Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kim Novak and one of the Mirisches

kim novak and a mirisch c. 1964-magnum

I'll be away for a while. Then I'll be back.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

sundry items for profit-inclined bloggers

Merchant Credit Advance has a video explaining their service here, and pingomatic will simultaneously ping you on blo.gs, technorati, My Yahoo, Feedburner and a bunch of other such sites, so if that sort of thing is a big deal to you, one or both services might interest you.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Again no to truce

In the summer of 2006 I watched David Martin on CNN tell Katie Couric:

"it's always the same pattern- first there is a period of calm, then Palestinians target and attack Israeli civilians, then a counterstrike." I paraphrase, but it so angered me that I wrote it down in a notebook, trying to get the wording right(I am TIVO-less, but I'm not complaining ).

I don't think that's the order at all, especially since he said those words in June as the 2nd Israeli war on Lebanon was starting, and he had to be aware of the shelling at the beach a few weeks earlier that killed the family of Huda Ghulia.

Anyway: here's another sequence of events in 2008. I wont say "first, thing x happens", because thing x is happening all the time in Israel and Palestine, and sometimes it gets reported over here, and sometimes not. Anyway, definitive starting points are very much in the eye of the beholder.

April 24th: Helena Cobban: Tahdi'eh-- Hamas says Yes

Israel rejects Hamas truce offer
(01:13) Report

April 25 - Reuters- A proposed six-month ceasefire is dismissed by Israel as a ruse by Hamas to re-arm and re-group after recent fighting. Hamas, after talks with Egyptian mediators, is calling for a mutual cessation of hostilities in Gaza along with an end to a crippling Israeli-led blockade of the territory.Paul Chapman reports.

Teen killed in Gaza clashes
(01:12) Report

April 26th- Reuters- Palestinians bury a 14-year-old girl killed in fighting between Israeli troops and militants during a raid in northern Gaza. The Israeli army confirmed the arrest raid but said it knew nothing about the girl's death. Israel frequently raids the Hamas-controlled territory in what it calls its campaign to stop cross-border rocket attacks. Susuan Flory reports.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NOW can we call her a monster?

I don't have a book of quotations handy, but I imagine somebody both cleverer and famouser than me has already observed that the things left undiscussed in a narrative are usually far more telling than the things spoken about.
Off the top of my head, the best I can do is Gershwin's line from Porgy and Bess:

The things you're liable
to read in the Bible,
They ain't necessarily so.

American politics is arguably like that. For example, I think about the controversy about Samantha Power calling Hillary Clinton a monster back around five or six weeks ago. Even though it was undoubtedly a spontaneous event(as you probably recall, Power tried to qualify it as off-the-record), but the various players in the Obama and Clinton camps and the media immediately knew how to respond to this, as if a script was ready, questioning Obama's judgment in selecting Power as an adviser, insisting Power apologize or resign, Obama dutifully apologizing for her remarks, etc.

I wondered how many people out there in Real-People-Land even paid any attention to the whole dustup. Not terribly many, I'm guessing. I also wondered, why precisely does Power feel Hillary is a monster? Should I automatically assume it's for reason x or y, and weren't other people curious about Power's reason(s)? I realize this is one of those mutually and tacitly agreed upon things, the rolling out of a familiar script by which to deflect the impertinent questions of people like me, as per the nonplussed onlookers at the parade when the naked emperor goes by.

I'm guessing the answer to my question wasn't necessarily that interesting, that it had to do with Clintonian campaign tactics, but that's not really my point. When the Clintons and Obamas and the TV press and the Powers respond in the preordained, scripted ways, it seems designed to avoid the question, because once you have Sam Power's answer, inevitably other persons with other reasons for regarding Hillary as monstrous might gain some scrutiny, and the next thing you know some of those brains out there in Real-People-Land might start ruminating, and that would be-- I don't know, monstrous.

Likewise, this afternoon I watched the nightly news, and it seemed as if people just stopped dying in Iraq and Afghanistan(just like Somalia), nobody objected to China hosting the Olympics, nobody lost their house, nobody was kidnapped in Colombia, and nobody was waterboarded or forced to evade questions about torture. The only thing worth discussing was the Pennsylvania democratic primary, the most important primary, the most important event ever, since Reagan freed the hostages or Grant surrendered to Lee at Appomattox. The world dutifully stood still. (And yes, this kind of sarcastic trope about a single event being made to dominate the news isn't original either-- just hard to resist.)

There was a sound bite of Hillary Clinton telling a crowd that with her 10 point win, she'd pulled ahead in the popular vote viz-a-viz Obama, and a chart graphic saying that Obama was ahead of her by 600,000 votes, but that Hillary was counting the disputed primary votes from Michigan and Florida, which Obama hadn't contested. The Penn primary, and various prognostications about which states Obama could win in the general election versus ones Clinton could win, was of course pretty much the whole news show. (I watched CBS, but I imagine the others were pretty much the same.)

I saw nothing about the ABC interview HRC gave (admittedly on Monday morning) with Chris Cuomo on Good Morning America-- I heard about that through Raw Story. (But if you knew about it, how could you not wonder about its impact?)

“I want the Iranians to know, if I am president, we will attack Iran,”( if they launch nukes against Israel), Clinton said. “I want them to understand that. … We would be able to totally obliterate them. That’s a terrible thing to say, but those people who run Iran need to understand that.”

Clinton said she hoped her stern warning would serve as a deterrent from Iran doing anything “foolish and tragic.”

The quote in the Reuters article is somewhat misleading, suggesting in parentheses that she immediately added "if they attack Israel."(But to be honest, in referencing the video above, it looks as if it's been edited to take some pauses out.)

Again I find myself wondering about the people out there in Real-People-Land. Does the sickness of this register with them? You wonder how many people are even aware and paying attention to this, trying to be good citizens and keeping up with the news while they drown in the soporific horse-race minutiae of who would be more likely to beat McCain in Colorado or Tennessee, eventually giving up on the sucker's game of trying to stay informed.

Some of the articles about this have titles that say Hillary says she will obliterate Iran, while others note the "would be able" and reproduce the quote more accurately. I can't help but be reminded of Kerry's "for then against" position and Bill Clinton's tortuous question about what the word "is" means. If you look at the real-life pacing of her words and her body language, she has unamiguously threatened to attack Iran if she's elected. I think that's a violation of international law, and I'm sure that Mrs it takes-a-village has frightened a lot of ordinary people in Iran, including kids, who are now aware that one of the leading candidates of the opposition party is just as demented as George W. Bush.

In one way, however, the follow up by Cuomo and Clinton was even more disgusting:

Cuomo: Is it difficult to reconcile the logic of a statement like that, with the realities of what it would be like to make that desicion?

HRC: It is. It's very hard. And that's why you hope to deter such behavior.

Boo hoo. Isn't it horrible, when you have to kill thousands of people cause their gummint don't act right, the toll it takes on you? Years ago whenever the Labour party in Israel capitulated to demands from the right that they start yet another offensive against the Palistineans, somebody once referred to the rationalizing speeches offered in the Knesset as "shooting and crying." Only Mrs Clinton seems more gleeful than a good liberal should be about it.

The things you're liable
to read in the Bible,
They ain't necessarily so.

Simon Jenkins:Despite Iraq, America's love affair with war runs deep

Independent(UK): Tough-talking Clinton vows to 'obliterate' Iran if it ever dares to attack US ally Israel

CNN's political blog: "Clinton: Iran would pay a 'very high price' for nuclear attack"

El Baradei interview(from 2007)regarding Iran's nuclear program[video]

Marketwatch: "Has Hillary's tough talk increased pain at the pump?"

Clark(Montana)Chronicle:Ron Paul: Clinton 'doesn't understand the presidency'

Dennis Trainor, Jr: "Hillary: I can do war bigger and better than Bush"

ABC News:"Pennsylvania's Six Week Primary Ends Tonight"
[original title of this ABC article on Tuesday:
Clinton on Iran Attack: 'Obliterate Them']

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Talaam Acey: "True Lies"

Apropos of April being national poetry month, here's that Talaam Acey feller.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

portable health care 2.0

via Mark Kleiman and Ron Wyden.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Murder one

GWB n Pope Benedict-Slate-AP photo

Melinda Henneberger writes in Slate:

On today's episode of "Hey, a Girl Can Dream", my man Benedict decides that as long as he's in the neighborhood, he should stroll on over to the Supreme Court and spend a couple of minutes protesting the death penalty, by lethal injection or otherwise. The high court is a short walk from the White House, where the president told the pope that Americans "need your message that all of life is sacred.'' And what better way to get that message out?

Maybe Il Papa didn't say anything because he knew the court was discussing capital punishment and child rape, the latter a sore point for the Catholic church. I have to believe ole JP2 would've spoken out, irrespective of the fallout. In a related article, "The Supreme Court jump-starts the machinery of death", Dahlia Lithwick writes:

Fisher says that if you look at the pair of recent cases that banned capital punishment for mentally retarded offenders (in 2002) and juvenile offenders (in 2005), it's clear the social consensus is trending away from the death penalty. Then, Roberts jumps in to argue that the "evolving standards of decency" test should not be a one-way ratchet. Does this trend "only work one way?" he asks. "How are you ever supposed to get consensus moving in the opposite direction? … Do 20 states have to get together and do it at the same time?"
Roberts says the clear trend that matters is not the one Fisher points to but rather that "more and more states are passing statutes imposing the death penalty in situations that do not result in death."
Roberts continues in this vein: The cases declining to allow capital punishment for minors or the mentally retarded, he says, are "qualitatively different" from the distinction here between child rape and murder, because they focus on the "culpability of the offender" as opposed to the nature of the offense. And Kennedy adds that "even the countries of Europe which have joined the European Convention on human rights" permit the death penalty for treason. He says that on the continent, "You can slaughter your fellow citizens, but if you offend the state, you can be put to death." Then, Scalia asks Fisher if he thinks "treason is worse than child rape." Fisher replies that all the professional sex-assault groups and social workers have lined up against making child rape a capital crime.

Why Kennedy and Scalia decided go down the nonsensical side road of comparing treason with child rape is beyond me. It makes me wonder if it's a gesture of contempt for the plaintiff(and the defense), suggesting their minds were made up. Lithwick's article is 1695 words, and not once does she mention anybody discussing the question of whether or not a mandatory death sentence for child rape makes rapists more likely to kill their victims. My sense is this is in fact the case, and it's a much more important than Scalia's asinine question about child rape and treason.

The court upheld the law regarding lethal injection, and although they discussed allowing child rape to be a capital crime that's not what this past week's decision(Baze v. Rees) was about, at least not principally.

I don't know if the death penalty is wrong in the abstract. Certainly most of the people sentenced to death are probably terrible characters, and there is some evidence it can have a deterrence effect. But I note the series of overturned convictions for capital crimes, and I believe that the death penalty as it's practiced certainly is wrong, and part of that is us. People lie, or hide rather than testify, or forget or conflate or confuse events. Zealous cops and prosecutors make mistakes, evidence gets lost, or even worse, "lost", juries decide based on prejudices, etc. There's no reason to believe that putting together some blue-ribbon panel of experts to "fix" the death penalty will fix human nature. The Dallas Morning News says that there have been 16 overturned cases in Dallas county alone :

The disturbing spate of DNA exonerations of Texas inmates is the most powerful argument for freezing Texas' machinery of death. Dallas County has the distinction of having more discredited cases than any county nationwide. Just this week, a 16th wrongful conviction was announced here. Thomas Clifford McGowan Jr. spent 23 years imprisoned by the state stemming from a rape in Richardson that he didn't commit.

How many people have been wrongly executed without getting that review of evidence after 6 or 10 or 17 years? We'll never know, but we can be pretty sure the number isn't zero.

The same problems exist with child rape convictions, although possibly to a lesser degree. But for a different practical reason, executing child rapists is a terrible idea. I'm flabbergasted that so many people think of it in terms of vengeance and don't seem to be concerned that a child rapist, having raped his victim and knowing he's liable to be executed if he's caught even if he lets her live, now has the perverse incentive to kill his victim and dispose of her to make sure she never talks. When the law encourages this, the law acts to protect the righteousness of the uninvolved.

Why don't people think about this? Do they see it as an irrelevant question?

see also Reuters: "The death penalty in the United States" and

Wall St. Journal Lawblog:"should the death penalty extend to non-homicides?"

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BBC- re the image of the US

I think it's interesting that the people they talked to in the middle east seem to have a more sanguine, no-BS view of the American presidential candidates than many people do over here. But then again they don't have to deal with Frank Luntz.

a postscript, 16 April: Reuters notes this fairly comprehensive poll by Zogby and the University of Maryland of middle eastern countries, which was released Monday: "Arab world sees U.S. in poor light"

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Tiny little dots and other points of interest

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe calls UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown "a little tiny dot on this world",

Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch:Did the Elites Want MLK Dead

via the Christian Science Monitor: Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim:The Islamic state is a dead end.
I don't know too much about this guy, but he seems more serious than, say, Irshad Manji who, in her eagerness to cozy up to characters like Glenn Beck, often strikes me as a sort of Muslim Uncle Tom.

also: Turkish scholars aim to modernize Islam's Hadith

Avedon Carol: "Back in 1967, someone named Arthur Miller (no relation) wrote an article on the dangers of giant national data bases to personal privacy, published in The Atlantic. It was a real find for a poster at Modern Mechanix - as Cory Doctorow agrees, it got everything right, and could easily have been written today."

Think Progress:"Pentagon employee erases mention of homosexuality on dead soldier’s Wikipedia page."

(Andrew Sullivan writes: “I can see why outing someone who is alive and closeted is unethical; inning someone who is dead and was out is a function of utterly misplaced sensitivity, rooted in well-intentioned but incontrovertible homophobia.”)

Mitch Ratcliffe, ZD Net: Creeping totalitarianism: The NSA, personal data and you

And, oh yeah: Bush insists he wasn't out of the loop viz-a-viz approving the torture memos.

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It looks like unintentional satire-- intentionally, I assume.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

I guess Slate doesn't exactly ♥ Hillary Clinton

The headline on the Slate article reads,"The Hillary Deathwatch Widget:Embed Clinton's sinking ship on your blog, iGoogle, or Facebook page."

I'm not going to put this on the sidebar as a permanent or semi-permanent fixture, just here for one post. As far as I'm concerned all three of the mainstream presidential choices stink, and HRC certainly is a corporatist, prowar phoney. But even as some of the humor directed at her amuses me, some, mostly photoshopped grotesquerie, is really off-putting.

Occasionally I wonder how much of it has to do with her simply being a woman, since-- inexplicably to me-- most people don't seem that bothered by the dynastic implications of two Bushes and two Clintons possibly ruling governing us for as much as 28 years in a row. Virtually none of the humor directed at her seems to touch upon that. And as far as humor about her ambition goes, well yes, it's certainly fair game, but all the men who ran and are still running are plenty ambitious too.

I guess gender equality means the soulless and power-hungry who would do their damnedest to persuade us to keep ruining our country (and others) via unbridled empire deserve to be blasted, irrespective of their sex. I'd prefer the kind of social progress that involves doing away with soulless and power-hungry leaders who want to wreck as many countries as possible, but perhaps I'm fussy.

blah blah

(the inset panel above, regarding Scaife, is from Tom Tomorrow. The rest is from Get Your War On.)

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Staring at the sun

the boy and the sun and the sundog-ap photo
Apparently a sundog, or a parhelic circle, is an "atmospheric optical phenomenon primarily associated with the reflection or refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals."
AP photo taken in Kerala, India by S. K. Mohan

dragon blood tree-yemen-afp photo

And this is a Dragon blood tree, found on the "virtually untouched Yemeni Island of Socotra, a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation, located in the Indian Ocean."
AFP photo by Khaled Fazaa.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Catching Up

via the amazing MahaBarb

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The April fool is you

democrats good, big oil bad. now run along...

ok, in a nod towards thoroughness, the above links are here:

"Clinton n' Obama shake their fingers at oil guys"
Senators Clinton and Obama care(a lot), and they're angry, and they're not afraid who knows it. When HRC voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002, undoubtedly it had nothing to do with oil, any more than her subsequent unwillingness to defund the war or commit to ending the war in the next four years. Of course Obama has also demonstrated an unwillingness to defund the war or commit to getting out by 2012, but that's different-- he had the guts to oppose the war as a state legislator. Then, when he was running for the US Senate in 2004 and was invited to speak to the democratic convention that summer, he had a chance to reiterate his stance on the war before a national audience-- but he recognized that might embarrass the headliner, old for-it-before-he-was agin' it John Kerry, and decided not to. (I guess that's different too.)

But with the "off the books" financing of the Iraq debacle-- and the utter unwillingness of Obama and Hillary Clinton to publicly draw the connection between the war,the weakening dollar, and the ever-upward spiraling of dollar-denominated oil prices, I question whether the democrats represent a substantially more sober answer.(yeah, you care-- but who cares?)

I'm sure John McCain cares a lot too, but his nomination is nicely sewn up, so it's not so pressing for him to be so demonstrative this early.

I don't know when I first watched a tv report about congress calling executives in front of them to scold them and beat their chests in righteously populist fashion for the cameras. When I was 11? 12? I used to love watching the news when I was a kid, and although I don't remember for certain, I imagine I took these sorts of dog-and-pony shows at face value when I was a kid and I watched the CBS morning news with Hughes Rudd before going to school.

That was such a long time ago, and although I remember the news in the late 70s being less mediocre, journalistically speaking, than today's focus-grouped soft-edge presentations, I also wonder if that's just the natural consequence of a middle-aged man romanticizing something from his youth at the expense of the present. I DO remember that news about celebrities wasn't a big deal in those days, as well as Rudd's wizened, subtly sarcastic manner. CNN's Jack Cafferty is the closest thing on TV news to a similar sensibility, and he seems like something of an artifact, what with CNN having gone (fairly precipitously) downhill in the past eight to ten years, especially after Lynn Russell left(I often think that maybe she saw the writing on the wall and decided she didn't want to be part of the crappy new order.).

Was the news coverage better? In spite of today's 24 hour news channels, I'm inclined to think so. Does that mean that better news coverage makes for more sensible, skeptical citizens-- in other words, were people smarter back then? Well, they did foist Ronald Reagan on us in November of 1980, the start of our modern age of the unraveling social compact, but the Ayatollah had our hostages, and there was that botched rescue mission, etc. Besides, how were they to know Reaganism would have such far-reaching effects?

When I watch the news, especially when the reporter cherry picks one or two presumptively representative man in the street interviews, I wonder about whether or not people are dumber as a consequence of post-deregulation Potemkin village news. And of course, there's also the pressure of Reagan-style federal tax cuts, shifting spending to the states, which consequently spent less on education. I don't know how you'd objectively factor in the effect of the more extreme religious fundamentalists, who insist that science may not offend when kids come home with tales of degenerate relativism, etc.

(The fact that, in spite of how outrageously the domestic media has sucked up to Junior and protected him from our knowing more about the conduct of the war, the war and the president are still as unpopular as they are, suggests holding out some modest hope that our collective intellect still has some functioning grey matter.)

What I do know is, selective man in the street interviews and stories asking "what would you ask Big Oil" notwithstanding, certain questions wont get asked, on tv, or even in print(and in print online) . How about a story asking

"are the congressmen just covering for their own failures in trotting out the oil executives?" or
"When congress scolds big business on tv, does anything get done as a consequence?"

(The silence is part of the disinformation-- so when you have such thoughts, if you do, you are more likely to dismiss them, maybe out fear that you might be a crank, or seem like one to others.)

Or, "should we spend more on public transportation?"

Or, "do you think we should bring back the 55 mph speed limit to reduce oil consumption?"

Of course, the lawmakers could just do that without putting on a show. I'd favor a 100 kph(@61 mph) national speed limit, and maybe by getting people to learn the conversion they'd start using their noggins too.

Now, I don't believe the lawmakers mean to do any of those things-- they're boring and don't involve an immediate or certain political reward. So I'm inclined to think today's event on capitol hill may have been scheduled for April first by persons with a sense of humor, albeit humor that involves laughing at you and me.

see also, Christian Science Monitor: "With gas costly, drivers finally cut back:
A decline in miles driven is the first since 1980"


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