Sunday, April 30, 2006

What Stephen Colbert said right in front of Bush



Transcript here
Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias.

Watch the video at Crooks and Liars.

Right-wingers just don't GET Stephen Colbert. It's so sad and pathetic to see them come on his show and make fools of themselves, as Harvey Mansfield and Caitlin Flanagan recently did. One of Bush's people probably thought Colbert was a real live right-winger and asked him to be on.
This almost makes up for that idiot racist Don Imus's insults of the Clintons to their faces at the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner Dinner ten years ago.

After you read the Imus idiocy, read Al Franken's White House Correspondent's speech given a month after the Imus speech.

There's a web site where you can say 'thanks' to Stephen Colbert.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I love me some Dramatists Guild


"You've got a nice play here Colonel. It would be a shame if somebody were to set fire to it."


Hooray for the Dramatists Guild. When we told them about the Einhorn Brothers and their plan to turn a matter for small claims court into a federal case via Edward Einhorn's ill-gotten copyright, they were on it.

They recommended our lawyer Toby Butterfield of Cowan DeBaets, Abraham and Sheppard, LLP. If they were casting the role of "smart and charming British-American copyright lawyer" they would have to choose Toby. He even has the wig and when he's on a roll sounds just like Graham Chapman.

Then they wrote us an amicus brief, sent the intrepid Rebecca Frank, legal advisor to sit with us every day of the trial, and had Ralph Sevush, executive director of the Dramatists Guild, testify for us as an expert witness, to counter the other side's use of Pam Berlin, president of the SSDC (Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers) as their expert witness.

If you are a playwright, composer or lyricist, you really should belong to the Dramatists Guild.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tam Lin is free!

The Brothers Einhorn have agreed to cancel their copyright registration and withdraw their copyright complaint!

More details as soon as I have a copy of Judge Kaplan's opinion.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A new personality equation


Dr. Laura, The Joker, Caitlin Flanagan

I know I said I wouldn't blog much, but I have to unwind somehow.

Besides, I just caught Caitlin Flanagan on the Colbert Report and whoo doggies, I thought Manly Harvey Mansfield was cuckoo for cocopuffs!

OK, now I don't want women to be judged on their appearance, and Athena knows I ain't no Miss America, but if you are advocating a world in which women trade sexual services for economic/domestic security, shouldn't you be even just the tiniest little bit HOT?

I was going to compare Flanagan to Phyllis Schlafly, who is of course Flanagan's inspiration - a mommy-stays-home harpie who has a sweet public career for herself - but to tell the truth, Schlafly is much hotter.

And how sad is The New Yorker? It already has a quota of two female contributors per issue, and this troglodyte - or as no doubt she prefers, troglodytette - is one of them. She's identified on Colbert as "a writer for the New Yorker."

The New Yorker needs a serious overhaul.

Low blogging frequency until Monday

While we prepare for the trial of the case of "The Man Who Mistook His Raging Ego for a Legal Precedent"

Also known as "An Unauthorized Derivative Copyright in Oz"

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Country Club mentality

When I was about eleven, Barbara, a girl in my class, invited me to hang out with her. I thought she was not very bright, but she seemed pleasant enough, so one Saturday I went to her neightborhood to hang out. I thought we would rollerskate or something. Instead she took me to a friend's house. There were a bunch of kids there who went to public school, so I didn't know them - Barbara and I went to Catholic school.

So we all hung out. I vaguely remember thinking that like Barbara, they were not very bright. We played on a swing set and talked. I don't remember the conversation, except the end, when Barbara informed me that her friends had decided they didn't want me to be part of their group. So I went back to Barbara's house and read her brother's comic books until my Dad came to pick me up.

Being kept out of the group wasn't a problem - I never had any desire to be part of their group, since I thought they were dullards. Plus I really enjoyed those comic books. But it was maddening that they seemed to take great pleasure in joining together to pass judgement on me.

Welcome to the Country Club mentality. I should know the anthropological term for this behavior, but Country Club mentality is a good enough description for the pleasure that most humans get in being insiders, both for the comraderie of other insiders, but also, and possibly even more significantly, scorning outsiders.

I've run up into this behavior several places on the Internet, most recently on Wikipedia. And I've noticed an interesting phenomenon. It seems to me that the Country Club mentality usually kicks when I feel like I'm starting to win a debate with an alpha insider. At this point the alpha insider will stop responding to rational arguments and simply pull rank, saying something to the effect of "I'm a member of this insider group so I know better than you, so that's the end of the discussion." Then the beta insiders will chime in to the effect of "yeah! You're not an insider. Acknowledge our superiority or we will shout you down." Sometimes they don't threaten to shout you down, they just shout you down.

Of course my perspective is not objective here. If I had time I'd look for a relevant anthropological study. And BTW - anthropologists are just as bad as any other group in displaying the country club mentality.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Darwin Awards discussions

The flame war over the Darwin Awards has cooled down, and I've gotten into some interesting discussions about the qualifications for adding information to a Wikipedia article.

I've also determined that I have to write a critique of the Darwin Awards. Thanks to a Wikipedia contributor, I now know of one other person who has publicly criticized the Darwin Awards. Unfortunately the person posted under initials. I might do some detective work to try to discover the identity of the critic, but I do think the critique, and the author's responses to critics are a little weak, and I think I might write a better critique. But it's good to know that at least somebody has thought through the Darwin Awards enough to understand the essential dehumanization inherent in the concept.

I'm currently reading Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil in preparation for writing the critique. Not that I think that the Darwin Awards are the equivalent of Nazi atrocities. Rather, I plan to make the case that Nazi atrocities are an example of the simmering banality of evil that exists in human populations brought to a boil for political expediency and that the Darwin Awards is evidence of the banality of evil in the most banal of circumstances.

The Arendt book is utterly fascinating so far. I'll post a book review later.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Darwin Awards lovers - strangely intolerant

Or perhaps not so strange - I mean, if you're the kind of person who enjoys laughing at the deaths of strangers who never did you any harm* imagine how pissed off you're going to be when you're confronted by a stranger who (oh the horror!) doesn't approve of your hobby!

I posted a criticsm of the Darwin Awards on its Wikipedia entry.

My entry was originally deleted because it didn't follow Wikipedia's rules of attribution. So I reposted it in Wiki-friendly format, and almost every day somebody
has to post a criticism of my criticism - in a way that is not acceptable to Wikipedia. We call that vandalism.

Here's the latest vandalism, posted anonymously, of course:
Most people, however, seem to understand that the Darwin Awards are all about being funny, and hardly rise to the standards of being dehumanizing or unethical. Laugh, it's good for you!


I think Al Franken had the best take on people who think that cruel creepy shit is funny. People like Ann Coulter. Here is Al Franken's remarks about Ann Coulter's concept of humor, delivered in his opening remarks for their recent debate:
Ann recently told an audience:

“We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee,” Coulter said. “That’s just a joke, for you in the media.”

Here’s my question. What’s the joke? Maybe it’s a prejudice from my days as a comedy writer, but I always thought the joke had to have an operative funny idea. I’ll give you an example of a joke.

Like they do every Saturday night, two elderly Jewish couples are going out to dinner. The guys are in front, the girls riding in back. Irv says to Sid, “Where should we go tonight?”

Sid says, “How about that place we went about a month ago. The Italian place with the great lasagna.”

Irv says, “I don’t remember it.”

Sid says, “The place with the great lasagna.”

Irv says, “I don’t remember. What’s the name of the place?”

Sid thinks. But can’t remember. “A flower. Gimme a flower.”

“Tulip?” Irv says.

“No, no. A different flower.”

“Magnolia?”

“No, no. A basic flower.”

“Orchid?”

“No! Basic.”

“Rose?”

That’s it! Sid turns to the back seat. “Rose. What was the name of that restaurant…?”

That’s a joke. What exactly is the joke in “We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee?” Is it the crème brulee? Is that it? Because Stevens is some kind of Francophile or elitist? Is it the rat poison? See, I would have gone with Drano. I’m really trying here, Ann. Please, when you come up, explain the joke about murdering an associate justice of the Supreme Court. One who by the way, was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gerald Ford, and who, also, by the way, won a Bronze Star serving in the Navy in World War II. What is the joke? ‘Cause I don’t get it.


You can read my ongoing flame war with the DA lovers here.

More on the DA lover spleenage as it develops.




*but it's OK, because unlike you they're stupid and genetically inferior

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What is this Harvard mystique?

Why does Havard have this lofty reputation? The most prominent Harvard people I know are Laurence Summers, Steven Pinker and Harvey Mansfield. None of them are at all impressive.

The focus here is on Harvey Mansfield. If he has always been this confused and incosistent, it's incredible that he was paid to teach at Harvard. If he's only recently become a crazy they should fire his ass.

Tom Ashbrook was all over Mansfield's inconsistencies in the interview on WBUR. He questioned Mansfield's premise that educated women should endorse "irrational manliness" by reason. He also said that manliness was 50% good and 50% bad, but when Ashbrook pressed him on it, he changed it to "more than 50%."

Then Ashbrook brought analyst Jack Beatty on, and he observed that the "democratic revolution" has begun to erode male privilege.

Then Katha Pollitt delivered the coup de grace. She began by trashing John Wayne - one of Mansfield's heroes. She pointed out that Wayne was an actor, not a manly men. She pointed out the complete insanity of Mansfield's pretzel logic - in his book, Mansfield claims that women should do the housework because men have contempt for housework because that's something that women do.

Mansfield is an addle-brained old coot, and the ONLY reason that anybody takes him seriously is because he is surrounded by the Harvard mystique. I say to hell with it.

Dept of bad career promotion

So Katha Pollitt debated Manly Harvey Mansfield on March 21 at WBUR this year. So why didn't I find out about it until today?

You can hear it from this page.

It isn't mentioned in the Nation's archives of Pollitt's columns, which I check regularly for updates. What I don't check regularly is the Nation's home page, which is where I finally did find out about the debate. I love Pollitt but I don't love the Nation - I'm still annoyed with the Nation over its coddling of that ratfink Christopher Hitchens.

And apparently I'm not alone - I haven't heard a peep about this debate from any of the liberal blogs I read - blogs which mentioned Mansfield's Manliness book and which usually report on Pollitt's columns.

Anyway... I'm too busy to listen to the debate right now, but I predict Pollitt wipes the floor with His Manliness. I caught Mansfield on The Colbert Report last week and the guy is out to lunch. I mean, he's a rightwinger so his beliefs are surreal, but I also think he's got some, shall we say age-related problems with his mind. I almost felt bad for him, he was so befuddled by Colbert.

More on the debate after I've listened...

But I really think Katha Pollitt could be doing more to promote herself as an intellectual and pundit. It annoys me that mental midgets like David Brooks and shallow Smurfettes like Maureen Dowd get more attention than the clearly superior Pollitt.
Pollit has a blog http://kathapollitt.blogspot.com/ which she occasionally posts to, so occasionally that I rarely check it out. But I've been remiss in not putting it in my liberal links, which I will do today. But there isn't even a link to this blog from anywhere in The Nation that I can see, certainly not from the Pollitt column archives page. What's up with that???

The Iran Plans

Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article about the plans to nuke Iran
One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

Of course we know that Bush is partial to booze and cocaine, not marijuana.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Theatre critic's dichotomy

Standard theatre critic's dichotomy - if you don't like the pointless bloodshed of The Lieutenant of Inishmore then you must therefore be a philistine who only enjoys unchallenging, "old-fashioned" fare.

Charles Isherwood demonstrates:
Theatergoers with a taste for things traditional - imposing, naturalistic sets; pretty period costumes; tidy narratives with a surprise twist or two - can take comfort in "Tryst," a suspense drama of a distinctly old-fashioned stamp that opened last night at the Promenade Theater. No bloody bodies are dismembered and no cats are harmed in the course of this new play by Karoline Leach, making it a safe option for the "Inishmore"-skittish crowds.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Catholic Church: always doing whatever it can to make women's lives a hell on earth.

This is what happens when the Catholic Church is given free reign.
During the first round of investigations, police officers interview the woman's family and friends. "The collecting of evidence usually takes place where the events transpired — by visiting the home or by speaking with the doctor at the hospital," Tópez said. In some cases, the police also interrogate people who work with the woman. Tópez added that that didn't happen very often because, she said, "these are women who don't work outside the home." (Indeed, the evidence suggests that the ban in El Salvador disproportionately affects poor women. The researchers who conducted the Journal of Public Health study found that common occupations listed for women charged with abortion-related crimes were homemaker, student, housekeeper and market vendor. The earlier study by the Center for Reproductive Rights found that the majority were domestic servants, followed by factory workers, ticket takers on buses, housewives, saleswomen and messengers.)

As they do in any investigation, the police collect evidence by interviewing everyone who knows the accused and by seizing her medical records. But they must also visit the scene of the crime, which, following the logic of the law, often means the woman's vagina.
No sane women supports the Catholic Church. It is an evil misogynist organization - and getting more evil by the day as the crazy rightwing Opus Dei increases its control.

All the President's Men


In this scene Woodward is typing to Bernstein that Deep Throat (now known as H. Mark Felt) said that their lives are in danger and they might be bugged.


Good timing. While news of the latest Bush shananigans are still in the air, , Channel 13, the New York PBS affiliate, is running both "All the President's Men" and Watergate Plus 30: Shadow of History, originally produced in 2003.

The similarities between Bush's concept of the presidency and Nixon's couldn't be clearer. Nixon thought, and Bush thinks that the president is above the laws of the United States - a virtual dictator.

Their biggest difference? Nixon subverted the Constitution covertly. Bush does it proudly and publicly.

As Nixon aid and Watergate witness John Dean observed, Bush is "the first president to admit to an impeachable offense."


There IS a political will to impeach. Get off your asses Democratic representatives!!!

Aside: The story of Robert Redford's involvement in the Watergate movie is very interesting

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I is for Impeachment

In Court Filings, Cheney Aide Says Bush Approved Leak
But the disclosure in documents filed Wednesday means that the president and the vice president put Libby in play as a secret provider of information to reporters about prewar intelligence on Iraq.
......
Libby's testimony also puts the president and the vice president in the awkward position of authorizing leaks -- a practice both men have long said they abhor, so much so that the administration has put in motion criminal investigations to hunt down leakers.
Treasonous traitors. Impeachment's too good for them - they should get jail time too.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Darwin Awards: profiting from the celebration of human tragedy.

Few people express disgust with the unethical nature of Wendy Northcutt's Darwin Awards, a profit-driven celebration of human tragedy, because the Darwin Awards employs the technique of dehumanization - through declaring that its award winners are less evolved than "us." The popularity of the Darwin Awards reinforces the contention that the mass of humanity, while capable of self-preservation, is easily manipulated into cruelty and callousness.

Ann Bartow tells me that Wendy Northcutt, the main beneficiary of the profits earned through laughing at other people's death or mutilation, will be in the "YearlyKos" conference. Kos and company should be ashamed, but people who champion the Darwin Awards by definition have no sense of shame.

I contributed to the Darwin Awards wiki. The original text was verging on an advertisement for Wendy Northcutt.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I used to work for Donald Rumsfeld

Back in April 2000, when the Bush presidency was still just a twinkle in the Devil's eye, Donald Rumsfeld was on the board of advisors for a company I was working for. I only had a vague idea of who he was at the time. Wish I still did.

April 26, 2000 (12:16 p.m. EST)
TechWeb News

Former White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld is joining the board of advisors for e-business consultant TIS Worldwide. Rumsfeld has held several high-profile public service positions. He was President Reagan's special envoy for the Middle East, chief of staff of the White House, the youngest secretary of defense, and a four-term U.S Congressman.

How Texas dictates what may be taught in high school

via Ann Bartow at Sivacracy

The Muddle Machine - Confessions of a Textbook Editor

The big three adoption states are not equal, however. In that elite trio, Texas rules. California has more students (more than 6 million versus just over 4 million in Texas), but Texas spends just as much money (approximately $42 billion) on its public schools. More important, Texas allocates a dedicated chunk of funds specifically for textbooks. That money can't be used for anything else, and all of it must be spent in the adoption year. Furthermore, Texas has particular power when it comes to high school textbooks, since California adopts statewide only for textbooks from kindergarten though 8th grade, while the Lone Star State's adoption process applies to textbooks from kindergarten through 12th grade.

If you're creating a new textbook, therefore, you start by scrutinizing Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). This document is drawn up by a group of curriculum experts, teachers, and political insiders appointed by the 15 members of the Texas Board of Education, currently 5 Democrats and 10 Republicans, about half of whom have a background in education. TEKS describes what Texas wants and what the entire nation will therefore get.

Texas is truly the tail that wags the dog. There is, however, a tail that wags this mighty tail. Every adoption state allows private citizens to review textbooks and raise objections. Publishers must respond to these objections at open hearings.

In the late '60s a Texas couple, Mel and Norma Gabler, figured out how to use their state's adoption hearings to put pressure on textbook publishers. The Gablers had no academic credentials or teaching background, but they knew what they wanted taught--phonics, sexual abstinence, free enterprise, creationism, and the primacy of Judeo-Christian values--and considered themselves in a battle against a "politically correct degradation of academics." Expert organizers, the Gablers possessed a flair for constructing arguments out of the language of official curriculum guidelines. The Longview, Texas-based nonprofit corporation they founded 43 years ago, Educational Research Analysts, continues to review textbooks and lobby against liberal content in textbooks.

The Gablers no longer appear in person at adoption hearings, but through workshops, books, and how-to manuals, they trained a whole generation of conservative Christian activists to carry on their work.


It's time to start messing with Texas.