Tuesday, December 30, 2003

December 30, 2003, the day they appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Valerie Plame leak. John Ashcroft finally buckled under presure and recused himself from the investigation of the White House. It was rather difficult to accept that he could impartially and vigorously go after a group including the guy who gave him his job and the guy he hired to run his Senate campaign. Well, the ball's rolling now. Watergate started as the investigation of a minor break-in, and we all remember where the Whitewater investigations led. Once one of these guys gets rolling, he's going to find whatever there is to find; inquiring minds want to know exactly what that is.
I think this one takes the cake. The FBI has alerted cops around the country to watch out for people carrying... almanacs. Yes, almanacs. The FBI points out that while possession of an almanac may be "the product of legitimate recreational or commercial activities," it also "may point to possible terrorist planning."

OK, no, we're not getting a little paranoid here or anything. This is totally normal! We want our police to pull us over for carrying bloody almanacs. How can we be safe if we don't all panic about EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. Please, protect me Big Brother! War is peace! Freedom is slavery! SHOE PRODUCTION IS UP!

God DAMN!

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Now that's just dumb. While Howard Dean's been attacking the Bush administration for holding secret meetings with power company executives to formulate the nation's energy policy, it turns out that while he was Governor of Vermont, Dean, uh, held secret meetings with power company executives to formulate the state's energy policy. Now there are differences between the two situations, but he still looks like a moron accusing Bush of doing exactly what he's doing. Release the docs, Howie. Set an example.

Dean has also been getting a lot of flak lately for his insistence that Osama bin Laden should have a trial before we decide what we do with him. The quote goes as follows:

"I've resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found. I have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."

Some have interpreted this as proof Dean is soft on terror. In fact, it's a thought I first had when President Bush declared that Osama should be executed. I thought, "since when do presidents get to play judge, jury, and executioner? I thought that's what we had the judges and juries for in the first place." Everyone, from suspected shoplifters whose convictions hang on a single officer's word to suspected mass murderers with a mountain of evidence supporting the allegations, gets a fair trial. I have faith that the judicial system will see him convicted and dealt with in a manner befitting his crimes. If Mr. Bush no longer trusts the courts to do justice, he must see our Constitution, the one he vowed to uphold, as unsuited to his vision of the future. If he no longer beleives in it, should he not resign his post to someone who does?

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Hannity's new book: "Deliver Us from Evil : Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism". What an ass.
I've been participating in Moveon's Bush in 30 Seconds project. 1200 people sent in 30 second anti-Bush ad spots, and now they're asking everyone else (yes, I'm part of everyone else) to watch and rate them. The top 15 rated will be sent to their celebrity panel to pick one to actually air. After you rate a given ad (the server will give you a max of 20 per day), it tells you what the spot's average score has been. So far, I'm a little worried. Almost everything has averaged between 3 and 3.5 (out of 5), with a few truly horrendous ones between 3 and 2.5. It seems to me there are two possibilities here. One, a lot of people are giving these ads the benefit of the doubt, either because they hate Bush and like anything anyone says against him or because they don't want to hurt the producers' feelings. These motivations, of course, defeat the whole purpose of the thing, which is to pick one ad which is better than the others. To do that, you've got to be willing to say A is good, and B is just bad. The second possibility is that people are in fact being brutally honest in their assessments; those assessments just happen to be so scattered as to make distinction impossible. You can't argue with that, of course, but it's worrisome nonetheless. Some of these ads just aren't very good - I've grown up around at least one successful advertiser and have done a bit myself, so I've seen good ads - and they're getting the same, sometimes better, ratings than some things that are really quite excellent.

A certain style of I've been consistently panning has been doing remarkably well in the overall polls. Some might call them Red Meat; to me, they just sound like preaching to the choir. They're all full of heated accusations and rhetoric, mostly about the war and tax cuts and how the American people are going to rise up against these injustices. The problem is, uh, at least half the people watching these ads - the ones we're trying to sell to - don't think those were injustices, and the ads do nothing to persuade them. If anything, these spots will just solidify their visions of the loony left. Conversely, other spots which struck me as ingenious have faired rather poorly. One, also a favorite of my advertiser friend, features an earnest, hard-working looking American man sitting on his front porch, worrying over the state of the economy and his job security, but smiling when he remembers that George W. Bush is in Washington, working hard to set things right. As he speaks, subtitles point out some facts that might rather change his opinion of the president; the fact that the far from saving the ailing economy, the Bush's supply-side economics are hastening its collapse, and that far from "working hard", Mr. Bush has taken more vacation time than any president in history. Another one features dozens of quotes from respected conservative politicians and organizations blasting the policies of the Bush administration, ending with a shot of an abandoned and disarrayed GOP event. See, these ads speak to who we want. They speak to the guy on the street who knows what's going on but hasn't had the time to dig real deep into any of it, the guy who thinks that George W. Bush is a Joe Everyman who's got the same interests as you and me. He's not, and that's what we've got to say. Calling him evil is going to get you nowhere; calling him a liar will do no good as long as he can keep up his "straight-shootin' Texan" facade. People can accept an honest guy who lies sometimes for the greater good. What they can't accept is a flat out fraud. Fortunately for his opponents, that's exactly what President Bush is. Now we've just gotta figure out how to prove it to everyone else.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Good point on the Democratic party's DLC/Deaniac rift in an Arizona Republic editorial: "The Democratic Party hasn't split; rather, the sleeping half of it is finally awake". It's hard to have divisions when only the people on one side are talking. Maybe the vast differences between the candidates are actually a sign of healthy changes to an ineffective orthodoxy. It'd be a lot more healthy, though, if they'd stop directing so much of their fire at each other.
Maybe it's just me, but I can't figure out why Russia would bother rolling out new stationary nuclear missiles - or new nuclear weapons of any kind. What are they for? The US isn't going to invade them. China maybe? According to the article, the Russians are also drawing up specifications for a new line of strategic bombers (big, nuclear capable beasts like the B-52) to enter service in 2014. Again, of all the things to add to your military, why nuclear first strike weapons? Not only do they already have thousands of missiles and bombers already deployed (and rusting away without proper funding for maintanance), they things are utterly useless for the fighting they've been doing in Chechnya, etc. You can't fight with nuclear weapons, all you can do is indiscriminately destroy. What are they thinking? They don't have the money for this kind of thing. They don't have the money for any kind of thing. Is this sheer pig-headed Cold War-based bloody-mindedness? Or is there something else going on? Either way, more nukes at large is the last thing anyone needs.

I'm really starting to worry about Putin. He runs a distressingly authoritarian ship, what with imprisoning and exiling his political opponents, cracking down on Chechen separatists, taking over the Russian media, and all the rest. When he's called on discrepancies in the vote, he points (irony alert) to Florida 2000 and says "if they can do it there, I can do it here". There are rumors of renationalizing major industries. This sort of increased militarization only adds to my fears. Well, Russia is a faraway place, dealing with crime and corruption problems I can't comprehend. I can't pretend to knows what's best for them. I only know what I see... but what I see, I don't like. Any detractor of the government may well be a criminal, but the Kremlin's line seems to be that all of them are. A little to convenient for my tastes.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Not long ago, a guy name William Krar was arrested in Texas with "a fully functional sodium cyanide bomb capable of killing hundreds, as well as neo-Nazi and antigovernment literature, illegal weapons, half a million rounds of ammunition, and more than 100 explosives, including bombs disguised as suitcases." Well hey, now we know where the Weapons of Mass Destruction went! So where's Ashcroft, Bush, et al on this one? They don't seem to really care. As Atrios puts it (well, actually it's his bud Thumb for this particular post), "Remember folks, sodium cyanide bombs, illegal weapons, half a million rounds of ammunition, and more than 100 explosives, including bombs disguised as suitcases don't threaten American security, terrorists do. And they're not terrorists if they're Americans with real American names like William, Judith or Edward. But it would be a very different story if their names were Mohammad. Or Jose." I fail to see another plausible explanation, although I'm waiting to hear it. It would be quite disturbing to think our that when Our Leaders say the "War on Terror" isn't a "War on Islam", what they really mean is it's a "War on Islamic Terrorism *wink wink nudge nudge say no more*"

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

So, we got Saddam. My first response was "Holy #&%!" (direct quote). I really didn't think it was gonna happen. But it did, and it's a damn fine thing, too. That rat bastard had it coming. My greatest congratulations to the troops for reeling in this lousy excuse for a human, and I hope he enjoys all the hospitality of the Iraqi justice system. This is probably our first chance to really get the new Iraq moving. On top of that, if he does have NBC weapons stashed somewhere, now we're going to find out about it (if the CIA can't get it out of him, I have a feeling certain Iraqi, uh, "experts" will.) Unfortunately, I can't go as far as some pundits do in my expectations for how this will affect anything. I don't think capturing Saddam makes the US any safer, because I don't think Saddam posed a threat in the first place. I don't think it's really going to cut down on attacks on US troops in Iraq (and so far, it hasn't), because I find it highly unlikely that Saddam was doing much orchestrating from his spider-hole. And I don't think this means "mission accomplished", because we're still $150 Billion in the hole and all we have to show for it is a brutal despotism overthrown into violent anarchy. Someone's going to have to explain to me how that works out to a positive cost-benefit ratio.
The US Government has decided to build a new Pan-Arab satellite television network to compete with Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, bringing the good world of US benevolence to the ignorant masses of the Muslim world. The slogan of the new network? "Fair and Balanced". Holy crap, I couldn't make this stuff up. Now someone want to tell me that FOX News isn't a frickin' tool of the government?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Correction to my last post. Mainly, that it was completely wrong. As a faithful reader (and proprietor of the excellent InternetBumperStickers.com) pointed out, 60 Minutes is easily the most watched news show on television; in fact, according to the most recent Neilsen ratings, it's the 7th most watched show period. The Simpsons, meanwhile, which I thought was tearing things up, doesn't even make the Top 20. Just a function of spending so much time around college students, I guess - my impression was that 60 Minutes was so unpopular, and The Simpsons so prominent, that I just assumed the latter was obliterating the former and didn't check the actual numbers, which should have been a no-brainer. My bad. I still stand by my statement that I wish the two shows didn't conflict, however. I had to miss the Lawrence Taylor interview yesterday!

Anyway, there was a great quote in the part of the show I did see. When asked the cliché question about whether one person can make a difference, the old black woman who was the subject/heroine of the segment responded "Even huge, heavy doors turn on little tiny hinges. Some people say, 'I can't be that big.' That's OK. Maybe you can't be a door, but you can be a hinge."

Sunday, November 30, 2003

I wish I was able to see 60 Minutes more often. It's my favorite news program, along with the NewsHour on PBS. Most of the time, I miss it, for two reasons, both due to its timing. First, I'm out on Sunday nights with some regularity. Second, and I imagine this is intentional on CBS's part, it conflicts with The Simpsons. OK, now let's face it, maybe 60 Minutes is the more edifying choice, but I'm not going to miss The Simpsons for it, and neither is anyone else under the age of 60. If CBS wants to expand their viewership, and maybe expand the appeal of hard news in the process, they should consider shifting 60 Minutes to a more accessable timeslot. Who knows, maybe even put it in a high-class slot and see what happens.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Well, tomorrow, anyway. I'm about to head off to an undisclosed location for Turkey Day, so this'll have to do. It's the ultimate guy holiday - eat a lot of food, watch football, eat more food, and then lie around moaning about how dumb you were to eat that last slice of pie. Woohoo!
I wonder if it was really a good idea to arrest a wanted Iraqi's family in his stead? I'm not saying it's not - I'm not on the ground there - I'm just, you know, saying.
Wow, this is stupid.

You see, in technical parliance, slaving a component to something means taking that component, which ordinarily has an independent function, and linking it to something else, allowing the Master component to give it instructions, which it then carries out. For example, a computer's primary IDE/ATA Hard Drive is referred to as the Master Drive, while the secondary drive is referred to as the Slave, because all the instructions from the computer go to the Primary drive, which then relays it to the secondary.

The City of Los Angeles has decided that this is racist.

Actually, come to think of it, reading my own post, it does sounds kind of bad. Hmm.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Been pretty busy lately. You know how it is. Time available for blogging comes and goes...

Still time enough, however, to remember that I really like Billy Joel. I'd pretty much totally forgotten that guy's existence until I heard him playing the other day. Man, Goodnight Saigon is awesome. Allentown too. And The Downeaster 'Alexa'. OK, I'm going to stop now. Really.
Crazy. It went back and forth for a while, and in the end, there's no energy bill this year. As Gregg Easterbrook points out, there were just too many compromises. By the time the Democrats had weeded out everything that promoted increased domestic production and the Republicans had removed everything in the vein of conservation, all that was left was a big ol' pile of pork. The bill was killed in the Senate in a disorganized vote cutting across both partisan and geographic lines. The Northeastern Republicans joined with their Democratic counterparts to filibuster the bill, while farm state Democrats joined the Republicans in support. Votes in the west went basically along party lines, with the usual exception of John McCain taking the anti-pork vote and joining the filibuster.

No bill is definitely better than a bad bill. Congrats to the Senate for taking a principled stand. I do think this shows one thing, however - Tom Daschle's got to go. The Senate Minority Leader can't sell out his party for the promise of a billion dollars in ethanol subsidies. If we need to stick with a midwesterner, how about Tom Harkin (D-IA), or Dick Durbin (D-IL)? Those guys have some cajones. How did sissy-boy Daschle get to be the Dems' Senate leader, anyway?

Thursday, November 20, 2003

I'm a little late on this one. Our Dear Leader was rebuffed in a few of his security demands to the British Home Ministry. Among them:

- Shut down the London Tube system
- Allow US fighters and helicopter gunships to patrol London airspace
- Grant diplomatic immunity to all US snipers
- Turn London security over to the US Army
- Let the secret service carry around one of these

He did, however, secure the services of 16,000 British police deployed around the country for his protection. Recall this is his security arrangement when he goes to visit our ally.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Headline: BLAIR'S VICIOUS ATTACK ON BUSH'S PARTY. OK, so maybe The Mirror is more National Enquirer than Philadelphia Inquirer, but Murdoch rag The Sun, which Dubya himself granted an interview to, is somewhere along the lines of the Weekly World News.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Official White House Statement: "President Defends Sanctity of Marriage". He goes on to excoriate the Massachussetts Supreme Court for violating this "sacred institution" by declaring that the state must grant civil marraiges to straight or couples to comply with the equal protection clause of the Massachussetts State Constitution. Funny, I'm missing the part where George W. Bush gets any freaking say in who Massachussetts allows to get married.
Atrios points out a minor error in an AP article:
"CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, this story misattributed a quote from the speaker on an audiotape purportedly of Saddam Hussein as coming from Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota."

Monday, November 17, 2003

Caption under a photo in the Caravan for Democracy (a US-based pro-Israel group) newsletter: "An anti-Israel activist protests as Israel activists promote Israel". Yeah, well, maybe those "Israel activists" need to hire a better writer or something.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

I wish my computer had parts that looked like this.

(From Virginia Tech's "Big Mac" cluster, currently the world's third fastest computer.)

Saturday, November 15, 2003

From MSNBC:
Nov. 14 — When Greenpeace activists illegally scrambled aboard the cargo ship APL Jade, it was the start of a pretty typical day. Convinced the ship was hauling contraband mahogany from Brazil, the environmentalists aimed to draw attention to it by unfurling a banner with this message: “President Bush, Stop Illegal Logging.” Their arrests by the Coast Guard were also part of a day’s work. But the later use of an obscure 19th century law to charge the entire organization with criminal conspiracy has Greenpeace defenders claiming that they are the target of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s attempts to stifle political criticism of the government.

It appears the administration is trying to remove Greenpeace as an active concern by invoking a maritime statue last cited in 1890. While I tend to look at Greenpeace as the PETA of the environmental movement (see my last post below), they still get the same civil disobedience rights as everyone else. John Ashcroft can jail the protestors for illegal entry or whatever the legitimate charge is, but he can't launch an offensive against protest in general. Fortunately, the ACLU and People for the American Way are on board with Greenpeace's defense team. Expect another DoJ/Everyone Else slugfest.
Not usually my sphere of interest, but this has got to be one of the most effective anti-Factory Farm pieces I've ever seen. What is the Meatrix?

I'm sure PETA will show up and demand it be taken down because it's not pissing enough people off. I read an article recently - and unfortunately, I can't remember where - about the animal rights movement, and how its center of gravity has shifted over recent years from moderate ASPCA-type organizations to the PETA radicals. As such shifts tend to do, all they've done is make the cause go supernova, exploding in a great bright flash of high-powered rhetoric and internecine bickering as the great mass of the country that used to form its core is expelled into the void .

Friday, November 14, 2003

So, I haven't been blogging too much lately. Well, what're you gonna do about it? Huh? Huh? Ah, the advantages of not having a boss. Anyway, I figured I'd weigh in on this week's Tom Tomorrow controversy. Sometimes, I just don't get what he's trying to say. This is one of those times. What does he have against warbloggers, armchair or otherwise? They have a right to express their opinions as much as he does. And while he's allowed to make fun of whoever he wants, it seems that this week's point (that warbloggers think they're the equivalent of soldiers) is both too ad hominem and too unsubstantiated for my tastes.

It didn't take long for warblogger and real-life reservist L.T. Smash to register his discontent. In my opinion, such discontent was delivered in a reasonable, if legitimately offended, tone. Tom responded in his usual rather defensive/dismissive tone. No offense to the guy, but he seems to take criticism a bit too personally. Smash, as expected, was not particularly satisfied. And from there, it's been open war in the blogosphere. I'm staying neutral. I think it was a dumb comic. Everyone's entitled to say something dumb every once in a while. This one's not worth fighting over.

On the other hand, I think Ted Rall's been off the deep end for a little while now. As Instapundit Glenn Reynolds puts it, when Rall writes something like this, you almost have to beleive he means it. Rall to me is like Ann Coulter to a moderate conservative. We're supposed to be on the same side, but I think he's doing more damage to the doves and peaceniks with his constant misfires than he is to anyone on the right.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Holy guacamole! Joan Croc just left NPR $200 million!

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Next time they're about to complain about the undue attention paid to negative developments in Iraq, certain hawks should read this cartoon.
According to this poll of 800 adults, only 42% of Americans can name at least one US Executive Department (State, Defense, etc) or member of the President's cabinet (Powell, Rumsfeld, etc.). A total of 4% of those surveyed could name 5 or more. That's out of 19. It gets worse if you look at how many could name any specific agency. Just... just look at it yourself. I can't go on talking about it.
It really does seem suspicious that an all-Republican conference committee would remove the Senate-approved anti-profiteering clause from the Iraq spending bill, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Another article about the Russian situation, this one from Matt Taibbi of the New York Press. It presents Mr. Khodorkovsky's arrest in an entirely different light, that of the rule of law making one last attempt to rein in a vicious mobster. I'm a bit skeptical, as it seems a little too zealous about attacking not only a wide array of business and businessmen, but also capitalism in general; a little too accepting of the tools of totalitarianism; a little nostalgic for the days of "the revolution", perhaps. Nevertheless, Russia is a foreign place, and I don't know what the heck is going on over there. This guy's as likely right as anyone else.
Just when you think things couldn't get any dumber, you realize that, by order of the President, we are now observing Protection From Pornography Week.

Monday, November 03, 2003

This editorial on the coming 40-year anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination is, in my opinion, quite a moving piece. It begins with the following paragraph:

Benjamin Disraeli, in a speech before the British Parliament, once said, "Assassination has never changed the history of the world." Some terrible decades later, the sentiment was repeated by Robert Kennedy, who commented upon the death of his brother with the Disraelian observation, "Assassins have never changed history." Benjamin and Robert were both wise men. Both were completely wrong in ways difficult to measure. Robert, specifically, was not just wrong, but dead wrong.

Note: I am entirely unfamiliar with the editorial's author, William Rivers Pitt, or his site on which this is posted, truthout.org. I have no idea if he's a flaming liberal, flaming conservative, moderate, moron or Martian. But, at least in my reading, this editorial isn't about any of that. It's about violence, and the violence that it leads to, and the world we may have lived in had we not allowed any of it to take place. Hopefully, we can still all agree on that.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

In a recent Lewis-and-Clarkian exploration of the internet, I came across re-select.com, a humble purveyor of Anti-Bush bumper stickers. I would have left without much thought, were it not for a link near the bottom of the page, describing a rather bizarre episode involving liberal commentary storehouse Buzzflash. Supposedly, Re-Select wanted to advertise on Buzzflash, which had run some of their commentary in the past, but Buzzflash, after ignoring their first inquiries, told them to buzz off. They then proceeded to use some of Re-Select's copyrighted material to promote their own line of bumper stickers. When Re-Select brought this up, Buzzflash responded with a rude, not to mention unsigned and ungrammatical, dismissal.

Now, I've got no dog in this fight, but I was interested in a sotry that seemed to place a fairly well respected site (Buzzflash) out of character. I decided to send them an email, with a link to Re-Select's accusation and the question "I'd hate to think that you guys ignore your fans and violate their copyrights. I've made no conclusions, but I sure would like to hear your side of the story. Preferably in complete sentences." Buzzflash responded with the following:
we don't violate copyrights. period. we don't have time to engage in nonsense with loose canons. believe what you want to believe. we have work to do.

Now, I've never been a reader of Buzzflash. I can now assure you that I will not in the future either. I still don't know what happened between Buzzflash and Re-Select, but if their response to a member of the public seeking to give them the benefit of the doubt is this kind of blowoff, lacking in even the most basic aspects of courtesy, then I have absolutely no interest in patronizing their establishment.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Thanks to the "Nay" votes of the Louisiana, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana Democrats and the non-votes of two more from Nebraska and North Carolina, the Climate Stewardship Act failed. On the positive side, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) voted "Yea", despite Michigan's usual reluctance to enact any form of pollution controls, as did reliably logical Maine Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire's Republican duo, and of course bill sponsor John McCain. Another year, a little more lobbying, and maybe we can get this turned around.
Earlier this week, the Russian government arrested billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man and majority owner of oil giant YUKOS as part of a major action against the company. Some see this not so much as the criminal investigation Putin's government claims as the first stages of re-nationalizing Russia's major industries. As The New Republic reports, 26 percent of Russians claim they would "definitely" or "probably" vote Joseph Stalin for President were he on the ballot...
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (Reuters) -- A man described by authorities as a known sexual predator was chased through the streets of South Philadelphia by an angry crowd of Catholic high school girls...

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Man oh man... thank the lord for consumer-priced video editing software. President Bush's new and improved educational policy: "We must offer every child in America three nuclear missiles." OK, so maybe he didn't actually say those words in that order, but now we can hear what it would have sounded like if he did!

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/presaddress2.shtml

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The Return of the Dumb Right Wing Lawsuit: After witnessing the stunning success of Bill O'Reilly and FOX News' lawsuit against Al Franken, National Review writer Donald Luskin has decided to threaten blogger Atrios with a libel suit for calling him a stalker (referring to Luskin's fascination with criticizing NY Times writer Paul Krugman). Suffice it to say, this is not having the effect that Mr. Luskin hoped for.

By the way, Atrios is up in my links under Other Blogs now. Don't know why I didn't think to put him there before.
Hey Shaq! Hey Kobe! Can you just shut the hell up and play basketball? If you don't know what you look like, read the L.A. Times.

Kind of reminds of me of the pre-season exploits of LeBron James.

Monday, October 27, 2003

San Diego just threw two interceptions in the first 5 minutes. Nasty.
By a vote of 60-34, the Senate just voted itself a pay raise. Yeah, that's some freakin' meritocracy for you. Actually, I'm rather surprised that we could dig up 34 Senators with the balls to admit they didn't deserve a raise. The group was quite nonpartisan, 19 Republicans and 15 Democrats, and ranged from my perennial favorites John McCain (R-AZ), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Russ Feingold (D-WI) to perennial targets of my wrath Zell Miller (D-GA) and Jim Bunning (R-KY). Good for them. But the rest can go to hell, and take their raises with them.
Under U.S. Law, a bank can keep buying other banks until it controls 10% of the entire U.S. banking industry. And if it just happens to drive everyone else out of business after that and thereby ends up with 100% of the industry, well, them's the breaks. Anyway, I mention this only because Bank of America is buying FleetBoston (these are, of course, already both huge conglomerates), creating a new company in control of $933 Billion. Where's Teddy Roosevelt when you need him?

Interestingly, this comes around the same time The New Republic is running a piece about improving corporate responsibility under the auspices of the unexpectedly tough William Donaldson SEC. Maybe they figure it's ok for one company to own most of the galaxy, as long as we're careful about how much the board gets paid?

Friday, October 24, 2003

Donald Rumsfeld says we need a new "cabinet level information agency" to help "fight the global war of ideas." Hey, I've got a great idea for a name! How about the Ministry of Truth?
Wow. Those wacky folks over at OurCampaigns.com actually noticed my link to them. I feel compelled to restate my review of their site. I have not found any discrepancies in their data as to past elections. In fact, as I mentioned before, they list a lot of things I can't find elsewhere, and I wouldn't have linked to them unless I thought they were a worthwhile place to go. But I still have no idea how the site works, where the data is coming from, why current races seem so often to be interspersed with members' endorsements of Grover Cleveland in the 1892 Presidential race, or how it is they know Max Cleland is running for a Georgia Senate seat in 2004 and 2008, along with his Gubernatorial run in 2006. Hope that clears things up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

According to a memo he wrote to his aides, Donald Rumsfeld isn't quite as optimistic about the efficacy of our current tactics as he leads everyone to beleive. Only problemk is, that memo wasn't supposed to get to the public. Oops. His explanation later was that while everything is perfectly fine, just like it always is and always will be, he was just trying to help people think of ways to make things even better.

You know, I am glad that Condi's running the show in Iraq these days.
Added a link to The New Republic under my News links. My free trial is running out, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to renew it into a full subscription. They've got a lot of good takes on a lot of stuff.

Monday, October 20, 2003

What is Wesley Clark thinking? He's going to skip Iowa altogether? I don't care if you think you've got a chance or not, you fight it all out if you're serious, buddy! Even if you somehow get nominated after skipping the first caucuses, don't you think you might lose a few votes among people who don't think you care about them? Geez, man, give it the old college try! What kind of general gives up like that, especially when you've got partisans lined up for you around the country if you'd just give 'em a little recognition?

Lieberman's also skipping Iowa. I don't care. Lieberman's an ass.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Did anyone else notice that George Bush Senior is giving this year's George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service to Ted Kennedy? Here's the Boston Globe's take.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

A Washington Post op-ed on a recent study of news viewership. The study suggests FOX News is giving people a lot of really strange ideas about what the facts are; the writer here says "well yeah, that's the point of FOX".

Friday, October 17, 2003

The Senate voted to make half the Iraqi reconstruction money a loan. I have real problems with this. We can't go in somewhere, blow up their stuff, and then graciously loan them the money to put it back together at a very reasonable rate of interest. It makes us look reeeeeeal bad. Maybe the Democrats think this makes them look good to the anti-war voters, but nobody asked for this. We wanted guarantees on how the money was going to be spent and how we would proceed from here in Iraq, and we didn't get any of that. Bad calls all around.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The wisdom of Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, now a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, on his days fighting Muslim warlords in Somalia: "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol." He went on to explain that Islamic extremists hate the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian. ... And the enemy is a guy named Satan." This AP story pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Of course, Mr. Rumsfeld immediately rushed to Mr. Boykin's defense, proclaiming "we're a free people. And that's the wonderful thing about our country. I think that for anyone to run around and think that that can be managed and controlled is probably wrong. Saddam Hussein could do it pretty well, because he'd go around killing people if they said things he didn't like."

OK, so give the guy his freedom of speech, but perhaps now isn't the best time to promote such bulls into the upper levels of the US Government, hmm? A few hours after this comes out, and the Australians (well, the Sydney Morning Herald, anyway) are already making fun of us; what happens when the Iraqis hear this one on Al-Jazeera?

Steve Greenberg, The Ventura County Star

Via Daryl Cagle's Pro Cartoonist Index

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

How 'bout them Sox? I must apologize to certain misguided people, but I'm definitely rooting for Boston. First of all, they haven't been to the series since 1918, so they're due. Second, they're not the bloody Yankees. Anyone who buys up like every good player in the whole bloody league just deserves to lose. Course, it looks like the Cubs are going down as of right now. Too bad. No one likes the Marlins.
I don't know what to say about it. The Chinese sent a man into space and brought him back safely. On one hand, it's another advance for humanity. The way I see it, space is a really big place and we could always use another hand up there. The more countries have space launch capabilities, the more likely that one day we'll have functional space stations and eventually manned space exploration. On the other hand, I have to look at this kind of thing and mourn for the US. Certainly our program is light years ahead of the Chinese. They're doing what we did in the 50s. But they're advancing, and we're puttering around on 20-year-old space shuttles. The height of our space program was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in the 1969. And it's not only the space program. What used to be the center of the world's industry in the American heartland has decayed into what we call the Rust Belt. The tallest buildings in the World are going up in Singapore and Hong Kong, not New York and Chicago. The US continues to lead the World in technological innovation, but to what use are we putting it? Why are we still driving around in gasoline-powered cars that pollute the air we breathe, served by highways and power lines from the 1950s, lacking in any kind of comprehensive education, left to starve when we can't find a job and left to die when we get sick? Can't we do better than this?

As I write this, I see myself drifting in another direction as another thought hits me. The US didn't get to be a superpower by fiat of God (dispite the proclamations of Jerry Falwell and his ilk), we got here by applying generations of hard work and individual genius under the ideas of freedom, justice, and equality that this nation was founded under (although we made enough mistakes along the way). And because we followed that path, we have historically been a different kind of superpower. Unlike Rome or the Ottoman Empire or Nazi Germany or the USSR, we were loved and admired instead of hated and feared. If there's anything history should have taught us, it's that an empire based on hatred and fear, no matter how powerful, WILL fall violently in the end.

The power of this nation is enormous. What, then, should we put it to? I feel that we spend an enormous portion of our power on simply trying to maintain that power. That never has worked, and that will not work for us. We got where we are because for centuries, the best and brightest of the world have longed to come to America, the New World, the Land of Opportunity. That is our strength. If we allow that designation to lapse, we will fall. There is nothing I am more sure of.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

After taking a look at my counter statistics, I have discovered that The RipZAW is currently the #1 result in an MSN search for "Political Mistatements". Sweet! (Although how I earned the distinction, you'll have to ask MSN's code monkeys).

Steve Benson, the Arizona Republic

Via Daryl Cagle's Pro Cartoonist Index

Monday, October 13, 2003

Slogan of the Day: "Why do something millions of people have proven to work when you can make some crap up?"
Ah, the eternal mystery of why Google's top Columbus Day link comes from the American Embassy in Sweden.

Universal mystery courtesy of As the Apple Turns
When I read it the first time, Gregg Easterbrook's review of Kill Bill in The New Republic didn't really register with me. I mean, I thought it was a little shrill, and the last paragraph was a little wierd, but the guy's entitled to not like whatever movies he doesn't like. It was only when Atrios brought it up that I really thought about it. The last paragraph in question is this:
Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message--now Disney's message--that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.

Now, I have to say I'm not entirely certain what he was trying to do here. Was he trying to blame the Jews for society's violence? Did he mean this to be anti-semetic? If not, what the heck was he trying to say? This is just too wierd. Unlike some of the people on Atrios' comment board, I'm not ready to start calling Easterbrook names, but I'd really like to hear his explanation. I've sent him an email asking for the same.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Best 404 Message ever.
In this article about Schwarzennegger's Gubernatorial victory, people keep joking that Northern California or Coastal California should secede from the rest of the state. But all jokes aside, would that really be a bad idea (assuming you could do it legally)? California is one big mofo of a state. The enmity between NoCal (with the water and the liberals) and SoCal (with the giant blocks of thirsty conservatives) is legendary. And why do 50-some-odd million people only get 2 senators? I've always been a fan of smaller political units and government close to home. Maybe California is just too damn big for reasonable governance.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

I'm conflicted about Rush Limbaugh's admission to OxyContin addiction. On the one hand, I just want to dance around singing the Limbaugh is a Junkie song. He deserves it. Tom Tomorrow explains as well as I could. On the other, doing that would be hypocritical. If people complain that Rush has been unfair to addicts over the years, how could it be right to make fun of him for addiction? So, I'm going to leave it at that. If he comes back on the air and goes back to his old ways, though, all bets are off. Everyone deserves a second chance, but Limbaugh of all people should understand that a second chance doesn't mean a free pass.
Note on Political Philosophy: It's usually not a good idea to send out an email making fun of the leaders of the other party and everyone in your party that doesn't oppose them vehemently enough, then miss the vote you were ridiculing them about because you really had to see a football game. Ah, those wacky Texans.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Added Where's George? to the links under "Fun Stuff". Where's George lets you enter in the serial number of a dollar bill in your possession, along with your location. The site then keeps a record of that serial number, so that you can track your bill as it travels around the country (assuming the people who end up with it remember to register the bill.)
This is absolutely brilliant. I received the following email this morning from moveon.org, under the subject line "Help President Bush":

Today we're giving you a chance to clear your name. We're asking you and tens of thousands of other MoveOn members to sign an affidavit affirming that you didn't leak the identity of an undercover CIA agent to the press last July.

Here's why:

President Bush told the press on Tuesday that he doesn't "have any idea" whether the senior administration officials who blew a CIA operative's cover will ever be found. But if he just asked his staff to sign a legally binding affidavit confirming that they weren't involved, and referred anyone who wouldn't to the FBI, it's possible he could flush out the perpetrators in a day. To date, the President hasn't even discussed this matter with his staff.

We've already done the President's homework for him by writing the affidavit. Now let's show him how easy it is for innocent people to legally declare their innocence. You can sign the affidavit and send it to the President in under a minute by going to:
http://moveon.org/affidavit/

On Sunday, Reuters reported that Valerie Plame, the CIA agent whose cover was blown "was probably the single highest target of any possible terrorist organization or hostile intelligence service that might want to do damage," according to a former senior CIA official. It's now clear that the leakers in the White House are willing to put national security and the lives of CIA operatives in danger for their own ends. But President Bush seems unconcerned -- he hasn't even looked into who it might be.

Here are a few quotes from the Bush Administration that give some contrast to the task of finding the leakers.

On finding Osama Bin Laden in Central Asia:
"We're going to hunt them down one at a time. . . it doesn't matter where they hide, as we work with our friends we will find them and bring them to justice."
--President George W. Bush, 11/22/02

On finding Saddam Hussein in the Mideast:
"We are continuing the pursuit and it's a matter of time before [Saddam] is found and brought to justice."
--White House spokesman McClellan, 9/17/03

On finding the leaker in the close confines of the White House:
"I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. I don't have any idea."
--President George W. Bush, 10/7/03

President Bush can do better than that. He could start by simply asking his staff to sign a legally binding affidavit. Show the President how easy it is. Sign the affidavit and send it on to the President today at:
http://moveon.org/affidavit/


This has got to be one of the best PR moves I've ever seen. Funny, and at the same time painfully on the mark. I have already taken the opportunity to clear my name and advance the investigation. I suggest you do the same.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

The FBI has admitted bugging Philadelphia Mayor John Street's office. The hell?

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

My home state has been Gubernated. But really, what's the worst that could happen? Inexperienced, moderate, and secretive (Arnold) is a whole lot better than experienced, far right wing and explicit that he'll do whatever he'll take to push that (McClintock), probably better than idiotic, inane, and indebted (Bustamante), and I suppose can't really be any worse than who-knows-because-he-never-stopped-campaigning-long-enough-to-govern (Davis). So, we'll see. Worst case scenario, he proposes a whole lot of awful plans, most of which get blocked by the heavily Democratic rest of the government, and gets replaced in 3 years.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

If Kobe Bryant can't play this season, Phil Jackson is thinking about calling on - wait for it - Micheal Jordan. Will somebody please just leave the man alone?
Bob Graham has finally figured out out he's not going to be president in 2004. Gee, Bob, that took you long enough. The New Republic, who had been dutifully following his campaign after listing him as at least a marginal contender (as opposed to Sharpton, Braun, and Kucinich, who they're not even bothering with), had this to say about the issue a few days ago: "At this point, it couldn't be much clearer: Bob Graham has no shot at the Democratic nomination. None." Maybe the man was counting on his CD to pull him through.
JetBlue to split again! Yeeha! Chalk one up for the amateur doing his research on Yahoo Finance and The Motley Fool!
Angry Moroccan teacher throws pupils out of window

Need I say more?

Monday, October 06, 2003

Why do prominent Americans insist on being so bloody stupid? Now, Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC) has publicly blamed the breakup of his 50-year marraige on the stress of living near the Washington headquarters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an American Muslim advocacy group. He told The Charlotte Observer that he and his wife worried that the group was so close to the U.S. Capitol that "they could blow the place up." This is because he had decided that CAIR was actually a front group for Islamist terrorism (based on the fact that he saw people unloading boxes late at night and women "wearing hoods" going in and out of the office building), and simply could not understand the FBI and CIA's unwillingness to act on his tips to that effect. Well, I can certainly see the logic there.

Note: I can't actually see the logic there. Just clarifying.

On top of that, he blames Congress for banning lobbyist gifts to lawmakers in 1995, because 'meals and theater tickets from lobbyists once meant "a social life for [congressional] wives."' Right, because you couldn't afford to take your wife out every once and a while on your $150,000 per year salary, right? Ballenger's other claims to fame included quipping that Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a black Democrat from Georgia known for her abrasive style, had stirred in him "a little bit of a segregationist feeling."

Exactly what constituency does this guy appeal to?
Update on Operation Plasma Grape - I actually got some pretty good sparks and arcs, but nothing sustained, and no plasma ball as of yet. You've really got to dry it out first to get anything. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

At this juncture, I must report abject failure in my attempts to microwave half a grape.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

A British research study has discovered that happy images, when shown to the clinically depressed, can trigger a part of the brain associated with sadness in a normal individual. I'm fascinated by this discovery. I'd long wondered about this sort of thing: why do the holidays make people sad? How come people can feel terrible at parties? This discovery of a biological link goes far to satisfy one of my Burning Questions™.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Does anyone else think the whole Rush Limbaugh-"McNabb Sucks" story has been overblown? I mean, Limbaugh's an ass, and we knew that. Is that really reason for 3 presidential candidates (OK, so 2 candidates who aren't Al Sharpton) to urge his dismissal?
When I first heard about it months ago, I didn't think the story about the mysterious outing of Joseph Wilson's CIA wife was going anywhere. First, I didn't have enough information. I thought her blown cover was likely unrelated to her husband and the white house, or maybe was just made up. Seemed too much like a conspiracy theory to me. Secondly, I didn't think anyone in the mainstream media would have the cajones to follow this one even if it were true. It's all about having the biggest flags, right? But, perhaps I was wrong on both counts. To look at the news these days, you'd think this is the biggest thing since Watergate. And who knows, maybe it is? Senators, including Arlen Specter (R-PA), are asking John Ashcroft to recuse himself from the investigation. There are calls for a special prosecutor. ABC has just reported the investigation has been expanded past the White House and the CIA to the State and Defense departments. I still don't have much to go on here. But I certainly support the investigation. As I see it, it's probably the only way we'll ever get to the bottom of more than one sticky issue cloaked in White House secrecy.

By the wya, how stupid do you have to be to send an angry letter to Republican South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson (Note: Not the same Joseph Wilson) for letting his wife be involved in the CIA and then being a bad boy so the government has to out her?
The idea of making the money to reconstruct Iraq a loan instead of a grant has recently been circulating the Washington halls of power. Personally, I don't buy it. You can't go blow up someone's country, occupy it, fail to do your job under the Geneva Conventions, and then make them pay you back for expenses incurred in doing so. I like an idea proposed by The New Republic, and I beleive supported by Sen. Joe Biden - Pay for the war and reconstruction by repealing the tax cuts on people making over $1 million per year. As TNR suggests, "The president would then face a choice: He could show he was committed both to rebuilding Iraq and meaningful bipartisanship, or that he preferred his upper income tax cuts to a stable Iraq and that, as in the past, he was only interested in sham, self-serving bipartisanship. The choice seems obvious to us, but we wouldn't exactly hold our collective breath."

Monday, September 29, 2003

A corollary to yesterday's post on Bev Harris: While her "public interest" website, blackboxvoting.org, has been taken down at Diebold's demand, her "commercial" website, blackboxvoting.com, remains up. I'm not sure what the differences between the two sites were, but I'm given to beleive the answer is "not much."

Sunday, September 28, 2003

To call the issues raised in a recent Salon article worrying would be a masterful understatement. Entitled An Open Invitation to Election Fraud, it chronicles the story of Diebold Election Systems, America's #1 supplier of electronic voting machines. The article tells a story of low-security systems, exposed to the internet, with easily modified access logs. In other words, anybody with the right knowlege can log on and read the latest vote tallies before the government sees them, change said tallies, or even reprogram the machines - and leave no record of anything having happened. The article, based around an interview with Bev Harris, a writer who's spent the last year investigating the election equipment industry, quotes internal Diebold memos discussing the alleged flaws and discounting them as acceptable. And she quotes further memos from Ken Clark, Diebold's chief engineer, alluding to the fact that Diebold not only intentionally put back doors into the system, but had been actively using them to perform unspecified operations on installed voting machines, unbeknownst to state officials. The full text of those memos are no longer available. Diebold sued Harris' website to have them taken down. Their argument. Copyright infringement. Note that you can only claim copyright on something you actually did write...

As to specifics, Harris mentions a few things that approach the territory of conspiracy theory. And as all good conspiracy theories do, she has disturbing evidence in support. Diebold's CEO, Walden O'Dell, is a major Bush fundraiser. He's on record saying he's "committed to helping Ohio [his home state] deliver its electoral votes to the President next year." When Diebold's machines were used for the first time in Georgia in 2002, there were 6 major Republican upsets, including the Senator's and Governor's races. As far as anyone can tell, Diebold updated the software on the voting and tabulation machines up to eight times in the lead-up to the election. Those updates were not examined by state officials. Further, the individual memory cards kept by each machine have been erased by Diebold, and they've overwritten the software on each of the state's tabulation systems. In other words, there is no longer any record of what votes were cast or how those votes were counted, save for the testimony of Diebold Election Systems, Inc. Had the machines printed a paper record of the votes (which they don't), the state would be legally required to hold those records for 22 months. Diebold lobbies aggressively against any paper trail requirements.

Whether or not anything actually has happened, I'm worried. What's wrong with a paper and pencil? That's how they do it in Canada, with the votes counted on-site. Ever hear of Canadian voter fraud?
OK, I've got to admit I have no idea what message this cartoon is supposed to impart.


Lalo Alcaraz, LA Weekly, via Daryl Cagle's Pro Cartoonist Index

It does, however, raise a question: "Where can I get Pepe the Chili merchandise?"

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Apple ate my computer. Thanks to their Mac OS 10.2.8 update, my iMac was inoperable from Tuesday onwards. Academic Computing services at my college said my only recourse was to reformat my hard drive. I was able to save it through the magic of Alsoft's DiskWarrior, but I paid $80 for the privlege. "Not worth our money" says Academic Computing, thereby dooming the next generation of malfunctioning computers to erasure.

Remember, kids, never install anything until you've got testimonials that it works, even if Software Update tells you it's just the greatest thing ever.

Monday, September 22, 2003

From the Washington Post, via Atrios and Kos:
Speaking of contracting out, an administration move to privatize air traffic control at 69 airports has sparked opposition from labor groups, which contend it would compromise safety.

The administration had proposed 71 airports, but House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska), who supports the effort, got someone to strike the two Alaska airports on the list.

Young, on an Alaska cable TV show a week ago, acknowledged the move generated some heat.

"Of course the criticism of myself," he said, "is that I exempted the state of Alaska." But there were ample reasons for that, he said, ticking off a number of them.

"Lastly," Young said, "my hotel room is on the top floor of the Sheraton, and the airplanes take right off towards my hotel room. Every morning I look out and there's one coming right at me. It's an interesting experience and I want to make sure everything is done right in that field."

This one just speaks for itself.
As the Galileo spacecraft plunges into Jupiter, my faith in the Space program is replenished. For $1.4 Billion, the cost of a B-2 bomber and a half, we sent this thing 3 Billion miles and found out there might be life on Jupiter's moons. In the practical arena, you only have to read the stories to see what came from this mission. The main antenna failed to deploy. They now know why, and it won't happen again. Further, they were able to resume the mission by communicating with Galileo via its reserve antenna and reprogramming its computers from Pasadena. Doesn't that seem like a technique that might come in handy? The ship took a lot more radiation than it was designed for. A lot of equipment went down. Galileo didn't have an onboard toolkit, or a mechanic for that matter. Despite that, the NASA crew was able to keep it running by rerouting power through undamaged conduits, redesigning its software to make the remaining equipment do things it was never meant to do, and repairing balky equipment using techniques they made up on the spot (according to one article I can no longer find, they got a jammed tape recorder working by turning nearby equipment on and off in a manner which caused electricity to arc through the tape, changing its chemical composition and freeing it.) Oh yeah, and all this from a machine with the power of a 60-watt bulb and the intelligence of an Apple II.

Sometimes things go wrong. But sometimes, even the things that go wrong can be made into something absolutely, perfectly right. This was one of those times. Congratulations on a job well done Galileo, and the same to the group of scientists and engineers that made her possible.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

There's a Russian band called "Utah". What's up with that?
New site up in the links: OurCampaigns.com. Honestly, I still haven't figured out exactly what it is or how it works. It's similar to Project Vote Smart, but with a different - and obviously not overly concerned with accuracy - data set. That said, they have some things I've had trouble finding elsewhere, such as voting data from the last election easily accessible from data on this or next year's races. They take a lot of flyers on predicting who will be running for various positions in the future, and seem to list just about everyone as related to everything, but it's still an interesting resource, if perhaps not one with any practical value.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Interesting new Salon article about automation. Talks about the current wave happening at checkout counters and the like. They talk to a couple of futurists who have, as expected, differing views on what to expect. "Earthly Heaven" (actual quote) or mass unemployment? I have to agree with the idea that trying to save US manufacturing jobs is probably a lost cause. If the work can be done more efficiently by machines or Malaysians, what sense does it make to do it otherwise? I do beleive that automation will lead to a better world where humans are employed in work that fully draws on their talents; however, I think government does have to step in to make this dream a reality. Basically, left unchecked, the guy who owns the machines will make a huge amount of money by making the nations workers destitute. What's to be done? Members of the Club for Growth should probably stop reading now: It's all about the taxes, taxes, taxes. There ought to be a tax on robotics, not to discourage their use but simply to spread the wealth they create. Nobody would be using them if they weren't a net creator of wealth. A country which can rely on machines for its manual labor has the capability for universal wealth, but the management of that automation is critical. We're inexorably headed for a revolution, but what kind is still in our hands.
Which is the better ticket, Dean-Clark or Clark-Dean? Or will Clark turn out to be a total dork-off? Need a little time to tell.
A quick history of modern business:

1. Enron, WorldCom, et al do a bunch of illegal stuff, destroying the value of the companies while fabulously enriching management
2. The NYSE looks the other way
3. SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt announces bold new strategy of demanding a pay raise
4. Congress gets mad and institutes some laws, while Pitt is replace by William Donaldson
5. The now fabulously wealthy managers of Enron, WorldCom, et al get away pretty much scot free
6. Said fabulously wealthy managers elect to pay the NYSE's chief $140 million for looking the other way
7. SEC Chief Donaldson announces he thinks this is a good idea
8. Congress gets mad and hold hearings
9. The now fabulously wealthy manager of the NYSE gets away pretty much scot free
Running a blog that no one reads is an interesting experience. Sometimes I just don't have the impetus to write anything. Due to the nature of the beast, that's actually pretty ok. I don't know, however, whether the sporadic entries are a function of non-existant readership, or whether the non-existant readership is a convenient rationalization. I'm pretty sure the sporadic nature of entries isn't the cause of the site's low profile - that's more a function of my nondescript, unmarked location somewhere in the vast maze that is the Internet.

Speaking of which, I wonder where the server this thing is hosted on is located?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Well, two things about that rally in Drexel Hill. One, despite the complaints of some that we weren't allowed right up to the motorcade (some people have to call EVERYTHING fascist or their day just isn't complete), security really was reasonable. We were in plain sight of the thing when it went by, and the cops didn't harass us at all. Second, there was nobody there. There were maybe about 20 protestors, and maybe about 50 locals along other parts of the route. I heard the Sierra Club was organizing a significant protest, but they never showed. As for the DelCo for Dean campaign I was supposedly affiliated with, only 2 people showed up. Well, it was raining hard. Next time we'll let 'em know what's what.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Why am I not surprised that, due to supply shortages, US soldiers have been reduced to asking their parents to send backpacks and night-vision goggles? That's on top of the earlier reports that US troops in Iraq are more and more commonly using captured Iraqi AK-47s, because no one thought to send enough rifles to equip the tankers and artillerymen (just in case they had to patrol the streets of Baghdad on foot or something crazy like that).
No kidding? Looks like that wacky 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked the California recall election until punch-card machines can be replaced. Never thought that would happen. What the federal government has to do with California's gubernatorial politics (or why the ACLU opposes the recall) is beyond me. Wonder where this one's gonna go?
The President is going to be nearby in Drexel Hill later today at another $2000-a-plate fundraiser. As usual, there's going to be a protest outside. I'm going to try to attend, assuming the rain holds off. I'm starting to get sick and tired of this Pennsylvania hey-it's-raining-no-it's-not-oh-here-it-comes-again nonsense. Between that and the humidity... anyway, I kind of want to go just to see what it's like. A friend who spent the summer observing protests for the ACLU claims the secret service does an admirable job making sure the president and the protestors never see each other, allegedly because the sight of dissent "upsets" our fearless leader. Well, if I go, I'll let you know about it.
Another usenet post, from talk.politics:

2 years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, it is clear that the
leaders of both sides of the "war on terrorism" fail to understand the
ordinary people on the other side.

Osama bin Laden doesn't understand that he cannot kill enough Americans
to make us want to be Muslims. President Bush doesn't understand that
he cannot kill enough devout Muslims to make the rest of them fear
America.

I doubt that I will see the end of this war in my lifetime.

Abel Malcolm

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Bob Graham went down as the one Senator who voted against the Iraq war resolution. I always just figured he was the one guy who thought the war was a bad idea and was willing to stick by his convictions. I never thought to look at what he was actually saying at the time. The New Republic did:

Graham used to argue that he was to the right of Bush on Iraq. On the Senate floor last year, he said he was voting against the war resolution because it was "too timid," "too limiting," and "too weak." He wanted the president to have even more authority to take on terrorists across the Middle East. But, tonight, Graham attacks from the left, reading from the war resolution and noting, "My friends, those who voted for that, gave the president a blank check. We cannot trust this president with a blank check." The line conveniently ignores that last year Graham wanted to give him much more--as he put it, a resolution that "would contain what the president has asked for relative to the use of force against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, and more."


Not that I ever thought the guy was going anywhere, but whatever respect I had for him has now left the building.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

According to the AP, Donald Rumsfeld says the plan is to hold the Guantanamo detainees without trial - proper, military, or otherwise - "until the global war on terrorism is over", which by his logic may take decades. Can this possibly be right?
Note: The George W. Bush $200 Bill does not actually exist.
It's September 11th. Just take a moment to do whatever you feel is appropriate.

Monday, September 08, 2003

A moment of silence for Warren Zevon. He's dead.

NY Times Obituary.

Chuck Asay, Colorado -- The Colorado Springs Gazette

This cartoonist frequently likes to make fun of the ACLU. The odd thing is, in this cartoon, I have trouble finding what he's making fun of. I mean, it's a little goofy, but I'm not sure exactly what's objectionable about it.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Take a look at the website of Iraq Today, one of three english-language newspapers now running out of Iraq. If you want to know what's going on in Iraq, you have to ask what the Iraqis are saying. I especially suggest looking at the "security" heading. In this section, the paper posts warnings as to where civilians are and are not safe. The September 2nd edition reads, matter-of-factly, as follows:

CMCC [Civil-Military Coordination Center] cites Adhamiyah, Rusafa, Thowra, al-Muthanna, Shaab, Hurriyah, Shuahla and the Al-Ameriah ( the area around Baghdad International airport ) as uncertain or hostile areas.

Carjacking is rife in the capital. Do not walk around the streets with bags or mobile/satellite phones.

The curfew in Baghdad begins at 11pm and ends at 4am; most governorates have no curfew.

Iraq's highways are considered dangerous. Highway 10 between Baghdad and the Jordanian border is especially hazardous, particularly around the Ramadi area. Armed bandits operate this route, using fast cars to stop large convoys of vehicles.

Highway 8, between Baghdad and Hillah is also considered a no go route by humanitarian organisations.
Highway 1, between Baghdad and Qasim is also very dangerous.

Police are present on the streets of the capital but they are Out-gunned and outnumbered.


I don't think any analysis I could offer would add anything to that report. Just imagine that in a newspaper. "80 degress, partly cloudy, the Dodgers beat the Mets, you'll probably get shot if you leave your house, and the NASDAQ composite is up by a point." What could that possibly be like?

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Added a link to Granny D's homepage under "Blogs". She's the 90-year old woman who walked from Pasadena, CA to Washington, DC to promote Campaign Finance Reform. She's written and spoken a lot since then, with an eloquence and power that puts most to shame.

Technically her page isn't a blog, but who's counting?
That wacky recall. My probability of supporting Arnold dropped significantly after he refused to participate in debate with the other candidates. I really couldn't care less who he groped; it might not be the action of a gentleman, but there are more important qualifications to govern than chivalry. By refusing to show up, he may be blowing his lead among Republicans to Tom McClintock, an ideological partner of last year's whipping boy Bill Simon. All signs point to Bustamante, dumb as he is... unless, of course, Arianna Huffington starts a miracle drive. Then, with McClintock neutralizing Arnold, Huffington splitting with Bustamante on the left, and Larry Flynt kept from monopolizing the porn-hound vote by Mary Carey, Gary Coleman will be in prime position to take the reins.

Who came up with this system again?
Whaddya know? The middle east in chaos again? Who woulda thunkit? After everybody spent a week or so blowing each other up for no good reason (it's just so fun!), Palestinian PM Abbas has resigned in disgust at all involved. Hey, what else is he going to do? His President just wants to wave him around while plotting to blow up Israel, the Israelis are trying to find a way to shoot around him (what are they going to do, hold fire? As if), and the US is preoccupied with contemplation of its own navel. Abbas was screwed from the start - it's surprising he held out as long has he did. I hold no hope that the fighting will stop as long as there's anybody left to fight.
I'm back in Philly. Hey everybody.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Will be publishing on a lighter (read: possibly nonexistant) schedule until at least this weekend, probably a bit longer. It's back to school time!

Sunday, August 24, 2003

One thing I've noticed in my wandering around message boards on Usenet and more recently the ACLU's forums: The average person is so blinking shrill that I can't even stand to read their argument. Between the POSTING IN ALL CAPS, the inability to refer to any political party without using derogatory slang (always the Demoncrats and the Repugs, or something similar), the gross mistatements ("after all, we all know Al Gore wanted to establish a Stalinist Dictatorship"), and the insistance that anybody who doesn't agree is a big fat poopy-head, it's nearly impossible to actually find a nugget of reason. Which is too bad, because there actually is a fair amount of reason sandwiched in there, if you can hold your nose long enough to dig it out. When you preach about the unbeleivers going to hell, you may get a lot of "hallelujah"s from the choir, but you're not going to get many converts.
Post 9/11 EPA Report - "The air around the collapsed towers may be hazardous to your health. Take precautions."

Post 9/11 EPA Report following White House edits - "Everything's fine! Trust us!"

Story's here.
The LA Lakers' starting lineup for this coming year is incredible, but they do seem to have a pretty weak bench. Fisher, George, and that about does it. Who's going to back up Shaq? Medvedenko, maybe geritol-chugging Horace Grant? Why would they get rid of Mark Madsen?

On the other hand, I went to high school with this guy.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Bloody hell, the Israeli cease-fire is over again. The usual - some Palestinian militants blow up a bus, so Israel blows up a Hamas leader's motorcade, and the eyes for eyes go flying through the air all over again. Bloody hell is right - that's all the Middle East is these days. I saw the Israeli ambassador the the US on the Jim Lehrer NewsHour today. I wanted to cry, seeing how clueless these people were, how certain they were they were winning the battle when all they were doing was feeding the fire. "We're sending a message to the Palestinians that terrorism will not be tolerated," he said. "They have a very rigid command and control structure. If we can take out their leaders, the attacks will cease." Who is this man kidding!? The Palestinians are rioting in the streets over this! They don't have a secret bunker somewhere that keeps telling them to kill Israelis. They don't need one. The average Palestinitan doesn't know what the hell is going on. He just knows that the Israelis keep killing his countrymen and knocking down his friends' houses with missiles and bulldozers. You don't need a rigid command and control structure to make a suicide bomber. You just need an amazingly angry man with a bomb he can get from any number of sources who hate the Israelis as much as he does. Do the commanders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad urge their countrymen on to murder innocent Israelis? Of course they do. But if the Israelis didn't give the Palestinians so much reason to hate, no one would follow such a command.

Somebody has got to say enough. I think it has to be the Israelis. I say this for the simple reason that the Israelis have a functioning government. If Sharon or parliament say to stand down, the Israeli army will stand down. The PA is so full of conflicting commands with conflicting agendas, they couldn't stand down if they wanted to. The only way the suicide bombs will stop is if the Palestinian street can be calmed down enough to love life more than they hate Israel. That will not happen by "attacking the terrorist infrastructure." It will only come by Israel standing down and, as gut-wrenching as it will be, holding back while the Palestinian terrorists thrash themselves to death, probably killing Israelis in the process. The fact is, every act of "self-defense" the Israelis commence does nothing but assuage their vengeance and ensure the next Palestinian attack.

There is no choice. Someone has to step up to bat and volunteer their country to take a bullet for peace. Until that happens, innocents on both sides will continue to take bullets for no reason at all.
Article on CNN here about how students and teachers are showing increased interest in discussing current events (finally!), but, due to vastly increased standardized testing regimens, they are unable to do so. Freaking figures. Why actually help kids be good, involved citizens when we can instill a lifelong hatred of learning in them by forcing reams of soon-forgotten data down their throats to satisfy the inane requirements of bureaucratically-approved standardized testing? Who in the hell comes up with this stuff, three guys obsessed with Roger Waters in his "Just Another Brick in the Wall" days?

Thursday, August 21, 2003

The situation in Texas just keeps getting more ludicrous. The situation I'm talking about is the 11 state senators camped out in Albuquerque to break the senate's quorum so they can't vote on a redistricting bill. The remaining GOP senators, despite not having a quorum, have taken the opportunity to order the arrest of the absent senators, fire their staffs, cut off the mail and parking privileges of everyone in their offices, and impose a $5000/day fine on all of them. Stories in Texas newspapers here and here, just to point out the first two I see. MoveOn.org has gotten into the act now too, raising money to put on ads in Texas pointing out the kind of tactics the GOP are using. I have no idea where the heck this is going, but I gave MoveOn $5 for the ads; the tactics DeLay, Perry and the Texas GOP are using are just absurd, and I'll do what I can to see that they won't stand.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Wow, a $22 male contraceptive that works for 10 years and is entirely reversible. Might really bring down birthrates in poorer countries without reliable access to other contraceptives. Leave it to India to invent something that'll make big pharma cry and starving Africans smile - assuming it actually works.
An excellent usenet post regarding possible motives for the attack on the Iraq UN complex:

bobbyhaqq wrote:

Probably not that strange. There has been an expanding campaign of
terror attacks on soft targets with the express purpose of inflicting
as much chaos on Iraq as possible. This is a standard method of
irregular warfare and though the actual targets are hard to guess the
general outline of the future is pretty clear.

Firstly the idea that somehow this is just a handfull of Saddam
holdouts is idiotic to the nth degree and must be rejected by the US.
What Bush has gotten us in to is a major Jihad war with radical
elements in the pan-islamic war. Also his insane obsession with Iraq
while ignoring Afghanistan has simply insured that both nations are
not exploding at the same time.

By attacking the UN headquarters and murdering such a senior important
person the attackers have let all Iraqis know that no one who is even
close to the Americans is safe, that anyone can be a target. This
will most likely end what little support we were getting anyways. For
the Americans the disturbing question as to how these attackers knew
the precise office to attack will continue. Obviously there was a spy
in the building. All efforts to include Iraqis in operations will
most certainly compromise the security of those operations and the US
is faced with a hopeless situation.

Considering the fact the US is approaching 2,000 casualties in this
idiotic war, and that in this month alone the Jordanian Embassy, the
UN headquarters, the oil pipeline and the water supply have all been
effectively struck, we are facing a long hard war with a high body
count leading to an uncertain future. Idiot Bush might convince
himself that Iraq is on a irreversiable road to democracy but few
other humans are that stupid.

The situation in Iraq is far more fucked up than was ever planned for.
It is far more fucked up than I had imagined, it is far more fucked
up than our forces train for. With the distruction of the UN its hard
to see other powers coming in anytime soon. Why would India, Russia,
and France, after effectively avoiding this diaster, now get
themselves involved? Sending troops of men to Iraq is to send them on
a futile mission which will likely cost their lives. Its suicide for
no purpose.

How do we get out? Its going to be hard and a lot more good people,
and bad people are going to die. One would hope that after today
there are some people in the GOP with influence and honor enough to
privately demand Bush not run in 2004 for inflicting this diaster upon
America. Saddly for our military it will waste years on the ground
and be made weaker.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Playing on a team can be both more rewarding than individual competition, and infinitely more frustrating when your teammate is an idiot. I speak, of course, of Battle.net, home of the randomly-assembled team which may pair you with a strategic master, or a guy who halfway through the game tells you he doesn't know the controls.
There's a proposal in both houses of congress to remove the constitutional provision that only natural born Americans can run for president. On first glance, I was unable to see any merit in the proposal. Why risk divided loyalty? But, after a little more consideration, maybe it makes sense. Nation of immigrants, and all that. There are plenty of people that move here as a child and consider themselves just as American as anyone else. I especially like the idea that in order to be eligible for the presidency, a foreign born US citizen would have to live in the US for 35 years - the same amount of time a natural born American must wait before being eligible. Probably not that important, but it's best to get this kind of thing out of the way before we regret it. Either way, it's worth thinking about.
Geez. Of all the things to blow up, the UN headquarters? Why would they do that? If they're fighting the US occupation, why would the blow up the one force putting a check on it? If they're former Ba'athists, why would they attack the organization that wouldn't authorize the attack on their leader's country? Even if they're Al Qaeda members, why would they kill people there only to help the plight of the Iraqis, people from countries that Al Qaeda has never condemned. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a Brazilian named Sergio Vieira de Mello, is dead. So are 17 other UN staff, and over a hundred wounded. They weren't even armed. Why? Whose position does this strengthen? If the UN pulls out, the US has free rein, and the resistance probably gets crushed. If the UN reinforces with peacekeeping troops, the occupation will be expanded, and the resistance probably gets crushed. Either way it refocuses attention on Al Qaeda, a suspect in the bombings. So who would do this? And what about the bombing of the Jordanian embassy? Maybe it had something to do with Jordan's granting exile to Saddam's daughters. Maybe not. It's starting to look like its open season for anybody with a grudge against anybody else to settle it with a bomb or an AK-47.

Sooner or later, all this will be over. But right now, we've just watched more innocents get slaughtered. Maybe take a moment of silence for them.
You know what's good? Ferro Wafer Rolls. And Nutella. Yeah, that's some good stuff.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Fall is coming around again, and that means one thing: Football. That, and going back to school and stuff. But mostly football.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

http://www.takebackthemedia.com/onearmy.html

I was very impressed by this short video (Flash format). You don't have to agree with it to be impressed by its artistry and the power it imparts to its message. Or maybe I'm just nuts. Let me know.
In what may go down as the second dumbest move of all time (behind New Coke), Fox News has launched a lawsuit against author and satirist Al Franken, author of Lies and the Lying Liars that Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, for using the words "Fair and Balanced" in his book. That's right. Fox News suing him for using the phrase "Fair and Balanced" in a satire about, among other things, the lack of any semblance of "Fair and Balanced" reporting at Fox News. They're not even (officially) alleging libel or defamation, although Bill O'Reilly is doing his usual act of using one side of his mouth to call himself the paragon of impartial journalistic integrity and the other side to call everyone else a big poopy-head. Just trademark infringement. Unsurprisingly, the immediate result of the lawsuit has been condemnation from pretty much everybody and a boost to the top of Amazon.com's nonfiction bestseller list for Franken's book (it won't even be released until September). The blogging community, meanwhile, declared yesterday "Fair and Balanced" Day, in honor of the fact that we can say "Fair and Balanced" whenever the bloody hell we want. Unfortunately, being in Phoenix, Arizona at the time, I missed out on the festivities. So, with no further ado, I present my delayed message to the lawyers of the Fox News Channel:

Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced! Fair and Balanced!


Ah. Much better. Fox, I'll be waiting for the indictment. You wanna come and get me?
Warren Buffet as Arnold's top economic advisor, huh? Suddenly, Arnie's a bit more credible. Buffett, America's most successful investor, knows something about how to make a business - and by extension, an economy - grow. He's also a damn fine man by all accounts, and a democrat on top of that, which is going to blunt a lot of criticism of Arnold as a "Bush Republican", a la the accusations of Arianna Huffington, another candidate I'm keeping a close eye on. It's not all happy-happy hug-hug, though. One of Buffett's first pieces of advice was that California needed to undo some tax cuts, a plan already being characterized as a tax hike. Arnold, a hardcore republican in terms of tax cuts, if nothing else, was not amused. However they work out their differences, though, you have to give Schwarzenegger some respect for having The Oracle on board. Won't mean much if he doesn't actually come up with some policies soon, of course.