Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hey-na, hey-na, David's back!

The blogosphere shed a tear the day David decided to hang up his blogging ... um, beret? Whatever his choice of headgear, he has returned to this virtual Land of the Opinionated, and started blogging again. I give you: (Note the new URL.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I don't really know what to think of this

Angel Maturino Resendiz, aka the "Railroad Killer" was executed Tuesday. I didn't realize that until tonight.

Monday, June 26, 2006


It's so wrong of me, but I couldn't help but chuckle.

Limbaugh Detained At Airport

West Palm Beach Sources have confirmed to CBS4 News that conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been detained at Palm Beach International Airport for the possible possession of illegal prescription drugs Monday evening.

Limbaugh was returning on a flight from the Dominican Republic when officials found the drugs, among them Viagra.

I wonder if this, too, is part of the "liberal Hollywood Jewish" conspiracy?

UPDATE: Matthew suggests that this whole incident is sad rather than amusing, and that hopefully Limbaugh will receive more help with his drug addiction problem.

OK, it looks like this was a legal, but possibly-unethically-mislabeled, prescription bottle of Viagra, so this discussion is fairly moot. He was briefly detained at the airport, then released and not charged with anything. That seems fairly reasonable to me for a known drug addict carrying a bottle of prescription medication apparently not prescribed to him.

But, unlike what Matt says, this has nothing to do with his drug addiction. Viagra is not an addictive drug, you can't use it to get high. So, saying that this would have been just another symptom of a disease he should get treatment for is innacurate. Had this been an illegal prescription, it would have been for entirely recreational purposes, not been his stash. Had he been caught with OxyContin, I would agree, this would have been a relapse.

All that being said, what does an unmarried conservative need with Viagra anyway? Surely not for premarital sex?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Can we use their talking points against them?

So, during the past week or so, when Republicans were calling John Murtha a coward, there were accusations of treason, and any discussion that didn't involve "staying the course" in Iraq was, by definition, "cutting and running", it turns out that the Republicans had a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq the whole time.

When Bush was first elected, it was sometimes said that he was going to run the country like our national CEO. I suppose that was to bring up his business background and make him sound actually competent. It never struck me as a good idea, what with him running every country company1 he's ever been in charge of into the ground. Not to mention the charges of insider trading. But that's a discussion for another day.

My point is that, when you're a CEO, you don't run your company with your gut. You actually look at numbers. You make plans, set goals, and have targets. Why, then, is doing the same thing in Iraq "cutting and running?" No one ever suggested pulling all American troops out next Thursday. But saying that we should have a goal of having X numbers of Iraqis trained by the end of the year, so we can pull out Y number of troops is cowardice?

The Democrats should co-opt the Republican talking points on this one. No Democrat should mention the plan to pull these troops out of Iraq without accusing Bush of "cutting and running." I just doubt that's going to happen.

1 Interesting typo, no? I swear it wasn't intentional. But it was so Freudian, I decided to leave it in place.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Who is watching?

Yahoo has a Reuters story about terrorist cells inside the United States: (not bothering to link because Yahoo news stories aren't permanent)

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement authorities are discovering new home-grown cells of Islamist radicals in the United States that draw inspiration and moral support from al Qaeda, officials said on Tuesday.

Like local terrorism cells that have recently come to light in Canada and Europe, officials said the groups are comprised of disaffected young men in their teens and 20s who rely on the Internet to try to organize and plan potential attacks on the U.S. homeland.

A few months ago, when the warrantless wiretapping story broke, Republicans staunchly defended the program as necessary to defend us. There were numerous claims that baby-eating liberals "didn't want us to use all the weapons in our arsenal" against the terrorists.

What has never been entirely determined is whether there was a similar program in which the NSA was deliberately wiretapping the entirely domestic communications of US citizens. If there was such a legitimate, legal program (i.e. that complied with FISA), then great. But why couldn't a similar program be used in the case of what we now know were (are?) warrantless wiretapping? And if there was no such program domestically, I can think of only two possiblities:

  1. Why was this administration oblivious to a threat in our midst that they had to know was at least feasible?
  2. There was (is?) such a program, and it is grossly unconstitutional, and the administration knows it.

Surely I can't be the only one wondering about these questions.

Glenn Greenwald over at Unclaimed Territory is a lawyer that has been following this issue, and writing about it. He's calm, quite reasonable, and offers well-thought-out analysis.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Pharyngula has an interesting response to an interview with a biologist about homosexuality and evolution. There's a lot of discussion about where homosexuality comes from. I have my own ideas, and I'm sure we all do, but this bit I found particularly interesting:

Homosexuality is a byproduct. This is my favorite explanation, because ultimately it's about development. Why do men have nipples? Because women need them. Both men and women have the same set of genes (more or less), and follow very similar developmental pathways, and the nipple represents a developmental constraint or byproduct: mutations that knock out the male nipple might also knock out the female nipple, so the structure is retained in both sexes. Male nipples are a byproduct of a function needed by the other sex.

We might also ask, why do some men love other men? The answer: because women need to love men. (We could also propose the complement, that lesbians exist because men need to love women.) If there are pathways that can predispose an individual to find males sexually attractive, the base structure is present in both men and women, and what we have are additional mechanisms to modulate the expression of the trait in men vs. women. Just as we guys have an echo of a female attribute in our nipples, why not assume that we also bear echoes of female mate preferences in our brains—echoes that can't be expunged without also eliminating women's desire for men (and oh, no, we mustn't have that, I know)?

That is one way of looking at it that I had just never considered before.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


This is the PGP public key I've generated for this blog's email address. Yes, I'm a big ol' nerd. It really surprises me that we all just send email around in plain text, viewable by anyone with access to a mail server used by the sender, recipient, or anyone in between. I'm not saying that emails should be encrypted to hide something nefarious, just that it's the electronic equivalent of putting your mail in an envelope.

I've switched to Thunderbird for most of my email needs. Enigmail is a Thunderbird plugin that makes encryption pretty hassle-free. It acts as a front end for GnuPG. There are fairly easy-to-follow instructions online for setting these up on Windows or on OS X.

-----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK----- Version: GnuPG v1.4.3 (MingW32) mQGiBESDLaIRBACMT14A0HQoqRdWW3fYcQLdeenMQfNPJ5gmj64ehzynG7Jwp7LN 2HfjZ6LC6D6gAaypzM6lRodBQE8mWyHSHLR8j+Lwimv0W7uA9ItbI5HdBREjohzN zf2R7rQYQny5NUrqk0v8FmqLoXajjp7oJ1FaZQmrRrhdoy7aHhq8wF0wAwCg3iTu Dep51sMdnAPEpnGydZ/Wjg8D/0Xc6AkcncSDhR/Scszvekc9WiAapKtatnvD9VAw ZUHa6RR9o9EroROAuwj5sWh6DfnczDSmkZPa6WS6bCJpD4Csr7YWTpAm7oL7Gvk3 FTFrEPXUO2FD6G0pBkvcoNuogeQjMqAVuLs+W9ZpGWH/zqIIKpq7uwr/hoXyFw+J zcObA/46aGdd1w3S10HbdWVGRzOGRvFIcIrDR3JkiITOwH8Ha+9fEWGcERgGs41C szhm+PmKpDjUem2T7I9iSkiW+p+nVB0TafnPK6ySCliVG/3pHWT12TDL9Sq1IQ+9 fWwjUaSkRpCDpIihd23QwK6gGF+ShCd6OaEyYpDPFheOobj2/bQaTmFyYyA8bmFy Y2libG9nQGdtYWlsLmNvbT6IZgQTEQIAJgUCRIMtogIbIwUJCWYBgAYLCQgHAwIE FQIIAwQWAgMBAh4BAheAAAoJEDb9po9JIW+EvycAoIAFQEapDsS2YOieq2rMYdIO R0KHAKDLCz3rfzt9olDUy1R4rOeDGIXxXLkCDQREgy2lEAgAhk5Rb9/QFKegRXNk x7JXIv/Be7DcphIg9FiOq9lANf1m5K9/SfdtToekmv7DOb/nLjxReQrc2k1hHcpB XyK9h6No0Ci/P6UPgSeg9EQwY5IKlp9xJm3eo7Xi1u+HZ4E0pMaReqvAFHa2NOhd B6RDMIPmw59JPeJl3mwr53CnEjs4JFFiJtYN7IvoP+uOJf28PSJscxhv5I71HqfT ZcQJbb6yjmPppKKly4nznF70N/4pn3PfZf/A7lZgBvQa36oY0LDUwhnmYM/oqKpd b4D50x7fbK19hIdrKEZWiN/RiMDSX1MEIX5NR6fJqz5iRIeD7tTqXszyQ1gSckXf i0TGKwADBQf7BHl349zuLBoFlibxDHjNs0XAUCHvuWPzNf/OFYro6qJEBKVLKalh RJZKZHQJjBaB3tMVZZ0hRNp7MXKrHhSAmvdLkIooc4x9juyvqNqYXsrhukMBBlhp XyYKOYQsF5hD9+uvig4wzIdyKlqdq56R+Bdc6I8Mitisq0yO4wt20LCfySiXlgEX 3PZDzwAJbM9fKzQrirHAFdniKo0CD7WusAiNuAIKqTO68E7LtGmj+kLrmbM6hfpM 6AMXCUTrK1kau009y22bAUXhKgYbISJrG2DVakgJQrReGKFsEsVy3SYdr2ZgDsim 3DPdYzkPYmJM+IdoG3Mx5h0nlBWG9jFR2ohPBBgRAgAPBQJEgy2lAhsMBQkJZgGA AAoJEDb9po9JIW+E9u8An0RnLB1lpN50b5hZC2pD5DYl5H9qAKCjB+ZgncuZ88z0 vRvah70S9Br9BA== =dhem -----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----

(This is probably a waste of time, since I think I've received something like three emails to this address, but I just think it's neat.

PGP Public Key

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Kinda missing the point

Over at It's Matt's World, Matthew is upset that the Federal Marriage Amendment has again reared its ugly, spite-spewing head. Fortunately, not only did it not pass, but it is losing traction, even among Republicans. Today, he is surprised that "protecting" marriage will be a campaign issue this year.

I would suggest that he is missing the point. In a way, I don't think conservatives actually want the FMA to pass. Without periodic votes on it, you can't call your opponent anti-family or accuse him of being sympathetic to the homosexual agenda. This amendment is an excellent way for Republicans to distract the public from the war, and make it look like they are fighting for truth, justice, and the American way.

This is an incredibly emotional issue. It's not something that is even being discussed in a rational way. Actually, it's not something that's being discussed at all. It's just a hail of buzzwords, soundbites, and talking points. All you hear about is "protecting marriage," but never any explanation of how gays getting marriage damages the institution. What, are we running low on our supply of marriage? Are we in danger of wartime marriage rationing?

No, but this is an issue that is fundamentally grounded in moral values religious doctrine. People like to be on the side of right and goodness. So much so, that they will often behave in ways contrary to their own well being in order to be there. I imagine that it's much like why people enlist in the military. Not because going to Iraq is particularly good for your health, but because you believe in the cause.

Gay marriage is a good way for Republicans to get their base energized. They can show how much they are defending "good, Christian values," which distracts people from their policies that are only in the best interest of the rich and powerful, like the estate tax repeal. People will sacrifice their own welfare to do what is "right."

So don't expect to see the gay marriage issue going away any time soon. The good news is that I don't expect the FMA to pass anytime soon, either.

(Blogger appears to be having a nervous breakdown today, so I'm going to try this post-by-email thing. Here's hoping it works.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Lemons, garlic, and olive oil

No, this isn't a cooking-related post, although all the things in the title are great. I taped Frontline this week, and am about halfway through it. This four-hour, two-part series is titled "The Age of AIDS," and it's about the dawn of AIDS and its history up to now. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the entire program is available online in your favorite crappy streaming video format. Just as a side, note, this should be what the Internet is. An always-on, accessible-anywhere, comprehensive library.

Anyway, it's just amazing and simultaneously horrifying to realize that this disease has spread to seventy million people, but originated from a single event when it crossed over from apes to humans sometime in the 1930s. The oldest confirmed case of HIV infection dates back to 1959. It really makes you wonder what other nasty little bugs are waiting for us out there, or possibly are already circulating. I wonder if we will be able to cure those, or will religious nutjobs fight their treatment, saying that that would mean slutty women would not die in sufficient numbers from cervical cancer.

I remember back in the 80s, when people were very scared of this disease. There was so much misinformation spreading about the disease and how it was spread. That's probably not too unusual when it comes to things that people are irrationally afraid of.

People like to say that Reagan didn't even mention AIDS until 1987, but that's not strictly true. In 1985, after he was briefed that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact, he gave a press conference saying, in a very wishy-washy fashion, that he would not send his children to a school that had a student with AIDS. This was in response to a memo written by a White House lawyer that said:

There is much to commend the view that we should assume AIDS can be transmitted through casual or routine contact, as is true with many viruses, until it is demonstrated that it cannot be, and no scientist has said AIDS definitely cannot be so transmitted.
That lawyer is now the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Coincidentally, the NY Times has two editorials today related to AIDS. One is about how the response to AIDS in the gay community has ultimately led to the current debate on gay marriage. (Today, by the way, in the midst of a war in Afghanistan, a worsening war in Iraq, the President will be focusing on barring same-sex marriage in the Constitution.) The other Times editorial is about how HIV-denialists are hampering efforts to treat and prevent the disease. How people can, in this day and age, deny that HIV causes AIDS simply baffles me. I guess that's "faith-based" medicine for you.