July 31, 2004


I heard excited rumoring that a graphic novel called Watchmen was going to be made into a movie and that it would be directed by Darren Aronofsky, who directed Requiem For a Dream, and that the screenplay was being written by David Hayter, who wrote both Xmen movies. My interest was piqued. I decided to find out what the hell this book was and everywhere I looked people talked about this thing like it was the second coming. One guy called it the comic book world's War and Peace. I know as well as anyone that geeks aren't afraid of a little hyperbole, but I picked it up anyway.

Here's my review: Read it now. Whether you're a comic fan or have never picked up a comic book in your life. Go find this thing and read it. This is easily the best comic I've ever read, but it's also become the best work of fiction I've read in a while. On top of being just a damn good piece of work, it's eerily poignient even though it's from the mid-eighties. I never thought comics could be like this.

July 30, 2004

The REAL Joe-mentum

I am now officially a Joe Hoeffel for Senate volunteer. In fact, I'm writing this blog at from the campaign. I understand that later today I'll be folding bumper stickers. Not the most exciting work I suppose, but if they have to be folded, they have to be folded.

And Now...The Main Event

Kerry did his speechifying last night, but I missed it. How could I miss it you ask? I was READING of all things! Anyway, I caught it online, and if you missed it you should too. I must say that the Convention was, for me, increadibly effective. Between speakers like Clinton, Obama, Sharpton, Edwards, and now Kerry, I feel like I'm no longer voting against Bush. I'm voting FOR Kerry/Edwards. Yeah, I'm still way further left than they are and I'm bound to disagree with their adminstration on a lot of issues, but that's fine. My gripe with the Democrats in 2000 is that I hardly agreed with ANYTHING Gore ran on. Anyway, I think the party's pretty jazzed right about now. After we get that Republican Convention nonsense out of the way it's on to the debates!

More ilovebees.com

I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but looking at the latest Official Xbox Magazine it looks like the August 24 date which figures so prominently in this viral marketing campaign could be referring to a Halo 2 demo coming out next month. The weekly updates that Bungie has been releasing have been getting increasingly boring, with most of them referring to increasingly minor bug fixes, which says to me that they might be spending their time making a demo. It's all just speculation, but wouldn't it be an awfully big coincidence for one date to crop up twice in the Xbox world?

July 29, 2004

Is This Really Happening?

Go here. Listen to John Edwards speech from last night. Now, I know there's a big difference between what people say during a campaign and what actually happens in an administration, but this guy is talking about really really great things. Who in their right mind wouldn't want John Edwards as the VP?

Did We Expect Anything Less?

Really, is anyone who isn't a big fan going to notice these changes? Probably not, but it's sure going to piss off the fans.

I'll just leave you with this: At the end of Jedi, Vader's ghost will be Hayden Christiansan. My head hurts with the stupid.

July 28, 2004

00-Pierce No More

Pierce Brosnan, who looks absolutely horrible with a mustache by the way, has turned in his keys to the missle-firing Aston Martin. I've heard disturbing rumors that Orlando Bloom might be handed the reigns, but the list at the Yahoo story is much better. Clive Owen gets my vote.

The Kid's Got Moxy!

Here's a link to several speeches from last night at the convention. Might I suggest you all go watch Barack Obama's speech? A guy on the Pandagon comments said this, and I am starting to agree, this is like watching Alex Rodriguiz getting scouted in high school. Other than Kerry/Edwards, this guy's the talk of the party now and it's easy to see why.

Also, here's a link to a transcript of his speech for those of you on slower connections.

2, 2, 2 Blogs In One!

This is mega cool both as a form of advertising and for new video game news. You should all read the story because it's pretty cool, but the very very short version is this: At the end of the theatrical trailer for Halo 2 which started showing a week or so ago, the www.xbox.com underneath the Xbox logo changes for a fraction of a second to www.ilovebees.com. The article breaks the site, and its evolution, down better, but it looks now like www.ilovebees.com is what is called viral marketing.

This is exactly the kind of advertising I want to see in the future. Well, no. I want to see NO advertising in the future, but ads are a fact of the world we live in, so they might as well be entertaining. Like the multi-part ads from the mid-90s (where a story was broken up into a series of ads), this type of advertising makes the ad itself a form of entertainment as well as a means of disseminating information about whatever product it's hawking.

And I love Halo 2 and if it loved me back I would have its babies if man/video game mating technology were more developed. But no, G.W. cut back on funding for that to! Is there no science he likes?!

July 27, 2004

I've Never Seen A Roll Of Quarters That Round!

There's a rumor that some of our readers are more interested in the topic of "Men in Hot Pants" than either "Politics" or "Wackyass Things Ben Finds On The Internet". So there, I'm bowing to public demand. We're THIS close to completely changing the site over to a porn site.  Posted by Hello

Incidentally, here's the link to where this pic came so I don't get any legal trouble from Big Underwear.

Moore v. O'Reilly

The lesson from this appearance is that Mike just isn't very good in a live debate and should, I humbley submit, probably have had me there to prepare him notecards. He let the debate spend WAY too long on whether Bush lied or not and didn't even argue the point very well.

I'll be the first to recommend Moore's films to people, but O'Reilly's just more accustomed to the live format. I did, however, send in an e-mail to the Factor making some of the points I thought should have been made, so if you watch tomorrow you may get to hear old Bill read a letter from Ben Allen.

UPDATE: Here's the e-mail I wrote to The Factor in case it doesn't get on:

I was disappointed with Moore's response on the "Did Bush lie?" question. We
don't need to press whether he lied for the purposes of the election because
Bush made a colossal mistake which has cost us incredible amounts of money, but
more importantly the lives of hundreds of our troops as well as our ability to
credibly threaten countries like North Korea and Iran who we now know actually
possess WMDs. Yes, Bush may have gotten bad info from lots of people about
Iraq, but he is the boss and ultimately is responsible for the decisions he
makes, especially in an election year. Saddam was a horrible dictator, but I'd
feel a lot better if we weren't committed to nation building when Iran and N.
Korea are going nuclear.

If this were a company and you made mistakes of the magnitude Bush did with
Iraq, would your contract get renewed? I think not, even if it was because
you got some bad info.

Ben Allen

UPDATE #2: Let's assume that this isn't going to make it onto national tv. Why don't you readers post in the comments how you think O'Reilly would respond to my letter if it DID make it on.

Affleck At The Convention

Affleck's on the Factor and he's doing WAY better than I thought he would be, and especially good for the Factor. Actually, I'm also extrodinarily impressed with how reasonable Bill's being, though his conclussions are still wrong.

This is, of course, just a preview for the O'Reilly v. Moore rumble that's coming up next.

The Answer Is 42

They're making a movie of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and here's a teaser trailer for it. Hopefully it'll be a tad better than the BBC version. I just hope the Death Star orbiting Saturn doesn't destroy the planet before we can get the question whose answer is 42.

That's No Moon

It looks like the Empire is about to strike back, at us. My only hope is that they never got around to reactivating the tractor beam or fixing that exhaust port. If any of you need me, I'll be out in Begger's Canyon bullseyeing wamp rats in my T-16.

An O'Reilly To See?

According to Tom Tomorrow of This Modern World, Micheal Moore might be on the Factor tonight. I should be studying for my final tomorrow, but I'll probably tune in for that.

No, you're not the only one who doesn't `get' Ann Coulter

Apparently, the editors at USA Today couldn't make heads or tails of Ann Coulter's summary of the Dems' convention. We get to read it with their own comments. There's a direct link here, though it appears to be verbatim on kos.

July 26, 2004

They're Gonna Party Like It's 1999

Well, the convention has started and while I hear a lot about parties that people either can or can't get into I haven't really heard much worth reporting.

July 25, 2004

Episode III: The Jedi Save Oompaloompas Of Loompa Land

Episode III has officially been named "The Revenge of the Sith". I'll go on record right now and say that bringing back the Princess Leia outfit from Jabba's sail barge would go a long way towards making me like Star Wars again. Oh, that and better writing.

He's A Demon On Wheels

It was pretty well decided before the last through the Alps, but Lance Armstrong has officially snagged his record sixth straight Tour de France win. He's all smiles now, but wait 'till he sees what Racer X has in store for Chim Chim.

July 24, 2004

KenJen Gets A Breather

Not much new info here other than to say that Ken Jennings busted out the biggest single day win ever on Jeopardy, but has to wait until September to keep taking money from those game show fat cats.

Also, I didn't know that he had already promised to tithe 10% of his winnings to the Mormon Church.

The Searching Is Over!

Bobby's back y'all. Regulators, mount up. I'd just like to go on record as saying that the articles about this are using way to many chess metaphors.

A Step In The Right Direction

Fellas (and Dan):

I have my $20 copy of ESPN NFL 2k5. Please purchase copies as promptly as possible so the armchair quarterbacking can begin.

That is all.

July 23, 2004

Are Those Sais In Your Pockets Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

I know I posted a link to this a few weeks ago, but that was before I figured out how to post pictures on the front page. So, in an attempt to sexy up the place I thought I'd remind everyone that yes, Jennifer Garner is h-o-t-t hot. And I've said it before and I'll say it again, Daredevil was not a bad movie and Electra will rule! At least, it has to be better than Catwoman. Posted by Hello

Colmes and Hannity

Oh, if only ...

July 22, 2004

Senator Rick Santorum, Hero to Bigots Everywhere

Once again, foxnews: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,124885,00.html

Apparently, another one of President Bush's federal court nominees is an arch-conservative alpha-male (and no, I'm not talking about Mr. "Nothing's wrong with cross-burning" Charles Pickering). 

J. Leon Holmes, recently confirmed 51-46 by the Senate to the federal district court in Arkansas, firmly believes that "the wife is to subordinate herself to the husband ... the woman is to place herself under the authority of the man."

In enlightening commentary, Sen. Rick "I'm not against homosexuality, I'm against homosexual acts" Santorum feels it is another instance of unfair attention on a person who has conservative religious views that are shared by millions of Americans.  You know, like the killing of Jews who aren't Christian, or the lynching of blacks who dared to whistle at a white woman...I should stop, I'm getting naughty.

So if the Supreme Court says one thing...and congress another...

According to this story on foxnews, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,126623,00.html, the House is trying to pass a bill that will strip courts of their ability to recognize and enforce the laws of another state.  Example: A Gay Couple (A) gets married in Massachusetts (B) and moves to Florida (C) where they try to have their marriage recognized by their new state (A+B+C=freaked out Republicans).  With this new law, courts will not have the ability to order the recognition of the union if it was sanctioned elsewhere.  Hmmmm....last time I checked, there was something called "Separation of Powers."  If the Republicans keep trying to act like they want to rewrite the Constitution, maybe they should just cut the bull and just announce that they want to do just that.

The big A

Ehrenreich on abortion, `defective' pregnancies, and how we try to avoid talking about it openly, letting abortion rights slowly erode.

Choice can be easy, as it was in my case, or truly agonizing. But assuming the fetal position is not an appropriate response. Sartre called this "bad faith," meaning something worse than duplicity: a fundamental denial of freedom and the responsibility that it entails. Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights. The freedoms that we exercise but do not acknowledge are easily taken away.

July 21, 2004

The Best Deal Ever

Ok, so Sega Sports is making a big push to dethrone EA Sports' games firstly by making their games better, then by pricing them at $20 a pop. That's right not only are most of their games getting better reviews, they're less than half the price.

But that's not all kids! There's a cross promotion with Coke so that you can get $10 off Sega Sports games. Which sports games will I be buying this year? The ten freaking dollar ones, that's what.

John McCain, Champion of Common Sense

I'll quote the following from Salon.com's War Room:

In regards to Sandy Berger: "Yes, removing classified documents from the National Archives is wrong – illegal even. But the consequences here don't support the conspiracy theories being bandied about – that Berger tried to cover-up flaws in the Clinton administration's handling of terrorism or was stealing documents for the Kerry campaign. Leave it to John McCain to distinguish himself again as a voice of reason: "McCain called Berger 'a fine and honorable man who we should presume innocent until proven guilty.'"

It's times like these I bet McCain just really riles the right-wing establishment. 

Here's the linky because MosBen is whiny:

Ummm, How Is That Exactly?

Duke freshmen get free iPods as learning tools. I'm sure they get a mega discount for buy so many, but still, can anyone think of legitimate educational uses for these other than a couple pre-loaded audio files from the student handbook that no one will listen to?

Post ideas in the comments!

So, Hannity & Colmes

I was flipping channels last night, waiting for the Daily Show to come on when I happened upon Hannity & Colmes going at it with a tall, long haired blonde who just happened to be Ann Coulter.  The topic of discussion was Sandy Berger's stupid mistake regarding the National Archives. 

Colmes, as always, was pretty much absent and/or appeasing (the nice liberal) while Hannity launched into a tirade about how Berger's actions gravely endangered our national security, how it was treasonous, and how it all comes down to Bill Clinton must have been fully responsible for 9/11, global warming, the ten biblical plagues upon Egypt, and the Holocaust. 

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter looked like she wanted to have Hannity's baby then and there.

July 20, 2004

Well What Do YOU Think?

In my ongoing efforts to spur action on our comments sections, I thought I'd start a trend of posting at least a couple posts with no links to news and no in depth opinion in the body of the post. Instead I'll just suggest a topic, some fun and some serious, and hope that you all give you thoughts. So here it goes....

What's your favorite song for a contemplative/low key sort of mood?

Post away guys and gals...

We Need One Of These

We need some more giant leaps for mankind. Everyone laughed at it, but as much as I hate W, I think the mission to Mars would be a good thing for the country and the world. Yeah, the debate about how you get it done is big and complicated, but it's a debate I think we should be having. Especially after the last four years, too much of the world sees America, and the power that it wields, as imperialistic; a nation too powerful for the good of the world. I think we need to show the world, and perhaps ourselves, that there is a lot of good we can do too, especially things that other countries can't do. We need to inspire the world again.

This Should Have As Much Traction As A Crisco Coated Kid On A Slip 'N Slide

So Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security adviser for his second term, might have taken some documents about the millenium from the National Archives. It sounds really bad when you say it, but read this article and it sounds a lot more like a an honest, if stupid, mistake than some clandestine coverup plot. I don't know, maybe that's not the whole story, but I looked for a conservative take on this and couldn't find one. Eh, we'll see if anything comes out of this, but this caught my eye:

Gergen said he thought that "it is suspicious" that word of the investigation of Berger would emerge just as the Sept. 11 commission is about to release its report, since "this investigation started months ago."

It's Propaganda!!!!

Outfoxed, the documentary exposing Fox's bias and mangling of journalistic ethics, was the subject of many a house party recently, though unfortunately I don't know anyone who had one and I hate new people. It's on account of the smell you see. Their smell, not mine. Anyhow, I just got a loan check and you should all join me in buying it soon.

July 19, 2004

He Says He's Compassionate, So He Must Be

Evidently Rod Paige has never seen a badass trailer that ended up being a suck-tastic movie because he bases his entire column on presumption that every press release Bush has ever put out represents the absolute truth. Hey Rod, in the last four years I've cured cancer and AIDS, brought an end to poverty, AND brought peace to the Middle East. Now you can write a column on me and how great I am and denouncing my detractors. I'm so glad you don't need me to provide you with any factual evidence because, um, my copy machine is broken, so you see, I can't. You trust me though, right?

My Hero

Just testing to see if we can post pictures. If this works you can expect lots of hot picks of sexy men in tight pants with rock hard muscles and things. Posted by Hello

Do You Think He's Got A Super Sense Of Humor?

Hot on the news that McG will thankfully not be directing the new Superman movie, it's looking like he'll be replaced with Bryan Singer, of X-men and Usual Suspects fame. Also rumored is that the new movie will be taking off where the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve movies ended. Take all this news, wrap it up in a basket and call it bitchin'.

Now Slightly Less Ultra Expensive!

Some Ipods are dropping a hundred bucks in price. Maybe I can afford one now? Ummm, nope.

That Thing You Just Missed? It's The Point.

So ol' Bill Saffire has another collumn about how those crazy liberals are totally wrong and that President Bush is the bestest leader ever and never ever lied about Iraq and in the process completely misses the fundamental issue in an election year. Sure, he makes a lot of points about how Bush didn't lie and whatnot, but I'm not interested in that debate. If Bush did lie, he could and should be impeached, but that's a harder case to make than the one we should be. An election year is a time to do a job evaluation for the President and decide if his performance warrants a re-hire. Yeah, to a certain extent Presidents are subject to the world they inherit. Say what you like, there's nothing Bush could have done to avoid the inevitable collapse of the internet boom economy and likely couldn't have stopped September 11 from happening. What's important is how a President deals with the world he inherits. It doesn't matter, as far as the election goes, if Bush lied about Iraq. The bottom line is that it's been a complete and utter fiasco. It wasn't a threat and has left us bogged down instead of fighting terrorism.

If Bush worked for any company in the world and got the company in the mess that he's gotten this country in with Iraq he'd be fired without a second thought. Whether or not he lied, he was WRONG and in a big way. Being the President is a tough job and you're bound to make mistakes, but getting the country involved in a war we didn't need to be involved in, especially if it hinders our ability to address conflicts in other areas of the country, is a fire-able offense.

I Could Be Rolling In Newspaper Money!

Why am I living off loans that are accumulating interest AS WE SPEAK, when I could be living the gravy train lifestyle of a New York Times reporter? Seriously, this made it into one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world. Does anyone else think it reads like something that would appear in your high school newspaper?

A Glimmer Of Hope

Marvel Comics seems to be kicking ass and taking names in Hollywood these days. Hopefully this means they can make the Fantastic Four movie good through sheer force of will. Incidentally, having the Commish as Mrs. Grim's blue-eyed baby boy is brilliant casting. Jessica Alba as Sue Storm? Not so much, but she could be sufficient I guess.

No, Not Like The Mel Gibson Movie

I realized that I hadn't mentioned Air America Radio on here yet, so when I ran across this post on Kos about Air America actually beating some conservative punditry I thought the time was right. For those that don't know, Air America is the liberal talk radio network concieved as an alternative to the likes of Rush/Michael Savage/ Sean Hannity and populated by people like Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo. Al's show is pretty good, though it borrows humor from his books so if you've read them you might hear some repeated jokes. The only show that I'm not terribly fond of is Randi Rhodes' show because it's a little too much like a liberal version of Rush, that is, mostly ideology and not terribly good arguments. Anyway, it's only available in a select few markets now, but you can and should tune in over the internet and give it a listen, especially if you've ever had the radio on Hannity's show and ended up rolling your eyes and maybe even yelling at your radio.

Nobody Likes Lawyers...Blame Them!

Hot on the heels of my stern reprisal of Pandagon, they managed to have a great post on why all this tort reform crap the Republicans keep bringing up is rediculous. As they say in the post, the idea that limiting rewards in medical malpractice cases is best for everyone ignores both the fact that nobody ever makes a very good case for the link between lawyers and the rising rates as well as the possibility that there are other causes which might be remedied in a better way. If this explanation seem inadequate, well it is because the work was already done for me. Go read the link.

Spoil Sport!

The one thing that has been annoying me about Pandagon lately is their incessant whining about Nader. I know plenty of people disagree with me, but I'll say again that the best way for the Dems to deal with Nader is to ignore him. Sure, you encourage Kerry make a few stump speeches here and there about how this is the year for people of all political leanings to unite in order to get Bush out of the White House, but bringing out all the whining every time some piece of Nader news happens sounds extremely petty and meaningless to me.

When all else fails

resort to misogyny and emasculation.

Try reading the quotations in the fourth paragraph out loud with an Ahnold accent.

um. hello.

Hi there.

The lovely MosBen invited yet another friend of his to contribute to this journal. That friend is me.

I thought I would take a moment to introduce myself to the 5 or 6 people who read this thing, even though there's a relatively good chance that everyone who sees this message already knows me. If that is the case, please disregard the introduction and replace it with a nice, numbing punch to the solar plexus.

Anyway, I'll pop in here from time to time to talk to you lovely boys and girls about things other than politics, which appears to be the central theme in this blog. Common topics from me range from music I've heard, things I've seen or just shit that flat out pisses me off. There are more, but I'm going to run with those for now.

That's all for now.

P.S. Please listen to the following:
DJ Shadow - In Tune & On Time
Prefuse 73 - One Word Extinguisher
Boom Bip - Corymb

July 18, 2004

I KNOW you're all This Modern World fans

so you'll all be happy to know about Tom's bonus cartoon.

Dumbledore is a capitalist pig

A French literary theorist takes a look at ideological themes running through Harry Potter.

Harry Potter, probably unintentionally, thus appears as a summary of the social and educational aims of neoliberal capitalism. Like Orwellian totalitarianism, this capitalism tries to fashion not only the real world, but also the imagination of consumer-citizens. The underlying message to young fans is this: You can imagine as many fictional worlds, parallel universes or educational systems as you want, they will still all be regulated by the laws of the market. Given the success of the Harry Potter series, several generations of young people will be indelibly marked by this lesson.

Ahh, I love the French.

On the Nader question

The BE talks about voting for Nader then (why she did), and voting for Nader now (why she won't).

July 17, 2004

The fantastical world of David Brooks

David Brooks spends some time this morning complaining about how often Kerry and Edwards use the word `values'.

When Kerry uses the word "values," it's meant to send a message: I am not who I am. I am not the blue-blooded prep-school kid who married two millionaires, dated a movie star and has a prenup and umpteen homes in tony locales; who has spent the past two decades as a moderately liberal senator from Massachusetts; and who likes to snowboard at Sun Valley and windsurf off Nantucket. I'm just your back-fence neighbor in Mayberry, out there in overalls, sidlin' over to the fence to chat: "Howdy neighbor! Would you like to come visit for a spell and hear about my values of faith, hope and opportunity?

Yes, that's right: because Kerry is rich and liberal, things like faith, hope, and opportunity (let's just pretend those are actually values) can't be important to him. But wait, it gets better. In his last three paragraphs, Brooks -- a prominent and fairly wealthy pundit -- manages to forget his net worth and complains in general terms about `these upper-class types [who] want our values'.

So, to sum up: Rich people, especially rich liberal people, have different values from such exemplars of the working class as David Brooks. They shouldn't pretend to care about faith, hope, and opportunity, because they don't have tattoos and aren't on the Atkins diet.

Update: Eschaton and Pro-war.com have more on Cons' understanding (or lack thereof) of the term `values'. Fixed Blogger's odd formating decisions.

July 16, 2004

Winning, losing, and propaganda

Thomas Frank on why the Hate Amendment is still dangerous after -- indeed, because of -- its inevitable crash and burn.

What explains this folly?
Not simple bigotry, as some pundits declared, or even simple politics. While it is true that the amendment was a classic election-year ploy, it owes its power as much to a peculiar narrative of class hostility as it does to homophobia or ideology. And in this narrative, success comes by losing.

NLRB: Indentured servitude legal

There are two basic types of grad students: those who are aiming for a Ph.D, and everyone else, including `terminal master's' students (people who are only going for a master's degree), and `professional degree' students (future doctors, lawyers, and subscribers to the WSJ). I can't speak for the everyone else, but the life of a future Ph.D revolves almost exclusively around school -- just keeping up with your classes is a full-time job. Consequently, we have to support ourselves in one of two basic ways: being paid to teach, and being paid to do research.

Doing research is, of course, the preferred way to go, because you have to do it anyway, might as well get paid for it. Thus research money is more prestigious, and usually only given to students who've been around a few years. The rest of us could, in theory, get a regular job -- I'm only spending eight of my sixteen waking hours a day doing homework and writing, a full-time job fits in there no problem! But since I'm selfish and enjoy my (relative) sanity, I have to teach for my department.

Teaching (by which I mean either lecturing for a course or assisting the lecturer) is actually a decent gig. For a glamorous $16k a year (before taxes) and the option to buy lousy health insurance, I work six hours a week during the summer, ten hours a week during the school year, and get 2 1/2 months of vacation. The problem is that, if I am not represented by a union, my pay and benefits are basically whatever the university decides to give me. For a single twenty-four-year-old who doesn't own a car and is still on his dad's health insurance, this isn't really a problem. My pay+benefits package is designed for someone at my point in life. It's somewhat different for, say, a twenty-seven-year-old man supporting his wife and newborn child. Or, to pick another example from people I actually know, a woman in her mid-forties with a teenage daughter.

So what did the National Labor Relations Board decide today? Well, if you happen to a grad student at a private university, you just have to live with your poverty, because the school has no obligation to recognize your union whatsoever. Their reasoning is that your relationship with the school is 100% student/institute of higher learning, and not in the NLRB's purview. The fact that you are paid (a pittance) for performing a (critical) service for said institution that has nothing at all to do with your education doesn't make you an employee. You're just a student with the privilege of being financial dependent on your school.

July 15, 2004

I Demand My Satisfaction!

Either no one took this
quiz the first time, or y'all are lazy and can't be bothered to post in
the comments section. Here's how it works, I post quizes, you take
them, and then post your scores in the comments section. Don't make me
tell you again chumps!

Does Your Blood Run Red Or Blue?

I'm a sucker for internet polls, so when Andrew Sullivan posted about this
one, I had to take it. This thing is riddled with problems,
mostly that the "reds" are portrayed as straight up stupid and the
"blues" are close minded ideologues that have no knowledge of anything
outside their elitist little world. I scored right in the middle
because I know things like that Rush is on the radio three hours a day
during the weekday and who Dr. Laura is. Still take the damn quiz
and let's compare.

You Know A Boombox Had To Get Down

I don't go there much anymore, but I was checking Ben's World of Transformers and ran across this gem. Check it out now.

July 14, 2004

If you need a laugh ...

... check out this profound and well-reasoned argument against gay marriage. I can't decide whether I like the claim that gay marriages are anti-diverse (because it's two of the SAME THING, and anyone who points out a wider definition of diversity is "emotionally-charged", "illogical", and "changing the rules of the argument") or the bit where they accuse gay couples of "using the opposite-sex as a second-class concubine, womb/sperm donor or nanny in a subservient role at their bidding" more.

Or, if you and your loved one need some amusement this fine evening, see how many logical fallacies and factual errors you can find in this eloquent and persuasive essay.

And on behalf of traitorous American francophiles everywhere, Happy Bastille Day!

Hate Amendment

Just to clarify, the vote on the Hate Amendment was a vote to end the filibuster the Dems and Moderate Repubs are staging. The 50-Nay, 48-Yea means the filibuster will continue.

Hell Is No Fun

In other game news, Doom 3 has gone gold and will hit store shelves in early August. I'm sure it will be a terribly pretty game that's craptacular in most other respects. Wheee!

The Video Game Cold War

Microsoft and Sony; two superpowers in the entertainment market going at each other throats and they've both got console systems in the works. First rumors said that MS was thinking about a Fall 2005 launch for the Xbox 2, and now Sony's saying that the Playstation 3 will be playable before next year's E3. Of course, this could force Microsoft to release details about the Xbox 2 and its games before they wanted to and that would probably cut into the big Christmas push that every video game company has to do.

Now, having to buy an Xbox 2 in a year and a half, and believe me I'll HAVE to, doesn't really bother me. Four years of Xbox games is pretty reasonable I think and it's certainly cheaper than upgrading a PC all the time. In fact, I think a four year cycle is better than a five year cycle and for why I think that just look at most PS2 games and compare them to current top tier PC games and then imagine how they'll compare in a year and a half when the PS2 should be around 5 years old. Four years seems long enough to me for developers to really take advantage of the hardware, especially if backwards compatibility becomes the standard that it seems to be, while updating the hardware just a little more frequently.

Access denied

Apparently anti-abortion pharmacists and doctors have been refusing to prescribe or distribute the Pill and other such contraceptives, construing them as potentially a form of abortion when a `breakthrough fertilization' fails to be implanted (though, as I understand it, the Pill does not make it more or less likely that a fertilized egg will implant successfully).
"Refusing women access to the Pill is a very disturbing trend," says Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "The war on choice is not just about abortion anymore. It's about our right to birth control."

One of the many inadequacies of the Roe decision was that it legalized abortion to give medical professionals, eg, doctors and pharmacists, more freedom to determine treaments, prescriptions, and so on, instead of legalizing abortion to give women autonomy over their own bodies. Under the former perspective, these anti-abortion doctors and pharmacists may withhold the Pill from women at their discretion; under the latter, feminist, perspective, pharmacists have no right to act as a gatekeeper to a woman's access to the Pill or other forms of contraception.
"I have a hard time with people who market themselves as women's health care physicians but who won't prescribe such a basic part of women's health care," says Anne Drapkin Lyerly, MD, a reproductive rights ethicist and an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center. "We're seeing a growing trend among pharmacists and medical practitioners who consider it acceptable to impose their morality on women's bodies. I don't think moral aspects should be a concern. Imagine a pharmacist asking a customer whether his Viagra prescription is to enhance sexual performance in his marriage or in an extramarital affair. Never!"

Incidentally, a doctor who no longer prescribes the Pill is quoted as saying "I think most women feel life begins at fertilization". While I can't speak for this today, it is certain not true historically; traditionally the beginning of life was associated with quickening (when the woman can feel the foetus kick, not when the Immortals start cutting each others' heads off).

July 13, 2004

When the people in the small towns look around at what Wal-Mart and ConAgra have wrought and decide to enlist in the crusade against Charles Darwin

Thomas Franks' new book, What's the matter with Kansas?, is an intriguing but ultimately only partly successful attempt to tackle the prima facie paradox of the contemporary political dominance of hard-core social and economic conservatism. More specifically, there seem to be three basic political stances in the US these days: Liberal on social and economic issues -- in favour, say, of legalizing gay marriage and a War on Poverty-style welfare system -- Conservative on social and economic issues -- opposed to legalizing gay marriage and in favour of welfare `reform' -- and a Moderate position -- which may not be committed one way or the other on gay marriage, but certainly wants to do whatever the Chamber of Commerce has in mind. Any given individual might straddle more than one of these positions, of course; I'm thinking of these three more as archetypes of political opinions than a strict system of classification. The leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties is mostly Moderate (think Bob Dole and Bill Clinton), but the Conservative wing of the Republican party enjoys much more media and political prominence than the Liberal wing of the Republican party.

This prominence must come from some level of support at the polls. But here is the paradox: the sections of society which benefit from the actions of Conservatives in government are too small to be the bulk of this popular support. There is a significant chunk of the working class population which votes Conservative, even as Conservatives in government have acted almost exclusively in ways that harm the working class. Frank provides highlights of the 1998 platform of the Kansas Republican party:

* A flat tax or national sales tax to replace the graduated income tax (in which the rich pay more than the poor).

* The abolition of taxes on capital gains (that is, on money you make when you sell stock).

* The abolition of the estate tax.

* No ``governmental intervention in health care.''

* The eventual privatization of Social Security.

* Privatization in general.

* Deregulation in general and ``the operation of the free market system without government interference.''

* The turning over of all federal lands to the states.

* A prohibition on ``the use of taxpayer dollars to fund any election campaign.''

Along the way the document specifically endorsed the disastrous Freedom to Farm Act [which largely eliminated federal support for family farmers in favour of agribusiness], condemned agricultural price supports, and came out in favour of making soil conservation programs ``voluntary,'' perhaps out of nostalgia for the Dust Bowl days (76)

By contrast, prior to the mid-twentieth century (indeed, prior to the '60s), Liberalism, at least economic liberalism, enjoyed the support of almost all the American working class. Recall that abolitionism, FDR, and William Jennings Bryan (a radical leftist fundamentalist politician early in the twentieth century) enjoyed overwhelming popular support, and the original Populist party was associated with calls for government support of farmers and other Liberal economic policies (32). Frank undertakes to unravel this paradox by examining how his home state of Kansas shifted from radically liberal to radically conservative. His approach, unfortunately, is anecdotal, not sociological, and I feel this is the critical weakness of his book. However, his thesis is robust and intriguing, if not robustly supported.

Frank spends the first half of his book illustrating this gradual shift. The second half lays out the sketch of his argument, and then fleshes things out with further anecdotes of his encounters with prominent Kansas Conservatives.

His resolution begins by noticing a striking parallel between the populist Liberal rhetoric prior to the '60s, and the populist Conservative rhetoric since then: except for one crucial detail, they sound remarkably similar.

Even the rhetoric of the backlash, with all its regular-guy flourishes, sometimes appears to have been lifted whole cloth from the proletarian thirties. The idea that average people are helpless pawns caught in a machine run by the elite comes straight from the vulgar-Marxist copybook, which taught generations of party members that they inhabited a deterministic world where agency was reserved for capitalists. (130)

Conservative rhetoric, like Liberal rhetoric, engages and activates its audience, appealing to the latent outrage at the injustice of the present system. But where the malevolent Other of Liberalism was the plutocrat, in Conservative rhetoric it is the elitist, technocratic, sophisticated yet simultaneously shallow, latte-swilling liberal who is using activist courts, political correctness, and rap music to threaten The American Way Of Life.

Of course, this is completely ridiculous, and only the most naive would buy into it without two critical features of the rest of our media landscape. Liberals ARE, in fact, elitist, shallow, self-righteous assholes; and economics is incidental to the way the world works. That is to say, the sort of liberals who are most prominent in the mainstream media -- Hollywood celebrities -- are condescending when they express a political opinion, and generally not a group of people to be admired. The typical This Modern World fan or reader of The Nation is not someone the average Conservative voter is liable to be familiar with. Similarly, the media have presented economic issues for decades as of interest only to businesswomen and -men -- welfare `reform' is something the stock market will like and saves money, a universal health care plan will hurt the insurance industry and cost money, not something workers need to carry about, because what really matters to real Americans is abortion, homosexuality, affirmative action, and `values'.

Hence, Conservatism enjoys such extraordinary popular support not only because it portrays itself as a radical rejection of the dominant power structure, but derives its credibility from the injustices of the dominant power structure and actually supports the dominant power structure in turn by lending popular support to economic policies that exploit the working class. If you're thinking I'm being excessively Marxist, here's Frank:

Conservatism provides its followers with a parallel universe, furnished with all the same attractive pseudospiritual goods as the mainstream: authenticity, rebellion, the nobility of victimhood, even individuality. But the most important similarity between backlash and mainstream commercial culture is that both refuse to think about capitalism critically. Indeed, conservative populism's total erasure of the economic could only happen in a culture like ours where material politics have already been muted and where the economic has largely been replaced by those aforementioned pseudospiritual fulfillments. This is the basic lie of the backlash, the manipulative strategy that makes the whole senseless parade possible. In all of its rejecting and nay-saying, it resolutely refuses to consider that the assaults on its values, the insults, and the Hollywood sneers are all products of capitalism as surely as are McDonald's hamburgers and Boeing 737s. 242

Over the past few days, I've found Frank's analysis to be a powerful tool in deconstructing such things as the progress (or lack thereof) of the Hate Amendment. But theoria is not enough; we need praxis. And what really needs to be done is to get his ideas dispersed as widely as possible, to start challenging Conservative rhetoric. This last should be done, however, not by pedantically dissecting the logical fallacies and factual mistakes of Conservatives, but simply challenging the populist credentials of their ideas. Is globalization in its current form really going to bring real income back up to its 1973 high? Should our priorities on health care be with guaranteeing the bottom line of insurance companies, or with making people as healthy as possible? Is testing teachers and students really going to make schools `accountable', and is `accountability' more of the problem with education than lack of proper allocated funding and the crappy pay teachers make? While possibly personally offensive, is legal recognition of gay marriage really a threat to our society as a whole?

These are the sorts of questions I believe we should be asking our Conservative friends and family, and Liberals in the media and government should be asking Conservatives in the same places. While not outstanding as a piece of social science, Thomas Franks' book is an excellent polemic and means to organize a promising challenge to Conservatism. I highly recommend it.

ETS erroneously fails 4,000 potential teachers

ETS administers the battery of standardized tests which states are required to use as part of the teacher certification process, as a part of NCLB. But the tests were misgraded.

The errors occurred from January 2003 to April 2004. During that time, the test - the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching for Grades 7 to 12, called the Praxis P.L.T. 7-12 - was given eight times, to a total of about 40,000 people.

That means ten percent of these potential teachers were erroneously failed.

But what's far more important, and naturally completely unquestioned by this article, is how one's general ability to teach can be measured by filling in scantron forms and writing short responses on a standardized test. I have no problem with testing to make sure potential teachers are competent in the subject matter which they want to be teaching -- history teachers should know dates and names, physics teachers should know the right formulae, gym teachers should know how to blow a whistle and order pushups. But the ability to manage a classroom and convey knowledge effectively is more akin to being able to perform on stage, and composed of so many distinct factors that it strikes me as absurd or naive or both to think it can be expressed as a single number, which is then compared to an arbitrary cutoff to determine whether the individual is to be allowed to teach or not. The only way to determine whether an individual is a qualified teacher is to put them in a classroom and watch them.

I know, sounds impossible, but they're worse than you think

Salon has a story up on Outfoxed, a documentary exploring the propagandistic methods of Fox News. You might think this is redundant, but the reviewer suggests the truth about the network that Outfoxed documents is as bad as, if not worse than, any of the jokes we might crack about it. There isn't even a semblance of news or something worthy of the name journalism here.

Rather than politics, Fox News offers only lockstep ideology. It does not present arguments; it blends fearmongering and happy talk, rinses in red, white and blue, and pours the mixture down our throats. Instead of challenging its audience, it simultaneously terrifies and comforts them, painting a hostile world constantly in need of good, old-fashioned Republican-style American might. It shows us a busy screen of sound and fury, but devoid of all thought.

Interestingly, Outfoxed is not being distributed, partially as a way to cut down on inevitable lawsuits. You can order a copy direct off the website, or check with MoveOn to find a screening party near you starting Tuesday.

Update: The Chron also has a story on the film.

July 12, 2004

Our Nerd Gang Is Suddenly Well Funded

Seriously, with this much money, if you front to us you better be ready for some high tech hardware to be pulled on your ass. We'll also be buying only the best whores from here on out.

I Might Have Missed The Best Moment In Television History

If I had seen this live, I very well might have thought that I had spontaneously become high.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Maybe this is an old guy thing, but I've never really evaluated the varying qualities of a hardon in order to rate my satisfaction and I'm terrified by the thought that I might one day. Do we really live in a world where we take hard penis's for a test drive? "I like the way it grabs the road, but I'm just not sure if it has enough get up and go."

I Bring The Level Of Discourse Down A Tad

Another post on tonight's Hannity & Colmes. There's so much I could talk about with this, but William F. Buckley was on the show a little later and though Hannity was complementary, Colmes looked like he was fighting to keep his head out of Buckley's lap. I know, I know, expecting quality balance out of this show is like expecting an episode of Oz to not include either a shiving or painful looking lube-less anal sex, but man, Colmes is such a flacid, which I'm making a noun from now on. Partly because it's a good idea and partly because whiskey has made it sound like a great idea. Part of the reason I'm so frustrated with this is that I read a shitty article today by famed sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card about how there's rampant liberal bias in the media except at the fair and balanced Fox News. I hate bullshit, but I love whiskey.

Alan Keyes: I Know What's Best For Blacks More Than They Know Themselves!

Keyes was on Hannity & Colmes tonight. Foregoing the question of why he was the only person they talked to about Bush and the NAACP fiasco, Colmes actually managed to pick up a good point and then dropped it faster than you could say "token 'liberal'". After Keyes went off about how Republicans represent the real moral values of black people Colmes managed to squeak, "Well then how come they all vote Democrat?" Keyes stuttered out something that was barely understandable sentences, but he didn't have to worry because Colmes didn't follow up and Hannity jumped in to congratulate Keyes on trying to run a marathon, but the point is well taken and could be taken a bit further. It's true that blacks overwhelmingly do not support gay marriage among some other liberal issues, but what Colmes should have asked is "Doesn't this just show that people don't vote moral issues but rather vote mostly on economic issues followed by more universally important issues like how a president runs a war?" Furthermore, though Keyes essentially claims that the programs created during the Civil Rights Movement have hurt blacks beyond measure, Colmes doesn't question whether Keyes might have, in any way, benefitted from these programs, or if perhaps the programs simply haven't been implemented properly. Instead, in true Colmes fashion, he just let it drop.

On a side note though, they had the mayor of Oakland on afterwards talking about the fundraiser Kerry was at the other night which contained lots of lewd language and bad talk about Bush. Fans of the West Wing should find this oddly familiar. Anyhow, the mayor was great. Basically he said (paraphrasing), "Yeah, lots of things were said and they maybe weren't in the best of taste, but there are so many valid issues in this election that I can't imagine why people care. I know it's tantalizing for cable news networks when something like this or the Cheney swearing thing happens, but if we could just focus on the issues even just a little more this time, I think we'd have plenty to talk about and the discourse would be much better for it."

Daredevil Fights With Her While Wearing Tights? Embarrassing Moments!

Seriously, this outfit must help distract her enemies but it has to make her teammates frustrated. I also now see why some of her greatest enemies are the Hand Ninjas and I'm considering signing up. Through Evil Avatar, it seems that all potential sequels for either Daredevil or Electra franchises will depend on how the upcoming Electra feature does. Also, apparantly Ben Affleck won't likely return as Daredevil.

I don't know why so many people didn't like the first DD movie. I thought it was pretty good. The mood was certainly gritty, right were it needed to be, and the action was good. People complain about Affleck, but I thought he was tolerable enough and certainly didn't ruin anything. It's not as good as Spiderman or the X-men, but since when is being less than superb something to complain about.

See Dan, There MUST Be A God!

McG won't be corn holing my childhood after all. All I can say is that the glory hole of geekdom is breathing a collective sigh of relief. You'll also notice that I'm forcing you to click on the phrase "corn holing". I have power over the links, ha HA!

The Post Apocalyptic Future That's Fun For The Whole Family!

Finally, oh finally, Fallout 3 is getting made and it's being made by one of my favorite RPG makers to boot. Now THIS is too cool for school if anything is.

July 11, 2004

The Tied Hands Of President Bush

It's looking like Bush's conservative base is forcing him to get more involved in the gay marriage debate. If I were Bush I'd tell them to screw themselves, but that's just me. It's not like they're going to vote for Kerry, and given how tight this election is liable to be I'm sure he can scare them enough to keep them from just staying home over this. That being said it looks like he's going to push this harder, which could really hurt him with the ever-valuable undecided moderates. We'll see how it pans out. Like the article says, it's not looking like the bill will pass the senate anyway, so there's the distinct possibility that Bush could make himself look like an ass to moderates by coming out swinging for this and not even get anything out of it.

Boring Isn't Better

Here's an article that makes the bold claim that most movies today are bland and undaring. One thing the article really doesn't talk about is that both Passion and Fahrenheit were non-Hollywood movies and that there are plenty of bold movies being made outside the US as well as by indy film makers in the US. I'd love to see Hollywood get a little more bold in their choice of films, but when they sink $100 million in a film they're not going to take many chances, they'll leave that to the indy films.

Daredevil or Batman, This Guy Is Not

It seems the Afghan police don't know what a real American soldier looks like, since this guy was able to operate there as a soldier with no real ties to any government for over two years. Maybe we should have put more toops on the ground in Afghanistan. You know, just a thought.

As the article mentions, people in this area are naturally suspicious of Americans in general and this is going to play perfectly into their fears. Commentators like to point out how silling their suspicions are all the time and how we're the good guys, but stuff like this and Abu Gharaib are what they see of "the good guys".

The Glove Is Thrown Down

Hot on the heels of Kerry's VP pick is a quiz to see how much you know about our past VPs. I got 8 out of 10. As GW would say, "Bring it on." Chumps.

Post your scores in the comments section.

All you need is love (and not those luxuries like food and shelter)

Have I mentioned how much I'm enjoying Barbara Ehrenreich's tenure on the NYT Op-Ed page while Tom Friedman writes his latest hymn to globalization?

If marriage were a cure for poverty, I'd be the first to demand that H.H.S. spring for the Champagne and bridesmaids' dresses. But as Horn acknowledged to me, there is no evidence to that effect. Married couples are on average more prosperous than single mothers, but that doesn't mean marriage will lift the existing single mothers out of poverty. So what's the point of the administration's marriage meddling? Jacobs thinks that the administration's mixed signals on marriage — O.K. for paupers, a no-no for gays — are part of the conservative effort to "change the subject to marriage." From, for example, Iraq.

July 10, 2004

All about god: the prequel

My copy of The Impossibility of God arrived today. Expect a review whenever I get around to reading it (currently I'm working on Thomas Franks' book and a phil of math thing I won't bore the rest of you with).

Until then, here's a nice little column that should communicate my basic thoughts on the deity thing. And yesterday Fresh Air had two segments on the historical development of the New Testament; more specifically, why John is in there, and Thomas isn't.

Look That Way For Just Two Seconds!

I think it was Howard Dean that said something to the effect that we're not looking for conspiracies but they just seem to present themselves around this administration.

See, Ticketmaster Doesn't Have A COMPLETE Monopoly

This is right out an episode from Oz, well, if Oz had been on the Disney Channel.

Battle For The Left

The Dems sent their big lefty enforcer out to tangle with Nader and it looks like he swung pretty hard but didn't connect with anything.

Lots of people make a huge deal about Nader from both sides of the aisle this year. Personally, it just doesn't keep me up at night; I leave that to the cold I've been nursing for a week now. Listen, it's a pretty solid bet that at the actual voting booth Nader's not going to do better than a percent. Yes, this is going to be a close election. Yes, having a third party candidate on the left is never a good thing for a Democratic candidate and especially if the election is going to be decided in a small number of battleground states. I don't know, I guess I'm still holding out hope that Nader's going to drop out of the race in October. Maybe I'm not being realistic enough, but I'd rather have Kerry/Edwards and the rest of the Democrat machine focussed on stealing percentages from Bush by showing the country just what a crappy president he's been than fighting for that one percent Nader's clutching at. I know the country's pretty polarized right now, but there have to be more voters that Kerry can steal from Bush than he can from Nader.

A Step In The Right Direction, And In My Own Backyard!

It's not a happy ending, but it's a good beginning.

July 09, 2004

If In Need Of Convincing

Here are some fun videos of City Of Heroes. You all should run out and get this game and be heroic with me online. Actually, you already should have done this, but I'll forgive you if you do it now. Look for Liberal Wing or Miss L. Defense in Paragon City!

July 08, 2004

Sweet Jesus....THE HORROR!!!!

Hot on the heels of the Python post, there are rumors circulating that...wait for it...there might be a Spiderman musical in the works with music from Bono and The Edge, of U2 fame.


The Most?

I was watching Crossfire the other day and someone, maybe it was Tucker Carlson, brought out the by now often squawked point that Kerry and Edwards are the 1st and 4th most liberal senators currently. Nobody ever cites any source for this, so here's where you get to help me out. Where are they getting this and is it true? Does it really matter given the centrist trend in American politics lately?

From Fox News Of All Places

All the flack about Edwards being Kerry's second choice seem pretty well blown right the hell up from this interview with one John McCain. I've said it before and I'll say it now: I disagree with Senator McCain on virtually everything politically, but god damn if he isn't one of the most decent people in government today that I know of. I'd be happy to hear any evidence to the contrary that people might have, but right now I'm giving the mad ups to Big John MC.

As If Visiting A Rotting Corpse Wasn't Creepy Enough

Seriously, I'm so getting cremated.

If Only They Could Get Steve Guttenberg Back!

There may be a Police Academy 8 in all our futures! Cue robot voice and hydraulic sounds as I jump around the room.

On Second Thought, That Is A Silly Place

In other nerd news, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is being made into a Broadway musical potentially starring Hank Azaria, Tim Curry, and David Hyde Pierce. Word is they're calling it Spamalot and I'm telling you it will be awesome like crazy.

Teh 733T King Of Teh N3rds

I would just like to take a moment to recognize Ken Jennings, Lord of the Trivia. He and his oodles of both factoids and cold hard cash are an inspiration to us all. With all that money he could buy sex for every nerd in the country. Hail Lord Jennings!

Orrin Hatch: Defender Of Liberty!

The senator from Utah has an editorial up on The National Review about the threat of gay marriage and it's pretty much what you'd expect. He talks about activist judges while ignoring the fact that overturning laws, sometimes even popular laws, is and always has been within the purview of judges given their primary task of upholding the requirements of state and federal Constitutions. He talks about how people in several states (New York, California, Oregon, etc.) have passed somewhat popular laws "defending" marriage, without mentioning, again, that people pass popular, but unconstitutional, laws all the time that have to be overturned by "activist" judges because, well, that's their job. He lays out the "five fronts" of the war against traditional marriage:
1) State Constitutional challenges to state laws passed by voters.
2) Federal Constitutional challenges
3) challenges against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by Congress in '96
4) challenges to state laws under the full faith and credit clause attempting to enforce marriages in one state in another, and
5) If all else fails, sue, sue, sue

First, 1) Again, many state Constitutions, like those already mentioned, have built into them even broader civil rights for the residents of that state than allotted to them by the US Constitution. As much as Hatch might hate it, Constitutions trump laws every day of the week and any law that contradicts a part of a Constitution MUST be struck down. It's just the way law works. Most states have gotten around this by passing Constitutional Amendments, but that might not work as we'll soon see.

2) This is mostly going to fall under the 14th Amendment, specifically the part where it says that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws", which was then applied to the Federal Government through the 5th Amendment. Let's break that down. "Laws" must include laws and regulations on marriage and that's pretty obvious. "Person" applies to gays as well as heteros. "Equal protection" is where it gets a little tricky, but Constitutional law has said that if you can identify a group that is being legislated against in order to shut them out, that's not equal protection. Rick Santorum can talk all he wants about beastiality, but just look at this article: these laws are targeted with specific intent to shut gays out of the institution of marriage. Swap blacks for gays and see if this isn't a violation of the 14th Amendment. In fact, it was like that right up until "activist judges" struck down popular laws against miscegenation.

3) Again, DOMA, being a law, must be Constitutional in order to be valid. I think it's pretty obvious that it's not, but it also represents Congressional overreach, that is, Congress got its hands into making laws which have always been a state matter.

4) Though passing a law like DOMA is definitely overreaching, it's pretty clear now that it's not just a state matter anymore because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Long story short, states have to give recognize the laws of other states so, for instance, a married couple from Texas can move to Florida and Florida must recognize their marriage because it was made under valid Texas law. This really becomes a federal issue as you can see because if one state has a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage and another allows gay marriage we're going to run into trouble, sort of like when we had some states that said slavery was illegal and others that said it was a-okay.

5) Not much to say on that one.

The bottom line is that Hatch is right: gay marriage under the current legal system is inevitable. We have amendments in the federal and most if not all state Constitutions requiring that we not make legal clubs which we can deny people from. Heteros get over 1000 federal rights the moment they get married including rights about visitation in a medical emergency, what happens to children after death, inheritance, etc., and we're systematically saying to gays that they cannot have these rights. It's illegal. The only way to make it not illegal is to change the US Constitution, but the same could be said for segregating schools, establishing an official religion, or allowing defendants to be convicted without a trial.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others?

Another Noonan Nooner

Much like Salacious Crumb to her Jabba, Peggy Noonan points and laughs at Kerry and his Jedi mind tricks which don't work if you're targeting a giant mindless slug. Much like her appraisal of Kerry's Edwards announcement, Noonan doesn't say anything worth going into much until the end of her piece, spending the first talking about how the Kerrys/Edwards' look like the Kennedys, how John Kerry doesn't wave like he should, and how she's not impressed with Teresa Heinz Kerry, which I'm sure keeps up Mrs. Kerry at night. The the Pegster goes to her usual bat shit insane routine.

Does anyone care if John Kerry points to people in the crowd? Noonan does, take a gander:

By the way, Republicans tend not to point at the crowd in this way. They wave. I think it's because their mothers taught them pointing is rude. Someday, in 2008 or 2012, there will, however, be a Republican pointer. And we will know history has truly changed. Because that man's mother will not have taught him that pointing is rude, for she was working 18 hours a day in a law firm, and forgot.

Then, when Kerry mentions that George Bush lied in the lead up to Iraq War 2.0 the Noonster does what any good Republican lap dog does and says he's in Michael Moore territory, which might not be such a bad thing now since no one has, to my knowledge, debunked Fahrenheit 9/11 in any substantial way.

But the best/insaniest part of this column is when she tries to argue that because Kerry didn't spend years in 'Nam that it's not an issue at all despite the fact that no one on the other side went at all and yet are claiming to be "War President" and such. I really hope someone scratches Peggy's belly just like she likes this week 'cause she earned it.

It's Not A Conspiracy Theory If It's True

So evidently the Bush Administration has been sort of lax about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, that is, until now. Not only are they now putting heavy pressure on the Pakistanis to find him before the November elections, they would prefer if he could be found on the day of the Democratic Convention. I knew this was arguably the most political administration ever, but this really just makes me sick. After farting out an attempt in Afghanistan and then completely side tracking ourselves in Iraq, we're only now, when it's politically necessary for survival are we going after the guy that masterminded the murder of over 3,000 Americans.

Come on liberal media, this is front page material. Where are you?

Polar Opposites

I'm finding this whole "optimism" upsmanship awfully patronizing. Like I can't piece together the fact that an incumbent is always going to put a positive spin on the last four years and a challenger will always highlight all the mistakes the incumbent has made. Sure, I know Americans love the warm fuzzies, but this has struck me as the most asinine way for both sides to argue without saying anything substantive.

Hey Heeey Heeeeeey!

So nice old Bill Cosby likes to beat up on poor black kids. Erenreich's column is great and covers all the ground I would cover here: a sarcastic and funny counter example, and a serious, logical, and statistical rebuttal. How can Cosby expect poor inner-city black kids to act like rich suburban white kids? That's supposed to be "their end of the bargain" as he calls it? And as far as the swearing goes, I wonder if that's up across the board in America's youth.

And Out Of Left Field

I'm sure this comes as no suprise if you've been following the Enron debacle, but to most Americans a damning tale by former Enron bad-boy Ken "Kenny boy" Lay about White House corruption would bring all the hatred over all the money that was lost right back to the fore as well as giving them one person to hate, and a person they can vote against no less.

"Things We Knew Already" For $400 Alex

No matter how much Bush would like to believe it and no matter how many times he lays out carefully worded statements, Iraq had tenuous ties at best with al Qaida. Bush lied and we all know it.

Like A Fat Phoenix From The Ashes

Hooray! Family Guy is back with new episodes after a successful syndication on Cartoon Network and the release of the DVDs. Good news for people that like the funny.

July 07, 2004

Who Knew?!

So it turns out there's a genocide on in Sudan. Nice we're hearing about this huh? Via Pandagon and the NYT.

Fun With Toys!

Thanks to Evil Avatar. Here's a fun little Spider Man 2 trailer redone with Legos for you.

Thomas Frank Strikes Again

Kristof also takes a look at Edwards through the Frank prism. I think I'll be picking up this book in the next week or so.

Kristof also makes the following point about Edwards' economics, which I should've mentioned last night:
"Moreover, Mr. Edwards may continue to wave a protectionist cudgel at trade issues. That will win votes because manufacturing job losses are concentrated in swing states. But trade populism would mark a retreat from President Clinton's embrace of globalization. Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards should remember that Mr. Clinton won the electorate without turning demagogic on trade."

Question for discussion: can the left in this country reclaim the working class and work for a benevolent, fair globalization? Or should one come before the other?

Oh fantastic

New Law in Iraq Gives Premier Martial Powers to Fight Uprising

I don't know how to format the fancy block quotations, so I'll just do some highlights like this.

"Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on Tuesday signed the law of broad martial powers that allow him to impose curfews anywhere in the country, ban groups he considers seditious and order the detentions of people suspected of being security risks."

It's not martial law; it's just the law that allows a declaration of martial law. There are some token limitations, but this is still not a positive development. Also note this little gem:

"Under the formal American occupation, Iraqis in effect lived under martial law for 15 months .... United Nations Resolution 1546 still grants the American military many of those rights."

Iraqi freedom my ass.

July 06, 2004

On Edwards

Well, I might as well try out my first post with something non-trivial, and I had in mind a bit of a commentary on the choice of Edwards.

Granted, I don't follow the political horserace as closely as others, but with all the excitement over the past week, it's been hard to ignore, and the two most likely possibilities have seemed to be Gephardt and Edwards. Part of the appeal of Gephardt was his close ties to organized labour, and thereby the working class. While I haven't read his book, I'm inclined to agree with Thomas Frank's thesis that the Democratic party (and, more generally, the left) needs to reclaim its populism. Between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement, the working class was overwhelmingly Democratic while the GOP was the party of the wealthy. Then, as the Democrats abandoned appeals to the working class, Republicans stepped up their own rancid populism and the `Culture Wars' rhetoric.

Gephardt's connections to labour make him indirectly populist; but Edward's campaign rhetoric has been quite legitimately compared to FDR's populism; and while his politics aren't as leftist as I'd like, he may be a sort of moderate populist who can pave the way for a progressive populist in the next decade. I can't recall actually hearing him use the phrase `class warfare', but it would certainly be a refreshing change from the mainstream moderatism the Democratic party of late.

Two Steps Away From The Home Stretch

Now that Kerry has chosen Edwards as his VP running mate, it's just a matter of a couple party conventions until we have a real run off.

Of course, I didn't think there was ever any real chance that Kerry would pick anyone other than Edwards, but all the speculation was good because it kept Kerry in the news. So hooray! Everyone go see Farenheit 9/11, learn to hate Bush even more than you already should, and vote Kerry in November.

July 05, 2004

July 5, 2004

I'm hella hung over today, so don't expect all sorts of clever postings today. I'm going back to sleep....

July 04, 2004

The Comments System Does Work, By The Way

So I've got reviews of Fahrenheit 9/11, Spiderman 2, and Chronicles of Riddick up now.

Most if not all of you either have or will see one or more of these films or even at least have an opinion. The comments system is a great place for you to express those opinions or maybe even just say hello or something.

Fahrenheit 9/11: The Movie Everyone Should See Twice

I don't have much to say about this great film, nor much time to say it in now, but you all should know that this is the movie that you should take everyone you know to regardless of their party affiliation. It will make the Democrats you know galvanize their Kerry support and it will, at the very least, create doubt in any Bush supporter that's not either a pundit whose livelihood depends on verbally falating GW or is so crazy far right that they're not sure if Bush is far enough to the Right.

Like all Michael Moore films, this movie is, at it's heart, something to entertain the audience and does not attempt to be anything like a History channel documentary. Most of the criticism from the Right has been exactly this point, but let's try to think of all the documentaries which conform to that method of documentary film making AND got even a minor theatrical release. Hmmmmmm. The best description I've heard of F9/11 is that it's an "op-ed documentary", which sums it up pretty well. Like an op-ed piece, F9/11 is not a fiction piece like Chronicles of Riddick, but it's not a story by the Associated Press either. Moore has a definite point to make and though he presents many facts, he also interprets them in a very obvious way and reaches a conclusion.

Moore himself stays out of most of the film personally, and only really has two of his signature "guerilla journalism" stunts, only appearing in a few scenes and sticking to narration for the rest. The stunts are funny, but like so much of this movie, the humor is bound up with an anger over what has happened in the last four years. For example, in one of the stunts Moore rides around in DC in an ice cream truck reading the Patriot Act to the members of Congress because according to one of his sources the Patriot Act, which arguably has restricted many normal people rights unjustly, was signed into law with most of the lawmakers not even reading it. See what I mean?

Along with the humor comes a deep sadness about what's happened to normal people in all this. Several parts of the movie revolve around a military family from Moore's own Flint, Michigan and the loss of both family and faith in the war. Flash over to Iraq and we see another mother who has lost several members of her family and screams to God for vengeance. If you don't at least feel like you could maybe get a little teary watching this film, you need to watch it again and I'll come puck you in a "sensitive area" at the part where you're supposed to cry. What really makes the emotion succeed in a way that so few Hollywood movies do is that you know it's all real. That's a real dead child there. That's a real destroyed home.

Flash over to a meeting of big industry IN post-Saddam Iraq talking about how "once to oil gets flowing" they all stand to make unheard of profits from this war, and you can start to see where the anger comes in. Now the weakest part of the film involves Bush's connection to certain business deals and some of the political implications those connections might have and it's exactly that "might" that is the weakest link. Like I said earlier, Moore is out to entertain but he uses pretty solid factual basis for most of the film. This part of the film, however, relies more on innuendo than solid evidence, but I don't think it necessarily damages the film or is even supposed to be taken as literal fact. Most of this part of the film deals with the House of Bush and the House of Saud, the royal family of Saudi Arabia, and most of the innuendo is, I think, supposed to make the audience say, "Man, why do we have a guy with so many potential conflicts of interest in the White House." rather than give a factual account of what happened.

Anyhow, in conclusion, go see this film now. I think it's Moore's best work yet, mostly because it is so poignant and has the potential to have a real impact on the world. It tries to cover a little more ground than I think is possible in a theatrical film, but like I said before this is a film to entertain the audience and hopefully make them interested enough to go research afterwards because it really is this bad.

Happy 4th: Be Good To Each Other, And Party On Dudes!

Today is about the only day of the year when you can blow stuff up and not get in trouble, so go my fellow Americans , and glorify explosives with abandon. Also, I'll probably be gone all tomorrow and probably Monday too since there wasn't anything I felt like posting today and I'm sure even less will happen tomorrow. I suppose there could be a terrorist attack or something, so in that event I'll post that. Here's hoping for a peaceful and happy holiday! Cheers!

July 02, 2004

Noonan Does London

You wouldn't have thought is was possible, but Peggy Noonan "services" Bush from across an entire ocean. Now that's talent you can't just find on a street corner. Ol' Peg seems to be under the bizarre impression that Americans like and respect President Bush and know he's a "straight shooter with guts" but craze boredom so they might be tempted to elect John Kerry. This might not just be a lap dog's fantasy of her owner if not for the fact that polls continue to show declining support for Bush and a declining belief that he's a "straight shooter".

The reason Bush is polling badly isn't because, as Noonan suggests, American's have a desire to return to some etherial state of normalcy. Bush is polling badly because his "guts" are looking more and more like "asshole-ocity". People are starting to think that maybe we're not safer with a leader that runs around the world kicking dirt in everyone's face and giving his rich buddies a free five minutes in the "Stick it in America's ass" booth.

If Anne Coulter is the crazy bitchy girl in our Political High School, Peggy Noonan is the deluded and obsessed stalker. Actually, Political High School might make for an interesting cartoon.

It Will Soon Be Illegal To Break Laws

So the Senate passed a bill that would make it illegal for the President to not follow the Geneva Convention. Now correct me if I'm wrong here, but when something is already passed by both houses of Congress and becomes law it is ALREADY illegal to violate it. If there's a case that Bush broke the Geneva Convention, prosecute him.

And There's Still Not Anything Good On

The NYT clued me into this museum for couch jockeys.

Trouble In Paradise

Nader is off the ballot in Az after a fiasco with the State Democratic Party found that he has a slew of bad signitures. Obviously pissed off about it, Nader campaign spokespeople said that the Democratic party doesn't play fair. Dems have been saying lately that they're just following the rules but let's be honest with ourselves. The Dems are pissed at Ralph for 2000 and they're going after him with a zeal that reflects it. If Pat Buchanan were running on a third party ticket you wouldn't hear a peep out of the Dems other than to chastize the Republicans for trying to stop his candidacy.

I just wish for once we'd be honest and say it's politics instead of people acting coy like they couldn't possibly know what you're talking about. The Dems are worried Ralph might steal votes away from them in November. They don't give a rat's ass about signiture rules.

Baby Redistribution: Marx's Dream

Thanks to Pandagon I was able to read a rediculous article about how gays love to steal children from good hetero homes and will only be spurred on if they are allowed to marry. It's all here: a crackpot idea, a fundamental misunderstanding of history and data...I only wish I could meet this person to see them make other insane connections like this in real life. "Hertero people have cars repossessed, and gays buy cars, so soon gays will be driving hetero cars right out of the garage!!!!"

I Bow To The Superior Blog

Kos has a mega post on Kerry and the Catholic Church and the media's coverage of their relationship. As can be expected, stories about the intricacies of the Church's relationship to politics aren't half as exciting to print as stories about lawyers suing for heresy and therefore the latter get to the public and the former really don't.

I Had A Good Job In The City, Working For The Man Every Night & Day

Lots of talk around the internet about June's Employment numbers. I wish I could be as sure as Jesse over at Pandagon that this sort of stop and start economy is sure to equal a Bush loss in November, but it certainly does show that Bush's economic plan has been crap. We're still at a million fewer jobs than we were four years ago so Bush can't really afford any more months like this if he hopes to pull out of negative job growth during his first term. Realistically it will probably be pretty close to even, but even if Bush manages a small growth he should still be in trouble though he'd surely pull the "It's getting better" card.

Shock Jock Shocks Socks

So Kos has a post about how Howard Stern could effect the election given how pissed Stern is about all the FCC flack lately. There's a link to a polling chart too, which confuses me. The thing I don't get is that according to the chart, over half of Stern's independent listeners plan on voting Bush despite the constant tirades Stern's been on for the last several months. True, over half of Stern's likely voters are voting Kerry, but by my count the difference between the Bush/Kerry voters ammounts to an 800,000 boost to Kerry, which is quite a bit for sure, but just a tenth of the 8,000,000 united Stern listeners people seem to be talking about lately. Yeah, this is going to be a close election and any boost is a good boost, but people seem to be making more out of Stern's influence than seems to be born out by this poll.

More Than Just A Contender

Marlon Brando has died at the age of 80. I think we'll all remember his groundbreaking work in The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Score along with his cult classics The Godfather and On The Waterfront. In both the history of the craft of acting and the history of all you can eat buffets, there is Before Brando and After Brando.

July 01, 2004

Enjoy This Short Message

Sorry to any brave e-venturors about to embark on the quest to read my Spidey 2 review. Long story short, I liked it.


I, like many people not quite nerdy enough to see the midnight showing early Wednesday morning saw Spiderman 2: Electric Boogaloo last night. Ok, I was busy and couldn't go to the midnight showing. So here's my short review: Not as good as the first, but if there were a cult that worshipped Spiderman, even if he was a minor deity, I'd convert in a second. Soon you'd see me in the mall with a shaved head, handing out flyers and inviting people to our "weekend retreat". That is to say, I love Spiderman more than my own mother, or at least something very close to that. That didn't turn out to be the short quip of a review that I intended it to be, so I might as well keep going...

Spiderman 2 fits into my "Unified Theory of Second Movies" perfectly. You see, when a movie comes out that has the potential to become a longer series but is as yet unproven, the first movie has to do a number of things: create the univese and explain it to the viewer, introduce the main characters in this universe, and tell a succinct story which has a satisfying ending in the event that the movie doesn't actually do well enough to spawn a series. Classic examples of this are Star Wars: A New Hope and The Matrix. The universes in these movies are rich enough that there's lots for fans to talk about and discuss, which is why they might spawn series to begin with, but the movies have a definite end with a satisfying conclusion and don't leave people expecting a sequel in case one never happens. This "brick wall ending" is in contrast to something like, say, the Back To The Future movies which were always, from what I understand, planned as a trilogy and had the backing from the start to make sure the trilogy happened, hence the really wide open endings to the first two films (see also LOTR). Even there though, notice that the second film's ending is a gaping chasm compared to the first's. And another possibility is to have a series of completely unconnected movies, at least from a plot perspective (ala Indiana Jones).

Then comes the second film. The difficulty in the second film that isn't generally shared with any subsequent films is that the film is presented with a wall at the end of the first movie which it has to explode in order to re-open the universe for further exploration. This can be awkward, especially if the movie needs to re-examine problems which the first movie either explicitly or impliedly solved. Take The Matrix for example: At the end of the first movie we're basically left feeling that Neo is an unstoppable God. Obviously having God as a omnipotent character won't make for a very gripping film, so Reloaded had to find some way to make Neo powerful, but not god-like, an endevour whose trickiness you can verify by all the message board rants on the internet. Additionally, in breaking the universe back up, the second film almost always has to, at some level, recap the story from the first movie so people at least know the characters.

Furthermore, the second film has to leave it's own ending wide open enough that a possible third movie can pick up the plot slightly more easily than the second while at the same time not leave the story hanging in mid-air to the extent that audiences feel cheated by a no-ending. All this and the second movie still has to tell its own bracketted story which arcs within the span of the movie.

This brings me to the wall crawler. The first movie was not a guaranteed success (we need look no farther than the spring release date, which is restricted to unproven action movies)so we had our classic formula: Tight script, interesting universe with plenty of supporting characters inhabiting the fringe of the story pulled from the comics both for a little fan service as well being there "just in case there's a sequel", and a solid brickwall ending. It worked perfectly for me and still stands as probably my favorite hero movie, though there are a couple contenders to the throne that aren't that far back.

So with Spidey 2, yes I'm finally talking about Spidey 2, we had to reopen the universe, which wasn't terribly difficult in this case, and recap the story from the first film which cleverly done in the opening credits. Where I felt Spidey 2 ran into some problems, at least from a film standpoint, is that it seemed to try to do too much. As big a fan of the comics as I am, from a film standpoint the story almost seemed disjointed by all the name dropping and sequel-possibility-creating moments. This is something that may go away with multiple viewings, which will happen when I inevitably buy the DVD, but for now I found the extended ending somewhat distracting, largely because I wasn't expecting it. To me this wasn't like Return of the King, which I knew was going to be the last film and sort of expected an extended wrapping up of loose ends, it was just sort of like the beginning of the third movie found its way into the end of the second. The problem with the ending I fully expect, however, to go away once the third movie is out because that's the thing about most of the problems with second movies; they largely go away once the series is complete. All the threads they leave hanging in the air are cleared up and dealt with. To the doubters, think about if Empire Strikes Back had been where the original series ended. As good a movie as it is, that would not be a satisfying end to the story and people would like it less because of it. Empire is liked better because it can be all dark and unfinished which it can do because it can rely on Jedi to be the happy ending everyone expects and secretly wants/needs but outwardly scoffs at.

Also, I hadn't realized how much I liked Willem Dafoe's performance in the first film until watching Alfred Molina in the second. This isn't to say that Molina is bad, far from it, but Dafoe was better as was his script. Doc Ock is given some pretty generic villan-ey lines and monologues that, while fine in a comic book, sounded really weird for a grown man to be saying to himself out loud.

As much time as I've spent writing all of this, here's the thing: It doesn't matter. It's got Spiderman in it and he's more human than ever, which has always been Spidey's draw. He's just a nerdy kid at heart with all the awkwardness and self doubt that comes with it, though if any nerds look like Tobey Maguire I imagine they wouldn't have quite as hard a time with the ladies. But like the first movie the everyman shines through, unlike other heroes like The Punisher that your average person doesn't even want to relate to. Other than some weird script problems, and the sneaking suspission that the whole movie was a Viagra commercial, Spiderman 2 is everything I want a Spidey movie to be: heroic, visually impressive, cool in-jokes/references, and a bunch o' webs. It's not the first movie, but it boads well for films to come. Everyone see it now.