Left Behinds

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More coherent liars, please.

After vowing to steer a greater share of anti-terrorism money to the nation's highest-risk cities, Homeland Security officials today announced grants to New York City and Washington that would be slashed by 40 percent, while dollars headed to spots including Omaha and Louisville, Ky., would surge.

Explaining why, Tracy Henke, assistant secretary for grants and training of the Department of Homeland Security, said:

"It does not mean in any way that the risk in New York is any different or changed or any lower...It means that we have additional information, additional clarity. Our risk analysis has been a maturing process. It is the best we currently have."

While it is reassuring that DHS is using the best risk analysis it currently has (as opposed to the third-rate crap risk analysis it could be using), I'm not convinced that the process has fully matured. Admittedly I don't have DHS's additional information and clarity, but I don't remember terrorists attacking Louisville twice in the last 15 years. Though it is good to know that New York's getting less money for terrorism protection does not mean in any way that our risk of being attacked a third time is any lower. That's helpful.

(In case you were wondering, we remain at Threat Level Yellow. All Americans, including those traveling in the transportation systems [sic], should continue to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicions [sic] items or activities to local authorities immediately.)

UPDATE: Hoo boy.

New York has no national monuments or icons, according to the Department of Homeland Security form obtained by ABC News. That was a key factor used to determine that New York City should have its anti-terror funds slashed by 40 percent--from $207.5 million in 2005 to $124.4 million in 2006.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fredric U. Dicker called it

This was like one of those bad dreams when you're being charged by a big, fat, slow, ungainly dairy cow that in real life you'd see coming a mile away and dodge no problem, but since you're in a fucked up imaginary world, your legs don't work and she smacks you right in the chest.

Mr. Cuomo received 67 percent of the delegates' votes and delivered a stinging defeat to Mark Green, the former New York City public advocate and the Democrats' 2001 candidate for mayor. Until Tuesday, Mr. Green expected to win 25 percent, the minimum for a spot on the ballot, but he got only 19 percent.


After the vote, Mr. Green lambasted Mr. Cuomo and various Democratic county leaders for what he called bullying delegates to switch from being Green supporters to voting for the Cuomo campaign.

In particular, he mentioned the Democratic chairmen of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Suffolk and Nassau Counties "for their deals and threats at the behest of the Cuomo machine." Mr. Green said he knew of "dozens of examples" in which delegates committed to his campaign were threatened with everything from the loss of contracts to political opposition in future campaigns if they kept their commitment to the Green campaign.

In a lot of ways, New York is a profoundly undemocratic state. Green and the other candidates can still try to get on the ballot by collecting signatures, but it's a huge pain in the ass, and New York's signature-challenge laws are the nation's most ridiculously restrictive. Tons of signatures are thrown out for super-picky "errors:"

This is done by "challenging" the petition signatures, the address of the signer, their Ward, Election district, Assembly district, and Congressional district. (Do you know your Ward/Election district?) Or, by challenging the witness of the petition on the same grounds.

Don't think that this does not happen. In 1994, the 125th Assembly seat challenger's petition was attacked on the grounds that one of the witness's address on the petition did not match the Cortland county's new 911 system address. Some of Forbes' petitions were challenged on the grounds the paper was too short, was signed in the wrong color ink, and transposed wards/assembly districts.

To quote the same DLC graph I lifted last time:
[T]he real issue is the local Democratic Party's uncanny ability to undermine the public's will to participate in the system, in part by throwing challengers off the ballot and making elections meaningless. It is telling that, while just 2 percent of the nation's population lives in Gotham, the city manages to generate more than half of the country's ballot access lawsuits.

Not that this is only a Democratic Party problem. Both parties' bosses are clearly happy with things as they are. In 2000, John McCain had to sue to get on the Republican primary ballot.

As Solomon commented when I first mentioned this issue:
[T]his process question about back room deals is especially disturbing since the Democratic candidate, whoever it is, is almost certain to win.

All this, together, makes the irony in Andrew Cuomo's victory statement delicious.

Whether you voted for me or not, going through the Democratic process had made me a better candidate.

Get it? Big-D Democratic process, small-d undemocratic process. Wotta punster.

Tags: new york, politics, Mark Green, Andrew Cuomo

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This does not appear to be a hoax.

We are totally, totally, totally playing this at my next gay irony party.

Left Behind: Eternal Forces:

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.

Tyndale's licensing of the project infuriated one of its authors, Jack Thompson, a conservative Christian attorney and outspoken critic of video game violence, who told the Los Angeles Times that he severed ties with his publisher in a dispute over "Left Behind: Eternal Forces."

"It's absurd," said the video critic. "You can be the Christians blowing away the infidels, and if that doesn't hit your hot button, you can be the Antichrist blowing away all the Christians."

The description from the game site itself:

Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions in LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces - a real-time strategy game based upon the best-selling LEFT BEHIND book series created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Join the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers, and uncover the truth about the worldwide disappearances!

How can an ordinary, mortal Jew ever hope to keep up with God's Own Self-Parodists?

Via Pharyngula and a little bit of Digby.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Endorsement in NY-11?

I know you've all been waiting anxiously...who will get the coveted Left Behinds endorsement in the 11th? Well, now I've spent a little time on the various candidates' websites looking at their issue statements, and the one that far and away impresses me the most is Chris Owens. I didn't expect to like him--I didn't like the idea of him running to replace his father. But he takes the right position on just about every issue I care about, and for the right reasons, too.

Feel free to argue for someone else in the comments. But as of now he's got my vote. I'm even leaning toward making a donation.

Tags: NY-11, Chris Owens

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

It's like being a very deadly Jew.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Local Congressional updates

Steve Harrison's website looks more credible than last time I surfed over there. But me notes that CQ rates the seat as "Safe Republican" even though Fossella won more narrowly than some of the incumbents in seats CQ rates as "Likely Republican."

Here are the NY seats, with the 2004 percentages (Rep/Dem):

No Favorite
NY24 - Boehlert (retiring)

Republican Favored
NY19 - Kelly (67/33)
NY20 - Sweeney (66/33)
NY23 - Walsh (91, no major dem opponent)
NY29 - Kuhl (50/41)

Safe Republican
NY03 - King (63/37)
NY13 - FOSSELLA (59/41)
NY23 - McHugh (71/29)
NY26 - Reynolds (56/44)

That's likely CQ's reflection on Harrison, to be honest. Sweeney has been making a big Blutarsky idiot of himself, Kelly will be opposed by rock-star-I've-never-heard-of John Hall, Kuhl will be opposed by blog darling Eric Massa, and Walsh will be opposed by blog darling Daniel Maffei in Syracuse, frankly a less Republican district than Staten Island.

Rock Hackshaw thinks Charles Barron will provide a strong primary challenge to Ed Towns. Of course, Hackshaw also thinks the NY-11 race is Yvette Clarke's to lose with David Yassky running a distant fourth, and as all of his commenters agree, that's just not...quite...right.

Tags: NY-13, NY-10, NY-11, Steve Harrison, Vito Fossella, Charles Barron, Ed Towns, Yvette Clarke, David Yassky, New York politics

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Thursday, May 25, 2006


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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

About as interesting and eccentric as Ashlee Simpson

Tonight is the big American Idol showdown. The music critic at Slate breathlessly extols Idol for rejuvenating pop music and introducing the world to "interesting," "eccentric" pop stars who exemplify "regional peculiarity, lyrical realism, and the jolt of a well-struck power chord."

Uh, if you think Carrie Underwood is an interesting country singer, then you haven't been listening to much country or roots music.

Ditto for Kelly Clarkson (who, I agree, is a fun pop star-- but not so interesting and certainly not eccentric). "Since U Been Gone" stole the guitar line from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' minor hit from a mere three years ago, "Maps" (the YYYs were even publicly considering suing Kelly and/or her production company for royalties). Since when does a pop star stealing from a good band (in a watered down version) make her interesting or exciting? Maybe the way my klepto ex Iggy was interesting and exciting. If you're looking for a dynamic pop icon to write about, why not go directly to Karen O, the woman being stolen from?

Chris Daughtry

What I think is interesting about AI is the way bad examples of out-of-fashion genres are foisted upon so many millions of teenyboppers. I personally loathe the mediocre 1995 alt-rock style of Chris Daughtry, but it's sort of amusing that AI viewers are so ignorant of rock music that in some relativistic shrug they begrudgingly accept his post-grunge dirges as what "Rockers" do (btw, nobody who actually listens to any kind of rock would ever use that word, yet AI has singlehandedly reintroduced it into the national lexicon).

The most outrageous example of a bad, fake Rocker was probably Constantine Maroulis last year. This was a flamboyant Broadway singer who barely rocked hard enough to star in a regional theater production of Grease, yet he grew his hair out and sort of squealed a bit as he mugged for the cameras, so the judges and fans unironically discusssed him as a Rocker.

Same goes for Taylor Hicks' godawful 80s bar singer shtick being accepted as blues rock. The thing is, these bad impersonations of unpopular styles don't make Taylor or Chris interesting or eccentric. They make them canny exploiters of the ignorance of millions of Americans who have been deprived of exposure to good rock or blues.

Tags: american idol, culture, constantine maroulis, taylor hicks, katharine mcphee

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Search and Destroy

Another of the best parts of having a blog is that you can procrastinate by analyzing your site statistics. My personal favorite aspect of this time-wasting is tracking the various strange search engine results that lead surfers to Left Behinds.

Now, it's no secret (well, to me and Antid Oto, at least) that a lot of our traffic is driven by people searching for our discussion of the ending of Cache(which is, months later, still getting tons and tons of traffic and comments, perhaps corresponding to a new international release or something) and for the full text of the story Brokeback Mountain (sorry, Annie, but I'm sure you can spare the royalties). We also get a steady stream of traffic for stuff like the Spazz Wheelchair (lots of curious shoppers? maybe LB needs to indulge in more retail therapy), Kimya Dawson (devoted fans combined with very little attention in the mainstream music press), and The Laffer Curve (a good title for a boring subject probably gets a lot of Google attention).

So far, so no-brainer. What's more amusing for me are the accidental search results.

Stuff such as someone in Tripoli coming here after typing "how to join parkour by phone in libya" in Google. Now, to get this combination of search words, Google had to combine my lustful gushing about adolescent parkour boys with my ruminations about the sexual proclivities of the crown prince of Libya. I'm sure the aspiring Libyan free runner got more than he bargained for.

Another perennial search engine source (seriously, at least a couple a day) is some variation of "spanked red behinds" (we also get a lot of guys Googling "ladies behinds", probably based on my "Ladies Man" post about LL Cool J as the gay rapper heh). Along the same, ridiculous lines is yesterday's "uncut sex." Some porn-lover was probably looking for some hot pics, and instead he discovered my narcissistic rambling about the perils of circumcision.

I know there have been other, funnier ones, but all I have access to is the past week's results, which have included "etymology coon" (interesting/creepy mostly because it was on German Google) and "left earring gay" (some guy in Brisbane who apparently was worried about how girls would take his new piercing? too bad that led him, again, to the post about LL Cool J as the gay rapper).

AO, do you remember any funny ones?

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Monday, May 22, 2006

The Green Scare

After the jump is a letter about fundraising for the legal defense of Daniel McGowan, a New York activist who is being prosecuted as an eco-terrorist (though I'm familiar with him mostly as an anti-war activist). It's very likely that he will spend the rest of his life in prison for despicable, life-threatening acts of terror such as removing live minks from fur farms.

The DHS has been conducting a witch hunt against environmental activists, the most extreme of whom have indeed commited acts of property damage, such as blowing up empty SUVs as political protest. But there are people spending most of their lives in prison because of what they wrote on web sites. This particular activist denies committing the property damage that is probably going to send him to prison.

According to the Eugene Weekly, sentences are bizarrely harsh for any criminal acts related to environmental activism.
Ironically, someone who steals an SUV out of greed faces a far lower sentence than an environmentalist who destroys the vehicle because it pollutes. In Oregon, the average sentence for motor vehicle theft was 17 months in 2001. In 2001 a state judge sentenced Jeff "Free" Luers to 23 years in prison for burning three SUVs and attempting to set fire to an empty fuel truck. The average arson sentence in Oregon that year was just under six years, rapists averaged 10 years and murderers 14 years.
Read more after the jump.


So a friend of mine, Daniel McGowan, who I’ve known for about eight years, is in a lot of trouble. On December 7th, federal marshals stormed the offices of WomensLaw.org, where Daniel worked, and arrested him. Alberto Gonzalez’s Justice Department is charging Daniel with multiple felonies related to two arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front. Arson wasn’t a strong enough word for Gonzalez and so he pulled out that “t” word. So the penalties have increased dramatically.

Daniel faces multiple life sentences. He has pled not guilty to all
charges. Daniel’s arrest is part and parcel of a government crackdown on the environmental movement so severe that it’s earned the title “The Green Scare,” as what’s happening now is quite reminiscent of McCarthy’s Red Scare in the 50s.

Daniel has worked tirelessly for progressive causes. He organized the
RNCNotWelcome.org website, which served as a magnet for all those people who didn’t want Bush and his minions to exploit NYC for their 2004 Republican National Convention. He’s organized to stop military
recruitment, to preserve national forests, to stop the war in Iraq and to
support political prisoners.

Although he is currently out on bail (his family put up all their property
and possessions to meet the $1.6 million price tag), he faces a lengthy
and extremely expensive trial. His family and friends have been
scrambling to raise funds and organize a defense team.

If you’re an artist or know someone who is, please read the following call
for art put out by Visual Resistance. Please forward this message widely.

Thanks so much,
Tim Doody


June 23, 2006 at ABC No Rio
156 Rivington Street (b/w Clinton and Suffolk Street)
Co-sponsored by Visual Resistance and Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan
Deadline: June 1, 2006
Contact: visual.resistance at gmail.com

We are planning a one-night gallery show and silent art auction on June
23rd at ABC No Rio to help pay for Daniel’s legal defense. We are asking
artists who are committed to social justice and political activism to
contribute artwork. Some art will also be sold through our website. All
proceeds will go to help pay Daniel’s legal costs.

Any artwork you can contribute will be a huge help, and we appreciate your
generosity in advance. The work in the show will encompass a myriad of
themes, styles, and techniques. Work that deals with the issues involved
in the Green Scare are appreciated, but not required.

Please contact us if you are interested in donating artwork! We are more
than happy to work with you on your terms and can cover incidental costs
such as shipping. We can pick up artwork in the New York City area. Email
visual.resistance at gmail.com
for a mailing address.

For more information on Daniel’s case and the Green Scare:

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Ask a Ninja on net neutrality

Many of you will have seen this already. But even if you have, you should really pop over to the site for some earlier episodes.

I am Ninja!
He is Ninja!
She is Ninja too!

And I think we might want some of these guys, too:

That's Lordi, winners of the Eurovision song contest.

First they shocked many of their countrymen with gruesome masks, jets of flame and a chain-wielding singer - then controversial Finnish hard-rock band Lordi went on to win one of the world's biggest music contests.

After 24 countries took to the stage in the 51st Eurovision show late Saturday in Athens, European viewers voted for Lordi's Hard Rock Hallelujah in a radical departure from the catchy pop tunes, folk songs and emotional ballads usually associated with Eurovision.

via Sadly, No!

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I don't understand this argument

Here it's from Digby, but I've seen it many times elsewhere, including Daily Kos.

This is getting stupid. The NY Times is creating a false impression about the netroots support for Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman as an expression of anti-war fervor. I think that is missing the greater point.

There are quite a few Democrats who voted for the war. They certainly have some work to do to convince many of us that they have seen the light. But the reason the netroots are taking on Joe Lieberman is because he enables Republicans on a host of issues and consistently shows disloyalty to the party in a hyper-partisan era.

Here's what I don't understand: While it may (or may not) be true that many people dislike Joe Lieberman because of the stupid way he does politics (going on Fox News to tear down other Democrats, etc.), isn't it better to have the Times covering Lamont's candidacy as an expression of antiwar sentiment? I mean, there's no principle behind partisanship per se, just a strategic calculation that partisanship is necessary in the current political environment. Yet at the same time I read everywhere that Democrats don't stand for anything convincingly. Shouldn't we be glad when the mainstream media cover the Lamont candidacy as an expression of principle rather than tactical politics? Doesn't this demonstrate that grassroots Democrats DO stand for something, even if it's only a single issue in this case (i.e., the Iraq War is bad)?

Tags: politics, Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Incidentally, Stick It was a big disappointment.

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Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006

Cameo by Walter Subchak.

via Pharyngula.

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David Brooks, or, A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.

Left Behinds is proud to publish an original poem by our dear friend Eustacia Vye: a version of Kubla Khan for Tom Friedman's dearest colleague.

In Exurbia did David Brooks
A classless freedom dome decree:
Where profs and hipsters deep in books
And soccer moms and Wasps and kooks
Could live in harmony.
Or rather, in adjacent trenches
Sorted by consumer penchants.
Each latte-drinking bobo her own mentor
In the tribal meritocracy.
For every car on Paradise Drive, an emperor
Of his condo and his SUV.

But O! that deep romantic quagmire underneath
The gated hills and dales of Times Select!
A savage place! A grisly, lawless fief
Where democratic ideals come to grief
By Zarqawi wailing for his warrior sect!
Aghast, the man of destiny starts stressing-
This Brooks declares it crushingly depressing.
Like Bam-Bam, we knew not our power.
But we prosper in the future tense, the coming hour,
And still we'll live inside the Paradise Spell
Unbroken by some far-off, fresh hell.
We'll fight our wide-eyed virtue like infection,
Regain our weedless stretches of soft perfection.
Behold the vast Euphrates, venturing
Through destined fairways, the river ran-
As a flow of change to speed a master plan.
A project for a new American century.
And 'mid this tumult David heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

A Shangri-La democracy
He saw reflected on the waves;
A shining city on a hill, besieged
By spelunkers of bin Laden's caves,
'Twould yet beget a revolution,
A freedom dome with a constitution.
Condoleeza with a PowerPoint
In a presentation once he saw:
It was the neocons' maid,
And on her PowerPoint she played,
Lamenting Tora Bora.
Could he revive within him
Her trembling battle cry?
To such a deep delight 'twould win him
That with columns he will vie
To build that dome from air,
That freedom dome! at any price!
And forward-thinkers cheer them there.
And nattering nabobs will cry, Beware!
The Cheney sneer, the Rummy glare!
Deciders know to trust in Christ,
Stay upbeat when your numbers dip:
A happy smile will part your lips
To drink the milk of Paradise.

Tags: news and politics, culture, new york times, david brooks, thomas friedman

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New School shows up Columbia

Seriously, though, what is the deal with orange? This can't be a coincidence.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Ben Smith picked up on this

From Rudy:

Asked about his stand on gay marriage, Giuliani - who lived with a gay couple during his divorce - told reporters that marriage should remain between a man and a woman.

"Inviolate, and everything should be done to make sure that's the case," said Giuliani, but he reiterated his support for civil unions.

"Inviolate." Rudy announced his separation from his wife on TV before he informed her. His second wife. Whom he split up with for his second very public extramarital girlfriend of that marriage alone.

All class, that man.

Tags: politics, Rudy Giuliani

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Much like my tender pelvis during one of Uncle Herb's midnight visits, the illusion was shattered."

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The Fried Man

One of the profounder signs that something has gone deeply wrong with our culture is that Thomas Friedman is widely considered to be a deep thinker. As Matt Taibbi says:

It's not for nothing that Thomas Friedman is called "the most important columnist in America today." That it's Friedman's own colleague at the New York Times (Walter Russell Mead) calling him this, on the back of Friedman's own book, is immaterial. Friedman is an important American. He is the perfect symbol of our culture of emboldened stupidity.

(The other day my brother told me he was listening to The World Is Flat as he painted his new apartment. I was seriously tempted to rescind our relatedness. It turned out he was just high--which is still only a partial excuse--and soon saw the light.)

Anyway, FAIR has been keeping tabs on our greatest public intellectual and noticed some, um, repetition. I don't want to spoil it...you really should go see for yourself. How does no one ever call shenanigans on him?

via The Left Coaster

What the hell, how about some Thomas Friedman poetry, while we're at it?


I met a traveller from the New York Times
Who said: 'Two vast and Lexus legs of stone
Stand in Bangalore. Near their paradigms
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And open Windows, and sneer of the Berlin Wall,
Tell that its sculptor often ate at Pizza Hut
Which yet survive, stamped on this Lilliput,
T.I. that mocked them as ephemeral.
And on the plinth by this Michelangelo—
“My name is Friedmandias, king of the IPO:
Look on my prose, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing coherent stays. Round the decay
Of that steroidal wreck, boundless and bare
The level playing fields stretch far away.'
Tags: politics, Thomas Friedman, FAIR

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Tony explains

Dan Froomkin:

Snow was on Hugh Hewitt 's radio show yesterday, and while defending his use of the term as utterly innocent, he said he won't be using it again.

"HH: Now I've got a couple of issues of the day for you. First, the Post this afternoon, on their blog, is blasting you for the use of the term tar baby. Is that just a way of smacking Tony Snow around to welcome him into the game?

"TS: Well, apparently, what's happened is, apparently some people are unfamiliar with the pathways of American culture, and don't realize the old Uncle Remus story where somebody hugs a tar baby.

"HH: Exactly.

"TS: And the point is, I wasn't going to get myself involved in an issue that would be very difficult to extract myself from. So I look upon that -- if that's the worst that happens, that's not so bad.

"HH: Agreed.

"TS: I've decided, though, because it's a classic case of, I think, somebody trying to sort of pick a fight. I'll probably take that out of my toolchest of rhetorical devices, rather than having to explain a hundred and fifty years of American culture."

I'm having a hard time believing that Solomon and I understand American culture less than Tony Snow. I suppose anything's possible. Monkeys might fly out of my butt.

As long as we're on Froomkin:

Much mirth in the briefing room over Snow's ducking -- for the second day in a row -- of entirely reasonable questions about the role of the president's chief political adviser in a criminal matter.

"Q Has Karl Rove spoken to you about the CIA leak case?

"MR. SNOW: No, he hasn't.

"Q Has any member of the administration spoken to you about the CIA leak case?

"MR. SNOW: Yes.

"Q Who?

"MR. SNOW: I'm not going to tell you. (Laughter.)

"Q Has any White House lawyer spoken to you about the case?

" MR. SNOW: Again, I just -- didn't I just tell you that I'm not going to tell you who I've spoken with?

"Q I'm just asking.

"MR. SNOW: I know. Good questions. (Laughter.)"

You can hear all the giggles on the video . I wasn't there, so I can't say exactly how widespread it was. But it would have been more appropriate if some members of the press corps had instead demanded that Snow explain why he wouldn't answer.

I'm not going to tell you? What the fuck is that?

via Crooks and Liars

Tags: politics, Tony Snow

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The best part of having a blog

Your friends are more likely to remember to send you links to awesome things. This one is from Phoebe. (Big file, loads slow.)

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Amateur bookmaking on monstrosities

Odds the Atlantic Yards abomination is built: 3 to 2

"It still feels like Brooklyn." - Laurie Olin, project landscape designer. Incidentally, Laurie Olin also designed Battery Park City, which should give some indication of what he thinks a city feels like. Tool.

Odds the Freedom Tower is never built: 2 to 1

"A giant, twisty middle finger to the rest of the city." - Antid Oto

Tags: George Pataki, Atlantic Yards, Ground Zero, Laurie Olin, New York, politics

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

David Plotz is a Left Behinds Reader

Somebody at Slate has been reading Conversations I, An Atheist Jew, Had With God About How Jesus Was Crazy and a Big Jerk. Except David Plotz doesn't seem to have a sense of humor.

Nonetheless, I can't wait till he gets to the raunchy story of Tamara.

Rembrandt School, Juda and Tamar

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There are five acceptable spellings of this word in Scrabble:





and of course


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Speak, Cicero, Pt. III

"Appetitus rationi pareat."

"Let your desires be ruled by reason."

-Marcus Tullius Cicero

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Pain McCain?

Is there a significance to orange I'm not aware of?

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Awesome science part whatever

We all know what happens when we exercise: Our muscles break down glycogen into lactic acid in anaerobic respiration, and if we don't get enough oxygen to them to continue the cycle into aerobic respiration, that lactic acid builds up and we feel the burn. That's what I learned in high school bio, anyway.

It's wrong. (With the caveat that the article is by Gina Kolata, whom I trust about as far as I can spit.)

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Oh, Libya, Pt. II

There's a good article in TPM Cafe today about Libya. Below is a comment I made in which I (more soberly than before) summarized my take on the mis-telling of the Libya story.

Hm, I think I disagree with a few aspects of your account of recent Libyan history.

As I discussed here, I profiled Seif Al Qaddafi, the Libyan crown prince (though he strongly rejects that term), a few years ago. Well before the war in Iraq started, he was arguing that Libya had long been trying to negotiate disarmament, but Europe and the US wouldn't engage talks, because of the Lockerbie problem.

It's hard to underestimate the significance of that Lockerbie settlement, which I consider the main impediment (certainly in the last 10 years) to the normalization of relations. Qaddafi senior is commited to Libyan prosperity (in addition to protecting his own power, of course), and he didn't want to follow Castro's example. The pressures to negotiate were pragmatic and economic, not at all military. He couldn't budge on Lockerbie, however, because of the possibility of having to pay huge, huge settlements and perhaps go before the ICC.

To the extent that military operations in Iraq affected negotiations, they affected them negatively. "If the US unilaterally invades Iraq, we will help our Arab brothers," said Seif a year before the invasion began. That was after he had pointed out that Libya had been trying to draw US attention to Al Qaeda for years before 9/11.

To the commenter above, my impression from Seif (who did lose members of his immediate family in the bombing on his residence) was that those bombings made the Libyans strongly distrust the US. They considered bombing women and children deeply dishonorable. I also got the impression that they (with some justification) consider Reagan/Bush/Bush part of one group of leaders, so this Bush is associated with those bombings.

The resentment and distrust is perhaps best exemplified in one of Seif's oil paintings (he is a widely exhibited painter, after all, though often the galleries are subsidized by the Qaddafi Foundation). In the painting, American fighter jets bomb a home as a child runs away screaming. On a personal level, discussing the bombing was the only time that Seif (who longed to study in the US and was almost giddy, if a bit envious, when discussing Ivy League colleges with me) got noticeably upset and hostile.

In short, that bombing was probably counterproductive if the long-term goal was bringing Libya into the community of nations.

Tags: news and politics, libya, bush

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Tony Snow: Nice and Zippy and Crypto-Racist?

I just watched Tony Snow's first press conference as White House Press Secretary. One of the correspondents called him "nice and zippy," which got a chuckle among the reporters. I found him a bit smarmy, but at least he seemed intelligent and willing to actually answer questions, unlike that drone McClellan. The redoubtable (and cranky) Helen Thomas took advantage of his openness a bit, monopolizing him for a few minutes (click for video) with a back and forth that basically amounted to "why is the president breaking the law by illegally wiretapping Americans?", "the terrorist surveillance program is not law-breaking", "yes it is." She was a bit overearnest and he was a bit condescending (talking to her like a dotty grandmother), but I'm sure a lot of viewers were cheering her on.

One of Snow's strangest locutions, used in reference to the NSA surveillance program (which he refused to comment on), was "I don't want to hug the tar baby." I only really knew the phrase from the Toni Morrison novel and thought it was just racist Southern slang, so I had to look up its etymology.

It comes from Uncle Remus' tale "The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story." In the story, Brer Rabbit is tricked into hitting a doll covered in tar. As he struggles with the doll he gets stuck in the tar and trapped by Brer Fox, who is waiting nearby. The phrase is used along the lines of "quagmire," where the more you struggle the more stuck and trapped you are.

According to the Random House dictionary,

The expression tar baby is also used occasionally as a derogatory term for black people (in the U.S. it refers to African-Americans; in New Zealand it refers to Maoris), or among blacks as a term for a particularly dark-skinned person. As a result, some people suggest avoiding the use of the term in any context.

I would go further than that, arguing that it is known primarily as a derogatory term and its connotations are so strong that it is used about as innocently as the deliberate malapropisms (or wicked homonyms) "niggardly" and "coonhound." Yeah, yeah, those scoundrels take shelter beneath raccoons and Scandinavian etymology, but the "accidentally" evoked imagery is so unpleasant that most people have excised them from polite usage.

Anyhow, I'm quite sure indeed that the Bushies don't want to hug any tar babies.

Nice one, Tony. Almost as good as when Bush Sr. called his half-Mexican grandchildren "the little brown ones."

Tags: news and politics, bush, surveillance, wiretapping, tony snow

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Shorter Elisabeth Bumiller

Sometimes he even rubs their little heads for luck.


(Not that this should surprise anyone. Matt Taibbi crowned Elisabeth Bumiller Worst Campaign Journalist in a single-elimination tournament conducted during the 2004 campaign, though appropriately enough she only won in the end when Howard Fineman failed to file. Find earlier rounds of Wimblehack here.)

Tags: immigration, politics, Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Very Important News About Shit That Really Matters To Me

The CW:

No pilot pickups announced. Network trying to renew Seventh Heaven. Chances better for renewals of One Tree Hill and Everwood. Already locked in are America's Next Top Model, Gilmore Girls, Smallville, Veronica Mars, Supernatural, Everybody Hates Chris, Girlfriends, Friday Night Smackdown! Reba cancelled.

We get to find out what was in the briefcase after all. Fuckin' A.

[Update:] It's official.

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"Baptists are Christians who believe God can only be accessed by means of a swimming pool or, in some cases, a shallow outdoor stream."

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La Perdida

I read Jessica Abel's La Perdida in separate issues, and forgot I meant to review it when the collected book came out. But this evening someone reminded me that I haven't done a comic review in a while. That's because my books are all in f'in boxes still, and will be for weeks more. I can do this one, though.

My girlfriend said La Perdida did a very good job of capturing what it was like to be a young woman all alone in a foreign country: without any familiarity with the culture, it's very difficult to judge what's safe and what's not. You make friends without really knowing if you should trust them, and sometimes you make mistakes.

She would know. I wouldn't, since I'm neither female nor a traveler. It certainly sounds plausible, and it describes very well what happens to Carla, the protagonist of La Perdida, when she travels to Mexico City. She doesn't want to be just another ex-pat so she hangs out more and more with her sketchy boyfriend and his even sketchier friends.

There aren't that many convincing fictional portraits of dumb young people who think they're a lot smarter and more worldly than they really are. That's not to say that there aren't a lot of fictional characters like that, but that very few of them are convincing. Usually because the writers who created them are young, dumb, and convinced they're a lot smarter and more worldly than they really are. Even rarer is for author to create a whole group of convincing dumb young people with different ideas of how they're smarter than everyone else. The best example I can think of is Flaubert's Sentimental Education. It's not easy. Jessica Abel does it.

The art is not as strong. Sometimes the panels feel cluttered. The faces and the composition of the panels often remind me of newspaper soap opera cartoons, though better done. The best I can say about it is that you stop noticing it after a while.

Previews below.






[Addendum:] I may have stolen the "multiple dumb young people in Sentimental Education" idea from a friend. I may have thought of it myself in conversation with said friend. I honestly don't remember which. So if you're reading this and you want credit, it's yours. If anything, your ideas are so smart my subconscious is acting out a little wish-fulfillment drama:

"I wish I'd thought of that."
"Shit, I DID think of that, didn't I?"

Tags: comics, La Perdida, Jessica Abel

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Shorter David Kirkpatrick

This time they really, really mean it.


Tags: politics, Christian conservatives, New York Times, unwarranted credulity

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Weekly planner

Solomon and I will probably both be attending this:

Symposium: American Writing Today

May 16 (Tuesday)


Celebrate the publication of n+1's fourth issue with a public debate on "Symposium: American Writing Today," edited by Mark Greif. Panelists Caleb Crain, Keith Gessen, Vivian Gornick, and Benjamin Kunkel will introduce their contributions to the symposium--about academic criticism, the effect of money on contemporary literature, the function of memoir in the literary system, and "the perennial novel," respectively--and then open the floor to questions from the audience, and from moderator Greif.

512 West 19th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues


I may also go to this.

Join contributors, subscribers and friends of the magazine to help celebrate the launch of Esopus 6 at White Columns on Wednesday, May 17th (7-9 pm). Also includes an exhibition of Colter Jacobsen's project for the issue: Eight "memory drawings" based on subscribers' photographs.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Causes for optimism about bird flu

The pandemic may just run its course in birds without jumping to humans. Two big stories this week, below the jump.

First, Migrating Birds Didn't Carry Flu:

Defying the dire predictions of health officials, the flocks of migratory birds that flew south to Africa last fall, then back over Europe in recent weeks did not carry the deadly bird flu virus or spread it during their annual journey, scientists have concluded.

International health officials had feared that the disease was likely to spread to Africa during the southward migration and return to Europe with a vengeance during the reverse migration this spring. That has not happened — a significant finding for Europe, because it is far easier to monitor a virus that exists domestically on farms but not in the wild.

Second, Avian Flu Wanes in Asian Nations It First Hit Hard:

Even as it crops up in the far corners of Europe and Africa, the virulent bird flu that raised fears of a human pandemic has been largely snuffed out in the parts of Southeast Asia where it claimed its first and most numerous victims.

Health officials are pleased and excited. "In Thailand and Vietnam, we've had the most fabulous success stories," said Dr. David Nabarro, chief pandemic flu coordinator for the United Nations.

Vietnam, which has had almost half of the human cases of A(H5N1) flu in the world, has not seen a single case in humans or a single outbreak in poultry this year. Thailand, the second-hardest-hit nation until Indonesia recently passed it, has not had a human case in nearly a year or one in poultry in six months.

Encouraging signs have also come from China, though they are harder to interpret.


JAKARTA, Indonesia, May 13 (Reuters) — Local tests have confirmed that three Indonesians who died in the past week had avian flu, a Health Ministry official said Saturday.

Authorities have sent blood and swab samples of the three people — all from one family — to a World Health Organization-affiliated laboratory in Hong Kong. Local tests are not considered definitive.

A toddler and a 25-year-old man from the same North Sumatra family also tested positive for bird flu, but they are still alive, said Nyoman Kandun, a director general at the Health Ministry.

UPDATE: To clarify, multiple infections within a single family is troublesome because it implies the disease could be passing from person to person.

Tags: Avian flu

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Thursday, May 11, 2006


I'm not going to say much of anything about this newest NSA bullshit. Go read Glenn Greenwald. Instead, let's take a look at the New York Times' list of the best fiction of the last 25 years (that would be back to 1981, if you're counting).

Below the jump.

Toni Morrison

Don DeLillo

Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy

Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels
John Updike
[This seems to me like a dodge, since at least half the books were published way before 1981.]

American Pastoral
Philip Roth

A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole

Marilynne Robinson

Winter's Tale
Mark Helprin

White Noise
Don DeLillo

The Counterlife
Philip Roth

Don DeLillo

Where I'm Calling From
Raymond Carver

The Things They Carried
Tim O'Brien

Norman Rush

Jesus' Son
Denis Johnson

Operation Shylock
Philip Roth

Independence Day
Richard Ford

Sabbath's Theater
Philip Roth

Border Trilogy
Cormac McCarthy

The Human Stain
Philip Roth

The Known World
Edward P. Jones

The Plot Against America
Philip Roth

What is with six Philip Roth books? Sheeit. I do like the three collections of short fiction that I've read (Jesus's Son, Where I'm Calling From, The Things They Carried). Also, other than Toni Morrison, where are the women? Where are the non-white people?

I don't read that much contemporary fiction, so my list is limited. I'd put in votes for Gaddis's A Frolic of His Own and Chabon's Kavalier and Clay (why not, if that piece of crap Independence Day got votes). I like Joan Didion's Democracy a lot, and I think Vollmann's ongoing series The Seven Dreams is every bit the equal of--if not superior to--any of Cormac McCarthy's overhyped pulp. I think Auster's In the Country of Last Things is lovely. Sherman Alexie's The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

This is tough, as all of my books are currently in boxes. I'll probably add to the list later as things occur to me. In the meantime, what would you add or take off?

[UPDATE: Jedmunds is already playing. But before you wander over there where they're just throwing out all kinds of junk, remember that the rules are very clear: 1) American, 2) the past 25 years, and 3) fiction but not necessarily a novel.]

Back later.

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Bush Begs the Question. Big Time.

We at Left Behinds are very sensitive to misuse of the phrase "begging the question."

In today's ridiculously Orwellian press conference defending warrantless wiretapping, Bush did not misuse the phrase (usually it's misused by people trying to sound more educated than they are, which is perhaps the one verbal problem he does not have). Instead, in a spectacular display of question-begging, he exemplified why it's so important to retain the specific meaning of this phrase.

In his fourth bullet point (why does everything he utters sound like he's reading a Powerpoint presentation?), Bush said:
Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans.
Well, that's reassuring. They're not illegally wiretapping innocent Americans. Unfortunately, they're the ones who define "innocent Americans," and their definition amounts to "anyone we are not wiretapping."

So that sentence could be recast as "we are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of people whose personal lives we are not trolling through."




Big time.

>Tags: news and politics, bush, surveillance, wiretapping

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I Hate Hate Crimes Legislation, Pt. II

Last year, the redoubtable Bill Dobbs (of ACT UP and just about every progressive activist movement in NYC in the past 20 years) and I discussed hate crimes legislation on the Queer Fist discussion boards. After the jump, our exchange.

Some interesting news from New Hampshire, an effort to repeal the state law that provides enhanced penalties for 'hate crimes.' No doubt some homophobia is helping to propel this effort; NH may just do the right thing, if for some wrong reasons.

There are quite principled reasons to oppose such legislation: Hate crime laws are not only unnecessary but they twist and mangle the criminal law in dangerous ways. There's plenty of law and order on the books already, fines and prison time for those who commit an assault or murder; 38 states and the federal government have
state-sanctioned executions in their punishment toolkits. Hate crime laws enable prosecutors to put defendants on trial for what kind of person they are, for their ideology -- rather than for the wrongful act he or she intended. Such distinctions are lost in the ugly swirl of emotions that are stirred up by those, including gays, who organize around crime victims.

When liberals and other progressives jump on the bandwagon for longer prison terms, for law and order solutions, it is that much harder to make progress on other criminal law reform issues including the abolition of capital punishment. While John Ashcroft has been hammering civil liberties for four years, major gay organizations just beat their drums for federal hate crime legislation. Why would anyone want to help Ashcroft gain more power? Time to derail the hate crime law train.

-Bill Dobbs


Thanks, Bill, for that article and your reflections. I
would love to see Queer Fist do some actions against
hate crime legislation. We all know about the
exercise of legal justice in this country: somehow
it's always poor folks and people of color who end up

Legally and ethically objectionable, hate crimes
legislation is the worst kind of conservative coopting
of the queer movement. I would love to see it more
prominent on the radical agenda.

If anyone wants to brainstorm anti-hate crime
legislation actions, I am totally down.

Also, how the hell is the ACLU *FOR* hate crime
legislation? Jesus Christ.

The leftist critique of hate crimes legislation is so
off the raydar that I can't really imagine having a
lot of success with it, but I'd definitely like to at
least put it ON the raydar.



I don't have the details but the national ACLU has generally favored hate
crime/enhanced penalty legislation. State affiliates have also generally
been in favor (including the NYCLU) with some exceptions. One possible
explanation for their support is that their safeguarding of civil liberties
has been trumped by some 'progressive' politics.

In the 1980s gays began to really push for hate crime laws and over time
lost sight of larger justice and became proud members of the crime victims
rights movement. In the Matthew Shepard case, gay groups built the case up
as the worst murder, ever. After creating a huge amount of pressure and a
prosecutor made death penalty requests, those same groups fell silent about
what the criminal justice system had in the cards.

Here's an interesting screed by Alex Cockburn, I think it was
originally published in The Nation.

Just as with marriage, there are critical voices out there. The challenge
is to get them heard.

-Bill Dobbs

>Tags: news and politics, hate crimes, criminal justice, gay

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I Hate Hate Crimes Legislation

In this article about Mary Cheney's hypocrisy (quoting the inimitable Richard Kim's observation that "It's not like Mary Cheney's been quietly pursuing lesbianism by playing softball and raising cats in Northampton. She has devoted her entire career to providing cover for lesbian-hating organizations, corporations and political parties."), the Nation author concludes by quoting Kerry's spokesman: "She'd be more credible if she pushed dad's administration to support hate crimes legislation and equal rights for gay Americans."

Since when is supporting hate crimes legislation the litmus test for fighting on the side of Dorothy? I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I've never really understood why so many gays and blacks jumped on the law-and-order, right-wing bandwagon.

A precis (rhymes with chassis or with MC?): The US criminal justice system is deeply and profoundly unjust and racist. What's more, thought crimes are perpetrated by more lefties than righties, so we have a vested interest in protecting freedoms of belief and expression.

>Tags: news and politics, hate crimes, justice, gay

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Christine Quinn Doesn't Like Pork

When she was anointed Speaker, I fretted about whether or not Christine Quinn would remain Christine Quinn.

With her latest proposal to curb tens of millions of dollars of Council pork projects, she's almost making me believe in the strategy of "do whatever it takes to get inside, so that you can really be yourself once you have power" (a strategy that my friends in finance, law, and politics always seem to espouse in the beginning then conveniently forget).

Requests [for pork] are to be submitted on a form, and the individual Council member must obtain endorsements for the spending request from nine other members representing at least three boroughs. The idea is to show that each project has citywide appeal and isn’t some grubby parochial project. In addition, members would be limited to making four such spending requests. There is no limit now.


>Tags: new york, christine quinn, pork, reform

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Speak, Cicero Pt. II

"The man who backbites an absent friend, nay, who does not stand up for him when another blames him, the man who angles for bursts of laughter and for the repute of a wit, who can invent what he never saw, who cannot keep a secret — that man is black at heart: mark and avoid him."

-Marcus Tullius Cicero

>Tags: culture, cicero, cats, brokeback mountain

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So Should I Stock Up on Tuna or What?

Arguments for and against avian flu panic both seem reasonable to me, and I am just not qualified to discern which is the most compelling science. Plus there's always the risk of panics being used to distract from other problems.
A month or two ago, Antid Oto argued that the avian flu threat has been grossly underestimated. "Flu pandemics happen roughly every 30–40 years," he writes (though how reliable is this stat? might the incidence change because of changing public health conditions?), and this could be a particularly bad pandemic because, like the Spanish flu pandemic, this flu "mainly seems to kill people with healthy immune systems," because it hyperactivates "cytokine storms," whatever those are.

In the other corner, Slate argues that it's very unlikely that the virus will mutate to allow human-to-human transmission (because it "has a different molecular structure than the 1918 bug," especially in the structure of its hemagglutinins, whatever those are). What's more, flu strains have become less lethal over the past century as public health has improved. "Whether a person exposed to a pathogen contracts the disease is tremendously influenced by the state of the person's health," says Slate. This, of course, ignores AO's point that the avian flu mainly affects healthy people.

A ridiculous TV bird flu disaster movie aired tonight (though, as Republic of T points out, it ignores the scariest character who would emerge in a flu pandemic, some incompetent Bush hack named Stuart Simonson).

Panic is never a pleasant smell. Take this example from Wonkette. Some guy wrote her (and I'm skipping the first five points of his conspiracy theory) about the real reason Goss resigned from leading the CIA;

5) Face it — when the [avian flu] pandemic hits, interstate transport shuts down and you guys in Washington are feeding on each other like cannibals —literally, not just politically — Goss will be setting on his front porch eating goat cheese, sipping homemade Cabernet and enjoying the rural sunset. Laughing his ass off as he tells his wife about how Donald Rumsfeld talked Dick Cheney into buying an estate on the Chesapeake Bay —an area which receives the largest dump of migratory goose droppings in the country.

How could we not have seen? Of course! It makes perfect sense that Porter Goss unexpectedly resigned because HE KNOWS ABOUT THE COMING BIRD FLU HOLOCAUST. Thanks for the email, but shouldn’t you be on your way to Rochester, Representative Kennedy?

Anyhow, notwithstanding the truly paranoid, which is it? Stock up on bottled water and tuna fish, or focus on a genuine risk, like rotavirus and global warming?

>Tags: news and politics, bird flu, avian flu, risk

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Silly bullshit

When you see the same dumb idea twice in a week from Washington pundocrats, you know you're dealing with an emerging piece of Conventional Wisdom.

First, Richard Cohen:

I have seen this anger before -- back in the Vietnam War era. That's when the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated.

Second, Jonathan Chait:

These are exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early '70s. They think in simple slogans and refuse to tolerate any ideological dissent.

The only people who would buy this weak-ass historical revisionism are those for whom white men have to be the stars of every history play. The Democratic Party did not fall from power from the 1960s through the 1980s because a bunch of white male leftists at peace marches wore their hair too long and yelled the wrong slogans. It fell because of the anxieties provoked in white men by the feminist movement and particularly by the civil rights movement.

Come on. Everybody in Washington knows what the Southern Strategy was. How dumb do they think we all are, anyway?

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Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm back

Sorry, faithful readers. I've been over in, um, DC, London, and Darfur heckling world leaders. Nothing less would have kept me away from the blog for the past two weeks. But I'm back.

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Your Storied Pomp

As I was writing this in the Slate discussion boards, I Googled the labor economist George Borjas, who recently argued that the use of low-skilled immigrant workers depresses wages for low-skilled native workers, and thus "Immigration policy is just another redistribution program. In the short run, it transfers wealth from one group (workers) to another (employers). Whether or not such transfers are desirable is one of the central questions in the immigration debate."

In the mid 90s, he wrote that

Because the gains from immigration depend on the skill level of immigrants, other host countries (Australia and Canada, for instance) now use a "point system" to allocate visas. Applicants are graded on the basis of such factors as education and occupation, and only those applicants who "pass the test" are awarded entry visas. It is not surprising that people migrating to those countries are more skilled than those admitted by the United States. The United States, in effect, is losing the competition for skilled workers in the immigration market.
As lovely British friends of mine have complained about how nearly impossible it is to immigrate to the US, I have often thought that there's something unfair and irrational about the way our immigration policy discourages high-skill immigrants (or, really, medium-skill).

But, as Antid Oto recently pointed out, since 1903 one of our most important national texts has been the Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
There's really nothing equivocal about that statement of our national priorities. We're not "losing the competition for skilled workers in the immigration market." We forfeited that competition a long time ago. Which is a good thing.

>Tags: news and politics, immigration, economics, borjas

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Who's Been Whispering In the Ears of the Dems?

Neoliberal, third-way, reactionary schmucks like this, apparently. How else to explain their stunningly consistent lack of cajones or principles?

As Eleanor Clift said on Sunday, concerning the Democrats' craven rubber-stamping of the $70 billion spending bill for U.S. operations in Iraq (which they didn't even take as an occasion to question the progress of the war, because that would be, um, what the American public wants but they're too chickenshit to deliver):

It is shameful that the Democrats all supported -- every single Democrat supported this spending bill. One, they're afraid of being called unpatriotic if they challenge it. But every Democrat except Rockefeller, who didn't vote at all, supported it. But 21 Republicans voted against this bill because it is larded with pork. The president is saying -- he's threatening a veto because it's larded with pork.

It is such an example of spinelessness on the part of the Democrats. They even had political coverage with almost half the Republicans objecting to this bill, and yet they still stood up and saluted.

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What a Drunk CIA Agent Had to Say About the New CIA Director

So last night I went to a dinner party. Wine was served, and to my left was a middle-aged CIA agent (just back from VA) who had had perhaps two glasses too many (I'll give him the codename Twinkletoes).

When the subject of the Hayden nomination came up, Twinkletoes guffawed. As he poured himself another glass of Chianti, he snarked "as if Goss or Hayden are the guys who really run the CIA."

Intrigued (previously, we had been talking about the mechanics of computer-guided cars), I coquetteishly asked, "who does run the CIA?"

At that, Twinkletoes bristled and half-sobered. He just turned his head like Jack Nicholson (i.e., he led with his eyes) and stared at me silently for a few moments, then half-smiled. It was very Mission Impossible. "I thought you'd have put it together by now," he purred. "It's me, I run the CIA."

For a moment or two, though, I had almost cracked him. Realizing that I had lost my chance to scoop an intelligence leak (I'm always already thinking first of Left Behinds), I just asked him some picayune questions about what was already public. He gave a politic answer about whether or not Goss was really involved in the scandal that Eleanor Clift claims he is, and I knew I was just getting the official spin. The only other interesting revelation was a little later on when he said, "listen, it's not like Goss ever had a chance at reform. Reforming the CIA is like spotting the iceberg and trying to change course on the Titanic. Too much mass and momentum."

I take it Twinkletoes is about to retire.

>Tags: news and politics, CIA, Goss, Hayden

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If you haven't seen it already, you really should.

I hadn't. Hee.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Huge numbers of New Yorkers are Left Behinds readers

How else to explain George Pataki's precipitous drop in favorability in the last two months?

Governor George Pataki saw his favorable/unfavorable rating drop dramatically to 38 percent favorable, 55 percent unfavorable (from 53-40 percent favorable in March).

What happened between March and today? That's right, on April 12 I gave Georgie the beatdown he so richly deserved.

Oh, and he vetoed the budget for no coherent reason.

Now, because today is "What The Fuck Is The Times Thinking!?" Day (apparently), I can't move past this poll without quoting Michael Cooper's utterly bizarre take on the situation.

But, for all the heat he is taking, Mr. Pataki's budget vetoes have given him a shot of steroids just when the Legislature had written him off as the weakest of lame ducks. Now the Senate, for all its fury, needs something from Mr. Pataki. And they are the ones facing New York voters in November, not him.

Mr. Pataki, who will step down from office in eight months, can afford to look at a very different audience: the national Republicans he will have to win over if he decides to run for president.


[A]s Mr. Pataki navigates the rest of his final legislative session, he is being buffeted by competing political impulses. He can try to improve his approval ratings in New York and make friends with the Senate and with the health lobby by reopening the budget and spending more. Or he can hold out and try to salvage a reputation for fiscal conservatism that has been eroded by the near-doubling of the state budget during his three terms in office.

It is not necessarily an easy choice. No governor interested in higher office wants dismal poll numbers in his home state, which could prove an embarrassment.

That's just...weird. He's empowering himself by fucking over Senate Republicans because he's playing to a national audience? You know what's even a bigger embarrassment than bad approval ratings in your home state, as you run for President as a Republican? Completely destroying your state's Republican party. Turning it into an endless slapstick routine. When the end of your tenure as Governor sees your state's Republican party lose just about everything, do you really think you can go to Republicans in other states and claim you can win anything? (One could blame the NYGOP's impending disaster on New York's ongoing realignment away from Rockefeller Republicanism and George Bush's own tanking approval ratings--except Michael Bloomberg just cruised to reelection in the most Democratic part of the state, a couple of months after Hurricane Katrina.)

Michael Cooper could be entirely right, I suppose. Pataki could be just that moronic. To take another example of his political ineptitude (because Gatemouth happened to write about it today):

As a state legislator, Pataki was a near-perfect “Right to Lifer”. As Governor, he was nearly perfect in the "pro-choice" position. Now that he’s running for President, he’s felt a need to pander to the right. But, finding himself with a record supporting even the least popular "pro-choice" positions, and not really understanding the issue’s moral dimensions, he’s grabbed the first pander he could find, and vetoed a bill facilitating easier access to emergency contraception. So, George Pataki now finds himself virtually the only politician in America who supports Medicaid abortions, but opposes access to emergency contraception. With this veto, George Pataki has managed the neat trick of really actually being “pro-abortion” and “anti-choice” at the same time. Pataki's position on emergency contraception would be a stunning example of baldfaced opportunism if it weren't so pathetically wrongheaded.

I think that last line is probably the best summary of Pataki's political instincts I've ever heard. You could pretty much apply it to anything he does between now and whenever he gives up his delusion of being President. You could apply it retrospectively to just about anything he's done in the last year. Gatemouth, you da shit.

But only one of us produced a 30 point net swing in favorability in a month.


Tags: New York, politics, George Pataki

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Tony Snow on the job

Digby points to Tony Snow as the reason why the press has so willingly swallowed the story that Porter Goss's resignation is all about some behind-the-scenes conflict with John Negroponte, and has nothing to do with the his possible involvement in the hooker-and-poker-and-bribery parties at the Watergate revealed earlier in the week by the Wall Street Journal.

They are giving him "the benefit of the doubt." He's a nice guy. They are establishing a new relationship --- it wouldn't be nice to be skeptical of him before he's even had a chance to prove them wrong.

Snow knows exactly how to feed the cocktail weenies to the little baby birds waiting to be fed pre-masticated explanations that they can say are "insider" scoops.
As if on cue, I found Mark Mazzetti writing this crap above the fold in my Sunday Times today:

Porter J. Goss, who was forced to resign Friday, was seen as an obstacle to an effort by John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, to focus the agency on its core mission of combating terrorism and stealing secrets abroad.

Ok, sure, whatever.

For something that sounds a little closer to the truth, let's try today's Daily News:

A little-known White House advisory board convinced a reluctant President Bush to launch yet another high-profile shakeup of the nation's intelligence community and can CIA Director Porter Goss, sources said yesterday.

Bush had already gotten an earful from Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte on the shortcomings of Goss, but the final push came from the "very alarmed" President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, intelligence and Congressional sources said.

Alarms were set off at the advisory board by a widening FBI sex and cronyism investigation that's targeted Kyle (Dusty) Foggo, the No.3 official at the CIA, and also touched on Goss himself.

As an addendum, Digby commenter RandyH points to this Buffalo Beast takedown of the man the Times now trusts with its front page.

[T]here’s one fact above all that makes Snow the perfect hire: He’s an idiot.

I don’t mean just that I disagree with Snow on most issues. What I’m saying is, he’s just really stupid. This is a huge plus for him in his new job, just as it was at Fox.

Think about it. One of McClellan’s major drawbacks was his rapid, unemotional delivery of denials and obfuscations, which sent a clear message to reporters and the public: “We both know this is bullshit, but I get paid serious money to say it.”

Snow, on the other hand, will probably even believe himself when he delivers the standard “ongoing investigation” or “national security” non-comments. His voice will pitch and swoop with the inflections of a man emotionally invested in his position. This obviously raises his credibility factor. He’s also much taller.


Last year on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Snow defended America’s accomplishments in Iraq by pointing out that there were now women in the government, adding that, “you didn’t have girls in school when Saddam was there.”

Of course, this is incorrect. For decades, Iraq has been one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East regarding gender. Women go to school, they go to college, they become doctors and engineers, and it’s not even controversial. Saddam is evil enough that we don’t need to invent an oppressive gender policy to vilify him.

But that’s the thing: Snow wasn’t lying; he’s just stupid. Like any other soft-headed heartland cracker, he ignorantly assumes that, since Iraq is a nation of Muslims, they must be keeping their women illiterate. No matter that Snow has been talking about Iraq for years, as a Fox News anchor, a talk show host on Fox News Radio, subbing for Rush Limbaugh, and writing for the Washington Times, USA Today, and the Detroit News among other papers; he still doesn’t know the first damn thing about it. And that is just the kind of irredeemable moron that can convincingly put forth the Bush message.

Mission accomplished, sir.

Tags: Tony Snow, New York Times, politics, Porter Goss, New York Daily News

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I have an assignment for our readers. First, read this article. Take particular note of these paragraphs:
We have grown so accustomed to thinking of New York as a multicultural mecca, it seems inconceivable that for a century, the city was home to — and often the spawning grounds for — a vibrant, and often vicious, nativist tradition.


The horrors of Nazi crimes committed in the name of racial purity, coupled with lower rates of immigration and postwar prosperity, led Americans to look more kindly on the nation's multicultural heritage. Nowhere was this shift more apparent than in New York, where the nativist tradition was replaced with a widely shared commitment to tolerance and diversity.

The Statue of Liberty was transformed from a symbol of republican values into one proclaiming immigration as a quest for freedom. Ellis Island was recreated as a museum to celebrate immigration. The iconic immigrant neighborhood, the Lower East Side, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Now, there are two possibilities here. On the one hand, American historian Edward T. O'Donnell could really be so dumb as to think the Statue of Liberty was transformed into a symbol of immigation only after World War II. On the other, he could be a damn sloppy writer, and his editors at the Times some damn poor readers. Which do you think is more likely? ("The New Colossus" has been on the Statue of Liberty since 1903, in case you were wondering.)

Based on years of reading the Times, I'm going with B).

Tags: immigration, New York Times

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