Sunday, July 31, 2005

portable hell

Today the Washington Post's Sunday Business section ran a few articles under the heading "Gadgets to Go." One article was about some guy who always has five devices with him at all times -- his laptop, cell phone, Blackberry, a personal organizer, and a digital camera (what, it's not part of the cell phone?). His comparison between the Blackberry and his cigarettes was apt, I thought. When he was a three-pack-a-day smoker, this guy used to light up a cigarette first thing in the morning. Now for his first action of the day, he grabs the Blackberry from its resting place on his nightstand and looks at it before getting out of bed.

A second bit was about the move to make cars more like living rooms, complete with cell phones (plural), walkie-talkies, TV screens, DVD, computer games, and radio headphones for the driver. Plus navigation equipment, one item not usually found in the family room.

I'm not a technophobe (hey, I even have a blog!), but I find all of this kind of appalling. I do have a cell phone; about 5 people have my number and they know that it's rarely on -- with my prepaid minutes, it's basically a cheap emergency device. No camera or web browsing, needless to say. The idea of having the Blackberry and all that other stuff with me at all times just stresses me out.

As for the car -- according to the article, TV screens are NOT viewable by the driver which is good (if true). But it's kind of pathetic to have all these devices to keep the kids occupied while on the road. I don't mind the radio, but headphones -- wow, that's dangerous. And the idea of movies blasting in the back seat sounds equally distracting for the driver.

I have to admit that although my first impulse upon reading these articles is to suppress a shudder, my second impulse is a bit of self-congratulation at not having wasted the money on those things for me!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

run, bill, run

Dr. Bill Frist "courageously" takes a stand in favor of stem-cell research. Dr. Bill, who wants to be President Dr. Bill, has been watching the polls again.

It's funny that Dr. Bill said he only recently learned that the stability of the 22 cell lines grandfathered in by Bush for research was marginal. I knew that three years ago and I'm not a doctor. Obviously his ability to keep up on scientific developments has been hampered by the political blinkers he's been wearing since becoming Senate Majority Leaders.

yeah, gop

So the Republicans managed to get a bunch of legislation passed before their nice five-week summer break. What do we get out of this?

The opportunity to give big energy companies $15 billion in subsidies, thereby making alternatives to foreign oil relatively more expensive and less attractive, thus keeping us firmly addicted to energy from stable places like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russian, and Nigeria. And for good measure, it releases oil and coal companies from various environmental regulations so while pumping more carbon dioxide in the air to reinforce climate change, these companies can also pump carcinogens into the ground water. Meanwhile, it will do nothing significant to increase energy efficiency. At least the provision to open the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve was stripped out of the law before it passed.

A pork-laden transportation bill that gives more money to Alaska than big states like Florida, Ohio, or Texas. That's not in per capita terms, either -- Alaska's 629,000 people get more transportation funding than 16,000,000 in Florida or 21,000,000 in Texas!

An increase of $1.5 billion in medical funding for veterans. This one passed the Senate 99-1. The main reason we needed this is to deal with the tens of thousands of badly injured veterans of the Bush-Cheney-Chalabi faith-based fiasco currently underway in Iraq.

And finally, a bill that immunizes gun manufacturers from lawsuits by shooting victims.

I like it better when Congress does nothing than when it bestows favors like these on us.

Friday, July 29, 2005

ira ends armed campaign

I think I'll wait a few years before fully trusting the IRA, despite their declaration of an end to the "armed struggle." Wonder if this means the IRA will also stop engaging in smuggling and other criminal activity?


Would you want to be on the Space Shuttle right now? Are the crew's families worrying even more than usual about their return?

The shuttle is an expensive, fragile, outdated piece of equipment. Time to retire it and come up with something new.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

robinson's lineups

An interesting article in the Post today about how Nationals manager Frank Robinson and coach Eddie Rodriguez making out the lineup. Robinson is not a stats guy but at least he listens to Rodriguez. Rodriguez also pays attention to little things he sees with his eyes, not numbers (ie, a pitcher looks weak going to balls hit to 3b side) as well as using stats. The whole stat-head vs traditionalist argument is overblown since the logical thing is to use BOTH.


Today the Washington Post's weather map showed our Nation's Capital in an area they described as "hazy, humid, warm". The predicted high temperature? 98 F. Obviously, Post weather editors are preparing for our hotter future (courtesy of global climate change), when we will wish it was only 98 degrees...

bleeding purple heart

Today we learned that the Military Order of the Purple Heart is upset at how the movie The Wedding Crashers treated their medal. Seems Vince & Owen's characters use fake Purple Hearts as a tool in their caddish repertoire to bed the sweet young things they meet at the weddings they crash. The Order is supporting Congressman John Salazar's bill that would let us prosecute people falsely claiming to have Purple Hearts.

Dudes -- it's a movie. I do respect recipients of Purple Hearts -- unlike the Republicans, who trashed two-time recipient John Kerry during the recent presidential campaign. The movie isn't dissing the Purple Heart -- it's just showing how low these two guys will go to score with the chicks, and demonstrating that many of us are impressed by people who hold the medal. There is NOT an epidemic of disrespect towards the Purple Heart and other medals that requires a freedom-of-speech restricting special-purpose law like the one Salazar (Salazar is, I'm ashamed to report, a Colorado Democrat) is pushing. Lighten up.

Monday, July 25, 2005

conservatism costs jobs

A few weeks ago Toyota announced it would open its seventh North American plant in Woodstock, Ontario. Several US states offered hundreds of millions of dollars more in subsidies, but not enough to overcome the extra costs Toyota said it would have to spend on training US workers in the South. A Canadian auto union official said Japanese auto manufacturers have had to resort to using pictures to train workers in Mississippi and Alabama.

It's not just our crappy public schools letting us down. Canadian workers end up being cheaper despite conferable wages because of the savings generated by the Canadian national health system.

Inadequate public education? Non-universal health care coverage? Conservatism costs jobs -- in this case, 1300 of them.

Paul Krugman today weighed in on the Toyota decision, noting correctly that corporations will vote with their feet to go to places with adequately trained work forces and with health costs made cheaper by universal coverage.

gold cup -- tough win for usa

"Vaguely Logical" was correct in warning fellow US soccer fans that the Gold Cup championship game would not be a walkover for the US team. Panama played tough, BOTH teams had great goalkeeping and some missed opportunities, but ultimately I think the US victory on penalties was deserved. (I hated the stutter-step kick-down-the-middle thing that Chris Armas tried during the penalties. Panama goalie Penedo wasn't fooled, but fortunately the miss didn't hurt.)

My biggest gripe is that soccer-haters will see the 0-0 score and assume the game was dull. It was anything BUT dull -- end-to-end action for over 2 hours.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

ted rall cartoon on the missing

Ted Rall can be over the top sometimes, but this cartoon

I found kind of, I dunno, poignant in a way. Not sure if Rall, who has been brutal towards the Bush Administration, means to equate those who have been incarcerated for years without trial with the victims of terrorist blasts, thereby implying that we are no better than the terrorists. Or maybe Rall means that although it is wrong to incarcerate without trial, it is also wrong to kill innocents...

persecuting scientists, mormon-style

The Post this morning touched briefly on the situation of Australian scientist Simon Southerton, who a few years ago wrote a book saying that DNA analysis refutes some of the geneological claims of the Book of Mormon. Specifically, in Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church, Southerton refutes the absurd claims of church founder Joseph Smith that American Indians are descended from an Israeli leader called Lehi, who supposedly sailed to the Americas in the sixth century BC; subsequently Mormons have told Polynesians that they too are descended from Lehi. Southerton's book uses DNA evidence to demonstrate this is not possibly true (scientific consensus is that American Indians and Polynesians are both descended from Asian peoples. Southerton details some of these issues here.

Recently, church elders have been investigating Southerton. In interviews with him, they have questioned him about his book, his postings on, and his abandonment of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints in 1998. And now they have summoned him to a hearing on July 31.

The charges? Adultery. Seems Southerton had an affair five years ago, after separating from his wife. Sure they'd like to get him on heresy, but that's difficult, so they are using adultery charges as a suitable stick to beat him with.

The Mormon elders sound like perfect Republicans. Like today's White House, they don't like science that refutes what they believe. Like today's White House, they will resort to intimidation to keep scientists quite. Like today's White House, they don't mind attacking somebody indirectly on charges that have nothing to do with their real reasons.

Friday, July 22, 2005

gold cup

The US men's national soccer team managed to dispatch Honduras with two late goals Thursday in New Jersey to reach the final of the Gold Cup, a championship for teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean (aka CONCACAF in one of the ugliest acronyms in international sports). In that game they will meet Panama, which shocked Colombia 3-2 in the other semi-final match on Thursday.

The US is ranked sixth in the world in FIFA's ratings. This is a team which came within a whisker of beating Germany to reach the semifinals of the World Cup in 2002, a team which beat Panama 3-0 in Panama earlier this year in World Cup qualifying play. The US will even get to host Panama, ranked 83rd by FIFA, the second-weakest team coming into the Gold Cup tournament and a country that has never reached the World Cup finals.

Sounds like an easy victory for the US, right? They'll be lifting the Gold Cup by late Sunday afternoon for sure.

Don't pop the champagne yet, fellow US soccer fans. Let us reflect on the European championship in 2004. The final featured Portugal, the pre-tournament favorite playing at home, vs Greece, one of the weaker sides in European soccer, which reached the World Cup for the first time in 2002 only to finish 32d out of 32 teams, without scoring a goal in three matches, which had NEVER won a match in a major championship, and for whom reaching the final was in itself a great accomplishment. In one of the major upsets in international sports, the blue collar Greeks beat the high-paid glamourous Portuguese side 1-0 to become Euro 2004 champions.

I'm sure coach Bruce Arena will remind the US team of this recent history. And I hope it isn't repeated!

please, please flush

The past couple of days there have been several instances where I've gone to the men's room and some clod hasn't flushed the urinal. Not sure I understand this. It's at our place of work, so it's not some cheap old guy refusing to flush to save a couple of cents. The urinals in question have a pedal-style flusher you push with your foot, so it's not a question of not wanting to get their dainty hands dirty touching the pisser's handle.

So what is this, some kind of territorial marking ritual like a cat spraying? Dunno how effective it is -- sure dude, YOU can claim the urinal. I don't want to own it I just want to take a whiz in it. Or is it some weird show of virility -- look, I left a lot of piss in the toilet? Big deal, when I've had a couple of beers, I can raise the water level on Lake Okeechobee by two inches -- but I flush anyway.

Obviously these guys are poorly raised ill-mannered louts. Is it any wonder women think men are slobs?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

rapid climate change, coming our way?

This article has some unsettling news as it describes how over recent decades researchers have come to realize that rapid climate change IS possible. Evidence in the Greenland icesheet and elsewhere supports the idea that major climactic shifts such as the end of ice ages can happen in just a hundred years or so -- and new thinking about possible feedback mechanisms (event that reinforce global warming) make experts believe even more rapid change could be afoot.

This quote chilled me: "Computer modelers, now fully alerted to the delicate balance of salinity and temperature that drove the North Atlantic circulation, found that global warming might bring future changes in precipitation that could shut down the current heat transport. The 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pronouncing the official consensus of the world's governments and their climate experts, reported that a shutdown in the coming century was "unlikely" but "cannot be ruled out." If such a shutdown did occur, it would change climates all around the North Atlantic--a dangerous cooling brought on by global warming.

Now that the ice had been broken, so to speak, most experts were prepared to consider that rapid climate change--huge and global change--could come at any time. "The abrupt changes of the past are not fully explained yet," wrote the NAS committee in its 2002 report, "and climate models typically underestimate the size, speed, and extent of those changes. Hence, . . . climate surprises are to be expected." Despite the profound implications of this new viewpoint, hardly anyone rose to dispute it."

And if you live somewhere that relies on the North Atlantic circulation -- that is, the Gulf Stream -- to keep warm, this could chill you, too. Because scientists who obviously haven't been listening to the Bush Adminstration have detected signs of a weakening of the Gulf Stream.

are you ready for a new flu?

This news from Indonesia is potentially quite unpleasant -- three deaths in one family, apparently from the H5N1 avian flu strain. These weren't farmers; it was an Indonesian government official living in the capital city and his two daughters, with no known contact with farm poultry.

The World Health Organization has so far only confirmed one of the deaths, but it appears the other two were also avian flu. The last big flu outbreak was in 1968 so we are certainly due for a pandemic, and all the epidemiologists and public health people are running around with their hair on fire -- the risk of an outbreak has even penetrated into the mainstream media these past several months.

We forget that influenza outbreaks can be devastating. More people were killed by the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918-19 than in the entire First World War, somewhere around 40 million. Public health officials are predicting millions could die if the avian flu becomes transmittable from human to human.

Meanwhile here in Reagan/Bush2 America, we have been starving public health for the past 35 years. As noted here, even with all the noise, most US states have no plans to deal with a serious flu outbreak.

But who needs public health spending anyway, right? I mean, I'm sure our private, for-profit medical system will stockpile adequate supplies to deal with a major flu outbreak, just like last winter when they had plenty of flu vaccines -- oops, scratch that... Fact is, dealing with epidemics is something the private sector is woefully unprepared to do. There is no profit in quarantining people or in providing vaccinations for the masses.

So what is the US plan to deal with the risk of an outbreak? Cross your fingers. No, I don't mean cross your fingers to hope we have a plan -- that IS the plan. Sorry folks, public health doesn't just happen by itself. It takes money to plot threats and plan responses to health epidemics, and our political leaders (mostly elected by us) haven't paid.

We aren't ready.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

democracy in iraq?

As long as we're still claiming that spreading democracy (not WMD) was our rationale for invading Iraq, can't we at least try to avoid BACKSLIDING on women's rights there in the process? Women, if they weren't being raped by Saddam's sons, at least had much better rights in Saddam's secular (albeit brutal) Iraq than in most other Arab states, particulary before the first Gulf War -- and better than they would have under sharia law, as the current draft of the new Iraqi constitution envisions.

If we're going to use democracy as our excuse for invading and occupying a country, we should at least make it a reasonable model. Not all democracies have to look just like that of the US -- but basic rights for women, such as the ability to marry whom they wish, should be a minimum standard.

ivins on rove

As usual, Molly Ivins has it right about Karl Rove and the whole stinking mess. A long excerpt:

The entire Republican Party is shocked (!) anyone would think that Karl Rove (!!) would leak a story to damage a political opponent. Oh, the horror. And Karl has always been such a sweet guy. Just to give you an idea, one time Rove was displeased with the job done by a political advance man and said, "We will f--- him. Do you hear me? We will f--- him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever f---ed him!" (From an article by Ron Suskind). And that was a guy who was on his side.

Attacking an opponent's wife is standard operating procedure for Rove. Have Republicans actually convinced themselves that he wouldn't do such a thing? People, sometimes party loyalty asks too much.

Actually, we are missing the point here. The point being that Joseph Wilson is merely one of the many people who provided one of the by now innumerable pieces of evidence that this administration lied about why we went to war in Iraq. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill wrote that Bush planned to invade Iraq from the day he took office, the administration went after O'Neill. When Richard Clarke disclosed that the Bushies wanted to use Sept. 11 to go after Saddam Hussein from Sept. 12 on, they went after Clarke. They went after Gen. Zinni, they went after Gen. Shinseki and everyone else who opposed the folly or told the truth about it. After they got done lying about weapons of mass destruction and about connections to Al Qaeda, they switched to the stomach-churning pretense that we had done it all for democracy. Urp.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

it's roberts

Bush has picked John G. Roberts for Supreme Court. He is very very conservative but since Bush says he has a good heart and loves his country, I'm sure he'll be just wonderful.

Let the games begin. The timing, as Leaking-Rovegate heats up, is of course pure coincidence.

rove humor

This is funny. Soon we'll all be squawking about Bush's Supreme Court pick instead, but Fitzgerald won't drop the case and we'll hear about Rove again.

intimidating scientists

Republican chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee Joe Barton (TX) is investigating three scientists who have the nerve to chart the rapid warming here on Planet Earth over recent years. Barton insists he is merely looking into a "dispute" (relying on two Canadian scientists' doubts, definitely a minority view in the scientific community) about the science. Barton ominously told the scientists that his review of their data will have a bearing on this federally-funded research.

To his credit, New York Republican Sherman Boehlert has called Barton out on this, stating baldly that he fears Barton is trying to intimidate the scientists.

Gosh, a Texas Republican casting doubt on climate change. Where have we heard that one before? Add intimidation to the usual GOP tactics of telling lies, calling for "better science", and ignoring what they don't want to hear from the scientific community. How medieval.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

disposing corrupted computers

Can't argue with the logic in this New York Times article -- rather than hassle with a computer that's infected with spyware and other crap, throw the damn thing out and start over with a cheap PC.

But I resent having to resort to such measures. And I resent the fact that these unscrupulous clowns can install software on MY computer without asking MY permission.

I don't think simply clicking on a link or a pop-up ad should imply consent, and I don't think burying spyware in a piece of legitimate freeware willingly downloaded implies consent to being tracked either. What will it take to change legal attitudes towards this sort of intrusion?

disneyland's fiftieth

Disneyland turns fifty today, and the hype (aka, lots of free advertising, courtesy of MSM) is on. Hell, even the Washington Post's Sunday Magazine crossword puzzle is about Disneyland.

I went to Disneyland when I was just a kid, and to Disneyworld too. They were fun, at least for us kids, although now they look insanely expensive to me. Nowadays when I see the name Disney I think of the studio's habit of distorting history in making movies, and in reinforcing sex roles -- you know, how basically every Disney heroine isn't really complete until some brave man (preferably a prince) comes along to save her from her drab life.

In Pocahontas, the Disney team turned a ten-year-old kid into a fine Native American Barbie, aged twenty. They created a romance between Pocahontas and John Smith that did not exist historically. Indeed, it could NOT have happened because Captain Smith had had his, ahem, manhood, destroyed in some sort of accident years earlier. But Disney obviously thought sexing up a story, not to mention making other changes in the circumstances of Pocahontas and her tribe, the Powhatan, would make things more interesting. Too bad it was so distorting at the same time, especially since unlike movies like The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas was supposed to be based on history.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

duke quits

Good riddance to a corrupt political hack. I wish Cunningham had run for re-election, would have given the Democrats an excellent chance at taking the seat. Obviously the RNC saw things the same way, and I'm sure they helped Duke come to the realization that now might be a good time to pursue other opportunities.

Think he'll get a job as a lobbyist for a defense contractor? After all, he's well-versed in the various sleazy ways to get money into the pockets of congressmen without doing something so crass as handing over suitcases full of cash.


The new Harry Potter is officially hot. If you struck out at the local bookshop, you might try hustling to your nearest Harris Teeter grocery store; I was there at 7:00 this morning and they had a couple dozen copies for sale by the front registers.

But I think I'll pass. I read the first one and it was not bad, but from what people tell me it sounds like the same story over and over. I dunno how many variations of "the professor of dark arts did it" people can stand!

Friday, July 15, 2005

don't pray for me

Save your breath and don't pray for me (not that you would). Researchers at Duke have concluded from their study that there is no discernible health benefit from having strangers pray for you.

Obviously, constructing such a study is tough -- for example, what is the daily recommended dose for a prayer? How does it vary? Do 50-year-old men need a different daily prayer quotient than 30-year-old women? Precisely how much prayer is need to make a cancer clear up? How much to make hair grow again on a bald guy's head? Is a devout Muslim's prayer the same as a Buddhist's or Baptist's?

A reverend at a New York hospital took exception that the study has disproved the power of prayer. He said "... to think that you can research it (prayer) is inconceivable to me. Prayer is presumably a way of addressing God, and there's no way to scientifically test God. God is not subject to scientific research."

He's probably right. Similarly, you can't scientifically test creationism (or intelligent design, to use the orwellian alternative) -- so it shouldn't be taught as a "science."

bonds is baseball's rove

The GOP media machine is in full cry, spreading the usual chaff about Joe Wilson etc to distract us all from the nub of the truth: Karl Rove and somebody else in the Administration revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent to a journalist, and Karl Rove and/or several somebody elses have lied to the special prosecutor about this. John Dean, who knows a thing or two about scandals, says that Rove could be in serious trouble regardless of whether his actions meet the definition needed to be convicted of revealing Plame's identity, based on this.

Remember, this investigation isn't about punishing Karl Rove, who the GOP would have us believe is the whistleblower. It is about the release of classified information to punish the true whistleblower, Joe Wilson.

Rove has played a key role in the poisoning of the political atmosphere, following in Lee Atwater's hatchet-man footsteps. Although not the only practicioner of the politics of lies, slander, and stonewalling, Rove is the most prominent of this breed, and his success has influenced many others.

Barry Bonds is to steroid-juiced baseball as Rove is to sleazy attack politics -- not the only user, but the most prominent, and the one who has perhaps benefitted most. Bonds hasn't played one game so far this year and now it appears he may not play at all this year.

I hope he never plays again. I defended Bonds years ago against criticism that he didn't perform well in the post-season, and said his less-than-ebulliant personality wouldn't keep me from wanting him on my favorite team. But over the past 5-6 years his body has grown so bloated, putting on weight differently than a maturing athlete in his late 30s would usually do, that there could be no doubt he was using steroids. I don't buy his excuse that he didn't know what clears and cremes were; Bonds has always been renowned for being very particular about his diet and his health, so it is impossible to believe he would ingest unknown substances on the recommendation of his Balco dealer without knowing exactly what they are.

So I don't want Bonds to break Hank Aaron's career home run record, and I don't want him to pass Babe Ruth for second. The first two-thirds of Bonds' career has already qualified him for the Hall of Fame; he has always been a great hitter. The explosion in his home run power coincides with the increase in his collar and chest, and his improvement as a hitter since age 35 has no parallel in baseball history. His statistics are tainted, as are those of many other players. It's too bad Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa have passed Roger Maris for single-season home runs. Let's hope Aaron and Ruth aren't eclipsed by Balco Bonds.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

more administration lies

Medical experts studying a web site run by the Department of Health and Human Services found -- surprise -- that it was full of misleading and just plain wrong information that could raise the risk of teens engaging in risky behavior.

As the Washington Post reports, the site -- -- lies (my word, not the Post's) about condoms, sexual orientation, single parent households, and the dangers of oral sex, and leaves out much other information that would be useful to parents and kids. Somewhat surprisingly, given the moralistic preaching tone of this administration, it omits information about the dangers of drinking alcohol.

Instead of giving accurate information about the prevention of STDs, the HHS site, designed by a right-wing non-profit, emphasizes abstinence-until-marriage programs. After all, anybody who has sex before marriage is just a hedonistic slut, so there is no obligation to help them in their immoral lifestyle.

They're from the government, and they're here to lie to us.

a belated apology

Today RNC Chairman Ken "Mini-Karl" Mehlman said the GOP's infamous "Southern Strategy" was wrong, and apologized for the Republican's use of racially polarizing tactics to win elections.

Pardon me for doubting their sincerity. Fact is, given the closeness of the numbers of voters identifying with Democrats and Republicans, the GOP would like to make some inroads into the African-American vote and, now enjoying the benefits of four decades of race baiting, are willing to say they're sorry in the hope they can peel off some support from the Democrats. Isn't that special?

Now I'll wait for the GOP to apologize for using intentionally inaccurate and over-broad methods to prevent tens of thousands of felons and people whose names RESEMBLED those of felons from voting in Florida in 2000 and 2004, based on the theory that felons in Florida are disproportionately black and inclined to vote for the Democrats. And then I'll wait for Jeb Bush to apologize for the road blocks and ID checks that Florida law enforcement set up on election day 2000 in predominantly black parts of Florida. I'll wait for the GOP to apologize for the signs in black neighborhoods of US cities reminding people to vote -- and giving the wrong date. I'll wait for election officials in many states, including Ohio, that provide woefully inadequate numbers of voting machines in predominantly black neighborhoods (and poor neighborhoods that aren't mostly black), while white suburban voters have ten times as many machines available to them.

But I won't hold my breath.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

shut up and shut up

Shut up, hang up, and drive. Here's why. Anecdotes are not proof I realize, but I've been almost run over twice by people yakking on cell phones while driving. It's worse than talking to another person in the car -- at least then there is a second set of eyes on the road (maybe), and the person understands the context the driver is operating in and (maybe) will shut up or even yell "Look out!" once in a while as the situation warrants.

Cell phone lobby doesn't like this and equates talking on the cell phone to eating while driving. The fact that this isn't the only dangerous habit for drivers to indulge in doesn't excuse it. Or would the cell phone lobby also like to push for the revocation of drunk driving laws? After all, a driver who is mildly drunk but is otherwise paying attention to the road may be a lesser risk than somebody in the middle of an animated conversation with their best friend calling about her vacation in Vegas...

Speaking of shut up, I'm tired of hearing about people whose beach houses were damaged in a hurricane. Comes with the territory, folks. You don't like it, move back to Nebraska or even just a couple of miles inland.

Finally, a pre-emptive shut-up to whatever Bushie or evangelist spokesoid comes out to refute this study that says access to the morning after pill didn't raise unprotected sexual activity among women in Britain. I'm sure they'll say that allowing these medicines will just encourage sluts to be sluts.


Things seem to be heating up for Karl Rove. This quote from Poppy's speech at the CIA in 1999 doesn't really help: "Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors." Ironically, Karl Rove was fired by Poppy Bush's campaign in 1992 for a leak to Bob Novak...

Maybe Rove didn't reveal Plame's name and non-official cover status -- but he certainly was involved in the episode in some way, despite all the earlier denials. As usual, Juan Cole sums it up well here: "A man who would do what Rove did should not be in the White House in any capacity. And no person who tolerates a man like Rove in the White House should be commander in chief of American security."

So what will happen to Turd Blossom? Usually, a vote of confidence like the one Scott McClellan gave Tuesday is a sign of an impending departure to "pursue other opportunities." But Rove is awfully close to Bush, who doesn't like to be told who to hire and fire -- witness Rumsfeld's continued gainful employment. Consensus seems to be if he's indicted, he's toast, but otherwise he'll stick around. I think he'll survive, unfortunately.

Monday, July 11, 2005

supporting the troops

The war in Iraq was based on impeachable lies and criminally poor judgment -- but the troops there deserve the best medical support possible if they come back wounded.

So how does the US Army treat severely wounded soldiers? By trying to push 'em out of the military and off of the US Army's medical expense account.

Due to a combination of factors -- the nature of insurgent attacks and bombings, increased survivability rates due to the body being so well protected by kevlar armor, greatly improved military emergency medicine -- there are, proportionate to battlefield deaths, many more troops in Iraq are surviving with severe damage to the head and limbs than in previous wars. This means more amputees and more severely brain damaged troops that will need significant medical care for years, or perhaps for the rest of their lives. And it will be expensive.

But that's part of the bargain. We recruit these young people for dangerous jobs, and the least we owe them is appropriate medical treatment for the appropriate time if they are hurt in King George's War. To do anything less is a gross breach of our moral contract with them.

Support the troops, indeed.

free the nationals!

Baseball has reached the All Star break and improbably the Washington Nationals are in first place in the NL East. They've gotten there based on good pitching, decent defense, and some luck. Although first was too much to hope for, the Montreal Expos in the second half of last year were a decent team, as they were in 2003 and 2002, so it is maybe less of a surprise than it appears.

What is really a surprise is that we are over half-way thru the season and Major League Baseball STILL hasn't selected a winning bid for the team. How long does it take to make a pick and pocket $350 million? Let's get going here, Bud Selig. Time's a-wastin' here -- every day without an owner is one more day where the hideous TV deal with Peter Angelos' Orioles holds the Nats back from adequate local exposure.

Of course, every day without an owner is one more day that the 29 co-owners of the now-profitable franchise can pocket a few bucks. But surely baseball's bosses couldn't be that crass or venal. Could they?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

the paris hilton relief bill

The Senate is getting ready to vote on the repeal of the estate tax, called the "death tax" by its Republican opponents. The facts: despite all the bullshit rhetoric, it only affects 1% of Americans, and in a study the Congressional Budget Office reveals that it might have caused precisely ZERO family farms to have to be sold to pay the tax since 2000.

As is the case with Bush's other economic policies, this repeal is another bold cash grab by the economic elites of this country; the $23 billion these richest 1% of the population will save will of course have to be made up by the other 99% of us. That is, me and you and your brother and the guy your sister works with. Quite simply, this is naked class warfare. Right now the rich hold all the cards, and they aren't shy about using their power.

Republicans talk about "fairness" and about creating jobs when they slash taxes on the rich. Dunno about you, but I'm still waiting for that trickle down effect to reach me. Meanwhile, we can all sleep better knowing that Paris Hilton will have an even bigger inheritance when this bill is passed.


Is anybody remotely surprised to learn that Karl Rove was in fact involved in the leak of CIA operative Victoria Plame's undercover identity? No, I didn't think so.

Friday, July 08, 2005

london and iraq and september 11

It depressed me today to hear relatively educated people I know say stupid things following the terrorist attacks in London yesterday. One person said this happened because the Spanish proved that terrorism worked. It is true that the terrorist attacks in Spain last year were right before the election, by design. But it was the transparently false, fumbling attempts by the Aznar government to try to make people think the Basque terrorists had done it that really pissed off Spanish voters. If the Aznar government had played it straight with the Spanish electorate, they might have retained power.

Another person said the attack wouldn't have happened if the British weren't in Iraq. Well, not really. Fundamentalist Islamic terrorists have plenty of things to dislike about the British and other Western, democratic and (in their eyes) decadent anti-Islamic pro-Israel societies.

And several people again took the President's lead to imply somehow that Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks of September 11. People, please believe me: Bin Laden and Al Qaeda hated Hussein's secular, Baath/socialist Iraqi regime for being insufficiently Islamist. Just like they hate pretty much EVERY Arab government. Just because two groups (the Baathist regime and Al Qaeda) are largely comprised of Arab Muslims does NOT mean (despite Dick Cheney's allegations) that they cooperate or share common goals. Don't believe the lies -- Iraq was not ABOUT September 11, the Bush administration used September 11 and WMD (remember them?) as the EXCUSE to invade.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

london, yesterday and today

Nothing much to add to the news today about the Al Qaeda attacks on London's subways and trains today. Terrible and heartbreaking scenes. I admired Tony Blair's defiant response on TV. He was fortunate not to be holding a child's book when he got the news, I guess. This morning I was looking at newspapers with cover photos of Londoners cheering in Trafalgar Square, Union Jacks all over, celebrating having been awarded the Olympics for 2012. Tomorrow morning the same newspapers will show us a destroyed London icon, the double-decker bus that was blown up this morning.

I saw articles with the predictable reactions of world leaders, many of whom were in Scotland with Blair for the G-8 Summit. I was glad to see French President Jacques Chirac right behind Blair as the PM gave his first reaction on television today. The British and French go at each other a lot as the latest flap concerning English food and London winning the Olympics demonstrate, but they are two countries I admire and I always hope they will put behind their differences and remember their common commitment to civilization and democracy -- even though their visions of a democratic society are different.

One reaction sickened me, though: Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said "I condemn the bomb attacks in London this morning. I have sent a message of sympathy and solidarity to Mr. Blair and the London mayor, Ken Livingstone. On behalf of Sinn Fein I offer my sincere condolences to the victims and the families of those killed and injured and to the people of London."

I imagine that will be a great comfort to people in England, especially as they remember the hundreds of people killed and injured in IRA terrorist attacks in England over the past three decades -- not to mention the even greater casualties in Northern Ireland. I'd call Adams a hypocritical maggot, but really that's unfair to maggots. I can't believe Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ever invited this bastard to the White House.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

quoting: schwarzenegger and bush

In an interview with the British newspaper The Independent, California governor (it still seems strange to say that) Arnold Schwarzenegger said: "The debate is over. We know the science. We see the threat posed by changes in our climate. And we know the time for action is now."

Arnold clearly doesn't buy the Bush Administration's mantra about on the lack of a scientific consensus for climate change. Guess he can rule out Exxon's support for any campaign to change the Constitution to let naturalized Americans run for President.

But of course, Gov. Schwarzenegger is right, and deserves credit for saying so despite President Bush's calls for "more study" and VP Cheney's disparaging remarks about conservation being a question of personal virtue. It's a shame that states like California or cities like Portland, Oregon, have to take action to cut carbon emissions because of Federal paralysis.

Meanwhile, the President isn't enjoying the nasty barbs being named at Alberto Gonzales by his right-wing buddies. He told USA Today: "Al Gonzales is a great friend of mine. I'm the kind of person, when a friend gets attacked, I don't like it." As I've said before, publicly attacking Gonzales is precisely the wrong tactic for the social conservatives to use if they want Bush to appoint one of their favorites. Bush doesn't like being told what not to do...

Monday, July 04, 2005

o'connor replacement watch, day 3

Evangelicals are already pressing hard for a suitably "family friendly" (that is code for "unfriendly to anybody who doesn't see things exactly as we do, praise Jesus) nominee to the Supreme Court. How do they feel about Alberto "Souter" Gonzales as a possible selection? Family Research Council president Tony Perkins sums it up well: "Our position on Attorney General Gonzales is, he holds great promise as an attorney general."

The best bet for a relatively sane selection (short of body snatchers taking over the bodies of Bush and a couple of dozen GOP senators) is the much quieter pressure Bush will get from the true paymasters of the Republican party, business conservatives. Although O'Connor was quite moderate on social issues, she was a strong supporter of business during her tenure on the Court, and business interests don't want to risk losing that edge since many socially conservative jurists do not necessarily toe the corporate line on business/economic issues.

I also wonder whether social conservative/evangelist pressure on Bush will backfire. Like him or not, Bush is well known to be stubborn and to not respond well to being pushed around. He's also prone to making his own decisions on personnel that don't always accord with those of his advisors and backers, and to reward those loyal and close to him. You know, people like Alberto Gonzales. The wing-nuts just might push Bush to go with his gut and name his good friend Gonzales, scoring some points too for the first Hispanic on the Court.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

time to end lifetime appointments?

I've read commentary on advances in medicine and genetics saying that the first person to live to be a thousand years old may already be alive. And now we have a Supreme Court vacancy. Maybe now is the time to revisit the lifetime appointment system for justices and judges, before the technology gets any further advanced.

There are good cases for limiting appointments anyway -- but do we want the Supreme Court and the rest of the judicial system to be potentially frozen in time by the fluke of people happening to be in place when life extending treatment becomes available to the moderatly well off?

I suggest 30 year terms for all federal judges, with the ability to be nominated without need for reconfirmation for one 5-7 year extension. A 30-year term is long enough to keep judges from worrying about re-election or pressure from the executive branch. It would also have the advantage of reducing pressure on a President to look for ever-younger nominees to the bench, in an effort to maximize the influence of the choice.

If we don't do something, we could see (fill in the name of a judge you don't like here) on the court for five hundred years.

live 8 and an all american music weekend

I can't remember the last time I watched MTV. I think the "M" now stands for "moronic" because they sure as hell don't play much music any more. But yesterday I checked in on MTV several times, looking at Live 8 -- and specifically, looking for the Pink Floyd reunion.

Early in the day I saw the little video they ran several times, educating the masses on what Live 8 was supposed to be about -- describing what the G8 Summit is (the annual meeting of the heads of government of the Group of 8, featuring 7 of the world's biggest economically advanced democracies -- US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, and reflecting a decision made years ago that I'm sure the others now regret, Russia) touching on the World Trade Organization, just trade, famine, etc. The video and comments by Bob Geldof, Bono, and others I found touchingly naive. They wanted yesterday's concerts to help convince the leaders to do more for Africa. Although I'm sure Tony Blair appreciates the help for his initiative to double aid to Africa, the concert will of course make absolutely no difference to the Summit later this week. These G8 things are scripted events; the Live 8 organizers should have held their concert in April, and should have played for the actual organizers (called "sherpas" -- as in guides to summitry, get it?) instead.

Anyway, at about 6:30 or so in the evening (US east coast time) I saw Pink Floyd come on stage for their set. Great stuff -- so good to see Roger Waters rejoin his former mates Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Roger Wright on stage after so long. They played "Breathe" and "Money" off of Dark Side of the Moon, the title track to Wish You Were Here (with Gilmour rededicating the song to former bandmate Syd Barrett), and from The Wall, "Comfortably Numb." The guys sounded great, the London audience was going wild -- and VH1 broke away halfway thru "Comfortably Numb" for a commercial. I was so mad I became uncomfortably numb. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know VH1 and MTV have to earn a living, but you'd think for a concert for a cause like this -- and for a set by one of rock's greatest bands ever, featuring a reunion between estranged bandmembers who hadn't played together in over 20 years -- that VH1 could have waited the extra 3 minutes to go to commercial.

I didn't watch too much else. Paul McCartney's set was great, and proved that the old Beatle can still rock; George Michael joined Macca on "Baby You Can Drive My Car," taking a mercifully brief break from his current obsolescence. Green Day did a good cover of the Queen hit "We Are the Champions" in Berlin. Madonna came out on stage; I listened just long enough to snigger at her faux British accent and quickly turned off the TV. Coldplay was good, but unfortunately, I missed The Who. I caught a song by Good Charlotte from Tokyo which wasn't bad, and I saw several rap acts -- "saw" because I mute rap, I can't stand to listen to it. Although it won't change a damn thing for Africa, it was certainly an impressive set of shows.

The local classic rock station this Independence Day weekend is doing an "All American Weekend" -- American acts only. Ironically, the promo song is "We're An American Band" by CANADIAN rockers The Guess Who, who's other American song "American Woman" is actually an anti-US protest song about US imperialism in Vietnam -- and ironically, the number one song in May 1970 when the Ohio National Guard killed four students protesting against the war at Kent State.

But anyway, the All-American angle is a fine gimmick for the 4th of July, but just imagine an entire weekend of classic rock without the masters: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, the Who, and the Kinks. No U2, no Rush, no Queen, no Scorpions. No Clapton, whether solo or with the Yardbirds, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, or Derek and the Dominos. No David Bowie, with or without the stardust. Led Zeppelin, keep away from that stairway. Deep Purple, hush. Black Sabbath, please don't be paranoid about being excluded. AC/DC, keep your hells bells to yourself. Yes, no.

Can Aerosmith, Dylan, Hendrix, the Eagles, Bruce and the Allman Brothers carry an entire weekend? Oh well, I did get to hear The Knack's ode to teenage lust "My Sharona" yesterday -- hardly classic in the old sense of the word but always fun to hear. Oh shit, Johnny Cougar Mellonfuckingcamp is coming on and probably Heart will be up next, I gotta put in a CD. Some Pink Floyd, I think. Without commercials.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

closing in on the duke?

GOP Congressman and defense contractor tool Randy "Duke" Cunningham is upset that federal agents have searched his San Diego house and the offices of MZM, a business that lives entirely by sucking on the governmental tit for fat contracts offered with no competition. You'll recall that MZM CEO Mitchell Wade laundered a gift of $700,000 by buying Cunningham's old house for $1.7 million and a few months later selling it for its market price of $1 million. And that Wade let Cunningham live rent-free on his luxury yacht on the Potomac River.

Unsurpisingly, people question the propriety of this relationship, and so yesterday federal agents searched MZM offices and Cunningham's and Wade's homes. Back in mid-June Wade and his lawyers agreed to surrender control of MZM to other company officers -- but before doing so, they had a massive shredding party that Ollie North would be proud of. Shredding documents while under a legal cloud is of course the classic affirmation that you have nothing to hide, no fears, and are merely cleaning up your office so as not to unduly inconvenience those nice federal agents. After all, I'm sure all they shredded were old ATM receipts, back issues of Sports Illustrated, and outdated take-out menus from local pizza joints. But eventually other MZM officers stopped Wade from cleaning out his files.

Cunningham called the searches "an appalling abuse of government power." Of course it is. How inappropriate to do anything to check the outright sale of influence, federal contracts, and favors being conducted by ethically challenged people like Cunningham and DeLay. Like the rest of us, the federal agents should let our superiors act as they see fit. They are so much better than we are.

o'connor replacement watch, day 1

O'Connor has barely submitted her letter of resignation and the political classes are in full swing, variously trying to pressure Bush to pick an appropriate replacement, to pressure Senate Democrats to accept whoever Bush nominates, and trying to mobilize their supporters on the left and right.

Bush made his opening statement: "The nation deserves, and I will select, a Supreme Court justice that Americans can be proud of." (Too bad Papa Bush didn't have the same standard, we would have been spared Clarence Thomas.) "The nation also deserves a dignified process of confirmation in the United States Senate, characterized by fair treatment, a fair hearing and a fair vote." Clearly, Bush means a "yes" vote by a fair vote. The Republicans took the role of the Senate in approving or rejecting judicial nominees very seriously when Clinton was naming judges -- but now of course the Senate should just play the role of the Supreme Soviet and rubberstamp the choices of the maximum leader.

Newt Gingrich said "...I think the majority that elected Bush and the House and Senate clearly expects a very conservative nomination." Surely Newt is aware that more Americans cast votes in 2004 and 2002 and 2000 for Democrats for the House and Senate than Republicans -- and more votes for the Democrat for President in 2000. The combination of gerrymandering in the House and the way rural Republicans are spread out in sparsely populated states that have the same number of Senators as large states like New York or Texas masks that, but it's a fact. Newt, you are not speaking for a majority. Please go back to your science fiction novels and cheating on your wife. Unfortunately though, Gingrich is likely to get a nomination that meets with his approval.

Oklahoma GOP Senator and right-wing nutcase Tom Coburn took the occasion to criticize O'Connor and others for their "self-indulgent judicial activism." No more self-indulgent I guess than Coburn's refusal to give up his medical practice -- Senators are barred by rule from holding other jobs. No more self-indulgent for Coburn's self-serving excuse for why he conducted a few abortions in his doctoring days despite his repeated opposition to abortions in all circumstances. Of course, we know that by self-indulgent Coburn really means "insufficiently conservative."

According to the Post, yesterday staffers for Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist said that Bush is under no obligation to consult with Democrats and that it is "inappropriate" to ask a nominee about specific issues. I guess the Democrats are supposed to stick to generalities, like "do you think democracy is a good idea?" We should just stick this whole advice & consent thing and just let Bush use his good judgment in selecting people to the courts and administration people. The same good judgment that's given us the war in Iraq, John Bolton, and the famous incitement to insurgents to attack our troops, "bring 'em on."

The most puzzling to me comment sofar is from Tennessee GOP Congressman Zach Wamp (yes, that's his real name) who said that history shows that choosing an easily confirmable justice "is not the proper course of action." What is he going on about? Most justices have been easily confirmable, including some that are clearly extremely conservative. Antonin Scalia was confirmed 98-0 by the Senate in 1986. He is way way conservative but like him or not he's got a brain and was deemed qualified and not too far beyond the political fringe. Wamp wants the President to choose somebody way beyond the pale and ram the choice thru the Senate by holding GOP members' feet to the fire. You know, somebody like single black mother conservative fringe whacko Janice Rogers Brown.

Cross your fingers and hope for somebody like Alberto Gonzales or Michael McConnell.

Friday, July 01, 2005

a retirement, and a physician speaks out

Sandra Day O'Connor retires. Too bad, since she always struck me as a basically decent and logical justice. We'll miss her. I dread the nomination/confirmation process, since I suspect Bush will go with a radical ultra-conservative to please the right wing as usual. But I hope I'm wrong. Some on the far right are known to say "Gonzalez is Spanish for Souter"... they'll pressure the White House to name somebody closer to Scalia or Thomas in ideology.

Speaking of people involved in torture, the Washington Post today ran an op-ed piece that was critical of the military's role in torture condemned physicans for any participation. Burton Lee calls for a full investigation of the military's role in torture, and demands the restoration of ethical standards for doctors and nurses to keep them from serving as facilitators for torture.

Burton Lee was a doctor in the US army ... and later served as George W. Bush's personal physician for four years.