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June 30, 2006

Something Else to Make You Sick

I saw the headline on Google News and couldn't believe i was reading it correctly.

Which is the greater evil, cervical cancer or sluttish behaviour? US conservatives think they have an answer.

The religions nuts are at it again. Trying to dictate how, when, and why a woman has sex.

Cervical cancer kills 200,000 women worldwide every year. So one would think that a promising new vaccine that prevents HPV infection (the leading cause of cervical cancer) would be accepted with open arms and a sigh of relief.

But religious conservative groups in the US, who have their claws in the vaccine approval process, are less than excited. Why? Because being vaccinated against a potentially deadly disease could make girls slutty. Seriously.

This was sparked off by the consideration of making the this part of the mandatory vaccinations before entering public schools.

Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful," Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council told the British magazine New Scientist, "because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.

That's right. The fear of cervical cancer is what makes women abstain from premarital sex. I always thought it was supposed to be fear of God that did that, but i guess it must be cervical cancer.

Leslie Unruh, of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, says: "If you don't want to suffer these diseases, you need to abstain ... I personally object to vaccinating children against a disease that is 100% percent preventable with proper sexual behaviour."

Got that? "Proper sexual behaviour". I love nothing more than people trying to dictate what's proper and what's not. What is it about women's sexuality that horrifies them so much? What is it that they're afraid of? Cause if they weren't stinking of fear, they wouldn't be working so hard to get control of my vagina.

By min | June 30, 2006, 11:53 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (4) | Link

Tough Toenails!

Net neutrality, who needs it? Just everybody, that's all. The Senate's in the middle of debating it, but ofc, as usual, they've tacked it onto bill with 199 other amendments. And, as we all know, no one has actually read all 200 amendments. As your Congressmen will tell you, in a sad, tired voice, they simply don't have the time to read everything that comes by. I don't know how we could expect them to actually read something they intend to vote on. I mean, it's only their job to do so. Personally, i don't know what they're so busy doing. After watching C-SPAN, you'll quickly note that their time is not being spent actually attending any Congressional sessions. I guess it takes lots of time and dedication to improve your golf game. Wankers.

Anyway, here's a nice, snarky take on the net neutrality debate. (Whenever you look around and Senator Olympia Snowe is standing on your side of the picket line, you know you've entered some sort of bizarro world.)

The phone companies are grinning, cackling and drywashing their hands in anticipation. The Washington Post reported in December 2005 that William L. Smith, chief technology officer for Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp. told reporters and analysts that yeah, an Internet service provider such as his firm should, in fact, be able, for example, to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc. A law allowing him to do so is a license to print money.

But they have to find some way to spin it like they give a crap about you the consumer, so in typical pretzel logic they're poormouthing about all the money they're having to invest -- billions! -- in upgrading everything to broadband, and who's gonna pay for all that? Of course you are. It's noteworthy that this argument is so threadbare that it only takes two logical jumps to get back to your wallet.

My favorite line is

If Google outbids Yahoo!, well then Google loads faster and if you prefer using Yahoo!, go suck eggs, pal.

By min | June 30, 2006, 11:39 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link


I think you can make of this what you will without any help from me.

You can all thank shmoo for sending it to me.

By min | June 30, 2006, 10:35 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (4) | Link

June 29, 2006

The Conservative Nanny State

My favorite economist, Dean Baker (here's his blog), recently published a book that me and min read while we were in ireland. I recommend that you read it (you can even download it in pdf form for free) but i know you won't, so here are his arguments in a (very large) nutshell:

Conservatives, or the people who call themselves conservatives, claim to be against big government and proponents of the free market. However, while they do oppose government social programs, they aren't really against big government programs as a general rule. And while they use the concept of "free market" as a propaganda point when it serves their interest, they don't really act in accordance with a true free market philosophy either.

The problem with big government social programs is that they tend to distribute money downward, or provide benefits to large numbers of people. That is not the conservative agenda - the agenda is getting the money flowing upward, and for this, big government is fine. Of course, conservatives don't own up to the fact that the policies they favor are forms of government intervention. Conservatives do their best to portray the forms of government intervention that they do favor, for example, patent and copyright protection, as simply part of the natural order of things. This makes these policies much harder to challenge politically.

The problem that Dean Baker points out is that conservatives have framed their position so well that it is impossible for people to argue against these economic policies without looking like they are 'against free trade' and in favor of
inefficient government programs. The media already refers to trade agreements like NAFTA as 'free-trade' agreements. When you have to spend half the debate arguing against the terms, you have already lost.

So Dean Baker comes up with what i think is a very innovative solution. Conservatives have already convinced everyone that free-trade is a good thing. So why not also use the free trade argument to challenge the government programs that conservatives use to make the rich richer?

  1. Trade agreements like NAFTA allow corporations to import goods into our country very cheaply, effectively pitting our workers in the manufacturing sector against workers in other countries with lower wages. But at they same time, the government has restrictions in place that prevent professionals (doctors and lawyers, for example) from other countries from setting up shop in our country and competing against our professions. By removing those restrictions, there could be more competition in these fields, lowering the cost of doctors and lawyers, and giving americans more choices. We could ensure the same standard of quality by requiring that the foreign professionals pass the same qualifying exams (like the admission to the bar) as american professionals.

  2. I've talked previously about
    how the Fed manipulates interest rates to slow the economy and increase unemployment when they afraid of the risk of inflation. This is about as direct a form of government intervention as you can imagine, and is completely against the spirit of free trade.

  3. We all know that CEOs are paid too much.

    The conventional argument is that CEOs get multi-million dollar salaries because they are highly productive...

    This argument is implausible for several reasons. First, today's CEOs don't seem in any obvious way more productive than the CEOs of 30 years ago... Second, CEOs of foreign corporations don't get anywhere near as much compensation... Finally, many of the people who get these seven and eight figure salaries prove incompetent - even when the definition of success is defined narrowly as increasing profits.

    Baker goes on to argue that since corporations themselves are a creation of the government. In a free market, there would be no such thing as a corporation. Corporations are granted powers by the government, which then enforces laws that ensure corporations maintain those powers. Therefore, if we are going to allow corporations to continue to exist, there is nothing wrong with writing regulations that ensure that corporations behave in a manner that benefits the public good. One possibility he suggests is that shareholder elections be re-arranged so that shareholders who do not vote do not automatically have their votes counted as supporting the CEO's position (currently, if you own stock and don't vote in your annual shareholders' meetings, you are voting to allow the CEO to do whatever he wants). Once that change is made, Baker also suggest holding periodic votes to approve the CEO's compensation package.

    Baker's suggestions on how to regulate corporations are relatively straightforward, in my opinion, but i think his argument that since corporations are government creations and not some natural free market phenomenon, the government has the right to regulate them, is one of his most powerful arguments in the book. If individuals felt that government regulations were too stringent for corporations, they would not have to form corporations and could compete in the free market as a partnership.

  4. Patents and monopolies are another example of government intervention in the economy. Drug companies, for example, argue that if we did not defend their patents they would not be able to research new drugs. But the government, through the National Institute of Health, already spends an amount equal to what the pharmaceutical industry spends on research, and we could easily double that if we could buy generic instead of name brand drugs for Medicare. (And don't try the argument that government research is less efficient that private research, because the drug companies encourage and lobby for the government to spend even more money on drug research, because they rely on that research (we basically give away the research that we do to private corporations so if the public sector has some sort of breakthrough and a drug company uses that breakthrough to create some new drug, the drug company gets all the profits for that drug.)).

    Baker also argues here that we are not making efficient use of new technologies, such as the internet, as a way to distribute media, due to copyright laws. Enforcement of copyright and patent laws, which protect corporations against the public interest, are a very costly form of anti-free market government intervention (and yes, he proposes some alternative ways to support artists).

  5. Bankruptcy laws. When an institution gives out a loan, it is making an investment. It thinks that it will get a return
    on that investment. An occasional individual defaulting on a loan is always a risk, and is the cost of doing business. If the institution repeatedly makes loans to individuals that default on their loan, the institution has made a bad business decisions. If the government bails out companies that make bad decisions, it is preventing the free market from doing its job of weeding out the bad from the good. But bankruptcy laws are designed to take all the risk out of lending money to consumers, regardless of their ability to pay back the loans.

  6. We heard a lot about tort reform during the 2004 presidential election. Conservatives want to put a cap on the amount of money a lawyer can get from a client.

    In a market economy, people are supposed to be able to freely contract as they choose. This raises the question of why so many conservatives want the government to ban certain types of contracts. Specifically, "tort reform" laws... limit the type of contingency fees that clients could arrange to pay their attorneys. These laws restrict the percentage of a legal settlement that can be paid to a lawyer and impose other restrictions on the type of contracts that people can sign with lawyers, if they want to sue a corporation. These restrictions can make a difference in the public's ability to sue large corporations, because many clients do not have money to pay a lawyer in advance... Since there is often a great deal of risk in legal suits... and corporations can make suits extremely costly... the contingency fee (which depends on winning the case)... may be fairly large. Libertarians would not object to large contingency fees - if clients don't want to pay them, then they can look for another lawyer. However, the conservatives have promoted caps on contingency fees ostensibly as a way of protecting clients. In reality, such caps are an infringement on individual's right to freely contract. In a market economy, the government should not be determining which contracts are acceptable for people to sign.

  7. There are currently many laws that are designed to help small businesses. Some of these laws allow small business to ignore safety or environmental standards. Others simply allow them to pay less taxes. In a free market, there would not be a protected class of businesses. I had my hardest time with Baker here. He does make the point that large corporations often create small businesses to circumvent certain laws, and i agree that no one should be allowed to ignore environmental or safety laws, i do think it is important to help small businesses along due to the fact that corporations start off with such an unfair advantage.

  8. Baker argues against the conservative mantra that taxes are "your money" and you shouldn't have to pay them to the government, and that conservatives coddle corporate tax cheats but go crazy thinking about welfare cheats when the relative amounts of money lost to the government in the first case is incomparable to the second. While i agree with everything he says, i don't see how it fits with his jujitsu free market strategy.

  9. After the previous two chapters which i think are the weakest, Baker comes back with a kick-ass final attack.
    Conservatives acknowledge that in certain areas, the government can be more efficient than a private corporation (for example, policing and national defense). But why not let the government compete in other areas?

    The conventional view among conservatives is that the private sector is lean and mean, full of innovative and efficient business. By contrast, the government is composed of lazy and wooly-headed bureaucrats who couldn't make it in the business world (or they would be there). Given this view, they should have little concern about the prospect of having private business compete with the government... In reality, it is striking how worried private businesses often get over the prospect of competing with the government...

    Back in the late 1990s, several express mail companies actually went into court to try to force the US Postal Service to abandon an ad campaign that was proving very effective. The Postal Service ads pointed out that its express mail service was much cheaper than FedEx or UPS. After the courts refused to outlaw the ad campaign, the express mail companies went to their friends in Congress, who effectively tamed the competition.

    In a free market, competition serves as the way to ensure that the best (in terms of quality and efficiencies) services are provided to society. So let the government compete alongside private corporations. If the government can provide the best services, people will flock to it. If it can't, people will go elsewhere. That's the free market in a nutshell.

Overall it was a very enlightening read. It's nice to read something that actually proposes solutions, both in terms of how to debate as well as policies to implement. And while i don't agree with everything Baker proposes, it definitely got me thinking. The next question is how to get this book in the hands of the pundits and politicians that are supposedly on our side but are currently floundering because they are stuck in a conservative framing.

By fnord12 | June 29, 2006, 11:03 PM | Boooooks & Liberal Outrage | Comments (9) | Link

Kirby's Eternals

When i was younger i didn't like Jack Kirby at all. Well, it's not so much that i didn't like him as i thought his artwork looked dated. Recently i've sort of come to terms with that - it's not so much that it looks dated, it's actually just that it is... bizarre. It's most appreciable when he drew the really far out stuff - the cosmic stuff from Fantastic Four or Thor, the ancient mystical stuff in Black Panther, etc. And the bizarreness is definitely a good thing. Some of his drawings are just so crazy, i can actually spend a few minutes just looking at them, whereas with most comics i generally race through them, just glancing at the art while reading the script. So i've definitely been getting back into Kirby as an artist. And when he (or Stan Lee, for that matter), writes, his dialogue is incredibly cheesy and over-the-top, but that actually has its own charm.

Well, years ago a random issue of Eternals fell into my collection, and i thought it was pretty bad, and i'd picked up a few more in bargain bins over the years and was actually stunned to realized that the series was printed in the mid-70s, whereas it read to me more like mid-60s (and judging by Paul O'Brien's comments in his review of the new Eternals comic by Neil Gaiman, it looks like he's still under that impression). But now that i'm having a Jack Kirby Renaissance, i thought i should give it a try. The whole series was only 19 issues + an annual, and i already had a bunch, and i'd just found a great online comic store where you can get stuff pretty cheap, so i figured i'd fill in the rest of the series. The Eternals seemed like it would be a great outlet for Kirby's more bizarre tendencies and it was a series where he had complete creative control since he was both writer and artist and there weren't any other marvel characters for him to worry about*, so i was ready to re-evaluate my earlier opinion.

Well, my earlier opinion stands. Actually the basic concept of the series is great, or at least it is something that i've internalized. The idea is that in the earliest days of mankind, great space giants came down and performed genetic experiments on us. Their experiments resulted in three distinct races of man:

  • Eternals, who are immortal and unchanging, and essentially benevolent and godlike.
  • Deviants, whose genetic structure is so unstable that no two are alike. They are generally not so nice.
  • Humans, the regular folk who had to struggle to survive with no special abilities, but had the potential to surpass either group. Later writers took the idea of that potential to be the mutant X-Factor that allowed some humans to acquire super powers, either through birth (mutants) or when triggered by some external energy, such as radiation or cosmic rays (and of course most humans don't have the X-Factor genes and would die if exposed to the same energy, which is why you can't just create an army of Hulks).

The space giants (Celestials), after performing their genetic mischief, left the three races to their own devices, and come back periodically to check on the results of their experiments. The second time they came back, they found a world where the Deviants had completely enslaved the humanity, and the Eternals had retreated high into the mountains. The Deviants saw the Celestials and attacked them, afraid they had come to end their domain. In retaliation, the Celestials destroyed all of the Deviant civilization, forcing them to retreat into under-sea labyrinths, which is where they remain today.

All good so far as a backstory, and the actual series begins with the Celestials returning again in modern times, with one of the Eternals announcing to the humans that the Space Gods have returned again to judge the three races of Earth over a 50 year period. Great, let's get started! So Kirby takes a few issues jumping around introducing us to various Eternals while the Celestials stand ominously in the background and the Deviants fret about what might happen to them this time. Even though people writing in praise Kirby for not following a formula and making the story about a single group of people, the stories largely focus on Ikaris and to a lesser degree his friends Makkari and Sersi (which is fine). The dialogue is awful, but the concept is good enough for me to plow through it.

But after a couple of issues i start to get antsy. Nothing is happening. Sometimes Deviants attack, sometimes Eternals-gone-bad come up with some crazy schemes, but the larger Celestial plot never seems to move. At one point the Eternals all get together and form the Uni-Mind - a giant organic brain that is literally composed of all the Eternals. They form this as a way to gain consensus on how to deal with the Celestial question, and i think this means we're finally getting somewhere. But when they come out of the big floating brain, nothing comes of it. After meandering for a few more issues, the series ends with no conclusion. Remember, there was supposed to be a 50 year period of judgement and then the Celestials were going to decide to wipe out humanity or let their experment continue. Instead it ends with no resolution at all, the Celestials still just standing around on Earth. Considering this was supposed to have happened in the Marvel Universe, i have no idea how to square that away. (It might have been resolved in a soon to be reprinted Thor story that i have never read but am looking forward to getting my grubby little hands on.)

Now, it's pretty clear that something happened around this time between Marvel and Kirby, because all the books he was working on at this time come to an end. I thought maybe Newsarama's Eternals primer would have some insight, but other than mentioning low sales, it doesn't say why the series stopped** (it does have better pictures and a better plot description if my review isn't doing it for you). I suppose someone could argue that if Kirby had been allowed to finish the story it would have ended better, but after 20 issues of going absolutely nowhere, i have doubts that he intended to tell an actual story with a beginning, middle, and conclusion. It seems more like he was just setting up a new environment to play in.

Seems to me that Kirby is a concept guy. The idea of the Celestials, and their prehistoric genetic manipulation resulting in 3 branches of humanity, was interesting, and have obviously had a lasting effect on the Marvel Universe (although that wasn't his intention). But he didn't seem have the desire or ability to take that concept and develop it into anything more than a playground for cheesy action/adventure stories.

Overall, while i'd recommend the story to a die-hard marvel fan interested in the origin of some concepts that pop-up elsewhere, this isn't a very good series (I recognize that to some people this is heresey as Kirby is a god that can do no wrong). We'll see if Neil Gaiman can do better at taking Kirby's concept and turning it into an actual story.

*The question of whether The Eternals was, or should be, in continuity raged in the letters pages at the time. In the end, a half-hearted concession was made to say that it was in continuity by throwing in some SHIELD agents and a robot that looked like the Hulk (in the worst plot of the whole series). I think it was pretty clear that Kirby didn't want to be bothered with the MU, which would have been fine, but editors or readers pressured him into bringing it in. Later writers integrated the Eternals, Deviants, and Celestials much more deeply into the Marvel Universe.

**UPDATE: From Wikipedia:

Still dissatisfied with Marvel's treatment of him, and their refusal to provide health and other employment benefits, Kirby left Marvel to work in animation, where he did designs for Turbo Teen, Thundarr the Barbarian and other animated television series.

Yeah, Thundarr the Barbarian rocked.

By fnord12 | June 29, 2006, 9:37 AM | Comics| Link

June 28, 2006


Can i have one, please?

By min | June 28, 2006, 2:02 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (4) | Link


kerfuffle (n): disorder, commotion; also written curfuffle, kerfuffle, gefuffle; a disorderly outburst or tumult; "they were amazed by the furious disturbance they had caused"

By min | June 28, 2006, 1:02 PM | Good Words| Link

Blew it.

When Bush and the Republican's approval ratings were sinking, the Democrat "strategists" all warned their clients (actually, i'm not even sure if these people even have clients or if they just blab to the press all day) that they should just sit back and ride the wave and not actually jump on the sentiment and try to win people over with an alternative. The fear was the Democrats might put people off by looking... partisan (whatever that means). Well...

President Bush's approval rating rebounded from its lowest point a month ago and now stands at 38 percent. That is five points higher than it was in May, though still weak enough to cause Republicans to worry about their electoral chances in November.

But the survey offered some hopeful signs for Bush and the Republicans as they prepare for the midterm elections. The big advantage that Democrats held on virtually every major issue has narrowed or reversed. On the question of which party is best able to handle the situation in Iraq, the Democrats' 14-point advantage in last month's Post-ABC poll has been cut in half; they now have a 47 percent lead over Republicans' 41 percent.

A month ago, Democrats held a five-point lead over Republicans on dealing with international terrorism. Republicans now hold a seven-point advantage. On the economy, the Democratic advantage has narrowed from 18 points to 13 points since May.

The idea should have been to pound away at the Republicans and their failed policies. Instead, people got pissed at the Republicans, but in the absence of anything better being out there, they went back to the fold.

By fnord12 | June 28, 2006, 1:01 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

Health Care for All - Submit Comments

Another email. This time from the AFL-CIO.

The Citizens' Health Care Working Group, created by Congress in 2003, is calling for the nation to develop and implement universal health care by 2012. The group is taking public comments before finalizing its interim recommendations--and you should add your voice.  

Health costs are soaring, 46 million of us have no insurance and employers are shifting health coverage burdens to workers left and right. President George W. Bush has responded with a proposal for privatized Health Savings Accounts and high-deductible, limited benefit plans that would push us even further in the wrong direction. Bush's plan would actually cost consumers more, provide less care and encourage more employers to dump workers' health coverage.

In contrast, the working group's interim recommendations are heartening for those of us who believe strongly that not only the rich should be able to get good health care. The group declares, "It should be public policy that all Americans have affordable health care," and calls for the government to define a "core" benefit package for all Americans, guarantee financial protection against very high health care costs, support integrated community health networks and promote efforts to improve quality of care and efficiency.

The 14-member commission, which so far has heard from more than 20,000 people--many of them union members--at 75 community meetings around the country and online, is taking recommendations and comments from the public until Aug. 31.
Don't let the Bush administration followers, who think privatized health care accounts and high-deductible health plans will fix America's health care crisis, control this debate. Be sure you make your voice heard, too.

Speak out for high-quality, affordable health care for all by clicking the link below.


By min | June 28, 2006, 12:11 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Verizon Learning from WalMart?

Got this email from American Rights At Work:

Verizon Wireless, one of the nation's most popular wireless providers, is also gaining a reputation as one of the most anti-union. A federal Administrative Law Judge recently found that Verizon Wireless illegally disciplined a pro-union worker and interfered with its employees' rights to form unions. And Verizon Wireless workers say the company used "scare tactics" and intimidation to prevent employees from joining unions.  

  • The company has prohibited workers from talking about the union on their own time.
  • Verizon Wireless forced its employees to do its dirty work - a federal investigation revealed a company rule requiring employees to report all union activity at their worksite, as part of the company's national "Emergency Procedures."
  • And in an action reminiscent of Wal-Mart's closure of a Quebec store when its employees formed a union, Verizon Wireless shut down a call center after its employees moved closer to getting their union!

Even employees at Verizon's landline division have union representation - 65,000 of them, in fact! Verizon Wireless workers simply desire what their colleagues have - the right to have a say in their working conditions, some job security, and protection from unfair treatment and firings.

Tell Verizon Wireless to stop hanging up on workers' rights:


By min | June 28, 2006, 11:42 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link

Privacy Bill Of Rights

I'm no fan of Hillary, and i just finished the post on how hopeless everything is, but i like this:

Last week Hillary introduced what I think should be a primary plank of the the Democratic Party:A Privacy Bill Of Rights. Indeed, I think this is the most fertile territory out there to gain some disaffected Republican voters and put some of the mountain west in our electoral quiver. It's smart politics.

I happen to be a believer in the Democratic strategy that includes pulling on the civil libertarian threads in our coalition to weave a bigger tent. I'm personally horrified by the excesses of this administration and terribly worried that the huge bureaucratic domestic surveillance apparatus they are building is going to be impossible to control. I hear tales from all over the country of wads of DHS pork going to local and state police departments to use to spy on their own citizens and we know that at the national level they've pretty much discarded the fourth amendment and have enabled both the foreign and military spy agencies to work within our borders. There's a lot of money and power involved, it's secret and it's fundamentally anti-democratic. We are building a police state and I firmly believe that, politics aside, if you build it they will use it.

That all this has been done by the alleged libertarian small government Republicans is no surprise to me. They have always been about big bucks and authoritarianism over all else. But it seems to me that it may come as a surprise to people with a certain "don't tread on me" kind of ethos, particularly in the west which has a long tradition of such sentiment. If these tribal divides about which I often write exist, then there is a big one here. And if politics need to play to the gut as much as the head and the heart, this issue is powerful. Democrats have an opportunity to craft a real message of American independence if they choose to take it --- and it might just be the way to beat back the fear factor a little bit, which I think people are getting tired of.

But there is another aspect of this which is important, as well. Clinton's privacy Bill of Rights includes a lot of consumer protections, which is something that I think is a truly sellable, populist idea. The intrusion into our private lives by government is a threat to our individual liberty. The intrusion (and collusion) by its ally, corporate America, is truly a threat to the fundamental definition of what it means to be an American. The ability to amass all this data and create profiles of us and put us into categories and label us as being one thing or another according to complex formulas, means that the great innovation of America --- the ability to reinvent ourselves and take risks --- will no longer be optional. The great nation of immigrants and hucksters and innovators will become a stratified society based on criteria that has nothing to do with our potential and everything to do with our past.

Hillary said in her speech the other day: "privacy is synonymous with liberty." This is correct. We give it up far too thoughtlessly in our culture and its going to come back to bite us if we don't wake to the fact that big powerful forces are poking into our lives in unprecedented ways and will use the information they get to force us into little boxes they design.

Democrats need to make some new arguments. They need to talk in terms that are relevant to today's world. Progressives are about progress; we cannot only be concerned about maintaining what we've got. We must forge on. If we believe in the common good, which I do, it must be tempered with a healthy respect for individual privacy. Without that we will not have the freedom or the ability to come together to create a better world. We'll all be too busy furtively looking over our shoulders to pay attention to the road ahead.

You will win elections by running directly against corporate power. Polls consistently show that people think that corporations have way too much power in this country. Forget the old debates and go right for this; you will draw people from both parties. (I still don't know if Hillary is the one to do it; she has too much baggage, is hated by Republicans, and the left doesn't like her either. I'm still liking Russ Feingold.)

By fnord12 | June 28, 2006, 10:06 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link


tristero from Hullaballo:

Bob Herbert poses a question which deserves some thought, because although the immediate answer is obvious, it leads to one of the great question marks of the 21st century:
I wonder whether Americans will ever become fed up with the loathsome politicking, the fear-mongering, the dissembling and the gruesome incompetence of this crowd.

Well, in fact, polls say that some two-thirds of Americans *are* fed up. So maybe Herbert means something about the public expression of outrage, something like, "Where are the legions of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, lovers, and friends of the soldiers dying for Bush's stupidity? Why haven't we heard from them? Where, after Katrina, are the Kings, the Malcolms, the Stokelys? Where are the Berrigans? The Dillingers? Where are the Edward R. Murrows, the Oppenheimers, the Ellsbergs, the McGoverns, the McCarthys?"

The thing is. there are many of these, too. Including, off the top of my head, Cindy Sheehan, Brady Kiesling, Colleen Rowley, Richard Clarke, Bob Herbert himself, Amy Goodman, James Hansen, Al Gore, Howard Dean, John Murtha, Paul Krugman, Barbara Ehrenreich. All very different people with very different concerns and, to be sure, very different politics. But all share a deep level of competence, intelligence, and public commitment to the notion of a small "d" democratic America.

So in thinking about it, Herbert's question surely isn't about the dearth of protest and dissent. As for positive alternatives to Bushism, Herbert knows as well as the rest of us that plenty of those exist. What Herbert is getting at is that all that protest, all those proposals are happening in an organizational void. His question really is,

"When will America again have two national political parties?"

I honestly wish I could say 2006. There are some positive signs that a second party could emerge, in the face of major attempts to suppress it, from what's left of the Democratic Party. It certainly would save a lot of time. Building a second party from scratch will be no picnic.

Tristero sees that there is as much protest and positive alternatives as there ever has been in the past. The problem is that it's been totally marginalized in every possible way. In the 60s, a protest of several thousand people got major media coverage. Today it might as well not occur. You've got just as many angry bands making political protest music, but it's not gonna get played on any Clear Channel radio stations. And you can have all the sophisticated thinkers with alternatives that you want, but they're never going to have any influence on cable news. The corporate establishment has successfully shunted away just about all of that unpleasantness and they are left to quest for their profits undisturbed.

Where i disagree with Tristero is that he thinks that electoral politics is the answer. Unfortunately i don't know how much that matters any more, when you look at it from this perspective. We can spend all our efforts rebuilding the Democratic party into something useful, kicking out all the Liebermans, but the Republicans are still going to rig the elections and outspend the Democrats 10 to 1 and get the support of the pundits on the TV and Democrats are still going to lose elections. We have to find another way out of this. But i don't know what it is.

By fnord12 | June 28, 2006, 9:53 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

His non-union Mexican equivalent

QUERETARO, Mexico -- Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is often compared with South American leftists, has found a model in an icon from the north: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Lopez Obrador's economics team has developed a blueprint for what they call the "Mexican New Deal." Their modern version of Depression-era populism is an ambitious program to create millions of jobs and stem migration by undertaking huge public works projects, including a railroad network, vast housing developments, ports and timber replanting.

"Roosevelt didn't solve all of America's problems, but he gave American society a sense that they were on the right track," Manuel Camacho Sol?s, one of Lopez Obrador's top advisers, said in an interview. "Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador can represent something like that for Mexico."

Everyone south of the US in this hemisphere is getting more and more progressive while we retreat into the Dark Ages. If only we had our own FDR.

By fnord12 | June 28, 2006, 9:48 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

In a Democracy, no one can hear you vote

4. Finally, President Bush was "flummoxed" by two questions about recent public opinion polls on America's reputation in the world. The first noted, "you've got Iran's nuclear program, you've got North Korea, yet, most Europeans consider the United States the biggest threat to global stability. Do you have any regrets about that?"

Apparently unbriefed about the polls, Bush reacted sharply: "That's absurd. The United States is -- we'll defend ourselves, but at the same time, we're actively working with our partners to spread peace and democracy. So whoever says that is -- it's an absurd statement."

Undaunted, an Austrian reporter asked the question again, this time alerting the President that it was poll results, not just isolated individuals, who thought America had become a threat.

The President's answer wandered from the defensive to angry defiance:

Well, yes, I thought it was absurd for people to think that we're more dangerous than Iran. It's a -- we're a transparent democracy. People know exactly what's on our mind. We debate things in the open.... I don't govern by polls, you know. I just do what I think is right. And I understand some of the decisions I made are controversial. But I made them in the best interest of our country, and I think in the best interest of the world. I believe when you look back at this moment, people will say, it was right to encourage democracy in the Middle East. I understand some people think that it can't work. I believe in the universality of freedom; some don't. I'm going to act on my beliefs so long as I'm the President of the United States.

Leaving aside Bush's complete ignorance of world opinion, how about the fact that Bush "debate[s] things in the open" (umm, if you count lying about all the WMD and terrorist ties Iraq has and trying to sink the careers of people who disagree with him 'debating things in the open') but then doesn't care what the public thinks anyway and just does what he thinks is right, and calls it democracy?

By fnord12 | June 28, 2006, 9:44 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Continuity - it's up to you!

From the best editor in comics today (and next in line for EIC if i have my way), Tom Brevoort:

Continuity. Some people have asked about it, and its role in comic book storytelling. So here's what I can tell you:

Continuity is a tool. It is not an end in and of itself. The purpose of continuity is to enhance stories, the purpose of stories is not to enhance continuity.

Every reader has their own continuity that's important to them. One guy won't mind if you disregard a story published ten years ago in some way, where to another guy, that was his favorite story of all time, and the reason he's a fan in the first place. You can never please everybody.

Continuity was never as seamless as everybody seems to remember it being. We may have spent more effort concealing it, but there was never a point where everything came off flawlessly. But again, see previous point: for people reading ten years ago, they may not have cared about the continuity of twenty years ago the same way the older guys did.

Most continuity is off-the-cuff. Which is to say that we sort of know vaguely which storyline in the assorted Spider-Man books happens when, but we don't obsess over it needlessly, to the exclusion of everything else. As said previously, it's never going to be perfect, and spending too much effort trying to make it so has diminishing returns.

The Marvel of the 1980s, embodied by Mark Gruenwald, promoted a specific approach to continuity, one that the readership as a whole has been trained to accept as "proper" continuity. But even Mark's guidelines, much as I love him, are crazily restrictive at times. And, for example, now that Mark is no longer with us, neither are his rules for how time travel must function within the Marvel U.

I'm going to be explaining Nick Fury in IRON MAN every month until the storyline is done, I can see. Short answer: when we began work on that storyline, we couldn't be sure A) when these issus were going to ship, because we weren't sure when the Warren and Adi run would be wrapped, and B) when the end of SECRET WAR was going to ship. So we proceeded with Fury in place. As it worked out, SECRET WAR #5 came out first, and finally established Fury's status quo at that point in the Marvel Universe. But we've already established in the NEW AVENGERS ILLUMINATI Special that SHIELD has been using a sophisticated Fury LMD to stand in for Nick and cover his disappearance--so you can assume that the Fury in IRON MAN is probably the LMD (same as in HULK #88-91, as well as one or two other places that I'm not going to point out--why ask for trouble?)

It used to be that the fans were the ones who worked at making the continuity function, coming up with rationales for how mistakes weren't mistakes. Heck, we used to give out No-Prizes for just that. But in the last decade, that seems to have changed, and rather than being challenged by continuity, most vocal fans today seem irritated by it, demanding explanations for every seeming inconsistency, and not bringing any thought to the matter themselves. Not that they're required to especially, but it seems like a somewhat more productive approach if something bothers you than just complaining about it everywhere.

So who wants to help me read through all my comics and make sure they're in chronological order?

By fnord12 | June 28, 2006, 9:27 AM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link


They're sitting on the floor next to the sliding glass door. I see something moving in the dirt. Must be a bug. Oh my god. It's a snake. A big snake. It's coming inside. It started off tan with brown patterning. Now it's green. And a cobra. It lunges. I avoid it. Somehow. We make a grab for it. Someone get the head! I hold on to it. It opens its jaws. Wide. 180deg wide. Venom drips out of the fangs. Get a container or something. Hurry up. The venom drips onto my hands and seeps into my skin. I can feel it moving up my arms. We have a jar. What if i try to put it in and drop it? I try. I don't think i made it.

By min | June 28, 2006, 8:21 AM | My Dreams | Comments (3) | Link

June 27, 2006


Peter David:

So Kathleen happened to have the radio on this morning, tuned to a sports radio talk show. And it seemed that the volume and intensity of the discussion was inversely proportional to the degree of importance-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things that the subject matter had.

And all I could think of was how grotesquely unfair it is that science fiction and comics fans are tagged as nerds and dweebs and treated in a condescending manner when sports fans are just as "bad" if not "worse." I mean, where the hell does the media get off being snotty about fans who are dressed as Klingons when you can go to any Yankees game and see 1800 guys wearing jerseys that say "Jeter" on the back. The Klingon language may be incomprehensible, but no less so than watching two sports fanatics tossing around stats, names and abbreviations ("When he wasn't able to DH he was HBP and wound up on the DL when his ERA was 0.73, or else he would have been MVP.") How is it 1500 people, mostly sober, spending a weekend enjoying a mutual interest at a hotel and talking about space exploration, how to avoid global warming, and whether the Hulk can beat Superman...how is that automatically inferior to 43,000, mostly drunkly drunk, spending a day enjoying a mutual interest at a stadium and talking about playoffs, how to avoid the line at the bathroom, and whether the 1953 Dodgers could beat the 1962 Yankees?

Plus science fiction fans have only the Sci-Fi Channel. Sports fans have ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN Classic. Golf. There's a golf channel. A whole channel dedicated to Golf, for God's sake. That's like having a whole channel devoted to "Voyager." And how are fantasy baseball leagues any weirder than local chapters of Starfleet? And where do people get off being snotty about Renfaires when there are those fantasy baseball camps that some organizations offer, where you pay big bucks to dress up like a baseball player for a week? At least Renfaire's don't set you back a few thousand bucks.

So what makes us nerdy and them "mainstream? Because it's "big business?" Maybe the only way science fiction and comic book conventions will gain genuine respectability is if they become designed, not for socialization or debate, but about being as aggressive as possible about separating fans from their money. You know: LIke pro sports.


By fnord12 | June 27, 2006, 4:52 PM | Comics | Comments (8) | Link

Scientists Hard at Work

First, they didn't want to admit that global warming could actually be happening. It was just alarmists and wacky enviromentalists, and it had no basis in "true" science. Today, the New York Times has done an about face. Not only do they admit global warming is a fact, they've written an article about some of the great ways we can battle it.

Wait for it....


In the past few decades, a handful of scientists have come up with big, futuristic ways to fight global warming: Build sunshades in orbit to cool the planet.

Wow. Now i see why they're the paper of record. That sure is some quality reporting. They're not cracked in the head at all.

Now, the entire article's not as bad as all that. It's not all about window treatments in space. There's also a proposal to make clouds more reflective, "trick" the ocean into soaking up more greenhouse gasses (hey, as long as the air is still breathable for us, who cares about the fishies?), and injecting sulphur into the stratosphere.

But wait, there's more.

In April, at his invitation, Roger P. Angel, a noted astronomer at the University of Arizona, spoke at the academy's annual meeting. Dr. Angel outlined a plan to put into orbit small lenses that would bend sunlight away from earth - trillions of lenses, he now calculates, each about two feet wide, extraordinarily thin and weighing little more than a butterfly.

So, let me get this straight. We can't possibly develop alternative fuels that would be less polluting or vehicles and machines that are more efficient (even though every other country in the world has already been doing it for years), we can't come up with any ideas or legislation that would help decrease greenhouse gas emissions (remember, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. without it, we couldn't blow dandelion seeds into the air). Or, you know, work with the world community to regulate our pollutant output, perhaps a treaty of some sort....No. These are ludicrous suggestions. Clearly little glass lenses in the sky is the way to go.

I think the last line of the article sums it up quite nicely.

"So far," he added, "there is little reason to be optimistic."

By min | June 27, 2006, 12:30 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (1) | Link

nsxt290's Bank of America Rant

nsxt290 forwarded me this letter he sent to Bank of America:

I just wanted to write you to tell you how annoyed I have been with BOA recently. This has nothing to do with the quality of BOA but the constant harassment about your stupid credit cards. Not only is it unnecessary for the people at the counter to bother you each and every time about "the great news you have excellent credit and you're approved for a new card." Hey guess what, we're not interested. But they push and push. Every branch does the same and even at the same branch the same person would ask you even though you said no last week. Oh on top of that, every time you log off the website it asks you if you want a credit card. I realize you guys are merging with MBNA but give it a rest, unless your goal is to get less and less customers by harassing them to death. I go to the bank to make deposits and not be harassed about credit cards. You guys probably don't even care but keep it up and you'll have a lot more aggravated customers who switch to another financial institution. Thanks for you[r] time. By the way you have excellent credit and you're approved for a $10,000 credit limit.

By min | June 27, 2006, 10:17 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (7) | Link

June 26, 2006

PETA/Center for Consumer Freedom

So, Spored to Death sent me an email about the Center for Consumer Freedom's claims that PETA kills animals. Two PETA employees were charged with maliciously killing animals by euthanizing them, illegally disposing of dead animals, trespassing, and obtaining property by false pretenses back in 2005 in Virginia. Considering PETA is supposed to be an animal rights organization, this seems pretty outrageous. My first thoughts were "who the heck is the Center for Consumer Freedom, really?" and "PETA's crazy enough to do something like this."

Ok. First question. Who is the Center for Consumer Freedom. The Center for Consumer Freedom is a front for the tobacco, restaurant, alcohol, and meat industries. They used to call themselves the Guest Choice Network. It was founded by Rick Berman, a lobbyist whose firm represents the tobacco companies, beer distributors, hotels, and restaurants. This group goes after anyone or any organization that criticizes tobacco, obesity, alcohol, and pesticides as well as anyone pro-environment, pro-animal rights, etc.

Berman launched the Guest Choice Network in 1995. Its initial funding came entirely from the Philip Morris tobacco company. "I'd lke to propose to Philip Morris the establishment of the Guest Choice Network," Berman stated in a December 11, 1995 letter to Barbara Trach (http://www.prwatch.org/documents/berman/berman600k.pdf), PM's senior program manager for public affairs. "The concept is to unite the restaurant and hospitality industries in a campaign to defend their consumers and marketing programs against attacks from anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-meat, etc. activists. ... I would like to solicit Philip Morris for an initial contribution of $600,000."
In a 1999 interview with the Chain Leader, a trade publication for restaurant chains, Berman boasted that he attacks activists more aggressively than other lobbyists. "We always have a knife in our teeth," he said. Since activists "drive consumer behavior on meat, alcohol, fat, sugar, tobacco and caffeine," his strategy is "to shoot the messenger. ... We've got to attack their credibility as spokespersons."

They like to use the "nanny" angle to make their arguments more attractive to people. As you all know, nothing whips up outrage in an American more than the thought of someone trying to tell them what to do. We never did quite get over that aspect of our teen angst phase. If you want to get them frothing at the mouth, start in with the "for your own good" stuff. It extends beyond laws that force people to do something (wearing your seatbelt, for instance). They don't even want to know what the issue is. They don't want you labelling their food with information, they don't want to hear any reports that say what they're doing might be unhealthy. Somehow, they manage to equate staying ignorant about something with being independent. Gotta love that teen angst.

Second - PETA's crazy. Well, in fact, they are. They do the craziest things that makes me wonder if they're actually a front for the meat industry. When Timothy McVeigh was on death row, these lunatics asked him to become a vegan.

I believe that your decision to go vegan would help the movement for compassion toward animals, and I am certain that if you made the choice prayerfully, it would profit your soul. As a Christian, I believe in acts of repentance, and it seems to me that you might benefit very much from such an act.

You'd think there would be some more productive way they could promote animal welfare and veganism, right? But no, let's go get a guy who murdered over a hundred people to become a vegan. That's how we're going to convince people and win them over to our cause. At the very least, if they're going to preach veganism, they should start with their own. PETA employees are not necessarily vegan or vegetarian. Some of them are. Some of them aren't. If they think veganism is the way to go, shouldn't they be working on convincing their own staff instead of some guy who everyone hates and is about to be executed?

Things like this make me suspect that they just want people to think animal rights proponents and vegetarians are cracked in the head. I feel they hurt more than they help. So, now, 2 of their staff are accused of killing and dumping animals that could have made good pets. Not only that, PETA is being accused of killing thousands of animals all the time. What is their response? Is it shock and dismay at what was done in their name? Is it a denial of such ridiculous charges that PETA would kill animals? Have they suspended both employees until such time as the investigation is completed? Alas, no.

[T]he president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Friday that animal cruelty charges against two employees won't stick.
Hinkle has been suspended from her job until the investigation is over. Cook remains on the job, according to PETA.

And i particularly like this gem:

"PETA has never made a secret of the fact that most of the animals picked up in North Carolina are euthanized," Newkirk said.


So, there's no denial that the animals were illegally killed by the staffers. They just object to the accusation that they killed them cruelly. And regardless of innocent until proven guilty, as some sort of good faith gesture, shouldn't they do something to restrict the work the second employee is doing? Mebbe keep him on desk duty? Why was Hinkle suspended and not Cook? Well, according to the PETA president, Cook was just along for the ride. Um....yeah, but, doesn't that mean he was also along for the killing and the dumping?

And what about this line about how they never made a secret of "euthanizing" most of the animals they picked up? It doesn't exactly properly address the accusations. She's basically saying, "I don't understand what all the fuss is about. We never said we didn't kill animals."

OMG. My head hurts. This is the group fighting for animal rights? Now do you see why i think they're a front?

What do you do if both sides are despicable? Wait it out and hope they kill each other off.

By min | June 26, 2006, 1:25 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

And You Can Go to Hell, Too!

Here is the long awaited Ireland vacation page complete with a daily log and requisite pictures of rolling hills. You can all go to hell.

By min | June 26, 2006, 10:51 AM | My stupid life | Comments (4) | Link

June 25, 2006

Dear Al Gore

Saw your movie last night. Overall it was pretty good - i thought the science was wll explained and the warnings were appropriately stark. I did think that the parts about your personal life, and especially the part where you show yourself during the baffling concession in the 2000 election, were distracting from the message you were trying to send. Was the movie about Al Gore or global warming? And i thought the conclusion of the movie was really weak. During the whole movie you show how there is a systemic problem in the united states, especially in our political system, that is causing these problems, and then you end with telling us to grow some trees and buy a hybrid car, and write our congresspeople. You know that our congresspeople are ineffective and corrupt - you all but said so in the film. Really, if you want to make some changes in this country, you should take your slide show out of the college and indie film circuit and bring it to D.C.. Which leads me to a larger point... you were the vice president for 8 years! If this issue was so important to you, why didn't you do something about it then? At the very least, you had the white house's bully pulpit more or less at your disposal - you could basically have given your slide show on prime time tv instead of in a little indie movie 8 years later. That could have resulted in the groundswell that you are so discouraged to not see in America. Bah. Oh well, thanks anyway.

By fnord12 | June 25, 2006, 12:16 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

June 23, 2006


Riding a bike on a path. There's grass and bushes all along the bike path. And a fence that encloses it all. Chainlink. Heard some noises as i passed some bushes. Looked back and saw a boy riding out from the bush. When i turned back to watch where i was going, the path was blocked by a spiderweb and on the web was 1 large spider and 4 smaller ones. Brown and black coloring on all 5. I couldn't stop, i couldn't swerve. I rode right through the web and all the spiders were on me. I didn't know what to do. I was afraid to hop off the bike and shake them off because that might increase my chances of getting bitten. Next thing i know, i feel a pain on my right thigh. The large one has bitten me. Then a second jolt in the same spot. Spiders are poisonous.

By min | June 23, 2006, 2:23 PM | My Dreams| Link

Evil Hamster

We obtained this photo thru anonymous sources.

By min | June 23, 2006, 11:10 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (2) | Link

June 22, 2006

"Sweet Jesus this country has a lot of stupid people in it."

The NRA is telling people that the UN is going to take away all their guns on July 4th. And the UN is getting swamped with angry letters and calls. (Found on Hullabaloo)

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 4:30 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

You know what...? No.

I don't care how many of my tires they shoot out. I'm not getting a cellphone.

AT&T has issued an updated privacy policy that takes effect Friday. The changes are significant because they appear to give the telecom giant more latitude when it comes to sharing customers' personal data with government officials.

The new policy says that AT&T -- not customers -- owns customers' confidential info and can use it "to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."

The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service -- something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing.

Moreover, AT&T (formerly known as SBC) is requiring customers to agree to its updated privacy policy as a condition for service -- a new move that legal experts say will reduce customers' recourse for any future data sharing with government authorities or others.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 4:27 PM | Liberal Outrage & My stupid life| Link

Campaign Manager


BLITZER: Let's talk about the CIA conclusion that you report that Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, wanted President Bush re-elected in 2004. You write this: "What the CIA had learned over nearly a decade is that bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons and those reasons are debated with often startling depths inside the organization's leadership. Today's conclusion: bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the president's re-election."

Why would Osama bin Laden want President Bush re-elected?

SUSKIND: The debate in the CIA on that Friday and through the weekend right before the election is one that essentially points out these -- these factors. Often leaders, for instance, the Soviets, liked Nixon. They liked his predictability. They knew their opponent.

In other cases it was bin Laden and Bush are kind of a match set. Bush has provided an enormous value in terms of recruitment in the Arab world. Bin Laden essentially is in a pitched dialogue -- in history in years later, we'll look back on this, Wolf, and say essentially it's these two characters...

BLITZER: You're saying the CIA formally concluded that bin Laden wanted Bush re-elected.

SUSKIND: Well, look -- absolutely true. And that day at the meeting John McLaughlin says, well, you know, bin Laden certainly did Bush a big favor today. And the analysis flowed essentially along those lines.

The question, the key question, is what it is it about America's war on terror that is such that bin Laden would want it to continue and Bush to continue conducting it? That's the bigger question that was not examined by the CIA, because many of these people there were soon to be pushed out.


Most disturbing, there is important new information - gleaned mainly from Saudi Al Qaeda operatives - on how the terrorists hoped the United States would invade Iraq and become bogged down there.

(All links from this and surrounding posts pilferred shamelessly from King of Zembla).

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 4:24 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

I'm fairly certain i saw Todd and Rod Flanders playing this once


Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

The game, slated for release by October 2006 in advance of the Christmas shopping rush, has been previewed at video game exhibitions, and reviewed by major newspapers and magazines. But until now, no fan or critic has pointed out the controversial game's connection to Mr. Warren or his dominionist agenda.

Time magazine has described Mr. Warren as one of the nation's most influential Evangelical Christian leaders. He describes himself as a "stealth evangelist" and describes his training programs as "a stealth movement, that's flying beneath the radar, that's changing literally hundreds, even thousands of churches around the world."

This game immerses children in present-day New York City -- 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

And just so you know, these people ("an estimated 40% of Americans") are quite serious. They really think the end of the world is coming and it's gonna go down like this. And they're in such a hurry for it to happen, they're helping things along:

For thousands of years, prophets have predicted the end of the world. Today, various religious groups, using the latest technology, are trying to hasten it.

Their endgame is to speed the promised arrival of a messiah.

For some Christians this means laying the groundwork for Armageddon.

With that goal in mind, mega-church pastors recently met in Inglewood to polish strategies for using global communications and aircraft to transport missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission: to make every person on Earth aware of Jesus' message. Doing so, they believe, will bring about the end, perhaps within two decades . . . .

Some religious scholars saw apocalyptic fever rise as the year 2000 approached, and they expected it to subside after the millennium arrived without a hitch.

It didn't. According to various polls, an estimated 40% of Americans believe that a sequence of events presaging the end times is already underway. Among the believers are pastors of some of the largest evangelical churches in America, who converged at Faith Central Bible Church in Inglewood in February to finalize plans to start 5 million new churches worldwide in 10 years . . . .

A growing number of fundamentalist Christians in mostly Southern states are adopting Jewish religious practices to align themselves with prophecies saying that Gentiles will stand as one with Jews when the end is near.

Evangelist John C. Hagee of the 19,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio has helped 12,000 Russian Jews move to Israel, and donated several million dollars to Israeli hospitals and orphanages . . . .

Given end-times scenarios saying that non-believers will die before Jesus returns — and that the antichrist will rule from Jerusalem's rebuilt Holy Temple — Jews have mixed feelings about the outpouring of support Israel has been getting from evangelical organizations.

"I sincerely recognize [Hagee] as a hero for bringing planeloads of people to Israel at a time when people there were getting blown up by the busloads," [Rabbi Brad] Hirschfield said. "But he also believes that the only path to the father is through Jesus. That leaves me out" . . . .

Over in Mississippi, [Rev. Clyde] Lott believes that he is doing God's work, and that is why he wants to raise a few head of red heifers for Jewish high priests. Citing Scripture, Lott and others say a pure red heifer must be sacrificed and burned and its ashes used in purification rituals to allow Jews to rebuild the temple.

But Lott's plans have been sidetracked.

Facing a maze of red tape and testing involved in shipping animals overseas — and rumors of threats from Arabs and Jews alike who say the cows would only bring more trouble to the Middle East — he has given up on plans to fly planeloads of cows to Israel. For now.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 4:10 PM | Liberal Outrage & Video Games| Link

Bolton at Oxford


Facing an increasingly hostile group of law students in an Oxford seminar that had somehow gone dreadfully wrong, beads of sweat began to pop out on [US Ambassador at the UN] John Bolton's furrowed brow. Amidst a rising chorus of taunts, jeers, hisses and outright denunciations, Bolton was swiftly surrounded by his entourage of three American security agents and whisked out the door of the seminar room at Oriel College on Friday, the 9th of June.

. . .

Bolton began his broadside with an examination of the principle of 'sovereign equality,' whereby every nation has exactly the same voting rights as every other member of the General Assembly. He adopted an unsophisticated book-keeper's perspective, stating that the contributions made by the USA dwarfed those of many other nations. He argued unconvincingly that even those forty-seven members who paid the bare minimum had the same voting power in the General Assembly as America. This observation failed to impress the audience who were more than well aware of America's financial and economic superiority to the debt-ridden nations in the third world ­ a superiority accumulated through trade negotiations designed to extract capital from the poorest nations and transfer it to the wealthiest.

Bolton's panacea for the bureaucratic inefficiency was simple ­ a tax cut for the wealthiest nations. At its core, he implied that a group of sharp-eyed book-keepers backed by accountants, auditors and a hardened core of dues-collectors should run the United Nations along strict financial guidelines as if it were a private club with a dining room and golf course rather than the world's premiere organization mandated to prevent armed conflict between sovereign nations, foster economic development, enhance social equality and cultivate international law. If Bolton is aware of the principles defining the mission of the United Nations, he made no mention of them whatsoever. His sole focus was a totally transparent harangue on the disparity of dues, a tissue of an argument that would not have convinced a fifteen year old ­ much less Oxford law students.

Turning to his case for corruption, Bolton launched into a literal diatribe about the Oil for Food programme that he described as a substantial scandal. The background to this is important: led by Bolton, neoconservative critics of the UN attempted unsuccessfully to make a criminal case against Kofi Annan and members of his family through the Oil for Food investigation, but their efforts largely were wasted. The investigation did discover some relatively minor official corruption involving a paltry $150,000 paid to one individual. The largest amount of corruption appears to have come in the form of kickbacks and bribes to the government of Iraq by oil companies seeking cheap oil. Of the kickbacks paid to the government of Iraq, 52% came from the US in the form of bribes for cheap oil, a figure that is more than the rest of the planet of 190 nations combined. While a partisan Republican Senator, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, made allegations against one high profile figure, George Galloway a British MP, they have been refuted. The investigation is ongoing, but of 54 internal audits only one has been made public.
Bolton did not mention any of these details, nor did he provide any substantive evidence for his charge of serious levels of official corruption at the UN

. . .

In what was rapidly becoming his interrogation, a woman from America questioned Bolton about the need for a balanced approach where America would represent the best interests of the world at large rather than its own particular regional self-interest. At that point, Bolton fumbled. In a clumsy and misguided attempt to turn the tables on his adroit and incisive challengers, Bolton threw out a question of his own. He called for a show of hands of those in the audience who were British. Bolton then asked how many of them wanted the British Ambassador at the UN to represent the interests of Britain. Only one or two hands were raised. Then he asked to see a show of hands of those British subjects who wanted the British Ambassador at the UN to represent not only the interests of Britain but also the collective interests of the other members as well. At least a dozen hands went up into the air. Stunned, Bolton was dumbfounded and said rather witlessly, "I would have gotten a different result in America."

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 4:00 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Who wants a pay raise?

I think i'll just reprint the Billmon post in full...

Despite record low approval ratings, House lawmakers Tuesday accepted a $3,300 pay raise that will increase their salaries to $168,500. The 2 percent cost-of-living raise would be the seventh straight for members of the House and Senate.

Associated Press
House says yes to $3,300 pay raise
June 14, 2006

A bid to boost the U.S. minimum wage failed Tuesday as Republicans in the House of Representatives pushed back an effort by Democrats to force a vote on the measure.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said last week that he wanted to hold off on debating minimum wage legislation until possibly after the November elections. House Majority Leader John Boehner also said he probably wouldn't allow the legislation to reach the House floor this week.

Bloomberg News
Bid to boost minimum wage suffers setback
June 20, 2006

I have to admit, even I didn't think the political pimps in control of our national whorehouse would have the gall to sneak through a pay raise for themselves, then turn around a week later and kill the first increase in the minimum wage in almost ten years. Even I wouldn't have imagined they would think they could get away with it. Not in an election year. I guess it's their way of showing Tom DeLay they don't need him around to act like a pen full of swine with a taste for eating their own feces. The Bug Man may be gone, but his pestilence remains.

But what it really indicates, I think, is the complete confidence the GOP majority now places in the chronic amnesia of the American voter -- and the willingness of the corporate media complex (particularly its broadcast arm) to avoid doing or saying anything that would jog the patient's memory, at least when doing so might directly damage the interests of a powerful business constituency.

The piglets must assume that no matter how bad the juxtaposition of the two items above may look in June, by November it will just be another half-remembered trivia question -- like the infamous Dubai ports deal, which is being quietly resurrected now that all the fuss has died down.

They're probably right: There no longer seems to be any limit on what the devious and the dishonest can get away with in this country, as long as they're willing to be patient about it.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 3:45 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

A taste of things to come

Adam tipped me off to this list of upcoming Marvel movies and projects (based on searching for Avi Arad on imdb):

Captain America (2009) (announced) (executive producer)
Magneto (2007) (announced) (producer)
Ant-Man (2008) (announced) (executive producer)
Deathlok (2008) (announced) (producer)
Werewolf by Night (2007) (announced) (producer)
Wolverine (2007) (announced) (executive producer)
Untitled Nick Fury Project (2008) (announced) (producer)
The Black Widow (2006) (announced) (co-producer)
Iron Fist (2006) (announced) (executive producer)
Sub-Mariner (2006) (announced) (executive producer)
The Hands of Shang-Chi (2007) (announced) (producer)
Thor (2009) (pre-production) (producer)
The Incredible Hulk (2008) (pre-production) (producer)
Iron Man (2008) (pre-production) (producer)
Fantastic Four 2 (2007) (pre-production) (producer)
"Wolverine & the X-Men" (2007) TV Series (pre-production) (executive producer)
Luke Cage (2006) (pre-production) (executive producer)
The Punisher 2 (2006) (pre-production) (producer)
Spider-Man 3 (2007) (filming) (producer)
Ghost Rider (2007) (post-production) (producer)
Blade (2006) (TV) (post-production) (executive producer)
Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (2006) (V) (completed) (executive producer)

...and i just wanted to say to all you complainers out there: When we were growing up, we had Rubber-Ear Captain America, Dolph Lundgren Punisher ("Whyyyyyy do the guilty go unpunished????"), and Howard the Duck, and that's it and we liked it, dammit. So quit yer complaining; you never had it so good.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 2:47 PM | Comics & Movies | Comments (1) | Link

They're tired of you and they don't want to hear from you anymore

If you absolutely must express your political opinion to the individual elected to represent you, please do it in the most labor intensive way possible. After all, this is 2006 and we wouldn't want to take advantage of modern technology.


While some members of Congress are trying to cut pork out of the Congressional diet, other members are concerned about interest group spam (known to some as constituent e-mail). New web technology enables members of Congress to require the completion of a simple math or logic problem (examples include what is 5 minus 1, or 3 x 1) before constituents can e-mail them. The optional enhancement to "Write your Rep" is designed to thwart mass e-mails and ensure that only an actual person can complete the puzzle. In some cases, like Sen. John Cornyn's (R-TX) contact page, constituents are asked to choose the nth word out of both politically-charged or nonsensical words like xenophobic, snootiness, canonizing, secretions, skidooed, markups, and snafus.

Common Cause described the new technology as "blocking communication from the people who vote [Congressional members] into office." The ACLU agreed and denounced the use of "logic puzzles." According to the Washington Post, of the 8,262 times the logic puzzle was viewed in the House, only 1,568 people solved the puzzle correctly and moved on to send a message, which could mean that the computer could not crack the code or humans were frustrated and gave up. The Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum (in what is arguably abusive hyperbole) compared the measure to poll taxes once used to prevent blacks from voting.

Anyone with an e-mail account can sympathize with Congress members' desire to reduce spam. Unfortunately, the fundamental problem may be lawmakers' general resistance to constituent input in e-mail form. The new web feature also risks being challenged by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Many advocacy groups provide form letters (like this) through their websites that would be filtered out, if sent directly through the website. Whether a member of Congress considers the letter "spam" is beyond the point--constituents have the constitutional right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

I've also read that they basically throw away letters nowadays after the anthrax scare. The only way they'll actually read what you send to them is if you send a "nicely worded" fax. I don't know about you, but most voters don't really have easy access to a fax machine.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 2:40 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

Chomsky on Iran: A diplomatic solution is possible.

A lot of people call Noam Chomsky a propagandist. I really don't see it. You can't really even disagree with him... he just provides a long string of facts. Here's a little pre-history to the current Iran nuclear 'crisis' from him. Tell me where he's wrong.

I thought this was most interesting:

In May 2003, according to Flynt Leverett, then a senior official in Bush's National Security Council, the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami proposed "an agenda for a diplomatic process that was intended to resolve on a comprehensive basis all of the bilateral differences between the United States and Iran".

Included were "weapons of mass destruction, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the future of Lebanon's Hizbullah organisation and cooperation with the UN nuclear safeguards agency", the Financial Times reported last month. The Bush administration refused, and reprimanded the Swiss diplomat who conveyed the offer.

...we don't even want to hear about it, ya dumb Swiss diplomat. But all options are on the table.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 2:34 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

See our chart? Unemployment's going down.

Using the same methodology the Financial Times uses to determine unemployment in other countries, the US has an unemployment rate of 13.3%.. Am i wrong in thinking that's about 40 million people? Which is more people than we have in any state in the union (not even close for most states). That is a lot of people.

Now this number figures in people who are in prison and in the military (with the assumption that they wouldn't be if they could get jobs). You may or may not find that to be a valid way of looking at it. Even with out that we are looking at a massive population (even the official unemployment rate translates to about 15 million people (with the very rough estimate of 5 percent of 300,000,000)).

Do we have nothing to do in this country that we (as a country) can afford to have all these people unemployed? Couldn't we be building railroads to reduce our dependence on oil, and retrofitting houses to be more energy efficient? Couldn't we be researching cures for cancer and aids? Among a million other things? Our country's production ability is underutilized by a factor of millions. It's totally outrageous.

We are a wealthy country - the wealthiest in the world. We can afford to do these things. And we are a nation of hardworking immigrants and people infused with a Puritan work ethic. The vast majority of people, if given a challenging opportunity and a decent day's pay, will happily work. Instead we're letting people waste their lives away.

Why? Well, part of the reason is just that our system is inefficient. That part may be inevitable, although i think it could be fixed. But more importantly, it's because the people in charge - the people who work at the Fed - are more concerned with inflation than letting poor people get a decent wage. To say it in the most outrageous - but true - way: The federal government deliberately keeps approximately 8 million people unemployed.. Sounds crazy, but it really is true. The economy has been crappy enough lately that they haven't had to worry about it, but in the 90s when the unemployment rate was approaching 4%, the Fed raised interest rates. See, when the unemployment rate gets too low, the job market starts to favor workers instead of corporations, and they start demanding higher salaries. This, in theory, could potentially, maybe, lead to store owners deciding that they can raise prices. So the Fed raises interest rates just when there is a chance that employees may begin to get wage increases, not when they actually see evidence of rampant inflation.

This works in favor of the very wealthy. A poor or middle class person is likely to take the gamble that if they get a higher salary they may also start having to pay more for goods. A wealthy person living off capital gains doesn't worry about a salary, but doesn't want to see prices increase.

So while we tend to dismiss the unemployed as people who don't want to work or are incompetent, the truth is that we literally do not allow them to work. You talk about the fact that it's 2006 and we still don't have solar powered flying cars and now you know why... we are underutilizing our workforce so that we don't have to pay too much for toilet paper.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 1:19 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link


*Spoilers ahead!* (As if we weren't the last people on earth to see this movie.)

Well, the latest X-Men movie wasn't as bad as everyone said it was, but it wasn't great either. None of them have been great (the second one was the best).

I've never liked the Phoenix Force concept or the cosmic elements that surrounded it (rephrase: i like the stories Claremont wrote, but they have nothing to do with the X-Men theme and i think by doing generic space opera stories in the X-Men you lose the focus on what's special about them. Plus i hate the Shi'ar.). I think the movie did a good job of using the Phoenix as an "out of control mutant" concept without getting into all the cosmic crap. (At least to start with... i think once the mutant was out of control and ultra powerful, they weren't quite sure what to do with her.)

I also really liked the performances of Magneto and Wolverine, and I liked that Storm has finally been given a role in the movies. I like the hard choices / dark side of Professor X that was displayed with regards to his mind-blocks on the Phoenix and his dismissal of Wolverine ("I don't have to justify myself to you of all people.").

I thought the intro was really cool, with the flashback to Xavier and Magneto still working together, and then the scene with Angel, and then (what i thought) was a Days of Futures Past shot (it worked as a Danger Room scenario too, but i was definitely a little disappointed). From there the energy of the movie definitely declined, but i thought it was still a good movie. Decent action, good special effects, the interesting "mutant cure" plot used recently by Joss Whedon in Astonishing, and a glimpse of a slightly less negative future than we are used to seeing.

Of course there was plenty of sucking going on as well. The Beast looked absolutely terrible. Ter-ri-ble. And Jean Grey stood around and did nothing the whole movie, killing any mileage they might have gotten out of the Phoenix half of the plot. The ending was a little happy-pappy. And the Juggernaut sucked, which we all suspected would be the case. And there were of course other things i could gripe about from a fanboy perspective (for example, min is very disappointed about the treatment, or lack thereof, that Psylocke received in this film, but i'll let her speak to that), but overall as a movie that's supposed to take the core concepts of the X-Men and put them up on the big screen for a mainstream audience and provide plenty of cool action sequences and cool inside bits for the comic fans, i think it worked just fine. A solid "B".

I look for something a little more from the X-Men in terms of subtext. The X-Men have in the past been used as a metaphor for discrimination, but it's always hard to make that point when the people you are discriminating against have massive amounts of power at their disposal (This is why the Civil War plot works also as a story where each side has a valid point). I don't feel like this movie actually managed to say anything profound with these (or any) themes which is why it's a B and not an A movie, and i think that's a little disappointing because it sort of reinforces the idea that comics are a source of dumb action and not necessarily anything more that that.

But overall i really don't see what people are complaining about.

BTW the best part of the movie was when Magneto lifted up that first car and Pyro set it on fire before it got tossed at the army, and min jumped up in the movie theater and shouted "COMBO!".

Update: This is our 500th entry. Gods, if we don't do our best to keep you entertained/informed/enlightened while you are bored at work, i don't know what will.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 11:34 AM | Comics & Movies | Comments (9) | Link

More Civilian Murders

Seven Marines and 1 Navy corpsman were charged with premeditated murder of a lame 52-yr old man. They shot him in the face and then put a shovel near his body to make it look like he was planting a roadside bomb. This is separate from the case where 4 soldiers were charged with setting 3 detainees free so that they could shoot them and claim the detainees were escaping. Also separate from allegations of Marines killing 24 Iraqi civilians. Their defense lawyers are up in arms saying the interrogation techniques used to extract information from the soldiers were "inappropriate".

"I can tell you with regard to my client, he was subjected to at least three interrogations, one of which lasted about eight hours without any food, water, restroom breaks, you name it," Casas said.
Jane Siegel, another lawyer representing Jodka, said interrogators used "strong-arm" tactics and threats of life imprisonment to elicit statements from the eight men.

"The techniques that they used to acquire these statements are as close to old-fashioned psychological rubber hoses as you can get," Siegel said.

Clearly, these lawyers don't understand that there is a war going on and when there is a war, different standards are necessary. The interrogators did what they had to do in order to get the information necessary to protect our troops. And anyway, Attorney General Gonzales has said these are not torture techniques. The liberal media should stop being such pansies. Oh wait. Those are the talking points for people who are held in Gitmo and not charged with crimes . Where the hell is that list of talking points for this incident? Oh, right. We don't need talking points. We'll just pretend it never happened. These morons will forget all about it in a week, tops. Roll the tape on Brangelina's baby!

In no way should torture of any kind, no matter how the Administration spins the definition, be used. Didn't we learn during the Spanish Inquisition that torture never gets you true answers? It just gets you whatever answers the person being tortured thinks you want so that you will stop hurting them. It shouldn't be used on suspected terrorists, and it shouldn't be used on soldiers who are suspected of murdering civilians. It might make it harder to try your case, but that's your problem. We should not throw human rights out the window just because it becomes inconvenient. My problem is that people think it's ok to have one set of standards for some people and a completely different set for themselves. Do you suppose these lawyers were making any complaints about how we've completely ignored the Geneva Convention, not to mention basic human rights when it came to the treatment of our detainees? Hello? Remember Abu Ghraib? I know it's been a while since any mention's been made of it in the mainstream media. Not to mention our complete refusal to close down Guantanamo. We're holding people without charge there. And it's so bad that the prisoners would rather starve to death in a hunger strike then continue accepting the despicable treatment their captors are doling out to them daily. I don't care how evil the person might be. When you start thinking they don't deserve to be treated humanely, there's something wrong with you. And if you act on it instead of getting yourself some help, then you made the choice to trade in your humanity for hate.

You don't have to watch Apocalypse Now to realize that our troops must be cracking up, and it's no wonder considering the conditions they've been in. It's pretty much Vietnam all over again, except without the media putting any "disturbing" footage out for people to see. Plus, no spitting on returning soldiers. But in terms of fighting the war on terror, it's guerilla warfare and there's no way anyone's coming out of that completely right in the head. So for all their talk of supporting the troops, the Administration and all the chickenhawks are really advocates of killing our troops. Either quickly by bombs and guns or slowly by eating away at their psyche. Way to go, guys.

By min | June 22, 2006, 8:21 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link


Just one word of advice: When a state trooper says he is calling a tow truck, he is lying.

Also, if you drive a pick-up, keep a can of W-D40 and a hammer in the glove compartment, because someone thought it was a good idea to keep your spare under your truck so it can get permanently attached via a nice layer of rust.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 7:40 AM | My stupid life | Comments (3) | Link

OK, try to act like you don't know anything...

Something happened while we were in Ireland... something no one will tell us. And if we let on like we know, we could be next.

By fnord12 | June 22, 2006, 7:37 AM | My stupid life| Link

June 21, 2006

Then why did we invade Iraq again?

In the absence of WMDs and any ties to al-Qaeda, the argument was always that we had to "take out Saddam", but i guess that wasn't it either.

O'Reilly: Now to me, they're not fighting it hard enough. See, if I'm president, I got probably another 50-60 thousand with orders to shoot on sight anybody violating curfews. Shoot them on sight. That's me... President O'Reilly... Curfew in Ramadi, seven o'clock at night. You're on the street? You're dead. I shoot you right between the eyes. Ok? That's how I run that country. Just like Saddam ran it. Saddam didn't have explosions - he didn't have bombers. Did he? because if you got out of line, you're dead.

Bill O'Reilly declined to serve in Vietnam, btw. Just so you know. You might have been confused with all this talk of him shooting people.

By fnord12 | June 21, 2006, 5:02 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (4) | Link

Aquaman movie - Parallel wha-huh?


Readers of Monday's Variety could be forgiven for thinking they had been in the dark about the biggest movie of the year.

Huge letters spread across two pages in the Hollywood trade publication declared that the new James Cameron film "Aquaman," starring Vincent Chase, was the "biggest box office splash in history," racking up an astounding $116 million in its opening weekend.

The ad did not mention that "Aquaman" only exists in the fictional parallel universe of HBO's "Entourage," which follows the travails of Vincent Chase (played by Adrian Grenier), a hot young star who is flanked at all times by his brother and two childhood friends.

By fnord12 | June 21, 2006, 4:08 PM | Comics| Link

The world's most prominent governmental body or a high school clique?


Rice was quoted as telling [Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro] Foxley that the issue was "singular because it aims at the heart of U.S. interests." The U.S. would not understand a vote for Venezuela, she said, and warned that such a vote would lump Chile with a group of "losers"...

Maybe Chile can come over and watch VH1 Metal Mania with us this Friday night.

By fnord12 | June 21, 2006, 1:42 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

Crisis, Danger, and Opportunity

"The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger - but recognize the opportunity."

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), speech in Indianapolis, April 12, 1959

So, apparently, this is some popular misconception. This site goes into quite a bit of detail as to why this interpretation is completely wrong.

Like most Mandarin words, that for "crisis" (weiji) consists of two syllables that are written with two separate characters, wei and ji.
While it is true that weiji does indeed mean "crisis" and that the wei syllable of weiji does convey the notion of "danger," the ji syllable of weiji most definitely does not signify "opportunity."
The ji of weiji , in fact, means something like "incipient moment; crucial point (when something begins or changes)." Thus, a weiji is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry. A weiji indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary.
Aside from the notion of "incipient moment" or "crucial point" discussed above, the graph for ji by itself indicates "quick-witted(ness); resourceful(ness)" and "machine; device." In combination with other graphs, however, ji can acquire hundreds of secondary meanings. It is absolutely crucial to observe that ji possesses these secondary meanings only in the multisyllabic terms into which it enters. To be specific in the matter under investigation, ji added to hui ("occasion") creates the Mandarin word for "opportunity" (jihui), but by itself ji does not mean "opportunity."

Also, from Straight Dope:

Wu Hung, a Chinese scholar at the University of Chicago, says that originally wei ji didn't even mean crisis. "Ji has a range of meanings, including opportunity but also danger," he says. "When the third-century Chinese began to use the word wei ji, they simply meant danger--a meaning emphasized by both characters."

Not that Kennedy's speech writers cared all that much. Neither did the Swedish city council. I'm sure neither of them expected the Chinese to issue a complaint.

By min | June 21, 2006, 1:09 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

All i want to do is dance

I want to party (wooooo!)
I want to get down (wooooo!)
All I want to do is-
All I want to do is dance
All I want to do is dance
And make romance

I just actually looked at the lyrics for this crappy song for the first time. What in the world is it about? And why are @*$^@*$!! Don Henley songs stuck in my head?

By fnord12 | June 21, 2006, 12:10 PM | Music| Link

Comics... as liberal as CNN?

From everybody's favorite racmu:

DC and Marvel = CNN??

Why the liberal slant in some of the stories from these two comic media

For example, DC had Infinite Crisis where a villian creates a phony war
in order to change things around to a new universal order. Much like the
way the mainstream media is playing the Iraq War. Also, the current
issue of 52 has some non-USA heroes banding together against USA imperial
designs. Again, the same view that the mainstream media is showing
concerning some countries' concerns about the USA and it's New World
Order philosophy.

At Marvel, they are having a Civll War concerning superhero registration.
Again, like the mainstream media's view about illegal immigrant

I understand that everyone has a bias. I just wish that the two big
comic book companies would try another slant every so often. Not as
heavy handed as talk radio or Fox News; but, something different once in


By fnord12 | June 21, 2006, 10:17 AM | Comics | Comments (7) | Link

June 20, 2006

They're Taking Away Adam's Salt

The American Medical Association voted Tuesday to urge the government to require high-salt foods to be labeled and also vowed to push the food industry to drastically cut the amount of salt in restaurant and processed foods. The goal would be 50 percent less salt within a decade.
The measure also calls for the AMA to ask the Food and Drug Administration to revoke salt's status as a food that is "generally recognized as safe," known as "GRAS" in the industry. GRAS food includes such staples as sugar and pepper.


By min | June 20, 2006, 1:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

Bill Frist: Confessed Psychotic Kitty Killer

Ok. This is just gross and disturbing and frightening. The current senator of Tennesee, one of the potential 2008 presidential candidates, admitted in his 1989 book "Transplant" that he used to take cats home from the animal shelter, treat them like pets, then take them to his lab to "experiment" on them. I'm sorry. I think this was the plot to some mad scientist horror movie. This is not real life. Cause that's insane. And it's even more insane that you can say you did something like this and people will still vote for you. I have to ask. What the fuck is wrong with you people?

He fessed up in his 1989 book, "Transplant," to adopting cats from shelters when he was in medical school, treating them like pets for a while, and then using them in his research experiments.
He made his case in "Transplant" for saving lives by learning through experiments with animals while at Harvard. It's the part where he kept them as pets first that is bothersome.

"Desperate, obsessed with my work, I visited the various animal shelters in the Boston suburbs, collecting cats, taking them home, treating them as pets for a few days, then carting them off to the lab to die in the interests of science. And medicine. And health care. And treatment of disease. And my project.

"It was, of course, a heinous and dishonest thing to do, and I was totally schizoid about the entire matter. By day, I was little Billy Frist, the boy who lived on Bowling Avenue in Nashville and had decided to become a doctor because of his gentle father and a dog named Scratchy. By night, I was Dr. William Harrison Frist, future cardiothoracic surgeon, who was not going to let a few sentiments about cute, furry little creatures stand in the way of his career. In short, I was going a little crazy."

Frist recently commented about the power he felt when holding the last beats of a dog's heart in his hand. Good thing little Scratchy had a decent hiding place while Frist was in med school.

Er.........treated them as pets first? That's just so weird and wrong. And that holding the dog's heart thing being empowering? That's also weird and wrong.


By min | June 20, 2006, 10:43 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

A Medley

First off, I want to say that since we've been back from Ireland, i've been having dreams of driving from town to town, b&b to b&b every single night. Between that and the time difference, sleeping has been quite rough. Assholes.

Now, for one of my first non-Ireland related dreams, i dreamt that a lion and 2 tigers crashed an outdoor dinner party i was having. They jumped over the hedge. I don't have a hedge in real life. I barely have a backyard. The appearance of these cats seemed to disturb the guests. To distract the lion from chasing one of them, i tossed my sweater up in the air in front of it. It worked. But my poor sweater. Then i devised the clever plan to distract them with some raw meat. If i put the meat on the driveway, they'll be over there eating, and we could once again sit peacefully in the backyard. I told one of the line dancers to get it for me. She said ok, but never did come back with the meat. I think instead she went to do some dancing with the rest of the chorus.

Last night i dreamt that some people had set up a course that mimicked the sort of defenses used back in the day when you had to ward off invaders. Basically, you'd run thru the course and at certain points, the floor could slide away, revealing a grate from which the defenders could then spear your feet as you passed by. You didn't know what parts of the ground could slide and what parts didn't, so you basically ran and hoped you picked the right path. I did ok, not great on the course. The guy playing defender said "imagine how you'd do if it wasn't just me" since in real times there'd be a slew of defenders under the grates ready to stab at the passersby.

Then we all decided to visit the mermaid oracle. Except she was really quite a distance away, and we didn't think we had enough time. The store owner revealed that all the stores on the block had mock store fronts. The entire front literally slid away to reveal a second store front behind it. His secondary store front was the mermaid oracle. I guess it was some sort of portal. So we went. As the fake store front slid back into place, 2 guys showed up who apparently were chasing us. We were long gone. But the store owner was there in the back room sitting on his bed watching TV. He wasn't human. His head was gigantic. He had big eyes and a tiny mouth and almost no nose. The only light came from the TV and reflected off his face. The bigger of the 2 guys transformed his arm into a giant hook/claw thing and swung it towards the giant-headed store owner. Pinned him down, practically, what with the hook/claw being stuck into the bed. I'm pretty sure the store owner was going to give the hook guy the info on where we were but that's about when i woke up so i'll never know unless i convince my brain to continue the dream tonight.

By min | June 20, 2006, 10:19 AM | My Dreams| Link

June 19, 2006

Doomsday Vault

Update: Forgot to mention Wei sent this link to me.

The Norwegian government is building a giant vault inside solid rock to house millions of seeds in case the world ends, and we need seeds to start growing our own food.

Crop seeds are the source of human sustenance, the product of 10,000 years of selective breeding dating to the dawn of agriculture. The "doomsday vault," as some have come to call it, is to be the ultimate backup in the event of a global catastrophe -- the go-to place after an asteroid hit or nuclear or biowarfare holocaust so that, difficult as those times would be, humankind would not have to start again from scratch.
The Norwegian government is paying for the facility's construction -- an estimated $3 million, with about half of that for the concrete alone, which must be shipped. After that, annual operating expenses are expected to be $200,000 at first, dropping to $100,000 by year three. The trust has established an endowment that so far has $50 million of the $260 million that will be needed to sustain operations without depleting its principal. Contributions have come from about a dozen countries as well as foundations, seed companies and others.

But guess which one country that signed the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is not yet ready to actually go along with it? C'mon. You can guess. What country regularly ignores or reneges on treaties? I know. There are so many to choose from...

If you guessed the United States, then you guessed right!!! Yay for you!!

The United States has signed the treaty, but the Senate has not ratified it.

You know what the treaty's governing board has done to get more cooperation from nations? They will allow nations to maintain their patent protections on seeds they donate.

Oh, well, that's different, then. As long as we can keep the patent on our seeds, you can have them. Wouldn't want to lose out on any profits to be had when Armeggeddon comes and survivors want to plant our seeds for food. I'll be damned if they want to get away with that survival stuff for free. Forget that the world monetary won't exist as it does today should Armeggeddon befall us. They'll have something to trade for the privilege of planting our patent protected seeds, or by God, we'll sue them!

By min | June 19, 2006, 1:32 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (5) | Link

June 16, 2006

Cat Power


WEST MILFORD, N.J. Jun 9, 2006 (AP) A black bear picked the wrong New Jersey yard for a jaunt earlier this week, running into a territorial tabby who ran the furry beast up a tree twice.

Jack, a 15-pound orange-and-white cat, keeps a close vigil on his property, chasing small animals when he can, but his owners and neighbors say his latest escapade was surprising.

"We used to joke, 'Jack's on duty,' never knowing he'd go after a bear," cat owner Donna Dickey told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Friday's newspapers.

Neighbor Suzanne Giovanetti first spotted Jack's accomplishment after her husband saw a bear climb a tree on the edge of their northern New Jersey home's back yard on Sunday. Giovanetti thought Jack was simply looking up at the bear, but soon realized the much larger animal was afraid of the hissing cat.

After about 15 minutes peering down at the cat from the tree, the bear descended and tried to run away, only to have Jack chase it up another tree.

At this point Dickey, who feared for her cat, called Jack back home and the bear scurried back to the woods.

"He doesn't want anybody in his yard," Dickey said.

By fnord12 | June 16, 2006, 5:15 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (3) | Link

June 15, 2006


So I read this first paragraph and thought they meant "Marines" as in those guys with the crew cuts and the square heads.

President George W. Bush was expected to announce on Thursday his intention to create the largest marine reserve on earth in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

And really, in my defense, i have to say that considering who we're talking about here, it's not so surprising that i thought they meant soldiers and not nature.


By min | June 15, 2006, 11:53 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

June 14, 2006

Oh Yeah...

We're back and we're full of dead leprechauns. Soon the torturous display of vacation pictures will be up for your enjoyment. By soon, i mean, hopefully before Sunday. I know you can't wait. You're just masochistic like that.

By min | June 14, 2006, 2:08 PM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link

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