Archive for May, 2003

Sorenson on the Chris Hedges Speech

Tuesday, May 27th, 2003

SF Gate columnist Harley Sorenson has a piece on the Chris Hedges speech: The Rockford files. I love the quote from the campus newspaper that accused Hedges of comparing US foreign policy to “piranhas” (he actually said “pariahs”). Sorenson also points out that heckling public speakers was (is?) a popular tactic of UC Berkeley radicals. Worth a read.

Krugman on the Real Motivation for Tax Cuts

Tuesday, May 27th, 2003

Paul Krugman does a good job of explaining what the real goal is in pushing for ever-greater tax cuts at a time of record-setting national debt: Stating the obvious.

More Perspective on the Saving of Private Jessica

Monday, May 26th, 2003

From the Chicago Tribune comes this interesting update for those still interested in the Private Jessica story: Sorting fact from fiction in POW’s gripping story. It confirms many of the criticisms that British reporters have been making of the original gung-ho storyline, though it diverges from the BBC version in saying that the ambulance the Iraqis used in trying to return Jessica to the US troops a few days before the rescue may not have come under direct fire by US forces. There’s also an intersting comment about the arrival at Centcom of a White House spinmeister shortly before the well-orchestrated original presentation of the heroic-Jessica story.

I’m curious how this will play out in made-for-TV-movie land. Will one of the networks present a dramatization of the original heroic version of the story? Or will the powers that be, who presumably are the same people telling Jessica to keep her mouth shut and claim amnesia, pressure the networks into letting the story just go away, so as not to risk giving the debunkers a wider audience?

Margolis on Bush’s Iraq Lies

Monday, May 26th, 2003

Following up on the excellent link Craig posted, here’s a less-sympathetic treatment of the same issues from the Toronto Sun’s Eric Margolis: Oh, what a tangled web Bush weaves. Ties things together well.

Credible Option?

Sunday, May 25th, 2003

While I still feel confident that some direct evidence of WMD material will be uncovered in time, I am not adverse to acknowledging other viable options for the current failure to produce the evidence that was assured by the Bush Administration. The key in this commentary is that Bush and his inner circle placed too much credence in speculative or unsubstanciated intelligence reports and those of key Iraqi exiles in assessing the level of weapon-ready material Iraqi had on hand. Not the more sinister scenario pushed by the Far Left of a revenge-thirsty, immoral, imperialist who has strung out a series of bald-faced lies to the world.

Regardless, if this more plausible alternative explanation becomes much more evident, it will still result in a big backlash for Bush and the Republican Party, come 2004. Which would be the same blissful end result hoped for by the Democrats, both radical and mainstream (other than those extremists who think Bush should be in front of the World Court, even before Saddam).

And it would be a jarring setback in the leadership role of the US in the world (possibly for the better in some ways, but most definitely for the worse as well).

If nothing else, it provides food for thought for those who are becoming increasing uncomfortable at the delay in finding Iraq’s WMD (with the exception of those who have already stumbled off the intellectual cliff due to being blinded by all their perceived Bush-Hitler-Satan analogies).

Dullest Blog, Messy Fun

Sunday, May 25th, 2003

Here’s some miscellaneous wackiness to liven up your Sunday.

First up, the really funny, in a subtle sort of way, dullest blog in the world. Thanks to some random weblog I can no longer find for pointing me to this.

Next, the also really funny, in a completely different sort of way, Messy Gallery 118, from Joanna.

The Web is a hyperdimensional portal. It reduces the distance between any two points to zero. I’m up early, goofing around at Dave Barry’s blog while the wife and kids are still in bed, I follow a link, and bam, I’m suddenly in the kitchen of a happily married British man who likes to get all dolled up in summery dresses and tasteful makeup and pour chocolate syrup all over himself. And he does it a lot.

The world gets smaller. We learn that people are at once both stranger and more familiar than we ever imagined, or could have imagined. As with urbanization and the cosmopolitan viewpoint it created, the Web challenges our preconceptions, forcing us to expand our worldview. With the Web, we actually have a worldview, literally.

Natalie Maines Pisses People Off Again

Sunday, May 25th, 2003

I didn’t watch the Academy of Country Music awards the other night (!), so I was spared what apparently was a wall-to-wall display of feel-good (if relatively mindless) patriotism. But I’m sorry I missed the part where the Dixie Chicks appeared via video from an Austin concert, and were booed in response to Natalie Maines’ teeshirt reading “F.U.T.K.”, which expands to “Fuck You Toby Keith.”

Heh. See this item from Top40-charts.com for more on the Maines/Keith thing.

In case you were wondering, I first came across a mention of this in the permalink-challenged Dizzy Girl weblog, which I was reading because its name caught my eye as I was scanning through the list of losers (most of whom outrank lies.com) at The Truth Laid Bear’s Blogosphere Ecosystem. The reason it caught my eye is that Dizzy Girl is the title of the first song on the really fabulous first (and only?) CD from a 90′s San Francisco band called The Rosemarys, that CD having been my favorite listening for the last few weeks since I heard it on grrl.com’s Grrl Radio.

So. Now you know everything.

The Mt. Everest QTVR Panorama

Sunday, May 25th, 2003

Everyone’s linking to this really cool panorama taken atop Mt. Everest, so I will, too.

I remember when I first saw a QTVR panorama; it was of a hiking trail in Arizona or New Mexico or somewhere like that, and it blew me away. Wow, I thought. This Web thing is amazing!

These days the novelty of bandwidth-hogging 360-degree images that you can rotate and zoom around in has worn off somewhat, but that Everest panorama is still very much worth a look.

More Data on the Iraqi Civilian Death Toll

Saturday, May 24th, 2003

The Christian Science Monitor is running an article about various groups’ efforts to figure out how many Iraqi noncombatants got liberated from their lives during the recent war: Surveys pointing to high civilian death toll in Iraq. The numbers aren’t pretty; it’s sounding as if our use of cluster munitions and the speedy thrust by the Marines (especially) up the Euphrates resulted in anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 civilian deaths.

Those dead bodies are all ours. Our taxes paid for the bullets; our friends and neighbors formed the troops that did the killing; our votes (or lack thereof) put the politicians in place who sent those troops on their mission.

So, you supporters of the war: Explain to me, please, just why those people had to die. The 4-year-old Iraqi girl obliterated by a missile, the 12-year-old Iraqi boy torn to pieces by exploding cluster bomblets, the family of four strafed by machine gun fire at a checkpoint. What greater good justifies their deaths?

You don’t get to ignore the question. You don’t get to just flip channels to some sitcom, or some reality show, and make it magically not-have-happened. It did happen. We did this. And I want very much for you to tell me why.

Interview with Chris Hedges re: the Rockford College Speech

Saturday, May 24th, 2003

Interesting follow-up story from Alternet: The silencing of dissent on graduation day.

Mrs. du Toit Freaks Out

Saturday, May 24th, 2003

People reveal a lot when they get upset. When we’re calm and collected we can present whatever face we want to the outside world, but when something jars us loose from our moorings we start acting in ways that aren’t so mediated.

I think back to the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when Ann Coulter made her call for a bloody Crusade against those evil Mohammedans occupying the Holy Lands. I mean, it was just way out there. But she was upset, and not necessarily thinking about the longterm consequences of revealing that side of her personality, so she Just Did It.

But that’s really just a preliminary digression. Mrs. du Toit strikes me as being both significantly smarter and significantly less vile than Ann Coulter. But if you find it interesting to see someone start off sounding rational, and then suddenly just go off in a self-revelatory way, check out this post in her weblog, and (especially) the discussion that follows in the comments: Mind the gap.

Basically, Mrs. du Toit makes this impassioned posting about how awful it is that gay-rights advocates have managed to secure a toehold for their agenda in the public schools. Her argument is actually kind of interesting: she says she’s worried about the victimization gays will suffer during the inevitable cultural backlash.

Then Adam from words mean things shows up, disagrees with her, and things get ugly.

I don’t know; this may well be one of those things that seems more interesting to me than it does to anyone else. I’ve always been a sucker for that weird intersection of high-level intellectual discussion and visceral potty-mouth name-calling that surrounds the various never-to-be-resolved online political debates.

Space Aliens Invade Earth

Friday, May 23rd, 2003

Sars ‘from the stars’ (or War II of the Worlds)

In this sequel, instead of a terrestrial cold virus defeating the Martians, a Martian cold virus destroys the hapless humans.

There is also a much more “down to Earth” theory that the SARS virus originated from a civet cat but what kind of news is that?

More Criticism of 9/11 Cover-Up

Friday, May 23rd, 2003

Another day, another round of criticism of the way the Bush administration is covering up the intelligence and decision-making failures that contributed to 9/11. From the Boston Globe: Bush criticized over 9/11 probe. And from Andrew Greeley, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times: Bush answers on 9/11 overdue.

RonT Does the Budget Math

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

In other economic news, RonT of Daily Kos explains in words of no more than one or two syllables how much our collective economic fortunes have changed: How much is ten trillion dollars, really?

Schlosser on the Shadow Economy

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, has a new book out: Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market. He looks at the free-market side of the marijuana, sex, and undocumented-worker stories, pointing out some interesting facts along the way. Like, marijuana has now passed corn as the US’s leading cash crop, and the black-market business in drugs, pr0n, and illegal labor now constitutes nearly 10% of the US GDP. Schlosser’s conclusion is that as a country we’re deeply screwed up, with high-profile public morality masking a depraved underbelly.

A few links: The book’s first chapter, as excerpted by the New York Times, a review in the Times, and an interview with Schlosser at bookpage.com.

Ready, Aim…..

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

Our Gun toting friends in Utah are gearing up for a Firing squad double header. Utah is the only State in the Union that still executes death row inmates via Firing squad when requested, as it should be, and it appears they are looking to increase the ratings by stacking them up back to back so that they can better compete with American Idol.

Personally, I would prefer they would return to the days of the Old West, when once someone has been found guilty, and sentenced to die, that they should just hang them immediately and save the taxpayers a little grief.

CNN and the Jayson Blair Syndrome

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

CNN renewed its membership in the Club of Yellow Journalism by rigging a weapons demonstration. This incident following on the heels of the New York Times scandal reinforces the belief traditional journalism has been replaced by New Journalism, journalism that features the author’s subjective responses to people and events and that often includes fictional elements meant to illuminate and dramatize those responses.

CNN claims comparing a cinderblock being shot by an illegal weapon to a cinderblock not being shot at all was due to confusion. If not for the alleged confusion, the viewers would have been enlightened by video of a legal weapon being fired into the ground. Proving that illegal guns kill cinderblocks and legal guns kill dirt.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office refused to explain what criminal acts necessitated the public execution of the cinderblock and the ground.

The Meaning of Missing WMDs

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

Still yet again even more commentary on the missing Iraq WMDs, and what their absence means: First up, an op/ed piece from Melvin A. Goodman: Weapons failure. Next, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jay Bookman: Trust in leaders is lost if WMD are not found. Finally, from someone who (yes, I know) supported the Ku Klux Klan in his early politicking in West Virginia 50 years ago, but today is apparently the only person in the Senate to care so little (or so much?) about his future that he’s willing to take a moral stand: The truth will emerge.

Thanks to TheSmirkingChimp.com for all three links, and for hosting the text of Byrd’s speech.

Water Flows Uphill in British Garden

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

British inventor and vacuum-cleaner magnate James Dyson has created a really cool illusion as part of the annual Chelsea Flower Show. The beeb has the story: How does Dyson make water go uphill?

If you read the story, it’s actually not quite clear who should get credit for “inventing” the effect. Dyson gets most of the ink in the article, though “Dyson engineer” Derek Phillips seems to be the person who actually created it. I’m not sure where the actual design came from.

But I don’t care. I so want one of these.

Whittle on Moore’s ‘Magic’

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

Assertively-rational conservative Bill Whittle has posted an essay that is getting lots of attention lately, at least according to Daypop: Magic. It’s entertainingly written, which is good, because it’s also fairly long-winded, and takes quite a while to get to the main point, which is that Whittle doesn’t like the way Michael Moore staged fictional scenes and asserted untrue things in Bowling for Columbine.

There’s extensive discussion of people’s love of magical thinking, illustrated by gleeful debunkings of Roswell and Loch Ness. Whittle invokes Carl Sagan, citing him as an influence and hailing his writing as “refined genius of the highest degree” (though apparently Sagan wasn’t able to actually apply the principles of clear thinking that Whittle praises so highly, since Sagan’s own views on political questions, at least, were diametrically opposed to Whittle’s).

There’s also a mention of misdirection, the illusionist’s hand-waving that distracts the audience while handkerchief is replaced by rabbit. Which is fun, given that Whittle’s logical argument itself is pretty much just a grand piece of misdirection.

I am always distrustful of self-styled skeptics who seem driven more by an emotional need to prove others wrong than by the desire to get closer to the underlying reality that mocks our simplistic, abstract perceptions. Whittle provides a great example of that, decrying the magical thinking on the part of those he disagrees with, while engaging in his own version of the same thing. His denial of the essential magic and mystery of the world, his repeated assertions that he possesses firmly-grounded Truths that his political opponents myopically overlook, is itself magical thinking, just on a slightly higher plane.

The constancy of the speed of light as a natural speed limit has been so thoroughly and completely tested and vindicated that these aliens must have learned to harness the power of entire galaxies to bore wormholes through spacetime, which would be necessary to have these infinitely fast, staggeringly maneuverable, gravity-defying, super-hardened space-metal saucers in the skies over our planet.

Sweet!

Heh. No one who really grasped the essence of what Sagan wrote about human knowledge and science could make a statement like that. Not because it’s particularly likely that aliens crashed a foil-wrapped spaceship into New Mexico in 1946, but because anyone defending a scientific principle as having been “so thoroughly and completely tested and vindicated” is just begging to have his frame of reference pulled from under him by new, unanticipated data.

The Whittle who saw a leprechaun at the age of nine was, in my view, a better scientist than the Whittle of today. It saddens me to see how the emotional traumas of growing up can do that to people, closing them off from the world, isolating them within protective walls of rational certainty, loudly proclaiming the correctness of their views and attacking anything that threatens to make a chink in that armor.

There is magic in the world still, real magic, way down deep. Children know that. Too many adults have forgotten.