Archive for May, 2004

Jon Stewart’s Commencement Address

Monday, May 31st, 2004

I’m a big fan of Jon Stewart’s work on The Daily Show, so when someone mentioned at a BBQ this weekend that he was the commencement speaker at William and Mary this year, I went hunting to see if i could find a transcript. It wasn’t all that hard to find, theres quite a bit of buzz about it, becuase it’s both extremely funny, and extremely astute “Lets talk about the real world for a moment: … I’ll be blunt. We broke it.

I mean seriously, when was the last time you laughed while reading a speech that used the word “ennui” ?

The Vermont Mother of a Gay Son Chain Blogging

Monday, May 31st, 2004

Okay; this letter is cool: Gentle Jesus. So go read that.

Now, check out the chain of blog postings that led to my reading it:

You have to link to this now, yourself! A friend of mine did, and he found a wallet with $1000 in it the same day! Someone else didn’t, and he got in a car accident and had his foot amputated! Ohmygod!

Bush: I’ve Screwed Things Up So Badly You _Have_ to Vote for Me

Monday, May 31st, 2004

From Joshua Micah Marshall: The most salient point to emerge from the president’s recent speech…

Originally, the case for war was built on claims about the Iraqi regime’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and its support for terrorist groups like al qaida. To a lesser degree, but with increasing force as these other rationales faded way, the case was made on the basis of democratizing and liberalizing Iraq.

As that prospect too has become increasingly distant and improbable, President Bush has taken a fundamentally different tack. His emphasis now is seldom on what good might come of his Iraq policy but rather the dire consequences of its unmitigated ‘failure’ or its premature abandonment.

In other words, the president now argues that he is best equipped to guard the country from the full brunt of the consequences of his own misguided actions, managerial incompetence and dishonesty.

I think Marshall makes a good point here. And I don’t think swing voters are going to buy this latest Bush argument. Joe Klein has a column in the latest issue of Time that talks about Bush’s (and Kerry’s, though that’s a different sort of animal) disconnect from reality these days: A simple cure for Iraq fatigue. An excerpt:

The fact is, America’s sense of itself has taken a stunning blow. We are still recovering from the last week of April, when the Abu Ghraib photos were revealed and the U.S. military chose not to fight the Islamic radicals in Fallujah (a retreat compounded by last week’s decision not to pursue Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army). Taken together, those events represent a coherent pattern of behavior — that of a schoolyard bully, who tortures the weak and runs away from the strong. This is, sadly, the way Abu Ghraib and Fallujah are perceived by our enemies. I was traveling through the Middle East as some of these events unfolded, and so the embarrassment I felt was direct and intense. The experience has been more oblique for most Americans, if no less intense. Think of the images — not just the torture photos but also the Saddamite general riding proudly into Fallujah and, of course, the beheading of Nicholas Berg. This is, literally, the stuff of nightmares; it is difficult to assimilate emotionally. And neither the President nor John Kerry seems able to acknowledge the souring American mood.

Bush’s presidency has been an objective failure in pretty much every area, and swing voters have figured that out. If it weren’t for the possibility of an October Surprise, I’d say the election was essentially over.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some. Bush probably won’t have too much trouble dealing with this latest failure; he’s had plenty of practice. His whole personality is built around the need to deal with such failures.

I’m sure he’ll find a bright side. Like, maybe he’ll get to keep Saddam’s pistol.

How to Talk on the Phone

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

I have way too many phone lines in my house. So I guess I really need this handy 50’s-era scan from the good people of Contact Sheet: How to make friends by telephone.

Hard N Phirm’s Answer to Radiohead

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

If you’re a fan of Radiohead, you should definitely hear this awesome medley from Hard N Phirm: Rodeohead. [4.5M mp3 file]

I (heart) My Computer

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

From the Fishbowl: The Mac is a Harsh Mistress

Christian Exodus Dot Org

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

Only in America:

Adam Ponders Youth Voting Trends

Friday, May 28th, 2004

This post brought to you with instant commentary courtesy the panel of experts I hang out with in Ishar.

You say, “
Yserbius laughs uproariously at you.
Hiro laughs uproariously at you.
Lucy smirks at you.
Lucy says to you, “not true, but ok.”
You say, “adam is cool.”
You say to Lucy, “oh, it’s not true?”
You snap your fingers.
Lucy says to you, “they have no way of knowing the demographics of who voted in the AI finale.”
You wave a dismissive hand at Lucy.
Lucy says to you, “the 60 million is probably the overall vote count.”
Lucy says, “and i’d suspect a damn lot of those were kids under 18.”
Beck says, “yeah, 40 million of those were probably people in the 12-16 range”
Chuckling, Lucy nods at Beck.
Lucy says, “yeah, supposedly 65 million votes total.”
Hiro says, “And I keep reading that a good chunk of votes are cast by individuals with access to large phone banks.”
Hiro says, “Like guys at ISPs with huge modem pools.”
Hiro hums innocently.
Beck chuckles at Hiro.
Lucy chuckles.
Lucy says, “yeah, that’s been rumored since the first season.”
Hiro says, “And as I recall, the call volume at SBC and Verizon actually spiked to something like 10x what the received calls were.”
Hiro says, “Meaning 90% of voters get busy signals.”
Hiro says, “Or at least 90% of calls end in busy signals.”

Kerry Kicks Ass

Friday, May 28th, 2004

If you haven’t heard or read it yet, you really ought to check out the speech John Kerry gave in Seattle yesterday: Senator Kerry on national security.

The part about achieving independence from mideast oil is great; that’s going to be a powerful wedge issue against Bush, obviously. Another favorite part of mine was this:

Over the last year, we’ve heard from the president that our policy should be to simply stay the course. Well, one thing I learned in the Navy is that when the course you’re on is heading for the shoals, it’s pretty smart to shift the rudder. Staying the course — (interrupted by applause) — staying the course is important. But staying the wrong course is not a sign of strength; it is a mark of stubbornness, and it ultimately weakens this nation and the world. (Applause.)

Yeah. What he said.

Philosoraptor on the bin Laden Vote

Friday, May 28th, 2004

After a lengthy hiatus, Philosoraptor is back with a timely item: Terrorism and the election, or: Does bin Laden want Kerry to win?

I’ve been wondering about this for a while. Given his choice, which of the two candidates in the upcoming US presidential election would bin Laden prefer to see in office? I think a very strong case can be made, as Philosoraptor does here, that Bush has been a dream come true for bin Laden.

Christiansen: Are We Safer?

Friday, May 28th, 2004

Scott Christiansen of the Pinhole Camera weblog has a new essay that attempts to answer the question: Are you safer now than you were a year ago? Christiansen’s conclusion: uh, no, not really.

Purple States Trending Bluer

Thursday, May 27th, 2004

Barry Ritholtz has reposted a very interesting graphic from the Wall Street Journal Online: Battleground states. (You can also view the original WSJ page.)

According to Zogby polling conducted May 18 – 23, of the 16 “battleground” states that decided the 2000 election, Bush is currently running ahead of Kerry in only 4 of them. Yee ha.

Comment Moderation

Thursday, May 27th, 2004

I think I’ll be making some changes to the way comments are working. Since the switchover to WordPress, I’ve been requiring all user comments to be explicitly “approved” by an administrator (currently, me) before becoming publicly visible. That’s lame. Users should be able to comment right away, and see their comments show up.

On the other hand, WordPress doesn’t have an exact equivalent to the mt-blacklist plugin I was using in Movable Type to keep ahead of comment spam. Though there was some funkiness in how it operated, mt-blacklist was mostly doing an okay job of stopping comment spam without my having to see it. Now that I’m manually performing that task myself, I’m quickly growing dissatisfied with doing so.

So I think I might try the following: WordPress has a self-service “user registration” feature that only requires a valid email address. I’m thinking I’ll enable that, and then make it so registered users have the ability to post without needing their messages to be moderated. Unregistered users will still be able to post, but their comments will need to be approved before becoming publicly visible.

Comment spammers will still be able to register and post spam, if they really want to; if that happens I’ll delete their comments after the fact. If it happens a lot I’ll go back to the current system, I guess.

Your thoughts on all this are humbly solicited. (Though at the moment they’ll sit and wait for me to approve them before anyone else gets to see them.)

Update: I didn’t do any of the above stuff involving requiring registration. See comments below for details. Comment moderation is now turned off. Bring it on, comment spammers.

Dick Cheney for President

Thursday, May 27th, 2004

Go Onion: Fed-up Cheney enters presidential race himself.

Raising the Call: Boycott the Opening Week of “I, Robot”

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

(This isn’t the usual fare, but I have a pulpit and I feel compelled to use it. Besides, I’ve never mocked jbc’s LOTR and Winona fetishes, so hopefully he’ll humor me on this.)

Simply put, I want to spread the word that people should boycott the movie “I, Robot” during its opening week in protest of 20th Century Fox’s blatant abuse and misuse of Isaac Asimov’s classic book. I don’t expect that anything I say will make a dent in the movie’s bottom line, but maybe — just maybe — the studio will get the message: don’t mislead your audience.


Moe on Kerry’s Possible Running Mates

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

From a John Moe posting at Pros and cons of John Kerry’s top twenty vice-presidential candidates. Heh.

Gore Takes the Gloves Off

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

Continuing his series of awesome speeches on the failings of the Bush administration, Al Gore delivered this one at New York University today: George W. Bush promised us…

Bush’s Abu Ghraib Speech Impediment

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

Lead Balloons at Bad Attitudes has some commentary on the weird way Bush repeatedly stumbled over the prounciation of “Abu Ghraib” during his speech the other day: A pronounced level of incompetence. And I have to admit, it is a pretty interesting thing to speculate about.

No, it’s not a huge deal in and of itself. Bush supporters can relax on that point; they don’t need to get huffy with me about how I can’t even let the guy mispronounce a word from time to time without seeing it as some monumental character flaw.

But still. The whole point of that speech was to make Bush look like he was on top of this Iraq thing. He trotted out lots of numbers, lots of basically useless detail designed to do one thing: prove that Bush knows what he’s doing in Iraq. Increasingly, the public doubts that, and the speech was intended to counter those doubts.

He clearly had worked hard on his delivery. He spoke forcefully, with audible conviction. He didn’t stumble over the many numbers in the speech: US troop totals (115,000 originally estimated to be needed at this point in time, 138,000 actually there now), the number of troops in the planned Iraqi army (260,000), the number of divisions in that army (27), daily oil production (two million barrels), number of donor nations in the reconstruction effort (37), amount of aid they have pledged ($13.5 billion), and so on.

So why was it that when he got to the name of the prison, the place that has been the focus of world attention for the past several weeks, he stopped, dead in his tracks, for a long, embarrassing pause? It sure seemed like he was trying to decide how to pronounce an unfamiliar word. And then, when he did finally say the name, he pronounced it strangely, and then pronounced it differently upon subsequent mentions. I mean, really, what was up with that?

Is it part of the Bush personality disorder, the narcissim that prevents him from acknowledging even the possibility of error? As in, Abu Ghraib has turned into such a debacle that he has shunted it off into the mental black hole reserved for things that can’t be reconciled with his fantasies of infallibility?

Did he not rehearse that part of the speech? Wouldn’t his staffers have pointed out the mispronunciation then? Is Bush like Shaquille O’Neal at the freethrow line, maybe: able to pronounce the word fine in private, but tripping over it when the spotlight is on?

I really can’t figure it out. And I can’t help wondering about it.

Update: Here’s some more detail, courtesy of Reuters (Bush trips over Abu Ghraib pronunciation):

During the half-hour televised address, Bush mispronounced Abu Ghraib each of the three times he mentioned it while announcing U.S. plans to tear down the infamous jail and replace it with a new facility.

The prison, the scene of torture under Saddam Hussein (news – web sites) and the setting for the Iraqi prison abuse scandal under the U.S. military, has a name that English speakers usually pronounce as “abu-grabe”.

But the Republican president, long known for verbal and grammatical lapses, stumbled on the first try, calling it “abugah-rayp”. The second version came out “abu-garon”, the third attempt sounded like “abu-garah”.

White House aides, who described the speech as an important address on the future of Iraq, said Bush practised twice on Monday before boarding his helicopter for his trip to the speaking venue at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

US Taking Hostages in Iraq?

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

I realize it’s hard to keep up with the many ways in which our government is violating the Geneva Conventions these days, but if you’re still trying to do so, be sure to check out this Newsday story: US military arrests war’s ‘bargaining chips’. See, if we can’t grab the bad guy we want, we just grab his father/brother/wife/son/whoever, and drag that person off to Abu Ghraib, holding them hostage until we get the guy we want. Which is, of course, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Lovelock: The Environmental Case for Nuclear Power

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

Gaia-hypothesis propounder James Lovelock has Greenpeace, and others, in a tizzy over his recommendation that environmentalists need to get over their concerns about nuclear power, since he believes it offers the only hope of averting catastrophic climate change: ‘Only nuclear power can now halt global warming’.