Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.


Warhol exhibit (bring your Prozac)

Despite the seemingly whimsical nature of much of Andy Warhol's work, this article from the Washington Post maintains that Warhol's oeuvre is better characterized as a bitter repudiation of modern American society (HT: Steve Gilliard):
Some museum exhibitions put up disclaimers about sex. Others warn about violence in their art. The impressive Andy Warhol show that opens today at the Corcoran Gallery of Art ought to begin with a big sign that reads something like this: "The following exhibition may cause depression or anxiety in visitors -- viewer discretion advised."

For all the bubble gum colors and crisp commercial graphics in much of Warhol's art, its larger vision is profoundly grim. It's that austere underpinning to the Warhol glitz that gives this exhibition so much weight and depth.

People talk about Warhol's art as ironic, or cynical or maybe as satirical -- all of which implies a certain good humor, or at least a distance from the things it talks about. I think his project goes much further than that. I think there's profound, considered despair in it. Taken as a whole, Warhol's art seems to portray a world so thoroughly sold out that there's no hope for it.
Click here to continue reading this post.
Some museum exhibitions put up disclaimers about sex. Others warn about violence in their art. The impressive Andy Warhol show that opens today at the Corcoran Gallery of Art ought to begin with a big sign that reads something like this: "The following exhibition may cause depression or anxiety in visitors -- viewer discretion advised."

For all the bubble gum colors and crisp commercial graphics in much of Warhol's art, its larger vision is profoundly grim. It's that austere underpinning to the Warhol glitz that gives this exhibition so much weight and depth.

People talk about Warhol's art as ironic, or cynical or maybe as satirical -- all of which implies a certain good humor, or at least a distance from the things it talks about. I think his project goes much further than that. I think there's profound, considered despair in it. Taken as a whole, Warhol's art seems to portray a world so thoroughly sold out that there's no hope for it.

"Warhol Legacy" was chosen from works in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, filled out with a few loans. Most of his signature series are represented. The early Campbell soup cans are there, along with a stack of his giant Brillo boxes. There are his trademark silk-screen paintings of Marilyn, Liz, Jackie and Warhol himself. A gallery titled "Death and Disaster" shows Warhol riffing on news photos of suicides, car crashes, the electric chair and botulism-laden cans of tuna. Other galleries concentrate on fascinating works -- some of Warhol's best -- that may not be well known to the general public: his grim little Polaroids of guns and knives; his "abstract" images derived from shadows, Rorschach blots and camouflage; his gripping "Screen Tests," in which one subject after another stares into a movie camera's lens for four long, uneventful minutes.

And almost all of the more than 150 works in the exhibition seem to point to a culture of consumption that, in one way or another, has broken down.

As art historian Thomas Crow pointed out in a famous article, the "Pop" side of Warhol's art, which can feel like a celebration of American consumerism, is more than counterbalanced by a tragic side. There are the crashes and suicides and executions, even that lethal tuna, that suggest not everything is right in big-box America.

Even Warhol's most famous celebrity images aren't so much celebrations of Hollywood values as records of their failure. Warhol's first Marilyns were painted right after her breakdown and suicide. His Liz Taylors were made after her very public illness and many scandalous affairs, and they don't exactly show her at her best. Every one of the Warhol Jackie pictures that render the first lady in her stylish heyday, when she was a symbol of American optimism and energy, was painted after her husband had been gunned down.

But the truly tragic side of Warhol's imagery, even at its grimmest, is that for all its touching subject matter, it has so little power to touch us. Repeated in relentless series, in every color and size, Warhol's pictures can feel like almost random dips into the stream of stuff and images that float by us every day. Even when his pictures have shock value, it's the kind of shock you get from the pictures in a tabloid, the kind of shock that leaves you once you've left the checkout aisle.

Warhol's appropriated imagery feels so heavily pre-processed by the pop culture industry that it is left with all the bite and tooth of a Kraft single.

Popular culture doesn't just consume big news and celebrity; it swallows its icons whole. Warhol's art documents how their meaning gets dissolved and digested -- with his pictures as the end result.

Even when Warhol himself has taken the photograph that a silk-screen portrait is based on, as in the relentless flow of commissions he received from figures such as Cheryl Tiegs and Debbie Harry, there's a strong sense that the sitter has become just one more interchangeable product turned out by the Warholizers at the Factory. The value of these portraits, and maybe of their sitters, too, depends on the branding that Warhol's trademark technique and color gives to them. The saddest thing is to imagine each of these sitters paying something like $35,000 to be turned into part of someone else's product line. You might as well pay to become a Pez dispenser head.

It's not clear that Warhol's almost interchangeable sitters are meant to have any more significance -- to him, to us, maybe even to themselves -- than all the different shoes he drew in his earlier career as a commercial artist.

In Warhol's art, that is, consumer culture doesn't come up short only when it's seen failing -- in its suicides and accidents and assassinations. It also fails when it succeeds. As plenty of studies have suggested, the fundamental premise of consumerism -- that happiness grows in tandem with wealth and ownership -- is a failure from the start. The eerily empty commodities depicted in Warhol's art, and produced by it, can feel like illustrations of that failure.

There are only rare moments in this show when we aren't face-to-face with the all-consuming maw of commodity culture. In the single gallery of (almost) abstract pictures, we see Warhol hunting for imagery that is so inconsequential, so beside the point in what it says, that it can resist the pull of outside forces.

Warhol's almost indecipherable images of random shadows cast onto a wall feel so trivial and incidental that they manage to float free of any use the larger world could put them to.

Ditto for a series of "abstractions" that Warhol based on standard camouflage patterns. After all, indeterminacy is what camouflage is all about: Its explicit goal is to remain unseen and unseeable, to avoid coming together into any kind of meaningful, even recognizable image. Warhol's camouflage paintings are icons of meaninglessness.

Warhol's paintings that mimic Rorschach blots have some of the same force. They're built around patterns that are meant to be absolutely empty of meaning until someone reads some into them.

This makes them just the opposite of Warhol's celebrity images, which had been overstuffed with meaning -- if only of the most superficial kind -- long before the artist got to them.

But it's those four-minute "Screen Tests," which come at the close of the Corcoran exhibition, that feel most like they've escaped the prepackaging and pre-processing of consumer culture. Their sitters, whether famous or not, seem to have some kind of power and authenticity that don't depend on roles they've taken on within the world outside. These film clips are so foursquare in their point-and-shoot technique, their content so willfully ungussied up with style and a fancy look, that they seem to let their sitters withdraw, for a few minutes at least, from a culture of consumption, spectacle and self-presentation. The "Screen Tests" are kind of boring, and their sitters seem bored in them. But there's a sense that withdrawal into boredom can provide a refuge from involvement in a buzzing social world that will only swallow up your individuality.

It's a bleak take on life, and I'm not sure I buy it. If there's pleasure to be found in things -- and those of us who love art had better think there is -- then it's hard to do without consumption of some kind, and the culture that it brings with it. A view of Warhol as a radical ascetic does make more sense of how it feels to see this exhibition, however, than one that casts him as the happy, holy fool of mass culture.

Just take your Prozac before heading to the show.

Libruls r ugly

Is this what the war apologists have been reduced to?

Natalie Portman



I'm genuinely amused by the wingnutosphere's obsession with ridiculing Air America for the liberal radio network's low ratings and profits. Somehow, with the apocalypse seemingly imminent, this strikes them as of supreme importance. Or maybe they just think it is embarrassing to liberals.

OK, fine. "Our side's" radio station is failing. Laugh it up, wingnuts.

Meanwhile ...

Your side's fucking presidency is a fucking catastrophe!!!

But hey, I heard Al Franken stole some kid's lollipop the other day (which of course you won't hear about in the Em-Ess-Em) ... Super Bloggers, away!

I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb... I'm smart and I want respect!

"Christ. It's just one family. Everyone can't be Fredo."

The myth of Iraq's foreign fighters

The US and Iraqi governments have vastly overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, and most of them don't come from Saudi Arabia, according to a new report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS). According to a piece in The Guardian, this means the US and Iraq "feed the myth" that foreign fighters are the backbone of the insurgency. While the foreign fighters may stoke the incurgency flames, they only comprise only about 4 to 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgents.

The CSIS study also disputes media reports that Saudis comprise the largest group of foreign fighters. CSIS says "Algerians are the largest group (20 percent), followed by Syrians (18 percent), Yemenis (17 percent), Sudanese (15 percent), Egyptians (13 percent), Saudis (12 percent) and those from other states (5 percent)." CSIS gathered the information for its study from intelligence services in the Gulf region.

...CSIS believes most of the insurgents are not "Saddam Hussein loyalists" but members of Sunni Arab Iraqi tribes. They do not want to see Mr. Hussein return to power, but they are "wary of a Shiite-led government."


Jurisprudence 101

I've just had an epiphany that's left me a bit flabbergasted, though in a way I'm more surprised that I was even surprised by it - by now, I should have come to expect this kind of thing.

Reading this post on The Moderate Voice, I suddenly realized that the majority of the punditocracy - including those who are looked to for analysis and opinion regarding things like the Roberts nomination - lack even the most basic understanding of law. What's worse is the liklihood of a "trickle down" effect, by which the public at large comes to accept as truisms the twisted claims that these media figures make as a result of their jurisprudential ignorance.

Michael Stickings, referring to Slate's Dahlia Lithwick, writes:
I think Lithwick acutely sums up what's really going on here: While most conservatives are content with Roberts's view that the Supreme Court's primary role is to uphold the law, liberals hold that the Supreme Court ought to advocate "law-plus"
The relevant portion of Lithwick's piece is this:
Back and forth the witnesses go—Roberts is great/Roberts doesn't get it—never really acknowledging that they are not disagreeing; that it's possible to be kind and smart and to believe in the rule of law and also not to get it.

Because the "it" in question has nothing to do with the rule of law. It's about something I might call "law-plus"—the idea that the rule of law, in and of itself, has not always made this country fair. Law-plus rejects Roberts' notion that law, applied neutrally, invariably leads to just results. Law-plus acknowledges that the federal courts have leveled the playing field in this country by broadly interpreting civil rights statutes to allow individual causes of action. Law-plus means federal courts have read the civil rights amendments broadly, in order to level the playing field. Law-plus means accepting a counter-majoritarian role for the courts when the other branches of government cannot or will not protect the weak.

John Roberts isn't a fan of law-plus. In fact, the unbounded nature of judicial power under law-plus is probably what drove him into the boiler room of the Reagan administration in the first place. Time and again he scolds the senators: If you want your statute to provide money damages, write it that way; if you want your legislation to implicate interstate commerce, write it that way. For Roberts, it is not the courts' responsibility to make statutes effective. It is not even the courts' responsibility to make the world fair.
What, pray tell, are they teaching the students at Stanford Law School (from which Lithwick graduated)? Law-plus? What the hell is that?

The actual distinction that Lithwick's ridiculous law/law-plus distinction tracks is, in very rough terms, that between written, statutory law - a.k.a. civil law - and unwritten, non-statutory law - a.k.a. common law (where common law is interpreted broadly, i.e. not just precedent and tradition but the enforcement of the principles of justice (or natural law, if you swing that way) by the judiciary). What Lithwick calls "law-plus" in actuality constitutes the bulk of the legal system. This entry at Wikipedia puts in nicely:
The huge collection of "law books" seen in most law offices is for the most part not a compilation of statutory law; in most U.S. states, for example, the collection of currently valid and enforceable statutory law would take up one moderately-sized bookshelf. The rest are primarily the records of past trials used as precedents.
Lithwick's picture is completely upside-down. She sees the law as mostly statutory, with "law-plus" added on to the top like whipped cream on an ice cream sundae, when in fact, what we refer to when we talk about "the law" is often non-statutory law (though statutory laws are by no means insignificant).

This isn't just about terminology. Or, it is about terminology, but this is a case where terminology matters. To their credit, Stickings and Lithwick both seem to think that "law-plus" is a necessary and good thing. But by framing the debate as one of "law" versus "law-plus," right-wingers are able to lay claim to the mantle of "conservativism," in the traditional sense of maintaining the status quo. Judges should uphold and obey the law, they say, not this goofy "law-plus" that you dirty liberals want to impose upon the American people.

But in actuality, THEY are the radicals; THEY are the ones who want to do away with the status quo; THEY are the ones who want to overthrow 200+ years of legal tradition. This in and of itself doesn't make them wrong, of course, but they shouldn't pretend that what they are calling for is anything but the total overthrow of the legal system as we now know it, and as we have known it for hundreds of years.*

As it so happens, chucking the common law and converting to a civil law system would be absolutely insane. Doing so would strip away many of the rights and freedoms that most people see as fundamental. Forget substantive due process, and prepare for a country in which, as Justice Scalia is alleged to have said, "mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached."

The laws which people have come to rely upon in order to have any hope of getting a fair shake in life are primarily non-statutory. For instance, ever heard of something called an "implied warranty of habitability"? This is the law, found in most states, which stipulates that when a landlord leases an apartment to a renter, the landlord is required, regardless of what the lease says, to provide a habitable dwelling. What's more, "habitability" is not interpreted narrowly; it doesn't just mean "capable of being lived in." Rather, it is a specific instance of an even more general law called the "implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose," meaning that if you rent an apartment, it goes without saying that the apartment lives up to those standards which are typically and reasonably assumed to be necessary for the intended purpose, in this case habitation.

So if you sign a one year lease and move into an apartment, and two weeks in you discover that the roof leaks, and the landlord refuses to fix it in a timely manner, you are no longer bound by the lease, regardless of what the lease itself says, because your landlord has violated the implied warranty of habitability.

Now, in most states, you won't find this law in any list of statutes. Almost always, these kind of implied warranty laws are the result of the "judicial activism" that right-wingers complain about so bitterly. (As it turns out, most laws that protect the rights of the relatively powerless are the result of "judicial activism.") If the right-wingers (or "strict constructionists") had their way, you would, in the above described situation, be shit out of luck, unless you are fortunate enough to live in a state whose legislature has passed a statutory version of this law, or were prescient enough to demand a lease that explicitly stipulated that it would become null and void if certain habitability conditions were not met (good luck finding someone to give you a lease like that).

I can practically hear the libertarians reading this saying: "Fine by me!" Well, OK. But again, what you are asking for is a radical restructuring of the legal system, and of society itself. If you want to argue that such a change should take place, fine - though I warn you, you will find yourself in a distinct minority. What I object to is the preposterous notion that this position should somehow be the default view, that this radical (re)vision of law is standard, and that those who defend the common law system want to add some kind of extra "law-plus." Like it or not, law in the United States includes the common law. The "activist judges" are not those who abide by this fact but are rather those who, like Scalia and perhaps Roberts (we'll see), would use their position on the Supreme Court to remake the legal system to their liking.

(Cross-posted at Liberal Street Fighter.)

* "Originalists" or "strict constructionists" might argue that the Constitution doesn't allow for state recognition of common law. This argument, in addition to being circular - even if the Constitution did prohibit this, it wouldn't follow that the common law system should be abandoned, without the additional premise that the written law trumps common law, which is exactly what is at issue - isn't even factually correct. Even most conservatives agree that the Framers (assuming for the moment that the Framers' intent is even relevant) intended the Constitution to embody the principles of natural law. Natural law is the highest authority; the Constitution derives its authority from it. If natural law dictates something that is left out by the Constitution, or even contradicted by it, natural law wins. The relationship is similar to that between God's will and the 10 Commandments as understood by most believers. If God tells them to do something, they don't object - it doesn't even make sense to object - that what he's telling them to do isn't to be found in the 10 Commandments. The Commandments only matter in the first place because they are an expression of God's will. Similarly, the Constitution only matters in the first place (on the natural law view) because it is an expression of the natural law. Its conformity to natural law is a necessary condition of its normative force, since (again, on the natural law view) an unjust law is no law at all.

The Constitution itself more or less explicitly recognizes this in the Ninth Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."


The stupidest question EVER?

Via Majikthise (how the hell do you pronounce that, anyway?), this question actually appears on the FAQ on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's website:
Why don't we try to destroy tropical cyclones by nuking them ?
NOAA's answer, emphasis added:
During each hurricane season, there always appear suggestions that one should simply use nuclear weapons to try and destroy the storms. Apart from the fact that this might not even alter the storm, this approach neglects the problem that the released radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems. Needless to say, this is not a good idea.
There you have it.

Do you want to know a secret?

FBI: Lennon too stoned to be a threat

John Lennon was dismissed as a Communist threat to the US only because he was always stoned, secret FBI papers revealed yesterday.

The ex-Beatles singer was thought to be a ringleader of revolutionaries plotting to hijack a Republican conference, the documents show.

But his drug-taking - which in the early 1970s included heroin, cocaine and marijuana - ultimately ruled him out of FBI inquiries.

...After seeming undecided about radicalism in his 1968 Beatles song Revolution, Lennon became more politically active after moving to New York in the early 1970s.

He hung out with activists such as Jerry Rubin and Abbey Hoffman, and recorded songs and joined marches for jailed drug offender John Sinclair and 'Black Panther' supporter Angela Davis. He also complained about having his phone tapped, as he struggled to win a US green card despite a British drug conviction.

Lennon was being watched shortly before the Republican National Covention of 1972, when Richard Nixon was approved as presidential candidate.

The ex-Beatle was hoping to extend his travel visa so he could 'engage in disruptive activities surrounding RNC', an agent claimed in the reports.

But while Lennon 'appears to be radically orientated', he 'does not give the impression he is a true revolutionist, since he is constantly under the influence of narcotics', the report says.


Quite a few wingnuttters, including Power Line and Jesse and Michelle Malkin, are making fun of Air America, the liberal radio station, because they have resorted to "groveling for cash."

That is pretty pathetic.

Of course, I'd be more worried that the Bush administration is doing the same thing to fund the war effort, but hey - I'm weird that way.


From one of Josh Marshall's readers:
A brief note on the evacutation of the Houston area. Galveston and all the coast was successfully evacuated but Wednesday night there occured throughout Houston a simultaneous mass (hysterical) evacuation. All the freeways and highways leaving Houston are at a dead standstill as of 11am Thursday. People have been in their vehicles as long as 12 hours without traveling more than 40 miles. Now they are running out of gas and there will soon be another chaotic storm evacuation situation. The local government and the mayor of Houston don't seem to realize that cars need gas and folks need facilities. The city has waited too long to open all freeway lanes to outbound traffic. The truth is, the feds, state, and locals do not know how to evacuate a major metropolitan area. Another catastrophe is only a day away.

This man must be stopped!

The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington D.C. issued a press release late this morning to inform that Venezuela President Hugo Chavez’ pledge to ship approximately an additional one million barrels of gasoline to the United States in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation will begin to come to fruition on September 25 with the arrival at Port Everglades (Florida) of the bulk tanker 'B/t Energy Pride' with a first shipment of 240,000 barrels. The gasoline, produced by Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) will be available immediately to US consumers through PDVSA’s wholly-owned US subsidiary, CITGO Petroleum Corp's distribution network ... and is supplementary to PDVSA’s normal shipments.

“As a Hemispheric neighbor and business partner, we are pleased that we are able to provide immediate relief by increasing gasoline supplies available in the United States in the aftermath of this devastating natural disaster,” said Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera. “We're sending additional barrels of gasoline that otherwise would have gone elsewhere, and we will continue to do whatever we can to help alleviate energy shortages and the dislocations faced by the people of the United States as a result of Hurricane Katrina.”

Three other shipments of 240,000 barrel each will arrive at regular intervals on the heels of this first. It is expected that the entire additional volume of close to one million barrels will be delivered to the US distribution system no later than October 31. Venezuela’s geographic proximity to the United States and PDVSA’s relationship with CITGO permits a much quicker response than could be achieved by other countries in Europe, the Middle East or Asia.
Clearly, the assassination option cannot be taken off the table.


I'm sure those billions of dollars will show up somewhere ... did you check the pants you wore yesterday?

Surely I can't be the only one a little bit bothered by the fact that the military "doesn't know what happened" to much of the money it was given by Congress...
The Pentagon has no accurate knowledge of the cost of military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or the fight against terrorism, limiting Congress's ability to oversee spending, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a report released yesterday.

The Defense Department has reported spending $191 billion to fight terrorism from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks through May 2005, with the annual sum ballooning from $11 billion in fiscal 2002 to a projected $71 billion in fiscal 2005. But the GAO investigation found many inaccuracies totaling billions of dollars.

"Neither DOD nor Congress can reliably know how much the war is costing and details of how appropriated funds are being spent," the report to Congress stated.

...The report said the Pentagon overstated the cost of mobilized Army reservists in fiscal 2004 by as much as $2.1 billion. Because the Army lacked a reliable process to identify the military personnel costs, it plugged in numbers to match the available budget, the report stated. "Effectively, the Army was reporting back to Congress exactly what it had appropriated," the report said.

The probe also found "inadvertent double accounting" by the Navy and Marine Corps from November 2004 to April 2005 amounting to almost $1.8 billion.

The report turned up aberrations in imminent-danger pay -- $225 a month offered to military personnel serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries -- which had "little correlation with the numbers of deployed personnel." That pay totaled $38 million in April 2004, implying that 170,000 military personnel were receiving it, but by August 2004 it had mushroomed to $231 million, suggesting that more than 1 million U.S. troops were serving in danger zones.
"Inadvertent" double accounting, huh?

Maybe the military is just planning a big surprise party for Congress and doesn't want them to find out about it.


Thank you

Amanda Marcotte:
I agree with Roxanne, NARAL needs to withdraw their endorsement of Lincoln Chafee.

...That said, this is also an opportune moment to withdraw endorsements of ALL Democrats who vote to confirm John Roberts. Because there was so much damn whining about the Lincoln Chafee endorsement, NARAL could take advantage of the attention their mea culpa would get to draw attention to and shame all Democrats who fuck this up as well.

I have to stop reading Blogs for Bush

Because Mark Noonan has got to be the stupidest man alive. Either that, or he really enjoys playing dumb.
Personally, I don't think we should be bothering with sex education at all - first off, we somehow managed to breed quite well before sex education came along;
Jesus Christ, the point of sex education isn't to teach kids how to fuck, you stupid fucking asshole. It's to teach them how to fuck without ending up with AIDS or pregnant at 13, among other things.

For those interested in the discussion about "framing" political issues, it's worth noting that there is only one party which seems to be in favor of more pregnant teenagers, and it ain't the Democrats.

Men are dirtier than women

Just in case you were wondering.
BEIJING, Sept. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- Men are dirtier than women. According to a new U.S. observational study, 90 percent of women wash their hands after using a public restroom, compared with 75 percent of men.

In August, researchers observed 6,336 people at aquariums, train stations, markets and sports facilities in four major U.S. cities. They lingered in public restrooms, putting on makeup or combing their hair, while surreptitiously counting.

A second study was conducted by telephone, asking Americans how frequently they wash their hands after using a public restroom. 91 percent of those polled said they wash their hands every time they use a communal restroom.

When researchers took a look for themselves, however, they found that only 83 per cent of those who used public restrooms later lathered up.

Researchers say hand washing is the single most important thing people can do to stop the spread of illness and reduce the risk of getting sick.

For instance, contrary to what many people believe, experts say cold and flu viruses are spread by hands more often than through the air from sneezing.

Did Mark Noonan just call Jesse Jackson a "step-n-fetchit"?

Why I believe he did.


Hitchens Watch: Dedicated to exposing the lies and distortions of the New Right's favourite ex-Marxist

Via Liberal Avenger.

Falling off the wagon

Via Steve Gilliard:
Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Bush, who said he quit drinking the morning after his 40th birthday, has started boozing amid the Katrina catastrophe.

Family sources have told how the 59-year-old president was caught by First Lady Laura downing a shot of booze at their family ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he learned of the hurricane disaster.

His worried wife yelled at him: "Stop, George."

Following the shocking incident, disclosed here for the first time, Laura privately warned her husband against "falling off the wagon" and vowed to travel with him more often so that she can keep an eye on Dubya, the sources add.

"When the levees broke in New Orleans, it apparently made him reach for a shot," said one insider. "He poured himself a Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey and tossed it back. The First Lady was shocked and shouted: "Stop George!"

"Laura gave him an ultimatum before, 'It's Jim Beam or me.' She doesn't want to replay that nightmare” especially now when it's such tough going for her husband."

Bush is under the worst pressure of his two terms in office and his popularity is near an all-time low. The handling of the Katrina crisis and troop losses in Iraq have fueled public discontent and pushed Bush back to drink.

A Washington source said: "The sad fact is that he has been sneaking drinks for weeks now. Laura may have only just caught him” but the word is his drinking has been going on for a while in the capital. He's been in a pressure cooker for months.


The result is he's taking drinks here and there, likely in private, to cope. "And now with the worst domestic crisis in his administration over Katrina, you pray his drinking doesn't go out of control."

Another source said: "I'm only surprised to hear that he hadn't taken a shot sooner. Before Katrina, he was at his wit's end..."

Another source said: "A family member told me they fear George is 'falling apart.' The First Lady has been assigned the job of gatekeeper."


Dr. Justin Frank, a Washington D.C. psychiatrist and author of Bush On The Couch: Inside The Mind Of The President, told The National Enquirer: "I do think that Bush is drinking again. Alcoholics who are not in any program, like the President, have a hard time when stress gets to be great.

"I think it's a concern that Bush disappears during times of stress. He spends so much time on his ranch. It's very frightening."
The source of this story, if you didn't notice, is the National Enquirer, so make of this what you will (Gilliard makes it a point to defend them).

Personally, I find it kind of hard to believe that Bush really cares about this shit enough to be coming to pieces over it. However, having his vacation ruined by Cindy Sheehan, and then having to cut it short because of Katrina - now that might have brought him to the breaking point.


I don't get it

I'm not all that bright, so maybe someone can explain this to me.

Oliver Willis:
Lincoln Chafee is voting for John Roberts. Explain to me again why the hell NARAL is supporting Republican candidates?
Ezra Klein:
In the area that most matters on choice, Chafee just voted for a Chief Justice who will, in all likelihood, work to overturn or radically constrain Roe ... NARAL should pull their endorsement. Actually, take that one step farther: NARAL should pull their endorsement and work like like hell to defeat Chafee. If it was important for them to prove they'd reward friends, it's orders of magnitude more crucial to show they'll steamroll those who betray them.
I don't necessarily disagree with Ezra's advice to NARAL, but what I don't understand is how both Ezra and Oliver seem to think that Chafee's vote is somehow proof that NARAL was foolish for endorsing him as opposed to his Democratic opponent.

Their argument (and Kos's) was that Chafee, a Republican, would vote to confirm Republican judges. Presumably, they meant to imply that if the Democrat won, he wouldn't.

They're focusing on Chafee's vote re: Roberts, but we also found out today how Pat Leahy and other Democrats would vote, and it's the same was Chafee will.

So Republicans confirm Republican judges, and so do Democrats.

Is anyone else confused?

UPDATE: Incidentally, John Kerry has announced he's voting no on Roberts.

No relief

Rita looks like it's going to be a big one, and the price of oil is rising:
Oil futures are trading higher, as experts predict the price for a barrel of crude could spike as hurricane Rita sweeps across the Gulf of Mexico in the coming days.

Concerns that Rita -- now upgraded to a category 5 hurricane -- will cause heavy damage to key oil facilities as it drives toward Texas were sending prices higher.

Workers who fled oil rigs as hurricane Katrina bore down on the Gulf of Mexico a month ago are leaving once again.

"They're not taking any chances," Fadel Gheit, a New York oil analyst with Oppenheimer & Co., told CTV News.

"There are mandatory evacuations in the Galveston area, and most of the operating companies near Texas City are preparing to shut down completely by this Friday. They believe, at best, they will be shut down for three days, maybe as long as a week."

BP PLC began closing its massive Texas City refinery on Wednesday. Marathon Oil Corp. and Shell Oil, meanwhile, did the same at their Houston area refineries.

Because the Lone Star State accounts for 25 per cent of the total U.S. oil output, analysts fear any disruption could send prices suddenly soaring.

"We have to remember here that almost 25 per cent of our refining capacity is concentrated within a 15 to 20 mile radius from the Houston area, so any impact could be substantial," added Gheit

Already on Wednesday, crude oil prices were up more than $1 US a barrel.

But don't forget...

...NARAL can't endorse pro-choice Republicans, because they'll vote to confirm Republican judges!

Hello Chief Justice Roberts

Chris Bowers reacts to Leahy's announcement:
So, Leahy will vote for Roberts, after in his statement making a strong case against him. That's just fucking great. I'm not going to be eloquent on this one: get bent Senator Leahy. Anyway, this pretty much ends any hope of even achieving 34 No votes, which would have been the minimum possible requirement to claim victory and already be in a strong position to oppose the next nominee. We lost this one, and lost is pretty badly. I'm not going to have a detailed post-mortem on this one, but Liberal Oasis has a pretty good one:
"Sen. Min. Leader Harry Reid put the nail in the coffin of the already limp Roberts opposition yesterday.

He announced his personal opposition to Roberts, but it was empty posturing to keep the base in check.

He also announced that the nomination "do[es] not warrant extraordinary procedural tactics to block" it.

In other words, no filibuster and hello Chief Justice Roberts."

It is amazing that even when he is at 40%, we still can't mount a credible opposition to Bush and modern conservatism, otherwise known as whatever Bush does today.

Based on what?

Leahy is going to vote for Roberts, saying that he (Roberts) left "the understanding that he would not seek to overrule or undercut the right of a woman to choose."
Did you get that impression from the hearings?
Don't misunderstand me - I didn't necessarily get the impression that he would rule against abortion rights.  I just didn't get any impression at all from him on this issue, because he basically refused to even talk about it.
Maybe Leahy knows something I don't.

Fact-checking the wingnuts into oblivion

Grace at Scriptoids takes them to school.

Rita hits Cuba

HAVANA (AFX) - Hurricane Rita smacked central and western Cuba on Tuesday, including Havana and Varadero, with intense wind and rain, and prompting the evacuation of 150,000 persons.

The category two cyclone made landfall at 2200 GMT 90 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of Havana, with 160 kilometer (100 mile) an hour winds, after it struck the Florida Keys, which US authorities had ordered evacuated.

'The storm will keep up its strength and will reach category three in a few hours as it enters the Gulf of Mexico, and could even reach category four,' said Jose Rubiera, head of the forecasting center at the Meteorological Institute of Cuba.

'It will be another intense hurricane,' he said.

About 600 shelters were readied for some 126,000 persons in Havana, but outside the capital and in rural areas, thousands of others had already taken refuge.

Thousands of persons in central and western provinces were also taken to shelters, as were animals and foodstuffs. At least 42,000 persons were given shelter in Matanzas, 31,000 in Villa Claro and 6,300 in Sancti Spiritus.

Twelve thousand tourists were also relocated to safer lodging in Varadero, the principal tourist spot.



Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Olga in an Armchair (1917)

Like Breton, I unhesitatingly proclaim the peerlessness of Picasso. Picasso seemed to feel the same way:

"My mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general; if you become a monk you'll end up as the pope.' Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso."More words and images from Picasso below the fold.

Click here to continue reading this post.

"I don't work according to Nature, but in front and together with it. An artist must observe Nature, but never confuse it with the art."

The Tragedy (1903)

"God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style, He just goes on trying other things."

Portrait of Dora Maar (1936)

"Bad artists copy. Great artists steal."

Man with Pipe (1914)

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."

La Vie (1903)

"Art is not invented to decorate rooms. Art is an offensive weapon, to defend against the enemy."

Pêche de nuit à Antibes (1939)

"The path to youth takes a whole life"

Self Portrait (1901)

"The art is a lie that leads us to the truth."

Girl in a Chemise (1905)

Now that's what I call chutzpah

Remember the post at Pandagon the other day, wherein Jesse defended the use of swear words when conversing with the "Fucking Moron Brigade"? Here's what Charles Johnson had to say about the post (HT: Blogometer):
I think Jesse Taylor takes the prize for today’s defiantly ugly lefty post of the day, complete with the obligatory nasty smear against yours truly...

You know, I’m worried about Jesse. It’s not healthy to be that full of animosity and hatred.
That's Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, Ladies and Gents, telling us that it's "not healthy" to be full of "animosity and hatred."


... if you're not familiar with LGF (lucky you), take this quiz to see the kind of discourse they're famous for there:

Little Green Footballs or Late German Fascists?

OK, I'm a traitor

Mark Noonan lays down the law:
It must be getting overly clear by now that our enemies in Iraq and our domestic leftists are speaking the same language quite often - because they both have the same aim: the defeat of the United States in the War on Terrorism.

I've said it before and I'll keep right on saying it - this is wartime; a time for choosing. Which side are you on? You can be on the side of the United States and support our military effort to absolute victory, or you can be a traitor...those are your two options.

OK, fine, asshole. If I have to choose between "supporting the US military to absolute victory" (whatever the fuck that means) and being a traitor, then I choose being a traitor.

Your "War on Terrorism" is bullshit; it is nonsense; it doesn't exist; it's a fairy tale designed for children. The military action that takes place under the rubric of the "War on Terrorism" has zero to do with preventing terrorism and everything to do with advancing the strategic aims of the Bush administration and the business interests it represents. If being against "absolute victory" in that endeavor makes me a traitor, so be it.

There's nothing inherently wrong with being a traitor. Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Washington, etc., were all "traitors," as were the members of the various resistance movements in Nazi Germany. There's no shame in being a traitor to an unjust cause. If my choices are standing with Mark Noonan or being a traitor, I'll pick being a traitor any day of the goddamn week.

(Cross-posted at Liberal Street Fighter.)

In the beginning, God crapped out the universe and invented nudists

Matt at Cerulean Blue has set out to re-write the bible in the "briefest, most concise" form imaginable.

Get your free Paul Krugman column here!

This dude (HT: Digby) figured out the most ridiculously easy backdoor to get around the New York Times' new subscription policy for their editorials.

Thus, for perhaps a limited time (it's really easy, they'll surely close it by morning (?)), I can copy and paste NYT columns with ease! Here's Krugman's, in its entirety:
Tragedy in Black and White

By three to one, African-Americans believe that federal aid took so long to arrive in New Orleans in part because the city was poor and black. By an equally large margin, whites disagree.

The truth is that there's no way to know. Maybe President Bush would have been mugging with a guitar the day after the levees broke even if New Orleans had been a mostly white city. Maybe Palm Beach would also have had to wait five days after a hurricane hit before key military units received orders to join rescue operations.

But in a larger sense, the administration's lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina had a lot to do with race. For race is the biggest reason the United States, uniquely among advanced countries, is ruled by a political movement that is hostile to the idea of helping citizens in need.

Race, after all, was central to the emergence of a Republican majority: essentially, the South switched sides after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Today, states that had slavery in 1860 are much more likely to vote Republican than states that didn't.

And who can honestly deny that race is a major reason America treats its poor more harshly than any other advanced country? To put it crudely: a middle-class European, thinking about the poor, says to himself, "There but for the grace of God go I." A middle-class American is all too likely to think, perhaps without admitting it to himself, "Why should I be taxed to support those people?"

Above all, race-based hostility to the idea of helping the poor created an environment in which a political movement hostile to government aid in general could flourish.

By all accounts Ronald Reagan, who declared in his Inaugural Address that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," wasn't personally racist. But he repeatedly used a bogus tale about a Cadillac-driving Chicago "welfare queen" to bash big government. And he launched his 1980 campaign with a pro-states'-rights speech in Philadelphia, Miss., a small town whose only claim to fame was the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers.

Under George W. Bush - who, like Mr. Reagan, isn't personally racist but relies on the support of racists - the anti-government right has reached a new pinnacle of power. And the incompetent response to Katrina was the direct result of his political philosophy. When an administration doesn't believe in an agency's mission, the agency quickly loses its ability to perform that mission.

By now everyone knows that the Bush administration treated the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a dumping ground for cronies and political hacks, leaving the agency incapable of dealing with disasters. But FEMA's degradation isn't unique. It reflects a more general decline in the competence of government agencies whose job is to help people in need.

For example, housing for Katrina refugees is one of the most urgent problems now facing the nation. The FEMAvilles springing up across the gulf region could all too easily turn into squalid symbols of national failure. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which should be a source of expertise in tackling this problem, has been reduced to a hollow shell, with eight of its principal staff positions vacant.

But let me not blame the Bush administration for everything. The sad truth is that the only exceptional thing about the neglect of our fellow citizens we saw after Katrina struck is that for once the consequences of that neglect were visible on national TV.

Consider this: in the United States, unlike any other advanced country, many people fail to receive basic health care because they can't afford it. Lack of health insurance kills many more Americans each year than Katrina and 9/11 combined.

But the health care crisis hasn't had much effect on politics. And one reason is that it isn't yet a crisis among middle-class, white Americans (although it's getting there). Instead, the worst effects are falling on the poor and black, who have third-world levels of infant mortality and life expectancy.

I'd like to believe that Katrina will change everything - that we'll all now realize how important it is to have a government committed to helping those in need, whatever the color of their skin. But I wouldn't bet on it.
Oh, and let's not forget Bob Herbert:
September 19, 2005
Good Grief

The president is Lucy, and he's holding a football. We're Charlie Brown.

In an eerily lit, nationally televised appearance outside the historic St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, President Bush promised the world to the Gulf Coast residents whose lives were upended by Hurricane Katrina.

He seemed to be saying that no effort, no amount of money, would be spared. Two hundred billion dollars? No problem. This will be bigger than the Marshall Plan. The end of the rainbow is here.

"Throughout the area hit by the hurricane," said Mr. Bush, "we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives."

The country has put its faith in Mr. Bush many times before, and come up empty. It may be cynical, but my guess is that if we believe him again this time, we're going to end up on our collective keisters, just like Charlie Brown, who could never stop himself from kicking mightily at empty space, which was all that was left each time Lucy snatched the ball away.

In March 2003, in another nationally televised address, the president told us we had no choice but to go to war with Iraq because Saddam Hussein was sitting on "some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." So we went to war, even though Saddam had not attacked us, and now - two years and $200 billion later - we're stuck there. Close to a couple of thousand brave men and women have come back in coffins (no pictures, please) and thousands more have been maimed.

The weapons? As Emily Litella would have said, "Never mind."

In the same lavish way that Mr. Bush is promising to rebuild New Orleans and the rest of the storm-damaged Gulf Coast, he assured us and the rest of the world that the invasion he was ordering would lead to the rebuilding of Iraq and its devastated economy. "Freed from the weight of oppression," he said, "Iraq's people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time."

But last Thursday, the very same day that he delivered his speech in New Orleans, the World Bank released a report showing that the continued violence in Iraq had frightened away private investors, slowed reconstruction and disrupted oil production.

The Times reported yesterday that even in Najaf, an Iraqi city often cited by the U.S. as a success story, American officials have acknowledged that reconstruction projects "are hobbled by poor planning, corrupt contractors and a lack of continuity among the rotating coalition officers."

Polls have shown that over the past two years Americans have lost a great deal of faith in Mr. Bush, who tends to talk a good game but doesn't seem to know how to deliver. Thursday night's speech was designed to halt that slide.

But Mr. Bush's new post-Katrina persona defies belief. The same man who was unforgivably slow to respond to the gruesome and often fatal suffering of his fellow Americans now suddenly emerges from the larva of his ineptitude to present himself as - well, nothing short of enlightened.

Not only was he proposing a Gulf Coast Marshall Plan, but he was declaring, in words that made his conservative followers gasp, that poverty in the U.S. "has roots in a history of racial discrimination which cut off generations from the opportunity of America."

If you were listening to the radio, you might have thought you were hearing the ghost of Lyndon Johnson. "We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action," said Mr. Bush.

He was being Lucy again, enticing us with the football. But before we commence kicking the air, consider the facts.

This president has had zero interest in attacking poverty, and the result has been an increase in poverty in the U.S., the richest country in the world, in each of the last four years. Instead of attacking poverty, the Bush administration has attacked the safety net and has stubbornly refused to stop the decline in the value of the minimum wage on his watch.

You can believe that he's suddenly worried about poor people if you want to. What is more likely is that his reference to racism and poverty was just another opportunistic Karl Rove moment, never to be acted upon.

Charlie Brown's sister, Sally, once asked how often someone could be fooled with the same trick. She answered her own question: "Pretty often, huh?"
Frankly, I don't understand why people are so up in arms about this new subscription thing ... (a) the Times columnists are just guys and gals with opinions who write short articles about them - in other words, like bloggers, except they get paid; (b) the columns are syndicated all over the place anyway.

But, I still hate the idea of any internet content not being free. Perhaps some of the worry with the NYT decision is that it will start an unwelcome trend.

I doubt it, though. The New York Times might be able to get away with putting its columns behind a subscriber wall, but that doesn't mean the Cleveland Plain Dealer, or the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, etc. can as well.

UPDATE: The hole has been patched.


Bridge to Nowhere

Actually the Golden Gate Bridge.

Instapundit and NZ Bear are leading a blog charge to identify unnecessary "pork" in the federal budget, the idea being that the money for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast has to come from somewhere, and dammit, Instapundit needs his tax cut.

I don't seem to remember any similar projects regarding the financing of the Iraq war ... apparently, it's o.k. to kill people with money you don't have; but damned if we're going to let the government help people by running up the deficit!

Anyway, one of the projects that everybody's ragging on, even on the liberal side of the aisle, is a "bridge to nowhere" (actually an uninhabited island) being built with federal money in Alaska.

I don't know why they're complaining ... I think a bridge to nowhere is a great idea.

Viewed as an installation art piece/existential metaphor, of course. Like something Christo and Jeanne-Claude would do, only not as whimsical.

Not so fast

First, we hear that there's been a "breakthrough" in negotiations with North Korea ... now this:
N Korea puts terms on arms deal

North Korea has said it will not scrap its nuclear arms programme until it gets a civilian nuclear reactor.

The foreign ministry statement came a day after a dramatic breakthrough in long-running talks over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

North Korea had agreed in principle to dismantle its nuclear programme in return for aid and security guarantees.

However, Japan and the US, which are involved in the talks, have rejected North Korea's demands.

Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said the North's reactor demand was "unacceptable", Kyodo News agency reported.

Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the US State Department, said: "This was obviously not the agreement they signed and we will see what the coming weeks bring."

On Monday, the North "promised to drop all nuclear weapons and current nuclear programmes and to get back to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as soon as possible".

Does Hugo Chavez have a death wish, or just balls the size of church bells?

Seriously, this kind of thing is going to piss certain people off, people who have a history of living by Stalin's "no man, no problem" philosophy:
Worried about the skyrocketing cost of gasoline and heating oil this winter? Well, Hugo Chavez, the firebrand president of oil-rich Venezuela, wants to help.

Chavez, a former army officer twice elected president in huge landslides, has become a target of the Bush administration for his radical social policies. Last month, right-wing evangelist Pat Robertson openly urged his assassination. But now Chavez is firing back at Bush and Robertson with a surprise weapon - cheap oil for America's poor.

In an exclusive interview yesterday, the Venezuelan leader said his country will soon start to ship heating oil and diesel fuel at below market prices to poor communities and schools in the United States. "We will begin with a pilot project in Chicago on Oct. 14, in a Mexican-American community," said Chavez, who was in town for the United Nations sessions. "We will then expand the program to New York and Boston in November."

The first New York neighborhood in the program will be the South Bronx, where Chavez was to speak today as a guest of Rep. Jose Serrano. The Venezuelan leader revealed details of the new oil-for-the-poor program during a wide-ranging interview at the upper East Side home of his country's UN ambassador. "If you want to eliminate poverty, you have to empower the poor, not treat them as beggars," Chavez said.

... his novel oil-for-the-poor idea in this country is sure to make him an even bigger target of the Bush administration. Those who scoff at this as a publicity scam should think twice. With the price of oil at record levels, the Chavez government is swimming in cash. Those sky-high fuel prices are bound to have a drastic impact on low-income neighborhoods here, especially since Congress redirected much of this winter's usual energy assistance program for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Venezuela, on the other hand, owns a key U.S. subsidiary called Citgo Petroleum Corp., which has 14,000 gas stations and owns eight oil refineries in this country, none of which was damaged by Katrina.

...Cutting oil prices must seem like the worst sort of radicalism to the Big Oil companies and their buddies at the Bush-Cheney White House. But ordinary Americans fed up with price gouging by these energy companies could begin to look at Chavez in a different light if his oil-for-the-poor project works. Still, Chavez, warns, we must all think about the future. Americans are 5% of the world's population, yet we consume 25% of the world's oil. On his drive from Kennedy Airport to Manhattan this week, Chavez noted, "Out of every 100 cars I saw on the road, 99 had only one person in the car. "These people were using up fuel," he said. "They were polluting the environment. This planet cannot sustain that mode of life." That's the kind of message that can get a man killed these days - or at least labeled a dangerous madman by folks in the White House.
Chavez is clearly not intimidated by the Bush administration and its lackeys. Good for him.

The "progressive" Daily Kos in action

If there's still any doubt remaining over Daily Kos's complete lack of true progressive credentials, witness the response to this post there by Cindy Sheehan. She writes:
bill clinton ... waged a secret war in Iraq with the supported sanctions and weekly bombing runs of "military" targets.

over one million iraqis, 750,000 of them children, died during clinton's years.

i am just wondering if george is trying to catch up?

clinton may be eloquent and intelligent, but he is a politician who apparently loves george and family now.
Now, before I quote some of the responses, it's worth pointing out that what Sheehan is saying is absolutely, uncontroversially true. (I mean the part about the lethal sanctions regime and the regular bombing; whether Clinton is eloquent, intelligent, or loves the Bush family is obviously a judgment call.)

But that won't stop the Kossacks from jumping all over her for daring to speak the truth about the "Big Dog." A sampling:
Do you have support for those allegations?

I'll take Bill Clinton over George W Bush any day of the week, any year, any century.


That would require using Google and doing a little research.

Hyperbole substitutes for substance and truth all too often these days.


Hey, just go to Free Republic

You'll find all the Bill and Hillary Clinton talking points you want.


I think you need to learn something about "Real Politik." Yes, Clinton went for the sanctions. Why? Probably because the alternative was what GWB did! Clinton is not responsible for the thousands of Iraqis who died under Saddam Hussein: Hussein is responsible because of his diversion of funds to build all those palaces...etc.

I am sorry to say, Ma'am, but your son died defending the USA. While he and I and you and numerous others may disagree with this administration on what that exactly means, it still means he died with honor. Casey Sheehan may not have agreed with the policies he was sent to Iraq for, but he knew what his duty was: to protect his fellow soldiers, even at the cost of his life! I salute him!


Your personal tragedy, and the strength of your convictions, do not substitute for due diligence.

Your association with ANSWER and the extreme far-left crowd is a trajectory which, if continued, will have you intersect the wingnuts upon the far-right, at the singularity point of politics where reason ends and agendas rule, bereft of any guiding principles that would otherwise lend them some semblance of consistency.

I admire your son for the sacrfice he made for his country.
At least one Kossack, however, gets things right:
I had always been so proud of him and fell for his charisma. It took years for me to face up to the truth of Bill Clinton, he is no hero to me.
A common Republican response to liberal opponents of the war is that they only oppose the war because Bush is president - that they don't mind wars, as long as they're started by Democratic presidents.

With regard to most of the folks at Daily Kos, I fear this criticism is directly on target.

Somebody tell these bastards about the Categorical Imperative

Universal Law formulation would be the most relevant -
From the latest Gallup Poll:

45 percent said Americans should make "major sacrifices" to pay for the [Katrina reconstruction] effort. But only 20 percent said they would be willing to make those sacrifices themselves.

North Korea

Kevin Drum:
Is it just me, or has the blogosphere been remarkably silent about the breakthrough in talks with North Korea?
The breakthrough he's talking about is this:
NORTH Korea yesterday promised to give up its nuclear weapons programme, apparently bringing to an end a tense three-year stand-off.

In exchange, South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China - the other players in the six-party talks being held in Beijing - said they would provide oil, energy aid and security guarantees as well as allowing a peaceful nuclear energy programme.

Washington and Tokyo agreed to normalise ties with the impoverished and diplomatically isolated North, which pledged to rejoin the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

South Korea's unification minister, Chung Dong-young, said the agreement would serve as a first step towards dismantling the Cold War confrontation between the two Koreas and the seven-day session ended with a standing ovation by all delegates.
I think part of the reason for the silence is that it's hard to tell at this point how significant this will turn out to be. There's still no concrete agreement; N. Korea has basically just said that they are willing, in principle, to give up the program - whether they actually do or not remains to be seen. As the article suggests, this is more of a "first step" than a conclusion. Hopefully it will lead to something, but it's too early to be anything more than cautiously optimistic.

UPDATE: Matt Ygelsias says that this news proves the efficacy of John Kerry's North Korea policy.

Being rude to the Fucking Moron Brigade

Jesse Taylor defends swearing like a sailor:
I've received a few e-mails over the past week about my choice of language around these parts. It mainly comes in the context of responses to particularly extreme cases of conservative nutjobbery in which I use cursewords to combat the ideas and whackjobbery of some.

...I don't curse if someone's presenting a serious case before me. I don't curse if it ruins the tenor of the post, something either serious or light. I do, however, curse if the person is attempting to pass a virulent idea off as acceptable and polite because they used "polite" language, if they're being rankly dishonest, or if they themselves have a history of teeing off on others using cursewords whenever they disagree with them.

I also do it because I find the conservative blogosphere to be one of the most closed-minded, insular, circular pits of denial I've ever encountered. The ringleader of the group has been calling those of us who are anti-war traitors going on three years at this point ... Unrepentant racists have become the main issue drivers for the conservative blogosphere ...

...You want to break into the message drivers and actually have a debate? Well, there are one of two ways to do so. Make a polite, reasoned argument carefully rebutting each point. If you're incredibly blessed, one of them might casually dismiss you with a "X tries to rebut my arguments, but my points still stand. This is the reality-denial of the Angry Left." Or, you can make a profanity laced, reasoned argument carefully and passionately rebutting each point. If you're incredibly blessed, one of them might casually dismiss you with a "X tries to rebut my arguments, but my points still stand despite the insane grip of Bush Derangement Syndrome overtaking their rotted soul. This is the reality-denial of the Angry Left." You're a little bit more likely to enter in to some form of dialogue with them if you piss them off than if you pretend they care about having an honest debate.

...In all honesty, if the worst we do the Fucking Moron Brigade is call them the Fucking Moron Brigade while they damn our eternal souls and tell us we hate our country, then we win.

This could explain that whole 'spontaneous human combustion' thing

From ABC News via Battlepanda:
Victorian authorities believe a man built up at least 30,000 volts of static electricity in his jacket simply by walking around the western Victorian city of Warrnambool yesterday.

The man left a trail of scorch marks and molten plastic behind him.

It was yesterday afternoon when Frank Clewer walked into a Warrnambool business and got his first shock.

"It sounded almost like a firecracker or something like that," he said.

"It was at the reception area. Within say, around five minutes, the carpet started to erupt," he said.

Burns the size of 10-cent pieces were left on the carpet where Mr Clewer had been standing.

The Country Fire Authority evacuated the building and those around it, fearing the power could cause larger electrical problems.

But Mr Clewer's worries continued when he got back in his car.

"I actually scorched a piece of plastic I had on the floor of the car," he said.

Scientist Karl Kruszelnicki says it is likely the electrical build-up was caused by a number of factors, such as the synthetic clothes the man was wearing.

"This poor guy has built up static electricity thanks to an unfortunate combination of insulating clothes that he's wearing, static, synthetic clothes, just walking along and he's just building up this static charge everywhere," Dr Kruszelnicki said.

"I've read of it but I've never heard of it here in Australia."

The CFA has Mr Clewer's jacket and says it is continuing to give off voltage.


This is an uplifting little story from the NY Daily News via Steve Gilliard:
LOS ANGELES - The producers of "Extreme Makeover" promised Deleese Williams "a Cinderella-like" fix for a deformed jaw, crooked teeth, droopy eyes and tiny boobs that would "transform her life and destiny."

But when the ABC reality show dumped the Texas mom the night before the life-changing plastic surgeries, it shattered her family's dream and triggered her sister Kellie McGee's suicide, says a bombshell lawsuit filed in L.A. Superior Court.

As part of the premakeover hype, producers coaxed McGee and other family members to trash Williams' looks on videotape, the suit alleges. When they suddenly pulled the plug on the project, and the promised "Hollywood smile like Cindy Crawford," a guilt-ridden McGee fell apart.

"Kellie could not live with the fact that she had said horrible things that hurt her sister. She fell to pieces. Four months later, she ended her life with an overdose of pills, alcohol and cocaine," said Wesley Cordova, a lawyer for Williams.

"This family is shredded. There is a human cost to this," Cordova said.

Williams, 30, and her husband, Mike, are raising McGee's two children, along with two kids of their own. The suit seeks unspecified money damages for breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other offenses.

"Deleese is so hurt and humiliated, she won't leave the house now. She grocery shops at midnight," Cordova says.

ABC declined to comment on the allegations.

The show announcing Williams' selection for a mega makeover had already aired on Jan. 7, 2004, when the producers abruptly dropped her because the dental surgeon told them her recovery time would be longer than expected, Cordova said.

Williams was alone in a Los Angeles hotel room reading her pre-op instructions when a producer showed up and dashed her dream of a new life with a "pretty" face, the suit alleges.

"You will not be getting an extreme makeover after all. . . . Nothing. It doesn't fit in our time frame. You will have to go back to Texas tomorrow," the suit alleges she was coldly told.

Williams broke down sobbing: "How can I go back as ugly as I left? I was supposed to come home pretty," the suit says.
"These programs are cheap to produce - there are no actors or screenwriters to pay. But there is a very high human cost," Cordova said.



I've just discovered podcasts (I know, I'm so behind the times).

Does anyone know any good podcasts I should be listening to? If so, drop me a line or leave a note in the comments.

We are all doomed

Avian Flu, peak oil, global warming ... maybe we are living in the End Times.

This is from For the Record:

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.

...Current computer models suggest that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free during summer by the year 2070 but some scientists now believe that even this dire prediction may be over-optimistic, said Professor Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice specialist at Cambridge University.

"When the ice becomes so thin it breaks up mechanically rather than thermodynamically. So these predictions may well be on the over-optimistic side," he said.

Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up. Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate, he said. "There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land," Professor Wadhams said. "You're essentially changing land into ocean and the creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters," he said.

Getting serious about home defense

Socialist Swine has the scoop on how to get your hands on some real weaponry.

Hillary courts the blogosphere

Jami at Hillary Now reports that Hillary is planning to meet with "key bloggers," presumably in anticipation of a 2008 presidential run.

For some reason, I have yet to hear from Sen. Clinton, though.

Neil the Ethical Werewolf probably won't be hearing from her either; he says she can't win.

Public servant

Via UPI:
Senator hunts for 'death tax' dead

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- A leading proponent of abolishing the federal estate tax reportedly looked into using Hurricane Katrina victims to promote the cause.

Time magazine reports U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called his old law professor to discuss the prospect. The professor, Harold Apolinsky, is also a co-author of federal legislation to repeal the estate tax, Time said.

Sessions called Apolinsky Sept. 9 and left a voicemail indicating the legislation -- which ran into some opposition on Capitol Hill before Katrina struck -- could get a boost if someone who would be affected by the tax were to die during the hurricane.

'(Arizona Sen.) Jon Kyl and I were talking about the estate tax,' Sessions reportedly said on the tape. 'If we knew anybody that owned a business that lost life in the storm, that would be something we could push back with.'

Apolinsky, an estate tax lawyer, got colleagues along the Gulf Coast to look for victims whose stories could be used. But Time said the search has been fruitless because so few people are affected by the estate tax, which opponents call the 'death tax.'

'But I`m still looking,' Apolinsky told the magazine.

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