Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

His Heavy, Boneless Hand Was Hot on My Thigh

In the new issue of the New Republic, James Woods (of Videodrome fame?) dubs Harold Bloom "America's best-known man of letters." That's high praise, and it probably only obtains if you very strictly define "man of letters." In any event, it reminded me of the following anecdote about Bloom.

Two years ago, in New York magazine, Naomi Wolf wrote a dubious, nasty, and ridiculously written character assassination of Bloom. In it, she accused him of getting her drunk at a dinner party when she was an undergraduate, then (in a phrase that, even two years later, is still a running joke among my friends) "the next thing I knew, his heavy, boneless hand was hot on my thigh." The only bit of verisimilitude in the piece is her account of Bloom's delicious reaction. Her prose is so hilariously purple that I will include her whole rendition of the scene:

I lurched away. “This is not what I meant,” I stammered. The whole thing had suddenly taken on the quality of a bad horror film. The floor spun. By now my back was against the sink, which was as far away as I could get. He moved toward me. I turned away from him toward the sink and found myself vomiting. Bloom disappeared.

When he reemerged—from the bedroom with his coat—a moment later, I was still frozen, my back against the sink. He said: “You are a deeply troubled girl.” Then he went to the table, took the rest of his sherry, corked the bottle, and left.

This New York article became something of a literary scandal (though it's hard to see how it helped Wolf, who comes off as, indeed, deeply troubled), and it prompted the following snarky response in the Spectator. Because not enough people read that followup, I decided to repost it.

Harold Bloom: America's most adorable bullfrog?

The Schulman piece is funny and short and so nicely written that I don't want to disturb its integrity by excerpting it, but I will just say that it involves a Tadzio moment the author had with Bloom in the 80s.

>Tags: culture, harold bloom, naomi+wolf, literature

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Funny as hell

You may have seen this already, but for our many readers who stop at Left Behinds first, last, and always: Stephen Colbert tied Bill Kristol in knots yesterday. I never thought Colbert could find a character as perfect as Chuck Noblet, but Bill O'Reilly seems to be suiting him very well.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The national anthem should be sung in English -- not Spanish -- President Bush declared Friday.

"One of the things that's very important is, when we debate this issue, that we not lose our national soul,'' the president exclaimed. "One of the great things about America is that we've been able to take people from all walks of life bound as one nation under God. And that's the challenge ahead of us."

A Spanish language version of the national anthem was released Friday by a British music producer, Adam Kidron, who said he wanted to honor America's immigrants.

When the president was asked at a Rose Garden question-and-answer session whether the anthem should be sung in Spanish, he replied: "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."[link].

This is why Bush's handlers don't usually let him speak unscripted. He doesn't have good political instincts and can't think on his feet. He didn't have to address this question at all (and if asked, he could have said "I haven't heard it," and moved on quickly). Instead he confirms xenophobe-Americans' fears that the "soul of America" is at risk, in the process looks like a xenophobic douchebag himself, and accomplishes nothing.

For the record, the United States does not have an official national language.

Tags: politics, Bush, immigration

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Enh-sum seance V

Is there a cooler pair of defensive mechanisms than

1) the ability to produce "mass amounts of slime"

and 2) the ability to tie oneself in knots


PS: When you click the link to learn all about hagfish, make sure you visit the further page at the bottom about the "uses and properties of hagfish slime."

Oh, what the hell, here's the direct trip. YUM.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Oh, Libya

Hm. Harper's reports of "a $10 billion lawsuit, filed on April 5, on behalf of the families of the 21 people killed during the 1986 attempted hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73," which Harper's argues was the result of Libyan state-sponsored terrorism.

A few years ago, before the war in Iraq had started, I did a newspaper interview with Qaddafi's heir-apparent (a buddy of mine at uni), in which he made a strong case for Libya's reintegration into the new world order. He argued that Libya, which he claimed was always a religiously moderate society or at least government, had been drawing US attention to Al Qaeda for years before 9/11 (unheeded) and had basically been making every good faith effort possible to become part of the world community for many years.

A year or so after my article was published (not that my article was significant in any way -- I'm just saying that even I, a nobody, had personal proof in the public record that the Bushies were lying), the Bush regime trumpeted Libyan disarmament gestures as a huge success of the Iraq War, as if the threat of US military invasion had cowtowed Libya into finally relinquishing its nuclear program. The fact was, Libya had been offering to make the same gestures since the Clinton administration. Nobody had accepted it, because of the Pan Am Lockerbie problem. That was the singular reason.

Qaddafi, always a shrewd (though odd) guy, knew that the threat of compensation in the US legal system was very significant, so he was never willing to admit even indirect participation in the bombings. Right after the war started, Bush and Blair decided, for internal, realpolitik reasons, to accept Qaddafi's compromise, in which he gave a large monetary "sympathy gift" to victims without admitting one iota of complicity in the plot. Because the Bushies wanted some proof that Arabs were scared of the big American military phallus (even though the Iraq war, if anything, made it harder for Libya to follow through), they accepted this less than satisfying compromise.

I don't know how I feel about the Lockerbie compensation. If the US compensated victims of even a small portion of what could very reasonably be construed as state-sponsored terrorism, we'd be penniless. Yet, aside from my friend with the famous last name, I also used to hook up with this adorable Libyan guy who claimed that despite the quasi-socialist ideology of the Libyan government, wealth there is very concentrated. So why not redistribute it to Pan Am victims?

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Jesus, beeeyotch!

The explanation under the video explains nothing:

This was taken from a los angeles public access program in 1997. This is the only recording I have of him. I saw his show one week later, but he was very subdued, and didn't curse. Then I never saw him again. I should have recorded the subdued version of him, but unfortunately, I didn't. I really don't know anything about this guy. I've researched this on the internet, but have never found any information. I even called the number on the screen back in '97, but never got through. What can I say, the guy remains a mystery.

Via FrinkTank

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Banlieue 13

Parkour fucking rules.

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The Endz of Architecture this Saturday

Sorry we've been quiet the past couple days. I've been working on an article, and Antid Oto has been, er, so upset about the shitty Harvard plagiarizer that he hasn't been able to even look at keyboards. Or something.

Anyhow, here's a cool event this Saturday for any NY-based readers.


An afternoon at Artists Space with Damon Rich, Yates Mckee, and
Patricio Del Real

Saturday, April 29th 3-5

As part of the exhibition, When Artists Say 'WE'
38 Greene Street NYC

"It is a commonplace to suggest that the turbulent dynamics of
twenty-first century urbanization raise essential questions about
the boundaries, claims, and capacities of architecture, epitomized
by the ambivalent figure of Rem Koolhaas. It has been less common
to consider the multivalent political stakes of this disciplinary
crisis, not least of all with respect to “the right to the city” of
those disenfranchised by neoliberalism-a dynamic registered most
dramatically in the realm of housing. Keeping in mind the
site-specific history of Soho itself, this panel will consider what
relationship architects-along with artists and other members of what
Richard Florida has celebrated as the “Creative Class”-have or could
have to various configurations of urban inequality in both the North
and the South."

Damon Rich will present "Flexing Our Freedom: Loft Living and Two
Architectural Visions of the New City"

Yates Mckee will present "Of Domes and Ghosts: From Drop City to the
Lower Ninth"

Patricio Del Real will present "Off-architecture"

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Speak, Cicero

-Marcus Tullius Cicero

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And Madeleine Albright Was the Feminine Clintonite

According to The Corsair, "In an interview in the The New York Times Magazine that will appear this coming Sunday, Madeleine Albright reveals, among other things, that even at 68, she works out three times a week 'and I can leg-press up to 400 pounds.' This follows a discussion of how she does not expect to re-marry, partly because, as she says, 'I'm intimidating, don't you think?'"

What's the difference between a Bush woman and a Clinton woman?

A Bush woman would leg-press the 400 pounds, but she'd blame the liberal media.

Hm, I tried a couple incarnations of that "joke."

"... but whoever leaked the info would be on the next boat to Gitmo."

"...but she'd close her eyes and think of Texas."

"...but she'd go for reps rather than weight, because unlike Bill, Bushie's not an ass man."

Surely, readers, you can come up with a better punch line? My brain isn't working this evening.

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Ali G and Noam Chomsky

This interview with Noam Chomsky got me laughing when Noam was talking about being bilingual and Ali G started going on about being cunnilingual.

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I have reconsidered everything

Today's fun from Crooks and Liars. Just watch, especially from about 3:30 to 4:30. Kirk Cameron's Aussie friend explains it all. And they got actual audio quotes from Charles Darwin and Thomas Edison, who have been dead for 100 years! Jesus is magic. It also has pie charts! And because I can't prove God doesn't exist, God must exist!

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Sometimes Pandering Works

OK, this was designed to pander to me and other inhabitants of the lower left corner, and I have to say, I am totally eating it up. "Hillary proposes that Congressional salary bumps should be matched in equivalent percentage amounts to increases in the minimum wage, which hasn't been raised in about a decade."

She is proving once again that she is very clever. Nobody has been willing to raise the minimum wage because of decades of neoliberal propaganda, but how can members of Congress argue that they deserve salary bumps but poor folks don't?

One of the nastiest neoliberal canards (another of those "you stupid hippies, we learned this our first week of Econ 101" bits of fallacious conventional wisdom) is that raising the minimum wage causes job losses for low-skilled workers. As one of the Politicker commenters noted, "Raising the minimum wage means people spend more. Rich people don't spend like the middle and working classes." Rich people hoard rather than spend, which is one of the many problems with trickle down voodoo economics.

Anyhow, I will be very happy if she sticks with this kind of populist policy pandering rather than the meaningless, totally phoney "congress is run like a plantation" variety.

Tags: news and politics, minimum wage, hillary, clinton

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quick design/coding question

I hate the way our "categories" work (which is that they link to Blogger search results for certain tags).

Inexplicably, a majority of tagged posts never get noticed by the Blogger search tool, so weeks of posts never get included in the categories.

Any readers know a better way to include categories in Blogger blogs?


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Taxing Questions

For some of us, April 15th was just the first day of our four-month tax extension. Having recently suffered a very drastic reduction in income, and never being much of a saver, I simply couldn't pay my taxes last week, so I decided to postpone the inevitable. Maybe by August I'll have figured out a way to live permanently abroad or something.

Anyhow, on the occasion of the first week of the procrastinators' tax season, I wanted to return readers' attention to this disgusting IRS policy of pointlessly harrassing the very, very poor. "Tax refunds sought by hundreds of thousands of poor Americans [with incomes of less than $13,000 a year] have been frozen and their returns [incorrectly] labeled fraudulent," even though the less than $300 million collected from these hundreds of thousands of mega-poor is completely insignificant compared to the billions of uncollected taxes from a small number of mega-rich tax-evading individuals, or the "$100 billion problem with unreported incomes from small businesses that deal only in cash, many of which do not even file tax returns."

Could the Bush regime's philosophy be encapsulated any more clearly? Setting aside more fundamental questions about tax policy, this pointedly selective enforcement just seems deeply and profoundly unfair, no matter what one believes about who should be taxed.

What this amounts to is a drastic de facto tax break for the mega-rich and a drastic de facto tax hike for the mega-poor. Enforced rules are the only ones that affect the bottom line.

Tags: news and politics, taxes, economics, IRS

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I don't need a reason

If you must know, I reread last night's post and decided things were getting a little heavy around here.

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Mike Bloomberg can be such a colossal dick

As you consider the two items below, keep in mind that Michael Bloomberg has a net worth of over $5 billion, making him the 40th richest human being in America.

[This has turned out to be very long, so I'm putting it below the jump.]

The welfare caseload dropped this year, as announced in this press release.


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Human Resources Administration Commissioner Verna Eggleston today announced that New York City public assistance caseloads have dropped to their lowest levels in more than 40 years. The March 2006 public assistance caseload of 402,281 persons is the lowest since 1964, the same year President Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress launched the War on Poverty. Currently, of those public assistance recipients who move from welfare to work, 88% have retained their jobs after three months, and 75% percent have stayed employed after six months.

Wow, Mayor Mike! That's awesome.

"We promised to move New Yorkers to self-sufficiency and we are delivering on that promise in an historic way," said Mayor Bloomberg. "People are leaving the welfare rolls in record numbers and they are getting - and keeping - jobs that allows them to live independently and enjoy the dignity of work."

You da bomb, Mayor Mike!

Or maybe not. City Limits did a little digging.

...the press release never explains that those numbers apply only to the 23 percent of former clients known to have jobs at all. The other 77 percent aren't tracked by HRA, according to spokesperson Robert McHugh.

Wait, what?

Of the recipients who leave welfare each month, only around 23 percent are known to have found work. The rest, according to HRA, just stop showing up for appointments.

Meanwhile, a dramatic 67 percent of cases added to the rolls each month are returnees, proof of what advocates call "churning," the tendency of low-wage workers to cycle between government assistance and dead-end jobs.
Jillynn Stevens, director of policy, advocacy and research at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), pointed out that a drop in rolls could also reflect barriers that prevent clients from receiving or maintaining their benefits. “There is every attempt to not sign people up, to exclude them from eligibility, to make it as unfriendly and difficult as possible to be a welfare recipient,” she said.

Okay, a bit of anecdotal full disclosure here: I date a law student who has spent the last semester representing people being sanctioned in one way or another by the welfare system. It is abundantly clear that welfare agencies are doing exactly what Stevens accuses them of, making people jump through more and more hoops just to stay in the same place. As my law student girlfriend says:

They're doing everything they can to cut people off, or just make them feel that it's not worth it to have to go to some lame appointment every week, clean the parks, and be harassed for $200 a month.

It's hard to know how much of their runaround act is by design and how much is incompetence--there are clearly elements of both. Since the vast majority of welfare clients can't get legal representation, merely showing up with a lawyer (or law student) at an administrative hearing seems to be enough to get the OTDA to just drop the matter.

Incidentally, in at least one of my girlfriend's cases, benefits were being cut because someone in the family got a job. That's not at all uncommon. Many public-assistance programs are pegged to your family income, so if you start earning money, your benefits get reduced. It's a terrible system.

City Limits ends on a hopeful note.

Levitan is encouraged, for instance, by Bloomberg's recent move to ease food stamp restrictions...

That move even made the front page of the New York Times.

The Bloomberg administration, in a significant departure from the welfare policies of the Giuliani era, is pursuing a federal waiver that would make it easier for able-bodied adults who do not have children to qualify for food stamps, even if they are not working.

About 43,000 able-bodied childless adults in the city use food stamps, and easing the eligibility requirements would make at least 13,900 more people eligible...

The number of New Yorkers receiving food stamps has steadily risen in the last four years, even as the number of those receiving cash welfare assistance has fallen to its lowest level in 40 years.

With little public attention, the Bloomberg administration has been turning to the federally financed food stamp program over the past year as a way to help needy New Yorkers.

You get that last part? Federally financed. Food stamp waivers don't cost the city a goddamned thing. Yet the next day Bloomberg reversed himself.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took the rare step yesterday of overruling his own top two social service officials, deciding not to pursue a federal waiver that would make it easier for able-bodied childless adults to receive food stamps.

Gee, Mayor Mike, that's odd. Why not?

Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday that his decision not to seek a federal waiver that would have allowed some able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 to receive food stamps for longer periods of time was simply part of a fair-minded refusal to reward people who were able to work but not employed.

"I'm a believer that people should have to work for a living," Mr. Bloomberg told reporters at a Queens hospital. "You have to have a penalty if there's a requirement to work, and this penalty is one that's appropriate," he added. "The city has a whole host of programs to make sure that nobody goes without food."

Are you remembering that $5 billion? I mean, seriously, the man is like one of those cartoon pigs with the dollar signs on its chest, strolling down the street and telling the homeless people, "quit being so lazy! get a job!" Also remember that the public-benefit system in many ways actually penalizes people who start to work.

Ugh. How could a Democrat lose to this man? He'd have to be the worst campaigner ever. Like Kathleen Kennedy Townshend bad.

Oh yeah. Freddie Ferrer.

Tags: New York, politics, Michael Bloomberg, food stamps, welfare

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Transit strike post-mortem

Long-time readers of Left Behinds know we strongly supported the transit workers' union against the MTA, the Daily News, middle-class white resentment, etc. Now, four months later, it's time to acknowledge the truth: Roger Toussaint fucked up. Fucked up huge, in fact.

Here's what happened: Toussaint accepted a deal. The membership rejected it narrowly. The MTA and the state went into full punishment mode, and have now succeeded in crippling the union, as expected.

Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union was fined $2.5 million yesterday for the 60-hour strike that hobbled the city in December and ordered to suspend its automatic payroll deductions of union dues for at least 90 days — a move that could cripple, at least temporarily, the union's ability to collect from its members.

I'm betting that the local ends up bankrupt and taken over by the national organization, which, if I'm not mistaken, is run by the former head of Local 100, the man Toussaint beat because members hated the last contract he negotiated with the MTA. Still, I have to believe Toussaint knew this was coming even as he planned the strike. It's not like the MTA made a secret of the fact that they were going to do everything they could to crush the union. As I argued in the immediate aftermath of the strike:

In the long term, the MTA still wants the TWU gone. And all of us should be rooting for the TWU, since as transit riders and residents of New York City the TWU is the closest thing we currently have to independent oversight of the MTA and its crooked books and sweetheart land deals.

Where Toussaint fucked up was not in calling the strike, necessarily. It was in failing to communicate with his membership. He got them what seemed to me like a pretty decent deal. Who knows why his members rejected it? Maybe they were just so furious with the MTA by then that even the modest compromises Toussaint made seemed like betrayals. The deal went down by seven votes out of something like 30,000. Now, with cooler heads, the membership has reconsidered.

The city's main transit union announced yesterday that its members had overwhelmingly approved the same contract proposal that they narrowly rejected in January, and its leadership demanded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority now approve the deal.

Too late, says the MTA.

The authority brushed aside the union's demand yesterday, insisting that it had taken the contract terms off the table after the workers stunned the city by voting them down in January. Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the authority, dismissed the union revote as "an empty gesture."

Again, no surprise. When the bargain was first announced Pataki was huffing and puffing about how horrible it was and how he'd never allow it. Which SG pointed out at the time was patently ridiculous: "Kalikow is Pataki's bitch who doesn't sneeze without Pataki's OK, so whatever Pataki is spouting about not knowing about a side deal is completely for the sake of the national party."

Sadly, there's now no earthly way members get a deal half as good as the one they rejected in January, and their union is crushed, so they can't do shit about it. It's a complete fiasco for them, and for the rest of us who needed the TWU to help fight against the Ratners of the world.

Tags: , , , ,, , ,

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Moose Is Loose in Texas

Why am I the only one who gets caught saying excessively blunt things about people on Left Behinds? Antid Oto gets away with it, but every single one of the people I viciously criticize seems to check his or her trackbacks. When is George Pataki going to chastise AO for being mean?

Most recently, this guy Kenny (click there for the rather long but entertaining exchange) caught me, Antid Oto, and Neda harshing on him (in a slightly histrionic comment, I called his site "scary," "backwards," and "hateful." Oopsie.). He went so far as to write a new post about our discussion a couple days ago.

I think what perturbed me and Neda at the time was this post, in which he wrote that "I've argued for a long time that what cripples Arabs most is their culture of hate." I replied that "you denounce hatred in a hateful way, making all sorts of anthropological judgements that run contrary to my experience with Arabs and that align rather too neatly with the distortions of American media bias." To which he replied, "I think perhaps when you say 'hateful way' you mean 'in a way that I detest' rather than 'in a way that bespeaks hatred on your part.'" No, not at all. I can tell when I'm in the company of someone who uses language precisely, and I meant that he wrote in a way bespeaking hatred. Perhaps it was a hatred derived from a lack of exposure to Arab culture, but in any case it wasn't very pretty. How would he feel if someone wrote "I have long argued that what has always hobbled Texas rednecks is their racism and stupidity, and the following article reinforces that preexisting belief." Actually, I guess that's pretty close to what Neda and I were saying in the comments. Heh. (for the record, I have good friends from Texas, I love Ann Richards and King of the Hill, and I even regularly wear a T-shirt that says "The Moose Is Loose in Texas.").

My big problem with evangelical Christians like Kenny is that they're always so damned nice and polite that it's hard to maintain any sense of indignation. However, I thought I'd put it at the top of LB, in case Antid Oto and Neda might want to reply. And Kenny, I'm going to reply to your last comment in the comments here, so please feel free to reply here.

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The last word in the Obama backlash.

Katherine, in a comment on a prior post, let us know that:

Obama was assigned to Joe Lieberman when he was elected. All senators are assigned a mentor when they are elected. Obama and Lieberman have had lunch. Once. That is it.

I know this because I talked to Obama's staff for an hour to clarify his points and positions.

That's an important clarification, since several people (including me) have given Obama grief for having Holy Joe as a mentor.

She also wrote a long post defending Obama. I wrote a couple of long comments there, and now feel like it would be a big waste of time to write that much and not at least use it to pad my own blog, so I put them below the jump. I did promise to lay off Obama after this, and I will, unless he does something specific that pisses me off.

More below.

Bills in the Senate need a majority vote to pass. Right now, there are a majority of Republicans in the Senate. So, if any Democrat, from the hated Lieberman to flavor-of-the-week Feingold is going to get a bill passed, he’s going to need the support of a few Republicans, not to mention all of the Democrats. So you can’t criticize Obama – or any other Senator – for working with people you don’t like, if you also expect Democrats to get anything done.

I have to disagree strongly with the premise behind one this argument. I don't believe that it's worth it for Democrats to try to pass a single bill in this Congress. Anything worthwhile that makes it out of the Senate will just die in the House. Worse, as we've seen time and time again, if the Senate passes a decent version of a bill and the House passes a troglodytic version, Frist will just freeze all the Republican compromisers out of the conference committee, and the result will be an conference report with all the decent stuff stripped out, which then can't be filibustered. Any Democratic Senator who introduces legislation in this Congress as anything but a political move is wasting his time.

The dynamic I described is doubly true when it comes to lobbying reform, which you've described as Obama's signature effort more than once now. On the one hand, no real effective reform will pass both houses of this Congress. On the other, working on any kind of "reform" bill only supports the public message that Republican corruption can be solved with a few new rules. That's a Republican message, not a winning Democratic message. A winning Democratic message is that it's this particular group of people that are the problem, and we need to change them. Frankly, that message is closer to the truth as well.

Supporting other candidates: Obama supports the candidate that he personally believes can win the race. In the case of Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, he’s still better than Rick Santorum.

This kind of calculation about electability as the foremost reason for supporting one Democrat out of many is exactly the kind of meddling in primaries Chuck Schumer has been practicing, and it's exactly what has been angering many Democrats. I don't find it particularly admirable.

Tags: Barack Obama, politics

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Lazy Black Men? Or Greedy, Clueless Neoliberals?

In this op-ed, Cynthia Tucker argues that black men are just as lazy as the media portrays them. Her evidence? "I was to find men willing to help [a contractor] paint, lift, scrape, fill, dig. The pay was hardly exorbitant — $6 an hour. But it seemed reasonable for unskilled labor." Surprisingly, almost nobody but undocumented Mexicans were willing to do that work for those wages. Those lazy, greedy black men!

Since when is $6 an hour an appropriate wage for that kind of work? I used to paint houses during summers and made at least twice that, five years ago.

What's more, only an offensively clueless member of the bourgeoisie would call painting houses unskilled labor. I could see if it was picking strawberries or, I dunno, moving rocks or something, but painting is a trade.

Very sweet of her to exploit the depressed wages of undocumented workers, then throw her hands in the air and publicly blame, first, black men, and, second, "globalization." What about her individual role in this race to the bottom?

Tags: news and politics, immigration, economics, labor

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Obama backlash continues

Tom Grayman agrees with Solomon. Obama was never that hot.

I am not disappointed in Senator Obama. That's because I never actually anticipated greatness from him.

Tags: Barack Obama, politics

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Big Brother: Terrorist Surveillance on Knickerbocker Avenue

I have never understood how Londoners so blithely tolerate their every movement being filmed by 1.5 million CCTV cameras throughout their city (I just learned that the Bobbies are actually about to roll out homeview CCTV in east London, which will broadcast the live, unedited CCTV footage into voyeurs' home televisions. Police aver that "no privacy laws will be broken," which raises the question of exactly what kind of useless privacy laws Brits have in the first place). However Londoners live with it, I don't want to relinquish our privacy in New York without a fight, especially not in the tastelessly opportunistic name of preventing another 9/11. An activist I know (who has had her own problems with NYPD surveillance) just emailed the following observations about the new "anti-terror" security cameras in NYC.

The first wireless NYPD surveillance cameras went up on Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn this month. If they are trying to stop terrorism, why are the cameras going up in a poor community of color in Brooklyn? Did anyone know about this project and its $9 million price tag? Who is watching these cameras? Are they hiring personnel to spend their days watching endless footage of subway cars and street corners? Intelligence failure, indeed.

Who is keeping an eye on the NYPD? And will they send you prints of the intimate moments they have recorded? (There are some things I have done on New York City streets that I definitely don't want records of...)

You almost have to respect the NYPD's boldness. If they had wanted to maintain the illusion of fighting terror, they would have placed the cameras in places in New York that are actually at risk of being targets of terrorism. According to the Washington Post article, "a 2002 study concluded that surveillance cameras used in 14 British cities had little or no impact on crime rates." All the footage is good for is helping the police more easily find and punish criminals after they've already committed criminal acts. So the only even remotely plausible place to locate anti-terror surveillance cameras is where the terror strikes might happen, not where the "terrorists" supposedly live.

It's preposterous to think that a single terrorist act will ever occur anywhere on Knickerbocker Avenue. What there are on Knickerbocker Avenue are young, poor black men. Giuliani's war against young black men continues.

Can you see the camera on the Knickerbocker Avenue lamp post? Is it dissuading you from pursuing that terrorist act you were planning?

Tags: new york, surveillance, NYPD, privacy

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Sunday, April 16, 2006


I think this is an endorsement of David Yassky in the NY-11 primary. It's one of the most entertainingly backhanded endorsements I've ever read, though.

Yassky arrived in Brooklyn Heights in the late 90s, about 15 minutes after being defeated for the District of Columbia School Board. A perhaps apocryphal story is told of how Yassky came to run for the City Council. He and his wife Diana had just finished unpacking, when Diana said “David, I chilled a bottle of Pinot when we arrived, why don’t you go out and get a brie, and we’ll celebrate.” Yassky walked up the Joralemon Street hill toward Hicks Street and suddenly looked lost. A stranger approached him and asked him if he needed help. Yassky asked “Do you know a good gourmet shop around here?” The stranger replied “go left on Montague and check out Lassen and Hennings.” Yassky thanked him and then thought to himself “Gee, this neighborhood’s been good to me; it’s time I gave something back”.

Then again, it might be an endorsement of Chris Owens. I'm not really sure. This earlier analysis, also by Gatemouth, does nothing to clarify the issue, but it does nail the Brooklyn Paper.

I once was walking on the Promenade when I stepped onto a copy of the Brooklyn Paper. Luckily, there was some dogshit laying around or I’d have had nothing to wipe my shoe with.

At some point, Solomon, you're going to have to admit that Room Eight has picked up for The Politicker pretty well.

Tags: NY-11, New York, Chris Owens, David Yassky, politics

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Another good reason to knee Ed Towns in the balls

He voted with House Republicans on the House Telecom Subcommittee against net neutrality. This may seem like an arcane point, but the internet is really all liberals now have to counter right-wing talk radio and Fox News. The internet's ability to help people organize is only just becoming evident, and that ability will be largely lost if the barriers to participation are raised. Look what could have happened and didn't with micropower radio.

Unfortunately, it is in nobody's interest in either party to see more citizens engaged and empowered in politics. So I don't imagine anyone will stand up for us. The only real hope is that companies like Google hate the idea of being charged by the page-load, and supposedly they're pushing for net neutrality. Steve Gilliard argues that in fact companies like Microsoft, IBM, and even Ford will get on board to fight this bill. But I'm not optimistic. Telecoms are very, very good at getting what they want out of DC.

(Earlier reasons to knee Ed Towns in the balls.)

Tags: Ed Towns, net neutrality, politics, New York

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Where Left Behinders Fall on the Political Compass

I just took this test to see where I fall on the political compass, and as I (and no doubt legions of Buddhists) have long believed, I am a good candidate to be the next Dalai Lama. I am as socially libertarian/anarchist as the current Dalai Lama, but slightly to the left of him economically.

My results are (click there for a graphic):
Economic Left/Right: -8.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.72

I am very proud to say that I am the exact opposite of George W. Bush.

This indicates that I am somewhat less anarchistic than "the extreme bottom left [which believes in] voluntary collectivism at regional level, with no state involved. Hundreds of such anarchist communities existed in Spain during the civil war period."

I took a test very much like this when I was 16 and was deemed an anarcho-syndicalist. It sounds like in the ensuing years I have learned to love the state a little bit.

How do the rest of you score?

Tags: culture, dalai lama, dolly parton, socialist

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Bunnies and Chimps

Happy Easter, goys.

There was apparently a PETA mock crucifixion in Vienna this weekend in which
The militant pro-animal group PETA said the activists would be suspended from crosses with crowns of thorns on their heads.

The slogan of the protest action would be 'We suffer and die for your sins of nourishment.'

Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. Even though I've been veggie since I was 11, I do enjoy laughing at radical vegetarian activists. They're so hilariously humorless.

In other, more serious animal news, I highly recommend this Harper's article about experiments with violent chimpanzee communities and what they indicate about human nature and cooperation.


In other Easter news, the amusingly anti-Christian Christopher Hitchens has a funny piece on the Gospel of Judas.

On this weekend of official piety, let us all therefore give thanks for our deliverance from religion, and raise high the wafer that summons us to the wonders and bliss of the faraway realm of Barbelo and brings us the joyous and long-awaited news that Judas saves.
And, in case you missed it (hat tip: Emma B.), a Controversial Christian Faction Believes Jesus Was Nailed To Two Parallel Pieces Of Wood:

Tags: easter, human nature, vegetarian, bonobo

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The War-Mongering "Left"

For the past week, a prolix, pro-war, putatively leftist manifesto has circulated (it's made by Brits but has become pretty widely popular).

It's a snooze, but worth briefly skimming just so you can then read this smart, punchy Guardian response. It's one of the more rousing texts I've read from the anti-war movement.

This guy attempts to critique the critique, but he's creating a straw man (is anyone on the left as morally apathetic and cavalier as he paints all of us?). It's worth reading for the long quotes from the Chilean author and human rights advocate Ariel Dorfman (and for my half-asleep comments, in which, criticizing the author for condescension, I condescendingly write that "Dorfman's piece is sort of touching in its naivete, but many on the left had been grappling with these issues for almost a decade.")

Tags: politics, euston manifesto, left, war

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Sun Tzu and Lame Ducks

For at least a year now I've been perplexed by the insistence on calling Bush a lame duck. I mean, lefties trotted out this meme mere months after he won reelection, which means we've been subjected to a tedious cycle of MSM stories about how he's triumphantly overcome his lame duck status, then reverted to it, then overcome it again, ad nauseum.

Opponents of Bush need to reread their Chinese philosophy.

As noted in the Tao Te Ching,

There is no greater calamity than underestimating the enemy. If I take my enemy too lightly, I am in danger of losing my treasures.
Or, from the 36 Strategies,

"Pretend to be a pig in order to eat the tiger."

(spend a moment pondering that one, tadpole)

Or take what Sun Tzu (Karl Rove's personal Jesus) had to write on the subject of underestimating enemies:

If we respect the enemy’s strength and carefully study his movements, we will win. If we underestimate the enemy and do not consider the meaning of his movements, we will succumb in every battle.


Thus one who is skilful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.

(By the way, take some time reading the (very short) text of the Art of War in that link. It's remarkable how Bush's Iraq War violates every single principle.)

UPDATE: Using another animal world metaphor, I love this exercise in wishful thinking, but c'mon, who exactly are meant to be the sharks? Barack Obama and his pals?

Tags: politics, lame duck, bush, war

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Irony is gay

In response to my righteously kicking George Pataki's ass, Phoebe Evergreen wrote:

I wish more politicians were bad, because then I could read you making fun of them more. Too bad!

That, gentle readers, is irony (you can tell because he's suggesting there's a dearth of bad politicians). Unfortunately, Phoebe, using irony means you have to divorce your wife.

“The gay sensibility,” one speaker informed the audience, is ironic and characterized by the excessively performative use of “air quotes.” Indeed, irony itself is a gay invention, a coping mechanism for gay people who recognize that they don’t really fit in with normal society.

Which teaches us immediately that Elizabeth Castelli is herself a raging 'mo.

Some speakers read graphically explicit material found on gay websites to the conference, apologizing profusely for the shock and disgust they knew they would be generating but insisting that it was necessary for the participants to confront this material. By the end, one was left with the distinct impression that the organizers and participants in the conference spend far more time than the average gay person thinking about, talking about, and fantasizing about gayness.

Anyway, I wouldn't mind making a regular feature of insulting politicians from a safe distance. Nominees?

Tags: gay, irony, war on christianity, culture

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Hating on Obama rolls on

This thing has legs, baby.

The first alarm bell went off right after he took his seat. He voted to move class action law suits from state courts, where consumers and workers generally get a fair hearing, to federal courts, where corporations tend to get their way. But, the glow was still there and it was pretty much his first month on the job so I had no trouble cutting him a little slack. Even after he voted to confirm Condoleeza Rice I wasn't ready to write him off.

But then Obama wound up-- somehow-- with a mentor... the worst possible mentor one can imagine: Holy Joe, the Senate's biggest hypocrite and George W. Bush's favorite Democrat. In quick succession he started voting in a very corporate-friendly way. He voted to cut off debate (for cloture) on the nomination of one of Bush's worst-ever judicial nominees, Priscilla Owen.

Bloom, rose, check.

Tags: Barack Obama, politics

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Someone read my mind

Some of you may know I am endlessly fascinated with the phenomenon of hot women with unattractive men. It's incredibly common here in New York. There are a number of possible reasons:

1. Excess of women in the New York dating pool
2. Men generally less attractive than women
3. Rich men

Whatever the reason, I can easily spend half an hour at a time ignoring my friends in a bar just to watch some total dweebus macking on a hottie. I thought I was alone. But this guy gets it.

Tags: culture

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Friday, April 14, 2006

James Brown loves his miso

My B

Via Jeremias in 3 Bulls comments.

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Bulldog! Bulldog! Bow wow wow!

Inspired by SG's observation that shitty public speaker George Pataki was a Yale man, I decided to do a little investigation. My suspicions were confirmed: for politicians of the current era, attending Yale as an undergraduate correlates strongly with shitty public speaking.

The list:

George H.W. Bush
George W. Bush
John Kerry
Joseph Leiberman
Howard Dean (passionate, but sound-bitey and not persuasive)
John Ashcroft
Mark Dayton
James Jeffords
Bill Nelson (FL)
Pete Wilson
Tony Knowles (semi-exception)
Robert Taft (OH)
Gary Locke (WA)

The effect becomes less pronounced when we drop to the House of Representatives:

Barbara Jackson Lee
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Sherrod Brown
Mel Watt

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Very Brooklyn Passover Haggadah

In case you missed it, this is funny:

Question 1: Why is it that Brownstone Brooklyn consists of unleavened low-rise buildings, but at Atlantic Yards Bruce Ratner wants to build seventeen high-rise buildings?

(btw, why am I, the only goy who writes for or even reads LB, also the only one who writes about the Chosen People?)

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Cartoon Wars

So Comedy Central really did prevent South Park from airing an image of Muhammed giving someone a football helmet he had borrowed. That's pretty stupid, considering that it's South Park.

Read more and watch a clip here.

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Fried Chicken

It's deeply satisfying to discover that someone at Angry Bear is clearly a Left Behinds reader (how else to explain the vague connection in subject between my half drunk Saturday night post and their Monday post?).

Some commenters there just think game theoretical analyses of the Iran showdown are wrongheaded (and the subsequent Pentagon anti-Hersh damage control would tend to support that). As one notes, "Throw out all that game theory, it only works when there are actual, you know, consequences for the decision-makers."

Overall, they are not optimistic about this particular game. One typical comment: "if hersh is right about bush's messianic beliefs, how can this sitting president, who appears to have unbridled power, be stopped from blowing up iran?"

Tags: news and politics, iran, hersh, nuclear, game theory, chicken, economics

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Name Change

Alexander "Benjamins" Hamilton will henceforth be known as Antid Oto. ABH was a dumb name I came up with as a lark when I was mostly planning to write a blog about the Federalist. It never really felt comfortable. Antid Oto is the handle I've been using online for years.

Sorry for the confusion, but as Left Behinds is now BLOWING THE FUCK UP, I decided I really couldn't let this slide any longer.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Because some people Just Don't Fucking LISTEN

I warned you about this shit, Georgie.

Gov. George E. Pataki vetoed the Legislature's multibillion dollar tax cut plan on Wednesday along with more than $2 billion in new spending initiatives, calling them an irresponsible squandering of the state's multibillion-dollar surplus.
The flurry of vetoes by Mr. Pataki began shortly before midnight Tuesday and continued into Wednesday afternoon, and blocked increases in funding to more than a hundred programs. There were cuts of several hundred million dollars for Medicaid programs, more than $2 million from Legal Aid programs around the state and $19 million earmarked for the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
But it was the governor's veto of a broad package of tax cuts that struck at the heart of the Legislature's budget proposal. "These are not vetoes that I would have preferred not to have to make," he said, adding that the legislature's budget created "fiscal difficulties, very real ones for this state."

Since you just ignored my earlier, fairly polite request to stop putting your ludicrous presidential ambitions in front of your real job (which is to shut up and get out of the way), I'm going to have to get nasty.

1. You have a very bad combover and jowls.

2. Even for a Republican you're an intellectual lightweight. You have no meaningful policy ideas, nothing to contribute to the national dialogue. Can you even explain what you want to do as President? Even George W. Bush had policy ideas, albeit very shallow, stupid ones. You're the walking definition of an empty suit, yet oddly enough your suits never seem to fit you right.

3. Your one big chance was to rebuild the World Trade Center site. It's still a big hole in the ground and everybody hates you.

4. You can't speak without sounding like an idiot. "These are not vetoes that I would have preferred not to have to make," indeed.

5. You are leaving your own state's Republican Party in the worst shape it has ever been. You got reelected largely thanks to the weakness of your opponents, and have shown time and again that you lack even the most elementary political skills.

In summary: you are dumb, uncharismatic, middlingly competent at best, not politically savvy, and somewhere between homely and plain. You were decent on the environment, I'll give you that. But YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE PRESIDENT.

If meditation doesn't do it for you, take up pot. Play golf. Write a book no one will read. I don't care. Just shut the fuck up and sit in the corner until Eliot Spitzer takes over. Try not to break anything.

Tags: George Pataki, New York, politics

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Luxury Porn

TNR has a great, snarky article about commodity fetishism in the New York Times Style section.
Wretched consumer excess may be the American way, but is it really the paper of record's business to lend it respectability? The disconnect is jarring enough that even "Thursday Styles" appears to be grappling with this question.
I confess that I like the silliness of that section and read it most Thursdays, but politically, it's probably yet another sign of the apocalypse. Don't be left behind! And remember, Diet Coke is for fat people.

Tags: culture

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How Do I Free the Hornet?

Taking a break from our incisive political and cultural commentary for a moment, I've been troubled all morning by a moral and pragmatic problem, as outlined after the jump in the emails below to my friend. Any suggestions?

Mr. X wrote:

[something about trying to end a very self-destructive relationship]
On 4/12/06 12:42 PM, solomon grundy wrote:

This morning I was woken up by the unexpectedly loud buzz of a giant hairy hornet frantically bumping against my window trying to get outside. I don't know how he got into my room, since the window was closed. It must have seemed so pretty and inviting that he wriggled in through a crack. But then he couldn't get out, even though he was sure to die here.

You are that giant hairy hornet.

I opened the window and set him free. And now he's living happily in hornetland with his giant hairy hornet lover, Alejandro, who is his intellectual and moral equal.

Ok, not really. I actually screamed like a piglet and trapped him in between my main window and the storm window, where he'll continue buzzing and colliding back and forth trying to escape until he dies. But I SHOULD have opened the window. I was just afraid of his sting.
Mr. X wrote:

Did he die?
solomon grundy wrote:

No, I was watching him as I was writing that.

It's actually been stressing me out all morning. I've been blasting music to drown out the sounds of his buzzing and collisions. I want to open the storm window but I'm afraid that if I do he'll immediately sting me and I'll turn out to be allergic to giant hairy hornet stings or something (I've never been stung, so who knows).

The metaphor is now officially dead, and I'm just wondering how to free this stupid hornet.

It's just like when I lived with Iggy and a baby mouse attacked me so I screamed and trapped it with the nearest object, which was a wine glass. I ran out of the room and didn't come back until a day later, by which point the baby mouse had suffocated and was caught frozen in the most unimaginably horrifying death howl, its mouth open (screaming for its mother?), its claws clenched trying to scratch free. It was like Hiroshima, but crueler.I screamed again and made Iggy dispose of it. The image will haunt me to my grave and beyond. When I'm in hell I will be trapped under some ugly giant's upturned wine glass.
Mr. X wrote:

Oh god. I too have such terrible war images of rodents in my head. What have we done? Yours is particularly cruel I agree. But what to do. The only thing I think you can do is try to save this hornet out of restitution for past animal sins. And because you have just compared me to the hornet. Save us. Don’t let us die between two pieces of glass. We want to live.

Tags: culture, ethics, biology, hornets, gay

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Yet another heckling opportunity

Put on your jacket and tie, ABH, because the abominable John Bolton is having a par-tay in 5 hours at the University Club (where I went to a law event a few months ago with my grungey friend Brian and we were not only the only non-lawyers in the room but also the only ones in unwashed jeans and ratty hair -- at least Brian works at a law nonprofit, I was merely repping LB).

What would you ask Bolton? I would ask "why don't you shave off that Wilford Brimley stache, Cthulhu, cuz you're not fooling anyone."

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Drinking Liberally?

Has anyone ever been to one of these drinking liberally things? What are they like? I could imagine them being either horrible (singletons trading vague, uninformed comments about how cool Hillary is) or cool (the comment section of the old Politicker, but with drinking).

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006


DeBlasio's out. That's that, I guess. Here's his letter in which he declines to run.

Yesterday I told Bay Ridge civic activist Stephen Harrison that I will vigorously support his campaign in the 13th District. A Democrat can and will win this seat. I ask that those of you who encouraged me to run to now join me in campaigning for Steve. Together we can take back this seat and send Democratic leadership we can trust to Washington.

That's as perfunctory as it gets, folks. Seat unwinnable. I'm outta here.

Tags: Bill DeBlasio, NY-13, Stephen Harrison, politics, New York

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Looks like it's going to be Charles Barron to take on Ed Towns in the NY-10 primary, right next door to me. Why does Ed Towns matter? For one thing, he's one of only 15 Democrats to vote for CAFTA. From a Working Families Party press release from last summer [PDF]:

On July 27, 2005, the House of Representatives approved CAFTA, which extends the failed trade policies that have made America the world's largest debtor. [Gregory] Meeks and Towns were among only 15 House Democrats who voted in favor of the agreement.
On April 13, 2005, the House of Representatives voted to completely eliminate the federal estate tax, providing an unjustifiable tax break for the very wealthiest Americans. Rep. Towns was one of only 41 Democrats to vote for this legislation.

More below.

In addition:

Towns was one of the 22 Democrats who, on June 24 2005, voted against an amendment to the 2006 fiscal year labor appropriations bill (offered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut). This bill barred any spending of money by the Department of Labor to implement the part of the deal the department had made with Wal-Mart calling for advance notice of inspections any time the DOL planned to investigate Wal-Mart. Meaning, the DOL had said it would tell Wal-Mart when it was coming to do a "surprise" inspection!

Let's see, here's Room Eight's take:

ET is a man of no fixed allegience beyond personal expedience, who supported Bush on CAFTA and recently took a walk on a close and important budget vote. In 1997, his eclectic politics of convieniance were nicely illustrated when his endorsement of Al Sharpton in the Democratic mayoral primary served as political foreplay for his general election endorsement of Republican Rudolph Giuliani (rumor has it that ET nearly had a heart attack, and was forced to cancel a day-after-the-primary Rudy endorsement press conference, when it appeared that Sharpton had unexpectedly forced a runoff). The next year, ET did the dirty deed again, this time on behalf of Al D'Amato. ET is well known for his willingness to trade his vote for pork (or, in the case of his Satmar constituents, for pastrami) regardless of the issue and his prior record.
Although, I support CAFTA, it's hard for me to picture ET settling down with the collected works of Thomas Friedman before deciding how he was going to vote (Can anyone pictue ET reading Thomas Friedman? Can anyone picture ET reading anything?). More likely, Karl Rove called him up and ET traded his vore for a couple of SBA loans in his district (one to an African-American, the other to a Satmar Hasid).

However, since Charles Barron is kind of a radical (he used to be a Black Panther, for one thing), Room Eight concludes:

But, voting for Barron because you prefer his position on CAFTA or Atlantic Yards is like voting for Mussolini because you prefer his position on mass transit (you know, the thing about train schedules). The prospect of Barron brings us back to the subject of David Duke. During the runoff election in Duke's nearly successful campaign for Louisiana Governor against the criminally inclined incumbent, Edward Edwards, some reluctant Edwards supporters, mostly reform minded liberals and sane Republicans, came up with a slogan which summed up both the distasteful task ahead and why it was necessary; today I paraphrase it on behalf of ET: VOTE FOR THE HACK; IT'S IMPORTANT!

Maybe Roger Green, if he does get into the race, will be less objectionable. Though its hard to hate too much on a guy who smacks Sean Hannity around.

By the way, that Louisiana gubernatorial slogan, if I remember right, was a classic: VOTE FOR THE CROOK, NOT FOR THE KOOK.

Tags: Charles Barron, Roger Green, Ed Towns, NY-10, New York, politics

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In the past few days, my comments on other blogs keep getting suspended for moderation and then never approved. They're not obscene, abusive, or even argumentative, so there's really no substantive reason for this to be happening. Something weird and technical is going on, and it's interfering with my ability to dispense pithy wisdom. Anyone have any ideas?

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Awwwsssuummmmmm syence IV

I realize I've been linking to Pharyngula a lot for these. But it's kind of irresistable when Myers does posts like this. MRI imaging during sex.

Oh, and in a separate study conducted by different researchers, MRIs of their brains revealed that

“At the moment of orgasm, women do not have any emotional feelings.”

There's a joke in there. I just know it.

Oh yes:

Q: How do you know your wife isn't faking it?

A: She stops loving you.


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Monday, April 10, 2006

The End of Ivy I-Bankers? God I Hope So.

This is funny but also accurate.

Anybody's who's worked in i-banking or management consulting knows that intelligence is if anything a disadvantage in the industry. Reasonably bright college grads with rudimentary English skills (since that's all i-bankers have) in any part of the developing world could do that work for 1/10 the cost, and then NYC would be rid of all those dickheads staggering drunk and arrogant through the Lower East Side and Meatpacking District every Friday and Saturday night.

Tags: new york,

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One last time for the road: the Times on the French protests

Elaine Sciolino again.

President Jacques Chirac crumbled under pressure from students, unions, business executives and even some of his own party leaders today, announcing that he would rescind a disputed youth labor law intended to make hiring more flexible.

Pussy. Imagine a democratic government backing off a policy in the face of widespread popular opposition. It's so French.

The new law was intended to give employers a simpler way of hiring young workers under the age of 26 on a trial basis without immediately exposing companies to the cumbersome and costly benefits that make hiring and firing such a daunting enterprise.

Oh those cumbersome and costly benefits and job protections.

Opposition to the law reflects the deep-rooted fear among the French of losing their labor and social protection in a globalized world.

Poll data please, Ms. Sciolino? Are you sure opposition to the law doesn't reflect a deep-rooted agreement among the French that it's a bad fucking idea?

Now for the climax:

To replace the defunct youth labor law, senior lawmakers from Mr. Chirac's party presented a much weaker draft law to Parliament today.

The new proposal would give employers financial incentives to encourage the hiring and training of young workers, and give job seekers more guidance and increase internships in professions where jobs are relatively plentiful, including restaurants, hotels and nursing.

There will be temporary subsidies or tax breaks for companies hiring unskilled young workers permanently. The cost of these measures, about $363 million a year, would be financed through an increase in tobacco taxes.

You have to be completely high to describe this set of proposals as a "weaker" law. When Chirac proposed reducing from two years to one the period during which employers could easily fire their young employees, that was a weaker version of the same law. This, on the other hand, is a completely different approach to the problem, and in many ways a much more aggressive one.

And finally, the denouement:

Perhaps the most surprising setback for the French government during the crisis over the jobs law came when some business leaders, who were supposed to find it easier to hire young workers with the new law, began to criticize the government's handling of the dispute and warned that a prolonged crisis could damage France economically.

Not surprising at all, actually. Only surprising if you think business leaders should automatically sign onto any neoliberal policy, no matter how small the advantage to them (and frankly, the ability to fire workers under age 26 wouldn't really help them all that much) and no matter how great the cost. Businesses don't think like that. Ideologues think like that.

Tags: French protests, France, New York Times, Jacques Chirac, Dominique de Villepin

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Chris Quinn and donuts

Hey, AHB, is it time for Left Behinds to get into some serious muckraking? Maybe you should go heckle Chris Quinn at this event next week. Free donuts.

Tags: new york, christine quinn, rent control, rent stabilization, economics

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High on the High Line

Politicker covers the unveiling of the High Line. One of their commenters sums up the CW: "Friends of the Highline gives me hope for the non-profit world. These guys are doing fantastic work."

True, but ever notice how the only time community groups successfully combat greedy real estate developers is when they're groups from lower Manhattan? We all know who has a voice in NYC development, and it's not community activists qua community activists (cf. the Atlantic Yards land-grab).

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I don't ever write about TV, but this is a show I really liked, at least until last night, when there was a faith healing. Lame. What's worse, the healer was the show's single black character, and from The Green Mile to Jerry Maguire to 48 Hours there are simply too many damn movies and TV shows where peripheral or subordinate black characters exist mainly to educate and heal white heroes. It's really disappointing to see an otherwise very good show fall into such a cliched trap.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

History lesson

Recent history, at that. The guy goes a little apocalyptic toward the end, but the overview of the last few years is basically sound. As we career toward nuclear war with Iran, it's important to remember who fucked us up here.

Stop and think back five years. What did we have five years ago? A moderate reformist Iranian government making overtures to the United States, rebuilding its relationship with Europe, liberalizing its society, and modernizing its economy.

9/11 comes along, the Iranians are overflowing with sympathy. Mass candlelit vigils are held in Tehran. Iran offers aid and cooperation.

Iran hates the Taliban, who have executed Iranian diplomats and massacred Afghan Shiites. Iran hates Saddam Hussein. Iran hates Al Qaeda which is a Sunni Fundamentalist organization, which declares Shiites infidels and subhuman.

Iran shares its intelligence with America -- they even arrested Taliban members and handed them over to US custody.

So we've got the Iranian spring; things are finally going to sort out.

And what happens? The Bush administration rebuffs every Iranian overture and does its best to instigate a cold war. Afghanistan is invaded, and suddenly, the Iranians are looking at American troops and allies on their eastern border. Then Iraq is invaded, and American troops and allies on their western border. Then bases and treaties in Uzbekistan, and whoops, there's more American troops and allies on the northern border. The Persian Gulf is filled with American warships and carrier fleets.

Now the Iranians are surrounded. And the tough talk is constant. Iran is part of the 'Axis of Evil' and Americans tell each other "Baghdad, humph, real men go to Tehran." Essentially, America has been threatening military action against Iran for the last five years, and has surrounded the country on every side with troops, bases and allies.

American aircraft invade Iranian airspace regularly, American special forces undertake operations inside Iran and Americans regularly accuse Iranians of interference in Iraq.

Dick Cheney pontificates about Israel bombing Iran *after he has just handed over to Israel the long range bombers and bunker busting bombs* required to do the job.

Meanwhile, the United States undertakes economic warfare against Iran, interfering with its business dealings with third party countries, trying to scuttle a pipeline deal with India, and it goes on and on. The hysteria about the Iranians nuclear program is just more of the same.

Now how in God's Bloody Name do you think the Iranians are going to respond to that?

So, the Mullahs are concerned that they're faced with a homicidal crazy state, the Iranian people are scared. When people are scared and faced with an aggressive warmongering power which keeps threatening to attack them, continually trespasses on its borders and is undertaking economic warfare... who the hell are they going to elect? [Ahmedinejad] may be a crazy bastard, but you assholes, you utter assholes did every thing you could to elect him short of donating 50,000 Diebold machines and mailing his party the trapdoor codes.

So, having pursued a psychotically aggressive course, you've backed Iran into a corner, and engineered a regime which refuses to back further.

And *you* are the victims in all this? *You* are the ones under threat? It's *self defense*????

The guy maybe implies a little too strongly that everything was sunshine and roses five years ago. If I remember right, Iran's support for Hezbollah was well-known and longstanding, and I think that shortly before the Iraq invasion the CIA did identify Iran as the nation most likely to give WMD to a terrorist organization. But things were still a shitload better than they are now.

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Bad news, good news


George and Martha are the D.C. area's equivalent to Pale Male and Lola, a nesting pair of raptors in an urban space. Only George and Martha are bald eagles, nesting near the Wilson Bridge. (For those who don't know D.C.: the Wilson Bridge is where the Beltway crosses the Potomac River, just to the southeast of the city. It is not only carries a huge volume of traffic, there is a major construction project to widen it. And when I say near, I mean within 1000 feet--in this picture, the southern tip of that little wooded semi-island all the way on the right-hand side.)

Anyway, this year George and Martha finally laid eggs. Unfortunately, another female attacked Martha and seriously wounded her, making the survival of the chicks uncertain, if they do hatch. That's the bad news. George and Martha make people care about birds, so I do root for them.

The good news--actually the very, very good news--is that there are now enough bald eagles around the Chesapeake Bay that they're getting into territorial fights. That is a great success story and proof, no matter what idiots like Richard Pombo say (R-Asphalt), that the Endangered Species Act works.

UPDATE: At least one of the eggs has hatched, and George is trying to feed the hatchling on his own.

UPDATE II: Poor Martha is healing. Photo below the jump. (Link via Dendroica.)

UPDATE III: Chick dead.


Tags: George and Martha, eagle, endangered species

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NYT: Still in the tank

Apparently the Times finds it boring to report on major scientific discoveries. Discovery isn't enough for them. They need bullshit controversy.

Of the three major stories about "missing links" this week, only this one managed to make it all the way through without invoking the ridiculous specter of intelligent design. The others, linked above, give major quotes to people from the Institute for Creation Research and Michael Behe, the dim bulb who counts as one of ID's major lights. I'm not going to reproduce those quotes--they're not worth dissecting in themselves. But they do reveal that the Times's science journalists now automatically pick up the phone for a reaction quote from creationists whenever they do a story about evolution, paleontology, or cladistics.

Since I know that roughly 30% of the Times editorial board reads Left Behinds every morning, I am going to say this all in caps, so they know it's important:


I mean, do you feel the need to include in every story about medicine the fact that Christian Scientists don't believe in it? No? I didn't think so. All you're doing by publishing quotes by people like Behe is writing the equivalent of a line saying, "Of course, some critics don't believe in the scientific method," which is neither informative nor interesting. Oh, and you're also validating Behe as a scientific critic, which gives him far greater intellectual heft than an obscure crackpot biochemist deserves. But I don't think you care about that.

Tags: intelligent design, evolution, New York Times, tiktaalik, Michael Behe

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I don't get inspired that often, but this is just cool

A group of West Philadelphia high-school kids designed and built a biodiesel-electric hybrid car that goes 0-60 in four seconds and gets 50 mpg. Seriously.

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Funky Chickens

The chicken dance

So WaPo confirms Sy Hersh's story about plans for a preemptive nuclear strike in Iran. Or at least that "Pentagon planners are contemplating tactical nuclear devices."

So, a game of chicken, eh?

Background: certain batshit crazy conservatives explicitly conceive of international relations as a game of chicken in which the rationality of irrationality triumphs (going so far as to advocate "random acts of violence" so as to establish your "madman bona fides").

According to game theory, games of chicken have two equivalent but mutually contradictory equilibriums (i.e., rational solutions): only one person swerves. The easiest way to ensure that the other guy swerves is via a pre-game signal. With this signal you convince the other driver that you are so irrational that you would not swerve under any circumstances (artificially constraining yourself is another, closely related solution).

That seems to be what the Straussian Bushies are trying for: a pre-game signal that they are the craziest motherfuckers on the planet.

First of all, this strategy probably won't work.

Second, only a cabal of wussy exurban white guys with major, major penis size issues could ever have concockted it. Seriously, can you imagine a woman or well-hung Latino man, for example, even considering it? I guess Condi is a woman, but I doubt she's to blame.

I mean, listen to how Nixon relates this strategy to his own personal, apparently insecure manliness: "We'll just slip the word to them that, 'for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry -- and he has his hand on the nuclear button.'"

Somehow I doubt that that's what his hand was on at that particular moment.

God only knows what scary, ubergay meeting notes from the Bush administration FISA courts will unearth years from now.

Tags: news and politics, iran, hersh, nuclear, game theory, chicken, nixon

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