Friday, April 27, 2007

a perfect circle

From AP (via Feministe):
AUSTIN — A package left at a women’s clinic that performs abortions contained an explosive device capable of inflicting serious injury or death, investigators said today.

“It was in fact an explosive device,” said David Carter, assistant chief of the Austin Police Department. “It was configured in such a way to cause serious bodily injury or death.”

The package was found Wednesday in a parking lot outside the Austin Women’s Health Center, south of downtown Austin.

Nearby Interstate 35 was briefly closed, and a nearby apartment complex was evacuated while a bomb squad detonated the device.

Did you hear about this anywhere? Anywhere at all? Does anyone else find it astounding that no one bothered to cover an act of terrorism in the capital city of the second most populous state in the Union, and pretty much the only time that, out of all the times when the police find a "mysterious object" in some public place, it really was a bomb?

One of Zuzu's commenters noted sarcastically that "perpetrated by Muslims" is part of the definition of terrorism, so since this was not likely committed by Muslims it doesn't count. Of course, as we've seen with media and government treatment of groups like Operation Rescue, or of the Free Republic commenter who mailed Keith Olbermann an envelope filled with fake anthrax, or, to a lesser degree, Klan marches, the commenter's characterization is dead-on (no pun intended). It doesn't complete the circle, however: why do you think the media and government tacitly make "perpetuated by Muslims" a prerequisite for an act to qualify as terrorism?

So they don't have to count abortion clinic bombers or rightwing kooks or white supremacists or any of the rest of the GOP's more unsavory constituencies, that's why! Think I'm being too partisan? Then explain to me why the one single solitary non-Muslim group regularly referred to as "terrorists" are eco-terrorists, who are associated with "the left" (coincidentally, eco-terrorists are also, if I'm right on this, the only group I've mentioned who don't have any history of taking or threatening human lives, which you'd think would be the main prerequisite for being a "terrorist").

Stewart and Oliver on Gonzales' testimony

Via Crooks and Liars. It's so freakin' funny because it's absolutely true. I'm not sure it's even caricature, and Oliver's depiction of Gonzales' "options" in how to handle the testimony is precisely what many have been saying.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

reducing America to Fascism in 10 easy steps

Lists of this sort have cropped up in several different places, but I found this one particularly striking. It's from Naomi Wolf, writing for The Guardian. She argues that there are 10 steps aspiring dictators generally take to close an open society and pave the way for authoritarianism, and that the Bush Administration has at initiated all 10. I have 1 or 2 minor critiques, but all in all, the comparisons are pretty damning. Almost as scary is the probability that, if it's W that pulls the trigger, we would have the most incompetent dictator ever (though maybe that's actually a good thing, it's hard to tell).

Here's another question worth thinking about: if "it" happened, the "it" in "it can't happen here," how, or at what point, would you know for sure? Perhaps more importantly, what would you do?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Michael Pollan on the impending Farm Bill

It sounds so boring to us non-rural folk, but the farm bill that comes around every 5 years is one of the most important (and most completely broken) bills that Congress deals with. It's more rightly called the Food Bill, as it affects not just farmers but all consumers in innumerable ways, and Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, wrote an article about it in The New York Times. I strongly suggest you check it out.

we're getting stupider every day

Nevermind, this is the stupidest argument I've heard about the VA Tech massacre, coming from Newt Gingrich blaming the incident on, yes, liberals:
“Well, who has created a situation ethics, essentially, zone of not being willing to talk about any of these things. Let me carry another example. I strongly supported Imus being dismissed, but I also think the very thing he was dismissed for, which is the use of language which is stunningly degrading of women — the fact, for example, that one of the Halloween costumes this last year was being able to be either a prostitute or a pimp at 10, 11, 12 years of age, buying a costume, and we don’t have any discussion about what’s happened to our culture because while we’re restricting political free speech under McCain-Feingold, we say it’s impossible to restrict vulgar and vicious and anti-human speech. And I would argue that that’s a major component of what’s happened to our culture in the last 40 years.”

I know, I know, we could highlight a thousand points of wankery in this block, from Newtie's own authority to talk about moral values considering his past to the hysterically termed "political free speech." Suffice it to say this is yet one more example of why rhetorical hatchet men like Gingrich have no credibility and one of the biggest problems with our media is the fact that anybody asks what this jackass thinks in the first place with any intention besides contempt and ridicule.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

thy wankitude knoweth no boundaries...

Well, at least the gun control debaters aren't this wanker:
Spirit of Self-Defense [John Derbyshire]

As NRO's designated chickenhawk, let me be the one to ask: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren't very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can't hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren't bad.

Yes, yes, I know it's easy to say these things: but didn't the heroes of Flight 93 teach us anything? As the cliche goes—and like most cliches. It's true—none of us knows what he'd do in a dire situation like that. I hope, however, that if I thought I was going to die anyway, I'd at least take a run at the guy.

"At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands." Easy peezy, since everyone still uses ye olde 6-shooter, eh?

Dumbass.

I'm not sure what disgusts me more, his blaming the victims for the massacre, his attempts to compare penis sizes with them (complete with the primo non-chalant tossing out of "I shoot mine all the time at the range..."), or his invocation of 9/11.

Unbelievably disgusting.

Tragedy and political points at VA Tech

So what does this tragedy at VA Tech tell us about gun control, everyone seems to be asking?

Answer: Not a goddamn thing. Despite what I'm hearing from a number of places, the idea that without gun control some vigilante Rambo student would've dove out from behind a desk, guns a'blazin', and mowed down the shooter(s) in a blaze of righteous glory and pyrotechnics, is about as ridiculous as the argument that a man willing to kill 32 people and himself would've just stayed home on his Wii if they didn't sell guns at Wal-Mart. There's something about gun control that gets normally compassionate people all excited to poach every tragedy for political points, and it's kind of sickening.

Seriously, people. Let's have a little f**king class and just let people mourn for their loved ones, mmkay?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

put this blog on your blogroll and 10 people will have sex with you in the next hour

I was thinking a little bit about the old chain email culture that was so pervasive before the rise of blogs, and that seems to enjoy continued patronage from conservatives but, as far as I can tell, is a dying trend among liberals. During the course of the 2004 election, I stopped receiving chain emails from my conservative friends, probably because my replies grew increasingly exasperated and condescending. I think the last 5 replies were a simply a Snopes.com link and a single word-- "Seriously" (Gimme a break, we were all a little frazzled at the end of that rollercoaster). And maybe it's just my friends, but in my lifetime on the internets I've probably received a number of liberal chain emails I can count on 2 hands. I've also noticed that chain emails are perhaps the single most reliably false source of information in existence, and in my head I want to tie those 2 facts together, but I know that's probably a fallacious connection. Still, it would've been nice if I'd gotten more like this back in the day:


Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance -- now Joe gets it, too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath.

The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries & government from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker's compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.

Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

Dear Salon

Camille Paglia makes me want to shoot myself in the face. Seriously, I'm setting up a hunting trip with the Vice President as I write this.

Just thought you should know.

Cheers,
el ranchero

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don Imus: wankeroo

Gwen Ifill, of whom I'm occasionally critical, has put it best so far:
...Every time a young black girl shyly approaches me for an autograph or writes or calls or stops me on the street to ask how she can become a journalist, I feel an enormous responsibility. It’s more than simply being a role model. I know I have to be a voice for them as well.

So here’s what this voice has to say for people who cannot grasp the notion of picking on people their own size: This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field.

And puhleaz, let's stop pretending like: a) this is the first, or second, or third time Imus and his producers have polluted the airwaves with this filth, or b) Imus' age or distance from the black community or off-the-cuff style assuages his remarks. In what setting or in what time was it ever okay to call a Cinderella-story collegiate women's basketball team a bunch of "nappy-haired hos"? Or to call the upper management of a major TV network a bunch of money-grubbing Jews?

So tell me again, please, on what basis should this bigot keep his job?

There's a lesson here about humor. Molly Ivins once said:
There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity -- like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule -- that's what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar.

Imus first gave a half-hearted defense that it was just an idiot comment meant to be amusing, and I suspect that was the most truthful reaction we ever got out of him. I've never listened to his show, but this type of humor is ubiquitous on talk radio so it doesn't exactly surprise me to hear that Imus has a penchant for verbally beating up on women and black people. I don't quite understand the humor defense, either, the "can't you take a joke?!" retort when you say something out of line. What does that mean, that you don't actually believe what you said (or, in this case, the premises and stereotypes behind it) is true? If not, then why would it be funny? "Nappy-haired hos" wouldn't be funny in reference to the Smith College class of '95, or the Chinese women's volleyball team, let alone the Edmonton Oilers.

But in its proper context, it's funny 'cuz black women live in the ghetto and have ugly hair and are loose and say funny-sounding words like "nappy" and "ho"!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

the death of the album

For you music lovers, here is a good Op-Ed from The New York Times on the dysfunctional relationship between record labels and the internet, and how that led to the dramatic drop in the popularity of cds, and by association, the bankruptcy of small music stores and even some of the giants like Tower Records. I know it was just another big chain, but I still think it's a shame; I spent a lot of time as a kid in the TR on Guadalupe in Austin, TX, and something was definitely lost in the transition to Best Buy and iTunes.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

only one possible conclusion

Republicans are telling us that, for Congress to cut funding for the troops is to put the troops in harm's way. Yet, as Senator Feingold frequently notes, Republicans had no problem defunding the war in Somalia in the '90's:
Every member of Congress agrees that we must continue to support our troops and give them the resources and support they need. And every member of Congress should know that we can do that while at the same time ending funding for a failed military mission. That was clearly understood in October 1993, when 76 senators voted for an amendment, offered by Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, to end funding for the military mission in Somalia effective March 31, 1994, with limited exceptions.

None of those 76 senators, who include the current Republican leader and whip, acted to jeopardize the safety and security of U.S. troops in Somalia. All of them recognized that Congress had the power and the responsibility to bring our military operations in Somalia to a close, by establishing a date after which funds would be terminated.[emphasis mine]

So how could one possibly rationalize those 2 actions?

There is one way: what the Republicans are tacitly telling us (and George W. Bush is openly admitting) is that Bush cannot be trusted to protect the troops as Commander-in-Chief. You see, Congress felt comfortable that it could strip the Clinton Administration of war funding with the full confidence that the Commander-in-Chief would then order a safe and orderly redeployment with the time he has remaining. There was no question that the troops would be no less safe and secure if Congress defunded the conflict.

The Bush Administration, however, is so craven and callous and stubborn that, if Congress tries to defund the war in Iraq, there's a significant chance that Bush will just keep them there anyway and watch them run out of bullets, essentially playing chicken with soldiers' lives. It's more dangerous for Congress to strip the funds from the Iraq War because Bush cannot be trusted to act in good faith.

Iran will release the British sailors

From The New York Times:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would free the 15 detained British sailors and marines Wednesday as an Easter holiday ''gift'' to the British people.

He said the captives, who were seized while on patrol in the northern Persian Gulf on March 23, would be taken to the airport at the end of the news conference that he was addressing. An Iranian official in London said they would be handed over to British diplomats in Tehran.

The release of the crew members would end a 13-day standoff between London and Tehran that was sparked when the crew was seized as it searched for smugglers off the Iraqi coast. Britain denied Iranian claims the crew had entered Iranian waters.

I gotta hand it to the British and Iranian diplomats who figured out how to defuse this issue, this situation looked pretty thorny to me, anyway, and I think the solution looks pretty good for everyone. Iran releases the hostages but gets to look strong and magnanimous, British thanks them without having to "apologize" and goes on its merry way, no harm no foul (that is, assuming the prisoners were treated well, and indications are they were).

Does anyone else find it more than a little sad that we had to rely on Iran's respect for the Geneva Conventions and willingness to compromise, and the US and UK not f**king this up with their obtuseness and belligerence?

Bob Barr sounding reasonable

I never thought I'd say the day. Funny how people become sane again the second they ditch the GOP. Are they forcefed LSD over there or something?

What's next, Grover Norquist admitting that welfare serves a valuable purpose?

disproving evolution with Peter Pan

Brothers and Sisters,
I know we don't all agree on some aspects of the scientific ethos, like evolution and abiogenesis (nota bene: those are not the same thing), but please, for the love of God, stop inflicting this shit on the rest of us. It makes it more difficult for us sane Christians to argue that Christians can, in fact, be sane.

Best,
el ranchero

[P.S.: for the rest of us, a question: was that guy really waiting for ants for spontaneously erupt from the jar?]

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Kerry drops the bomb on McCain

It was true? From MyDD:
On Monday afternoon I had the chance to speak with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic Party's nominee for President in 2004. During the interview, which covers a range of topics and which I will be posting later this afternoon, an item of particular interest jumped out at me: According to Sen. Kerry, it was John McCain's staff who approached his campaign about potentially filling the Vice President slot on the Democratic ticket in 2004. Take a listen to and a look at the interchange...

There's a radio clip on the link, and I also suggest you give it a listen. It's only about 1 minute. If this is true, and if the media runs with it, I don't see any circumstances allowing for McCain's candidacy to survive this. Singer is right: not only does this play even more to the McCain-as-not-really-Republican line of attack in a huge way, but to rank-and-file Republicans, this is treason. He wanted to run with John Kerry? Against a Republican president???

Had he not later used the rumors of this meeting to backslap Kerry and paraded around every late night talk show to make Kerry seem silly, this might have given me more respect for McCain. As it is, he squandered a chance to unite this country and used it to help the man who he apparently knows all too well has no business in the Oval Office.

Monday, April 02, 2007

the making of the prescription drug bill

Here is an eye-opening and well done piece on the power of the pharmaceutical lobby and the crafting and passing of the prescription drug bill, one of the most expensive and poorly conceived programs in postwar history.

The Republican Party is run by totalitarians

Don't believe me? From Glenn Greenwald:
Various Republican candidates attended a meeting of Club for Growth, and afterwards, National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru spoke to Cato Institute's President Ed Crane about what they said. This brief report from Ponnuru is simply extraordinary:
Crane asked if Romney believed the president should have the authority to arrest U.S. citizens with no review.

So Crane asks GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney if he believes the president can nullify by fiat a United States citizen's rights of habeas corpus and a fair and speedy trial of his peers, a power no British king has had since the 12th century. Any person with American political sensibilities, especially, God bless him, a conservative, would be aghast at such a proposition, right? Romney's answer:
Romney said he would want to hear the pros and cons from smart lawyers before he made up his mind.

Apparently the issue of whether American citizens have the right to contest their charges is a little hazy for this Republican candidate.

What about leading GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani?
Crane said that he had asked Giuliani the same question a few weeks ago. The mayor said that he would want to use this authority infrequently.

Giuliani promises he'll only occasionally strip American citizens of the most basic freedoms guaranteed them in the Bill of Rights.

There is no such thing as a democracy in which the Executive can imprison citizens without a fair trial. The law states that all citizens have rights, and in order for power to rest with the people (the definition of "democracy"), the rule of law must be upheld. If it is a president that rules, and not the law, then power rests with him and not with the people. And a president that can defy the Bill of Rights with impunity is not a president, but a dictator. After all, if a president can disregard amendments to the Constitution, what laws bind him?

Democracy and totalitarianism cannot exist side by side. Either the people rule, or the executive rules. I vote for the people.

misusing your post

To review: the Bush Administration appointed their head opposition researcher to chief prosecutor for the state of Arkansas the same year Hillary Clinton decides to run for president.