You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every book ever published. You are a fountain of endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and never fail to impress at a party. What people love: You can answer almost any question people ask, and have thus been nicknamed Jeeves. What people hate: You constantly correct their grammar and insult their paperbacks.
From Timbuktu to Tijuana, you know all about world culture and politics. You've seen it all, and what you haven't seen, you watched on one of the "smart people channels." Your friends tell you that you should run for governor. What people love: You've always got a great story to tell. What people hate: You make them feel like ignorant plebians. Sometimes you slip and CALL them plebians.
The last member of the original Nullsoft Winamp team has left AOL, which bought the company back in 1999. The move is believed to spell the eventual doom of the popular music player.
The prospect of Winamp's demise is a pity. I've always preferred Winamp for its efficient yet stylish ability to do what I ask of it -- play MP3s. Its ability to do one thing very well -- and crash only rarely -- makes it much superior to Microsoft's Media Player. And its small file size made it ideal to burn onto a CD-ROM full of MP3s, ensuring both portability and playability.
[A] second set of tough questions arises out of Gonzales' work on a series of legal policies adopted by the Bush administration as part of the war on terrorism. As White House counsel, Gonzales played a key role in pushing the administration to brand the Geneva Conventions "obsolete" and "quaint" and to unilaterally declare them inapplicable to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Gonzales played a key role in the decision to use Guantanamo Bay as a global detention facility because it was believed to be outside the reach of U.S. courts and the rule of law. (The Supreme Court held otherwise in Rasul v. Bush in June 2004.)
And, perhaps most disturbingly, Gonzales sat at the apex of the storm that swirled within the Bush administration's legal ranks over the use of "coercive interrogation" practices and torture to extract information from detainees in Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iraq. One of the "torture memos," produced in this period by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for Gonzales, argued that the president had the extra-constitutional power to nullify both the Geneva Conventions and the federal war crimes statute when he deemed it necessary, based on his inherent authority as commander in chief of the armed forces. ...President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may not have personally ordered the abuses at Abu Ghraib, but on advice from lawyers like Gonzales, they adopted policies that set the conditions for those abuses and the worst scandal to affect the U.S. government since Watergate. Yet, despite the incredible damage done by this scandal to the nation's political and moral standing in the world, not to mention its prospects of winning hearts and minds in the Middle East, no one of any significance has yet answered for these policies.
...In the days since the presidential election, the conventional wisdom has emerged that President Bush won re-election on the basis of values. And fittingly, he has pledged to govern on the basis of his mandate from the American people to implement those values. But the Gonzales appointment makes clear that the Bush administration prizes certain values—such as personal loyalty as the president's consigliere—over more democratic ones such as accountability and a commitment to the rule of law.
Good points, all, but they're sure to fall on deaf ears among the "moral values" crowd.
Some time back, I mentioned that my first exposure to hentai anime was around 1987, with the "Pop Chaser" episode of the Cream Lemon series. Well, I recently had an opportunity to score a raw -- unsubtitled -- digital copy. The animation is, not surprisingly, very 1980s in style (think Ranma 1/2 or Kimagure Orange Road), and the sex scenes, surprisingly enough, much less explicit than one would expect. See here for a more in-depth review.
And no, I am not making it available. Anyone interested should start here.
Driving home yesterday evening, I heard NPR's story on an upcoming HBO documentary in which families read last letters home from loved ones killed fighting in Iraq. Just the excerpts carried on the program were incredibly touching, and filmmaker Bill Couturié, interview on the program, was clearly greatly moved, to the point of losing his composure.
Couturié noted how he had attempted to find some letters that at least had some lightearted or humorous touches, because he -- understandably enough -- didn't want his documentary to devolve into a dismal dirge. But my immediate reaction was, stitch that! Perhaps if the American people -- including our policymakers -- were a bit better acquainted with the tragic cost, they wouldn't be so quick to rush to war.
But seriously, George W. Bush, a man thoroughly unacquainted with the concept of sacrifice, should be made to see this documentary of the loss experienced by the families of those sacrificed on the altar of his ambition. And certainly the warbloggers -- who fought the good fight armed with their keyboards and a nearly inexhaustible store of dishonesty -- should also experience it as well. However, I won't hold my breath.
And over at Pandagon, Ezra Klein has some spot-on analysis.
Democrats and Republicans have an asymmetric electoral strategy. Republicans have invested decades in building up public perceptions of their party, to the point that the candidate they run is only somewhat important. No matter who the vessel is, he's quickly filled by the party's extremely distinct character, and thus judged to speak to the Heartland, have "family values", be strong on defense, etc etc. Were the Republicans to run a weak candidate, he may lose, but his weaknesses do not transfer onto the party superstructure.
The Democrats, conversely, invest time into finding strong candidates, but find themselves defined by said candidate's weaknesses and strengths. Bill Clinton, for example, brought the promise of moderation and fluency in working class culture, but the Party didn't retain any of those advantages once he left. An Edwards candidacy or presidency would similarly offer the Party a connection to the Heartland, but it'd be through Edwards and would evaporate when he left the scene. That's also why weak candidates (Dukakis, etc) can demolish the party's image nationally; they define us, we don't define them.
It's a risky way to play politics, and not a particularly effective one.
In the comment thread, several note that while the public may have a strong perception of what Republicans stand for, their actual performance in office does not follow. This point is well taken, but once again, shows the effectiveness of the GOP strategy. Bush was able to get away with September 11 occurring on his watch -- even after his conspicuous fecklessness in the months prior -- in part because he talked tough, and "everyone knows" Republicans are strong on defense. The fact that Bush failed in his promise to get bin Laden didn't even seem to matter. Indeed, the comments of many during the election that the Democratic candidate would have to overcome the perception that Republicans are strong on defense conceded the issue beforehand.
I might add that the Republicans have similarly spent the last 30 years defining Democrats in general as "tax-and-spend liberals" (which, in part, enables them to remain silent about their own embrace of "borrow and spend" policies), "soft on defense" and "out of the mainstream," so that any Democratic candidate must work from the outset to overcome these preconceptions. Couple this with the fact that Bush spent his time running away from his lousy record and against a series of straw men that in no way resembled Kerry's actual position, and one could almost forgive some conservatives disenchanted with Bush's failures for complaining that they "didn't know where Kerry stood." Almost -- their error was in presuming that Kerry's stated positions and Bush's characterizations of same inhabited anything resembling the same plane of reality. Some may have committed this error honestly; many, I am sure, did not.
Morat has a great post-election piece about how to frame the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats.
Responsibility: The GOP refuses to take responsibility for it's drunken spending spree, and the resultant hole in the budget, preferring to bury their head in the sand. Democrats are committed to balanced budgets and responsible spending.
Liberty: The GOP talks about American values, but in practice rejects them. The Democrats stand for personal liberty: The freedom to speak your mind, practice your religion, and love whom you choose. The GOP doesn't think you can handle making your own moral, spiritual and ethical choices.
Reality: The GOP rejects reality, preferring theory to facts. The Democratic Party is committed to dealing with the real world rather than ignoring inconvenient facts.
Cooperation: The GOP rejects cooperation and compromise, not just with the Democratic Party but with the world. "My way or the highway" is a great soundbite, but results require allies. The Democratic Party is committed to working with allies, not against them -- both in Congress and in the world. Democracy, not dictatorship.
Given the contrasts between Bush's emerging second term agenda and his campaign rhetoric, I continue to believe the notions that the Republicans simply can't be trusted is a meme that can and should take hold.
Bob Sommersby has more on the proclivity of red states -- those self-proclaimed anti-tax rugged individualists -- to receive more in Federal benefits than they pay in tax revenue. The ones subsidizing these freeloaders? THe hated blue states, of course.
BoingBoing has a roundup of links (not all safe for work) exploring that uniquely bizarre Japanese phenomenon, the fetishization of octopi as erotic objects. This tradition, which dates back hundreds of years and still influences hentai anime. I wasn't previously aware of Dr. Meyers' contribution to this Internet discourse, but I'll also mention my own previous posts (here, here, here and here) that cite octopus-themed ivory carvings that date back centuries and a scholarly essay that dissects, so to speak, tentacle pr0n.
And speaking of tentacles, Dr. Meyers also had this fascinating post about how the suckers on octopus tentacles work. It's sucker-rific!
Writing in The American Prospect, Robert B. Reich notes that with a more strongly Republican Congress -- many of whom will soon stary paying political IOUs from the campaign season -- Bush would face enormous difficulties cutting the budget deficit even if he wanted to.
Look at what happened to Bush over the last four years, with a Republican Congress. Non-defense spending grew by an average of 8 percent a year. Under Bill Clinton, it grew by an average of only 4.3 percent a year. Meanwhile, special-interest tax loopholes exploded over the past four years. The corporate tax bill the president signed last month was the biggest piece of special-interest pork in history. Yet tax loopholes increased only moderately under Clinton.
Why could Clinton hold down spending and special-interest tax loopholes when Bush couldn't? Because for most of the Clinton years, Republicans and Democrats in Congress couldn't agree on much of anything. That meant Clinton could veto or threaten to veto even bills containing pet projects of leading Democrats by blaming Republicans for larding up the bills with too many favors.
Over the last four years, Bush has signed every spending bill that came his way -- every morsel of pork for the folks back home in every Republican congressional district, every bit of corporate welfare for the big businesses that contributed to every Republican senator and every Republican representative. Total federal tax revenue is $100 billion lower this year than when Bush took office in 2001 but spending is $400 billion higher!
Reich implies (correctly) that Bush is, in fact, unconcerned with the deficit at all. Bush simply claims -- against all evidence, reason and good sense -- that the defecit will be cut in half before long, and that's good enough for many of his supporters.
NPR's Frank Deford points out that today's sports journalists are more free to point out, let's say, statements from newsmakers that bear little resemblance to reality than today's crop of political stenographers journalists. Sports journalism, Deford says, is much more apt to tell it like it is -- even if doing so means (gasp!) expressing an informed opinion -- and avoids the "he said, she said" cop-out that lets politicians get away with lies, and journalists get away with reporting as fact statements they know are lies. Rock on, Frank!
For a year, Julee Lacey stopped in a CVS pharmacy near her home in a Fort Worth suburb to get refills of her birth-control pills. Then one day last March, the pharmacist refused to fill Lacey's prescription because she did not believe in birth control.
"I was shocked," says Lacey, 33, who was not able to get her prescription until the next day and missed taking one of her pills. "Their job is not to regulate what people take or do. It's just to fill the prescription that was ordered by my physician."
Some pharmacists, however, disagree and refuse on moral grounds to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. And states from Rhode Island to Washington have proposed laws that would protect such decisions.
Mississippi enacted a sweeping statute that went into effect in July that allows health care providers, including pharmacists, to not participate in procedures that go against their conscience. South Dakota and Arkansas already had laws that protect a pharmacist's right to refuse to dispense medicines. Ten other states considered similar bills this year.
The American Pharmacists Association, with 50,000 members, has a policy that says druggists can refuse to fill prescriptions if they object on moral grounds, but they must make arrangements so a patient can still get the pills. Yet some pharmacists have refused to hand the prescription to another druggist to fill.
Perhaps claims that the abortion debate boild down to whether a woman can control her own body aren't so far-fetched. I wonder, though, if the market won't impose a solution. I imagine a company would be within its rights to fire someone who won't sell its merchandise, or another company might welcome its former customers. Still, one's personal beliefs is one thing, but this meddling in others' lives is just the kind of thing true conservatives should abhor.
The free Firefox Web browser, which has chipped away at the market dominance of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer, has been readied for a full release including new features designed to make it more stable, backers of the program said on Tuesday.
The Mozilla Foundation, a network of programers that jointly develops the Firefox browser, said the final release of Firefox version 1.0 will attract more users to the browser and away from Internet Explorer.
"Open source projects have a much higher standard,"
said Chris Hofmann, director of engineering at the Mozilla Foundation. "It's the engineers that actually build the software that label it as done."
Faced with competition from Firefox, Microsoft's share of the browser market has declined to 92.9 percent from 95.5 percent in June, according to data released by Web usage tracker WebSideStory last week.
In the same period, Firefox's market share increased to 6 percent from 3.5 percent, WebSideStory said.
More than 7 million people have downloaded Firefox during its "preview release" period that started in mid-September, Mozilla said.
...including me. Internet Explorer sux0rz, and Firefox totally pwns it. Since installing it, pop-ups and spyware -- which could render our computer unusable even with anti-programs running -- are no longer a problem. If you haven't downloaded it yet, I heartily recommend you do so.
Update: Geez...posting late and tired last night, I totally forgot to mention how sw33t it would be if Firefox -- whose parent company, Mozilla, rose from the ashes of Netscape -- proves the killer app to dislodge MSIE as the king of the browsers. Although upon reflection, while I'm sure the technologically savvy will flock to it, IE will likely retain enough usage from average users who stick to the defaults and companies leery of installing third-party products to retain its dominance. Pity.
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
I actually don't believe that 48% of the American people deserve the disasters that a second Bush term -- heck, the first Bush term -- is bound to visit on this nation, but I do hold out the hope that they may cause some Bush supporters to join the reality-based community.
Update: I should mention that the character on the right, May, is what she appears to be: A kawaii pirate girl. The character on the left, Jam Kuradoberi, is, believe it or not, a cook (albeit one skilled at kung fu).
A passing construction worker kicked in the door of a burning apartment building and rescued three small children who had been left home alone by thier mother.
After being flagged down by a neighbor just before noon, Matthew Banks, 37, dashed up four flights of stairs and kicked in the apartment's door.
"As soon as I kicked it open, the smoke hit me," said Banks, who lives two doors down on Marion St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant. "When there's a little kid screaming, 'My brother! My sister!' you just react. You get those kids out."
Banks pulled out 5-year-old Malik Davis and his 10-month-old brother, James, first, but he had to claw into the rear kitchen to find their 3-year-old sister, Jamaya, who was cowering in a corner.
[A]mazingly, the piece never once mentions the extensive and nefarious tactics the Bush campaign used to create those doubts -- and those tactics are central to the story of this race. The role of the Bush campaign in winning is invariably described in approving terms: Bumiller’s piece describes Bush as charismatic and full of clarity and conviction, and she takes note of the tactical effectiveness of the ground game and the anti-gay ballot initiatives. There is no mention anywhere of the Bush campaign’s relentless efforts to paint Kerry as weak and vacillating by lying about his record and mischaracterizing his remarks on the stump -- distortions that, inarguably, did far more violence to the truth than any similar ones coming from Kerry’s side. This take asks us to believe that doubts about Kerry are the fault of nobody but himself; the Bush campaign was merely a passive beneficiary. Worse, it refuses to see campaigns in moral terms: It allows for no moral comparison between boosting evangelical turnout with crude anti-gay appeals and boosting turnout among African Americans by telling them that the right to vote is precious and mustn’t be squandered.
...But let’s remember what actually happened here. The real story of this race is that on many levels, the Republicans ran a campaign that was sleazier, more ruthless, and more dishonest than anything in memory -- by far. The key Bush attacks on Kerry were, first, that he would allow the United States' own security decisions to be vetoed by other nations; and that he would hike taxes on the middle class and small businesses. Those contentions weren't mere rhetorical distortions; they were lies. The grotesque misrepresentation of Kerry’s war record, courtesy of the Swift Boat veterans, was likewise based on lies. And the more general effort to paint Kerry as weak and vacillating relied on very deliberate efforts by the president and vice president to lie about Kerry’s words on the stump. What all these assertions have in common is that they were not just false, but demonstrably false. Yet they either passed unchallenged by the media, or they were challenged too late -- after they'd succeeded in their objective of creating, as Rove innocently put it, “doubts about the other guy.” And the GOP got away with it, because they knew that they could count on political reporters to write about the campaign with the moral urgency of a sportswriter covering a baseball game in June. And that's exactly what happened.
Although the press began hedging its bets late in the campaign by noting that, yes, Bush distorted facts much more, and more substantively, than Kerry did, don't expect to see a reneved sense of vigor and vigilance on the part of the Fourth Estate during the next four years.
I've been meaning to own up to one erroneous prediction I made prior to the election -- that Rove's "fire up the relegious right base" strategy would prove foolhardy. It appears I was wrong in that prediction.
But hold on! Kevin Drum's analysis indicates that "Bush's Protestant base showed up to the polls in slightly lower proportion than in 2000, and their support increased by 3 points, the same as his overall increase in support." So maybe they weren't so much of a factor, after all.