March 29, 2004

Tastes Great, Less Girth, I Can Sleep At Night

I'm not anti-caffeine. But as I've said before, I think caffeine is too effective a drug to waste on recreational use. And that brings me to today's complaint -- why is it so hard to order a diet white (i.e uncaffeinated) soda in a restaurant? Is it really that poor of a seller? Since caffeine stimulates the appetite, you'd think people who are watching their weight (and that seems to be a majority of us these days) would want a no calorie, no caffeine yet tastes great solution to their beverage problem. I don't want to sue, but desperate men do desperate things.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:08 PM | Comments (1) | Me

March 25, 2004

The Big Picture

Donald Sensing reminds us why it's the war on terror, not the war on al-Qaeda.

One of the problems if you think President Bush is a smirking chimp, or a moron is that you may miss what's going on because you can't credit the president for having the vision to wage a war of transformation. Now there are arguments to be made against such a war, but if you can't see the nature of the war, you can't make them.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:40 PM | Comments (1) | War On Terror

American Commercial With Extra Padding

I'm sure we're not the only ones to figure this out, but the only way to watch the monstrous bloat that is American Idol is to tape it (or Tivo it (or to Tivo-like-service it)) and watch the parts you like, i.e. the singing and judges remarks, while fast forwarding through the rest. I'd be happy to see quite a few of the contestants win this time, although Red is my sentimental favorite. Not that I watch the show or anything.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:23 PM | Comments (1) | Culture

Learn Something New

Well, now we know that likening someone to Hitler isn't name calling, it's just "irreverent comedy and smart deconstruction of the foibles of the right." I suppose that isn't so shocking since its de rigeur to say you're not a name caller right before calling someone a name. And I always thought that Hitler as a socialist was a leftist. Oh well, I'm hopelessly modern and still believe words have actual meanings.

What's really shocking is finding out that Hitler was "highly entertaining and had emotion, highs, lows, passion." No wonder he sent millions on one way train trips to the gas chambers. Glad to know it wasn't because he was a crazed Jew-hater.

The good news is that after reading this blog, nobody will accuse me -- boring, even-keeled intellectual dullard that I am -- of being like Hitler.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:12 PM | National Politics

March 22, 2004

Speaking Nonsense to Indifference

When I read a post like this one, I don't know why I bother with this blog. The James says it better than I ever can.

All too often, I find people making arguments that are completely unpersuasive, but very confirming. By that I mean they have no hope of persuading someone to change their mind, but they do confirm someone's previously held belief. This isn't a left/right thing, as such arguments are made by people of every political persuation.

The arguments are often quite logical - but the chief defect is one of the starting assumptions. For instance, if you start with the assumption that Bush or Clinton is an evil man, why all sorts of things that don't make any sense otherwise suddenly do. Bush toppled the Taliban just for an oil pipeline - why sure! Clinton ran drugs through Mena airport - makes perfect sense! If you start out with the assumption that the Democrats or Republicans truly are the party with people's best interests at heart (and needless to say the other party is out to "get" the people), it makes perfect sense to view the identical actions of the parties in completely different ways.

I know I've given a lot of thought to my positions. Obviously, I'm right. And if you disagree, why you can't simply be mistaken. No, because you couldn't honestly come to a different conclusion than me, you have to have ulterior motives. OK, honestly this is something I struggle with -- along with plenty of others. But too many have seemingly thrown in the towel on this and adopt this outlook wholeheartedly. And then their opponenents aren't mistaken, but liars. And then it's OK to hate your opponents, because they are liars and deserve it.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:41 PM | Comments (1) | Culture

March 19, 2004

French Sophisticate

Nidra Poller is thinking about moving. As a Jew in France, she's considering leaving her once beloved adopted country and returning home:

That is what it boils down to. Things have gone from shouting "death to the Jews" to firebombing schools and synagogues, to persecution, attacks, even murder. We have Muslim rage in schools, hospitals, and courtrooms. Police headquarters are attacked, hospital personnel beaten, judges threatened. The Republic is under siege, and what are the French doing about it? They are trashing America.

This, it seems, is their new Maginot line: the sneer of hatred. Hand in hand with the government and the intellectual classes, the French media are channeling the national dismay over lost grandeur into contempt for America. Watch these suave Europeans, snickering to themselves because American soldiers are getting killed in Iraq. Is that (they sneer) any way to risk your life? Go on a crusade to fight incurable disease, cross in front of a moving car, smoke a cigarette. But fight to defend your own country? It’s indecent!

For me, the monuments are crumbling. The glistening golden dome of Les Invalides. The châteaux and the triumphal arches, the obelisks, the bux om fountains, the wrought-iron balconies, the slightly tipsy 18th-century apartment buildings, the rivers winding through those darling towns and cities. How can so much beauty cover such deep cowardice? I lash myself to the mast and close my senses to the sirens, while my heart rings with pride for "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

We are not free in France. I know the difference. I come from a free country. A rough and ready, clumsy, slapped together, tacky country where people say wow and gosh and shop at Costco. A country so vast I haven’t the faintest idea where I would put myself. A homeland I would have liked to keep at a distance, visit with pleasure, and leave with relief. A native land I walked out on with belated adolescent insouciance. A foreign land where I was born because Europe vomited up my grandparents as it is now coughing up me and mine.

Gosh. Wow. You're always welcome here, Nidra.

Come to Saint Louis. We have only two monuments -- the Arch and Stan Musual's Statue -- and a past that, like France's, was once pretty glorious, but it sure can feel like home.

Link via J Bowen at No Watermelons Allowed

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:59 PM | International Politics

Europa Universalis 2

I've finally gotten around to playing Europa Universalis 2 - I've owned the game for a good six months, but hadn't worked into the rotation. So far, I love it. Fun to play, beautiful to look at, the hours go by in "one more thing" mode. Here are a couple of reviews:



It's interesting that they both knock the interface. Since I've been playing Master of Orion 3 for months, the EU2 interface seems straightforward and responsive in comparison.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:48 PM | Fun

March 16, 2004

Spanish Surprise

Western Europe's recent history is not kind to Western Europe. Western Europe fiddled while Bosnia burned, and when they belatedly sent "peacekeepers" under the UN, their main accomplishment was to concentrate Bosnian-Muslim victims for the Bosnian-Serbs in "safe havens" where the Muslims were anything but safe. And why not? When European peacekeepers made any threatening moves, the Bosnian-Serbs would round a bunch up as hostages and UNPROFOR would give in. The might of Europe assembled under the banner of the UN was impotent in the face of a few thousand thugs. Innocents paid with their lives. There was no lack of justice in or favorable opinon of Europe's efforts, just a lack of will. When the US supplied the will, the fighting soon stopped.

World opinion, European opinion was in favor of the end of the Taliban and imposition of representative government in Afganistan. Western Europe made financial committments and through NATO troop committments for what was near univerally agreed to be "the good war" in the War on Terror. Despite the early promise, the will again has been missing from Afganistan. The money didn't flow; nor did the troops. There are more non-US and non-UK troops in Iraq (even if the Spanish pull out) than there are in Afganistan, where NATO only secures Kabul. While Western Europe claims to have found the secret to living in peace, they won't send but a tiny fraction of their armies to help Afganistan.

Now we turn to Spain. Al Qaida attacked Spain and Spain threw up its hands in a familiar "no mas, no mas" gesture. It may have been that the Socialists would have won anyway or that it was the governments handling of the investigation that lost the election, but the perception is that the attack put the Socialists in power. Make no mistake - terrorism won a round. And the message that terrorism works isn't good for anyone but terrorists. Lone wackos and established terror groups like ETA and the IRA may be tempted to go for a spectacular attack. The problem isn't so much the loss of Spain's token force in Iraq, but Spain's cooperation in all the other aspects on the war on terror.

I don't want to paint too bleak a picture - Italy withstood a major attack on their soldiers in Iraq without backing down. Europe really is a great place in many ways - the best urban living in the world. But Western Europe seems to be facing its problems like a hospice patient -- just trying to stay comfortable while waiting for death. And palliating your problems doesn't make them go away.

And if anybody there is listening - you're not dead yet. Get out of your comfort zone, the world needs you and all you have to offer. And if you want the US to listen when you tell us "now isn't the time to fight", that can't be the only advice you ever give. We'll listen to a comrade-in-arms, not a nagging scold.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:57 AM | International Politics

March 12, 2004

Another Thing I Don't Get

In Andrew Sullivan's continuing gay marriage cavalcade, he thinks Dan Savage did something really significant. And he's waiting for an answer from the religious right. I think it's persumptious of me to speak for such a large group of people, but here goes.

Dan Savage married a woman despite the points that "Amy and I don't live together, we don't love each other, we don't plan to have kids together, and we're going to go on living and sleeping with our same-sex partners after we get married." Dan then reflects "I don't know what a guy has to do around here to get the marriage license. But I guess it's some consolation that I can get a meaningless one anytime I like, just so long as I bring along a woman I don't love and my $54."

And that proves what, exactly? I don't get it.

Does this mean Andrew supports the government doing a rigorous vetting process on prospective married couples? Yeah, right.

Let's posit that this is a real problem with marriage as it currently exists. Now let's add gay marriage. Now what do we have? We're in exactly the same boat as before as anybody can marry anybody they don't love as long as they have the fee, only we've made it more possible because now you can marry anybody you don't love, not just members of the opposite sex. Whoo hoo! Thats a big help.

If this is supposed to show the pointlessnes of marriage, or state licensing, then what's the big deal about not giving same sex couples marriage licenses? It's meaningless, after all.

It seems to me that the thrust of Andrew's continuing posts on the subject is that since marriage has been debased over the years so much, why not let gays get married?

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:58 PM | Faith

That Settles It

Yesterday's terrible terrorist attack in Spain is a clear indication the war on terrorism continues -- whoever did it. And I hope it makes clear that we're all in this together.

I'd love to live in a world without terrorism or terrorists - but wishing won't make it so.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:31 PM | War On Terror

Serious News Media?

Don't you love it when the news media tells you how important they are because keep the public informed with important and serious information, and that "fluff" only gets on because the public "demands" it? Cori Dauber goes looking for important and serious information about the terrible attack in Spain, and like Diogenes has a hard time finding what she's looking for because fluff crowds out the good stuff, even on cable news channels. (I wonder if she's going to change the name to Ranting Prof now that she's solo.)

I seem to remember when MSNBC (I think) did some survey about what news people would pick they were surprised that people favored hard news. I haven't noticed any improvement, though

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:12 PM | Media Criticism

March 11, 2004

Zero Redeeming Value

I found this to be very funny. And despite my title, it does have an important point to make.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:52 PM | National Politics

One Simple Question

If you replaced "the Jews" every time Andrew Sullivan says "the religious right" do you think he'd be anti-semetic? It sure seems that way to me lately.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:41 PM | Faith

Two Letters

As long as I'm complaining about the state of current journalism, there were two excellent letters to the editor in the paper today:

Punish criminals, not honest folks with guns

Your strident and hysterical objections to the recently passed concealed-weapons law are based on two false assumptions. First, you assume that honest citizens who obey the law and are no threat to anyone suddenly become dangerous monsters if they are licensed to carry a gun. I have carried guns under various circumstances since I was a child, and that was a long time ago, and I have never felt any urge to use one improperly or illegally. I am not alone in that. Honest people are honest, whether they are armed or not, and your assumption otherwise is insulting to all honest citizens.

Second, you assume that passing a law against something prevents people from doing it. It doesn't; it simply establishes a penalty for doing it. Honest people follow legal guidelines, but criminals ignore them and risk the consequences. That's why we call them criminals.

There are legal and illegal uses for guns. The right to have one available for legal use is guaranteed by the Missouri Constitution. The concealed-weapons law allows people to carry guns in a socially acceptable manner. Missouri is safer for it.

Leroy Madden

Tell it like it was

In reference to the March 7 story headlined "13 Palestinians are reported killed in Gaza battles":

Once, just once, can't the main headline read "Palestine militants and suicide bomber attack at Israel-Gaza crossing point," and a smaller one read, "In retaliation, 13 Palestinians are reported killed"? It is heart-wrenching enough to hear of such carnage without at least your telling it like it was.

Please remember the words of the late Prime Minister Golda Meier, who stated at one point in a previous conflict, "We can forgive the Palestinians for killing our children, but we cannot forgive them for making us kill theirs."

Meyer and Selma Kahan
Creve Coeur

Two excellent letters making great points clearly and concisely. Two (three?) amateurs providing better written content than anything else in the paper today. Of course, if they had to write a column, they'd have to pad them out to fill the whole thing.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:37 PM | Media Criticism

Three Easy Pieces

Let's talk indecency for a moment. Let me offer you three pieces on it:

A Newspaper Professional in a Newspaper

A Newspaper Professional's blog

Just Some Guy

I agree with the last two. I think the first one is dreadful, and yet he's the only guy getting paid to write it. Think about that for a moment.

Consider this as well: the professional in a newspaper has presented us with a bunch of blather, a fact free zone adrift on a sea of paranoia and opinion: the professional in his blog has provided a few facts but much better writing; and just some guy has done his homework and provided a well reasoned piece of persuasive writing. Eric Mink has a week between columns and the resources of a newspaper at his disposal to ferret out the facts, and that's what he chooses to publish. What is wrong with this picture?

I think the professionals in the media today assume we are going to believe them because they are professionals in the media today. No facts, no reason, just take my word for it. How very insulting. And they wonder why readership and viewership continues to decline for the "serious" news media.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:26 PM | Media Criticism

March 10, 2004

Back To Iraq

Here's another soldier's account of his experience in Iraq:

"I don’t mean to paint too rosy a picture by implying it’s all about challenging and engaging humanitarian work. We still fight. Early on, there was the incident that would have changed everything were it not for a faulty stretch of detonation cord that failed to set off four 155mm rounds (the big ones) buried on the side of the road. It was funny back then. We had a great laugh during dinner when our silence was broken by, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say someone was trying to kill us.” We ate hamburgers that night, a rare treat, and laughed with mouths wide open.

The fighting is much less funny now, but we are not the perpetual victims my month-old newspapers seem to imply. Sometimes the enemy decides when and where to fight and sometimes we do. When the fighting happens at all, however, it feels like failure. When I spend my time worrying about school contractors and the business plans of artists, it feels like success."

Once again, an eyewitness says the media just doesn't get the story right. And I believe this guy - anybody who made it through the Physics 60 series at Stanford (like yours truly and sometime visitor Carl Drews) has instant credibility with me. On a side note, the editor's introduction is pretty good too:

"Some Americans admire and respect U.S. soldiers but would rather not use them. Others admire and respect U.S. soldiers, especially when we use them. Still others claim to admire and respect U.S. soldiers, but privately would admit they so abhor the notion of sanctioned killing they can’t stomach the uniform."

Good stuff, Maynard.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:55 PM | War On Terror

March 9, 2004

Tis the Season

Since Missouri is both a battleground and bellweather state, the political ads have started. I'm getting more tired of the "I'm state your name, and I approved this ad" formula than anything else -- yet.

I'm not outraged by the Bush ads showing the devastation at World Trade Center following the terrorist attack there. I am outraged at the lying sacks of shaving cream who work for and their fraudulent ad. Of course, the organization itself is a fraudulent organisation (to borrow a meme from Kerry) as it came into being as a group of so-called political moderates to advocate that we just move on from President Clinton's legal problems. Somehow these moderates have consistantly acted as left wing partisans -- all the while claiming to dislike partisanship.

I also get to see ads for the Democrats running for the Senate in Illinois - after Rod Blago... won the race for Governor and credited his St. Louis media buys that covered southern Illinois, the Democrats especially run a lot of ads here meant for Illinois. Blair Hull is like a friend these days who pops in constantly without warning.

I've noticed that a lot of Democrats and some Republicans have difficulty with the difference between price and cost. Cost is what it takes to make or provide something. Price is what you are charged for the thing or service. Politicians are constantly telling me how they are going to lower the cost of something -- typically healthcare, ocasionally housing -- when all they are going to do is lower the obvious price and do nothing for cost. Are they going to do anything about the government regulation and oversight that adds to the cost? Heck no. They're going to have a single pay system dictate price. It's enough to make you vote Libertarian.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:40 PM | National Politics

One More Flavor of Cool

Now that I'm burning my own music CD's -- a combination of what I already own and songs downloaded from iTunes -- I'm also labeling my own CDs. The Fruit of the Murphy Loins were more than happy to take a marker to the bare plastic, but aesthtete that I am, I wanted more, and so I use the Neato labeling system. It works fine, although I'm limited by my artistic ability, and I can't leave the CDs in the car when it gets real cold because the CD shrinks more than the label which causes puckering which causes problems playing the CD. But HP has solved that problem for me with their new LightScribe technology which burns the flip side of the CD. I want one.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:53 AM | Technology

March 3, 2004

Really The Penultimate Passion Post

The final post (I hope) will be after I see the movie (don't make me tell you how busy I am). But I can't resist commenting anyway.

First, Robert Musil passes along a great comment: "If you didn't like the movie, you probably didn't like the book.". I bet that accounts for the skew between viewers and critics he reports - 99% positive for movie goers, 54% rotten for critics.

OK, can we officially close the Jew-hating aspect of the movie? All those religious fanatics have seen it, and yet no Jew-hating incidents -- although the other fearless leader heard a claim by someone from the ADL during a panel discussion that a nice Jewish person was distressed at seeing a poster for the movie posted at a school and the person who posted it didn't promptly remove it despite the distress. If that's the complaint, time to move on to real outrages.

And now we have pundits (like Page and Safire - they don't agree to often) going on record that the problem with Jew-hatred and the movie will be overseas, and not here. OK, in Europe and the Middle East there is already a lot of Jew-hatred, and the materials that float around in those locals are far more inflammatory -- and unambigously filled with Jew-hatred -- than the movie The Passion. And it's not like either of those two places are very Christian anymore, although I grant that they once were. But it's odd that the thrust should be The Passion, and not the existing Jew-hatred in those places, like so called art, literature, or entertainment. I mean, if we're going to talk about Jew-hatred overseas, lets be honest about it, and let's talk about the virulent home grown stuff over there that really is far, far worse than anything Mel or his movie have even been accused of. Try Little Green Footballs if you want to find links to some real live breathing Jew-hatred.

And how about Hollywood. After giving Mel and his movie the cold shoulder, they gave a nice big wet smootchie to Leni Riefenstahl, Nazi filmaker extraordinaire. Nice to know principle still counts for something.

When Bill O'Reilly asked him what he learned from all this, Gibson joked "have another Bible script handy because the studios are all going to want to do it now." After the weekend the The Passion just had, they aren't laughing at that remark in Hollywood - they're too busy looking for Bible scripts to shoot. But not just any Bible scripts after the box office failures of Dogma and Last Temptation of Christ, but ones that ordinary Christians can identify with.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:46 PM | Faith

Just Wondering

Why is when a politician does something I don't like but someone else does, that's pandering to them, but when he does something I like but somebody else doesn't, that's standing up for principle despite opposition. Just curious.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 11:57 AM | National Politics

March 1, 2004

Eisner's Lost His Grip

I watched Barbara Walter's interview with Shrek in total amazement. Not because of the content, but because of the context. Shrek was made by Jeffrey Katzenberg who left (was forced out of ?) Disney -- and who mocked Eisner in the movie unceasingly. So there was Barbara Walters shilling for Shrek 2 on ABC, which is owned by Disney. Eisner is notoriously thin skinned and vindictive, yet there was Shrek 2 being promoted on his network.

The tea leaves say: Eisner has lost his grip.

I can't believe I beat Robert Musil to it.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:36 PM | Current Events

The Oscars

I watched the Oscars last night with the Other Fearless Leader. I offer my non-realtime thoughts.

For such a small industry, actors sure have a lot of award shows. What are they compensating for?

When did they all get so old? Bill Murray looks like he's about 70 now. And Jim Carrey - old and amazingly big eared.

Susan Sarandon, did you use double sided tape or glue? I'm just curious, totally non-purient.

Too bad ABC doesn't have the same policy as Clear Channel - I thought I was watching E! when Owen Wilson asked that gal if her's were real. Instead of a goofy grin, I wish she'd replied "As real as your talent, Owen."

The best part was right at the start - Michael Moore squished by a Mumakil. It was all downhill from there.

All that money for the event, and they couldn't get the sound mix right - the orchestra too loud, Billy Crystal too soft. And that was about the only fun, let alone funny part of the whole show.

For a bunch of egalitarians, they sure do have a pecking order. Why was Uma Thurman up front? Why was Peter Jackon way on the side in the back - his movie only won 11 stinking awards. And those people who win all the boring awards - they were so far back they cut to graphics so you had something to watch while they made the hike down to the stage. At least I didn't have to see Jack Nicholson sprawled out in the front row.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at 12:19 PM | Media Criticism