. The only course of action, therefore, is to pour more troops into Iraq--that sure will invalidate their strategy, won't it? If they keep fighting, we'll just keep sending more and more troops in.

Now, then, let us also take D'Souza's suggestion that our "decadent American culture" has caused terrorists to seek to attack us. Ordinarily, my understanding of the right's game plan is to reduce what they see as decadent (and I will just ad lib a bit here): profanity, sex education, drugs, pornography, the acceptance of any sexual relationship besides something you would allow your grandmother to watch, etc. However, if we accept D'Souza's premises about the cause of terrorism against Americans, and Cheney's idea about the best way to fight against their tactics (and if we accept many conservatives' utter inability/refusal to distinguish between al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency), shouldn't we be encouraging the "decadent American culture" to go whole hog? Cracking down on porn, or banning gay marriage, for example, only emboldens the enemy. Let's not "validate the terrorists' strategy" by giving them what they want. I say bring on the decadence!!! Conservatives demand it of you.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


From a recent post by Gina Cobb:

What we have here -- and we will miss it when it is gone -- is a president whose kindness is not rationed out in proportion to the decency of his rivals. In his prepared speeches, he makes a conscious choice to speak as kindly of his rivals as is humanly possible. His graciousness is more noticeable when the vitriol from his rivals reaches its apex -- or at a time when his approval rating seems to be in free fall. What we have here is a decent man who takes the dignity and responsibility of the presidency seriously.

Hmmm, let's review...

October 30, 2006:

President Bush said terrorists will win if Democrats win and impose their policies on Iraq, as he and Vice President Cheney escalated their rhetoric Monday in an effort to turn out Republican voters in next week's midterm elections.

From Tucker Carlson in 1999:

In the week before [Karla Faye Tucker's] execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. "Did you meet with any of them?" I ask.
Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet with any of them," he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. "I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' "
"What was her answer?" I wonder.
"Please," Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don't kill me."

Now, of course, Karla Faye Tucker was not a "rival" as described in the original quote above. Nevertheless, this is a president who can no longer express a single concept without an infuriating smirk. Despite one moment that might have once been described as "presidential," this president probably wouldn't know gravitas if it came up and bit him somewhere sensitive.

I suppose someone who desperately wants to see decency in the man can find examples to prove their point, just as I can find examples to prove the opposite. But can anyone find a recent example of something decent he has done? Something meaningful, so the Ashley Faulkner incident does not count. Sure, it was a nice thing to do, but I am more interested in what he has done to make things right.

Sex Part two in an unintentional series Hong Kong tutors market sex appeal

The other day, I posted about sexy baristas in Seattle, and I figured it was a random bit of news I stumbled across. Now I see this thing about sexy tutors in Hong Kong--again, I suppose I feel it is my duty to point these things out to the general public. It's just that I think I last saw this as a bad joke in a movie (NOTE: I'm only linking to the clip referenced here--it's too NC-17 for our younger readers.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What if they hosted a sex miseducation session and nobody came?

No one shows up for sex ed program

Apparently no one showed up for this Odessa information session on its abstinence-only sex "ed" program. I guess I can't read too much into this, as the article does not provide much in the way of context, but it's still quite amusing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My thoughts on the State of the Union Address














The Seattle Times: Local News: Some coffee stands get steamier

I just had to m ake a note of this. Apparently, since coffee shops outnumber humans 15 to 1 in Seattle, at least one shop is featuring scantily-clad baristas as a way of setting themselves apart. I'm sure this won't backfire in any way at all. I guess sex can seel anything now. How long will it be before Lindsay Lohan appears wrapped in nothing but the Washington Post, saying something like "Nothing comes between me and the David Broder column..."

Actually, that's not a bad idea.

Here's one of my favorite examples of the concept (WARNING: Decidedly PG-13):

This one is noteworthy for the fact that it was even made at all (WARNING: Decidedly NC-17):

Kinda predictable in retrospect.

Anyway, there's no particular point to this post, except that it gave me a quasi-intellectual excuse to link to some moderately dirty videos. And to make a broader societal point. About something.


Liz Cheney - Retreat Isn't an Option -

Sigh. Where do I start?

Dear Abby... I have a big problem

Funny stuff:

Dear Abby... I have a big problem A letter a man wrote to Dear Abby about a problem he`s got.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Test your politics!

Confirming what I think I already knew, here's how I scored on the World's Smallest Political Quiz:

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I guess that makes me way liberal on personal issues and kinda conservative on economic ones. I still don't get how a lot of "conservative," "anti-big government" people (no, I won't name names) can also approve of that same government poking its red-tape encrusted head into everyone's bedrooms. Anyway, that's all for today.

The Squirrel

Solely in the interest of shameless self- and cross-promotion, I present my very first completed short film:

More from the Ice Storm

The ice is gone, but not forgotten...

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More mulch madness

Here are some clips of the mulch fire in Helotes, Texas (just NW of San Antonio):

It's scary because this is pretty much right on top of the drinking water supply for most of central Texas.

Let's Review the Bill of Rights, Shall We?

Think Progress » Gonzales: ‘There Is No Express Grant of Habeas Corpus In The Constitution’

Chilling words from Alberto Gonzales, and some props earned by Arlen Specter:

Yesterday, during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed there is no express right to habeas corpus in the U.S. Constitution. Gonzales was debating Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) about whether the Supreme Court’s ruling on Guantanamo detainees last year cited the
constitutional right to habeas corpus. Gonzales claimed the Court did not cite such a right, then added, “There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution.”
Specter pushed back. “Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?” Specter told Gonzales, “You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.”

As Article I, Section 9, Clause 2 of the Contitution says: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

I tend to prefer reading the language of the Constitution as plainly as possible. This isn't like the Bible, which has gone through so many translations and interpretations that anyone cann read anything into it. We have the Constitution with the exact language the Founding Fathers used in 1787. All I see here is a prohibition against government suspension of habeas corpus--how can the government be expressly prohibited from suspending a right if that right does not actually exist? Is this really how Mr. Gonzales sees the Constitution: that the People have no express rights unless such rights are specifically granted to them by the Constitution?

It may be instructive to take another look at the Bill of Rights--all emphases and bracketed additions are mine.

  • Article I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
  • Article II. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed [by the government].
  • Article III. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
  • Article IV. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated [by the government], and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • Article V. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime [by the government], unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
  • Article VI. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
  • Article VII. In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
  • Article VIII. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted [by the government].
  • Article IX. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  • Article X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

See where I'm going with this? The Bill of Rights does not grant rights to the People. It withholds rights from the government.

Enormous mulch fire!!!

Enormous mulch fire sparks rancor, confusion in small Texas town -

Check this out. It's surreal.

The pile of mulch, which has been sitting in an open field for more than a decade, is about 400 feet long, 225 feet wide and 70 feet tall in the middle. It is now a vast, smoking landscape, with flames shooting up periodically from the blackened expanse, in what looks like a scene from the latest Star Wars movie.

So a small town outlying my hometown now looks like the planet where Darth Vader got his legs cut off. That's some damn fine journalism.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pageant follies

I think three times makes a trend, doesn't it?

Miss USA keeps her crown
Miss Nevada USA loses crown
Miss New Jersey USA resigns over pregnancy

I have almost no opinions on the subject of beauty pageants and the like, except that there are only a few parts worth watching. I also don't know what this says about society in a broader sense. I just know a mildly erotic sense of schadenfreude.

"My personal demons pay to see your personal demons..."

The President Wants War with Bigger Tits | The Huffington Post

The Blog Steve Young: The President Wants War with Bigger Tits The Huffington Post

That has to be the best post title I've seen in quite some time.

That's all.

The Great Austin Ice Storm of 2007

The weather outside is frightful...

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And I don't have a fireplace...

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So since there's no place to go...

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I will write about it so I don't lose my freaking mind.

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Seriously, how does this happen? This is Austin, Texas...we're about on the same latitude as the place in Tunisia where they filmed Star Wars! I have never missed summer so much before.

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Better living through video games

YouTube won't let me embed the video linked above, but watch it. It is essential viewing for all fans of Halo and all fans of three-dimensional triangle schemes.

Taco delivery

I'm housebound because of a freak ice storm or something, so it's getting a little weird.

One of my all-time favorite skits, from MTV's The State:

Here's some more weirdness:

Have a nice day.

The Madness of King George

The Blog Jane Smiley: Not Only the Worst President, but the Worst Possible President The Huffington Post

What we saw the other night, when he proposed more war against more "foes" was the madman the last six years have created. This time, in his war against Iran, he doesn't even feel the need for minimal PR, as he did before attacking Iraq. All he is bothering with are signals--ships moving here, admirals moving there, consulates being raided in this other place. He no longer cares about the opinions of the voters, the Congress, the generals, the press, and he especially disdains the opinions of B/S/and B. Thanks to Gerson, he identifies his own little ideas with God (a blasphemy, of course, but hey, there's lots of precedent on this), so there's no telling what he will do. We can tell by the evidence of the last two months that whatever it is, it will be exactly the thing that the majority of the voters do not want him to do, exactly the thing that James Baker himself doesn't want him to do. The propaganda that Bush's sponsors and handlers have poured forth has ceased to persuade the voters but succeeded beyond all measure in convincing the man himself. He will tell himself that God is talking to him, or that he is possessed of an extra measure of courage, or he that he is simply compelled to do whatever it is. The soldiers will pay the price in blood. We will pay the price in money. The Iraqis will pay the price in horror. The Iranians will pay the price, possibly, in the almost unimaginable terror of nuclear attack. Probably, the Israelis will pay the price, too.
I really do wonder if he has lost his mind.

The small pathologies of Bush the candidate have, thanks to the purposes of the neocons and the religious right, been enhanced and upgraded. We have a bona fide madman now, who thinks of himself in a grandiose way as single-handedly turning the tide of history. Some of his Frankensteins have bailed, some haven't dared to, and others still seem to believe. His actions and his orders, especially about Iran, seem to be telling us that he will stop at nothing to prove his dominance.

I'll be hiding for a while, in case anyone needs me...

Monday, January 15, 2007

007 Fun!

Bonus points if you can identify all the Tom Hanks movies they "borrow" from:

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Define "victory," please!!!!!

Blogs for Bush: The White House Of The Blogosphere: The Widening War

Read the above post. Read Bush's speech. Read every single freakin' puff piece that has been written about Bush and his war for the past however many years. If anyone can find an actual definition of "victory" that bears some semblance of reality, please let me know. Does Bush expect to have Osama bin Laden seated on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln to sign an unconditional surrender? Moqtada al Sadr? The ghost of Zarqawi? People keep saying that opposing whatever ideas dribble out of Bush's mouth is tantamount to opposing "victory" needs a dictionary, or they need to write to the Merriam-Webster with a new proposed definition. Anyone?

Growing up Republican

The Mahablog » Betrayal

This post put me in mind of my own political childhood. I was 6 years old when Ronald Reagan was first elected. Ford was president when I was born (a few months after Nixon's resignation), but the first president I actually remember was Carter. I was a Reagan supporter mostly because everybody else around me was. I was a 10-year old Reagan supporter in 1984 and a 14-year old Bush supporter in 1988, even though I wouldn't be able to vote until 1992. I still remember the exact moment when I gave up on the Republicans.

Surprising to many, it was on January 16, 1991, when the air war in Iraq began just in time for prime time coverage.

As I sat there watching Bush 41's televised speech, I realized just how much the president was enjoying the moment. It seemed like he could barely hold back a smile. Of course, in comparison to Bush 43's neverending smirk, the 1991 speech seems to overflow with gravitas by comparison. But it seemed clear to me at the time that Bush 41 was leaping up and down on the inside at the opportunity, once and for all, to shed the "wimp label" that had dogged him for so long.

What's wrong with going to war to prove you're a man? I can't honestly say that war is never justified. I can't honestly say that there weren't justifications for Desert Storm. I can, however, say that no one should ever enjoy going to war.

I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, where it was often accepted wisdom that we would be among the first to go in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. I guess I didn't grow up with fear of nuclear annihilation--it was more a grudging acceptance that I would at least get out of all the "Day After"-survival crap. But there was trust--faith, even--that no one really wanted a war. Now I'm not so sure.

Daily Kos: Who's Divided Now? That's Right - Republicans.

Daily Kos: Who's Divided Now? That's Right - Republicans.

Just a quick note to add on to my "turnabout is fair play" theme.

Barry Goldwater

Since I mentioned him earlier, I thought I'd link to this. This guy has always fascinated me.

A stickler for the Constitution, Mr. Goldwater refused to join the Republicans of the New Right during the 1980s when they began to press for legislation that would limit the authority of the federal courts to curb organized prayer in public schools or to order busing for school integration. He opposed busing and he backed prayer in schools, Mr. Goldwater said, but he thought it a dangerous breach of the separation of powers for Congress to be telling the courts what to do.

Mr. Goldwater's political philosophy also included a strong military posture, a deep mistrust of the Soviet Union and a conviction that increasing the scope of government programs was not the way to solve social problems.

In all, he served 30 years in the Senate, but he was out of office for four years after losing his bid for the presidency, and he was in a political limbo for almost 10 years after that defeat. He reemerged during the Watergate crisis of the early 1970s.

Then, the bluntness and candor that had so often damaged Mr. Goldwater's presidential campaign a decade earlier and his outspoken and harsh criticism of Nixon's failure to deal with the growing Watergate scandal were among the vital ingredients of his political renaissance.

The president, he contended, had shown "a tendency to dibble and dabble and argue on very nebulous grounds like executive privilege and confidentiality when all the American people wanted to know was the truth."

On Mallard Fillmore

Read the post linked above by Chris Kelly. I think he says it better than I ever could. I have long wondered what qualified this duck to sit alongside Doonesbury on the comics and/or editorial page every day. I know, I know, Garry Trudeau can seem like a zoked-out '70s liberal more than a few times, but at least the commentary offers some sort of insight. Mallard Fillmore is the editorial cartoon equivalent of the aging jock who insists on wearing his letter jacket well into old age (despite rampant weight gain) and tries to score at high school reunions with the divorced former cheerleaders.

I'll probably get in some sort of trouble for this, but let's take a look at a few strips from the frist week of December 2006:

December 2, 2006: A righteous rant about prejudice against...dinosaurs??? Paging Dr. Freud???

Next, we have more whining about the "War on Christmas" (which I will now forever refer to as the War on Xmas, just for the heck of it).

And finally, let us never forget...what Japan did to us...what the hell am IK supposed to do with this, anyway??? Go beat up an Asian dude??? No thanks.

When a parody of a comic strip is almost indistinguishable from the actual strip, you should know there's a problem. From America: The Book by Jon Stewart et al:

I'm not sure what more there is to say about this strip. Looking at a list of his frequent targets, I get the image of an elderly conservative shut-in swatting at flies with his cane and calling them "damn commie flies." Anyone who actually likes this strip (a) will not have their mind changed by anything at all and (b) will become senile in the not-too-distant future.

It's not to say that I never ever agree on some level with what Mallard has to say, but it is rare. On occasion, he comes across as a Goldwater conservative, which doesn't bother me much, but those times are few and far between. Mostly, Mallard Fillmore comes across as a half-baked slipshod part of the media's willingness to provide even the most pathetic hacks (yes, I called someone names) a forum in the name of "balance." If Mallard and the above-linked hacks (I said it again, and I'll back it up) are the best modern "conservatism" has to offer...damn.

From the horse's mouth

From Bush's big speech:

Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.

Can we please stop comparing the Iraq war or the war on terror to World War II now? It's still pissing me off.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Presidential power

The Blog Cenk Uygur: The White House Threatens to Ignore Congress The Huffington Post

This has been bouncing around in my brain for a while--the following seem to be common premises of contemporary thought on the "right":

Premise #1: It is unpatriotic, if not outright treasonous, to impede the President's ability to protect the nation in a time of war.
Premise #2: Criticism of the President impedes his ability to protect the nation.
Premise #3: The nation is currently in a state of war.
Conclusion: Criticism of the President in a time of war is unpatriotic, if not outright treasonous.

Now, I personally think all three premises are debatable, but for this little exercise, let's take everything as true.

Let's change it up a little:

Premise #1: It is unpatriotic, if not outright treasonous, to impede the President's ability to protect the nation in a time of war.
Premise #2: Impeachment of the President impedes his ability to protect the nation.
Premise #3: The nation has been in a state of war with Al Qaeda since 1996.
Conclusion: Impeachment of the President in a time of war is unpatriotic, if not outright treasonous.

I still don't agree with #1, #2 could be taken as a matter of common sense, and #3 is pretty much a matter of record. So see, Republicans are even less patriotic than Democrats! Or something like that.

So what's my point? Hell if I know. I guess I just want to stop the name-calling that is still going on, even in 2007. Nobody did enough to prevent 9/11 or to deal with the aftermath, neither Clinton nor Bush, so let's move on. The Bush administration keeps saying something to the effect that "9/11 changed everything," but no one ever asks them to elaborate on that point. What exactly changed after 9/11, other than our smug sense of security, and how does it justify such radical changes in the balance of power between the branches of government? If the terrorists hate our freedoms, how does one justify radically changing the nature and applicability of those freedoms?

Since I already brought up Bill for a penny, in for a pound. So all you administration-supporting, Iraq-war-supporting folk out there, imagine all the acts taken to broaden executive authority in the wake of 9/11...taken to broaden executive authority in the wake of the 1998 embassy bombings.

Unitary executive with the authority to override acts of Congress...what if Bill Clinton did it?

Executive with the authority to intercept phone transmissions without any resort to FISA courts or other oversight...what if Bill Clinton did it?

Authority solely vested in the executive to determine who is and is not an enemy combatant...what if Bill Clinton did it?

Just a thought.

Seriously, though, ask yourself if, in 1998, you would have been okay with that.

I don't think you would have.

So why is it okay now?

Please, tell me I'm wrong, then tell me why I'm wrong. Convince me. I dare you.

"When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter. Courts can sustain exclusive presidential control in such a case only by disabling the Congress from acting upon the subject. Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system." Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., et al v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 637-38 (1952, J. Jackson, concurring)

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Plan Would Create '.xxx' Web Porn Domain - New York Times

Plan Would Create '.xxx' Web Porn Domain - New York Times

And here I always thought the main complaint was that porn was too easy to find on the web.

What's capital punsihment good for, anyway?

The Blog Elayne Boosler: Execution Etiquette The Huffington Post

So I'm reading about the execution of Saddam Hussein, and it strikes me as odd that everyone is concerned about "taunts" leveled at him during the run up to the actual hanging. As if recording the execution for later broadcast isn't bad enough, people have to remind him he's about to get whacked. I should note here that I personally am 100% opposed to capital punishment, not out of any particular concern for the rights or dignity of mass murderers, but because (a) I don't trust government to get it right 100% of the time and don't like them having the power of God; (b) I don't buy any of the theories as to why capital punishment is necessary; and (c) even if the rationales offered are true, most executions really don't fit the crime anyway. Those reasons are ranked in approximate descending order of importance. My libertarian side doesn't like letting prosecutors and juries have the power of life and death, and death is often too good for the worst of the s***heads on death row. Take Tim McVeigh--the architect of the then-worst terrorist attack on American soil was strapped to a gurney and, as far as we know, given a sedative to go to sleep followed by a chemical cocktail to stop his heart. That was in the summer of 2001, meaning the trousersnake didn't even live long enough to see his masterpiece get bested by a bunch of Arabs that September. I have no idea, actually, if McVeigh was actually a racist or a white supremacist, but I'm sure it still would have burned to get overshadowed in the history books (damn hindsight). I guess the question is whether executing him or leaving him in jail to face eventual historical irrelevance is the better punishment. I have something of a modest proposal to offer...

Near as I can tell, there are two main rationales offered for capital punishment: deterrence and retribution. As far as McVeigh is concerned, deterrence didn't seem to work, as there are still white guys trying to blow shit up in the U.S. So how about the retributive theory? Well, if achieiving closure and healing for the victims of a murdered, tyrant, terrorist, etc. is the true goal, how is it really healing to allow someone to relatively peacefully pass into the beyond? McVeigh basically fell asleep, and Saddam Hussein probably only suffered for a second or two (I haven't seen the video, and I ain't gonna). If we really want justice, how about this: (1) equip some Kurds who survived the original gas attacks in the '80s with chemical suits and lock them in a room with Hussein and a canister of nerve gas; or (2) at a pre-announced time, fly McVeigh in on a helicopter to the site of the Murrah building, hover about ten feet up, toss him out, and let the Hobbesian theory of society take over? This latter idea could even have an additional societal benefit, as whatever pieces of McVeigh's body could be recovered could then be auctioned off to benefit the victims!

On the other hand, maybe we just keep executing people because no one has the cojones to take a stand against it.

Now, this entire post may blow up in my face. It may turn out that the majority of our society thinks this bit a facetiousness is a great idea, and we see a new reality show in which contestants, all victims of violent crime, are given thirty minutes to torture, main, dismember, and otherwise brutalize their assailants in the name of justice. If that's the case, then at least we'd all be more honest about why we have capital punishment.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Who's whining?

From the Washington Post:

Thirty-one-year-old Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) is not a large man, standing perhaps 5 feet 3 inches tall in thick soles. But he packed a whole lot of chutzpah when he walked into the House TV gallery yesterday to demand that the new Democratic majority give the new Republican minority all the rights that Republicans had denied Democrats for years.
"The bill we offer today, the minority bill of rights, is crafted based on the exact text that then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi submitted in 2004 to then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert," declared McHenry, with 10 Republican colleagues arrayed around him. "We're submitting this minority bill of rights, which will ensure that all sides are protected, that fairness and openness is in fact granted by the new
Omitted from McHenry's plea for fairness was the fact that the GOP had ignored Pelosi's 2004 request -- while routinely engaging in the procedural maneuvers that her plan would have corrected. Was the gentleman from North Carolina asking Democrats to do as he says, not as he did?
"Look, I'm a junior member," young McHenry protested. "I'm not beholden to what former congresses did."
Anne Kornblut of the New York Times asked McHenry if his complaint might come across as whining.
"I'm not whining," he whined.

You know, I have all kinds of doubts about what's going to get accomplished in the new Congress, but this is just fun, really.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Payback's a bitch

You know, I usually hold with the maxim that what's reprehensible for the goose is reprehensible for the gander, but the whining coming out of right-wing circles about the new Democrat plan for the House, I must admit, makes me smile. See, now that the Dems are coming into power, all those poor downtrodden Repubs want us to know how poor and downtrodden they are. Oh, the horror! Hear the hew and cry! Mourn for the poor Republicans who must now endure what they dished out for so long! See, Repubs can say one thing and do another, but they can't abide any slight deviation from the exact wording of whatever Nancy Pelosi originally said about whatever.

That said, I give the Democrats until February or so to do as many victory dances as they want, then they damn well better start getting something done. Of course, it would be easier for them to "get something done" if they do exactly what Bush tells them to do. Ah, to live in interesting times...

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!!!

I almost forgot to actually say it. Let's all try not to screw things up as much this year.


Thank you, RJ Eskow, for saying what I hadn't quite been able to put into words. See, I've been reading Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris lately, and giggling like a child at times because they are saying so many of the things I was too afraid (or intimidated, or polite, or something) to say to various church leaders back in my Jesus Freak days.

See, I've never "come out" as an atheist because that really doesn't describe me (I could go on about my dislike of -ism's in general...another day). The post above mentions the term "nonbeliever," but that's not me either. "Atheism" or "Nonbelief" provides answers to the utterly glaring inconsistencies, contradictions, and overall nonsensical nature of so much religious doctrine--for example, Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection was a necessary part of God's overall plan, yet Judas and pretty much all the Jews have been vilified by many Christians ever since (why is it called "Good Friday" anyway?) I could go on, but you get the point.

What science so far cannot explain with any satisfactory certainty are things like art, love in its most irrational forms, our perceptions of beauty, and so forth. Perhaps I should say that it cannot explain these thing yet. Maybe one day it will. Maybe it won't. Perhaps one day we will discover evidence of what existed before the Big Bang. For all we know at this point, before the Big Bang there was nothing in all of existence except a giant turtle. Richard Dawkins cannot tewll us for certain that there wasn't. Neither can the Pope. Neither can anyone else. Maybe human intelligence is a gross error on the part of natural selection that will be corrected when the ice shelfs melt or upon the occurrence of a few accidental meltdowns, or maybe there actually is some purpose to human existence. I expect there will be disagreement as to what that purpose is, but I would rather explore that idea than simply do away with all faith.