Archive for September, 2007

Adams on Maher (and Co.) on Global Warming

Friday, September 28th, 2007

A fun item from the Dilbert Blog: On the Other Hand.

SPAM: I Support Obama

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

ymatt here: This might be blatant abuse of my posting power here, but I’d like to take this opportunity to make a personal statement.

Right now it’s only nomination season, but I tend to believe that the general election is enough of a football game that the selection of the candidates may be the more important step for us to guide our future as a nation. In the last presidential election, I felt strongly enough that I cast my first vote (no, I couldn’t generate a preference between Bush and Gore at the time, nor between Clinton and his rivals). But now I have just made my first contribution to a political campaign because for the first time I care deeply about one particular candidate.

I do not support Obama because of his stance on issues, because of his electability, or because he “represents change in Washington”. I gave Obama my money because after reading and listening to the words of all of these candidates, I believe he has good judgment — something I haven’t seen in a candidate in my lifetime. I believe his primary concern is making decisions that are both the Right Thing to Do and have acheivable results, while having the political skill to see those decisions through and — to be frank — to get himself elected while not compromising well thought-out principles. He is willing to use words that are accurate rather than expedient, and he is willing to hold beliefs that can be shifted when the supporting facts change. He is an idealist about how our nation should behave, but not an idealogue about what our nation should be.

So consider this my stake in the ground. If Obama is elected, I won’t be able to deny my support if he screws up royally, but I’m putting my money where my mouth is to say I don’t think he will. Do any of the other contributors feel strongly about any of the candidates, or are we just going to wave the pom-poms for our teams next November?

Rushkoff on 9/11 conspiracy theorists

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

This will definitely be of interest to at least a couple of you: Conspiracy of dunces.

But strange and unexpected details don’t necessarily point to the fallacy of the central premise — especially when the alternative involves the active coordination of thousands, if not tens of thousands of citizens in a conspiracy to attack the United States. We must look at what each intriguing detail or inconsistency actually says about how the crime took place. Again, in the words of my favorite member of the NYPD, “These explanations are principally based on the fatally flawed idea that any confusion or misinterpretation or differing accounts in times of crisis must be the product of purposeful lies. They neglect the idea that in crises, and when there is mass confusion, people do not have specific recollections, only general ones that are highly subjective, such as what direction a plane sounded like it was coming from. Their stories seek to poke holes in prevailing truth, yet offer no alternative that could be seen as remotely plausible.”

Scott Adams on Ahmadinejad

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

Dilbert’s creator offers his views on the Iranian president: A Feeling I’m Being Had.


Thursday, September 20th, 2007

First, I’m back, I know how much you’ve all missed me.

Second of all I caught a JBC post stating that he regarded Halo 2 as inferior. I will not disagree. I will say however that Bungie has really gone all out in the promotion of the soon to be released Halo 3.


The Making of the John 117 Monument

It feels strange but two of the promotional trailers they’ve released are actually, for me anyway, really emotionally moving:

What Thomas Nephew Did on His Weekend

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Thomas Nephew has a photo of a banner I’d be happy to stand behind.

Dayvan Cowboy Video

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

In case you missed it in the links for Podcast 24, this video for the Boards of Canada song “Dayvan Cowboy” is my idea of a music video.

Update: The balloon jump footage is of Joseph Kittinger’s record-breaking jump in 1960 as part of Project Excelsior.

I also came across this other video set to the same piece of music. In this one, you get to ride aboard the left solid rocket booster during a shuttle launch, including liftoff, SRB separation, and splashdown. Fun!

Stephen Ireland: Liar. Also, Otnay Ootay Ightbray

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

I don’t pay much (well, any) attention to European soccer, but I couldn’t resist linking to this item, mainly because of the paragraph I’ve quoted below: Ireland apologises for lies over fate of both grandmothers.

When journalists discovered earlier this week that Ireland’s maternal grandmother, Patricia Tallon, was alive and well – and shocked to read about her death in the newspapers – Ireland changed his story to say his paternal grandmother, Brenda Kitchener, had died. She, in turn, read about her own death and at least one newspaper was reportedly threatened with legal action by relatives on Thursday. Ireland is then understood to have changed his story again, this time claiming that one of his grandfathers was divorced and that it was his elderly partner who had died. That was also exposed as a lie.

I’m sensing a pattern here. Podcast 24

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Join me in exploring my obsessions in Podcast 24: lying politicians, in-the-moment actors and reporters, and teenage girl pop stars.

I don’t know what people think of this format I’ve been using for the podcasts lately; people are downloading them and presumably listening, but the number is small and I don’t get a lot of feedback.

I mostly make these as audio journals of the more-interesting stuff I’ve been listening to on my commute. When I hear something that makes me think, huh, I could listen to that again, I make a mental note to throw it in a podcast. Then I try to add some music that seems appropriate, either in terms of mood, or in terms of a specific lyrical commentary.

I don’t know that there are many other people doing podcasts like this, which may be trying to tell me something. But I find it interesting, and I enjoy listening to them myself (re-listening to them) during the commute.

Anyway, if you’ve listened to these recent ones and have any comments pro or con, feel free to pass them on. Thanks.

‘Chemicals React’ in Simlish

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

So, I spend a lot of time commuting these days. It bugs me on a number of levels, but I do my best to fill the time. One of the things I fill it with is podcasts, including an episode of Fresh Air recently in which reviewer Ken Tucker gushed at length about the new Aly and AJ album, Insomniatic. Note: I had to that point never heard of Aly and AJ, presumably because all that time I spend commuting prevents me from sitting in front of the TV while the kids watch the Disney Channel. But the review piqued my interest, so I downloaded a couple of songs (“If I Could Have You Back” and “Closure”), and then spent most of a trip to and from the office listening to them repeatedly. This led to my buying the rest of the album, most of which I really, really like.

This is weird, right? I brought this up with my 16-year-old daughter, telling her I’d heard a review of a teen-pop sister duo, and how I’d listened to some of their songs and actually liked them a lot. And part-way through the story Julia interrupted me to say, “Wait. Are you talking about Aly and AJ?” She went on to explain that while there probably were 13- and 14-year-old girls who listened to them, and maybe even a few 15-year-olds, she didn’t think that any of her 16-year-old friends would have them on their iPods.

So, I guess Aly and AJ have a slightly skewed demographic: pre-16-year-old girls. And 40-plus-year-old men, like me and Ken Tucker. So, again, weird, and even vaguely creepy, I’ll grant you.

And it gets even weirder: A little browsing around on YouTube unearthed the above music video, in which Aly and AJ perform a version of Chemicals React sung entirely in Simlish, with the video consisting of Sims machinima.

I spend my life in a car sealed off from the real world as I zip back and forth. I watch videos of unreal people singing songs in an unreal language in an unreal place. I play Halo (Halo 1; all subsequent incarnations are lesser essays in the craft), and sometimes find myself thinking of Blood Gulch as being more of a real place than my actual backyard. I’ve certainly spent more time there lately.

Enough weirdness. Even in the noosphere, people need to sleep from time to time.

Pinky on the Iraq War’s Legality. Or Lack Thereof. Mostly Lack Thereof.

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

As long as I’m annoying Janus with pinkyshow items, here’s another one that I really like.

Ant 220 on the Night Sky

Friday, September 14th, 2007

It’s a weird paradox of my life: I’ve lived under some of the darkest skies in the country (at 9,000 feet in the Eastern Sierra), as well as under some of the brightest (in Los Angeles). And while I’ve been an amateur astronomer for most of my adult life, spanning both those times, my interest in stargazing has waxed and waned in inverse (and perverse) relationship with the darkness of the sky under which I’ve lived. That is, I’ve been more interested in looking at the sky at precisely those times when it was least visible, and vice versa.

I think this says something about human nature. Or at least about my nature.

Anyway, the above YouTube clip from Ant 220 of Pinky’s Ant Farm expresses quite succinctly and profoundly how I feel about the sky. Highly recommended.

Dilbert and Chess

Friday, September 14th, 2007

Do want: Dilbert and Chess.

Okay, adoring readers (yes, I’m talking to you, obsessive comment warriors): If you want to make me happy at Christmas, you can pick me up a set of these. I’ll supply the board.

So, it sounds like I’ll be needing:

  • 1 Alice
  • 1 PHB
  • 2 Wallys
  • 2 Catberts
  • 2 Dilberts
  • 8 Asoks

Hm. Then I think we’ll need a similar set of squeezy toys in a darker shade for the black pieces. Maybe:

  • 1 Marge
  • 1 Homer
  • 2 Lisas
  • 2 Krustys
  • 2 Barts
  • 8 Smitherses

Free “Food”

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

So many things to post about, so little time… Petraeus’ charts (“ooh! pretty colors!”), that study of the conservative vs. liberal style of thinking

But no. This is the one thing to break through my Maginot Line of bloggy ennui:

Powell the “Former Everything” Talks Reality

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

While you’re over at GQ, do read the interview with Colin Powell as well. Consider it a double-feature of amazingly competent, realistic, and principled men. The Powell interview is so consistently good, I won’t even try to quote or summarize it. Go read.

Obama’s Identity Struggle

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

I found this piece in GQ on Barack Obama, following and interviewing him on the campaign trail, to be an interesting look at the presidential election grinder. As the author describes it, Obama’s dogged determination to keep his ideals and speak substantively, even when it alienates some constituency, runs directly against the currents of campaign vote-winning and the media soundbite machine. Obama says:

“The danger … is that you start becoming so risk-averse that you become canned and scripted, and I’m resisting that, which means there’s still gonna be some times when I want to push the boundaries a little bit, try to make a point…”

Certainly reading this does nothing but increase my desperate desire to see this man become our President, but no matter your opinion of Obama, it’s interesting reading about the difficulties of any candidate balancing his/her principles against the conflicting practicalities of getting elected. Even though there are issues on which I disagree with Obama, it’s his judgment that I increasingly feel is his real strength — but that’s a difficult message played against Edwards’ populist bombast and Clinton’s stern-faced “readiness to be President”.

Update on the Iran-War Product Rollout

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Craig de-lurked long enough to vote “paranoia” on my earlier item about Barnett Rubin’s report that an anonymous source had told him Cheney was pushing the right-wing press to roll out stories building the case for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day. The substantive part of Rubin’s allegation went like this:

They [the source’s institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects.

So, as promised, I’m here with a report card on how faithfully the listed mouthpieces followed their alleged instructions:

  • the American Enterprise Institute: AEI fellow Michael Ledeen’s latest book, The Iranian Time Bomb, is being pushed by the institute this week. They list an upcoming panel discussion on the book, though technically that discussion won’t be taking place until this coming Monday, so one could argue that the timing is a little off there. The institute’s home page currently lists the same book in its “latest books” section, though that item was posted the week before Labor Day, so again, the timing isn’t very good.
  • Wall Street Journal: The Journal ran an excerpt from Ledeen’s book Friday. Otherwise, a quick check of OpinionJournal doesn’t turn up any obvious smoking guns.
  • Weekly Standard – Bill Kristol chimed in with this item in the Daily Standard blog on Wednesday: Terrorist Training Camps in Iran: Should they be safe havens? (I’ll let you click through for his answer, in case you’re in doubt.)
  • Commentary: The best I could come up with in a quick perusal of the magazine’s site was this item, posted in the magazine’s “contentions” blog on Wednesday, in which Emanuele Ottolenghi criticized Michael Slackman’s article in the Interntional Herald Tribune characterizing Hashemi Rafsanjani as a moderate by quoting from a December, 2001, press release in which Rafsanjani seemed to imply that a nuclear exchange between Israel and a hypothetical nuke-equipped Islamic power would leave the Muslim world damaged but still standing, while Israel would just be gone.
  • Fox: Best I could come up with in a few minutes of clicking around on was an AP wire story on the $2.65B fine over the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing.
  • “Usual suspects”: Not sure who to go with here, but National Review Online has a nice example from Tuesday, with Andrew McCarthy offering up a hagiographic review of Ledeen’s book.

As long as we’re evaluating Rubin’s story, we should also check out Rubin’s own followup posting from Tuesday (in which he points to a Newsweek article from AEI fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht as the beginning of the “war rollout”), and also from Tuesday, Spencer Ackerman’s report of a conversation with Rubin in TPMmuckraker. That item said that “Rubin said he didn’t know specifically that Gerecht was part of the campaign, but he pointed to the argument as fitting neatly within the pattern.” Rubin also cited the AEI panel discussion on Ledeen’s book, and mentioned another event scheduled for that day, in which Newt Gingrich will give a speech on how “it has been almost six years since the attacks of 9/11, and the United States has yet to confront the threat posed by the irreconcilable wing of Islam.”

So, summing it all up, what’s the verdict? Did the predicted onslaught of pro-Iran-war items appear in the echo chamber? Well, sort of. Most of the listed outlets did indeed run something prominent in the course of the week. And to be fair, Rubin said this would just be the opening act, with the big push timed to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 next week. Playing devil’s advocate, though, a lot of this week’s activity seems to be coordinated with the rollout of Ledeen’s book, which would have been fairly predictable in advance, even without top seekrit inside information about Darth Cheney having instructed his minions to make a push at this time. But that predictability cuts both ways: knowing that the book was due to come out, Cheney could indeed have put the word out that now was the time to push the story. Or, knowing that a flurry of book-related activity was due to happen, Rubin could have pushed an invented story about Cheney being behind it, knowing that events would bear him out, at least in the eyes of the paranoid.

I guess I’m left pretty much where I started. Which is pretty typical for the real world, which only rarely reveals itself all at once, in dramatic fashion.

Tilghman on the Myth of al Qaeda in Iraq

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Does this surprise anybody? From Andrew Tilghman’s The Myth of AQI:

Having been led astray by flawed prewar intelligence about WMDs, official Washington wants to believe it takes a more skeptical view of the administration’s information now. Yet Beltway insiders seem to be making almost precisely the same mistakes in sizing up al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Packer on Rubin on the Upcoming Iran-Bombing P.R. Campaign

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

In Test Marketing, George Packer quotes Barnett R. Rubin quoting a nameless friend who talked to a member of a neocon think tank (you still with me?) who allegedly conveyed the following:

They [the source’s institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this — they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is “plenty.”

So: paranoia? Or is this really The New Cruelty? At least the test will be short. If we don’t get the barrage of making-the-case-for-war-on-Iran in the coming week, let’s meet back here and discuss the implications. Or if we do get a barrage, let’s all get serious about what we’re facing here.

Christy Harden Smith on the Good Neoconman

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Nice item from Christy Harden Smith of Firedoglake about the lies of the Bush administration and its defenders: The Good Neoconman.

Convenient how those little things called “facts” and “history” can be blithely swept aside, isn’t it? Each and every time there is no public accountability for this fact-free swill and directly contradictory statements, they push the boundaries of idiocy a bit further. Every time the press allows them to get away with it, rather than raising the obvious follow-up questions of factual inaccuracy? They are further emboldened to keep on lying. And until they are publicly and consistently called on the lies? The bulk of the public who do not bother to go fact-checking between carpools and soccer practice drop-offs and such will never, ever know the depth of their craven public farce.