Talmadge Heflin, Enormous Jackass of Evil

Heflin lost his bid to return to the State House. By “lost” we mean “lost the count AND the recount.” So, because we live in a country ruled by laws, he stepped aside.

No, of course, not. Heflin is a Republican, so he’s contesting the election in the GOP-dominated Texas House, where the Speaker has already stated that the winner, Democrat Hubert Vo, will never be seated in “his” House.

Dept. of Recent History

About a year ago, I asked my mother for my grandmother’s diamonds. She died in 2001, soon after Erin and I started dating. They aren’t large, but they are meaningful; her engagement stone has been in another setting for twenty-odd years (my grandfather died in 1972), and has been worn by both mom and my late grandmother.

About six months ago, she brought them to me in Houston.

About three weeks ago, I took them to a local jeweler, who agreed to create a ring around them.

About noon today, I picked up a new ring made of Mimi’s stones plus one new one. It is beautiful.

Until about three today, I’d planned to use this ring on Sunday night, the third anniversary (“Sunday after Thanksgiving”) of our first date, a U2 concert in Dallas in 2001.

At about 3:05 today, I realized waiting until Sunday was no longer a possibility.

At 3:10 today, I rejected the plan offered by Certain Longtime Heathen Readers to wait until the security checkpoint at IAH on Friday (basically, insist that the metal detector’s buzz is “because of this pesky thing in my pocket; honey, come here and see if it buzzes if you carry it,” and pull a bit of a Jumbotron trick in front of the TSA goons).

At 6:00 today, I picked up The Girl. At this point, I was still a bit woozy from the whole prospect.

At 6:05 today, she said, when asked, that we should go to Tafia for cocktail food.

At 6:06 today, I hatched a pseudoplan.

At 6:30 today, she obligingly complained that she’d not gotten a manicure ahead of our aforementioned trip this weekend, and that therefore her nails didn’t look as good as she’d like.

At 6:31 today, I took her left hand, still profferred for examination in re: nail care, and kneeled in the middle of the Tafia lounge. “I have something that may fix the nail problem.”

At 6:31:05 today, we became engaged.

Goddamn, we’re happy.

We’re geeky, but not THIS geeky

HTML Tattoo Besides, if we’d gotten a tattoo like that, we wouldn’t use “align”; it’s deprecated, and who wants an obsolete tattoo?

(Photo from BME’s Geek Tattoo gallery, via BoingBoing. Said gallery includes many clever bits and at least one astoundingly unlikely one.

{Why? Because it’s the symbol of a particularly hardcore and ubergeeky distribution of Linux, and it’s on what appears to be a pretty girl’s belly. [HDANCN?]})

It’s Monday. How about TWO nutcases?

BobSagetIsGod.com needs no description.

However, Molatar’s Castle defies description; we can, however, give you a quote:

The features of my proposed dragon body were told to me by the Holy Spirit in February of 2004. Before I could pray for a dragon body, I needed to determine what I was praying for exactly. The Holy Spirit was very generous and described for me a powerful dragon body I was comfortable with. Once I knew what my body looked like, I told the Holy Spirit that I accepted His description and to go ahead with the shape-shift. I leave you this compilation so that if you need to change into a dragon, you have the specifications already worked out.

Dept. of Creeping Puritanism

Our congresscritters have been regaled this week with tales of the New Enemy, PORNOGRAPHY, which is apparently a HUGE threat to our country now (and never you mind terrorism, the economy, the deficit, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, etc.; we’re now threatened by HARD CORE FUCKIN’). Wired News’ coverage seems to be the best account. One witness famously described the porn plague as worse than crack or heroin (we suppose we’ve just missed the ravaged inner cities and rampant violence associated with porn).

The best part of the story is the demand by one particularly uptight group (California Protective Parents Association, in the person of Judith Reisman) that we fund research into “erototoxins,” which are produced when we view arousing pornography:

Pornography triggers myriad kinds of internal, natural drugs that mimic the “high” from a street drug. Addiction to pornography is addiction to what I dub erototoxins — mind-altering drugs produced by the viewerÕs own brain. [...] A basic science research team employing a cautiously protective methodology should study erototoxins and the brain/body. State-of-the-art brain scanning studies should answer these questions with hard, replicable data. As with the tobacco suits, these data could be helpful in litigation and in affecting legal change. [...] An offensive strategy should be planned, mandating law enforcement collection of all pornography data at crime sites and judges, police, lawyers and law schools should receive training in the hard data of sexology fraud and erototoxins as changing brains absent informed consent. Congress should end all Federal funding of educational institutions that train students with bogus Kinseyan academic pornography and/or that teach pornography as harmless. Congress should also remove the authority of so-called sexology institutes–most of whom are pornography grantees–to confer professional credentials and serve as expert witnesses. Cite

Of course, the thoroughly debunked ex-gay movement has its say, too, through Jerry Satinover:

Pornography really does, unlike other addictions, biologically cause direct release of the most perfect addictive substance,” Satinover said. “That is, it causes masturbation, which causes release of the naturally occurring opioids. It does what heroin can’t do, in effect.”

Could these people be more hysterical? “Erototoxins“? We wonder how these porn-induced erototoxins differ from the changes in our brains due to arousal from, say, normal human sexual activity. Smart money says “not at all,” and once you realize that, you realize that these people are threatened by sexuality, not pornography.

Of course, with the religious right calling the tune, this may not matter; their hostility to any sort of discussion of sexuality — let alone actual material designed to be arousing, sex toys, and erotic literature — is well documented, and this puritannical strain of American culture desperately wants to force its values on the rest of us. And with this administration, they have more influence than ever before. Pay attention.

Snarky? You bet. Rude? Totally. But also awesome.

Gawker reports this celeb-siting; we really hope it’s true:

Freemans, tuesday night the 16th of nov. the bush twins , along with 2 massive secret service men, tried to have dinner. they were told by the maitre’d that they were full and would be for the next 4 years. upon hearing, the entire restaurant cheered and did a round of shots… it was amazing!!! [Ed: We're hearing that this is actually true.]

This Just In: Apparently, Wisconsin has Asian Rednecks

This is top-story CNN stuff, but a shooting this weekend erupted over a deer stand in Wisconsin. Said shooting — by a trespassing hunter named Chai Vang — left five dead and three injured. This story has a variety of odd points, but we’ll point out a few we notice:

  • First, see post title.
  • Vang was hunting with an SKS, a precursor to the AK-47, and the article calls this “unusual.” In my experience, an SKS isn’t all that unusual as a hunting rifle choice, given the cost (frequently very, very low) and the gun nut cache of hunting with a military-style weapon. They are correct that, typically speaking, such military rifles are not as accurate as an actual hunting rifle, nor is the cartridge as powerful as that of many popular hunting calibers; .308, .30-06, etc., are much stronger — this despite the article’s description of his gun as a “high-powered assault weapon”.
  • We consider ourselves fortunate that we did not have a similar experience several years ago when we ejected trespassing hunters from our land in Mississippi; we are unsure to what we should attribute this, since our homegrown Mississippi rednecks are sure to be more hardcore than Wisconsin transplants.
  • In any case, most states have such a huge overpopulation of deer (due in no small part to the fact that while we tolerate herbivores just fine, we’ve basically eliminated the predators that eat the herbivores, creating an ecological imbalance) that finding some to hunt is pretty fucking easy — certainly easier, say, than getting away with shooting a bunch of people over a tree stand. From this we may infer that Vang is, in addition to being a redneck, also an unbalanced idiot.

Dept. of Great Bands

NYT had a great piece on U2 (pointed out by Mike) on the 14th; we’ve been busy, or we’d have put it up sooner. Use nogators/nogators to get in. Interestingly, it turns out they weren’t paid for the iPod spot; it functioned as an ad for their record as much as the iPod. Neat.

A fine quote from Bono:

“I don’t talk about my faith very much, because the people you might want to talk with, you don’t want to hang out with. “To have faith in a time of religious fervor is a worry. And, you know, I do have faith, and I’m worried about even the subject because of the sort of fanaticism that is the next-door neighbor of faith. The trick in the next few years will be not to decry the religious instinct, but to accept that this is a hugely important part of people’s lives. And at the same time to be very wary of people who believe that theirs is the only way. Unilateralism before God is dangerous.” “Religion is ceremony and symbolism,” he added. “Writers live off symbolism, and performers live off ceremony. We’re made for religion! And yet you see this country, Ireland, ripped over religion, and you see the Middle East. Right now, unless tolerance comes with fervor, you’ll see it in the United States.”

And, on the iPod thing:

Apple is manufacturing a black-and-red U2 iPod with the album stored on it, and later this month its iTunes Music Store is releasing “The Complete U2,” a digital album of 400 songs, including 25 previously unreleased. To inaugurate the band’s partnership with Apple, U2 and its song “Vertigo” appear in an iPod commercial for which, Bono said, the band was not paid. “My idea of selling out is when you do naff things for money,” he said, going on to define “naff” as very embarrassing. “That’s subjective, but I think it’s quite clear: don’t embarrass your fans, they’ve given you a good life. Our audience are thrilled about the Apple thing. They can’t believe their band has its own iPod. “I have a very strong sense of survival,” he added, “and I know that ‘Vertigo’ is not the biggest pop song in the world. I know that riff has to be hammered home to become a pop song. With the commercial, we had a rock video coming on during the baseball playoffs in a way a record company could not afford.’”

Clever boys, U2. Now, when’s the tour?

Ashcroft’s Legacy

Salon’s review of Ashcroft’s tenure as AG makes clear his farewell letter’s assertions that we’re somehow safer as a result of his jackbooted tactics are nothing more than wishful thinking:

Being John Ashcroft apparently means never having to say you’re sorry. On Nov. 10, the attorney general congratulated himself in a farewell letter “to the American people” with this assessment: “I am blessed to leave public office in a nation that is safer and stronger than the one I found; a nation in which the flame of freedom illuminates every American and burns a signal fire to a watching world.” In fact, there is little reason to believe Ashcroft’s claim that the nation is safer and stronger; file boxes of evidence to demonstrate that if the “flame of freedom” still burns, it is despite Ashcroft’s efforts, not because of them; and every indication that the “signal fire” America is sending to the “watching world” is not one of freedom.

And, needless to say, Gonzales will almost certainly be no better. At least the Onion got some laughs out of it with its throwaway headline this week: “Ashcroft Loses Job To Mexican”.

Mohney Wins

He’s the first former Knave to comment post-hiatus. We wonder, though, based on recent posts on his on site, if he remembers certain promises made by the Heathen Hosting Authorities.

Only time will tell. He may, however, wish to commit to memory the domains “ns.cuniculosus.com” and “ns1.cuniculosus.com”, which still think they’re authoritative for his domain, if memory serves.

In Case You Missed It

Secrecy News points out something we should all be profoundly pissed off about: there now exist laws and regulations governing our behavior and limiting our rights that are secret, meaning the governmentmental body in charge does not have to show you in order to justify their actions.

Last month, Helen Chenoweth-Hage attempted to board a United Airlines flight from Boise to Reno when she was pulled aside by airline personnel for additional screening, including a pat-down search for weapons or unauthorized materials. Chenoweth-Hage, an ultra-conservative former Congresswoman (R-ID), requested a copy of the regulation that authorizes such pat-downs. “She said she wanted to see the regulation that required the additional procedure for secondary screening and she was told that she couldn’t see it,” local TSA security director Julian Gonzales told the Idaho Statesman (10/10/04). “She refused to go through additional screening [without seeing the regulation], and she was not allowed to fly,” he said. “It’s pretty simple.” Chenoweth-Hage wasn’t seeking disclosure of the internal criteria used for screening passengers, only the legal authorization for passenger pat-downs. Why couldn’t they at least let her see that? asked Statesman commentator Dan Popkey. “Because we don’t have to,” Mr. Gonzales replied crisply. “That is called ‘sensitive security information.’ She’s not allowed to see it, nor is anyone else,” he said. Thus, in a qualitatively new development in U.S. governance, Americans can now be obligated to comply with legally-binding regulations that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are forbidden to know.

Secret laws and regulations not subject to public scrutiny are anathema to an open, free society. Period.

Dept. of Funny-Because-It’s-True

Or at least sad for the same reason:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. – H.L. Mencken, July 26, 1920, in The Evening Sun

Found at Slacktivist.

It’s really like they don’t care about hypocrisy at all

WASHINGTON (AP) Ñ Moving to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Republicans want to change party rules to ensure that DeLay retains his post if a Texas grand jury indicts him as it did with three of his political associates. The House Republican Conference, composed of all GOP members in the chamber, was to vote Wednesday to modify a requirement that would force DeLay to step aside if charged with a felony requiring at least a two-year prison term. Party rules require leaders to relinquish their posts after a felony indictment, but the change would eliminate the requirement for non-federal indictments.

More from the Washington Post; Josh Marshall points out the irony over at TPM, which is that this rule is the one the GOP has used over and over against Democrats in the past.

The MPAA and RIAA Hate You

No, really. They just want your money, and don’t care about anything else. Why else would they be trying to make it illegal to skip commercials? We’re not making this up:

The [Intellectual Property Protection Act] would also permit people to use technology to skip objectionable content — like a gory or sexually explicit scene — in films, a right that consumers already have. However, under the proposed law, skipping any commercials or promotional announcements would be prohibited. The proposed law also includes language from the Pirate Act (S2237), which would permit the Justice Department to file civil lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.

So, to recap:

  1. No commercial skipping; and
  2. The DoJ is the MPAA/RIAA’s law firm; which means
  3. The taxpayers will be footing the bill for their copyright enforcement efforts, both reasonable and unreasonable.

It’s not law yet, though. Call those congresscritters.

Hiatus, Schmiatus

As the bits below illustrate, the hiatus was something less than total. Of course, you do get a fancy new presentation in the bargain, and it’s not like you’re paying for it, so suck it up.

Just because we’re pissed off and busy doesn’t mean we didn’t come across a few bits worth noting in the interim that didn’t merit their own entries, so here’s a linkdump:

And now, Bush v. Science, Round Two

The scientific community — a segment of the “reality based community” the Bushies are so hostile to — is bracing for another four years of bullshit.

The Bush administration and the scientific community have never had an easy relationship. For the past four years, scientists have accused the Bush White House of ignoring widely accepted scientific studies in favor of fringe theories that support the administration’s political agenda. Meanwhile, government officials say scientists are exploiting research for political purposes. Never was this rift more clear than at an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in September, when former House Science Committee chairman Bob Walker, speaking on behalf of the Bush re-election campaign, warned scientists that their moaning about the government’s treatment of science could lead to a “push back” from the federal government. More at Wired News

This administration’s tendency to view scientific findings in conflict with ideology as “politically motivated” pops up with alarming frequency, and reminds us that we have right-wing religious nutbirds in charge. Which is, apparently, the way 51% of the electorate wants it. It’s important at this point, we reckon, to note that it’s not so much that our country was founded by those seeking religious liberty; we were founded by people who were too uptight to be British. It’s this legacy that sends us into fits over sex on TV, Janet Jackson’s boob, gay marriage, medical pot, and science that disturbs our ideologies; what this means for the future of our country is left as an exercise for the reader.

We continue to fear fundamentalism of all stripes, and are pretty sure the ones we ought to be watching the most aren’t in the Mideast; it’s the ones in Washington.

Finally, some actual GOOD news

Cream are considering a 2005 reunion stand at the Royal Albert Hall. We knew there was a reason we still had 100K+ Amex points.

(This is not to say that two-headed turtles aren’t good news, of course. Apples and oranges, really.)

And here’s the political ranting

So we got pissed off and went on hiatus. But that doesn’t mean you get a free pass; here’s some choice ranting about the state of the Union:

A Few Quotes, a reply, and a hiatus.

I’m too disgusted to do this anymore. I leave you with a few choice words, some mine, some from others.

Tom Tomorrow quotes Tbogg in full rant mode, which is angry, sad, and mostly accurate:

Four more years of American soldiers being used as cannon fodder. Four more years of scientific decisions being made by people who believe in a ghost in the clouds. Four more years of debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay off. Four more years of racists and lunatics for judicial appointments Four more years of looting the treasury and squandering it on corporate cronies. Four more years of making enemies faster than we can kill them. Four more years of fear and darkness and racism and hatred and stupidity and guns and bad country music. I look at the big map and all of the red in flyover country and I feel like I’ve been locked in a room with the slow learners. We have become the country that pulls a dry cleaning bag over its head to play astronaut.

And Lessig quotes one of his commenters:

I’m going to spend time these next few days looking for the America in my heart. It may be a while before I see it anywhere else.

Billmon points us to HST in his prime:

This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
November 1972

And this:

The amazing thing to me about this race was that Bush could be as divisive as he wanted to be, but it never penalized him. The most important things in the world were responded to with infantile answers or complete ignorance. Where he stood was clear. Simplicity wins. Oliver Willis

Someone commented, a bit ago, that I should take comfort in it being a democracy, and that he was just as pissed off and certain of doom under Clinton, but see how it worked out?

I wish I could share that optimism, but I just can’t.

As for Clinton, I ask you this: What policies cost thousands of lives under Clinton? The British journal The Lancet estimates 100,000 Iraqi dead now, to say nothing of our own wounded and dead soldiers. What huge debts did he run up, to be paid by our children and grandchildren? What allies did he alienate in a rush to war against a country that wasn’t threatening us? What enemies did he ignore to do so? What CIA operatives did his administration “out” as political payback? When did he claim he could arrest anyone he wanted, declare them an “enemy combatant,” and be free of judicial oversight? When did his party actively campaign to amend the Constitution to LIMIT rights?

Near as I can tell, the worst thing he did was lie about a blow job in the midst of a political witch hunt. He wasn’t a great president, but he wasn’t a disaster like this guy, either.

Bush and his people have lied when the truth would do better for four years, but half the electorate doesn’t seem to care. He campaigned as a “uniter,” but cruised to office on a 5 to 4 vote and proceded to govern from the hard, hard right. His GOP is openly pandering to the nutball religious right and corporate interests, and in doing so is weakening even our last line of defense (the courts). A Bush-packed SCOTUS will be hostile to the vital decisions supporting, among other things, our right to privacy, and I’m kind of attached to it. (Remember, Griswold wasn’t about abortion; it was about the right to buy birth control.)

Add to all this the open hostility to accepted science, his endless saber-rattling while failing utterly to pursue Osama effectively, our growing quagmire in Iraq (which, contrary to Cheney, is getting worse, not better — check the stats), and frankly I don’t see much to be hopeful about. I doubt you can point to a similar list of events attributable to Clinton.

The trouble is, it wouldn’t be much better had Kerry won decisively. Under Clinton — the last president we can say really WON in the traditional sense — you saw how the GOP acted. They pursued him with a vigor and relish that defies belief for no other reason than he beat them in the election. They were gunning for him before he took office, for Christ’s sake, and they didn’t stop until they’d spent nearly a hundred million bucks and caught him in a lie about a blow job — when they were, ostensibly, investigating real estate in Arkansas. The GOP doesn’t want to govern; they want to rule, and their actions since Whitewater make that clear. There is no bipartisanship with Bush. There will be less now. They’re in power, and they’re willing to do anything it takes, pander to any divisive cause, and abandon any nominally American principle to do it. They don’t care what else happens.

Yes, it is a democracy. But you’ll never go broke pandering to the baser desires of the American populace (c.f. Fox). The GOP understands, and therefore appeals to the very worst of the soul of America. And they’re winning.

For now, I’m done. I have to figure out how to live in a country whose apparent values are hostile to tolerance, to complex solutions to complex problems, to truth, to accountability, and to critical thought.

Fuck.

There’s nothing like the realization that, by and large, more than half your countrymen are willing to vote for a party of greed, fear, bigotry, and war despite just having four years of precisely that.

That John Kerry did not win in a walk is disgusting. It sickens me. Bush and his cronies have lied and been caught at it dozens of times, and on issues far more important than a fucking extramarital blow job, but no one cares. He has taken us to war in Iraq for no good reason (though he cited several candidates over time), and now has us stuck in an ever-worsening quagmire while Osama is still at large. He’s presided over the worst jobs record since Hoover. He’s spending us into oblivion. His organization funds and supports groups like Swift Boat Vets, whose members have no compunction about saying whatever they think will hurt Bush’s challenger. His party wants to institutionalize bigotry in the form of an anti-gay marriage amendment, and is openly hostile to the right to privacy enshrined in Griswold and Roe. I could go on and on here. It’s that bad.

And yet, at last count, 58,000,000 people voted for this goatfucker, and I’m not very proud to share a country with them. Frankly, if the GOP keeps moving us in this direction, I think there’s a very good chance that, eventually, I won’t. They’ve made it abundantly clear they will do whatever it takes to win, no matter what that implies. Given how they fought Clinton — for no reason other than he beat them at the polls — can you imagine a gracious loss in this case, should Ohio’s provisional ballots go Kerry’s way? Last time the SCOTUS gave Bush the election; this time he may well have generated enough hate and fear to win in outright (but barely), and that doesn’t bode well for this country.

So, about e-voting

Reading this site, you might get the impression that we’re foursquare against the whole notion of electronic voting. That’s not quite right; information technology COULD play a valuable role in the electoral process, and could, if done correctly and carefully, actually lower the margin of error.

However, that’s unlikely to happen with proprietary systems like Diebold’s. And that’s why we support the Open Voting Consortium, a group dedicated to creating an open source voting system. With open source, it would be easy to verify that the code was good, that the tallying methods were unbiased, and that the best algorithms and practices were used. We’ll never have that with Diebold. OVC is a small group, but it’s a promising idea, and one much more likely to preserve our votes than black boxes from Diebold.

(Thanks, Eric!)

The difference

Josh Marshall details a story from ABC on the whole Kerry-shirts-at-Bush-rallies thing. Basically, they got folks to wear the other guy’s shirts at campaign events, and then documented the results. No surprises here: Dems were polite, but tried to surround the Bush shirts so they wouldn’t be on camera; the GOP threw them out.

Vote.