Sunday, September 28, 2008

José Saramago, famous writer and stealer of my ideas1 has a blog in Portuguese and Spanish. If you read either of these languages, it is worth checking out; Saramago is very much into writing essays in the tradition of the "autonomous intellectual," commenting on the absurdities of society from a distance. This style has its drawbacks, and certainly doesn't pass muster in academia, but it is very fun to read. I would prefer it if he would use hyperlinks, but I'm sure he has his reasons for not doing so. He's the first major author that I know of who has started a blog (of course, I'll probably find a million more if I just google search).


1I am, of course, kidding. Please don't accuse me of defamation.




Update: I think I was a little ungenerous in my initial description of Saramago's blog. The description of his blog as "commenting on the absurdities of society from a distance" certainly applied to the post I was reading at the time, but many of his other posts show a more engaged, thoughtful style.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One thing that hasn't got much mention from last night is McCain's so-called "League of Democracies" and just how criminally reckless that would be. Disregarding Russia for the moment, which seems hellbent on estranging itself from global politics, why on earth would we consider, even for a second, estranging China? If good foreign policy is producing World Wars within a year of inauguration, then McCain's "League of Democracies" is brilliant. Such a boneheaded scheme can only be put forward because both the Left and the Right in the U.S. hate the U.N. But substituting a polarizing, isolationist bloc for a corrupt organization seems worse than insane.
One of the points where McCain really shined last night was on Lebanon and his vote against sending marines into Lebanon in 1983. So it's nice to see that he was lying (or, at best, telling a half truth):
McCain seriously misstated his vote concerning the marines in Lebanon. He said that when he went into Congress in 1983, he voted against deploying them in Beirut. The Marines went in Lebanon in 1982, before McCain came to Congress. The vote came up a year into their deployment, when the Marines had already suffered 54 casualties. What McCain voted against was a measure to invoke the War Powers Act and to authorize the deployment of U.S. Marines in Lebanon for an additional 18 months. The measure passed 270-161, with 26 other Republicans (including McCain) and 134 Democrats voting against it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Serious but so far undisclosed ailments" - Eric Margolis says this is the word on John McCain from one of his old friends. The line about Palin being a heartbeat from the presidency - never very funny to begin with - is now dead serious. I was guessing something was up with McCain's health recently; since a little before the Convention, he's started to look like someone at death's door. Margolis discusses just how terrifying a Palin presidency would be.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The post from Tuesday has legs (I would love to take credit, but it was Democracy Now! that dropped the story on Monday). Glenn Greenwald at Slate has now posted on it. This current development is the direct result of the 2006 repeal (for all intents and purposes) of the Posse Comitatus Act in the Defense Authorization Act of 2006. The Bush Admin used Katrina as the pretense to push for a law that would allow military units to be deployed in the United States. If Katrina had been their real motive, it seems likely that they would have simply pushed for more funding and troop support for the National Guard.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The title of the post over at Qlipoth, "Excuse me?", sums it up pretty clearly:
Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations

Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations. The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control. The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.
If you're not worried about this, you should be.


Update:I just found the Army Times story:
It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.

But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.
...
They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.
...
The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”

The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.

“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my knees in seconds.”
An Open Letter to the U.S. State Department Regarding Recent Violence in Bolivia (excerpt reprinted from Upside Down World) :
To Dr. Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State

Cc: Phillip Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia
Henrietta Fore, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
Representative Eliot Engel, Chair, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Committee of Foreign Affairs
Senator John McCain
Senator Barack Obama

Dear Dr. Rice,

We are writing out of deep concern over recent events in Bolivia that have left dozens dead and cost millions of dollars in lost revenue to the Bolivian government and the Bolivian people. We are especially concerned that the United States government, by its own admission, is supporting opposition groups and individuals in Bolivia that have been involved in the recent whole-scale destruction, violence, and killings, above all in the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando, and Chuquisaca.

Since the United States government refuses to disclose many of the recipients of its funding and support, there is currently no way to determine the degree to which this support is helping people involved in violence, sabotage, and other extra-legal means to destabilize the government of Bolivia.

Yet since the democratic election of Evo Morales in December 2005, the U.S. government has sent millions of dollars in aid to departmental prefects and municipal governments in Bolivia. In 2004, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) opened an "Office of Transition Initiatives" (OTI) in Bolivia, which provided some $11 million in funds to "build on its activities designed to enhance the capacity of departmental governments."[1]

The OTI in Bolivia sought to "[build] the capacity of prefect-led departmental governments to help them better respond to the constituencies they govern," and even brought departmental governors to the U.S. to meet with state governors.[2] Some of these same departmental governments later launched organized campaigns to push for "autonomy" and to oppose through violent and undemocratic means the Morales government and its popular reforms.

According to the OTI, it ceased operations in Bolivia about a year ago; however some of its activities were then taken up by USAID, which refuses to disclose some of its recipients and programs. USAID spent $89 million in Bolivia last year. This is a significant sum relative to the size of Bolivia's economy; proportionally in the U.S. economy it would be equivalent to about $100 billion, or close to what the United States is currently spending on military operations in Iraq.

U.S. taxpayers, as well as the Bolivian government and people, have a right to know what U.S. funds are supporting in Bolivia.
For clarification: a "department" is similar to what we call a "state" in the U.S., although because most South American countries do not have the degree of federal control that we have in the U.S., departments are often more autonomous than states. Recently, in Bolivia, there have been a number of direct attacks of aggression against supporters of the democratically-elected Morales, including assassinations of government officials (for more on these issues, look at Upside Down World's extensive coverage of Bolivia). There is ample reason, as this open letter makes clear, to believe that the U.S is actively interfering in Bolivian politics. We don't want to see another Pinochet in Bolivia.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Over at Climate Progress, Joseph Romm asks, "Is the financial crisis more dire than the climate crisis?" Answer: "Not even close." But putting up links about the financial crisis does get me significantly more visitors.
Oh, and in case you're feeling optimistic or hopeful or anything silly like that, things are looking bad on the other side of the Atlantic.
Also, The Onion brings us the latest from the Campaign Trail. Protect our shitty jobs!


Obama Promises To Stop America's Shitty Jobs From Going Overseas
More and more people are pointing out that this bailout deal is a pretty huge gamble for U.S. taxpayers and is not at all the "necessary evil" it's being touted as. It seems that it has a lot of the ingredients of "evil" without the "necessity" being quite as strong as we've been led to believe. According to Robert Reich,
Paulson is right that it makes sense to allow the big banks to wipe their balance sheets clean of as many bad loans as they can identify, and put them into a special agency that then sells them for as much as possible. The agency would bundle or unbundle the risky loans, slice and dice them as needed, with the goal of getting the most for them on world markets by creating a market for them.

But there's no reason taxpayers need to be involved in this.

Whether you call it a reorganization under bankruptcy or just a hellova fire sale, the process should resemble chapter 11 under bankruptcy. Any big financial institution that wants to clear its books can opt in. But the price for opting in is this: Investors in these institutions lose the value of their equity. Executives lose the value of their options, and their pay (and the pay of their directors) is sharply limited. All the money from the fire sale goes to making creditors as whole as possible.
And Sebastian Mallaby points out that it is dishonest to compare this to the Resolution Trust Corporation in 1989:
The first is whether the bailout is necessary. In 1989, there was no choice. The federal government insured the thrifts, so when they failed, the feds were left holding their loans; the RTC's job was simply to get rid of them. But in buying bad loans before banks fail, the Bush administration would be signing up for a financial war of choice. It would spend billions of dollars on the theory that preemption will avert the mass destruction of banks. There are cheaper ways to stabilize the system.
Instead, Mallaby points out a few alternative options:
Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago suggest ways to force the banks to raise capital without tapping the taxpayers. First, the government should tell banks to cancel all dividend payments. Banks don't do that on their own because it would signal weakness; if everyone knows the dividend has been canceled because of a government rule, the signaling issue would be removed. Second, the government should tell all healthy banks to issue new equity. Again, banks resist doing this because they don't want to signal weakness and they don't want to dilute existing shareholders. A government order could cut through these obstacles.

Meanwhile, Charles Calomiris of Columbia University and Douglas Elmendorf of the Brookings Institution have offered versions of another idea. The government should help not by buying banks' bad loans but by buying equity stakes in the banks themselves. Whereas it's horribly complicated to value bad loans, banks have share prices you can look up in seconds, so government could inject capital into banks quickly and at a fair level. The share prices of banks that recovered would rise, compensating taxpayers for losses on their stakes in the banks that eventually went under.
And here's a nice coup de grace via an email sent to Naked Capitalism by someone who was present at the negotiations:
Anyway, I wanted to let you know that, behind closed doors, Paulson describes the plan differently. He explicitly says that it will buy assets at above market prices (although he still claims that they are undervalued) because the holders won't sell at market prices. Anna Eshoo pressed him on how the government can compel the holders to sell, and he basically dodged the question. I think that's because he didn't want to admit that the government would just keep offering more and more.
And again, Naked Capitalism sums up its antipathy to the bailout:
Losses on the paper acquired are guaranteed. This is not a bug but a feature. The whole point of this exercise is an equity infusion to banks. The failure to be honest about it upfront will lead to a taxpayer backlash (or will lead to the production of phony financial statements for the rescue entity, which will lead to revolt by our friendly foreign funding sources).

Taxpayers have no upside participation.

There is no regulatory reform as part of the package. This would seem to be a minimum requirement for a donation of this magnitude.

There is no admission that deleveraging is inevitable. This plan seems to be a desperate effort to keep bad debt from being written down. Yet the sorry fact is that a lot of these assets simply will not be repaid.

There appears to be no intention to do triage. The financial services industry, on the back of an explosive growth in debt, has reached an unsustainable size. The industry will have to shrink. Yet the Administration does not address this issue; indeed, it appears it intends to forestall the inevitable. Regulators need to decide who will make it, who won't, and figure out what to do with damaged institutions. Instead, the reaction is ad hoc. The stunner was the contemplation of a possible merger between Morgan Stanley and Wachovia. As far as I can tell, the only thing the two firms had in common was coming into crisis on roughly the same timetable. For all I know, their IT systems are not compatible (many an otherwise promising bank merger has been scuttled over IT integration issues).
I would suggest that you send as many congresspeople and senators as you can a hundred or so links explaining why this bailout is not such a good idea. The worst thing about socialized capitalism is it takes the worst aspects of Socialism (rigid central government control) and the worst aspects of Capitalism (freedom for private sphere entities to be as stupid and risky as they want to be) and combines them. Now that the bailout plan is out, I'm expecting the media tide to turn (tomorrow, probably, when the week is up and running). There will be a lot more doubt in the coming days.


Update: At Open Left, there are two emails from anonymous congressional Democrats angry about the Paulson plan. This one is quite enlightening:
Here's the industry's play: progressives will approach Nancy with ideas for reform, and she'll agree to push for their proposals, and she'll really mean it. Then industry lobbyists will go to Dennis Moore, Melissa Bean and a few other Democrats, and tell them how dire the consequences of the proposals would be, and that the members who understand how the economy works need to step up to stop Nancy and the crazy liberals from doing something rash. Then those Democrats will go to Steny and tell him how terrible Nancy's crazy ideas would be, and how we can't rush into something like that without much, much more thought. Maybe Barney will try to talk to Dennis or Melissa, but it will become apparent quickly that they have no idea what they're talking about; they're just repeating by rote what the lobbyists told them to say. Melissa may actually be dumber than Sarah Palin. Barney will realize he might as well talk to the lobbyists directly and save a step. The lobbyists will agree to something inconsequential, but certainly nothing that would really affect the industry's conduct. Then the leadership will do the math and conclude that because the vast majority of Republicans will vote against any bill, we can't get enough votes without the Dennis and Melissa crowd. The only way, our leadership will conclude, to get anything at all passed is to include nothing more than the inconsequential proposals that the lobbyists agreed to. Then we'll all go along because it would be wildly irresponsible not to act when we're staring over the brink of a complete collapse of world financial markets.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I know some of my fellow Dukies, particularly those who took the Capital class with Jameson, will be into David Harvey's lectures on Capital. I have yet to look at them, but I imagine the take will be quite different from the one offered by Jameson.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reuters:
The House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday lifting a longstanding congressional moratorium on offshore drilling.

The extensive energy package introduced by Democrats would give states the option to allow drilling between 50 and 100 miles off their shores. Areas more than 100 miles from the coast would be completely open to oil exploration and drilling.

In addition to drilling, the bill requires the government to sell 70 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It also provides tax credits for renewable energy and energy efficiency that would be funded by repealing some tax breaks for the oil industry.


According to Joe Romm at Climate Progress, the GOP fought the bill, tooth-and-nail, because, just as he had predicted, if the Democrats offered an "everything" bill that included both offshore drilling and energy rebates and subsidies, the Republicans would screech and howl.



(My apologies to chimpanzees)

Monday, September 15, 2008

The upcoming vote on offshore drilling is very complicated, and I won't pretend to be able to inform you of all the details (if you want more, go to Climate Progress for a detailed review of the proposed legislation). However, a Democratic compromise seems to be more and more likely; the Dems will ultimately give up some offshore drilling rights. As Joseph Romm explains, however, this is a necessity, because a Republican filibuster could effectively open up all offshore areas to drilling:
The key fact to bear in mind is that the Congressional moratorium on offshore drilling expires at the end of this month! If no compromise deal passes either as a stand-alone bill or glommed into the catchall spending bill needed to keep the government going past September 30, then the moratorium ends and “that would allow drilling within three miles off all coasts,” as the Washington Post explained Sunday.
Romm goes on to detail the options open to the Democrats. There are at least three proposals in the works.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gerry linked to this viral video on climate change. It really is the best that has been made so far (better than Inconvenient Truth):


Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Spoiler Alert:

I'm not a Coen Brothers loyalist. I like many of their movies, especially Fargo, and I consider them to be very good filmmakers, but all-in-all, the construction of two-dimensional characters whose entire personalities rest on their tics, while it says something very definitive and insightful about atomized society, also bolsters the absence of character. The brilliance of a "Jesus," who is at once timid pedophile in his neighborhood and highly showy bragadoccio in the bowling alley is killed by the number of fraternity boys who, on Halloween, dress up as John Turturo and repeat, "You don't mess with the Jesus." For this reason, some of their movies I find more compelling than others. No Country for Old Men was entirely dependent on the positing of a central character - the Golem, Anton Chigur, who embodied what Zizek might call the "perverse remainder" of Capitalist rationality. The emptiness of the tale, the ultimate lack of something approximating a "moral" (and I would hasten to question what it is that we call a "moral" in film), ultimately reinforces the emptiness that it seeks to critique: the majority of moviegoers enjoy and delight in the film, just as they enjoy and delight in the Saw series.

The newest film by the brothers, Burn After Reading, continues what now seems to be an ongoing theme in their films: the ultimate construction of a world totally drained of purpose. All sacrifice leads to more absurdity. The hollowness of life replicates the hollowness on screen.



The Coen Brothers' enforce this message with what is now perhaps the most dominant trope of contemporary cinema: the revelation to the audience of that which was once forbidden on screen and could only be implied, namely, the fatal head injury.



The fatal head injury was seen in No Country for Old Men (above), in The Dark Knight, with The Joker's pencil trick, further in the past, we saw it in American History X, and we saw it multiple times in There Will Be Blood.... The fatal head injury is meant to shock viewers: suddenly, unexpectedly, we see that which we thought we weren't allowed to see. The head wound, sometimes with brain included, the penetration of the one area that we feel ought to be most protected.

The shot to the head accomplishes two things: first, it is the unearthing of a common suicide fantasy. The just-deceased David Foster Wallace articulated it in this manner at the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Speech:
It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. [Note: I find it very eerie that as I was writing this blog post, Gerry was posting on David Foster Wallace's death by suicide, and he included this speech, which is where I found it].
Thus, what the mind happens upon multiple times in the construction of a script is passed on to the audience. The second purpose that these head wounds serve is as a wake-up call, and I think the David Foster Wallace quote illustrates that, as well. "Wake the fuck up and pay attention, because all of this is garbage!" The fatal head injury caught on camera turns the audience away from the plot and focuses their entire attention on to this one event. It is no mistake that in every one of these shots, you get a moment of anticipation, then the act in which the head is concussed, and then an immediate cut away from the site of the injury. The quickness of the event is a direct antithesis of its weight in our minds. Thus, we shouldn't too hastily dismiss the facile comparison between the hole in the head and black holes (the Hadron Collider makes its appearance). The plot - all affect, all relationships, all cathexis that takes place in the unfolding of the narrative - is suddenly pulled in to this one image, an image that is gone before we actually have time to analyze it. All else is misery and waiting. Thus, after Daniel Plainview bashes Eli Sunday over the head with a bowling pin, all that is left is for him to declare, I'm finished. And the framing of Burn After Reading articulates this aspect even more strongly. We open with a typical CIA movie opening - a pan from outer space into the earth and then a block letter subtitle, "CIA Headquarters, Langley, VA." The pan out at the end of the film is the precise reverse image of this pan in, but it is following the declaration by the CIA superior (a relatively minor character played by J.K. Simmons [Juno's father and the Aryan Nation leader from Oz]) that we have learned nothing whatsoever in the course of this film except, maybe, "Don't do it again." The long shot of the earth - what serves in typical CIA films to illustrate the interconnectedness of the entire sphere and the global reach of various secret networks - now serves to illustrate the pointlessness of the entire endeavor. We have learned nothing, and we will go home having understood nothing.

Yet who are the objects of these head injuries? John Malkovich, before bashing one character in the head with an axe, declares that "You are from that league of morons, who I have been fighting against my entire life." The head injuries are thus directed against the stupid - the hole in the head is also a metaphor for stupidity, for those who blindly follow the same path, laugh where they are supposed to laugh, and continue blithely through everything without an ounce of reflection. Yet if that is the case, then the shots to the head miss their target. Most of us will be inclined to "do it again," to travel the same worn-out path to the cinema and experience the same shock and horror, in a kind of perverse eternal return. If the head shots are wake-up calls, they are only momentarily so; like an overactive hurricane season or genocide, they only stick in the minds of those immediately affected. But perhaps this, too, is captured in the hole - after all, there is no waking up from a bullet to the brain.
"Why exactly is the senior senator from Arizona [McCain] apparently boarding this yacht in Montenegro - on his seventieth birthday - with a soon-to-be-busted Italian con man?" Rachel Maddow asks the million dollar question (and it beats Tony Rezko by a mile):

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

I found this, oddly enough, linked from a conservative blog. It talks about Biden's immense success as a law professor and the amount of respect his students have for him.
Robert Hayman, a professor at Widener who has taught alongside Biden since 2003, agreed with the students that whatever his gifts as a legislator or politician are, he has made a reputation as a "terrific teacher."

"He obviously knows the subject matter very well, and he's a gifted speaker," Hayman said Friday. "He has a real passion for the subject. He's a real student of the Constitution."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Juan Cole tells us what a successful surge means:
A crucial element in the fall of violence from the catastrophic levels of summer,2006, was the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad of its Sunnis. I wrote in mid-July:

"As best I can piece it together, what actually seems to have happened was that the escalation troops began by disarming the Sunni Arabs in Baghdad. Once these Sunnis were left helpless, the Shiite militias came in at night and ethnically cleansed them. Shaab district near Adhamiya had been a mixed neighborhood. It ended up with almost no Sunnis. Baghdad in the course of 2007 went from 65% Shiite to at least 75% Shiite and maybe more. My thesis would be that the US inadvertently allowed the chasing of hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs out of Baghdad (and many of them had to go all the way to Syria for refuge).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Think Progress did a word analysis of the prepared remarks for the Republican National Convention, looking at the number of times individual words were mentioned (obviously, these numbers would change a bit in an analysis of the actual speeches). Here are some of my favorites:
Bush 1
Cheney 0
Rumsfeld 0
Gonzales 0
McCain is distancing himself from Bush this election.
Torture (McCain's) 3
Torture (Not McCain's) 0
It doesn't count if it's not on our guys.
Technology 13
Internet 1
Science 1
Technology = fast cars, things that go boom, and rocket ships. Also, I won't quote it here, but the environment word count is very interesting.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

McCain is clearly a populist man-of-the-people. That's why his wife wears $250,000 earrings.
Good cop/bad cop at the conventions works a little differently from in the streets movies. Robert Reich details "public affairs" and "government affairs" representatives at the Denver (and moving on to the Minnesota) Convention:
The two types often work for the same big companies but they seem to operate at cross purposes. For example, I met a public affairs person who talked about the great strides his company was making in green technologies. But the government affairs people from the same company have been actively lobbying against environmental laws and regulations.

Another public affairs person was touting her companies' dedication to its communities – gifts to local schools and playgrounds, for example. But in the sky boxes were lobbyists from the same firm that have been demanding tax abatements from those same communities, as a condition for keeping jobs there. And those tax abatements have meant less revenues for local schools and playgrounds.
The Daily Show gives us Karl Rove telling us why Sarah Palin shouldn't be Vice President:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sandy Levison at Balkinization has an interesting post on secession and the double standard of the right:
Imagine that Bill Richardson (who, by the way, has far more executive experience than all of the rest of the candidates put together, should we really believe that such experience is the most important single attribute in choosing a President) gave a cordial greeting to a gathering of La Raza Unida, which, altogether plausibly, claims that the United States basically stole what is now New Mexico from Mexico by precipitating a totally indefensible "war of choice" in order to expand American territory, and has called in the past, I believe, for either independence or returning the land to the "mother country." Or imagine that his wife was actually a member of La Raza Unida. I literally cannot imagine that the bloviators in the right wing would refrain from trying to drum the good Governor out of "respectable" politics.
This post is interesting, not only because it points out that the Right is all-too-ready to pull the "anti-American" card and will not tolerate it being brought against their own side, but also because, further down, it argues that secessionist politics are not a bad thing:
The Constitution is stunningly silent about the possibility of secession, and if one buys the "state compact" theory of the Constitution articulated by Madison and Jefferson in '98, then I (unlike Madison) don't think it's much of a stretch to go down the Calhounian route. At the very least, I think that the Confederate arguments for secession were certainly plausible; the defense of Lincoln's actions in refusing to let them go peacefully depend on one's views of slavery rather than Lincoln's "Union mysticism." And, of course, I have suggested, only half kiddingly, that there is no real reason for California (or the other Pacific rim states) to remain in the United States given a Constitution that systematically works against their interests--led by the Senate and the perverse importance of "battleground" states in the way we elect our presidents.
While I agree with the poster who disagrees with secession but clarifies that "a negotiated departure with the consent of everyone is a different story," I think the argument is one that we should take into consideration. In any case, I have little doubt that, as the election wears on, we will see the question put to to Sarah Palin more than once: "Do you believe in a unified country?"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Famous voice, Don Lafontaine died today. He did the voiceover for pretty much every movie trailer that you can imagine. Notably, in the trailer for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, he parodied himself.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I've just discovered that there is such a thing asMillimeter Wave Security Cameras. Using extremely high frequency ("millimeter wave") radio frequency bands, security personnel can use these devices to look directly through clothing (the image on my sidebar was captured by one of these). They were initially deployed in Israel to spot suicide bombers and have since been incorporated into your friendly neighborhood airport. One wonders if this will bring an influx of voyeurs into the security profession. The picture on my sidebar is an image snapped by one of these cameras. Five years from now, you will get emails in your inbox that read: lesbians dirty sex hidden cam millimeter wave.