Saturday, December 29, 2007

Even more Benito Giuliani goodness

TPM is pretty good at finding stuff like this. Now it's been picked up by the NY Daily News.

For those too lazy to click through, here's the Daily News item in full:
This guy really isn't all that bad though. I'm not sure he should be fired from Rudy's campaign. After all, he wasn't necessarily advocating genocide. I mean, there are probably less politically incorrect ways of "getting rid" of them other than, you know, exterminating the whole lot of them.

UPDATE: Reached for comment, Giuliani stated that, as president, he would prefer that his power to engage in genocide be exercised "infrequently".

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benito, cont.

At the risk of beating the dead horse which is Rudy "Benito" Giuliani's political career...

This quote (via TPM) is taken from a recent Benito ad running in Florida:
When you try to take something away from us, like freedom," Rudy proclaims, "the Americans are going to be one in resisting it. So the Islamic terrorists would make a terrible mistake if they confuse our democracy for weakness.
A few points:

1. I don't think the terrorists are bombing our buildings to take our freedom away from us. I think they are trying to kill a lot of us as a means of encouraging us to change our foreign policy.

2. But assuming Rudy is right, and they really are trying to take our freedom from us, they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it. After all, since 9/11 the terrorists have repealed habeas corpus, repealed the Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments, parts of the First, and most of the Fifth. The terrorists appear to be well on their way to abolishing the entire bill of rights, thus taking away our freedom. And far from Americans being "one" in resisting this, it certainly appears like hardly anyone is even noticing, and even fewer are complaining, much less "resisting".

3. Oh, wait, did I just write that the terrorists have done those things? On second thought, I think that must be wrong, since the terrorists have no mechanism whatsoever for doing these things specifically or "taking our freedom" generally. Sorry, my bad. It appears that these things have been done by George Bush and Dick Cheney, with Rudy backing them every step of the way. Does that mean that George, Dick and Rudy are "the terrorists"? I'm confused.

4. Oh, hell. Now I'm even more confused. I just went back and read my blog post below, and it tells me that, according to Rudy's own formulation, when he says "freedom" he means ceding control over one's actions to the state. So, if the terrorists are trying to take away our "freedom", does that mean that the terrorists are actually trying to wrest control over our actions from the state and return it to us (i.e., free us from slavery)? That seems really odd, and I think I must have made a mistake somewhere.

5. Because if that's true, then what possible interest would we have in resisting them? Except, of course, those among us who do truly desire to cede control over their actions to the state. Maybe that's what Rudy meant?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Freedom is Slavery

I've not heard of the magazine calling itself The Amercian Conservative before, but for some reason they commissioned an article from Glenn Greenwald. But maybe the magazine means "conservative" in the pre-Bush sense; that is, at least in part, the idea that the government should keep its nose where it does not belong. This happens to be Greenwald's reason for being.

Anyway, their recent issue is dedicated to analyzing Rudy "Benito" Giuliani. As you can see from their cover...













... they don't think too highly of him.

Greenwald, needless to say, shares this opinion. Some excerpts:

As constrained as a mayor’s power typically is, Giuliani never ceased pushing those limits. In a 2001 retrospective on the mayor’s tenure, the New York Times concluded, “the suppression of dissent or of anything that irked the mayor, became a familiar theme.” Giuliani’s idiosyncratic—one could say Orwellian—understanding of “freedom,” expressed during a 1994 speech, reveals just how literally authoritarian his worldview is:

What we don’t see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

This, you will note, has that Rove-ian flavor of taking reality and then: not skewing it, not spinning it somewhat one way or the other, but turning it exactly, 180 degrees on its head. Like when the public got overwhelmingly up in arms about the Iraq war, and elected war-opposing democrats in landslides, and the Preznit's response was... to escalate the war. Yes, as we all learned back in grade school, freedom is the willingness to cede a great deal of discretion about what you do. In fact, we are the freest when we cede all discretion about what we do. Cede it to whom? you might ask. To Rudy, of course.

Next:
Almost uniformly, Giuliani’s presidential campaign has been measured and highly disciplined, but he has had momentary lapses that expose the authoritarian impulses that New Yorkers know so well. In the midst of the September controversy over the MoveOn.org ad criticizing Gen. David Petraeus, Giuliani opined that the antiwar group “passed a line that we should not allow American political organizations to pass.”
As you may remember, this political organization took out an ad. In a newspaper. And expressed an opinion that not everyone agreed with. This, citizens, is a line that we should not allow political organizations to pass.

Next:
In April, Cato Institute’s president, Ed Crane, asked several candidates if they believed the president should have the authority to arrest U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil, and detain them with no review of any kind. National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru reported Giuliani’s response: “The mayor said that he would want to use this authority infrequently.”
I suppose that's better than using it frequently. I mean, I smoke cigarettes infrequently. Infrequently, I will drink so much vodka that I drop my glass on the tile floor and puke in the sink. On the other hand, Ted Bundy infrequently picked up young girls, raped them, and deposited their mangled bodies in roadside ditches. You know, just once every few weeks.

If you're curious about life as a U.S. citizen under President Rudy Giuliani, let me paint you a paint you a picture: imagine a boot stomping on a human face, forever.

Friday, December 21, 2007

... same as the old boss.

Scott Harper (who at one time was a partner in the same law firm as good ol' Mike Mukasey):
So let’s get this right. The Department of Justice has no available resources to deal with contractor crimes. It doesn’t even have a warm body to send before a Congressional probe of the matter to state its position. But it is deploying all its available assets to justify criminal conduct, to secure immunity for persons who unapologetically broke the law based on the criminal solicitations of government officers, to cover up official criminality related to the torture and abuse of persons under detention, and to obstruct Congressional investigations into other potentially criminal acts in which it was involved. A person observing this from some detached point in space might well conclude that the function of the Department of Justice under President Bush is not to enforce the law. It is to commit and promote criminal conduct. At this point, it’s clear that breaking the law is the Justice Department’s number one, two and three priority. And law enforcement? That’s disappeared from the scene.
Worth reading the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Apogee


Football watching in my household has reached its highest point. I don't mean the games or the teams (that would be the 2006 Rose Bowl, of course), I mean the watching itself.

Sure, when you combine a big plasma teevee with a high definition NFL game streamed via Verizon FIOS Digital Broadband Super-Deluxe IPHDTVNET, you've got a great football watching experience. But add a DVR and adept use of the remote control, and you can refine the thing to an essence of pure teevee football gold.

Here's what you do:

1. Set the game to record.

2. Go do some other stuff, get a bite to eat, head to home depot, surf some political commentary (or porn, whatever), just kill time in whatever way suits you.

3. About an hour and a half after kickoff, sit down on the couch and hit play.

4. Fast forward through 10 minutes worth of useless intro commentary (or, in the case of a Sunday night NBC game or a Monday night ESPN game, 20 minutes worth of useless intro commentary, plus a stupid montage, plus a crappy cover of a crappy pop song, reworked with crappy self referential football-teevee-watching lyrics, performed by a crappy washed up pseudo-celeb).

5. Watch the opening kickoff, with index finger smartly placed on the "30 second skip" button.

6. Immediately after the runback of the kickoff, and each play thereafter throughout the game, press down on the "30 second skip" button and you will instantly be transported through a lot of extraneous crap, and the next thing you will see is the offense trotting up to the line of scrimmage to run the next play.

You can watch an entire NFL game in about 45 minutes using this method. Of course, games you are really interested in, you won't want to hit the skip button after every play. Sometimes the announcers have some decent commentary, and you'll want to watch the slow motion replays of the exciting plays. Also, if the game is nearing the end of a half, the team on offense may go into hurry up, in which case you can either judiciously use the skip button only after plays that stop the clock (out of bounds plays, incomplete passes, time outs, penalties, etc), or you can first hit the 10 second replay button and then immediately hit the 30 second skip button, which usually works out exactly right during a hurry up offense.

Missing all the commercials is great. Even better is missing all the dead time on the field during replay challenges, injuries, referee conferences, extra point tries, and -- the best thing of all to miss -- the times when the announcers throw it down to the old, used up, man-voiced sideline chick for some balky, ill-informed, often uncomfortable non-commentary.

But also you get to skip one of the things that infuriates to no end a person with an HD television watching a high definition NFL stream via their Verizon FIOS Digital Broadband Super-Deluxe IPHDTVNET: the halftime highlights which, though they are being transmitted in ultra-clear, 16x9 high definition to a state-of-the-art television monitor, are, for some idiotic reason, intentionally being pixilated, over-saturated, blurred, and/or overlaid with some obnoxious dot pattern so that they look worse than if you were watching them on a 13 inch black and white with rabbit ears. WHY? The first several times I witnessed this phenomenon this season, I thought my head would asplode. My inarticulate screams startled the neighbors.

But now I just skip past the entire halftime show, sometimes mouthing a near-inaudible "Fuck you Chris Berman, and your crappy over-saturated pixilated blurry highlights." And back to the second half of the game, all 20 minutes of it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weirdness

Google News is great, but since it is run entirely by software and has no human editors, you sometimes see things like this. Which just don't make a lot of sense, seemingly.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Free Mike Vick

Ok, not exactly. But I've had it up to here with hearing people get all high and mighty about the evil phenomenon that is Michael Vick. He's not a real person anymore, he's a cause to latch onto and condemn.

Mike Vick did something socially unacceptable. It is also legally unacceptable, apparently. When I first heard Michael Vick was running a dog-fighting operation, I thought, oh hell, this guy is going to become a pariah. I wasn't even sure there were real laws against dog-fighting. I mean, of course there are laws prohibiting just about every damn thing, but I had no idea that it was a serious felony punishable by life in prison. (yeah sure, each instance is only punishable by a few years, but if you're involved in dog-fighting, then every time you commit each single act, that's another few years, and they can all be imposed consecutively, thus life for a handful of offenses.)

And it's not just state laws. It's federal and state, and you can be charged under both for the same offense, apparently. (thus, if you ever do get out of federal prison, you then go to state prison to serve out the rest of your life.)

And did you know... Michael Vick not only did the dog-fighting thing, he also tested positive for marijuana! And, get this, he tried to take a fake water bottle through airport security! Lock this fucking guy up forever and throw away the goddamn key.

In this civilized world of ours, we kill all kinds of animals for all kinds of reasons. But we've decided, in our civilized way, that Michael Vick's life is less important than the lives of a few dogs. Sure, the things he did can be considered barbaric. Some of the things he (or his cohorts) did are things you wouldn't want your kids to see, and stuff you don't like to visualize or think about in detail.

But surely we can enforce our distaste for these actions in a more reasonable way than completely ruining the man's life. What we have done is lock him in a cage (for the greater part of his life, probably, once he serves time on all the federal and state charges), take away his livelihood, shame his family, impoverish his children, subject him to jailhouse rapes and beatings, and brand him a worthless criminal non-person.

I don't condone what Mike Vick did. I like dogs. I wouldn't want to see two dogs attacking and killing one another. I don't like to think about them being electrocuted or beaten to death. That kind of thing deserves some sort of societal penalty. But I'm goddamned sick and tired of hearing newspaper writers and radio hosts and teevee personalities talk about Mike Vick as if he were Satan on Earth. The schadenfreude is appalling. And believe it or not, a lot of it has that "well that dope-smoking uppity negro finally got what he deserved" kind of flavor. Fuck You! How many veal cutlets did you wolf down today, fatty? That sure is a nice pair of lambskin gloves. Thank goodness they melted the faces off of hundreds of guinea pigs before they developed a cucumber-melon facial mask that won't melt your face off!

Please. Shove your absurd moralizing up your goddamn ass.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Simulated freedom.

ABC News is on the case: "Waterboarding is a harsh interrogation technique that involves strapping down a prisoner, covering his mouth with plastic or cloth and pouring water over his face. The prisoner quickly begins to inhale water, causing the sensation of drowning."

Hey, ABC News, when you "quickly begin[ ] to inhale water", you are drowning, not having a "sensation of drowning". It's only if and when you stop inhaling water that you cease to be drowning.

If you copy a paragraph from another writer's story, and then later "source" the paragraph by admitting that you copied it from that writer, does that writer then only have a "sensation" of having been plagiarized?

... adding, I assume by "pouring water over his face" they mean "pouring water down his throat." This is the kind of phraseology that outs the phraser as a tool. And in this case, a tool of torturing, sadistic madmen. A kind of tool that should, by all rights, be subjected to the same kind of treatment, and then made to write about his "sensations".

Dear Leader speaks

Our Preznit has commented on the latest torture story. ABC News faithfully transcribed the Preznit's comments:
As to the CIA videotapes, President Bush said he didn't know about the tapes or their destruction until last week. "My first recollection of whether the tapes existed or whether they were destroyed was when Michael Hayden briefed me," Bush said in an interview Tuesday with ABC News. "There's a preliminary inquiry going on and I think you'll find that a lot more data, facts will be coming out," the president said. "That's good. It will be interesting to know what the true facts are."
Let's break this down a bit further. The phrase "My first recollection..." is an obvious trick. There are many other ways Preznit could have said "that was the first time I've ever been told about this." His phrasing clearly suggests that he has been told about it before, and that the person that told him about it may, possibly, come forward in the future and state this as a fact. But the Preznit will then be able to say "Well, it is possible I was told about this, but it was in a context where there were more important things being discussed, and I'm an important person, and I get told a lot of stuff and I hear about important things all the time, and I can't be bothered to remember ever single thing I ever hear. Etc.". This is known in the torture business as "plausible deniability".

"A lot more data, a lot more facts will be coming out." This should be taken as meaning two separate things: (1) we have people that are going to come forward with some "facts", (i.e., lies, and a bunch of red herring type bullshit) which will make you, dear citizen, think about this whole situation in a different way, at least if you are a person who buys into that sort of horseshit, and (2) a lot more "facts" will be coming out that make me look like a sadistic tyrant, who ordered people to be tortured, and then ordered more people to cover up the torture, but these kinds of "facts" can easily be explained away if you'll just pay more attention to the other "facts" I've alluded to in part (1).

"It will be interesting to know what the true facts are." For those of you playing along at home, this means: "This has kind of taken us by surprise, because we thought when we destroyed the evidence, that would be the end of the trail here, but now that this stuff has come out, well, we have this whole story we're making up to explain it, but we're not quite finished, we don't have the entire mess of bullshit worked out just yet, but when we do, you can rest assured that we'll "leak" it to the right people, and it will get its day in court, and though I'm not entirely sure exactly what the ending is yet, I think it will be just plausible enough to convince people not to impeach me or drive my approval ratings significantly below the atrocious level they are already at. In other words, it will convince me, as a religious zealot meathead, that I'm doing all of this for the good of mankind, at the direction of Providence, and all of the like-minded fools out there will likewise be convinced, as well as the complicit meathead lying sacks of shit sadists in the "opposition" party who have been with me all along on this kind of stuff, and therefore enough people, and the right people, will support me on this, or a least keep their mouths shut, in order to enable me to continue right along, doing the Lord's work, and keeping America safe. From those scary evil brown people."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

You knew this was coming, right?

An astute reader of this blog may have caught onto a shift in the rhetoric here. When I started this blog a little more than a year ago, I frequently harangued against the lawless and corrupt Bush administration's policies. While this is obviously still the case (what sane person could do otherwise?), more recently I've shifted to criticizing "our government" for the various outrages being perpetrated rather than singling out Bush and his henchmen.

Why? Because the publicly available evidence increasingly shows that our country's "opposition party" is equally to blame.

Pretty words are great. I enjoy them. I do, however, enjoy them somewhat less when they are used to perpetrate a fraud on the audience.

Throughout the course of human history, dictators, tyrants, criminals, and other evildoers have stood before their constituencies and uttered pretty words while they and their ilk were acting -- just out of public view -- in the most heinous and destructive fashion. This is axiomatic.

But we don't expect that here, do we? Not, anyway, from our precious protectors of freedom and goodness, those ostensibly opposed to the malevolent Bushies. Our president has been unwavering in stating publicly that "America doesn't torture." All the while, torturing. Our opposition party steadfastly proclaims that it "will not stand for torture." All the while, knowing about the ongoing torture, failing to object, allowing it, making it possible (i.e., standing for it).

Forgive me if I fail to see any meaningful distinction here.

The plain fact of the matter is that our government tortures those people it deems to be our enemies. Our leaders know this, and support it. All of them.

Should this be so? Is it right? Is it a good idea? I, for one, can't say with 100% certainty. My conscience tells me No. But my conscience has been wrong before. But what I can say with certainty is that it is inarguably wrong and bad for a country's government to lie to its citizens about a matter of such importance.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Keep our Torturers Safe

I realize that most people don't care whether our government tortures people, unless the people being tortured happen to be within your monkeysphere.

But if you happen to be one of those who do care, then this story might interest you. Therein you will find detailed how the CIA videotaped its agents torturing "al qaeda operatives" it had "detained", and how when it started to look like, hey, someone might eventually see this and, you know, like register some kind of objection to it, they then dropped it down the memory hole.

In a letter to CIA employees, CIA Director Michael Hayden (aka "Minister of Love") stated that the tapes were destroyed, not to avoid any kind of legal repercussions or negative publicity, but "to protect the safety of undercover officers".

Forgive me. This is transparent bullshit, and insults the intelligence of all primates, much less those who: (a) can read, and (b) have knowledge of our government's scrupulous past practices with regard to protecting the identities of its covert agents.

But allow me to state for the record why this is an utter absurdity:

(1) Obviously these tapes could have been modified so as to hide the identity of the agents (i.e., the torturers) involved while still preserving other relevant information;

(2) Obviously the CIA has procedures well designed to keep secret documents secret;

(3) Obviously the CIA is not in the practice of destroying all documents in its possession which, if leaked, would divulge the identity of its agents;

(4) Somewhat less obviously (and I know it is considered heresy to question this), but is it really credible to simply assume that "al qaeda operatives" have sufficient counter-intel capabilities to get ahold of these tapes, identify the agents, find them, and carry out an act of revenge against them? Are you fucking serious?; and

(5) As has been vociferously asserted over and over again by the Preznit himself and all of his minions, "al qaeda operatives" want to kill us all, every single one of us, and they will do so if at all possible. This being unquestionably true (after all, the President said it!), why then if all Americans are targets, would we think these particular people (i.e., the torturers) would be singled out for some kind of special, targeted extra-bad-death-jihad? Simply incredible.

These tapes were destroyed to cover up criminality on the part of our government. Nothing more, nothing less. Our government kidnaps people, who may or may not have done anything wrong, locks them in a dungeon, tortures them, and then destroys any evidence of its wrongdoing. We are safer because of this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sociopath

Ok, I admit maybe I have some kind of sick fascination with this story. It is just so surreal.

[And also, maybe I'm just the kind of person that is intrigued by superlatives. Things that pique my interest are often the extremes one finds in this world. Notice my post down below on the Patriots (best football team ever (maybe)). My possibly unhealthy degree of interest in the doings of Judge Gonzales (worst Attorney General in history) and his boss, Preznit George W. Bush (most awful democratically elected world leader in my lifetime). Etc.]

And now we have the most despicable human being. Or at least a strong candidate.

Witness one Lori Drew, who did the following:

1. In response to her daughter Sarah, age 13, getting into a juvenile tiff with her BFF Megan (also age 13) from down the street, Lori (age 48) created a fake myspace identity which purported to be a "good-looking" male (age 15) named "Josh".

2. Lori then went online as "Josh" and befriended Megan, later forming a romantic online relationship with her, all ostensibly for the purpose of "monitoring" what Megan (the friend) was saying about Sarah (the daughter).

3. As the tiff between Megan and Sarah escalated in real life (or "meatspace" as the myspace crowd apparently calls it), Lori used her alter ego Josh to draw Sarah closer, and then, deciding that Sarah needed "a taste of her own medicine", savagely broke off the relationship, telling Sarah that "the world would be better off without you", in response to which Sarah, a person known to be suffering from clinical depression, promptly went upstairs to her bedroom and hung herself.

4. The End.

5. Or not. When, after Lori's machinations in this sordid drama came to light (as these things will do), the close-knit community understandably turned against Lori. The authorities got involved. Investigations were pursued. Newspaper articles were written. This, after Lori had, in the intervening several months, pretended concern and grief toward Megan's family over their daughter's suicide, going to great lengths to hide her role in same.

6. But and so then in response to the tight-knit community turning against her, Lori then determined that the best course of action would be... wait for it... to create yet another teenage online identity (Kirsten, exact age undetermined), who was ostensibly a schoolmate of Sarah and Megan, and who was in possession of certain heretofore unknown "facts" about the situation that she was constrained to "report" to the world via her blog entitled... wait for it... "Megan Had It Coming."

7. Though the provenance of the blog in question is somewhat in doubt (see the second update to my post below), it appears to my somewhat trained internet discernment skills, to actually have been published by the actual Lori Drew.

8. In addition to the, shall we say, provocative title, the blog contains many interesting nuggets. In the first of three posts to the blog (which is peppered with pseudo-teen slang such as "whatev" and "pwnd") , "Kirsten" makes the following claims:

(a) she was "friends" with Megan,
(b) Megan was not "this innocent girl" that everyone made her out to be,
(c) Megan was a "fat" "psycho" "drama queen" who often "freaked out" over nothing,
(d) Megan was also [insert numerous other shallow character assassinations here],
(e) Megan was a total "bitch", who was "soooooo shallow" and "talked shit" about everyone, to the point where she "had it coming with all the shit she did", and
(f) "I don't think Lori Drew is so evil as everyone says."

9. In the second of the three posts, "Kirsten" posts various comments from supporters (probably other sock-puppets), which continue the character assassination of the dead 13 year old in the most explicitly vile and abusive terms, annotating the comments approvingly with stuff like "OMG INTERNETS! lolololololol" and "Here's another smart guy who has a good grasp on what we're saying. Way to pwn them!" and "Smart girl you rock!".


10. In the third of the three, "Kirsten" informs us: "It's time I dropped the charade. Yes, I made this blog. Yes, I'm Lori Drew." This is followed by a long and detailed recounting of the whole nefarious plot, into which are interspersed meandering, self-serving justifications galore, allegations of media conspiracies, astounding vilifications of Megan, ludicrous pretensions to her own victimhood, and angry diatribes against Megan's parents and the people who "defamed" Lori by divulging her role to Megan's parents.


11. Lori then, in response to the predictably venomous (and voluminous) commentary, posted dozens of pathetic and insane comments which were, apparently, meant to defend herself against the "irrational" and "unbalanced" mob who were, at that very moment, posting hundreds upon hundreds of comments describing in explicit and disturbing detail the various ways in which they hoped her life would end (or be prolonged, on a basis so gruesome and disgusting that sweet death would become her fondest, most heartfelt desire). (note: it is truly shocking the depths to which pure, uncensored hatred can drive the human imagination.) (further note: I am not an easily shocked person, but sheeeeyaat. some of the things I read in that comment thread are gonna haunt me.)

Smoking Gun coverage is here.

The blog purportedly* published by Lori Drew is here. (don't count on it being there much longer though.)

*as I noted below, if Lori Drew didn't write this blog, then she is merely a terribly misguided, supremely self-centered person, a bad parent, and someone who desperately needs to rethink her life. If, on the other hand, she did write this blog, then I think her commenters -- even the most shocking and outrageous of them -- may indeed be right on the money.

Just when you think you've seen everything...


In my 30+ years on this earth, this blog is quite possibly the most outrageous thing I've ever seen.

I won't go into detail about my fantasy resolution to this matter, but suffice to say it does not end well for Ms. Drew. There is almost nothing too horrible that could happen to this woman that I wouldn't cheer for.

via Liberal Lean. (read my comment to see a brief outline of my further thoughts.) (Update: Barry apparently "moderated" my comment out of existence. oh well.)

UPDATE: I just can't stop watching the train wreck. There are 1200 comments to the latest post, and 97% of them are seething hatred against this despicable person. But the train wreck part is that the other 3% are from her posting under the name "meganhaditcoming" attempting to justify herself against the virulent (and supremely well-deserved) wave of utter loathing.

UPDATE II: Some commenters in the thread claim that the blog is a hoax. I suppose it could be, but if so it is an extremely sophisticated hoax -- and still an engrossing train wreck.

But I guess I should be clear: if this blog is a hoax, then this woman does not deserve the level of scorn being heaped on her. I mean, causing the girl's suicide in the first place was bad; what she did was immature and incredibly irresponsible, and shows very bad judgment. But you could chalk it up to a lapse, a mistake, and if she sincerely apologized and sought to make up for it then she might deserve the benefit of the doubt. But if she is actually responsible for this blog, then all bets are off and she most certainly deserves all the vileness and villainy found in those comments (and some of them, all I can say is wow. Just, wow).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

And lucky me...

Through the good graces of Verizon FIOS Digital Broadband Super-Deluxe IPHDTVNET, I am one of the privileged 35% who actually will be receiving tonight's Cowboys game. In HD, no less.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This is the NFL


The majority of U.S. households will not have the ability to view tonight's showdown of the NFC's two 10-1 teams, the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. Nor will such households have the ability to watch eight more prime time Thursday and Saturday NFL games through the remainder of the season. This is because these games will be shown on the NFL Network, the NFL's own proprietary all-football, all-the-time channel.

It is hard to overstate the prowess of the National Football League as a business entity. As I have mentioned previously in this space, the NFL gets what it wants. Almost without exception.

The one exception of which I am aware is the failure of Time Warner, Comcast, and other major cable systems to carry the NFL Network. The dispute among these entertainment industry heavyweights is entirely financial in nature. The NFL requires cable systems (including satellite and IPTV providers) to pay $.70 per month per subscriber for the privilege of carrying the channel.

Additionally, the NFL requires that cable systems carry the NFL Network on its basic (or digital basic) tier, as opposed to offering it as part of a premium package of sports channels where they can more easily pass the cost on to subscribers. And of course, these would be targeted subscribers (i.e., sports fans only instead of all cable subscribers) constituting a much smaller group, thus a smaller multiplier in the formula of: [number of subscribers] x 12 months x $.70 = annual revenue to NFL.

But the NFL's real endgame is much deeper.

First, through these machinations the NFL's intention is to create an extremely valuable asset. A television network with good carriage (i.e., wide cable and satellite distribution on basic tiers) is worth a lot of money. Billions, in fact. For example, the channel formerly known as "Fox Family", a very crappy channel with very good carriage, was purchased by Disney in 2001 for $3.2 billion dollars. (As it turns out, this purchase was a catastrophically bad decision by Michael Eisner -- for reasons that are too complicated to go into here (read the excellent James B. Stewart book Disney War for the details) -- but the deal still illustrates the market values of these types of assets.)

The fact is that if the NFL Network achieves a high level of carriage, then this, combined with an unparalleled brand name and content with a very high level of demand, could potentially be worth many many billions of dollars.

But furthermore, the NFL Network is potentially a near-perfect vehicle for the NFL to monetize its entertainment product. The NFL currently receives more than $3.7 billion per year from NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN for broadcast rights. If you assume that these networks are paying these vast sums only because they are using the rights to make substantial profits (a safe assumption), then once the NFL builds its own network platform (i.e., network carriage), it can broadcast a large portion of these games itself, thereby allocating to itself profits that formerly went to the other networks (otherwise known as cutting out the middle man, or in corporate-speak, "vertical integration").

But here's the beauty part: hese revenues (subscriber fees, broadcasting profits (from ad sales), or the asset value of the network (which could be sold outright for billions, or spun off and sold to the public in an IPO)) would not be considered part of the revenues which are split with the players' union as part of the collective bargaining agreement.

This bears repeating (and, as far as I can tell, is somewhat of a scoop for HipHopLawyer's little blog). Labor costs are -- by a huge margin -- the NFL's biggest operating expense. The players, as is well documented, are very highly paid (and compared to other sports, there are lots more of them). And player salaries in the NFL are determined by an NFL labor innovation known as the "salary cap". The salary cap can be understood as a revenue sharing arrangement in that it is calculated as a negotiated (collectively bargained) percentage of a league revenues. But not all league revenues (therein, the beauty). Only certain categories of league revenues are used in determining the amount to be paid out to NFL players as salaries, the largest category being licensing fees paid to the NFL by third party broadcasters for the right to broadcast NFL games.

Notice that this category does not include advertising revenue. Nor subscriber fees. Nor amounts earned through the sale of an asset like a phenomenally valuable television network, built on the value of its content (that is, its entertainment product (i.e., football games, played by NFL players)).

Of course, when games are shown on the NFL Network rather than on third party networks, the NFLPA would demand to be compensated for its share of the revenue which the NFL is foregoing by its election not to sell the rights to these games to third parties. But, as shown above, this is only a small fraction of the NFL Network's revenue and overall value to the league, the great bulk of which need not be shared with the players under the current labor agreement.

These kinds of things are largely within my professional area of expertise (as far as that goes, anyway) and part of the business I'm in (and plus it concerns football), so I could continue on in this vein for pages and pages. But that's enough for one sitting.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stupid Pundit Tricks

Glenn Greenwald has caught Joe Klein red-handed peddling pro- Police State bullshit in the pages of Time Magazine. Klein stated as fact that the new FISA bill being considered by the House would bestow the same rights upon foreign terrorists as are enjoyed by U.S. citizens.

As Greenwald easily and conclusively proved, this is an outright falsehood. Klein responded, sequentially, in posts on Time's website, by claiming (in Greenwald's words) "that his false assertions were: (a) true, (b) disputable, (c) too complex and time-consuming to figure out, and (d) just a minor, irrelevant detail."

With regard to (c), Klein stated that he has "neither the time nor the legal background to figure out who's right."

So here we have Joe Klein, establishment media darling (last seen falsely claiming he did not pen the Clinton campaign tell-all Primary Colors), opining in the pages of a mega-large circulation news magazine about subjects that he admittedly does not have the expertise or basic competence to understand. And oh-by-the-way, his original screed just happened to support the position benefiting his unnamed "intelligence sources" in the Bush Administration.

When stuff like this happens, you see bloggers excoriating asshats like Joe Klein by, among other things, referencing the "paymasters" who direct them (the asshats) to propagandize on their behalf. The problem with this kind of commentary (not that of the asshats, but that of the bloggers) is that it sounds very shrill to the ordinary average person, who is therefore inclined to view the outcry as nothing more than nuts promoting conspiracy theories.

But the thing is, terms like "paymasters" are (or should be used as) shorthand for more complex structures. For example. An asshat like Joe Klein is nothing without his (so-called) intelligence sources and "highly placed insider(s)", and "senior officials". Without such contacts, Joe Klein is, well, someone like me. Sitting in his home office, just in from a day's work doing something more or less commonplace to pay the bills, spouting opinions that few will read, having a level of influence approaching zero.

The Joe Kleins of the world have no special writing talent, no extraordinary insights. They have connections. They know people. They get phone calls and emails and invitations to parties, where they are whispered to in between glad-handing and pointless small-talk. Without this, Time Magazine barely bothers to send them rejection faxes. Certainly the mighty Time Warner Media empire will not issue them large paychecks, fly them first class, and put them up in swanky hotels. It will route their phone calls into voicemail and erase their messages without listening.

And then if Joe Klein fails to print what is whispered to him by his sources and contacts and connections, or, horror of horrors, does a bit of fact-checking and writes something that might contradict the whispers, then the emails and the phone calls and the whispers slow to a trickle. As do the party invitations.

And when the emails and the phone calls and the whispers and the party invitations slow down, so do the book advances and the payroll deposits and the first class tickets and the swanky hotels. And, before you know it, Joe Klein needs to find a real job.

And start a blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wherein I link some stuff I've randomly bookmarked and forgotten about

I used to have a short, well-organized list of bookmarks. Now it is messy and near-useless. Here is some stuff I found, some of interest, some definitely not:

1. An engine that generates custom tombstone images, for example: "R.I.P. American Rule of Law 1776 - 2001". Helpful for blogging, potentially.

2. Bruce Fein's "American Freedom Agenda". Started with a lot of promise, doesn't seem to have achieved much (or anything).

3. A thing on CNet.com that tests the bandwidth of your internet connection. At one point, back when my ISP was Charter, I was having some bandwidth issues. Though I grew to hate Charter, I have to admit that when they weren't having technical problems, their broadband was blazing fast.

4. An Onion wannabe site called "Opinions You Should Have". Not updated much, but some of his articles are clever and funny.

5. A site with user-generated info on speed traps all over the country, arranged by municipality. This was actually very helpful when I moved. I researched my town and all the towns I drove through on my new commute.

6. This one is a service where, for a reasonable fee, they stop most of your junk mail. I get a ridiculous amount of junk mail. Extremely wasteful. One of my buddies has a more devious method of addressing junk mail (he wads it up and stuffs it into the reply envelopes and mails it back to them, thereby costing them money and gaining satisfaction at their resulting inconvenience). Me, I bought an industrial strength shredder. I've been meaning to sign up for this service, but I haven't yet found the time (though I suppose I could be doing it right now rather than blogging about it).

7. Here's one you really ought to click through. It is an unexplainable time waste. (on second thought, nevermind, the sound doesn't seem to be working and I don't think it is nearly as funny without it.)

8. This is something I bookmarked because some blogger or other nominated it as the "best blog post ever". That's probably a praise too high, but it is very funny. For the really funny part you have to click through to "Update I" and Update II" (but not the first "Update") links.

9. A transcript of George Washington's farewell address, wherein our first president warns us against practically every single thing our 43rd president has done.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Incredulity" doesn't cover it

"Several outside analysts and a key Democratic lawmaker expressed incredulity over Bush's comments..."

Those comments: Bush More Emphatic In Backing Musharraf
President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general "hasn't crossed the line" and "truly is somebody who believes in democracy."

Bush spoke nearly three weeks after Musharraf declared emergency rule, sacked members of the Supreme Court and began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists.

Bush was asked in the interview if there is any line Musharraf should not cross. "He hasn't crossed the line. As a matter of fact, I don't think that he will cross any lines," Bush replied, according to an ABC transcript. ". . . We didn't necessarily agree with his decision to impose emergency rule, and . . . hopefully he'll get . . . rid of the rule.

"He's also advanced democracy in Pakistan," Bush said. "He has said he's going to take off his uniform. He's said there will be elections... and so far I've found him to be a man of his word."
At this point, I can believe that Musharraf is "a man of his word" a lot more than I can believe the same about our president, Mr. George W. Bush. The man has lost even the smallest shred of credibility.

How is it even possible, even for a man well-practiced in the arts of dissembling, to make such statements with a straight face?

Musharraf is a man who "truly" "believes in democracy" and has "advanced democracy in Pakistan." Yes. As a true believer in democracy, this person deposed a democratically elected leader in a military coup, and just recently "began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists", brutally beating them bloody and senseless in the public streets. These facts are undisputed. And we are now told that this is the way he goes about "advancing democracy".

Our president believes these actions haven't "crossed the line". Which line is that, Mr. Bush? The line established by famous democracy advancing regimes of the past, such as those of Mussolini, Stalin, and Pol Pot? If that is the line to which you are referring, Mr. Bush, I suppose we would have to admit that you are correct. And then we would also be obligated to add, that if this constitutes your standard for "democracy", then you, sir, are a deranged, odious, and thoroughly ill specimen of humanity, unfit to hold any elected office in our nation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lie down with dogs

...and most surely you will be fleabitten.

As Atrios says, Scott McClellan is "A Big Giant Tool of Corrupt Assholes."

He's writing what is being billed as a tattletale book, scheduled to be on shelves April '08. The blurb is interesting, I guess, because he appears to be complaining that the WH made him go out in front of America and tell lies.

(Hey, Scott? You're the Minister of Information for the George Bush White House. What on Shatner's green earth did you expect? Get a goddamn clue, then go fuck yourself.)

If he's pissed off enough, I guess he could probably say a lot of very damaging things.

But he won't.

Remember the former Bush WH staffer who called the WH a bunch of "Mayberry Machiavellis"? Remember how he went on and on in many separate interviews with Ron Suskind about how political considerations always trumped policy considerations in the Bush WH, and then went on to write Suskind a 2,700 word memo on the subject of how every single domestic policy initiative in the Bush WH originated with Karl Rove's staff and how said staff's "policy-making" consisted wholly of sitting around and spitballing political slogans and then sketching out "policies" that could be sold to the public through the use of those slogans? The money quote:
Mayberry Machiavellis--staff, senior and junior--who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible.
And, remember how, when Suskind's Esquire article came out, how that former WH staffer, John Dilulio, within mere hours, had issued the following statement: "My criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. I sincerely apologize and I am deeply remorseful."? Remember that?

The guy, a previously well-respected academic heavyweight, with a reputation for being one of the country's foremost intellectual thinkers on domestic policy issues, writes a 2,700 word memo which includes "poorly chosen words and examples"?

So yeah. I imagine that when April '08 rolls around, Scott McClellan will be firmly back in the GWBushCo fold, pimping up GW's legacy, his thumbs only showing just the slightest remaining evidence of impaction, and with a newly developed case of hydrophobia.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Juggernaut

The New England Patriots are good. They are on pace to break the NFL record for most points in a season. By around 100 points (approaching 20%).

Their quarterback is on pace to break the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a season. By around 10 touchdowns (also approaching 20%).

Randy Moss is on pace to catch 25 touchdown passes for the year, which would break Jerry Rice's all time record of 22.

The Patriots are undefeated after ten games, and their remaining 6 games include only two in which the opposing team has even the slightest chance of stopping the juggernaut (Pittsburgh and New York, both at 7-3).

Last night the Patriots scored touchdowns on their first 7 possessions. They did not punt or otherwise fail to score a touchdown until 3:56 of the fourth quarter with their backup quarterback in the game. Moss caught 4 touchdown passes in the first half.

This team is unstoppable. This year the rest of the NFL is merely a sideshow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

[original title redacted]

To follow up on the point made in the post below: Abortion as an issue to be debated and discussed ad infinitum among candidates for public office is largely a load of bullshit.

Abortion itself is, clearly, a thing of importance to many people. Specifically, women who have become pregnant without intending to, and who very much do not wish to give birth for whatever reason. To a lesser extent, it is a thing of importance to identifiable male persons who have impregnated those women.

But a campaign issue? No. Here's why:

1. The U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, grants, with certain limited exceptions, the right of a woman to abort a pregnancy. Here follows a list of elected offices which have the power to change this:

[...]

[sound of crickets chirping]

2. Only the Supreme Court (a body of unelected persons) might change this. To do so, they would need to reverse a well-established precedent (something even very "activist" members of the judiciary are loathe to do).

3. While it is true that Presidents nominate persons for service on the Supreme Court, history has shown us that Presidents do not (and cannot, in realistic terms) nominate persons to the Supreme Court with a view to changing one specific part of the Constitution.

4. Even if you believe it is important to have a President who will do everything within his or her power to nominate persons who will either change or uphold this one specific part of the Constitution, then you, whichever side of this "issue" you are on, should read the post below very carefully and rank the abortion "issue" and the issue discussed below according to their actual relative importance. And if you need a further hint in this respect, here's one: if the President can arrest a citizen, without a warrant, and hold that citizen indefinitely, in secret, without charge and without access to the courts or to legal counsel, then the president can most certainly abrogate your right to abort a pregnancy (or, for all of you very young and tiny little children out there, with souls, abrogate your right not to be aborted. As the case may be.), along with any other rights you may have or think you have.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Litmus Test

HipHopLawyer (being, among other things, a lawyer) is a big supporter and understander of nuance. I've been known to use this space to damn simplistic positions because they lack the nuance required of a particular situation.

For example, when someone speaks of whether we are "winning" in Iraq, I've been known to point out that "winning" is a meaningless concept in a war in connection with which there is not any coherent objective, no identifiable enemy, etc. And then of course, these people are here held up to ridicule as either being too stupid (i.e., incapable of understanding the nuance) or cynical liars (capable of understanding it, but choosing to ignore it for purposes of partisan hackery as a means of convincing stupid people to support their positions).

That all being said, there are some matters which really are very simple, with respect to which all nuanced considerations may easily be discarded. These are basic, fundamental, non-complicated issues. For example, the practice wherein a government arrests a citizen, without a warrant, and holds that citizen indefinitely, in secret, without charge and without access to the courts or to legal counsel.

Which brings us to the upcoming presidential election. A lot has been said, and a lot more will be said, about the candidates and their positions on various issues. It is my firm belief that almost all of this is a worthless crock of shit. I refuse to pay it anything other than the most cursory kind of attention.

Because no one is asking about or talking about the things I consider most important. There's a lot of talk about health care, taxes, Iraq, Iran, immigration, and, of course, the Most Important Issue Evah: Abortion.

Any one of these things probably is "important" in that it affects the lives of ordinary Americans in a significant way. Fine. But what can (or will) a president do about any of them? For a variety of reasons, it is very rare that the policies supported by a candidate ever become the policies actually implemented by that candidate-as-president.

On the other hand, certain positions on certain issues can give great insight into how a candidate would govern, and react to unpredicted situations.

For this reason, I propose that we may narrow the field of candidates considerably by automatically and immediately eliminating any candidate who cannot answer "No" to the following question:
Do you believe it would ever be justified, under any circumstances, to arrest a citizen, without a warrant, and hold that citizen indefinitely, in secret, without charge and without access to the courts or to legal counsel?
Any answer other than "no" or "absolutely not" results in immediate disqualification. Answers that begin with "well, in most circumstances..." or "I think that normally..." or "I would need to..." result in immediate disqualification.

I think that there are probably three candidates who would answer this question properly. Unfortunately, none of them has more than the smallest, most unlikely chance to be elected.

Because we, the electorate, are more concerned with their views on government health care. Or how many more years we'll keep troops in Iraq. Or, of course, abortion.

Meet the new boss

... same as the old boss.

Democrats didn't stop Bush's latest authoritarian-loving AG from being confirmed, though they could've. (They had more than enough votes in the Senate to uphold a filibuster.)

As you may recall, AG Mukasey refuses to say whether controlled drowning of political prisoners is "torture", or indeed whether "torture" is something the Preznit is legally allowed to authorize, or indeed whether the Preznit is legally restrained in any manner whatsoever.

But here, in these the Aughts, such opinions are apparently not all that important when considering who should hold the post of the nation's chief "law enforcement" officer.

Glenn Greenwald hits the nail on the head:

The most amazing quote was from chief Mukasey supporter Chuck Schumer, who, before voting for him, said that Mukasey is "wrong on torture -- dead wrong." Marvel at that phrase: "wrong on torture." Six years ago, there wasn't even any such thing as being "wrong on torture," because "torture" wasn't something we debated. It would have been incoherent to have heard: "Well, he's dead wrong on torture, but . . . "

Now, "torture" is not only something we openly debate, but it's something we do. And the fact that someone is on the wrong side of the "torture debate" doesn't prevent them from becoming the Attorney General of the United States. It's just one issue, like any other issue -- the capital gains tax, employer mandates for health care, the water bill -- and just because someone is "dead wrong" on one little issue (torture) hardly disqualifies them from High Beltway Office.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to argue that the Democratic Party as a whole (with some individual exceptions here and there) is not just as bad as the Republican Party on the most important issues facing this country today. Indeed, from an ethical standpoint, you could (and I do) argue that they are, in fact, worse, because, unlike Republicans, they pretend to disagree with these abhorrent policies while continuously supporting them with their actions.

UPDATE: From the L.A. Times, torture supporter Diane Feinstein:

"Some people, I think, want to keep the issue [of torture] alive... I am not one of those people".

Yes, "some people" do indeed appear to believe that this "issue" should be "kept alive". Not really a very remarkable opinion for "some people" to have. What strikes me as remarkable is that the segment of people holding this opinion isn't 95%+ of the public, and that you, Ms. Feinstein, are not one of them. Shame on you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Arab Investors

I'll get to the stuff having to do with the post title down below. But first, I urge everyone to read this piece in the Washington Post about U.S. Pakistan policy: America's Bad Deal With Musharraf, Going Down in Flames.

I would have thought that with all the things that Bush/Cheney have done, a kind of acceptance would have set in with me. The kind where one hears or reads of the newest outrage, the newest insult to the Constitution or the rule of law, the newest repeal of fundamental liberties, and sort of grimly spits and says "what do you expect from people like these?" Kind of like Ivan Denisovich in the Gulag.

But for some reason, this Pakistan thing is really making me very angry. I'm having a hard time putting my finger on why exactly. Maybe it's just that it is a perfect confluence of the standard Bush/Cheney modus operandi (not necessarily in any particular order): (a) rank incompetence, (b) cronyism, (c) authoritarianism, (d) gotta-be-rightism, and (e) reality denial.

Here are a few of the facts presented by Mr. Rashid in the linked article:

1. Prior to 9/11, the Pakistan regime had been the "main patron" of the Taliban and, by extension, al qaeda.

2. "
Today, despite $10 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan since 2001... the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda's senior leadership has set up another haven inside Pakistan."

3. Musharraf has let "
his intelligence services help the Taliban claw their way back in Afghanistan."

4.
"The Taliban and al-Qaeda are now deeply entrenched in the [Pakistani] tribal border belt adjacent to Afghanistan. These groups gained political legitimacy last year when Musharraf signed a series of dubious peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban. They are now coming down from the mountains to spread their radical ideology in towns and cities by burning down DVD and TV shops, insisting that young men grow beards, forcibly recruiting schoolboys for the jihad and terrifying girls so that they won't attend school. The military has refused to put a brake on their extremism."

5. "
Musharraf promised the international community that he would purge pro-Taliban elements from his security services and convinced the Bush administration that his philosophy of "enlightened moderation" was the only way to fend off Islamic extremism. But Pakistan today is the center of global Islamic terrorism, with Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mohammad Omar probably living here [in Pakistan]."

6.
"[N]obody with serious Pakistan experience is working in the South Asia bureau of the State Department, on State's policy planning staff, [or] on the National Security Council staff." Simply astounding. Incomprehensible.

7. And despite the fact that "Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney's office", he doesn't have any experts on Pakistan either.

8. Who, then, are the people making and implementing Pakistan policy? Well, the new ambassador to Pakistan is "an expert on Latin American 'drugs and thugs'". You know, because that whole Latin American War-On-Drugs is going so well.

9. A "former senior U.S. diplomat" is quoted as saying of the administration South Asia group: "They know nothing of Pakistan".

10. And Cheney? Well, insiders report that the vice president "is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him".

But what could there possibly be to criticize about a military dictator who declares the constitution suspended, black out the media, arrests the supreme court, shuts down parliament, rounds up political opponents, and orders his well-armed security forces to brutally attack lawyers in the streets?

All this, and the guy is not even on our side against the terrorists!


___________________________
And, purely as a side note, because this is all plenty bad enough without attributing any nefarious motives to Bush/Cheney (I mean, even if you assume that they are purely looking out for the nation's best interests, and have no hidden agenda of any kind, it is still appalling, outrageous behavior), and while really I don't want to unnecessarily confuse the issue:

I think it is still worth noting that, according to the article, Musharraf's one and only supporting constituency within Pakistan (other than the army, which he controls, since he is, after all, a military dictator) is "the business community, which has experienced economic stability and rising investment from the Arab world during his regime.".

Investment from the Arab world.

Given all we know about the outrageous behavior noted above (inter alia, blindly supporting (and bankrolling) a brutal military dictator (who is, don't forget, armed with nuclear weapons) while receiving nothing in return and refusing to listen to any competing viewpoints regarding same, and putting people in charge of the said support-the-dictator policy who know nothing whatsoever about the country or the region as a whole), and what we can infer about the kind of person who would engage in such behavior, is it crazy to think that just maybe these "investment[s] from the Arab world" might have come from, say, the House of Saud or the many other friends "from the Arab world" that Dick and George have made (and continuously pandered to) throughout each of their lives and careers? And that it might just be conceivable that these folks might somehow receive some benefit from keeping Musharraf in power?

We prop up dictators


No, this post is not about Congress's ceaseless enabling of the Bush administration.

From Pakistan:
Angry protests by thousands of lawyers in Lahore and other cities on Monday demonstrated the first organized resistance to the emergency rule imposed by the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. But the abrupt arrests of many of them threatened to weaken their challenge.

The Musharraf government’s resolve to silence its fiercest opponents was evident in the strength of the crackdown by baton-wielding police officers who pummeled lawyers and then hauled them by the legs and arms into police wagons in Lahore.

At one point, lawyers and police officers clashed in a pitched battle, with lawyers standing on the roof of the High Court throwing stones at the police below, and the police hurling them back. Some of the lawyers were bleeding from the head, and some passed out in clouds of tear gas.

It was the second time this year that Pakistan’s lawyers emerged as the vanguard of resistance to the government. In the spring, the lawyers mounted big rallies in major cities when General Musharraf tried to dismiss the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who has now been fired.

The American response?
On Monday, President Bush urged General Musharraf to hold elections and give up his army post, though he gave little indication of any real change in American policy, which has bankrolled Pakistan’s military with $10 billion in aid since 2001.
So, we'll say some pretty words about "freedom" and "democracy", and continue to bankroll the jackbooted thugs pummeling lawyers in the streets. That seems about right.

But I guess we can't blame our government for its inaction in these circumstances. I mean, after all, who could have predicted this would happen? Pervez is, after all, our staunch ally in the War on Turrerer. And he's always been a pro democracy guy, he's the elected head of state, etc. Wait, what's that? You say he came to power in a military coup? One of his top deputies funneled money to Mohamed Atta? He's been steadfastly refusing to act against a resurgent Al Qaeda operating from within Pakistan? Oh, sorry, nevermind then.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Lawyers' Rebellion

Interesting take on Pakistan from an anarchist I like to read sometimes.

I think he may be talking about me (well, not me personally, but still) when he says "[Meanwhile, h]ere in the good ol' US of A, the ongoing imposition of martial law under the aegis of the Commander-in-Chief, an imaginery title bestowed on an inadequate man, meets a lot of forcefully-worded editorializing from... concerned lawyers".

Saturday, November 3, 2007

America under Giuliani: A preview

Bush's boy Musharraf imposes martial law "declares state of emergency".
The Pakistani leader... declared a state of emergency tonight... confronting Supreme Court justices who are deliberating on the recent vote to re-elect him.

...blacking out all independent news media...

...the justices were ordered to sign...

...police forces had surrounded the Supreme Court building, with justices still inside.

Cellphone transmissions were blocked...

...police also blocked access to the Parliament and to the homes of Supreme Court justices...

All television stations were blocked...

...a list had been prepared of prominent Pakistani journalists and opposition politicians who would be detained.

...1,000 additional police had been deployed in Islamabad, the capital.
And what was the reason given for all of this?
[G]overnment officials said Friday that emergency rule could be justified because of clashes in the past week between security forces and Islamic militants

Friday, November 2, 2007

Here's a good blog thread

Makes you think, and brings back the good ol' days.

The theme is "things people are or have been curmudgeonly about". You know, "these darn kids and their darn boomboxes..." or "I remember when you judged a band by its music, not by what their stoopid music video looks like".

I added a few of my own:

guns made (mostly) of plastic

airport security

GUI

Copernican solar system

non-black-and-white internet sites

stuff made of plastic

disposability

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

NoTex is the new SoCal

While I continue my firm policy of eschewing the ridiculous practice of extrapolating local, short-term weather phenomena into global, long-term climate trends, the truly bizarre weather here in my corner of the world deserves some comment.

This past summer, there were approximately 3 days during which the high temperature was 100+ degrees. (Very unusual.) This past winter, there were only a small handful of days during which the low temperature was below freezing. (Very unusual). During one stretch during the spring and early summer, it rained approximately 70 days out of 90. (Unheard of.)

And, right now, October 24, I'm looking out my window and the grass and foliage is riotously green. (Unprecedented. Unbelievable. Almost literally impossible.)

Though there have been periods of itinerantcy, I've lived here my whole life. In my experience, every year, without fail, come round about the first week of August (and generally a week or two earlier), everything turns brown, the sole exception being extremely well-irrigated and vigorously-attended personal lawns. Everything else, as brown as the shirt on Rudy Giuliani's back. Dead, ashen, and not to return to green-ness until April.

What does this portend? Likely nothing, other than the unfortunate bringing of more yankee move-ins who may have spent some time traveling here during the past year -- which, granted, will provide some comedic potential when next August rolls around, but which, on balance, is certainly not a positive development.

Dear Mr. Preznit: let me introduce you to something called "Irony"

According to the New York Times, Preznit Bush is set today to announce new strategeries in connection with the impending death of Axis-of-Evil honorable mention member Fidel Castro and the resulting power shift in Cuba.

Among the preznit's bullet points: "demands for free and transparent elections, and the release of political prisoners", along with a return of Cuban political power to "the people".

Much like the administration's recent call for Russia to cease its consolidation of power in a single executive and allow for more policy control to reside in its elected legislative body
("'I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and doubts about the Duma,' said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament. 'In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development,' Rice told reporters"),
this is obviously a case of the pot calling the kettle "a black, concave kitchen implement, capable of holding liquids, with one or more handles, typically used for heating soup, stew or other liquids on a stove-top".

Castro may or may not be an evil dictator, but Dear Leader Bush is certainly, demonstrably, a hypocritical gasbag who needs to remove the beam from his own eye prior to casting stones through the window of his glass house.

Sag this, Biatch


The astute Barry Green has already posted this (actually, he's not that astute, I'm just incredibly slow), but here is a better article on the subject of how the City of Dallas is fighting the dire social issue of youngsters sagging their pants.

Based on the radio coverage of this from yesterday and the Liberal Lean post, I was prepared to call for the public flogging of all the people involved in this embarrassment. However, it appears from today's coverage that no public funds have been expended in this effort.

Clear Channel donated the billboards and some insipidly civic-minded group apparently donated their services in designing the billboards and producing the ad-copy. Based on the slogans, the latter should have been obvious, as no self-respecting professional messaging person could ever conceivably put forward these slogans, which are so stupid as to be unintentional self parody, and are the pinnacle of irony insofar as they are certain to have the exact opposite of their intended result.

I would bet the deed to Chez HHL that not one single person will stop sagging their pants in response to these billboards. Not one.
Dear Local Government, City Councils, Mayors, and School Boards Everywhere,

Please get out of the business of trying to determine people's clothing choices. Short of public nudity, this is not your concern. Please refocus your efforts back on your primary purpose of giving sweetheart contracts out to your brothers-in-law, fellow-church goers, and various other members of your social circle.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

HipHopLawyer

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thoughtcrime:

Back when the preznit was convincing everyone we needed to preemptively invade and occupy Iraq, he threatened us with the specter of a nuclear explosion: "we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Pretty scary. Scary enough to convince enough people to support a near unilateral war against a faraway country that had not attacked us and -- as we later learned -- could not possibly have attacked us.

But we did learn. So we won't fall for that trick again! As the preznit himself says, "fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice... ... ... won't be fooled again".

So now that the preznit wants to invade and occupy another faraway country that has not attacked us and cannot possibly attack us, how can he gain support for it? I mean, he's already played the "nuclear explosion on American soil" card, and it was proven -- to all but the dumbest among us, the increasingly lonely and isolated twenty-four percenters -- to be the most base and cynical kind of propaganda, an utterly false lie designed to play on our deepest fears. He knows it can't work again.

And yet he must strike against Iran. So he needs a stronger, bigger, more monstrously frightening image.

Thus:

From the preznit's Wednesday press conference:
Q: But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon?

Preznit: ...Yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it's in the world's interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace. But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.
Got that? World War III.

Either we start a war with Iran, or.... WWIII!

But not just that. It's not good enough for us to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. But from knowing how to build a nuclear weapon.

So, see, then when we bomb them and go in there and search around through their country and don't find any evidence of nuclear weapons, people like me won't be able to go "AHA! I knew they didn't really have nuclear weapons!"

No. Because, see, preznit never actually said they actually had nuclear weapons, just that they knew how to build them. So, let's see you prove they didn't have THAT, why dontcha, mr. smartypants blogger!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Here's a neat parlor game

Explain the comments in this thread.

A sample:
"Al [Sharpton,]
your a disgrace to your faith, only you can make jesus puke
you are an unevolved silver back gorilla that is nothing more than a stupid pettrick
you are walking proof that the ability to communicate does not imply intellegence"
I'll propose the first two possibilities:

1. The level of political discourse in this country has devolved to a point where people can't tell the satirical bullshit from the regular bullshit.

2. There are just a whole bunch of very stupid racist assholes running around out there.

Note that you have to go down several dozen posts before you see the first one that says "Um, hey dumbfucks, this is a freakin' PARODY!"

(via Who Is IOZ.)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Actual political progress in Iraq

All you pessimists and America-haters out there who want to point to the lack of political progress in Iraq as a major failure of the Bush Administration and its War Policies, who say that the Maliki is a WH puppet, who say that the various political factions boycott the process and never agree on anything, who say that the parliament can't pass any legislation, who just generally say that the Iraqi government is broken and that the country is anarchic and lawless, well, to all of you people, suck on this:

Baghdad (AP):

Two armored sport-utility vehicles were badly damaged and heavily burned, according to AP photos from the scene.

U.S. authorities confiscated an AP Television News videotape that contained scenes of the wounded being evacuated. U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl told the AP the government of Iraq had made it illegal to photograph or videotape the aftermath of bombings or other attacks.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Shooting incidents

I glanced at a story from Reuters just now regarding the whole Blackwater controversy. This, you might know, is a private military contractor being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to "provide security" for some of our civilians in Iraq. They sometimes get drunk and kill people at random ("In one killing on Dec. 24, a drunken Blackwater employee returning from a party killed a guard of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi, the report said.") but are not subject to prosecution because Iraq is a lawless hellhole. But, there are plenty of other Iraqis where those came from, right? So, no big deal, really.

But what got me about this Reuters story was the very first sentence:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki questioned on Wednesday whether U.S. private security firm Blackwater had any future role in Iraq because of the high number of shooting incidents in which it had been involved.
I'm not sure how many of these so-called "shooting incidents" Blackwater has been involved in. Probably a lot. What I'm wondering though, is whether Maliki -- or anyone else -- might start questioning the "future role" of any other groups or organizations involved in a "high number of shooting incidents" there, in Iraq.

Anyone know of any groups or organizations that might fit this description? Anyone?


Soooo, I guess my point is: Maliki, shut the fuck up. And to the media, who is making a big story about all of this? Shut the fuck up.

And to congress, especially to congress, who is currently making a huge show of "investigating" Blackwater? SHUT THE FUCK UP.

All you fuckers take your grandstanding and your righteous outrage and go fuck yourselves. These Blackwater cretins are a small, tiny, symptom of a tremendous raging disaster. But let's all focus on THEM, because they're an easy target, and tackling the entire massive devastating catastrophe that is dragging our entire nation and way of life straight off a cliff into oblivion is just a bit too tough.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dystopia


No, this is not a post about the Bush Administration, as the title might suggest. On the contrary, it is my 2nd post in a row (!) without political content.

From the Snarkerati site, this is a ranking of the top 50 Dystopian movies of all time. The list was compiled from averaging IMDB's user rankings and Rotten Tomatoes' compilations of reviews from professional critics.

I'm a very big fan of this genre (draw your own conclusions as to what this says about my personality). A few of my personal favorites:

45. Idiocracy (2006). Mike Judge roolz. As I mentioned in a previous post, this is a good 'un.

41. Soylent Green (1973). I was shocked that this wasn't higher on the list. I had always thought it was pretty much the quintessential dystopian flick. On a recent re-watching, its genius was confirmed. The dystopian elements are very incisively done, and, of course, the ending is an all-time classic finish.

39. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). Adapted, of course, from one of my all-time favorite books, and what has to be the best-ever dystopian story told in any medium, George Orwell's book of the same name. I recently watched this, and -- though I was prepared to be disappointed -- it was actually quite good, mostly because it stayed very true to the book.

29. Total Recall (1990). One of the Governator's best. I like movies where the plot screws with your mind. I always love the scene where Ahnahld pumps a bullet through Sharon Stone's forehead.

25. Gattaca (1997). This one ranks high for me for no other reason than the central dystopian plot element appears very likely to happen at some point (assuming the human race doesn't destroy itself in the next few years).

23. V for Vendetta (2005). If you have not seen this movie, I highly recommend that you do. Where is our Guy Fawkes? (This one also ranks highly on the "are we really that far from this?" scale.)

16. Pleasantville (1998). This movie has its faults (pulls just a bit too hard on the ol' heartstrings for my taste), but you've got to give a lot of credit to the cleverness of idea behind it, and also the way it uses the b&w/color dichotomy to drive the theme and story.

15. Serenity (2005). Joss Whedon did this movie, which is based on the "Firefly" television series, which didn't catch on but is worth watching. The "River" character is fascinating. (An interesting detail is how the characters lapse into speaking bits and pieces of Chinese, a fact that is never actually addressed in the movie but appears to reference Chinese dominance of "Earth-that-was" at some point in the past.)

14. Twelve Monkeys (1995). I have this movie on DVD, but my memory of it is a bit fuzzy. Terry Gilliam is a dystopian master. I remember Bruce Willis being really good, and Brad Pitt plays the only kind of character he is really good at (a person with a mental disability).

9. Minority Report (2002). I wouldn't put this quite so high on the list, and I'm not so sure it is really all that "dystopian" (though I can see why it was included), but really it is just a very good futuristic action thriller with a really clever plot. Lots of cool chase scenes, fight scenes, great CGI, etc.

7. The Matrix (1999). In my mind, The Matrix is a great, classic movie. There are so many awesome things about it, and it is just too bad the Wachowskis cheapened it by doing those two (terrible!) sequels (especially the third one, which was just about totally unwatchable).

6. Children of Men (2006). I think this is the only movie on the list that I actually saw at the theater. I had seen the trailers and it looked spectacular. I was a little disappointed, but I would still recommend it. Clive Owen is predictably great, and the rest of the acting, settings, story, etc is all good, but I just thought the director (Alfonso Cuaron) could have done a better job punching up the themes (or, really, making whatever theme there was more clear, because -- and this could possibly be chalked up to my own denseness -- but I wasn't real sure what it was I was supposed to take away from it).

5. Blade Runner (1982). I don't need to explain this one to you, do I?

2. A Clockwork Orange (1971). A bit of the ol' ultraviolence, eh? (One of) Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece(s). So powerful that a few of the scenes are truly hard to watch. The soundtrack is perfect in its chilling creepiness. I love the mother's tragic explanation of what she thinks (or sooo badly wants to think) it is that little Alex does to earn money: "Well, like he says, it's mostly odd things he does. Helping, like, here and there as it might be."

Some other notes:

3. Brazil (1985). Another Gilliam flick. I liked it, but: someone please tell me the meaning of this movie?

12. The Trial (1962). I've not seen this, but the book by Franz Kafka is excellent. I wonder if Blockbuster has this...

36. A Scanner Darkly (2006). Crazy way they put this movie together. They filmed all the scenes, and then had an army of artists spend a couple of years drawing over the filmed images (apparently this is called "rotoscoping", which I thought was actually a different technique entirely). This makes the movie look like it should be a Grand Theft Auto type Playstation2 game. It was a bit hard to follow (I plan to read the book, which I own, that was written by Phillip K. Dick, who also wrote the book that Blade Runner was based on (which I have read), called "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"). Directed by Richard Linklater, of "Dazed and Confused" and "Slacker" fame. It has an excellent cast, but it seems like it would have been better if they had done away with the neat-o rotoscoping bit, and just used CGI to do the tricky make-me-look-like-someone-else-suit thing.

42. I, Robot (2004). On second thought, this should be in my list of favorites above. Good cast, good story, great CGI, and a decent makes-you-think kind of theme.

The Running Man (1987). This gets an honorable mention. Another of the Governator's best. The premise is pretty good. I love when the guy wearing the neck collar gets his head exploded. Richard Dawson is perfect as the game show host.

Should be on the list:

Aeon Flux (2005). This movie is based on the anime series that aired on MTV in the late 80s (or early 90s?). As a commenter on IMDB noted, it is way better than you might expect. Highly stylized, with some good action, and a pretty awesome plot twist at the end.

The Island (2005). This is a very underrated movie. If for no other reason, Scarlett Johansson looks incredibly hot. Ewan McGregor is good too (he's best when he plays a dumb guy -- though in this case he is ignorant rather than dumb, but in this context it's the same). The premise is very clever (though in retrospect, it seems perfectly obvious (maybe even reasonable??)), and the plot is good, the story moves along really well, there are some good action scenes (though some of the settings could have benefited from a bigger budget), and overall it is just a really well done, engaging movie. I've tried to figure out why it didn't do better at the box office, or receive more acclaim, and I just can't figure it out. For my money, it's one of the best movies to come out in the last couple of years.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Blown out by K-State?


I've always had my doubts about Colt McCoy:

1. He's kinda goofy looking.

2. The whole "small town kid born and bred and destined to be legendary UT quarterback" thing is just too much. Thank you Brent Musberger.

3. So he's from a small town. Big F'ing Deal. A 2A high school? So what.

4. Ever notice that instead of regular eye black, he wears those super-gay stickers with little longhorn logos on them? Kill me.

And anyway, last year I was skeptical about his actual on the field play. He throws some great passes occasionally, but there's rarely a game where he's consistently great. Take the flashes of awesome, mix in the flashes of crappy, and you've got an average quarterback.

But today, he was beyond crappy. He was flat awful. 19 of 39 for 200 yds, with 4 (count 'em, FOUR) interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. There were several other passes that could have been intercepted, and several that never got more than 6 feet off the ground and were either batted down or pinged off the backs of helmets of offensive linemen.

People have been trying to compare this guy to Major Applewhite. I think a more appropriate comparison is Pete Gardere. Pete Gardere had his moments (4-0 against OU), but he and the teams he played for were mediocre at best.

There was one play, 4th and 8 or so, late in the game, down by 13, where McCoy threw a 2 yard pass to a receiver who was obviously going to be immediately tackled. Dumb, Dumb, Dumb. Game over.

UT will never get through a season without a loss with Colt McCoy at quarterback. And now, after watching the Longhorns get blown out by 3 touchdowns, at home, to K-freakin'-State, I've got a very dreary 3 more months of college football ahead of me. Bleah.