Archive for March, 2007

Digby Revealed!

Multi Medium scoops the world again!

Yes, it’s true, I have obtained an Actual Photograph of the enigmatic and elusive Digby.

All must bow before my mad journalistical skillz!

4 comments March 31st, 2007 at 10:00pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Blogosphere,Coolness

Just A Thought

Maybe the significance of the Chocolate Jesus being displayed during Holy Week is that it’s intended as a commentary on the absurdity of Easter’s commercial side when compared to its religious significance? I mean, a chocolate Jesus really does straddle both worlds quite effectively. Maybe the sculptor should have put him in a giant basket of fake grass and jellybeans to really drive the point home. Or he could have crucified the Easter Bunny, but that would have just creeped out everybody.

Maybe in another nine months, we can be treated to Tinsel Jesus or Wrapping-Paper Jesus or Jolly Fat Red-And-White-Fur-Coat-Wearing Jesus. (Note: Please do not crucify Santa Claus. Thank you.)

8 comments March 31st, 2007 at 03:27pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Religion,Weirdness

Another Dissatisfied Customer

#3 search result for plush multi sex event.

Sorry searcher dude, whoever you are.

4 comments March 31st, 2007 at 02:12pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Eli's Obsession With The Google

More B&W Oakland Photoblogging

And yet still more photos from Oakland:

Oakland Building 11

I liked the glowy light here.

Oakland Wall 4

More glowy light.

Oakland Wall 3

Not so much.

March 31st, 2007 at 01:17pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Keroack Hits The Road

Excellent:

The head of the federal office responsible for providing women with access to contraceptives and counseling to prevent pregnancy resigned unexpectedly yesterday after Medicaid officials took action against him in Massachusetts.

The Health and Human Services Department provided no details about the nature of the Massachusetts action that led to Dr. Eric Keroack’s resignation.

Five months ago, Keroack was chosen by President Bush to oversee the department’s Office of Population Affairs and its $283 million annual budget. The pick angered Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights groups that viewed him as opposed to birth control and comprehensive sex education. Keroack had worked for an organization that opposes contraception.

(…)

Keroack told his staff in a letter yesterday that he became aware of the action being taken against his private medical practice in Massachusetts. He said he immediately hired a lawyer to initiate an appeal. He did not elaborate on why the action was taken.

“My attorney feels confident that misunderstandings have occurred and that upon further review of the facts during the appeals process, this action will be reversed,” he wrote. “However, the appeals process will present a significant distraction to my ability to remain focused on my duties.”

Well, that’s Oxytocin Man taken care of. Hopefully we can get rid of Oxycontin Man next.

(h/t Digby)

3 comments March 30th, 2007 at 10:09pm Posted by Eli

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

Sweet Jesus!

This is much tastier than wafers:

A New York gallery has angered a US Catholic group with its decision to exhibit a milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ.

The six-foot (1.8m) sculpture, entitled “My Sweet Lord”, depicts Jesus Christ naked on the cross.

Catholic League head Bill Donohue called it “one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever”.

(…)

“The fact that they chose Holy Week shows this is calculated, and the timing is deliberate,” Mr Donohue said.

(…)

Mr Cavallaro, the Canadian-born artist, is known for using food ingredients in his art, on one occasion painting a hotel room in mozzarella cheese.

He used 200 pounds (90 kg) of chocolate to make the sculpture which, unusually, depicts Jesus without a loincloth.

Me, I would have titled it “Jesus Pieces.” Of course, I’m going to hell.
(h/t Glenn and Ol’ Froth)

5 comments March 30th, 2007 at 09:49pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Art/Architecture,Coolness,Religion,Weirdness

Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

This week’s quote is from cheesy evil-priest-trying-to-summon-the-Antichrist movie The Eighteenth Angel:

We have many cats. Which do you seek?

And speaking of cats…

YouTube Preview Image
This one is very popular with the canine community.

1 comment March 30th, 2007 at 06:30am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

Spring!

ballardst2007048875330.gif

Indisputable proof that it’s finally here.

March 30th, 2007 at 12:01am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Comics

Wholesale Vs. Retail

Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt have the quote of the day (yes, even better than the big-girl panties) in their WaPo piece on voter fraud:

Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch.

The analogy might be a little more apt if it were The Sasquatch That Laid The Golden Eggs, or possibly The Sasquatch Who Secreted A Magical Substance Vital To Your Entire Party’s Electoral Survival, but it’s still very good.

They also make a very important point that I had never heard before:

A person casting two votes risks jail time and a fine for minimal gain. Proven voter fraud, statistically, happens about as often as death by lightning strike.

This is exactly right. Why would anyone put their neck on the line to game a single vote, or at most a handful of votes? No, if you’re going to commit electoral fraud, you want it to be worth the risk. You’re going to go large and try to hack the system. Not necessarily electronically, but you’re going to try to rig things behind the scenes to fudge a large number of votes, and no voter ID or voter roll purge is ever going to stop that. But they’ll sure as hell suppress the minority and elderly vote, yesireebob. (Indeed, the voter roll purge itself is very often a form of electoral fraud on a large scale.)

(Cross-posted at Mia Culpa)

2 comments March 29th, 2007 at 07:06pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Politics,Quotes,Republicans,Rove

Mo’ Yoga

29yoga6502.jpg
Shiho Fukada / The New York Times

Another day, another fad that makes you look silly:

FOR a Friday evening, the small, intimate workout room at the New York Health & Racquet Club on East 57th Street was comfortably full. A dozen people sat, their chins pointed toward the ceiling, their lips puckered as if preparing for a kiss.

Later, they took their index and middle fingers and tapped their mouths five times, with the hope of increasing lip fullness and color. If done each day, they were told, it would be just as if they had been injected with collagen.

“The resistance is what firms the muscles,” Annelise Hagen, the teacher, said of Revita-Yoga, which combines yoga and facial exercises and is billed as a way to combat frown lines, wrinkles and sagging. “Each pose, stretch or exercise is designed to relax the muscles and release the patterns people unconsciously etch into their skin.”

Want to sculpture and narrow your nose? Alternate breathing out of each nostril, Revita-Yoga teaches. Have crow’s-feet? Open the eyes wide to smooth the lines. As pale as the winter sky? A dose of downward dog can add color to the complexion while oxygenating the skin.

In an era when aging is treated as a disease and yoga is often touted as a cure-all, it is hardly surprising to see people combining the two. Classes are sprouting up all over the United States and so are books, marketed to the portion of the population that wants the benefits of the knife and the needle without the costs or the risks.

That it works is unlikely, say doctors who specialize in skin or facial physiology. But it does relax practitioners while playing into their desire to do something about perceived flaws in their skin.

“People want a healthy alternative to looking good without artificial substance,” said Ms. Hagen, a former actress whose book, “The Yoga Face,” is to be published this August by Avery, the health and wellness division of Penguin. “And they want to be in control of their appearance rather than relegating it to an authority. I’m teaching my students to consciously release muscles rather than paralyzing them, which is what Botox does.”

Okay, I can buy that maybe carefully crafted exercises might be able to tone and tighten the facial muscles (for whatever that’s worth), but I don’t think any kind of exercise is going to do much of anything for the skin, which is not a muscle. On the other hand, even if it’s complete hooey, if it keeps people off the Botox and collagen and plastic surgery, it’s performing a public service.

March 29th, 2007 at 06:50pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weirdness

Eli’s Obsession With The Google

Another one for the mantelpiece: On the first page of search results for humungous testicles in the wheelbarrow.

Now there’s something to tell the grandkids!

March 29th, 2007 at 06:37pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Eli's Obsession With The Google

Howard Kurtz Scoops The World!!!

From his story on Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino temporarily filling in for Tony Snow while he gets cancer treatment:

Perino has been flooded with calls of support, including one, she says, from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who told her: “Put your big-girl panties on.”

Now that’s what I call an education secretary!

7 comments March 29th, 2007 at 05:36pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Quotes,Republicans

Shorter Bobo

Authoritarianism is freedom!

There is an argument floating around Republican circles that in order to win again, the G.O.P. has to reconnect with the truths of its Goldwater-Reagan glory days. It has to once again be the minimal-government party, the maximal-freedom party, the party of rugged individualism and states’ rights.

This is folly. It’s the wrong diagnosis of current realities and so the wrong prescription for the future.

(…)

[I]n the 1970s, normal, nonideological people were right to think that their future prospects might be dimmed by a stultifying state. People were right to believe that government was undermining personal responsibility. People were right to have what Tyler Cowen, in a brilliant essay in Cato Unbound, calls the “liberty vs. power” paradigm burned into their minds — the idea that big government means less personal liberty.

But today, many of those old problems have receded or been addressed. Today the big threats to people’s future prospects come from complex, decentralized phenomena: Islamic extremism, failed states, global competition, global warming, nuclear proliferation, a skills-based economy, economic and social segmentation.

Normal, nonideological people are less concerned about the threat to their freedom from an overweening state than from the threats posed by these amorphous yet pervasive phenomena. The “liberty vs. power” paradigm is less germane. It’s been replaced in the public consciousness with a “security leads to freedom” paradigm. People with a secure base are more free to take risks and explore the possibilities of their world.

People with secure health care can switch jobs more easily. People who feel free from terror can live their lives more loosely. People who come from stable homes and pass through engaged schools are free to choose from a wider range of opportunities.

The “security leads to freedom” paradigm is a fundamental principle of child psychology, but conservative think tankers and activists have been slow to recognize the change in their historical circumstance. All their intellectual training has been oriented by the “liberty vs. power” paradigm. (Postwar planning in Iraq was so poor because many in the G.O.P. were not really alive to the truth that security is a precondition for freedom.)

(…)

The Republican Party, which still talks as if government were the biggest threat to choice, has lost touch with independent voters. Offered a choice between stale Democrats and stale Republicans, voters now choose Democrats, who at least talk about economic and domestic security.

(…)

Compassionate conservatism was an attempt to move beyond the “liberty vs. power” paradigm. But because it was never fleshed out and because the Congressional G.O.P. rejected the implant, a new Republican governing philosophy did not emerge.The party is going to have to make another run at it. As it does, it will have to shift mentalities. The “security leads to freedom” paradigm doesn’t end debate between left and right, it just engages on different ground. It is oriented less toward negative liberty (How can I get the government off my back?) and more toward positive liberty (Can I choose how to lead my life?).

Goldwater and Reagan were important leaders, but they’re not models for the future.

Well, it’s so nice to see one of conservatism’s leading intellectuals finally realize that small government just isn’t up to the task of watching our every move in order to keep us safe from the Scary Brown People. Don’t any of those lightweights at Cato know anything about child psychology? Jeez.

Hopefully politicians on both sides of the aisle will come to fully appreciate Brooks’ wisdom, and we will all be able to work and play and sleep easier, secure in the knowledge that someone is always looking after us. Maybe I can finally experience some of those things I’ve always wanted to try, like freeclimbing or sharkdiving or karaoke, but kept chickening out of due to my paralyzing but totally reasonable fear of terrorists.

6 comments March 29th, 2007 at 11:45am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Constitution,Media,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers

Return Of The Son Of Oakland Photoblogging

Some more photos from Oakland:

Mr. Thrifty

Umm… yeah.

Oakland Building 9

More architectural photography.

Oakland Menu

I liked the shadow of the light on the menu. I have no opinion on the restaurant itself…

2 comments March 29th, 2007 at 06:33am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

So?

I suppose I should be impressed…

Since taking over the Department of Defense at the end of last year, Robert Gates has gotten kudos for what he has done, demanding responsibility for mistakes like the Walter Reed debacle and the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death.  He is also known to have wanted to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo as a way of helping the United States recover some of its lost credibility in the Muslim world.

But Gates has also been getting quiet credit for something he hasn’t done: push hard on Iran, not raising the temperature in a time of crisis. In particular, Gates has distanced himself from some of the harshest criticism of Iranian operations in Iraq and pushed back on rhetoric calling for military solutions to U.S. problems in the Persian Gulf. Most prominently, on the supply of explosives technology, Gates has declined to point the finger of responsibility at the Iranian government, something his own Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey, has done.

(…)

Gates is also on the record as being opposed to those in the White House and elsewhere in Washington who think the Iranian issue can best be resolved by working with Iranian dissidents to overthrow the current regime.

(…)

NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin also pointed to Gates’ appointment of Admiral William Fallon as the head of Central Command as evidence that the new secretary of defense is not going to be calling for extreme measures. Appointment of a Navy admiral, the first for Centcom, indicated to some a readiness to go to war with Iran. Fallon himself has disputed such a characterization.

Arkin said the reverse is true.

“Fallon is a détente-ist,” Arkin says. “Like Gates, he believes more in diplomacy. That is the story here, not his being a Navy admiral.”

This is all well and good, and Gates is certainly a refreshing change of pace from his insane predecessor, but ultimately it’s just not his call. If Dubya wants war with Iran, which I think he does, then it really doesn’t matter where Gates stands on the subject. He might resign in protest, but I’m sure Frederick Kagan or John Bolton would be happy to take his place…

March 28th, 2007 at 10:45pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iran,Republicans,War

Heh.

The All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin has a bit of fun while quoting the preznit’s latest wankery:

“Some Democrats believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely,” Bush said in a belligerent speech to a boisterous bunch of beef barons this morning. “That’s not going to happen. . . .

“The clock is ticking for our troops in the field,” he added. “If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible.”

Granted, I’m no political expert, but I could have sworn that bothhouses of Congress passed funding bills – Dubya is the one who promised to veto them.

I have to wonder if Dubya might be having an “Oh shit” moment, or if he still expects to lie and brazen his way out of this one. Probably the latter – kinda reminds me of someone…

3 comments March 28th, 2007 at 05:57pm Posted by Eli

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

Creative Solutions For The Modern Age

Didn’t see this one coming…

It wasn’t your typical fire. When police responded to a report that something smelled of smoke in the middle of the night, they found an old school bus that had been converted into a supersized oven for Passover matzos _ complete with a smokestack, exhaust fans and working fire.

A building inspector said that while the bakery bus wasn’t nearly up to code, it was “very creative.”

The derelict red-and-white bus, connected by a plywood passageway to a single-family house, was out of sight of casual passers-by in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood and had apparently escaped the notice of authorities.

Its owner, Rabbi Aaron Winternitz, said Monday he had been making the unleavened bread there for three Passovers and was eager to do the same this year, with Passover coming up in a week.

(…)

He said that the oven-in-a-bus was his invention, and that he purposely bought an old school bus because “school buses are made strong and safe.”

I have nothing to add to this.

March 28th, 2007 at 05:38pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Weirdness

Let’s Do The Time Warp Again…

Harold Meyerson wonders just WTF the Republicans are thinking:

The truly astonishing thing about the latest scandals besetting the Bush administration is that they stem from actions the administration took after the November elections, when Democratic control of Congress was a fait accompli.

(…)

During last year’s congressional campaigns, Republicans spent a good deal of time and money predicting that if the Democrats won, Congress would become one big partisan fishing expedition led by zealots such as Henry Waxman. The Republicans’ message didn’t really impress the public, and apparently it didn’t reach the president and his underlings, either. Since the election, they have continued merrily along with their mission to politicize every governmental function and agency as if their allies still controlled Congress, as if the election hadn’t happened.

Clearly, they had grown accustomed to the Congress of the past six years, whose oversight policy towards the administration was “Anything Goes.” But their total and apparently ongoing inability to shift gears once the Democrats had taken control — with an oversight policy that could be summarized as “You Did WHAT?” — is mind-boggling.

Democrats such as Waxman clearly had planned to hold hearings on the administration’s hitherto-unexamined follies of the past six years. Instead, the most high-profile investigations they’re conducting concern administration follies of the past five months, since they won the election.

(…)

[C]ongressional Republicans were knocked into the minority last November because voters had sickened of their lockstep support for Bush’s war. Clearly, they will be knocked a good deal further into the minority if that support continues.

So what are they doing to respond to this dire state of affairs? They’re continuing their support. And they’re continuing, in the Senate, to obstruct popular and overdue domestic measures such as a raise in the minimum wage, though polling confirms not just overwhelming support for that particular measure but also growing concern over the rise of economic inequality and a growing repudiation of the Republican positions on both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Meyerson then offers four possible explanations for why the Republicans are so staggeringly out of touch: They’re hoping for a clean-handed outsider presidential candidate like Rudy to save them; they plan to obstruct everything and then blame Democrats for the lack of progress; they’ve come to believe their own hype; and/or they’re simply incapable of good government.

I’m not sold on that first one, but the other three all sound very plausible. Some other possibilities that came to mind:

Desperation. The Republicans need all the extra help they can get in 2008, so they’re taking more risks to stack the deck in their favor. Or maybe it’s a calculated strategy to distract the Mean Oversight People away from much, much worse offenses committed when they thought their oversight-free majority would be eternal.

Arrogance. The media has been so tame, and so willing to ignore, softpedal, or spin damaging storylines that the Republicans think they can get away with murder. And if not for the blogosphere (and Pat Leahy), they would have.

Meanness. In-your-face bullying is just What They Do.

Fear. Maybe it’s not so much that they believe the extremist right-wing hype, as that they’re afraid their own hypers will turn on them if they try to move to the center.

Rep Van Winkle. They just can’t accept that it’s not late 2001/early 2002 anymore, and that Dubya no longer has a 90%, blank check approval rating.

They’re just stupid.

7 comments March 28th, 2007 at 11:51am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Elections,Iraq,Politics,Republicans,Uncategorized

Running Out Of Friends

Looks like the Saudis aren’t Dubya’s BFF anymore:

[Bush's] decision to schedule a mid-April White House gala for Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah signified the president’s high regard for an Arab monarch who is also a Bush family friend.

Now the White House ponders what Abdullah’s sudden and sparsely explained cancellation of the dinner signifies. Nothing good — especially for Condoleezza Rice’s most important Middle East initiatives — is the clearest available answer.

(…)

Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national security adviser, flew to Washington last week to explain to Bush that April 17 posed a scheduling problem. ” ‘It is not convenient’ was the way it was put,” says one official.

But administration sources report that Bush and his senior advisers were not convinced by Bandar’s vagueness — especially since it followed Saudi decisions to seek common ground with Iran and the radicals of Hezbollah and Hamas instead of confronting them as part of Rice’s proposed “realignment” of the Middle East into moderates and extremists.

(…)

Abdullah gave a warm welcome to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Riyadh in early March, not long after the Saudis pressured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas into accepting a political accord that entrenches Hamas in an unwieldy coalition government with Abbas’s Fatah movement.

“The Saudis surprised us by going that far,” explained one White House official in a comment that reached — and irritated — Saudi officials. So don’t count on Abdullah to put new force behind his long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative at the Arab summit scheduled this week in Riyadh.

(…)[T]he Saudis, too, know how to read election returns. They see Bush swimming against a tide of scandal and stench that engulfs his most trusted aides. In the traditional Saudi worldview, this is a moment to hedge, not to indulge in the kind of leadership needed to break the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock or the deadly morass of Iraq.

In other words, the Saudis are not going to stick their necks out for a very lame duck, and they clearly want no part of Bush’s desire to provoke a war with Iran, which is understandable.

The lesson here is a simple one, and it applies to more than just foreign policy: If you’re going to be an asshole all the time, don’t expect anyone to have your back unless it’s convenient for them. The Saudis are frantically waving their hands in front of them and saying, “No no no, we’re not with the crazy guy! He’s our buddy’s kid!”

March 28th, 2007 at 11:20am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iran,Iraq,War

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging

New frontiers in medicine:

BALTIMORE, Md. — According to holistic anesthesiologist Biff Swarmer, patients would be better off with a little ‘rap’ music.

“Under traditional anesthesia, patients can’t even breathe on their own,” Dr. Swarmer explained. “My method — pummeling them into unconsciousness — is safer and much more empowering.

“For me,” he laughed, “‘out patient’ has a very different meaning.

Dr. Swarmer perfected his new pain-management method on the rough streets of Baltimore.

“The first application of my ‘Healing Fists’ technique was actually in dentistry,” he said. “My patients appreciated the efficiency of removing consciousness and teeth simultaneously.”

The technique proved so successful that mainstream surgeons began asking for Dr. Swarmer’s help with major procedures from heart bypasses to neurosurgery.

“That presented a new challenge,” Dr. Swarmer said. “These operations required patients to be out for much longer than a count of ten.”

The two-fisted anesthesiologist was forced to create new blows to accomplish longer periods of stupor. He developed and employed techniques ranging from the Vulcanized Nerve Pinch, which is rendered with a rubber blackjack to the base of the skull, to the more elegant ‘LIFE’ — Left Index Finger Extension.

“I simply point at something,” Dr. Swarmer said. “When the patient looks, I clock them in the snot box with a roundhouse right.”

However, Dr. Swarmer’s partnership with conventional doctors hasn’t entirely relieved him of a reliance on traditional tools of the trade.

“I do keep an IV drip in my office,” he admitted, “but that’s so I can work the bag to warm up for surgery.”

It certainly sounds cheaper…

March 28th, 2007 at 06:46am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weekly World News

Roverreach

This Politico story is simultaneously chilling and encouraging:

[Voter fraud is] an issue the White House had fixated on since the Supreme Court ended the 2000 Florida recount and settled the presidential campaign amid charges that if the ballots of the Sunshine State’s black voters had been counted, Democrat Al Gore would have won.

Bush’s allies were obsessed with ensuring that his reelection couldn’t be questioned as well. [Not quite the wording I would have chosen...] So, in the fall of 2004, Republican operatives tucked thick folders of newspaper clippings and other fraud tips under their arms and pitched to reporters their claims that the Democrats’ registration program would lead to rampant voter fraud. Their passion was clear, but their evidence was slim, consisting mostly of isolated incidents of voter registration irregularities that were handled by local police or election officials.

What wasn’t mentioned in those conversations with reporters was a Republican National Committee strategy, already underway, to work with state parties to identify and challenge questionable voters at the polling precincts. Among those working at the RNC was Tim Griffin, the former Karl Rove aide who recently replaced fired U.S. attorney Bud Cummins. Then, with the vast federal law enforcement community acting as the new sheriff, Republicans hoped to pocket the evidence they longed for: a string of high-profile investigations and convictions.

Failure of some U.S. attorneys to pursue the final plank in that strategy now appears to have helped trigger an internal debate over whether to fire all or some of them, administration comments and e-mails suggest.

(…)

Behind the scenes, court records show, the RNC worked with state parties to send letters to newly registered voters in some states, including hotly contested Ohio. Letters returned as undeliverable were then used to create a list of voters’ names to challenge at the polls on Election Day. In Wisconsin, Republicans conducted background checks on roughly 100,000 newly registered voters and trained more than 50,000 volunteers to monitor precincts or lodge challenges against voters.

At the Justice Department, Ashcroft instructed U.S. attorneys to meet with top election officials and make themselves available for fraud investigations on Election Day, if necessary.

Media disclosures of the Ohio and Wisconsin projects had upset and embarrassed local Republican leaders, who publicly urged an end to the program.

…[E]-mails released by Congress in recent weeks show that, within two months, the White House was debating whether to fire all or some of the U.S. attorneys. One reason: They didn’t pursue voter fraud cases.

The way I’m reading this story is that Rove and the RNC (assuming there’s a meaningful difference) latched onto “voter fraud” as their vote-suppression magic bullet, and pushed hard to disenfranchise a whole bunch of low-income and newly-registered voters, and to collect some high-profile scalps to make Democrats think twice about voter registration efforts, and to make minority voters afraid to even vote at all.

But they went too far. The local Republicans in OH and WI were appalled, or at least fearful of backlash, and none of BushCo’s handpicked US Attorneys were willing to gin up fake voter fraud cases to score political points for the bossman. And Karl, every bit as much a petulant crybaby as his boss, wanted to fire them all for not doing his bidding; for not being utterly soulless, amoral party hacks like him and his minions.

I don’t really have a point here, other than that it’s a relief to know that not all Republicans are corrupt all of the time, and it’s frightening to contemplate what might have been if they were.

March 27th, 2007 at 05:49pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Politics,Rove

The Fifth

Okay, I think I’m slow on the uptake and probably the last person to explicitly make this connection, but since Monica Goodling’s attempt to take the fifth to avoid testifying to Congress essentially signals that the US Attorney firings are an honest-to-God criminal matter now, as opposed to just inappropriate behavior…

Doesn’t this remove one of the distinctions the Bushies could make about this investigation vs. other investigations where senior WH aides were compelled to testify; namely, that it was not a criminal matter?

This would be an even richer irony than the idea that Dubya would have to admit to being involved in the decision process in order to claim executive privilege. (I suspect that it will ultimately come down to Dubya simply asserting that he has “fuck all y’all” privilege…)

I’m sure I’m probably the last person on Earth to make the connection, but I’ve been a bit out of the loop the past couple of days.

2 comments March 27th, 2007 at 05:41pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Republicans

Atrios Almost Gets It Right

Atrios on the media:

There is good journalism out there, and dirty bloggers generally would have little to talk about if there wasn’t. Well, except for all the wankery.

Still, there’s a difference between those who report the news and those who talk about it. The former generally takes of the form of quality print journalism, which is then given wings on the various cable news channels, political/news talk radio, by the Sunday Bobbleheads, in unctuous Fred Hiatt Op-Eds, etc. It is in these forums that news is turned into narratives, where certain facts and spin are privileged or diminished, where The Story becomes A Story, where conventional wisdom is created and disseminated both to political insiders and to the rest of us. It’s where supposedly knowledgeable people make sense of all of the news for the rest of us, by telling us what is important (or at least relevant and interesting) and why it is important.

In many of these forums the True Elites of Elite journalism put on their peacock feathers and strut around, proudly sporting their faux-cynicism and horrifying vacuity.

So, yes, there are plenty of good journalists out there doing important work. They need to understand that they’re being publicly represented by a cast of fools. And, no, we’re not just talking about the various flunkies and hacks that fill time during the day on MSNBC. We’re talking about people with very prestigious titles and roles, such as editors of major newsweekly magazines and hosts of Well Respected Sunday Talk Shows.

I think it’s unfair to suggest that the pundits’ cynicism isn’t genuine. What’s false is the sophistication which their cynicism masquerades as, and that’s what makes them so amoral and repellent.

2 comments March 27th, 2007 at 11:52am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Politics,Wankers

Another Day, Another Coverup

Donna and HopeSpringsATurtle are both blogging about the sad and sickening case of LaVena Johnson, a female soldier who was beaten savagely, possibly raped, and shot in the head – and whose death was then ruled a “suicide.” Beating and raping yourself seems like awfully peculiar pre-suicide behavior, but I’m no psychiatrist. Unless the DoD isn’t claiming that the beating and raping were part of the suicide, in which case, why aren’t they investigating that part of it? If she didn’t do it to herself, then someone must have done it to her, even if she did kill herself afterwards… which I don’t buy. Maybe the rape and beating don’t matter if she kills herself afterwards – like a reset button or something.

On the one hand, perhaps this tragedy doesn’t tell us anything new: War is hell; war brutalizes people and makes them capable of terrible things; the military will cover up anything that makes them look less than admirable (coughcoughPatrick Tillmancough!). But what’s different here is that the military’s desperation for recruits (for some reason, hardly any of the Republicans who think this is The Most Important War Ever seem very eager to enlist) has led them to drastically reduce their standards, so that now they’ll enlist people with criminal records and mental health problems (but not gays – some things are just unacceptable).

Which leads me to speculate: Perhaps the troop who did this didn’t become a monster because of the war – perhaps he was a monster already, and the military gave him a weapon because they needed a warm body to lug it around and shoot it at people. You know, like they did with the soldier who raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killed her entire family.

Which leads me to speculate: Perhaps this is additional motive for the military to cover up? It’s bad enough to admit that they have a mad-dog killer and rapist in their midst, but if it comes out that this woman died from the military’s lax enlistment standards? Because the Bush administration doesn’t have the balls to either bring the troops home or institute a draft? (Political suicide, I know, but this is The Most Important War Ever, and we all know how Bush is a Steely Resolute Decider who doesn’t care about polls…)

Just something to ponder.

1 comment March 27th, 2007 at 11:29am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Iraq,Republicans,War

Leftovers

Just a couple of items I intended to blog yesterday, but was too distracted by the voices in my head to get to…

I love to see Republicans writing about Republicans turning on Republicans.

And The All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin reminds us all why it’s so much better to be your own person:

Why did Attorney General Alberto Gonzales go before the television cameras two weeks ago and deny that he knew anything about last year’s firings of U.S. attorneys, when — as we just learned from yet another Friday-night document dump — he approved them during an hour-long meeting in November?

Did that meeting not make an impression? Did he choose to lie about it? Was he secretly drawing a distinction between giving his approval and knowing anything about what he had given his approval for?

Or was he just reading whatever was put in front of him?

It’s no secret in Washington that Gonzales is not an autonomous player. His entire career has been as an enabler of George Bush. He does what he’s told.

(…)

It’s not as obvious who has been his minder since he became attorney general two years ago. But presumably either he or, more to the point, the staffers who write his speeches and draw up his talking points still get their marching orders directly from the West Wing.

(…)

[N]ow, with his central talking point exposed as clumsy dishonesty, it’s clear that whoever prepped Gonzales and sent him out to face the media was more focused on White House interests than on telling the truth.

If Gonzo had had a spine and a conscience back then, maybe he refuses to fire the USAs. If he had a spine and a conscience now, maybe he tells the truth about what happened. But having neither, he’s going to take the fall for Karl Rove’s master plan to complete the politicization of the DoJ.

March 27th, 2007 at 11:14am Posted by Eli

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

Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Oakland Photoblogging?

Some more architectural photography fun from Pittsburgh’s college district:

Oakland Reflection 3

It’s a building reflected in a thingy that I have no recollection of…

Oakland Column 4

A more interesting perspective on that building column.

Oakland Column 3

A somewhat less interesting perspective, but I always like to save my verticals for last.

3 comments March 27th, 2007 at 07:58am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Eli’s Obsession With The Google

My old blog is the only Google search result for “Look who’s got the front seat to the Mexican hat dance”.

(The full quote is actually “Look who’s got the front seat to the Mexican hat dance now! Just like a bunch of spiders in a birthday cake!”, from Nothing But Trouble, in case you were wondering)

And my current blog is the only Yahoo search result for “nipples like Bobo”. Truly, I lead a blessed life.

March 27th, 2007 at 06:48am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Eli's Obsession With The Google

In My Head

(Before I get started, just so no-one gets alarmed, I do not hear voices. And even if I did, I would probably only pay attention to the ones that told me to slack off – killing people is waaaay too much hassle, and I’d rather just sleep in.)

This week’s NYT Magazine has an intriguing article about people who hear voices in their heads, but who aren’t necessarily psychotic or schizophrenic, and the ways in which they try to cope with them. The nature of the voices seems to vary widely from person to person: Some are companionable, some are adversarial. Some people view them as having potential insight to be heeded, some view them solely as tormentors. No-one really seems to know where they come from, or what cerebral mechanism creates them. I found one theory particularly intriguing:

In his 2003 book, “Madness Explained,” [psychology professor Richard] Bentall draws on the theory that auditory hallucinations may have their roots in what psychologists call “inner speech.” All of us, every day, produce a steady stream of silent, inward-directed speech: plans, thoughts, quotations, memories. People hear voices, Bentall argues, when they make faulty judgments about whether this inner speech is the product of their own consciousness or of something alien to their consciousness. Lapses in what researchers call “source monitoring” may occur for a number of reasons – because an individual is primed to expect a perception to occur, because the level of background noise makes it difficult to separate what is internal from what is external, because he or she is in a state of emotional arousal. But whatever the cause, Bentall writes, there is evidence to suggest that hallucinating “can be explained in terms of the same kinds of mental processes that affect normal perceptual judgments.”

This actually sounds pretty plausible to me – I can imagine my own internal monologue being rather alarming if I thought it was coming from someone else. It also reminds me of a mental version of this phenomenon, where people can actually lose track of their own body’s location, and perceive themselves as a ghost. I’m really talking out of my ass now, but I also wonder if in some cases it might be a milder variant of multiple personality disorder, where the extra personalities don’t have the strength to assume control, and can only howl at the primary personality through the bars of their cages.

This in turn reminded me of a fascinating science-fiction book by Greg Bear, titled Queen Of Angels. It’s primarily about the attempt to find the reasons for a famous writer’s psychotic break, during which he invited all of his students to his apartment and slit their throats one by one as they entered. What made this book so intriguing to me was its depiction of the way the mind works. Instead of being a single consciousness in charge of everything, the mind is split up into a complex hierarchy of subpersonalities and utility modules.

This conception really resonated for me, as it explained some quirks of my own mental functioning, aside from the obvious compartmentalization of personality, where I act differently depending on who I’m interacting with and where. My confidence in my abilities has always been rather shaky – people seem to think I’m good at stuff, and sometimes I’ll look back on papers or posts I’ve written or photos I’ve taken and think, “Hey, that was actually pretty good,” but most of the time when I sit down at the keyboard or pick up the camera, I don’t have high hopes.

I think the theory of mind in Queen Of Angels may actually explain this phenomenon, and it matches my internal perceptions perfectly: I have a central consciousness through which I perceive and interact with the world and maintain my internal narrative, and which is essentially “me,” but it can’t really do anything – it has no skills whatsoever. All of my skills and abilities are locked away in black-box modules which are only active when my central consciousness invokes them to carry out the task that they were designed for. The rest of the time, they’re tucked away and dormant. And since I can’t perceive anything outside my central consciousness when these modules are not active, I have a hard time believing that these skills really exist, and that I didn’t just get lucky somehow, or that they’ll be there the next time I call upon them.

Over time, my confidence has improved, simply because I have enough of a body of work that I’ve grown to trust in my abilities, even if I still can’t feel their presence. I’ve described this to other people, and for the most part I think I may be something of an extreme case – most people are more integrated and confident than I am, and feel their abilities more acutely, even when they’re not active. This is probably a good topic for audience participation: How do you perceive your mental interiors? Are all your talents right there in plain sight all the time, or do they just switch on when you need them, and then switch right back off again? Do you feel you have more or less confidence in yourself as a result? Inquiring subpersonalities want to know.

UPDATE: I should add, in case I don’t sound desperate-for-therapy enough already, that even when one of my various submodules is active, I still tend to perceive it as external to my central consciousness. Still within myself, certainly, but it’s coming from… somewhere else, feeding data into my somewhat-surprised central consciousness. My central consciousness is basically mask, narrator, and traffic cop.

17 comments March 26th, 2007 at 05:51pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Science,Weirdness

Don’t Ask, Don’t Wig

Oh. My. God.

“GO BACK TO AFRICA AND DO YOUR GAY VOODOO LIMBO TANGO AND WANGO DANCE AND JUMP AROUND AND PRANCE AND RUN ALL OVER THE PLACE HALF NAKED THERE.”
– U.S. Army recruiter Sgt. Marcia Ramode, using her military email address to respond to Jersey City resident Corey Andrew, after Ramode learned Andrew was gay.

Um. Bad enough that our tax dollars are paying this crazy to spew all-caps racism and homophobia, but apparently Ramode can’t even distinguish between black homosexuals and Ted Nugent.

Follow the link for more insanity – most of it is screen caps that I can’t reproduce here. It’s all quite spectacular, and would be kinda hilarious if it weren’t for the context.

(h/t Atrios)

March 26th, 2007 at 11:55am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Iraq,Racism,Teh Gay,Wankers,War,Weirdness

Umm… Question?

Today in TPM Muckraker:

The Washington Post‘s front page story today is about a meeting in January between the head of the General Services Administration, Lurita Doan, top agency officials, and Scott Jennings, Karl Rove’s deputy. The topic: how the agency could help “our candidates.”

The GSA is the government’s landlord and heads up nearly $60 billion per year in government contracts. The meeting was about how to turn that buying power to Republican advantage.

The angle of the Post‘s story is that Doan’s eagerness to join the scheme (get Republicans to take credit for the opening of federal facilities around the country, while preventing Democrats like Nancy Pelosi from doing so) seems a blatant violation of the Hatch Act, a law that prevents federal employees for using their positions for politics.

Has the Bush administration ever done anything that wasn’t a blatant violation of the Hatch Act? Hell, we almost certainly invaded Iraq just so Dubya could look like a tough guy in ’04.

March 26th, 2007 at 11:42am Posted by Eli

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

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