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2004/01/31

Today's Useless Factoid

    Did you know that nearly 60 percent of people who plan to watch the Super Bowl on television say they are more likely to have sex after the game if they watch the ads? Neither did we.


Well, now you know -- and knowing's half the battle.

Go Joe!

2004/01/30

"Let's Not Call Them Anything, Let's Just Ignore Them"

Appears the US is a little miffed at the Belgian defense minister for making some disparaging remarks about the US and saying he wants a Democrat to win the White House. And people say Rummy's undiplomatic.

    According to Flahaut: "The Americans throw so much money at their army that it simply can no longer act efficiently. If they have to get fifteen men from point A to point B, they will use three planes to be certain that it succeeds. We would send one plane, or even better: first examine if we cannot fly along with an ally'', says the minister.
Well, yes, the Belgians probably do hitch a ride whenever they can. That's what happens when you don't have enough lift-capacity. (SEE ALSO: Canada)

Now, here's the $64,000 Question -- which of Belgium's allies has the most lift-capacity to spare for freeloading allies? (HINT: It's initials are U.S.A.)

As to why the military wouldn't use three planes where one would suffice -- well, assuming there's no heavy equipment involved, there's a little concept called "redundancy." You don't want a single-point failure (you know, like a plane crashing into a mountain) to ruin the entire mission. This is also why the President and Vice President never fly in the same aircraft. It does eat into efficiency under normal circumstances, but all it takes is one disaster to make it worthwhile.

(Via Instapundit)

2004/01/29

Not Since David Brent Left Wernham-Hogg Have So Many Protested the Loss of Their Boss

Literally tens of BBC employees left their desks today to protest Greg Dyke's Resignation.

Those Brits sure are nutty. I mean, look at the BBC -- two of their head honchos have resigned after leading the corporation into disgrace, and the employees are protesting. Someone needs to tell them that once the boss leaves in disgrace, you don't have to suck-up to him anymore. This solidarity claptrap is really unbecoming. But I guess that's what happens when you work someplace without enough competition -- you grow attached to the place instead of looking to see if the competitors will make you a better offer.
Is That Warranted?

(WARNING: If you don't play the Hollywood Stock Exchange (and why not?) this will probably make no sense to you.)

The HSX Oscar Warrants are out. Now at first glance you might think you should treat them like the weekend openers and just invest based upon what you think the results will be -- after all, you're basically betting on who'll win and lose, right?

Not quite.

The first thing you should note is that the price of the warrants is ultimately a zero-sum game -- the total cost of all five warrants was H$25 at IPO and will be the same at cash-out.

    5*H$5=1*H$25+(4*H$0)
If you're holding everything correctly and invested at IPO prices, you stand to make H$400,000 per category.

    {10,000*1(H$25-H$5)}+{-10,000*4(H$0-H$5)}=H$400,000
(The -10,000 denotes a short.)

Of course, you only have a 20% chance of making the right investment in any given category, and the odds of guessing all eight correctly are extremely slim. Even if you fancy yourself an expert handicapper, all it takes is a few upsets to ruin your day. If you're right, it'll give you a good return on investment, but it's exceedingly risky and in the meantime many of the warrants will be going up in price, eating into your port.

There is, however, a sure-fire strategy you can use -- one that can guarantee you a profit with as much certainty as a Starbond that's one day from adjusting. We've already established that at IPO and cash-out, all the warrants in a category have a sum-value of H$25. Now if the market behaved completely rationally, that would remain true for any point between IPO and cash-out -- if A4LR3 goes up a dollar, the other four should lose a collective dollar. But the market isn't rational. As I write, the total value for the Best Picture warrants is H$27.60 -- in HSX parlance, it's bra or reverse arbitrage, a guaranteed profit if you short it.

The problem is, there's no reason to think the price will correct itself in the near future, and the return-on-investment for holding all five short until delist is miniscule. To ensure the best return, you really have to wait until a day or so before the Oscars.

Let's imagine a hypothetical situation where A4LR3 and A4MYS are both at H$20 on the morning of the awards. If you short them both, the worst that can happen is that one wins -- you lose H$50,000 on it, but you earn H$200,000 on the other, giving you a net profit of H$150,000.

    {-10,000*1(H$25-H$20)}+{-10,000*1(H$0-H$20)}=H$150,000
On the other hand, if both of them lose, you end up with a H$400,000 profit.

    {-10,000*1(H$0-H$20)}+(-10,000*1(H$0-H$20)}=H$400,000
Between now and the Oscars you can make some money by playing the price shifts, but when it comes time to take your final position on the warrants, check to see if there are any categories with guaranteed profits instead of investing in what you think will win.

2004/01/28

Drats

I was going to post that Terry McCauliffe's "You must win one state to move onto Round Two of the primaries" proclamation doesn't make sense in a proportional delegate system, but I see Mickey Kaus beat me to it.

    Why does a Democratic candidate have to win a primary somewhere. sometime to be viable? With the proportional allocation of delegates, it's possible to actually win the nomination without ever winning a primary. All you have to do is finish second in a lot of contests and accumulate delegates while the other candidates perform inconsistently. (That result wouldn't be undemocratic--sometimes Everybody's Second Choice is in fact the candidate who should win. Such a plodding-but-widely-acceptable candidate might also be the strongest opponent for Bush.) ... Why would someone who has a perfectly legitimate shot at winning be expected to drop out? The test should be delegate count, no?...
To accomplish this, a candidate would need to remain a strong second (i.e., picking up delegates) in most states while the other contenders alternate between first and third (preferably with the third finishers picking up no delegates). Another way for this to happen would be if first and second place remain fixed throughout the race, but the lesser candidates pick up enough delegates that no one has a majority; we'd then end up with a brokered convention where the also-rans could exact promises (legislation, cabinet positions, maybe even the VP slot) in exchange for their delegates.

However, Kaus also suggests that Dean's hoping Kerry will run Edwards out of the race in South Carolina. If that happens and Clark and Lieberman remain unable to pick up any delegates, then Dean will've blown the chance for a winless victory and his only hope will be to beat Kerry in a straight fight.
Better, Stronger, Faster ... Gentlemen, We Have the Technology

Yale Diva posts some compelling evidence for the John Kerry Botox theory.
Bob Dole Had Viagra, Kerry's Got His Botox

William Saletan points out the space-alien creepiness of John Kerry (which, in all fairness, seems congenital in congresscritters, afflicting the left (Gephardt) and right (Tom DeLay) equally).

    Above the neck, nothing but his mouth moves. If you showed anyone a video of Kerry with his lips blacked out, they'd never know he was speaking.
Does anyone look at Kerry speak and not think "Botox!" The way he is right now, you could put him in Disney's Hall of Presidents and he'd be the least realistic of the bunch.
Quote of the Day

From Andrew Sullivan:

    Dean has a vision. Kerry has ambition.
Worse -- it's overweening ambition, not the bestride-the-narrow-world-like-a-colossus variety which is at least respectable.

2004/01/27

Laying Odds

Who wants to lay some odds on the primaries?

My wild-ass estimates are:

  • Odds of this going to at least the last primary: 2:1
  • Odds of it going all the way to the convention: 11:2
Raw Totals, Raw Totals, Raw Totals

All the news channels are reporting the raw vote totals from New Hampshire, but so far no one's tried figuring out the delegate allocations. That's what really counts, especially if, as is looking more likely, this becomes a race to the finish instead of the usual contest to see who's left after everyone else drops out.
Augh! Make It Stop!

Tom Brokaw is live on MSNBC right now ... at the same time he's on NBC Nightly News.
The Golden Crystal Balls

People often claim that the Golden Globes are predictors of the Academy Awards. Apparently not this year. As Hollywood Bitch Slap notes:

    15 of the 20 Screen Actors Guild Nominees received nominations.
    4 of the 5 Director’s Guild Nominees received nominations.
    4 of the 6 Producer’s Guild Nominees received nominations.
    7 of the 10 Writer’s Guild Nominees received nominations.
    Only 32 of the 67 Golden Globe nominees by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association received nominations (47%)
The only bright spot for Hollywood Foreign Press this year is that all of their winners did receive nominations.

In the mean time, this is a year of several upsets in the nominations. City of God, which shuold've been in the running last year, got four including Best Director; a thirteen year old girl got one for Best Actress in Whale Rider, despite the studio pushing her for Best Supporting Actress; Scarlett Johansson was snubbed (possibly because, unlike the Golden Globes, the Oscars don't have separate categories for comedy and drama, and thus voters were divided between Girl with a Pearl Earing and Lost in Translation; but most importantly, the two big Oscar-bait films of December, Big Fish and Cold Mountain (and to a lesser extent, Mona Lisa Smile and The Last Samurai) were snubbed for Best Picture.

Now let's hope that Cold Mountain's BP snub serves as a lesson to Harvey Weinstein -- even the old fogies in the Academy are getting tired of the maudlin crap you trot out every December.

2004/01/26

The Vietnamese Civil War?

Powerline has a post critical of John Kerry's involvement in the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era. In general it reinforces my impression of Kerry as an equivocating politician who'll change his opinion for a vote, however I find some of the analysis of the war questionable. Particularly:

    We found that the war [was] not in fact a civil war. We found that it was a war of conquest by the North against the South pretty much as the American government had alleged....
So it was a War of Northern Aggression?

Sorry, but Vietnam was a single nation divided into two countries after WWII; the war between the two states was a civil war just as much as the Union invasion of the Confederacy was. Vietnam happened to be more than a civil war, but at heart it was still a civil war.
The Coming Backlash?

Is a Kerry backlash brewing? Howard Kurtz thinks not.

    ...[T]he other campaigns, especially the Dean folks, are starting to complain that the Massachusetts senator isn't getting the kind of media scrutiny that had previously been applied to, say, front-runners named Howard. And they're right.


Mickey Kaus, on the other hand, thinks the other campaigns are holding off a media offensive until after New Hampshire when a time-on-target attack will do the most damage.

    Does it help Kerry if the negative stories about him dribble out over the next two days--which would spread out their impact and effectively cauterize the wounds with a big election victory? Wouldn't it be more damaging if anti-Kerry hit men held their fire in N.H. and then all the negative press came down on Kerry between Jan 27 and Feb. 3--the way all the anti-Dean criticism fell on him at once?
So which is it? My prediction is that if the mainstream press doesn't pick up anti-Kerry stories, online media like the blogosphere will take up the slack and keep the stories alive until the regular news has no choice but to cover it.
Sadly, All You Need to Know About the Lieberman Campaign

The Joemobile

Yes, it's Joe Lieberman's clown car campaign vehicle, capable of carrying 100 clowns the entire US Senate. Call 1-888-JOE-2004 to book him for parties. (Limited availability; we reserve the right to send Denny the Tinfoil Hat Wearing Clown Dennis Kucinich in his place.)

(Via Off the Fence)

2004/01/25

Unless They Belong to Naomi Watts, I Don't Care 'Bout No Golden Globes

Ah, the Golden Globes, the prestigious awards handed out by ... the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Um, isn't that like letting Liza Gibbons and John Tesh pick the awards?

So why exactly is it prestigious?

Oh, it's on TV, and if the awards are on TV they must be important. Right.

Over at Ain't It Cool News, Hercules the Strong has his own take on the Brown Nose Awards.

    Most everyone has heard of the Globes, but far fewer have heard of the people who vote for the Globes. Little is known about them, but they’re most famous perhaps for nominating the 1982 Pia Zadora vehicle “Butterfly” for three Golden Globes (Pia herself took home the GG trophy for “best new star in a motion picture”).
(This is of course only the second most famous story about Pia Zadora, hte most famous being that when she played Ann Frank on stage, people in the audience would shout at the Nazis, "She's upstairs!")

So remember, when someone tells you these are a precursor to the Oscars, he really means one happens before the other.
The Kerry Backlash

Judging by Mickey Kaus, Jonathan Cohn in TNR, John Ellis, and Todd Purdum in the NYT, there's a tsunami of scrutiny bearing down on Kerry, and when it recedes it'll hopefully leave his wishy-washyness exposed on the beach.

2004/01/24

Another Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy

So how does Wesley Clark explain his poor performance at Thursday's debate? Blame Canada Republicans.

    A day after Gen. Wesley K. Clark was asked in a debate about his Democratic credentials, he was again confronting the subject on Friday, saying the question, by a Fox News anchor, was "part of a Republican Party agenda."

    [...]

    "I looked at who asked the question," he said, "and you know, I think that that's part of a Republican Party agenda in the debate."
Yes, that's it, blame the guy who asked the question.

But even if we accept Clark's premise, it still him look like a maroon -- it's not like he was press-ganged into the debate; he surely knew in advance that it was co-sponsored by Fox News and that Brit Hume would be one of the panelists, yet he went anyways. He should've been ready for the questions -- the fact that they come from a conservative doesn't make them any less valid, and if, by some miracle, he receieves the nomination, he'll have to face scrutiny from across the political spectrum.

But thankfully his chances of winning are rapidly converging with Al Sharpton's.
Speaking of Non-News News...

Here's something else for the "No Shit Sherlock" file -- Chalmers Johnson has an article on the shocking number of military bases the US has overseas.

Well, shocking if you don't pay attention to military matters.

    As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet.
Come on, we aren't SPECTRE, it's not like these bases are built into volcanoes. The reason people are ignorant about the scope of our military reach is that they aren't paying attention -- for example, most people don't realize that we're conducting various military operations in Columbia even though it's been public knowledge since the first Bush administration.

Of course, Johnson sees this as a bad thing, filling his piece with loaded words like "imperium," but he never actually explains what the problem is, as though it should be self-evident that having a sizable military and deploying it for maximum effectiveness is wrong. It's the Pauline Kael Fallacy, what's sometimes called Liberal Cocooning -- thinking your views are so obviously correct that you bury your premises and don't even acknowledge the possibility that they're wrong, which makes it rather hard for those who disagree (in this case, Machiavellians and Kissingereans) to argue.
BREAKING NEWS: Catholic Church Political

File this one under "N" for "No Shit Sherlock: The Guardian reports that the Catholic Church's decision to beatify Kaiser Karl might be at attempt to curry favor in Austria. Yes, and while we're stating the obvious, Jacques Chirac's decision to oppose the invasion of Iraq might've been based upon domestic political considerations and not high moral principles.

2004/01/23

malaise

Is it too early for the presidential campaign to become languid and predictable? Watching tonight's ABC/Fox News debate makes me think not. About the most interesting part of it was the moderators, particularly Peter Jennings and Brit Hume who managed to nail a couple of the candidates real good (better than any of them nailed each other). I also liked that Jennings asked Kucinich and Sharpton questions seemingly devised to make them look stupid while saving all the good ones for the serious candidates.

Too bad the serious candidates didn't have much to say in response.

Edwards - Of all the candidates, he came off by far the worst, completely flubbing two of his questions. When Jennings asked him what he knew about Islam, he didn't even try to answer, sidestepping the issue by talking about how he's met with this leader and that. Not quite as bad as when Bush didn't know who General Musharaf was, but still pretty pitiful. Then there was the question on gay marriage where he didn't even know what the Defense of Marriage Act was about (he thought it forbids states from allowing same-sex marriage, when instead it says that courts can't use the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution to force states to accept gay marriages performed in other states). Now that was a royal screw-up and Hume called him on it.

Edwards also made a mistake when talking about his showing in the Iowa Caucauses -- he said that 34% of the people had voted for him, but the way the caucauses work, the percentage of delegates he received isn't an exact reflection of how many people supported him.

Lieberman - I cannot believe how much he pussied out on the question of drug-reimportation. His answer shows that he understands the problem -- the rest of the developed world has price controls on drugs, so for pharmaceutical companies to finance their research, they have to jack the price up in the one country that doesn't: the US. Reimportation means that we can take advantage of the artificially low Canadian prices, thus undercutting the drug companies. Lieberman's answer to the question, which seemed uncharacteristically muddled, seemed to be that we should allow it so consumers can have affordable drugs, completely overlooking the fact that it'll discourage companies from sinking money in R&D to develop new drugs.

Would've been nice if he'd said the solution is to tell the Canadians and Europeans that we're tired of subsidizing their health-care system by carrying the costs of new drug development. But no, he had to pander.

And then he pandered again by promising to oppose any attempts to change the primary system if it meant New Hampshire wouldn't have the first in the nation. Pathetic.

Kerry - He looked rather haggard and didn't offer a particularly energizing performance, though he was better than in some of the past debates. I do believe he stole one of his lines from Lieberman -- when asked how he'll face Bush, he said, "I look forward to that fight," which Lieberman had said in response to a similar question at the start of the debate.

Dean - No major gaffes, which is a plus at this point, and he played off his Iowa "concession" speech pretty well. He also accentuated his centrist leanings, which is something I've been waiting for him to do for a while now.

Clark - This is the guy the Republicans should want nominated. Just look at how badly he handled the Michael Moore question.

At the start of the week Moore endorsed Clark, and in the process he accused George W. Bush of going AWOL from the Air National Guard. When asked why he hadn't repudiated Moore's comment, Clark responded that he didn't know the facts of the matter, hadn't bothered to look into it, and besides, it's Moore's opinion, he has a right to it.

No, General, this isn't a matter of opinion. Moore made a statement with a definite truth-value -- either Bush is a deserter or he isn't. If you agree with the statement, then you should offer some evidence to support it (besides your vague "I've heard other people say it," claim); if you think Moore's full of it, then why did you let him say it unchallenged at one of your rallies?

Kucinich - Surprisingly, he was the only candidate to discuss job out-sourcing. Of course, he also said JFK harnessed "spiritual energy" to get man to the moon.

Sharpton - The only moment of his that really stood out was when he compared the issue of gay marriage to the civil rights movement and pointed out that federalism was used to argue against both. Other than that, he's really looking like the odd man out. Even Kucinich manages a veneer of seriousness when discussing the issues, whereas Sharpton remains a disruptive class clown.

2004/01/22

President Bush -- Better than Lesbians?

That's the conclusion Lisa de Moraes draws.

    The premiere of Showtime's ensemble lesbian drama averaged a mere 936,000 viewers Sunday night. Interestingly, nearly 40 percent of them were adult males. President Bush's address was not carried by Showtime, so we have no point of comparison, but we suspect he would have done better.

The Real Praxis

Did you know that the Ayatollah al-Sistani, the Muslim cleric who's pressuring the Coallition Provisional Authority to speed up democratization, has his own website?

I'm particularly fascinated by the section on Islamic law, which contains a surprisingly detailed exegesis on menstruation.

    One type of blood which is seen by women is called istihaza and a woman in that state is called mustahaza.

    398. Istihaza is usually yellowish and cold and is emitted without gush or irritation and is also not thick. It is, however, possible that at times the colour of the blood may be red or dark, and it may also be warm and thick and may be issued with gush and irritation.

    399. There are three kinds of istihaza viz. slight (Qalila), medium (Mutawaassita) and excessive (Kathira). Explanation is given below:

    1. Little blood (Qalila): If the blood remains on the surface of the wool or pad etc., (placed by a woman on her private part) but does not penetrate into it, the istihaza is called qalila.

    2. Medium blood (Mutawassita): If the blood penetrates into the cotton (or pad etc.), even partially, but does not soak the cloth tied on the outer side, the istihaza is called mutawassita.

    3. Excessive blood (Kathira): If the blood penetrates through the cotton, soaking it and the cloth (etc.) around it, the istihaza is called kathira.
This is a better explanation than anything my high school health books had. The pages that follow this, describing how a woman should comport herself during her period, are equally interesting.

You know, I always thought Frank Herbert was a little over-the-top with the made-up epigraphs he used in Dune, but now I see he really did his research in creating the Fremen.

2004/01/21

Why Is This Man Still in Charge of the DNC?

I just saw Terry McAuliffe on Fox News explaining why Wesley Clark used to be a Republican -- because, see, he was in the army when he registered and the commander-in-chief was a Republican.

You have to give him credit -- he said it with a straight face.
Pot, Kettle, Black

Howard Kurtz says he received the following email from the Clark campaign.

    [The State of the Union Address is] all just smoke and mirrors designed to hide the stark fact that he has no real plan for our future.
Um, General, no offense, but put up or shut up.

(SIDE NOTE: Kurtz's blog has permalinks now!)
Prudery Only Makes the Government Grow

In the State of the Union, Bush proposed a new program to combat sexually transmitted diseases by spending a few million (no surprise there) to promote abstinence.

And why does a Republican President see a need for the government to teach kids about sexual behavior? Perhaps this post on the Corner will answer that.

    AM I A PRUDE? [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
    (Okay. Duh. Don't answer.) But I don't like the president having to use the word "sexually." There are kids listening. (The same kids who don't know who Tom Brady is and having playing cards with Iraqi Governing Council Members?)
Yes, we can't use the naughty-naughty word where the chil'uns might hear.

What is this, the Clinton administration?

K-Lo needs to get a grip. If people like her would sit down with their kids for five minutes and explain these things, we wouldn't need the frickin' government to spend a few mill to do it for them.
Memos to the President and Karl Rove

To: George W. Bush
From: Sean O'Hara

George - while you clearly grasp the concept that conservatives like low taxes, you seem a bit hazy on the idea that they want to keep government spending low as well. Listening to your State of the Union address and all the new programs and spending increases you ennumerated there in, I can't help but wonder if you understand that the government prints money but it doesn't create it. All those millions and billions have to come from somewhere, but it clearly isn't going to be taxes. Unless you're going to demand tribute from Iraq and Afghanistan, you might want to consider cutting spending.


To: Karl Rove
From: Sean O'Hara

K - I think Bush has been possessed by the ghost of Lyndon Johnson. I'm forwarding to you the phone-number of Father Karras of Georgetown. He has experience in matters like these.

2004/01/20

Five Reasons Why You're Wrong

PopMatters has rolled out their best and worst lists for 2003. Once you get past the reactionary liberalism (it's a sad day when liberals become oxymorons) of Bush bad, Democrats good, there's not much there about pop-culture, and one of the article's points is just plain silly.

    In a stroke of genius or luck, The Daily Show lost former ESPN talking head and smug tool Craig Kilborn and replaced him with Jon Stewart in 1999, and it's been gravy ever since. Where Kilborn's intellectual capacity seemed to involve not much more than chicks in hot tubs, Stewart by contrast has a firm grasp of pop culture and its attendant politics, as well as a congenial interview style that isn't saved by a bogus five-questions quiz.
Oh, puh-leeze. The Daily Show used to be a tone-perfect parody of nightly news-casts with Kilborn playing the part of the vapid, blow-dried anchormant.Then Stewart came in and turned the show into a late night talk show -- good so far as such things are, but nothing more. Where Kilborn was completely unflappable and never stepped out of the act, Stewart can't go one night without laughing at the jokes -- often his own. In the original Daily Show, the joke was that they were playing the whole thing straight, but in Stewart's version everyone's smirking at how clever they are. It's like if someone took The Office and turned it into Mad About You.
Promising What You Can't Deliver

An online ad company is proclaiming that they've created full-screen 30-fps commercials that will play in pop-up windows.

    The new ad technology, from Unicast, an advertising company based in New York, invisibly loads the commercial while unwitting users read a Web page, then displays the ad across the entire browser area when users click to a new page. The resulting ad is identical to TV, whether the user has a high- or low-speed connection. The company says the technology evades pop-up blockers, but the person can skip the ad by clicking a box.
Very sporting of them to let people close the ad after it's loaded. I'm sure all those people with download limits or that have to pay by the bit will appreciate this.

I particularly love this line from a Pepsi suit:

    But I think customers will like it, because it will be so far superior to anything they've seen online.
Isn't that a bit like a rapist saying, "I'm sure women will enjoy it, becuase I'm so much better than anyone who's screwed them before"?

The company also makes some amazing claims about the product on their website.

    The only format that loads completely before it is allowed to play, the Full Screen Superstitial is guaranteed to play perfectly for every consumer, every time.
Every consumer? Wow, that'd pretty damned impressive if they can get it to work on Linux and FreeBSD, even on text-based browsers, as well as Windows machines.

Thankfully, though, the company doesn't know what it's talking about. I already tried some of the sample ads on their website, and it doesn't even work in Firebird on Windows. When I clicked the link, I did indeed get a full-screen pop-up, but that was the result of a requested action and it immediately collapsed into a tab with a big ol' Flash Click-to-Play button.

Now the company says their new ads will play in Windows Media Player, but since Mozilla will ask permission before it even starts downloading video, I don't see how they're going to get it to work on my computer (let alone Linux users who, almost by definition, don't use Windows Media Player). So when Unicast says "every consumer" they actually mean "every consumer [who's using Internet Explorer]," which, after a few more stunts like this, will be an ever decreasing number.
Premature Burials

The funny thing about the television coverage of the Iowa Caucaus is that Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough -- arch conservatives both -- were the only people I saw saying Dean still has a chance. Everyone else on MSNBC and all the Fox and CNN pundits are now ready to write him off. Of course, these are the same pundits who thought Edwards and Kerry were dead in the water just ten days ago, so their predictive powers are on a level with Edgar Cayce.

CNN's talking heads in particular seemed to take great delight in Dean's low score -- I swear, Judy Woodruff looked ready to dance on the grave of his campaign. For all people talk about the liberal press, the truth is most of it's really mainline-Democratic -- they don't like Dean any more than Bush (and in both cases, the feeling looks to be mutual).

But if the pundits turn out to be right and Dean's no longer a contender, what does that leave us? Clark's a nutjob on a scale with Kucinich, though the press hasn't really taken note yet. Kerry and Edwards are typical blow-dried candidates of the type that Republicans enjoy beating the living crap out of, and neither of them has the charisma to hold their own like Clinton did. And as much as I like Lieberman, he's not going to win unless he's mastered the power of the Sith in the last four years.

Senator Liebertine

Sigh. Bush is really looking like the best candidate even if he makes the Democrats look fiscally conservative.
Und zee Weener Ees

Well, I was right about one thing -- the actual distribution of delegates looks nothing like any of the polls. I also think we'll see my fourth prediction come true -- the Iowa Caucaus will be orthogonal to the rest of the campaign.

The only question left about Iowa is what Gephardt will do with his 318 delegates -- if no clear winners emerge from the primaries, he could cede them to a candidate he likes to bolster their tally. But if this turns out to be the case, would he hold out until the convention or give them out early so the party could form-up behind one candidate?

2004/01/19

Lets Overemphasize Early Poll Results

Proof of how shabby entrance polling is for the Iowa Caucauses -- Fox now says Kerry 29%, Edwards 22%, and Dean 22%, but MSNBC has it at 30% for Kerry, 21% Edwards, and 24% Dean. And because the margin of errors are so large, these numbers are statistically identical, so the difference between Dean leading Edwards or being tied with him is impossible to tell.
Let the Games Begin

Fox News' entrance polling gives Kerry a substantial lead, 29% compared to 22% for Edwards and 21% for Dean.

But take this with a grain of salt from Mickey Kaus.
A Sad, Sad Network

In what sounds like a South Park of Family Guy parody of network execs, UPN has decided to develop a reality series about Amish kids in the big city.

    "Amish in the City" is only the working title for the new reality series that's set to air this summer. It's based on the Amish community's coming-of-age experience known as rumspringa (the word means "running wild") in which Amish teens leave the fold and intentionally subject themselves to temptation to test their religious convictions, before deciding whether to join the Amish church. If they return to the flock, only then are they baptized into the Amish church.

    Asked by one stunned critic why on earth they would allow television producers to manipulate and massage a ceremony that will literally alter the course of these kids' lives, Moonves, who also oversees the CBS network, joked, "Well, we couldn't do 'The Beverly Hillbillies.' "

    "The Amish don't have as good a lobbying group," he quipped.
Also in development is Cherry Popping, which will follow eight fourteen year olds as they attempt to lose their virginity, and The Running Man based upon the Stephen King novel,
Happy Martin Luther King Day

Or as it's known here in the ever so progressive state of Virginia, Lee-Jackson-King Day.

2004/01/18

Proof that Women Don't Always Know What's Sexy

Michele at A Small Victory says that this is sexy...

The comic version of Catwoman

...and this is skanky.

Halle Berry as Catwoman

Um, no, sorry. The skank factor here is zero -- Halle Berry wearing leather straps and chains is way sexy. Hell, Halle Berry in a chicken suit is sexy.
Twenty-twenty-twenty-four Hours to Go

With only one day until the Iowa Caucauses, I'm going to indulge in some proctognostication.

  • The polls are wrong. Given the way delegates are doled out, the final distribution will look nothing like the polls, but even in cases where we get a peak at the vote tallies they'll be at odds with Zogby and the others.

  • Edwards will choke -- he'll pick up a few delegates, but in most places he'll be eliminated in the first round and his supporters will bolster Kerry and Gephardt.

  • Dean will nose above Gephardt with Kerry a distant third.

  • None of this will have the slightest effect on the primaries.

2004/01/17

When NGOs Attack

Sneaking Suspicions is happy that the IRS is investigating the Nature Conservancy, to which I can only ask -- what took so friggin' long?

    On the other hand, as the Washington Post showed in its recent series, some of TNC’s activities carry with them the brutal reminder that the charity is still run by humans, with all the frailties that fact implies.
It might be better to say, "As the Washington Post showed in its most recent series" -- the WaPo has been running exposes on mismanagement at the Nature Conservancy since at least the first quarter of 2001, which means the bureaucrats at the IRS took three years to get off their bums and investigate the charges. Absolutely pathetic.
Oi! These Kids Today!

VH1 Classic was just showing a Smiths marathon, and after watching it I wanted to find out who that girl is in the "How Soon Is Now?" video -- if you're a Smiths fan, you know exactly who I mean; if you're not, well, you're a tasteless heathen. Googling didn't turn up any answers, however I did find this, which left be depressed.

    good song, I heard it early 2002 on 89X and it's just now getting popular...
Yeah dude hav u hurd taht kickin nu groop the Who?

The hell? What sort of generation is this that doesn't know who Morrissey and Johnny Marr are?

On a side note, I saw the first ad for a '90s retro-album. It actually had a pretty decent selection of alternative music -- from back in the day when "alternative" still retained some meaning, before it was subverted by POD and Limp Bizkit -- The Cranberries, Gin Blossoms, Mazzy Star. No Veruca Salt or The Breeders, though; not even Belly.

Ah well, maybe this means I can sell some of my old flannels at an absurdly inflated price.

2004/01/16

The Littlest Goth

Daveigh Chase, who played the evilest child since Damien, is set to reprise the role in The Ring 2:

    Chase added that the producers have not even shown her the script yet. "They're waiting until the last minute [to show me]. I'm pretty sure I'll get to kill everybody again. That'll be fun."
Isn't she sweet?
The Feiler Singularity

Mickey Kaus often refers to what he calls the Feiler Faster Principle --

    In short, political trends that used to last for weeks now last for hours. It's like watching the 1984 campaign on fast forward, except that the calendar still drags on into early June, meaning there's room for plot twists we could only dream of in 1984. To be commensurate with the speeded-up news cycle, the calendar would probably have to be compressed even more. Maybe we could have had the whole thing wrapped up by St. Patrick's Day!
Watching coverage of the Iowa Caucaus and New Hampshire Primary, I'm struck by not only how true this is -- look at how the paradigms in coverage have changed in just the past week, and consider that they'll probably change two or three more times before Monday -- but also that the result is starting to resemble a Vingean Singularity.

Vinge's idea is that as technological progress gets faster and faster, the event horizon for predictive models gets smaller and smaller -- we can look at the state of the art today and make some fairly accurate educated about what it'll be in a few years (though not necessarily the pracitical applications for it), but in a few years we'll only be able to look a few years ahead. Eventually, either when we have true AI or computer enhanced human intelligence, the event horizon will be measurable in months, then weeks. Eventually we'll reach the point where prediction becomes impossible because things are moving too fast (at least by the standards of us mundane humans of today).

But while Vinge limited himself to technology, it's not hard to see how this applies to other areas, like politics and news. There are three important factors we're seeing at work:

  1. Broadband internet virtually elliminates the wait in downloading webpages, so for those of us who have it, the biggest bottleneck in getting the news is waiting for it to be written, and the time it takes to read it. At the same time, cell phones and WiFi are chipping away at the need to be at a desk to get the news.
  2. The Internet and 24-hour cable channels means that news no longer has to be distilled to what can fit into a half-an-hour broadcast or thirty-six pages of broadsheet. The over-all bandwidth available to news has increased, and while much of that growth is taken up by noise, there's been a fair increase in signal as well.
  3. The Internet has democratized the media, so there are more people available to break stories.
We're already seeing the effects in this election cycle as the media gives candidates new roles every day -- Edwards is too nice to win one day and the next he's the pause that refreshes; first Dean's softening, then he's cracking, then he's doing the Electric Bugaloo -- but what will it be like in 2008 and 2012 when these trends are even more evolved. Imagine a day when the news cycle is shorter than a caucaus meeting and voters bring laptops with them so they can shift their allegiences as stories break. Imagine a day when guys are reading Instapundit and Slate on WiFi PDAs right until they step into the polling station. If we get to that point, Kaus is right, we could just do the whole thing on St. Patrick's and go out for some green beer as we wait for the results.

2004/01/15

Give Us This Our Daily Consistency

I was just watching Martin Sheen and Rob Reiner on Hardball explaining why they like Howard Dean. But halfway through, Sheen slipped in his explanation of why he doesn't like Bush -- "he shoots from the hips" and is "arrogant."

You know, I simply can't accept that as valid criticism from a guy who supports Howard Dean. As much as I like Dean, he's an arrogant sunuvabitch who shoots from the hips like Gary Cooper. Sheen should just be honest -- he doesn't like Bush's manner because he's on the other side -- and stop trying to couch his opinion in moral indignation.
The Art of the Smear

Apparently someone at ABC has it in for Dean. How else do you explain this obvious attempt to smear him?

    What Did He Know About Abuse Allegations; When Did He Know It?
Right from the get-go the article has a Nixonian tinge -- it doesn't matter what the article actually says, by paraphrasing Howard Baker's famous question in the headline, they're coloring how readers will perceive Dean's actions, giving them an aura of deviousness that wouldn't be present in a straight-forward reporting of the facts.

    In his presidential campaign, and as governor of Vermont before that, Howard Dean has taken a tough, zero-tolerance stand on domestic violence, accusing the Bush administration of not being committed to the issue. Yet Dean said he had no idea that one of the men closest to him was repeatedly abusing his wife.
This is a beautiful paragraph -- it would do the Ministry of Truth proud. Just look at how many rhetorical tricks the writers squeezed in there.

  1. The headline, of course, already inclines readers to view Dean's denial with skepticism,
  2. By framing the article with Dean's position on domestic abuse then using "yet" to segue into the real story, the writers leave the impression that Dean's being hypocritical, professing one thing and doing the other, and
  3. They simply assert that the abuser was "one of the men closest to" Dean without actually offering any proof.
So who was this close associate? Read on:

    Dennis Madore, the state trooper who headed Dean's security detail for nine years, was "a classic abuser," according to Jerry Diamond, a Dean supporter and former Vermont attorney general who was the lawyer for Madore's wife, Donna, when she filed for divorce in 1997.
Yes, the gubernatorial equivalent of a Secret Service agent. Now, maybe he and Dean were close friends as the previous paragraph asserted, but the article provides no evidence of this. For all we know, "closest to" Dean refers to the physical proximity.

    Court records show that Madore's lawyer, Phil White, also a close friend of Dean, was first made aware of the abuse allegations on March 7, 1997.

    On May 23, 1997, Dean inserted himself in the case, filing a three-page affidavit at White's request for use in a custody hearing, in which he described Madore as "a firm but gentle disciplinarian" and a "wonderful parent."
I love this bit of rhetorical dancing -- by saying that "Dean inserted himself in the case," the writers leave the impression that Dean just decided to become involved of his own volition, but the very next clause says that he did so after being asked by his friend, Madore's lawyer. At the same time, by saying that White knew about the abuse before Dean signed the affidavit, they're painting a dotted line for readers to follow and conclude that Dean knew as well, but they don't give any reason to suppose that the dots should be connected.

    Diamond said the affidavit raised questions about the governor's judgment in getting involved and was deeply upsetting to Donna Madore, whom he said suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the domestic violence.

    "I think she was shocked, more than disappointed," said Diamond, who said he was authorized to speak for Donna Madore. "She was shocked that the governor would do something like that."


Appeal to pity. While it's lamentable that Ms. Madore felt that way, it has no bearing on the question of whether Dean knowingly filed an affidavit in favor of a wife-beater.

    Dean declined repeated requests over the last six weeks to talk to ABCNEWS about the case, but when the issue first came up in Vermont three years ago, he told WCAX-TV he did not know of the abuse allegations when he filed the affidavit.

    "I don't think it's my business as an employer to rummage through anybody's divorce papers," Dean told the station. He maintained he had never known about what he called a "shocking accusation."

    Warned About Abuse

    But in 1997, Dean, by his own account, ignored a warning he received about Madore just a few days after he filed the affidavit.
What's this? Are they saying someone told Dean that Madore was abusive? If so, why'd they bury it so deeply in the article?

    In a phone call to his Burlington home on June 1, l997, Maggie Benson -- a longtime Dean supporter and friend of Donna Madore -- told the governor that Dennis Madore was an unfit parent and that Dean could damage himself politically by being involved.
Oh, that's why -- they couldn't actually find anyone who told Dean that Madore was a wife-beater, so they're settling for "unfit parent" and hoping no one notices the difference.

And what exactly did the caller tell Dean? Did she offer any reasons why Madore was a bad parent?

    "She said she did not believe Dennis was a good father and I told her the conversation was inappropriate," Dean wrote.
Now, because the writers have already told us that Madore abused his wife, we're inclined to believe that he was a bad father as well and that Dean screwed up by not taking her seriously, but they give us no reason to believe that, divorced from that preknowledge, there was any reason for Dean to take her seriously.

So what we're left with is an article full of inuendo and insinuation that would do Walter Winchel proud. The allegation that Dean knew about the abuse and still signed the affidavit might be true -- but there's no way to tell from this article; it's four pages of reporting so lousy it'd get a high school journalism student an F.
...And Then There Were Eight...

Carol Mosley-Braun, you are outta here!
Josh Marshall attempts to explain why unilateralism was okay in the Clinton administration but not under G.W. Bush -- and in the process makes a boneheaded historical blunder:

    As Fareed Zakaria aptly noted almost a year ago, the US never got UN approval for any of its three major military engagements in the 1990s.
Well, except for that big one in 1991 -- you know, the one under G.H.W. Bush's administration, one of the only two actual wars (as opposed to police actions or humanitarian missions) ever authorized by the UN. Come on, this only happened fifteen years ago; it's not like I'm expecting him to know what year the Battle or Rourke's Rift was fought.

(Well, maybe Marshall's just copying the boneheaded blunder from Zakaria, but repeating a mistake when you should know better is no better.)

2004/01/14

The Red Menace

The dread Canuckian horde, not satisfied with inflicting Rush and Nickleback upon America, has unleashed a powerful new weapon, one so horrible it threatens to infect our food supply -- ketchup flavored potato chips! By Ghu, is there no evil to which they will not stoop?

And notice that these are red chips -- they've become so over-bold that they aren't even bothering to hide their Communist leanings any more.

2004/01/13

Moonbats Against Invading Mars

UPDATE: I emailed Conason, and he says that it's a joke and he's surprised people didn't figure that out by following the link and reading the full story. This is, of course, the problem with parodying moonbattery -- loons are already parodies of themselves, so unless you make you're snide tone obvious (doubly difficult in text media), it's hard for people to notice that you're being parodic.

This is rich.

    When President Bush inspires us onward and upward to Mars this week, his political calculations may be more earthly. Expanding space exploration is a wonderful aspiration for America and humanity -- and also quite promising for the Houston economy, the national aerospace industry, and one company in particular that has long pondered exploration of the red planet: Halliburton.

    Yes, the firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney -- fabled beneficiary of no-bid multibillion-dollar military contracts and high-priced provider of Kuwaiti oil -- is determined to drill on Mars and the moon. Surely this scheme has nothing to do with the Bush space initiative. But somehow, no matter what worthy motivations lie behind the president's policies, he and Cheney always appear to be shilling for their corporate clientele.

    (Consider former Treasury Secretary Paul O' Neill's revelations about early Iraq war planning, which included a March 2001 memo -- titled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" -- that mapped out potential post-Saddam petroleum exploration.)

    Dreams about drilling on Mars date back several years at least. In 1998, a handful of top firms, including Halliburton, Shell and Schlumberger, showed up for a NASA "workshop" at Los Alamos, N.M., to discuss the prospects. Research seems to have intensified since 2001, with Halliburton and other firms engaged in proprietary research on such advanced technologies as laser-powered drills. They appear to have been awaiting this week's announcement, according to this old clip from Petroleum News, which reported:

    "The earliest drilling opportunity would be 2007 ... Deeper drilling, into the multi-kilometer range, might occur as part of a 2014 Mars mission which would put astronauts on the planet to assist."
This is so wrong that I don't even know where to begin. I mean, this borders on Catastrophism, it's so loony.

Okay, first of all, given our current level of technology, going to Mars for oil is like flying to China because you want General Zhou's Chicken -- Halliburton would have to sell it at about a million dollars per barrel just to break even. We'll have fuel-cell cars and genetically engineered microbes that can produce oil long before space travel gets cheap enough for Martian oil to cost the same as its terrestrial equivalent.

But there's a much more basic problem with Conason's argument. Oil and other hydrocarbons are what we commonly refer to as fossil fuels*, so named because they form from the remains of dead organisms. Now as most people (though not, apparently, Joe Conason) know, the question of whether there is now or ever has been life on Mars is still very much under investigation, which makes it rather unlikely that Halliburton is willing to commit the money to put a well on Mars before this decade is out. In fact, some NASA scientists have suggested that we look for oil on Mars as a way to determine if life ever existed there. Hmm, do you think NASA consulted Halliburton on technology that could help in the search for life?

    If there is life on Mars, it would probably be microorganisms in water deep below the surface of the planet. Dr. Geoffrey Briggs, director, Center for Mars Exploration at the NASA Ames Center, told “Meet Alaska” that NASA is looking at ways to drill on Mars to look for water — and the life it might contain.

    Briggs said NASA has been working with Halliburton, Shell, Baker-Hughes and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to identify drilling technologies that might work on Mars.
Note that this is the very same article Conason quoted from. I hope to Cthulhu that he was parodying Michael Moore, because the alternative is that he's either being intentionally dishonest, or he has such a jones to trash Halliburton that he only saw the part that reinforced his own views and ignored the rest.

* Yes, some scientists have recently proposed a non-organic origin for oil, but (A) this probably doesn't apply to more than a small portion of the world's oil, and (B) the paper came out well after the meeting Conason refers to.
The Wackiest Candidate in the Race

Finally, someone in the (semi-)mainstream press has noticed that Wesley Clark is a grade-A nutbar. One Clark quote in particular struck me as not only fruity, but ill-informed.

    Now, there's one party in America that's made the United Nations the enemy. And I don't know how many of you have ever read that series of books that's published by the Christian right that's called the "Left Behind" series? Probably nobody's read it up here. But don't feel bad, I'm not recommending it to you. I'm just telling you that according to the book cover that I saw in the airport, 55 million copies have been printed. And in it, the Antichrist is the United Nations.
Well, now, 55 million sounds like a lot, doesn't it. Except, that's 55 million spread over a series that's longer than the Wheel of Time -- according to the official site, there are twelve books in the Left Behind series proper, plus two more related novels, in addition to which there are thirty-four young-adult books. So that averages to less than two million copies of each book. Still pretty impressive (though I wonder how many have been bought up by evangelicals to give to marks, er, potential converts), but it's not like a tenth of the population is reading it.

2004/01/12

Ouch!

So how bad will the movie Torque suck? You know, the one that looks like a cheap rip-off of Biker Boyz, which was in turn a cheap rip-off of The Fast and the Furious. Well, according to this report from an advanced screening, pretty badly.

    In general, the crowd seemed to be mainly bored although there were a few good laughs and amusing moments that the audience obviously enjoyed. There were a lot of great reactions to the action scenes and they were receptive to pretty much anything Ice Cube said. I was surprised that people rushed to get out of there and some of the motorcycle guys reacted negatively (and rather vocally) to the movie.
I'm picturing that scene in Ed Wood where they premiere Bride of the Monster and the kids riot and grab Vampira's boobs.

Only with bikers.
Quote of the Day

"We have plans to invade France -- or at least I hope we do."
--Charles Krauthammer
Double Bind

The Treasury Department want to investigate Paul O'Neill over those papers that supposedly show that Bush was gung-ho to invade Iraq before 11 September.

    "It's based on the (CBS program) 60 Minutes segment, and I'll be even more clear — the document as shown on 60 Minutes that said 'secret,"' Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols told reporters at a weekly briefing.
But here's the thing -- it appears that those papers are not, as O'Neill alleged, from the Pentagon but rather Cheney's infamous energy task force.

    But that is not a Pentagon document. It's from the Vice-President's Office. It was part of the Energy Project that was the focus of Dick Cheney's attention before the 9/11 strikes.

    And the document has nothing to do with post-war Iraq. It was part of a study of global oil supplies. Judicial Watch obtained it in a law suit and posted it, along with related documents, on its website at: http://www.judicialwatch.org/071703.c_.shtml Indeed, when this story first broke yesterday, the Drudge Report had the Judicial Watch document linked (no one at CBS News saw that, so they could correct the error, when the show aired?)
This would put O'Neill into a bit of a bind. If the papers are in fact classified Pentagon documents, then O'Neill is quite likely open to prosecution; but if the papers are the ones on Judicial Watch's site, then he didn't commit a crime but is guilty of lying about their significance.
Out, Out, Damn Pop-Up

According to this thread in Mozillazine forums, Lycos (and by extension Angelfire and Tripod) has taken to inserting javascript into the HTML of pages they host. This code makes it so that any time you click on a link, it opens a pop-up ad -- and it's designed in such a way that browsers with in-built pop-up blocking (such as Mozilla and Firebird) take the advertisement as a requested action and allow it.

    Yes, it turns all regular links into Javascript programs which open popup advertisements, and then forward you to the page as part of the Javascript. The regexp at the start of the code deviously exempts Lycos' own pages from this behavior, so you only get a popup when you go to another website. Non-geeks would be confused into thinking the other website is the problem.
It's devious and cunning, in a Blackadder sorta way.

So far there are a couple suggested solutions, but it doesn't look like anyone's come with an extension to stop it, or even a bit of code for about:config or userContent.css. Too bad. I've gotten used to not having to use a pop-up blocker program.
The Liberal Case for War, Redux

Slate's running an interesting discussion between liberals who supported the Iraq War. In a refreshing break from the Indymedia types, everyone who's weighed in so far is arguing that the war was and is just no matter what Bush's motivations were, and even with the problems in reconstruction, it remains worth it.

Thomas Friedman offers the bluntest justification -- one that if it came from a conservative ("neo" or otherwise) would have the far left anti-war types howling.

    The real reason for this war—which was never stated—was to burst what I would call the "terrorism bubble," which had built up during the 1990s.

    This bubble was a dangerous fantasy, believed by way too many people in the Middle East. This bubble said that it was OK to plow airplanes into the World Trade Center, commit suicide in Israeli pizza parlors, praise people who do these things as "martyrs," and donate money to them through religious charities. This bubble had to be burst, and the only way to do it was to go right into the heart of the Arab world and smash something—to let everyone know that we too are ready to fight and die to preserve our open society. Yes, I know, it's not very diplomatic—it's not in the rule book—but everyone in the neighborhood got the message: Henceforth, you will be held accountable. Why Iraq, not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan? Because we could—period. Sorry to be so blunt, but, as I also wrote before the war: Some things are true even if George Bush believes them.
This is, essentially, the nub of the matter, though I'd argue that there were reasons for picking Iraq -- notably, it's centrally located between three of the biggest state-sponsors of terrorism: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria (and, combined with Afghanistan, puts troops on Irans eastern and western flanks).

I look forward to the rest of the discussion, especially since Hitch is supposed to weigh in.

2004/01/11

MSNBC -- We Interrupt Our Fluff Pieces on Celebrities to Bring You a Presidential Debate

MSNBC's "Black and Brown Presidential Forum" is ostensibly named for its focus on race issues, but watching it makes me think the name refers to its resemblance to fecal matter. A high school forensics team could organize a better debate than this.

Every time one candidate mentions another, the moderators give him the chance to respond.

If the second candidate mentions a third and fourth, the moderators let them respond too.

And if a fifth candidate wants to respond to any of them, even if no one's mentioned him, the moderators let him.

On the one hand, instead of being a stodgy old debate, the candidates are actually arguing with each other, but (A) Lieberman, Edwards, and Gephardt are sitting on the sidelines for long stretches while Kerry, Dean, Kucinich, Sharpton, and Mosley-Braun go at it, and (B) the moderators look absolutely pathetic as they let the candidates walk all over them.
The Latest Anti-Dean ... Smear?

Someone's spamming the following Anti-Dean "attack" across Usenet:

    Subject: Why Isn't Anyone Talking About The Jewish Factor? ------ wDcq7c2vc7
    From: Truth_In_Media@dyjjan.mo.us
    Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated, rec.arts.sf.tv.quantum-leap, rec.arts.sf.written
    Message-ID:
    NNTP-Posting-Host: cf.odn.de
    Path: uni-berlin.de! fu-berlin.de! feed.news.tiscali.de! newsfeed.freenet.de! news.ecore.net!lilly.ping.de! news.prima.de! gomorrah.sauerland.de! dyjjan.mo.us! Truth_In_Media
    Organization: Truth In Media

    Governor Howard Dean is married to a Jewish woman and their children are being brought up in the Jewish faith. This has little relevancy for domestic matters, but its impact of foreign relations cannot be ignored, especially in an age where our greatest foreign policy challenge is repairing relations with the Muslim world.

    Just something to think about, as the press has been less than forthcoming on this extremely relevant facet of this candidates profile.
Notice the pathetic attempt at subtlety here -- the poster doesn't want to mark himself as an antisemite right off the bat, so instead of just saying, "Dean shouldn't be elected because of his Jewish connection," he asks us "to think about" how the Muslim world will react.

So who's behind it? A rival campaign? (The originating server and the poster's email address both use a Missouri government top-level domain, but a cursory search can't verify the existence of dyjjan.mo.us so there's no way to tell whether it's significant, coincidental, or misinformation.) A German Neonazi? (The poster used a German news server, but so do a goodly number of Usenet posters.) A troll? (It is crossposted to numerous groups, but that's a tactic of spammers and trolls both.) Or a paranoid conspiracy type? (There are several who crosspost to multiple groups, such as a black-helicopter type who sends his screeds about David Koresh and Ruby Ridge to about half a dozen groups.)

All we can say for sure is that crap like this will proliferate until at least November, and you can probably expect to see it clogging your inbox (whack-jobs aren't going to care about anti-spam laws, afterall).

Welcome to Campaign 2004.
Lots and lots of bloggers are excited by the news that Danish troops have uncovered a cache of blister agents in Iraq. This would be wonderful news except for one little catch.

    [Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt] added that it was likely the weapons were left over from the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Blister gas, an illegal weapon, was extensively used against the Iranians during the conflict.
(Reuters, surprisingly, reported the second bit but left out the first.)

In other words, this is probably an old cache that Hussein lost track of during the Iran-Iraq War. It's a violation, but it's not significant enough to vindicate Bush.

2004/01/10

"Ready the Indymedia Ray, Ensign Crusher"

It would appear that if the Earth is ever attacked by the Borg, our best defense would be to let them assimilate whiney leftist activists.

    Our IMC has now split into two groups. When a few of the tech members began to have personal problems with other members of the collective, these tech members demanded a split of the collective. The resulting dynamics within the group continued to worsen. It created an environment that made it difficult to continue working together and also discouraged potential new people from joining the collective. While most members of the collective opposed any kind of split, the aforementioned tech members insisted that they would split anyway, because they wanted to and because they could.
Within two hours, the Borg collective would be so busy arguing over the Third Internationale that Counselor Troi and a pair of tribbles could defeat them.

In the immortal words of Commander Worf, "Assimilate this."

2004/01/09

Mrs. Slocombe Sure Spoils Her Pussy

According to the ever reliable Pravda, the amount British cat owners spend on their pets is equal to the living wage in Russia -- 2121 rubles, or 480 pounds.

But before you start thinking cat owners pamper their pets, consider that dog owners spend twice as much.
Back to the Moon, Again

Rumors that Bush plans to send America back to the moon are picking up for the second time in the last month or so. However, this time they're accompanied by some more concrete ideas:

    To help pay for the program, the sources say the Space Shuttles would be retired as soon as they have finished building the International Space Station.
Praise be! By all means, get rid of the clunky old beheamoths.

    A new multipurpose ship, called a "Crew Exploration Vehicle," would be built as NASA's future workhorse. It would consist of different components that could be combined as necessary for different missions, whether they are to Earth orbit, the lunar surface, or beyond.
Sounds good as well. Now all we need is civil astronautics and we'll be able to enter the 21st Century as it should be.

2004/01/08

Separated at Birth?

Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet



Howard Dean on the stump

(Tip o' the pin to whoever found my site by Googling for "Howard Dean"+"Frank Booth".)
When Open Source Goes Wrong

Just to show that I'm not a complete Open Source zealot who thinks that being OSS automatically makes a program good, today I'm going to trash AbiWord. I downloaded it after reading a recommendation on Slashdot, but just playing with it for ten minutes was sufficient to send me back to OpenOffice.org.

To put it simply, the software is buggier than an ant-hill. And these aren't even subtle bugs that crop up rarely or only under specific circumstances that aren't likely to be repeated. No, these are bugs that appear simply by starting the program.

Once I got it installed and opened for the first time, I immediately noticed a problem -- the "View" menu was missing from the top of the screen and replaced by an extra "Help". So I shut down and started again. This time the "View" item was in its proper place, but several of the items on it were inactive. So I restarted the program for a third time, and finally all the menus looked right.

I should've given up then, but instead I decided to open a document and see how the program works. Now for most programs, 100% magnification gives you something reasonable, usually something between margin- and page-width. Does AbiWord follow this pattern? Nope. I opened a file with a perfectly reasonable margin size, but the program zoomed in so tight that the words ran off the page to the left and right. I had to set it to something like 70% to fit the horizontal text area on screen.

At this point I noticed that the margins were completely out of whack -- for some reason they were set to some off fraction of an inch. I clicked on the right margin in the ruler and moved it left to an appropriate size, but when I let go, it just kept sliding left until the margin was less than one inch. Didn't matter, though. Moving things on the ruler had no effect on the text area. I started searching the menus for a dialogue box where I could manually set the margins, but when I didn't find it after a cursory search, I just said "Screw it." A program that reveals that many bugs in the first ten minutes isn't worth it. Even Thunderbird wasn't that bad when I started using it, and it was on version .2.

So back to OO.o for me.
Still More Endorsements for Dean

Dean picked up two more media endorsements today, one from Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic, which isn't particularly earth-shaking except so far as the magazine itself endorsed Lieberman; but the other comes from a truly surprising source -- Jonah Goldberg. While Goldberg, like Andrew Sullivan and Bill Kristol, only thinks Dean will make a good candidate but doesn't want him to win the presidency itself, it's nice to see some conservatives rooting for him not because they think he's an easy mark for Bush, but because they believe Machiavelli's premise that a republic functions best when there's a confrontational dialectic between two parties. As foolish and suicidal as the Democrats have been for the past few years, it'd be a shame if they self-destructed without leaving something to fill the vacuum. Win or lose, Dean looks like he could actually prevent that.

2004/01/07

Mickey Kaus wonders why David Brooks equates "neocon" conspiracies with anti-semitism.

    Would Brooks really deny there is a loose-knit group of writers and thinkers who see themseles as "neoconservative"? Tell it to Irving Kristol! And why isn't it legitimate to a) note that many neocons (e.g. Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith) occupy important positions in the Administration; b) note that for many of these people Judaism and support for the state of Israel has a lot to do with their self-image and world view--and c) argue that their support for the Iraq war was wrong and, consciously or subconsciously, influenced by factor (b)? I don't necessarily agree with this argument but I don't see how it amounts to anti-Semitism.
The problem is that most people who talk about "neocons" don't refer to them as a loose-knit group. In my experience, most people don't really know what "neocon" means and just use it as a synonym for "hawk," but I've also encountered a number of conspiracy theories, particularly on Usenet, that essentially replace "International Jewish Conspiracy (TM)" with "neocon" -- i.e., they're a shadowy group of Jews who are using Bush as their puppet to control America and wage war against the Arab world. In some versions, they're behind 11 September or at least allowed it to happen (sort of an inverted Reichstag fire).

So while not everyone who talks about neoconservatives is being anti-semitic, there are a fair number of people who use it as a codeword for "the Jews".
But Could He Catch a Monkey If He Had To?

Okay, one more example of Kucinich's genius, this time from Jay Nordlinger

    My boy Dennis Kucinich -- go, Dennis! -- made what might be the remark of the campaign. Discussing possible Supreme Court picks in a Kucinich presidency, he said he "absolutely would appoint a homosexual judge," including "any lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person -- just as long as they'd be willing to uphold Roe v. Wade." That is simply the perfect Democratic statement, blowing away all others. Even the ungrammatical "they," instead of "he," is sublime.
For the full effect, imagine Gareth from The Office saying the line.

"I'd appoint a gay. Or lesbian -- no descrimination. Yeah, or bisexual. Transgender. As long as they believe in Roe v. Wade."

(Minor quibble: The use of "they" as a gender-neutral, third-person singular pronoun is an acceptable usage that dates back at least to the middle ages and can be found in Shakespeare and even the King James Bible.

    There's not a man I meet but doth salute me,
    As if I were their well-acquainted friend.

    --A Comedy of Errors, IV.3

    But in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves.

    --Philippians 2:3
Strict grammarians, who are really Normans frustrated that they haven't been able to turn English into a Romance language after nearly a millennium of effort, don't particularly like this. Of course, strict grammarians prescribe many rules that have no real basis in English, like never ending a sentence or clause with a pronoun, which would eliminate many great lines from literature, such as the famous medieval lyric "sumer is icumen in" and Shakespeare's "We are such stuff as dreams are made on." (NB: That's the correct line; Bogie misquotes it in The Maltese Falcon.) Outside of formal writing and classrooms, many of these rules have no merit and only prats criticize people for breaking them.)

(Tip o' the Pin to Yale Diva.)
Like Bringing a Knife to a Gun-Fight

I know I shouldn't make fun of mentally challenged folk like Dennis Kucinich, but this is too grand.

    Federal spending was the topic and Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich came prepared with a pie chart to argue his point about a bloated Pentagon budget.

    But although many listened to Tuesday's presidential debate, few could see the Ohio congressman's prop.

    The debate was broadcast only on National Public Radio.
Oh, Dennis, I shall miss you after you're trammeled in the primaries. It'll be four more years before another barking moonbat will be in a position of such media focus.

2004/01/06

Prince Charming

It's taken longer than some of his ancestors ruled, but it looks like bonny Prince Charlie is finally doing his family proud. If this ever ends up in court, he better hope this guy is the judge.
All Your Content Are Belong to Us

Wil Wheaton has a disturbing post about a UK newspaper ripping off content from a blogger and defending the action because you can't copyright material on the Internet.

Yeah, I'd like to see them defend that in court.
The Most Shocking Endorsement Yet

First Al Gore, then Bill Bradley, and now Andrew Sullivan has endorsed Howard Dean -- at least as for the Democratic nomination.

    My hankering for Dean is therefore a little like Bill Kristol's. I think it would be refreshing for this country to have a real choice and debate this year, not an echo or yet another focus group.


Roger L. Simon suggests he's doing this because Dean makes for a more interesting race (and hence more interesting blogging):

    The real reason, if he knows it or not (and I suspect he might), Andrew is supporting the Dean nomination is that it is best for him (and for me and for a helluva lot of other people who write and chatter). Dean makes great copy!

    Think about it: Bush vs. Gephardt.... Bush vs. Lieberman... Bush vs. Edwards (who?)... I could go on, but you get the point. It's the snore of 2004. But with Dean, well, we may not have a horse race, but we sure have everybody's attention--and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the media are all about.


I don't think that's quite right -- or rather, a more interesting race is reason in itself to want Dean as the nominee, and what it'll do to the blogosphere is merely a bonus. The last two Presidential elections have had a by-the-numbers feel, almost like the race in Futurama between Jack Johnson ("I say your three cent titanium tax goes too far!") and John Jackson("And I say your three cent titanium tax doesn't go far enough!"). For all the vitriol directed against Clinton in '96 and Bush in double-aught, there was never a sense that anyone outside the party faithful really cared about the results, which is why both elections came pretty close to 50/50 splits. And if you look at the serious Democratic candidates this year, all of them save Dean have the same lethargy that plagued Dole and Gore (and to an extent Clinton and Bush) -- as though they've worked their way up the ladder of public service and deserve a shot at the Presidency before they get the fabled gold watch. When you listen to Kerry or Gephardt, there's no sense that they're running because they believe in anything; it's just that Senators are supposed to run for President after so many terms.

But that's not what democracy's about -- running for office isn't a career path, and winning the White House isn't the equivalent of getting the keys to the executive wash-room.

Dean realizes this and is running because he actually stands for something, whether you agree with it or not. When he meets Bush in a debate, it won't just be two guys standing at lecterns giving canned-answers without really interacting. It'll be a full-on brawl, which is how things are supposed to be.

That's why I'll vote for him in the Virginia Primary (assuming it'll make a difference at that point; I would've voted McCain in 2000 but he dropped out before I got the chance).

Will I vote for him in the general election?

I don't know.

Virginia will go Bush no matter what happens, so it doesn't really matter. I'm not impressed with Dean's domestic and economic positions, but I like them no worse than Bush's, and at least a Republican Congress would keep Dean in check. The big test will be foreign policy and how he shifts his positition once he has the nom -- if he does the following I'll seriously consider voting for him:

  • Convinces me (as Bob Grahm did) that his opposition to the Iraq War was because he thinks there were much more deserving targets,
  • Maintains his position that now we're in Iraq we have to stay there,
  • Presents a hard-core foreign policy, and
  • Sticks to his guns on his Screw the Saudis policy.
I know it's common wisdom to write him off as a loose-cannon throw-back to the '60s and '70s, but I honestly believe that many people are making the mistake of misunderestimating him, just as they did with Bush. And I don't think any of us have an idea of what he'll do when he gets into the general election -- which is why he should be in it.
The Independent Too Loony for bin Laden

Osama bin Laden has an op-ed in a major British newspaper -- and it's not the Indy.

2004/01/05

But Has Clinton Stopped Beating Her Husband?

The folks at Democrats.com are outraged that MoveOn.org pulled an ad comparing Bush to Hitler after the RNC objected.

    Once again, the comparison of Bush with Hitler strikes terror in the hearts of Republicans - because they know how close it cuts to the truth.
You know, if you put a Coke can on a paint-mixer for fifteen minutes then open it, you won't get that much froth.

Now, one of the fundamental principles of Usenet discussions is Godwin's Law:

    As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
It's customary on most groups that once the Godwin Threshold is passed, the person who invoked Hitler forfeits the argument. I think this is an idea that should apply to broader political discourses, and at this point MoveOn.org and Democrats.com have lost the argument and should be ignored for the rest of this election cycle.
If Everybody Had a Million Dollars, We'd Be Poor

Virginia Postrel reviews Gregg Easterbrook's new book and isn't impressed. She notes on her blog that she only had 750 words and thus couldn't go in-depth on some of her criticism, which is a shame because it sounds like she could give the whole thing a good fisking. There's one point in particular that I wish she had more room to address because it's one I've seen advocated by many people besides Easterbrook:

    We should raise the minimum wage to "at least $10 an hour," he says. Doubling the minimum wage would make the "prosperous majority" happier, because they "could enjoy their positions with a clearer conscience."

    Easterbrook might feel better, but at least some minimum-wage workers would lose their jobs - an effect he does not even bother to address.
Certainly some people would lose their jobs, particularly those with small companies that can't afford significant wage increases (and in fact some small businesses would end up going under), but that's only the start of the problem. Everyone who thinks raising the minimum wage is a magic-wand for increasing prosperity assumes that $10 under the new scheme will be worth the same as $10 today. However, if people are suddenly earning twice as much, that means they'll have twice as much to spend -- in other words, demand will go up, and prices will surely follow. And companies will be more than happy to raise those prices because they'll need some way to cover their increased wages.

(And it won't just be the guys who are currently earning minimum wage who'll need raises. Someone who's earning $9/hr will need at least a dollar-an-hour pay increase -- and I say "at least" because once they realize they're earning minimum wage, they'll want a further raise. For that matter, even someone who's earning $11/hr would want a raise if they suddenly go from earning 200% of the minimum wage to a mere 110%.)

So we get inflation, and before you know it someone earning $10/hr isn't much better off than someone earning $5.50 today.

This isn't to say that the minimum wage should stay at its current level, which is pretty paltry, but that it should increase incrementally to track with inflation rather than making catastrophic leaps.

2004/01/04

Dean/Edwards '04?

Towards the end of the Democratic debate, the moderators asked the candidates what mistake they wished they could take back. Dean's choice -- a mistatement he made about John Edwards last year. Why? He could've used the moment to back-track on any of his gaffes. Why pick the one about Edwards? Could he be laying groundwork for an alliance and a possible VP nod.

It makes some degree of sense -- Edwards is a southerner and Dean's been quite clear about his intention to win the South; and in the long-view, Edwards his still young and inexperienced, and could do with an eight-year apprenticeship as Vice President. If the primaries are going to be the Dean cakewalk as they appear, then this would be the right time for him to look towards the main campaign.
Must Be the Mind-Control Satellites

I'm watching the Democratic debate in Iraq, and it looks like everyone -- including Dean and and Mosley-Braun -- except Kucinich wants to keep our troops in Iraq. Dean even just admitted that al Qaeda is in Iraq now and if we pull out precipitously, they'll take over.

Kucinich is, of course, frothing about this -- but the funny thing is, after he said that we should pull all our troops out, only one person in the audience clapped. By contrast, Mosley-Braun, after saying that we have a responsibility to rebuild Iraq now that we've blown it apart, recieved about half-a-minute of applause.
Indian Summer

It's the 4th of January and 70 degrees in the Washington Metro Area. And there's supposed to be snow by the end of the week.
Yeah, But Have You Looked at College Professors?

This article in Slate about professor/student relationships has sparked quite a bit of discussion in the blogosphere (gosh, it's almost like a lot of bloggers are professors or students), but most of it focuses on the teacher/student power dynamic and whether that makes such relationships inherently harassing. I don't think it does, necessarily, and in exceptional cases already existing sexual harassment laws should cover it.

A more substantial objection, which seems oddly lacking from the blogs I've read and even Kipnis' original article, is that it's unfair to the other students. Unless the professor uses completely blind grading and has a TA tally the final grades, he's going to be biased towards the student(s) he has a relationship with. It's hardly fair if Slutty McSlut gets an A because she's polishing Herr Doktor-Professor's knob while the rest of the class has to work for their grade -- it's doubly unfair to the male students because it's highly unlikely that the professor will give them the same opportunity for extracredit as he gives to Slutty. (Reverse pronouns and change "knob polishing" to "muff diving" as you see fit.)

At least that's how it'd seem to an outside observer. The problem is that a non-trivial component in collegiate success is having a good relationship with your professors. This is especially true in the humanities, but the sciences aren't exempted -- having a professor who's willing to go the extra mile to let you make up a missed assignment, or who'll give you an extension on a project can be the difference between passing and failing.No, it's not entirely fair, but that's sadly how the system works, and there's no way to stop it short of requiring blind-grading.
Sorry Boys

It is a sad day for the horny teenage boys (and their middle aged fathers) everywhere -- Britney Spears got married.

    The 22-year-old pop superstar tied the knot with Jason Allen Alexander at Little White Wedding Chapel on the Strip, CNN reported early Sunday (January 4).
But the nice thing is that even though she's disgustingly rich, she stayed true to her white-trash roots by eloping to Vegas. The only thing that could make this sweeter would be if they did this because she's pregnant, and they later end up on Divorce Court because he doesn't think the kid's his.

    The couple filed for a marriage license on Saturday, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

    Britney and her husband recently started dating, and spent New Year's Eve together at the Palms Casino Hotel nightclub. They decided to get married Friday night, People.com reported.

    The club provided Spears with a lime-green limo driven by a hotel bellman, who took the couple to the chapel.
Unconfirmed reports say that an Elvis impersonated performed the ceremony and Wayne Newton was the best man. Siegfried was the ring-bearer and used a piece of Roy's skull to carry it in.

However, thirteen year old boys shouldn't despair yet -- Spears might file for an annulment.

    ...a friend of the 22-year-old pop star insists that the Las Vegas chapel wedding was a joke that went too far.
TRANSLATION: They got real drunk.

Ah, I've been waiting for this since I first saw her cheesecake face peering at me from the entrance of a record store. Let the self-destructive spiral of doom that leads inexorably to pornography begin!