October 31, 2003
Mark at Kaedrin links to the continuing reports from artist Steve Mumford in Baghdad. The amazing thing is that it is the best eyewitness reporting coming out of Iraq right now, and it isn't coming from the press but from an internet art magazine.
Just in case you haven't been following:
The Sophorist links to a report that Leon Panetta stated on C-Span that Presidents Clinton and Bush received the same intellgence on Iraq WMD (i.e. that there was a danger). So Bush didn't lie, President Clinton wasn't wrong to at least bomb in 1998, and all those Democratic politicians weren't wrong to speak out about the dangers of Iraq and support action against Iraq by both Presidents based on the intellegence at the time. What is wrong is for them to act like they never did such things in the past and the intellegence info was different under Bush.
Poor and Stupid Atrios
The law intrudes on the blogosphere again, although most of us, even the law professors, want to keep it out. OK, I'm talking about Don Luskin going after Atrios, I mean Don Luskin's lawyer going after Atrios. I have no idea about the case's merits, because I learned long ago (if I were a lawyer, I'd be a third generation one) the law has nothing to do with common sense, and little to do with the statute as written. While I don't agree with Mr. Luskin's approach, I'm not outraged by it. He's making use of the biggest weapon available to him in a fight, so my problem isn't so much with Luskin, but with the law.
Either Luskin has a case in which case Atrios will have to hire a lawyer, slog it out, and ultimately comply; or Luskin doesn't have a case, in which case Atrios will have to hire a lawyer, slog it out, and utlimately not comply. The cost, time, and effort will be about the same in either case. Of course, the meter is running for Luskin too, so this isn't cost free for him, either. And this is why most of us would prefer to keep the blogosphere free from legal entanglements. We like being able to say anything and not have to worry about consequences.
I'd have more symphathy for Atrios but I couldn't find where he had any sympathy for those who are normally targeted in the "real world" - those with deep pockets. The civil justice system is broke in this country, and while I don't think any of the proposals I've seen so far have been sufficient to really fix its problems - the most significant of which is that it is a system of legal extortion and coercion. Further disclosure: the Other Fearless Leader is an insurance claims adjuster (and I'll really put up some traffic numbers when I start telling her stories) and I have a somewhat different take on a lot of the civil suits out there (a word to the wise - move any relatives in nursing homes to Florida because when they die (yes, Virginia, its inevitable, despite what most people think) they'll be worth a lot of money to their heirs regardless of why they died). Sometimes, the little guy is the ass, because he has the law on his side.
While I was there, I found the Krugman Cat Altitude Index to be very funny (full disclosure: I'm allergic to cats, so I find the KCAI much funnier than I would the KDAI).
I also found A.W.'s throwdown with Brad DeLong to be both interesting and revealing.
UPDATE: Luskin and Atrios have issued a joint statement that ends Luskin's threat to file suit. And while there was much rejoicing, inquiring minds wonder if Atrios had to remove any comments and/or agree to remove comments of a particular nature in the future.
October 30, 2003
Aft Gang Agley
It took me awhile to recover from the weekend, but I have returned to blogging. I was hit with a double whammy. First, we had our Cub Pack family campout at Castlewood State Park. We've had outstanding weather all year, but on this particular Saturday, we had rain. The forecasters told us Friday night that it would rain overnight, with scattered showers in the morning and no rain after noon. Well, they were wrong. The rain didn't start until 9:15 AM. I know the exact time because I was in the middle of a field trying to get my tent up before the rain started when it started. Fortunately, we had numerous awnings to keep the rain off; unfortunately, we quickly churned the ground underneath them into slippery yet clinging mud.
We went ahead with our raingutter regatta and nature talk from the park ranger (who was outstanding); but we were forced to cancel the tug of war. We went ahead with the hike to the bluffs overlooking the river, but a lot of den activities couldn't be carried out as planned. We canceled the pack meeting, so no Indian was summoned out of the night to light our bonfire and award bobcat badges and pin, but we did light the bonfire ourselves and enjoys skits, jokes, and even a story told by yours truly.
Many of the families who had planned on camping slept in their own beds; my son and I stayed until the second time he threw up. He didn't want to leave, but as he kept on hurling even when there wasn't anything left to hurl, I think I made the right choice. And that's the great thing about kids - not too many of them noticed or cared about the weather; it was only we parents who were worried about clean and dry clothes or being cold and miserable. The kids had fun running around in the rain, skipping stones in the river, playing soccer or volleyball, and cooking over open flames.
It was also my birthday, so while I enjoyed the medal proclaiming that I was "officially" older than dirt, and the nice trophy from Den 6, and being sung happy birthday twice, it also means that I got a few toys, which needless to say I've been playing with ever since. Not only have I been too busy to blog, I've been too busy to even download the new 1.10 Diablo II patch. Now that's busy.
Outside The Beltway got a lot of play with their list of female blogger pictures. Just in case somebody wants to compile a list of male blogger pictures, I'm posting this one (I think nothing says class like topless):
In case you're wondering what my better half looks like, or my crib, here you go:
First Tacitus, Now the MullMeister
Another blogger who is helping all Americans out by serving his country: Rich Galen at Mullings is going to Iraq to help the Department of Defense get the word out of Iraq. Good Luck.
The whole blogosphere is talking about The Gender Genie, which is a web site that can tries to tell your gender from a writing sample. It was pretty sure I'm male (let me state for the record I'm certain I'm male). I have a much easier test:
Do you take reading material when you plan to sit on the toilet?
Yes: You're clearly a guy.
No: You're clearly a gal.
If this doesn't work for you, perhaps you should consult your parents and find out if you were one of those rare births with, as the doctors say, ambigous sexual organs.
Sometimes A Great Notion
Virginia Tech owns the third fastest supercomputer in the world. An assistant professor of computer science slapped 1,100 dual processor Mac G5's together for a mere 5.2 million dollars (including the cost of pizza and soda for the student volunteers) and voila, near instant supercomputer. The cost of supercomputing just came down by an order of magnitude. Maybe now weather forcasts and CFD will be accurate.
I'm Famous, Or At Least My Name Is
There are more famous Kevin Murphy's than me, and there are those who are equally famous (as in non). You can read an interview with one of the more famous ones, the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (or MST3K to the true fan) one, who talks about the future of film (i.e. movies) in a digital world.
October 23, 2003
Can you measure morality? What standard would you use? Well, my old physics buddy, Carl Drews, has decided that a new born (not to mention two older children) doesn't keep him busy enough, so he's trying to measure the aggregate morality of the United States at his new website The Morality Index. Carl decided to use the 10 commandments to be his guide to morality. So far he has determined figures for murder, theft, and adultery, although due to the difficulty in measuring it, he's using marriage and divorce as proxies. I have to say, using just those three indicies, things are not looking good, as the trend is almost a straight line increase in immorality since 1950.
Good luck, Carl, I can't wait to see how you measure such things as not coveting and honoring your mother and father.
UPDATE: OK, I was wrong - I misread the graph. The trend has been ever upward since 1950, largely based on increasing lifespan. I'm sorry I got it wrong, Carl, and I'm sorry but I think you need to go back to the drawing board - the commandment is "Don't Kill", not "Live Long and Prosper".
And as Carl notes, while I call him my physics buddy, he defected to electrical engineering during college (as I later defected to aeronautical engineering for grad school).
Tax the Rich
Feed the Poor
Till there are no
Rich no more
I'd Love to Change the World,
But I don't know what to do,
so I leave it up to You
It's a lot better than my local paper's editorial on the same topic, even in summary form. "STATE LEGISLATURES and governors are uniquely unqualified to take over the most difficult decision any family has to make - when to withdraw care from a severely brain damaged relative with no hope of recovery." Yes, but then the Post Dispatch doesn't mind judges doing the same thing. And as my wife pointed out, at least legislatures and governors stand for election, unlike judges, and legislatures aren't just a single person, unlike judges. And the Post Dispatch Editorial board feels that they are fully qualified to speak to any topic, solve any problem, and condemn any stranger to death --unless they happen to be a criminal, in which case they don't think even juries can condemn them to death.
What's their real objection? "The Schindlers' desperate effort to prevent that led them to enlist help from conservative religious groups, who transformed Ms. Schiavo from a young woman into a cause celebre. They built public interest by releasing an excruciating videotape..." It's those conservative religious groups, that good liberals should always oppose on principle. I did laugh out loud when reading that crack about cause celebre - jealousy rears it's ugly head. Yep, the press are the only people allowed to create cause celebres.
"Gov. Bush may have been given the power to stop Ms. Schiavo's imminent death, but he doesn't have the ability to restore her mental function. In the end, he has merely prolonged her death - and her family's suffering." Yeah, the husband is suffering all right, waiting for his big pay day. For a group that is so keen to report on conflict of interest, they fail to mention that her husband has "moved on" with another women with whom he's having a second child, and that he stands to inherit a great deal of money when she dies. Perhaps in this case we should listen to the wishes of her parents, who actually love her, and can better balance the question of her life and death.
Thoughts on Rumsfeld's Memo
An invitation from Donald Rumsfeld to a high level strategy session was leaked yesterday. There were different opinions about it around the blogosphere. The spinning has reached frenzied yet utterly predicatable proportions. If you support the war, it's a clear headed assessment. If you are against the war, it's an admission of failure. No surprise then that I'm in the clear headed assessment camp.
One thing I haven't seen picked up yet is the structure of the memo. It's an invitation to a meeting to discuss what Rumsfeld learned from combat commanders about the following items: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough? He goes on to lay out the status quo, and then challanges his senior guys to figure out how they can do better. He's consulted with the field commanders, and know he's trying to get top leadership to address their concerns. So my reaction is good for Rumsfeld -- he's doing his job.
The press, however, isn't doing theirs. Yesterday, this was all over the web. This morning when I opened my local newspaper, there was this lousy piece, which wasn't much different than the original USA Today article. What I dislike about them is quite simple - they take a memo that flows and reduce it to a collection of sound bites. Why not just reprint the memo itself, and then they can include the reactions? Yeah, I know its on the web, and that's how I know just how bad a job newspapers do. When I can read the darn memo myself, and then their reporting, you realize just how terrible their reporting is. I pity the poor fool who has to rely on the newsmedia to pre-digest the information they need.
October 21, 2003
The Curse Still Operative
Is it just me, or is the World Series a huge snooze now that the Cubs and the Red Sox aren't in it? This goes to show you how important how you got somewhere can be, since when the season started I wouldn't have thought a Marlins/Yankees World Series would have been anti-climactic. Once the horribly named NLCS and ALCS started, I think everybody but Marlin and Yankee fans were rooting, however slightly, for the Cubs and Red Sox to win them - something that wasn't true even when the playoffs started. Thankfully for Fox, my apathy isn't reflected in the TV ratings.
Return To Easterbrook
One of the things that upset some people about Mr. Easterbrook's rant against violent movies is that it made value judgements. The fact that Mr. Easterbrook feels that there are higher values than the profit motive has some, like libertarian Virginia Postrel, claiming that he's anti-capitalist which is downright nutty. If somebody says there are things you shouldn't do to make a buck, most people would agree. There would be some disagreement about exactly what those things are that you shouldn't do, and I realize that doctrinaire libertarians have a somewhat smaller list than most people, but having such a list doesn't make you anti-capitalist. My rule of thumb is that people are perfectly happy making judgements based on their own value system, but bristle when other people mention their own value judgements if they don't share the same value system.
Another problem for Mr. Easterbrook is that Jewishness is both an ethnicity and a religion, unlike for instance Christianity. Thus while he was comparing the behavior of certain individuals to the values of their religion (Judeism), others heard it as a slam on Jews the ethnic group. He could have, and I expect would have, made an appeal to Christian values if it had been different movie moguls - just as he did with Mel Gibson in an prior post.
Lastly, he got in trouble because you could lift out a single sentance out of his post: "Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence?" and fool people into thinking he was claiming that Jews in general worship money above all else. The trouble with words is that they can be taken out of context while they are always given in context - always. The context of that sentance makes it clear that he was talking about two particular Jewish executives. That gives me another rule of thumb, namely don't get outraged until you've seen the full statement, not just the excerpts.
Irish Proverb 14
It Is The Quiet Pigs That Eat The Meal
October 20, 2003
I used to look forward to reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback by Gregg Easterbrook Not only did he write a great sports column, it was filled with all kinds of other non-sports goodies (not to mention cheerleaders). It had to be one of their most read sections based on the number of people I know who reguarly read it. Well, Mr. Easterbrook not only was fired, but he has been removed from ESPN's site as if he never wrote for them. At this point, ESPN hasn't announced why he was fired. He just wrote an entry for his blog at The New Republic that some considered anti-semetic but which I found (contrarian that I am) pro-semetic. The passage in question:
"Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? "
The complaint was "Did he just blame Jews for being greedy, money-grubbing Hollywood executives partly responsible for today's real-life violence?" Ah, no, what he did was say that two particular Jewish executives worshiped money above all else, and he went on to pretty much hold Jews to a higher standard implying that because of their experience of violence in the Holocaust they ought to understand the impact of the glorification of violence. And he did implicitly claim that the glorification of violence in movies does have an impact on societies world wide.
If Mr. Easterbrook had said that (all) Jews worship money above all else, that would have been clearly anti-semetic and wrong. But what he said (to me, anyway), is that these two particular Jews worshiped money above all else (and not because they were Jews). This is important, because we should be able to call out individual behavior regardless of whether or not that behavior has been an unfair stereotype of a particular group in the past.
Ms. Yourish wasn't done though, she moved from the debatable to to the clearly wrong when she said that Mr. Easterbrook "All the while, of course, giving the Hollywood Christian executives (and other religions) a complete pass". Obviously, she missed the whole statement "Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence." In other words, Mr. Easterbrook in his column said that Jewish, Christian, and other Hollywood executives worshiped money above all else by promoting for profit the adulation of violence. He didn't single out Jews in general; he singled out Michael Eisner and Harvey Weinstein in particular because they are the executives ultimately responsible for Kill Bill, which is what the column was about.
Now back to ESPN. Should they have fired Mr. Easterbrook? No. Even if his original post could be construed as anti-semitic or you don't think Jews should be held to a higher standard, he quickly explained his position and apologized for any offence he might have given. He isn't anti-semitic. If he was fired because he attacked his ultimate boss at ESPN, Michael Eisner, even though it was in a publication unrelated to ESPN or Disney, that is an even worse reason. Ultimately, I think some other sports web site (whether Fox Sports, or CBS sports, or Sports Illustrated) should pick up his TMQ column - not out of the goodness of their hearts, but as a shrewd business move - it's popular. I know I won't be bothering with ESPN.com without TMQ - their news and analysis isn't any better than anybody elses.
All too often, science is hyped. Well, new "discoveries", anyway. Sometimes, it makes sense- such as the reports from a few years ago that since cancer could be easily cured in mice, a cure for human cancer was only a matter of a couple of years. Sadly, that hasn't been the case. And sometimes, I have to admit its my own emotions running away from me (I'm a sucker for any story that could be headlined "important new breakthrough") - like when I saw the headlines of this New Scientist article: "Tiny tubes squeeze electricity from water", and then read the first paragraph: "If the output can be increased, says Larry Kostiuk of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, then high pressure water could one day be used to power small devices such as mobile phones and calculators." I stayed with them through the explanation of the effect, but then a deluge of cold water arrived with: "To increase the current, they will need to increase the efficiency of the device. At the moment, says Kostiuk, "it's really pretty pathetic - a fraction of a percent."" Translation: Not in my lifetime. Heck, I'm still waiting for the efficiency of photovoltaic cells to increase to the point that solar power is cheap and ubiquitous.
October 16, 2003
What About The CIA and Plame?
First off, Alex at the Parks Department has put together an excellent list of leaks on "Wilsongate".
As long as the press is faulting the Bush administration on the pace of it's investigation into who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA status, why aren't they faulting Novak, who knows who leaked, and the six journalists who reportedly know who leaked (because they were leaked to but didn't publish)? Oh that's right, because their careers might suffer. Look, this is a serious matter, and probably a crime, and I for one think playing by journalism's rules (as Craig repeats them from Edward J Epstein's book) makes no sense. The bottom could be gotten to in an afternoon of eight journalists in front of a grand jury. I mean, do we really want the press to shield criminals? Does that really serve some larger purpose?
Plame's employment with the CIA was classified. Sometimes people think if you have a security classification, its OK for you to be informed of any classified information of the appropriate level. This is not true. You have to have a need to know the classified information to carry out the tasks for which you have a security clearance. That is the general rule. I can't be told classified information just because I have a clearance. Sometimes, it's a little more formalized, and some information has an access list - in other words, only certain pre-defined people can be told particular classified information - they are the only ones to have a need to know. I would think in a properly run CIA, the identities of clandestine agents, which apparently covers Plame, would be access list controled, with a different list for each such agent, with the list limited to as small a number of people as possible. This limits the damage moles and captured agents can do.
So here's what I find odd - how did somebody in the Bush Administration know she worked for the CIA? Did the CIA not keep her name close to the vest? As an undercover operative, you'd think they'd want to protect her name. Let's turn to Nick Kristof's piece (which I by and large agree with):"Third, Mrs. Wilson's intelligence connections became known a bit in Washington as she rose in the CIA and moved to State Department cover, but her job remained a closely held secret." This jibes with Clifford May's piece in National Review that he was told in an offhand manner by a former government worker. In other words, somehow her status got out of the CIA itself - and excuse me, you can't be an overcover operative if everybody knows you work for the CIA even if nobody knows what you do there. So as long as we're investigating the leak from the Bush administration (which as I've pointed out before should be child's play but isn't), we should also be investigating the leak from the CIA (which nobody has mentioned yet). Maybe it was a structural leak - people who didn't know she was an undercover operative (because that is a closely guarded secret known only to a few) didn't see anything wrong in letting slip that she worked for the CIA because at this point she was currently not undercover- in which case the CIA needs to rethink how they handle that situation.
I have no idea how much damage this has done (if any) to CIA networks and agents - and anybody who does isn't (or at least shouldn't) be talking to the press. Apparently she may have been unmasked earlier - by our old buddy Aldrich Ames. Still, I'm upset that somebody either deliberately or inadvertinately in the Bush Administration leaked the name of a CIA operative, which is a serious breach of trust, and that the CIA didn't protect their own operative.
Why hasn't the press asked the question of how (not why or who) the name of an undercover CIA operative popped out of the mouth of an administration official? I guess because nobody's leaked why that may be important to a journalist.
October 14, 2003
Blogging is weird. You sit and write and hope people connect, but it's hard to tell if anyone does. Sometimes, people vote on what I now call "quality", which was originally called "karma"; but it's really hard to tell what those votes mean. Rarely, someone leaves a comment, and you say to yourself, "yes! I am not alone in the void!"
I'm not complaining - believe me, you'll know when I'm complaining. I check my referrer logs all the time trying to see if anyone is linking and how people get here. Since almost the very start, LEWISCOR.umsl.edu has been coming here. I don't know who they are - if they've ever voted, if they've ever commented, but they keep coming back. Sometimes I won't see them in the logs for a while, and I worry that I've been rejected - odd when you consider I have no idea who this person is that it should matter if they "reject" me. But then there they are and I'm happy - I have someone who chooses to come here knowing what they're in for when they get here.
My Last Arnold Post
Yeah, I know, promises promises. In case you just awoke from a coma, Arnold was elected governor of California in the recall election. This has caused a lot of hyperventilating and wishful thinking. It seems that a lot of people credit Arnold's celebrity or moderation for the victory. I think that is right in some ways, and wrong in others. The Man Without Qualities linked to a poll in USA today from shortly before the election that tracked the results fairly well. And in that poll is a fact that I haven't seen addressed by any commentator - namely that with Arnold out of the race, Davis would have been recalled and McClintock would have been elected governor by a margin only 2 percent less than Arnold's if McClintock wasn't in the race (56% vs. 58%). So my interpretation of the figures is that people wanted Davis out, didn't want Bustamante (whether he was tainted by Davis or couldn't stand on his own two feet isn't clear), and didn't care too much about the differences between Arnold and McClintock. But I do think Arnold's celebrity and moderation earned him votes over McClintock because voters thought he could win - and it was more important to defeat Davis and Bustamante than to elect a particular candidate. Since this idea doesn't do anybody or parties any good (except, perhaps, McClintock), I guess I'm not surprised you haven't heard it advanced anywhere.
October 13, 2003
St. Louis Public Schools: Better Than The WWF?
Archpundit at Blog St. Louis has the continuing controversies in the St. Louis Public School system covered like a blanket. The short version is that a majority of the board became tired of ongoing failure of the SLPS to educate the children of St. Louis and decided to hire a business turn-around firm instead of extending the contract of Cleveland Hammonds as superintendent. This was a pretty radical move, but they felt justified by the slow at best progress under traditional superintendents. Personally, I find the logic impeccable from the standpoint that (as related to me by Edgar Denison, who was a hatchet man at Union Electric as well as famed amateur botanist) nobody likes a hatchet man, and the company wants to get rid of you as soon as you've finished chopping. Consequently, no superintendent who wants to stay with the school district would attempt the required reforms - closing schools, laying off employees, outsourcing non-core functions, and in general treating the SLPS as something other than a jobs program.
Attention has turned from the "secrecy" of the initial hiring of the firm and its planning leading up to the first day of school to the (failed) boycott called for by some members of the community to the ongoing insane (and I use that term in what I believe is a clinical sense) behavior of some members of the school board. If you have a strong stomach and a morbid curiosity, you'll be thrilled by the complete accounting at Blog St. Louis. And don't forget to read the comments for my own penetrating insights into the complex situation.
October 9, 2003
Trading Spaces Omnibus
Trading Spaces is so successful, it has spawned not only countless imitators but its own spin off, Trading Spaces Family, a bunch of books (yes, I've read Trading Spaces Behind the Scenes and enjoyed it), and various special versions (like last years live reveal and this years $100,000 episode).
So first up, let me say I do like Trading Spaces Family. I don't know if it's just chance, but it seems to be the only place you can see Vern anymore. My wife and I are very tempted to apply, as the whole Murphy Family likes the show, but fear of Hildi and Rick keep us back. Having the kids on and involved gives the show a nice touch, and it tends to be more laid back than the regular version. I think Carter Oosterhouse's breezy affability works well on the show, especially with the kids (let's face it, Ty would scare them), and while he's a hunk, he's an approachable one - the klutziness helps. I'm not wild about Joe Farrell, but he too brings the right level of laid back to the show. I did enjoy the episode where Paige dropped in because the young girl idolized her. I also enjoyed the show where Paige showed up in workout attire - she's got better abs than Ty!
I've come to like Christi Proctor - great personality, generally good designs. I wasn't wild about putting butcher paper on the wall on an early episode, but I loved putting the cowboy silhouettes with it (even though the HO hated it).
I've come to hate (along with most fans) Rick Rifle - and I'll note that he isn't listed in the crew section with the other designers on the TLC site. Despite Hildi's awful designs, she has a certain elegance and style, wheras Rick is just as unpleasant personally as his designs are aesthetically.
OK, I know that Doug and Hildi aren't secretely married - she's hitched to some French count or something. Perhaps Dougs hesitant kissing (as I discussed earlier) wasn't due to his orientation but due to his fear of ending up stuffed and mounted over some mantle in the Loire Valley. He did flirt shamelessly with a couple of gals in the first episode of season 4, and once again got an onscreen kiss but this time without looking like he was kissing a dead fish.
I, along with America, was disappointed in the "they hated it" specials as I thought I going to see mostly new stuff with some flashback, and instead got the old episode with a trifle tacked on to the end. The only good part was that I was in Las Vegas at the time and so I only had to watch the tape. Still, I have to admit I enjoy watching the crying lady reveal - perhaps because she and her husband were so honest about it - sometimes I swear the people are being polite when they say they like it.
The 100 grand episode was pretty cool - much more of the behind the scenes stuff, and it only felt slightly padded at 2 hours. Heck, the ads alone were worth it - no matter how many times I saw it, I still loved Ty's expression at the end. I thought Doug did a great job on his, although I'm still not clear why the countertop had to be glacier white and still remain under budget; Laurie did her usual job (I think I'd have a heart attack if she did a purple or blue room without any green, yellow or orange anywhere) but you had to wonder where the 50 grand went. The room was crammed full of stuff, mostly ultra expensive furnature and draperies that don't look any better than the cheap stuff on TV. It's hard to spend 50 grand on a living room, especially when the electronics are thrown in for free by Sony. And they did spend money on hiring crews to do the work - when you gut a kitchen and put in a new floor, new cabinets etc. two people can't do it in two days. I think Home Depot got their money's worth in advertising, too. The premise of the 100 grand episode lacks appeal on a regular basis, so let's hope they don't do it more than once.
OK, one last thing. Is that Paige Davis' real husband in the Enterprise Leasing ads? Enquiring minds want to know!
Irish Proverb 12
Good As Drink Is,
It Ends In Thirst
October 7, 2003
Long National Nightmare Finally Over?
I'm referring, of course, to the California recall election. I have a sneaking suspicion that if Missouri had a recall election, not only would it have not generated the same amount of coverage in California as California's did in Missouri, it wouldn't have generated the same amount of coverage in Missouri.
Thanks to the LA Times (official cheerleader of the Keep Davis campaign), we know that Arnold (you really don't need his last name to know who I'm talking about, and I can't spell it anyway) liked to compliment women while he groped them. What we don't know is that Grey Davis liked to belittle them while he shook and non-sexually abused them. Some choice. Well, if I lived in CA, I'd be voting for McClintock anyway.
Now that the same "feminist" brigades that lept to Bill Clinton's defense are now denouncing Arnold for the same behavior towards women, we can all see that it isn't about the women, it's about the abuser. Thanks for clearing that up. Of course, there was a difference: Arnold has now apologized and said what he did was wrong; Bill Clinton still has others talk about a vast right-wing conspiracy. If Arnold had been a Democrat, he would have claimed that we barbarian Americans are too uptight about sexual matters and that such behavior isn't just tolerated in Europe, but positively celebrated (along with mistresses, naturally).
October 3, 2003
Flying in First Class is one of the last bastions of classism in America. You're wined and dined while the poor unfortunates in coach get nothing but an announcement to stop using the first class lavatory unless it is an emergency. But it is done American style - anybody can fly first class if they pay the money (or upgrade via frequent flyer miles). I flew first class to Las Vegas (strictly business -- we rented a car and drove to NAS China Lake. It makes for a long day, but hey, it's not every day you get to blow up a tank.)
It was amazing to see how Vegas is an oasis of suburbia amidst complete desolation. You fly an hour over the desert with rarely a sign of humanity and then lawns, trees, cul-de-sacs, and swimming pools set in an endless sea of tract housing. And the airport isn't just close to the strip - it's right next to it. This isn't your normal city. And I-15 was crowded between Vegas and LA on a Sunday night -- bumper to bumper traffic while driving through miles of nothingness.
The next morning we put a hole in a tank, and drove back to Vegas but this time we could actually see more than just headlights, tailights, and sand beside the road. I have to admit, the desert does have a beauty all of its own. And as I stood huddled against the cold waiting for the parking bus to come at the St. Louis airport, I missed the heat of the desert too.
The resorts in Vegas really are something to be hold - they are all glitzy. The older ones have sheer bulk, while the later ones are themed palaces of glory. It really is an impressive place. Since I don't gamble anymore -- I lose so fast it isn't fun for me -- it wasn't too expensive, either. But I have to say, I didn't see any joy on the faces of the gamblers - even when the slot machines were merrily chinking away, the winner sat stoically. Judging by facial expression, it all seems like another day at the office.
October 2, 2003
Novak, Wilson, and Plame
The latest Washington scandal sounds like an old rock group, but it is serious business. Did someone at the Bush Whitehouse leak the name of a CIA operative (Valerie Plame Wilson) who was the wife of a former ambassador (Joseph Wilson IV) who wrote an op-od critical critical of the Bush administration? If administration officials broke the law by deliberately leaking her status with the CIA, then by all means they should be prosecuted and fired. If it was a nobody somewhere in the great Military Industrial Complex who did this (i.e. me), that's the fate they would suffer. It shouldn't change because of either its political nature or the position of the officials. I know that in the past nothing happens to leakers, but it ought to. I think putting a few senators and representatives in the dock would be highly beneficial, but then I think all public officials, regardless of party affiliation, should be held accountable to the same standards as everybody else.
The odd thing to me is that the parts that should be straightforward are so murky and the the murky stuff is simply opaque. The CIA should know whether or not Ms. Plame is an undercover operative as covered by law and therefore whether or not the leak broke the law. If she isn't covered, there should be no investigation, so I have to assume she is. And the next stop should be to question the star witness, Bob Novak - just like they should for any journalist who is an eyewitness to a crime. I don't buy the notion that there is some right to keep sources confidential if a crime has been committed, and I don't think journalists should be treated any differently than any other private citizen. So it should be straightforward whether or not a law was broken and if so, who did it.
But it isn't, and so Bush will twist slowly, slowly in the wind while the investigation fumbles along to no certain conclusion. If Bush were machievellan, he'd get a couple of volunteers to claim they were the leakers, that it was inadvertant and not malicious, and have them resign. What would Novak do - reveal his real sources? The scandal would be over, and the whole matter would be forgotten by most of the electorate.
The larger picture is very much confused in my mind. Apparently, Dick Cheney was concerned enough about the intel about Iraq trying to buy yellow cake from Africa that he asked the CIA to indepently check on it. So the CIA sends Joe Wilson - why? Of all the nutty yet courageous ex-Ambassadors, they picked him. What, wasn't Felix Leiter available? Besides being married to an agent, what were his qualifications (remember his contacts in Niger were from 25 years ago)?
So he conducts his investigation by talking over tea with some Nigerians, comes back to the US where he files only a verbal report, and then goes on to right an op-ed that claims that based on his brief and cursory investigation, Iraq didn't get yellowcake from Niger, and therefore the Bush administration was lying when it claimed that UK intellegence was reporting that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake from Africa.
Then somebody tells Bob Novak that his wife works for the CIA, and that's how he got the job. How does this person know that Mrs. Wilson works for the CIA? Do they sign their reports, and as an expert on WMD proliferation they've been reading a lot of them recently? Is this how everybody seems to know that she works for the CIA? And how is leaking her CIA connection supposed to intimidate the Wilsons, or even undercut his op-ed, which if anything is enhanced by giving him some connection, however tenuous, with expertise in WMD proliferation? It is either really stupid, or simply honest.
After this Wilson claims that even mentioning her maiden name is somehow a breach of security, despite the fact that he included it in his bio on the net. And now he's claiming that he knew all along that Iraq didn't have WMD, although he apparently felt confident of it earlier to claim that Saddam would use it against US troops. Yeah, I know, a foolish consistancy is the hobgoblin of small minds.
And now we have the press outraged that somebody would leak a CIA agent's name, although not outraged that the press would print it, we have serial leakers (i.e. congresspeople) outraged that somebody would leak confidential information, and we have people demanding a special prosecutor despite their track record when all we need is a justice department that isn't afraid to put a journalist in jail for refusing to name a criminal.
And yes, you have me, who hopes that we find out who did what and why, who hopes that the guilty are punished and the innocent exhonerated, that justice be applied impartially, and that we all remember and hold accountable the people we place our trust in, in public service or in the media. But then, I'm just an old fashioned guy.