Friday, July 30, 2004

Did I mention that The Media Totally Suck?
Instead of stealing his idea and his links, I'll just point to Kevin Drum's post on this subject. Follow the links to Krugman and Mother Jones. Well worth it. Blogs are at their best when they are doing just this: shaming the media. I wish they would pay more attention.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Best I ever heard him
Kerry was energetic and kept my attention for the full 50 minutes. He had me at "depend on ingenuity, not the Saudi Royal family." I thought he was great. (Text here) More tomorrow; I'm fascinated by the changing face of Vietnam vets in the Democratic Party. What did you think? I also thought daughter Alex's speech was quite good.

On CNN, they're asking is Bush isn't still the candidate you'd rather go out to eat with. 4 years later, after attacks inside our country, and 2 wars, exploding deficit and millions of lost jobs, is this still the kind of question we can afford to ask about a President?
Don't Believe the Hype
News networks are starting to report the capture of a high-level terrorist operative by the Pakistanis, shockingly, surprise, just before Kerry is to give his speech. Months ago, Josh Marshall told us that was in the works, a "July surprise" story covered by the New Republic also, back in May. Make no mistake about it, the political arm of the White House (do they have another arm?) is behind this. Will news networks give us the real story here as reported months ago, that the Pakistanis were told to come up with a big arrest during the first 3 days of the Convention? Josh sums up this embarassment of a government (follow the links for the earlier reporting):
This is just the latest, but perhaps the most blatant, example of how this administration has placed politics and, really, political dirty tricks above national security itself, and along the way persisted in defining political deviance down until tactics we used to associate with banana republics start to seem commonplace here.
While I've mentioned the Kerry speech, I have read that it will run 55 minutes. Eeek! I've heard Kerry speeches, and I was hoping for 25 minutes, maybe 30 tops. Theresa gave a damn long one that clocked in at 26. But 55? What are they thinking?
The Bush Administration Jobs Plan: Prozac
From Reuters:
A campaign worker for President Bush said on Thursday American workers unhappy with low-quality jobs should find new ones -- or pop a Prozac to make themselves feel better.

"Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy -- or go on Prozac?" said Susan Sheybani, an assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt.
Later, she said she was "just kidding." I know nothing about comedy (see last 300 posts for evidence), but exactly what kind of joke is that? Sarcastic, poking fun of that point of view, held, presumbaly, by more conservative Republicans?

I've decided the Republican Party is made of 4 kinds of people(enlighten me if I've left some out): people who have been swayed by simplistic black-and-white "religious" arguments; very wealthy people; people who could become very wealthy with the help of corporate tax-giveaways; and the worst of all is the category I'd put Ms. Sheybani in: people who scoff at the barriers others face in life, either because they managed to overcome theirs and think they did that on their own (like Clarence Thomas), or because they haven't really faced any to speak of. These are the folks that think that what keeps people poor is really just a failure to plan, or act. Why don't they get new jobs? That's really what Republicans think...
The Last Thing We Need
I hope the Kerry people know what they're doing, and what the truth is. Night after night at this convention, people have played up his heroic rescue of a comrade, plus his decision to turn the boat into the enemy at one point and take them head on. Sounds riveting and dangerous and selfless. Apparently tonight there will be a film that highlights some of these events and has dramatic footage of Kerry in Vietnam. But if this story on Drudge catches on (this is his second day of pushing it), and it turns out that Kerry reenacted scenes to catch them on film, presumably to exploit for political/personal gain at a later time (who does things like that??), then this could cause a serious problem.

If people are moved by the film, and then find out later it was somehow fraudulent, especially for personal image-building, this Vietnam strategy could seriously back-fire. I haven't heard news channels all day, but if this is the story of tonight, or begins to dominate/frame the questioning, either tonight or into next week, this could be a disaster. It sounds like just the kind of thing CNN, MSNBC, FOX especially, and then eventually the networks would love to run with.

Hopefully it will turn into nothing.

UPDATE: Here's a story Drudge links too for the bit about bullets in the water "not being from the actual event." It is a look at the man who made the film.
Convention, Night Three
Sorry this thread is too late, but to be honest I totally missed night three. I did catch a replay of Sharpton, and hope to catch Edwards before the night is done. What did you think?

My initial thought on Sharpton's speech (apart, from, again why is he yelling every word. These guys know a microphone is on, right?) is why are the TV analysts all wetting themselves over this? He referred to the opponent and some things he disagrees, and so now he's "attacking" and "bashing?" He went off text and responded to some recent news the President made in appealing to black voters (and did it creatively and powerfully, as always, I might add) and got the crowd riled up in his response. Where is the shock in Sharpton riling up the delegates at a convention?

The media complain to no end that there is no unscripted news made and the tone is bland at these things, and then when someone ad libs (even quite firmly in character) and raises the volume a bit, they pounce and vilify him. What is wrong with these people? But I digress. My real question is what did you think?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Convention Bits, Night Two, Updated along the way
Uhoh...Could Gephardt be any more boring? And why was Teddy screaming his whole speech? He wasn't very compelling either, but I admit I stopped paying attention about half way through, even though I was hearing it. Not a good sign.

Hopefully Dean picks things up in the next hour.

UPDATE: Dean was great - and a nice tribute to him with the lengthy ovation.

But right now I'm practically speechless over Barack Obama. I've never heard him before, and feared the "rising star" hype. But I am just stunned. He was better than Clinton. That's right. The longer he went, the further he drew me in. A brilliant speech masterfully and comfortably delivered. I only wish this had been in a network hour. I'll link to a transcript (here it is) as soon as I find it, but I'm not sure if can do justice. If you missed it, catch a replay if you can. It's best on TV, but has a link to video. Not the best quality video, but better than nothing.
The Media Totally Suck
I'm really sorry, I'm having some kind of post-mania right now, really overdoing it. The combination of fury over media, and enthusiasm about some of the Democratic effort so far, has left me spinning. I agree with Pandagon that the press has no clue, or worse could care less, what's really going on and being said. But right now, I'm sick to death of seeing the Kerry NASA pictures, passed out by the GOP for admitedly no good reason, only because it makes Kerry look a little silly.

I suppose we are to take from this that Bush would be completely unwilling to visit the space shuttle, because he would have to wear a funny outfit. How Presidential is that? Any self-respecting media would take this press handout and wad it up and throw it right back in Ed Gillespie's face. Are there no better, more insightful pictures? Are there no more important questions to ask? Does the insane formula masquerading as "fairness" really require that they indulge Republican nonsense, just because it's the Democratic Convention and they feel guilty? They're a bunch of pretty faced puppets, a press release with a smile, no sense of priority, import, relevance, NEWS.

I know, I should know this already, and I do. But right now it is totally pissing me off. I'm sure we will see every report of Dean's prime-time speech tonight laced with references to his Iowa speech. They're totally incapable of framing an event or a public figure in anyway beyond caricature. Then they say it has to do with the overriding public perception of a person that deserves mention, completely eschewing any sense of responsibility for having emblazoned that perception themselves.
O'Reilly v. Moore
Sorry to link to Drudge, but he's got the transcript of an interview/conversation between Bill O'Reilly and Michael Moore, one in which they agreed to discuss issues and not become personal, and in which they both were allowed to ask questions of each other. Moore comes off well, at least in print, which is tough to do with a bully like O'Reilly. Much better than Al Franken, who I thought got bulldozed on his own show by Sean Hannity.
Democratic Party Progress
For the first time in more than 10 years the Party platform does not include support for the death penalty. Who do we have to thank? John Kerry. Talkleft has more.
Clinton the Preacher
President Clinton's religious appeals are usually quite overt...talking about chidhood in church, prayer, counseling with pastors, but one of the brilliant aspects of last night's speech was his touch about Kerry's attitude for service (even comparing it favorably with his own). "Send me" was the refrain he used to describe it. I'm sure most anyone who grew up in a church like mine has immediate echoes of: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom Shall I send? Who will go for us?' 'Here I am,' I said, 'Send Me!'" (Isaiah 6:8...yes, I had to look it up)

It's a nice way for Clinton to uplift the sense of service to country to a spiritual level, and appeal to that sense of sacrifice, even at the expense of questioning his own decisions. I'm surprised no pundit types have picked up on this religious aspect, and I suppose it could be a coincidence in the speech, but I suspect not. By not referring to the connection directly he avoids putting people off that wouldn't like that, while still speaking to the people that would notice, if only subconsciously.

UPDATE: Amy Sullivan sees the same thing I did. But she has more. It's good stuff.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Convention Bits, Night One, updated during the festivities
Al Gore (here's a transcript) was solid, but nothing special. Best zinger was saying wouldn't it have been nice to go after the people that attacked us and still threaten us, al qaeda? instead of confusing them with Iraq? I liked Gore's strategy of speaking to Bush-voters from 2000("Did you get what you expected?") and Nader voters ("Do you still think there's no difference between the Democrats and Republicans"?). I suppose the tone-it-down strategy has some merit, but nobody's watching anyway, so does it matter?

Best speech so far: the man from Canton, OH (live feed) from the Steelworkers Union. No public speaker, but what he said made a hell of a lot of sense ("It's not all about profits, sometimes you have to take care of the people"). If I was an undecided blue-collar worker who voted for Bush before, watching C-Span on a Monday night, uh, oh nevermind.

Meltdown....they say they want to attract new voters, young voters, apathetic voters, and then they pick the world's worst music. I could go down the street and hear a better cover band.

Carter: (Transcript)"What a difference these few months of extremism have made." He refused to have his speech vetted, and he's pulling no punches. But again no network coverage, save PBS.

Hillary: (Transcript)Never really liked her speech giving voice, and tonight was no exception. Still, I liked the things she said. But overall didn't do much for me.

Bill: (Transcript)Took just the right approach. His emphasis on choices made by different sides is pretty brilliant. And associating himself with Bush/Cheney, recipient of the tax cuts, avoided war just like them, was also a nice touch and gives Clinton-haters a reason to vote for Kerry in an indirect sort of way. It puts a face on the "wealthiest 1%" line, and a face many don't like at that.

I just don't know if Kerry can pull this big event off. It's all about Thursday. Can his speech style persuade? Will anyone undecided be watching? I tend to think so. There seems to be a willing electorate out there. Charlie Cook, a DC political reporter, has looked in depth at the polling numbers and notices that among undecided voters there is a heavy diapproval of Bush. It's there for the taking for Kerry.

What did you see? Where do you agree/disagree?

UPDATE: Best bit of analysis of the night is from someone I don't usually care for: Andrew Sullivan: "the way in which the Democrats used the service record of Kerry against Bush was straight out of the Republican playbook. It's a pretty low blow, and Carter delivered it with a deep thud. When you describe someone as weak on defense and a draft-dodger, you're usually a Republican. But not this time."
Convention Goodies
Because I am a sick individual, I will probably get around to watching virtually all of the Democratic Convention (CSPAN) by the time late-night replays are through. I'll try to keep you posted on my favorite highlights. But if you're interested, provides an aggregator pulling together all the blogs reporting from the convention itself. Scheduled to speak on Monday, both Clintons and Al Gore. The main event of course is Thursday when Kerry himself goes. Watch for Monday night/Tuesday morning's story to be: a)how crazy Gore is, and b)how much Clinton overshadows Kerry and isn't that dangerous. And look for both lines to be lost by the time the nominee makes his speech 3 nights later.

How much will you watch? If you have high-speed Internet, but no cable, you can catch the coverage online.
Great Moments in Political Reporting
An AP article, out all over the country this weekend, announces a Bush lead in the electoral college after a purported "analysis of state polls." The geniuses at AP awarded the solid states (25 for Bush, 14 plus DC for Kerry) and "leaning" states (3 for Kerry, 7 for Bush), and decided that Bush leads 217-193 in the electoral college count, leaving out the other 11 states, deemed "toss-up."

Here's the dumbest part (my emphasis), in the paragraph about those states in this last category:
TOSSUPS -- Bush and Kerry are running even in 11 states with a combined 128 electoral votes. Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan and West Virginia are the toughest battlegrounds. Two other tossups, Pennsylvania and Oregon, could soon move to Kerry's column.
So what does it mean that PA and OR "could soon move to Kerry's column" if it doesn't mean that they are "leaning"? What evidence exists that they could soon move one way, but not the other, except the kind of evidence that should convince you to count it as leaning? And if PA and OR are counted, as they should have been, whaddya know, it gives Kerry the lead and changes the entire headline and point of the piece from claiming a Bush advantage to claiming a Kerry advantage.

The race is virtually tied, and that's the only responsible horse-race reporting we should be getting. But if either has the lead right now, it's Kerry. The AP piece presents no methodology, no evidence for its claim, and completely ignores the fact that its conclusion runs contrary to every major polling firm, all of which give leads, however slim, to Kerry in most of those 11 tossup states.

Crazy as it sounds, some people's votes are swayed by a desire to go with the winner. I know, it's crazy, but I know some of those people. And so when the press touts a leading candidate in a close race, they should be especially careful, and they have a particular responsibility to realize the impact they have.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Article 19 Movie Review: I, Robot
***** (5 stars out of 19)
I thought Will Smith had become a decent actor (Ali!); I thought fabulous special effects could keep me interested through a silly script; I thought a film based on an Isaac Asimov story would have some questions and insights worth thinking about.

There was one 30-second stretch in which a (dead) character offers a somewhat compelling set of questions about what it means to be human. The other hour, 54 minutes and 30 seconds were stooooo-pid. Way more stupid than I expected.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

late night, perplexed post
Whatever was, previously, the strangest show I've ever seen has been replaced, without a doubt. Opening up for They Might Be Giants tonight in NashVegas, in an outdoor show in a parking lot, was the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. Daughter, maybe 11 years old, played the drums. Father (who I thought for a while was the mother), sang and played guitar and keyboards. Mother operated the slide projector. I'm still processing. But I had to tell someone.

I bought an overpriced t-shirt. More later below:

Here's their schtick: They travel around and go to yard sales and estate sales and buy strangers' old boxes of slides. You know, pictures of some 1979 vacation to Sweden, little Billy's 10th birthday party, whatever. They write songs based on the slides, funny depictions of what's happening, and show them, essentially synchronized. The man has a high voice and rambles nervously, really fast, but actually pretty funny. He does the singing and accompanies himself on keyboards/guitar. And the daughter as the drummer/back-up vocalist who throughout the show peppers dad with some one-liners and questions which are no doubt scripted but come off sounding spontaneous. They have a song about a mountain trip to Japan, a tribute to all the birthday slides they've got, a tribute to all the boring, nondescript slides they've received, they played 3 parts of a purported 5-part opera based on slides accompanying an internal McDonalds Corporation strategy meeting in the 70s.

They're the Trachteburg Family Slideshow Players (in the tradition, he said, of the great old slideshow bands.) I doubt I could take 2 hours of them, but if you get a chance to see them opening up for someone else, you don't want to pass it up.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Howard Zinn on War
Zinn's People's History was difficult for me to read. I like learning my challenges to history's conventional classroom wisdom in small enough bites I can handle them. It's not that I doubt the legitimacy of his perspectives, in fact they're pretty convincing. But altogether quite overwhelming. All that to say that I'm a fan, but a wussy version of one. His book should make me want to storm the local school board or seek avenues of protest day and night until my country can get a few things right. But here I sit.

Anyway, a veteran himself, Zinn was a panelist at the WWII memorial opening earlier this year and wrote of his remarks in The Progressive, reprinted at Alternet. The whole thing is good, but here's the goods, for my money (bold is my emphasis, for the best sentence I've read this week):
"Yes, World War II had a strong moral aspect to it – the defeat of fascism. But I deeply resent the way the so-called good war has been used to cast its glow over all the immoral wars we have fought in the past fifty years: in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan. I certainly don't want our government to use the triumphal excitement surrounding World War II to cover up the horrors now taking place in Iraq.
I was encouraged by the thought that it is possible to challenge the standard glorification of the Second World War, and more important, to refuse to allow it to give war a good name. I did not want this celebration to make it easy for the American public to accept whatever monstrous adventure is cooked up by the establishment in Washington.

More and more, I am finding that I am not the only veteran of World War II who refuses to be corralled into justifying the wars of today, drawing on the emotional and moral capital of World War II. There are other veterans who do not want to overlook the moral complexity of World War II: the imperial intentions of the Allies even as they declared it a war against fascism, and for democracy; the deliberate bombing of civilian populations to destroy the morale of the enemy.
Trotter, could you (or do you) ever teach his book in History classes?
Anybody seen "Outfoxed" yet?
I'm dying to see it. Please report if you have.
6 Feet High and Rising
Can someone explain this to me. I mean, I understand that a healthy lifestyle can help your body grow to the outer edge of what your genes provide. But this article claims the Dutch are 4 inches taller than us, and an average of 6 inches taller than they were just 40 years ago? And growing? What the...? Can that possibly be true?

Maybe Larry Bird should be looking there for his next crop of white basketball stars?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

September 11 Commission Report
This official site has links to the entire report, executive summaries, individual chapters, and statements by the chairman. If I actually read any of it, I'll let you know how it goes.
Arianna on Teresa
I'll admit, Teresa Heinz-Kerry has made me feel a bit icky so far. She always seems a little bit, well, drunk, though I can't quite put my finger on it. Arianna Huffington thinks she's fabulous, and has convinced me to be more open-minded about it, in her column today (is anyone else incapable, by the way, of reading Arianna without hearing her voice in your head?):
Yes, she is indeed unabashedly open with her opinions on everything from the war in Iraq ("I would never have gone to war this way") to George Bush ("fazed by complexity") to Botox treatments (she's had them).

But isn't that what we claim to want from those in public life? Or are we comfortable with authenticity only when it's a contrivance manufactured to appear authentic?

"I am the product of living in dictatorships," Teresa has said. "It makes you cherish the ability to be yourself, to have feelings and to speak them when asked. People say I'm blunt. I say, 'No, just honest.'"

It's this honesty that has led the media to brand her with the scarlet O for offbeat – a caricature given national credence by a Newsweek cover that trumpeted: "Is John Kerry's Heiress Wife a Loose Cannon or Crazy Like a Fox?"
It's hard to imagine that headline – which was written, incidentally, by a man – being used to describe a man. As Marlo Thomas once said: "A man has to be Joe McCarthy to be called ruthless. All a woman has to do is put you on hold."
Maybe it's just because I'm in the South that I'm a lot more comfortable with Elizabeth Edwards. Is it just me?
Incompetent AND Broke
So now we know that they manage/anticipate financial concerns as well as they do anything else. The 65 Billion Congress already approved for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have run out. Pentagon is scrambling around in their own budgets to come up with the 12 billion or so they need to keep going for the rest of the fiscal year. Of course with all the outrage over Berger's idiocy, and the Democratic Convention on the other side, we're not likely to hear this, as reported in the Washington Post:
The strain is beginning to add up, the GAO said. The hard-hit Army faces a $5.3 billion shortfall in funds supporting deployed forces, a $2 billion budget deficit for the refurbishing of equipment used in Iraq and a $753 million deficit in its logistics contract. The Army also needs $800 million more to cover equipment maintenance costs and $650 million to pay contractors guarding garrisons.

The Air Force has decreased flying hours for pilots, eliminated some training, slowed civilian hiring and curtailed "lower priority requirements such as travel, supplies and equipment," the report said.

The Pentagon comptroller told GAO investigators that the Defense Department has sufficient funds to cover the shortfalls, provided Congress gives officials more authority to transfer money among accounts.
But, as Atrios demonstrates, even the NY Times is falling for the hype, maintaining that US casualities have fallen off since the handover when in reality there have been more deaths in July already than all of June. I hope once the war gets wrapped in months and months of political rhetoric, we don't totally lose sight of the very real toll it is taking. At least there's a side arguing against it (kind of) finally.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

You've got to be kidding
Remember when Bush declared himself a "war President"? And told us how he made all of his decisions with war on his mind? Apparently that's not working so well, what with the people turning against the war, and now the 900th American military death since the war began. So now he says he wants to be a "peace President"... apparently he now makes all his decisions with peace on his mind. Even Reuters can't tell the story of this one without making him look foolish. Here's their first sentence:
After launching two wars, President Bush said on Tuesday he wanted to be a "peace president" and took swipes at his Democratic rivals for being lawyers and weak on defense.
Until I read this, I honestly hadn't even noticed the lack of that word anywhere in the President's rhetoric - "peace." His justifications have revolved only around language of justice, liberation, Democracy, evildoers...a language of righteousness. Now, he wants to try a rhetoric of peace. To me its awkwardness on his tongue shines through pretty clearly, a noticable conscious addition. We'll see how far it flies.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

My Kind of Woman
I managed to live 35 years without knowing a good reason to be interested by Linda Ronstadt. But you may have heard she was booed off the stage and lost her gig at a Las Vegas casino for praising Michael Moore.  Now I read this--she's got alot of guts. I think they call this outspoken:
"My career has befuddled other people, and it's befuddled me," admitted Ronstadt, 58, who finds her fans are polarized by her nightly on-stage salute to "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Michael Moore.

"I've been dedicating a song to him – I think he's a great patriot – and it splits the audience down the middle, and they duke it out," she said.

"This is an election year, and I think we're in desperate trouble and it's time for people to speak up and not pipe down. It's a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I'd rather not know."
Consider me converted. In fact, I might be in love. I already liked the Dixie Chicks when I found out they were against Bush too. I didn't know about Linda. Did everyone else already know about her? I must have missed it.
Why I don't like going to the doctor
You only barely get to know your doctor over time, and if something's really wrong with you, then (s)he has to send you to a specialist that you don't really know, then he sends you to a surgeon you don't know and that your doctor doesn't really know, and they all recommend each other to keep you calm and obedient even though they don't really know each other, and then on the operating table the surgeon goes mad and cuts off your penis while you are unconscious.
Do doctors have to go through any kind of psychiatric evaluations before they're approved to use that weaponry they've got? Do the doctors who administer the evaluations have to go through any kind of evaluation? And so on...
More like this please
Russell Train headed the EPA for Nixon and Ford from '73 until '77, and he was co-chairman of Conservationists for Bush in 1988. He is, in short, a Republican. But because of W's environmental record, he'll be casting his vote for John Kerry in November. From the Guardian:
"It's almost as if the motto of the administration in power today in Washington is not environmental protection, but polluter protection," Train said. "I find this deeply disturbing."
I wonder who, in the privacy of her voting booth, Christie Whitman will vote for?

Monday, July 19, 2004

Family gets some press
My 8-year-old nephew, inspired by a TV ad for the Great American Bake Sale, a hunger relief benefit program, convinced my sister and the rest of the fam to host one.  Preferring to do my part from my chair, of course I sent out a press release to the local papers, and the Williamson County Review-Appeal picked up the story. You have to register for free to read it, and it's not worth all that, but here's the accompanying picture: clockwise, Becki, Jonathan, Maggie, Mattie, and the precocious Mark. There are more kids, but they don't all fit in one picture...
“I saw a commercial on TV for the bake sale, and I really wanted to do it,” said Mark Wilson, a third-grade student at Walnut Grove Elementary School in Franklin. “I wasn’t sure if my parents would let me and then my dad saw it, too. He said we should do it and I was like, ‘Thank you, Dad, thank you.”The 8-year-old’s enthusiasm, evident as he gasped for enough breaths to tell the story, is bubbling over for the second annual “Great American Bake Sale.” The event, co-sponsored by the national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength and PARADE magazine, is an effort to fight child hunger in the United States.
blinded by strategery
A quick question to start off the week:  How are Bush and Cheney going to paint Kerry as both a "flip-flopper" and "the most liberal member of the Senate"?

Saturday, July 17, 2004

More poll goodness
Today's NYTimes/CBS poll (pdf) has lots of good signs in it besides just the horse race:
Kerry--45, Bush 42, Nader 5 (Bush led by 1 in the same poll 3 weeks ago)
--Bush's foreign policy approval numbers: approve 39, disapprove 55 (both numbers are the worst of his presidency)
--Disapprove of the way Bush is handling Iraq - 58%, the highest number since they started asking.
--Disapprove of the way Bush is handling the campaign against terror - 43%, the highest number since they started asking.
--Looking back,  do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the U.S. have stayed out? right thing - 46, stay out - 51 (the least supportive of the war, both numbers, since they started asking).
--And in what seems to me to be essentially the same question, worded differently: Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq or not? Not worth it - 62%, the highest since they started asking.  So a bizarre 10% or so thought it was not worth it, but, looking back, the right thing....
And how about this one...on recognition of gay couples, 59% say they approve of either marriage or civil unions. only 38% say no legal recognition.
So, you say, this crowd must be weighted toward liberals?
How did you vote in the 2000 election--Bush 38, Gore 33, Nader 1, didn't vote 26.
12% say they registered to vote in the last year.
96% say they definitely or probably will vote in November.
Do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican Party, or the Democratic Party?
R-40%, D-54% (the Dem number has never been higher than that since they started this poll in Jan 1992) 

Friday, July 16, 2004

You Heard it Here First
Protect your banana.
Path to a Kerry victory becoming clearer
There's a relatively new Zogby poll (7/6-10) of battleground states out, all taken after the Edwards announcement. Some people are critical of the methods, but even if you concede a 5-point swing in Bush's favor in each state from these results, Kerry still wins the election.  My favorite? In Tennessee: Bush 47.5%, Kerry 47.5%
If Kerry wins either Florida or Ohio, he's almost assured victory, the way things look now (wins in Michigan and Pennsylvania looking more likely all the time). But even if he doesn't win either, pulling out Missouri, where Zogby gives him the lead right now, plus either Iowa or New Mexico, would do.
I think Bush will have a hard time winning both Florida and Ohio. And even if he does, he could easily lose. The margin of error is shrinking on Bush's side.  But there's a long way to go.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Your Weight and Your Health are Unrelated
So argues a new book, The Obesity Myth. Interview with the author over at alternet.  Plus they just lowered the level of cholesterol considered healthy, and it turns out that gum disease can lead to heart disease.  Floss or you die
I give up.
UPDATE: Add one more scientific u-turn. Black holes ain't so black. Truth is, Hawking always said they emit radiation, so that's no development, but now he says he was wrong about them rendering matter that enters lost forever, in violation of the laws of quantum physics. Clearly  this will have a huge impact on the way you and I live.
Quantum physics 1, Stephen Hawking 0.
Picture of the day
Where can I get a recording of the sound this made?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Nader Makes Friends
Ralph visited with the Congressional Black Caucus, apparently the only group willing to say to his face what they think of his run. The reaction of the African-American lawmakers to the get-together wasn't exactly mixed. According to The Hill, they were left "questioning his mental health and accusing him of acute and advanced egomania." Still far, far from apologizing himself for his 2000 run, Nader is the one demanding apologies, this time for "racial epithets" hurled at him.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said, “If he didn’t understand what the meeting was about, not only is he an egotistical maniac, he’s dumber than I thought he was.”
Meanwhile, the crazed consumer-advocate is having trouble in Michigan, even though Republicans helped him with signatures, as they are trying to do now in Oregon as well, where 2 attempts to get on the ballot have failed. He has also been shut out of the Arizona ballot.
Why you should check out How Appealing
You may have noticed, but I try to vaguely stay abreast of items that interest me but that I have virtually no real understanding of whatsoever. The ease with which one can do that sort of thing thanks to the Internet, and the blogosphere especially, is pretty well addicting. In that light, I would point out that I've learned that the distant scrambling sound you hear is that of confused but excited lawyers, confused but concerned prosecutors, and just plain confused judges, now that a little-heralded Supreme Court decision from less than a month ago, Blakely v. Washington, is being considered. It sounds like big news to me.

It seems that, depending on your point of view, the decision is either very limited, or it may well totally unhinge federal sentencing guidelines, as violating the 6th amendment. Two circuit courts have decided it changes everything; one has decided it changes nothing. Needless to say, a line is forming. While I like the idea of relinquishing federal sentencing mandates that are overly rigid, this might tie the hands of the judge even more in other ways. I'm sure that by the time they all figure out what it means, and if it's a good thing, it will have changed.

Some sites worth looking at, if you're like me, and can't get enough of this kind of thing:
1. Findlaw has a pretty lengthy analysis from a Rutgers U. prof.
2. How Appealing is one of the most amazing blogs you'll ever run across. Covering apellant litigation, Howard Bashman, a Philadelphia attorney, somehow posts dozens of links a day to stories and decisions. From most recent, he covers the recent Blakely aftermath here, here, here, and here.
Small World
Did you know that newly indicted Enron exec Ken Lay hired the same lawyer as one George W. Bush is using for the Valerie Plame case? Hmmmm.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Political Junkie Heaven
Via Lessig, a site that lets you view Presidential campaign commercials from the last 50 years. Very very cool.
Hilarity at the expense of Nigerian scammers
Via Washington Monthly, the BBC reports on a group fighting back against the spam scam we've all gotten, you know the one from Nigerian "royalty" who would be greatly helped by unloading millions of dollars into your account, if only he had your 18,000 dollars to pay the processing fee. The shenanigans are really really funny.

I almost feel empowered to write them back now, if I didn't think it would make them even more prolific in my inbox. Should we dare give it a try?
My Letter to Zach Wamp
Dear Congressman Wamp,

Please provide assistance to this fellow Tennessean. I'm struggling to find the correct adjective for my next blog post to describe your recent vote to keep the Patriot Act intact, library snooping and all. I know "flip-flopper" seems to be the parlance of the day, and since you did change your vote from yes to no in the time it took the vote to open and close, that would seem to fit the bill. "Capricious" and "indecisive" or the more old-school "wishy-washy" have been on my list too.

However, your about-face came after being strong-armed by Republican leadership, who kept the vote open an extra half-hour or so in search of potential vote-switchers (why do you think they picked you by the way?). So I'm leaning toward the more telling "spineless," which has a little more appropriate bite to it than the generic "soft," "malleable," "wimpy," or "irresolute," all of which I have considered. (I noticed by the way that you were named as one of the "spineless twelve" by! I don't remember you ever getting much press for being a Congressman before!)

But now I have read your defense, in which you say you switched (same as flopped!) after being educated--while the vote was held open--about the way terrorists slyly communicate via public library computers. So I'd like to create more of a sense of "gullible," "credulous," or how about "born yesterday" to add a little flair? I notice the Seattle Post picked "gullible" for you, so I may be on the right track.

Was that really the first you had heard about the use of public computers for terrorist communication? My instinct is that the proper adjective for you lies in the answer to that question. Depending, it may be "duplicitous" or on the other side is something along the lines of "oblivious." (is "ill-read" a word?).

Thanks for any assistance,
Don Byrd

Monday, July 12, 2004

The Senate at its worst
Senator Frist moved up the debate three days on a Constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages. The issue is on the floor now. I could not be more disgusted. Rick Santorum just stood up and said there is no more important issue facing the United States today.

To be sure, most every state will avoid same-sex marriages on their own just fine for a very long time, maybe forever. Tennessee, for one, will probably need a legislative turnover of at least 2 generations before it could be considered, and that's only if we can keep the future grandfathers there now from amending the State Constitution.

There is simply no legitimate civic argument on their side. Whether a bonehead like Santorum, or an articulate jerk like Bill Buckley, their only attempt at logic is the same slippery slope fallacy, that somehow acknowledging same-sex commitment opens a floodgate that leads right to state-sanctioned bestiality. It's a bunch of visceral hatred, coupled with election-year theatrics, masquerading as a value.

Other marriage-related amendments that would make more sense than this one:
1. 24-hour waiting period...
2. Disclosure requirement that all felons report their convictions to their mate prior to marriage.

I'm sure there are more.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Article 19 book review
Bill Bryson: A Short History of Nearly Everything
****************** (18 stars out of 19)

I finished this fabulous book on vacation. Bryson is known for his travel journals (I've never read one), but for this effort he devoted 3 years to interviewing scientists and reading science in an attempt to develop a basic understanding of the universe, Earth, and the stuff of being human. He translates that into a readable language for non-specialists (I qualify). It's brilliantly written and unbelievably fascinating. The book leaves you with a sense of life as not only highly unlikely, but also terribly fragile, and yet imbued with a steady determination to continue to be.

Perhaps even more, this book is really an entertaining history of science, recounting narratives of how we got to know what we know (or think we know), and the amazing succession of coincidence, mistake, disciplinary infighting and snobbiness, accident, luck, obsession, fad, agenda, ego, and just plain bizarre human behavior that has been the legacy of scientific inquiry.

Sorry this is a long quote, but will give you a sense...from the chapter on volcanoes, that taught me that the largest active one in the world is in fact the whole of Yellowstone National Park. (I won't scare you with what I found out about Tokyo...)
Since its first known eruption 16.5 million years ago, [Yellowstone] has blown up about a hundred times. . . . We have absolutely nothing to compare it to. The biggest blast in recent times was that of Krakatau in Indonesia in August 1883, which made a bang that reverberated around the world for nine days, and made water slosh as far away as the English Channel. But if you imagine the volume of ejected material from Krakatau as being about the size of a golf ball, then the biggest of the Yellowstone blasts would be the size of a sphere you could just about hide behind. On this scale, Mount St. Helens would be no more than a pea.

The Yellowstone eruptions of two million years ago put out enough ash to bury New York State to a depth of sixty-seven feet or California to a depth of twenty. . . . That blast occurred in what is now Idaho, but over millions of years, at a rate of about one inch a year, the Earth's crust has traveled over it, so that today it is directly under northwest Wyoming. (The hot spot itself stays in one place, like an acetylene torch aimed at a ceiling.) In its wake it leaves the sort of rich volcanic plains that are ideal for growing potatoes, as Idaho's farmers long ago discovered. In another two million years, geologists like to joke, Yellowstone will be producing French fries for McDonald's, and the people of Billings, Montana, will be stepping around geysers.

The ash fall from the last Yellowstone eruption covered all or parts of nineteen western states (plus parts of Canada and Mexico)-nearly the whole of the United States west of the Mississippi. And ash, it is worth remembering, is not like a big snowfall that will melt in the Spring. If you wanted to grow crops again, you would have to find some place to put all the ash. It took thousands of workers eight months to clear 1.8 billion tons of debris from the sixteen acres of the World Trade Center site in New York. Imagine what it would take to clear Kansas. . . .

...the cycle of Yellowstone's eruptions averaged one massive blow every 600,000 years. The last one, interestingly enough, was 630,000 years ago. Yellowstone, it appears, is due.
Luckily, experts think that evidence shows more of the magma chamber is "cooling and crystallizing" than not. It may never blow again. But the park still does swell and subside, suggesting the opposite. The striking thing about the book, putting things like this in perspective, is in portraying so much of science - especially when it comes to understanding the Earth under its surface - as being essentially in the dark and at odds with itself. We don't know exactly what causes this kind (caldera) of volcano to exist, much less what makes it explode. And they're rare enough that we don't really know what, if any, warning signs are recognizable.

Each chapter covers a different topic and for the most part they don't depend on each other, so it's an easy read to spread out. I recommend it, especially the chapters on the ocean, DNA, and cells.
A Friend on Bravo
The Bravo Network is airing a "songwriters weekend" including half-hour documentaries on several songs, beginning Friday night the 16th. Michael Harrington, my composition professor, tutor and good friend at Belmont was interviewed for 5 of them, 3 of which will be on Friday (times central):

Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Run DMC: Walk This Way

Beatles: I Want To Hold Your Hand

Not sure how much air-time he gets, but he usually doesn't need much time to be both funny and interesting.
Choosing Edwards
Whether or not Edwards turns out to be a helpful choice remains to be seen. It depends on how they use him:

If this is a part of a Southern strategy, I hate to say but I think it is flawed. Kerry/Edwards could force Bush to campaign in Arkansas and, yes, Tennessee, and maybe even the Carolinas, but I doubt Rove will fall too hard for that. If the hope is that Kerry could now actually win one of those states, it's a big mistake. I don't see it happening. Only if something really turns and Kerry is winning all the states will that happen. Choosing Edwards will help in the South only insofar as it may help one issue in many states...that is:

Countering the elitism charge. Edwards' background and style of delivery will help him connect to the working poor, and those who care about the working poor and social justice, in a way that Kerry so far does not. These are people who share--or think they share--the "values" of the President, but could be persuaded, I think, to vote their pocketbooks with the right message. Do we have many in that position in the South? Yes, absolutely. But the South is a more conservative and more partisan place now than it was when Clinton/Gore won some states here in 1992. Edwards can make the difference in states that are close...Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia. If the campaign uses him heavily there, I'll be impressed. Sending him more often to Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia would be a mistake, even though I'd love for Tennessee to have a chance to be in play.

As for Edwards himself, I can't help but be impressed that the guy tapped to be the VP pick from the moment Kerry had sown up the nomination made it through the whole process and emerged as still the number one guy. That in itself says something good about him. Kerry could have gotten more buzz (arguably the only important thing a VP pick brings) with a surprise, maybe scored points for an independent spirit by picking outside the box, and risked dredging up all the negative things he said about Edwards' inexperience during the primary, and still he went with Edwards. Either the guy is very very impressive in person, or just polled the heck out of everyone else, or, I suspect, both.

Kerry-Edwards 2004!!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Mixed Signals
I suppose this post will only be relevant for about 6 hours, maybe less, but anyway...
The New York Post says it's Gephardt.
But this guy says Kerry's plane is being painted with Edwards VP logo. Somebody's got it wrong. The only way it's a huge surprise is if it's neither of the 2.

UPDATE: Of course you know this now, but it's Edwards. I think it's a good choice, esecially among those considered in the running by press people. What do you think?

Monday, July 05, 2004

Vacation Reading
My beach-side dialup is a pain (I know, boo-hoo). But I've managed to read a few intesting things, and am hearing on CNN that Kerry's VP announcement could come tomorrow morning at 9 ET.
1. Kos defends the Gephardt choice, if it's him.
2. Could be Edwards.
2. The Lexington Herald-Leader apologizes for not covering the civil rights movement.

What are you reading?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Even Richard Land has had enough

Saturday, July 03, 2004

travel concerns
Posting will be light because I'm out of town - at the beach with the fam on vacation. Driving down in the mini-van in the rain all the way down, I realized a car feature, newer than my timeless 93 Sentra, that makes me crazy. Maybe someone can explain it. Why are there about 6 different windshield wiper settings before you even get to "low"? Doesn't that make LOW rather misnamed? I keep thinking I've turned the wipers on, or off, only to have them scrape across the windshield once every 4 minutes. You've got to look down and stare at the stick to see where it's sitting. But, hello, IT'S RAINING, and there's traffic. Should I really be looking down like that?

Here's an idea: off, low, high. That's all you need. Just like the 93 Sentra.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Krugman on Moore
Paul Krugman puts Fahrenheit 9/11 in a helpful context.
And for all its flaws, "Fahrenheit 9/11" performs an essential service. It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't. Mr. Moore may not be considered respectable, but his film is a hit because the respectable media haven't been doing their job.
Will be interesting to see how the box office dollars continue into the second week. Can it remain a story for much longer?
Exploiting the Church
If you need proof that the President's campaign is actively targetting churches/church-goers, and the fact that Kenny received a signed picture of Laura and the President encouraging his support isn't enough evidence, the Washington Post has the goods: a campaign document encouraging supporters to, among other things, turn in their church directories to the campaign, and organize a voter drive at church (where they will target the church members that aren't registered...identified by campaign operatives from the church directories they've been given). From the New York Times:

"We are collecting all kinds of lists from many different sources, and it is completely appropriate to do so," [President's spokesman Steve Schmidt] said. "People of faith have as much right to participate in the political process as anybody else."

Liberals called the effort an exploitation of religious faith for political gain and a potential violation of privacy.

In a statement, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, a liberal religious group in Washington, said, "As the pastor of a local congregation, if I found out that my church membership directory was shared with a campaign or political party, I would begin immediate legal action against the campaign or political party."
My experience with church directories is that, in addition to being a lasting refuge for horrible, horrible pictures, they are documents of togetherness, a sense of family and trust among church members, allowing them the convenience to be in connection with each other when need be. The idea that these lists would, like a mailing list sold to a direct mail firm, be exploited for solicitation is truly repulsive. Churches should be a safe haven from that kind of official campaigning.

Thursday, July 01, 2004 a Penny Earned. or not
This sounds like the kind of bet my own brother and I would make. A man in Los Angeles made a bet with his brother 30 years ago, and now he's ready to collect. The bet? that he couldn't save 1 million pennies over his lifetime. So now he has 20,000 rolls of pennies in his garage.

There's just one problem: it turns out that it's not so easy to turn in 3.6 tons of copper coins into a more manageable version of the $10,000 they are worth. Link:
The Coinstar machine at his supermarket isn't exactly made to accept a million pennies.

A Santa Monica artist who welds couches out of pennies declined to call him back.

Coin collectors said to call a bank.

But his bank, Washington Mutual, is charging extra fees and won't take all the rolls at once. The best he's found is a branch that will take 200 rolls, or $100 per week. That's 20 months of deposits.
I don't know what to say about it, but I like it.