Posted merely because it's 2:00 in the morning, I'm eating crab-stuffed salmon whilst drinking a second bottle of very nice Chardonnay and I wanted to watch one of the most gorgeous, bad-ass fight scenes ever digitized (it's not fully letter boxed but just try to deal):
At this point I can't imagine a time in my life when this scene will ever seem old or boring.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Posted merely because it's 2:00 in the morning, I'm eating crab-stuffed salmon whilst drinking a second bottle of very nice Chardonnay and I wanted to watch one of the most gorgeous, bad-ass fight scenes ever digitized (it's not fully letter boxed but just try to deal):
Sunday, May 30, 2010
This is so cool it's almost scary:
We don't know whether we should be terrified or overjoyed. We've just come across a video demo from the University of Pennsylvania's GRASP Lab that shows an autonomous quadrotor helicopter performing "precise aggressive maneuvers." And trust us when we say, nothing in the foregoing sentence is an overstatement -- the thing moves with the speed and grace of an angry bee, while accompanied by the perfectly menacing whine of its little engine.These things totally remind me of the miniature forerunners of the hunter-killers in the Terminator flicks, and they're autonomous to boot:
Saturday, May 29, 2010
This is a sad one. I saw this kid on TV and in movies so much when I was younger I feel like I grew up with him, and his was sometimes a hard life to watch. Man, first Michael Jackson and now this. I hope someone's looking out for Emmanuel Lewis.
(Update: Dennis Hopper now too. Coleman just became Farrah Fawcett to Hopper's Michael Jackson.]
Friday, May 28, 2010
Imagine life without Henry Ford:
I live in Los Angeles. I drive in Los Angeles. I think about traffic a lot in Los Angeles. A few months ago, I discovered Matt Logue’s Empty LA photographs. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but every time I was stuck inOne of my favorite comedians does a bit about what it was like to live in New York City right after 9/11 and how surreal it was to see streets normally bustling with people and traffic 24 hours a day suddenly standing completely empty. I found the movie I Am Legend to be similarly surreal (and the hyper-charged, meth-head zombies only contributed to this feeling).
rush hourall-hour traffic, I found myself thinking, “What if tomorrow everyone’s car disappeared.”
"I bought some BP stock recently because I liked the odds that the top engineers and scientists in the solar system, with unlimited funding, presumably somewhat freed from management meddling, could plug a hole...I also assumed that the liberal media's coverage of the oil damage would depress the stock more than necessary. It's a catastrophe, no doubt, but even catastrophes have levels. I'm betting the financial damage will be very, very, very bad and not very, very, very, very bad.
This is also a test of my theory that you should buy stocks in the companies that you hate the most. In general, you hate the companies that have the most power. And BP is the frickin' Death Star of companies. They're in the process of destroying an entire region of the world and there's still no talk of cutting their next dividend. I admire them in the same way I admire the work ethic of serial killers. There's an undeniable awesomeness about BP. I hate BP, but I still want to have their baby." -Scott Adams, The Scott Adams Blog.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this world view. Sure, it makes sense from an economic stand point and I have nothing against capitalistic investment but there's a part of me that finds the whole thing just a bit too distasteful. I too admire the work ethic of serial killers but I'm not going to invest in and encourage their success killing people. Ethics matter in a civilized society, or at least they should.
Apparently Hollywood doesn't really care so much if women watch movies:
This is how I know I'm a guy (aside from the external genitalia): I personally own about thirty of the movies she just flashed on screen and I've seen the vast majority of the others. In fact, Raiders of the Lost Ark is my absolute favoritist movie in the world and yes, it's a total guy flick. So I decided to run this test on my whole movie collection (just DVDs, not the digital copies I have on my laptop or PS3): of the 170-something DVDs I own just four passed the Bechdel Test. One more small piece of irony from her list: I've loved The Princess Bride since I was a kid but the main reason I bought it (and I swear this is true) is so that I have at least one romantic comedy in my collection to watch with chicks. As you wish, you killed my father, prepare to die, etc.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
It seems that there are some things we still really butt heads on. From Gallup:
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans generally agree about the morality of 12 out of 16 behaviors or social policies that sometimes spark public controversy, with sizable majorities saying each is either "morally acceptable" or "morally wrong." By contrast, views on doctor-assisted suicide, gay and lesbian relations, abortion, and having a baby outside of marriage are closely divided -- the percentage supporting and the percentage opposing are within 15 points of each other.
That the cultural taboo of having a baby outside of marriage is one of these four most controversial issues surprises me a bit. I suppose it shouldn't, as I assume much of the disapproval comes from biblical and other religious circles and we're a nation of mostly religious Christians but it still just seems a largely outmoded concern to me. I'm guessing that attitudes on race also have something to do with it since blacks and Hispanics have significantly higher numbers of unwed mothers per capita than whites. I had assumed that we'd gotten past this particular social stigma but I guess there are always going to be reasons to disapprove of others' behaviours.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I haven't been to the movies much lately so admittedly I haven't seen Sherlock Holmes (although I do plan to at some point) but I gathered enough about it from the trailers and reviews to still find this Dana Carvey spoof trailer in which biologist Charles Darwin is similarly given the action hero treatment entertaining:
Monday, May 24, 2010
So I spent a slacktacular day relaxing and watching crappy TV on my couch yesterday and I ended up watching a repeat of The O'Reilly Factor from Friday in which Bill was addressing the French government approving the draft of a bill that would prevent Muslim women from wearing hijabs in public. He almost seemed to approve of the bill in the face of a theoretical suicide bomber using a veil during an attack in France (I do not and I agree with his rather intelligent guest British political commentator Imogen Lloyd Webber in opposing it by saying that "the minute you start discriminating is the minute you start radicalizing" and that "You can't let one radical destroy or let us compromise our core democratic values") but during the course of his discussion about religious rights and freedom of expression with Webber I heard him say something that didn't sound quite right to me:
WEBBER: As far as the French go, and I think we should be very worried about it, because it's going to affect all of us in the West, and I think French have made a massive mistake by doing it. The French is a very secular society. So for instance in 2004, they banned all religious symbols in schools, including crucifixes. The crucifixes and head scarves. Now, that's not a very British or a very American thing to do. I cannot see any American going with that.That last line caught my ear for two reasons: 1) I know how much O'Reilly likes to just make up stuff about people he doesn't like and that he really doesn't like the ACLU and 2) it didn't sound like something the ACLU would do. Despite the efforts of O'Reilly and many others on the political right to paint that organization as a group of crazed, ideological left-wing zealots the ACLU, while obviously a liberal organization, is mostly just a bunch of lawyers and lobbyists who care about and help others fight for personal rights and civil liberties. I myself may not always agree with them or their stance on certain issues but for the most part I think they do good work, so I was pretty sure that they wouldn't try to get the wearing of crucifixes banned in American public schools and guess what? They hadn't.
O'REILLY: We can't have crucifixes in our public schools here.
WEBBER: But wearing crucifixes to school--
O'REILLY: Yes, they tried. The ACLU tried, but they -- that was a freedom of expression issue.
After using the Google to search high and low across the vast expanse of the Interwebs I wasn't able to locate one anecdote or article that could verify O'Reilly's claim on this count. I did however find two interesting things pertaining to this issue. The first is this article from a couple of years ago about an Oregon high school that actually did ban students from wearing crucifixes:
Never did Jaime Salazar imagine that wearing a rosarylike crucifix to school would provoke a national stir.
Now as a staunch advocate for free speech rights I of course think that the school was wrong to do this but guess who else did too? That's right, the ACLU:
But when the 14-year-old and his 16-year-old friend Marco Castro were suspended recently for refusing to remove the religious beads because they were “gang-related,” it thrust Oregon into the headlines and has triggered questions over the evolving role of rosaries in religion, fashion and street gangs.
So not only did O'Reilly just completely make up a story about the ACLU that never happened, but the story he made up is the exact opposite of what actually did happen here in reality. Tall, loud and stupid is no way to go through life, Bill. The other entertaining tidbit I came across was the concluding line from this delightfully ironic post about the exact same story I just quoted above on a right-wing political blog called Moonbattery.com (for those not in the know, in the political blogosphere people on the right call supposed crazies on the left "moonbats" and people on the left call supposed crazies on the right "wingnuts"):
David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon says educators should proceed with caution. Their intentions may be valid, but they run the risk of violating students’ rights, he said.
“When it comes to restricting any form of expression, school officials have a pretty high bar to cross,” he said. “They better have very specific evidence that’s more than just a hunch.”
The smart gangs will adopt the star and crescent as a symbol. No educrats could ban that without risking the wrath of the ACLU.This website gets more hits than mine on several orders of magnitude every day. This is why Bill O'Reilly has the highest ratings of any show on cable news, it's why Sarah Palin almost found herself a heartbeat away from the presidency and it's why a certain segment of Wingnuttia will always be impervious to arguments couched in logic or sanity.
I just had a Texan moment of clarity in my kitchen: what are the odds that I'm the only person in California drinking Shiner Bock and eating fried catfish at this exact moment in time? A crisp new Benjamin says I am. Life is good. Yee haw, yo.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has put together a fairly realistic and comprehensive budget simulator with the goal of stabilizing the debt at 60 percent of GDP by 2018. My own budgetary decisions are reflected below:
I started with a budget path of reducing our troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible, letting the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts on upper-level earners expire and reducing lower-rate cuts by half while tying regular discretionary spending growth directly to inflation. From there I cut all unnecessary defense and foreign aid spending while maintaining veterans benefits and increasing spending on homeland security. The only domestic cuts I made were to reduce food stamp benefits to 2008 levels and I did pay to institute a new jobs bill.
For social security I raised the normal retirement age and required all new state and local workers to pay in while protecting all low and medium earner benefits. For health care I expanded coverage to 5 million additional people, reduced spending, enacted medical malpractice reform and replaced traditional Medicare with insurance vouchers. I cut all other spending except for NASA's Moon and Mars landing projects (I should probably have cut those too but they're relatively cheap and personally dear to me).
For taxes I enacted Cap and Trade, increased the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon, reformed the tax code and instituted a two percent surtax on earnings above the Social Security payroll tax cap. Then I converted the mortgage interest deduction to a 20% credit, limited itemized deductions for high earners and biofuel subsidies, made R&D tax credits for private businesses permanent, extended college tax credits and began the excise tax on high cost employer sponsored health insurance plans in 2013 instead of 2018 as it now stands.
I have to admit that this was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It's easy for people in both political parties to condemn Washington for profligate spending but making the tough choices to rein in our debt really makes you agonize over your priorities (I went back through my budget three times to be able to keep those NASA programs without unfairly overtaxing high earners or cutting benefits for children, the poor, the unemployed and education and even then I still had to reduce food stamp spending). I encourage everyone to try it out here: the simulator keeps track of your budget in real time as you check boxes in eight categories to increase or decrease spending. You might be surprised to learn how you would go about doing things if you were actually the President of the United States. This simulation made me glad that I'm not.
Friday, May 21, 2010
From The Onion, of course:
A draft contract containing details about Sarah Palin's speaking fee and requirements was obtained by California State University, Stanislaus, students who claim they found the document in a Dumpster. Here are some of her demands:Yeah, that's right: all newspapers. It's easier than thinking and choosing.
- Hotel room must have a "moose couture" styling to it
- Most recent copy of all newspapers
- Children's caretaker must be of Korean ethnicity or higher
- 50-gallon aquarium containing a minimum of eight piranhas that haven't been fed in a week and a bucket of ducks
- If the name of the speaking venue exceeds four syllables, then it must be temporarily changed to "Thompson Hall"
- Book of word searches and package of string cheese for Todd
- Extra red clothing just in case something happens to her other red clothing
- Audio engineer must ensure speakers are capturing full cuntiness of voice
- Dressing-room lighting fixtures must be equipped with non-efficient bulbs
- Palin must have "five (5) black pillar candles of 13" in length and 3" in circumference, one (1) stone altar of Baphomet, one (1) obsidian dagger, and one (1) baby delivered to her dressing area no less than two hours prior to her speech"
How can someone be this clueless about politics whilst running for the Senate?
Tea Party hero Rand Paul scrambled Thursday to tamp down the growing firestorm over his criticism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.It seems to me that Paul is trying to have an intellectual and philosophical argument as he's running for office in the real world and that intellectual honesty, while surprisingly refreshing, is biting him in the ass as a result. His main point is that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was obviously a good thing and ensured equal rights for all Americans but that it also impinged on the individual rights of business owners and others by forcing them to accommodate black people and other minorities as well as whites. And this is all true. His problem is that he's arguing historically unpopular points and he's being extraordinarily tone deaf about the impact of those points at the same time.
The new Republican Senate nominee from Kentucky released a rambling statement amid calls to explain comments that he would have opposed a central tenet of the landmark law: forcing private businesses to integrate.
"I support the Civil Rights Act because I overwhelmingly agree with the intent of the legislation, which was to stop discrimination," Paul said Thursday.
In interviews Wednesday, Paul said that while he opposed discrimination, he thought "a lot of things could be handled locally."
The remark was at odds with history: Before the 1960s civil rights laws, white segregationists had an iron grip on local and state governments throughout the South.
Yes, the Civil Rights Act did limit personal freedom in certain ways but those limits were made necessary by a national history of slavery and a time of extreme racial tensions. It's all well and good to argue that Libertarian principles and personal freedom should be the goal of a truly equal society and if this were a purely academic argument set outside of history and culture it might sound pretty convincing but we've already tried that philosophy out in the crucible of the real world and it failed miserably. The freedom to discriminate against anyone as it applies to one's place of business led not to more equality but rather to more racism and more oppression of minorities and as time went on it became obvious that only the federal government had the ability to adequately right these historical inequities.
We see the same denial of historic evidence as it pertains to the war on illegal drugs: even though we have a perfect historical corollary in the failure of Prohibition to show that this attempt at social engineering categorically does not work there are still millions of short-sighted individuals who simply refuse to examine history and make this logical deduction. The difference here is that while supporting the failed drug war is still a popular political stance to take in many circles speaking out against the Civil Rights Act, even if just in theory, is an extremely unpopular thing to do in practically every venue and it's almost unthinkable if one wishes to be elected to national office. Regardless of the intellectual point that Paul is trying to illustrate (and I understand and agree with that point, if only on principle), to try and make it during a national Senate bid is naive at best and politically suicidal at worst. In the end I doubt that Paul will lose this race because people perceive him as a racist as a result of this controversy; whether he loses it because he's proven himself a clueless dumbass remains yet to be seen.
[Update: Ezra Klein has a few questions concerning Paul's strict Libertarian views:
...unfortunately for Paul, this isn't over. Not by a long shot. There is a category of scandal that I call "area politician believes kooky but harmless thing." A candidate who thinks he was abducted by UFOs would fit here. It's weird, but it doesn't have many implications for public policy. What's gotten Paul in trouble, however, is that he's so skeptical of government power that he's not even comfortable with the public sector telling private businesses that they can't discriminate based on race. That, I fear, does have public policy implications.This is the problem with pure Libertarianism and it's the reason Libertarians never get more than a few percentage points in elections: their principles are largely untenable in the real world. Personal freedom is a great thing and I'm all for having hypothetical intellectual arguments but allowing institutional racial discrimination or going back to the gold standard are absurd ideas in a modern society. Plus, Paul isn't even as ideologically rigid as he comes off: he has lately said that he would not leave abortion to the states, he doesn't believe in legalizing drugs like marijuana and cocaine, he'd support federal drug laws and he's ignored the regulatory and safety corner cutting that allowed the BP disaster to occur in the Gulf by stating that "sometimes accidents happen". The only thing worse than a strict unbending Libertarian is someone who arbitrarily believes in personal freedoms only when they suit him personally. And we've all seen what that looks like, haven't we?]
For instance: Can the federal government set the private sector's minimum wage? Can it tell private businesses not to hire illegal immigrants? Can it tell oil companies what safety systems to build into an offshore drilling platform? Can it tell toy companies to test for lead? Can it tell liquor stores not to sell to minors? These are the sort of questions that Paul needs to be asked now, because the issue is not "area politician believes kooky but harmless thing." It's "area politician espouses extremist philosophy on issue he will be voting on constantly."
[Update II: One of Andrew Sullivan's readers sums up the position of intellectual theory versus real world practice better than I:
There are no purely intellectual positions for people who wish to be elected to government office. The consequences of their philosophies must be their responsibility. Balancing intellectual ideals with the reality of human action is what we expect from our leaders.People tell me all the time that I should run for some type of political office, and I echo Sullivan in replying that this is one reason why I haven't. Yet.]
Thursday, May 20, 2010
"We don't have the authority here in Arizona to turn off the lights." -Gary Pierce of the Arizona Corporation Commission, Your World with Neil Cavuto, on the mistaken notion that some on the political right have that a letter he wrote to Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was some type of threat to cut power to that city over its stated boycott of Arizona because of its new anti-immigration law (L.A. receives 25% of its electricity from power plants in Arizona).
"So why are you and I even talking then?" -Neil Cavuto, Your World with Neil Cavuto, on learning this apparently obvious fact on live television right after blithely asking Pierce, "What's the trigger point at which you turn off the lights?" whilst running a news banner that read "AZ THREATENS TO CUT OFF LA'S POWER OVER ECONOMIC BOYCOTT".
Of course, no one has ever accused FOX News of doing too much research for their "news" segments, have they?
Per the South Park episode "200", I've cleverly dressed Mohammed up as a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich to protest the notion that it should be forbidden to display physical depictions of that supposed prophet. Make no mistake though: this is clearly an image of Mohammed and he looks both savory and delicious. I love free speech.
[Update: On a personal note, I would like to wish friend of this blog and Thunder from Down Under magpie's dear momma a very happy birthday from halfway around the world. All the best, Ma'am.]
[Update II: Reason.com lists their favorites, which are all better than mine, most notably because they're all actual drawings.]
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Just imagine the scientific and commercial applications of this:
ON a farm in Wyoming, USA, goats are being milked for their spider webs.Here's the longer video explanation:
And if that sounds bizarre, molecular biologist Randy Lewis claims that within two years, spider silk milked from goats could replace your body's tired or strained tendons and ligaments - maybe even bones.
Professor Lewis and his team at the University of Wyoming have successfully implanted the silk-making genes from a golden orb spider into a herd of goats and are now, finally, producing one of nature's strongest products in useable quantities.
Science has been lagging a bit in providing me with the self-driving cars and jet-packs I was promised in its fiction as a lad so I always get excited about surreal advances like this one. I can only hope that a genetically-modified, vodka-lactating cow is on the scientific horizon. Think of the steaks...
An illustration from artist Josh Cooley's Golden Book parody "Movies R Fun" (part of the Lil' Inappropriate Book line) which will be available at Comic-Con this year. You can see a few more examples from The Professional and The Godfather: Part II at the link.
I've been trying to take a bit of a break from the news and politics lately in an attempt to retain my sanity so I apologize for the lack of regular posting of late. That said, I have the whole day off today and I'm in a weird mood so I thought I'd spend the day posting some strange and interesting stuff for your enjoyment.
You know that weird thing that turns you on that you've never told anyone else about? The most fucked up sexual fantasy you have that you think is so strange and dangerous? The dark, sticky fucked up thing that you think about when you're fucking the person you fuck to help you fuck them better? That thing? Well you can relax because "weird" is a vast sliding scale and there are people in the world like this guy to make you feel relatively normal about your life. Warning: once read the following resolved question from Yahoo! Answers can never be unread:
Really freaked out my girlfriend need help?I'm no psychologist but I suspect that his issues might encompass slightly more than just an odd Garfield fixation. When I first read that I didn't know whether to laugh hysterically or be creeped out by it so I just did both. This could very well be a joke but after all of the other freaky shit you've seen on the Interwebs would you be at all surprised if it wasn't? Crazy.
As a teenager I suffered from severe depression and formed a strong bond with the character Garfield and his outlook. Its sad but reading garfield anthologies obsessively was the only thing that made me feel normal and it eventually took on something of an erotic fixation.
To avoid feeling like a sicko I drew pictures of garfield with a womans(Think Pamela anderson circa 1991) body and garfields head, so that I was assured that my fixation wasn't with animals or repressed homosexuality. This garfield/pam hybrid still had the same biting wit and acerbic outlook and tended to cut herself in self loathing while wolfing down a lasagna to fill the void after sleeping with drawings of a much more handsome and muscular version of myself. These drawings eventually evolved into erotic fanfiction starring garfield and myself (In my head Garfield still has a womans body but someone reading the stories would think Im having sex with regular Garfield.) I killed off Jon in a jealous rage, I didn't touch Odie, I enjoy his companionship and don't mind if he watches.
The stories are your pretty basic wish fulfillment stuff, balanced with self loathing rants. I've been doing this near daily for years and I have a substantial amount of writing in a folder I keep buried in 8 different folders.
My girlfriend stumbled across them by accident when they came up in a search and is pretty freaked out. How can I show her I'm just a normal guy with a weird outlet for my psychological problems and not some kind of sicko?
Here is a small sample so you get the picture.
I looked at her as she lay on the floor crying, my satisfied cock dripped droplets of life juice on her toes, flaccid yet still distended, looking satisfied like a man who has just run a mile and is rewarding himself with a slice of pie.
She reached for the knife as she always did and sliced into her familiar wound, mumbling 'i hate you, i hate you'. Its your own worthless soul you hate, god hates us all and thats why he laughs, he created the world to laugh at our pain, now eat up! I kicked her in the stomach incapacitating her and as she doubled over forced a pan of lasagna down her stupid throat, she coughed most of it up but I made her lick up every last drop as she cried the tears of an empty soul I found my cock get hard from her pain and went for her ***, rubbing her blood gushing forearm into her stupid face.
Odie looked at me with a look of fear mingled with hatred but he new not to interfere, and I could tell by his doggie hardon that he didn't truly mind, she would suck him off later he knew for my amusement. I made her suck many people off, to gain friends in the community but mostly to humiliate her and destroy any self esteem she had left.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
"Nobody is winning," -Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan.
I'll admit, I can't see any way for us to get out of either Afghanistan or Iraq without the security situations in either country going south like a duck in winter but in order to prevent that from happening we'd have to permanently occupy both countries for what increasingly looks like forever and we cannot afford that on many levels. I say we leave both now while we can still do so on our own terms and then provide whatever support we can to at least staunch the bleeding. Otherwise we're just going to have to do the same thing a few more years down the road when we're forced to for lack of money, troops and equipment. It's not a pretty option but as far as I can tell it's the best one we have. The very nature of these two wars and how they were prosecuted has made "winning" highly impractical if not outright impossible. It's almost as if neither conflict was thought out too well from the start, huh?
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Well, at least we now know what we're dealing with down there:
This is what it looks like, four thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven feet down, when oil gushes into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of thousands of barrels a day. (How many thousands? That’s not clear.) It’s a striking image, but, as with the ones we saw of the non-containing containment dome being lowered onto the leak a few days ago—looking like the house from “Psycho,” as drawn by M. C. Escher—it would be more appealing if it showed the leak being stanched. As it is, it’s just appalling.So, what do we do now?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
In an attempt to out-right-wing his right-wing competitor for the Republican nomination in Arizona John McCain is trying really hard to get tea party Republicans to vote for him:
McCain's campaign insists that his enthusiasm for a border fence in this ad is consistent with his stated views on the issue in the past but this excerpt from a 2007 Vanity Fair article about him makes me wonder:
...in Milwaukee, in front of an audience of more sympathetic businessmen, McCain had been asked how debate over the immigration bill was playing politically. “In the short term, it probably galvanizes our base,” he said. “In the long term, if you alienate the Hispanics, you’ll pay a heavy price.” Then he added, unable to help himself, “By the way, I think the fence is least effective. But I’ll build the goddamned fence if they want it.”So apparently he's now decided that pandering to that galvanized base is way more important than not alienating those Hispanics, at least in a hotly contested Republican primary. Remember when people used to talk about John McCain's integrity without laughing? Sad and pathetic.
From what little I've read about her so far, it appears that she has a scant record of written opinions for a Harvard Law School dean and is not progressively ideological enough (i.e. on executive power) for some on the political left but after listening to the first day of right-wing talk radio following the announcement of her nomination I think Dave Weigel of The Washington Post hits the nail on the head:
We're already seeing a line of criticism develop. If I can sum it up in the bluntest possible language, Kagan is a New York, Ivy League elitist, a critic of the military during wartime, who was picked because President Obama is all of those things.This is pretty much what I've been hearing out there and right-wing talk radio doesn't form Republican opinion and policy so much as it just serves as a vast echo chamber for it. I would expect to hear a lot of this narrative over the next few months but I also predict that she will ultimately become (possibly the first homosexual) Supreme Court Justice.
Monday, May 10, 2010
"This is our nation's drug enforcement in a nutshell. We started out by banning the things. And people kept taking them. So we made the punishments more draconian. But people kept selling them. So we pushed the markets deep into black market territory, and got the predictable violence . . . and then we upped our game, turning drug squads into quasi-paramilitary raiders. Somewhere along the way, we got so focused on enforcing the law that we lost sight of the purpose of the law, which is to make life in America better.
I don't know how anyone can watch that video, and think to themselves, "Yes, this is definitely worth it to rid the world of the scourge of excess pizza consumption and dopey, giggly conversations about cartoons." Short of multiple homicide, I'm having trouble coming up with anything that justifies that kind of police action. And you know, I doubt the police could either. But they weren't busy trying to figure out if they were maximizing the welfare of their larger society. They were, in that most terrifying of phrases, just doing their jobs.
And in the end, that is our shame, not theirs." -Megan McArdle, The Atlantic (the embedded link is mine).
This is the point I've been trying to make on this issue: that the War on Drugs has become more harmful to American society than the drugs it purports to be protecting us from in the first place. Contrary to what some short-sighted individuals on the right gleefully proclaim, using law enforcement to destroy the lives of otherwise law abiding citizens doesn't make this country a better place. And McArdle is correct when she says that the ultimate blame lies with us. Vote for politicians, district attorneys and sheriffs who advocate saner and less draconian drug policies. The War on Drugs has failed; America deserves better.
This is what's known as a "trunk shot" in movies. Quentin Tarantino popularized it by using it in each of his films and it's usually the precursor to something really bad happening to whomever's in the trunk. Really bad.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
So it seems that certain religions are still acceptable for ridicule by Comedy Central:
Comedy Central might censor every image of the Prophet Muhammad on "South Park," yet the network is developing a whole animated series around Jesus Christ.I'm sure what Alterman meant to say is that "comedy in purist form makes some people uncomfortable but the fact that it makes a certain group of people uncomfortable is unacceptable and so it must be censored". Again, this isn't about making fun of one particular religion but rather the un-American idea that one particular religion should be off limits from being made fun of when doing so to all the others. Nobody in this world has a right not to be offended.
As part of the network's upfront presentation to advertisers (full slate here), Comedy Central is set to announce "JC," a half-hour show about Christ wanting to escape the shadow of his "powerful but apathetic father" and live a regular life in New York City.
In the show, God is preoccupied with playing video games while Christ, "the ultimate fish out of water," tries to adjust to life in the big city.
"In general, comedy in purist form always makes some people uncomfortable," said Comedy Central's head of original programming Kent Alterman...
Like all Comedy Central executives, Alterman declined to address the recent controversy over "South Park," where the network aired a heavily redacted episode after the show's creators were threatened by an extremist Islamic Web site.
All this LT stuff has got me wondering about your thoughts on sexual consent age limits.For all those not in the know:
Lawrence Taylor, the former Giants linebacker, was arrested early Thursday morning and has been charged with third-degree rape and soliciting prostitution in a case involving a 16-year-old girl at a hotel in Rockland County, according to the authorities.As far as LT is concerned he claims that he had never met the guy before who sent the girl to his room (I tend to believe this), he claims that she told him that she was nineteen (she has admitted that she was told to do so by this same guy) and that he paid the money to the girl herself rather than the guy (I'm assuming that he's making this point as some type of legal maneuvering on advice from his attorney). I was actually watching said attorney talking about the case yesterday and when asked if his client had sex with the girl he also made a point of stating that LT definitely didn't have sexual intercourse with her as it's defined by blah, blah, lawyer-speak, blah.
Taylor was taken into custody after the police were told that the girl had been brought to Taylor’s hotel room by aman who also faces charges in the case, said Christopher P. St. Lawrence, the town supervisor of Ramapo. He said the Ramapo police went to Taylor’s room at the Holiday Inn Suffern, in Montebello, and arrested him without incident just before 4 a.m. St. Lawrence said at a news conference that Taylor paid $300 for the encounter.
Taylor’s lawyer, Arthur L. Aidala, said Taylor denied having sex with the girl, who was referred to in court only by her initials because she was a minor. She was reported missing from her home in the Bronx in March.
Taylor faces a maximum of one year in prison on the solicitation charge, a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for third-degree rape, a felony, is four years.
Now whenever I hear a lawyer rhetorically dancing around a straight-forward question like "Did he have sex with her?" in this manner my shyster-sense starts tingling like crazy (this particular superpower is slightly underdeveloped in my case since I only completed one year of law school before I regained sanity at some point). What that says to me is that there probably was no strict vaginal intercourse but I think it's safe to assume that there was some level of touching and eventual fluid transfer involving LT's penis at some point. It's entirely feasible to assume that he didn't have actual sex with her and that he's making that very clear to the authorities in order to escape a third-degree felony rape charge but he paid her that $300 for something and I doubt it was just to hold hands and exchange whispered sweet nothings.
To address one L's question as to my views on age of consent limits, my personal philosophy concerning sex has always been that some people are physically and emotionally ready to have sex and some people are not, with age being mostly a secondary concern. If I were to answer on an evolutionary basis (in which I received my formal college training) I would state that the beginning of menstruation in a female marks her readiness for sexual intercourse and subsequent child bearing but one obviously has to factor in cultural and societal mores and the much longer lifespan and thus delayed emotional development of modern humans versus other primates. I have no doubt that there are some thirteen-year-old girls out there who are quite ready to have sex while on the obverse side I also have no doubt that there are thirty-year-old women out there who are not (and perhaps never will be).
As far as the law goes though there obviously has to be a baseline legal limit that society adheres to on this matter and as with so many other rights and privileges of adulthood I believe that limit should be a person's eighteenth birthday, for the sake of consistency if nothing else. Now of course that's not to say that I believe that minors should not be having sex with each other and there are extenuating circumstances in some cases that any fair judge or jury should take into account: if a sixteen or seventeen-year-old girl has consensual sex with her eighteen or nineteen-year-old boyfriend that should usually be legal and acceptable in the eyes of the law. And there will be other extenuating circumstances on a case by case basis of course but that's why I believe that there should not be any bullshit mandatory sentencing laws tying the hands of the deliberating body or individual deciding those cases.
In short, I believe that anyone who is considered a legal adult should be able to have consensual sexual intercourse with any other legal adult (the topic of incest on this count takes us to a weird grey area that I personally would rather not think about) but I also believe that minors should be free to have consensual sex with each other and the occasional legal adult on a case by case basis to be determined by a judge or jury on the occasion that said interlocution is warranted. Sex is a sticky and beautiful enterprise and one of the best things we can do with our short time on this planet. My advice is to make up some excuse to look at his/her drivers licence at some point before you both get busy, i.e. "I always take bad licence photos: how about you?" This policy has saved (and also pleasantly surprised) my ass on more than one occasion.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I've never passed my genes on to a miniature version of myself but if I ever do I'm going to try to make the announcement as cool and nerdy as this one:
[Update: Of course you don't want to make your wedding announcement too epic or else the pregnancy will just seem like a weak-ass sequel. I think it would be quite interesting to know these two individuals:
England is trying to choose a new Prime Minister today. This is how you vote:
Voters arrive at the Hare and Hounds pub which is being used as a polling station on May 6, 2010 in Corsham, England. Vote early. Vote often. Vote drunk!So we fought for and won our independence from these guys a couple hundred years ago so I could vote in a Catholic church while they get to vote in their pubs. Somehow it lessens the victory.
[Update: Andrew Sullivan adds the following about Britain's electoral rules:
Yes, you can vote drunk and you can bring your dog with you into the polling booth. You are also fully entitled to scrawl on your ballot terms like "Fuck The System!" What a civilized place.Have I mentioned that they get to vote in their pubs? Civilized, indeed.]
[Update II: One of his readers responds:
So those lucky bastards in Merry Ole England can vote drunk? At a pub, no less? While we poor unlucky bastards here in Indiana (who voted on Tuesday) can’t even BUY alcohol on election day
Alcohol is served in restaurants and bars on Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. and from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Sundays.
Alcoholic beverages can be purchased from private retail package stores, and beer and wine can be bought in grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores. No alcohol is sold on Christmas Day and Election Day.”
If you don't need a drink on both Christmas Day and Election Day you obviously haven't been living in America lately.]
Highly recommended for anyone traveling through or residing in Arizona for whom the authorities might have a "reasonable suspicion" of not being a white person and thus perhaps not an actual American. I'm just glad I was born looking as American as I do.
Radley Balko at Reason.com revisits a previous post:
In February, I wrote the following about a drug raid in Missouri:Here's the video:
SWAT team breaks into home, fires seven rounds at family's pit bull and corgi (?!) as a seven-year-old looks on.
They found a "small amount" of marijuana, enough for a misdemeanor charge. The parents were then charged with child endangerment.
So smoking pot = "child endangerment." Storming a home with guns, then firing bullets into the family pets as a child looks on = necessary police procedures to ensure everyone's safety.
Just so we're clear.
Now there's video, which you can watch below. It's horrifying, but I'd urge you to watch it, and to send it to the drug warriors in your life. This is the blunt-end result of all the war imagery and militaristic rhetoric politicians have been spewing for the last 30 years—cops dressed like soldiers, barreling through the front door middle of the night, slaughtering the family pets, filling the house with bullets in the presence of children, then having the audacity to charge the parents with endangering their own kid. There are 100-150 of these raids every day in America, the vast, vast majority like this one, to serve a warrant for a consensual crime.
But they did prevent Jonathan Whitworth from smoking the pot they found in his possession. So I guess this mission was a success.
Look at the house. It isn't a drug den or a crack house, these are your next door neighbors and their kid. This happened in America. Per a discussion in the comment section of a previous post, this is one of the costs beyond the billions we spend every year on the failed War on Drugs. Of course, this video doesn't definitively prove that it's a failure (as Balko says, they did successfully stop this guy from smoking his cannabis) but is this what you imagine when you think of the drug war succeeding?
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
"He is a citizen of the United States, so I say we uphold the laws and the Constitution on citizens. If you are a citizen, you obey the law and follow the Constitution. He has all the rights under the Constitution. We don't shred the Constitution when it is popular. We do the right thing." -Glenn Beck on Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born American arrested in connection with a failed attempt to set off a car bomb in New York City's Times Square.
I still think he's a dishonest performance artist but good on him for actually getting the Constitution right this time.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
I can't believe that I've never seen this photo before:
After an oxygen tank exploded and crippled their service module, the Apollo 13 astronauts were forced to abandon plans to make the third manned lunar landing. The extent of the damage is revealed in this grainy, grim photo, taken as the service module was drifting away, jettisoned only hours prior to the command module's reentry and splashdown. An entire panel on the side of the service module has been blown away and extensive internal damage is apparent. Visible below the gutted compartment is a radio antenna and the large, bell-shaped nozzle of the service module's rocket engine. On April 17, 1970 the three astronauts returned safely to Earth.I couldn't imagine what those three men must have felt during that harrowing experience. Astronauts are some of my favorite American heroes.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
No time for blogging today. My book club is meeting to discuss our latest tome over some BBQ and vino on a day so beautiful that it not only makes me glad to be alive but also extra glad that I'm spending it in Northern California. If you have the means to live here, or even just visit, I highly recommend it. Oh, and how this man is still alive is completely beyond me. I thought that I'd abused my body with chemicals but Ozzy is in a whole other realm of crazy. Regular posting will resume tomorrow.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
So someone explain this to me: how can any honest conservative who decries governmental intrusion into our lives whilst trumpeting that private enterprise is so much more efficient support a program that has utterly failed going on four decades now? Bonus points if your explanation doesn't include the word "hypocrisy".