Quickies 14

the quickies archive The newer quickies

April 2005
Friday 15
A roundabout Onion-pealing journey...

...young 3D animators have also gotten more skillful in recent years. But what I didn't expect is that the skills of traditional 2D animators have become worse, and notable young animators have not come out to the scene. This is a big issue for the industry.

O: Do you see some specific reason for this happening? Does it matter significantly, if the industry is moving toward abandoning 2D in favor of CGI?

KO: I don't know why. It was said at one point that it was because of the working environment for the animators, but as a matter of fact, it might not be the only reason, since not too many young notable animators are coming out of places such as Studio Ghibli, where they are on a fixed salary. I think the industry in Japan moving toward CGI is not as severe and extreme as in the U.S. The animation industry in the U.S. is firing 2D animators and closing those studios, but I think it's possibly because the national traits of the U.S. prefer super-realism. Since Japan is a country that prefers plane vision, I don't think we will leave 2D and substitute hand-drawing with CGI entirely.
-Onion AV interview with Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira)
ACC: Fiction is more than non-fiction, in some ways. You can create a universe of your own. You can stretch people's minds, alerting them to the possibilities of the future, which is very important in an age where things are changing rapidly.
O: So you believe fairly strongly that there's intelligent, active life out there somewhere?

ACC: Well, of course, there isn't any evidence. But it seems incredible to suggest that in this enormous universe, we are the only intelligent life form. I'm very fond of the quote—I don't know who said it first—"The best proof that there's intelligent life in the universe is that it hasn't come here." Now, on Mars, we may have detected life, but not intelligent life. Of course, there's lots of rumors that the Pentagon already has it and is sitting on it, but I don't think that's very likely.

O: Another favorite quote you tend to bring up in interviews is, "If there are any gods whose chief concern is man, they can't be very important gods." Can you expound on that?

ACC: [Laughs.] Well, I was rather a cynic once. But now I've combined all my beliefs into this phrase I've been circulating: "Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses." It's adapted from a phrase by the British writer and scientist Richard Dawkins, who said that religion was a mind virus, an idea that infected the mind. He said that not all mind-viruses are malignant; some may even be beneficial. But many are harmful—racist theories, for instance.
ACC: Well, there's a price for everything. What was it Oscar Wilde said? "Someone who knows the price of everything knows the value of nothing." Some things have eternal value, and compassion is one of them. I hope we never lose that. Compassion for humans as well as animals. I've been very involved recently with attempts to save the whales. Incidentally, have you heard about the discovery of the largest living creature on Earth? Would you believe it's two or three miles across, and probably several thousand years old, and still growing? It's this fungus that's eating Oregon. It's a single creature. I'm not quite sure how that's determined.
-Onion AV interview with Arthur C. Clarke
I got a joke for you guys. What's the difference between a large cheese pizza and a professional poker player? A large cheese pizza can feed a family of four.
- Chris "Jesus" Ferguson from the commentary track of the Rounders DVD. Part of Commentary Tracks of the Blessed which also includes Sunday in the Park with George (about the life and work of George Seraut) which sounds really interesting. There's also Schizopolis, which sounds just demented enough for me to like.

He's listening...
1. David Cross, It's Not Funny (Sub Pop) (Buy It!) Lots of unfunny things happened in 2004, and David Cross wrung laughs from a lot of them on It's Not Funny. He even seemed to have a better handle on the mindset of Osama bin Laden than the Bush administration: "If the terrorists hated freedom, then the Netherlands would be fucking dust." Just a few months later, bin Laden released one of his tapes (not on Sub Pop), saying, "Bush has told you that we do not like freedom. Then why didn't we hit Sweden?" Whoa.
-Best Albums of 2004 In the Best DVD's of 2004 I learned of, among other things, Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game. I suppose after seeing The Grand Illusion I should have known that he had made more than one great film. Speaking of...
"Of all cinema’s illustrious martyr figures, none is more romantic than Jean Vigo, poet maudit of ‘30s French cinema, dead at 29 after a long struggle with tuberculosis, leaving a filmography that can be screened in just over three hours and which, during his lifetime, showed every sign of vanishing into oblivion. But the ethereal beauty and earthy anarchism that permeate his two masterpieces Zero de conduite (1933) and L’Atalante (1934) are still enveloping audiences in their hypnotic atmosphere today and leaving them sure in the knowledge that Vigo was more than a filmmaker – he was a moment in film history that will never be repeated."
Maximilian Le Cain

A review or two of Zero for Conduct'
O: Why do you think screenwriters are perceived as disposable?

JE: Because everyone in the world thinks they can write, from the studio heads to producers to directors to cab drivers who always try to tell me the story of their lives, and think that it'd make a great movie. Everyone thinks they can write. Writing doesn't involve the kind of technical knowledge a director has to have. Writing has to do with your own heart and gut and brain in terms of trying to tell a story, and everyone thinks they can do that.
JE: I think there have been exceptions to the rule, and I think that there have been some really militant, famous exceptions to it, most especially Paddy Chayefsky, who viewed himself as a screenwriter the same way he viewed himself as a playwright. He even had a clause in his contract for Altered States, saying that his words simply couldn't be changed. Of course, what happened there—one of the saddest and darkly funniest stories I know about screenwriters in Hollywood—is that Ken Russell, who directed the film at the height of his fame as an auteur director, was also at the height of his alcoholism. He began changing the script upside down, at which point Chayefsky and the studio reminded him that he couldn't do that, by contract. At which point Russell, angered, began purposely trying to destroy Paddy's dialogue by having the actors eat while they were delivering it, or having them deliver it in a staccato, machine-gun kind of style, so that you couldn't make out what they were saying. Ultimately, he was able to destroy both Paddy's script and the movie, which was a critical and commercial failure. It was a heartbreaking experience for Chayefsky, who had fought for decades against that, and for protecting his material. It was such a heartbreaking experience that he died shortly afterwards, some say from a broken heart.
-the O.A.V. interview with Joe Eszterhas
Television is a very writer-driven business, and it's one of the few parts of entertainment where writers are treated with respect, only because they need you. If they didn't have to treat you with respect, they would be happy to dismiss you. But unlike with a movie, they need a new script next week, as well. As a result, a lot of writers have been working their way up the ranks, so a lot of those titles that you see at the start of the show—story editor, co-producer, producer, supervising producer, executive producer, co-executive producer—those are mostly writer titles. There are also some non-writing executive producers who offer creative guidance and do a lot of work with the networks, and that kind of thing. But for the most part, it's a good business for writers, because you're able to develop the same status as a director in the world of film.
MH: There's this weird thing that happens where they screen the shows, and they want you to watch the screening. It's really just what you'd picture. They put the audience on the other side of a one-way mirror, and you watch them watch the show. If you've never watched people watch television, I don't recommend it. It's not an exciting thing to do. They hold this knob, and they turn the knob to the right when they like something, and to the left when they don't like something. Can you imagine this standard being applied to any other thing? Eating, or listening to music, for instance? It's not like the brain is that finely calibrated to pleasure. So they'll watch, and within a joke, they'll start not liking something, and then they'll see Tobias walking in a pirate outfit, "Now we're happy again! We're happy again!" Then there will be a little dull moment where maybe Tobias gets in the van, and they're not that happy, but then they'll see Tobias out on the boat, and they're happy! And then they take the aggregate of these scores and say, "You got a seven." It's a crazy system. Then everybody sits together and says, "Oh, we got a seven. All right, we got to cut. We got a problem. Can we cut the part where he's in the van?"

As a writer, as a creative person, you say, "Guys, I don't think we can just keep the peaks." It's a very common thing in entertainment. That's why a lot of movies suffer. It's like people having dinner and saying, "Boy, that dessert was good." "I thought so, too!" "Well, can we start with the dessert?" "Let's start with the cake, then bring out the salad." "Boy, the salad is testing badly now." "Let's bring out another piece of cake!" Then it's like, "Let's bring some heroin in. The cake isn't doing it anymore." So you get these awful… As a creative person, you try not to be too defensive about that stuff. You want to listen. What do people think? You'd rather have it be your peers and friends, but you think, "All right, let me suffer the insults." Then you watch as they discuss it. "I thought it was kind of stupid." And you're sitting on the other side of the glass nodding at something somebody called stupid. Something you worked on for the last six months. "Good. Good note!" Then as they talk, "It was just dumb. I don't know, when they got on the boat, that was pretty funny." And by the end, they were all talking about how funny it was.
- O.A.V. interview with Mitchell Hurwitz (writer for Arrested Development)
My girlfriend and I are sort of animal rescuers, and we went to a benefit for an animal-rescue group. The publicists were begging me to go through the front on the red carpet, and I just didn't feel like doing it, so I didn't. I think the thing is this: When I was a kid, my dad was a drunk, and he would sometimes try to kill me and my sister. Well, he didn't really, but he said he would, and it scared us. I knew I had sort of a comic talent, comic timing, and I wanted to be a comic actor. When things were bad, I would go to bed crying and think, "I'm gonna be really famous. I'll show him." So I tried to do that, and as a result, I met the other guys. By the time of the TV show, the quest for being famous had melted away, and it became about loving the work. I really fell in love with the work. I learned how to write, and there I was on TV for five years. As a result, I became semi-famous, because I stopped caring about it. I honestly thought that if I kept caring about it, I wouldn't be known. The catch-22 is that I don't care about that now. This is a therapy session!
- O.A.V. interview with Kevin McDonald and the rest of the folks from Kids in the Hall

A Guide to Celebrity Bloggers

O: To that end, do you feel your audiences are more sophisticated now in handling a certain level of disorientation?

CK: From my vantage point in writing a story, I can't and don't and have no interest in thinking about the level of sophistication of the audience. I can only think about what interests me, and maybe what I would want to see if I were watching the movie. To me, that's the key to writing something that's not pandering. I go about my business and try to do what I'm interested in doing in the best way I know how to do it. That's my job.

MG: I come back to the idea of geometry. I think of a story like working with Lego blocks. If you replace one scene to fix one problem, then a second problem arises, because everything shifts out of place. You want just the right balance in the storytelling, and that's what drives both of us. Before anyone sees the film, we need to achieve our own sense of fulfillment. If the movie is rejected, then it's not very pleasant. But if we're not satisfied, no one will like it.
CK: This is something I want to talk about for a second, because when people criticize Human Nature, it's usually over what they see as this simplistic idea that nature is better than civilization. In actuality, that has nothing to do with what the movie's about. In fact, the movie was mocking that simplistic idea. The movie is a parody of that stupid notion.

MG: We have a hard time talking about this movie, because it was not about something so simple as nature vs. civilization. To me, it's about what your real interest is when you're doing something that's supposedly to be nice to someone.

O: It ends up being about sex, right? That seems to be the underlying motivation behind virtually all of the characters' actions in the movie.

CK: It's about sex, but it's also about people being hurtful and lonely and trying to find a place for themselves. They want to find a connection with other people, and they're not finding it.
-O.A.V. interview with Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry
O: In the beginning, what led you to get on stage and do comedy without telling jokes?

MS: Well, I was a writer, I couldn't sell anything, and the comedians were among the dumbest people I had ever met. They'd all say to me, "The average man won't understand it." You know, they're superior to the average man. [Laughs.] Nobody would do it. So I went up there very timidly, swallowed my Adam's apple, and did it. I had a place in San Francisco, the Hungry i—it'll be 50 years ago in a couple weeks—where I could woodshed and get in there and do it. And I dare say that if most comedians today, the gifted ones, were to sit down and write, they'd learn more about their craft. But what happens is they get out there before they learn what their viewpoint is, if any. They're all sort of pseudo-Republicans. In case they make money, they're Republicans. In the unlikely event they're successful. [Laughs.]

O: How important do you think it is for a comedian to have a viewpoint?

MS: Viewpoint is everything, because you filter the events through it. Otherwise, their stuff is trivial. You know the magazine American Prospect? A guy called me from there, and he wanted to talk about Nov. 22 [1963]. I was in the hospital, and I said, "I'm not gonna make any comment about that. I'm in the hospital." So he prints it as an interview, and he headlines it "Grassy Knoll Theory #847." Which is really a sad service to those of us who struggled and stuck our necks out. I mean, I used to read the Warren Report on stage. I didn't think that anything is beyond humor—not profane humor, but a good, honest approach to humor. To do what humor does best: plant a seed of doubt in this country, as they're in self-congratulatory orgy.
MS:...The crying is the easiest part. I remember getting into an argument at a coffeehouse up there—some guy got mad at me and led the restaurant in singing "God Bless America." He said to me, "Are you a real American?" I said, "Singing is the easiest part." As Ralph Nader can tell you. That breast-beating and everything, I mean, look where we are now. My God. The liberals are still making fun of this stuff as if it's a personality defect of John Ashcroft, rather than addressing fascism. I suppose they're all afraid they're going to Guantanamo. In this field, how do you make that stuff funny? You have to have, as you said earlier, point of view, and then go from there. You've got a society that not only isn't courageous, but even the apprehension of discomfort makes them roll over.
MS:...After your heart is broken, then you can do the material. When people write comedy from neutrality, it just gets kind of silly....I'm pretty much a Victorian, but even discussing sex... The fact that sex is nature's joke on man and love is nature's joke on women is worth exploring. You have to hold people's feet to the fire, and the joke will come out of unusual places....I'm mad at the lack of realization of the lack of romance, and I'm sad about it.
MS:...I've noticed that the people in the business have not realized is that the audience has gotten smarter. I used to go to two movies every week for the Saturday matinee when I was a kid. Now, with television, everybody's seen everything all day. They're more sophisticated than they're given credit for. And it may be that more guys aren't daring because they can't... What they need is a combination of rebellion and irreverence and disrespect for authority, with a respect for universal law.
-O.A.V. interview with Mort Sahl
O: It's taken a really long time to bring Thompson's book to the screen. Do you think there's something in Fear And Loathing that's distinctly contemporary, as opposed to 1971?

TG: I think it helped to have some distance from that time. I just think it's relevant now, because people are feeling that this totally materialistic society we live in is not the end-all. And I think it's harder to know who the enemies are now. Back then, it was easy. There was a war going on that was clearly wrong; there were so many things wrong—you know, basically, criminals running the country. And that's what the book was about, this loss. The hope of the '60s, the dreams of the '60s, had all sort of faded away. I think we've now gone down that road for so long that I don't know what dreams are left, but you need them. I get the feeling that especially younger people want something to get involved with. Now, I don't know if this film does that or not, but at least it says that there was a time when you did that. You could behave "badly." Maybe what I'm talking about is that things have become so constricted, people are frightened to say anything because someone [whispers] might take offense. You can't use words because [gasps]. Everything is looked at in a negative way, that someone may be hurt. Which is fine, but at a certain point, it becomes ridiculous. We stop thinking because one person might be disturbed by it. What those characters in the film are, these are people reacting to the world around them, and they're angry, and they're trying to deal with it. And I think we've got to break through the caution of the past few years. I know what the results will be; usually, it'll be chaos. But at least people will start to think again. I think people have just gone numb, stopped questioning, stopped making noise, stopped behaving badly in a sense. I think some of the rappers are pushing it, but that's kind of marginalized out there.
-O.A.V. interview with Terry Gilliam
A walk through Daily Howler's recent forays into how screwed up the media circus show is... Death Estate Tax destruction deludes the folks at the Washington Post. You'd think that a google search might help them figure things out, but the fact is they don't value the truth more than access to dinner parties. So we shouldn't feel sorry for folks like Nicholas Kristof complaining about their tarnished credibility and that they are seen as "out of touch, untrustworthy, arrogant" because that's exactly what they are. The Al Gore Love Story BS is a perfect example. But even better is the free pass given to Ann Coulter in the pages of Time. Whether or not Jay Carney is what Time wants to be about or just an unfortunate example of the increasing view that you have to play to both sides, truth and integrity be damned, it shows an horrible lack of judgement on the editorial staff to fluff up someone so full of shit.
Prepare for the depressing... Armenians are still trying to get the Turkish government to admit that the genocide really happened 90 years ago. It's an issue that is has brought some heartless comments within the Metafilter thread. For some like Orhan Pamuk saying that it happened was met with charges of commiting hate-speech and commiting a crime.

Emotionally charged issues often don't fare well as this thread about J. Robert Oppenheimer descends into people rationalizing nuking people. Things like the Trial of Truman are important to consider in understanding our impact and image to the rest of the world.

But in the end...well, what about the end? Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency is depressing but the concept of peak oil is the pits. "It's the oil, stupid" take on politics is compelling, but doesn't seem to take everything into account. the chilling prospect of all this is that most people will continue to be willingly unaware of the possible problems in store for us all. Why?

The Neurobiology of Mass Delusion
Sorry, How 'bout some Laser-controlled headless zombie flies!
A bit of ironic fun is The Parents Television Council page on the worst on TV which hosts clips often claimed to be gratuitous displays of sex or suggestions of how the Hollywood agenda is set to corrupt our morals.
Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy comments that "Hopefully I have made it possible for somebody on broadcast television to do a rear-entry scene in three years. Maybe that will be my legacy."
Here's a thoughtful piece on the "Culture Wars" by Digby. This is something we will see more and more of as the Republicans move to remove any daylight between them and the religious right.
A post on nethack for the geek-set
Tuesday 12
The issue is whether religious faith should be allowed to intrude with impunity in such secular areas as politics or science and still claim the protection of reverence and law. The answer, shafars should loudly proclaim, is no. Once Southern Baptists, Catholics, Jews or Muslims enter the political arena, they are no more entitled to special protection or regulated rhetoric than a Democrat or a Republican.
-Sam Smith, "SEVENTH DAY AGNOSTICS ARISE:YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR STEREOTYPE" and more.

Reader respond. More responses.

From further down on the first link are a selection of quotes of the Founding Fathers. One in particular is from Jefferson: "The whole history of [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful, evidence that parts have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds." This inspired him to the task of, "abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried, easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of his biographers, and as separate from that as the diamond from the dung hill." This resulted in The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth and later The Jefferson Bible

Something to keep in mind as superstition-based beliefs bombard the country. Take the example of the superstitious belief that there is anything at all wrong with contraception. Instead of being laughed at, these people get a whole lot of attention when they die and when they are alive they try to inflict their foolish beliefs on the rest of us. Such is the case now in Texas where a bill has been drafted to prevent employers from firing or not hiring idiots, AKA pharmacists that won't fill out birth-control prescriptions for "moral" reasons. In my state of Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich made an emergency rule to get pharmacists to do their job. Obviously, this is a emotional issue for the idiots. They refer to the Governor as "Slobodan" Blagojevich forming the obvious connection between genocide and birth control. This "culture of life" stuff gets to me.

If that wasn't enough. The folks in Atwood, Kansas decided to defend the "sanctity of marriage" through the tradition religious method of screwing up the lives of homosexuals. *sigh*
I still have not heard anything that makes me accept that the expansion of settlements could ever lead to peace. "Amira Hass Reflects on Reporting Under Occupation"
"11 years ago this week, the Rwandan Genocide began and didn't end until almost a million Rwandans, mostly Tutsis, were dead - killed by their own countrymen in the span of 100 days."
Five Ways to Combat Conservative Media
A FULL-FORCE STORM WITH GALE WINDS BLOWING, A Talk with Robert Trivers
Leo Valladares says, "it is impossible, totally impossible, that Mr. Negroponte didn't know about the human rights violations in my country, Honduras. He could have stopped all of this abuses and killings, because he have the power to give orders to stop it."

A recent FOIA request by the Washington Post seems to agree.
The day after the House voted to halt all aid to rebels fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras John D. Negroponte urged the president's national security adviser and the CIA director to hang tough.

The thrust of the envoy's "back channel" July 1983 message to the men running the contra war against Nicaragua was contained in a single cryptic sentence: "Hondurans believe special project is as important as ever."

"Special project" was code for the secret arming of contra rebels from bases in Honduras -- a cause championed by Negroponte, then a rising diplomatic star. In cables and memos, Negroponte made it clear that he saw the "special project" as key to the Reagan administration's strategy of rolling back communism in Central America.
The things that have been done in the name of fighting communism...will they be exceed in the fight against terrorism?
Here comes the internet...
My Pet Moose, by Klondike Kate cannot be missed.
Science of being happy
Friday 8
Christopher Hitchens on the death of Saul Bellow
the case of Curveball
I've tried to avoid the whole right-to-life-or-death issue, but this is a thoughtful piece and worth your time.
civil liberties still at stake.
Tuesday 5
It's terrible to watch some of the videos and realise that you're not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying. The prison guards stand over their captives with electric cattle prods, stun guns, and dogs. Many of the prisoners have been ordered to strip naked. The guards are yelling abuse at them, ordering them to lie on the ground and crawl. 'Crawl, motherf- - - - - s, crawl.'

If a prisoner doesn't drop to the ground fast enough, a guard kicks him or stamps on his back. There's a high-pitched scream from one man as a dog clamps its teeth onto his lower leg.

Another prisoner has a broken ankle. He can't crawl fast enough so a guard jabs a stun gun onto his buttocks. The jolt of electricity zaps through his naked flesh and genitals. For hours afterwards his whole body shakes.

Lines of men are now slithering across the floor of the cellblock while the guards stand over them shouting, prodding and kicking.

Second by second, their humiliation is captured on a video camera by one of the guards.

These were exactly the kind of pictures from inside Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad that shocked the world this time last year. And they are similar, too, to the images of brutality against Iraqi prisoners that this week led to the conviction of three British soldiers.

But there is a difference. These prisoners are not caught up in a war zone. They are Americans, and the video comes from inside a prison in Texas.
-Torture Inc. Americas Brutal Prisons

Abu Ghraib Probe Suggests CIA Role in Iraqi Deaths
Pot makes people less violent, but more prone to sarcasm.
Exxon spends just $10m a year on research aimed at developing alternatives to fossil fuels. This compares, for instance, with more than $100m a year spent at BP, while Shell will invest $1bn between 2003 and the end of this year on developing renewable energy sources.

Michael Crosby, a priest who speaks on behalf of a group of 275 religious organisations that are institutional investors, said: "Exxon has put all its eggs in the fossil fuel basket. That represents a fossilised way of thinking, literally and figuratively."

A spokesman for Exxon insisted "we do take climate change seriously". But he said the company had decided to focus on making the consumption of fossil fuels more efficient and less harmful. A 2002 company publication, ExxonMobil Perspectives, stated: "There continue to be substantial and well-documented gaps in climate science. These gaps limit scientists' ability to assess the extent of any human influence on climate."

Kyoto puts legal obligations on signatory countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases produced by human activity, principally carbon dioxide, which are blamed by most scientists for a potentially disastrous warming of the earth's atmosphere. The US pulled out of Kyoto in 2001.
-Green Activists to Challenge ExxonMobil on Kyoto Stance
"The concentration of power in the hands of the executive - be it a monarchy, military dictatorship or a civilian president elected without competition - has created a kind of political black hole," it said.

"The modern Arab state, in the political sense, runs close to this astronomical model, whereby the executive apparatus resembles a 'black hole' which converts its surrounding social environment into a setting in which nothing moves and from which nothing escapes," it added....

"In the absence of peaceful and effective mechanisms to address injustice and achieve political alternation, some might be tempted to embrace violent protest, with the risk of internal disorder," the report warned.

"This could lead to chaotic upheavals that might force a transfer of power in Arab countries, but such a transfer could well involve armed violence and human losses that, however small, would be unacceptable," it said.

"By 21st century standards, Arab countries have not met the Arab people's aspirations for development, security and liberation despite variations between one country and another in that respect.

"There is a near-complete consensus that there is a serious failing in the Arab world and that this is located specifically in the political sphere," not in cultural circles, it said.
-UN Warns of Chaotic Upheavals in Arab World

About The Arab Human Development Report Series. You can download the 2004 report for $10.
Sharon lies about stopping settlements. Being a murderer, what's a little lying?
It was Skinner who identified, more clearly than anyone before -- or after -- the key stumbling block for those of us trying to see ourselves accurately; namely, a reluctance to countenance that human actions are caused, because the more causation, the less credit. "We recognize a person's dignity or worth," writes Skinner, "when we give him credit for what he has done. The amount we give is inversely proportional to the conspicuousness of the causes of his behavior. If we do not know why a person acts as he does, we attribute his behavior to him. We try to gain additional credit for ourselves by concealing the reasons why we behave in given ways or by claiming to have acted for less powerful reasons." Ironically, there is something flattering and legitimizing in actions or thoughts that spring unbidden from our "self" -- whatever that may be -- and that aren't otherwise explicable. By the same token, the more our actions are caused, the less are we credited for them.

Skinner, again: "Any evidence that a person's behavior may be attributed to external circumstances seems to threaten his dignity or worth. We are not inclined to give a person credit for achievements which are in fact due to forces over which he has no control. We tolerate a certain amount of such evidence, as we accept without alarm some evidence that a man is not free. No one is greatly disturbed when important details of works of art and literature, political careers, and scientific discoveries are attributed to 'influences' in the lives of artists, writers, statesmen, and scientists respectively. But as an analysis of behavior adds further evidence, the achievements for which a person himself is to be given credit seem to approach zero, and both the evidence and the science which produces it are then challenged." And not only achievements: The quotidian events of normal living also qualify.

Most of my students are alternately amused and troubled, for example, when I speculate that "love" is, on one level, an evolutionary mechanism that insures an inclination to invest in individuals suitable to help maximize one's fitness, and on another, a consequence of appropriate amounts of oxytocin (in women) or vasopressin (in men), released in conjunction with sexual satisfaction. "That's just not acceptable," one young lady moaned, "I want my boyfriend to love me on his own, and not because of his genes or chemicals, but because of him and me!"

It is one thing, however, to insist on being loved for one's self, and not, for example, because of a hefty trust account; quite another to demand that love emerge spontaneously, somehow bubbling up and taking form without any cause whatsoever.

Skinner points out, further, that a scientific conception of behavior "does not dehumanize man, it dehomunculizes him," abolishing the unsupportable conceit that people are responsible for their actions. Why unsupportable? After all, each of us knows, subjectively, that we are free to act as we choose, and yet, as David Hume pointed out more than two centuries ago, this "knowledge" must be false: Either our behavior is a consequence of prior events (modern readers can substitute "contingencies of reinforcement," "genetic predispositions toward fitness maximization," "electrochemical events taking place across neuronal membranes," and so forth), in which case we are not responsible for such actions, or it is truly spontaneous and thus random, in which case we are, if anything, even less responsible.
-B.F. Skinner, Revisited
Sunday 3
An interesting look at the nature of Hinduism
Delgado says he observed mutilation of the dead, trophy photos of dead Iraqis, mass roundups of innocent noncombatants, positioning of prisoners in the line of fire—all violations of the Geneva conventions. His own buddies—decent, Christian men, as he describes them—shot unarmed prisoners.

In one government class for seniors, Delgado presented graphic images, his own photos of a soldier playing with a skull, the charred remains of children, kids riddled with bullets, a soldier from his unit scooping out the brains of a prisoner. Some students were squeamish, like myself, and turned their heads. Others rubbed tears from their eyes. But at the end of the question period, many expressed appreciation for opening a subject that is almost taboo. "If you are old enough to go to war," Delgado said, "you are old enough to know what really goes on." It is a rare moment when American students, who play video war games more than baseball, are exposed to the realities of occupation. Delgado does not name names. Nor does he want to denigrate soldiers or undermine morale. He seeks to be a conscience for the military, and he wants Americans to take ownership of the war in all its tragic totality.
Q: They refer to Iraqis as "Hajjis"?

DELGADO: "Hajji" is the new slur, the new ethnic slur for Arabs and Muslims. It is used extensively in the military. The Arabic word refers to one who has gone on a pilgrimage to Mecca. But it is used in the military with the same kind of connotation as "gook," "Charlie," or the n-word. Official Army documents now use it in reference to Iraqis or Arabs. It's real common. There was really a thick aura of racism.
-Army reservist witnesses war crimes, by Paul Rockwell (found from this thread about how the Pentagon has more images from Abu Ghrai that haven't been shown)

I saw Sometimes in April today on HBO. They used the term "cockroaches" to describe the Tutsi's they were butchering. It seems that racism as a tool to dehumanize is nearly inseparatable from war. How else could one go on killing?

I was shocked. This was the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. He was a family man, a really courteous guy, a devout Christian. I was stunned and said to him: "You shot an unarmed man behind barbed wire for throwing a stone." He said, "Well, I knelt down. I said a prayer, stood up and gunned them all down." There was a complete disconnect between what he had done and his own morality.


...one of the most horrifing things I've ever read.

Delgado talks about how most of the detainee arrive after random raids of nearby males every time a bomb goes off or something.
News analyses about the war coalition's crackup competed for front-page space with the Abu Ghraib reports for nearly two weeks, until a videotape emerged showing American civilian Nick Berg getting his head sawed off in Iraq. Suddenly, editorialists were urging us to "keep perspective" about "who we're fighting against."

As The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto put it, with great cynicism and possibly great accuracy, "if the Democrats really think that belaboring complaints about harsh treatment of the enemy is the way to 'score points with the public,' they're more out of touch than we thought."
-Matt Welch (found)
Amy Richards is another to join the chorus that state that the left lacks ideas. I am not so certain that this is true or if it is, that it's due to all the energy being devoted to protecting those ideas that are under constant attack.
The Ten Major Principles of the Gnostic Revelation, Exegesis excerpts by Philip K. Dick, 1974-1982
Mother of alll Bombs, from E-sheep. Just a teaser so far.
On Creation Care. Oh, the irony of the criticism of environmentalists is priceless.
March 2005
Thursday 31
President Bush's approval rating has reached an all-time low in his presidency. And he has made 2 major miscalculations in the last month. One is his involvement with the Schiavo case where it turns out the overwhelming majority of people are opposed to congressional intervention which Bush approved, flying back in the middle of the night from vacation in Crawford to sign off on Congress' legislation. Add to that social security and his ill-fated 60-city tour, his ratings are at an all-time low. The Schiavo case was clearly a serious miscalculation for Bush, and the majority of Americans do not buy his social security privatization plan. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 55% percent of Americans oppose his plan. Recently in New York, a debate was held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. It was called "Social Security: Is it Really a Crises?" It featured New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, author of "The Great Unravelling: Losing Our Way in the New Century," as well as Josh Micah Marshall who runs the website TalkingPointsMemo.com. We begin with Michael Tanner from the CATO Institute. Under his direction, CATO launched the Project on Social Security Choice, advocating privatizing social security
-Democracy Now!

Watch this INN video on Social Security
Wednesday 30
When Luis lowered Stinky into the water for their run, Lorenzo prayed to the Virgin Mary. He prayed that the tampons would work but then wondered if the Virgin got her period and whether it was appropriate for him to be praying to her about tampons. He tried to think of a different saint to pray to but couldn't come up with an appropriate one. The whir of Stinky's propellers brought him back to the task at hand, extracting a water sample from a submerged container.
La Vida Robot, By Joshua Davis [metafilter]
The Greenspan profile from GQ
...Greenspan and Brunie were out to dinner with Milton Friedman. "I asked the two geniuses,"recalls Brunie, "'Of all the politicians you have known, how would you rank their intellectual ability?' And Milton said, 'Well, on a Bo Derek scale, Bob Taft was a nine and a half, Nixon was a nine, and Reagan's a seven—' and Alan interrupted, 'No, no, Milton. Reagan's not a seven. He's a four!' Milton said, 'Alan, what do you mean by four?' Alan said, 'Well, Gerry Ford's a four.' And Milton said, 'I don't know what that means.' And Alan said, 'Well, if you gave Gerry Ford a series of data, no matter what the series was, he could not develop a concept. And Reagan is the same.' "

Anyway, not to pick on Reagan and Ford. They're just the obvious examples, but it's no better now. The debates last fall almost killed him, seeing Bush and Kerry stand on stage and just shatter and destroy the facts. Watching, Greenspan could feel his whole body tighten up; he was complaining about it for weeks, to anyone who would listen. Is there no room for accuracy anymore? No place for facts? This is what drives him, what makes it almost impossible not to meddle. Twelve hours a day, he sits alone in his office, burying himself in data, in the bland, unglamorous world of figures, while these shiny politicians clog the airwaves with their empty rhetoric and drivel.... It is impossible not to notice what they're doing. Impossible not to recognize that they are out of control, steering the economy toward ruin....Privately, he tells his friends that the deficit is a crisis on wings. There is no more room for excuses. No more pinning the blame on war and recession. There are only three options now: to cut spending, raise taxes, or both.
If it is tempting for Greenspan's allies to downplay his connection to Ayn Rand—who is widely regarded as an extremist, even by conservatives—or chalk their friendship up to youthful enthusiasm, it should be noted that Greenspan was a fervent acolyte of Rand for nearly thirty years, well beyond his youth. In fact, as late as 1966, the 40-year-old economist published an essay titled "Gold and Economic Freedom"in one of Rand's journals, in which he denounced government regulation, arguing for the elimination of taxes, the end of what he called "the welfare state,"and the abolition of the Federal Reserve as we know it.

"Stripped of its academic jargon,"Greenspan wrote, "the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society to support a wide variety of welfare schemes. A substantial part of the confiscation is effected by taxation."
Despite his nearly twenty years of partisan work, Greenspan's loyalty had never been to the Republican Party. It was to conservatism itself. This was a critical difference. When Greenspan looked at the legacy of Reaganomics, he did not see conservative policy. In the course of eight years, Reagan had almost tripled the national debt, from $930 billion to $2.6 trillion. The federal budget had been in the red for an average of $209 billion each year. Some economists found ways to justify these deficits, but Greenspan was not among them. Spending more than you earn, whether you're a government, a business, or an individual, is a path to ruin, he felt. An ever increasing portion of income must be diverted to interest payments, and the cycle of debt can become inescapable. To Greenspan, it was especially irresponsible to slash taxes when spending was rising. He was no advocate of taxes, but as long as there was high government spending, taxes were a necessary evil: The only thing worse than tax-and-spend was spend-and-don't-tax....

He offered the president a deal: If Bush would persuade Congress to raise taxes and tackle the deficit, violating his 1988 campaign promise—"Read my lips, no new taxes"—Greenspan would cut the interest rate and boost the economy in time for the 1992 campaign....[But Greenspan never held up his end]
...I had also heard, from former Clinton adviser Dick Morris, about a quid pro quo between Greenspan and Bill Clinton in 1993. Again, the issue was taxes. In 1993, a few months after entering office, Clinton proposed that the federal income tax should become more progressive, putting more burden on the rich. He wanted to raise the upper tax bracket from 31 percent to 38 percent for people making more than $200,000 per year. To Clinton, this was only fair, an equalizing measure. But to Greenspan, it would have been the essence of unfairness, just the kind of policy that he had described in 1966 as "the welfare state,"in which "governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society."According to Morris, Greenspan and Clinton "made, together, an explicit or de facto deal."If Clinton would raise revenue through a different tax—one that affected everybody, not just the rich—Greenspan would cut the interest rate and give the economy a boost. [leading to the Clinton era surplus, which Bush planned to destroy]
Politically, Greenspan agreed with Bush: It was better to return the tax revenue than to increase spending. But he also felt that the tax cuts should occur only if the budget surplus remained. If the surplus turned into a deficit, there would be no money to return. On this condition, Greenspan signed on. Speaking to Congress in January 2001, he said, "Tax reduction appears required."

Nothing could have surprised Clinton's economic team more. Not only had Greenspan gone public with his support, but his support seemed to contradict his own principles. The deficit might be gone, but the national debt was still enormous. Based on everything they knew about Greenspan, it was stunning that he would endorse tax cuts rather than paying down the debt.
[metafilter]
It's more than just a review of the SNES game, it's about the Illusion of Gaia and my cousin David. It's worth your time. [metafilter] Also, the Progressive boink seems like a fun place to hang out at. Check out Frank Miller's SimCity
...I often try to calm them by suggesting that I'm not really a radical at all, merely a moderate of a time that has not yet come.
-Sam Smith
We're not just putting the breaks on progressive culture, we're heading in reverse thanks to Bush's FCC.
GG Allin
Tuesday 29
Gamma Burst real time star map goodness. Thanks!
Using the Bible to help decide on a sentence. Good or Bad? An eye for an eye? Related: The re-introduction of the Constitution Restoration Act.
Micheal Moore vindicated again.
Now, newly released government records show previously undisclosed flights from Las Vegas and elsewhere and point to a more active role by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in aiding some of the Saudis in their departure.

The F.B.I. gave personal airport escorts to two prominent Saudi families who fled the United States, and several other Saudis were allowed to leave the country without first being interviewed, the documents show....

The Saudis' chartered flights, arranged in the days after the attacks when many flights in the United States were still grounded, have proved frequent fodder for critics of the Bush administration who accuse it of coddling the Saudis. The debate was heightened by the filmmaker Michael Moore, who scrutinized the issue in "Fahrenheit 9/11," but White House officials have adamantly denied any special treatment for the Saudis, calling such charges irresponsible and politically motivated.
Hugo Chávez and Petro Populism, by Christian Parenti
The Rube Goldberg inspired 3rd Court "Contraption"
Are Democrats "soft" on crime? Crime Policy of the Democratic Party, by Steve Hoenisch
Monday 28: Patience with brainwashed fundy nuts draws thin today.
A bit of fun had by Scientific American turns into a troll fest featuring newly transplated brainwashed fundy from FARK, Bevets. However, this troll is soon taken to task and some interesting information appears
From the Mefi thread above, are some links about Robert Trivers.
Trivers has been teaching himself things and then growing bored with them his whole life. In 1956, when he was 13 and living in Berlin (his father was posted there by the State Department), he taught himself all of calculus in about three months. Around the same time, and with more modest success, Trivers-a skinny child picked on by bullies-tried to learn how to box, doing push-ups and covertly reading Joe Louis's ''How to Box'' in the school library.

Trivers would go on to join the boxing team at Phillips Academy, Andover. He would also go on to drop math his freshman year at Harvard, decide to become a lawyer, suffer a nervous breakdown that kept him from getting in to any law schools, enroll in Harvard's doctoral program in biology without having taken a single biology class as an undergraduate, and-while still a grad student-write the first in a series of papers that would revolutionize the field of evolutionary biology.
Trivers's work grew out of an insight made by the Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton, who died in 2000. In a 1964 paper, Hamilton proposed an elegant solution to a problem that had rankled evolutionary theorists for some time. In a battle of the fittest, why did organisms occasionally do things that benefited others at a cost to themselves? The answer, Hamilton wrote, emerged when one took evolution down to the level of the gene. Individuals were merely vessels for genes, which survived from generation to generation, and it made no difference to the gene which organism it survived in.

According to this logic, the degree to which an organism was likely to sacrifice for another should vary in direct proportion to the degree of relatedness: Humans, for example, would be more likely to share food with a son than a second cousin, and more likely to share with a second cousin than someone wholly unrelated. Hamilton called the concept ''inclusive fitness.''

In 1976, the Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins would popularize Hamilton's ideas in his book ''The Selfish Gene.'' But more than anyone else, it was Trivers, then a graduate student, who grasped the profound implications of Hamilton's work. In a way, Trivers's legendary papers of the early 1970s were simply a series of startling applications of its logic.

In the most frequently cited of them, ''Parental Investment and Sexual Selection'' (1972), Trivers started from the basic observation that in most species females invest more time and energy in their offspring than males. If Hamilton was right, Trivers reasoned, this meant that females, who had more at stake in each of their offspring, would be more choosy about their mates, and that males, who had less, would compete with each other for the chance to inseminate as many females as possible. This simple idea, he argued, explained a raft of phenomena throughout the animal world, from cuckoldry to infanticide to differences in size and life span between males and females.
This seems to have some things in common with "THE NATURE OF NORMAL HUMAN VARIETY."
One of the really surprising results in recent years, which comes from the comparison of the genomes of different species, is that every newborn child carries three novel deleterious mutations, that is, mutations that its parents didn't have. Not only that, but each child inherits at least some of the mutations that its parents have as well. It's estimated then — and of course this is just an estimate — that every newly conceived person has something like 300 mutations that affect its health for the worse in some fashion....

If you go to teratology museums—literally "monstrosity museums"—in places such as Amsterdam and Philadelphia, you can see rows of babies in bottles. These infants, usually stillborn, are deformed in ways that are truly hideous, that really represent the kinds of monstrosities that you might expect from Greek myth. I mean this quite literally. They include children born with a single eye in the middle of their forehead, and who look exactly like the monsters of Greek myth—Polyphemus in The Odyssey, for example. Indeed, it's sometimes suggested that the monsters of Greek myth were inspired by deformed children, and this seems to be a fairly remarkable correspondence, at least with some of them.

These infants, when you see them, are truly horrific. But very quickly, after you look at them, a sort of intellectual fascination takes over because it's clear that these children tell us something very deep about how the human body is built. Take, for instance, these children with a single eye in the middle of their foreheads. The syndrome is called, appropriately, Cyclopia. Cyclopia is caused by a deficiency in a gene called Sonic hedgehog. Sonic hedgehog is named after a fruit fly gene which when mutated causes bristles to sprout all over the fruit fly larva, hence "hedgehog". When the gene was found in mammals, some wit called it Sonic hedgehog after the video game character. If you get rid of this gene, bad things happen. You lose your arms beneath the elbow and legs beneath the knee. The face collapses in on itself, such that you get a single eye in the middle of the forehead and the rest of the face collapses into a long, trunk-like proboscis. The forebrain, which is normally divided such that we have a left and a right brain—the left and right cerebral hemispheres—is fused into a single unitary structure. Indeed the technical name for this syndrome is called Holoprosencephaly....

These days, the general thinking tends to be that there's a universal notion of beauty which is true for people around the world. And the question is, what is that and what drives it?

Many people think that beauty is a certificate of health; this is an idea that comes out of sociobiology. But it is more obvious than than that. It's simply the idea that beautiful people are healthy people and we search for healthy mates. And that's probably true. Or at least it was. But is it still?...

I would argue that the reason for this is that there is and will always be variance in beauty is because there is variance in mutational load. What is beauty fundamentally about? I would argue — and this is really just a postulate at this time, but it is one that interests me a great deal — that the fundamental reason why some of us are more beautiful than others is because of those deleterious mutations that we all carry We may carry 300 deleterious mutations on average, but there is of course a variance associated with that. Not everybody has 300. Some people have more, some people have fewer. If this is true—and statistically it must be true — then someone in the world has the fewest mutations of all.
All that talk about beauty was not lost on at least one of the respondents, Nicholas Humphrey that writes:
Here's the problem. If the most beautiful person in the world is whoever it is who carries the fewest fitness lowering mutations, then (other things being equal) presumably the most beautiful person in the world is also the fittest person in the world. But this begs the question. Is she the fittest because she is regarded by potential mates as the most beautiful (and therefore gets to choose the best possible of fathers for her children). Or is she regarded as the most beautiful because she is seen by potential mates as the fittest (and therefore gets to be chosen by them as the best possible mother for their children).
[now on Metafilter] Of course, commercial science is already at work using such modern techniques as gleaned from Plato and Carl Jung and freakish looking masks.

And yes, there is a Beauty blog.
Beauty is a form of genius - is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts in the world like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark water of that silver shell we call the moon.
-Oscar Wilde
Gilles Deleuze, OEDIPUS AND THE DOGON:The myth of modernity interrogated
Reacting from a brain-dead statement by a a Republican:
Rep. Dennis K. Baxley said his own undergraduate education at Florida State University—in the 1970s—illustrated the failings of higher education: The problem was that an anthropology professor “did a tirade” in his course that evolution was correct and that creationism was not. Baxley said that students should not “get blasted” as he did for not believing in evolution.

Baxley said that faculties have too many “leftist totalitarian niches” and that lawmakers want to do something about the fact that “we’ve allowed universities to become an extreme leftist stronghold.”
PZ Myers makes a point.
...this was in an anthropology class. Isn’t it a good idea for students to know the best scientific explanation for human origins in that discipline? Baxley signed up for the course, and I’m curious to know what he expected to learn. Migration routes from the Garden of Eden? That the Lascaux paintings were actually done by God, and given the illusion of a greater than six thousand year old age? I’m finding it hard to imagine an anthropology course that wouldn’t give a die-hard culture warrior of the right the heebie-jeebies: social anthropology with all of that appreciation of non-Western cultures, or physical anthropology with comparative primate anatomy and million year old fossils…all of it pretty much diametrically opposed to the Religious Right’s wacko ideas.
After 2 years, here is a statement by "Iraq Veterans Against the War"
The problem is that more and more pharmacists are being revealed as brainwashed fundies that not only block women from getting birth-control and morning-after pills from them, but also block attempts to find normal pharmacists that would actually do their job. Kevin Haydon is much more reasonable than I in what he proposes. I feel that no one should be in a position to deny anyone what they are legally entitled to and such and action should be grounds for dismissal. In much the such way no one wants to be in a platoon full of conscientious objectors while in combat.
An interesting post on Venezuela. I have been thinking about covering it on the main page precisely because it's a story of how democracy can go both wrong and right. It's never simple.
Here is an aerial view of the ancient city of Rome is as it would have looked circa 320 AD during the reign of Emperor Constantine.
-Worth a click, eh?
Sunday 27
As far as I'm concerned, the metaphorical beauty of the resurrection ought to be enough for anyone. But that's just me. It's an incredible spring day here in southern California, the flowers are bursting into bloom, everything is green and new and lovely. Whether you are a literalist Christian or a non-believer like me, anyone can appreciate the glory of rebirth.
-Digby, after reading this article
In a separate reference, Josephus writes of "James the brother of the so-called Christ." A good Jew of the priestly caste, Josephus is not willing to grant Jesus the messianic title. In Athens, Stoic and Epicurean philosophers asked Paul to explain his message. "May we know what this new teaching is which you present?" they asked. "For you bring some strange things to our ears ..." They heard him out, but the Resurrection was too much of a reach for them. In the second century, the anti-Christian critic Celsus called the Resurrection a "cock-and-bull story," and cast doubt on the eyewitness testimony: "While he was alive he did not help himself, but after death he rose again and showed the marks of his punishment and how his hands had been pierced. But who say this? A hysterical female, as you say, and perhaps some other one of those who were deluded by the same sorcery, who either dreamt in a certain state of mind and through wishful thinking had a hallucination due to some mistaken notion ... or, which is more likely, wanted to impress others by telling this fantastic tale ..."
Another good one from Digby on debunking the great lie about Democratics failing to have any new ideas to counter the many new (and bad) ideas of the Republicans. The only thing I have to add is that the Democrats do have a corruption (NAFTA, WTO, Whitewater, etc.) problem too, it just pales to their opposition. [related]
But wait there's more. Nothing like a strident example of how much the media has bowed down to this administration.
Chicago cops to get new Impalas equiped with highly sensitive directional mics.
"The emerging axis of subversion forming between Cuba and Venezuela must be confronted before it can undermine democracy in Colombia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, or another vulnerable neighbour," he wrote, echoing a series of opinion pieces that have appeared mostly in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal in recent weeks.
-Rumsfeld and the administration have their eyes on South America
If you are brave enough to read the lyrics to the Wonder Woman tv show, click.
Sam Smith on the counter culture or lack thereof.
The shooting at the car with Giuliana Sgrena looks like an assassination attempt. But then, that GPS sniper rifle did turn out to be a fake.
David Horowitz and the googlesmear
Alexander Vilenkin, a physicist, believes that our universe is just one of an infinite number of similar regions. But "it follows from quantum mechanics" that the number of histories that can be played out in them is finite. The upshot of this crossplay of finitudes and infinities is that every possible history will play out in an infinite number of regions, which means there should be an infinite number of places with histories identical to our own down to the atomic level. "I find this rather depressing," says Vilenkin, "but it is probably true." The cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman, on the other hand, believes that "consciousness and its contents are all that exists," the physical universe being "among the humbler contents of consciousness." But he can't prove that either. Daniel Dennett sees consciousness as a scarcer commodity. His unproven belief is that, lacking language, animals and pre-linguistic children also lack self-awareness. He insists that neither is thereby morally demoted, but, I wonder, does this mean it is more acceptable to eat small children or less acceptable to eat animals?
-Paul Broks, Out of mind
"Of course, there will be people who object. There will be people who will say that this is a revival of racial science". Leroi argues that "there will always be people who wish to construct socially unjust theories about racial differences. And though it is true that science can be bent to evil ends, it is more often the case that injustice creeps in through the cracks of our ignorance than anything else. It is to finally close off those cracks that we should be studying the genetic basis of human variety."
-THE NATURE OF NORMAL HUMAN VARIETY
Saturday 26:A little insanity
"Hello. I am stuck in rehab with Pat O'Brien. I don't know what's worse, being stuck in rehab with Pat O'Brien or being addicted to painkillers." [metafilter] For the truely brave: Pat O'Brien's phone sex voicemails. Also from Screenhead is a strange clip of Tom Sizemore
Oh My! My Pet Dino is going to rock!
A good summation of the climate in the Culture wars currently
Friday 25
A UA student was banned from attending President Bush's Social Security forum at the Tucson Convention Center yesterday. UA Young Democrat Steven Gerner, a political science and pre-pharmacy sophomore, said he and three other Young Democrats had been waiting in line with their tickets for about 40 minutes when a staff member approached him and asked to read his T-shirt. Gerner was the only one of the four wearing a UAYD T-shirt, which read, "Don't be a smart (image of a donkey, the Democratic Party symbol). UA Young Democrats."

Gerner said the staffer, who refused to provide his name, asked for Gerner's ticket and crumpled it up. The staffer walked away, returned in 20 minutes, and told Gerner his name had been added to a list banning him from entering the convention center for the speech. . .
This kind of thing has happened multiple times now and certainly puts Bush's "uniter not a divider" claim as pure BS.
The Sniper rifle that puts a GPS tag in people.
Thursday 24
In a list of the most impressive skylines Hong Kong is #1 and Chicago #4. Some comments on Chicago:

Jonmc, as much as I love NYC and Manhattan, in my utterly biased opinion, I think Chicago's skyline is the best. There's just something about the combination of all the distinctive buildings and the lake that takes your breath away, especially when you're flying into the city.
posted by SisterHavana

when we moved from Chicago to Detroit, we looked for "downtown" for three whole days. Didn't realize that you had to drive out of the country (Windsor, Ont.) for the best view. Now live in an unranked and unenvious city. And still think fondly of the Chicago skyline.
posted by beelzbubba

I gotta say, New York is beautiful and Tokyo looks like it was created by William Gibson on amphetamines, but Chicago has a relaxed sort of cool that lends itself well to the urban decay, a sort of "yeah, so?" kind of relaxed attitude to it’s occasional dilapidation that makes it look more rugged and world weary and broken in like boxers hands. I’ve never seen another city that pulls off a tall spire uptown act while remaining downtown casual (on a smaller scale maybe Reykjavik, Paris is just too ‘pretty’). Chicago has an urban gothic style while keeping some of it’s neighborhood charm. It has canyoned streets covered by El train tracks without feeling crowded. You get tall buildings and technology without leaving behind the sense your ‘home.’
On the other hand Planet Hollywood and that other joint with the giant frog completely screws up Ohio Street which had a great look coming in off the expressway.
posted by Smedleyman

Chicago's skyline is the best. But I'm a bit biased.
posted by me3dia

Go Chicago. There is nothing like flying into that city at night.
posted by Ailla

Another vote for Chicago, by far the most beautiful skyline in the US and perhaps, the world.
posted by o0o0o
In a rather juvenile call to google-bomb Sean Hannity, the comments offer a glimpse into the minds of one of Sean's fans.
... You are just jealous beacuse nobody listens to that liberal fishface al franken and verybody listens to Rush & Hannity. and you know why the righties speak the truth and the whole nation wants to hear it. I know you are much more political when you are PMSing
posted by dog is your friend

and you probably work at agy bar in Massachussets and like it! Al Franken is pathetic and will NEVER amount to .00025% of Rush, Hannity or any conservative radio host- get real fruitcup. America Listens to and loves conservatives because they are sick and tired of the old liberal bullshit lies and distortions. You ain’t no English teacher yourself pal. you liberal scum are all so condescending and utterly stupid. Waht are you L&P’s trangendered lover or something. I’ll just bet YOU support fag marriage don’t you?? ####.
posted by your delusional
I suppose we'll just have to wait until verybody gets sick and tired of the new conservative bullshit lies and distortions.
John Negroponte on Metafilter and In These Times, present and past.
John McCain bends over for Bush by backing SS-busting BS plan.
Atruism's triumph told in our genes!Cooperation ≷ Competition.
Sunday 20
Rich in Russia want to live forever.
From the 2003 Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival is a work by Ferenc Cakó. 19 meg WMV [metafilter]
Bugs to fear. Plus, argue about what to call them.
"Tools for Editors. Find all kinds of useful language-related links; take a side trip to a site where you can recall the joys of diagramming sentences, corral misplaced apostrophes, check your spelling, set free pet peeves, or read lovely essays on the English language written by a retired professor of Dutch."
God is dead;again. Plus, "The 52 funniest things about the upcoming death of the Pope."
Some reason has returned to Eugene
String Theory critics and "backyard" Black Holes.
The World Bank Wolfowitz BS.
The question of Chavez, Venezuela , and the US.
Monday 7:Feel Like crapola, but what the hell.
Hans Bethe, remembered
Recent interview with Crumb the comic book artist.
In his most recent State of the Union address, President Bush stated that the United States needed "reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy," and urged Congress to "pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy." However, there is a marked disconnect between the President's words and the funding priorities he laid out in the Fiscal Year 2006 (FY06) budget request he recently submitted to the U.S. Congress.

The President's proposed budget calls for significant cuts in renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean air, and climate change related-programs at the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies.
-"White House Budget Slashes Clean Energy", by Ken Bossong
A good overview of how much influence Newt Gingrich still has on the Republicans and another good overview of why Bush's Social Sercurity plan is DOA and hopefully will erode their credibility even more.
Roy Blunt, the House majority whip, said to me recently that House Republicans don't want to take up legislation on private accounts "just for the exercise." Moreover, a Republican lobbyist told me that congressional Republicans are aware that despite his election victory, Bush's approval rating has been hovering at around 50 percent—meaning that, he said, "on any given day 50 percent of the public doesn't like him." Grover Norquist wasn't yet saying so publicly, but even by the time of Bush's State of the Union address in early February he believed that the proposal was dead for the current Congress. His hope was that enough Democrats would be defeated in 2006 to make those remaining in the Senate more open to discussing the idea of private accounts. But he also thought it possible that private accounts won't be enacted during Bush's second term. Bush's recent suggestion that he'd accept raising above $90,000 the amount of earnings on which Social Security taxes are paid was quickly shot down by House Republican leaders as amounting to a tax increase—which it would have been.

Privately, House Republicans have been asking, "Why are we doing this?" They are all aware that the much-feared AARP is vehemently against Bush's plan. Several Republicans in the House and Senate have recently said they would be willing to consider establishing private accounts outside the Social Security system—a possibility of no interest to those, such as Gingrich and Norquist, whose goal is to privatize Social Security. A Republican lobbyist told me in January, "I think the same guy who told Bush to invade Iraq is now telling him to reform Social Security."
Bill Moyers talks about those "fun-loving" believers in the Rapture. Here's a word to remember when reading this, "antimonianism"
Bernard Porter reviews Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire by David Anderson
Sunday 6
Cool APOD: The View from Everest
The case of an Afghan detainee who froze to death in CIA custody - an incident that remained secret for two years - illustrates how little is known about how the agency treats detainees and investigates abuse allegations....The man, buried in an unmarked grave, was never identified, and his family was never notified of his death. "He just disappeared from the face of the earth," one U.S. official said.
-TPR
The shooting involving Giuliana Sgrena seems to suggest that Eason Jordan was right.
The shooting late Friday was witnessed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's office which was on the phone with one of the secret service agents, said Scolari. "Then the US military silenced the cellphones," he charged. "Giuliana had information, and the US military did not want her to survive," he added.
-AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

"Our car was rolling along at normal speed, so it was impossible for there to have been a misunderstanding," Scregna told the Italian magistrates who've been charged with investigating the murderous incident, according to the Italian wire service Ansa-- which also says her account has been confirmed by one of the Italian secret service agents in the car with her, who was likewise wounded. These two testimonies from the victims of the shooting completely contradict the Pentagon's account that Scregna was in a speeding car that was heading straight for a checkpoint and was shot at to stop it. In fact, says Scregna, there was no checkpoint--"just a patrol that started shooting at us as soon as they bracketed their headlights on us." In the same dispatches, Scregna's boyfriend, Pier Scolari, says Washington wanted to eliminate her because Scregna--who'd reported extensively on the abuses at Abu Ghraib--had "important new information, and the U.S. forces didn't want her to get out of Iraq alive." Scolari went to far as to speak of an "ambush."
-Doug Ireland more at TPR.

While at home it's starting to look like Dan Rather was setup by the White House.
Israel's Defense Force doesn't trust D&D players. Also, the shrinking Israeli left and lowered support from US Jews.
Finally! It's time more people speak out against this ruthless Randian running our country into the ground.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan generally gets accolades for his public pronouncements. Yesterday he got a brickbat from Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who blasted Greenspan as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."
- DAN BALZ
Sudan: "An average 320 people die every single day in Sudan. That's about 10,000 people every month."
Links onGunner Palace, a documentary by Michael Tucker.
Blowback on bloggers. Attacking the right-wing misinformation machine and how linking to campaign sites could spell trouble.
These days anyone can set up a website and become a porn star. With the internet fundamentally changing the industry, could pornography be becoming mainstream?
-BBC

Yes, a real story by the BBC written in 2005 and yet reads like something from the early 90's. [metafilter]
And so it begins...

Break out your tinfoil hats for the conspiracy du jour: It seems just before Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide, he was working on a piece about the WTC attack. It also seems he hinted that the Bush administration was somehow involved . He was talking to his wife on the phone when he died, yet she heard no gunshot. Was it suicide, or murder?
-metafilter
Something about chickens roosting and Germans
Online papers on consciousness.
Threads like this make me think that I should rent Napoleon Dynamite.
Wednesday 2
Ah yes, the ever-good-for-a-racist-remark Ann Coulter said "Press passes can't be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the president." [metafilter]

Icon or Idiot? She's an icon for idiots.
Complacency Kills by Joe Sacco. (It's a 36 meg PDF file) [metafilter]
Bridging the Two Cultures, by David P. Barash. A review of Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature.

Biology Lurks Beneath: Bioliterary Explorations of the Individual versus Society David P. Barash
Bodies stacking, hands shaking
Have you been there? I’ve been there!
I’ll put it in simple words: working men are PISSED


In this simple declaration — it’s not an argument, or a slogan, or a call to arms, just a statement of fact — there is more power than in a lifetime of so-called “protest” and “political” songs. In 1994, almost a decade after the man who wrote the words flew out of the back of a van and broke his neck a hundred miles from where I lived, I was working in a factory, making golf clubs, going deaf and getting hurt and suffering a thousand little humiliations every day. The job reduced me to nothing, and it was only music that kept me going. I listened to it in my broken-down car on the way to the factory, I listened to it exhausted and bruised on the way home, and, when I could, I would climb into the back of the empty trailers waiting to be filled up with the product of my sweat and listen to it on a tiny, tinny boom box. Sometimes it was with a few friends, lighting up a joint and praying to hell the foreman didn’t catch us, and sometimes it was just me, but always there was music. And even though seven years (an eternity in pop) had passed since their final album, we still listened to the Minutemen. Why? I’ll put it in simple words: working men were pissed.
-Put It in Simple Words, by Leonard Pierce
I wound up telling a very different story than I thought I was going to tell. I thought I was going to tell the story of the American Revolution, but I would also include the perspectives of those belonging to the lower class — what they called back then, “the lower sort.” I was writing a novel that would be more inclusive. I didn’t even realize what the implications were when you bring these people to the party, and bring their points of view to the narrative the narrative as you and I know it explodes. Suddenly, the Stamp Tax is not issue that sets it all in motion. Suddenly the Founding Fathers find themselves marginalized. Suddenly Yorktown doesn’t mean the victory of anything but our independence. That’s all it means, that we have secured independence as a nation. It doesn’t speak to the cause of freedom or the quest for greater fairness. It doesn’t speak to the utopian impulses that were absolutely latent, if not kinetic in the people’s quest. That’s, I like to think, what this novel captures.
-Paul Lussier, in an interview on his new book Last Refuge of Scoundrels: A Revolutionary Novel
THE GORGE, by Umberto Eco [metafilter]
Christian heretic
Gunboat Diplomacy: Venezuelan Warns of U.S. Overthrow, by Robert Collier

Haitian Police Open Fire on Thousands of Marchers Calling for Return of Aristide-Democracy Now!

Chaos and Bloodshed Grip Haiti One Year After the Coup-Democracy Now!

The Haiti Coup One Year Later: A Look Back at the U.S. Role in the Overthrow of Aristide-Democracy Now!

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john@linkworthy.com