Thursday, July 31, 2003

Stupid cricket... he got into my closet somehow a couple of days ago, makes noise all night. Been keeping me up. He is one LOUD sumbitch for a little guy like that. Well, tonight he came out of the closet. I swear he was mocking me. Actually came right up to the head of my bed, making his blasted cricket sounds. Well, that was his fatal mistake. I was stealthy like a ninja as I got up a found my way to a shoe in the dark. A flick of the light switch, and there he was, insolently standing at the base of my lamp, as if daring me to do something about it. However, he wasn't counting on my superlative agility, lightning reflexes, and possession of a shoe. He tried to get away, oh yes, he ran, but not fast enough...

As of Thursday, July 31 2003 at 1:52 AM PST, I have conquered the cricket.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Well, it's being echoes throughout the world's science publications - the ozone layer is making a comeback. It's not out of the woods yet, in fact the ozone layer is still being depleted. But scientists are pretty certain the rate of depletion is on the way down, and once the CFCs remaining in the atmosphere break down (they last 45-100 years), the ozone layer will begin to regenerate, reaching 1980 levels as early as 2020 by one study's account. Of course, another study suggests that depletion won't even stop until 2040 or so, but either way, we're going the right way. Humanity agreed to cease one particular way of poisoning itself, and it worked!
New item under my blog links: Where is Raed? It's a blog coming straight out of Iraq from a guy on the street. Helps get a grip on what's going on over there.
How long is John Poindexter going to keep his job? It seems like a guy who was hired despite Iran-Contra involvement would have outstayed his welcome after approving plans to protect the country by having truck drivers spy on each other (the TIPS program), gather enough information on private citizens to make J. Edgar Hoover proud (Total Information Awareness), and having futures traders bet on Middle Easter assassinations (the comical, and fortunately scrapped as soon as anyone heard about it, Policy Analysis Market.) What do you have to do to get the boot around here? Show incomplete support for the President's policies I suppose, a la the entire original Bush economic team.
A letter to Rep. Thomas Tancredo (R-CO) from a constituent of his (via congress.org) which pretty much sums up my feelings exactly:

As a frequent traveler I am extremely distressed by reports that the Sky Marshall program is being cut back as a result of budgetary constraints. This move, which clearly makes our air travel system far more vulnerable, comes on top of cut backs to the number of screeners at our nation's airports.

It seems that we really learned very little from 9/11 other than that we should create a huge new beauracracy that can't actually execute its mission. To maintain budget sanity while providing maximum traveler protection, might I suggest that Congress mandate that 99% of TSA employees working in the beltway be layed off and the resulting money be spent to bolster the Sky Marshall and screening programs.

In any case, it makes no sense to spend billions on TSA only to have them fail. Congress should address this, either by allocating more money to TSA or by narrowing their mission so that they can carry out the key portions effectively.
I'm told that the Senate will soon take a vote on S.139, the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. It's a really important bill that admits that global warming exists and takes some concrete, immediate steps to deal with it, such as creating a national cap-and-trade system, and mandates a study on exactly what the impact of joinign the Kyoto protocol would be. As of right now, it has 6 sponsors, 4 Dems including my own Dianne Feinstein and 2 Reps, McCain and the ever-reasonable Snowe of Maine. Even if this passes the Senate, it's almost certain to die in the house, but it would be an incredible victory to pass it nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

So apparently Arianna Huffington's running for California governor, though it's not final yet, pending Dianne Feinstein conclusively comitting not to run. Very interesting. I do like her, but I need more information on her stand on the issues, along with a final list of who else is running. We'll see how this develops.

Monday, July 28, 2003

A Green's take on the problems with a Green Party candidate for president in 2004 here. It's one of the more charitable articles I've seen. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the far left has picked now to bolt from the Democratic party. It's kind of hard to argue that this would have been the same country had they voted for Gore.
A gentleman by the handle of XXXRAYTED has just informed me that global warming is rubbish, due to the facts that A) If we can warm the Earth, we can just as easily un-warm it, and B) It's God that controls the climate anyway. I wonder if this is the sort of input that goes into Washington decision making?

Sunday, July 27, 2003

A message I posted to the soc.politics newsgroup:

--------
An Open Letter to Bush Supporters

I have a question for you: what about President Bush is it that you
like? I understand the position that we need to support him because
we're "at war", but that's certainly not the only reason you support
him.

I ask this in all seriousness. I assure you I am no lefty extremist.
In the last election, I supported John McCain for president
unquestionably. But I have grave doubts about the actions of the Bush
administration. I supported the war in Afghanistan, but I fear we have
very badly bungled the rebuilding of that country, and left it in
danger of being re-Talibanized. I am totally unconvinced by the
evidence used to justify the war in Iraq, and the reticence of the
administration to provide any more proof to the American people or
the international community has left me suspicious that the
administration had ulterior motives. The Ashcroft Justice Department
has taken a stance that can be described only as anti-American, in
that it targets thousands of American citizens for search and
surveillance. Meanwhile, the cause of terrorism, that being that
millions of people the world over have reason to hate us more than
they love life, has been left untouched. New environmental
legislation, such as the "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests"
initiatives, have been universally condemned by environmental
organizations as giveaways to smokestack industry that will leave the
American people choking on their own air. The Bush energy plan
provides billions of dollars to fossil fuel producers, promoting
global warming and the use of foreign oil, while stacking the deck
against domestic renewable producers with the potential to create
thousands of high-tech jobs in the US. In a time when the nation's
treasury is bare, this President has given billions of dollars back to
taxpayers, most of it to wealthy taxpayers who will contribute little
to nothing to the national economy from their tax break. They have
robbed the future, leaving it with an uneducated population, a
crumbling national infrastructure, and a staggering debt to show for
it.

I, for one, am unable to see the positives of this administration's
actions. That's why I turn to you. I hope you can enlighten me as to
what it is that so many find so appealing.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

OK, this is a little incongruous...

Friday, July 25, 2003

Proving that the question is not Democrat or Republican but thinker or non-thinker, The Moderate Republican has been added to my list of favorite blogs.
Now this is pretty funny. A thread from the talk.politics newsgroup:


> > > > > > > Sorry, but liberals cannot be Christians.

> > > > > > You mean, liberals cannot be FUNDAMENTALIST Christians -- because
> > > > > > liberalism involves thinking, and fundamentalism, by definition,
> > > > > > prohibits it. But liberals can be, and a majority are, the kind of
> > > > > > Christians that THINK.

> > > > > Sorry, but you are totally full of it. Given what liberals support
> > > > > politically, liberalism and Christianity are mutually exclusive terms.

> > > > Wow -- which burning bush told you that you alone could be the arbiter
> > > > of who was or was not Christian? I suspect that my Christian, liberal
> > > > friends -- who have no trouble equating their views that gays and
> > > > women are entitled to equality, and the wealthy have an obligation to
> > > > assist those less fortunate than themselves, with their Christian
> > > > ideology -- would point out that YOU are the one who is full of it.
> > > > Indeed, your myopic views show everything that is wrong with
> > > > fundamentalist Christianity.

> > >
> > > On the contrary, sir. My view is spot on. If your alleged friends
> > > claim to be both Christians and liberals, then they are lying about
> > > one of them, and I suspect I know which one it is. I'm sorry, but if
> > > they or you get offended by this, then maybe they needed offending.
> >
> >

> > Jesus was a liberal!
>

> No. He was a fascist. Consider the metaphysics he gave us:
> an all powerful tyrant rules and throws those who engage in
> thoughtcrime into a gulag, known as Hell, to wait until they
> are thrown into an enormous oven, known as the Lake of Fire,
> where they perish in the second death. World without end,
> amen. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Added links to a couple of other blogs I look at fairly regularly, because hey, isn't that what blogs are for? In doing so, I noticed that Spinsanity fit better with the other Blogs than the other news sites, so I moved it to the new section. Also, I've added a link to the Belief System Selector, which I mentioned recently.
A few comments on the deaths of Uday and Qusay. It's good to see we're making some progress. Taking them alive would have been preferable, but the guys we have in Iraq are soldiers, not cops. Their training is to apply massive force against threats, and when they took fire on the way into the building despite their attempts at suppression, that's what they did. It makes me think, though, that in the modern era of warfare, where we're likely to be spending a lot of time in urban, civilian-filled environments, that we need a new type of army unit. We need units that are trained in police operations, on how to capture without killing and protect civilians from guerillas without killing half of them in the process. I would think these units would have to be all-volunteer, because they would be at higher risk than traditional troops. It's more dangerous to work when you have to restrain your force. And yet, I think it would pay off handsomely, in improved relations with the countries we operate in, in improved intelligence from captured enemy operatives (isn't it likely Uday and Qusay knew something about their dad?), and in improved morale among our troops. Today, we have soldiers who are trained to kill trying to police Iraqi cities. They're being asked to do things they're not trained or equipped to do, they're dying doing a mission they didn't sign up for, and if they're a little miffed about it, who could blame them? If we had traditional infantry and armored divisions to do the warfighting, and some sort of MP divisions to do the peacekeeping, then we'd be better applying our men and our equipment, we'd be more effective, we'd have fewer dead civilians and potential intelligence sources and we'd have happier troops who knew exactly what they were in the army to do. Sounds good to me. But maybe I'm missing something.
There certainly are less honorable ways to go than in the name of science, but we'd all prefer not to be killed by a seal.
Through a string of links, I found myself at the Catholic News Service's Movie Reviews. For a man such as myself, not tuned into the day to day life of any religious community, I found these reviews quite interesting, and nearly an hour had passed before I knew what I was doing. What surprised me most was that these reviews were, in fact, basically just movie reviews, not sermons. When applicable, they did show how the movies could be related to Christian teachings, and where the movies were teaching bad lessons. Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing that sort of in depth analysis more often. While they had their own content-rating system, only the most gratuitously violent and sexually themed films received the mark of "Offensive." Many you might expect a stereotypical religious zealot to rail at, such as Tomb Raider: TCOL, The Matrix Reloaded, Dark Blue, and even the ultra-violent 28 Days Later received varying ratings in the "Acceptable" category.

I suppose the reason I'm spending so much time on this is that I am predisposed to seeing practitioners of organized religion, especially the orthodox varieties such as Catholicism, as both fanatics and dinosaurs, fighting with all their strength to destroy whatever doesn't fit into their worldview. It takes things like this to remind me that such generalizations are almost invariably wrong. For every Jerry Falwell, there must be two, ten, a hundred believers who are better people through their faith. If I'm going to accuse someone of being closed minded, I had better open my own first.

After all, he who has not sinned gets to cast the first stone, right? So while I continue to resent and protest the actions of all religions' extremists, I offer my apologies to all those good religious people I have inadvertently tarred with that brush over the years. While most of them won't be reading this, most of them I never said anything about. So, an unheard apology for an unspoken accusation. Appropriate, no?

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

So, the house voted by a big, big margin to reverse the FCC's decision to expand the TV ownership limit from 35 to 45%. They did it by adding an amendment to a spending bill, which is a method I strongly disapprove of, but that's the way they do everything these days... they didn't vote to block the whole FCC decision, unfortunately. Had they put that in, the bill still would have likely passed, but probably wouldn't have been veto-proof. Our President has threatened to veto anything which rolls back the FCC giveaway. Maybe John Mellencamp's assertion (halfway down the page) that Fox News' consistently positive coverage of the Bush administration was a down payment for services to be rendered wasn't so far off the mark...
Kobe Bryant. So, he did have sex with the girl, but was it sexual assault? He's saying no. I wouldn't put any money on his guilt or on his innocence. However, it'd be really, really hard to convict him if they've got no witnesses, which I'm pretty sure there aren't. They need to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that it was assault, and if he just denies it and gives a plausible alternate explanation, there's your reasonable doubt right there. She can give whatever circumstancial evidence she wants, I don't think it can prove anything, since whether or not they had sex isn't the question of the hour.

Being a Lakers fan, I can't help but look at this from their perspective. As things stand, their roster for next year is what might be referred to as "ludicrous." But, if Kobe were to be made unavailable by, say, being in prison, it would change the complexion of the team considerably. They don't have a #2 shooting guard. They'd probably have to use Devean George, unless they wanted to go with a 2-point guard set (Payton and Fisher), which might actually be workable, given Fisher's long range shot and mediocre ball handling. But regardless, a Methuselesque Karl Malone and barely younger Gary Payton could not make up for the loss of Kobe Bryant, as considerable as their skills are. However, it is true that with Payton, Malone and Shaq on the floor, the Lakers would have 3 playmakers on the floor, as opposed to the current two-man Shaq-Kobe punch. Well, with any luck they'll have Payton, Malone, Shaq and Kobe to work with. How you beat that, I couldn't tell you.
Well, we see again that you don't have to be middle eastern or a "terrorist" to be a violent nutcase. As it turns out, the guy who shot up the New York City Council today was, in fact, a political rival of the councilman he killed. In fact, he got the gun into the building by walking in with the man he later killed, who was recognized and didn't have to go through the metal detector. The shooter was killed at the scene by another councilman's bodyguard. The deceased was a former cop and an anti-violence crusader. New York and the nation have lost a good man today to an act of senseless violence. We often forget in these times that a murder in the name of a religion or a country or an ideology or a personal vendetta are all still murder. All we can do is take this opportunity to pledge ourselves not to repeat this man's actions.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Why, in the name of Pete, is President Bush waving his fist at Iran and Syria, who couldn't throw much more at us than box-cutters even if they wanted to, while he's pussyfooting around with the nukemongers in North Korea? Can we have a priority check in aisle 5, please?
Movie Review of the Day: The Italian Job. Great action, solid plot, only a few dumb parts (that helicopter had absolutely no reason to be flying at street level! None!) Good dialogue in most respects. Very decent acting. Excellent (thought not exceptional) soundtrack. Very good, if traditional, effects - Don't be looking for another Matrix here, because they weren't trying to make one. The effects serve the movie, not the other way around. All in all, if you go into it looking for an entertaining, intelligent action movie with no gratuitous violence, I think you'll leave very happy.
Interesting. Same story, two angles. Earlier today, I found this story on the the repercussions of David Kelly's suicide, with the headline "Murdoch papers open fire on BBC", in the media section of England's Guardian newspaper. Just a moment ago, I found this story on CNN International, headline "BBC under pressure in 'mole' probe". Actually, it makes a lot of sense. News sources compete with each other. It's not surprising at all that Murdoch would order an attack on his more reputable British rival, or that CNN would seize on any advantage in the credibility war with the BBC.

Really, though, I've kind of lost track of who's accusing who of what. London's Financial Times, whose Editor-in-chief I once had the privilege to hear speak, also seems to be seizing on the 'trouble at BBC' angle, as does New Zealand's National Business Review, going so far as to headline the story "Echoes of Jayson Blair in the Kelly affair", and that's just to mention a few. However, the Independent in England also comes to the BBC's defense, and the fact is, as reported by MSNBC and pretty much everyone else, that the British government is taking a tremendous public pummeling over this issue. So, it looks like everyone has a reason to discredit everyone else. I think I'm going to take a step back and let the smoke clear before I make any judgments.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Whaddya know, a cat you CAN put in the microwave.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

So, the bloodletting has begun. First it looked like George Tenet was going to be the fall guy for phoney Iraq intelligence. But then, when he was questioned by a Senate Committee, he named names. So, an administration official did put pressure on the CIA to OK the unverified Iraq-uranium report in the State of the Union address. As it turns out, the CIA didn't even look at the documents in question until after the speech was made. Tenet, apparently, never even saw the SotU address - it was a subordinate who approved it. So, everybody says the buck stops with the guy before him. Well, here's something Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf said once in a speech: You can delegate authority, but you can't delegate responsibility. There are two important questions here. First, who knew what, and when did they know it. Second, and just as important, who didn't know what, and why didn't they know it? No one can plead ignorance here. If they knew one thing and said another, they sabotaged national policy; if they didn't know what was going on and just made something up, they were in dereliction of duty. There is going to be a bloodbath among the administration, and they know it. But rather than stepping up to the plate now and telling us just what exactly is going on and why, they're trying to stall. Well, the stall approach didn't work for Nixon, and it didn't work for Clinton, so what makes anybody think it's going to work here? Somebody's going to get to the bottom of this. Somebody's going to talk. We're going to find out who knew what, and who didn't. I wonder myself.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

So, a new thought on the political controversies of the day, sparked by this letter to the editor regarding an article on Howard Dean at Salon.com (first letter on the page). The opening of the letter goes like this:

What we Democrats fail to realize is that at some fundamental level the triumph of popular conservatism in our politics represents the interaction of basic human nature with the changed reality of life in our advanced society. Ultimately, the Republicans win -- and continue to win -- because the rhetoric of "serve yourself" beats "let's work together" in all but truly dire times. Let's face it: Community is hassle. You have to deal with disagreeable neighbors and you can't always do what you want. And the Republicans understand this. Their rhetoric is always based on the idea that you shouldn't have to be bothered by anything unpleasant: Taxes are annoying, so get rid of them. Zoning ordinances, environmental laws, nagging labor unions, affirmative action to rectify past injustices -- all are a drag.

It's actually a very astute point. If anything, I suppose you'd call me a Libertarian Democrat - I don't like laws and taxes, but I know we need them. The following paragraph from later in the letter helped me discover why:

But today -- as the Republicans recognize -- those most likely to vote have reached a level of affluence that evokes the illusion they can buy their way out of the inconvenience of community altogether. That leaves the Democrats to make the rather joyless argument that "we're all in it together," which, unfortunately, will necessitate paying some taxes and doing the hard work of learning to live with one another.

In our post-industrial society, everyone is more and more able to comfortably exist without himself producing any of the neccesseties of life. I don't have to worry about growing my food, or finding myself shelter every night, or even entertaining myself - that's all taken care of for me, as long as I can pay. But here's the thing - the things I buy don't come from the ether. I'm buying somebody else's labor. That's right. As we move towards a society where I have to do less and less of my own work, I am in fact becoming more and more dependent on society. And that's not an indictment of "the rich" or some such rubbish. The farmer can't harvest his crop without the manufacturer's tractor, the manufacturer starves without the farmer's crop. The executive is completely unproductive on his own, just a drain on resources, and yet he improves the efficiency of all around him when you plug him into an administrative position. Without the doctor, we might all die of disease, but the doctor wouldn't do much good without the biologist's treatments, and neither of them would be effective without the teacher's education... and then we might as well get back to the farmer, who kept them all fed, while they were keeping him healthy. My point is this: we're all invested in society, whether we like it or not. We are all in this together. The kid dropping out of his underfunded high school might have been on a track to develop a cure for cancer. The half crazy guy sleeping on the street may have emerged from treatment to write the great American novel about his experiences, if there was any treatment to go to. Looking out for number one is simply not a viable way of life anymore, because these days, you aren't the one providing for yourself. You can look out for number one all you want, but if you need an emergency room and the local one's closed down, you're out of luck. We are in a position, these days, where every man can create his own destiny to a degree unprecedented in history. Anyone can become anything they have the skill and will to become. Freedom is, and should be, the law of the land. But freedom is not the same thing as independence. We are all free, but none of us are independent. We must all accept that we are all entirely dependent on each other for survival. Each of us has a responsibility to each other, not just because it's "the right thing to do", but because the man you help today may be the man who saves the world tomorrow.
I'm back. Woo.

Friday, July 11, 2003

I'll be out for a week or so. Don't panic about my absence, those who would be inclined to do so.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

A really interesting article here by Brent Cunningham of the Columbia Journalism Review. He argues that the greatest problem afflicting journalists is not bias toward the "left" or "right", but rather a devotion to a notion of "objectivity" that prevents them from reporting anything not announced by officials. He gives the example of an award-winning Louisville Courier-Journal story last year about a dysfunctional county court which lost and never resolved hundres of cases. The reporter uncovered the open case files, drawers full of them - seeing the import he immediately wrote a story decrying the system for allowing so many cases to simply disappear. The editor initially sent the story back with the comment "Says who?". Cunningham argues that journalists are people first and impartial second, and that their first responsibility is to find the truth and call it like they see it, not simply to find two people who disagree on an issue, parrot both of their statements, and call it "balanced". Like Ron Martz, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer who was criticized for helping army troops apply an IV line to a wounded civilian in Iraq ("an impartial observer cannot become involved", the argument went), journalists need to concern themselves with doing right before doing what upsets no one.
Oh, I'm in a foul mood right now. Bravenet, who seemed so nice, finally unveiled the "big changes" they were making to their services and, lo and behold, they consist of crippling everything unless I want to pay for it. Their counter, which used to be a nice, inconspicuous little thing that blended in nicely is now that big white box with an ad in it. They used to let you customize it to your hearts content. Now, you can only customize the border. The actual counter code resides on their server, and where they used to give you 20-some-odd choices of motif, now there's just one - big white box. On top of that, their new counter code does evil things to the page's layout in Netscape (Camino, more specifically), my browser of choice. On top of that, Camino has decided to crash and not work until I reboot the computer (it's beta software - it does that sometimes), and it's the only browser I have out of 4 that works properly with Blogger. Ah, I know none of this is anything big. Buggy software just drives me nuts.
So, it looks pretty certain that there's going to be a recall vote on California governor Gray Davis. Sure, I think he's as much of a dork-on as the next guy, but he did win the election (even if he fought dirty), and this recall is pretty scuzzy. Anyway, it puts everyone in a tough position. If you recall Davis, then who? Everyone would like to see him melt away into a pile of goo (in a political sense, anyway,) but no one's got a better idea. Feinstein would be fine, but no one knows if she's going to run, and then who would take her Senate seat? And the way the system works, where anyone can run and whoever has a simple plurality takes office, any kind of nut could end up in the governor's mansion. So, as lame a governor as I think he is, I'm pretty certain I'll mark the NO box on the recall ballot. Next real election we can give him the old heave-ho.
Now here's a great quote from the radio today, from a caller on Sean Hannity's talk show. I can't even remember who the caller was, unfortunately - someone from a neocon think tank, I beleive. Anyway, their message was as follows: "I don't beleive the 9/11 hijackers are who we think they are. I'll bet they were agents of Saddam Hussein's regime. And if we can prove that, then that will establish a direct link between Saddam and 9/11." OK, great. Thank you for that insight. And if we could prove that Saddam himself was actually flying all four planes at the same time, then that would establish a pretty good link as well. The only problem is, you're not going to prove either of those, because to prove a point you need evidence, and there is none. Cripes. Here's how policy making is supposed to work. First, they find the facts. Then, they make and justify a conclusion. Then, they take action on it. What we've got here is an action they wanted to take, which they then made up a rationale for, which they're now searching for any data to support. Unfortunately, when you do things that way, you run the risk that there in fact will be no evidence to back up your assertions. Then you're kind of screwed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Man oh man, Karl Malone and Gary Payton on the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe? That's 4 perennial all-stars in the starting lineup. How on earth is anyone going to beat that? Showtime may be back.
And now, a trip into the world of music. Not sure if I've mentioned it, but I think most of the music being produced as of this moment pretty much sucks. However, there are, of course, exceptions. In the world of Rock, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have made enormous strides from the inane hard rock they pumped out in the 80s and early 90s. Their 1999 album Californication and 2002 album By the Way have all the musical and lyrical art of Sgt. Pepper's or A Night at the Opera. Weezer is another of my favorites. The stuff these guys do is original, and that's just unheard of these days. I mean, who else writrs a song about a sweater or does a music video starring the Muppets? Even the stuff they do in pre-existing styles, like Island in the Sun and it's goofy 50s sound, is done in a way that no one else would think about doing.

One entire genre that almost never fails to disappoint me is Hip Hop/Rap. There is, however, one duo whose music, to me, proves the legitimacy of the art form, and that is Blackalicious. While Eminem tells us, once again, that his childhood sucked and he therefore hates everybody, and Nelly reaffirms his sex-liking stance, Blackalicious writes songs about the state of the world and the human experience. The only comparision I can think of is DMX's Who We Be, and that's just one song. Blackalicious' musical range is stunning, and their artistic vision superb. Their album Blazing Arrow rockets back and forth between the harmless fun of its title song Blazing Arrow, to an indictment of collapsing American society and the inaction of those with the power to stop it in Sky is Falling, to the description of eternal hope in First in Flight, to a reminder that hope is nothing without action in Green Light: Now Begin... and it just keeps going for a full 75 minutes. It's an absolutely first-class concept album, united by regular jabs at the artlessness and criminal behavior of so many other rappers. Unquestionably in my top 10 albums, maybe top 5.

I think that's enough writing for 11:57 PM.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Some additions and changes to the links. First, a new one under news, Spinsanity. Under the slogan "Countering Rhetoric with Reason", they look for all the exaggerations, misrepresentations, and outright lies of the media and political establishments and lay them out for the public. The site is non-partisan. Second, under Citizen's Survival Tools there's MIT Media Lab's Open Government Information Awareness project. Similar to the other two already in that category, this site is a compendium of voting records and other information about political figures, except this one A) Is trying to make available just about any information they can find about political figures, under the theory that if the government can use TIA on us, we're entitled to GIA on it, and B) Uses a bunch of experimental MIT technology. Third, I've changed a news link from CNN to CNN International. I've noticed that CNN International covers more stories of worldwide import and a lot less "duck makes funny noises" human-interest garbage than its domestic counterpart, so I've been using it more and more as a primary news source.
And now, a quick trip to the world of basketball. First, there's the news that Kobe Bryant was arrested for sexual assault in Colorado. Actually, he turned himself in, and he's free on $25,000 bail. Well, what to think about this? Kobe is one of the few sports stars I really respect. Unlike Allen Iverson and his ilk, Bryant seems like just a nice guy, the kind of guy you'd invite over to watch the game (if he weren't in it.) Of course, so was O.J. Simpson. Nevertheless, for the time being I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. The specifics of the case aren't out yet, the man has no record of misbehavior, and besides, I think innocent until proven guilty applies.

On the other side of the aisle, there's LeBron James. I've got no reason to dislike the guy, ludicrous overhype aside. If he has a big head, well, what else is going to happen when the media is comparing you to Jesus Christ all day? But, for an athlete, this is inexcusable. When he was asked whether his primary allegiance would be to his new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, or to his new endorsement deal, Nike, he responded "I think it's going to be fifty-fifty." OK, news flash. A basketball player without a team is utterly useless. The game's not about you. You don't win or lose because of how many points you get. You win or lose because of how your team plays. That's all that matters. If your loyalty is not 100% to the team, to the exclusion of all else, then you should just get lost, you stupid useless git.

Divided loyalty between his team and his sneaker company. That's a new low. This is where Allen Iverson would come in handy. He may be a jerk, but he plays his heart out for the team, and I don't think he'd be real happy with someone else doing otherwise. Put these two guys together, and maybe LeBron would learn a few lessons real fast, if you catch my drift.
Found one search engine that actually has this site listed: Overture. Actually, I have two listings there, one for this site and one for a page tracking updates to my site. Who, you ask, would track the progress of this humble blog? That would be blo.gs, a site tracking the status of 398,421 weblogs. It can tell you, by the minute, which of those blogs have been updated, and it keeps a log of update times for each one. Pretty cool, huh?

Saturday, July 05, 2003

A Salon review of Ann Coulter's new book Treason centered around the fact that she expressly mentioned Joseph McCarthy as her role model. Now, while there's little I'd put past Ann Coulter, this seemed a little extreme. Perhaps they were using creative license in the review? If so I was going to be very upset. So, with some trepidation, I ventured into the heart of Coulter's domain to confirm her stand for myself. What I found as the lead-in to her Independence Day website entry follows:

ON OUR NATION'S birthday, it is appropriate to honor the five men who did the most to defend our freedom in the last century. The names are easy to remember – they are the five men most loathed by liberals: Joseph McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, Whittaker Chambers and Ronald Reagan.

Yes, my friends, that is what Coulter herself wrote. I assure you that is not taken out of context. The remained of the article continues on that train of thought. What I want to know is, why is anyone listening to this woman? O'Reilly is a jerk, but Coulter is just absolutely nuts! How can you praise J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy and not get your head handed to you (along with your walking papers) by an outraged American public? How does someone with such a reckless disregard for the truth retain a job in journalism? How in the name of Pete does "Harry Truman was a communist" (another revelation in Treason) slip by the fact-checkers? Is anybody even paying attention?

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Someone sent this letter to Senator Barbara Boxer via congress.org regarding President Bush's "bring it on" comment to Iraqi dissidents. As it states the obvious more eloquently than I am likely to, I'm reprinting it here.

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On last nights news I saw video of the President of the United States taunting the anti-American element in a country (region) filled with RPGs, machine guns, land mines, booby traps and people convinced that martyrdom is a holy act. I was shocked.

There are than 300,000 Americans who are parents of soldiers in harms way in Iraq alone right now. More than 200 of our soldiers have been killed ( at least 23 U.S. troops have died from hostile fire in Iraq since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1.)

This is not the public rhetoric I expect from a World Leader, and certainly not from the President of the United States. I can only imagine the outrage that would exist in your district had you said "Bring it on!" after a terrorist threat in San Francisco, not to mention in hostile, arms filled environment that threatens the lives of 150,000 soldiers every day.

As you well know, a soldiers mission in Iraq is not a sporting event. They don't start all over tomorrow with clean uniforms and a good nights rest. Our sons and daughters are facing extreme hardship every day, and some of them are dying.

"Bring it on!" is inappropriate and offensive public discourse from our President. It send a bad message to both our enemies and to our allies.

Where is the exemplary leadership from our government? I am looking for your public leadership on this issue.
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One thing about Rush Limbaugh: At least he lets his guests have their say, unlike that toad O'Reilly. All these talk show hosts are entitled to whatever opinion they want, and they can be as strident about it as they want as well; It's their show! But it's just really bad form to shut down their guests when they don't play along. And the whole "fair and balanced" thing is starting to get to me too. If you have an opinion, I already said that's fine. But you can't state your opinions as facts. Heck, I learned that in 4th grade. You'd think the standards and practices divisions of the broadcasting companies could enforce at least the same rules.

Speaking of O'Reilly and broadcasting companies, here's one from the I Wish It Were A Joke department: Bill O'Reilly announced that media consolidation is a good thing because big media companies are easier to sue if you don't like what they're saying. The real problem, says O'Reilly, is the bloggers. They're not responsible to anybody! And whenever one of them has the audacity to question him, he can't figure out where to direct his lawsuit! Unfortunately, I can't find a link to the article, which I read a few days ago. Is this possible? I mean, this is a private American citizen saying, in effect, "I know what's best for this country. Those who disagree with me are doing public harm, and should be punished. It's disgusting, really, that some people would have the nerve to try to improve the state of the nation through the exercize their constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech, instead ceding that right entirely to me", and for some reason he's the guy that more people turn to for commentary than anyone else! I can't help but draw a reference to the 1930s, when people worldwide were hailing the coming glory of fascism. "Democracy may have worked fine before, but the world is so much more complicated now. We need a strong leader who can act without all that squabbling with his inferiors." We know what strong leadership arose then, in the constitutional monarchies of Spain and Italy and the democracy of Germany; who would dare call for the same thing now? And yet millions do. History is a subject Americans must learn.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Now this is pretty darn funny. No way to tell if it's legit or not, but Slate dug up what appears to be a prototype of Dubya's 2004 campaign webiste. Take a look.
It's hard to find a free web host that will let you store graphics for another page on their server. Back in the good old days, any of the free services would let you do whatever you wanted with your space. These days, the free space is just a teaser to get you to sign up for pay service. First I tried to put up some GIFs on a Bravenet page, which worked great (they have very simple FTP access and easy sign-up), except that the graphics wouldn't load if I linked to them on this page. Turns out "hot-linking", as they call it, is against the TOS. So, I signed up for a GeoCities account and tried there. Man, back in the day they were great. Not only did they let you do whatever you wanted with your space, they gave you a free POP email account, which is killer. Well, the POP account disappeared years ago, and these days they have the same "hot-linking" restrictions as Bravenet (and even uploading stuff is hobbled until you buy something). So, for the time being, this site remains graphics free, and my assorted writings remain shackled to my home hard drive.
On one of my trips to congress.org, I saw a link to tell Sen. Frist my opinion of his support of Rep. Musgrave's anti-gay-marriage Constitutional amendment. Being myself, I took advantage of it. The text of my message follows.


Senator Frist:

I feel compelled to write and tell you how disappointed I am at your support for Rep. Musgrave's proposed Constitutional amendment. While you and your supporters promised a new day of centrism and bipartisanship, it is clear that you, like Mr. Lott before you, have a core set of extremist policies you intend to force upon the nation. A Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman is so trivial as to insult the stature of this ancient document, wastes the time the Senate needs to deal with pressing national issues, makes a mockery of America's tradition of tolerance and national nonintervention in matters of private morality, and is quite honestly one of the most ludicrous things I can imagine someone of your stature giving his support to. I am truly, truly sorry to see yet another high ranking official of the government flamboyantly display his unfitness for office.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Just took the Belief Test. It's a fun little thing that asks you 20 questions about your beliefs and then tells you what religion you're best suited for out of a list of 27. Apparently, I really ought to be a Unitarian Universalist. I'd also make a pretty good Quaker. I'd be a decent Buddhist or maybe Reform Jew, but a lousy Scientologist. Things aren't looking good for me as an Hindu or a Muslim, and when you get into Conservative Protestantism and Catholicism, it's not showing me much of a future at all. As for my chances as a Jehovah's Witness... that's just ugly.