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Sun, Dec. 11th, 2005, 10:58 am
Oh Great Cthulu!

Oh Great Cthulhu!

I have been an extremely busy devotee this year.

Last week, I rammed a ship into you (sorry Cthulhu!) (-1000 points). In February, I legally changed my name to Randolph Carter (-40 points). In March, I visited my relatives in Innsmouth (100 points). Yesterday, I exposed [info]tenthday to soul-rending horrors (250 points). In January, I defiled the grave of that traitor, Lovecraft (90 points). In October, I recruited [info]oyukichan as a new cultist (30 points).

In short, I have been very bad (-570 points) and deserve to be sent to sleep with the Deep Ones.

Your humble and obedient servant,

Submit your own plea to Cthulhu!

Name some friends or leave them blank and let me look them up myself:

Thu, Mar. 3rd, 2005, 12:55 pm
I am asked about Kinky

A friend of mine writes for a newspaper in north Texas, the Wise County Messenger. She asked me for my thoughts about Kinky Friedman's announcement that he plans to run for Governor. My response follows.

I've been thinking about this for a few days now.

I've already called it for Kay Bailey Hutchison if she decides to run against Rick Perry on the GOP side, although I think it'll be a squeaker. Perry will browbeat Hutchison with abortion and Perry isn't well-liked to begin with, so that'll be a total bloodbath.

Former Rep Chris Bell has decided to run (or at least, that's what I hear), and he had a strong following before he was assassinated by redistricting and I don't think Turner will be a challenge in the Democratic primary.

Unless Martin Frost decides to run for the Democrats, which he won't, it'll be Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chris Bell, and Kinky Friedman. If Kinky could get signatures at any time and use those to get on the ballot, I think he'd have a shot at wrecking the field and, if the fight between Hutchison and Perry gets nasty enough, I think he may even have a chance at winning. Certainly, voting for gimmick candidates for Governor is in vogue these days.

However, I think Kinky's chances at actually winning will be destroyed by logistics. In order for him to get on the ballot, he has to collect signatures of people who DIDN'T vote in the primaries. If a voter votes in either the Republican or Democratic primary, their signature on the petition won't count. He'll need an excellent street team organization to disseminate his information and turn his run legitimate. If he doesn't have a strong organization already, his campaign will stall early and die.

The difficulty for an independant is that the really good foot soldiers in politics - the staff, the volunteers, the street teams, phone bankers, pollsters, etc - are strong party identifiers. He will be hard pressed to find veterans to add to his staff and volunteer corps as an independant.

Party identification also often means money, and I expect the Texas governors race to cost well into the millions.

So, to sum up - if he can build a good organization full of people who are not only good at what they do in politics but are also experienced, he has a good shot. If he doesn't already have most of his staff in line, he's toast.

Thu, Feb. 3rd, 2005, 01:02 am
Alberto Gonzales - We must do better

I have written here about Alberto Gonzales and the process of his confirmation process in the Senate, but I have not written about what has been said during that process. I have had to opportunity to review the things that were said on both sides, and I feel as if there were some alarming elements contained therein.

The opposition raised the spectre of Abu Ghraib and the role Gonzales played as White House Counsel in his judgement concerning the legality of torture and how the American military should view the Geneva Conventions within the context of our current operations in the War on Terror.

Those for Gonzales, roundly comprised of Senate Republicans, spoke about Gonzales' humble beginnings, his distinguished career as a legal professional, and his sober judgement of the legality of using torture against enemies of the United States.

I watched Senator John Cornyn, representing my beloved state of Texas, deliver the following defense of Alberto Gonzales' counsel to the White House:

According to Article 4 of the 1949 Geneva Convention, though, only lawful combatants are eligible for POW protections. The Red Cross's own guidelines state that to earn POW status, combatants must satisfy all four conditions of lawful combat: being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates, having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, carrying arms openly, and conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

Accordingly, Mr. Bush determined that the United States shall treat all detainees humanely, but that as a legal matter, neither al Qaeda nor the Taliban militia are legally entitled to the convention's protections. The former is not even a state, let alone a party to the Geneva Convention, while the latter does not comply with all four required conditions of lawful combat.

What disturbs me about this defense, regularly championed in the media on op-ed pages around our country and often espoused by Republican elected officials, is what it says about their shared perception of America's role in the world. It says that while we speak clearly of our commitment to freedom and regularly defend the individual human rights of people around the world, we are content to merely adhere to the letter of the law when exerting our considerable force.

If we, the United States of America, are to safeguard freedom and liberty around the world, we would do well to do better than we have to. We would do well to do more than what is strictly required. What message does this send to the rest of the world?

What our leaders and thinkers are saying when they invoke the strict legality of the Geneva Conventions is that they endorse torture to meet our needs if we can get away with it. They are saying that if an enemy does not meet a certain set of codified requirements, they do not deserve the protection of their basic human rights the Geneva Conventions afford. We are saying that they are not worthy of our mercy, only of our retribution.

It is not the accceptance and utilization of extreme measures in the face of imminent danger to American lives that should disturb us as citizens of this world, but rather the a policy of extreme measures writ large for application on the greater field of battle in the War in Iraq. The abject humliation and fear the Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib were exposed to had nothing to do with protecting American lives or national security - it was instead the total failure of human decency by those charged with not only protecting America but also defending the liberty of a people unable to claim it for themselves, and likewise charged with delivering the message and cause of freedom to the wider world. Charged, in fact, with deliverance itself.

This instance of action against what we as Americans believe in is what Senator Cornyn and his colleagues were defending. To say that Gonzales was charged not with deciding the morality of a policy but only the legality of that policy is indicative of a larger problem in a larger set of choices and administration. Alberto Gonzales answered to his client, and now George Bush wishes to make him the employee of the American people.

We can do better. We can engage in the selection of a slate of representative officials that take into consideration the larger consequences of the decisions they make. Alberto Gonzales has already enabled the United States government to come up short of our ideals and what we defend and instead to meet only our explicit legal obligations, as opposed to our greater humanitarian obligations to the world at large. He should not be allowed to do so again.

If we are to be stewards of liberty and messangers of freedom, if we are to end tyranny in the world at large, and if we are to be the shining beacon of humanity and democracy that we so emphatically seek to be, we not only can do better, we must do better.

Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005, 01:57 am
Denton Democrats LJ Community

For anyone that's interested, I've set up a Denton Democrats LJ Community. Right now we're discussing the Attornery General confirmation floor vote this week and Texas House Bill 16, which will make it legal for pharmacists to deny birth control to women with a prescription.

Come and join in at dentondems if you're so inclined.

Tue, Feb. 1st, 2005, 01:04 am
Texas HB 16 - restricting women's access to birth control

This was just recently brought to my attention - before the opening bell of the Texas Legislature, anti-choice lawmakers introduced a bill (HB 16) to restrict women's access to contraception at their local pharmacies. Representative Frank Corte wrote this bill which would givew pharmacists discretionary control over feminine reproductive health care. This bill is getting fast-tracked and has been referred to a committee before most other bills have even been heard.

HB 16 allows pharmacists, at their sole discretion, to override a physician's recommendation and refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception (EC). Even if a physician prescribed birth control pills to help prevent anemia, ovarian cancers, high cholesterol, or other medical reasons, a pharmacist could refuse to fill it.

More info and a link to write to your representative after the cut.
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Mon, Jan. 31st, 2005, 02:17 am
Mistakes were made

In a breaking story released predictably at an ungodly hour on a Sunday, the CPA was audited and the resulting report shows that around $9,000,000,000.00 is missing, misappropriated, or impossible to account for.
The official who led the authority, L. Paul Bremer III, submitted a blistering written reply to the findings, saying the report had "many misconceptions and inaccuracies" and lacked professional judgment.

Bremer said the report "assumes that Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented in the midst of a war."
So says L. Paul from now until the end of all things.  Being in the midst of a war does not, however, explain all of the report's findings, like those which follow the jump:
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Thu, Jan. 27th, 2005, 07:17 pm
News Roundup EX Alpha 2

Originally published at Damn The Man
Sorry, sorry. My bad. School started and I got a van. In the course of doing that, I missed some important things. Let me pontificate, in brief:

Bush's Inauguration Speech
Freedom: Used something like 29 times. Liberty: Used about half as often and almost always qualified, as in "your liberty", "their liberty", etc. I had planned to write a long essay about this brand of codification and what it means, but it is obvious I didn't get to it. The point of it was this: presidential speechwriters don't get to be presidential speechwriters by not knowing the meanings of the words they use.

Freedom is more often a broad, generalized idea, while liberty has specific implications as to government and how it interacts with the body politic. Liberty, specifically, is often cited as meaning "freedom from unjust governmental restriction, oppression, or control." It almost always has "freedom" as a descriptor or qualifier, freedom being far more broadly interpreted. This is something to consider, especially with another four years of misbegotten foreign policy stretching out in front of us.

From a taste perspective, I question the usage of MC Ashcroft's "Let The Eagle Soar" as a featured inauguration ditty.

Also, when Bush put the rest of the world's leader's on notice and pledged that our mission is to end tyranny world-wide, he meant it. Which brings me to my next point, about everyone's favorite angry militant Islamic state:

The European Press is shucking a lot more news and analysis about Iran than American media outlets. For instance, observe the differences between a CNN search and a BBCNews search for the term "Iran". If you look at the BBC search, you will see that many people are concerned about Iran for a myriad of reasons, but Americans remain largely unaware of how tense the situation is becoming because of everything else we talk about instead.

I have brought up Iran several times and people sometimes even say "Wow, you talk about Iran a bunch." I do, and there's good reason - not to whip an old turn of phrase, but Iran is a powder keg, and it is a powder keg INSIDE the powder keg that is the Middle East, and also, Iran is lit.

Iran the powder keg is lit, that is, rather than implying the whole country is drunk.

They aren't.

So, consider this story I saw just today on the wire - Israel is so totally ready to bomb Iran it is totally not funny. I mentioned this before ("Israel prepares to drop bombs, album" 10/22/04), and if you're wondering why I always refer to the foreign policy precept of the pre-emptive strike as the most terrible thing since mung, here's why: Israel is saying it will pre-emptively strike Iran, and Iran is saying it will pre-emptively strike everyone. The British Parliament demanded a straight, unqualified pledge out of Tony Blair today that the UK wouldn't get involved with any military action against Iran, and his answer? "I don't think the US is planning on attacking them."


Many times when I discuss this with young people, I hear their reply of "Yeah, but we could totally kick Iran's ass!" I remind them that
  • this is what they said about Iraq
  • there is absolutely no guarantee we could kick Iran's ass because we're not sure how much military strumph they have built up and secreted away, and
  • they wouldn't need much to put the hurt on us if we open a second front against Iran while we're still in Iraq

Bush is now saying that he will not rule out military action against Iran. Blair said the same thing before he left #10 Downing today, presumably on his way to tea or a rollicking good game of 'footie'. Iran and Israel are saying, without mincing words, that they are going to attack each other.

Its going to happen, and the recent upswing in activity as well as the new unforgiving, hard-line diplomatic language makes me feel like it will be a lot sooner than later. Iran isn't just saying they're going to attack Israel or American forces, they are emphatically stating they can repel any US attack.

Besides, mission accomplished after the elections on Sunday, right? We'll need something else to do!

Oh, apparently we have to root out terrorists with bazookas standing on rooftops shooting down passenger planes!

The very fact that this was news for two days represents a fundamental problem with Joe American's perception of terrorism - he has no idea what terrorism actually is or how it works. By its very nature, terrorism is a long-term engagement for the terrorist or terrorist organization. These guys aren't camped out in the woods waiting for a plane to fly over so they can run out, climb a tree, and shoot it down - operationally, terrorist organizations plan for YEARS before they do anything and all variables are considered. A terrorist organization that makes snap judgments and rash operational decisions is one that doesn't last long.

One of the reasons we're having such a hard time fighting the insurgency in Iraq is because of this very misconception - the insurgents are guerilla fighters and now their ranks have been swelled by the resultant influx of terrorist recruits. We began by attempting to fight them as a traditional force, with the philosophy that once we kill them all, they're gone. Remember "Smoke 'em out of their holes"?

The absolute and catastrophic short-sightedness of the DOD and the Pentagon in this respect is astonishing - people have actually been surprised that we're having a hard time in Iraq, or that insurgent numbers are increasing. Just yesterday Bush was grandstanding about the Iraq War, saying "I've always considered it to be a part of the War on Terror".

Well, now it is, genius, but it certainly wasn't before we got there.

So anyways, I highly doubt that al-Qaeda will put people in place in the United States to shoot down airliners. It doesn't fit with the M.O. that any amount of study about terrorist organizations will reveal al-Qaeda to have.

Iraqi Elections
You think its hard getting to YOUR polling place? I bet you don't have to duck mortar fire on your way to vote.

The Iraqi Elections are going to be a disaster, plain and simple. Most of the Sunni population feel as if the election is a joke, or a sham, or a fraud. Most of them aren't going to vote, so the parliamentary representation will be disproportionate. Many Americans are still blissfully unaware of the concept of election illegitimacy, even after 2000. If they pay attention at all, they are about to be introduced to it on a grand scale.

Also, you can bet that people are going to have problems voting because, rather than seeking to disenfranchise them like what happens here in America, in Iraq people are trying to kill you.

Finally, it won't help that, when people finally survive the fucking Gauntlet Terminator of Democracy and get in the booth, the ballot is hideously complicated.

Note that I'm not bring the intelligence of the average Iraqi into question. I think all people have tiny strokes when they go into voting booths, which makes the ballot at least five times as difficult to understand than it actually is. You've all seen the kind of problems we have here, and we weren't voting directly on several hundred candidates.

Tue, Dec. 7th, 2004, 02:21 pm
Blue State Bodyslamm

Everyone else will want to analyze the intelligence bill compromise, but I want to talk about this retarded economic prolapse instead. If you're too lazy to read, the story basically breaks down a tax code change being bandied about in the Bush camp to rescind the current practice of allowing taxpayers to deduct their state income taxes from their federal income taxes.

Basically, if you live in New York, Massachusetts, California, or any other state that has a state income tax, you can deduct the amount of state income tax you pay from your federal tax total. You aren't taxed on it twice. If you live in a state where there is no state income tax, like Texas, you would be completely unaffected.

One thing to remember is that many of the Blue states that have giant economies and state income taxes pay enormous subsidies to the less-productive, economically stunted Red states. These subsidies (which, if I were a neocon, I would probably call welfare) go towards things like farm funds, school lunch programs, state education fundings, jobs programs, and community health care. Basically, Blue states not only pay for their own social programs (which they have because they need) but they also pay a big chunk of the cost for Red state social programs (which they have because they need but don't like to admit).

So, despite my response to threats of Red states seceding where I claimed that I wish they would for no better reason than it would be fun to watch then try and make it as a nation without the economies of California and New York, I think this isn't in the best interest of Red states. Follow me here.

Bush obviously won't raise taxes despite all of the money he's spending, and if he puts this through, Joe Taxpayer is gonna go ballistic. You will see Blue state citizens stonewalling local and state governments on any and all tax increases, and you will see heavy petitions and serious consequences for those same state and local government representatives if they don't take heeed of public outcry and lower state taxes or eliminate them all together. So, an enormous source of income for Red states which they use to more or less keep themselves running will disappear. Bush should hire an economist.

You may be interested in reading this breaking news about a programmer. This programmer swears in an affadavit that a Republican political candidate hired him to hack out some code that would swing the voting machines a certain way.

Before we talk about it, I want you to go and read the comments. You'll see a fundamental problem with American democracy, perhaps a greater problem than the fact that most Americans know nothing about politics: many Americans who argue about politics know very little about politics.

Read the comments. We'll talk about this tomorrow. I want to see how the thread grows.

You'll also hear more from me about this in the coming weeks - the Back Door Draft is receiving an official court challenge. The American military has for some time actively implemented something it calls "Stop Loss". Stop Loss means that when a soldiers tour of duty is over, they don't get to go home like they are supposed to. They have to stay, and their tour is extended indefinitely. And that's the end of it.

Now 8 soldiers have brought their cases to trial. I think the fact the case has made it this far is amazing, considering that you have to have the military's permission to sue it. You probably won't see much about this in the American mainstream media - I haven't seen it at all - and you can be sure you won't see it on Fox. According to Bill O'Reilly, these guys are traitors and should shut up. But they would like to come home.

On a personal note, if the relocation doesn't work out, I'm going to be able to buy something nice for my wife for Christmas, like Uruguay. I don't know what to pull for. I have two finals tomorrow, so we'll talk more then.

Thu, Dec. 2nd, 2004, 02:04 pm
More Dangerous Toys

(Originally posted at Damn The Man)

Boston Winter Rental Kit
Price: $3,999
Description: Simulates the fun of trying to get out of your lease by finding new tenants for your apartment in Malden in winter.
Hazards: When you drop the price to avoid eating five month’s rent, becomes compatible with Stabbers! Orange Line Activity Set

Diagnosis Roulette
Price: $14.99
Description: Gaming fun for the whole family! Spin the wheel to find out what you have!
Hazards: You have health insurance, right?

I Can P(l)ay! – The Berklee Bachelor’s Degree Program
Price: $100,000
Description: Navigate your way through “higher education” at one of America’s “most prestigious music schools!” “Bachelor’s Degree Desktop Publishing” software included. Instruments, ability optional.
Hazards: Watch out for “Mean Ol’ Department of Education” and “Degree Plan Restructuring” cards. May make players unable to ever buy a house.

“Tricycle Man” Big Wheel
Price: $34.95
Description: Now your child can tool around the Back Bay on a big tricycle and honk to his / her heart’s content! Includes Jaunty Red Flag and Change Bucket!

Theo Epstein Internet Fantasy Baseball
Price: $9.95 / month
Description: Imagine that you just generally managed your way to breaking the Curse! The Sox Win It All! Now, manage your budget and player contracts on through the next year and try to bring it home again!
Hazards: If you fuck this up, you’re gonna get nailed to a tree.

Constitution Station
Price: $39.99
Tagline: A place to imagine the greatest of liberties.
Descriptions: Children can spend hours and hours dreaming up a land of free, or home of the brave and bringing it to life with included Independence Clay.
Hazards: May cause delusions of actual freedom for broads, queers, and minorities

The Great Cambridge Hipster Hunt
Price: $22.75
Description: Look at all these hipsters! They are sad, because all of those new, big, franchise businesses that opened in Harvard Square the last few years have closed down now! Give them something to really cry about! Includes Bat
Hazards: Sense of satisfaction from skullsmashing may become overwhelming.

ALCOR Ted Williams Deep Freeze
Tagline: Keeps your meat, Meat
Price: $111,000
Description: 9 foot long steel cylinder filled with liquid nitrogen keeps up to 300 lbs of meat frozen solid.
Hazards: Some settling with other contents may occur. Undead body of Ted Williams may animate, drink all the booze

Stabbers! – The Orange Line Activity Set
Price: $19.99
Description: Comes with Sweat Pants, Section 8 Certificate, Shiv
Hazards: Children may act like everyone else on the Orange Line.

Thu, Dec. 2nd, 2004, 02:02 pm

I'm walking to school after getting off the Orange Line today, a train which prompted me to invent this toy for the paper's Holiday Dangerous Toys List:

Stabbers! – The Orange Line Activity Set
Price: $19.99
Tagline: “Any More Carnage and They’ll Have to Rename it the Red Line!”
Description: Comes with plastic train, sweat pants, shiv
Hazards: May cause children to act like everyone else on the Orange Line

and I see the guy handing out the Metros. I take one because he's nice, even though I've already read today's AP dispatch on the train. I grab a Dig outside the station and walk up Mass Ave. I see a brand new BMW parked on the street, and it has a book on the dash board.

The title is: "I wish I felt good some of the time: learning to cope"

I'm not going to give you the usual litany of reasons why we should eat the rich, especially since I'm planning on being rich now. But some things I've read about in the last few days make this and America's normal obsession with unimportant bullshit even more silly than usual. Its easy to say but I can't tell you how many people I know that are healthy, shod, clothed, sheltered, and HAVE TIVO, for God's sake, and are still unhappy.

Well, via Tiny Revolution, I have news for them - Jews are now writing numbers on Palestinians!

When they started building the wall, the giant pink elephant in the Judeo living room was the camp, of course: during the Holocaust, Jews were held within walls, and wanted out. We all know that, so everyone sort of wondered what the hell was going on when they started walling themselves in. Now they've taken it a step further, and started writing ID numbers on Palestinians, either without a touch of irony or bathed in it.

So then, it should come as no surprise that, in a world where Iraq's liberators shut off the water and power to a city with thousands of children in it, that a West Virginia man who won $315,000,000 got drunk and crashed his truk into a pylon. He had a pistol and $117,000 in cash on him. In January, the same guy assaulted the manager of a bar.

In this same world, Jason Gambini juices up for the long ball at the same time that the world's leading supplier of cheap AIDS drugs is going to be legally forced to stop supplying them.

On a final note, I'd like both congratulate and console Sen. Ben Nelson (D - Nebraska) on fending off a potential party disaster by apparently not taking the job Karl Rove offered him a few weeks ago - Secretary of Agriculture. Nebraska's Reuplican Governor Mike Johanns would have been choosing his replacement had Nelson gone up to The Show, tipping the GOP majority in the Senate even farther: instead, Johanns will be taking the Cabinet job himself. I sure hope the Democratic party is going to throw pantloads of money and support at Nelson for the mid-terms, because he's going to need it: Bush carried Nebraska by 33 points.

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