Some long-overdue thoughts for the new year. Many of us wonder how so many Americans can go jovially along, not voting, not caring, as we descend into oligarchy and friendly fascism. I have long figured that people are just content with their lives, and are unable or unwilling to either care about others or figure out the long-term implications of their non-participation. Earlier this week on WTOP, they mentioned a poll that seems to confirm just that, saying something like 83% of Americans are happy with their lives (unfortunately I haven't found a link for this). When I focus on the here and now, I'm quite happy with my own life, too. I have a terrific wife, a kid on the way, a lot of great friends, and while I'd like to buy a damn house but can't in this absurd real estate market, materially we have it just fine. So why do I get so angry when I read the newspaper or make the rounds of blogs and news web sites? Why do I carry it all around in my head and feel like the world completely sucks and is getting worse? Should I just stop reading the news, enjoy what I have, and assume that nothing the administration or extremists-at-large can genuinely ruin my life? Ultimately, I cannot. As mentioned before, I care about the welfare of others, and I know that ignoring things now will lead to worse things later. And so it continues. Happy New Year. Pay attention.
Check out this blogtastic DC Metro system blog map. Who blogs near your Metro stop? If you live near National Airport, I do.
My resolutions for the new year: clean up the formatting of this page, add some permalinks, link to some more quality blogs, and get a real hosting service for bigfool.com. If you have this page or any part of the site linked as home.earthlink.net/~bfwd, that URL may well disappear--details will be posted here when that happens.
Some links for your consumption. Get yourself good and riled up with this Boulder Weekly article that lists, in excruciating detail, each and every thing that sucks about SUVs. I couldn't have put it any better than the article's expert source: "driving an SUV is a deeply immoral act that places the driver’s own ego above the health and safety of others, not to mention the health of the environment."
I am debating expanding my permanent list of links, or "blogroll" as it's apparently called. But I am torn. I put the list there to showcase sites that I actually find interesting and I think others should visit. Now, apparently, it's the trend to have an exhaustive list of every blog you've ever looked at even once, or at least all those that somewhat approximate your own ideology. I'm not sure I want to participate in such pimpery. I mean, you all know where Atrios is, right? I suppose I could make that case about This Modern World, too, but I just really really like TMW and had it on my list o' links before a lot of other people did. Point is, I've been reading a number of other blogs lately, but I'm undecided as to whether to link to all of them.
I am reluctant to devote any words to Jeremy Shockey, because he's a colossal ass who only showboats to get attention, and thus by complaining about him I am giving him that attention. But I firmly believe his dropped TD pass against the Niners yesterday was retribution from the football gods, as pre-ordained by TMQ. As noted previously (see December 1 entry), at times I think Easterbrook's rampant bitching at the start of articles is just made-up, but he makes some very good points about the rules regarding game broadcasts and especially DirecTV's monopoly on "Sunday Ticket."
One other thing--I am by no means a fan of "Fear Factor," but I was flipping channels the other day and stumbled on "Celebrity Fear Factor" (all winnings going to charity of course). I was somewhat surprised to see Penn & Teller as one of the contestants. More specifically, Teller did all the stuff, while Penn stood around and made smart-ass comments. I don't know how the show turned out, but how unfair is that to the other contestants? To have one of the competitors be a guy who is regularly put in a straightjacket and suspended in a water tank by his ankles, not to mention has a friggin' gun shot at him nightly in the "Bullet Catch," the most inexplicable magic trick I've ever seen? The man obviously fears NOTHING. They needed some more squeamish celebrities.
Upon further review, and reading a lot of takes on the issue, I've come to the conclusion that the "double taxation of dividends" argument is a pile of crap argument put forth by people who don't want to pay taxes. The single best breakdown of why this is so is presented by PLA. In my view, corporate profits are taxed (at least, theoretically--as is romaing around the blogosphere, a lot of profitable companies magically pay no taxes or even get mammoth refunds), and individual income is taxed. Dividends start out as corporate profit, but then become individual income, and that's just how it is.
Another item on PLA is an excellent reminder that yes, there are (or at least were) people who are willing to take a stand, to do something because it's right, the consequences and prevailing local opinion be damned. This country still has a long way to go on racial issues, but the really scary times are behind us thanks to people like the Freedom Riders.
I was flipping channels during a commercial on Sunday, and on my way around the dial I think I saw FOUR ads for that stupid pasta pot with the built-in strainer in the lid. Either they're desperate to move a lot of units sitting in a warehouse somewhere, or they're actually selling these things and are pushing for total domination. Personally, I don't find using a colander all that taxing; you can get one for $5 at Lechter's, if not 50 cents at a yard sale, so any dope who tries to drain pasta using only the pan lid deserves whatever they get. And I certainly manage to avoid pouring ALL my cooked pasta down the drain as a poor sap in the ad does. Maybe I'm actually an EVEN BETTER cook than I thought, compared to the general population who needs this special cookware.
I am not a regular reader of the Snotglass blog. I get that it's parody of far-right conservative bloggers (reading the comments, some people obviously don't), but it's still so close to reality that it creeps me out. However, this piece on the "differences" between Kim Jong Il and our own president is an absolute classic.
Thanks to the Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax school districts for restoring my faith in humanity by NOT cancelling school today. We had maybe an inch of snow overnight, and yet a lot of school districts were cancelling today's classes last night. Maybe they were all schools farther south, where there was more snow. But this year, local schools have called off school much quicker than I can ever remember. I think there's two reasons: the first is liability. If a bus slides off the road into a ditch and there's a single flake of snow on the ground, the school district will probably be sued beyond all comprehension. And the second is griping parents who are angry if they don't know the instant they wake up if their kids are going to school that day or not. Things were different in my day (when the style at the time was having an onion tied to your belt).
The tech taboo on dividends is finally broken, by no less than the Evil Empire itself. So far, the stock has suffered for it, down almost $3 as of this writing (about 5%), but they also had a slightly disappointing earnings announcement at the same time. Will other cash-heavy tech companies follow suit, and we can finally get rid of this idea that paying dividends means you're out of ideas? Of course, the Bush administration's economic plan would save Bill Gates $37.8 million in taxes on his dividend has nothing to do with this, I'm sure.
Busy weekend. First, the football. I am, of course, disappointed that the Eagles lost, but I can't say I'm terribly surprised. They didn't look like a championship-caliber team against the Falcons: the defense did a little too much bending in that bend-but-don't-break effort, and the offense wasn't about to frighten a great defensive team like the Bucs. Lo and behold, Tampa has a couple of long drives for touchdowns, and the Eagles' offense looks stagnant. I was taken aback at how long it took the Eagles' coaching staff to make adjustments, e.g. coming with more blitzes in the second half. And just after halftime I was thinking "Go to the no-huddle offense," which often helps a team that looks to be in a funk. Didn't happen until that last drive of consequence, and it worked pretty well, too... until the interception that effectively ended the game. Argh. I have to say I'll be pulling for the "old guys" from Oakland next week--that Tim Brown in particular, an all-time kind of player who deserves a ring.
On Saturday, we went downtown to the anti-war rally. Absurdly cold, but we felt the need to be on-hand. Much has been made about the Communist ties of ANSWER, the organizing group. But then, ANSWER went out of their way to bury any references to socialism in their web site or in the speeches of the day, and I'd wager 95% of the people there had no idea. We were only there to protest our nation's headlong plunge towards war with Iraq, and I have a hard time accepting the argument that we're all Commies as a result. Sorry, no. Sure, a protest like this has its fringe elements and groups with pet causes, but I'd rather attend the march warts and all than sit at home and let Rumsfeld or someone lump me with a supposed silent majority that supports the war.
Something's said been said before, but here am I repeating: "Supporting the troops" does not equal "supporting the war," and vice versa. I refuse to let Freepers et. al. monopolize the position that they love our servicepeople. I've been in the military-industrial complex for a long time now, and I know how dedicated our soldiers, sailors and airmen are. I also know how little our mammoth defense budget makes any kind of practical difference in the mission of a grunt on the ground--too much money going to stupid crap like stealth bombers that the Pentagon doesn't really want, not enough money going to fix a damn jeep that soldiers need to get through the mountains of Afghanistan. You bet your ass I support our troops. And I don't want them needlessly killed or wounded fighting a war that maintains the ability of oil companies to make a profit, does nothing to "maintain our freedoms," and in all likelihood further alienates much of the world.
I am really bad at estimating crowds, but I've heard 30,000 and 500,000 tossed around--both those numbers are ridiculous. At least 100,000 there, probably closer to 200,000.
Linking Fool: Mark Gunnion with a great story on the San Francisco march. Body and Soul with some fine thoughts from Dr. King.
Plenty to be angry about today. First, the revelation that the Bush economic plan gives big tax breaks to small businesses that buy SUVs and other large vehicles. If it was a break on any and all vehicles, that would be one thing, but it's just those vehicles with a weight of 6,000 pounds or more--that is, big-ass SUVs. JESUS, MARY AND JIMI IN AN ELEVATOR!! What could POSSIBLY justify this? I can think of two things: 1. A demonstration of just how deeply the administration is in the pockets of the auto and oil industries, or 2. Inserted just to anger environmentalists. Probably both.
Then there's the Michael Kelly editorial in the Post denouncing the left for "marching with Stalinists." Oy. This has been covered all over the blogosphere, but Kelly has to trot these sorry arguments out in an effort to shame people he disagrees with. If the public at large had stayed home from the marches this weekend out of objection to fringe elements, Kelly would be writing about how the peace movement is dead and we should attack Iraq immediately.
Finally, a note about BartCop. I read and enjoy this site, but I take it the way conservatives [should] take Rush Limbaugh: I like his tone, I get some laughs out of it, but I keep in mind that a lot of his arguments aren't completely thought out, he doesn't provide for coherent points from the opposition, and I would be reluctant to use something from the site as basis for a truly serious discussion. (Of course, far to many Limbaugh-philes take his word as gospel truth, but that's another matter altogether.) However, this recent article on voting machines, and strange inaccuracies in exit polling followed by the end of exit polling, makes me nervous. A little black box that tells you the voting results, with no other means of verification? That sounds like trouble. This all looks like a big ol' conspiracy theory, but after what happened in 2000, and especially with the brazenness that the administration and its cronies have pushed their agenda, I would not put even more blatant election-fixing past them at this point. Something to keep an eye on, anyway.
There was some football game on last night. The Raiders made things almost interesting in the early fourth quarter, but on the whole this was not an exciting football game. Props to the Bucs' D, but as with the Eagles last week, the Raiders seemed unable to adjust their play calling. They kept throwing those same dinky 4-to-7 yard passes, and it wasn't until late that they went up top a couple times (and lo and behold it worked, with touchdowns to Porter and Rice). Oddly enough, I often shout at the TV when a team (especially the Redskins) abandons the running game early and goes pass-wacky; in contrast, over the past two weeks, the teams that lost to the Bucs stayed with their game plan for too long.
Pre- and post-game: of course, excruciating. Celine Dion sang "God Bless America"... she's Canadian. Players' kids down on the field: OUT OF CONTROL. Bon Jovi post-game before trophy presentations, ugh ugh ugh. On-field over-the-PA interviews during the trophy presentations, ugh. "Has it sunk in yet?" Gosh, I'm standing here on this podium, holding the Lombardi Trophy, I'm soaked in Gatorade...nope, hasn't sunk in. What just happened?
The ads were, of course, mostly stupid. The Osbournes/Pepsi Twist ad was vaguely amusing, and I did laugh aloud at the Budweiser ad with the zebra as referee of the Clydsedales' football game.
I don't want to sound prudish, but... is it my imagination, or has objectification of women been ratcheted up a few notches in the past few months? From myriad shots of Jennifer Garner as lingerie model, to the Coors Light ad which all but said "All you really want to see in this ad are these blonde twins," there must have been eight or ten spots which relied on hot chicks (or at least the suggestion that chicks submit to male whims, like the Bud spot where the girl says its OK if the guy dates her roommate too). And that "Am I Hot" show represents a new low at a time when the networks have already punched through the bottom of the barrel and are digging through the basement floor. I'm not about to suggest that there be any government regulation of content (and I'm surprised more people on the right haven't done so--they must realize it will make them look idiotic), but I'd like to think that we could advance as a species to the point where we can evaluate a product on the basis of something other than its proximity to large breasts. Wishful thinking, there.
Every American should read this Brian Eno piece. As Wil Wheaton once said, when someone calls you on your behavior, you can either grunt and snort and say they're just jealous, or you can stop and think--maybe they have something, there.
On a more jovial note, I found a transcript to one of my all-time favorite SNL sketches: George Will's Sports Machine. You bow-tie wearin' doofus.
I would sooner be shot out of a cannon than actually watch a Bush State of the Union address. But in follow-up reading, the single most disingenous thing that came out was the funding for "hydrogen cars." You know what would cut down our oil consumption and carbon emissions really quickly, and not cost the government a dime? The President saying "I urge all Americans to consider buying more fuel-efficient cars." If a Democratic president says that, everyone on the right laughs and goes to buy a Land Rover, but if Bush said it those same people might take it seriously. Furthermore, if he's serious about cutting our consumption blah blah blah, he could propose legislation mandating fuel efficiency improvements, and closing some of the mammoth loopholes that SUVs drive through on the way to running over animals and small children. I he's trying to look forward-thinking by throwing some money at a science fictiony-sounding program, while continuing to do favors for his pals in the oil and auto industries. Feh. (Suffice to say I'm still not convinced we should go to war with Iraq, either.)
Big news for bigfool.com! Short version first: if you have any part of this site bookmarked or linked with a URL that starts with home.earthlink.net/~bfwd, you should change that to www.bigfool.com sooner rather than later.
I have finally gotten off my duff and moved to a new hosting service. The old service was actually Earthlink, with NameSecure as the domain host (redirecting to Earthlink). Paying Earthlink for dial-up service I don't use just to host a web site has gotten ridiculous, so I found a much better deal that will not only give me more server space, but host the domain directly. The cut-over will happen in the next few days. The old and new sites will run in parallel for a little while, then the Earthlink site will have a "Please go to bigfool.com" message for a time, then it will go away entirely. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Another important change: in the past, you've been able to e-mail me by putting anything in front of @bigfool.com. That's going away, in favor of a more manageable core of 10 addresses. It means the end of the bigfool.com mail bag, but I just get WAY too much Spam and I can't stands it no more. So if you periodically e-mail me at some wacky address, you'd best put carl - at - bigfool.com in your address book.
The big switch happened some time overnight. As a result of case-sensitivity issues in FTPing files, a lot of stuff was 404 this morning. I believe I have fixed everything, but if you encounter something that's apparently missing on any part of the site, please e-mail me about it. Thanks.
A side note from this effort: for as long as Network Solutions has been around and doing what they're doing, you'd think that their on-line account maintenance processes would actually WORK. But for some reason, they returned errors more often than not.
Another big lull in my posting. Busy and stuff as usual, but also a certain amount of, sad to say, despondence at the general awfulness of our national state these days. But the protests this weekend in NYC and all over the world were heartening. Too bad that while our Washington Post put all those foreign protests on the front page, they didn't see fit to discuss domestic protests until page 22. Please go read other blogs such as Atrios for the rundown on how much the Bush administration sucks this week; I have neither the time nor energy to recap it all here and now.
Oh yeah, it snowed here. A lot. Personally, I haven't had as bad a time in this one as in 1996, but it's still wreaking havoc in the northeast. My biggest pet peeve yesterday was the Disappearing Right Lane: driving down the right lane of a multi-lane commercial road, when the wall of snow on your right takes over your lane unexpectedly, as if the plow driver lost interest. While I am disgusted to see people who don't clear their cars of snow, I am not surprised (too used to it, I guess); today, however, I saw someone who didn't even fully clear his windshield and rear window. Just the left half of each. This person does not deserve to own a car, drive, or even live in a civilized society. Just unbelievably lazy, selfish, and stupid.
Tom Tomorrow is having a bandwidth crisis; I threw him a few bucks, why don't you?
Update coming this weekend, with better formatting, permalinks, and a bigger, better, more blogtastic and bloggoriffic blogroll. Really, this weekend. It's happening. During the flood that's coming when it's mid-50's, raining like hell, and all the storm drains are clogged with three feet of compacted, plowed snow (just like 1996). This weekend will also mark the dismantling of the Earthlink version of this site. The Big Switch did greatly reduce my spam load; it's not gone entirely, but much more manageable now.
One more thing...my new hosting service provides much more information on referring pages and so on. I am pleased to learn that the top three search terms that led people to the FoolBlog from search engines this month were "Jennifer," "Garner," and "lingerie" (see my January 27 posts). Somehow I think these people were disappointed once they got to this site. Some days I just love the Internet.
The post-Super Bowl lull in the sports world has always existed, but I think this year was the first time I've seen it offically defined; ESPN.com said it's the period between the Super Bowl and the start of the NCAA hoops tournament. Makes sense; the regular seasons of the NHL, NBA, and college basketball mean so little that it's hard to get fired up about much of anything. However, some of us have hockey season tickets. I have to say that in the five years I've followed the team closely, I have never been so disappointed in the Capitals as I am right now. Even last year when they failed to make the playoffs, it could be explained away. This year, the team just looks befuddled. Suddenly they can't win a game that could be at all construed as big. It's been sad to watch. I'm going to the Detroit game on Saturday, and I'm honestly expecting something like a 5-1 debacle.
New least-favorite commercial: the car commercial (Hyundai? Mistubishi? I can't even remember) where the girl shouts "Shut UP!" and whacks the car salesman every time he quotes the price. The radio version is so awful that I turn off the radio, regardless of what show I'm listening to, whenever it comes on. You hear me, DC radio stations? That ad is COSTING YOU LISTENERS. Kill it.
OK, we got your permalinks (by date rather than individual post; deal with it), at least for 2003 posts. If there's an earlier post you'd like to link directly to, e-mail me, and after I get over my shock and disbelief I'll set it up for you. We got your new and improved blogroll. And the old Earthlink site has been converted to a big detour sign. Any questions?
BTW, I take no responsibility for the infrequency with which some of the "Friends of the Big Fool" post, but I wanted to give everyone a shout-out regardless.
Didn't I say something yesterday about a 5-1 debacle? Unfortunately accurate. I wonder if you can bet on exact final scores of hockey games in Vegas.
Liberal media my ass, part 10,842: Word is out now that Bush's claim that top economists believe his proposed budget will spur growth is a fabrication (the link is to Salon so you'll either need to subscribe or sit through an ad, sorry). Assuming Bush can't produce a panel of respected economists in the next few days to support this, let's call it what it is: a lie. A lie that's much more important in real-world terms than "I invented the Internet" (which Gore never said, of course) or even "I never had sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." So why won't the media pursue it with the same fervor? Why why why why why?
Missle defense: another pack of lies, this one with a big price tag. Meanwhile, road crews did a half-assed job of plowing our streets, then quit with some lanes still blocked, and Oregon cuts their school year even further. Hooray for tax cuts! At least our freakin' hockey team won last night.
There are plenty of reasons to oppose going to war in Iraq, but my biggest one right now is the proposed offensive tactic, termed "Shock & Awe", which will involve firing up to 800 cruise missles (twice as many as were fired in the entire 1991 Gulf War) into Baghdad in the first 48 hours. Somehow, the administration wants us to believe that this will only impact military targets, and wil save civilian lives. Sounds more like Dresden to me, and it's just wrong. Turning Baghdad into a pile of rubble and killing tens of thousdands of civilians or more will do far more damage to our long-term safety than if we even just ignored Saddam.
Go read everything at Body & Soul today, and save me the trouble of reiterating it all here.
I may be anti-war, but Saddam Hussein is still a colossal jackass who should be, well, shot. First there's his misconception that anti-war protestors actually support him, which I'm quite sure is inaccurate. Conanson's idea of protesting at Iraqi embassies is pretty good; I can see the signs now: "Saddam is bad. War is worse." And now Saddam is grandstanding that he's not going to dismantle the Al-Samoud missiles. He's giving Bush right what he wants, isn't he? Shows how much he cares about his own citizens. Argh.
Another Salon piece, this one on the voting machine issue I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. The gist of it: the technologies probably hasn't been abused yet...but it damn well sure could be, and without an independent means of verification, there's inherent potential for anti-democratic activity.
More snow. Took me over two hours to drive to work this morning (usually it's about 40 minutes). WTOP did not seem to repeat their usual mantra of "If you don't HAVE to go anywhere, don't drive!" For whatever reason, everybody went to freakin' work this morning at the same time. If only I'd brought my laptop home with me yesterday. I did not make that mistake today, with more snow forecast for overnight. I am bloody sick of snow.
To reiterate something I wrote in comments at Eschaton last night: I am SO tired of the assertion that being anti-war means you hate American soldiers, as in an item on Limbaugh's site where he calls Sheryl Crow a hypocrite for performing at USO events and campaiging against war. I'm reluctant to even pay attention to it, but it seems to be the latest conservative meme.
I've worked in the military-industrial complex for almost ten years now. I've met a lot of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, both officers and enlisted. I know how dedicated they are and how seriously they take their jobs. If we go to war, those people will have my utmost support, both professionally and personally. But the officers and enlisted aren't the ones making the decision to go to war; the administration is doing that. That's what I oppose. Sending our troops into combat for a war that's likely unnecessary and will ultimately do more harm to our national security than good: THAT is not supporting our troops.
Opinions are one thing, but sticking to these memes that have no damned basis in logic whatsoever, thinking that if you repeat them enough they'll be perceived as true... gawd, would you give it a rest.
A few days ago I mentioned the administration's claim that "top economists" say Bush's proposed budget will spur growth. Turns out it's not a complete fabrication, but only if you're willing to cut them a lot a lot a lot of slack on what constitutes an economist.
Interesting item on CMJ substituting its own compilation on playlists when an album can't be "verified." This is definitely a new practice--back in my day as music director, I would put local and unsigned bands in our chart (including my own band once or twice). And they'd show up in the magazine the following week. Nothing is sacred in the music business anymore, it seems, except cash.
Fantastic Mr. Rogers eulogy at Body & Soul. Do not read if this isn't a good time to get all verklempt. I of course watched Mr. Rogers as a kid; not my favorite show, but it was there, and I had a couple of his records, too. What springs to mind for me in reading all the tributes is this: as an ordained Presbyterian minister, he taught all the good parts about Christiantiy without whacking you over the head with Jesus and overbearing Puritan morality, without even saying the word "Jesus." The parts of Christianity that should be just common sense and human decency rather than religion, about how to treat others with respect and love. And that is painfully rare.
I can now tell my grandchildren that I saw Michael Jordan play in person. Unfortunately, I only saw him play 15 minutes before he left the game with back spasms, and somewhat predictably the Buzzards lost. As regular readers may know, I am a Capitals season ticket holder; the differences in the crowd between the Wizards and Caps are most intriguing. First off, the Wizards' crowd is a lot more diverse; hockey is trying, but it's still the whitest sport around. The Wiz crowd is also much better dressed; it's somewhat of a see-and-be-seen event, at least from where we were sitting. Conversely, Caps fans have a lot more gear; when you're on the Metro on a game night, you can tell there's a hockey game. Aside from kids, there weren't nearly as many jerseys and sweatshirts among the Wizards fans. Finally, it was interesting and sort of disturbing to sit on the lower level, look up and say "Look how far away our regular seats are."
My latest addition to the liquor cabinet is cachaça. Brazilian liquor distilled from sugar cane, and the primary ingredient in the caipirinha, a very tasty and very strong drink. I had two of these mofos the other night at home and I was LIT (and I'm not exactly a lightweight, in either the literal or figurative sense). The brand I found is 80 proof (that's 40% alcohol), but one site I found says the stuff actually consumed in Brazil is 70 to 80% alcohol. Yowch.
Ah, spring training. A new year. Hope springs eternal. Players get drunk at the beach. I want to see Shropshire and George Will in a bar fight. Nice to see Thome hit a home run in his first Phils at-bat.
Good hockey teams do not cough up two-goal leads to the Atlanta freakin' Thrashers at home while trying to nail down the division. Just dismal. Early on I thought it was going to be one of those good 5-1 nights, where goals went in easy and the opposition couldn't get anything going. But the team just looked way too casual; apparently THEY thought it was going to be easy and they let it get away. I've been thinking Cassidy is doing a little too much noodling with the lines; shaking it up is good every once in a while, but you have to have some continuity, too. Then I read this morning that Jagr had limited ice time as the game went on for no apparent reason; as good as he was in the first period, he should have had at least three goals before the night was over. So I'm a little miffed at the coach right now. Best case scenario: win the division, get by Tampa or Boston in the first round; then they'd probably get New Jersey, Philly, or Toronto, and that'll be it.
Normally we feel quite safe at Caps games, but last night someone from higher up in the section was throwing change at us. A guy three seats over from me got hit in the head with a nickel, a guy behind us got hit with a penny, and a couple others missed and hit empty seats. About the fourth time, several of us stood up, turned around, and yelled in that general direction. What kind of person thinks it's funny to anonymously throw hard objects at people they don't know, including a three-year-old girl and a pregnant woman? How come no one in their vicinity saw it and ratted them out? I don't know. I bet they're all conservatives though. (Joke! Kind of.) At least by being at the hockey game I didn't have to watch the stupid Bush press conference.
Putting The Hamster on the blogroll. It's partly a blog and partly a vast compilation of quality/interesting news link. Done by a freshman at GW--I am astounded that someone can do daily, quality updates to a site like this among all the usual pressures and distractions of college.
Good This Modern World today. I maintain that a whole lot of Americans don't really care what goes on in Washington or in the nation's board rooms, so long as they aren't impacted directly; if they still have their OK jobs, their cars, and their TV shows, everything is pretty much fine. Of course, we know where that attitude gets us.
A big story on the blog-go-round over the past couple days: Former assistant Defense secretary Richard Perle calls the New Yorker's Sy Hersh a terrorist, mainly because Hersh pointed out business dealings through which Perle is likely to profit from the presumed Iraq war. Then you've got Dick Cheney's Haliburton, which made a lot of money on the Gulf War in '91, and will cash in on this one too.
When I worked for the Defense Department (as a low-to-mid-level GS employee, not deputy assistant undersecretary of anything), we had to attend an annual ethics briefing. It was mandatory. We were told that we couldn't accept gifts from contractors over a certain threshhold (I think $20), and we had to disclose all ties to any organizations whatsoever. It was drummed into our heads: we must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Accepting, say, a pair of $100 basketball tickets from a natural gas broker could have easily cost me my job. But it appears that when you're high up enough in the organization and there's appearance of impropriety, all you have to do is call people who point it out terrorists, and claim during a televised pre-election debate that the government has nothing to do with the financial success of your company, and everything is fine. Strange how often the rigorous standards that are applied (particularly by conservatives) to the little guy just magically don't apply to bigwigs. I'd love to see the corporate Three Strikes lawpassed.
Speaking of how what applies to most of us doesn't seem to apply to the rich and powerful, go read this piece apparently written by a father whose son has put his life on hold to go to war.
In lighter news, the Caps made the slightly bewildering move of picking up Sergei Berezin at the NHL trade deadline. Berezin's a good player, but what they needed was a defenseman. Apparently none were available at a price the Caps were willing to play, so instead they got another European forward who can score some goals but isn't exactly known for his defense. When I got this news yesterday, my biggest question was where he was going to play--ESPN et. al. all listed Berezin as a center. So does he go to the fourth line? Does he take Nylander's spot and Nylander goes to the fourth line? Does one of the centers become a winger? Apparently, the latter is the case--the Post today says they expect him to play all three forward positions, especailly a wing spot while Miller and Jagr are hurt. Hopefully he adds a little scoring punch; I am amazed that the Caps are actually a top-scoring team in the East, since they seem to have a hard time finishing good scoring chances. But I don't think this is the move that will lead them deep into the playoffs.
Finally, I would freak right the hell out if I went into someone's office and they were sitting in this torture device. Looks like something from a Terry Gilliam movie.
Spam Is Destroying E-mail, part 17,432: In the last 48 hours I've received a good two dozen "return to sender" messages, for messages I didn't send. Apparently, someone is busy sending out bestiality porn spam, and using my Yahoo address as their Reply-To. So all the failure notices are being sent to me, many with the extremely vile graphics still attached. This is infuriating not only because of the bounced messages, but because the uneducated recipients might easily think I'm doing it (not that they're likely to know me, but they could complain to Yahoo). I don't believe this is any sort of vendetta to make me look like a bestiality porn spammer; the routing shows this all coming back from a server in Korea. Most likely this person just invented a seemingly fake address to use, and through my dumb luck he chose mine. If this keeps up I may have to abandon my Yahoo account, which would suck because I've used it to sign up for stuff at a lot of different web sites.
The Horror of Blimps has been linked in plenty of places, but it made me laugh out loud so I feel compelled to share it here.
Among the many problems ignored by the administration and the country at large in our fury over Iraq is the great inequity of our health care system. This week is, in fact, Cover the Uninsured Week. The Bloviator has been running content on this all week. Maybe instead of holding press conferences about goddamn "Freedom Fries" (or as was suggested by my pal Dan at Cafe Utne, "Fascist Fries"), our leaders could think about providing reasonable health care for everyone in this country, because it would be a really nice thing to do, and would provide some weight to our chest-thumping "Greatest Nation On Earth" claims.
For your pre-war reading pleasure, here's a Newsweek article titled The Arrogant Empire, and a Prospect piece titled Just the Beginning. I had a fairly comprehensive war debate with a friend this weekend; I wrote a lengthy piece on why we shouldn't go to war (which I may post sooner or later) and received his reply over the weekend. The ball's in my court, if I can find time to think among work stuff. The one area where I'm sort of waffling is the humanitarian argument. It's a rather difficult call to make, and an important one--the American and world-wide lack of intervention in Rwanda, for instance, ended in tragedy. So when do you intervene? If Bush had stuck to this argument from the beginning, maybe he'd have UN backing. As much as anything, this quarrel is over the way the administration has handled things, and the world's perception that we're trying to establish an empire (a la PNAC). So, go read these articles and think about where we're heading.
From TMW et. al., a fight at the rodeo because some guys didn't stand up for Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be An American." What, that's the National Anthem now? That song makes me wanna barf. Where at least I know I'm free... to not stand while smarmy country songs are played if I don't want to.
How does a hockey team that tanked to the LA freakin' Kings, then come out and put the clamps on the Colorado Avalanche? I don't claim to understand it myself. I had all but given up on the division title, but if they play like this on the upcoming trans-Canada odyssey, anything can happen.
Not much to add about the looming war. I still struggle with the humanitarian issue, but I can't support going to what may ultimately be the right war for the wrong reasons. Obviously, I hope it goes quickly, with a minimum of casualties on both sides (though, like Robin Cook, I find it odd that our administration simultaneously singles out Iraq as a threat while assuring us that we'll beat his army like a gong), and that we're able to set up a stable democratic regime there (though our efforts in Afghanistan don't do much to support that wish). Still, I believe this will come back to bite us in the ass, hard, in a few years.
Like Stephen at To The Barricades, I am extremely tired of babblings that Nader voters are responsible for everything Bush is doing. No, BUSH is responsible for everything Bush is doing. Sure, things may be different if all the Nader voters in Florida voted for Gore, but there's a lot of alternate-universe scenarios that might have things different today: the Gore camp fighting bogus charges of his dishonesty with more fervor, the televised debates being held with rules not specifically designed to keep Bush from looking like a moron, Democrats in general not behaving like pseudo-Republicans. What does all this bitching about Nader voters accomplish, exactly? (Disclaimer: I voted for Nader, though in Virginia which was decisively a Bush state. Had I lived in a swing state, I might have chosen differently.) I'd prefer that the Democratic Party sift through the candidates sooner rather than later, unite behind one (Howard Dean, please), and get to work on attacking this administration for its vast load of domestic and international failures. And come up with a comprehensive defense and homeland security policy while we're at it.
Good piece on Salon about Law & Order today (yes, you'll need a day pass, deal with it). I confess to being an L&O junkie, and a lot of points in the article (being able to spot the criminal early once you're familiar with the series, getting hooked into the show even if you turn it on halfway through) make me nod in recognition. I don't like "Criminal Intent," though; D'Onofrio chews on the scenery too much for my tastes.
Another Salon article of note: a profile of Dani Bunten, designer of M.U.L.E. and other 1980s computer games. Man, I loved MULE, and I think it's ripe for a remake with online play. A few months ago I downloaded a C64 emulator just so I could play it again. I may have to scare up a MULE clone; World of MULE looks to be the source.
Added to the blogroll, along with the previously linked Howard Dean blog: my man Leif Utne, as in Utne Reader Utne. Leif and I have the same birthday!
I've been avoiding 24-Hour War Porn as much as possible, but I still read the Post every morning. Lately the Post has been defending themselves against the complaint that they're overly gung-ho for the war and slow to report protests, but today's letters column continues to prove what whores they are, and what kind of fabrications they will print. You've got D.E. Templeton complaining about how wrong it is for a government leader (i.e. Daschle) to speak out against military action. I may be wrong, but somehow I doubt that Mr. Templeton wrote a letter when Republicans spoke out against action in Kosovo during Clinton's term. And then there's Jill Heins, who leads with a bold-faced lie: "It's appalling to see protesters marching in support of Saddam Hussein." Who's doing that? Did I miss it? I've seen people marching against the war, but dammit they are not supporting Hussein. I'm getting sick of repeating it. To the Post's credit, though, they do print letters pointing out the Iraqi WMD-easy military victory paradox, and a letter pointing out such Republican criticisms of Democratic-led military endeavors.
Addition: the well-named Ivan the Fool has a fine list of quotes regarding the tradition of supporting the troops but not the action or the President. Thanks to Body & Soul for pointing it out.
Go check out ready.gov and feel sad that it's come to this, and our government does so little to really, truly protect us. Then visit US Department of Laughs and laugh bitterly. This description of what a red alert would be like is the most depressing thing I've read in ages. It would represent a huge terrorist victory, if this is to be believed.
I tend to agree with Tapped that showy anti-war protests, like stopping traffic and chaining yourself to the fence at the air force base, aren't going to accomplish much these days. The most effective protest will be to volunteer some money and effort to a political candidate you believe in, and do our best to put a stop to this nonsense in 2004.
War still sucks. Twenty-Four Hour War Porn hosts and other gung-ho types are expressing shock and outrage that the Iraqis are actually SHOOTING BACK. We're invading their freakin' country! What did you think they were going to do?!? So much for the idea that the Iraqi army would roll over and we'd be welcomed by cheering crowds. Apparently our reception has been quite mixed. (Please do not interpret this as gloating, or anti-troops. Just an observation as the chickenhawks face the reality of the situation.)
Happy thoughts, happy thoughts. Shout-out to my friends Jeremy and Tor for placing first and seventh, respectively, in the Sandbox NCAA tournament contest. Not sure how many entries there are, but there are at least 4000.
Suddenly, Utne people and their blogs are coming out of the woodwork. Today I am adding Jim to the blogroll. More likely to come. I'm also adding View From the 700 Level, a Philies-related blog, since I have been known to post about that particular team during baseball season.
Over-the-road message signs on I-66, starting yesterday, now say "Report Terrorism" and give a toll-free number. Oy gevalt. Think this will be abused much? Think any brown-skinned person talking in a funny language will get called in? Wasn't the TIPS program given the ax?
One of the most under-reported stories of the past few years has been President Bush's apparently AWOL stint from the National Guard. Far more serious than "I invented the Internet" or an Oval Office blow job, dontcha think? I sure hope the Democratic nominee whales on this in 2004.
I have added comments, courtesy of Enetation. Let's see if they work. And if anyone actually reads this crap and cares enough to comment on it. Question: should I have one set of comments per day, like I have the permalinks, or one per bullet as I've done here?
For whatever reason, my Vegas jones is acting up again. My in-laws brought it up a couple of weeks ago--they are going in a couple of months and wanted advice on where to stay and what to do. Inspired by that and in a fit of insomnia, I banged out Carl's Top Ten Things to Do in Vegas. I don't claim that it's the greatest, most definitive guide to Sin City, but hopefully someone will enjoy it. (Later I will add my picture of wedding-officiant Elvis.) If you want reviews of all the hotels that are informative and fun to read, I strongly recommend Cheapo Vegas. Perhaps I've taken too much from Andres Martinez's 24/7, but I've decided a really great trip would be two weeks, with two nights each at the Rio, the Bellagio, the Flamingoooooooo (our current hotel of choice), the Barabary Coast, Mandalay Bay, the Las Vegas Club, and maybe the Trop. Spend a little time in various areas (skipping the north Strip as there's little of interest there), and hit all the nice pools. If I seriously proposed this (without having won the lottery first), I think my wife would kill me, but I can dream.
Linking Fool: Tom the Dancing Bug explains why the double taxation of dividends is important. Capozzola for Senate in Pennsylvania!The Village Voice breaks down the erosion of civil liberties and expansion of executive branch power--haven't we all taken high school Civics or American Government? They're called "checks and balances" and they exist for a reason. And finally, please welcome Kristie to the blogroll.
Hooray for Spirited Away, which took the Oscar for best animated feature, pretty much the only award I cared about. When I saw it on its first run, it was playing at exactly one theater in the DC area. Now that it won the Oscar, Disney (just the distributor, not the production company) is giving it a second chance: it opens today at a good dozen or so theaters around here. Go see it if you haven't already.
Why does our So-Called Liberal Media prefer to have celebrities on to represent the anti-war movement, rather than actual anti-war movement leaders like, say, Daniel Ellsberg? Because when they do, people like Ellsberg kick ass and take names.
Baseball, Ray. I watched about the first five innings last night, and mostly I was amazed that Doug Glanville led of the season with a walk. He took, what, eight walks in his entire Phillies career? Nice to see a number of so-called experts actually picking the Phils to win the NL East. Obviously, there's a bit of concern about pitching, but it'll come around. Really, the Phils' success this season depends on two guys: Jimmy Rollins and Jose Mesa. If J.Roll can play like he did two years ago, post a good OBP and steal a few bases, and if Joe Table can avoid imploding with regularity, this team will go places. I'm definitely counting on a "Farewell to Blue Acres" weekend in Philly this summer. I also need to pick out a new ballpark to visit this season (I've been to 21 major league parks in 18 cities and try to add at least new one each season), preferably one that we can handle with a tiny baby. I'm thinking Cincinnati, which opens its new ballpark this year.
Speaking of new balllparks, the would-be Northern Virginia ownership group
showed off their stadium ideas the other day. The absolute requirement for a ballpark anywhere in this area should be Metro-accessibility. That pretty much rules out the Dulles site, and probably the Springfield site as well. There are two sites near Pentagon City mall, but "the Goon" already has so much evening and weekend traffic that I don't think it's the best location. That leaves the Rosslyn site, which is probably ideal: on the Metro, a central location (i.e. it's not at the end of a Metro line, so people can disperse in various directions), and a nice view. Of course, you've still got the downtown movement, for which the New York Avenue site is far and away the best choice. Virginia is probably a better idea, though, as it reduces Angelos' lame-ass concerns about a DC team stealing the O's fan base. Hey Angelos: maybe you should try to build a team that doesn't suck so much. In any event, I've gotten my hopes up for DC-area baseball far too often only to have them dashed every time, so I'm assuming MLB will leave us out in the cold. But if it happens... e-mail me now to be on my mailing list when I can't use my season tickets.
E-mail me to cheer or jeer any of my choices. Or go back to the front page to see the other goofy crap on this domain.