Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Yorker Roundup

I haven't posted in a long time, but b/c of outlining, I don't have time for my usual biting commentary and satire, so you instead get random links! (which this blog is basically about anyway).

Borat Spoof
-- I sorta agree that the depiction of the Romanian village was pretty despicable. While watching the film, I had thought that the people in the village knowingly participated in the filming. But, I later read a news article about the village suing, essentially claiming that they were going to be duped, and basically because of economic desperation, they allowed the Borat crew to trash their homes and strap on various sex toys on their persons.

Specter and Habeas Corpus-- My contribution to your FedJur studying.

Lou Dobbs, mini-O'Reilly
-- The CNN answer to populistic blow-hardism, it is actually quite frightening how similar Dobb's positions are to that of Sherrod Brown and many of the incoming Democratic freshman.

The Wii is Whee Worthy-- Nintendo pwns for making a game console rather than a buggy, non-functional media "hub."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Robert Altman Is Dead

(New York Times) Robert Altman, the director of MASH, Nashville, and Gosford Park, died Monday. He was 81. His death, at Ceder Sinai Medical Center, was caused by complications from cancer, according to a statement made by his production company, New York based Sandcastle 5 Productions.

Mr. Altman's breakthrough film, MASH, astounded audiences with its blend of a counter-cultural ethos, a free-wheeling picaresque narrative, and a multi-tracked sound system. The apotheosis of this style would culminate in his 1975 film, Nashville, in which a constellation of ascending Hollywood stars, playing a motley assortment of lonely hearts, whirled in an improvisational style of muddled dialogue and frenetic pacing that captured the events leading up to a presidential primary. However, Mr. Altman would never re-capture the same critical acclaim and box office success he achieved with MASH, his career descending to its nadir with the release of Popeye, an unfortunate musical starring Robin Williams.

Mr. Altman though made a comeback with two movies in the 1990s, The Player, detailing the travails of a ruthless Hollywood executive, and Short Cuts, an episodic film about Los Angelenos based loosely on the short stories of Raymond Carver. His career continued well into the new millenium with his release of Gosford Park, a film that echoed the piece de resistance of Jean Renoir's inimitable oeuvre, La Regle du jeu, which Mr. Altman referred to as the film in which he learned "the rules of the game."

Mr. Altman was often referred to as a "cult director," an appellation that apparently rankled him. "What is a cult." he once said. "It just means not enough people to make a minority."

The obit is here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Alabama Bus Plunge Kills 2

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (AP) -- A school bus hurtled off an elevated highway today, injuring thirty-three students and killing two. The accident took place on Interstate 565, several miles away from here. An eyewitness claims the bus momentarily teetered against the guardrail on the side of the roadway prior to its descent to the street below.

The AP article is here.

The New York Times article is here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Americans May Have "Low Food Security," But They Won't Be Hungry

(Washington Post) The Bush administration has officially stopped hunger from plaguing Americans, by re-labeling it "low food security."

Every fall, the Agricultural Department issues a report that measures the access Americans have to food, and had used the word "hunger" to describe those Americans who cannot purchase food. However, this year, the lead reporter, stating that "hunger" is not a "scientifically accurate term," since their is no accurate metric that can determine how many people feel the sensation of hunger. Thus, "low food security" more accurately captures the deprivation that the paper is supposed to report.

Despite the stated goal to reduce the proportion of "food-insecure" households to 6 percents by 2010, the number of Americans suffering "low food security" has risen steadily during the past 5 years to 11 percent of all American households.

The article is here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Boston Red Sox Win Negotiation Rights To Japanese Ace

(AP) The Boston Red Sox have won exclusive negotiation rights with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka by bidding $51.1 million dollars. This bid is larger than the payrolls of 6 major league teams, and is about $1 million dollars larger than the combined payrolls of the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This figure does not include the estimated $75 million dollars it will take to sign Mr. Matsuzaka to a contract.

This bid should also effectively end the narcissistic underdog posing Red Sox fans have used as an excuse to explain away their sustained mediocrity over the past 80 years and stop the incessant bitching about the Yankees payroll.

The article is here.

K-Hed: Snail Venom May Cure Pain

(AP) University of Utah researchers have harvested a substance from the venom of the cone snail that may one day treat human pain. The substance extracted from the venom has successfully alleviated pain in terminally ill cancer patients, and may help pain associated with nerve damage caused by diabetes or traumatic injury. Unlike other painkillers, the substance suppresses inflammation by attaching itself to a nerve receptor which had previously been thought to be unrelated to pain. Though promising, commercial use of this substance is still ten years away.

Full article is here.

K-Hed: Correction: Pakistan-Kidney-Bazaar Story

On November 12, the Associated Press erroneously reported that Belgium-based International Society of Nephrology suggested expanding the pool of kidney donors by legalizing $40,000 payments to donors.

The International Society of Nephrology condemns organ commerce, having posted an article which discussed such payments only as a possible solution to organ shortages without expressly advocating it.

The article is here.

House Democratic Caucus Forecast: Implosion Imminent

John Murtha and Steny Hoyer are currently vying for the post of Majority Leader in the House of Representatives. Murtha has "blasted" Hoyer for supporting Bush's position on Iraq and has condemned the "swift-boating" of his ethics records (undercover FBI investigators posing as Arab sheiks attempted to bribe Murtha back in the 80s, who said "no, as of this time.") Of course, Speaker-Elect Nancy Pelosi didn't help matters by endorsing her "good friend" John Murtha over Steny Hoyer.

This obviously is not the most propitious way to begin the transition to the next Congress since Hoyer, who had played an active part in the recruitment of suitable candidates for this past election, and more importantly, has the support of the majority of House Democrats (especially among the Freshmen). So we already have the top two House Democrats publicly jockying for pull and influence, with Nancy Pelosi essentially trying to oust her main rival within the caucus.

Dear me. And people wonder how the Republicans managed to retain power for 12 inept years.

The article is here.

Stalin and the Half-Man, Half-Ape Super Warrior

In 1926, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered Ilya Ivanov, Tsar Nicholas's horse breeder, to create an army of half-man, half-chimpanzee soldiers to replenish the losses the Red Army suffered during the end of the World War I and the Russian Revolution. Reportedly, Mr. Stalin asked Mr. Ivanov for "a new invincible being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

Mr. Ivanov went to Africa in order to begin his first experiments of inseminating chimpanzees with human sperm. Meanwhile, a center for inter-species breeding was established in Mr. Stalin's native homeland of Georgia, where human volunteers were inseminated with chimpanzee sperm. Unfortunately, these experiments all resulted in failure.

Mr. Ivanov was punished for his incompetence by being sentenced to five year's exile in the Soviet Republic of Kazahkstan, where he reportedly died waiting for a train on a freezing platform (much like lauded Russian novelist Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoi).

The article is here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wikipedia Post: Slinger

I have decided that I will merge two of my passions, namely Web 2.0 and disgusting, gut-busting, cardiac arrest inducing food, by posting periodically about Wikipedia entries about said disgusting, gut-busting, cardiac arrest inducing foods. Last night, I was at the Courtesy Diner and had a slinger. I had such a delicacy before at Tiffany's, but at the Courtesy, not only do you get the two hash browns, eggs, and chili, but you also get two hamburger patties. I think Tiffany's is a more traditional breakfast platter, so you get sausage patties or bacon instead, but, quite frankly, I think I prefer Courtesy's slinger over Tiffany's. Thoughts, opinions?

Wikipedia Entry: Slinger

Follow Up On My "Rightward Drift" Post

I really think people are underestimating the effect the new wave of conservative, populist Democrats in both the House and Senate will have on the party's platform for the foreseeable future. Obviously, America will now be more isolationist. "Exporting democracy" is dead for at least the next ten years, if not longer. However, it has been said that this would have happened even if the Republicans had controlled the House. That I don't dispute. However, I also think that because the margin for Democratic control of the house consists of Representatives hailing from conservative districts, the Democrats are going to stop talking about issues in order to help those Congressmen retain their seats in future elections.

For example, federal gun control is dead. And, I don't just mean that Democrats are losing on this issue, but that the conservative victory is so complete, that the issue has died without comment. The assault weapons ban sunsetted without any outcry from the Democrats. No Democrat has made any proposal for any type of federal gun control. Democrats now frequently portray themselves as gun totters (i.e. John Kerry, Howard Dean, Brad Ellsworth (congresmsan from Indiana), Ted Strickland (new Governor of Ohio who has a 100% rating from the NRA). Indeed, the only person who has talked about gun control ever since Bush became president is Michael Moore.

Now, gun control as a dead issue is probably the most prominent of the social issues the Democrats have been willing to jettison in order to win the house, but there are even more:

1. Border Fence: I remember during the 90s when the border fence proposal was considered a joke. Now, Democrats are actively supporting such a proposal. Furthermore, because of Bush's incompetence, guest-worker visas and other forms of immigration liberalization are now tainted, and any type of future "reform" will consist in cutting back immigrant rights.

2. Gay Marriage: No prominent Democrat supports gay marriage, and most are tepid about civil unions. Though they oppose a federal amendment prohibiting gay marriage, they are not actively opposing such proposals on the state level.

3. Death penalty: Again, no prominent Democrat talks about this issue. Most of the prominent Democrats support capital punishment.

4. Affirmative Action: Everyone opposes "quotas" now.

These are the issues that the Democrats have only recently abandoned. But, who knows, even the holy of holies, abortion, might go next.

Samuel Beckett was Andre the Giant's Chauffeur

During his childhood in a small French village, Andre the Giant was unable to use the local school bus because he was too large (he was already over 6 feet tall as a grade school kid). However, because his family could not afford an automobile, a neighbor drove Andre to school everyday. This person was Samuel Beckett, playwright, novelist, Joyce amanuensis, and Nobel laureate.

Serendipitous, no, when greatness accidentally meets?

The link is here. Apparently, the primary source is an Andre interview on the Princess Bride DVD. If anyone has this and wishes to confirm, please feel free to do so. Apparently, Andre claims that he and Beckett would primarily talk about cricket, which Beckett was apparently gifted at playing.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Rightward Drift of The Democratic Caucus

Well, I'm sure most of you guys, if not still up working on your ethics papers, are feeling pretty euphoric about tonight's election results. The Democrats cruised right into a House majority and it is looking like 50-50 for the Senate, with control if Webb wins Virginia.

However, did you guys actually look at the candidates that won?

Bob Casey (PA-Senator): Pro-life.

Sherrod Brown (OH-Senator): Anti-war, but also the leading advocate for "fair trade," which just means he is anti CAFTA and free trade in general. (I detect a serious isolationist streak in his politics, which I fear will be mirrored by the incoming Freshman Democrats).

Brad Ellsworth IN-08: He is pro-life, pro-gun, against gay marriage, and hasn't promised that he will vote for Pelosi as speaker.

Heath Shuler NC-11: Again, pro-life, pro-gun (though apparently pro-environment).

Admittedly, these are the most extreme examples, and the new House members come from fairly conservative districts, but even in the more liberal districts, the individuals elected are definitely not Daily Kos Democrats.

And remember, the Democrats look like they are going to pick up about 30, which gives them a 15 seat majority. It may be a situation where the Democrats are going to have to cede a great deal of their agenda to appeasing the constituencies of these conservative districts.

I can see Democrats backpedaling on important social issues, like abortion, gun control, and trade, in order to pander to a now important swing constituency: the socially conservative working poor who have not only decided to vote their pocketbooks for a change (minimum wage increase, opposing CAFTA and other free trade deals), but also voting for candidates advocating foreign disengagement (harder lines on immigration, isolationism masked as anti-war sentiment, and opposing free trade). Essentially, these guys appear to be Pat Buchanan Democrats.

N.B.: Ironically, Chris Shays, who has retained his seat in CT-04, but was a primary target for the Democrats this year, is probably more liberal than the majority of the Freshman Democrats coming into the House for the next Congress.

Democrats Sweep The "Scandal Seats"

Even though this election is primarily a referendum on the war and the national economy, the Democrats have also done extraordinarily well in what one pundit has called "the scandal seats."

So far, the Democrats have taken the seats that Mark Foley (Page Scandal), Bob Ney (Abramoff Scandal), and Tom DeLay (Abramoff/General Douchebaggery) held. Most importantly, these seats have traditionally been Republican strongholds. So, it will be interesting to see whether the Democrats can hold onto these seats in '08. Who knows, incumbency does a lot.

McCaskill has also taken the lead, and last time I checked, has 80% in St. Louis City and 70% in Kansas City, and is going 54% in St. Louis County. It is actually looking like McCaskill might pull it off since all the rural counties have reported. But, the lead is thin, so who knows.

However, generally, with Tester with a healthy lead in Montana and Webb with his slim lead in Virginia, the Democrats actually have a shot in the Senate. Who would have thunk it even a week ago?

VA: Recount Inevitable; CT: Lieberman Wins

In Virigina, with 99% of the precincts reporting, Jim Webb is ahead by only 2700 votes. A recount is inevitable, with the lawyers, I am sure, already gearing up for some major litigations. Considering the heavy military presence in Virginia (Norfolk being the major naval base for the Eastern Seaboard), one would think that if they dip into the absentee ballots, this would be a huge benefit for Allen.

Lieberman has thrashed Ned Lamont in Connecticut. Unlike most of the other people that I know, I am fairly content with this outcome. Lieberman, though too conservative for my tastes, has consistently brought the bacon home to Connecticut, and I am sure that his special relationship with George W. Bush was a big reason the Groton Naval Base was saved. So, for me at least, local politics trumped national issues. Of course, in the end, it didn't really matter since I voted in Missouri, but just my 2 cents.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Democrats Take the House

So, it looks like the Democrats have retaken the house, effectively blowing the Republicans out in the Northeast, and making significant inroads in the Rust Belt (specifically Ohio and Pennsylvania). Right now, ABC is projecting, at minimum, a 17 seat pickup for the Dems.

New York is actually of particular interest since upstate is part of the Rust Belt while NYC, Westchester, and Long Island is more traditionally Northeastern New England. So far, Hillary has held on to her Senate seat (rather easily), Spitzer blew out his opposition for governor, Andrew Cuomo has been elected Attorney General, and even Alan Hevesi, who is embroiled in a scandal concerning him illegally using state workers to chauffeur his wife, has retained his position as state comptroller. Also, the Democrats have made huge inroads in upstate House seats, which has traditionally been a GOP stronghold.

Considering that the Republicans have lost big not only in upstate New York, but also Pennsylvania and Ohio, perhaps this is the beginning of a permanent trend: namely the Rust Belt states being as reliably Democratic as the South is now for Republicans. Obviously this is presumptuous, but the Democrat's current platform is not only anti-war, but also anti-free trade, which probably resonates very strongly with the industrial working class voters. (moreover, Jennifer Granholm has also retained the governorship in Michigan, continuing the pattern of Democratic strength in Rust Belt states).

Just in: Looks like Republicans are going to keep Tennessee, but Montana, Virginia, and Missouri are still really close. (I think only 6000 votes separate Allen from Webb).

Belated News: Nippon-Ham Fighters Win Japan Series

Just in (about several days ago), the Central League pennant winners, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, in a vigorous and most sportsman-like manner, cast the Pacific League Chunichi Dragons into most ignoble defeat in the Japan Series. After losing to the Dragons in Game 1, Nippon-Ham rallied back to win the next four games to capture the championship.

See the article here.

In many ways, the Nippon-Ham Fighters have been the New York Mets of Japanese baseball. Upon their founding in 1962, the Nippon-Ham Fighters, sharing the same stadium as the vaunted Yomiuri Giants, have had a strong tradition of ineptitude and horrid play, occasionally peaking into mediocrity on the off chance.

Having found their potentially lucrative market (Tokyo) to be more curse than blessing, since the Yomiuri Giants and Tokyo Yakult Swallows had far larger fan bases, Nippon-Ham, rather than settle for the dregs, moved the team to its current location in Sapporo, Hokkaido. This would be like the New York Mets finally deciding to move to Alaska in order to escape Yankee dominance. Anyway, in Hokkaido, Nippon-Ham, under the leadership of American Trey Hillman, has devastated the Central League with its swift-footed center-fielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo (a former backup player for the New York Mets), and power hitting right-fielder Atsunori Inaba, who hit .357 during the Japan Series and had a staggering 1 home run to win the Japan Series MVP award.

Congratulations Nippon-Ham!!! May you remain ever victorious for a thousand years!

N.B. Nippon-Ham is the corporation that owns the team called the Fighters. Unfortunately, English speakers have often called the team the Ham Fighters, invoking images of gelatinous gloops of meat wielding sword and shield, engaging in most deadly combat with each other. This, however, is not the case.

For more information, click here.

For background on Nippon-Ham's successful re-branding effort, click here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Borat Myspace Page

Here is a link to noted journalist Borat Sadiyev's Myspace page. It contains clips of Borat kneeling al Qaeda style with the Kazakh flag and various muskets hanging in the background, pictures of Borat in his native village tossing onions at Gypsies and homosexuals, and a rocking song from Kazahkstan's 2nd most important pop band playing in the background.

See it here.

AP Newswire: Man Accussed of Chopping Down Pole For Copper

A man in Hawaii was arrested for allegedly chopping down a utility pole in order to steal the copper wiring. Forty pounds of copper wiring had been recovered.

Hawaii has recently had a rash of copper wiring theft, with 2.5 miles of copper wiring stolen this past September.

See it here.

When Neocons Attack: Women F*cked Up Iraq

Neocons are now turning on Bush and the administration, "charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence."

As one Neocon bemonas, "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for the moral good in the world-- is dead, at least for a generation."

In terms of their diagnosis for Bush's incompetence, Michael Ledeen, a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute notes:

"Ask yourself who the most powerful women in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the President: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes."

That's right. The reason neoconservatism doesn't work isn't because you can't shove a form of governance and its attendant values down people's throats against their wills, but because the White House listens to women.


See it here.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Dear Ali, Is It OK For A Shia To Marry A Sunni?

As a side-note to my religious FAQ post, someone had apparently e-mailed Ayatollah Sistani as to whether it was permissible for a Shia woman to marry a Sunni. His advice:

"If there is fear of being mislead, it is not permissible."

See it here.

N.B.: Apparently, if you are a Shiite, playing chess is "absolutely forbidden."

As to why chess is forbidden: "When we do not know the reason behind the forbiddenness of an act, we are bound to obey in absolute obedience. There is a reason for it, but we do not know it and when we do not know it, it does not mean that we should not abide by it."

The Wit and Whimsy of Pat Robertson

I stumbled upon this FAQ on the 700 Club website entitled "Bring It On." Here, Pat Robertson, much like the Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husayni Sistani of Iraq, answers various questions ranging from the deeply theological to the everyday mundane. In a section entitled "The Occult and False Religions," Mr. Robertson ruminates about such kooky topics like tarot cards, vampires, psychics, and Islam.

Specifically, Mr. Robertson, when asked whether Allah is the same as the Christian god, states:

"Under no circumstances is Jehovah, the God of the Bible, and Allah, of the Koran, the same. Allah was the moon god from Mecca. That is why Islam has the crescent moon. The flag of Turkey has a crescent moon with a star on it. Well, the crescent moon is because Allah was a moon god, and that is the deal. But we don't serve a moon god. We serve the God of creation, the creator of Everything."

For the rest of Pat Robertson's illuminating thoughts, click here.

I am very glad Mr. Robertson clarified we don't worship a moon god, and clarified Islam for the billion and so adherents of that religion (including Ayatollah Sistani) who had mistakenly believed that they did indeed worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.