Archive for February, 2005

jwz on Groupware

Friday, February 18th, 2005

There’s some interesting inside information about the demise of Netscape, along with some really apt commentary about software development, in this story from Jamie Zawinski: Groupware bad.

Bush’s Dome Fetish

Friday, February 18th, 2005

It’s been a while since I indulged in a really snarky Bush link. And so far I’ve (mostly) refrained from commenting on the whole Jeff Gannon thing. ( Your trusted source for principled, objective, above-the-muck analysis.)

But this one is kind of cute: The smoking scalp?

Oh, well, as long as I’ve loosed the hounds, here’s a WaPo article with the latest on the Gannon affair: Jeff Gannon admits past ‘mistakes,’ berates critics.

Okay; I’m done now.

Krugman, Yglesias on Greenspan’s, Bush’s Lies

Friday, February 18th, 2005

An interesting pair of items that got sorted into the same part of my mental filing system:

First, Paul Krugman’s latest column, in which he points out the interesting parallel between how Alan Greenspan is arguing for Social Security privatization, and how the Bush team argued for the invasion of Iraq as an appropriate response to al Qaeda terror: Three-card maestro.

The way privatizers link the long-run financing of Social Security with the case for private accounts parallels the three-card-monte technique the Bush administration used to link terrorism to the Iraq war. Speeches about Iraq invariably included references to 9/11, leading much of the public to believe that invading Iraq somehow meant taking the war to the terrorists. When pressed, war supporters would admit they lacked evidence of any significant links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, let alone any Iraqi role in 9/11 – yet in their next sentence it would be 9/11 and Saddam, together again.

Similarly, calls for privatization invariably begin with ominous warnings about Social Security’s financial future. When pressed, administration officials admit that private accounts would do nothing to improve that financial future. Yet in the next sentence, they once again link privatization to the problem posed by an aging population.

Second, Matthew Yglesias points out that the White House’s assertions about Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri might well be true, but even so, it’s awfully hard to take the Bush people at face value, given their track record: The trouble with lying…

It’s certainly a plausible account. The White House also believes that Syria must be punished for its complicity. If Syria is, indeed, complicit, that’s surely right. And as the White House moves toward trying to build support for some sort of retaliation against Syria, I can’t help but think that I would be 100 percent behind the president in this were I not 100 percent sure that this administration is being run by people who would think nothing of trying to manipulate the country into a military conflict with a middle eastern nation based on flawed, overblown intelligence and misleading presentation of that evidence. There’s actually a reason that most presidents have chosen not to make dishonesty their main tool of policy advocacy, and the reason isn’t that most administrations have been run by intrinsically honest people.

NASA: Life on Mars Today?

Friday, February 18th, 2005

Oops, I lied. One more via Boing Boing, which points to the following story at NASA researchers claim evidence of present life on Mars. The research is currently being peer-reviewed by the folks at Nature; if they decide it’s worth publishing, expect quite the media flurry.

IP Relay and Nigerian Scams

Friday, February 18th, 2005

Dear sir/madam,

This posting will definitely be coming to you as a surprise, but I must crave your indulgence to introduce myself to you.

I am Miss Marah Sadija, former mistress to the son (Qusay) of the Iraqi former leader, Saddam Hussein…

No, actually, I’m still just jbc. But I wanted to finish up a trio of excellent items lifted from Boing Boing with a link to the following site, where relay operators (who work as translators, bascially, passing on phone calls verbatim to deaf users) discuss the trouble they have with the requirement that they serve as enablers of Nigerian phone scams: Nigerian scams using IP relay. (Link updated per the comments, October 23, 2006.)

Teller on Lamont’s “The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick”

Friday, February 18th, 2005

Teller (of Penn and Teller) has written a really fun review of Peter Lamont’s The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick: The Grift of the Magi. Also, the New York Times has an excerpt from the book’s first chapter available online. Good stuff.

billg Speaks

Friday, February 18th, 2005

I’ve had Microsoft on the brain lately. First, I recently read David Boies’ Courting Justice, part of which details the Clinton Justice Department’s successful (though ultimately pyrrhic, given the Bush team’s having essentially walked away from sanctions) antitrust action against the company.

And then there’s my current ongoing job hunt, which has me looking at (among other things) a project manager position with a company that develops web applications in a Windows environment. (And where the person who interviewed me yesterday casually mentioned that a googling of my name had led him to — eep! — Heh.)

Anyway, all that makes the following particularly interesting to me: ABC News: One-on-one with Bill Gates.

January Deaths

Friday, February 18th, 2005

I neglected to update the my graphs for US military deaths in Iraq for the month of January; here they are now. I bet there are a few soldiers who wish it was as easy for them to forget these numbers.

Again, I’m getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first 23 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: I’m aware that we have more troops in-theater in Iraq than we had during the corresponding parts of the Vietnam War graph. Vietnam didn’t get numbers of US troops comparable to the number currently in Iraq until shortly after Johnson won the 1964 election, some three-and-a-half years after the starting point of the Vietnam graphs above.

These graphs are not intended to show the relative lethality of the two conflicts on a per-soldier basis. I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and these graphs let me see that. You are free to draw your own conclusions.

Nichols on DNC Chair Dean

Friday, February 18th, 2005

I don’t know that Dean would have done better than Kerry as the Democratic nominee. And thanks to the careful calculations of primary voters in places like Iowa, I never will. But I know this: If Dean had been the candidate, the contrast between him and Bush, especially with respect to Iraq, would have been drawn much more clearly, hastening the day when middle America comes to its senses and realizes what a catastrophe Bush has engineered there.

Hopefully we can still get there, and with Dean as chairman of the DNC I think our chances get better. So does John Nichols, writing in The Nation: Now he has the power.

Jeff Gannon Quits, World o’ Crap Gets Wapo Mention

Saturday, February 12th, 2005

Valued reader and contributor Sven was trying to tell me about this story the other day, but I’ve been really busy, and only paid enough attention to go, huh, that’s a weird one. And now the mainstream media has picked it up, so I get the fun experience of seeing a straight news story in the Washington Post mentioning a trio of weblogs in their story on the matter, with two of those being current residents in the blogroll. Yay.

So, from the WaPo: Online reporter quits after liberals’ expose.

He has been under scrutiny since asking Bush how he could work with Senate Democratic leaders “who seem to have divorced themselves from reality.” The information about Gannon was posted on the liberal sites Daily Kos, Atrios and World o’ Crap.

And for the steamier version of the story, from the New York Daily News: Bush press pal quits over gay prostie link.

Honesty Results: Richard Clarke: 1, Condoleeza Rice: 0

Saturday, February 12th, 2005

This is more housekeeping than anything else. When Richard Clarke and Condoleeza Rice were testifying before the 9/11 Commission, it was obvious to anyone paying attention (and possessing a shred of objectivity) that one of them was telling something fairly close to the truth, while the other was full of shit. And the truthful one wasn’t the one still working for the Bush Administration.

Anyway, that means that the following isn’t really news. But given certain folks’ penchant for always viewing Fearless Leader in the most favorable light, I guess it’s important to note, in passing, that recently released documentary evidence puts the final nail in the coffin of Rice’s credibility: Condi lied: Declassified memo from Clarke.

Wil Wheaton Gets Work

Saturday, February 12th, 2005

Wil Wheaton has long-since worked off the karmic burden associated with being cast as a little kid on an obsessively loved show about grown-ups. These days he’s a writer, geek, and (yes) actor, as evidenced by his landing a role (the first significant one in the last year, it seems) on the show CSI. Anyway, he blogs very entertainingly about it in the following: and now for something completely different, this electric stream, and i slow my steps and start to blur.

Well done, Ensign Crusher.

Iraqi Child (Not) Happy To Be Cradled by Navy Corpsman

Tuesday, February 8th, 2005

I guess this story has been floating around for a while, but I hadn’t seen it, and Janus/onan (who pointed it out to me) was right that I’d find it interesting: Times like this I’m glad I don’t have a rifle handy, 24/7.

Alternate Explanation for “Bush Bulge” fiasco

Monday, February 7th, 2005

I won’t be so arrogant that I will proclaim this explanation as the truth. It still seems a bit far fetched (in terms of the seriousness of his alleged illness). I will only suggest that sometimes there are the sinister, explosive theories for an event, but often the truth ends up being more conventional, yet still compelling.

It certainly seems at least no less plausible than the “communication device” assertions.

Miniver Cheevy: Pentagon vs. CIA

Monday, February 7th, 2005

Hiro pointed out the following to me this morning: Pentagon vs. CIA. It talks about the recent Seymour Hersh story on the off-the-books Pentagon spy operation, but does a really good job of tying the facts together to paint a coherent picture of what’s really going on.

The leopard does not change its spots. Bush will continue to operate in the way he has for the last four years. And that means, in Cheevy’s memorable phrase, that with the Bush administration, it always turns out to be even worse than I first think, even after compensating for the fact that it’s even worse than I first think.

So, this is what America’s version of the Third Reich looks like. No, we’re not reproducing the phenomenon of Nazi Germany in every particular; that would be a silly Star Trek plot. But we’re heading down the same path, destroying our nation for the vanity of a petulant man motivated by fantasies of personal grandeur, a man unconcerned about the damage he is doing to democracy, and personal liberty, and world peace.

Finding Neverland

Sunday, February 6th, 2005

I’m not really a Peter Pan obsessive; the real ones pretty much creep me out. And with the Michael Jackson trial in full swing, I don’t think we really need a reminder about how the premature theft of someone’s childhood can warp him for life, which is more or less the meta-story of J.M. Barrie’s life, and of Peter Pan.

With that said, Linda and I went to see Finding Neverland yesterday. If you saw my previous review of the P.J. Hogan Peter Pan, you know that I really liked that movie, for all its darkness and adult themes (actually, because of them). You could probably predict, in that case, that I would really like Finding Neverland, and if you predicted that, congratulations. You were right.

The movie is “a weepie,” as Anthony Lane’s excellent New Yorker essay makes clear (see Lost boys: Why J. M. Barrie created Peter Pan), but that never stopped me from enjoying a movie before. Seeing it in the theater rather than at home, with an assorted crowd of families, teenagers, and older retired couples, I was kind of hard-pressed to keep my steady sniffling and face-wiping as low-key as possible, but I mostly managed.

Side issue: What is it with parents bringing young children to movies that are really intended for grown-ups? It seriously mars my enjoyment of a film to see children being abused like that. At least in the case of Finding Neverland the abuse is of a mild nature; the smallest children in our audience were just bored, and were carried out by their parents fast asleep at the end. But still.

Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet are terrific in the movie, but the person who steals several scenes from Depp is Freddie Highmore, the young Johnny-Depp-in-the-making who plays Peter Llewelyn Davies, and whose authentic grief in the film’s final moments is heart-breaking.

Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore

Browsing the indespensable IMDB, I find that Depp and Highmore share a birthday (June 9; Depp was born in 1963 and Highmore in 1992), and that Depp reportedly was so impressed with Highmore’s acting in Neverland that he requested he be cast as Charlie Bucket in Tim Burton’s upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I now can’t wait to see.

Last side note: I attended a screenwriter panel discussion at last year’s Santa Barbara Film Festival, and one of the participants was John August, who wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Interestingly, he said that he somehow had never seen the 1971 Gene Wilder version when he was chosen to write the screenplay, and that when Tim Burton heard that he insisted that he not see it until after he’d written his own version. August said that when he’d finished writing his screenplay and finally did see the 1971 film, he was surprised at how different the two were; the 1971 version seemed awfully light, while his grew much more from the really dark material of Dahl’s novel, with the crushing poverty of Charlie’s family and his constant hunger and all that.

Heh. Cool.

Lindorff Follows Up on Bush’s Bulge

Saturday, February 5th, 2005

Dave Lindorff, who did some good reporting on Bush’s use of an against-the-rules radio receiver to prompt him during his debates with John Kerry, has a good followup story on the incident, and how it was (and mostly wasn’t) reported: The emperor’s new hump.

Thanks to reader Anthy for the link.

Bush: Power Plant Profits More Important Than Protecting Kids’ Brains

Friday, February 4th, 2005

If you caught that great RFK, Jr. speech I posted a few weeks back you know about this already, but man, this pisses me off. Critics had previously charged that the Bush team of political appointees atop the EPA systematically watered down legally mandated regulation of mercury released into the air by coal-fired power plants. The Bush appointees at EPA naturallly denied doing so, so a group of senators called for an internal EPA audit. Now, who do you think was telling the truth? EPA cooked mercury rule, agency inspector reports.

Keeping mercury out of the environment is not some abstract aesthetic goal of touchy-feely granola-eating backpackers. Mercury pollution has proven negative consequences for human populations, including severe impacts on proper brain development in young children.

So think what this means: In a choice between protecting America’s children or protecting energy companies, Bush sides with the energy companies.

Attention red-state voters: Your “moral values” are showing.

Mattis Told to Tone Down the “Shooting (Some) People Is Fun” Rhetoric

Friday, February 4th, 2005 reader Steven suggests mentioning this story: Marine general is told to speak ‘more carefully’.

Howard Ernst on Saving Chesapeake Bay

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

My mother’s family is from Maryland; a long line of us from that side of the family have lived and plied our trades along the shores of Chesapeake Bay. So even though I’ve lived my own life a continent away, I was interested by this: An anthropocentric, Hobbesian, pessimistic environmentalist looks at the Chesapeake Bay: An interview with author Howard Ernst.

Side note: I feel like I need a new topic icon for “environmental” topics, generally. This story could arguably have been filed under “Animals,” “USA,” “Science,” or “The World” (the topic I actually used), but it doesn’t really fall squarely into any of them.