Archive for March, 2005

Terri Schiavo, R.I.P.

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

I’m forced (in this case, the term seems more apt than usual) to wonder if Terri Schiavo’s death this morning means there will be no more entries added to the darkly funny (albeit horrible) Terri Schiavo’s blog.

(Thanks — I think — to valued contributor Sven for the latter link.)

On a more serious note, I’m also forced to wonder if the public aftertaste from this will, in fact, benefit Bush and the rest of the Culture of Life panderers. The fact that they “lost,” on the surface, doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t benefit politically. This may well have been a no-lose scenario from the get-go for them, just as it was a no-win scenario for those who actually cared about Terri Schiavo’s welfare.

Anyway, clean up the elephant poop and bring on the next act. This part of the circus is over.

9Driver on the Iraqi POW Deathcount

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

From Roachblog’s 9Driver comes this very interesting observation on the sudden jump in acknowledged fatalities among Iraqis unfortunate enough to have been taken into custody by the US military: Oh, my goodness.

It seems we’ve managed to kill 108 Iraqi POWs so far, compared to 118 US POWs killed by the vicious Commie North Vietnamese during the entire course of the Vietnam War.

This is the part of the post where I’d normally observe that this state of affairs is the direct result of the stunted moral development of a certain President G. W. McFucktard. But you knew that already, so I guess I won’t bother.

What am I looking at…

Sunday, March 27th, 2005

This is probably the weirdest thing I have ever seen on the net. This makes people’s net sex fantasies seem boring and inevitable. I mean just the combination of…this guy is insane. Without further ado, The recording technology of Middle Earth.

Stuff Fluffy

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

In good conscience, I can’t not link to this: Pet pillows.

Stern Magazine’s US Stereotypes

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

From Davids Medienkritik comes this collection of stereotypical depictions of Americans, as presented in Germany’s Stern magazine: USA: The Divided Land.

My favorite image is this one:

sun city center\'s lawn bowling field

The caption translates as: “‘If you forget about the liberal crazies on the east and west coasts, we live in a really nice country.’ —Ronald Wilhelm, President of the lawn bowling club, Sun City, Florida.”

I like that image for a personal reason: Thirty-one years ago, when I was 12, my dad was transitioning between wives #2 and #3, and simultaneously being re-deployed to Washington D.C. by his overlords in the military-industrial complex. As part of the attendant reshuffling I was sent to live with my grandparents in Sun City Center, FL, and I spent most of the next 6 months as that retirement community’s youngest citizen, unofficial mascot, and general pain in the ass. Also, I did a lot of lawn bowling, and I did it on that very field. Seeing that image brings back memories of my childhood.

Kuro5hin’s Coder in Courierland

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

A fascinating account by Kuro5hin’s Transient0 about life as a programmer-turned-bicycle-courier: A Coder in Courierland.

Last Terri Schiavo Post for the Morning

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

After all the pro-Terri stuff I linked to earlier, I wanted to post something that comes closer to my own current take on the case: The Terri Schiavo information page. It’s by Florida lawyer Matt Conigliaro, and he really knows his Terri Schiavo law. He also has a balanced, thoughtful attitude toward all the craziness that’s been going on lately.

The facts of this case are terribly sad, but they are not hard to understand. There’s really nothing to be confused about, and as best I can tell, nothing’s been overlooked by anyone.

Sensible, fact-based information. What a concept.

Why Republicans Can Lose the Polls on Terri Schiavo — and Still Win

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

Seeing the Forest’s Dave Johnson has a few words of advice: Dear progressive bloggers.

You’re doing it again. You’re not seeing what is really going on. You are missing the bigger picture. You are looking at trees and missing the forest. Do you really, after all this time and all these defeats, think the Right is stupid?

You mock the Republicans for blatantly acting politically, and ignore that they ARE ACTING POLITICALLY. In other words, they’re acting in the way that will in the long term gain them more support for their candidates and issues.

You mock their politicians for flocking to this because of a Republican talking points memo telling them this will gain them a political advantage, yet you do not see that THIS WILL GAIN THEM POLITICAL ADVANTAGE.

Man’s got a point.

Johnson, Krauthammer, Noonan Make the Case for Terri

Friday, March 25th, 2005

So, it turns out it’s possible to make a case — actually, a surprisingly strong case — for keeping Terri Schiavo alive (or at minimum, for Congress’s passage of legislation aimed at giving her case a federal review) without invoking a religion-based “culture of life.” Disability-rights lawyer Harriet McBryde Johnson does just that in this Slate article: Not dead at all – Why Congress was right to stick up for Terri Schiavo.

And Charles Krauthammer, while finding Congress’s action deplorable, still finds reason to question the morality of the direction the Schiavo case has taken — again, without invoking religion — in this opinion piece from last Wednesday: Between travesty and tragedy.

And Peggy Noonan, while tapdancing a bit closer to a religious argument, never gets to the level of zeal and certitude that I find off-putting, in this piece from the Wall Street Journal: In love with death.

Feeding-tube food for thought.

How-To: The Wacky Sideways Room

Friday, March 25th, 2005

Another web site currently being crushed by a throng of virtual passers-by: How to really confuse your party guests.

On second glance, the sag of the curtains and the bend of the lamp pole give it away, but the papers strewn casually on the coffee table are a really nice touch.

The Super Fantabulous Amazing Transparent Laptop Screen Trick

Friday, March 25th, 2005

If you haven’t seen it already, take a moment to join the herd: Transparent Screens – a photoset on Flickr.

Ovid – 1, Identity Thieves – 0

Friday, March 25th, 2005

LiveJournal user and part-time superhero Ovid posts his real-life crime-fighting adventure: Don’t fuck with Ovid — the long version. Thanks to Hiro for the link.

Arlington Pediatric’s Unfortunate Logo

Friday, March 25th, 2005

Via Boing Boing, via Fark: Arlington Pediatric Center.


Update: Original image appears to be dead, but here’s the logo that lent it its humor:

Life vs. Freedom

Friday, March 25th, 2005

A rant from another Bush hater, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon, who for all her hatred has a fairly interesting analysis: Your freedom or your life?

Anyway, the thing about this stupid “culture of life” phrase is not just the hypocrisy. I have also noticed that two values that BushCo likes to fling around are “life” and “freedom”, but I have also noticed that the two are opposite values in their rhetoric. You can have freedom or life, but not both. They are pretty consistent in this viewpoint, and if they evoke freedom, you can be sure they are covering up for someone’s death, and if they evoke “life”, you can be sure they are trying to take away your freedoms.


Friday, March 25th, 2005

Delicious speculation from LA Times op-ed columnist Jonathan Chait (login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works for me): That rumbling is Cheneymania.

If you read between the lines of various right-wing pundits’ public statements, it seems there’s quiet work afoot to get Bush to tell Cheney that he (Cheney) is the obvious person to succeed him as president in 2008. And if you keep reading between the lines, it would seem that the motive force behind much of this talk is — Cheney himself.

There’s actually something very appealing to me in the thought of a Cheney presidency. Friends have taken to pointing out to me how ridiculous I’ve become with the Bush hatred. I’m constantly undermining my own credibility, they say, by insisting that everything I talk about constitutes Still More Irrefutable Proof That I Was Right about what an incompetent boob Bush is.

To which i can only reply, yeah. I do that. But I’m just being honest. That’s how I actually view those things; that’s what’s interesting and significant to me about those events. Which is pathetic, I know. But there we are; the last 4+ years have nurtured a terminal Cassandra complex in me, and now the condition has gone from unwelcome affliction to daily comfort, something that reassures with its constancy, that I look forward to when I open the morning paper. Life has given me political lemons, and God help me, I’ve become addicted to lemonade.

Anyway, when I think about possible successors to Bush, there are few (none?) who offer anything like the prospect for continued exquisite suffering I would enjoy under a President Dick Cheney. Like Jon Stewart, who acknowledged somewhere (in the famous “Tucker Carlson is as much of a dick in person as he is on TV” Crossfire appearance, maybe?) that a Bush victory in 2004 would be better than the alternative for comics whose shtick is government absurdity, I’d probably have more fun on with Cheney as president than with any other likely Bush successor. Because, as I’ve said before, that man is a shameless mofo (hereinafter, S.M.F.) who really knows how to lie.

The Subversive Art of Banksy

Friday, March 25th, 2005

Fun guerilla street art — It’s not just for subway cars. Now you can get it inside swanky museums: A Wooster exclusive: Banksy hits New York’s most famous museums (all of them). For more on British artist Banksy, see his web site.

Saletan: Bush Lying About Latino Life Expectancies

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

According to William Saletan at Slate, Bush and cohorts are telling an outright lie to Latino audiences in an effort to get them to support privatized Social Security accounts: Se habla B.S.? – The White House lies about Latinos and Social Security.

Saletan offers a link to a U.S. Census report containing the following table: Projected Life Expectancy at birth by Race and Hispanic Origin, 1999 to 2100. That table seems to show pretty clearly that while blacks’ life expectancy generally is less than that of non-Latino whites, every other ethnic group (including Latinos) beats us white folk.

So, whatever merit there is in Bush’s argument that non-whites get a worse “deal” from Social Security because they die sooner than whites, it would seem to apply only to blacks, not to Latinos. And since Saletan called them on this point a week ago, you’d think the Bush people would stop saying it applies to Latinos. But as recently as a couple of days ago, Cheney said at a town-hall-style meeting, “Life expectancy, for example, among African Americans and Hispanics is less than it is for others.”

Well, but that’s Cheney. Everyone knows he’s a shameless motherfucker when it comes to lying with a straight face.

Whatever. Back to the Terri Schiavo deathwatch.

More Obsessive Raving About Terri Schiavo

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Obviously, just about everyone is weighing in on Terri Schiavo. I finally gave in and posted a single item about her, and bam! I had more comments than I’ve seen in a long time. Attention junkie that I am, there’s no way I can turn away from catnip like that. So here you go: A quick round-up of the more intelligent stuff I’ve read about Terri this morning:

From the LA Times (login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works): Parents’ side has vilified husband. It covers some of those entertaining, but apparently baseless, charges against Michael Schiavo that our own TeacherVet, among others, has been slinging around. (Still waiting for some sources on those, TeacherVet.)

As long as you’re succumbing to the LA Times’s login requirement, you could check out this item, too: Doctor says examination changed his mind. Gives about the strongest case a mainstream outlet is going to give for putting the tube back in. But I think on balance it still fails to sway me. Note the parts about Dr. Cheshire’s background and presumed biases.

Although disagreement about the Schiavo case runs deep, there are signs that the country is coalescing around the position that Congress and Bush should have stayed out of it. See this brief Kevin Drum item linking to a couple of recent polls, the latest one showing 82% support for that position: Terri Schiavo and the limits of cynicism, part 2.

A medical opinion contrasting with the right-to-life views of Dr. Cheshire is provided by Dr. Ronald Cranford, as interviewed by weblog Pekin Prattles and summarized by Rivka of Respectful of Otters: I swear this is my last Schiavo post.

(Update: I also caught this very interesting comment on the above Rivka item. Commenter CaseyL makes a strong case that what the Christian right is doing in this case isn’t so much an assault on personal liberty as it is an assault on the entire tradition of evidence-based determination of truth that is the legacy of the Enlightenment.)

Finally, let’s emerge from the primordial ooze of commentary by the common Everyman (Everydoctor) in the street, and get some more-evolved viewpoints from the academic philosopher set.

First up, Philosoraptor performs a thought experiment: Bush said the other day, “…in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life.” Fair enough, says Philosoraptor; while he doesn’t necessarily agree, he acknowledges that the position may have merit. But if one really believes that, it will apply in other areas besides the Terri Schiavo case. How is Bush doing in those areas? Bush, erring on the side of life.

And finally, Tim Burke at Swarthmore seems to agree with me in seeing signs of our nation’s approaching political apocalypse in the grandstanding being engaged in by our national leadership. Maybe I’m taking him farther than he’d want to be taken, but read the piece and see what you think. Shame:

If they had shame, they’d be embarrassed, chagrined, mortified that the highest legislative body in the country and the President of the United States can find the time to have a special Sunday session and work out high-level compromises to save a single life, any single life. How about all the other people who died last week who could have been saved? What about the people who don’t have quality health care who died or were hurt? Why not have a Sunday session to help them pay their bills? Why not have a Sunday session to help a man who’s losing his house, help a woman who can’t buy her medications, help a child who can’t get enough food to eat? What makes Terry Schiavo Citizen Number 1, the sleeping princess whom the King has decreed shall receive every benevolence in his power to grant? It isn’t even a serendipity that the King’s eyes happened to alight on her as he passed by. Serendipity I could deal with: if the President happens to read a letter from some poor schmuck and it touches his heartstrings and he wants to quietly do something, he tells an aide to look into it, he puts a twenty in a White House envelope and sends it on, ok, it happens. Serendipity wouldn’t be shameful.

This is, and it’s being done so brazenly that I think it suggests that the point of ultimate shamelessness is fast approaching. When it does, if it already has, then there really will be very little for anyone to do besides mockery and silence, besides accept our second-class citizenship in a country owned and operated by plutocrats for the religious right.

Okay. I’m done now. Terri Schiavo, rest in peace.

Point, Counterpoint on the Mainstream Media’s Virtues, Failings

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Here’s an interesting pair of items. From the Washington Post’s Dana Millbank: My bias for mainstream news:

Partisans on the left and right have formed cottage industries devoted to discrediting what they dismissively call the “mainstream media” — the networks, daily newspapers and newsmagazines. Their goal: to steer readers and viewers toward ideologically driven outlets that will confirm their own views and protect them from disagreeable facts. In an increasingly fragmented media world, ideologues have already devolved into parallel universes, in which liberals and conservatives can select talk radio hosts, cable news pundits and blogs that share their prejudices.

Millbank makes some good points. The sort of self-selecting bias amplification he’s talking about certainly is a real risk, and I appreciate his reminder that it’s not just Freepers who need to be on their guard against it.

But in lumping liberal and conservative extremes together in their willingness to distort reality, Millbank himself may be succumbing to the “neutrality bias” that mainstream media is prone to. There was a great Joe Frank radio show I listened to years ago where he talked about this: On tonight’s program, a point/counterpoint. On this side of the table, the torturer. On the other side, the victim. Two people, two points of view. So, let’s get started… Gentlemen? (pause) Gentlemen?

Yes, liberal and conservative partisans have some failings in common. But that doesn’t mean their criticisms and conspiracy theories are always factually equivalent. In that vein, here’s a nice criticism of Millbank’s piece. From The Sideshow: Dumb media:

You note the falsehood from the right claiming that WMD were in Iraq and that there were links between Saddam and Al Qaeda and 9/11. But you contrast that with suspicions on the left about the possibility that George Bush was cheating at the presidential debates by use of an earpiece feed.

What on earth makes you think these two items are equivalent in any way? Just to begin with, the first story is a documented lie; the second is a reasonable suspicion, though not proven either way. The first story has been investigated to death, quite rightly, but the second, for no apparent reason, is being dismissed out of hand.

Perhaps you would like to explain why the fact that there certainly was something strange on George Bush’s back during the debates has never been investigated at all. We all saw it, we all had questions about it, but the news media has simply refused to acknowledge the possibility that Bush may have been cheating. This despite the fact that Bush was obviously lying when he blamed it all on his (very expensive!) tailor.

This is the same president whose administration is responsible for promulgating the impression that WMD were in Iraq and that Saddam was tied to 9/11 and Al Qaeda in the first place – and it’s impossible that he was cheating at the debates? Why? What WAS that thing on his back?

That’s just a taste; the whole thing is pretty fun.

Terri Schiavo: Horsewoman of the Apocalypse

Monday, March 21st, 2005

A friend popped into the virtual world I inhabit the other day and complained about being unable to escape the face of Terri Schiavo, what with every channel on TV being filled with her vacant stare.

Whew, I thought. Thank you, TiVO.

I watch relatively little TV these days, and what I do watch tends to be aggressively pre-screened and narrowly selected: movie DVDs, mostly, along with some Daily Show, some What Not to Wear (the Stacy-and-Clinton version; Trinny and Suzanna are too catty for my tastes, and the Cinderella storyline doesn’t work for me when ‘after’ looks as bad as before, at least to my American eyes), some Letterman, some Ellen, a little basketball. Most of the time, the big, stupid media obsessions are like moths beating their wings futilely against the closed window of my inner life.

But the Terri Schiavo story, thanks to the spectacle of the Torture Party in Congress suspending the business of the nation so they can address the issue, and Fearless Leader actually interrupting his Crawford vacation to rush back to Washington (something he couldn’t be bothered to do even for grave threats of imminent al Qaeda attack during the late summer of 2001), has managed to burst my bubble of isolation.


Okay. Since this has been deemed by the Master Control Program to be the story that will consume my attention, what am I to make of it?

The best summing-up I’ve found is this one from Obsidian Wings’ hilzoy: Terri Schiavo. Among the unanticipated ironies I found there: The woman whose forced feeding has become a national obsession suffered her original cardiac arrest due to a chemical imbalance that was the result of bulimia. With the gallons of ink being spilled on this story, why has that fact so far escaped my notice?

For more on Schiavo’s medical condition, there’s Doctor Rivka of Respectful of Otters: Terri Schiavo, part I: The medical post.

The Republican machine that is attempting to raise political capital with this issue is being blatantly, cynically dishonest. The Christian right, those red-state values voters, believe they are fostering a “culture of life” in calling for the tube to be stuck back down Schiavo’s throat. They believe, based on some heavily edited video, that the random grimaces, blinks, and grins being produced by her reptilian hindbrain are possibly a response to her mother’s face, a spoken word. They believe there’s a chance that the person who was Terri Schiavo is trapped inside there, somewhere, and that her immoral, godless husband is trying to kill that good woman.

In that belief, they display a faith-based morality that is a credit to their upbringing. They also display a crushing, abject ignorance. It’s the same sort of ignorance that let Bush conflate Iraq with al Qaeda in the run-up to war, and to now be hailing his own fabulous “success” in bringing democracy to the Middle East.

So the Christian right has an excuse: They don’t know any better. But the Republicans grandly posturing as defenders of Terri in order to curry favor with the ignorant have no such excuse. They know what they’re doing.

As do we in the reality-based community. We know exactly what they’re doing. They’re pandering for votes, in the process ignoring the duty they have to lead the country wisely and thoughtfully.

It’s a sign of the Last Days, I think. Not necessarily in the Biblical-prophecy sense, but in the Fall-of-Rome sense. When leaders stop trying to make capable, wise decisions, and devolve instead to offering increasingly blatant bread and circuses, the end of empire is not far off.

Maybe these folks have it right: The coming of deindustrial society: A practical response. Maybe Bush is really just a symptom of a larger disease, a small manifestation of our collective denial of the doom foreseen thirty years ago in The Limits to Growth.

One last irony before I go: hilzoy explains that the Terry Schiavo case is really about incompetence, in the medical/legal sense. Her capacity to make decisions is gone, long gone, but her body lives on. What process will we, as a society, use to reach decisions on her behalf? And now she becomes the poster-girl for the Bush presidency, which is itself a monument to incompetence of another sort. Bush the legacy, the indifferent student whose whole career has been a serial upward failure, aggressively denying his own inadequacy, daring you to find fault with him, while making bonehead mistake after bonehead mistake. And we, via our collective political will, putting the feeding tube back down his throat, keeping the illusion alive.

When I tell myself that my country can be saved, that catastrophe can be averted, am I praying for a miracle that can’t possibly come? Am I hoping for the cerebrospinal fluid that has replaced my country’s cerebral cortex to magically turn itself back into a functioning democracy? Do I honestly expect that the Tom Delay Congress, the William Rehnquist Supreme Court, and (especially) the George Bush/Karl Rove presidency, are going to spontaneously morph back into a government of, by, and for the people?