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Archive for August, 2007

Remember that question (asked of Miss Teen USA South Carolina) about how American students were having trouble finding the United States on the map? 

(Via David Kurtz at TPM) Here’s President Bush talking about Southern Louisiana: 

“[T]he taxpayers and people from all around the country have got to understand the people of this part of the world really do appreciate the fact that the American citizens are supportive of the recovery effort.”

“I come telling the folks in this part of the world that we still understand there’s problems and we’re still engaged.”

“We care deeply about the folks in this part of the world.”

In other related news, Bush announces his plan to negotiate a free trade agreement with the state of Louisiana. 

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In yet another exercise in political suicide, the Republicans seem to be conceding the Hispanic vote to the Dems this election cycle.  With the exception of John McCain, all of the Republican candidates are encountering “scheduling” conflicts on the date of the Spanish language Univision debate. 

 Here’s Kos

What’s obviously happening is that they don’t want to piss off the xenophobic nativist Right, where “speaking Spanish” equals the collapse of Western civilization. But as Rove has always known, the Latino vote growing in size and influence, and if it becomes a reliable Democratic constituency (like African American and Jewish voters), the GOP is screwed for generations.

So as a partisan Latino Democrat, I say to the GOP — thanks! Your actions speak louder to my community than my words ever would.

I get the strategy of appealing to the “nativist” vote but seriously where else are the “nativists” going to go? 

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CBS13 Sacremento in covering the Larry Craig gay sex scandal actually roleplays how to solicit gay sex in a public bathroom.  Hilarious.  God bless local news. 

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I think I’m going to start a semi-regular feature here at Yellow is the Color.  Every time I watch an incredibly embarrassing YouTube video that makes me laugh and ashamed to be a human being, I’ll post it here as a part of the newly established Put the Video Camera Down! feature.  Because some people should never ever put themselves in front of a camera.  Ever. 

This week’s installment is a guy who takes it upon himself to respond to the Miss Teen USA South Carolina brain-freeze which has gone viral all over the internet.  Enjoy. 

(Found courtesy of The M Zone)

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There’s an interesting discussion over at Ezra Klein’s for anyone who’s ever been a reporter or been interested in reporting. The impetus was this post at Penquins on the Equator:

I was rather surprised to learn, for instance, that TNR’s fact-checkers don’t check quotes with subjects; they just check quotes against the writers’ notes, which strikes me as less than optimal, particularly given that Stephen Glass fabricated notes to deceive the checkers

Ezra explains that this is common practice for most media outlets that do fact-checking (which is not, of course, most media outlets):

Here’s why: Quite often, a subject will ramble on in an interview and say something they didn’t quite mean to say. These are, generally, the quotes most worth using. But if read back, the subject will deny it, or argue over context, or generally try to edit out whatever bit of illumination they actually let slip. So you don’t give them the second edit.

Some of Ezra’s commentors seem appaled by this, accusing Ezra of meaning that journalists are more interested in getting a salacious quote than getting the truth, and why do reporters still take notes these days anyways, instead of just recording everything?

I agree 100 percent with Ezra’s explanation of why you don’t call sources back to check quotes. I’ve done this a few times, and it can be a disaster. Best case scenario, they just want to “improve,” what they originally said, and you end up wasting time talking to them about the same subject again, risk offending them if you tell them you’re going to stick with the original quote, or appease them and end up with a shmaltzy press-release-esque revised quote from them. Worst case scenario, they said something interesting or revealing off-the-cuff that, when repeated to them, they’ll inevitably want to change and, again, you either go with the original quote anyway, thereby offending them and risking losing a source, or you lose the quotes that were interesting and revealing in your story. Not to mention that by the time fact-checking takes place, a story is usally done, and to change quotes around then would mean the writer has to go back and reconfigure the whole story.

As for the recording interviews thing … well, it’s kind of a pain in the ass. A lot of interviews are conducted by phone, and not all phones are set up to record conversations. When things are recorded (on the phone or in person), there is always the risk that something will happen to the recording, which means the reporter will have to take notes as well as record — in which case, the reporter is probably gonna go from his/her notes anyway. Listening back to the whole recorded transcript of an interview is time-consuming, especially if you’ve interviewed someone with a tendency to ramble. At daily newspapers with tight deadlines, you often just don’t have time to essentially do an interview twice. And I imagine it would probably be a strain on fact-checkers if they had to go back and listen to the entire recorded conversations of everyone every reporter talked to to make sure quotes were not only accurate in wording but in meaning and intent.

All of this to “solve” something which, you know, isn’t really that much of a problem. To paraprhase Ezra, everyone knows the name Stephen Glass because this kind of thing is so rare, not because it’s so common.

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Okay, I doubt the veracity of all of these stories, but Glenn Kessler has written a book about Condoleeza Rice, and this New York Daily News write-up of it is either hilarious or deeply disturbing; I’m still out on which.

One thing we learn? Bush apparently refers to Condi as “the most powerful woman in the history of the world.” Being the most powerful woman in the world, however, is still not enough to keep you from getting quarters thrown at your ass:

She does let her hair down. Once at a party Blacker threw, Condi kicked off her shoes and started dancing. Wanting to show his partner how firm Rice’s behind was, Blacker postulated that if he aimed a quarter at her butt, it would bounce right off like a rocket.

“He was right,” says Kessler. “[Rice] didn’t realize what he had done until everyone was laughing hysterically. She was flattered and proud.

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There’s been a ton of Katrina articles the past few days and I wanted to highlight without comment some of the best ones I’ve read. 

Doug Brinkley writes about the feckless rebuilding efforts in New Orleans and what it says about the priorities of the Bush Administration, the local politicians, and the future of the area

Newsweek interviews the doctor who was arrested and hauled before a grand jury (which declined to indict) for her palliative treatment of acutely ill patients at the Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans

Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films has a video up about New Orleans two years later, along with a petition to support Senator Dodd’s Gulf Coast Recovery Bill of 2007

Rick Perlstein has numerous posts up looking back at Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath but here is one about Haley Barbour and his business partners who have sought to cash in on the devastation

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The Ann Arbor News has an article out today about how the city of Ann Arbor is considering using “public nuisance” laws to close down bars in order to cut down on “after hours fighting.”   

At that meeting, Mayor John Hieftje said that it was believed some bars just throw out violent patrons into the street and don’t take any steps to ensure the fighting doesn’t continue.

[City Council Member Joan] Lowenstein said she has heard the same thing.

“What was happening, instead of calling the police, they would just boot these people out in the street,” Lowenstein said. “Police need to know when a problem is about to happen, not that something has already happened.”

This is beyond stupid.  Of the five bars mentioned, four of them are campus bars, frequented most often by University of Michigan students.  This actually represents a substantial chunk of bar life in Ann Arbor, to be honest.  Those four (Touchdown’s Cafe, Rick’s American Cafe, Scorekeepers, Necto Night club) are pretty much like what you would find near most college campuses. 

The fifth bar, Studio 4, is closer to the downtown area of Ann Arbor away from campus and attracts a much different crowd mostly.  I was there about a year ago and my experience was a little weird.  Me and a couple of buddies weren’t allowed to leave for about ten minutes (bouncers had blocked the exits) because they were afraid a fight was about to break out on the street outside.  When we finally got outside there was a huge crowd of people not being let in the club because they were getting unruly waiting in line. 

As far as I know nothing happened that night.  And I could have sworn I saw Charles Woodson there too, talking to a couple girls, totally oblivious to the tension in the air. 

But back to the article, I have no idea what the angle is here for the city council, the mayor, and the city attorney.  But I do know that their approach and attitude to this issue is idiotic and ignorant.  It sounds like they just targeted the most popular bars in Ann Arbor because somehow or other the most popular bars have the most drunk people who in turn get in the most fights. 

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A recently published obesity study says that 30% of people from the state of Mississippi qualify as obese.  But the worthwhile part of the study is how it compares all of the states to similar studies in the past. 

According to the study, 47 states are above 20%.  15 years ago, there were no states above 15%.  So basically, the number of obese people is, um, expanding.  We’re trending… outward. 

And (height-wise) shrinking

And (lifespan-wise) downward

In completely and totally unrelated news, the number of uninsured Americans is rising

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It’s hard to overestimate the looming potential of Turkey as it sits astride the boundaries of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, has a long and proud history of dominating its neighbors, is trying to gain entry into the European Union, is engaged in a guerrilla war with Kurdish separatists in Southern Turkey and Northern Iraq, and is the one secular democracy with a majority Muslim population. 

Its role in providing cheap labor to other nations has been an important economic element in Europe but also a major source of irritation.  Turkey’s often times heavy handed approach to religious elements has been much criticized but largely effective in maintaining its secular character, largely through military enforcement and intervention. 

Which is why the election of a Muslim with an Islamic political background is so huge.  Gul gives lip service to the importance of the secular nature of the Turkish government and maintains the highest priority to admission into the European Union (partly, I think, because religious protections in the E.U. are much stronger than currently practiced domestically in Turkey). 

But the military does not seem to trust him or Prime Minister Erdogan.  Keep an eye out here. 

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Newsweek has an excellent article on the ongoing hunt for Osama Bin Laden.  If you have no desire to read some of the excellent books on our war in Afghanistan (like Not a Good Day to Die by Sean Naylor or Jawbreaker by Gary Berntsen and Ralph Pezzulo) then this article is a more than decent overview of what’s been happening over there. 

As Attaturk mentions it basically vindicates much of what Senator Kerry was saying back in the 2004 elections before he got swiftboated.  Perhaps as a sort of Pavlovian political training regimen, we should learn to pay more attention to the administration critics who get tarred and feathered by the Republican crazies. 

There’s so much in the article I recommend it to anyone who cares (or professes to care) about the war on terrorism. 

But I can’t resist highlighting this passage which brought back so many memories of ridiculous military bureaucracy (italics added). 

Rice was not optimistic about getting timely permission. Whenever he and his men moved within five kilometers of the safe house, he says, they had to file a request form known as a 5-W, spelling out the who, what, when, where and why of the mission. Permission from headquarters took hours, and if shooting might be involved, it was often denied. To go beyond five kilometers required a CONOP (for “concept of operations”) that was much more elaborate and required approval from two layers in the field, and finally the Joint Special Operations Task Force at Baghram air base near Kabul. To get into a fire fight, the permission of a three-star general was necessary. “That process could take days,” Rice recalled to NEWSWEEK. He often typed forms while sitting on a 55-gallon drum his men had cut in half to make a toilet seat. “We’d be typing in 130-degree heat while we’re crapping away with bacillary dysentery and sometimes the brass at Kandahar or Baghram would kick back and tell you the spelling was incorrect, that you weren’t using the tab to delimit the form correctly.”

But Rice made his request anyway. Days passed with no word. The window closed; the target—whether Mullah Omar or not—moved on. Rice blames risk aversion in career officers, whose promotions require spotless (“zero defect”) records—no mistakes, no bad luck, no “flaps.” The cautious mind-set changed for a time after 9/11, but quickly settled back in. High-tech communication serves to clog, rather than speed the process. With worldwide satellite communications, high-level commanders back at the base or in Washington can second-guess even minor decisions.

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I read a lot of blog posts last week about the new research study that somehow PROVED that women intrinsically prefer pink. I didn’t bother looking at any of the news articles on the study, though, because I mostly got the gist from the blogs. Today, however, I came across an article about it in my hometown paper, and decided to click the link. My oh my. It’s worse reporting than I could have imagined. Mind you that the subjects of this study were grown adults, not babies — people who’ve had years to internalize which colors are for girls and which are for boys. How does it possibly make sense for a reporter to offer up this explanation for the study results —

Hurlbert surmised that women might have evolved an interest in red because of their primary role as gatherers in early human history.

— without even mentioning the fact that, you know, cultural factors just might have made a difference?

I know this probably doesn’t seem like anything to get worked up about. So the study says women like pink? Women do like pink! So what? But this isn’t about women liking pink. I like pink okay (though I much prefer navy blue, mustard yellow, pistacio green, eggplant, and bright orange). I’m not bothered in some way by a lot of women liking pink. What I care about is dubious research studies getting widespread media attention by purporting to offer hard evidence that men and women’s brains are “hard-wired” in different ways. Because while being hard-wired for a color preference may seem pretty innocuous, when you concede that, it’s not a far leap to men’s brains being more “hard-wired” to do math or science or participate in politics, and women being more “hard-wired” to be awesome grocery shoppers.

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Roll Call reported yesterday that another Republican politician was arrested for lewd behavior in a public bathroom.

Seriously, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE REPUBLICAN POLITICIANS as of late?

I mean this completely un-snarkily. But this summer alone, we’ve had Larry Craig’s grabby hands under bathroom stalls, David Vitter’s diaper shenanigans, Michael Flory’s rape conviction, the chairman of the Young Republicans sexually assaulting a sleeping man, Bob Allen’s public restroom escapades, and possibly others. This summer alone!

It always brings me back to this kid in the no-sex-before-marriage-no-masturbation-grown-30-year-old-men-must-share-bedrooms-so-they-don’t-do-these-things-cult-like-religious-group back home, who took to masturbating in grocery store parking lots. Hating non-procreative sex doesn’t stop people from having non-procreative sex, not even the most rabid hateful proponents of all those who would do otherwise. It just leads to sad, sad things like offering someone $20 to suck your cock in the public restroom stall.

The RNC should really start psychologically screening all candidates. It’s bad when you’ve had a summer full of more and kinkier sex scandals from politicians than from young hollywood.

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I just got an invitation via facebook to join the “Climate Emergency Fast,” which is basically a thing where you agree not to eat for a day, from wherever you are, in order to raise awareness for global climate issues.  The day for this fast is September 4th. 

 I support activism as much as the next guy.  And I’m all for raising awareness on global climate issues.  But seriously will anyone really notice if I don’t eat for a day? 

I think the better idea is to eat something really disgusting like centipedes or cockroaches.  And to do it at the most crowded time possible in the cafeteria.  People will come up to me.  “Why the hell are you eating that?” 

And I’ll say, “Well, I’m glad you asked…” 

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See, what’s most sad about this is she doesn’t sound a whole lot different then a lot of politicians. Africa! Iraq! The future! …. at least she hits all the buzz words:

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On “The American View,” Ron Paul hems and haws a bit about whether homosexuality is a “sin.” Sigh ….

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While I’m as prone to lamenting Paris Hilton stories on CNN as much as the next gal, there’s something kind of hilarious in people’s pearl-clutching over the vapidity of this article in Salon. Considering that Salon’s whole shtick is sort of a cultural/political/random-ass-stuff schmorgasboard, I’m really confused by the commenters who have worked themselves into a cute little tizzy of moral indignation over the fact that Salon would bother reporting on Media’s Bistro’s “DC’s hottest media types” contest when don’t you know there are starving children in Africa? Examples:

so little substance.
No wonder our Republic is going down the toilet. What’s next? A Hottest Self-Congratulatory A-Holes Contest

So I’m spending my money to subscribe and read this kind of crap as the featured story? Wasn’t there something more important to run as the main story?

And probably the best one:

This article might have been worth a short blurb, at most. Please give us a solid article on who the best reporter in D.C. is.

Oh, yes, because that’s something totally capable of being measured, and people would totally read that article. Gag.

What’s worse, though, is all the people who just had to give their opinion of the relative hotness of Kriston Capps and Catherine Andrews, the two people who won the contest. That might be valid — might — if the whole point of the article was “Look how hot they are!” But it wasn’t. The point was about how Capps and Andrews won because they had bots on their side and that the whole thing — from the Clinton staffer’s “campaign” email to the fact that people started getting snippy when the bots started running amok — is kind of funny and silly and lame all at once. And yet dudes on the Internet (or gals, I guess, as some of the names are gender-neutral or anon) cannot resist one, even one, chance to exert their position as personal arbiters of exactly who is or isn’t allowed to be considered hot, because everyone knows that their personal feelings on this matter are of utmost importance and interest. As one Salon commenter put it:

Is it funny to see a DC hotness contest taken over by robots? YES!

Is it funny to see people get upset about who won? YES!

Is it funny to see critiques of society based on how society behaves in an all for fun hotness contest? YES!

So shut the fuck up, other commenters at Salon. Thank you.

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Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films produced a video which illustrates a point I was making in the comments of an earlier post

Here’s what the reader Martin Sims wrote in part: 

Here we are once again considering the terrorist nation of Iran. A nation that controls Palestine through Hamas, Lebanon and Syria though Hezbollah, and Iraq through the Mahdi army, untold numbers of insurgency and militant organizations and even Al Qaeda. Iran is closing in quickly on the ability to mass produce nuclear weapons while our politicians are arguing over whether or not they are even a threat to the region, and our own nation. Israel, as I have said before, does not have the luxury of debating this issue until the day it is confirmed that the Iranian nuclear program has in fact produced it’s first reliable weapon. Israel has nuclear weapons but will they use them? It is a strongly held belief that only the United States can deliver a conventional strike devastating enough to impact the Iranian nuclear program, however, if the United States does not do that and soon, Israel will be forced to consider the nuclear option as it’s only reliable means of ensuring it’s continued existence.

If the United States is unable or unwilling to confront Iran militarily within the next 12 months, world war three is almost a certainty. Because if Iran is able to get all their pieces in place before they are directly attacked, this chess game is over and no country in the world will be safe from the terrorist army they have been building up arming and training for over 30 years. China, Russia, Venezuela and many other countries have already chosen their allies in this struggle by supporting, supplying and defending Iran in it’s quest for nuclear weapons and undying support of terrorism in all it’s horrific forms and manifestations.

Here’s my response which, I feel, is buoyed by the excellent video embedded above. 

It is truly mind boggling how little you actually know about the way the Middle East works, the actual relationship between Iran and paramilitary elements in the Middle East, the foreign policy objectives of Iran, and the U.S. airstrike (and Israeli for that matter) capability.

Some people may “strongly” hold beliefs that the U.S. is the only nation capable of decimating the Iranian ability to build nuclear weapons but that doesn’t make it true. In fact, there is quite a bit of disagreement in the intel community over the efficacy of airstrikes at all. This isn’t the early 1980’s. Iran is conducting its programs mostly underground and there’s simply no good information on what would happen if we hit them even with our best weapons at those locations, or even if we know where all of the underground facilities are located.

And again, the talk about the airstrikes neatly sidesteps these issues by saying that the point of these attacks would be to put Iran in its place and make them pay for supposedly mucking up Iraq. Not to mention the fact that the intel over that assertion is in question. Much of the sourcing from that intel has come from a particular subversive Iranian group operating in Iraq and hoping to get the U.S. to weaken the Iranian government. Now where have we fallen for that sort of thing before?

But the claims of influence over the Mahdi Army has been wildly exaggerated. Sure, people in Iran are responsible for sending money and weapons. But we’re not talking about government officials giving aid and instructions to the Mahdi Army. The Shiites in Iraq are notoriously independent and leery of Iran. If anything, we have been driving some Shiite militias into the arms of Iran because of our inability to provide basic security and social services.

None of this stuff is difficult to understand or find in many, many open source materials. One should learn to read and evaluate the source of what one reads before swallowing it completely. In respect to Iran, it’s important to be more than a little skeptical of sources provided by and steming from the Bush Administration. It was only four to five years ago, after all, when we heard similar imminent danger arguments about Iraq.  And we all know how that turned out.

Or do we?

Found video via Rick Perlstein

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There are two major issues in healthcare that need reform, as I see it. 

1. All the people who are uninsured.  The AMA’s plan is all about this

2. Many, many people who are lucky enough to have health insurance have crappy, crappy insurance and really no other viable way to get better coverage.  This is the largely ignored elephant in the room when it comes to healthcare reform. 

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Pretty much the short version of this post is “what he says.” 

 But let me add a couple thoughts which I have been chewing on for awhile.

1. This “Blame Maliki” movement is completely self-serving.  I have absolutely no doubt the guy isn’t what we hoped he would be.  But I think that says more about our hopes and the tactics we’ve used in Iraq that have undercut his authority.  The movement is a smokescreen to “give it more time” when the next guy comes in to take his place.

2. This “Surge is working” meme being pushed by the Bush administration and certain supporters of the war is the function of knee-jerk analysis.  Of course having more troops to conduct more military operations will have an effect on tactical issues.  But tactical military issues aren’t the source of the overall problem.  This war is not primarily about fighting enemy troops in the field of battle.  Killing a bunch of people won’t actually make things better. 

We are trying to prop up/create/maintain/establish a unified Iraqi government which provides security and government services to the people so that markets can function, schools can operate, and people can begin to invest again in their communities.  None of the so-called signs of progress being thrown around loosely by war supporters speak to these issues and therefore evaluating the efficacy of the surge is premature, at best. 

The fact that many war supporters are relying so heavily on skewed data to push their version of the war in the media is an indication to me that they still don’t get it.  They believe the war can be fought and won in the media.  Good public relations is a part of any effective war campaign in this day and age but it’s not an alternative to the facts on the ground. 

But then again it’s convenient to define the war’s progress with the way the media has portrayed it.  It makes pundits who support the war “soldiers” and makes those in the media who don’t play along “the enemy.” 

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