Posted by Brad @ 4:29 pm on December 18th 2009

In Defense of the Laugh Track

Greg Beato provides forensics coaches with the underpinning for a fabulous informative speech.

Posted by Brad @ 4:21 pm on December 18th 2009

Dear Paul Family and All Present and Future Paul Campaigns

For the love of God and all that is holy, would you please, please, please stop surrounding yourself with these people. I understand that when you’re looking for young local (Southern) anti-government anarcho-activists, you’re picking from a pretty weird pool to begin with, but geez. FFS.

More from Ta-Nehisi Coates, who all things considered is being pretty damn reasonable about it.

Posted by Brad @ 10:51 am on December 18th 2009

Music Video of the Prelude to the 12 Days of Music Video of the Week of the Week

I posted about William Elliott Whitmore some months ago. He’s awesome.

In compiling my 12 Days of Music Video of the Week for this year, I had to update a few of his old YouTube links, and found this new performance, which is excellent. It’s too late now, but this woulda been a strong contender.

William Elliott Whitmore – The Old Devils


Posted by Brad @ 10:27 am on December 18th 2009

Cartoon of the Day

I don’t know why I find this funny, but I do. From a contributor to Donklephant.

Posted by Brad @ 6:35 pm on December 17th 2009

Short Form Blogging Today

One sentence maximum.

Posted by Brad @ 3:05 pm on December 17th 2009

BBC Asks “Should Homosexuals Face Execution?”

The Guardian finds this worth noting.

Posted by Brad @ 12:05 pm on December 17th 2009

Have a Very Mormon Hanukkah

Jonah Goldberg and Orrin Hatch collaborate on a Hanukkah song.

Posted by Brad @ 11:56 am on December 17th 2009

Sign of the Times?

A Salt Lake City Costco removes all tomatoes from its store in anticipation of a Sarah Palin book-signing.

Posted by Brad @ 11:10 am on December 17th 2009

Congratulations White America: You’re Still Not a Minority

New Census projections say that the Latinization of America has slowed somewhat. Projections on when white people would no longer represent a majority of the population have been set back 10 years, to 2050.

As a reminder, I still don’t care about immigration.

Posted by Adam @ 5:45 pm on December 16th 2009

It was facebook wot done it, guvnor

Silvio Berlusconi is still recovering after being lamped in the face with a statue of a church by some nutjob, after a political rally. This is rather more newsworthy than the Salahis gatecrash (other than inside the US, I guess) but will the real culprit step forward:

The attack against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is now expected to leave the hospital on Wednesday, may have a surprising result: stricter controls on freedom of speech on Facebook and Twitter in Italy.

Members of the prime minister’s governing coalition are blaming Sunday’s attack, which left Mr. Berlusconi with a broken nose and two fractured teeth, on social networking sites.

Fresh from toppling Iran’s unpleasant regime and electing Ron Paul to the Presidency, social networking sites — coincidentally the parts of the media least under Berlusconi’s ownership or control — are plotting a grab for power in Italy, wresting power from Berlusconi’s lecherous hands. Meanwhile, sexting teenagers and predator paedophiles are doubtless about to bring society down while our attention is directed elsewhere.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:30 pm on December 16th 2009

The chief lesson of the health care meltdown

Conor Friedersdorf gets it:

The Senate is, to borrow a famous description, a saucer where legislation is cooled — that is its design. Thus it is extremely difficult to comprehensively reform anything. But that hardly means that problems cannot be addressed by chipping away at them a bit at a time. It merely means that they cannot be addressed in a way that is emotionally satisfying to wonks who aspire to write a white paper that comprehensively solves a problem, or presidents who want a legacy like FDR’s, or Congressional reps who want to pass landmark legislation with their names on it, or a political press that loves covering things that are “historic” or “the biggest in a generation.”

Indeed. There remains a very substantial constituency that wants some form of health care reform, because the existing system, taken as a whole, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yet most polls show that a majority of Americans are satisfied with their own health care. So we are left with people who are 1. amenable to change in order to help those who are less satisfied, but 2. unwilling to rip the guts out of the existing system and risk losing that with which they themselves are satisfied.

This will come as no suprise to any ideological conservative. Social institutions–even imperfect ones–create a set of expectations that people adapt to, and live their lives under. The undermining of institutional arrangements is, therefore, painful in and of itself–and that pain expresses itself in unpredictable ways. This is the intrinsic peril of social engineering–and the larger the project, the greater the peril.

America is not impossible to govern. It is impossible to engineer. We need to recognize and respect the difference between the two. People can and will be influenced, but they will not be herded or remade. Neither will they easily tolerate having the rug pulled out from under them as regards the arrangements of their daily lives.

It is not necessary to disembowl the American health care system, or to pass gargantuan pseudo-comprehensible bills, in order to provide the uninsured with viable medical care. That is a goal worth pursuing. So let’s do so. But we need to beware of legislative hubris in the process. An effective doctor, first and foremost, does no harm.

Posted by Brad @ 11:05 am on December 16th 2009

Ben Bernake – Time’s Person of the Year

Wow. Not that it matters, but between this and being named the #1 Most Important Thinker in the World by Foreign Policy, I’m a little taken aback at the growing establishment consensus. Here I thought we weren’t even allowed to know what, exactly, Bernake has been doing (or has already done in regards to TARP). But whatever it is/was, I guess the cw is that it’s Good.

Posted by Brad @ 10:53 am on December 16th 2009

Quote of the Day

As apt as anything.

“Joe Lieberman is a divorced Dad refusing to pay for private school, in part, because it might please his ex-wife. ”

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Posted by Adam @ 8:58 pm on December 15th 2009

Makhaya Ntini to play 100th test

As he prepares to play in his 100th Test Cricket match, South Africa’s first black Test cricketer isn’t far off becoming one of its most successful Test bowlers (and looks set to become the one that has taken the most wickets fairly soon, although in large part that reflects having played more Test matches than many of his predecessors).

Ntini’s career statistics are pretty good; his average as a bowler of 28 runs per wicket is respectable (below 30 is world-class; below 25 is great) but his strike rate of 52.6 is very impressive because as a strike bowler his main job is to take wickets. Ntini will run in and bowl all day and has no apparent ego issues; not only that, but he came back from a rape conviction later overturned on appeal and became the great player he is today.

Ntini isn’t just a black South African cricketer; he came from a rural area and considerable poverty — a tale often heard earlier in his career is that as a cattleherder in Winter he’d walk behind the cows so that their manure warmed his feet — and his success has considerable significance within South Africa. Originally criticised as a quota player, he’s become a mainstay of the South African pace attack and whilst everyone with a soul will be hoping that England triumph in the Test series against South Africa that starts tomorrow, I hope he bowls well.

Posted by Adam @ 8:35 pm on December 15th 2009

Happy 1000th post to me

This appears to be my 1000th post. I was away for a while and have fallen way behind Brad on posts contributed — weird to think that I used to be ahead — but it’s been fun so far nevertheless. And Brad’s posts clearly count for less since he became a freedom-hating communist, anyhow.

Also, I do mean to produce more limey guides. Honest, guvnor, I would tell a porky*.

*This may or may not be a porky.

Posted by Adam @ 7:28 pm on December 15th 2009

Awesome 1980s tune of the day

Depeche Mode with “Everything Counts”. One of many excellent pre-Violator tracks they put out (as opposed to the many excellent tracks on and after Violator). Depeche Mode are, of course, from the world center of excellence and class, South Essex, England, from where, coincidentally, I also hail.

Posted by Adam @ 7:25 pm on December 15th 2009

Burris talking tough

Roland Burris — over whom the Senate Democrats presumably have little leverage, given that he says he’s not going to run again — is threatening to filibuster the Senate healthcare bill from the Left.

I’m not sure he really means it — I doubt if he wants “killed Obama’s healthcare reform” amongst the list of achievements inscribed on his mausoleum — but Howard Dean is making similar noises (major news outlet version here) and although he doesn’t get a vote on it, he does have a place in the hearts of Democratic Party activists, particularly those strongly supportive of healthcare reform.

Posted by Adam @ 7:04 pm on December 15th 2009

Correlation vs. causation, financial crisis edition

Ezra Klein considers a recent post by Bruce Bartlett about income inequalities. Bartlett, in reference to an article by Dalton Conley with which I have some sympathy, writes that:

Implicitly, liberals tend to believe the pie is fixed. But, generally speaking, it isn’t. A rising tide does tend to lift all boats even if those at the top get lifted a lot more. But Conley is also right to ridicule the view, common among many conservatives, that enriching the wealthy somehow automatically benefits the poor

Like Conley, I’m not as bothered by inequality as I am by mobility and opportunity, but Klein has this to say:

But I tend to think people get confused talking about whether inequality itself is bad. My view is that it’s a symptom of something bad. An unbalanced economy is not a healthy economy. Is it really a coincidence that inequality peaked in 1928 and 2007, directly prefiguring the financial crashes of 1929 and 2008?

My thought here would be that if, as Bartlett avers, a rising tide lifts all boats (if not equally) then all that Klein’s observation really means, unless he can show more than contemporaneity, is that financial crises follow periods of considerable growth. That may then be more of a statement of the dangers of considerable growth — that, for example, valuations outstrip values — more than a comment on the perils of inequality.

Posted by Adam @ 6:05 pm on December 15th 2009

CNN/Youtube climate debate

CNN, in cooperation with Youtube (although it doesn’t seem to actually be on youtube at present) hosted an online debate about climate change.

CNN’s Becky Anderson was joined by a distinguished panel of guests who answered questions posted on YouTube in the weeks leading up to the debate.

The panel included Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, U.S. journalist and author Thomas L. Friedman, Bjorn Lomborg, author of the “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” Hollywood actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

I know what you’re thinking. What the hell are they doing wasting Daryl Hannah’s valuable time and credibility putting her next to a minor celebrity figure like Bjorn Lomborg in a paltry attempt to appear fair and balanced? Watch in helpless admiration as Hannah nails the hard questions:

The CNN story tells us that “thousands”, yes thousands, of people watched.

The panel all believe that global warming is happening and that man is responsible for it. Here’s Lomborg talking (in little detail, to be honest) about why he thinks the remediation process may be jumping the rails:

The third clip on the CNN page starts with a somewhat excruciating rap performed by three young children before the panel provide their summaries and hopes/fears for the future. Friedman does the most talking here:

NB: I checked on wikipedia for those of us that were wondering why Yvo de Boer has a British accent. It appears he attended boarding schools in the UK, where he presumably played rugby and cricket and learnt the pleasures of a good spanking.

Posted by Adam @ 5:20 pm on December 15th 2009

Shatner-Palin, Palin-Shatner

From last week but I had missed it as I was away. Shatner reads more Palin, then Palin reads some Shatner.

Posted by Adam @ 2:17 pm on December 15th 2009

Boom bang-a-bang*

A British woman that is the subject of an ASBO (antisocial behaviour order) has fallen off the wagon. In this case, the ASBO was for having extremely loud sex, into which unacceptable ways she has fallen back.

Caroline and Steve Cartwright’s love-making was described as “murder” and “unnatural” at Newcastle Crown Court.

Neighbours, the local postman and a woman taking her child to school complained about the noise.

I am probably misremembering some shockers, but it seems to me that this could be one of the most humiliating legal actions in history.

*In the UK, this phrase is often used as a characterisation of europop of the sort that regularly features in the Eurovision Song Contest. I recount this so that you can fully appreciate the genius of my wordplay.

Posted by Adam @ 11:53 am on December 15th 2009

Click click and you’ll be nicked*

The Met Police have apparently felt the need to circulate the information to all police stations in that Constabulary that taking photographs in London is not grounds for being stopped and searched by the police. Just imagine what it would be like if London were a major tourist destination with many, many buildings and attractions of which vacationing visitors to take pictures.

Oh, wait.

From that Register story is linked this youtube video (they couldn’t verify it, so take it with a grain of salt, although it doesn’t look inauthentic to me):

After the standard complaint about the number of CCTVs in the UK — the vast majority of which are privately owned security cameras so claims about them don’t really excite me much — there’s some video illustrating the sort of irritations that can occur when filming near the police, followed by a serious off-camera escalation. To be fair, the initial policeman isn’t particularly scary but he’s certainly on the wrong side of the rules with regard to wanting ID, etc, from the person doing the filming, even if the person with the camera were trying or hoping to get this sort of reaction. What followed after, however, appears to have been entirely out of order and it arose directly from her refusal to answer questions that the copper didn’t have cause to ask in the first place.

*When I was a kid, the police ran a bunch of ads to remind people that wearing seatbelts was now mandatory and the tagline was “clunk-click or you’ll be nicked”. Which seemed to work, I guess, as I don’t think I’ve seen anyone driving without a seatbelt for years.

Posted by Brad @ 10:21 pm on December 14th 2009

All Living Things Have Shoulders

Anecdote of the day, from the superb essay “The Ticking is the Bomb” by Nick Flynn. It’s a neat trick—write an affecting piece which is one half memoir and one half rumination on Abu Gharib. The following is an excerpt that has little do to with either.

I worked in New York City public schools for a few years as an itinerant poet — Crown Heights, Harlem — lugging a satchel heavy with books on the train every morning. These were the years of unprecedented wealth in the United States, and if you wanted to find the worst public school in any city, you just had to look up the one named after Martin Luther King. Much of what I taught was directed toward finding out what the students saw every day — it was a way to honor their lives, which isn’t generally taught in public schools. The beginning exercises were very simple: Tell me one thing you saw on the way to school this morning, tell me one thing you saw last night when you got home. Describe something you see every day, describe something you only saw once and wondered about from then on. Tell me a dream, tell me a story someone told you, tell me something you’ve never told anyone else before. No one, in school at least, had ever asked them what their lives were like, no one had asked them to tell about their days. In this sense it felt like a radical act — I tried to imagine what might happen if each of them knew how important their lives were.

In the schools I’d visit, I’d sometimes pick up a discarded sheet of paper from the hallway floor, something a student had written in his notebook and then torn out. Sometimes I could tell that he had been given an assignment, and that he had tried to fulfill it, and by tearing it out it was clear that he felt he had somehow failed. Out of all the ephemera I’ve bent down to collect from black-and-green elementary-school linoleum floors over the years, one has stayed with me. Likely it was part of a research paper, likely for biology. It started with a general statement, which was, I imagine, to be followed by supporting facts. The sentence, neatly printed on the first line, was this: All living things have shoulders — after this there was nothing, not even a period, as if even as he was writing it, he realized something was wrong, that he would never be able to support what he was only beginning to say, that no facts would ever justify it. All living things have shoulders — the first word is pure energy, the sweeping All, followed by the heartbeat of living — who wouldn’t be filled with hope having found this beginning? Then the drift begins, into uncertainty — things — a small misstep, not so grave that it couldn’t be righted, but it won’t be easy. Now something has to be said, some conclusion. I can almost hear the teacher, I can almost see what she has written on the blackboard — “Go from the general to the specific” — and what could be more general than “All living things,” and what could be more specific than “shoulders”? He reads it over once and knows it can never be reconciled, and so it is banished from his notebook. All living things have shoulders — this one line, I have carried it with me since, I have tried to write a poem from it over and over, and failed over and over. I have now come to believe that it already is a poem. All living things have shoulders. Period. The end. A poem.

Posted by Adam @ 10:07 pm on December 14th 2009

Wanted: one scapegoat.

Jolting Joe Lieberman has apparently taken down the Medicare buy-in (the one he supported when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen). I do wonder, though, given the extent of the attention focussed on Lieberman (and, mysteriously, his wife) is partly because as the bill is probably going to be lacking at least some of the things the Democrat base want, there has to be someone to blame and who better than a guy who’s not in the party and is already about as popular with the party’s activists as a dose of syphilis hidden by a case of leprosy?

It’s not like he’s been the only roadblock (in Senate or in House), after all, but being able to blame one person is a lot better than spreading it around, particularly if, as Rojas suggested, they end up abandoning the thing for now (that won’t save them, of course, which is why I think they won’t give up unless they really can’t pass something because the leftier Democrats won’t vote for something Lieberman can vote for). It’s a good rule, though, establishing who’s to blame if things don’t go well, even before the result is in.

If the activists don’t get Lieberman in 2012, there’s going to be a wailing and a gnashing of teeth at DailyKos to rival the Bush re-election (which, as I was about equally disappointed myself, I wasn’t able to properly appreciate).

Posted by Adam @ 9:45 pm on December 14th 2009

Bees develop invasion routes

In a rare victory for the forces of All That Is Good, the silver-haired black Epeoloides pilosula — a species of bee, foul nectar-loving, freedom-hating socialist pigdog threats to all that is good — was thought extinct.

Alas. The bastards are back, courtesy of power line corridors in New England. These corridors, ostensibly created to connect human residences to electrical power, are revealed too late as a network of invasion paths for the bee menace, small stripy cylons* with a Plan.

We’re doing it to ourselves.

*Note how close to “pylons” that word is? Coincidence? I think not.

Posted by Adam @ 9:31 pm on December 14th 2009

‘Tis the season to be insulting the gingers

Redheads — called ‘gingers’ in the UK (with two hard ‘g’s if one wishes to be insulting*) — aren’t widely adored in the UK. Well, hot redheaded chicks are always in fashion, but ginger men, not so much.

Anyhow, what more could you want this festive time of year than a Christmas card making fun of gingers, particularly ginger children?

A Christmas card has been withdrawn from two Tesco stores in York after complaints that it makes fun of children with ginger hair.

The card shows a child with ginger hair sitting on the lap of Santa Claus, and the words: “Santa loves all kids. Even ginger ones.”

Of course, the card is based on an obvious fraud out of which we all grow eventually:

Santa doesn’t actually love ginger children. The best they can hope for is a lump of coal they can powder to cover their offensively-coloured hair.

*And, of course, insulting gingers is a moral obligation.

Posted by Brad @ 3:09 pm on December 14th 2009

Harkin-Lieberman Bill to End the Filibuster

So, in 1995, after Republicans were in the majority and Harkin (D-IA) in the minority, Tom Harkin introduced legislation to end the filibuster. The bill was co-sponsored by Joe Lieberman (Pathetic Worm-CT), but failed 76-19.

Tom Harkin is now thinking about raising it once again.

“Today, in the age of instant news and Internet and rapid travel — you can get from anywhere to here within a day or a few hours — the initial reasons for the filibuster kind of fall by the wayside, and now it’s got into an abusive situation,” Harkin said.

He and the constitutional scholars agree that the intention was never to hold up legislation entirely.

To keep the spirit of slowing down legislation, though, Harkin’s proposal back in 1995 would have kept the 60-vote rule for the first vote but lessening the number required in subsequent votes.

He said for instance if 60 senators could not agree to end debate, it would carry on for another week or so and then the number of votes required to end debate would drop by three. Harkin said it would carry on this way until it reached a simple majority of 51 votes.

“You could hold something up for maybe a month, but then, finally you’d come down to 51 votes and a majority would be able to pass,” Harkin said. “I may revive that. I pushed it very hard at one time and then things kind of got a little better.”

He should. The filibuster isn’t really a law per se; more like a loophole. I’m all for obstructionism in some senses of it, but the standardization of the filibuster, a trend that’s rapidly, rapidly accelerating now that the GOP is in the minority, fundamentally changes the function and efficacy of Congress. When you raise the limit on basic legislation from majority to 60 votes you are essentially kneecapping Congress’ ability to ever address anything of note and instead turn it into a cable TV VideoDome. Of course that suits some people just fine—blogmates included—but that’s sort of based on the premise that “I don’t mind it because I am on the other side of those that are hurt by it”, or “it’s my ideology that’s benefiting from this most”. But like the argument we made during the executive authority debates—namely, you think it’s great when it’s W, but how will you feel about it when it’s H. Clinton?—the same applies here. Fiscal conservatives and general big government bemoaners who truly believe there’s a reckoning coming somewhere down the line might well envision a scenario when the wind is to the back of efforts to reign in spending and drastically slash the size of government / reform entitlements to avoid bankruptcy, but unfortunately Senator Cindy Sheehan refuses to let debate continue on any proposal that would decrease coverage of safety nets for even one American citizen.

Anyway, I hope Harkin does revamp and re-propose the bill, not that it will likely pass.

Posted by Adam @ 2:48 pm on December 14th 2009

Great Cthulhu vs. Jane Hamsher

On Friday, Ben Smith reported on Firedoglake blogger Jane Hamsher’s attack on Joe Lieberman’s wife, which seemed to be at most about 50% about Hadassah Lieberman and at least 50%, mysteriously, about Joe Lieberman (an initial assertion that Hadassah Lieberman had been a lobbyist was retracted).

This has now made it to CNN, presumably because of a lull in Tiger Woods-related news. At least the original Joe Conason article that inspired Hamsher’s attack was making an instructive contrast between Lieberman’s position on healthcare reform* and his wife’s work promoting a cancer charity** (the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation) but unless Hamsher can further develop her case — and beyond replacing the retracted lobbyist accusations with insinuations about how she “worked for the insurance-pharmaceutical-lobbying complex” in her latest screed, I haven’t seen it — I am not sure why Hamsher is going this Guilt By Association route based on what she’s presented of the facts.

A Scorched Earth approach to the families of politicians is nothing new and won’t ever go away while it remains powerful, but it remains rather disagreeable; the only remedy in this case is for the people being implored to ignore Hamsher, but that means convincing the angry people that Hamsher’s attack is louder than its underlying facts merit. Does Hamsher think that the charity in question (Susan G Komen for the Cure) is going to be better off without Mrs. Lieberman in it, or that her presence genuinely taints the work she does for them — an attack apparently built, in any case, on innuendo and the simple fact of her marriage to someone opposed to Hamsher’s preferred position — or is something else going on?

Obviously, in all of those links, if there are comments, don’t read them. In the roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu — produced by Chaosium since the early 1980s and which remains excellent — seeing Great Cthulhu himself is a 1d10/1d100 SAN (sanity) loss and FireDogLake comments are, in accumulation, comparably dangerous. Beware.

*Either roadblock or limiter, depending on what gets put back to the floor.
**Earlier articles made more studied suggestions about Mrs. Lieberman’s work for Big Pharma, which has been something Conason’s been after for a while.

Posted by Adam @ 1:37 pm on December 13th 2009

Well done Hayley

A former colleague of mine, Hayley Yelling, came out of a year’s retirement (as a runner; I imagine she’s still a teacher) and won the European Cross-Country Championship, five years after winning her last championship.

Hayley was never making any significant money from running — she’d fit her training around her teaching — and that’s how the vast majority of sport is conducted. Which is worth remembering amidst stories that the Olympic gold medal stripped from one cheat won’t be given to the cheat that came in second.

Posted by Brad @ 3:27 pm on December 11th 2009

Não Queira

While I’ve been wringing my hands at the thought of Giuliani stepping back into the public sphere and taking a shot at the governorship or, worse, Gillibrand’s Senate seat, he has gone and landed himself a job that may take him out of the running. Namely, Rio de Janeiro has hired him as a long-term security adviser. Everybody has been asking how Rio plans to address the problem of their millions and millions of militarized poor. Answer? Rudy Giuliani.

Of course, it’s a little different than cracking down on squeegee-men in the Upper West Side, and The Broken Windows Theory applies a little different in shanty-town cities with A. no windows, and B. urban militias that command more firepower and force in small neighborhood territories than the entire police force of the city, but still, this’ll hopefully keep Rudy good and busy through 2016.

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