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.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

A quick update from Phoenix, Arizona: 10 PM, and it is hot as bloody hell here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Buy and hold is the word, kids, buy and hold. If I hadn't freaked and dumped Sears (NYSE:S) two months ago, I would have doubled my investment. Now JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU), that's a company I had a little more faith in and hoo boy, it's been hot. Now here's the deal, I'm not walking around like J.P. Morgan here. I don't have an awful lot of money. But I do know that with a lot of careful research and some calculated risk, I can turn what I have into more than I have. Assuming I don't get suckered by the next Enron. That's what the research is for. Read the Motley Fool - good stuff they've got on there, it's where most of what passes for my investment strategy comes from.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Owner of a Hong Kong clothing chain - "We didn't realize decorating our clothes and stores with swastikas and pictures of Hitler would offend anybody." Story's here.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

I always asked what George Bush planned to do with the $200 million he's committed to raising for his 2004 presidential run. Well, this doesn't answer the question, but at it does make the number look less ludicrous. A recently formed group called ACT (Americans Coming Together) plans to coordinate the efforts of environmental, liberal, and labor organizations (along with some private citizens with deep pockets) in opposition of Bush's re-election. They currently have $30 million, and they plan to spend about $75 million in get-out-the-vote campaigns in 17 states.

Brings back the spectre of soft money, doesn't it? In fact, the group was founded in response to the soft money ban. Unlike the RNC, the DNC is going to be pretty much broke without enormous soft money contributions. To compensate, the dems' backers founded ACT to campaign where the DNC won't be able to. As long as they don't coordinate with anybody's campaign, it's all legal. We'll have to watch to see if they keep inside the bounds of McCain-Feingold. The RNC would have a field day if they caught them doing anything improper.

Back in the days of 2000, I thought campaign finance reform was critically important. Now, I'd seriously consider selling Montana to the Swiss to get George Bush out of office. Funny the difference circumstances make.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Recent events have convinced me that the management of McCormick and Schmick's in Pasadena, otherwise a fine seafood restaurant, are a bunch of jerks. How else do you explain their "losing" a reservation for an event with 100 people made a week in advance? Well, hey, if they're happy seeing 100 customers walk away, I guess that's their business, but I'm not sure if this customer will be giving them another chance.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Interesting passage I came across, attributed to The Story of Philosophy by Will Durrant:

"Science seems always to advance , while philosophy seems always to lose
ground. Yet this is only becasue philosophy accepts the hard and hazardous
task of dealing with problem not yet open to the methods of science -
problems like good and eveil, beauty and ugliness, order and freedom, life
and death; so soon as a field field of inquiry yields knowledeg susceptible
of exact formulation it is called science. Every science begins as
philosophy and ends as art; it arises in hypotheses and ends in achievement
Philosophy is ... the front trench in the siege of truth. Science is the
captured territory. ... Philosophy seems to stand still, perplexed; but only
becasue she leaves the fruits of her victory to her daughters the sciences,
and herself passes on ... to to the uncertain and unexplored.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Realized that in a recent edit to the template, I erased the "contact me" link. Oops! It's back up now in the nav bar.
Over the past few days, I've developed this theory of the political spectrum. While it certainly doesn't cover the multitude of often contradictory beliefs held by any person, I feel that most people probably fall somewhere on this continuum. Any comments, let me know.

Arch Conservative
At some point in the past, society was perfect. It was through the actions of meddling liberals that flaws were introduced into the system. It is the duty of all good people to rectify these faults and send the liberals back to whatever hole they came from.

Orthodox Conservative
Things are the way they are because we’ve refined them to this point over hundreds of years. Anyone seeking to change the status quo is following a misguided path, and is almost certain to cause harm to society. Power should be used only to defend the status quo, not to effect top-down change, contrary to liberal belief.

Moderate Conservative
People need to be careful with the actions they take. What seems like a great idea at first glance may turn out to be a disaster. The world as it is is not necessarily perfect, not even necessarily very good, but we’d darn well better be sure that anything we do to fix it won’t harm more than help.

Moderate Liberal
Without action, the problems we face will never be solved. It is important to weigh the costs of an action against its benefits, but once a viable plan is developed, fear of the unknown should never stand in the way of society’s acting to close obvious holes in its own fabric.

Orthodox Liberal
The world we live in is in danger of collapsing in on itself. Major changes are required immediately in the way we live our lives. If we do not take bold, likely painful steps to drag society out of the mud today, that society might not be around tomorrow. Conservatives standing in the way of these moves, either out of fear or greed, are putting us in grave danger.

Extreme Liberal
If we work hard enough, we can build a Utopia. Unfortunately, there is no way to construct it on top of society as we know it. The only way to reach our destiny is to throw off all the trappings of the past. Those standing in the way of this dream are committing nothing less than a crime against humanity, and must be marginalized by any means necessary.

The nice thing about being Larry Flynt is you can put this on your website and no one will care. Don't worry, it's not porn, although perhaps best not viewed by those with a sense of moral indignation. Course, it's also not the sort of thing that gets you elected Governor of California, but who thinks that's gonna happen?

Monday, August 04, 2003

Another article about the administration's nuclear plans, this one from the San Francisco Chronicle and dating from May. Why in the bloody hell is coverage on this so sparse?
A charming example of human kindness. A group called the Coalition of Free Men has made it their mission to close down battered women's shelters nationwide through a massive campaign of lawsuits. Their argument? Battered women's shelters don't serve men. So far, fortunately, their lawsuits have made approximately zero headway. Now I happen to agree with a point they make that society too often takes the "women good, men bad" approach. However, the fact that at one point they mistakenly refer to "battered womens' services" as "women's battering services" might give you an idea as to how much credibility their specific arguments carry. Trying to shut down battered women's shelters while pushing for retrials of convicted rapists and defending the rights of deadbeat dads (two more of their current projects) is not a particularly good way to go about starting a men's movement.
Here's one from Washington newspaper The Hill, by way of Bill Maher's blog. Apparently Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is bitching about there not being enough Hurricanes with African-American names. Yes, the lack of Hurricanes "Keisha, Jamal and Deshawn... Antwon, Destiny and Latonya" is a pressing national issue. Or something. Get a grip, woman! You sound like Rick Santorum making an ass of himself about gay marraige. There are a lot of important issues to tackle in this country today, and this is not one of them.
This blog has finally made the top spot in a Google search for "RipZAW", which doesn't seem like too much of an accomplishment... to the untrained eye, perhaps.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Our esteemed president has left on his annual month-long vacation, because hey, it's not like we need him around here or anything. This comes on the heels of a speech on unemployment in which he promised not to stop working until everyone who's willing to work can do so (thanks to Lewis Black for picking up on that one).

George Bush, on the job 24/7. That's 24 hours a week, 7 months a year. - Anonymous Wag
Hmm. According to the Washington Post, there are quite a few cars on the road (All new Ford Explorers, for example) that can run on 85% ethanol - but for some reason, the automakers aren't telling anybody. There are very few gas stations that carry E85 (the ethanol-gas mixture of choice). The only measure in congress to incentivize the installation of ethanol infrastructure has been introduced by, of all people, Orrin Hatch, proud recipient of a 0% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. There has got to be more to this...
The Guardian reports that the White House has quietly disbanded a federal advisory group charged with monitoring the development of new nuclear weapons. Apparently, the committee wasn't particularly supportive of administrative plans to develop new low-yield bunker-buster nukes, for all those old "non-proliferation" and "avoiding a new arms race" reasons. So, following standard procedure, the dissidents were informed their services were no longer required. I hope our news media picks this up and digs up the rest of the story... I'm not too optimistic, though. As far as I can tell, America's news outlets are in the business only of telling us what we already know.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

So, the great Admiral Poindexter has been given the boot. Good to know there is some level of idiocy that will get you noticed around here.