Friday, December 19, 2003
We Have a WeinerAfter pouring over thousands of entries from the contest I advertised earlier this week, we've found our winner.
Another "successful toilet-training" celebration commences in Fallujah.
Norbizness takes the cake—he recognized the family, and family counts at G.p. Email me your address and you get some crap! Honorable Mention goes to Mattie, whose inspired homage was more lyrical props than proper caption but was pretty fucking funny. He'll be taking home one of those crappy green "field day" ribbons. The rest of you guys gotta work on your material.
All of our readers receive a consolation prize, which is the unique perspective into policy, art, and rhetoric gained by visiting regularly.
posted by kriston at 12:44 PM........
KaZaa: Shazam!The DC Court of Appeals ruled against music industry subpoenas, turning the tide of this high-profile battle in favor of consumers and file-traders. It's no repeal of Prohibition, but you don't need to worry about your ISP selling you down the river any more.
The further I get from college, the more agnostic I get about the P2P case: I don't really download music anymore, because I own a Mac—so I have the Apple Music Store at my disposal, and most file-trading software for Mac blows to begin with. Before the only good record store in the District closed, I bought records from small to smallish labels and felt like it was worth supporting them (and the record store, DC|CD).
Still, sentiments like these make me want to rally against the RIAA:
The ruling forces the recording industry to file copyright lawsuits against "John Doe" defendants, based on their Internet addresses, then work through the courts to learn their names.So now that the RIAA has to enforce its copyrights just like everyone else—without violating consumer privacy—the "amnesty" period is over. The amnesty bit is total bullshit. In September they offered an amnesty program that allowed a sorry file-raider to submit his name and contact info to the RIAA, which could in fact be used against him if the RIAA was investigating or chose to investigate the vile pirate in question. You draw your own conclusions here. As for the generous settlement options Sherman regretfully informs us that his mom n' pop agency can no longer offer, well, those ranged around $3,000. A few grand might sound like a steal for a settlement, unless you're the single mother of 12-year-old and vile pirate Brianna LeHara. We're to assume that the gloves are off, so instead of waxing $3500 out of 15-year-old girl and scurvy buccaneer Megan Dickinson, they'll be pursuing the full and reasonable damages the law provides: in little Megan's case, anywhere from $825,000 to $165,000,000.
So long as, you know, justice is being done.
Now I can get back all that Coolio I deleted.
posted by kriston at 12:05 PM........
Obsession: A Fragrance for NeoconsFinally, Salon details Monday's debate between Richard Perle and Josh Marshall—parts of which you may watch here if your computer's agreeable. (Mine isn't.) Daniel Drezner has written about it, and believe it or not so has Josh Marshall, but Michelle Goldberg of Salon provides the (shorter) broader picture. A couple of themes emerge from this picture:
My problem isn't with Wilsonian-style projects. Neoconservatist foreign policy is intriguing and worth debate, but throw it out the window if its architects defend it by saying the entire left "hates America."
And toss Bush out with him. Damnit.
posted by kriston at 9:02 AM........
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Ass vs AssYou ever get a box and stuff it full of spiders to see who comes out on top? Welcome back to third grade: It's Matt Drudge vs Bill O'Reilly, and not for the first time.
Now the last time these two went at it was actually at WWF Wrestlemania XXVII, a steel-cage showdown featuring Rush Limbaugh vs Bill O'Reilly vs Matt Drudge (as well as appearances by Sgt. Slaughter, the Iron Sheik, and "Supafly" Jimmy Snooka). No doubt the night's biggest piledriver came when Bill "The Splotch" O'Reilly said, "There is no other cure than to kill Matt Drudge."
But times have changed, and the larger asshole-dom has responded to a post-9/11 world. When, late last month, Drudge published figures online revealing that sales for O'Reilly's newest book were close to 400,000—less than the millions he's claimed and far less than sales racked up by both Al Franken and Hillary Clinton—the Splotch responded by calling Druge "a threat to democracy."
This is Spy vs Spy to me: One's wearing the white suit and the black scarf and the other's wearing the inversion and they're both assholes. I just want them to get on with destroying eachother.
Cancel each other out, whatever it takes.
posted by kriston at 12:58 PM........
One Shopping Day Left Until the G.p Caption Contest Winner is AnnouncedSo go here and contribute. I know there's more funny out there, and to add a little intrigue to whet your appetite—the prize is decorative.
Tomorrow, noon ATX time. Don't miss your opportunity for greatness.
Still something otherwise intended for the trash, mind you.
posted by kriston at 10:53 AM........
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Liberalism Gone WildNick Morgan of En Banc relates a story from the latest Harper's about a sex shop in New Jersey that is sending vibrators to, um, needy Iraqi women. Penetrating erogenous no-fly zones is not a huge scandal by any means, but it's one example of how a liberal assumption can go so far around the way as to arrive at a conservative policy. In America, vibrators are a better symbol of liberal values than the flag; but the shop exporting vibrators is under the assumption that Western masturbatory practices are more correct or better exemplify liberty than other methods (or not doing so at all). Symbols need contexts—and as Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Sistani assures in his advice column, Iraqis are getting theirs, vibrators or no.
Speaking of liberal policies gone Reign-of-Terror wrong, France is making waves with Jacques Chirac's decision to ask French lawmakers to ban Muslim headscarves from schools. This is a conservative policy, no doubt about it: designed to protect the fabric of contemporary French society from natural evolution. If you compare France's secular protectionism to America's religious populist approach, you get funny liberal-conservative hybrids. There's France, maintaining a conservative if not discriminatory course, to protect its state's liberalism, and then there's America, suffering an erosion of church and state by majority fiat, inching steadfastly toward state-sanctioned intolerances. With a grandiose and abstract projects like "democracy" it's hard to imagine a liberal compromise that doesn't violate at least one of its tenants.
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and all that.
posted by kriston at 1:00 PM........
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex... But Were Too Afraid of Modernization to AskGot a hankering for a good ol' fashioned Catholic guilt trip? Want to relive embarrassing 6th grade health-ed moments? Little rusty on your father-son material? NRO has the goods on sex. What liberals don't know about sex is that it is for 1) procreation and 2) "spousal unity," and that, of all things, "evolutionary psychology" backs up their hypothesis. All those dirty liberal urges you've ever felt to procreate with someone who wasn't your spouse—or, NRO forbid, someone of your same sex—are explained: America has turned sex into a "consumer good," which has in turn trumped the findings of "evolutionary psychology," inexplicably. In this regard, the free market has decided very poorly, and your bedroom is in dire need of regulation.
What conservatives don't know about sex is that this battle has already been waged and won. If this is the best argument they can muster, then Mission Accomplished.
Congratulations, America—welcome to the 18th century!
posted by kriston at 10:56 AM........
Queer Eye for the Ba'athist GuyThe best part about Saddam Hussein's capture is that it is irrefutably appropriate to make as much fun of him as we possibly can.
Courtesy of Tacitus.
I'm really looking forward to seeing my dad in a few days, so we can trade tacky Saddam jokes. If you have any, pass 'em on.
posted by kriston at 10:17 AM........
Windfall?Everyone who said that Saddam Hussein's capture would not change much on the ground better think again:
A document discovered during the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has enabled U.S. military authorities to assemble detailed knowledge of a key network behind as many as 14 clandestine insurgent cells, a senior U.S. military officer said Tuesday.That does sound like Hussein's capture might lead to ferretting out some of these networks. The article goes on to quote Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. and allied forces in Iraq, as saying that Saddam's role was probably relegated to "intent and financing" only, which seems to back up the theory that the truly dedicated insurgents are Ba'athists as opposed to foreigners, Islamists, or plain-old disgruntled Iraqis. Before you bite into that slice of humble pie with me, though, note that the relationship between Hussein and the insurgents was one-way only:
Dempsey said other documents found with Hussein could end up exposing other enemy networks. While cautioning that much analysis remained to be done, he said a picture of Hussein's relationship with the insurgency was emerging that showed the former Iraqi president playing an inspirational but largely passive role, receiving reports about guerrilla operations but not guiding attacks.Which means, just like we've seen, there will be more attacks. Still, an intelligence windfall is an intelligence windfall, yeah? Given the insurgents' circumstances, any disruption to their organization should be major. The quagmire may be on the verge of drying up.
Nice to be able to say something hopeful about Iraq.
posted by kriston at 10:03 AM........
More TejasCharles Kuffner with the rodeo round-up on the progress of the lawsuit against the Congressional map in Texas. (It's not redistricting any more—it's redistricted!) I was particularly struck by this quote he found in the Dallas Morning News:
"I'm a firm proponent of Republicans getting the majority of seats in Texas," said Dr. John Alford, a political science professor at Rice University. "This goes beyond that ... into a territory where the nature of the system itself determines the outcome, rather than the will of the voters."Kuff's coverage is so tight that I really don't have any additional insight—go check it out.
You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him.
posted by kriston at 8:15 AM........
Austin's Great, AnywayEvery once in a while a story so odious comes along that I'm forced to acknowledge that Texas is, overwhelmingly, full of nutzos. Courtesy of Atrios, your sigh-heavy reading for the day:
Joanne Webb, a former fifth-grade teacher and mother of three, was in a county court in Cleburne, Texas, on Monday to answer obscenity charges for selling the vibrator to undercover narcotics officers posing as a dysfunctional married couple in search of a sex aid.There's any number of ways to go from here, but really, you know, I was stunned to silence when it occurred to me that Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani is more permissive when it comes to sex. Check out his Q & A advice column, and you'll see: Even a fundamentalist Islamist is more progressive than your typical Southern Baptist* Texan.
*Methodist may also apply here. In Texas you can be either/or.
posted by kriston at 7:49 AM........
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Iraqi Debt, Iraqi Future: Possibly More Boring to Read Than It Was to WriteJust from some very shallow browsing/research into Iraq's odious debts, the thing I know for certain is that there seems to be little in the way of solid numbers or good precedent to cite. Princeton University economist Alan Krueger puts Iraq's total debt at a monumental $387 billion; The Coalition Provisional Authority, the IMF, and a London-based "emerging market debt specialist," Exotix, all point to figures somehwhere between $110 - 130 billion. (We all know about those shrill PU economists....) A bigger trick to the numbers is that the debt Iraq owes to Russia, Germany, and France—the debt that is so central for both the media and the administration—is a drop in the bucket compared to the money owed to Kuwait (and Saudi Arabia) for war reparations.
On reparations, the numbers are split even further: Even considering the war reparations, Exotix pegs the debts at no more than $160 billion. But Paul Bremer reportedly stated that the total debt, including the war reparations to Kuwait and Saudi, amounted to $200 billion—amounting to nearly $100 billion in war reparations, hardly a dime of it yet paid. Kuwaitis, by the way, are not taking kindly to this debt-forgiveness talk, even though they're not yet being courted by Mr. Baker. Paul Bremer responds to angry Kuwaitis by embarrassing himself:
Bremer said "it is curious to me to have a country whose (annual) per capita income GDP is about $800 ... pay reparations to countries whose per-capita GDP is a factor of 10 times that," for a war which all Iraqis now in power opposed.A Kuwaiti parlimentarian strikes back with a proper booo-ya:
"If Bremer is so concerned about per capita income he has to demand dropping all of the United States of America debts on poor nations where per capita incomes don’t exceed $30 a year," MP Daifallah Buramiya told English language daily Arab Times.Which brings us back to precedent. There isn't any—just further highlights the need for some sort of international bankruptcy court. In lieu of that, the United States will do with regards to Iraq's debt what it usually does, which is whatever it wants to. As Kevin Drum pointed out, the "Old Europe" set doesn't stand a chance of being repaid, so it's arguably in their best interest to forgive and forget. But Kuwait/Saudi Arabia are owed reparations, and a hell of a lot at that, and I wonder how likely those governments are to drop the issue. While I don't think that tackling Iraq with a bill in the hundreds of billions of dollars will work out any better than tackling Germany with tens of billions in debt did after WWI, the reparations are part of a UN settlement—not exactly enshrined in stone, but not exactly a bill with a dictator, either.
Iraq has already paid $7 billion (through the UN oil-for-food program) in reparations to a host of plaintiffs, and further claims amount to nearly $300 B (not all of them necessarily credible—this is, I imagine, where Krueger is getting his large numbers). Though it would seem that in the face of this staggering debt a compromise would be a laughable gesture, compromise figures are out there:
Based on a debt to export ratio of 225-250 percent, oil production of 2.5 million barrels per day and oil prices of $24.30 per barrel, [Exotix analyst Richard Segal] reckons Iraq could sustain debts of $51.5-$57.3 billion.Sounds like a bottom line to me. And considering that the entirety of Iraq's debt was incurred by a man that the entire world doesn't hesitate to call evil, and won't hesitate to hang, it seems to me that a bottom line isn't too ridiculous a thing to ask of the global community.
No question, though—the US is going to get its money.
posted by kriston at 10:55 AM........
An Offer They Couldn't RefuseKevin Drum relates how France, in anticipation of the arrival of Bush family consigliere James "Funny Fingers" Baker III, has already agreed to forgive some portion of Iraq's odious debt.
One might even be inclined to say that France surrendered the debt.
Can't believe Kevin missed that one.
posted by kriston at 9:01 AM........
Monday, December 15, 2003
G.p Caption ContestYou make with the funny, you make out with a prize. I really don't know what kind of prize—probably something that I'm going to throw away—but it could be yours! Only one entry per person, unless your second entry is really fucking funny.
Contest ends at noon, Austin TX time, on Friday. No promises that I'll get the prize mailed out before Christmas, unless the winner's really funny. If you're really in a lurch for Christmas gifts, also try your hand over at Norbizness.
Be sure to leave an email address with your entry.
posted by kriston at 3:56 PM........
Someone Please Capture the District of Columbia...before it drowns me. I have never seen so many holiday parties condensed into such a brief schedule, and so many lobbyists clamoring to ensure that the everyone is drunk on their dime. Please, DC—I have to be in good working order for my arrival in Austin on Saturday, so I can wash myself away in Trudy's margaritas and Crown & Anchor pitchers. This liver of mine is only mortal, and it has endured much.
If I actually attend all these parties, I'm going to be asking Santa for a transplant.
posted by kriston at 3:34 PM........
Someone Please Capture This LadyI nearly forgot to advertise that today is "Write Like Nedra Pickler Day," hosted by Atrios. If you need a primer, try a Google News search—here are some headlines that may pop up:
NOTE: I might not have made it abundantly clear, but those are the headlines as they appear in order. No sieve—that's all she's writing, and she doesn't work for Rupert Murdoch.
With objective reporters like these, who needs a Bush campaign?
posted by kriston at 12:43 PM........
Note the Lack of Substantive Post-Capture InsightDid Saddam really think he could pull this off on a generation of US soldiers that was practically raised by Nintendo?
Dude, hiding in the warp zone isn't going to get you anything but screwed—you're better off taking on the Hammer Brothers. Courtesy of Yay Hooray. Next up: The post-Saddam world according to Fark.
Maybe Osama's stuck in the Negative Zone.
posted by kriston at 12:06 PM........
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Out of the Spider-HoleLast night was some bender: Someone's birthday party prompted a visit to the single bar in DC that serves beer by the pitcher, and many pitchers were poured. This was preceded by a six-pack or so and followed by x rounds of Manhattans, where x = I have no idea.
It was around 4:30pm when I finally crawled out of my chamber today, meaning the sun was already setting—yet the light was still brain-shatteringly bright. I was happy to squintfully read that Saddam Hussein was captured at some point in the day I missed. Through the haze of what is probably the worst headache to ever clog my skull, the only thought I could assemble about the news was, man, that guy looks like I feel.
Probably more substantive posts on the subject to follow, once my system's alcohol-free.
posted by kriston at 7:03 PM........