October 7, 2013

No way Out

So let me get this straight.

The endgames for this government shutdown and debt ceiling fight are:

1. Speaker Boehner passes a "clean CR" and debt ceiling hike. The result of this is that he loses his job, more than likely.

2. President Obama caves in and negotiates to get a CR and a debt ceiling hike. This has the small effect of causing pain, but it legitimizes political extortion as a tool. So, the next debt ceiling or budget fight, the Tea Party would be fools not to ask for *more*.

3. The country goes into default and the U.S. economy crashes hard until scenario one or two take place.

We're fucked.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:06 PM

June 28, 2013

Immigration (political rant)

Sometimes my politics gets the better of me. If this offends you, ignore this post and wait for the next pretty picture or genre thing. There is a genre reference in this rant, though.

Okay, still here? Immigration.

The Immigration debate, especially by the Right, is absolute nonsense. The phrase I hear as the reason why we can't have immigration reform is the catchphrase "Secure the Border". Has anyone asked the proponents of this just exactly what they mean by this? Are they asking for a Festung America? Do they have a *clue* how long the US-Mexico border is? (And don't get me started on the US-Canada border: But let's face it, most of these ilk don't care about that border. It's to stop the Great Brown Hordes from Mexico and Central America.

Okay, so even if you wanted to spend the billions to make The Great American Wall first (physical or virtual), then what? What do you then do with the estimated 12 million people here without proper legal residency?

A. The Kratman Option: You deport them all. This would be massively difficult, massively expensive, and massively stupid. (In one of Tom Kratman's novels, it apparently does go off in the backstory to the novel). And the effort to do so would be extremely harmful to America as a country--the militarization inside our borders would be something that I think would be hard to undo once done. Because, really, it would take the military to do it. ICE is not equipped to do so. Do you want troops deployed in your town looking for undocumented immigrants? Do you think that they won't have to stay around to make sure The Great Brown Hordes stay out? Do you want the third Amendment to the Constitution to be the one shredded next?

B. The Underclass Option: You let people stay here with wishy washy words that you aren't going to deport them, but you never provide a way for them to become citizens. You create a permanent underclass of non-citizens in the country, not able to vote, relegated to the lowest jobs, a permanent untermenschen. Oh, perhaps some will rise above their station, but for the most part, they stay in the shadows. (They might vote against the party that relegated them to this after all if you gave them the vote.). Last I checked, that wasn't very American, either.

The only option is C. The Reagan Option. You have to provide a rational and reasonable path to legal status and citizenship to those 12 million people here if you want to be true to this country and its founding principles and beliefs. Yes, "Amnesty" Anything else changes America in ways that I think are undesirable.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:44 AM

November 21, 2011

Picture of the Day: Frozen shore of Lake Superior

Frozen Lake Superior by Jvstin
Frozen Lake Superior, a photo by Jvstin on Flickr.

Today's picture is not a technical masterpiece, but rather its the location that is interesting to me.

This is the North shore of Lake Superior a few years ago. As you might be able to tell from the barrier and other clues, those people you see in the shot are standing on the frozen surface of the lake itself. The entire lake doesn't freeze, but in cold winters, it freezes out a fair distance from shore.

Yes, Minnesotans are crazy in winter.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:21 AM

October 28, 2011

A modest proposal: The Pyramid Tax plan

A modest proposal: The Pyramid Tax Plan

Greetings, friends.

Studying and listening to the Republicans, both those running for the highest office in the land, and those already holding Congressional offices, tells me that there are two major problems, tax wise, in America today:

1. The poor don't pay enough taxes. Those lucky duckies don't pay any tax. How is it fair that 53 percent of Americans pay the taxes for the lazy and shiftless 47 percent?

2. Taxing the rich will kill jobs. They will move away, won't be job creators, and will Go Galt. We need to get rid of the death tax, too, because heirs of millionaires and billionaires shouldn't have to pay tax just because their parent died. Its absolutely fair that gifts are taxed, that's fair and balanced. But inheritance? Why should a windfall such as an inheritance be taxed?

So, better than the 9-9-9 plan or Perry's plan is my Pyramid Tax plan, that addresses these two major problems.

The key to this plan is simple--the more you make, the less you pay in taxes.

For incomes below the median, we'll set the tax rate at 35%. Yeah, that's a tax increase, I admit it--but those shiftless poor lucky duckies aren't paying their fair share. But read on, and yo will see how it becomes fair.

The genius of the Pyramid Tax plan is that as you rise in income, your tax rate--and not just your marginal rate, decreases. By the time you are making $250,000 a year, the President seemed to like that number back in the 2008 campaign, you will pay ZERO tax on any of your income.

Just think of it. People will be motivated to work harder, longer hours, and more jobs, because they know if they can just get to the next tax bracket, they will be taking home more money. And those poor flooding our country? Well, they'll change their tune real fast with that 35% tax rate, unless they have skills that will let them make money fast. This will solve the illegal immigration problem in a heartbeat.

Just think of all the jobs Warren Buffett or Paris Hilton can create knowing all of their income is tax free. Just think of the free capital flowing to America. And think--the wealthy and affluent, the people we WANT to immigrate to America, not the poor, will come here in droves.That will stimulate the economy, won't it? And it will be an honor and a privilege for them to be here. And with the new rules in Citizens United, they can spend lots of money in corporations giving campaign contributions and ads, which will further stimulate the economy.

The Pyramid Tax plan--because America deserves nothing less.

God Bless you and God Bless America.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:47 PM

October 7, 2011

Betty and Veronica, Romney and Perry

With both Christie and Palin declaring they aren't joining the GOP race. the field of contender is set.

And really, there are only two, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.

Following the tv trope of Betty and Veronica (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BettyAndVeronica), its clear to me that Romney is Betty and Perry is Veronica.

My money is on Betty.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:28 AM

July 1, 2011

Compromise and Politics

I am pissed off that the Minnesota government is shut down over negotiating failures in St. Paul. The debt ceiling joust in Washington is a bird of a feather.

Look, I will use an analogy to show what I perceive Republicans are doing, both in Minnesota and in Washington.

Roger and Daniel are trying to figure out how to divide a bowl of 100 M&Ms.

Daniel: "How about you get 50 blue M&Ms, and I get fifty green M&Ms?"

Roger: "NO! We are eating too many M&Ms. I will get 50 blue M&Ms. You get none. You eat too many."

Daniel: "That's not fair. If we don't come to an agreement, Mom will take the entire bowl away."

Roger: "You're right. Okay. I will get 45 blue M&M's. You get none. You eat too many."

Daniel: "How is that fair?"

Roger: "I am getting less than I want. I'm compromising!"

Daniel: "How about I get 10 green M&M's and you get 40 blue M&Ms?"

Roger: "We're going to run out of M&Ms that way. I get 40 blue M&Ms. You get none."

Posted by Jvstin at 9:04 AM

May 2, 2011

Bin Laden, 9/11, and me

9/11 was a milestone in my life, and one could argue that Bin Laden is responsible for me being where I am.

9/11 was a milestone in my life, and one could argue that Bin Laden is responsible for me being where I am.

I don't say that lightly. Bin Laden's attack on 9/11 was a motivating factor for me pursuing a in person relationship with Bonnie.

I remember we started things up not long after 9/11.Disaster, especially living next to it, focuses the mind. I thought life was too short, and decided to make a leap of faith.

Thus, we made plans for me to move to California at the end of June 2002.

Of course, in the end, that turned out real well.

And so in March 2003, I moved from California to Minnesota, and have been ever since. So, I probably would not be here, if not for Bin Laden.

That said, although it is rather bloodthirsty of me, I read his obituary with satisfaction. An evil man whose doctrine killed thousands of people? That's an easy call. If my brother had not been late to work that day, my brother would have been in the towers and would be dead. Dead.

I think that a trial would have made him a martyr. He is better dead and buried now, to be eventually forgotten.

And if there is a Hell, a Dantean Hell, he is here:

Seventh Circle (Violence)
The seventh circle houses the violent. Its entry is guarded by the Minotaur, and it is divided into three rings:
Outer ring: This ring houses the violent against people and property, who are immersed in Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood and fire, to a level commensurate with their sins: Alexander the Great is immersed up to his eyebrows, although Dante praises Alexander at other points in the poem, meaning he might be referring to a different Alexander. Dionysius I of Syracuse, Azzolino da Romano, Guy de Montfort, Obizzo d'Este, Ezzelino III da Romano, Rinier da Corneto, and Rinier Pazzo are also seen in the Phlegethon as well as references to Atilla the Hun.

See my friend's Amber take on 9/11. She was in NYC too, at the time.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:03 AM

September 8, 2010

Picture of the Day: Candidates Debate

Dayton answers a question
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
Today's picture for you is from the Governor candidate debate at the MN State fair, hosted by MPR. From left, Host Gary Eichten, former US Senator Mark Dayton (raising his hand), State Representative Tom Emmer, and Tom Horner.
Posted by Jvstin at 8:02 AM

April 19, 2010

Nehemiah Scudder in a Skirt


THE THEOCRATIC WING OF THE GOP.... A certain former half-term governor appears to be drifting even further away from the American mainstream. Over the weekend, appearing at an evangelical Christian women's conference in Louisville, Sarah Palin rejected the very idea of separation of church and state, a bedrock principle of American democracy.

She asked for the women -- who greeted her with an enthusiastic standing ovation -- to provide a "prayer shield" to strengthen her against what she said was "deception" in the media.

She denounced this week's Wisconsin federal court ruling that government observance of a National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional -- which the crowd joined in booing. She asserted that America needs to get back to its Christian roots and rejected any notion that "God should be separated from the state."

I've said it before, and I will say it again. Sarah Palin is Nehemiah Scudder in a skirt.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:32 PM

April 16, 2010

Pres.Obama and the Space Program

So the President has made his announcement regarding the space program...




No more Constellation. Forget the moon. This is a "eat your vegetables" sort of space program vision, with an emphasis on robots, building private industries' presence in space, and, eventually, a trip to places beyond.

It's a good plan on paper. Where it is sorely lacking, though is, in the jazz. This proposal is uninspiring, for lack of a better word. For long term goals, it has things I can support. We need a bigger presence in space than just NASA. This plan seems designed toward that end.

But there is nothing here to excite the country. And if you can't excite the country about space and space exploration--then you are doing it wrong. Period.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:26 AM

January 20, 2010

Gamers helping Haiti



For a $20 donation to Gamers Helping Haiti, you get to download a bunch of assorted gaming PDFs for free, courtesy of DrivethruRPG.

I can see a couple of PDFs that make this definitely worthwhile for me. I'm going to have to pick this up when I get home this evening.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:04 AM

January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson and Haiti


It even made NPR.

On the 700 Club, regarding the Haiti Earthquake, Robertson said this:

Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, "We will serve you if you get us free from the prince." True story. And so the devil said, "OK, it's a deal." They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free.

But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It's cut down the middle, on the one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island.

They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy I'm optimistic something good may come. But right now, we're helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable

I've got to wonder--is Robertson perhaps trying to bash Roman Catholicism or just Vaudou? Does he want Haitians to convert to his brand of Protestantism? Is THAT the motivation for his words?

This is not the first time he's said religious nonsense (According to his twisted theology, Katrina was punishment for America's sins, and Ariel Sharon had a stroke because "he was dividing God's land")

Its days that Pat Robertson doesn't get struck by lightning for invoking God in such a manner that moves me out of the agnostic camp and into the atheist camp.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:50 AM

December 11, 2009

Peter Watts and US Customs

Via many places, like Locus, Peter Watts own Blog, at Boing Boing, Making Light, and a growing list of other ocations, Canadian SF Author Peter Watts has had a nightmarish incident at the US-Canadian border crossing at Port Huron.

Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario's first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.

He will need some shekels for his defense fund:


In April, readers will recall, I was stopped at US Customs after a one day trip into Canada from Grand Marais on my North Shore Expedition. I was questioned for over an hour, and my car was searched. I felt violated.

Now, I realize I was damned lucky. And in the world's greatest democracy, that's a horrible thing for me to say, all the more so because it is true.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:16 PM

November 22, 2009

Christmas Kudzu

Via NPR, Sunday Edition looks at Asiatic bittersweet, a very pretty fruit laden vine that has spread from New England to the South and Midwest.

Asiatic bittersweet has spread from Maine to Louisiana and the Midwest since it was introduced from Asia in the 1860s. It can climb more than 60 feet, spiraling up the trunks and branches of its host trees like a snake. And like a boa constrictor, it chokes those trees.

Widespread infestations of the plant are nearly impossible to eradicate without herbicides. It's now illegal in many states to collect, move or sell Asiatic bittersweet.

Sure its a pretty plant, but its a biome wrecker. (Something we are very concerned with in Minnesota, with Emerald ash bores, invasive zebra mussels and other water species, and other exotic plants and animals). I think calling it Christmas Kudzu is entirely appropriate, don't you think?

Posted by Jvstin at 10:26 AM

November 9, 2009

20 years ago today...

Where did the years go?

20 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. This means, now, that more of my life has been spent without the Berlin Wall than it was with that edifice in place.

The Berlin Wall fell as I was beginning college, and making my way in the world. It was an exciting time and I can't imagine it wasn't even more exciting, there. I have a friend who had been to East Germany before the Wall fell.

From his stories, its clear that the adage that "the past is a different country" is definitely true.

And I still need to see the classic movie about the fall of the wall, "Goodbye Lenin!"

Posted by Jvstin at 5:11 PM

October 23, 2009

Roger Ebert on the Social Contract

Roger Ebert on the Social Contract

As I have mentioned before, Roger Ebert blogs about things other than movies. Here, he talks about the Social Contract, and provides an emotional argument for Health Care reform.

The fallacy of the free enterprise argument is that there is a faith that corporations are motivated to bring about the public good. Corporations are motivated to maximize profits for shareholders. That is the primary mission of all corporate executives, and they retain their jobs by placing the bottom line and the stock price above all else.

And I love, in the comments his idea of the "argumentum ad Moorum"--when you drag Michael Moore into an argument, you've already lost (sort of like Godwin's Law)

Posted by Jvstin at 6:35 AM

October 9, 2009

Spacecraft To Crash Into Moon In Search Of Water

Early this (Friday) morning, NASA will deliberately crash a spacecraft into the moon, creating a new, man-made crater and possibly revealing hidden deposits of ice

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS will send an empty rocket part at 5,600 into the surface. Instruments on the satellite and telescopes on earth will study the dust plumes generated by the impact for signs of water. If there is more water than the thin amount of hydroxyl ions recently discovered, it should be obvious in the plumes.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:27 AM

October 6, 2009

Blogger-Endorsers Must Disclose Their Freebies

Bloggers who favorably review companies' products and receive benefits, like a free game console, for those reviews need to disclose to their readers such ties, the Federal Trade Commission has ruled.

For what it is worth, if I receive a book for free to review, I *always* mention that in the review, and I always will. I think my reputation is such that I don't necessarily give a fluff review to something I have received for free, anyway, but I always make it clear if I have received an ARC, promotional copy, or what have you.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:34 AM

September 23, 2009

The evolution of Tim Pawlenty

It has been fascinating, in a "I'm stuck in a car with this guy" way to watch the evolution of the outward political beliefs of Tim Pawlenty, our Minnesota Governor.

Once upon a time, he cast himself as a Republican moderate, a Republican anyone in Minnesota could and did vote for.

Now, as his political ambitions turn toward 1600 Pennyslvania avenue, that has changed.

First, was his unilateral "unallotment" method of budget balancing by simply underfunding or not funding hundreds of programs in Minnesota

Second, there was his flirtation with tenthers,

Now, he is walking back his previous moderate stand on climate change.

In 2007, he used his time as chair of the National Governor's Association to suggest ways to improve, develop and advance clean energy. The effort was meant to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, but Pawlenty also didn't deny that it was an attempt to clean up the environment.
Pawlenty was a vocal advocate of creating a cap and trade system to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, he and Janet Napolitano, then Arizona's Democratic Governor, recorded a radio ad urging Congress to address climate change.

Pawlenty has changed. Now, he uses climate change as a punch line.

In June, Pawlenty wrote a letter to Minnesota's Congressional delegation criticizing proposed cap and trade legislation in the U.S. House. He also came out against the Midwest Governor's Climate Change initiative -- an effort he helped launch.

I don't know what is in Pawlenty's heart, if he's changed his views or not. But its clear his political ambitions have caused him to evolve into a far more right-leaning candidate for higher office.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:16 AM

September 18, 2009

Minnesota LEEDs the way!

U of M's TCF Stadium awarded LEED certification

Minneapolis -- The University of Minnesota's new football stadium has been designated as a LEED certified building.

The U of M's 50,000 seat, on-campus football stadium received LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED program certifies green building design, construction and operation.

The stadium gets the designation in part because it was built with 90 percent recycled steel. It also uses an underground system to drain and filter rainwater before it's discharged to the Mississippi River.

Silver is the third highest LEED certification a building can achieve, behind gold and platinum. The U's stadium is the first collegiate or professional football stadium in the country to achieve LEED status.

See? Sure, we have idiots like Bachmann and Pawlenty. But we do good things up here too!

Posted by Jvstin at 6:13 AM

September 1, 2009

Disney buys Marvel

Old news by now, but you've heard that Disney is going to buy Marvel comics for $4 billion.

If Marvel shareholders approve the deal, they would receive $30 per share in cash and 0.745 shares of Disney for each share of Marvel that they hold. The deal is valued at $50 per Marvel share, more than a 29% premium, based on Friday's closing price

It's a sweet deal for Disney, but I am not sure its the right move for Marvel, creatively and aesthetically speaking But then, I don't run Marvel and my opinion has little $$$weight$$$ in the matter.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:42 AM

August 26, 2009

Goodbye to the Lion of the Senate

RIP, Senator Edward Kennedy.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:09 AM

August 16, 2009

The Photocrashing Squirrel

You've probably seen the cute picture of the squirrel who "photocrashed" the photo
taken at Lake Minnewanka (Up in Canada. I've been there!)

It seems this has become a meme with the magic of photoshopping.

As I have said and thought, a lot of good photography can be atttributed to factors which are purely serendipitous. The original photo is a perfect example of that.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:30 PM

August 10, 2009

Nightmare Continental Express flight

I've heard of some nightmare plane experiences (and had less than satisfactory adventures, myself), but this takes the cake:

47 trapped in 'nightmare' overnight aboard small Continental plane

Posted by Jvstin at 11:22 AM

July 30, 2009

Tannhäuser Gate not included

Via NPR:
For sale: Wright house in L.A.

If you're house-hunting and have an extra $15 million to spare, there's a place with your name on it in Los Angeles. Known as the Ennis House, it's an architectural masterpiece designed by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright.

The house has been featured in a number of movies, ranging from Black Rain, to Day of the Logust, and , as you might guess from the title of this blog entry, Blade Runner.

I'd love to see it in person, but its a wee bit out of my price range to buy,

Posted by Jvstin at 6:05 AM

July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite, RIP

Cronkite's reign and influence, of course, came before my time. He retired from the CBS Evening news when I was a child of 10, and so I wasn't really exposed to his full power, trust, and authority.

I do recall that he did a voiceover for the movie Apollo 13, and the anchor on the miniseries V was suspiciously Cronkitian in his diction as he explained the events revolving around the contact with the Visitors.

In today's media landscape, he would not have had the influence and power he has. (Much like Michael Jackson, come to think of it). But for his time and place, Cronkite was inescapably essential.

Rest in Peace.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:22 AM

June 30, 2009

MN Supreme Court rules on Franken-Coleman case

MN Supreme Court rules on Franken-Coleman case

And Coleman concedes not long after. It's over.

Senator Franken, here we come.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:09 PM

June 26, 2009

First a pitchman, then an angel, and now a Pop Star

Rest in Peace: Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

Ed McMahon:

Not being a fan of the Tonight Show (none in my family, really, so it never really was something I wanted to watch) (because I preferred to go to sleep for school; other people in my family watched it) paradoxically, I first remember encountering Ed McMahon in his role as a pitchman (especially for a sweepstakes) and for Star Search. I only later realized his main job.

(As an aside, this also happened with Phil Rizzuto, who was a pitchman for "The Money Store" and I had no idea for years that he was a famous Yankee player and announcer--he was "the Money Store" guy to me first)

Farrah Fawcett--One of Charlie's Angels. What else can I say?

Michael Jackson--I never was a big fan. However, I remember the bizarre-but-entertaining Captain EO, since I got to see it in Disney World on my one trip there.

His scandal plagued life diminished his star and made him a joke, but there is no denying his influence and power at the height of his powers and fame. I think that, today, in our Fractured Media Landscape, Michael Jackson would not have done as well as he did in the 80's. So, for the sake of his influence on music, he was definitely born at the right time.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:26 AM

June 22, 2009

Mama, they took my Kodochrome away

Kodak announced today that it will stop selling the film after 74 years on the market:

Sales of KODACHROME Film, which became the world's first commercially successful color film in 1935, have declined dramatically in recent years as photographers turned to newer KODAK Films or to the digital imaging technologies that Kodak pioneered. Today, KODACHROME Film represents just a fraction of one percent of Kodak's total sales of still-picture films...

As part of a tribute to KODACHROME Film, Kodak will donate the last rolls of the film to George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, which houses the world's largest collection of cameras and related artifacts.

Paul Simon is wrong about one thing though. Everything does NOT always look worse in black and white. I like some of my monochromatic shots, thank you.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:02 PM

May 15, 2009

Death of the Ash

Via Bob Collins on the MPR Blog Newscut

(Picture by Minnesota Public Radio)

Minnesota has struggled for years to try and stop the spread of the Emerald ash bore, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire,an exotic species which appeared in Michigan in 2002 and has been eating its way outward ever since.In 2003 foresters found the insects in Ohio. The following year ash borers showed up in Indiana. They popped up in Illinois and Maryland in 2006, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in 2007. In 2008 they were detected for the first time in Missouri and Virginia and Wisconsin.

Emerald ash borer starts out as a flat, rust-colored egg, just a smidge bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. A single female will lay 80 or so at a time on the bark of an ash tree in summer.

A lanky white larva emerges, burrows into the bark, and begins eating the living wood. In the process, it cuts off the conduits that carry water and nutrients from roots to leaves and sun-made sugars from leaves to the rest of the tree.

In spring the larva morphs into a pupa. In early summer the pupa develops into an adult beetle. Two to three weeks later, the insect bores out of the bark, leaving a telltale D-shaped escape hole. The emerald-colored adult flies off to mate and begin the cycle again.

Trees can survive for two to three years until borers finally push them past their tipping point. Enough larvae, enough serpentine trails, and the flow of water and nutrients inside the tree is completely severed. Twigs, branches, and ultimately the whole tree die.

And now, although Minnesota has tried for years to slow or stop it, the Emerald Ash bore has appeared inside the state borders.Now that its here, stopping it is virtually impossible.

Unfortunately, Minnesota has a *lot* of Ash trees. They are popular in urban and rural settings alike and many were planted for aesthetic reasons.

The landscape is going to be irreversibly altered by its arrival and not for the better.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:24 AM

May 8, 2009

To the Crown!

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced this morning that starting July 4th, the crown of the Statue of Liberty will be open to visitors again, and the Baggage and Dormitory Building at Ellis Island, built in 1908 to house immigrants waiting for further processing, will be restored.


I look forward to, on my next trip to NYC, to climbing the Statue of Liberty once more.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:49 PM

April 22, 2009


One of the people in this Youtube Video is baffled.

And the person in this video who thinks the Nobel Prize winning Energy Secretary is baffled is really the person who really doesn't understand what is going on:

Maybe the standards in the district that Representative Barton went to school are low. It's possible. I just know that my High School science teachers in Susan Wagner H.S. would have had my head for not knowing about Plate tectonics.

Although this is a short snippet of the conversation, I suspect I can piece together from context what Rep. Burton is lamely trying to get at. He's trying to suggest that climate change is okay, because it was warm in Alaska in the past.

What Rep. Burton probably doesn't know is that at the same time, sea levels were so high that there was an interior seaway across a swath of North America. Maybe he never heard of the book "Oceans of Kansas" either. (A book that I must get and read one of these days, I've heard very good things about it)

Posted by Jvstin at 9:13 PM

April 16, 2009

XKCD is right; George Will is wrong

George Will, who most recently was promoting his inane and facile denials of climate change, now is lamenting that adults wear denim. I wish I was kidding.

Edmund Burke -- what he would have thought of the denimization of America can be inferred from his lament that the French Revolution assaulted "the decent drapery of life"; it is a straight line from the fall of the Bastille to the rise of denim -- said: "To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely." Ours would be much more so if supposed grown-ups would heed St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and St. Barack's inaugural sermon to the Americans, by putting away childish things, starting with denim.


Crap, where can I get a high paying job putting out columns like this? Or, better yet, maybe George Will and I can trade jobs for a week. Maybe the Washington Post would be happy to make the change permanent.

By contrast, I give you this comic from XKCD.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:26 AM

April 14, 2009

Franken wins race. Should Coleman appeal?

After a trial spanning nearly three months, Norm Coleman's attempt to reverse Al Franken's lead in the recount of the U.S. Senate election was soundly rejected today by a three-judge panel that dismissed the Republican's lawsuit. Unanimously.

Coleman has been ordered to pay Franken's legal costs.

Al Franken has won the election. Should Coleman appeal?

My thoughts below.

As always, the instructive thing to do here is to reverse the roles in a hypothetical situation. Suppose Coleman had pulled ahead after those additional ballots were issued. Or, perhaps, Coleman was ahead all this time and Franken had brought the challenge. After the ruling, would I want Franken to appeal?

I find in my heart--no. I would not want Franken to appeal after all this time. I would urge Al Franken to not go to appeal. The reason is simple. It's been months since the election, and poor Amy Klobuchar is overworked as our lone senator. Sure, the loser, Coleman in our world, Franken in my gedankenexperiment, would have the *right* of appeal.

But just because there is a right doesn't mean it should be exercised. I am reminded of a recount in the Governor's race in 1962 between Lt. Governor Karl Rolvaag and Governor Elmer Andersen. The ultimate loser of the recount and court challenge, Andersen, did NOT appeal it (even though he could), and gave up for the good of the state.

I think Norm Coleman should emulate the late Gov. Andersen and not pursue an appeal, for the good of the State of Minnesota. I would hope, in my gedankenexperiment, that Al Franken would have and would do the same, and in that gedankenexperiment world, I would urge Al to give up his right of appeal.

Minnesota needs two Senators. Period. It's been long enough.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:38 AM

March 13, 2009

Immigration Explorer

From the New York Times, I give you the Immigration Explorer Map.

You can spend endless amounts of time with this dynamic map, seeing how different types of immigrants came to the US over the last century, and where they went.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:37 AM

March 5, 2009

Backers Of Calif. Gay Marriage Ban Face Backlash

Backers Of Calif. Gay Marriage Ban Face Backlash

I've been listening to this story about the backlash on supporters of Prop 8 in California *(the Gay Marriage Ban), and something bugs me.

A vote in the voting booth is private and should be sacrosanct. However, giving money for a cause or campaign is, as the Supreme Court tells us, political speech. It's NOT private.

If you are willing to use political speech to express your view, why don't I have the right to respond to it?

Leatherby's Family Creamery gave $20,000 to support Proposition 8. If I choose products and companies based on my values, why wouldn't I respond to their contribution by withholding them my dollar? And telling my friends the same?

Posted by Jvstin at 8:12 AM

March 3, 2009

The American Tyranny, 9/12/01 to 01/19/2009

Extraordinary Measures




We lived in a tyranny from September 12, 2001 to January 19th of this year. These articles, and the memos and documents being released, make that clear.

In perhaps the most surprising assertion, the Oct. 23, 2001, memo suggested the president could even suspend press freedoms if he concluded it was necessary to wage the war on terror. "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully," Yoo wrote in the memo entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States."

This claim was viewed as so extreme that it was essentially (and secretly) revoked--but not until October of last year, seven years after the memo was written and with barely three and a half months left in the Bush administration.

Read it all.

What DON'T we know yet about what the previous administration was doing?

We lived in a tyranny.

We lived in a Tyranny.

And before any of my friends on the right wing are tempted to wave the bloody shirt of Bin Laden as justification--no, it doesn't cut it. 19 men with box cutters may have killed 3000 people, but reaction to that does not rise to the level of "let's turn the US into a dictatorship"

It would take something like invasion from the Fithp from Niven/Pournelle or The Race from Turtledove to even begin to try and justify what the previous administration did.

And if you do believe it, even so, there is a word for you. (No, not that word. Do NOT Godwin this thread, thank you). The word I choose is a new one: Autocratist.

Being an Autocratist means that you believe in investing political power in one man, in this case President George W Bush, even at the expense of essential freedoms.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:34 PM

February 27, 2009

Krugman on the Obama Budget


Krugman on Obama's Budget

Elections have consequences. President Obama's new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.

My friends on the left (hi, !) will say that it doesn't go far enough, that its too timid, too centrist, too rooted in current politics. My acquaintances and friends on the right will say that its Obamageddon.

And of course, the question is how will all of this get through Congress, and how will the final product actually look.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:20 AM

February 20, 2009

The NY Post responds to the cartoon reaction

The NY Post has responded to the overwhelming reaction to the cartoon I blogged about the other day.

It's short, and a little prickly in defending themselves, but do read it.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:29 PM

February 10, 2009

Obama Administration backs Bush Secrecy Policy

Obama Admin Backs Bush Secrecy Policy

I said to Brian that I would call our President out when I thought he crossed lines...and he has crossed a line here.

In the first major national security case of the Obama administration, lawyers representing the government took the exact same position as the Bush administration. Government attorneys asked a judge to throw out a torture case, citing the need to preserve state secrets.

This is completely and utterly wrong. The Obama administration is making a big mistake here, not for the least of reasons that it puts them in the same legal waters as those scouted by the odious Bush team that condoned illegal and immoral acts.

Obama, I want and demand better. I can't fathom of how this can be excusable even as a "temporary" measure before fully reviewing the issue. There are far less extreme positions his administration could have and should have taken, even as a placeholder to a more defined legal view.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:18 PM

February 1, 2009

February--The Shortest Month

February is the shortest month of the year.

It's the only month that changes length. And it was something of an afterthought; it was originally tacked on at the end of the year to bring the calendar in line with the seasons. And its "unlucky".

At first, the Roman calendar was divided into 10 months, starting with March. The days at the end of the year weren't even counted. This can be seen in the names of our later months. September is from the Roman word for "seven", since it IS the 7th month after March. October is "eight", November is "nine" and December is "ten".

Soon, though, those missing days were moved into two new months -- January and February. All the months except February were either 29 or 31 days long, because even numbers were considered unlucky. Unlucky February was devoted to rites of purification.

The calendar still had some extra days at the end of the year, though. And over the centuries, there was a lot of tinkering with the length of the months and the placement of "leap days." Also, various officials would add or subtract days on practically a whim. It was a complete and utter mess. (Imagine if President Bush had extended December to increase the length of his term in office, and you begin to see the trouble)

That changed when Julius Caesar completely revamped the calendar in 43 B.C. The new Julian calendar moved the beginning of the year to January. And it set the months at the same lengths we have today. A leap day was added to every fourth February to keep the calendar in line with the seasons.

The calendar has needed only one tweak since then -- and as you might have guessed, February got the tweaking. Three leap days were deleted from every 400 years -- depriving February of that extra bit of love that comes with leap year.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:43 AM

January 29, 2009

For Nearly Half of America, Grass Is Greener Somewhere Else; Denver Tops List of Favorite Cities

Pew study on cities
A new national survey by the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project finds that nearly half (46%) of the public would rather live in a different type of community from the one they're living in now -- a sentiment that is most prevalent among city dwellers

The Top three cities in the survey are Denver, San Diego and Seattle.

The bottom three cities are Detroit, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Minneapolis is just above these three, and Kansas City, fifth from the bottom of the list of 30 cities.

The five least popular big cities -- Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Minneapolis -- are all in the Midwest. These attitudes reflect what government data indicate about the nation's migration patterns: Americans are leaving the Northeast and the Midwest in favor of the South and the West.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:52 PM

Dudley succeeds Geithner as NY Fed Head

New York Fed Names William C. Dudley President

NEW YORK--William C. Dudley was named today to serve as president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. His appointment by the board of directors of the New York Fed, succeeding Timothy F. Geithner who was sworn in as Secretary of the Treasury yesterday, was approved by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Stephen Friedman, chairman of the New York Fed's board of directors and of the search committee that selected Mr. Dudley, said, "We were fortunate to have an exceptional slate of candidates for the post. The board is very pleased with the selection of Bill Dudley. His deep economics background, extensive working knowledge of the markets and hands-on policy making role make him an outstanding choice to succeed Tim Geithner."

Denis M. Hughes, deputy chairman and a member of the board search committee, said, "Bill has led our Markets Group at a crucial time and helped conceptualize, develop and manage many of the Fed's responses to extraordinary financial conditions. Under his leadership, the New York Fed will continue to work closely with the Treasury and the Board of Governors in dealing with the economic situation we confront."

Mr. Dudley, 56, was executive vice president of the Markets Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He was also the manager of the System Open Market Account for the Federal Open Market Committee. He oversaw domestic open market and foreign exchange trading operations and the provisions of account services to foreign central banks. Dudley expanded the Federal Reserve's contacts with the buy-side investment community and through the Bank's Treasury Market Practices Group was active in pushing forward the implementation of new best practices.

"I am honored to have this opportunity to lead an institution of such high quality--its people and their collective commitment to the public good are exemplary," said Bill Dudley. "The New York Fed, standing at the critical intersection of the financial markets and the banking system, has a leading role to play in assisting in the reform of the architecture of the U.S. and global financial system to ensure that what has transpired over the past year can never occur again."

Prior to joining the Bank in January 2007, Mr. Dudley was a partner and managing director at Goldman, Sachs & Company and served for a decade as the firm's chief U.S. economist. At Goldman he held a variety of positions including senior foreign exchange economist. Prior to joining Goldman, his work focused on regulatory and payments issues as a vice president at Morgan Guaranty Trust Company and as an economist in the financial studies department at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He has been a member of the Technical Consultants group to the Congressional Budget Office and a member of the Economic Advisory Committee to the New York Fed.

Mr. Dudley received his doctorate in economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1982 and a Bachelor of Arts degree from New College, Sarasota, Florida in 1974.

Mr. Dudley and his wife, Ann E. Darby, reside in New Jersey.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:17 AM

January 27, 2009

The shame of my home borough

Three Are Charged in Attacks on Election Night

Like countless other Americans that night, a group of young Staten Island men gathered on Nov. 4 to watch election results, and then took to the streets when it became clear that the country had elected its first black president.

But, the authorities say, they were not out to celebrate. Armed with a police-style baton and a metal pipe, they attacked a black teenager, pushed another black man, harassed a Hispanic man and, in a finishing flourish, ran over a white man who they thought was black, leaving him in a coma, the authorities said.
According to prosecutors, the men gathered at a "makeshift outdoor clubhouse" to watch the election results on the Internet. Shortly after learning that Mr. Obama had won, they and a fourth man "decided to find African-Americans to assault in retaliation for an African-American man becoming president," the prosecution papers said.

Having lived on Staten Island for more than 30 years of my life...I am ashamed, but unfortunately not surprised.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:55 PM

January 20, 2009

Obama Inauguration Speech, with Wordle

Wordle: Obama Inauguration Speech 1/20/09

My fellow citizens,

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America -- they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them-- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -- even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West -- know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence-- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive ... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:28 PM

Congratulations to our New President

Congratulations to President Barack H Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Jr.**

For a few moments, everyone of every politics, I think, can congratulate and celebrate the peaceful transfer of power.

I got to watch it on a big screen in one of the meeting rooms at work. Standing Room Only would be an understatement.

Now the real work begins.

**I didn't know he was a junior. Of course, with my work in savings bonds, I immediately think that if he owns savings bonds, that junior could be a nagging issue for redemptions and reissues...

Posted by Jvstin at 12:09 PM

January 4, 2009

Recount nears end in the MN senate race


Democratic Senate challenger Al Franken added 176 votes to his lead in one of the tightest races in U.S. history on Saturday

A count of more than 950 previously unopened absentee ballots went heavily in his favor as the state's official recount finally approached a finish.

"We are confident that he will win... by what is not a large margin, but what is a comfortable margin," said Franken's lead attorney, Marc Elias. "But 225 is still a close election."

The tally leaves only the formal declaration of the vote totals left to complete. The five-person state canvassing board is set to meet Monday to review the findings and direct Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to certify the results.


The trick is that Coleman is going to fight this with litigation. The irony of all of this is that when the unofficial results were announced on Election Night, when Coleman had about a 200 vote lead, Coleman loudly said that Franken should not "Contest" the election, and just let Coleman win. Now that the shoe is on the other foot...I don't think that Coleman is going to take his own advice.

So, the recount might be near the end--but Coleman is far from done.

More information is available on Bob Collins blog:


Posted by Jvstin at 7:34 AM

December 30, 2008

Call him Sir Terry, or perhaps Sir Terry of Discworld?



FANTASY author Terry Pratchett is now a real-life knight after being awarded the highest recognition in the Queen's new year honours list.

Pratchett, 60, best known for his satirical Discworld fantasy series, becomes a knight, one of the queen's most important honours, and will now be addressed as a 'Sir'.

"There are times when phrases such as 'totally astonished' just don't do the job," he said. "I am of course delighted and honoured and needless to say, flabbergasted."

Posted by Jvstin at 7:51 PM

December 28, 2008

A movie worth getting shot for?

You may have already heard this story.

A man was shot because he was talking with his son during a screening of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on Christmas Day, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Reportedly, 29-year-old James Joseph Cialella told the unidentified victim's family to be quiet and threw popcorn at the man's son. After exchanging words, Cialella allegedly got up to confront them, the victim stood up, and Cialella shot him in the arm with a .380 caliber gun. As other theatergoers ran for safety, Cialella sat back down to watch the movie. Police arrested Cialella and charged him with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and weapons violations.


Just bizarre. Bringing guns to the movies--that's not a surprise, I am afraid. Still, the alleged assailant shot the man and then sat down to continue to watch the movie. Very, very odd.

"The armed society is a polite society" Heinleinians would say that if the victim had a gun and the assailant had reason to believe he would have gotten shot in return, probably wouldn't have taken the shot in the first place.
Bollocks, I say. In a Heinleinian "Everyone has a gun" society, it would have turned into a free-for-all.

The size of the population and the population density of modern society makes the Second Amendment, as intact, in serious need of further amendment, by amendment or by statute.

The Founders did not envision cities of millions, each of the adults with guns, running around. At the eve of the Revolution, Philadelphia had 40,000 people. NYC, 25000, Boston 16000, Charleston 12000, and Newport 11000. (Taken from here: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/burrows/demog.htm)
There is a fundamental difference of scale between a city of 40,000 and a city of 1.3 million.

Enough of that digression, though. Is "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" such a good movie that not only its worth shooting someone loud, but then to remain in the theater watching it afterwards?

Posted by Jvstin at 8:36 AM

December 20, 2008

Security Theater for the Holiday Season

TSA Prohibited Items List

The link above is the link on the TSA website on items prohibited on airplanes.

In the spirit of the Christmas season...

Other Items

Snow globes and like decorations regardless of size or amount of liquid inside, even with documentation.

Carry-on No
Checked Yes

Snow globes. A threat to *your* airplane safety! You can have them in your checked baggage, but if your child wants to hold the snow globe Grandma gave her, and take it on the plane--there will be trouble. Merry Christmas!


Security Theater. I don't feel safer.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:05 AM

December 1, 2008

Political Junkie now has a blog

Ken Rudin, the political correspondent for National Public Radio (with a weekly column and a podcast, and a weekly visit to Talk of the Nation, has decided to replace his weekly column
with a more frequently updated blog.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:42 PM

November 29, 2008

Walmart Tragedy

Sought: Wal-Mart shoppers who trampled NY worker

When I first heard about this, yesterday, I heard that someone had been trampled. "That is unfortunate" I thought, conjuring images in my mind of the basement of Macy's, and other crowded situations.

When I heard the worker had been killed, I got angry. These people weren't trying to escape a fire, a flood, armed gunmen...they were trying to get into a store to buy items.

No excuse, whatsoever. I hope they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:50 AM

November 20, 2008

From the Fed: The Bonds of Debt


The recent financial crisis blew a hole in the municipal bond market. But it has been shifting for more than a year, according to the editor of the Minneapolis FRB Gazette.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:17 AM

From the Fed: The Bonds of Debt


The recent financial crisis blew a hole in the municipal bond market. But it has been shifting for more than a year, according to the editor of the Minneapolis FRB Gazette.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:17 AM

November 17, 2008

Minnesota Majority's voter disenfranchisement plan


I like Minnesota's attitude and laws that allow same day registration and encourage voter participation and turnout. Our state has one of the highest participation rates in the nation and with good reason. Is it perfect? No. Errors can and do occur.

So, then comes this from "Minnesota Majority":

Spokesman Jeff Davis claims that same-day registration leads to errors, such as voters casting ballots in the wrong precinct. Davis says no one should be allowed to vote until their legal eligibility has been verified.

"We believe our current election system is making a mockery of eligible voters who try to follow the letter and sprit of the law. In doing so, the system is disenfranchising legitimate voters," Davis said.

I don't follow his logic. And I will not speak evil and say that the intent of this group and is to disenfranchise voters and discourage turnout, but rolling back Minnesota's progressive policies in this regard to require a photo ID and to end same-day registration certainly will do that.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:08 PM

November 11, 2008

Single? Lawn Signs


Via Charles Stross a story about a guy who decided to look into those Single? yourhometownsingles.com signs that I've seen everywhere here in Anoka county and maybe you have seen them too. I always figured they were a scam of some sort...

Posted by Jvstin at 9:20 AM

November 10, 2008

Keith Olbermann on Prop 8 in California

This is what Keith Olbermann had to say on the passage of Prop 8 in California, making same-sex marriage illegal in California.

Posted: Monday, November 10, 2008 9:01 PM by Countdown
Filed Under: Special Comment
Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics.

This is about the... human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not... understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want -- a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them -- no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights -- even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage.

If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal... in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry...black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are... gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing -- centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children... All because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage. How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness -- this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness -- share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."


You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of...love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate. You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know...It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow **person...

Just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

"I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge.

"It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all:

"So I be written in the Book of Love;

"I do not care about that Book above.

"Erase my name, or write it as you will,

"So I be written in the Book of Love."


Good night, and good luck.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:32 PM

Ben's chili adds to its list of customers who eat for free


or eight years, the sign next to the cash register at Ben's Chili Bowl has let patrons know that only one customer was allowed to eat for free, and that was Bill Cosby. As of last week, that is no longer so.

After the presidential election, management added another asterisk to the white paper sign near the cashier, this time listing four additional names with free-eats rights at Ben's: President-elect Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha.

I've never been there myself, but I've heard that his chili dogs are to die for.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:27 PM

November 5, 2008

Morning Reflection on the Election

So we're going to have an articulate President who happens to be African American.

To quote Michael Ironside in Total Recall: "It's about godd*mn time!".

(Hey, there's a meme for you who are reading this. Take a movie quote that doesn't explicitly have anything to do with politics, and apply it to the election)

My map was very conservative. As of writing this post, Obama has 349 EV, with NC (15)and MO (11) too close to call.

On the other hand, progress doesn't always happen smoothly, or everywhere. Here in Minnesota, a third party (Independence Party) candidate was a factor in allowing Senator Coleman to survive a challenge from Al Franken. (They have a mandatory recount, but I don't expect it to change the very close result in favor of Coleman).

What unfortunately disturbs me is that, on the Anderson name alone, an independent candidate not even endorsed by the IP party took 10% of the vote in my Congressional district--and so Michele Bachmann is returning to Congress.

Still...I'd rather have President Obama and Congresswoman Bachmann rather than President McCain and Congressman Tinklenberg.

What disturbs me more than Bachmann though is the prospect that Prop 8 in California is currently ahead. I have my fingers crossed that intolerance will not win the day.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:31 AM

November 4, 2008

Congratulations, President-Elect Obama

Now that polls have closed on the West Coast...NPR is calling the election for Sen. Obama and that McCain has called Obama to concede. Obama is going to wind up with, probably, at least 324 EV, which is more than my moderate prediction.

Congratulations, President-Elect Obama.

(Here in MN, the drama from the Senate race continues--its extremely tight although I think Coleman is going to pull it out. Bachmann, though, looks like she is going to win re-election, possibly thanks to the Anderson Effect.)

Posted by Jvstin at 10:13 PM

Did my Civic Duty this morning

Just got back.

No lines, although the kind people at my poll place told me that turnout had been heavy this morning. It is ironic that I do live in a "small town" in the metro area, and so never really have had problems with handling crowds.

Minnesota has one of the highest turnout rates in the nation, and we're justly proud of that fact here. This year, though, I think we're going to have a run for our money as far as turnout goes.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:34 AM

November 3, 2008

Presidential Election Prediction

Take it for what its worth (which, after Wednesday, will be nothing).

Presidential Prediction

Posted by Jvstin at 5:08 PM

October 31, 2008

Christian Children's Fund Refuses Charity Tainted by D&D


This is ignorantly shortsighted on their part. Do they really think D&D players are satanic or something?

Posted by Jvstin at 5:28 PM

Who I am voting for and why

I was asked in an email about who I am voting for. I decided that an answer here would be more useful to the low double digits of readers I have...


Until Congresswoman Bachmann opened her mouth on national TV and called for the media to investigate "unamerican" members of Congress, this race was hers in a walk. I live in a strongly conservative congressional district. I do live in Bush country, here in the North Star State. Pro Life abortion signs dot the landscape here.

I would have voted for her Democratic opponent anyway. but now actively hope for the upset miracle of Elwin Tinklenberg unseating her.. I am pessimstic that she will actually lose. (in their heart of hearts, a lot of people up here agree with her views wholeheartedly.) In recent days she has tried to walk away from what she said, and has launched a barrage of attacks on Tinklenberg. I support Mr. Tinkenberg and can only hope that Michele's big mouth is enough to ensure her defeat


When I heard that Al Franken was running for Senate, I rolled my eyes in disbelief. Our current senator, Norm Coleman, is a poor replacement for the late Senator Wellstone. A Republican hack of the first order who pretends bipartisanship only when its politically suitable for him to do so, Coleman is a lousy Senator for Minnesota.

And yet...Al Franken, the comedian?! Its certainly true that he is less qualified, in terms of elective offices held, than Coleman or the Independent Party candidate, Dean Barkley. If I sincerely thought that Barkley had enough support to win, I would throw my weight behind him. While IP candidates do okay in Minnesota, with few exceptions, they never come close to winning. More's the pity.

Al Franken, for all of his lack of experience, does have passion and does, in what he has said and written, the interests of Minnesotans at heart. With such heart, am underprepared Al Franken is better than Coleman, and so without much enthusiasm, I will be voting for Al Franken.


The John McCain of 2000 I would have gladly voted for. Independent, intelligent, strong on national defense issues. Maybe weak on economic issues, but a good VP and staff can help in that regard. The John McCain of 2008 launches baseless accusations against his opponent, cannot be criticized, and seems, to be politically incorrect, to be a tired old man. And he picked as his VP choice one of the most manifestly unqualified persons ever to run for that office from a major party. Even if you go by the rule "vote for the top of the ticket", McCain's judgement comes into question here.

This is not to say that I am voting *against* McCain. Sen Obama, in his short, lightning political career has charisma, intelligence and scholarship sorely lacking in the current holder of the office. We do need new directions in America, and a fresh start in the young senator from Illinois seems to me to fit the bill. I support (and have supported financially) Senator Obama for President.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:54 PM

October 17, 2008

Michelle Bachmann, *again*



Bachmann basically suggests a new House UnAmerican Activities committee...or for the media to expose Unamerican Representatives.

She is the face of my district. It's sad but true.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:29 PM

September 15, 2008

New 35W bridge to open at 5 a.m. Thursday Sept 18

New 35W bridge to open at 5 a.m. Thursday
by Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio,
Melanie Sommer, Minnesota Public Radio
September 15, 2008
Minneapolis -- The new Interstate 35W bridge will open to traffic early Thursday morning, state officials announced today.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, along with Minnesota's two U.S. senators, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, announced details of the opening this morning at a news conference at the site of the bridge.

The $234 million bridge was fast-tracked to restore a traffic route that accounted for 140,000 trips a day. The old bridge collapse into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, 2007, killing 13 people and injuring nearly 150 others.

Pawlenty thanked officials at the federal, state and local levels who helped get the bridge constructed in a short amount of time.

"Minnesota's congressional delegation has been outstading," he said, saying members from both parties displayed incredible teamwork and bipartisanship in pushing to get the bridge rebuilt.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak announced plans for a memorial garden to remember the victims of the bridge collapse.

"We've been working very quietly but very hard for almost a year with the families of the victims of the bridge collapse, to come up with a memorial that they found was appropriate," said Rybak.

Tom Oslund, a landscape designer who designed Gold Medal Park next to the Guthrie Theater, described what is being called a remembrance garden.

"Simplicity is the key," said Oslund, in describing an 81-foot square site with a 65-foot circle in the middle of it. The area will feature a 13-foot diameter fountain in the center.

Oslund and Rybak said the choice of Gold Medal Park as the site of the garden is appropriate, because of its role as an impromptu gathering spot when the bridge collapsed. Rybak said Flatiron Construction and Trivent Financial Services have already provided grant money to partially fund the memorial.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:35 AM

September 11, 2008

9-11, Seven Years On

9/11 Memorial in SL
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
Seven years on, we remember.
Posted by Jvstin at 4:36 AM

September 10, 2008

McCain Ad on Obama and Education

TPM Election Central | Talking Points Memo | New McCain Ad Falsely Suggests Obama Wants Kids To Learn "About Sex Before Learning To Read"

Sex Ed for Kindergarteners? John McCain, you have lost any shred of respect that I had remaining for you for endorsing this obvious smear.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:09 PM

September 9, 2008

The end of Astroland?!

Owner: Ride's over at Coney Island amusement park

NEW YORK – When reports circulated over the weekend of a last-minute deal to keep Coney Island's historic Astroland amusement park open for another year, owner Carol Hill Albert was not amused.

Indeed, her tone was bitter as she described plans to close the park Sunday night in lieu of an agreement with the city or with private developer Thor Equities, which have competing plans for the 3-acre Brooklyn site.

"Despite rumors to the contrary, there are absolutely no negotiations going on, and there never were," said Albert, whose family has owned Astroland for more than four decades.

The park would close permanently, she said. Late Sunday night, visitors were herded out of the park and the lights were shut off for the last time.

The Cyclone, the famous Coney Island roller coaster, and the 150-foot-tall Wonder Wheel, a Ferris wheel, are separately owned and landmarked by the city so they are unaffected by the closing.

News that Sunday would be the last gasp for Dante's Inferno fun house, 22 other rides and three arcades drew hundreds of nostalgia-minded visitors, including elderly residents of the beach area and families with children who had never ridden on the Tilt-A-Whirl or the Water Flume.

This makes me sad. Astroland is, was, old school amusement park goodness on Coney Island. Even if the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel are still open...the closing of Astroland is the end of an era.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:33 AM

August 29, 2008

And McCain's VP choice is...

John McCain's pick for VP is none other than Michael Palin. Excellent! As much as I like Monty Python, I think his travelogues show a world experience necessary in a...

Oh. *Sarah Palin*, not Michael Palin. From the State of Alaska.

Well,well,well. Second Female VP choice, first from the Republicans. We now, in terms of area, have VP choices on either side from the smallest state, and the largest state.

In football terms, Sen. McCain is trying to throw a flea flicker here. Will it work? I have no idea.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:20 PM

Wordle of Sen. Obama's Speech

I made a Wordle of Sen. Obama's speech last night in Denver!:

title="Wordle: Obama Speech in Denver"> src="http://wordle.net/thumb/wrdl/149451/Obama_Speech_in_Denver"
style="padding:4px;border:1px solid #ddd">

(Click on it to get a larger version).

I intend to do one for Sen. McCain's acceptance speech next week, too.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:23 AM

August 20, 2008

Does Maureen Dowd get paid to write political thrillers for the NY Times now?

Op-Ed Columnist - Two Against The One - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

Go ahead and read it. You *have to read this.

Maureen Dowd, failed political thriller novelist?!?

Posted by Jvstin at 6:33 AM

August 19, 2008

Minnesota Zoo Dolphin Show on hold

MPR: Dolphin at Minnesota Zoo is pregnant; dolphin show on hold

The Minnesota Zoo has temporarily canceled its popular dolphin show because one of the dolphins is pregnant and another has been having behavior problems.

The zoo brought in two female dolphins in January, hoping to breed them with the zoo's only male dolphin, Semo.

One of the females, named Allie, is now pregnant and due next spring. The other female, April, is not pregnant but is seemingly acting as though she is.

The dolphin show, I have to admit, is one of the best things about the Minnesota Zoo. For those who have never been here, a lot of the zoo (including the aquarium area) is indoors (or accessible by the monorail) to make it more of a four season zoo in chilly winter.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:12 AM

August 12, 2008

My wacko Congresscritter strikes again

TPM Election Central | Talking Points Memo | GOP Rep. To Environmentalists: Jesus Already Saved The Planet

The rest of you can enjoy her colorful sayings. Me, she's my duly elected Congresswoman.

As I have said before, I could do a better job representing the 6th MN district, my district, than Michele Bachmann.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:22 PM

Joe "Snot" Kudla passes away

Actor Joe Kudla found fame in role of 'Snot'

One of the staples of the MN Renaissance Faire, Joe Kudla of "Puke and Snot" fame has died.

Their act was a highlight for me every year. They are continuing with another actor in the role, but that's not going to be the same by a long shot.

Rest in peace.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:55 PM

August 11, 2008

Roberts' Insult--also on NPR


This contention by Cokie Roberts that Obama's visit to Hawaii is "too exotic" was also spewed, without counter, on NPR. I'm very disappointed in NPR in allowing Roberts to spread this insinuation without any response or counter.

Hawaii is a state, d*mn it. I don't think Sen. Obama should submit his travel plans to Cokie Roberts for approval.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:40 AM

August 8, 2008

Russia Sends Troops Into Rebel Enclave in Georgia

Russia Sends Troops Into Rebel Enclave in Georgia - NYTimes.com

Oh, Frak.

Hope is not a plan. That said, I hope that this gets defused, and does not ignite a full scale war. Our "Cold Peace" with Russia would soon turn to full scale Cold War. At least.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:45 PM

August 1, 2008


Have you seen this ad from McCain??! (Its on his website) No this is not the one that denigrates Barack for being a celebrity. This one is even wackier.

by dollarsandsense123

I think this commercial jumped the shark with the clip from the Ten Commandments...

Posted by Jvstin at 5:15 PM

July 18, 2008

Starbucks closures

MPR: News Cut: Starbuck's closings

Two of the three nearest Starbucks to me are ones that are closing, as it so happens.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:12 PM

July 15, 2008

The sheer cheek of NWA

Lose baggage, keep raising prices, cut back on service, continue to make flying unpleasant. Oh, and turn MSP into its own personal fiefdom, with very little competition.

So, why would I turn into a lobbyist/advocate on its behalf? Northwest decided to send an email to its customers, joining with other airlines, urging me to contact Congress to help them rein in high oil prices.

Again, why exactly would I use my time to do this?

Dear Paul Weimer,

An Open letter to All Airline Customers:

Our country is facing a possible sharp economic downturn because
of skyrocketing oil and fuel prices, but by pulling together, we
can all do something to help now. Visit

For airlines, ultra-expensive fuel means thousands of lost jobs
and severe reductions in air service to both large and small
communities. To the broader economy, oil prices mean slower
activity and widespread economic pain. This pain can be
alleviated, and that is why we are taking the extraordinary step
of writing this joint letter to our customers.

Since high oil prices are partly a response to normal market
forces, the nation needs to focus on increased energy supplies
and conservation. However, there is another side to this story
because normal market forces are being dangerously amplified by
poorly regulated market speculation.

Twenty years ago, 21 percent of oil contracts were purchased by
speculators who trade oil on paper with no intention of ever
taking delivery. Today, oil speculators purchase 66 percent of
all oil futures contracts, and that reflects just the
transactions that are known. Speculators buy up large amounts of
oil and then sell it to each other again and again. A barrel of
oil may trade 20-plus times before it is delivered and used; the
price goes up with each trade and consumers pick up the final
tab. Some market experts estimate that current prices reflect as
much as $30 to $60 per barrel in unnecessary speculative costs.

Over seventy years ago, Congress established regulations to
control excessive, largely unchecked market speculation and
manipulation. However, over the past two decades, these
regulatory limits have been weakened or removed. We believe that
restoring and enforcing these limits, along with several other
modest measures, will provide more disclosure, transparency and
sound market oversight. Together, these reforms will help cool
the over-heated oil market and permit the economy to prosper.

The nation needs to pull together to reform the oil markets and
solve this growing problem. We need your help. Get more
information and contact Congress by visiting

Robert Fornaro
Chairman, President and CEO
AirTran Airways

Bill Ayer
Chairman, President and CEO
Alaska Airlines, Inc.

Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman, President and CEO
American Airlines, Inc.

Lawrence W. Kellner
Chairman and CEO
Continental Airlines, Inc.

Richard Anderson
Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Mark B. Dunkerley
President and CEO
Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.

Dave Barger
JetBlue Airways Corporation

Timothy E. Hoeksema
Chairman, President and CEO
Midwest Airlines

Douglas M. Steenland
President and CEO
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Gary Kelly
Chairman and CEO
Southwest Airlines Co.

Glenn F. Tilton
Chairman, President and CEO
United Airlines, Inc.

Douglas Parker
Chairman and CEO
US Airways Group, Inc.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:24 AM

July 11, 2008

McCain and his first wife

McCain and His First Wife - Nicholas D. Kristof - Opinion - New York Times Blog

Nicholas Kristof asks if McCain's treatment of his first wife should be a campaign issue or not?

My answer is glib but true:

It may be a trite answer, but the answer is IOKIYAR.

It's Okay if You are a Republican.

With the "we're not liberal!" mainstream media and press bending backwards to prove that, negative stories about Republican candidates get soft shoed so that they aren't accused of liberal bias.

If Sen. Obama had a first wife whom he treated in this way, it would certainly be a campaign issue.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:18 PM

July 10, 2008

Boycott McDonalds?!

Via Pharyngula

The American Family Association, that lovely collection of reactionaries, is trying to lead a boycott of McDonalds:


"It is about McDonald's, as a corporation, refusing to remain neutral in the culture wars. McDonald's has chosen not to remain neutral but to give the full weight of their corporation to promoting the homosexual agenda, including homosexual marriage."

Posted by Jvstin at 1:09 PM

June 23, 2008

Racism and the Response to Midwest Flooding

Bob Collins and I of MPR have been twittering back and forth about the "letter of the day" to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which has a pretty ugly undertone of racism about the comparative reactions to Hurricane Katrina, and the midwest Levee breaks.

Now, the Newscut blog on MPR weighs in:

Broken Levees...

Posted by Jvstin at 12:37 PM

June 12, 2008

Wrong side of history, Racists

Dear Racists.

You are on the wrong fucking side of history.

No Love,

Posted by Jvstin at 4:35 PM

New Federal Reserve Building in KC

Our cousins in Kansas City have gotten themselves a new Federal Reserve Building:

The tower on the edge of Penn Valley Park is the first Federal Reserve Bank designed and built since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While security is paramount — the building aims to be bomb and bullet resistant –– architects had the flexibility to design a 3,000-square-foot exhibit area that is easily accessible to drop-in visitors and tour groups.

This new building will include a Money Museum. I'd love to see it.


Posted by Jvstin at 11:57 AM

June 4, 2008

Great, so Obama is the presumptive Democratic Nominee

Great, so Obama is the presumptive Democratic Nominee. And from all judgements, he can talk rings around Sen. McCain.

The nationwide polls are surprisingly even.

To quote a very funny SNL episode which parodied a debate between Dukakis and Bush:

"I can't believe I'm losing to this guy".


Posted by Jvstin at 8:26 PM

May 9, 2008

Savings Bond Rate Change


My supervisor pointed me to this article if you are considering purchasing I-bonds in the next six months. Treasury has pulled a bit of a switcheroo this cycle, changing the rate structure of bonds issued from May to November.

Short attention span summary: The fixed rate this cycle is going to 0% with a inflation rate of 4.84%. I Bonds that you currently have will still have the base 1% with the 4.84% inflation tacked on, but *new* bonds purchased between May and November only have the 4.84%.

So my advice is to wait on buying I bonds until November, since any bonds purchased during this period will *never* have a rate higher than the inflation rate. Their fixed base rate will *always* be 0, with the inflation rate changing as inflation does.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:43 AM

April 30, 2008

Call me naive, but this troubles me...

Citizenship Checks Upset Wash. Ferry Passengers : NPR

The U.S. Border Patrol has started doing spot checks on ferries coming from Washington state's San Juan Islands. These are domestic ferry routes, completely inside the borders of Washington state.

Doesn't this sound like to you "Citizen, where are you bound?" or, even worse "Citizen, your papers, please?"

I understand the necessity and realities of border security, but its a horrible, Unamerican precedent.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:34 AM

April 25, 2008

Picture a Day 04-25-08: Rainy Construction Site

Picture a Day 04-25-08: Rainy Construction Site
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
Looking across an intersection at a construction site across from the UPS Center in New Hope, Minnesota, in the rain.
Posted by Jvstin at 10:31 PM

April 8, 2008

Pawlenty runs for VP by being a "fiscal conservative"

MPR: Gov. Pawlenty delivers a setback to the Central Corridor project

The Governor of Minnesota has a line item veto, and he used it with flourish and without restraint today, cutting a number of important projects from the bill. Most significantly (although far from the only item) is cutting funding for the important Central Corridor light rail project between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

I suppose Pawlenty thinks the crumbling freeways and the pitiful bus service are good enough transportation options. By cutting this, he makes Phil Krinkie, head of the We hate Public Transit Taxpayers League, happy, and he shows off as a "fiscal conservative."

I think its a shot intended to make him a stronger VP candidate for McCain.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:47 AM

April 3, 2008

It's 3 am...

Via Balloon Juice,it looks like "3 am" is the default meme for political ads this season thus far. Now here is one based on the economy by McCain.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:40 AM

March 28, 2008

The Odiousness of Walmart

Obsidian Wings: Read It And Weep

A collision with a semi-trailer truck seven years ago left 52-year-old Deborah Shank permanently brain-damaged and in a wheelchair. Her husband, Jim, and three sons found a small source of solace: a $700,000 accident settlement from the trucking company involved. After legal fees and other expenses, the remaining $417,000 was put in a special trust. It was to be used for Mrs. Shank’s care.

Instead, all of it is now slated to go to Mrs. Shank’s former employer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Two years ago, the retail giant’s health plan sued the Shanks for the $470,000 it had spent on her medical care. A federal judge ruled last year in Wal-Mart’s favor, backed by an appeals-court decision in August. Now, her family has to rely on Medicaid and Mrs. Shank’s social-security payments to keep up her round-the-clock care.

If I wasn't already not shopping at Walmart, this story would cause me to stop.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:33 PM

March 18, 2008

RIP, Arthur C Clarke

Sci-fi guru Arthur Clarke dies at 90 - Space- msnbc.com

Arthur C Clarke, author of 2001, 2010 and many other books, has died in his home in Sri Lanka.

As much as I like 2001 as a cinematic achievement, my favorite novel of his probably is Rendezvous with Rama. One of the original and best, Big Damn Object novels.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:46 PM

March 14, 2008

The Obama Campaign does Snark

NPR: Obama Campaign Skewers Clinton E-mail Statement


Read this annotated response by the Obama campaign to a Clinton campaign email which denigrates his chances to win the nomination.

Ridicule and Snark can be very potent weapons.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:32 AM

March 10, 2008

Politics as she is played with 3d6

Charlie's Diary: Politics as she is Played with 3d6

A funny entry from Charlie Stross, where he gives 1st Edition D&D stats to the three major US Presidential candidates remaining.

And for those surprised that Stross would or could create such a thing--recall that some of the monsters from earlier editions of the venerable game came from the very pen of Mr. Stross.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:47 PM

February 13, 2008

Proud of my Senator!

You've heard about the telecom immunity debate in the Senate.

(One place where it is discussed is in Carolyn's Livejournal: (http://kadath.livejournal.com/631883.html)

Some months ago, I emailed one of my Senators, Amy Klobuchar, about her previous vote to authorize an extension on FISA rules. She had emailed me back, then, explaining that she thought it was right and necessary.

On the recent spate of votes for amendments to the FISA bill, my Senator voted to deny the telecom companies immunity. Even though those votes failed, and the immunity remained, at least she voted the right way.

Today, unsolicited and unprompted, she emailed me about the bills, explaining her vote. She remembered that it was an issue I gave a damn about, and took the time to contact me.

Her email is reproduced below. I emailed her back immediately praising her for her vote, and taking the time to tell me about it.

Dear Paul:

Thank you for contacting me concerning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

I believe that long-term FISA legislation must strike the right balance between protecting our safety and protecting our civil rights. Both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees of the Senate passed bills that proposed to elevate the role of the FISA court and provide more oversight of the government’s surveillance activities. While both bills represented improvements over the temporary law, I believe the Judiciary bill struck a more appropriate balance between security and privacy considerations, and I voted to move that version of FISA reform forward.

After a majority of the Senate rejected the Judiciary Committee’s bill, I voted for several amendments to incorporate key elements of the Judiciary bill into the Intelligence Committee’s bill, including an amendment to remove the provision granting blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. Unfortunately, each amendment was defeated. Since blanket retroactive immunity was included in the final version of the bill, I could not support the legislation passed by the Senate on February 12, 2008.

Thank you again for your input, and please don’t hesitate to contact me again regarding this or any other issue.


Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

Posted by Jvstin at 2:56 PM

January 13, 2008

Driver cited in Bedford train-car crash caused by GPS mishap


A 32-year-old Californian whose rental car got smashed by a Metro-North train last night was issued a minor summons for causing the fiery crash that stranded railroad commuters for hours.

Bo Bai, a computer technician from Sunnyvale who said he was merely trusting his car's global positioning system when he steered onto the tracks, was cited for obstructing a railroad crossing, officials said this afternoon...
...the GPS system instructed him to turn right as he was crossing the tracks. He was headed for the Saw Mill River Parkway, just past the tracks.

He got stuck, tried unsuccessfully to reverse and finally abandoned the 2006 Ford Focus minutes before it was slammed by a northbound Metro-North Harlem Line train, MTA police said.

"As the car is driving over the tracks, the GPS system tells him to turn right, and he turns right onto the railroad tracks," said Brucker. "That's how it happened."

Here is a case of overreliance on technology or a tool, with a critical lack of judgement. You're driving over a railroad crossing, and your GPS device tells you to turn right.

What is the threshold of common sense to tell you that turning onto railroad tracks might be a pretty bad idea? Technology should be a tool, not a crutch.

To illustrate the power of technology when used effectively, I did something that would have been difficult a few years ago: I looked up exactly where this accident occurred, to share with you all:


Posted by Jvstin at 8:54 AM

January 9, 2008

The Wal Mart Effect

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis - fedgazette - The Wal-Mart effect: Poison or antidote for local communities? - January 2008

I don't mention stuff from work here, much. However, there is a steady stream of articles and information that comes out of the research side of the Fed that we get pointers to read.

This one, on Walmart's effect on local communities, is particularly interesting.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:55 PM

January 4, 2008

Iowa Heart Huckabee

Congratulations to Barack Obama and Nehemiah Sc...err, Mike Huckabee, for winning their respective party's Iowa caucuses.

Politics is like the Super Bowl. After months of the tedium of the "pre-game show", we've finally had our kickoff of the game itself. Its still the first quarter of this game, even if formerly unexpected winners (especially Huckabee) are in the lead at this point. Now the teams are on the field and everything really counts.

I still think Money will out on both sides of the political aisle, but now things can get down to buisness. On to New Hampshire.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:01 AM

December 30, 2007

Books I have no desire to read: Caliphate by Tom Kratman

Its a well known thing that many Baen writers (and books) have a rightward slant. Some of these are more than others, and the politics are hardly clearcut or homogenous. Still, Baen books tend to be pro-military and right-leaning politically.

I read and enjoy some of these authors.

However, HERE is a book that goes way too far in that direction for my taste. Even if this somehow won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus award, I have little appetite for something like this:

Caliphate (Hardcover)
by Tom Kratman (Author)

Book Description
“Slavery is a part of Islam . . . Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam.” —Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, author of the religious textbook At-Tawhid (“Monotheism”) and senior Saudi cleric.Demography is destiny. In the 22nd century European deathbed demographics have turned the continent over to the more fertile Moslems. Atheism in Europe has been exterminated. Homosexuals are hanged, stoned or crucified. Such Christians as remain are relegated to dhimmitude, a form of second class citizenship. They are denied arms, denied civil rights, denied a voice, and specially taxed via the Koranic yizya. Their sons are taken as conscripted soldiers while their daughters are subject to the depredations of the continent’s new masters.

In that world, Petra, a German girl sold into prostitution as a slave at the age of nine to pay her family’s yizya, dreams of escape. Unlike most girls of the day, Petra can read. And in her only real possession, her grandmother’s diary, a diary detailing the fall of European civilization, Petra has learned of a magic place across the sea: America.

Um yeah. And in case you wanted icing on the cake, the author description on Amazon:

About the Author
Tom Kratman, in 1974 at age seventeen, became a political refugee and defector from the PRM (People's Republic of Massachusetts) by virtue of joining the Regular Army. He stayed a Regular Army infantryman most of his adult life, returning to Massachusetts as an unofficial dissident while attending Boston College after his first hitch. Tom is currently an attorney practicing in southwest Virginia. Baen published his first novel, A State of Disobedience and two collaborations with John Ringo in the Posleen War series, Watch on the Rhine and Yellow Eyes. His latest novels are A Desert Called Peace and its sequel Carnifex.

Sorry, Tom. Maybe you're a nice guy. Publishing novels which reinforce the manufactured Clash of Civilizations that certain political elements have promoted as a sequel to the Cold War makes you a less than angelic figure in my book. I got really pissed when it reared up without warning in Dan Simmons Olympos. I have no desire to read an entire book with such a theme.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:40 PM

December 28, 2007


The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is unfortunately one of those things which seemed, in retrospect, inevitable.

The day of her return to Pakistan was marked by an attempt similar to this one. And how does an attack like this happen in Rawalpindi?. The city is the headquarters for Pakistan's armed forces. You would think it would be one of the safest places in Pakistan, with the highest security.

So, either a faction of the military is behind, or tacitly allowed the assassination to occur, or Pakistan is far more insecure than even I thought.

In any event, I don't see this as good for anyone, save for those who thrive on chaos. Heck, even Musharraf doesn't really benefit from this--he was hoping to use her to prop up and legitimize his role.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:24 AM

December 20, 2007

Why should my overseas friends visit the US? Seriously!

Iceland complains to US about treatment of tourist in New York - International Herald Tribune

Why should my overseas friends visit the US? Seriously...when we do things like this to visitors?

There is a chinese axiom: To frighten the monkey, kill a chicken in front of it.

I'm disgusted.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:11 PM

November 19, 2007

In U.S. Name Count, Garcias Are Catching Up With Joneses

In U.S. Name Count, Garcias Are Catching Up With Joneses - New York Times

Yes, I should go back to bed soon.

I wanted to share this article from the NY Times, which talks about the frequency of last names in the U.S. For the first time, two Hispanic surnames, Garcia and Rodriguez, make the top ten most common last names in the U.S.

There is a widget on the site that lets you search or browser the 5,000 most common last names in the U.S.

Weimer comes in at #4048.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:11 AM

November 9, 2007

British Supermarket Invades California

Tesco enters US to take on Trader Joe | Business | The Guardian

I've been to Hemet, as it so happens. I don't know why Tesco would choose Hemet of all places to start their "invasion."

Alas, however, it doesn't sound like there will be tons of British products.

"There will be no Twiglets here," Tim Mason, the head of Tesco's US operation, recently declared."

Twiglets are a strangely addictive British salty snack. My friend Mel, on her two visits to The Black Road, brought them along. They have a n odd taste and something that, despite their weird flavor, just makes you eat more and more.

OTOH, if they don't have Twiglets, they probably won't have Galaxy chocolate or Cadbury Flake either, alas.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:00 AM

October 24, 2007


Stark Weather ァ Unqualified Offerings

As Ken McLeod says...WTF IS going on with our country?

For a Congressman to say this:

“I want to apologize to my colleagues — many of whom I have offended — to the president and his family and to the troops,” Stark said. He added that he hoped the apology would allow him to “become as insignificant as I should be” as the House moves forward on critical, divisive issues.

Heck, even I wouldn't abase myself that far. Not if I was a Congressman and a fairly powerful one at that. It's as if he is abasing himself before an Emperor.

The You tube video of his apology reminds me nothing so much as the Prisoner episode "A Change of Mind".

Posted by Jvstin at 8:18 AM

October 19, 2007

Waterboarding is Torture


"It is not constitutional for the United States to engage in torture in any form, be it waterboarding or anything else," he said. When asked about it again by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Mukasey allowed that if waterboarding were actually defined as torture, then it could not be permitted by the president.

"If it is torture as defined by the Constitution, or defined by constitutional standards, it can't be authorized," Mukasey said.

If it is torture?!?!

And it is a sad state of affairs in our country when a candidate for Attorney General cannot say definitively and unequivocally that waterboarding is torture. So I will say it.

Waterboarding is Torture.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:57 AM

October 12, 2007

Congratulations, Al Gore


Congratulations to Al Gore, who, along with UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize!

While we have wound up, I think, with a worse world for his not being elected President in 2000, he has done good work since that fateful day at the Supreme Court.

Since that day,Gore's efforts to wake up the world to the effects of Global Climate Change have garnered him an Emmy, an Oscar and now part of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Excerpts from the award announcement below.


Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.


Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.


Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.


By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world's future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:42 AM

September 27, 2007

Verizon Rejects Messages from NARAL

Verizon Rejects Messages of Abortion Rights Group - New York Times

Saying it had the right to block “controversial or unsavory” text messages, Verizon Wireless has rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program.

The other leading wireless carriers have accepted the program, which allows people to sign up for text messages from Naral by sending a message to a five-digit number known as a short code.

Update: Verizon recants:


Verizon Reverses Itself on Abortion Messages
Saying it had the right to block “controversial or unsavory” text messages, Verizon Wireless last week rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program.

But the company reversed course this morning, saying it had made a mistake.

“The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident,” Jeffrey Nelson, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

While Verizon might have the right to decide what text messages are carried over their (private) network, this is authoritarian and smacks of censorship.

My ganking of the quote from "Alpha Centauri" is slowly becoming more prescient. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams yourself your master.

And that's true for governments and corporations alike.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:44 AM

September 26, 2007

Khruschev then, Ahmadinejad now

Bed-wetter Nation | Campaign for America's Future

Rick Perlestein at Common sense has an entry entitled "Bed wetter Nation", contrasting the treatment we gave the Soviet Premier at the height of the Cold War in 1959, and Iran's President this week in 2007.

Its a saddening indictment of how America has changed. Read it.

On NPR recently, they had a story about the Premier's visit to Iowa, and how a gift that the Premier had given to the first lady of Iowa was recently brought to light--a set of records of Russian music.

Can you imagine the outcry today if the Iranian President gave Mayor Bloomberg a gift from Iran? Or perhaps can you imagine the outcry if he, instead wished to visit the site of Ground Zero and lay a wreath?

Wait...that already has happened.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:57 AM

September 17, 2007

Even the Bridge Collapse is infected by politics

'Embarrassed' by bridge impasse

The Minnesota state government has found it impossible to agree on a bill to help fund the rebuilding of the I-35 W bridge collapse. The governor points at the DFL insistence on adding stuff to a gas tax hike, the DFL points at the governor for neglecting road priorities in the state.

The losers are me and the rest of the residents of Minnesota.

I am ashamed and embarassed.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:13 AM

August 8, 2007

Organlegging, 21st Century Style

Keen demand fuels global trade in body parts | Health | Reuters

Via John C Wright, a news story about the trade in organs and body parts going on throughout the world. He, and I, once I read this, immediately thought of Larry Niven's SF featuring organleggers.

I suspect that if transplants were more reliable than they are (in Niven's universe, as I recall, there is more advanced techniques in immunosuppression that make transplants even more viable than in our TL), we would see even more of this, I bet.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:52 AM

July 5, 2007

And now a special comment from Keith Olbermann

Watch this.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:09 AM

July 4, 2007

Happy Fourth of July

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

Posted by Jvstin at 8:24 AM

June 26, 2007

"Dave" and "Aladdin" as parallels to the modern administration

Have you ever seen Dave,, starring Kevin Kline and Frank Langella, where Kline plays a temp agency manager who is gulled into impersonating a sick president, so that Langella's chief of staff can run the country behind his back.

All the talk lately about how autonomous and autocratic Dick Cheney has been in this administration's White House reminds me strongly of that movie. If you have been paying attention to the news lately, it seems that Cheney seems to have done what he wants, when he wants, and has had the president's ear on every major decision. Really, Bush is much more of a figurehead, it seems, than anyone realizes. A Buffoon in Chief.

Or, perhaps, to riff on Aladdin, Bush is the Sultan and Cheney is the Vizier.

The only problem is, unlike these two movies, Bush doesn't have the will that Dave does to stand up to Cheney, and we don't have an Aladdin to make Cheney suffer the consequences of his power grab. We just have a cowed, apathetic American Public which is more interested in Paris Hilton's visit to the LA Penal System.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:05 AM

May 22, 2007

Smithsonian Alters Climate Exhibition

Smithsonian Alters Climate Exhibition

Published: May 22, 2007
The Smithsonian Institution toned down an exhibition on Arctic climate change, fearing that it would anger Congress and the Bush administration, a former museum administrator said. The official text of the exhibition was rewritten to minimize and add uncertainty about the relationship between global warming and people, said the former official, Robert Sullivan, who was associate director in charge of exhibitions at the National Museum of Natural History. Officials omitted scientists’ interpretations of some research and let visitors draw their own conclusions from the data, Mr. Sullivan said. In addition, graphs were altered “to show that global warming could go either way,” he said. Museum officials denied that political concerns had influenced the exhibition, saying the changes were made to increase objectivity.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:43 AM

May 21, 2007

Fire Guts Cutty Sark

Fire Guts Cutty Sark

Oh, no!

Fire today ravaged the Cutty Sark, turning the 19th century tea clipper and one of Britain's most important maritime treasures into a blackened wreck.

Firefighters were called at 4.45am to the ship's dry dock in Greenwich, south London, where police set up a 200-metre cordon.

Ian Allchin, an officer with London Fire Brigade, told BBC Breakfast: "We attended to a quite well-developed fire that was throughout the ship. Initially, we were in our defensive mode because we had reports that there were cylinders and some chemicals on board. We were able to confirm within about 45 minutes that there were no hazards on board."

I remember seeing it when my brother and I, on our trip in London, went to Greenwich to see the Royal Observatory. We only passed by it, and I didn't get a good picture of it, but it saddens me to hear of it being gutted like this.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:28 AM

April 27, 2007

...in ten easy steps

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

In the Guardian, Naomi Wolf throws the "F Bomb". Not the sexual one, but the political one.

Is she wrong?

David Neiwert's blog Orcinus has been talking about these issues for some time now, but distinguishes the American experience from the German/Spanish/Chilean/etc one.

One thing is clear, though, and at a minimum. The existence of an American gulag, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is reprehensible. Its existence and use not only does not make me or the rest of the American public safer, it is a stain upon our country.

If George Washington were a Solar Exalted whose soul reincarnated into this modern era, I feel confident that he would be horrified at its existence and would work to close it and raze it to the ground. (Look up the story of what he did with British prisoners as an example of true American values).

Posted by Jvstin at 7:54 AM

April 21, 2007

Another Brick in the Wall...

Because, well, we all know just how well walling in populations work. Ask the Palestinians, or the residents of East Berlin. There is another example I can't give from history thanks to Godwin's Law.

I think its a terrible idea. The checkpoints in these walls will be big fat juicy targets for attacks.

U.S. Erects Baghdad Wall to Keep Sects Apart

BAGHDAD, April 20 — American military commanders in Baghdad are trying a radical new strategy to quell the widening sectarian violence by building a 12-foot-high, three-mile-long wall separating a historic Sunni enclave from Shiite neighborhoods.

Soldiers in the Adhamiya district of northern Baghdad, a Sunni Arab stronghold, began construction of the wall last week and expect to finish it within a month. Iraqi Army soldiers would then control movement through a few checkpoints. The wall has already drawn intense criticism from residents of the neighborhood, who say that it will increase sectarian tensions and that it is part of a plan by the Shiite-led Iraqi government to box in the minority Sunnis.

A doctor in Adhamiya, Abu Hassan, said the wall would transform the residents into caged animals.

“It’s unbelievable that they treat us in such an inhumane manner,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’re trying to isolate us from other parts of Baghdad. The hatred will be much greater between the two sects.”

“The Native Americans were treated better than us,” he added.

The American military said in a written statement that “the wall is one of the centerpieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence.”

As soldiers pushed forward with the construction, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates insisted to the Iraqi government that it had to pass by late summer a series of measures long sought by the White House that were aimed at advancing reconciliation between the warring Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs.

Whether Parliament meets that benchmark could affect a decision that the Bush administration plans to make in late summer on extending the nearly 30,000 additional troops ordered to Iraq earlier this year, Mr. Gates said.

His words were the bluntest yet by an American official in tying the American military commitment here to the Iraqi political process. It reflected a growing frustration among Bush administration officials at Iraq’s failure to move on the political elements of the new strategy. President Bush’s new security plan here is aimed at buying time for the feuding Iraqi factions to come to political settlements that would, in theory, reduce the violence.

In recent weeks, Democrats in Congress have been intensifying pressure on the president, through negotiations on financing for the war, to set political deadlines for the Iraqis and tie them to the withdrawal of American troops.

Speaking to reporters after talks with the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, Mr. Gates urged Parliament not to adjourn for a planned summer recess without passing legislation on sharing oil revenues, easing the purges of former Baath Party members from government positions and setting a date for provincial elections.

“Our commitment to Iraq is long term, but it is not a commitment to have our young men and women patrolling Iraq’s streets open-endedly,” he said, adding that he told Mr. Maliki that “progress in reconciliation will be an important element of our evaluation in the late summer.”

This is not the first time the Bush administration has set a timetable for Iraq to pass the reconciliation measures. Late last year, the White House gave the Iraqi government a goal of March to pass the legislation. March came and went, and senior administration officials shrugged off the missed target, saying it was counterproductive to press the Iraqis on the issue.

Mr. Gates’s demand, with its strong hint of conditions attached, could force the Bush administration into a corner.

If progress on the reconciliation measures proves impossible before the target date, as many Iraqi politicians say they believe, American officials will have to decide whether to follow through with the veiled threat. American military commanders have already indicated privately that it may be necessary to extend the troop reinforcements because the time between now and August is not be long enough for the new strategy to work.

A senior White House official in Washington said that Mr. Gates had not threatened to remove American troops if Mr. Maliki cannot act by midsummer. Instead, the official argued, “He simply said what everyone has said, which is that the process of political accommodation has to speed up.”

President Bush spoke with Mr. Maliki in a secure video conference on Monday morning and also emphasized the need to pass the legislation, aides said.

Mr. Maliki’s office issued a statement on Friday saying that the prime minister was confident that steps toward reconciliation could be achieved this year.

Mr. Gates delivered his message at the end of a week of major political turmoil and security setbacks for Mr. Maliki’s government. Mr. Maliki’s strongest political supporter, the firebrand Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, withdrew his six ministers from the cabinet. Car bombs in Baghdad killed at least 171 people on Wednesday, puncturing Iraqi confidence in the security plan.

Ceaseless violence is what led American commanders in Adhamiya to build a wall to break contact between Sunnis and Shiites. It is the first time the Americans have tried a project of that scope in Baghdad. The soldiers jokingly call it “The Great Wall of Adhamiya,” according to military officials.

Commanders have sealed off a few other neighborhoods into what they call “gated communities,” but not with a lengthy wall. In the earlier efforts, American and Iraqi soldiers placed concrete barriers blocking off roads leading into the neighborhoods and left open one or more avenues of egress where people and vehicles were searched.

Soldiers did that to a degree in the volatile district of Dora during a security push there last summer. More recently, American and Iraqi Army units have closed off almost all roads into the western Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Amiriya and Daoudi. Residents of Amiriya say violence dropped when the roads were first blocked off late last year, but has gradually increased again.

Adhamiya is different, because it involves the building of a three-mile wall along streets on its eastern flank. It consists of a series of concrete barriers, each weighing 14,000 pounds, that have been transported down to Baghdad in flatbed trucks from Camp Taji, north of the city. Soldiers are using cranes to put the barriers in place.

Once the wall is complete, Iraqi Army soldiers will operate entry and exit checkpoints, Capt. Marc Sanborn, a brigade engineer for the Second Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, said in a news release on the project issued this week by the American military.

The wall “is on a fault line of Sunni and Shia, and the idea is to curb some of the self-sustaining violence by controlling who has access to the neighborhoods,” Captain Sanborn said.

Adhamiya has been rife with violence throughout the war. It is a stalwart Sunni Arab neighborhood, home to the hard-line Abu Hanifa mosque, and the last place where Saddam Hussein made a public appearance before he went into hiding in 2003. Shiite militiamen from Sadr City and other Shiite enclaves to the east often attack its residents, and Sunni insurgent groups battle there among themselves.

“Shiites are coming in and hitting Sunnis, and Sunnis are retaliating across the street,” Capt. Scott McLearn, an operations officer in the area, said in a written statement.

Abu Hassan, the doctor in Adhamiya, said his neighborhood “is a small area.”

“The Americans and Iraqi government should be able to control it” without building a wall, he said.

Many Sunnis across Baghdad complain that the Shiite-led government has choked off basic services to their neighborhoods, allowing trash to pile up in the streets, banks to shut down and health clinics to languish. So the wall raises fears of further isolation.

A spokesman for the American military, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said at a news conference on Wednesday that the military did not have a policy of sealing off neighborhoods.

The American military has tried sealing off entire cities during the war. The most famous example is Falluja, in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar Province, where marines began operating checkpoints on all main roads into and out of the city after laying siege to it in late 2004.

On Friday, a child was killed and nine people were wounded in a mortar attack in Baghdad, and 19 bodies were found across the capital. Hospital officials in Mosul said they were treating 130 Iraqi Army trainees suffering from stomach illness, in a possible case of mass poisoning at a training center north of the city.

An American soldier was killed and two wounded in a rocket attack on a base in Mahmudiya on Thursday night, the military said.

Sahar Nageeb and Ahmad Fadam contributed reporting from Baghdad, and David E. Sanger from Washington.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:45 AM

April 16, 2007

Climate Change Worries Military Advisers

NPR : Climate Change Worries Military Advisers

Via NPR, an interview with retired General Anthony Zinni, and a new report on how climate change impacts national security.

The entire interview is worth a listen, and I should read the 30 page report (which is linked on the site) too. But the bullet points are noteworthy:


1. Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America's national security.

2. Climate change acts increases the potential instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.

3. Projected climate change will boost tensions even in stable regions.

4. Climate change, national security and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.


1. Climate change should be integrated into national security and national defense strategies.

2. The United States should vow to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.

3. The United States should commit to global partnerships that help less-developed nations better manage climate impacts.

4. The Department of Defense should speed adoption of improved business processes and innovative technologies that boost U.S. combat power through energy efficiency.

5. The Pentagon should assess the impact on U.S. military installations worldwide of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other possible climate change impacts over the next 30 to 40 years.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:15 AM

March 11, 2007

NY Times calls for Gonzales to Resign


The NY Times calls for the resignation of Alberto Gonzales.

  • Defending the firing of US Attorneys for political reasons
  • The abuse of the USA Patriot act
  • Defending the abrogation of the rights of the Geneva Convention
  • Abandoning its role as a champion of voting rights:
    " It approved a Georgia photo-ID law that a federal judge later likened to a poll tax, a case in which Mr. Gonzales’s political team overrode the objections of the department’s professional staff...But it has managed to find the time to sue a group of black political leaders in Mississippi for discriminating against white voters. "

"Mr. Gonzales symbolizes Mr. Bush’s disdain for the separation of powers, civil liberties and the rule of law."
Posted by Jvstin at 9:12 AM

March 3, 2007

Swiss Accidentally Invade Liechtenstein

Swiss accidentally invade Liechtenstein

What began as a routine training exercise almost ended in an embarrassing diplomatic incident after a company of Swiss soldiers got lost at night and marched into neighboring Liechtenstein.

According to Swiss daily Blick, the 170 infantry soldiers wandered just over a mile across an unmarked border into the tiny principality early Thursday before realizing their mistake and turning back.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:30 AM

February 22, 2007

Order of the Stick says it all about War

Giant In the Playground Games

The current Order of the Stick comic sums up War succinctly:

"In a War people on the winning side still die."

That is why War should be the method of last, last, last resort in diplomacy. And why the Iraq War is such a tragedy.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:29 AM

February 2, 2007

National Consumer Protection Week


Not just another banal of those "celebratory weeks", February 4-10 is National Consumer Protection Week.


Posted by Jvstin at 3:13 PM

January 31, 2007

Can you guess who was so careless?

Names deliberately excised.

"I would suggest moving back," he said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor. "I'm about to crank this sucker up." As the engine roared to life, staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety."Get out of the way!" a news photographer yelled. "I think he might run us over!" said another. Aides tried to herd the reporters the right way without getting run over themselves. Even security got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, he looked out the tractor's window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned.

Can you guess who was so callously careless with heavy machinery?


Posted by Jvstin at 1:01 PM

January 27, 2007

Commander in Chief

Garry Willis has a great op-ed in the NY Times today about the misuse of the term Commander-in-Chief

WE hear constantly now about “our commander in chief.” The word has become a synonym for “president.” It is said that we “elect a commander in chief.” It is asked whether this or that candidate is “worthy to be our commander in chief.”

But the president is not our commander in chief. He certainly is not mine. I am not in the Army.

Or any other armed forces for that matter.


The president is not the commander in chief of civilians. He is not even commander in chief of National Guard troops unless and until they are federalized. The Constitution is clear on this: “The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

Indeed. I suppose that National Guard troops sent overseas would count as "called into the actual service". Still, that doesn't mean ME.

When Abraham Lincoln took actions based on military considerations, he gave himself the proper title, “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” That title is rarely — more like never — heard today. It is just “commander in chief,” or even “commander in chief of the United States.” This reflects the increasing militarization of our politics. The citizenry at large is now thought of as under military discipline. In wartime, it is true, people submit to the national leadership more than in peacetime

And we see this in defenders of the President who strike back at criticism of the President as being unpatriotic. Its positively Monarchial in tone. You can't criticize the President. You can't criticize what he does with the troops because that's not "supporting the troops". It tangles his civilian identity as the head of the Executive Branch and his role as head of the Armed Forces.

And Bush encourages this. Is it any surprise that many of his photo-ops are in front of our Armed forces? And need I remind anyone of the "Mission Accomplished" banner and landing on the Aircraft carrier in a flightsuit?


The glorification of the president as a war leader is registered in numerous and substantial executive aggrandizements; but it is symbolized in other ways that, while small in themselves, dispose the citizenry to accept those aggrandizements. We are reminded, for instance, of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of marines.

I'm okay with that, since those are armed forces. I wouldn't be okay if ordinary people started saluting him.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s prescient last book, “Secrecy,” traced the ever-faster-growing secrecy of our government and said that it strikes at the very essence of democracy — accountability of representatives to the people. How can the people hold their representatives to account if they are denied knowledge of what they are doing? Wartime and war analogies are embraced because these justify the secrecy. The representative is accountable to citizens. Soldiers are accountable to their officer. The dynamics are different, and to blend them is to undermine the basic principles of our Constitution.

And it continues to erode them.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:40 AM

January 6, 2007

It's the White House, not the Imperial Palace

TPMmuckraker January 5, 2007 04:43 PM

The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement last spring in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring that records identifying visitors to the White House complex are not subject to public disclosure.

The audacity is stunning. The White House is the residence of our elected president, elected by the people, for the people and of the people, not of a Emperor, an Imperator, Sultan, Czar or any other autocrat. We have the right and even the responsibility to know who visits the White House.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:47 AM

January 3, 2007

Telephone Tax Refund on your 2006 Income Taxes


The telephone tax refund is a one-time payment available on your 2006 federal income tax return, designed to refund previously collected federal excise taxes on long-distance or bundled services. It is available to anyone who paid such taxes on landline, wireless, or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service.

Why is the government refunding these taxes?

Several recent federal court decisions have held that the tax does not apply to long-distance service as it is billed today. The IRS is following these decisions and refunding the portion of the tax charged on long-distance calls. The IRS is also refunding taxes collected on telephone service under plans that do not differentiate between long distance and local calls including bundled service.

The telephone tax continues to apply to local-only service, and the IRS is not refunding taxes charged on local-only service.

The IRS will refund to you the taxes on long-distance or bundled service billed to you for the period after Feb. 28, 2003 and before Aug. 1, 2006. Taxpayers should request this refund when they file their 2006 tax returns.

It's not much, but definitely do make sure you get yours.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:52 AM

December 29, 2006

Saddam is dead

And all I have to say is to quote a wise character:

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

Posted by Jvstin at 10:43 PM

December 26, 2006

US Military considers foreign recruits

A U.S. military 'at its breaking point' considers foreign recruits - Americas - International Herald Tribune

Via http://jaylake.livejournal.com/.

Does no one read the history of the Roman empire anymore? This is a really bad idea, especially when the new legions decide that the President can be made or unmade in places other than the ballot box. Its a policy of grasping at straws and for that reason alone it is dangerous.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:04 PM

December 13, 2006

Saudi Ambassador to US suddenly resigns

Saudi envoy to U.S. quits
ReutersPublished: December 12, 2006

WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, has abruptly resigned after 15 months on the job, an embassy official said Tuesday.

"The embassy can confirm that he is leaving," said the official, who asked not to be named as the announcement had not been made by the Saudi government. "He wants to spend more time with his family."

Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the United States and is the world's top oil exporter. Turki's predecessor, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, held the job for 22 years and the short tenure of the current envoy came as a surprise.

The official said Turki had submitted his resignation and told embassy staff members in Washington about his decision on Monday. The official declined to provide further details.

Now, I play a diplomat in a new Amber PBEM, and have played such in the past. If *my* character, or his superior suddenly resigned like this, it would cause a lot of questions to be raised. I'm very surprised this hasn't gotten more press.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:46 AM

November 11, 2006

Armistice (Veterans) Day

Today is Veteran's Day.

Being the son of a veteran, and the brother of one, and not so blinkered as to forget that, without such veterans defending my country, my life would be a very different alternate history, if I existed at all, all I can say is, Thank You.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:40 AM

November 6, 2006

DHS proposal on pre-approval for leaving the country

This has long since been slashdotted, so I suspect that any of the readers here have long since heard about it.

However, you never know, and you need to read this.

I am not going to invoke Godwin's Law. However, I can invoke a science fiction short story by Fritz Leiber called "Coming Attraction". In that dark story, a British man takes a visit to a future where America and the Soviet Union, despite a nuclear exchange, still hold the cards in the world. America has rapidly slipped into a very nasty place, and there is a comment by the Brit to a girl that he tries to help that the American government "doesn't like its citizens to travel, although they aren't as strict as Russia".

I don't relish seeing the day that, if I decided to drive all the way up to the North Shore and into Thunder Bay, that I would need approval beforehand, or worry that anything I've written or done might possibly put me on a list to deny my trip.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:53 AM

October 27, 2006

Humor: War on Terra

Support the War on Terra!


Posted by Jvstin at 8:19 AM

September 29, 2006


One more time, I know its a drumbeat, and you've seen it elsewhere, but I will use uncharacteristic brevity.

Torture, the suspension of Habeas Corpus, and the other things in the passed legislation, is wrong, even for our worst enemies. I don't care about ticking time bombs. I don't care about supposed threats to all Civilization. Its wrong, it drags us to the level of petty dictatorship.

Sure, if someone I loved was held by terrorists, I would do anything to make them safe. But I would expect that what I would do would be illegal, and I would go to jail afterwards, proudly. I do NOT want torture and the other things in this bill to be approved policy. I want America to be a better nation than that, even to terrorists who want me dead and could have very easily killed my brother, who lost a co worker who arrived early for work at the WTC.

Making Light has a good list of people who feel the same way that I do. And many of them are far more talented than I, and can and do explain much more eloquently just what is wrong with our country.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:37 PM

A Man for All Seasons Quote for our Times

Thinking about the recent stuff with the heinous bills passed in the House and Senate brings in mind this exchange from the wonderful A Man For All Seasons.

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

I really need to buy this movie on DVD.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:52 AM

September 28, 2006

The Republicans are Coming! The Republicans are Coming!

As you no doubt already know, the 2008 Republican National Convention's site has been chosen...and its the Twin Cities.

The last national convention held here was back in 1892 (The Republican National Convention).

It's going to be interesting living here through it, in a Chinese "Interesting Times" sort of way.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:06 AM

September 22, 2006

Paul Weimer is Shrill



But always -- do not forget this, Winston -- always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.'

But always -- do not forget this, Winston -- always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.'

He paused as though he expected Winston to speak. Winston had tried to shrink back into the surface of the bed again. He could not say anything. His heart seemed to be frozen. O'Brien went on:

'And remember that it is for ever. The face will always be there to be stamped upon. The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again. Everything that you have undergone since you have been in our hands -- all that will continue, and worse. The espionage, the betrayals, the arrests, the tortures, the executions, the disappearances will never cease. It will be a world of terror as much as a world of triumph. The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon and yet they will always survive. This drama that I have played out with you during seven years will be played out over and over again generation after generation, always in subtler forms. Always we shall have the heretic here at our mercy, screaming with pain, broken up, contemptible -- and in the end utterly penitent, saved from himself, crawling to our feet of his own accord. That is the world that we are preparing, Winston. A world of victory after victory, triumph after triumph after triumph: an endless pressing, pressing, pressing upon the nerve of power. You are beginning, I can see, to realize what that world will be like. But in the end you will do more than understand it. You will accept it, welcome it, become part of it.'

Posted by Jvstin at 8:49 AM

September 13, 2006

Men Without a County, by Fiat, Update

Via Glenn Greenwald, an update on the two men who had been denied re-entry into the United States without due process, as I mentioned here some time ago.

The decision to (hopefully) allow the two men to return seems as arbitrary as the one that put them in the sights of the FBI in the first place. Kafka and Dosotevsky might have described Imperial Russia, but its scary how well they are describing War on Terror America.

Bush as a modern day Tsar.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:39 AM

September 12, 2006

Live Long and Prosper...in Minnesota!

NPR: Longevity in the United States

A new study on longevity in the United States shows that the life expectancy in the US does vary somewhat widely in the US by state.

At the top of the list is Hawaii, where the average person lives to the age of 80. D.C. ranks last, at 72 years.

However, as far as the lower 48 states are concerned, the place to be is my very own state of Minnesota, where the average resident lives to the age of 78.8 years.

Check out where your state ranks!

Posted by Jvstin at 9:59 AM

September 11, 2006

Memento Mori


Graphic by Arref Mak

Posted by Jvstin at 6:40 AM

August 29, 2006

Men without a country, by fiat

Updated slightly to respond to a comment.

Via Glenn Greenwald's Blog

From the NY Times:


Federal authorities have prevented two relatives of a father and son convicted recently in a terrorism-related case from returning home to California from Pakistan unless they agree to be interviewed by the F.B.I.

It is unclear whether the men, Muhammad Ismail, 45, and his son Jaber, 18, have a direct connection to the terrorism case or if they have been caught up in circumstance.

The United States attorney’s office in Sacramento declined Monday to answer questions about the Ismails beyond confirming that the men had not been permitted to fly into the United States and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted to question them.

U.S Citizens, the both of them. Denied re-entry to the United States, the only country to which they have citizenship, by fiat.

A commenter (my brother) points out:
Oh Yes. Quite coincedental. They just happen to be realitives of
someone CONVICTED in a terrorism-related case. They just happened to
travel to the same country. Pakistan is quite known for it's wacky
fun-loveing peace-nik camps. Lovely vistas, so I am told.

Perhaps so, but under what authority does the Executive branch have to bar citizens from their own country, without formal charges filed and no court authorization? The same authority it has to engage in warrantless wiretapping, detention of american citizens without trial, and an ever expanding set of unchecked executive branch assertions of power that are more in line with the dreams of authoritarian regimes, rather than democratic ones.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:21 AM

August 22, 2006

Tax farming!

Via a couple of places like Obsidian Wings, I found a NY times article that mentions President's Bush newest "so old its new" idea.

If you owe back taxes to the federal government, the next call asking you to pay may come not from an Internal Revenue Service officer, but from a private debt collector.

Within two weeks, the I.R.S. will turn over data on 12,500 taxpayers — each of whom owes $25,000 or less in back taxes — to three collection agencies. Larger debtors will continue to be pursued by I.R.S. officers.

The move, an initiative of the Bush administration, represents the first step in a broader plan to outsource the collection of smaller tax debts to private companies over time. Although I.R.S. officials acknowledge that this will be much more expensive than doing it internally, they say that Congress has forced their hand by refusing to let them hire more revenue officers, who could pull in a lot of easy-to-collect money.

The Roman Republic and Empire were past masters of this, among other entities throughout history. Its called Tax Farming.

Its a system which is overripe for abuse.

Clinton wanted to build a bridge to the 21st century. George Bush, with monarchial ideas about the limits of presidential powers, torture, and things like this, seems to want to build a bridge to the 17th.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:30 PM

August 18, 2006

A graphic depiction of the state of science education in this country

A graphic which shows just how ignorant our country's citizens are to one of the foundations of the biological sciences, Evolution


Posted by Jvstin at 5:26 PM

August 13, 2006

Aasif Mandvi on the Daily Show

YouTube - Daily Show - Aasif Mandvi

If you want to see satire, watch this skit on the Middle East on the Daily Show.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:59 AM

TSA inanity and insanity

TSA: Prohibited Items

The current TSA banned item list on planes is a fascinating exercise in fearmongering.

Did you know that gel shoe inserts are now on the banned item list, for instance?

Looking at this list...gel shoe inserts, pudding...mouthwashes. Hell, I don't think that even MacGyver could build a weapon out of this stuff. Okay, maybe he could, but he's a fictional character.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:30 AM

July 28, 2006

Las Vegas makes it illegal to feed homeless in Parks

From the NY Times:

Las Vegas, whose homeless population has doubled in the past decade to about 12,000 people in and around the city, joins several other cities across the country that have adopted or considered ordinances limiting the distribution of charitable meals in parks...The ordinance, an amendment to an existing parks statute approved by the Council on July 19, bans the “the providing of food or meals to the indigent for free or for a nominal fee.” It goes on to say that “an indigent person is a person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive” public assistance."

And here, I would prefer to give food to the indigent rather than money that might be spent on alcohol or drugs instead. Trying to prevent the socially minded from giving food to the homeless will *not* reduce the number of homeless, unless you are advocating a Swiftian notion for keeping them fed.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:40 PM

July 24, 2006

What is China?

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: What Is China?

Brad De Long links to an essay by Robert Reich (which I recall hearing on NPR some weeks ago) where he talks about the nature of China.

I remember a conversation with my brother just around the time of Tianamen Square massacre. His conviction was that China was on its way to a Democracy. I disagreed.

I could only wish that he were right and I were wrong, but time has seemingly proved me right. We're still in the midst of the Mao Dynasty.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:03 PM

July 4, 2006

Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:39 PM

May 23, 2006

Al Gore's Global Warming Movie and the Reaction to It

Think Progress Exxon-Backed Pundit Compares Gore To Nazi Propagandist

Via a couple of places, Sterling Burnett has a scintillating, fact-only response to Al Gore's Global Warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

Okay, its odious character assassination. Comparing Al Gore's advocacy of the problem of global climate change to Joseph Goebbels' support of the Nazi regime? Now I just want to see (and thus support) the movie all the more. Sure, Burnett has the right to say his opinion, as devoid of facts as it is. And I am entitled to my opinion that he is an corporate shill and an arsehole who attacks Al Gore on anything but the merits of his argument.

The movie comes out in Minneapolis on June 9th.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:19 PM

May 17, 2006

Editorial Title of the Day

Editorial Title of the Day: Forget Privacy, we need to spy more.

And Ben Franklin, Patrick Henry and many other of our founding fathers wept.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:48 PM

May 4, 2006


From the NY Daily News on the Moussaoui verdict:

Zacarias Moussaoui will live. This is not justice. This is an abomination. This is a reprieve from hell for a soul who deserves an eternity in flames no less intense than the infernos that brought down the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

That Moussaoui will suffer the tortures of damnation after a life in prison is of no comfort. No matter how entombed in concrete and steel he is, Moussaoui will breathe the air that Al Qaeda denied to almost 3,000 murder victims. Until, to his everlasting surprise, he is greeted not by willing virgins but by a vengeful maker.

It is deeply dispiriting that an American jury yesterday failed to impose the death penalty on a terrorist who came to the United States with plans to hijack a jetliner and fly it into the Capitol or the White House - and who knew that other conspirators were planning to hit the twin towers. Those facts alone justified capital punishment.

I think differently.

I think it is a crying shame that one of the great newspapers in my home city would stoop to such outright Bloodlust. . It simply is not civilized behavior for any organization, or any person, to behave this way.

Do I think 9-11 was a tragedy? Don't be an ass. Do I think Zacarias Moussaoui could have prevented 9-11? No. Even if he told the FBI everything and sung like a canary, would have even been believed? Or believed fast enough to prevent the hijackings? No, and No.

He is a wannabe, a egotistical wanna be martyr to his cause. Giving him the death penalty is exactly what he wants. And so, even if I wasn't anti-death penalty to begin with, I wouldn't want to give him the martyrdom he so clearly craves. No, life in prison, in a Supermax prison, where he will spend 23/24 of each day alone in a small room, with no one to hear his rants and raves, is a fitting punishment in my book.

Calling for his death is simply bloodlust. I'd expect it out of the NY Post, but not the NY Daily News.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:14 PM

April 16, 2006

Intolerance is Disgusting

LGBT families wait all night for Easter Egg Roll tix, White House shuts them out of opening ceremonies at Pandagon

Intolerance is disgusting. Especially on a major holiday.

Treat children of parents of families who aren't the cookie cutter norm like unwanted lepers, AND please the fundamentalist, intolerant political base at the same time. Mission Accomplished, Mr President!

Posted by Jvstin at 2:31 PM

March 24, 2006

The Last King to rule over America was named George III...

Bush shuns Patriot Act requirement - The Boston Globe

When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

Bush wrote: ''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "

Posted by Jvstin at 2:04 PM

March 3, 2006

Missouri State Bill proposes Christianity as the official State Religion

KMOV.com | St. Louis, MO | Top Stories

South Dakota's bill near-total prohibition on abortion, Mississippi looking to do something similar, and now this.

That Christian Fascist future envisioned by
my friend's trilogy of books
looks more and more plausible every damned day.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:56 PM

February 18, 2006

Busy Busy Busy

Busy, Busy, Busy

Hey! One of my posts (on Niall Ferguson's "Attack Iran now or the West will Decline" op-ed) got mentioned on Busy Busy Busy, a site which (often snarkily) distills op-eds and opinions to pithy and often amusing soundbites.

I guess I do get more than the same 20 readers a month after all.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:57 AM

February 10, 2006

White House Knew of Levee's Failure The Night Katrina Struck


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

Investigators have found evidence that federal officials at the White House and elsewhere learned of the levee break in New Orleans earlier than was first suggested.
But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

Read the entire article at the NY Times.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:31 PM

February 8, 2006

Nasa "political officer" resigns

A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA - New York Times

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:39 AM

February 5, 2006

Science, Bush Style Part CXIV

NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness - New York Times

Most of us know that the Bush administration tries to shoehorn science into their political philosophy, at the cost of the science itself. Be it denying Global Warming or throwing fundies a bone by mentioning "human-animal" hybrids, or by suggesting that Intelligent Design be taught in high schools, the Bush administration clearly believes that politics trumps science.

This paragraph, though, from this Times article, is yet another example of this stupid viewpoint:

In October, for example, George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in NASA headquarters, told a Web designer working for the agency to add the word "theory" after every mention of the Big Bang, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee forwarded to The Times.

Update: Bad Astronomy has a good take on all of this nonsense.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:38 AM

January 29, 2006

And so we slowly become what we fear

ABC News: Documents show US military in Iraq detain wives

U.S. forces in Iraq, in two instances described in military documents, took custody of the wives of men believed to be insurgents in an apparent attempt to pressure the suspects into giving themselves up.

In one, members of a shadowy military task force seized a mother who had three young children, still nursing the youngest, "in order to leverage" her husband's surrender, according to an account by a civilian Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence officer.

Women and Children.

I think I am going to cry. Or scream.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:26 PM

January 24, 2006

Our very own Praetorian Guard?

Patriot Act Renewal Includes Creation of a Federal Police Force - TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime

The Uniformed Division of the Secret Service.has been around for quite some time, protecting embasssies and do act in DC, but it seems that a clause of the Patriot Act would have their act go National.

I've put the entire text of the section of the Patriot act in the Extended Entry. Reading it, not being a lawyer, it sounds like to me, buried amongst more reasonable things is the fact that:

"...empowered to "make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence" ... "or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony."

Does showing up as a protestor at a rally for Bush count as a offense against the United States? How about just wearing a "Bush sucks!" t-shirt outside of the White House? And if you don't think they would go that far, you've not been living in America the last five years.


(a) In General- Chapter 203 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 3056 the following:

`Sec. 3056A. Powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service Uniformed Division

`(a) There is hereby created and established a permanent police force, to be known as the `United States Secret Service Uniformed Division'. Subject to the supervision of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division shall perform such duties as the Director, United States Secret Service, may prescribe in connection with the protection of the following:

`(1) The White House in the District of Columbia.

`(2) Any building in which Presidential offices are located.

`(3) The Treasury Building and grounds.

`(4) The President, the Vice President (or other officer next in the order of succession to the Office of President), the President-elect, the Vice President-elect, and their immediate families.

`(5) Foreign diplomatic missions located in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia.

`(6) The temporary official residence of the Vice President and grounds in the District of Columbia.

`(7) Foreign diplomatic missions located in metropolitan areas (other than the District of Columbia) in the United States where there are located twenty or more such missions headed by full-time officers, except that such protection shall be provided only--

`(A) on the basis of extraordinary protective need;

`(B) upon request of an affected metropolitan area; and

`(C) when the extraordinary protective need arises at or in association with a visit to--

`(i) a permanent mission to, or an observer mission invited to participate in the work of, an international organization of which the United States is a member; or

`(ii) an international organization of which the United States is a member;

except that such protection may also be provided for motorcades and at other places associated with any such visit and may be extended at places of temporary domicile in connection with any such visit.

`(8) Foreign consular and diplomatic missions located in such areas in the United States, its territories and possessions, as the President, on a case-by-case basis, may direct.

`(9) Visits of foreign government officials to metropolitan areas (other than the District of Columbia) where there are located twenty or more consular or diplomatic missions staffed by accredited personnel, including protection for motorcades and at other places associated with such visits when such officials are in the United States to conduct official business with the United States Government.

`(10) Former Presidents and their spouses, as provided in section 3056(a)(3) of title 18.

`(11) An event designated under section 3056(e) of title 18 as a special event of national significance.

`(12) Major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates and, within 120 days of the general Presidential election, the spouses of such candidates, as provided in section 3056(a)(7) of title 18.

`(13) Visiting heads of foreign states or foreign governments.

`(b)(1) Under the direction of the Director of the Secret Service, members of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division are authorized to--

`(A) carry firearms;

`(B) make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony; and

`(C) perform such other functions and duties as are authorized by law.

`(2) Members of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division shall possess privileges and powers similar to those of the members of the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia.

`(c) Members of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division shall be furnished with uniforms and other necessary equipment.

`(d) In carrying out the functions pursuant to paragraphs (7) and (9) of subsection (a), the Secretary of Homeland Security may utilize, with their consent, on a reimbursable basis, the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of State and local governments, and is authorized to reimburse such State and local governments for the utilization of such services, personnel, equipment, and facilities. The Secretary of Homeland Security may carry out the functions pursuant to paragraphs (7) and (9) of subsection (a) by contract. The authority of this subsection may be transferred by the President to the Secretary of State. In carrying out any duty under paragraphs (7) and (9) of subsection (a), the Secretary of State is authorized to utilize any authority available to the Secretary under title II of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956.'.

(b) Amendment to Table of Sections- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 203 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 3056 the following new item:

3056A. Powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service Uniformed Division.

(c) Conforming Repeal to Effectuate Transfer- Chapter 3 of title 3, United States Code, is repealed.

(d) Conforming Amendments to Laws Affecting District of Columbia- (1) Section 1537(d) of title 31, United States Code, is amended--

(A) by striking `and the Executive Protective Service' and inserting `and the Secret Service Uniformed Division'; and

(B) by striking `their protective duties' and all that follows and inserting `their protective duties under sections 3056 and 3056A of title 18.'

(2) Section 204(e) of the State Department Basic Authorities Act (sec. 6--1304(e), D.C. Official Code) is amended by striking `section 202 of title 3, United States Code, or section 3056' and inserting `sections 3056 or 3056A'.

(3) Section 214(a) of the State Department Basic Authorities Act (sec. 6--1313(a), D.C. Official Code) is amended by striking `sections 202(8) and 208 of title 3' and inserting `section 3056A(a)(7) and (d) of title 18'.

(e) Additional Conforming Amendments-

(1) Title 12, United States Code, section 3414, `Special procedures', is amended by striking `3 U.S.C. 202' in subsection (a)(1)(B) and inserting `18 U.S.C. 3056A'.

(2) The State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 is amended--

(A) in the first sentence of section 37(c) (22 U.S.C. 2709(c)), by striking `section 202 of title 3, United States Code, or section 3056 of title 18, United States Code' and inserting `section 3056 or 3056A of title 18, United States Code';

(B) in section 204(e) (22 U.S.C. 4304(e)), by striking `section 202 of title 3, United States Code, or section 3056 of title 18, United States Code' and inserting `section 3056 or 3056A of title 18, United States Code'; and

(C) in section 214(a) (22 U.S.C. 4314(a)), by striking `sections 202(7) and 208 of title 3, United States Code' and inserting `subsections (a)(7) and (d) of section 3056A of title 18, United States Code'.

(3) Section 8D(a)(1)(F) of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.) is amended by striking `section 202 of title 3' and inserting `section 3056A of title 18'.

(4) Section 8I(a)(1)(E) of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.) is amended by striking `section 202 of title 3' and inserting `section 3056A of title 18'.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:39 PM

January 22, 2006

Zork, George Bush Style

defective yeti: Xyzzy

Via Brad De Long, a reinterpretation of the Bush Presidency as an Infocom text adventure game. Miadventure is more like it.

This is funny because I spent years playing these games when I was half my current age.

Here's just a small sample. But do go and read all of it:

Oval Office
You are standing inside a White House, having just been elected to the presidency of the United States. You knew Scalia would pull through for you. There is a large desk here, along with a few chairs and couches. The presidential seal is in the middle of the room and there is a full-length mirror upon the wall.

What do you want to do now?

You are not able to do that, yet.

Self-reflection is not your strong suit.

It's not that kind of seal.

They are two several chairs arranged around the center of the room, along with two couches. Under one couch you find Clinton's shoes.

You are unable to fill Clinton's shoes.

It is a large, oak desk, with several drawers. In one drawer you find a bag of pretzels.

I don't think the pretzel would agree with you.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:12 AM

January 16, 2006

Al Gore on MLK Day

Found on my dear 'sister from Michigan', Liz's site, the text of a speech by Al Gore on this MLK Day.

I can find precious few references to it anywhere. Read it, and wonder why.

Where was THIS Al Gore in Fall 2000?

How the world would have been different.

Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.
Mon Jan 16 2006 12:40:14 ET

Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.
Mon Jan 16 2006 12:40:14 ET

Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.

It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection."

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.

The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.

A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes. Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.

The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically - and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress."

This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."

The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore our constitutional balance.

For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it.

Similarly, the Executive Branch claimed that it could unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to review by any tribunal. The Supreme Court disagreed, but the President engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from providing meaningful content to the rights of its citizens.

A conservative jurist on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the Executive Branch's handling of one such case seemed to involve the sudden abandonment of principle "at substantial cost to the government's credibility before the courts."

As a result of its unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the Executive Branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America's representative democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.

These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.

For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which serves to check and balance the power of the other two.

On more than a few occasions, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional crises." These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our Republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live under the rule of law.

The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who together exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.

It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was founded. When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union but also was recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history. And when they fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman regime.

There have of course been other periods of American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers that were later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents.

When his successor, Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of the abuses experienced by Dr. King and thousands of others.

But in each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."

A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives." So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.

Third, we need to be aware of the advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence. This adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies. These techologies have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.

But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.

The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.

This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive Branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive Branch employees.

For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases.

Ironically, that is exactly what happened to FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's view that Dr. King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division said that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated and pressured. "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street.... The men and I discussed how to get out of trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These men were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. ... so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."

The Constitution's framers understood this dilemma as well, as Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 73)

Soon, there was no more difference of opinion within the FBI. The false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.

In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.

Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.

Tragically, he apparently still doesn't know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have easily led to the identification of most of the other hijackers. And yet, because of incompetence in the handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American people.

It is often the case that an Executive Branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.

Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.

The same instinct to expand its power and to establish dominance characterizes the relationship between this Administration and the courts and the Congress.

In a properly functioning system, the Judicial Branch would serve as the constitutional umpire to ensure that the branches of government observed their proper spheres of authority, observed civil liberties and adhered to the rule of law. Unfortunately, the unilateral executive has tried hard to thwart the ability of the judiciary to call balls and strikes by keeping controversies out of its hands - notably those challenging its ability to detain individuals without legal process -- by appointing judges who will be deferential to its exercise of power and by its support of assaults on the independence of the third branch.

The President's decision to ignore FISA was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court. Congress established the FISA court precisely to be a check on executive power to wiretap. Yet, to ensure that the court could not function as a check on executive power, the President simply did not take matters to it and did not let the court know that it was being bypassed.

The President's judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure that the courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power. As we have all learned, Judge Alito is a longtime supporter of a powerful executive - a supporter of the so-called unitary executive, which is more properly called the unilateral executive. Whether you support his confirmation or not - and I do not - we must all agree that he will not vote as an effective check on the expansion of executive power. Likewise, Chief Justice Roberts has made plain his deference to the expansion of executive power through his support of judicial deference to executive agency rulemaking.

And the Administration has supported the assault on judicial independence that has been conducted largely in Congress. That assault includes a threat by the Republican majority in the Senate to permanently change the rules to eliminate the right of the minority to engage in extended debate of the President's judicial nominees. The assault has extended to legislative efforts to curtail the jurisdiction of courts in matters ranging from habeas corpus to the pledge of allegiance. In short, the Administration has demonstrated its contempt for the judicial role and sought to evade judicial review of its actions at every turn.

But the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.

I was elected to Congress in 1976 and served eight years in the house, 8 years in the Senate and presided over the Senate for 8 years as Vice President. As a young man, I saw the Congress first hand as the son of a Senator. My father was elected to Congress in 1938, 10 years before I was born, and left the Senate in 1971.

The Congress we have today is unrecognizable compared to the one in which my father served. There are many distinguished Senators and Congressmen serving today. I am honored that some of them are here in this hall. But the legislative branch of government under its current leadership now operates as if it is entirely subservient to the Executive Branch.

Moreover, too many Members of the House and Senate now feel compelled to spend a majority of their time not in thoughtful debate of the issues, but raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials.

There have now been two or three generations of congressmen who don't really know what an oversight hearing is. In the 70's and 80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated held the feet of the Executive Branch to the fire - no matter which party was in power. Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress today.

The role of authorization committees has declined into insignificance. The 13 annual appropriation bills are hardly ever actually passed anymore. Everything is lumped into a single giant measure that is not even available for Members of Congress to read before they vote on it.

Members of the minority party are now routinely excluded from conference committees, and amendments are routinely not allowed during floor consideration of legislation.

In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the "greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a rarity. Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked: "Why is this chamber empty?"

In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a dozen out of 435.

And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his political organization.

So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Administration is further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the Executive Branch.

The Executive Branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.

Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed that they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the intelligence committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to VP Cheney and placed a copy in his own safe.

Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program.

Moreover, in the Congress as a whole-both House and Senate-the enhanced role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption.

The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg that threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.

It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by our Executive Branch which now threatens a radical transformation of the American system.

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.

But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government. This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."

The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.

Indeed, when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.

And it is "We the people" who must now find once again the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution.

And here there is cause for both concern and great hope. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.

Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is applicable in a new way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements.

And the political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.

The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.

The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain the secrecy of its operations. After all, the other branches can't check an abuse of power if they don't know it is happening.

For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program. But, rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the Administration withheld facts and prevented the Congress from hearing testimony that it sought from the principal administration expert who had compiled information showing in advance of the vote that indeed the true cost estimates were far higher than the numbers given to Congress by the President.

Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to it instead, the Congress approved the program. Tragically, the entire initiative is now collapsing- all over the country- with the Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance companies to volunteer to bail it out.

To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training. And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.

One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.

Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.

Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.

Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."


Posted by Jvstin at 2:30 PM

December 17, 2005

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution


Washington Monthly


Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:28 AM

December 11, 2005

R.I.P. Richard Pryor and Eugene McCarthy

The controversial, convention-breaking comedian Richard Pryor died yesterday, at the age of 65.

In addition, former Minnesota senator and presidential candidate, the anti-war, convention breaking Eugene McCarthy also died yesterday. His run for President, against fellow democrat Lyndon Johnson was widely thought as a major reason why Johnson in the end did not seek re-election.

Rest in Peace, the both of them.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:14 AM

December 8, 2005

Marianas, America's own Sweatshop Hell

Making Light: Their plan for you

Later, DeLay would tell the Washington Post�s Juliet Eilperin that the low-wage, anti-union conditions of the Marianas constituted �a perfect petri dish of capitalism. It�s like my Galapagos Island.�

A Galapagos island of debt peonage, the company store, and worse than you can imagine.

Obsidian Wings has more, too.
All this has come to light in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal.

When you lift the rock, you have to be prepared for the grubs and worms underneath in the soil. But even so, read, and be saddened.

$Deity, perhaps it won't be If This Goes On or The Handmaid's Tale, maybe it will be the dystopic, impoverished future of The Running Man ...

Posted by Jvstin at 11:40 AM

December 2, 2005

S. African Court Blesses Gay Marriage

S. Africa's Top Court Blesses Gay Marriage

Via TPMCafe...

South Africa's highest court has given its Parliament 12 months to extend the rights and benefits of marriage to same sex couples.

There was one dissent--but the dissenting judge wanted immediate action by the Parliament rather than giving them 12 months.

It is sad that a country that 20 years ago was in the grip of Apartheid is now moving ahead of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave on this issue.

America is becoming a backwater within my own lifetime. Its not just this, but its things like the waxing influence of Pat Robertson and his ilk, the supreme disingenuous idiocy of Intelligent Design, the vacuity of much of our political class and those in power. And I haven't even scratched the surface.

$Deity, I'm depressed now.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:13 PM

November 8, 2005

The right of eligible citizens to vote...


On this off year Election Day, I discover that David Neiwert has an interesting entry on voters and voting.

The central question is simple, and the answers tells a lot about you. It is indeed a Rohrschach test.

Is it better that a hundred felons, or illegal immigrants vote, than to prevent a single eligible citizen from voting?

I find myself disturbed by the prospect that eligible, legal citizens of the US might get caught in an overzealous dragnet designed to stop ineligible voters from casting a ballot. Be it felons or illegal immigrants, I would rather, personally, err on the side of caution than to prevent ordinary citizens of the US from having their franchise in the name of preventing those who really should vote, from voting.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:05 AM

October 27, 2005

Miers out

CNN.com - Miers withdraws Supreme Court nomination - Oct 27, 2005

Unsurprisingly, given its broad opposition, Harriet Miers has withdrawn from being a nominee for the US Supreme Court.

While the reason given I think is a fig leaf, I think the real reason is that the "Darth Vader" wing of the Republican Party wasn't convinced she was completely on their team.

Me, I didn't like her because she was plainly unqualified to sit with the other eight justices. I'd rather have someone smart, and completely at odds with my philosophy than someone who can't pull their weight on the most important Bench in the land.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:56 AM

October 26, 2005

A Pro Evolution Guinness Ad

Best Ads On TV

Via, Liz, who pointed it out to me, a pro-Evolution Guinness Ad, apparently aired in Britain.

Here, it would get protests from the Creationists.

Just go watch it, its a good ad.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:53 PM

October 25, 2005

If there are buses in heaven, she won't be sitting in the back

Rosa Parks, civil rights heroine, is dead

Rosa Parks, civil rights heroine, has passed away.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:56 AM

October 11, 2005

A Toy for our Times


Via Eschaton, a toy for our times, a Playmobil - Security Check Point

Scary, and I don't think I will be buying this for Gavin, or Danielle.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:13 PM

October 9, 2005

Earthquake in South Asia

Massive Asia quake kills more than 30,000 - South and Central Asia - MSNBC.com

The sad news that a massive, catastrophic earthquake centered around Pakistan is horrifying to me.

Like Katrina, it was a delayed reaction before the true scale of what this event did came apparent.

The sad thing is, a certain strain of fundamentalists will take this as an excuse to increase the perfidious Rapture Index.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:10 AM

September 1, 2005

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees"


"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees"--George Bush, 9/1/05

The Title of the post, the words of our President, says it all about him, and his Presidency.

Not in anger, I'm past anger. Hundreds, definitely, likely Thousands (I've heard estimates that it could be more than ten thousand) of people are dead.


Posted by Jvstin at 10:39 AM

August 30, 2005

Help out with the Red Cross!

Why don't you donate to the Red Cross to help out with Hurricane Katrina? I just did.

New Orleans may have escaped a thousand year storm...but its bad enough.

This is important. If you can do this, do this.

(Crossposted to my livejournal)

Posted by Jvstin at 8:12 PM

Find or Loot? It's your skin color that makes the difference

Making Light: Yahoo News photos

Via Patrick and Teresa, a note on the way that pictures of the survivors getting groceries from supermarkets are described.

One couple is described as "finding bread and soda" in a grocery story.

Another gentleman is described as walking through water after "looting a grocery store."

Take any guesses as to the varying ethnicities of the two people before looking at the pictures?

Posted by Jvstin at 7:58 PM

August 12, 2005

What we've become--and it aint right!

Making Light: What we've become

Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.

It aint right.

ITS WRONG and, dare I say, Un-American.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:59 PM

August 9, 2005

The Scourge of Daylight Savings Time

Endless Summer - New York Times

Michael Downing, author of the book Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time has an editorial in today's New York Times which encapsulates his opinion about the drawbacks of DST, and the real reasons behind it.

It's not the farmers.

Daylight Savings Time is a gimmick, really. Its not really an energy-saver, as Downing points out in his editorial. Its a bookkeeping measure, nothing more.

The problem is that its being extended in 2007 from March to November as part of the Energy Bill. The major upshot to this is that in November and March, toward the end of the newly extended DST, the sun will not rise until 7:30 in the morning.

Somehow I don't think the legislators who crafted the energy bill (or, let's face it, the lobbyists) considered the fact that there will be millions of schoolchildren going to school in pitch black darkness.

No, Big Business retailers, with the potential of their consumers to do more shopping at the end of the day, is the ones who will mostly benefit. And that's what counts, right?

Posted by Jvstin at 6:29 AM

August 3, 2005

Bush endorses Intelligent Design Creationism

OOC: Edited slightly to reflect a comment below.

Pharyngula::Bush endorses Intelligent Design creationism

Via many places, including the link above to Pharyngula (which I have linked to before, good science stuff).

Cronyism, incompetence, possibly treasonous behavior on the part of his administration are bad enough. Stepping into the muck of Intelligent Design is even worse.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with a small group of reporters, Bush essentially endorsed efforts by Christian conservatives to give intelligent design equal standing with the theory of evolution in the nation's schools.

Once again, to quote Carl Sagan: Evolution is a FACT, not a theory. The Theory is Evolution by Natural Selection. Evolution is an observed process, no matter how many times Creationists bleat about gaps in the fossil record.

It's a robust theory. Is it being improved all the time. (c.f. Punctuated Equilbrium). It is not in crisis, and teaching Intelligent Design provides zero educational value to students.


Young Earth, Literal Bible Creationism is a lie. The only way that sort of Creationism is true is that the entire material world we see around is a complete and fictitious fraud. And once you go down that road, you wind up with the brain in a bottle problem.

It's bad enough education is getting shafted with underfunded programs and over-testing. Throwing Judeo-Christian Creationism into a Science classroom is too much.

Mr. Bush, SHUT UP.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:34 PM

July 30, 2005

Gilead approach continues

corrente / Leah, Lambert, Tresy, the farmer, Tom, Xan, RDF, and Riggsveda

Via Corrente, we learn of a Court Case in Alabama where a divided Alabama Supreme Court decided a child custody dispute Friday with a history-making decision citing legal precedent, the Bible, and parents' relationship with God.

Not just one Bible quote, but dueling Bible quotes from different justices.


Posted by Jvstin at 10:51 PM

July 21, 2005

Oh no, Hell, NO

In New Security Move, New York Police to Search Commuters' Bags - New York Times

Via Washington Monthly we discover that NYC is planning to begin random searches of bags of riders on Subways, Buses and Commuter trains.

Setting aside the civil liberty issues (which are bad enough), the logistics of this is a nightmare. Anyone who has ridden on the transportation systems of New York City will know what I mean when I say that the implementation of this will be a gigantic time sink, an incredible annoyance, and worse, a source of trouble.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:44 PM

July 7, 2005

Terrorism in London

The Washington Monthly

Via many sources this dark morning.

Weep. Mourn.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:01 AM

July 4, 2005

229th Anniversary

Today, 229 years ago, on July 4, 1776, The Continental Congress adopted Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence.


Posted by Jvstin at 8:20 AM

July 1, 2005

May you Live in Interesting Times

CNN.com - O'Connor to resign from Supreme Court - Jul 1, 2005

Sandra's resignation from the Court is completely unexpected. A vacancy really wasn't, I really expected the Chief Justice to retire.

Now, though...get ready for a bumpy ride.

Interesting Times, Indeed.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:38 AM

June 3, 2005

Knives out for Felt

Obsidian Wings: When Is It Right to Remove a President from Office?

One of the many links talking about the Peggy Noonan piece where she excoriates W. Mark Felt, the revealed "Deep Throat" that gave crucial information in the Watergate scandal.

Here is Noonan's article . It's...just beyond parody. This is worse than the magic dolphins for crying out loud. Ben Stein, a person whose dry comedy I find funny, has also written an article slamming Felt for bringing down Nixon.

It's just stunning to me. This new spinning of Watergate is absolutely amazing.
I shouldn't be surprised in today's political climate, but I am.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:08 AM

May 26, 2005

This sort of thing makes my blood boil

Suburban Guerrilla � Blog Archive � First, They Came for the Pagans

What happened to Freedom of Religion? Now is it Freedom of Religion as long as its a religion we like? (ie mainstream).

How long is it before mainstream becomes only Christian? And then, to the "right" version of Christianity...?

Posted by Jvstin at 3:22 PM

May 21, 2005

Oh, how my hometown has fallen

The News Blog

Steve Gilliard's article on the wrangling over the West Side Stadium on the one hand, and Ground Zero on the other, makes me sad for the City of New York.

To think I voted for Bloomberg in the last election (the last election I voted in, in New York). The West Side Stadium is a White Elephant, and indeed the money quote from Steve:

"Which is amazing. Bloomberg has spent so much energy on a pointless stadium, a football stadium for a team with sold out tickets for the next decade, that he has forgotten that he works near an open pit."

Indeed. At least he took away the fences from around City Hall that Guiliani put up that led me to keep dubbing it "Festung Guiliani"

Posted by Jvstin at 9:05 AM

April 19, 2005

Time Puff Cover Story Piece on Ann Coulter

Time out - - MSNBC.com

I used to think she was funny, wrong-headed but funny, back in the days when I would watch her frequent appearances on Bill Maher's show.

However, she passed from that, to loathing, in easy steps. Wishing McVeigh had blown up the NY Times Building in NYC instead of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City. Writing books to try and rehabilitate Joe McCarthy, equating Liberalism with treason. Her quote about taking over countries in the Middle East and mass-converting populations to Christianity.

Such a person doesn't deserve to be lauded with a Time cover story.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:45 PM

April 17, 2005

Oxyrhynchus Papyri


Oxford Classicists are employing infrared technology on a mess o potage of manuscripts found in a trash heap in Egypt. Until now, they've been nearly worthless, illegible from decay, rot and other passages of time. However using
new infrared photographic technique, scientists at Oxford are making progress in making the original writing legible and accessible.

I remember learning about how much we lost from the Classical World back on one of the episodes of Cosmos. To say nothing of some science fiction touching on the subject--in the Larry Niven "Svetz" stories, its mentioned as a lifetime goal of his boss. The Draka timeline of Stirling also has the Draka finding a cache of lost Greek works.

I will keep abreast of this story and what they manage to salvage out of the work. This cache, once fully imaged, could increase the sum total of what we have by nearly 20 percent.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:43 PM

March 29, 2005

Oh no, not again

MSNBC - Death toll in earthquake may rise dramatically

A second temblor in Indonesia shows just how dangerously unstable plate boundaries really are.

I'm glad that there was no tsunami this time around, the generation of such things do seem to have a random element to them that didn't come up this time around.

Still, my sympathies are to those who did lose life and property in this latest illustration of the destructive forces of nature.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:00 AM

March 18, 2005


A co-worker of mine at the Fed photoshopped a picture of me together with the President, and a quote from Star Trek IV...

paul and prez.jpg

Posted by Jvstin at 12:01 PM

March 17, 2005

Obelisk return

NPR : Italy Set to Return Seized Obelisk to Ethiopia

After over a half century in Italian hands (following the war in 1938), Italy announced that it is returning an Ethiopian obelisk seized by Mussolini and erected in Rome. The obelisk, which dates back to the 4th century AD, will be returned to the city of Axum.

This was a clear pillage of the country by Mussolini, and the return is definitely applauded.I admit that its easier to return something like this, than, say, the Elgin Marbles, where the ethics and the rights are muddier.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:17 AM

March 2, 2005

New Nickel

As you might have heard on NPR (or somewhere else, I heard about it at work in the last month or so, displays up, too), a brand new nickel is debuting this week from the US Treasury.

Its a hybrid of the Jefferson and the Buffalo Nickel, with both sides redesigned. You will note from the picture (and when you handle one, the Treasury is making a billion of these babies) that the rim is smaller than most coins, and the portrait of Jefferson faces opposite the current nickel's configuration.

Oh, and the "Liberty" is not only in cursive, but its taken from Jefferson's own handwriting style, too.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:25 AM

February 21, 2005

Goodbye Hunter S Thompson

The New York Times > Books > Hunter S. Thompson, 67, Author, Commits Suicide

Not that I was a big fan of his work (I did read some of his recent sports articles), but I am saddened by the self-stilling of the voice of "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

Iconoclastic, brash, and an individual, while I didn't share his beliefs, I respect them.

If there is an afterlife, they don't know what is about to hit them when Hunter shows up. Bon voyage to a true original.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:41 PM

February 16, 2005

Jimmy Carter a Traitor?!

Power Line: Administration Critics Keeping Mum

The conservative blog Powerline has a post about a WT article about the elections in Iraq, and the role and the opinion of the Carter institute.

The entire blog entry is just quoting from the WT, until comes the slip of the mask, as they say:

Jimmy Carter isn't just misguided or ill-informed. He's on the other side.

The Power line people might blab all they want, but I can read between the lines and the implication of that odious little sentence.

Jimmy Carter is not a traitor. Was he a flawed president? Yes, hell yes. But Power Line goes way too far. Despite my disagreements with the current administration, I do not go around calling Bush a traitor to the country. That is beyond the pale.

Ugly. American Politics is in a very ugly phase once again. I may not have a history degree, and so I know its been this full of bile before, but with the age of modern media, the volume of the rancor is louder than the days, say, when Jefferson and Adams were at loggerheads.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:47 AM

February 14, 2005


corrente / Leah, Lambert, Tresy, the farmer, Tom, Xan, and RDF

Based on this story of child labor law violations by Wally World, not to mention their "scorched earth policy" of closing a Canadian store that dared to unionize, I find that any residual desire to shop at Walmart (as low as that already was) is now completely gone.

Oh, I imagine if I am on a road trip and I have little other choice I will go into the Walmart, but that's about it. I vastly prefer Target, anyway.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:04 PM

January 31, 2005

1 in 3 teenagers think the First Amendment goes too far

MSNBC - First Amendment no big deal, students say

The money paragraph:

Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes �too far� in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.

I'm speechless.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:01 PM

January 29, 2005

Escort Service, Inauguration Style

Rising Hegemon: Managing the CULT of Personality

Via Rising Hegemon, a Washington Post column details the level of security inside the inauguration balls, as opposed to external security.

Escorts for reporters.

No, not the type that might keep their bed warm, but, evidently, the type that makes *sure* that any off the record comments by guests are...heard by someone other than the reporter.

You know, I thought the Republicans liked to accuse liberals of taking ideas from the Soviet Union.

Maybe it should be trumpeted as a waste of tax dollars. Maybe that is the common interest that might wake people up.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:14 PM

December 29, 2004

George Bush exhibiting strong leadership?

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: A Weblog: Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? (Moral Leadership Department)

I remember the "George Bush is exhibiting strong leadership" meme from a couple of years ago, when it turned up in Astroturfed letters to newspapers across the country.

I suppose continuing a vacation at the Ranch while tens of thousands have died is precisely part of that exhibition.

We're the richest, strongest country in the world, and our government seems reluctant to help and miserly to boot.

I'd gladly increase my tax burden by a few dollars this year to help with rescue and reconstruction in Southeast Asia. And I daresay I am not alone.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:34 AM

December 26, 2004

The awful power of nature

MSNBC - Tidal waves kill thousands across Asia

You've probably heard about this, about the tsunamis generated by the massive Southeast Asian earthquake.

The shape and geography of the Indian Ocean ensured that the tidal waves have not only washed over nearby Indonesia, but have reached out their murderous hand to as far away as Sri Lanka and India as well.


Posted by Jvstin at 9:41 AM

December 9, 2004

Congress shall make no law...

Bloomberg.com: U.S.

Via Atrios, we learn that the Bush administration is urging the Supreme Court to allow displays of the Ten Commandments in courthouses.

Let's try that first Amendment again.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances

Let's face it. Putting the Ten Commandments in a Courthouse IS an establishment of religion. Ask any atheist, or anyone whose religious beliefs are not derived from the Judeo-Christian-Muslim axis.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:28 AM

December 8, 2004

War on the Cheap

A telling question put to Rumsfeld at a meeting of soldiers in Iraq:

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?"

War on the Cheap. Throwing ill prepared and under-equipped troops at a problem.

Is George Bush still exhibiting Strong Leadership? For Crying out loud, if we are going to have troops over there, at least do right by them.

Via a comment in this entry in Obsidian Wings

Posted by Jvstin at 9:56 AM

December 1, 2004

A resignation call

My esteemed junior Senator from Minnesota, Norm Coleman, has called for a resignation of a chief executive because the massive debacle in Iraq "requires no less".

You might be surprised who he is referring to. (Hint, its not the President).

And even more telling, if you just change a few things around, its easily a call for the resignation of the President. Not that my Republican senator would ever suggest such a thing.

The way things are going, I wouldn't even expect it out of my Democratic Senator.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:33 PM

November 26, 2004

Time for me to renew my passport. Soon.

The New York Times > Washington > New High-Tech Passports Raise Snooping Concerns

I don't like the idea of a computer chip in my passport, not one bit. It sounds like something akin to the failed "Total Informational Awareness" project.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:22 PM

November 24, 2004

Cult of Personality

The Blue Lemur - Progressive Politics and Media News � Mysterious %u2018George W. Bush: Our leader%u2019 Clear Channel political public service billboard graces Orlando freeway

This is rather creepy. Its not the fact that someone decided to put the picture of the President on a billboard. Its the juxtoposition of it with the worlds "Our Leader."

I just get a chill with that phrase. It feels authoritarian, something out of China, or North Korea, or one of the central asian republics.

Even if the billboard said "Our President", I wouldn't be creeped out by this at all.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:43 PM

Pot and Kettle?


It seems those troubles with the Ukrainian election have caused our government not to accept the election results.

Sad to say, but I would, in the shoes of the Ukrainian government, laugh uproariously at such an accusation--from the US.

This is not to say that there is definitive proof of any fraud in our recent election, but with stories like the county office that was locked down because they were afraid of terrorists disrupting a vote count, to the county which briefly reported negative 16000 votes for Kerry...we really have no room to talk these days.

And that, my friends, is the sad thing.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:03 PM

November 19, 2004

Neofeudalism and the 43rd President

I've been doing a little thinking about the proposed new members for the Cabinet in the wake of the resignations of Messrs. Powell, etal.

I think that our reelected President is showing his hand in full, and his true political beliefs are now startlingly clear. Loyalty is all, personal loyalty to him is rewarded, dissent is punished in treasonous terms.

There has been talk of "Jeebofascists", Pseudofascism, and the like to describe what is happening in the country. But I think, in the end, Bush is what I call a Neofeudalist.

Fealty, loyalty to a more powerful figure is all, seemingly, in Bush's world. Why else would you nominate Rice to succeed Powell at State. Rice has no experience in such an arena. On the other hand, Rice is one of the most loyal of Bush's appointees. If you listen to her cadence and words, she always couches things in terms of "The President believes...", etc. Its not a parrotted phrase, you know that she means it.

And thusly, she is raised high. Bush's personal counsel, Gonzales, is thus nominated to replace Ashcroft at AG. Its a clear case of "The Oath of Fealty running both ways." The ones raised high show loyalty and fealty to Bush, and thus Bush does well by them.

Of course, I can think of sectors of the Republican Caucus who won't be happy with this sort of approach. A royalist feudal approach to politics isn't quite what they have in mind, themselves.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:10 AM

November 10, 2004

Divine Right of Kings Redux

beliefnet: God intervened to re-elect President Bush; George W. Bush and evangelicals; divine intervention in elections

Read the article. Evidently there is a strain of Evangelicals who sincerely believe that God intervened to allow Bush to win re-election.

Hmm...this sounds either like the Divine Right of Kings redux, or, to use an Eastern metaphor, the Mandate of Heaven...the Bush Dynasty still has the Mandate of Heaven, so of course Kerry could not win the election.

I somehow prefer that vision of it, though. Think about it...if God did "intervene" to guarantee Bush's reelection, the next logical step is to say that anyone who did not vote for Bush is, basically, a heretic. (Not that I don't think some of them already do).

Politics and Religion are a BAD combination.

Think on this for a moment. If Kerry had won, what are the odds that one nut might not have tried to kill him and Edwards in the mistaken belief that would "keep" Bush in office, as God wants?

The possibility of a Gilead or the theocracy of Scudder coming to America is now more than an outlier probability. It's still damned low, because there are plenty of people with common sense, but there are plenty of people in this country who would rejoice for such a dominionist transfiguration and transformation of the land of the Free and the home of the Brave.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:02 AM

November 8, 2004

Close to tinfoil hat territory?


Keith Olbermann has a rather...interesting column.

No concession speech is legally binding. I don't have hopes that if there were shananigans that Bush will somehow avoid being reelected, but one can never tell these days. But thinking about all these too hard does lead one to Reynolds Wrap head apparel...

Still...Keep up the work, Keith!

Posted by Jvstin at 1:57 PM

November 5, 2004

Acceptance is the 5th stage

Acceptance of the results of the election is what I mean.

Bush has been reelected our president, by a majority of the population (whether or not its legitimate or fraud-related is not addressed here). Four more years, like it or not.

I'm not running away to Canada. Although I think renewing my passport is a good idea. Visiting a friendlier clime might not be a bad idea and might be good for my sanity, and Thunder Bay is not so far away.

As always, we'll see what happens. Its ironic that I just finished today a biography of another individual who was a sometimes controversial figure in his government, in tumultuous times:

Marcus Tullius Cicero.

I Highly recommend Cicero : The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician (and I will be doing a book review soon of it).

Posted by Jvstin at 11:43 AM

November 3, 2004

And on Wednesday Morning...

We once again are on tenterhooks.

I am reminded of the classic quote from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:

Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.

I feel like that bowl of petunias. As should we all.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:04 AM

November 2, 2004

I voted, did you?

Recently got back from work, and a trip to the polls.

No lines, no hassles, no problems. An optical scan ballot, fill in the circle and bring it to the machine to be scanned.

Simple, and easy.

Now, we only await the rest of the voting period, and the returns.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:12 PM

Jimmy Breslin's Last Newsday Column


Jimmy Breslin, quintessential New Yorker, has his last column for Newsday today, where he boldly predicts it will be Kerry today, and easily.


Cell Phones, and the Draft.

We'll see. I'm still at work, voting afterwards.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:28 PM

October 23, 2004

Wolfpacks for Truth

The advantage of the Internet is that you can respond to silliness with satire, and quickly.

I've seen (online) the imbecilic George W. Bush commercial that uses a wolfpack to represent terrorists.

I'm not blinkered-eyed about Wolves, but they have gotten a rather bad rap over the centuries. In truth, they are intelligent animals. After all, every dog that exists today originally came from a wolf-like ancestor that man domesticated...

WolfpacksforTruth.org: The Real Story on George Bush's "Wolves" Commercial

Posted by Jvstin at 8:47 AM

October 18, 2004

A not so Reality Dysfunction

The change in the title of the Blog (albeit until it no longer amuses me, possibly on Nov 3) is due to the telling comments as reported by Matthew Yglesias, among others, about Ron Susskind's article in the Times.

The aide said that guys like me were ��in what we call the reality-based community,'� which he defined as people who ��believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'� I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ��That�s not the way the world really works anymore,'� he continued. ��We�re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you�re studying that reality � judiciously, as you will � we�ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that�s how things will sort out. We�re history�s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'�

I'll take reality any day. I leave 'creating reality' to my Amberites and Total Recall and eXistenZ.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:16 PM

October 5, 2004

Thought of the Day

From a computer game, no, less, one of the best Strategy games ever to grace a computer.

No, not Civilization, but close: Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri:

Think about this quote in terms, of, say, the Patriot Act or the slant of voices in the media against dissent. Or government controls of the Internet in China. And so forth. Read, and be vigilant. Especially the last line.

As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.

Commissioner Pravin Lal
"U.N. Declaration of Rights"

Posted by Jvstin at 9:33 AM

September 30, 2004

Torture is odious

And "ticking time bombs" be damned, there is no reason to send terror suspects to countries with a wink and nod, when we are fairly certain torture and other illegal and barbaric techniques are going to be employed.

I'm going to send letters, not emails, to my Senators and Congresscritter. Today.


Via Obsidian Wings.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:44 AM

October 5th

Having a birthday a month before the election can lead to interesting things happening on it, October 5th, as this Frank Rich NY Times article points out.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is coming out on DVD as well as two books by Michael Moore.
Ann Coulter's latest, too, is, being released.
A DVD documentary about Bush's 1972 misadventures
REM's latest album
Cheney and Edwards have the VP debate

And most of all, the hagiographic DVD "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House."

And of course, if you want to get me something for my birthday, my amazon wish list is available and chock full of stuff.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:02 AM

September 9, 2004

Press Conferences are not Jack Vance Novels!

The White House has done it before...they apparently have decided to put an asterisk in the transcript of this morning's press gaggle.

Read it and weep. This is as bad as editing transcripts, if not more so. You don't get to do this. Mcclellan did not answer the question this way, and writing a note in the margin is revisionism.

Q Did he decline to take it because he was moving to Alabama?

MR. McCLELLAN: He was transferring to a unit in Alabama to perform equivalent duty in a non-flying status. That is nothing new.

Q This was a direct order he defied, right? I mean, he did have a direct order that he defied?*

MR. McCLELLAN: John, these issues have come up every year. This was all part of the records -- that he was seeking to transfer to a unit in Alabama because he was going there to work in a civilian capacity. And he was granted permission to do so. And he was proud of his service and he was honorably discharged in October '73, after meeting his obligations.

*The memos that were released, in fact, show the President was working with his commanders to comply with the order.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:25 PM

September 7, 2004

Over the line


, Daily Kos and a few others.

From Dick Cheney

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city.

More of the remarks by our Vice President are available here

And if you don't see the innate problem,, the innate implication of what this statement says...then perhaps you are happier in your ignorance.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:23 PM

August 29, 2004

Perhaps the Press is waking up


The local paper, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, has a wonderful editorial from editor Jim Boyd.

Money quote:

We are in the middle of an important national event: the real-time confrontation of a political smear. In previous elections, the examination has almost always been in retrospect. Now the smear, against John Kerry's military service, is being critically examined as it happens. Vigilance is required, and a little courage.

This is not about who is elected, but about how we allow this campaign to unfold, especially on our pages. I am sick to death of being played for a chump by the likes of Karl Rove. America can definitely do better.

Go read it all. Seriously. At the Star Tribune

If you are a Republican, I ask you this...are you so ideologically besotted that you condone what Rove, the Swift Boats for Truth, etal are trying to do to Kerry?

Is winning so important to you?

Is George W. Bush worth it?

Posted by Jvstin at 3:14 PM

August 26, 2004

Minnesota Public Radio

Recently, as a side effect of getting the job at the Federal Reserve, I became a member of Minnesota Public Radio (part of the NPR family)

MPR/NPR has become one of the two primary radio stations that I listen to. The other day, I finally got my membership booklet, which includes a listing of all the member MPR stations. Thus, no matter where I am in the North Star State, I can tune in as I choose.

Not that this is usually a problem because the Twin Cities station's reach is pretty long. I remember on a trip up to Grand Rapids that I was able to pick it up pretty far away from the Twin Cities before I had to hunt for a stronger signal

What I find interesting in this list, though, that in addition to the in-state stations, there are four Minnesota Public Radio stations out of state.

Sioux Falls, SD makes some sense since South Dakota is a nearby station. Ditto for Decorah, Iowa.

But in addition to those..there is a Minnesota (not just National) Public Radio station in Houghton, Michigan...and even further away from Minnesota, one in Sun Valley, Idaho.


Posted by Jvstin at 5:04 AM

August 15, 2004

Alan Keyes: "I'm running, so you won't have to"

Alan Keyes, former candidate for the Republican nomination for President, talk show host and otherwise crank, is taking on Obama for a vacant Senate seat in Illinois.

Never mind that he doesn't live in Illinois and he criticized Hillary Clinton for running for Senate in NY just after getting there.

No, what is wacky is that Alan Keyes is running for the Senate seat...and believes we should repeal the 17th Amendment

Which one is that? That's the one which provides for the direct election of Senators. (rather than being chosen by the State Legislatures)

Alan Keyes...running for Senate, so you won't have to.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:37 AM

Not a Parody of Conservatism

Pandragon alerts us to this children's book about two kids trying to open a lemonade stand...and being foiled by the evils of Liberalism. The description of what the government does to this kids in this book has to be read to be believed. I can't reproduce it here, the electrons of BJS might go haywire.

Do the people who run World Net Daily really feel that non-Conservatives act this way while in power? Do they really really expect parents to read their 11 year olds this book??

Posted by Jvstin at 9:18 AM

August 9, 2004

An appropriate Font

Most of you who read this know I am a fontphile.

I was excited when I learned that the typeface for the cornerstone of the to-be-built Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan is, you guessed it, Gotham.

This article by the NY Times has
more details

Posted by Jvstin at 5:06 AM

August 4, 2004

Liberty still in chains

For the first time since the 9/11 attacks, the Statue of Liberty is open again to the public.

Unfortunately, as reported in the Times , while the island is open, and the base of the monument is open, the staircase that allows you to climb up to the top is closed, seemingly permanently.

That's a crying shame. Given what I understand the level of security is just getting to the island, isn't it a bit overboard?

And isn't it ironic that a symbol of freedom is itself in chains, so to speak.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:08 AM

July 30, 2004

The outrageous cost of College

Via Brad De Long...

Tom Ridge, Homeland Security Director is stepping down.

No, not to spend more time with his family

It's so he can put his two children through college--he needs a job that makes more money in the private sector.

And how much does he make now, that he is crying College Cost Poverty?


Isn't there a better way? Really? When Tom Ridge can't pay for his children's education on a nice high governmental position salary, isn't that a canary in the coal mine that College tuition has reached the cliffs of insanity?

Do we want only the wealthy to have a college education? Is Plutocracy what we truly want in the country?

Posted by Jvstin at 4:40 PM

July 10, 2004

It's getting scary out there

When writing a sentence with the word bomb
in it is enough to make people suspicious of you.

Reminds me of an offhand line from THE RUNNING MAN where an announcer talks about "family month" and how there is a double(?) bonus this month for turning in a family member to the authorities.

Via the incomparable

ailurophilic Kevin Drum
, formerly Calpundit.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:03 PM

June 6, 2004

In Memoriam

Yesterday, as just about every reader of this Blog by now knows, Ronald Wilson Reagan, former President of the United States, passed away. Rest in Peace, Mister President.

Today, June 6, is the 60th Anniversary of an equally powerful and solemn event--the storming of the beaches of Normandy, and the beginning of the liberation of France in World War II. What I didn't realize is that D-Day occurred just a couple of days after Allied troops entered Rome.

To all of those who died on those beaches...I thank you.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:02 AM

May 20, 2004

I do care if I never get back

"Buy me some peanuts and ..."
"I don't care if I never get back"

The song has Cracker jack in the ellipsis, and its been sold at Yankee Stadium for

Not any more.

In his race for power, glory and greed, the Yankees have replaced Cracker Jack with Crunch N Munch. at the Stadium.


Cracker Jack has been sold in Yankee Stadium for nearly a century. And now no longer is being so.

It's scary when the Mets have more respect for tradition than you do.

And besides, I prefer Cracker Jack to Crunch n Munch anyway

Posted by Jvstin at 6:27 AM

May 19, 2004

Tony Randall

Tony Randall, guiding light behind characters ranging from Felix Unger to Dr. Lao has passed away.

One of the ironies of his craft--he won an emmy for his titular role in the Odd Couple only after the show was cancelled.

I can see the political cartoons now. A depiction of heaven, with a cigar butt at the feet of St. Peter, and Tony Randall, dressed up in the full, prim, Felix Unger mode, looking at him with that air of disapproval he perfected on the Odd Couple.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:03 AM

April 9, 2004

Worse than magic dolphins

Peggy Noonan, she of the belief that magic dolphins brought Elian Gonzales safely to the Florida shore, has truly and utterly lost it.

That, or she has changed medications. Or something.

As far as I can tell, this column is not satire. But over the top? It's so over the top that its making a suborbital flight...

Posted by Jvstin at 7:58 AM

March 23, 2004


On the webblog "Busy Busy Busy", the writers distill articles into sound bytes. (Sometimes even Haiku).

I have a couple I have made from NYT articles today:

Shorter David Brooks:

Education in this country should require more theological components; those Europeans are clueless in their secularism.

Shorter Daniel Benjamin:

If we build the Freedom Tower, the terrorists will win.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:01 AM

March 17, 2004

Imprisoned by mistake? You owe us room and board!

Okay, the logic of this escapes me.

The Labour Home Secretary of Great Britain is asking for the right to charge wrongly imprisoned people room and board for the time they spent in prison.

Yep, so not only were you imprisoned wrongfully, you get charged for it in the bargain!


Worse, can't you just see certain members of this Administration, or the administration of various states, thinking its a wonderful idea?

Posted by Jvstin at 10:34 AM

March 9, 2004


(Alas not the Terry Prachett novel, which I need to read, along with the rest of Discworld beyond book one...)

Did you know that North Korea endorses John Kerry for President?

Or that John Kerry's cousin is French? And worse, he was the Environmental Minister for France?

Or that the English band Coldplay endorses John Kerry too??


Jingoism at its finest, ladies and gentlemen readers.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:36 AM

March 4, 2004

Girl Scout Cookies Boycott in Crawford

The latest inanity...apparently some conservative christians in Crawford, Texas are boycotting the Girl Scouts and Girl Scout cookies.

Why? Read the article.

I guess certain people don't like it that the Girl Scouts are not as politically conservative as the Boy Scouts can be.

For the sake of the children!

If it weren't too late, I'd increase my order from Liz. Just because.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:52 AM

March 3, 2004

Kerry on Wayward Son

(Couldn't resist the pun).

Baring some unforseen calamity, personal, physical or political, John Kerry will be the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States.

He might not have the charisma of Bill Clinton or Howard Dean or even John Edwards...but if he can do a competent job of campaigning, and help remove the simultaneously inept, repellent and corrupt "W" administration.

The funny thing is, for once my individual vote will have a fairly large weight, because unlike my previous voting residences (New York and California), Minnesota is definitely a battleground state.

Maybe there is an advantage to not having cable for my TV after all--avoiding the blitz of ads from Bush and friends set to begin shortly.

$200 million buys a lot of TV advertising.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:23 PM

Say, Johnny, I'll give you extra credit for some chalk

Anyone who has spent time in a classroom knows that the average public school classroom is hopelessly undersupplied with basic needs.

Some teachers, across the country have taken to the tactic of awarding extra credit for students who bring in things like paper towels.

There are so many feet to lay the blame for this at I could be here all week.

And it is an obscenity in the ostensibly most advanced and enlightened nation on Earth.


The novels of Michael Flynn and Jerry Pournelle are coming true more and more every day.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:15 AM

February 26, 2004

Howard Stern axed

Clear Channel, one of the two radio conglomerates in this fine nation of ours, announced that they were dropping Howard Stern from their stations, only hours after heralding a "Responsible Broadcasting Initative."

Granted, only six of their stations carry him. (Howard is mainly carried by rival Infinity Broadcasting). So its hardly a case of him being pulled off the airwaves entirely.

Still, it seems a little disingenous to announce a policy only to enforce it so publically hours later. Its certain to me that the policy was crafted, partially, so that they could train it on the likes of Stern.

Do I listen to Stern? No. Do I like Howard Stern? No. But he is very much a canary in the coal mine. It's a little chilling. Its another shot fired in what is definitely a heating portion of the "Culture Wars"

--The brouhaha over Janet Jackson

--The Federal Marriage Amendment

--Roy Moore's desire to have a several ton biblical statue in his courthouse

--The controversy over Mel Gibson's movie.

--The disingenuously named Constitution Restoration Act

It's all of a piece. And I wish I could say the forces of intolerance, bigotry and hatred are on the wrong side of history and will be swept away, but I know better. I may not have the history education credentials of my friend Ginger but I know enough.

Progress is not a one way vector into the future. We *can* go backwards. In fact climbing a mountain might be a good metaphor. Complacency will let the dark devils of our nature, in the form of gravity, threaten to drag us into the pit of hatred, bigotry and evil.

Certainly, Stern is to many people rude, crude, obnoxious, and offensive. But I would not want to silence the edge in his voice.

"A still tongue makes a happy life" might be true in McGoohan's Village, but I don't want to live there. Nor allow one to be constructed here. McGoohan kept away from too much stuff with religion in The Prisoner, with some exceptions. (The "be seeing you" symbol is an old Christian symbol, the sign of the fish).

I have to think that if someone were to redo the series today, one could get a lot of mileage of exploring such themes, too.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:17 PM

February 24, 2004

The Prig strikes back

Ginger mentions our beloved "Dubya" and his support for the odious Federal Marriage Amendment.

Let me say it in as simple terms as possible.

I support the right of any two human beings of the age of consent to enter into a marriage contract and derive all responsibilities and benefits, as they see fit.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:31 PM

February 13, 2004

It's official, we have a Chateau D'if

Well, the Administration admits to it. Some of the detainees may be held there "indefinitely."

How many Edmund Dantes' are imprisoned there now and might not get to leave, ever? Even one is too many.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:22 AM

February 12, 2004

What's good for the goose

Remember back in the halcyon days of the era of our former leader William of Arkansas, where the opposition kept chanting about one of his own scandals. "Its not the sex, its the lying."

In response to the growing kerfuffle over Bush and the National Guard Service questions, I say now to those who used that line of reasoning:

"Its not the dodging of service, its the lying."

I mean, come on, releasing the results of a single DENTAL EXAM as evidence? this dripping of papers is absolutely in character with this Administration. When in doubt, obfuscate, deny and stonewall. Or release as little as possible. Even over matters which are (compared to a lot of the crap they do) relatively minor.

This would be funny in a fictionalized setting, in an imaginary country.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:21 AM

January 21, 2004

If you think you've heard stupidity, just wait a while

Remember my blog entry yesterday?

How could I have been so foolish as to think I'd not hear anything so assinine anytime soon. All I needed to do was read the State of the Union speech:

To help children make right choices, they need good examples. Athletics play such an important role in our society, but, unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example. The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message -- that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches, and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now.

Of all the things to address in the SOTU...athletic supplements?!


Posted by Jvstin at 7:48 AM

January 20, 2004

Insane statement of the day

From "Scarborough Country" on MSNBC:

But let me say this. Bottom line, Joe, exploration is important. Research is important. But somebody on the face of the Earth is going to control and dominate space in the next several decades and centuries. If it�s not the United States, it may be a hostile nation, a hostile set of nations, or even a hostile or rogue terrorist group.

--Rep. Tom Feeney, Florida.

It's the last bit of the last sentence that cracks me up. Al Qaeda in Space?????

Posted by Jvstin at 2:35 PM

January 7, 2004

Iraq's "weapons" of mass destruction

We've gone from weapons, to programs, to attempting to buy stuff...to this.

I cracked up when I saw the drawings. You will too, promise. I had to check to make sure this was the Washington Post and not The Onion.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:28 PM

December 30, 2003

The terrorist new best friend

Apparently is the humble Farmer's Almanac.

The Farmer's Almanac.

Our War on Terror is turning into a farce that Monty Python would think too unrealistic to portray.
I mean, can you imagine if I just happen to carry an almanac with me to Ambercon, and my bags are searched at the security checkpoint? Or worse, what if some poor soul who looks (even if not actually) of Middle Eastern extraction does the same?

Posted by Jvstin at 9:14 AM

December 14, 2003

Presidential Candidate Selector

The Presidential Candidate Selector http://www.selectsmart.com/PRESIDENT/president.php

It matches up your answers to questions to the stated opinions of Presidential candidates.

What I came up with is as my top candidates:

Howard Dean (85%)
Wesley Clark (81%)
John Edwards (71%)

George Bush got a measly 6% matching rating with me

Posted by Jvstin at 12:17 PM

December 4, 2003

Something to make my blood boil

I thought that I didn't (yet) live in Margaret Atwood's Gilead or the Heinlenian world of Nehemiah Scudder...

Teacher sues over limits of curriculum

In Maine of all places.


I'm the kind of would-be teacher who would lock horns with a schoolboard just like this guy is doing, too.

But this is just as bad as the whole brouhaha over Evolution being taught in Kansas.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:34 AM

November 21, 2003

Not so much fiction anymore

Insurgents deploying rocket-launcher-equipped donkey carts attacked symbolically important and well-fortified buildings in Baghdad Friday, just hours after a top U.S. commander proclaimed progress in the military's newly aggressive high-tech counter-insurgency operation.
Washington Post
Rockets Hit 2 Baghdad Hotels, Oil Ministry

I wish I had a copy of Poul Anderson's THE HIGH CRUSADE around, because I sure as heck remember the medieval English using a trick with trebuchets and bombs at one point in the novel against the aliens (once they've been landed on the alien planet)
That's what this reminds me of, a mixture of low and high technology to go against an ostensibly superior fighting force and cause significant grief in the process

Posted by Jvstin at 12:18 PM