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2004/04/30

It's Head on a Pike Time

I never thought I'd advocate shooting American soldiers, but I have to make an exception in this case:

    Last month, the U.S. Army announced 17 soldiers in Iraq, including a brigadier general, had been removed from duty after charges of mistreating Iraqi prisoners.

    But the details of what happened have been kept secret, until now.

    It turns out photographs surfaced showing American soldiers abusing and humiliating Iraqis being held at a prison near Baghdad. The Army investigated, and issued a scathing report.

    Now, an Army general and her command staff may face the end of long military careers. And six soldiers are facing court martial in Iraq -- and possible prison time.

    [...]

    It was American soldiers serving as military police at Abu Ghraib who took these pictures. The investigation started when one soldier got them from a friend, and gave them to his commanders. 60 Minutes II has a dozen of these pictures, and there are many more – pictures that show Americans, men and women in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners.

    There are shots of the prisoners stacked in a pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English.

    In some, the male prisoners are positioned to simulate sex with each other. And in most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing, pointing, or giving the camera a thumbs-up.
Sending these fuckers to Leavenworth is too light a punishment. I mean, just look at this bitch.

A US warcriminal smiles for the camera
These people have violated the most basic laws of our civilization -- and I'm not talking about statutes and legislation, though they've certainly violated those, but Natural Law, the "we hold these truths to be self-evident" kind that remains true no matter what any government says. They've disgraced the United States and everyone who's ever died in her defense. They deserve a drumhead, a cigarette, and a blindfold.

2004/04/28

Blackmail

I once said that the only thing that could save the Democratic Party would be if their entire leadership were caught on tape having sex with a fourteen year old girl and had to be replaced. I'm starting to think that the first part's come true but the Republicans have gotten ahold of the tape and are blackmailing them.

The only other explanation for the current state of the party is that they've taken affirmitive action so far as to put the mentally retarded in charge. The way things are going Nader might start campaigning with "Voting for Kerry is throwing your vote away."

2004/04/22

John Kerry: Have I Mentioned that I Served in Vietnam

From Reuters.

    Standing at the bow of a 25-foot power craft called "Fishing Magician" inspecting coastal erosion in southern Louisiana reminded Kerry of his days as commander of a Navy "swift" boat 35 years ago.

    "I looked out at the shoreline and I commented that parts of it looked a lot like the rivers and coastline that I went through in Vietnam," the Massachusetts senator said.

    He told about 100 supporters sweltering in the heat on the banks of the Mississippi that he had spent a lot of time "in a habitat that looked a little like this" as a young Naval officer. He said the 50-foot gunboat he commanded was built "right here in Louisiana."
What, John Kerry served in Vietnam? Why didn't he say that earlier? It completely changes my assessment of him.

Well, no it doesn't. I grew up on military bases, and if I know this much, this much I know: the uniform means a guy can handle a gun, zip his fly, and knows the right way to salute -- not like those Hollywood dweebs who cup their hand over their eyebrow like they're shading their eye from the sun. But other than that soldiers, seamen, and airheads are no different from anyone else. And there aren't many of them, not even the ones who saw combat and especially not the officers, whom I'd vote for President.

Yes, we should respect Kerry for serving in the Navy, but that's as far as it'll get him with me. Constant reminders of his service didn't work for General Clark and they won't work for Kerry. Saying that he was in the military doesn't make him inherently qualified to President than going to church every Sunday would.
Heh

Paramount to release Star Trek TOS service pack.

    Paramount used the latest in digital editing technology to correct the errors and scoured newsgroups and interviewed fans to find all the problems they needed to correct. The service pack is available in DVD, VHS or in digital format from the Paramount website.

    Paramount President Franz Pike said, "We fixed everything, from obvious errors like the glaring differences between Shatner and his stunt double to more obscure fixes like removing Spock's 'third ear' in 'The Immunity Syndrome.' We think fans will be pleased."

    Most trekkers are happy with the upgrades. "Star Trek has always been unwatchable to me before the service pack, but watching it now I can almost stomach it," said one fan of The Next Generation.

    "I was hoping they'd improve Shatner’s acting, but apparently that was intentional overacting," said Sarah Jennings of the Star Fleet Command Outpost based in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

    However, the release has left some fans unimpressed. "This service pack fixes several errors, but also creates some. Like in 'The Enemy Within' they fix the problem with Kirk's phaser switching between a Type 1 and a Type 2 phaser, but they give Kirk a mustache," said Devin Halibut of Star Trek fan club #264. "I have to say I like the goofs in the original series better than the ones introduced by the service packs."

    Other fans are even more upset. "Roddenberry left those mistakes in there to show the frailty of society. I think it's blasphemous for Paramount to go in and correct the master's work," said Matt Pyckard of St. Louis.
I can't wait for the TNG service pack. Maybe they'll remove the men in skirts from the first season.

Now if only they'd release it under the GPL or Creative Commons, we could put together a version of the show where Troi walks around nekkid all the time. Hey, at least it'd give her character some point to exist.

2004/04/21

And the Sky Captain Crashes

If anyone was holding out hope that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow might be an exciting homage to old Republic serials a la Star Wars and Indiana Jones, they should give up now -- Paramount's pushed the release date back from June to 17 September.

If you haven't noticed before, the period from late August through to about Halloween is one of the two great dead zones in the film industry, the other being the period from New Years to around late March or early-April. Moving a film from one of these dead zones into summer or the holiday season is generally a sign that the studio thinks the film turned out better than expected. Doing the opposite, though ... well, that usually means that people demanded their money back at free screenings, if you know what I mean. It's especially bad when the studio does this even though they already have trailers in theaters with the former release date. A movie like Envy, which has been quietly pushed back several times, still has a chance to do okay because only filmgeeks and Hollywood insiders know its history, but when the ads are already out there, people notice the change in release dates and realize there's something wrong with the film. It killed Hidalgo and The Alamo, both of which moved from choice holiday release dates to the winter/spring dead zone. And it'll kill Sky Captain -- but that's what you get when a studio entrusts a major motion picture to a guy who films the whole thing on blue-screen and does the special effects in his house.

Hmm, now that I think about it, this bodes ill for Episode III.
And the Sky Captain Crashes

If anyone was holding out hope that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow might be an exciting homage to old Republic serials a la Star Wars and Indiana Jones, they should give up now -- Paramount's pushed the release date back from June to 17 September.

If you haven't noticed before, the period from late August through to about Halloween is one of the two great dead zones in the film industry, the other being the period from New Years to around late March or early-April. Moving a film from one of these dead zones into summer or the holiday season is generally a sign that the studio thinks the film turned out better than expected. Doing the opposite, though ... well, that usually means that people demanded their money back at free screenings, if you know what I mean. It's especially bad when the studio does this even though they already have trailers in theaters with the former release date. A movie like Envy, which has been quietly pushed back several times, still has a chance to do okay because only filmgeeks and Hollywood insiders know its history, but when the ads are already out there, people notice the change in release dates and realize there's something wrong with the film. It killed Hidalgo and The Alamo, both of which moved from choice holiday release dates to the winter/spring dead zone. And it'll kill Sky Captain -- but that's what you get when a studio entrusts a major motion picture to a guy who films the whole thing on blue-screen and does the special effects in his house.

Hmm, now that I think about it, this bodes ill for Episode III.

2004/04/20

Kill Him, but Kill Him Right

Over in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick offers her typically scathing summary of oral arguments in Schriro v. Summerlin. The case is a follow-up to the Supreme Court's ruling that the death penalty can only be imposed by juries, not judges and concerns whether that ruling should apply retroactively to people on death row -- i.e., whether someone who was sentenced to death by a judge prior to the ruling should now be resentenced by a jury.

    Two years ago, the Supreme Court decided, in a case called Ring v. Arizona, that defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to have a jury, and not just a judge, determine whether the aggravating factors necessary to impose the death penalty exist. Ring meant that in cases like Summerlin's, where a judge alone decided the aggravating factors, his death penalty conviction was unconstitutional. Unfortunately for Summerlin, the justices in Ring didn't decide whether this new rule applied only to future cases or retroactively to cases that had long been decided. That's what the court must decide this term: Is Ring prospective, meaning you die even though the conviction was unconstitutional; or retroactive, meaning that if you were lucky enough to murder someone in 2002, as opposed to 1982, you'll be resentenced by a jury?
Lithwick spends most of her article recounting how Summerlin got convicted in the first place, a tale that sounds like a bad episode of Single Female Lawyer, but misses the most interesting question.

Ring and Summerlin were both sentenced to death by a judge, but Ring appealed on the grounds that the Sixth Amendment guarantees not just a trial but sentencing by jury (at least for capital cases) and the Supremes agreed, giving him a new sentencing hearing with a jury. But, if SCOTUS rules against him, Summerlin could face death even though the procedure he was sentenced by is unconstitutional. Now let's suppose for a minute that the situations were reversed -- that Summerlin's lawyer was the one who came up with the Sixth Amendment appeal. That would mean that Summerlin would've been the one to be resentenced by jury (and to potentially get a lower sentence) while Ring would be the one appealing today.

Okay, think about that for a minute. Do we really want a decision of life and death to be based on which appeal reached the Supreme Court first? Because that's what it'll mean if the Supremes rule against Summerlin.

2004/04/13

Spoilers? What Are Those?

Comcast Digital Cable Guide's summary of tonights episode of DS9 on Spike TV:

    The Emissary: The Cardassians declare war, damaging the space station during the battle; hostilities cease when Sisko returns with the missing Cardassian ship.
Wonderful. What's next, a summary of Twilight Zone episodes -- "To Serve Man: Aliens come to earth to eat humans." -- or The Sixth Sense -- "A young boy helps a ghost come to terms with the afterlife."

2004/04/09

Sponge-John Pornhead

If you haven't been paying attention, John Ashcroft has decided the Justice Department should be cracking down on that most insidious threat to peace-loving Americans -- nekkid people. Especially nekkid people doing the squelchy on camera.

So in honor of that, all hail Tit-Face!


John Ashcroft rendered with porn-pixels

2004/04/08

I Bet George III Wished the Colonists Were All Like This

Jonah Goldberg tells a disturbing story of college drinking.

    Anyway, while I was imbibing my beverage(s) along with the few young scholars of legal drinking age, a couple of the guys brought an interesting cultural development to my attention. Several of the young squires under the age of 21 informed me that they don’t drink because it is against the law. One very bright fellow in particular assured me that when he’s 21 he will avail himself of legal inebriants, but until that time he did his very best to eschew the demon rum (and scotch and beer etc). He also assured me that he was not alone in this attitudinal forbearance of illegal imbibition.

    Now, personally, I find this fascinating and completely beyond the scope of my experience. I’ve met all sorts of college kids (and others) who don’t drink because they don’t want to. I’ve met college kids who don’t drink due to religious considerations, academic priorities, medical or family history, preferences for certain ignitable greenery, whatever. I respect all of those choices.

    Until last night, I had never met anybody who said that they don’t drink because the law says they shouldn’t. I’m trying hard not to mock or be condescending because these were good dudes and seemed pretty normal. And, there's really no reason on the merits to mock. Still, I am torn between two conflicting impulses. On the one hand the Bluto Blutarsky in me wanted to smash a beer can on my head and say, Have a beer, don’t cost nuthin.

    On the other hand, on paper this is all perfectly reasonable and even, I suppose, admirable. It’s entirely plausible to me that I am in the wrong for having been so flabbergasted. But, I associate college so much with social drinking; I have such an ingrained and generalized contempt for the 21 drinking age; and I’ve simply never met anybody who used this explanation before, let alone heard that this is a fairly widely held attitude among college students. It makes me rethink the power of the law to shape culture in America.
I, like Jonah, had always thought that the only people who don't drink before they're 21 are the ones who don't drink after they're 21. I'm absolutely bafflegabbed that someone would refrain because of the law.

I'm all for obeying the law when it's a good law, but the drinking age is fundamentally absurd. Once you turn 18, you can legally get a credit card to buy a wedding ring and marry your girlfriend with, smoke a post-coital cigarette on your honeymoon, then get up in the morning and join the army to go fight in Iraq. But you can't have a beer. If you do illegally obtain one and then run someone over with your car, you can even be tried as an adult. The law recognizes you as an adult in every respect -- except you can't drink a frickin' beer.

It's a stupid law and deserves to be ignored -- and indeed it is, probably more than any other law in the US. Obeying it means that you'll do whatever the government says no matter how absurd or stupid simply because it's the government. If the Founding Fathers were alive, they'd die of shame. I mean, these are guys who dressed up as Indians and destroyed expensive cargo because the price of caffeinated beverages was too high; they'd probably tell their kids to take over a bar and give free drinks to anyone under 21, then go to burn down a couple Starbucks.

Goldberg was nice and didn't make fun of these people. I'm not so generous -- if you don't drink before your 21st birthday because of the law, you might as well join the Commie party. I'd say "Go back to Russia," but at least the Russians would storm the Kremlin if the government tried to raise the drinking age.

2004/04/05

The A-List

The A-List 6.1 has finally been released. Those of you with smutty minds will love it. Those of you without ... you'll love it to, you'll just deny reading it.
Kick Arse

This is one of those stories that's too good to be true -- and if it is true, somone will screw it up.

    Quentin Tarantino told SCI FI Wire that he has talked to Pierce Brosnan about adapting Casino Royale as Brosnan's fifth and final James Bond film. The director noted that his challenge would be to convince producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to diverge from the current formula of expensive action set pieces.

    "I don't see that they have anything to lose at all," Tarantino said in an interview while promoting his latest film, Kill Bill, Vol. 2. "They've got this gigantic franchise, they can't do anything wrong with it. Pierce Brosnan's only going to do one more movie for them, if that, so if he stayed on to do one more with me, let's just this one year go my way and do it a little differently. I won't do anything that will ruin the series."

    Tarantino hopes that the offer of a low budget and Brosnan's return would convince the producers to approve a one-time-only return to the character-driven spy plots of the first several 007 films.
It sounds like Tarantino doesn't just want a return to the early films but to the spirit of Fleming's books.

What a lot of people don't realize is that the modern Bond bears only the slightest resemblence to the character Fleming created. In the novels, Bond wasn't an unflappable superhero with an endless supply of magical gadgets. He was a cold-blooded killer, borderline sociopath, who used women and booze to dull the horror of his job. After the first few films, the series moved away from that Bond and towards the omnicompetent playboy we're stuck with today. There've been a few attempts to revive the Fleming Bond -- On Her Majesty's Secret Service, arguably the best Bond film of all time, did moderately well despite the absence of Connery, but when he returned for Diamonds Are Forever the series immediately reverted to the cartoonishness that had taken over in You Only Live Twice; then there were two Dalton films which made a ham-handed effort at a darker Bond (I think Dalton the two get unfairly maligned for not being so different from the Moore films that people had become so used to). But of all the Bond films, the one I think best captures the spirit of the novels is Dr. No, specifcally the scene where Bond goes to the house of a woman he suspects is an enemy agent. How does he handle her? First he has sex with her, then, while she's sleeping in post-coital bliss, he searches her house, finds the evidence he needs, and calls the cops. Then he goes back to the bedroom and screws her again to keep her distracted until the police come. That is the James Bond I love, not the guy who can fight his way through a dozen henchmen without mussing his hair, defy all laws of physics, and then get duped by the first enemy agent with a pair of boobs.

2004/04/01

The Power of Google Compels You

Well, Google's official April Fools Joke is here, which means that this is probably genuine despite the date on the press release.

    Amidst rampant media speculation, Google Inc. today announced it is testing a preview release of Gmail – a free search-based webmail service with a storage capacity of up to eight billion bits of information, the equivalent of 500,000 pages of email. Per user.
Yes, that's a gig of storage. For email. That's several orders of magnitude larger than my email archive, which dates back to 1997. You could never delete spam and it'd still take years to fill it up.

Of course, it is webmail -- though they do say they're working on POP3 access.

And speaking of webmail, their rationale for starting the service is pretty silly:

    he inspiration for Gmail came from a Google user complaining about the poor quality of existing email services, recalled Larry Page, Google co-founder and president, Products. "She kvetched about spending all her time filing messages or trying to find them," Page said. "And when she's not doing that, she has to delete email like crazy to stay under the obligatory four megabyte limit. So she asked, 'Can't you people fix this?'"
I could fix her problem without having to start a webmail service: just tell her to get a regular email account (or at least a webmail provider that allows POP3 and IMAP access) and a real mail client. Thunderbird files messages for me, bit-buckets the spam as it comes in, and has a sort system that's configurable (with a bit of work) to search message bodies. I just keep it running in the system tray all the time, downloading messages as soon as they show up and notifying me of the non-junk ones. And since it's all on my hard drive, the only limit I have is the memory capacity of my computer. If I'm going to be away from my computer but need access to my email, there are easier solutions than webmail.

In other Google news, check out this new graphical interface for Google News. I'm not entirely sure it's better than the regular Google News page, but it's pretty nifty -- make it 3D and it'd look like something out of Neuromancer. I wouldn't mind having a version integrated right into my browser.