Friday, March 28, 2008

Explosive nipple rings???

Will someone please explain how this furthers the interests of national security and/or airline safety?:
A Texas woman who said she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called Thursday for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation.

"I wouldn't wish this experience upon anyone," Mandi Hamlin said at a news conference. "My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way."

Hamlin, 37, said she was trying to board a flight from Lubbock to Dallas on Feb. 24 when she was scanned by a Transportation Security Administration agent after passing through a larger metal detector without problems.

The female TSA agent used a handheld detector that beeped when it passed in front of Hamlin's chest, the Dallas-area resident said.

Hamlin said she told the woman she was wearing nipple piercings. The agent then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the jewelry, Hamlin said.

Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was out, she said.

She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.

***

She said she heard male TSA agents snickering as she took out the ring. She was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she still was wearing a belly button ring.
Any ideas??? Anyone??? Am I going to be denied entry to an airport because I have braces? Either the TSA has too much power and too little of a mandate, or we are all just waaaaaaay too paranoid.

While the thought of having my own nipples pierced causes me to collapse shuddering into the fetal position, I will defend to the death other peoples' right to do as they will to their own nipples.

Besides, this isn't national security, it's (O, for a less-cliched phrase) sexual harassment.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Strange bedfellows

I have been generally annoyed by the hubbub over Rev. Jeremiah Wright--I certainly don't support everything he's said, but I do believe that if Barack Obama is to be held responsible for everything the man says (which might be a slight exaggeration), then John McCain should have to answer for the rhetoric of John Hagee, et al.

Coming to Rev. Wright's defense, perhaps surprisingly, is Mike Huckabee:
"[Y]ou can't hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do," Huckabee says. "It's interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what ... Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable, years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say 'Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that.'"

Later, he defended Wright's anger, too:

"As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say 'That's a terrible statement!' ... I grew up in a very segregated South. And I think that you have to cut some slack -- and I'm gonna be probably the only conservative in America who's gonna say something like this, but I'm just tellin' you -- we've gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names..."
Huckabee gets perilously close to what I like to call the "context fallacy," wherein any embarrassing, inflammatory, offensive, or just plain nasty comment presented as a soundbyte can be dismissed by the speaker as having been "taken out of context," usually with no follow-up explanation (or inquiry) as to the correct context. The speaker often gets a free pass, or at least a reprieve as the news media move on to other scandals or verbal gaffes.

Regardless of context, Rev. Wright has said some pretty wacky stuff, but the question few are asking is this: how much should a parishioner be held directly responsible for the rhetoric of his/her pastor/minister/rabbi/imam/etc.? Partly it depends on the extracurricular activities of the church/temple/mosque/etc. For example, an active member of Westboro Baptist Church could certainly be said to bear some responsibility for what its pastor says and does, comsidering that church's rather single-minded focus, but that is an extreme example. For a church such as Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ, with over 10,000 members (h/t Wikipedia), that is a harder connection to make. I for one am not terribly bothered by Wright's infamous rhetoric--in part, because the broader context (now that I've looked into it a little) seems relatively benign when compared to say, Jerry Falwell or the aforementioned Rev. Hagee; but also because Rev. Wright seems to be expressing anger and frustration (cf. Huckabee, above) alone, not some sort of plan for rearranging the world order (I'm just paranoid enough to suspect Rev. Hagee has that in mind.)

At any rate, I like that Huckabee stepped up for the guy, and I wish everyone would talk about something else.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

In support of redhead nudity

Me and my dang fetish.


FCC Okays Nudity On TV If It's Alyson Hannigan

Last pic for today, I promise

Humorous Pictures
see more crazy cat pics

Soak it in

Humorous Pictures
see more crazy cat pics

For those who dig dinosaurs

Dinosaur art has long been a secret passion of mine. So when I saw something purporting to be "The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopaedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages," I had to check it out. From what I can see on the web, it does not disappoint:



It may also be known that I am a big fan of the Lolcats (e.g. here, here, and here), but I lament that their time in the spotlight may be nearing an end (although there is too much of a good thing sometimes.)

That said, two good things don't always go well together (e.g. salsa and key lime pie), so this might be a bit much:



As is this (I think this is the giant isopod. Again.):

Humorous Pictures
see more crazy cat pics

Never let flood-related deaths harsh your buzz, man

Disturbingly chirpy Fox News anchor on the first day of spring and its associated natural disasters (h/t HuffPo):

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cognitive dissonance goes great with smut!

Get this: the Parents' Television Council, whose raison d'etre is to "to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media," posts what it considers to be the most-objectionable TV material on its website as "The Worst Cable Content of the Week" (h/t SexInt).

As of today, March 21, 2008, the "worst" recipient is FX's Nip/Tuck. A clip from the episode “Rachel Ben Natan” is posted, along with a play-by-play of the salacious bits, e.g.:
Receptionist Bettina performs oral sex on Christian as he reads his phone messages. Her head briefly pops up as he asks her a question. Christian grabs the back of her neck and shoves her face back into his crotch, just below camera range.

...

Bettina has sex with Christian on the couch. Both are clothed, though she leans back, displaying her cleavage.

...

Christian is shown having sex with Bettina from behind, as she kneels on his desk wearing a bra and panties.

Bettina: "God, you're in great shape!"

Christian spanks her.

...

Christian has sex with Bettina who is lying on a desk wearing only a bra on top. She answers the phone while having sex. He buries his face in her breasts.

...

Bettina lies on the couch, her legs over Christian's shoulders as they have sex. Both are naked. No breasts or genitals are seen. Both scream as they climax.

Shortly after they’ve finished, Christian fires Bettina for mispronouncing Julia's name.
I guess if there's gonna be a bombardment of smut anyway, it might as well come from a "parents' advocacy group.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The song that's haunting me this week

I recently discovered this song, "Cassie," by Belton, TX-based Flyleaf, courtesy of Pandora.



Even after reading the lyrics (kind of a cheat, I know), I'm still puzzled by the song. It's probably about suicide:
Do you believe in God
Written on the bullet
Say yes to pull the trigger
Do you believe in God
Written on the bullet
And Cassie pulled the trigger
But then again, maybe I'm just imposing a cliche on the song. Regardless, it's catchy and I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Remembering the greatest nerd of all time

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, hero and icon to nerds and geeks alike, passed away today at the age of 90. I have been a fan since I first saw 2001 at the age of 7 or 8, and an admirer since I read Childhood's End and Rendezvous with Rama at the age of 13.



In addition to being a screenwriter and prolific author, he also first thought up quite a few things we find commonplace nowadays:

Clarke also was credited with the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality. Geosynchronous orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground, are called Clarke orbits.

His non-fiction volumes on space travel and his explorations of the Great Barrier Reef and Indian Ocean earned him respect in the world of science, and in 1976 he became an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

I'm also a big fan of Clarke's Three Laws:
  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I'm not sure there can be as fertile an imagination as his anytime soon. I hope the first people to venture beyond the moon do so at least partly in his honor. I'll bid him farewell with a little Also Sprach Zarathustra:



See you out there in the universe, Sir Clarke.

Subprime crisis for dummies

Everything you need to know about the subprime mortgage crisis, with poorly-drawn stick figures (h/t Volokh).

Those poor Norwegian villagers...

Friday, March 14, 2008

46.6%!

The purity test (h/t Kerry Howley), which guided my way through college, is back, and it's grosser than ever. (The bar is way lower at Rice, as I score a 25% on that test.) This was something all Rice freshmen were supposed to take during orientation, to be used for comparison with your score upon graduation (I dropped by about 67% in four years!)

I'm now 17.48 points less pure than the average test taker, as it turns out.

OMFGWTF

I can't not share this story from AP (excerpted because it's really gross):
NESS CITY, Kan. - Deputies said a woman in western Kansas sat on her boyfriend's toilet for two years, and they're investigating whether she was mistreated.

Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple said a man called his office last month to report that something was wrong with his girlfriend.

Whipple said it appeared the 35-year-old Ness City woman’s skin had grown around the seat. She initially refused emergency medical services but was finally convinced by responders and her boyfriend that she needed to be checked out at a hospital.

“We pried the toilet seat off with a pry bar and the seat went with her to the hospital,” Whipple said. “The hospital removed it.”

***

“She was not glued. She was not tied. She was just physically stuck by her body,” Whipple said. “It is hard to imagine. ... I still have a hard time imagining it myself.”

He told investigators he brought his girlfriend food and water, and asked her every day to come out of the bathroom.

“And her reply would be, ‘Maybe tomorrow,”’ Whipple said. “According to him, she did not want to leave the bathroom.”

The boyfriend called police on Feb. 27 to report that “there was something wrong with his girlfriend,” Whipple said, adding that he never explained why it took him two years to call.
This may turn out to have been a serious case of abuse or neglect, in which case I'll probably feel bad for making fun of the situation.

But still...

TWO YEARS???

Didn't I see something like this on TV once?



That was a little different (woman spending three years on a sofa, not two years on a toilet).

The real question (that I know you're wondering about) is whether the boyfriend's place has more than one bathroom. And if it doesn't...

Actually, let's not go there. Let's not go any further with this. I'm out.

UPDATE: More info from AP. Apparently the woman has a phobia about leaving the bathroom.

Demystifying St. Paddy

Some much-needed demystification (demythification?) of the annual senseless beerfest that is St. Patrick's Day (not that I'm knocking mass consumption of beer) comes to us from Andy Crouch (h/t Shakesville):
So that time of year is upon us once again, the time when imbibing throngs pack into bars, throw on giant, foam hats, and clink mugs of green beer in celebration of, well, something. Perhaps a greater perversion than even the American fascination with and celebration of Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day is an opportunity for wild, unabashed revelry among the masses and for big breweries to haul in the cash.

***

Now I don’t begrudge anyone a day or two a year to let loose but this particular holiday, along with Cinco de Mayo, has always felt pretty forced to me, especially in Boston. Quick, tell me three things you know about the man known as Naomh Pádraig. Admit it, the only thing you could come up with was the snake thing. And when you think of Cinco de Mayo, you think of the day that Mexicans won their freedom. You and millions upon millions of others would be wrong on both counts. But why let a little history, or legend, get in the way of a few pints, right?
Speaking as something of a faux-Irishman myself, I've always had a troubled relationship with St. Patrick's Day. It's not just most Americans' atrocious taste in beer...I think it's the rather rote manner in which we celebrate so many of our holidays. While I'm certainly looking forward to many of the planned events, the history of the day is left rather vague.

So I decided to do an extremely minimal amount of research (since I'm skipping work today anyway) (h/t Wikipedia):
Saint Patrick (Latin: Patricius, Irish: Naomh Pádraig) was a Christian missionary and is the patron saint of Ireland along with Brigid of Kildare and Columba. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. When he was about sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. He entered the church, as his father and grandfather had before him, becoming a deacon and a bishop. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary, working in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he actually worked and no link can be made with Patrick and any church. By the eighth century he had become the patron saint of Ireland.
Okay, that's all well and good, but what about all the cool stuff he's supposed to have done?
Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, though post-glacial Ireland never actually had snakes; one suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids of that time and place, as shown for instance on coins minted in Gaul (see Carnutes), or that it could have referred to beliefs such as Pelagianism, symbolized as “serpents”.
Bit of a buzzkill, but legend usually has an element of metaphor to it. According to the Smithsonian, Ireland has never had snakes:
It's true, aside from zoos and pets, there are no snakes on the emerald isle. In fact, there never were any snakes in Ireland. This state of affairs probably has more to do with the vagaries of geography than any neat tricks performed by St. Patty.

***

[S]nakes are found in deserts, grasslands, forests, mountains, and even oceans virtually everywhere around the world. Everywhere except Ireland, New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica, that is.

One thing these few snake-less parts of the world have in common is that they are surrounded by water. New Zealand, for instance, split off from Australia and Asia before snakes ever evolved. So far, no serpent has successfully migrated across the open ocean to a new terrestrial home. As the world's oceans have risen and fallen over the millennia, land bridges have come and gone between Ireland, other parts of Great Britain, and the European mainland, allowing animals and early humans to cross. However, any snake that may have slithered it's [sic] way to Ireland would have turned into a popsicle when the ice ages hit.
And so how did his day become such a big deal?
Irish colonists brought Saint Patrick's Day to what is now the United States of America. The first civic and public celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in the 13 colonies took place in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. During this first celebration The Charitable Irish Society of Boston organized what was the first Saint Patrick's Day Parade in the colonies on 17 March 1737. The first celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756, and New York's first Saint Patrick's Day Parade was held on 17 March 1762 by Irish soldiers in the British Army. In 1780, General George Washington, who commanded soldiers of Irish descent in the Continental Army, allowed his troops a holiday on 17 March. This event became known as The St. Patrick's Day Encampment of 1780. Today, Saint Patrick's Day is widely celebrated in America by Irish and non-Irish alike. Americans celebrate the holiday by wearing green clothing. Many people, regardless of ethnic background, wear green-coloured clothing and items. Traditionally, those who are caught not wearing green are pinched. Alcohol is the centre of many American celebrations.
I guess that's all we really need to know. Just grab a Smithwicks and chill.

Modern American miltary history, as told by food

Too strange to be missed--"Food Fight". I'm still trying to figure out what food represents Russia (without consulting the cheat sheet). (h/t Brad Plumer).



Obviously, the USA = hamburgers.

My favorite is the use of kimchee to represent Korea.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Remembering Gary Hart

I'm reminded, as I read about Der Spitzer's downfall, of what some comedian in the '80s suggested Gary Hart should say in response to his scandal (it later became a bumper sticker):
Yeah, I fucked her. Vote for me.
At least it's honest. And slightly less humiliating for the other parties involved.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Would you pay $4,300 to *********?

We really don't know anything more than we knew yesterday about Mr. Spitzer that's actually useful, but at least the AP's shameful hounding of the call girl's family has yielded the revelation that she's pretty hot.



$4,300 hot? Eh, maybe.

Of course, leave it to Fox News to include pictures of all the other agency ladies. Still, any excuse to plaster the news media with hotties is fine by me. Courtney Friel, anyone?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Malum prohibitum: Why is the basic transactional part of prostitution illegal, anyway? - UPDATED

It's pretty much par for the course nowadays that more than a few authority figures love the outside-the-mainstream kinky stuff. I have about as much sympathy for Eliot Spitzer as I did for Larry Craig (i.e. none). Still, there is a looming and largely unasked question here: Why is the act of two consenting adults, in private, agreeing to exchange money for sex a crime? Above all, why is it a federal crime in this case? Glenn Greenwald explores this question in some depth, as does Digby. I also recommend Digby's post for its historical review of the Mann Act, the archaic 1910 federal law invoked to federally prosecute prostitution-related offenses.

In all seriousness, while I think Eliot Spitzer deserves to be hoisted upon his own petard (I never get tired of that phrase), doesn't the federal government have better things to do? Isn't there a war still going on or something?

Some discussion of the question (thanks to a quick and highly unscientific Google search) can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here. A common thread among arguments for keeping prostitution illegal involves legalization's supposed windfall for pimps and its further demeaning effect on women, not to mention an increase in human trafficking. I don't want to pick on this site too much, because I know they do a lot of good work, but their "10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution" do not hold much water. A more in-depth look at this page may come in a future post. There is absolutely no denying that human trafficking and the continued subjugation of women is a problem all over the world. These are terrible problems that deserve smart, effective soultions. Wiretapping a guy who spends $1K-5K per hour for the services of an "escort" is not one of those solutions. Going after the traffickers, educating the women most likely to be victimized by said traffickers, and working to alleviate the conditions that might cause women to fall prey to a trafficker are more likely to help. But they won't make for prurient headlines.

In a final note for the moment, I present further evidence regarding the death of irony (or at least one of its more pathetic gasps): Newsweek has commentary on the whole sordid affair from Heidi Fleiss.

UPDATE (3/13/08): Ditto everything Glenn Greenwald says here. Viva sarcasm!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A friendly reminder

"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)