Archive

  • STRAIGHT TALK. The...

    STRAIGHT TALK. The exchange of the morning: Question: But what did Iraq have to do with September 11th? President Bush: Nothing. Okay, now explain to me, slowly, because I am exceedingly stupid, why any thinking human being should vote for anyone who supported this bloody nonsense and has not yet flogged himself publicly in apology for it, why any thinking human being should listen ever again to the wisdom of the great thinkers -- yes, that would be you, Mr. Pollack -- who enabled this towering fraud, why any thinking human being should take seriously ever again the silly man whose feet haven't touched the bottom of the pool since half-past his first Inauguration Day, and who now claims, spectacularly, to speak on behalf of "the soul of the nation." I'm not sure a nation has a soul but, if this president found it, he'd take it out in the backyard and juggle it with his toes. The McCain -in-'08 people can now explain to me why, when I read about their signing up the campaign operatives...
  • CAN YOU BLOW UP A PLANE WITH LIQUIDS?

    CAN YOU BLOW UP A PLANE WITH LIQUIDS? According to these seemingly knowledgeable fellows ( via Tim Lee ), it's not really feasible to blow a plane up with a binary liquid explosive: Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else. After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now...
  • THE GUITAR TAB MENACE.

    THE GUITAR TAB MENACE. Dean Baker has a good post on Big Sheet Music's efforts to shut down websites that publish freely accessible guitar tab sheets for users' perusal. --Matthew Yglesias
  • CIRCUMCISION WOES. ...

    CIRCUMCISION WOES. So try this on for culturally sensitive size: Among the cheapest, easiest, and most effective strategies for reducing AIDS transmission in a populace is to circumcise the men. In South Africa, studies have shown that circumcised groups have transmission rates that are up to 60 percent lower than the average rate. The problem is how do you explain that while circumcision reduces risk, it doesn't end it? How do you keep it from becoming an excuse not to use condoms? How do you separate it from "female circumsions," a mutilating procedure with no known health benefits? How do you train the doctors, nurses, and faith healers on a continent lacking sufficient medical personnel? Trickiest of all, how do you convince grown men to chop off their foreskins? And yet, with HIV/AIDS blossoming into one of the most devastating plagues we've seen in generations and circumcision proving a cheap and effective weapon in reducing its prevalence, how do you not? --Ezra Klein
  • BLAME THE BLING?

    BLAME THE BLING? Juan Williams takes up the "controversial" line that the real source of contemporary African-American poverty is not racism, but rap music -- specifically, "a culture steeped in bitterness and nihilism" which is "facing African American young people today." I always feel like claims of this sort don't get subjected to any of the sort of calm critical scrutiny that ought to accompany a thesis about serious big picture social trends. I mean, don't white kids listen to hip-hop, too? And isn't there a lot of bitterness and nihilism in the segments of teen popular culture that we don't associate with black people? Indeed, isn't bitterness and nihilism the default state for teens? More to the point, what exactly is the hip-hop theory supposed to explain? The black-white poverty gap long predates the release of "Rapper's Delight." Is it the case that the gap has been growing during the hip-hop era? Well, no. Here's a historical table . The black child poverty rate was 33.6...
  • RIGHTWING RAPPROCHEMENT. ...

    RIGHTWING RAPPROCHEMENT. For those who remain convinced that John McCain will prove unacceptable to the Republican base, news that McCain is increasingly locking up the support of Bush 's loyalists and campaign operatives has to be rather disconcerting. These guys and gals, after all, won't want to hitch onto a losing horse so soon after being on the winning team, and their preferences and willingness to make common cause with an old enemy says something pretty profound about their estimation of McCain's primary chances. --Ezra Klein
  • LESSONS LEARNED.

    LESSONS LEARNED. I've seen more than one blogger note the irony of Kenneth Pollack and Daniel Bynum concluding their very pessimistic assessment of Iraq with the sentiment that "How Iraq got to this point is now an issue for historians (and perhaps for voters in 2008); what matters today is how to move forward and prepare for the tremendous risks an Iraqi civil war poses for this critical region." I seem to recall something or other about a "threatening storm" playing a role and I'll say nothing more on that. The return of the Pollack/Bynum liberal hawk writing team does, however, remind me of a less well-known bit of Iraq-related writing they did back in 2003, "Democracy in Iraq" (PDF) published in The Washington Quarterly . They wrote the following: Providing security is an essential task for intervening powers. Without internal security, the political process will be badly distorted if not entirely undermined, humanitarian relief becomes impossible, and economic recovery a will o'...
  • Black Market Guitar Picking

    The absurdities associated with copyright enforcement in the 21st century seem to be endless. The NYT had an article on another one this morning. Apparently publishers of sheet music are up in arms over guitar tablature sites. These are sites where guitarists pass along tips to each other on how to play particular songs. (I know nothing about guitar playing, so I welcome clarification.) The sheet music publishers argue that these sites, which are accessible at no charge, are a violation of their copyright for the sheet music and should be shut down. This is the best copyright enforcement story I�ve heard since the publishers of the Harry Potter series went after sites in which people exchanged their own Harry Potter stories � a great use of the state�s police power. (Anyone know how this one was resolved in the courts?) What's missing in the NYT coverage of these stories is any input from economists. These problems arise because the state is granting a monopoly with copyrights, which...
  • WHO NEEDS A...

    WHO NEEDS A VACATION? Not the American people, apparently. Sustained time off of work is increasingly becoming a quirky memory, one of those strange traditions practiced by our superstitious ancestors: The Conference Board, a private research group, found that at the start of the summer, 40 percent of consumers had no plans to take a vacation over the next six months � the lowest percentage recorded by the group in 28 years. A survey by the Gallup Organization in May based on telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,003 adults found that 43 percent of respondents had no summer vacation plans. About 25 percent of American workers in the private sector do not get any paid vacation time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Another 33 percent will take only a seven-day vacation, including a weekend. That's a shame for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that vacation time carries substantial health benefits for workers. I've long believed that Democrats could make...
  • SALI SINKING.

    SALI SINKING. Not that anyone should care, but I have a new favorite midterm race. Courtesy of some folks at the palace of Grand Vizier Kos , I have come to develop great affection for the race in the First Congressional District of Idaho. Last week, Dick Cheney unlimbered his rhetorical firepower -- the only kind of firepower it is safe for him to unlimber, truth be told -- on behalf of Bill Sali , the Republican candidate running against Democratic hopeful Larry Grant . As you can see from this link, Sali is about as beloved among his fellow Republicans as is The Invisible Man, whose pants can now be seen running by themselves in the Connecticut senatorial contest. Democrats have had nowhere near enough races recently in which Republicans openly discuss out of which window they should toss their candidate. Things are looking up. --Charles P. Pierce

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