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Say What?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Curtains

Good thing this occurred at the final curtain. Hard to see how that one could have gone on.

A friend of mine was once in the audience when the lead actor collapsed from a heart attack on stage. She said it was only when the other cast members called out for the proverbial "doctor in the house" that everyone realized it wasn't in the original script.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Crystal Math

I think this is proof that Sudoku will eventually become punishable as a criminal offense. The first time I saw it in an airport bookstore, I recognized Sudoku for what it was, and just said no.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

These Go To Eleven

It seems that after some early confusion, America has finally come to its senses and decided that the moral of the story of Dr. Seuss' "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" is... the lights!

I can only imagine world reaction:

Riyadh: Ka-ching!! Yes!!
Baghdad: Uhhh... got any to spare, guys?
The Caves of Waziristan: Targeting systems are now operational, Sir.
Hollywood (via Crackberry): I know! Joe Satriani royalties in 2007! Luv-in' it!

(Video via The Armchair Generalist.)

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Subtle

If you've been following recent events in Pakistan, you'll know that the situation there is tense on a number of fronts. Recent military operations on the Afghanistan border are taking a toll on the military, an eagerly awaited Supreme Court verdict on the legality of President Musharraf's presidential election has provoked rumors of an imminent state of emergency, and the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has ratcheted the political pressure on Musharraf up a notch or three.

So what company, known for its diplomatic skills and sensitive handling of high-pressure situations, do you naturally think of as a perfect fit for such a political tinderbox? Why, Blackwater, of course, who according to Pakistani press reports has been approached to provide security to Bhutto following the suicide bombing that targeted her upon her return to Pakistan. The communique (which is either from Blackwater chairman Erik Prince or Bhutto's PPP headquarters in Dubai, hard to tell from the wording of the article) suggested a way to bypass the negative image associated with their company:

In a communication, it has been suggested that “it would be best to hire the service of Ravan Development Group and our strategic partners, Aviation Worldwide Services because some parties may not like to hear the name of Blackwater.”

There's also this priceless nugget:

It has been suggested that black American securitymen would be best suited for Benazir because they look like PPP’s supporters from Makran commonly known as Makrani and can be mistaken by the authorities as locals.

I wonder if that would qualify as discriminatory hiring practices.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who You Gonna Call?

Okay, quick. Take a look at this graphic and guess: a) What it represents; b) Where it came from. Now click through for the answer.

The work of a nation. The center of intelligence. Indeed.

Via PSP's Photo Blog.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Collateral Damage

We still don't know just what they were targeting when Israeli warplanes carried out a bombing mission in northeastern Syria a month ago. But in addition to whatever they managed to hit on the ground, you can add two unintended victims to the raid: the Yes satellite television station in Israel, and Headline Junky's traffic stats.

Apparently, ever since September 6, the date of the Israeli strike, Yes broadcasts have been hit with intermittent electronic snowstorms, leading viewers to complain en masse and even file a class action lawsuit. Potential culprits range from UN ships monitoring Lebanese communications to Russian electronic assaults in retaliation for having the air defense systems they provided to Syria so easily shown up.

Meanwhile, on that same day, I briefly speculated that the strike might have been a dry run for an attack on Iranian nuclear installations, including a link to a map of the Middle East to illustrate the point. Despite the fact that the map itself never appeared in the post, that link has somehow sparked a Google Image hit parade of people looking for maps of the Middle East. And there are a lot of people looking for maps of the Middle East, enough to render my traffic stats for the past month entirely useless.

The question the Israelis need to be asking themselves right about now is, Was it really worth it? 

Posted by Judah in:  Odds & Ends   Say What?   

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Pret A Porter

I have yet to see any evidence of this, although I did see the movie with the Lil Feller last week.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Getting Sidetracked

When real life follows a Seinfeld script:

Authorities said they arrested 13 people and seized more than $500,000 in cash after breaking up a smuggling ring that collected millions of beverage containers in other states and cashed them in for 10 cents apiece in Michigan...

The probe recalled a 1996 episode of "Seinfeld" in which two characters learn about Michigan's 10-cent deposit law and head there with a truckload of 5-cent New York cans, hoping to cash in on the difference, before getting sidetracked.

"A half-million in cash is not 'Seinfeld' humor," Cox spokesman Matt Frendewey said.

It is kind of Kramer-esque, though, that Michigan loses about $13 million every year this way and still doesn't seem to have a solution to the problem.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Playa Hate-uz

A propos of nothing, but I'm checking out the site traffic statistics for the past month over at Google Analytics, and it turns out I've had at least one visitor from 49 out of the the 50 states in the union. The one hold out? Wy-o-ming!

Come on, Y-O! Show some love!

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Reverse Stockholm Syndrome?

In what may prove to be the next front in the War on Terror, Gitmo officials are investigating how two detainees managed to obtain contraband... underwears. That's right. Two detainees were found with non-regulation skivvies and one of them was also in possession of a pair of Speedos. The Pentagon suspects the men's lawyers had something to do with it, since they're both represented by the same English advocacy group, Reprieve. A lawyer for Reprieve rejected the charge, calling it unlikely that anything could be smuggled in to Gitmo, and pointing out that the brand of underwear in question, Under Armour, is popular among the US military.

Posted by Judah in:  Global War On Terror   Say What?   

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Friday, September 7, 2007

You Can Ring My Bell

I was just glancing at the Iranian state news agency, and the thought occurred to me that the function of reporting and governance are irrevocably altered by the nature of a theocracy, where the public interest and factual concerns must also pass through a filter of religious ideology. Then I ran across President Bush's latest Presidential Proclamation:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Friday, September 7, through Sunday, September 9, 2007, as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance. I ask that the people of the United States and their places of worship mark these National Days of Prayer and Remembrance with memorial services, the ringing of bells, and evening candlelight remembrance vigils... (Emphasis added.)

Now granted, this is a promotion of religion in general, and not one faith in particular. But is it really the role of the President of the United States, which is after all a secular office, to give instructions as to exactly how its citizens and places of worship should conduct what is essentially a religious service? Or have I just been living in France for too long?

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Gonzo's Greatest Hits

[I just noticed this old post from back in March due to a Google image search that turned up in the traffic logs. It's a little dated, I know, but I thought I'd re-post it in its entirety.]

Here's a guilty pleasure I can't resist. The Presidential Prayer Team has just come out with a handy deck of cards to help folks remember America's leaders in their prayers:

The National Leaders Prayer Deck contains 52 cards featuring the most influential men and women in our national government. Included are President Bush, the First Lady, the President’s Cabinet, the majority and minorty leaders of the House and Senate, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, all the Military Joint Chiefs, Congressional Chaplains and more. Use this resource to pray for one powerful American leader each week of the year. (Emphasis in original.)

Better get your order in quick though, because judging from the sample cards it's going to be a collector's item any day now:

[I guess that day has come. Better late than never.]

Posted by Judah in:  Politics   Say What?   

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Put A Huggies On It

Puh-lease. I've gotten a lot more conventional since I became a father, at least in terms of my outlook on child-rearing. Just show 'em plenty of love, and make sure the rules are as fair, clear and consistent as you can humanly manage. That way they can either accept them or rebel against them when they hit adolescence, but at least the choice is clear.

Oh, and don't give orders in question form. Kids need authority figures who have some... authority. I remember thinking on a trip to New York a few years back that the only hope for the City's affluent toddlers is the fact that most of them are raised by West Indian nannies.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Oh, And About The Tooth Fairy...

As far as snake oil goes, The Secret seems to be of the pretty high octane variety. Which is an indication of just how far American culture has fallen. Used to be, you had to at least package the old "get what you want by wanting what you get" message in some new shiny wrapper, like The Celestine Prophecy, or Scientology. Now, you don't even need to re-package it. It's just straight-up, infantile magical thinking.

This past winter, when I wanted to teach my son simple arithmetic, we started shooting dice. And I remember the first time I blew on the dice, rubbed them in just the right way, and beat his 11 with double sixes. He looked at me with an expression of awe mixed with surprise, as if he was just discovering that his father was in fact such a high level magician.

Luckily, he quickly caught on that it was just dumb luck. Apparently the folks who believe in The Secret haven't gotten that far yet. 

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fashion Army

What happens when the Chinese military announces it's updating its uniforms to modern, tapered designs? Why, the US military has got no choice but to go one better, of course. But if the Chinese have already gotten dibs on snappy, what does that leave us? High-tech, naturally:

The USFIT program uses 3-D, "whole-body" scanners to record the shape of soldiers' bodies.

"Previously, there was a large opportunity for a sizing error," Joseph Cooper, a USFIT project officer, said in the release. "Using the scanner will give us data to provide the best fit."

The sizing data is archived in the Integrated Database for Engineering Anthropometry of Soldiers to provide a better overall description of the user population, the release states.

"The IDEAS database will also assist developers in the design of current and next-generation clothing and equipment," Cooper said. 

Now that's what I call an arms race. [And on a completely unrelated note, how cool are those acronyms? Is there a Pentagon office devoted just to coming up with those, or what?]

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Going By The Book

I'm not sure I'd want to be Mike Moore, a Deputy Sheriff in Elko County, Nevada, when his wife, Charlotte, got back home Sunday morning. On the other hand, if I were a citizen of Elko County, I'd feel pretty safe.

Posted by Judah in:  Odds & Ends   Say What?   

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Softcore Clinton

Ummm, maybe I'm missing something, but I don't understand why I keep seeing this referred to as showing cleavage.

Posted by Judah in:  Media Coverage   Politics   Say What?   

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Cultural Onslaught

In response to Kuma War's Assault On Iran video game, where players carry out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, an Iranian student group has introduced a new video game called Rescue The Nuke Scientist. (I'm thinking there's a "lost in translation" thing going on with the title here.)

Players must rescue an Iranian husband-and-wife team of nuclear engineers who have been kidnapped while on a religious pilgrimage to Iraq and spirited off to Israel. According to the group (the same outfit responsible for the 2005 "World Without Zionism" conference where Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map"), "This is our defence against the enemy's cultural onslaught."

At the risk of taking this sort of lunacy too seriously, what's interesting about the two games is the stark contrast in their psychological profiles. Here's the description of the American player's mission:

As a Special Forces soldier in this playable mission, you will infiltrate Iran's nuclear facility at Natanz, located 150 miles south of Iran's capital of Teheran. But breaching the security cordon around the hardened target won't be easy. Your team's mission: Infiltrate the base, secure evidence of illegal uranium enrichment, rescue your man on the inside, and destroy the centrifuges that promise to take Iran into the nuclear age. Never before has so much hung in the balance... millions of lives, and the very future of democracy could be at stake.

Here's the Iranian mission:

Game players take on the role of Iranian security forces carrying out a mission code-named "The Special Operation", which involves penetrating fortified locations to free the nuclear scientists, who are moved from Iraq to Israel.

To complete the game successfully, players have to enter Israel to rescue the nuclear scientists, kill US and Israeli troops and seize their laptops containing secret information.

It's hard to miss the sense of victimhood and narrow national pride that drives the Iranian mission, as opposed to the heroic grandiosity of the American one. And just as I was about to type out, Not exactly the profile of an aggressive expansionist state, it occured to me that a sense of victimhood and national pride are in fact exactly the profile of quite a few aggressive expansionist states. 

Posted by Judah in:  Iran   Say What?   

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Living Large

Apparently, a "mysterious guest" at the Paris air show is planning to buy an Airbus A380 for use as his "private limousine". Unit cost? $300 mil, as of 2006. Kind of gets the imagination going, doesn't it?

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tort Reform

This guy needs to be tossed off the bench and disbarred. Plus punitive damages for filing a frivolous lawsuit and causing mental anguish. What a prick.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Priorities

You might remember Jack Idema, the ex-Green Beret convicted of operating a private prison in Afghanistan where he allegedly tortured handpicked "terror suspects". Apparently he was released from an Afghan prison two weeks ago as part of a general amnesty issued by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. And as if the story was lacking in the creepy department, he wanted to stay in Afghanistan, but couldn't because of the conditions of his release.

But here's the kicker. According to documents filed in a court case by the American consul in Kabul, Idema left the country for "an unknown destination".

Let me get this straight. Alberto Gonzales wants to listen in on my phone conversations. But a guy who entered a warzone illegally, conducted gonzo counter-terrorism operations, ran a private prison where he tortured his "suspects", wanted to stay incountry after three years in an Afghan prison (does anyone remember Midnight Express?)  -- in other words, the kind of guy I want the government to keep tabs on -- that guy just walks off into the sunset? What am I not getting?

Posted by Judah in:  Afghanistan   Say What?   

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Blair Stoops To Conquer

I'm all for bringing renegade regimes, like Muammar Khaddafi's Libya, back into the fold of responsible state actors. But there's something disturbing about the idea of selling him a stack of missiles, and paying him a mountain of cash for the rights to his oil fields, when he's still holding the six health workers (five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor) sentenced to death for "deliberately" infecting Libyan children with the AIDS virus. For that matter, there's something disturbing about this photo.

Posted by Judah in:  International Relations   Say What?   

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Instant Karma's...

...gonna getcha.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Say Your Prayers, Gonzo

Here's a guilty pleasure I can't resist. The Presidential Prayer Team has just come out with a handy deck of cards to help folks remember America's leaders in their prayers:

The National Leaders Prayer Deck contains 52 cards featuring the most influential men and women in our national government. Included are President Bush, the First Lady, the President’s Cabinet, the majority and minorty leaders of the House and Senate, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, all the Military Joint Chiefs, Congressional Chaplains and more. Use this resource to pray for one powerful American leader each week of the year. (Emphasis in original.)

Better get your order in quick though, because judging from the sample cards it's going to be a collector's item any day now:

Posted by Judah in:  Politics   Say What?   

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Off Their Meds

There's been something of an online firestorm lately regarding whether it's possible to support the State of Israel without supporting the position of the American pro-Israel lobby, which is, in case you've just tuned in, a shade more hawkish than Dr. Strangelove. Nevertheless, the risks of not toeing the line are significant, since running afoul of these guys seems to be the kiss of death for American politicians.

That's why Barack Obama is taking such great pains to convince them that despite appearances to the contrary, he's a friend of Israel:

Obama’s substantively hard line on Israel has cost him friends among Chicago’s Palestinian activists. But his rhetoric has given the pro-Israel side pause...

Some among Obama’s supporters suggest he simply isn’t totally familiar with the code-like vocabulary that has grown up around the Israel-Palestine debate. Phrases like “cycle of violence” and – worse still – pledges to be “even-handed” are freighted with meaning in that context, and a second-hand report in January from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in January that Obama had once pledged to be “even-handed” suggested to some Jewish critics that he was taking the Palestinian side.

The Iraq war also hovers on the fringes of the debate over candidates’ positions on Israel... Obama’s pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq... raised concern that the U.S. would be less able to confront Iran. (Obama argues that the Iraq invasion made Israel’s plight worse.)

“If you’re serious of confronting the regime of Iran and Ahmadinejad and his plans for mass murder then you have to look at the map and say how do we do this – what is the only way that we do this, what is the most practical way to do this,” Chouake said.  “That is something [Obama] needs to rethink.” (Emphasis added.)

These guys are lunatics, but they're influential lunatics. Which makes them dangerous, for Israel and the US.

Posted by Judah in:  Politics   Say What?   

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dept. Of Unintended Irony

How's this for back-to-back duelling paragraphs? From the State Department's most recent Weekly Status Report for Iraq:

Ministry of Interior Cleans House:

  • The Ministry of Interior has fired or reassigned more than 10,000 employees,including high-ranking officers, who were found to have tortured prisoners, accepted bribes or had ties to militias. A ministry spokesman said that reports that an internal inquiry included details of numerous human rights abuse at the ministry.

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki Condemns “Illegal” UK Raid:

  • Prime Minister Maliki has criticized a raid by British forces on the Iraqi interior ministry's intelligence office in Basrah. A British military spokesman said that the raid on the National Iraqi Intelligence Agency office, where 37 people were held prisoner, had uncovered evidence of torture. However, Maliki has ordered an investigation into the raid, demanding that “those behind this illegal and irresponsible act be punished.”

Posted by Judah in:  Iraq   Say What?   

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Could You Take Cheney With You?

Call it a marketing-driven strategy to realign their corporate structure with their brand identity. Or call it a logistics-driven admission that even in this age of rapid communication, nothing makes up for geographical proximity to their board of directors. Or else call it a case of truth at long last revealed. Call it what you will, but Halliburton just announced that they'll be moving their corporate headquarters to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Posted by Judah in:  Markets & Finance   Odds & Ends   Say What?   

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Robin Hood? Or Scarface?

From The Army Times comes the story of Spc. Luke Sommer, an Army Ranger who used his $20,000 re-enlistment bonus to finance a bank heist that he and four buddies, two of them fellow Rangers, pulled off with "military-style precision." That is, unless you ignore the part about a witness jotting down the getaway car's license plate number, allowing the FBI to track down the car the following morning parked inside the gated compound of Fort Lewis, WA. They quickly bagged evidence of the crime and four of the five suspects.

Sommer, a dual American-Canadian citizen who's fighting extradiction from Canada, claims the robbery was intended as a publicity stunt to call attention to war crimes he witnessed while on tour in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Asst. US Attorney handling the case claims that e-mails and IMs found on Sommers seized computer reveal a plan to use the proceeds from the robbery to finance a criminal organization in Canada.

The case is interesting for more than just the intrigue of Somers' claims, which in all likelihood won't keep him from doing time. It raises the question of what impact the Iraq War will have on the generation that's fighting it.

For a while I've thought that the practical (as opposed to the ethical and moral) problem with torture once it's practiced by American agents abroad is that, sooner or later, the torturers come home. Same goes for occupying a foreign country. Eventually the occupiers come home, too. And at least some of them will return with the sense of omnipotence that being young, armed and all-powerful can instill.

That's why traditionally democracies make lousy occupying powers (the obvious exceptions being the post-War occupation of Germany and Japan), and why occupations so often corrupt democracies.

Posted by Judah in:  Afghanistan   Global War On Terror   Iraq   Say What?   

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Friday, March 2, 2007

The Swiss Navy

Here's one that's good for a laugh, until you transpose it onto another part of the world. Apparently, a company of Swiss infantry accidentally "invaded" Liechtenstein when they wandered across an unmarked border in a nighttime training excercise. They got about a mile into the small principality before realizing their mistake and heading back. Liechtenstein's response was basically, No harm, no foul. As well you might expect from a country that has no standing army.

Now imagine for a second an American infantry company on maneuvers in Iraq, that accidentally wanders a mile into Iran. Think they'd get that far without being noticed? Think Iran's response would be, No harm, no foul?

I don't subscribe to the idea that dialogue with Iran is some magic bullet that will instantly resolve all the differences between us. But it could help to keep hypothetical misunderstandings from turning into real conflagrations. And that's good for something.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   International Relations   Iran   Odds & Ends   

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Friday, March 2, 2007

Foxy Brown Lockdown Watch

I try to stay away from the Cult of Celebrity coverage. But this one is just too good to be true. Rapper Foxy Brown just pled guilty to her second probation violation, technically for leaving NY State without prior permission from authorities. I'll let UPI take it from there:

Brown, 27, was sentenced in October to three years' probation, anger management classes and random drug tests after pleading guilty to assaulting two manicurists at a New York nail salon.

Her first strike came in January when she was let go from the anger management program for allegedly threatening an employee.

Her second strike came Feb. 15, when, after leaving town without permission, she was arrested in Florida for allegedly fighting with a beauty supply shop owner and a police officer. She was charged with battery and obstruction of justice. (Emphasis added.)

Despite prosecutors' requests for jail time, the judge apparently felt it wiser to defer to the rules of baseball rather than those of common sense. Meaning it will take a Third Strike, most likely in the form of another major league beatdown doled out to yet another beauty shop worker, before Ms. Brown gets locked up.

Which ought to be any day now, given how well the anger management classes seem to be working.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   Odds & Ends   

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Hillary Show

If you haven't seen this already, take a look: An anti-Hillary website called Stop Her Now dot Com, complete with flash videos of "The Hillary Show", where Hillary's the host and Howard Dean's the Ed McMahon sidekick. There's an episode with John Kerry as the guest, and another with Nancy Pelosi, that are actually kind of funny, in the way that something that's not very funny can sometimes be.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   Politics   

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fifteen Minutes Of Fameyness

From The Secret Life Of Cory Kennedy:

Put it this way: By the time Cory Kennedy's mother realized that her child had become, in the words of Gawker.com, an "Internet It Girl," the Web was riddled with photos of Cory posing, eating, dancing, shopping, romping at the beach, looking pensive and French-kissing one of the (adult) members of the rock band the Kings of Leon. She had European fan sites. She had thousands of people signing on to her MySpace pages. She had fashion bloggers dissecting her wardrobe ("a cross between the Little Match Girl and the quintessence of heroin chic," one wag called her taste in fashion). She had people watchers from the Netherlands to Japan speculating about her life story. (Was she a junkie? A refugee from Hyannis Port?) She had designers begging her to wear their clothes and deejays offering her money to show up at their nightclubs. She had invitations to party with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

She was living, in short, a teenager's dream and a parent's version of "Fear Factor." And the obvious questions—at least for her mother—were, "What happened? And how?"

All of which can only lead to this, of course:

We are in Cory Kennedy's bedroom. Present are Cory, Hunter, this reporter and Nate Van Dusen, a filmmaker who is featuring Cory in a new documentary. It's one of those media-age moments: a documentarian filming a photographer shooting a journalist interviewing a teenager.

I imagine the biopic is already in the works. Starring Lindsay Lohan, I'd guess. If she's not in rehab when shooting starts, that is.

Posted by Judah in:  Odds & Ends   Say What?   

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Clinton's Speech No Impediment

Let's say someone asked you how much Bill Clinton made last year on the speech circuit? How much would you guess? Leave it in the comments, and then click through to this article and see if you're right.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   Politics   Odds & Ends   

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Blond, James Blond

If there weren't so many lives at stake, the whole US-Iran showdown would make for great comedy. Take this article in the Guardian describing how a lot of the intelligence the CIA has supplied to the IAEA to help it inspect Iran's nuclear facilities has turned out to be false. Like the list of sites that, when visited, showed no signs of banned nuclear-related activities. Or the laptop computer containing plans for a nuclear weapon, supposedly stolen by a CIA informant inside Iran. As an IAEA official put it:

"First of all, if you have a clandestine programme, you don't put it on laptops which can walk away," one official said. "The data is all in English which may be reasonable for some of the technical matters, but at some point you'd have thought there would be at least some notes in Farsi. So there is some doubt over the provenance of the computer."

But it's not just the Americans who come off looking like the Keystone Kops. The IAEA is still waiting for a satisfactory explanation for how and why Iran procured a 15-page document on how to manufacture hemispheres of enriched uranium, whose only known use is in nuclear warheads. A document that the Iranians apparently turned over to the IAEA by mistake along with a stack of other paperwork.

Pretty amateurish for the build up to a major regional conflagration, if you ask me.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   Iran   

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Try Getting A First Life

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Early adapters of Second Life, the online virtual world, are starting to wish for the good old days before real-world corporations like Adidas and American Apparel opened up "in-world" virtual shops and Nissan started giving away "in-world" virtual cars.

So much so that a group of players has formed what it calls the Second Life Liberation Army. Last year they gunned down avatars that frequented the offending stores. Recently they blew up two nuclear devices, the first outside of American Apparel, the second in front of the Reeboks outlet. Their demands? Voting rights for issues effecting their "in-world" experience.

The problems don't end with corporations, though. With the steady growth of Second Life, the "in-world" has become overrun by trend-followers, losing its original utopian edge. Consider the case of Catherine Fitzpatrick, 50, who joined Second Life "...to explore her creative side and meet like-minded people...":

She built a nice home for herself with an ocean view, which she said was ruined when someone moved in next door and built a giant refrigerator that blocked her light.

Of course, we've all had the experience of a favorite underground club or local watering hole get written up in New York magazine, with the change in atmosphere that follows. But getting blocked out by a giant refrigerator? Now that's a dis.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   Odds & Ends   

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Friday, February 16, 2007

The Exorcist, M.D.

First it was the pharmacists who wouldn't fill certain prescriptions, in particular birth control and morning after pills, that they disagreed with on religious grounds. Then there was the Washington Post article last week that described how 8% of doctors surveyed said they weren't obligated to present medical options that they disapproved of to patients, while 18% said they weren't obligated to provide referrals for care they found objectionable:

Male doctors and those who described themselves as religious were the most likely to feel that doctors could tell patients about their objections and less likely to believe doctors must present all options or offer a referral.

Now along comes a story about a doctor in Bakersfield, CA who refused to treat a young girl's ear infection because her mother has tattoos:

The writing is on the wall—literally: “This is a private office. Appearance and behavior standards apply.”

For Dr. Gary Merrill of Christian Medical Services, that means no tattoos, body piercings, and a host of other requirements—all standards Merrill has set based upon his Christian faith...

He said if they don’t like his beliefs, they can find another doctor.

According to the American Medical Association, as things stand, he didn't do anything wrong. A doctor is only required to provide life-saving care. Besides that it's his or her call.

2007. Shocking.

Via The Sinner's Guide To The Evangelical Right

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   Odds & Ends   Human Rights   

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Guilty Pleasure

Sorry, I can't help myself. A website for evangelical young adults called The Rebelution recently conducted a Modesty Survey to let Christian girls know how Christian men of all ages think they should be dressing. Some sample questions (in traditional five-point agree-disagree format)?

  • You have less respect for an immodest girl than for a modest one.
  • The lines of undergarments, visible under clothing, cause guys to stumble.
  • Seeing a girl take off a pullover (i.e. a shirt that must be pulled over the head) is a stumbling block, even if she is wearing a modest shirt underneath.
  • It is a stumbling block to see a girl lying down, even if she's just hanging out on the floor or on a couch with her friends.
  • Seeing a girl's chest bounce when she is walking or running is a stumbling block.

I could go on, and on, and on, and on, I really could, because there are over a hundred questions, and they're all classics. Like:

  • An ankle-length skirt with a knee-high slit is more modest than a knee-length skirt.

Hmmm. That's actually a tough one. Anyway, here are the results. Better click through quick, though, before I lose control and...

  • Bare feet are not a stumbling block.

...add another one. OK. I'll stop...

  • Bending over so that cleavage is visible down the front of the shirt or dress is a stumbling block.

He-e-e-lp!!!

Posted by Judah in:  Odds & Ends   Say What?   

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

She Stoops To Conquer?

This from the NY Times:

Fewer than 3 in 10 people ages 17 to 24 are fully qualified to join the Army. That means they have a high school diploma, have met aptitude test score requirements and fitness levels, and would not be barred for medical reasons, their sexual orientation or their criminal histories.

So what's an Army feeling the strain of two wars to do? Why, grant more waivers, of course:

During that time, the Army has employed a variety of tactics to expand its diminishing pool of recruits. It has offered larger enlistment cash bonuses, allowed more high school dropouts and applicants with low scores on its aptitude test to join, and loosened weight and age restrictions.

It has also increased the number of so-called “moral waivers” to recruits with criminal pasts, even as the total number of recruits dropped slightly. The sharpest increase was in waivers for serious misdemeanors, which make up the bulk of all the Army’s moral waivers. These include aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and vehicular homicide.

The number of waivers for felony convictions also increased, to 11 percent of the 8,129 moral waivers granted in 2006, from 8 percent.

Waivers for less serious crimes like traffic offenses and drug use have dropped or remained stable. 

I guess at least the folks driving around Baghdad have something to be thankful for. Which is better than nothing at all, as this video demonstrates.

Posted by Judah in:  Iraq   Say What?   

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Things Done Changed

Just in case you thought Park Slope, Brooklyn, had gone soft, think again. Apparently a plain-clothes cop was shot on Prospect Place and Sixth Avenue, just four blocks from where yours truly first learned the difference between pacifist, progressive ideals and street justice. According to the 1010 WINS report (You know it!), old-school protocol was followed strictly, down to the pronouncement of the ritual phrase initiating hostilities:

The driver of the Acura pulled alongside the officers' car, leaned over and said "You got a beef?'' before firing a shot, officials said.

The officer was not seriously injured and is expected to make a full recovery.

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

"A Moment Of History"

That's how the head of Splash News and Picture Agency described the grainy video footage his paparazzi managed to get of paramedics trying to resuscitate Anna Nicole Smith while gurneying her to a waiting ambulance. Footage that fetched a cool half-million dollars:

Tetley defended the selling of the footage. "It captures the vain battle to save her life. People want to know what happened," he said.

"It was good journalism. We knew where she was staying, we sent in a team of photographers and cameras and we were in the right place at the right time..."

Two things immediately come to mind. First, the dude who videotaped the Saddam Hussein hanging is probably feeling pretty stupid for having dumped it online for free right about now. And second, when this lowlife Tetley kicks the bucket, I'd be surprised if he even warrants an obit.

Posted by Judah in:  Media Coverage   Say What?   

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Friday, February 9, 2007

Deep-Freeze The Peas, Please

Let's say you were responsible for preserving the Earth's biodiversity in the event of catastrophic climate change? What sort of things would you look for before you started building your doomsday seed vault?

Well, first off, there'd have to be a natural source of refrigeration in the event of power failure. So finding a mountain with a permafrost core would top the list. You'd have to model worst-case global warming scenarios for 200 years into the future, to make sure the location would not be overtaken by the rising ocean levels. Radiation levels would be a major concern, too, so you'd have to check those out.

Luckily, scientists in Norway have already done all the work for us, though. They'll be breaking ground in March, with the vault scheduled to open in 2008. Now that's a ribbon-cutting ceremony I'd pay to attend.

Posted by Judah in:  Odds & Ends   Say What?   

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Friday, February 2, 2007

Are There Cliff Notes?

From the rollout of "Soldier Handbook: Surviving Iraq", the Army's new "how to" manual designed to help grunts make it past the increased casualty rate of the first 100 days of a unit's deployment:

Among other recommendations, many Soldiers recommended:

  • Staying aware of their surroundings,
  • Listening to their leaders,
  • Avoiding routine or predictable patterns,
  • Following standard operating procedures, and
  • Using protective gear and armored vehicles.

The handbook will be made available in paper format this month.

Just in time for the Surge.

Update: Something just jumped out at me on a re-read. How do you manage to avoid routine patterns while following standard operating procedures?

Posted by Judah in:  Iraq   Say What?   

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

EPM: Eyeblinks Per Minute

This strikes me as the sort of tidbit evolutionarily adapted to the internet age: According to Broadcasting & Cable, Nancy Pelosi blinked her eyes 25-30 times per minute during the President's State of the Union address, compared to Dick Cheney's 3-4. They're also not the first to mention that the Veep's reaction to W.'s energy independence bit was, shall we say, less than convincing?

Posted by Judah in:  Say What?   

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