Saturday, March 31, 2007

If it's slithery and repulsive, it's probably a …

… Newt.

This just in:

From: JoshuaE
Subject: Topic for your blog

What do you think of Gingrich's recent comment:

"We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," Gingrich said to cheers from the crowd of more than 100.


Personally, I find the most telling "word" in this paragraph is "100".

How am I supposed to write a thoughtful essay examining the pros and cons of English as official language after that last line?

.xxx nixed

Looks like the .xxx TLD (top level domain), which had been proposed for porn sites, will not happen. I remember when this idea was first proposed, and I was actually surprised to learn that it hadn't gone away, but it seems that the decision is now final. This makes me mildly irritated.

The NYT story doesn't report the case against it completely, although the obvious hand-waving explanations are presented: some think it would serve as a magnet for kids, others think it would mean ICANN would be expanding into the regulation/censorship business, rather than just assigning domain names, and like that. Other stories don't seem to add much, although one of them suggests an additional argument against: that many porn-site operators themselves were against it, fearing being "ghettoized." (I have also heard, although didn't see mentioned today, that many established porn sites have recently turned against the idea, claiming they had invested too much time and money and building a "brand identity." Think, I guess.)

When I first heard about this idea, it seemed less complicated. Many site operators were quoted as being in favor of the idea, especially on a voluntary basis, indicating that they were trying to be responsible about regulating site traffic. It would be brain-dead easy to configure a computer and/or browser to refuse to open any pages on a .xxx site, which would cut down on their problems with screening underage visitors. This story gives credence to this thinking; according to the group lobbying for the .xxx TLD: "ICM cited preregistrations of more than 76,000 names as evidence of support."

I have to say that I don't really have a problem with people looking at pictures of whatever gets their freak on, provided the models are willing adults. It's not for me, or anyone else, to decide for others what is "worthwhile" or "appropriate." To go a little hyperbolic, recall that we used to have an Attorney General who once spent $8000 to drape a statue, fearing his erection a bare marble breast would mess up his photo ops.

I also don't really have a problem with porn sites being lumped into a category that makes it easy to block them en masse. We seem to tolerate zoning laws that prevent brick and mortar porn outlets from opening next to elementary schools, for example.

Sure, a .xxx TLD wouldn't solve all problems. I think making it mandatory would be impossible, and would be fraught with real censorship issues. And if implemented as voluntary, the obvious next step is to wonder what would be done about all of the sites that didn't make the switch.

Too many people seem bent on requiring The Law to protect The Children these days, and are too lazy to take personal responsibility. Too many others have appointed themselves gatekeepers of taste. But my real problem with the decision is that I think we're in an age where no one is interested in partial solutions. If something is not a magic bullet, it's too easy to dismiss it out of hand. Would creating a .xxx TLD have evermore prevented children from looking at bare naked bodies? Obviously not. But I thought setting up a voluntary .xxx TLD would have been a step in a good direction, and it's hard to see how it would have hurt.

WebProNews has a story that describes in more detail the arguments offered by the ICANN board members dissenting from the majority decision.

BBS News, which bills itself as "Your true conservative news source," has a pretty good commentary on the matter, and I don't just say that because they agree with me on this issue.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mastering Image Search

Have a look at Red State Son's post titled "Think In Your Mind."

Masterful, I call it.

Naked Chocolate Jesus

Regarding the decision of the Roger Smith Hotel to cancel the exhibition of Cosimo Cavallaro's sculpture, in response to pressure from the usual wingnuts, I have only one thing to say.



2007-04-01 13:34 EDT

Beats me: Clif over at Outside the Tent titles his thoughts about the noise created by Catholic League president Bill Donohue as "Willy Wanker and the Chocolate Flappery."

I bow down.

Cable TV Goes Blank?

One good thing about the insanely long presidential campaign "season" in this country is that reporters are pushed to new limits of creativity to find something to say about the "race."

Take this WaPo story: "Fred Thompson's Presidential Hopes Could Put 'Law' Reruns in Lockup."

That's right. If the guy who's not a D.A. but plays one on TV goes much further, then due to considerations of equal time on the airwaves (even if they're not really the airwaves anymore), no more Law & Order reruns for you.

Which, I have to say, is almost enough to make me contribute to his campaign.

(Hat tip, for the link, to Andy Bowers, who in the same story has posted a fake campaign ad for Thompson that he made. This "ad" is preceded by a real ad -- meta madness! -- but it's pretty funny.)


2007-03-30 17:17 EDT

See Mere Rhetoric for another funny post on Thompson.

Further Proof

… that George W. Bush is not, was not, and has never been a sissy, is offered by this teaser from today's NYT e-front page:

Pom-Poms, Pyramids and Peril

Cheerleaders suffer more catastrophic injuries than athletes in all other sports combined.

NYT-picking: The Search for a New Public Editor

According to Jack Shafer's Press Box column on Slate, the NY Times will be hiring a new Public Editor when Byron Calame steps down in April. (His source was Women's Wear Daily. Who knew?)


Hey! Maybe my January post to Bill Keller worked! It must have -- he was evidently too shamed ever to reply.


But seriously, I'm glad that Keller made the decision to keep the position, and I'm probably with the overwhelming majority when I hope that he'll get someone more like Daniel Okrent, the first PE. Shafer suggests someone under thirty, with not too much newspaper experience, and makes a good case for these suggestions. He also proposes some worthy nominees.

I can't think of any names offhand that compare with Shafer's suggestions, although I will point out that:

  • I'm only 26 if you express my age in vigesimal notation; and,
  • My gross earnings from newspaper work, deliveries aside, amount to less than $100.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Just When You Thought Republican Lying Couldn't Get Any More Ludicrous

Thanks to Eve Fairbanks, we now have the rare opportunity to watch Tom Delay lie on TV.

Not impressed?

Okay. Here's the rest. He's on Hardball, and he denies having written something. The thing that he said is in the book that he just wrote, that he's there to pimp. Chris Matthews says, "But I underlined it." Delay denies it again. Whereupon Matthews pulls out a copy of the book and reads it. Whereupon Delay still denies it.

Watch the whole clip (less than two minutes), and be very thankful for Ronnie Earle.

Oh, and by the way? Just when I thought I couldn't hate Tom Delay any more, he picks a title for his stupid book that comes perilously close to sullying the slogan for one of my all-time favorite movies. (I'll let you have some of my 5 Shit Sandwich points if you can explain my obscurantism.)

Where's The Giant Sucking Sound When You Need It?

I'd be sort of terrified about the inability of the Star Wars people to even run sump pumps, if I weren't convinced that flooding those silos might in fact be the best long-term strategy.

Still, just when North Korea is prepping for an advanced missile launch, you have to at least cringe at stories like this.

Hat tip: Keelin McDonell.

Don't remember the phrase giant sucking sound?

Simile of the Day -- 2007-03-29

Summary of a squabble between McCain attacker Giuliani supporter Philip Klein (writing in The American Spectator) and Guliani attacker McCain supporter Ramesh Ponnuru (writing in The National Review):

Like hemophiliacs going at one another with chainsaws, I tell you.
-- Jonathan Chait

And on another post on The Plank, Jason Zengerle delivers the first criticism of Jim Belushi that goes too far. Warning: Do not follow JZ's video link unless you really want to see Karl Rove try to bring teh funny. It's that painful.


2007-04-01 12:18 EDT

The always wonderful Zeitgeist Checklist chimes in:

Watch it [the video] and you'll understand why Jim Webb carries a gun.

Bonus points: The title for this entry is "Glock and Speil."

Krugman Beats Us All. Again.

Both Chris Suellentrop and Matt Yglesias, whom I refer to in earlier posts, have recently mentioned the Shields and Cragan study. Suellentrop, to his credit, also acknowledges that Paul Krugman wrote about it. Three weeks previously.

Money quote from Krugman's 9 March 2007 column:

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

How can this have been happening without a national uproar? The authors explain: "We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-statewide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest."

The full study is on ePluribus Media.

Hat tips all around. Except to the people who keep Krugman behind the TimesSelect wall. He's worth paying for, which I do, but it would also better serve the public good to make his column freely available.

Now That's Thinking Outside the Box!

An idea positively Rovian in its wicked beauty:

Incidentally, I sort of feel that US liberals should welcome Québec secession. It would create an ideal opportunity for the United States to conquer the maritime provinces and the right would be so blinded by jingoism that they'd fail to notice that they've just created a bunch of new liberal senators.
-- Matthew Yglesias

Thanks (again) for the link, Opinionater.

Pig Pile!

There's an op-ed worth reading in today's LA Times, by Joseph D. Rich. Rich, according to the bio supplied with the article, was "chief of the voting section in the Justice Department's civil right division from 1999 to 2005."

Rich makes the case that the recent news of political maneuvering at the Justice Department is no recent thing, but has been going on for the past six or so years. Of particular note: he describes the complete lack of any JD prosecutions concerning voting rights cases and a push to stomp hard on voter fraud. (Let's play Jeopardy … the correct question is: "What are the two best ways for the Justice Department to suppress minority turnout at the polls?")

I'm a bit cynical about Rich suddenly finding the stones to bring this up now, after having been part of the scenery, if not part of the problem, lo these many years. But, maybe he was trying to do the right thing from within, or maybe he had a change of heart, or maybe he finished paying off his kids' college bills. Or maybe, he's wanted to say this all along, and finally felt that someone besides us terrorist-loving lefty bloggers was ready to hear it. Or maybe, piling on is the only way to fight a colossus like the W administration (used to be?).

Whatever the underlying motivations, there are some worthwhile details. Better late than never, in any case.

Hat tip to Chris Suellentrop, aka the Opinionater, for the link.


2007-03-29 21:10 EDT

More on voter fraud, or more precisely, "The Myth Of Voter Fraud," in the WaPo. Hat tip, Matt Y.


2007-03-30 16:13 EDT

Salon's lead story for today, "Bush's long history of politicizing justice," has more on the dismantling of the DOJ's dismantling of its Civil Rights division, including reference to Joseph Rich's testifying before Congress on the matter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Comment of the Day -- 2007-03-28

From a blog post asking readers to submit suggestions for the best way to back up a lot of data:

13. My uncle works for NASA. Years ago, he was called in to consult for the government on how to store some important data. Tape drives? CDs? (This was before DVDs.) His response was this: "If you write it on papyrus and lock it in a pyramid, we know it will last a few thousand years. Everything else is just guesswork."
-- David Ely

And speaking of low prices …

(… which we were in the previous post …)

You can now get free TimesSelect access if you have an email address ending in .edu.

That should take the edge off the college tuition bills.

(Details in E&P. Thanks to Mike D, via Mickey K.)

But If You Can't Make It There?

… what about anywhere (else)?

A small beacon of hope and a shoutout to the Big Apple, after reading this lede: "Wal-Mart to New York: fuhgeddaboudit."

(Must be nice to finally be as cool as Inglewood.)

And a shoutout to the NY Times, for this bit of in-line editorializing:

… Wal-Mart, a cost-minded retailer known for its dowdy merchandise …

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Among the many things that my friend Belinda has taught me over the years is that rescuing greyhounds is a Very Good Thing.

Once, long ago, I'd been to the dog track, didn't much care for it, had a vague sense of unease about how the dogs are slaughtered when they've outlived their professional usefulness, and that's about it.

A decade or so later, I met her new adoptees. I was amazed, right off, to see up close their unworldly built-for-speed look, the raked ears and massive rear thighs, especially. I got a few chances to play with them in their big backyard, and I want to tell you, seeing these things fly by from up close is truly jaw-dropping. But I was most surprised to learn what a gentle nature they have. Ten minutes of furious activity per day seems to be their routine, followed by a bout of ferocious slobbering in the water bowl, followed by two hours of trying to pretend that they are lap dogs.

See a couple of nice paintings of some old west coast friends of mine: Hey, Wanna Split a Sandwich? and Red Carpet Retirement.

Cuddle This

Let's say you were a president with approval ratings in the toilet, casting about for something, ANYTHING, to create an impression that you were actually not completely evil. Hmmm …

Hey, I know! Cute animals! Let's get do some photo ops with cute animals!

Not this president. Instead, plans are ongoing to gut the Endangered Species Act.

From Salon:

In recent months, the Fish and Wildlife Service has gone to extraordinary efforts to keep drafts of regulatory changes from the public. All copies of the working document were given a number corresponding to a person, so that leaked copies could be traced to that individual.


Many Fish and Wildlife Service employees believe the draft is not based on "defensible science," says a federal employee who asked to remain anonymous. Yet "there is genuine fear of retaliation for communicating that to the media. People are afraid for their jobs."


Under his reign, the administration has granted 57 species endangered status, the action in each case being prompted by a lawsuit. That's fewer than in any other administration in history -- and far fewer than were listed during the administrations of Reagan (253), Clinton (521) or Bush I (234).


… during this administration, nearly half of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who work with endangered species reported that they had been directed by their superiors to ignore scientific evidence that would result in recommendations for the protection of species …

The evil of this administration knows no bounds.

The whole story [S$], however depressing, is worth a read. One problem with the tendency of the news to focus on the scandal du jour is that the ramifications of the core mission of the Bush Administration -- to do whatever the oil, mining, and logging interests want -- often slip under the radar.

Monday, March 26, 2007

And Yet I …

Two from The Department of "I'm Probably the Last Person on the Planet To Have Noticed This, But Here Goes Anyway":

1. If you highlight some text while surfing with Firefox, and then right-click, one of the options on the context menu is "Search <engine> for <text>," where <engine> is whatever search engine you have set in the navigation toolbar, and <text> is whatever text you just highlighted.

How long has this been going on? (In my own defense, I am slavishly devoted to keyboard shortcuts, so it's not like I actually get to see the context menu all that often. In this context.)

2. Do you know The Defective Yeti? Here are a couple of three lines from recent posts …

This game is to free time what whales are to krill. (source)

The 2008 presidential race is as engrossing as "Mile two" of the Boston Marathon. (source)

A Google search indicates that no one has ever formed a heavy metal Christian band called "BC/AD." (source)

… and two quick posts that must be read in their entirety: Fool And His Money and Will Wonders Never Cease?.

Bookmark or subscribe. But keep track of the Yeti.

Not Anonymous Bosh

I have ranted in the past about anonymous posting and how lame I think it is. As with all sweeping generalizations, of course, there are valid exceptions. Here's one: "My National Security Letter Gag Order."

Bear in mind that there have been tens of thousands of these National Security Letters issued in the past three years.

We gave up liberty. Do we feel more secure?

Thanks to Chris Suellentrop for the link.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Soup Ream!

Q: How do a liquid diet and 500 pieces of paper relate to anything topical?
A: Not my job!

You'll have to excuse me. I just having finished today's NYT crossword puzzle.

To clarify: this week's Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me! has Soup Ream Court Justice Stephen Breyer on to play "Not My Job."

I'm not going to say he killed, but when you've got Paula Poundstone asking you questions, it's probably just best to play the straight man. And he did get off a couple of good lines.

Listen to that segment, or the whole show, by visiting this page.

(P.S. If you want to hear a "Not My Job" guest who did kill, check out the Aug 2005 show featuring Barack Obama.)

Another Thought for the Day -- 2007-03-25

… practically everything that our government does, plans, thinks, hears and contemplates in the realms of foreign policy is stamped and treated as secret -- and then unraveled by that same government, by the Congress and by the press in one continuing round of professional and social contacts and cooperative and competitive exchanges of information.
-- Max Frankel

Here, Frankel is quoting a memo that he wrote in 1971, when he was the chief Washington correspondent for the NY TImes, arguing to the NYT's lawyers that they should not knuckle under to the Nixon Administration's request that the NYT halt publication of the Pentagon Papers. His article in today's paper, which recalls that memo, compares those times with the Libby trial, emphasizing the insider politics and leak strategies of all Washington players. Well worth your time.

Thought for the Day -- 2007-03-25

I have always considered it absurd to judge anyone solely on the basis of the police reports and denunciations — to believe that, in a country in which everything was a lie, the security services were the only institution guided by an evangelical respect for the truth.
-- Adam Michnik

Prof. Michnik is talking about Poland here, but it's not much of a stretch to think of the U.S., is it? Especially in light of the USA PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, "extraordinary rendition," "national security letters," confessions obtained via torture, and stories such as this.

Bald Truth

Here's a budget analysis that you should read.

Well said, Matt Taibbi.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Understatement of the Day: 2007-03-24

I am a tenured faculty member at a large state university. My teaching efforts primarily consist of delivering statistics lectures to social science majors. These experiences have colored my perspective somewhat.
-- the "About" section for the Angry Professor

And don't miss the AP's response to a letter from Admin, which certainly qualifies for an award, too.

Eye Candy for the Day: 2007-03-24

Have a look around the site called dhteumeuleu. The current default that loads on the home page doesn't do much for me, but there's plenty else to see. Try clicking the"random" or "gallery" or "demos" links. Some amazing stuff awaits you. Most of the images react to your mouse movements. You may need to let the pages fully load before they respond properly, but they're not hugely bandwidth-intensive.

Tip: make sure the volume on your computer isn't cranked before visiting. The pages serve up music to accompany the images.

Thanks to Jinnet for for the link.

Retronym and Neologism of the Day -- 2007-03-24

In the same article, no less!

The retronym: artificial artificial intelligence

The neologism: crowdsourcing

I like 'em both, although I'm a bit mystified about why the NYT is treating Amazon's Mechanical Turk as a new thing. It's so 2005.


It seems that I am close to being able to tell the world that I now drive a Porsche.

Wonder if I can get a new key fob for ostentatious display in the singles bars?

Hand Wringing?

The lede:

A sharp debate within the Bush administration over the future of the Central Intelligence Agency's detention and interrogation program has left the agency without the authority to use harsh interrogation techniques that the White House said last fall were necessary in questioning terrorism suspects, according to administration and Congressional officials.


Until the debate is resolved, C.I.A. interrogators are authorized to use only interrogation procedures approved by the Pentagon.

My reaction:

You say that like that's a bad thing.

Is it just me, or does the story following the above lede have a tone worrying that we don't have enough legal ways to torture people?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Line of the Day -- 2007-03-22

Despite my personal regret at having to set aside yet another attempt to protect our children from harmful material, perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.
-- Lowell A. Reed Jr., Senior Judge of Federal District Court, in his ruling striking down a 1998 Internet pornography law (source)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mac Software Updates -- 2007-03-21

Apple has released two recent upgrades. OS X Tiger v 10.4.9 is now available (74.4 MB) and iTunes 7.1 (27.5 MB). Get them through Software Update under the Apple menu, as usual.

If you launch iTunes before doing Software Update, you might also get notified of its new version that way. Also, launching iTunes on the PC will likely provoke the same message -- it did for me, anyway. But you'll need to run Software Update for the OS upgrade.

The OS upgrade adds a bunch of stuff, including some security fixes. (Details here.) The update worked without a hitch for me. One minor note: the required post-upgrade reboot seemed to take a bit longer than usual. This seems to have been a one-time thing, probably having to do with completing the installation; the next restart did not take as long. Just so you know.

The Firefox update that I mentioned earlier is also available for the Mac. The patch in this case is considerably larger than the one for the PC, for reasons beyond my understanding -- it's about 16 MB.

I'll not rant further about the bloatiness of Mac software updates. You're probably still reeling from the last time.

Understatement of the Day: 2007-03-21

The Bush administration has few equals in its commitment to a broad conception of executive authority …
-- Adam Liptak

On a related note, I have only two words in response to the President's accusation of "partisan fishing expeditions:" Ken Starr.

John Backus

John Backus died this past Saturday. He was the inventor of Fortran, the first higher level programming language. For as much as programmers these days like to make fun of it, Fortran contributed as much as to the fact that you're now reading this post as Gutenberg's invention did to bring books to the masses. I cut my teeth on that language, as did many of my friends and colleagues, not to mention the gurus who moved the state of the art on from there.

There's a good remembrance of Backus in yesterday's NYT. Thanks for the link, Dan.


Mozilla has released a set of security patches for Firefox (details), bringing the latest version to

If you don't have automatic updating or notification enabled, do the usual:

Help -> Check for Updates

Seemed like a quick one to me, and it occurred without a hitch.


2007-03-21 12:31 EDT

BTW, if you're still running Firefox 1.5, there's an update for that, too. This one brings you to v.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

O, Brother

What could be worse than losing a brother?

How about losing a brother and then having to deal with wing nuts at the funeral?

TUA has put up a couple of great posts, the first describing finding out about his brother's untimely death, and the second describing the funeral.

Tough to read, but well worth it.

Neologism of the Month -- 2007-03

You've probably heard this one, but I wanted to set it down for the record once I came across the original source.

Inspired by Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales's recent heavy use of the passive voice -- "mistakes were made" -- CNN senior political analyst William Schneider said that Washington had developed a whole new grammatical tense: the past exonerative.


Sign of the (Slightly Improving) Times

Have you driven through Connecticut lately?

Check out the new road sign!

Thanks, KK.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Small Political Solution

You know those wing nuts that want to plaster Ronald Reagan's image everywhere, including on our money?

Here's my proposal: put him on the next dollar coin.

That should either gain acceptance for a dollar coin (which I would like to see) or shut the Gipperphiles up once and for all (which I would like even more).

(Brief pause while everyone chimes in with the counter-proposal to put W on the three dollar bill.)

A Small Silver Lining

I was watching Ryan Lizza and Joshua Green on this morning -- one of the best "diavlogs" that site has posted -- and I had a minor thought: One of the few good things about the endless presidential campaign is that it gives Barack Obama (just to pick a favorite candidate at random ;^) ) an opportunity to weather any scandals from his past long before it matters. I've already mostly forgotten the details about that stock deal thing, and I can't imagine anyone being able to use it against him when it matters.

You know, like 20 months from now.

Reading Recommendations: 2007-03-17

Nothing Irish about this list. I am occasionally as irritated with St. Patrick's Day* as many African-Americans are about "Black History Month." That said, all but the first entry on this list are screamingly funny with a large nugget of truth, which, your host possibly excluded, is what the Irish do best.

  • One Number That Will Ring All Your Phones
  • David Pogue's review of a new service called GrandCentral, which offers you one phone number for life. This to me is both intriguing and tempting. Arthur Clarke (or as Clare would correct me, Arthur C. Clarke) predicted this scenario a couple of decades ago. What GrandCentral offers appears to be the realization of Clarke's idea, with an additional bunch of cool features.

  • Horseshoes and Hand Grenades: Joel Johnson Spank Us All for Supporting Crap
  • An excellent rant, featuring the characteristic blend of this genre: incoherence, thrashing about for targets of blame, and several telling points, all of which make for a funny read.

  • Us to George -- sure, whatever
  • Bill Maher, in an op-ed for the LA Times. No need to sell Maher, right? He's the man. Thanks to TC for the referral.

  • The Pain -- When Will It End?
  • The web site for a weekly cartoon from Tim Kreider, which/who I had not known about until following a link from a post on "The Blog that is not Dan's Data," which is worth a read in itself.

    My bulleted link points to the home page, which gives you the latest of Kreider's cartoons. Visit his archives for more. Most of the archived pages have links pointing to the next and previous cartoons, so if your sense of humor overlaps mine, you can easily spend a happy hour or two here. (If your sense of humor doesn't overlap mine, you might find some of the cartoons a bit offensive -- Kreider is refreshingly frank about sex and religion.)

    Here are five that I particularly liked:

* For example …

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Triangulate This

Need another reason to dislike Hillary Clinton?


Oh, just play along.

According to the NYT blog The Caucus, Sen. Clinton was asked on ABC News today whether she thought homosexuality was "immoral." The Caucus reports that she declined to answer, giving a classic weasel in response, leaving it for "others to conclude."

I have no doubt that Sen. Clinton is not a homophobe, and I understand the political calculus that underlies her every breath. It may even be that she was misunderstood, as later spin from her camp seems to suggest. Nonetheless, this is yet another case of her being so eager to unoffend that those of us with any moral fiber at all can do nothing but cringe.

To recall the famous words of another infamous First Lady, here's some succinct advice, should the question ever get asked again: "Just Say No."

The Miers Nomination, Take 2

Reflections after reading the lead story in today's NYTimes

One of the memes that we used to hear ad nauseum was that loyalty counted for everything in the Bush Administration. George Bush's loyalty, it was often said, was the reason why guys like Brownie and Bremer and Rummy got or kept their jobs, despite clear demonstrations of incompetence. Bush's loyalty was also trotted out to explain why a certain thoroughly unqualified White House counsel was once nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court.

As with most politicians on the defensive, though, it turns out that loyalty for George Bush is an ice cube: Turn up the heat, and watch it vanish.

With the Occupant-in-Chief safely out of the country, guess who's being groomed as scapegoat -- back in Washington -- for the burgeoning scandal concerning all those fired U.S. Attorneys.


With Mr. Bush traveling in Mexico, the White House insisted that the president's role had been minimal and laid the blame primarily on Harriet E. Miers, who was White House counsel when the prosecutors lost their jobs …


… the White House scrambled to explain the matter by releasing a stream of e-mail messages detailing how Ms. Miers had corresponded with D. Kyle Sampson, the top aide to [Attorney-General Alberto] Gonzales who drafted the list of those to be dismissed.

Mr. Sampson resigned Monday. On Tuesday afternoon, at a news conference in an ornate chamber adjacent to his office, Mr. Gonzales promised to "find out what went wrong here," even as he insisted he had had no direct knowledge of how his staff had decided on the dismissals.

He said he had rejected an earlier idea, which the White House attributed to Ms. Miers, to replace all 93 United States attorneys, the top federal prosecutors in their regions.

Nice. Blame it all on Harriet Miers, who has been gone since 31 January of this year. Bonus points for floating the unsubstantiated idea that it could have been far worse ("we only fired seven out of the 93!"), a tactic familiar from this Administration. Think about the way they spin the budget deficits, for example.

In case Miers's shoulders are too narrow to bear all the blame, it's clear who's the fall guy on deck:

The White House took the unusual step of having [new White House counsel Dan] Bartlett conduct a hurried briefing with reporters in Mérida, Mexico. He said the president had "all the confidence in the world" in Mr. Gonzales …

Being assigned to the spotlight of a press conference to push a weak stopgap position while a spokesperson in another location simultaneously says that your boss has "all the confidence in the world" in you is usually the kiss of death in politics. Call him Gone-zales.

The wholesale firing of the U.S. Attorneys is a serious matter and deserves thorough Congressional investigation. In the meantime, though, I can't help but cackle. It's fun to watch the rats turn on each other.

+ + + + +


Just noticed this other article in the Times. More on the loyalty meme.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

That Proves It!

In the 9 March edition of the newsletter, one of the featured downloads is:

Internet Explorer Add-ons: Fox News Toolbar 4.6

It's not such a complex world after all, is it?

(Two, count 'em, two, Rudy Cheeks references in one post!)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

DST Update

As I mentioned a few days ago, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. starts earlier this year -- today, 11 March. Here's how my various computers/OSes handled the change in date:

  • Windows 2000 SP4: system clock remained on Standard Time (as expected; see earlier post). Followed the somewhat clunky update procedure described on Microsoft's site a few minutes ago (i.e., several hours after the change point), and then things seemed okay.
  • Windows XP SP2: system clock moved ahead two hours. Sync'ed with network time server, corrected time.
  • Ubuntu 6.06: remained on Standard Time. Sync'ed with network time server, corrected time.
  • Mac OS X Tiger (10.4): correctly adjusted clock.

Kudos to Apple. Boos and hisses to Ubuntu. This should have been fixed as part of the usual updating. As I recall, there was a kernel upgrade provided within the past few weeks. Even if time isn't maintained through the kernel, this would have been a good point to add a patch. Boos and hisses to Microsoft, also, and for two reasons: First, the Win2000 procedure should have been implemented as a standard patch accessible via Windows Update. Second, it is unbelievable that the "correction" on XP didn't work properly. Evidently, it was applied twice.

Your war stories?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Free Bumper Sticker

Want a bumper sticker like this? 'End{less|this} War' bumper sticker

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My Verdict

Scooter Libby: lies about Iraq :: Lynndie England: Abu Ghraib

The analogy breaks down slightly: I expect Libby to be pardoned.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Reading Recommendation: 2007-03-05

Man. Brando just keeps getting better. Here's one from a few days ago that I just caught: "Bush to the Future."

Don't walk. Run. It's that good.

Language Non-Rant

When I was a kid, my mother (who is the nuture and the nature behind my usual language fussiness) frequently challenged my use of "hate" and "love." She insisted that these words meant a rarely-approached extreme, and that they should be reserved for use in connection with people, and only a very few people at that.

I dunno. I never took to that, whether for reasons of offspring-obnoxiousness or anything higher minded. As evidence of my continuing immaturity, or weak vocabulary, or whatever, I just got through ranting on Brando's blog about how I hated "Lola," "Behind Blue Eyes," and anything by Cat Stevens. (Fortunately, it was one of his always entertaining what's-on-my-random-iPod posts, so I was somewhat within context.)

It just occurred to me that Heather Havrilesky once defended her overuse of the word "fuck." Since she was first, and better, I'll not go on at length about "love" and "hate."

I'm just sayin', for those of you who think I'm a stick in the mud about all things usage.

Oh, the Machinery! (2007-03-05)

First, DST:

You probably already know this, but we're springing ahead (ahem) a few weeks early this year in the U.S. -- this Saturday night/Sunday morning (and falling back later, but that's not for a few months yet). Here's a pretty good NYT story on the "mini-Y2K" aspects of the new definition for Daylight Saving Time.

Extra points for word-nerdliness if you looked at the spelled-out DST above, noticed the lack of a trailing s, and knew it to be correct. I'll not go on further about this. [Added: Or will I???]

… pause for obnoxiously loud sighs of relief from the grammar wonk haters in the peanut gallery …

Here's a handy MS link (here's another, which should point to the same place, ultimately) that gives you the details concerning the Windows version of the mini-Y2K drama that may or may not be looming. Basically, if you have Vista, you're okay. If you have XP SP2, and you've been regularly updating Windows lately, you're okay. All others (like me on my main blogging machine): follow the link and optionally run diagnoses, download patches, etc. Probably you need to do this with IE, and not any other browser, for full functionality.

I've looked at, but not run, the fix for my Win2k machine. I'm going to let it go and see what happens. (Fortunately, my machine is not hooked to any power plants, airline reservation systems, automated drug dispensers, or dam controls.) I'll let you know if anything exciting happens. I expect my ancient VCR will be befuddled. It remains to be seen whether the cordless phone, cell phone, and other computers are up to snuff. I'm pretty sure the cats are DST-compliant -- they've been yowling for food ever earlier lately. Photophiles.

Quicktime security update:

Latest Mac OS X updates: a security patch and bug fix update for Quicktime, which brings you to v7.1.5, and a feature enhancement for iTunes, which brings you to v7.1. "Better sorting options" is one of the advertised iTunes features, so that made it worth it for me. I'll suffer through the Quicktime download, for security's sake.

Warning for you last-minuters: The iTunes update is an irritating 27 MB download, and Quicktime's patch weighs in at its usual svelteness: 44 MB! (Never think MS is the only company suffering from bloatware.) So, budget a little time if you're not on a very high speed connection. (70 MB takes about half an hour on my cheap DSL line (256k), probably 10 minutes on mid-range 768k DSL lines, a few minutes over most cable modems, and until the Rapture if you're on dial-up. (TC, I feel your pain.))

Get them both through Mac's Software Update, off the Apple menu.

On my PC's version of iTunes, I showed v7.0.2.16, and "check for updates" said that was the latest for the PC. Checking for updates through Quicktime's Help menu seemed to hang, which felt vaguely familiar. Acting on this memory, I downloaded and installed the new version of Quicktime, which … surprise! … turns out to be the iTunes installer file! Well, you can't have iTunes without having Quicktime, even on the PC, and hey, what's another 40 MB between computers?

After the download, versions show as for iTunes and 7.1.5 for Quicktime. iTunes's "check for updates" again says it's completely up to date, and Quicktime's again seems to hang.

… pause for a long, long moment of wondering why I maintain this broken software on my PC in the first place …

Who can tell me about playing .MOV files on Linux? I'd like to know.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Firefox on Ubuntu Linux - "Personal Security Manager" problem

If you're running Firefox (v1.5) on Ubuntu Linux, and you suddenly find a problem with connecting to secure sites, there are some notes on my Ubuntu blog. Let me know if you want details -- the notes are a little terse.

Bottom line: upgrade to v2.0.0.2 fixed the immediate problem, although upgrade not done through Upgrade Manager, so I'm unsure what happens next time v1.5 or v2 updates are released.

Molly Cartoons

Daryl Cagle has posted a collection of political cartoons that remark on the passing of late great Molly Ivins. Some good ones.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Thunderbird v1.5.0.10

Mozilla released an update for Thunderbird yesterday. Several security fixes and stability patches, it says in the release notes.

The usual Help -> Check for Updates drill should handle things in Mozilla's usual smooth way.

On a related note, I just heard from Lou, who has a new machine that runs MS Vista. He says Vista can't run Outlook, his preferred email client (for reasons passing understanding), not to mention most of his old Office suite.

Imagine that.

Five years in development, a steep price tag, heinous hardware requirements -- a GIG of RAM just to run an operating system? -- and the new Windows can't even run Microsoft's own existing software.

Costs lots to get moving? And the result of the investment is a garish appearance that doesn't perform that well? Vista is the Paris Hilton of operating systems.

Update 2007-03-03 12:41:41

Just a little more snark: This from a couple of weeks ago, via PC Advisor:

Popular Windows software that is conspicuously missing from Microsoft's list [of applications guaranteed to run under Vista] includes Adobe's entire line of graphics and multimedia software, Symantec's security products, as well as Mozilla’s Firefox web browser, Skype's voice-over-IP software and the alternative to Microsoft Office.

Monopolistic behavior? What monopolistic behavior?

A. O. Scott on "Wild Hogs"

Do not miss A. O. Scott's review of "Wild Hogs" in today's NY Times. Scott masterfully takes down what sounds like the movie to miss of the year.

To give you a sense, here's the headline for the review: "Hitting the Road for Some Hot Man-on-Bike Action."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Clarify the Emotion

While walking through the grocery story parking lot today, I saw a car pulling into a space, and thought, "Wow. Pretty nice looking Camry."

Getting closer, I could see the logos and nameplates on the rear end. Turns out it was what we used to call an "entry-level" Mercedes-Benz.

The question (assuming that I'm the focus group): Should Toyota designers be happy? Should MB designers be sad? Or is it probably just a good thing that I can no longer identify make and model like I could when I was sixteen?

On the other hand, one of the early warning signs of impending geezerhood is making statements like "all cars look alike nowadays."

Let Me Finish, by Roger Angell

Roger Angell, on the cover of 'The Summer Game'

The image I have of Roger Angell, I realized yesterday, is thirty-five years old -- the one that appears above, taken from the dust jacket of The Summer Game.

I think The Summer Game was every other book that I read in 1972 and the next few years, devouring it cover to cover every time we visited the grandparents who had it on the shelf. Summers passed, Grandpa died, Grandma moved to an assisted-living apartment, and one of the few compensations for all this sadness was being bequeathed the treasured volume. I still reread it every year or so. Although I can no longer detect the aroma of Grandpa and Grandma's living room, it remains a treat to open. It is on a very short list of the best books about baseball ever written. Several other contenders on anybody's Top 10 list are also by Angell.

I had not read any of his non-baseball work before finding his latest, Let Me Finish, on the "New Nonfiction" shelf a couple of days ago at the library.

Angell says that Let Me Finish is not the result of planning to write a memoir, nor was he ever one for keeping a diary, but that he found himself with a collection of memories that he'd written down over the past three years.

Protestations of modesty or intent aside, there is the feel of a theme running through the essays. Maybe it's just a tone of voice. Whatever the case, it's consistent and it's wonderful. Angell's prose continues to flow as smoothly as a big cabernet sauvignon, especially if you have some chocolate to go with it.

There is nothing mawkish or maudlin about this book. Angell has a rare ability to make reasonable an unapologetic view of the innocence and optimism of decades past. These are not the mutterings of a codger, wishing you'd stay the hell off his lawn. He makes clear that some things have gotten better, does not pretend that everything about the past was perfect, and even, sort of, acknowledges that today's more ironic point of view is occasionally not without merit. I wish that no one had previously used the phrase "grow old gracefully," because I can think of nothing more appropriate to characterize Angell in Let Me Finish.

Something I didn't know is that Angell is the stepson of E.B. White. He grew up in two households, living with his father during the week, and his mother and White on the weekends. One of the essays is about White, and another about his father, Ernest, and my feeling after reading both is that Angell gained far more than he lost from being raised this way.

There is one baseball essay in the book, and his favorite sport appears throughout, like a radio on in the background, getting turned up when a rally starts. Baseball is probably the one area that he covers where I am old enough to share his sense of before and after. Though I'm little more than half Angell's age, and don't remember baseball not being on television, we're of one mind about a sense of loss and a distaste for the current state of affairs. I know how much it irritates me to contemplate Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron's home run record; Angell, who saw Babe Ruth play, must be doubly queasy. Neither of us care for the current assault on the senses at the ballpark, and both of us shudder at the game's devolution into sports-industrial complex, not to mention the gossip column coverage of the players. But here again, he does not harp. I was left feeling that he has, like I try to, merely demoted paying attention to baseball on his list of priorities, occasionally indulging only in a wistful twinge.

Here's the way he looks on the dust jacket of Let Me Finish:

Roger Angell, on the cover of 'Let Me Finish'

Highly recommended.

Photo credits:
From The Summer Game: Judy Tomkins
From Let Me Finish: John Henry Angell