Archive for June, 2005

Wednesday Softball Blogging

Well, I have managed to wrangle my way into a Wednesday night softball game by way of one of the Sunday softballers (thanks, Anders!). They’re a slightly older crowd, but very good players, and a pleasantly loose, friendly atmosphere. I had a great line-drive batting practice, but it didn’t translate well to the actual game, where I went 5-10 with two runs and a double, including a line shot right at somebody. Was pretty decent in the outfield with some nice running catches, but got burned a few times by balls that got over me or past me (very deep leftfield). Weirdest play was a shallow fly ball I couldn’t quite get to, that bounced off my knee… right to second base for a forceout. They don’t keep score, so I’m not entirely sure who won.

No pictures for now, since I don’t really know anyone yet.

Current Stats: 14 games, .583 BA (56-96), 9 2B, 29 runs, 15 RBI.

June 29th, 2005 at 09:30pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Softball

Human Rights Are On The March!

Jaysus. How is this not news? Bad enough that we’re torturing detainees, but torturing children??? What the HELL has happened to America?

…before the transfer of sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority to an Iraqi interim government a year ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported registering 107 detainees under 18 during visits to six prisons controlled by coalition troops. Some detainees were as young as 8.

Since that time, Human Rights Watch reports that the number has risen. The figures from Afghanistan are still more alarming: the journalist Seymour Hersh wrote last month in the British newspaper The Guardian that a memo addressed to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shortly after the 2001 invasion reported “800-900 Pakistani boys 13-15 years of age in custody.”

Juvenile detainees in American facilities like Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base have been subject to the same mistreatment as adults. The International Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Pentagon itself have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children, bolstered by accounts from soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse.

(snip)

A Pentagon investigation last year by Maj. Gen. George Fay reported that in January 2004, a leashed but unmuzzled military guard dog was allowed into a cell holding two children. The intention was for the dog to ” ‘go nuts on the kids,’ barking and scaring them.” The children were screaming and the smaller one tried to hide behind the larger, the report said, as a soldier allowed the dog to get within about one foot of them. A girl named Juda Hafez Ahmad told Amnesty International that when she was held in Abu Ghraib she “saw one of the guards allow his dog to bite a 14-year-old boy on the leg.”

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, formerly in charge of Abu Ghraib, told Maj. General Fay about visiting a weeping 11-year-old detainee in the prison’s notorious Cellblock 1B, which housed prisoners designated high risk. “He told me he was almost 12,” General Karpinski recalled, and that “he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother.”

Children like this 11 year old held at Abu Ghraib have been denied the right to see their parents, a lawyer, or anyone else. They were not told why they were detained, let alone for how long. A Pentagon spokesman told Mr. Hersh that juveniles received some special care, but added, “Age is not a determining factor in detention.” The United States has found, the spokesman said, that “age does not necessarily diminish threat potential.”

Well, I hope all you Republicans and torture apologists are pleased with yourselves. Bravo. Well done. Keep focusing on that legacy, President Bush.

3 comments June 29th, 2005 at 10:19am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iraq,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture,Wankers,War

Why Does Science Hate America?

This is not entirely surprising, but it’s disturbing, and it explains a lot.

I’ll sum up: Essentially, an Emory psychiatrist/neuroscientist conducted an updated version of a 50s experiment on social conformity, wherein test subjects were shown pictures of three-dimensional objects from different angles and asked to identify whether or not they were pictures of the same object. The trick is, they conducted the test with four other “subjects” who were ringers who would give unanimously incorrect responses to some of the pictures, which the real subject would see before making his or her own decision.

The end result was that the subjects went along with the group on wrong answers 41% of the time. Additionally, the real subjects were hooked up to an MRI scanner to monitor their brain activity in an attempt to determine whether decision-making/conflict-resolution or perceptual regions lit up. In other words, did the subjects give in to an urge to go along with their “peers”, or did they actually “see” the same thing they thought everyone else did?

If I’m reading the article correctly, the perceptual centers were activated when the subjects went along with the group, meaning their actual perceptions of reality were altered by social pressures. Also interesting, the subjects who disagreed with the group had activity in their emotional regions, suggesting some degree of stress in resisting the majority.

Assuming the study can be taken seriously (I don’t have enough science-fu to judge), this explains a whole lot about the seemingly inexplicable success of the Republican party. It provides scientific validation of their strategy of manufacturing inevitability and fostering the perception that their positions and talking points represent the conventional wisdom and consensus of a vast, “silent” majority, with any dissenters representing a marginalized radical fringe.

To me, this explains how good people can still support the Republicans. Thanks to the media (which I also believe to be an effective proxy for “the majority”), they think that most people believe what the Republicans are saying, and therefore it must be true. Anything that conflicts with that is just an annoying buzzing sound in the background, or the propagandist rantings of those frustrated liberal wackos.

June 28th, 2005 at 02:14pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Media,Politics,Republicans,Rove

Ha!

I knew it!

THE FACTS Think of all the hours Americans will spend beside pools and lingering on beaches this summer, counting the minutes since their last meal to avoid violating a fundamental rule of swimming: never get into the water on a full stomach.

The only problem, according to experts, is that the warning is yet another old wives’ tale that should be laid to rest. The theory is that the process of digestion increases blood flow to the stomach – away from the muscles needed for swimming – and leads to cramps, which increase the risk of drowning.

Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at the New York University School of Medicine, said that while swimming strenuously on a full stomach could conceivably lead to cramps, for most recreational swimmers the chances are small. And at least one study that looked at drownings in the United States found that fewer than 1 percent occurred after the victim ate a meal, she added.

But meals that include a drink or two are another story. In 1989, for example, a study in the journal Pediatrics looked at almost 100 adolescents who drowned in Washington and found that 25 percent had been intoxicated. One year later, a study of hundreds of drowning deaths among adults in California found that 41 percent were alcohol related.

THE BOTTOM LINE Swimming after a meal will not increase the risk of drowning, unless alcohol is involved.

1 comment June 28th, 2005 at 10:51am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Science

Lunchtime, Doubly So

SCIENCE!!!

Specifically, time and time travel, one of my favorite subjects. Some highlights:

Space and time, some quantum gravity theorists say, are most likely a sort of illusion – or less sensationally, an “approximation” – doomed to be replaced by some more fundamental idea. If only they could think of what that idea is.

“By convention there is space, by convention time,” Dr. David J. Gross… said recently, paraphrasing the Greek philosopher Democritus, “in reality there is. … ?” his voice trailing off.

(snip)

Looked at closely enough, with an imaginary microscope that could see lengths down to 10-33 centimeters, quantum gravity theorists say, even ordinary space and time dissolve into a boiling mess that Dr. John Wheeler, the Princeton physicist and phrasemaker, called “space-time foam.” At that level of reality, which exists underneath all our fingernails, clocks and rulers as we know them cease to exist.

So far, so good. But here’s where it gets really wacky:

Most scientists, including Einstein, resisted the idea of time travel until 1988 when Dr. Kip Thorne, a gravitational theorist at the California Institute of Technology, and two of his graduate students, Dr. Mike Morris and Dr. Ulvi Yurtsever, published a pair of papers concluding that the laws of physics may allow you to use wormholes, which are like tunnels through space connecting distant points, to travel in time.

These holes, technically called Einstein-Rosen bridges, have long been predicted as a solution of Einstein’s equations. But physicists dismissed them because calculations predicted that gravity would slam them shut.

…Dr. Thorne and his colleagues imagined that such holes could be kept from collapsing and thus maintained to be used as a galactic subway, at least in principle, by threading them with something called Casimir energy… which is a sort of quantum suction produced when two parallel metal plates are placed very close together. According to Einstein’s equations, this suction, or negative pressure, would have an antigravitational effect, keeping the walls of the wormhole apart.

If one mouth of a wormhole was then grabbed by a spaceship and taken on a high-speed trip, according to relativity, its clock would run slow compared with the other end of the wormhole. So the wormhole would become a portal between two different times as well as places.

(snip)

Some mysterious “dark energy,” astronomers say, is pushing space apart and accelerating the expansion of the universe. The race is on to measure this energy precisely and find out what it is.

Among the weirder and more disturbing explanations for this cosmic riddle is something called phantom energy, which is so virulently antigravitational that it would eventually rip planets, people and even atoms apart, ending everything. As it happens this bizarre stuff would also be perfect for propping open a wormhole, Dr. Lobo of Lisbon recently pointed out. “This certainly is an interesting prospect for an absurdly advanced civilization, as phantom energy probably comprises of 70 percent of the universe,” Dr. Lobo wrote in an e-mail message….

…Dr. Lobo suggested that as the universe was stretched and stretched under phantom energy, microscopic holes in the quantum “space-time foam” might grow to macroscopic usable size. “One could also imagine an advanced civilization mining the cosmic fluid for phantom energy necessary to construct and sustain a traversable wormhole,” he wrote.

(snip)

In another recent paper, Dr. Amos Ori of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa describes a time machine that he claims can be built by moving around colossal masses to warp the space inside a doughnut of regular empty space into a particular configuration, something an advanced civilization may be able to do in 100 or 200 years.

The space inside the doughnut, he said, will then naturally evolve according to Einstein’s laws into a time machine.

Mmm… Einsteinian time doughtnut…

Dr. Ori admits that he doesn’t know if his machine would be stable. Time machines could blow up as soon as you turned them on, say some physicists, including Dr. Hawking, who has proposed what he calls the “chronology protection” conjecture to keep the past safe for historians. Random microscopic fluctuations in matter and energy and space itself, they argue, would be amplified by going around and around boundaries of the machine or the wormhole, and finally blow it up.

Dr. Gott and his colleague Dr. Li-Xin Li have shown that there are at least some cases where the time machine does not blow up. But until gravity marries quantum theory, they admit, nobody knows how to predict exactly what the fluctuations would be.

I recommend reading the full article – it’s long, but it has all kinds of nifty stuff about time paradoxes and quantum physics and string theory and stuff.

June 28th, 2005 at 10:45am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science,Weirdness

They Get Letters

Some very good letters to the NYT today on the subject of Iraq. Some of my favorite bits:

All we hear is that there is no timetable and that we want a free and democratic Iraq. That is not a plan. That is a wish. Judging from this administration’s actions in Iraq, the plan is not to have a plan, to send in troops but not anticipate their needs or those of the Iraqis, and to tell people things are getting better while everyone sees a deteriorating quagmire.

It really is amazing how even now the administration appears to have no plan other than to just keep scrounging to maintain troop levels and hope that something good eventually happens.

It’s true, as the White House argues, that telling an enemy when you plan to leave gives the enemy an opportunity to wait you out. But this is true only if the enemy can wait you out. The White House admits that the enemy can wait us out, a fact that contradicts its assertion that there is “steady and substantial progress” in defeating the insurgents.

If we were making such progress, and if the ranks of the insurgents were limited, we could indeed sketch out a rough timetable. The facts are that we are still at war in Iraq and that the White House has no workable plan to defeat the insurgency.

Why has no-one pointed this out before? (If they have, I totally missed it) If the insurgency really is in its “last throes,” why should we care about unveiling a timetable for withdrawal? Can we get Reid and Dean to start hammering at this point, please?

June 28th, 2005 at 10:02am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Democrats,Iraq,Politics,War

Egad.

The shadowy and mysterious Codename V. has found a real corker, yes indeed.

June 28th, 2005 at 07:42am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weirdness

Lord, I Was Born A Rambling Ma-aann…

In which I veer wildly across topic lanes without signalling.

Okay, I’m still completely mystified by this whole “moral values” thing. Just reading a couple of days’ worth of NYT, I see a Frank Rich piece documenting multiple baldfaced lies and a significant whiff of corruption around the head of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, fallout from an article about extraordinary rendition (about half the letter-writers are outraged that the NYT would dare to expose the CIA’s top-secret kidnapping aeroplane like that), and letters expressing horror at the complicity of American psychiatrists in the torture at Gitmo, in violation of every applicable tenet of medical ethics. And somewhat less recently, we apparently have the administration admitting to torture, or at least abuse, at Gitmo (thanks to smalfish for the link!).

I continue to be amazed at how this is all apparently okay. Head of the CPB is a nakedly partisan pathological liar? No problem. Kidnapping people and covertly flying them to countries that will torture them for us? Shrug. Psychiatrists wiping their asses with the Hippocratic Oath at the Gitmo Torture Factory? Hey, shit happens.

All of which indirectly goes back to filkertom’s question and driftglass’s recurring theme about how Republicans and so-called conservatives can be okay with all the evil done in their name. To expand on my comments on his post a little bit more, I think the Republicans can be very roughly broken down into two groups:

The first group, the genuinely evil group, are the people who really don’t care about right or wrong, just so long as the government advances their agenda, be it accumulating and retaining wealth or indulging their hatred of The Other, be they brown, black, female, gay, or simply not-fundie. These are the rich/corporate and religious leadership of the Republican party, embodied by Grover Norquist and James Dobson, respectively. They also have an abundant army of selfish executives, wannabe entrepreneurs, racists, and fundamentalists at their disposal.

The second group, which I certainly hope is the larger, are the mostly decent people who get all their news from the TV, and simply don’t realize what is being done in their name. They uncritically absorb all the talking points the first group feeds them, and genuinely believe that invading Iraq will ultimately lead to democracy and drain the terrorist swamp, that the poor just need to stop being coddled so they have to stop loafing and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and that AIDS could be eliminated if people would just stop sleeping around so much. And any mistreatment of prisoners is either the actions of a few bad apples, or is simply not so bad (two types of fruit!). If you tune out dissenting voices and don’t examine it too critically, it’s a fairly benevolent and compelling narrative that allows these Republicans to believe that they’re still on the side of righteousness and America and apple pie.

Obviously, there’s no way to persuade the first group – they know the score, and they like it. The question is, how do we persuade the second group, especially when they desperately want to go on believing that their team is the good guys? How do we convince them without making them stick their fingers in their ears, yelling “La la la la la, I’m not listening!” Yes, we can peel some of them off on a one-to-one basis, but is that enough to consign the Republicans to the wilderness where they belong? Is there any way to start reaching them wholesale?

The media has gotten a little bit better, but when it comes to subjects like the DSM, they’re reluctant to cover and eager to drop, and even then only because of the liberal blogosphere going positively big brass ballistic about it. And as long as the Republicans control the media, they control reality. The blogosphere’s nice, but it’s not exactly widespread, and there are enough right-wing blogs that it’s not necessarily a given that replacing the media with the blogosphere would be a clear-cut liberal victory. AAR and Pacifica are good too, but again, not nearly pervasive enough, especially when compared to their right-wing radio counterparts.

So yeah, filk’s questions are good ones, but I just don’t know how we’re going to get them out there where the right people will read them, or how to get them to really think about them rather than dismissing them as liberal propaganda. I’m open to suggestions, but I’m not sure “pray for Soros to launch an insanely popular liberal news network” is sufficiently realistic.

2 comments June 27th, 2005 at 07:58pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Media,Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture

Greensanity

Save The Green Planet was awesome!!! I don’t want to go into a lot of detail because it’s best not to know what to expect, but suffice it to say that the battle of wills between the cunning, amoral CEO and his unhinged abductor who believes him to be an alien infiltrator from Andromeda is just epic. It’s leavened with some wicked humor, but it escalates and gets progressively more and more intense and brutal and dark as the movie progresses.

If the opportunity presents itself, I can’t recommend it enough. There are some good movies coming out of Korea – Oldboy, Into The Mirror, A Tale Of Two Sisters, and Tell Me Something are all excellent. The preview for 3-Iron looked really good too…

June 26th, 2005 at 11:15pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Movies

Sunday Softball Blogging

Damn, it was hot today. Turnout was… not. We didn’t have enough players at first, so we just had batting practice. We were just about to give up when a couple more people showed up, and we played a short 5-on-5 game, which is kinda goofy. Basically, right field is foul, and the batting team has to supply their own pitcher, catcher, and first baseman. If you get any more than one person on base, you need to have “ghost runners.” Crazy.

Anyway, we won in the bottom of the fifth, and I went 4 for 5 with a run and an RBI (and the one out was a shot that was caught at the warning track). Had a really good day in the field, running all over the place and catching pretty much everything – I even had a nice over-the-shoulder catch on a ball over my head during batting practice. Gotta love that.

Then to Piper’s Pub for an incredibly messy portabello burger, and I will shortly be heading out to see Save The Green Planet at Pittsburgh Filmmakers with Rich. It’s an insane Korean movie about a guy who becomes convinced that a CEO is really a member of an alien race plotting to invade the Earth. Fun stuff.

Current Stats: 13 games, .593 BA (51-86), 8 2B, 27 runs, 15 RBI.


Hot day. Very hot. Posted by Hello

1 comment June 26th, 2005 at 06:16pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Softball

Whoo, Science!

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Well, I entered that MIT weblog survey thingy. Moderately interesting, not entirely sure what purpose it serves, but click on the logo there to fill out one of your own, thus advancing Science’s ethereal march.

June 26th, 2005 at 12:26pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Science

More B&W Blogging

Friday was a pretty good day all around, and I think I may have rediscovered my grunge aesthetic after rather a lot of cloud photography…


The underside of the USX building. Fortunately managed to avoid any security guards, who I have learned are the natural enemies of photographers.


There were two or three of these in the general vicinity of the USX building; they seem to serve some sort of utility purpose, but I have no idea what – the innards of this one just seem to have junk in them.


Part of an overpass. I liked the alien-skin texture on the column.Posted by Hello

1 comment June 25th, 2005 at 11:48pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Thought Of The Day

Rove means never having to say you’re sorry.

3 comments June 25th, 2005 at 12:06am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Puns,Rove

Friday Quote Blogging

This week’s quote:

You’re old and you’re getting foolish and you’ve made a mistake. It’s me you should have hung. Because now I hate you in a way I didn’t know a human could hate. Take a good long look at me, T.C. You won’t see me again until the day I take your world away from you.

- Spoken by Barbara Stanwyck’s character in The Furies to her father, who has just lynched her boyfriend. Needless to say, she dedicates herself to doing just exactly what she says. Possibly the most beautifully impassioned, furious rant I’ve seen in any movie.

Sorry, no cats this week – I’m still trying to get the new laptop sorted.

2 comments June 24th, 2005 at 10:00pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Black & White Local Color


One of the bridges between Dahntahn and the North Side. I should probably know which one it is…


Wilbur “Pops” Stargell in front of PNC Park. NYC transplant that I am, I’m not a huge Pirates fan, but it’s hard not to like Willie.


This just begged to be B&W.

4 comments June 24th, 2005 at 12:18am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: NJ/NYC,Photoblogging

Thanks, Mom!

For not being this woman:

I understand that some home-schooled children miss not playing in competitive sports, but most children doubtless have some complaint about their education whether they are schooled at home or in public or private school.

Part of being a good parent-teacher is educating our children to accept that.

When I decided to home-school, I took it upon myself to provide, or to procure at my own cost, everything my children needed for their education.

For me, part of the happiness of home-schooling is not burdening my neighbors with taxes to educate my children.

It’s true that home-schoolers pay taxes for public education, but so do parents of children enrolled in private schools. If I enroll my children in Catholic school, should I then expect them to play on the public school’s competitive teams or in the orchestra?

In truth, this is a downside of homeschooling that never occurred to me, and it’s hard to make a persuasive case for allowing homeschooled kids to play on school teams. But I still find it hard to believe that a good parent can’t come up with a better alternative than callously “educating” their kid to just accept that they don’t get to be on a team. That deprives them of one of the fundamental experiences of being a kid (granted, some kids aren’t into it, but that doesn’t make it okay to deprive the kids who are). And this is coming from someone who was one of the least sporty kids in recorded human history (well, okay, I kicked ass at dodgeball – in a cagy, cautious kind of way…).

12 comments June 23rd, 2005 at 12:43pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Sports,Wankers

Le Petit Mort

Aptly named, indeed.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — New research indicates parts of the brain that govern fear and anxiety are switched off when a woman is having an orgasm but remain active if she is faking.

In the first study to map brain function during orgasm, scientists from the Netherlands also found that as a woman climaxes, an area of the brain governing emotional control is largely deactivated.

(snip)

When women faked orgasm, the cortex, the part of the brain governing conscious action, lit up. It was not activated during a genuine orgasm.

Even the body movements made during a real orgasm were unconscious, Holstege said.

The most striking results were seen in the parts of the brain that shut down, or deactivated. Deactivation was visible in the amygdala, a part of the brain thought to be involved in the neurobiology of fear and anxiety.

“During orgasm, there was strong, enormous deactivation in the brain. During fake orgasm, there was no deactivation of the brain at all. None,” Holstege said.

Shutting down the brain during orgasm may ensure that obstacles such as fear and stress did not get in the way, Holstege proposed. “Deactivation of these very important parts of the brain might be the most important necessity for having an orgasm,” he said.

Donald Pfaff, professor of neurobiology and behavior at Rockefeller University in New York, said the interpretations were reasonable. “It makes poetic sense,” said Pfaff, who was not connected with the research.

I really have nothing to add to this, other than to note that the section on methodology was a bit more interesting than the average scientific article not involving monkey economics…

1 comment June 22nd, 2005 at 07:09pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science

Umm… Kay.

Egad.

An attempt to erect the world’s largest Popsicle in a city square ended with a scene straight out of a disaster film — but much stickier.

The 25-foot-tall, 17 1/2-ton treat of frozen Snapple juice melted faster than expected Tuesday, flooding Union Square in downtown Manhattan with kiwi-strawberry-flavored fluid that sent pedestrians scurrying for higher ground.

(snip)

Snapple had been trying to promote a new line of frozen treats by setting a record for the world’s largest Popsicle, but called off the stunt before it was pulled fully upright by a construction crane. Authorities said they were worried the thing would collapse in the 80-degree, first-day-of-summer heat.

“What was unsettling was that the fluid just kept coming,” Stuart Claxton of the Guinness Book of World Records told the Daily News. “It was quite a lot of fluid. On a hot day like this, you have to move fast.”

That last paragraph also qualifies for Quote Of The Day honors.

2 comments June 22nd, 2005 at 03:14pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Quotes,Weirdness

A Mobile Proposal

“‘Bush gets very upset when cell phones go off in his presence,’ McFeatters noted. ‘He just hates it.’”

Okay, so. Given a hatred of cellphones that rivals my own, and a peevish and petulant nature beneath a thin veneer of phony bonhomie, maybe we should be trying to sneak “ringers” of a completely different nature into Bush’s public appearances. No confrontational questions or dramatic gestures, just a few ringing cellphones at every event (especially televised ones), and perhaps we can get the mask to slip a few times.

This would probably only work directly a few times before his handlers wised up, but even so, the sure-to-be-disproportionately-harsh treatment of the initial offenders (i.e., hustled roughly away by Secret Service or Fake Secret Service, or physically attacked by Bush loyalists) and subsequent body cavity searches for cellphones would be pure PR gold.

Granted, this would have been much better as a pre-election strategy, but even now, I still think there’s a huge benefit to exposing him for the snarly creep that he is: it would further weaken his ability to push his agenda; it would generally diminish the public’s appetite for more Bushes in the White House; and it might help tarnish the Reagan halo he’s being fitted for.

It sure would be nice to see the obnoxiousness of cellphones being used for good for a change. And if it backfires, maybe inconsiderate public cellphone use will be caught up in the backlash, which would be a good thing in its own right.

4 comments June 22nd, 2005 at 02:20pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Favorites,Republicans,Technology,Wankers

Quickie Photo Break

Took a quick break this afternoon to try to wake myself up, and figured I might as well take my camera along…


Yet another one of them orangey flower thingies what some people are saying are hibisciruses.


I think I have a dry winter picture of this fountain around somewhere; not sure if I ever posted it here or not. Posted by Hello

There was another picture I really wanted, but just didn’t work out – there was a very corporate looking guy in a green jacket, who sat down on one of the benches and just looked completely zen and blissed out looking at the fountain. I tried taking a picture of him through a gap in the fountain and the water, but there was just too much spray to get a good shot.

Oh well. People photography and me really don’t mix.

1 comment June 22nd, 2005 at 12:32am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Good.

Here’s hoping he lives another 80 years… in prison.

An 80-year-old former Ku Klux Klansman was convicted of manslaughter Tuesday in the slayings of three civil rights workers exactly 41 years ago in a notorious case that inspired the movie “Mississippi Burning.”

The jury of nine whites and three blacks reached the verdict on their second day of deliberations, rejecting murder charges against Edgar Ray Killen but also turning aside defense claims that he wasn’t involved at all.

Yet another racist murderer held accountable after leading a long, full life. Hooray…

5 comments June 21st, 2005 at 01:32pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

Ack! Ack! Ptui!

Well, I guess four out of five ain’t bad…

Discovery Channel viewers have less than a week to determine who will be the “Greatest American.” The big relief? It’s not going to be a celebrity. The viewer vote-in show’s host, Matt Lauer, announced the top five candidates for the series on Sunday: Benjamin Franklin , Martin Luther King Jr. , Abraham Lincoln , Ronald Reagan and George Washington . Nominations began in January; the winner will at last be revealed Sunday.

(snip)

The top 25 list puts such modern luminaries as President Bush (No. 6)and Oprah Winfrey (9) ahead of historical giants Albert Einstein (14) and Thomas Jefferson (12).

America is doomed.

June 21st, 2005 at 01:27pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Polls,TV,Wankers

Gitmusings

Some more semi-random thoughts about Gitmo:

One of the chilling but (IMO) underexamined wrinkles of the latest Gitmo torture revelations has been the reaction, as compared to the reaction to Abu Ghraib. When the Abu Ghraib photos leaked, there was near-universal outrage at the depravity on display, which the White House successfully deflected away as the independent actions of a few “bad apples.”

But as the Gitmo stories have come out, the lion’s share of the outrage has been directed at those who have tried to call attention to the immorality of what is going on there (Newsweek, Amnesty International, Dick Durbin), rather than on the torturers themselves, or their highly-placed enablers. It could be the way the news has dribbled out unaccompanied by lurid photos, as opposed to Abu Ghraib’s sudden slap to the face, but I fear that it also means that Abu Ghraib has desensitized the American people to torture and abuse. Sadly, I just do not sense the same kind of disgust and visceral horror that was floating around the zeitgeist in the wake of Abu Ghraib.

Another underemphasized aspect of Guantanamo is its retroactive debunking of the “bad apples” canard. It’s a lot harder to blame Abu Ghraib on a few rogue guards when similar techniques are enshrined as standard practice at Gitmo. Unfortunately, I see no sign that this idea is getting any traction at all, and Abu Ghraib itself is becoming nothing more than a faded memory of something bad we did once, but which doesn’t really matter now.

Veering wildly over to the torture apologists themselves, it looks like the Republican party line is that what’s happening at Gitmo isn’t really torture torture, not like Saddam’s Iraq or Auschwitz or the gulags. I’m willing to concede that very narrow point, but that doesn’t exactly let anyone off the hook. Consider:

o As outlined in the Anthony Lewis op-ed linked below, even degrading, inhumane treatment that falls short of the Gonzales/Bybee organ-failure/limb-amputation definition of torture is still forbidden by two UN conventions and our own military code.

o Is this really the face that we want America to present to the rest of the world? That of an arrogant, unaccountable torturer? What happened to America the shining moral beacon and noble champion of human rights? (Yes, I know it’s largely a fiction, but at least we used to want to believe it, and I think many people worldwide really did… once)  Do we really want to settle for “a little bit better than Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union”? Our moral baseline should be the ideals of decency and fair play that America supposedly stands for, not the practices of brutal dictatorships.

o Does sending prisoners to other countries for the more hardcore forms of torture really absolve us of moral responsibility? Is outsourcing torture really enough to keep our own hands clean? I’ll skip any populist lament for all the American torturers that this puts out of work…

o By embracing and defending even the entry-level torture and mistreatment at Gitmo, we are sending the message that this is acceptable treatment of prisoners. Are the torture apologists really okay with the idea of our own captured soldiers being subjected to such treatment? Themselves? Their kids?

o And speaking of kids, how do you explain this to them? Do you tell them it’s okay to be mean to the prisoners because they’re bad people? (And how do you know they’re bad? Because someone said so?) Or brown people? What kind of values are these kids going to grow up with?

o For those of you claiming to be Christians, can you really, honestly, for one second picture Jesus looking down approvingly at what we’re doing at Gitmo? I sure as hell can’t.

o More peripheral to the central issue of Torture, but how do you square “invisible” prisoners and indefinite imprisonment without counsel or trial with the US Constitution, which does not distinguish between Americans and foreigners in its due-process provisions.

Right, then. I think I’m done. I suppose I should feel better for having gotten it out of my system, but if anything, I think I’m even more pissed off now.

4 comments June 21st, 2005 at 12:45pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Favorites,Iraq,Politics,Prisoners,Religion,Republicans,Torture,War

Anthony Lewis Nails It

There have been a lot of good anti-torture pieces, but I thought former columnist Anthony Lewis did an especially good job in the NYT today. I particularly liked how he pointed out that the Geneva Convention, UN Convention Against Torture, and Uniform Code Of Military Justice all prohibit inhumane and degrading treatment, not just the fingernail-pulling and genital-shocking that torture apologists consider to be the true limit of acceptable interrogation techniques.

Of course, if the US got busted using those, they would just find a way to move the goalposts even further (“At least we’re not force-feeding them honey and then tying them to an anthill with a beehive in their underwear!”).

Come back, Tony, we need you!

June 21st, 2005 at 09:17am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Politics,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture

Serendipity II


I was just insomniacally photo-processing away when this one kinda jumped out at me. I’m starting to think the Pittsbirds are all total camera hogs or something… Posted by Hello

June 21st, 2005 at 02:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Quote Of The Day

It was just after he was released from jail in the early 1990′s that Johnson… turned to evangelical Christianity and clown dancing more or less simultaneously.

From NYT’s Sunday Magazine article about krumping.

2 comments June 20th, 2005 at 04:26pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Quotes

O-KKKay…

Maybe it’s just me, but I have a sneaking suspicion that when this is how your defense wraps up, your chances may not be all that good…

The defense rested its case today in the trial of Edgar Ray Killen, a former Ku Klux Klansman who is being tried for his role in the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi.

The final witness for the defense was a former mayor of the rural town of Philadelphia, Harlan Majure, who testified before a packed courtroom that the white-supremacist group was a “peaceful organization,” according to The Associated Press. Mr. Majure said that Mr. Killen was a good man and that he “did a lot of good up here,” The A.P. reported.

Hey, a lot of Islamic terrorist organizations do charitable good works too! Maybe we should cut them a break!

And no, I don’t want to hear about “Ku Klux Kleagle Byrd” – yes, I think it’s appalling that he was ever in the Klan, but he’s repudiated it and apologized again and again, and I do believe that he genuinely regrets it. He did not downplay the KKK’s evil or claim it was a peaceful charity organization.

Sadly, even if Killin’- er, Killen, is convicted and imprisoned, well, so what? He’s 80 years old now. He’s lived a full life already, and had 41 years that his victims never will. If there’s a Hell, he’ll burn in it just as surely regardless of whether he is convicted in the courts of man.

Yes, I am assuming his guilt. When you have three people killed by Klansmen, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that an admitted Klan poobah damn well had something to do with it, even if he wasn’t there personally. I hope he does burn in Hell, and I hope I don’t have to sit next to him.

June 20th, 2005 at 04:07pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

And Now For Something Completely Different: Torture Profiteering!

Just when you think they couldn’t sink any lower…

More from Froomkin:

Carol Rosenberg writes in the Miami Herald [free registration required]: “The Pentagon capped a week of intense debate on the future of its prison for terrorism suspects Friday with an announcement that Vice President Dick Cheney’s old firm will build a new, $30 million 220-cell prison block at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root received the work under a $500 million Navy contract from July 2004, according to a Defense Department contract announcement e-mailed to The Herald on Friday.”

June 20th, 2005 at 02:19pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Cheney,Corruption/Cronyism,Iraq,Prisoners,Torture,Wankers,War

Pat Riley For Preznit!

And for those of you who don’t like sport… There’s sport.

Dan Froomkin’s White House Briefing leads with a bunch of “Has Bush lost his touch?” stuff, suggesting that Bush’s salesmanship is somehow on the wane. I don’t think that’s exactly what’s going on. I think Bush’s approach is the same one he’s been using for the last four years, and that in itself is the problem.

It’s not that his skills have eroded, it’s that his act is starting to wear thin, and more and more people are seeing though it or tuning him out. Those of you who follow sports are well aware of this phenomenon – no matter how great the coach, they all ultimately hit a wall where their players have heard every motivational trick in the book, and it just doesn’t have the same impact any more.

And it’s not like Bush is a great coach. He’s abusive; he plays favorites and turns his players against each other; he misleads them about their role on the team; he likes to go with his gut and call risky plays that usually backfire; he jealously guards his own authority and turf; and, quite frankly, the team has completely gone into the toilet since he took over.

I could probably stretch the metaphor further (and is he the “coach” of America, or just of the Republican party?), but really, my central point is that maybe, just maybe, the country is starting to experience some much-needed Bush Fatigue, or better yet, Republican Fatigue. I only have two questions: Will it last? and WHY DID IT TAKE FOUR YEARS???  Again, this is not Sparky Anderson or Pat Riley (80s edition) we’re talking about here. We’re talking Billy Martin at best, but probably more like Rich Kotite or Ray Handley… Or possibly Jim Fassel or Wayne Fontes, two mediocre-to-bad coaches who always pulled off winning streaks just as they were about to lose their jobs. Until one day they couldn’t anymore. Let’s hope that day has finally come for Coach Bush, and maybe for the Republicans as a whole.

June 20th, 2005 at 02:00pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Politics,Polls,Republicans,Wankers

Pro-Torture Not Enough

Well. Apparently Abu “Torture Memo” Gonzales, the guy who thinks the Geneva Conventions are outdated and “quaint”, may be too moderate to be nominated as Rehnquist’s replacement.

A Gonzales appointment would be a politically appealing “first” that could ease the confirmation process among Democrats and help expand the Republican base, according to some strategists. But many conservative leaders see him as too moderate on issues such as abortion and affirmative action, and a Gonzales-for-Rehnquist trade would effectively move the court somewhat to the left.

(snip)

…a Gonzales nomination could trigger internal dissension among GOP activists, some of whom have warned the White House against naming the attorney general. At a meeting of conservative groups last week to plot strategy for a possible Supreme Court nomination, one leader spoke out against a Gonzales appointment, according to people in the room.

“Some of the groups share that concern,” said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the Concerned Women for America…. While she noted that her organization has not taken a position, she predicted that if Gonzales is chosen, some activists “may not as vigorously support” the nomination, while Roberts or Luttig “would certainly have broader support across the coalition of conservatives.”

“Everyone in my circle crinkles their nose when his name comes up,” another activist said of Gonzales. “It would be a disaster if that happened.”

My God, this is just terrifying. This pro-torture creep who shouldn’t be allowed to practice law at any level isn’t conservative enough???

My prediction is that Bush will nominate him anyway because Gonzales is his creature, one of those loyalists who would take a bullet for him. And better yet, it’ll give the right yet another cherished opportunity to accuse Democrats of racism and hypocrisy for opposing an awful nominee who happens to be a minority.

1 comment June 20th, 2005 at 11:45am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Judiciary,Politics,Republicans,Torture,Wankers

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