Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener...
Idle ramblings of an intermittently philosophical nature... Apologies to Martin Gardner, whose The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener is one of the best books you've (probably) never read.

An Idle Thought...
What a misfortune, and injustice, for the University of Tennessee College of Law that [Glenn "InstaPundit"] Reynolds should now be their best-known faculty member.
--Brian Leiter, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin

About Me (the condensed version)
A member of the tail end of the boomers; a middle aged recovering lawyer turned professional computer geek. Native of St. Louis, Missouri, transplanted to Memphis, Tennessee. Avid reader, amateur philosopher, St. Louis Cardinals fan, one of the last Renaissance men.

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A bit about me (The uncondensed version) Memorial to a dear friend
Frederick W. Benteen
The Web of Leonards
The St. Louis Cardinals
The Memphis Redbirds
BlogMemphis (The Commercial Appeal's listing of Memphis blogs)
The Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything
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Listed on Blogwise

And in case you're interested, here's how many other 'net denizens need a life, or at least more compelling reading:

A blog worth reading:

Bloggus Caesari (Julius Caesar's Warblog)

Two blogs worth reading that I'll plug because the blogger is another Linux geek and a fellow Cardinals fan besides:

Frankly, I'd Rather Not

Other links of interest (to me, at least), in no particular order:

The Daily Howler
Bill Maher Blog
The Progressive
The O'Franken Factor
Majority Report Radio
The Gadflyer
Daily Kos
Steve Gilliard's Blog
Whiskey Bar
Just a Bump in the Beltway
The Village Gate (formerly The Right Christians)
Juan Cole *Informed Comment*
Christopher Orlet
The Online Gadfly
The Crisis Papers
Ted Rall Online
The Smirking Chimp
Talking Points Memo
Molly Ivins
This Modern World, By Tom Tomorrow
Tom the Dancing Bug, by Reuben Bolling
Bob the Angry Flower
Conservatively Incorrect, by Rack Jite
Media Whores Online
Butterflies and Wheels
The Leiter Reports
Nathan Newman
Brief Intelligence
Half the Sins of Mankind
The Swing State Project
Glorfindel of Gondolin
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Missouri Liberal
different strings
Shock and Awe
Gotham City 13
Pen-Elayne on the Web
Empty Days
Censored Story of the Day
Roger's Profanisaurus
Rhonda & Jane present: 525 Reasons to Dump Bush
The Bush Scorecard of Evil
Sherman P. Wright's Moderate Weblog
Quaker in a Basement
World Phamous
NLSO Subic Bay (Navy unit alumni blog.)
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
Bracing against the wind
Rants Vitriol and Spleen – JRI
Apostate's Weekly
Redbird Nation
Go Cardinals
The Cardinals' Birdhouse
The Birdhouse Minor League Report
The Cardinals Fan Site
St. Louis Cardinals Ultimate Fan Site
RedBird Central
Get Up, Baby!
Royalties and Cardinalate (an all-MO baseball blog)
Pro Sports Daily: St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals news
Rob Neyer's column
The Hardball Times
The Baseball Widow
Management by Baseball
The Nashville Files (RTB member in waiting?)
Madeleine Begun Kane's Notables Weblog
The Select Group of Toys
Pesky the Rat
I, Cringely
The Gripe Line Weblog, by Ed Foster
The Register
Evil Empire
Watching Microsoft Like a Hawk
Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil
Public Defender Dude
Punishment Theory
Savage Cruel Bigots
Treason Online
Hell for Halliburton
Hollywood Lost and Found
Popdex Citations

Rocky Top Brigade:

RTB Lounge
NationStates Region

A Little More to the Right
A Moveable Beast
A Smoky Mountain Journal
Beyond the Whispers
Big Stupid Tommy
Bjorn, Again
Bully Pulpit
Busy Mom
Celtic Grove
Classless Warfare Jane
Conservative Zone
Dagley Dagley Daily
Damn Art Diary
Damn Foreigner
Democratic Veteran
Doc B
Doug McDaniel
Drawing Dead
Elephant Rants
Filthy Hippy Speak
Frank Cagle
Free Speech News
Granny Rant
Growth Spurt
Guy Montag
Hypotheses Non Fingo
In a Mays
Inn of the Last Home
Jaded Journal
Johnson City Stories
Lay Lines
Lean Left
Les Jones
Loco Parentis
Long Pauses
Mike Hollihan
Mike Reed
Mind Warp
Missives Anonymous
Mr. Lawson
My Quiet Life
Newton's Kumquat
No Quarters
One Hand Clapping
Pathetic Earthlings
Philosophical Scrivener
Queen Medb's Castle
Rebel Yell
Rex Hammock
Rich Hailey
Road Warrior
Sick of Bush
South Knox Bubba
Southern Reporter
Straight White Guy
Team Rock
The Golden Calf
Up For Anything
Voluntarily in China
Wandering Hillbilly
William Burton
InstaPundit (link removed, because I think Reynolds is an idiot, and he doesn't need the linkage. If you really want to waste your time reading his drivel, you know where to find him.)
Adam Groves (MIA)
Fat Ass Politics (MIA)
Oz's Lion (MIA)
Rapmaster (MIA)
Rush Limbaughtomy (MIA)
Secret City Scene (MIA)
Twelfth Parsec (MIA)
Uncommon Sense (KIA)
Underground Man (MIA)
Xyon's Rambles (MIA)

Memphis Blogs not in the Rocky Top Brigade

Signifying Nothing
m e m p h i s . c o o l (Jon W. Sparks's personal blog)
Sparks on Memphis (Jon W. Sparks's CA blog)
Peggy Phillip
Tread lightly on the things of earth
Rachel and the City
Well, I think I'm funny
Voice of Golden Eagle
when you're 21, you're no fun

The League of Liberals:

Democratic Veteran
The Spy Game
Cosmic Iguana
People's Republic of Seabrook
Philosophical Scrivener
The Mahablog
WTF is it NOW?
blunted on reality
Happy Furry Puppy Story Time
All Facts and Opinions
Dubya's Daily Diary
ARMACT Action Alerts
Cup O' Joe
Grateful Dread on the Web
The Poison Kitchen
Indigo Ocean
The Felonious Elephant
Sick of Bush
Arms and the Man
Rick's Cafe Americain
A-Changin' Times(ACT)
Estimated Prophet
Gotham City 13
Officially Unofficial
The Gunther Concept
The Mudshark
Screaming Points
Ink from the Squid
Left Is Right
Byte Back
The Huck Upchuck
The Sesquipedalian
DeanLand - Dean Landsman's Weblog
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Wilson's Blogmanac
Ayn Clouter
Anarchy Xero

The Liberal Coalition

01/01/2003 - 01/31/2003
02/01/2003 - 02/28/2003
03/01/2003 - 03/31/2003
04/01/2003 - 04/30/2003
05/01/2003 - 05/31/2003
06/01/2003 - 06/30/2003
07/01/2003 - 07/31/2003
08/01/2003 - 08/31/2003
09/01/2003 - 09/30/2003
10/01/2003 - 10/31/2003
11/01/2003 - 11/30/2003
12/01/2003 - 12/31/2003
01/01/2004 - 01/31/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/29/2004
03/01/2004 - 03/31/2004
04/01/2004 - 04/30/2004

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Friday, October 31, 2003

Anyone with an ounce of intelligence...
saw this coming long before we invaded Iraq. But not George aWol Bush. Joe Conason's Journal (premium content, ad view required) gives us the considered views of the NYU law prof/Islamic law expert who's consulting with the bAdministration about Iraq's reconstruction:

After spending some quality time with the new Iraqi leadership, Feldman evidently views the Friedman-Wolfowitz doctrine as naive. In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, the New York University law professor said, "The end constitutional product is very likely to make many people in the US government unhappy. It's not going to look the way people imagined it looking." And he added, "Any democratically elected Iraqi government is unlikely to be secular, and unlikely to be pro-Israel. And frankly, moderately unlikely to be pro-American."

His Pentagon employers have not welcomed such warnings, said Feldman. "When I tell them these things [Islam and Islamic law] are going to be in the constitution, people are very concerned about it. They want to know what can be done to avoid these things. There's still a hope that the country will be as secular as possible. But frankly, nothing in Iraq is going to look the way people imagined. Maybe if people had taken that on board, they might have felt differently about the plan for an invasion."

The thing that miffs me is that there are people in the bAdministration who could have told them this long before they started. Like Colin Powell (at least, before Powell appeared to sell out), who during the first Gulf war justified our decision to end it when we did because, among other good reasons, there were no "Jeffersonian democrats" ready and able to take power.


Somebody give this kid a medal
Normally, I think that the old saw about "sports building character" is bullshit. Occasionally, though, it happens: High school quarterback honors his code

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (AP) -- A high school quarterback has asked officials to erase his record-setting pass because his coach had made a deal with the opposing team to let him complete it.

Related story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Depends on whose ox is gored...
A perceptive comment from billmon:

Now suppose Arnie were a Democrat, instead of a Republican and a pretend action hero. Given his, um, personal issues, his ties to the Kennedy family and his views on abortion, don't you think it's a safe bet that Pat Robertson and/or Jerry Falwell would be telling us the fires are a sign from God? Evidence of his heavenly wrath against the heathen voters of California?

Honor, of sorts, among theives.
This via fellow RTB member Say Uncle: Man makes startling discovery in break-in.

Basically, a burglar broke into someone's apartment (the news story doesn't say this, but the obvious (to me) implication is that the burglar is himself a neighbor of the apartment dweller in question), and while looking for swag he decided to break open a tackle box. Inside the tackle box, he found nude pictures of a number of children, including his (the burglar's) 4 year old sister. Faced with this shocker, our burglar did the only thing he could. He took the nude pictures, turned himself into the police, and handed over the pictures as evidence against his victim.

Betcha he cuts a sweet plea bargain with the prosecutor on his burglary case.

We need some new indices...
Meteor Blades over at Daily Kos has a good post on the GDP numbers that are being touted by the GDP as proof that Dumbya's policies are working. An excerpt:

As we often learn to our chagrin in politics, perceptions often matter more than reality. Comments like, "Yeah, but we’ve had a net loss in jobs since Bush took over" won’t make many inroads among fence-straddling voters if economic trends appear to be upward. The last time the GDP grew as fast as it did in the most recent quarter was in 1984, and that, to some extent, helped give Ronald Reagan a second term.

This situation perfectly illustrates why we progressives must popularize a more inclusive gauge of economic well-being than the traditional GDP approach. Not to mention our overall well-being.

I’m not arguing that GDP has no value. It does. And adjustments in the past decade have made it a better measure of what it measures. So what’s so bad about it? Mostly for what it doesn’t measure. Even as a purely economic index, it fails.

For instance, take pollution. GDP measures as income a manufactured product which creates pollution as a byproduct. It then measures the clean-up as income. And it then measures health services to those sickened by the pollution as income.

GDP also leaves out things like income distribution, the intensity of poverty, economic security, crime costs, the economic value of civic and voluntary work, the economic value of unpaid housework and child care. It’s a measure that assigns zero value to leisure time, to the depletion of resources, to the benefits of saving, to trade imbalances, to deficits and debt.

The United States ranks No. 1 worldwide in GDP and per capita GDP, and this has been the case for more than half a century. So when it rises 7.2% (or whatever the adjusted figures show in a couple of months), we're talking a big deal.

But America doesn’t rank No. 1 when it comes to infant mortality. We’re 34th.

We don’t rank No. 1 in health care, either. We’re 37th.

Nor do we rank No. 1 in literacy. We’re No. 6.

And we’re not No. 1 in life expectancy. We’re 20th.

We are No. 1 when it comes to putting in the hours at work. In 1980, the average American was at work 1,887 hours a year; in 1990, it was 1,942 hours; and in 2000 it was 1,978 hours. And we're No. 1 in overall productivity, though not in efficiency per hour.

(We’ve also got the toughest military machine on the planet, with expenditures at 43% of the worldwide total, more than the combined total of the next 14 nations.)

Other gauges exist. But they get little media play. GDP can be explained in a sentence. Nuances required to understand other indexes don’t make for good sound bites.

Molly Ivins, in at least one of her columns and in her new book Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America (with Lou Dubose), mentions a favorite point made repeatedly by Jim Hightower. According to Hightower, we pay too much attention to the Dow Jones Index. What we really need is a Doug Jones Index. Lets take a look at the life of Typical American Doug Jones. How's Doug doing? Did Doug get a raise? Does he have investments that are doing well? Or did Doug get laid off, and is he barely holding on because his wife is still working?

I'd bet that if we had a Doug Jones Index, it'd temper the enthusiasm for the GDP figures.

Fun With Science. And proof of the old saying...
that there's no such thing as an original idea.

From Mind Warp:

The Moon and Earth

Scientists have shown that the moon is moving away at a tiny, although measurable distance from the earth every year.

If you do the math, you can calculate that 85 million years ago the moon was orbiting the earth at a distance of about 35 feet from the earth's surface.

This would explain the death of the dinosaurs. The tallest ones, anyway.

From Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi:

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. Therefore ... in the Old Silurian Period the Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and hung out over the Gulf of Mexico like a plank. And seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long.... There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wonderful returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

More on flashing...
A propos my earlier post. A Perfectly Cromulent Blog makes a note of a Pennsylvania incident, where a few Catholic high school girls work over a flasher.

Credibility? Yeah, we've heard of it.
Fellow League of Liberals member different strings has a good piece up about Blogs and credibility. In other words, should bloggers post corrections, and if so, how should they handle it. The issue comes up in connection with a number of bloggers linking to the story about the White House modifications of their "robots.txt" file on their webserver.

An issue we should give more than a little bit of thought to.

This has me intrested...
From Paul Krugman in today's New York Times (a propos the purportedly excellent economic news of the past couple days):

The big question, of course, is jobs. Despite all that growth in the third quarter, the number of jobs actually fell. And new claims for unemployment insurance, a leading indicator for the job market, still show no sign of a hiring boom. (By the way, for the last month there's been a peculiar pattern: each week, headlines declare that new claims fell from the previous week; a week later, the past week's number is revised upward, and the apparent decline disappears.)

Some of the right wing spin on the economic news is focusing on the jobs issue too, but indicating that along with the impressive growth in GDP last quarter that the job figures are improving. On the other hand, Krugman points out that there may be some offstage diddling with the figures. Given the bAdministration's penchant for misleading us, I'm not feeling too confident myself right now.

I feel guilty about not mentioning this....
So I'll throw a link Cosmic Iguana's way: "Fair and balanced my a**..."

Once again it's like the old saying: It's not what you know that counts, it's what you know that ain't so.

Duh! moment of the day
From La Reg: College students care more about beer than software. You see, the Business Software Alliance is in one of their periodic snits again, and this time it's college students that have their panties in a bunch.

The software industry trade group commissioned a study that found students are quite willing to pirate software. The collegians' main motivations for obtaining software illegally are to save money and to get back at a "prosperous" industry.

"Only 24 percent of 1,000 college and university students surveyed consider it wrong to make unauthorized copies of software," the BSA said. "Yet, despite their attitudes toward piracy, 93 percent of students surveyed agreed that "people who develop software deserve to be rewarded for their efforts." However, 89 percent said they didn't always pay for the copyrighted software they downloaded."

Free software fans probably make up a small portion of those interviewed, but it should be noted that copyrighted software does not always come with a pricetag.

While the BSA appears shocked by these results, many of you might not be. College students tend to have this nasty habit of cutting costs wherever possible to save up for the finer things in life like keg parties and food. They don't put ethics and the moral high-ground too high on their list of priorities while at school. But the BSA is concerned that this lack of concern for software could stick with them in the long run.

Thought for the Day:
It's like my pappy always said, a man does what he has to do--if he can't get out of it.
--Bret Maverick

Thursday, October 30, 2003

If only such a strategy would work.
Internet Exploiter is my default browser on my work machine, as a matter of laziness. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I tried to access a page that was a result of a Google search, and was redirected here:

If only more webmasters would do that.... Hmmmmm...

May be the Guinness record
St. Louis couple married 82 years.

"'Socratic' method? Hah, that's taking the name of Socrates in vain." --Stanley L. Paulson, Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis
I stumbled across a couple law-philosophy related blogs that were tearing apart the "Socratic" method that's used to teach law in a lot of U.S. law schools. I loved this entry from The Curmudgeonly Clerk:

On occasion, students do manage to exact their revenge, however. One day in my first year Criminal Law class, the professor was mercilessly grilling a rather reticent female student. He asked her to recite the facts of a case. When she began a meandering recital replete with irrelevancies, he began to mock her. He proceeded to interrogate her; each question was dripping with sarcasm and condescension. The purport of his inquiries could not have been more clear: he wanted her to focus solely on the material facts. She, however, was too befuddled and flustered to grasp his point. So the professor proceeded to the student seated next to her and asked, "Why am I mocking her?" Unfortunately for the professor, this student was honest to a fault. Without pause, he responded, "Because you are a jerk."

I am going to repost this....
because I'm so taken with the Brian Leiter comment that I want this back at the top of the blog for a bit.

Two days ago, I posted:

I just have to ask the question.
Why is Glenn Reynolds the most important man in the blogosphere?

A few weeks ago I started playing with Bottom Feeder, a freeware (I think, it's distributed under an "artistic license") news aggregator coded in Smalltalk (and if that really means anything to you, drop me a line; always good to hear from another geek). Bottom Feeder came pre-configured with a number of feeds, one of which was InstaPundit. Most of the pre-configured feeds I deleted; InstaPundit I kept in order to plumb the mystery of what the big deal was. Now that I've had a chance to to sample Glenn's "wisdom", I ask the (to me) obvious question: Why is he seemingly the most important Higher Being in the blogosphere?

Hey, the man is basically an opinionated law professor (but I repeat myself) at a middle of the pack law school in the southeast. His politics aren't incredibly remarkable one way or another, I don't agree with most of his positions, and even when I agree with his opinions I'm not terribly impressed by his presentation of them. He has a competent but somewhat pedestrian writing style (as opposed to, say, my incompetent and completely pedestrian style). And yet, if the TTLB Ecosystem is to be believed, there may as well be a law requiring every blogowner to blogroll InstaPundit. I just don't figure it.

Ok, before someone notes the obvious, yes, I do link to him myself, but only because he is a member of The Rocky Top Brigade, and I decided upon induction to that august group that I'd blogroll every one in the RTB not listed as MIA, Because I Could. If he weren't in the RTB, I wouldn't have him blogrolled. I don't see why the blogosphere revolves around Glenn Reynolds.

But then again, if I listed every "I don't get it" moment I've had in my life, you'd be here for weeks. And this one post would exceed my host's bandwidth limits for the year.

Now today, avoiding useful work while waiting a call from the doctor (long story I may blog later), I stumbled across this post by U. Texas law/philosophy prof Brian Leiter on his blog:

What a misfortune, and injustice, for the University of Tennessee College of Law that Reynolds should now be their best-known faculty member.

[I feel genuinely sorry that I have to quote about half of Professor Leiter's short and sweet post, but this is about the minimum I can quote and make sense. But go follow the link to learn why Professor Leiter lament's UT College of Law's fate.]

Silly Meme Game Time Again
Miserable Failure. Miserable Failure. Miserable Failure. Miserable Failure. Miserable Failure. Miserable Failure. Miserable Failure. Miserable Failure. Miserable Failure. Miserable Failure.

Though when you type "miserable failure" (with or without quotes) into Google, you do get a lot of hits associating that phrase with George W. Bush, though in all honesty few if any are a result of this meme game. The vast majority of them, as you might guess, result from Dick Gephardt characterizing Bush as a "miserable failure" in one of his stump speeches (Damn, Dick; you were my congresscritter for all those years and I'd have never guessed you had it in you).

No wonder the bAdministration wanted to invade Iraq...
From NY Newsday: Iraq deals linked to Bush donations.

The buck stops where?
From Matthew Rothschild and The Progressive: Bush Lies Again

Don't you just love a President who takes responsibility?

There was George Bush at his press conference, answering a tough question about his triumphant arrival on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and the "Mission Accomplished" sign there. Bush said that sign was not the brilliant idea of one of his ingenious advance men. No, not at all, Bush said. The soldiers aboard ship thought that one up.

It was a classic, Clintonian, reflex of a liar.

I think it indicates something wrong with legal education in America, myself...
Anthony Rickey over at Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil is a pretty damned good guy, even if he is a Republican. Literate, intelligent, very readable, and makes some very good points (well worth pondering even when you don't agree with him). Yesterday he tells us that, even though he's approximately half done with the first semester of law school, Bar-Bri (the preeminent provider of bar examination review courses in the United States), was pressuring him to cough up money for his bar review course by threatening to raise prices on the courses later. As of course I'm sure you all know, law students don't take the bar exam until after they graduate. And law school lasts (at American law schools, anyway) three years.

There's something drastically wrong with that. When I was at the point in my legal education that Anthony is now, I wasn't concerned with paying for my bar review course. I was concerned with the fact that I lived not quite 5 blocks from the Legendary Rush Street, Singles Bar capital of the world, and I was still sleeping alone every goddamned night. In fact, I was (loudly and often, to anyone who was foolish enough to listen to me) bemoaning the fact that I couldn't draw a second glance from a woman if I stripped naked, painted myself garish florescent day-glow green, and stood on my head in the corner singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and masturbating until indian-head nickels spurted out of my cock. (And you'd think that the sheer novelty value of that sight would draw a second glance, woudn't you?)

What the hell, that's what I get for not being born Tucker Max. But I digress.

But go read Anthony's post. He eventually comes to a heart-warming, inspiring conclusion. More inspiring than the sight of yours truly naked, painted garish florescent day-glo....well, we won't go there again, will we?

Also from Cosmic Iguana, the WaPo reports that U.S. commanders in the field in Iraq doubt that Syria is the entry point for foreign guerillas in Iraq. Which raises the obvious question: how many foreign guerillas are fighting us in Iraq? Could it be--gasp--that the Iraqis are fighting us to win their own freedom (or at least for the right to be enslaved by their fellow Iraqis rather than by Big Oil and Big Oil's bitches: George Dumbya Bush and his puppetmeisters)?

A link to the source WaPo article is to be found at Cosmic Iguana.

Oh wow....
A favorite read of mine, E.R. Chamberlin's The Bad Popes, is still in print? In Paperback, no less... Something says I'll be ordering a book from today or tomorrow (payday).

Many thanks to manis2society at Cosmic Iguana (back when his old blog, Panic Button, was operational) for inspiring me to take a look.

Atrios. Luskin. Krugman.
Why should I say anything? Everyone else in the blogosphere is saying everything that needs to be said. I'll sit this one out.

I've never understood....
Old Testament Christians. By that term, I mean those folks who seem real hung up on applying the laws of Leviticus to modern life. Like the "Reverend" Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps. Pretty good commentary on them by fellow League of Liberals member Norbizness at Happy Furry Puppy Story Time.

This little gem was forwarded a little while ago to the xianity mailing list by a liberal Christian member. To which I can only say, Amen!

To paraphrase the late William Stringfellow, if the churches enforced biblical teaching against hypocrisy (the sheer volume of which is huge and which is unrelentingly maintained throughout the length and breadth of both testaments) as strenuously as some churches seek to enforce the limited and, in some cases, obscure and ambiguous biblical teaching against homosexual acts, Christendom would be much depleted.
--Bill Bekkenhuis

Christendom much depleted. If it depleted itself of idiots like "Reverend" Phelps, it'd be a damned good idea.

An interesting concept...
Seen a few references to this in the past several days. This is from ink from the squid: Investing in the future.

Of course, President Chimpy's poodle is a liberal (in spite of his taste in friends), so a government trust fund for each child in the U.K. doesn't strike me as being incongruous when one considers the source. Of course, trying to get our government to propose something similar for children here would be like pulling teeth. Though, frankly, I'm not at all going to be suprised if the bAdministration does propose something like this for Iraqi children, soon.

A little socializing before the game...
This week's Volunteer Tailgate Party is up. Thanks to Peggy at A Moveable Beast for hosting it.

Sad news
"Gordon", the AFLAC duck, meets end as entree in Knoxville Chinese eatery.

[Note: this is from, which South Knox Bubba has called "The Onion of Knoxvegas". 'nuff said.]

More Fun 'n' Games with the PATRIOT Act
From Jessamyn West at Five technically legal signs for your library. My favorite is the second to last one (go on, take a look; I'll be here when you get back).

Cockroaches: Uncle Sam wants you!
From La Reg: a researcher at Sandia Labs is working on using cockroaches as chemical/bioweapons detectors.

Not to be outdone, we learn in the same article that those wacky guys and gals at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have been working on Insect Tracking.

And here, as you were trying to grab something to smash the little sucker with, you never realized that there were patriotic duties American cockroaches could perform.

Betcha Homeland Security is working nights and weekends on this one.

Thought for the Day:
Excellent health is merely the slowest possible rate of speed it takes you to die.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Two more stalwart companions...
join The League of Liberals. A hearty welcome to Sick of Bush and Arms and the Man.

This week's read o'the week....
Isn't one of the suggested League of Liberals "showcased" blogs, but what the hell, I've been to Columbia, SC and done the statutory doubletake the first time I saw "Go Cocks!" decorating one of the buildings there, so anyone who can produce this:

There's something seriously wrong with a university that allows their football team to be nicknamed the Cocks. Yesterday, when I was walking through the student union, I saw that the annual Cockfest is coming up soon. Well, goody. I can't wait. I've been waiting for a Cockfest all my life, and now one has dropped into my lap, so to speak. I would love to go there and scream out, "COME ON! SHOW ME YOUR COCKS!"

It's truly ridiculous. I can't believe I'm a native of this state. It hurts me sometimes. This is a state where a guy named Mike Hunt (say it three times fast) freely runs for Sherriff of Aiken County and nobody bats an eyelash. I guess I'm the only one with a dirty mind around here.

is well and truly deserving of my vote in the New Blog Showcase. So this week's read of the week is: My Worst Foot Forward: wait. wait. don't tell me.

[Though I will admit, I had to think long and hard before casting my vote here; on her blog the proprietor says that she's "currently listening" to the Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players, an act the attraction of which completely escapes me after seeing them do a bit on Late Night with Conan O'Brien; it was easily the worst schtick I've seen on Conan's show, and I think that's saying something. But ultimately, the poignant concept of a cockfest dropping into a young Southern girl's lap wins out. I've got to get my mind out of the gutter....]

Time to do the meme thing
And do my part to make George W. Bush = Miserable Failure happen.

Let's hope more of them repent....
Letter to The Oregonian: "I apologize" for voting for Bush.

I'm a registered Republican. I voted for George W. Bush and contributed financially to his campaign. I was wrong. I apologize. Bush is the worst president America has had -- ever.

What's wrong with America?
Dr. Molly has a diagnosis, and a potential cure: Cease fire: Step one for fixing real problems in Iraq is to stop administration's PR offensive.

There is something faintly risible about the American habit of thinking we can fix problems through better public relations. We seem to think a positive mental attitude and high approval ratings can solve anything from shingles to famine. Global warming? Spin that puppy right out of existence. Economy bad? Send the treasury secretary out to predict the creation of 200,000 new jobs a month -- that'll make everybody feel better.

We have public relations firms that specialize in business disasters -- does one of your products turn out to kill people? Have you been putting asbestos in people's homes for years? Are you a notorious polluter? What you need is a good PR firm -- yes, my friends, a multimillion dollar campaign to convince people that despite your current problems your firm is warm and cuddly, cares about the environment and supports the Boy Scouts.


Despite what I am sure are the invaluable services of the many PR people of our nation, sometimes it is actually smarter to attack the problem itself than the public relations surrounding it. I suspect that's where we are with the situation in Iraq.


I suggest we drop the public relations offensive and concentrate on fixing the problems on the ground. When you look at the real problems, the question is not whether the media are misreporting the situation, but whether anyone in the administration knows what they're doing. Disbanding the Iraqi army was a terrible mistake; sending in Turkish troops will be another, according to those who know the region; and the corporate contracts awarded without open bidding turn out to be dripping with gold plate.

As Casey Stengel once demanded, "Does anybody here know how to play this game?"

Something tells me....
that we have a clue here as to why America is going down the toilet fast. A Salon piece (Premium content; short ad viewing may be required) on a new book, Find a Husband After 35: What I Learned At Harvard Business School.

Damn, and I thought one attended HBS to land a management job in Corporate America, not to learn how to find a husband.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am close to but not yet 35, and I'm not looking for a husband. I have a wonderful boyfriend who is good-natured and supportive, especially when I come home and announce I am writing an article for which I have to go through 15 steps toward finding a husband. The book itself is a little frightening in its directness. And that's just the cover. I look over my shoulder self-consciously in the bookstore as I pick up the book with "husband" in the title and a gold wedding band on the jacket. A man walks by and I reach for "The South Beach Diet" instead. I realize I must be in the "women's insecurity" section. "The South Beach Diet" promises you'll lose 8-13 pounds in the first two weeks. "Find a Husband" promises you'll find a life partner in 12-18 months. I look up at the sign overhead and discover I am not in the women's-insecurity section at all, but rather the "bestsellers." Scary. I get both books anyway. "It's a gift," I tell the man at the checkout loudly. "Could I get a gift receipt?" I want to convey to him and everyone in line behind me that I am married and thin. This is too embarrassing.

I learn in Chapter 1 of Greenwald's book, however, that this is entirely the wrong approach. The idea of her "Program," as she calls it, is to let as many people as you can find know that you're single and looking for a husband.

We must need more soldiers in Iraq...
because President Shit-for-Brains says we don't, and anyone knows, looking at his record, that he's been brilliantly, almost preternaturally wrong on pretty much every decision he's ever made about Iraq.

A sad day in St. Louis County
St. Louis County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall dies.

I sort of knew "Buzz" very distantly when I was practicing law in the St. Louis area. Can't say I agreed with him on a whole heck of a lot (he was on the conservative side for a Democrat), but he was a conscientious public official. Condolences to his family and friends on their loss.

Yesterday, Billmon had some great posts...
What Terrorists Do

So our "allies" are supposed to throw their kids into the Iraqi meat grinder because the terrorists might attack America again?

This isn't exactly Bush's strongest selling point. Too many "allied" leaders (especially in the Islamic world) understand that after the next big terrorist attack on America, a significant fraction of their populations are going to be out in the streets cheering.

On the other hand, if these leaders bow to U.S. demands and send troops to Iraq, their people might turn out for a different reason -- to vote them out of office or (in the nondemocracies) to hang them from the nearest lamppost. And nobody wants to be the guest of honor at that particular block party.

Following the Money

Sounds like a few folks are trying to find out whose pockets that $87 billion is going to line. I wish them luck.

And from Anthony Rickey at Three Years of Hell:
Here's all you really need to know, as taught to you in the first several months of your first year.

Wondering what our plan in Iraq is/was?
South Knox Bubba has a succinct summary.

Groklaw on lawyer reaction to SCO's attack on the GPL...
can be summarized fairly succinctly: What are they smoking?

Though it'd be nice to see David Boies taken down a few notches:

Poor David Boies. He's in danger of going down in history as the lawyer who couldn't understand the GPL. He needs to jump overboard and start swimming for shore before he loses all credibility in the legal profession. Never mind the sharks. Just jump and swim for it, David. That's my advice. But hey, I'm no lawyer, so feel free to ignore me, by all means. But because I do grok the GPL, you might want to think it over very, very carefully and consider your options. You're on a slow SCO boat to nowhere good. A good name is better than money. It's in the category of precious things no amount of money can buy. So, jump, David! Jump!

Meanwhile, Groklaw also gives us another take: Douglas Steele's analysis is that SCO's trying to get the court to rule that anything developed/licensed under the GPL is in the public domain.

Thought for the Day:
It is hard to say whether the doctors of law or divinity have made the greater advances in the lucrative business of mystery.
--Edmund Burke

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I've kept the blogroll updated faithfully...
but I've neglected to do my usual welcome message. Well, let me rectify that. We have a number of new members joining The League of Liberals the past few days, and I wanted to give a hearty welcome to them all:

So that's why they did it.
Kynn over at Shock and Awe clues us in on why the White House has been revising their "robots.txt" file on the White House webserver, based on his own experience with Google. Worth reading.

UPDATE (10/28/03): An interchange on the SKEPTIC mail list adds a little more information. Question being, do you trust the misAdministration's explanations or not. Lately, I vote not, but your mileage may differ.

According to those rabid conservatives at 2600 magazine, this looks like an innocent mistake:

Right. And it's just coincidence that some sailors hung that "Mission Accomplished" sign on the USS Abraham Lincoln just before Bush landed and stood in front of it for photo ops.

My recent musing on public masturbation and flashing, resulting in some pleasant memories of a St. Louis Public Defender legend, has me to thinking about my career as a PD. As the phrase goes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The caseload sucked (too many clients for us to give them all good legal services despite our best intentions and best efforts, and too much antagonism and animosity from your clients, much less "decent, ordinary folks" who saw the defense of criminals as being too much in league with Satan for them to feel entirely trusting in you). On the other hand, one has to be a public defender in order to appreciate the amazing camaraderie and mutual support we gave each other (Unofficial STL PD motto: "We've got to love each other, because everyone else hates our guts"). I'm sure I wouldn't do it for a career, but I'll never regret having done it. And, needless to say, it was never boring. Once you were sure you'd seen everything, and nothing could ever surprise you again as long as you lived, something happened to surprise you.

But recounting the Case of Casey and His Monstrous Member got me to thinking of other incidents in my career. At one time I was a member of the Cult of Father Darwin mailing list (do a Google search on "Cult of Father Darwin", but be advised, this list isn't for everyone), and the time came that a St. Louis murder case with which I had a marginal connection actually came up for discussion on the list. After it became known that I'd practiced law for a while, some folks on the list expressed an interest in hearing about some of my cases, and of course I had to oblige both of them. Hence, I related the story of Emilio. The following is slightly edited from my post to the CoFD mail list:

Legendary when I was an Assistant Public Defender was the infamous Emilio Rodriguez (name changed because I'm not exactly fond of lawsuits, and would rather be safe than sorry). Young Emilio was charged with rape. He told his lawyer (not me, although I got the dubious privelige of being "second chair" in the case (i.e., I got to sit at counsel table and tried to fool the jurors into thinking that Emilio was actually worth wasting two lawyers' salaries on; in reality, I think my boss was tired of seeing me sitting around the office waiting for my older cases to come to trial)) that he had an absolute winning case. "Just let me take the stand," he said. "Once I tell the jury my story I'll walk out of the courthouse a free man." Letting the client tell his own story in his own words is not a practice rich in wisdom around the criminal courts, but unfortunately one of the few absolute rights a defendant has during the course of a trial is to decide whether or not to testify. The lawyer can't stop him if he insists. The lawyer can cajole, wheedle, bitch, moan, complain, threaten, scream, and question the client's claim to legitimate parentage (not that many of our clients, come to think about it, had such a claim) as much as he wants, but if the client insists on telling the jury his story all the lawyer can do is sulk and say, "OK, it's your funeral."

But before the damn fool^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdefendant can tell his story, the victim gets to tell hers. And she's got quite a story to tell (rape is not polite, and this was definitely one of the less polite rapes that it was my displeasure to deal with). Not only that, but she's about one of the prettiest, most demure, clean cut rape victims ever to grace that sorry courtroom. She looks so sweet and innocent, and exudes such an air of purity, that by the end of her testimony it's obvious that the jury will throw anyone who has consensual sex with her in jail for about twenty years or so. My guess is they'll try to lynch Emilio. Probably draw and quarter him, although if he's lucky the jury might hang if a minority holds out for burning at the stake, or pushing him into a large vat of very strong acid.

Finally, the moment of truth arrives. Emilio takes the stand. His lawyer has spent many, many hours preparing him for this moment. They've gone over what Emilio should say, how he should say it, and with whom he should make eye contact as he says it. But, unfortunately, the unofficial motto of the St. Louis Public Defender's Office is "Dammit, Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a ventriloquist!"

Emilio's lawyer starts off simply. "Mr. Rodriguez, you've heard Ms. [deleted]'s testimony?" "Yes," Emilio replies. "Damn!" I think to myself, "he's answered one whole question, relatively coherently, and without hanging himself." That's about one more coherent answer than I expected out of him. Emilio's lawyer, heartened by his client's failure to sink the case with his answer to the first question, unwisely goes for broke and tries the direct approach. "Did you in fact rape Ms. [deleted] on June 24 of last year?"

I realized, as I saw the glint in Emilio's eye, that he'd thought of something. This did not bode well for the defense case. Being well aware that Emilio's mental powers approach those of the chair he was sitting on, I quickly reviewed my options. Unfortunately, I had no acute medical conditions that would justify a major disturbance in the courtroom, and I didn't have faith in my ability to malinger. Besides, I had never been held in contempt yet, and I wanted to save that option for a more worthy client. So all I could do was sit and watch, in morbid fascination. Emilio turned to the jury, and the bast^H^H^H^H dear boy began to smirk! And proceeded to answer the pending question thusly:

"Shit, no! That bitch was so skanky, I'd never have fucked her!"

(At this point I distinctly remember making a mental note to take the time after the trial to tell Juror # 7 that bottling up strong feelings of rage like that is definitely Not A Good Thing.)

After that majestic defense (I still to this day don't remember how we got through the rest of the trial, though I do know we went through the motions for another 45 minutes or so), the jury deliberated all of 8 minutes and 36 seconds before bringing in a unanimous verdict of guilty of forcible rape. It was widely believed at that time that this was the shortest period of time that a jury ever took to bring in a unanimous verdict of guilty in a felony case in the St. Louis courts.

[The above narrative prompted another member to ask if I still held the record. I was pleased to respond:]

Actually, I don't claim the record, since I was merely second chair. For this trial, my duties consisted basically of 1) doodling on my legal pad while trying to simulate a sincere interest and concern for Emilio's welfare (probably the most difficult task), 2) preventing the chair I was sitting on from deciding to take a walk around the courthouse, 3) leaning over from time to time and whispering in Emilio's ear, so as to impress the jury that a more-or-less Respectable Citizen (me, though my ex-wife strongly disagreed with that assessment) didn't mind associating with him (in reality, most of what I said to Emilio was variations on the theme of "Sit the fuck up and wipe that silly smirk off your face!"), and 4) trying to catch the eye of Juror #2 (she was gorgeous!) and flash her my patented, charming "Hey, what do you say you and I go for dinner and drinks after the trial?" smile. I didn't do too bad; I performed duty 1 competently, duty 2 in an exemplary fashion, and duty 3 efficiently. I regret to say that I totally failed at duty 4. Well, as anyone who's done any criminal defense work knows, you can't win 'em all (but you sure as hell can lose them all. . . .).

When My Time comes, and I come face to face with Father D, my main claim for favor in His eyes will be that, were the world but just, the state of Missouri would have named the Missouri State Penitentiary (or at least a wing of it) after me. Considering the number of clients I wound up sending there, it would only have been fair.

Good column by Paul Krugman
(Is there any other kind?) A Willful Ignorance.

According to The New York Times, President Bush was genuinely surprised to learn from moderate Islamic leaders that they had become deeply distrustful of American intentions. The report on the "perception gap" suggests that the leader of the war on terror has no idea how badly that war — which must, ultimately, be a war for hearts and minds — is going.

Mr. Bush's ignorance may reflect his lack of curiosity: "The best way to get the news," he says, "is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff." Two words: emperor, clothes.

But there's something broader going on: a sort of willful ignorance, supposedly driven by moral concerns but actually reflecting domestic politics. Surely it's important to understand how others see us, but a new, post 9/11 version of political correctness has made it difficult even to discuss their points of view. Any American who tries to go beyond "America good, terrorists evil," who tries to understand — not condone — the growing world backlash against the United States, faces furious attacks delivered in a tone of high moral indignation. The attackers claim to be standing up for moral clarity, and some of them may even believe it. But they are really being used in a domestic political struggle.


Yet that moral punctiliousness is curiously selective. Last year the Bush administration, in return for a military base in Uzbekistan, gave $500 million to a government that, according to the State Department, uses torture "as a routine investigation technique," and whose president has killed opponents with boiling water. The moral clarity police were notably quiet.

Why is aiding a brutal dictator O.K., while trying to understand why others don't trust us — and doing something to create that trust — isn't? Why won't the administration mollify Muslims by firing Lt. Gen. William Boykin, whose anti-Islamic remarks have created vast ill will, from his counterterrorism position? Why won't it give moderate Muslims a better argument against the radicals by opposing Ariel Sharon's settlement policy, when a majority of Israelis think that some settlements should be abandoned, and even Israeli military officers have become bitterly critical of Mr. Sharon?

And Steve Gilliard, in his comments on this column, cuts right to the chase:

The right hates Krugman for one simple reason: he's right. Consistantly and clearly on both economics and politics. And they cannot stand it. More importantly, they cannot touch him. He is a tenured professor at Princeton and perpetually short-listed for a Nobel Prize. They can't get him fired, because, quite frankly, he doesn't need to work for the Times. He has a job and is quite good at it.

So he has unlimited freedom to say what he wants. The odds are good that he could win both a Nobel and Pulitzer in one calendar year. Compared to the ignorant hacks on the right, Krugman actually knows how to use facts coherently. He is a politician's worst nightmare, an opponent you cannot harm. If he were to lose his column, he could syndicate. If they forced him from Princeton, he'd have a job in a day. So all they can do is discredit him and they're failing badly at that.

It also helps that he's in the mainstream of his profession. More of his peers agree with him than disagree. So they can't even dispute his qualifications. The fact that he's quite modest and calm also helps. His only distinctive feature is that he is an excellent writer. He writes clearly and cleanly and doesn't hide behind jargon.

When we look back at the Bush era, Krugman will get a lot of credit for his writing on Bush.

UPDATE (10/29/03): Richard Blow at has a good analysis of why conservatives whine so much about Krugman.

As was the case with Bill Clinton, conservatives don't want to engage Krugman intellectually; they want to discredit him entirely. And not just him, but liberalism itself; to smear liberalism with the brush of "hatred" and "treason." In the end, all the criticism says more about conservatives' anxieties than Krugman's opinions. Their great fear isn't that Krugman is effective. It's that he's right.

Bob Somerby's doing his usual incomperable job...
in today's Daily Howler, where he inquires as to why the press is airbrushing its picture of Lt. General Jerry "his god is an idol but my god is real" Boykin.

In short, a man charged with evaluating intelligence reports sees “demonic presences” in his own snapshots! Is General Boykin, however decent a person, perhaps a little bit of a nut? You’d almost think that someone would ask—especially if we actually care about those troops to whom we all love to pander.

But few scribes are going to ask that question, whatever the answer might actually be. (We assume that Boykin is a thoroughly decent man, and a thoroughly hard-working soldier.) Indeed, when the mainstream press has discussed this case, reporters have tended to airbrush away the strangest things Boykin has said. Most strikingly, his statements about those snapshots have rarely been mentioned. For example, his statements about the Mogadishu pics have never been mentioned in Washington Post news reports. In the New York Times and USA Today, the general’s statements about Mogadishu have never been mentioned at all. These papers don’t seem to want their readers to know what the general has said.

Yep—Boykin’s statement about that “demonic presence” have largely been airbrushed away. Instead, reporters discuss his political blunders—the fact that he has expressed public views about the War on Terror that fly in the face of Bush policy. But it’s “Good-bye Mogadishu” when it comes to those snapshots—when it comes to his oddest public statements. His kookiest comments get washed away. Less kooky comments get discussed.

Pardon me for a second, while I vent...
It's the lawyer in me here.

I get a daily email from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, called "The 3 o'clock Stir". Basically, the Post sends an email with links to a few chosen stories from the Post website. Gives me a chance to keep up with what' s going on at home.

Anyway, today's "Stir" led with a story of crime in Sin City. Apparently the rapper "Nelly", a St. Louis native, was the vicitm of criminals who broke and entered his hotel room in Las Vegas (I believe he was there allegedly "performing", if that gerund can be applied to Nelly) and made off with some of his property. The subject line of my 3 o'clock Stir newsletter: "Nelly Is Robbed."

Um no. Nelly wasn't robbed, he was burgled. A not very subtle legal point. Burglary is when someone breaks into your house, apartment, or hotel room, and steals your stuff. Robbery is when someone acosts you in person, and steals something off your person by force, violence, or the threat of force or violence.

I'll stop the rant now. This is one of my pet peeves....

Ya just gotta love collegians with too much time on their hands
Student fools international newspapers with spoof story.

On the surface, it is hard to tell that the story labeled "Study: Fellatio may significantly decrease the risk of breast cancer in women," isn't real. The original Web version has the banner along the top of the page, the stock CNN medical graphic along the right side of the article and credits N.C. State University with the study. But when readers scan the page, names like "Dr. BJ Sooner" and "Dr. Inserta Shafteer" start to stand out as unusual. However, nothing discredits it more than the fact that a junior in materials science, Brandon Williamson, is the one that wrote it. "I was sitting in the Wolves Den and [the idea for the story] just sparked in my mind as a joke. It didn't have anything to do with our conversation or anything, it was just something that popped in my head. I ran it by a couple of people, and they thought it would be pretty funny," Williamson said. He didn't realize that when he went to the honors lounge and wrote it later that day that his "joke" would become an international news story.


While Williamson has enjoyed the unexpected fame, he also feels that he has learned a few lessons through his spoof experience.

"It really showed me how ugly money can be and how easy it is for big corporations to throw their weight around. It really disenchanted me because I didn't really have any visions of how this works. I did think they would be able to take a joke, and I was really surprised that they would go so far as to sue the school if I didn't take it down. It put CNN in a bad light in my book because I didn't think they would be as concerned about someone making a parody of a news story," Williamson said.

And let's hope this is a trend:
Independents bail on Bush

Joe Conason's Journal for today....
asks an important and disturbing question: Why aren't Republicans more concerned about computer voting fraud?

This is "premium" content; you may need to view a short ad in order to see it. Hey, go grab a cuppa coffee or go to the bathroom while the ad runs. That's what you do at home, right?

Interesting meme games
This from Blah3 via Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard:

From this day forth, I will refer to George W. Bush as a Miserable Failure at least once a day. Why, you ask? Well, someone came up with this great idea to link George W. Bush and Miserable Failure in popular search engines. If you have a blog or web site, help raise the link between George W. Bush and the phrase 'Miserable Failure' by copying this link and placing somewhere on your site or blog.

Thank you very much for your participation.

Ah, "Just say no" was such a resounding failure...
that it's now time to pull out the heavy artillery: New Anti-Drug Ads to Use Sarcasm.

The comments this post has generated have been good:

"Well, I was terrified. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I've seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Doug.
Q: What did he do?
He used... sarcasm. He knew all the tricks: dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire. He was vicious."

You Python fans should recognize the Pirahna Brothers sketch....

I just have to ask the question.
Why is Glenn Reynolds the most important man in the blogosphere?

A few weeks ago I started playing with Bottom Feeder, a freeware (I think, it's distributed under an "artistic license") news aggregator coded in Smalltalk (and if that really means anything to you, drop me a line; always good to hear from another geek). Bottom Feeder came pre-configured with a number of feeds, one of which was InstaPundit. Most of the pre-configured feeds I deleted; InstaPundit I kept in order to plumb the mystery of what the big deal was. Now that I've had a chance to to sample Glenn's "wisdom", I ask the (to me) obvious question: Why is he seemingly the most important Higher Being in the blogosphere?

Hey, the man is basically an opinionated law professor (but I repeat myself) at a middle of the pack law school in the southeast. His politics aren't incredibly remarkable one way or another, I don't agree with most of his positions, and even when I agree with his opinions I'm not terribly impressed by his presentation of them. He has a competent but somewhat pedestrian writing style (as opposed to, say, my incompetent and completely pedestrian style). And yet, if the TTLB Ecosystem is to be believed, there may as well be a law requiring every blogowner to blogroll InstaPundit. I just don't figure it.

Ok, before someone notes the obvious, yes, I do link to him myself, but only because he is a member of The Rocky Top Brigade, and I decided upon induction to that august group that I'd blogroll every one in the RTB not listed as MIA, Because I Could. If he weren't in the RTB, I wouldn't have him blogrolled. I don't see why the blogosphere revolves around Glenn Reynolds.

But then again, if I listed every "I don't get it" moment I've had in my life, you'd be here for weeks. And this one post would exceed my host's bandwidth limits for the year.

I agree with SKBubba
Gertrude would have been a heck of a person to have a few drinks with. Read this obit all the way to the end. (Thanks to SKB for the reference.)

UPDATE (10/29/03): According to the Urban Legends Reference Pages, this is absolutely true.

SCO goes for broke
From Groklaw: SCO Declares Total War on the GPL -- Says GPL Is Not Enforceable.

The most significant thing they say is that the GPL isn't enforceable or applicable, and in paragraph 16 that Linux is an unauthorized "version" of UNIX:

"Denies the allegations of paragraph 16 and alleges that Linux is, in actuality, an unauthorized version of UNIX that is structured, assembled and designed to be technologically indistinguishable from UNIX, and practically is distinguishable only in that Linux is a 'free' version of UNIX designed to destroy proprietary operating system software."

I'm guessing you have a few words to say on that.

In their Sixth Affirmative Defense, they say:

"The General Public License ('GPL') is unenforceable, void and/or voidable, and IBM's claims based thereon, or related thereto, are barred."

The Seventh Affirmative Defense adds:

"The GPL is selectively enforced by the Free Software Foundation such that enforcement of the GPL by IBM or others is waived, estopped or otherwise barred as a matter of equity."

The Eighth adds:

"The GPL violates the U.S. Constitution, together with copyright, antitrust and export control laws, and IBM's claims based thereon, or related thereto, are barred."

They forgot to add that the GPL causes cancer. It's also responsible for the fires in California. And it's fattening.

Groklaw's conclusion:

Well, folks, I guess it's true. They must really be trying to inspire IBM to buy them out. I don't see any legal hope for SCO.

Yet another excellent cause....
I grumble from time to time about how I managed to choose my ancestry rather unwisely; my mom's side of the family was rotten to the core with diabetes (Type 2 for those of you keeping score at home), and I was diagnosed sooner rather than later (in 1995 at age 38, which is a bit young to get this diagnosis) after no doubt having had the condition for a number of years (my blood sugar on diagnosis was 427 mg/dl, which is the highest I've heard of, not that this is a competition or anything).

Anyway, fellow Liberal Leaguer Natalie at All Facts and Opinions is a fellow sufferer, though she's in even more of a pickle than me since, by her own admission she doesn't have health insurance (I only had to deal with that for a couple months, and it sucked; the maintenance drugs my doctor has me on are ridiculously expensive, even in generic, and when you're a diabetic you have to see a variety of health care professionals on a pretty regular basis).

Natalie informs us that next month apparently some of us in the blogosphere are going to be Blogging for a Cure. Ok, so I'm something of an interested party, but it still sounds like a wonderful idea to me. If you yourself are a diabetic or at increased risk for diabetes (overweight, African-American or Native American, have family members with diabetes) you may be interested in participating. Check it out and do what you can.

I wonder if it's historical...
A post from Atrios Monday night gets me to thinking:

In a country which is overwhelmingly religious, this weird defensiveness by the faithful is odd. How often are people "laughed out of the room" for proposing the existence of some spiritual reality? As an atheist-leaning agnostic I get a president telling me that he doesn't consider me a citizen. I'm not going into victim mode over it, while Easterbrook is channeling David Limbaugh here.


And, as a truly oppressed (though only slightly) religious minority, I'm getting really sick of this martyr complex by many Christians in this country.

Had I world enough and time, I'd like to do a study of this phenomenon, though it's not like it's gone completely unnoticed in non-religious circles. The persecution complex that is nursed by the wingnut faction of the Religious Right amazes me at times. In a country where a majority of citizens polled state that under no circumstances would they vote for an atheist for president, there is a significant faction in the Christian community that seems convinced that they're about ready to be thrown into the Coliseum to face the lions again.

Is it a way of recapturing the perceived vitality of New Testament Christianity again?

Today's dose of the absurd....
From Big Stupid Tommy: Death of the Enumerator--A Short Play.

Though I need to ask Tommy what he was smoking/drinking/shooting/absorbing rectally when he wrote that one; it might help change my attitude--and Ghod knows I need that lately.

Nice to know....
that the Afghani's are proceeding nicely into the 21st century. This just in on the Miss Afghanistan competing in Manila in the "Miss Earth" pageant: Minister slams "naked" Afghan beauty.

President Hamid Karzai's minister for women's affairs has condemned Miss Afghanistan, as Vida Samadzai became the country's first woman in the post-Taliban era to appear in a bikini during a beauty contest in Manila.

"Appearing naked before a camera or television is not women's freedom but in my opinion is to entertain men," minister Habiba Surabi said.

"We condemn Vida Samadzai, she is not representing Afghanistan's women, and this is not women's freedom."

Surabi said according to Afghan culture women should not demonstrate their worth using their "beauty or bodies" but by their skills and knowledge.

"In the name of women's freedom, what this Afghan girl has done is not freedom but is lascivious," the minister said.

Well, at least if she were to go back she'd not have to wear a burqua (at least, not until/unless the Taliban comes back, which given the blunderings of the Bush misAdministration isn't completely unthinkable).

From Al Lowe's Joke of the Day mailing....
There's a moral here somewhere, but I'm having trouble expressing it in words:

Two Hollywood writers were talking. "I have a cool idea for a movie! The main character is abandoned by his father at birth and grows up in a single-parent home. He spends most of the movie getting in trouble with his friends until he sees his mother gunned down right in front of him. His long-absent father finally turns up, but all he tells him is, "Life's tough, kid." Then his home burns down." The other writer groaned. "Damn! You'll never get a movie like that made! But what were you going to call it?" "Bambi."

And now for something completely different
From The Register: Novelty farting dog sparks US terror alert

This is too good not to quote a little bit:

Osama bin Laden will doubtless be absolutely gutted to learn that any plan he may have had to destroy a US airliner using a life-size novelty mechanical farting terrier is doomed to failure.

Yup, the ever-vigilant airport security officials in Norfolk, Virginia, responded instantly when Brit passenger Dave Rogerson's flatulent fido's outgassing triggered a security device, the BBC reports.

Link in the quote is to the original story, from the Beeb, where we read:

Armed security staff were alerted when the toy's wind-breaking mechanism registered as a high explosive on sensitive monitoring equipment.

Mr Rogerson, 31, from Thorner, Leeds, was questioned by FBI agents and looked on in amazement as they took a series of swabs from the mechanical toy's rear end.

Oh God, what I'd give for pictures of that.

Mr Rogerson said: "There's no humour at American check-ins and for about 20 minutes I was quite scared.

Welcome to the United States, Mr. Rogerson. And never let them give you Brits shit for having no sense of humo(u)r again...

The U.S. Army goes penguinista!
From La Reg: US Army 'going to Linux' after OS switch for GI PDA.

YES!!!!! From the article:

The US Army has abandoned Windows and chosen Linux for a key component of its "Land Warrior" programme, according to a report in National Defense Magazine. The move, initially covering a personal computing and communications device termed the Commander's Digital Assistant (CDA), follows the failure of the previous attempt at such a device in trials in February of this year, and is part of a move to make the device simpler and less breakable.

According to program manager Lt Col Dave Gallop this is part of a broader move towards Linux by the US Army: "Evidence shows that Linux is more stable. We are moving in general to where the Army is going, to Linux-based OS." The trials of the earlier version, at Hunter Airfield in Georgia, showed it exceeding the permitted one mission failure per 158 hours, not having sufficient battery life and having its communications obstructed by trees. The latter objection seems a little harsh to us, given that trees are pretty hardware- and OS-agnostic, but what do we know?

Which gets me to thinking... surely the folks in DoD who make these decisions are aware of the little matter of the SCO claims concerning Linux. Is this another expert assessment that SCO is full of shit? We can but hope (though, of course, the fact that Uncle Sugar is the ultimate deep pocket has something to do with this).

Another good column in SecurityFocus...
by St. Louisan Scott Granneman: Joe Average User is in trouble.

One of the many hats I wear here in St. Louis is that of college instructor. I teach courses in technology at Washington University, recently ranked the ninth best overall college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, one of the better community colleges in the area. I teach smart people at both locations. One is composed of folks who can pay the high prices for an education at a nationally-ranked university, and the other has people who work during the day and want to improve their skills at a good public school while keeping their costs low.

In other words, I see a pretty good cross-section of the computer users in our area.

Oh sure, some of my students are what we'd call "computer people," who work professionally programming or administering various systems or developing Web sites. But those are few and far between. Most of my students are office workers, or writers, or homemakers. Almost all of them run Windows at home and at work, usually ME or XP. They all know how to "use" their computers, which means that they can write papers, read email, use the Web, and even install software (as long as it's not packaged as a ZIP file: most of them have no idea what a ZIP file is or how to use it). In other words, your typical American computer user.

I'm here to tell the security pros reading this that we are in deeeeeep trouble when it comes to securing the computers of these people.

Security is just not a concept that "normal" folks focus on. It's not even on the radar screen. It's just not thought about at all.

Unfortunately, my own professional experience tends to bear this out. I work with health science professionals--some scientists, others clinicians and scholars in health science administration, pharmacoeconomics, and pharmacy law. And I'm afraid to say that while these people are among the most brilliant folks it's ever been my pleasure to work with, what they know and are aware of about computer security (hell, about computers period) can be carved on a piece of granite, placed in your eye, and you'd never feel it.

Thought for the Day:
I believe in everything to do with Christianity except for God. I believe in all the Christian ethics. But God is either uncaring or unpleasant. I suppose the best thing he could be called is uncaring. Every time I've interviewed Cardinals, Archbishops, their answer is free will. But it's all rot. The Nazi guards could have free will, because they could decide whether to do it or not. But not the people who were put in gas chambers. Nobody has satisfactorily answered this question.
--John Mortimer

Monday, October 27, 2003

I agree with this assessment...
Fire Bud Selig. Soon.

Ban champagne celebrations? The man's out of his fucking mind.

New version of the 419 spam?
Not yet, it was posted to a humor mailing list. But any minute now it'll be going out through the 'net without attribution:

Dear Sir,

I pray this important message meets you in peace, may blessings of God be upon you and your family and grant you the wisdom to understand my situation and how much I really need your assistance. Before I start let me introduce myself, my name is FRANCIS ARINZE, Cardinal of the most holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, former President of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and prefect of divine worship and discipline of sacraments. I have recently been elected Pontiff of the Universal Church by the conclave of cardinals, which you may have seen on the news.

Upon accession to my office I found that the spiritual finances of the church were in a difficult position dues to the activities of certain members of my predecessor's staff. Budgetary measures undertaken by an American auditor have rectified the account sheet, but in the process they were forced to temporarily suspend the decision of St Pius V banning financial transactions in indulgences.

As you are a learned person, you will no doubt be aware that the Treasury of the Church constitutes an inexhaustible fund which, via standard open-market operations, was easily sufficient to remit the debt. Due to the unexpected intervention of St Anthony, however, we also turned up three large trunks filled with devotional medals, last seen during the later years of the reign of Boniface VIII. Each of these medals is enriched with a perpetual apostolic indulgence good for the extra-sacramental remission, a culpa et a poena, of temporal punishment due to one (1) mortal or ten (10) venal sin(s), and valued at approximately $125 million at prevailing exchange rates.

These trunks are located in vaults of a security company in The Netherlands (Holland). I was contacted in a letter dated 12th of September by the security company asking me to indicate if I was in receipt of the letter as a sign that I am living and still subscribed for their service.

I am interested in using a small fraction of this money, much less than one percent for a re-organization of the work of God, plus some necessary payments to certain litigants in the United States, but I do not need the rest and do not want to have any direct dealing with it. But I need someone who will be able to use the fund better maybe for charity or something universally profitable. I have thought of doing it myself but, well, I am the Pope and a trip to Holland in the popemobile might be noticed. I will be glad if you have any interest in the direction of maybe managing or transmitting the fund as you prefer in your capacity and understanding.

I will be glad to get a response from you ASAP.

Regards, FRANCIS ARINZE (Pope)

American journalism at its finest:
From a mailing list I'm on. The correspondent is near the fires blazing in Southern California:

Things HAVE to be bad for me to turn on the local TV "news" for information. I kinda wanted to find out if the Simi Valley fire was likely to close off my route to work Monday morning, so I held my nose and switched on the Fox Eyewitless News at 10 last night (they being the only locals on before 11). Well they had lotsa cool shots of raging flames, lotsa shots of houses fully engulfed, and lotsa shots of weeping homeowners looking at the charred remains of their houses (with a dash of the pretty-boy "reporters" asking "how do you feel?"). They also had several shots of unscorched American flags waving defiantly in the wind, like this fire was a personal affront to America (fire burns down our houses because it hates our freedom).

What they DIDN'T have was any actual information content. Despite having a small army of people on the ground and in the air, they didn't say exactly where the fire was burning, what roads were closed, what areas might be endangered next, or anything that was of any real use. But BOY did they have nice shots of houses burning and weepy homeowners.

After 15 minutes or so of this, I actually had to go take a shower (OK, so it was to get the smoke of the last 2 days off me. But still...).

And the above provoked this comment:

Of course [FOX had no information about closed roads]. If you go drive off somewhere, you won't be watching FOX News . . .

I was kinda hoping the fire would burn the Reagan Presidential Library, just to hear all the wacky conspiracy theories that would predictably spring up about what "they" were trying to cover up by torching it.

Goering quote, revisited:
This is, I think, priceless.

Holy crap!
A retired US Navy JAG has just dropped a hell of a bombshell: Cover-Up Alleged in Probe of USS Liberty:

A former Navy attorney who helped lead the military investigation of the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that killed 34 American servicemen says former President Lyndon Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, ordered that the inquiry conclude the incident was an accident.

In a signed affidavit released at a Capitol Hill news conference, retired Capt. Ward Boston said Johnson and McNamara told those heading the Navy's inquiry to "conclude that the attack was a case of 'mistaken identity' despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."

Boston was senior legal counsel to the Navy's original 1967 review of the attack. He said in the sworn statement that he stayed silent for years because he's a military man, and "when orders come ... I follow them."

More Astroturfing: Halliburton steals a Microsoft innovation...
And fellow Liberal Leagure Hell for Halliburton gives us today's heartwarming story of Halliburton giving their employees their marching orders:

Employees of HALLIBURTON have been instructed by the CEO to write letters to newspaper editors and Congress in an effort to "restore fairness and accuracy" after revelations that the company was overcharging US Taxpayers by 217million dollars on gas delivery while feasting at the public trough.

I wonder if we'll be seeing any letters being sent by deceased Halliburton employees. Doesn't strike me as unlikely.

The League of Liberals is Perfect
Ok, ok, so I'm late with this news....


The League of Liberals comes roaring out of the gate in their first official week in the contest to deliver a staggering 100% (yes, 100%) participation rate among their 27 members. Full results are:

League of Liberals: 27 of 27 = 100.0 % participation
Blogger Alliance: 40 of 89 = 44.9 % participation
Axis of Naughty: 6 of 24 = 25.0 % participation

"I am therefore declaring the League the winners for this week effective immediately, and their logo now hangs in the place of honor atop the Showcase. Congratulations to the League for their victory!" NZ BEAR

Excellent summary....
Thanks to fellow Liberal Leaguer and Rocky Top Brigade member Jo Fish/Democratic Veteran for this summary of how the Bush misAdministration has acted when it comes down to really supporting the troops: The Troop Support Report: A Guide for the Military and Their Families - Compiled by TV News Lies

An excerpt from the introduction: questions the frivolous use of the term “Support the Troops.” TvNewsLies would like to point out that there is more to supporting the troops than simply saying “I support the troops.” Hanging a flag on everything that stands still long enough for you to do so, tying a yellow ribbon around your child’s baby carriage or dressing up in red white and blue, while doing no harm, do nothing to support the troops. It is our opinion that the way to support the troops is to stay informed about the issues that affect the troops. These issues are not discussed on our TV news networks. Instead the TV news networks drape their daily broadcasts with images of waving flags while they report trivial stories that have no impact on our nation, like the Scott/Laci Peterson saga or the never ending conjoined twins Sagas. CNN’s Anderson Cooper is airing a week long report on conjoined twins yet he has not reported once about the numerous budget cuts being made to the military. FOX News’ Gretta Van Sustrand has discussed Laci Peterson on over 70 episodes yet she has never dedicated time to exposing the broken promises that the Bush/PNAC administration have made to the Veterans Administration.

From the Austin Statesman-American
via fellow League of Liberals member WTF is it Now?: Mr. President, we're not your court stenographers.

Permit me to demur from my president, and say that he's got it wrong. I see comprehensive coverage of the war by most national and metro newspapers.

We are not the "patriotic press" plugging a war in the style of Fox News; we don't have people like Geraldo Rivera out there packing a gun and threatening to kill Osama bin Laden.

We work to cover the war the old-fashioned way, accurately, fairly, comprehensively and with shoe-leather reporters such as Larry Kaplow of Cox Newspapers. He is on the ground in Baghdad and other cities talking with our troops and with Iraqis and giving you a balanced report.

We have published Kaplow's articles on school openings, new currency being distributed, the return of water and electricity and the rehiring of Iraqi police. But these stories also compete with the nearly daily death toll among U.S. soldiers, the United Nations bugging out and contractors unable to do their work because of security concerns.

"We're not chasing those stories (about setbacks); they're finding us. They happen every day in a place that the United States has adopted for better or worse," says Chuck Holmes, Kaplow's editor in Washington.


When Bush says news is being "filtered," his complaint really is that reporters refuse to be good court stenographers. Bush's "filter" is merely a matter of contextual reporting, and holding the government accountable.

Objection! Shifting the buden of proof...
Groklaw has some interesting comments relative to the SCO v. IBM litigation (a topic I've been sorely ignoring the past few weeks...):

It's time to analyze SCO's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to IBM's Motion to Compel Discovery, which we posted as text yesterday. If I had to characterize it in a brief sentence or two, the sentence would be that SCO tells the court, "How are we supposed to know what code IBM misappropriated? It's up to them to prove our case for us. It's not for us to hand over the code; it's up to them to show us every bit of code they ever donated to Linux. Then, we'll go over it and find whatever we can find. And anyway, we've given them plenty of stuff just today, so who needs a motion to compel? Let's just forget the whole thing."
In short, they don't want to show the code this exact minute.

They bad mouth IBM some more, tell a fib or two, by my reckoning, and then sit down, saying the motion should be denied.

Go read the whole thing if you're interested in this issue.

And from Robert X. "The Real Bob" Cringely:
we have a most excellent analysis of how Microsoft screws us by misunderstanding Open Source software: Unplugged: How Microsoft's Misunderstanding of Open Source Hurts Us All.

This week, speaking at a Gartner conference in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said some fascinating things about Linux and about Open Source software in general. And thanks to those remarks and the blinding realization they caused for me, I finally understand exactly why Microsoft doesn't understand Open Source.

Ballmer asked, "Should there be a reason to believe that code that comes from a variety of people around the world would be higher-quality than from people who do it professionally? Why is its pedigree better than code done in a controlled fashion? I don't get that. There is no road map for Linux, nobody who has his rear end on the line. We think it's an advantage a commercial company can bring -- we provide a road map, indemnify customers. They know where to send e-mail. None of that is true in the other world. So far, I think our model works pretty well,"

The model has worked well for Microsoft, that's for sure.

At the core of Ballmer's remarks is a fundamental misunderstanding not only of Open Source, but of software development as an art rather than as a business. Cutting to the bone of his remarks, he is saying that Microsoft developers, since they are employees, are more skilled and dedicated than Open Source developers. They are better, Ballmer suggests, because Microsoft developers have their rears (presumably their jobs) on the line. All those lines and all those rears are part of a road map, he says, and because of that road map the $30 billion plus Microsoft gets each year isn't too much for us to pay, so the model works pretty well.

This is nonsense. It is nonsense because Steve Ballmer, like Bill Gates before him, confuses market success with technical merit. Microsoft's product roadmap is a manifestation of a business plan, and what matters in Redmond is the plan, not the map, which is in constant flux. How many technical initiatives has Microsoft announced with fanfare and industry partners, yet never delivered? Dozens. That is no roadmap.

If Microsoft developers rampantly fail to produce good software, but the company exceeds earnings estimates anyway, how many of those rears will be actually on the line? Very few, and maybe none at all.

What Ballmer ought to have said was, "It's true we have shipped some really bad software in the past and we are ashamed of that, but we are totally committed to improving." But he didn't say that. He said, "Our model works pretty well."

I'm not sure that "pretty well" accurately describes software that is riddled with security holes exposing customers to tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity each year. And that part about indemnifying customers, indemnifying them against what? Certainly not against Microsoft software.

Against Ballmer's glib insincerity we have Linus Torvalds, a very solid guy totally devoted to both the concept of creating powerful software and to giving it away. No wonder he is so misunderstood in Redmond.

The key to the success of Linux goes far beyond the price. Free is good, of course, but the true strength of Linux is the international movement to improve and extend it -- the very "variety of people around the world" that Ballmer dismisses. What Ballmer sees as Open Source's weakness is in fact its strength. Very few Open Source developers work full time at it. Most Open Source programmers are doing it a few hours here and there. Yet, here's Linux, for example, a world class operating system, continually appearing in new versions and with new features. How can that be?

Linus attributes the high quality of Linux (it is very stable, certainly compared to Windows) to the very grass roots development effort that Ballmer criticizes and doesn't understand. This would seem to contradict the idea many people have that it takes a high buck development operation to create great software. Just the opposite, says Linus, who claims that free software is nearly always better.


"It's very simple," said Linus. "Because the software is free, there is no pressure to release it before it is really ready just to achieve some sales target. Every version of Linux is declared to be finished only when it is actually finished, which explains why it is so solid. The other reason why free software is better is because the personal reputation of the developer is attached to every release. If you are making something to give away to the world, something that represents to millions of users your philosophy of computing, you will always make it the very best product you can make. That's the reason why Linux is a success."

I can hear the screams here in Memphis....
as primarily homophobic St. Louis tries to deal with this... and probably mulls options to keep the "cancer" from spreading: New SIUE Fraternity is Predominently Gay.

Though this description intrigues me:

The fraternity for gay, bisexual and what Delta Lambda Phi terms "progressive" men has 18 chapters and 10 colonies across the United States.

I wonder what "progressive" means in this context? Anyway, I wish them luck, though I'm not holding my breath for a chapter to open up at St. Louis University anytime soon.

Hmmmmm... We may hear a lot of crying come Christmas morning....
From Cosmic Iguana (another fine member of the League of Liberals), we get a little piece of tech news: Why Iraq's buying up Sony PlayStation 2s: Intelligence experts fear games bundled for military applications.

"Most Americans don't realize that each PlayStation unit contains a CPU -- every bit as powerful as the processor found in most desktop and laptop computers," said one military intelligence officer who declined to be identified. "Beyond that, the graphics capabilities of a PlayStation are staggering -- five times more powerful than that of a typical graphics workstation, and roughly 15 times more powerful than the graphics cards found in most PCs."...

...What could Iraq do with such a primitive super-computer constructed with Sony PlayStation 2s?

"Applications for this system are potentially frightening," said an intelligence source. "One expert I spoke with estimated that an integrated bundle of 12-15 PlayStations could provide enough computer power to control an Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV -- a pilotless aircraft."...

Wonder if those PlayStation super-computers would be running Linux? If they were running WinBlows, we'd have nothing to fear....

Here's my candidate...
for "Duh!" headline of the month... maybe of the year. From Snoozeweek:

Bringing Up Britney: Sex appeal, far more than music, is what sells Spears. Does she know it, does she like it—and how far will she take it, now that she’s not a kid anymore?

Len's Quick Answers To These Earthshaking Questions: 1) Damn straight she does. 2) Well, until she quits the business or revamps her act in disgust, does she have to like it? After all, she's not making megamillions as a "singer" because, as Lewis Black pointed out so well, "she can't fucking sing!" 3) As far as she needs to to keep the greenbacks rolling in.

Sex appeal is to Britney Spears what special effects are to “The Matrix.” Just last week Madame Tussaud’s unveiled a wax figure of the star—it doesn’t sing, but it straddles a pole and has inflatable breasts that heave to the music. Since she debuted as a pigtailed 16-year-old in 1998, the former Mouseketeer has morphed from a schoolgirl heartthrob to a lap-dance fantasy. And the music? Does it matter? Spears has sold more records in four years than Madonna has in the last decade. Though each Britney CD has sold fewer copies than the last, her celebrity stature continues to climb. She’s appearing bottomless on the cover of Esquire and shirtless in Las Vegas. Britney will always be bigger than the critics who hate her.

One has to think quickly on one's feet in these circumstances...
From fellow Liberal Leaguer blunted on reality comes our daily dose of the absurd, from the UC-Santa Barbara Daily Nexus student newspaper website: Man Jerks Off at Women's Center Fair. From the article:

Han said she was shocked by the incident, as were many of the people who were at the event and saw what the man was doing.

"What do you say to a guy who is masturbating in front of the place you work?" she said.

It wasn't masturbation, but a woman who was a fellow student at Washington University back in the late '70s (yes, I'm that old) was quicker thinking than poor Ms. Han. When acosted by a flasher on campus, this woman took one look at the flasher's privy member and said: "I don't know; if I were you I wouldn't be showing off that sorry excuse for a cock," and then laughed.

The flasher, wounded to the quick, sat down and cried in a stairwell, where the campus police soon caught up with him.

And while we're on the topic of flasher stories, that brings to mind the story of Casey Damous.

Casey was something of a legend in the St. Louis Public Defender's office while I was employed there. Casey was basically a nice and unassuming fellow, with a gift from God and a somewhat unusual hobby that used his gift from God to great effect.

God's gift to Casey was a cock that measured, according to reliable estimates, at least (at least!) 12 inches long (fully erect) and about 4 inches in diameter at its widest. Apparently, there were racehorses put out to stud that weren't hung like Casey, and Casey knew it. His hobby, to put it mildly, was showing off his wonderful endowment to unsuspecting women in department stores in South St. Louis; I suppose he thought that this might elicit their admiration of his wonderous endowment, and might even get him laid (I don't recall that this ever happened, but a man's gotta dream). This regularly brought him to the attention of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the Circuit Attorney of the City of St. Louis (or one of a number of his designated assistants), and the various judges of the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. That meant that Casey, being not only a man of very little brain but even lesser means, would regularly come to the attention of the Public Defender of the City of St. Louis (or one of a number of his designated assistants).

One fall day, one of Casey's demonstrations of his manifest lack of good sense hit the daily double: not only did he expose his Magnificent Member (The Pride of the House of Damous) to an otherwise unoccupied woman in a K-Mart in South St. Louis, he did so right in front of a security camera which was working and which was, at the time, attached to a video recorder, which was also working, with the result that we had something in this particular case that was rare in your average indecent exposure case: honest to gawd photographic evidence. Not only photographic evidence, but moving pictures!

Normally (especially with a client with a record like Casey's), one would probably expect a quick plea, but Casey's assigned public defender was a bit bored (it was a slow week that week), and besides, it isn't every day that one has videotape evidence of an indecent exposure. The appropriate discovery requests were filed, and an appointment was made with the Circuit Attorney's office to actually view the videotaped evidence. So there sat Casey, his assigned public defender, and the assigned Assistant Circuit Attorney, a young, very attractive black woman (she'd been a professional model before entering law school, and her appointment as ACA was her first job out of law school). Thus assembled, the ACA fired up the video player, and we were off and running.

It made for an interesting several minutes of viewing. The victim was browsing the shelves, apparently trying to decide what merchandise to buy. Casey turned the corner into the aisle. He walked behind the victim undid his fly, pulled out the Prodigious Penis, and performed some ministrations. Cockzilla proceeded to come to life, and damned if Casey's endowment wasn't everything that PD office legend said it was (maybe more; we tended to get jaded in the PD's office and tended to downplay our adventures, or our clients' misadventures). With the Magnificent Member all afire with enthusiasm, Casey taps his victim on the shoulder, and she turns around, looks down, and literally screams (whether in horror or surprise I'll leave you to guess...).

A quick glance over at the Assistant Circuit Attorney during the proceedings reveals that she's gaping openmouthed; softly mouthing the words "Oh my God!" sotto voce, and licking her lips (was that the hint of a nipple erection under her blouse?). Realizing she's being watched, she gets flustered (damn, black girls can blush), and stammers one of the best lines ever uttered by counsel in a criminal case in the city of St. Louis:

"Shit, if I knew he was packing that, I'd have charged him with carrying a concealed weapon."

Hmmmm... Moles in Iraq?
Much of the blogosphere has been abuzz about the attacks on Wolfwitz and the Black Hawk in Tikrit over the weekend. Fellow League of Liberals member The Spy Game has an interesting take in this story: IRAQI “MOLES” LEAD TO HELICOPTER, HOTEL ATTACKS?

Things are going to get a lot more interesting over there, methinks.

If true....
this sounds like another data point supporting that age old proposition: no good deed goes unpunished.

According to an MSNBC story, Elizabeth Smart's abductor was a panhandling "street preacher" that they had given work to.

Thought for the Day:
Psalm 2003
Bush is my shepherd, I shall be in want.
He leadeth me beside the still factories,
He maketh me to lie down on park benches,
He restoreth my doubts about the Republican party,
He guideth me onto the paths of unemployment for the party's sake.
I do fear the evildoers, for thou talkst about them constantly.
Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy deficit spending
They do discomfort me.
Thou anointeth me with never-ending debt,
And my savings and assets shall soon be gone.
Surely poverty and hard living shall follow me,
And my jobless children shall dwell in my basement forever.

Anyone who knows me well knows I'm not creative enough to have written this; it's currently floating around the 'net.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I hate when life interferes with my blog reading
From Thursday's Redbird Nation, proof that baseball is indeed them most statistics obsessed sport one can imagine:

When Cabrera homered off Clemens in the first inning, they combined for a World Series record -- biggest age differential between a player who hit a home run and the pitcher who gave it up. Clemens is 20 years and 257 days older than Cabrera -- blowing away the previous record, 16 years, 236 days between Mickey Mantle and Preacher Roe (1953 World Series).

When correctly viewed, anything is lewd. --Tom Lehrer
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo draws attention to the Kay investigation, which shows no Iraqi nuclear program. Nada. Nihil. Nix. None.

The defenders of the White House now seem intent on lowering the bar to the most comical of levels, arguing that Saddam Hussein had not relinquished the “desire” or the “ambition” to have nuclear weapons. But by this standard (viz, Matthew 5:27-30) probably half the married men in America have cheated on their wives with Pam Anderson or Angelina Jolie. So I’m not quite sure what that proves.

The imminent threat, it seems, was that Saddam was lusting in his heart for nukes, not that he was doing anything to get them.

Well, by the appropriate standards, we're all adulterers. Or theives. Or murderers. But when it comes down to waging a "pre-emptive war", lusting for it don't make it so.

Things that make you go "hmmmmmm"....
Steve Gilliard also mentioned this: Selective Service System: Fast Facts--Local Boards. Steve quoted from some document that he didn't give a source for, but which looked like a recruitment brochure. Which raises the obvious question: are we getting the draft machine ready again?

I have a bad feeling about this.....

Well expressed....
From Steve Gilliard, on the joys of hating the Yankees (10/25/03, post titled "Yankees Lose, Yankees Lose":

Hating the Yankees is both fun and easy. I hate the Yankees because they are the worst in sport. Greedy, venal, corrupt. A legacy of thuggish ownership and dishonesty from day one. They've always treated their players like chattel after buying them. The Yankees are so greedy, they started their own network and charge extra for it. Only the Yankees could get away with such naked greed.

Ben Affleck summed it up, the Yankees are nothing more than well-heeled mercenaries. There is success, but no heart, no spirit. Anything quirky or weird is soon banished from Yankeeland.

If you've ever been to a Yankees game and a Mets game, the difference is pretty stark. They may both take place in New York, but that's about it. A Yankees game is usually filled with people who expect to win. The Mets game is filled with people who want to win. The difference is that while Yankee fans may cheer, Mets fans believe. I've felt Shea rocking from the pounding of feet and cheering in a way you'd never feel in Yankee Stadium.

And here I've been obsessing about not wanting to hear Ronan Tynan and "God Bless America" for as long as I live....

Religious divisiveness....
Excellent commentary a few days ago by James Carroll in the Boston Globe:

I KNEW that my God was bigger than his," Lieutenant General William G. Boykin said of his Muslim opponent. "I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol." That and other remarks derogatory of Islam caused a stir last week, especially because the general holds a key position in the war on terrorism. Awkward memories surfaced of President Bush's inadvertent use of the term "crusade" to define that war, and fears broke into the open that the war was, despite disclaimers, a religious war after all.

Boykin's Pentagon superiors did not seem to take offense, but Muslim leaders did, and so did members of Congress. Boykin's remarks can only inflame Arab perceptions. On Friday the general offered a sort of apology.

"I am neither a zealot nor an extremist," he said, "only a soldier who has an abiding faith."

The general's critics are right to deplore the denigration of the faith of Muslims, but the problem goes deeper than a crudely expressed religious chauvinism. In point of fact, the general's remarks do not make him an extremist. It was unfashionable of him to speak aloud the implications of his "abiding faith," but exclusivist claims made for Jesus Christ by most Christians, from Vatican corridors to evangelical revival tents, implicitly insult the religion of others. When Catholics speak of "salvation" only through Jesus, or when Protestants limit "justification" to faith in Jesus, aspersions are cast on the entire non-Christian world.

In the past, the step from such exclusivist theology to contempt for those excluded has been small indeed, and the step from such contempt to open violence has been even smaller. Especially in relation to Islam. Last week's response to General Boykin, however, suggests a new sensitivity to the links between intolerant theology and intolerant behavior.

Carroll's comments get me to thinking about some of the reasons I've rejected conventional religious beliefs.

I've often described my position as atheistic (or atheistic leaning) agnostic: I think the ultimate question of whether a god exists is unanswerable, but if one looks at the universe and human life objectively, there's no evidence to believe in any overriding intelligence or higher power that gives a rat's ass about human beings or the vicissitudes of life on an obscure planet like the Earth.

But there's one respect in which I'm absolutely an atheist: I am convinced as I can be that the Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--are absolutely false, and anyone taking an objective, unbiased look at them will conclude so. I believe this for a number of reasons, which I'm not going to touch on here (perhaps in later posts, as I see fit), but the sentiments expressed by those like General Boykin make for a strong argument against the Christianity of the type believed in by the General.

Basically, I'm struck by the intrinsic contradiction here. Jesus purportedly preached a God who loved all men, who was concerned for each and every one of them, is concerned for them and wants them to be eternally happy. Yet, in order to achieve that happiness, it was necessary for that God to do what is probably the most horrible thing that any parent can do: murder his own son. Yes murder, because it ultimately is a human sacrifice. Does this sound like the will of a loving parent? I keep reminding myself of a quote from an American Catholic turned Buddhist:

"God is good," we were told over and over growing up, yet all we had to do was look around to see some not so good stuff. The single most prominent icon of my youth was the crucifix above the blackboard at the front of every classroom, and in those days, Cathoic crucifixes tended to be very realistic, down to every last nail, every last blood drop, the wide gash in Jesus' side. I mean, God let
that happen to his son, and we were supposed to trust in his goodness?
--Dinty W. Moore

And then, to add insult to injury, this loving God who wants us to be happy forever, conditions that happiness (at least in most versions of Christianity) in some way on accepting Jesus Christ (who may or may not have really existed) as the Son of that God.

Judaism posits a God who selects a special people, and who promises them a land (though he later seemed to renege on that promise after the first century CE, and they had to take it back on their own, though of course the more conservative among both Jews and Christians see God's hand in it). Islam posits that people have to follow the teachings of one particular prophet, and if I recall correctly, the words of that prophet have to be read in the original Arabic in order to constitute the true revelation.

Such exclusivity of God's benevolence in the face of the immense diversity of religious belief and experience in the human animal seems to me to be simply wrong. It seems most likely to me that if there is a God, such an entity can't be personal... can't be something which would have a personal relationship with us, and can't "love" us or be loved by us in any meaningful sense of that term; any God worthy of the term would of necessity be beyond personal. And such a God certainly doesn't play favorites, not in the way that Christians, Jews and Muslims believe he does.

Goes against everything they taught us about leadership...
The tail end of a particular dKos posting caught my attention:

Meanwhile, deplorable conditions for injured soldiers at Ft. Stewart have finally gotten the attention of the Army's top civilian.

      After touring barracks that prompted complaints about miserable living
      conditions for U.S. troops, the acting secretary of the Army vowed to make
      improvements and allocate more money to upgrade the living quarters.

The sudden attention on the soldiers' plight was prompted by media coverage. These people have to be shamed into doing the right thing for our men and women in uniform.

One of the first principles of leadership is that you show concern for the troops. Where is the concern being shown here? That the misAdministration had to be goaded by the media into giving injured and wounded troops decent accomodations goes a long way to explain why there reports of low morale over in Iraq.

I have a bad feeling about this....

Best line I've read today:
From Melanie, the new theologian turned guest blogger at Daily Kos:

I have been marveling over the last year about this: nobody is perfect, but the Bush administration manages to get everything a 180 degrees wrong. It is breathtaking.

The source article is well worth reading, concerning recent developments in the most heavily fortified areas of Baghdad, among other things. Scary how things seem to be going over there.

Thought for the Day:
Atheists are generally demonized much more than sinners who embrace belief (and only get high on God or the emotionalism of revival meetings). If you see faith as a gift, not a choice or an achievement, the villification of nonbelievers seems grossly unfair; but atheists are often condemned by people who believe that God has clearly revealed his Truth, and only moral perversity prevents some from acknowledging it.
--Wendy Kaminer

Saturday, October 25, 2003

All Right!!! All Right!!!!.... The Marlins win....
No more Ronan Tynan singing "God Bless America"!!!!!!!!

Better late than never....
Time to welcome some more members to The League of Liberals:

A hearty welcome to all of you.

Progress. There's no stopping it.
Here's some results of our intervention in Afghanistan: Miss Afghanistan Vida Samadzai.

I know that the "liberation" of Afghani women from the burqua is A Very Good Thing. Still, is this exactly what you had in mind? :-)

More interruptions....
Time for yet another gratuitious plug for my Read o'the Week: Hell for Halliburton: Halliburton, Again and Again and Again--Where will it end?

At least for Bruce Campbell fans. I blogged before that it would be only appropriate for the movie "Bubba Ho-Tep" to be screened in Memphis. Well, either Someone Important reads this blog (yeah, right!) or, more likely, someone else is thinking like me. The 2003 Indie Memphis Film Festival decided to show it as part of this year's festivities. And definitely it's worth seeing, at least for those of you who are Bruce Campbell fans, or those of you who are into quirky horror films. My quick take: if you liked "Evil Dead II", you'll like "Bubba Ho-Tep".

You know the drill by now....
Time for my at least twice daily gratuitious plug for my Read o'the Week: Hell for Halliburton: Halliburton, Again and Again and Again--Where will it end?

Thought for the Day:
I have as much authority as the pope, I just don't have as many people who believe it.
--George Carlin

Friday, October 24, 2003

I wish I had a nickel...
for everyone who's made the obvious joke/comment over this piece of news: Lightning strikes Gibson's Christ.

No, I'm not going to say what it is here. If you can't figure it out on your own, email me. mailto link at the left.

UPDATE: This is my favorite comment over the above piece of news (from the owner of the "God of the Month" mailing list):

I don't know, isn't that just a tad cliche?

How to win friends and influence people....
Well, we're influencing people. Just not exactly the way we want. This just in via Cosmic Iguana: Syria, Long Ruthlessly Secular, Sees Fervent Islamic Resurgence

Gotta admit that President Dipshit's a wonderful recruiter--for the other side.

You should be used to these interruptions now.
Time for my at least twice daily gratuitious plug for my Read o'the Week: Hell for Halliburton: Halliburton, Again and Again and Again--Where will it end?

Good news from home
Forest Park renovation almost complete.

And between being a native St. Louisan and a Little Bighorn buff, I should have known this:

Just plenty of visible nips and tucks of a place that was showing its age, having been dedicated June 24, 1876 -- the same day Lt. Col. George Custer was massing his troops at Montana's Little Big Horn before they were wiped out by warriors led by Crazy Horse.

There may be hope for the Republic yet....
We have a few soldiers who have a brain and aren't afraid to use it:

Talbott, while admitting that his sources of news have been reduced to "The Stars and Stripes, Maxim and Hustler," questions the shifting reasons for our invasion of the Middle Eastern country.

If Iraq was funding terrorists, he wonders, "Why didn't we do Saudi Arabia and Syria, too? And if that was valid enough reason, then why did the focus so suddenly shift to weapons of mass destruction?"

Why, if WMD were the focus, he asks, did the United States secure the oil fields but not the nuclear-research facilities?

Why did the focus then shift a third time to freeing the people of Iraq?

"Doesn't it seem strange to anyone that we haven't had one constant reason for starting a war?"

Talbott goes on to say that he did help destroy "caches of mortar rounds, Iraqi mortar rounds. Funny thing, though, was that there were plenty of American-made ones in there. They were just like the ones my friends were shooting at Iraqis back in April. 'U.S.' stenciled on the cardboard packing tube."

And what exactly, Talbott asks, is the president's stand on veterans' benefits?

"The way I understand it," he writes, "the president is either trying to or already has made cuts in the benefits available to veterans. Huh? We've been fighting in Afghanistan for two years; a quarter of a million Americans on the Iraqi front. Who knows what's next, and he wants to cut veterans' benefits.

"There is a guy in my company who lost his leg up to the knee, his eyesight, and some of his face doing his commander in chief's bidding. Now the very man who sent this kid--he couldn't even legally drink--to be mutilated and disabled for the rest of his life wants to scale back his entitlements to compensation."

He ends the letter by saying that his three and one-half years in the Army have made him "numb to watching people hung out to dry." What really bothers him, he says, was a photo he saw in The Stars and Stripes of a sign at a gas station in the States showing gasoline selling for $2.07 a gallon.

"Didn't we secure the oil fields? Aren't we a capitalist country anymore? Can't we sidestep OPEC now? Can't we at least, somewhere in the midst of deception, half-truths and outright lies, catch an honest break?

"If we're going to fight for a cause that isn't known, get fired on by our own weapons, and get screwed out of our benefits, then at least for God's sake give us something concrete to say we fought for--even if it's as trivial as being able to fill our gas tanks for 98 cents a gallon."

Talbott, who was promoted from corporal to sergeant since we last heard from him in June, adds this postscript: "If it's not evident, a lot of the folks over here are starting to get pretty damn bitter, and with good reason."

I'm really getting to the point where I think....
that if you're stupid enough to read HTML email you deserve to have your computer explode in your face. La Reg today reports a "virus"/worm/Trojan/whatever (I'm fast losing my ability to distinguish between them all....) called Flea may soon be out and about:

A new virus called Flea is on the loose. The Visual Basic Script worm disguises itself as the ‘signature file’ in HTML-formatted mail.

Flea can execute automatically when users open HTML formatted emails in Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express. Unlike most Windows nasties, the bug does not depend on a user opening an infectious file to do its mischief, Finnish AV vendor F-Secure warns.

Pardon me while I gloat. I read my email in plain text (even in Outlook; it's a simple registry hack, and you can find it in the MS Knowledge Base), as God intended. You STUPID FUCKING IDIOTS who insist on HTML email deserve whatever you get.

Ok. I'm all better again.

I've been wondering....
what was going to happen when Governator Ah-nuld realizes that real life doesn't move according to a script. CalPundit gives us a peek, and it ain't a pretty sight. (Gracias to South Knox Bubba for mentioning this...)

Some food for thought...
Daily Kos has started running one "Melanie", a guest blogger from Washington, DC who's pursuing a masters in theology from Washington Theological Union. She makes an interesting point here:

My blogtime (and there is a lot of it while I'm unemployed) is spent in two parts of the Blogosphere: the liberal politics part, and the liberal religious part. Many, many other religious liberals have complained to me that the first part devotes a fair amount of energy to dissing or openly denigrating the second part. That's been my experience, too, and I was on the receiving end of a flame war at Atrios the other night as a result, not a pleasant experience.

Secular liberals, you need to get a clue: there are lots of deeply religious people out here who reliably pull the lever in the voting booth for the straight D ticket. We are Christian evangelicals and Main Line Protestants and Catholics like me, from the Dorothy Day-Peter Maurin-Oscar Romero wing of the Church. We are Jews and Muslims and Sikhs and Buddhists and Jains, pagans, Hindus and, yes, by God, there are even Zoroastrian Democrats in this country. When you make light of religion, you wound a part of us which is very important to us. Making light .... hmm, that's very diplomatic, which I rarely am. What we usually get are outright insults.

I have to confess a bit of suprise at her comment about the beating she's received on the (politically) liberal wing of the blogosphere; I thought most of us had enough sense to make common cause with anyone who believes (politically) as we do, regardless of their other personality quirks (and as an atheistically inclined agnostic, I tend to view both my lack of belief and the ability of my theistically inclined friends to believe as personality quirks). But then, I've always tended to agree with Mark Twain:

All I need to know is that a man is a member of the human race. That's bad enough for me.

Expectations lead to disappointments. That's why I try not to have any. --Brisco County, Jr.
That explains why the Bush misAdministration is trying to lower theirs. This from Paul Krugman:

John Snow, the Treasury secretary, told The Times of London on Monday that he expected the U.S. economy to add two million jobs before the next election — that is, almost 200,000 per month. His forecast was higher than those of most independent analysts; nothing in the data suggests that jobs are being created at that rate. (New claims for unemployment insurance are running at slightly less than 400,000 a week, the number that corresponds to zero job growth. If jobs were being created as rapidly as Mr. Snow forecasts, the new claims number would be closer to 300,000.)

Still, Mr. Snow may get lucky, and the job market may pick up. But his prediction was a huge climb-down from administration predictions earlier this year, when the White House insisted that it expected the economy to add more than five million jobs by next November.

And even if Mr. Snow's forecast comes true, that won't vindicate the administration's economic policy. In fact, while private analysts are criticizing Mr. Snow for being overly optimistic, I think the stronger criticism is that he's trying to lower the bar: to define as success a performance that, even if it materializes, should really be considered a dismal failure.

Bear in mind that the payroll employment figure right now is down 2.6 million compared with what it was when George W. Bush took office. So Mr. Snow is predicting that his boss will be the first occupant of the White House since Herbert Hoover to end a term with fewer jobs available than when he started. This is what he calls success?

Bear in mind also that just increasing the number of jobs isn't good enough. If we want to improve the dismal prospects of job seekers — currently, 75 percent of those who lose jobs still haven't found new jobs when their unemployment benefits run out — the number of jobs must grow faster than the number of people who want to work. Indeed, because the working-age population of the United States is steadily growing, the economy must add about 130,000 jobs each month just to prevent the labor market from deteriorating.

Steve Gilliard makes some perceptive comments on Krugman's column, too (scroll down to Steve's 10/24 entry titled "Why there are no jobs":

We're talking not only long term unemployed, but massive underemployment as well. There's a mythology in America that any job is a good job, well, economically, that's simply not true.

It is a tremendous waste of resources to have a, let's say University of Virginia trained economics major selling hardware at Home Depot. The state has invested millions in that person's education, and having them spend a year or two in retail has two negative effects. One, it reduces the taxable income of that person and two, it has a downward effect on employment. Every college graduate underemployed in a service job takes a job a high school graduate cannot get, thus lowering their income.

The current unemployment is not just sector-based, but across the board. Technology employment is being shifted overseas to countries who's ultimate political aims may well pose a challenge to the US. Shifting so much technology development to India, has had a pernicious effect on not only our economy, but on our security. What day do we find out Indian companies are not only stealing our technology, but funnelling it and the information held in call centers to Indian intelligence. When does a Los Alamos scientist get brought to a meeting with his medical records waved in his face by an Indian intelligence officer? When is software stolen by an Indian company and sold, knowing that decades of litigation await any claimant?

The problem is not just unemployment, but a net loss of jobs which are not coming back. This despite the fact that the US is only partially wired. There is still a massive need for technological development in schools, health care, government, and we're making it impossible for Americans to complete that revolution. If you keep shipping the tech work to India, who's going to build America's technological infrastructure?

If it was just unemployment, that would be understandable. But it's not. It's permanent job loss and little real chance of replacing them. Which is why Wal-Mart can hire illegals and abuse their workers. If you lose a job at Wal-Mart, the next stop is welfare.

The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drains. --Captain Montgomery Scott
From La Reg, the heartwarming story of how The Memory Hole got past a little DoJ censorship:

A government watchdog group Wednesday accused the Justice Department of improperly censoring portions of a key report on internal workplace diversity, after online activists successfully unmasked the blacked-out portions of an electronic copy of the document.

The 186-page report was released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act last week and posted to Justice Department's website in Adobe's "Portable Document File" (PDF) format. But the department blacked out vast portions of the document's text, citing an exemption to FOIA that permits agencies to keep internal policy deliberations private.

The text didn't stay concealed for long. On Tuesday a website called the Memory Hole, dedicated to preserving endangered documents, published a complete version of the report, with the opaque black rectangles that once covered half of it completely removed. Memory Hole publisher Russ Kick won't say how he unmasked it, but experimentation shows that the concealed text could be selected and copied using nothing more than Adobe's free Acrobat Reader. Once copied, the text is easily pasted into another document and read.

Will this make InstaShill... uh, InstaPundit, shut up about how nicely the war is going?
Probably not. But it's nice to feel personally vindicated. From Fred Kaplan:

Donald Rumsfeld's war-on-terror memo—which was leaked to USA Today on Wednesday and picked up by the rest of the media, for the most part with a shrug, on Thursday—may be the most important, even stunning official document yet to come out of this war.

It puts the lie to the Bush administration's PR campaign that postwar Iraq is progressing nicely and that the media are exaggerating the setbacks. (If the media are exaggerating, this memo indicates, then so, too, is Secretary Rumsfeld.) It reads eerily like some internal mid-'60s document from The Pentagon Papers that spelled out how badly things were going in Vietnam (just as President Lyndon B. Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, were publicly proclaiming tunnel light and victories). To use a phrase coined during LBJ's tenure to describe the ever-widening fissure between rhetoric and reality, Rumsfeld's memo marks the first unconcealable eruption of a "credibility gap" in the wartime presidency of George W. Bush.


What is being stated here can be summed up as follows: We'll probably win the battle for Afghanistan and Iraq (or, more precisely, it's "pretty clear" we "can win" it, "in one way or another" after "a long, hard slog"), but we're losing the struggle for hearts and minds in the broader war against terrorism. Not only that, we don't know how to measure winning or losing, we don't have a plan for winning it, we don't know how to fashion a plan, and the bureaucratic agencies put in charge of waging this war and drawing up these plans may be inherently incapable of doing so.

UPDATE: The Rumsfeld memo is the topic of today's Joe Conanson's Journal in Salon, too. Here it's premium content; you'll need to view a short ad to get a "day pass". I think it's worth it.

Thank God I'm not the only one...
I've blogged about this recently; basically I've gotten supremely sick of hearing Ronan Tynan singing "God Bless America" at the seventh inning stretch of the postseason series games in New York (I'll go even farther, and say I've gotten completely sick of hearing "God Bless America" being sung at the seventh inning stretch of baseball games, period, and I'm just about 2.5 microns away from getting sick of hearing "God Bless America" being sung anywhere, anytime, by anybody). While reading the Slate series "Two Baseball Nuts on the World Series", I was delighted to read this (by Charles P. Pierce):

Apropos of nothing, and I would hate to find John Ashcroft in my vestibule for saying this, but hasn't the time passed for the extended patriotic pageants? I think it's time for Challenger the Eagle to go back to his day job of stealing salmon from more hardworking raptors, and that business of using Ronan Tynan's In-a-gadda-da-vida take on "God Bless America" to ice the opposing pitcher at Yankee Stadium is cheap tactics more than it is sentimentality. Given the daily events abroad, I think a little reflective modesty might not be out of bounds right now.

Amen, Charles. Amen.

And I'm glad to see that Pierce's correspondent for this week's series, Allen Barra, is in agreement with him:

Yes, I've had about enough of the seventh-inning patriotism, even when it pours forth from the golden throat of David Cassidy—couldn't they get Pavarotti for last night's game?—and football halftime shows that look like they were staged for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I think everyone's afraid to be the first person to suggest pulling the plug on this nonsense.

Hard cases make bad law...
And also in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick has a good discussion of the Terri Schiavo case.

It's a story too sad for Jerry Springer. A coma patient's family feuding with her spouse; a million-dollar malpractice settlement flushed away on attorney's fees; lawyers acting as media specialists; a girlfriend; a love child; and Jeb Bush.

The battle over Terri Schiavo's life and death has gone thermonuclear. Days after Gov. Bush ordered her feeding to tube be reinserted over the wishes of her husband and the findings of the courts, her family's misery has become a national spectacle. Everything about the case is shocking. The media manipulation by Schiavo's family and attorneys, the abuse allegations against her husband—who may or may not have misspent a million-dollar malpractice settlement and who appears rather creepily eager to trade in his wife for his pregnant girlfriend and their child; and the hubris of Florida Gov. Bush and the Republican Legislature.

More on the "hating Bush" question...
Michael Kinsley, in Slate, has a good discussion of why liberals don't just disagree with Dumbya: Taking Bush personally. The context is a discussion of Bush's "support" of stem-cell research:

None of this matters if you believe that a microscopic embryo is a human being with the same human rights as you and me. George W. Bush claims to believe that, and you have to believe something like that to justify your opposition to stem-cell research. But Bush cannot possibly believe that embryos are full human beings, or he would surely oppose modern fertility procedures that create and destroy many embryos for each baby they bring into the world. Bush does not oppose modern fertility treatments. He even praised them in his anti-stem-cell speech.

It's not a complicated point. If stem-cell research is morally questionable, the procedures used in fertility clinics are worse. You cannot logically outlaw the one and praise the other. And surely logical coherence is a measure of moral sincerity.

If he's got both his facts and his logic wrong—and he has—Bush's alleged moral anguish on this subject is unimpressive. In fact, it is insulting to the people (including me) whose lives could be saved or redeemed by the medical breakthroughs Bush's stem-cell policy is preventing.

This is not a policy disagreement. Or rather, it is not only a policy disagreement. If the president is not a complete moron—and he probably is not—he is a hardened cynic, staging moral anguish he does not feel, pandering to people he cannot possibly agree with, and sacrificing the future of many American citizens for short-term political advantage.

Is that a good enough reason to dislike him personally?

Thought for the Day:
If you put garbage in a computer nothing comes out but garbage. But this garbage, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow enobled and none dare criticize it.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

A hearty welcome....
To new League of Liberals members:

With the addition of MadKane/Dubya's Daily Diary, we have at least two recovering lawyers that I know of in the League (that would be Madeleine Kane and me; MadKane and Dubya's Daily Diary are both blogs by humorist Madeleine Begun Kane). Though Madeleine should have no fear; I have nowhere near her talent at humor. I'll just stick to network administration.

But while I'm at it, I'll throw in another gratuitious plug for my Read o'the Week: Hell for Halliburton: Halliburton, Again and Again and Again--Where will it end?

Cognitive dissonance?
From Billmon tonight:

The Christian Thing to Do

The conservative attack machine is going to have a bit of trouble sliming these guys. They've got a name brand:

      A leading British humanitarian organization, Christian Aid, presented a briefing
      paper asserting that $4 billion in oil revenues and seized Iraqi assets earmarked
      for Iraq's reconstruction had "disappeared into opaque bank accounts"
      administered by the Coalition Provision Authority.

      The Christian Aid accusation was circulated widely here, and European diplomats
      said that it reflected a definite questioning among many government officials
      who had come to Madrid.

I mean, "filthy Christian Saddam lovers" doesn't have quite the right ring to it, now does it?

Didn't see the Series game last night....
so I don't know who yesterday's celebrity phone interview was, but tonight Fox had a brief respite from their lack of sense (interviewing NFL players), and decided to call Bob "Mr. Baseball" Uecker. Thank Ghod; he has something to do with baseball.

Oh god, not again....
You can trust Microsoft to be Microsoft. Personally, I'd shoot both Gates and Ballmer, but that's not nearly the long and painful death those two rat bastards deserve. This from Michael Robertson's "Michael's Minutes": The World's Most Dangerous Virus

Imagine if a computer virus emerged that secretly attached itself to one of the most popular software programs ever. Imagine if the largest media outlets unwittingly praised this secret pairing, encouraging millions of people to install it. Imagine if none of the major antivirus programs would detect it. Imagine if once installed, it could alter anything on your computer without your consent or knowledge. Imagine if the virus was at the control of a greedy entity that has repeatedly trampled on consumers and smaller companies to advance its corporate agenda. Imagine if it could force everyone who wanted to communicate with you to also carry the virus so it would insidiously spread person to person. Sound like a scary sci-fi plot? It's not science fiction. This week MO3 will be released on the world. Here's how to detect it in your neighborhood and what you can do to protect yourself:

The Trojan Horse

Press outlets will blanket the world with stories about Microsoft Office 2003. Most articles will tout seemingly innocuous features and feel good quotes from Microsoft like "this is our most important product release ever." Unfortunately the press won't talk about the dangerous software buried inside this release - MO3. This code will give Microsoft the ability to change anything on your computer at anytime they wish with no notification to you.

The Security Ploy

Post 9/11, few people question actions taken under the guise of "improved security" and this is how MO3 will be foisted onto computer users - as a feature to 'make you safer.' Computer users have understandably tired of the near daily worm and virus warnings, as well as the time-consuming patch process due to Microsoft's lax software standards and its focusing not on building secure products, but products that secure its monopoly market positions. To improve the predicament which they've created, Microsoft is forcing consumers to accept MO3 embedded into every computer. Listen closely and you'll hear Microsoft mouth pieces speak of "turning software into a service" which really means they will be changing the software on your computer whenever they feel like it. They will slowly limit your ability to run non-Microsoft software. They will restrict choices on your computer to only those products they approve. They will make changes which cripple other software programs or reduce their ability to interoperate with your computer so you will be forced to use exclusively Microsoft approved products.

Fascinating article...
from James Zogby, of the Zogby polling organization: How the Iraq poll results were manipulated. And Zogby ought to know; they were his poll results that the misAdministration spun...

There are important lessons in all of this. Lessons policy makers ought to heed if they are to help Iraq move forward. What the Iraqi people appear to be telling us is that they have hope for the future, but they want the help of their neighbors more than that of the US.

That may not be what Washington wants to hear, but it ought to listen nevertheless. Because if policy makers continue to bend the data to meet their desired policy, then this hole they are digging will only get deeper.

That's it; I think these mofos should be lined up against the wall and shot when the revolution comes...
From Ed Foster's Gripe Line: Use of Stots TemplateMaster Woodworking Tool Limited to One Shop--not just one shop, but apparently just one person in that shop.

“Shrinkwrap licenses are showing up everywhere,” a reader recently wrote. “I just bought a jig for making dovetailing jigs -- this is woodworker talk if it's unfamiliar to you. The master jig contained a license that says I've licensed the master jig, not bought it. The license says I can't lend or sell the master, and furthermore I can't lend or sell the jigs I make with the master.”

The reader was referring to Stots Corporation of Harrods Creek, KY, and the user agreement for its TemplateMaster product. Sure enough, the Stots license says TemplateMaster may be used “in only one shop by the original purchaser only” and that “you may not allow individuals that did not purchase the original Product (to) use the Product or any templates produced using the Product…”

A perceptive GripeLine reader pointed out:

So in other words, say we have a shop that is large enough to have a front office. Joe Worker out in the shop says he needs one, so Frank Purchaser goes out and buys the jig. Whoops! Frank Purchaser (being the bloke that actually bought the jig) is now the only one allowed to use it, but lo and behold, Frank is an accountant, not a woodworker. So much for THAT investment...

This strikes me as A Good Cause....
but then again I am a whiny ass liberal....

Join the NRA Blacklist

Molly Ivins, redux....
Molly addresses the issue of "Bush hating" again.

Did you know that it is quite possible not to hate someone and at the same time notice that their policies are disastrous for people in this country? Quite a thought, isn't it? Grown-ups can actually do that -- can think a policy is disastrous without hating the person behind it. Lyndon B. Johnson comes to mind -- a great president who was disastrously wrong about Vietnam.


I would like to remind all the lock-step conservatives that there is a difference between hatred and anger. What you are looking at in this country is not hatred of Bush -- a perfectly affable guy -- but a growing anger.

Beware the anger of the legions left too long in Iraq without enough help; of the unemployed; of the uninsured; of those who were left without workers' comp; of those who have lost health insurance, overtime, the right to organize.

Beware the anger of those whose pensions and savings are gone because of Bush pals like "Kenny Boy" Lay. Beware the anger of middle-class investors in mutual funds; the anger of those who see the big rich take their money offshore so they won't have to pay taxes, those who watch the corporations get special tax breaks for exporting jobs abroad; the anger of those who are shunted aside while the CEOs of their companies make more than a hundred million.

You don't have to be hateful to have bad policies. You just have to be wrong.

Go read the whole thing. Yes, it's that good--as is most of what Molly writes.

Another "I don't know whether to laugh or cry" item....

However, this is definitely a "laugh" item:
FOX NEWS DECLARES BUSH WINNER OF 2004 ELECTION: Printer-antagonistic version

As the old saying goes....
the problem with humanity is that half the population is below median intelligence. I get this from one of my mail lists:

The next time you're tempted to consider your fellow man with tolerance and compassion, or to put down some cranky misanthrope for using a term like "sheeple," check your inbox for the day's ration of spam and then consider that a survey has found that as much as ONE THIRD of people who get spam reply to it, asking for more information, and a whopping seven per cent actually buy stuff from spammers:

I think it's time for a little jihad here...

Today's Doctor Science Question o'the Day:
Dear Doctor Science,
If the universe is constantly expanding, why does it always take me exactly 26 minutes to walk to work every day?
-- Michael Lossau from Alton, Illinois

You've neglected to factor in the Hubble Constant, which is the number of years the Hubble Telescope functioned as it was intended, divided by the number of years it limped along with an unfocused mirror. This number is also known as the NASA confidence rating, which varies according to public whim and the energy NASA puts into public relations. Face it, this whole manned space program is a public relations ploy rather than a legitimate scientific enterprise. If Science were the goal, then we'd be launching twenty robotic space probes for every Space Shuttle we hurl into the cosmos, crossing our fingers and hoping it comes back safely. So stop your whining and just be grateful you have a job at all.

Thought for the Day:
"Did you sleep well?"
"No, I made a couple of mistakes."
--Steven Wright

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Part of my childhood falls...
Part of Hampton Village coming down.

Damn, this must have led to a "Duh!" moment among the investigating officers...
I blogged this incident earlier, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch follows up: Pilot of boat in fatal crash was drunk, investigators say.

The Festus man who investigators said was driving a boat that crashed into a lock and dam on the Mississippi River near Alton last month, killing four, was drunk at the time, a coroner's jury was told at an inquest Wednesday.

Toxicology tests determined that the man, Scott Edwards, 39, had a blood alcohol content of .188, more than twice the legal limit.

Bob Somerby is doing his usual incomparable job...
in today's Daily Howler. An excerpt:

And what happens to your public discourse when its watchdogs fall asleep? In a phrase, Things fall apart. Your discourse is left to a striving class—to a class which is willing to do and say anything in pursuit of its crackpot agendas. General Strangelove comes out to play—and pundits pretend that his statements make sense. And your discourse is handed to Jonah Goldberg, typing the latest scripted cant in this morning’s Washington Times:

      GOLDBERG: Jimmy Carter never used the word “malaise” in his “malaise speech.” Abraham Lincoln
      never said, “God must have loved the common people, he made so many of them.”

      And George W. Bush never said that the threat from Iraq was “imminent.”

      He never said it. Seriously. Not once.

You’ve read this cant a thousand times; people like Goldberg type what they’re handed. But Goldberg’s claim is complete, utter nonsense—not that Baker’s class will ever know.

Did President Bush ever say that the threat from Iraq was “imminent?” Goldberg puts the word inside quotes, and peddles his script to his readers. But did Bush ever say that the threat was imminent? If you speak English, he certainly did. For example, in his seminal speech of October 7, 2002, President Bush said this:

      BUSH: Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could
      come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

According to Bush, the U.S. faced “clear evidence of peril.” In the face of that clear evidence, we “couldn’t wait for the final proof”—for what might be a nuclear attack! Jonah Goldberg will type what he’s told. But whatever you think of Bush’s war in Iraq, for those who speak the English language, what Bush said in that speech is quite clear. There wasn’t a bit of time to waste. And yes, Jonah, those words mean “imminent.”

Another brief commercial interruption:
The game is afoot and the League of Liberals has been challenged to do battle against the larger Blogger Alliance (83 members) and Axis of Naughty (24 members). If you have friends who blog and who will vote ask them to join. We need to strengthen our numbers.

Liberal League Launches
Current vote, links, and visits information

Hell for Halliburton: entry Halliburton Again - and again - and again has been entered in the TTLB New Web Log Showcase.

League of Liberals (237) is now a Large Mammal on the Ecosystem.
Adding links to the League of Liberals on your blog will move us up the Ecosystem.

We need to get as close to 100% participation from The League of Liberals as possible to become the reigning sponsors of the New Weblog Showcase next week. Be sure to use the URL Link as indicated above somewhere on your blog this week.
Multiple links appear to count.

This link TTLB Hell for Halliburton votes will display the current votes from our membership.

Hmmmm... was this after SexEd class?
From the Beeb: Pupils took Viagra in lunch break.

When I was in college, I had a girlfriend (more a friend that was a girl, but the time we were intimate was the best thirty-five seconds of my life to that point ;-) ) who had spent some time as an exchange student in England, and she told me that the English educational system was way ahead of the U.S one. Damn, I'm beginning to believe it.

Sad, sad, sad.....
This from The New York Times via TalkLeft: U.S. Erecting a Solid Prison at Guantánamo for Long Term

Has the misAdministration no shame? Why do they want a permanent facility at Gitmo?

None of the detainees sentenced to prison terms or execution could be taken into the United States to serve their sentences because upon arrival, they would immediately gain new rights and avenues to challenge their detentions. Officials chose Guantánamo as a location where United States constitutional protections would not apply, and two federal courts have agreed that the naval base here is not legally part of the United States.

Hmmmmmm... can I clear a week from my calendar?
Fellow Liberal Leaguer blunted on reality directs my attention to this: The Slacktivist reviews the first 3 pages of Left Behind (that descriptive link phrase courtesy of CalPundit). Unfortunately, as CalPundit points out, the Slacktivist seems to be reviewing the book 2-3 pages at a time. If the subsequent installments of the review are as hilarious as this first one, I want to read it all, but I don't know if I can clear enough time from my schedule to get it all in.

Should the Slactivist get a prize for some sort of demented genius? At the rate this is going it's going to be the first book review that's longer than the book being reviewed.

Anyway, blunted on reality mentions the Left Behind review as a way of introducing us to some "Wackiness in Blogland", namely "Christina Blogs for Jesus". Christina introduces herself and her blog thusly:

Hi my name is Christina and I am a 14 year old home school student and I am going to blog for our lord and savior Jesus Christ since he is in heaven and there is no internet in heaven since internet is mostly filthy porn and athiest places that dont get into heaven.

Damn. All I can say (paraphrasing Mark Twain) is if there is no internet in heaven I most assuredly won't remain there. But with company like Christina, I don't really want to go.

(Of course, when Christina grows up a bit, goes into her adolescent rebellion phase, gets laid, and gets drunk and/or stoned, she'll probably be much better company, so I really should cut her a bit more slack.)

Motto of the Week:
From fellow League of Liberals charter member Cosmic Iguana:

Bush 04: He Put the Mess in Mesopotamia

My favorite New Read:
Fellow League of Liberals charter member Hell for Halliburton gets off to a bangup start. I'll be keeping my eyes on this one.

Apropos the John Allen Muhammad trial...
Dahlia Lithwick has a good take:

Yesterday, accused D.C. beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad stunned the courtroom and his defense team by seeking and obtaining eleventh-hour permission to fire his court-appointed trial counsel and represent himself in his capital trial. After a very brief colloquy, during which he established Muhammad's educational level, lack of trial experience, and understanding of the charges against him, Circuit Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. granted the defendant's request and allowed him to deliver a rambling 22 minute opening statement which was about as legally compelling as a Lewis Carroll poem. Muhammad is now on his own—free to misunderstand the nuances of criminal procedure; free to be baffled by the rules of
evidence; free to miss possible issues for appeal and free to fail to introduce mitigating evidence.

Muhammad is free, in short, to assist the state in killing him—ironic in a country that prohibits suicide.

Having spent a portion of my adult life in the Philippines...
it interested me to learn that President Codpiece is now taken with analogizing the reconstruction of Iraq to the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. Not that it makes any sense:

The comparison between Iraq and the Philippines may be more accurate than the one between Iraq and West Germany, but it is hardly more comforting. In fact, it is so discomfiting—it implies such a dismal forecast for America's occupation in Iraq over the next several years (for that matter, the next few decades)—that it's hard to imagine Bush would have made such a remark if he'd understood its full implications.

It is true, as Bush noted, that the Filipinos endured 300 years of Spanish rule and that they achieved independence in 1946. But Spain ended its rule in 1898. What happened during the 48-year unmentioned interregnum? Nothing pleasant, if the point of the inquiry is to seek parallels with Iraq after Saddam.


There is another unfortunate aspect to the Philippines parallel. Much of the resistance was led by "Moors"—i.e., Muslims. American politicians whipped up support for the war by painting it as a Christian crusade. President William McKinley's official proclamation ending the Spanish-American War of 1898 declared his goal in the Philippines as one of "benevolent assimilation." (The problem was that many Filipinos didn't want to be assimilated.) McKinley later told a group of Methodist missionaries how he formulated this goal:

      I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And
      one night late it came to me this way … that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all
      and to educate the Filipinos and uplift them and civilize and Christianize them.

Sen. Albert Beveridge reinforced the theme, saying:

      God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for
      nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. … He has made us adepts in
      government that we may administer government among savages and senile people.

The notion spread through popular culture. Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "The White Man's Burden" was subtitled, "The United States and the Philippine Islands."

And this one resonates with me, too...
This is from the same Slate dialogue as today's "Thought for the Day":

As for the play-by-play dudes, aren't they all named Buck, Brennaman, Caray, or Albert? God, I love living in a meritocracy.
--Charles P. Pierce

Thought for the Day:
It's that time of year when newspaper columnists and radio talk show hosts start asking the question, "Does the World Series mean what it used to?" Of course, it doesn't, or at least not what it meant when I was in grade school and the nuns switched on the World Series because they were all secretly in love with Sandy Koufax.

A large part of this is due to the phenomenon that none of us have completely come to terms with, namely the marginalization of American sports. We have more people watching more different sports, more overlapping seasons, and fewer young people watching any sports.

But with baseball, I think there's another factor involved. Back when almost all the teams were in the northeastern part of the country with three or four in the Midwest, the World Series seemed to be more of a national sporting event. Most parts of the country didn't have a major league team near them, and they selected a team to root for based sometimes on minor league affiliation or sometimes on a special association with a star player. For instance, when I was out in Texas and Oklahoma as a kid, I remember people in pickups glued to their truck radios because Mickey Mantle was in the World Series.

In the age of expansion, though, nearly everybody has a team near them, and they follow those teams in the playoffs, if they make the playoffs at all. It's been my experience that a lot of fans lose interest as soon as their team loses. My friends in the Oakland area were devastated by the A's loss to the Red Sox, and a lot of them simply stopped paying attention. I imagine it's that way in New England, too. I know a lot of Red Sox fans will tune in just to see the Yankees lose, but it certainly can't be as many people who would have tuned in to see the Red Sox win.
--Allen Barra

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

From The Onion this week:
Limbaugh Says Drug Addiction A Remnant Of Clinton Administration
WEST PALM BEACH, FL—Frankly discussing his addiction to painkillers, conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience Monday that his abuse of OxyContin was a "remnant of the anything-goes ideology of the Clinton Administration." "Friends, all I can say is 'I told you so,'" said Limbaugh, from an undisclosed drug-treatment facility. "Were it not for Bill Clinton's loose policies on drug offenders and his rampant immorality, I would not have found myself in this predicament." Limbaugh added that he's staying at a rehab center created by the tax-and-spend liberals.

My vote for best Ah-nuld commentary:
From Emil Guillermo in

In the meantime, let's understand what happened on Oct. 7.

We didn't elect a governor. We elected a prom king.

Bonus Quote o'the Day:
From Gregg Easterbrook (via Madeleine Begun Kane's Notables Weblog, since the link to Easterbrook's TNR blog is currently down):

Given the George W. Bush mega-deficits, perhaps the Pledge of Allegiance phrase should be altered to, "One nation, under funded."

Damn, if I were still Catholic this would scare the piss out of me.
According to the New York Times the Pope has formally raised his newest selections to the College of Cardinals. And the article reporting this notes:

Today's ceremony brought to 194 the number of active members of the College of Cardinals, which assists the pope in the government of the church. Only 135 of them are under age 80 and thus eligible to vote. Of those 135, John Paul has named all but five.

Goodbye, Vatican II. We hardly knew ye....

So did Fox Sports sell out, or just go psychotic?
Why in Gawd's name did Fox intersperse baseball imagery with scenes from the soon-to-be-released flick "Master and Commander" in the opening to tonight's World Series game? What in the name of the Great Googly Moogly does "M and C" have to in common with baseball, besides (maybe) obscene amounts of money?

I want to know how much Fox Sports got for the plug. Of course, "M and C" is a 20th Century Fox production, so it's basically a transfer from one pocket to the other.

"The guy who invented the saying 'Let the buyer beware' was probably bleeding from the ass." --George Carlin
As usual, the consumer gets screwed. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Wireless providers collect millions in portability fees.

Wireless phone companies have collected $629 million in fees since January 2002 for installing number-portability technology, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit group in Washington that studies ethics-related issues.

The fees aren't illegal, but they rankle consumers who can't yet take their numbers with them when they change wireless providers. That's about to change; the Federal Communications Commission's deadline for number portability is Nov. 24.

The fees, often lumped with charges for enhanced 911 service and telephone-number pooling, ranged from nothing to $1.75 a month at 10 companies surveyed by the center. The study included all the companies that provide service here, but some declined to give the information.

Bob Williams, a staff member with the group in Washington, said it found "no rhyme or reason" for how the fees or the cost estimates for installing the technology were determined.

Billmon has an excellent article...
on income inequality in the U.S. Go read the whole thing (it includes some enlightening graphs which I won't include here).

Last week the Wall Street Journal ran a piece giving the filthy rich full credit -- well, the lion's share of the credit -- for our glorious economic recovery. It seems that even as I write, hordes of affluent U.S. consumers are out buying Rolex watches, scarfing down gourmet meals, test driving Porsches and in general doing their patriotic bit to crank up the GDP.


Even at today's prices, $93,000 will buy you a pretty decent selection of Rolexes. Add in the fruits of a stock market rebound, plus the appreciating value of that suburban McMansion, and it's easy to see why the wealthiest 1% is in a mood to party.

Now as far as I can tell, the Journal writer's attitude towards this social trend was completely value neutral. This was a "good news" story: The rich are spending their humongous tax cuts, which is pushing up sales of luxury goods, which is boosting GDP. And boosting GDP, as we all know, is a good thing -- the be-all and end-all of human activity on this planet. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Only socialists and other feeble-minded dinosaurs worry about the how much bigger the yachts are compared to the row boats.

But looking at the economic trends of the past twenty years, and extrapolating them into the future just a bit, I'm not sure the Journal's value-neutral approach is going to be politically sustainable for much longer. The trend towards widening income inequality -- a vivid feature of the U.S. economy since the early '70s -- is starting to pose a potential threat to the stability of the system. Middle America is feeling the bite of diminished expectations, even as the ultra wealthy reap the benefits of Reaganomics II. Willy Loman is getting a little ticked off at the boss. Eventually, attention will have to be paid.

As always, the key is whether the system can generate enough growth for enough of the benefits to trickle down to Willy's level. This is what happened the last time Middle America felt unfairly squeezed, back in the early '90s. The Clinton combination of low unemployment and low inflation resulted in several years of relatively fat income gains in the middle, and even at the bottom, of the economic pyramid. The trend towards income inequality briefly leveled off.

But it's not clear the same rabbit can be pulled from the same hat this time around. The latest available data -- for 2000 and 2001 -- shows the trend towards greater inequality has accelerated again (not surprising, given the policies of a GOP-controlled government.) Job growth has stalled, leaving the unemployment rate well above the "natural" non-deflationary rate. This is putting downward pressure on cash wages. Meanwhile, soaring health care costs are gobbling up much of the gains from rising labor productivity -- further discouraging employers from hiring.

The result: a middle class squeeze, and a looming political shitstorm for somebody, although who that somebody might be is not entirely clear.

Republicans fear Gephardt the most?
I don't believe it..... Come on. The man was my Congressman for most of my life. He's another native St. Louisan. And even I can't get excited about the prospect of "President Gephardt". But this report from the DailyKos says otherwise (the dKos article links to a WaPo story).

What drugs are the Repugnicans taking?

Great moments in American jurisprudence:
From The Smoking Gun: Opinion and order in the case of Deangelo Bailey v. Marshall Bruce Mathers III, a/k/a Eminem Slim Shady. See Footnote 11 (which continues onto the next page....) for the inhuman spectacle.

How about....
A topical religious joke? I got this from Al Lowe's joke a day newsletter, but it's probably archived somewhere on Al's website,

Why are Episcopalians no longer allowed to compete in chess tournaments? They can’t tell the difference between a bishop and a queen!

Does Al's name look familiar, by the way? Maybe, if you're an old computer gamer. Al's the creator of the wildly successful Leisure Suit Larry series of games (and of course, you remember Larry's sometime girlfriend, Passionate Patti?), and a few other successful games like one of my all time faves, Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist. Now that I work for a college of pharmacy, I'd like to get me a copy of Freddy Pharkas, or at least the box, if only to display in my office....

Why do we IT folks get Windows Server products?
According to a recent survey, "Because it's there". Quoth La Reg on the matter:

Why do you use Windows? Um, because it's there? That appears to be one of the bottom lines of a recent InformationWeek survey of 400 IT business professionals, where companies using Windows for servers explain themselves in what seem to us to be distinctly unethusiastic terms.

The Windows Interoperability 2003 survey (report here, check the chart) has around 70 per cent of respondents choosing Windows because it's "well integrated with other Microsoft products" and there's "wide availability of software", but then it nosedives. Reliable performance, good management tools and service and support chalk up scores in the 20s, and then down we fall, with lower scores for innovation, confidence in Microsoft's business model, price, integration with third party software, and "secure environment" - the number one Microsoft imperative de nos jours - bringing up the rear.

Pot. Kettle. Black.
From La Reg: Watch one monopoly trash another!

There's plenty of irony in seeing one monopoly [Microsoft] accuse another monopoly [Apple] of restricting users' choices. But monopolies they both are.

Are you a neo-con?
The Christian Science Monitor actually has an online quiz that you can take to find out.

My results? Glad you asked:

Based on your answers, you are most likely a liberal.

Glad to know that, since I'm a charter member of The League of Liberals.

You get your inspiration in the unlikeliest places...
From La Reg: Spam inspires musos to song

The results are in!
The 2003 Dilbert Weasel Awards, courtesy of Dogbert's New Ruling Class newsletter (no link given, but I'd be shocked if you can't find it at

Results of Dilbert's 2003 Weasel Awards

The second annual exuberantly non-scientific Weasel Poll results are in. 35,874 people voted. I'll be spending the next few weeks publicly embarrassing the winners. They are...

Tally Weaseliest Organization
------ ----------------------------------------

7950 Recording Industry Association of America
6322 White House
4470 Democratic Party
3989 ACLU
3859 Organized religion
3039 Fox News Corporation
3008 Republican Party
1860 Congress
1323 New York Times

Tally Weaseliest Country
------ ------------------

12739 France
10761 USA
5845 Saudi Arabia
4668 North Korea
801 Iran
509 Canada
219 Germany

Tally Weaseliest Company
------ ------------------

12854 Microsoft
7645 Halliburton
7220 MCI WorldCom
2425 Kmart
1313 Merrill Lynch
1173 HealthSouth
1017 Freddie Mac
970 Salomon Smith Barney

Tally Weaseliest Profession
------ ---------------------

10309 Politicians
7854 Lawyers
6234 News media
6059 Tobacco executives
4217 Oil executives
1043 Accountants

Tally Weaseliest Individual
------ ---------------------

13959 George W. Bush
5104 Michael Moore
3057 Yasser Arafat
2820 Jacques Chirac
2141 Saddam Hussein
1883 Tom Daschle
1105 Arnold Schwarzenegger
1095 Al Franken
1023 Ariel Sharon
932 Bill O'Reilly
695 Ann Coulter
483 Charles Schumer
400 Sean Penn
383 Jayson Blair
230 Richard Grasso
195 Gerhardt Schroeder
188 Bill Bennett
146 Jack Grubman

Tally Weaseliest Behavior
------ -------------------

18877 Blaming fast food restaurants for making you fat
5748 Religious extremism
4688 Creating computer worms/viruses because no one will date you
3997 Driving a Hummer
1487 Using cell phones in restaurants
1077 Using speaker phone in cubicle

Maybe Big Stupid Tommy needs to move to Birmingham...
At least according to Allen Barra in Slate yesterday:

Anyway, Yankees-Cubs would have been the biggest national draw because the Cubs are far more popular nationwide than the Sox. My mother lives in Birmingham, Ala., and has been following the Cubs on cable for years. You see more Cubs caps in the Deep South than you do Braves caps.

Though this sounds to me, frankly, like something Barra's shooting out his ass for the purpose of having something controversial to say. Granted, Tennessee's not the Deep South, but I see more Braves caps here than anything else (even in Memphis, where we have the friggin' Cardinals AAA affiliate; you'd think that Memphians would be more than idly curious about what the big club is up to), and of course, between TBS, Turner South, and TNT it seemed like you had an average of three Braves games per day on the tube during the season. I don't bear the Braves any particular ill will, but lately my ballgame-watching decision tree has looked something like this: 1) Cards game on? Watch that.... 2) If no Cards game, is there a Memphis Redbirds game on? If so, watch that... 3) If no Cards or Redbirds, is there any game on in which the Braves aren't playing? If so, watch that (I watched more Chicago White Sox games last season than I did when I was living in Chicago, thanks to WGN). 4) Braves game the only thing on? Well, at least it beats no baseball at all....

The real Mother Teresa
Hitchens was full of shit on the war, but he has always been right about that pious fraud: The pope beatifies Mother Teresa, a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud:

During the deliberations over the Second Vatican Council, under the stewardship of Pope John XXIII, MT [Mother Teresa] was to the fore in opposing all suggestions of reform. What was needed, she maintained, was more work and more faith, not doctrinal revision. Her position was ultra-reactionary and fundamentalist even in orthodox Catholic terms. Believers are indeed enjoined to abhor and eschew abortion and contraception, but they are not required to affirm that abortion and contraception are the greatest threat to world peace, as MT fantastically asserted to a dumbfounded audience when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Believers are likewise enjoined to abhor and eschew divorce, but they are not required to insist that a ban on divorce and remarriage be a part of the state constitution, as MT demanded in a referendum in Ireland (which her side narrowly lost) in 1996. Later in that same year, she told Ladies Home Journal that she was pleased by the divorce of her friend Princess Diana, because the marriage had so obviously been an unhappy one …

This returns us to the medieval corruption of the church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?

Thought for the Day:
Let us celebrate the "beatification" of celebrated huckster and con woman Mother Teresa (unfortunately, not celbrated as the greatest fraud of modern times, which she almost unquestionably is), who in her own unique way, opened up new opportunities in the world of fraud unseen since U.S. televangelists got up a head of steam:

One of the curses of India, as of other poor countries, is the quack medicine man, who fleeces the sufferer by promises of miraculous healing. Sunday was a great day for these parasites, who saw their crummy methods endorsed by his holiness and given a more or less free ride in the international press. Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. More than that, we witnessed the elevation and consecration of extreme dogmatism, blinkered faith, and the cult of a mediocre human personality. Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of MT: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions.
--Christopher Hitchens

See also the article cited in the next entry.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Putting things into perspective...
Brian over at Redbird Nation gives us a list of World Series droughts. It ain't a pretty picture:

A few things jumped out at me while compiling this list:

  • A whopping four teams are working on 40+ years without appearing in the World Series. That's sincerely sad.

  • The city of Chicago has a collective 102 Seriesless years. The state of Texas: 85. May I nominate the Astros as the most star-crossed franchise in baseball? They've been in seven postseason series and won exactly zero of them (and some of them were agonizing losses). Worse yet, no one's even coming to their pity party -- there's no lore or legend to their wandering ways, as there is with the Red Sox and Cubs.

  • One-third of the teams in the majors are working on their longest Series droughts in franchise history.

More deceit as usual....
Newsweek has an interesting story on the misAdministration's spinning of the news. An excerpt:

Commerce Secretary Don Evans flew into Iraq last week to tell investors and voters back home to stop believing the news on TV. (Evans’s last high-profile travel was an American road trip to convince voters that the economy was recovering.) “All the TV wants to cover is some sensational, isolated terrorist attack,” Evans told NEWSWEEK on his flight back to Washington. “I went over expecting to find an environment where people were frightened. But I found a country that was alive with hope and optimism.” Yet reporters who covered the war say that some of the Coalition’s achievements are less impressive than they sound. Paul (Jerry) Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, proudly announced the reopening of Iraq’s schools this month, while White House officials point to the opening of Iraq’s 240 hospitals. In fact, many schools were already open in May, once major combat ended, and no major hospital closed during the war. But that didn’t stop a group of Republican senators from tearing into American reporters covering Iraq earlier this month. “I was not told by the media... that thousands and thousands of Iraqi schoolchildren went back to school,” said Larry Craig of Idaho, who recently toured Iraq. The senator neglected to mention that he slept both nights of his trip in Kuwait, not Iraq.

Clark a Republican? Who gives a f*ck?
Saturday, Steve Gilliard had a very good answer to the "Clark was a Republican" spin. Scroll down to "Saturday, October 18, 2003", and look for the post titled "Wes Clark, GOP". Excerpt:

If I was Clark, I'd dig out an old party registration card, rip it in pieces and say "yeah, I was a Republican. I liked Reagan, I liked Bush, Sr. But when this latest crew took over, I had to change parties. I don't know who or what they represent, but it certainly isn't me or the principles I fought for since I was 21. You bet I changed parties, and you should too."


It doesn't matter what Clark was last year, or last month, but what he is today.

After all, changing parties didn't exactly bring Strom Thurmond's career to a screaming halt. Unfortunately.

It just came to my attention....
that Louise Brown, the world's first test tube baby, recently turned 25. Alas, no photos, though that's probably much better for her...

The opposite of "progress"?
Meteor Blades had a great guest post at Daily Kos Saturday...

I’ve long thought that maybe America needs some royalty. Since the Arnold won, I’m firmly convinced. Some Americans love celebrities so much they WANT them to rule politically the way they rule over our glowing screens. Instead of putting them someplace where they can do real damage, however, let’s crown them.

Start in California. This plague is really our fault anyway, so we should experiment with the corrective. If it works here, we can try it next in Nebraska.

Pick the nation’s top 500 celebrities. Maybe choose them via a weighted average based on how many times they’ve appeared in Premiere, People and the National Inquirer during the past five years. Or some such.

Write their names on slips of paper. Fold. Toss into a caged lottery wheel. Spin. Have some blindfolded groupie select 5 names. Onto a ballot with these. Then the election. No Diebold machines. The winner establishes a bloodline as Duke or Duchess of California. (If a dispute over the outcome arises, so much the better – royalty must have pretenders to the throne.) Henceforth, the Duke or Duchess (and consort) will be our ceremonial heads of state.

They’ll throw out the season’s first baseball when the Dodgers or Giants play. They’ll welcome foreign dignitaries, including the President when he comes to visit. They’ll cut ribbons at remodeled airports. They’ll give the first speech at each new session of the Legislature and be permanent emcees at the Academy Awards.

This will not be without cost. Their annual expense account will probably run a billion dollars. They have to live large. A Frank Gehry-designed palace for everyday affairs, with a summer mansion on Lake Tahoe. Custom-made cars. And, of course, a paid entourage comprising runners-up from the original pool of 500 hopefuls. What's royalty without a fawning court?

Trust me, the gains will be worth it. The tabloids and squawk shows will focus on the births of princelings, the courtships and adulteries of the Duke and Duchess and their offspring, the banquets and balls, the outrageous purchases, the stumbles and rehabs and intrigue, the betrayals and turnabouts. In short, the overall splendiferosity that only royalty can provide.

And then, with everyone who loves fantasy over reality well distracted, we can elect people to run the serious end of government.

Oh wow....
New Ecosystem rankings: as of this morning I'm now a Marauding Marsupial, having picked up a few links. Puts me in the same class with such 'net luminaries as Chris Pirillo, Steve Gilliard, and Ernie the Attorney (with whom I'm tied right now).

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blunted on reality

Skewering the conventional wisdom...
Daniel Gross had an interesting column in Slate: Cheney hasn't helped Halliburton; he's hurt it. Comes as a(n admittedly pleasant) surprise to me.

American citizens must hope they avoid the fate of Halliburton shareholders: at first glad to have the experienced Cheney at the top, then excited about his ambitious plans, and, finally, dismayed to be left holding the bag when Cheney moves on to another job.

Thought for the Day:
Nobody, it seems, is actually for encouraging kids to access Internet porn from public libraries; the problem is that most of the current filtering software both "underblocks" and "overblocks," meaning, respectively, that lots of smut still gets through the filter and that lots of blocked Web sites contain constitutionally protected and educationally important material. (Sites banned by the porn filter include the Knights of Columbus Council 4828, the California Jewish Community Center, and Orphanage Emmanuel, the Republican National Committee's Web site, a juggling site, and health sites devoted to baldness and halitosis.) Plaintiffs in the suit include a teenager unable to research homosexuality on the Web and another who couldn't research his mother's breast cancer. As my colleague Julie Hilden has observed, it's silly to look to software to make determinations about what is obscene, patently offensive, or harmful to minors, given that humans can barely manage to do so either.
--Dahlia Lithwick

Sunday, October 19, 2003

I'm now an Adorable Little Rodent in The Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem. An accomplishment, I'm sure. :-)

Looks like Santa snuffed it....
From the Toronto Star: You better cry, you better pout. I'll tell you why ...

None of the authorities will speak for attribution, but they all fear the worst. When the largest ice shelf in the Arctic, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, broke up in late September, a long, finger-shaped portion that stretched to the North Pole disappeared, leading to the possibility that the house Santa Claus lived in fell into the sea and sank.

Ok.... I'll admit it....
I am getting so sick of Ronan Tynan singing "God Bless America" at the postseason games in New York. On several levels. I got sick of "God Bless America" at the seventh inning stretch when they continued it into the 2002 season (thank God it only seems to be New York that's still crazy). Surely by 2003 we can finally just get over it? But worse... I don't care if you got God Almighty to sing it (and I'm not sure that God Almighty could sing that much better than Tynan), give us some goddamn variety. If you must insist on singing that insipid number (I'm sorry, "God Bless America" may have had some merit once, but continued schmaltzy repetition after 9/11/01 has drained it of all merit), get someone else, for crissakes.

And have a look at....
The Spy Game. Some interesting reportage on l'affaire Plame.

The scary thing about this: better education probably won't help...
From the New York Times: Cloudy thinking about tax cuts. People support tax cuts that increase the inequality between the well off and the rest of us, even while they decry that inequality. Read it but be warned, it's depressing.

This makes no fucking sense....
Why is Joe Buck interviewing Michael Strahan (New York Giants running back, I think) during the World Series game? About the night life in Miami vs. New York?

Take me now, Lord....

I used to think that Pope John Paul II was an evil man...
but I realize now that he is merely sincerely wrong on many issues; the results of his beliefs are very evil, but he himself just misses being evil. Still, it's a good thing that the Swedish Academy didn't reward his folly by giving him the Nobel Peace Prize. A good commentary in the LA Times Friday: A Papacy's 25 Years of Unfulfilled Potential. Excerpt:

When Karol Wojtyla assumed the papacy 25 years ago, my hopes were high. A vibrant, non-Italian pope who still went skiing and who wrote and acted in plays might be independent enough to break the mold and reshape the papacy in humbler and more helpful ways. This hope was shared by people in other religions who saw the advantage of a prominent religious leader who could give voice to the best moral hopes of humankind.

This promise was never fulfilled.

Instead, we saw a pope who squandered his moral authority on issues in which he has no privileged expertise. I did not expect to be writing now that this has been a failed and disappointing papacy.


Celebration of the pope's silver jubilee this week naturally has focused on John Paul's accomplishments, but there are numerous areas where this pope can be faulted.

Aside from reversing many of the changes emanating from the Second Vatican Council, he silenced the voices of many Catholic theologians and arrogantly asserted his own unique teaching prerogatives in ways that cut the legs out from any true ecumenism.

Two areas especially signaled his inadequacy as a world moral leader: his demeaning view of half the human race — women — and his obsessive concern with what can be called pelvic orthodoxy.

This pope commanded that the ordination of women to the priesthood could not even be discussed in Catholic theology. This reveals a spirited bias without any theological basis. Mainstream Christian theology has long since dismantled the arguments for a male monopoly of ministry.

And make no mistake, the pope's rush to bring Mother Teresa to sainthood is not driven by feminist zeal. Mother Teresa was a firm defender of male dominance in church and state. Her elevation speaks volumes about a pope who sees her as a saint and thus a model for all women.

The hard-line positions of the pope on sexual and reproductive issues amount to a special scandal that takes on international significance because of the unduly privileged perch the Vatican enjoys at the United Nations.

The Vatican pressed to get a place among the nations of the world when the U.N. was formed, even though it strains credulity to ponder how 110 acres with no women or children could be considered a "nation."

Yet the Vatican throws its weight around in U.N. proceedings with unseemly muscularity.

Thought for the Day:
"God is good," we were told over and over growing up, yet all we had to do was look around to see some not so good stuff. The single most prominent icon of my youth was the crucifix above the blackboard at the front of every classroom, and in those days, Cathoic crucifixes tended to be very realistic, down to every last nail, every last blood drop, the wide gash in Jesus' side. I mean, God let *that* happen to his son, and we were supposed to trust in his goodness?
--Dinty W. Moore

Friday, October 17, 2003

I wish I were in England....
UK protesters 'to humiliate Bush'

I only hope that the English are a classier act than the U.S., and don't kowtow to President Skippy's demands to restrict the British protesters to "First Amendment zones".

Bad news for Mississippi
Barbour Picture Will Stay On Racist Site

Hayley Barbour makes me sick. If Mississippians are stupid enough to elect the smug, lying son of a bitch (his ads blame Musgrove for a lot of things that are clearly the fault of President Shit-for-Brains and his crew), that's their business. I just wish that, living in Memphis, he didn't have to pollute my TV watching with his vile face and "message". And that he associates with a group of evil, racist dingbats like the Council of Conservative Citizens? If there were a just and loving God, he'd strike Barbour and every member of the CCC dead.

And I know the CCC; they're a St. Louis based group. Every election, they'd leave their hateful, vile, disgusting literature on our doorsteps.

Gotta git to St. Louis soon....
Museum wows visitors for official opening.

The "Museum" is the "National Great Rivers Museum", which has apparently just opened at or near the Melvin Price Locks and Dam in Alton, IL.

The favorite exhibit so far seems to be a simulator allowing visitors to try their hand at guiding a towboat down the river using three computer-animated windows, two throttles and a lever.

I remember my ex-wife and I going to something similar (including the National Rivers Hall of Fame) in Dubuque, Iowa, a number of years ago. Wonder if that one is still up there. I remember during that visit thinking that such an attraction, by rights, belonged somewhere in the St. Louis area. Chauvinistically, I'd rather it was on the STL riverfront, but Alton's good enough.

Thanks to Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard--Yet Another Web Log for that reference.

Dammit, how'd I miss this one last night?
From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

After New Republic Editor Peter Beinart pointed out that the media might actually be understating the problems in the country by underreporting the number of wounded soldiers (as opposed to fatalities), Hemmer shot back with this gem …

      I think there's (sic) to sides of that coin. … If you're saying it's actually worse than being reported,
      could it also be better than what's being reported also, if you consider that these reporters, many of
      them tell us they want to go cover the new school opening, but they can't because there's another
      bombing or shooting and that prevents them from sending that story?

I love this logic.

It’s not just the reporters who are keeping a lid on all the good things going on in Iraq. It’s the darned terrorists who are keeping everyone from hearing how good things are by constantly setting off bombs and shooting people

Thankfully, Billmon picked up on it, and he had some choice words himself.

OK, so now we've all had a good laugh at Hemmer's expense: The reporters can't report how great things are in Baghdad becaue those pesky suicide bombings keep getting in their way. Hardy har har.

But if you read the entire transcript, you get the distinct impression that Hemmer is just the clown in this particular media rodeo. The official line -- media exaggerates bad news -- clearly was handed down from on high. Hemmer's job was simply to stick to it at all costs.

The best evidence comes earlier in the show, when Hemmer briefly interviews Anne Garrels, a writer who spent "major combat operations" in Baghdad, and who just returned to the states three weeks ago. So Hemmer hits her with same "the news media: lying bastards or terrorist tools?" question:

      HEMMER: There are conflicting opinions as to the accuracy of media reports that we see in this
      country. The White House complains oftentimes that the good news stories are not getting the
      same time and print space as the bad news story. Is there truth to that?

      GARRELS: I don't happen to think so.

      The situation is extremely difficult in Iraq. If it were not so difficult, the American civilian
      administration would not be hiding behind coils of barbed wire and walls of sandbags. Once again,
      the security situation is dire. As long as these attacks can continue and happen anywhere, it's going
       to be impossible for the international community to work effectively.

      Most international organizations have pulled out. New troops are loathe to come in. And Iraqis who
      work with the Americans are being targeted as collaborators. You only have to kill one in a town for
      the rest of those people, the rest of the Iraqis to be too frightened to work.

OK, so Hemmer asked his question, and he got his answer -- a pretty definitive one at that. No, the media are not exaggerating the seriousness of the security situation in Iraq. Period. Full stop.

So here's what Hemmer tells the viewers next:

      HEMMER: So, then, the question continues a bit later: Is the coverage on Iraq too negative? More
      on that question in a few moments, as the White House pushes the debate again to the forefront
      this week.

The question continues. In other words, Garrels' answer was the wrong answer. The "debate" must go on. Why? Because it's already been written into the script. Fund and Beinart -- two pontificating pundits sitting around in Washington -- have to be asked The Question, even though the one person on the show who's actually been living in Iraq has already knocked it flat. Why? Because the White House wants the debate "pushed" to the forefront.


You can't blame Hemmer if his little non sequitur was the best he could do. The guy isn't paid to think, you know.

This nonsense actually would have been less offensive if it had been on Fox News. With Fox, what you see is what you get: conservative bias, amplified by every trick modern broadcasting can provide. But CNN is too fucking timid to show its true stripes (and nobody wants to look at those bland corporate pastels anyway.) So instead we get the television equivalent of near beer -- watered down Fox News.

Tastes fake; less thrilling.

For those of you interested in the source, you can find the transcript that Marshall and Billmon were working from here.

I'll drink to that!
From Eric Alterman's latest column ("Abrams and Novak and Rove? Oh My!") in The Nation:

Even though the Joseph Wilson affair has convulsed the capital for many weeks, much of what makes it important is still ignored. Part of the reason is the insider establishment's deep-seated unwillingness to face up to the Nixonian depths of this Administration's moral depravity. A President, Vice President and Cabinet willing to deceive an entire nation for the purpose of war are not going to think twice before destroying the career of a loyal CIA agent in an attempt to smear her husband. Nor is a group so radical that it casts the CIA as the enemy in its plans for world domination likely to worry about the body count of innocent victims on its revolutionary path to neoconservative nirvana. The media treat this case as an aberration. It's the rule.

Must be the titillation factor....
After all, it's about sex at base: Anglican split seems likely.

What headline is next? "Dog bites man"? Fer gawshsakes, them damn Protestants have been splitting, and splitting and splitting again and again since before Luther nailed the 95 theses to the church door. Find me some real news.

IMHO, the best commentary ever on Protestant schisms and breakups:

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. so I ran over and said "Stop! Don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?" He said, "Baptist!" I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?" He said, "Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you reformed Baptist Church of God?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are you reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"

I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off.
--Emo Philips

From today's "Quote of the Day" newsletter:
Charles Herbert Kraft was born on this day in 1880, one of five brothers who started the J. L. Kraft Co. in Chicago in 1903. Their original business was cheese, and rather than focus on things like character or quality, they chose to dedicate themselves to shelf life and consistency, and more recently to convenience, with such lamentable products as Kraft Processed Cheese Slices, Velveeta, and Cheez Whiz. So although the Kraft name needs to be treated as a warning label for consumers, we'll use his birthday as an excuse to celebrate cheese as today's theme.

Excellent column this week...
by Cecil Adams in The Straight Dope: Saints and Popes revisited: Were Pius XI and Pius XII anti-Semitic?

Was Pius XII anti-Semitic? I'm willing to concede not, but I think Cecil's right on the money here:

Here's the crux of the issue: By mid-1942, Pius could have had no doubt that the Nazis were slaughtering Jews en masse. Yet though papal representatives did lodge protests against the deportation of Jews, the pope himself made only vague appeals, never mentioning Jews or Nazis specifically. (The one time he intervened personally, in an attempt to halt deportations from Hungary in 1944, he referred only to people persecuted because of their race.) Granted, others also equivocated. The Red Cross, for example, kept silent for fear its humanitarian work would be halted. But Pius was the pope. He had a unique responsibility to speak out--no one else's words would've carried the same moral authority. Just a few years later, he denounced communism and made it clear he wanted bishops in Soviet bloc countries to oppose it, even if they risked persecution. Condemnation of the Holocaust might also have provoked reprisals, and certainly wouldn't have stayed Hitler's hand. But if ever there was an occasion that demanded such a noble if futile gesture, wasn't this it?

Saint Pope Pius XII? Bullshit. Plain and simple.

This one gets to me via a rather convoluted path....
namely, from Busy Mom via Big Stupid Tommy (both of whom are fellow members o'the Rocky Top Brigade):

The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy

Neat Java (or JavaScript) map to show the variations in usage.... The default view of the map shows St. Louis as an island of "soda" usage in between two areas of "pop" usage (north of us) and "coke" usage (south o' us, of course). But if you do the Java rollovers, you discover (interestingly enough) that there's some usage of all four terms--"pop", "soda", "coke" and "other"-- in St. Louis. Ditto for Memphis, though we're solidly in the "coke" belt when it comes to the default map.

From La Reg:
SCO blinks--bill us when you can

Wonder if they're giving up collecting because they realize they're full o'shit?

At last, some news you can use!
Slate's Brendan Koerner (the Explainer) on "Why some breast implants look (and feel) so fake..."

The thing that gets me is this (the discussion is of saline sac implants): The viscosity of the filling material is the key, since all implants use silicone outer shells. As the name implies, saline implants are filled with simple salt water, a poor analogue for the texture of naturally occurring mammary tissue. These surgically implanted sacs can feel squishy to the touch...

Maybe I've just been lucky, but of the women I've known with implants none have ever felt "squishy" (though I see what Koerner is driving at here and it makes sense). The few times I've gotten to feel breasts with implants (go ahead and make the snide remarks; not like I can do anything to stop you) they've felt, if anything, noticably much less "giving" than natural breast tissue. In other words, real breasts are much more squishy than the implants I've felt.

I guess that settles it; it's time for empirical research. I need three volunteers: a woman with saline implants, a woman with silicone gel implants, and a woman with completely natural breasts as a "control". Surely out of my readership there has to be three women with these qualifications who are willing to advance the cause of science.


It's bad enough that President Chimpy won't read the news...
but he thinks that we shouldn't either. Michael Kinsley has a good column in Slate on Bush's obsession with news "filtering". Read the whole thing but this got me:

George W. Bush doesn't really want people to get the news unfiltered. He wants people to get the news filtered by George W. Bush. Or rather, he wants everyone to get the news filtered by the same people who apparently filter it for him. It's an interesting epistemological question how our president knows what he thinks he knows and why he thinks it is less distorted than what the rest of us know or think we know. Every president lives in a cocoon of advisers who filter reality for him, but it's stunning that this president actually seems to prefer getting his take on reality that way.

Bush apparently thinks (if that is the word) that the publicly available media contaminate the news with opinion but Condi Rice and Andy Card are objective reporters. Anyone who has either been a boss or had a boss will find it easier, knowing that Bush believes this, to understand how he can also believe that things are going swimmingly in Iraq. And where does the Rice-Card News Service obtain its uncontaminated information? Bush conceded his shocking suspicion that Rice and Card "probably read the news themselves." They do? Whatever is next? The president apparently is willing to tolerate the reading of newspapers by his staff members in the privacy of their own homes, as long as they don't flaunt this unseemly habit by bringing the wretched things into the White House or referring to them at staff meetings.

The president noted, though, that Rice and Card also get "news directly from participants on the world stage." ("Hi, Achmed—it's Condi. What's going on there in Baghdad? What's the weather like? And how's traffic? Thanks, I'll go tell the president and call you again in 15 minutes.") The notion that these world-stagers are sources of objective opinion while newspaper reporters are burdened by insuppressible opinions and hidden agendas is another odd one.

When it comes to unfiltered news, the president says he can dish it out and actually brags that he can't take it. In fact, he can't do either one.

Things will get a bit quiet this weekend
I'll be headed out of town to spend the weekend with friends. Should be back sometime Sunday. Just in case anyone's interested. :-)

Thought for the Day:
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.
--Buckaroo Banzai

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Hmmmm...gotta watch the camera angles...
Last game of the ALCS series: David Ortiz hits a homer off David Wells in relief, and the camera shifts to a shot of Wells, just in time to very distinctly see him yell "Oh fuck!!!" in a way that was very unmistakable... even if you can't read lips very well.

I believe it....
From BartCop:

They were talking about that fan who tried to grab the foul ball yesterday on CNN. They said if that guy ran against Mrs. O'Leary's cow for Chicago mayor, the cow would win in a landslide.

I'm happy....
They're showing the Yogi Berra AFLAC commercial tonight...

"If you get hurt, and miss work, then it doesn't hurt to miss work.... And they give ya cash, which is just as good as money."

My favorite.

Welcome to the Autumn Irony Festival
A gem by Molly Ivins:

Not that any of us is in a position to criticize the Great Scriptwriter in the Sky, but don't you think She's been going a little heavy on the irony lately?

All those folks who had conniption fits over Bill Clinton's affair are now pooh-poohing Arnold Schwarzenegger's sexual misconduct -- and vice versa.

The right-wingers who are always griping about Hollywood stars who express political opinions -- "Shut up and sing" -- suddenly find an actor perfectly fit for high political office based on his experience as The Terminator.

Professional patriots who would have been screaming with horror had the Clinton White House ever leaked the name of an undercover CIA agent now struggle to justify or minimize such a thing.

President Bush has spent $300 million trying to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and come up with zip, so now he wants to spend $600 million more. And let's mention the president's interesting theory that not finding any weapons of mass destruction means the Iraq war was fully justified. (Hello?)

Is the good news from Iraq being suppressed?
An informal survey by Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, suggests not.

The survey, conducted by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, also recorded about a third of the respondents complaining that their mission lacks clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as of little or no value. Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training.

The findings, drawn from 1,935 questionnaires presented to U.S. service members throughout Iraq, conflict with statements by military commanders and Bush administration officials that portray the deployed troops as high-spirited and generally well-prepared. Though not obtained through scientific methods, the survey results suggest that a combination of difficult conditions, complex missions and prolonged tours in Iraq is wearing down a significant portion of the U.S. force and threatening to provoke a sizable exodus from military service.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo does a good analysis:

What's surreal about the White House's new claims that the press is keeping all the good news from Iraq (reopening schools and so forth) hidden -- faithfully parroted by the usual suspects -- is that it's really hard to find anyone who's been in the country recently or for any significant period of time who thinks that's true.

It seems to be an insight vouchsafed mainly to conservative newspaper columnists.

The Stars and Stripes survey -- though non-scientific -- seems to lend credence to that perception. Despite not being from a randomized cross-section of those serving in Iraq, says Stars and Stripes editor David Mazzarella, "We still think the findings are significant and make clear that the troops have a different idea of things than what their leaders have been saying."

Billmon has a tale we don't want to see....
From today's Whiskey Bar:

Scenes We'd Hate To See

As several commentors have noted, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) has introduced a bill (H.R. 2239) to require all computer touch-screen voting machines to include an auditable paper trail. Whiskey Bar certainly urges all patrons to contact their Representatives immediately and demand that they support this bill. (Does anyone know if there is a Senate version?)

However, part of me has to wonder if this could be leading up to a future wire story that looks something like this:

WASHINGTON (AP) April 12, 2004 -- The Republican-controlled House today overwhelmingly rejected a bid by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) to require paper audit trails on all computerized voting machines. The amendment, which had over 200 co-sponsors, failed on a 435-0 vote, according to the House's automated vote counting system...

It's an issue of connectedness....
Helen Thomas has a great commentary on Bush's "I don't read the papers" comment in his interview with Brit Hume on Faux News.

Bush continued: "I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."

What struck me and a lot of other folks about the interview was Bush's revelation that he does not read newspapers.

Anyone who wants to stay in touch with national, international and local events looks forward to reading the newspaper every day. The variety and breadth of newspaper stories make Americans the best-informed people in the world.


Busy as he is, Bush would be better acquainted with the daily lives of Americans if he read his daily newspapers.

I don't know of many brave White House staffers willing to risk the president's anger by dishing him the bad news.

Instead, Bush is spoon-fed the relevant news from his staff. Top aides usually know the buttons not to push when it comes to bad news. More often they will tell the president what he wants to hear -- the good news if there is any. Or they may just sugar coat the news that is tougher to swallow.

It's too bad that Bush's reading habits take him out of the information link that connects us and provides the glue that holds our society together.

President Kennedy quipped that after he got into the White House he found himself "reading more and enjoying it less."

An annoyed Kennedy cancelled his subscription to the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune because he felt the newspaper -- owned by John Hay Whitney, a wealthy Republican -- played up allegations of impropriety in his administration and toned down allegations of impropriety in the previous Republican Eisenhower era.

But Kennedy was aghast when the flap hit the headlines and regretted the cancellation. His staff later brought him bootleg copies daily.

All presidents rail against the press. It goes with the turf.

Wonder what's going on here?
ZDNet: SCO backs off Linux license scheme.

Some guys need to get a life.
See the picture. Then check the comments.

I suppose this is what you do with your computer if your programming skills aren't sufficient to the challenge of doing the visuals for the next iteration of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Well, we always knew Aussies were a bit weird...
From Dominatrixes in demand for World Cup.

AUSTRALIAN brothels are recruiting extra dominatrixes in anticipation of a boom in business generated by this month's Rugby World Cup.

From experience industry bosses know the affluent rugby union crowd, steeped in English public school tradition, are "very much into correction" when they come knocking on brothel doors. With more than 100,000 overseas visitors expected for the tournament, Eros Association coordinator Robbie Swan said brothels believed business would increase by at least 30 per cent.

Mr Swan said rugby union's English public school heritage meant demand for bondage and domination services was likely to skyrocket.

"It's not something that's very big in Australia, so a lot of the brothels are looking at lining up dominatrix for the tournament," he said.


Mr Swan said the Sydney Olympics in 2000 resulted in prostitution increasing by up to 50 per cent and major events were always good for business.

"In Canberra, where we're based, the biggest event we ever had was the World Council of Churches in 1994," he said. "Business was up 250 per cent, there were all kinds of jokers coming in."

Thought for the Day:
Never mind how Microsoft used to make money; today, it is making its money on a kind of temporal arbitrage. "Arbitrage," in the usual sense, means to make money by taking advantage of differences in the price of something between different markets. It is spatial, in other words, and hinges on the arbitrageur knowing what is going on simultaneously in different places. Microsoft is making money by taking advantage of differences in the price of technology in different times. Temporal arbitrage, if I may coin a phrase, hinges on the arbitrageur knowing what technologies people will pay money for next year, and how soon afterwards those same technologies will become free. What spatial and temporal arbitrage have in common is that both hinge on the arbitrageur's being extremely well-informed; one about price gradients across space at a given time, and the other about price gradients over time in a given place.
--Neal Stephenson

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

You'd think that a high Church official....
would have some intelligence. I suppose that there might be some excuse (other than rigid belief in moral dogmas) that would lead the Vatican to sincerely believe that condoms are useless in the fight against the spread of AIDS. But how in the name of the Great Googly Moogly could a Cardinal be so monumentally stupid to not expect that AIDS activists would condemn such a stand?

Vatican 'Surprised" By Condom Attack

Hey, Cardinal Trujillo, getcher head out of yer ass and you might be able to see straight. Sheesh....

Hmmmmm... Deja vu all over again?
Brian at Redbird Nation ties in the incident at Wrigley last night to the infamous Don Denkinger blown call that "allowed" KC to beat the Cardinals in the '85 World Series:

Two weeks ago on Redbird Nation I pointed out that it took me several years to realize that the St. Louis Cardinals, and not Don Denkinger, blew the 1985 World Series. Champions work around mishaps; they don't give in to them. I mean, consider what had to happen after the fan grabbed at that ball for the Marlins to overtake the Cubs:

Prior had to walk Castillo.
I-Rod had to get a base hit to drive in his team's first run.
Gonzo had to muff that potential double-play ball.
Baker had to stick with Prior (who was clearly gassed; after-effects of Game 3?).
Derrek Lee had to smoke a two-run-scoring double.
Conine had to hit a sac fly off a heat-throwing Kyle Farnsworth.
Sosa had to miss the cut-off on his throw home (otherwise he'd have had Lowell off first).
Mike Mordecai had to double off the wall to give his team a big cushion.
The Marlins bullpen had to shut down the Cubs for the last two innings.

I submit that nearly every one of those moments was weightier than that borderline play over in the leftfield stands.

I didn't see the game last night (I was working on a blonde, thank you ;-) ) but I tend to agree with Brian on this one, based on what I've read. I also agree with him on the Denkinger call (and it didn't take me several years; that was my thought during the champagne celebration in the Royals' locker room. Seriously, the only thing that hurt was that the Cards blew that one while I was still in the Navy, and associating with a couple other Naval officers who I had gotten to be good friends with in the Philippines; they were both from Wichita and were die-hard Royals fans who never let me forget that for the remainder of my active duty tour). Bad calls are a part of the game, and you have to accept them (that's why, IMHO, it's A Bad Thing to institute instant replay reviews of officials' calls, a la the NFL; for gawd's sake it's a mere football game, not a matter of life and death), and, when necessary, use them as a rallying point.

Only thing that has me wondering.... Is history going to repeat itself, and the Cubs fold like the Cards did in '85? I hope not...

Another too good not to post....
Got this from, of all things, the Sports Nut column of Slate today: A short history of "the finger". And it does have a history; the Romans referred to it as the "digitus impedicus". Which isn't something you'll learn on this site.

Making the rounds....
Up in Heaven, Alexander the Great, Frederick the Great and Napoleon are looking down on events in Iraq.

Alexander says, "Wow, if I had just one of Bush's armored divisions, I would definitely have conquered India."

Frederick the Great states, "Surely if I only had a few squadrons of Bush's air force I would have won the Seven Years War decisively in a matter of weeks."

There is a long pause as three continue to watch events. Then Napoleon speaks, "And if I only had that Fox News, no one would have ever known that I lost the Russia campaign."

Interesting take....
from a BartCop reader while musing on the Roy Horn incident...

This thing about people trying to touch tigers and bears and setting their kids on top of wild buffalo is what one of my favorite writers, Peter Hathaway Capstick, calls the Disneyfication of America. Mr. Capstick is not unbiased, and his creds in the world of conservationists are probably suspect, but he was a safari guide and wildlife office in Africa for 30 or so years and had a pretty thorough knowledge of the many ways people fail to appreciate the dangers of wild animals. He blamed much of it on Disney and the wildlife programs and movies like Born Free. Though today, you could also assign some of the blame to the proliferation of warm-fuzzy or romanticized animal documentaries and the tendency among some people to say that humans aren't the natural prey of carnivores. We don't like to see ourselves as meat, but anything that will eat a monkey will eat a human, too.

I'm gonna enjoy being a liberal again....
because God knows how long it's going to last. But this Newsweek column gives me a warm glow.

The hot new liberal books do more than bash Bush, but revive the very notion of liberalism. In fact, all the books point out that polls show that most people consider themselves politically liberal, even if they would never use that defiled word to describe themselves. And the authors point out that conservatives have tricked us into believing that they stand with the working man when, in fact, right-wing economic policy will always—always—defend the interests of the “corporate jet conservatives” first and then merely hope that the pigs will stop feeding at the trough for a few minutes to let the rest of us get a bite.

Conason reminds us that liberalism is actually
Americanism: “If your workplace is safe, if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor, if you are paid a living wage, including overtime...if your food is not poisoned and your water drinkable...if our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn’t black with pollution...if people of all races can share the same public facilities, if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race, you can thank liberals. What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one of these advances.” Say it is so, Joe!

And here's a followup....
to the Bill McClellan column I referenced earlier on how Rush Limbaugh would have spun the story had Bill Clinton confessed an addiction to painkillers (NOTE: this internal hyperlink seems to work in Mozilla but not in Internet Explorer; if you're using IE you may have to scroll to the 10/14/2003 item titled "How Rush would spin it....").

Well, Bill didn't know that his column would be picked up by The Smirking Chimp, and thereby radiate out over most of the blogosphere. As a result, he got a buttload of email. Here's his column where McClellan responds to his critics.

My favorite McClellan response: Dear Marc, William, Cherry, Elizabeth and everybody else who wrote to tell me how much they detest William Jefferson Clinton: Get over it. I didn't like Clinton myself. How can you respect a guy who couldn't figure out how to smoke? But he's gone. For your own sanity, get over it.

Excellent job, President Codpiece!!!
If Al Qaeda were smart, they'd give you a medal for helping their recruiting: Iraq War Swells Al Qaeda's Ranks, Report Says.


War in Iraq has swollen the ranks of al Qaeda and galvanized the Islamic militant group's will, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Wednesday in its annual report.

The 2003-2004 edition of the British-based think-tank's annual bible for defense analysts, The Military Balance, said Washington's assertions after the Iraq conflict that it had turned the corner in the war on terror were "over-confident."

The report, widely considered an authoritative text on the military capabilities of states and militant groups worldwide, could prove fodder for critics of the U.S.-British invasion and of the reconstruction effort that has followed in Iraq.

Washington must impose security in Iraq to prevent the country from "ripening into a cause celebre for radical Islamic terrorists," it concluded. "Nation-building" in Iraq was paramount and might require more troops than initially planned.


Because of its extreme religious world view, al Qaeda "cannot be tamed or controlled through political compromise or conflict resolution," the report said.

But Western countries need to do more to reach out to Muslim countries and their own Islamic minorities to "eliminate the root causes of terrorism," especially after the Iraq war "almost certainly further alienated Islam from the West."

Efforts should be redoubled to resolve local conflicts, such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, so regional radical groups such as Hamas do not fall into al Qaeda's embrace, it said.

It's called, "locking the barn door after the horse gets out..."
from La Reg: MCI/WorldCom gets "ethics" chief.

Given MCI/WorldCom's history, comment is superfluous....

According to an article in the WaPo...
a Wesley Clark spokeswoman says Clark has no position on the Bush misAdministration's request for $87 billion to use to prosecute the Iraq war further.

Billmon's take is priceless. The heading to his post on the subject: Profile in Courage.

For your edification and amusement....
courtesy of Michael Shermer, The Skeptics Society, and the eSkeptic email newsletter, here's the rundown on this year's 2003 Ig-Nobel Prizes. In order to lessen listed contacts' chances of finding themselves on spammer's email lists, I'm not converting the email addresses to HTML mailto links.



The late John Paul Stapp, the late Edward A. Murphy, Jr., and George Nichols, for jointly giving birth in 1949 to Murphy's Law, the basic engineering principle that "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, someone will do it" (or, in other words: "If anything can go wrong, it will").

REFERENCE: "The Fastest Man on Earth," Nick T. Spark, Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 9, no. 5, Sept/Oct 2003.

CONTACT: Nick Spark (Murphys's Law author/historian, who accepted the Prize on behalf of John Paul Stapp's widow), 2435 2nd St #3 Santa Monica CA 90405, Phone: 310 396-3142. Mobile: 310 428-6139,

CONTACT: George Nichols, 4735 La Canada Blvd., Flintridge CA, 91011. Tel: 818-790-3772.

ACCEPTING: Ed Murphy's son, Edward A. Murphy III accepted, on behalf of his late father, at the Ig Nobel Ceremony. George Nichols sent a recorded acceptance speech. Author Nick T. Spark delivered an acceptance speech on be half of J.P. Stapp's widow.


Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowley, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their irresistible report "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces."

[PUBLISHED IN: Applied Ergonomics, vol. 33, no. 6, November 2002, pp. 523-31. A copy of the paper can be found at:]

CONTACT: John Culvenor, 40 Wilfred Road, East Ivanhoe, Victoria 3079, Australia Tel: (61) 3-9441-0590, Mobile: 61) 421-343-508,

Dr. Jack Harvey, School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences, University of Ballarat, Ballarat, Australia, Tel: +61 3 53279273, Fax: +61 3 53279289.

ACCEPTING: John Culvenor accepted at the Ig Nobel Ceremony.


Eleanor Maguire, David Gadian, Ingrid Johnsrude, Catriona Good, John Ashburner, Richard Frackowiak, and Christopher Frith of University College London, for presenting evidence that the brains of London taxi drivers are more highly developed than those of their fellow citizens.

[PUBLISHED IN: "Navigation-Related Structural Change In the Hippocampi of Taxi Drivers," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 97, no. 8, April 11, 2000, pp. 4398-403. Also see their subsequent publications.]
[Allegedly, a copy of the Prize winning paper can be found at:, however when I attempt to view it I get a "You are not authorized to see this" error message. For that reason, I've not hyperlinked it.--LRC]

CONTACT: Eleanor Maguire, Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College London, 12 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK, Tel.: +44-20-7833-7483,

CONTACT: Chris Frith, Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom,,

ACCEPTING: Eleanor Maguire accepted at the Ig Nobel Ceremony.


Gian Vittorio Caprara and Claudio Barbaranelli of the University of Rome, and Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University, for their discerning report
"Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities." [PUBLISHED IN: Nature, vol. 385, February 1997, p. 493.]

CONTACT: Prof. Philip Zimbardo, Psychology Department, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305 (650) 723-7498,

CONTACT: Gian Vittorio Caprara, University of Rome, "La Sapienza," Via dei Marsi 78, Rome 1-00185, Italy.

CONTACT: Claudio Barbaranelli, University of Rome, "La Sapienza," Via dei Marsi 78, Rome 1-00185, Italy.

ACCEPTING: Philip Zimbardo accepted at the Ig Nobel Ceremony.

Yukio Hirose of Kanazawa University, for his chemical investigation of a bronze statue, in the city of Kanazawa, that fails to attract pigeons.

CONTACT: Professor Yukio Hirose, ROOM: #1223, Bldg. of Fac.Edu., TEL: +81-76-264-5476, FAX: +81-76-234-4133,,

ACCEPTING: Yukio Hirose accepted at the Ig Nobel Ceremony.


John Trinkaus, of the Zicklin School of Business, New York City, for meticulously collecting data and publishing more than 80 detailed academic reports about specific annoyances and anomalies of daily life, such as: What percentage of young people wear baseball caps with the peak facing to the rear rather than to the front; What percentage of pedestrians wear sport shoes that are white rather than some other color; What percentage of swimmers swim laps in the shallow end of a pool rather than the deep end; What percentage of automobile drivers almost, but not completely, come to a stop at one particular stop-sign; What percentage of commuters carry attache cases; What percentage of shoppers exceed the number of items permitted in a supermarket's express checkout lane; and What percentage of students dislike the taste of Brussels sprouts.

REFERENCE: 86 of Professor Trinkaus's publications are listed in "Trinkaus -- An Informal Look," Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 9, no. 3, May/June 2003.

CONTACT: John W. Trinkaus, 1 Linden Street, New Hyde Park, NY 11040. Tel: (516) 741-4662.

ACCEPTING: John W. Trinkaus accepted at the Ig Nobel Ceremony.


Karl Schwaerzler and the nation of Liechtenstein, for making it possible to rent the entire country for corporate conventions, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other gatherings.


CONTACT: Karl Schwaerzler, XnetEvent Marketing, Im Bartledura 14, FL - 9494 Schaan, Liechtenstein. Phone: [00423] 7911919. Also: [00423] 2323921.

ACCEPTING: Karl Schwaerzler accepted at the Ig Nobel Ceremony.


Stefano Ghirlanda, Liselotte Jansson, and Magnus Enquist of Stockholm University, for their inevitable report "Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans." [PUBLISHED IN: Human Nature, vol. 13, no. 3, 2002, pp. 383-9.]

CONTACT: Stefano Ghirlanda,, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel (in Rome, Italy): +39 06 30362480.

CONTACT: Magnus Enquist , Professor of ethology, Kraeftriket Hus 7B, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel: +46-8-16405.

CONTACT: Liselotte Jansson, Stockholm University, Tel: +468164058,

ACCEPTING: All three co-authors accepted at the Ig Nobel Ceremony.


Lal Bihari, of Uttar Pradesh, India, for a triple accomplishment: First, for leading an active life even though he has been declared legally dead; Second, for waging a lively posthumous campaign against bureaucratic inertia and greedy relatives; and Third, for creating the Association of Dead People.

CONTACT [Hindi only]: Lal Bihari Mrithak, Village and Post Amilomubarakpur, District Azamgarh, UP 276404, India. Telephone (home): 00-91-5462-251506. Mobile: 9415208776. FAX: 91-05462-246523 [NOTE: This is a local shop. When sending a fax, be SURE to write "Attention Lal Bihari" on the cover page]

CONTACT: [English]: filmmaker Satish Kaushik, Mobile: 011-9198-204-01587. Office: 011-912-22674-1967, and 011-912-222-674-1968. or

CONTACT: [English]: Madhu Kapoor, 8670 Burton way, suite 120, Los Angeles CA 90048. Cell: 310-717-8503 Office: 310-273-4752.

ACCEPTING: Lal Bihari tried to travel to the Ig Nobel ceremony, with his trip to be paid for by Indian filmmaker Satish Kaushik. The Indian government did issue Lal Bihari a passport. But Lal Bihari could not obtain a visa from the U.S. government -- and because of that, he was unable to come to Harvard. A representative, Madhu Kapoor, attended the ceremony to accept the Prize on behalf of Lal Bihari.


C.W. Moeliker, of Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck.

[REFERENCE: "The First Case of Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae)" C.W. Moeliker, Deinsea, vol. 8, 2001, pp. 243-7. Photographs can be viewed at

CONTACT: C.W. (Kees) Moeliker, Curator of Birds, Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, Postbus 23452, 3001 KL Rotterdam, The Netherlands, phone 31 10 42660463, fax 31 10 4364399, mobile 31 6 53778445.

ACCEPTING: Kees Moeliker accepted at the Ig Nobel Ceremony.


THE IG INFORMAL LECTURES -- SATURDAY, Oct 4, 2002. 1:00 pm. MIT, room 54-100.
FREE ADMISSION. An afternoon of free public lectures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in which the new winners will explain, as best they can, why they did what they did. Also, Edward A. Murphy III will show a brief videotape of his father explaining Murphy's Law.


Ceremony and Lecture Details

Ig Nobel Prize home page

New and Past winners

Annals of Improbable Research

Hmmmmmm... Where the f*ck was the judge? Sleeping?
Via TalkLeft, we get a link to this: Kobe Trial Q&A. Excerpt:

Did Bryant defense attorney Pamela Mackey purposely disclose the name of the alleged victim six times in court? No, I don't think so. I know Pam Mackey and I don't believe she would do that on purpose. She isn't that type of person or lawyer. Also, if someone were willing to be so intentionally underhanded — there is a court order that prohibits the young woman's name from being publicly identified — it seems to me they would only have blurted out the name once, not over and over again.

Furthermore, I was in the courtroom when Mackey's mouth runneth over and she seemed obviously and genuinely mortified by her gaffes. Finally, the whole issue of anonymity for the alleged victim is quite spurious. It seems as if everyone in Eagle knows her name — knows her personally, actually — and there sure didn't seem to be a lot of people in that courtroom Thursday who needed Mackey to remind them who was accusing whom of what.

With all due respect, I think that commentator Andrew Cohen is, if he's really sincere in this answer, letting his personal relationship with Mackey cloud his judgment. I can understand a lawyer slipping once in this regard, maybe even twice. But six times? I'm sorry, but whatever happened to that old folk wisdom: "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time, it's enemy action"?

But I don't "blame" Mackey; she was given an inch and took a mile. Assuming that there is a gag order on the victims name, or other legally enforceable restriction on naming the victim, then the judge hearing the prelim should have enforced it. If my ass had been warming the bench, I'd have chewed out Mackey the first time. The second time she "slipped up", I'd have told her, "You mention that name one more time Ms. Mackey, and you are going to jail for contempt of this court. You have been warned." I'll bet there wouldn't have been a third time then, but if there was, Mackey would be seeing for herself the palatial accomodations Kobe may be living in soon.

UPDATE: This just in (well, I just read this) at CNN: Mackey also named Bryant's accuser six times in open court last week after being warned not to do so.

I really need to know now: why the fuck isn't Mackey occupying a jail cell?

Blog noise KOs Google....
according to Andrew Orlowski of The Register, who is no friend of the blogosphere (and possibly for good reason). The problem this time? Trackbacks.

The humble weblog has finally achieved dominance over Google, the world's most-used search engine. Originally intended as a tool that allowed people to publish their personal diaries, weblog software has swiftly evolved, accreting several "innovations" that have had catastrophic consequences for Google. If you've never heard of the "Trackback", or ever wanted to know, then we have bad news: you're about to become acquainted, whether you like it or not, dear Google user.

A "Trackback" is an auto-citation feature that allows solitary webloggers to feel as if they are part of a community. It's a cunning trick that allows the reader to indicate that they've read a weblog entry, or as the official description from MovableType has it: "Using TrackBack, the other weblogger can automatically send a ping to your weblog, indicating that he has written an entry referencing your original post."

The original blog then sprouts a list of "trackback" entries from other webloggers who have read, and linked to the original article. Kinda neat, huh? Except for one unforeseen technical consequence: the Trackback generates an empty page, and Google - being too dumb to tell an empty page from the context that surrounds it - gives it a very high value when it calculates its search results. So Google's search results are littered with empty pages.

Try this for size: it's a Google query for OS X Panther discussion. In what must be a record, Google is - at time of writing - returning empty Trackback pages as No.1, No.2, No.3 and No.4 positions. No.5 gets you to a real web page - an Apple Insider bulletin board. Then it's back to empty Trackback pages for results No.6, No.7 and No.10. In short, Google returns blog-infested blanks for seven of the top entries.

My respect for Colin Powell.....
just went into the toilet, and is swirling down on its trip to the sewers. This link thanks to Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran: Ex-Aide: Powell Misled Americans

Once upon a time, I might have considered voting for Powell for President. No longer. Not if he were the last candidate on earth, and running unopposed.

RIAA: Sue now; investigate later
From La Reg, we have reports of a couple RIAA filesharer lawsuits that ran aground when the RIAA discovered, after filing suit, that the defendant didn't (and in at least one case, couldn't) run a file sharing program.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has come to the aid of one Ross Plank - a man the recording industry accuses of having an unhealthy love for Latin music.

Plank, of Playa Del Rey, California, is one of the 261 alleged file-traders to face a lawsuit from the RIAA's (Recording Industry Association of America) legal arm. The music labels claim that he made hundreds of Latin song available via the KaZaA service. The problem, however, is that Plank does not have a love for the Latin groove.

"Plank does not speak Spanish and does not listen to Latin music," the EFF said in a statement. "More importantly, his computer did not even have KaZaA installed during the period when the investigation occurred."

Plank would not be the first victim of a RIAA legal misfire. The pigopolists last month withdrew their lawsuit against a 66-year-old woman after discovering that she uses a Mac and cannot run KaZaA.

There's nothing so stupid that some therapist won't say it....
From Steven E. Landsberg, in Slate, where he rexamines an earlier column that argued that the statistical fact that more parents of girls get divorced than parents of boys was evidence that parents prefered boys to girls.

A number of readers offered the comment that, evidence be damned, they would simply never believe that the children's gender could be relevant to a divorce decision. My favorite of these came from a therapist in Iowa—it would probably be inappropriate to mention her name, so let's just call her "Bozo the Therapist"—who took me to task for the "archaic notion" that children ever have anything to do with divorce. Unless she's been practicing not in the state of Iowa but on the planet Iowa in some distant solar system, Bozo must win the prize for "least observant therapist in human history." The fact is that children do affect divorce decisions; if we didn't know this from statistical evidence, we'd still know it from common sense. And to a smallish but non-negligible extent, girls cause more divorces than boys do. Ignoring those facts won't make them go away.

Thought for the Day:
In the postelection climate, Bennett apparently felt freer to render the slightly more harsh judgment that Schwarzenegger was "radically less-than-perfect," a phrase that allowed Bennett to maintain a toehold on the values franchise without causing the governor-elect any real offense. But the real item of interest was Bennett's gratuitous swat at Clinton. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger's radical lack of perfection had to be Clinton's fault! There was only one conclusion to draw. Bennett was not making allowances for human weakness when he shut his trap about Schwarzenegger. He was showing discipline and staying on message. He was taking a dive.
--Timothy Noah [], on William Bennett's silence about Arnold Schwarzenegger's moral failings

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Welcome, everyone....
New Rocky Top Brigade Members. In alphabetical order, because I feel like it:

Welcome aboard, everyone!

Way to go, Israel!
From the Reg: Israel slams the door on Microsoft

Here's proof that any damn fool can be a lawyer....
But what I find scary is that the damn fool became a Federal prosecutor: Assistant US Attorney calls prospective jurors "illiterate cave dwellers.

And in England:
The Beeb informs us today that a 37 y.o. London man has been convicted by a jury of two charges of inflicting "biological" grievous bodily harm (GBH is a British offense analogous to aggravated assault in most U.S. jurisdictions). The charges are that, being himself infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, he willfully infected two of his lovers.

Quoth the Beeb:

Prosecutor Mark Gadsden told the jury that grievous bodily harm could be used to describe someone being attacked with a hammer but could include psychological harm from being stalked or getting nuisance calls.


"There can be no better example of grievous bodily harm than infecting with HIV. Once one is infected that is the end of the story. It may take a while for you to die, but die you inevitably do."

Well, Mr. Gadsden, you're right, but you want to phrase this better. If the benchmark of grievous bodily harm is that the victim eventually dies, then let's indict and convict God Almighty, why don't we? (Granted, getting in personam jurisdiction over Yahweh is going to be a bitch.) Because it's sure as hell the case that once born, "die you inevitably do." The point is, that these women are most likely going to die significantly sooner than they would otherwise. After all, life is itself a fatal illness.

Old age. It's the only disease, Mr. Thompson, that you don't look forward to being cured of.
--"Mr. Bernstein", in the film "Citizen Kane"

There are some things so ridiculous, only a lawyer will say them....
Apropos of Antoine Yates, the young gent who kept a tiger and a caiman in a New York Housing Authority apartment:

Yates' attorney, Raymond Colon, predicted anyone reviewing the case would conclude the animal "was at no time a danger to the public or anybody else in the [New York City] Housing Authority."


Trust us. We won't abuse this. Honest we won't. And we'd never lie to you. Ever.
Noted bomb-throwing anarchist Sen. Arlen Spector (R-PA) isn't satisfied; he calls the Bush misAdministration's lack of candor about the Patriot Act "a big black hole".

My first ex-wife's brother said he didn't have kids because they cost too much. Turns out that he was right (premium Salon content; you may need to view a short ad to see the whole article).

The biggest predictor that a person will end up bankrupt turns out not to be a bad Prada habit or a taste for sub-zero refrigerators. It's having children, according to the mother-and-daughter authors of "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers are Going Broke."


From her office at Harvard, [law professor Elizabeth] Warren told Salon why the typical American middle-class family today is in a much more financially precarious situation than it was 30 years ago.

Why is today's two-income couple with kids more vulnerable than the single-income family of the past?

Today's two-income family has 75 percent more earnings, inflation adjusted, than their parents had a generation ago. The reason, of course, is because today's average family has two people in the workforce, instead of one. But this year, more children will live through their parents' bankruptcy than their parents' divorce.

Being a parent is the best predictor that a person will file for bankruptcy. Are parents more profligate than nonparents? What's wrong with this family? Since they're going bankrupt four times more often than their parents did a generation ago, I thought that this would be a story of overconsumption -- too many trips to the mall, too many designer toddler outfits, too many Gameboys.

The data show, however, that today's families are actually spending less on consumption that their parents spent a generation ago: 22 percent less on clothing, 21 percent less on food, including eating out, 44 percent less on appliances, less on furniture, less on floor coverings.

And I have to tell you, that finding stopped me dead in my tracks. It's counter to every conventional wisdom out there.

How can today's family possibly be less secure with two incomes?

Today's families are in financial trouble, because they're spending so much more on big fixed expenses -- mortgage, health insurance, car, preschool, after-school care and college.

What's happened is that the cost of being middle-class has shot out of the reach of ordinary families over the past generation.

Today's two-income family has 75 percent more income than the one-income family had a generation ago, but by the time they make four basic payments and their taxes they have less money to spend than their one-income parents.

I'm bummed....
Got this link from Big Stupid Tommy, who got it via Straight White Guy (both gents being, like me, members in good standing of the Rocky Top Brigade). I really, really, wanted to be more evil than this.

This site is certified 34% EVIL by the Gematriculator

However, while I can't post the results there, the Gematriculator rates the website I manage professionally (which I won't name here to save a valued Tennessee institution further embarassment) as 93% good, and only 7% evil. So from their perspective, my bosses have to conclude I'm doing something right.

Oh, if you want to rate your own site, you'll do better to go to this link: The Gematriculator. If you just click on the link above. as I did about six-or-seven hundred times before I achieved satori, you get a generic "This site is 50% evil, 50% good" page, with no interesting information on it.

How Rush would spin it....
had Bill Clinton admitted an addiction to painkillers. From Bill McClellan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Go read it (if you didn't at The Smirking Chimp today); it's worth it.

Somehow this makes sense....
You just gotta hand it to the Navy. The thing that attracted me to this page was the lead item about George "Buzz" Westphal, St. Louis County Executive, who's apparently ill and hospitalized (I knew Buzz tangentially as a lawyer in St. Louis; hope he recovers soon). But it's the second item on the page that made me raise my eyebrows:

The U.S. Navy has established a reserve unit at Whiteman Air Force Base that will assist efforts in harbor defense and port security.

How do you drill reservists in harbor defense and port security at an Air Force Base that's in the middle of Missouri, for Gawd's sake? That's about as far from a harbor and/or port as you can get in the United States!

Some good criticisms...
Surprisingly, of the left, though the right gets a few licks too. From Ted Rall: The Sad Triumph of Gotcha Politics

During the past few weeks, three stories have dominated the news: the California gubernatorial recall, allegations of drug use and racist remarks by Rush Limbaugh, and the leaked outing of a CIA agent. In each case, a cacophony of sensationalistic BS has drowned out any possibility of discussion of serious issues. All are examples of how ends-justifies-the-means tactics hurt us as a nation.

The recall of Gov. Gray Davis less than a year into his term ought to have sparked a national debate about direct democracy. Like the outraged citizens of "Network," Californians were "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore," but shouldn't we amend a state constitution that lets voters remove their governor for raising the car tax? Given Schwarzenegger's refusal to hold press conferences or debate the other candidates, shouldn't politicians be legally required to face tough questions before Election Day? Other states have recall provisions, but Davis' removal shone a spotlight on California's referendum system. Decades after Proposition 13 began starving schools of property tax revenues, isn't it time to admit that direct democracy doesn't work?

As for the recall's principal beneficiary, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the real case against him was straightforward. The man has no political experience, doesn't enjoy a strong base within his own party and has yet to come up with practical solutions to the state's problems.

Unfortunately, Democrats didn't focus on the recall itself or the good reasons to oppose their Republican opponent. It was easier to just dig up dirt from his past.


The Rush Limbaugh takedown is even more of an embarrassment to self-styled progressives. As the nation's most widely syndicated talk radio host, he helped elevate the noxious Newt Gingrich to his 1994-5 co-presidency with President Clinton. Now he's defending the policies of George W. Bush, a non-elected imposter hell-bent on unprovoked war and bankrupting the treasury. But since nailing the guy on his nasty politics takes hard work, lefties zeroed in on a comment he made about football player Donald McNabb, an African-American: "The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve."

Yawwwwwn. By Limbaughian standards, this wee jab at what he saw as journalistic affirmative action is but a paper cut. The sly racist and sexist slurs Limbaugh unleashes on his daily right-wing radio show are infinitely more egregious than his McNabb remark, and his all-white audience of flyover-country "dittoheads" are complicit. Rather than use the McNabb one-off to attack Rush, Democrats might have asked: Why is this bigot so popular? Why does Clear Channel Communications tolerate his venom? Why did ESPN hire one of the most politically polarizing figures in American media to comment on sports? Limbaugh, after all, was just being himself. Here was a chance to document right-wing bias in corporate media, but Dems blew it to go after one man.

Lefties are also crowing over the news that Rush is under investigation for buying painkillers illegally. Had the same story appeared about Michael Moore, they'd express sympathy and urge him to enter rehab. But compassion goes out the window while trashing your nemesis. As ideologues work to undermine Rush's sports-announcing career (!), questions of far greater importance to liberals--can we do a better job fighting drug addiction? should certain medications be easier to obtain?--go unaddressed.


In the greater scheme of things, after all, the retaliatory outing of a CIA agent whose husband wrote an unpleasant op-ed piece is mere fluff next to the colossal crimes committed by this Administration's top officials: Using hired goons to end the Florida ballot recount. Corrupting the U.S. Supreme Court by asking it to endorse a judicial coup d'état. Turning a $6 trillion surplus into a $4 trillion deficit. Attacking Afghanistan without cause, then inviting warlords to take over. Attacking Iraq without cause, then allowing bandits to take over. Offending our allies. Killing thousands of innocents. Curtailing the Bill of Rights. Opening the Gitmo concentration camp. Doing nothing to catch the perpetrators of 9/11. Tolerating North Korean nukes.

If Bush goes down over the Joe Wilson scandal, those heinous crimes will not only go unpunished--many Americans will never recognize that they were crimes.

"Bush is in a lot of trouble," says Mel Goodman of the Center for International Policy. "They know that now. They could lose this election." That would be good for America. But it would miss the point.

Today in History:
Today is the 56th anniversary of Chuck Yeager's flying faster than Mach 1 in the Bell X-1, Glamorous Glennis.

Typical Microsoft? From La Reg: Now MS trails 2006 for Windows Longhorn

[Microsoft] has repeatedly denied suggestions that there will be an interim 'XP SE' edition before Longhorn, but if it now has two more Christmas sales periods to cater for before the big one, we can surely begin to doubt how sustainable these denials will be. From the point of view of delivery of technology, the service packs for XP and Server due next year could provide a vehicle. Tagged as security updates, they're already being described as 'service packs on steroids' and will surely be pushed harder than is usual for such beasts. A reputable company would no doubt refrain from mixing critical security updates with sweetening eye-candy, but Microsoft has not always been able to resist the urge to do so. So we suspect.

That however does not help sell new machines and new Windows licences. The service packs will be free, to people who've already bought computers, and it doesn't help at all with Christmas 2004. So do we go for XP SE, or do we think of the next special edition iteration, in the footsteps of Tablet and Media Center? The latter, we'd guess - how about the secure, communications-oriented PC, aimed at business first?

Thought for the Day:
If you play the Windows XP CD backwards, I heard you'll get a satanic message. But more frightening is that if you play it forward, it installs Windows XP!

Monday, October 13, 2003

Bill Maher....
has some good points to make about Rush Limbaugh in his blog. Excerpt:

And Rush, if you don't see it that way yet, let me put it like this: When you're furtively meeting people in parking lots and exchanging ANYTHING in cigar boxes through car windows - OK, that's a drug addict. Issues of personal responsibility is where I often walked with Rush, and this is a classic. A true test of the man. If he comes out of rehab and says, 'I was wrong about our approach to drugs,' he could single handedly change the way America looks at this problem. If he admits that what separates him and Noelle Bush from crackheads is nothing. Nothing except money, race and lawyers. OK, well that is actually quite a lot. But nothing in the way that makes one of them a stronger or better human being. And that's what Rush has to say:

"I am no better or stronger than a crackhead. I lived for the drug, just like he did; obsessed about getting it all the time, like he did; corrputed and lied about everything else in my life - career, health (the hearing problem is related to this, no doubt - check the amount he was taking daily - Elvis is going "whoa, dude, slow down with that shit"), relationships, like he did. And we both deserve the same treatment: compassion!"

Tonight's Stargate SG-1 "marathon"....
has a a lot of commercials for SciFi's remake of "Battlestar Galactica" as a miniseries. Wonder if it'll be worth watching? I don't remember a lot of the original "Galactica", so I can't say with authority that it will be an easy job or not.....

And to think, most likely the Federal government paid hundreds of thousands of dollars on this...
From the weekly "Joe Bob Briggs Report":

Rejection by a lover, or friend, or even by strangers, registers in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain, the same
area that responds to physical pain, according to researchers at UCLA. This means that breaking up sucks.

Life in these United States....
"Should you kiss on the first date?" says the teaser at the bottom of the MSN Messenger buddy list window. Follow the link to the appropriate MSN webpage, and you discover the results of a dating survey. The surprise? Practically everyone expects a kiss on the first date. 25% expect French kissing, and 25% expect sex on the first date.....

Hmmmm, seems to me that there should be some overlap there. In my experience, one doesn't get to bed without some serious French kissing.... so really about 50% expect French kisses... but half of them expect more.....

A correspondent forwards....
a story about an interesting case that's made its way up to the Supreme Court: Elevator operator case reaches the Supreme Court. Basically, a chronically ill (heart problems) woman took a job as an elevator operator in the County Administration Bullding because that was pretty much the only job that her physical disabilities would allow her to take. Later, the county goes and installs automatic elevators, which renders her technologically unemployed. Unfortunately for her, she can't transfer to another job in the county because she's physically unable to do so, but she suffers a double whammy: she can't qualify for Social Security benefits either. See, her job loss was the result of technology, not disability. She's still physically able to do hor old job, it's just that her old job doesn't exist anymore because it's been taken over by a circuit (and unlike the old joke, she can't buy a circuit breaker [rimshot]). The standard disability claim is that your disability is the cause of your job loss, and that you're physically disqualified from performing your old job. That's not this woman's case....

It's the old quandary, do you follow the letter of the law (she ain't disabled, so she gets no benefits), or the spirit (she's not physically qualified to perform any existing job, so we won't worry about whether she could perform a job that no longer exists?

As the old maxim goes: hard cases make bad law.

Busy day at work today....
which is the reason for the unaccustomed silence. I'll try to work for quality over quantity. No promises, though. :-)

Thought for the Day:
People mistake me for Laurence Fishburne all the time. And he always gets mistaken for me. (And why not? We've both starred in Spike Lee movies, haven't we?) Even when we're standing together, people have called him by my name and me by his. A woman recently ran up to him and said, "My daughter loved you in 'Pulp Fiction'! Could she have your autograph?" So he signed it, "Respectfully yours, Samuel Jackson."
--Samuel L. Jackson

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Thought for the Day:
The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.
--H.L. Mencken

Saturday, October 11, 2003

More from Molly....
As you might guess, I'm catching up with her recent columns. This from The U.S. belongs to us, remember?:

But I think there is something even worse being taken, being stolen, by this administration. As Jim Hightower observes in his excellent new book, Thieves in High Places: They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back, what they're really stealing is the very idea of this country, the idea that there's a common good, that we're all in this together, that we all do better when we all do better.

In this country, we have the most extraordinary luck -- we are the heirs to the greatest political legacy any people have ever received. Our government is not
them -- our government is us (with room for improvement, to be sure).

All this right-wing propaganda about how the government is The Enemy, the government needs to be strangled, needs to be starved, needs to be hocked off, as though schools and hospitals were horrible things -- it's all nuts.

It's our government. We can still make it do what we want it to when we take the time and put in the energy it takes to work with other people, organize, campaign and vote. We can still make the whole clumsy, money-driven system work for us. And it's high time we did so.

Life was so crazy lately....
That I've not been able to keep up with Molly Ivins, which is my loss. She had a good column on Sept. 28 that went by right under my radar: Leaving them holding the swag. Excerpts:

If you look around you on almost any level, you'll notice that people who have special advantages almost always manage to convince themselves that they are entitled to those advantages. This defensive reaction includes such immortal excuses as "But … we've always done it this way," or "We got here first," or "This is the way my daddy did it."

I mean, people will just get outraged if you try to correct even the most glaring inequities; that sense of entitlement to special privilege is really tricky. Almost everyone who has previously enjoyed an advantage and is suddenly forced onto a level playing field will actually feel cheated, treated unfairly, singled out for undeserved punishment.


You will be stunned to learn that the SEC is prepared to conclude that self-regulation doesn't work and perhaps it is time to change the system on the stock exchange. (The Bush administration, undeterred by this unpleasant example, is forging ahead with its plan to let polluters regulate themselves.)

Monticore was trying to help Roy.... Riiiiiiigggggghhhhtttttt...
Not according to animal experts.

Frankly, the "he was trying to help" spin sounded phony from the beginning. For gawd's sake, tigers are predators, and they are wild. Granting that they have been "tamed", that's not synonymous with "domesticated". And for that matter, domestication doesn't rid an animal of its predatory instincts. Ask any dog or cat (housecat, that is) owner. Even though these are animals which have been domesticated for centuries, their predatory instincts are still sharp. After all, how many persons have cats which are mousers, for instance? Quite a few. I've owned dogs that stalk, and on some occasions kill, small animals (my boyhood dog regularly stalked squirrels, and the dog I owned before Joli (Ilsa, see the link here or the "Memorial to a dear friend" to the left) would regularly kill moles in the backyard and present them proudly to me or my ex-wife (well, ok, I'm anthropomorphizing, but I'm allowed to, she was my dog, after all). For that matter, think it over: the very games we play with our housepets capitalize on their predatory instincts (playing fetch with the dog, for instance; or just watch a cat play with a cat toy sometime).

I appreciate what Siegfried and the duo's publicists are trying to do; I've not heard of any plans to deal with the tiger yet, but it's pretty common that animals which injure or kill humans are destroyed. No doubt they are trying to forestall that by creating a sympathetic "explanation" for the tiger's actions, and possibly provoke a public outcry against any plan to destroy the cat.

I'm sympathetic with that, but I see no reason to accomplish that goal by deception and spin. That's too much like some politicians we know.

They really aren't like us....
From Bill Maher's blog:

I read that half the Iraqis marry their cousins. Loyalty to family and to clan is at a level we can't understand here in America, and when I say "we" I mean George Bush. Being from Texas is great for getting elected, but for understanding furraners, I don't know. Whenever Bush says "they hate us for our freedom," I wince, because, although like most things he says, it contains a kernel of truth, it is dangerously shallow and naive. If he had gone to Viet Nam instead of getting out of doing so, he might have learned what young men do learn about people who aren't like us when they're 'in country,' which is that they're REALLY NOT LIKE US! That as crazy as it is - and I agree, it is pretty crazy - lots of Muslims care more about not doing anything that may offend Allah (and Allah, like our Biblical God, is a jealous one, and does seem touchy about freedom in many of its forms) and keeping their sister in a beekeeper suit than they do about elections and flagburning and performance art. He just doesn't get that what he loves about America - what we all do who are lucky enough to be here - is just not as important to other people in the world. Yes, they hated Saddam and tyranny, but I'm not sure they're clear on how important it is to have real democracy to ensure another Sadaam does not return. Fatalism seems real, real big over there, and the view of "If Allah wills a good ruler, or a bad one, that is what we will have, and no one can change God's will" may be deeply embedded. Condi needs to school the president a little bit on this, or else he's going to be constantly disappointed by the Iraqis and other Muslim nations. Or does Condi herself need a little schooling here?

Or as pointed out by Cecil Adams:

The notion of a global village, while appealing to Web surfers and CNN junkies, is a dangerous illusion--witness the ongoing debacle in Iraq, which has come to pass in part because U.S. leaders kidded themselves into believing that Iraqis were just like us and would embrace democracy as soon as Saddam Hussein was gone.

Damn, but the more I think about it....
St. Louis judge delays Missouri's concealed weapons law From the article:

A judge temporarily blocked a law that would make Missouri the 45th state to authorize concealed guns.

Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer ruled Friday that the law needed a further review by the state Supreme Court and would have caused irreparable harm had it taken effect Saturday.

The surprise implicit (well, I think it's implicit) in the header has to do with the fact that I knew Steve Ohmer (well, about as well as I knew any of the folks in the Circuit Attorney's office) back when I was a lawyer in St. Louis. At the time I knew him, he headed the CA's warrant office (i.e., the lawyers who decided (within 20 hours of a suspect's arrest as required by Missouri law) whether or not charges would be filed against an arrested suspect). As I recall, he was a decidedly nice guy, and not at all doctrinaire like a lot of professional prosecutors are. The initial surprise was that a former prosecutor would interefere with the gun law, but remembering Steve, I recall that he'd be just the guy to do it.

Supporters of the law predicted that they eventually will prevail.

"The plaintiffs went judge shopping and they found what they wanted," said attorney Kevin Jamison, president of the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance. "Their petition is unbelievably frivolous. It shows a complete misunderstanding of the law."

With all due respect, this is bullshit, and I'll forgive Jamison only because, as president of the Western Missouri Shooter's Alliance he's most likely a lawyer from Kansas City, St. Joseph, or some smaller town out at the other end of the state. If he knew Steve Ohmer at all, he'd know that Steve's not the kind of judge you'd judge shop for if you want a "liberal" decision. Steve obviously (IMHO) decided this one on the merits.

The plaintiffs in the case include public officials, members of the St. Louis Clergy Coalition and the nonprofit Institute for Peace and Justice.

The group cited a section of the Bill of Rights from the 1945 Missouri Constitution that declared the right to bear arms "shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons" -- and a similar clause in the 1875 version of the Missouri Constitution.

The Missouri attorney general's office argued the constitutional clauses express a reservation, not a prohibition on concealed weapons.

The AG's office may be right on that; it's been a long time since I've had to read the Missouri Bill of Rights. In this case, though, it seems to me entirely proper that the law get enjoined until the Missouri Supreme Court gets an opportunity to rule on the issue.

What's the hurry, gun nuts?

Ghod, I hate being fair sometimes....
especially when it means having to defend slime like Pat Robertson. But, then again, I was a public defender, and I have defended thieves, muggers, prostitutes, rapists and murderers. Once you've had to deal with these people, you realize that defending Pat Robertson isn't stepping down too much farther. Granted, I'd rather defend the thieves, muggers, prostitutes, (they are basically morally purer people; they are evil, yes, but they're not hypocritical about it like Pat is), but Pat isn't that much worse. Yes, he is worse, but not that much worse.

Anyway, a goodly portion of the blogosphere is up in arms over Pat's alleged "terrorist threat" directed against the state department.

"I read your book," Robertson said, according to a transcript of the interview posted on his Christian Broadcasting Network's website ( "When you get through, you say, 'If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that's the answer'," he said.

"I mean, you get through this, and you say, 'We've got to blow that thing up.' I mean, is it as bad as you say?" Robertson asked.

According to the news story at the link above, the U.S. State Department has lodged a vehement protest, and that's good for them. However, Robertson's remarks, while perhaps quite a bit hyperbolic, wasn't exactly a "terrorist threat". It was the extreme voicing of disapproval for State Department policies.

I have to admit I'm a bit biased on this issue. In these humble web pages, I've engaged in calling Bush some childish, insulting names (which I'm not going to apologize for; I do this to entertain myself and blow off some steam), and in other venues I have gone as far as saying that Bush's assassination would be a good thing for the country. And it's not like Pat or I are the only folks who have indulged in that kind of hyperbole; I remember seeing a fair number of "Where is Lee Harvey Oswald now that we need him?" bumper stickers during the Clinton administration.

I'm less concerned about Pat's "nuke the State Department" comment (which is clearly, in my reading of his statement in context, mere hyperbole) than I am about his post 9/11 comment that God withdrew some kind of mantle of protection over the U.S. and allowed the WTC/Pentagon attacks to take place because of his displeasure with the U.S. tolerating gays, atheists, abortions, pagans, etc. That's just demagoguery plain and simple; he's trading on people's superstition and fear of the supernatural to push his regressive social agenda.

Thought for the Day:
I've noticed an interesting trend over the last few years: You can sometimes tell who the "bad guys" are in a movie or TV show by what computer they use. For instance, on "24," all the bad guys used PCs while the good guys all used Macs. The same holds true for "Austin Powers," "Legally Blonde," etc. Why do you think Apple always gets the plumb roles? I'm of the opinion that Hollywood loves the underdog and has a close relationship with Apple computer, whereas PCs seem controlled by a megalomaniac in Seattle. Are there a lot more Mac zealots like me in Hollywood? Does Apple pour sponsorship money in big-budget studio movies?
--Justin Toomey, Athens, Ohio

Since many Windows machines look alike, Apple is one of the few manufacturers that can gain by product placement, which accounts for some of the Macs. It's true that the movie industry and creative types in general prefer the Mac. The novelist Tom Clancy sends e-mails with this signature line: "Never ask a man what computer he uses. If it's a Mac, he'll tell you. If it's not, why embarrass him?"
--Roger Ebert ["Movie Answer Man", 8/24/03]

Friday, October 10, 2003

Our Education President at work
I get this via today's Daily Howler. Bob Somerby's wanting to know where the transcript is of the NPR "Fresh Air" segment where Bill O'Reilly stormed off in a snit (IIRC, after host Terry Gross asked him about Al Franken), and for some reason that wasn't posted yet. Instead he treats us to this: Molly Ivins made an appearance on "Fresh Air" since she's just published a book (Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America, with Lou Dubose).

When I wrote about Bush in 2000, during the presidential campaign, I said, Look, you know, this guy’s record is mostly either not impressive or depressing, but there is one bright spot: He really is interested in education, he really understands the issue, and he put a lot of time and energy into it. I didn’t know at the time, and in the new book we report that what had appeared to be significant advances in education in Texas, improving scores and just a general upward trend, turned out to have been, heartbreakingly enough, slightly fraudulent.

What happened was, we were getting higher scores by increasing the dropout rate, which, depending on which study you believe, may be somewhere short of 40 percent, which is really pretty ugly. And what you’re seeing—for example, students have to be tested in fourth and ninth grade, or tenth grade. And so, at the high-school level, you have kids who remain in school for three years as technical ninth-graders. They’re never allowed to advance because they would lower the school’s cumulative score.

And this kind of sort of cheating—for lack of a better word, let’s just call it cheating—was, of course, provoked by these requirements laid on public schools by the state without sufficient funds to back them up. In other words, they were told, “perform, do better,” but not given any wherewithal to do better.

Of course, the fact that President Smirky was cheating don't surprise me at all.... What does surprise me is that Ivins didn't seem to know about it back in 2000. Quoth Bob:

We don’t know Ivins, but we wrote her after her comment in 2000, warning her against putting her faith in those improved Texas test scores. But even now, she seems to lack a full understanding of the problems involved in this matter. Recent reporting has indeed shown that some Texas schools monkeyed with drop-out statistics and policies. But even as Ivins praised Bush in 2000, serious studies had already suggested that those improved Texas test scores may have been a mirage. Those studies didn’t involve the hanky-panky about drop-out rates. Instead, they suggested the possibility of a more general type of cheating in Texas testing—a type of cheating that has been widespread, all over the country, since “accountability” began to be tied to such tests around 1970. (How far back do these problems go? We first wrote about this topic in the Baltimore Sun in the late 1970s. We first warned Sun columnists about fake test scores in 1971.) But as we have noted in past DAILY HOWLERs, it is simply impossible to get American elites to pay attention to these matters. On Fresh Air, Ivins discussed the more recent reporting about drop-out rates. But she still doesn’t seem to have heard about the prior concerns.

The first step is admitting....
From the AP: Limbaugh admits: "I'm addicted to painkillers." Apparently he's going to check into rehab.

I'm not going to indulge in schadenfreude and wish Rush ill, cackle with glee, or voice a sentiment like "serves the vulgar pig right." Chemical dependence of this nature is a serious debility, and it can be difficult to overcome. I know this from experience; I don't want to get into details but a very close and dear member of my family was/is an addict ("is" in the sense that s/he is in recovery, but as the saying goes; once an addict, always an addict).

What does interest me is whether Rush is going to learn anything about this. He's been quoted a number of places in the blogosphere as stating that drug addicts deserve punishment... should rot in jail, etc. Now that he's getting a chance to walk a mile in their moccasins, is that attitude going to change?

UPDATE: This column from New York Newsday provide some examples of Rush's rhetoric when it came to druggies.

UPDATE 2: But if we must kick Rush when he's down, let's make a good point out of it. Here's Billmon's take:

Here we see the supposedly liberal cult of victimhood in full flower. The focus is on the addiction (poor, helpless Rush), not the criminal behavior of the addict. And, of course, on cue, we can expect the GOP establishment to smother poor Rush in the warm embrace of sympathy and forgiveness. Sweet redemption!

If this story were about, say, a 22-year-old black kid in North Philly busted for possession, does anybody
seriously believe the spin would be the same? Or would we be hearing about the arrest of a potential drug kingpin?

This perceptual bifurcation is anything
but a liberal tendency. The whole ideology of addiction and victimhood exists primarily so that middle America can draw the necessary distinction between affluent, white junkies (like Rush) and poor minority junkies (like that kid in North Philly) and declare war on the latter. It's one of those social fictions that enables the United States to go on having two entirely different systems of justice -- one for the poor and powerless, and one for the affluent and well-connected.

real liberal, on the other hand, would throw Rush's sorry ass in prison (for extortion, possible attempted blackmail and conspiracy) and try to get that 22-year-old black kid into a good drug rehab program.

But then I guess those damn bleeding heart conservatives would start whining about how Rush's criminal behavior is really
society's fault.

The shit may be about to hit the fan....
Remember that there's a (IMHO, quite plausible) theory out there that Saddam was on our hit list in significant part for his threat to change his oil exchange currency from dollars to Euros. Now I see this from Exit Stage Left (via Jo Fish and Democratic Veteran, though it wasn't the item that Jo originally linked to): German Sources Say Russia Might Price Its Oil in Euros

If the Euro becomes the major oil reserve currency, that might well kick the props out from under the U.S. economy, and throw it into a major crisis. Saddam threatened to do it, and we sent the Army into Baghdad.

Are we planning to march on Moscow? Napoleon Bonaparte couldn't do it, but that wouldn't stop George W. "Napoleon Bonehead" Bush from trying.....

Some countries take morality seriously...
but the United States isn't one of them. From Australia's Senate censure PM over war

THE Senate today censured Prime Minister John Howard for misleading the people of Australia over the reasons for going to war with Iraq.

Wish I could emigrate to Australia. Though I understand the Brits are about ready to censure Tony Blair for his lies.

If only one U.S. Senator would stand up in the Senate chamber and call President Chimpy a liar.....

Oh well, one has to keep dreaming.

Today's Gold Star Question from Dr. Science:
My dog ran into a mirror and broke it. Will her 7 years of bad luck be measured in normal years or dog years?
-- Norman Goldfarb from San Matero, CA

I hate it when this happens....
Ordinarily, one would think I'd be in heaven. Two of my favorite filmakers--the brothers Coen and Quentin Tarantino--are releasing new flicks this weekend. You'd think I'd be in heaven. HOWEVER.... the two film critics I trust the most--Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and James Berardinelli (independent Internet critic) split on their judgements.

The Tarantino offering is, of course, "Kill Bill, Volume 1". Berardinelli didn't like it. Ebert, on the other hand, gave it four stars. The Coen brothers are giving us "Intolerable Cruelty" (another great point: I like George Clooney a lot as an actor, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is one of the front runners for my vote for Sexiest Woman Alive right now), which Berardinelli liked, and Ebert gives a thumbs down.

Decisions, decisions. I'll probably make sure to get to see "Intolerable Cruelty": if you lay them beside one another, I generally go with Berardinelli over Ebert (Berardinelli is closer to my taste than Ebert more often), and I like comedies, even dumb ones. I'll probably get to "Kill Bill" (I will be curious about what Tarantino does with it), but if I miss it that may not be such a problem, to judge from Berardinelli's review.

Very True....
From today's Daily Kos:

Why do Bush's best friends hate America?
You can judge the character of a man by the company he keeps. And given some of Bush's friends, his character is not looking so good.

Like, say, religious wingnut Pat Robertson:

"The US State Department has lodged a vehement complaint with prominent conservative televangelist Pat Robertson for comments suggesting that its Foggy Bottom headquarters should be destroyed with nuclear weapons, officials said."

Or how about anti-tax wingnut Grover Norquist:

NORQUIST: The argument that some who play to the politics of hate and envy and class division will say is, "Well, that's only 2 percent -- or, as people get richer, 5 percent, in the near future -- of Americans likely to have to pay [the estate tax]." I mean, that's the morality of the Holocaust: "Oh, it's only a small percentage. It's not you; it's somebody else." And [in] this country, people who may not make earning a lot of money the centerpiece of their lives -- they may have other things to focus on -- they just say it's not just. If you've paid taxes on your income, government should leave you alone, not tax you again.

GROSS: Excuse me one second. Did you just compare the estate tax with the Holocaust?

NORQUIST: No, the morality that says it's okay to do something to a group because they're a small percentage of the population is the morality that says that the Holocaust is okay because they didn't target everybody. "It's just a small percentage, what are you worried about? It's not you. It's not you. It's them."

So to recap, Bush's friends and political allies want to detonate a nuclear bomb in DC and think taxation is akin to the exermination of six million Jews (and other assorted 'undesirables').


And Slate's "International Papers" segment...
has an interesting summary of international reaction to the election of California's Governator.... An excerpt:

"And America is the country that stomps around the world demanding other countries adopt the same political system as its own? No wonder it is taking so long to set up elections in Iraq." So began an op-ed in Britain's Independent after Arnold Schwarzenegger's Tuesday night California recall election victory. Elsewhere in the paper, an editorial said that "even by the bizarre standards of American elective politics," Schwarzenegger's victory "is a strange event." El País of Spain claimed, "California's electoral process confirms the inconsistencies of American democracy revealed in the presidential election of 2000," and Russia's Nezavisnaya Gazeta sniffed, "Hollywood actor Schwarzenegger's victory over a professional governor has once again showed the defective nature of the American electoral system."

The Independent found the recall mechanism an "undesirable" arrangement: It "is profoundly anti-democratic and militates against the strong but unpopular action that governments have to take from time to time." The Financial Times also opposed the recall process, declaring: "The procedure was intended as a safeguard to remove the most incorrigibly corrupt, not as a tool to create permanent political revolution. Its use now will only further entrench the triumph of politics over good governance. California has constructed a political system that leaves its elected officials beholden to the vagaries of instant political gratification." The editorial said it would have been possible to swallow doubts about the process if it had produced an exceptional leader, but Schwarzenegger is not that man, "[T]here can surely be few less palatable candidates for the office of governor. It is not simply his scary past that should trouble voters but the arrogant refusal to discuss the future in anything other than bland generalities."

Interesting piece by Michael Kinsley
Why do liberals swoon over Wesley Clark? (Well, I haven't swooned, but I always hoped I was swoonproof.)

The notion that liberals disdain people in uniform was always a bit of a myth. Even during Vietnam, concern for the loss of young American lives was probably the anti-war movement's most powerful motivation. Since then, sneery right-wingers have had it both ways about liberals and the military: When liberals oppose military action, conservative voices accuse them of betraying our fighting men and women. When liberals support military action, they are accused of callous indifference to the lives of American soldiers.

But the current liberal swooning over (retired) generals is truly something new. A widespread fantasy among liberals who loathe the Bush administration, for example, is that Colin Powell will resign as secretary of state and "say what he really thinks." This will bring down the whole house of cards, these liberals believe. What he really thinks, they think, is more or less what they really think.

There is not much basis for this belief. Powell is skilled at distancing himself from certain policies without seeming disloyal. But if he really were as opposed to the administration he serves as these liberal fantasists imagine, a resignation at this point would come much too late to have any moral force.

Then there is Gen. Wesley Clark. Much of his support comes from people who think they haven't swooned themselves but believe that others will do so. But most of these people are in a swoon whether they realize it or not. They think that Clark has the best chance of defeating George Bush, and that nothing else matters. Their assessment is based on what seems to me a simple-minded view that you can place all the candidates on a political spectrum, then pick the one who's as far toward the other side as your side can bear, and call it pragmatism.

How pragmatic is it, though, to snub the one candidate who seems to be able to get people's juices flowing—that would be Howard Dean—in favor of one with nothing interesting to say, on the theory that this, plus the uniform stashed in the back of his closet, will make him appealing to people you disagree with? When the odds are against you, as they are for the Democrats in 2004, caution and calculation can be the opposite of pragmatism.

Thought for the Day:
Joe is considered something of a humorist, and, like Mark Twain, is from Missouri. The resemblance is strictly residential.
--Jim Brosnan

Thursday, October 09, 2003

People should read this....
Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose just published Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America. A friend on a mail list just finished it (giving it a high recommendation), and forwarded this passage for our consideration. Time to read the whole book, I think:

The programs that help people are the ones being dismantled by ideological zealots. The programs that help corporations at the expense of the taxpayers are being left in place."Un-american" is not a word we are given to tossing arund, nor is "fascism" - we have spent years making fun of humorless liberals who hear the sound of jack-booted fascism around every corner. But there is something creepy about what is happening here, and the creepiest thing about it is that no one is talking about it. Mussolini said, "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." That's pretty much what we're looking at here, and the results are not good for the people of this country, no matter what it is called. Jim Hightower has an old speech where he says all the reporting on the Dow Jones Average needs to be replaced with the Doug Jones Average, Doug Jones, Average American Report, How's he doin'? How's it goin' for ol'Doug?

So we went out and talked to ol' Doug. He's in big trouble. So are you. So are we all. Time to raise hell.

Of dogs and days...
Back last month (September 22, according to his archives) Big Stupid Tommy had a short but heartrending tale of the dilemma in a pug's life....

I don't know where you are, but on this Monday in McMinn County, Tennessee, it's a rainy, rainy sumbitch.

You haven't seen a rock and a hard place until you've seen a pug who really has to take a crap, but doesn't like to go out into the rain. He would look at the rain, then he would look at his ass. As pensively as possible.

I think I may have had him beat today.

It was a rainy evening (at least a rainy evening rush hour) in Memphis tonight. Back in the days when I was renting the house in Marion, we had a fenced yard, and even when it was raining it wasn't too much trouble to just let Joli, my dog, out when she had to go. Granted, she never liked going out in the rain, but she could stay out there til she did her business.

Now, I'm in an apartment over in Memphis proper. And that means no fenced yard. So as a result, I have to go when she goes, even if I don't have to go. And if I did have to go, I couldn't very well go in the neighboring front yards, like she does (yes, I carry a baggie and I clean up after her).

Unfortunately, I have a quite high strung dog. Probably neurotic, which is why she and I get along so well (I'm a magnet for neurotic women, but that's not something we'll get into in this post). One of the problems with owning a high strung dog is that she's very easily distracted. Especially when she has to take a dump. She gets started, squats in what we used to call "the kangaroo squat" (dog rears back almost on its "heels", and sticks the tail straight out) and then some random occurance happens. Another dog comes by. Someone walks by on the street. Two water molecules collide in midair a block away. Whatever it is, she startles, and then taking that dump (or trying to take a whiz, if that's the urge du jour) is the last thing on her mind.

I discovered another thing that distracts her. Rain. Especially lots of it, which is what we got here. And the bad part is, I can't just put her in the yard. I've got to go with her. And it's frustrating as hell to know she has to go (she didn't take a dump this morning, which is not uncommon; I think she gets some sick pleasure out of saving the load up and letting fly in prodigous amounts unseen since the age of dinosaurs. I have a sneaking suspicion she wants to see how much dog crap one baggie can hold), but she refuses to do so, because she's too wet and cold.

No, it wasn't that cold (I didn't need a jacket, just an umbrella), but the little bitch has me pretty well nailed; I swear she could teach a Catholic mother a thing or two about a guilt trip.

The early evening stroll was educational, though. I learned a number of useful things:

  • My dog's coat can slurp up about 1/2 to 3/4 a gallon of water, and keep it in reserve.

  • Reserve for what? For coming up right under the umbrella, and shaking all that water directly on me.

  • Joli finds the "shake the coat under the umbrella" trick so amusing, she will repeat it. Several times in a 20 minute walk

  • A pair of khaki Dockers will absorb about a quart of water below the knees, without the help of the dog

  • Fortunately, with the help of the dog they don't absorb much more that that. I think the technical scientific term for this phenomenon is "saturation".

  • Finally, Joli seems to find me irresistable....when she's soaking wet and her paws are muddy. When she's clean, I can't get her to jump up and kiss me if my life depended on it. But just get her wet and get some good ol' delta mud on those paws, and she becomes the most affectionate dog whoever lived.

That being said, I went through a lot of time and effort to find one of the few apartment buildings in Memphis that takes dogs her size. The alternative was to give her up.

It was the best time and effort I've ever spent.

From the Bill Maher blog:
A few thoughts about Ahnold....

Re Arnold: The insidiousness of false comparisons. Arnold with Reagan - it was ten years since Reagan had made a movie, he put in time learning politics and being a union leader, columnist, etc; Arnold has a movie in theaters NOW, as he wins the office.

Also, Republicans are being hypocritical re womanizing; suddenly, when it's Arnold, it's no big deal, vs. impeachment, etc; when they have a candidate who can win, all previous standards go out the window, like Bush being a draft dodger. Clinton with Monica was consensual; what Arnold is accused of isn't consensual - and his explanation: 'It depends on what your definition of "pinned" is'? Come on!

Arnold's acceptance speech killed me: 'I will devote myself totally to the job...there will be no time for movies' - well, gee, thanks, what a relief to know that the governor of a state in crisis won't be spending twelve to sixteen hour days on a movie set. Boy, this guy just gives and gives and gives.

Ultimately, having an image of a hero action figure was too much for people to resist. California is Pauline, tied to the railroad tracks, and here comes Captain Save-a-ho.

Good luck, sir. Like the war with Iraq, I was against a Governor Schwarzenneger, but now root for success, and will not work backwards from "I have to make my predictions right."

Hmmmmmm... is that really something you want the world to know.....
Just saw a commercial for Preparation H featuring someone who sure as hell looked like Don Zimmer. Assuming it was, and given that it's considered good advertising ethics that your "endorsers" actually use the product they're endorsing, I'm left wondering... Is this more than I really want to know about Zim?

Sometimes, I am scared for the future....
More from Somerby today:

In a spin-driven press corps, facts don’t matter. Where do “facts” come from? Here’s Bob Novak, up to old tricks on this morning’s Post op-ed page. But at least no agents will be killed:

      NOVAK: Apart from mourning the loss of the governor’s office, Democrats have to consider the angry,
      bitter and ultimately failed campaign. Predictably, Davis was, in the last week, calling for criminal
      prosecution of Schwarzenegger based on mainly anonymous accusations of sexual
      misbehavior on which the one-year statute of limitations had expired.

Mainly anonymous? Of the 15 allegations in the Los Angeles Times’ three main reports, only five were anonymous. But “mainly anonymous” was Schwarzenegger spin, and there it is in this morning’s Post. Can these clowning clowns get any fact straight? Lazy, inept—but invited to parties—the press corps’ overpaid, pampered poodles keep making a joke of your discourse.

Now they tell us....
Bob Somerby, in today's Daily Howler clues us in to a story in today's WaPo: For Schwarzenegger, Time to Make the Numbers Add Up From the Post first:

As a candidate, Arnold Schwarzenegger talked confidently of "terminating" California's outsized budget deficit. Even his 6-year-old daughter had figured out the solution, he said: "Not to spend more than you have."

But now that the action hero-candidate has been transformed into a governor-elect facing the largest state budget deficit in the nation, the question even among many Republicans is whether Schwarzenegger will terminate California's deficit or the deficit will terminate him.

On paper, California faces an $8 billion deficit in its upcoming budget, which could grow to at least $12 billion because of a signature Schwarzenegger campaign promise to eliminate an unpopular car tax worth $4 billion of revenue a year.

Schwarzenegger has not explained how he would close the budget gap. Although he refused to sign a no-new-taxes pledge, he ran as a vehemently anti-tax Republican; and at his first post-election news conference yesterday, he reiterated that saying, "I will not raise taxes."

At the same time, he has identified no uncomfortable spending reductions, and forswore cuts in education -- by far the biggest growth area in outgoing Democratic Gov. Gray Davis's budgets. That would leave $45 billion of programs in the state general fund from which to cut $12 billion -- which budget analysts in both parties say is statistically impossible.

That at least explains why Arnie wasn't cluing voters into his plan for closing the budget gap; I'd wager even the voters of California would be able to see that it was impossible once the numbers were laid out for them.

But let Bob Somerby take it from there:

But when the mainstream press corps sits on its hands, propagandists script your discourse. While the mainstream press wrote its thigh-rubbing profiles of stripper hopefuls and poor Gary Coleman, the propagandists who rule your lives were getting their bogus facts into the discourse. How many people understand the California state budget? On this morning’s Post op-ed page, Harold Meyerson writes from L. A., explaining the way the discourse was shaped by “the populist right—the talk radio hosts, the local Limbaughs:”

      MEYERSON: They seized on the bill legalizing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and on
      the tripling of car taxes. Of course, if Republicans in the legislature had been willing to raise taxes
      on the rich, such regressive measures as the car tax and the tuition increases at public colleges and
      universities would have been unnecessary. But you were likelier to pick up a working knowledge of
      quantum mechanics on talk radio than you were to learn of the GOP’s role in the state’s fiscal crisis.
      Instead, you learned that the state’s business climate was the worst in the nation, which
      it’s not, that taxes were the highest in the land, which they’re not, and that the state has a $38
      billion deficit, which it doesn’t.


But Meyerson’s column describes what happens when your mainstream “press corps” refuses to play its steward role in your discourse. While the press corps clowned and played, telling all on Mary Carey, the pseudo-con spinners who rule your discourse kept flogging that “$38 billion.” It felt good to keep using that very-large number, and so the spinners kept throwing it out. Result? There was CBS’ Harry Smith using the number this past Monday morning (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/8/03). That’s right—when the mainstream press corps slumbers and plays, the spinners’ “facts” get treated as law. Indeed, Arnold’s cable campaign manager also used the false figure on Monday.


But just take a look at the shape of your discourse. Two days after the election ends, the Washington Post lays out the facts—and right up through election day, Smith and Matthews, paid millions a year, were repeating the Schwarzenegger camp’s bogus facts. They’re lazy; inept; in some cases, corrupt; but more than anything, your millionaire pundits couldn’t care less about your discourse and interests. What is the actual shape of your discourse? While your mainstream “press corps” slumbers and plays, those half-witted, “populist” talk-show hosts keep scripting the terms of your corrupted debate. Tomorrow, we’ll see how stupid it actually gets when incompetents like Smith and Matthews keep power.

More sense from Molly Ivins:
Make sure you read the whole column

Dubya Dubya II: Bush's photo-op claim of victory might backfire in 2004

Much as I hate to interrupt what is apparently a deeply felt triumphalism on the American right, now that it's over, does anyone see any reason for our having invaded Iraq?

I realize that's what we all kept trying to figure out before the invasion, but don't you think it should at least be visible in hindsight? Good thing we won the war, because the peace sure looks like a quagmire.

These are early days, certainly, to attempt a full historical evaluation. Could be a case of the forest and the trees. Perhaps we're well along the road to having everything work out magnificently, and I'm just missing it. Still, I can't see anything that's going right.

Iraq is in chaos, and apparently the only way we'll be able to stop it will be to kill a lot of Iraqis. Just what Saddam used to do. The other day, we announced we were going to shoot looters, and when that produced nightmare scenarios of children dead for stealing bread, we had to cancel the plan.

Now we're going to try gun control. That should have the enthusiastic support of the NRA. Meanwhile, the chaos in Iraq seems to be costing us whatever goodwill we earned for getting rid of Saddam Hussein, the one unmitigated good to have come from all this.

I hate to be picky, picky, picky, but there are still no weapons of mass destruction. In fact, we've apparently even stopped looking for them. Since Iraq never had anything to do with Al Qaeda or Sept. 11 -- despite American public opinion on this issue -- it was certainly no surprise to see Al Qaeda back again, with strikes in both Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

Bush's announcement that we had broken up the organization seems to have been a trifle premature. There was much unmuted griping from American intelligence about the total Saudi failure to cooperate before the attack there. (As one antiwar sign reminded us before the recent events, "Sept. 11 equals 15 Saudis, 0 Iraqis.")

Meanwhile, one of the other sales pitches we were given was that, for reasons never explained, getting rid of Saddam Hussein would make it easier to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It's not looking promising. Didn't look promising before the war, doesn't now.

When I agree with Glenn Reynolds....
I should probably rethink my position. But he is right when he points this out (in a discussion of the "recall Arnold" meme):

Recalls aren’t anti-democratic. They are, if anything, anti-republican — by which I mean that they’re inconsistent with the “republican principle” of representative government over direct democracy. (It’s ironic, isn’t it, that at the moment the main champions of this republican principle are Democrats?) And representative government, for reasons that Madison, et al., spelled out in The Federalist, is a good thing.

As long as I'm on the topic, I'll go on record as saying: 1) I think that a "recall Arnold" drive is silly (Reynolds says it's "childish"; thank God, we disagree ;-) ), and 2) I sorta disagree with Reynolds and agree (a bit, and I hate to say this) with Arnie that the California recall process should probably be amended to make it a bit more difficult to recall the gov, and/or to prevent some of the anomalies for which the California recall process was criticized prior to Schwarzenegger's win (e.g. having a large minority vote against the recall, but then having a replacement candidate with a very small plurality winning the recall election). For example, how about changing it from a recall to an ouster vote, with the proviso being that if the Governor is ousted by a majority of the electorate then the Lieutenant Governor assumes the office (which is what I think Bustamonte should have done instead of approving having an election for Davis's successor, but I'll leave Bustamonte to kick himself over that; he doesn't need my help)? Now, I do agree with my colleagues on the left-leaning side of the fence in one respect; if Arnie does work to amend the recall process he should rightly avoid the conflict of interest by insuring that he's exempted from the new, tougher standards.

Things that make you go hmmmmmm.....
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo catches a story that I would think would get a lot bigger press than it has: Bush ally compares estate tax to the Holocaust. First, from TPM:

Why isn't this getting more attention?

A few days ago I heard from several readers that anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who is a close advisor to President Bush and Karl Rove, compared the Estate Tax to Nazi persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. Not kinda sorta. He really did.

When NPR host Terry Gross did a double-take and asked him if he really meant to equate the two, Norquist responded he didn't say they were the same but that ...

      the morality that says it's okay to do something to a group because they're a small percentage of
      the population is the morality that says that the Holocaust is okay because they didn't target
      everybody. "It's just a small percentage, what are you worried about? It's not you. It's not you. It's
      them." And arguing that it's okay to loot some group because it's them, or kill some group because
      it's them -- and because it's a small number -- has no place in a democratic society that treats
      people equally.

That sounds to me like he is equating the two, or at least the 'morality' behind them.

That's outrageous.

See yesterday's New Dem Daily for more.

If you follow the link to the New Dem Daily, you get some good sense, instead:

The most interesting thing about this exchange isn't that Norquist succumbs to the insensitive and intellectually lazy habit of cheapening the Holocaust with disproportionate analogies; this is a lamentably common trait of zealots on both ends of the ideological spectrum. Nor is it surprising that his all-consuming hatred of government drives him to compare taxation with "looting" and "mugging" instead of a means for covering the cost of the government and public enterprises without which most of the rich would never get rich -- from infrastructure, to a legal system, to public education, to retirement security, to international trade, and ultimately, to freedom. What's stunning is that Norquist views progressive taxation not as a debatable but time-tested method for financing government, but as a crime against human rights that's fundamentally the same as racial or religious discrimination.

This country has maintained a progressive system of taxation for nearly a century. The great post-World War II U.S. economic boom was accompanied with tax rates on high earners and on estates far higher than those prevailing in recent decade. The great 1990s boom, which created the largest upper class -- and the first mass upper-middle class -- in human history, was accompanied by the tax rates that George W. Bush has been so obsessively flattening and shifting since he took office. Yet Norquist views this fiscal tradition as one of the great injustices of the 20th century.

No one in the Bush White House would be so impolitic as to echo what Norquist said in this interview. But as we reported in a recent issue of Blueprint magazine, it's scary how close to the Republican mainstream his views have become.

Progressive taxation is one of the great bipartisan traditions of the last century. And that's why it's fair to wonder if the Bush administration is determined, as a matter of ideology and even morality, to take us back more than a century to the economic and fiscal policies of Karl Rove's beau ideal, William McKinley -- when the rich did not fear jackboots in the night.

Why isn't the pundit corps all over this? And why aren't more working-and-middle-class people aware of the desire of the GOP radicals and their corporate backers: to make you pay for the infrastructure and the public services that lets them get and stay rich--not to mention cutting the social services (medical care, Social Security, etc.) that will benefit you?

One more word outta Norquist, and I swear to Gawd I'm going to get one of those "Kill the rich" bumper stickers. Two more words, and I'm going to exercise my Second Amendment rights, then take out a few of the tax-cut fattened bastards.....

Interesting Juxtapositions Department:
My usually impeachable sources tell me that today is the mutual birthday of John Lennon, Jackson Browne, and Trent Lott.

UPDATE: From another usually impeachable source (the "Quote of the Day" email newsletter):

It's a big day for pop musician birthdays. Sean Lennon was born at New York City on this day in 1975. Jackson Brown sang his first note (in Germany) in 1948. Jeannie C. Riley (who inflicted "Harper Valley PTA" on us) was born in Texas in 1945. John Entwistle of The Who was born in the London suburb of Chiswick in 1944. And most importantly, John Winston Lennon was born to a troubled working-class family at Liverpool, England on this day in 1940.

What I find most intresting is that father and son, John and Sean Lennon, should share the same birthday. I wonder how many families that happens to?

To every dark cloud, there is a silver lining....
And it looks like the silver lining of "Governor Schwarzenegger" is that we won't see Arnie "acting" anytime soon.

After the dismal reception of "Terminator 3", that might be good news to the studios, too.

Though it just occurs to me: I thought that a while ago I'd heard that a deal was cut to produce a sequel to "True Lies" (Arnie as a spy married to Jamie Lee Curtis, who is "blissfully" ignorant of what he really does for a living). According to Arnie's filmography in the IMDB, however, I don't see that as listed as being in pre-production; I assume that any plans will be put on hold pending completion of Arnie's term(s) as Gov. OTOH, the filmography does list two Schwarzenegger projects still pending: "Around the World in 80 Days" is listed as being in post-production, so I assume that it will be released this year as listed, whereas "Joe's Last Chance" is listed as "in production" with a scheduled release of 2004. Since Arnie has made it clear that he's putting movies on the back burner for his gubernatorial term, I assume that this one will be delayed, if not outright shitcanned.

Figures don't lie, but liars figure....
Daniel Gross, in Slate, explains the ins and outs of employment statistics, and in the process, warns us that the Bush misAdministration may be trying to decieve us about economic "growth" and job "creation".....

Well, political campaigns make me feel like I need a drink....
Here's the first version I've seen of the inevitable Democratic debate drinking game. I suppose one should avoid the rush and start working on the Presidential debate drinking game, though I suppose there's a very excellent chance that President Shit-for-brains won't debate....

This just in!
From Timothy Noah in Slate: Schwarzenegger polled more Californians as Gov than he did in Terminator 3

Kinda makes sense, doesn't it?

Thought for the Day:
Today's cliche is "Be careful what you ask for." My request for cool drink recipes brought a flood of formulas for Lynchburg Lemonade, Forest Fire, Bora Bora Brew, Purple Haze, and something involving NyQuil, rubbing alcohol, and Mr. PiBB . Naturally, as a journalist I felt it my duty to investigate each one. I don't remember much about the next 48 hours, but when I finally woke up, I felt nastier than a lawyer for the RIAA.
--Robert X. Cringely []

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

And from today's Howler
More explanation of how the right-wingnuts became so loud:

What is the shape of America’s discourse? Increasingly, it looks like this: Loudmouth spinners of the pseudo-right send out ludicrous, laughable spin-points. And store-bought incompetents—men like Smith—ignore the lunacy floating around them, or repeat the bogus spin-points themselves. Lazy, indifferent, inept and corrupted, they simply refuse to serve as your stewards. As a result, the pseudo-con spinners who count on their dumbness have become increasingly bold. There is nothing so stupid, so venal, so false that they won’t serve it to half-witted readers. They do so, knowing that “good guy” pundits will never say a word in complaint.

From yesterday's incomparable Daily Howler
Why does neo-con propaganda triumph?

But there’s more to complain about in this piece than the author’s lazy recycling. Why was Gore trashed during Campaign 2000, a process which put George Bush in the White House? Let a Post “good guy” explain it:

     DIONNE: In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush’s domestic opponents and much of the world joined him
     in supporting tough action against terror and agreeing on the urgent need to advance the values of
     democracy, free expression and tolerance.

     That sense of shared purpose has evaporated. It was destroyed less because of what our enemies and
     wayward friends did than by the administration’s almost casual disregard for the link between facts and
     arguments. The president used the tactics of a political campaign to sell the war in Iraq. Now comes the

     It’s increasingly obvious that the administration was willing to say whatever was necessary to get the Iraq
     war done on its schedule.

In the run-up to Iraq, Dionne says, Bush displayed an “almost casual disregard for the link between facts and arguments.” Indeed, “the administration was willing to say whatever was necessary” to get its way. And how does Dionne frame this situation? These “tactics” belong to political campaigns, not to a run-up to war, he asserts! If Dionne actually means what he says, bald dissembling is fine in a White House campaign. You just have to stop once elected.

We’ve tried to tell you, for over a year: Democrats need to understand the way their party lost the White House. And we’ll try to suggest something else this week: Americans need to understand the shape of their clown-like public discourse. Why do we live in an Age of Propaganda? Because “good guy” pundits like Dionne display lazy, who-gives-a-sh*t attitudes like this. Trust us: Pseudo-con writers are showing more outrage than Dionne musters here over trumped-up claims about Joe Wilson....

What’s the shape of your corrupted public discourse? You live at a time when the Coulters (and the Jennifer Harpers) will do and say anything, no matter how stupid, to push their pseudo-conservative propaganda. And you live at a time when the E. J. Dionnes make it clear—
they don’t really care. Overpaid, over-fed, over-partied, over-praised, the “good guy” press corps doesn’t much care if President Bush lied your way into war. The best they can do? They emit modest peeps: He should save that stuff for his elections!

Why is George W. Bush in the White House? Read this lazy, who-gives-a-sh*t, piece and understand it:
These people don’t care.

Some more comments on Ah-nuld....
A post from this morning's SKEPTIC feed is worthy of quotation in full:

From: "KPF"
> Paul Begala is at the Davis HQ tonight, and he says there are some powerful
> Democrats already talking about a "recall the recall" movement--in other
> words, beginning a recall campaign as soon as Schwarzenegger is sworn in (if
> he sounds like this election is too close to call right now),
> which means we may be going through this all over again in a few
> weeks/months.

I think that would be a bad political move. The Democrats would just look
like poor losers. And they don't have a decent candidate, anyway. They'd be
much better off to spend the next couple years regrouping and giving some
thought to how they managed to fuck up so badly. Which they did.

No, I'm not a republican or an Arnold supporter. I voted no on the recall
and for Bustamante. Only because these were the least bad of several bad
choices. But IMO Davis has been a poor governor and a poor candidate, and
Bustamante shows little or no promise.

Remember just 2 yrs ago how the democrats gloated over winning every
statewide office? Dumb dumb dumb. Davis barely beat Bill Simon, the
Republican. And Simon (Davis's hand-picked opponent) was a bad candidate
(right hand fringe of the spectrum, no appeal at all to any Democrats and
little appeal to moderate Republicans) who ran a bone-headed campaign.
The first sign of big trouble was that Davis was able to beat Simon by only
5 points or so. He should have been able to beat him by at least 20 points.

> Tucker Carlson over at Schwarzenegger's HQ says it's likely
> one of Arnold's first acts as governor will be to try to change the state
> constitution to make recalling governors more difficult! Talk about
> balls...

I can't agree. Fixing the recall process should be top priority for the
state govt. (well, after they fix the budget, har har har).

It's pretty obvious how the recall process originated. A bunch of
hard-working detail-oriented writers had finally finished up the brand new
State Constitution. They were proud of themselves, but tired from the
extended effort. So they headed down to the biggest tavern in Sacramento and
got roaring drunk. Then, and only then, one of them thought, "Hey, we ought
to have a recall system in case the people don't like the Governor." Yeah,
they all said. So they sat down to write it and ratify it on the spot.

It looks like it's over now (network TV is calling the election: Davis is
out, The Terminator is in).

We won't know for a few weeks, but I'll bet Davis got about 45-48% "yes"
votes (i.e., no to the recall) and that Schwartzeneger got about 35-40%
votes in his part of the ballot. How stupid is that? The guy with the most
votes loses? Jeez, what if our national elections worked that way?

Oh well. After brief reigns by Minnesota and Florida, California regains its
title as the goofiest state in the nation.

But I'm looking forward to Arnold's governorship. He's going to balance the
budget without raising taxes and without cutting education or anything else
that anyone cares about. And his solution to unemployment problems is that
"everyone will have a great job."

I think his complete policy platform is:
Zipidee doo-dah, zipidee-ay, my, oh my, what a wonderful day. Plenty of
sunshine headin' my way, zipidee-doo-dah, zipitee-ay.

What the hell. It worked for Regan.


And from across the pond, Justin Webb pings on something that is troubling me (and, by implication the writer of the above SKEPTIC post):

The BBC's Justin Webb says the people who voted for Mr Schwarzenegger will soon want to see concrete policies and results from the new governor who has been short on detail and "big" on promises.

Ah-nuld may discover very soon that the action hero wins in Hollywood because the script requires it; in real life, there ain't any script.

If you see a "study" that claims that Windows is better than Linux....
there's a really good chance that Microsoft paid for it. Now, however, that may be catching up with the Beast of Redmond: Questions Dog Microsoft on Linux Studies, from eWeek

But hey, weirdness is equal opportunity....

Though I wish Pete had linked to his little piece of erotica..... Now he's got me curious.

Well, whatever works, but....
this still strikes me as tres weird..... "Happier marriage through spanking." I can only imagine what either of my two wives would have thought about this one.

I guess it's because he's an underachiever....
I smiled a bit at Kos's take on Al Sharpton's campaign:

His campaign is reportedly in trouble. I'm not sure why -- it's not like the guy is under any real pressure like the top tier candidates.

More on "brights"
A result of some web searching brought on by some soul searching by the "brights" on the SKEPTIC list, including those of us "brights" who don't at all like the term...

This from Annalee Newitz in AlterNet: TECHSPLOITATION: The Damned

But the climactic moment in Dawkins's argument is that bright will be a term that atheists – erm, I mean naturalists – can use to raise consciousness, to teach people that godlessness is next to cleanliness. He compares this linguistic feat to what he calls "the homosexual hijacking of the word 'gay.'" Gay, he says, is an "up" word, just like bright. Just as homos stole the word gay away from the aesthetically minded Dawkins, now the infidels can steal bright away from George W. Bush.

First of all, let's get something straight here, Mr. Dawkins. Homosexuals did not "hijack" the word gay. They were called gay as an insult by other people – the same people who called them pansy and nelly, which also happen to be very "up" words. Gay activists didn't sit down together, design a poorly written Web site, and say, "Let's pick a nice word to call ourselves so that people won't hate us!" Nope, they fought tooth and fucking nail to be respected, and they got beaten up by cops and fired from their jobs and sent to jail and raped. Finally they were so miserable and pissed off that they just started calling themselves gay to take the insulting sting out of the word. That's why people in my generation call themselves queers. That's why blacks call themselves niggers, and why people who grew up in trailer parks call themselves trash. This ain't no fucking marketing campaign for "Internet constituencies." It's survivor's pride.

Daniel Dennett's op-ed ("The Bright Stuff," 7/12/03) on being a Bright in the New York Times is not quite as clueless as Dawkins' piece . Dennett decries the prejudice against atheists and identifies himself as a persecuted "silent majority." He's right, in some ways. Although there are 27 million atheists in the United States, many in the highly productive science and technology fields, we are routinely derided by our Judeo-Christian leaders. No politician has yet dared to out him or herself as a nonbeliever. Public policy is often based on the idea that we have souls in need of saving.

But if we're going to stand up and fight for our right to be atheists, let's not try to jump-start some dumb little advertising campaign that makes us sound like cultists or kids who went to hippie day school. Let's start where it hurts, the way our brothers and sisters did: with words like godless, unholy, damned, infidel, unbeliever, sinner. I am a sinner and proud! Civil liberties for the infidel! We represent the godless future! Now get used to it.

A pretty interesting portrait...
of Wesley Clark on the stump can be found on Slate: Generalities: the virtues and shortcomings of Wes Clark's earnestness


Watching Clark answer questions, you almost can't believe he's running for president. Does he support equal rights for gays? Yes. Has ultrasound affected his view of abortion? I'm pro-choice. It's hard to convey the artlessness of his responses. You don't see his eyes, jaws, or hands working over the question, probing for threats and opportunities, the way John Kerry or John Edwards does. One hand grips the mike; the other hangs in his pocket. He stares at the questioner, unblinking. His eyebrows never rise. Neither does his voice.


Clark's earnestness matches his message. Edwards, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, and Joe Lieberman are basically ideological. When possible, they frame their policy critiques as moral indictments. Kerry tries to be ideological but sounds phony because he's basically practical. That's why he goes around promising "a better set of choices" and wondering why that promise doesn't excite people.

Clark is a more genuine and—if this is possible—less exciting version of Kerry. He makes no attempt to dress up his practicality. If he were a senator, this would be a disaster. But because he's a soldier and has killed bad guys, it works.


If Clark gets the nomination, there will be downsides. He has the ability to take the same indictment with which Dean has fired up countless crowds—"The American people were led into Iraq on false pretenses"—and make it sound like a corporate annual report. The presidency he envisions sounds equally soporific: "Let's get an administration in Washington that can face the problems, communicate 'em honestly, face 'em honestly, pull people together of all political stripes, and solve 'em together as Americans."

But the real peril of earnestness isn't that it's boring as a campaign theme. The real peril is that it's insufficient as a governing philosophy. At the Iowa forum, Clark says of the standardized tests by which Bush measures schools, "That's only one way of measuring children. The most important measurement is what's not in the No Child Left Behind Act—that is, can we develop the full human potential of every boy and girl in America?" Later, Clark draws a parallel, as he has done before, between developing soldiers and developing citizens: Just as the Army trains recruits to "be all you can be," schools, employers, and other institutions must help civilians "develop their full human potential."

I don't know whether standardized tests measure the kind of progress we want. But I know they measure something. That's more than I can say for human potential, being all you can be, and the other earnest aspirations of a Clark administration.

Just one more reflection about Ah-nuld
I suppose its time for Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, Shane Black, and Kevin Peter Hall to run for Governor of their respective states.....

Click here if that went completely over your heads....

UPDATE: When reality starts mirroring the jokes, it's time to throw in the towel. This from The Internet Movie Database:

Three of the actors portraying commandoes besieged by the Predator have run for state governorships: Jesse Ventura (won Minnesota's gubernatorial election in 1998); Sonny Landham (filed as a Republican in Kentucky's 2003 gubernatorial election; withdrew before the primary; announced his intention to run as an independent and ultimately withdrew) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (currently (September 2003) running in California's gubernatorial recall).

That's weird though.... must have been something in the water on location.

Thought for the Day:
In honor of the Governor-elect of California:

Jesse Ventura shows what's good about democracy: any person can be elected to any office. Jesse Ventura also demonstrates what stinks about democracy: any person can be elected to any office.
--Lewis Black

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Hmmmm... can you call this pork?
It'd be interesting to see who's the beneficiary of a lot of this spending. This is from an email from a friend who is politically connected in her community in Arkansas (my emphasis within the quote):

Had a meeting this morning with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) about some local issues. She took a few minutes while we were engaging in small talk to talk about the $87 billion Iraq appropriation. She's agin' it, not as a matter of principle, but because it includes some line-items she says can't be justified. F'rinstance:

-- $800 mil for wetlands reclamation. I was surprised there'd be enough wetlands in Iraq to spend $800 mill reclaiming them, but even more irritated when she pointed out that's three times what we spend in the US annually for wetlands reclamation.
-- $200 mil for wireless infrastructure when, as she noted, "I can't make a cell phone call from Horseshoe Lake," the community where she used to live, about 40 minutes south of me.
-- 30 pickup trucks @$30 grand apiece for the maintenance of said wireless infrastructure. Kinda pricey pickup trucks.

Blanche says the bill has a number of items like that. Wanna bet she catches hell for opposing it out of "purely partisan" motives?

Of course, it'll be interesting to see the reaction fall out to Bush's decision to let Alberto Gonzales (counsel to the President) review all the docs to be turned to Justice in the investigation of l'affaire Plame. Josh Marshall is, understandibly if not justifiabily, a bit suspicious. Billmon, on the other hand, is a bit more sanguine. For my part I'm not at all surprised that Bush is having the counsel review everything, though I'd feel better about it if he turned everything over unreviewed. Of course, if we were dealing with any other person/organization than the President/White House you realize that there'd be no chance to have counsel review the documents; they'd have been subpoenaed (if not seized pursuant to a search warrant). But this is the President, after all.....

I'll try to look fair, and pretend I don't smell a rat.

Looks damn good to me....
From CNN: Bestseller list dominated by liberals

True Tales of Criminal Stupidity Department
Randy Cassingham, of This is True refers us to the case of the driver and his two passengers in Florida, who decide on a lark to run through a highway tollbooth. In a classic demonstration of why you shouldn't be driving while under the influence of any substance which alters your consciousness, what they thought was a mere highway tollbooth was, in fact, the guardshack at one of the entrance gates to MacDill Air Force Base. One can but imagine their surprise when they were finally stopped by the AF Security Policemen, with assault rifles and machine guns drawn. Total haul: three high (and very stupid) Floridians, 35 grams of cocaine, and $1000 or so in cash.

Now everyone, repeat after me:

Criminals are stupid--that's why they get caught. --Jon R. Waltz, Professor of Law, Northwestern University, August, 1979

Is Linux safer?
From SecurityFocus via La Reg: Scott Granneman (of Bryan Consulting in St. Louis) addresses that common Windows shill claim: "There are more Windows viruses because Windows is the dominant platform". His conclusion: in order to mess up a Linux box, you've really got to work at it. To mess up a Windows box, you've only got to work on it.

Jack Clarke, European product manager at McAfee, said, "So we will be seeing more Linux viruses as the OS becomes more common and popular."

Mr. Clarke is wrong.

Sure, there are Linux viruses. But let's compare the numbers. According to Dr. Nic Peeling and Dr Julian Satchell's Analysis of the Impact of Open Source Software (note: the link is to a 135 kb PDF file):

"There are about 60,000 viruses known for Windows, 40 or so for the Macintosh, about 5 for commercial Unix versions, and perhaps 40 for Linux. Most of the Windows viruses are not important, but many hundreds have caused widespread damage. Two or three of the Macintosh viruses were widespread enough to be of importance. None of the Unix or Linux viruses became widespread - most were confined to the laboratory."

So there are far fewer viruses for Mac OS X and Linux. It's true that those two operating systems do not have monopoly numbers, though in some industries they have substantial numbers of users. But even if Linux becomes the dominant desktop computing platform, and Mac OS X continues its growth in businesses and homes, these Unix-based OS's will never experience all of the problems we're seeing now with email-borne viruses and worms in the Microsoft world. Why?

Why are Linux and Mac OS X safer?

First, look at the two factors that cause email viruses and worms to propagate: social engineering, and poorly designed software. Social engineering is the art of conning someone into doing something they shouldn't do, or revealing something that should be kept secret. Virus writers use social engineering to convince people to do stupid things, like open attachments that carry viruses and worms. Poorly designed software makes it easier for social engineering to take place, but such software can also subvert the efforts of a knowledgable, security-minded individual or organization. Together, the two factors can turn a single virus incident into a widespread disaster.

Let's look further at social engineering. Windows software is either executable or not, depending on the file extension. So if a file ends with ".exe" or ".scr", it can be run as a program (yes, of course, if you change a text file's extension from ".txt" to ".exe", nothing will happen, because it's not magically an executable; I'm talking about real executable programs). It's easy to run executables in the Windows world, and users who get an email with a subject line like "Check out this wicked screensaver!" and an attachment, too often click on it without thinking first, and bang! we're off to the races and a new worm has taken over their systems.

Even worse, Microsoft's email software is able to infect a user's computer when they do something as innocuous as read an email! Don't believe me? Take a look at Microsoft Security Bulletins MS99-032, MS00-043, MS01-015, MS01-020, MS02-068, or MS03-023, for instance. Notice that's at least one for the last five years. And though Microsoft's latest versions of Outlook block most executable attachments by default, it's still possible to override those protections.

This sort of social engineering, so easy to accomplish in Windows, requires far more steps and far greater effort on the part of the Linux user. Instead of just reading an email (... just reading an email?!?), a Linux user would have to read the email, save the attachment, give the attachment executable permissions, and then run the executable. Even as less sophisticated users begin to migrate to Linux, they may not understand exactly why they can't just execute attachments, but they will still have to go through the steps. As Martha Stewart would say, this is a good thing. Further, due to the strong community around Linux, new users will receive education and encouragement in areas such as email security that are currently lacking in the Windows world, which should help to alleviate any concerns on the part of newbies.

Further, due to the strong separation between normal users and the privileged root user, our Linux user would have to be running as root to really do any damage to the system. He could damage his /home directory, but that's about it.


Unfortunately, running as root (or Administrator) is common in the Windows world. In fact, Microsoft is still engaging in this risky behavior. Windows XP, supposed Microsoft's most secure desktop operating system, automatically makes the first named user of the system an Administrator, with the power to do anything he wants to the computer. The reasons for this decision boggle the mind. With all the lost money and productivity over the last decade caused by countless Microsoft-borne viruses and worms, you'd think the company could have changed its procedures in this area, but no.

Even if the OS has been set up correctly, with an Administrator account and a non-privileged user account, things are still not copasetic. On a Windows system, programs installed by a non-Administrative user can still add DLLs and other system files that can be run at a level of permission that damages the system itself. Even worse, the collection of files on a Windows system - the operating system, the applications, and the user data - can't be kept apart from each other. Things are intermingled to a degree that makes it unlikely that they will ever be satisfactorily sorted out in any sensibly secure fashion.


Now that we've looked at the social engineering side of things, let's examine software design for reasons why Linux (and Mac OS X) is better designed than Microsoft when it comes to email security. Microsoft continually links together its software, often not for technical reasons, but instead for marketing or business development reasons (see the previous link for corroboration). For instance, Outlook Express and Outlook both use the consistently-buggy Internet Explorer to view HTML-based emails. As a result, a hole in IE affects OE. Linux email readers don't indulge in such behavior, with two exceptions: Mozilla Mail uses the Gecko engine that powers Mozilla to view HTML-based email, while KMail relies on the KHTML engine that the Konqueror browser uses. Fortunately, both Mozilla and the KDE Project have excellent records when it comes to security.

Further, the email programs themselves are designed to act in a more secure manner. The default behavior of the email program I prefer - KMail - is to not load external references in messages, such as pictures and Web bugs, and to not display HTML. When an HTML-based email shows up in my Inbox, I see only the HTML code, and a message appears at the top of the email: "This is an HTML message. For security reasons, only the raw HTML code is shown. If you trust the sender of this message then you can activate formatted HTML display for this message by clicking here." But even after I activate the HTML, certain dynamic elements that can be introduced in an HTML-based email - like Java, Javascript, plugins and even the "refresh" META tag - do not display, and cannot even be enabled in KMail.

Finally, if there is an attachment, it does not automatically run ... ever. Instead, I have to click it, and when I do, I get a dialog box offering me three options: "Save As ..." (the default), "Open With ...", and "Cancel". If I have mapped a file type to a specific program - for instance, I have associated PDFs with the PS/PDF Viewer, then "Open With ..." instead says "Open", and if I choose "Open", then the file opens in the PS/PDF Viewer. However, in either case, the dialog box always contains a warning advising the user that attachments can compromise security. This is all good, very good.

For all these reasons, even if a few individuals got infected with a virus due to extremely foolish behavior, it's unlikely the virus would spread to other machines. Unlike Sobig.F, which is the fastest spreading virus ever, a Linux-based Virus would fizzle out quickly. Windows is an inviting petri dish for viruses and worms, while Linux is a hostile environment for such nasties.


Security is, as we all know, a process, not a product. So when you use Linux, you're not using a perfectly safe OS. There is no such thing. But Linux and Mac OS X establish a more secure footing than Microsoft Windows, one that makes it far harder for viruses to take hold in the first place, but if one does take hold, harder to damage the system, but if one succeeds in damaging the system, harder to spread to other machines and repeat the process. When it comes to email-borne viruses and worms, Linux may not be completely immune - after all, nothing is immune to human gullibility and stupidity - but it is much more resistant. To mess up a Linux box, you need to work at it; to mess up your Windows box, you just need to work on it. I know which one I'll trust. How about you?

Thought for the Day:
No matter how much better it is technically, the digital signals will still be broadcasting TV. "America's Stupidest Home Videos" and "Survivor" dressed up in high quality digital format will be comparable to poop packaged in a candy wrapper. Without a substantial change in the
programming itself, it's going to be tough to become interested in digital TV.
--Scott White [SKEPTIC mail list post]

Monday, October 06, 2003

Some good sense...
from Steve Gilliard's News Blog. The subject is, of course, why Californians should resist the lure of the Governator.....

But there are other, equally compelling reasons to vote against a total neophyte to run the California economy. Simply put, he is completely unqualified to manage the budget. Americans have an open disdain for professionals. There is the naive assumption that most people can do most jobs. People believe that they can play professional sports to a frightening degree. You have 5'10" teenagers assuming that an NBA career is within reach. Any number of rappers have tried to play professional basketball. Most adult men assume they can hit a major league fastball. Denigrating teachers is a national pasttime. Hell, people will even try to defend themselves in jury trials.

This delusion is a popular one in a society where the illusion of upward mobility and shared wealth dominates the national agenda. If most Americans understood how little they benefit from regressive tax policies and other pro-wealthy biases in the law, they would be stunned.

One popular delusion about government is that it needs to be run like a business. Because Schwarzenegger is rich and has power, it is assumed that he is a successful businessman. In reality, he has only hired a few people and for the most part is an employee. He has some business skill, but less than the average Army depot sergeant. Compared to George Clooney, he's not even hands on. There are 25 year old sergeants in Iraq better equipped to run California than Schwarzenegger.


Davis never really explained how badly the state was screwed by the energy crisis and how the dot com collapse stripped billions from the state budget. Instead the costs of living went up and they blamed him for incompetence when much of it was not his fault. Schwarzenegger has offered some simplistic solutions, but will basically face a brutal reality. No one owes him anything in Sacramento. Once that becomes apparent, his problems will explode in his face. The Unions and lobbyists will run circles around him. When people realize that they voted for an image and not a governor, they will not be particularly happy.


The only reason to vote for Schwarzengger is if you want to see California in utter chaos. I'll find it amusing, but then, I live in New York.

Incomparable, as always....
Bob Somerby, in The Daily Howler for today, calls the pundit corps to task in their apparent inability to understand the concept of "consent". Bob is referring, among other incidents, to last Friday night's Hardball, where host Chris Matthews got into a pissing contest with Gloria Allred over her support of Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky matter while she criticizes Arnold Schwarzenegger for his apparent addiction to unsolicited grope.

What part of "consent" do these bozos not understand? The Lewinsky matter was strictly consensual, and she was over the age of consent (well over it, most likely, since the age of consent in just about all (if not all) American jurisdictions is eighteen, if not younger (in a few jurisdictions, last I looked, as young as 14-16)). In none of the cases that have been uncovered so far has any of the women that have come forward said that they encouraged or consented to Arnold's "attentions". Granted, Clinton's dalliance with Monica was incredibly unwise, but it didn't rise to the level of sexual assault.

It's none of my business if Arnold steps out on Maria Shriver; that's only his business and hers (though I think that if she's being realistic she's already realized that with the privelige of being Mrs. Terminator came the tradeoff that he would probably not be completely faithful to her; that's her decision to make). But his attitude towards women is relevant to deciding whether Arnold would make a good governor, and IMHO, what I've been hearing certainly gives me pause.

But then again, I'm not a Californian....

Do go read Bob's Howler today; he does do a good job of sending up the spin of the pundits. An excerpt:

SULLIVAN’S STRUGGLES: Andrew Sullivan struggled hard to show that Clinton was worse, so much worse. Here’s our favorite of his six silly items:

SULLIVAN: Item two: most of Clinton’s sexual targets were women who worked for him or were under his direct authority. Some of Arnold’s targets were on movie sets where he certainly had social power but where he was, as far as I know, not the owner or direct boss.

Readers, there’s only one word to describe such slick parsing. You know what it is: “Clintonesque.”

By the way, who are these Clinton “targets,” who supposedly made up the bulk of his victims? Presumably, Sullivan refers to Willey and Lewinsky. But Willey’s allegations lack credibility, and Lewinsky engaged in consensual conduct. (And no, she wasn’t “21,” a bit of clowning to which Maureen Dowd returned in yesterday’s column.)

By contrast, Schwarzenegger stands accused of multiple assaults against unwilling women. Sullivan, of course, finds those allegations less troubling. Reason? Schwarzenegger
wasn’t the boss at the time! Say hello to the endless clowning which defines a corrupted press age.

UPDATE, 10/8: In yesterday's Howler, Bob Somerby issued a correction to that last quoted segment:

ERROR: We made a mistake in yesterday HOWLER. Subject: Sully’s analysis of why Clinton was worse, so much worse than Arnold. Sully said this: “[A]ll of Arnold’s incidents were one-off. Clinton, for the most part, pursued the same women over time.” Comical, isn’t it? We don’t know why Arnold should get some sort of pass because he only groped targets one time each. But we were puzzled by Sullivan’s comment on Clinton. Who were these women he allegedly “pursued over time,” supposedly the bulk of his “incidents?” Presumably, Sullivan means Flowers and Lewinsky—but we said Willey and Lewinsky by mistake. For the record, Flowers’ claims lack credibility, and she was alleging consensual conduct. Struggling to concoct exculpations for Arnold, Sully was mixing up apples and oranges, with a kumquat thrown in for good measure.

From Steve Lopez of the L.A. Times...
comes a pretty good analysis of what's wrong with politics today. And along the way, he gets in some well thought out criticisms of Ah-nuld...

Yes, Davis is a tax-and-spend liberal, but we got better schools and a few other benefits in the deal. Yes, he helped dig the hole, and he's been a disaster as governor in more ways than one.

But that doesn't mean Arnold Schwarzenegger or anyone else gets a free pass from me, or the newspaper. The guy hasn't laid out a plan, he's ducked real reporters, and broken his own campaign vows, and he's driving around a polluted city in a Hummer. And yet legions of followers practically wet themselves as he recites lines from bad movies and claims all the state does is tax, tax, tax.

To repeat, California is 19th in the country in state and local taxation. How much Kool-Aid do you have to drink to believe Schwarzenegger won't have to raise taxes and make cuts he hasn't admitted to, at least until the economy picks up? Does anyone remember that, when times were tough, Ronald Reagan ordered up a gigantic tax increase?

I've been harder on Schwarzenegger than Davis lately because the challenger hasn't made the case for why he deserves the job, and I offer no apologies.

I offer no apologies for this newspaper, either, for publishing stories in which a growing parade of women claim to have been bullied, pawed and humiliated by him.

The purpose wasn't to derail his campaign. The purpose was to tell readers what was learned in a two-month investigation about the character of a man who wants to serve as both governor and role model.

You don't have to believe that, and you don't have to buy the newspaper.

But read something, will you? The quality of this country's conversation is sinking faster than Davis's numbers, and I don't think the problem is too much reading.

Um... I'm unclear on the concept.....
On the Tee Vee, they just had an ad for Andrew Lloyd Weber's Starlight Express, which is going to have a run at the Orpheum Theater here. The thing that struck me about the commercial is that they are advertising it as being in "3-D".

Duh! This is a stage show, innit? With real actors? And last I looked, human beings are 3-dimensional beings.... So isn't every stage show, by definition (practically), 3-D?

I just don't get this.....

The final word on... The Governator....
Daily Kos has this to say about Ah-nuld's probable election as California governor:

One silver lining -- Arnold has immunized Democrats from any and all Clinton smears. And unlike Clinton, Arnold gropes unsuspecting and non-consenting adults. And Bush, who talks about "honor and dignity", stands by Arnold?

Funny, those Republicans.

Perhaps this might shame "the family values" contingent the next time they try to insert their tripe into an election? I don't know; to judge by the anti-Clintonian wingnut on one of my mail lists, I don't think so......

DKos also points to the Oakland Tribune's rescinding its earlier endorsement of Der Governator....

Although allegations of his abusive and disrespectful behavior toward women had surfaced earlier, the latest revelations reported in the Los Angeles Times and Schwarzenegger's convenient, but seemingly insincere admission that "I have behaved badly sometimes," alienates a significant proportion of the state's population, male and female.

It indicates a pattern of recurring abuse and boorish behavior that in different circumstances could have led to assault charges. By no stretch of the imagination can his groping and grabbing on "rowdy movie sets" be dismissed as an isolated incident.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has displayed a pattern of such behavior spanning three decades. Called a "sexual harasser" by one female and a "predator" by others, we can no longer in good conscience recommend him for governor.

The last entry has me to thinking....
which is always dangerous for me, but anyway.... Some of the commentary on l'affaire Plame lately has focused on the visceral hatred and distrust of the neocons currently working the strings of their puppet, "President" Smirking Chimp, allegedly because they believe that the CIA systematically underestimated the threat posed by various Enemies of the Republic in the last decade or so. One of the best analyses of l'affaire Plame I've read recently basically says that the whole thing is based in the CIA-White House/neocon feud (which Josh Marshall says that the White House has already lost, thanks to the utter failure to find nuclear weapons in Iraq).

One of the most highly honored former Directors of Central Intelligence is one George Herbert Walker Bush; so highly honored is Bush the Elder that the Agency recently named its headquarters building after him.

I wonder how Bush the Elder feels about his son warring against the Agency he served so long and apparently so well. I bet it'd make for some interesting reading. I think it's a pity Bush the Elder won't (or can't) tell us what he really thinks about his dimwitted son.

Interesting view of "the pathology of the White House"
From Canada's National Post: L'état, c'est George W.: Plame affair reveals Bush team's worst pathologies


But even the most generous possible interpretation of events -- minimizing Plame's covertness, maximizing Wilson's partisan motives and assuming the leakers acted alone -- still provides more evidence of the Bush administration's most alarming pathologies. These are people who all too frequently confuse themselves with the U.S. government, see their enormous power as a tempting means to an end, and treat their critics like enemies of the state.

Take Wilson. Though he served under Republicans and Democrats alike (and was singled out for praise for his work in Baghdad by George Bush, Sr.), and has donated money to both parties, the retired diplomat is being singled out for what the Republican national committee chairman has called his ties to "radical anti-Bush groups."

"The White House encouraged Republicans to portray [Wilson] ... as a partisan Democrat with an agenda and the Democratic Party as scandalmongering," The New York Times reported on Thursday. "It's slime and defend," a Republican aide told the Times.

In this wholly off-topic side-tracking effort -- what could Wilson's political beliefs possibly have to do with White House employees allegedly breaking federal law and compromising national security by vindictively outing a CIA agent? -- the administration has found embarrassingly willing executioners in the tough-on-terrorism press.

The National Review, a conservative magazine friendly enough with Bush that it just published a book of his speeches, has insisted for days that the "real story" is why an investigator as unqualified as Wilson was sent to Niger in the first place. "Don't you just love these Democrats," wrote columnist Jonah Goldberg, in a typically irrelevant comment, "fighting for the integrity of the CIA?"

For the last two years, the pro-war commentariat has taken Bush's "with us, or with the terrorists" line close to heart, allowing for the most intense personalization of U.S. foreign policy in my memory.


Why should I get excited by the Plame affair, some right-of-centre commentators want to know, when it's being blown out of proportion by the Bush-hating Left?

The answers should be familiar: Because organizations that can't process bad information won't learn, and will repeat their mistakes. Abuses of power that go unchecked will just lead to more. Intelligence-gathering warped by political considerations will lead to bad policy. And administrations that regularly invoke a high moral calling will only undermine their own arguments if petty amorality is tolerated.

I've stolen this....
from Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran because, given that my working hours are spent in close contact with pharmacists, I find it hilarious.

Oh, you tell me

There is no truth to the rumour that the republican prescription drug plan involves purchasing your meds in a gas station parking lot...but if you call El Rushbo, he might tell you which service station attendants double as pharmacists.

Things that make you go hmmmmmmm.....
At least until recently, the right side of the blogosphere and the Bush misAdministration were trying to tell us that everything was going just fine in Iraq. If that's the case, why is President Codpiece now trying to fix what, according to the right, isn't broken. From the New York Times:

White House to Overhaul Iraq and Afghan Missions

From the article:

The creation of the group, according to several administration officials, grew out of Mr. Bush's frustration at the setbacks in Iraq and the absence of more visible progress in Afghanistan, at a moment when remnants of the Taliban appear to be newly active. It is the closest the White House has come to an admission that its plans for reconstruction in those countries have proved insufficient, and that it was unprepared for the guerrilla-style attacks that have become more frequent in Iraq. There have been more American deaths in Iraq since the end of active combat than during the six weeks it took to take control of the country.

"The president knows his legacy, and maybe his re-election, depends on getting this right," another administration official said. "This is as close as anyone will come to acknowledging that it's not working."

Maybe it's finally dawning on the Unelected Fraud that he's in way over his head.

Interesting Juxtapositions Department:
According to my usually impeachable sources, today is the mutual birthday of Thor Heyerdahl and Britt Ekland....

There's some sort of cosmic significance to this, though I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is.

Oh shit! Now they're as much as admitting it
From La Reg, again: Intel CEO admits: jobs aren't coming back to US

From the article:

They're calling it the 'jobless recovery' - but it's a misleading phrase. New jobs are being created in the tech sector, only CEOs are making sure they're in China and India, not at home in the United States.

Craig Barrett admits to the New York Times today that while Intel has maintained a steady head count in the US, it has hired a thousand new software engineers in India and China.

Barrett has a curious phrase to justify this new trend. "To be competitive, we have to move up the skill chain overseas," he said. (What's a skill chain and what do you find at each end?) The Times cites an estimate that a million jobs have been moved offshore since March 2001.

Gartner predicts one in ten tech jobs will be moved offshore by the end of next year 2004 and half of them will be skilled engineering positions.

This doesn't look good for the tech sector at all. Time for another career change?

Interesting analysis of the blogosphere....
From La Reg: 'Blogosphere' to reach 10 million, almost all dead - report

Basically, the vast majority of blogs are started by teenaged girls who use them to update their circle of friends about what's going on in their life, and they're abandoned within months, if not weeks or days.

The "blogosphere" will number ten million souls by the end of 2004, but almost all of them will be dead. That's the conclusion from one of the first comprehensive studies of weblogging conducted by research company Perseus, which has analyzed over three thousand weblogs.

Perseus finds that the fad is most popular amongst teenage girls. More than half of the weblogs surveyed are run by teenagers and 91.1 per cent are under 30. "Blogging is many things, yet the typical blog is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month to update her friends and classmates on happenings in her life," the report notes. (We had noticed).

However, parents can breathe easy. Unlike many varieties of hard or soft drugs enjoyed by today's teenagers, weblogging isn't habit-forming.

No less than a million of the 2.7 million weblogs surveyed had been abandoned after a day, and 132,000 would-be webloggers gave up after a year. So like the Hula Hoop, the Pogo Stick or the skateboard, most teenagers will experience but a brushing pass with weblogging, and will continue unscathed to develop normal and healthy lives.

Perseus' study doesn't see a 'community' as much as a graveyard. The average weblog is only updated once every fourteen days, and Perseus concludes that "the majority of blogs started are dissolving into static, abandoned web pages." Well, maybe people have simply got better things to do. This is not a bad thing.

For those of you who are into sources, here's the Perseus survey. The Perseus conclusions are interesting enough, I think, to quote in their entirety:

When you say "blog" most people think of the most popular weblogs, which are often updated multiple times a day and which by definition have tens of thousands of daily readers. These make up the tip of a very deep iceberg: prominently visible, but not characteristic of the iceberg as a whole.

What is below the water line are the literally millions of blogs that are rarely pointed to by others, since they are only of interest to the family, friends, fellow students and co-workers of their teenage and 20-something bloggers. Think of them as blogs for nanoaudiences.

Nanoaudiences are the logical outcome of continued growth in blogs. Assume for a moment that one day 100 million people regularly read blogs and that they each read 50 other peoples’ blogs. That translates into 5 billion subscriptions (50 * 100 million). Now assume on that same day there are 20 million active bloggers. That translates into 250 readers per blog (5 billion / 20 million) - far smaller audiences than any traditional one-to-many communication method. And this is just an average; in practice many blogs have no more than two dozen readers.

Blogging is many things, yet the typical blog is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month to update her friends and classmates on happenings in her life. It will be written very informally (often in "unicase": long stretches of lowercase with ALL CAPS used for emphasis) with slang spellings, yet will not be as informal as instant messaging conversations (which are riddled with typos and abbreviations). Underneath the iceberg, blogging is a social phenomenon: persistent messaging for young adults.

An iceberg is constantly dissolving into sea water, and the majority of blogs started are dissolving into static, abandoned web pages. Right now, though, this iceberg is moving so quickly into arctic waters that it is gaining mass faster than it is losing it. The key is that an iceberg is never what it appears, and so it is with today’s blogging community.

I do note for the record that La Reg's article is written by Andrew Orlowski, who's not exactly a "friend of the blogosphere" (and to be honest, I think he's probably right here):

Of course, you'll argue: we're just being mean. Online journals give a billion people who can't write and who have nothing to say the means to publish. It's good! To which I reply: here's a mechanism which allows a billion people who can't sing, can't write a song or make an original beep, and have nothing to express, the means to deafen me with their tuneless, boring cacophony. Get a producer!
--Andrew Orlowski

According to an item in today's Lockergnome Tech Specialist newsletter....
Microsoft's cut a deal with Phoenix Technologies (a MAJOR player in the PC BIOS industry) to allow the OS to control hardware directly. This should be ringing loud warning bells for a couple reasons. First and foremost, both Microsoft and Phoenix are heavy into the whole Digital Rights Management (DRM) space, which strikes me as extremely suspicious, and secondly (and probably related) such a tight coupling between the OS and the BIOS is no doubt going to be used by Microsoft as a way of making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to configure such computers to run operating systems other than Windows....

You can trust Microsoft to be Microsoft..... Freedom of choice in your operating system? Not if Gates, Balmer and company have anything to say about it.

Personally, I'll never buy a phone, PDA, TV, or anything else that Microsoft makes. It's not so much that I think the quality will be lousy; I'm actually more concerned with their unpleasant vision of "digital rights management" which will be used as an excuse to try to nail down user capabilities and squeeze out cash at every corner. Bottom line, I really don't care to let Microsoft stick their thumbs in EVERY pie in my technological kitchen. Where will it end? When you wake up in your Microsoft bed, enjoy a hot shower provided by the Microsoft shower nozzle, dry your hair with a Microsoft hair dryer, head to work (at Microsoft) in your four-door Microsoft Vision, eat lunch at the Microsoft cafe, and after work maybe have a pint of Microsoft Ale then check out a film about Microsoft at the local Microsoft Megaplex? Will they finally think they've managed to capture enough of the market then?
--Mike Reilly [ZDNet "Talkback" posting"]

Thought for the Day:
I don't claim to be unbiased, Kathy. However, my prejudices are amazingly well-informed.
--Cecil Adams

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Cubs win....
For the first time in the postseason in 95 (?) years? I'd be worried about the end of the world coming soon, but then again.... if the world survived Northwestern making the Rose Bowl, I have no doubt it'll survive the Cubs making the NLCS (or, dare one suggest it, the World Series?)

Good Luck to the Cubs; it's been too long.

From BartCop:
A great quote attributed to Paul Begala:

The Bush operation reminds me of North Korea. You have a group of insanely loyal, fiercely committed lunatics, devoting their lives to slavish devotion of a moron whose only claim to power is that his father used to run the country. George W. Bush is Kim Jong Il with better hair.

He oughta know....
When John Dean says that the Bush misAdministration is resorting to the foulest dirty tricks that he's seen, that ought to tell you something (link is to premium Salon content; requires seeing a short ad if you're not a Salon subscriber).

I thought I had seen political dirty tricks as foul as they could get, but I was wrong. In blowing the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame to take political revenge on her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for telling the truth, Bush's people have out-Nixoned Nixon's people. And my former colleagues were not amateurs by any means.

For example, special counsel Chuck Colson, once considered the best hatchet man of modern presidential politics, went to prison for leaking false information to discredit Daniel Ellsberg's lawyer. Ellsberg was being prosecuted by Nixon's Justice Department for disclosing the so-called Pentagon Papers (the classified study of the origins of the Vietnam War). But Colson at his worst could barely qualify to play on Bush's team. The same with assistant to the president John Ehrlichman, a jaw-jutting fellow who left them "twisting in the wind," and went to jail denying he'd done anything wrong in ordering a break-in at Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, where the burglars went and looked for, but did not find, real information to discredit Ellsberg.

But neither Colson nor Ehrlichman nor anyone else I knew while working at the Nixon White House had the necessary viciousness, or depravity, to attack the wife of a perceived enemy by employing potentially life-threatening tactics.

This is what keeps animal control officers up nights
Only in New York: Tiger Found In Harlem Apt.

From the article: It took eight officers to carry the 350- to 400-pound incapacitated cat on a stretcher from the apartment to a cage inside a truck. (Later in the article it says that the cat was six feet long. All I know is that I'd sure hate to clean that litter box.)

How in the name of The Great Googly Moogly does one manage to keep a 350 pound tiger in a Harlem apartment and manage to keep it out lf the notice of the landlord?

Damn, and I thought my landlord was great for letting me keep a 70 pound German Shepherd.

A good point....
From Steve Gilliard's News Blog, one analysis of how well things are going in Iraq:

Whenever a US official travels in Iraq, they hop from place to place in a Blackhawk with a couple of Apache or Cobra escorts. Then, they tell you how things are improving in Iraq.

Well, this isn't Vietnam. Hopping from place to place in a chopper isn't going to tell you shit. What? Iraqis don't live in clouds. What a smart person should take from that is this: it is too dangerous to travel in convoy. If they have to use choppers to move from point to point, there is a reason and its not a good one. The guerrilla war is being fought on the ground, face to face. Not from the door of a UH-60, which has to be careful to pick their landing spots or face an RPG in the door.

In Vietnam, this syndrome led to big man in the sky disease. Where a commander would sit at 2,000 feet and scream at his company commanders to move faster, when they were hitting "wait a minute" vines and steep ridges hidden by tree cover. Good commanders, like David Hackworth and Hal Moore made a point of being on the ground with their battalions when they hit contact. The point being that you can't see anything in Iraq from a helicopter you don't want to see.

More misdirection and deceit....
From the New York Times: Report Offered Bleak Outlook About Iraq Oil

In summary: The Bush misAdministration had good reason to believe, contrary to their assertions to the American people prior to the war, that Iraq oil revenues wouldn't come anywhere close to paying for the war.

The Bush administration's optimistic statements earlier this year that Iraq's oil wealth, not American taxpayers, would cover most of the cost of rebuilding Iraq were at odds with a bleaker assessment of a government task force secretly established last fall to study Iraq's oil industry, according to public records and government officials.

The task force, which was based at the Pentagon as part of the planning for the war, produced a book-length report that described the Iraqi oil industry as so badly damaged by a decade of trade embargoes that its production capacity had fallen by more than 25 percent, panel members have said.

Despite those findings, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told Congress during the war that "we are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."

Moreover, Vice President Dick Cheney said in April, on the day Baghdad fell, that Iraq's oil production could hit 3 million barrels a day by the end of the year, even though the task force had determined that Iraq was generating less than 2.4 million barrels a day before the war.

Wasn't President Chimpy the candidate who said he'd return honesty to the White House? Ha!

It's easy to tell when George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, or Paul Wolfowitz are lying: their lips move.

One good reason to root for the Cubs tonight...
If they beat the Braves, we'll be rid of that damned tomahawk chop for about 6 months....

Why has Subway gone psychotic?
They are showing some weird ads recently....

The one that first caught my attention: a young woman is eating about a quart of ice cream; confronted by her husband about it she replies, "It's OK; I had Subway for lunch." Next, we see her husband washing their car (I think), while dressed in a cheerleader's skirt and sweater, belly peeking out, dancing around the car waving pom-poms while Toni Basil's "Mickey" plays in the background and while Ben Stein (I think) videotapes the mind-numbing spectacle for posterity. When the wife stares in stunned disbelief at her husband, he says, "It's OK; I had Subway for lunch."

Or the one I saw just tonight. A guy's walking down a hospital corridor eating a slice of pizza. A doctor passing him says, "That's no way to eat", whereupon the guy says "It's OK; I had Subway for lunch." Cut to the doctor, in his office with a patient on the examining table. The doctor puts down the X-ray, and starts to say, somberly, "I really don't know how to break this news to you....", and then proceeds to break down laughing, saying "I'm joking. It's OK; I had Subway for lunch."

Is this shit really supposed to sell sandwiches?

Goddamn hypocrite....
Watching the Braves-Cubs game on Fox tonight, and the Memphis Fox station is showing, among other things, political commercials for the Mississippi gubenatorial election. Just saw an ad for Haley Barbour, the GOP candidate. It complains about the state of the Mississippi economy... loss of jobs, budgetary crisis, the state is cutting services, and then says that this is demonstrating that it's time to change governors.

I hope the people of Mississippi can see through that bullshit. It's not evidence that it's time to change governors. Each of these problems can be blamed on the disasterous policies of the GOP and the Bush misAdministration on the national level.

It's not time to change governors. It's time to change presidents.

The most incurious man to hold the Presidency....
And they're only now getting around to noticing? This from the LA Times: George W. Bush's Medieval Presidency (free registration required)

It should have been an embarrassing admission for him and a flabbergasting one for us: President Bush told Fox News recently that he only "glanced" at newspaper headlines, rarely reading stories, and that for his real news hits, he relied on briefings from acolytes who, he said flippantly, "probably read the news themselves." He rationalized his indifference by claiming he needed "objective" information. Even allowing for the president's contempt for the press, it was a peculiar comment, and it prompted the New York Times to call him "one of the most incurious men ever to occupy the White House."

But in citing this as a personal deficiency or even as political grandstanding, critics may have missed the larger point. Incuriosity seems characteristic of the entire Bush administration. More, it seems central to its very operation. The administration seems indifferent to data, impervious to competing viewpoints and ideas. Policy is not adjusted to facts; facts are adjusted to policy. The result is what may be the nation's first medieval presidency — one in which reality is ignored for the administration's own prevailing vision. And just as in medieval days, this willful ignorance can lead to terrible consequences.


The difference between the current administration and its conservative forebears is that facts don't seem to matter at all. They don't even matter enough to reinterpret. Bush doesn't read the papers or watch the news, and Condoleezza Rice, his national security advisor, reportedly didn't read the National Intelligence Estimate, which is apparently why she missed the remarks casting doubt on claims that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from Africa. (She reportedly read the document later.) And although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hasn't disavowed reading or watching the news, he has publicly and proudly disavowed paying any attention to it. In this administration, everyone already knows the truth.

A more sinister aspect to this presidency's cavalier attitude toward facts is its effort to bend, twist and distort them when it apparently serves the administration's interests. Intelligence was exaggerated to justify the war in Iraq. Even if there were no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or of ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the CIA was expected to substantiate the accusations. In a similar vein, the New Republic reported that Treasury Department economists had been demoted for providing objective analysis that would help define policy, as they had done in previous administrations. Now they provide fodder for policy already determined. Said one economist who had worked in the Clinton, Reagan and first Bush administrations, "They didn't worry about whether they agreed; we were encouraged to raise issues." Not anymore.


Every administration spins the facts to its advantage. As the old adage goes, "Figures don't lie but liars do figure." But the White House medievalists aren't just shading the facts. In actively denying or changing them, they are changing the basis on which government has traditionally been conducted: rationality. There is no respect for facts because there is no respect for empiricism. Instead, the Bush ideologues came to power smug in the security of their own worldview, part of which, frankly, seems to be the belief that it would be soft and unmanly to let facts alter their preconceptions. Like the church confronting Galileo, they aren't about to let reality destroy their cosmology, whether it is a bankrupt plan for pacifying an Iraq that was supposed to welcome us as liberators or a bankrupt fiscal plan that was supposed to jolt the economy to health.

Bush has made a great show of his religious faith, and he has won plaudits from many for reintroducing the concept of evil into political discourse. But his stubborn insistence on following his own course, especially after Sept. 11, 2001, may be the most profound way in which religion has shaped his presidency. Bush has a religious epistemology. Having devalued the idea of an observable, verifiable reality and having eschewed rational empiricism, he relies on his unalterable faith in himself not just to inform his policies, as all presidents have, but to dictate them.

His self-confidence is certainly admirable at a time when most politicians mistake opinion polls for empiricism. It is also scary. As writer Leon Wieseltier recently observed, this is a presidency without doubt, one entirely comfortable with its own certainties, which is what makes it medieval. But as Wieseltier also observed, it is doubt that deepens one's vision of life and often provides a better basis for acting within it. It is doubt that helps one understand the world and enables one to avoid hubris. A presidency without doubt and resistant to disconcerting facts is a presidency not on the road to Damascus but on the road to disaster. By regarding facts as political tools, it compromises information and makes reality itself suspect, not to mention that it compromises the agencies that provide the information and makes them unreliable in the future. And by ignoring anything that contradicts its faith, it can vaingloriously plow ahead — right into the abyss. The president and his crew may well live within a pre-Enlightenment lead bubble where they are unwilling and unable to see beyond themselves, but their fellow Americans must live in the real world where even the most powerful nation cannot simply posit its own reality. If you need proof, just read the newspapers.

The Times is, of course, right on in this analysis. The thing that bothers me is that this was obvious not very long into the Bush misAdministration. Long before 9/11/01, in fact. Why in the name of the Great Googly Moogly are they waiting until now to point that out?

Blast from the past....
Getting some time to finally set up my personalized listings on Yahoo! TV so that they match what Time-Warner offers here. Checking up on if I got them correctly, I cruised past ESPN 2 in time to catch the sign-off for a Major League Soccer telecast, when I hear the announcer say "... and this is Ty Keough."

In a sense, it's a shame that soccer has never made it professionally to be as big as football, hockey or basketball. Ty Keough was a star in college (when he played for St. Louis University), an Olympian, a major factor in international play (including World Cup play), a star at the professional level, and a wildly successful collegiate coach (with my alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis). If the world were truly just, he'd be better known and more popular than he is, even.

He is also a grade school classmate of mine. Nice to know that at least one of us did well.

Thought for the day:
Q. Some groups have launched a protest against Disney for using Ellen DeGeneres as the voice-over talent for Dory, the blue fish in "Finding Nemo." Since she is a lesbian, they feel she is not a "suitable role model" for families attending the film. What do you think? --Susan Lake, Urbana, Ill.
A. I think their protest is silly, immoral and dangerous. Silly, because the voice of an animated fish is not a role model for sexuality. Immoral, because they wish to deny employment to DeGeneres because of her sexual identity. Dangerous, because this is another example of a slash-and-burn mentality that works through hate and intimidation. My feeling is that moderate Americans are getting weary of these tactics.
--Roger Ebert ["Movie Answer Man",]

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Thought for the Day:
Robber Baron: I understand you're a lawyer, Mr. County.
Brisco County, Jr.: Not anymore. Tried it, didn't like it.
Second Robber Baron: Seems like a shameful waste of seven years.
Brisco County, Jr.: Better than a shameful waste of a lifetime.
--"The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."

Friday, October 03, 2003

Oh, Jebus!
If this keeps up, we may just as well start marketing Valerie Plame as the left's answer to Ann Coulter. From the NY Daily News (of course): She's the perfect spy: Outed CIA agent had glamour job & looks to match

The mother of 3-year-old twins, Plame turns heads when she steps into a room, sources said.

"She has classic good looks: very shapely, long legs and blond shoulder-length hair," a source said. "She would be a star in her own Hollywood picture."

Putting things in perspective
Daily Kos has this comment today on the likely spin of the Kay report:

Bacteria in Iraq

Kay's "we didn't find shit in Iraq" report notes that it found "live strains of the deadly botulinum bacteria" in Iraq. This will undoubtedly be used by the administration and its apologists as evidence of Saddam's deadly aspirations (or something like that).

RR, a PhD candidate in pathology and laboratory medicine, wrote in to exaplin what that meant (or more actually, what it didn't mean:

     Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria which produces botulinum toxin, is a normal soil bacterium. You've
     probably ingested large quantities of it yourself, if you've ever eaten vegetables straight out of a garden
     without washing them thoroughly, or if you've ever eaten unfiltered honey. Live C. botulinum is used in
     undergraduate microbiology labs as a teaching tool...the live bacteria are not dangerous, are ubiquitous in
     nature, and are ubiquitous in microbiology labs around the globe--even those not hell-bent on the
     destruction of American liberty & whatnot.

If Kay said that large quantities of purified botulinum toxin had been found, that would be significant. It's difficult to purify the toxin from the bacteria (which produce the toxin in exceedinly small amounts), and there's no good reason to have lots of it. (Although it would not mean much if only small amounts of purified botulinum toxin were found anywhere--small amounts of the toxin are injected by doctors into patients for the treatment of chronic pain and wrinkles--that's what BoTox is.)

In other words, Kay was reaching for anything that might help the administration make its case, and this is the best he could do.

LIke this comes as a surprise? Remember Bush's reaction when they found those trailers, which might have been usable as mobile chem/bio weapons labs, but which turned out to be mobile hydrogen production stations for weather balloons? "We found the weapons of mass destruction", he said....

No, not quite...

Meanwhile, more PO'ed Microsoft customers gear up....
for Yet Another Class Action against the Beast of Redmond.

I say go to it. Let's stick Gates for every last bloody ill-gotten nickel he has....

Michael Robertson's "letter to Bill Gates"
I blogged this yesterday, but LinuxWorld gives us the complete text or Robertson's response to Microsoft. Go read it; it's good for the soul of a penguinista.

From today's Dr. Science newsletter
Dear Doctor Science,
Who are 'They', and how do I become one of 'Them'?
-- Thaddeus Williams from Ionia, MI

'They' are a consortium of Latin American businessmen, Third Degree Masons, Fallen-away Catholics, and Junior High Math Teachers, who have banded together to alleviate poverty, hunger and disease through an ingenious network marketing scheme. The next time someone tries to sell you mail-order pancakes, pay attention. What seems at first to be a terrible idea, ends up being a revolutionary new way to raise the standard of living in the Third World while simultaneously starting your day with a breakfast that's as nutritious as it is tasty! Of course you can become one of them. They're always looking for fresh suckers, er, I mean partners.

Assault via hypnosis?
According to Northwestern's Daily Northwestern, it's happening at dear old NU (by way of background, I'm a Northwestern University law graduate...).

This is another one of those stories which leaves me puzzled, though (unlike the Bay City Rollers sexual assault case I blogged a few days ago), I can't figure out exactly why. Something about this doesn't ring true....

Sounds like a description of most of my workdays...
From the "Buzzword of the Day" email:

FAULTY-TASKING: When multi-tasking goes awry.
Nominated by Mike Knox

John Walston

To see the full Buzzword Compliant Dictionary, just click here.

Brainwashing as an argument in mitigation...
Dahlia Lithwick, in Slate, has an interesting take on the Lee Boyd Malvo case (Malvo is the youth who was accomplice in the "Beltway sniper" incidents of a while back):

Malvo can't have been much fun to defend. He's been petulant and rude, refusing to cooperate with counsel and doing everything he could to undermine his own case. But in recent weeks, the defense team has remarked on a turnaround: According to last week's Washington Post, the "real" Malvo has begun to emerge as he breaks his bond with Muhammad—who's being held and tried separately. Malvo has begun smiling and talking at trial, engaging his lawyers, and joking with his guards. His attorneys note that this behavior is reminiscent of Malvo's personality prior to meeting up with Muhammad in Antigua in 2000. It certainly jibes with all the descriptions of his character given by teachers, friends, and family from Jamaica.

Is it possible, then, that Muhammad took a sweet, bright, attention-starved boy and turned him into a paramilitary freak, half starving him on a diet of honey and crackers and desensitizing him with video games, weapons training, and talk of a race war? Can a jury be made to believe that Malvo was suffering some sort of temporary madness; that he is neither evil nor responsible for his actions, despite the evident joy he took in assassinating innocents for money?

Malvo's defense team believes so. They will not try to prove he's been brainwashed during the guilt phase of the trial. They will try to make this argument as a mitigating factor in the penalty phase. In other words, the fact that he may have been brainwashed by Muhammad will be used only if the boy is found guilty, to persuade jurors that life in prison, as opposed to capital punishment, is the proper penalty.

The "brainwashing" defense has virtually never succeeded in a criminal prosecution, primarily because the concept has been largely dismissed both by academics and judges as junk science. Indeed, Patty Hearst, the most famous proponent of the defense, was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail. But here's the kicker: Malvo may actually have one of the most credible claims of brainwashing in legal history.

In an article on the myth of the brainwashed defense, I explained the scientific basis for the phenomenon and the reason for its demise. Studies on brainwashing were done in the early 1960s, mostly on former POWs, and the results published by Edgar Schein and Robert Lifton. Schein and Lifton found that prisoners—and it was vital that they be captives—could indeed have their minds and values reshaped by their captors, but only under a very limited set of circumstances. Once removed from the influence of their jailers, original values and ideas returned.

This was why brainwashing theory broke down in the so-called "second-generation" theory—propounded by a handful of academics who believed that charismatic cult or religious leaders could control the behavior of thousands of disciples, without direct influence or captivity, and for long periods of time. In trying to push the phenomenon of brainwashing further than Schein and Lifton, a handful of scholars had a few good years on the witness stand, arguing that Moonies and Scientologists were the victims of mind control, even when they were free to leave or away from the influence of leaders. But there was never any empirical support for such claims; and the academy has largely written off second-generation scholarship as bunk. Courts were quick to follow. Today it would be tough to find an expert witness to defend the proposition that an individual can be brainwashed into committing crimes against his will.

Strangely, Lee Malvo looks like as good a candidate for a first-generation brainwashing defense as there could be. He meets Lifton's original criteria for POW brainwashing almost exactly: An individual who was isolated, degraded, forced to perform repetitive tasks, made to renounce earlier values—Malvo converted to Islam under Muhammad's guardianship—and cut off from external sources of information may actually claim that he's been brainwashed. And science does not disagree. The question is, will a court and jury buy it?


The question remains: If this impressionable young man really was yanked from his family and friends, isolated from outside influences, and inculcated with hatred, greed, and a lust to kill, does that absolve him of the evil he committed? Does it at least mitigate against executing him? Can one be so enthralled by another that one's own true self is lost? And if that is the case, is there any reason to believe that the "real" Malvo could ever be regained? This leaves jurors to make a near-impossible decision about evil and character, about redemption and free will and determinism; about whether a child can be morally ruined to the point that he should be discarded. These are more theological questions than legal ones. But perhaps that is also ultimately fitting for a jury that will be deciding whether a young man will die.

This interests me since I did a research paper on the criminal law implications of brainwashing and mind control in law school. My conclusion (of course, I'm a pansy-ass liberuhl ;-) ) is that in the right circumstances (the "first-generation" brainwashing defense as Lithwick put it) one could be so influenced by another as to lose the element of mens rea necessary for criminal liability to attach. Seems possible that, if Lithwick is correct this might make an excellent defense in the guilt case of the proceeding. Why then are Malvo's lawyers saving this issue for the penalty phase?

Most probably because the nature of the case and the attendant publicity makes it pretty well nigh impossible that his lawyers can walk him on that (I wonder, though, if it would be sufficient to persuade a jury to convict of a lesser degree of homicide, if that's an option?). The issue then becomes, do you want to start making the defense from the beginning, in order to acclimatize the jury to the claim of lack of criminal capacity, or do you want to save that for the penalty phase in the hopes that the jury, already (we hope) sobered by the fact that they've found Malvo guilty, will be taking their responsibilities seriously enough to consider the issue of diminished capacity with an open mind, rather than summarily rejecting it in the guilt phase.

Tough call. I'm glad I didn't have to make it. Pity is that Malvo's lawyers may well (most certainly will) be second guessed during the post-conviction relief proceedings (if those haven't been legislated out of existence since I stopped practicing law). From the sidelines, and based on what little I know about the case and my experience doing criminal defense work, I can't say that they've screwed up there.

I wish them luck.

Jack Shafer, in Slate...
continues his analysis of l'affaire Plame: Streaming Media: Making sense of the leaks and counter-leaks in Plamegate (Ghod, I hate that "-gate" suffix...)

The George W. Bush administration quickly established a reputation as a leak-proof boat after taking the helm from the undisciplined Clinton blabbermouths. Instead of spraying from a fire hose, the Bush ministry of information dispenses data to the press with the parsimony and precision of an eyedropper, and throttling the voices inside the administration who try to speak off-topic.

So, when leaks flow from the Bush administration, they almost invariably represent an official position and are calculated to win the president good press. But given the Bushies' skill at strategic leaking, one wonders how its whisperers botched their mission so badly in leaking the Wilson-Plame story to Robert Novak.


Whether the leak's intended target was the CIA institutionally or Wilson and Plame personally, three things suggest themselves: the solicited reporters who passed on the story probably thought it wasn't news; Novak was an odd choice to leak to; and he didn't do the leakers any favors with the column he subsequently produced.

Imagine yourself as one of the six reporters that the Washington Post says were offered the leak. Unless you had strong neocon leanings or thought the CIA a nest of idiots, would you rush into print—or onto the air—a story promoting the idea that Wilson's Niger investigation lacked credibility because his CIA wife worked the WMD beat? I suspect that the reporters took the tip, expressed their thanks for the information, and then sat on the story because the headline, "The Neocons—Who've Hated the CIA Since the '70s—Still Hate It," isn't news on this or any other planet. Surely they decided it's more sensible to cultivate the leakers for future use.


But don't look for the bloodletting to end with Bush administration officials dissing one another in the
Post. On Page One of the Oct. 2 New York Times, reporter James Risen describes how the leak has re-energized an ongoing struggle that pits "intelligence professionals, who say information about Iraq's weapons programs were distorted by the Bush administration," against "the White House and Pentagon" who dismiss the agency as overly cautious. It's only the latest chapter in a "culture war" between the CIA and the Pentagon and the White House, one former senior CIA official anonymously tells Risen.

Cognitive dissonance?
Drove for a little bit next to a Tourareg, Volkswagen's entry into the SUV market. Doesn't strike me as right; a VW SUV? Sort of goes against the whole grain of what VW once stood for.

But I'll get over it; I once said the same thing about the Passat (a family sized VW? Sort of goes against the whole grain of what VW once stood for).

Then again, VW always manages to surprise me. First, a "luxury class" VW, the Phaeton, and then, the ultimate factory to build it in: The Transparent Factory.

Go visit The Transparent Factory site. NOW. It's well worth it.

I have got to visit Dresden. Soon.

Thought for the Day:
Today's quote in honor of Rush Limbaugh's shooting himself in the foot so magnificently:

Limbaugh's performance so far hasn't exactly shown him to be the second coming of Amos Alonzo Stagg. His role is to interrupt when he disagrees with what someone has said, which is pretty much the job description of just about everyone in sports television these days.
--Robert Weintraub

Thursday, October 02, 2003

More scary analysis from Robert X. "The Real Bob" Cringely
As he continues his analysis identity theft and how to stop it. Some of what he has to say isn't encouraging:

I am a pilot of sorts, and can remember a time when the dominant technique for instrument flight was based on the Big Sky Theory. This idea was that there is a lot of empty air out there, and chances were that if you stayed on instrument airways and maintained published minimum en route altitudes, you weren't likely to smash into anything. So we flew around more or less blind until two airliners collided over the Grand Canyon and the Big Sky Theory, too, went down in flames. Over the last several weeks, I have written about privacy and identity theft, and the current situation is beginning to feel more and more like the Big Sky Theory applied to our lives and our money. Only in this analogy, we aren't airliners or even little planes like I fly; we are the air itself. As I was getting ready to speak at last week's Toorcon 2003 information security conference in San Diego, I finally figured out that privacy was never intended for you and me. The system doesn't care about us at all.

The system doesn't care because the Post Office does nothing to protect our mail. Have you ever met a Postal Inspector? Neither have I. The system doesn't care because our government blithely gives away personal data on millions of citizens. For $3,200 and a couple pages of signatures, I could right now be running for Governor of California, but really harvesting the name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number of every registered voter in the state to be used for identity theft. Government does not protect our privacy, but is actively working to undermine it. Nor are we protected by the people with whom we entrust our money. For ONE DOLLAR I can get quickly this same information on anyone I like along with where they bank and their savings balance. This is supposed to be against the law, of course. We have laws and rules and regulations that supposedly protect our privacy, but they don't work. If we were to test them they would fail, so we don't test and they fail anyway.

If you think someone -- anyone -- is doing anything to protect your privacy, you are wrong. The system simply doesn't work, and it doesn't work because there are no real penalties for noncompliance and definitely no compliance tests. We pretend that the system works because we hope it does, and because if the bad guys knew it doesn't, they'd be badder still (if badder was even a word).

Well, the bad guys know it.


If you haven't lost at least $15,000 to fraud, it simply won't be investigated at all. How many families can afford to lose $15,000? If you steal less than $15,000, you'll never be caught, and if you steal more than $15,000, you probably won't be caught, either.

In the middle of this, we find the trinity of banks, government, and credit bureaus who betray us on our behalf. The banks and their bank-like sister companies are the airliners in our big economic sky. They use a modified version of the Big Sky Theory that says as long as theft is kept to five percent or less, it is tolerable. That's what insurance is for. They play the odds to achieve this, which is where the credit bureaus come in. They are the oddsmakers. This system works for us, too, because it enables us to get a mortgage without ever meeting a banker, it increases liquidity and makes easy credit available for nearly all of us. But the system works against us if we are among the five percent who are victims because our time, our reputations, and a certain amount of our money will never be recovered.

There is no way out of the Big Sky for anyone who has more income than does Ted Kaczynski, which is to say anyone who has income at all. You can't opt out, at least not if you are an American. My 20 month-old son just got his first credit card offer. I wonder why they waited so long?

For Bob's answer to the problem, go read his column.

But to answer Bob's question, yes, I have met a Postal Inspector. However, I was involved in the defense of a Federal mail fraud trial at the time. Not a whole lot of folks have that opportunity.

Billmon, on Rush's being flushed....
From Whiskey Bar:

I live in the Philly area, so I've had a close-up view of just how his moronic comments went over around here.

The moral of the story, I guess, is that in America, a dimwit like Rush Limbaugh can go on the air and tell outrageous
political lies all day long -- and be amply compensated for it.

But, take the same approach to a subject the public thinks is really
important -- like pro football -- and you can get yourself in a world of trouble very fast.

I'll violate copyright yet again....
Because this gem, by Josh Marshall, needs widest distribution:

The knives are out for Joe Wilson.

RNC Director Ed Gillespie says Wilson is prone to "rash statements" and "is someone, given his politics, who is obviously prone to think the worst of this White House."

Others of course are accusing Wilson of being either a left-wing fanatic or a partisan attack-dog.

Let me briefly explain why I don't think that's true and then, more briefly, why it doesn't matter.

A look at Wilson's political giving records shows that he's pretty much a Democrat. And his views on foreign policy show more or less the same. On the other hand, he did give a grand to President Bush in 1999. And he served as an appointee under the president's father. So that cuts against a monochromatic picture of him as a down-the-line Democratic loyalist. More to the point, contrary to what some Republicans seem to think, Democrats still are allowed to serve in the national security bureaucracy.

Partisans of the White House are now arguing that there was something fishy about the decision to send Wilson out to Niger. But I think a more credible reading of that is that it's actually a sign that he was seen as a foreign policy professional who could be trusted to take a look at the facts on the ground and report back, his own political views notwithstanding.

My sense is that Wilson was a respected retired foreign service officer who was basically a Dem in his personal views, but in foreign policy terms a professional. He became disgruntled as he watched the administration pushing a claim that he had already discredited and then became outraged when the White House went after his wife.

It's always seemed to me that if Wilson really had wanted to screw with the White House, he'd have come forward earlier than he did. Like, say, in February or October. (I think you can get a pretty good sense of Wilson in the lengthy interview I did with him a couple weeks back.) In any case, a couple days after Novak wrote his original column in July another reporter told me that "I think that, outside of Novak, everyone in the press who talks to Wilson realizes he is what the US gov should be all about, and wants to defend him against scurrilous attacks." And I think that's about right.

But let's cut to the chase. None of this matters. It's all irrelevant.

Let's assume that Wilson is a hard-core left-winger who's doing everything he can to hurt the president and help the Democrats. Would it matter? Of course, not: because we're no longer relying on Wilson's account for any material piece of information. Back when the issue was his uranium report, we were still relying on his credibility and the nature of his investigation -- at least to an extent. But now we're not.

If Wilson were a rabid political attack dog would it change the seriousness of blowing his wife's cover at the CIA to get back at him? Of course, not. Are we relying on Wilson to tell us what his wife's status is? Not in the least. The fact that the CIA made the referral to Justice tells us all we really need to know about that.

Here's the heart of the matter: who Wilson is, what he thinks, what he's done, what his motives are, are all irrelevant because what he says on TV about the Bush administration doesn't matter. What's at issue is what the White House allegedly did to his wife and, by extension, to US national security.

That's the rub and they can't get around it.

Wow! They are for sale?
How much confidence will this inspire?

Out of idle curiosity, I did a Google search on "Metropolitan Police Department" "St. Louis" (I was wanting to pull up the St.LMPD website if there was such a beast), and Google gave me this sponsored link:

St louis police Shop on eBay. Buy at a Great Price!

Damn, not only are the St. Louis cops for sale, but they're on auction to the highest bidder.


Common Dreams comes closest....
If we must christen l'affaire Plame with a name ending in "-gate", then this one gets my vote: "Intimigate" Scandal at the White House

Don't surprise me, I think he's one of the worst Missouri politicians who ever lived
I lived through Attorney General Asscrack's malfeasance as Missouri State Auditor, Missouri Attorney General, Missouri Governor, and U.S. Senator from Missouri. So this evaluation, from the Christian Science Monitor, comes as no surprise to me:

Attorney General John Ashcroft is running a dead heat with A. Mitchell Palmer, attorney general in the Wilson administration, for the distinction of being the worst in that job in the history of the United States.

One of the duties of the attorney general as head of the Justice Department is to protect the Constitution. Both Mr. Ashcroft and Palmer found that the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, got in their way more than it protected anything. It has gotten in Ashcroft's way in his pursuit of terrorists after Sept. 11, especially those who dress differently and practice a different religion. Palmer's crusade was the pursuit of communists, in the aftermath of World War I. He especially went after people with what to him were funny names from Eastern Europe. He tended to equate liberals with communists.

Ashcroft's vehicle is the USA Patriot Act, which Congress, abdicating its own duties of vigilance, passed with a whoop and a holler in the days after Sept. 11. Even the name of this odious legislation is offensive. It implies that the purpose of the act is to promote patriotism and that those not cooperating with it are somehow less patriotic.

I remember the shock and horror I felt when I heard my junior year high school American history teacher (a nun whose political views were such that she made Richard Nixon look like a socialist) praise Palmer to the high heavens, stating that "in the light of history, we realize now that he was right." But then again, she was a charter member of the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation whose leisure reading consisted of such gems as J. Edgar Hoover's Masters of Deceit, and who assigned as one of the required books in her senior year American Problems class was Fred Schwartz's You Can Trust The Communists (To Be Communists).

She'd probably approve wholeheartedly of Attorney General Asscrack.

Rush flushes himself.
Limbaugh resigned from his commentator's post at ESPN.

From the article:

Limbaugh turned down requests to appear on SportsCenter on Wednesday. But earlier in the day on his syndicated radio talk show, he refused to back down.

"All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something," Limbaugh said. "If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sports writer community."

Notice that he says that to the dittoheads; he isn't saying that to the real media since those of us who live in the real world and think for ourselves instead of letting Rush "think" for us know better than that.

Stupid fuckwad. If there were any real justice he'd lose his radio show and have take a real job. Or even better, starve to death.

Are things getting better in Iraq?
Not to hear the commander of ground forces there tell the tale: U.S. General Says Iraq Guerrillas More Lethal

Meanwhile, the French still have a handle on the situation, and it don't look good for the cowboys....

France said a formerly terrorist-free Iraq (news - web sites) has seen as "explosion" of terrorism since the war, as the United States rallied support for a rejigged UN resolution to bolster reconstruction efforts.


France said Iraq has gone from being a terrorist-free country under Saddam Hussein to seeing an "explosion" of terrorism since the US-led war this year.

"There was no verified link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime, no terrorism before the regime fell," Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told a Paris conference.

"And yet, afterwards, there has been an explosion (of terrorism), an increase in opportunities (of attacks) and a more fragile situation," he said.

Washington, which partly justified the war by claiming Saddam had ties to al-Qaeda, has denied that Iraq has descended into chaos and insisted that the country has become the frontline in the war against terrorism launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

It also justified the war with claims that Saddam's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction.

US arms expert David Kay is expected to give a much-awaited first progress report to Congress Thursday on his search for signs of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in Iraq.

And we all know what Kay's going to say. Or rather, what he won't say....

I wonder....
Did Bond fire the staffer out of principle, or because she got caught?

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Bond fires aide who named Web site after Carnahan airplane

Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond today said that a member of his staff who created a pro-Republican Web site called "N8354N" -- the tail number of the plane that crashed and killed Gov. Mel Carnahan, his son Randy and aide Chris Sifford -- is no longer on his staff.

In a statement from his office in Washington, Bond said that the staff member's actions "were totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I had no knowledge of this until last night. I offer my sincere apologies, and those of my staff to all those offended by these messages."

Bond added:

"There will be no place in my office, or in my campaign, for this type of attack. The person responsible will no longer be a member of my staff."

More news on the litigation (or potential litigation) front...
This time, Microsoft v. Lindows. Seems that Lindows has set up a site where California Windows users can file for their share of the Microsoft class action settlement. Michael Robertson's [Lindows's CEO] reasoning: if few of the eligible class members file for their settlement, then Microsoft could wind up paying a lot less than the maximum under the deal.

According to c|Net, Microsoft hit Lindows with a cease and desist letter, as well as having one of their legal droids speculate that the claims filed through the Lindows site aren't valid, since they're not "signed".

Lindows's response was priceless:

"You seem to have no objections when digital signatures are used to attempt to build Microsoft's profits, such as with MSN, Expedia or .Net," Robertson wrote. "I would also point out that Microsoft uses digital signatures to bind people to their restrictive end-user licensing agreements. It is hypocritical for Microsoft to endorse digital transactions to bolster your business but resist them whenever it may negatively impact your bottom line."


Robertson challenged Microsoft to bring it on. "Our plan is to continue to offer the MSfreePC service in spite of your threats," he wrote. "If required, we will be a voice in the courtroom defending a consumer's rights to use technology and an online process to secure their settlement claims. I believe your company refers to this as the 'right to innovate.'"

Go Michael!!!!

New inductees into the Rocky Top Brigade
SK Bubba just announced the latest inductees: Eric, the Straight White Guy, from Etowah, and Rex of Rexblog, from Nashville. Welcome gents!

Thank you George W. Bush, I feel so much safer.....
knowing that Pyongyang has The Bomb and is making more, because you don't want to concede nuttin'.

Thought for the Day:
If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors, but witch doctors, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming. If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the difference?
--Richard Dawkins

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The Horse Speaks....
Not Mr. Ed, but the editor of Media Whores Online, affectionately known as "Horse" to his devoted readership.

Horse weighs in on the David Brooks NYT op-ed piece that decries the lack of civility in recent political discourse:

It is rather fascinating how Brooks, Byron York, Nicholas Kristof, and others have only recently begun to lament the increasingly uncivil nature of political discourse - coincidentally right around the time Democrats and liberals began fighting back.

Brooks might have a point that the trend toward attack politics at the expense of real debate is unhealthy for our democracy.  But it isn't as unhealthy as what we have witnessed over the last decade: a debate in which one side maintains a civil tone while the other attacks - with the attacking side dominating and intimidating the news media.

Tell you what, Dave.  We'll all be happy to tone it down and get back to debating the merits of our respective policy positions.  More than happy, as liberals always win when both sides abandon demagoguery and make a genuine effort to determine which policies are superior in their logic, morality, and fidelity to traditional American principles.

But as recently as the 2002 election, we all witnessed how the soulless, morally bankrupt right-wing responds to efforts by Democrats to unify the country and reduce the level of vitriol:  they trash the sons of recently deceased Democratic senators for honoring their parents as they deem appropriate; they send Ralph "Satan" Reed to trash triple-amputees as unpatriotic; and Unelected Frauds who harbor traitors in the people's White House claim Democratic senators "don't care about the security of the American people."

So just one first.

Wesley Clark talking with Talking Points Memo:

TPM: There are all sorts of critiques about the present administration's domestic policies. What's the central one? What's the central problem, the central flaw in this administration's domestic policy?

CLARK: There's an underlying ideological drive that overrides pragmatism. The American people want government to fix the things they can't fix themselves. The American people are basically individualists. They like each other; they're very charitable and generous; they're bound together in a hundred different ways -- they're not a big-government country. They're not socialists. But they recognize there are things they can't fix, like healthcare, or education--public education.

And this administration comes in with an ideology that blocks its ability to see, articulate, and resolve those problems. It's an ideology that's a sharpened sort of right-wing Republican party ideology. It has no real intellectual base to it. It's just the ideology of a party. By intellectual base, I'm talking first, trickle-down economics. No reputable economist stands up and says, "Trickle down economics really works." Because we know the marginal propensity to consume of people who are making $100,000 a year and less is much higher than the marginal propensity to consume of people who are making $350,000 a year and more.

So therefore when you say you're going to give money to the rich so they'll make jobs for the poor -- that's not a very efficient way of producing jobs in the American economy. We know that, all things being equal, that the lower the tax rate at the margin, the greater the incentive to earn the extra dollar. But we also know -- it's just human nature to figure that out -- that in a society where you've got a lot of people that are struggling to pay the electricity bill and the telephone bill and you've got a few people who don't care what the electricity and telephone bill is, that the few people who don't care about these things ought to pay a higher proportion of their income to help the rest of the country than the people who are struggling with the necessities in life.

I mean this is just sort of basic principles. I think most Americans understand and appreciate it. For some reason, this administration can't. This administration has crafted an ideology that basically is designed to roll back the institutions that have helped this country. They promote the ideology through sloganeering, through labeling, name-calling, talk radio. But when you really get down and scratch it, there's not much there.

Momentum is building....
Billmon did a post on this too, but Josh Marshall's take is more concise:

Some news the White House really didn't want to hear. According to a new Washington Post poll, 69% of Americans think a special counsel should be appointed to investigate the Wilson/Plame matter. How serious is it? A very serious matter (48%), somewhat serious (34%), not too serious (7%), not serious at all (9%).

Makes you wonder who to support, eh? I'll go for the CIA myself...
From the Progressive Review email. The author is probably a blogger, but no weblink was given:


ADAM ENGEL NYC - Well, talk about "Beyond Good and Evil." Here we have the greatest organizational force of nastiness, murder and mayhem since the Gestapo pitted against the nastiest, most murderous governmental purveyors of mayhem since the Third Reich. Can there be any winners here? Besides Fox News and CNN?

Why? Because one can
There's a controversy brewing in the world of competitive eating. Apparently, a gent tried to break a record for eating candies with chopsticks (112 Smarties in three minutes, held by one Kathyrn Ratcliffe). The good news: Jim Hager did indeed beat the record, managing to snarf 115 in three minutes. The bad news: it was 115 M&Ms, not 115 Smarties, with the result that the folks from the Guinness Book of World Records refuse to recognize his record.

Yes, it is an Ananova story. How'd you guess?


ADDENDUM (10/2/03): Thinking this over, I think the folks at Guinness are being a tad unfair.

Think about this for a minute. M&Ms have a slick candy shell. Seems to me that they'd be a bit harder to grip with chopsticks, unlike Smarties, which aren't as slick.

Yes, I know, Smarties are smaller, but I think the slickness of M&Ms make them inherently more difficult to eat with chopsticks. Therefore, the Guinness folks should give poor Jim the record. Or at the very least, create a new record category for him.

Anyone out there actually eat M&Ms or Smarties (or both) with chopsticks? If so, I'm dying to hear your expert opinion. Comment away.

The Question, rephrased
In an earlier post on l'affaire Plame, I suggested that it was time to ask The Question: "What did the President know, and when did he know it." I think Bill Maher's got it more accurately, though:

What does he know and when will he know it? - Bill Maher

Bush and his puppetmeisters: Out of control
This one from via The Progressive Review emailing:


JIM LOBE, ONE WORLD - The Bush administration today cut over $89 million in military aid to 32 friendly countries because they refused to exempt U.S. citizens and soldiers from the jurisdiction of the new International Criminal Court--the world's first permanent tribunal to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Among the countries whose aid was cut were a number of new democracies in Central and East Europe--some of which have contributed troops to bolster the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq (news - web sites)--as well as Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, South Africa, and several other Latin American and African countries.

"This is the first sanction in U.S. diplomatic history targeted exclusively at democracies," said Heather Hamilton of the World Federalist Association, one of hundreds of non-governmental groups around the world that have joined in a global coalition in support of the ICC.

Those countries that have given us support in Iraq but had their U.S. aid cut should pull their troops out of Iraq immediately. That may show President Chimpy that he can't shit on what few friends he has.

Better late than never....
According to a story in, one of the members of The Bay City Rollers has finally gotten one of his fellow band members to back up his story that he was sexually assaulted in Melbourne.

TWO former members of the Bay City Rollers claim one of the group was sexually attacked in Melbourne almost 30 years ago.

Guitarist Pat McGlynn has made an official complaint to UK police over the alleged assault in a hotel in 1976, when the group was at its peak.

Frontman Les McKeown, 47, accompanied McGlynn to a Scottish police station, where the pair gave detectives details of the alleged rape.

He said that he stopped the rape.

"I had to jump on the man and get him round his neck and pull him off," McKeown said.

"He tried to make out it was just a bit of fun but, if I hadn't gone back when I did, Pat would've been raped. I went into the room and saw the man on top of him, trying to rape him."

McGlynn said that his previous complaints to police weren't taken seriously. But with McKeown's belated decision to back his accusations, McGlynn has now been able to lodge a formal complaint.

"This is the happiest day of my life," McGlynn said.

"I've tried for years to get someone to believe me that the man pounced on me and tried to rape me. But I was just one person with one voice.

"Now I have Les to back me up."

The alleged perpetrator, linked to the band, denies the accusation.

The thing that's puzzling me is, if this happened in Melbourne, Australia, why in the name of the Great Googly-Moogly are they reporting it to police authorities in Scotland?

There's something fishy about this....

Some guys just can't handle fame....
According to CNN, the male half of the couple who achieved fame by coupling in St. Patrick's Cathedral at the instigation of a radio show stunt has died of a heart attack.

I don't really pay much attention to InstaPundit.....
however I'm trying out a new news aggregator (BottomFeeder, in case anyone's really interested), and they had InstaPundit "pre-loaded" as one of the standard blog feeds. Since Glenn is both a fellow member of the Rocky Top Brigade and a fellow employee of the University of Tennessee, I though I'd leave his blog feed in BottomFeeder; there's no law that says I have to read him, after all (unless he writes something that interests me). And by gawsh, he did.

Today Glenn posted this:

COULD ROBERT NOVAK BE FORCED TO REVEAL HIS SOURCES? Yes, writes Eugene Volokh. Volokh is more of a First Amendment expert than I am -- I teach it, and I've written a couple of articles, but he's got a well-regarded book -- but I agree with his analysis.

The Volokh piece has a link which points out some Justice Department guidelines regarding supoenas of journalists which may have some bearing on the case, and those were interesting.

I suppose I should hold my tongue and simply bask in the wisdom of these, the greatest expositors of the law since Hammurabi ;-) and not dare to publicly disagree. But what the fuck, I'm feeling contrarian today.

At the risk of sounding like a Clinton lawyer, it all depends on what you mean by "forced to reveal". Can Novak be subpoenaed and have his ass hauled into court to be questioned about the identity of his sources? Absofuckinglutely; Reynolds and Volokh are certainly correct there. But is this really going to force Novak to cough up the identity of his sources? Maybe not. I don't know if Reynolds and Volokh practiced law before they went into the ivory tower, but I'm reasonably confident that they did. If they did, they most certainly know that Novak could simply keep his mouth shut, either stand mute of malice, or simply (respectfully) refuse to answer questions. Of course, that comes at a price; the judge will most certainly hold him in contempt, and most likely haul his butt into jail. But there is a journalistic tradition that holds that the honorable thing to do for a journalist in this position is to refuse to identify his sources and go to jail.

If the subpoenas are issued, it could be interesting....

More on l'affaire Plame
PBS's NewsHour did an excellent interview with Tom Rosenstiel, a veteran journalist and media critic for both The Los Angeles Times and MSNBC, and director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, and Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and counterterrorism official at the State Department. By way of background (though it will also be mentioned in the excerpts), you should know that Johnson is a registered Republican, and was a classmate of Valerie Plame in the CIA's career trainee class that both took. Terence Smith is the interviewer.

Some excerpts:

LARRY JOHNSON: To hear Bob Novak parsing words like a Clinton lawyer defining sex is outrageous. Sure, they didn't call him, he called them but they volunteered the information. They took the initiative to divulge the CIA officer's name. And that is outrageous.


TERENCE SMITH: Larry Johnson, explain what the dangers are that are inherent in identifying an undercover operator. What is the worry here?

LARRY JOHNSON: Let's be very clear about what happened. This is not an alleged abuse. This is a confirmed abuse. I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been undercover for three decades, she is not as Bob Novak suggested a CIA analyst. But given that, I was a CIA analyst for four years. I was undercover. I could not divulge to my family outside of my wife that I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency until I left the agency on Sept. 30, 1989. At that point I could admit it.

So the fact that she's been undercover for three decades and that has been divulged is outrageous because she was put undercover for certain reasons. One, she works in an area where people she meets with overseas could be compromised. When you start tracing back who she met with, even people who innocently met with her, who are not involved in CIA operations, could be compromised. For these journalists to argue that this is no big deal and if I hear another Republican operative suggesting that well, this was just an analyst fine, let them go undercover. Let's put them overseas and let's out them and then see how they like it. They won't be able to stand the heat.

TERENCE SMITH: Tom Rosenstiel, the notion that Bob Novak put forward: an analyst, not a spy. I talked to the CIA -- they urged me not to do it but didn't suggest it would endanger anyone. What do you think of that reason?

TOM ROSENSTIEL: Well, I think it's weak. Bob Novak has done a really dangerous and terrible thing. If you are going to get involved in something like this where you're bumping up against breaking the law, as a journalist you have a civil disobedience test you have to meet. What's the public good of this story? What's the -- balanced against what's the danger to the people involved publishing the story. The third part of the test is, is it necessary in telling the story to do this or is there another way to do it, do you need to divulge this person's name, in other words, to convey the information you think is of the public interest.

This doesn't meet any one of those three tests. It's not of overriding public interest. Novak may be really just an instrument of Republican revenge here. Whatever the public good is of the story is far overwhelmed by the danger to this woman and her network of operatives. And it's gratuitous. You could have told the story without her name.


LARRY JOHNSON: I say this as a registered Republican. I'm on record giving contributions to the George Bush campaign. This is not about partisan politics. This is about a betrayal, a political smear of an individual with no relevance to the story. Publishing her name in that story added nothing to it. His entire intent was correctly as Ambassador Wilson noted: to intimidate, to suggest that there was some impropriety that somehow his wife was in a decision making position to influence his ability to go over and savage a stupid policy, an erroneous policy and frankly, what was a false policy of suggesting that there were nuclear material in Iraq that required this war. This was about a political attack. To pretend that it's something else and to get into this parsing of words, I tell you, it sickens me to be a Republican to see this.

TERENCE SMITH: Tom Rosenstiel, if these reports are connect, six reporters were tipped in effect about this information and yet only one chose to publish the name. What does that say to you?

TOM ROSENSTIEL: Well, it tells us that the majority of reporters involved thought this was a lousy story.

TERENCE SMITH: That it was a lousy story or improper to identify the individual?

TOM ROSENSTIEL: Improper to identify and actually maybe the story itself just didn't rise to the level of being much of a story. Frankly, it's difficult to see how this information discredits Wilson. I can see how it intimidates him but I don't think it necessarily discredits his research into the Niger claim. But you've got journalists in a bind here where they may think that what Novak did was wrong but that doesn't free them from the obligation to protect these sources who they think may have been doing something badly.


LARRY JOHNSON: There are a variety of people who work for Central Intelligence Agency who are undercover and to cover this -- to protect them for a variety of reasons -- and there have been people who start off as analysts that go on as operators. The principle, the sacrosanct, it's just like protecting sources for journalists, we have to protect the clandestine officers. I commend George Tenet for pursuing this.

TERENCE SMITH: Is there any evidence so far that any damage to national security or individuals has resulted from this?

LARRY JOHNSON: No, not to my knowledge but that's not the issue. It is the principle. You do not -- it is not up to the journalists to decide which officer they are going to out. We saw this in the '70s with Marchetti and others and Philip Agee who outed officers and they were killed. I don't want to wait until we get a body count. The principle's established: Do not divulge the names of these people. In my own career trainee class I did not know Joe's wife last name; we went by our first initials.

TERENCE SMITH: You were in the same class with her?

LARRY JOHNSON: I was in the same class with her. I was Larry J. In fact, when I first saw her last name I didn't recognize her until one of other my classmates who's out now called me up and said, hey. To realize this is a terrific woman, she's a woman of great integrity and other people that don't know her were trying to suggest that she is the one that initiated that. That is such nonsense. This is a woman who is very solid, very low key and not about show boating.

TERENCE SMITH: Finally, Tom -- I'm sorry.

TOM ROSENSTIEL: It just shows, you know the -- how hardball has really taken over the town. You know, it's a sad state of affairs when political infighting gets to this level.

Sounds to me like it's time to start asking The Question: "What did the President know, and when did he know it?" I can see now where it's going to work in George W. Bush's favor that he's as stupid an individual as he is--if there's anyone on earth who may have "plausible deniability" in this case, it'll be him. As BartCop said:

Trust me - The Monkey has all the deniablity in the universe.
He doesn't know
nothing about nothing, and I could testify to that.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20....
Daily Kos has been following the California recall fiasco with interest. Guest blogger Jerome Armstrong has this to note (indented material is a quote, of course):

     Paul Maslin, Davis' pollster, said the latest public polls are at odds with the campaign's internal surveys
     that show support for the recall between 51 percent and 54 percent.

     "We have a shot," Maslin said of beating the recall, though he did not dispute Schwarzenegger's rise
     in the second part of the ballot.

     "The second ballot is over," Maslin said. "It's not even a contest."

     In a nutshell: Gov. Gray Davis' folks say their polls show Democratic "fallback" candidate Lt. Gov. Cruz
     Bustamante is toast -- and will never overcome Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So there you have it, from one of the premier pollsters around. Maslin could be wrong, particularly if there is a very high turnout among Latino voters, or the Field poll shows something different, but let's see where this goes:

The polls show Davis behind, and Schwarzenegger ahead, and there's a big White Elephant that lingers for a Gov. Arnold....

The question is: Should CA Dems just knuckle over until 2006, suffering Schwarzenegger; or should they fight this hijack, and begin a Recall Effort on October 8th, after next Tuesday's election?

The problem with this scenario is, of course, that an immediate recall of Governor Schwarzenegger would make California voters look even sillier than they looked when they started the whole recall fiasco. It'd make them look sillier than they did when they elected Ah-nuld to begin with (and, IMHO, that's saying something).

And it never had to be this way....

California, like most (if not all) of the other states, has a constitutional provision which provides that if there's a vacancy in the office of Governor, then the Lieutenant Governor assumes the office. All Cruz Bustamante had to say (before the whole recall fiasco got started) was, "Hey guys, you want to have a recall? Cool with me, but if you oust Governor Davis there's no reason to have a recall election for his successor. Pursuant to the state constitution, I'm gonna be the Gov. And if you don't like that, take it up with the guys who drafted the state constitution."

Why he didn't do that is more than I can figure out. Hey Californians, how do you feel about Floridians laughing at you now?

This is sad. Truly sad....
From fellow Rocky Top Brigade member Say Uncle:

Vol Report

This past Saturday, I attended the UT v. SC game with some friends. The game was broadcast on ESPN2. I thought I'd try to have some fun but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get 107,000 people to yell
Beat Those Cocks! on TV. I guess they're all too mature. Bunch of college kids.

Ah, the truth is out....
This quiz was referred to us on the SKEPTIC list, so I had to go take it. Not at all a surprise:

I'm an Atheist!

Which Enemy of the Christian Church Are You?

Take More of Robert & Tim's Quizzes
Watch Robert & Tim's Cartoons

Why the Plame story is so huge
According to Jack Shafer, in Slate:

The Novak-Wilson-Plame story is so huge because 1) the leak appears (to some) to be a dirty trick designed to punish Wilson for going public on the July 6 New York Times op-ed page with his version of the Niger yellowcake uranium story; 2) it's against federal law ($50,000 in fines and 10 years in prison) for a government official who has access to classified information to disclose a covert agent's identity; 3) it indicates the extent to which the Bush administration will dissemble to sear its version of the war on terror on the public consciousness; and 4) we haven't had a good scandal joy ride in Washington since Monicagate.

But go read the source story, it's got a few good things to say about how anonymous sources tie reporters into knots.

And leave it to the Brits to get crazy about it.....
This from Sam Smith's Progressive Review email (no weblink, unfortunately):


[Note the writer's interesting presumption that a natural consequence of something becoming popular is increased health risk]

JASON HOPPS, IOL, SOUTH AFRICA - "Dogging", a term that loosely describes a variety of sex acts performed outdoors or in parked cars in front of strangers (and sometimes with them), has become such a craze that health authorities have warned against its dangers. The term "dogging" apparently comes from those who claim only to be "taking the dog for a walk", but are actually on the prowl for something more. Websites have sprung up across Britain extolling the pleasures of sex under the stars and online message boards list the best parks and car parks to watch people express themselves. . . "The problem is people are leaving behind condoms, lubricants and sometimes clothing at family sites and causing cleaning headaches for grounds people," Richard Byrne, a countryside management lecturer at Harper Adams College, said on Friday.

And from Adams's "True Tales of Induhviduals"
By way of explanation, "induhviduals" are those in the IQ curve who make the top 75% of the curve possible....

During a discussion of requirements for a new system we are developing, my manager stated that he wants "24 x 7 availability, 5 days a week!"

Trouble is, I've worked for people like this.....

I am a member of Dogbert's New Ruling Class....
and one of the perks of that is that I get a monthly (?-more or less monthly) newsletter from Scott Adams. Of course, marketing whore that he is (just kidding, guy!), Adams isn't shy about plugging his various Dilbert and non-Dilbert related merchandise, and he did so in this latest newsletter. One of the items he hawked is a non-Dilbert desk calendar that actually interests me (even though I am a geek, I'm not a big Dilbert fan--it's ok, but I don't go out of my way to read it). The calendar's called Cubicle Hell, and the gag is that it's chock full of office horror stories that Adams's readers send to him. Here's the description from Amazon (cribbed at least in part, if I remember rightly, from the back of the box blurb for the calendar itself):

Do you think your job is bad? You might go shopping for a Boss's Day gift after reading this calendar. Scott Adams, the creator of the comic strip "Dilbert," has compiled a frightening collection of workplace horror stories, many sent to him by witty and observant cubicle dwellers. There's the story of the boss who announces, "We should have lunch like this more often" at the going-away lunch for a downsized employee, of the fast-food cashier who asked if the customer wanted lettuce and tomato on his BLT, and of the office worker who "fixes" his computer when his black screen saver comes on by whacking the monitor. It's likely to give you a laugh each day, or at least make you grateful that your coworkers aren't quite as bad as the ones in this calendar.

But what interests me is the link that Amazon provides for this item (as it does for most books) for buyers interested in buying this through Amazon's "Services for Book Hawkers": "14 New & Used from $8.95".

Um, guys. This is a 2004 calendar, and you're selling it used?

It's good to have options...
which is why this little piece of news from Randy Nieland and the Lockergnome Tech Specialist newsletter was so welcome:

BeOS Lives on...

"BeOS 5 PE Max Edition is a distribution made using the free version of BeOS 5 (called Personal Edition) with a number of drivers, add-ons, and software. It includes the new development tools from the OpenBeOS team Web site, but you will also be able to select the old tools. It only contains freeware and shareware demos. All the code it contains is legal under the MIT, GPL, or LGPL licenses."

I played around a bit with the BeOS 5 Personal Edition (they had, like a few Linux distros do now, a version that ran from within Windows and which didn't require repartioning, etc.), and liked what I saw, though at the time I had dial up service and could not get BeOS to recognize my modem (damn WinModems), and the video was only in monochrome (probably lack of proper drivers for my video card). But I'm glad to see that BeOS isn't withering up and dying; the folks I've known that used it were fierce partisans, and it represents another choice for those of us who'd like to shove it up Gates's...... ok, ok, I'll calm down....

Red Skelton? Anyone who actually remembers Red want to chime in?
I received this in the email from a friend:

Subject: Red Skelton's tips for a happy marriage Red Skelton shared his humor with us for decades. He did so without four-letter words and raunchy antics. Throughout his career, he gained the respect of his fellow performers and audiences alike, and always was considered a top entertainer in his field. As we deal with our myriad day-to-day problems, a little levity is a welcome respite in today's world.

Below are Mr. Skelton's tips for a happy marriage.

1. Two times a week, we go to nice restaurant, have a little beverage, then comes good food and companionship. She goes on Tuesdays, I go on Fridays.

2. We also sleep in separate beds, Hers is in Ontario and mine is in Tucson.

3. I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back.

4. I asked my wife where she wanted to go for our anniversary. Somewhere I haven't been in a long time!" she said. So I suggested the kitchen.

5. We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.

6. She has an electric blender, electric toaster and an electric bread maker. Then she said, "There are too many gadgets and no place to sit down!" So I bought her an electric chair.

7. My wife told me the car wasn't running well because there was water in the carburetor. I asked where the car was, she told me, "In the lake."

8. She got a mudpack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.

9. She ran after the garbage truck yelling, "Am I too late for the garbage?" The driver said, "No, jump in."

10. Remember, marriage is the number one cause of divorce.

11. Statistically, 100% of all divorces start with marriage.

12. I married Miss Right. I just didn't know her first name was Always.

13. I haven't spoken to my wife in 18 months. I don't like to interrupt her.

14. The last fight was my fault. My wife asked, "What's on the TV?" I said, "Dust."

Generally, whenever I receive a list of anything supposedly said by a comedian the first thing I do is go to the Urban Legends Reference Pages and see what snopes has to say about it, because there are just too damn many pieces of material floating around being attributed to George Carlin or Robin Williams that just ain't their material. That's what I did in this case, and it was one of the rare times when the ULRP failed me. Nothing on it at all. (I went ahead and forwarded it to snopes, and I suppose if anything comes of it I'll let y'all know.) But the more I read these, the more I doubt that they are Red Skelton's material, although it's possible that they could be. I don't remember much of Red Skelton's schtick (he was ancient when I was a fairly young boy), but a little alarm bell is going off in my head; what I do remember of Skelton's material doesn't jibe with the wife bashing genre. If anything, most of these sound like Henny "Take my wife. Please" Youngman, though Rodney Dangerfield is another possibility that goes through my mind.

Thought for the Day:
Expectations lead to disappointments. That's why I try not to have any.
--Brisco County, Jr.