Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Quote of the Day

It isn't so much that people don't like the immigrants or don't think there's a place for them. It's just not that "Leave it to Beaver" era we grew up in.
—Gary Pence, a resident of Crete, Nebraska, in an article on anti-immigrant sentiment in Nebraska. Pence is quoted later in the article on the impact of Hispanic immigrants moving to Crete to work at Farmland, Inc., a meatpacking plant: "I honestly think the only hope for Crete is if Farmland closes up." So much for there being a "place for them", unless he meant a bus back to Mexico.

Afghanistan in Tatters

Much has been made in recent days over the uptick in violence in Afghanistan. To many, it looks like our one "success" story is going to hell in a handbasket just as our confirmed disaster in Iraq gets even worse with news of the Haditha massacre. Andrew Sullivan had a pessimistic post of this flavor yesterday. Unfortunately, this impression is too kind by half.

There has undeniably been more violence in Afghanistan, but the recent Kabul riots made headlines precisely because they happened in Kabul, where the television cameras and reporters are. One of the downsides of the highly centralized federal government we have helped set up in Kabul is that it has an extremely limited reach over the vast hinterland of Afghanistan, where many roads remain unpaved and warlords openly vie for power.

Violence has been the rule in post-war Afghanistan for some time now. By blossoming in Kabul, its only made its prime time debut. Violence has raged in the south of the country for months and more coalition troops have died in 2005 than in the previous two years combined.

This is likely to continue so long as the Afghan government remains isolated in the Pashtun stronghold of Kabul, unable or unwilling to venture further afield. There is grave doubt over whether Afghanistan possesses the infrastructure, let alone the will, to operate as a united nation. Unless these issues are addressed seriously, and soon, we may never get the chance to find out.

Heirborne Contagion

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, "Paris Hilton Plans Reggae, Hip Hop Album."

Millenialists, biblical numerologists and assorted whackjobs are looking to June 6, 2006 (6/6/06) with a mix of anticipation and trepidation, hoping for and/or fearing the End of the World. Well, they're not looking for the right kind of signs. Paris Hilton's forthcoming reggae/hip hop album is the clearest indication we've had yet that God's wrath is upon us. What's worse, the album is said to include a cover version of "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" by Rod Stewart (one of the Four Horsemen, by the way—the pale one). Adding insult to mortal (and quite possibly immortal) injury, "Hilton said she wrote the lyrics to seven of her songs." Seven songs…seven seals. Anybody?

According to the Yahoo/AP story, Hilton had to overcome "shyness" to be able to sing in front of people.
I have always had a voice and always known I could sing, but I was too shy to let it come out. I think that is the hardest thing you can do, to sing in front of people. When I finally let go and did it, I realized it is what I am most talented at and what I love to do the most.
There are a lot of words that come to mind when I think of Paris Hilton—some of them even beginning with the letter "s"—but "shy" isn't one of them. Maybe I was just thrown off by the reality TV series, bootleg porno, Vanity Fair photo spreads, ghost-written books, publicity tours, TV commercials, ostentatious public relationships, non-stop partying and assorted public scandals.

And in case you needed another reason to hate the music industry, her first single, "Stars Are Blind," (not to mention deaf and dumb) will be released this month by Warner Records. Note to Hollywood: Stop feeding Paris Hilton! Maybe she'll just go away.

For the rest of us—people who don't get everything we could ever want handed to us on a silver platter that's been dipped in gold and lined with diamonds that were mined in Eldorado by magic fairies—it's time to repent, for the day of judgment is upon us.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Freedom Rock, Part Deux

John Miller at the National Review has come out with another top-50 list of "conservative" rock songs. By all rights, it's not a sucky as his last list, but it still leaves plenty to be desired.

Miller defensively casts himself as a "New Critic," taking the lyrics out of the context of the band as a whole. It's the only way he can justify most of his choices, after all. If he were dead, Jello Biafra would be spinning in his grave at the inclusion of "Holiday in Cambodia" by the Dead Kennedys. Sure, the song is anti-Khmer Rouge (unlike the wellspring of support for Pol Pot in liberal circles, right?) and it definitely pokes its finger at wannabe hipster yuppie scum. Anyone who knows the Dead Kennedys, however, will know that Jello saw ass-kissing corporate ladder climbers as the ultimate conservatives.

Even from within the confines of the New Criticism, there's just no excuse for including "Give It Revolution" by the Suicidal Tendencies (yes, he did). Miller opportunistically quotes the following lines: "The greatest weapon of the fascist / Is the tolerance of the pacifist / We’ve got to stand up and fight it." Gosh, sounds just like Ronald Reagan. What he didn't quote was this:
The worst evil the world has saw
Were crimes defended by the "law"
Deny our rights and we'll break it
You got to break the chains that hold you down
Crush the tyrants to the ground
Any guess at who made that "law"? Any thoughts on who the "tyrants" might be? Suffice it to say, it's not the Carter administration. And John, the "fascists" aren't who you think, either. It really does stretch credulity to include an open call for revolution in the streets as a conservative song, what with the dim view conservatism takes of revolution in the streets. I need only to draw your attention to "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who, which made it to number one on the first list on the strength of it's counterrevolutionary message.

Of course, Miller takes his New Critical stand with Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks and company precisely because he knows he's on a bit of a bullshit mission. Only by divorcing these songs from their context—in most cases—can the case for "conservatism" be made. My challenge to Miller is this: Give us a list of the top 50 conservative rock and roll artists. See how far you get on that one.

Sweet Dreams for Dems

Robert Novak has a new column on the candidacy of Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is running for the Senate in Maryland. Steele's secret weapon? He's black.

If he wins the election, says Novak, "Steele will become the first black Republican elected to the Senate in 32 years. That is the Democrats' worst nightmare." With all due respect to Robert Novak, the Democrats' worst nightmare would be a repeal of the 22nd Amendment. A black Republican in the Senate rates somewhere below that.

Novak's reasoning takes the putatively Democratic line and reduces the black voter pool to a commodity—a commodity over which the Democratic Party has heretofore had a "hammerlock." For Novak, what matters is that this hammerlock be broken. He's apparently uninterested in the prospect of increasing the black Republican membership in the Senate from its current level of zero to an embarrassing one for any reason other than it might piss off the Democrats. He strikes no note of concern over the lack of diversity in his party, nor does he wax philosophical about the possibilities of a racial glasnost in the GOP. All that matters is harnessing the unthinking beast of Maryland's black vote for the Republicans.

Now, a genuine commitment on the part of the Republican Party to be inclusive of racial and cultural minorities (that means gay people, Novak—boo!) would truly be a nightmare for the Democrats. Last I checked, Pelosi and her friends were sleeping like babies.

50% Chance of Snow

John Snow has resigned as treasury secretary. It's not because of the economy or the budget deficit or anything like that. My inside source at the White House says that since Tony Snow got the press secretary job, President Bush has been having a hell of a time keeping things straight during cabinet meetings.

Now, if only there were a rule about people with the same surname occupying the Oval Office...

Turning the Other Cheek for Liberty

A man from Toledo ironically named Art Bollinger has created a statue exposing (if you will) his neighbors and, thanks to Drudge, the rest of the world, to his views on illegal immigration.

Bollinger's statue, which stands in his front yard, is a mock-up of that great enduring symbols of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty, with her skirts hoisted to reveal her underwear-clad ass. She is surrounded by a sea of American flags and a banner emblazoned with the motto "Kiss My American Ass", no doubt taken from a lesser known verse of Emma Lazarus' famous poem:
Give me your tired, your poor,
So I can ship this wretched refuse
back to its own damned teeming shore.
Kiss my American ass and bugger off!
I must tip my hat to Mr. Bollinger for his literary detective skills, because this obscure verse hasn't seen the light of day since it was used, in edited form, in Ronald Reagan's proclamation canceling federal funding for mental health facilities in the early 1980s.

Bollinger's artistic statement tells us a lot about his views on illegal immigration (he opposes it), but it lifts the skirts on his apparently rich fantasy life as well. Lady Liberty is vividly depicted wearing an un-Ladylike pair of black thong panties, although he did not replace her sandals with 5-inch stiletto heels.

So, whence and wherefore Bollinger's animus?
Bollinger says his wife is from Russia and he had to jump through all kinds of hoops and pay for the process of her becoming a US citizen. He feels everyone else should do the same.
"She didn't look half as good as she did in the catalog, either," he continued. God Bless America, from sea to fortified sea!

What a Difference a Year Makes

Headline from May 31, 2005: Iraq insurgency in 'last throes,' Cheney says.

Headline from May 30, 2006: Wave of bombings kills 40 in Iraq.

If things keep improving at this rate, we're in big trouble. Can you even imagine the carnage we'd be seing if this mission hadn't been accomplished back in May, 2003?

In Defense of Minutiae

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a certain dubious advertisement that was running on a certain right-wing blog. A couple of days later, in response to the wailing and gnashing of teeth my post inspired, I wrote another article about another ad, this time on a left-wing site. More displeasure abounded. Here are a few typical comments I got:
Stick to the serious issues, please.

Dude, it's an ad.... I find it interesting that the discussion is all about an ad on a popular liberal blog and not about the blog itself.

Instead of debating them on the numerous issues on which you disagree, you go after them for an ad that appears on their site.
All of this got me thinking about my responsibility as a blogger. My conclusion: I don't really have much. I would never write something I knew to be false (outside of the realm of satire, of course) and I try to be reasonable (when possible), but I don't feel compelled to live up to anything beyond that. It's not like I'm writing for CBS, wait, no, ABC...um, FOX? Well, let's pretend there's a reputable news organization out there. I don't have the same responsibility to the "big picture" as they do.

Let's not forget that the title of this blog is (parenthetical remarks), which implies that I won't be tackling the "big" issues all the time. Sometimes, it's important to get out the microscope and focus on the minutiae. As long as I'm not deliberately misrepresenting facts, I have no special obligation to write the definitive word on any subject. Sometimes it's worthwhile to break things down and look at all the moving parts.

In the mid-90s, I started reading a fanzine called Beer Frame, written by Brooklynite Paul Lukas. I'm not sure if it's still around in print form, but there is a website where you can read some of his work and order back issues. Lukas' particular (and peculiar) obsession is product-packaging design. His magazine was filled with product reviews ranging from strange food items to sturdy industrial garlic presses. He also reviewed CDs. More often than not, his music reviews would focus entirely on the CD packaging or some other ancillary aspect of the product. Sometimes he wouldn't even mention the music at all.

Now, would I rely entirely on a Beer Frame review to decide if I wanted to buy a record? Of course not, but that doesn't take away from the value of what he wrote. His magazine was a celebration of the inconsequential and minute, and it was tremendously fun to read. I hope the same can be said of this blog (on occasion, at least), whether I'm railing against the Bush administration or just picking a nit or two.

Richard Carlson made a career out of telling us not to sweat the small stuff. I always thought that guy was a jerk.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Making History*

Congratulations* to Barry Bonds* for hitting* home run number 715*, passing* Babe Ruth and making him second* on the all-time home run list*. What a banner day* for the sport of baseball!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ice Cube Melts

Nothing says "Yo! I'm a hard-ass gangsta!" quite like whining about how you can't score a guest appearance on Oprah.

Holla!

Bozell Makes Sense For a Change

L. Brent Bozell III, founder of the right-wing media watchdog Parents Television Council, has written a new article called "Too Much TV for Tots?"

In it, he details a new study that shows that a ridiculously large number of kids age 6 months to 6 years spend tons of time unsupervised in front of the TV. When I started reading, my first thought was, "uh-oh, this is where Bozell says all television must now be suitable 6-month-olds!" I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong:
Regardless of what self-interested TV titans tell parents, there is no V-chip or any other artificial, technological solution to keep your children's television intake safe and reasonable. The solution is human, not technological. It's parental engagement.
That's exactly right! It's just too bad that Bozell doesn't apply this undeniable logic across the board when he goes off trying to get my favorite shows cancelled. Parents are responsible for their kids. Just because there are tons of bad parents out there shouldn't mean the kind of reprehensible crap I like to watch should be bullied off the air. I'm thinking of forming the Television-Watchers Parents Council, which would be a watchdog group dedicated to making sure lazy parents don't foul things up for the rest of us.

Animusic

Here's one of the coolest things I've seen on the Internet in a while (other than my own blog, that is). Amazing animation. Be warned, however, that this is a video clip which may crash an older or less agile computer.

House Backs 'Net Neutrality'

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that upholds the principle of Net Neutrality.

What this means is high speed Internet providers will not be allowed to charge companies like Google and Yahoo a premium to get their content to move in a digital fast lane while the Web's minor players, like this humble blog, would be left to languish in a no-frills slow lane. This law would use federal antitrust laws to prevent the ISPs from abusing their dominant market power.

The bill passed 20-13 along vaguely bipartisan lines, although only 6 of 22 Republicans voted in favor. Still, it's a good first step.

The Right Wing Rocks Out

Forget spandex and studded leather cuffs, this is Brooks Brothers rock!

The National Review has compiled a list of the top 50 conservative rock songs. In true conservative fashion, it's not available on their website as they'd rather you pony up the dough to buy a print copy of the magazine. The whole list plus capsule explanations has been reprinted on the New York Times website, which only asks for a free registration so they can track your every move like the NSA.

So what's a conservative rock song, exactly? John Miller explains:
The lyrics must convey a conservative idea or sentiment, such as skepticism of government or support for traditional values. And, to be sure, it must be a great rock song.
As far as I'm concerned, they stumbled right out of the gate. Since when is skepticism of government a conservative value alone? Does that make people who think the Bush administration knew about 9/11 conservatives?

Anyway, on to the list. There are a number of songs that are justifiably included here, including several anti-abortion numbers like "Brick," by Ben Folds Five and "The Icicle Melts," by the Cranberries. Apart from these types of songs, the reasoning gets a bit more tenuous. They included "Taxman, Mr. Thief," by Cheap Trick (number 45) and "Taxman," by the Beatles (number 2) for obvious reasons. But is it really conservative to not want to pay taxes? Nobody wants to pay taxes. The only difference is that liberals want other people to pay taxes.

A huge number of songs on the list made it simply because they express anti-Communist ideas. They include "Sympathy for the Devil" (Satan inspired Bolshevism), "Right Here, Right Now," by Jesus Jones, "Heroes," by David Bowie, "Der Kommissar," by After the Fire (really) and "Wind of Change," by the Scorpions (scandalously left to languish at number 46) amongst others. They even included that notoriously right-wing band Creedence Clearwater Revival for "Who'll Stop the Rain," thanks to a passing reference to 5-year plans and the New Deal. As much as the National Review would like to rewrite history, however, they can't erase the fact that huge numbers of liberals opposed Communism, particularly as expressed in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Being pro-Communist may well be a left-wing position, but being anti-Communist is by no means an exclusively right-wing ideal.

The number one spot is claimed by the Who for "Won't Get Fooled Again," which deflates the nitrous oxide bubble of hippy idealism. Considering the fact that Townshend and Company have an equally dim view of the alternative, it's not quite fair to call the song conservative. Anti-hippy? Sure, but more nihilistic than conservative. Maybe they were drawn to it because of this line: "I get on my knees and pray." The number 7 slot goes to "Revolution," by the Beatles, both for its anti-Mao sentiment and for its criticism of the 1968 youth protest movements. It beggars belief that the whip smart fellows over at National Review would accuse the author of "Imagine" of being a conservative.

As with any top-whatever list, there are questionable inclusions and glaring omissions. The most noticeable of the former is "Godzilla," by Blue Oyster Cult, which made the list on the strength of the line, "History shows again and again / How nature points up the folly of men." And how does history do this? By unleashing a giant, angry (and no doubt conservative) lizard to destroy Tokyo. Come to think of it, "Godzilla" could just as easily be about global warming. Somebody tell Drudge.

I'm sure there are scores of songs that could easily have made the list, based on the magazine's criteria. There's certainly no excuse for shutting out Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach." She is, after all, keeping the baby. And as far as defending traditional values, why did they omit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band? It's about a kid who defeats the Devil—with a fiddle! Values don't get much more traditional than that.

There's no Ted Nugent on the list, which is quite surprising, since shooting critters (and hunting buddies) appears to be a conservative value. There's also nothing by extreme right-winger Gary Numan. He's got a bunch of paranoid songs about the government that are more conservative than, say, anything by the Clash ("Rock the Casbah" checks in at number 20).

The number one omission, according to the criteria for this list, would have to be "Who Needs the Peace Corps?," by Frank Zappa. Released in 1967, at the height of the flower-power summer of love nonsense, this song is a scathing indictment of all things hippy, making "Won't Get Fooled Again" look tepid in comparison. Of course the song's not actually conservative, per se, but neither are most of the tracks on this list. But hey, however the National Review guys want to rationalize their record collections—and there appears to be an alarming amount of Rush in there—is fine by me. Rock on, my right-wing brothers!

Update: I reposted this story over at Blogcritics.org and one commenter took it upon himself to list the Top 25 Movies a la National Review. Sample:
The Wizard of Oz: Plucky red-state ingenue learns that "big government" doesn't have all the answers.
Brilliant. Click on over and check out comment number 6.

Quote of the Day

I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know.
—George Bush failing to apply the lesson he says he learned from the Iraq war. On the plus side, now that Bush and Blair have come clean, the President won't be stumped the next time a reporter asks him what mistakes he's made. Maybe.

Galloway's Dangerous Mind

George Galloway, Britain's outspoken anti-war parliamentarian, has proclaimed that a suicide bomber would be morally justified in blowing up Prime Minister Tony Blair. In an interview for GQ, Galloway said such an attack "...would be entirely logical and explicable. And morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq."

Despite the fact that nearly every public statement he makes argues vigorously to the contrary, I'll take what Galloway says seriously. In doing so, I quickly arrive at the conclusion that his reasoning is spectacularly flawed.

First, on the most basic level, it presupposes that murder for the purposes of revenge is itself "moral", a supposition that is disputed by the laws of nearly every state on the face of the earth. His position further requires that suicide bombing, specifically, be considered an acceptable form of revenge.

Second, his argument rests on the notion that Blair deliberately targeted innocent people for death (i.e., the sole purpose of the action was to kill innocent people) instead of ordering military actions that resulted in civilian casualties. Even if one goes so far as to agree with the morality of revenge killing, there could be no other moral justification for using a deliberate act of terrorism except to counter another deliberate act of terrorism. That said, Galloway often refers to the Iraq War as an "illegal war" because it violates the Geneva Conventions. Those same Geneva Conventions expressly forbid acts of "terrorism". You can't have your crumpet and eat it, too. If the war is immoral because of the "terrorist" tactics of the coalition members, how could it possibly be moral to use those same tactics? One could conceivably argue that it would be smart, but certainly never moral.

Third, his justification for the immolation of the Prime Minister is entirely divorced from the effect such a drastic action is likely to have. An act of murder can be moral if it is committed in self-defense. The philosophical basis for this reasoning is that the act of killing the perpetrator protects the victim or intended future victims from harm. Such a thing could never happen in this case. If Tony Blair runs afoul of a few ounces of C-4, the war in Iraq won't stop. The interim administration would most certainly maintain Britain's involvement in the war. Furthermore, the atrocity of assassinating the Prime Minister would likely lead to Britain taking a harder line on the war in Iraq rather than a softer one. There is every reason to believe that the assassination of Blair at the hands of a suicide bomber would actually result in more Iraqi deaths in the long run, not fewer. All other considerations aside, for this reason alone, such an act would be immoral.

George Galloway is not only a moral midget; he's also a fantastic hypocrite. His association with, and admiration for, Saddam Hussein is well documented. Does Galloway also maintain that his Baathist friend deserves assassination? Certainly all of the qualities he attributes to Blair are present in Saddam in abundant quantities. No matter. Galloway is also close with Fidel Castro, whom he called a "lion" in the midst of political "monkeys" only yesterday, before sharing a misty-eyed embrace with El Hefe.

Apparently abysmal human rights records and hands drenched with the blood of innocents only matter when the guilty party is one of Galloway's political enemies. Otherwise, it's just another day spent curled up at the master's feet.

Update: Andrew Sullivan has nominated Galloway for a richly-deserved Michael Moore Award, given for "divisive, bitter and intemperate anti-war rhetoric."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Paper Sorry for Running Taheri Scoop

The National Post has now apologized for running the story on Iran's plans to force Jews and other non-Muslims to wear Holocaust-style badges displaying their religious affiliation.

The AP obtained a copy of the bill in question and confirmed that it had no such stipulations (the law was aimed at discouraging women from wearing Western clothing). Iranian expatriate Amir Taheri, the source of the original story, says he was misquoted by the NP and claims that religious identity badges have been under discussion for some years in Iran. The NP admitted what was obvious to any discerning reader upon the first reading: "we did not exercise sufficient caution and skepticism, and we did not check with enough sources."

Sounds like a good blog, actually.

This episode serves several useful purposes. First, it reminds one that there's a tremendous distance between the "capability" of doing a horrible thing and actually doing it. Second, and this always bears repeating, the Nazis set the bar for evil really, really high. You can be less evil than the Nazis and still be pretty damned awful.

Madonna and the Wrath of Jesus

Madonna has gone on the record defending her mock crucifixion, which is part of the stage show on her new world tour. "I don't think Jesus would be mad at me," the diva said.

And she's probably right about that. Jesus (as a Christian and a Jew) would be much too angry about her introducing so many people to her quasi-spiritual brand of Kabbalah to worry about her imitation of a high school art project.

On a Related Note: Christian officials in the ever-so-tolerant "West", where blasphemy is a-ok, are less than pleased with Madonna's antics. The Church of England released a statement condemning her for promoting herself "by offending so many people".

A spokesman for the Evangelical Alliance, a British religious organization that claims to speak for 1.2 million Christians, accused Madge of "blatant insensitivity" and called her use of imagery "an abuse" and "dangerous". He called for her to drop the act from her show and called on people to "find their own means of expressing their disapproval".

It turns out—surprise, surprise—that blasphemy against Islam is what's ok. Muslims who get upset over a few cartoons are anti-enlightenment troglodytes. Christians who get upset over a pop concert, however, are just defending their faith. Yay.

The System Works

I have renewed faith in America today for two reasons. First, former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling have been found guilty of being liars, cheaters and life-destroyers. Lay on all 6 charges against him, and Skilling on 19 of 28 counts. This won't get all those pensions back to the Enron employees who got screwed, but at least these people can rest easy knowing that Lay and Skilling will spend their retirements in a federal lockup.

More importantly, however, for the psyche of a bruised nation, Taylor Hicks won American Idol instead of that crappy(-er), fake(-er) Catherine. Maybe voting is worthwhile after all. Too bad he has to sing that song as his first single.

Digging Up the Great American Mystery

It's kind of cool that the Feds might have actually found the body of Teamster chief Jimmy Hoffa, who has been missing since 1975. Folks in New Jersey will be happy if he turns up at a Michigan horse farm since it would mean that he's not buried, as urban legend has it, somewhere beneath Giants Stadium.

That said, there's something disquieting about finding Hoffa as well. We just learned the identity of Deep Throat, and now investigators appear to be on the verge of solving another great American mystery. We're in real danger of losing our collective mystique. Maybe next month they'll find Amelia Earhart's crash site or Al Capone's other vault (the one with actual stuff inside).

So many of the remaining mysteries are simply fodder for conspiracy theorists. What's at Area 51? What really happened in Roswell? Who shot JFK? Did Americans really walk on the moon? The answers to these questions, if we ever find out definitively, are destined to be a letdown for the grassy knoll/missing time crowd. (For what it's worth, the answers are: Not as much as you might have heard. Nothing having to do with aliens. Lee Harvey Oswald. Yes.)

There is a silver lining, however. Despite all our best attempts, there are certain quintessential American mysteries that will never, ever be solved. And I'm not talking about quotidian puzzlers like "point to your home state on a map", I'm talking about the big picture. For instance, why is it that a country of 300 million people can't ever find even two decent people to run for president? You won't find the answer to that on a Michigan horse farm.

Update: Nope. Not a darn thing. Sorry, New Jersey.

Smoke...and Mirrors

I saw a Reuters story last night with this arresting headline: 'Sleeper effect' of cigarettes can last for years. Sounds pretty scary, and it is:
Scientists have discovered that a single cigarette has a "sleeper effect" that can increase a person's vulnerability for three years or more to becoming a regular smoker (emphasis added).
The scientists don't know for sure why a single cigarette can have such an effect, but they hypothesized that "exposure to nicotine could change pathways in the brain which could make children more vulnerable to stress or depression, which can make them more likely to try it again."

All cause for alarm, surely, until you take a closer look at the study itself. The scientists looked at over 2,000 kids between 11 and 16 over a five-year period. Here's what they found:
Of the 260 children who by age 11 had tried one cigarette, 18 percent were regular smokers by the time they reached 14. But only seven percent of 11-year-olds who had never smoked had taken up the habit three years later.
The Reuters write-up says nothing about the scientific evidence for changing pathways in the brain or a physiological predilection to nicotine addiction for kids who have smoked one cigarette. What these scientists discovered, after all is said and done, is that kids who dabble with smoking at a very young age are more likely to become regular smokers than kids who did not dabble. No kidding. How is this even news? What's next for Reuters? "Study Shows One Day Lasts 24 Hours"?

There are a number of reasons why 11-year-olds sneaking a smoke behind the woodshed are more likely to become smokers than kids who don't exhibit this kind of behavior, and they don't have anything to do with brain chemistry. Perhaps the tiny tokers think that smoking is cool while the diminutive do-gooders do not. Maybe the puny puffers have access to smokes while the pristine pre-teens don't. Could it be that the leather-faced lads are just humongous idiots?

The Reuters story makes no mention of any attempt by the scientists to examine the socio-cultural or attitudinal differences between the tobacco tots and smoke-free set. One would think that these issues would loom large in any such study. Thanks to the super-compartmentalization of the academic world, the science science folks and the social science folks probably never cross paths, and Occam's Razor is just left out to rust. So, this is either a case of stupid science or, if Reuters just didn't mention the social science aspect, stupid journalism—quite possibly both.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

BBC Caught in a 'Net, Again

There's an excellent article on the BBC News website about the danger posed by plans for a two-tiered Internet—with faster service reserved for websites and online services that pay a royalty. I was glad to read it because I'm fully behind efforts to keep the Internet free and fair, and I'm a supporter of the net neutrality movement.

That said, there is a serious and glaring error in this otherwise well-done piece. The article refers to a speech given by the "inventor" of the Internet, but the BBC erroneously and consistently identifies said inventor as Sir Tim Berners-Lee rather than Al Gore.

First the cabbie flap and now this. The BBC should really consider replacing their Internet beat reporters.

The 'Da Vinci' Overreaction

Christians of the conservative bent have been going apeshit—or ripshit, or batshit crazy, or whatever other crappy metaphor you care to use—over The Da Vinci Code, and the howls of outrage have reached a new decibel thanks to the release of the film version.

Things in India have gotten out of hand. The Mumbai Catholic Council wants the movie banned, and the Catholic Social Forum has announced a "death fast" if showings go on as planned. One Catholic offered a $25,000 reward for the murder of Dan Brown. Read that sentence again.

The Da Vinci Code contends that certain paleo-conservative factions within the Catholic Church engage in assassinations and other devilish plots, a suggestion that offends the sensibilities of some Catholics. So, what better way to prove that the Catholic church has no truck with murderers and criminals than to lay a Rushdie-style fatwa on Dan Brown, right?

The Indian book-burning contingent is all in a lather, condemning the "sheer blasphemy" of The Da Vinci Code and arguing that because it has "deeply upset Christian sentiments", it should therefore be banned. Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, said it "belittles what is at the heart of Christian faith and cherished in Christian life." The Bishops' Conference released a statement saying that "every individual has a right to his religious beliefs and to enjoy the respect to them from the followers of other religions."

For those of you with better than average memories, this might spark a few flashes of recognition. During the Mohammad cartoon crisis, these exact sentiments were used to prove that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with freedom, peace and the West. Hey, guess what? All fundamentalist expressions of religion are incompatible with freedom, peace and the West. Every last one of them.

A note to the book-burners and death-threateners: It's a work of fiction. It's a deeply stupid work of fiction. How fragile is your faith? You need everything to be precision aligned by an ASE-certified mechanic just for your religion to work. Any anomaly, any diversion from the perfect totalitarianism of your inerrant fundamentalism threatens to destroy everything you believe in. Doesn't this tell you anything at all? You guys spend an inordinate amount of time looking for signs from God (horsemen, locust plagues, images of the Virgin Mary in rust stains under highway overpasses, etc.)—well, here's a giant one flashing in your faces. Repent! Repent before it's too late!

Plaudits to Andrew Sullivan for calling a spade a spade.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Material Girl Pisses Off Spiritual Boys

There's a great unintentionally funny headline on Drudge Report right now: CHURCH SLAMS POP STAR ON THE CROSS... Wow! You would think what with the significance of crucifixion to Christianity, the church wouldn't actually engage in the practice themselves. No word on whether they actually went as far as to nail the pop star up there (a turn of phrase that could result in its own hilarious misunderstanding).

The story actually refers to Madonna, who opens one song on her new tour attached to a giant, disco-ball-esque mirrored cross (I originally typed that last word as "crass"—how appropriate). She's classy, yet deep. Maybe all that Kabbalah water she's been drinking has really opened her mind to subtlety in her use of images. Color the boys over at the Vatican unimpressed.

I say, forget about this blasphemy nonsense. The real outrage is that tickets for Madonna's I'm Old But I'm Still Gonna Wear This Leotard World Tour go for as much as $350. I wasn't surprised to learn that the opening night audience included "Kabbalah guru Rabbi Yehuda Berg, socialite Nicole Richie, and gay icon Rosie O'Donnell." Who else can afford to go?

'Frozen Assets' Haunt Dems

Thanks to the likes of Tom DeLay, Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Jack Abramoff, the Democrats have been having a field day portraying the Republican Party as the party of corruption on Capitol Hill. Now we'll see if they have a walk to match the talk.

It is apparent that Democratic Congressman William J. Jefferson of Louisiana has been caught blue-handed, putting his money where his pork chops are. Federal agents searching Jefferson's home found $90,000 in cold cash—literally—stuffed in his freezer. The money is alleged to be the proceeds from a kickback scheme involving telephone and Internet contracts in Nigeria and Ghana.

If the Democrats want to maintain the moral high ground on the corruption issue—which they still have by a lot—they can't make excuses for one of their own. Either they're against corruption or they're not. Now's the time to make that stand.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Iraq: A Many-Sided Problem

The Bush administration has long favored rhetoric that points to "turning the corner" or reaching a "turning point" in the battle for Iraq. The 2004 transfer of sovereignty was a "turning point", according to Bush. As was the January 2005 election. Now, Bush says that the swearing in of the new Iraqi government is "a watershed event" and "a turning in the struggle between freedom and terror."

Just how many sides does this problem have, exactly? How many corners are there yet to turn? The digon of Bush's dreams is fast turning into an enneacontagon—or worse, chiliagon—of his worst nightmares.

Pack enough sides in there and we're basically going around in a circle. Who's to blame for all this? The Pentagon.

The Lie of Progress in Iraq

The right-wing press is full of soft-focus stories of the "things are looking up in Iraq and boy, if only the mainstream media would cover it, maybe Bush's approval numbers wouldn't be so low" variety.

These stories are lies. I have proof. It's not the daily bombings and massacres; it's not the sectarian feuds or even the threat from Iran—it's something much more insidious.

According to ABC News, one of the most popular recording artists in Iraq is Lionel Richie. Yes, my heart sank when I heard it, too. Apparently this story was the subject of an episode of Nightline that I didn't watch (who watches Nightline, anyway?) from Friday. What could be more dangerous to a fragile society than repeatedly having to hear "Dancing on the Ceiling"? Even one viewing of that video is enough to spark a spate of kidnappings and a mosque bombing or two.

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop with Iraq. The article notes that Richie has performed all over the Arab world, including Morocco (site of numerous recent terror bombings) and Libya (I don't even have to tell you). When reached for comment, Richie said, "I'm huge, huge in the Arab world. The answer as to why is, I don't have the slightest idea."

Well, the answer is obvious. Much of the Arab world is hooked on rage and violence. No doubt the jihadists, like hockey players getting psyched up for a game by listening to Metallica, listen to "Say You, Say Me" to whip themselves up into the homicidal frenzy necessary to immolate themselves at a checkpoint or a resort hotel frequented by Jewish tourists.

We should help the Iraqis form a government and rebuild their infrastructure, yes, but perhaps the best thing we can do is send them a boatload of pre-programmed iPods. Lionel is bad enough. If they ever discover Nicole, we're all doomed.

Badges of Dishonor

As I reported in this space on Friday, the story about Iranian plans to make non-Muslims wear identifying badges such as those Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust was fabricated.

Andrew Sullivan confirms this today and names the source of the lie as Amir Taheri, editor of a state-run newspaper from the days of the Shah. The National Post article that broke the 'story' named its sources as multiple "Iranian expatriates living in Canada", implying that Taheri may have been working in concert with other expat regime opponents.

Sullivan takes this as a cautionary tale:
After the Iraq WMD debacle, we need to treat all intelligence from interested parties in the Middle East with a great deal of skepticism.
It should go without saying that this principle extends far beyond the Middle East. Disinterestedness is essential to believable journalism. We took the Iran story with a grain of salt for the same reason we should be wary of news tips that come from the Cuban exile community or any other group with a vested interest in what is portrayed as the truth.

Sullivan writes that the "underlying fact of Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitic extremism is true." This, of course, only makes what Taheri did worse. Fouling up this story (deliberately or not), especially with its overt Holocaust aspect, gives Ahmadinejad and his government an out. When stories of bigotry and outrageous behavior are invented, it lends deniability to the ones that are true. Sullivan holds out hope that Taheri may have been the victim of a "garbled misunderstanding". As unlikely as that may be, there's no excuse for the National Post running with such a tenuously sourced article.

Opponents of the Iranian regime, both in and out of Iran, should be vocal and active. They shouldn't shoot themselves in the collective foot by spreading disinformation, however. When the current Iranian administration is involved, the truth is bad enough.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Drudge Ado About Nothing

Matt Drudge is giving a lot of play to the non-story of how students at Beverly Hills High are getting to see Al Gore's new global warming movie. For free!! (What a travesty!) I suppose he'd be all bent out of shape if they got a free screening of Gandhi, too?

Drudge's own a-scientific bias on the subject is all over this story. In his headline he puts "global warming" in scare quotes just in case you might be laboring under the mistaken notion that it's something other than a fraudulent scare tactic dreamed up by the DNC. He also uses the tried and true "FOX News SpecialTM" to smear a science teacher named Sarah Utley (whose photo and bio he links to in case you want to send her Neanderthal hate mail). "Insiders claim that Utley has annoyed some students with her instance [sic] that 'global warming' is a proven science."

Gosh, Matt, who are these "insiders"? You have special sources at Beverly Hills High, or is it the same dork who probably sent you the email announcement in the first place?

Drudge also tries to have his pseudo-science cake and eat it, too, when he complains that "students will be boarding 30 gas-guzzling buses" to go see the film. If he doesn't believe in global warming and in humankind's influence on the global climate, then what is he doing complaining about gas-guzzling busses? All the better and who gives a damn, right? If he's trying to point out some supposed hypocrisy, it's quite obvious that 30 busses would do less environmental harm than the 1,500 cars it would take to get people there individually.

But hey, what are facts to a man like Drudge? He would bend over backwards to "prove" today's not Friday if he thought it might help his right-wing friends.

Iran 'Holocaust' Story May Be False

Canada's National Post ran a story today claiming that the Iranian parliament had passed a law requiring non-Muslims to wear badges or specially-colored clothing to indicate their heathen status. It's been picked up by Drudge, and Andrew Sullivan just posted about the story, too. Here's what he says:
I can remember when many people ridiculed the idea that Islamic dictatorships, like Iran's, should be described as fascist. I think the ridicule should be officially over now.
I read the story and was horrified. Talk about shades of Nazi Germany. When I looked more closely, however, something was troubling. The only sources quoted by National Post are "Iranian expatriates living in Canada". That's odd, considering the amount of press attention focused on Tehran.

I did a little more digging and found a post on Israpundit that suggests the story might be fabricated. That post links to an article on another Canadian site that quotes Meir Javedanfar, a Tehran-born Israeli Middle East expert, as saying the story is "absolutely factually incorrect."

Knowing what we do about Iran's current political rulers, the story is entirely plausible. As to whether it's actually true, we'll just have to watch and wait.

Update: If the story is false, it may point to an effort by expats to undermine the Iranian government, which is probably a good thing. But, why make up a story when the truth is bad enough? The jury's out on this one.

Sunny D-struction

Sunny D, the artist formerly known as Sunny Delight, had a bit of a mishap in Somerset, England. 8,000 liters (I think that's something like 10,000,000 gallons, but don't trust me—Americans don't do metric) of "sub-standard" concentrate was accidentally spilled into a river, turning it bright yellow and killing dozens of fish.

Progress is always being made in the scientific fields. Today, they learned that great taste, Vitamin B1 and a full day's supply of Vitamin C isn't so good for our aquatic friends. Let's just be glad it wasn't Sunny D's Intense Sport Cool Punch. The blood-red river would certainly have sparked some interest among apocalyptic types, and the added electrolytes would probably have set the river on fire.

This probably won't help sales much, either. What mother wants to send her kids to school with a proven fish-killer in their lunchboxes? Apart from Andrea Yates, that is.

Pot Calls Kettle Crazy

In a speech in central Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called opponents of the country's nuclear aims crazy.
Those who get sad at the progress and happiness of others are suffering from mental and psychological problems, so they should find a way to cure themselves.
Ahmadinejad accusing others of mental illness is like Nicole Richie telling someone to eat a sandwich.

In other news, Iran has severely limited access to its "peaceful" nuclear program sites. That's encouraging.

O.C. Kills Coop, Fans Rejoice

Mischa Barton's character on The O.C., Marissa Cooper, got killed in the finale last night. This is great news for anyone who appreciates actors who a) are not disgustingly anorexic, and b) are not more wooden than Noah’s Ark. People with true self-respect, however, should avoid The O.C. altogether.

The AP has their entertainment writer on the case. His name? Sandy Cohen. Really. If you watch The O.C., you'll understand this. If not, you're far better off.

Barton is now working on a film due out in 2007 called Guilty Pleasures. If her work in TV is any indication, you can count on the "guilty" but don't hold your breath for the "pleasures."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Left Flails Back

Since I've taken a swipe at Power Line for a horrible, misleading ad the conservative blog has been running for Iraqi Dinars (and got swiped back, too), it's only fair that some liberal blogs get their comeuppance.

In general, with the exception of Power Line and Captain's Quarters, the top 10 blogs in the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem are all pretty innocuous as far as ads are concerned. A few Netflix here, a couple hybrid cars there. Plenty of ideological books of dubious worth, but nothing to get too worked up about.

Then I went and checked out number 11, Eschaton, a very popular left-leaning blog. What I saw wasn't so much outrageous as it was thoroughly depressing. One of their main "classified" ads on the right sidebar pretty much sums up why the Democrats, regardless of how inept their Republican opponents might be, could be in serious trouble come November. How do they whip up liberals into a frenzy of open-pocketed idealism? By telling them that it's Al Freakin Franken's birthday and, oh, wouldn't you like to give to a grassroots organization as well. God help us (and if you ask Ann Coulter, he's not going to be much help at all).

Click on the link and you're taken to Franken's Midwest Values PAC, where you're invited to "celebrate Al’s birthday by supporting the progressive values we all share." We're being asked to put our support not behind actual candidates, but behind an increasingly humorless humorist who works for an increasingly invisible liberal radio network. That'll get us real far.

No cheers for Midwest Values PAC, which seems deeply immersed in the stench of its own bathwater, and jeers for Eschaton, which must think we're all a bunch of damned monkeys. And for Al Franken—oh, what's the point?

Disclaimer: People are responsible for the ads they have on their websites. Particularly the "featured" ones that the site owner has right of refusal over. I don't care if they have to make money, dammit.

Fundamentalist Parallels

Andrew Sullivan has been having a fascinating discussion for some time now about what he calls "Christianism"—a movement analogous to Islamism that is currently ascendant in the fundamentalist, Rovian wing of American politics and faith. Today, he responds to a reader who draws specific parallels between Christian acquiescence to the Christianists and the "apparent willingness" of Muslims to allow their religion to be hijacked by hardliners.

Sullivan starts out, rightly, by saying that Muslim extremism far outstrips Christian extremism in its deleterious effects. He also points out that Americans have certain Constitutional guarantees [for now -ed.] that prevent a full-on theocracy. He then concludes on this note:
Ordinary Christians, especially those whose faith is a little less dogmatic and a little more self-effacing than the Christianists', can easily be intimidated into silence or acquiescence. But that silence is slowly ending. As the political project of the Christianists crumbles—as all such political projects inevitably do—we'll see another cycle of withdrawal from politics and concentration on, you know, actual Christianity. That's my hope, at least. And history gives it credence.
My question to Sullivan is: how is this not also true for Islam? If "all such political projects" are doomed by definition, then shouldn't that translate to the Muslim world as well? Certainly the less dogmatic Muslims in places like Iraq and Iran are much more easily intimidated into silence than their Christian counterparts in America. A lopped off head will always motivate behavior more than a disapproving gaze from the pulpit.

If this is so, then it's cause for (eventual) hope in the Muslim world. If not, then the inevitability of the Christianists' "crumble" needs to be better defined. Is it the U.S. Constitution that will protect us from Christianists, or is it a more basic, universal principle? If it is the Constitution, then Christianist efforts to rewrite that document need to be taken far more seriously. After all, once an editor gets started, it's mighty hard to put the red pen away.

Going Nativist on Immigration

The Times of Beaver County and Allegheny has an excellent reminder of our country's heritage of immigration—and opposition to it.
If you're of southern or eastern European descent, if you're Catholic, Jewish or Orthodox, please remember that the sentiments behind what the nativists are saying today are the same as those their predecessors were using against your relatives.

And please remember that for all of the huffing and puffing the nativists did, your ancestors and their descendants turned out to be pretty good Americans—just as many of today's immigrants, legal and illegal, will do if we give them the chance.
Go read the whole thing.

God to Robertson: Shut It!

Pat Robertson likes to talk to God, but he has a selective-listening problem. Apparently he can't hear the Lord telling him to shut the hell up.

Robertson is back in the news again, this time for predicting, predictably, massive destruction for America in 2006.
"If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8. Wednesday, he added, "there well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest."
Hmm, the coasts of America will be lashed with storms. A bold prediction, considering the fact that they are lashed with storms every frickin year. The tsunami claim is a little more risky. I don't think folks in Washington or Oregon should be heading for higher ground quite yet.

It's interesting to note that Pat couches his prediction with the "if I heard the Lord right" caveat. That is undoubtedly because he has heard the Lord dead wrong so many times in the past. Here's a little sampling of press releases and statements available on Pat Robertson's website:
  • Robertson Sorry for Stroke Comment
  • Robertson Apologizes to Omri Sharon
  • Israeli Envoy Accepts Robertson's Apology
  • Robertson Spokesperson Addresses Comments Made by Pat Robertson Regarding Ariel Sharon
  • Pat Robertson Clarifies His Statement Regarding Hugo Chavez
  • Pat Robertson Sets the Record Straight on Stephanopoulos Interview
  • State Department Comments Clarified
  • Liberia: A Clarification
Not a very good track record when it comes to speaking God's truth. Who to blame for the miscommunication? Ten bucks says Pat goes for the homosexuals.

Vox Confuto

On Tuesday, Andrew Sullivan bestowed a coveted Malkin Award nomination (for shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric) on Vox Day, a writer for the extreme right-wing WorldNetDaily. WND has found its way onto this page before, in a post I wrote in April criticizing WND editor, Joseph Farah, for a particularly crude anti-immigration article.

Vox got the Sullivan nod for making this obscene comparison:
Not only will [mass deportation] work, but one can easily estimate how long it would take. If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society.
It certainly makes Vox sound like a fascist, and the haircut doesn't help matters any.

Interestingly enough, if you go visit WND now, you will see that Vox's article has been edited to remove the offending passage. Now the paragraph is rendered thus:
It couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society. In fact, the hysterical response to the post-rally enforcement rumors tends to indicate that the mere announcement of a massive deportation program would probably cause a third of that 12 million to depart for points south within a week.
What happened? It seems that Farah, a nutjob in his own right (and past Malkin Award nominee) who described illegal immigrants as "ungrateful human parasites" guilty of "dropping babies in this country", thought Vox took things a little too far.

Luckily for no one, Vox has his own blog, Vox Popoli (that's not a typo), in which he addresses the issue.
WND regularly edits my column, albeit usually before it appears. I actually turned this one in early, so this was clearly on Mr. Farah's orders. I happen to know that he really, really, really didn't like it.
You don't say. I wonder what the problem could have been. Vox, for his part, thinks he did nothing wrong, but, good 'libertarian' that he is, has no dispute with Farah's right to edit his site as he sees fit.

Apart from advocating that the U.S. government emulate Hitler in an effort to rid the country of its illegal immigrants, Vox's article is a bizarre rant against a border fence. Why? "The problem with a fence is that it works both ways," and building it would lead to "a self-imprisoned people". What if we have to flee a tyrannical U.S. government at some point in the future? We don't want no stinking fences in that case.

So, Vox Day appears to be both a fascist sympathizer and a paranoid. Talk about a classic combination! Chocolate and peanut butter don't have anything on Vox.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Tony Snow Doublethink Award

In George Orwell's 1984, "doublethink" is the ability to hold two completely contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accept both of them. I know poor Tony's only just started, but it looks like this is going to be fun. Here's a morsel from his first White House press briefing on the topic of the most recent NSA domestic spying scandal:
MR. SNOW: .... Again, I would take you back to the USA Today story, simply to give you a little context. Look at the poll that appeared the following day. While there was — part of it said 51 percent of the American people opposed...but something like 64 percent of the polling was not troubled by it. ...

Q: But there are polls that show Americans are very concerned about it.

MR. SNOW: The President — you cannot run a security — you cannot base national security on poll numbers. As the President of the United States you have to make your own judgments about what is in the nation's best interest.

Q: You just brought it up, though.
Check out these favorable poll numbers! What? An unfavorable poll? You can't trust poll numbers. Classic.

And that's not all. During the same exchange, after discussing how Americans are unperturbed by the NSA's activities, Snow made the following mind-numbing utterance:
Having said that, I don't want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program — the alleged program — the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.
So, he's willing to comment on how Americans allegedly feel about a program that he can't even confirm the existence of? Another Orwell quote comes to mind, this one from "Politics and the English Language":
Political language...is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
A little more evasion and ham-handed nonsense from Tony and he could legitimately run for president. I hope he doesn't, though, because these press briefings look like they're going to be damned entertaining.

Why I Hate Google Ads

Yesterday, I wrote a piece disparaging Power Line blog for hosting an ad for a site called BetonIraq.com. This site is promoting a particularly dubious investment in Iraqi Dinars, an investment scheme that has been called a scam by XE.com, a major currency exchange site, and CNN.com amongst others.

I then proceeded, as I often do with posts that may appeal to a larger audience, to submit the article to Blogcritics.org, a group blog of which I am a member. Now, Blogcritics has those insidious Google ads at the top which are automatically populated with messages based on the text of your article. So, say, you write a post about how Paris Hilton is a skanky ho, you're bound to get ads for her special home video. It's the same concept behind those extraordinarily unappetizing Spam recipe ads that appear whenever you're checking your Gmail spam box. (I just got one for Spam Hashbrown Bake. Serves 8!)

Lo and behold, my article denouncing the dinar scam, as it appears on Blogcritics, has some damned dinar ads at the top of it. Here's how it looks from a recent screenshot:



The gentlemen at Power Line noticed and wrote a little piece making fun of me and Blogcritics. Understandably, of course, because I look like a terrific hypocrite. That's why I hate Google Ads. That's why I don't now and never will have them on my blog.

That said, I still stand behind my article. Website owners are ultimately responsible for what's on their sites, unless they're hacked or something like that. That goes for Power Line, and it goes for Blogcritics as well. As for the Power Line ad, it's not an automatically generated Google Ad that the site owners have no control over. It's a big, honking graphic ad on the sidebar. According to John Hinderaker's post, they have the ability to accept or reject these ads.
As we've said before, we do not censor Blogads based on content. We accept any ad that is not offensive on its face. Once, we even accepted an ad by the Democratic National Committee. We do not endorse the products or services that advertise on our site.
By logic, if they can accept ads that are "not offensive", they can also reject them. I understand that they don't "endorse" their advertisers, but they are responsible for having this ad up there. If, in fact, the ad is promoting a scam, they can't just hide behind the "we have no control" argument. They do have control, and they choose to keep it up there. It's their right to do so. And it's my right to point that out if I want to.

As for Blogcritics, I wish they didn't have those ads and it truly is out of my control. I didn't know they would appear, but now that I do, well, that just plain sucks. It's not the first time I've come off looking like a moron and I can promise it won't be the last.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Beating the Drums of Diplomacy

There goes old Warmonger Hitchens again. His latest Slate article adds to his reckless call for diplomatic overtures to Iran by rashly suggesting Bush make a statement directly to the people of Iran.
Almost everything that went wrong in Iraq went wrong because we postponed the real decisions until it was almost too late. President Bush has a chance to redeem this by speaking directly to the Iranian people and the international community and bypassing the wicked men who have run a noble country into a swamp of beggary, violence, crime, corruption, and disaster.
That bloodthirsty bastard! The left was right about him.

Out-Nutjobbing the Nutjobs

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers remarks that conservative book titles are so extreme as to be beyond parody. With examples like Godless (Ann Coulter), Deliver Us From Evil (Sean Hannity), Party of Death (Ramesh Ponnuru), Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder (Michael Savage), and Treason (Ann Coulter again), it's hard to argue with that logic. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

I could have sworn I saw this book at the local Barnes and Noble last December:



This one is less of a parody as it is a premonition. I mean, where else can Coulter go?



Watch Metallica sue me now.
Listed on BlogShares