Archive for May, 2005

Wha???

One of the letters to the editor in response to Kristof’s column about Bishop Spong’s book offering a liberal (i.e., compassionate) interpretation of the Bible:

Nicholas D. Kristof must have a different version of the Bible than I do. Mine calls for individual responsibility and action, not for a government to take money from people who produce and distribute it to others to make liberals feel good about themselves.

*splutter incoherently*

*use sextant and compass to re-acquire fix on location of reality*

Hello??? Charity? Do unto others? As you do unto the least of these, so you do unto me? The meek shall inherit the earth?

Driftglass was right – they really are using a completely different version of the Bible from everyone else. I think the moneychangers in the temple may have written it, actually…

2 comments May 17th, 2005 at 01:05pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Religion,Republicans,Wankers

Question Of The Day

Harvard cognitive science professor Steven Pinker asks, “Why didn’t evolution shape straight men to react to their gay fellows by thinking: ‘Great! More women for me!'”

Damn good question, really… His own answer boils down to something along the lines of “Because straight people find the thought of sex with their own gender icky, they automatically conclude that it must be immoral and evil as well,” which sounds like as good an explanation as any, although it probably doesn’t go far enough in the direction of backlash against any behavior outside of accepted social norms, by which I mean Wally and the Beave, not Wally and the Steve. Um, or something.

Another observation that I found intriguing:

Cultural conservatives like the talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlesinger ostensibly condemn homosexuality for another reason – that it is a “biological error.” Actually, it is she who has made the biological error. What is evolutionarily adaptive and what is morally justifiable have little to do with each other. Many laudable activities – being faithful to one’s spouse, turning the other cheek, treating every child as precious, loving thy neighbor as thyself – are “biological errors” and are rare or unknown in the natural world.

I think this is interesting more for what it says about fundamentalism than what it says about homosexuality – namely that while the New Testament advocates the vast majority of admirable but maladaptive behaviors, the fundamentalists use it as cover to let their atavistic flag fly, as they give in to their most primal and “adaptive” reptilian impulses of selfishness, hate and bloodshed. (Please note, I am specifying fundamentalists, not Christians in general, many of whom actually take the New Testament seriously.)

They may or may not realize it, but perhaps the fundamentalist extremists are acting as agents of strictly-defined biological adaptiveness, instinctively lashing out at anything and anyone that would not advance the species in a perfectly Hobbesian state of nature (See also: Afghanistan; Iraq; Sudan; Libertarian Heaven).

Or they could just be cynical, power-mad assholes. Whichever.

1 comment May 17th, 2005 at 12:43pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Religion,Republicans,Science,Wankers

Random Observations

Just some random thoughts, some fresh, some not-so-fresh:

1) I have no problem with people praying by themselves in a public space, but please, if you’re praying with your eyes closed, don’t try to walk at the same time.

2) If your conversation is echoing, you are too loud.

3) While scrolling through a list of PC/server accessories, I think my favorites are “butt splice” (listed right after “blower”, of course) and “nibbler tool”. The POS proximity sensor sounds like something that could come in handy, but I’m not sure I’d want a POS accelerometer.

Mmm… butt splice…

1 comment May 17th, 2005 at 10:35am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Technology,Wankers,Weirdness

MSBC3K?

This sounds like a brilliant idea:

Celebrating clunky sentences and mixed metaphors, self-indulgent prose and just plain old bad writing, Lit Lite, a weekly literary series, invites performers to select and read from their favorite bad books. And so one evening last week at the Chelsea restaurant Elmo, Greg Walloch, a stand-up comic, chose to deliver passages from two novels by the actor Ethan Hawke, “The Hottest Stat” and “Ash Wednesday.”

“Man, when I first met Christy – and this is no joke, a cliche but no joke – it was like my heart was literally stuck on my esophagus,” Mr. Walloch read from “Ash Wednesday” as an audience of more than 40 groaned and giggled. It was soon revealed that Christy is a woman with a posterior so “dynamite,” that, “if you looked at her from the back you’d swear she was a black chick.” Mr. Walloch, who is white, deadpanned, “That happens to meall the time.”

….Earlier this month, in keeping with the theme “Women’s Problems,” performers read excerpts from Rosie O’Donnell’s free-verse poetry blog (onceadored.blogspot.com), “Yvonne: An Autobiography,” by the actress Yvonne De Carlo, who played Lily Munster in the television series “The Munsters,” and Eve Ensler’s “Good Body.” Tonight, under the banner “Difficult People,” Jodi Lennon, a comedy writer, will present “Hold My Gold,” a hip-hop how-to guide for white girls.

I envy all of you who are in NYC and have the opportunity to partake of such giddy entertainments. I especially approve of anything that mocks Ethan Hawke for the pretentious, fatuous twerp he is.

Also, Flotilla DeBarge may be The Best Drag Queen Name Ever.

May 17th, 2005 at 09:06am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Coolness,Favorites

Asbestoshole.

Arlen Specter calls shenanigans!

FOR over two decades, Congress has wrestled unsuccessfully with the difficult problem of asbestos. Now, with Congress about to produce legislation that will compensate Americans hurt by asbestos without clogging the courts and causing undue economic hardship, Dick Armey, a Republican and the former House majority leader, has led a huge and misleading advertising campaign to defeat the bill.

(snip)

…in radio ads that have run in 15 states, Mr. Armey says the bill would levy $140 billion in new taxes to create a federal trust fund for asbestos victims. He knows better. Manufacturers, which are liable for asbestos injuries, and their insurers have offered to create the $140 billion trust fund to avoid further liability. The bill is explicit that the federal government would pay nothing into the fund.

Mr. Armey also asserts that the fund would set aside billions of those tax dollars as payoffs to trial lawyers. In fact, the bill caps lawyers’ fees at 5 percent, compared with current contingent fees of 33 percent.

Just leave the check on the Dresser.

1 comment May 16th, 2005 at 07:59pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Puns,Republicans,Specter,Wankers

Sunday Softball Blogging

Doubleheader today! Was pretty crap in the first game, popping stuff up all over the place, which is not like me – I’m the guy who swings at pitches over my head and still manages to pound them into the dirt. We won both games though, so it’s all good.

I resorted to going back to my funky pigeon-toed stance with the leg-kick, and that seemed to get me back into a ground-ball/line-drive groove, thankfully. 6-12 with a double, 5 runs, and 2 RBI overall. Not a whole lot of action in the outfield- one catch, and a few more I couldn’t quite get to. Threw the ball better than usual, but didn’t actually throw anyone out…

Current stats: 6 games, .459 BA (17-37), 3 2B, 9 runs, 9 RBI.


Softball and politics! And beer!Posted by Hello

Anyone who wants to play softball at EschaCon, please head over there and RSVP. Be sure to let us know what equipment you can bring along (bats, gloves, balls, etc.).

7 comments May 15th, 2005 at 07:07pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Softball

This Is Almost What We Need…

Kristof in NYT today, talking about a book by an ex(!)-bishop:

John Shelby Spong, the former bishop, tosses a hand grenade into the cultural wars with “The Sins of Scripture,” which examines why the Bible – for all its message of love and charity – has often been used through history to oppose democracy and women’s rights, to justify slavery and even mass murder.

(snip)

This book is long overdue, because one of the biggest mistakes liberals have made has been to forfeit battles in which faith plays a crucial role. Religion has always been a central current of American life, and it is becoming more important in politics because of the new Great Awakening unfolding across the United States.

Yet liberals have tended to stay apart from the fray rather than engaging in it. In fact, when conservatives quote from the Bible to make moral points, they tend to quote very selectively. After all, while Leviticus bans gay sex, it also forbids touching anything made of pigskin (is playing football banned?) – and some biblical passages seem not so much morally uplifting as genocidal.

“Can we really worship the God found in the Bible who sent the angel of death across the land of Egypt to murder the firstborn males in every Egyptian household?” Bishop Spong asks. Or what about 1 Samuel 15, in which God is quoted as issuing orders to wipe out all the Amalekites: “Kill both man and woman, child and infant.” Hmmm. Tough love, or war crimes? As for the New Testament, Revelation 19:17 has an angel handing out invitations to a divine dinner of “the flesh of all people.”

Bishop Spong, who has also taught at Harvard Divinity School, argues that while Christianity historically tried to block advances by women, Jesus himself treated women with unusual dignity and was probably married to Mary Magdalene.

(snip)

Bishop Spong particularly denounces preachers who selectively quote Scripture against homosexuality. He also cites various textual reasons for concluding (not very persuasively) that St. Paul was “a frightened gay man condemning other gay people so that he can keep his own homosexuality inside the rigid discipline of his faith.”

The bishop also tries to cast doubt on the idea that Judas betrayed Jesus. He notes that the earliest New Testament writings, of Paul and the source known as Q, don’t mention a betrayal by Judas. Bishop Spong contends that after the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem in A.D. 70, early Christians curried favor with Roman gentiles by blaming the Crucifixion on Jewish authorities – nurturing two millennia of anti-Semitism that bigots insisted was biblically sanctioned.

This book almost sounds like a great thing, but I fear Spong undermines his own credibility by making provocative and sure-to-be-rejected claims about Paul, and Jesus and Mary. But he does attempt to fill a gaping and scary void that desperately needs to be addressed: The lack of discourse about the vast discrepancy between the Christ of the New Testament and the extremist Christians who have appropriated his name to defile His message.

More like this, please, but a little more mainstream-friendly next time, mmkay?

6 comments May 15th, 2005 at 11:15am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Favorites,Politics,Religion,Republicans

You Go, Girl!

NYT has a profile of Iran’s first female race car driver. Apparently a pretty damn good one, too.

“I like competition in everything,” the striking 28-year-old said after parking the car and going for tiramisu in a cafe in North Tehran. “I have to move whatever is movable in the world.”

In March, she moved the nation when she won the national championship. State television refused to show the new champ on the victory dais elevated above the men, but photographers captured the moment. She stood quietly while receiving her medal, as she had promised the race organizers she would, with a scarf over her long black hair and a coat over her racing uniform.

Ms. Seddigh is a lively, energetic symbol of a whole generation of young Iranians who are increasingly testing social boundaries. Seventy percent of Iranians are under 35, and they have gently pushed for, and received, freedoms unimaginable even a few years ago. For women in Tehran, at least, head scarves are often brightly colored and worn loosely over the hair. The obligatory women’s overcoats are now often tight and short.

(snip)

“I’m not a feminist,” she said. “But why should women be lazy and weak? If you’re determined, you’ve got to push.”

Any female race car drivers in Iraq or Afghanistan? How’re those invasions working out for the women over there? Will there be any female race car drivers in Iran after we invade?

6 comments May 14th, 2005 at 03:27pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Afghanistan,Coolness,Iran,Iraq,War

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

This Week’s Quote:

You like cheese. You like being a man.

From a parody commercial in Freaked, starring Alex Winter (Not-Keanu in the Bill & Ted movies) and Randy Quaid, with Mr. T as a bearded lady and Bobcat Goldthwait as a sock.

When my girlfriend posted this in The Movie Quote Contest, that’s how I knew she was The One.

Eek! A cat!


Eek likes games, too! Posted by Hello

5 comments May 13th, 2005 at 06:39pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Tax Cut Question

I was originally going to ask Atrios this question, but figured he’d be too busy partying in Spain to respond to an e-mail from a nobody like me. SoI’m just going to throw this one out to the world at large.

I was reading Robert Rubin’s NYT piece about the deficit, where he briefly mentions the Clinton tax increases and the economic slowdown that emphatically did not occur afterward, and it got me to wondering:

How much empirical evidence is there to support the conventional wisdom that tax cuts have a stimulative effect (and the converse)? Are they typically followed by economic booms, or just excuses? I’m struck by the apparently counterintuitive results of Clinton’s tax increases and Bush’s tax cuts, and wondering if they’re truly typical, and if there are any graphs that overlay major tax cuts and increases over a chart of economic growth.

I have pretty much zero econ-fu, but the two possibilities that came to my mind as to why the Clinton tax increases and the Bush tax cuts had such “unexpected” results were:

1) Any stimulative impacts of tax cuts are outweighed by a drag effect exerted by an increased deficit (uncertainty, interest rates, interest payments).

2) Cuts/increases on taxes on wealth and the wealthy have a very different impact from taxes on work, because the damper on incentive and initiative just isn’t there – I don’t think anyone’s going to be discouraged from hoarding and accumulating wealth just because the tax rate on it has gone up. I never really bought the incentive explanation for cutting taxes on work, either – I can’t picture someone passing up a six- or seven-figure salary because the government would take too much, so why bother.

I know, one could argue that Clinton benefitted from the “peace dividend”, while Bush had the misfortune of an economy crippled by 9/11 and Iraq, but I just don’t buy it. In the short run, maybe, but at this point 9/11 andIraq are just convenient excuses.

Anyway, I’m sure my question has probably already been asked and answered a thousand times over – I’m hoping someone can direct me to some juicy-yet-intelligible-to-the-dumbass-layman research on it. I did a quick search, but it didn’t really yield what I was looking for.

3 comments May 13th, 2005 at 11:58am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Clinton,Economy,Republicans,Taxes

Very Local Tech News

My PC has now been up & running for 60 days straight! Yay!

My A/C is frozen, and I have been instructed not to use it until they come back and fix it tomorrow. Is at least 90 degrees in here (that’s how high the thermostatmometer goes). Boo!

Also, Without A Trace officially jumped the shark tonight. Some incredibly lame, stupid BS where the put Anthony LaPaglia in really bad age makeup as the Missing Person Of The Week, so his FBI character is trying to catch up with his own doppelganger. It ended with what was supposed to be some big cathartic revelation, but it was more like a non sequitur. Just awful.

3 comments May 13th, 2005 at 12:03am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology,TV

This Can Not Be Legit…


Saw this on my way home. And no, that’s not a turd or a dead rat under it, just some kind of wood chippy thing. Posted by Hello

2 comments May 12th, 2005 at 09:21pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh,Weirdness

Lives Of The Monster Dogcats

No idea how watertiger missed this one, but who wouldn’t want a 35lb. giant dogcat?

They are outlawed in New York City, members of a new designer breed growing in popularity called the Savannah, an offspring of a wildcat – the African serval – and the domestic house cat.

(snip)

The cats – which can cost from $4,000 to $10,000 – are visually striking with their long necks and oversized ears, and they can be intimidating. They look like little leopards and grow to more than twice the size of normal cats. They love to leap and splash in water, and they don’t mind taking long walks on a leash. Some people describe them as dogs in cats’ bodies.

So, yeah, pretty cool, although there are some downsides aside from the price tag. Just how legal they are to own kinda depends on where you are, plus there’s the whole ethical and commonsense aspect of an artificially contrived semi-wild vanity animal living in an inappropriately urban environment…

But hey, if they were totally tame and domesticated and legal, everybody would want the giant dogcat.

4 comments May 12th, 2005 at 06:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Teh Funny


“Fire Bad!”

Okay, I know Howie Kurtz’s journalistic neutrality is suspect, to say the least, but I still enjoy his column for all the tidbits he excerpts and links to. Yesterday, he linked to this little gem from internets gazillionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban:

This week on the ESPN.com Page 2 column, Eric Neel decided to do a parody of what a David Stern blog might contain. No question that it was a fun premise. Unfortunately, part of his article suggested that the readers come over to blogmaverick.com and post the comment “nice hair” on every post.

And they did.

I spent hours deleting posts from the idiots that took what he wrote literally. Great threads were pushed aside and filled with this spam.

Collateral damage and just the cost of writing a blog? Sure. Avoidable, yes. Especially from a major media organization like ESPN.

I’m speechless and appalled. All I can say is, “Nice hair!”

5 comments May 11th, 2005 at 07:05pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Sports

Ugh.

My apologies for all the multiple posts – Blogger was bouncing
back most of my attempts to post by mail, but I have been
informed that it was posting them anyway. So many thanks to
Blogger for making me look like a compulsive dumbass…

Will clean up the mess when I get home – I wonder why Blogger
is trying so hard to persuade me to stop blogging by mail…

7 comments May 10th, 2005 at 12:39pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

Nothing To See Here, Part II

From today’s NYT lead editorial:

Senator Corzine’s persistent efforts to upgrade chemical plant security have been thwarted by the chemical industry and by the Bush administration’s lack of support. He is now working on a new bill, in collaboration with Senators Susan Collins and Joseph Lieberman, that is likely to make some concessions to the chemical industry to improve its chances of passage. If Congress and the White House are serious about protecting the nation, they will make sure that his bill becomes law in the strongest possible form. There is an urgent need for greater security at the plant sites. The industry should also be required to replace dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives. These steps may sound like common sense, but they have run into entrenched political opposition. The Bush administration’s antiregulatory philosophy makes it reluctant to impose rules on private industry. And the chemical industry, a major campaign donor, seems intent on not spending the money that a strong safety law would cost it. Christie Whitman, the former E.P.A. administrator, became so frustrated by her inability to make any progress that she asked to be relieved of responsibility for chemical plant safety.

Tough on terror, my ass. Democrats need to hammer at this. Kerry should have hammered at this. If the Democrats had followed Rove’s gameplan of attacking an opponent’s supposed strengths, we would have had a Democrat landslide last year, gamed elections or no.

2 comments May 10th, 2005 at 12:11pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Politics,Republicans,Rove,Terrorism

March Along, Nothing To See Here…

In other news, John Tierney tells the news media to ease up on reporting suicide bombings, they’re soooo 2003, plus they really mess up that whole freedom-is-on-the-march narrative thing.

Why, if they keep this up, people might not realize what a peaceful democratic paradise Iraq has become!

1 comment May 10th, 2005 at 12:10pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Iraq,Media,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers,War

No To Democratic Neuterality!

E.J. Dionne explains why the Democrats are being such bad sports by not letting the Republicans have absolutely everything they want.

“The Republican Party is a permanent majority for the future of this country,” DeLay declared. “We’re going to be able to lead this country in the direction we’ve been dreaming of for years.”

Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and a leading figure in both the DeLay and Bush political operations, chose more colorful post-election language to describe the future. “Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans,” he told Richard Leiby of The Post. “Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant. But when they’ve been ‘fixed,’ then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful.”

If you wonder in the coming weeks why Democrats are so reluctant to give ground, remember Norquist’s jocular reference to neutering the opposition party. Democrats are neither contented nor cheerful over the prospect of being “fixed.” Should that surprise anyone?”

Some thoughts on Dionne’s piece, which also addresses tit-for-tat over judges and Social Security/Hillarycare:

1. Even assuming that the Republicans can’t maintain a permanent majority, eliminating the filibuster’s requirement for broad consensus would lead to courts composed entirely of far-left and far-right judges, with court rulings determined solely by which side holds majorities on which courts. Does anyone in their right mind really want this? Would it really be such a tragedy to “stack” the courts with moderates who are excellent jurists, trust their judgment, and let the chips fall where they may? I know it’ll never happen, but I would love to see the judiciary excluded from the obsessive struggle for partisan advantage – it’s too important, and its membership is too permanent.

2. I hope the Democrats are as determined to fight for their political relevance as Dionne seems to think they are. I think they’re still pulling a lot of punches, and I have the sense that most of them still have no idea what’s at stake here. Even supposedly wild & crazy loose cannon screamer Dean has been alarmingly quiet since being elected DNC chair.

3. Has anyone noticed that Norquist has a really disturbingly creepy way with words? First he talks about drowning government in a bathtub, then he compares bipartisanship to date rape, now he gleefully talks about neutering Democrats. This is a man with some serious unresolved issues, and he’s leading the charge to reshape our country into, well, I’m not entirely sure what – somesort of laissez-faire social darwinist theocracy, I think.

3 comments May 10th, 2005 at 12:07pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Judiciary,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

Ugh. Just Ugh.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that these are not criminal
masterminds…

May 10th, 2005 at 08:46am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Iraq,Torture,War

Heh.

In today’s Talking Points Memo in WaPo, handicapping potential key Senate and House races in 2006, Terry Neal refers to Socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders of VT as a “Left-leaning independent”.

Not sure if this is bias or some weird attempt at tact…

2 comments May 9th, 2005 at 04:20pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Weirdness

The Dark Half

From this week’s NYT Magazine:

It starts out like it has a point, but essentially ends up just being “Isn’t the brain weird? It’s just crazy, man, crazy!

But the weirdness works on its own terms, at least for me – like photos from Voyager or the Hubble, or the deep sea tubeworms, or the Cambrian critters from the Burgess Shale (I enthusiastically recommend Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life), or the works of Escher, Magritte, Dali, Bosch, and Gaudi.

A few years ago, brain scans of London cabbies showed that the detailed mental maps they had built up in the course of navigating their city’s complicated streets were apparent in their brains. Not only was the posterior hippocampus — one area of the brain where spatial representations are stored — larger in the drivers; the increase in size was proportional to the number of years they had been on the job.

(snip)

Patients with severe epilepsy sometimes used to undergo an operation in which the corpus callosum was severed…. After the operation, the two hemispheres of the brain could no longer directly communicate…. under careful observation, they exhibited some very peculiar behavior. When, for example, the word “hat” was flashed to the left half of the visual field — and hence to the right (speechless) side of the brain — the left hand would pick out a hat from a group of concealed objects, even as the patient insisted that he had seen no word. If a picture of a naked woman was flashed to the left visual field of a male patient, he would smile, or maybe blush, without being able to say what he was reacting to — although he might make a comment like, “That’s some machine you’ve got there.” In another case, a female patient’s right hemisphere was flashed a scene of one person throwing another into a fire. “I don’t know why, but I feel kind of scared,” she told the researcher. “I don’t like this room, or maybe it’s you getting me nervous.” The left side of her brain, noticing the negative emotional reaction issuing from theright side, was making a guess about its cause, much the way one person might make a guess about the emotions of another.

Each side of the brain seemed to have its own awareness, as if there were two selves occupying the same head. (One patient’s left hand seemed somewhat hostile to the patient’s wife, suggesting that the right hemisphere was not fond of her.) Ordinarily, the two selves got along admirably…. Nevertheless… they lived in ever so slightly different sensory worlds. And even though both understood language, one monopolized speech, while the other was mute. That’s why the patient seemed normal to family and friends.

Pondering such split-brain cases, some scientists and philosophers have raised a disquieting possibility: perhaps each of us really consists of two minds running in harness. In an intact brain, of course, the corpus callosum acts as a constant two-way internal-communications channel between the two hemispheres. So our everyday behavior does not betray the existence of two independent streams of consciousness flowing along within our skulls. It may be, the philosopher Thomas Nagel has written, that “the ordinary, simple idea of a single person will come to seem quaint some day, when the complexities of the human control system become clearer and we become less certain that there is anything very important that we are one of.”

Consciousness, and normal brain function in general, is something that we take for granted as simple and uncomplicated, but it has tricksy biological underpinnings that we are still striving to understand, and which can be thrown alarmingly off-kilter by disease, physical damage or chemical imbalance.

The relationship between the two hemispheres is especially fascinating to me. I had heard of such experiments before, but had never really contemplated the idea of the less-dominant (and creative) right hemisphere as a mute prisoner within the mind, unable to even express itself without its link to the dominant, rational left hemisphere.

In a sense, we are all siamese twins.

2 comments May 9th, 2005 at 02:50pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Favorites,Science,Weirdness

DeLay In DeCline?

In today’s Washington Post:

DeLay’s prowess in fundraising, for instance, was always a pillar of his power in the House. Lining up a corporate aircraft to ferry him to an event was usually arranged with a single phone call. These days, Republican officials report that they are having trouble finding available aircraft — as businesses fret that DeLay may be radioactive.

DeLay, likewise, usually no longer attends joint news conferences of the GOP leadership. His presence, Republicans say, would distract from the party’s message about gas prices or other
topics of the day.

And through numerous previous controversies, DeLay and his staff always made it a point of pride that once a week when Congress was in session, he would meet reporters in his conference room — no holds barred. Now, these sessions begin with the leader reciting a preamble about “ground rules” — all questions not relating to the party’s House floor agenda are verboten.

While my first choice would certainly be to see DeLay unceremoniously dumped from the House after dragging as much of the Republican party as possible through the mud with him, a Republican majority leader who has to walk on eggshells and be cautious in his fundraising doesn’tsound like such a terrible consolation prize.

This is not to suggest for one second that I don’t want to see him go down in lurid sensationalistic flames. Just saying that there may be a silver lining even if he doesn’t. Especially if the Democrats can continue to use him as a boogeyman, while at the same time the Republicans can’t use his finely-honed boogeyman skills to their fundraising advantage.

1 comment May 9th, 2005 at 01:10pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

Krugmania

When does Krugman ever not nail it?

…defenders of Mr. Bush’s Social Security plan now portray benefit cuts for anyone making more than $20,000 a year, cuts that will have their biggest percentage impact on the retirement income of people making about $60,000 a year, as cuts for the wealthy.

These are people who denounced you as a class warrior if you wanted to tax Paris Hilton’s inheritance. Now they say that they’re brave populists, because they want to cut the income of retired office managers.

Let’s consider the Bush tax cuts and the Bush benefit cuts as a package. Who gains? Who loses?

Suppose you’re a full-time Wal-Mart employee, earning $17,000 a year. You probably didn’t get any tax cut. But Mr. Bush says, generously, that he won’t cut your Social Security benefits.
Suppose you’re earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

Suppose, finally, that you’re making $1 million a year. You received a tax cut worth about $50,000 per year. By 2045 the Bush plan would reduce benefits for people like you by about $9,400 per year. We have a winner!

I’m not being unfair. In fact, I’ve weighted the scales heavily in Mr. Bush’s favor, because the tax cuts will cost much more than the benefit cuts would save. Repealing Mr. Bush’s tax cuts would yield enough revenue to call off his proposed benefit cuts, and still leave $8 trillion in change.

The point is that the privatizers consider four years of policies that relentlessly favored the wealthy a fait accompli, not subject to reconsideration. Now that tax cuts have busted the budget, they want us to accept large cuts in Social Security benefits as inevitable. But they demand that we praise Mr. Bush’s sense of social justice, because he proposes bigger benefit cuts for the middle class than for the poor.

Sorry, but no. Mr. Bush likes to play dress-up, but his Robin Hood costume just doesn’t fit.

This last point is what infuriates me the most, that the Republicans believe that preserving tax cuts for the rich takes precedence over all other considerations, and cannot even be questioned.

More like this, please.

1 comment May 9th, 2005 at 11:54am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Republicans,Taxes,Wankers

MoreOn Media

I was responding to an e-mail last night, explaining that most of us are aware that a large part of the media’s complicity with the Republican agenda has to do with their wealthy/corporate ownership.

To make a long story short, I said that as long as the media corporations and their parents are still driven by the good old-fashioned profit motive, there is some chance of either activist (protests; boycotts of the parent company’s products) or market/Darwinian (declining ratings due to inferior product) pressures having some success. But if their sole purpose is to serve as propaganda outlets, then there’s not a whole lot we can do, at least not directly. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the revival of the Fairness Doctrine; my expectation is that it would be manipulated and gamed so that “balance” would be represented by a moderate Republican viewpoint opposing a fanatical right-wing extremist one, or possibly a fanatical left-wing extremist who would be used to paint all Democrats asraving nutcases.

The idea that makes me most excited, however, is that of an alternative news network that reports all the stories the rest of the media avoids. I think such a network could have a lot of success – consider just how many juicy scandals the MSM has passed up out of political loyalty or simple fear. I think people would be all over it, and would savor the feeling of being in the know. I’m partly inspired by the anecdotal stories I read in Eschaton comments, about fellow liberals who have clued reasonable-but-underinformed Republicans in on some of the things “their” leaders have been up to, and the sense of dawning realization that they kindle. I think there are a lot of people who sense that they’re not getting the full story, but don’t know where to find it.

Notice that I said “alternative news network” up above, not “liberal news network.” Tempting as it is to just create a liberal version of Fox News, dedicated solely to pro-liberal reporting, spin, and punditry, I would like to see the alternative network dedicate itself to more objective reporting, but without the false “balance” seen in the news today. It should have conservative contributors (preferably real ones, and not wingnuts), and it should feel free to report on stories that are unflattering or embarrassing to liberals and Democrats. I know that would sting, especially since the right-wing would use it as the ultimate unimpeachable source – “Even the liberal news network says Al Gore’s beard looks stupid!” – but it would go a long way towards establishing credibility with the non-die-hard liberals who we need to reach.

I would also like to see an emphasis on in-depth factual analysis over opinionated punditry and Runaway Bride fluff, and a commitment to getting to the truth instead of just reporting what each side said and calling it a day (think The Daily Show with less funny and no Moment Of Zen). It should have some respected old-school newsies like, say, Walter Cronkite and Helen Thomas on its board of advisors to keep it honest. And, oh yeah, I sure would love to see Richard Clarke as the resident on-air terrorism expert.

To sum up – if we believe that objective reality has an anti-Republican bias, then objective reality should be all we need to strive to present. I happen to also believe that it will prove more compelling than the fantasies and distractions offered up by the so-called news networks today – and better yet, if the other so-called news networks have any profit motivation at all,they will fall all over themselves trying to copy the formula.

By all means, LET THEM.
Are you listening, Mr. Soros?

May 9th, 2005 at 09:51am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Favorites,Media,Republicans

Sunday Softball Blogging

Pretty crap day at the plate – I did hit three nice line drives, but one of them was right at someone, and another one was foul. Got a two-run double out of the other one, though. 3-9 overall, with the double and 2 RBI. Fielding was much improved, (almost) everything that hit my glove stuck, including a sweet running catch, and my arm was decent as well.

Current stats: 4 games, .440 BA, 2 2B, 4 runs, 7 RBI.



Mmm… Spidey-Softball… Posted by Hello

4 comments May 8th, 2005 at 08:56pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Softball

Miscellaneous Transport Component Blogging


This is a part of some kind of freaky train thing on display at the Waterfront shopping center. I would ordinarily make this B&W, but something about the bit of rusty brown makes me think of H.R. Giger and Alien.


From an SUV/minivan thing in front of the rental office when I was dropping off my rent. I think its owner was a prospective renter – probably didn’t help when she came out of the office to see me photographing her tires and then scurrying off… Posted by Hello

3 comments May 7th, 2005 at 10:10pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Today’s quote:

Did you get your binky marsden farfied?

It’s from 187, a mediocre teacher-in-an-inner-city-school movie, starring Samuel L. Jackson. IIRC, the line is spoken by John Heard, who was the dodgy-scientist-with-a-guilty-conscience in Locusts, in reference to some gibberish sentence that Samuel L. Jackson mistakenly wrote on Heard’s chalkboard.

And of course, there’ll be cats:


Curious or thirsty Eek. Posted by Hello

7 comments May 6th, 2005 at 07:41pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Can You Prove It Didn’t Happen?

In today’s NYT: MIT students have organized a convention for time travelers.

Why not, say some students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have organized what they call the first convention for time travelers.

Actually, they contend that theirs is the only time traveler convention the world needs, because people from the future can travel to it anytime they want.

(snip)

The event is potluck and alcohol-free – present-day humans are bringing things like brownies. But Mr. Dorai’s Web site asks that future-folk bring something to prove they are really ahead of our time: “Things like a cure for AIDS or cancer, a solution for global poverty or a cold fusion reactor would be particularly convincing as well as greatly appreciated.”

(snip)

A roped-off area, including part of an improvised volleyball court, will create a landing pad so materializing time-travel machines will not crash into trees or dormitories.

This definitely has a very Real Genius vibe to it. It’s a quixotic and admirable flight of fancy, and I urge you all to extend an invitation to your descendants.

If they play their cards right, they might even get a demo of the motorized couch and the “pizza button”.

3 comments May 6th, 2005 at 11:52am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology,Weirdness

Has Bush Treed Himself?

Since the webmail I have to use for blogging via e-mail tends to insert line breaks in inconvenient places, I can’t really use it to post anything that requires links to any but the tiniest URLs (no, I can’t access TinyURL either), and I’m leery of even attempting to use block quote tags. Consequently, I can pretty much only use the blog-by-mail to post random musings that don’t reference any specific article or blog post.

Today’s random musing regards Bush’s Social Security quagmire. Of course, the most obvious question to ask is, If the polls on Social Security privatization are so bad and getting worse, why can’t Bush just back off?

I think I have an answer to that, and it just tickles me pinko. As we all know, one of Bush’s signature traits is to Never Admit Error, the corollary of which is the We-Have-Always-Been-At-War-With-East-Asia Doctrine. Whenever this administration has flip-flopped on a policy, they have always insisted that the new position is the one that Bush has held all along, and the flip-flop is somehow merely a refinement or restatement of that position. Or else they just release it on Friday afternoon and hope no-one notices. To do otherwise would be to admit that their original position was a mistake.

Now this is the beauty part: Ask yourself, HOW? After 60 days of barnstorming all over the country to pitch the virtues of Social Security privatization, HOW is the White House going to pretend that Bush has been in favor of the Social Security status quo all along? Or slip a radical policy reversal under the radar in such a way that no-one notices? My bet is that they’ll do it via solvency and “saving Social Security”, and explain that the president’s number one priority has always been to protect SS’s finances, and he has always kept an open and pragmatic mind, blah blah blah. Some people will actually even buy it. But for most people, I think this is going to be far, far worse than Hillarycare, which never threatened to take money away from anyone’s retirement. The media can only do so much – or so little, as the case may be.

You know, if you use enough rope, the head will just pop right off.

Someone get this man some more rope, please.

2 comments May 5th, 2005 at 05:07pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Social Security

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Sin City

Well, I went out with a friend on a man-date to see Sin City, but it was sold out (on a Wednesday? A month after it was released?), so we watched Hitchhiker’s as our Plan B.

I liked it, but it was a strange and sometimes unsatisfying experience, as there was an ever-present overlay of the original TV version in my head, making me acutely aware whenever something would diverge, or be cut, or even not sound quite right. On the other hand, I did like a lot of the stuff that was new in this version. Discretion is probably the better part of valor here, so I will not attempt to list any examples.

Some other random hitchhiking thoughts:

Casting was mixed. Bill Nighy (Slartibartfast) was great, like he always is. Mos Def doesn’t quite have the chops for Ford; Sam Rockwell was perfect as the obnoxious, self-absorbed, ADD Zaphod; Zooey Deschanel was adequate as Trillian; and Martin Freeman was good, but still can’t hold a candle to the original Arthur, Simon Jones (who has a brief, holographic cameo). Alan Rickman was a logical choice as Marvin, but wasn’t nearly as effective as the original, and the tiny-body-big-head thing made Marvin look too childlike and cute (Asimo? Asimarvin?), which I think was a mistake. Stephen Fry was outstanding as the voice of the Guide, I really thought they had used the original narrator. The Guide animation was also excellent, very stylish and whimsical (I especially liked the Vogon grandmother…).

It seemed to me that the aspect of Zaphod, President Of The Galaxy, being a blithering idiot and figurehead with a southern accent was played up a lot more than in the original. One wonders if this is entirely coincidental…

There was an additional plotline that is resolved at the end, that I thought was unnecessary but unsurprising. I won’t say any more, so as not to spoil the mild surprise.

I had forgotten just how much I liked the theme music. “So Long And Thanks For All The Fish” was quite… catchy as well. It’s still stuck in my head, in fact.

I feel like I should have a grand, overarching theme to advance here, but I don’t, other than that I think it’s worth seeing, and my gut feeling is that it’s better if you haven’t read the books or seen the original, because you won’t realize what’s missing.

1 comment May 5th, 2005 at 12:35am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Movies

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