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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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The latest wrinkle
in the Nigerian 419 scam: Harvard prof scams $600,000, then hands it to 419ers

Apparently not to be outdone by the legal secretary who embezzled from her employer to provide money to the 419 scammers, a Harvard scientist (at Dana-Farber Cancer Research Institute) who collected $600K from friends, students and colleagues (claiming it was going to SARS research) just turned around and fed it into a 419 scam.

Dammit, why didn't he just give it to me? He'd have gotten the same return on his investment, but I promise I'd have put the money to better use. As Tug McGraw did with a signing bonus, I'd invest some of it in good booze and loose women, and the rest I'd just squander.

Steve Gilliard, always on top of things...
in the SCLM, has posted the "un-edited" transcript of Barbara Bush's Woman's Day interview (scroll if the permalink is bloggered). Go read it; hilarious stuff.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
More from the John Dean interview:

At least until recently, the Bush administration has successfully used the public's fear of terrorism to advance its agenda. You go so far as to agree with Gen. Tommy Franks' dark prediction that another major terror attack on U.S. citizens will drive the country to suspend the Constitution. Why do you fear that?

As I state in the book, I agree for reasons that probably differ from those of Gen. Franks. The short summary of what is really a thread that runs through the book is that when you have a presidency that has no regard for human life, that develops and implements all (not just national security) policy in secrecy, and is driven by political motives and a radical philosophy, it is impossible not to conclude that they will overreact -- and at the expense of our constitutional safeguards. Bush and Cheney enjoy using power to make and wield swords, not ploughs. They prefer to rule by fear. We've had three years to take the measure of these men. I've done so and reported what I found in a book I never planned to write, but because others were not talking about these issues, I believed they needed to be placed on the table.

Bush and Cheney have exploited terrorism ever since 9/11. Now they are exploiting it to get reelected. Should there be an even more serious threat, they have found that when Americans are frightened they can be governed like sheep, which suits Bush and Cheney perfectly. Rather than taking the terror out of terrorism by educating and informing Americans, they have sought to make terrorism as frightening as possible -- using terrorism to launch a war of aggression that is breeding a new generation of terrorists and getting the Congress to pass the most repressive new laws imaginable and calling it an act of patriotism.

No ads, so you have no excuse....
Read John Dean's interview with Salon (you won't have to click through an ad to do it). And remember, there are few men alive who know presidential corruption like John Dean, who was in the middle of Watergate. Scary stuff.

Do you feel the vice president has, after more than three years of secretive governing from an undisclosed location, become a political liability to the president? How likely is it that Bush will drop him from the ticket this year?

Dick Cheney is a political disaster awaiting recognition. In the book, I set forth a relatively long list of inchoate scandals, not to mention problems worse than scandals. They all involve Cheney in varying degrees. Bush can't dump Cheney, for it is Cheney, not Rove, who is Bush's backroom brain. He is actually a co-president. Bush doesn't enjoy studying and devising policy. Cheney does. While Cheney has tutored Bush for almost four years, and Bush is better prepared today than when he entered the job, Cheney is quietly guiding this administration. Cheney knows how to play Bush so that Cheney is absolutely no threat to him, makes him feel he is president, but Bush can't function without a script, or without Cheney. Bush is head of state; Cheney is head of government.

If, say, the Securities and Exchange Commission's current investigation of Halliburton's accounting also discovers that Cheney engaged in insider trading when he left Halliburton (which the facts suggest is highly likely), and this matter erupts before the Republican convention, then Cheney might be forced to step aside. Cheney always has his bad-health excuse anytime he wants to take it -- because it is a fact. He has a certain immunity as vice president, but if he were to be dropped from the ticket (or he and Bush lose), I believe Cheney would have serious problems which he would no longer be able to deflect. Thus, he will stay and fight like hell to win.

I quote Cheney from his time in the Ford White House when he said, "Principle is okay up to a certain point, but principle doesn't do any good if you lose." I think this statement sums up Cheney's thinking nicely.

And more from Cole:
Is the failure of the Arab Summit a Failure of Bush's Democratization Plan?

I am quoted saying that I thought the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq have if anything caused severe setbacks for civil liberties and democratization in the region. Iraq's chaos is enough to scare anyone in the region into thinking maybe a little authoritarianism is better, as long as you don't have to worry about your kids being kidnapped or your mosque being blown up. The US has encouraged governments like Tunisia and Yemen to take Draconian measures because of the war on terror (it should be recognized that terrorists are mostly only conspirators before they pull off an operation, so the temptation, as in Egypt in the 1990s, is to put thousands in jail for thought crimes). The Iranian hardliners have encaged the reformers. I don't see any positive effect of Bush administration policies in the region. Positive views of the US in the region have fallen to like 10% a lot of places. The US vetoing UN SC condemnation of Sharon's government for firing helicopter gunship rockets at a paraplegic was probably the last straw for a lot of people. I doubt the Bush administration has any credibility anywhere in the region. That it is going to "reshape" anything when its HQ in Baghdad is under routine rocket attack seems to me a little unlikely.

Is it just me, or isn't it a tad ironic to shove "democracy" down the throat of a "nation" where the majority doesn't want it?

And how quickly they forget: back around Gulf War I (anyone still remember that?), wasn't it Colin Powell who justified Bush the Elder's decision not to depose Saddam, at least in part noting that there were no Jeffersonian democrats in Iraq to take the reigns of power after the Baath regime was toppled?

I don't know about you, but I wish we had the old Colin Powell back. But the old Colin Powell wouldn't have settled for being puppet to a puppet, no doubt.

Now remember, this is our boy in Iraq....
From Juan Cole, who notes that the Interim Governing Council is opposing any plans for the UN to supervise Iraqi elections:

The attempt by the [Iraqi National Congress (which is Chalabi's faction)] to marginalize Brahimi and the United Nations reflects Chalabi's fear that he would not be able to win a fair, UN-supervised election. One fears he plans on vote-buying and other corrupt acts to be elected or appointed to a high Iraqi governing post, possibly as Prime Minister. Although the al-Hayat story says that the IGC wants to limit the UN role, if one looks carefully this move seems to be coming mainly from Chalabi and his people.

Yep. Chalabi first points out that he doesn't give a shit that the rush to war was based on lies and deception; he sees himself as a hero because Saddam is out. Now, since he can't hold power legitimately, he's probably planning to steal it (just like his patron in the Oval Office, so it seems).

Frankly, I'm surprised he's not been assassinated yet. I'm almost inclined to say "Let him go ahead and steal the Iraqi election; unless the U.S. protects his sorry ass, he's signing his own death warrant."

But the problem is that we will protect his sorry ass. He's a weasel, but by God he's our weasel; bought and paid for. And as it stands to reason, you can't have a puppet regime without a puppet.

5 days...
'til Opening Day

Thought for the Day:
I've come to loathe Reality TV. And this from a guy who takes great delight in living vicariously though others.

I think my biggest irritation is the fact that instead of finding new, talented writers and creators to make actual new television programs, TeeVee seems to use the same pool of writers to pump out the same crap that people are getting tired of.

And instead of assuming that it's the writers that suck instead of all fictional TV, TV execs just keep dumping reality television on us. And like a bunch of crap-eating dogs, the viewing public just keeps going back to it.
--Tommy Acuff []

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

A thought to muse over....
From Sam Smith's Progressive Review emailing for today:


Three reasons liberals have a hard time winning elections:

1. NPR has a program called "Marketplace" but it does not have one called "Workplace."

2. Liberals talk more about gay marriage and abortion than they do about healthcare, jobs, or social security.

3. Liberals give the impression that if you want to vote Democratic you have to give up your gun and your Bible.

This looks....
like a "can't miss" franchising opportunity: Betty the Bra Lady.

All I have to do is convince her to let me take care of the marketing, for a percentage of the profit....

Good News!
Mandrakesoft (the company behind the Mandrake Linux distribution, the official Linux distro of Chez Cleavelin) announces that they're exiting the French version of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. That's very good news (I don't know what I'd do for my home boxen if Mandrake went under), especially as Mandrake 10.0 is slated for official release in May of this year. Better get my pre-order in soon.

This is sad....
to think that our reputation overseas, even among our "allies", is for deceit and deception. This from Paul Krugman:

Last week an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin said, "This isn't America; the government did not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the threat to justify their attack."

So even in Israel, George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power.

Sad. But not in the least surprising.

Here's more of that compassion to go with the conservatism....
From Jo Fish over at Democratic Veteran, we hear that the President is so compassionate, he sent the survivors of a soldier killed in Iraq not one, but two form letters of condolance.

Yes, form letters. I understand that they've got machines that will do a facsimile signature that only an expert could tell from the original. Frankly, I'm willing to bet this month's salary that Dumbya didn't even sign them personally.

But commenter "Dean" nails it down perfectly, I think:

Abraham Lincoln, with far less staff to look after him, far greater responsibilities, and a far more devastating war with an enormous number of casualties used to write letters to the families of fallen Union soldiers in his own hand.

Party of Lincoln my ass.

And over at
Alex Rice clues us into "the curse of the billy goat":

No matter how long William Sianis sits in that graveyard on the north side of Chicago, he will always be watching the Cubs.

For those of you who don't the story of William Sianis and the 'ol billy goat, I'll inform you. On a sunny afternoon during the 1945 World Series, William Sianis bought two tickets (one for him, one for his billy goat) to Game 4 of the series, in which they faced the Detroit Tigers. The ushers at Wrigley that day refused to let the goat come into the stadium, on account of his putrid smell. Williams and the goat were "kicked to the curb", and they went home. As he was being escorted out of the worst stadium in baseball history, Mr. Sianis placed a curse that still lives to this day on the Cubs.

"The Cubs will never again win a World Series" shouted Sianis, as he exited the world's worst baseball stadium.

The billy goat then yelled "Right on brother!"

The Cubs, at that point were winning the Series 2-1, and were heavily favored to win the world championship. Things only went downhill after Sianis' infamous comment, as the underdog Tigers went on to beat the Cubs in that series, 4-3.

William, supposedly feeling bad for placing so much burden on an already struggling franchise, decided to remove "the hex" in 1969, but that didn't go over too well either. Soon after Sianis attempted to remove the curse, the Cubs began sleipping mightily, and soon thereafter lost what was once a commanding lead to the New York Mets, who won the World Series that vary year.

I would mightily disagree with Alex's characterization of Wrigley Field as "the world's worst baseball stadium", but you have to take youth into account. :-)

From The Cardinals Birdhouse:
Mileur's Top Ten List

Top 10 Reasons the Cardinals win the National League Central Division this season

10. Walt Jocketty - Walt is in his final year of his contract with the Cardinals, he will be working around the clock to erase the memory of last season's 3rd place finish.

9. Tony LaRussa - along with Walt, is in his final year of his contract with the Cardinals. Nobody wants to win more than Tony and just maybe this season, this team may be the most motivated and talented team he has had to work with. In addition he doesn't want to end his career in St. Louis without at least one trip to the World Series.

8. Reggie Sanders - finds a home with St. Louis, signs with the Cardinals at the end of the season after hitting 31 home runs and driving in 90 runs.

7. Tony Womack - wants two Purple Lamborghinis and puts together one of his best seasons ever, as the Cardinals second baseman and lead off hitter.

6. Ray Lankford - is back and he just wants to play and when he says it's not about money, he means it. Lankford a fan favorite needs to go out in style and this season he will get a chance to do that.

5. Dave Duncan / Jason Marquis - Duncan works his magic on Marquis, and Jason develops into key member of the rotation picking up 12-15 wins.

4. Edgar Renteria will be a free agent next season and you wonder how can he get even better, but he will. The Cardinals need to make sure they don't let Edgar get away, he is clearly in my opinion the best shortstop in the National League.

3. Scott Rolen - he wasn't happy with his performance last season and he wants to prove he can be even better than a Gold Glove 3rd baseman who hit .286 with 28 HR and 104 RBI, he's healthy and he should have a monster season this year.

2. Albert Pujols - he is perhaps the best player in Major League Baseball and he's still not satisfied with his performance. He will try to prove he's worth every penny the Cardinals are paying him and he will.

1. The Cubs - they are stealing from their own fans with this "legal" ticket scalping thing with that DUMMY Company they created. I guess it can't be too dummy, they are getting away with it. But the Cubs?

There's Bartman in the stands and then there is always the curse of the Cubs.

I believe we are on the brink of a historical season.

Of course, the trend of the analysts say that is wishful thinking, and the Cards are widely predicted to finish in third. However, it is an long season, you have to play 'em all, and strange and wonderful things have been known to happen. No reason to start giving up hope yet....

No source, unfortunately....
So you can take this for what it's worth. Received on the SKEPTICS-L mailing list:

Writes a prominent Republican who will be voting for Kerry in November: "Look, I'm not saying ALL Democrats are worthless. Paul Krugman is great. So is that blogger Atrios, and certainly lots of activists and such. But the ones holding office mostly seem pretty pitiful whiners. Given what Bush and his people have done to America over the last couple of years---and adding in Clarke's recent revelations---the Democrats should be talking about sending the whole Administration to the gallows, and instead they're saying things like 'George Bush isn't nearly as strong on National Security as he claims to be.' Pathetic!"

Is it possible to be too successful?
Apparently so, as Daniel Gross points out in a recent examination of the Coca-Cola Company:

Coca-Cola is perhaps the most successful American brand ever. Each day, about 1.2 billion servings of Coca-Cola products are consumed around the globe. Coca-Cola is remarkably well-established in the world's wealthiest consumer market. The company's 2002 annual report noted that the average consumer in North America "enjoys at least one serving of our products every day."

Once you have the entire population of the world's richest nation using your product at least once a day, what do you do for an encore? Especially when the stock market requires you to keep earnings growing by 10 percent annually? You resort to financial engineering and engage in actions that damage the brand.

For those of you with short attention spans....
From Slate: The Pledge of Allegiance--the Powerpoint version

Is it any wonder there's so much debate about what the Pledge of Allegiance means? Look how confusing it is: Thirty-one words, at least one of which is five syllables long. And not a single bullet point. To help make sense of it, we've created this quick and easy summary using Microsoft PowerPoint.

From one of the slides:

Avoid These Common Errors!
  • "I lead the pigeons"

  • "to the fag"

  • "divided states of embarassment"

  • "the New Republic"

  • "for Richard Stans"

  • "I am an atheist; I don't believe in God"

6 Days...
'til Opening Day

Thought for the Day:
An argument could be made that the Cubs are better off if they never make a World Series. In hockey, the New York Rangers were once the most treasured franchise in the league. They were adored by their fans and respected by their opponents. The city of New York worshipped the Rangers and their lovable futility. Then 1994 came around, and the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, in dramatic and glorious fashion. Since 1994, no one has given a rat's ass about the New York Rangers. There is nothing cute about the Rangers anymore; they are just another mediocre franchise in a big city; actually winning was the worst thing that could ever happen to them. An argument could be made that the same could happen if the Cubs ever (cough-never-cough) won the World Series; they would go from the huggable Cubbies mired in perpetual futility to, you know, the DEFENDING CHAMPIONS. The same could be said for the Red Sox; when your team is associated with heartbreaking losses, if those losses are eliminated and forgotten, now what does your team stand for?
--Will Leitch

Monday, March 29, 2004

Decisions, decisions....
SciFi tonight is showing Battlefield Earth after the Stargate SG-1 block this evening. Do I really want to waste two hours of my life and stay up 'til midnight watching what, in January, 2000, critics were already calling a front-runner for "worst movie of the decade"?

The one upside: at least I'm not paying for the privilege.

The Register...
has some interesting things to say in the context of l'affaire Clarke. Interestingly enough, nobody comes out looking very good:

So's your old man
After days of charges and counter charges, Clarke's opportunity to testify before the 9/11 Commission arrived. Cynics have observed that his book began to ship only days before his scheduled appearance.

He opened with a most grandiose and theatrical gesture. "Your government failed you," he intoned gravely. "Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you... And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness," Clarke said presumptuously. This, clearly, is the language of a man obsessed. By apologizing for not doing the impossible, he gave the world an unpleasant glimpse of his quite considerable messiah complex.

The Bush administration is not guilty of failing to prevent 9/11. It is guilty of something immensely worse: of politicizing the atrocity ruthlessly, of forging a cheap prop out of the wreckage, and crowning Junior with it. It is guilty of misleading the public into a war of aggression, of representing what it wished to believe as fact, and of blaming the wrong country and invading it. It is guilty of sacrificing constitutional liberties on the altar of counterterrorism.

But it is not guilty of failing to prevent the attack. Had that particular plot been thwarted, even if it had been thwarted by virtue of Clarke's wise counsel, another would have succeeded. For all its loose talk of a "war on terror" and "homeland security," the US government can thwart only an unknowable fraction of the violent plans now being laid.

This hardly means that trying is futile: the business of security is to make an attack difficult without sacrificing fragile social assets, such as liberty and privacy, in favor of safety, which cannot be guaranteed at any price. Good intelligence and commonsense defensive measures can go a long way toward raising the bar of national security. But nothing can "protect us," as Clarke suggested. The West has too many targets, and far too many enemies.

My twin towers, mine
This talk of preventing the next 9/11 may be rubbish, but, sadly, it will dominate the presidential campaign. This was inevitable, but Clarke's book has brought it to a head early on. There will be much blame, many accusations, and many, many empty promises from Bush and his opponent, John Kerry. The Bushies have struggled, with considerable success, to own 9/11, to possess it like a lover, to enrobe themselves in the tragedy and foist themselves on the public as avenging angels.

There is nothing else that Bush can run on. The economy is lame, deficit spending has grown to monumental proportions, decent jobs have dried up, and the war in Iraq has been exposed for the preposterously expensive counterterrorist rain dance that it is. Owning 9/11 is the only thing that can possibly keep him in office.

Um, there's more than one type of Christian...
From fellow RTB member Kevin@LeanLeft: I have a faith, too. Excerpt:

Speaking of the Bush Administration Kerry asked:
The scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" Kerry told the congregation at New North Side Baptist Church. "When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?"
Bush's response was predictably shrill and ridiculous:
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's comment "was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack."
As usual, when faced with a criticism, the Bush Administration runs from the substance and attempts to smear the critic. Anyone who says their favorite political philosopher is Jesus Christ had best be prepared to defend his actions in the light of Jesus' teachings.

And that, of course, is the real rub. For far too long, the right wing has gulled the media and the country into thinking that its religion was the only acceptable face of Christianity. It has used the respect for all religions on the left as evidence of the left's irreligiosity. That has never been the case. The teachings of Jesus Christ are at the core of how millions define their support for liberal causes, myself included. John Kerry, with one small statement, has reminded the nation of that fact. Millions of us are liberal because of our religion. Millions of us are not represented by Opus Dei, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, or any of the other right wing talking heads the media turns to when it wants to "discuss" religion in this country. Antonin Scalia does not speak for all Catholics.
[my emphasis--LRC]

A few comments:

1) Bush's statement, during the campaign debates, that Jesus Christ was his favorite political philosopher was simultaneously the stupidest thing ever said by a political candidate in recent memory (and given the boners that Dumbya has treated us to, that's really saying something), and, interestingly enough, part of one of the most brilliant political marketing ploys ever envisioned: the selling of the President as a "man of faith and prayer".

2) Yes, I did say "the stupidest thing ever said by a political candidate in recent memory"; given that I have formally studied philosophy I'm entitled to that opinion. Jesus isn't a philosopher (save in the broadest sense in which all men are philosophers), and naming him as one shows Bush to be either very ignorant of philosophy as a subject (an ignorance that is, granted, quite common among Americans--even educated ones) or a coldly manipulative cynic. This is, however, an entree for dropping some linkage to an interesting debate on a Christian apologetics site: But, giving Bush the benefit of the doubt, and qualifying Jesus as a "philosopher" (on some brain dead notion that religion is just a subspecies of philosophy, I suppose), Bush's statement is still stupid, since Jesus most certainly isn't a political philosopher. If Jesus had anything to say about politics and governance--beyond "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's"--I appear to have missed it somewhere.

3) And of course, note the typical (for this bAdministration) debating tactics: anything that Bush says is to be taken at face value, and any attempt to call Bush on it is immediately deemed "beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse." Sorry, guys. Maybe I was corrupted by my Catholic upbringing, but the Catholic position that faith without works is empty has always made sense to me; the notion that once you're "born again" you've received your "get out of hell free" card and merit salvation, no matter how bad you've been after that, just doesn't wash with my intuitions of what's right and what's wrong. And that means that I'm not going to give Bush a free pass for being a Christian and saying his prayers--I'll grant that he can talk the talk, but I see little evidence that he can walk the walk. And frankly, I have more respect for people who can walk the Christian walk without boring me with talking the Christian talk: actions speak much louder than words.

4) Something that still puzzles me after all these years. Is it just me, or has anybody else in this fading Republic noticed something about Bush's faith? George W. Bush is a recovering substance abuser ("recovering" because, as I understand it--and I have a very close family member who is a substance abuser, so I know this well--substance abuse is a monkey on your back the rest of your life, and you never completely recover from it). Bush's religion is part and parcel of his status as a "recovering" substance abuser--like many a member of a 12 step program who puts his/her struggle in the hands of a "higher power". If that's kept Dubya off the nose candy and on the wagon, all well and good; if he needs the crutch, he needs it, and even I am not cruel enough to snatch it from him. But Dubya's religion is a crutch, pure and simple. Let me state it as starkly as I can: George W. Bush is not the poster child for healthy religious faith. He's not exactly a role model for my child, unless my child is a cocaine and alcohol abuser (and frankly, even then I can think of better role models for her).

UPDATE: According to Allen Brill at The Right Christians, Kerry made his "faith without works" comment at a St. Louis area Baptist church. Makes me a bit proud, if I don't say so myself.

And I needed some good news today; while doing my baseball newssurfing, I saw a story that the St. Louis Cardinals invited Dumbya Bush to attend opening day in St. Louis. I have a moral crisis now; I really feel the only morally correct response is to boycott the Cardinals this year. *sigh*

Clinton vs. Bush: There was a difference....
in counterterrorist activities, and Juan Cole has an excellent post making just that distinction:

More on the Clarke conroversy: The pundits and politicians who keep saying that Clinton's anti-terrorism policies and Bush's are the same are missing a key piece of the puzzle. The policy outline was the same, but the implementation was very different.

Hint: The key piece of evidence is the Millennium Plot. This was an al-Qaeda operation timed for late December 1999. Forestalling this plot was the biggest counter-terrorism success the US has ever had against al-Qaeda.

the plot involved several key elements:

*Los Angelese International Airport would be blown up.

*(Possibly: The Needle in Seattle would be blown up).

* The Radisson Hotel in Amman Jordan, a favorite of American and Israeli tourists, would be blown up. A lot of the tourism for the millennium was Christian evangelicals wanting to be in the holy land.

* Bombs would go off at Mt. Nebo, a Christian tourist site in Jordan near Israel, associated with John the Baptist.

* The USS Sullivan would be targeted by a dinghy bomb off Yemen.

The story of how the LAX bombing was stopped on December 14 has been told in an important series in the Seattle Times. Extra security measures were implemented by US customs agents, leading to the apprehension of an Algerian, Ahmed Ressam, with a trunk full of nitroglycerin, heading for LAX (he wanted to start his journey by ferry from Port Angeles, Washington).


What Clarke's book reveals is that the way Ressam was shaken out at Port Angeles by customs agent Diana Dean was not an accident. Rather, Clinton had made Clarke a cabinet member. He was given the authority to call other key cabinet members and security officials to "battle stations," involving heightened alerts in their bureaucracies and daily meetings. Clarke did this with Clinton's approval in December of 1999 because of increased chatter and because the Jordanians caught a break when they cracked Raed al-Hijazi's cell in Amman.

Early in 2001, in contrast, Bush demoted Clarke from being a cabinet member, and much reduced his authority. Clarke wanted the high Bush officials or "principals" to meet on terrorism regularly. He couldn't get them to do it. Rice knew what al-Qaeda was, but she, like other administration officials, was disconcerted by Clarke's focus on it as an independent actor. The Bush group-think holds that asymmetrical organizations are not a threat in themselves, that the threat comes from the states that allegedly harbor them. That funny look she gave Clarke wasn't unfamiliarity, it was puzzlement that someone so high in the system should be so wrongly focused.

In summer of 2001 the chatter was much greater and more ominous than in fall of 1999. Clarke wanted to go to battle stations and have daily meetings with the "principals" (i.e. Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Powell, Tenet). He wanted to repeat the procedures that had foiled the Millennium Plot. He could not convince anyone to let him do that.

I see I'm going to have to get me a copy of Clarke's book. Soon.

England does the right thing....
From the Guardian: Gay couples win full rights to 'marriage'

Received in the email today...
I'll just post this "as is". A quick Google search unearths three references to a "Steven Frybarger", but none of them appear to be to an AP Investigative Reporter. Obviously a joke, but given my political leanings, a good one.

Osama's Hiding Place Identified
By Steven Frybarger, Associated Press Investigative Reporter
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -
Pentagon officials believe they have been unable to locate Bin Laden because he has found a place to hide out where:
  1. It is easy to get in if you have the money;

  2. No one will recognize or remember you;

  3. No one will realize that you have disappeared;

  4. No one keeps any records of your comings and goings; and

  5. You have no obligations or responsibilities.
Pentagon analysts are still puzzled as to how Bin Laden found out about the Texas Air National Guard.

Light to intermittent posting....
For as long as a week here; I'm on the cusp of a major work project that's taking up more of my attention that is compatible with my usual fevered blogging pace. Maybe a few tidbits over lunch hours or in evenings; we'll have to see how things develop.

7 Days...
'til Opening Day

Thought for the Day:
The 2003 Cardinals were a great basketball team. In basketball, of course, depth counts, but you can win a championship with a couple superstars and a decent starting five. Last year's Redbirds had four of the best players in the business: big man Albert Pujols in the middle, power forwards Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen, and sharpshooter Edgar Renteria running the point.

Unfortunately, as the '97 Mariners and '03 Giants will tell you, you need more than great players to go far in baseball. You need glue, reinforcements, spare parts, and that's exactly what the 2003 Cardinals lacked.
--Brian Gunn [Redbird Nation, in]

Sunday, March 28, 2004

8 Days...
'til Opening Day

Thought for the Day:
Kenny Blankenship: Hey Vic, you were married once and now you're divorced, do you ever see your ex-wife?
Vic Romano: Yes, but only from the stipulated distance laid out in the restraining order.
Kenny: Haha, cool. Do you ever talk to her?
Vic: Not since caller ID.
--"Moxt Extreme Elimination Challenge"

Saturday, March 27, 2004

9 Days...
'til Opening Day

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, March 26, 2004

When I refer to my Windows "box" or my Linux "box"...
I'm talking geekspeak for my computers: my Windows "box" boots into Windows and my Linux "box" boots into Linux. (Actually, I'm indulging in wishful thinking; if we're talking about my home computers I have one desktop and one laptop; I refer to both as my "boxen", and both dual boot into Linux and Windows. Really, I refer to the desktop or the laptop as "a Windows box" or "a Linux box" depending on which OS the computer is running right now, which means that I often speak as if I have four boxen: a Windows desktop, a Windows laptop, a Linux desktop, and a Linux laptop....)

However, here's somone who had an itch and decided to scratch it: he wanted a literal "Windows XP box". That is, a computer that fits (exclusive of monitor, mouse, keyboard and other peripherals) into the box that Windows XP comes in when you buy it at the store. And then, just because he could, he decided to take an old Red Hat Linux 7.1 box and then fit the computer into that. Read the details of how it works here (scroll down to the section titled "Finishing Touches"), but basically he's set up the computer so that when he takes his Windows XP box (the physical box used as the computer case), and inserts it upside down into the Red Hat box (the physical box that is being used for the computer case when it's running Linux), some clever hardware and assembly language hacking causes the computer to sense that it's in the Linux box, and boot into Linux. Pretty clever, eh?

My only quibble is that, in order to have a Linux box big enough to hold the computer (Windows XP box case and all), he had to settle for using a Red Hat 7.1 box when in fact he's running Red Hat 9 as the Linux OS for the system. I think that, as a purist, one should run the OS that matches the box (so that he should have installed Red Hat 7.1 and run that), but that's a specious quibble and I won't insist on it...

Hats off, ladies and gentlemen--a genius!!!

Thanks to Anthony at Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil, who's taking advantage of a brief respite between his moot court arguments and his first year finals.

It's just so hard to find good help anymore....
From Josh Marshall's column in The Hill:

It's hard to remember another president who has suffered more abuse and betrayal from the government's career civil service than George W. Bush. Again and again, it seems, the president hires some seemingly seasoned career counterterrorism hand, only to find out later that he’s actually a Democratic plant, a partisan stooge or just a plain fool.

We already know the story of that notorious turncoat, retired Ambassador Joe Wilson, and his wife, CIA clandestine operative Valerie Plame (whom Rep. Jack Kingston [R-Ga.] pegged as a "glorified secretary"). The CIA foolishly entrusted Wilson with a fact-finding mission to the African nation of Niger to find out whether Saddam Hussein was buying "yellowcake" uranium there for his allegedly reconstituted nuclear weapons program. After getting this plum assignment, Wilson turned on the president with all manner of unfounded accusations.

Now we have Richard Clarke, whom we’re now told was either a liar (Paul Wolfowitz), a fraud out to sell a bunch of books (Scott McClellan), an out-of-the-loop rube (Dick Cheney), or just a moron who couldn’t get the job done (National Security Council [NSC] spokesman Jim Wilkinson and just about everyone else on the White House payroll).

Clarke, of course, worked for the last four presidents (Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II) in a series of national-security and counterterrorism roles. Condi Rice kept him on as counterterrorism czar at the NSC when the Bush administration took over from Clinton. And then later, after Sept. 11, the White House appointed him to a less central, but still critical, post as top NSC aide on cyberterrorism and critical infrastructure.

Clearly the White House thought he was top-flight, but now it seems he was just another mix of backstabber and boob of the Joe Wilson variety — a hapless egomaniac or, as columnist John Podhoretz called him yesterday in the New York Post, a "a self-regarding buffoon."


Clarke has disavowed any desire or willingness to serve in a potential Kerry administration. But certainly the withering critique contained in his book is somewhat less than a plus for the Bush-Cheney re-election effort. And his trajectory and Beers's do show an evident similarity. And as with Wilson and the others, there are two obvious theories to explain the similarity.

The first possibility is that the Bush White House is so freewheeling, inattentive and just plain unlucky that it keeps appointing senior counterterrorism aides who actually turn out to be both policy incompetents and closet Democratic partisans. The second that these malefactors leave the White House, they show their true colors and start leveling all manner of baseless charges against the president.

The second possibility is that every counterterrorism expert the White House hires who isn’t (a) a hidebound ideologue or (b) a dyed-in-the-wool Bush loyalist eventually becomes so disgusted with the mix of incompetence and mendacity that is the White House's counterterrorism policy that he eventually quits and then immediately sets about trying to drive the president from office.

Which seems more likely to you? Choice one or choice two?

I'll go with choice two, Josh....

One of the better metaphors I've read today...
From Daily Kos, and a discussion of Bush's joking about the missing weapons of mass destruction:

... I'm suggesting that Kerry should frame the debate as an either/or. Either there was no threat from WMD, and the reason we haven't found the WMD is that they were never there, or the WMD had been in Iraq just as the administration told us, and the only plausible explanation for why they haven't been found is that during the anarchy after our undermaneed forces occupied the country, the WMD were stolen by Al Queda. This would leave Bush in a box, for even if he pushes back by saying that the WMD are now in Iran or Syria, that would put the lie to his claim that Saddam's capture has made us safer. Bush will look like the idiot who, afraid that he'll get stung, provokes a violent response from the hornets by blindly bashing their nest with a rake as if it were a pinata. [emphasis supplied--LRC]

Only thing is, I'm sorely tempted to ask, "What do you mean Bush will look like an idiot?" He's pretty much proven that he is, as far as I'm concerned.

Brilliant.... just f*cking brilliant....
You really got to wonder how many folks got suckered into this one: Trust me, I'm clean, says virus

The latest in a long line of NetSky variants, Netsky-P, tries to lull users into a false sense of security by containing spoofed disclaimers from anti-virus firms.


The sixteenth incarnation of NetSky also adds fake scan report to the end of an infected message such as:

+++ Attachment: No Virus found
+++ MessageLabs AntiVirus -

New light on Rush Limbaugh, junkie?
A very interesting article on OxyContin addiction by Maia Szalavitz in Slate yesterday: The Accidental Addict

In fact, the entire OxyContin "epidemic" is based on a false narrative that asserts that the majority of OxyContin addicts begin as drug-naive pain patients. The cop the Sentinel profiled was actually a typical Oxy addict—a prior drug user—but his real story wasn't what they wanted. If Bloodsworth had been looking for that, she would have noted that government data shows that 90 percent of OxyContin abusers have also taken cocaine, psychedelics, and other prescription painkillers. Readers would have been informed that investigators specializing in prescription drug abuse say the typical OxyContin addict has a lengthy history of multiple-drug abuse.

The paper also would have highlighted that addiction is the exception, not the rule, among people exposed to opiates. Studies consistently show that pain patients taking opiates are no more likely to become addicts than people in the general population (i.e., exposure alone does not cause addiction). That is to say, only between 1 percent and 20 percent of people in the general population experience a period of addiction to some substance, depending primarily on characteristics such as age, stress, family history of addiction, and mental illnesses. (Depression, manic depression, and schizophrenia all dramatically affect one's risk of addiction.) If you rule out prior abusers, the rate settles at the low end, in single digits. (Rush Limbaugh may be one such example, though we still don't know anything about his possible prior drug use.) Even among people who try the most demonized opiate, heroin, for recreation or in a situation of extreme stress, only a minority will become addicted. While nearly half of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam tried heroin while abroad, only 20 percent of users became addicts. And only 12 percent remained junkies—even though 60 percent of those addicted while in Vietnam tried heroin at least one more time back home. Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds that most people simply don't enjoy the opiate "high," let alone want it daily.

Yet reporters don't like this narrative, so they ignore it.
[my emphasis--LRC]

So some enterprising investigative journalist take note: there's a very, very good chance that if you dig long enough, you'll find that Rush Limbaugh, noted hypocrite, has a history of being a junkie.

Sorta changes the picture of ol' Pigboy, doesn't it?

Now the countdown begins....
10 Days 'til Opening Day

Thought for the Day:
Sharp-eyed fans may have noticed that Detroit outfielder Dmitri Young wore a Tigers-branded do-rag under his cap last year. It isn't clear if any other players were similarly attired--if so, Uni Watch didn't spot them--but at least one player has joined in during this season's spring training: Reggie Sanders of the Cards. Traditionalists might disapprove, but the mere thought of Bud Selig being presented with a set of do-rag prototypes for his approval (and maybe trying them on!) is entertaining enough to justify this item's existence.
--Paul Lukas

Thursday, March 25, 2004

More on Richard Clarke....
From Juan Cole:

I read Clarke's book while traveling the past couple of days, and found it anything but a liberal tract. Clarke comes across as a principled conservative with special expertise. He clearly feels that his expertise was respected by Bill Clinton, who made him a cabinet official and took an intellectual interest in the nature of terrorism. And he clearly feels that George W. Bush lacks that intellectual curiosity, and surrounded himself with anti-Iraq hawks who simply did not understand asymmetrical organizations and the threat they posed. As a result, Bush and the people around him demoted Clarke from the cabinet and paid no attention to his suggestion that the administration go to 'battle stations' as a result of the increased chatter in summer of 2001.

That Clarke, while in office, tried to put a positive face on the Bush administration, in which he was serving, does not detract from the credibility of his memoir,
Against all Enemies. Only the most naive observer could fail to be able to distinguish between the discourse of a public servant and that of a private citizen released from such duties, and now able to speak his mind. Washington rhetoric is often so simple-minded that it is insulting to those of us west of the Potomac, as if we are little children who will swallow any tall tale fed us.

Clarke's integrity in standing against the Neocons' and Rumsfeld's outrageous politicization of intelligence and peddling of false charges that Saddam was behind 9/11 or in cahoots with al-Qaeda more generally, is extremely admirable. But, clearly, he was reduced to a second or third tier player, and could not counteract the enormous influence of Feith, Hannah, Libby, and others, who worked through Cheney to get up a phoney case against Iraq.

Clarke was rumored to have been personally targeted for assassination by al-Qaeda before 9/11, and served honorably in the fight against that organization at a time when most high US government officials had no idea what al-Qaeda was. To have his "credibility" now challenged on partisan political grounds, when his book is anything but partisan, is shameful.

A principled conservative? God, what a breath of fresh air, compared to the cynical Machiavellians in power right now. The more I see of Clarke, the more I respect him, and the less I respect the stupid chimp in the Oval Office (if that's even possible).

And more, from Sidney Blumenthal:

The administration's furious response to Clarke only underscores his book. Rice is vague, forgetful and dissembling. Cheney is belligerent, certain and bluffing. In Clarke's book, as in the memoirs of other Bush administration officials, former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill and former domestic policy aide John DiIulio, Bush is disengaged, incurious, manipulated by those in the closed circle around him, and he adopts ill-conceived strategies that he has played little or no part in preparing. Bush is the Oz behind the curtain, but unlike the wizard the special effects are performed by others. Especially on terrorism and 9/11, his White House is at "battle stations" to prevent the curtain from being pulled open.

If the stupid chimp wins this election, there's no hope for the United States, anymore.

Oh crap!
This is not what I want to hear. From The Cards Clubhouse:

Albert Pujols on the cover of EA Sports' MVP Baseball 2004. Although its a tremendous honor, it's widely considered a jinx among fans, as lackluster seasons have plagued other players during the year they have appeared on the cover of the game.

Of course, considering the first three years of Pujols's career, you've really got to start expecting that he's going to have an off year soon. I wonder what the corellation is between signing a blockbuster, multi-year contract like Puljols's and having an off year is?

Then again, an off year for Pujols just might still be above major league average.

And why didn't they go with that one...
Random surfing of the Internet Movie Database reveals that an alternate title for the movie Clueless (IIRC, the movie that was Alicia Silverstone's breakout role) was: I Was A Teenage Teenager.

I think that title was so brilliant they should have released it under that name. But I guess I have no title sense, which is most likely one of the reasons why I'm a mere computer geek in higher education, and not a multizillionaire Hollywood movie mogul.

I still think that the Wayans brothers should have kept one of their original working titles for Scary Movie: either Last Summer I Screamed Because Halloween Fell On Friday the 13th, or Scream If You Know What I Did Last Halloween.

La Reg also reports....
that a British Telephone engineer is facing inquiries concerning his role in "deflowering" an 18 year old University of Bristol student who auctioned off her "virginity" on the 'net; she was selling it to the highest bidder in order to raise money for her tuition (for the record, the engineer denies any involvement). Frankly, I've not bothered commenting on this because it seems like a big non-issue to me. My attitude towards prostitution is best described by a line from a George Carlin monologue:

Selling's legal. Fucking's legal. So why isn't selling fucking legal? Ask yourself that question; how come we can put a woman in jail for selling something that it's perfectly legal for her to give away?

However, one aspect of the case is intriguing me. In most of the stories I've read on the case, the student in question is described as "an 18 year old lesbian"; apparently the "virginity" in question was, strictly speaking, the chance to be her "first man ever" (bringing back memories of an evening of pay per view video in a hotel room in Omaha, NE a few years ago, when the featured attraction on the adult channel was a playing of the adult video they titled Janine's First Man Ever, though in fact the title wasn't that at all (follow the link if you're curious)). Anyway, I assume that if the girl's been calling herself a "lesbian" (nobody seems to dispute that), then she must have had sexual experience with a woman (there is, at least, an implication that this has been the case). If that is the case, can she really bill herself as a "virgin"?

Another George Carlin line suggests itself here: These are the kind of thoughts that kept me out of the really good schools.

And the RIAA's reach extends further...
According to La Reg: RIAA sues lots more students

The move on students marks a new line of attack for The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in its crusade to destroy unauthorised music swapping over the Internet. It has targeted students before, but serious uploaders only. The John Does in this round of lawsuits are accused merely of swapping music.

I think that there should be a push for a "meme" to add a new idiom to American English: "as nasty as an RIAA lawyer".

And the Linux desktop...
just got a bit closer:

HP is recruiting Novell to help it get Linux running on corporate desktop and laptop computers. HP will offer business customers support and testing.

Linux has made good progress in the server and data market but has had a harder job of getting onto desktop machines. The backing of such a major vendor will be a big boost.

If we can get Linux ready for corporate desktops, the push to the personal space can't be too far off. Most of those corporate users are home users too, and most of them are not power users or die-hard geeks. The (non-political) future's looking good.

Maybe there is a God....
as Microsoft gets some of what it deserves.... The European Union hit the Beast of Redmond with a record fine and other sanctions:

As expected, Microsoft was today hit with a record-breaking fine by the European Commission. But although Microsoft is complaining mightily about it, the sum involved will make a negligible impact on Redmond's coffers. Nor, of itself, is the Commission's insistence that Microsoft must offer a version of Windows free of Windows Media Player to PC companies - the effectiveness of the Commission's remedies will lie in the success or otherwise of its requirements on interface disclosure, and of its strictures against "using any commercial, technological or contractual terms" to cripple the stripped-down version of Windows.

In a statement issued today, the Commission concluded that Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems (OS) onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players." It has therefore punished Microsoft via the fine, and made a number of orders regarding the company's future conduct.

We'll see how it plays out in the future, but right now there is one historical certainty: you can trust Microsoft.... to be Microsoft, and to follow it's prime business model: "antitrust laws were made to be broken with impunity."

Thought for the Day:
Down there (New Athens, Illinois), we've got more taverns than grocery stores. I walked in, threw down a bill and said, "Give everybody a drink." Nice gesture I thought, but down the bar somebody yelled, "Hey big shot, your brother is still a better ballplayer than you are."
--Dorrel Norman Elvert "Whitey" Herzog

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Going through my archived email over lunch hour...
I ran across this, from the weekly Joe Bob Briggs's Week In Review newsletter:

In other fat opera news, Deborah Voigt was bounced from a production at the Royal Opera House in London because producers said she was too big to wear the cocktail dress in "Ariadne auf Naxos." What's ironic in this case is that "Ariadne auf Naxos" is the role that catapulted her to fame in the first place, when she did it 13 years ago at the Boston Lyric Opera and overnight became one of the top sopranos in the world. She's since played Ariadne in virtually every leading opera house, including the Met, and has even referred to her career as "Ariadne Inc." There HAS been a trend in recent years to get opera stars to slim down and look appropriate for the role--in 2002 Voigt had to drop 45 pounds to star in "Die Liebe der Dana" in Salzburg--but on the other hand, there's a REASON that these people have huge otherworldly voices: they have huge otherwordly diaphragms to CONTAIN the voice. Use a little imagination, people, or just close your eyes--the lady is worth it.

Why I find this interesting is that once upon a time a while ago, I had an interesting and, unfortunately (through my own fault) all too brief relationship with a Canadian operatic soprano, who was also, if truth be told, a bit zaftig (I will here confess that a woman's more likely to catch my attentions with her mind than her looks; I don't have the crass bias against weight that most men have, and many/most of the women I've dated have been a tad on the Reubenesque side), and she mentioned that a conductor friend of hers had a theory on why operatic sopranos were so big, and it pretty well agrees with Joe Bob's assessment: if you need to launch that otherworldly (and wholly unamplified) voice to the farthest corners of the opera house, you need a substantial launching pad to do it.

Anyway, if you are now wondering what the hubbub is about, you can check Deborah's official website:

Deborah Voigt

or if you'd rather, just jump to the photo gallery.

Frankly, looking at the woman's portraits, I think I'd be proud to squire her around town on my arm, if she'd have me.... Hmmmmm... I wonder if she's married.....


As a former lawyer, this makes me sick...
Report: Solutia plaintiffs to get millions less than attorneys

Residents of Anniston, Ala., will reportedly get an average of about $7,700 in a settlement over PCB contamination by Monsanto Co. and Solutia Inc. However, attorneys in the case are expected to share $120 million, according to published reports.

After attorney fees and costs are paid, each of 18,447 plaintiffs in the federal case are expected to get an average of $7,725, but could get as little as $500, reports said, citing documents from the settlement's claims administrator. In total, about 29 attorneys will share the $120 million.

In case you're curious, that's $4,137,931.03 per attorney, assuming all the attorneys share equally in the jackpot. If, as I suspect, only some of those 29 attorneys are partners in their firms, and a good many of them are associates who are merely paid salaries for the dubious joy of serving their masters, the cut per lawyer being paid out of the jackpot is quite a bit more.

Lawyers are slime. They should all be taken out and shot. Simple as that....

Some interesting comments....
by Billmon about contemporary attitudes towards the Vietnam war:

Before it gets completely lost in the Clarke-o-mania, I just wanted to repost something that Terry Holt, the chief spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign was quoted saying in the Washington Post today:
"John Kerry's campaign seems to be summed up this way: I went to Vietnam, yadda, yadda, yadda, I want to be president."
Yadda, yadda, yadda.

I know nothing about Terry Holt. I don't know whether he ever served in the military, or whether he was even old enough to
have served in Vietnam. But I thought it was a very revealing quote -- a kind of political Freudian slip, so to speak. Because it revealed the degree to which the Republicans no longer feel it necessary to pander to (or even show much respect for) those who served in Vietnam.

Cheney lies again; and for our next story, dog bites man...
From Fred Kaplan in Slate (read the whole thing, it's good): Dick Clarke is telling the truth

To an unusual degree, the Bush people can't get their story straight. On the one hand, Condi Rice has said that Bush did almost everything that Clarke recommended he do. On the other hand, Vice President Dick Cheney, appearing on Rush Limbaugh's show, acted as if Clarke were a lowly, eccentric clerk: "He wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff." This is laughably absurd. Clarke wasn't just in the loop, he was the loop.

But here's what Kaplan points out that scares me: you have Clarke, who has been the government's counterterrorism czar just about as long as there's been such a position, and he asks to be relieved of that duty because the bAdministration won't take his advice seriously and insists on going into Iraq instead of dealing with the real threat. Who replaces him? Rand Beers, an equally well regarded expert in the field. Beers winds up resigning in protest one month later for exactly the same reason Clarke asked to be reassigned.

Does this bAdministration have its heads up its collective asses, or what?

Ignominious injuries...
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profile of Cards' reliever Mike Lincoln:

Baseball players have been known to suffer inglorious injuries. Cardinals fans will recall Geronimo Pena hurting himself by tripping over his glove. John Smoltz once burned his chest while ironing a shirt he was wearing. Wade Boggs hurt his back while putting on his cowboy boots. Rick Honeycutt once injured his wrist while flicking sunflower seeds in the dugout.

I don't have a kingdom to give for it, but if I did I'd give it for a copy of a videotape of John Smoltz trying to iron a shirt while wearing it, and burning himself as a result. Now that's entertainment!

Today in St. Louis baseball history....
The "Inside Pitch" newsletter from the National Baseball Hall of Fame notes that today is the 111th anniversary of the birth of St. Louis Browns star first baseman George Sisler. For what it's worth, Sisler still holds the single season record for total hits (257 in 1920), and actually represents two of the top ten single season hit totals (notice Sisler also holds the number 8 spot, for whacking 246 hits in 1922). Here's the listing of the top 25 season total hits, courtesy of Lee Sinins's magnificent Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia:

HITS                          YEAR      H     
1 George Sisler 1920 257
T2 Bill Terry 1930 254
T2 Lefty O'Doul 1929 254
4 Al Simmons 1925 253
T5 Rogers Hornsby 1922 250
T5 Chuck Klein 1930 250
7 Ty Cobb 1911 248
8 George Sisler 1922 246
9 Ichiro Suzuki 2001 242
T10 Babe Herman 1930 241
T10 Heinie Manush 1928 241
T12 Darin Erstad 2000 240
T12 Jesse Burkett 1896 240
T12 Wade Boggs 1985 240
T15 Willie Keeler 1897 239
T15 Rod Carew 1977 239
T17 Don Mattingly 1986 238
T17 Ed Delahanty 1899 238
T19 Paul Waner 1927 237
T19 Harry Heilmann 1921 237
T19 Joe Medwick 1937 237
T19 Hugh Duffy 1894 237
23 Jack Tobin 1921 236
24 Rogers Hornsby 1921 235
T25 Lloyd Waner 1929 234
T25 Kirby Puckett 1988 234

For any baseball statheads who don't have the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, get it, NOW! There's a wealth of information on one CD, readily available when you need it. Generates wonderful listings of sorted stats (see above, for example), and at least til opening day Mr. Sinins has a few specials available (you can get the Baseball Encyclopedia along with a 2004 player comments book in .pdf format, and with .pdf summaries of all active players, or all players in the history of your favorite franchise). A bargain at ten times the price (ok, I exaggerate, but I don't think by much).

sigh I hate mixed feelings....
On the one hand, Wal-Mart is the company any good liberal loves to hate, for a lot of well deserved reasons that we needn't get into here.

However, the company I love to hate even more is Microsoft, and when Wal-Mart is the leader in selling Linux PCs.... Oh God, what's a good liberal penguinista to do?

With SuSE, Lindows, Lycoris and Sun Java OS computers now all available, Wal-Mart is the clear leader in the Linux desktop market. It's a minor claim to fame at present but could pay off in the long run should more consumers take a risk on the open source operating system.

Thought for the Day:
RAT CHOICE: Short for "rational choice," a theory developed by political scientists that says in the long run that political behavior is really the result of the self-interested, goal-oriented behavior of the individual voter. Therefore, politicians will abandon whatever they believe in to become whatever the majority of voters want. Voters on the other hand believe they've been relegated to choosing between the best of two rats.
Nominated by David Schwab

Today's TftD courtesy of the "Buzzword of the Day" newsletter, which you can subscribe to yourself (if you feel so inclined) at

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

What's wrong with this picture?
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Tony Womack's style is to play the game in a hurry.

True to form, the Cardinals' newest second baseman hustled into camp Monday morning in a purple Lamborghini....

Womack's 2003: .226/.251/.307 (batting average/on base percentage/slugging average, for those of you who don't play the home game that often).

And he drives a Lamborghini? Two quotes immediately suggest themselves:

If I played today I'd be a million-dollar player. Is that scary or what?
--Bob Uecker

It isn't the high price of stars that bothers me. It's the high price of mediocrity.
--Bill Veeck

UPDATE 3/24: This is from Brian Walton at The Cardinals Birdhouse yesterday:

Using Lee Sinins’ Sabermetric Encyclopedia, I decided to check out Tony Womack’s 2003 season. It was really bad. I learned that when looking at the entire population of major league players who had at least 300 plate appearances last season, Womack was dead last in OPS at .558. Yep, worst in the entire major leagues. Second was noted out-making machine Rey Sanchez at .570. Gee, I wonder if he is available, too? BTW, OPS is defined as on-base average plus slugging percentage, a stat favored by many to evaluate offensive effectiveness.

Womack’s 2003 OPS is #19 in the list of worst seasons ever by a currently-active player. Granted, we don’t know how much Womack’s elbow injury limited his game last season. Either this is a classic case of “buying low”, or here is a guy who is on the way out. Clearly, Womack was more effective earlier in his career, but he turns 35 during the season and is running out of chances, joining his fifth team in less than 12 months.

Still, I understand the team is going to give him a chance. I just hope and pray that we learn the truth about the 2004 Womack in Memphis, not in St. Louis.

Of course that's easy for you to say, Brian; you don't live in Memphis. :-)

And an unsigned note at the Birdhouse (if I have to bet, I'd say Ray Mileur's doing; it just has that Mileur tone to it) notes the purple Lamborghini too.

I just don't get it....
Brian over at Redbird Nation directed our attention to a Chicago Sun-Times article about how the Cubs management is turning up the heat on the proprietors of the rooftop of an apartment building on Waveland Avenue: Cubs plan surprise for rooftop club.

For those of you who've never had the dubious pleasure of living in Chicago (I spent three of the most miserable years of my life there attending law school), or the distinct and definitely not dubious pleasure of attending a ball game at Wrigley Field.... Waveland Avenue is one of the streets adjoining Wrigley Field. If I'm remembering correctly, Waveland is just beyond the left field bleachers (fans stand in the middle of Waveland with baseball gloves hoping to shag home run balls hit out of the park, a not at all uncommon occurrence), and the bleachers and stadium walls are low enough that the rooftops of the apartment buildings across the street have a pretty decent view of the ballgame. Not nearly as good as being in Wrigley, but for an informal gathering of you and 30-50 of your closest friends, it would be a pretty cool venue (those of you who have watched Cubs games on WGN cable have probably seen the camera catch shots of the Waveland Avenue rooftops during the games).

Back when I was living in Chicago, I don't recall that the Waveland rooftops were a big deal. The people who lived in those apartments were fortunate enough that they could go upstairs on a game day, set up a grill and some lawn chairs, tune a radio in to the game broadcast on WGN radio, grab some binoculars, and see a bit of the game. And I do mean "a bit"; I don't think that the sightlines from the rooftops were all that wonderful (yes, you can see home plate and the infield (but adequately only if you're using binoculars or a telescope, I think), but the scoreboard and bleachers would take out large chunks of the outfield, it seems to me). Primarily, it struck me as a pretty neat way of spending a baseball oriented afternoon (I left Chicago before the Cubs organization committed the horrific blasphemy of installing lights in Wrigley Field) if you could score an invite to one of the rooftops, but it's hardly the place for serious baseball watching. And, it seems to me, the campy glee would be that it'd be a cheap way to spend the afternoon; you'd probably have to pay for beer/booze/soft drinks, and maybe for whatever food was being served, but back then I don't ever recall anyone mentioning that it actually cost money to gain admission to the rooftops.

My what a difference 22 years makes:

Broadway and baseball are rarely mentioned in the same breath, but that may be about to change at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs have hired lighting and scenery experts -- what one source called "Broadway producer-types" -- to devise a way to block the view of the only one of 13 rooftop clubs still refusing to share its profits with the team.

The lone holdout is Skybox on Waveland at 1038 W. Waveland. It's a 120-seat venue roughly 25 feet wide located right down the third-base line. Exclusive use of the rooftop -- including admission, food and beverages -- goes for $7,000 and up per game.

Seven fucking thousand dollars a game? For "seats" with an absolutely lousy (in my humble opinion) view of the game? What in the name of all that is holy is wrong with Chicagoans?

I'm so glad I chose to get the hell out of Chicago after graduation. Obviously, residents of the North Side have way too much money, and no common sense.

Thought for the Day:
The biggest thrill a ballplayer can have is when your son takes after you. That happened when my Bobby was in his championship Little League game. He really showed me something. Struck out three times. Made an error that lost the game. Parents were throwing things at our car and swearing at us as we drove off. Gosh, I was proud.
--Bob Uecker

It's 13 days, 6 hours, 22 minutes and 3 seconds to Opening Day. So yes, there are probably going to be more baseball quotes in the TftD entries before the season opener. I'm sure you can handle it.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Brings back some memories....
unfortunately, not happy ones.

Melanie Matson, at Just a Bump in the Beltway blogs about the recent ecclesiastical trial of a lesbian Methodist minister in Portland, OR. In it, she quotes from a news story on the minister's acquittal at the trial, which includes this gem:

The not-guilty verdict "will be shocking to most United Methodists, because there is no question about what the Reverend Dammann is doing," said the Rev. James V. Heidinger, president of Good News, a conservative renewal movement in the church. "It was assumed by most of us that we were just going through due process to make sure her rights were protected, but that she obviously was in violation of church law."

Back when I was a Navy JAG, the canonical military justice joke was basically the court-martial president who'd turn to the court members and say, "Ok guys, let's give the guilty bastard a fair trial and then hang him!"

It's very jarring to see such sentiments seriously expressed outside the military.

Though in fairness to Rev. Heidinger, at least he recognizes that there are basic due process rights to be protected; President Stupid Chimp, Attorney General Asshole, and the rest of the crew don't even concede that, it seems.

Thought for the Day:
The good Lord was good to me. He gave me a strong body, a good right arm, and a weak mind.
--Dizzy Dean

Sunday, March 21, 2004

At least our dupes are honorable....
Duped, perhaps, but honorable.... A report in the Sydney Morning Herald details how, in up to 40 sorties F/A-18 pilots of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) refused to carry through bombing missions in Iraq when, on arrival at the target, they determined that there was no valid military reason to bomb the target.

In a remarkable account of how our airmen applied Australian rules of engagement, an RAAF pilot has told The Sun-Herald each of the 14 RAAF Hornet pilots aborted three to four bombing runs because intelligence given at pre-flight briefings did not concur with what they found at the target.

Last night, The Sun-Herald could not confirm whether or not American field commanders raised objections about the Australian pilots' actions, nor if US pilots later carried out the bombing runs themselves.

But Australia's Defence Force chief, General Peter Cosgrove backed the pilots' action, and said there were no recriminations.

Squadron Leader Daryl Pudney last week described how he and other Australian F/A-18 pilots were forced to weigh up the risk of civilian casualties in a split second before dropping their bombs.

He said pilots broke off many missions after they saw the target and decided there was not a valid military reason to drop their bombs.


But it appears there were fundamental differences between the US dominated headquarters and Australian pilots over what constituted a valid military target.

Squadron Leader Pudney said under Australia's rules of engagement pilots had to ask themselves on each mission whether it was right to drop their bombs.

"Each guy would have made that decision once to half a dozen times in the conflict. It was presented as being just one pilot in one incident, but it was all of us several times," he said.

"We were providing an identification of targets in conjunction with ground forces, and if we were not 100 per cent sure we were taking out a valid military target in accordance with our specifications we just did not drop."

As we approached the target area we confirmed we had the right place. Then we'd run a check provided through our training that we were doing the right thing by our rules of engagement.

"We exercise those all the time. In Iraq it was a matter of the briefings we received prior in regards to our rules of engagement, as to whether we thought this was a target we should be destroying.

"If it was not, then we decided not to deploy."

What bothers me in this report is the "fundamental differences" between the US authorities and the Aussies. What are our commanders thinking, beyond "Kill 'em all, and let God sort 'em out"? Methinks the Aussies are being much too charitable to us.

Thought for the Day:
A man who carries a cat by the tail is getting experience that will always be helpful. He isn't likely to grow dim or doubtful. Chances are, he isn't likely to carry the cat that way again, either. But if he wants to, I say let him!
--Mark Twain

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Thought for the Day:
Imagine, if you will, the dispiriting experience of listening to an awful cover of one of your favorite songs. That's how I felt sitting through "Die Another Day", the 20th official outing for Ian Fleming's super-spy. This is a train wreck of an action film - a stupefying attempt by the filmmakers to force-feed James Bond into the mindless "XXX" mold and throw 40 years of cinematic history down the toilet in favor of bright flashes and loud bangs. Since "XXX" is a Bond wannabe, that makes "Die Another Day" a second generation knock-off. What's missing from this movie? Any real sense that we're watching 007 rather than a generic spy in a tuxedo.
--James Berardinelli

Friday, March 19, 2004

Don't do as we do, do as we say....
According to the update from the Daily Mislead, the George aWol Bush campaign website features campaign logoed clothing made in Myanmar (formerly Burma).

The problem with that? Well, the Bush bAdministration has embargoed goods made in Myanmar, because of their less than stellar record in such areas as human rights abuses, unfair labor practices, narcotics trafficking, and sex trafficking.

Of course, if the Kerry campaign were selling goods made in Myanmar, we'd be hearing about it from the bAdministration. In fact, given the bAdministration's demonstrated "respect" for the truth, we'll probably hear that the Kerry campaign is selling goods made in Myanmar, even if it isn't.

Today's "Duh!" moment...
Stopped by Schnuck's on the way home to get some bagels, cream cheese and coffee for weekend breakfast on my way home from work today. Standing in line with that (and a few other things which were on special, so I went ahead and got them before I'd spend the money on something frivolous), I noticed that the guy ahead of me in line had a box of Little Debbie™ "Zebra Cakes", on which was clearly printed the price "$1.09", and clutched in his hand he had a dollar bill. As the woman ahead of him finished up her transaction, he turned to me and asked if I had a quarter (I didn't).

He then got to the cashier, who rang up his order (which came up to about $1.20 or so; definitely more money than he had on him. When the cashier asked him for the extra $0.20, he said he didn't have it, whereupon the cashier registered annoyance, took his dollar and let him go. While ringing up my order (for which I did have enough money *grin*), she continued registering her annoyance, asking what I think was meant to be a rhetorical question: "Why would someone come to the store to buy something he knows he doesn't have enough money to buy?"

Because I interpreted it as a rhetorical question, I didn't voice the answer, but you can be sure I thought it: "Duh.... because you just let him get away with it? Just like lots of other people have...."

Juan Cole has an excellent article at Salon....
Welcome to the Quagmire.

Like Allen Brill wrote in The Right Christians yesterday, we're beginning to see how bad it is to put a "Gentleman's C" non-entity into the most powerful job on Earth.

Was it luck, or was it skill?
Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran gives us this gem. Some guys really know how to work the winkie when it counts most:

Cheney received four 2-S draft deferments -- granted to students -- from 1963 through 1965 while he was a student at the University of Wyoming. He married Lynne in 1964, and was thus banned from the draft.

But in October 1965, the Selective Service announced that married men without children could then be drafted. Exactly nine months and two days later -- on July 28, 1966 -- his first child was born.

But it gets even better.

Cheney hadn't waited until her birth before he sought a 3-A [i.e., fatherhood] deferment classification -- given to those with dependents. He did so when Lynne was only 10 weeks pregnant.

Fucking coward.

Friday Cat Blogging.... NOT!
I'm not a cat person (in fact, I'm intermittently allergic to the beasts), but I couldn't resist mentioning this little corner of Photoshop silliness over at Fark. Now, let's see if Elayne can resist.... :-)

(Unless, of course, she found it before I did; unfortunately, I sometimes can't keep up with Elayne's blog nearly as much as I want to.)

More re: the Spanish elections...
Fred Kaplan, in his "War Stories" column in Slate, makes some interesting points that got drowned out in the wingnut chorus of "The terrorists have won! Western civilization is doomed!": The Spanish Civil War--If Zapatero's Iraq pledges are outrageous, so are Bremer's

With all the gasps over Sunday's Spanish election—and the subsequent wailing about the "axis of appeasement," the triumph of terrorism, and the impending doom of Western civilization—it's worth taking a close look at what the country's new prime minister actually said.

Many observers see last weekend's sequence of events as follows: Terrorists blow up trains in Spain, killing 200 passengers; three days later in the general election, Spain's voters toss out the center-rightist Popular Party government of José María Aznar, who had supported the U.S. war in Iraq and sent 1,300 peacekeeper troops in its aftermath; the day after that, the head of the new Socialist Party government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, says he will bring those troops home.

In short, according to this view, terrorists shaped the results of a Western nation's election; the newly elected leader then followed suit by giving in to the terrorist's implicit demands.

If that is indeed what happened, the alarm would be justified. But it isn't.

Here is what Zapatero said at his famous news conference on Monday:
The occupation of Iraq has been poorly managed.... If there isn't a change and the United Nations doesn't take charge of the situation and the occupying forces don't cede political control, the Spanish troops will return and the deadline for their presence there will be June 30. [Italics added.]

Is there anything so shocking here? He didn't say he would definitely withdraw his troops from Iraq—only that he would do so if the U.S. authorities in Iraq don't cede political control by June 30. Isn't the Bush administration planning to do just that—to turn sovereignty over to Iraq by June 30? And isn't L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. occupation authority, doing everything he can to bring in the United Nations well before then to help mediate Iraq's internal conflicts?

Meanwhile, the Bush attack ads are apparently out in full force (Slate's William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg have been doing an excellent job nailing Bush's lies and deceit in those, for a change), making me glad I don't watch TV, and there's a hot rumor in St. Louis that George aWol Bush is going to show up at Busch Stadium on April 5 to throw out the ceremonial first pitch--if that rumor is true, this is going to be the first time in my life that I've actually been glad not to be attending the home opener.

It's going to be a long, long six years until November.

Thought for the Day:
Now, flash forward to the present day. Boston and New York are the new Sparta and Athens. And this baseball season will act out their ancient, tribal blood feud. Drums are pounding. Storm clouds are gathering. Both cities are assembling teams of orcs to grind out swords and axes and maces and hording them in some hellish pit. Old folks in Mass General are on life support, desperate to hang on for seven more months and die happy, with their beloved Sawx finally Winning It All. Meanwhile, Bronxsiders are kneeling before Moloch with rosaries coiled around their fists, praying that the mighty Yankees can chew up their mortal enemies one more time. And by the end of the year, one of the cities -- if not both -- will burn to the ground in either exaltation or humiliation.
--Brian Gunn, Redbird Nation

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Maybe there is a God....
It looks like the European Union (which Microsoft can't seem to buy, unlike the U.S. Government) is set to impose severe sanctions on Microsoft for its violations of European anti-trust law.

Sports Quote of the Day:
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

"The offer speaks for itself," Zygmunt said. "It's not an offer, it's a ransom note."

(on St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace's demand for a 7 year, $71 million dollar contract)

And here's why....
George aWol Bush's degrees from Yale and Harvard don't mean shit. This is from The Right Christians:

The people who run admissions' offices at Ivy League universities are not Randian libertarians who naively or cynically claim that America is a meritocracy. The admissions people listen to the development people who tell them that in nearly all cases the rich get richer even if they are neither intelligent nor hard-working. A university that wants to continue growing its endowment will admit the sons and daughters of the idle rich class even if they have mediocre SATs and grades. As one soon-to-be-fired teacher quipped when a high school classmate of mine was admitted to Harvard, "I guess they needed a new swimming pool."

The problem then arises as to what to do with the MIRCs once they arrive on campus. The social side can be handled with frats and sororities where the kids whose last names are on the buildings can amuse themselves among their own kind. But what about academics? When you go to a lot of trouble to gather those who are supposedly the best and the brightest, how do you accommodate those who are the richest and best-connected but not otherwise qualified?

In George W. Bush's day, the accommodation was called the "Gentleman's C." Those who received it acquired the "gentleman" designation not by virtue of behavior but by birth, and the "C" on their transcripts should never be interpreted as "average" for it usually indicated frequent absences from class, papers from the frat file that had been used two or three times, and blue books that revealed a stunning lack of contact with the course material. What did it matter anyway? These fellows would go on to a life of leisure or, at most, a job title in the family business that required skill with a 7-iron more than the ability to investigate or analyze.

No real harm was done by this system until Karl Rove liked the look of George W. Bush in cowboy boots and decided he could make him President. Now a nation that might have been amused by Bush's "Go Nads!" humor is waking up to the reality of having a "Gentleman's C" president.


Without Karl Rove's ruthlessness and the Bush family's arrogance, George W. Bush's incuriosity and inability to see things in terms other than black and white would have harmed few other than some gullible oil patch investors, but in the realm of world and national leadership, there is no "Gentleman's C." It's time for the American people to give Bush the kind of fair and true evaluation of his ability and effort that his teachers at Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School never did.

Speaking of "the Bush family's arrogance", I just put Kevin Philips's American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush on the reading queue. Perhaps I'll get around to doing a review soon.

Joe Conason has an excellent piece in the New York Observer
Alienated Spain Rejects Bush’s War

Rather than using the events in Spain to retroactively justify the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, honest analysis must acknowledge that last year’s invasion of Iraq was a serious strategic error. By rejecting multilateralism in pursuit of their "pre-emptive" doctrine, the President and his advisers damaged American credibility, weakened the Western alliance and created the situation now being exploited by Al Qaeda.

There may well have been voters in Spain who foolishly cast their ballots for the Socialist Workers Party in the hope that withdrawal from Iraq would protect them from future attacks. The next attack, in France or Germany perhaps, may disabuse them of that illusion. Many more rejected the right-wing Popular Party because they believed that its leaders were lying to them about the Madrid attacks—and had lied about Iraq to justify the government’s profoundly unpopular support of that war.

Their resounding rebuke of George W. Bush is the price of deception.

When the Islamist fanatics first struck on American soil in September 2001, the Spaniards and all Europeans stood with us in complete solidarity. In utter sincerity, they declared: "We are all Americans now." Those emotional expressions were given weight by their own experience with terrorist attacks by both indigenous and foreign killers. The Spanish authorities in particular had spent many years fighting the violent separatists of E.T.A., with the full support of the citizenry. The Spanish people have shown no inclination to appease Basque terror, despite the more than 800 deaths attributed to E.T.A. attacks; they have answered every E.T.A. outrage with massive demonstrations, not unlike those that took place last week across Spain.

After the perpetrators of Sept. 11 were traced to extremist networks in Spain, again the Spanish people betrayed no reluctance to assist in prosecuting the guilty parties. Their intelligence services and legal authorities have been as aggressive as any in the world, cooperating with foreign governments and raiding suspected Islamist cells. The man most admired in Spain by far happens to be Baltazar Garzon, the judge celebrated for his courageous scourging of E.T.A. and Al Qaeda (and Augusto Pinochet and Henry Kissinger, but that’s a different story).

In short, the Popular Party’s hard line against E.T.A.—and Al Qaeda—was no political liability in Spain. To claim otherwise is yet another lie.

Nor have the people of Spain avoided sacrifice in the real war against terrorism. When the United States declared hostilities against the Taliban, announcing its determination to extirpate our assailants in Afghanistan, the Spaniards did more than merely voice their support. Along with the French, the Germans, the Russians and a broad coalition of allies from around the world, they made that just cause their own. Soldiers from many of those nations still serve in Afghanistan and the surrounding region, a terribly dangerous place made more so by our distracted government’s failure to focus on reconstruction and security.

Too many Americans too easily ignore the contributions made in blood and treasure by our European allies in the Afghan conflict. Early in 2002, Spain sent 120 peacekeepers to the International Security Assistance Force. Last May, they lost 62 of those soldiers when an airplane bringing them home crashed in Turkey. There were no mass demonstrations demanding the end of Spanish participation in that international coalition.

Neither ideological inconsistency nor moral cowardice explains why the Spanish electorate dumped the discredited conservatives. The Bush administration’s reckless drive to war in Iraq, against majority dissent in Spain and elsewhere, undermined support for the United States. Since then, people around the world have been confirmed in their worst suspicions about the purported causes of that war. Now we are discovering the destructive impact of the lies told by our own leaders and diplomats, about Baghdad’s weapons of mass destruction and cooperation with Al Qaeda.

Antonin Scalia is corrupt, scum sucking, bottom dwelling slime.
From TalkLeft: Scalia Rules He Can Stay on Cheney Case

Scalia has permanently disqualified himself from ever, ever again complaining about laypersons thinking lawyers and judges are ethically corrupt.

In perpetuity.

Here's the best answer yet....
to the wingnuts "justification" of the Iraq war on the grounds that it got rid of Saddam. From Juan Cole:

It is not necessary, in order to criticize the way the Bush administration prosecuted the Iraq War, to deny that the Baath regime was murderous. Murderous regimes need to be dealt with through international law and institutions. If you just grabbed an unconvicted murderer off the street and lynched him, you would be a murderer in your own right. Vigilanteism is not permitted to individuals; it should not be permitted to individual states, either.

Capt. Yossarian: That's some catch, that Catch 22.
Doc Daneeka: Finest one there is.

I recently had to replace my old monitor with a new one, and one of the joys of running Linux on your home box is that the process of switching monitors may not be as painless as it is in Windows; it's often the case that the configuration settings for the old monitor have to be changed to get the new monitor to work just right. Yesterday, I finally had my life settle down to the point where I could once again take the time to boot up into Linux, and get the monitor settings tweaked. In order to do that, it helps to have the users manual to consult (after all, it's easier to custom set your monitor configuration settings if you know the specifications of the monitor you're dealing with, especially since there is a setting or two which may fry your monitor if you aren't careful). When I bought my new monitor, however, the documentation that came in the box was merely a single sheet "quick start guide" that basically told you how to put the base on the monitor, and then how to plug the power cord into the wall (or into your power strip or UPS if you use those kinda things), and then how to plug the video cable into the proper connection to the video adapter card; this quick start guide told you that if you really wanted to know how to use the monitor (beyond the simplistic, "press the big round button on the front to turn it on" stuff) you had to go to the manufacturer's website to download the monitor user's guide. Well, when I did that, what's on the front cover of the user's guide, in big, bold letters so you can't miss it?


Hmmmmmm... So let me see. I should read the manual before using the monitor, but in order to get the manual, I have to have the monitor working in order to get to the manufacturer's website.....

Thought for the Day:
Hearing President Bush these days constantly complain about "the politicians" and John Kerry being part of a "Washington mind-set," and saying things like "I got news for the Washington crowd" is like hearing Courtney Love bitch about junkies. "Washington insider" is by definition a function of one's proximity to the president. That's you, Mr. Bush. You're ground zero. Ever wonder, sir, why everyone stands and they play music when you enter a room? When you're given check-writing privileges by the Federal Reserve, you just might be a Washington insider.

Lemme try to explain it to you in a different way: You're not "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" -- you're the Washington part. We need a Mr. Smith to mess with you. You're not on a mission you reluctantly accepted, like the old farts in "Space Cowboys." You campaigned for this job, and now you're doing it again. And having been the Grand Poobah for three years, it's a little late to be selling yourself as some fish-out-of-water cowboy visiting the big city on assignment.
--Bill Maher

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Well, you have to admire his dedication....
From Joe Bob's Week In Review (from Joe Bob Briggs) :

Dale Webster of Bodega Bay, California, surfed every day for 28 years to fulfill a vow made on Sunday, February 29, 1976--that he would continue surfing until February 29th once again fell on a Sunday. Now that his 10,407-day vow is complete, he'll be getting a job and starting his career.

Excellent comment from Billmon...
regarding the fallout from the Spanish elections:

But with the meltdown in Spain, it appears to have finally dawned on many conservatives that America really might be alone, or fast heading that way -- and that this might not be such a good thing after all.

Almost by definition, the war on terrorism is a joint venture, in which intelligence sharing, police cooperation, and quick responses are the critical factors, not who owns the most aircraft carriers. If the Europeans conclude the Bush administration isn't serious about fighting
that kind of war, but would rather tilt at Middle Eastern windmills (or oil wells, as the case may be) they could decide their own national interests would be best served by moving to the sidelines, and letting the Americans and Al Qaeda have at it. And why not? When has the Bush administration ever shown any willingness to sacrifice any of its interests -- even the partisan political ones -- to maintain a united front?

I don't
think that point has been reached yet, notwithstanding some recent comments from European Commission President Romani Prodi, which I think are being rather deliberately misinterpreted by the right wingers. But it could happen, and if it does, America is going to be very, very vulnerable.

Well, what message did the Martha Stewart prosecution send?
According to TChris at TalkLeft:

If the government sent a message, it's this: We will prosecute an occasional case against a high profile individual on charges that are relatively simple. Most corporate criminals will be happy to live with that message.

Though an anonymous commenter on that post perhaps nailed it even more closely:

"We will prosecute an occasional case against a high profile individual on charges that are relatively simple."

. . . especially if they raise funds for Democrats.

Did he say it or didn't he....
Read and make up your own mind: Iraq on the Record

The Iraq on the Record Report, prepared at the request of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, is a comprehensive examination of the statements made by the five Administration officials most responsible for providing public information and shaping public opinion on Iraq: President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Thank you Rep. Waxman.

And the problem with this country is....
half the population is below median intelligence. From the WaPo gossip column (I think):

[Reality TV star and "singer" Jessica] Simpson, whose verbal gaffes are also legendary, pulled another one Sunday visiting the White House, our sources say. The singer was introduced to Interior Secretary Gale Norton and gushed: "You've done a nice job decorating the White House."

I won't steal Brian's post....
just hie thyself over to Resonance, and read the excerpt from the transcript of Hans Blix's appearance on Hardball.

And the trouble is, "do as we say, not as we do" just doesn't cut it...
From James Carroll, a depressing analysis of what's gone wrong the past three years: The Bushes' New World Disorder

The repetition of falsehoods tied to the war on terrorism and the war against Iraq has eroded the American capacity, if not to tell the difference between what is true and what is a lie, then to think the difference matters much. The administration distorted fact ahead of the invasion, when the American people could not refute what had not happened yet. And the administration distorts fact now, when the American people do not remember clearly what we were told a year ago. That Bush retains the confidence of a sizable proportion of the electorate suggests that Americans don't particularly worry anymore about truth as a guiding principle of their government.

In that lies the irony. The Bush dynasty has in fact initiated a new order of things. The United States of America has become its own opposite, a nation of triumphant freedom that claims the right to restrain the freedom of others; a nation of a structured balance of power that destroys the balance of power abroad; a nation of creative enterprise that exports a smothering banality; and above all, a nation of forcefully direct expression that disrespects the truth. Whatever happens from this week forward in Iraq, the main outcome of the war for the United States is clear. We have defeated ourselves.

"We have met the enemy and he is us!" Where's Walt Kelly when we really need him?

And meanwhile, it ain't just those foreign leaders who hate Dumbya...
From the WaPo: Opinion of U.S. Abroad is Falling, Survey Finds

A year after the invasion of Iraq, anti-American views have hardened in Europe and in Muslim countries, where lopsided majorities oppose President Bush and are suspicious of U.S. motives, according to a new nine-country opinion poll.

The survey, the largest of its kind, found slipping support for the U.S. war on terrorism in Europe and negative views of the United States in all foreign countries polled except Britain. Big majorities said that the United States does not consider other countries' interests and that Europe should develop more diplomatic and military independence.

Majorities in seven of the eight foreign countries said the war in Iraq hurt or had no effect on the war on terrorism, and only in the United States did a majority believe that the ouster of Saddam Hussein will make the Middle East more democratic.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center, which conducted the survey, said the image of the United States in the world has never polled lower. "This poll says to me the discontent with America is a long-term problem that U.S. leaders have to confront," said poll director Andrew Kohut. "We've never seen ratings as low as this for America." The Pew poll is three years old, and Kohut has been conducting similar surveys in Europe for two decades.

And guess what, President Looks-Like-a-Stupid-Chimp: they dislike you personally:

At the same time, views of Bush were strikingly low in Europe and the Muslim countries. Only 14 percent of Germans, 15 percent of the French, 28 percent of Russians and 7 percent of Pakistanis viewed Bush favorably. Britons, 39 percent of whom viewed Bush favorably, had the most enthusiastic view among foreigners. The opinions represented a dramatic reversal from 1991, when 75 percent of Germans and 72 percent of Russians had a favorable view of President George H.W. Bush, the current president's father.

The real problem is, the truth hurts...
From Josh Marshall's column in The Hill:

American elections aren’t about the views of foreigners. They’re about the views of Americans. If most people around the globe think the American president is reckless, untrustworthy or simply dangerous, that may be something American voters want to take into account in making their judgments. But that’s a more subtle point — and there are better ways to address it than the one Kerry chose.

But McClellan’s claim that Kerry is lying
[about foreign leaders wanting him to beat Bush in the next election] just doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Yes, Kerry’s remark was ill-advised. But one of the main reasons that it was a bad idea to say this is that it’s so obviously true.

Indeed, up until the White House glommed onto this recent line of attack, the administration’s contempt for the views of foreigners has been something it had been proud of and boasted of often. Remember the president’s cocky boasts about not needing anybody’s “permission” to launch the Iraq war?

Just consider a few facts.

The record of foreign elections over the last two and a half years is telling. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find a foreign leader who has supported Bush in any high-profile way and then survived a national election. True, it’s hard to find many examples beside Jose Maria Aznar. But that’s because it’s hard to find any foreign heads of state who have been supporters of the president.

More revealing is how many foreign heads of state and candidates for national office from traditional American allies have successfully played the anti-Bush card in their election campaigns.

The clearest examples are President Roh Moo-hyun, who won election two years ago in South Korea as the first South Korean presidential candidate to openly question the U.S.-ROK security alliance, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who pulled out a razor-thin victory in his 2002 re-election campaign by campaigning against Bush’s Iraq policy.

Washington has tended to view Schroeder’s gambit as cynical and craven, particularly for the leader of a country that has been so closely allied to the United States for half a century. But there’s seldom a shortage of craven or cynical politicians in the world. For understanding America’s current standing in the world, the key point is not so much that Schroeder was or wasn’t craven as that his tactic was successful.

Nor is it much of a surprise.

As Fareed Zakaria — hardly a lefty or a Bush-hater — noted a year ago, the president’s policies have “alienated friends and delighted enemies. Having traveled around the world and met with senior government officials in dozens of countries over the past year, I can report that with the exception of Britain and Israel, every country the administration has dealt with feels humiliated by it.”

For anyone who follows foreign policy even remotely closely, it has to be close to a given that the overwhelming majority of foreign heads of state and foreigners in general hope that Bush will be heading back to Crawford next January.

The president’s deep unpopularity among foreigners and foreign governments is a fact that either campaign could probably use to its advantage. But the fact itself can’t be denied.

It's brilliant. Simply f*cking brilliant....
From Daily Kos, the Repugnicans' latest, "heads I win, tails you lose" argument for reelecting George aWol Bush:

It started with the Spain bombings, and the developing GOoPer and warblogger argument (first identifed by Big Media Matt) that if there are no terrorist attacks through election day, then Bush has made us safer. And if there is an attack before election day, changing leadership would be an act of appeasement.

You have to marvel at the effective simplicity of that stupid ass argument.

At least you have to give credit where credit is due; it's a bit more subtle than the "A vote for Kerry is a vote for Bin Laden" argument.

More stupid Quizilla tricks
Since I did Latin as my high school language requirement, I was wanting to take this for a number of days, but Quizilla was weirding out on me. Nonetheless, sometimes perseverance does pay off:

I am the Master of the Universe!
Magister Mundi sum!
"I am the Master of the Universe!"
You are full of yourself, but you're so cool you
probably deserve to be. Rock on.

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Blast from the Past....
At the Cardinals Fan Site, a rare (well, I've never seen it) picture of Cardinals great Pepper Martin and his Mud Cat band. One of the great hijinks of a great team: The Gashouse Gang.

If you follow that last link, note who sponsors that page. :-) (Hey, he who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted.)

And still counting....
19 days, 5 hours, 45 minutes, 55 seconds until Opening Day....

I don't care about sappy athletic backstories....
about grit, and determination, and rising up from adversity (so sue me, I was born a cynic), but dammit, this is about baseball, and about a maimed veteran who made good. In an unusual display (for me) of sentimentality, this is dedicated to the wounded and maimed veterans of the Iraq War, and in memory of their 565 comrades (to date) who won't even have the chance to try to rise up from their adversity.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame
Inside Pitch - Volume 4, Number 11

** A Hero On and Off the Field
"I had been an athlete all my life and I promised myself the day I found my leg was off that I would continue to be one," Lieutenant Bert Shepard said following his tryout with the Washington Senators on March 13, 1945.

Shepard, a southpaw and pilot in the United States Army Air Force during World War II, lost his right leg between the knee and the ankle when his P-38 aircraft was shot down over Germany on May 21, 1944. He awoke from the crash 10 days later in a German prison camp with his leg amputated.

While recovering, a fellow prisoner made him a crude artificial leg out of scrap metal. One of Shepard's first reactions was to make sure he could still pitch.

After being repatriated back to the United States in a POW exchange, Shepard received an artificial limb at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. Four days later, he was on the ball field trying out with the Senators where he made quite an impression. At bat he hit two consecutive balls over the second baseman's head and on the mound showed plenty of speed and control.

The question, however, was if he could field a bunt with an artificial leg? The answer was a resounding "yes" when he repeated the feat time and time again leading to Senators manager Ossie Bluege's praise, "Thata boy, Shep."

The Senators signed Shepard to their roster and on August 4, 1945, he entered his first and only major league game against the Boston Red Sox. Although the Senators lost the game, Shepard put on an impressive performance pitching 5 1/3 innings, allowing three hits, a walk and one run while striking out two.

Shepard was cut from the Senators in 1946 but continued playing for an American League all-star barnstorming team. In 1948, Shepard managed and played first base for a Class B club in Waterbury, Connecticut. Although he only appeared in one major league game, Shepard's dedication in the face of adversity was an inspiration to all.

** Trivia Quiz
Which future Hall of Fame catcher was behind the plate for the Senators for Shepard's only major league game?

** Trivia Answer
Rick Ferrell

For those of you who are interested, you can find Shepard's career major league stats here.

More on the Spanish election....
From Tom Englehardt:

Perhaps the most distinctive thing about this "coalition," other than the casualties it has taken, is the fact that in almost none of its countries – if you were to believe the various prewar polls – did anything close to a majority of citizens back the American war and occupation. Remember those millions who took to the streets in the prewar moment? Among them none were more vehement or more unified than the Spanish. Polls showed up to 91% of them to be against the war. Think about that for a moment. Nine percent of Spaniards supported the war (and perhaps that figure even included the "don't knows").

This week, under the most horrific possible circumstances, the Spanish people voted to repudiate their government's support for the war and occupation. In the days before the vote that threw out the conservative government of Prime Minister and close Bush ally Jose Maria Aznar, protestors reportedly cried out, "Our dead, your war!" and that simplest of all words, one that should someday be heard in the streets of American cities as well, "Lies!"

To some extent, this is now, being presented here as the first al Qaeda regime change. But to back up a moment and consider what's just happened realistically, the first "regime change" in Spain was, of course, the decision of Aznar's democratically elected government to defy and betray, rather than represent the will of 90% of its own people – and then, in a moment of crisis, to lie to them about the worst terrorist act to strike Europe in our lifetime.

This is undoubtedly a crucial moment, possibly even a "tipping point." The peoples of the world returned to their homes last April by the multimillions without stopping the Iraqi war, and so their massive demonstrations were seen as failures, but at least in one country it turned out that the demonstrators did not, in fact, demobilize. When their moment came, they acted consistently and with honor. Don't believe for a second that it can't happen elsewhere.

Did al-Qaeda win the Spanish election? Well, when a politician defies the will of 90% of the electorate (even if s/he's acting in pursuit of the highest principles), s/he runs the risk of being voted out of office. It's called "democracy", and it's refreshing to see it in action.

Thought for the Day:
[U]nless they state otherwise, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is only responsible for providing you with access to the Internet. ISPs are not censors, babysitters, or moral gurus. Users who demand that ISPs regulate the content found on the Internet are flyblown idiots. This is akin to walking into a public library, paying for a library card, and then complaining that you're able to access books that you find distasteful. You know, books that claim that the Earth revolves around the sun. Those books.
--A.J. Axline

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Been waiting years for this....
According to this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (you have to scroll down to the very last item on the page), Fox Home Entertainment is set to release the 1938 cult classic Reefer Madness (original title, Tell Your Children) on DVD come April 20th. Or, if Amazon's website is to be believed, I should have written "re-release"; Amazon's currently listing the DVD of Reefer Madness as "Out of stock". Still, a gem of cult comedy, and worth every penny.

Did al-Qaeda Win the Spanish Elections?
Juan Cole's answer to that question, in the Len Cleavelin Condensed Version, is "horseshit" (and I hope Professor Cole doesn't object too strongly to that condensation of his argument; if he does I'll happily redact that).

You can read the long answer here.

This silly question is being asked by billionnaire Rupert Murdoch's and Conrad Black's media outlets all over the world in blazing headlines. For some strange reason, the billionnaires aren't happy that the Socialist Workers' Party won the elections in Spain, and are trying to portray the outcome as cowardice on the part of the Spanish public.

The entire argument is specious from beginning to end. First of all, the Iraq war had nothing to do with the battle against al-Qaeda. Nothing whatsoever. Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and others were pressing for a war against Iraq in the 1990s before al-Qaeda had even become much of a threat to the US (certainly, they do not bring it up in their writings of the period). There is no evidence for any significant collaboration between the secular socialist Arab nationalist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the neo-Caliphate hyper-Sunni fundamentalist movement of al-Qaeda. (Az-Zaman is reporting that Saddam proposed Bin Laden for "Man of the Year" in 2002; I believe the report is a fraud, but even if it were not, it would have been nothing more than a publicity stunt. It wasn't a terrorist operation or proof of one).

So, Jose Maria Aznar, in supporting Bush on the war against Iraq, was not standing up to al-Qaeda.

I believe that the Spanish public just recognized the correctness of the "opportunity cost" argument about the Iraq War and anti-terrorism efforts. Let's say you are in business. If you put your capital, which is limited, into expanding one part of your business ("X"), you may make money--say 7% percent on your investment. But you had another opportunity to put your money into expanding a different part of the business ("Y">, and that would have given you a 25% percent return (which you did not know at the time). Giving up the 25% return is an opportunity cost of doing X rather than Y.

The Iraq War represents an enormous opportunity cost in the counter-insurgency struggle against al-Qaeda and its constituents.


Let me repeat that. Maybe $1.3 billion for Afghanistan. $250 billion for Iraq. Bin Laden and his supporters are in Afghanistan. What is wrong with this picture?


With the secession of Spain from the "coalition of the willing," the rug has been pulled out from under the Bush doctrine of preemption, the Bush commitment to US military action without a proper UNSC resolution, and the Bush conviction that you can fool all the people all the time. Since Bush administration militarism and desire to go about overthrowing most of the governments in the Middle East actually was highly destabilizing and created enormous numbers of potential recruits for al-Qaeda, the Spanish actions are a great victory for the counter-insurgency struggle against al-Qaeda.

And the folks at Ironic Times are on a roll today
Also from today's edition:

Partial Text of Iraqi Constitution

We the People of Iraq, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, crack down on looters not members of our families, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and the members of our religious group, do ordain and establish this Constitution, if it's OK with Paul Bremer. No official may seize any man's property, including his wife and daughters, without due process of law. Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, except maybe Islam. For the support of this document, and with a firm reliance on the protection of Allah, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and a reasonable share of the kickbacks from Halliburton.

From today's Ironic Times:
Boston Archdiocese Sues Insurance Co. For $85 Million In Sex Abuse Claims
Unfortunately, somebody has to win.

Interesting Historical Juxtapositions Dept.:
According to the always reliable Doctor Science newsletter, today is the 36th anniversary of the My Lai massacre, and the mutual birthday of both Jerry Lewis and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

My brain is going to be teased all day trying to figure out the cosmic significance of this.

Somehow, I'd just rather stay single with dignity....
The way station between prostitution and internet dating? Imaginary Girlfriend.

With an Imaginary Girlfriend, you can carry on a completely fictitious, yet authentic looking relationship with the girl of your choice.

Browse through our site and choose your favorite girl to see what she can offer as your Imaginary Girlfriend.

Just make up how you met and include any details about yourself that you want your new girlfriend to know. Within days you'll receive personalized love letters by mail, e-mails, photos, special gifts... even phone messages or online chat. Every Imaginary Girlfriend is unique.


The girls are real. The relationship is not. When your time is up you can break up with her for whatever reason you decide, and she'll write you a final letter begging you to take her back. Our service is easy-to-use, lots of fun, and discreet. The privacy of our customers and Imaginary Girlfriends is always protected.

Go ahead, pick out an Imaginary Girlfriend today. We won't tell anyone that it's not real!

Fees seem to be about $40-45 for two months, and some of the girls say you can break up anytime in the two month period, and they'll spend the rest of it begging for you to take them back.... For those of you who want to be stalked, but just don't feel up to going to find your private Glenn Close, I suppose.

For those of you keeping track....
Jon Sparks's personal blog has a listing of performers scheduled to play at this year's Beale Street Music Festival (IIRC, the inaugural event of Memphis in May). Includes links to the performers' official websites, and tags indicating whether a performer is a regional performer or a blues performer. Thanks, Jon!

UPDATE: If you'd rather support Jon's employer, you can find the same listing (plus some extra editorial material, I believe) at Jon's CA blog as well.

It's a sad, sad state of affairs....
when my blogging time is cut down so low that my blogroll stretches miles below the end of the 7 days worth of posts that I have my main blog page configured to display. Here's wishing for an attack of logorrhea (and a lightening of the workload) soon....

Thought for the Day:
On antimissile defense:

In the past six years of flight tests, here is what the Pentagon's missile-defense agency has demonstrated: A missile can hit another missile in mid-air as long as a) the operators know exactly where the target missile has come from and where it's going; b) the target missile is flying at a slower-than-normal speed; c) it's transmitting a special beam that exaggerates its radar signature, thus making it easier to track; d) only one target missile has been launched; and e) the "attack" happens in daylight.

Beyond that, the program's managers know nothing—in part because they have never run a test that goes beyond this heavily scripted (it would not be too strong to call it "rigged") scenario.

It's as if some kid were to hit a baseball thrown by a pitching machine straight down the middle at 30 mph and, on the basis of that feat, claimed he could hit whatever Mark Prior might throw him from a real mound, pitch after pitch after pitch, without fail.
--Fred Kaplan

Monday, March 15, 2004

Ever want to get your palm read?
Don't bother spending money on some "psychic". You can get an amazingly accurate palm reading, via the web, here: Online Palm Reader.

And another reason why I read Jon....
anyone who dislikes John Grisham novels can't be all bad.

Hmmmmm.... Bad Publicity Ploy of the Year?
Over on his CA blog, Jon Sparks has the front runner in the "Most Tasteless Publicity Gimmick I've Ever Seen" competition. If I were having one, that is...

Launched today...
a new progressive site of interest. The Gadflyer. Looks to be well worth the time and trouble to keep up with. Give 'em a gander and see how you like it.

Thought for the Day:
Going back to the bonobos, a student I once had in my animal behavior class was confused by the idea that sex was used to resolve social crises. Imagine, I said, that you and somebody else both wanted something, like a banana. If you were humans, maybe you'd fight over it, but if you were bonobos, you'd have sex. The student still looked puzzled. Yeah, he said, but then who would get the banana? By that time, I replied, you wouldn't care about the banana.
--Marlene Zuk [Professor of Biology, UC--Riverside]

Sunday, March 14, 2004

I'm late, again....
But then again, so was SKBubba. I see that we've added a few more folks to the World Famous Rocky Top Brigade:
Welcome all.

Well, you gotta have your priorities straight....
Here in Memphis, there's an outfit called Flinn Broadcasting, owned by a local radiologist (I think) turned broadcasting entrepreneur and occasional political candidate named George Flinn. While I've never read anything about George's religious persuasions, I suspect that they're fairly conservative Christian. I deduce this from a billboard which Flinn owns on Union Avenue, one with a big animated display on it. In recent weeks this billboard displays advertising for George's stations six days a week, but on Sundays it displays a Christian message (quoting from memory, something along the lines of "He is risen. If you confess in your heart the Lord Jesus and believe that God raised him from the dead you will be saved"). But in the last week or two, Flinn Broadcasting changed the format of one of its stations (FM 107.5; formerly The Pig ("Barbecue for your brain") but now Q 107.5 "Memphis' #1 Hit Station"), and today the sign displayed nothing but a plug for the new Q 107.5. Obviously, some things take precedence over harvesting souls for Jebus. Like plugging our new format.

Thought for the Day:
Yesterday, someone forwarded to the SKEPTIC list a follow up on the story which hit the wires in late 2001 or early 2002, about a Florida town (Inglis, FL) whose mayor decided to issue a proclamation banning Satan from the town. The article included this quote from a man who, in the election following the weird proclamation, ran against the mayor in question:

[I]f you start thinking that the devil is outside of you, foreign somehow, you stop taking a good, hard look at the evil inside yourself, in your own deeds.
--Floyd Craig

Saturday, March 13, 2004

It's getting closer....
23 days, 4 hours 2 minutes, 34 seconds til Opening Day.

Thought for the Day:
A musing on why the Hubble Space Telescope will soon be no more. From Bob Park's "What's New" newsletter:

There was brief joy among astronomers yesterday when they heard the news that NASA had agreed to have the National Academy of Sciences consider the decision to cancel another Hubble repair mission on safety grounds. But later in the day, Sean O'Keefe, the NASA Administrator, punched a hole in their canoe. He made it clear that while he was willing to have experts look at the decision, there was nothing they could say that would change his mind. I called Ann Thropojinic, a veteran astronaut at NASA Headquarters, to help me understand this. "You scientists just don't get it, do you?" she sighed. "People don't care what's going on 13 billion light years away. They want to know how you eat spaghetti in zero gravity. You should have thought about that before you let Hubble go up without a permanent crew."

Friday, March 12, 2004

Thought for the Day:
Technically, I guess, you could call our new stadium Busch III -- Sportsman's Park was renamed Busch Stadium from 1953 to 1965, and our current ballpark is known as Busch II. But there's trouble a-brewin' with B3: apparently it's being built on ground that was once used as holding pens for slaves; and later the site was used as a military prison. Some historians don't like that the Cardinals are disrupting a possible archaeological treasure. But screw history -- I'm more concerned about those pissed-off slaves and prisoners haunting us for decades to come, maybe even rising out of the ground to throw lightning bolts at Scott Rolen like the ghouls in Poltergeist.
--Brian@Redbird Nation []

Thursday, March 11, 2004

How bad is the spam problem?
Let's put it this way: spam actually predates the Internet.

That's true; here's a reference to what is arguably the first email spam, which was sent on May 1, 1978 to a whole butt-load of ARPANET addresses.

Thought for the Day:
An engineer thinks that his equations are an approximation of reality.
A physicist thinks reality is an approximation of his equations.
A mathematician doesn't care.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Probable light blogging today and tomorrow...
possibly extending through the weekend. For a change this isn't all bad--I'm actually getting a smattering of a social life in, and tentatively have plans to be getting together with a number of friends in the next several days--but it may cut down on the frequency of posting a bit.

Try to maintain an even keel in my absence. ;-)

Thought for the Day:
As an executive branch employee for the last 24 years, I can assure you that there is no such thing as ‘the government.’ The phrase suggests a monolithic entity with a single purpose. In fact there are three branches that were deliberately designed to be at odds with each other. Even limiting the discussion to the executive branch - the one that comes under the ‘Executive Office of the President’ - there are a multitude of departments and agencies pulling in many different directions. If you are speaking of the current administration, I can't tell that it matters to them. As long as large corporations and wealthy individuals continue to contribute as much as they can, any way they can, the administration will continue to reward them. In theory Congress, especially the House, should be more concerned about the effects on their constituents. If you ask any one of them about it, s/he will say the right thing. But as can be seen from their inability to pass a budget on time (once in the past 10 years, I believe), the only thing they are effective at is delivering pork to the folks at home. Again, as long as the contributions keep rolling in, the bills and votes will favor the contributor. Money buys access - period!
--US Federal government IT staffer [quoted by Robert X. Cringely,]

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

More on Babe Ruth...
This is in the "getting psyched for Opening Day" mode... Yesterday I blogged:
Famous Last Words...
According to, today is the 74th anniversary of Babe Ruth's signing a two year, $160,000 contract. Ruth's $80,000 per year under the deal made him the highest paid major league player of all time (up to that date), and when a reporter noted that Ruth would be making more than the President of the United States, Ruth noted "I had a better year than he did."

But the Famous Last Words were those of Yankees General Manager Ed Barrow, who solemnly assured reporters that "No one will ever be paid more than Ruth."

And now Major League minimum salary is in the six figures....

Rereading this today, I recalled that The World's Smartest Human Being, Cecil Adams, once addressed the question of how Ruth's then incredible salary would stack up against today's "inflated" (according to some commentators) athletes' salaries. Unfortunately for me, this Gem of Undying Wisdom From Cecil hasn't been transferred to the archives at the Straight Dope website, which means that I have to type it all out for you. But it's good, trust me.

From The Straight Dope: A Compendium of Human Knowledge, by Cecil Adams (my copy is the Ballantine trade paperback edition, p. 335-6):
I believe that Babe Ruth's salary level in the late 1920's (around $100,000 annually) stood for some time as the highest in the history of sport when one took inflation and the tax rates into account. Judging by the astronomical wages being paid these days in baseball, it would seem that someone must have passed the Sultan of Swat by now. What was Ruth's highest salary and what would its current equivalent be?--Gary B., Chicago

In his top year salarywise (actually it was two years, 1930 and 1931) Ruth pulled down $80,000 per. However, salary accounted for only a fraction of his earnings. In 1927, for instance, the year he hit 60 homers, he took in $70,000 in salary and at least $110,500 in other income, including his World Series share, cash from a movie and a barnstorming tour, and so on. Add in payments for personal appearances, endorsements, investments, and other lucrative sidelines, and some estimate that Ruth cleared nigh unto $300,000. During the 15 years he spent with the Yankees, Ruth earned approximately $850,000 in salary, with maybe another $5-600,000 for exhibition and barnstorming fees, World Series shares, and other baseball income. Nonbaseball earnings are estimated at between one and two million bucks, giving us, conservatively speaking, a total of $3 million for Ruth's prime earning years. To figure out what this would be worth today, we note that $1 in 1930 would buy $5.91 worth of stuff at today's prices (as of April, 1983, actually), and that the top federal income tax rate in the late 20s and early 30s was 5 percent, whereas today it is 50 percent. This means that Ruth's $80,000 salary would be the current equivalent of $898,400--which happens to be almost exactly what Reggie Jackson gets today from the California Angels, excluding bonuses (Jackson's got a four year, $3.6 million contract). As for career earnings, Ruth's chief rival nowadays would have to be Muhammad Ali, who earned $69 million between 1960 and 1981. Figuring an average top income tax rate of 70 percent during the Ali years, and using the 1972 Consumer Price Index as our benchmark, Ruth's salary works out to the equivalent of $23.8 million. Clearly, when it comes to Ali, Ruth is pale by comparison.

Best metaphor I've read today...
From fellow RTB member blog LeanLeft: Chickens Voting for Colonel Sanders (about gay Republicans).

Pretty damn good post too; go read it.

If this works....
expect President George aWol Bush to appoint someone like Franklin Graham as official American Christian fatwah declarer, and the first American Christian fatwah will most likely be, "It is a grave and heinous sin to vote for anyone other than President Bush this November..." From Juan Cole: Sistani Fatwa: No Entering Iraq Illegally

Informed that thousands of Iranian pilgrims came into Iraq every day, by-passing the official checkpoints, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sitani issued a legal ruling on Friday insisting that such illegal entry was religiously forbidden. He said that good Shiites would cross only at official checkpoints. He also forbade smuggling.

How to avoid Web Registrations!
According to this post at use the following credentials:

Username: "freethepresses" (or "" for those sites that use email addresses as a user ID).
Password: "freethepresses"

According to the post, this will work at the websites of the LA Times, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post.

Check it out and see, you have nothing to lose by it.

Then again, I do get a kick out of telling these websites I'm a 97 year old grandmother from Burkina Faso...

Props to fellow Memphis blogger Eric at webraw ("digital sushi for your mind") for pointing me in this direction.

Thought for the Day:
Today we have a dialog; from Jacob Weisberg and William Saletan (both of Slate), about George aWol Bush's new feel good campaign ads: Morning in Bush's Head

Weisberg: [T]he effort is one of positive association: Bush with flags, Bush with heroic firemen, Bush with America after Sept. 11. But the display text implicitly makes a more tendentious point, depicting the president's first term as the story of him being handed a country in deep economic crisis, exacerbated by the terrorist attacks, and now finally "turning the corner" thanks to his leadership.

This is a selective version of the past four years, to say the least. Where'd the Iraq war go? And how did Bush become a victim of a weak economy, rather than the perpetrator of one? There is also some explicit dishonesty. The text of "Safer, Stronger" begins: "January 2001, The challenge: An economy in recession. A stock market in decline. ..." In fact, as Bush acknowledged quite recently in his Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert, he did not inherit a recession from President Clinton. The recession began two months after he arrived, in March 2001.

This is the only demonstrably untrue statement to be found in these three ads. Tellingly, it is also nearly the only statement of fact in any of them.

Saletan: That's a great catch about misstating the start of the recession. I missed that. I was too mesmerized by the ad's massive sleight-of-hand, recasting everything that's gone wrong under Bush as a "test" or a "challenge" presented to him at the outset. Bush won the presidency in 2000 by reframing everything that had gone right under Clinton as a given, to which Clinton had failed to add more. The "prosperity" had been handed to Clinton, who in turn had failed to put it to a larger "purpose." Now Bush plays the same game with his own administration. The recession that began two months into Bush's term? The terrorist strike that happened eight months in? Well, as Bush likes to say, if you've got a problem, blame somebody else.

What really kills me is when Bush includes in his list of challenges the "march to war" in Iraq. As he put it yesterday, "Laura reminded me one time about, on the TV screens, you started to see the banner, 'March to War,' in the summer of 2002. That's not very conducive for investing capital. If you're an employer, if you're a small business owner and all of a sudden you're thinking about marching to war, it doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in the economy. We overcame that." Overcame that? And whose idea was it to march to war? Clinton's?

Monday, March 08, 2004

Famous Last Words...
According to, today is the 74th anniversary of Babe Ruth's signing a two year, $160,000 contract. Ruth's $80,000 per year under the deal made him the highest paid major league player of all time (up to that date), and when a reporter noted that Ruth would be making more than the President of the United States, Ruth noted "I had a better year than he did."

But the Famous Last Words were those of Yankees General Manager Ed Barrow, who solemnly asssured reporters that "No one will ever be paid more than Ruth."

And now Major League minimum salary is in the six figures....

Ok, I can't resist....
28 Days 'til Opening Day.

From this week's Ironic Times:
A Nation Divided: 50% Believe We'll All Die in "Fiery Armageddon"
50% think other 50% is "nutty as a fruitcake."

Thought for the Day:
OK, but why a gnome in particular as the face of your brand? He is, of course, just the latest in a long line of odd, vaguely humanoid brand mascots—Michelin has the Michelin Man; Pillsbury has its Doughboy; Hamburger Helper has the severed Helping Hand; and McDonald's has Yao Ming. In a mascot showdown, MSN and AOL pit the pudgy butterfly dude against the yellow, stick-figure dude. I'm not sure, but if I had to guess why companies favor these mascots, I'd say two reasons are: 1) they're more animated than a plain old logo; and 2) they're cheaper (and less prone to felony indictment) than a big-name celebrity.
--Seth Stevenson

Sunday, March 07, 2004

I wonder if....
"The spam filter ate it" is an acceptable excuse?

I have sinned. I have failed grievously in my obligation as a proud member of The Rocky Top Brigade to mention last Thursday's edition of The Volunteer Tailgate Party, hosted last week by Teresa of Hatamaran. I can only ascribe this failing to the fact that I don't recall receiving the post to the RTB mailing list informing us that the VTP had been posted, and the most likely explanation is that my spam filter ate it, and I didn't notice that it did.

If the RTB will prepare the wet noodle, I'll prepare myself to recieve the ceremonial flogging.

Thanks to Big Stupid Tommy for posting this on his site back on Thursday; it isn't his fault that things in Real Life™ have conspired to keep me from checking his blog until this afternoon.

Why should I mention the Martha Stewart trial?
This makes any comments I have superfluous. BTW, I suspect the link will not point to what I want to point to starting sometime Sunday March 14, 2004. So if you're visiting here after Saturday, March 13, 2004, feel free to follow the link (Al Hedstrom's a great guy, and a fellow alumnus of Naval Legal Service Office, Subic Bay, RP; your visit to World Phamous will still be worthwhile), but you won't see what I'm wanting you to see. Follow the archive link back to Sunday, March 7, 2004 to see that.

This speaks volumes....
about why I think George aWol Bush is a turd. Melanie Mattson (hope I spelled that correctly) of Just a Bump on the Beltway points us to an interview with an "unknown soldier" in Iraq. After reading shit like this, I can understand why he decided to remain "unknown":

Q. What did you think about President Bush’s Thanksgiving visit to Iraq?

I was there when President Bush came to the [Baghdad] airport. The day before, you had to fill out a questionnaire and answer questions, that would determine whether they would allow you in the room with the President.

Q. What was on the questionnaire?

“Do you support the president?”

Q. Really!


Q. Members of the military were asked whether they support the president politically?

Yes. And if the answer was not a gung-ho, A-1, 100 percent yes, then you were not allowed into the cafeteria. You were not allowed to eat the Thanksgiving meal that day. You had an MRE.

I swear to God (if he exists, which I doubt), that if I ever, ever meet George aWol Bush in my life, I'm going to spit in his face. If I don't belt him in the mouth first.

The asshole.

But go read the whole interview. It's good.

Why do I wish....
someone would pay me to blog full-time? Because then I wouldn't miss gems like this: Confidence Man: The case for Bush is the case against him (by William Saletan in Slate).

"I know exactly where I want to lead this country," says George W. Bush in one of his new campaign ads. The ad, along with three others that began airing today, concludes with his official campaign theme: "President Bush. Steady leadership in times of change." In the revamped stump speech he has delivered twice in the last two weeks, Bush calls the election "a choice between an America that leads the world with strength and confidence, or an America that is uncertain in the face of danger."

And how does Bush view his challenger, John Kerry? The title of the attack ad posted on Bush's campaign Web site says it all: "Unprincipled."

Kerry thinks it's the other way around. He's been telling Democrats Bush is "the biggest say-one-thing, do-another" president ever. Yesterday Kerry's campaign responded to Bush's ads by accusing the president of "unsteady leadership." In the Democratic primaries, this accusation worked for Kerry, because liberals think Bush is a liar. But most voters don't, for a good reason: It isn't true. If Kerry makes the election a referendum on Bush's honesty, Bush will win.

How can Kerry persuade moderates to throw out Bush? By turning the president's message against him. Bush is steady and principled. He believes money is better spent by individuals than by the government. He believes the United States should assert its strength in the world. He believes public policy should respect religious faith. Most Americans share these principles and think Bush is sincere about them. The problem Bush has demonstrated in office is that he has no idea how to apply his principles in a changing world. He's a big-picture guy who can't do the job.

From foreign to economic to social policy, Bush's record is a lesson in the limits and perils of conviction. He's too confident to consult a map. He's too strong to heed warnings and too steady to turn the wheel when the road bends. He's too certain to admit error, even after plowing through ditches and telephone poles. He's too preoccupied with principle to understand that principle isn't enough. Watching the stars instead of the road, he has wrecked the budget and the war on terror. Now he's heading for the Constitution. It's time to pull him over and take away the keys.

Frankly, I'm not sure I agree with Saletan that Bush isn't a liar. In order to assume that Bush is not a liar, you simply have to believe that he is far, far too stupid to be occupying the office he occupies, and that he's merely the puppet of the evil forces which manipulate him for their own nefarious purposes (which is, however, a quite plausible scenario, and if that's what you believe I'm not going to call you stupid, by any means). But he is right in one respect: I think Bush is a much more practiced con-man than we realize, and unfortunately he still has the American public fooled. While I don't agree with the analysis, I think Saletan's strategy has some merit--don't paint the man as the liar he is, but just point out that sticking to one's convictions isn't an unalloyed virtue.

A most excellent post on Friday...
by Billmon, on why we should never forget 9/11/2001:

I don't think it's at all good for the American public to flush 9/11 down the collective memory hole, so that we can all get back to the greater glory of increasing the Gross Domestic Product. The lessons of that day are many, and hardly any of them have been learned -- and the ones that have been learned are largely the wrong ones. To quote George Bush:

"We must never forget the day when the terrorists left their mark of murder on our nation."

God forbid, but it looks like Shrub and I actually agree on something.

Even if it is for very different reasons. Bush and his GOP minders want America to wallow in a sense of righteousness victimhood, the better to whip the testosterone intolerant into a patriotic frenzy, and intimidate the rest of us into pretending we're all extras in a remake of
Why We Fight.

Well, sorry to disappoint you, Mr. President, but this isn't World War IV. And it appears the American people are gradually coming to understand that it's not. They simply aren't willing to live in a permanent paranoia -- the necessary psychological condition for creating (or rather, recreating) the kind of Cold War garrison state that would safeguard a conservative majority.

But facing reality isn't the same as just denying an unpleasant memory. Bush is right: We should never forget 9/11. The threat of terrorism is too real, and the stakes are getting too higher, as Sy Hersh reports:
Robert Gallucci, a former United Nations weapons inspector who is now dean of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, calls A. Q. Khan "the Johnny Appleseed" of the nuclear-arms race.

Gallucci, who is a consultant to the C.I.A. on proliferation issues, told me, "Bad as it is with Iran, North Korea, and Libya having nuclear-weapons material, the worst part is that they could transfer it to a non-state group. That's the biggest concern, and the scariest thing about all this--that Pakistan could work with the worst terrorist groups on earth to build nuclear weapons. There's nothing more important than stopping terrorist groups from getting nuclear weapons. The most dangerous country for the United States now is Pakistan, and second is Iran." Gallucci went on, "We haven't been this vulnerable since the British burned Washington in 1814."

That may be a bit of an exaggeration -- but only a bit. The nuclear genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and all those years of treating nonproliferation as an afterthought, or as simply another bleeding-heart liberal fantasy, are finally catching up with us.

What's most needed, though, isn't another round of Orange Alerts, or a grand offensive to capture Osama bin Ladin, or another speech from Bush about spreading "democracy." What's most needed is for the American people to understand that the rules of the game have fundamentally changed.

To be completely blunt about it: The USA simply cannot fuck with rest of the world with impunity any more. There's now a very real, and potentially huge, price to be paid for playing the role of global cop (or global empire) while indulging in an essentially isolationist mindset at home. Little items like America's dependence on foreign oil, or its lockjawed support for the state of Israel, or the arrogance and corruption of the IMF, or the relentless drive to open up foreign markets to international trade and capital (what conservative scholar Andrew Bacevich calls the "ideology of openness") -- these all have consequences that extend
way beyond the small coterie of intellectuals and interest groups that have traditionally dominated the U.S. foreign policy debate.

In short, we need to realize that being the world's only "superpower" simply ain't an advantage anymore. Unless we change our ways, that simply means that we're the biggest target in the world. And I'm afraid we're going to keep receiving our share of pot-shots (or worse) until we learn that lesson.

Thought for the Day:
Please, no more Olympic back-stories. The Athens Games are six months away and already the press has started with their frosted-lens, tear-jerk pieces about which swimmer’s mom has cancer, whose brother was paralyzed in a car wreck and the pole vaulter with the autistic dog. And just when I was starting to get Lance Armstrong’s testicles out of my mind. Let’s honor our Olympic champions properly – for their athletic abilities and the countries they represent…at least until they pee in the cup and get stripped of their medals.
--Bill Maher [the Bill Maher blog]

Friday, March 05, 2004

There are some questions we were never meant to answer....
like, why?

Thought for the Day:
Externally, Microsoft is pulling the same shenanigans any successful monopolist pulls. They delay, they obscure, they maybe tell a little fib or two, but mainly they act really, really stupid. This is by design. Here's an example from history. In the 1920s, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company had a monopoly on oil production in the Middle East, which they generally protected through the use of diplomatic (and occasionally military) force against the local monarchies. Then the Gulf Oil Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., literally sneaked into Kuwait and obtained from the Al-Sabah family (who still run the place) a license to search for oil.

The Anglo-Persian Oil company did not like Gulf's actions, but they were even more dismayed to learn that Gulf couldn't be told to just go to hell. Andrew Mellon, of the Pittsburgh Mellons, was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and he wasn't about to let his oil company be pushed around by the British Foreign Office. So Anglo-Persian and the Foreign Office did their best to delay Gulf, and their best lasted several years. They lied a little, lost a few maps, failed to read a telegram or two, and when Gulf still didn't go away, the British turned to acting stupid. As the absolute regional experts on oil exploration, they offered to do Gulf's job, to save the Americans the bother of searching for oil in Kuwait by searching for them.

The Anglo-Persian Oil company searched for oil in Kuwait for 22 years without finding a single drop.

Remember that Kuwait is smaller than Rhode Island. Not only is it sitting atop more than 60 billion barrels of oil, it has places where oil has been known to seep all the way to the surface. People have known about this seepage for more than 3,000 years. Yet Anglo-Persian was able to fulfill its contract with Gulf and keep two oil rigs continually drilling in Kuwait for 22 years without finding oil. To drill this many dry wells required intense concentration on the part of the British drillers. They not only had to be NOT looking for oil, they had to be VERY ACTIVELY NOT LOOKING for oil, which is even harder.
--Robert X. Cringely

Thursday, March 04, 2004

And this makes me proud to be a product of the St. Louis Public Schools....
Again, from the Post: School Board member is arrested after incident

Of course, it's a boring day, and I was hoping that the "incident" in question would be something salacious, like giving a blowjob to a administrator candidate in her office. Alas, it's a bit more bizarre than that; the Board member threw a pitcher of water on an Assistant Superintendent of Schools.

I wasn't surprised to learn that the Board member was none other than Rochell Moore. Ms. Moore already drew national attention by exhibiting some truly bizarre behavior already:

Moore was elected to a four-year term on the School Board in 2001.

Last August, Moore placed a "curse" on Mayor Francis Slay, saying he would be smitten "with the sword and with blasting and with mildew."

In December 2002, Moore wrote to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, alleging that Jones and School Board member Amy Hilgemann may have dosed her with cocaine in a political conspiracy designed to "interfere with the election process and control the dynamics of the School Board."

Medical records that Moore provided to the Post-Dispatch last year indicate Moore was committed against her will for six days in October 2002 for fear that she might be a danger to herself or others, and that while in the hospital doctors found cocaine in her system.

One memo in her hospital file noted that Moore was "violent, incoherent, lacking physical and cognitive self-control" and exhibited "paranoia and persecutory delusions."

Ms. Moore's psychiatrists would probably be well advised to adjust her medications. Either that, or figure out how to keep her compliant with them.

St. Louis leads the way, for a change....
Or maybe this has happened elsewhere, and I haven't heard the news yet. I've seen references to this possibility of this happening in some news commentary relative to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and The (Anglican) Church of the Good Shepherd are locked in a lawsuit over who owns the church building and assets. Apparently the majority of parishoners at Good Shepherd are conservatives who disapprove of the consecration of Canon Robinson as bishop, given that he's openly gay, and they've voted to remove themselves from the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and affiliate with the (apparently more conservative) Anglican Mission in America. Of course, they'd rather not build their new church from scratch, so they want to take it with them, a move which the Episcopal Diocese sees as tantamount to stealing the church's assets from them.

According to the Post, the case is before St. Louis County Associate Circuit Judge Mary Bruntrager Schroeder. I've not had the pleasure of meeting Her Honor, but I've met some of her brothers (I think) and other male relatives; it's just about impossible to practice law in the St. Louis area and not stumble across a couple of Bruntragers along the way. Either a couple Bruntragers, or a couple Dowds; in the St. Louis bar the Dowds and Bruntragers are about as thick as fleas on a dog's back in summer (the Dowds had a slight social edge back when I was practicing; there were more Dowd judges in St. Louis than there were Bruntrager judges--in fact, Her Honor in this case is the first Bruntrager judge I've heard of, though I suppose there could be others). What interests me about this particular case is that all the Bruntragers I did know were all devout Catholics, so I assume that Judge Schroeder is also a practicing Catholic. I wonder if that's going to have an effect on her decision (stupid me--of course it will; the real question is what effect it will have)?

Nice to know that the old homestead can be at the forefront of hot religious issues.

Thought for the Day:
Divorce cases go off the rails because clients mistakenly believe that they will find some kind of catharsis from getting on a stand and telling a judge about their partner's insults and tantrums and infidelities. In my experience, no judge has ever been much impressed with these tales. With few variations, the same nine or 10 stories are recounted to them every day. More importantly, no client ever experiences a catharsis from this process. Never. Catharsis comes with therapy, with time, with running into your ex-spouse at the gym when you have lost 30 pounds and are sleeping with the tennis pro.
--Dahlia Lithwick

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Bob Somerby....
in today's incomparable Daily Howler, takes on ultra-reactionary Catholic dipstick Cal Thomas, and shows why I think Thomas shouldn't be allowed within 100 yards of a keyboard without adult supervision:

Several thoughts can be derived from Thomas’ revealing column. First, we can see how deeply weird Thomas is on matters of ethics and morals. Imagine! Imagine a man who says he wouldn’t know that murder was wrong unless he could look it up in the Bible! Thomas seems to have no experience of moral judgment aside from what he reads in the Book.

Second, we can see how weakly Thomas reasons. Somehow, Thomas believes that accepting Scripture creates a "standard for objective truth, law, wisdom, justice"--creates a world in which judgments are made, not on the basis of "your feelings on the subject," but on the basis of an "unchanging," "objective" standard. But the decision to accept some particular Scripture is, of course, a subjective human judgment. So too the decision Thomas must make about how to interpret various parts of that Scripture. Somehow, Thomas thinks he describes a world from which human judgment has been removed. But it was human judgment by which Cal Thomas accepted the Bible’s authority in the first place. Earthly life always involves human judgment, though Thomas doesn’t seem to have heard.

Finally, we see from Thomas' oddball column the growing shape of our national discourse. Increasingly, our discourse lies in the hands of the Thomases--people who want your public life run by what they find in their Bible. Should Uncle Festus wed his 9-year-old friend? Cal isn’t sure--till he checks with the Book. But while self-impressed pundits lambaste Mel Gibson, the Scripted Thomases have long run free. Reason? Gibson is easy--and Thomas is hard. Your pundit corps is afraid of the Thomases, even as they force their Scripture into your government. It’s easier--much easier--to sit and say nothing. So sit and say nothing they do.

Thomas' column is deeply odd. Should Cal brake for Lassie? He isn’t quite sure. But people like Thomas have more and more power. Ain’t it time for the press to confront it?

For some beer lovers....
this may be good news. From The St. Louis Business Journal: Anheuser-Busch may have to relinquish "world's largest brewer" title. Apparently a merger between Belgium's Interbrew and Brazil's AmBev will result in a brewing company that kicks the snot out of A-B, volumewise.

Not that I'm terribly concerned; I doubt that A-B is going to wither on the vine here.

And speaking of a decently run universe...
IMHO nobody ever expressed the atheological Argument from Evil as effectively as did George Carlin. From his CD/HBO show, You Are All Diseased:

But I want you to know something, this is sincere, I want you to know, when it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried. I tried to believe that there is a God, who created each of us in His own image and likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things. I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up.

Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would've been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago.
--George Carlin

Why, in a decently run universe....
Mel Gibson would be run out of town (preferably off of the earth) on a rail. From the L.A. Times letters to the editor (registration required; scroll down to the end of the page if you follow the link), and repeated in full in case you don't want to register:

I am a high school teacher and the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Monday morning, Period 1, a student, age 17, comes into my room. She asks me if I had seen the film "The Passion."

I answer, "No."

She continues, "It was so sad. I cried so much. I hate the Jews."

Very, very sadly, that tells the whole story, Mr. Gibson.

Anna Paikow

Los Angeles

33 days.....
'til Opening Day. And I wonder if the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum Shop can get this to me in time for Opening Day this year: Baseball Countdown Clock.

No, I'm not going to make this a daily post from now until April 5. But I needed an excuse to blog the clock, which my weekly "Inside Pitch" newsletter from the HoF led me to (indirectly, through their link to the "Baseball as America" traveling exhbit). I note that "Baseball As America" is going to be at the Missouri Historical Society from December of this year through April of next year (and will therefore be in St. Louis on Opening Day, 2005), which causes me to rethink my holiday plans for this year (which were tentatively to visit my Dad over Thanksgiving and spend the Christmas holidays in Memphis; we'll have to see how things come down).

Thought for the Day:
In honor of yesterday's exercise in futility:

It's Stupor Tuesday, the day the media have chosen to designate John Kerry his party's nominee—not because Kerry will acquire the necessary number of delegates, but because no one can bear the thought of watching any more debates in which Edwards exaggerates his differences with Kerry while Kerry exaggerates his similarities to Edwards. A cry has risen up from every newsroom in the land: Make it stop!
--Timothy Noah

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

If there really were such a thing as justice...
we'd have today off as a national holiday. Today is the centennial of the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel--a.k.a. "Dr. Seuss". So do something appropriate, like read Horton Hears a Who tonight.

Thanks to Elayne "The Gorilla's name is Rufus" Riggs for reminding me of that.

The Bush bAdministration is a scam....
pure and simple. And now apparently Alan Greenspan wants in on the con. From Paul Krugman:

The traditional definition of chutzpah says it's when you murder your parents, then plead for clemency because you're an orphan. Alan Greenspan has chutzpah.

Last week Mr. Greenspan warned of the dangers posed by budget deficits. But even though the main cause of deficits is plunging revenue--the federal government's tax take is now at its lowest level as a share of the economy since 1950--he opposes any effort to restore recent revenue losses. Instead, he supports the Bush administration's plan to make its tax cuts permanent, and calls for cuts in Social Security benefits.

Yet three years ago Mr. Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes, warning that otherwise the federal government would run excessive surpluses. He assured Congress that those tax cuts would not endanger future Social Security benefits. And last year he declined to stand in the way of another round of deficit-creating tax cuts.

But wait--it gets worse.

You see, although the rest of the government is running huge deficits--and never did run much of a surplus--the Social Security system is currently taking in much more money than it spends. Thanks to those surpluses, the program is fully financed at least through 2042. The cost of securing the program's future for many decades after that would be modest--a small fraction of the revenue that will be lost if the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.

And the reason Social Security is in fairly good shape is that during the 1980's the Greenspan commission persuaded Congress to increase the payroll tax, which supports the program.

The payroll tax is regressive: it falls much more heavily on middle- and lower-income families than it does on the rich. In fact, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, families near the middle of the income distribution pay almost twice as much in payroll taxes as in income taxes. Yet people were willing to accept a regressive tax increase to sustain Social Security.

Now the joke's on them. Mr. Greenspan pushed through an increase in taxes on working Americans, generating a Social Security surplus. Then he used that surplus to argue for tax cuts that deliver very little relief to most people, but are worth a lot to those making more than $300,000 a year. And now that those tax cuts have contributed to a soaring deficit, he wants to cut Social Security benefits.

The point, of course, is that if anyone had tried to sell this package honestly--"Let's raise taxes and cut benefits for working families so we can give big tax cuts to the rich!"--voters would have been outraged. So the class warriors of the right engaged in bait-and-switch.

A silver lining in the cloud?
Brian Leiter points out a possible advantage to the insecurity of computerized voting machines:

Republicans should be worried about this issue too: after all, my impression is that computer hackers are overwhelmingly anti-Republican...just wait until it's 11 pm on election day in November 2004 and Ralph Nader and John Kerry are battling it out for the Presidency, while George Bush has won only...Texas?

Guess what? You wind up paying anyway...
Think you're saving money shopping at Wal-Mart? Maybe not. From the Enterprise Ethics Weblog we hear some distressing news:

PeachCare, the Georgia agency that provides health services to uninsured children has revealed that over 10,000 of its 166,000 clients in Georgia are children of WalMart employees. This means that the lower prices in the stores come with a hidden cost -- taxpayer money going to pay for health care.

According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there is one child in the PeachCare program for every four WalMart employees. By way of comparison with the other top companies represented in the program, Publix has one child for every 22 employees; Shaw Industries, 1 in 30; and Mohawk Industries, 1 in 26.

WalMart gives a lot of reasons why they are at the top, saying some employees are covered through other programs or that they are part time, but that would seem to apply equally to the other companies, and doesn't explain why WalMart's representation is so high.

Basically, even people who don't shop at WalMart are contributing the company's bottom line and subsidizing the low prices for those who do shop there.

And for those who missed it, five members of the Walton family, which owns WalMart, are listed in the top 10 wealthiest people in the world.

Shouldn't have left St. Louis.....
2004 being the bicentennial of the expedition of The Corps of Discovery (that's Lewis and Clark for those of y'all who didn't pay attention in history class), there'll be a number of commemorations for the next couple years along the route of the expedition (actually, to be precise, the commemorations have been going for a while, since the expedition actually got started from the Eastern Seaboard back in 1803). Since St. Louis marks the beginning and endpoints of the expedition, there'll be a number of events scheduled there (and in St. Charles; I've called both communities "home" at points in my career, and of course I'm a native of St. louis) in May of 2004 and September of 2006, as well as a number of commemorations at various places along the route of the expedition. If you're located near (or travelling to) one of the appropriate places, you might want to check them out; they look pretty interesting.

Further information at the official website.

34 days....
'til Opening Day

Thought for the Day:
There are two problems with media reports that reference the signing of A-Rod. First, it displays the media's obsession with story spin. They want the story to be "Yankees Purchase God, Lease World Series Title until the Return of Christ." Big money squashing the little guy is a story; baseball teams trading players is a transaction--might as well list it in the Lifestyles section with the engagements. To use the phrase "traded" connotes the fairness of the process, and heaven forbid that the Yankees be accused of playing fair. The second problem lies outside the world of baseball. Sure, it's a little fact that's being misreported. Now I know that I can't rely on the media for accurate reporting about Baseball. What else is being reported inaccurately? What else in the media can't we rely on?
--Candi@The Baseball Widow

Monday, March 01, 2004

George Steinbrenner: The Evil Emperor?
(And given my distaste for The Great Satan of Redmond, that's saying something.) Here's an interesting argument for that proposition: Why did Steinbrenner fund anti-Dean ads? Thanks to Brian at Redbird Nation for that one...

Wanted: The Average Ballplayer
Brian over at Redbird Nation answers the burning question: Who's the most average baseball player of all time? Take a gander at his analysis; it's fun if nothing else.

Thought for the Day:
What I liked about [Luis Martinez], is he was just recently arrested in the Dominican Republic (a place I don't to go to jail) because of a shooting incident, he was later cleared when authorities determined he acted in self-defense in what apparently was just a traffic dispute that escalated to an ugly violent situation. But hey, give the guy some credit for having some fight in him, that's what we are going to need this season. Of course I don't advocate shooting the Cubs or Astros, not yet anyway.
--Ray Mileur []