Friday, October 27, 2006

Secretary of Offense

In other news, I don't know what's worse - that people pretend to have "sexsomnia" and actually expect us to believe it, or that Reuters/ABC News Online pretend to engage in "journalism" and actually expect us to believe it.

'Sexsomniacs' puzzle medical researchers

Researchers are struggling to understand a rare medical condition where sufferers unknowingly demand, or actually have, sex while asleep, New Scientist magazine reports.

Research into sexsomnia - making sexual advances towards another person while asleep - has been hampered as sufferers are so embarrassed by the problem they tend not to own up to it, while doctors do not ask about it.

As yet there is no cure for the condition, which often leads to difficulties in relationships.

"It really bothers me that I can't control it," Lisa Mahoney told the magazine.

"It scares me because I don't think it has anything to do with the partner. I don't want this foolish condition to hurt us in the long run."

Most researchers view sexsomnia as a variant of sleepwalking, where sufferers are stuck between sleep and wakefulness, though sexsomniacs tend to stay in bed rather than get up and walk about.

While sleepwalking affects 2 to 4 per cent of adults, sexsomnia is not thought to be as common a problem, according to Nik Trajanovic, a researcher at the sleep and alertness clinic at Canada's Toronto Western Hospital.

But an Internet survey of sexsomniacs carried out in 2005 that drew 219 reliable respondents concluded it was more prevalent than medical case reports alone might suggest.

"Most of the time sleep sex occurs between people who are already partners," Mark Pressman, a sleep specialist at Lankenan Hospital in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, told New Scientist.

"Sometimes they hate it," added Mr Pressman of the reactions of sexsomniacs' partners.

"Sometimes they tolerate it. On rare occasions you have stories of people liking it better than waking sex."

With no cure, addressing triggering factors - stress or sleep deprivation - can help.

Meanwhile Mr Trajanovic is devising a procedure for diagnosing sexsomnia in legal cases where sufferers have been accused of sexual assault.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

40 PERCENT?????

I am still baffled that there are so many people
who think that invading Iraq was a good
move. According to this website, about
40% of Americans think so:

Can someone enlighten me? Are they
watching or reading something I am not?
Are they not watching or reading anything?
What am I missing?

The Deniability Presidency

Bush sat down yesterday with CNBC "Money Honey" Maria Bartiromo, who asked him if he used Google.

According to CNBC’s unofficial transcript, he replied: “Occasionally. One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. It’s very interesting to see that. I forgot the name of the program, but you get the satellite and you can — like, I kind of like to look at the ranch on Google, reminds me of where I want to be sometimes. Yeah, I do it some.” He added: “I tend not to email or — not only tend not to email, I don’t email, because of the different record requests that can happen to a president. I don’t want to receive emails because, you know, there’s no telling what somebody’s email may — it would show up as, you know, a part of some kind of a story, and I wouldn’t be able to say, `Well, I didn’t read the email.’ `But I sent it to your address, how can you say you didn’t?’ So, in other words, I’m very cautious about emailing.”

I guess I see what he's saying - if he had an e-mail address, he'd be so bombarded with messages he couldn't possibly read or respond to all of them. Wouldn't it be better, though, if he just did like all famous people with this problem, and have some auto-reply saying "sorry, I can't possibly read or reply to all of the messages I receive, but thanks for writing"? The way he puts it (or "puts" it - only Mayor Daley can deliver a less scrutable response to a direct question), he comes off as though the reason he doesn't e-mail is because it's just another form of "gotcha," any any engagement with the media or his constituency via this medium leaves him liabile, a paper trail may implicate him, etc etc. I don't mean to imply that this is not a valid concern; but there are ways around this as well.

By refusing to communicate via e-mail, Bush further isolates himself from the real world. But I guess it's promising that he ocassionally uses "the Google."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Civil War?

Is France in the middle of a civil war and nobody will say it? We saw the riots break out almost a year ago in the suburbs by young muslims. I didn't realize how much of the unrest was still going on. From the Timesonline in London is this:

The figures are stark. An average of 112 cars a day have been torched across France so far this year and there have been 15 attacks a day on police and emergency services. Nearly 3,000 police officers have been injured in clashes this year. Officers have been badly injured in four ambushes in the Paris outskirts since September. Some police talk of open war with youths who are bent on more than vandalism.

Fifteen attacks a day, this doesn't sound much better than Baghdad. Maybe the US needs to send more troops to Paris, also. I had heard comments in passing that there was still unrest in Paris from time to time, but had no idea it was of this magnitude.

Why isn't this a much bigger story? We are seeing the beginning of a conflict that is going to spread across Europe in the coming years. The Dutch are afraid to show a stupid cartoon because they fear riots. Theo Van Gough was murdered for making a film critcal of Islam. (I think this last paragraph is leading into another bigger topic that I don't have time to consider fully, but is a very serious issue for the future of enlightened western culture).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


This is from the Times Online, and it's pretty amazing stuff if true. Both Baker Commission options mentioned here imply the complete negation of the Bush Administration's raison d'être: to defeat terrorism with all sticks and no carrots. Bush & Co. have bet everything on the proposition that the politicians and statesmen of the last 3,000 years, who have slowly and incrementally built the science and art of diplomacy, are idiots, and that only they understand the true nature of reality.

In political terms, the "Stability First" option could be a little more palatable for Republicans, since "Redeploy and Contain," from what little is said here about it, appears to be nothing less than the wholesale acceptance of the Murtha Plan. All the carping chickenhawks will have to either choke down their "cut and run" crow, or identify a microscopic distinction between the Baker and Murtha phrasings to justify their support for it.

Either way, it appears that, if November is the bloodbath some are predicting, the Republican establishment will take George Bush across its knee. We can expect a very dejected cheerleader-in-chief for the next two years.

US panel to propose Iraq policy U-turn
By Devika Bhat

A high-level panel set up to advise the White House on Iraq is to propose radical changes to US policy including the large-scale withdrawal of US troops, it has been reported.

The commission, which is headed by James Baker, the former Secretary of State under the first President Bush, will recommend two options which would effectively represent reversals of US policy.

One of these, called "Redeploy and Contain", would see the phased withdrawal of US troops to bases outside Iraq where they could be deployed against terrorist organisations anywhere in the region.

Another alternative, titled "Stability First", calls for continuing to try to stabilise Baghdad and boosting efforts to bring insurgents into politics, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Under this option, Iraq’s neighbours, Iran and Syria, would be brought in to help end the fighting.

The ten-member commission, called the Iraq Study Group, will release its recommendations in the coming months. It was set up by Congress but has been endorsed by President Bush.
Apart from Mr Baker, who is one of the Bush family's closest political allies, other members include Lee Hamilton, former Congressman, who also served as co-chairman of the commission investigating the September 11 attacks, Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Supreme Court of Justice, and Leon Panetta, a Californian Democrat who was President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.

It is unclear how willing Mr Bush is to change his strategy, which centres around improving security in Baghdad, training Iraqi security forces, and pushing the Iraq government to find political agreement amongst rival groups. The President has insisted on more than one occasion that the US will not leave Iraq "until the job is done", but last week he also said in a news conference that he was open to ideas.

When the panel was formed in March, it was hoped by some administration officials that it would produce a bipartisan endorsement of existing policy. But as sectarian violence in Iraq has worsened, there have been increasing calls for the White House to rethink its policy, with even senior Republicans saying that changes are necessary.

While refusing to comment directly on the report in the LA Times, White House officials have been eager to make clear in recent weeks that while they intend to look seriously at the panel’s recommendations, there was no obligation for the President to follow them. "We’re not going to outsource the business of handling the war in Iraq," said Tony Snow, the White House spokesman.

Crucially, a third option on Iraq, entitled "Stay the Course, Redefine the Mission", appeared to gain less interest from the panel according to the LA Times, with members reportedly agreeing that change had to be made.

"It’s not going to be ‘stay the course,’" the newspaper quotes one participant as saying. "The bottom line is, (current policy) isn’t working. There’s got to be another way."

Mr Baker has hinted in recent weeks that the report would recommend changes, some of which the White House would not necessarily welcome. "There’ll probably be some things in our report that the administration might not like," he said in a television interview last week.
"Our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate of 'stay the course' and 'cut and run,' " he added, also implying he had considered the option of reaching out to Iran and Syria.

"I personally believe in talking to your enemies," he said. "Neither the Syrians nor the Iranians want a chaotic Iraq ... so maybe there is some potential for getting something other than opposition from those countries."

Another participant, speaking anonymously, revealed that the commission was also considering whether the US should threaten the Iraqi government that it would withdraw troops unless its performance improved.

But yesterday in a telephone conversation, Mr Bush told Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, that he had no plans to pull forces out of the country, insisting that the US would continue to stand strong despite the daily violence which has plagued the nation.

A rise in American casualties in recent weeks, as communal violence spirals ever more out of control, has served only to boost the likelihood that the President will face increasing pressure to change his policy. At least 58 Americans have died in Iraq in the first two weeks of October, a pace that, if continued, would make the month the worst for coalition forces since 107 US soldiers died in January 2005.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hitchens on Foley

Is it really a surprise that Hitchens is nonplussed by Masturgate? One of my favorite things about the way Hitch writes is that he masterfully conveys lewdness without being obscene.

From todays' Wall Street Journal.

When I finally took a look at what we are all now doomed to call the "sexually explicit" emails between Rep. Mark Foley and the young male page, I found that I had an immediate difficulty in following the exchange. The congressman's side of the correspondence was denoted by his online name, while the page's name was asterisked to protect the innocent, but they both seemed to be talking about the same thing, or things. And it read for all the world like a chat between two dirty-minded adolescent boys. How often do you do this or think about that? How long is it? Material of that kind or "stuff like that," as we might say. Perhaps I have become jaded, or perhaps I lack some crucial moral element, but I could not see what was criminal about it, and I laughed when I read the solemn announcement from the FBI, promising to investigate whether an email could possibly have crossed an interstate line and thus aggravated the gravity of the offense. Our guardians never sleep . . .

The case would perhaps be altered somewhat if Mr. Foley had been the boy's teacher, or employer, or even priest. But pages are volunteers who are not on any one person's staff, and cannot be hired or fired by individual politicians. Neither coercion nor bribery was involved, as in the priestly scandals, which were quite often instances of actual rape. And the boy in this case was obviously a very knowing one, whose virginity was somewhere in his past. Indeed, it was Mr. Foley who seemed like the juvenile, or perhaps the case of arrested development. In what sense, then, does this constitute public business?

If there had been a sexual relationship between man and boy, it would almost certainly be illegal (as it would not have been if it were between man and girl) but there is no persuasive evidence that there was any sexual relationship. Indeed, it looks to me as if the email equivalent of phone-sex was the very thing that the wretched congressman was after, and probably the most he was likely to get. The youngster seemed able to look after himself, and to "turn" the conversation whenever it became too needy. It was all a bit sad and a bit sordid, but in the scale of things, no hanging matter or federal case.

I suspect that the hugeness of the current fuss must have something to do with our uneasy and only half-acknowledged awareness that the age of innocence is long over by the time that most of our children have turned 16. And this is why the Foley giveaway was contained in his ostentatious political activity in respect of the protection of minors. Have we not learned by now that the propensity of politicians to rave on about morality is often in direct proportion to their hypocrisy on the point? "Why dost thou lash that whore?" is the pertinent question asked of the lasher in "King Lear," and the answer comes plainly -- he hotly wishes "to use her in that kind" for which he whips her.

Anyone who has studied the fate of leading gay-bashers in American politics will know that the danger-signs are there from the start. Set your watch, and sure enough that fervent campaigner will be arrested kneeling abjectly on the men's-room floor. If the campaigner is an evangelist for purity and abstinence, he is booked to keep an early and certain date in a dreary motel, beseeching a drab hooker with an expired MasterCard.

Another free laugh, therefore, is provided by all the pompous talk about when exactly Mr. Foley's colleagues began to worry that his contents might be under pressure. Never mind the possible earlier emails, or signs of excessive interest in the problems of the pages. They should have known that Mr. Foley was a gay man in the closet, of course. And they should have taken alarm at the very first moment that he began to orate about sex-offenders and children. But the crucial word, here, is "closet." As long as a proper outward show of denial was made, Mr. Foley could as well have been asked to open the House's daily prayer session.

He has of course made himself even more contemptible by emitting easy babble about a hitherto unsuspected battle with "addiction," like a cuttlefish blowing off ink, and by alluding to a possible nasty moment in the woodshed with a man in holy orders. (If he does not come forward and say who that priest was, he is withholding evidence of a crime -- which really is against the law.) But the deafness, as well as the dumbness, of his party leadership is the truly extraordinary thing. It seems that the only offense of which he can possibly be accused, by the speaker of the House, is that of election-season indiscretion. In other words: How inconvenient!

Whether one is a stern defender of the present so-called "age of consent," or inclined to take a more relaxed view of dirty talk among males of all ages, or appalled at double-standards being applied for years to moralizing mediocrities, or merely concerned with that elusive thing the dignity of Congress, one has the right to expect more seriousness from the speaker than that. I am among the vast majority of people who never understood how Dennis Hastert got his job in the first place, or indeed how he has justified hanging onto it, and who would not really notice or care if he resigned it now. However, the speaker does have it in his power to do one decent thing before his term is up -- which is to get out while he can still save a rag of his integrity. There might be a person left in the world who believes that Mr. Hastert would have taken the same lenient or lazy view if Mr. Foley had been a member of the opposite party, but innocence on that level would actually be more sinister than cynicism. To add that the same would be true of Democrats if the situation was reversed is to say no more than we already -- from the forgiveness of numerous past "peccadilloes" -- have come to expect.

For a "peccadillo," Mark Foley is gone from politics already. And a huge public holiday has been taken from the serious matters that confront the electorate. But before the waters close over this scandal, and before the next one surfaces, I would still like to know what crime was committed in this instance, and who if anyone was the victim. We like to think that we "learn" from such episodes, but I cannot think of any lesson that can be derived from this latest spasm of righteous indignation.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Are conservatives more charitable?

Here is an interesting article about charity.
Apparently liberals don't give as often to
charity as conservatives, even if only
nonreligious causes are counted. As the
article says, this probably has something
to do with forming habits. One issue it
doesn't mention is whether liberals choose
nurturing-style careers (education, social
work, etc.) more than conservatives, which
might be where people display their charity

Friday, October 13, 2006

Stephen Colbert has America by the Ballots

A long, excellent portrait of one of America's funniest men. This gem from the press corps dinner still cracks me up:

Don’t pay attention to the approval ratings that say 68 percent of Americans disapprove of the job [Bush] is doing. I ask you this: Does that not also logically mean that 68 percent of Americans approve of the job he’s not doing?

Colbert should consider joining Rumsfeld's speech-writing staff.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

North Korea: One More Problem Swagger Can't Solve

Great column by former SecDef William Perry on Bush's failure to formulate a North Korea policy.

It appears that, like most narcissistic assholes, Kim Jong Il's central motivator is a craving for respect from those he considers to be his peers. Therefore, he's just going to keep on trucking towards weaponized nukes until he gets that respect. That's why the Agreed Upon Framework worked for a while (and by "worked" I mean slowed development, because there was and is no other option), and why isolating North Korea hasn't worked. It's a repugnant choice to make, but when you're the Bush administration and you have no more credibility or cards up your sleeve, why do you think the latter option is better? In every case, Bush defaults to talking tough, regardless of whether it's likely to accomplish anything.

My plan is to quietly evacuate the entire South Korean peninsula one night under the cover of darkness, then strike Pyong Yang hard and fast the next morning while Kim Jong Il is sipping his breakfast cognac out of the bellybutton of a Swedish movie star. It won't work, you say? You're right, but it's a lot more fun to think about than six party talks, and everyone knew those weren't going to work either.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lou Dobbs Is A Moron

The following Lou Dobbs column defies accurate description because the modifier "irrelevant" is simply too small, weak and impotent to do it justice. Even preceding it with the adverb "utterly" would be a woefully inadequate effort ("woefully" is better, but still way off).

Sentiments like this are part of that grand American tradition of potemkin intellectualism, whose practitioners (like Ross Perot back in the 90s) have no idea how to solve our problems, and so don a phony everyman posture, stick a stalk of wheat folksily between their lips, and make some vacuous pronouncement like, "Well, it seems to me we oughta throw all the bums out! Yessir, every last one of 'em, and return some common sense back to governin'."

Guess what Lou? As long as there's TV, the middle class won't rise up off the couch, let alone rise up against their lobbyist oppressors. And those "wedge issues" wielded so skillfully by Republicans and Democrats alike (please...) really matter to people (notice he leaves abortion off the list--I guess that might indicate that it's a "real" issue to him).

I agree that all the lobbyists should be shot and both parties should be squeezed until they're squeaky clean, but enough already of this ridiculous fantasy whereby the glorious middle class can accomplish this by sheer will.

And all this, just to sell a crappy book.

Dobbs: Middle class needs to fight back now

POSTED: 11:35 a.m. EDT, October 11, 2006

Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears every Wednesday on

NEW YORK (CNN) -- I don't know about you, but I can't take seriously anyone who takes either the Republican Party or Democratic Party seriously -- in part because neither party takes you and me seriously; in part because both are bought and paid for by corporate America and special interests. And neither party gives a damn about the middle class.

Our country's middle class is not just collateral damage in what has become all-out class warfare. Political, business and academic elites are waging an outright war on working men and women and their families, and there is no chance the American middle class will survive this assault if the dominant forces unleashed over the past five years continue unchecked.

They've accomplished this through large campaign contributions, armies of lobbyists that have swamped Washington, and control of political and economic think tanks and media. Lobbyists, in fact, are the arms dealers in the war on the middle class, brokering money, influence and information between their clients our elected officials.

Yet in my entire career, I've literally never heard anyone in Congress argue that lobbyists are bad for America. In 1968 there were only 63 lobbyists in Washington. Today, there are more than 34,000, and lobbyists now outnumber our elected representatives and their staffs by a 2-to-1 margin.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, from 1998 through 2004, lobbyists spent nearly $12 billion to not only influence legislation, but in many cases to write the language of the laws and regulations.

Individual firms, corporations and national organizations spent a record $2.14 billion on lobbying members of Congress and 220 other federal agencies in 2004, according to PoliticalMoneyLine. That's nearly $6 million a day spent to influence our leaders. We really do have the best government money can buy.

But as I discuss in my new book, "War on the Middle Class," what if we all resolved that we would not permit either the Republicans or Democrats to waste their time and ours with wedge issues? Both parties love to excite their bases by focusing on wedge issues like gay marriage, the pledge of allegiance, school prayer, judicial appointments, gun control, stem cell research and welfare reform.

Each of these wedge issues is important in varying degrees to large numbers of us, but none of them rises to the level of urgency or the requirement of immediate change in public policy.
These issues are raised by both political parties to distract and divert public attention from the profound issues -- like educating our youth, economic inequality and the war against radical Islamic terrorists -- that affect our daily lives and the American way of life. Imagine the consternation in Washington if both parties had to contend with a national electorate whose political affiliation had dramatically changed within a matter of weeks or months.

In both Republican and Democratic administrations, Congress has passed and sustained billions of dollars in royalty payments and subsidies to big oil companies; pushed through a corporate-written, consumer-crippling bankruptcy law; embraced the death of the estate tax; approved every free trade deal brought to a vote; and supported illegal immigration for the sake of cheap labor.

The party strategists and savants are telling us that fewer Americans will turn out to the polls than ever before, disgusted by a disgraced former congressman. But we don't have to wait for the midterm elections to begin to engage in our new political life.

There's something all of us could do that would have an immediate impact and send a powerful message to both corporation-dominated political parties and to our elected officials in Washington. Our so-called representatives in both parties have been working against the interests of the middle class for so long that they take our votes for granted, or they take advantage of the fact that a sizable number of us don't vote at all.

So what if a majority of us decided once and for all to walk into our town and city halls all over the country and change our party affiliation from Republican or Democrat to independent? What if that sizable number of us who don't vote at all decided to register as independents? For the first time in decades, working middle-class Americans might just get the attention of our elected officials in Washington.

Our middle class has suffered in silence for far too long, and it cannot afford to suffer or be silent much longer. Hardworking Americans have not spoken out about their increasingly marginalized role in this society, and as a consequence they've all but lost their voice.

Without that strong, clear and vibrant voice, all the major decisions about America and our future will be made by the elites of government, big business and the dominant special interests. Those elites treasure your silence, as it enables them to claim America's future for their own.
I sincerely hope that we will find the resolve to face these challenges to our way of life, and we do so soon. George Bernard Shaw said, "It is dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid."
I'm stupid enough to be absolutely sincere in the hope that middle-class America will awake soon and take action.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Kang & Kodos Readers Brigade

This is what is wrong with America today. Never in US history would someone sing a song devoted to their ass.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Just as the re-election of W. in 2004 was a huge victory for al-Qaeda (remember that amateur-yet-effective bit of reverse psychology bin-Laden pulled in his pre-election video by seeming hostile towards Bush and indifferent towards Kerry?), here's one more indication that W. is playing into the hands of America's current world-historical enemy:

From How Al Qaeda views a long Iraq war:

"The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness ... indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest," says the writer, who goes by the name Atiyah. The letter, released last week, was recovered in the rubble of the Iraqi house where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, former leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed by a US bomb in June.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Would Kinky Friedman have prevented 9/11?

Daniel Shaviro apparently thinks so, as would have just about any other administration or potential administration you care to name (note the conspicuous absence of U.S. Grant on the list...).

Given the seriousness of the warnings, it is plausible that any of the above-named actual or hypothetical Administrations would have paid attention. Likewise, would any of them, if invading Iraq, have done absolutely no planning for the occupation whatsoever? And then made absolutely no effort to succeed, such as by bringing in competent staff rather than political hacks? Again, this is a wildly unique Administration. The resistance to making any inquiry into the al Qaeda threat is completely consistent, however, with how they've acted on other occasions before or since. They never pay attention to information that doesn't fit their biases, even when it is in their interest to do so.