Sunday, October 31, 2004

Election day

Jesus fucking christ, baseball fans have taken over election day results. To explain: Baseball fans are the penultimate of taking a standard human trait to the extreme. The human trait? To make associations. It's one of the things that humans do best - whether or not you agree with the results. How do baseball fans fit in? Well, they are the sport that relies most upon statistics. Mind you, most of the people who quote the statistics haven't a fucking clue as to how irrelevant statistics might be as applied to the situation presented, but they are fond of pulling numbers out of their asses much like people who like to read horoscopes or read palms. Of the most goddamn idiotic things I have read from either party's hacks, this has to rank at the top.

News to pundits associated with political parties and the blogosphere: no matter what happens on November 2nd in the US, the world will go on. Now, I'm not saying that I'll necessarily like the results, but to be honest, I haven't liked the results of any election in the States since before my voting years...oh, I did like Clinton for about 2 weeks until he caved to the military over equal rights for homosexuals in the armed forces. So, to state it from my perspective, I'm used to being disappointed and I'm already prepared for that outcome. The question is really how disappointed will I be? And, given my experience, all sides should tone it down considerably.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Bin Laden and, separately, weapons in Iraq

It is interesting and informative to see how Al Jazeera translates Bin Laden's words into english as compared to how Reuter's (re-published in the NY Times) did. Subtle differences, but as anyone who has read Hofstadter's book on the topic, differences in translation can make all the difference in the world.

On the other hot foreign policy topic of the week, the missing explosives in Iraq, (yes, they are still one can say definitively what happened to them according to the Pentagon), Jon Lee Anderson writes in the LA Times that those explosives were not unique. Rather, it was pretty normal and easy following the war to find weapons in Iraq.

Inexplicably, the looting in Baghdad was not halted after a few days, but went on for weeks. Hospitals, museums, ministries and even some of Saddam Hussein's palaces were looted and, in some cases, burned.

The U.S. inaction was bewildering and a source of great anger and frustration to most of the Iraqis I knew. There have been few public explanations from U.S. officials about this, but, off the record, senior U.S. military officers have told me they did not intervene because they had insufficient numbers of troops.

Today, most also acknowledge that this period of anarchy helped lay the foundation for the Iraqi insurgency by souring the perceptions of many Iraqis toward the occupation troops while simultaneously revealing the extent of U.S. intelligence weaknesses to the members of Iraq's fallen regime, who had melted away to watch and wait. It was not long before they began attacking Americans.

And at least some of the weaponry they have been using comes from unguarded arms caches like Al Qaqaa's.

In June 2003, two months after the invasion that toppled Hussein, I visited a vast dumping ground for war detritus on the southern outskirts of Baghdad — just up the road from Al Qaqaa, in fact. There, I found live rocket warheads, howitzer shells and large quantities of live ammunition lying around, being picked over by scavengers and looters. There were no Iraqi sentries or U.S. soldiers in sight.

Whenever I have mentioned my visit to this place to U.S. officials — and the dangers it seemed to pose to U.S. soldiers — the reaction has always been the same: They grimace, acknowledge the problem and, once again, cite the lack of troops to guard such sites.

Recall, if you will, dear reader, Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks about the looting in Iraq:

"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," Rumsfeld said. "They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here."

Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. "Stuff happens," Rumsfeld said...

And, from the UPI report at the time, Mr. Rumsfeld said:

"And for suddenly the biggest problem in the world to be looting is really notable."


Props for a couple of posts on blogs this morning. First, my friend, Scott, has a blog that deals mostly with acting and his life. Today he has a posting during which he vents about politics for a bit and wonders where the special prosecutors are for this administration's crimes. Good question.

The second posting was by William Gibson on his blog. Gibson notes the symbiotic relationship between Bush and Bin Laden explaining that they have a need for each other in order to maintain their power and standing in the world. It's a short, but interesting piece.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Just because

This cracked me up:

Feeling Secure at home

Dear reader, you needn't be so worried about your security. After all the problems are all over in Iraq. Here, in the U.S., we have a Department of, sorry, Homeland Security that is guarding us. In fact, it's a highly successful organization. It's so successful that earlier this month they threw themselves a big bash on the taxpayer's tab, celebrating their good work. Never mind that lower level employees - you know, the ones who actually work - got much lower percentage bonuses, if anything at all.

Those lower level employees are sure to be well rewarded for their efforts next year. Surely businesses will kick in something for those employees as they are out in the field in such places as St. Helens, Oregon, protecting the copyrights of toys. Yes, Homeland Security agents confronted a toy store owner and asked her to remove what they mistakenly thought were illegal copies of Rubik's Cubes. Said a spokesperson for the protection agency,

"One of the things that our agency's responsible for doing is protecting the integrity of the economy and our nation's financial systems and obviously trademark infringement does have significant economic implications."

Nice to know that our security agents are protecting us from terrorists importing toys. Feel safer yet? I thought so. Let me put a nail in this coffin (oh, how I wish it were so, but it's only a cheap Halloween reference) by offering up this article in Conressional Quarterly. The Homeland Security Department's top intelligence official, retired U.S. Army Gen. Patrick M. Hughes, told a public forum 8 months before he was appointed by the White House the following:

“Set aside what the mass of people think. Some things are so bad for them that you cannot allow them to have them. One of them is war in the context of terrorism in the United States,” Hughes said, according to a transcript obtained by CQ Homeland Security.

“Therefore, we have to abridge individual rights, change the societal conditions, and act in ways that heretofore were not in accordance with our values and traditions, like giving a police officer or security official the right to search you without a judicial finding of probable cause,” said Hughes.

Now, then, there's the beginning of your Halloween fright.

More on the missing explosives

Mr. Bush has certainly stepped into it this time. He's out on the campaign trail calling Kerry's charges of incompetance regarding the Iraq war in general and the missing explosives at Al Qaqaa, in particular, "wild accusations".

Yet, a Minneapolis television station yesterday reported that they had a film crew in that military base on April 18th and that they saw boxes of explosives there. You can now view some of their footage online. As good reader, Albatross, noted in comments yesterday, this station is not a bastion of liberalists. He should know. He lives in the area.

Now the NY Times has chimed in on the tale. They showed the video footage to none other than former Bush point man for inspections, David A. Kay. Attempting to maintain some credibility in the world, Mr. Kay had this to say,

"The photographs are consistent with what I know of Al Qaqaa," said David A. Kay, a former American official who led the recent hunt in Iraq for unconventional weapons and visited the vast site. "The damning thing is the seals. The Iraqis didn't use seals on anything. So I'm absolutely sure that's an I.A.E.A. seal."

As pointed out by NY Times editorial writer Paul Krugman, the criticism leveled by Mr. Kerry goes far beyond just Al Qaqaa. It's a good read. For instance,

"It's remarkable that the right-wingers who dominate cable news and talk radio are still complaining about a liberal stranglehold over the media. But, that absurdity aside, they're missing a crucial point: Al Qaqaa is hardly the only tale of incompetence and mendacity to break to the surface in the last few days. Here's a quick look at some of the others:

Letting Osama get away...

Letting Zarqawi get away..."

Voter Suppression in Ohio and Florida

Those who watch the squawk shows see it every day. They are foaming at the mouth. Rabid, wild, mangey Republican hacks decrying the massive voter registration campaigns, especially in the swing states. They say that it's not fair, that the Democrats are lying and cheating. They are going to the courts and to county election board officials in order to prevent voters from participating in these elections. But, I ask you, dear reader, are the Republicans hypocrites?

Consider a case reported earlier here regarding Republicans tearing up voter registration cards in Nevada if the voter registered as a Democrat.

Or, how about this one from Ohio, where a Republican sought to have some registrations challenged (the person could vote, but only on a provisional ballot) only to find out that she may be charged with a felony for falsifying her statement.

Oh, and let's not stop there. The mud slinging has just begun! Here's another one from Ohio that seeks to prevent people from going to the polls in the first place.

And here's one from Florida, where a list has been compiled by the GOP of mostly black voters that they want to challenge. Unfortunately for them, emails of the lists were sent to the wrong web address: You can view the original emails online and note that some of them indicate that they are aware that what they are doing might be illegal.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Nobel Peace Prize Winner silenced in US

The winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize and Iranian human rights activist, Shirin Ebadi, has been denied the right to publish a book of her views in the U.S. The Treasury Department is blocking publication of the book based on the sanctions imposed against Iran. Surely, Ms. Ebadi, who has been jailed for her views and has been censored in her own country, will write a book that would generally please most US officials. So, why block the book based on beaurocratic idiocy? And, expanding the point, we tout our free speech as being one of the founding principles of democracy to the Middle East as we are trying to convince them that our way of life is better, so why aren't we letting a Middle Eastern woman exercise that same freedom from within our borders?

Ancient Human like creatures

A tiny, 3 foot tall, human ancestor was announced yesterday that lived around Indonesia. Stories published around the U.S. have noted that the creatures lived around giant lizards and may have looked like hobbits. Upon hear the news that these tiny creatures lived around humans, I immediately surmised that hobbits were the wrong comparison. The fellow below would be a more apt description.

Explosives in Al Qaqaa on April 18th

Bush is denying that the explosives were there when troops arrived on April 9th. bolstered by a report from MSNBC. A Pentagon official claimed that the explosives were there when troops arrived a few days earlier. Now, a Minneapolis station, KSTP, claims that their reporters saw and filmed explosives in Al Qaqaa on April 18th. Via War and Piece.

And it begins

Florida officials have reported that some 58,000 absentee ballots have gone missing. The Postal Service claims that they are not reponsible.

Broward County election official Gisela Salas said the situation was "something beyond our control".

"We really have no idea what's going on," she told the Associated Press news agency.

And, this lovely line at the end:

Both the Democrats and Republicans have already begun filing lawsuits in states across the US, challenging different aspects of the election process.

Think Republicans dislike trial lawyers? Think again! Republicans only dislike trial lawyers in the same way that they dislike the ACLU: Only when it suits their political needs to dislike them and when they have no use for them themselves.

Firefox 1.0 Release Candidate 1 out now

Mozilla has issued release candidate 1 for it's popular Firefox browser. Download it here in your language and OS of your choosing. The official Firefox release is set for mid November. There are 250 bug fixes in this release candidate.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Project Guternberg threatened with suit

Project Gutenberg has been threatened by the heirs of Margaret Mitchell because the Australian affiliate has put up a digital text version of Gone With The Wind. GWTW is inthe public domain in Australia. The Stephens Mitchell Trust wants the Gutenberg Project to either remove the book or to take steps to prevent it from being downloaded in countries where the copyright is still protected.The threatened suit likely has no merit.

Crap like this not only shows a lack of understanding of the internet, but it also displays how grossly bloated our copyright laws have become, how disrespectful our laws of other country's laws, as well as a desire for universal standards by big business. I can understand the desire for businesses to have a standard copyright legislation that applies world wide, but on the other paw, what we have in the U.S. is awful. When the Constitution was being debated, Jefferson didn't even see the need for copyright protection. Madison argued that it must be included. They eventually compromised and provided 15 years of copyright protection to published work. Since then, businesses here have won increases in that protection. The grandest of these being the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which awarded a 20 year extension on copyrights for individual copyrights (bringing them to life of the author plus 70 years) and extended corporate copyrights to 75 and 95 years. This flies in the face of the concepts of enlightenment and smacks of corporate welfare. It is an abomination.

Conservatives eating their own

After Pat Buchanon's magazine's, The American Conservative, editorial board endorsed 6-1 candidates other than Bush (1 for Kerry, 2 for Badnerik, 1 Perutka, 1 Nader, and 1 Don't vote), several other conservatives are coming forward with their own critique of the Bush record and finding themselves voting for someone other than the president. I applaud the fact that these candidates are standing on conservative principles rather than Republican rhetoric. To my mind social conservatism is government activism (which is a hallmark of liberal principles.) Pat Buchanon's plee that conservatives remain in the Republican party and try to change it from within reminds me of the plee of Democrats trying to get liberals to vote for Gore in 2000 rather than Nader. Question for Pat: What exactly has this position accomplished for liberals in this country? We didn't get the party to pay more attention to our needs nor did we get a liberal candidate. We are probably going to hold our noses and vote for Kerry, but only because the alternative is so deplorable. Frankly, liberals need to find a new home. Nader didn't offer it this year and the Green Party is not yet viable. I think Conservatives should seriously consider their options as well. To my mind neither the Libertarian nor the Constitution parties are a good fit for their positions, but I understand the conservative desire to offer protest votes for those parties.

Speaking of protest votes, Bob Barr, former Republican congressman from Georgia, has endorsed Badnerik for President. Good for Bob. He was a partisan hack when in Congress, but now the air is a little cleaner and he's stepped back from the 2-party's brainwashing machines. Here's his analysis that came before his endorsement.

Walter Olson was an advisor to the 2000 Bush campaign. This year he cannot find it in himself to vote for Bush.

The Financial Times, hardly a liberal publication, endorsed Kerry. They did so not because they like the guy. In fact, they have grave reservations about him. However, Bush has been so deplorable that they felt the need to go elsewhere. Hey, as the dollar continues to plunge in international trading (don't believe the hype that Castro switched to Euros simply because the US was tightening policy - the Euro is the even keeled currency at the moment), it is going to be a monumental task for the next president to boost it and keep inflation in check. Bush got us here.

Finally, the Tampa Tribune, who endorsed Bush in 2000, is now endorsing Kerry. Like the Financial Times, they are troubled by Kerry as well. However, in a lengthy and damning editorial they tear apart the Bush administration.

Edit: Two more Republicans endorse Kerry. First is Andrew Sullivan. Hardly surprising given Bush's stance on gay marriage, but there is more to Sullivan's response than that. Sullivan reminds his fellow Republicans that if Kerry is elected, he'll have to work with a Republican Congress that will keep his more liberal policies in check.

Second is Jude Wanniski, who adds to the pile on of Bush's failed foreign policy. Wanniski notes that he differs from Pat Buchanon's nationalist views and mistrust of international institutions. Rather, he supports those institutions formed after World War Two, but feels that Bush has taken a stance that could only be described as "imperialist". Hey, it's not just liberals that feel that Bush is an imperialist anymore.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Angels of Mercy for the homeless man

Oh my, Japanese women providing sexual release for homeless men. No pictures, just a news story.

Zbigniew Brzezinski on the Middle East

Tonday's NY Times features an opinion piece by former national security advisor for the Carter administration, Zbigniew Brzezinski. It is, to my mind, one of the best short pieces I have read on a new approach to America's foreign policy as regards the Middle East and Europe.

It is striking that in spite of all the electoral fireworks over policy in Iraq, both presidential candidates offer basically similar solutions...Both candidates have become prisoners of a worldview that fundamentally misdiagnoses the central challenge of our time. President Bush's "global war on terror" is a politically expedient slogan without real substance, serving to distort rather than define. It obscures the central fact that a civil war within Islam is pitting zealous fanatics against increasingly intimidated moderates. The undiscriminating American rhetoric and actions increase the likelihood that the moderates will eventually unite with the jihadists in outraged anger and unite the world of Islam in a head-on collision with America.

SQL Server 2005 webcasts

Dear reader, I have been remiss. This has been widely noted on SQL Server blogs, but I've failed my geek duty to report it here. MSDN has announced a series of SQL Server 2005 webcasts. There are a lot of them available and they are free. You do have to register for them. They cover a wide array of topics from beginner to intermediate levels. If you work with SQL Server or are planning to do so and are interested in the version to be released next year, then you should definitely sign up for one or more of these. Besides, they are giving away an XBox .

Monday, October 25, 2004

Marijuana Busts up last year

NORML reports that arrests for marijuana were up 8% last year to 755,187 people and comprised 45% of all drug arrests. These numbers come from the FBI. According to NORML, that translates into 1 arrest every 42 seconds in the US (a stunning, if silly, statistic - must have been a baseball fan who first came up with such numbers). Of those charged, 88% were for mere possession, though I don't know why they separate this category since I think that any law for arresting marijuana smokers/distributers is ridiculous and I thought that NORML agreed with me. Are we really getting our money's worth on the war on drugs if cops are targeting pot smokers? Think about it. Wouldn't you rather see the resources going after crack and heroin distributers - you know, the ones who form gangs?

Not that I support drug laws, because I do not. I take the libertarian position against the nanny state on this issue, but it would be nice to find a way to offer assistance to people who commit real crimes who are also addicted. It seems to me that one cannot commit a real crime against his/her own person. It's as simple as that. Possible cause and effect is not how we should measure the reasonableness of writing laws. If a crime has actually been committed, then the person should be locked up and, if necessary, offered assistance in kicking the habit(s).

I agree with libertarians that sometimes government goes too far in the name of protecting it's citizens. Mandating playbark for playground surfaces might make sense, for instance, but getting rid of monkey bars certainly does not. Government cannot, nor should it seek to, prevent everyone from risking any harm to one's self. Risk will always exist - legally or not - and we should not attempt to eradicate it especially if it harms only the person involved.

Now, I know that some people will say that drug abuse causes undue burden upon the health care system, puts families at risk and so on. So do alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, pornography, etc, etc. Hell, so does mountain climbing, surfing, offroading, etc. In other words, as a society we assume risks for all sorts of things and through insurance and our health care system - even government programs - we choose to help those why choose to put themselves and possibly their families at risk. We share the burden of the risks freedom offers. So why should government choose what is a greater risk and attempt to restrict the freedom of individuals?

Explosives stolen from Iraq weapons site

From the original article in the NY Times. Contrary to what you have heard in the media or might hear within the next few days, these weapons were stolen shortly after the invasion because US troops were not sent to the known site to guard the weapons. Now, these explosives could be the ones used in car bombs and suicide bombs throughout the country.

Choice tidbits:

The International Atomic Energy Agency publicly warned about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion it specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured, European diplomats said in interviews last week. Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country.


The Qaqaa facility, about 30 miles south of Baghdad, was well known to American intelligence officials: Mr. Hussein made conventional warheads at the site, and the I.A.E.A. dismantled parts of his nuclear program there in the early 1990's after the Persian Gulf war in 1991. In the prelude to the 2003 invasion, Mr. Bush cited a number of other "dual use" items - including tubes that the administration contended could be converted to use for the nuclear program - as a justification for invading Iraq.


Earlier this month, in a letter to the I.A.E.A. in Vienna, a senior official from Iraq's Ministry of Science and Technology wrote that the stockpile disappeared after early April 2003 because of "the theft and looting of the governmental installations due to lack of security."


Officials in Washington said they had no answers to that question. One senior official noted that the Qaqaa complex where the explosives were stored was listed as a "medium priority" site on the Central Intelligence Agency's list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. "Should we have gone there? Definitely," said one senior administration official.

In the chaos that followed the invasion, however, many of those sites, even some considered a higher priority, were never secured.


In May 2004, Iraqi officials say in interviews, they warned L. Paul Bremer III, the American head of the occupation authority, that Al Qaqaa had probably been looted. It is unclear if that warning was passed anywhere. Efforts to reach Mr. Bremer by telephone were unsuccessful.

But by the spring of 2004, the Americans were preoccupied with the transfer of authority to Iraq, and the insurgency was gaining strength. "It's not an excuse," said one senior administration official. "But a lot of things went by the boards."


The explosives missing from Al Qaqaa are the strongest and fastest in common use by militaries around the globe. The Iraqi letter identified the vanished stockpile as containing 194.7 metric tons of HMX, which stands for "high melting point explosive," 141.2 metric tons of RDX, which stands for "rapid detonation explosive," among other designations, and 5.8 metric tons of PETN, which stands for "pentaerythritol tetranitrate." The total is roughly 340 metric tons or nearly 380 American tons.


As a measure of the size of the stockpile, one large truck can carry about 10 tons, meaning that the missing explosives could fill a fleet of almost 40 trucks.


A special property of HMX and RDX lends them to smuggling and terrorism, experts said. While violently energetic when detonated, they are insensitive to shock and physical abuse during handling and transport because of their chemical stability. A hammer blow does nothing. It takes a detonator, like a blasting cap, to release the stored energy....

More worrisome to the I.A.E.A. - and to some in Washington - is that HMX and RDX are used in standard nuclear weapons design. In a nuclear implosion weapon, the explosives crush a hollow sphere of uranium or plutonium into a critical mass, initiating the nuclear explosion.

A crude implosion device - like the one that the United States tested in 1945 in the New Mexican desert and then dropped on Nagasaki, Japan - needs about a ton of high explosive to crush the core and start the chain reaction.

Doppler Podcasting

Podcasting is something that the geekworld is going crazy over these days. It's an interesting concept, still in it's infancy that holds the possibility of changing the way we share audio/video files as well as how radio might evolve. This is assuming, of course, that the dictatorial RIAA doesn't attempt to quash the technology altogether. A new tool has just been released for those who enjoy podcasting. It's an aggregator called Doppler. It works much like a standard RSS aggregator does, but this one focuses on audio/video media.


Quite a boring, nice weekend here in outer Monrovia. After last week's visit with Frank and my sleep deprivation in the ensuing week, it was good to slow down a bit. Unfortunately, Saturday began with more sleep deprivation as I woke at 3:15 AM. The desire to go back to sleep was thwarted by Shawn who was a tad restless, though sound asleep. I envied her as I got up and made my way downstairs. Deciding that this morning was going to be productive, I decided to make some bread. If I timed it right, there would be a small chance that the house would smell of baking bread by the time Shawn rose from her slumber. Luck was with me as Shawn got up late. It's been a while since I made bread, so I forgot how long it takes to make a yeasted loaf from scratch. I made a couple of loaves using mostly whole wheat flour, a little all purpose flour, and a little dark rye flour (I was a little short on whole wheat flour to do a pur whole wheat bread). The bread was slightly sweetened with honey. It turned out really well...I was quite pleased.

While the bread finished, SHawn got up and shared tea with me. Eventually I set myself to making us some oatmeal for breakfast. The week earlier, I had gotten some organic pear juice from Whole Foods. I mixed 3 cups of water and 1 cup of pear juice to use in my oats. For the confused, we eat steel cut oats which require more liquid and take about a half hour to cook, but they are less processed, lending more fiber and nutrients than flat oats. My usual seasonings are a bit of cinnamon and some ground ginger powder. We had some currants, dried apricots, and dried apples (the latter we had dried ourselves) that I added to the meal. It was a chilly morning (about 39 degrees) and this warm comfort food hit the spot. We also had the fire in the fireplace for the first time since summer.

Shawn set about doing homework most of the rest of the day. I alternated between being on the computer, reading, watching television, and taking a nap. We did go on a walk together in the afternoon when the fall sun was able to make it's way from behind the clouds. Left over potato soup with bread and salad made up our evening meal. About 8, I crashed on the sofa. No doubt the sleep exhaustion was catching up with me. I did not stir again until nearly 5 the next morning...well, except to get myself to bed.

Sunday was similar to Saturday - without the bread or nap. After breakfast (a frittata with cauliflower, bell pepper, zucchini, mozzarella, parmesan, and onion served with toasted bread, jam, soy sausage, and canned ginger peaches), we voted via absentee ballots. My votes went to Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians. Shawn will testify that I held my nose as I voted in the presidential category. It was a nice day out, so I ended up working in the yard a little. We picked more tomatillos (got to do something with those again!) and looked over our fall plantings. I weeded one bed and some of the herb bed, trimming old oregano branchs and creating room for the thyme to receive more light. We talked about what needed to be done on the yard this week - Wednesday and Thursday are supposed to be dry. I picked the African Blue basil, hanging some of it to dry and using the rest to make basil flavored olive oil.

The SciFi channel re-ran their new miniseries, Farscape: Peacekeeper Wars. I had watched it earlier in the week, but I enjoyed the camp in it so much that I decided to watch it again while I made dinner. Dinner was a simple meal: vegetable biryani and a salad. I got the laundry and the dishes done before heading off to bed.

Up this week: Shawn's classmates are coming by this Saturday to work on their major project for this term. I'll have to think about snacks for them. Also, John and Kim are coming up for Thanksgiving weekend from Long Beach. Shawn's parents and her grandmother will also be here that weekend, so we're beginning to plan the meal.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Conservatism and terrorism

It should really come as no surprise that there are links to social conservatives and terrorists. After all, in the extreme, social conservatives have become fundamentalist terrorists (think, bombing abortion clinics, bombing Oklahoma federal buildings, etc.).

Abdal-Hakim Murad makes the case that suicidal terrorism has it's philisophical roots in Western thought and not in traditional Muslim philosophy. It's a fascinating, long read that is well worth grappling with.

The targeting of civilians is more Western than otherwise; contemplating the Ground Zero of a hundred German cities, this can hardly be denied. Yet it will be claimed that suicidal terrorism is something new, and definitively un-Western. Here, we are told by xenophobes on both sides, the Islamic suicide squads, the Black Widows, the death-dealing pilots, are an indigenously Islamic product. And yet here again, when we detach ourselves from the emotive chauvinism of the Islamists and their Judeo-Christian misinterpreters, we soon find that the roots of such practices in the Islamic imagination are as recent as they are shallow. The genealogy of suicide bombing clearly stretches back from Palestine, through Shi‘a guerillas in southern Lebanon, to the Hindu-nativist zealots of the Tamil Tigers, and to the holy warriors of Shinto Japan, who initiated the tradition of donning a bandanna and making a final testament on camera before climbing into the instrument of destruction. The kamikaze was literally the 'Wind of Heaven', a term evocative of the divine intervention which destroyed the Mongol fleet as it crossed the Yellow Sea.

As this article appears, a film is about to be shown in the BBC titled The Power of Nightmares. The Guardian interviews the writer and producer of the documentary, Adam Curtis. He set out originally to produce a film on the rise of the American conservative movement and while doing so, found ties between it and and the philosophical underpinnings of Islamic fundamentalism. This article is shorter than the first, but together they provide an analysis we are unlikely to hear from mainstream media. Certainly in America, these thoughts would be out of bounds for most.

Straussian conservatism had a previously unsuspected amount in common with Islamism: from origins in the 50s, to a formative belief that liberalism was the enemy, to an actual period of Islamist-Straussian collaboration against the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan in the 80s (both movements have proved adept at finding new foes to keep them going). Although the Islamists and the Straussians have fallen out since then, as the attacks on America in 2001 graphically demonstrated, they are in another way, Curtis concludes, collaborating still: in sustaining the "fantasy" of the war on terror.

Via Shaula.


Lie Girls will provide you with phone sex with a twist. Watch the commercial and try not to giggle.

Yahoo buys email Search company

Not to be left behind in the Search Engine wars, Yahoo announced that it has bought Stata Labs, maker of Bloomba. Bloomba is a message and text search product. Microsoft, of course, has it's own search tool coming out with the next version of Windows. Google, as reported earlier, has it's own desktop search tool. Other competitors abound, such as Copernic. I can see where these tools have their place in professional circles, but I have to wonder what they offer the average person.

Cheney's daughter and Girly Men

Being away part of last week helped me stay away from the topic of Dick Cheney's daughter and the crap flap about Kerry mentioning her in the debate. Frankly, I think both sides have bathed themselves in shit over this for using her as a political pawn. Readers would correctly guess that I think Kerry's remarks were generally appropriate. However, it is naiive at best and disingenuous at worst for Democrats to say Kerry was just bringing up Cheney's daughter to somehow honor the Veep's family. C'mon, he could have picked Dick Gephardt's daughter or even the chairman of the Log Cabin Club, Patrick Guerriero, who is conservative and from Massachussetts. Instead, he chose the Veep's daughter in order to strike a chord with social conservatives who may be bothered by this issue. No amount of protestations from Democratic friends has convinced me otherwise.

Much as I like the stab, it left open the possibility for a scripted Republican response. Dick and Lynn expressing mock outrage which drives home the family values sentiment that Republicans arrogantly think that they own. It matters not that Mary Cheney may have suggested the Republican response herself, thereby making a political pawn out of herself.

No, what matters is that both parties have chosen an individual who is not thrusting herself in the public eye (for whatever reason) and using that person as political fodder. Frankly, I don't care about the Veep's family or any other candidate's family. Unless there's something criminal going on involving the candidate, the family can stay out of the discussions. I don't even think we should spend time discussing the spouses of the candidates as it tends to reinforce the notion that a married candidate is somehow better to lead than the two fops we've been offered. Leave the family's alone and don't pick on anyone who's not running to use as political pawns. It's disgraceful for both major parties.

Now, having said that, the New York Observer published a hysterical satire today that I think cuts at both parties. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom as well and read about "Girly Men in American History. Class.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Bush has been one of those days when, for no apparent reason, I've been easy to set off. I don't particularly care for myself on such days. I feel like I'm coming down with something, but that is no excuse for my surly 'tude. In moments such as these, I find myself looking towards the internet for distraction, entertainment, and some place in a quiet room where I don't attempt to be an ass to someone else.

Unfortunately, the internet can be a place that is as disturbing as it is amusing. For every story I read about Godzilla getting a star on the Walk of Fame, there's a story about another lizard brain who commands police to fire on protesters of G.W. Bush in Jacksonville, Oregon. It's confirmed at a news site in Oregon. Adding insult to injury is the story about the National Park Service offering a book at the Grand Canyon which purports that the Canyon was created by the flood which Noah allegedly rode to fame, if not fortune. It's bad enough that we let people be fleeced in the name of religion by the likes of Robert Tilton and company, but should we allow our state parks to do so just because they see a revenue stream out of it?

Password Memorability

Creating a password is always such a pain. I was reminded of this recently when I got an email from eBay's SafeHarbor security telling me that my account had been suspended. The email suggested that I go to eBay's site (no addy given, so I was to use my own lookup and link), then change my eBay password, my secret question, and then go to the email addy I use for eBay and change it's password in order to protect it. Not only did I have to do that, but I also had to change the email password in Outlook and in MSN Messenger since I use an address for eBay that is via hotmail and use the same addy as one of my logon's for messenger. Ugh! For good measure, I changed the password for my other Microsoft related email account.

Now, reminding myself of all of the places I had to change the passwords was one thing, but coming up with new passwords was another issue. What method do you use?

I used to use a method that involved some sort of word, program, or novel name with some sort of easy to recall numeric sequence in front of and/or behind the word. Later, as I became more cautious with security, I began using mnemonic phrases, also incorporating numerals and special keys. Now, I use more random passwords with numerals and special keys and make them at least 8 characters long (usually more).

In a blog post by Anil John, there is an interesting article on password memorability. In the comment posts, Robert Hessing of Microsoft Security suggests getting rid of passwords and using passphrases instead. It's a nice thought for Windows networks, but in cases of email where we are limited to say, 12 characters for a pass code, it's unworkable.

Interesting reads. How do you create your passwords/phrases? Do you use passphrases? Are you concerned about the security?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Jon Stewart versus Crossfire

Jon Stewart was on Crossfire today to promote his new book, America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Instead of promoting the new book, Stewart went on to plead with Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala to turn down the theater and promote debate and civil discourse. In the end, Carlson got reportedly very upset with Stewart and Stewart called Carlson a "big dick". Here's the transcript and some highlights that I've edited together. Please go read the actual transcript for more thorough and pointed discussion. I wish I had seen it.

STEWART: See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.

BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we're too rough on them when they make mistakes.

STEWART: No, no, no, you're not too rough on them. You're part of their strategies. You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks...

CARLSON: It's nice to get them to try and answer the question. And in order to do that, we try and ask them pointed questions. I want to contrast our questions with some questions you asked John Kerry recently.

STEWART: If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you're more than welcome to. I wouldn't aim for us. I'd aim for "Seinfeld." That's a very good show...

BEGALA: Well, it's because, see, we're a debate show.

STEWART: No, no, no, no, that would be great.

BEGALA: It's like saying The Weather Channel reduces everything to a storm front.

STEWART: I would love to see a debate show.

BEGALA: We're 30 minutes in a 24-hour day where we have each side on, as best we can get them, and have them fight it out.

STEWART: No, no, no, no, that would be great. To do a debate would be great. But that's like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition...

CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion. K, up next, Jon Stewart goes one on one with his fans...

STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

Update: Here's a link to a bit torrent of the audio.

Fiscally responsible

C-SPAN this morning featured a discussion with Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition. The Concord Coalition has had a difficult time over the past 4 years. Their goal is to decrease the federal debt and to return solvency to social programs, Social Security chief amongst them. The Coalition was founded by former senators, Paul Tsongas and Warren Rudman, and by Pete Peterson, former US Secretary of Commerce. They added former senator Bob Kerry as co-Chairman in 2002. The discussion is an excellent one.

Some of the things that Bixby brought up: Both candidate's proposed programs will increase the debt by $1.3 trillion. Neither candidate includes spending on the war or natural disaters as part of their budget proposals. Both candidates use $80 - 100 billion of Social Security funds to make their deficit numbers look smaller. Bush's program for privatizing social security was characterized as a free lunch program (because he has no method for paying for it) while Kerry's was characterized as "no plan".

Be sure to read the Concord Coalition's report (pdf reader necessary) on this topic.

Sadly, the discussion centered on the office of the president when Congress is the branch of government that holds the purse strings (if Kerry is elected, mark my words, we'll be quickly reminded of this fact). The Seattle Times ran 2 stories today which relate to this topic, both on the same page. First was the report that the government has hit it's debt ceiling of $7.4 trillion. Unfortunately, the gutless wonders in Congress who are running for re-election didn't see fit to raise the ceiling even though the Tresury Secretary has been asking for the raise since August. The result is that the Secretary is doing some accounting maneuvers while Congress promises to rectify their mistake in a lame duck session after the election. So let's get this, um, straight: The GOP saw fit to bring up bills in Congress on the Pledge of Allegiance and Gay Marriage Rights, but didn't think that managing the US financial standing was important before an election. Tell me that the Republicans are not as corrupt as the Democrats.

Oh, and scoll to the bottom of the article. The Corporate Tax (refund) bill that just did pass Congress this past month, in time for the elections, included a nice pork barrell spending clause for Tom Delay to the tune of $23 million of our money. Gotta love it.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Google PC Search Engine

Gee, by the time Microsoft gets around to this feature, they'll be last in the game. They had better be really good at it, then. Google released, in Beta form, a search engine for your Windows XP or 2000 SP3+ server. It will search you Outlook, Outlook Express, AOL IM, IE, Text, Word, Excel, and Power Point files.

Final Debate

As someone who follows politics, I never before considered that a Presidential debate would make me think of watching a baseball game. I loathe baseball. It ranks down there with watching golf matches and slightly above listening to a Celine Dion performance. Still, last night's debate actually triggered a thought about the Yanks and the Sox. With a race so close, I viewed two men driven by opinion polls (despite Bush's protestations otherwise), appealing to their respective base, and being concerned about not committing that always to be feared gaffe.

To be sure, if you were a Kerry fan you came away feeling good about your candidate. Likewise for Bush fans. The campaigns have largely given up preaching to the oft-lauded, mythical creature known as the swing voter in part because the polls can't tell them what these people want. Instead, they are running get-out-the-vote messages for their committed supporters. Last night's boring debate was a clear indication of this. Meanwhile, I was forced to ponder three things: first, are these two pitiful guys really the best we've got for the job? Second, how did we come to having such narrow, boring, un-inspiring campaigns and candidates back to back? And, third, was Pedro Martinez bent over the Yankee's bench, ball gag in his mouth while sluggers took turns with the paddle?

You gotta admit, that last thought was more entertaining than the debate last night, or even, the election as a whole.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Stuffing s

Last week, Shawn brought home some chanterelles, oyster, and button mushrooms from the market. She wanted me to make my cream of mushroom soup. Since I first made it a couple of years ago, we each get a craving for it once in a while, particularly when the weather turns chilly and skies become grey.

It's a simple soup and I'm happy to oblige. You first begin by cooking up an onion in a lot of butter. Then you add a couple of pounds of button mushrooms and you cook them until all of their juices are released, about 20 minutes. At this point you add in soup broth. I like to use Knorr brand frozen mushroom stock base (just add hot water). In addition, you add some dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid. I keep a dried mushroom mix on hand (from Delaurenti's in Pike Place Market) and soak it, but you could use porcinis. After this has cooked for another 20 minutes or so, you pull it off the burner and then process it in a blender in batches. Clean out the stock pot, then add the soup back into it. Add some cream, salt, and pepper and the basic soup is done. For a garnish, fry up some fresh wild mushrooms (the chanterelles and oyster ones in this case, but any will do) in some butter for 8 - 10 minutes. Spoon the fried mushrooms into each soup bowl just before serving.

For a variety of reasons, we did not get to the soup as leftovers. Shawn's mother came to town Friday night - for a funeral on Saturday. She stayed with us on Friday night and we anticipated her staying with us on Saturday (which she ended up not doing...which made us miss plans to attend a baby shower for our friends, Mike and Heather). While waiting for Debbie to show up, Shawn and I took the time to make a simple meal together. Since she's been in school, it was nice to take some time and cook a meal together. The fanciest portion of the meal was our salad and all we did there was serve roasted pears on it.

Sunday was a gorgeous day here. The sun was out in full force and it sure felt like it was in the 70s. After a breakfast of Amaranth pancakes, canned peaches, an egg, and soy sausage, we took a walk around the neighborhood. Shawn picked some flowers and we had a nice talk. After getting back home, Shawn went out and planted winter crops in the garden. She also did some other yard work. I stayed in, read, watched TV, listened to music. Eventually we got around to a quick meal of Bocca burgers.

Monday was my yard work day. I wanted the grass to dry out more before I hit the lawn. My reel mower does a fine job, except in wet grass. That, and I think the blades need to be sharpened (as is to be expected at the end of the season). I ended up mowing the back yard twice, in different directions, to get the grass cut well. The front yard should have been mowed twice, but the turf there is soggy. I don't think the builder did a good job of laying out the sod. I don't like the grass they used (it's thin and wispy, no matter how I fertilize is grown on some sort of mat that is on a plastic grid - fun to dig into) and it doesn't drain well. All of which is to say that if I walk too much on it during fall, bare spots appear and the grass is matted down. Grrr. This week I made certain to do a good job of trimming around the yard and the garden beds. I also cleaned up the yard a little for winter (taking in the garden hose, etc.) and I sprayed the blackberry bushes in back with Round-Up.

After the yard work, I came inside and took out the mushroom soup. Rather than just heat it up, Shawn had suggested that we reduce it and use it as a pasta sauce. I got it going on the stove. It took a long time, but it reduced rather well. Shawn came home with a half pound of bay scallops, which I cooked in a little butter and white wine - carmelizing them just a touch - and served them on the pasta with the mushroom sauce. It was a very tasty dinner.

Last week I was pondering what to do with tomatillos. We grew them for the first time this year and the plants have produced quite well. The first harvest was used mostly for a roasted green salsa that I froze. It's good, but tart. Our cookbooks offered several salsa and green sauce recipes for tomatillos - all on the same theme. It got me to thinking that there must be some other use for them. I searched on Google for 50 pages and found about 3 ideas other than salsa. Eventually, I started thinking about the tart nature of tomatillos. You would need something sweet to balance them out. It occured to me that butternut squash would be a complimentary flavor. Last night, I took my first stab at a recipe. I roasted 12 tomatillos, 2 poblanos, 8 cloves of garlic, 12 cherry tomatoes, and 1 carrot in the over. While that was roasting, I fried an onion (and deglazed the pan with tequila) and then added cumin and a touch of cinamon and chipotle powder to it. Then I added butternut squash cut into cubes, veggie stock, and water, brought it to a boil, the covered it and simmered it until the squash was soft. When it was done, I processed the squash and the roasted veggies and their juices in the food processor in batches. I added the soup back to the pot, put in about a half cup of cream, some salt and white pepper, as well as about 3/4 cup of chopped cilantro and brought it back to temperature, but not to a boil. The soup turned out a little too hot for Shawn, but I liked it a lot. Next time, I'll probably leave out the peppers (I just had them around and decided to use them in something before they spoiled) and maybe not add the chipotle powder at all. There was a very nice balance between the squash and the tomatillos. Definitely something to work on a little more. It's nice to have something else to do with the tomatillos.

I'm looking forward to this weekend. My friend, Frank, is coming to town a month early to help begin my celebrations for my birthday. Frank scored some tickets to see Tom Waits at the Paramount Theater. Other than that, our days and nights are free. Parents, lock up your daughters. Hoes get ready for the badass, sexiest man east of the Mississippi. Rotondo's coming to town and he's a player!


Today, I offer your politics briefing in a big chunk. A lot of interesting thoughts/news about Iraq coming out recently. Seymour Hersh, for instance, gave a talk at Berkeley on Monday during which he discusses not only his criticism for the Bush doctrine, but also a reported massacre in Iraq of 36 guards that is along the lines of Vietnam atrocities. The video is available in Real Player format and is 1 hour and 22 minutes long.

The President says that if the generals need any more troops in Iraq, then all they have to do is ask. The Seattle Times today ran a story on troops from a Washington base that have asked - twice. No troops on the way as of yet. Perhaps the Bush administration is waiting to find the troops in a draft? Yea, I know, they say we won't have a draft again, but this piece from a retired Colonel and today a correspondent for DefenseWatch says that in his opinion we're headed for a draft in '05 or '06. Sadly, unless Kerry changes his current position, we might be headed for a draft no matter who is elected.

So, you want to vote against a draft? Be glad that you're not in Nevada and attempting to register as a Democrat. KLAS - TV in Las Vegas is reporting on a Republican funded organization that presented itself as a neutral voter registration company, shredding those registration applications that were marked as Democrats and then throwing them in the trash. The organization has since closed it's doors and has moved into Oregon.

WIndows Updates

Microsoft decided to throw an early Halloween party yesterday and issued 11 Windows and Office updates. Of these, 8 are considered critical and three are considered important. They range across a wide variety of operating systems and other software. To learn the gruesome details, go to the Microsoft Security page. Otherwise, either turn on your Automatic Updates or go to the Windows Update and Office Update sites. Do not pass go. You will need to restart your machine for the updates to take effect.

Monday, October 11, 2004

New Mashups

Booter Living Thru Chemashtry is a DJ/Mashup tribute to Fatboy Slim's Better Living Through Chemistry album. Granted, when you're working with great source material, then your job is made much easier. That said, there is some excellent material here. I'm only on track 4 at the moment and I can tell that I'll be burning this one to disc. The project is non-profit. If you wish to offer some money, then the DJs are suggesting donations to one of several diabetes foundations.

Another Mashup which I haven't listened to yet is a tribute to Halloween, called Monster Mash-Up. I recognize some of the DJ names on this one, so I'm recommending it without hearing it yet.

Coming soon: Another Prodigy remix project and a tribute to Radiohead called Hail to the Thief.


Christopher Reeve

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Faith based health care

This should rile everyone. It stomps all over the line between religion and state. Bush has been sneaking "faith based" initiatives into government without going through Congress since he got into office. This article from the Detroit News describes the new front for this assault: health care.


It was reported yesterday that Jacques Derrida had died. Derrida, 74, was a famous French deconstructionist philosopher. An interesting film about Derrida was made a couple of years ago. I got a chance to watch it on cable television's Sundance channel. It's very well done and is available on DVD. Ryuichi Sakamoto did the soundtrack. Like most of Sakamoto's soundtrack work, this music is very good in context of the film, but it's pretty abstract when taken in on it's own.

Michael Bérubé published an introduction to a class assignment reading and discussing an essay by Derrida that Bérubé wrote in 1991. It's a concise intro into some of Derrida's approach to language and communication or, as noted in the entry below, the hall of mirrors of the linguistic mind.

Hm, with blogging on the internet and the rich content it allows for, I wonder if I should take an even closer work at Derrida.

Scott Ritter

While I was watching the 2 debates last week, I was listening to the remarks from the veep, the prez and their minions (though it could be argued that the prez is a minion of the veep or vice versa *smirk*, creating a hall of mirrors effect for the logic of the mind and language, but that is something to ponder in the next post), I heard repeated several times a version of this line as regards to pre-Iraq war 2: "We were all working from the same intelligence." My response typically is something along the lines of: Yes, and you were not seeking contrary opinions hence you are all guilty of willful ignorance.

One thing Kerry lovers (note: not merely supporters, like myself, but people who really think that the slimeball is terrific) like to point out is his ability to examine an look at all sides and reach a sound conclusion and policy decision on the issue. This line of thinking is designed to deflect Bush's criticism of Kerry's alleged "flip flops" by referring to Kerry as "nuanced" and in turn attacking Bush as a man who thinks in nothing but dichotomies which are inevitable false. Well, one might ask, where was this grand, nuanced ability to examine issues when we were leading up to the Iraq war? Sure, I realize his vote was to give the president a big stick to negotiate with in conjunction with our allies. I understand that manuever (though I never would have supported it precisely because of the type of man Bush is - that he would yield the power without discretion). But where were his questions regarding the possibility that sought for weapons might not exist? Was he reading any contrarian views on this topic or was he relying solely on trumped up CIA reports?

I recall seeing Scott Ritter on CSPAN and CNN before the way had begun. He actually led a UN team of inspectors and he questioned the intelligence reports coming from the CIA. He's a dissenter with credibility despite the vicious attacks that came afterwards attempting to undermine his credibility with spurious and false charges of which McCarthy would have been proud. While watching the debates, when we get to that line, "We were all working from the same intelligence", I think of Scott Ritter and ponder the meaning of "We".

I've been wondering what Ritter has been up to as of late. Since the release of the Duelfer report this week (which note that Iraq had complied with with UN resolutions), Ritter has re-emerged with an essay in yesterday's Guardian and another in the Independent today. Both are highly recommended. The American Street pointed out the essays to me and has a condensed version of them on it's posting as well as a decent analysis of them and links to other Ritter topics including the smear campaign against him and his thoughts before the war began. All of this is highly recommended and should be kept in mind when watching the next foreign policy debate. Don't let Kerry or your other representatives off the hook on this issue.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Google SMS

Well, I gotta admit that this is another terrific idea from the Google folks. In the past, I have used a cell phone to surf the net and find a telephone number for a restaurant all at a cost that was outrageous. Now Google provides an SMS service that streamlines such searches.

AP: Kerry with slight lead over Bush

The NY Times reports on an AP poll that gives John Kerry a 50% to 46% lead over the president with a three percent margin of error. Nearly three fourths of those surveyed said that they had watched the last presidential debate with 39% of those coming away with a more favorable opinion of Kerry, while just 8% felt more favorable about Bush. Nearly 33% of those polled came away with a less favorable opinion of Bush. Nearly 6 in 10 people surveyed felt the country was headed down the wrong track and Bush's job approval rating fell to 46%, down from 54% in September. Likely voters were split evenly - Bush at 49%, Kerry at 46% - over who is best suited to handle Iraq. Finally, Bush has lost a 20 point lead over the question of who would do the best job of protecting the country.

Kenyan Woman wins Nobel Peace Prize

Well, after yesterday noting that women rarely win the Nobel prize for literature and that rarely does anyone outside of Europe win that prize, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a Kenyan woman, Wangari Maathi. Maathi is known as an enviromental activist and founder of the Kenyan based Green Belt Movement. She becomes the seventh African to win the prize and the 4th since 1993. A terrific selection!

Librarian fights so-called Patriot Act

From Proof Through the Night: Have you hugged your librarian today? This story links to a local media report on how a Whatcom county librarian is defying FBI orders to turn over a list of people who have checked out a book titled, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America. It's not a pro-Bin Laden book. The FBI has confiscated it from the library. As the original media link points out, it is now overdue.

No, I didn't post this just to kiss Shawn's ass. We have had many discussions, however, about the so-called Patriot Act and how librarians are affected by it. The law was a terrible knee jerk reaction bill passed by Congress to overturn 30 years of reform that was required after the FBI abused it's power and spied on it's citizens with impunity, or worse. After 30 years of sanctions, the FBI pleaded that they had turned a new leaf and would not abuse the laws again. Of course this hasn't stopped greedy prosecutors from finding creative ways to implement some of the laws wording in order to prosecute people. Some may find this sort of intrusion palatable in the name of safety. I whole heartedly disagree. The only thing the law does is ruffle my libertarian feathers the wrong way.

Kudos to this librarian and to others around the country who fight against needless government intrusion into our lives. Hey, isn't the Republican party supposed to be fighting against this sort of thing? Just another case in point of them not being very different from the Democratic party in that both are more interested in maintaining power than in philisophical differences.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Rate my Sims

We've had "Rate Me", "Rate My Boy/Girlfriend", "Rate My Wife", "Rate My Breasts", and more. Now comes the ultimate in geek sexiness: Rate My Network Diagram.

OK, maybe that's not the ultimate, since you can now download a patch that will stop the blurring on the naughty bits of your Sims 2 characters and even view Sims-related sex.

Women's Homeland Terror Alert System

Feministing pointed me towards this excellent poster by Guerrilla Girls. It's available for download and pretty damn terrific.

Guarded: President appoints man to FDA who believes prayer is best treatment for PMS.

Woman wins Nobel prize for literature

You'd think that with the number of women writers over the years, this wouldn't be a big deal, but you'd be wrong. Austring novelist, poet, and playwrite, Elfriede Jelinek, is the first woman since 1996 to win the Nobel Prize for literature and only one of 10 women to ever win it. As this article of the announcement points out (requires free registration), the awards have been rather Eurocentric in recent years as well.

New species?

The Age reports that a "giant ape" has been sighted and videotaped in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Speculation is that it's a new species of chimpanze. Very cool. First George W. Bush and now this, more benign species.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Google Print Beta

At least that IPO money is going into development. Google announced Google Print Beta today. They are scanning the contents of books. When you do a Google Search, if one of their scanned books contains the search content, the results will pop up. Click on the book title, the page where your terms reside will appear as well as other information about the book including links to several vendors. This is similar to Amazon's program and will no doubt allow some competition and cooperation between the two companies.

Choking the chicken

OK, this one is sort of gross, sort of amusing, sort of sad, kind of painful, horrible...and it puts every country song you've ever heard about a hard day to shame. It belongs in News of the Weird and unfortunate.

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - A elderly Romanian man mistook his penis for a chicken's neck, cut it off and his dog rushed up and ate it, the state Rompres news agency said Monday.

It said 67 year-old Constantin Mocanu, from a village near the southeastern town of Galati, rushed out into his yard in his underwear to kill a noisy chicken keeping him awake at night.

"I confused it with the chicken's neck," Mocanu, who was admitted to the emergency hospital in Galati, was quoted as saying. "I cut it ... and the dog rushed and ate it."

Doctors said the man, who was brought in by an ambulance bleeding heavily, was now out of danger.

Stiglitzt on Bush

Joseph Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize winner in economics from Columbia University. In this column he has stome strong words for Bush and the US economy. I fear that no matter who gets elected, we're going to be saddled with this for a long time to come.


Yahoo News reports an AP story on Michigan Republicans calling for bribery charges to be brought against Michael Moore. This is what happens when you feel desperate. This is what happens when you get so involved in righteous campaigning. You lose your objectivity and everything becomes a plot against your candidate. You lost your sense of humor. You lose your brain, assuming you had one in the first fucking place. Christ, Michigan Republicans are such idiots. They made me feel very good about leaving that hell hole.

Now, this is a site for me: Kerry Haters For Kerry. Shawn will be glad to hear that there's a spot for me on the web.

Hysterical! Last night, Cheney mentioned that in order to check Edwards' claims about Cheney's Halliburton record (something CNN, in a preliminary once over last night, said Edwards was correct on) viewers should go to Well, I just went there and straight away it took me to I don't know how long this will last, but it gave me a good laugh.

Edit: OK, I just looked again and this time remembered that the real address was which means that Cheney got the address wrong. FWIW, here's a link to the real website as well as their informative article on last night's debate. Note: Edwards got some of the facts right about Haliburton, particularly the ones that Cheney used as an impetus to tell people to check this site for their veracity.

VP Debate

Amongst the other things occupying my attention last night, I watched the VP Debate on CSPAN. I was really looking forward to this debate since John Edwards is charming, personable, and he isn't afraid to go on the attack - in a very nice way, of course, fitting with his Southern charm. His weak point is foreign policy, but he's known that for 2 years and surely he had prepared himself for the attacks that were to come from the president's right iron fist.

Sadly, though Edwards was a little better prepared, I believe he lost the debate last night. A couple of things that I wish were different. As with the presidential debates, I dislike the format of the questioning. I'd prefer more give and take and interaction between the opponents. I'd like to see more sparks fly and, let's face it, last night's debate was boring. It's too bad that Edwards and Cheney were sitting at a table as well. That happened in 2000 - why is that? Is it in deference to the VP's ability to stand for an hour and a half? If so, shouldn't we know that since the VP's health should be an issue in the discussion? If they were standing, Edwards would feel more comfortable, I believe, and it would have been even better if he could walk freely around the stage to play up to his audience in his lawyerly fashion. Instead, he was stuck behind Dick Cheney's favorite prop - the place where Cheney can put his elbows up and wipe his hands in front of his mouth as he lies through his teeth. Score one for Cheney's negotiator - James Baker. Subtract one from the Democratic negotiator for letting him get away with it again.

With that in mind, Cheney won the debate last night. To my mind, he won on 2 fronts. First, Cheney was unflappable. He appeared in control and he never waivered from being on message. A couple of times he said, "I don't know where to begin" but it didn't sound as if that was because he was stumped for an answer, but rather because he was in awe of the load of horseshit just spewed out by his opponent. Edwards, on the other paw, though he knew his material appeared slightly uncomfortable in the foreign policy questions. He came off as a little defensive when he kept going back and answering Cheney's attacks from the previous question. Edwards should have been more focused on his current question and then gone back and addressed the issue Cheney brought up. Edwards, unlike Sleeperman four years prior, did go on the attack at least. But I wish he had attacked even stronger. He missed some opportunities.

For instance, when Cheney raised the oft-told lie of Kerry and Edwards voting for the $87 billion for the troops and then voting against it, the response I would have liked to have heard would have been something like this: "Mr. Vice President (insert chuckle), there you go again. My opponent, as president of the Senate, should know what we did in those votes on the $87 billion was not hypocritical, but rather it was the moral thing to do. We voted for a version of the bill that would have had cost cutting mechanisms in other areas of government that would have paid for the $87 billion we were about to appropriate. The version of the bill that Mr. Cheney and the president supported, the Senator Kerry and I voted against, did not have any mechanism in place to pay for it. That version of the bill that passed went straight to the federal deficit. It meant that we will, under their administration, be paying for it for years to come. The costs will be passed onto our children. Now, the president and the vice president can almost be excused for their actions. Neither of them has probably had to balance a checkbook in years. But most Americans know when they sit down to balance their checkbooks each month that you have to be able to pay the bills for your spending the previous month. If you spend too much in one area, then sacrifices have to be made in other areas. So, when the president and the vice president criticize us for being fiscally responsible not only is it a distortion of our votes, but it is a lack of understanding what most Americans seem to go through each month when they pay their bills."

Wham! Smack! That's the sort of attack I'd like to have seen. There were other moments during the debate where openings existed. For instance, when Cheney said that Edwards was wrong about 90% of the casualties suffered by the allies in Iraq were Americans, Edwards should have called Cheney to the mat on his answer because Cheney expanded the range of the original question to include Iraqi security forces, which could hardly be considered part of the coalition. When Cheney defended himself on Halliburton, Edwards facts were correct, though Cheney said that they weren't. I'd wished Edwards would have fired back with, "Either you're memory isn't as good as I'd thought or you're covering yourself in case one of my friends in the legal community want to have a word with you. For an administration that said it wanted to come to Washington to bring integrity back to government, you just told a whopper."

Sadly, Edwards did not strike back hard on these and other issues. When Edwards was attacked, he often came off as a little defensive, particularly when he was defending John Kerry's votes. I think that lost it for him. Even though he did strike back, Cheney was not moved by his attacks and sometimes just lied his way around them. This brings me to my second reason that Edwards lost the debate.

Even if you disagree with me on the above statements. Even if you think that John Edwards came across as effective, that he showed a command of the issues and that he appears to be able to take the reigns as Vice President. Even if that were all true, the best you can say about the debate is that it was a draw. A draw translates into a win for Cheney.

As noted before, Cheney appeared unflappable. He appeared in command of the facts, even when lying. He appeared steady and strong. In a draw, those things win for Cheney-Bush. The swing voter that both campaigns are so desparate to woo will feel comforted by Cheney's demeanor. She'll feel confident that he's leading us in the right way and she'll feel better that the president - who was flappable in the last debate - has a good strong man behind him. She doesn't keep up on politics nor does she feel particularly informed about the issues. She wants that data spoonfed to her and she wants to feel that the people she's voting for has a vision for dealing with these burdons that she cannot take on. Cheney made her feel better about that after Bush flopped during the previous debate. Edwards did not bruise the incumbants enough to make that swing voter start to question the decision she made 4 years ago. Hence, Edwards lost.

Edwards and Kerry came into October needing to wound their opponents in each of the debates, then take those messages on the road with them. Kerry did his part last week and he set up Edwards with some sparring targets for Cheney. Unfortunately, Edwards didn't wound Cheney. This means that Kerry will need to take charge and hit just as hard, if not harder on Bush during the next debates in order to develop the momentum amongst swing voters to win in November. It's commonly stated that Kerry is a strong finisher. Last night's debate pointed out that he's going to have to be, if he wants to be sworn into a new office come January.

Interesting side note about the debate: Cheney rarely mentioned the president. He used the terms "we", "this administration", "our", "I", and so on, but he almost never mentioned President Bush. The subliminal message being that he is part of or leader of a team. The team is steady and it is strong. The president is the figurehead of that team. It reinforces a notion that many Americans already have: the president is a dimwit, so of course he's going to screw up in the debates, however Cheney is the policy brain behind the president and he will see us through the dark times. Amongst liberals, this is considered to be a defect for the President. Amongst conservatives, they see the president as a leader who knows how to hire good employees. Last night, Cheney made no attempts to hide this which says to me that they either knew that they were in trouble and felt this would bolster them or that they felt most Americans would understand the conservative position.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Caffeinated Beer Bongs a no, no says Tacoma

The News Tribune:

Tacoma police could soon be arresting store clerks suspected of selling crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia as part of the city's continuing effort to quell drug use...

Under the proposed law, a store clerk could be charged with a gross misdemeanor for selling drug paraphernalia - water pipes commonly referred to as bongs, crack pipes, smoking masks, miniature cocaine spoons, cocaine freebase kits and glass pens, which can be used to smoke drugs...

Many of the drug paraphernalia items seem inconspicuous. One commonly sold item is the Love Rose - a 4-inch glass tube stuffed with a small rose.

However, when clerks sell the rose with a piece of Brillo pad, that's a crack pipe, police argue.

I guess this means that Tacoma will also be banning beer sold in cans as the cans may be used to make bongs. That would be bad for Tacoma residents as they will not be able to acquire one of Anheuser-Busch's new beers: a caffeinated sweet brew also fortified with ginseng and guarana. At least these sort of drinks are not addictive. (insert eye roll here)

Powell: Women of Iraq rise up against feminists!

Feminist Daily News reports that the Independent Women's Forum was awarded $10 million by the State Department to "train Iraqi women in the skills of democratic public life."

As Feministing notes, "YIKES! If you aren't familiar with IWF, they're one of the most infuriating and scary groups out there."

This group was brought to my attention by a well-meaning, but misguided friend who heard the name of the organization and didn't realize that they were a bunch of right wing idealogues who come from the Ayn Rand school of politics and economics. From their website,

IWF provides a voice for responsible, mainstream women who embrace common sense over divisive ideology. We make that voice heard in the U.S. Supreme Court, among other decision makers in Washington, and across America's airwaves as we:

  • Counter the dangerous influence of radical feminism in the courts
  • Combat corrosive feminist ideology on campus
  • Change the terms of the debate on quality of life issues affecting American women

Al Quaida and Iraq

I think that the C.I.A. has had enough of the Bush Administration.


This may be TMI for some out there, but I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at this terrific rant from a woman having her period.

Bremer: Not enough troops

From the Washington Post:

"The former U.S. official who governed Iraq after the invasion said yesterday that the United States made two major mistakes: not deploying enough troops in Iraq and then not containing the violence and looting immediately after the ouster of Saddam Hussein...

"We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," he said yesterday in a speech at an insurance conference in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. "We never had enough troops on the ground."

Bremer's comments were striking because they echoed contentions of many administration critics, including Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, who argue that the U.S. government failed to plan adequately to maintain security in Iraq after the invasion."

Amongst administration critics, they should include generals who warned that we were going in with too few troops, but were forced to retire when they publicly question the administration's decisions. What kills me about this is that the media forgets to note that before the invasion, there were plenty of critics that questioned WMD, nuclear capabilities of Iraq, as well as number of troops. Over the weekend, for instance, the Sunday news programs were all buzzing with "news" that the nuclear capabilities attributed to Iraq were questioned by top scientists within the US. Hell, where have these idiots lived?!!? I knew about that and I learned about it reading the Seattle Times. It was also discussed on some of the squawking head shows on television. Apparently the media is trying to make up for their inept reporting during the way and attempting to put pressure on the administration today - after 1,000 American lives and many more Iraqi lives have been lost.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Cybersecurity Chief abruptly resigns

Hm, didn't notice this elsewhere. It comes from the AP via The head of the nation's cyber security under the Department of Fatherland Security, resigned this past week. He was frustrated over the lack of attention paid to this area.

Congress is the key

It seems that I keep hammering away on this point, but I'm going to do it again. Constitutionally, Congress is the real key to power in Washington. The President implements rules and runs foreign policy and suggests nominations to certain positions. However, Congress writes laws that can overturn rules and it can turn down nominations. Congress can also overturn presidential vetos.

Newt Gingrich convinced Republicans that this was the case and that if they figured out a way to take control of Congress, then they would hold real power. Democrats, arrogant as they were, never suspected that Gingrich was a force to be reckoned with. Now Democrats focus on the President and the veto power as a means of protecting themselves from Republican policy since it seems that they haven't figured out a way to retake Congress.

So, how have the Republicans changed Congress since they have been in power? The Boston Globe is running an in-depth, lengthy article on the machinations of Congress both before Republicans took control and since then. It's informative and is really a must read for people who care about politics. The Democrats and the Republicans are both to blame for wielding the power of the legislative branch to thwart democracy. Yet things have gotten steadily worse over the past 20 or 30 years.

Some of the major findings:

The House Rules Committee, which is meant to tweak the language in bills that come out of committee, sometimes rewrites key passages of legislation approved by other committees, then forbids members from changing the bills on the floor.

Congressional conference committees added a record 3,407 "pork barrel" projects to appropriations bills for this year's federal budget, items that were never debated or voted on beforehand by the House and Senate and whose congressional patrons are kept secret.

Bills are increasingly crafted behind closed doors, and on two major pieces of legislation -- the Medicare and energy bills -- few Democrats were allowed into the critical conference committee meetings, sessions that historically have been bipartisan.

Janet Leigh, R.I.P.

From The Age: Janet Leigh, whose shocking murder in the classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho was credited with making generations of film fans think twice about stepping into a motel room shower, has died at her Beverly Hills home. She was 77.

The actress' husband, Robert Brandt, and her daughters, actresses Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis, were at their mother's side when she died yesterday, said Heidi Schaeffer, a spokeswoman for Jamie. "She died peacefully at home," Schaeffer said.

Leigh had suffered from vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, for the past year.

The blonde beauty enjoyed a long and distinguished career, appearing in such films as the 1962 political thriller The Manchurian Candidate and in Orson Welles' 1958 film noir classic Touch of Evil.

But she gained her most lasting fame in Psycho as the embezzling office worker who is stabbed to death in the shower by cross-dressing madman Anthony Perkins. The role earned her an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress.

Among her films: Act of Violence (with Van Heflin), Little Women, Holiday Affair (Robert Mitchum), Strictly Dishonorable (Ezio Pinza), The Naked Spur (James Stewart), Living It Up (Martin and Lewis), Jet Pilot (John Wayne), Bye Bye Birdie (Dick Van Dyke), Safari (Victor Mature).

Afghan women's success questioned

I get an email every morning from Women's eNews. I've recieved this for about 3 year's now. The stories range from political to personal profiles to health to legal, etc. It's often an interesting and brief read. Today's story is an exploration of women's lives in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration has been on the campaign trail courting women's votes in this country by touting the overthrow of the Taliban. While it is certainly better for Afghan women with the Taliban ousted, is Bush overstating his case?

Sex Toy shuts down Aussie airport for 1 hour

From The Age:

An adult sex toy shut down a major regional airport for almost an hour today when it was mistaken for a bomb, police said.

The vibrating object was discovered at Mackay Airport by a security officer who noticed the suspicious package inside a rubbish bin at the terminal cafeteria at 9.15am (AEST), a police spokeswoman said.

Cafeteria manager Lynne Bryant said her staff had been cleaning tables when they noticed a strange humming noise coming from the rubbish bin.

"It was rather disconcerting when the rubbish bin started humming furiously," she said.

"We called security and next minute everybody was being evacuated while they checked it out."

The police spokeswoman said the terminal was evacuated immediately. Passengers who had arrived on a recent flight, check-in staff, cafeteria employees and hire car personnel were all forced to leave.

"Another two flights were expected to land at that stage but alternate arrangements were made for the passengers to collect their luggage away from the terminal," the spokeswoman said.

She said the emergency situation was revoked just before 10am when the package was identified as an adult novelty device.

Ms Bryant said at the time of the upheaval the airport had been quite busy with two main flights due in and out of the airport - wreaking havoc with people's schedules.

She said in retrospect the humming sounded exactly like a vibrator - but it was better to be safe then sorry.

"You can't afford to take chances," Ms Bryant said.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Squirrel Season in La.

The NY Times reports on squirrel season begining in Evengeline Parish Louisiana. Now, I don't recommend squirrel hunting. I'm a vegetarian. However, the article did contain this choice quote from one of the few women to participate in the squirrel hunting season, homecoming queen, Alycia McDaniel, "Excitement rushes through your body when you see a squirrel and you say, 'I've got to shoot it,' " she said. "I like the trophy of it. It's not a deer, but I like to go with my boyfriend. If I kill more than the boys, they clown on them."

There's also a picture of Ms. McDaniel on the website in camoflauge shirt wearing her homecoming crown. All of which goes to remind me of Julie Brown and her classic song, Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun.

"The crowd was cheering, everyone was stoked, was stoked

I mean it was like the whole school was totally coked or something
The band was playing Evergreen
And all of a sudden somebody screamed

Look out! The homecoming queen's got a gun!

Everybody run, the homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run, the homecoming queen has got a gun"
You can view the video on Julie's site (link above).