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March 26, 2007

Blogging from Pearl Harbor

...just so I can say I did it.

See y'all soon. (Sticks tongue out at Mal.)

March 23, 2007


Cue Mal to make some crack about how I take more vacations than our president, but I'll be gone for a week, starting tomorrow, and won't be back until Monday of the following week. I'm going to Hawaii, which is apparently part of the United States. I may or may not have internet access while I'm there, but I'm going to assume the worse until I find out otherwise. Don't spam me while I'm gone, Viagra and gay porn salesmen!! Time out!

March 22, 2007

War against the comment spammers

Comment spam has always been just sort of background noise for me, but lately the increased volume of it is becoming overwhelming. I'm leaving for vacation in a few days and I already dread the cleanup job that's going to face me when I get back.

I'll have to give the spambots credit for being pretty sophisticated. Every time I implement a new "trick" to outsmart them it helps for a while, but they always come back in full force later. They, like, learn or something. Like Cylons.

Anyway, if anyone has any tips that I might not have tried yet, I'd love to hear them. Because I really, really want to avoid having to keep comments open and avoid any kind of authentication step if at all possible, because I know those things can be a pain in the ass. I'm just giving you guys a heads-up, I guess, that they day may indeed come.

March 21, 2007

What's wrong

Here are two of the headlines on Drudge concerning Al Gore's appearance before Congress:

GOP Rep.: 'You're totally wrong'...

Dem Rep.: 'You are a prophet'...

Sad, huh? So what about us people who think that Al Gore is neither a prophet nor totally wrong? I'd like to think that's 80% or better of the population. And yet we'd appear to have no representation in either of the two major parties.

When I first started blogging, I did so because I thought that my philosophy -- social liberalism combined with fiscal conservatism -- was fairly unusual. Now, after several years in the blogosphere, I find that people like me are not uncommon at all. The only thing "unusual" about us is our lack of representation amongst our political leadership.

Body count

No matter who wins the next presidential election, I hope they don't have one of these. Right or wrong, our two most recent presidents have been the most hated of my lifetime (and I lived through Nixon) and they have, for various reasons, inspired their enemies to produce such damned nonsense as the Clinton and Bush "Body Counts."

They're both equally stupid, of course. But this Bush body count? Pathetic. Hell, I could do a better job. Does no one ever update this fricken site? 7653 Iraqi civillian casualties? That number's a joke. Haven't they heard about the latest Lancet study that scientifically confirmed 900 million trillion jillion Iraqi dead? And what of Molly Ivins? A tireless Bush critic who very conveeeeeeniently just happens to die of "breast cancer?" A coincidence? I think not.

The rich's "fair share"

Everyone's always telling us that the rich should "pay their fair share" of income taxes, but they never tell us exactly what how much that "fair share" is. Well I don't pretend to know either, but I do know that they're paying more of it now than they did in the middle of the Clinton Administration.

Interesting, huh? The rich are shouldering more of the tax burden and the poor less than they were in 1996. Do I think this is especially significant? No, of course not. I only mention it because I'll bet it's contrary to what most people who consume mainstream news and read Paul Krugman would have guessed. Why? Because the mainstream media and Paul Krugman actively cultivate the belief that the "rich" are getting a free ride under the Bush administration.

"We fight them in Iraq so we won't have to fight them here"

I'll confess that the logic behind that soundbite had never been especially convincing to me in the past. Lately, however, I've come to see that it makes absolutely perfect sense as a foreign policy -- for Iran.

The scandal thus far

I've been busy lately, so I haven't had much time yet to comment on the scandalous scandal involving Gonzalez and the U.S. Attorneys. I haven't been following it closely, so maybe someone could help me understand the details. I just know that it's very terrible and scandalous because I guess it's illegal now to fire lawyers, or something. Or for Republicans to fire them. Or whatever. Anyway, the important thing is that it's very terrible and wrong and stop bringing Clinton into it too because that was totally different.

March 18, 2007

Today's crappy cell phone pic

So this was kinda cool. I was at this benefit auction last night and one of the items up for bid was House's cane. I didn't win it. But there was an open bar, so I was happy.

Man, if I'm gonna keep photo-blogging, I'm going to need decent cell phone camera. A French friend of the family was visiting us last week, and the camera in her cell phone was better than my standalone camera. Plus, it held like a thousand relatively high-res images. And it was an MP3 player. And an FM radio. With a web browser. Oh, and you could also make phone calls on it. It's a disgrace that a supposed techno-geek like myself could be put to shame by the gadget of someone from a third world country like that. I guess I'd better go phone shopping next week.

Liberals are funny

They're especially cute when they're wailing about the appalling conditions at Walter Reed in one breath, and then proclaiming the urgent need for socialized medicine the next. Not exactly encumbered by the hobgoblin of foolish consistency, these guys.

March 15, 2007

Global warming jumps the shark

First, let me recap my own views on the issue.

  1. I don't dispute that we are in a warming trend.
  2. I am, however, somewhat skeptical that human activity is the primary cause.
  3. I am also deeply skeptical that we can do anything about it by controlling CO2 emissions.

Seems like reasonable ground to occupy to me, and not necessarily the exclusive domain of wild-eyed ideologues. Nevertheless, I'm often told I'm a lone apostate, and that "science" has officially settled the debate once and for all, and "science," of course, is in near-unanimous consensus that Al Gore is right about everything, and to even question said consensus is the equivalent of rejecting heliocentrism. (Of course the people who give me that lecture are laymen all. The few scientists I've spoken with about global warming have been considerably more open in their thinking.)

That's pretty much the way it's been for years. But is it just me, or do I detect that a genuine shift might be occurring -- not a reversal, necessarily, but toward a viewpoint closer to my own. Recent headlines have been replete with circumstantial evidence to support this shift: a leading French scientist (and socialist to boot) turns skeptic, the New York Times calls for the global warming crowd to cool their rhetoric, and a British documentary challenges the established orthodoxy. Now for my part, I believe this shift is occurring not so much in the realm of scientific opinion, but rather, as is often the case, in the treatment of scientific opinion by the media. As a scientist by training myself, I'm frequently troubled by the media portrayal of all manner of scientific thought, and I believe these new developments are positive and healthy.

Why? Because it restores a sense of balance. Urging people to conserve energy is good. Driving a hybrid car is good. Reducing our consumption of fossil fuels is good. But replacing this common-sense advice with a secular religion that threatens apocalypse if we don't partake in the sacraments of recycling and buying fluorescent bulbs? Not so good. Counterproductive, even.

But you know what? I have a feeling that ten years from now, when I look back and try to identify the precise moment in which the Church of Global Warming jumped the shark, it wouldn't be any of the news stories I linked above. Nor would it be the revelations about the personal gluttony of the Church's High Prophet, Brother Al Gore. Nope, I'm putting my money on "Global Warming Makes Jennifer Garner Cry." Mark my words. She will fulfill the role that Laura Dern pioneered a generation ago, by publicly weeping on Donahue about the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

March 14, 2007

It looks like I made the news

I saw this headline in today's New York Post.


Well, I did try. But I suspect the IRS's audit department will have the last word, as usual.

Gun rights in the news

I've been busy, so I haven't yet written anything about the U.S. Court of Appeals striking down D.C.'s restrictive gun ban. Also, I didn't have much to say about it other than, "It's about time."

Until recently, I think there was a hesitancy on both sides to address the Second Amendment directly in a court of law. Both sides feared that the outcome could easily be worse than the comfortable, legal ambiguity we've all become accustomed to.

But I think that's changing. I think the lay of the land has so dramatically shifted in favor of individual gun rights (as opposed to this "collective right" nonsense) that it's time to settle the issue once and for all. Now that D.C.'s taken care of, can someone please bring a similar suit against New York or New Jersey or any of the handful of other laggard states that are still bringing up the rear on our Second Amendment rights?

Sorry, but this is animal abuse

The puppies are cute, but the story pissed be off. Look, I know that breeds like these like to work, to a certain extent, and enjoy having a purpose. Nonetheless, service animals have a hard life. It's one thing to press them into a lifetime of service to help a blind person lead a more independent lifestyle, or to sniff out bombs in luggage, but to detect pirated "300" DVDs? Sorry, but that's a bit much.

March 13, 2007

I like these new Democrats

Why? They're all talk.

Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush's authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

They piss and moan all day long about how terrible things are, but they never actually, you know, do anything about it. What more could one realistically want from a politician?

March 12, 2007

Other things you only see in New York

I guess I should invest in one of those newer cell phones that actually take decent quality pictures.

Elmo in a casket

Some things you only see in New York.

I do the Full Monty

Just kidding! I mean the Full Windsor. (Such wit! How is it that this site has not yet been named Blog of the Century? Truly there is no justice.)

Anyway, on the rare occasions when I wear a necktie, I use the Full Windsor knot. It took a while to master the technique, but master it I did, and I can make a pretty mean-looking knot. I never thought there was anything special about this, I just thought that was the way people tied ties. I was aware that other knot styles existed, but I never bothered to learn any of them, because I like the symmetry of the Windsor.

Then I saw this in Saturday's Wall Street Journal, under the headline "Big Knots Return." Well I don't know about that; I think that if you make the knot tight enough, the Windsor doesn't necessarily have to be particularly "big."

More interesting to me, though, was reading about this knot as if it were something new or rare. I learned for the first time that most Americans today use the "four in hand" knot. Who knew? Had I known this was the de facto standard, I'd probably have given it a shot. One problem I do have with the Windsor is that I'm fairly tall, and the knot uses up a lot of cloth. Consequently, unless I'm very careful, my tie will come out too short.

But no need to change now, I guess. Evidently I'm on the vanguard of fashion or something. And not only that, but tie makers are beginning to add an inch or so in extra length as the Windsor gains in popularity, which is great news for me.

Once again, I've proven to be miles ahead of the syle curve. Below are some instructions for tying the Windsor if you want to be cool like me.

March 07, 2007

More freedom and openness from the French

Via Adam, I learn of this gem.

The French Constitutional Council has approved a law that criminalizes the filming or broadcasting of acts of violence by people other than professional journalists.

Which is not only a fascinating glimpse of the Gallic mindset, but a terrific dangling modifier as well. (Or... something. Maybe that's not the correct term. Freshman comp was a long time ago. Anyway, it's funny. It's, like, journalists are the only ones allowed to beat people up or something. Get it? Ha ha.)

Boys suck, girls rule

At least on American Idol anyway. The dudes bored me so much last night that I fell asleep before I could learn whether House had head cancer. And I thought Paula was inexplicably hard on Chris Sligh.

And speaking of television, the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica really frakked with my head. To make matters worse, my usual support group isn't in place. Dean Esmay always used to host a BSG discussion thread the day after the episode aired. Dean eventually became bored with the series, but one of his co-bloggers picked up the ball. But where is he now, when I need him most? Was Kevin D. a casualty of the recent ideological purge over there? Help me.

March 06, 2007

Hypocrisy and the Libby verdict

Were it not for Scooter Libby's stupidity, Pat Fitzgerald would've walked away empty-handed. But no, Libby, the career lawyer, had to be stupid. I don't care how you spin it, Libby's "Tim Russert told me first, except Dick Cheney told me first before that, except I forgot that Dick Cheney had already told me and so I wasn't lying when I said that Russert told me..." Shit.

Whatever. I'd long since stopped paying attention to the whole Plamegate nonsense, but today's verdict is worthy of an observation. The reaction of some conservatives is fascinating. They talk endlessly about how Libby was being tried for lying about a crime that didn't even take place, and, you know, the injustice of it all.

The irony, of course, is that many of these people were certainly eager to prosecute Bill Clinton on nearly identical grounds a decade ago. The liberal mantra of "impeached for a blowjob" notwithstanding, Clinton was not impeached for a blowjob -- he was impeached for much the same reasons that Scooter Libby was just convicted.

At the end of the day, giving false testimony to grand juries and obstructing federal investigations are either wrong or they aren't, and it shouldn't depend on the political affiliations of the accused. For my part, I don't believe Bill Clinton should have been impeached, but I do believe he broke the law. And so did Scooter Libby.

I'll let the partisan Kool-Aid drinkers duke it out as to which trial was warranted and which wasn't. For my part, they were both very intelligent, experienced lawyers who knew better, yet made a conscious decision to deceive nonetheless.

March 03, 2007

I would denounce Ann Coulter...

...but I can't use the "c" word without going into rehab.

With any luck, her latest stupidity will finally mark the end of the line for this piece of trash.

March 02, 2007

Do carbon offsets really work?

Any business model that takes my money in exchange for an unverifiable promise to do something at some future date naturally seems like fertile ground for fraud and abuse to me. For this reason, I've been skeptical of the whole "carbon offsets" racket ever since I'd heard about it. Who regulates these groups? How are they audited? I'd have a lot of questions before investing in such a dubious enterprise, and I doubt they could be answered to my satisfaction.

But then again, I'm a cynical old bastard. I shouldn't even be entertaining the thought that these are anything but legit services being owned and operated by honest and well-meaning folk. But even if we assume nothing but good faith on their part, there are still valid reasons to doubt these offsets actually accomplish what they claim.

For instance, check out these two articles. The first is from The Economist, and it illustrates how such programs often backfire -- fueling, for example, the demand for more dirty power rather than less. Again, this has nothing to do with bad faith on the part of the offset providers, but rather is a straightforward consequence of simple economics. I often wish the enviro crowd had a better grasp of economics. If they did, they'd no longer make me nervous.

The other article is from the New York Times, but it's behind that "Times Select" firewall crap thingie, so I'll just provide a brief excerpt. The Times piece also gives the offsets market the benefit of a doubt for honesty and good intentions, but illustrates by example how the vagaries of the whole enterprise often result in a real-world offset ratio that is much less than one-to-one.

'These companies may be operating with the best will in the world, but they are doing so in settings where it's not really clear you can monitor and enforce their projects over time,'' said Steve Rayner, a senior professor at Oxford and a member of a group working on reducing greenhouse gases for the International Panel on Climate Change. ''What these companies are allowing people to do is carry on with their current behavior with a clear conscience.''

Some carbon-offset firms have begun to acknowledge that certain investments like tree-planting may be ineffective, and they are shifting their focus to what they say is reliable activity, like wind turbines, cleaner burning stoves, or buying up credits that otherwise would allow companies to pollute.
When it comes to the offsets these companies offer, many environmental groups seem to be even more skeptical than Professor Rayner.

Climate Care, the company that Mr. Grover used to offset his and his girlfriend's carbon footprint, also undertook a project to finance the distribution of tens of thousands of low-energy fluorescent lights in South African townships.

Shortly after the program got under way, however, a state energy utility distributed millions of similar bulbs free. That meant that the ''so-called reductions that Climate Care is selling to its customers arguably would have happened anyway,'' said Larry Lohmann of the Corner House, a campaign group for environmental and social justice based in Britain, citing evidence from investigators in South Africa.

For me, the bottom line is this. Simpler is often better. If you want to conserve energy, conserve energy. That's a good thing. If you want to plant trees, plant trees. And for that matter, if you want to buy carbon offsets, then buy some. They probably accomplish some good, but we shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking they do more than they do. They can't unconsume limited resources, for example, and they almost certainly don't offset nearly as much human activity as they claim. In short, if you're concerned about the environment you'd be much better served to try to minimize your footprint directly than allowing yourself to believe you can lead an unaltered lifestyle and buy your way into that same reduced footprint.

March 01, 2007

Farewell secret ballot

I'm accustomed to disagreeing with acts of Congress, but I can usually at least understand the motivation behind them. But the Employee Free Choice Act, which seems sure to pass, has left me scratching my head.

Whenever the title of a bill reads like an unadulterated good, it's always worth looking under the hood to see what it really does. In this case, it does away with the secret ballot in unionization votes. Ostensibly, the point is to prevent employers from intimidating and browbeating workers into voting the way they want.

Isn't that sort of... backwards? Wasn't the whole point of a secret ballot precisely to prevent management from influencing unionization votes? The only rationalization I can conceive is that Congress wants to allow voter intimidation and browbeating, but on the part of the unions this time.

Leaning Rudy

I guess John McCain will make it official tonight on David Letterman's show, but it's going to be a poignant moment for me. I was a McCainiac in 2000, and John McCain remains to this day the only politician I've ever given money to. It wasn't enough, sadly, and he never made it to the general election, despite being the most popular politician in America at the time.

As for 2008, I've always said that it's pretty much a toss-up between McCain and Giuliani for me, and I'll vote for whichever candidate appears stronger when the primaries come to New Jersey. I still plan to cast my ballot according to that formula, but, although it breaks my heart to say it, I'm beginning to lean away from McCain and slightly towards Rudy.

There are two reasons for this, and the first has to do with McCain. He's clearly past his "best used by" date, and his rock star popularity has been diminished by McCain-Feingold, the Iraq war, and the simple, inexorable march of time. McCain will be attempting to become the oldest elected president in American history.

I still like the guy a great deal, and he's been a lonely but consistent voice for fiscal conservatism during a time when the rest of the party had abandoned it. Nevertheless, I'm beginning to realize that much of my attachment to him is sentimental and nostalgic. It's rooted in a desire to undo the wrongs that were done in 2000, when he should have been the Republican nominee. But the sad truth is that we can't go back and reverse the mistakes of 2000 without a time machine. The GOP has tried to make nice with McCain recently, but it may well be too late.

That's the sad part of my tilt away from McCain. The happy part is that Rudy Giuliani keeps saying stuff like this.

Mayor Giuliani is calling on the Republican Party to redefine itself as "the party of freedom," focusing on lower taxes, school choice, and a health care system rooted in free market principles.

Delivering a policy-driven overview of his presidential platform yesterday, Mr. Giuliani outlined the agenda in a Washington speech before a conservative think tank that sought to make clear distinctions between his vision and that of the Democrats, if not his rivals for the Republican nomination in 2008. The former New York mayor's proposed redefinition of the Republican platform would signal a shift away from any focus on social issues, on which Mr. Giuliani is much less ideologically aligned with the party.

Rudy is sounding more and more like my fantasy candidate, but guess what? He's real. And not only is he real, but he's the freakin' frontrunner. How can I not support a guy like this, my sentimental attachment to John McCain notwithstanding?

It seems that many of my liberal friends are apalled by Giuliani, and horrified that I would support his candidacy (DBK being the exception that proves the rule.) Here's why I think they should reconsider, however.

To my liberal and progressive friends: I know you don't like Rudy Giuliani. I don't expect you to. But let's face a couple of facts here.

  1. You won't like any candidate who wins the Republican nomination.
  2. You won't like any candidate whom I support for president.

I submit that these are both givens. So within that framework, you should be happy that Giuliani is a strong contender for the GOP nomination, and you should be happy with my support of him. There is one thing that you and I will always agree on, and that is the need to diminish the influence of the religious right in the political arena. Right now, that means breaking its hold on the Republican Party.

For the moment at least, Rudy is coming across as our best bet to do that. Granted, he is a politician, and he may very well fail to deliver on these promises. Nevertheless, he's the only candidate even making them. So libs, I don't expect you to vote for Rudy any more than you expect me to vote for John Edwards. But you ought to at least support Rudy's supporters within the GOP, don't you think? Before you answer, think carefully about the alternatives.