Saturday, April 22, 2006

Virtual Exercise

From the illustrious NYPost:

PLANNING to lose that last 10 pounds?

Instead of trading ice cream parfaits for baby carrots, just switch cameras - Hewlett-Packard's new line of HP digi-cams trims the fat for you.

Using the $300-to-$400 cameras' new "slimming" feature, owners can make their subjects look 10 pounds thinner.

Unfortunately, the camera increases the subject's apathetic look of laziness tenfold, thus sort-of negating the self-reassuring effect of the "slimming" feature.



Friday, April 21, 2006

Military Rule?

Krauthammer on the danger of divisions in military public opinion:

The Defense Department waves away the protesting generals as just a handful out of more than 8,000 now serving or retired. That seems to me too dismissive. These generals are no doubt correct in asserting that they have spoken to and speak on behalf of some retired and, even more important, some active-duty members of the military.

But that makes the generals' revolt all the more egregious. The civilian leadership of the Pentagon is decided on Election Day, not by the secret whispering of generals.
We've always had discontented officers in every war and in every period of our history. But they rarely coalesce into factions. That happens in places such as Hussein's Iraq, Pinochet's Chile or your run-of-the-mill banana republic. And when it does, outsiders (including the United States) do their best to exploit it, seeking out the dissident factions to either stage a coup or force the government to change policy.

That kind of dissident party within the military is alien to America. Some other retired generals have found it necessary to rise to the defense of the administration. Will the rest of the generals, retired or serving, now have to declare which camp they belong to?
It is precisely this kind of division that our tradition of military deference to democratically elected civilian superiors was meant to prevent. Today it suits the antiwar left to applaud the rupture of that tradition. But it is a disturbing and very dangerous precedent that even the left will one day regret.

Early Christmas for Republicans

John Kerry is considering running for President.

If he can't beat Bush, who exactly does he think he can beat?

Black Friday

Oliver Willis is an interesting cat. I find myself disagreeing with him a lot of the time, but I go back anyway - which says something about his writing, or perhaps, about my insanity (repeating the same action, expecting a different result?).

I do think this is sufficiently provocative and stirring to post:

"Free Idea For A Democrat"

1. We are enslaved by oil. We need it to make our economy go, period.
2. Everywhere that has the amount of oil we need is run by crazy people.
3. Even if we were to go to the extreme of mining all of Alaska and every national park, we wouldn’t get enough oil to make up for it. And, we’d lose the amazing wildlife that is such an integral part of America (the lyric isn’t “from sea to shining sea” for no good reason, you know)

So…

End it. End it. End it. End it. Draw a line in the sand. If America elects you as their President, you’re going to enact a major iniative on the scale of the moon landing and D-Day to get America off of oil. Maybe it won’t happen during your two terms in office. So what?

It’s not about you, its about all of us. But the leadership has got to start from the top - and you vow that this will be priority number one from the very day you’re sworn into office. Say you’ll walk from the podium after delivering your inaugural address, right up to the Speaker and the Majority Leader and let them know that the beginning of the end to the American enslavement to foreign oil has begun.

There's two reasons for our continued dependence on oil - oil companies, and procrastination. Neither of these should be a permanent/insurmountable obstacle. Anyone truly serious about fighting the threat of terrorism, or about American independence, should be serious about reducing oil reliance.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Defeating The "Eggshell" Plaintiff

In a recent California Supreme Court decision, the Court upheld a lower court's ruling dismissing a claim by a female staff member of the television show Friends, because of an alleged sexual harassment.

For those vaguely unfamiliar with the law, actionable sexual harassment generally takes two forms: (1) quid pro quo (literally, this for that) harassment (i.e., "if you sleep with me, I'll give you a promotion); or (2) hostile work environment harassment (the activity creates, as the standard suggests, a hostile work environment, that an employee should not be forced to endure).

The law is rife with examples of individuals who sue their employers because they claim to have been offended by a stray comment or two. Make no mistake, there are cases where lawsuits are genuinely justified. But as a clerk, you see more than your fair share of crap. This case appears to be one such case. This is a victory against the proverbial eggshell plaintiff, whose frail sensibilities prevent us from enjoying a good joke at the workplace.

Chinese Allegations

Now that the Chinese are in town, and everything China is really hot right now, I thought I'd post an article regarding allegations of organ harvesting in China from Falun Gong members.

Any of you that have lived in New York see the Falun Gong all the time. Their allegations of torture and abuse at the hands of the Chinese are pretty horrific. But this might take the cake.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Coulter Report


The somewhat-eerie date of June 6, 2006 (6-6-06) marks the release of Ann Coulter's latest book-shaped bile-expulsion. The book's title is "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," and continues Ann's refreshing trend of blatantly lunatic hyperbole (see: "How to talk to a liberal (if you must)," "Treason: Liberal treachery..." and "Slander: Liberal lies..."). It also continues her near-unbroken string of book titles with colons in them. Which, considering the kind of crap she peddles between the pages, is sort of an aptly-named punctuation mark for Ann to favor.

Apparently, the book will have heart-warming and fuzzy-sounding chapters like "The Holiest Sacrament: Abortion," and "On the Seventh Day God Rested and Liberals Schemed." One assumes that the book will contain more of Ann's well-documented, pantented ravings-of-the-insane, and that it will inevitably resemble the thoughts of a compassionate Christian in the same way that a Buick resembles a palm tree.

Ann appears to think that the release date will needle all the humorless libs out there, but I suspect that many will find humor to spare in the notion of Coulter as antichrist (a theory that's been bandied about - but never conclusively proven - and is only further shored up by such eye-rollingly obvious publicity stunts).

In any event, people are already snapping the book up via pre-order at Amazon.com. It's so good, apparently, that it's already rated at 3 1/2 stars. Despite the fact that, y'know, no one's read it.

Amazon.com has a nifty feature that allows you to see what else customers who bought "Godless" ended up purchasing. Such assuredly enlightening literature as "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)," "Women Who Make The World Worse: and how their radical feminist blah blah blah," and "Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild." Say, I'm starting to notice a real colon trend here.

But there's a point to this post, and I've arrived at it. Let's all agree to just stop. talking. about her. Let's ignore the latest barrage of juicely-fascist rhetoric and in so doing, condemn Coulter to the restricted promotional arenas of conservative talk shows and Fox News, where the circle of back-slapping may hopefully create a psychic loop from which no matter may escape.

Who's with me?

Our Savior Has Come

For those of us who have not adopted Jesus as our savior and messiah, you'll be pleased to note, that yes, in fact, the time has arrived. Our savior is born. And that savior, as it turns out, is a girl.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had a baby girl this morning named Suri.

Not that I would have expected our savior to be named Jessica, or Sarah, or anything vaguely resembling the most popular top 500 names in the United States, but there you have it.

God save this child. Literally.

Flim-Flam Filmmaking

From the Washington Post:

As part of a near-exclusive deal with Showtime Networks, the Smithsonian Institution is restricting filmmakers' access to its scientists and archives, prompting another outcry over the museum's attempts to make money.

Filmmakers who have relied on the vast holdings of the Smithsonian, and typically pay to use historic film or copy an artifact, have raised objections to the new policy of limited access to the public collections. Now most filmmakers will not have in-depth use of Smithsonian materials unless they are creating work for the Smithsonian/Showtime unit.


To get an idea of why this is a big deal, head over to DailyKos and feast on the palpable outrage.

Commiewood

From "Newsbusters":

On Monday, for the second straight weekday, Access Hollywood's New York correspondent, Tim Vincent, a veteran of the BBC, sported a hammer and sickle T-shirt as he introduced a story. Just as on Friday's show, as documented in an April 15 NewsBusters item, though he wore a jacket over the red shirt with the symbol of the regime which murdered tens of millions and oppressed hundreds of millions more for decades, a gold hammer and sickle was clearly visible inside a gold-outlined red star which, sans the hammer and sickle, would match the Soviet's Red Army emblem....I don't get it. Is this some kind of cool statement with thirtysomethings, elite New Yorkers or Brits?


That's pretty much it exactly. You can't throw a rock in NYC without hitting a vaguely-emaciated-looking NYU student wearing the hammer and sickle in some sort of attempt at irony/rebellion.

Personally, I've long grown past the idea that what I wear on my t-shirts is somehow a bold declaration of my individuality/personality. Wearing a hammer and sickle on your shirt isn't ironic or cool, it's a fashion statement. And fashion statements are, almost by definition, defiantly uncool.

Also personally speaking, the author of the above-quoted article is a moron.

Anyone who doubts that we've ever left the era of Puritanical suspicion and priggish indignation need look no further than the above article, which helpfully shows that folks are as drunk-on-the-blood-of-the-dark-god-Kali-insane as they ever was.

(link lifted from senor Willis)

Me Speakum Heap Good English

From CNN.com:

"I listen to all voices, but mine is the final decision," [Bush] said. "And Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror. He's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld.

"I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

Funny, I thought the President didn't need to read the papers.

It'd be easy - too easy in fact - to make a joke out of the comment 'I hear the voices,' so I leave that to the blogosphere. Instead, let's focus in on Bush's self-proclaimed status as "the decider."

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

decider - noun: a contest that settles the winner of a series of contests.

Yes, our President is a contest that settles the winner of a series of contests.

Ipod Shuffle

A list of the last ten songs to shuffle to the surface on my Ipod:

"Crossfire" - Kasey Chambers
"Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo" - Harvey Danger
"She Don't Care" - Will Hoge
"Attitude" - Alien Ant Farm
"One Trick Pony" - Nelly Furtado
"Crossfire" - Stevie Ray Vaughn
"Losing Lisa" - Ben Folds
"Dopes to Infinity" - Monster Magnet
"Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean" - Explosions in the Sky
"The Ghost of Number One" - Jellyfish

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Let Us Sing Praises To Tivo

Tivo, how didst I ever live without thee?

Verily, thou art Deux Ex Machina. Verily, I am but a humble, wide-eyed boy before your peerless power.

I wouldst lay upon your cool-and-reassuring surface such offerings as I have, were I not most afraid of smitings by the Lord, my God.

Getting Married - 21st Century Style

Let's say you want to get married. You've found your soulmate, and are ready to settle down. How romantic, you think, would it be to share your love with your family and friends in a simple, yet beautiful, ceremony. You've all seen the movies and tv shows where in the first frame the man gets down on his knee and offers lifelong devotion and love, while the woman in tears hugs him enthusiastically. And in the very next frame, they stand before the alter professing said love to their closest friends and relatives.

Here's a hint to anyone out there under the misimpression that in this regard, movies offer a glimpse into reality: You are in for a big surprise.

In between the first frame and the second frame are thousands of small tasks and some large ones that are likely only intended to prepare you for the one huge task that is a child and/or children.

Most of those tasks I was prepared for, but a couple came as a surprise. For example, if you want by be married by a member of a clergy, most of them will require that you go through a relationship program. Our rabbi requires the Prepare/Enrich program.

Last night was night two of the four part series of the program. We learned how to communicate with "I" statements and active listening. Between the two of us that have made it this far into this post, let me just say that it comes off as a little bit of remedial relationship building. They actually tell you that it's good to catch up with your wife to be at the end of your day. "How was your day," was a recommended question (Seinfeld episode, anyone?). Do people have to reminded of this stuff?

But it just made me think about how standardized our relationships are sometimes. We actually had to take a standardized test before we got started. Of course, they don't call it a test. But it certainly feels like one. And apparently, they don't take kindly to the joke, "did we fail the test?"

All in all, it wasn't that bad. And since we got out late, I convinced my bride-to-be to stop at a McDonalds on the way home (Quarter-Pounders Rule!).

But here it is: Buyer beware, before you get married, you may have to sit in front of your rabbi/priest/minister and discuss three areas in your relationship that need "growth." It's quite an experience.

Responding To The War Drums

Glenn Greenwald, you're the muthafunkin' Drizzle.

As Bush followers gear up for another election year campaign to start a war, they are using exactly the same rhetorical tactics and are revealing precisely the same mindset to which we were subjected during the 2002 campaign for the Iraq War. What is starkly apparent from this repetition is that their awareness of history and knowledge of the world is sadly confined to one singular event, which is all they know and which, rather bizarrely, they have a need to live over and over and over again.

To pro-Bush war supporters, the world is forever stuck in the 1930s. Every leader we don't like is Adolf Hitler, a crazed and irrational lunatic who wants to dominate the world. Every country opposed to our interests is Nazi Germany.

From this it follows that every warmonger is the glorious reincarnation of the brave and resolute Winston Churchill. And one who opposes or even questions any proposed war becomes the lowly and cowardly appeaser, Neville Chamberlain. For any and every conflict that arises, the U.S. is in the identical position of France and England in 1937 – faced with an aggressive and militaristic Nazi Germany, will we shrink from our grand fighting duties in appeasement and fear, or will we stand tall and strong and wage glorious war?

With that cartoonish framework in place, war is always the best option. It is the only option for those who are noble, strong, and fearless. Conversely, the sole reason for opposing a war is that one is a weak-minded and weak-willed appeaser who harbors dangerous fantasies of negotiating with madmen. Diplomacy and containment are simply elevated, PC terms for “appeasement.” War is the only option that works....

....But this sort of mindset is as simplistic as it is manipulative and, as intended, is a rock-solid recipe for eternal war. Not every dictator is irrational and suicidal. Most are not, including the most brutal. Throughout the 20th Century, the U.S. was able quite successfully to contain, negotiate with, and even form discrete common alliances with a whole array of dictators, thugs, murderous cretins and even militaristic madmen....

....To be sure, Saddam Hussein was a brutal thug who murdered and oppressed his citizens with virtually no limits, etc. etc., but the notion that he was ever in a league with Adolph Hitler in terms of the threats he posed, the capabilities he possessed, or even the ambitions he harbored, was always transparent myth. This equivalence is even more fictitious with regard to Iran, which -- although saddled with a highly unpopular president who is clearly malignant and who uses nationalistic rhetoric to boost the morale of his base – is a country that is, in fact, ruled by a council of mullahs which has exhibited nothing but rationality and appears to be guided by nothing other than self-interest.


Mr. Greenwald consistently puts thoughts into words in a way that makes me jealous. I encourage you to follow the above link and read the article in it's entirety. I'd also strongly caution against dismissing Greenwald's opinions simply because he short-hands a limited-but-loud group of near-fanatical Bush supporters (the Authoritarian Cultists, if you will) as "Bush followers." Having read many of the arguments for military intervention in Iran, I find myself agreeing most with Mr. Greenwald.

Perpetual war/expansion is not something that any empire wishing to maintain its power can engage in succesfully. History has borne this assertion out. Whether its Rome, Britain, or the empire of Alexander, it results in the progressively accelerated break-down of the core of the empire itself, and a weakening of strength/defenses.

The world is a dangerous place. There is always someone waiting in the wings with weapons. There has always been someone waiting in the wings, with weapons. Did the United States invade Russia at the height of communism? Of course not. The Russians possessed massive stockpiles of nuclear weapondry - far more than Saddam could have dreamed of acquiring. Did we storm the Kremlin? No - we discovered a new word, Detente.

The politicians of the Cold War era understood something that today's war-hungry A.C.'s do not - namely, just because you can start a war does not mean that you should start one.

Diplomacy and containment work. Do they always work? Of course not. But then, neither does war.

Greenwald's article also provides a link to the Belgravia Dispatch, which gives a thoughtful and reasoned analysis of the approach to Iraq vs. the approach to Iran (hint: they're pretty-much identical). I recommend reading it as well.

"Respecting" Mohammed While Selling Jesus

From CNS News:

As Christians around the world prepare for Easter, magazine readers in Germany were confronted this week by full-page advertisements depicting Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns but descended from the cross, enjoying a television program.

"Laughing rather than hanging around," (Lachen statt rumhaengen) reads the tagline of the ad, which has drawn strong protests in Germany, where two-thirds of the population identifies as Christian.

The ad promotes MTV's plan to broadcast a cartoon lampooning the pope and Vatican hierarchy. The series, Popetown, was considered too controversial to be aired in Britain, and it caused an uproar in the one country where it has appeared, New Zealand....

...."Banned from TV, damned by the church, and brought to you in devilishly uncensored form," runs the tagline on the Popetown website, promoting the program on DVD.

The series portrays the pope as an uncontrollable, infantile character who pogo-sticks around a Vatican populated by corrupt, money-grabbing cardinals.


Nice.

So here we have the current guiding principle behind "satire," laid bare for all: It's okay to make fun of something sacred and holy if the people who believe in it don't pose a potentially deadly threat.

But, should the religious denomination in question be prone to acts of bewilderingly-savage violence, then "satire" isn't okay.

Have we all got that? Good. I'm glad to be of help. Of course, the possibility that continued mockery of Christianity may in fact create more violent fanaticism never crossed anyone's mind.

Two If By Sea

From The History Channel:

April 18th, 1775

In Massachusetts, British troops march out of Boston on a mission to confiscate the Patriot arsenal at Concord and to capture Patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock, known to be hiding at Lexington. As the British departed, Boston Patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes set out on horseback from the city to warn Adams and Hancock and rouse the Patriot minutemen.

Taking separate routes in case one of them were captured, Dawes left Boston by the Boston Neck peninsula, and Revere crossed the Charles River to Charlestown by boat. As the two couriers made their way, Patriots in Charlestown waited for a signal from Boston informing them of the British troop movement. As previously agreed, one lantern would be hung in the steeple of Boston's Old North Church, the highest point in the city, if the British were marching out of the city by Boston Neck, and two if they were crossing the Charles River to Cambridge. Two lanterns were hung, and the armed Patriots set out for Lexington and Concord accordingly. Along the way, Revere and Dawes roused hundreds of minutemen, who armed themselves and set out to oppose the British.

Around 5 a.m., 700 British troops under Major John Pitcairn arrived at the town to find a 77-man-strong colonial militia under Captain John Parker waiting for them on Lexington's common green. Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment's hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the "shot heard around the world" was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun.


Goddamn. Raise your glass of Sam Adams to Paul Revere and William Dawes.

Monday, April 17, 2006

While We Blither Away

When Iran begins blackmailing the world with its nuclear weapons, do not say you were not warned:

The perfect summation of the Iranian approach to negotiations came in this gem of a sentence from the New York Times on July 13 last year:
"Iran will resume uranium enrichment if the European Union does not recognize its right to do so, two Iranian nuclear negotiators said in an interview published Thursday."
Got that? If we don't let Iran go nuclear, they'll go nuclear. That position might tax even the nuanced detecting skills of John Kerry.

Mirrormask: A Brief Review

Watching Mirrormask is a bit like having a particularly vivid dream. It's gloriously, beautifully weird in many places, occasionally bewildering, sometimes derivative, and decidely memorable.

To put it another way....

Recipe for a Mirrormask:

Add:

1 part Wizard of Oz
2 parts Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
1 part author obsessions with books, riddles, and twins
1 part achingly beautiful set/character design
1 part psychedelic mushrooms

Stir.

If you ever enjoyed the Henson company's fantasy films (Labryinth, The Dark Crystal, The Storyteller), then you'll enjoy Mirrormask. If you're simply a fan of strange but passionate small film, then Mirrormask is also for you.

If, however, you're the sort of person who finds stories about quests - featuring eyeballs on spider legs and Monkey-birds named Bob - to be eye-roll inducing and "childish," then go rent that J.Lo comedy you've been eyeing and leave me alone.

And Iran, Iran So Far Away

From Cnn.com:

CLANCY: Well, Colonel Gardiner, from what you're saying, it would seem like military men, then, might be cautioning, don't go ahead with this. But what are the signs that are out there right now? Is there any evidence of any movement in that direction?

GARDINER: Sure. Actually, Jim, I would say -- and this may shock some -- I think the decision has been made and military operations are under way.

CLANCY: Why?

GARDINER: And let me say this -- I'm saying this carefully. First of all, Sy Hersh said in that article which was...

CLANCY: Yes, but that's one unnamed source.

GARDINER: Let me check that. Not unnamed source as not being valid.

The way "The New Yorker" does it, if somebody tells Sy Hersh something, somebody else in the magazine calls them and says, "Did you tell Sy Hersh that?" That's one point.

The secretary point is, the Iranians have been saying American military troops are in there, have been saying it for almost a year. I was in Berlin two weeks ago, sat next to the ambassador, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA. And I said, "Hey, I hear you're accusing Americans of being in there operating with some of the units that have shot up revolution guard units."

He said, quite frankly, "Yes, we know they are. We've captured some of the units, and they've confessed to working with the Americans."

The evidence is mounting that that decision has already been made, and I don't know that the other part of that has been completed, that there has been any congressional approval to do this.

My view of the plan is, there is this period in which some kinds of ground troops will operate inside Iran, and then what we're talking about is the second part, which is this air strike.
Interesting stuff, courtesy of Whiskeybar. Again, just because I post something of possible interest/noteworthiness doesn't mean it's factual truth that cannot be disputed. But since we've been talking patterns lately (patterns of deceit, misdirection, etc, et al), this quote would seem to partially confirm another pattern - claiming that the military option is a last-resort, while intending to utilize the military from the get-go.