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."