Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fear Of A (color=x) Planet

Okay, the whole day goes by and I still can't shake Dobbs.

It's not just him. Check out this O'Reilly quote:

But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you’re a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have.
A few months back Charlie John Gibson was on a similar bandwagon, without the left bashing, calling for white people to have more babies or by 2050 "we" will be in the minority. Lou Dobbs continually insists that he has nothing against Mexicans as a people, only that their increased numbers in the country will cause economic disaster, leprosy and, uh, I dunno, a gradual shift to different national holidays.

I have said it before, but white people, black people, Jewish people, Muslim people, female people, Swedish people - they're all people, dude. The differences between are pretty tiny compared to the similarities. If the country were 90% Mexican, it would actually be run about the same as it is now. It's a big concept to wrap your mind around, because we focus on superficiality - skin color, accents, peculiarities in the way we worship - but ultimately, as groups there are few important differences.

As individuals of course, the differences between two people are often vast. I'm just talking about us vs. them, not me vs. you.

So racism is, to use an inelegant metaphor, no more than being afraid of your own shadow.

I think this is true of politics as well. My first urge is to believe Republicans are too stupid to understand the world like I do, but that's stupid. They're intelligent people who are getting different information than I am. They want the same thing I do too, a better America which is fair to its citizens, only we disagree about the best ways to accomplish it.

The dangerous meme that's making its way around Republican circles this generation though is the idea that the non-Republicans are so far gone that they must be stopped by any means necessary. Hence the willingness to cage votes, to fix elections, to cheat. Of course it's wrong, but to them it's better than the alternative. The history of politics in the last 30 years (probably much, much longer) seems to be one of stacking up the wrongs in hopes of eventually making a right of some kind. In practice, it virtually guarantees a never-ending assembly line of revenge plots. Viva L'Acme!

This fear of the other is so deeply ingrained in human nature that I suppose only evolution will rid us of it. Glad I believe in evolution, or I'd see no hope at all.

By the way, creationists - what a buncha jerkoffs.

My Cheap Shot: Lou Dobbs

Dobbs doesn't want Mexicans in the country because the more we have, the more orange he looks by comparison.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Leiberman Visits Iraq; "Happy with Progress"

For God's sake, someone in the state department stop these people before they pursue photo ops in Iraq! What the hell kind of message is this?

Do what the president did yesterday - build an Iraqi street in Georgia, and visit THAT. Then you can walk in your shirtsleeves. You can even have a couple of "locals" greet you as a liberator, on camera. You kiss a baby, buy a couple of rugs, maybe even wrestle a terrorist to the ground with your bare hands. Whatever. Will it seem faked? Of course, but we're used to it now!

By the way, it's apparently the 2nd anniversary of Cheney's "last throes" remark: “the level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline.” And yes it will, after a final violent spasm which is just around the corner. The country is still pretty twitchy -- two years is a long time to be in throes -- but that's why it will be too exhausted to fight us over here! We are sitting in the catbird seat, my friends. This war is as good as won. But we still should probably occupy it for at least 50 more years. Why take chances. Pulling out is dangerous, and could cost lives.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Real Borders Aren't Photogenic

The President gives a speech at a simulated Border crossing in Glynco, Georgia to push the immigration bill.

Glynco, Georgia? Surrounded by the United States on three sides, and a small beach town on the fourth. What border crossing do you know that abuts a lush forest?

So I can see giving a speech in Georgia about immigration. And I can see a photo op at a border being a good idea. BUILDING a border crossing for the purposes of a speech has a bit of a let-them-eat-cake quality to it though.

Well, I'm sure they'll find some use for the structure after today, like, uh, a carpet warehouse or some kind of immigration theme park. Work with me here, people.

I Don't Blame Cindy

Just a shout out to Cindy Sheehan - why not quit? It's pretty clear now that the cause is lost, when most of the country wants us out of Iraq but Congress is too weak or stupid to try. And I know you're going to get more people calling you an attention whore, from both sides now, which is ridiculous. Sure, that's the reason you've been protesting. It's like gay people -- they choose to be gay not because they have to, but because they enjoy the abuse and the beatings.

Ah, compassionate conservatism - they fight the greiving moms, the war veterans, the 9/11 survivors, the Parkinson's disease sufferers, and the AARP. It takes a special kind of courage, but that's just how they roll.

Anyway Cindy, one day this will all be over. I'd say we can have a good laugh over it then, but it will be over because the nuclear winter will forstall any mass communication for a few hundred years, and then we'll have all forgotten politics and be fighting each other based on skin color and religion, like it's supposed to be.

(Extra bitter today - sorry, bad coffee.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

6000 Years At The Museum

Click on the title and you'll get a tour, via Reuters, of the new Creation Museum in Kentucky. It's like many natural history museums, only it explains how all species on earth were present on Noah's Ark, including dinosaurs.

"What we've done here is to give people an opportunity to hear information that is not readily available ... to challenge them that really you can believe the Bible's history," said Ken Ham, president of the group Answers in Genesis that founded the museum.

Here exhibits show the Grand Canyon took just days to form during Noah's flood, dinosaurs coexisted with humans and had a place on Noah's Ark, and Cain married his sister to people the earth, among other Biblical wonders.

Man, the graffiti in that place is gonna be MAGNIFICENT.

Read the article and ask your creationist friend how many of those premises they're buying into.

Friday, May 25, 2007

What You Don't Know: Coelacanth Hurt You

There's a cheapie monochrome sci-fi movie from the fifties which has stayed in my head. Called MONSTER ON CAMPUS, it's the story of a college professor who gets a hold of the long-extinct frozen Coelacanth, which is a breed of fish. A mosquito feeds on the blood and becomes a gigantic pre-historic monster mosquito; the scientist somehow puts his hand in the Coelacanth's mouth, gets "bitten" and finds himself reverting to caveman form, only at night. Kind of a were-caveman, if you will. If you take the fish out of the equation, ALTERED STATES is a remake of MONSTER ON CAMPUS.

Much as I love the 'canths, (by the way, another one was caught in 1998) the story might not have come to my attention if it hadn't been flagged by the WHERE ARE MY KEYS blog, because somehow the existence of a Coelocanth disproves evolution.

I'll tell you what I thought was extinct - debate about evolution. And like that Indonesian, I'd heard that such a thing exists but I never thought I'd see one face to face. But I have spent the better part of the week arguing about the origin of species. While I kept imagining myself in a white 3 piece suit, mopping my brow with a cotton handkerchief while gently mocking my learned opponent before a jury of farmers, the thing that fascinated me most is these bloggers weren't creationists. They were simply conservatives.

It's no longer a battle of faith versus science. Apparently now it's a territory war. The Right believes that the schools have a liberal bias and they want back in. You can add schools to the media, Muslims and the blogosphere on the list of organizations which somehow are against them. The evolutionists control the banks and the media!

My problem with teaching creationism in science classes is, of course, that it is the opposite of science. Creationism is philosophy. Come to think of it, how would those people react to a requirement that Darwin be given equal attention at Bob Jones University? I brought something up in the debate but no one reacted to it: you can believe in God AND evolution pretty easily. Why not a world where God creates, then allows things to evolve? The thing that bothers creationists is the fossil record is older than 4000 6000 years, which is how old they think the bible says the Earth is. If you buy evolution, you can't buy a literal Bible.

And since very few people think that way, creationists keep that part on the downlow. Pin one of 'em down on it some time. It's fun!

Anyway, let's tie up the loose ends. A. Finding a long-thought-extinct species doesn't disprove evolution, it proves we were mistaken about it being extinct. If a branch of the Coelacanth didn't evolve, it simply means that branch was able to survive under its local conditions. B. There is such a thing as evolution. You will never be able to prove it to creationists (I gave up trying) in the same way that you'll never convince some people that we never landed on the moon. Faith trumps evidence; it has to. Otherwise why call it faith? C. Just because they didn't respond to the age-of-earth thing, doesn't mean they wouldn't have a counter-argument. I'll grant that.

Oh, and D. The were-caveman is a metaphor for the regression of rational thought. I wish I could have done that one more artfully.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Make Your Own Cola, Then Never Drink Cola Again

This link takes you to a recipe for open-source cola! You can mix the stuff up yourself.

The downside to the process, as pointed out by BoingBoing, is that you realize the Cola is just a cup of sugar with enough other ingredients to dissolve it. Plus, you may want to pay attention to these warnings:

  • Caffeine can be toxic in high doses. Be careful not to add too much to your mixture, and do not ingest large quantities.
  • Many of the oils needed for flavoring can burn skin. Use caution when preparing. They can also dissolve the plastic lining of a refrigerator; store with caution.
  • Gum arabic is available in two forms, art grade, and food grade. Be sure to get food grade Gum arabic, or you could have an unpleasant toxic reaction.

So, thirsty?


Harry Shearer, a pretty snarky guy, gets seriously nasty at Congress for backing down from Iran benchmarks and withdrawal dates here. In my experience Harry is almost always right. No change this time, either.

What the hell were they thinking? Here is how it should have played out: Congress submits funding bill with timetables. President vetoes. Repeat many, many times. Each time, Bush would say that Congress is refusing to fund the troops, and each time Pelosi would point out that they are submitting funding bills. Gradually the troops would run out of money, and Bush would have to choose between not accepting what amounts to suggestions on when to bring them home and bringing them home himself, or just abandoning the Army entirely.

However, they changed course. I'm certain that the recent poll which placed congressional approval at 29% had everything to do with it. They thought, somehow, that Americans wanted them to keep funding the war. Even though it's pretty obvious that they were elected to STOP the war.

You can learn much from GW Bush, but the biggest takeway is this - no matter how low his polls go, he will always have a core group who admire him for holding on to his insane, mistaken beliefs. He's consistent on some things, and it gives him the illusion of conviction. Would it kill Democrats to stop triangulating for a while? I'm in favor of compromising when reasonable people can disagree about things, but another thing you can learn from GW Bush is he's not reasonable.

It's also possible that congress remembers the early 90's budget showdown between Gingrich and Clinton. In that scenario, ultimately, Congress got blamed as the obstructionists. I can see the analogy but listen kids: Conservatives are ALWAYS the obstructionists. It's built into the definition of conservatism.

Anyway, I hope the current version of the bill gets voted down before it even reaches the President, because it's hella bad strategy. And I further hope that when 2008 comes around, there's a plausible 3rd party candidate.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Double Negative Doesn't Not Speak Truth

Hat Tip To Wonkette: look at this item from Roll Call, a congressional publication!

Vice President Cheney isn’t not on the phone records of the alleged D.C. Madam, who is accused of running a high-price call-girl ring in Washington, the accused madam’s lawyer said on Tuesday.
This is the entirety of the item.

Let's examine the possibilities. The D.C. Madam's lawyer is being quoted correctly, in which case he's saying that Cheney paid for it. Or a copywriter misquoted, in which case the lawyer is or is not saying it.

I think they are trying to say Cheney was a client, but they're hoping that the message is confusing enough that the Administration won't understand and therefore take no action; such action presumably involving a black cloth bag and and a long drive in a windowless van, for starters.

And yes, for you to believe this you have to believe that Cheney has some element of human sexual response that you didn't think him capable of. Deal with it. At least it's not Ashcroft.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mo Rocca Settles The Dispute

Mo Rocca, former Daily Show correspondent and a man who can rattle off all 50 state capitols at the drop of a hat, has weighed in on the whole Jimmy Carter imbroglio with a blog post entitled, "Boys, Boys! You're BOTH Crappy Presidents!" Worthwhile reading. He does pick one for the worst, but the margins are razor thin.

Better Safe Than Sorry?

I'm pro-choice (term of art, perhaps, but you know what I mean) so I was intrigued by an editorial in yesterday's Boston Globe by Dean Barnett. Mr. Barnett opposes abortion not on religious grounds, or even moral ones, strictly speaking. The argument boils down thus: we can't agree on when "life begins". Is it at the moment of birth? Conception? Since no one really knows, we must not allow abortion of any kind.

This logic appeals to me. Though in fact, it IS a moral argument, based on the idea that killing another human being is wrong. If you accept that as fact, then you should oppose abortion. And that's where this turns ugly, especially for the modern conservative. Because in no way do most people think it's wrong to kill another human being.

First, I'll grant you that self-defense is an exception. If someone is trying to kill you, you have a right to defend yourself, because you're preventing someone from being killed. But most Americans believe in the death penalty. In this scenario, the man who wants to kill is isolated and prevented from killing you. Killing that man (or woman - I'm talkin' to you, Aileen!) is purely a matter of choice. Maybe this killer would have gone on to renounce their evil ways, perhaps even contribute a valuable book to society. If the majority of Americans support the death penalty, they have no reason to oppose abortion.

Then there is the war. If you support the Iraq war, in which we attacked a country either because we believed they had WMDs or to liberate the country from the oppressive murderous overlord who ran it, well, either way we're killing people because we choose to. Support the war? Leave my foetus alone!

I have no idea how Dean Barnett feels about the war OR the death penalty, though I will point out that he frequently writes for the Weekly Standard and Hugh Hewitt. If he's anti-war or anti-death-penalty, I doubt he'd be welcome there. Still if he is, then more power to him. And congratulations on a good, but problematic argument.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Adwords - Does It Make Adsense?

I just bought a Google AdWords ad. For a maximum of $50 bucks a month I'm advertising BOX OFFICE WEEKLY, my showbiz podcast. It's not throwing money away either - I'm attempting to draw people to the site in hopes that they'll click on the banners, which are essentially other Google AdWords. Someone is going to make money in all this, and I think at least one of them is named Sergey.

There is no way on God's green Earth that I'll ever receive enough clicks to max out the $50 bucks. Worst case scenario is someone will start a click-war with me and start clicking on my ad just to sabotage me and force the limit, but those scenarios are disputable and I think I read in Wired that Google caves most of the time.

Cameron Reilly, the good-lookin' Australian who runs the Podcast Network, has frequently chided me for my poor podcast numbers. It's a compliment really - he thinks the show is good enough that I should have more listeners. He's right of course. If I were smart I'd overcome my shyness and aggressively pursue interviews with people more famous than myself. Whether you like a show or not, you may be interested in the guy they're talking to ON the show.

Which reminds me - on this week's show I fulfilled a long-held evil plan and put in a story about Halo 3. I've had an eye out for Halo stories ever since I noticed that I get more search-engine hits for the phrase "Halo" than anything else. All because I wrote ONE STORY about the cancelled Halo movie in October. Them Halo people is nuts! Anyway, in a few days I'll see that that serendipity has panned out. The story, by the way, is that they're releasing an early beta of a portion of the online battle segment of the game, to make y'all salivate for the late fall release of the complete beta. That oughtta sell a few X-Boxes!

If you see the adSense box, click on it. I can afford it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mischief for Lazy Bastards

In an attempt to quantify just how easy it is to infect someone's computer with a virus, a guy paid Google adwords to run the following:

Is your PC virus free? Get it infected here!

He ran the ad for six months and 409 people clicked on it.

Personally, I'm a Mac guy and I take it for granted that no one writes viruses for me (there ain't no future in that) so I probably would have clicked on it just to see what happens. But according to Didier Stevens, 98% of the respondents were Windows users. Disappointingly there was no virus; perhaps he'll be getting angry mail about that in the future.

What I take away from this story, by the way, is that it's really cheap to buy some space on Google Adwords. I need to push the podcast that way.

Jerry Falwell

I hate to speak ill of the dead.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Exxon-Mobil Is Always Secretly Plotting Against Us

Tomorrow is, if your spam filter isn't working properly, the day you are supposed to boycott the gas companies. Don't buy gas on May 15th! That'll teach them! That's a day of gas profits lost forever, yes?

Oh hell no.

These boycotts pop up about every eight months and have not had the effect of bringing down prices of anything. As far as I can tell, here is what happens when you do this - because the demand for gas doesn't change, you are causing a sales spike today and May 16th, for starters. Also, the guy who is struggling to keep his franchise running on the corner has to be sure to schedule less people on the 15th, and since it's usually one guy anyway it will probably be him. If it's already him, he's just losing money on the 15th and he'll have longer wait times today and the 16th. His oil suppliers will not even notice a difference.

So buy enough gas tomorrow so that you can drive to the commuter center and take public transportation to work. Or get more, so you can drive to the weirdo dealer at the edge of town, and reserve a SMART car. Or get yourself a nice bike.

And walk to the store once in a while, will ya? You could stand to take off a couple pounds, am I right? Of course I'm right. You're American.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mitt Romney: A Nice Enough Fellow

Look, he's really, really likable. And as a presidential candidate there's a lot of things to recommend him, mostly things he is not. He has never cross-dressed in public, for example. He's no atheist! And he is pro-gun enough to join the NRA, but not to go around shooting stuff.

Unfortunately, he's weird.

First of all, the name. What the hell is "Mitt" short for? Mitchell? Mitschlag? And Romney is pretty hard to place too.

Then there is the favorite novel remark. "Battlefield Earth?" He's either currying favor with a tiny coalition of scientologists; or he really likes the book. NOBODY really likes the book. It's abominable.

There is Mormonism. It looks nice from a distance, and they're all really clean-cut folks, but they're also, well, different than other Christians. You should have been watching in the 1800's though; THEN it was really nutty. Nowadays it's just a touch eccentric. It's kind of like a toothless Scientology. And how is a president going to effectively govern without access to caffeine?

Finally, there is the remark he made in speech over the weekend:

“In France, for instance, I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past.”
Completely untrue, based on nothing. No one knows where he got it from. Crazy talk!

He's still more normal than McCain though.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Bush Jokes That Queen is Over 230 Years Old!

The president thanked the 84-year-old monarch for helping America celebrate its bicentennial "in 1776." Recovering from his slip, Bush gave the queen a sheepish smile and told the audience that she had given him "a look only a mother could give."

Nazi Porn Vs. Terrorist Gangs

The NRA has spoken up for the right of people on the terrorist watch list to own firearms. This horrifies a lot of people, but not me. After all, there are two mitigating factors here. One of course is the right to bear arms is guaranteed in the constitution, and once you start excluding people it's not a guarantee. The second is that watch list is mighty large, arbitrary and capricious.

The founding fathers wanted us to have guns to protect ourselves. Not just from each other, but from the government. They wanted what they never had in England, the right to keep the King's forces from entering their homes. Gun ownership is just another one of those checks and balances built into American democracy.

Like all big ideas this one has a downside, and it's this: if you allow everyone to have guns, the percentage of gun agression will be higher. And the question is, is this bathwater bad enough to throw out the baby of gun rights with?

The NRA finds itself in the same philosophical quandry as the ACLU. They too defend a constitutional principal by refusing to ignore it's most unpopular ramifications. Free speech is free speech, even if it means that you can't outlaw Nazi rallies. Even if you can't outlaw porn. It's weird that the left sides with the ACLU and the right sides with the NRA, because they're both doing the same work. The ACLU defended Rush Limbaugh when he had one of his drug run-ins a year or two ago. If Michael Moore was caught with a concealed firearm, the NRA might very well help him out. I would hope so! I would also hope Moore has the presense of mind to carry that firearm, 'cause a lot of crazies hate him.

With both free speech AND gun ownership, a complete lack of restraint is more dangerous than helpful. We don't need home AK-47s, and we don't need to allow calls for lynching in the public square. We do, however, need organizations who will fight for these things, if only to be sure that they are bad ideas.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Startling New Health Theory!

Caught a nasty head cold yesterday - sore throat, congestion, fever, and malaise. I even took the day off work. A SICK day! During which I actually was SICK!

There has been this pattern throughout my life - I stop exercizing regularly, then I start up again, and soon I become ill. When I get better I resume exercizing with no ill effect, except of course disappointment that I don't have a body like Mel Gibson. For years I've concluded that the resumption of activity has somehow awakened dormant toxins. The increased blood flow scoops them out and sends them to the rest of my system.

So I caught up on a couple of TIVO'd episodes of HOUSE, which led me to think differently about this conundrum. I had a psychiatrist appointment (by the way, I'm officially not depressive until further notice! Woo hoo!) and I was bitching in the waiting room about my cold, and another crazy person told me there was a lot of it going around, because of the crazy weather we've been having. The psychiatrist said the same.

So here's what I'm thinking - exercize doesn't cause the colds. The weather changes cause me to think, "I should be exercizing" and that coincides with my colds. Makes sense. Commercial televsion spurs logical thought! Who'd have seen THAT coming?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bush Hands Me a Metaphor On A Silver Platter

No sooner do I finish writing about Law Day when I learn that yesterday, the President proclaimed May 1st Loyalty Day! As per the proclomation:

America was founded by patriots who risked their lives to bring freedom to our Nation. Today, our citizens are grateful for our Founding Fathers and confident in the principles that lead us forward. On Loyalty Day, we celebrate the blessings of freedom and remember our responsibility to continue our legacy of liberty.
So listen - here's your proof that the President values loyalty above everything else, even the law itself. As though it wasn't obvious already. Buy your streamers now - June 1st is "Public Disagreement Is Treason" Day.

Happy Law Day

Since 1958 May 1st has been desginated Law Day in America. As the Law Library of Congress web page says: "Law Day provides an opportunity for everyone to reflect on our legal heritage, on the role of law, and on the rights and duties which are the foundation of peace and prosperity for all mankind."

Who knew? Why hasn't this gotten more press? There oughtta be a law.

Personally I'm tempted to use the day as an opportunity to take cheap shots at Alberto (quaint Geneva Conventions) Gonzales, but law itself is interesting. It's one of those concepts, like money, which only makes sense because we all agree it makes sense. Just as you can trade a piece of green paper for a Famous Amos cookie because we all say they are worth the same thing, we obey laws because it would be a less safe world without them.

The best law, symbolically, is traffic law. Everybody can understand why it's best that we keep to one side of the road and maintain regular speeds, because the alternative is obviously death and bad traffic. Other law can be a little obscure, and often it's counter-productive and self-contratdicting. We love law so much that we try to make it cover everything. The only thing harder than making a dumb law is getting rid of it. The books are filled with "no-slapping-a-horse-in-the-public-square" ordinances.

It's also pretty easy to confuse law with morality. The two should have little to do with each other. Is it morally wrong to stop dead in the middle of a freeway lane? No, it's stupid. Is it morally wrong to slap a horse in private? Perhaps, but a law won't make it more so. Law shouldn't be a tool to express moral outrage. Law should be a means to keep society moving.

Punishing moral offenses is the job of religion, and guilt. Use them people! That's what they're for.