August 31, 2003

1,000-Word Pictures

Jamal A. Wilson took this interesting series of photos, currently running at Electronic Iraq: Photo story: Bombing of Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf.

In a somewhat-thematically-related vein, check out the latest wackiness from jwz: WebCollage.

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The Kiss(es)

For those of you who aren't members of the MTV generation, you may not have heard about "The Kiss" (or more appropriately: "The Kisses") from Thursday nights MTV Video Music Awards. Being the 20th anniversary, Britney Spears & Christina Aguilera got together on stage to do a tribute rendition of Madona's legendary "Like A Virgin" stage performace from the very first VMA ceremony. They were then joined by the orriginal material girl, who launched into her latest single "Hollywood", taking breaks between versuses to plant big juicy open mouthed kisses on each of the two pop-princesses.

For those of you who like looking at hot chicks kissing, there are plenty of pictures all over the web, and even some video clips.

There are plenty of people pointing out how contrived the whole thing was, but what I find most ammusing is how much all the coverage has been about "Madona kissing Britney" -- with very little mention of the fact that she planted big wet ones on both of them. The clip I saw acctually cut away when Madona turned towards Christina .... which brings me to the second most ammusing part of all this, the way they cut to Justin Timberlake just for a reaction shot. (I have to admit, it was a hilarious reaction shot).

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August 29, 2003

Baghdad Burning on the Economics of Reconstruction

Here's an interesting perspective from an Iraqi author who runs the numbers on the costs of rebuilding her country: The promise and the threat.

As with the bogosity of the data that was being offered six months ago to justify the war, the truth about what is going on here is transparently obvious to anyone with an Internet connection and an inquiring mind. This is a get-rich-quick scam, pure and simple, in which the Very Bad Men currently running this country take a whole lot of other people's money and give it to their friends.

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Wacky Assembly Instruction Illustrations

I've never done one of those "100 Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About Me" pages (probably because my ego couldn't bear the limitations imposed by the medium -- what? only 100 things, you say?), but if I did, one of them would probably be this: I worked for a time in the product development department of a major educational toy company, where I was responsible for writing and editing the user manuals, assembly instructions, and assorted printed whatnot that came along with each item. So I have a soft spot in my heart for such documentation.

Anyway, I really liked this: Hall of technical documentation weirdness. Enjoy.

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The Quest for Better Movie Physics

Fun site you shouldn't miss: Insultingly stupid movie physics.

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Unsafe at Any (Processor) Speed

John Gruber at Daring Fireball has an excellent screed on something all of us, even the non-Borg-afflicted, are suffering from these days: Good times. His basic argument, which certainly matches my own experience, is that Microsoft products are the standard in the business world mainly because they are so poorly engineered that they require large, status-conferring staffs to maintain them.

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August 28, 2003

Bush's War Giveth, Bush's War Taketh Away...

Nice piece from the Washington Post: Halliburton's deals greater than thought. It's nice to see that the president's economic stimulus plan is working for someone, at least.

Meanwhile, of course, most of us are taking it in the collective shorts, with the true cost of the Underachiever-in-Chief's discretionary military spending only slowly, grudgingly, coming to light, as this piece from Mother Jones describes: Blood and treasure.

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Bookman on the Busted-Flush War

Jay Bookman has a good opinion piece at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: US must now play the hand it dealt itself. It's a nice followup to the piece I posted back in March (Powell: War is the scourge of God) on the dangers of going to war for irrational reasons.

Waiter? This president isn't very good. Can you please bring us another one?

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American Gulag

Nice piece at Mother Jones rounding up several articles on the extra-legal system of incarceration/interrogation that my country has somehow come to be associated with in the last two years: World behind bars.

This is horribly, horribly wrong. It has to change.

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Why you should buy a camera phone

A few items have ben pointed out to me recently, all under the guise of people trying to convince themselves that they need to buy camera phones (as if convincing me that something is really funny will justify their techno-whore-ness). Anyway, none of these are worth submitting individually, but taken as a set, they say something about our society, and our need to take pictures of silly things: Why my buddy Heath wants a camera phone, Why my buddy Rand wants a camera phone, Why the rest of my nerdy friends want camera phones.

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August 27, 2003

Grokking Mars

This certainly isn't news to anyone, but we've just passed our closest approach to Mars for the next few hundred years; if any of you haven't found a local club or friend with a telescope and taken a look at that incredibly bright red dot in the sky, please do in the next week.

I just got back from a Texas Astronomical Society viewing party and it was quite an experience, not just for the sweet view. 2-300 people were milling around the field waiting in line to peer through the more impressive telescopes present. There were the expected geeks (myself included) and stargazing fans, but I really liked seeing those people who had been convinced to come out there just because the event was so rare they thought they should see it with their own eyes.

Through a telescope, the rotation of the the earth is fast enough to pretty quickly move a particular object out of the field of view. The owners of the scopes frequently had to remind people that we're whirling around through the void, so our view is far from static. It brought an air of poignant transience to the evening, brought to closure as cloud cover ended the event abruptly.

But those present got their fleeting view of our celestial neighbor as it moved past. It's both a little easier to laugh at the world and a little easier to take it more seriously knowing just where you are and I hope that's what the people taking a break from the evening news tonight gained. Like I said, go find someplace in your area and have a look. It's good for you.

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John Kusch's Letter to Kerkman

So, it looks like our society intends to have itself a little discussion about gay marriage. I suppose Karl Rove thinks this is a way to cement his boy's hold on power, or something. Well, all I can say is, bring it on. John Kusch appears to have a similar attitude, judging by some of the stuff he's been writing lately. Like this: An Open Letter to Wisconsin State Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake).

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August 26, 2003

Holladay's Gay Myths

I can't resist a Top 10 list, so here you go: A queer girl's top 10 gay myths.

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Krugman Cries Foul on NYC Health Risk Assessment

A sad, more-of-the-same commentary on what passes for leadership in the current White House: Dust and deception. Paul Krugman connects the dots on the Bush team's downplaying of the health risks associated with lower Manhattan suddenly becoming an asbestos- and dioxin-coated hazardous waste site a couple of years back.

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August 24, 2003

Amazing, Spoiler-Laden Dernhelm Image

We're getting closer! Woo!

Ahem. Obsessive fanboy restraints applied. I wanted to share the following image, which apparently is a scan of the packaging for an action figure due to come out with The Return of the King, and which has been posted by the excellent obsessives at Dernhelm.

Warning: I (obviously) don't know yet how this particular plot element is going to be handled in the movie, but if you haven't read The Lord of the Rings and want to preserve what is, in the book at least, a major surprise, you shouldn't view the above-linked image. But if you fall into that particular demographic, you're tragically flawed already, so it's hard to muster much sympathy for your predicament. Go read it already, then come back and view the image.


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Wesley Willis, Rest in Peace

Favorite Chicago "outsider" artist and musician Wesley Willis died last Thursday, and since I was out of touch with civilization at the time I only found out about it this morning. Sigh.

Obituaries available from Alternative Tentacles (Wesley's label), the Chicago Sun-Times, MTV, and Rolling Stone.

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August 22, 2003

Dubya Doll

I keep forgeting to post this: a $40 George W. Bush action figure in Naval Flight suit will go on sale September 15th. The Doll is made by a Hong Kong company, based on his U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln appearence three months ago, and has many people guessing what's next.

For me, the funniest part of this story was some of the other links I found while searching for this, such as this letter asking for a refund, and a different doll, also coming soon:

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August 19, 2003

Conason's Big Lies

Joe Conason, Salon columnist and liberal muckraker, has a new book out, and Salon is running excerpts from it. Very much worth watching the Sprint commercial (or whatever) for the one-day pass: Big lies.

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Patrick Coy: We Need a WMD Investigation

Patrick G. Coy sums up the high points of the WMD scandal, and calls for open hearings: The truth about intelligence on Iraq: "Bring it on". The Republicans in Congress may be able to block hearings for now, but if voters are too bamboozled to make Bush a zero-termer in 2004, my money's on a Democrat-controlled Congress and hearings before the end of 2005.

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Kos on the Costs of Iraq's Reconstruction

So, as our infrastructure crumbles at home, we're learning that the Iraqi reconstruction is going to cost us much more than the Bush administration orginally maintained, since the Iraqi oil revenue that was going to pay for it was... exaggerated. Heavens; what a surprise.

Anyway, from Daily Kos: Smells like... victory.

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Krugman: What Caused the Blackout?

Paul Krugman cuts through the bullshit currently being peddled and lays it out simply and clearly: The road to ruin.

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August 18, 2003

Alexia Myronenko: World's (un)luckiest little girl

This story is just hard core weird: Little Alexia Myronenko was spending the night with her family in a tent outside her grandmothers house in Oregon, when a tree near the tent was struck by lightning. The juice went into the tree, and then through the tree's roots, which were close enough to the surface of the ground that she was electrocuted -- straight through her pillow, in her ear and out her thigh. She's alive, and appears to be doing ok. Aparently the rest of her family was unharmed because of the insulation provided by their air mattresses -- Alexia had rolled off of hers in her sleep.


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August 17, 2003

Public Defender Dude on the Presumption of Guilt

Public Defender Dude seems to have slightly pooched his Blogspot templates; at least, the permalinks don't actually correspond to anchors on the page. Sigh. I'll link to the anchor anyway, but be forewarned: you might have to scroll past some stuff to find the post in question A bird in hand is better than 2 in the bush. It's a great piece on how some police, having settled on a suspect whom they believe to be guilty, will actively resist further investigation that might serve to raise questions about that guilt.

Thanks to Kynn at Shock & Awe, yet again, for the link.

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The Chess Geek and the Hottie

Not to be missed: Wells' account of going up against a hot blonde in the State Individuals chess tournament when he was a freshman in high school: Swindled. His description of the geek-crammed gymnasium so reminded me of my time on the math team.

Thanks to Kynn at Shock & Awe for the link.

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August 16, 2003

In Defense of Michael Moore

User Eloquence at Kuro5hin has a really nice rebuttal of a David Hardy piece I previously linked to: A defense of Michael Moore and "Bowling for Columbine".

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Bush Lies About His Track-Record on Grid Upgrades

Nice piece from Buzzflash on how Bush's statement yesterday ("We'll have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized. I happen to think it does, and have said so all along.") flies in the face of his actual actions since taking office: If Bush really wants to investigate the cause of the largest blackout in American history, he should start with the vice-president, Tom DeLay and himself.

People who think Bush is a shoe-in for (re-)election overlook that he has an actual track-record this time. And it sucks. With someone like Dean running against him, Bush is going to have people pointing out his failures, and demanding explanations. Bush isn't particularly good at dealing with criticism. True, he's got more money than God, and can run TV commercials of himself striding across the deck of the Abraham Lincoln until the cows come home, and maybe that will be enough.

But maybe it won't.

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August 15, 2003

Fakes on Friendster

Interesting SF Weekly article on the identity wars currently ranging at Friendster: Attack of the Smartasses. Thanks to for the link.

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August 14, 2003

Kynn on the Ten Commandments

The new-and-improved Shock and Awe has a nice piece on the wacky judge in Alabama who's refusing to give up his Ten Commandments statue: The Ten Commandments.

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Pat Paulsen for California Governor

The first record album I ever bought was a Pat Paulsen record (Live at the Ice House, I think). So I've always had a soft spot for the guy. Anyway, someone active in his campaign for California governor sent me an email mentioning it, so here you go: Pat Paulsen for governor.

It's sad that Pat's not here to participate in the campaign more directly. In a very real sense, he pioneered the notion of running for high office as a piece of comedic shtick. He would have loved this. And I would have loved hearing what he had to say about it.

Posted by jbc at 03:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)'s Undercover Car Salesman

It's a few years old, but I hadn't seen it before: Confessions of a car salesman. Interesting.

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August 13, 2003

Why People Cry

Interesting article from the Financial Times, concerning when and why adults shed tears: The crying game.

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August 12, 2003

Ted, you deserve better

Sports Illustrated has not one, but two stories about the current conditions of Ted Williams's cryogenically frozen remains. The New York TImes seems to have followed up the story, and has some more details.
What a wild, wacky, and sad sad state of affairs.

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Steve Burns: Concerning Dust Mites and Children's Programming

So I came across that link, and that led me to Some words on cognitive dissonance from Steve Burns, and I couldn't resist linking to it.

Yes, that Steve Burns. Well, maybe you lack young children, or you're better than I am at resisting the urge to park them in front of a television, in which case you're saying, "What Steve Burns?" So follow the link, and come back when you know.

There was always something hypnotic about Steve. You couldn't (well, I couldn't) not watch the guy. And the Quicktime videos from his new album, Songs for Dust Mites, are pretty engaging. Though I'm not sure how much of that is their inherent engaging-ness, and how much is just my brain going, whoa, that really is Steve from Blues Clues.


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NYC Food Fight

Lots of places can lay claim to being the earthly manifestation of Dreams Made Real: L.A., Las Vegas... But the dreams New Yorkers bring forth have their own, special quality. Like this one, from, via Paul Ford's The condiment war. Be sure to scroll down for the photos.

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Washington Post-Mortem on WMD Lies

Here's a nice, detailed account of just who lied about what during the run-up to war: Depiction of threat outgrew supporting evidence.

Hm. Interesting syncronicity with the previously posted item. Maybe the Bush administration should convert whatever it is they've been ingesting into pill form, and sell it to all those guys who want their Johnsons to be just a skosh larger. With the revenue from sales of Dubya's Own WMD-Threat Englargement Pills, we could probably save Social Security, pay down the national debt, and still have plenty left over for additional tax cuts.

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Penis Enlargement Experiment

The wacky flavor of the day: Do penis enlargement pills work? Well, let's just find out, shall we? Favorite quote: "I'm using millimeters for accuracy." Riiiiiight. Actually, I suspect he's using millimeters because "Erect length: 140mm" just sounds a whole hell of a lot more impressive than the English-unit alternative.

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August 11, 2003

WMD Update

So, it's mid-August. Do you know where your weapons of mass destruction are? Experts review, poke holes in case for war.

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August 10, 2003

You Don't Want to Live Here

Heralding in a new era of negative marketting, the Ottawa County Planning Commission in Michigan has harnessed the power of "scratch-N-sniff" to educate would be home buyers about the wonders of living in farm country: New brochure really stinks.
The best part of this story is the quote from another article that mentions working with the Chattanooga company "Print-A-Scent " to create the brochure: "They told us it was the first time in their company's history they had to evacuate the building when they finally got the formula right."
If you'd like a copy of the brochure, you can request it from plan @

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August 09, 2003

Bikini Model Airbrushing

Digital artist Greg Apodaca gives a dramatic example of the little Photoshop manipulations that go into creating high-quality cheesecake: Greg's digital archive.

Thanks to for the link.

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August 08, 2003

Bush As Sociopath

I've never actually read Mark Crispin Miller's The Bush Dyslexicon; I guess I just assumed it was another one of those "Bushisms" books that pokes fun at our adorable C-student-in-chief's struggles with expressing himself verbally. But it turns out that Miller goes beyond that. In cataloging Bush's funny misstatements, he discovered something remarkable: Bush has no problem expressing himself when he's using the language of anger, and retribution, and hostility. It's only when he tries to express things like compassion, contrition, and self-effacement that he starts tripping over his tongue. Miller's conclusion? Bush is a Very Bad Man. In fact, a sociopath, akin to Richard Nixon.

Anyway, here are a couple of interviews with Miller that go into that: one from the Toronto Star, and one from Hustler (yeah, I know).

Thanks to Glen & Pilar for the link suggestion.

Update: Some excellent commentary from Miller on the anti-intellectual online reaction to his book: Brain drain. And some more on the book: Alternet interview, BuzzFlash interview, and stopsleeping's Mark Crispin Miller page.

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Al Gore Tells It Like It Is

Al Gore's speech yesterday to members in New York was a very honest, powerful indictment of just what it is that's wrong with the Bush administration's approach to government: Setting it right. Don't settle for the smallish write-ups in news accounts; read the whole thing.

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Mary Magdalene's Secret

I must have been one of the last people on earth to finally get around to reading The Da Vinci Code. Anyway, I finally did, and besides being deeply envious of its Amazon sales rank, I found myself enjoying (as everyone else has, apparently) the fun conspiracy theory about how the early Church arranged to rub out the truth about how Mary Magdalene was actually Jesus' wife and his intended spiritual successor. Anyway, for those uncomfortable with getting their conspiracy theories from bestselling potboilers, Time has an article on the subject that, while it doesn't go as far in its claims, at least includes them among the list of positions taken by modern-day Magdalene obsessives: Mary Magdalene: Saint or Sinner?

So, I wonder how Mel handles this issue in his new movie? Something tells me he probably hews pretty close to traditional Church dogma. If so, and if traditional Church dogma about Magdalene actually was the product of a 6th-century hatchet job, there'd be a certain irony in his having worked so hard to shore up the false version of Magdalene's role in the name of staying "true" to Christianity's "oldest" traditions.

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August 06, 2003

Robert Purdy and George Paine, Take Three

Another interesting (to me, at least) exchange of letters between George Paine of and Robert Purdy, a US Army helicopter pilot recently returned from Iraq: More from the Third ID. is an antiwar site, so I guess it shouldn't be surprising that most of the people who comment there are going to have a field day with someone like Purdy, who is unsurprisingly pro-war in his attitudes. But still, I find myself cringing at some of the snide comments people are making toward him. This guy is risking his life, okay? In defense of our collective life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Yeah, I happen to agree that the people who sent him in to fight this particular war were wrong to do so, but that's not Purdy's fault.

Maybe you believe we should build a world where he wouldn't have to make those sacrifices. I happen to think so, too. But guess what? We haven't built it yet. In the meantime, he's putting himself on the line to stand between us and the bad guys. It's not his fault if the people giving the orders are self-serving chooms. That's our fault.

So show a little fucking respect. I'm not saying you have to agree with his political views. But acknowledge who he is, and the personal sacrifices he's made on your behalf. You can at least be polite. Can't you?

Posted by jbc at 10:07 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

August 05, 2003

Gwynne Dyer on the Iraq/Vietnam Parallel

Here's a very interesting piece of crystal-ball gazing from war historian Gwynne Dyer: Welcome to Iraq-Nam. He thinks that the US will probably invade Syria sometime before the election next year in order to help Bush's election prospects. Bush will win said election, after which there will be increasing Viet Nam-style quagmire and an eventual pullout from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, leaving violently anti-US Islamic hard-liners in charge of each of those countries.

Sounds good (well, bad, but credible) to me. And it's quite testable. So, let's check back in 2006 or 2007, and see how good a job Dyer did in predicting things.

Posted by jbc at 08:56 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2003

More on Gilmore, "Suspected Egotist"

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine is ranting some more about John Gilmore's altercation with British Airways over his refusal to remove a "Suspected Terrorist" button. Although I feel Jeff gets carried away with his obvious disgust at the end of his post, I understand his anger. As I mentioned in an earlier post I made on Lies, Gilmore's actions and reactions to the requests and demands of the flight crew indicate to me a person who acts so self-focused on his personal mission to protest the grievous violation of his personal rights that he decides that the rights of his fellow passengers are of lesser importance.

Jeff focuses on one particular section of the justification that Gilmore makes for his actions. I'd like to point out a few other things. First, is Gilmore's smug comment about how he doesn't fly much anymore so he isn't use to"life in a gulag". There is nothing that hits my hot button harder during a political discussion as when someone casually throws out a comparison of a personal experience to something truly sinister like a Russian Gulag!!! Where does this pompous ass get the nerve to dare to put his experiences with airport security at the same level of those who suffered and died in merciless slave labor camps!!!!!! This comment is coming from someone who is privileged and well-off enough to be making all these international trips in the first place, and he dares to align his "indignities" with those innocents who died brutal and senseless deaths!! When I hear self-important elitists of any political persuasion make those kind of ignorant, disrespectful comments, I can chew through concrete!!

Next, is his total shock that HE would actually have some responsibility for causing a safety concern or, by resisting the orders of a flight crew, for causing the plane to turn back to the gate and be delayed. As I mentioned in my earlier post, those who are as self-absorbed as Gilmore, tend to view any perceived interference in what they want to do, say, or wear, as being of paramount importance. While showing no sense of obligation or responsibility to others affected by their actions. Yes, the airline employees had control of choosing to turn the plane around, but GILMORE had control of removing the button to avoid the situation. And yes, he DID bear some responsibility for whatever safety concerns there were, since he was the one implying that he might be a terrorist. As unlikely as it may be, you don't know everyone's health condition, frame of mind or emotional reactions in a potentially anxious or stressful situation. The flight crew didn't create the guidelines for security and safety, but they do have to follow them, and often make judgement calls in enforcing them. Instead of taking his beef to the policy-makers, Gilmore confronts those who are just trying to do what is already a difficult, stressful and often thankless job.

Lastly, he reveals his perceived moral and intellectual superiority over those who may disagree with him by claiming that "you readers" are mere mindless passives of a bullying, fascist US Government, not unlike the Polish Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto in WWII. (Ahhh, another grossly overstated comparison to a truly dark historical period involving REAL despair, human devaluation and death. Someone please give me some nails to bite on!)

It makes me wish that the next time Gilmore relates his most recent horrific experience of suffering through another torturous, demeaning "carry-on bag" inspection, he would suddenly be transported through time to a remote Siberian prison in 1939. But then again, it may look amazingly like Terminal B at LAX.

As I also mentioned in my earlier post, anyone can protest the perceived death of their personal freedoms that current airport security is creating. But what is Gilmore's magical alternative for a massive public transportation system which carries dual high expectations for efficiency and safety, while protecting everyone's real and imagined personal rights of privacy, while operating in an ever more dangerous world?

Posted by Craig at 04:39 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

You can't visit grandma, because you oppose the war.

It's official: prompted by the ACLU, using the Freedom of Information Act, the Transportation Security Administration has confirmed the existence of a secret list of people to receive extra scrutiny at apirports -- completely seperate from the no-fly list of possible terrorists. Membership of this list seems to be any high profile anti-war activists.... "US anti-war activists hit by secret airport ban"

Posted by hossman at 11:13 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

August 02, 2003

Funny California-as-Iraq Spoof

The wits at the WSJ's OpinionJournal have a funny piece that sends up California's current state government mess by comparing it to Iraq: Left coast quagmire.

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Woman Gives Birth on Train, Refuses Assistance

Nurses are tough customers. The stuff they deal with just leaves very little room for squeamishness and other nonessentials. So maybe this shouldn't be such a surprising story, but still, like, whoa: Refusing help, woman gives birth aboard T.

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Jim Gasperini's 3D Penis

Many inventions seem obvious once you've seen them. Like the wheel, or the hang glider, or the Post-It note. But it takes a special kind of someone to see those things before they exist, and bring them forth to obviousness.

Someone like Jim Gasperini, who has hit upon a really neat trick involving using an animated GIF to toggle back and forth between two slightly displaced photographs, providing a convincing (if somewhat jittery) illusion of three dimensions: Time for space. And given the rarity of such men, who can fault Gasperini for choosing to give pride of place on his page to a nude image of his three-dimensional self. Like Da Vinci with his Vitruvian Man, Gasperini makes his Johnson the proud, still, center around which the universe revolves: Siegfried salutes the sun.

Posted by jbc at 07:27 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Bush the Phony

As long as you have that one-day pass to Salon, check out Jeremy Heimans' and Tim Dixon's take on how to beat Bush in the 2004 election: The poseur in chief. Arguing against Bush on the issues won't be enough, they say. In order to succeed, the Democratic nominee will have to convince voters that Bush is a phony.

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The Silk-Purse President

As you may have figured out by now, I'm big on the subjective nature of reality. But in spite of that, or maybe because of that, I'm a sucker for objective data. Like those graphs of presidential polling data from Professor Pollkatz that have been making the rounds lately; I love those things.

Here's one of them (you can click on it to view the full-sized version):

This plots Bush's approval rating over the course of his presidency so far, as recorded by 13 different public opinion polls. He starts off between 50% and 60% approval, and over the next nine months holds pretty steady, or perhaps suffers a very gradual decline. Then, on 9/11, an extraordinary thing happens: overnight, he gets a 35% boost in his approval rating.

Think what this means: In a single day, 100 million people changed their minds about Bush's performance as president. Before 9/11, they didn't approve of him. After it, they did. But Bush himself hadn't actually done anything. It was all about our shifted frame of reference. As we closed ranks in response to the outside threat, we needed symbols to rally around: the flag, the president. He was our man, and we supported him. We needed him to succeed, so we adjusted the curve to make sure he got a passing grade.

Immediately, though, a steady decline in his approval set in. Absent a unifying event like 9/11, each day brought a steady erosion of Bush's support, as more and more people decided that no, he actually wasn't doing that good a job after all. Only now the decline was faster than it had been during the first nine months; the downward slope of the graph was steeper.

Then, recently, there was another uptick: The end of major hostilities in Iraq, and the Top Gun photo op on the Abraham Lincoln. But again, in the wake of that, the downward trend has reasserted itself, and again, the downward slope has steepened.

(Note, though, that Bush's initial base of support remains intact. Even with the long slide since 9/11 and the steeper slide since the carrier landing, he still hasn't dropped below 50%.)

Now check out another Pollkatz graph. It keeps Bush's Gallup-poll results, drops the other 12 polls, and adds Gallup polls for four other recent presidents, aligned to let you compare each president's approval at similar points during his time in office:

Bush is the row of magenta dots; his dad is the nearly parallel row of steeply-declining yellowish dots during his own post-war period; like father like son. Carter is the dark blue; you can see how he and the elder Bush joined up with each other down around 30% approval as they closed out their one-term presidencies.

One thing I found fascinating about this graph is the eery parallel in the plots for Clinton and Reagan. Clinton is the light blue; Reagan is the yellow (unfortunately hard to distinguish from Bush I at this scale, though in the larger version it's clearer). Each had declines early on (Clinton with an early downward spike during his healthcare and gays-in-the-military missteps), but then got on track and had a remarkably similar march through gradually increasing approval up to year six. Then they diverge somewhat; Reagan's Iran-Contra revelations and Reykjavik-summit stumbles cost him somewhat more than Clinton's problems with his penis, but both finished their terms back alongside each other.

Here's one more graph:

This one compares Bush with a slightly different set of post-WWII presidents; we've dropped Bush I and Carter, and added Ike, JFK, LBJ, and Nixon. The most dramatic thing here is the flameout of Nixon in the year before his resignation; he's that row of yellow dots that dangles down in the middle of the graph before abruptly terminating at year 5.5. Even at the end, though, a quarter of the country still supported him: for them, at least, it was my president, right or wrong.

One other interesting comparison struck me when looking at this graph. Under normal circumstances, the only direction Bush's support has ever gone is down. Clinton, Reagan, Eisenhower, and the pre-Watergate Nixon were all able to put together steady runs spanning at least a few years during which their support gradually built over time. So far, Bush has been unable to do that. In that respect, he looks a lot like Lyndon Johnson, represented here by the string of blue-gray dots that starts off with 80% support at year 3.0, then gradually sinks through the rest of his presidency.

With Johnson, as with Bush after 9/11, approval was bestowed rather than earned; the gift of a grieving nation rallying behind the president in a time of crisis. The public made do with what it had, turning a sow's ear into a silk purse. But in each case, the man's day-to-day performance could not sustain that popularity.

Posted by jbc at 03:37 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Baer on Saudi Arabia

From Salon comes another story good enough to justify sitting through a commercial to get the one-day pass: Terror in the Saudi kingdom. It's an interview with former CIA officer Bob Baer, who has a new book out called, "Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude."

Posted by jbc at 03:10 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 01, 2003

American Foreign Policy and the Code of Honor

Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out the obvious. Outsiders tend not to be very fine-grained in their analysis, but by the same token, they can be really good at describing the basic outlines of the forest, while we forest-dwellers are all caught up in the specifics of individual trees.

Anyway, that was my reaction to this really interesting piece from Paul Robinson, writing in the Spectator: Sword of honor. Robinson's thesis is that current US foreign policy owes a lot to the same notions of southern honor that fueled the Civil War. And reading his account, I have to admit he makes a strong case. The only thing he misses is that the "insult" that has led to our current belligerent response in Iraq was 9/11. The code duello demanded a violent response to the events of that day. Since Osama bin Laden was unavailable, Saddam Hussein, whose continued existence since the 1991 war constituted an ongoing glove-slap in the face of our collective honor, was forced to serve as his stand-in.

Anyway, it's a good article. Read it and see what you think.

Posted by jbc at 07:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)