Tuesday, May 31, 2005

It would be funny if it wasn't true:

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about Hillary's chances for president in '08 (something we don't support, by the way; democracy works best without dynasties). One post at Pandagon caught our eye - a listing of many anti-Hillary books. One of them was by Peggy Noonan, The Case Against Hillary Clinton (2000). We checked out the listing. Here is the review from Publishers Weekly:
Seasoned conservative political commentator Noonan (What I Saw at the Revolution, etc.) joins the anti-Hillary literary feeding frenzy with this scathing biographical essay. Addressing herself to the voting population of New York State, Noonan rails against "Clintonism"--which she defines as the using of any tactic to achieve a political goal, including "misleading constituents on serious and crucial issues," "evading responsibility for governmental mistakes," "smearing opponents and critics" and "lying"--as she begs New Yorkers not to elect the First Lady as their senator.
Noonan says a bad politician:
  • Misleads constituents on serious and crucial issues
  • Evades responsibilty for government mistakes
  • Smears opponents and critics
  • Lies
There can be no doubt that Bush:
  • Mislead the country about a serious issue (Iraq war)
  • Evades responsibility for mistakes (you name it: intel, post-war planning, North Korea   + rewarding those who failed: Tenet, Bremmer, et al)
  • Had associates that smeared Kerry (Swift Boat)
  • Lied about Medicare Drug costs
So, when will we see Noonan's write a book, The Case Against George Bush.


Bush press conference:

Taking a break from our Microsoft bashing (but we'll be back to in ASAP), we took in the president's press conference. Bush struck us as petulant, demanding, and all-around unpleasant. Would you want to sit next to somebody like him on a long bus trip? No. And there were some moments where Bush was stammering and having trouble making sense.

Ezra Klein has similar thoughts:
Is anyone else watching the president's press conference? He's doing stem cells right now and seems strangely hysterical. Out of breath, stammering, desperately defensive -- this is first term Bush, and in a bad way. On the bright side, he just said he won't attack North Korea.


Even madder at Microsoft:

The fun never ends with Microsoft. Take the following example. When making a Direct Connection, in the Properties for Incoming Connections, the following is available to view/change:

The box at the bottom "Always allow ... connect without providing a password" is unchecked (meaning a password is required).

When a user logs in as Guest, the Network Connections display is:

(red box obscures a dial-up identification)

We see Guest as Incoming. Fair enough. But what if we check the box, allowing a connection without a password? Let's log in again, as Guest. Here is the display:

Where is Guest in the listing? All we changed was the password requirement. So, it would stand to reason that a person could connect as Guest, not have to have the password, and still be seen as Guest. But that's not what's happening. By eliminating the password check, our user is now listed as Unauthenticated User. And there is no way to find out from the Network Connections display who that user is.

What the hell is going on here?

Who wants to defend this product? (comment freely if you'd like)

Yeah, we know we're focusing on some minor issues, but when you can't get something to work (our current status), you look around trying to make sense of the situation, and the display of misleading or incomplete information makes finding a solution that much harder.


We're still mad at Microsoft:

Continuing with the rant below.

Well, you might say, users trying to do something as sophisticated as getting two computers to work together is a special skill, not something for the casual user (even if that user has a BS degree in Computer Science from Caltech). Why not take a class? There are some courses being offered in town.

We scanned a local catalogue and found a one-day course for Small-Office & Home-Office Networking. That sounds like what we need. Here is the description (emp add):
More and more people want to set up a computer network in their home or office. Perhaps you have a few old PCs collecting dust. Thanks to recent advances in technology, setting up a peer-to-peer or client-server network is easier than ever. In this combination lecture and hands-on class, you'll learn about setting up a simple Windows networking environment and determine whether you need a server for your home or small office. Find out how to trace network problems and troubleshoot them yourself to save time and money. Also learn how to evaluate and select someone to fix or maintain your computers when you can't do it yourself. Discover how how to keep employees from wasting time on the net, what's involved in getting a DSL line or sharing an Internet connection, anti-virus software, backups and more. Prerequisite: familiarity with Windows.
"Can't do it yourself" because ... too busy, or because you can't figure out how to do it? It's not clear, but we vote for the latter.

Bonus rant: When making a Direct Connection between two computers using a serial line, a user 'logs in' to another computer. The serial communication is RS-232, which does not involve modems. It's a pure digital communication. What do we see when we initiate a connection? This:

It says it's dialing. But it isn't dialing. Not dialing at all. Why is the user seeing this message?

I guess we're being too hard on Microsoft. After all, it's unfair to expect a company with billions of dollars in cash and ten years time, to fix basic errors.


Monday, May 30, 2005

Microsoft must be defeated:

This is a rant against Microsoft, so Bill Gates fans should skip this post.

Well now. We've spent hours trying to connect two Windows-based PCs together, and have not succeeded. It was to be an old-style Direct Connection using a serial cable between an XP laptop and W2K desktop. We got the connection established (logging in to the XP as "Guest"), but that's about it. Neither computer can see the other. The laptop isn't on a network as far as we can tell. What's a user to do?

We won't go into the details, but there are several webpages out there which attempt to address the connection/configuration appropriate for different scenarios. But get this, there appears to be a specific - and different - set of steps depending on if the connection is W95 to XP (server-client), W95 to XP (client-server), W98 to WME (both flavors of server/client), W98 to W2000 (two ways), W2000 to XP, W2000 to WME, and so on and so on. And if you don't find your configuration, it's time to guess at a solution, which often fails.

All we know is that there is ComputerA cabled to ComputerB and we want one to see the other (and vice-versa if possible). So you might think that there are three or four things to address: ID-ing both machines, defining the cable connect, an account to connect by, and some permission/sharing settings.

But no, that's not the Microsoft way. The user is clicking on all sorts of small-scale dialogue boxes (small-scale in the sense that they only address a very specific data field, like IP address). There is no way to get an understanding of the heirarchy of 'things' (e.g. My Network Places, Entire Network, Microsoft Windows Network, workgroups) and which need to be addressed in order to succeed with the connection. And neither is defined in a satisfactory way (by itself or via Help). This has been a long standing problem with Microsoft. Scribbling down on a piece of paper some information from a dialogue box, because you might need to know status/setting when dealing with a whole 'nother dialogue under some different category.

Now to some of us with long time experience with computers, we've learned that everything can be significant. The exact name, number, and setting. But with Microsoft, you are often confused as to what is what. A short example is shown below.

At some point in the process, it appears that the name of each computer is required, as well as the workgroup it thinks it's part of. So on fairly up-to-date Windows releases, we go to Control Panel, then System, Network Identification tab. It's all there, right?

Hey! Look at that. The name, as presented by Microsoft, has a period at the end. Is that part of the name? People paying attention to details might think so, but it appears that the period is appended just for fun. But it doesn't stop there! The workgroup is "WORKGROUP", all caps. But when you check the network, not only is the computer name sans period, but the workgroup it's part of is "Workgroup" (first cap, rest lower case). Also, the computer name has the first letter capitalized (Mark-m2000). Bravo Microsoft! You've made three changes between user management readings and what you see from a different angle (network view). That's great. And let's remember, these are changes from one of the most basic and fundamental System Properties display.

Oh, and if you ever think of getting the answer from MS's Help, you really shouldn't be so optimistic. It's crap. Hardly any help.

Anyway, after several hours twiddling with the configs and Q&A in Google Groups, we've decided that we cannot do what we wanted to do. Perhaps a $200/hr consultant could be brought in to deal with the problem; that's an indicator of how poor the situation is.

Microsoft continues to disappoint. Microsoft must be defeated.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Blogger's open house:

Mark A. R. Kleiman thinks the housing market has peaked and has sold his house (effective 15 June). That's certainly interesting, and another story to file under Housing Bubble. But what was remarkable was that Mark posted an open invitation to the world to stop by this Sunday and see his place and say hello. How many bloggers put their address online? Anyway, we couldn't resist and went up to the Hollywood Hills to see him.

He's got (for now) a great place with a view of the San Fernando Valley. We got to meet Mark; he's a genial fellow, and very smart.

Our best wishes to Mark with his decision to sell now and wait for the bubble to burst.


Aren't interested ... because:

From KCAU-TV Sioux City, Iowa:
NEW YORK Hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising for impotence drugs has failed to produce a big increase in sales.
During the first quarter, both sales and prescriptions for drugs like Viagra and Cialis grew only one percent in the United States, despite a flurry of advertising.

Last year, the makers of erectile dysfunction drugs spent 382 million dollars on advertising, but didn't see a big boost in patients. Now there's a turf war as drug makers try and snag the limited number of males who want treatment.

About 30 (m) million American men have erectile dysfunction problems, but many are too embarassed to tell their doctors. Doctors also say many aren't interested in the drugs because they don't have partners, or have partners who are no longer interested in sex.
Those ads are, or have been, everywhere on the evening national news and Sunday shows. That's where the older viewer is. But the ads have become irritating in their frequency and tone. Maybe they'll go away now.


Friday, May 27, 2005


We got hit with a worm called AGOBOT and it was taking up CPU resources on our Windows PC. You can tell because the pointer changes to an arrow-with-hourglass ("Working in Background") for 5 out of every 30 seconds.

Via Google Groups, we found out how to clean it out. There are two free tools that can do the job and should be part of your kit (in addition to ad-aware and spybot).

They are:
  • McAfee's stinger
  • TrendMicro's sysclean
Details can be found here:

That website has other resources and get's techie at points, but it might be a good idea to bookmark the website for future reference.

In our running of the two utilities, stinger found some virus/worms but not AGOBOT.     sysclean found AGOBOT (but that was all it found, maybe because stinger was run before it was).

stinger and sysclean are highly recommended.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Who knew?

In a Salon article by Sidney Blumenthal, Bush the despot, we read:
In the first two years of the Clinton presidency, Republicans deployed 48 filibusters, more than in the entire previous history of the Senate, to make the new Democratic chief executive appear feckless.
Is this true? In two years. More than in the entire previous history of the Senate.

How come this wasn't widely reported in the last couple of weeks?


Stem cell primer:

What the Korean's did:
  • Start with a haploid cell (an unfertilized egg)
  • Remove the nuclear material
  • Insert nuclear material from patient
  • Activate the cell
  • It begins to divide
  • First to a morula
  • Then to a blastula
It is at this point, the blastula stage (about 100 - 200 cells), when totipotent stem cells are extracted. Totipotent cells can grow into an entire organism and even produce extra-embryonic tissues.

A subsequent stage of growth, not reached in this process, is the gastrula. Stem cells obtained at this stage are pluripotent. Pluripotent stem cells cannot grow into a whole organism, but they are able to differentiate into cells derived from any of the three germ layers. The mesoderm layer will form the muscles, many organs, connective tissue, and bones. The ectoderm layer will form the epidermis and nervous system, while the endoderm will produce the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and endocrine glands. Once gastrulation is complete, all germ layers are in the correct location and further growth and organogenesis begins.

Organogenesis is a stage of animal development where the ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm develop into the internal organs of the organism. Vertebrates develop a neural crest that differentiates into the skull's bones and muscles and peripheral components of the nervous system.

  • The process does not involve the destruction or manipulation of somebody else's fertilized egg (zygote).
  • There is no conception taking place.
  • The process involves creating a clone of the patient.
  • Who owns that clone? It's the patient's DNA, and could be considered an extension of the patient, to be manipulated as the patient wishes. (Ignoring for the moment special cases of identical twins, where the DNA is also the same.)
  • Some ethicists and religious figures are very concerned with the ethical implications of embryonic stem cell research. Some people believe that a human blastocyst is a human being with the same fundamental human rights. Some of these people thus oppose embryonic stem cell research because the start of each cell line involves the destruction of a blastocyst.
Why are we going through this process of examination? Because it wasn't clear from news reports exactly what was going on. What cells were used (unfertilized, and emptied-out ovum). At what point the patient's DNA is inserted (at the very beginning). And at what stage the stem cells are extracted (blastula).

This review is only that of the Korean project. There are additional reports of cell manipulation in Britain and Chicago - which are different in significant ways. But we thought it would be helpful to look at the Korean technique in order to establish certain points for discussion.

Our view? At a minimum, that the patient owns (in effect) his or her cloned blastula, and can take stem cells out and work with them. Just like you can take your own skin cells and grow them to replace scar tissue.
Cultured Epidermal Skin Grafts: The Physician may seek permission to take a small section of the patient's unburned skin to be used to grow skin in the laboratory for later use on the burn wound. The amount of skin taken will depend on the percentage of the burn, severity of the burn and the patient's condition. The procedure to obtain this skin is the same as harvseting unburned skin for skin grafts. The skin cells will grow rapidly so that in approximately three weeks it will be ready for transplanting.
Metaphysics angle: When the DNA is inserted into the emptied ovum, but not "activated", do religious conservatives consider a soul to be in existence? Or is it after the lab technician kicks the zygote so that is starts cell division?


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Munich 2.0 ?

  • "The nuclear option is off the table." - Dick Durbin
  • "Attempts to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control are over." - Harry Reid
  • This pact is "a significant victory for our country." - Harry Reid
  • "We have kept the Republic!" - Robert Byrd


Worst storefront ad ever?


Monday, May 23, 2005

Who are the 14?

Hard to find out, since most reports just mention the primary figures. But sprinkled throughout a Washington Post report, we got this.
  1. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
  2. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.)
  3. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.)
  4. Mark Pryor (Ark.)
  5. Mary Landrieu (La.)
  6. Ken Salazar (Colo.)
  7. Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii)
  8. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
  9. John W. Warner (R-Va.)
  10. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio)
  11. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.)
  12. Susan Collins (Maine)
  13. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine)
  14. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.)


The compromise:

It's hard to see what Reid and the Democrats got out of the deal. Vague language about what might happen in the future. Where is the restoration of blue-slip and Rule IV? The elimination of those was what drove the Democrats to the Last Stand of filibustering.

And another thing. What Frist and Cheney were going to do was explicitly against the Senate rules. How does one compromise with that? It probably would have been better to take the issue to the brink, and forced the Republicans to go on record. Also, we're pretty sure Frist did not have the votes. Warner was almost a sure bet to preserve the filibuster, and then there was McCain, Collins, Snowe, Chaffee. How difficult would it have been to get a sixth Republican?

From (emp add)
Susan Collins and other senators involved in the deal suggested Monday night that it was never really in doubt -- that too many senators were too afraid of what the nuclear option would bring. Democrats were afraid it would destroy the Senate's tradition as a "cooling saucer," the place where debate outruns passions and minority views can moderate majority desires. Republicans feared that they might someday live to reap what they sowed, and that in the meantime Democrats could make their lives difficult by using Senate rules to slow legislation in the Senate to an agonizingly difficult pace.
Here's the problem:
At some point in the future, the Democrats will oppose a judicial nomination. Frist will declare their action a betrayal of the compromise. And that will be used as a pretext for a second attempt at the nuclear option. And it might work because the Republicans can then position themselves as "preservers of the rules", even though they aren't.
On the other hand, here is what Hugh Hewitt has to say: (emp add)
It is impossible to say whether this is a "terrible" deal, a "bad" deal, or a very, very marginally "ok" deal, but it surely is not a good deal. Not one dime more for the NRSC from me unless and until the Supreme Court nominee gets confirmed, and no other filibusters develop. I won't spend money on a caucus supporting organization when the caucus can't deliver a majority.
Let the spinning begin!


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Nuclear flowchart:

We think we understand the procedures and options described at The Next Hurrah (Ron K.) and commented upon by The Decembrist (Mark Schmitt) about the impending nuclear option. Here is a rough outline:

Democrats filibuster Owen.
Frist asks Cheny if filibusters are out of order.
Cheney says yes.
Reid challenges that ruling.
The challenge is a debatable topic (i.e. filibusterable)
Frist challenges Reid's challenge.
Puts it to a 'table' motion.
  • If the tabling motion passes, Frist wins the issue(s).
  • If Reid wins, all he gets is back to the challenge stage
It's not clear what will happen at this point. The Senate could stay in this state - debating the legitimacy of Cheney's ruling - or it could move in two directions, depending on what the Republican "compromisers" decide to do.
You can view a flowchart of this situation (medium, and large).


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Star Wars diagrammed:
  • We have only seen the first Star Wars movie (1977, now identified as Episode IV?A New Hope).
  • We didn't like it.
  • We have not seen any of the other films.
  • We are, however, curious about the storyline and characters.
  • Today in Slate, there was a review of the various players in all of the films.
  • It was worthy of a diagram.
  • We made one based solely on the information provided in the Slate article.
Here it is:


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A new blog:

There's a very new blog in town, MF Blog, run by Mitchell J. Freedman - an attorney who also knows history. Not a daily poster (so far), but writes commentary as opposed to simply quoting stuff, which is always refreshing. Check it out.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Tough luck:


Sunday, May 15, 2005

A thought about the filibuster fight:

For several weeks, we've been puzzled why the Republicans are so gung-ho for eliminating the filibuster. They say it's only for judicial nominations, but if they abolish it for them, it's likely the filibuster will disappear entirely in short order. The standard argument, that someday they will be in the minority and then they will want the filibuster, doesn't seem to be registering. Well, it does register with old-timers (Bob Dole) and independent minded Senators (John McCain), but that's about it. So why is Frist pushing for the elimination of the filibuster? And why this for a measly seven nominees?

Some people were thinking dark thoughts that the Republicans were planning to be the majority - permanently - through devious means. So who needs to care about minority rights in the Senate?

Think back to when Trent Lott was in hot water over his remarks at a party for Strom Thurmond. We thought Lott was actually not that bad. He conceded much to Daschle in 2001. We always viewed the movement to oust Lott as a White House effort, despite the claims of bloggers (Sullivan, Marshall). In any event, Lott got tossed and in his place came the White House approved Frist. Frist is totally artificial and not really steeped in Senate tradition. But there he is, the Majority Leader, working at the behest of Bush.

Does the White House care about Senate tradition? No. They don't give a rat's ass. And the leadership in Congress has demonstrated that it is very much under the control of the White House (e.g. Medicare Prescription Drug Bill).

Sure, part of this is Frist and whatever ambitions he may have, but it's looking more and more like the filibuster elimination is a White House operation. Something that tends to reinforce that notion is the fact that senators who have already demonstrated independence from Bush are for keeping the filibuster.

The decision this week on the filibuster will be a test, not so much of Frist, but of the power of the White House. If Frist loses, the White House may also loosen its grip on Congress.

By the way, we think that the existing Senate rules require a two-thirds vote to change the filibuster. This nonsense about a tie vote and Cheney deciding on the constitutionality of the filibuster, followed by a simple majority vote to change rules is, exactly that. Nonsense.


History lesson:

Frank Rich's essay about gays inhabiting the conservative movement discussed some earlier, 60's era, personalities and events. But somewhat surprisingly, he doesn't mention Bill James Hargis, who was a major figure in Christian circles, politically active, and very conservative. Turned out to be bisexual.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Huffington   ost

Via Jeff Jarviw we learn about a parody of the Huffington Post;     Huffington's Toast.

WARNING Goes after everybody: Al Franken, Glenn Reynolds, Arianna Huffington, Hugh Hewitt. Also, it's not that funny, but if you've got nothing to do - which is likely if you're reading this on the weekend - why not give it a try? Also, better material is found in Previous Entries.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Today's Catholic news:

Pope names San Francisco Archbishop as orthodoxy chief (SFChron).
Pope Benedict XVI today named San Francisco Archbishop William Levada to lead the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ...
It started out, somewhat informally, as the Inquisition (1184), then became official as Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition (1542), changed its name to The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (1908), and then to the current Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1965).

In any event, Andrew Sullivan doesn't like this guy, and points to an article written by Levada in 1995 where the archbishop disapproves of "privatizing morality", separation of church and state, as well as Democrats.

Sounds like Ratzinger picked a soulmate for the job. What caught our eye was this line from the Chronicle:
His doctoral dissertation was on papal infallibility.
We'd love to take a peek at that. Papal infallibility was invented by Pius IX in the nineteenth century as a response to the wrenching changes taking place in Europe. It was the time of the Industrial Revolution and of political revolutions as well. Modernity, democracy, pluralism, Enlightenment values - all which would be denounced in the Syllabus of Errors (1864).

Pius IX called the First Vatican Council in 1870, and wanted it to declare total infallibilty, but at the time the scope was restricted to only the areas of Faith and Morals.

Did Levada accept that limitation, or is he somebody who wants to give the pope additional power? Stay tuned.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

George amongst men:

[NOTE: Cigarette digitally removed.]


Pat Oliphant watch:

We've always liked the political cartoonist Pat Oliphant, and consider him a good indicator of public mood. For instance, even though we didn't approve of it, Oliphant painted Bush in generally favorable ways after 9/11. Then, for a while both Democrats and Republicans were taken to task. But of late, Oliphant has made more and more jabs at the president and Republicnas. Take this excerpt from today's cartoon:


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Three words:

Last week Pat Oliphant had a cartoon where Laura was chiding George for being "Mister Excitement" (a take off of her speech at the press gathering). George was, naturally, asleep in bed. We thought the "dream thoughts" in the cartoon were interesting. Particularly the repeated expression (shown in red).


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Consumer spending slowdown?

It looks as if the higher price of oil is making a difference. In the past months, we've read about how people are paying more for the pump, and for many, this leaves less money for other things.

The first thing you stop spending on are luxuries, roughly defined as something you don't need, like jewelry and entertainment.

Entertainment. That includes movies, and the latest reports are that box office receipts are down plenty.

Is it due to bad offerings at the theaters? The current crop don't seem particularly bad, and the reviews have been, overall, decent. So maybe it's a sign that the consumer's pocketbook is emptied at the gas station and the grocery store (which has seen a jump in prices).

If there was ever a sign of wishful thinking, it's this: (emp add)
"We have never needed a 'Star Wars' movie like we do right now," said box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co. "Audiences have just kind of checked out and George Lucas is just going to check them back in. Lucas is going to come in to save the day."
We're sure Lucas will do well, but will he do spectacularly well? Much of the money made with the Star Wars franchise came from repeat viewings. After seeing the film once, will the moviegoer pony up the dough for a second screening? We think not.


Monday, May 09, 2005

Media Research Center is upset with the BBC:

The very conservative and slightly nutty MRC takes the BBC to task in their CyberAlert for last Friday:
BBC Election Coverage Features Derisive George Bush Impersonator

The BBC's idea of humor during its live election coverage on Thursday night: Bring aboard an impersonator of President George W. Bush to mispronounce names, confuse titles and terms and advocate Florida-style vote fraud. [... ] About an hour earlier, the BBC had featured an impersonator of Tony Blair who played him as an elitist snob.

[MRC transcript, emp add]

Natasha Kaplinsky [BBC]: "The party is in full swing here at Television Centre with some extraordinary guests turning up. We were speaking to the Prime Minister early on. Well, President Bush has turned up, no less. Can you believe it? President, we are truly honored to have you with us this evening."

Bush impersonator: "Well, listen, Miss Nancy Kerplucky, I'm awfully proud to be with you. You're in Londonchester, Ohio, while you're having your general electrician while you try and find your new Prime Sinister, and I just wanted to pitch in with my people and wish my staunch ally, Barry Blair, a bunch of luck, him and his Chandelier of the Exchequer, Charlie Brown. I think they're going to kick royal ass. It's like four, nil, nil, like in the ball game, that's pretty good. So we're holding out a bunch of hope there, so it's just good luck from myself and Donald and Condoleezza Rice and her Uncle Ben, let's bring it on."

Kaplinsky: "What do you think of the political characters here in Britain?"

Bush impersonator: "Oh, I dig'em."Kaplinsky: "Yeah?"

Bush impersonator: "I think they're real good. I love John Prescott, it's a shame he didn't punch nobody because that was fun. I was just watching Pax Man before, he's some kind of super hero. I love your Peter Snow*, he's like a sort of crazy woodpecker something, it's crazy. And who else do we have? Charles F. Kennedy, he's kind of like the big eagle out of the Muppet Show, I like him, and Michael Howard the Duck from the Convertible Party, I sort of took a catch line off of him: 'Are you not thinking what I'm not thinking?' Thank you, Michael Howard the Duck."

Kaplinsky: "What would you say to the eventual winner, President Bush?"

Bush impersonator: "Hey, I've had a bunch of experience at this. I would say this: If you don't get the result you want, keep counting the ballots until you do get it, and, you know, this is Britain, this is like the United States of Britainland. I mean, it's only about as big as Florida, it's not too difficult to run a place like this, just pretend that you're the janitor of this cute little country, and you'll be fine. And, you know, Tony, if you don't get it -- I think you will -- but if you do not, you're still welcome to come around the White House. I'll welcome you. You're not allowed on the furniture, and you still have to beg for treats, but you can come around. God bless."

Kaplinsky: "Yes, thank you very much indeed for your time this evening. Enjoy the rest of the party."

Bush impersonator: "Inoption's not an action, roll VT, invade Iran, you're hot, I looked you up on the Web."

Kaplinsky: "Oh, now back to the studio for some words of wisdom."
The BBC isn't as reserved as one might think.

* - Peter Snow is a BBC reporter, seen most recently on the PBS airing of Battlefield Britain. Unfamiliar people mentioned by the Bush impersonator are probably BBC regulars.


Sunday, May 08, 2005


From the Washington Post editorial, An Ally's Victory (emp add)
Mr. Blair spent much of the past month on the defensive, attacked for supposedly misleading the nation into war in Iraq ...
supposedly def:
Presumed to be true or real without conclusive evidence.
Here's your conclusive evidence of "misleading the nation":
  • The official British Iraq report that was "an internet cut-and-paste exercise largely lifted from a Californian post-graduate thesis focused on evidence from the invasion of Kuwait 13 years ago."
  • The yellowcake assertion.
  • Robin Cook's resignation speech: "Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target."
  • The assertion that "Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45-minutes," which was cited in the March 18, 2003 parliamentary motion moved by the prime minister, committing Britain to war.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Paying tribute to FDR:

From Bush's statement delivered in Latvia: (emp add)
V-E Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable.
We won't go into the details here, but Yalta was a ratification of the realities on the ground. It's long been a hobbyhorse of the right, who demonize FDR for agreeing to the division of Europe.



If you go to the BBC website, there is a page of election results paired with an interactive map. If you select Derbyshire West, the resutls are a Conservative win. If you click to find the vote totals, you get:

Patrick McLoughlin CON 24,378 47.7%
David Menon LAB 13,625 26.6%
Ray Dring LD 11,408 22.3%
Michael Cruddas UKIP 1,322 2.6%
"The Flying Brick" Delves MRLP 405 0.8%
Martin Kyslun ING 5 0.0%

CON, LIB, and LD are the well known parties. UKIP is the United Kingdom Independence Party, which is anti-European Union. But what is MRLP and who is "The Flying Brick" Delves?

MRLP stands for Monster Raving Loony Party. And the candidate's full name is Mr Nick "The Flying Brick" Delves, who, we are informed, is of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. Apparently there are unofficial MRLP parties; you don't want to waste your vote on them.

What is the Monster Raving Loony Party? From Wikipedia:
  • [Founded by] Sutch—of Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages
  • [There were two other peope involved with the formation of the OMLRP] The first was John Dougrez-Lewis, who stood at the Crosby by-election of 1981. He stood at the by-election as Tarquin Fintim-Limbim-Whimbim-Lim Bus Stop-F'Tang-F'Tang-Olé-Biscuit-Barrel (a name taken directly from Monty Python)
  • The second person who helped found the party was Commander Bill Boaks, a retired World War II hero involved in the sinking of the Bismarck, who had campaigned and stood for election for over 30 years on limited funds, always on the issue of road safety
  • The Loonies generally field as many candidates as possible in United Kingdom general elections, some (but by no means all) standing under ridiculous false names they have adopted via deed poll.
  • The party suffered from a number of individuals that claimed to be members—usually for their nefarious reasons—down the years. Sir Patrick Moore, the famous British TV astronomer, several times claimed to be the party's Minister for Flying Saucers. In fact, Moore was not welcome at all within the party.
  • Abolish income tax, citing as always that it was only meant to be a temporary measure during the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Refusing to sign up to the euro, but inviting the rest of Europe to join the pound.
  • Drivers can go straight over a roundabout when there's no traffic coming "to make driving through Milton Keynes more fun".
  • All speed cameras will be abolished and replaced by a new device fitted to cars which will automatically slow down to the speed limit when driven though an infra-red beam.
  • Introduction of 99p coin to "save on the change"
You can visit the Official Monster Looney Raving Part website for more information.

Anyway, back to Nick "The Flying Brick" Delves. The website for Delves and the West Derbyshire Loonys gives you the poop: (partial list)
  • I am the Official Monster Raving Loony Party Shadow Minister for the Abolition of Gravity.
  • Derbyshire Loonys would seek Planning to upgrade and develop [the village of] Bonsal into all eleven dimensions.
There's you problem. String Theory posits either 26 or 10 dimensions. Savvy voters in Derbyshire were not fooled by the OMRLP's glib assertion that there were 11 dimensions to play with. If they fix that element of their platform, future election victories are assured.


Friday, May 06, 2005


Charles Krauthammer does it again. In today's essay, The Same Old Saw On Social Security, he writes:
There is no trust fund. The past Social Security surpluses were spent the year they were created. The idea that in 2017, when the surpluses disappear, we will be able to go to a box in West Virginia to retrieve the money we need to make up the shortfall (between what Social Security takes in and what it pays out that year) is a deception. There is no money there. It will have to be borrowed or garnered from new taxes.

But things are worse than that. The fiscal problem starts to kick in not in 2017 but in 2009. The Social Security surplus, which Congress happily spends every year, peaks in 2008. Which means that starting in four years (and for every year thereafter) a budgetary squeeze begins, requiring new taxation or new borrowing.

If in 2010 tax revenue and spending remain exactly the same as in 2009, the Treasury will not end up with the same size deficit. It will end up with a larger deficit, because the amount of money it was receiving free and "borrowed" from the Social Security surplus will have shrunk.

That surplus shrinks from its peak in 2008 to zero in 2017 and goes negative after that. That is a very serious fiscal problem that starts not in 50 years, not even in 12 years, but in four.
Let's ignore for the moment the claim that "there is no trust fund" - which there is, by the way. We will be able to go to a box in West Virginia to retrieve the money we need, by redeeming the bonds.

Of interest is Krauthammer's concern that the surplus will peak in 2008. After that, Krauthammer worries, there will be less Social Security surplus paying for general federal expenditures. Yeah. So where is Krauthammer's call for higher income or corporate or inheritance taxes to make up the difference? Where is Krauthammer's complaint that the deficits are the result of Bush's tax cuts?

There are none, which shows the intellectual dishonesty of the man.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Nancy Grace:

If you haven't read them, check out John Cole's posts about CNN's Nancy Grace. She's the legal reporter that often suggests somebody is guilty or should be under investigation, based on nothing more than her gut feel. Cole predicted the husband of the runaway bride would be considered a suspect by Grace, and he was right. The latest news is that prior to her being a reporter, when she was a prosecutor in Georgia, she acted in an "inexcusable" manner, and "played fast and loose with her ethical duties".


Troubletown cartoon:

This week's is pretty funny. But to make the joke work properly, you must understand that in the first frame, Bolton is visiting the office of another foreign policy official (of approximately equal rank). Then see the cartoon.


It's getting really bad out there:

Perhaps you've heard about Bush's plan to change Social Security. Maybe you've been reading some of the sensible commentators rebut Bush's claims. These rebuttals are generally well thought out, but we regret to inform you that even the good folks on our side aren't thinking critically. Here, for example are some quotes from people who should know better:Comment:
It is not 12.4% !!
The misleading percentage    
Wages shown on paycheck $100.00  
SS withheld from paycheck $6.20 6.2%
SS paid by employer $6.20 6.2%
Add these two percentages   12.4%
Then claim that workers are diverting
12.4% of their wages to SS
The correct percentage    
If the employer contribution is considered
to be part of one's wages
, then, in the
example above, wages are
Funds collected by SS $12.40 11.68%
The truth is, workers are diverting
11.68% of their wages to SS
How much a distortion?    
12.4% is 1.06 higher than 11.68%    
What is 1.06/11.68?   0.0909
The 12.4% figure is about 1/10th larger than
the actual amount
"of wages" diverted to SS

It is either 6.2% of wages, or 11.68% of wages, depending on how you classify the money paid by the employer. It is not 12.4%. This may seem like a small detail, but in our view it is much more important than the much fretted-over "private" vs "personal" wording debate.

What is especially distressing (or perhaps amusing) is that in Matthew Yglesias' post, he spends much time arguing about how to calculate the correct percentage of a consumption tax - by starting with the proper baseline figure. Yet he totally ingores that issue in his passing reference to Social Security taxes.

When every inch in this debate must be fought, why are people on our side - including economists - allowing the conservatives to use the higher 12.4% number, when it's not true?

[UPDATE: Have we ever used the 12.4% figure? No - except for one quote by Lary Lindsey on a tangential issue back in the stone age (2002). Neither has Bilmon or Paul Krugman, as far as we can determine.]


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Quick comment on Limbaugh:

Rush Limbaugh has made some remarks about Abu Ghraib recently. They are, as you might expect, repulsive. Digby and Light of Reason make their points. But we found what Limbaugh said to be rambling and loose in construction - and therefore hard to get to the essence of what he was saying. It needed tightening up. So here is an ultra-compressed version of what Limbaugh said: (all items are direct quotes)
  • "[Today is] the anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal."
  • "The Democrats are actually celebrating the one year anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal!"
  • "What kind of gift to give Democrats here on the anniversary of Abu Ghraib?"
    • "handcuffs"
    • "A whip."
    • "you might give them a little pyramid game, something that is in the shape of a pyramid."
    • "A pair of jumper cables—superb idea"
    • "Give them a German shepherd."
    • "give them the empty bags with the eye holes cut out"
    • "a leash"
    • "a water board would be a great gift"
Let's not mince words. Limbaugh is saying:
Instruments of torture should be given, as "gifts", to people upset about the brutality at Abu Ghraib.
This is on a par with giving a visiting dignitary a "fun gift" of Zyklon-B crystals while paying respects at Yad Vashem.

Too tough an analogy? No. People died as a result of torture at Abu Ghraib and other facilities.

UPDATE: some small edits made


Simply wait:

E. J. Dionne has a column in the Washington Post, Time to Leave the Table, where he says that Democrats will be totally cut out of the process when it comes to final legislation on changing Social Security. That Bush has precluded several options (involving tax cut repeal or raising caps). That there is no "good faith" coming from the Republicans.

Kevin Drum agrees, and cites a litany of instances where the Republicans have trashed traditional procedures - in the House and Senate - that were aimed at consensus-building as well as bipartisanship. Over at TPM, guest blogger Matthew Yglesias agrees that Dionne "gets it" (Yglesias doesn't say much about Dionne, he's more peeved at Richard Cohen). On Air America this morning, Howard Fineman, talking with Al Franken, thought that for "sensible, let's-try-and-work-it-out" Dionne to say what he did, was significant. Perhaps the idea that Republicans can't be trusted to be fair will gain currency among the press.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again:
The only way to achieve true bipartisan Social Security reform is to have each party hold (at least) one of the following: House, Senate, or Presidency.

If it takes 2, 4, or 6 years until that's the case, so be it.


Monday, May 02, 2005



Over at Salon today, there is an interview with prominent atheist and all around smart guy, Richard Dawkins. He's somebody we generally like.


Over at Ezra's blog, we see that he's praising Thomas Frank's latest essay in the New York Review of Books. (Well, mostly praising.)

In that essay, Frank makes the case that Kerry was a bad choice for a Democratic candidate because he was an aristocrat. It's vintage Frank, updated to Shiavo, but not much is new for those familar with his earlier work. Except that this time he goes into detail about aristocratic/elitist facets of Kerry.

In reviewing the 2004 election, and on a slightly different topic (instead of elitism, he's focusing on patriotism and related themes) Frank writes:
Then came what must rank as one of the most ill-conceived liberal electoral efforts of all time: in October the British Guardian newspaper launched a campaign to persuade one contested, blue-collar county in Ohio to vote against President Bush. The idea was to have Guardian readers in Britain write personal letters to voters in Ohio, whose names and addresses the newspaper had secured from registration rolls. Unsurprisingly, the Ohioans strongly resented being lectured to on the foolishness of their national leader by some random bunch of erudite Europeans. Indeed, the episode was so outrageous that there was almost no need for columnists and talk-radio hosts to sputter about the "pansy-ass, tea-sipping" liberal elitists who thought they knew best—the arrogance of the wretched thing spoke for itself.[8]
Footnote [8] reads:
[8] When I first heard about the British letter-writing campaign, I couldn’t believe anyone was ignorant enough about American political sensibilities to do such a thing, or at least to do such a thing straight, on behalf of the candidate they really wanted to win. But they did. See Andy Bowers, "Dear Limey Assholes..." Slate, November 4, 2004.
Time to read Bowers at Slate. Opening lines: (orig emp)
Imagine being an undecided voter in Clark County, Ohio, last month. You kind of think John Kerry has some good points about the war in Iraq and the economy, but you feel more comfortable with George Bush's faith and his resolve. One day, you open your mailbox to find a letter from someone in England you've never met. It starts like this:
Don't be so ashamed of your president: the majority of you didn't vote for him. If Bush is finally elected properly, that will be the time for Americans travelling abroad to simulate a Canadian accent. Please don't let it come to that. Vote against Bin Laden's dream candidate. Vote to send Bush packing.
It's signed Richard Dawkins, a professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University. And you're thinking, ashamed of Bush? Canadian accent? Who is this pretentious Brit and why is he writing to me?
Dawkins isn't all that smart after all.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Republican tells the truth!

In the New York Times article, Social Security: Help for the Poor or Help for All?, we read: (emp add)
"I know some rich people, and if you ask them whether they would rather have a tax increase or their benefits cut, they'll immediately say, 'Cut the benefits,' " said Representative Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Let the word go forth from this time and place, that rich people say, "Cut the benefits."


Kristof is an ass:

We are really getting tired of Nicholas Kristof's columns in the New York Times. His latest, The Greediest Generation, takes the baby boomers to task. After fumbling around with some history, Kristof gets down to brass tacks. He asserts: (emp add)
  • "Retirement in America is no longer feared as a time of destitution, but anticipated as a time of comfort and leisure."

  • "We boomers are also preying on children in a more insidious way: We're running up their debts, both by creating new entitlement programs and by running budget deficits today."
Our response:
  • There is fear about how secure retirement will be, courtesy of George W. "There is no trust" Bush. And this fear is warranted, given the determination of Bush to gut the system. In fact, boomers pre-paid into the Social Security system for over two decades - something a responsible demographic cohort should do - only to see that money at risk of disappearing.

  • What Do You Mean "We", Kemo Sabe?

    Laying the Bush-Republican tax cuts at the doorstep of the boomers is a disgrace. Kristof is letting those in Congress off the hook and lying when he asserts that the deficits are something boomers created.
Our ire is mostly with the second item in Kristof's essay. To completely omit any* reference to Bush and the Republicans when discussing long-term deficits is unprofessional. And who was the Big Man that got the tax cut ball rolling? That "boomer", Alan Greenspan, born on March 6, 1926 - twenty years before the first boomer, and thirty years before the boomer bulge (which is what really matters).

* - "Bush administration" is mentioned once about a tangential issue.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias has a more substantive critique over at TPM.