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2003/11/30

Snopes Alert

The tinfoil-hat squad is about to get some new ammo to support their claim that no man's ever walked on the moon. The only problem, the evidence is from a straight-faced mockumentary. From Roger Ebert's Movie Answer Man:

    Q. The CBC is showing a documentary called "Dark Side of The Moon." According to the blurb, during an interview with Stanley Kubrick's widow, she reveals that Kubrick, along with other producers, were recruited to create moon landing footage in case NASA wasn't able to transmit signals from the moon. The Nixon administration couldn't afford a public relations failure. In exchange, Kubrick got a special NASA lens to help him shoot "Barry Lyndon" in 1975.

    Marie Haws,

    New Westminster, British Columbia


    A. The doc aired Nov. 16 and repeated Nov. 21. According to Alex Strachan of the CanWest News Service, it contains on-camera interviews with Christiane Kubrick, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Al Haig and others, and says the fake landing was filmed on the same sound stage Kubrick used for the moon in "2001: A Space Odyssey." So why didn't Americans hear about this amazing expose? Because "Dark Side of the Moon," by the French documentarian William Karel, is a mockumentary. Using camera trickery, special effects and editing of real interviews that takes words out of context, it seems to be a factual report of a hoax -- but is a hoax itself.
Lovely. I can't wait to see this on talk.origins, rec.arts.sf.science and all the other newsgroups that attract loons.

2003/11/29

When There Is No More Room in Hell, the Dead Shall Walk the Malls

In what sounds like a scene in the upcoming remake of Dawn of the Dead early-bird Wal-Mart shoppers trampled a woman in their rush to get a $29 DVD player.

Mmm, need brains.
Let the Melee Resume

The end of November in the early 21st Century -- that can mean only one thing: time for the first reviews of the new Lord of the Rings movie to appear online, and for fanboys to begin arguing over changes to the story. That's two -- two things that can only be meant by the end of November in the early 21st Century. Cardinal Fang, fetch the comfy chair!

AICN has two genuine looking reviews that are sparse with spoilage, and a third that resembles a leafy object that grows from the ground. (NOTE TO STUDIO P.R. DEPARTMENTS: When a review praises a movie but gives out fewer concrete details than the trailer, it's a dead giveaway that it's a plant.)

This of course means that for the next few months, the Internet, particularly Usenet discussion groups, will be consumed by flamewars -- "Oh my God, Faramir wore his signet ring on the third finger of his left hand! That completely ruins one of the Tolkien's central themes! PJ's a complete hack! He has no respect for the source material! I'm starting a petition demanding that the studio rename the film and take Tolkien's name off the credits!" (Okay, I'm exagerrating a bit, but that bit is frighteningly small. I'd recommend against reading rec.arts.books.tolkien between now and April of 2004.)

2003/11/28

Can't Handle the Truth, or Don't Want To?

Big surprise -- the loony-toons left is getting worked up over Bush's trip to Baghdad.

    President Bush visiting Iraq for Thanksgiving? His arrogance and overblown self-importance really exposes him. Bush doesn't do his job by bringing the troops home. Instead he flies for a photo-op with them to use in his re-election campaign.
The Commander in Chief visiting the troops in the field is nothing new -- I'm pretty sure Clinton made a few Thanksgiving trips to the Balkans, the first Bush showed up in Saudi Arabia in '90, LBJ visited Vietnam, and, of course, the grand-daddy of all Presidential visits to the field, was Lincoln's trip to Antietam. This is what Presidents do -- and you know what, the troops like it.

    He was there a total of two hours.
Yeah, imagine that, the President secretly visits an area that's still exposed to armed combat and only stays two hours. It's almost as though his security team was afraid that if they stayed too long, someone might organize an attack. Fancy that.

    These men and women in the military are not protecting me, and I do not want or need their protection. Bush should get off the big lie that they are there to protect me as an American. I would rather die than be protected in that way.
Oh, what grandiloquence. She reminds me of the three morons in The War of the Worlds who decide to approach the Martian war machine while waving a white flag, 'cause, y'know, the white flag is a universal peace sign.

If not for the military, the lion would lie down with the lamb -- because lambs can't stand up when their entrails are strewn across the grass, and lions like a nice eighteen hour nap after a meal. People like this make me think Colonel Jessep wasn't so crazy.

    I am ashamed to be an American as long as Bush is in office.
The more I see overblown rhetoric like this, the more convinced I am that many peaceniks are just poseurs who enjoy acting put-upon, like characters from a really bad Anne Rice novel -- "Oh, Bush is President, we are ever so doomed! He has ruined America."

Seriously, get over it already. It was annoying when the right wing-nuts acted this way under Clinton, and it's no better now.

2003/11/27

Happy Turkey Day

I was just trying to find something non-football to watch on TV -- SciFi channel doesn't have a Twilight Zone or Star Trek marathon; FX doesn't have a 24 or Buffy marathon; and Comedy Central long ago discontinued the MST3K turkey day -- and I came across Cartoon Network, which is showing some old Thanksgiving themed toons. They showed a Huckleberry Hound short involving everyone's favorite gay dog trying to catch a turkey while fighting off Indians.

Ah, the holiday spirit.

Now excuse me, Spike TV is showing a James Bond marathon; I think I'm going to dig up some of my old 007 video tapes and veg out to Pussy Galore and Honey Ryder.

2003/11/26

Blood Libel Cartoon Wins British Award

The British Political Cartoon Society has given a cartooning prize to a drawing depicting Ariel Sharon eating a baby.



Now some will argue that this isn't anti-semitic because it's aimed at Sharon not Jews in general, but this overlooks the fact that it plays upon the old Jewish Blood Libel myth, the idea that Jews kill Christian children and use their blood to butter matzoh. Just compare the above cartoon to this illustration.

Jews disembowel a child in preparation for Passover

Let's consider for a moment a hypothetical cartoon, one depicting Kobe Bryant, Michael Jackson, and R. Kelly as leering cretins threatening the virtue of young white girls (and maybe a couple boys) like a scene from The Birth of a Nation. One could argue that such a cartoon wouldn't racist because it's targeting three accused sexual predators, not blacks in general. But one would be wrong -- the usage of a stereotype to attack a member of a race is a form of racism. And depicting Ariel Sharon as a baby eater is anti-semitic, no two ways about it.

UPDATE: This site has more pictures depicting the Blood Libel.

Jews draining blood from corpses

Sinking the knife in

The more of these I look at, the less difference I see between them and the cartoon.
Filing off the Serial Numbers

You know what I hate most about Michael Crichton? Not that he writes science fiction novels but insists they aren't science fiction so as to ensure they get stuck in the genre ghetto. No, that's annoying. What I hate is that he steals his plots straight from other science fiction novels and files off the serial numbers so his non-SF reading fans won't notice.

For example, consider the tale of an archaeologist who goes back in time to the Middle Ages and becomes stuck, forcing her colleagues to mount a rescue mission. Am I describing Timeline, the new movie based upon a Crichton story? Nope. I'm talking about Connie Willis's The Doomsday Book, which won a Hugo Award almost a decade before Crichton published his script treat -- I mean novel. The premises are almost identical, except Crichton decided to forego richly detailed descriptions of medieval life and society in favor of action sequences that'll look rilly kewl on the big screen.

The Doomsday Book isn't a great novel -- the scenes in the past are truly powerful, especially towards the end, but the future sequences bog the story down too much -- but I'd certainly recommend people read it instead of Crichton's book or watching the movie.
Programing Geniuses

Lisa de Moraes reports that:

    "Tru Calling." Last week, Fox's new chatting-with-dead-people drama logged 3.8 million viewers. That was good enough to make it the least watched program on any of the Big Four networks except that "The O.C." rerun that followed "Tru Calling" Thursday. Heck, "Tru" scored a smaller audience than almost every series on UPN last week. "Cowabunga!" shouted Fox suits, who proceeded to award "Tru" a full-season pickup. They do things differently over at Fox.
You know, I gave up on this show after the first episode -- I would've done it sooner, but the only other thing on was The O'Reilly Factor, so I kept the TV on Fox while I surfed the web. As much as I enjoy watching Eliza Dushku run around while wearing a halter-top that jacks her breasts up to her ears, that's not enough substance for a TV series -- it was barely enough for a pilot.

But what puzzles me here, is that last year Fox canceled the excellent series Firefly even though it had higher ratings that Tru Calling. In fact, Fox is notorious for treating low-rated series with the same ruthlessness as Darth Vader shows to those with a lack of faith. The producers of the series must have pictures of the network execs sucking each other's jagons or something.

2003/11/25

... and John Kerry as Williamson

Mickey Kaus points out an interesting segment of yesterday's Democratic debate where John Kerry just kept hammering at Dean with the same question:

    KERRY: No, the question is will you slow the rate of growth? Do you intend to slow the rate of growth in Medicare because you said you were going to do that? ...

    KERRY: Are you going to slow the rate of growth, Governor, yes or no?

    DEAN: We're going to do what we have to do to make sure that Medicare lasts.

    KERRY: Are you going to slow the rate of growth, Governor? [Emph. added [by Kaus]]
The thing is, that whole exchange seems very Mametian, almost like a scene out of Glengarry Glen Ross:

    WILLIAMSON: Go to lunch, will you.

    GEORGE AARONOW: That’s why I...I...I...I came in to work today. That's why...

    WILLIAMSON: When the leads come in I'll let you know.

    GEORGE AARONOW: That's why I came in here. I thought...

    WILLIAMSON: Go to lunch.

    GEORGE AARONOW: I don't want to go to lunch.

    WILLIAMSON: Go to lunch, George.
Except John Kerry's no Kevin Spacey and Dean's not a schlub like George.

Actually, the Presidential election as a Mamet play cold be pretty interesting.

    We're adding a little something to this year's primary season. As you all know, first prize is the nomination. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is the running-mate slot. Third prize is you're a congressman.
Or perhaps,

    DENNIS KUCINICH: What's an under-secretary position?

    JOE LIEBERMAN: It's what you give to your secretary instead of a raise.
And of course:

    RALPH NADER: But it's absurd!

    AL GORE: So's our electoral system, but we still vote.
Israel Goes Open Source

The Israeli government has decided to switch from MS Office to the OpenOffice.org suite, starting with their employment agency. Microsoft, unsurprisingly, is none to happy about the move:

    "The employment agency has selected an immature and unproven software package and its functionality is at the best close to Office 97," said Microsoft representatives.
As someone on Slashdot noted -- Yeah, now MS admits -97 was crap.

As a user of OpenOffice.org, I'll be the first to admit that it's far from perfect. Writer, for example, suffers the same problem as Word -- bloat: it contains so many bells and whistles for desktop publishing that it overwhelms the word processing functionality. But on the whole, I'd rather use Writer than Word -- it's more customizable, so you can turn off those bells and whistles; it has better visual tools for WYSIWYG formatting; and it's capable of handling book length manuscripts, unlike Word which begins inserting random section breaks for anything longer than about fifty pages.

Once you acclimate yourself to the new system, OpenOffice.org is easy to use and fully functional. Which may be why MS didn't limit itself to attacking the competition, but also

    ... reacted scornfully to the decision, the Hebrew-only Daily Mail reports, accusing the Israelis of being tight-fisted.
Okay, so let me get this straight -- Microsoft is accusing Israel, the nation of Jews, of being stingy.

Uh, whiskey-tango-foxtrot, over?

What, is Bill Gates afraid the International Jewish Conspiracy (TM) will interfere in his plans for world domination or something?

Seriously, what the fuck?

2003/11/24

SCO: All Your Code Are Belong to Us

The Free Software Foundation has an analysis of SCO's case against Linux.

Executive Summary: SCO is more full of shit than a five pound sack filled with ten pounds of manure.

Money Quote:

    In Las Vegas Mr. McBride offered two examples of code from the Linux program that were supposedly copied from Sys V. The first implements the "Berkeley Packet Filter" (BPF) firewall. Indeed, the Linux kernel program contains a BPF implementation, but it is the original work of Linux developer Jay Schulist. Nor did SCO ever hold an ownership interest in the original BPF implementation, which as the very name shows was originally part of BSD Unix, and which was copied, perfectly legally, into SCO's Sys V Unix from BSD. Because the BPF implementations in Sys V and Linux have a common intellectual ancestor and perform the same function, SCO's "pattern-matching" search of the two code bases turned up an apparent example of copying. But SCO didn't do enough research to realize that the work they were claiming was infringed wasn't their own (probably because they had "carelessly" removed the original copyright notice).
Well, that certainly explains why they're thinking about suing BSD.
Worst Blog Ever

Michael Jackson's new website looks like the Bush campaign blog, but with even less content.
Leaks

Well, that memo detailing links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein is finally being covered in the WaPo -- but it's Howard Kurtz's column on media, and he doesn't so much analyze the memo as repeat Jack Shafer's Slate column on the subject and add his voice to the question of why it isn't being covered.
Hollywood Stock Exchange as Market Indicator

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the severe downward adjustment of the Matrix Revolutions stock on the Hollywood Stock Exchange as a sign the film was underperforming at the box office. Well, if you didn't believe me, the NY Times has an article on the predictive powers of the game.

The story does overlook one important factor, what HSX players refer to as the Geek Fan Boy (GFB) quotient: generally speaking, a movie more than a few months from release is a bad investment -- no matter how low the current price is, you can almost certainly turn bigger profits in shorter term investments, so smart traders put their money in stocks that are opening in the next few months, at least until their portfolios get so big they need other places to invest. However, GFBs aren't smart traders, and instead buy up anything that sounds cool -- "Ooo, Star Wars Episode III! And X-Men 3! And Terminator 4 even though Arnold won't be in it! Buy it all!"

The upshot here is that a number of movies end up with grossly over-inflated prices. This isn't necessarily a bad thing -- from a marketing point of view, it tells you what movies are highly anticipated, and from a player's POV it lets you game certain stocks. As the trader quoted at the end of the article points out, if the market were more efficient, it'd be harder to make money -- the thrill of the game is in day-trading and playing the openers, and earning (or losing as I did this weekend) a million dollars in one day, not searching bond-charts to find arbitrage opportunities.
Serves You Right, Perv

Once again, it's Fun with Site Stats -- today it's some poor guy who searched Yahoo for "big fuzzy pussy", which turns up a post where I refer to a cat as just that. I feel kinda sorry for the guy -- can't even find pr0n on the Internet. Actually, I'm pretty surprised that I'm result #3 on Yahoo's top results page -- I mean, in all the vastness of the Internet, I find it hard to believe that there aren't more references to "big fuzzy puss[ies]."

2003/11/23

Another Congressional Dummy

As though Marilyn Musgrave's performance on This Week wasn't bad enough, I just caught the tail-end of Denny Hastert's appearance on Fox News Sunday, in which he made this comment:

    Now, we've already passed a federal law, the DOMA Act, Defense of Marriage Act, to do that. I think it has to be tested in the courts. When it's tested in the courts, that will be the law of the land.

    However, if it's not, then we'll have to go to a constitutional amendment. But let me warn you, a constitutional amendment -- we haven't passed a constitutional amendment since I've been in Congress. You know, you have to have an extraordinary majority in the House and in the Senate. We can get it in the House. I'm not sure you can get it in the Senate. And then you have to have the states ratify it.
Well now, if by "we" he means his fellow Congresscritters, then he's correct but misleading; if "we" refers to the United States as a whole, he's flat out wrong -- he was elected to Congress in 1986; the states ratified the 27th Amendment in 1992.
Andrew Sullivan and Barney Frank Have a 3-Way with Rep. Musgrave

Kudos to Andrew Sullivan for making Marilyn Musgrave look like a complete bink. That she authored the Federal Marriage Amendment was enough to tell me she's either a bigot or an idiot, but Sullivan's cross-examination proved it's definitely the latter not the former. That she wouldn't (or couldn't) give a straight answer on how she squares the amendment with state's rights was bad enough, but that she doesn't even understand what her own amendment says was unbelievable. I almost fell out of my seat when Sullivan quoted the bit that would outlaw civil unions and she responded, "That's not what it means." Then Barney Frank whipped out the text of the amendment -- absolutely priceless. I think anyone with a high school education can recognize how stupid her "Well, that's not the intent of the amendment" argument is -- courts look at, you know, what a law actually says, not necessarily what the drafters meant it to say.

How did a woman like that get into Congress?
Oh Frabjous Day!

Opus is back! No Bill the Cat yet, but it's a start.

All we need now is Calvin and Hobbes to return.

Oh, and Andrew Sullivan will be on This Week.

2003/11/22

Miracle Mile

Miracle Mile, which I once saw referred to as the most upbeat movie in which everyone dies, was on cable last night. Ugh. Even now that the threat of global thermonuclear war (as opposed to a mere localized atomic firestorm) seems far away, the movie is still powerful -- certainly up there with On the Beach and Fail Safe.

For the 99.9% of you who have no idea what I'm babbling about, Miracle Mile is the story of Harry (played by everyone's favorite nerd, Anthony Edwards), an affable fellow who plays in a swing band. One day he meets Julie, a punky girl who -- strangely -- loves swing music and is as sweet as a million pixie-sticks, and they fall deeply in love on the first date.

And then things swing into what I can only describe as a dark screw-ball comedy (the film's been compared, aptly, to Scorcese's After Hours). Harry's supposed to pick Julie up from her job at an all-nite diner, but his alarm malfunctions and he gets there two hours late only to discover Julie's long gone. He uses a payphone to leave an apologetic message on her answering machine; as he's waiting to see if she'll call back, the phone rings and he picks it up thinking it's her. Instead he hears a frantic man babbling about the balloon going up and the shit coming down. Harry interrupts to ask what the hell he's talking about, and the guy realizes he dialed the wrong number -- he's in a missile silo somewhere and wants to tell his dad it's the Big One, W-W-I-I-I, and the first missiles fly in one hour. Just then there's gunfire on the phone and a new voice comes on the line, saying, "Forget what you heard and go back to bed."

Naturally Harry's rattled by this, so he goes into the diner and orders a pot of coffee. He's not sure if it's a prank or not, but he can't risk it, so he warns his fellow diners -- a dimwitted stewardess, a couple skeazy truck-driver types, a transvestite, a disheveled man in a suit, along with the short-order cook and a waitress. Oh, and Ms. Plotdevice, a mysterious woman in a power-suit named Landa (Star Trek TNG's Denise Crosby) who puts aside her Cliff Notes on Gravity's Rainbow(!) and makes Harry repeat the phonecall back verbatim. Halfway through the recitation, her face goes dark as she recognizes a codeword the caller had used -- How? Well, she explains, because her ex-boyfriend had worked for the RAND corporation(!!). She whips out her mobile phone, a typically bulky '80s jobber that looks like something doughboys carried in the trenchs, and tries calling several of her friends in the government, all of whom have suddenly decided this is a good time to take a vacation in Antarctica(!!!). Landa decides to follow suit and books a charter flight out of LAX for herself and all the people in the diner(!!!!), then, as they're all piling into a delivery truck to head for the airport, she mentions to Harry that she's arranging for a helicopter to pick up some of her friends from the roof a nearby building(!!!!!).

Well that's all Harry needs -- he figures he has time to get Julie from her apartment and over to the heliport before the worst heatwave in LA history starts. But things can't be that simple, and Harry runs into ever increasing problems, culminating in a truly apocalyptic riot. The whole thing plays out with nightmarish absurdity that leaves you unsure of whether you should be laughing or crying at it all, such as the scene where Harry's running around LA at 5:00 AM looking for someone who knows how to fly a helicopter. Finally he ducks into a gym where he finds a Schwarzeneggeresque weightlifter who admits he can fly.

    Lifter: I have to get someone.

    Harry: It's coming down. We have to leave. Now!

    Lifter: I'm not going without her.

    Harry: There's no time.

    Lifter: Then shoot me.

    Harry: Okay, get her.

    [Lifter goes to door]

    Lifter: Leslie, we're leaving.
And then there're the two women who show up at the heliport with machineguns -- no rhyme or reason for it, except maybe a reference to Night of the Comet -- and start arguing about luggage.

    Woman 1: What's that?

    Woman 2: Condoms.

    Woman 1: Condoms? We have to repopulate the planet!

    Woman 2: You can repopulate the planet.
Now I know some people don't like the film because there are so many unresolved plot threads -- what happened to the other diners, who are the girls with the guns, who shot Wilson's sister, and what triggered the war -- but they're missing the point. The movie is Harry's story, and the director decided to tell the whole thing from his point of view -- we're never privy to any information that Harry doesn't have. Other stories intersect Harry's, but he's so focused on getting Julie to the heliport that he doesn't pay attention to them and we're only given tantalizing glimpses at what's going on.

Which isn't to say the story is perfect. The sheer absurdity of the Landa character in the movie is forgivable given the film's tone, but at times the plot structure seems like something out of a really bad Doctor Who episode -- Harry tells Julie to wait while he goes off to deal with a problem; Julie wanders off; Harry has to find Julie. Rinse, repeat. Still, the film's tightly paced even with the repetitiveness, and the climax makes up for the flaws.

2003/11/21

Cat Blogging

What is it with female bloggers and their kitties? Sgt. Mom just published the latest installment on her attempts to tame a feral kitty; everyone's favorite snarky stripper, Diablo, has pictures of her big fuzzy pussy up; and even Meryl Yourish peppers her site with photos and tales of her kitties. (And notice that all of them have multiple cats, too.) About the only female blogger I've come across who doesn't post about cats is Virginia Postrel.
George Soros Goes Retarded

George Soros is clearly trying to give Dennis Kucinich a run for his money in the loony-toons department. Just take a look at this article in the Atlantic.

    It is generally agreed that September 11, 2001, changed the course of history. But we must ask ourselves why that should be so. How could a single event, even one involving 3,000 civilian casualties, have such a far-reaching effect?
Well, see nation-states exist to protect the lives of their citizens, which means when foreign-nationals commit mass-murder on those selfsame citizens, the state has an obligation to act, otherwise it's failed in its purpose.

    The answer lies not so much in the event itself as in the way the United States, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, responded to it.
Because if terrorists had killed three-thousand people on Clinton's watch, we would've shrugged and gone on with our business. Jebus, Soros sounds like some sort of right wingnut.

    Admittedly, the terrorist attack was historic in its own right. Hijacking fully fueled airliners and using them as suicide bombs was an audacious idea, and its execution could not have been more spectacular. The destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center made a symbolic statement that reverberated around the world, and the fact that people could watch the event on their television sets endowed it with an emotional impact that no terrorist act had ever achieved before.
No, the destruction of a couple ugly neo-Bauhaus skyscrapers didn't reverberate around the world. The toppling of the towers had no emotional impact.

The death of three thousand people, the shots of them leaping from windows rather than burn alive -- that's what shook the world. If the terrorists had killed three thousand people in a non-descript mid-western town, it would've had the same effect.

    The aim of terrorism is to terrorize, and the attack of September 11 fully accomplished this objective.
No shit, Sherlock. Thanks for enlightening us.

    Even so, September 11 could not have changed the course of history to the extent that it has if President Bush had not responded to it the way he did. He declared war on terrorism, and under that guise implemented a radical foreign-policy agenda whose underlying principles predated the tragedy. Those principles can be summed up as follows: International relations are relations of power, not law; power prevails and law legitimizes what prevails.
Welcome to the real world, Mr. Sorors, here are your copies of The Prince, The Art of War, Leviathan, and Essence of Decision.

    The United States is unquestionably the dominant power in the post-Cold War world; it is therefore in a position to impose its views, interests, and values. The world would benefit from adopting those values, because the American model has demonstrated its superiority. The Clinton and first Bush Administrations failed to use the full potential of American power. This must be corrected; the United States must find a way to assert its supremacy in the world.
Well, Papa Bush certainly failed, but Clinton had no compunction about exercising American power when he saw fit, even without UN approval -- whether he yielded it to the best effect is another question entirely.

    This foreign policy is part of a comprehensive ideology customarily referred to as neoconservatism, though I prefer to describe it as a crude form of social Darwinism. I call it crude because it ignores the role of cooperation in the survival of the fittest, and puts all the emphasis on competition. In economic matters the competition is between firms; in international relations it is between states. In economic matters social Darwinism takes the form of market fundamentalism; in international relations it is now leading to the pursuit of American supremacy.
Nice strawman, Soros, but does it sing and dance?

The reason neoconservatives are neo is that they're former liberals with a hard-core view of foreign policy, and don't fit the above description.

    Not all the members of the Bush Administration subscribe to this ideology, but neoconservatives form an influential group within it. They publicly called for the invasion of Iraq as early as 1998.
This is rather disingenuous -- Soros makes it sound like they just spontaneously started advocating invasion for no reason.

1998 was the year Hussein kicked UNSCOM inspectors out of the country; after some negotiations with Kofi Annan, Hussein let them return, but immediately began stonewalling. At the time, the so-called neoconservatives advocated ending the problem once and for all by invading, but the news media largely ignored them -- and the crisis in general -- because they were more interested in Monica! Indeed, when Clinton finally told the inspectors to get out of Dodge and launched a major air-campaign, many people, especially the numb-nuts Republicans pushing the Monica scandal, accused him of wagging the dog; even if he'd agreed with the neoconservative plan, he was in no position to do anything about it.

The point here is that the neoconservatives developed their position on Iraq when it became obvious that the inspection regime was a game of silly-buggers. You might disagree with that conclusion, but saying "They've been advocating this since 1998" as though it's a bad thing is absolutely idiotic. If anyone should be criticized for advocating the invasion, it should be those Republicans who support it now, but criticized Clinton for doing anything at all.

    Their ideas originated in the Cold War and were further elaborated in the post-Cold War era. Before September 11 the ideologues were hindered in implementing their strategy by two considerations: George W. Bush did not have a clear mandate (he became President by virtue of a single vote in the Supreme Court), and America did not have a clearly defined enemy that would have justified a dramatic increase in military spending.
Well, that and Bush ran on a platform that was, if not isolationist, then the equivalent of the shy girl in class who doesn't talk to anyone unless they initiate the conversation.

    September 11 removed both obstacles. President Bush declared war on terrorism, and the nation lined up behind its President. Then the Bush Administration proceeded to exploit the terrorist attack for its own purposes. It fostered the fear that has gripped the country in order to keep the nation united behind the President, and it used the war on terrorism to execute an agenda of American supremacy. That is how September 11 changed the course of history.
I don't know why he's pussyfooting around instead of coming out and saying what he's clearly implying -- 11 September was the Reichstag fire, and the PATRIOT Act the Ermachtigungsgesetz

Think I'm over-reaching? Read on:

    The supremacist ideology of the Bush Administration stands in opposition to the principles of an open society, which recognize that people have different views and that nobody is in possession of the ultimate truth.
"Supremacist ideology," "opposition to the principles of an open society," draw your own conclusions about what Soros is implying.

But no matter, what Soros says is a mischaracterization of American principles. The philosophy laid out by Hobbes and Locke holds that not only is the government responsible for the safety of the citizenry, but that we as citizens are responsible to our fellow man -- if the government infringes on the rights of someone else, we have an obligation to do everything in our power to stop the government, up to and including overthrowing it. Hobbes and Locke limited themselves to an individual's relation to his own government, but following their reasoning to its logical extreme, our obligation should be applied to all men, whether they're citizens of our nation or not, whether they're oppressed by our nation or not.

As a practical matter, we cannot end all injustices on Earth, and must pick our fights, but as a moral matter, we must work to end tyrrany wherever it lives, which is what the neoconservatives (the real ones, not Rumsfeld and Rice) want. Soros' morally relativist whining, this idea that we mustn't oppress the oppressors, is imbecilic, facile, and interminable (I've only managed to fisk a third of it), and I have to wonder why, other than his vast wealth, the Atlantic would deem it worthy of print.
Take it to the Streets If You're Looking for Human Flesh

David Carr over at Samizdata went out yesterday to explore the London protests, and he found some very disturbing things, though he doesn't seem to know what they portend.

Consider this:

    It was while I was weaving my way around trying to get some decent snaps that I found myself alongside a beard-and-sandals job chanting into a megaphone that was obviously faulty (probably as a result of a Haliburton-Mossad black op) and rendered his pearls of wisdom utterly unintelligable. To me it sounded like:

    "Aarg zahg fahg blahg GEORGE BUSH wahg pahg"
That's not gibberish. That's the Black Speech of Mordor -- he's saying, "Find the halflings, bring me the head of George Bush!"

Don't believe me? Think I'm being silly? Well take a look at this:



Proof positive that there were orcs in the protest. Elbereth Gilthoniel! If the Eye can send its fell beasts to London, it can dispatch them anywhere.
So Let Me Get This Straight...

According to the Ninth Circuit, gun manufacturers are liable if someone buys their guns from a dealer and uses it to commit a crime, but people are free to make machine guns in their garage.

"Give us this, our daily consistency."

2003/11/20

The Cat in the Gucci Hat (Exclusively at Hechts)

Is there anything that doesn't have a marketing tie-in for The Cat in the Hat? I mean, for Jebus sake, there are cleaning products featuring the Cat in the Hat, and I'm sure if you went to a club, you'd find officially liscenced CitH LSD tabs. Why doesn't Universal just dig up Dr. Seuss and offer his bones with every kiddy ticket?
British Freedom of Speech

You know that reporter who managed to get hired by Buckingham Palace? Well, the Queen (Elizabeth, not Charles) is trying to injunct his paper from publishing more stories on the subject. Ah, prior restraint, isn't it lovely. Glad the monarchists are on our side.
First She Ruined Star Wars, Now Superman

According to the ever-so reliable IMDb newspage, Natalie Portman, whose performances in the new Star Wars films has made me appreciate the acting ability of wood, is up for the part of Lois Lane in a new Superman movie. Please, just look at this girl:

Natalie Portman picks her ass

Superman would break her in half with one hug.

2003/11/19

Family Guy: The Show That Wouldn't Die

After the success of Family Guy on Cartoon Network (where it's garnered higher ratings than some of the network late-night shows) and DVD, Fox is considering resurrecting it. Keep in mind, Fox canceled the series after the first season, brought it back when fans complained, canceled it again, then brought it back one last time during the summer so they could show the last set of episodes, which would make this the fourth resurrection of the series.
Bambi Bambenbek: Dr. Phil Held Me Prisoner

If this isn't true, it ought to be.

    Convicted murderer Laurie "Bambi" Bembenek (search) went on "The Dr. Phil Show" to clear her name, but she wound up with an amputated leg and a lawsuit against Dr. Phil, Paramount, and 52 staffers on his syndicated show.

    The suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, accuses Dr. Phil and his co-defendants of imprisoning her in a Marina Del Rey apartment, where she shattered her leg in the act of escaping out a window with bed sheets she had tied together. Her leg eventually had to be amputated below the knee.

    The alleged imprisonment and subsequent escape, both of which occurred a year ago, were eerily reminiscent of an earlier time in the life of Bembenek. She had previously escaped from prison and fled to Canada in 1990 after serving eight years for a murder she has insisted for years she did not commit.

    The story of the ex-Milwaukee cop and Playboy Club cocktail waitress convicted in 1982 of killing her husband's ex-wife spawned duelling TV movies 10 years ago -- "Woman on the Run: The Lawrencia Bembenek Story," starring Tatum O'Neal on NBC; and "Calendar Girl, Cop Killer? The Bambi Bembenek Story," starring Lindsay Frost.
Stealth Evangelism

I find this post in the Mozillazine forums hilarious:

    I carry it around on a CD and install it with the Luna theme whenever I service any of their computers (school). Then I hide the IE icon on the desktop, and rename the Firebird icon to "Internet Explorer", and give it the IE button, and finally set it as the default browser. They never notice. ^_^
Heh, heh, heh.

(Is it any wonder open-source evangelists are considered kooky.)
Why Does This Keep Coming Up?

A Senator is suggesting that taxing email might be a good way to stop spam.

    It's difficult to prevent the use of spam when there's no cost associated with sending thousands, tens of thousands or even millions of e-mails," Dayton, D-Minn., said in a recent conference call with reporters.

    Dayton said a tax on e-mail should be studied along with other proposals to crack down on spam, but he stressed that he is not advocating it. "It's just one of the tactics that should be considered, but I don't favor it at this time," he said.
Now I'm not much of a fan of my own Senators, but in this case, I have to give George Allen credit -- he understands the problem and he's on it:

    The e-mail tax surfaced again last month when senators were debating a bill that would extend a ban, which expired Nov. 1, on taxing Internet access. A Wall Street Journal editorial warned that a failure to pass the ban could lead to Dayton's idea becoming a reality.

    While that bill doesn't deal directly with e-mail, it would "close the door to the possibility of taxing e-mail," said Mike Waldron, a spokesman for Sen. George Allen, R-Va., who authored the bill. "Taxing e-mail would be terrible for small businesses and individuals," he said.
And not only that, but there are a number of obvious work-arounds.

  • Off-shore email accounts -- even today it's trivial to sign up for British webmail accounts, and you can bet hackers would start setting up dedicated servers in Canada and the Caribean before the bill even reached the President's desk.


  • Message boards -- set up your own, tell your friends. If you want to have private conversations, either passcode parts of the board, or post messages in PGP/GnuPG.


  • Chat clients -- particularly Jabber-based ones, which works a lot like email to begin with: you set up an account on a Jabber server and you get a chat ID similar to an email address (server.tdl/username, or username@server.tdl). And since Jabber's open source, someone will inevitably come up with a system for sending IMs as email (many Jabber servers already act as gateways to other chat systems like AIM and ICQ), or else create a Jabber-mail system that uses a sufficiently different protocol that it doesn't qualify as email for the purposes of taxation.
Lawmakers need to realize, they cannot control the Internet without controling every computer out there. As long as users can make or install programs that send bits to the network, there will be ways to get around any government regulation.
The SCO Extortion Scheme Continues to Grow

Not satisfied with limiting their lawsuits to just IBM, Novell, and other Linux developers, SCO is planning to launch suits against Linux using companies that don't cough up the extorti -- er, liscence fees SCO's demanding, and also considering going after BSD.

But I'm sure SCO isn't just a puppet of Bill Gates to crush rival OSs. Nope, not at all.
The Day That Shook the Nation

I am shocked, shocked to learn that the police have issued an arrest warrant for Michael Jackson. I mean, okay, so he sleeps with little boys, has children that look nothing like him whom he dangles out of windows, has plastic surgery more often than frat boys have beer, makes accusations of racism to explain why people don't buy his records, and generally looks like a Satanic bonobos.

But I'm sure he's innocent of whatever he's accused of.
Lenin's in My Shower

Phil Platt's having fun with a mysterious face that appeared on his shower curtain.
Guess the Bigotry

Andrew Sullivan points out this quiz where you have to guess whether certain quotes refer to homosexual or interracial marriage.
Ramifications

So, unless the Massachusetts legislature amends the state Constitution (a strong possibility), gay marriage will be here in six months. The Defense of Marriage Act, which holds that states don't have to recognize gay marriages in other states, still stands in the way, but you can bet it'll be challenged under the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit clause before the next election.

This isn't necessarily a good thing -- the ruling is going to energize support for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which until now's been a fringe issue, supported by a cadre of socially conservative congresscritters. Already Falwell and Robertson are making the rounds on cable (I caught Falwell on MSNBC arguing against Margaret Cho; MSNBC really needs better bookers).

If DeLay and his ilk push for the amendment, I think we'll see a major schism in the Republican Party -- the libertarian wing has never been happy with the party's alliance with the Christian Right, and an attempt to weld social policy onto the Constitution could force many of them, especially the younger, so-called South Park Republicans, to bolt.

In the meantime, however, the social conservatives yield a great deal of power, and they're going to aim it at the homosexual movement, possibly moreso than even their attacks on abortion. What we're going to see over the next few years will be more contentious than anything that's happened in this country since the '60s.

And if the homosexual movement triumphs, there's the question of what's next. Eugene Volokh suggests the ruling opens up the possibility of legal polygamy and incest.

    The court reasons that "the right to marry means little if it does not include the right to marry the person of one's choice," but while it qualifies this as "subject to appropriate government restrictions in the interests of public health, safety, and welfare," it's far from clear that a court would find that "health, safety, and welfare" would be hurt by adult polygamous marriages (assuming all existing partners in the marriage consent to the addition of another). Likewise for adult brother-sister marriages; as I mentioned several months ago, I think the genetic harm argument doesn't really work here -- after all, we don't generally ban marriages between people who have serious genetic diseases, even if the odds of a defect in their children are much higher than for brother-sister marriages.

    Similarly, the court rejects the government's "foster the best environment for raising children" argument by saying that "It cannot be rational under our laws, and indeed it is not permitted, to penalize children by depriving them of State benefits because the State disapproves of their parents' sexual orientation." Seems to apply equally to children of polygamous marriages or of incestuous marriages. In fact, why isn't the desire to have multiple committed lifelong partners, or to have a relationship with one's sibling itself a "sexual orientation"?

    I doubt the court would uphold a constitutional right to polygamous or incestuous marriages within the next year or two. But over time, if, for instance, a polygamists' rights movement arises -- not implausible, given that some religions practice polygamy -- a court might well do this, citing the Massachusetts decision as an eminently logically applicable precedent.

    Some might think this wouldn't be very bad; and some might think that, even if it would be bad, it involves a modest probability of only a small harm, and having a constitutional right to homosexual marriage is right enough to justify that risk of a wrong consequence. But I don't think one can ridicule arguments that a constitutional right to homosexual marriage may lead to rights to polygamous or incestuous marriage. Given the text of the Massachusetts decision, the arguments seem eminently plausible.
Indeed. Elsewhere, Volokh points out that one of the arguments against the Equal Rights Amendment was that it'd lead to gay marriage, and that the Massachusetts' ruling is based upon the state constitution's version of the ERA.

Now, I think the government shouldn't recognize polygamous marriages -- not for any moral reason (if three or more adults want to live together in a sexual relationship, more power to them), but because of the practical problems involved. It's one thing for an employer to provide health insurance for a spouse, but quite another to deal with the Man from Saint Ives and his seven wives and however many children. And how do you decide custody if Jonny has five fathers, three mothers, and seven step-parents?

The incest question is a completely different matter. Obviously incest involving pedophilia should remain a heinous crime, just as homosexuality involving child-molestation is, but why should the government prevent adult siblings from wedding? Most people may find it disgusting, but you could say the same for homosexuality. Disgust isn't a compelling state interest. The genetic problems of inbreeding might be, except, as Volokh pointed out, courts have held that the mentally retarded can have children even when there's a risk of passing on the genetic defect. If people with diminished capacity can take that risk, you'd be hard pressed to justify a prohibition against people of sound mind. (Of course, one could argue that anyone participating in incest isn't of sound mind, but that's essentially the same argument that put homosexuals in mental institutions.)

And on top of that, there's no reason to believe the danger of inbreeding is insurmountable -- the first gene therapies already exist, and we'll likely see cures for many genetic disorders in the next few decades. If we reach a point where there's no danger of a child being born with flippers, what non-emotive argument could there be for continuing the incest taboo?

I'm probably a radical on this subject, but as a libertarian, I have to say, any two consenting adults should be eligible for marriage, period.

2003/11/18

A New Business Model

Is it possible for a business to base itself entirely upon lawsuits? SCO is certainly trying.

The company claims it owns the rights to part of UNIX, and that the Linux kernel incorporates those parts -- though they've yet to produce evidence to support that claim. They've parlayed that claim into a number of legal actions -- they're suing IBM for misappropriating their UNIX code, subpoenaing Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds, going after developers, threatening Hollywood studios that use Linux for CGI, and now suing Novell for violating a non-compete deal they struck with a company that SCO's since bought.

And the cost? A mere $8.7million for the fourth quarter, on top of the $9million they've spent since starting their legal offensive. Their business model really does seem to be built on suing everyboyd and hoping someone settles.

Well, either that or they're a cat's paw for Micro$oft.
Greetings Fleshbot Readers

If you're looking for dirty bits, there's a little here and there. In particular, my own reminiscences on Commodore sex games are here.

2003/11/17

Newspeak: Anti-American=Anti-war

BBC headline:

    Italian group backs Iraq fighters

    A group of Italian anti-war militants is raising funds to support the armed Iraqi resistance, the BBC has learned
Riddle me this: In what world does raising money for guerilla fighters qualify as "anti-war"? Wouldn't it be more truthful to say:

    Anti-American militants raise money to support the death of American troops
Click that link fast, because the Beeb is notorious for changing things like this once people start noticing.

(Hat tip: Little Green Footballs)
Benefits and Hazards of the Brassiere

One of the neat things about site stats is looking at the websearches that lead to me. Many of them make perfect sense, but some of them are beyond bizarre. For example, a Yahoo search for "Kathleen Edwards boobs" -- I mean, okay, I reviewed Kathleen Edward's Failer a few months back, and I'm sure I've used the word "boobs" somewhere in this blog, but I'm befuddled as to why anyone'd be searching for that combination. Sounds like a really bad attempt by a thirteen year old boy to find pictures of her nekkid.

Now, I can certainly understand why people are searching for the Paris Hilton sex tape, and given that I've mentioned it a couple times, I understand why I'm showing up in the results, but I'm surprised that I'm actually the first result for some queries.

However here's the one that's really stumping me -- someone googled for benefits and hazards of the brassiere. Whoever it was, was connected from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, so I'm guessing a college girl wanting to know if it's better to go braless or not. And from the snippet of my site that Google provided with the results, I must've looked promising:

    ... Of course there are hazards, and about 100 ... reveal a large, rather matronly prosthetic brassiere, and nothing ... or federal law to give any benefits whatsoever to ...
Except that those quotes are taken from three different posts, including one from Pussy Ranch where Diablo discusses a guy who came into the peepshow wearing a bra. Poor girl, I hope she didn't spend too much time trying to find the information here.

Maybe I should rectify the problem so that if anyone else comes looking into the hazards of bras, they won't leave empty handed.

The Pros and Cons of Going Braless

Pros:

  1. You'll be a lot more popular with the guys.

  2. You will suddenly develop the power to control men's minds.
Cons

  1. You'd better enjoy your popularity and power while it lasts, because if you have anything bigger than an A-cup, your breasts will be hanging at your knees by the time your 30.

  2. And in the mean time, unless you wear really thick fabrics, your nipples will poke through your shirt every time there's a cool breeze, making you look really trashy. (SEE: 1 and 2 under Pros)

2003/11/16

The Libertoonian Party to Catch Some Sanity?

Kevin Connors at Sgt. Stryker says some moderates and disaffected Republicans and Democrats are planning to hijack the Libertarian Party away from the lunatics currently at the wheel.

If so, I hope they come here to Virginia. The state's prime for the taking -- the Libertarians routinely get 10% in elections just because the Democrats don't bother putting up candidates for most races.

A Libertarian Primer

For those of you unfamiliar with libertarian philosophy, the central concept is the old axiom -- "The government that rules least rules best" -- which was one of the central pillars behind hte American Revolution, and which is still deeply ingrained in the American psyche. Sensible libertarians are minarchists who, following the lead of Hobbes and Locke and their descriptions of man in the State of Nature (think Lord of the Flies), recognize that government is a necessary evil that must be kept in check, but there's a fair number of anarchist loons out there who want to abolish all government. (This may sound absurd on the face of it, but there've been some good SF stories written on the subject.)

In the US, most libertarians favor capitalism, but in Europe you'll find more left-libertarians or Anarcho-Socialists who take their cue from Marx's claim that the ultimate human society will be one without government or property.

Now, the Libertarian Party in the US (often called the Libertoonian Party) is run by, if not anarchists, then some pretty extreme libertarians who want to bring about sweeping change -- abolishing things like health and safety codes, welfare, and the FDA. This creates a bit of a problem for us regular libertarians who've had to resort to calling ourselves "small-l libertarians" to distinguish from the "Big-L" political party. Which is a shame, because most Americans have libertarian inclinations even though the major parties support major anti-libertarian policies. If anyone manages to create a sensible libertarian movement, it'll be a contender on the national scene.
The Face of Evil

The Democratic Underground has done it again. A few weeks back, their discussion board sported a message proclaiming the death of American troops a good thing -- and very few denunciations from other posters. Now they have a poll -- who's more evil, George W. Bush, Saddam Hussein, or Osama bin Laden. And Bush is winning.

Here's the description of the three contenders:

    Osama - doing what he can to fight an evil nation that once helped his lot fight another evil.

    Saddam - ditto. Did he really attack Kuwait to get their oil, or to keep the US from having it?

    W - a man who openly supports what is basically evil in this country. (health care swindles, big corporation swindles, globalization swindles (also see big corproation swindles, tax cut swindles while spending exorbitant amounts of money and creating a debt we will NEVER get out of and showing he doesn't care about his own country), oil industry swindles, political/judicial swindles, you name it. What he supports is surely not GOOD, and if he wants to live in a black/or/white world, so can I. How isn't it evil, do set me straight.)
Yup, that's right, bin Laden and Hussein are actually good guys who are fighting the evil American empire. With morons like this around, is it any wonder right-wingnuts accuse liberals of being traitors?
He Who Controls the Search Engine Controls the Internet

What happens if you search for "Linux" with the MSN search engine? Well, it turns up Linux.org ... as the fifth site listing, behind a Microsoft page on alternatives to Linux.

Unfair business practices? What are those?
Hello, I Am a Former Finance Minister with the Nigerian Government ...

I've sometimes considered responding to Nigerian scammers and stringing them along, but I figured they'd catch on right quick. After reading this article, I'm reconsidering.
Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

That idiot German parliamentarian who blamed Jews for the Bolshevik Revolution -- expelled from his party.
You've Got to be Kidding Me

I was just reading this post at Wil Wheaton's website, and at the end he links to a "What Kind of Hipster Are You" quiz. Now, like everyone, I'm a sucker for these kind of things, so I clicked the link and took it. Here's my result:
-------------------------------------
Geek Chic.  Offbeat and with a thumbful of calluses, this hipster/trekkie hybrid spends most of his time catching Simpsons reruns and sucking down raspberry Jell-O.  However, he's still hip
You're Geek Chic. Offbeat and with a thumbful of
calluses, you spend most of your time catching
Simpsons reruns and sucking down raspberry
Jell-O. However, you're still a hipster,
you've still got your own style, and you
probably dig the Velvet Underground's "Who
Loves the Sun?"


What Kind of Hipster Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
-----------------------------------------
But here's the thing -- this is the exact same result that Uncle Willy put up on his website. Now, I know I'm a geek and all, but I refuse to accept that I'm the same kind of geek as Wesley Crusher. I might as well download FreeBSD and use only the command-line interface.

2003/11/15

The Memo

The Weekly Standard has published a memo sent from Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith to Senators Roberts and Rockefeller of the Intelligence Committee, which lays out fifty links between al Qaeda and Iraq that the military has found since the war ended. The Weekly Standard's site has been bowled down from the number of people trying to access it, but a number of sites have mirrored the article, including Little Green Footballs.

Would've been nice to have this information before the war, but even today, if it pans out, it can only be described in cataclysmic metaphor -- earthshattering, groundshaking.

UPDATE: Read Roger L. Simon's take.

2003/11/14

Living in the Past

A goodly portion of the blogosphere is worked up over this incendiary column by Ted Rall -- which he had the gall to publish on Veterans' Day. Now I've heard of Ralls and know that he's the loony-toon left-wing answer to Ann Coulter, but I'd remained mercifully ignorant of his brainless "wit" until I looked at that article. After reading it and some bloggers' reactions to it, I flicked over to Rall's blog where I was greeted by this:

    Among the many petty annoyances that plague my life are the idiotic emails from conservatives who write to ask: "Don't you Democrats understand the electoral college? Bush won the electoral college; the popular vote doesn't matter. He's the legitimate winner."

    Of course, you pinheads, we understand the electoral college system. What you don't seem to understand is that Al Gore won Florida. He actually won Florida several ways.
He then reels off the standard complaints against the results -- the Supreme Court had no authority to intervene; a proper recount would've gone in Gore's favor; the Republicans disenfranchised voters. The usual. He cites some numbers to support his point -- and by "cite" I mean he pulls them out of his ass and doesn't even try making up a source -- but everything he says is obviously wrong to anyone who didn't sleep through eleventh grade civics.

But the major problem with his post -- THE ELECTION WAS THREE YEARS AGO. Sweet baby Jesus fetus, dude, get over it. You sound like a Southerner explaining how the Confederacy could've won the Civil War. If you think dwelling on the past long enough will somehow change it, you are clearly living in Bizarro World.
Paris Hilton: Keeping Her Fans Satisfied

Another Paris Hilton sex tape? This one with a Playboy Playmate and an MTV VJ. Too bad the VJ ins't Kennedy.

Any bets on how long till this one's online?
You're Free to Speak as Long as You Don't Offend Anyone

With an attitude like this, is it any wonder the French change governments like I change underwear?

    [Interior Minister] Sarkozy said last week that he would launch legal proceedings if the band [Sniper] again performed in public material which he described as "perfectly scandalous... racist and anti-semitic". He added: "Democracy dictates that one respects the rules. Those people who don't will have to answer to the nation's justice system."
Judging by the description of the lyrics, the band certainly sounds anti-Israeli, though I'll reserve judgment on whether they cross the line into antisemitism, but the rest of the stuff -- telling people to burn cars, criticizing the government, doesn't sound too different from your standard "politically conscious" American punk band -- Rancid, say, or Black 47. But even if they are antisemitic, that's just reason to speak out against their idiocy, not to bring the government down on them. But the French just aren't as enlightened and tolerant to opposing viewpoints -- even abhorrent ones -- as us cosmopolitan Americans.

    This year Mr Sarkozy pushed through a bill which made "offending the dignity of the republic" an imprisonable offence.
So if a French citizen made the same comments about France as Michael Moore and Rickie Lee Jones have about the US, he'd be in jail. Now, according to Jones and Moore, American patriotism is just one step from fascistic nationalism even though the government isn't rounding up people for speaking out against it; well, then, wouldn't that make France a full-on totalitarian state? I eagerly await Moore and Jones' denunciations of the repressive Chiracist regime.

(Hat tip, the Bleat)
Farscape to Return?

Looks like something's happening on the Save Farscape front. Fingers crossed.
Where's Your God Now, Moore?

I don't want to gloat over this, but ... in your face, you theocratic ass-hat.

Okay, I do want to gloat.

Another triumph for the God What Doesn't Matter.

2003/11/13

Their Five Fans Are Gonna Be Really Pissed

A Jersey radio station has banned Jethro Tull after the lead singer made some comments bashing American patriotism.

This is a toughie ... normally I think banning artists is a silly over-reaction ... but it's Jethro Tull. Anything that keeps their bland '70s prog-rock off the air can't be that bad. I'm half tempted to write Steely Dan asking their opinion of patriotism just so I can send their response to radio stations.

(Hat tip, Yale Diva)
There's Just Something About a Gun to a Woman's Head

Two TV shows last night offered interesting twists on the villain-holding-a-gun-to- the-heroine's-head routine.

First was in an otherwise tedious episode of Enterprise -- the villain puts his gun to N'Pol's head and starts issuing demands, but before he's finished, Malcolm shoots her with a phaser on stun, then blasts the baddy while he's gawking in disbelief. Okay, the scene's a rip-off of The Night of the Comet (starring Star Trek's own wooden Indian, Robert "Chakotay" Beltran):

    Head Zombie: Now I can't let you take my men hostage. [shoots zombie hostage] I'm not crazy. I just don't give a fuck.
Still, for modern Trek, that's practically original.

Then Angel did one better, having Wesley empty a clip into his own father when he tried to grab Fred. Okay, so it turned out to be a cyborg ninja assassin disguised as Wesley's father, but it was still a return to bad-ass Wesley, who I've sorely missed for the past year.
Floating

Hmm, so I'm not the only one who does this:

    I never remember my dreams in great detail, but I do remember having a lucid dream moment where I realized I could utilize a technique from a previous dream and float down the stairs instead of running. That's a useful trick to get away from terrorists, try to remember it in your own dreams. You simply grab the railings on either side and push off, causing you to float quickly down the stairs instead of falling. Faster than running, too.
Huh, I always figured the stair floating thing was peculiar to my dreams. Apparently not.

2003/11/12

Loose Hand-cannons

The Backcountry Conservative points out this Charleston police message board which is having a very spirited discussion of that over-the-top drug raid in Goose Creek. Not surprisingly, a lot of cops in the area are very defensive, telling their critics to shut up until all the facts are out, though, to their credit, there are also a lot of officers who think the operation was completely FUBAR.

What it comes down to is this -- you don't need to have a badge to know that the police shouldn't've barged into a high school with their guns drawn -- not even in the down-ready position, let alone the fully raised position some of hte officers clearly had. If none of the students were armed, there's no reason for the police to pull their sidearms; and if they had intelligence that some of the kids had weapons, then they shouldn't've charged into a crowded hallway in the first place. Unless they have reports of shots fired, there is absolutely no excuse for the police to ever enter a school with weapons unholstered, period. The Goose Creek officers were either overweening or reckless to do so.
Yick

Okay, I've winnowed away most of my leftover Halloween candy so that all that's left are these California Fruit Starbursts -- they're just little packs with two pieces inside. Most of them are okay, though not as good as regular Starbursts. The problem is that every pack seems to have at least one "Plum Punch" flavored piece, which has to be the single worst tasting candy I've ever had. The fact that it's purple should be a dead giveaway -- no purple candy ever tastes good -- but this goes well beyond the norm and tastes like candied baby food.
An Open Letter to Microsoft

Dear Microsoft,

In a recent interview, Bradley Tipp, your UK national systems engineer said,

    We haven't talked to a single user who has said they're using [open source] because it's better.
As a user of Open Office and Mozilla Firebird who fully intends to switch to Linux when I buy my next computer, you can mark me down as someone who thinks open source programs are superior to your shitty projects.

    Sincerely,
    Sean O'Hara
Privatize Marriage!

There's a new version of the Federal Marriage Amendment, and Andrew Sullivan is not pleased. The new version reads thus:

    Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups. Neither the federal government nor any state shall predicate benefits, privileges, rights, or immunities on the existence, recognition, or presumption of sexual conduct or relationships.
Got that -- not only are they trying to ban gay marriage, but now they're expanding their scope so that the "legal incidents" of marriage cannot be conferred upon any unmarried couple, gay or straight.

Well, there is a loophole -- the incidents cannot be conferred so long as they're predicated on a sexual relationship. Sullivan seems to think that this means that homosexuals could enter into a civil union so long as they promise to remain celebate, but my read is that civil unions would be permissable so long as they're based upon somethint other than sex -- say, cohabitation. But that would dilute civil unions to the point that college roommates could get one.

The whole debate is silly. Apart from taxes, what business does the government have with marriage?

First off, remember that there are two aspects to marriage -- the religious and civil -- and the one doesn't require the other. As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church, there's nothing to prevent me from performing a religious wedding ceremony for two men -- the government just won't consider it legally binding right now. Likewise, even if gay marriage becomes legal, the Catholic Church has the right to say it doesn't recognize it and refuses to perform the ceremonies.

The civil side of marriage, however, is essentially a contract between two people -- it's just that the government grants certain concessions to people who have such contracts, and homosexuals want access to some of those privleges. Whether that happens or not has nothing to do with the religious aspect -- only clergy control that.

But being of a libertarian bent, I have to question the whole premise -- why does this social contract get special treatment? Why shouldn't people be able to come up with their own variant marriage contracts? Instead of agreeing to marry for life then going thorugh a convoluted and contentious divorce process if things don't work out, why don't couples sign five year renewable contracts? You could include provisions for medical visitation rights, powers of attorney, automatic eighteen year extensions in case of pregnancy, and escape clauses for domestic abuse. The biggest problem would be getting employers to agree on what sort of contracts to recognize for insurance purposes. Sure it might not be as romantic as "until death do us part" -- it's probably less romantic than a prenuptial agreements -- but it's more practical.
Okay, the server seems to be working again.
The Dumbering Down of Edumacators

Instapundit points to this outrageous display of stupidity by a -- what else -- public school system -- the administration suspended a couple kids because of what they wrote on their blogs. One said that he was so upset with a friend that he wanted to kill her, and the other said she'd felt like killing everyone because she'd had a really bad day. Apparently the principal was absent the day they taught hyperbole. Come on, if you suspended every teenager who's ever said, "I wanna kill that sonuvabitch," the schools would be empty.

But what makes this so objectionable is that the kids are being punished for things they wrote for their own edification outside of school. With the possible exception of boarding schools, what students do outside school is no one's business but them and their parents; if a student breaks a law, the judicial system has authority, not the principal. I realize that a school has an obligation to make sure that students get home safely, and can thus punish fights at the bus-stop and what not -- but after that, it's none of the school's business. This is just post-Columbine paranoia from idiots who don't know what a correlation is -- just because the Columbine students wrote threatening things on their computers doesn't mean that everyone who talks about killing someone is going to commit mass-murder. You'd think that a high school administrator would have the common sense to recognize the difference between venting and threatening.
Stupid Cable

Sorry the site looks so ugly today, but Comcast's server where I keep the stylesheet is frelled.
Dr. Seuss on Isolationism

Heh.

2003/11/11

A Less Perfect Union

Support for the EU Constitution is almost non-existent a new poll finds:

    Support for the draft stands at 11 per cent in Germany followed by France (10 per cent), Spain (seven), Austria (six) and Finland (four).

    The survey, published by the European Commission, will bolster calls by the Conservatives and the French opposition parties for a referendum, showing 86 per cent support for a vote in Britain and 92 per cent in France.

    It emerged at the weekend that Downing Street has been pleading with Paris to avoid a vote, fearing that it could create unstoppable momentum for Britain to follow suit. President Jacques Chirac is considering the risk of a populist rebellion by French Eurosceptics.

    Seven countries are almost certainly holding a vote: Denmark, Ireland, Holland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic.


4%? That's the statistical equivalent of zero -- you could ask people if they want to have sex with their sister and get those numbers.

Of course, much of the problem is that Europeans are apparently ignorant boobs who don't pay attention to the affairs that affect their country:

    In the poll, 61 per cent had never heard of the convention, rising to 83 per cent in Britain.
Make note of that and use it the next time you hear a European say that Americans don't pay attention to the world at large.

But the real killing point for the EU Constitution is much simpler -- it's 230 pages long. By contrast, you can fit the US Constitution -- including amendments -- in an eight page pamphlet. Our Constitution is only an outline; the corpus of our laws exist separately from it, and are thus much easier to fix. The difference is like that between Microsoft and Linux -- the one tries to incorporate everything into a single package with the GUI an integral part of the system, which results in a bulky mess with inherent flaws that have to be patched on an ad hoc basis, whereas the other is a kernel that only describes basic operations, with the important functionality, like the GUI, installed separately.
The Matrix Flops

In case anyone doubted that the WB is disappointed with The Matrix Revolutions' performance, consider that the studio is considering dumping it on DVD in time for Christmas. Ouch. Even From Justin to Kelly didn't have that quick a turn around.
What Country Is Tim Noah Living In?

Over in Slate, Timothy Noah sees CBS's decision not to air the Reagan miniseries as proof that conservatives have won the culture wars.

    "Hurray," conservatives crow. "The right is winning the culture wars!" They certainly took their sweet time noticing. Within the cultural sphere, liberalism has been in retreat for a good quarter-century. Scholars may argue about the precise moment of defeat. Chatterbox would put it somewhere between 1985, when Rambo: First Blood II re-fought the Vietnam War ("Do we get to win this time?") and 1992, when Rush Limbaugh's The Way Things Ought To Be hijacked the New York Times best-seller list, thereby certifying Limbaugh as a mainstream figure.
Yes, and at the same time we've seen:

  • Women in the workplace become the norm,

  • The Just Say No paranoia Nancy Reagan instilled in kids during the 1980s slip away,

  • Homosexuality enter the mainstream more than any time since classical Greece,

  • A generation with practically no limits to what they consider acceptable entertainment, and

  • Women become completely at ease with their sexuality.
If this is cultural conservatism, then let me join the Moral Majority.

Nor does Noah fully comprehend some of the sources he sites:

    But [Anderson] also dwells at great length on South Park, which he portrays as refreshingly conservative. The evidence includes one episode titled "Cripple Fight," and another in which a choir is heard to sing, "There's a place called the rain forest that truly sucks ass." Chatterbox has no difficulty agreeing with Anderson (and Andrew Sullivan, whom Anderson quotes at length) that these sentiments reflect conservative influence, particularly in their tone. But he doesn't find that particularly flattering to conservatism.
This is a complete misinterpretation of the South Park Republican theory -- it's not that South Park supports conservative ideology, but rather that it attacks namby-pamby liberalism and espouses the sort of Jeffersonian libertarianism -- the "keep the government small and out of my life" attitude that runs deep in this country -- that's traditionally been associated with the Republican party, but not conservatives. South Park Republicans find Bill Bennet, the veritable conservative general in the Culture Wars, just as dispicable as Barbara Streisand.

No, the Right hasn't won the Culture Wars. Neither has the Left. What's happened is something even better -- Hegel's dialectic triad in action:

    thesis + antithesis = synthesis
Too bad Noah, like most people, has to reduce the question to victors and losers.
Oh, Those Naughty Joos

Oh, look at what those naughty Joos are doing now -- using facts to argue that Israel isn't the evilist country on Earth. How are antisemites supposed to respond to dirty tricks like that?
A Night at the Paris Hilton

Now, I'm not saying I've seen the three-minute high-light reel of the Paris Hilton sex tape that's floating around the Internet, but if I did, these would be my observations.

  1. There's only one word to describe Our Heroine -- pneumatic.

  2. The part where her cell-phone starts ringing and she gets out of bed to answer it -- priceless.

  3. She's a perfect argument for a 100% estate tax -- she'll be wasted running a hotel empire. It's obvious from the tape that her talents and interests lie in adult entertainment.

  4. A bit narcisistic, isn't she? No matter how the guy tries to position her, she keeps turning to face the camera and preening.

  5. For a homemade tape, the quality's really good -- better than some of the stuff I've paid for.

  6. I don't know why her parents are so worked up over the tape. I don't even pay attention to celebrity gossip beyond IMDB's "news" service, and even I know Paris Hilton is a modern day Julia. If she weren't an heiress, she'd probably be in Girls Gone Wild commercials.

  7. Speaking of which, when did being an heiress qualify you as a celebrity? Her biggest accomplishment in life is sharing her name with one of her Daddy's hotels.

  8. This is a textbook case of how the Internet makes it impossible to suppress the information. No matter who the parents sue, the video is on thousands of hard-drives around the world, being shuttled around peer-to-peer networks, and probably burned onto DVDs. Once it's out, it can't be take back. This applies to government secrets as well as rich binks in amateur porn. I find that a very comforting thought indeed.
Windows 78

I never thought I'd say this, but -- wow, Bill Gates isn't the biggest geek in this group!

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

2003/11/10

When Celebrities Attack

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits joins the ranks of celebrity pundits in a Salon interview -- but he doesn't just settle for facile platitudes like most; instead, he makes laughably wrong assertions, like this:

    It was always the way. I mean Thatcher and Reagan were a minority clique that stole power just as [G.W. Bush and friends] have with their money and their oil.
What the hell is he blithering about? Reagan had 50.75% of the vote compared to Carter's 41.01%; and 58.77% to Mondale's 40.56%. In the Electoral College, Reagan got 90%+ in each election. How is that stealing power? Or does Knopfler think that the electorate is filled with idiots who were duped into voting Republican against their interests?

He goes on to compare Bush to the devil:

    To me it's all the same thing as the Halliburtons and the Monsantos. Clear Channel is just another great, horrible conglom that cares about the money. It doesn't interest me. All that shit is the devil's courtyard. Anything that George Bush or the big corporations are interested in are the devil's courtyard. Don't go there. If you get caught playing in the devil's courtyard, sooner or later you have to make a Faustian pact and sooner or later you'll have to pay for that pact.
Ah, the Evil Capitalist Corporations corrupting everything they touch. How sweet.

What is this? Bush is pure, unmitigated evil? Even Hitler wasn't that bad -- he was responsible for the Autobahn and Volkswagen, after all -- but Bush is a whole 'nother level entirely. And idiot celebs like this wonder why people think they're idiot celebs.

But here's the real kicker:

    I just don't go there. I leave it alone. I work in the margins. The margins are where you'll find the nice people. You'll find real friends. You'll find honesty. You'll find integrity. You'll find relationships that will last you for a lifetime and will be there to support you in the bad times, which are the only relationships that matter anyway. Relationships that are all about power and money aren't worth having.
Yes, Mark, you're way out in the margins, working on an obscure indie label like Warner Bros.

Get over yourself -- you're a tool of big media, just like Eminem and Britney Spears.
Good Catch

Sasha Volokh points out a glaring error in this WaPo article:

    His motto -- or, rather, a motto of encouragement to customers -- is posted on a wall. It is another British import, a quote by John Ruskin, a 19th-century economist: "It's not wise to pay too much, but it's also unwise to pay too little."
Ruskin? An economist? Like Leonardo da Vinci was an aerospace engineer.
I'm Glad I'm Not the only One Disturbed by This

Slate's Ad Report Card takes on those new KFC commercials which imply that eating fried chicken can be healthy for you -- provided, of course, that you peel the skin off. According to Rob Walker, author of the piece, he's received a lot of email from people who're troubled by the ad. Good to know I'm not the only one. However, Walker only discusses one commercial, with a wife telling her husband that she's starting him on a new, healthy diet right before plopping a bucket of extra-crispy on the the coffee table. I've seen a second commercial that seems to suggest that KFC chicken is perfect for the Atkin's diet -- without actually mentioning Atkins.

Why do they even bother? Everyone knows that KFC stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Everyone knows it's dripping in fat. Everyone knows the best part is the breading and skin. And everyone knows it's not health food.
Machines Will Bring Us to Our Knees -- No, Not Like That

From Pussy Ranch:

    Yesterday I didn't have to work because the automated machine that records our profits at the peep show was broken (and obviously, we wayward whores can't be trusted to add up our own earnings.)
My God, first it was electronic voting machines, now peepshows. Where will it stop? The Machines won't be happy until we're all enslaved.

By the by: The aforementioned Fleshbot has inspired Jonny to reorganize the Pussyranch photo gallery.

Thank you Fleshbot, this doth rock much. (And thank you Jonny, too.)