packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
Joshua Kors tells the story.

Luther insisted to doctors at Camp Taji that he did not have personality disorder, that the idea of developing a childhood mental illness at the age of 36, after passing eight psychological screenings, was ridiculous. The sergeant used a vivid expression to convey how much pain he was in. "I told them that some days, the pain was so bad, I felt like dying." Doctors declared him a suicide risk. They collected his shoelaces, his belt and his rifle and ordered him confined to an isolation chamber.

Extensive medical records written by Luther's doctors document his confinement in the aid station for more than a month. The sergeant was kept under twenty-four-hour guard. Most nights, he says, guards enforced sleep deprivation, keeping the lights on and blasting heavy metal music. When Luther rebelled, he was pinned down and injected with sleeping medication.

Eventually Luther was brought to his commander, who told him he had a choice: he could sign papers saying his medical problems stemmed from personality disorder or face more time in isolation.

I can't even joke about this. It's horrible, pure horror.

Edit: Link via [ profile] ceruleanst, here.


Nov. 13th, 2008 09:09 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
I just got my copy of the Washington Monthly "The Stakes" issue! This will be totally influential as to my vote in the November 4th U.S. Presidential elections!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (butterfly)
Just wanted to comment on a little poetry of the sports page from Chico Harlan of the Washington Post:
Up it all went for the Dodgers, in nine pitches. The Philadelphia Phillies poked one homer just beyond the fence. They smacked another one halfway to the next Zip code. But distance didn't even matter. One measured these sorts of shots by the silence they caused, the home team's lead they erased, the series they likely shifted -- if not ended.

Good article.


Sep. 20th, 2008 08:32 am
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Hat tip to [ profile] baxil for the link: Paul Krugman just got a link sent to him (how many layers of indirection am I up to?) of a little piece John McCain submitted to go in Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries.

As the man says, you might want to sit down for this.

I would also allow individuals to choose to purchase health insurance across state lines, when they can find more affordable and attractive products elsewhere that they prefer. Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
In June, Plouffe [Obama's campaign manager] had suggested Obama-McCain meetings more along the lines of the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates. In 1858, during Abraham Lincoln's Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas, the candidates met seven times across Illinois. One spoke for an hour, the other for an hour and a half, and the first was allowed a half-hour rebuttal.

That would be awesome. Unfortunately, it seems like it won't happen.


May. 20th, 2008 01:19 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Hat tip to Jim Macdonald @ Making Light for the news -from the AP, Chicago, Monday, May 19th:

Republican John McCain accused Democrat Barack Obama of inexperience and reckless judgment for saying Iran does not pose the same serious threat to the United States as the Soviet Union did in its day.

The likely GOP presidential nominee made the criticism Monday in Chicago, Obama's home turf.

"Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment. These are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess," McCain said at the restaurant industry's annual meeting.

For those of you who would like to add numbers to just how absurd this is, hilzoy has the analysis.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
P.Z. Myers on Benedict XVI meeting George W. Bush - outraged, as you should be. Outraged, to a great extent, because in all the "coverage" of this "event", and indeed in the "event" itself, there is not shown the slightest awareness that these men we are seeing praise each other and be praised in return are complicit in horror and terrible horror.

I know I, for one, am tired of this eternal drumbeat of dreadful revelations, each of which has effected not the slightest visible good in its wake. But that exhaustion is no excuse. Each beat of this drum stands for the agony of hundreds, thousands, or millions of people. The least we can do is stand for them.

(P.S. On a much more minor point, Expelled came out today. Do not watch it. Expelled is a terrible movie, morally and cinematically.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Via Fred 'Slacktivist' Clark:

I remember - sometime last year - reading a blogger talking about Barack Obama who said that Obama was too kind, too positive, too unwilling to be harsh. I remember the fellow talked about Kennedy and others, said that they were certainly not the plaster saints that Obama seemed to be imitating, and that his refusal to use aggressive tactics would most likely sink his campaign.

In the months since, it's become clear that it's quite the opposite.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Me: Joseph Weizenbaum died.

Eliza: Please go on.

Me: Well, he was very nearly the inventor of AI - wrote your progenitor, the first Eliza - and then he became one of the harshest critics of it. It's odd thinking of his life, given the contradiction.

Eliza: What about your own progenitor the first eliza and then he became one of the harshest critics of it its odd thinking of his life given the contradiction?

Me: Well, in a way you have a point - it does parallel the Eden story.

Eliza: Oh, i have a point it does parallel the eden story.

Me: Sure, except I don't believe the Eden story.

Eliza: Why do you not believe the eden story?

Me: Does it matter?

Eliza: Please go on.

Me: Anyway, the disquieting thing about Dr. Weizenbaum's life is that I fear he may be right about AI - the potential for harm, I mean.

Eliza: Can you elaborate on that?

Me: Well, if he invented it, then doesn't that mean his opinion means more?

Eliza: Do you wish that he invented it then doesnt that mean his opinion means more?

Me: Of course.

Eliza: Please go on.

Me: What more is there to say?

Eliza: Does that question interest you?

Me: No, not really.

Eliza: You are being a bit negative.

Me: That's true - I guess the best thing is to hear and acknowledge his life, and then move on from there.

Eliza: Can you elaborate on that?

Me: Well, just because he's respected (and deservedly so) doesn't mean he's right or wrong - just that we must listen.

Other obituaries: MIT News Office, Boston Globe, Washington Post, L.A. Times. ELIZA via - text not edited.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (butterfly)
Via [ profile] the_gneech, [ profile] crisper, [ profile] goblinpaladin, and [ profile] active_apathy (I steal the post outright from the last):
"I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else." (Source)

Ernest Gary Gygax, 1938-2008

(And, for the terminally irreverent among you: Penny Arcade, The Ferret's list.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
I've never been a fan of Prickly City. Generally, I find it to be of poor quality - I suppose The Wizard of Id is the easiest comparison - and so it rarely crosses my radar.

[ profile] redneckgaijin just sent out an alert on today's strip.

I still say it's a poor quality strip. But I will praise it for this: it states, badly but boldly, that torture is not something that "good guys" do, and waterboarding is torture. That once you get beyond a certain threshold, relative comparisons don’t really matter, and waterboarding is horrible, terrible, inhuman torture.

I don't know Scott Stantis from Adam, and I still ain't fond of his strip. But, sickening as it is, speaking truth about this subject paints a bullseye on yourself, and the man said it anyway.

So: good job, Mr. Stantis. I'm rooting for you.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
I would take a moment here to congratulate the Hollywood writers on a successful strike. Their cause was worthy, and I applaud the studios for acceding to the bulk of their demands.

That is all. Thank you.

(My opinions of the remaining Presidential candidates are still incomplete - sorry, [ profile] roaminrob...)
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Would you believe I hadn't seen any of Obama's speeches until tonight? [ profile] alchemi gave the heads-up, and I watched this one.

Today - yesterday, now - he gave a speech in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church. C-SPAN has the full speech on video - actually, with probably about ten minutes of extra material extending on either end.

It's a good speech, a really good speech. Omitting the thank-yous at the beginning, a transcript (not quite the same as the one that's been floating around the net - I think he slipped from the script a bit...):

The Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho... )

It's two a.m., and I'm really stupid right now, so I'm not going to make any big announcements. I'm not even a member of the Democratic Party, and on top of that, I can see where the scoffing is coming from. But, you know, I heard you ought to be willing to let politics break your heart, and I can't help but think maybe I will.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Monday evening, Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee stated his intention "to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards".

It is conceivable that a fair number of people may be unconcerned by this statement. However, to quote Fred "Slacktivist" Clark's excellent take on Huckabee's statement:

The main point here is sweet fancy Moses this guy wants to rewrite the Constitution to align it with his idea of "God's standards"!

Comments are open, as always.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Subtitle: KBR Told Victim She Could Lose Her Job If She Sought Help After Being Raped, She Says.

I don't know if the story is true. True or not, I can't even think about it right now.

Link via [ profile] dietrich.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Subtitle: KBR Told Victim She Could Lose Her Job If She Sought Help After Being Raped, She Says.

I don't know if the story is true. True or not, I can't even think about it right now.

Link via [ profile] dietrich.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Psst! Word on the street* is, The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 includes the following delicious language:

Part G of title IV (20 U.S.C. 1088 et seq.) is further amended by adding at the end the following new section:


(a) IN GENERAL.--Each eligible institution participating in any program under this title shall to the extent practicable--

(1) make publicly available to their students and employees, the policies and procedures related to the illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials required to be disclosed under section 485(a)(1)(P); and

(2) develop a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property as well as a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity.

Read more... )

Why is this objectionable?

  1. "Each eligible institution participating in any program under this title" - that is, the entire education section of the U.S. Code - that is, any institute of higher education taking any money at all from the government, including by teaching students that receive government grants - is obliged by this language to both deter illegal filesharing and pay for alternatives like Ruckus.

  2. The only means universities have for effectively deterring illegal filesharing are, well, means like these.

* Formally known as "Slashdot".
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Via Mahablog, which reposted from Orcinus: The President has just issued this, titled 'Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq'.

You, who is reading this: if you are in America, and you do not believe that the war in Iraq is succeeding, you should be terrified.

I will not quote the whole text - it's legalese, and dense - but here's some of the crucial bits to explain myself.

First, the declaration of motive.
I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that, due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps [...]

A declaration that acts against Iraq are extraordinary threats to the United States could, in a newspaper article, be excused as an ill-thought overstatement. In an executive order, it suggests either (a) that the chief executive lacks connection to reality or (b) that he is exaggerating to justify the measures he proposes. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine which is worse.

Second, the penalty.
(a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in[.]

This one is pretty clear: if you are named by this act, all your possessions are frozen. Credit cards? Bank accounts? Pocket change? You are here banned from using them.

Third, the targets.
any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,

(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or

(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;

(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section include, but are not limited to, (i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order, and (ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person. (emphases added)

You notice I highlighted two bits. The former I'll get to in a second. The latter ... well, any resemblance to Article 58-11 is surely coincidental.

But that's a low blow. Ignore it. Read the first one.

Now, what constitutes undermining efforts? Undermining sounds simple, exact, but how can you be sure that any particular act is not undermining something? And how can you be sure that the government isn't being ... overenthusiastic in its prosecution of the law?

One last note:
Sec. 5. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order. (emphasis added)

In light of which, I leave you with a reminder of the words of William Rivers Pitt, from last September.

UPDATE: Insofar as I can tell, executive orders are, in fact, susceptible to overturning in two ways. First, by the passage of a bill by Congress specifying the law more exactly – legislation overrules executive orders. (Yes, they'll probably need a two-thirds majority.) Second, by a court ruling that states the order is unconstitutional. (Which has only happened twice in history.) While some claim that an executive order only becomes law if Congress does not overturn it within 30 days, I have seen no official source verifying that.


Jul. 17th, 2007 08:52 am
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
From Obsidian Wings, who got it from Think Progress:
M. President, my worst fears on this bill have been realized. We have just seen the Republican leadership again resort to technical maneuver to block progress on this crucial amendment.

It would be one thing for Republicans to vote against this bill. If they honestly believe that “stay the course” is the right strategy — they have the right to vote “no.”

But now, Republicans are using a filibuster to block us from even voting on an amendment that could bring the war to a responsible end.

They are protecting the President rather than protecting our troops.

They are denying us an up or down — yes or no — vote on the most important issue our country faces.

I would like to inform the Republican leadership and all my colleagues that we have no intention of backing down.

If Republicans do not allow a vote on Levin/Reed today or tomorrow, we will work straight through the night on Tuesday.

The American people deserve an open and honest debate on this war, and they deserve an up or down vote on this amendment to end it.

Given the Republican leadership’s decision to block the amendment, we have no choice but to do everything we can in the coming days to highlight Republican obstruction.

We do this in hopes of ultimately getting a simple up or down vote on this and other important amendments that could change the direction of the war.

All Senators will be welcome to speak their mind. Those of us who are ready to end the war will make our case to the American people. Those who support the status quo are welcome to equal floor time to make their case.

Let the American people hear the arguments. Let them see their elected representatives engaging in a full, open and honest debate.

Let them hear why Republicans are obstructing us on this amendment.

Whenever Republicans are ready to allow a vote on this most crucial legislation, we stand ready to deliver the new course that has been so long in coming.

As hilzoy points out, this is far from the first piece of legislation that has been threatened with filibuster by the current Republican caucus.

The members of this filibuster are not merely ignoring the concerns of U.S. citizens (including a majority of the members of their own party) – they are ignoring reality. There is an old saying a few of you might recall, that a government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. The government we are supporting in Iraq by all indications seems to lack just that consent. The United States should not prop it up any longer.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (one-quarter view)
From [ profile] kirabug's Idea Files: Last night at Coors Field in Colorado, at the beginning of a rain delay, a sudden gust of wind caught up the tarp being stretched over the infield, flipping one of the grounds crew ten feet in the air and trapping him under. A horrific situation – the sort that leaves people dead.

But it didn't.

Almost the entire Philedelphia lineup – the visitors – charged out of the dugout to help, along with two of the Colorado Rockies and two umpires. The ESPN highlights has footage of a dozen Phillies hauling away at the tarp and throwing sandbags.

A lot of the idolizing of sports figures is just silly. But these guys who did this last night are heroes, every one.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
I just don't know what to say.

I want to be suspicious of these articles, I really do. The VP has had such a complete reputation for being an operator, that it's creepy to see that rumor-mongering collaborated in an actual newspaper. They talk about how Cheney doesn't consider himself a 'power behind the throne', merely a 'detail person' as opposed to the President's generalities. I'm willing to believe the latter comparison – however smart Bush may be, he doesn't seem to be paying much attention to his job – but when the article goes on to describe what the VP accomplishes ... well, as a wise person once said, I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.

As I said, I don't want to believe the articles. But there's no reason to think that the Washington Post would suddenly start catering to the delusions of the fraction of its readers who fear this administration. And the writers interviewed dozens (hundreds?) of people. So I'm faced with the thought that perhaps most of the evil associated with the past six years is specifically Mr. Cheney's responsibility.

(I read them in the paper, so I can't guarantee the Web version. Also, I read them when they were printed, so I can't guarantee my memory. Still.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
[ profile] jfs posted about this yesterday, I'm passing it on.

Did you know that they banned poetry in Guantánamo? It is true. Prisoners did not even receive writing implementia – the only means they had to produce this was scratching on styrofoam cups with rocks. And whenever those cups, furtively passed from prisoner to prisoner, were found, the guards would smash them to prevent any 'coded messages' from escaping. Nevertheless, a few have.

The article from the Independent includes three of the poems. [ profile] jfs (and the writers of the article) quote four lines from one of them, "Humiliated In The Shackles" by Sami al Hajj:
They have monuments to liberty
And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.
But I explained to them that
Architecture is not justice.

Heaven forfend such a message should reach our enemies.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
The author of The Satanic Verses has been knighted, and swaths of the Muslim world are angry.

I have basically two things to say about this.

First, yeah, I get that they're angry. I'd be angry too if a celebrity I reviled were given public honors. I might even write a blog post railing against the authorities responsible. When a society celebrates someone, it states that their public face represents ideals of that society, and I wouldn't want those ideals endorsed.

(For the record, I don't care about Salman Rushdie – haven't even read the book. It's just a hypothetical.)

The second thing is a reply to this:

"If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified," the minister said, according to Reuters news agency.

I don't care if the guy took it back. That ideal, that acts of terrorism can ever be justified, is one I never want to see again.

(How's that for a tepid start? I promise, I'll try to be more interesting in the future.)

(Wow, Everything2's link-happy attitude is affecting me everywhere.)


packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

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