Monday, March 31, 2008

And Speaking of Pennies ...

Not since the first time I heard the line, "It turns out that the Iliad and the Odyssey were not, in fact, written by Homer, but by another ancient Greek of the same name," have I come across something as wonderfully surreal as this.

Responding to the never-ending calls to abolish the penny, James Poulos suggests:

The clear solution ... is not to eliminate the penny but to kill off the nickel and make pennies worth five cents.

He actually makes a good case.

Has the Penny Dropped Yet?

CBS has a story up on its website detailing the financial woes of the Clinton campaign. Short version: it's got money in the bank, but has debts that amount to more, and some of the bills are not being paid.

One line jumped out:

Some of Clinton’s biggest debts are to pollster and chief strategist Mark Penn, who's owed $2.5 million ...

Given the job Penn has done to date, I'd file that one under: Breath, hold, don't.

Kristol Clear, Once Again

Shorter Bill Kristol: The Democrats are fools for talking about the future. John McCain should be elected because of a long-ago event. The Democrats are stuck in "stale liberal orthodoxy." John McCain "should be working overtime on a broad reform agenda."

And then there's this:

As an elected official, he’s never rested on his P.O.W. laurels, remarkable though they are.

Agreed. Instead, he's been dining out on them. For forty years now.

I, For One, Welcome ...

Probably you've seen this video of the "Big Dog" robot already, but if not, have a look. The sound is a little irritating -- the researchers evidently have yet to work the bugs out of the dilithium crystals or the Mr. Fusion power plants, and instead use a gasoline-powered engine to make the thing move.

(alt. video link)

The thing that surprised me while watching this video was my emotional reaction. Many other people have said that this robot creeps them out a little, saying that despite its name, it looks to them more like a four-legged spider. (I wonder how much the insect-like buzzing of the engine contributes to this.) Maybe it's just that I'm more of an arachnophile than an arachnophobe, but I didn't have that sense. The movements reminded me variously of a dog, a horse, and two people facing each other, while wearing a costume from a Chinese New Year parade. (cf.)

The real surprise, though, was how strongly I reacted to the scene about 35 seconds in: one of the team gives the thing a kick, presumably to demonstrate its ability to maintain balance. Despite knowing full well that this is just a machine, I immediately thought, "How cruel." I am unable to stop feeling this way on repeated viewings.

The scenes of slipping on ice (starting around 1:25) and clambering over a pile of cinder blocks (starting around 2:20) provoked similar feelings of empathy.

I've never been particularly enamored of "cute" robots like, say, R2D2, so it was pretty interesting to me how viscerally I responded to this one. Probably says something about the human brain's pattern matching abilities having a big dynamic component -- Something in the way she moves / Attracts me like no other, to coin a phrase.

(h/t: Kieran Healy)
(further reading)

Fat Cats Stand Pat

McCain, slumpedThe NYTimes has an interesting article in today's paper about John McCain and his inability to attract the same big donors that George W. Bush corralled in 2000 and 2004. During the primaries, more than half of Bush's so-called Pioneers and Rangers (those who raised at least $100K and $200K, respectively) did not help any GOP candidate. Of the rest, most signed on with Rudy Giuliani. Even now that McCain has secured the nomination, he is still not winning them over in droves.

This story flies in the face of one piece of conventional wisdom: that the Democrats' endless primary fight gives McCain a break from campaigning, and extra time to concentrate on fundraising.

Keeping in mind the usual caveat about anecdotal evidence, it's still interesting to note that several of the Bush Pioneers and Rangers quoted in the article said the reason they weren't signing up this time around was because they were "tired." Others expressed a nebulous lack of passion. Still others were more direct in saying that they did not particularly care for McCain.

It's early yet, of course. I'm sure that once the Dems get things sorted out and stop campaigning against each other, McCain will be able to raise the ominous specter of a liberal in the Oval Office to stimulate some of the laggards -- fear always works. And the McCain people argue in the article that there is always turnover among active fundraisers from one campaign to the next. Still, he remains way behind Obama and Clinton in fundraising, his campaign hasn't yet managed to attract large numbers of small donors through Web-based efforts, and there have been countless stories told over the past year or two about GOP Congressional efforts suffering declining support as well.

Is this the downside of being a maverick? Or is it the first concrete manifestation of the Bush Legacy?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Religious Belief = Happiness= Self-Deception?

A short while back, kyklops expressed irritation after coming across one of those studies that purports to show that people who have religious beliefs are, on average, happier than people who do not.

Now, there are any number of quibbles one can have with this claim -- methodology, definition of happiness, sampling error -- but we'll leave those aside for the moment. Maybe there's something to this hypothesis, irrespective of the flawed nature of the particular studies.

The breezy atheist just says, "Ignorance is bliss," and moves on. But it turns out there may be something else at work here: differences in the ability to deceive oneself.

Last month, RadioLab did a show called "Deception." The last segment, "Lying to Ourselves," is blurbed thus:

Can we lie to ourselves? If you are the liar, wouldn't you know the truth? In this segment, we explore the confusing and contradictory idea of self-deception. We go back to the early 70s, when psychiatrists Harold Sackeim and Ruben Gur came up with a set of embarrassing questions that they say reveal the lies we tell ourselves. Psychologist Joanna Starek tells us that swimmers who lie to themselves swim faster than those who do not. And we explore the power of self-deception to make us more successful, and happier, people.

Now, there are doubtless lots of people who truly believe in God or some other religious creed. But there are also a lot of people who … let's just say … go through the motions. They go to services, they'll self-identify as religious when asked on a survey, like that. So, in some sense, these people are kidding themselves. And we now have data indicating that those who are better at kidding themselves are happier. Those less skilled at self-deception, it follows, can't help but notice all the bad stuff all around, and hence, are sad sacks like me not as happy.

QED? Probably not. But something to think about, anyway.

The entire show is quite good, as are all episodes of RadioLab. Go listen. Bonus: also on that page: take the self-deception survey (and then see the Comments for this post).

Eye Candy for Geeks

Here is a PDF file for your viewing pleasure. It contains a layout of the radio spectrum and how it's allocated. (Radio is used here in the technical sense -- broadcast TV, for example, is a small slice of this spectrum.)

You'll probably want to download it and then use your favorite PDF viewer to look at it -- much zooming in will be required.

I could stand to have a poster of this. Well, for a day or two, anyway.

(h/t: Slate's Explainer)

Headline of the Day: 2008-03-30

Gay Scientists Isolate Christianity Gene

(No permalink, unfortunately: Visit here and maybe scroll down. Video was posted Friday, March 28, 2008.)

That's One Small Step for a Mag, One Giant Leap for Madkind

Hey! Slate finally addressed one of my complaints about their site!

If you look at the navigation sidebar along the left edge of any page, you should see an entry labeled "Disable Flyout." Click it, and voila -- no more need to fear moving your mouse when you're on that site.

Flyout menus, if you didn't already know, are menus on a web page that expand when you let your mouse hover over, or even cross, the menu name. All too many websites have them, and Slate's are particularly obnoxious -- the merest brush with the mouse pointer causes almost the entire screen to be filled with the flyout menu. Personally, 99% of the time menus fly out, that's not what I wanted. I'm almost always looking to click a different link or am enroute to the browser's toolbar itself.

So, good job, Slate. Ready for my next two three complaints about your site? Good. Here they are:

  • Make your URLs meaningful. URLs are UI,* to sightly misquote Jakob Nielsen. What good does do, for example? To your credit, you've implemented some redirect links, so that gets me where I want to go, but in general, the URLs for your articles are nothing more than seven digit numbers. Compare, for example, a link to a specific story on the NYTimes's web site:

    There's a lot of helpful information there -- when the story was published, what section of the newspaper it belongs to, and a hint about the specific topic.

    Cripes, even my crummy blog gets this one right. Permalink for this post, for example:

    Okay, so it makes for the occasional long line. That's what CTRL-c and CTRL-v were invented for.

  • Build and/or improve individual pages for your writers and departments. Why is there no page at the address Why can't just take me to the top of the Has*Been blog, instead of presenting me with a minimalist calendar?

  • Impose a ceiling on use of boldface, italics, and exclamation points for all Mickey Kaus articles. His thoughts are hard enough to read without the newbie typography.

Given that I've been griping about the flyout menus for at least five years, I'm not holding my breath. But it's the season for hope, right?

* The irony of the URL for Nielsen's article cannot be overstated.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Non-Political Video Break

Okay, it's arguably a little political. But it has nothing to do with the US presidential campaign.

What happens when you let loose those sciency atheist kids with their computers?

Beware the Believers

Sorry that you now have "Dick to the Dawk to the PhD" stuck in your head. Make someone else watch this video -- it's the only known cure for an earworm.

(h/t: Bill Simmon)

Now Playing at The House of Woo

Black HoleIn yet another example of the truism that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, two wingnuts are suing to prevent the Large Hadron Collider from firing up, claiming that researchers have inadequately addressed the possibility that the LHC could … oh, how it hurts to type this … create a miniature black hole which will quickly swallow up the Earth.

Given the infestation of this planet with people like this pair, I am sometimes hard-pressed to say why that would be a bad thing.

To be more charitable: Were I the judge, I would ask these guys, "How else are we supposed to meet the Heechee?"

(pic. source)

Threats and Blowback

Jiminy Jilliker had a pretty thoughtful response to a recent post of mine. I guess by thoughtful I might mean provoked an unusual amount of longwindedness, even for me, but self-disparagement aside, I decided to turn my rebuttal comment into a new post. The topic seems important, even if all I'm really able to do here is show you how my thoughts are swirling.

I at least appreciate the attempt to keep off the "I'll never vote for her" wagon.

Hard to know how to interpret this. Do you mean "I, at least," meaning you suspect no one else appreciates? Or do you mean you "appreciate, at least," but your gratitude may go further?

Kidding aside, I suspect you're giving me a dig for my hinting at not voting for Clinton, should she win the nomination.

If it came down to it, I'd put a clothespin on my nose just to prevent any seepage that got through the full containment hazmat suit from entering my sinuses, and go ahead and pull the lever for her.

Hell, if she had won Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina all in a row, I'd probably be enthusiastic (if wistfully so) about the prospect.

After the last 7 years, the possibility of McCain as president gives me cold sweats. It haunts my dreams. I'd vote for (nearly) anyone with a "D" after their name.

McCain grimaceIn reality, I agree with you. Should she win the nomination, she'll almost certainly get my vote. As distasteful as she has been during this campaign, the reality of four more years of McSame is too frightening to contemplate. The only question is whether we'd be ruined by economic policies or war first. And even if he somehow avoided catastrophe in either of those areas, I expect further debt and disparity in income from his view on taxes, no progress on health care, more wingnuts appointed to federal courts, and probably not a whole lot of action on undoing Bush's environmental damage.

However, there remains a part of me that is unwilling to commit. In addition to pushing policies, another important role the president plays is setting tone. In this regard, Clinton has been as bad as the Right-Wing Noise Machine. Given that she's purportedly a Democrat, I find such behavior even harder to forgive. If she continues with the lying and the smearing, I might just say, sorry, I can't countenance that. At some point, one has to stand on principle, and decide that cutting one's nose off to spite one's face is a minor flesh wound compared to the internal damage wrought by rewarding the Dems for becoming ever more Republican-lite.

Of course, my vote doesn't really matter. It's not like either of the Dems is going to lose New York. The more important point is that I won't actively support her. I certainly won't donate any money to her or work for her campaign, and I doubt I'll be able even to summon up the energy to argue on her behalf, online or in meatspace. Maybe all of these possible factors are as insignificant as my vote, or maybe not. There's always the potential of starting some small ripples, given enough effort to make a splash. Who knows what might tip Ohio or Florida in the general? And who knows how much the apathy that she provokes among the formerly enthusiastic costs the Democrats down ticket? It'd be nice to pick up some Senate seats, but I don't think her coattails are very long.

(I now pause to congratulate myself for resisting the urge to force a pantsuit metaphor into that last.)

The idea I'm trying to get across here is it's not so much that the election hinges on me, personally, but that I am representative of how a lot of people will react to a Clinton nomination. There is an enormous number of people who have dared to throw off the cloak of cynicism, thanks to Obama, and lots more who got interested in politics for the first time, also thanks to Obama. A lot of that spirit goes away when, once again, the only thing left to say is, "Well, my candidate is not quite as bad as your candidate."

You said that had Clinton run the table in the early contests, you'd probably be enthusiastic about her by now. I am pretty sure that I wouldn't be sharing your enthusiasm. While I grant that a lot of my animus has been raised only recently, it's crystal clear in my memory how I felt back when the MSM's favorite word was "inevitable." I felt the same way as I did when Kerry won early in the 2004 race: I started off meh and drifted down to ugh.

Thankfully, though, it ain't coming down to that. You can almost sense a shift of mood in the air the last couple of days. I think Obama's got this and it's just a matter of going through the remaining motions.

I don't know if I agree with you about the shift in mood, although you make a good case. Or, more precisely, I sense it a little bit, too, but I don't know how much it's going to last. If Clinton wins Pennsylvania big time, even though this is expected, we'll be back where we were after March 5th, at least in the vibe created by the MSM. She won't be in any better position to win, numerically, but we'll be subject to another month of "momentum!" spin and the beyond tiresome arguments from her camp that she is actually ahead, if you restrict the count to left-handed albino millworkers who have driven Fords for at least thirty years, since they're really the only ones that matter.

Hillary the MonsterWhen I take a few deep breaths, I will acknowledge that she has every right to stay in the race, and even a plausible case. From her perspective, it ain't over till it's over, and Obama hasn't yet clinched mathematically. Call her the Democrats' Huckabee (Hillarbee?) -- you never know what might happen until all the votes are cast. It's just that I'd find her a lot more tolerable if she ran as an underdog and emphasized what she had to offer. The way she's been going about things lately, it's very hard not to think that she cares only about herself. Yes, I buy into the 2012 conspiracy thinking -- most days, I really believe she could give a crap about the Democrats winning if she's not the nominee. I am unimpressed by her occasional pledges to work for unity. As I said in my previous post, I don't hear these as anything other than trying to change the message of the day when the news cycle is spinning against her.

(pic. source)

Friday, March 28, 2008


Seems to be a story going around that somebody wants to be the new uniter-not-a-divider:

Hillary Clinton pleaded for partisan unity on Thursday, urging Democrats not to abandon their party to vote for John McCain if their preferred candidate fails to secure the nomination.


"I intend to do everything I can to make sure we have a unified Democratic party," she said. "When this contest is over and we have a nominee, we’re going to close ranks, we’re going to be united."

Pardon my dubiousness, but where have we heard this act before? Let's see, it was about a month ago … momentum was flagging … something about a crucial debate comes to mind … oh, yeah.

Don't make me overload the Internets with links to all the smears and treacherous insinuations she and her minions have spewed forth since then.

What's next, another offer to Obama for him to be her VP?

(h/t: Thers)

How Many "Misspokes" Before You're Wheelie Lying?

(alt. video link)

(h/t: Righteous Bubba)

Lizza on Obama

Ryan Lizza has written a long article titled "The Agitator: Barack Obama's unlikely political education." It focuses on Obama's life in Chicago, from his arrival at age 24, looking to get involved with community organizing, to laying the groundwork for his run for the U.S. Senate. It's quite good.

One added benefit: The article was written and published before the Jeremiah Wright controversy flared up, so you needn't worry that this is yet another dissection of the fallout from that kerfuffle.

If you're one of those people who has said, "I still don't feel like I know enough about Obama," this article should help quite a bit. Recommended for everybody, though. It's not a puff piece by any means.

(h/t: Joshua Cohen)

Exporting and Importing Contacts in Trillian

Short version: First: close Trillian on both computers. Second: copy the file Buddies.xml from the "export" computer to the "import" computer.

Lesson learned: Sequence matters.

Long version:

In the never-ending battle to synchronize personal data across machines, I just went through a little bit of a head-scratcher trying to update my Trillian contact list on my laptop to match my desktop. Here's what I learned.

There is no explicit import/export mechanism in Trillian. Your contacts are stored in a file named Buddies.xml. To update your contact list on another machine, just copy the file from one machine to the other. If you've done the standard installation and you're the only one who uses Trillian on those machines, the file is likely stored in the folder C:\Program Files\Trillian\users\default\.

Here's the hiccup: If you have Trillian open on the "import" computer when you copy the new version of the file, it will not update the contact list. That's understandable. The expected drill would be to restart the program, to force reading of the updated file. Turns out, though, that about the last thing that Trillian does upon closing is to rewrite the Buddies.xml file from what it's holding in memory. This means that the new version of file that you just copied will be overwritten, and when you restart Trillian, you'll see your old contact list again, not the new one. So the key is to close Trillian before you copy over the new version of Buddies.xml.

In retrospect, this behavior makes sense. Trillian does not just store identities in Buddies.xml; it also stores data like the last time you chatted with the people on the contact list. So, as far as a running instance of Trillian is concerned, the most up-to-date information is the state of the program just before closing, and not the state of the files on disk. Maybe this should have occurred to me after the first time the contact list didn't get updated, but it took a few iterations before the moment of "aha!"

Definition of the Day: 2008-03-28

Greengrocers' Arithmetic: tries to compare apples to oranges, picks cherries and ends up with a lemon.
-- Daniel Davies

Democrats: Still on the Fence?

Via email from TC, some points to consider:

It's Time to Give Hillary Clinton a Break.

by RenaRF

Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 07:45:55 AM PDT

I think we need to give Hillary Clinton a break.  After all - she's only trying to win here, right?  I guess I can understand.  She didn't get into this race to lose the nomination.  She didn't serve as First Lady for eight years or stand by her man or run for the US Senate only to lose the biggest, most historic race of her life.

So I can see how she feels motivated to find a way to win and it casts some of her activities in a different light.

She really does believe that she would be the best President, that she is what the country needs at this time.  It's unfortunate that actual voters haven't fallen into line.  But there's still hope - it's still, theoretically, close enough.  So she does what she has to do to win.

Despite what was then an air of inevitability, I'm sure she was protecting her presumptive "win" when she planted questions in the crowd. (h/t retriever)

It was also probably in the spirit of safeguarding the win that she dug into Barack Obama's secret Kindergarten files.  (h/t lams712)

She had to distort Barack Obama's abortion record to try to confuse and mislead voters.

She needed to cry to stay alive in New Hampshire.

She needed to try to suppress the vote in the Nevada caucuses (despite the fact that caucuses are, according to her campaign, "undemocratic").

She and former President Bill Clinton had to make racially divisive comments that, among other things, attempted to downplay the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement.

Clinton campaign surrogates had to speak in a tacit and derogatory fashion about Obama's admitted younger-life drug use and insinuate that this negated all of the wonderful things he accomplished as a community organizer.

It's why Hillary Clinton constantly talks about the "fairness" and yes, necessity, of seating the Michigan Democratic delegation despite the fact that Michigan had anemic Democratic turnout and only one major Democratic candidate.

It also is definitely the reason why she and her campaign keep incorrectly referencing the "historic" voter turnout in Florida as she tries to seat their Democratic delegation and ignore the rules.

It's the reason Hillary Clinton seems to find it acceptable to use Republican scare tactics to advance her so-called "day one" credentials.

It makes sense that Hillary Clinton feels the need to emphasize that every single hour of her life since graduating college adds to her insurmountable 35 years of experience.

I guess, then, that it's totally understandable for a former President and spouse of one running for President thought it was perfectly fine to misquote and mischaracterize Barack Obama's comments on Republicans and the Reagan years.

It also has to be the logic behind increasingly inflaming fears of disenfranchisement in Florida nd Michigan, despite the fact the Clinton campaign had agreed to those same rules and consequences in August of 2007, when her campaign was still "inevitable".

It is the only thing that explains why, after a stunning rout of Clinton by Obama, Bill Clinton felt the need to simultaneously throw Jesse Jackson, South Carolina, and African Americans under the bus to explain Hillary Clinton's loss.

It does make sense, in a twisted kind of way, that the Clinton campaign would even suggest that the popular vote doesn't really matter when it comes to choosing the Democratic nominee.

It certainly sheds light on the charges of plagiarism that were hurled at Barack Obama.

I figure there must have been a lot of debate in Clinton campaign headquarters in trying to decide which states mattered and which ones didn't to make her appear to be winning.

After decrying dirty tactics on the part of the Obama campaign when challenged on her healthcare plan, the Clinton campaign thought that launching the 3am ad, another in a string of Clinton scare tactics, might help navigate her to victory.

She figured hyping her experience would be a boost to her chances so she - uh - exaggerated the heavy sniper fire she experienced in Bosnia.

Staying on the experience subject to secure her win, she also - uh - overinflated her role in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland.

And hitting much closer to home, to secure a win she tells voters that she was privately against NAFTA but had to keep mum on the subject because of her role as First Lady.  It turns out not so much.

And now, on March 26 2008, with the delegate math looking impossible and an extremely narrow chance of overcoming Barack Obama in popular votes, after declining to comment for a week, Hillary Clinton decided it was time to put her $.02 in about the Wright flap.  After all - how is she to win when the lens of scrutiny shifted back to her and away from Obama?

She IS trying to win a race here, folks.  That's something we should really keep in mind when we're so critical of the things she says and does.

Because after all - as long as she wins, by any means necessary, isn't that all that matters?


To which I might add another item: the letter her cronies sent to Nancy Pelosi two days ago, threatening to withhold support from the DCCC in response to Pelosi's statement that the superdelegates should not overturn the will of the voters. The implication of the message, of course, is that Hillary (or at least her supporters) would be perfectly content for Hillary to win the White House and the Dems to lose seats in Congress.

And of course, there's the utter lack of principles demonstrated, once again, by her cozying up to Scaife.

I have been resisting the temptation to pledge withholding my vote for Clinton, should she somehow manage to steal the nomination. But I have to say, each day that goes by, it gets harder.

Pop Peeper v3.2 Available

In case you didn't see the latest Message of the Day, here it is:

POP Peeper v3.2 is now available.

v3.2 resolves issues with hanging/crashes that some users experienced and also Vista-related problems.

Get the new version here.

I just did the upgrade. No problems to report, all settings retained.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Line of the Day: 2008-03-27

Any poet who spends her free time writing biographies of the titans of statistical mechanics is my kind of poet.
-- Sean Carroll

Belated Easter Card

Jesus: BRB

(pic. source: Curbed | h/t: Deus Ex Malcontent)

Ick. Just Ick.

Hillary and Scaife

There's an old saying about politics and strange bedfellows, but just thinking about Hillary and Richard Scaife together suggests we have no further use for the words squalid, odious, or depraved.

Josh has the details. You might not have the stomach.

Comcast Must Die

I don't have Comcast, but Bob Garfield is a good man, so I am complying with his wishes on this one.

Here is the YouTube link for the ComcastMustDie public service announcement.

The spot was created by David Fields of FieldsDay Productions in Studio City, CA.

The actress is Olga Rosin.

Please forward this to absolutely everyone, the goal being to generate more and more traffic here, and therefore more and more pressure on Comcast.

Visit Comcast Must Die to get involved.

Wait. Don't click that link if your ISP is ... Too late. Sorry.

Who Dropped the Box of Talking Points?

Tucker Bounds, McCain campaign spokesman issued the following statement on Mr. Obama’s speech:

"No amount of rhetoric can hide Senator Obama's clear record of embracing the liberal tax and spend, big government policies that hit hardworking American families at a time when they're most vulnerable, and are certain to move America backward."


This has all the appearance of a poem constructed from refrigerator magnets. In the dark.

I imagine the scene at Straight Talking Points Express headquarters:

Let's see. We got liberal ... check. Tax and spend ... check. Big government ... check. Hardworking American families ... check. Okay ... Wait, we forgot throw under the bus. Never mind. Just clump what we have all together and we're good to go.

How, exactly, does government spending during a recession hurt the working class? And what part of taxing the rich might they not like? And far be it from me to introduce facts when we're talking back to Republicans, but a quick look at the proposals in Obama's speech shows ... what's this? Tax cuts for lower income families:

To help low- and middle-income families, I've proposed a 10 percent mortgage interest tax credit that will allow homeowners who don't itemize their taxes to access incentives for home ownership.


To reward work and make retirement secure, we'll provide an income tax cut of up to $1000 for a working family, and eliminate income taxes altogether for any retiree making less than $50,000 per year.

The statement from Tucker "Out Of" Bounds would be hilarious if it weren't for the fact that so many mouthbreathers will, as usual, mindlessly eat it up and spit it back out.

"... I dunno. I've never Kipled."

Do you like Kipling?

How about Kipling, enhanced with Photoshop?

Go see driftglass. Really well done.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Apple and Safari Patches

Sorry to be late on this one, but since my Mac isn't hooked up at the moment, it slid under my radar. According to Brian Krebs, Apple last week pushed out 93 patches for OS X 10.4 and 10.5 (Tiger and Leopard, felinely). Some of these have to do with third-party software, so depending on what you've got installed, you may not get them all. Krebs says Apple's Software Update should take care of your needs.

People who run Safari on Windows should have their heads examined run their own version of the Apple Software Update program that apparently gets bundled with Safari. (I have this, too, by virtue of installing iTunes.)

Good luck. Please share your experiences in the Comments.


Mozilla has just released a security upgrade for Firefox (details | more detailed details). If you're not automatically notified, do Help -> Check for Updates.

Also, note the latest version number and today's date:, released on 26 March.

Just sayin'. It really is all connected.

Comic Relief

Eddie Izzard's take on Star Trek (you might need to crank the volume a bit):

Fisking Lesson

This is a week old (which reminds me that keeping RSS feeds in alphabetical order has its drawbacks) but nonetheless still fresh: World O' Crap takes down The Pantload in world-class fashion. I'm still laughing about the unlatched gate and giving a standing ovation for the rest.

Every time I think about the NY Times giving op-ed space to Bill Kristol, I am reminded that the LA Times beat them to the bottom by doing the same for Jonah Goldberg. Not for nothing does Harry Shearer call it the Los Angeles Dog Trainer.

Hey, I'm Keeping a Promise!

I mentioned yesterday that I'd note when Part 2 of the PBS documentary "Bush's War" got posted. Now it is. Now I did: see here.

I haven't watched it yet, but I will be soon.

Screen Captures Don't Lie

(click pic to enlarge)

Zoom the image and note the URL. For context, see Roy, especially the comment thread.

What do you expect from a guy married to Mary Matalin?

Following up on Robert Reich's remarks on the campaign below, this just in via email from Democracy for America [emph. orig.]:

"Mr. Richardson's endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out (Jesus) for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic."

That's what longtime Clinton strategist James Carville had to say about Bill Richardson's endorsement of Senator Obama.


Clearly, the Clinton campaign has not gotten the message. James Carville has refused to take back his remarks and Senator Clinton has not denounced or rejected this character assassination of Governor Richardson, a fellow Democrat and former Clinton appointee.

I am unable to feign outrage, especially considering the source, but you know, it is yet another example of the Clinton scorched earth style of doing things.

The Pen Blog is Mightier than the Sword Roundhouse Kick

Bad enough that Chuck Norris campaigned for Mike Huckabee, but who knew he was so far gone that he's been posting on Fortunately, the good people at Whiskey Fire are on the case:

I agree about the "losing our minds" thing; for instance, I am right now reading Chuck Norris' thoughts on politics. That's proof of something right there.

Get your RDA of snark by reading the whole thing.

(h/t: Roger Ailes)

Robert Reich Reminder

I have fallen out of the habit of listening to Marketplace, so it was quite a nice surprise to visit and be reminded of one of the best parts of that show, Robert Reich's commentary. On, Reich does a 45-minute diavlog with Robert Wright, which, if nothing else, deserves notice for the phonetic similarity of the participants' names. It's a pretty good conversation, although given the state of the economy, not hugely uplifting. Reich also has some interesting things to say about Clinton versus Obama, and why he has yet to endorse either. Personally, I understand it as his unwillingness to come out explicitly against Clinton, given a long history of friendship (he was in Bill Clinton's Cabinet, don't forget), but it's obvious which way he's leaning, and he offers plenty of specifics as to why.

Turns out that Reich also has a blog, which I've just started looking at. His latest post touches on some of what he talks about in the diavlog: The Biggest Bailout in History: And Why American Taxpayers Should Get Some of the Upside. Quite good, although I have my doubts that there's any chance of his suggestions being adopted by the current administration. The fat cats will have only to say "socialism" and the mouthbreathers who listen to them will say, case closed.

I could not recommend more highly another of Reich's posts: Moral Hazard Redux. This is exactly how I want economists to be thinking, especially if they have the ear of those in power, and it's at the Krugman level in its clarity and incisiveness.

Added: As I noted above, his feelings on the candidates are quite clear. He expands upon them in Will HRC Spoil the Party? Money quote:

The sad news is that whether the Clinton scorched-earth strategy ultimately succeeds or fails, it will have caused great harm. In the unlikely event it succeeds, the result will be a shame and not a little ironic. Barack Obama has breathed life into the Democratic Party, and into American politics, for the first time in forty years. Not since Robert Kennedy ran for president has America been so starkly summoned to its ideals; not since then has America -- including, especially, the nation’s youth -- been so inspired. The Clintons would prefer to write off “Obamania” as a passing fad, but the reality is that idealism and inspiration are necessary preconditions for positive social change. Nothing happens in Washington unless Americans are energized and mobilized to make it happen. HRC's tactics are the old politics the nation is recoiling from -- internal division and national fear. This only serves to deepen Americans' cynicism about politics, and makes social change all the harder to achieve.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Damn. How'd I Never Notice That?

Phrase from Skepchick's Stacey:

... pronounces ‘new-age’ like ‘sewage’ ...

Children of the Con

Richard Dawkins has said religion is a form of child abuse. Seems a little extreme, doesn't it?

Or not. Have a look at this.

[Added] And be sure to follow the link in the Comments. Thanks, Alastair.

A Swipe at the Halo

Somewhere, John McCain is breathing a sigh of relief that he doesn't have to debate Doghouse Riley.

Sure, he had a pretty good hook shot, but who knew he could bring the sarcasm, too?

One of the common myths about me was repeated last week when a friend of mine was playing in his weekly basketball league and a teammate asked him, “Why was Kareem always so angry?” That’s not the first time I heard this charge. What’s weird about it is that every morning when I get out of bed, bluebirds, squirrels, and deer help me get dressed while we sing “We Are the World.” By the way, squirrels really suck at tying shoes. And deer often mumble the lyrics.

The whole thing.

Below: being angry with another angry guy:

Barack and Kareem

(h/t: some Jonah fan)

(pic. source)

Miss Spoke

Pardon my sniping, but this is pretty funny:

(alt. video link)

Have you no sense of shame, Sen. Clinton, at long last? Have you left no sense of shame?

"The Obama Doctrine"

Spencer Ackerman has a longish article on Barack Obama's foreign policy, built in large part on interviews with his team of advisers. Here's what one of them says about the candidate:

"He takes policy positions that are a break from both rigid orthodoxy and the Bush administration. And everyone says it's a gaffe! That just encapsulates everything that's wrong about the foreign-policy debate in Washington and in Democratic politics."

A good read if you want to base your vote on something besides slogans and fear-mongering.

(h/t: Matthew Yglesias)

Happy 5th Anniversary

(Updated below)

Via email from KK:

I just watched, for 2 and 1/2 hours, Part I of Bush's War on PBS. The second part is tomorrow, Tuesday. Nothing you didn't know, but spelled out in numbing details... the whole show is on along with much longer interviews, etc. Recommended.

I just finished watching Part 1 on line. Part 2 airs on PBS tonight, and will probably be available on line soon after. I'll try to remember to post a link.

I disagree with "numbing." I would use "extensive." As KK says, most of you probably already have a fairly good sense of the big picture, but even a news junkie like me found the documentary well worth watching. There are a lot of threads that get tied together that weren't completely clear in my mind, and a lot of on the record statements by very senior people that I have not heard before.

While watching this first part, I kept imagining the screams of "bias" that would be emanating from a right-winger watching the same program. The thing is, the case presented is so overwhelming that there's really nothing to do except to fall back on Prof. Colbert's observation: the truth has a well-known liberal bias. Except for the fact that the nominal head of state remained in office, I don't know what else I would call the actions of Cheney and Rumsfeld except a coup d'état. It is just horrifying when you review the whole sequence of events between 9/11 and the eve of the invasion of Iraq.

So I guess I'd disagree with KK's "recommeded," too. I'd say "highly recommended," and "you have a responsibility to watch this."


On a related note, the entire hour of this past weekend's On The Media was devoted to reviewing the media's role in, and shifting relations to, the invasion of Iraq. Also highly recommended, and also something I believe you have a duty to listen to.

Not really such a happy anniversary, it must be admitted.


2008-03-26 08:47

Part 2 is now available for viewing on line.

Monday, March 24, 2008

One More Reason Not To Get Cable

South Park is now available on line!

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Terminology Update

Beve, a new friend from the forums, pointed me to her blog recently. Lots of ear candy, eye candy, commentary on culture, politics, and a bunch of other topics, and she also makes jokes. Her blog name uses a term new to me: Afropolitan. Kinda neat. You can read about the etymology and motivation for use on her About page.

Since I'll be adding her to my blogroll momentarily (hope her server is up to the impending skyrocketing traffic load!), what better way to cement the friendship than to steal from her? Here's a video swiped from her site that features two more terms. I won't spell them out, so as not to step on Mr. Bell's lines. I'll just note that I like O.E., and I love A.A.

The W. Kamau Bell Curve: OE's & AA's

Perhaps Belaboring The Obvious, But ...

... I just had to let this thought out.

Marc Ambinder, among other reliable sources, has reported that Barack Obama wrote The Speech himself. Over two days and nights, while running a campaign. Think about that.

Now imagine the Current Occupant being set to the same task. Doesn't have to be a speech about race. Could be on any topic that he feels is important.

5,000 words. 48 hours. Ready? Go.

Doghouse Riley on Resentment

An excerpt from a post on the public school situation where he lives:

Welcome to Indianapolis! You can drive around it on I-465 and see the shining whiteness of the doughnut counties school systems, the ones that had no worries about their political boundaries being breached. The ones that experienced explosive growth beginning in the 1980s, although by then no one would call it White Flight, because whites were the new victims.

These are not the bastions of people whose "resentment built over time". They're people who ran for the hills. They want to feel safe, they want to feel their children are safe, they want them to receive a quality education. These things are understandable. What isn't is why they'd just as soon Those Others die poor, and stupid, and somewhere else. Every time I hear someone talk about Our Failing Schools I'm reminded of how long I've been hearing it, and what's happened to urban school districts during that time.

"Shorter" of the Day: 2008-03-22

Yesterday, actually:

Obama says he wants to unite the country. Right-wing pundits say: Over our dead bodies.
-- Joel Achenbach

The whole piece is alternately eye-rolling (when he quotes the wingnuts) and funny (when he's speaking in response).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Frock That

If you had a noir murder mystery set in a church, could you call it an example of pulpit fiction?

The Intelligent Race ...

John McWhorter and Glenn Loury

... discussion continues. Thank goodness for John McWhorter and Glenn Loury.

If you don't know these guys, here's a bit of background.

McWhorter is a former Berkeley professor who is now a writer, in addition to holding a position at the Manhattan Institute. He had quite the rep for being conservative while on campus, and continue{d|s} to present that image in much of his writing. He became a darling of the right, unsurprisingly, because of some of the things he has said that criticized, for example, hip hop culture. He is considerably more nuanced, and less easily pigeonholed, than that, I have come to learn. In what was fairly surprising to many, he has announced his support for Obama.

Loury is currently a professor at Brown. He used to be another "black friend" for the conservative bloc, but has long since changed his attitude on a lot of issues, and is now pretty much a solid liberal. He mixes a clear-eyed view of reality with a deep belief that aspiring to the higher ground and our better angels is the best way to go. He supports … Clinton!

Their latest diavlog was recorded yesterday, 20 March 2008. They talk about Obama's speech and the surrounding issues, mostly. I won't attempt to summarize it. The complexity of their conversation deserves not to be condensed. You can watch the streaming video, or download the video or audio, all by visiting the page titled If Obama Wasn't Black Before, He Sure Is Now. (The image above is just a screen grab. Sorry if you clicked on it and were mystified.)

At the risk of turning this post into an infofanboymercial, I cannot express how much of a privilege it is to listen to these guys, and I cannot overstate how much I've learned from them. Plus, their diavlogs are not at all dry or hectoring. Glenn and John have really good chemistry, whether they're agreeing or in strenuous debate. They often make me feel, "You know, maybe grad school isn't out of the question …"

If you like what you see in their latest, here are links to their previous diavlogs:

Also of note: a diavlog between McWhorter and Randall Kennedy, of Harvard:

Obviously, you're not going to listen to them all right away (they're each about 45-70 minutes long), but you might make a note of the links. Highest possible recommendation.

Find more diavlogs, with Loury or McWhorter in other pairings, by visiting the search page. NB: Be sure to check the "All" box in the "Date" section.

Blast From the Past. And I Do Mean A Blast!

This week's Gabfest* finished up with John Dickerson remarking on the resurgence in popularity of Schoolhouse Rock. I am delighted to hear that his kids are enthralled.

I don't know how many of you had the, in retrospect, rare privilege of seeing these great little shorts that were mixed in with my diet of Saturday morning cartoons. Here's my all-time favorite, "Conjunction Junction." Get your grammar groove on!

Better than comfort food, I say. I still sing snippets of this song, out loud, all the time.

More deliciousness here. Pretty good-looking fan sites here and here. And Wikipedia's entry is awe-inspiring in its comprehensiveness, if you're even more maniacal than I.

* As of this moment, the Gabfest page is not yet updated to reflect the availability of this week's podcast. If you're impatient, you can it grab from the iTunes store. Yep. Free.

Richardson Endorses Obama

Barack Obama and Bill Richardson

Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico and an early candidate himself in this year's campaign, will endorse Barack Obama for president, it says here.

A little inside baseball:

1. Richardson is Hispanic. This may help make Obama more appealing to Hispanic voters, an area in which he could use some help.

2. Richardson was a Cabinet official (Secretary of Energy) in the Bill Clinton Administration. Bill Clinton also spent this past Super Bowl Sunday at Richardson's house. This makes Richardson's endorsement a bit more courageous than most, it seems to me.

3. Richardson is frequently mentioned as a possible vice presidential choice, and up till today, for either candidate. Together with point 2, this really has to be seen as Richardson boldly casting his lot, which makes the endorsement that much more worthwhile.

What the wingnuts who read the New York Times (and they do -- gotta keep an eye on the LIEbrul media, don'tcha know) are probably saying about the above picture:

  • Big deal. A brown man endorses a black man. We'll be looking into Richardson's pastor, too. Just you wait.

  • If Richardson likes Obama so much, how come he's sitting so far away from him?

  • If Obama likes Richardson so much, how come he won't even offer him a glass of water?

  • Notice that they're sitting in yellow chairs. That means they're both cowards and will surrender to the terrorists.

  • Oh, NOW Obama holds his hand over his heart. Pity he couldn't do that during the plejalleejince!

Add your guesses in the Comments.

(pic. source)

Something (else) is rotten in the city of Washington

Just saw a story on the HuffPo that says that Barack Obama's passport files at the State Department have been breached, on three separate occasions.

It's a little early to comment beyond what I said in the title, but there are a couple of points worth noting.

Senior State officials said on a conference call on Thursday evening that they were informed about the breach by a reporter making an inquiry, not from the lower-level department officials who first discovered the breaches.


The dates of the breaches were January 9, February 21, and March 14 -- last Friday. Those correspond, as TPM's Josh Marshall noted, to the New Hampshire primary, the Democratic debate in Texas, and the day the Reverend Jeremiah Wright story became major political news.

How the State Department handled the incidents is as noteworthy as the breaches themselves.

According to McCormick, "Senior management from this department first became aware of this today."

The timing of the breaches suggests to me that the official speculation -- idle curiosity on the part of computer technicians -- is reasonable. I also don't have a big problem with the idea that independent contractors (claimed to be properly cleared by the State Department) had access to the files. You have to have extensive access to be able to maintain computer systems properly.

Still, this bears watching. It's also fair to say right off the bat that the State Department's claim of proper safeguards is easily dismissed -- they claim to have in place a system that notified supervisors whenever the "records of a high-profile individual" are accessed, but they're just finding out about the breaches now? And from a reporter, not a State Department employee?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Roger That

(Updated: typo fix)

Roger CohenI don't often get much out of Roger Cohen's op-eds, but today's is quite moving, I thought. It's a reaction to Obama's speech and the related recent unpleasantness from the perspective of a white man who spent part of his childhood in apartheid South Africa.

Don't worry. Not a kumbuya piece. Much more complex.

And They Even Spelled My Name Right!

Nothing like being featured* on the website of a Global Media Juggernaut!** And next to the founding fathers, no less! And only three steps below Krugman!

Thanks, Bob and Mickey. Fame!

(click pic to enlarge)

Kinda makes me wish I hadn't said so many mean things about them in the comments.

* (if you click the "more links" link)

** (self-proclaimed)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy St. Pat's, Belated

From Uncle Keith:

(click pic to enlarge)

Superdelegate Convention?

Philip Bredesen, governor of Tennessee and himself a so-far uncommitted superdelegate, has an interesting idea: hold a convention of the superdelegates in June, after the last primary (Puerto Rico's is on 7 June). His thinking is that the superdelegates will have sufficient information by then to make an informed decision, and while some of the undecideds might like to hold off until the party convention in August, the delay and inevitable bickering will just aggravate the Democrats' divisiveness, further exhaust everybody, and hurt the general election campaign.

I think there's a lot to be said for Bredesen's suggestion, and I can't think of any real downside. If I really stretch, I can imagine one potential problem: Suppose that Clinton does well enough in the remaining contests to make another "momentum"/"(un)important states" argument, and enough superdelegates buy it so that after they vote, the delegate totals (super + pledged) are really close. Or make it even stickier: imagine that enough of the superdelegates refuse to cast votes to the point where Obama can't get the 2025 total delegates required to win. At that point, Clinton resurrects the claim that her campaign has already floated about nothing being final, even among pledged delegates, says that the August convention the only place where the official decision can really be made, and refuses to drop out. At that point, the superdelegates have lost most of their clout, the Democrats look even more divided, and all the bickering that Bredesen hopes to avoid comes roaring back, probably even more nastily.

Admittedly, I'm piling one worst case scenario on top of another here, but Bredesen's idea just sounds so reasonable I feel compelled to come up with some argument about why it won't work.


What Have We Learned in Five Years? Besides Nothing, I Mean.

Former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, describing George W. Bush in January 2003:

… the President invited three members of the Iraqi opposition to join him to watch the Super Bowl. In the course of the conversation the Iraqis realized that the President was not aware that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. He looked at them and said, "You mean...they're not, you know, there, there's this difference. What is it about?"

WaPo reporters Barr and Shear, describing John McCain yesterday:

Sen. John McCain, traveling in the Middle East to promote his foreign policy expertise, misidentified in remarks Tuesday which broad category of Iraqi extremists are allegedly receiving support from Iran.

He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."

Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."

Don't worry, don't worry. It's only been five years. By his own timetable, he's got another hundred to get this right.

Plus, he can always count on the Holy Joe to descend and whisper in his ear.

(h/t: MoJo and TBogg)

Headline of the Week: 2008-03-19

From McClatchy on Monday:

Cheney cites 'phenomenal' Iraqi security progress as bombing kills 40

Amazing how often the facts serve as their own editorial comment with the Bush Administration.

(h/t: MoJo)

What Gavin M. Said

Okay, I said in the previous post that I'd prefer people to watch the speech for themselves, rather than relying on what other people said about it, but this was so resonant, I just couldn't resist:

Not to favor a candidate or anything, but I'll tell you: What you don't realize going into some of these Obama speeches -- not all of them, certainly, but the occasional really good, custom-made ones -- is that you're going to come out the other end slightly smarter and better-adjusted, and feeling like you're part of a historic moment.

I mean, sure you realize that: You start off all like, "Welp, here's Obama again with that thing of his, trying to make me feel like I'm part of a quote-unquote historic moment, and so forth." But then you settle in and listen, and soon you're like, "Wait a second. Despite the fact that I’m not, so to speak, buying into any big, whole Obama thing, and don’t actually feel like I'm part of any giant, rolling Obama Borg-whatsis, it’s starting to seem, despite these objective facts, which are real, like this actually is kind of a historic moment, here, with Barry and what he’s saying."

Added: Oh, okay, one more. Go read the Rude Pundit, who liveblogged the speech. I was going to offer some excerpts, but I didn't want to step on his lines. (My favorites are 10:59 - 11:02, 11:05, 11:23, and the post's closing grafs.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack Obama in Philadelphia, PA
18 March 2008

Administrative update made. Notes at bottom.

You can rely on what other people tell you about the speech, or you can make the effort to listen to man himself. I'd say the time investment is well worth it, but then, I'm biased.

(alt. video link)

And here's a transcript.


Now that you've watched for yourself, I'll offer my reaction.

The things I liked best about the speech were his understated delivery, his refusal to shy away from stating some hard truths, and the sense that he always conveys: that while no single person can solve all problems, Barack Obama is by far the best candidate available at offering a focus around which we can all coalesce. His call for unity is not going to sway the hard right, but I think he's got a really good chance to make a large majority of this country work together. I don't think we've had very much success over the past couple decades with our slash-and-burn partisanship, and I think it's best to try another approach.

I have said before that Obama's religiosity is not my favorite part of his character, but that I can accept it as he presents it. If he found some guidance from listening to Pastor Wright, so be it. Of the few clips that I've seen, I cannot blame Wright for giving voice to understandable anger. I don't think he preaches the best message for all of America, but then, he's not the one running for president.

Part of me can't help but wonder at the frenzy over Wright's remarks and Obama's affiliation with him, when John McCain's embrace of televangelists whose messages are far more heinous doesn't appear to have risen much above the level of background noise. I strongly suspect that Wright is serving as an excuse for a lot of people to hide behind, as a way to give vent to their racist fears. Not everybody, but a lot.

If you're one of those people, I don't suppose there's anything I can say that's going to talk you out of your mindset. But maybe you'll at least take a moment to reflect. Race is a serious problem in this country. Know anyone who's stated the problem more clearly than Obama just did? Know anyone who offers a better chance at moving forward out of this morass?

Administrative update:

The original version of this post had four embedded video clips, due to YouTube's usual ten-minute length limit. After posting, I saw via John Cole that a single, full-length video had become available. I deleted the four segments and replaced them with the one currently displayed. If for some reason you need to get at the old segments, they live here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Another Piece of Childhood Ends

Via the Angry Professor, I just learned of the death of Arthur C. Clarke.

I came across this video of Sir Arthur, shot on or about his 90th birthday, a while back, on Thilina Heenatigala's blog:

(alt. video link)

Still had his wits about him, clearly. A pity his brain had to be stored in an imperfect vessel. Clarke gave me many, many hours of reading bliss, and not a small amount of hope regarding the human condition. He will be missed.

Added: Gerald Jonas of the NYT has a good obit.

The Clinton Boycott?

I don't read DailyKos very much, so I had no idea that there was such a thing. This post by Markos is pretty good.

(h/t: Steve Benen)

Kristol Clear

Late addition to his 17 March hatchet job on Barack Obama:

In this column, I cite a report that Sen. Obama had attended services at Trinity Church on July 22, 2007. The Obama campaign has provided information showing that Senator Obama did not attend Trinity that day. I regret the error.

Uh huh.

(h/t: Tim F. and Steve Benen)

Added: Doghouse has more energy for this lame-ass than I do.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Even More Delegates for Obama

Ten days ago, Jiminy Jilliker! (yeah, like Yahoo!, I think you always have to include the exclamation point) noted that California's certified count of delegates showed a swing of eight in Obama's favor. JJ also noted that this news, uh, wasn't. (Sorry for not getting around to spreading the word as you exhorted, until now, JJ.)

On a related note, my new favorite podcast, PoliSciFiRadio (hands down winner for Catchy Title, too), started off this week's show with a report from Iowa. Seems the Hawkeyes finally officially selected their delegates, some of the Edwards delegates switched over to Obama, and the result is a gain of about nine for our side. Forbes has a story on this, too.

Forbes also notes in the same article that Texas finally got around to finishing their caucus count. Final score: Obama "won the state" by 4 delegates. (I use quotes because the only thing actually won is a talking point; unlike the general election and some states in the Republican primaries, states are not winner-take-all in the Democratic primaries. But still, the next time some tiresome Clintonite talks about "winning" the "big states," you can now offer up the Lone Stare.)

There has been way too much MSM chatter about Hillary's supposed momentum lately, and it'll be interesting to see if actual, tangible, countable real results get anywhere near the same coverage. After Hillary picked up a thirteen delegate advantage in Ohio, Obama has netted two from Wyoming, five from Mississippi, and added to the above, we have a gain of 8 + 9 + 4 + 2 + 5 = +28 since.* Interesting!

Well, I say "interesting," but I'm betting crickets.

* Running totals so far show Obama up by about 170 pledged delegates, with a little less of an edge (120 to 140) if superdelegate counts are to be believed. John Nichols has a nice summary. Also, for the similarly hopelessly incurably addicted: Forbes and Slate both have delegate calculators for you to play with.

Florida Gets One Electoral Decision Right

The AP is reporting that the Florida Democratic Party has dropped its plan for redoing its primary via a mail-in vote.

I say, good. Best not to try something you've no experience at when the results are potentially crucial. However, while my initial inclination was to make a stale joke about admitting one's incompetence being the first step to recovery, a later bit in the same article gives me pause. Says party chair Karen L. Thurman:

... it's simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the party were to pay for it.

Now, the Democratic Party rules say that a primary contest must be held by June 10 for the results to count. I concede that Thurman's statement may be a negotiating ploy, but taken at face value, it is jaw-dropping. June 10 is nearly three months from now, and there is nothing new about the process. Just repeat what you did in January. Same ballot, same polling places, same counting procedures. What's the big deal?

Talk about arguing for your own limitations. Explain to me why this woman and her cronies are in charge again?

Of course, this whole thing would be a non-issue were a certain monster not so bent on changing the rules in the middle of the game.

The Things We Take For Granted

From an article talking about preparations for the swearing in of my new governor, David Paterson:

Because he is legally blind, ...

Yup. Knew that.

... he does not have the luxury of being able to read from a teleprompter.

Never thought about that.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another Neighbor Story

I was outside a few days ago, an hour and a half into trying to break up two solid inches of ice on the sidewalk in front of my house before the next foot of snow dropped on top of it, when a ginormous man with a huge smile and no excess of front teeth stopped to laugh at my efforts.

He started talking about the house of dubious repute that my principle domicile had principally been up until recently, including a story that he was witness to about how the woman of the house sold the man of the house to another man for drugs and then they had a cop-drawing fight when the man of the house claimed that he was made to do all said drugs with the client as part of the encounter and had nothing left to give to her, and I cracked (bad pun for which I shamelessly now bow down) that well, at least I could not help but to be a better neighbor. He talked about how the 'hood had gotten to a bad place lately and I said, well, we just got to get together on this and start talking to each other, and maybe even think about, come summer, closing off the street and throwing some block parties. His eyes opened up at that, -- "Block parties??!!!" -- and we got to talking about how March makes you long for the warm weather more than anything, and how we couldn't wait to get to barbecuing again, and then into food in general, and then he told me about the soul food restaurant he used to own, and I went Pavlovian on his ass and allowed as how it had been too long since I'd had some good soul food, and he looked at me like the ofay that I am, and I told him about my formative years growing up with friends whose people came from down Virginia whose favorite thing to say at the big reunions was, "Get in here and watch this white boy eat some collard greens! Lord have mercy!", and he said he was from Louisiana and I really started slobbering, and before I could mention my love for étouffée and jambalaya, he was all red beans and rice and "you got to come over for dinner!" We were just starting to argue about who made better cornbread when the wind picked up.

I didn't want to talk about this before, for fear of putting the whammy on it, but I just had a serious hunger pang, and all I can say now is: Come on, warm weather.

Over on the Upside

Recent crabbiness provoked by what's lately streaming from the MSM notwithstanding, I am made happy by one piece of news: The next door neighbors are moving out.

Imagine a guy with a six-pound nose ring and a haircut that appears to have been tossed in for free, whose other proudest possession is a four hundred dollar car with a nine hundred dollar stereo system, who likes to drink with his roomies in the driveway after getting off work at 3 a.m., whose principle utterances would be sniffingly dismissed by a Neanderthal as "primitive-sounding," and … you begin to get the idea.

He told me he's moving about three miles away.

I told him, with an amount of fervent sincerity that I can't remember previously achieving, "Good luck in the new place."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Snides of March

Just got back from the bodega up the street, which, as it happens, is called "Jim's Grocery" or something else so generic that I still, after a year of patronage, cannot remember its official business name. It is not now, nor has it ever been, run by anyone who speaks Spanish. I just like the sound of the word bodega. Beats convenience store all hollow, and do not even get me started on mini mart or (shudder) kwik chek.

The store is owned and usually solely staffed by a guy who looks and sounds like he comes from the Middle East. He bought it from "Jim" a while back and has told me that he could not come up with a better name for the place, at least not one catchy enough that it would merit buying a new sign. He is so good-looking that I wonder, not for the first time, how "swarthy" ever became an epithet. He does not wear a turban. He favors tight T-shirts, the better to show off his oft-discussed commitment to the gym. The irony of a man who looks more hard-bodied than anyone from L.A., who sells me junk food and beer, who kills time waiting for my credit card to go through by preaching against the evils of these items, is one of the many reasons why I favor this store.

Tonight's tight T-shirt is black, with bright green lettering spelling out a team name, in a supremely cheesy brush-stroke font, running barre sinistre: Shamrocks. Guesses about the logo are left as an exercise for the reader.

Having apparently just had a set-to with the previous customer, he asks me somewhat nervously, "You're not Irish, are you?"

I am momentarily comforted that he can not tell from my moon face and rosy cheeks anything more specific about where my blood lies than I can about him. I say that this is indeed my ethnic origin, but since my family has been in this country for at least three generations, the only thing about it that makes any difference to me is how irritable I will become in two days.

He says, "Yeah, yeah! That girl before you? 100% Irish! Won't wear green, she tells me!"

I give him the short version of my unoriginal rant about Saint Paddy's Day being tied with New Year's Eve for tops in the contest for Amateur Hour and state that for the past four decades, I, too, have conscientiously shunned wearing green at this time of year.

He looks a little mystified, an emotion which I attribute to his new uncertainty about who is crazier, the Yanks or the Micks, but he goes on to tell me the story behind the acquisition of his T-shirt. He had no idea what it signified when he bought it years ago, just thought it looked nice, and wore it "many, many times" before someone told him about the shirt's implied message. This made him put it away for a while, he says, but tonight, he thought it would be the perfect thing to put on.

I accuse him of becoming part of the Hallmark-Industrial Complex that turns every holiday in the U.S. into an excuse for crass commercialism, and it's to the point where the exact date doesn't matter any more; the key is the closest weekend … well, no, not those exact words. I mostly tease him for trying to boost beer sales.

Like most people who get stuck in my vicinity, he does not really listen. (This does not perturb me unduly. As someone whose favorite trig function is tan(x) (and who has an incurable fondness for parenthetical asides), I am hardened to such snubbery.) Instead, he is shaking his head and looking into the middle distance. Apparently, he's getting more grief about the shirt than he could possibly have imagined when he got dressed for work.

Down the street from the store is an "Irish pub." I will note that it is across the street from one of those rent-to-own furniture stores and a peelingly painted bright pink theater that only shows adult movies and let you draw your own conclusions about the appropriateness of the scare quotes. Parked outside of it, in a haphazard manner, but generally pointed against traffic, are four cop cars and an ambulance. Their roof lights are psychedelic on our faces in the monitor attached to the security camera.

Welcome to America, I do not tell him.

Erin Go Bragh, I do say.

"How are you tonight?" he says to his next customer.

Today's Moment of Ouch: 2008-03-15

Reading David Samuels's very fine piece (following the OTM pitch that I pitched below), I came across this cringe-inducer, wherein an erstwhile target of the paparazzi is barely recognized by the capo di tutti himself:

"She is the actress from the '60s whose brother is a famous actor," he says. "She is the one who is seen when there is nothing to shoot in Malibu."

Nothing to Sneeze At

Why is the noun spelled pollen but the verb spelled pollinate?

I grant the impossibility of naming anything more banal than the act of griping about the "rules" of the English language, but I just had to get that off my chest.

You are hereby excused to get on with your life while I sit here in my pee-stained underwear, repeatedly chanting I before E / Except after C / Or when sounding like A / As in neighbor or weigh, while interrupting myself with every exception that I can name.



EINSTEIN. That counts for two!!!

All work and no play, and so forth.

Just Go Listen. Just Go Watch.

Two great hours of your life can be had by obeying the following instructions.

1. Listen to this week's On the Media.   If you know me, you already know what a fanboy I am in this regard, but this week's was especially good, even by the very high bar I set for this show. You get Seymour Hirsh talking about breaking the story of the My Lai massacre (40th anniversary of that event is tomorrow), and comparing it to another story he broke: the Abu Ghraib scandal. You get Amar Bakshi talking about his conclusions from an eight-month study of the perception of America abroad. You get a piece on the über war photographer, Robert Capra, and a related interview with Jim Lewis, a guy with a different take on war photojournalism. You get an interview with David Samuels, who is the latest figure not nicknamed McMegan being blamed for killing the reputation of The Atlantic. Finally, you hear what newspaper people love and hate about The Wire. You can stream it or download the MP3.

2. Watch this week's episode of "Science Saturday".   (Fanboy disclaimer, op. cit.) Science writer John Horgan, one half of the regular pairing, interviews a guest, theoretical physicist Sean Carroll. Carroll is one of the greatest elucidators of science I have ever encountered. He's up there with Sagan, Dawkins, and Feynman in making the cutting edge of his field both comprehensible and exciting to the lay audience. Following is a clip in which Carroll addresses the familiar question, "Is the Big Bang theory in trouble?" This might be the best two-and-a-half minute introduction to cosmology ever given. The whole show is available as a video stream, or you can download the video (WMV) or audio (MP3).

BTW, you gotta love a guy who can use PC-speak so ironically: "… the non-crackpot physics community …" Expect to see evidence of my larceny early and often; e.g., Obama supporters will henceforth be referred to as the non-wingnut political community.