31 January 2010

History Rhymes

I was just reading this article called "The American Conception of National Security and the Beginnings of the Cold War, 1945-48" and was struck by a couple of parallels to modern defense and security analysis.

First, the United States, then as now (and rightly or wrongly), saw the enemy, in this case the Soviet Union, under every nook and cranny. Now, obviously this isn't any strikingly new analysis in light of the Red Scare that soon ensued, but I had never thought as much about how the US saw opportunities for Soviet encroachment in nearly every geopolitical event during that time period: Britain's withdrawal "east of Suez," Gandhi's movement in India, anti-colonial nationalist insurgencies in Indochina and Indonesia, the growing Arab-Zionist imbroglio in Palestine, etc.. I mean, some of the events in which the US saw a Soviet threat made intuitive sense, like the civil war in China (which featured actual communists) and the inroads communists were making in Italy and France. But I couldn't help but think about how we see Al-Qaeda under every rock today--Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Indonesia, et al.

Of course, though, there was (and is) some clear justification for viewing the Soviet Union (and Al Qaeda today) and the major events of the day through this prism. The USSR really did try to exploit and exacerbate situations like these in order to advance its interests, and Al Qaeda really does try to exploit local grievances in places like Yemen in order to further its own objectives. But I think it becomes problematic when you stop looking at geopolitical problems in their own terms (hey, Yemen is fighting a rebellion, has a secessionist movement, its leadership is rather ineffectual, and it's running out of water and oil--oh yeah, there's an Al Qaeda affiliate there too) and start only looking at them through the lens of whatever the grand ideological battle of the day happens to be.

Second, I was struck by the threat inflation and the tendency of national security analysts to ignore evidence that conflicted with preconceived notions and postures. The author of the article makes a convincing case that military planners, once they got it in their head, via the Long Telegram and similar directives, that the Soviet Union was an incredibly formidable and dangerous power that sought worldwide domination and subversion, tended to ignore any signs to the contrary--such as a moderate speech on the UN by Stalin, a Soviet press not entirely hostile to the US, diplomatic and territorial concessions, or rather clear and glaring military weaknesses. This mindset created its own momentum which led the US to pursue fairly maximalist anti-Soviet policies, the Soviets responded in kind, etc. etc.

Sound depressingly familiar?

Update on Haitian state in Africa

I really never thought this proposal would get off the ground, but apparently the AU is considering it. Pan-Africanism still burns strong, and as Jean Ping (the AU head) said, Haiti was the world's first free black country.

I almost hate to support this...

I've long been a fan of assisted suicide for the terminally ill. But, while I agree with everything he says, I really don't want to think about it in connection with Terry Pratchett. I'm still kind of hoping for a miracle cure for him. Or for a supervillain to hold the world hostage to make that very cure (link not really work safe.)

DADT, continued

The most recent "Weekly Standard" includes an editorial by Bill Kristol himself, trying to make the (non-bigoted!) case for retaining "Don't Ask Don't Tell."

It works about as well as you'd expect.

The editorial itself is an incoherent mix of insinuations and attacks, so I want to unpack some of them. He starts by talking about how the military is the only government institution left that a significant majority of citizens still respects, which polls have proven quite often. Therefore, he says, we shouldn't subject it to an "untested, unnecessary, and probably unwise social experiment". Of course, this neglects the fact that many, many other countries already allow homosexuals to serve openly. This list includes most of our NATO allies and even Kristol's beloved Israel.

His next tack is to say that President Obama is moving too fast on this issue. He was just elected last year, after all, so it's not like the American people have been clamoring for this for a long time! An overwhelming majority of Americans, however, have supported removing DADT since at least 2005. (This also puts the lie to his claim that a large number of Americans aren't clamoring for this change.)

He also makes the claim that the military is against it. I'd like to see evidence to that effect. Bob Gates and Admiral Mullen both support the change; Shalikashvili has come out against it. All of my personal experience with service people (admittedly, a skewed sample) think of it as an unfortunate relic that they ignore as strongly as possible.

However, he gets at his most absolutely blind when he tries to brush aside the argument of it being the "right thing to do."

Here is contemporary liberalism in a nutshell: No need to consider costs as well as benefits. No acknowledgment of competing goods or coexisting rights. No appreciation of the constraints of public sentiment or the challenges of organizational complexity. No sense that not every part of society can be treated dogmatically according to certain simple propositions. Just the assertion that something must be done because it is in some abstract way “the right thing.”

This from the man who dogmatically calls for bombing and attacking every tin-pot dictator. From the most relentless champion of the Iraq War. He dares to call out liberals for not taking into account the challenges of large undertakings?

Interestingly, he never actually tells us what the dreaded unintended consequences would be, except for a short little line saying "the effect of open homosexuals on unit morale and cohesion in training and combat situations remain relevant." This is in the second to last paragraph, and is the first time he even uses the word "homosexual."

I've long known that Kristol was completely intellectually dishonest. I don't actually expect anything more from him. But as someone who still gets to be on TV to spout his BS, I'd at least like slightly better arguments.

And, for a lighter side (and a much funnier deconstruction of all arguments in favor of maintaining DADT), here is Gerard Butler:

Track of the Day: Busted!

This song goes out to North Korea. The news today is that the plane seized by Thai authorities was shipping 35 tons of arms to Iran, according to Thai sources. These new sanctions seem to actually have teeth! Nice.

30 January 2010

Track of the Day

DADT is still on my mind. I cannot believe it is even still controversial. We've been dealing with issues of equality for the LGBTQ community for over 40 years now. The fact that even classic rock stations have no problem with the following song should show everyone that this shit is old and needs to be gotten over.

Taiwan Arms Sales, take 45,439

Once again, the US is planning arms sales to Taiwan. Oh no! The Chinese are pissed!

Please. Everyone knew in advance that the Chinese would be pissed, because the Chinese are pissed every single time we sell weapons to Taiwan. What are they doing about it? Complaining to our ambassador, and ending joint exercises.

The second one is a problem. I still hold that the US and the rest of the world should try to work with China as a military power. However, if China won't play ball, that's they're problem. I'm increasingly convinced that China just can't be the threat to us that we once (and many still) think it will.

Factlet of the Day

I'm currently reading (among other things) Atomic Obsession, and really enjoying it so far. One thing that Mueller mentions, kind of as an aside, has to do with the sheer amount of stuff that the US supplied to the USSR during WW2.

I knew the US helped supply the USSR with supplies during WW2, but didn't know we supplied them with (on average) 1/2 lb of food per day per Soviet soldier for every day of the war, largely in the form of Spam. True story.

Baltimore Smackdown

Watching Obama run circles around the GOP at their Baltimore retreat yesterday was kind of nice. They would basically trot out some hackneyed talking points, look like petulant children, and then he would proceed to pick apart their question. I think this link works if you haven't seen it yet. Kinda makes you feel good to have voted for the guy rather than the guys questioning him.

On a more downbeat note, Obama talked about appropriating money for COBRA. Are Duke and Snake Eyes aware of this? Is he in league with Destro?

29 January 2010

UBL says US to blame for Climate Change!

Al-Jazeera aired an audio tape today in which (allegedly) Usama bin Laden blames the US for climate change. He blamed the US and other industrialized nations for causing climate change, and blamed their reckless capitalism for the current financial crisis. He advocated a global boycott of American goods as a means of hurting the US, saying that it wasn't right for the mujahedeen to carry the entire burden of the war against the United States.

This is amazing on so many levels... its not the first time that al-Qaeda has used current events to fuel discontent against the US, but this is the first time he didn't frame his argument in a religious context. A boycott is a way for people who don't like the US, but also don't like the extremism and violence of al-Qaeda to participate in the jihad. Notably, he also said that Americans could participate... he said that the perpetrators of the financial crisis are concentrated in New York, DC, and Texas and that those affected by Hurricane Katrina and economic downturn should have no problem holding them accountable.

Holy crap! Such blatantly populist language? Never mentioning America's affronts to Islam or even justifying the jihad with passages from the Koran? Suggesting that American's can take part in the war against the Great Satan??? Maybe al-Qaeda is finally running out of momentum, or maybe they just want to generate more support from John Q. Public. In either case, this marks a very significant alteration of al-Qaeda's communication strategy. I'm not certain it is indicative of some change of circumstance, but it definitely means that they are trying to appeal to a more moderate population.

Cambodian Uyghurs, update

They were all deported back to China, and now they are all missing. The Chinese government has not said that they've been arrested, but none of their families have heard from them. Human Rights Watch says it's like they went into a black hole.

Track of the Day

Due to the pushed for end to DADT, this song seems appropriate:

Improvised Chinese Gunships?

Via War is Boring, I see that China is putting artillery on cargo ships. (The picture on the left showcases this.) China Defense gives some possible explanations.

China Defense's two (non-exclusive) explanations, though, don't make much sense. The first is to attempt to bolster its rather weak amphibious capability, by using cargo ships to transfer people, and the artillery to protect the ships. This is an essential capability that the Chinese Navy currently lacks, especially if it wants to be able to effectively threaten Taiwan with invasion. As it stands, China cannot put enough boots on the ground fast enough to establish a beachhead against Taiwanese fire. (The Chinese can move only about 15K troops at a time, whereas the Taiwanese military can through 200K onto any of the possible landing sites in hours.)

This is pretty ludicrous, though, because that artillery won't do much good against missiles, and the ships would be close to sitting ducks versus any real anti-ship measures. Granted, there is some possibility of China establishing air superiority with a strong early missile attack, but the first priority for any ROC naval units would probably be to stop troop transports. These would all go down quick.

The second explanation seems even more bizarre: "The PRC propaganda machine is attempting to portray preparations for an impending invasion in order to deceive and/or intimidate potential target nations." Again, this could only mean Taiwan. It should be obvious to the PRC leadership, however, that attempts to intimidate Taiwanese voters tend, instead, to piss them off. Also, there is less reason to invade Taiwan now than at any point from 1996-2008. The current president is anti-independence, as is the legislature.

In short, none of this makes much sense.

28 January 2010

North Korean Provocations

In particular, North Korea has claimed to have taken a second American man into custody (the first being the Christian activist who walked into North Korean on Christmas Day). There has been no confirmation of this (no family has reported anyone having gone in, etc.), but the fact that NK announced it seems to suggest that those in charge are trying to provoke a response. This is bolstered by the fact that the North Korean military has been engaging in live fire exercises into disputed waters.

Is any of this important? Well, probably not. But, I think it might show the intelligence of the US and South Korean negotiators in that they've started ignoring provocations and are maintaining their focus on the important goals they are seeking. It's tough to negotiate with NK, because every concession gets only temporary good behavior. Acts of firmness merely stir up more bad behavior. Ignoring the little attention getting acts and focusing on the core problems is probably the best way to go.

Track of the Day: R.I.P. Howard Zinn

Today's track is dedicated to the late Howard Zinn, and I think it's one he would've been very comfortable with:

Thinking about Zinn's legacy, which has been written about by some other commentators at length in light of his passing, I think two of its most positive elements a) his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement and b) the simple fact that he introduced many Americans to the fact that everything they learned in history class may not have been entirely accurate or presented without bias.

With respect to the actual substance of A People's History and his other works--as a card-carrying member of the center-left and friend of capitalism, I am decidedly less enthusiastic. This essay gets at much of what I disagree with in his work.

One other major problem I found with some of it was his pacifism. As a "national security progressive" and someone who is generally skeptical of most calls for war, I think that pacifists and proponents of complete nonviolence offer a powerful critique of militarism and the jingoistic hawkishness that surrounds much of our national security discourse. I think the fact that Zinn's pacifism came from a WW2 bombardier lends further credibility to his position.

He was, I think, wrong on many issues though. Nonviolence simply isn't a viable solution in some cases and just war theory offers a middle ground between pacifism and unrestrained violence that progressives can embrace. Zinn's condemnations of WW2 and the first Gulf War are then, for example, wrongheaded (although his critique of say, terror bombing in the former are not).

His pacifism also becomes intellectually shallow in some of his work. Specifically, I remember in his discussion of the Clinton Administration in A People's History, he portrays the administration as basically a 1990s version of Genghis Kahn's hordes, terrorizing Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, without providing any real context as to why those wars were fought.

Overall, though, I would say that Zinn's legacy has been more positive than negative, and he is not someone the left should disown. However, a critique of his work should serve to solidify liberals' commitment toward just war as a last resort and regulated capitalism.


...can we pretty much acknowledge now that Justice Alito is pretty much just a political hack? Is it that difficult to control yourself during a speech? Was he unaware that there would be cameras present?

27 January 2010

Fuck John McCain

That's about the only way I can put what I'm feeling right now.

John McCain said the following after the SOTU:

In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy.

This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our armed forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.
If you are so proud and thankful for every American who puts on that uniform, then you should join our president in honoring every American who puts in on by abandoning DADT. You are instead dishonoring and even dismissing every single gay American who goes to war for the US. And there are probably many more than you know.

Also, to call a policy successful that has led to the expulsion of so many Arab linguists at a time we need them most is just ridiculous.

Picture from Bad Astronomy, h/t to Attackerman

Hong Kong unrest?

I recently mentioned in passing that the Chinese government does have experience with some degree of autonomy for provinces, notably Hong Kong and Macau (though not the supposedly autonomous provinces of Tibet or Xinjiang). It turns out that the people of Hong Kong are now demanding a much greater form of real autonomy than they presently have.

The current political system there is horribly arcane, with half of the legislature elected by the people, and the other half picked by various smaller constituencies (bankers, lawyers, etc.) The chief executive is picked by a small group of 800, most of whom are themselves picked by the same constituencies. Moreover, China exerts a great deal of influence in terms of who can and can't run.

Some of those in the legislature are real democrats, pushing to increase self-rule and such. However, that movement has since splintered, leading to greater chaos. At the same time (and probably related), the actual protests for more self-rule have gotten more violent and contentious.

So, perhaps my hopes for real autonomy for Tibet are ill-founded. But I must maintain some hope that China will find its best interest is in helping its citizens realize their aspirations, rather than continuing to quash them. Hopefully, it will see these protests in Tibet and Hong Kong both in that light.

Post-Election Tumult in Sri Lanka

Well, the Sri Lankan vote finally happened yesterday, and it looks like the incumbent won, avoiding a runoff. However, there are allegations of rigging by the opposition candidate, General Fonseka (who, for some reason, wasn't allowed to vote yesterday). Things are going downhill fast:

Soldiers surrounded the Colombo hotel where Sri Lanka's opposition leader was staying Wednesday, hours after President Mahinda Rajapaksa was declared the winner of the country's first peacetime election in more than two decades.

Rajapaksa's opponent, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, said he did not accept the results of the election and is contesting the result.

There was "obvious rigging," Fonseka said from his hotel.

Officials results of the hard-fought race were not due until Wednesday afternoon, but Rajapaksa was said to have garnered more than 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.

The government said the presence of the soldiers and commandos, some of whom had their faces covered, outside the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel was a precaution.

They did not intend to take Fonseka into custody, but were looking for army deserters who were holed up inside, the government said.


...some real relief for Haiti. Food, medical supplies, potable water...psssshhh. What Haiti really needs is some Scientologist proselytization. Unleashing Chiang salutes you, Danny Zuko.

Worst. State. Ever.

First that crappy state is the first to secede, then they keep flying the Confederate flag even after they lose, then they unleash Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint, and Mark Sanford upon the country, and now this.

Track of the Day

What else could it be when this just happened?

As I've said before, it is rather difficult in these particular environs for a man, who solicits customers for a prostitute or a brothel, usually in return for a share of the earnings.

26 January 2010

Soft Power and Airport Officials

I've long heard data about how America has the worst customs processes and the surliest customs officers. Most Americans don't think about it, but it's a huge soft power issue because those are the first Americans many foreigners interact with.

I've also thought long and hard about the culture of impunity that law enforcement officers have in this country, where they can taser children and demand whatever they want of people, without fear of repercussions.

I've also come to realize that our wars on terrorism and drugs both have led to some very insane excesses all over the world. Cities shut down because of "mysterious white powder" (which is almost never anything more dangerous that flour), and even the suspicion of drugs can get you hauled off to prison and your belongings impounded.

Put these together and what do you have? Practical joke playing TSA officers who probably gave a poor woman a near heart attack.
A college student returning to school after the winter break fell victim to a prank at Philadelphia's airport by a Transportation Security Administration worker who pretended to plant a plastic bag of white powder in her carry-on luggage.
The man is no longer employed by the TSA, which is something. However, this man had been a supervisor, training other new employees. It shows that something is clearly very broken there.

(h/t Armchair Generalist for pointing out the story.)

Where's a vorpal sword when you need one?

Apparently, at least one prison in this country forbids its inmates to play D&D, and a court has ruled that its perfectly ok.

I can see where the court would not want to get involved in telling prison officials how to do their jobs, and I will agree that the 1st and 14th amendment arguments brought forward were really shaky, legally speaking. According to this, the ruling was completely correct on the legal grounds.

But I find the actual rule to be completely backwards. D&D is all about channeling aggression into a fantasy realm. It leads to couch potatoes, not escape attempts or gang violence. You'd think Wisconsin would want all of its inmates sitting around a table, pretending to be somewhere else, rather than actually attempting to get somewhere else. The evidence brought forward for the damages of role-playing games are remarkably similar to those used and debunked during the "D&D leads to Satanism!" panic of the 70s and 80s. The whole thing is self-evidently false.

The other part of the rationale for the rule is to prevent "escapism." The prison claimed that prisoners engaging in escapism leads to being "divorced from reality" and thus violence. Let me be the first to say that escapism sounds damn near necessary when someone knows they will be locked up for the rest of his/her life! Without some kind of escapism, the reality of prison could become absolutely unbearable.

This strikes me as an attempt to keep prisoners down, by making them constantly remember that they are in prison. It's an attempt to chain their minds and souls as solidly as their bodies. But, it's also highly selective. Do the prisons still have libraries with fiction? Do they have television and movies? Why is this form of escapism bad and those kinds acceptable?

Unfortunately, there are very few who will ever speak up on behalf of the convicted, so I doubt this rule will change any time soon. But I can hope.

(One other question: Does this rule apply to all roleplaying games? What about the completely absurd ones, like Toon? Or, if not, why is D&D banned, but not something like World of Darkness or GURPs, which would allow the inmates to actually play at being gang members and criminals?)


It was claimed by someone I encountered today that:

a) the US "could have nuked Germany" during WW2
b) the US never really seriously considered nuking Germany

Given that the first nuclear test was in the summer of '45, after VE Day had already taken place, I was skeptical of this person's argument. Could any reader help me out with this?

Track of the Day

Hell yes.

Haggis is now legal in the US once again. I've never had haggis, but as a partially Scot-American I'm happy to hear that I can finally try it.

EDIT: Damn, apparently not. I guess the trip to Scotland will still have to happen sometime in my life.


Jonathan Zasloff via Paul Krugman, on the Obama Administration's proposed spending freeze:

What next? The rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon as Treasury Secretary? Or do we already have that?

25 January 2010

More on Tibet and China

I've blogged extensively about China and the Dalai Lama, and so I'm happy to see that negotiations are taking place between the two sides. While it is obvious that China holds all the cards from any state-centric viewpoint, it is also obvious at this point that China can't just bully its rebellious provinces into submission anymore, and once the Dalai Lama is gone they will not have anyone to negotiate with on Tibet.

It's possible (probably likely?) that nothing will come of this. But I'm still glad to see that there is some diplomacy and talking going on. Moreover, China has already shown a willingness to allow a good deal of autonomy for some areas (Hong Kong, Macau) and has promised it to others (Taiwan). It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

I Need a Man Like Putin

...don't we all really.

Anyway, if you watched the PBS Newshour tonight, you already saw this. But I had to put this on the blog. This is a really popular Russian pop song called "I Want Someone Like Putin." When I first saw this, it kind of struck me as Stalin-era cult of personality stuff updated for the 21st century. But then I remembered this sort of stuff from 2008 (seems to be a correlation between horrible songs and losing here). And don't forget to Crank that Mike Gravel!

Anyway, here's the video:

And the English lyrics:

My boyfriend is in trouble once again:
Got in a fight, got drunk on something nasty
I've had enough and I chased him away
And now I want a man like Putin

One like Putin, full of strength
One like Putin, who won't be a drunk
One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me
One like Putin, who won't run away!

I've seen him on the news last night
He was telling us that the world has come to crossroads
With one like him, it's easy to be home and out
And now I want a man like Putin

One like Putin, full of strength
One like Putin, who won't be a drunk
One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me
One like Putin, who won't run away!

School Lunch

In the past year or so, I have become something of a foodie (although my recipe blogging posts may not be indicative of that). However, in the very recent past, I was known to eat all sorts of crap food. During my first stint in grad school, I frequented Taco Bell with alarming regularity (although I never attempted the Taco Bell diet). I was able to remain relatively athletic and thin due mainly to intense exercise and high metabolism.

I certainly ate really crappy school lunches pretty much everyday during middle and high school (I think Mom packed my lunches in elementary school) and then graduated to eating crappy food from the university dining halls as an undergrad. I also ate the school lunches on a regular basis during my two years as a public school teacher.

Since my conversion to a more nutritious eater, I find myself quite disturbed by what we feed our children. The school where I worked had Papa John's pizza EVERY DAY, and a daily line dedicated solely to fried breaded chicken patty sandwiches and hamburgers. All of this is to say that I am quite fascinated by this blog, where an anonymous teacher has undertaken to eat the school lunch everyday where she works and comment upon it.

I think that better school nutrition could be a relatively non-controversial (well, it may be controversial with the students...I dunno) way to address some educational problems. I can't imagine that a less crap-laden diet wouldn't improve student performance at least marginally. Not to mention the public health benefits.

Sadly in agreement

I'd forgotten that Friday was Obama's deadline for Gitmo closing. Of course, it's still open.

Honestly, that was the promise of Obama's that meant the most to me, because it was the symbol of ending the evil regime of torture that the Bush administration had started. Alas.

Track of the Day

Back in town and focused like a laser beam--plan to start posting some more, hopefully.

24 January 2010

Cool NYT article

Everyone knows that North Korea is one of the most difficult places to get info out of. I try hard to stay up on what's going on there, but with only limited success.

According to the New York Times, there are new news services, using anonymous sources in the country and Chinese cell phones, who get information out to the world at large. The news is always sketchy, coming in like an intelligence report from a foreign agent, but some very large scoops (including the revaluation of the currency) came in this way.

An example is the fact that there is apparently a "50-Day Crackdown" trying to "restore order" within the country. That the North Koreans even have to worry about this is something that the Kim regime tries hard to keep the rest of the world from knowing.

It's worth taking a look at.

Can we get a COIN strategy for our border?

I'll be the first to admit that I hate drugs. I've had several family members who used drugs, and it screwed up their lives and made them intolerable to be around.

However, the drug war is destroying the lives of an entire community of Native Americans who do not even use the drugs. I wish I could claim to be shocked by this, but of course I'm not.

For those who don't click through, a Native reservation on the Mexican/US border became a haven for drug smugglers after the parts of the border both east and west became harder to get through, and now federal agents are everywhere disrupting lives. At the same time, cartels are promising big money to anyone in the impoverished reservation who will either hold or carry drugs, and threatening those who refuse. The people are humiliated by the cops, and scared of the dealers.

If this sounds like the end result of bad occupation authorities, then you and I think alike. It is not exactly an insurgency, as the cartels are not attacking the police, but the police are actively trying to find and arrest all of the members of the cartels, and seem not to care who gets hurt along the way. It's reached a point where tribal members refuse to go out into the desert to harvest the saguaro or to look for firewood, for fear of either running into a mule or being mistaken for one.

This is the kind of area that could use serious development, of the kind we are attempting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, they get subjected to a "war" that's been going on for nearly 40 years now.

Weekend Recipe blog

Normally Slim does these, but I'm rather proud of this one. It's ridiculously simple, and it makes one of the boogey-man foods of my childhood rather tasty. (Credit for the recipe goes to the best food educator I've ever seen, Alton Brown.)

The ingredients are simple:

1 lb. fresh (NOT frozen!) brussels sprouts
1/2 cup of water
1/4 tsp. of salt.

Cut any excess stems off the sprouts, and split them longways. Put them in a pot with the 1/2 cup of water and the 1/4 tsp. of salt. (The water will NOT cover them. That's ok! We're not boiling them.)

Cover and cook on high for 5 minutes.

That's it. There's a pleasant aroma, not the funk I remember from my childhood. They're perfectly tender without being mushy, and have a bit of a funky taste without being bitter and nasty. I'll be making these as often as I can find fresh brussels sprouts for sale.

Track of the Day

The weather has got me down, and my roommate just got Beatles Rock Band. The two may seem unconnected, but it has put the following medley in my head where it refuses to be dislodged. (Warning: A little NSFW language at the very beginning, and it's a live version, so the quality's a little poor.)

23 January 2010

Track of the Day

Thought for the Day

Can Mitch McConnell retire into obscurity now, since his lifelong goal (and what a noble one at that!) of corporations being able to buy elections finally seems to have come to fruition?

22 January 2010

Track of the Day

Light posting today and this whole weekend from me as well. Work has me going hither and yon. Therefore, I'll leave you with this classic gem about rambling:

21 January 2010

Update on Bible Sights

Via Defense Tech, I see that the military is demanding the removal of the bible verse references, and the company is complying. Trijicon is also giving the military kits to help remove the references. Score one for the separation of church and state.


Sorry blogging has been so light from my end--I'm out of town for the rest of the week.

Today's QOTD comes from Dave Brockington over at LGM:

The U.S. Senate sucks. As an institution...I tend to treat the U.S. Senate in a breath normally reserved for the House of Lords. It's bad enough in terms of representation that the institution is highly skewed, and the median voter as represented in the Senate is considerably to the right of the median voter as represented in the House (or in the general population).

However, to add the tacit requirement of a super majority on top of this already skewed pattern of representation is to add insult to (small d) democratic injury.

Tasers, yet again

I wrote here about a court ruling that seemed to limit Taser use. Apparently, Taser International somewhat disagrees with this (very common) view of the court ruling, saying that it does not levy any new restrictions on the use of Tasers, but merely holds up the restrictions that have long been in place.

Instead it reminds cops "an officer must consider the totality of the circumstances, including “the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight” and "An officer must consider what other tactics if any were available to effect the arrest, and other less intrusive tactics that would have been available to effect the arrest and be able to articulate them in an arrest or force report".

The whole point, however, is that most cops don't consider any of those factors and still get away with Tasering 11 year olds and old grannies, and get away with it. Until now, they've gotten away with tasering unconscious people having seizures (though admittedly, that one's in court). Taser International's own words are new restrictions as far as some cops seem to be concerned. Those restrictions are at the least a necessary beginning. We'll have to see what the courts keep saying.

Track of the Day

I love grunge.

One more for the "There are no racists" column

Every time someone in America does something horribly racist, they immediately claim to not really be racist and to instead just be doing X. The Confederacy wasn't about racism, it was about keeping federal power in check. Strom Thurmond only supported Jim Crow for the same reason. Trent Lott wasn't supporting segregation when he praised Thurmond's run for President, he was only complimenting a friend. The Louisiana justice of the peace who, last year, refused to grant a marriage certificate to a mixed race couple last year wasn't really racist, he just didn't believe it was good for children to grow up mixed.

And, today, the commissioner of the "All-American Basketball Association," which expressly says that only "players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league", says that the limit to only Caucasian players isn't racism either!

There's nothing hatred about what we're doing," he said. "I don't hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here's a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like."

Lewis said he wants to emphasize fundamental basketball instead of "street-ball" played by "people of color." He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas' indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans' dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run.

"Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" he said. "That's the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction."

I've never found any fans of basketball, white or black, who have complained that the problem with the game is that it doesn't focus enough on "fundamentals." Perhaps I'm not the best judge; I'm a heretic in my home state because I just don't care enough about any sport, including basketball. But the fact that they put all of the blame on non-"white" players for ugliness in the game, rather than just a lax culture of enforcement in general, speaks volumes.

It strikes me that it would be very easy, through harsher penalties and fouls, to create a league that really did focus on the fundamentals of the game, without the need for a "white's only" club. Moreover, his plans for the league include expanding to 12 teams in the Southeastern portion of the country (aka the old Confederacy). It's pretty transparently a racist idea to create a white's only league. But! He says he's not racist!

At the same time, kudos to the various cities (including Augusta, GA) who have flat out said "no" to being a part of this scheme. There are no cities listed that are joining, and there is no website for the group, so some are calling it all a fake or a publicity stunt. However, it wouldn't shock me at all if the guy is trying to create it, and if so, further kudos to each additional city that rejects him.

20 January 2010


I should preface this: I don't like John McCain. I don't much care for Cindy McCain. Meghan McCain is proving so far to have a brain, but I'm not overly impressed by her either.

That said, this is awesome of Cindy and Meghan:

That's Cindi McCain posing for the No H8 campaign, working against Prop 8. She reached out to the campaign herself, offering her support. Meghan McCain is apparently giving talks promoting the conservative case for marriage equality.

I'm glad to see this, and so say thank you to both Meghan and Cindi for trying to move us to a more equal country.

Martial law in Nigeria

Nigeria has long been a rather fragile country, but one city has almost split apart. Over 1000 have died in religious communal violence since 2001, and three days of fighting (mostly with machetes and bows and arrows) is now being quelled by martial law.

I don't really have much to add, except that between the North/South split, and the problems in the Delta, it seems Nigeria is still going to be rocked by violence for a long time. It makes me wonder if the agreement to not allow African borders to be rationalized was such a good idea, but I know I can't support the violence that would likely result from trying to change them now.


When I first heard evidence that the US had tortured people at Abu Ghraib, I was mortified. When it became evident that it was policy from the top down, I was beyond livid.

There's long been some evidence that a few people were tortured to death and then the deaths were covered-up as suicides. Fortunately, steam is picking up in calling for an official investigation.

I find it hard to even write about this. The idea that the US tortured people, and even tortured some to death, and that no one was ever held accountable for it (outside of a few very low-ranking people at Abu Ghraib) has always twisted in my gut. In the words of the song above, we became the thing we hate. A country that tortures and lets the torturers get away with it.

We have official statements that have eliminated the practice, but there has not been any investigations or criminal proceedings since to prosecute those who put it into place. I'm against the "heads must roll" attitude in general, especially when its a general failure. But legalizing and implementing brutality and barbarism can only flow from actual decisions to break the law. It's not enough in this case to say "mistakes were made"--who made them?

It's the only way to stop being the thing we hate.

Please keep thinking of Haiti

because it was just hit by a 6.1 aftershock.

It actually has done more damage, and will likely set back what progress has been made.

More tension in Korea

South Korea threatened a pre-emptive strike on the North if it detected an imminent nuclear strike. This has come just after North Korea threatened a "holy war" on South Korea for having the audacity to think of contingency plans for a DPRK collapse.

Is it likely more posturing on both sides? Yes. The North still does not have the capacity for winning a war of aggression against the South (though it could possibly win a guerrilla war against an occupier).

However, it also seems to speak to a schism in the North Korean government. Other parts of the government are talking reconciliation, with the North Korean Red Cross having just accepted food aid. We've also seen North Korean officials making conciliatory gestures to both South Korea and the US. This, much like the earlier naval incident, shows that the North Korean military may not be as interested in reconciliation and is instead trying to sabotage all such efforts. (And as Robert Farley says, all nations have their neocons, and the North Korean ones will naturally interpret all actions as part of the unchangeable plot to destroy the freedom-loving North Korea.)

I think the South Korean threat was likely a bad move, especially since everyone know that South Korea will act pre-emptively if need be and because everyone knows that nuclear attack on South Korea would be suicide. But, as always, we'll just have to see what happens.

Track of the Day

With such unrelenting bad news the last few days, I figured I'd throw some nice, calming house music up. Hope you enjoy.

19 January 2010

Teabaggers Triumphant

Ladies and gentlemen, the guy who is replacing Teddy Kennedy in the United States Senate.

I know that Martha Coakley was a terrible candidate, but I was really annoyed by the fact that the most frequent thing brought up about her in the media was the Curt Schilling anecdote. We have elevated the "likeability" and "having a beer with the candidate" factor to absurd proportions in recent elections (see Bush, George W) and, as a result, we are getting absurd electoral contests.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I could give a damn less how much I relate to Candidate X or whether she bails hay or drives a pickup truck or castrates cattle or whatever. I'll vote for a candidate who's a complete prick if they'll make a concerted effort to produce sound public policy (see, for a poor example, Scott Brown's attempt to allow hospital employees to deny emergency contraception). So, congrats Mass. We probably won't get climate legislation or financial regulatory reform because you liked that naked guy's truck. Who knows about health care (don't get me started on Brown's absurd position on this).

I'm consoling myself with this video tonight, but now even it kind of makes me sad since the Chargers are out =/

The US Needs to Improve its Reaction Time

OK so Haiti is 700 miles away from the US and the earthquake that hit last week was a big surprise to everyone… however, I still find it very upsetting that the United States could not mobilize more support more quickly. I do not believe that the military, Congress, or anybody else (except maybe Pat Robertson) is intentionally dragging their feet. I think everyone is working as quickly as they can, but the problem is that the US does not have effective mechanisms for responding to humanitarian crises. It’s been more than a week and there are still logistical problems delivering aid. I know that the port in Port-au-Prince has been damaged, and the airport can only handle such much air traffic at a time, and there are issues of security, but the US should be much better at this than it is. We had similar issues after Hurricane Katrina and our response is only marginally more efficient this time around. There is absolutely no way the US can keep on being a world leader if we cannot assist disaster victims in our hemisphere, let alone just a few hundred miles from our shore.

Falls under "I'll believe it when I see it", but...

It's nonetheless encouraging to see Omar Bashir say that Sudan will accept separation if the southern part of the country votes for it.

It would be nice for the eternal pessimists to be wrong for once about Africa.

Track of the Day

One of my favorite politically-themed songs of all time, and topical, given the elections in Chile (wherein a new president was just elected who seems uncomfortably close to the old Pinochet apparatus)!

18 January 2010

Haiti and Emigration

Following up on the idea of founding a new Haitian state in Africa, I just read a post by Reihan Salam suggesting that we all just help Haitians move elsewhere. In effect, the state of Haiti is a "zombie" (which is an unfortunate thing to call Haiti of all countries), and that the people of Haiti do much better when they move to other countries. (In fact, 1/4 of all Haitians not living in poverty live in the US.)

This ties into an idea a friend of mine has long espoused: "bus ticket countries." In other words, the best thing that could be done for the residents of certain areas would be to give them a one-way bus ticket to go someplace else.

I tend to resist such defeatist ideas, but in some cases, one has to wonder. If nothing else, the utter (peaceful) depopulation of certain areas would give others the opportunity to start the country from scratch, without the pressures that come from history and path-dependency. Of course, no country (save, evidently, Senegal) will just open its arms and allow the entire population of Haiti to just move in. For now, this will probably remain academic.

Military and Jesus

I'm not a Christian. I intend to join the military. As this is a secular country, ruled by a government that is explicitly forbidden from promoting one sect over another, this should not be a problem.

However, apparently many of the weapons we've been giving our military members have coded references to Jesus and spreading the gospel in them.

This picture shows "JN8:12" at the end of the serial number for the scope, referencing John 8:12, which reads "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Trijicon, the maker of the sights, has come forward saying that they have always put these Biblical messages on their sights and will continue to do so.

We've been training Muslim Iraqi troops on these sights. There are also plenty of non-Christian American troops who've been using these sights with no idea of what is in their hands. Those who have known, and complained, have often been told to shut up and keep using them.

Trijicon earned $100m from the US in FY2008. This is unacceptable. Imagine the outcry if I, as a Norse Neopagan, included a reference to the first stanza from the Havamal (one of the most important poems of ancient Norse paganism):

"Within the gates | ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows | where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within."

That quote has much more to do with a sight on a gun than any of the others, but it would still (rightly) end with my contract being immediately terminated.

(It should also be noted that the only defense Trijicon put forward is that there is "nothing wrong or illegal" about the sights, and that the group raising the issue is "not Christian.")

On helping after humanitarian disasters

The original post is here. Alanna Shaikh says it so well, that it's hard to excerpt, but here goes:

Don’t donate goods. Donating stuff instead of money is a serious problem in emergency relief. Only the people on the ground know what’s actually necessary; those of us in the rest of the world can only guess. Some things, like summer clothes and expired medicines are going to be worthless in Haiti. Other stuff, like warm clothes and bottled water may be helpful to some people in some specific ways. Separating the useful from the useless takes manpower that can be doing more important work. It’s far better to give money so that organizations can buy the things they know they need.


Don’t go to Haiti. It’s close to the US, it’s a disaster area, and we all want to help. However, it’s dangerous right now and they don’t need “extra hands”. The people who are currently useful are people with training in medicine and emergency response. If all you can contribute is unskilled labor, stay home. There is no shortage of unskilled labor in Haiti, and Haitians will be a lot more committed than you are to the rebuilding process.

And, from the comments:

I’d add – Don’t adopt a Haitian Child. After disasters there is often a heartfelt desire and a rush to adopt “Orphans”.
The problem is they are often not orphans – and even when they are, where possible it’s better for then to be cared for by extended family or adopted within their communities.At times of disaster when families are trying to reunite and child protection systems are weaker is not the time to “fast-track” international adoptions and remove the important safeguards that should normally be in place to protect the best interest of the child.

Most of us have no first-hand experience with this, and sometimes it can be very counterintuitive how to help best. (As always, "common sense" is nothing of the sort.) Read the whole piece.

Most generous offer to Haiti ever?

The Senegalese President has offered a large sum of aid for helping in Haiti, but that's not abnormal. Even the most poverty-stricken countries have done that.

However, President Wade is even offering land in Senegal for displaced Haitians to start over, and is talking about creating a new state in West Africa for Haitians so that the whole country can start over. He's describing it as "repatriation," a way of making up for the number of people forcibly taken from West Africa and sent to Haiti to work.

Wade is a self-described pan-Africanist, which includes African descendants in the New World. As long as he follows through with the promise of the land not being the crappy desert land near the Sahara, it's quite a generous offer. (There is some debate as to whether the rest of the country will accept it.) But it is the idea of the new country that is most interesting. The current AU would have to oppose it, on the basis of it involving redrawing borders (which is completely forbidden on a continent of completely arbitrary lines, where one small change could lead to widespread chaos and attempts to redraw them all). In all likelihood nothing will come of this, but it's an interesting look into the future of African relations.

Track of the Day

This was an amazing movie when it came out, and so this cool piece made up of only sounds from Terminator 2 made me smile.


There are no words:

… it is known publicly that Trig Palin indeed has Down Syndrome. Science has no way to undo this condition, which is the result of an extra chromosome; but God can. When Trig Palin is found to be miraculously healed, everyone but the most hardened atheist will have to acknowledge God’s Majesty!

If it works, I certainly will! And you'll abandon your faith if it doesn't, won't you proprietors of Pray4Trig.com?


From Weber's Politics as a Vocation. Reading this, I could not help but think of Joe Lieberman:

Vanity is a very widespread quality and perhaps nobody is entirely free from it. In academic and scholarly circles, vanity is a sort of occupational disease, but precisely with the scholar, vanity--however disagreeably it may express itself--is relatively harmless...With the politician the case is quite different. He works with the striving for power as an unavoidable means. Therefore, 'power instinct,' as is usually said, belongs indeed to his normal qualities. The sin against the lofty spirit of his vocation, however, begins where this striving for power ceases to be objective and becomes purely personal self-intoxication, instead of exclusively entering the service of 'the cause.' For ultimately there are only two kinds of deadly sins in the field of politics: lack of objectivity and--often but not always identical with it--irresponsibility. Vanity, the need personally to stand in the foreground as clearly as possible, strongly tempts the politician to commit one or both of these sins. This is more truly the case as the demagogue is compelled to count upon 'effect.' He therefore is constantly in danger of becoming an actor as well as taking lightly the responsibility for the outcome of his actions and of being concerned merely with the 'impression' he makes. His lack of objectivity tempts him to strive for the glamorous semblance of power rather than for actual power. His irresponsibility, however, suggests that he enjoy power merely for power's sake without a substantive purpose. Although, or rather just because, power is the unavoidable means, and striving for power is one of the driving forces of all politics, there is no more harmful distortion of political force than the parvenu-like braggart with power, and the vain self-reflection in the feeling of power, and in general every worship of power per se. The mere 'power politician' may get strong effects, but actually his work leads nowhere and is senseless. (Among us, too, an ardently promoted cult seeks to glorify him.) In this, the critics of 'power politics' are absolutely right. From the sudden inner collapse of typical representatives of this mentality, we can see what inner weakness and impotence hides behind this boastful but entirely empty gesture. It is a product of a shoddy and superficially blase attitude towards the meaning of human conduct; and it has no relation whatsoever to the knowledge of tragedy with which all action, but especially political action, is truly interwoven.

17 January 2010

Bonus Brett Favre QOTD

An online Packers fan, on the possibility of Favre winning a Super Bowl with the Vikings:

Seriously. It is like Abraham Lincoln defecting to the Confederacy and winning the Civil War for them.

Two interesting articles about Haiti

1) Haitian Vodou leaders are complaining about the use of fast, mass graves to accommodate the large death toll without proper religious rites. The head houngan for the country, Max Beauvoir, made the point that it amounts to desecration of the corpses. This leads to an interesting question about the balancing of religious sensibilities and public health. How quickly could these bodies be buried properly? (I assume that it would involve at least some attempt at identification, plus burial rites.) The Red Cross, on the other hand, has said explicitly that the corpses do not pose a health risk. Wouldn't it be smart to handle the dead (and their living relatives) with as much dignity as possible?

2) At the same time, Chavez is accusing the US of using the disaster as a pretext for occupying the country. I know that it's Chavez, but I was hoping for better this time. Yes, the US is sending troops to keep order since the entire Haitian government has broken down. I wonder how Chavez would like to be in a Venezuela in similar circumstances?


China is apparently feeling a bit better about Xinjiang, as it is allowing text messaging and some internet there again. Of course, being China, the internet is still highly restricted-in Xinjiang, right now, all that can be accessed is China Daily and a few other websites.

Here's an old Atlantic map and some additional info about internet censorship as well.

Unfortunately, this all shows that any powerful state will always have to the ability to utterly destroy any group's communication with the outside, if the state is ruthless enough. I do not know how much this will effect the ability of Uighur independence groups to continue, but it can't be helpful.

This provides a blueprint that other regimes can follow, of course. The question will be how much damage is done to the economy, and whether other regimes (such as Iran) are willing to bear that burden.


From a message board commenter:

Pfft, just realize Favre is truly the All-American QB.

Before each game he takes a Prilosec OTC or two to make sure he doesn't get heartburn while he's out there having fun and calling plays.

Underneath his pants are not pads, but American made Five Star Wrangler jeans with each star being a Hail Mary he's recited in the back to have God watch over not only himself, his team, his family and the opposition, but to also have it snow that much harder in Green Bay.

When he's out there, the man's just in the huddle with his left hand outstretched, using his right hand to draw out plays..telling Percy to run a hook route to the stop sign and to have Berrian run all the way to the street light before cutting it back towards the red house on the left.

If he's out there "running up the score", its only because he's trying to make sure that thru his play, America can rest assure that while she may be down, he is still going to perservere and overcome his struggles, which in turn motivates America to make a change and renew her hopes and dreams.

Face it guys, Brett Favre = America.

Track of the Day

Weekend Recipe Blogging: Peanut Chicken

Another easy, cheap, delicious, and filling recipe. This one is pretty packed with protein for those of you who are, like me, trying to build some muscle.

You'll need:

some olive oil
about one pound of chicken breasts or thighs, boneless or de-boned, cut up into chunks
1 onion
about a handful of mushrooms, sliced
bell peppers: 1-2 green and/or red, diced
about 1 head of brocolli, sliced up into florets
3/4 c chicken stock
1 small can of diced tomatoes
1/2 to 1 c creamy peanut butter
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes

Saute the chicken in the olive oil--don't worry about completely cooking yet, but make sure it's white. Go ahead and throw in your onions, peppers, mushrooms, and spices. Cook until onions are clear. Throw in the brocolli and cook it for just a little bit.

Now it's liquid time. Pour in your tomatoes and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is already cooked. Now it's time to finish the sauce. Stir in your peanut butter a little bit at a time until you get a consistency that you like.

I'm not sure if this is more of an Asian-style or African-style dish. All I know is that it's awesome.

I think you could probably replace the peanut butter with another kind of nut butter here, too, if you wanted.

Election Day is Here!

Polls are opening in two pretty momentous presidential elections in Chile and Ukraine today. Both of these elections have the potential of significantly affecting the course of each of those two states, so they're definitely worth paying some attention to.

In Chile, it looks like there's a decent chance that the right may come to power for the first time since the days of Pinochet, under the leadership of billionaire Sebastian Pinera. It's unclear to me why the center-left Concertacion coalition would be voted out, given the high level of success they have enjoyed under its control and the high popularity of the departing President Bachelet, other than the fact that they simply ran a lackluster candidate in former President Eduardo Frei. Hopefully, this won't be similar to the 2000 US election, where a pretty successful governing center-left party is voted out for no particular reason by a non-threatening right candidate who proceeds to steer the country straight off a cliff.

In Ukraine, the candidate accused of chicanery by the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, seems poised for a victory over the now-much-less-heralded former heroine of that revolution (and hottest world leader), Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Current President and Orange Revolution figurehead Viktor Yushchenko had a very lackluster showing in the first round of votes and didn't even make it into the runoff. Most of the analysis I've read on this election suggests that the predictions of a drastic pro-Russia shift in Ukrainian foreign policy following a Yanukovych victory are probably overblown. For instance, one of the first things that he is expected to do is re-negotiate energy deals with the Kremlin that are seen as unfavorable to Ukraine. At the same time, Tymoshenko has recently made overtures to Russia on some issues.

15 January 2010

Rudyard Kipling on Afghanistan

I had the opportunity to read “The Jungle Book” recently and there was a few short paragraphs at the very end of it that seemed very pertinent to the current conflict in Afghanistan. To set up the scene: Afghanistan’s Amir has come to the palace of India’s Viceroy to review his armed services. The Amir has brought one of his friends; a chief of one of his country’s many tribes. After watching thousands of men and animals march in unison, the chief inquired of one of the Indian officers how it was that the animals marched with the same precision as the men. The Indian officer responded:

"They obey, as the men do. Mule, horse, elephant, or bullock, he obeys his driver, and the driver his sergeant, and the sergeant his lieutenant, and the lieutenant his captain, and the captain his major, and the major his colonel, and the colonel his brigadier commanding three regiments, and the brigadier the general, who obeys the Viceroy, who is the servant of the Empress. Thus it is done."

"Would it were so in Afghanistan!" said the chief, "for there we obey only our own wills."

"And for that reason," said the native officer, twirling his mustache, "your Amir whom you do not obey must come here and take orders from our Viceroy."

My point is that I’m starting to doubt that US has the ability to create any type of stable central government in Afghanistan. I know that there are many ways in which US involvement in this country is different than the machinations of the British or the Russians, but Afghanistan itself has not really changed in all this time. Kipling wrote this in 1897, and Afghanistan’s central government still cannot get the recognition of all the tribes and factions. I’m starting to get convinced that the nation-state model just isn’t going to work. Even the Taliban, as brutal as they were, still could not keep control of the whole country. I don’t know what a solution in Afghanistan is going to look like, but I don’t think it’s going to look like a nation-state.

Track of the Day

How's that anti-Avatar campaign going?

I was vaguely aware that there was a rightwing push against James Cameron's Avatar for its leftish political viewpoint, but this article describes it in more detail. It seems like pretty much every time the far right really gets its knickers in a twist over some movie it turns out to be an overwhelming success. Not so much with the movies that the right embraces.

For what it's worth, I haven't even seen Avatar yet, and I can't really get that excited about it. I would, I think, enjoy seeing it in IMAX, but we don't have one of those theaters here. I did watch Up in the Air and The Road recently. I would recommend the former, but not the latter. The Road was very well made and well acted, but I just can't bring myself to recommend it to anyone because of how soul-crushingly depressing it is. For some reason, I found it to be even more bleak than the novel.