Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Zen Of Midgets

G-8 Japan Rocks
Bush Toyako1 

The Japan G-8 summit photos offer a stunningly incongruous portrait of politics and nature.

One way to read the group shot involves the miniscule leadership displayed by world leaders just at the point the environment and climate change has moved to the forefront of the world agenda.  To appreciate the larger tension in the photo, also consider that the leaders are actually sandwiched between the rock garden and Toyaka's massive Windsor hotel, this resort emblematic of the highest levels of consumption and wealth.  (And, also notice how all of the male leaders except one thought to wear black this day.)

Similar to the first image, it is ironic to the point of blasphemy to see "W" -- someone so profoundly out of touch and detached from any true rhythm -- in such a blissfully meditative setting.

Courage Ain't Nothin' But A Six Figure Book Deal

by Paul Constant

The liberal Town Hall crowd applauded McClellan because he wrote a book titled What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. It cautiously alleges the obvious: The United States government lied to its citizenry about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Some people are praising McClellan for being courageous. He isn't. And What Happened is not a good book. It's as bland, inoffensive, and generic as a political tell-all can be, and it contains exactly no insights or revelations. McClellan merely sold his story to the highest bidder because he is an opportunist and a fink.

In fact, McClellan is the worst kind of amoral snake-oil salesman, twisting with the shifting winds of public perception. If Bush's approval rating was above 50 percent, McClellan would still slither onto talk shows to praise the wisdom of the president's plan in the Middle East. He's the kind of idiot who actually says the word "irregardless" without any sense of irony.

But he does have the tireless, leg-humping energy of a used-car salesman, and I have never seen an author so shamelessly shill his work at every opportunity from the stage; practically every sentence referred back to his book, as though McClellan took a course on marketing before his appearance. He's obviously a spineless hack with a heart full of hate, but the Town Hall audience swallowed his bullshit so eagerly, their tickets should've come with bibs.

Media moguls meet at Sun Valley amid industry changes

By Sue Zeidler

SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - The summer U.S. box office is sizzling due to hits like "Hancock" but Hollywood leaders focused on the chilling effects of industry change brought on by labor strife, fragmentation and new technology at the annual retreat of moguls this week.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp, arrives at the 26th annual Allen  and  Co conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 8, 2008. The deteriorating U.S. economy and slumping stock prices will frame discussions among top media and technology executives at the conference. (Rick Wilking/Reuters) 

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp.

"The whole industry is in transition," said Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Walt Disney Co's Disney Media Networks and President of Disney-ABC Television, as she left the morning session of the annual Allen & Co media confab in Sun Valley.

"I'd say that every day for the next five years, you have to track consumers and be adaptable," she said.

While the U.S. box office is on pace to top last year's record summer revenues of over $4 billion, industry watchers note the overall pie is being divided differently than a year ago as big studios such as Viacom Inc's Paramount have sought to cut risks but also profits by serving only as distributors of big films like "Iron Man" and "Kung Fu Panda."

Big studios are also facing oversupply as new, small players like Overture Films, Summit Entertainment, Weinstein Co and a repositioned Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc have added films to the pipeline at a time of stagnating attendance and slowing DVD sales and an increasingly fragmented audience to the Web.

One speaker during the morning session of the conference predicted that DVDs were going the way of CDs, which have seen sales collapse with a wide-scale generational shift to digital downloading that the music industry has struggled to monetize.;_ylt=AiVQTlFGY2bm2JbyidqzlP5xFb8C

The Case Of The Invisible American War Machine


Amara Home Raids Amara Housetohouse

Amara-Staircase Amara Bedroom

Iraqi Humvees

Last week, I thought there was something fishy about the photos from Amara, and now a new TIME article bears it out.

First, some background: In nearly every account of the push two weeks ago to clear out the Mahdi army from the southern city of Amara, the operation was described as an initiative of "Iraqi forces backed by US troops."  Yet, in combing through the newswire images of the Amara action, I found a striking absence of involvement on the part of the Yanks.

...With one exception -- involving the first photo above, as part of that standard portrait of the "captured enemy weapons haul."

The fact the remote presence of an American GI commands first notice in the Getty caption seems almost too telling to ignore.  It reads:

A US soldier stands in the background (L) as Iraqi police display a captured weapon in the southern city of Amara in Maysan province, 365 kilometers south of Baghdad, on June 18, 2008. Dozens of Shiite militiamen surrendered to Iraqi forces Today, hours before the expiry of a four-day deadline set by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for them to lay down their arms ahead of a new crackdown on militia in the south.

And the TIME article?

Well, stashed near the end of Monday's otherwise routine story about the Amara clean out ("Baghdad's Grasp on Iraq's South") was this passage on the American role, including a little nugget about the campaign's photo policy:

The offensive has been tough, Amara's commanders say, but they're not going it alone. Shortly after the morning's mission, four American soldiers visited al-Moussawi's station to inquire about progress made in dismantling an office used by the Sadrists. One of the soldiers, who said they were under orders to prohibit the press from photographing them, put the number of American troops brought into the area since last month at around 1,000. They are also building a new forward operating base in the area.

Indeed, despite a low profile, Harbia says the support provided by the U.S. forces has been a key component in Amara's success.

That General Petraeus, he's a PR genius.

Atheist soldier sues Army for 'unconstitutional' discrimination'

By Randi Kaye
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (CNN) -- Army Spc. Jeremy Hall was raised Baptist.
Jeremy Hall 

Like many Christians, he said grace before dinner and read the Bible before bed. Four years ago when he was deployed to Iraq, he packed his Bible so he would feel closer to God.

He served two tours of duty in Iraq and has a near perfect record. But somewhere between the tours, something changed. Hall, now 23, said he no longer believes in God, fate, luck or anything supernatural.

Hall said he met some atheists who suggested he read the Bible again. After doing so, he said he had so many unanswered questions that he decided to become an atheist.

His sudden lack of faith, he said, cost him his military career and put his life at risk. Hall said his life was threatened by other troops and the military assigned a full-time bodyguard to protect him out of fear for his safety. Video Watch why Hall says his lack of faith almost got him killed »

In March, Hall filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among others. In the suit, Hall claims his rights to religious freedom under the First Amendment were violated and suggests that the United States military has become a Christian organization.

GOP club accused of racism for Obama web banner

By Cynthia Burton

The Web master, Ed Kuck, a recently elected Republican County committeeman, said he had seen the slogan on an Internet site and copied it onto the club's Web page about a month ago as "a joke."

He removed it yesterday from the site,, after a community person told him it would offend people, he said.

"I found out it was inappropriate, and I took it down," Kuck said, adding: "I just want to apologize to anybody who was offended, because that wasn't our intention at all."

Pemberton Councilwoman Diane Stinney said a Republican friend had called to tell her about the ad, saying: "I just want you to know I'm very disappointed with our Republican page."

Stinney then reported it to fellow Democrats.

She said the slogan had offended her, adding that Pemberton is a very diverse community.

"We've come a very long way, and we people of different colors still have a lot of growing up to do, but there are other issues that the two [presidential] candidates have to and should be addressing," she said.

Rick Perr, chairman of the Burlington County Democratic Committee, said that, although the phrase was taken down, he preserved a copy of it.

Comparing U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee for president, "to O.J. Simpson, an accused murderer who was found civilly liable for his ex-wife's death, is reprehensible," Perr said in a statement. "Moreover, it is a veiled attempt at inserting race into the political arena, for which the Republicans should be ashamed."

State employee won't lower flags for Helms

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A longtime North Carolina state employee has chosen to retire instead of lowering flags to honor former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms.

U.S. and state flags have been flying at half-staff since Gov. Mike Easley ordered them lowered after Helms died Friday.

L.F. Eason III told his staff at the state Standards Laboratory to ignore the directive. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that Eason sent workers an e-mail saying he didn't think it was appropriate to lower the flags because of Helms' "doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice."

Eason is calling it quits after 29 years with the Department of Agriculture after superiors told the 51-year-old to lower the flags or retire immediately.

Noah's Blog

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6
So I was loading up the last of the animals last week when I walk past my neighbor Roger, the Molech-worshipper. He looks up and says "Hey, looks like rain."

True story.

Day 7
Now wondering if it was wrong to have borrowed Roger's hedge clippers.

Day 15
It's been the same every day for the last two weeks, but then last night, our mama elephant gave birth. I'll put up some pics soon.

Day 16
Baby Elephant
Just look at this little guy. We need to name him something. Anybody have an idea?

Day 18
Note to self: next time I'm on a long cruise and I want to play badminton and I only have one birdie, play below deck. I'm so stupid.

Day 20
I hesitate to write this down, but here goes. . . .

I was working late last night when I felt something bite the back of my neck. Without thinking, I slapped it. Long story short, the new world might have to do without the zhingi-zhingi fly.

Day 25
New Year's Day. A few resolutions for this year:

- Lose weight (let's face it, I'm not 300 years old anymore)

- Work out more

- Read the entire Bible (there's only four chapters in the whole thing, you think I would have done this one already)

-After we land, once a week: date night with the missus.

Cow farts collected in plastic tank for global warming study 

    By Rupert Neate

    A cow stands in her pen at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology in Castelar, near Buenos Aires. Argentine scientists are taking a novel approach to studying global warming, strapping plastic tanks to the backs of cows to collect methane
    Argentine scientists are strapping plastic tanks to the backs of cows

    Experts said the slow digestive system of cows makes them a key producer of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that gets far less public attention than carbon dioxide.

    In a bid to understand the impact of the wind produced by cows on global warming, scientists collected gas from their stomachs in plastic tanks attached to their backs.

    The Argentine researchers discovered methane from cows accounts for more than 30 per cent of the country's total greenhouse emissions.

    A worthless gust of hot air

    Taking part in a traditional Japanese Tanabata festival in Hokkaido this week, George Bush tied a piece of parchment to a bamboo tree. On the parchment, the President of the United States outlined his dearest wishes for the future of the planet. And there is evidence of yet more wishful thinking in the G8's communiqué on climate change from Hokkaido.

    The leaders of the world's eight largest economies committed themselves to "avoiding the most serious consequences of climate change". They also set themselves a goal of halving global emissions by the middle of the century. It is hard to fault the target. But how is it going to be achieved?

    There is no detail in the communiqué; no medium-term targets; no commitment to agreeing a legally binding successor to the Kyoto protocol at Copenhagen next year. There is not even agreement on the date from which CO2 cuts will be measured. The European Union is measuring its own targets from 1990 levels, but the Japanese Prime Minister spoke this week about using the considerably higher 2000 level as a benchmark. By far the biggest problem, though, is the lack of detail on the method. These leaders can set all the long-term goals they like, but without realistic means of achieving them, any document they produce will simply be a gust of hot air.

    Should Bush be tried for war crimes?

    This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    by caaron

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

    And when it comes to broadband, Tokyo is a long way from Little Rock.

    The Japanese enjoy broadband speeds that are up to 30 times faster than what's available here at a far lower cost. This faster, cheaper, universal broadband access – according to an excellent article in today's Washington Post – "is pushing open doors to Internet innovation that are likely to remain closed for years to come in much of the United States."

    To the Japanese, our "high-speed" Internet service doesn't look much different from dial-up:

    The speed advantage allows the Japanese to watch broadcast-quality, full-screen television over the Internet, an experience that mocks the grainy, wallet-size images Americans endure.

    Ultra-high-speed applications are being rolled out for low-cost, high-definition teleconferencing, for telemedicine — which allows urban doctors to diagnose diseases from a distance — and for advanced telecommuting to help Japan meet its goal of doubling the number of people who work from home by 2010.

    Open Secrets

    What's the secret of Japan's success? Open access.

    Less than a decade ago, DSL service in Japan was slower and pricier than in the United States. So the Japanese government mandated open access policies that forced the telephone monopoly to share its wires at wholesale rates with new competitors. The result: a broadband explosion.

    The Mind and the Obama Magic


    Barack Obama should not move, or even appear to be moving, toward right-wing views on issues -- even with nuanced escape clauses. Arianna Huffington, Paul Krugman, and the NY Times Editorial Page all agree, for various reasons. I agree as well, for many of the same reasons, as well as important reasons that go beyond even excellent political commentary. My reasons have to do with results in the cognitive and brain sciences, as discussed in my recent book, The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st Century Politics with an 18th Century Brain.

    But before I get into the details, it is important to get a sense of why Obama might be "moving to the Right." There are at least three possibilities. The first is for political expediency. The second is to reassure voters that he is a responsible leader, not a crazy radical. The third is that he thinks that nuanced positions don't have the effect of the moving to the right.

    Let's start with the first possibility -- expediency, the one assumed by most observers.

    The Political Expediency Argument

    The usual political wisdom is (1) voters vote on the basis of positions on issues, (2) there is a left-to-right spectrum of voters defined by positions on issues, (3) most voters are in the "center." Polls are constructed to appear consistent with this tri-partite hypothesis. The Dick Morris strategy, based on this hypothesis, says: if a Democrat moves the Right, he will get more votes because he will "take away" the other side's issues. If Obama and his advisors believe this, then the more they more to the Right, the bigger their win should be. But all three hypotheses are false, and so is the conclusion based on it.

    It's Time to Vote: Choose Your Science Idol!


    This spring, to draw humorous attention to the serious issue of political interference in science, we offered Union of Concerned Scientists supporters the chance to enter Science Idol: the Scientific Integrity Editorial Cartoon Contest.

    Please vote on the right for your favorite of the 12 finalists. You'll be entered to win some great prizes!

    Click thumbnail for full size version.






















    Voting will close on Friday, August 8, 2008, at 11:59 p.m. EST.


    Quote of the day

    "Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence."

    - Robert Anton Wilson -

    Ignored, Scorned, Belittled and ... Right

    Smirking Chimp

    Have you forgotten what real leadership and real straight talk look and sound like? No wonder.

    Well here's a refreshing refresher course. Back in 1977 the much maligned, President Jimmy Carter, showed genuine leadership and political courage, two traits almost entirely missing from today's "leaders." Following the Arab oil boycott of 1973, Carter took a cold, hard look at world oil supplies and declared them a national security threat just waiting to happen. He laid out a vision of what must be done, and done quickly to avoid just such a threat to America's robust, but excessive, lifestyle. Carter, as was his wonkish wont, laid out both his vision and his solutions in painstaking detail in a prime-time television address.

    It was filled with hard truths and bitter pills, neither of which pampered Americans had (and still have) no use for and conservatives scorn as "defeatism" and "surrender." On a ship of fools it's always "full speed ahead -- and stop with the iceberg business! Yahooooooo."

    When I came across this speech yesterday I intended to only quote from it. That was until I began reading it. I simply could not stop. It could have been written yesterday.

    Carter was prophetic in nearly every detail. And, like most prophets, his warnings were ignored -- ignored by the American people because it called on them to trim their consumption. And it was ignored by members of Congress because it required them to do something that, while the rigth thing to do, would have been unpopular. Genuine profiles in cowardice.

    If you're one of those "damn the facts, full speed ahead" conservatives who still thinks Carter was wrong then and anyone making similar noises is wrong today, read this and tell me why it's so. But, before you start ragging on me about how all this could have been averted if only we'd drilled more in Alaska and offshore, click the link at the end of Carter's speech and read the pdf file linked on that page. I know conservatives like to live in fact-free, care-free, ignorance-is-bliss environment, but that reports contains facts you cannot ignore and still be right.

    Mount Shasta glaciers growing, despite warming

    by Samantha Young

    MOUNT SHASTA — Global warming is shrinking glaciers all over the world, but the seven tongues of ice creeping down Mount Shasta's flanks are a rare exception: They are the only long-established glaciers in the lower 48 states that are growing.

    Reaching more than 14,000 feet above sea level, Mount Shasta is one of the state's tallest peaks, dominating the landscape of high plains and conifer forests in far Northern California. Nearby Indian tribes referred to its glaciers as the footsteps made by the creator when he descended to Earth. Hikers flock to Shasta every summer to scale them.

    With glaciers retreating in the Sierra Nevada, the Rocky Mountains and elsewhere in the Cascades, those on Mount Shasta — a volcanic peak at the southern end of the Cascade range — are actually benefiting from changing weather patterns over the Pacific Ocean.


    Obsidian Wings

    by hilzoy

    Jonah Goldberg strikes again:

    "There's a weird irony at work when Sen. Barack Obama, the black presidential candidate who will allegedly scrub the stain of racism from the nation, vows to run afoul of the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery.

    For those who don't remember, the 13th Amendment says: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime ... shall exist within the United States."

    I guess in Obama's mind it must be a crime to be born or to go to college.

    In his speech on national service Wednesday at the University of Colorado, Obama promised that as president he would "set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year."

    He would see that these goals are met by, among other things, attaching strings to federal education dollars. If you don't make the kids report for duty, he's essentially telling schools and college kids, you'll lose money you can't afford to lose. In short, he'll make service compulsory by merely compelling schools to make it compulsory."

    Maybe in the schools Jonah Goldberg attended, they didn't require things like homework, or attendance, or reading, or math. It would explain a lot. (The idea that he wasn't asked to work his way through all those analogies in preparation for the SATs alone would probably explain most of the "arguments" in Liberal Fascism.)

    For the rest of us, though, there have always been lots of compulsory things in schools. If this counts as slavery, children have been enslaved since compulsory schooling began.

    I can't wait for Jonah Goldberg's sudden discovery that some children are told -- told!! -- to clean their rooms.

    UPDATE: Obama's actual plan is here.

    MAD AS HELL: Should McCain Sport a Scarlet Letter?

    Cheri DelBrocco
    Cheri DelBrocco

    Republicans are campaigning on their own Audacity of Hope. They are hoping no one will have the audacity to bring up the unmentionable: John McCain is The Adulterer and Cindy McCain is The Other Woman. They are hopeful that voters are so consumed by their struggles of filling up gas tanks and putting untainted food on the table, that the memory of that atrocious summer of self-righteousness from ten years ago has long been forgotten. But what goes around comes around.

    It was the Summer of '98, that the Gladiators of Virtue were riding high. They were strutting their stuff with Ken Starr and his seven million dollar witch-hunt. They had Bill Clinton just where they wanted him. He had done the hot and nasty with a young intern, and was lying about it, so by God, he was going to pay for his sins. Many of those sultans of sanctimony, who are now surrogates and staff for the McCain campaign, have strangely become as quiet as little church mice when it comes to discussing the fact that John McCain has always had a reputation for being as horny as a three-balled tomcat. Loving the sinner, but hating the sin, the Moralizing Crusaders in the Republican party have suddenly laid down their swords.

    It is downright hilarious to hear Senator Lindsey Graham wax rhapsodic about the personal integrity of the senator from Arizona. His pronouncements of McCain's principled, virtuous wisdom are as convoluted as a stand-up routine on The Comedy Channel. This is the same Lindsey Graham who rose to prominence in 1998 as a manager in the House prosecution and impeachment trial. Never hesitating to intone with umbrage the moral malfeasance of Bill Clinton, Graham possessed high-toned puffery that was legendary. Forced to discuss every subject from thongs to fellatio in the House impeachment hearings, poor Lindsey shouldered the burden of more righteous indignation than any one man should ever have to bear. Ten years hence, however, he stands reverentially beside his buddy McCain, as if fooling around and family abandonment have simply ceased to be biggies.

    After the infamous Senate floor blistering of the President for his sexual affairs, one might conclude that Senator Joe Lieberman, a Republican by any other name, would be much too ashamed ever to support a candidate whose moral compass had directed him to cheat on his wife and leave his family. Yet, Lieberman, seemingly ever-present on the campaign trail, advises McCain and lavishes him with such obsequious praise that the affair between John and Cindy seems considered to be nothing more than a dusty memory that is gone with the wind.

    Imagine, for one moment, that it had been Barack Obama instead of John McCain who had cheated on his wife by having multiple affairs. Suppose it was Barack Obama who had married his mistress, a younger heiress of a billion dollar beer empire only a month after the ink was dry on the divorce papers. Pretend it was Michelle Obama instead of Cindy McCain who had been so addicted to painkillers that she stole money from her own charity and had been investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    The vilifications, smears, and berating from conservatives would be louder than a 747 takeoff.

    'Goodnight Bush' Closes Chapter On Bush Years

    Listen Now [5 min 59 sec]
    Goodnight Bush, by Gan Golan and Erich Origen. Little, Brown and Co.
    The cover of 'Goodnight Bush.' 
    President Bush tucked in for bed.
    Goodnight Dick Cheney 
    Goodnight jets flying over the plume. 
    Goodnight Constitution 

    All Things Considered, July 8, 2008 · Open Goodnight Bush: An Unauthorized Parody, and you might recognize the cozy green room with striped curtains, a fire glowing in the fireplace, a full moon outside in the starry sky.

    But look closer and you'll see that the painting over the fireplace shows an oil derrick with stealth bombers flying around it. In the fireplace, there's a ballot box burning that says, "Florida 2000." And snaking around the side of the fireplace is a tiny microphone.

    Goodnight Bush riffs off Margaret Wise Brown's classic children's book Goodnight Moon to satirize the Bush administration, co-authors Erich Origen and Gan Golan tell Melissa Block.

    In place of the bunny rabbit character in the children's book, a childlike George Bush is tucked safely in bed "surrounded by toys that represent different facets of the Bush administration's legacy," Golan says. A tiny Osama bin Laden peeks out from many of the pages, and a shotgun-toting Dick Cheney whispers, "Hush."

    Those who hold the original dear to their hearts might say Goodnight Bush amounts to sacrilege, that Origen and Golan have turned something beloved into something really dark. One illustration, for example, shows a plane knocking over two towers made of building blocks, and it says "Goodnight towers," a reference to the World Trade Center towers destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.

    "The book obviously isn't for children," Origen says. "At the same time, it lets us look at the past eight years through the eyes of a child. And it lets us see how far Bush's reality is from the reality anyone would want for their children."

    The authors say the book is illustrated with "naked simplicity" to show respect and sensitivity.

    "I think people really understand there's a real poignancy to many of those images, and that's the way it was intended," Golan says, "because the last eight years have been full of all these tragic incidents and it's really that combination of kind of flippant absurdity that we've sometimes seen from the president, and that's in the book, but at the same time a real seriousness about what it is that we've lost."