Monday, April 30, 2007

Thursday, April 26, 2007

People don't kill people, bombs kill people

Apparently deaths from car bombs in Iraq are not being counted in the new figures showing "declining violence." The key apparently is that the number of executions has decreased, which is good. As for the increasing number of car bombings??? Well, let me first point out that Chewbacca is a wookie, but wookies don't live on Endor...

Also, Mahablog has perhaps the best comment on Malkin's "Bring It On" moment:
[T]hey're out of even nonsensical arguments and have resorted to flinging feces.

Dr. Freud, your slip is showing

Via Think Progress:
Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, covering yesterday’s flag-draped coffin procession for the Blue Angels pilot who died in a crash last weekend:
This is a scene we are not accustomed to see during war times. They don’t allow us to see the victims — uh, heroes who died for us in Iraq. We don’t get to see their caskets come back. It’s a wonderful honor to be able to pay tribute to this man in this way. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to do this with the hundreds upon hundreds who have died for us in Iraq?
Ouch.

WTF???

Just go look at this. If you think it's either (a) intentionally funny or (b) even remotely insightful, please let me know why.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Real American Heroes

Jessica Lynch and Mary Tillman, for standing up for the truth. "The truth always is more heroic than the hype."

See, what he did was okay, because he never lied under oath about getting a blowjob...

Dennis Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney in the House yesterday. There are three articles, all relating to misleading the American public and government about WMD's in Iraq, an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection, etc. It is extremely important for all Americans to note, however, that Cheney has never lied about getting a blowjob. He's probably never gotten one, period.

I still say we need more sex in the White House (the kind that's possibly illegal in some states) to fix many of the problems we have right now. Where's that porn star who ran for governor? (NSFW!)

Oh, snap!

From today's NYT:
Mr. Reid fired back directly at Mr. Cheney on Tuesday, appearing at the same microphones just moments after the vice president.

“The president sends out his attack dog often,” said Mr. Reid. “That’s also known as Dick Cheney.”

Defending the legislation up for a vote this week, he said, “We believe the troops should get every penny they need and we have put our money where our mouth is with supplemental appropriations, but we believe there must be a change of direction in the war in Iraq.”

Mr. Reid said he was not going to engage in a tit-for-tat with the vice president. “I’m not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating,” Mr. Reid said.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hottest new real estate investment opportunity!!!

Be sure to grab your piece of newly-discovered possibly-habitable planet 581c now, before all the corporate colonization funds get in on it! Only about 20 light years away, so it's still reasonably convenient from Midtown Manhattan.


Photo

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Culture of Bullies - UPDATED

I have made fun of the neocons for their swaggering bravado before, and I have offered comments on the tragedy at VA Tech. This morning I read this post that offered a connection I hadn't wanted to think about before. The shooter, in his writings sent to NBC, makes a long series of claims about being driven to do what he did, and further evidence suggests that he had been bullied and mistreated for much of his life. I am not even remotely trying to justify his actions, but I have to wonder what a culture that encourages bullying and humiliation to the extent that ours does should expect to happen now and then. From the White House to reality TV, there seems to be a prevailing theme of humiliating people in American culture. I'm not saying everyone is a bully, but there is a certain thrill in seeing people embarrassed publicly. Sometimes I wonder if the entire public school system is set up in part to facilitate the development of a bullying system.

When I was in junior high school, my favorite book was a Stephen King novella about a high school student who holds his class hostage. The story was a sort of vicarious revenge fantasy, but like the vast majority of children it was just a fantasy for me. I even wrote a short story in the 8th grade largely ripped off from this novella--my teacher gave me a B, but I think a student who wrote that same story today would end up in jail. I can't honestly say I identify with the VA Tech guy, because I really don't understand what drove him from revenge fantasies to the actual reality. Nevertheless, I do not see how we can address this kind of event without confronting our own tendency to make people feel they need revenge in the first place.

In the days and weeks to come, there will be much more hand-wringing and finger-pointing, and eventually everything will go back to the way it was before. More alienated kids will be left to seethe, and eventually this will happen again. I really don't have a solution in mind at the moment--how do we get our culture to encourage everyone to be nice?

The best commentary on this whole phenomenon, IMHO, actually comes from this 1999 Onion article: "Columbine Jocks Safely Resume Bullying." Alas.

UPDATE: Here's a post about the "culture of bullies" idea that makes some good points, but ultimately calls for more "anti-bullying" laws. How many ways is this a bad idea? Too many to count, really, but I left a comment there anyway.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Karl Rove, too

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am expanding!

I decided I have too many thoughts to be contained in a single blog, so I am also launching a new one at happyapatheist.blogspot.com. I call it "The Happy Apatheist: Musings of a Non-Practicing Atheist." Expect thoughtful snark.

Newsflash: Oliver North is an Ass

The pungent commentary about VA Tech is inevitable, of course, but I was not so prepared for the not-apparent-to-me connection to the War on Terror. Oliver North was good enough to elucidate:
On April 18, as the potentates of the press were discovering stories of courage and compassion at Virginia Tech, [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, standing beside his Israeli counterpart, Amir Peretz, declared that they had decided to "deal with the Iranian nuclear problem through diplomacy, which appears to be working." He went on to note that the international community is "united" in this approach. This sounds eerily like urging deeply disturbed, homicidal students to seek counseling and talk about their problems in lieu of more stringent measures that might deter them from committing mass murder.

Unfortunately, the homicidal Islamic radicals running Iran are arming themselves with weapons far more lethal than handguns, and the mass murder they plan to perpetrate will kill millions. And yet, if the advice being proffered by Messrs. Gates and Peretz is followed, we will continue to ignore all the warning signs and "talk" with Iran until it is too late.

The killers at Columbine and Virginia Tech repeatedly denied that they were potentially destructive to themselves or others -- until they acted. They hid their weapons and their intentions while plotting mayhem. That's the same pattern of behavior that the Ayatollahs in Tehran have followed.

The clandestine Iranian nuclear program was underway for nearly 18 years before being discovered. When International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors finally investigated, the Iranians lied and destroyed evidence.
I am tempted to ask Mr. North whether he knew anything about clandestine Iranian nuclear programs when he was selling them arms, but then that would just be an ad hominem attack, and I'm above that.

Aside from the rather odd notion that the behavior of a disparate group of mentally unstable individuals is reliably on par with the actions of a nation-state with millenia of history, a modernized population, and a nutjob government, I would like to ask what "more stringent measures" he proposes for said mentally unstable individuals. Should we go back to the geek-profiling of the post-Columbine days, but add a touch of Gitmo? I know, I know, North's whole point in bringing up VA Tech is to artlessly segue into what he already wanted to say about Iran. Please stop, Ollie. You're only embarrassing yourself.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fun with Babelfish

Now I'm just wasting time. This website has been around forever, but it's still fun.

English: My wonderful friend says that my blog posts are too long!
German: Mein wundervoller Freund sagt, daß meine blog Pfosten zu lang sind!
Greek: Ο θαυμάσιος φίλος μου λέει ότι οι θέσεις blog μου είναι πάρα πολύ μακροχρόνιες!
Japanese: 私のすばらしい友人は私のblog のポストが余りに長いと言う!
Chinese: 我美妙的朋友说, 我的blog 岗位是太长的!
Korean: 나의blog지점이 너무 긴 것과 나의 경이롭 친구는 말한다!
Dutch: Mijn prachtige vriend zegt dat mijn blogposten te lang zijn!
Portuguese: Meu amigo maravilhoso diz que meus bornes do blog são demasiado longos!
Russian: Мой чудесный друг говорит что мои столбы blog слишком длинни!

I skipped Italian, French, and Spanish, just 'cuz. With all due respect to the Dutch, your language looks like German for people who can't spell.

Meine herrliche Freundin sagt, daß meine blog Pfosten zu lang sind!

What do you think?

Babelfish can't translate "blog posts" to German, apparently. Alas.

A Friendly Reminder

In the wake of the tragedy in Virginia, it is important to remember the following: Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

They often do so with guns.

All guns do is make the killing incredibly efficient. Remember a few years ago when that student at Imaginary State University killed 17 people in a thirty-minute garrotting frenzy? Or the Great Jambox-In-The-Bathtub Massacre at Make-Believe Tech? Oh wait, those didn't happen.

I have to agree with the NRA, though. Guns aren't really the problem, it's the people who would take advantage of the efficiency they offer in killing that are the problem (at least, I think that's their argument). The solution is either (a) kill anyone who might go on a mass killing spree to prevent said spree, or (b) fix human nature to prevent inter-person violence in the first place. Since option (a) quickly collapses under the weight of its own sarcastic irony, I guess we're left with (b)--if improving human nature is the plan, though, then why is the NRA such a bunch of dicks?

Besides, can we not agree that, had Mr. Burns not been packing heat, Maggie never would have been able to shoot him?

What do you think, 1970's sci-fi gimmick Zardoz?



Hey, Zardoz is a Republican!

Monday, April 16, 2007

It can, and does, happen here

Lest I be seen as being too flippant or somehow minimizing the tragedies of all that happened in the world today, please believe that this is not my intention. I haven't seen the full coverage yet, but some sick bastard gunned down at least 32 people in Virginia today.

Two things strike me about this story, aside from the typical people-are-bastards reaction I usually have.

One is that this further underscores the strange insistence of the Bush Administration to undermine only 9 out of 10 parts of the Bill of Rights. In the face of unspeakable tragedy, they had this to say, apparently:
"As far as policy, the president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed. And certainly, bringing a gun into a school dormitory and shooting numbers -- I don't want to say numbers, because I know that they're still trying to figure out how many people were wounded and possibly killed. But obviously, that would be against the law and something that someone should be held accountable for. "
Remember when, shortly after 9/11, Ashcroft et al resisted all efforts to incorporate gun registries into the broader law enforcement effort against terrorism? The arguments advanced at the time were bemusing then, but they are hilarious now. For the record, I am in favor of gun rights, but to somehow elevate that right above all others is absurd.

Second, put bluntly, this sort of tragedy happens almost every day in Iraq. For a time, possibly continuing to now, more Iraqi civilians were dying every month than there were deaths on 9/11.

What happened today was a senseless tragedy. I would hope that it might make people (the White House) more reflective about senseless death. I'm naive that way.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

He doesn't deserve this...

As if any additional evidence was needed that Fox News is entirely staffed by dicks, here's Eugene Volokh's recap of their obituary of Kurt Vonnegut.

I am proud to be better than you.

Seriously, though, I don't know for sure if I'm better than you. I don't even know who you are, necessarily, since we are not speaking directly but across a void of time from when I post to when you read. Still, my point is that I am pretty freakin' smart, and I'm not going to be afraid to say so anymore. My inspiration for this, of course, came from something else I read on the internet, here. I went to a damn good law school and I don't think I'm too off base to say that it is better than Regent University School of Law. Supposedly, America reelected George W. Bush because he was the more appealing person with whom to have a beer. In 2007, could it not be fairly said that this is an unfathomably stupid way to choose a leader? First of all, the man says he doesn't drink; and second, what the hell would we talk about? I would much rather have a president who is smarter than me. He or she should be able to communicate, of course, but that whole intelligence thing is pretty damn important. Bill Clinton may have been something of a schmuck, but he's smart and has some hipness as well. My point is, I'm smart, and I'm proud, and I'm not going to let any mediocre conserfascists make me feel bad about it.

I'm pretty good-looking, too.

Athletic compliments as a sign of societal progress? - UPDATED

George Will, always a font of wisdom on all things baseball, writes about the way in which the praise offered to Jackie Robinson 60 years ago was often worse than the scorn:
To appreciate how far the nation has come, propelled by what began 60 years ago today, consider not the invectives that Robinson heard from opponents' dugouts and fans, but the way he had been praised. "Dusky Jack Robinson," as the Los Angeles Times called him, alerting readers to the race of UCLA's four-sport star, ran with a football "like it was a watermelon and the guy who owned it was after him with a shotgun."
I have little doubt that the LA Times writer thought he was being clever at the time. Fast forward to 2007, when Don Imus makes his NHH comment (if it's so bad, I won't type it all the way out) and gets fired. I suspect that Imus meant it as a sort of compliment about how much the Rutgers basketball team kicks ass, but it was really just stupid--plus, I assume it wasn't so much the "NH" but the "H" that got him into trouble. He was trying to get a laugh, and he tried too hard. Personally, I still think total "equality" is a pipe dream, as people will always find ways to assert "their group" over the "other," but still, in this moment, I guess I say bravo.

Now, if we could all just come to an agreement about what is and is not okay to say in public, maybe we'll see some actual progress. Here is my first proposal--if someone says something stupid and/or offensive, the best way to deal with it is with more speech, not just by shutting that person up (that's pretty much a cliche by now). Otherwise, you end up with people like Ann Coul-notgonnatypeoutherwholenamesoshewon'tgetgooglehitsthankstome, who just say shit to be shocking. If she ever had to defend even one comment she has made in her career, well, it would be fun to watch.

See, here's the thing: in 1947, someone praised Jackie Robinson in an altogether insulting manner, and there's no indication that anyone much raised a stink at all. In 2007, someone does something similar (albeit less directly offensive overall, IMHO) and almost immediately gets fired. I'm not sure I'd call that real progress on the issue.

UPDATE - Read this.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So long, Mr. Vonnegut

As happens when someone I admire passes away, I am at a loss for words, but I emphatically second the thoughts expressed here and especially here:
With luck, Vonnegut's ideas and words may live on to influence a new generation of young people who can follow his example of the artist who encapsulated the feeling of pessimism of the intellect with an optimism of the will. Vonnegut's love for the human species, while hating the violence humans inflict upon each other, sets a high standard for all of us to follow.
I had the fortune of hearing Kurt Vonnegut speak at the 1998 Rice University commencement ceremony. I can say this much: the world is a lot less salty now, and a lot less bitter, and that's too bad.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

So that's how they're using their freedoms

On the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, this happened:
Tens of thousands of Shi'ites -- a sea of women in black abayas and men waving Iraqi flags -- rallied Monday to demand that U.S. forces leave their country. Some ripped apart American flags and tromped across a Stars and Stripes rug.
It is truly heartwarming to see the march of freedom in Iraq, particularly the freedom to "desecrate" the American flag, something quite a few people in Washington feel a need to stop.

Of course, the White House sees this as progress:
Iraq, four years on, is now a place where people can freely gather and express their opinions. And that was something they could not do under Saddam. And while we have much more progress ahead of us -- the United States, the coalition and Iraqis have much more to do -- this is a country that has come a long way from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.
I suppose this is a great step forward for Iraq, but also for irony--we have given them the freedom to demand that we leave. Good enough for me.

What do you have to say about flags, transvestite British comedian Eddie Izzard?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

I guess Newt ain't packin', either

In keeping with my pontifications regarding neoconservatives (I still like the term "conserfascists") and their self-perceived, uh, inadequacies, here's a bit from Newt Gingrich, via Hugh Hewitt, via Glenn Greenwald:
HH: Now let's get to the first major issue of the day, which is Iran. Mr. Speaker, if the United Kingdom feels obliged to use force, if diplomacy fails to get their people back, will you applaud?

NG: I think there are two very simple steps that should be taken. The first is to use a covert operation, or a special forces operation to knock out the only gasoline producing refinery in Iran. There's only one. And the second is to simply intercede by Naval force, and block any tankers from bringing gasoline to Iran

...

HH: So how long would you give them, to give them that ultimatum, the Iranians?
NG: I would literally do that. I would say to them, I would right now say to them privately, within the next week, your refinery will no longer work. And within the following week, there will be no tankers arriving. Now if you would like to avoid being humiliated publicly, we recommend you calmly and quietly give them back now. But frankly, if you'd prefer to show the planet that you're tiny and we're not, we're prepared to simply cut off your economy, and allow you to go back to walking and using oxen to pull carts, because you will have no gasoline left.

HH: I agree with that 100%.
Emphasis added.

Now, to be fair to the former Speaker, I suppose it is worth considering what it means by "you're tiny and we're not."

Compared to America, Iran is quite tiny in terms of land area. I mean, the U.S. ranks 3rd or 4th with its 9,629,091 square kilometers, compared to Iran at #18 (1,648,195 square km? Ha! Even Greenland is bigger!)

In population, the good ol' U.S. of A's 301,600,000 people (we're number 3!) easily trounces Iran's 70,049,262 (again, they're number 18 somehow). Iran has a whole lot more Muslims, for what it's worth.

In terms of age, though, Iran has us beat, if you count from the original formation of the Persian Empire as a political entity around 500 BC. Next to that, what's 1776 got to offer?

Anyway, I somehow doubt Speaker Gingrich is addressing the issue of land area, population size, or longevity. I think he's looking at something more, ahem, substantial when he says "you're tiny and we're not." Maybe the thought of having to actually talk to the Iranians instead of blowing them up, just like in Halo, causes an unfortunate Freudian response.

Seriously, though, is our country really being run (I know Newt isn't in charge of anything at the moment, but he seems to be the favorite of many who are) by people who are willing to bomb various others into oblivion to prove they aren't hung like light switches? Not to belabor a point, but this is pretty damn scary. Maybe what we need is more blowjobs in the Oval Office and halls of Congress. Think about it (preferably without a visual, ew.)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Neoconservatives are ashamed of their small cocks

I am going to defer to the more artful rhetoric of Glenn Greenwald in his discussion of the "Second Iranian Hostage Crisis." He references a National Review article lamenting the fact that Britain's negotiation of a release "looks like a victory for the Islamic Republic."
By committing an act of war, Iran has simultaneously made itself look peaceful and made the West look impotent.

That paradox is the apparent outcome of the crisis that began when Iran kidnapped 15 British sailors and marines on March 23. Today, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that the 15 had been “pardoned” — their supposed offense having been to trespass on Iranian coastal waters — and would be sent home. We don’t know exactly what, if anything, Britain did to bring about the release. But, at least for now, the resolution looks like a victory for the Islamic Republic.

According to eyewitness accounts and GPS data, the Britons were never in Iranian waters. Their treatment after being kidnapped was a violation of the Geneva Conventions: They were videotaped making confessions (almost certainly under duress) and otherwise humiliated. If Britain still acted like the great power it once was, it would have made clear on Day One that this was an act of war and would be viewed as such. That would not have required an immediate military response, or barred the possibility of negotiations with Iran. But it would have required telling Iran’s rulers that, unless they released the hostages immediately, they would pay an unbearable cost. The threat need not have been spelled out specifically, but could have included, among other things, an economic embargo, a naval blockade, or eventual military strikes. That message should have been delivered in public and in private. (If Britain did threaten Iran privately, it should tell the world so now.) With respect to Theodore Roosevelt, this occasion called for walking loudly and carrying a big stick.
I'm beginning to think that the time has come to say the things that people like Glenn Greenwald are too polite to say--that the folks at the National Review, above all else, need the world to know that their dicks are bigger than the Iranians'. Look at the language: "made the West look impotent," "carrying a big stick." It matters not that the Brits were released without a shot fired, having been subjected to treatment that, it would seem, Guantanamo detainees could only dream of. This is about something much, uh, bigger.

This is not, in any way whatsoever, an effort to defend Iran. Their initial actions in seizing the British sailors makes no sense except as an act of provocation, and the Brits were smart not to take the bait. The Times of London makes some very good points:
It is difficult to conclude that Iran's actions were other than premeditated. The incident underlines the pride and prickliness in Tehran, the sense of encirclement and the willingness to make ruthless use of Iranian influence in Iraq to thwart the West, especially over Iran's nuclear policy. Tehran has, however, been forced to climb down.
In some ways, Tehran tipped its hand--it is concerned about Western presence in the Gulf (duh), but it is smart enough not to set itself up deliberately for annihilation. This must be frustrating for the neocons. Without much overt prodding, Tehran released the sailors with everything but a bit of pride intact, without any "economic embargo, a naval blockade, or eventual military strikes," as the folks at the National Review seemed to lust after. Really, how was this not a setback for Iran? A "victory for the Islamic Republic" (to quote NR again) would have been a public trial in Tehran, with London pleading to allow their own barristers in to assist. Instead, we have Iran saying "never mind."

Instead of moaning and wailing about how Britain's totally gaywad tendency to negotiate prevents them from getting to blow shit up, perhaps they should remember what one of their own once said (allegedly and anonymously) to Ron Suskind:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
So here is my recommendation to you neocons with your sudden coitus interruptus feelings about not getting to bomb Iran:

1. Just call this a freakin' victory already, if you really believe you create your own reality.
2. Think of it this way--Iran backed down in the face of pencil-necked Brits carrying briefcases full of Geneva Convention transcripts. No bombs or guns even necessary!
3. You don't need massive explosions and carnage to feel better about your penis size--all you need is confidence in yourself. And stop watching gay porn.

As a final note, isn't it a little ironic that some of the same people who called the Geneva Conventions "quaint" now demand that Iran follow them to the letter? Personally, I think everyone should follow them. Just sayin'

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Great moments in ironic song covers

Alanis Morissette does her take on one of popular music's low points, and in my opinion it comes out much, much better:




Another favorite of mine, my Generation X anthem (ah, 1991, how I miss thee...) re-done in time for Lilith Fair (ah, 1997...):

Monday, April 2, 2007

Least compelling caption ever

From the geniuses at Yahoo! News comes this photo and this caption:

Photo

A video grab from footage shown on Iranian television on April 1, 2007, shows a man in a khaki uniform standing in front of a map while speaking. (Al-Alam via Reuters Tv/Reuters)
Lest there be any doubt as to what you're looking at.