Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Friday, December 30, 2005

I Am Alive

Sorry for disappearing on you guys. Holiday + Out Of Town + Civilization IV = Light Blogging.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Isabelle Feeling Tres Bien

Looks like Isabelle, the French woman who received the world's first face transplant, is doing better than anyone expected. Good for her. Although it bothers me that reporters still insist on discussing Isabelle's "worthiness" of the procedure.

The woman's prior psychological condition - and questions raised in the media about whether she tried to commit suicide before being maimed by the dog - have fueled ethical questions in the case.

Bachmann declined to comment about Isabelle's personal life, saying that they mostly talked about the present and not the past.

Asked if there were any concerns that Isabelle was not the ideal patient for such a radical treatment, she replied: "First of all, is there anyone perfect on earth?"
Why are people so concerned with who's getting a new face? It's not like there are faceless people getting passed over, are there? I suppose any slight misgivings might have something to do with a fear that a full face transplant might one day become an elective procedure along the lines of a nose job. I don't see that happening, though.

One more curiosity:
The most important consideration, Bachmann said, was whether Isabelle would be motivated and stable enough to take her potent anti-rejection medication every day for the rest of her life.
Wow. Hadn't heard that before. Is this true of all transplant surgeries? Or just face transplants? Sounds like yet another criterion on which a face transplant candidate will be judged. In any event, Isabelle is in it to win it for the rest of her life. I guess that sucks slightly less than going through life without a face.

Eating At Wal-Mart

No doubt that Wal-Mart is responsible for many truly innovative methods in shipping, warehousing, you name it, that have streamlined their business and allowed them to keep prices low. Which is why it boggles my mind that they feel the need to deny meal breaks to their workers. Sort of ruins the image of the generally inventive, forward-looking retailer.


Good post by Mark at The Cautious Man about the difference between Real Conservatives (read: pro-status quo, pro-precedent, pro-rule of law) and Pretend Conservatives, a.k.a. Royalists, who eat the shit off of Dubya's ass like so many flies on a horse.

NOTE TO ROYALISTS: There are many former Soviet Republics to choose from when it finally comes to making that big move. Each one has its own unique style of severely limiting civil liberties, so make sure you take your time and choose the method that's right for you. Here's hoping emigration goes well.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Medical Marijuana

Prohibition didn't work in the 1920's and it doesn't work now. What a tremendous waste of dollars, lives, brain power, everything, just to try to stop people from getting high. It really is a joke. Except it isn't funny. Disgusting, degenerate rapists go to jail for 60 days while some poor guy caught with a stash of dope gets put away for a mandatory minimum of like 15 years. Observe Exhibit 147 as to why it is a legitimate waste of one's life to be a drug enforcement agent. While 18,000 al-Qaida operative supposedly roam freely from sea to shining sea, our law enforcement personnel are going after the truly bad seeds among us. Medical marijuana farmers. Let's face it, Catherine and Steve Smith were not hurting anyone.

Federal agents are compiling evidence seized in raids on a San Francisco medical marijuana club and pot-growing operations in the city and Sonoma County, which could soon lead to narcotics charges, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman said Wednesday.


Earlier Tuesday, agents raided the home of the club owners, Catherine and Steve Smith, and confiscated 122 plants, along with financial records and growing equipment.


The club and affiliated cooperative, called Hope Northern California Net, has been hailed as a model business by city leaders and medical marijuana activists because its primary function is providing free or low-cost marijuana to terminally ill people.

"They were amongst the first to provide to a union of indigent patients medicine at a very low cost and in most cases free," said Caren Woodson, campaign director for Americans for Safe Access, a national coalition of patients and doctors working to legitimize medical marijuana.
This issue is one of the reasons I have so little patience with the conservative rubes that so loudly dominate the national dialogue these days. They feel free to sound off on something they know absolutely nothing about, without being able to name a single good or even decent reason why they hold the position they do. By the massive weight of their stupidity and ignorance, millions of people are trapped in a violent world of extralegal commerce, trade that would otherwise take place in taxpaying warehouses and storefronts, and competition that would otherwise have nothing to do with shooting your competitor.

But "drugs are bad," they say, as they take a pull off a bottle of Miller Lite. Idiots.

P.S. If you want to make sure that drug-addled people don't go out and go on a crime rampage (which does happen a bit with meth heads and others strung out on speed but pales to nearly transparent in comparison to the thousands of acts of violence borne exclusively of everyone's favorite "no problem" intoxicant: alcohol), just triple the existing penalty for any crimes perpetrated under the influence and be done with it. Why don't they do this anyway? I believe it's because of America's dirty little secret: EVERYONE drinks and drives. Don't believe me? Please then, offer up an alternate explanation for those cheesy suburban bars that have parking lots(?!?!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Chinese Face Race

We know that the Chinese want to be a force in the space race, but you may not have realized that they also want to factor in the face race.

Three Chinese doctors are vying to carry out the country's first face transplant.

Medics in France made history last month when they carried out the world's first partial face transplant on a woman who was injured by her dog.

It has now emerged a trio of doctors in China Li Qingfeng in Shanghai, Hong Zhijian from Jiangsu Province and Chen Huanran of Beijing are looking to take the procedure to the next level, the Beijing News daily reported yesterday.
It's face transplant mania!!!

However, the doctors also voiced concerns on issues surrounding the procedure. The first is the lack of national guidance defining who could be the recipients, Chen told China Daily in a telephone interview.

The operation could only be conducted on those who are clear of any criminal activities, and with serious disfiguring conditions, which traditional plastic surgery methods cannot repair, said Li.

Ethical concerns on the matching of the skin colour and texture between donor and recipient would also need to be addressed, said Chen.
So now it's an "ethical" issue to match the skin color. Hmmm. Speaking of ethics, I'm struck by the culture-crossing impulse to limit the recipients of face transplant to those who "really need it." How would this work? Would a potential recipient be placed in front of some review panel of former beauty pageant judges for an eligibility evaluation? "You're too cute for a face transplant" or "Good God, you're in! Get that man a face!" Perhaps an insurance adjuster would be assigned to deem whether the surgery would be considered elective or not.

"Must Have Severe Facial Deformity"

I wonder how they will decide who gets a face and who doesn't?

Jacqueline Saburido is among the 20 disfigured people who have approached surgeons at a London hospital to carry out Britain's first face transplant operation.

She was badly injured six years ago, when she visited America from Venezuela to study English.

On Sept 19 1999, Jacqui - then 20 years old - and four friends were on their way home from a birthday party when a drunken driver collided with them, killing two passengers.


Assessment will probably take place next week, or probably in January. "We have agreed that to be eligible, patients would have a severe facial deformity as a result of burns or an accident, that the injury would impair normal function in some way and that there would be some psychological distress," [plastic surgeon Peter Butler] said.
I wonder if you'd be able to choose your face? A lung is a lung is a lung, but a face?
Donors and recipients will also need to be matched for age, sex and skin colour.
I'd think the recipient should have some say in whose face. Per the above, aesthetics are admittedly a part of the equation. If someone has at last to choose which face, why should that someone be the doctor?

On a separate note, there was a passage in Aristotle's "Politics" that mentioned a law that punished drunken people more harshly for their crimes than sober people. I tend to agree with that one. Is that law already in existence? Drunk driving bastards.

It's Just Not Science

I like this part of the York Daily Review's editorial on the recent ruling on "Intelligent Design" in Dover, PA.

That doesn't mean God doesn't exist.

It doesn't mean the world wasn't intelligently designed.

It just means that in science you can't invoke the supernatural when you don't fully understand a natural process.
This is, of course, the part that Pat Robertson, James Dobson and the rest of the "12th centurists" don't want you to remember.

Via Atrios.

The 4th Amendment

Just in case anyone needs a bit of a reminder.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, 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.
Amen! Speak it, my brother! A little lesson in civics for any knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers who happen by this blog: this amendment appears in the Bill of Rights. The freedoms this particular amendment guarantees are on the exact same level as our hallowed "freedom of speech." To determine Bush's guilt in this matter, one need go no further than the passage above, since, by law, no other law can supersede the Constitution. In other words, if you're hoping to find some secret law that allows searches and seizures (wiretaps) without a warrant and gets Bush off the hook, let me lift the suspense, you ain't gonna find it.

The Constitution of the United States of America is not a mere suggestion. To shamelessly disregard our Constitution is the ultimate act of treason, for contained within its lines is the pure essence of what our country represents to its citizens and to the world. We would do well to remember that men and women have given their lives to protect the wisdom and justice inherent to this document. Those who willfully dismiss and dishonor the object of their sacrifice deserve nothing more than our basest contempt.

Once again, for the morons: it's not the spying that's a problem, it's the lack of a warrant. If you'd rather your government should henceforth do without warrants, I hear condos in Moscow are very reasonable these days.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

President Bush Confirms He Is A Dictator

From comments:

It is most disappointing that the President justifies his use of warrantless wiretaps by saying that he only uses them against terrorists. That is just like saying it is OK to jail people indefinitely without charges because you only do it to the guilty. It is disappointing because it indicates that the President and his advisers completely misunderstand the purpose of warrants which is to provide a check on the assumption that there is probable cause to believe that a particular person is violating the law. Also disappointing is that he claims he is not a dictator by saying that he is doing HIS job of protecting the American people while protecting their constitutional rights. Again he misunderstands the American system. Protecting the rights of Americans is NOT his job. It is his job to do the best he can at executing the laws while the courts have the job of making sure that what he does is consistent with the constitution. By suggesting that it is HIS job to protect Americans' rights he is actually confirming that he is a dictator rather than denying it. Most dictators, in the beginning, justify the consolidation of power in their hands by asserting that they know what is right and good for the people. It is a pernicious belief that leads ultimately to ruin.

N.B. edited slightly for style

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Conservative Activists

Talk about rewriting the Constitution. Damn. These GOP types spend so much time grumbling about those liberal judges re-defining the Constitution you'd think ELIMINATING IT ENTIRELY would be sort of outside their comfort zone.

In a series of opinions examining various legal questions arising after September 11, we have examined the scope of the President's Commander-in-Chief power. . . . Foremost among the objectives committed by the Constitution to [the President's] trust. As Hamilton explained in arguing for the Constitution's adoption, "because the circumstances which may affect the public safety" are "not reducible within certain limits, it must be admitted, as a necessary consequence, that there can be no limitation of that authority, which is to provide for the defense and safety of the community, in any manner essential to its efficacy."

. . . [The Constitution's] sweeping grant vests in the President an unenumerated Executive power . . . The Commander in Chief power and the President's obligation to protect the Nation imply the ancillary powers necessary to their successful exercise.
I guess they're thinking we have to destroy the country in order to save it. Heck, why not!?!?

Sunday Random 12

  1. Monday (WILCO, BEING THERE)

  2. Flip Flop Rock (OutKast, Speakerboxxx)

  3. London Calling (The Clash, London Calling)***

  4. Old Soul Song (For The New World Order) (Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning)

  5. Out-Side (Beta Band, Heroes To Zeroes)

  6. Start (The New Year, The End Is Near)

  7. May This Be Love (The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Singles Soundtrack)

  8. It's Like That (Jay-Z, Vol 2... Hard Knock Life)

  9. Out On The Weekend (Neil Young, Harvest)

  10. Strange (R.E.M., Document)

  11. Take Me Anywhere (Tegan And Sara, So Jealous)

  12. Little Acorns (The White Stripes, Elephant)

***London calling, yes, I was there, too
And you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!


I'm getting a little sick of hearing about all the "wartime" powers the president is supposed to have when we're NOT EVEN AT WAR. And before you guys go crazy with all that stupid "head in the sand" crap, what I mean is that Congress never formally declared war on anyone. Thus, we are not "at war." So anytime you hear anyone talking about the president's "wartime" powers, feel free to tell him he's full of shit.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Face to Face

More face transplant news. This time they want to go "all the way."

Computer simulations also showed that donor families were unlikely to recognise their deceased relative's face on the recipient, he added.
Well that's certainly a bonus.


Let me just clarify that I am not against the idea of conducting electronic surveillance on those, even U.S. citizens, with suspected al Qaida links. I am in fact very much pro-wiretap. However, I happen to be just slightly more pro-"President Is Not Above The Law." There are legal ways to accomplish these things. Bush chose to ignore them.

Right Wing Apologists

Let's see what the Bush apologists are up to, seeing as they must have a lot on their plate these days.

This from Assrocket, one of the most shit-soaked suckups ever to put finger to keyboard, talking about the president's unconscionable defense of criminal behavior:

He also vigorously, and effectively, defended the NSA intercept program that has come under attack since it was leaked to the New York Times. His argument was crushingly effective. I was heartened to see that Bush noted both the legality of the NSA program and the illegality of the leaks that exposed the program to the terrorists. The next step is to appoint a prosecutor to investigate who leaked this important classified information, and begin criminal proceedings against those responsible.

Captain Ed seems to trust the attorneys at the New York Times more than he does the text of the U.S. Code.

Translated, it means this: the New York Times ran it by their own legal staff to determine whether the program, as reported by Risen and Lichtblau, actually constituted an illegal activity by the government. The answer, obviously, was no. The NSA has the authority to review international communications without warrants -- in fact, that's supposed to be part of its raison d'etre -- and the definition of "international" as anything crossing an international border, including that of the US, might have policy implications but does not break the law. The revelation would not have done anything other than possibly weaken our counterterrorism efforts.

Charles Johnson blames the media. Boy, I didn't see that one coming.

the latest incident of New York Times perfidy

Well, these idiots are nothing if not predictable. I'd like to see what it would take for Assrocket to remove his nose from Bush's anus. Drop a nuclear bomb on Minneapolis? Even then, I think it'd be a stretch. Anyway, let's compare the tripe above with what actually matters here: the law. I give you...the U.S. Code.

§ 1802. Electronic surveillance authorization without court order; certification by Attorney General; reports to Congressional committees; transmittal under seal; duties and compensation of communication common carrier; applications; jurisdiction of court

(a)(1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that—

(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at—

(i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or

(ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;

(B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party; and

(C) the proposed minimization procedures with respect to such surveillance meet the definition of minimization procedures under section 1801 (h) of this title; and

if the Attorney General reports such minimization procedures and any changes thereto to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at least thirty days prior to their effective date, unless the Attorney General determines immediate action is required and notifies the committees immediately of such minimization procedures and the reason for their becoming effective immediately.

(2) An electronic surveillance authorized by this subsection may be conducted only in accordance with the Attorney General’s certification and the minimization procedures adopted by him. The Attorney General shall assess compliance with such procedures and shall report such assessments to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence under the provisions of section 1808 (a) of this title.

(3) The Attorney General shall immediately transmit under seal to the court established under section 1803 (a) of this title a copy of his certification. Such certification shall be maintained under security measures established by the Chief Justice with the concurrence of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Director of Central Intelligence, and shall remain sealed unless—

(A) an application for a court order with respect to the surveillance is made under sections 1801 (h)(4) and 1804 of this title; or

(B) the certification is necessary to determine the legality of the surveillance under section 1806 (f) of this title.

(4) With respect to electronic surveillance authorized by this subsection, the Attorney General may direct a specified communication common carrier to—

(A) furnish all information, facilities, or technical assistance necessary to accomplish the electronic surveillance in such a manner as will protect its secrecy and produce a minimum of interference with the services that such carrier is providing its customers; and

(B) maintain under security procedures approved by the Attorney General and the Director of Central Intelligence any records concerning the surveillance or the aid furnished which such carrier wishes to retain.

The Government shall compensate, at the prevailing rate, such carrier for furnishing such aid.

(b) Applications for a court order under this subchapter are authorized if the President has, by written authorization, empowered the Attorney General to approve applications to the court having jurisdiction under section 1803 of this title, and a judge to whom an application is made may, notwithstanding any other law, grant an order, in conformity with section 1805 of this title, approving electronic surveillance of a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power for the purpose of obtaining foreign intelligence information, except that the court shall not have jurisdiction to grant any order approving electronic surveillance directed solely as described in paragraph (1)(A) of subsection (a) of this section unless such surveillance may involve the acquisition of communications of any United States person.

I bolded a few of the sections above to make it a bit easier to see what I'm getting at here. I'm not sure how I can make this any clearer. But I'll try. SECRET UNAPPROVED WIRETAPS MAY NOT BE USED TO GATHER INFORMATION ABOUT AMERICAN CITIZENS.

Nation of Laws

President Bush admitted to authorizing illegal wiretaps to spy on citizens of the United States. He admitted committing a crime. He admitted to violating the Constitution that he swore before God and country to defend and uphold. Bush will try to rationalize his actions by claiming that it makes the War on Terror easier to wage. But making his job easier is irrelevant. He is the President of the United States, a tax paying citizen of the Republic. He is charged with leading our great country to even further greatness. But he is obligated to do so within the laws that our legislative branch has given to him and us. He does not have an option to do otherwise. Just as you or I do not have the option to do otherwise. Telling the judge at your sentencing that you were right to break the law because it made what you were attempting to accomplish easier to accomplish gets you a one way ticket to jail. The president cannot decide, on a whim, that his objectives now trump the collective wisdom of our lawmakers, from the very 1st Congress to this the 109th Congress. We all remember what Bush said back in December, 2000:

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator[.]"
I don't think we're in any danger of Bush crowning himself emperor, but I think the quote above does betray a certain disdain for the relatively slow pace of our modern government. Again, not many people would say something like "being a dictator would make it easier." Not a whole lot of people would even think it. Longing for the ease of dictatorship with respect to government in the USA is sort of like wishing that you could sprout wings and fly when you're stuck in traffic: obvious, irrelevant, and squarely outside the realm of reality. It's the kind of thing you'd expect to hear from a high-school sophomore. Painfully ignorant of the both consequences of total control and the advantages of our present republic.

This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. If the most liberal president in the universe approved ILLEGAL DOMESTIC WIRETAPS, like Bush has, he would get this exact same treatment from me. I would demand an investigation and I would further demand that the results of such an investigation be acted upon. Let us not forget that the US grew into the most powerful nation in history precisely because of our great Constitution. Some of you may say this current episode is nothing, that this is a mountain from a molehill, but I must passionately disagree. Freedom is not destroyed all at once, but is chipped away at until it is unrecognizable. A patriot of freedom, a true son or daughter of America does not countenance ANY assault, regardless of apparent importance, on our Constitution. To use the president's language, you are either for freedom or against it. To allow the destruction of liberty to occur because it lacks a certain shock value is to despise liberty. The president is not a king.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fake Blog

I can't be sure, but I think I found a fake blog. Get a load of one of today's postings.

Never really got into working with plants or gardens, but I would. I just do not know where to start. It is almost like choosing something I do not know about, like s1 mp3 player firmware, and then jumping into and going all the way with it. That just is way too sudden for me to do. Know what I mean?
The entire thing is exactly like this. The dude is talking about some boring crap, then randomly mentions mp3 burner software or something, which then links to some sales site. Every single post is like this and there are about 15 posts per day. It's like a Google stealth bomber. Since it seems at first glance to be a real blog, the Googlebot misses it.


Somehow, I've always known that "the children" weren't why marijuana is illegal in this country. It's illegal because you can grow it in your backyard, because if it were legal, no one would be able to make any money off of it. No real money anyway. But what about the rich drug cartels? Well, they're only rich because the stuff's illegal. If people were allowed to grow it themselves, marijuana would be like tomatoes. Everyone who wanted one would have their own plant. Bottom line: the minute marijuana becomes legal, it ceases to be a lucrative commodity. Unless, of course, someone could invent a pill that causes the same effects. Can't grow pills in your backyard. You have to buy them somewhere. Well, it looks like that's exactly what is about to happen.

A McGill University study suggests a new anti-depressant drug works by raising levels of endocannabinoids -- similar to a substance found in marijuana.

The study suggests the new drug, called URB597, might represent a safer alternative to use of marijuana for treatment of pain and depression, and open the door to new and improved treatments for clinical depression.
Might represent a safer alternative? Please. More like, "might represent a major earning opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry."

In pre-clinical laboratory tests researchers found URB597 increased the production of endocannabinoids by blocking their degradation, resulting in measurable antidepressant effects.

"This is the first time it has been shown a drug that increases endocannabinoids in the brain can improve your mood," said lead investigator Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a researcher at Montreal and McGill Universities.
Probably not the first time according to researchers at Montreal and McGill University dorm rooms though.

In any event, once the marijuana pill is fully developed, look for an intense effort by the pharmaceutical industry to approve this drug for general prescription use. If Congress has any sense of irony they can maybe pass some mandatory minimum sentencing law for marijuana possession on the same bill.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Bush says that 30,000 Iraqis have died as a result of our invasion. Who is the source for this information?

The White House later said that Bush, by using the 30,000 number, was repeating the casualty count mentioned in the media and by independent groups. The Web site estimates the number of Iraqis killed at a low of 27,383 and a high of 30,892, based on online media and eyewitness accounts.
Does anyone else find this a bit unbelievable? Does he really expect me to believe that the US intelligence community relies on paparazzi for the inside scoop on Iraq?

I'm sure Tommy Franks was telling the truth when he said "we don't do body counts," but I have to believe that the Pentagon has its own internal estimates. Why not just use that number?

The idea that this figure came from the media strikes me as extremely disingenuous. Clearly, the motive here is to set up the media as a) the messenger that we should now shoot and, if you're Rush Limbaugh, b) authors of an inherently biased report that can be ignored at will.

"No way that many died. Just not possible. Did I mention that is funded by George Soros?"

Monday, December 12, 2005

America IS Human Rights

Check out this post from on the response of some of the scarier GOP-types to McCain's sponsorship of a anti-torture bill. Remember, this bill is merely the legal codification of pre-existing military anti-torture guidelines. The post is a solid read, but what floored me was the very first comment, made by a lady named Jennifer, a.k.a. Feral Genius, who seems to be a regular reader of the site. Her thought was so true, so cutting, so simple, so ready-for-the-bumper-sticker that I couldn't believe I hadn't heard it before.

When exactly did we reach the point where being pro-human rights made you anti-American?
For me, this question cuts to the heart of one of the most disturbing qualities of the torture debate: that to defend the pro-torture position, one must cease to consider America as an idea, indeed an ideal, and think of our blessed country only in terms of territory circumscribed by political boundaries.

But those who truly love America know differently. To those who truly love America, the question of whether or not America will champion human rights is a meaningless question. It is meaningless the way the question "can water be dry," is meaningless. Because just as water and dryness are incompatible, so America and torture are incompatible. America IS human rights. This is what separates our great nation from the Swedens and Switzerlands and Serbias of the world. We are not a nation of a certain peoples, but a nation of certain ideals. Our founders did not describe all citizens as created equal, but all humans. Can the "Mother of Exiles" decide whether or not she will remain a beacon to the world? Lady Liberty does not lower her torch at a whim.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

Teach Me Political Science

As some of you may have noticed, I write a lot about politics on this site. Most of my thoughts come from what I would consider to be a common sense way of looking at an issue. I try to gather as many facts about an issue as I can, consider the potential positive results of a certain policy and give it my support in proportion to how much the country is likely to benefit from it. The idea is to make our wonderful country even better, right?

Just one problem. I have absolutely no background in political science or public policy. It's high time I remedy this situation.

I already bought Leviathan at a used book store and I've started on my CPL copy of Aristotle's Politics. I need five or so more books that will help me lay down a good foundation for future cogitating. Perhaps someone's syllabus from their intro to poli sci class? That might work. I suppose such a syllabus wouldn't really get at public policy per se, but I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that it and poli sci share a foundation.

Recommend books. Help me learn.

Update: The Oversoul speaks. Via Invisible Library, has a new feature called "Grown-Up School" where experts in such-and-such a field create a reading list to help auto-didacts like myself get started. What an idea!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sunday Random 12

  1. Pyramid Song (Radiohead, Amnesiac)

  2. Synchronicity II (The Police, Synchronicity)

  3. Desire (U2, Rattle And Hum)***

  4. Ladies And Gentlemen (Hot Hot Heat, Elevator)

  5. If I Fall You're Going Down With Me (Dixie Chicks, Fly)

  6. Turn On Your Lovelight (Grateful Dead, Live/Dead)

  7. Rock Wit You (Alicia Keys, Songs In A Minor)

  8. My Wife (The Who, Who's Next)

  9. Dance, Dance (Fall Out Boy, From Under The Cork Tree)

  10. Sleeping In (Postal Service, Give Up)

  11. New World Water (Mos Def, Black On Both Sides)

  12. Earth People (Dr. Octagon, Dr. Octagonecologist)

***She's the dollars
She's my protection
Yeah she's a promise
In the year of election

Friday, December 09, 2005

University of Colorado

There's a great column by Greg Couch in today's Chicago Sun-Times
about Gary Barnett's being fired as head football coach at University of Colorado. What finally brought him down? Hint: it wasn't the allegations of rape and sexual assault from female staff memebers.

Barnett was fired Thursday at Colorado and still walked off with a $3 million contract settlement. We're going to hear about the rape allegations against Colorado football players and recruits and all the dirty stuff that popped up a few years ago at CU under Barnett. But you know what?

That had nothing to do with his firing. All those women, nine at last count, screaming for help. Barnett survived all of that. Two female trainers saying they were sexually assaulted by an assistant coach and coerced into having sex with recruits. Barnett survived that. A recruit saying he was promised sex. No stain on Barnett. He survived.

This is why he was fired: Nebraska 30, Colorado 3. Texas 70, Colorado 3. Those things happened in the last two weeks. A week earlier, CU was talking to Barnett about a contract extension. Nine screaming women meant nothing to CU. But a loss to Nebraska?

Goodbye, Gary.

Colorado is the most disgusting college athletic program in the country. I say that mostly out of humanity, but also, unfortunately, as a CU alum. When Colorado didn't fire Barnett before, it sent out the worst social message, our higher education system sanctioning the objectification of women, and worse. But to fire him after blowout losses so soon after letting him skate on the scandals?
I'm not sure how can we hope for more women to be unafraid to come forward about sexual assault when the only message being drilled into their heads with any consistency is NOBODY CARES.

Go. Read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ethics Embargo

Josh "Speed-bag" Marshall makes an interesting point.

How did Duke Cunningham manage to get so far entangled in an ethics mess that he had to plead guilty to federal charges of accepting bribes without anyone referring his case to the House ethics committee?
Makes you wonder if Beltway Democrats have any brains whatsoever. Every time a Republican scandal meets with little more than crickets chirping from the left side of the aisle, it becomes easier to make the claim that Dems are just waiting for their own chance to get their hands in the pot. If Dems want to portray themselves a viable alternative to the current culture of favors and kickbacks, they'll have to start proving themselves as actually opposed to it, rather than to the mere fact that it's the GOP making all the cash and not them.

Carnival of the Liberals #1

The inaugural edition of the Carnival of the Liberals is up!! Go read.


I'm not about to sign up for a subscription, so I can't be sure, but I think I remember about a year or so ago the Wall Street Journal's editorial page dismissing the concerns over Vioxx as "non-existent." I could be wrong though. It could be that non-existent referred instead to Merck's academic integrity.

The editors at one of the world's leading medical journals have accused researchers and Vioxx manufacturer Merck & Co. of withholding key heart risk data that showed up in one of the first large trials of the now-withdrawn arthritis painkiller.

Specifically, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine charged that a major study published in November 2000 was submitted to the journal after information about three heart attacks among Vioxx trial participants was deleted by Merck, which funded the study.
Seriously, when the day is done, what's a few heart attacks among friends?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


This is the only time I will post about the laughable idea that secularists are trying to take over Christmas, because I refuse to allow delusional pot-stirrers like Bill O'Reilly (who, for me, has about as much credibility as a homeless guy muttering on the el) to control the narrative of the day. O'Reilly may think he is on a mighty crusade, but he is in fact but a pawn in a classic propaganda campaign. The party in power is losing their ability to control the political agenda. This is their attempt to seize it back. It really doesn't matter what the particular subject under discussion is, just that the party in power begins again to control the public narrative. Once their control over the loudest "debate" in the public square is established, it's much easier to shift the focus of that discussion while maintaining the rhetorical upper hand. At first it's a distraction. It could be about something as politically inconsequential as, say, Christmas. There's an emotional appeal made. Christmas isn't what it used to be. The country isn't what it used to be. People are trying to destroy Christmas, then liberals are trying to destroy Christmas, then liberals are trying to destroy the country, then we conservatives are going to save the country from them, and then Let Me Tell You How. I don't think it will work in this case, but I'm not going to pretend that the ludicrous idea that there is a "war" on Christmas is anything other than an attempt to transfer blame for the sorry state of the country. "See, it's not the fault of the GOP, who've controlled all of government for the last 6 years, its because of those Godless liberals who want to destroy Christmas! If we only could say Merry Christmas, if only they allowed prayer in school, we'd be A-O-K." I know there are some who won't believe me, but I don't mean to suggest that it is somehow in the nature of conservatives to behave like this. Rather, this behavior is in the nature of those trying to preserve their power. And if this effort falls flat on its face, which I believe it will, fully expect another similar effort. Like a "war" on the 4th of July or something.

OK, that said, this post on Musing's musings is just too good to pass up. Apparently the "war" on Christmas has suffered its first casualty: church services on Christmas Day. I guess the shock troops are too busy setting up nativity scenes on public land to actually go to church and observe the flipping holiday. But then again, for the fundamentalist wackos, its never been about celebrating your own holidays. It's about getting other people to celebrate your holidays. Sort of tough to do that when you're stuck all day in boring old church.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dennis Gentry

It was my birthday today, so I took the day off of blogging. Not that I haven't taken a blog day off before, just that this time I actually had a good reason for it.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Shoot Yourself In The Foot, Then Go To The Emergency Room

If this portion of Bush's tax agenda was part of a concerted effort to gradually subsidize a larger percentage of health care in this country, I could see the logic in it. But let's get real folks, this is the Bush Administration we're talking about here. As such, this policy proposal makes absolutely no sense.

Under the proposal, tax breaks for health benefits for both employers and their workers are limited to $11,500 of coverage for a family and $5,000 for an individual. Under current tax law, there are no limits to how much coverage is exempt from payroll and income taxes.


While the average current plan is not generous enough to be taxed under the proposal, consultants say the high rate of health care inflation could push many plans past that limit and create a problem for employers in future years.
The knee-jerk conservative response to this will be some blather about personal responsibility and nobody owes anyone healthcare coverage. But the simple reality of the situation is that as more and more companies scale back their coverage, something that is already happening but nevertheless a process that this policy would inevitably hasten, healthcare gets more expensive. As more people live without coverage, more people wait until they're sick as dogs before feeling like they can do anything about it. Then comes a ambulance ride to the emergency room, which is a) the most expensive form of treatment possible, and b) on the insurance companies' tab. This causes insurance companies to raise their rates. So as more people live without insurance, more people are forced to turn to expensive, catastrophic care that will not be refused them, creating a feedback loop of bad policy as this very process helps to price people out of the system.

So why in God's name would Bush advance policy that actually worsens this situation? Are they trying to herd people into non-employer-based group purchasing plans? I hope not, because I'd think that this is where we'd see the healthcare market in all of its non-functioning glory. Unless participants are grouped randomly and anonymously by the government (yeah, right!!), the healthiest people will end up teaming up to purchase the best, most extensive, least expensive health plans, leaving people with family histories of, say, cancer (I knew that Patriot Act was good for something!) out in the cold.


Wondering what to do with your old 1985 Macintosh? Wonder no longer!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Gay Priests

In a post entitled "Two Seminarian Candidates," Andrew Sullivan is right on target about the Vatican's hateful and un-Christian stance on gay clergy. Since Mr. Sullivan's permalinks link to the whole day of posting rather than to an individual entry (God only knows why), I'm going to reprint this particular post in toto.

Let me put that another way. You have two seminary candidates in front of you. One seems uptight, and says he may have had transitory gay feelings a while back, but they're gone now, or briskly denies any same-sex attraction at all and says he finds gayness repulsive. The other is a young man who clearly tells his superiors that he is indeed gay, but understands the Church's teachings on sexual expression, and has no more intention of violating his commitment to celibacy than if he were straight. Which one is less likely to act out sexually in self-destructive or immature ways? It seems to me that if the Vatican were really serious about its own doctines about gay sex, it would want many openly gay priests. Those priests would serve as role models of chastity, while also being the least likely to act out from some repressed impulse. They could also help gay Catholic lay people grapple with the Church's teachings on sexuality. Wouldn't that be a much healthier situation than the one we have today? And a more Christian one?


If I held the office of Commander of All Basketball and I had unlimited authority to institute rules that would be immediately adopted at all levels, on the first day of my reign I would make the following proclamation.

A timeout can be called, either by voice or by hand gesture, only by the person holding the ball, who, at the moment of his or her request, must be in a standing position with both feet in contact with the court.

Sunday Random 12

  1. Good Vibrations (Brian Wilson, Smile)

  2. The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You (My Chemical Romance, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge)

  3. I Can't Take It (Tegan And Sara, So Jealous)

  4. Saint Simon (The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow)

  5. Oh Well, OK (Elliott Smith, XO)

  6. Fairytale In The Supermarket (The Raincoats, The Raincoats)

  7. It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night (Prince, Sign O' The Times)

  8. Ride Or Die (Jay-Z, Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life)

  9. Soft And Sleep (The Sea And Cake, Nassau)

  10. Confusion (Alice In Chains, Facelift)

  11. Hairspray Queen (Nirvana, Incesticide)

  12. Cry Freedom (Dave Matthews Band, Crash)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Movies You Haven't Seen

The wife was shocked to learn this morning that I had never seen Gremlins. What "you haven't seen that?!?!" movie haven't you seen?


The Republican leadership in Congress clearly has its priorities straight. Joe Barton, chairman of an Energy and Commerce subcommittee, has dedicated himself to conducting a "serious investigation" of a "deeply flawed" system.

"Too often college football ends in sniping and controversy, rather than winners and losers," Barton said. "The current system of determining who's No. 1 appears deeply flawed."
No word yet on any Congressional "serious investigation" of the "deeply flawed" and wilful mishandling of intelligence that has effectively embroiled us in a victory-free regional conflict. But hey, I understand. They'll get to it when they get to it.

Joe Barton, if my memory serves me, also voted against Katrina rebuilding funds. Great guy, Joe. Sure loves his Longhorns.

Freedom vs. Dog Poop

The funny thing about a lot of suburban, Republican, gated-community types is whereas they project this smug hatred of all things government, they run their condo association like flipping Francisco Franco.

In Rockland County, the policy setting board of the condominium where Edith Kling, 76, has lived for the past 20 years is trying to restrict where the blind woman can walk Frances, her 4-year-old yellow Labrador guide dog because Frances might poop in the wrong place even though Kling cleans up after the dog.
I guess the freedom to take a walk around the block is one our boys and girls in Iraq aren't fighting for.

Bubble Gum Bandits

These guys are awesome!

Wood County[, OH,] authorities are looking for a band of bubble gum bandits. They say the men have stolen more than 30 boxes of gum worth at least $500. They don't take anything else, or even hold-up the stores they target.
I wonder what they're using it for...

Great band name by the way.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bed Sheets

It's been nothing but jail-break fever for the last couple weeks. I'm always amazed when I hear about guys breaking out of jail by stringing bed sheets together and climbing out a window.

The inmates apparently escaped shortly after 5 p.m. through the ceiling of a cell in their unit on the top floor of the four-story main jail, said Cpl. Ken Rink, a Corrections Department spokesman.
They gained access to the roof and used bed sheets to slide down to the roof of the adjacent one-story jail annex, then jumped to the ground.
Few other movie scenes are as regularly re-enacted in real life as the daring bed sheet get-away. Others opted for a more straightforward approach.
In another daring escape that led to the firing of one deputy and the disciplining of eight others, a Texas death row inmate donned civilian clothes and strolled out of a downtown Houston jail
The dude was caught three days later, but what a set of brass ones on that dude. He just walked right out!

Unfortunately, this particular bed sheet escape didn't go so well as the others did. And he's the only one of the lot who could have just used the door. Poor kid.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bee Flight

I always knew that bees could fly. Now we have proof.

The flight of the humble honeybee was once so baffling that mathematicians famously concluded it was impossible. But using high-speed cameras and a scale model robot scientists have at last worked out the secret that helps bees stay aloft.
Glad we finally got that one squared away.


Bush gave a speech on immigration the other day. I heard enough of it to catch the dehumanizing words “catch and release” and to realize the fact that the content of the speech would probably disappoint liberals and conservatives in equal measure. But that’s Bush’s m.o. these days: announce that you’ve got something important to say, get up there, look clueless, run out the same old tired policies, drop a couple coded shout outs to the far “religious” right and basically underwhelm anyone with a functioning cerebrum. Oh well, ER used to do that too. The guy that says “Rated R” on movie trailers would make a big deal on the promos about how this week’s episode was an “ER that you can not miss” and then when the closing credits rolled (pushed to the side of the screen while the NBC news team did their intro) you wondered what the big deal was. You couldn’t even remember what they said was going to happen.

Anyway, part of Bush’s proposal on immigration, the part that enrages conservatives, is the notion of temporary work permits. Part of me likes that idea because I feel that responding to what is actually occurring on a local level and giving it the government stamp of approval is a good thing usually. It applies the imprimatur of the law to something that rose organically from a working community and affirms that law is not to be created at a ruling level and imposed upon people’s lives, but created at a local level and approved and enforced by national authority. But another part of me does not like the idea of allowing foreign workers to come into the country on a temporary basis. And not because I think they will “take our jobs.”

Many industries depend on the quasi-legal working arrangement of below minimum wage transient workers. Instead of continuing to enable industry to essentially break the law, I think we should call Bush’s bluff and demand that every single illegal immigrant be deported tomorrow. If the government is serious about this, then market forces will drive business to relent and call for a quicker, easier and more equitable immigration policy. Policies will then be drafted, voted on and passed into law. Many Mexicans choose not to legally immigrate to the U.S. because the process is extremely difficult. For some, perhaps, it is impossible. People will choose legal immigration to the U.S. over just swimming across the Rio Grande only if the proper channels are indeed the easier option. For industry, the easier option is the status quo. After all, why would they interrupt a system that allows them to pay below minimum wage with no benefits to a group of migrant extra-legals whose very situation allows for almost 100% turnover? As an added bonus, since they’re not citizens, if they get hurt at work, they can’t even sue for damages. Can you think of a better set of circumstances that keeps wages low and unions out? Why should industry get to prop up their earnings at the expense of keeping an entire class of people in a legal limbo? It seems harsh to advocate for immediate deportation, but I truly believe that market forces will exert such an enormous amount of pressure to come up with some kind of solution that we would have one relatively quickly.

Is it any surprise that Bush is advocating exactly what will give industry the greatest ability to abuse their workforce? Whatever rights these workers would have under a temporary work permit are a far cry from what they would receive as proper U.S. citizens. Every day we enable industry to take advantage of this situation we do a dis-service to migrant workers.

This blog is based on a true story.