« February 2005 | Main | April 2005 »

March 31, 2005

Bush's "race to the bottom" suffers another setback

Can't this president do anything right?

Americans' Incomes Rise Solidly

Americans' incomes, bolstered by strong gains in hiring, rose by 0.3 percent in February while consumer spending climbed at an even faster pace of 0.5 percent, the government reported Thursday.
The 0.3 percent rise in incomes was attributed to a surge of 262,000 new jobs in February, the biggest increase in four months. Further solid gains in both incomes and consumer spending are expected in the months ahead as the consumer continues to be a driving force in the economy.

Berger cops a plea

"Inadvertently" my ass.

When the issue surfaced last year, Mr. Berger insisted that he had removed the classified material inadvertently. But in the plea agreement reached with prosecutors, he is expected to admit that he intentionally removed copies of five classified documents, destroyed three and misled staff members at the National Archives when confronted about it, according to an associate of Mr. Berger's who is involved in his defense but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plea has not been formalized in court.

(emphasis mine)

Good Lord

What an absolute moron....

March 30, 2005

Hell no, he won't go!

I've got to say I'm relieved that Kofi Annan won't be going away anytime soon. I'd hate to see him quit just when he's so close to destroying the U.N.

March 29, 2005

DU'ers on Falwell

It's been a while since we've checked in with the tolerant, enlightened progressives over at the Democratic Underground, where simply disagreeing with your political opponents is insufficient -- one must also wish them pain, death, and suffering. They're talking about Jerry Falwell's recent illness. A sampler:

I hope he shits himself then dies in it, right there in front of his family. Same goes for Billy Graham and his racist son who learned to hate Moslems at his father's table.

I call dibs on pulling his feeding tube!

Is it politically incorrect for me to wish him a slow and painful death?

Yes it is. May I join you?

Dump his ass outside the hospital and see if his God takes care of him

Things like this make me wish I believed in Hell.... It's about all I can muster for this hateful, hypocritical tub of guts.

I for one am not wishing him a painful death.... I'm much more interested in the torture and damnation of his immortal soul!

Well, that's probably enough tolerance and enlightenment for today. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm a Republican, so I have to get back to practicing the politics of hatred.


UPDATE: K opines in the comments below that Freepers are likely equally ill-mannered on such occasions. So, in the interests of fairness, here is the Freeper thread on the death of Johnnie Cochran. Granted, there are some smart-ass remarks and tasteless jokes therein, but... well, I'll let you folks judge for yourselves.

I know you've all been waiting for this

Yes, the first season of Doogie Howser, M.D. is now available on DVD.

Here's something I've always wondered. If he's such a damn genius, why did he type so effin' slow? I can type faster than that on a Treo, wearing boxing gloves. Drunk.

March 28, 2005

O frabjous day!

I got a surprising number of responses from last week's post on "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." I guess I'm not the only hardcore fan out there (to this day, I wear seersucker shirts because of Carl Kolchak.)

But how did I miss this? Alert reader Liam from the U.K. sends me word that a new "Night Stalker" series is in the works, evidently starring Stuart Townsend as the big K himself.

Hmm, well, that might not have been my first casting choice, but I suppose we'll have to withhold judgment for the time being. I'm just gratified that someone cared enough to bring him back after all these years. I hope they do him justice. If not, I've still got the Moonstone books.

Here's a quiz

Who should tell pharmacists how to do their jobs: the pharmacy or the government?

According to many people, conservatives and liberals alike, the answer is the latter. I guess that "government should just butt out!" meme, which was all the rage last week, has already gone the way of the Macarena.

That was brief.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, I think pharmacists should shut the hell up and do their jobs. You don't morally approve of every single task your employer asks of you? Well hell, join the freakin' club, buddy. And fill those bottles while you're at it (or those little disc-y things or whatever). But let's leave legislation as a last resort as opposed to a knee-jerk first response. That goes for both sides.

GOP on track to lose Congress

I'm as nostalgic for the 90's as anyone. Booming tech bubble and glib naiveté about the threat of Islamist terror. What's not to miss?

It's also the time that I shed my illusions about party politics. Within two years' time, I watched the party alignment of the entire government invert itself, in what was widely termed a "revolution" by both sides. I expected great things from this transition... or at least some things. What I found, however, was that for the most part, it was business as usual in D.C.

Why? Because at the end of the day, a politician is a politician. I'm more likely to agree with a Republican than a Democrat, but I harbor no illusions that either party has any inherent moral or ethical superiority over the other.

What we miss about the 90's depends on whom you ask. Some miss Clinton and others miss Gingrich. I miss them both. I think it's no coincidence that our record economic expansion coincided with a period of divided government.

I realize that makes me sounds like a traitor to my own party, but like I said, a politician is a politician. There's nothing left of the "Gingrich Revolution" save a few tattered shreds of a faded, forgotten poster. The forces that swept the GOP to power are now long forgotten, as the party focuses on nothing other than maintaining that power at all costs.

Today's Wall Street Journal touches on this theme. Tom DeLay, the WSJ, has begun to smell like ass "The Beltway." Actually, Mr. DeLay has smelled like Beltway for some time now. I'm just glad that someone besides Democrats are beginning to notice.

I'm confident that House Republicans can rally around DeLay and save his job if they choose to, but I'm honestly hoping they'll realize that doing so would not be in their long-term interest. Should the GOP continue along this road, they will set them up for certain defeat.

Let's face it, American didn't sweep Gingrich and his buddies into power because they wanted to de-fund PBS. They did so because they were disgusted with the entrenched corruption and arrogance of power on the part of Congressional Democrats.

Many Democrats then (like many Republicans today) probably thought they were immune. They had a pretty good scam going. As long as they couched everything in enough bullshit rhetoric about "helping the poor" and "defending the underclass," people would forgive them a certain amount of sleaze. It worked very well... up to a point.

But there's always a limit. I don't know exactly where the limit is for the GOP, but I know they're cruising towards it at about 90 mph. They're setting themselves of for a Jim Wright-style fall. Thanks to gerrymandering and voters' "hate Congress but love my congressman" attitude, it probably won't happen next year. It may not even happen in 2008. But if they continue on their present course, they will go down, and when they do, they're going down hard.

And you know what? They'll have no one to blame but themselves.

March 27, 2005

Scary bunnies

Ace got me thinkin' about scary bunnies, just in time for Easter.

Here's my list of the Top 3 Scariest Bunnies of all time.

The killer bunny from Monty Python and the Holy Grail deserves honorable mention. He didn't look scary, but he kicked serious ass.

UPDATE: These bunnies also really scared me.

Zora, the Easter dog

Easter Haiku

Kofi is depressed

rape and corruption have him
searching for Zoloft ™

Happy Easter, everyone!

March 25, 2005

When is Bush's next speech?

I want to hear him pronounce Kyrgyzrzgyzygzstan.

"The X-Files" was a goddamn ripoff

[Note: As long as you-know-what continues to consume the entire news cycle, I will honor my vow to make shit up to write about. So, in that spirit...]

Today's topic is: The X-Files was a damn ripoff, although many of its viewers were too young to know it. Its creator, Chris Carter, admitted to being inspired by a short-lived television show from the early 70's called Kolchak: The Night Stalker, about a hapless news reporter and monster-chaser named Carl Kolchak.

It wasn't just the show itself that was influenced by Kolchak. Sometimes it was entire episodes. Remember the one about that shit monster who lived in the sewers? That was a direct rip-off of this K:TNS episode, which was clearly way ahead of its time.

Kolchak was sweet. He had Real Ultimate Power (just kidding.) Anyway, it was my favorite TV show as a kid.

Now to be fair, since Mulder and Scully were FBI agents whose job was to investigate the paranormal, I suppose TXF was somewhat more plausible in its premise than K:TNS. Kolchak was just a poor schlub who just happened to encounter a different monster or haint each week.

A vampire in Las Vegas? Sure, why not. A werewolf on a cruise ship? Well okay, maybe.... But week after week? Eventually, suspension of disbelief became a real problem, even for an 8-year-old like myself.

Not that Kolchak ever had much luck getting people to believe him anyway. The role of the "skeptic," which foreshadowed Dana Scully, was played by Kolchak's long-suffering boss, Tony Vincenzo. I don't think Tony ever spoke to Kolchak without yelling. "What do you mean there's a monster eating strippers' eyes out in Chicago, Carl?! That's ridiculous! I know I didn't believe you the other fourteen times you saw a monster and it turned out to be true, but this time I REALLY don't believe you!!"

Well actually, Vincenzo never said that. I don't think Kolchak ever convinced him of anything. In fact, I'm not sure Kolchak ever even got a story. I'm not sure how he remained employed.

I think The Horror in the Heights was quite possibly my favorite Night Stalker episode ever, and a good one to start with for anyone who feels like seeking out the old shows.

Also for anyone interested, Kolchak lives on to this day. Moonstone Books has a line of comic books (okay, okay, "graphic novels") about our intrepid investigator, who paved the way for Mulder, Scully and... Buffy. Some of these "graphic novels" are based on scripts for the old TV show that were never actually filmed, and others are entirely new stories. Check 'em out. Kolchak kicked ass, so let's not let him die on us.

"I promised I'd show up with a haircut, a new hat, and pressed suit... but I lie a lot." -- Carl Kolchak

Name change?

One fixture since this site's inception has been that some people complain about its name. The term "cynical" is somehow incompatible with a site that leans politically to the right, I take it. Why a person cannot simultaneously be a cynic and a conservative (or liberal) eludes me, honestly, but... well, there you go.

Actually, I've been bored/unsatisfied with the current name for some time. Its origins are rooted in historical events that are not as relevant as they once were. Besides, we don't want anyone to feel misled here at CN, so I'm contemplating a name change to coincide with my long-promised, oft-delayed site makeover.

Does anyone have any suggestions? (Note: nominations like "Sycophantic Bush Ass-kisser" are not helpful, and will be disregarded.) Perhaps the new name could be beer-related. No one could fairly claim that I don't legitimately like beer.

Anyway, mull it over. It won't happen immediately, but perhaps in the next few months. And the traditionalists shouldn't worry. I'm keeping the CN domain, regardless. I've built up too much link equity to relinquish that.

Ever notice...

...how rightie bloggers are much more likely to link to lefty bloggers than vice versa? Why do you suppose that is?

March 24, 2005

A taboo topic?

[Editor's note: It seems that nobody's discussing anything these days other than "THE TOPIC," and I've already vowed not to write another word about that. The problem is, there's precious little else to blog! Fine, so be it. I'll make shit up to write about....]

Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk all owe their very diverse super powers to radiation. Indeed, it seems that in the Marvel universe of the 1960's, almost everyone who got zapped ended up with the ability to perform some cool new trick. Hell, even sitting too long under the dentist's X-ray machine was probably enough to give you "zeta-ray" vision, or adamantine cuticles or something back in those days.

You've gotta wonder how many poor schlubs in Marvel-land intentionally irradiated themselves in a bid to gain some cool new power. I don't remember this topic ever being dealt with in the comics, but you know it must have gone on! I just wonder how widespread the practice was and what the consequences were.

The U.N. takes bold action

Stung by charges of sexual abuse on the part of its peackekeepers, the U.N. has taken decisive action, issuing a series of "recommendations" to prevent such atrocities in the future.

Don't laugh! This is pretty strong stuff for our friends at Turtle Bay. And don't think it'll stop there, either. Why, if the recommendations don't work, I wouldn't be surprised if they issued "suggestions," or even a "strongly-worded request." It's just that they don't want to go nuclear right out of the gate.

This aggressive action was necessary to put this current scandal behind them. There are too many important issues in the world to waste time quarreling and bickering over "who raped who." This whole sideshow detracts from the real business of the U.N. There are, after all, genocides to ignore.

March 23, 2005


I'm listening to XM Radio while trying to work, and I noticed that one channel was displaying the (obviously truncated) title:

Dolly Parton: My Country Tis...

Which I immediately misread as

Dolly Parton: My Country Tits


Yes, all right, I'm bored.

And avoiding work. And I have bloggers' block. I'll admit it.

So there. Happy now?

March 22, 2005

Election 2004

Re-live the memories!

(Hat tip: the Unpopulist)

I am shocked, shocked!!

...that acts of anti-Semitic and racist violence doubled last year in the epicenter of European tolerance and enlightenment.

(Just in case anyone cares....)

Fake libertarians and Terri Schiavo

I had initially planned to get through this entire sorry episode without blogging a word about it. With all the barrels of ink and megabytes of pixels that have been spilled on the subject to date, what more is there to say? Plus, I simply find the entire subject distasteful from top to bottom, and since I maintain this blog for my own entertainment, I didn't even want to go there.

But there are a few things that really bug me about the case, so I'm going to vent now, and, hopefully, never mention it again outside this thread.

First of all, let me clear about one thing. I am not a pro-lifer, by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not even anti-euthanasia, in that I support a person's right to die.

Moreover, I don't pretend to have enough insight into the case to know who truly has Terri's best interests at heart, and I don't have enough medical knowledge to adequately evaluate her prognosis.

But it's not about any of that to me. It's not about whether patients should have a right to die, or whether Terri will ever recover, or whether her "husband" has a right to move on with his life, or even whether he's an asshole or not.

To me, it all comes down to this: Any "solution" which leads, either directly or indirectly, to slowly starving/dehydrating this woman to death, should be rejected out of hand. I'm sorry, but "More humane methods of euthanasia aren't legal" is not an excuse.

As with any tragedy, there are lessons to be learned here, and good that can come out of it. For example, this case drives home the importance of having living wills, as well as (I would argue) for enacting clear, unambiguous laws allowing doctor-assisted suicide.

Maybe the aftermath of this nightmare will help prevent such cases in the future. But meanwhile, we have the question of what to do with Terri. I strongly doubt she will ever have a chance of recovery, but there seems to be enough lower brain function that doctors cannot be at all sure whether she can experience pain or discomfort. That is why I think it's a no-brainer that the poor woman not be dehydrated to death. I can't believe we're still even debating it.

I think the reason for it is that, while this case has nothing whatever to do with abortion, some people have such a strong tendency to view every such issue through the abortion prism that they end up on the side of the tube-yankers. Shame on them.

And here's another thing that pisses me off: all the tube-yankers who are hiding behind high-minded rhetoric about the right to privacy, and how the government should "butt out," and mind their own business.

My God, as soon as there's any issue that smacks even remotely of "right to life," you suddenly see a kajillion "instant libertarians" suddenly spring into existence, demanding politicians "mind their own business" in rhetoric worthy of Ayn Rand.

Please, people. Just fucking please.

First of all, if protecting the lives of its constituents is not a legitimate concern of government, then what is, pray tell? Moreover, as a friend of mine points out, the "government" has been involved in the Schiavo case for years now, our courts system being a component of government.

It's all well and good to say such matters should be left to the families, but where does that leave us in this case? Who should speak for Terri, her husband-in-name-only, or her parents? If her family were capable of coming to an agreement, the case would have been settled years ago, and politicians would never have gotten involved at all.

And are these instant libertarians going to hang around after this case is resolved? Can we rely on their assistance the next time Congress starts pushing (say) some moronic gun control measure?

Not bloody likely. The "instant virtual libertarians" will disappear back into the vacuum and re-emerge as activists who are willing to use the power of Congress at the drop of a hat, as long as it's in the name of mandating some social change which they support.

So please, people. Pedal that bogus, hypocritical limited-government crap elsewhere. It's not fooling anybody.

And for those who think it's "unusual" that the political structure of an entire nation is so focused on a single, individual case? Well, it is. But it's hardly unprecedented. Whether it's Dred Scott or Rosa Parks, our history is replete with examples of individuals who, intentionally or otherwise, have brought our legal system into uncharted waters, which must then be explored. That's the way it works, guys. That's how our legal system evolves.

Anyway, these are the only public thoughts I ever intend to express about Terri Schiavo.

Now let's talk about something else.

Bowling for Red Lake

Get those cameras rolling, Mr. Moore! There's another senseless tragedy to exploit for fun and profit.

And start drafting those bills, Congress! This will be an excellent opportunity to cynically slip in some irrelevant anti-gun measure or video game crackdown that would have done absolutely nothing to prevent this nightmare had it been in place a year ago.

I'm back

Boys go to college
To get more knowledge
Girls go to Jupiter
To get more stupider

See, who says you can't learn anything from your five-year-old nephews?

Anyway, we're back. For three days in Jesusland, we were able to elude the clutches of the Birchers and the flat-earthers long enough to make our triumphal return back up here to Blue America.

Thanks for everyone's kind messages via e-mail and comments, and I hope I wasn't too whiny before I left.

March 18, 2005

I'm gonna make like a tree and get out of here

I'm leaving this afternoon for a few days down in Jesusland. Probably no blogging until the first of next week.

Is nothing sacred?

The "moral values" police are at it again. Texas lawmaker Al Edwards wants to ban dirty dancing by cheerleaders.

"It's just too sexually oriented, you know, the way they're shaking their behinds and going on, breaking it down," said Edwards, a 26-year veteran of the Texas House.

I guess since the article doesn't mention Edwards' party affiliation, it's safe to assume he's a Democrat.

UPDATE: Great catch by The Warden.

A black hole where I once drank beer

Remember that old Joe South song that goes

But there's a six-lane highway down by the creek
Where I went skinny dippin' as a child
And a drive-in show where the meadow used to grow
And the strawberries used to grow wild

Well now there's a goddamn black hole where I used to drink beer.

My graduate studies were in nuclear physics, and I spent several summers back during the 80's at Long Island's Brookhaven National Laboratory. Back then, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) didn't exist yet. All there was at the site were some enormous empty tunnels, dug for a different accelerator project that never got off the ground. The tunnels stood as a monument to fiscal and bureaucratic incompetence and government boondoggles... but they looked really cool and spooky at night.

In short, it was the big make-out spot in those days. Or a place for drinking beer, if you were a physics geek with no girlfriend. I have many fond memories of hanging out by those huge empty holes on a summer night with my friends, watching the deer watching us, curiously from the tree line, and getting quietly drunk.

Well how things have changed! Right now, on that same piece of property, scientists are creating black holes. Well, maybe....

Anyway, check it out. It's an interesting read, and a story that's near and dear to my heart.

March 17, 2005

Some thoughts on blogging

Ever wonder why the same bloggers seem squared off against one another all the time, on issue after issue? The blogosphere is enormous and incredibly diverse, and yet it has this bizarre tendency to divide neatly into two distinct camps.

Why is that? I took one of those bonehead political quizzes before the election, and it pegged me as 60% Bush and 40% Kerry. I'd say that sounds about right, and yet time after time I find myself firmly ensconced within the blogosphere's "red" team.

I used to attribute this phenomenon to the fact that the right half of the blogosphere is basically libertarian in character, focusing far less on social issues than on economics and national security.

Now, however, I'm beginning to think something more fundamental is at work. Joe Carter has an interesting post about this over at Evangelical Outpost. It has to do with micromotives leading to macrobehavior, and how diverse populations have a natural tendency to self-segregate. (As a physicist, I see parallels in the physical world: the tendency of clock pendulums in a clock shop to become synchronized, for example.)

It certainly explains a lot, but it's a bit depressing to think about how naturally we divide ourselves. It takes a great effort not to devolve into a sports team mentality.

During my own political life, I go through certain periods where I'm more partisan than others, depending on world events and which side of the bed I woke up on that morning. I've noticed a distinct, undeniable correlation between my own partisanship and the readership of my blog: The more partisan I become, the more readers I get.

I'm convinced I could easily double my readership by simply tossing red meat to the right wing day in and day out. Now you'd think that market would already be pretty much saturated, would you not? Evidently it isn't.

I have to admit, I find that a bit discouraging. Although I'm not always successful, I try to take the "high road" here, eschewing unnecessary partisanship, and post what I really feel, regardless of how easily it is or isn't classifiable as "conservative" or "liberal."

The result? My readership suffers, my conservative friends call me a liberal, and my liberal friends, as always, say I kiss Bush's ass.

Well fortunately, fame and popularity are not my primary motives for doing this. As I've said before, maintaining this blog is a form of therapy for me. Still, I think it might be time for a change. I've been doing this for well over a year now, and it's time for an overhaul, in terms of layout as well as content.

This site won't go away (I'm not ready to leave therapy just yet,) but I think it will undergo some significant modifications sometime this spring. I just need to take some time to think about what they will be, and which direction I want to go in the future.

Cue stirring, majestic orchestral music

Here's a quiz. All of the following are photos of ANWR. See if you can guess which one CNN chose to use in its report on the Senate vote to allow drilling.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

With all the hype and commercialism that surrounds today, it's all too easy for us to lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday: Beer. And let us also remember that we need not confine the spirit of St. Patrick to a single day on the calendar. We can carry it with us in our hearts, throughout all four seasons, and drink to wretched excess every day of the year.

Apathy Idol

As I've admitted before, American Idol has always been one of my guilty pleasures. Last night, however, we had dinner with a friend (Mmm, steaks...) and missed the results show. I got home and started firing up the browser to see who got turboed... only to realize I didn't really care.

Most boring. Season. Ever.

March 16, 2005

Blake "innocent"

"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." Or at least don't get convicted.

If I'd been the DA, I'd have showed footage from Blake's performance in Lost Highway. Jeebus, that was so creepy the jury would've been ready to convict him on the spot.

SSW of Drew Carey

That's where I am according to the Politopia political map quiz. Where are you?

(Hat tip: Bill)

Dumbest lawsuit ever?

The family of Rachel Corrie, who was run over by a bulldozer in Gaza, is suing... Caterpillar, the company that produces the dozer.

Now I can excuse a lot of bizarre behavior in the name of grief, but when even the moonbats over at Democratic Underground think you're out to lunch, you're probably overdue for a sanity check.

It's illuminating, actually. With parents like these, you begin to understand how Rachel could grow up to make such stupid life decisions. Pity.

Jewish establishments firebombed

Another example of resurgent anti-Semitism on the continent of tolerance and elightenment. This time it's Switzerland.

Gay dwarfs gone wild

Now if this headline doesn't earn me some Google hits, I don't know what will. Courtesy of Jill, we now learn we can chalk up seven more names to the burgeoning roster of gay cartoon characters.

Personally, I think this has gone a bit too far. While they clearly enjoyed a very alternative lifestyle, I rather doubt all seven of them are gay, although I have always wondered about Sneezey.

Moreover, I'm deeply skeptical of the salacious rumors swirling around Uncle Remus's alleged metrosexuality, and I'm pretty sure that Timon and Pumbaa were just friends. Nonsense like this merely detracts from the real issues, such as Heckle and Jeckle, who are without question gay.

Ah well, stay tuned.

March 15, 2005

Eat an animal for PETA today

I can't believe it nearly slipped my mind, but today is the Third Annual International Eat an Animal for PETA Day.

I can't believe I almost forgot! It's just a stroke of luck that I started marinating a couple of pork chops last night.

But hey, it's free!

Captain Ed has an exposé of Cuba's vaunted "health care" system, including pictures. Go check it out... if you've got the stomach for it.

Ebbers guilty

WorldCom's Bernie Ebbers was found guilty of fraud and faces up to 85 years in the big house (as if he's got it.) Ken Lay, you're next.

Maybe now that we have this verdict and Martha Stewart has been released, we can finally be spared all that incessant liberal caterwauling the terrible, grievous injustice of Martha Stewart rotting away in squalor, in some damp, foul, fetid, stinking dungeon under San Quentin, while Ebbers and Lay are throwing Roman orgies on their fleet of brand-new yachts.


I must have this!!!

What is a libertarian?

Today's Wall Street Journal offers some single-sentence definitions. I kind of like "an amoral Republican," although some would argue such a construct is redundant. Then there's Jeff Jena's candidates, "a Democrat who wants to own a gun, or a Republican who wants to smoke pot." Most of the rest have to do with sex. None of these quite work for me, but the piece is still a fun read. Considering most libertarians I know, however, I'm not sure we're having as much fun as they think we're having.

Look who's doing the work

I guess not all Palestinians are opposed to the wall.

Happy Deathday, Howard

H. P. Lovecraft seems the kind of person who might celebrate his "deathday," and as a reader points out, today is Lovecraft's 68th. It's always gratifying to see one's childhood heroes finally receive the respect they deserve, even if it's years after their deaths (Gram Parsons is another such deity in my pantheon.)

I remember years ago reading an interview with Lovecraft published in the old Twilight Zone magazine, posthumously of course. I was amazed and amused at how warm and funny the guy was, not to mention self-deprecating. Some anthology or another of his work had just been published prior to the interview, and Lovecraft opined that anyone who shelled out good money for it was "a sucker."

Well I was a sucker. At the time I thought I was the only one, but now I realize there were tons more of us than I ever imagined. We still miss you down here, H. P. Rest in... whatever. I hope you have a bright shiny mansion in Unknown Kaddath.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Lovecraft R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

March 14, 2005

Real-world Patriot Act abuses?

It seems that legitimate examples harder to find than one might think.

Don't expect the controversy to diminish, however. As is the case with all good conspiracy theories, absence of evidence is simply further evidence of the conspiracy.

March 13, 2005

Rice in 2008???

Oh well. It was fun to think about... briefly.

UPDATE: My wife openly mocks me for bumming out over a pro forma denial of presidential aspirations. (Mock, wife, mock!)

Anyone else seen these?

I saw this one here in Hoboken, in a public phone booth outside an Italian deli in my neighborhood.

Check it out! For only six bucks, you too can deface 100 pieces of public property with hate-filled propagana.

Why does American democracy have to be like this?

I haven't written much about the bankruptcy bill up until now, primarily because I had several different contradictory impulses regarding it. The final vote count is interesting, given that almost no one seemed very enthusiastic about the damned thing, at least publicly.

I'm willing to believe that it's not quite the unmitigated disaster some critics are portraying it as, but that's scant comfort, frankly. When a bill passes by such an overwhelming, bipartisan majority, you'd like to be able to say something about it besides, "Well, maybe it doesn't suck that badly...."

One of the reasons I didn't come out swinging early on is that I honestly believe it is too easy these days for some people simply to walk away from debt they have recklessly accrued, leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab. I know this is not the case with all bankruptcies, but I've seen it happen often enough firsthand that I think it's a legitimate problem.

But is this bill an appropriate solution? No, I don't think so. And why not? What
stopped our lawmakers from crafting a compromise bill that could rein in bankruptcy abuses in a fairer, more even-handed way? I think a less ham-fisted approach could have garnered widespread popular support. Just for starters, why not something like this?

  • Make it a bit less easy to hide assets in most personal bankruptcies.
  • Exempt bankruptcies which were wholly or largely due to medical expenses.
  • Take measures to rein in predatory lending practices.
  • Force banks and other lending agencies to prominently disclose all the "gotchas" they currently bury under mountains of fine print.

Really, why not? Such a bill would redress some genuine problems on both sides, while removing some of the more objectionable aspects of the current legislation. Wouldn't that be better for all involved? Unless, of course, you're a deadbeat or Louie the Loanshark?

Congressmen make plenty of money and have sizeable staffs and resources at their disposal. There's no excuse for the fact that a third-rate blogger can toss off superior legislation from the top of his head in 5 minutes while sitting on the couch drinking beer on a Sunday afternoon.

March 11, 2005

Rice in 2008???

Well, she's not ruling it out, evidently. Good thing too, since a recent
Quinnipiac University poll puts Hillary Clinton in a virtual dead-heat with the other two members of my triumvirate of preferred presidential candidates, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

Sure, she lacks electoral experience, but her main appeal may be simple demographics. In the current political landscape, even with Hillary, the Democrats need virtually every African-American vote as well as a healthy majority of single women to have a shot at winning the White House. Anyone who can significantly erode Democratic dominance of these voting blocks (as Rice potentially could) would spell real trouble the Dems.

And yeah, I'm being cynical here, but, well, look at the name of this site. You can't say you weren't warned.

Final vote on the Senate's bankruptcy bill

Since everyone's been asking, here's how the vote in the Senate broke down for the bankruptcy reform bill S. 256. All Republicans voted "Yea," as did Independent Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats. Hillary Clinton did not vote, and the following 18 Democrats voted with the majority:

Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Byrd (D-WV)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reid (D-NV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Stabenow (D-MI)

So there you have it.

Hillary will protect us from titties

Hillary is now so undeniably running for president that I think some people owe me an apology for all those years of calling me a paranoid conspiracy-monger. Hill has chalked up a fairly moderate record in the Senate over the past four years, but has recently moved even more aggressively toward the center. The latest example is her standing with the Senate God Squad (Santorum, Lieberman and Brownback) to whine about how children might be exposed to violence or boobies unless the government comes charging to the rescue.

As a general rule, I prefer Republicans to Democrats. Still, Democrats did always retain certain advantages for me. For one thing, with a few notable exceptions (*cough*Tipper*cough*), you could usually count on them to refrain from this kind of nonsense.

Not anymore, apparently. Bummer.

By the way, in the picture above, is it my imagination or is Rick Santorum scopin' Hill out like he wants a piece of that? Maybe the libs are right. Maybe he is sexually repressed after all.

More on Saddam's capture

James Taranto is also skeptical of Nadim Abou Rabeh's revisionism.

Elements of it are easily checkable, and they don't check out. This site lists all U.S. combat fatalities in Iraq. On Dec. 12, 2003, two men were killed in action: Jarrod Black and Jeffrey Braun. Both were soldiers, not Marines; and neither one has a Sudanese-sounding (i.e., Arabic) surname. Nor were any Marines or any servicemen with Arab-sounding names killed on Dec. 10 or 11.

As CNN noted at the time, Saddam was captured by the Fourth Infantry Division, and it's not clear why Marines would be along on an Army operation.

It's starting to smell more and more like another hoax, but there is one aspect of it I find particularly troubling. In the Age of the Internet, when rudimentary fact-checking has never been easier, why is the MSM doing so little of it? And how much shoddy journalism did they get away with before Google and bloggers came on the scene?

March 10, 2005

Bush's "race to the bottom" hits snag

The Bush administration's all-out war on the American economy and its destructive assault on our standard of living appears to have suffered a setback, as American household wealth hits a new record.

Rising real estate prices and a resurgent U.S. stock market pushed the net wealth of American households to a record high in the fourth quarter of 2004, the Federal Reserve said Thursday.

In its quarterly "Flow of Funds" report, the central bank said household balance sheet values rose to $48.53 trillion in the fourth quarter, up from $46.59 trillion in the third quarter.

The third quarter net worth was originally reported at $46.68 trillion, which had also been a record. The data is not seasonally adjusted.

Hey Ace, can we get some cowbell?

Some common sense from South Africa

Looks like with rampant crime and unemployment and a fifth its population dying of AIDS, South Africa has realized it might have more pressing issues to address than spending $250 million dollars changing the name of its capital from Pretoria to something more Afro-friendly.

Public service announcement

dwightyoakamacoustic.net kicks ass. It is the shit.

Thank you, that is all.

Piscopo for governor?

So today I find out from Tami that horrifically unfunny comedian Joe Piscopo may be running for governor of my new home state. I guess Jesse Ventura is behind the whole thing. Well, maybe Piscopo would make a better politician than a comedian. God knows we've done worse. I wonder if he's still all bulked up? Christ, I hadn't thought about Piscopo in years.

Saddam's capture: Angels with Dirty Faces

Spoiler Alert: if you haven't yet seen Angels with Dirty Faces you may want to skip this post, as I'm going to be revealing certain aspects of the ending. Of course if you haven't seen it during the past 67 years, chances are you're probably not chomping at the bit.

Nadim Abou Rabeh, a Marine of Lebanese descent, was quoted in a Saudi newspaper disputing the official version of Saddam's capture. According to Rabeh, Saddam was captured after a fierce gunfight during which a Marine of Sudanese descent was slain.

Rabeh's account seems ready-made for Hollywood: plenty of action, battlefield glory, patriotic Arab-Americans and the heroic death of a marine. Why would the Pentagon fabricate something so boring as finding Saddam in a hole? Why would they release an inaccurate story to downplay American heroism rather than exaggerate it (à la Jessica Lynch?)

If Rabeh's account is true, it seems the official version falls more into the category of disinformation rather than propaganda. Perhaps we thought it worth foregoing some of our own glory to deprive Saddam of any of his own. Perhaps we believed the de-mythologizing spectacle of the once-defiant Saddam, cowering pathetically in a hole, would demoralize the insurgency in Iraq as well as his supporters throughout the Arab world.

So back to the movie. James Cagney and Pat O'Brien were kids who grew up together in a tough Irish neighborhood in Hell's Kitchen. Because of a quirk of fate, they followed very different paths in life. O'Brien became a priest who worked with neighborhood orphans, and Cagney, of course, became a gangster. Despite all O'Brien's good works, it was still Cagney whom the orphan kids idolized. When Cagney was arrested and given the death sentence, there was much ado about how he would march to the chair with his head held high.

O'Brien was very concerned about the effect Cagney's heroic martyrdom might have on the boys, so he pleaded with Cagney to go "yellow" when the time came to take that last, long walk down to Old Sparky. Cagney angrily refused, and insisted that he would not, under and circumstances, go out like a coward.

When the time came, however, Cagney did "go yellow," weeping, screaming, and struggling at the restraints. The viewer is never quite sure whether this fit is genuine or the result of a change of heart for the sake of the kids and his old childhood friend. Anyway, the end result was the same. He died a "coward" in their eyes. Did the Pentagon want to de-mythologize Saddam in the same way Pat O'Brien wanted to de-mythologize James Cagney?

Now I'm not saying that's what's happening here, necessarily. In fact, I'm fairly skeptical of Rabeh's story. Here's a post by someone else who's skeptical as well, and makes an interesting case that Rabeh's story is bogus. He's probably right (and if Saddam were in a house all that time, why didn't he shave?)

Still, I won't reject Rabeh's story out of hand until more information is available. Disinformation is a tool that's been employed by every side in every war throughout history, and there's always a chance that this may be another example.

March 09, 2005

Is it just me...

...or is this the most boring American Idol ever?

I know, I'm not supposed to be watching it, I know....

March 08, 2005

Light at the end of the tunnel

In my personal/business life, that is. I hope to resume "Max Power" blogging in the very near future....

Hacked voting machines

Network security expert TeRAYsa Heinz-Kerry informs us how easy it would be for "hard-right Republicans" to hack into electronic voting machines to swing elections for the GOP. Lord Jesus, how many pounds of those gin-soaked raisins does she eat? I thought you were only supposed to take a handful.

Advice to the president

Mr. President, I believe your Social Security plan is headed for defeat in the Senate. You can't win 'em all, and on balance your batting average for pushing through your legislative initiatives is nothing less than remarkable, even for those that I'd prefer had not succeeded.

In short, no one would blame you for walking away from this one, but I know that's not your style. If you remain committed to pushing this plan home, let me offer you a bit of unsolicited advice. If the debate continues to be framed on abstractions such as "trust fund," "solvency," and "transition costs," the battle is over. You have lost.

In taking your case to the people, you need to condense it to simple, straightforward soundbites and talking points, and hammer then home over and over, relentlessly. Yes, I know that's cynical, and if I had my druthers the important debates of the day would not be reduced to such, but that is the reality of the times in which we live. We all know it, and there is no point in pretending otherwise.

So here's your selling point, Mr. President. Many Americans do not realize that the government spends our FICA contributions as fast as they come in. They receive detailed statements from Social Security every year or so that encourages them to believe all their withholdings are sitting in a named account somewhere, accruing interest, and waiting for the day they retire. You have to inform them of the ugly reality, and propose private accounts as an alternative.

"If it's in a private account, they can't spend it." "Don't let them spend our future." "Keep our contributions safe from government spendthrifts." You get the idea. You have people who can come up with far better than this. But do it. And then hammer the point home. Over and over and over.

If the battle can still be won, this is how it will happen. Good luck, Mr. President.

March 07, 2005

Stifling of dissent at CU

The latest victim of Bush's fascist AmeriKKKa is University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman, who will be resigning in the wake of the Ward Churchill scandal. WHEN WILL BUSH'S INSANE WAR AGAINST FREE SPEECH END?!?!?

Bill Richardson: Bush Doctrine is "working"

Normally I don't bother posting something that Instapundit has already covered, but I've been collecting these, and this one's just too sweet to pass up.

Lt. Smash has the transcript of Katie Couric's interview with New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson, one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party. Just check it out.

KATIE COURIC: I was going to say, because a lot of foreign policy experts are hailing the Bush Administration's policies, and saying the Bush Doctrine, of spreading democracy throughout the world, there's clear evidence that it's working. You agree with that assessment?

BILL RICHARDSON: Well, it is working. Whether by design, or by accident, it is working. The fact that the President has spoken out, where in the past the US policy has winked at Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, because of their massive security, and we have energy interests there, we have military bases, we kind of said, "OK, it's alright not to be democratic. The President, in talking about freedom and democracy, is sparking a wave of very positive democratic sentiment that might help us override both Islamic fundamentalism that has formed in that region, and also some of the hatred for our policies of invading Iraq. So, this is not only bringing a good result in the Middle East, potential democracy and full elections, but also it is helping our security, perhaps making us safer, by having less Islamic fundamentalism--

Did he clear these remarks with Howard Dean?

March 06, 2005

Carnivale tonight

I'm terrified that Sophie's going to get humped by that horrible preacher....

March 05, 2005

Revenge on my parents!

In 1972, when I asked my mom if she would take me to see Blacula, she answered, "Of course not!"

Well, now we see who gets the last laugh! 33 years later, I finally watched it on cable last night! Basically, it was kind of a let-down, especially for something you've waited a third of a century for. It was pretty stupid, although I did like that scene where that vampire lady in a hospital gown ran down the corridor and attacked the security guard. I probably won't even bother with Scream, Blacula, Scream.

Still, it was immensely satisfying to get my revenge! Next up? Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things. Take that, Mom!

Okay, so she's out of jail

I really don't have anything else to say about Martha Stewart -- except for this. I've finally identified the difference between liberals and conservatives on this issue. The conservative response is, "What sentence would you or I have gotten had we done this?" while the liberal response is, "What kind of sentence did Ken Lay get?"

Of course both these questions are unknowable; the former is strictly hypothetical (I guess) and the jury's still out on the latter. (The Enron case, being nowhere near as straightforward to prosecute as Stewart's, understandably takes more time.) Nonetheless, we all seemed convinced we know the answers.

I don't know what it is about this woman that makes her such a political touchstone, causing people to bring ideological baggage from both sides. We all seem more interested that her sentence prove some kind of a larger point rather than simply be suitable punishment for her crime.

Anyway, that's all I have to say about the old ho-bag.

March 04, 2005

Something to savor on a Friday

First the New York Times, and now NPR's Daniel Schorr.

During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush said that "a liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region."

He may have had it right.

Does it get any sweeter than this?

Cartoon deconstruction

I saw this cartoon on my friend's website:

That's some funny stuff all right, but I'd like to suggest a few changes to make it a bit more accurate.

  • The power roles of the mom and kid should be reversed.
  • The cookie jar should be replaced by a vat of anthrax.
  • The cookie jar has a long history of malevolence, frequently ruining the cookies within and openly defying the rules set forth by mom and kid.
  • The cookie jar's poison sometimes spills over and taints the neighboring sugar bowl or flour bin.
  • Mom and cookie jar have both profited mightily by clandestinely violating the rules of the house, which were intended to isolate the cookie jar.
  • Rather than breaking the cookie jar, the kid replaced it with a new and improved jar that actually reflects the will of the cookies.

Other than that, though, the resemblance is uncanny.

Yeah, I know, I'm no fun.


New cracks are appearing everywhere in the dike, and I'm running out of fingers. Blogging may be light for a few days.

(Heh, "dike...")

March 02, 2005

Wolfowitz-ization update

I'd always viewed the Bush doctrine as a long-term strategy. Even before the war in Iraq, I predicted it would take 5 to 10 years before it could bear any substantial fruit -- and I considered myself optimistic.

Today, however, the landscape over much of the Middle East is changing so rapidly that even the New York Times had to sit up and take notice.

...[T]his has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances.

Granted, this is pretty subdued stuff, but it is the Times we're talking about, after all, and the fact that they felt compelled to pen these words after years of uninterrupted slamming of Bush's Middle East policy is nothing less than striking. Will wonders never cease?

Hillary gets it

HRC was paying attention when her husband became the most (only) successful Democratic president of the past half century. She was a good student, she took notes, and she has obviously learned Lesson Number One of the Clinton Secrets for Democratic Success: Never spook Wall Street:

Hillary Clinton made it apparent where she stood on outsourcing during her India visit, in an attempt perhaps to clear the Indian misgivings received during the Kerry campaign. "There is no way to legislate against reality. Outsourcing will continue," she told an audience of Indian big-wigs. She pointed out that there were 3 billion people who feel left behind and are trying to attack the modern world in the hope of turning the clock back on globalization. "It is not far-fetched to imagine ... if the Indian miracle would be the one of choice of those who feel left behind," said Hillary.

Elsewhere, Senator Clinton's continued tough talk on Syria shows how scrupulously she has avoided the mistakes her party made during the first two post-9/11 elections.

She is now so obviously running for president that it should be beyond debate. The difference is that now, for the first time, I'm beginning to believe she has a chance.

You gotta love it!

One of the organizers of the Million Moron March has been arrested for possessing an illegal handgun. And some drugs.

I don't have a problem with guns or drugs, but I do have a problem with hypocritical shrews like this one, who want to take my rights away while reserving a different set of rules for themselves.

March 01, 2005

Spare the Chair, spoil the child

By a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty for minors. My feelings on this news are 'complex' (I would say 'nuanced,' but Christ, that's just gay.)

First of all, I'm opposed to the death penalty. It's not because I'm against killing bad guys. On the contrary, I'm all for it. The more the better. My problem is that I don't fully trust the government to meet out death sentences fairly. I've spent my share of time on jury duty, and it's a sobering experience.

So I guess I should celebrate this decision... and I suppose I do, insofar as the outcome is concerned. But remember that old saying about "laws and sausages?" I'm beginning to think it applies to legal interpretation as well as crafting legislation. Why? Because I made the mistake of reading portions of Anthony Kennedy's opinion.

As the basis of his opinion, Kennedy cited several international treaties, including the unratified "UN Convention on the Rights of the Child." Does anyone else have a problem with this as the basis of U.S. law?

Again, I like the outcome, but I get a little nervous when a judge decides what outcome he wants a priori and then goes fishing to support his foregone conclusion. In this case, I think that's exactly what Kennedy did. Even worse, he had to go fishing in international waters. Ugh!

The Cedar Revolution

The Wolfowitz-izaton of the Middle East continues, as the entire pro-Syrian government of Lebanon resigned in the face of a popular uprising. I guess it's time to talk about Jeff Gannon some more.

(Hat tip: Tim)