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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Saturday, January 31, 2004

In your sojourn on the 'net...
you've probably received, via e-mail, a poem, written in fairly creditable Dr. Seuss style, titled "If Dr. Seuss were a Technical Writer", credited to "Anonymous", and starting:

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
and the bus is interrupted as a very last resort,
and the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort
then the socket packet pocket has an error to report!

I've just found out that this piece of net-lore is but half of the original poem, written by Gene Ziegler, a retired administrator/IT executive at Cornell. The whole thing can be found online; it's really titled "A Grandchild's Guide to Using Grandpa's Computer", and the link includes a history of the poem and its theft on the 'net. Check it out; the full version's better then the excerpt that's being circulated.

Thought for the Day:
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
--Richard Feynman

Friday, January 30, 2004

The problem is....
that companies are run by CEOs and "owned" to a large degree by institutional investors who can't see past their short term interests.

From the Enterprise Ethics Weblog:

Sears joins WalMart's 'race to the bottom'
In an effort to match WalMart's short-changing employees, Sears will adopt some of the same tactics. The company phase out pensions, eliminate stock options, and reduce bonuses.

I makes you wonder who's going to buy their stuff once everyone in the country is making $7 an hour with no benefits.

By happy coincidence, Robert X. Cringely has been following the issue too. His particular take is on offshoring of our technical and engineering jobs, but the same considerations hold for the "Wal-martization" of the economy. From this week's "I, Cringely":

And there is no help from the financial markets, either. After all, these are the folks who tell us that short-term earnings are more important than long term prosperity. Why is that? It is because we've managed over the last 40 years to give up control of our own money, placing it in the custody of those who do not share our values and who are ultimately held unaccountable. They impose their values on us and we -- for no rational reason -- accept this. I'm talking about mutual funds, pension plans, and other forms of institutional investing.

Here's word from another reader:
"Few ever discuss the role of diluted shareholder responsibility through mutual fund ownership. 401(k)s and the like are a beautiful stealth model; they bring us ordinary citizens into the stock market, but deflect our own ability to be participating shareholders, voting our meager shares with or against directors and executives and mergers and, to your point, international outsourcing practices. So via our own jobs' benefits programs we buy into mutual funds that trade in shares of the very companies we work for and whose products and services we buy. But when those companies choose to eliminate our jobs or move them overseas, and the stock market responds favorably, we see our portfolios increase, an oasis of comfort in a sea of imminent unemployment. Two insane examples of this are state of California bus drivers who bought into CALPERS investments, which included stakes in the company the state outsourced bus contracts to when the state eliminated its own positions; and schoolteachers in Florida, who now own through the state pension program the majority shareholder of Edison Schools (a for-profit operator of public schools). It will be interesting to see how Edison does in Florida?.That this is important is evidenced by the attention paid to the recent market timing scandals, and the fights for greater investor access to fund manager voting records. Still, though, ask your neighborly mutual fund shareholder if they understand those issues, let alone the outsourcing issue. I'm afraid that no amount of campaign rhetoric could make up for the degree to which unwitting employees/citizens are indirectly allowing themselves to be screwed. Not that that's not true on many other dimensions in our society, and elsewhere, and in the past."

He's right. The very pressure behind this IT outsourcing comes from self-interested CEOs and institutional investors. And the money those institutional investors are using to sway corporate policy is OURS. It goes beyond our 401(k) and pension plans to insurance companies and banks and even to our stock brokers who enable the shorting of the very companies that we have bought because we believed them to be good long-term investments. These people simply don't care. And why should they? By the time the damage is irreparable they'll no longer even be involved.

Thought for the Day:
Unless you count Alan Partridge's favourite philosophical thinker, Peter Ustinov, I have previously interviewed only two philosophers: Bernard-Henri Levi and Mary Warnock. As with McGinn, I left both impressed by their practical obtuseness as much as their intellectual brilliance. McGinn this morning, for example, has trouble working out where to sit to avoid the sun's glare, leaving me to come up with the radical idea of drawing the curtains. The Making of a Philosopher is a charming book, but it does not persuade you that analytical philosophy is of much practical value even to its parishioners.
--Andrew Billen

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Too good not to blog right away...
even given the press of work. This just received from an email correspondent:


One hundred-fifty years ago, President Lincoln found it necessary to hire Alan Pinkerton a private investigator for protection. That was the beginning of the Secret Service.

Since that time, the federal government has produced a large number of multi-letter agencies, such as FBI, CIA, INS, IRS, DEA, BATF, etc.

Now we have the "Federal Air Transportation Airport Security Service".

Can't you see them now, these 'highly trained' men and women in their black outfits with jackets saying across the backs: "F.A.T.A.S.S."

The FATASS's are, of course, supervised by a special section of the Homeland Security section known as Airport Security Service Home Office Logistics Enhancement Section or "ASSHOLES".

I feel safer already.

Thought for the Day:
Mom said there'd be days like today. What she didn't say is that there'd be so damned many of them.

Which is also, incidentally, why there have been so few postings today. And things will get worse before they get better. Hope to be back soon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Lesson for the Internet Economy....
why spelling correctly counts.

Thanks to Brian at Resonance for that lead.

I couldn't (and didn't) say it better myself....
At Democratic Veteran, a comment (sorry, no direct link; scrolling required) on one of Jo's posts about George aWol Bush's purported National Guard service:

It seems to me that the point being over looked in the Bush AWOL debate is not whether he was absent for either seven or seveteen months of his obligated service. The fact is he simply didn't do what he took an oath to do and that is serve as an interceptor pilot with the Air National Guard. As a Naval Aviator who served from 1965 to 1971 on active duty incuding over a year in Viet Nam and on the carrier off the coast I view those who went into the National Guard during that period with some skepticism. Never the less service in the National Guard did play a valid place in the National Defense Policy. The unit in which Bush served was part of the Air Defense Command (ADC) whose duty was then as now to patrol the borders and intercept any hostile aircraft. The National Guard made up a significant portion of the ADC. Pilots in ADC stood alert duty and prowled the air as a barrier against airborne intrusion. That is what Bush promised to do. What he did after being admitted on the basis of political favors was to fly the T-33 a korean war vintage trainer for several months and the F-102 for about a year before he went to Alabama to campaign for Blount. Whether or not he skipped drill is to me secondary to the issue of failing to serve as the interceptor pilot the government spent so much money training him to do. When he went to Alabama it would have been no problem to return on weekends for his drill. For 3 years after leaving active duty I served as a pilot in a reserve A-4 squadron traveling over 200 miles for drill to our station in Memphis TN. Many of our pilots traveled from as far away as Boston, Minneapolis,Atlanta, Kansas City and St. Louis. It would been no problem for Bush the son of a milionaire to hop a plane for the quick trip back to Houston for his drill weekend. He chose not to do so. And when he did return whether or not he showed up for drill he clearly did not do what he promised to do and what got him out of Viet Nam service. I suppose he sat a round the airport and drank coffee while picking up a drill check but he chose not to perform the service for which he trained. And by the way, take this from one who's entitled to wear them, riding as a passenger aboard an air craft carrier dressed up like a pilot doesn't win you the right to wear the wings of gold.

I didn't pay much attention to the New Hampshire primary...
(I may blog more about that later; basically, the primary to convention route isn't of more than cursory interest to me right now) for which I may be sorry. I rather like this little piece of news. From dKos:

The best story of the night? The one that should unite us all? From the Republican primary results:

Bush 57,670
Kerry 835
Dean 633
Clark 545
Edwards 541

That's over 2,500 registered Republicans who
wrote in a Democrat in their ballot.

That's got to scare the shit out of Rove.

Having myself lived in Washington...
albeit outside the beltway, I rather like this description:

You can think of the beltway - inside the interstate loop isn't exactly arccurate, but it is still descriptive in its own way - as a biosphere with a different atmosphere. The air is hotter, the wit is drier and the altitude is thought of as higher. It's like Vulcan in Star Trek, except everything is done by illogic and no one's telepathy works.

Some journal hire this man!

Fascinating analysis....
from Tom Schallert over at Daily Kos (emphasis in original):

But then it struck me: Sure, the core Dean supporters who opposed the war all along have long backed him, and most likely remain with him. But many of the non-core Dean supporters within the Democratic Party evolved on the Iraq issue to the point where, although they may side with Dean now, they did not start where Dean started. In fact, they probably started where Kerry and Edwards started: supporting the invasion, albeit with a sense of unease. Because their transformation more closely mirrors Kerry than Dean, voting for Kerry is more affirming. (Sample internal monologue: "Hey, if John Kerry was fooled and feels betrayed, well, I can understand that because I feel the same way.") On the other hand, a vote for Dean is a reminder that you believed in the president and his plan all along.

A lot of pundits say Dean's collapse can be attributed to buyer's remorse among Democrats who initially "dated" Dean, but have since "married" Kerry. Correct concept, wrong application: Dean is folding because of buyer's remorse, all right - but because he reminds Democrats of what Bush sold them a year ago, not what Dean is trying to sell them now.

Thought for the Day:
The reason why Selig is such a cancer on the game has nothing to do with his accomplishments. Rather, it involves the way he has fundamentally corrupted MLB's governing process and destroyed the credibility of its public statements. Selig is a Machiavellian behind-the-scenes manipulator who has surrounded himself with yes-men. Anything he says that can't be independently verified, or which relates to his own or MLB's future intentions, can be trusted about as far as I can throw Miller Park. When he pledges to surrender power, even his own closest associates know he's lying. If Dick Cheney died, Bud would be the perfect replacement...
--Doug Pappas

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

One of the better comments I've read recently...
on sports fan whining about mercenary athletes in general, and the specific case of Albert Pujols (who's going to be getting a record amount of money for a player eligible for arbitration for the first time, unless the Cards and Albert come to some sort of understanding soon). From Josh Schulz at Go Cardinals:

All this whining about selfish ball players is coming from a society that shops at wal mart to save 10 cents and destroys small businesses in the process. A society that ruined american automotive manufacturing because they'd like to save a little money on labor. A society that in the face of scarce petrochemical resources buys the most gigantic land behemoths they can because it's convienent and safe for them (but they endanger everybody else on the road due to the hieght and weight of the vehicles). This same culture of excess and greed can all gather around sanctamoniously because some baseball player has the nerve to try to be paid what the market will allow.

It bothers me.

I think Albert himself said it best. I'll have to paraphrase since I can't find a link but basically he said: Why should I take a lower salary for the team? The team has no problem trading away JD Drew when he made too much money, or not signing Eduardo Perez because he might make too much money, and if I sign here for less what's to stop them from dumping me off and then I end up playing in tampa for less than market value?

The loyalty doesn't go both ways, because if it did Fernando Vina would still be here. And Pujols is right to recognize that and try to get the maximum value for his services that he can.

For my own opinion: it bothers me that "fair market value" for a shortstop who's barely hitting his weight and not fielding much better is so ridiculously more than that of a teacher, or a scientist, or a mechanic, or even the cash register clerk at Wal-mart (don't even start me on the All-Star/Future Hall of Famer who's more clearly worth the astronomical salary). But that valuation represents something that's basically wrong with our values as a society. I can't fault the athlete who realizes his (or her, if the sport is right) fair market value and goes for the gusto, especially given the caprices of fortune (career ending injuries, etc.) and the fact that their prime career earning years are so limited.

The least we can do is clean up our own house before we ask the athletes to clean up theirs.

Though Brian at Redbird Nation does make this comment: [F]or the record, SUVs are about as dangerous to their drivers as they are to those who encounter them on the road. Just so we can keep that straight.

In the middle of the Michael Moore-Wesley Clark-Peter Jennings "Did Bush desert, or did he just go AWOL?" flap... has a pretty good examination of l'affaire W...

The feeling from Davos...
And remember, Billmon was there:

That's what the forum is supposed to be about, although over the years the agenda has broadened to include sessions like this year's "Artists as Forecasters of the Future," "Me Inc.," and "Once Upon a Faith." Not surprisingly, the big economic topic this year was the sustainability of the U.S. expansion. Suprisingly, there was a tremendous amount of attention to the enormous U.S. current account deficit, and the downward pressure it is putting on the dollar.

Regulars at Whiskey Bar know these last two topics are, if not dear to my heart, then at least central to my views on the U.S. economy. And yet, I think it's fair to say they hardly ever break the surface of mainstream economic commentary here in the United States, where it's generally taken for granted that Asian central banks will continue to buy enormous quantities of dollars and U.S. Treasury securities
ad infinitum, allowing America to simultaneously finance a huge federal budget deficit, a capital spending boom and a steadily rising standard of living, despite having the lowest savings rate of any advanced industrial nation.

This complacency most definitely is
not shared by the Europeans, who are watching the rising euro with the same sinking feeling that King Midas must have felt when he realized that everything he touched, including his food, was turning to gold.

Steven Roach, the economist for Morgan Stanley, has written a piece that contends the Davos crowd was largely dismissive of the "twin deficits" (current account and budget) problem, but that wasn't my impression at all.

Granted, I didn't have the time or opportunity to drill down as deeply into this year's debates as Roach did. But the issue seemed to come up everywhere. Brad DeLong brought this interesting bit of gossip from Roach to my attention:
I was totally unprepared for what hit me immediately after the conclusion of this opening session. Two of America’s leading academics rushed the stage — one a renowned economics professor and the other the president of a top university — and loudly proclaimed that the traditional macro of saving shortages and current-account deficits is a scam. America was not in any danger whatsoever, they argued vociferously. The imbalances that I worried about are simply the logical and entirely rational manifestations of a New Economy.

Professor DeLong asked me if I knew who Roach might have been talking about. Unfortunately, I wasn't in that session -- and while I was able to talk to a couple of people that did, they didn't see, or didn't remember, the incident. But I only know of one "president of a top university" present in Davos who also happened to be a prominent economist -- Larry Summers. The "renowed economics professor"
might have been Martin Feldstein, the head of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a big economic wheel in the Reagan Administration. I heard him poo-poo the deficit-dollar problem in a panel session I did attend.

But, as I said, that was just the
American side talking. The problem in trying to get a read on what's really going on -- and what kind of consensus is likely to emerge among the global power elite about the USA's vulnerability on the dollar-deficit question -- is the same as at every conference of this sort: The Americans say the sky is the limit, the Europeans say the sky is falling, and the Asians, who's views are in many ways the most important, say as little as possible.

It's bad enough that the bAdministration seems to want to conduct foreign and military policy in its own little fantasy world. When they conduct their economic policy there as well, it really scares the shit out of me.

Another reason why....
George aWol Bush should have never been President... From Brian Leiter (who teaches at the U.Texas Law school):
George Bush is... a student of such mediocre academic accomplishment that 30 years ago he could not get admitted to the University of Texas School of Law as a politically connected state resident...

To anyone who knows about politics, connections and state law schools, that one fact speaks volumes.

I'll drag this one out of the Old Quote File as long as I'm on the topic:

I am sure there is a place for young George Bush somewhere. However, in light of his grades on the LSAT exams, that place is not the School of Law at the University of Texas.
--Page Keeton [Dean, U. of Texas Law School]

Felony hacking? Much to my frustration, I don't think so...
It's a little late to be blogging about this, but having gotten involved in some discussions over the weekend I thought I'd get my thoughts down on the issue. I've needed a few days to think out the issue, and then some free time to get it all down.

Anthony Rickey over at Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil started it (from my perspective). I was aware of the Boston Globe's ongoing coverage of what appeared to be the latest political scandal, the fact that apparently for some time GOP staffers for the Senate Judiciary committee had been reading (and apparently circulating) "confidential" Democratic staff policy memoranda and other documents which were stored on servers which were part of the Senate's computer networks. According to everything I've read about the case (and it's quite possible my facts are mistaken here; feel free to point me to sources proving otherwise) the GOP staffers had legitimate access to the Judiciary committee servers at issue (I assume that means valid user names and passwords providing access to the server); the problem was that the Democratic staff documents in question were not properly secured.

Anthony started it by asking for my opinion on the technical issue, "did the actions of the GOP staffers amount to 'hacking' or 'cracking' the Senate systems as those terms are popularly understood?" Anthony himself worked as a sysadmin for the Senate at one point in his career before he lost his sanity and decided to go to law school :-), and he informs me that the systems in question are Microsoft Windows NT systems (for the purposes of this discussion, the distinction between Windows NT and Windows 2000 is a distinction without a difference, so we won't speculate about whether the systems were upgraded in the interim; given what I know about the government I doubt that they'd have upgraded to Windows Server 2003 yet). The news stories have been quite vague on the specifics of the "security hole" that GOP staffers breached; the Globe characterized it as a "computer glitch" and had this description:

The computer glitch dates to 2001, when Democrats took control of the Senate after the defection from the GOP of Senator Jim Jeffords, Independent of Vermont.

A technician hired by the new judiciary chairman, Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, apparently made a mistake that allowed anyone to access newly created accounts on a Judiciary Committee server shared by both parties -- even though the accounts were supposed to restrict access only to those with the right password.

As a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer--Windows NT 4 (yes, I know that's an old certification, but I've worked for about 4 years now with Windows 2000 too, and the security mechanisms haven't changed much, if any, since then), it seems pretty clear what probably went wrong here. The documents at issue were most likely placed on a newly created network share--a directory for which the server would make any and all files contained therein accessible to users over the network. In a multi-user system (WinNT/2000 or any flavor of *nix you choose to name), access to this network share can (and damn well should) be limited to those users who need access to this particular share. In Windows NT/2000, however, the default network share permissions are basically that everyone who has network access to the system has full control over the share and all documents in it (i.e., can read, write to, and delete any files found in that network share). Obviously, Leahy's new hire created this network share for the use of the Democratic staffers, but after creating it fails to restrict share access to Democratic members and staff. Or, to put it another way, after creating the share the technician does nothing to prevent validly logged in GOP members and staff from accessing the share.

In other words, in Windows, it's not enough to create the directory, you have to lock it and then give the key to the folks who are supposed to have it. Leahy's sysadmin didn't do that. Basically, he put the Democratic documents out on the computer equivalent of an open shelf, where anyone passing by could read them to her/his heart's content.

On Sunday, the venue of the discussion (well, not the same discussion but I was involved in both) shifts over to South Knox Bubba, where SKB posts a bit on what he calls "Watergate Redux". The analogy to Watergate here is probably a bit over the top, but forgivably so. Then, though, SKB makes the following assertion:

Anyway, it seems to me that the perpetrators are guilty of multiple felonies under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, 18 USC 1030, punishable by up to ten years in federal prison.

and includes a helpful link to 18 USC §1030, which reads (in relevant part:
§1030. Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Computers

(a) Whoever

(1) having knowingly accessed a computer without authorization or exceeding authorized access, and by means of such conduct having obtained information that has been determined by the United States Government pursuant to an Executive order or statute to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national defense or foreign relations, or any restricted data, as defined in paragraph y. of section 11 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, with reason to believe that such information so obtained could be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation willfully communicates, delivers, transmits, or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it;

(2) intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains--
(A) information contained in a financial record of a financial institution, or of a card issuer as defined in section 1602(n) of title 15, or contained in a file of a consumer reporting agency on a consumer, as such terms are defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.);

(B) information from any department or agency of the United States; or

(C) information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication;


shall be punished as provided in subsection (c) of this section.

(my emphasis--LRC)

The emphasis is important; this appears to be the clause which, alas, seems to me to doom any attempt to charge GOP staffers with a crime under this section. If the facts that I'm reading in the Globe stories are true (and if I'm interpreting them correctly), there's no way one can charge the GOP staffers with "accessing a computer without authorization" or "exceeding authorized access". The GOP staffers at issue had valid user accounts and passwords which authorized them to access server resources, subject to any additional access restrictions on those resources. The Democratic documents were placed, it appears, on an open network share to which all authorized network users were permitted access.

Accessing a computer without authorization? Hell they had a valid username and password; what more authorization does a computer user need than that? Note that there is (to the best of my knowledge) no evidence to the effect that the GOP staffers in this case used a network sniffer, password cracking program, or any other prima facie dubious tool for discovering passwords that one isn't privy to.

Exceeding authorized access? The network share was apparently unsecured, and allowed full access to any users who were validly logged into the computer. Far from exceeding authorized access, they were simply using the access that the sysadmin (admittedly incompetently) granted them.

Unethical conduct? IMHO, most definitely. Criminal? I hate to say it, but probably not.

"It might be argued that" (= legalese for "I have such a great counterargument to this that I want to make sure it's brought up")...

Over on SKB's comments, a frequent commentator there, "scarshapedstar", took issue with my (abbreviated) version of this analysis, saying:

It is most definitely illegal. Remember the Kevin Mitnick case? He was nothing more than a script kiddie who stumbled upon extremely lax security. The legal definition of "accessing data you know you shouldn't have" is pretty broad. Hell, it pretty much coincides with the ethical definition. You'd think the Moral Clarity Christian GOP would understand that.

scar's a good guy, and his heart's in the right place. It grieves me to disagree with him here, but I feel constrained to. Legal reasoning, particularly where crimes and punishments are concerned, isn't ethical reasoning, and generally our ethical analysis can and generally will be much more unforgiving than our legal analysis. Nobody gets locked up in a cell based on our ethical judgments.

Mitnick's simply not the proper precedent here. From what little I know about the Mitnick case, I'd disagree with the characterization of Mitnick as "a script kiddie", but that's not the relevant issue. "Extremely lax security" is still security, albeit not very effective. In other words, if you put access restrictions on computer resources but guard them with an extremely weak password, you've still posted your intent to keep those resources out of the sight of prying eyes. That's most emphatically not (according to the facts at my disposal) what happened here. In this case, there simply were no access restrictions placed on these documents.

Note, I'm not saying that what the GOP staffers did wasn't despicable. I'm not saying that they're not scum sucking bastards that should be hung upside down by their toes until their brains seep out their ear canals. However, they're not criminals. Or more specifically, they're not in violation of 18 USC §1030.

Sometimes I think there's hope yet...
This weekend I received or ran across (I'm not sure which) a reference to Peter Landesman's New York Times Magazine article, The Girls Next Door, purportedly a hard hitting expose of sex slavery in the United States. Smelling what appeared to me to be the next variant on the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" hysteria, I'd thought briefly about doing my own analysis of the article.

Of course, in the blogosphere if you hesitate for a minute, someone steals your best ideas.

No, not really stealing, of course. The fact of the matter is that there are maybe two or three truly original ideas in the world every year, and a whole buttload of people have them, often simultaneously (that's one explanation why you'll sometimes see two novels with similar themes published at the same time, or two movies with very similar plots being released simultaneously; for an excellent example of the latter read up on the stories behind the releases of Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove; the similarity of the plots of these movies caused Stanley Kubrick and Columbia Pictures to file suit against Sidney Lumet and ECA alleging plaigarism). And that's exactly what happened, here. But I'm not going to complain; Jack Shafer's critique of Landesman's article in Shafer's Slate "Press Box" column is easily one of the better skeptical analyses of any news article that I've read in a while, and a whole lot better than anything I could have done on the subject (as well it should be; Shafer's getting paid for it, after all).

I can't disprove the claim made in the article's subhed that sex slavers hold "perhaps tens of thousands" of women, girls, and boys against their will in the United States, but I seriously doubt its veracity. Landesman's breathless performance, in which he asserts that "hundreds" of "stash houses" inhabited by foreign sex slaves dot America's metropolitan landscape, offers almost nothing in the way of verifiable facts about the incidence and prevalence of this heinous practice.

Landesman's supporting evidence is vague. Where it is not vague, it is anecdotal. Where it is anecdotal, it is often anonymous, too. And where it is not anecdotal or vague it is suspicious and slippery.

Before drawing and quartering Landesman, let's first cut him a break. It's almost impossible to conduct an accurate census of American sex slaves. It's like counting the number of marijuana smokers, only a thousand times more difficult. We know something about the number of pot smokers from anonymous surveys, from tabulations of marijuana possession and trafficking convictions, from the amount of marijuana seized by police, and from aerial surveillance of pot farms. But except for prosecutions and border interdictions, there's little hard data about the number of sex slaves smuggled into the country. And that makes the numbers incredibly elastic.

For instance, in 2002, the U.S. government estimated between 700,000 and 4 million international victims of human trafficking each year, with 50,000 people trafficked into the United States. In 2003, the U.S. conceded the unreliability of its previous nose-count by reducing its estimate to 800,000 to 900,000 people trafficked worldwide and 18,000 to 20,000 into the United States.

When Landesman cites the 18,000 to 20,000 number in his article, he acknowledges that the government has yet to determine how many are sold into sex slavery, but then he lets Kevin Bales of the nonprofit group Free the Slaves hype his premise with the speculation that the number is "at least 10,000 a year." How credible is Bales? How credible are his numbers? Bales claims 27 million slaves around the world, which is only 10 times larger than the estimate of the Anti-Slavery Society, which puts the number at 2.7 million.

State Department go-to guy on slavery John Miller tells Landesman that the 10,000 new sex slaves a year estimate by Bales "could be low." But the fact is nobody in the field seems to have a good handle on slave traffic numbers or the sex slave population in the United States. So, when Bales surmises that there are between 30,000 to 50,000 sex slaves in the United States at any time, don't feel the need to believe him. Nobody really knows the true answer, but we do know whose interests are served by any inflation of the numbers.

In all, an excellent analysis. If only the press would subject its work to this kind of skeptical eye more often.

Thought for the Day:
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.
--Robert Frost

Monday, January 26, 2004

The statutory one year post....
With this totally uninspired entry, I began this public exercise in mental masturbation. That means that today marks the last day of the first year of the existence of this weblog. I suppose that I should mark it somehow.

I have to say it's been an interesting trip so far. When I started this, I was attending a math class for personal enrichment purposes. Shortly after that, the Shuttle Columbia exploded on reentry. We went to war, won the war fairly quickly, and we're still fucking up the peace. No weapons of mass destruction have been found. 500 American soldiers have died, and thousands more have been wounded, maimed or dismembered.

I've met (online, that is; I've yet to make any acquaintances face to face yet) some interesting people through this blog, including various members of both the Rocky Top Brigade and the League of Liberals, though alas, the noble goals for which the League was founded were lost sight of in a maelstrom of petty bickering (with outsiders; at least the League demonstrated a heartening degree of solidarity) that reminded me of the old adage that academic infighting is so vicious because the stakes are so low. The unfortunate result of that bickering, sadly, was the loss of a fine liberal voice from the blogosphere, Barry Bozeman, the proprietor of Rush Limbaughtomy and some other fine blogs. In November, I managed to do a rather extensive (3.5 parts, by my own count) analysis of the dereliction charges against Army SSGT Georg-Andreas Pogany; it didn't get InstaPundited but thanks to Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran (who massaged a few blogosphere connections of his) it did get TalkLefted, and my server usage records reflected my resulting 15 minutes of fame in the blogosphere. Meaningless in the greater scheme of things, but it felt good while it lasted.

Meanwhile, in the Real World, we saw the Cubs and the Red Sox titillate us with the prospect of a World Series in which Major League Baseball's two most loveable losers would finally contend for all the marbles, and I laughed heartily at (or more accurately, with) the Cubs fan who held up a sign: "Let's win it all; then we'll be happy until 2098." Unfortunately, neither of the underdogs got to the Series, but at least the Evil Empire of the Bronx was vanquished by the Florida Fish; personaly I'm not in the habit of rooting for U.S. Steel. I got to see a few good movies (Kill Bill, Vol. 1, Master and Commander, Bubba Ho-Tep, Intolerable Cruelty), a few enjoyable "brain drains" (like Hulk) and a couple stinkers (can you say "The Matrix"--both sequels, which were hardly as compelling as the original).

I suppose there's lots more that I can be saying about the past year, but that seems to be pretty much water under the bridge. What I've been contemplating the past few days, as I've realized that my one year "blogiversary" was coming up, is the future. When I started this exercise in rampant egomaina (of course it was; why else on Earth would I think that my stray thoughts would be of interest to any living person (I know that my stray thoughs would be interesting to my mother, but she died over 12 years ago)?), I expected that things would be a bit more intellectual, a bit more philosophical. a lot less political, and a lot less polemic (and that such polemics that would deface this blog would be quite a bit more mature). At the time I started this, I was an active member of the GODEXIST and the Xianity mailing lists, and I figured that the discussions there would be grist for the mill of my musings. Alas, shortly after I started this discussions on the GODEXIST list began to deteriorate, as too many Christians on the list began spinning the discussions into their own evangelation, and things began to deteriorate there, until I decided that the amount of noise there seriously drowned out the amount of signal, and I suspended my subscription.

What I'd like to do in the future is get back to my roots. A couple things come to mind. The title of this blog, Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener is an homage to one of the best books I've had the privelige to read, Martin Gardner's The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener. In that book Gardner addresses some of the fundamental philosophical questions of "classical" philosophy--"classical" in the sense that he tackles some of the fundamental questions which most people consider at some point in their lives: the world, truth, science and the paranormal, beauty, goodness, free will, the state, political liberty, gods, God, faith, prayer, evil, and immortality. While I don't agree with Gardner's conclusions on many of these issues, his work is a masterful examination of these issues by a non-professional (i.e., non-academic) philosopher, and a demonstration that significant philosophy can be done outside the ivory tower. What I would like to do is re-examine these questions myself. There are a couple possibilities I'm mulling over. One possibility is a "commentary" on Gardner's book; while I'm probably not up to a book length treatment, a few essays on where we disagree and why might be a useful exercise (for me, if not for my readership). Another possibility is a project that I've been contemplating ever since college. Walter Kaufmann, in his seminal Critique of Religion and Philosophy states that a reasonably adept philosopher should be able to state her/his philosophy in the form of a commentary on the Book of Genesis (Kaufmann, in the same passage, characterized the Critique as a commentary on the Book of Job). Ever since I read that passage I've been intrigued by such a project, and it might be a useful effort to try to. bring it to fruition.

However, one can't live by philosophy alone (not to mention that posts of the type and length of the ones I'm contemplating here are going to be somewhat few and far between, as they would probably take a bit of work). I expect that I'll be doing occasional comments on life and politics, as always, though I'd like to raise the level of the ranting and perhaps say something constructive every once in a while. I still have quite a few choice comments in the Big File o'Quotes For All Occasions, so until I see myself being forced to repeat them, I expect the "Thought for the Day" to continue for a while (please try to contain your disappointment here). And of course, it's not very long at all before the pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training (24 days, 51 minutes and some seconds as I write this), and Opening Day is on April 1 (April Fool's Day--how appropriate!--though we have to wait til April 5 for the St. Louis home opener), so I expect to make some observations about baseball along the way, too (though perhaps not very valuable observation; I'm not much of a baseball scholar, much less a sabermetrician).

Well, I hope that this exercise will (continue to?) be interesting. But I think that I've covered that topic before. As I wrote a year ago:

With any luck, somebody will find my idle musings interesting. Oh what the hell. I will, and that's what really counts, right?

From the Enterprise Ethics Weblog...
you can bet on anything. Of course, Pete Rose or Michael Jordan could have told you that...

"They" bet your life

Many people, a lot of them in Texas, will tell you that you can't out a price on a human life -- but apparently you can, at least in Texas. And not only that, you can make a game of it.

In our gambling-crazed culture, with all sorts of people trying to bear the odds, Texas has come up with an ingenious way to raise money -- betting on when retirees will die.

According to this story in the LA Times, the state is considering a plan to take out life insurance policies on retired teachers, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers. And who gets the money? Not the families, but the state.

If it seems a little ghoulish to you, that's because it is. I find it confusing because it used to be the case that you couldn't take out a life insurance policy on someone unless you had what the industry called an "insurable interest" in the person. But since we entered the Era of Greed a few decades ago, I guess a lot of things have changed. If you don't find it ghoulish, you might want to think how you'd feel if people were down at the casino betting on when you'd shuffle off this mortal coil.

How would I feel? Surprised and a bit flattered that anyone cared... Unless of course they were betting heavily that I'd die soon, in which case I'd watch my backside and not eat anything I didn't personally grow, harvest/slaughter, and cook. Which means I'd soon be dead; if not dispatched by one of the gamblers my own agricultural and culinary incompetence would no doubt do me in...

Thought for the Day:
Say, why do actors insist on a closed set because they're embarrassed about getting naked for a film that later opens in 3,000 theaters before millions of moviegoers? "I'm not shy about you seeing me naked, just about you seeing it for free."
--Mark Ramsey

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Thought for the Day:
I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive: You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil--you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself.
--Dan Barker

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Thought for the Day:
Edmund Blackadder, Esq.: What we need is an utter unknown yet someone over whom we have complete power. A man with no mind, with no ideas of his own. One might almost say a man with no brain. (he rings the servant bell)
George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent: Well...any thoughts?
Edmund: Yes, Your Highness.
(Baldrick enters)
Baldrick: You rang, My Lord?
Edmund: (to George) Meet the new member of Parliament for Dunny-on-the-Wold.
George: But he's an absolute arsehead!
Edmund: Precisely, sir. Our slogan shall be: "A rotten candidate for a rotten borough." Baldrick, I want you to go back to your kitchen sink, you see, and prepare for government.
--"Blackadder the Third"

Friday, January 23, 2004

Fascinating story....
in yesterday's Slate. As you may be aware, there is a release of a new movie, Cheaper by the Dozen, which is, of course, a remake of a '50's comedy of the same title. While I was aware that the family on which the book and two movies were based was a real family, what I didn't know is that the parents were pre-eminent industrial management specialists of the early to mid-20th century:

In a nod to its midcentury predecessor, the remake of Cheaper by the Dozen salutes "Great-Grandma Gilbreth" as the inventor of the "apple schmear" game?a family bacchanal that has Steve Martin (as Tom Baker) and his big brood splattering mashed apples all over the yard. It's a curious way to remember Lillian Moller Gilbreth, the matriarch of the clan celebrated in print and on screen five decades ago. In fact, she was 20th-century America's pre-eminent female industrial-management expert, with more ergonomic (and less idiotic) innovations to her name: among them, the foot-operated trash can, those egg and butter compartments in refrigerators, waste hoses for washing machines, and an oeuvre that includes The Psychology of Management. Compared to her, Bonnie Hunt (in the role of Kate Baker, Martin's wife) looks like a bubbleheaded throwback.

You would think that in our dual-career-family era, the secret theme lurking in America's classic comic family saga would finally have gotten out: Lillian Gilbreth was a hard-driving advocate of having it all, the nation's pioneering supermom. Professionally, she got her due during her lifetime; for work that went well beyond kitchen concepts, the "Mother of Modern Management" was festooned with honorary degrees when she died in 1972. But in popular iconography, she's been tamed. Prior to her resurrection as a jolly granny, she'd spent years on the pedestal as an ever-solicitous mother and the self-effacing "junior partner" to her husband, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, the motion-study maven as famous for importing factory methods (and madness) into his family as for joining Frederick Taylor in spreading "scientific management" in the workplace.

Thought for the Day:
Any Universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind able to understand it.
--John D. Barrow

Thursday, January 22, 2004

You don't have to be a liberal to not like Dubya...
Nathan Newman notes that the right-wing Heritage foundation turned out a "scathing" memo on Bush's "maxed out credit card" style of governance:

A lot of discontent on Bush's pandering on budget issues-- making noises about fiscal discipline while handing out goodies to help his reelection. The rightwing doesn't emphasize the role of the tax cuts in breakng the budget, but this Heritage Foundation memo is pretty scathing on Bush spending:
Spending has increased twice as fast under President Bush as it did under President Clinton. From 2001 to 2003 total spending grew by 16 percent. Certainly the terror attacks of 9/11 placed additional demands on spending for homeland security, a strong defense, and rebuilding New York. However, this accounts for less than half of the new spending that has occurred since 9/11.

You've got to wonder when the "small government right" will recognize that they've been taken by their supposed corporate allies. Big corporate power loves large government, as long as that government is handing out defense contracts, subsidies to pharmaceutical companies, and energy pork barrel.

The SOTU: Bush's fantasies vs. the facts
This is an amendment of a short post from yesterday that I'm bringing to the top o'the blog, just because I should; I want to call attention to the addition.

The Center for American Progress details Dumbya's latest lies. Meanwhile, over at Slate, Fred Kaplan (himself not, strictly speaking, anti-war w/r/t the Iraq incursion), being a bit more charitable, characterizes the SOTU as a mess of "evasions and half truths", and asks if we can trust the SOTU. Both, I think, are must reads.

UPDATE: Estimated Prophet does a very good job, too, with his post: The Big Lie SOTU style. Another good read.

UPDATE II: Of course, Dumbya's been fantasizing about Iraq for ages. This from the Philadelphia Inquirer: CIA: Iraq at risk of civil war

WASHINGTON - CIA officers in Iraq are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said yesterday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment that President Bush gave in his State of the Union address.

The CIA officers' bleak assessment was delivered orally to Washington this week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified information involved.

The warning echoed growing fears that Iraq's Shiite majority, which has until now grudgingly accepted the U.S. occupation, could turn to violence if its demands for direct elections are spurned.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Kurdish minority is pressing its demand for autonomy and shares of oil revenue.

"Both the Shiites and the Kurds think that now's their time," said one intelligence officer. "They think that if they don't get what they want now, they'll probably never get it. Both of them feel they've been betrayed by the United States before."

I fear I may have a new guilty pleasure...
Spent last night with SpikeTV on. Spike bills itself as "The first network for men", though frankly, considering the demographic it appears that they pitch to (18-35 males who are emotionally barely out of adolescence), I should be more comfortable with something else. But Spike (formerly "The Nashville Network" until they figured out there was more money in pitching themselves to emotionally stunted young adult men than to country music fans, whereupon they rebranded, first as "The National Network" and then as "SpikeTV", attracting a lawsuit from Spike Lee along with the publicity attendant thereto) does run syndicated reruns of "Star Trek: The Next Generation", which tends to beat any of the alternatives on any other cable channel on any given evening, as well as running the occasional decent movie. So, if you made a habit of knocking on my door on random evenings throughout a given month, the odds are pretty good that you'll catch me with SpikeTV on at least, oh, 40% of the times you do so (the other times, you'll find me tuning in to SciFi (especially on Mondays for their all-evening "Stargate SG-1" runs; "Stargate" has pulled even with "Star Trek" (original and TNG) for my favorite mindless brain-drain sci-fi viewing)), AMC, or Turner Classic Movies (at least until baseball season gets underway; during baseball season WGN, ESPN, ESPN2, FoxSports South, Fox, and the Turner monolith all compete for my viewing time as well).

But anyway, my new guilty pleasure isn't SpikeTV itself, which is a take it or leave it proposition depending on what they're offering vs. what the competition is offering; I spend so much time with Spike on simply because (sadly) "ST: TNG" is very often the best offering on any of the cable channels I get. Last night, however, Spike caught my attention with a couple of one hour "Unseen, Untold" behind-the-scenes documentaries on the making of the movies The Blues Brothers and National Lampoon's Animal House, two of my favorite movies. Given that I'm a sucker for the "behind the scenes" documentary (one of the reasons I so eagerly moved from VHS to DVD when I finally got around to getting a DVD-ROM drive in my computer) the decision to tune into Spike last night was a no-brainer. But then they had to follow those with what I fear will now become my new guilty pleasure: "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge".

There's really no easy way to describe this one: The spawn of a junk sports show and "Iron Chef" marries What's Up Tiger Lily; the child resulting from that union is "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge". The producers took a bizarre Japanese game show called "Takeshi's Castle", which resembles an American junk sports show on steroids and amphetamines (about 100 contestants engage in bizzare events like swinging on a trapeze over a pond while wearing a velcro suit with butterfly wings; the idea being to hurl oneself from the trapeze to a velcro wall (with a spider-web motif on it) and stick there; or to jump from "rock to rock" across a pond where some of the "rocks" are really just anchored styrofoam which won't hold the weight of the contestant when landed on--you get the general idea). This being a Japanese game show, the producers took the liberty of providing an English soundtrack--like "Iron Chef"--but, in the great tradition of What's Up Tiger Lily?, the dubbed in soundtrack bears little if any relation to the actual dialogue, and is hilarious (though, given that it's pitched to SpikeTV's target demographic, the humor of the dubbed in dialogue tends towards the tasteless and raunchy--that's not a problem for me (I'm a conosseur of tasteless), but some may not like it).

Not great TV, but I can think of much less enjoyable ways to spend 30 minutes....

Thought for the Day:
The trouble with the meaning of life topic is that people would love to say something about it, but what can you say that is new, interesting or worthwhile?
--Colin McGinn [Prof. of Philosophy, Rutgers]

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Of course, I can't let this go unmentioned....
Thirty-five years ago today, Stan "The Man" Musial was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Extra bonus factoid (just for free; special today): today is also the 44th anniversary of the day that Musial asked for and recieved a pay cut from the Cardinals, trimming his then $100,000 per year salary to $80,000. Why? Musial was never really comfortable with his $100,000 annual salary (I believe, if I'm remembering correctly, Musial was the first National Leaguer to receive that large a salary), and besides believing himself overpaid he felt that his performance in the 1959 MLB season didn't justify the Cardinals paying him that much.

Think you'll ever see a baseball player do that ever again?

The more things change...
the more they remain the same. From The Right Christians:

In an effort reminiscent of those of Christian apologists during the Enlightenment, Russian scientists have attempted a naturalistic explanation of the crossing of the Red Sea. They conjecture that a 30 meter/second (roughly 60 miles/hr) wind could have blown the water off a reef at the north end of the sea long enough for 600,000 Israelites to cross dry shod.
The Russia-based researcher, Naum Volziger, who specializes in flooding and tidal waves, told a Moscow Times reporter, "It would take the Jews – there were 600,000 of them – four hours to cross the seven-kilometer reef that runs from one coast to another. Then, in half an hour, the waters would come back."

Somehow, such an explanation lacks the drama of the biblical description of the Israelites crossing with a wall of water to their right and a wall to their left.

The SOTU: Bush's fantasies vs. the facts
The Center for American Progress details Dumbya's latest lies.

This is a revelation?
SKBubba on the SOTU. I hate to pick on SKB, but if this was a shocking revelation for him (this has been a fact that's been painfully apparent to me from approximately the first week of the bAdministration), I should ask him about what his drug of choice is; I can use a nice long nap like that myself. Quoth SKB:

The shocking thing this speech revealed was that Bush has absolutely no coherent domestic policies whatsoever.

From Brad DeLong...
How to move from "weapons of mass destruction" to "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities", just like that.

How we moved from "SADDAM HUSSEIN IS BUILDING NUKES! HE'LL HAVE THEM ANY DAY NOW!! AND HE'S COMING TO KILL US ALL USING REMOTELY-CONTROLLED DRONES!!!!" to "Saddam Hussein was engaged in weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

A transcription of a tape from the Oval Office, January 18, 2004:
Karl Rove: We'll have him say that the Kay Report showed that we were right in claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Karen Hughes: Ummm... No.

Karl Rove: No?

Karen Hughes: No. We'd make him look like an idiot.

Karl Rove: How about if we have him say, "the Kay Report has identified Iraq's program to build Iraq's weapons of mass destruction"?

Richard Cheney: I'm afraid not.

Karl Rove: No?

Richard Cheney: He'll look like an idiot. The Kay Report did not identify weapons of mass destruction programs.

Karl Rove: Say it anyway. No one will challenge it. It will get by.

Dan Bartlett: In a normal year it would, but...

Karl Rove: But?

Dan Bartlett: Remember last year's State of the Union? The Niger uranium disaster? Usually we can fool the press with no problem. But this time they're lying in wait for us. We dare not have him say anything in the SOTU address that is false.

Karl Rove: Nothing?

Dan Bartlett: Nothing.

Karl Rove: So we can't have him say "weapons of mass destruction"?

Karen Hughes: Nope.

Karl Rove: And we can't have him say "weapons of mass destruction programs"?

Richard Cheney: Nope.

Karl Rove: How about if we have him say "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities"?

Richard Cheney: Works for me.

Thanks to Melanie for the reference.

A saint I could identify with....
but then again, there are so many damn patron saints in Catholicism you'd think that this job's already filled. This is a comment on the recent decision of Pope John "there can never be enough saints" Paul II to beatify Charles I of Austria/Charles IV of Hungary (this is one and the same individual, I hope you realize), the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary, described by historians as "a buffoon":

Should he ever make the grade for canonisation, suggested the Austrian weekly Profil, he should be nominated as the patron saint of losers.

Interesting post-Iowa comment...
by William Saletan in Slate. In what appears to be his Monday night wrapup of the caucuses (I hesitate to say for certain because the column in question includes his Tuesday morning analysis of the "day after" morning news shows), Saletan observes:

Dean was Gored. Want to know how Al Gore lost the presidency in October 2000? You just saw it: a relentless focus on one candidate's record and comments. That's understandable (and I participated in it), because Dean seemed to be on his way to the nomination, just as Gore seemed to be on his way to the presidency in October 2000. You always scrutinize most carefully the person who, barring intervention, is likely to win. The catch is that you're the intervention. Some of the criticism of Dean was way over the line. (The next pundit who scolds Dean's wife for not campaigning should have to sleep on the couch for a year.) But some of it was well-earned by Dean. Moral: When the camera's on you, shape up.

I think there are two sentences there worth repeating: You always scrutinize most carefully the person who, barring intervention, is likely to win. The catch is that you're the intervention.

You may be familiar with a principle in quantum mechanics called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Grotesquely oversimplified, it states that when one is dealing with a subatomic particle, one cannot know both the momentum of the particle and its location in space to any arbitrary precision; or more simply, the better you know a particle's momentum the less you will know of the particle's location, and the better you know its location the less you will know of its momentum. Early in the development of quantum mechanics, physicists (including Heisenberg himself) "mis-explained" the principle by positing that the act of observation of the particle would interfere with the movement of the particle--that the observer and the observed interacted, and that measurement of one aspect of a particle's movement would throw off the measurement of the other aspect.

We know now that this is not true with respect to subatomic particles, however we can see an analogous phenomenon in politics, and Saletan is hinting at it here. In politics, the observers (journalists) do interact with the observed (the candidate)--sometimes directly, but even when there is no direct contact the actions of the observers do effect the campaigns of the observed, either by altering the candidate's overt behavior, or by influencing the opinions of the ultimate decisionmakers in the electorate. Of course, it's not like this is completely unknown; Bob Somerby, for instance, has been maintaining an incomparable webpage for about seven years now commenting on that very dynamic.

If only journalists would act like they were more aware of it.

A sad commentary on our times....
Tim Noah, in Slate, suggests that there's only one winning campaign strategy in Presidential elections in the U.S.: get a third party candidate to run as a stalking horse to siphon votes from your opposition.

Consider the historical record. In 1948, third-party candidates Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond drew enough votes from Harry Truman to persuade the Chicago Tribune that Republican Tom Dewey had won. Since then, party loyalties have grown much weaker. In 1968, working-class whites and Southerners still resistant to supporting Republicans voted in sufficient numbers for third-party candidate George Wallace that Wallace can be credited plausibly with putting Richard Nixon in the White House. Third-party candidate John Anderson didn't throw the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan—Reagan's lead over Jimmy Carter was too great, and Anderson's vote totals were too small. But the Center for Voting and Democracy claims that Anderson's candidacy may have boosted Reagan's electoral-college victory relative to his popular-vote victory, and that without Anderson Reagan might have entered office with a less-clear mandate for change. (Chatterbox should here note that Anderson is chairman of the Center for Voting and Democracy.) Political scientists argue about whether Ross Perot's 19 percent of 1992's popular vote put Bill Clinton in the White House—it hinges on whether you think Perot voters would have otherwise voted Democratic, Republican, or not at all—but Chatterbox, who covered that race for the Wall Street Journal, always felt at the gut level that Perot's appeal was more powerful to potential supporters of George H.W. Bush. Exit polls contradict Chatterbox's gut; they showed Perot voters splitting their preferences fairly equally between Clinton and Bush. But a survey by Clinton pollster Stanley Greenberg found that Perot voters had a "largely Republican voting history." The 2000 election, of course, was so absurdly close that just about anything—including Ralph Nader's 3 percent of the popular vote, which otherwise would probably have gone to Al Gore—can be called a determining factor.

Thought for the Day:
Last week I called in "sick" and vamoosed to Vegas for the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show. And suddenly it hit me: Las Vegas was created by aliens. They landed in Area 51 and built the city as a vast experiment in human excess. Wayne Newton? David Copperfield? Siegfried and Roy? All alien lab technicians. It's the only answer that makes sense
--"Robert X. Cringely"™ [InfoWorld columnist]

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

With luck, the Bishop is shooting the Church in the foot....
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we get an interesting story about newly appointed Archbishop-elect Raymond Burke of St. Louis (currently Bishop of LaCrosse, Wisconsin pending his installation in St. Louis). Within days of his appointment to the post in St. Louis see (but before the official papal announcement), Burke elected to make history as the first Catholic bishop (Update (1/21): maybe not the first; see the comments) to order his clergy (in LaCrosse, though there is reason to expect that Burke will issue a similar order in the St. Louis Archdiocese upon his installation as Archbishop) to refuse to give communion to any Catholic legislator who supports abortion rights.

Historically, a major motivating factor behind anti-Catholicism in the United States has been the fear of Protestant Americans that a foreign potentate, namely the Pope (who is, remember, also the head of state of the temporal state of Vatican City), would dictate to Catholic legislators, judges and government executives (i.e., presidents, governors, mayors) how they are to execute their duties. Now, perhaps for the first time in U.S. history, an American bishop is turning those fears into reality.

Can this be the harbinger of increasing anti-Catholic sentiment in the U.S.? I hope we're better than that as a people. However, I don't think it's discrimination for American voters to take a candidate's Catholicism into consideration now if it means that s/he may be suceptible to pressure from her/his bishop. And that is probably going to happen.

I hate living in interesting times.

From FAIR...
(Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting): When are Nazi Comparisons Deplorable?

For the Faux News Network, only when Republicans are the target.

It should be noted that however hyperbolic, comparisons to Hitler and fascism are not unknown in the American political debate. Rush Limbaugh has routinely called women's rights advocates "femi-Nazis," and references to "Hitlery Clinton" are a staple of right-wing talk radio. Republican power-broker Grover Norquist on NPR (10/2/03) compared inheritance taxes to the Holocaust.

Closer to home for Fox News, on the very same day that Gibson, Hannity and O'Reilly were talking about the Hitler/Bush comparison as evidence of the left's extremism, a column ran in the New York Post that described Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean as a follower of Josef Goebbels, referred to him as "Herr Howie," accused him of "looking for his Leni Riefenstahl," called his supporters "the Internet Gestapo" and compared them to "Hitler's brownshirts."

The New York Post, like Fox News Channel, is part of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch's conservative media empire. And this piece wasn't just put up on the Post's website as part of a contest--it was written by a right-wing commentator who frequently appears in the Post's pages, Ralph Peters, and selected for the op-ed page by the Post's own editors. So it's more than a little embarrassing that these blatant Nazi comparisons were being made in the Post while the paper's corporate sibling was denouncing such comparisons as a sign of derangement.

This says something interesting about the US
Of the "major" contenders for the Democratic nomination, only one would be considered a mainstream social democrat in, say, Canada or Germany: namely, Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio congressman. He got 1% of the vote in Iowa last night--which pretty much sums up the morally depraved state of America, but that's a topic for a different day.
--Brian Leiter

And speaking of SKBubba...
he perceptively tells us why reading InstaPundit is a waste of your time.

Here's a little use of the crystal ball...
for those of you who insist on hearing the SotU, hie thyself to South Knox Bubba, and get your advance copy.


I am not watching the State of the Union address....
for a number of reasons. Not watching is a tradition of mine; Jefferson had it right when he just got someone to walk the damn thing over to Congress, and Wilson did us no favors by walking over to Capital Hill and delivering it in person (of course, Wilson was before both radio and television, much less the Faux News Network or MSGOP, but you'd still think our only Ph.D. pres would have known better... sigh). Besides the weight of tradition, I have particular reasons for missing George aWol Bush's SotUs; the man has nothing to say that I'd be interested in even if he were going to say one truthful thing in the whole speech, but since I know instinctively when Dumbya is lying (because I see his lips moving), I know that the truth content of his address is going to be so low as to make listening to it useless.

However, if you insist in catching it, make sure you go look at this State of the Union Dictionary before you do. Even better, print a copy out and refer to it during the speech.

Heck, even if you're giving it a pass, like I am, go check out the dictionary; it's educational.

UPDATE: This comment, by a veteran member of the SKEPTIC mail list, resonates with me:

Well of course we're just all aflutter in anticipation of tonight's State of the Union speech (or, as it is known in some circles, Home of the Whopper).

I see that the Republic has survived another set of Iowa caucuses...
and the pleasant surprise is that we're spared the specter of more contemplation of "President Gephardt". Not that that was a serious danger, but the five-time winner of the "Worlds Whitest Man" competition was expected to do much, much better than he did. Now the news stories I've caught this morning are telling me that Gep's bowed out of the presidential race, and that apparently (this piece o'information had shot right by me in all the excitement) he'd already stated that he would not seek re-election to his Congressional seat, and that this term would be his last in Congress.

That being the case, I'll wish the old boy well. I was never, ever excited about the prospect of "President Gephardt", not even the first time, but the man was my congresscritter for longer than I can remember, and as congresscritters go he was a pretty damned good one; probably even a tad better than we deserved. And it's not like Gep's going to starve to death or anything; my guess is that today the low level minions start clearing out a corner office at Gephardt's old law firm, Thompson and Coburn (as Thompson and Mitchell, I do believe that's where Gephardt started his pre-politics legal career in St. Louis), for Gep to settle into come the end of Gep's term. Thompson and Coburn seems to be where retired national level Democratic politicians from St. Louis/Eastern Missouri go to await the election of a Democratic administration and appointment to the federal bench in Eastern Missouri (Thompson and Coburn is where retired Congressman William Hungate settled before his appointment to the U.S. District Court in St. Louis, and it's still where former Senator Tom Eagleton is hanging his hat even now. To my mind, the great disappointment of the Clinton Administration is that Clinton did not appoint Eagleton to the federal bench while he had the chance (unless Eagleton specifically refused such an appointment, which is possible I suppose); granted that Clinton was into appointing women and minorities to the bench, but hey, Tom Eagleton ain't just any privileged white guy, and I still think he should have been appointed--when it comes to lawyers, you don't make 'em any better than Tom Eagleton (and coming from me, and my hatred of lawyers, that's high praise indeed)).

Nope, you don't need to worry about where Gep's next meal is coming from. Like comedian Lewis Black noted, it's not like you ever passed some derelict on the street and said sadly to yourself: "Look at him; he was once the Vice President of the United States, and now he's a heroin addict."

Thought for the Day:
I was just trying to hit a line drive. I guess I made a mistake.
--Ozzie Smith [on his "Go crazy, folks", game-winning home run]

Monday, January 19, 2004

I'll be working on a page which has some more commentary...
but for now, I'll just set out my own Top 100 movie list. For the basic list, I'm using the top 100 list of Internet critic James Berardinelli. Like most everyone who does one of these lists, I'm boldfacing the titles I've seen, but I'm also going to go out on a limb and italicize the movies I actually own (VHS or DVD). This says something about me, but I'm not sure what, exactly. Anyway, the list:

Boldface = "I have seen this one"
Italics = "I own this one, too"

1 "Patton" (1970)
2 "Decalogue" (1988)
3 "Rear Window" (1954)
4 "City Lights" (1931)
5 "Schindler's List" (1993)
6 "The Godfather" (1972)
7 "Casablanca" (1942)
8 "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
9 "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)
10 "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988)
11 "Citizen Kane" (1941)
12 "The Life of Brian" (1979)
13 "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975)
14 "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)
15 "Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources" (1986)
16 "Raging Bull" (1980)
17 "Dr. Strangelove" (1964)
18 "Three Colors: Red" (1994)
19 "Cinema Paradiso" (1988)
20 "The Lord of the Rings" (2001-2003)
21 "The Sweet Hereafter" (1997)
22 "Amadeus" (1984)
23 "Raise the Red Lantern" (1991)
24 "My Fair Lady" (1964)
25 "The War Zone" (1999)
26 "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957)
27 "Wages of Fear" (1953)
28 "High Noon" (1952)
29 "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
30 "The Princess Bride" (1987)
31 "Seven Samurai" (1954)
32 "Chinatown" (1974)
33 "Das Boot" (1981)
34 "Rashomon" (1950)
35 "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967)
36 "Diabolique" (1955)
37 "Do the Right Thing" (1989)
38 "Goodfellas" (1990)
39 "Sunset Blvd." (1950)
40 "The Hidden Fortress" (1958)
41 "The World of Apu" (1959)
42 "Dances with Wolves" (1990)
43 "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
44 "Aliens" (1986)
45 "All About Eve" (1950)
46 "The Godfather Part II" (1974)
47 "Platoon" (1986)
48 "Taxi Driver" (1976)
49 "Glory" (1989)
50 "Requiem for a Dream" (2000)
51 "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962)
52 "Star Wars" (1977)
53 "Blue Velvet" (1986)
54 "Jaws" (1975)
55 "Beauty & the Beast" (1991)
56 "The Untouchables" (1987)
57 "Die Hard" (1988)
58 "Time Bandits" (1981)
59 "Gettysburg" (1993)
60 "Nashville" (1975)
61 "Memento" (2000)
62 "Before Sunrise" (1995)
63 "Yojimbo" (1961)
64 "Nosferatu" (1922)
65 "The Hustler" (1961)
66 "Cries and Whispers" (1972)
67 "Un coeur en hiver" (1992)
68 "The Third Man" (1949)
69 "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
70 "This Is Spinal Tap" (1984)
71 "Halloween" (1978)
72 "The 400 Blows" (1959)
73 "The Wild Bunch" (1969)
74 "Crumb" (1994)
75 "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977)
76 "Hamlet" (1996)
77 "Pulp Fiction" (1994)
78 "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962)
79 "Boyfriends and Girlfriends" (1987)
80 "Say Anything" (1989)
81 "Swept Away" (1974)
82 "Stop Making Sense" (1984)
83 "Purple Noon (Plein Soleil)" (1960)
84 "The Natural" (1984)
85 "Psycho" (1960)
86 "On the Waterfront" (1954)
87 "Magnolia" (1999)
88 "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" (1989)
89 "King Kong" (1933)
90 "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962)
91 "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964)
92 "Manhattan" (1979)
93 "Vertigo" (1958)
94 "Dead Again" (1991)
95 "When Harry Met Sally" (1989)
96 "The Big Sleep" (1946)
97 "Lost in Translation" (2003)
98 "Once Were Warriors" (1994)
99 "From Russia with Love" (1963)
100 "Gone with the Wind" (1939)

Hon. Mention "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982)

I'm going to steal an idea...
from Big Stupid Tommy. Tommy's gone and updated his online biography, and I realized that I had an "All About Me" link that didn't point anywhere for quite some time now. So, shamed into action by Tommy, I've got a new online fact sheet now.

Actually, I'm going to probably steal another idea from Tommy, namely the "Top hundred movie list and which of them I've seen" idea, but I'm going to put a slightly different twist on it. But we'll announce that one when I've got it written.

How appropriate...
Back in Missouri, a convicted rapist had escaped from the Farmington Correctional Center. Howevery, he didn't spend his brief period of freedom very enjoyably. Apparently, shortly after the breakout on a Friday afternoon, he hid in a nearby trash dumpster, somehow got locked inside, and didn't get out of the dumpster until Monday morning, when he was released and captured by the trash collection company's workers.

It isn't often that life is this aesthetically satisfying.

Own your own piece of American political history...
Hurry! Put in your bid to own Gen. Wesley Clark's argyle sweater... As worn on the New Hampshire campaign trail!!

And best of all, the proceeds of the auction are going to Liberty House, a transitional shelter that is opening for homeless veterans in Manchester, New Hampshire.

So there. Go bid!

It'd be nice, but it's no longer something to count on...
From the AP, this story: Pujols wants long term deal from Cards

The good news is that Albert isn't bad mouthing the Gateway City, but the bad news is he isn't thinking "Musial" (as in, "here's where I could spend my entire career"). But then again, I can't really blame him; the dynamics of the team-player relationship has changed markedly since Stan the Man started playing in St. Louis (back in 1941; before Pearl Harbor, fergawdssake):

After watching the team allow Eduardo Perez and Miguel Cairo to leave as free agents this offseason and seeing the Cardinals trade J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero, Pujols said it might be best not to get too attached.

"I'm pretty sure it's going to work out," Pujols said. "It's great to stay with one team and not get traded.

"I love the city, I love the fans, but also you need to understand this is business. Next year I could be somewhere else."

The Cardinals don't see that happening. Manager Tony La Russa said the team wanted to make Pujols a "Stan Musial, where he plays his whole career here."

Yep, Tony, that would be quite nice. But realistically, how likely is that? Does Albert love St. Louis and Cardinals fans enough to go well below his likely market value to stay here, once he hits eligibility for free agency, and the big market teams with their seemingly bottomless payrolls start dangling huge bags o'cash in front of him?

Somehow, I'm doubting that. Of course, McGwire did accept an offer below market to stay in St. Louis, so there is hope. But I can't afford to keep mine up. Otherwise the sight of Albert in pinstripes is going to be more than I can stand, if/when it happens.

And also from Ironic Times:

News Quiz
President Bush squeezed a brief visit to the grave of Martin Luther King into his busy schedule on MLK Day in order to:
A ) Show the depth of his commitment to minority Americans at the bottom of the income ladder.
B ) Unveil an ambitious agenda of social programs to help African Americans get better education, child care, health insurance, after-school enrichment and job training, while declaring his support for affirmative action.
C ) Open his heart, mind and spirit to Martin Luther King's spirit, to seek his guidance.
D ) Qualify a previously scheduled $2,000-a-person reelection fundraiser in Atlanta as an official trip so it can be subsidized by taxpayers.

Dubya has "done more for human rights than anyone else in history."

Yep. And I'm the last man to bat .400 in a season in the Major Leagues.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid it really has come to this...
From today's Ironic Times:

Two-Thirds of All E-Mails Last Month Were Spam
Other third were legitimate mailings for penile enlargement.

The United States a Christian nation?
Like hell it is.

This November 20, 2003 letter to the Illinois Leader is one of the best refutations of that misconception that I've read in a while.

There are some propositions so absurd...
that only a lawyer can state them without laughing out loud.

The past few days, I've read a few news reports (you can read the Register's account of the hijinx here) that a couple patent lawyers from Beverly Hills managed to get the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to issue a patent for--get this--the Internet domain naming system. The patent was applied for in November of 1999 and issued to them personally (granted, patent lawyers are required to have a background in science or engineering, but I doubt these bozos are competent computer engineers or computer scientists) on December 30, 2003.

Um, I hope you've had the same disconnect here I just had. I don't know about you, but I've been on the Internet since 1994 or so (when I entered graduate school at the University of Missouri, St. Louis), and near as I can tell the patent that was applied for in 1999 and issued in 2003 covers the domain naming system that was in place back in '94. If you're a bit concerned that this indicates a bit of (at best) lack of technical savvy on the part of the minions of the U.S.P.T.O., or (at worst) blithering incompetence on the part of those minions.... Well, I'd say that analysis is pretty on point:

That the Patent Office was fooled into thinking what was contained in the actual submission was accurately reflected in the abstract and summary of claims is distressing, but far from a one-off as numerous recent lawsuits have shown.

This sentence from the submissions sums up what the patent claims to be: "The invention allows online users to communicate with each member of a given group regardless of whether or not the member has an existing internet presence... [it] does so by setting up a database of contact information for members of the group... providing means of communications between the created internet presence and the member recipient."

Fine. Except what is then described as patentable is no more than an explanation of the domain system on which the Internet is built. Whoever reviewed the case clearly has no idea of how the Internet works and so was misled by cleverly constructed semantics.

The core of the patent is a so-called method of assigning URLs and email addresses to a specific group. Each member will have a URL in the form "name.subdomain.domain" and an email address in the form "name@subdomain.domain". This, it is claimed in the patent, lives outside the current Internet infrastructure: "The present invention overcomes the limitations of the prior art by providing a method, apparatus and business system that allow a user to quickly communicate online with a member of a particular business, professional or other group regardless of whether the member has an internet presence (e.g. e-mail address or website) and without the user needing to know or find the internet address for the recipient."

It is clever double-speak, but double-speak all the same. All the patent describes is a way in which the existing Internet infrastructure may be used to give a certain result. If this is patentable then there is no reason why the way in which companies provide their employees with email addresses like cannot also be patentable. It is no more than the logical application of pre-existing technology.

Of course, El Reg has the M.O. of this scam pretty well nailed:

Mr Meyer has cleverly achieved the patent by arguing one way and then representing the end effect another. But what he is in fact doing is claiming ownership over the workings of the Internet.

What he is hoping however is that NSI and will not want the hassle and expense of going through the US law courts, especially when, thanks to the recent Eolas lawsuit decided against Microsoft, there remains a slight risk that the US courts will decide in his favour.

Far easier for the registrars to offer a tiny percentage on sold domains that they will barely notice, but which will make the patent owners rich men while sitting on their sofas.

Let me state the obvious. Lawyers are scum.

They should all be put to death in the most lingering, most painful way the mind of man can devise.

Thought for the Day:
If God is perfect, why did He create discontinuous functions?

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Cause for optimism?
Interesting news from Nathan Newman: Dubya- Higher Disapprove than Dad/Carter 80

Newman's source shows that 45% of those surveyed "disapprove" of the job Dubya's doing... compare that with the same period numbers (January before re-election campaigns) for Jimmy Carter (1980--34% disapproval), Ronald Reagan (1984--32% disapproval), George Bush the Elder (1992--39% disapproval), and Bill Clinton (1996--40% disapproval).

Quoth Nathan:

I've never taken approval numbers that seriously as a guide to reelection-- my rule of thumb is follow "approval on handling the economy" as both more relevant to reelection decisions and a more specific question that gets voters to think about more than the rah-rah patriotism that often distorts general approval numbers.

But DISAPPROVAL is actually a pretty good negative indicator-- a lot of time approval ratings go up and down as swing voters move from apathetic "don't know" to approval, but active disapproval shows a hard core of voters likely unavailable to an incumbent President.

And remarkablely Bush has generated a larger core of disapproval than either his Dad or Carter in 1980 at this points in their terms.

It appears we hit the magic number...
According to the AP: U.S. Death Toll in Iraq reaches 500.

Requesciat in pace.

And Scalia is considered a legal genius?
This via Melanie at Just a Bump on the Beltway:

Vice President Dick Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spent part of last week duck hunting together at a private camp in southern Louisiana just three weeks after the court agreed to take up the vice president's appeal in lawsuits over his handling of the administration's energy task force.

While Scalia and Cheney are avid hunters and longtime friends, several experts in legal ethics questioned the timing of their trip and said it raised doubts about Scalia's ability to judge the case impartially.

But Scalia rejected that concern Friday, saying, "I do not think my impartiality could reasonably be questioned."

Duh.... Scalia's going to be hearing a case involving a "longtime friend" that he's gone duck hunting with weeks after the case is granted cert? I'm sorry, Scalia's full of shit here. How can he be stupid enough to think that people woudn't question his impartiality?

Damn, if he's supposed to be one of the greatest legal minds since Hammurabi... Ah, but I'm just a failed lawyer. What the fuck do I know?

Thought for the Day:
There's an old joke. Uh, two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know, and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.
--Alvy Singer [film "Annie Hall"]

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Thought for the Day:
Without a doubt, a reaction to comedy is one of the most subjective forms of human expression. What one person finds hilarious, another may view as tedious. For every person who sits through "Dumb and Dumber" stone-faced and unamused, another will be clutching at his sides as the tears of laughter spill from his eyes. And for everyone who chuckles knowingly at the phrase "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!", there will be someone who offers a blank, quizzical stare. A person's reaction to a joke has less to do with intelligence, sophistication, or education than with background, mood, and personality. There are some things that almost everyone finds funny, but many attempts at humor will only be appreciated by a select audience that is in the right frame of mind at the right time.
--James Berardinelli

Friday, January 16, 2004

Makes sense to me....
Dave Barry describes the Iowa caucuses.

This brings us to the other big question: Who will win the Iowa caucuses? For that matter, what ARE the Iowa caucuses? I've been covering these things since 1984 and I have never once heard a coherent explanation of how Iowans caucus.

We know that they do it indoors, at night, and they form little groups, and eventually there are Jell-O shots and something called "The Happy Pants Dance." Also the largest man present must smear his naked body with margarine and fight a boar.

But beyond that, it's a mystery. And yet, somehow, out of this process emerges a winner, as the voters of Iowa - having carefully considered all the candidates and their views on the complex issues facing the nation - vote for the person who looks and sounds the most like he comes from Iowa.

Usually, this is Rep. Dick "Dick" Gephardt, five-time winner of the "World's Whitest Man" competition. Dick comes from Missouri (a state near Iowa) and has won the Iowa caucuses 14 times, although one year he was edged out by Sen. Tom Harkin, who is actually FROM Iowa.

In any event, when the caucuses are over, everybody moves on to New Hampshire, and nobody thinks about Iowa again for years.

How did I miss this one?
According to, today is the birthday of Albert Pujols. Happy Birthday Albert!!!

However, that's not necessarily completely good news. Brian, at Redbird Nation draws our attention to a slight problem revolving around Albert's birthday:

AGEGATE REVISITED The other day we mentioned Albert Pujols' disputed age -- officially he's 24 years old, but people have been dubious about his real age from the moment he entered the league. Well, now the stakes are higher that ever before. At the quarterly owners' meeting that concluded yesterday, players who falsify their age "or other material facts on their contracts" will face a one-year suspension.

So if it turns out that Pujols is really older than he says, he'd lose not only a couple years off his reported age, he'd lose a year playing in the major leagues. If I was an NL Central rival, I'd do some poking around in the Dominican Republic.

Also, on this date in 1970, Cardinals centerfielder Curt Flood filed the civil lawsuit that represented the first step towards the ultimate end of the reserve clause.

Pretty significant date in baseball history.

Hammerin' Hank speaks out.....
Pete Rose has no place in the Hall of Fame, or anywhere in baseball.

Elaine Kamarck....
a lecturer at the Kennedy School at Harvard and former Clinton Administration functionary, plays Simon Cowell and gives us her version of "Democratic Idol". I find this assessment of Howard Dean interesting:

Howard Dean, on the other hand, is the strongest candidate against Bush that the Democrats have. The complaints against him are overdrawn and easily outweighed by his strengths.

Start with the complaints. The first is that he is too left-wing to win. Dean owes his colleagues in the primary race a big debt of gratitude on that one. When Gephardt attacked him for a Medicare position taken in the mid-1990s, it reinforced the fact that Dean is a fiscal conservative - well within the mainstream of the successful Clinton wing of the Democratic Party. If Dean were a real left-winger, he would have called for a national health insurance plan (like Gephardt and Kucinich). Instead he has a much more realistic plan to take care of the uninsured - and has a Vermont record on it to boot.

I realize that the occasional reader here (hi Mike! Sorry I didn't make the movie night earlier this month) is going to snigger here, and I suppose accuse me of living on another planet (can't accuse me of taking consciousness altering drugs, because I don't) but this still comports with everything I've read about the man. It strikes me that the the "Dean is too liberal meme" may be a typical use of the GOP Big Lie technique: keep repeating the bullshit long enough ("Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack", "Dean is a flaming liberal") and some significant percentage of the hoi polloi is going to accept it.

If Dean were a real left-winger, he'd call for cutting defense spending and immediately removing our troops from Iraq - as Kucinich has. But Dean understands that the fight against terror requires new, albeit somewhat different, military spending than the current Bush plans and that we can't fight terror by allowing Iraq to turn into another Afghanistan.

The second complaint involves Dean's personality. The argument is that he is too combative. This always struck me as odd. How can Democrats object to a combative person running against an incumbent president who tells the world: "Bring 'em on!" Do they think they can beat Bush with a wimp? With some guy who says, "On the one hand this, and on the other hand that?" I, for one, relish the sight of Howard Dean - his wrestler's neck bulging - taking on the president after Bush tries to tell us that record deficits don't matter, that Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center or that a time of constant terror alerts is a safer world. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, in endorsing Dean, called him the Harry Truman of the 21st century. Truman was a feisty little plain-speaking man - and a great president.

But the most compelling reason to support Dean is that only he can change the nature of the political game. No Democrat will win unless he can make the country see through Bush, and Dean has been so good at this that by last fall all the other candidates were mimicking his outrage.

Furthermore, if Democrats play old-fashioned politics, they lose, plain and simple. George W. Bush is the incumbent; he has the Executive Branch, Republicans control Congress, and this White House has shown an uncanny ability to bamboozle and intimidate the national press corps. The Republicans own the "Establishment," and they will use it to raise $170 million or more to destroy the Democratic candidate.

Life could be interesting this year.

Well, that's what happens....
when your excuses fall through. Juan Cole points out that 30,000 Shiites demonstrated in Basra demanding free and fair elections. Which is not what we want to give them.

British troops estimated that 30,000 Shiites demonstrated in Basra on Thursday, with massive crowds beginning at two separate points and wending their way to the al-Abila mosque. Al-Hayat reported that they were demanding that the elections scheduled for late May be held on a one person, one vote basis. Mainly from the al-Da`wa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the crowds shouted, "No to America! We're coming to you, Sistani!" "Colonialism is not liberty!" and "Yes, yes to Sistani, No, No to Appointment!" (i.e. they demanded free elections, not political appointments by hand-picked bodies).

The Bush administration rather cynically made providing democracy in Iraq its fallback justification for an Iraq war. First, the primary justification, of weapons of mass destruction, fell through. Now the fallback position is creating its own problems, since from an administration point of view the Iraqis are taking it 'way too seriously!

Of course, Dumbya and his puppetmeisters don't want real elections in Iraq; the likelihood of a compliant puppet being installed in power then plummets to absolute zero.

I find this interesting...
but then again, failure has always fascinated me (probably because I'm so well acquainted with it myself). This is Jayson Stark's top useless-info factoid of the week (scroll to near the bottom of the page if you follow the link; the whole page is full of fascinating useless information, however):

A reader from San Diego who identified himself only as "Matt" wondered how unprecedented it was for the Chargers to follow the Padres' lead by losing enough games to earn the first overall pick in the draft. Well, we checked.

In the 40 years in which both baseball and football have had an amateur draft, San Diego will become the first city in history to get the No. 1 pick in
each of them in the same year. Congratulations. We guess.

In my email today...
a silly joke, but what the hell, I laughed:

"Joe, you can't divorce your new bride over something as trivial as a night out with the boys." Joe replied, "I don't care what you think, Herb. She should have stayed home with me!"

Thought for the Day:
[O]ur electronic brethren have gone so far in the tank for the Patriots that many of them won't dry off until Arbor Day. There are at least four regularly scheduled TV infomercials for the franchise every week. The local sports radio juggernaut carries at least 16 hours of programming weekly dedicated to All Things Patriots. The questions on all of these run the gamut from, "Is This Team Great?" all the way to, "How Great Is This Team, Anyway?" The fans have followed this lead so slavishly that they now can never credibly refer to fans in places like, oh, say, Tennessee as rubes and yahoos. This is, of course, tragic. We are talking about the squandering of a historic cultural prerogative here. What's the point of being from Boston if you can't credibly refer to people elsewhere as rubes and yahoos?
--Charles P. Pierce

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Thought for the Day:
The Episcopal Church is, theologically speaking, a way station between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Anglicans (for these purposes the term is synonymous with Episcopalians) call this via media—an approach to morality, worship, and teaching that tries to take into consideration all sides and find a balance. What is distinctly Anglican, therefore, is not a theology, but a theological method. Anglicans treasure this idea and invoke it frequently when mired in battle—essentially, it's a foundation of the denomination. Even the most conservative Anglicans hold to via media: They are protesting and threatening schism while still trying to stay in the Anglican Communion. Another consideration is that conservatives' anger stems from trying to place a moral code—opposition to homosexuality—onto a church that has historically allowed for fuzzy boundaries. A hallmark of Anglicanism is the ability to hold philosophies in tension—Catholic and Protestant, liberal and conservative. If you're looking for perpendicular theology, join the Southern Baptists; the Episcopalians are not your people.
--Deborah Caldwell, in Slate

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I can empathize with this....
considering that if I ever lose my healthcare I'm going to seriously consider suicide; with my diabetes it's only rational to consider a quick, painless death over a slow, debilitating one.

The National Academy of Sciences just issued a prescription for preventing 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year: universal health care that is continuous, affordable, and sustainable.

The only problem, of course, is that is one o'those "social programs" that Grover and the boys are trying to drown in the bathtub. Unless the Repugnicans can find a way to do it by pouring bucketsful of cash into the pockets of their constituency (the obscenely rich).

Once upon a time, I knew a Canadian girl who was convinced (for some strange reason) that she was in love with me. Every day, it's getting more and more tempting to try to look her up and see if she's still carrying the torch; it might just be a ticket out of the U.S....

I love
So much so that I sponsored three pages there: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals Team Page (the Gashouse Gang--I grew up listening to stories of how great that team was, and it was, indeed), the Joe Garagiola page (hey, Joe was what all of us St. Louis boys wanted to be--a local boy who got his chance to play for the Cards), and the Bob Sadowski page (a footnote player with a short--three seasons (not counting his one game/one at-bat/two plate appearance "season" with the Cardinals in 1963) and pretty undistinguished career--I sponsored his page because he is a buddy of my dad's).

More fun than my choice of pages to sponsor, however, is this: The Oracle of Baseball. Basically, this is a variant of "the six degrees of Kevin Bacon" game adapted to MLB: enter two MLB player names (say, Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols--I'll figure out an appropriate no-prize to award to any reader who can figure out why I chose those two players for this example) and the Oracle will give you "the shortest possible" chain of teammates linking the two players. So to continue the example, for DiMaggio and Pujols the Oracle gives us:
Joe DiMaggio played with Billy Johnson for the 1948 New York Yankees
Billy Johnson played with Dick Schofield for the 1953 St. Louis Cardinals
Dick Schofield played with Steve Carlton for the 1971 St. Louis Cardinals
Steve Carlton played with Bobby Bonilla for the 1986 Chicago White Sox
Bobby Bonilla played with Albert Pujols for the 2001 St. Louis Cardinals

Along with a link to see other linkings of the two players, if you're interested.

If this sounds familiar (i.e., a computerized "six degrees" game), you're probably familiar with The Oracle of Bacon at the University of Virginia. To show you that means business, notice that they managed to get Patrick Reynolds, the original developer of The Oracle of Bacon, to do The Oracle of Baseball.

Forgive me for leaving now; I want to look at some more linkings....Hmmmmm... Babe Ruth to Mark McGwire?

Thought for the Day:
If by some remote chance Shrub actually did contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from eating a mad cow, how would we know?

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Nice idea, but if location is key...
I have a feeling this is going to fall flat on its face: Model Ship Museum Opens in Small Illinois Town

After all, when you think of the sea, you think of Sadorus, Illinois.


Krugman weighs in...
on the Paul O'Neill revelations, and a few other things: The Awful Truth. My favorite 'graphs:

People are saying terrible things about George Bush. They say that his officials weren't sincere about pledges to balance the budget. They say that the planning for an invasion of Iraq began seven months before 9/11, that there was never any good evidence that Iraq was a threat and that the war actually undermined the fight against terrorism.

But these irrational Bush haters are body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freaks who should go back where they came from: the executive offices of Alcoa, and the halls of the Army War College.


The question is whether this book will open the eyes of those who think that anyone who criticizes the tax cuts is a wild-eyed leftist, and that anyone who says the administration hyped the threat from Iraq is a conspiracy theorist.

The point is that the credentials of the critics just keep getting better. How can Howard Dean's assertion that the capture of Saddam hasn't made us safer be dismissed as bizarre, when a report published by the Army War College says that the war in Iraq was a "detour" that undermined the fight against terror? How can charges by Wesley Clark and others that the administration was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq be dismissed as paranoid in the light of Mr. O'Neill's revelations?

Thought for the Day:
The chancellor's job had come to be defined as providing parking for the faculty, sex for the students, and athletics for the alumni.
--Clark Kerr [former chancellor, UC Berkeley and former President of the University of California]

Monday, January 12, 2004

Scary analysis....
but, I fear, entirely accurate: Sorrows of Empire: An Interview (interview of Chalmers Johnson)

What does the future hold for the United States if U.S. officials continue on this path?

The United States is embarked on a path not so dissimilar from that of the former Soviet Union a little more than a decade ago. The Soviet Union collapsed for three reasons -- internal economic contradictions, imperial overstretch, and an inability to reform. In every sense, we are by far the wealthier of the two Cold War superpowers, so it will certainly take longer for similar afflictions to do their work. But the equivalent of the economic sclerosis of the former USSR is to be found in our corrupt corporations, the regular looting by insiders of workers' pension funds, the revelations that not a single financial institution on Wall Street can be trusted, and the massive drain of manufacturing jobs to other countries. Imperial overstretch is implicit in our empire of 725 military bases abroad, in addition to the 969 separate bases in the fifty states. Mikhail Gorbachev tried to reform the Soviet system before it collapsed but he was stopped by entrenched interests in the Cold War system. The United States is not even trying to reform, but it is certain that vested interests here would be as great or greater an obstacle. It is nowhere written that the United States, in its guise as an empire dominating the world, must go on forever. The blowback from the second half of the twentieth century has only just begun.

Is there any hope for the United States?

The few optimistic trends in the U.S. include the development of the powerful anti-globalization coalition that came into being in Seattle in November 1999 and that has subsequently evolved into an anti-war movement. The percentage of the public that does not get its information from network television but from the Internet and foreign newspapers is growing. Our wholly volunteer armed forces are composed of people who see the military as an opportunity, but they do not expect to be shot at. Now that the president and his advisers are ordering them into savagely dangerous situations, it is likely that many soldiers will not reenlist. And civil society in the United States remains strong and influential. Nonetheless, it is only prudent to estimate that these trends may not be sufficient to counter the forces of militarism and imperialism in the country.

What hope is there for the international community?

The main prospect for the future of the world is that perpetual war waged by the United States against small countries it declares to be "rogue states" will lead to the slow growth of a coalition of enemies of the United States who will seek to weaken it and hasten its inevitable bankruptcy. This is the way the Roman Empire ended.

The chief problem is that the only way an adversary of the United States can even hope to balance or deter the enormous American concentration of military power is through what the Pentagon calls asymmetric warfare ("terrorism") and nuclear weapons. American belligerence has deeply undercut international efforts to control the nuclear weapons that already exist and has rendered the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty more or less moot (the U.S., in particular, has failed to take any actions it contracted to do under article 6, the reduction of stockpiles by the nuclear armed nations).

The only hope for the planet is the isolation and neutralization of the United States by the international community. Policies to do so are underway in every democratic country on earth in quiet, unobtrusive ways. If the United States is not checkmated and nuclear war ensues, civilization as we know it will disappear and the United States will go into the history books along with the Huns and the Nazis as a scourge of human life itself.

Hey InstaShill!!!
Just try to tell us things are going great in Iraq, and that the press is just covering up the good news. Here's an update on the situation, from someone who's there...

Needless to say, the situation on the ground here is deterioriating. We were woefully unprepared. We need about 40,000 more interpreters (preferrably former Iraqi military--they can spot trouble more quickly than we can or our interpreters can) and about 100,000 more troops (preferrably an international mix) if we really want to do this right and make the best out of a real mess. Unfortunately, that appears to be neither possible nor politically feasible for the administration since the idealogues in the Pentagon are bent on saying that they were right and since they and the rest of the administration have alienated all of our friends, particularly the two most powerful countries in continental Europe. There are numerous misunderstandings here on the ground every day, and there's no doubt in my mind that we've alienated 90% of those who were at least pre-disposed to give the Americans the benefit of their patience to see if things got better post-Saddam. It is plainly obvious to even the lowest private that in this region 95% of the people want us dead. We get ambushed in plain daylight daily in downtown Fallujah by remote-detonated roadside bombs usually followed up with small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire. With so many of the people on the street watching, they HAVE to know who's behind the attacks. Yet our intelligence fails to ever generate any leads as to who's actually behind the attacks (by the way, our intelligence is pathetic--all of this purported "iron fist" policy is a shot in the dark--they don't know who the insurgents are). The sheiks always claim it's foreign fighters, but when we get lucky and kill one of the attackers, his mother always comes to claim the body--I doubt these impoverished women come all the way from Syria or Yemen the next day to claim their dead son.

Much more at Brian Leiter's blog. Check out the whole post.

Enforced silence mode...
It's bad enough that Real Life™ is keeping me too busy to blog much, but yesterday network troubles at my end kept me away completely.

Must be a plot to silence me. :-)

More commentary as RL™ allows; but I'm pretty busy, so it's going to be sparse.

Thought for the Day:
The next great civilization to arise was Ancient Greece, which came up with an exciting new governing concept called "democracy," from the Greek words "dem," meaning "everybody gets to vote," and "ocracy," meaning "except of course women, slaves and poor people."
--Dave Barry

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Thought for the Day:
If there's any miracle in the world, it's that so many people actually believe god exists.
--J.L. Mackie

Friday, January 09, 2004

A little late I'm afraid....
But I think this is a pretty good sendup of those annoying Subway commercials.

Overheard on the 'net:
This Week In History: 1850, California became a state. The state had no electricity, no money, there were gun fights in the streets and nearly everyone spoke Spanish. So basically it was just like California today, except the women had real boobs.

Thought for the Day:
[This one just because I found out that a buddy of my dad's, who had a brief and undistinguished career in the Major Leagues in the early 1960's, was a teammate of Bo Belinsky's on the 1963 LA Angels.]

Baseball and playboys were about as alien to each other as an olive and a dry martini. But Belinsky hung it up in plain sight, for one and all to see, all but bragging about his hyperactive Hollywood nightlife and bedtimes, and he couldn't have cared less who knew how much. A virgin in southern California came to mean any lovely who hadn't slept with Bo Belinsky. He was baseball's Elvis with a far broader wit and flair, a far more unaccountable spirit, and a pitching repertoire that might have carried him to a distinguished career but for the Hollywood hell raising that drained first the talent and then the substance.
--Jeff Kallman [, "The Curse of Bo Belinsky"]

Extra bonus TftD:

I've gotten more mileage out of winning only 28 games in the majors than most guys who've won 300.
--Bo Belinsky

Thursday, January 08, 2004

From Humorix....
we have the 2004: the Year in Preview. My favorites:

January 3 - A Slashdot poll ranks Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction as the number one vaporware product of 2003, followed closely by SCO's so-called legal case.


March 22 - An MIT student wins a $1 million prize from the Loam Mathematics Institute for proving the Smith Conjecture. While not very useful in itself, this conjecture can be used to prove Moore's Second Law, which states that the total number of lawsuits filed doubles every 18 months.


April 18 - During a US Congressional hearing by the Committee on Ways and Means to Decimate the Bill Of Rights, Microsoft claims that its RoadAhead XP software will enable police to track the movements of every car in the country and remotely disable any vehicle that appears to be engaged in an act of "terrorism", such as driving 56 mph in a 55 mph zone.


June 17 - The ACLU launches a global "Reverse Carnivore" system to intercept communications between police agencies and to build a centralized database of information compiled about Big Brother (the privacy-invading government menace, not the lame TV show). Government officials express outrage at the new system, saying "Civilians do not have a right to privacy -- only we do! It says so right here in the US Constitution 2.0 that Congress secretly enacted last week!"


August 5 - After years of sucking from the public domain without returning anything, Disney suddenly announces that the company is fresh out of new ideas that aren't already protected by copyrights lasting until the year 2632. Despite the crisis, however, Disney refuses to "lobby" Congress to repeal the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension and Mickey Mouse Protection Act. "Between the theme parks, the royalties, and our ownership of 94% of the world's mass media outlets, we'll find a way to get by," says one Disney spokesmouse.


September 1 - The hottest trend in Sillycon Valley is to outsource staff meetings to the Third World, allowing American employees time to focus on more important matters, such as developing new DVD+-RW, DVD**RW, and DVD@!^&#~RW proprietary standards to help seperate even more money from consumers. "Business traditions require that we invest 10,000 manhours per day in meaningless staff meetings," explained one HR director. "So why not hire temps from Elcheapostan earning .0001 cent per hour to sit through teleconference meetings, while our highly skilled American minimum-wage engineers focus on the really important matters?"

Since I am now a Memphian...
(not just local to, but actually a living-in-Midtown Memphian) I suppose I am required by law to note that today is the 69th anniversary of the birth of Elvis Aaron Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Go crazy, folks, go crazy.

Slow blogging ahead....
As the demands of Real Life™ are making themselves felt too damn early this year. Ah well, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Thought for the Day:
The first "Matrix" was the best because it really did toy with the conflict between illusion and reality -- between the world we think we inhabit, and its underlying nature. The problem of "Matrix Reloaded" and "Matrix Revolutions" is that they are action pictures that are forced to exist in a world that undercuts the reality of the action.
--Roger Ebert

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

How do you know when President Bush is lying?
His lips move.

I wouldn't have noticed Dumbya's latest round of lies, save for the fact that he told them in St. Louis. The rundown from


President Bush this week is touting his education record, claiming he has seriously increased funding for various programs. But his rhetoric is at odds with the budgets he's proposed.

In St. Louis, Bush said, "Teacher training money is up. We've increased the teacher training and recruitment budget significantly." But in his most recent budget, Bush proposed to freeze Teacher Quality State Grants - cutting off training opportunities for about 30,000 teachers, and leaving 92,000 less teachers trained than called for in his own No Child Left Behind bill.

Bush also said, "Schools need mentors. We all need to be out encouraging people to volunteer." But again, his budget proposed to eliminate all $48 million for Youth Opportunities Grants - the Department of Labor's major program to "provide youth seeking assistance in achieving academic and employment success."

Finally, Bush said, "Title I money [for disadvantaged students] is up." And while Bush did propose increasing this program by $1 billion - he proposed paying for the increase by eliminating 45 education programs and slashing another 18 for a total cut of nearly $3 billion in funding for these same disadvantaged students.

Hyperlinks to sources can be found at the webpage linked at the top of the post.

Damn, how could I forget....
it's that time of year again: Elvis Birthday Week events. And Elvis Presley Enterprises is doing it up this year, since 2004 marks the 50th anniversary of the start of Elvis's career.

And here I thought Tupelo had the bigger Elvis birthday tourist traffic....

And congratulations are in order...
to Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor on their induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Thought for the Day:
The library is our house of intellect, our transcendental university, with one exception: no one graduates from a library. No one possibly can, and no one should.
--Vartan Gregorian

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Think that the Segway was a miracle of technology?
Well, I was impressed to, until I discovered that apparently you can build a similar balancing scooter yourself out of fairly common materials. Check it out!

Let's hope they're thinking as clearly now....
Good comment by Steve Gilliard (in a 1/6 post about Republican attack ads airing against Howard Dean in Iowa; permalink appears bloggered so you may still have to scroll):

I hope that the GOP thinks Bush can beat Dean hands down. I really do. These are the same people who thought Iraq would want Ahmed Chalabi in charge after Saddam Husssein.

With any luck; come November we'll want Bush as much as the Iraqis want Chalabi.

Dumb Career Moves Department:
If you're a Juvenile Court Judge, you hear child neglect cases. In a city like Atlanta, you probably deal with them on a daily basis. Therefore, it's at least a bit of an embarassment when you wind up yourself acting in a way that can make you the respondent in a child neglect case:

Fulton County Superior Court judges Tuesday allowed a juvenile judge to stay on the bench after she recused herself from handling child-neglect cases.

State social workers found Juvenile Court Judge Nina Hickson had committed child neglect last November when she left her 4-year-old daughter home alone at night. After learning about the case last week, Superior Court judges, who appoint Juvenile Court judges, had convened to discuss whether any action should be taken against her.

Hickson informed the judges she would only hear juvenile delinquency cases -- not ones involving parenting -- until after judicial and police investigations of her conduct were concluded.

I wonder if Fulton County judges stand for election? If I were Judge Hickson, I'd think about whether it might be time to hang up the robes at the end of my term and decline to run. Though, unless her re-election campaign is this year, it's quite possible that the short-memory of the Atlanta voters might lose track of this story by that time...

Thanks to Brian at Resonance for the reference.

Meanwhile, reminds us...
that SCO has til the end of the week to put up or shut up in their suit against IBM....

Fellow Rocky Top Brigade member....
Manish (the Damn Foreigner) is about to be abused by the U.S. Government when he returns from Canada this weekend:

I am currently still in Canada and will be returning on the weekend at which point I believe that I will be subjected to treatment like a criminal fighting terrorism. Although Canada is one of the countries with a visa waiver, people with visas (such as my work visa) will be required to get finger-printed and photographed.

I'll keep my fingers crossed; I hope he doesn't get as abused as he fears he will.

A sad day in baseball yesterday....
Didn't catch this 'til today; legendary left-handed relief pitcher and all around flake (that is a term of great affection and respect among baseball fans) Tug McGraw died, aged 59.

In memoriam, two of my favorite McGraw quotes:

Asked whether he preferred playing on natural or artifical turf, he replied, "I don't know; I've never smoked any AstroTurf."

When asked what he intended to do with a large signing bonus, he replied: "I'll probably invest some of it on good booze and loose women; the rest I'll just squander."

RIP Tug. You will be greatly missed.

It's that time o'month again....
where we welcome new members to the Rocky Top Brigade. Just one inductee this month: Orfinanny. Welcome!

Thought for the Day:
That last shot obviously means that the giant flying Pteranodons are headed to civilization for "Jurassic Park IV." I am reminded of the 1982 movie "Q," in which an Aztec serpent god nests in a New York skyscraper and flies down to snack on stockbrokers. The movie was screened at Cannes, after which its proud producer, Samuel Z. Arkoff, hosted a gathering for film critics, at which I overheard the following conversation:
Rex Reed: "Sam! I just saw your picture! What a surprise! All that dreck--and right in the middle of it, a great Method performance by Michael Moriarity!"

Arkoff: "The dreck was my idea."

--Roger Ebert

Monday, January 05, 2004

The Daily Howler is back from a holiday hiatus...
and giving Zell Miller a ration of very well deserved shit:

It doesn’t take Zell Miller long to commence with the heartfelt boo-hooing. In the opening paragraph of his clowning new book, Miller weeps and wails, as if by rote, about the abuse he’ll endure:
MILLER (page 1): There will be those who ask, “What is this about, The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat?” I can hear the liberal Washington crowd right now. Gold Medalists in the Sneering Olympics, hissing, “In the first place, Miller’s no Democrat.”

Poor Zell! The “liberals” in Washington will sneer at his book! And that’s not the only cross he will bear. As he types on, the burdens pile up:
MILLER (continuing directly): On the other hand, there are some die-hard Republicans back in Georgia who will break out their choicest cuss words and swear, “He’s no conservative.” And you can bet that some old drinking buddies from many years ago will slap their knees and hoot, “What conscience?”

“Liberal” and “conservative” are terms of art, but Miller’s drunken old friends have it right. In fact, Miller is one of the biggest fakers our corrupted public discourse now offers. In Georgia, he’s long been known as “Zig Zag Zell” for his self-serving liberal-to-conservative flips, and Georgia commentators have long derided his dim and dumb corn-pone demagoguery.

Today in History Department:
The curse is completed. According to, today is the 84th anniversary of the announcement of Babe Ruth's sale to from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees.

Interesting tax scheme from General Clark...
as outlined on his website: Families First Tax Reform Plan

Under the Clark plan, a family of four making up to $50,000 will pay no federal income taxes, and all tax-paying families making up to $100,000 with children will get a tax cut.

It's interesting, and probably a very good idea, though I notice (selfishly, of course), that it's geared to families; I wonder how it might affect my own tax bill, since I'm single with no dependent children (none that I can claim on my tax return, anyway; my ex got her in the divorce, too).

Is Pete Rose on his way to the Hall of Fame now?
From the AP (via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch): Rose admits baseball bets

Now the wait begins. Pete Rose hopes baseball will end his lifetime ban after his first public acknowledgment he bet on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds.

The admission in "My Prison Without Bars," his autobiography due out Thursday, will be part of the evidence in Rose's case for reinstatement, commissioner Bud Selig's chief deputy, Bob DuPuy, said Monday.

"The application remains pending, and the commissioner will take all of this into account," DuPuy said.


After the meeting, Rose came away thinking he would be reinstated "within a reasonable period."

"I've consistently heard the statement: 'If Pete Rose came clean, all would be forgiven,'" he writes. "Well, I've done what you've asked. The rest is up to the commissioner and the big umpire in the sky."

Another blow struck for the sanctity of marriage!
Men weep. Britney Spears weds. But don't despair, Young Men of America! Britney may yet be getting is seeking has gotten an annulment:

Pop princess Britney Spears has tied the knot with a childhood friend, but an annulment may be just around the corner, US media reports.

The 22-year-old diva walked down the aisle at a Las Vegas wedding chapel early on Saturday, the reports said. She married Jason Alexander, also 22, a friend from her hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana, whom she had recently begun dating.

Spears wore jeans and a baseball cap, and was escorted down the aisle by a hotel bellman, reported.

But she is already making plans to annul the marriage, describing it as "a joke that went too far", a source told People.

"I don't even know if she loves him," the source said.

The two apparently decided to marry while partying at the Palms Casino Hotel on Friday night and did so at the Little White Wedding Chapel, a famous get-hitched-quick spot on the Las Vegas Strip.

A copy of the marriage licence, which they obtained at a Las Vegas courthouse, has been posted on the internet.

The honeymoon was spent back at the Palms, but the next night Spears was seen dining at a hotel steakhouse with a group that did not include the groom.

By happy coincidence, a heated discussion on gay marriage is raging on the Xianity mailing list. That being the case, it's time to dust this little passage off (which I quoted on the list today, and which I blogged back on November 21 of last year). This is by Dahlia Lithwick, lawyer/senior editor of Slate, and occasional contributor to Slate's "Jurisprudence" column:

Do you want to know what's destroying the sanctity of marriage? Phone messages like the ones we'd get at my old divorce firm in Reno, Nev., left on Saturday mornings and picked up on Monday: "Beeep. Hi? My name is Misty and I think I maybe got married last night. Could someone call me back and tell me if I could get an annulment? I'm at Circus Circus? Room—honey what room is this—oh yeah. Room 407. Thank you. Beeep."

It just doesn't get much more sacred than that.

Here's my modest request: If you're going to be a crusader for the sanctity of marriage—if you really believe gay marriage will have some vast corrosive, viral impact on marriage as a whole—here's a brief list of other laws and policies far more dangerous to the institution. Go after these first, then pass your constitutional amendment.

1. Divorce
Somewhere between 43 percent and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. If you believe gay marriage is single-handedly eroding a sacred and ancient institution, you cannot possibly be pro-divorce. That means any legislation passed in recent decades making divorce more readily available—from no-fault statutes to the decline of adultery prosecutions—should also be subject to bans, popular referendum, and constitutional amendment.

2. Circus Circus
In general, if there is blood in your body and you are over 18, you can get married, so long as you're not in love with your cousin. (Although even that's OK in some states). You can be married to someone you met at the breakfast buffet. Knowing her last name is optional. And you can be married by someone who was McOrdained on the Internet. So before you lobby to ban gay marriage, you might want to work to enact laws limiting the sheer frivolousness of straight marriage. You should be lobbying for an increase in minimum-age requirements, for mandatory counseling pre-marriage, and for statutory waiting periods before marriages (and divorces) can be permitted.

3. Birth Control
The dissenters in the Massachusetts decision are of the opinion that the only purpose of marriage is procreation. They urge that a sound reason for discriminating against gay couples is that there is a legitimate state purpose in ensuring, promoting, and supporting an "optimal social structure for the bearing and raising of children." If you're going to take the position that marriage exists solely to encourage begetting, you need to oppose childlessness by choice, birth control, living together, and marriage for the post-menopausal. In fact, if you're really looking for "optimal" social structures for childrearing, you need to legislate against single parents, poor parents, two-career parents, alcoholic or sick parents, and parents who (like myself) are afraid of the Baby Einstein videos.

4. Misc.
Here's what's really undermining the sacredness of modern marriage: soap operas, wedding planning, longer work days, cuter secretaries, fights over money, reality TV, low-rise pants, mothers-in-law, boredom, Victoria's Secret catalogs, going to bed mad, the billable hour, that stubborn 7 pounds, the Wiggles, Internet chat rooms, and selfishness. In fact we should start amending the Constitution to deal with the Wiggles immediately.

UPDATE: The ever vigilant The Smoking Gun website has posted a copy of Britney's annulment petition. For those of you have to know every detail.

UPDATE 2: And Britney got her annulment within hours of the petition being filed. As you might guess, The Smoking Gun has posted a copy of the annulment decree.

UPDATE 3: From the AP via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

After 55 hours of marital madness and publicity gone wild, Britney Spears and temporary husband Justin Allan Alexander decided Monday to scrap "I do" for "I wish I hadn't."

She didn't get a ring or a fairy-tale wedding. He didn't get any of her fortune. But the 22-year-olds did forever etch themselves in the annals of ill-advised Las Vegas marriages.

Talk about whirlwind. The two might have performed the quickest marriage-to-annulment escapade in the history of Sin City.

"That was fast," said attorney Brian J. Steinberg, who practices family law in Las Vegas. "I'm not even sure they had time to have sex."

Clark County Family Court Judge Lisa M. Brown signed the annulment order at 12:24 p.m. at the behest of prominent Las Vegas attorney David Chesnoff.

Makes me wonder what young Alexander's plans are? Surely with enough ingenuity, he can parlay this into a profitable career move. Seems to me that if Madonna could make a whole career out of losing her virginity, Alexander could support himself for a few years off the celebrity of being Britney's husband for 55 hours.

Fascinating prediction:
Will Longhorn become a Microsoft Linux distro?
New Year's prediction: Longhorn will never ship, but Microsoft Linux will. Even if I'm wrong, it's clear that software development is headed for a new place, and the end game that most observers saw even five years ago -- that MS would win it all -- doesn't seem as likely on the eve of 2004. That said, Microsoft isn't going to go away, in this author's opinion.

2003 was the year that Apache emerged the clear winner in the Web server wars, and enterprise Linux servers grew share at an impressive pace, even as Microsoft announced a flat quarter and seemed to be having trouble making its new pricing stick. Even the Linux desktop, much-derided in general media as market share hovered around 1%, found new life as major analysts predicted large governments and educational institutions would flock to Linux and open-source office productivity software in the course of the next five years.

This leaves me with mixed feelings. In a sense, I don't want to see a Microsoft Linux, because it's clear that Gates and Ballmer don't "get" Open Source, and if there were a Microsoft Linux I just have the feeling that it was simply that the Evil Geniuses of Redmond had simply found some way to embrace, extend, and ultimately co-opt Linux. On the other hand, there's something in the back of my mind that says that Microsoft Linux might just be the Ultimate Capitulation of the Beast of Redmond... the final proof that Microsoft admits it's doomed, and manages to rethink their whole way of doing business.

I'd feel much better about it if Ballmer and Gates retire before this happens.

Great Googly Moogly!!!
If I didn't see this myself, I simply wouldn't believe it. Here's a link: Democrats go adrift on taxes and trade in debate

Democrats go adrift on taxes and trade in debate
CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer

(01-04) 23:34 PST WASHINGTON (AP) --

For a brief time in their debate Sunday, Democrats seemed to be hewing to a New Year's resolution to stick more carefully to the facts on taxes, the budget and more. But old habits die hard.

Is there a vacancy in the White House Press Office? Because it sure as hell looks like Calvin's putting together his writing samples to submit with his resume.

Thought for the Day:
I was hitchhiking the other day, and a hearse stopped. I said, "No thanks--I'm not going that far."
--Steven Wright

Sunday, January 04, 2004

A fun idea here...
The blog of Barney, the First Dog: My Great White Powder Adventure! (by Barney)

Thought for the Day:
Have you noticed that once everyone owned a camcorder, people stopped seeing UFOs?

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Saddam's trial, handled correctly...
would be a stong case in point that, when you lie down with dogs, sometimes you get up with fleas. From Salon (premium; ad view or subscription required: The monster we helped create

Sometimes democracy works. Though the wheels of accountability often grind slowly, they also can grind fine, if lubricated by the hard work of free-thinking citizens. The latest example: the release of official documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, that detail how the U.S. government under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush nurtured and supported Saddam Hussein despite his repeated use of chemical weapons.

The work of the National Security Archive, a dogged organization fighting for government transparency, has cast light on the trove of documents that depict in damning detail how the United States, working with U.S. corporations including Bechtel, cynically and secretly allied itself with Saddam's dictatorship. The evidence undermines the unctuous moral superiority with which the current American president, media and public now judge Saddam, a monster the U.S. actively helped create.

The documents make it clear that were the trial of Saddam to be held by an impartial world court, it would prove an embarrassing two-edged sword for the White House, calling into question the motives of U.S. foreign policy. If there were a complete investigation into those who aided and abetted Saddam's crimes against humanity, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Secretary of State George Shultz would probably end up as material witnesses.

Bad weather report for Gephardt?
So speculates the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Perfect Storm" may rain on Gephardt's campaign. The "perfect storm" being, of course, the Dean campaign, which is poised to take Iowa.

Of course, hope springs etermal:

Down the street, Chuck Rocha, the burly steelworker running Rep. Richard Gephardt's labor organization in Iowa, predicted that hundreds of labor union operatives will trump the 3,500 rookies who have pledged to knock on doors for Dean.

"The labor piece of Gephardt's campaign will be a finely tuned machine," vowed Rocha, national political director for the United Steelworkers of America.

Then Rocha rubbed his shaved head and explained why that machine must work. "We know that if we don't stop Howard Dean in Iowa, he won't be stopped," he said.

Finally answered!!!
One of the great mysteries of the universe: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Extra added bonus, you get a complete answer to the question: "What is the capital of Assyria?"

And if this all goes completely over your head, here's a hint.

Thought for the Day:
[In the Prison, Edmund and Torturer play charades in an attempt to communicate]
Torturer: Bastardo!
Edmond, Lord Blackadder: Baa-taar-do... Barrister.
--"Blackadder II"

Friday, January 02, 2004

Interesting news from France....
A French investigatory magistrate is looking into Halliburton's deal to construct a gas liquification facility for Shell in Nigeria, a deal entered into while U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was running Halliburton. It appears that it's quite possible, as a result of that inquiry, that Cheney will be indicted for bribery in the matter of about $180 million in "retrocommissions" which were apparently paid to Nigerian officials.

I smell another round of France bashing coming on. Do you want freedom fries with that?

I've long suspected....
that Pope John Paul II is a senile, doddering old fool. Well, now he may have just gone and confirmed it: Pope calls for a new world order

Pope John Paul II launched one of the most important diplomatic initiatives of his long papacy yesterday when he called for a new international order to replace the one that emerged from the second world war.

Though he did not offer a detailed plan, his words appeared to show he wanted the UN replaced in light of its failure to block the use of force by America in Iraq.

The Pope called last month for the reform of world institutions and deplored any failure to respect international law. But in a sermon during a mass at St Peter's in Rome yesterday, he went much further, referring to the UN as if it were already a part of the past.


In his homily, the Pope said the new world order he wanted "would be able to provide solutions to the problems of today ... based on the dignity of human beings, an integrated development of society, solidarity between rich and poor nations, and on the sharing of resources and the extraordinary results of scientific and technological progress."

The Pope believes that not enough of these goals are being achieved with the present system of international organisations that emerged in the late 40s, including the UN, the IMF and the World Bank.

But the central issue, seen from the Vatican's point of view, is the growing irrelevance of a painstakingly constructed body of international law which is being ignored by the US administration during its "war on terror".

I agree with the Pope, for what that's worth, that the continued practice of the U.S. ignoring international law when it suits the bAdministration's purposes is something to be gravely concerned about, however what solution to this problem does his senile holiness offer? Given that George aWol Bush and his puppetmeisters decided long before 9/11 to invade Iraq, what could the U.N. have done to prevent the invasion?

I get the feeling that the solution most favored by the pope consists of rolling back the clock to the 12th century or so, and having every ruler on earth acknowledge the political sovereignty of the Holy See over all rulers. That sounds like a quite viable option, doesn't it?

I like Mark Kleiman's analysis here...
The "bogus scandal" theory bites the dust. Of course that's because of my bias: Kleiman's basically saying that InstaShill is full of shit, a conclusion I'll heartily endorse in just about any situation if there's the least bit of evidence to support it.

Note that the recusal was personal, rather than institutional. (My earlier post missed that key point.) The Justice Department, in the person of the Deputy Attorney General, is still on the case. The Deputy AG is a Presidential appointee, just like his boss. So the conflict, or appearance of conflict, leading to the recusal must be personal to John Ashcroft. And the fact of that conflict must have been something that only recently became apparent.

It's probably too much to ask for, but keep in mind that Karl Rove was an advisor to Asscrack in some of his Missouri campagins (including, IIRC, his last U.S. senatorial campaign. If Rove has become the target of the investigation, that would be damn good reason for Asscrack to recuse himself personally.

Damned hypocrites...
When their cows got BSE ("mad cow disease"), we banned their beef for months and months. But now that our cow has it, we want them to accept our beef within weeks: Mad Cow-hit US Wants World to Buy it's Beef Now.

The United States wants the world to start buying its beef again, after discovery of its first case of mad cow disease in late December, an uncommonly quick resumption of trade for nations wary of the brain-wasting disease.

Two dozen countries have banned U.S. beef because of mad cow, pushing cattle prices down by nearly 20 percent. Ordinarily, 10 percent of U.S. beef is sold overseas. The exports are worth $3.2 billion a year.

"Our goal is to see trade resume as quickly as possible," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said earlier this week, a view shared by the meat industry.


U.S. officials acknowledge they are asking for more flexibility from trading partners than the United States showed in the past. They say international standards have evolved as scientists learn more about BSE and how to control it.

"So, in fact, while we may have been part of the problem in the past, we have taken a very active role in terms of trying to change that standard," said Ron DeHaven, USDA's chief veterinary officer, during a news conference on Wednesday.

In October, the World Organization for Animal Health, based in Paris and also known under its French abbreviation OIE, said its mad cow guidelines "never suggested a total embargo of animals and animal products coming from BSE-infected countries."

What makes them think that others should treat us better than we've treated them? Typical U.S. egocentrism.

Thought for the Day:
The Onion: Is there a God?
Berke Breathed: Well, I bloody well hope so. Like Ricky Ricardo used to yell, "Luuuucy... You got some 'splainin' to dooooooo." I'd start with Hitler surviving the childhood flu in 1902. I'd end with mosquitoes and rap music. What's the plan, fer Chrissake? No offense.
--The Onion AV Club interviews

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Thought for the Day:
In many ways, it's difficult to judge a Bond film by the same standards applied to other movies. The series has lasted long enough to establish its own set of rules, and, as long as the latest movie plays by them, it usually works. Plot credibility, for example, is not a key element. Bond stories shouldn't be taken with just a grain of salt - you need the whole shaker. It's somehow easier to suspend disbelief to an extraordinary level while watching 007 execute the expected series of superhuman tricks. The fact is, when it comes to a Bond movie, the last thing anyone wants is believability. We're there to see the formula applied in the most ostentatious fashion possible - the louder and more over-the-top, the better.
--James Berardinelli [on the James Bond film corpus]