Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Books on the train

One of the benefits of riding the train to work each day is the chance to read. I've tried it while driving, but it's just not worth having to pick pedestrians out of my car grill each day.

Margaret Atwood is probably my favourite writer (yeah, yeah, I know, get in line) and as I expected I got a kick out of Oryx and Crake. In lesser hands it could have easily been gene-spliced with political diatribes and monologues, but she make the impact of a genetically enhanced world seem the more horrific by it's many banalities. The protagonist has simple tastes and the subtext of the what the future has become is almost numbing. The story takes place in the future, but avoids the usual trappings of the genre of sci-fi. Namely leaden characters and adolescent plots. Told mostly as memories, it charges forward and keeps interest in what has happened to a world apparently now bereft of people - aside from our hero, "Snowman".

Ben Hamper is a car factory worker from Flint, who chronicles his travails in Rivethead, which is surprisingly fascinating. The unmitigated drinking and goofing off at the factory pales before the sheer weight of the hours pressing down on the workers there, and Hamper makes you feel like you've been pounding rivets all day for GM. His style is decidedly unpretentious and hilarious. My favourite line: "He felt the mouse was mocking the way he did his job". It's eye-opening for those who wonder just how factory work affects the mind...

Nonsense over polio vaccine

In Nigerian, untold numbers are about to suffer since the Islamists there refuse to allow polio vaccines. How mindless is the support for these morons?
Men in and around the city's main market say they support the Kano government's position, and some say that strong, Islamic-based political leadership is critical in guiding their own decisions.
'We depend on our religion,' says Mohammed Kabir, a Kano student. 'Anything our leader says, we are going to agree with him.'
Instructive both on the problems on setting up government based on faith, and on how dumb it is to support blindly a leader for no reason other than he is the leader.

K_'s dreams

This sounds like some tech gear that K_ might enjoy.
Your most future-forward option is Rockford's Omnifi Auto Digital Media Player, which, like the others, is a 20 gigabyte hard drive that you mount in your car. Unlike the others, however, the Omnifi has an optional Wi-Fi receiver so you can wirelessly transfer music from your PC. Just park your car in your garage at night, and it can automatically have all your new music on it when you leave for work in the morning.

Another reason 'Life of Brian' needs to be re-released

Taking a page from Python's movie, a prisoner pretended to be someone who was to be released in order to escape: "Torrance Morris, 26, masqueraded as another prisoner who had posted bond. Morris walked out of the 6th District jail at East 152nd Street and St. Clair Avenue about 2 a.m. Sunday, police said. " If only they had recalled that scene in the aforementioned film, when the Romans tell the prisoners that "Brian" is to be freed, and everyone starts pretending to be Brian, with my particular favourite being one fellow who said, "I'm Brian, and so is my wife".

Attacks in Iraq

Iraq is not the safest place in the world to work - I don't think I'd take a job there. This crowd attacked some foreign workers for no apparent reason, and hung their charred corpses from a bridge, whilst cheering. I would ascribe it to terrorists attacking soft targets, but in this case it's mobs attacking soft targets. Obviously this is not the opinion of the majority in Iraq, but when crowds murder innocents based on paranoid fantasies, there is clearly a problem. We cannot leave Iraq in the mess it's in now anytime soon, delusions that this is a replay of Germany in WWII notwithstanding. When law and order is such there that such crowds would not dare do this kind of thing - whether they want to or not - then we'll be getting somewhere. But is it the case that the administration merely sees Iraq as a notch to boost Bush's popularity, and did not, and is still not, handling Iraq with a useful plan?

Friday, March 26, 2004

Useful idiots

Rebecca, on her hand North Korea Zone blog, finds a picture of a toll that supports "Dear Leader" of North Korea. He's apparently homeless, though if he was in NK, he might also be foodless.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

17 story statue

Lynn mentions they are building a 17 story statue somewhere in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Contemplating that makes me think of the poem, 'Ozymandias', and also how that statue will seem many eras from now when we're all gone...these may be leftover thoughts from Atwood's recent bleak-future novel I just finished though...damn you Atwood, so bleak and grand at the same time!

Ruins of Detroit

You don't have to read Atwood's Oryx and Crake to see a crumbling world of modernity, just go here and see it crumbling now, in Detroit. M_ and I got married here at a yacht club, and I had to discourage my Nova Scotia relatives from wandering around downtown on foot looking for pizza, since I didn't actually want them to die. Thanks to M_ for the link.

Dip memories

The company had a BBQ day, somewhat dampened by steady rain. We gathered in the lunch room whilst one hapless soul ran up and down the stairs, ferrying burgers up and down to hungry unforgiving masses. They donated the burgers and asked folks to bring in side dishes. One brought in some kind of green bean concoction in what appeared to be the heretofore legendary clear gravy. Still another plastic disk houses jello with things in it, in a truly horrifying shade of light pink. These types of items were left mostly untouched well into the afternoon. But M_’s guacamole was entirely devoured. It brought to me mind a veritable fruiting of memory...imagine a slow dissolve with a greenish hue...

M_’s guac dip can have a strange effect on people. At a barbeque a couple of summers ago over at R_ and K_’s, M_ ‘s dip was very popular. Everyone had been enjoying it and drinking and laughing in the sun. Then came B_. Not the mathematician B_, but an co-worker of R_’s, She tried the dip and liked it immensely. So much so that she took it off of the table and put it on a chair, which she then proceeded to pull in front of herself. And gorge like the lovely buzzards that signal spring in Ohio. No one could get a chip in with her shoveling the fine dip into her gullet. That which she didn’t drop on the ground that is, for the ants to enjoy.

How can Ohioans live in a world of pink jello with things, and vile guac hoarders? They can’t, hence the concealed carry law.

Stay out of my profession, say some

Laura Miller says
"The fact that amateur reviewers are on publishers' mailing lists doesn't necessarily give them more credibility", said Laura Miller, a book columnist for the New York Times Book Review and a book critic at Salon.com.
(bold was mine). Nervous much, Laura? Link via the always invaluable amateur Jessa Crispin. If you aren't reading Bookslut, or the attached blog you are missing out on some good writing and thinking.

Whilst browsing UN documents

Some random nonsense from one of their reports
Terrorism, unfortunately, is a feature of the conflict in the region. Palestinian suicide bombers have caused death and devastation within Israel. Innocent Israeli civilians, in buses and public places, have been killed and wounded by fanatical Palestinians prepared to spread terror throughout Israel. At the same time, the Israel defense Forces (IDF) have inflicted a reign of terror upon innocent Palestinians in the course of their assassination of militants in densely populated towns, their destruction of homes, and their random firing in built-up areas - not to mention the methodical intimidation and humiliation of civilians at checkpoints.
Wouldn't want to humiliate any suicide bombers, would we? Why just stopping them from blowing up Jewish kids, housewives, and office workers would be downright humiliating. And I love the line about the IDF randomly firing into Palestinian areas, when it's the Palestinian gunman firing into Israel, not to mention rocket and mortar attacks. When the IDF tries to respond by killing these cowardly scum, it's "random". The depth of the intellectual dishonesty in parts of the UN is simply a reflection of the intellectual dishonestly in the news media and governments where the mostly non-democratic nations get their ideas. I know it's no news that the UN unfairly and absurdly targets Israel with motions and pointless diatribes like the one mentioned above, but it's always worth keeping an eye on those who purport to represent all humanity.

Cool Clarke

Funny, but this sounds nothing like someone "imploding", to quote a few bloggers I have seen
With each effort by Thompson to highlight Clarke's inconsistency -- 'the policy on Uzbekistan, was it changed?' -- Clarke tutored the commissioner about the obligations of a White House aide. Thompson, who had far exceeded his allotted time, frowned contemptuously. 'I think a lot of things beyond the tenor and the tone bother me about this,' he said. During a second round of questioning, Thompson returned to the subject, questioning Clarke's 'standard of candor and morality.'
'I don't think it's a question of morality at all; I think it's a question of politics,' Clarke snapped.
Thompson had to wait for Sept. 11, 2001, victims' relatives in the gallery to stop applauding before he pleaded ignorance of the ways of Washington. 'I'm from the Midwest, so I think I'll leave it there,' he said. Moments later, Thompson left the hearing room and did not return.
Trickster at Tacitus writes on this topic better than I...
I don't really have the answer to the White House's Clarke problem, but this convoluted, self-contradictory attack on his integrity ain't it. The man is a long-time public servant of impeccable reputation. He's not doing it for money; he's not doing it to elect Democrats; and while he's probably doing it at least a little bit for self-aggrandizement, really it looks like his main motivation for speaking out is because he believes what he's saying and thinks the truth needs to be told.
Indeed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Undivisive oaths

Some testimony before the Supremes on the "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance case
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist noted that Congress unanimously added the words 'under God' in the pledge in 1954.
'That doesn't sound divisive,' he said.
'That's only because no atheists can be elected to office,' Newdow responded.
Some in the audience erupted in applause in the courtroom, and were threatened with expulsion by the chief justice.
Heh.

Update: 3/26/04 Norbizness has more.

Panda's Thumb

Enjoy Evolution? Try The Panda's Thumb, a new mob blog on the subject and the newest addition to my blogroll.

Worst online headline of the day

The Cleveland Plain Dealer online is a bit lame. Their stories are in alphabetical order by headline, giving credence to the idea that someone, probably not a good copy-editor, is copying and pasting the stories without revision to the web. Case in point is the headline to this story:

Our rainwater is high in mercury Mercury levels are high in rain Mercury falling with rain, snow
This is probably another copy and paste job from the print edition. It reads like the paper already is showing signs of mercury poisoning.

Stickers

Coming to work on the train today I saw some orange day-glo stickers plastered on the plastic windows. They advertised "Music for White People". I presume they meant polka music, lacking more information from the aforementioned sticker. Still another sticker urged us to stop immigrants, because they use welfare, are messy, and noisy. Plus another admonition that it was time for white people to "wake up". As a white (some might say deathly pale, but I digress), employed, sometimes messy, sometimes noisy immigrant, I’m not sure if I am the intended audience of the sticker post. Should I use the term "sticker", as that is literally what they are doing? If I met them I might suggest they move to Canada. There’s plenty of music for "white people", like the stylings of my home province's own Anne Murray. Not to mention Canadians are pretty quiet and neat. Due to a lack of sunshine, some of them are nearly white, though a large number are not. Most are a kind of off beige, with lighter and beautiful dark variations. I think I'd get bored if everyone was the same colour. I know white walls are dull. Perhaps the sticker-posters can enjoy the wide open spaces where they can separate themselves by walking out onto the tundra, to avoid people that make them so nervous they must post stickers about them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Make me an offer...again

Michele is trying to buy a house. It’s always a bit nerve wracking and nightmarish until you finally move in. We first started looking early last year, and went to see a lot of houses that looked ok to me, but M_ thought were horrid. Ok, I lack the aesthetic appreciation to know why tiny square mirrors in the ceiling are horrible.

One of the houses we saw had a funky smell and mirrors on the living room ceiling. Turns out they were having a constant sewer backup problem. Kind of the opposite of the real estate agents who bake blueberry muffins to give it a good smell. Oh, and the prior owner had removed the furnace. We fled as fast as we could. One home M_ had her eye on for a long time – an arts and crafts style bungalow. It had great woodwork and was very unique and well-crafted – from the outside. Inside it had been chopped to bits for who knows what reason. We estimated that getting it back near it’s original layout would run us a cool thirty or fifty grand. Add to the fact the owner sat in the living room the whole time. Some people do not know how to sell houses. Heck the one we ended up buying featured a picture of the computer in a windowless corner. You have a limited amount of space for pictures. So do you should layout, great woodwork, room space? No, this guy showed a windowless corner with his computer in it, with no visible wood work. Thus displaying that the house had walls. I guess.

But before that, we did find one other house we wanted. It had a nice look and many new kitchen appliances. So we made an offer, and woohoo – they accepted! Then, four hours later, our realtor calls us to say they’ve rescinded their acceptance, and since they didn’t fax it to us yet they can do that. They made a higher counter offer. We thought about it for a day, but bit the bullet and accepted their counter offer. Nearly a week goes by, and you guessed it – they rescinded again (this time it was their freakin’ offer). So I hope and wish Michele the best of luck and remember it’s only the end result that counts, not all the worries beforehand. And in the end, you’ll have a home

Short cuts

Extremely short DVD reviews

Spellbound: Intense kids spelling under pressure – it’s surprising and fun and actually tense at times, waiting for the bell to sound. M_ thought the wacky jokey kid was pretty much me, and we both thought the parents who hired an army of tutors for their son were out of their damn minds. Includes some “where are they now” bits and a game of Hangman.

Matchstick Men: Started out really well with Nick Cage as a conman and Alison Lohman as the daughter he didn’t know he had…funny with those bits of con business that audiences loved in other con man films like the Sting and The Grifters. Strikes a really wrong, and predictable note in the last 10% of the film though. Pick a genre, fellas.

Cabin Fever: I had high hopes for this one as an avid horror buff, but it’s too all over the place – it’s funny, it’s disgusting, it’s ironic – it can’t fix into one movie. The ending is truly one of the most awful, slapped together things I have witnessed on film.

The Notorious CHO: Margaret is at her funniest in her reactions to oddball situations in her life. Her imitations of her mom are funny as usual, as are her incarnations as a valley girl colonic technician. Do yourself a favour and skip the last ten unfunny minutes of political speechifying – there’s nary a joke in sight.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Human writes

An anonymous article on Salon details the trials and tribulations of a "mid-list" author, and how little the author actually makes per book. She has suggestions for people who want to support more varied authorship than is offered by the limited number of bestsellers:
1. Patronize independent bookstores. They sell online too. To find and/or order from the nearest one, go to Booksense. What you "save" at chain and online bookstores isn't worth what you lose.

2. Read, buy, and tell your friends about non-blockbuster books. Attend readings by non-blockbuster authors.

3. Encourage the institutions you deal with -- schools, churches, book groups, professional organizations -- to buy books from independent bookstores. Most offer substantial institutional discounts, and all of them -- unlike Amazon and other online product pushers -- pay taxes in your community.

4. Read. Think. Enjoy and create culture. Encourage your friends, children, and politicians to do the same.

5. Support funding for the arts; fight like hell when moves are made to axe what little of it is left.

Although I find her article very discouraging for one who is hoping to one day publish, it's an informative read. Now I wonder which author "Jane Austen Doe" is?

Update: Jessa thinks the above list is ridiculous, and has some suggestions for midlist authors to help themselves.
Before your first book has come out, and you're still pretty sure you're going to be wildly successful because your publisher is throwing you a release party, be nice to the female website editor. Yes, she's drunk on the free whiskey and probably has smoked salmon and caviar breath, but when she comes up to you to actually talk about your book and possibly being interviewed on her popular website, do not accuse her of not having read your book and then ignore her for cleavage girl. She will never mention your book on her website. Ever.
Since my publishing history consists of one sentence in a more or less unread Roger Ebert book, I think I have to defer to Jessa's take here.

Pledge drive by...

Interesting background on the pledge of Allegiance
: "The original pledge: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands -- one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,'' was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, in 1892. Bellamy, a Christian Socialist, prepared the pledge as part of a marketing campaign to sell American flags to public schools. It was used along with the American flag as the centerpiece of a national public schools program to observe Columbus Day in 1892.
In 1923 and 1924, the National Flag Conference, under the leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed "my flag'' to "the Flag of the United States of America.''
In 1954, at the height of the Cold War, Congress added the words "under God,'' after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, religious leaders and others who wanted to distinguish the United States from what they described as godless communism. The Knights of Columbus has filed a brief with the Supreme Court, asking that the lower court's ruling be reversed.
Frank S. Ravitch, a constitutional law professor at Michigan State University, said he believes that if people knew the history of how the "under God'' phrase was added, they would be troubled.
"It was adopted during the anti-communism era and it has a brazen history that aimed to discriminate against atheists that were thought to be communist. They even played Onward Christian Soldiers on the White House lawn when it was passed,'' Ravitch said.
Personally I have a problem with saying oaths that include things I do not believe. Oaths that are pervasive and difficult to avoid put those of us who do not believe in a God in a very difficult position. I'm definitely not pleased when it turns out to be a 50's era phrase tacked on to a marketing slogan.

Another skel bites the dust

Chalk one up for the IDF! With regard to Meryl and Lair's reactions, I'm not sure what the ethical implications are for handing out sweets when a murderer is taken out of the gene pool. There doesn't seem to be anything inherently illogical about it, plus it's fun for the kids. Like her, I hope they keep stopping the suicide bombers that are trying to get into Israel every day.

Clarke on 60 minutes

Richard Clarke's appearance on 60 Minutes tonight was alarming. It pointed to an administration more concerned with Iraq, even after 9/11, than al Quaeda. The Clarke's co-worker, the voice of the administration in this story, gave us what the company line will be on Clarke "We have no evidence that the meeting actually occurred", referring to a meeting Clarke says he had with Bush where he got the impression that they were to produce a report that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks. After Stahl pointed out they had two sources other than Clarke, including a witness to back it up, he clammed up on what I would have to assume is the "Clarke is nuts" spin.

Brad DeLong thinks Bush and Cheney should be impeached. However, there doesn't seem to be anything in Clarke's interview that indicates anything impeachable. By the same token, claims that because it's not something that could lead to impeachment, that Bush is "acquitted of the charges" of the left seem to be attacking a straw man. I know that it's a straw man that is being posted in comment sections on some of the liberal blogs I read, but nonetheless I think the thrust of all of this is the actions of the administration have some problems. It seems much less like a well thought out plan than some score settling done with the political capital gained in world sympathy. I think also the argument that Clarke should have done more is a bit weak. Political buck-passing has to be stopped at some point, especially on matters of life and death.

It's absurd to claim Bush should be impeached for the decisions they reached. Just because the decision is unpopular or even ineffective or wrong, it's his ballgame - making the calls is not illegal. People hyping impeachment are not going to convince anyone other than those who already are a bit irrational on the current administration. I thought Bush gave some great speeches over the last three years on the war on terror. I am now dismayed to learn that perhaps there was less thought to actually attacking the roots of terror than I hoped - part of a master plan hidden from public view. Now it's becoming clear that was not case. I wish I could believe that the administration wants to find out the truth on the most vital matters, like who attacked us in 2001 and who is likely to attack us in the future. But it seems like they want to have the facts conform to their existing belief systems. We can't go back and fix the mistakes that were made. I'm not sure what needs to be done to make people aware of this - we've already had our wakeup call. I am curious if the media will look at this story or if we'll get more horse-race coverage.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Resumes wanted - need a hero?

Position: Afghanistan Civil Aviation Minister
Salary: Negotiable
Experience: Civil aviation expertise would be highly desirable, but a mutant ability to heal from wounds would be helpful. (note the fate the two previous occupants of the office, in the above link). Adamantium claws could help in negotiations with Taliban remnants unhappy with current Afghani administration.

Don't make us angry

The Pakistani army have surrounded what might be a high value target, as they put it, near the border with Afghanistan. But they are quick to dismiss any claim that US troops are involved:
Lieutenant-Colonel Bryan Hilferty, the main spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, disputed the claim. 'There are no American or combined forces over there,' he said.
The issue is politically sensitive. Mr. Musharraf is a staunch U.S. ally but has steadfastly insisted that no American troops be allowed on Pakistani soil. If confirmed, an attack by the Americans would likely enflame deep hostility in Pakistan.
Well we wouldn't want to make them hostile. Their government's secret service might back terrorists who fly planes into our buildings. Oh, wait a minute....

Friday, March 19, 2004

Revolutions

Don opines that we need to more deeply consider the motives of bin Laden et al.
And this is the prompting behind my initial question about Spain - nothing I've seen or read so far convinces me that al Quada would have been in any way upset about the deposing of the infidel Saddam - quite the opposite, since it provides an opportunity to convince the people with a government more to al Quada's liking. And perhaps that's the real purpose - the invasion was fine by them, but they have to get rid of the occupying forces before a theocracy is completely free to arise.
Although I'm sure the lunatics behind the Spanish attacks and others would gladly offer post-hoc explanations of how this was all part of their master plan, I'm not so convinced. If in fact their purpose is to install theocracies in the Middle East, so, as Gwynne Dyer observed, they have been an abject failure. In order for revolutions to be successful, my old high school teacher Mr. Barak said there are four conditions that need to be met:

  1. The current system must be bad, or seen to be bad

  2. You must have a plan for the future

  3. You must have a core of ideologues willing to die for the cause

  4. You must be able to overcome or co-opt the army


So far the Islamic terrorists have not completely succeeded with number one, as although many people in the ME might find their governments to be "bad", perhaps they do not see them as bad enough to want a Taliban style government. Part of the problem is number two. Although Western media types will find cab drivers a plenty to opine how much better things would be as a theocracy in the ME country they are reporting in, bear in mind the BS factor you may hear hanging out with cab drivers in this country. Not to mention the cab driver opinion survey is about the most tired form of foreign reportage - the reporters interview the people driving them around. Point three in this case is a given, and point four in inescapably not going to be met. Without all four points, revolutions cannot be successful.

I am not worried that Western civilization will be destroyed, though I am concerned we'll experience losses of life and liberty in future terrorist attacks. I'm frankly more concerned that the source of some terrorist funding in Saudi Arabia, and philosophy in Pakistan is not being sufficiently addressed. Eventually I think we will address these issues, I just don't want to see another mega attack waking us up enough to take action.

Cleansing language

Once again, it's time to a word or phrase that has overstayed it's welcome. They are typically attempts to muddy the waters, and reduce the clarity of the idea being expressed. And they need to be lined up like animal extras in a Disney flick and pushed off the cliff...

Ethnic Cleansing. Aside from the fact this vile term was the one being used by the murderers who were doing the "cleansing", this is just wrong. I know some using the term mean it to be a harsh accusation, but I think genocide fits the bill nicely and save a syllable.

Jessa has the best sarcasm, in small bites: "It's the 2004 - 2005 Reading Group Suggestions List from Book Sense. Ah yes, that neglected Da Vinci Code. If only people would read that book!". Heh.

But of Course

Michelle Malkin takes issue with John Kerry saying we need to support first responders
Of course, our brave firefighters, cops and emergency personnel need better training and equipment to respond in the event of another attack. But responders, no matter how courageous, prevent nothing. Dialing 911 is not the solution to stopping another '9/11.'
So she admits they should have resources, but apparently leaves that point behind in a rant against Kerry that claims that is all he wants to do, along with having trials against terrorists. One would be fooled by such clowning if one did not read the speech and note that Kerry points out what he feels are deficiencies in Bush's handling of first line responders. Is Bush's approach better than Kerry's? Would it be a good idea to compare their positions on this issue and inform readers? Who knows, the important thing is that Malkin sums up Kerry's position as wanting to have the "People's Court" for terrorists, no doubt bringing chuckles to all. Can we get some more informative first responders to poltical campaigns?

Get the picture? Not exactly.

The Guardian shows how the media screws with the truth (registration required) in actually airbrushing unwanted content from news photos. The ones that simply bled some colour out of the photo, in this case one that showed a body part in the Madrid bombing, was a pretty dicey idea. But those who took the limb completely out of the picture and filled in gravel are certainly bringing down journalism to its lowest possible level. Why should we trust anything they print or publish? We would have no idea what facts they take out of photos or stories. I used to think the western world was more immune to the lies present on an everyday basis in less free countries. Did they want to pretend that these bombs don't tear people to bloody shreds? Apparently. Readers will not only have to draw their own conclusions, but apparently must be wary of anything these "news" organizations give us. But they're more reliable than blogs, because they have editors, right?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Quiet day in Israel

Meryl tells of a quiet day in Israel. The term quiet being very relative, in that PA employees plotting to blow up and terrorize Israelis, as close to Christian holy sites in Israel as possible. I'd like to see more media light shone on these near-attacks. They certainly have never let up talking up the terrorist who tried to slip into Washington state from Canada to blow up LAX. Attacks by stone-age mentality maniacs on a flowering democracy should offend each of us to the core. It makes me certain of two things - that living in Israel must be an unreal experience, to have such potential violence each day, and that one day I want to visit that land and the people who have managed to prosper under circumstances I can scarcely imagine. Not that I have the budget these days, but I'd like to impose a personal boycott against visiting non-democracies. Unless someone invents something like trombonists-without-borders or other noble cause.

Teresa versus the tar baby

Teresa Hayden, editor with a blog takes time off from recovering from illness to deal with a troll. These creatures will no doubt be extremely familiar to those of you who used USENET, a kind of precursor to the web. You learned to ignore these people who were indifferent to logic or debate and existed solely to spread vitriol. Or like the Tar baby, existing to invite punches for no purpose other than wasting time. In this case the troller attacks Teresa for real or imagined slights, and whines about her being an influential editor. Teresa writes...
I thought everybody knew by now that sucking up to editors isn't cost-effective behavior. We can like you perfectly well, indeed love you dearly, without feeling the least obligation to buy your work; and then we'll turn around and buy a book from a complete stranger, for no better reason than that we loved his book and didn't love yours.
To take Occam's razor to the troller's writings, the simplest explanation for it's lack of publications would be that it sucks. I issue the caveat that I have not read the writings, aside from the bits Teresa quotes. Anyway, Teresa is worth reading as usual.

Blair bends brain bashing belittlers

Jack Shafer takes some well-placed shots at Jayson Blair (the former NY Times reporter whom I cannot refer to as a journalist, so must simply call a professional liar). Quoth Shafer
I played a small role in the Blair aggrandizement with a negative review of Burning Down in the March 14 New York Times Book Review. Blair responded with a seven-point e-mail listing the errors and ethical deficiency (!) of my review.
I look forward to more ethical musing by Mr Blair, perhaps combined with a Ken Lay's business ethics guide, Tonya Harding's guide to good sportsmanship, or Rush Limbaugh on why it's wrong to toss about the word Nazi as an adjective too loosely.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Bad Day for cars


Saint Patrick’s Day here in Cleveland was not a good one for our four wheeled aluminum pals. As an aside, can I say I love the way the Brits pronounce it aluminium? On 480, a local monster highway, I saw a four car wreck that the cops had not sprung upon yet. A semi hauling a flatbed was blocking all lanes of traffic and three lanes of rush-hour was just starting to cross over into a slushy off/onramp to get around. As I pass I saw the semi had squashed a sedan into the concrete median. If there had been anyone in the passenger side, they were having beers with Spalding Gray. But who am I kidding? Of course there was no one in the passenger side. Everyone is driving to work alone. Have you ever taken a look at the superhighway systems around the cities, and just wondered at the sheer size of it? It dominates the landscape, only we don’t see it – it blends into the background as we note the new trees at an office park we pass everyday. The roads twist and turn around everywhere we go….one could look at all of our cities and see them as a monument to the car.

I have little choice in going it alone to work each day. No one where I work lives in the same city I do. Or if they do, they’re not letting anyone in on the secret, so car-pooling is out. I could try mass transit, but it would add at least 30 minutes each way to my commute, and I prefer to spend as much time with my wife as my job and our relatively – in geologic terms – fruit-fly span lives allow. It’s a very complex bus ride – and around these parts, they are the opposite of dependable. As an experiment in economic theory, passengers should be allowed to bribe drivers to go early. Then it’s two train rides to work.

I may try the trains in the summer, but one reason I don’t is I need to stop at the gym each day to attempt to live just a little bit longer. Today was pretty miserable. Waiting to get there, I saw one of those SUV style limos drive by…I thought to myself how much of a pain in the ass they must be to maneuver. I was about to find out. When I proceeded down towards the Y, the same SUV limo blocked all two point five lanes of traffic to pull drunkenly towards the curb and a nearby bar. It sat there whilst the occupants tried to see if their brainpower had enough wattage left to figure out how to exit the vehicle. Finally after getting around this beast I am finally in the Y Parking Lot. Where I see it is utterly full. I rack my mind trying to remember if there is some kind of spinning expo planned, but that is not the problem. Louts going out to the local bars dotting Detroit Avenue have decided the Y is a public parking lot – which it isn’t. So I circle the lot over and over looking for a space for an addition fifteen minutes. Rarely has human will been so tested, be it in war or in peace, as I was tested…to resist the temptation to run down every half-ass moron wearing a plastic green cap, as they wandered through the lot, already drunk at 6:45 PM. I want to bring the urban planners who are behind the lousy mass transit system, and have them contemplate idiots in emerald hats. Curses be upon them all. In fact, in keeping with the festive season, may the devil damn you to the stone of dirges or to the well of ashes seven miles below hell and may the devil break your bones. And all my calamity and harm and misfortune for a year on you. But if any of you work in Beachwood, M-F, please call, and maybe we can carpool.

I'm not a big Connie Schultz fan, but the way the Free Times gossip column called "The Nose"...er...picks on her is a bit stupid
The Nose that the Congressman's main squeeze … PD Columnist & Fiancée Connie 'Earth Mother' Schulz … came to Our Mayor's defense … not as Our Mayor, but as a fellow mother with a 'beating heart'
Their point, if there is one is that her husband is a congressman - which seems to be what steams them the most - and that he is a supporter of the mayor. I guess in the Time's perfect world all spouses of politicians should quit their jobs, stay silent or maybe host Libertarian quilting bees, just to seem all the more apolitical. But the reason the Nose dislikes them is because of all their misdeeds, not some personal grudge that isn't making it into the column, right?

Trouble at the Canadian Immigration Review Board - a clerk says judges there are not writing their own decisions:
He says the claimants' lawyers were never told that the judge in their cases had not written the decisions.
Pieters says caseload, case complexity or 'laziness' may have motivated judges to assign him the decisions in violation of the immigration board rules.
'It's almost like a code of silence at the place,' he said. 'It's inappropriate to have [a refugee protection officer] writing decisions, but everybody knows it happens and nobody says anything.'
. I have mentioned before items on which I thought the Board made some bad calls - maybe they weren't even making them at all?

Speaking of security, for the geek-minded, here's a summary of protecting yourself from SQL injection attacks. Basically when an attacker sends malformed HTTP requests intended to exploit SQL server backends and insufficiently secure code. Not geek minded? Might be a good idea to wonder if your IT staff has thought of and protected your site against this type of assault...

Interesting article in the Globe by Mary Kirwan on Public Key Infrastructure. You may recall, if you've been in tech for a while, the excitement over PGP and like programs that let you confirm - or at least better confirm - that documents did indeed come from you. People used PGP signatures extensively on USENET news groups. But the excitement over it's use in commerce didn't lead to much change as quickly as expected
Countries around the world, Canada included, raced to implement E-Signature legislation to attract investors to jurisdictions anxious to be considered e -commerce 'hubs'. An explosion in e-signature use and PKI was expected to result as companies embraced the process of encrypting and signing documents electronically.
However, a recent study for the EU Commission found that 'despite the employment of extensive resources', the impact of e-signature legislation in Europe has 'definitely not met expectations'. The situation is little different in North America. Meanwhile, e-commerce continues to thrive without PKI.
Worthwhile reading in full...

Channel 19 and the Cleveland mayor have a truce in their feud, during which the mayor banned the news network from City Hall Reported on their website, , with what can only be described as a very unflattering picture of the mayor
In a joint statement, Campbell and Steve Doerr, news director at 19 Action News, said that 'during a productive face-to-face meeting, we reached the inescapable conclusion that the city of Cleveland and its news viewers are best served if we put this matter behind us and move forward. We look forward to working together in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect.'
. I recall a story they did during the fracas about the mayor's State of the City address with the web headline: "Mayor fills annual 'state of the city' speech with usual mumbo-jumbo". In what must be the most strained metaphor of this post, I wouldn't count on the bad blood being boiled free of bacteria just yet.

Here's what you don't want to see in a traffic report: "INNERBELT (I-90) WB: IS SLOW FROM DEAD MAN'S CURVE TO DEAD MAN'S CURVE "

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

If you live in Ohio, keep an eye out for this guy:
(click link or picture for details). He's a suspect in the repeated shooting in and around Columbus, Ohio roadways. Don't forget they caught the DC snipers because of an observant private citizen.

Update: 3/17/04 They got him in Vegas.

Is Jessica Simpson really this dumb or is it an act?
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.'
Caveat - I have seen fleeting moments of her MTV show, which I gather is meant to show us the newly married life of a pop star. Only problem is, I've never heard or heard of any of her songs.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Blogger wisdom watch...

  • Economy: Old BW: Jobless recovery New BW: Hidden Entrepreneurs

  • Spain Old BW: We are all Spaniards! New BW: Appeasers

  • Kerry Old BW: Flip-floppy New BW: Too angry to be president

  • Osama Old BW:Dead New BW: Wonder who he would vote for?

  • Bush Old BW:Enough with the Gays New BW: Just angry enough to be president

  • Democrats Old BW:Cynics New BW: Looking out for the little guy (that would be unlikely)

  • Republicans Old BW:Cynics New BW: Looking out for the big guy (that would be God)

  • Libertarians Old BW:Too few in number New BW: 94% of them have blogs!

  • Blog memes Old BW:Too navel-gazery New BW: Ooh, Mount Blogmore with my face!


I wonder how much money one photo op a month for Bush would pay for how many extra air marshals, how many hours of training for airport screeners, and how much deeper checks into people who may be trying to sneak onto planes to murder our fellow citizens? Would Kerry do the same thing anyway? That doesn't seem to speak well of either, does it?

OK, South Korea doesn't like the US because of freaking speedskating?!
The report notes that a substantial downturn in sentiment toward America occurred after the February 2002 furor in South Korea when American short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno won an Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake City, when a South Korean skater was disqualified after he crossed the finish line first. Those holding favorable views of the U.S. fell to 34 percent, a nearly 33-point decline from the preceding July.
Well, to be fair they mention some other reasons besides speedskating. I can certainly understand them not caring for the nation with soldiers from the US protecting them from the insane-o's to the north, who'd like nothing better than to have them join their starving dictatorship. As long as short track speedskating is adjudicated fairly, that's the main thing. Caveat - I saw that race, and it was judged fairly, they're just whining about it.

Given the recent turn of events in Spain, where possible Al-Queda organized bombs may have turned the election, some have expressed dismay that the voters of Spain chose a party that’s promised to pull Spanish troops from Iraq. Such a move is both short sighted, and unlikely to ease the chances of Islamo-facists thirst for blood in Spain and elsewhere. However, as it was arrived at in a free and fair election, you cannot argue that it is not the will of the people of Spain. Spanish troops are still in Afghanistan, and I have not heard they are leaving anytime soon. I doubt the murderers behind the attacks in Madrid would split hairs over whether Spain had assisted with troops in Afghanistan but not in Iraq, and spared them the carnage. Trying to negotiate the desires of people who long for the blood of the free is a hopeless game. bin Laden et al are still smarting from the Moors losing Spain hundreds of years ago. There’s no policy change that will make that dream vanish from their plans.

By the same token, worries about who supports who in the next US presidential election seem equally spurious. Why should we care who bin Laden or Dear Leader of North Korea would prefer be the next US leader? I don’t recall seeing any opine on checking with these guys on the possible crisis in our Social Security program. I fail to see why their views, since not truly based on reason in a meaningful sense, should influence our decisions at all. It’s a childish attempt to get voters to focus on what some cave dwelling maniacs think, and not on the specific details of how to make sure we don’t get blown up by their henchmen. Let’s not conflate national identity with democratically elected leaders, that’s the game of those who have no concept of democracy. We should vote for Kerry or for Bush based on both how they will respond to terror attacks as well as the other challenges facing us - but not make the mistake of thinking we have no choice based on the wishes of madmen.

Best science experiment I've read in a long time: Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass . It reminds me of some biology experiments we did on seed growth in different types of light. The seeds grew in no relation at all the different types of light, exactly the opposite of what the textbooks said. Link via Crooked Timber.

When it comes to immigration, wait, wait wait. An Ohio man married a woman in Hong Kong...
That was two years and miles of red tape ago. So far, the couple has spent more than $2,000 in filing fees to try to get the clearance for her to come to America.
The lengthy waits annoy him when illegal immigrants who didn't follow the rules can get in so much faster. I don't think that blind blanket amnesty for those already here is the answer. They would get an advantage compared to those of us immigrants who filled out the paperwork and paid lawyers thousands to get everything done legally. The term "undocumented aliens" needlessly muffles their status. In any event, it's clear the resources of US Immigration are not up to the task of processing the paperwork of legal immigrants in any sane person's idea of a reasonable amount of time.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Anton is watching all the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes on DVD at once, it may be driving him mad. Well maybe not. I caught up on it on weekday FX reruns after seeing the tail end of season 2 during it's original run. This was spread over weeks and months though. I did once watch the Brit Scifi series Red Dwarf on tape, all in one day. I was talking about curry and calling people smeg-head for a month after that. Overdosing on video does eventually give you what M_ calls the "ooze", where you look upon your former addiction with disgust due to overexposure. Can't blame Anton for enjoying the series though. Among geek-obsessions, it was generally better written than any of the Star Treks. Some series do well on re-viewing, although you have to space it out to once a year or less, such as the amazing "I, Claudius".

Rather than be totally immersed in old stuff, we've tried renting new movies as a new habit from when M_ was recovering from surgery. We recently saw "A Mighty Wind" and "Identity". M_ and I both though that "Wind" is an supremely entertaining piece by that old Chris Guest gang. Eugene Levy is hilarious as the living remains of a once famous folk singer, and Harry Shearar's unwelcome summary of the Spanish Civil war is lightly done and howlingly funny. This effort by the Guest crew is perhaps not as spot on as the dog show parody "Best in Show", but it's still infinities better than most comedies. Identity is a thriller featuring Jon Cusack and Amanda Peet, trapped in a seedy motel with a strange cast of woebegone travelers. I thought it had some interesting moments as a new twist on film noir, though M_ thought it was all rather pointless. She was happy I don't rewatch Buffy, anymore though.

Anita Campbell takes note of Sam's Club, a division of the WalMart, will be selling health insurance to small businesses. Irony number one, noted by Anita, is the perception that WalMart crushes small business. The second irony may be the poor health care offered to it's own workers:
Huge employee premium payments and big deductibles keep participation in Wal-Mart's health plan to 38% of employees. That's 6 out of every 10 employees--more than 425,000 Wal-Mart employees, most of them women, who have no company provided health coverage. Nationally, more than 60% of workers are covered by company paid health plans.
It's impossible to ignore the world's biggest retailer. It's increasingly easy to choose not to shop there.

Update: 3/15/04 8:27 PM Smug Canadian asks who's your daddy and thinks employers providing health care is too paternalistic. I respond there...

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. says that voters who support Kerry are morons, who fail to recognize such intellectual points like "Mr. Kerry is still very French-looking, n'est-ce pas? ". Would that the rest of us could elevate political discourse to Mr. Tyrrell's level.

Random "poem" via a spam email of the day
It was cold and sweet. And for ten minutes, he was a hero. I'd thought it was sad to hate the forest the way she'd done. You can't go up to the unit. Nobody's allowed up there.

Can you tell me the answer? she asked. That could well be the answer. That could well be the answer. I wished so deeply for the change to come about.

But under the circumstances, I'd do it again. Suddenly, he disappeared. Don't do that, the cat pointed out. Why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is?

Just tell me your answer, even if it sucks. Love, and hate, are powerful emotions. Just tell me your answer, even if it sucks. Why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is? Suddenly, he disappeared.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Cronyism close to home
Mayor Tom George [of Lakewood, Ohio] wants to hire longtime friend and campaign contributor Tom Coyne as a development consultant for up to $50,000 a year.
George, who acknowledged that Coyne cannot drink alcohol because of a drunken driving conviction, said he selected the former Brook Park mayor in part because of his ability to 'wine and dine' people.

'Not everybody can do that,' he said Wednesday.
Coyne, who has lost his license and must serve three days in jail later this month, said his problems would not hinder his ability to do the job. He said he has hired a driver and will refrain from drinking alcohol.
'I can drink Coca-Cola,' he said.
Some news items don't need jokes added to them. Mindless patronage that spent tax bux on politicos old buddies is one reason why I was happy to leave Nova Scotia, but there is apparently no escape.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Happy Anniversary to Kate - she's been blogging for one year. Kevin reminded us of this and of her first post over at here. As an aside, I am against calling the blogiversary, unless we start calling them marriageversarys as well.

It's always a bit mysterious how people find their way to this page. The first person to link here was the lovely and the talented Lynn. I've linked to various blogs on my roll on the right hand side of the page. I generally only put links there when I intend to read them daily, which often puts me in the bad graces of M_ as I stay up past midnight at the nebulous task of blogging. Sometimes I get unexpected praise from some damn fine writers on the web, like John Etorre. I find blogs by a few searches, but mostly by links in other blogs, or the comments in the other blogs. A few find this page via Google, though not too many. The search item least likely to find this site, but apparently finding this one from my NE Ohio Blogroll: "Boyfriends spanked apartment cousin pictures". (There aren't any there, by the way). My question is, why doesn't the searcher just ask her boyfriend for the pictures of him spanking her cousin? I tend to get most of my hits via blogroll type referrals, but a sizable number are looking for the William Carlos William poem. Or to be more accurate, they're looking for an analysis of that poem for a class. I have two pieces of advice for these types of searchers:

1. Crack a book
2. Memorize any poem that you want to truly understand. Should be easy with Red Wheelbarrow!

I don't reprint it here because it's still copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. I do applaud them for searching on literate subjects as opposed to looking for digital representations of digit to posterior assaults with unfortunate familial overtones.

More good news about coffee
Drinking three to four cups of coffee a day was associated with a 28 per cent reduced risk of diabetes. Drinking 10 cups a day cut the risk by 79 per cent in women and 55 per cent in men.
This will just encourage George who already thinks coffee is the elixir of life.

Hybrid mosquitoes may accelerate the spread of West Nile virus in North America. Something to think about as warmer weather is on the horizon. At least they're not cyborgs. Since I have what someone once termed "wimpy northern European skin" I have to avoid the sun like Alan Greenspan avoids simple declarative sentences. Thus I am somewhat more protected against this virus. We probably should file these warnings under the inevitable, like smog warnings, as there seems little chance it will ever be eradicated. Now if we could just train Africanized ("killer") bees to hunt mosquitoes....

Hubble looks even deeper into the universe.
Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a 'deep' core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years. The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. The smallest, reddest galaxies, about 100, may be among the most distant known, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old. The nearest galaxies - the larger, brighter, well-defined spirals and ellipticals - thrived about 1 billion years ago, when the cosmos was 13 billion years old.
Of course we can kiss pictures like this goodbye when Hubble crashes to earth, as funding will be redirected towards a Mars project. The Mars plan will probably not be realized, as it's funding it likely woefully inadequate to the task of getting to Mars. But on the plus side, some government contractors will make money off of the new plan. The funds proposed are not adequate to get to Mars. Therefore, Hubble is our best shot at exploring space in the near term. Some say this is just a cynical ploy by the administration to seem futurist. Given the tiny minority science geeks make up in society, and Bush's apparent disdain for scientists, perhaps all we can do is save what information Hubble gives us until a more enlightened time.

Ohio approved a lesson plan that "critically analyzes" the theory of Evolution. It was a thinly veiled attempt to insert the religious beliefs behind the so-called "Intelligent Design" theory into Ohio classrooms. Unfortunately, the Feds are busy catering to the religious right and give an endorsement to this idea. There's no science behind the dispute, just attempts to shoe-horn religious instruction into our science classes. I can already feel the bioscience companies rushing to move their businesses and employees to Ohio to enjoy the attempt to disguise and distort one of the basic principles of biology in schools. Thanks to K_ for the news, and I borrow one of his phrases to describe the Board: dumber than a bag of hammers.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Elizabeth Koch sums up why the Martha Stewart verdict should worry all of us, aside from learning how ignorant juries can be:
But a precedent has been established, or reaffirmed that the government can walk in and destroy your life; that if you get nervous while dealing with federal investigators on a fishing trip (one in which no criminal charges are ever filed), you'll go to jail; that punishing arrogance is worth demolishing one of the most successful businesses of the last decade.
Not a good thing. Unless you're Ken Lay, and then you needn't worry.

Phone Pet peeves


As I do so much work over the phone all day long I have a few pet peeves, and I would appreciate it if the human race fixed these problems ASAP

1. Making a call to a business from a business, the answering party identifies both their name and company. How quaint? Meanwhile, the caller goes right into their questions, with nary a thought that they are presently unknowable as the Shadow to the person they are talking to. Do I really need to remind people to state their name and company on business calls? Is this one of the seven signs?

2. Eliminate these sentences from your phone vocabulary, and save me time since my bones calcified when I was done being a teenager and I now spend every precious moment waiting to die - and don't want to waste more time for you to say:

"I want to ask you a question"
"I have a quick question"
Just edit these from your vocal output and you'll already be asking on the question

3. Voice mails require three short phrases. Name. Number. Brief sentence stating the issue (if you need a comma to write the sentence, it's too long). If it's an emergency, add a fourth phrase saying so. Leaving two minute long rambling messages will not give anyone more information. You're not Spalding Grey, and even if you are, he's dead. Save the stories for email.

4. If I ask you "May I please put you on hold", the following answers are not acceptable:
- incomprehensible murmuring
- Yes, but while you're doing that, here's another question
- stupefied silence

5. Eating while talking on the phone- when you called me?! Please don't let me take away your valuable feeding time. Please hang up and enjoy those animal crackers. Or better yet get a IV with nutritional content, since you clearly must be starving to death to be so foul and rude.

The Medpundit looks into a study that says statins should be prescribed for millions of healthy people to lower their cholesterol levels. Sydney says they are downplaying the potential danger to the liver, and overplaying the results:
But even using the statistical mill, the difference between the Pravachol group and the Lipitor group wasn't that impressive. Twenty-six percent in the Pravachol group had bad outcomes compared to and twenty-two percent in the Lipitor group. (Keep in mind that those aren't actual outcomes, just "estimated" outcomes), for a whopping 4 percent difference.
Worthwhile reading, to reduce the heart rate at excitement over the study.

Monday, March 08, 2004

There may be news concerning the missing Spalding Grey. I'm sorry to say, it's decidely not good news. Link via Bookslut.

Volokh talks about the possible chilling effect on people due to the false statements statute, 18 USC sec. 1001, which was highlighted in Martha Stewarts recent convictions. It's the one that says by lying to federal agents you are committing a crime. Eugene also points to his own essay on the subject, "Duties to Rescue and the Anticooperative Effects of Law". Worthwhile reading...

John Etorre praises a judge who took a lawyer to task for his badly written - as in terms of grammar, punctuation, and usage - briefs. John also takes aim at the academia nuts who kill many trees in pursuit of degrees:
Next, we suggest he turn his attention to the similarly obfuscatory strain of writing known as academese. Much of that rises above the level of misdemeanors and well into the felony range...
Trouble is that in some fields they are judged in how much they invent in new words and new word usages. I once got a lexicon from a Psych prof that would have killed a small dog had it fallen from a desk. Now I wish I had saved this dubious tome for it's redefinitions of common words into useless conglomerations of meanings like spray paint on a duck.

In touting the Cleveland Plain Dealer as attempting to be an error free newspaper Doug Clifton mentions fact-checking letters they send out to subjects of stories. I paused a bit reading this, thinking to myself "Didn't they already fact check?" At any rate, whilst singing the praises of his own papers program, he stops to say some sing too loudly in anger at a certain Jayson Blair formerly of the NY Times, who wasn't such a fan of fact checking, so much as fact inventing. But Doug thinks the anti-Blair rhetoric went too far
By any standard he had committed egregious sins, though it's my belief that coverage of those sins exponentially exceeded their gravity. I'm not suggesting that what Blair did was anything less than unforgivable, just that it generated out of proportion coverage.

Compare coverage of the Blair case to coverage of the misdeeds of a single lawyer in a top flight law firm. Or a single physician in a world famous hospital.
Right. Those famous lawyers whose cases cover millions of people who trust that they will never fail, the millions of readerspatients of those doctors who we just naturally assume are checked by a medical review board on a daily or weekly basis. I think he overestimates the granularity of confidence in the non-journalistic professions, and grossly underestimates what a betrayal of trust the Blair case was. Fact checking aside, there are few methods that can eliminate the potential of dishonest reporter distorting the news, though I know methodology is a favourite of managers everywhere for the world's ills. Does anyone think sending out letters would have put paid to Blair's ways whilst the upper editorial staff at the Times still backed him?

You say you want a constitution, well you know - we all want to change the world. So does the Governing Council in Iraq, which signed this doc. But some in Iraq hoping to make the nation another Thugocracy alongside Saudi Arabia and Iran? Geoffrey York reports on Sheik Abdul al-Bahadili...
He does acknowledge that his militia has taken tough action against those it considers to be violating Islamic laws. It has called meetings of video sellers to warn them not to sell 'pornographic' films. It has set up an Islamic sharia court in Basra to punish violators. It has taken people forcibly into custody for 'education' sessions. And on Old Basra Street, the scene of several fatal attacks on alcohol vendors by armed gangs, the militia has posted large signs to thank the citizens for their 'war on corruption.'
This kind of thing bears close watch, the kind of close watch I'm not sure the media or our government is giving it, and makes me think it will not be practical to withdraw our troops anytime soon and hope for a semblance of democracy in Iraq.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Shorter David Brooks (a boiled down version of his column:) Begin shorter DB-> We keep putting up blue bloods for political office even though we claim to love the common man. Blue bloods like...Bush, and Kerry. Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry Kerry, Kerry. Kerry is a blue blood. Kerry is an aristocrat. Kerry, Kerry. I mention Replublicans in passing, so this is a fair and balanced column /shorter.

Update: 3/8/2004 10:56 PM Also there are some wild inaccuracies, helpfully pointed out of the Daily Howler.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Heather Havrilesky writes a review of the upcoming Sopranos season and it sounds good - making other shows look like "puppet shows" by comparison.

Cal Thomas vents about homosexual marriage, or as he puts it, "marriage", being based on mutable social norms. He objects saying in essence that all morality must stem from God
If you tell me you do not believe in God and then say to me I should brake for animals, or pay women equally, or help the poor, on what basis are you making such an appeal? If no standard for objective truth, law, wisdom, justice, charity, kindness, compassion and fidelity exists in the universe, then what you are asking me to accept is an idea that has taken hold in your head but that has all of the moral compulsion of a bowl of cereal. You are a sentimentalist, trying to persuade me to a point of view based on your feelings about the subject and not rooted in the fear of God or some other unchanging earthly standard.
I guess by God Cal means his particular interpretation of what some ancient desert people's wrote about events they were usually not present for, and those event re-interpretation hundreds and in some cases thousands of years later. But leaving that aside, the problems with this position are stated rather well by Bob Carroll
You apparently would not refrain from murdering children unless you believed God ordered you to refrain from such behavior. Even if God unequivocally peeked through the clouds and revised the ten commandments to allow murder and theft, our laws would still require you to refrain from such behavior. Or do you think that the only reason we have such laws is because God requires us to honor other people's lives and property?

You obviously are not a student of philosophy or you would know that the majority of ethical theories and arguments in Western philosophy are not based on a belief in God. In fact, most of them have been developed specifically to establish moral values on non-religious grounds. This is not the place to try to explain Aristotle's ethics, or Bentham and Mill's Utilitarianism, or Kantian ethics, etc. I suppose I find it just as difficult to understand why you or anyone needs God to define morals for them. Would you really not be offended by rape if God said it was ok? Would murder not seem wrong to you if God did not forbid it? Could you live in a world where lying was as valued as telling the truth, even if God permitted lying?
Cal can have his religion, and so should anyone who wants to worship as they choose. It's when they begin insisting that their particular take on the world is ordained and must be enforced on others that I begin to take exception. I take it also that Cal wants nothing in law to exist save for that with a basis in his religion. He seems to think that all of Western thought consists of nothing more than feelings (which I guess he means something no one else can independently understand?) if not based on "fear of God". The fact that Cal doesn't understand this is not so much what you would call surprising.

Cal would like any arguments about morality to start from a basis of "knowing" that the only basis of any morality is his particular religious understandings. Forgetting any other theological schools which support or at least do not condemn gay marriage. This seems to be begging the question of what should be the basis of moral understand. I guess Cal prefers a universe in which a pundit Creator determines all that we should do and think. Subject to certain approvals and interpretations, which I am guessing are also beyond question? I fail to see why I should view in a negative light the attempts of people I don't know to obtain the same legal benefits I enjoy because I happen to be straight (parenthetically, I must object to the use of "happens to be" [You're talking to yourself again - Ed])

Postscript: My old-school, heterosexual marriage doesn't seem to be collapsing due to gays getting married so far. Go figure. Other things not affecting it include last night's Jay Leno monologue, the migration of crabs in the Pacific Ocean, poorly maintained turnstiles in the New York City subway system, Paris Hilton's reading list, Liza Minneli's dating pool, and the Counter-Reformation.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Song Di Rae, the North Korean Diplomat who attempted to become a refugee in Canada, can now stay in Canada.
The ministry ruled that the risk Mr. Ri would be tortured or killed if deported outweighed any danger he may pose to Canada.

"I felt like I was in hell and now I'm on my way to heaven," Mr. Ri said. "I want to thank Canada for saving my life. I never was a war criminal and I am happy that someone in the government can take this rock off my back. I want to raise my son to believe in truth and justice. He will see we were treated fairly, even though it took so long to get to the right conclusion."
I had mentioned previously that I thought the original decision to send him back when his wife was executed there was one I disagreed with, in this post. In counterpoint, I received an email from a former Immigration Review board member (in Canada) who said we should trust in the system that marked Ri for deportation, due to ongoing problems with criminals in nasty regimes getting into Canada.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Atrios would like a moratorium on the term "politically incorrect" being applied to unrepentant racists. PC is such a vague term anyway, used by pundits on the right derisively, and by academia nuts on the left to classify anything that they disagree with. I would deed that it is devoid of meaning. The phrase may not have started out that way, but presently it's morphed into it's current, useless usage that imparts no additional information.

Noah (aka the AfricaPundit) has been reading up on Idi Amin, and notes a similarity with the current dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. Bets on which country he will end up fleeing to in the end? Probably France. I'm hoping for sooner rather than later, but it doesn't look good for Zimbabwe in any case.

Sidney Smith notes that 0.08% may not be statistically significant enough to overide the benefits of estrogren therapy for women.
You can bet that there will be yet more attempts at class action lawsuits against estrogen based on this study. The problem is, there are a lot of elderly women out there who have been taking estrogen replacement therapy and who have had strokes. But chances are that the majority of those strokes weren't caused by estrogen, but by aging blood vessels. Not when the increase in risk is only 0.08%.
Sidney says that this may spur legal actions, but maybe not to the benefit of anyone's health. Profit motive for the lawyers? Check. The MedPundit blog is well worth reading for an inside view of health care...

Baby Doc may return to Haiti
On the heels of the former president's departure, deposed Haitian dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier has announced his desire to return to his homeland as soon as possible.
In an interview late Monday, Mr. Duvalier, who lives in Paris, said he requested a diplomatic passport several weeks ago, although he does not plan to run for president.
Living in Paris? Of course. Returning to Haiti? Let's hope not.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Got a sweet tooth? Get some truffles, made by the one and only Foodgoat of ingredients like "Belgian chocolate, Barbados rum, chocolate-covered espresso beans". It'll help support his band's recording costs. With a name like Foodgoat, it has to be good!

Angelweave hosts the Bonfire of the Vanities. This is a good chance to add some blogs to your reading list, I know I always find one or two there the fit my own peculiar mindset.

Anita talks about the problems of only being able to get good online banking done at larger banks. Her own small bank insisted she had to come in to the bank to sign up for online service, which tells you that they really aren't taking the online biz very seriously. Could it merely be economies of scale? Large banks can afford to have in-house programmers full time, making up and maintaining web sites, but smaller ones might have to work with contractors, who will charge several times the rates they would need to pay in house programmers.

Not to mention when some companies go with software contractors, just like home contractors, they can get reamed. A certain large Cleveland institution had to have a website store. So they paid a woman 30K to do it, and what did she do? Plug in some data into a Yahoo storefront. I still don't think they realize how badly they were ripped off, but then when your CIO isn't tech savvy, there's the rub.

But I'd chalk some of it to just being overly conservative with something you don't understand (on-line banking) or think your customers don't want. This is just a sign of being out of touch with customers, especially with small businesses as in Anita's case.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Fewer foreigners are in the Cleveland area, despite the fact it used to be a gateway
Foreign-born Clevelanders constituted 26 percent of the city's population in 1930, 15 percent in 1950, before the immigrant drought descended.
By 1990, only 4 percent of city residents had been born abroad, the lowest percentage in 120 years.
However this may be a reflections of outmigration and general population decline in the area more than immigrants specifically not coming here. Living here since 1998, I think it's one of the most underrated cities in the US, with culture and restaurants other cities would envy. But I came here not knowing much about it except that the river once caught fire and Drew Carrey hailed Cleveland as home.

Letters - we get letters. Well, we once in a while get a letter. This was recieved from Lubomyr Luciuk, regarding this post on the deportation of a North Korean defector. Reprinted on a separate page here (due to length). In short, Mr. Luciuk thinks many defectors are nothing of the sort, and are sometimes just after a better economic climate, and may in fact may be guilty of crimes. I think without evidence of the crimes of any kinds this is not such a great argument. Anyway, read it and decide for yourself.

The Times had a piece on what they call bloodless resistance by which they mean the rather rare non-violent protests in the West Bank.A couple of lines caught my eye
"The first intifada was more popular because of the stones," said Sanad Shahadi, 18, holding a sling fashioned from rope and a nylon strap.

Asked if the violence conflicted with the demonstration, he said: "It's a symbol. If you throw a stone at a soldier, you won't kill him. It's a message against occupation, not a message to kill."
The reporter, James Bennet, offers no insight into this statement. In fact througout the article he seems to be saying that stone throwing is akin to a Davod and Goliath situation. Well they aren't pebbles, and the context this is happening in is often missed. Here's some of that "message" via stone-throwing (click image for story):