Friday, March 03, 2006

Off to Seattle for a week to investigate the seedy world of four-per-block coffeehouses. In my absence, feel free to talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic. Mascots.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Let's hope the typo in the article isn't indicative of the truth of the story, because this is awesome:

Three former aides to U.S. Rep. John Conyers say the lawmaker used them as baby sitters and personal servants while they were supposed to be working in his Michigan offices. ...

The accusations come from Deanna Maher, former chief of Conyers' office in Southgate; Sydney Rooks, Conyers' lawyer from 1997 to 2000; and Dean Christian Thornton, a legislative aide fired in January, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Maker [sic] said that in 1998, Conyers ordered her to live in his Detroit house while his wife attended law classes in Oklahoma. Maher said she lived there for six weeks, caring for the couple's two young sons.
He asked her to live in his house for a month and a half so that his wife could go to class. I don't even know what to say.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Noobsports - home of the Bode Miller Experiment - compares Roger Clemens to Chuck Norris. Sample category:

Selling Out
Norris - sold his soul to the devil for his rugged good looks and unparalleled martial arts ability. Shortly after the transaction was finalized, Chuck roundhouse kicked the devil in the face and took his soul back.
Clemens - sold his soul to the devil when he left the Red Sox and went to Toronto to win 2 Cy Youngs, and followed that up by going to the Red Sox rivals the Yankees, where he won 1 more Cy Young and 2 world championships (please forgive me if that sounded too much like Simmons).
Advantage - Norris
Overall winner: Chuck Norris, 5-3. But it was closer than the score suggests.

From Legal Times, via The Corner, via Last Call, via Kevin Bacon:

Already frustrated with the Democratic Party for putting forward an anti-abortion candidate to run against Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, says she has been asked by a number of women's groups and Democratic donors to jump into the hotly contested U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania as an independent.
Terrible idea, but awfully fun to imagine. (Oh, the debates....)

In response to a statement by 55 Catholic Democrats decrying their occasional characterization as "good" or "bad" Catholics based solely on their positions on abortion, a Catholic vice president at the Family Research Council spake thusly:

"What is at the core of being Catholic is the life issue, and that's something the pope has never strayed from. While other issues are important - such as helping the poor, the death penalty, views on war - these are things that aren't tenets of the Catholic Church."
As someone whose Catholic upbringing has lapsed to such an extent that I literally forgot that Mardi Gras signalled the beginning of Lent, I think he's wrong, but I'm not emotionally invested enough to get worked up about it. I can be sure, though, that there are many members of my family - proud and practicing Catholics - who would react to that statement with some variation on "Who the fuck is this guy to tell me what it means to be a Catholic?" The Church has plenty of problems these days, and it's probably a little unfair to expect them to respond every time some crazy Catholic says something with which many Catholics would disagree. But if I'm running the Church right now, I come out yesterday with a disclaimer that the Family Research Council doesn't speak for the Vatican. That particular camel's back is pretty fully loaded, and hell if I'm going to let some right-wing mouthpiece add his straw.

Via the New York Times' op-ed page (a sure-fire way, if nothing else, to make sure it gets a link on this blog), an Army interrogator asks the military to clarify its position on torture, for the benefit of those being asked to conduct the interrogations.

From January 2004 to January 2005, I served in various places in Iraq (including Abu Ghraib) as an Army interrogator. Following orders that I believed were legal, I used military working dogs during interrogations. I terrified my interrogation subjects, but I never got intelligence (mostly because 90 percent of them were probably innocent, but that's another story). Perhaps, I have thought for a long time, I also deserve to be prosecuted. But if that is the case, culpability goes much farther up the chain of command than the Army and the Bush administration have so far been willing to admit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Wonkette links to a story in the Washington Post about the wackiest damn experiment a group of Stanford political scientists has ever conducted:

We started with two relatively unknown faces (in fact, they were Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif. and Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii) and made them more familiar by combining them with better-known faces so that the ratio of the unfamiliar to the familiar face was either 80:20 or 60:40. Previous research has demonstrated that the 40 percent level of morphing is sufficiently subtle to preclude study participants' recognizing the identity of the familiar face in the morph. Participants were told that the morph was a photo of a candidate for the Senate named 'Paul Vaughn' (or 'Paula Vaughn' if the morph was a female). They also were given a few details about Vaughn and asked questions designed to measure their impressions of the fictitious candidate.
The results? A little bit o' Hillary makes everyone like you more. No wonder Chelsea's so popular.

It should be noted that the addition of an 80-proof shot of HRC does seem to make members of the House more attractive. The 60:40 Mary Bono looks a bit like Courtney Cox, and the addition of a pair of glasses would make the 60:40 Ed Case a dead ringer for Stephen Colbert.

Which leads one inexorably to conclude that this whole time, she's the one who should have been sleeping around. (Rimshot!)

Scooter Libby has gone so far as to hire a Harvard professor to forget things for him. And that is funny.

As Katharine Seelye writes in an interesting (if not exactly groundbreaking) article in the New York Times, the value of televised White House press briefings has become... relatively slight.

Martha Joynt Kumar, a political science professor at Towson University who studies relations between the president and the press, said the institutional relationship was 'pretty tattered.' She said the tensions were hardly new, but that the press was becoming more defensive in part because of the constant scrutiny under the lights.
I certainly understand that neither side is particularly anxious to abandon televised press briefings altogether; as the article says, the briefings provide a great outlet for the White House, and they're a swell chance for the publicity-starved (ho!) White House press corps to get some screen time. But without a doubt, the briefings' value is wearing thin.

So here's a thought (and I'd imagine I'm hardly the first one to have it, but the beauty of The Blog That No One Reads is that I can post nearly anything I'd like and continue to tell myself that I came up with it first): keep the number of press briefings where it is currently (maybe four a week, when the President's in town), but sharply cut back the television coverage. Once a week - say, every Friday - there'll be a televised briefing, during which Scott McClellan can dissemble, David Gregory can rant, and Helen Thomas can... be Helen Thomas, to their hearts' content. And then for the rest of the week, the press corps can go back to actual reporting, and the White House can go back to speaking like actual human beings.

For a while, at least (if not in the long run), I'm guessing that once-a-week televised briefings would greatly increase the overall exposure that each briefing gets. As it is, the cable news channels cover them live only if (A) there's something controversial being discussed and (B) the blond anchor on duty has run out of mind-numbing human-interest stories. As a result, the average audience for one of these things is a group of maybe 50,000 people nationwide, 35,000 of whom are policy wonks and 45,000 of whom are utterly nuts (see what I did there, with the math? Wasn't that clever?). If the news channels were to show the once-weeklies, the number of people seeing at least one briefing a week would increase by a factor of about a hundred.

Plus, if there's any administration that can withstand the lack-of-transparency complaints that could come with a move like this, this is the one. And in order to further counteract this particular negative motivation, I hereby vow1 that no matter what else I may write, I will not criticize the Bush administration for televising fewer press briefings. So let's snap to it, White House Press Office. Take yourselves off TV.

1 - Fine print: all vows are nonbinding.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Politics1 - about which I know nothing, for the record - on an amusing maneuever out of Ohio:

State Senator Robert Hagan (D-Ohio) says he will introduce legislation to ban Republican couples from adopting children. According to Hagan, 'credible research'' shows that adopted children raised in GOP households are more at risk for developing 'emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities.' Hagan agrees there is no scientific evidence backing his claims about Republican parents - just, as Hagan notes, there is none backing State Representative Ron Hood's (R) bill banning gay parents from adopting.
(Via Wake-Up Call)

From the tail-end of a Sarah Vowell column:

Bonhomie, as our ex-cronies the French call it, should have its limits. Seems as if American voters picked the current president because they thought he'd be a fun hang at a cookout — a jokey neighbor who charred a mean burger and is good at playing Frisbee with his dog. What we should be doing is electing a president with the nitpicky paranoia you'd use to choose a cardiologist — a stunted conversationalist with dark-circled eyes and paper-cut fingertips who will stay up until 3 tearing into medical journals in five languages trying to figure out how to save your life.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

You know how sometimes you come across a story that would be really funny if it didn't make you feel so badly?

David Beckham’s performances on the football pitch may frequently add up but the England captain conceded today that his six-year-old son’s maths homework once left him baffled.

The 30-year-old star said his eldest child Brooklyn approached him for help with a school assignment one night but the task was too much for the footballer.

“Their homework is so hard these days,” he told The Mail on Sunday’s Live magazine.

“It’s totally done differently to what I was teached (sic) when I was at school, and you know, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t do this’,” he added.
(Via Deadspin)

This has been up on The Onion for almost a week, but I just noticed it, so as NBC might say, it's new to me:

Government documents declassified today reveal that President Bush was briefed last summer of "a substantial risk" that Vice President Dick Cheney would shoot an elderly male in the face sometime in the next several months.