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Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Going Postal: I don't have much to add to the dustup over Dan Froomkin's column in the WaPo, except to note that the quotes from the Posties are quite revealing:

"We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion."
-Len Downie (Link)

"Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and adversarial purpose. Dan does not address the main question in his comments. He should. If he were a White House reporter for a major news organization, would it be okay for him to write in the fashion he does? If the answer is yes, we have a legitimate disagreement."
-John Harris (Link)

Ah, but I remember a time when Harris and the Post were much more adversarial in their relationship with the President:

"[S]ince our job is to constantly try to hold elected officials accountable and point out to the public when there are inconsistencies, this naturally and appropriately leads to a degree of tension [between the press and the White House]."
-John Harris (Link)

Of course, that was in 1998.

Harris does quite a bit of good reporting, and can't be dismissed as someone in thrall to the current White House (indeed, in mid-2001 -- before the September attacks -- he argued that the media was softer on Bush than on Clinton). But between the almost inexplicable vitriol of his attacks on Froomkin and Downie's abject apology for any coverage the Administration might find offensive, it seems as if the Post is being mau-maued by the flak catchers.

posted by Watchful at 8:33 PM

Quick -- name a drug that is "the leading cause of acute liver failure in the US" and yet has garnered virtually no attention from the FDA or consumers' rights groups.

The answer may surprise you.

posted by Watchful at 3:17 PM

Diebold Corporation announced after the closing bell last night that CEO "Wally" O'Dell was resigning for "personal reasons," though it was made clear O'Dell was being forced out by the company's board.

As of this morning, none of the majors have picked up the O'Dell story, but inside Diebold, employees are openly talking about a host of corporate terrors: possible SEC litigation; ongoing failures with the company's major software projects; and what many see as an inexplicable fixation on O'Dell's part with the company's voting machines, seen by many employees as a controversial and poorly-implemented product that has dragged down the company's once-sterling reputation as a protector of financial assets. Recent posts by lefty blogger BradBlog interviewing a member of Diebold's e-vote group are circulating within the company, and some are expressing worries that Diebold could go the way of Enron or WorldCom, devastating the Canton, OH economy.

If the rumors turn out to have substance, a very major business and political story is about to break over the horizon.

posted by Watchful at 8:20 AM

Sunday, December 11, 2005
Getting access to the Louisiana documents archive on Katrina is a bit unwieldy right now, but the Times-Picayune has stepped up to the plate and posted many of the documents on its site. Enjoy.

posted by Watchful at 9:23 PM

Saturday, December 10, 2005
Not good PR at all.

The fact that fallen soldiers and Marine are sent back via commercial air is not, I should point out, the issue: this is a common method of transporting military casualties. But the story suggests by omission that no escort was traveling with the body, which is unusual and against regulations as I understand them. The usual practice is for the military to offer "embalming and preparation of the remains, a casket ... a military escort to accompany the remains, and movement ... to a funeral home or Government cemetary." The escort (or special escort specifically requested by the "Person Authorized to Direct Disposition," or PADD) accompanies the remains, meets the funeral director or family representative at the airport, inspects the casket upon arrival, travels with the remains to the funeral home, and drapes the flag over the casket. The escort will also provide the PADD with any forms that must be filled out at that time. In other words, the escort provides a critical symbolic and functional role in the process. If escorts are not being sent back with remains, then the press (and Congress) should be looking into the matter.

posted by Watchful at 10:50 PM

Useful online tools for political research: WaPo's Congressional voting database and the National Archives' online archive collections.

posted by Watchful at 10:14 PM

And after this, he's gonna drop da bomb: Looks like the creationists at the Discovery Institute really do take their audience for idiots. (PZ takes note.)

In related news, Derb at NRO's "Corner" kicked up a minor storm over evolution and Gertrude Himmelfarb. Derbyshire has what I consider a number of quite unpleasant views, but he's always spot-on when it comes to these matters of science. The fact that Charles Murray rides to the defense of Himmelfarb's creationist views is just an added fillip.

posted by Watchful at 8:31 AM

This WaPo article on whether to treat extreme prejudice as a separate psychological disorder is better than it should be, considering how easy it would be to turn this into a "PC vs. right-wing" argument.

To be clear: the persons described in the article are quite clearly impaired. From the article:

The 48-year-old man turned down a job because he feared that a co-worker would be gay. He was upset that gay culture was becoming mainstream and blamed most of his personal, professional and emotional problems on the gay and lesbian movement.

These fixations preoccupied him every day. Articles in magazines about gays made him agitated. He confessed that his fears had left him socially isolated and unemployed for years: A recovering alcoholic, the man even avoided 12-step meetings out of fear he might encounter a gay person. ...

[A] young woman in Los Angeles ... thought Jews were diseased and would infect her -- she carried out compulsive cleansing rituals and hit her head to drive away her obsessions. She realized she needed help but was afraid her therapist would be Jewish ....

Another patient was a waiter so hostile to black people that he flung plates on the table when he served black patrons and got fired from multiple jobs.

[Another] was a Vietnam War veteran who was so fearful of Asians that he avoided social situations where he might meet them, Dunbar said.

But how does one classify such impairments? DSM-IV-R distinguishes between clinical disorders (Axis I), personality disorders and cognitive impairment (Axis II), and psychosocial and environmental factors (Axis IV).

Each of these cases suggests a different underlying issue: for example, the man with the irrational fear and hatred of gays might suffer from paranoid personality disorder (Axis II), schizophrenia or a psychosis with paranoid manifestation (Axis I), or delusional disorder (persecutory type). Recovering alcoholics frequently manifest impaired cognition and interpersonal behavior. The young woman with the terror of Jews could suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder with associated delusions and overvalued ideas. The vet who fears Asians could be suffering from an associated post-traumatic stress disorder. The man with the hatred of African-Americans (who, it should be noted, later came through therapy to view his irrational dislike as "stupid") might not have suffered from any clinical disorder at all -- there is no DSM diagnosis for being a jackass.

Furthermore, psychiatrists and psychologists must be careful not to pathologize adaptive beliefs. Believing that demons are infesting those around you could be a result of hallucinations or delusions, but it also could be the result of belief in charismatic Christianity. Indeed, drawing the line between personal beliefs and maladaptive conditions is a sticky business: a devotee of James Dobson is apt to have an irrational fear of homosexuals, but rarely would such a fear manifest as a clinical condition. (Believing that gays are out to undermine American society may not be delusional, though wrong; believing that gays are out to get you fired from your job and convert you to homosexuality surely is.)

Ultimately, most racism, sexism and other irrational fears and hatreds are the result of Axis IV factors, and thus not amenable to professional treatment. But in those cases where the fears and hatreds become genuine psychological disorders, it seems that the existing DSM classifications are sufficient to cover them as special manifestations of known disorders.

posted by Watchful at 8:01 AM

Patently absurd: Atrios takes note of a NYT story on a proposed EU law criminalizing IP transgressions, a proposal so bad that only Big Content could love it -- and tech companies as well as grassroots intellectual-rights groups are lining up to kill it.

The EU appears to be listening not to technology innovators but designers of handbags and shoes. Trademark and design patent infringement cases are usually pretty simple affairs. Intellectual patents, however, rarely are, and criminalizing all patent infringements would smother European research and development, shifting even more high-end work to the burgeoning innovation havens of Asia.

Even in cases where a patent is so narrowly-drawn and well-supported that its infringement is a clear case, the patent itself is always open to attack. The USPTO is well-known to approve weak patents, simply because it's cheaper for them to approve than deny, and bad patent can always get thrown out through the legal process (though the societal and governmental costs of litigating patents are much higher than the USPTO would assume if it were funded to its full needs).

Hopefully, the Europeans will stop this proposal before it gets more momentum. But in any case, it should stand as a cautionary tale of allowing those with interests in one domain to corrupt another.

posted by Watchful at 7:44 AM

Monday, December 05, 2005
WWJB? Controversial religious studies professor Paul Mirecki was allegedly stopped and beaten this morning by two men evidently angry over Mirecki's public anti-creationist stance. Mirecki, who garnered right-wing outrage over his intent to oppose Kansas creationists by teaching a course framing "intelligent design" as religious mythology, had already weathered a storm of political outrage, including a threat by state representatives to withhold Kansas University's funding as retaliation.

posted by Watchful at 6:04 PM

Sunday, December 04, 2005
Posted without comment (for the moment): the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee v. Garner, the memo Alito wrote attacking the Fourth Circuit's ruling (and recommending that the federal government not file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case), and Brian Landsberg's Civil Rights Division memo disputing Alito's analysis.

posted by Watchful at 7:05 PM

The New Orleans institution Central Grocery reopened a few days ago, returning the home of the muffuletta to the city. (The excellent Napoleon House also seems to have reopened.)

The muffuletta, for those who aren't familiar with New Orleans' other famous sandwich export, is a mixture of Italian meats and cheeses served with a rich olive dressing on the eponymous bread, a densely-crumbed round loaf similar to focaccia. The heart of the sandwich is the bread and the dressing: some places outside New Orleans attempt to pass off cold cut sandwiches with olives on rolls as muffulettas, but they lie. However, the dressing may be roughly chopped or finely diced, served cold or heated through; the original sandwich from Central Grocery is served cold with a chopped dressing, while Napoleon House originated a hot sandwich with a finely-diced dressing. (Dallas' Crescent City Cafe, which closed down this summer, served a particularly good version of the Napoleon House sandwich.)

Here's my version of the (Napoleon House) muffuletta. Feeds four to eight in most cases; two if you're very hungry; one if you can regularly win the 72oz steak at truck stops. Serve with Zapps potato chips and Abita beer.

135g (4.75 oz) roasted sweet peppers (pimentos)
200g (7 oz) kalamata olives
250g (9 oz) green olives (preferably Cerignola)
100g (3.5 oz) artichoke hearts
60g (2 oz) celery (2 ribs)
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil

Separately pulse ingredients (except oil) in food processor or mini-prep to desired texture; combine. Add oil to mixture in a thin stream, mixing into dressing. Seal and refrigerate overnight (preferably 1 week) to marry flavors.

1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp/package dry yeast
3 cups bread flour (>12% protein, e.g., King Arthur or Gold Medal)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Sesame seeds

Combine water and sugar; add yeast and let stand until active, 5-10 minutes.

Combine flour, salt and oil; add active yeast and mix. Knead until elastic, adding water in small amounts if necessary.

Oil the bottom and sides of a bowl and place the dough in it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise, 1 1/2 hour. Remove and shape into a round loaf approximately 10" in diameter. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds, gently pressing into the top of the dough. Let rise 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake loaf for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 25 minutes. While baking, add 3 ice cubes to the bottom of the oven every 7 minutes. Cool on baking rack.

1 Muffuletta loaf (above)
Olive dressing (above)
1/4 lb. (225g) Genoa salami
1/4 lb. (225g) smoked ham
1/4 lb. (225g) mortadella
1/4 lb. (225g) provolone
1/8 lb. (55g) sliced mozzarella

Slice the loaf in half lengthwise, cover bottom half with olive dressing. Add ingredients in the following order: half of the salami, ham, provolone, mortadella, mozzarella, and remaining salami. Spread olive dressing on the top half of the loaf, place on top of the sandwich and press gently. Slice sandwich into quarters; wrap pieces tightly in foil and bake, 350 degrees F, for 25 minutes.

posted by Watchful at 3:15 PM

Saturday, December 03, 2005
Bored of education: Once again, the Texas State Board of Education makes us proud by severing ties with the National Association of State Boards of Education due to its "liberal left" policies. From the linked article:

For example, says [Board member Terri] Leo, NASBE holds to the notion that the phrase "separation of church and state" accurately summarizes the Bill of Rights ... Leo says the Texas Board of Education voted not be associated with an organization that chooses to perpetuate a myth. She says she disagrees with NASBE's continued promotion of "misinformation" and its lack of concern with the actual language found in the Bill of Rights and other First Amendment rights.

Furthermore, Leo argues that NASBE's policies are "vehicles for social engineering that are promoted by the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered/Questioning lobby." The article further notes that "NASBE supports comprehensive sex education -- while state law in Texas advocates abstinence-only sex education." Leo defends her position by arguing that "the Republicans on this board and the majority of Texans" oppose sex education. (Leo's bio on the State Board website goes out of its way to tout her GOP credentials.)

This appears to place Texas alone in the United States (including the District and Puerto Rico) in not belonging to NASBE. By way of context, it's worth noting that the current President of NASBE is a member of the Utah SBoE and the two Central area directors are from Ohio and, notably, Kansas. In other words, the Texas SBoE has decided that Utah, Ohio and Kansas aren't right-wing enough.

Of course, there's a reason for this: many of our SBoE members are quite objectively insane, and Leo leads the pack. Noteworthy was her attempt last year to require massive changes in teachers' and students' books to root out anything that might be, or might be construed as, or might not be hostile enough to, references to homosexuality. Thus, in one teachers' text, the passage:

[S]urveys indicate that 3 to 10 percent of the population is gay. No one knows for sure why some people are straight, some are bisexual and others are gay.


Opinions vary on why homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals as a group are more prone to self-destructive behaviors like depression, illegal drug use and suicide.

'Nuff said. (Even our SBoE wasn't off-the-wall enough to approve Leo's changes, it should be said.)

posted by Watchful at 1:26 PM

Saturday, November 26, 2005
Unintelligent design: I don't know what's worse: the idiocy-on-a-shirt of this product, or the fact that Dembski obviously designed it himself.

And now Dembski is quoting the author of "Dilbert" as proof against evolution.

(Via Pharyngula.)

posted by Watchful at 11:07 AM

Eggs-actly: Glenn Reynolds gets it right on Dr. Hwang Woo Suk: Dr. Hwang actually did nothing wrong in the research; his crime, such as it was, was in acting to protect his graduate students. (The way most researchers act, you'd think that was a crime.) Of course, in a nation where states have made stem-cell research a felony crime, this will be seized upon as yet another reason to ban bioscience research.

John Roberts of the University of Texas has this at the American Journal of Bioethics. (I'm rather less enthused by another guest posting here, since it veers rather close to the "all genetic hybrids are bad" argument. But if loving human-murine chimeric monoclonal antibodies is wrong, I don't want to be right!)

posted by Watchful at 10:54 AM

Down the casbah way: The Bush-Blair-al-Jazeera story has legs, apparently being the topic of the day in Britain. Needless to say, these are serious charges: if Bush seriously discussed bombing the al-Jazeera headquarters (in Quatar), or its offices in Iraq or Afghanistan (which many people believe were deliberately targeted), then we're talking about a matter of such deep gravity that the term "impeachment" seems a mild response.

To be honest, I have trouble believing that the President would discuss such a thing -- as al-Jazeera's managing editor told the BBC's world service, hopefully this was simply a joke that made it into the transcript. Yet the fact that the memo is apparently authentic (though its contents have not yet been divulged, two persons are being prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for its leak) and the non-denial denials of the White House (McClellan's statement on the topic being the rather evasive, "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response") suggests that at the very least such a joke was made.

This White House has never been competent at managing bad information, and the spin machine is in ever-greater disarray as the President's troubles mount. In most operations, the response would be to send out a ranking official from State on background to minimize the issue, but instead the WH is stonewalling -- something that will act to propel the story forward as the press leans in for blood.

Of course, there's always the chance, small as it is, that the President really was trying to rally support for an attack on a neutral journalistic party in a friendly country, but if that's the case, incompetent spin control will be the least of our problems.

posted by Watchful at 10:38 AM

Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Spring Break for Hitler? In what must be the most bizarre story about a story, Teen People has abruptly yanked an upcoming puff story on a neo-Nazi pop duo called "Prussian Blue" [1]. Evidently an unnamed magazine employee promised the mother of the singers that "the words 'hate,' 'supremacist,' and 'Nazi'" wouldn't be used in the article.

Of course, trying to write about Hitler-glorifying white supremacist pop singers without discussing, well, their Hitler-glorification and white supremacy turned out to be a rather bad idea, and the piece has been yanked down, presumably with a few careers as well. But, in the interests of journalism, here's a few terms that other writers can use without violating the Prussian Blue terms of service:

1. Abhorrent
2. Malignant
3. Malevolent
4. Loathsome
5. Repugnant
6. Abominations
7. Disgusting
8. Fascists
9. Racists
10. Anti-Semitic
11. Holocaust-deniers
12. Genocide-apologists
13. Emblematic of the worst tendencies of humanity
14. Supporters of a viciously racist and genocidal German government of the 1930s and '40s known in as Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) and led for most of its existence by a syphilitic madman named Adolf Hitler.
15. Hellbound

[1] Supposedly the name refers to the tyrannical teenyboppers' German heritage and blue eyes; left unremarked is the fact that ferrocyanide is the result of ferrous ions reacting with hydrogen cyanide, and that hydrogen cyanide is released from ferrocyanide when treated with acid. Hydrogen cyanide is perhaps better known by its German trade name, Zyklon B. Some Holocaust deniers claim, with majestic inaccuracy, that the putative lack of ferrocyanide residue in Nazi gas chambers proves the gas chambers were not a vast mechanized slaughterhouse for a fascist regime.

posted by Watchful at 2:42 PM

Sunday, November 20, 2005
Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi dead? AP says US forces are trying to determine if the street thug turned terrorist leader is among the dead in a Mosul home after a firefight with American troops.

posted by Watchful at 3:22 PM

Thursday, November 17, 2005
Via Pharyngula, videos of the extinct marsupial predator thylacinus cynocephalus, better known as the Tasmanian tiger, killed off by 1936 through a combination of government-sponsored hunting, distemper brought in with European dogs, and mismanagement of captive animals (though a controversial economics/biology paper suggests the theoretical survival of some thylacines). A haunting look at a vanished species.

posted by Watchful at 7:11 PM

Sunday, October 09, 2005
My Little Crony: As long as we're talking crony appointments -- and, really, who isn't these days? -- I'd like to draw your attention to a post from this site back in 2003:

In March, the Administration appointed Richard Greene as Regional Administrator of EPA Region 6 in a little-noticed move. What makes Greene's appointment so interesting is not that he has no experience in environmental policymaking -- although he has less hands-on environmental experience than any other EPA RA, including all Bush appointees -- but his prior life as mayor of Arlington, TX, where he pushed through the public financing of the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Ballpark, a $135 million stadium financed by municipal bonds and a special half-cent sales tax, sparked off a deep civic split in Arlington. An ESPN story on the ballpark put it this way:

[George W.] Bush and [club president J. Thomas] Schieffer, the club's point man on the stadium project, negotiated the deal with Arlington mayor Richard Greene, who then played on civic fears by suggesting that if voters turned down the park the Rangers might bolt for Dallas, where officials had expressed tepid interest in the team.

At the time, Greene was a defendant in a lawsuit brought by federal regulators for activities as a former savings-and-loan executive. Then, 12 days before the vote on the park and with passage all but assured, the lawsuit was dismissed for a $40,000 fine. (In 1993, after President Bush had left office, Greene headed off a second lawsuit by regulators by paying $125,000.)

"It was case of quid pro quo" says [Arlington attorney Jim] Runzheimer, the stadium critic. "Greene negotiated favorably for the Rangers because he was over a barrel by Bush and the Bush administration. George W. Bush had access to his father's administration."

Runzheimer's allegations remain only that -- there is certainly no proof that untoward actions took place during the negotiations -- but Greene, in pursuit of a new stadium, took the entire city of Arlington for a ride, profiting only the owners of the Texas Rangers. These past business ties make Greene's appointment to the EPA interesting in its own right.

Since leaving the mayoral slot, Greene has been the associate publisher of the Arlington Star-Telegram and director of the Arlington Technology Incubator at the University of Texas at Arlington. He also coordinated the area effort to win the 2012 Olympic games; the EPA announcement of his appointment cites this as the only example of any environmental experience, when "he involved college students in conducting environmental research of 38 sites included in the committee's bid."

Ah, memories. Of course, an unqualified EPA administrator is probably the least of our worries.

posted by Watchful at 8:06 PM

Department of misleading comparisons: Andrew Sullivan thinks this table is proof that "a flat tax should be the central issue of the conservative movement."

Here's an extra credit assignment for the enterprising schoolboy: leaving aside the kleptocracy of overstuffed bureaucrats and oligarchs called Hong Kong, what do all these nations have in common in their economic history? Of that group, leaving aside Greece, what do they geographically have in common? What other factors could be driving these nations' growth, and why might those factors not apply to America?

Answers on the back of a matchbook to, well, Wish him 'Happy birthday' while you're at it.

posted by Watchful at 7:52 PM

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
It's well after midnight, and these are basically first-draft thoughts on this issue. We're going to return to this in the future, I suspect, and while my basic thoughts on the bill -- a genuinely fascist attempt at controlling the family -- will almost certainly not change, my analysis may. Take with salt until I'm awake and thinking clearly on this.

When babies are outlawed only outlaws will have babies: The nanny state has arrived, and its name is Indiana. At least, it will be if Republican State Senator and Health Finance Commission chair Patricia Miller has her way and gets this piece of legislation passed.

Remarkably, it's almost impossible to overstate how genuinely frightening, how blatantly -- wait for it -- fascist this thing is. Indeed, it creates a new crime with the impressively Orwellian name of "unauthorized artificial reproduction," with a penalty of up to six months in jail and, one assumes, the loss of one's child.

Basically, the law places severe restrictions and criminal penalties on the use of "assisted reproduction," including "intrauterine insemination; donation of an egg; donation of an embryo; in vitro fertilization and transfer of an embryo; and intracytoplasmic sperm injection" unless a court issues, as required under the proposed statute, a "gestational certificate."

The first hurdle: "The intended parents must be married to each other, and both spouses must be parties to establish parentage. An unmarried person may not be an intended parent."

Ah, but it's not only the single amongst us this bill intends to weed out. Amongst everything else, the "assessment" would require the disclosure and "evaluation" of each parent's:

Family of origin.




Employment and income.

Hobbies and talents.

Physical description, including the health of the individual.

Birth verification.

Personality description, including the strengths and weaknesses of each intended parent.

Not to mention:

A list of the intended parents' family and friend support system.

Documentation of the dissolution of any prior marriage ***.

A description of the family lifestyle of the intended parents, includ[ing] a description of individual participation in faith-based or church activities, hobbies, and other interests.

The intended parents' child rearing expectations and values.

Statement of the assets, liabilities, investments, and ability of the intended parents to manage finances, including the most recently filed tax forms.

A review of the local police records, the state and violent offender directory, and a criminal history check ***.

A letter of reference by a friend or family member.

Eugenics much? Let's take a minute and come up with a list of those nations that have tried these measures:


Nazi Germany.

That's all I got. Well, America under slavery and segregation, I suppose. But that was more of a lynching thing. Less paperwork, I suppose.

Note that this would essentially codify the powers of adoption agencies over non-adoptive families. Keep in mind that, amongst other things, adoption agencies can quite legally decide not, for example, to place an African-American child with a white family. Muse on what kind of arbitrary decisions on what specious grounds could be made to prevent couples' pregnancies at the whim of unelected private-sector (and perhaps faith-based) bureaucrats. Now break out your copies of Loving v. Virginia and Griswold v. Connecticut and weep.

Now is also a good time to read Troxel v. Granville. In particular, Scalia's now bone-chilling dissent ("[T]he theory of unenumerated parental rights *** has small claim to stare decisis protection.").

So now, according to this legislation, the state would have as a protectable interest the rights of a nonexistent and indeed only probabilistic child -- an eigenchild, if you will. But this means that, if the state has the right to control "assisted reproduction" under this theory, then the state has the right to control every step of a pregnancy in order to protect that child's right.

Even if such a theory were to be upheld in court (possible, I sincerely hope, only in Bizarro America where Them the People of the Discordant States intended to form a less perfect Union, insure domestic violence, provide for individual surrender and secure the Curses of Slavery), surely equal protection considerations would (if not get rid of the "no singles allowed" rule) force married couples conceiving in a more, um, natural manner to undergo the same vetting procedures. Why should, indeed how could, the state not protect all children and thus require "gestational certificates" of every couple intending to conceive? (That's roughly 87,000 per year, according to my rough estimates, not counting couples that do not eventually conceive and not constraining for multiple births. Imagine the backlog -- get your petition in early!)

If you had asked me, well, twenty minutes ago if such a thing could even be contemplated in America, I would have laughed at you and your tattered copy of The Handmaid's Tale. But now what sticks in my mind is a passage from Orwell: "Tragedy, he perceived, belonged to the ancient time, to a time when there was still privacy, love, and friendship, and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason."

God help us all if we ever let "privacy, love, and friendship" rot under the iron heel of these fanatics and monsters.

posted by Watchful at 10:54 PM

Monday, October 03, 2005
I don' think that word means what you think it means: From J-Pod on Miers:

I think this was a pick made out of droit de seigneur -- an "I am the president and this is what I want" arrogance. I think he'll get what he wanted. Which means there will be at least two people -- Bush and Harriet Miers -- who will be delighted on the day she is sworn in. But probably not a whole lot more.

Unintentional hilarity ensues. But, um, ew?

posted by Watchful at 7:52 PM

Sunday, September 25, 2005
Who, What, Where, When, Why & How: In my intermittent quest to compile useful and unusual data sources, I present the Coast Guard FOIA site, including a ship registry that acts a bit like the poor man's Lloyds; the Africa Database, a repository of information on that particular continent; and the Terrorism Knowledgebase, providing, er, knowledge on terrorism.

posted by Watchful at 6:04 PM

News of the World: Zimbabwe Edition: Just in case having a maniacally despotic sociopath as a president wasn't sufficiently depressing, Zimbabwe is filled with all sorts of new scandals and uprisings. A series of attacks in the Manicaland province against white farmers follows State Security and Land Reform minister Didymus Mutasa's description of white Zimbabweans as "dirt;" the attacks appear to be led by figures such as Central Intelligence Organization official Joseph Chiminya. As the attacks against white farmers escalate, the threat of looming famine grows and ZANU PF succession battles escalate. Senior government figures are being implicated in scandals too grave to ignore even under Mugabe or too obvious to let go.
In England, a young Zimbabwean immigrant drowned himself rather than face return to his native land. But some papers say everything's just fine in Zim: for a nice piece of state-sponsored propaganda, just look here. But others aren't willing to be intimidated in their criticism, though admittedly some find it more convenient to live abroad.

posted by Watchful at 11:29 AM

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