January 31, 2004

Paging Hank Williams Jr.


I've seen most of the Super Bowls, other than time out of the country in 1973-1978. Most of the time the games have disappointed. Tomorrow's game, I suspect, will also disappoint the majority of viewers who care about offense, exciting pass plays, and lots of points. Both these defenses are dynamite. Thus, much of the attention may be diverted to the commercials. I have to admit, there are very few of those I remember, other than the Macintosh intro in 1984 and the EDS ad featuring cowboys herding cats a few years ago. I have an advantage, though; one of the guys who attends the annual party I go to is an ad agency exec, so we get the inside scoop about who bought, who didn't, and why the advertiser thinks paying up to $2.3 million for 30 seconds is worth it.

Snopes has a whole page of legends which have grown up around the game; one of the more amusing is the idea that all over America, water pressure drops dramatically during halftime and at the conclusion of the game. Not so.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:50 PM | Comments (1)

January 30, 2004

Friday food for thought

Ok, I told myself I wasn't going to bash the media for at least two more days, but I didn't say I wouldn't pass along a column in which the media bashes itself.

Voters, come in, please. Take a seat. We need to have a little talk.

Listen, you've done some great work over the years, you really have. The entire country owes you a huge debt of thanks. But on behalf of the news media, the Washington pundits, various powerbrokers, assorted columnists, and esteemed talking heads, I have some news that it doesn't give me any pleasure to give.

You're fired.

(Written post-Iowa, post-NH results)

Remember the overtime rules the Administration demanded be left in the omnibus bill? Now:

Some companies are interpreting language in new national overtime pay rules as possibly allowing them to exempt workers who have received military training.

Apparently it ain't enough to try to cut vets' benefits directly, as the Bushies have done, now they want to screw the guys who are told "join the military and learn a trade." Of course, the Dep't. of Labor says it's a misunderstanding, but any bets it gets to be interpreted that way?

Robert Reich has an op/ed which further discusses the lack of a Democratic establishment, as mentioned below.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)

A dippy request

I'm going to a Super Bowl party Sunday, and as usual (the same group has been gathering for these things for 13 years) I'm supposed to bring chips and dip. Now, it's easy enough to get a bag of Doritos and a bag of Ruffles, a jar of salsa and a tub of clam dip, but I'm tired of that. I need a dip. Not just any dip pulled off the 'Net, but a dip you've made and you and your guests have enjoyed. One that isn't too complicated and doesn't require Fedex packages from France to get the ingredients.

Any suggestions? Leave 'em in the comments or mail me (address under the Linkmeister button on the right). Thanks.

Addendum: This dip needs to feed no more than ten people, nearly all male, and there are also going to be other forms of food.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (11)

January 29, 2004


Fox points me to MusicPlasma; it's a nifty little gizmo which points out relationships between artists and musical styles. For example, if you type in Bonnie Raitt, you get a map showing Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and the Blind Boys of Alabama in close proximity. Further out you get Ry Cooder and the Allman Brothers. It's really a kick to look at.

I had a dream in which John Riggins played a part last night. Is that weird or what?

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:47 PM | Comments (2)

I commission thee...

Yesterday the 9/11 Commission said not enough was done to prevent the September 11 attacks, despite repeated opportunities to do so.

At various points in the hearings this week, commissioners pressed current and former US officials on why they had failed to note warning signs as hijackers navigated the US border security and immigration systems.

As I reported a few days ago, the Administration continues to deny there's any need to extend the commission's deadline, despite its urging.

By law, the commission must report back to the president and the Congress by May 27, but there is a 60-day closeout period, which could give commissioners a chance to extend their report. Already, White House aides and GOP congressional leaders have squelched suggestions that that deadline could be extended. If so, an extension would mean the controversial report lands deep in the presidential campaign.

Nope, wouldn't want that.

In other independent commission news, despite David Kay's call for one to investigate possible intelligence failures which may have overstated Saddam's WMD, the White House says there's no need.

The White House immediately turned aside the calls from Dr. Kay and many Democrats for an immediate outside investigation, seeking to head off any new wide-ranging election-year inquiry that might go beyond reports already being assembled by Congressional committees and the Central Intelligence Agency.

If you thought the 9/11 Commission's report might be messy in the midst of the President's re-election campaign, imagine the report an independent commission might issue regarding the Administration's use of intelligence to lead the country into Iraq, particularly if there really was as little evidence as it now seems there was. It boggles the mind.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

January 28, 2004

Not-so-idle thoughts

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has an article in the current New Yorker, and mirabile dictu, it's online. It's an essay about American de facto imperialism as practiced during the Cold War and what's happened since then. It also distills Perle and Frum's new book (An End to Evil) into a few paragraphs, which is useful. (Those of you who remember the post-Watergate era may remember the phrase "Don't buy books from crooks," which is how I feel about Perle and Frum).

Here's another critique of the Dean interview conducted by Diane Sawyer: the most startling thing in here may be that 90 of 96 questions had to do with the personalities of each Dean. What the hell kind of journalism is that? Where are the policy questions? (That's from the LA Times; use "bselig" for username and password).

The "did Bush desert?" question has resurfaced. Is it true? Well, technically no; for all intents and purposes, yes.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:50 AM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2004

Atoll, a toll it took


Cassie asks in comments to the "Old Friends" post below, "where is Kwajalein?" Well, here's a map of the Pacific showing Amelia Earhart's flight path in 1937. You can find the Federated States of Micronesia, including Kwajalein, to the immediate northeast of her departure point. If you click on the map, you'll see several sites where plane wreckage has been found, and you'll also see Kwajalein specifically identified on the map. To the far northeast are the Hawaiian islands, roughly 2500 miles away. It's about a five-hour flight from Honolulu.

Here's a little more information from the World Atlas, and here's a nice chart of the atoll itself, including niceties like land area (small, trust me!).

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:25 PM | Comments (1)

Who kisses whose ring?

News item: Cheney is to have a private audience with the Pope tomorrow.

If you were the pontiff, what would you say to the Veep?

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:44 PM | Comments (8)

January 25, 2004

Old friends

I got a call tonight from a guy I shared a room with while on Kwajalein back in 1977-1978; he's been on the East Coast for years but is heading back out there for four months. I wish him luck; I have no desire to live in a place that small ever again. I'm sure it's much less isolated than it was when I was there; for one thing, there's an Internet now, which there certainly wasn't then, and for another, I'd bet they've got satellite TV now. When I was there we got video-taped episodes of sports events once in a while. News consisted of a six-page summary from the wire services and AFRTS radio. It may come as a surprise to you, but the radio service offers a full slate of NPR's programming, which tells you that either a) AFRTS is not censored or b) NPR ain't very liberal. In fact, the first time I ever heard All Things Considered was on AFRTS.

Anyway, he's on his way there, but will be back in four or five weeks for a weekend, and it'll be good to see him again. He was one of the best photographers I ever met; I still have a three-ring binder of pictures he put together for me when I left, sort of a "don't forget what this looked like" album. I wonder if I could digitize those somehow and keep the quality halfway good.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:21 PM | Comments (2)

January 24, 2004

The Press as participant

More thoughts on the media from PressThink.

Who enthroned Dean and named him the front-runner? By what criteria can journalists claim he has been dealt a serious blow or dethroned? Who vaunted his grass-roots movement, and who characterized his position as “near-invincible”? (By what criteria of invincibility?) Who decides that New Hampshire is a critical test for Dean, but not others? Who will decide whether Dean passes it? Who pitted Dean’s organizational prowess against Kerry’s and Edward’s “message and momentum”? Who says – and exactly what does it mean to say things this way – that voters “began” to take a “more serious look” at “all the candidates” in the last two weeks? (What had they been doing in earlier weeks? Looking facetiously, or at only some candidates, or not at all?) And who has the prerogative to describe the candidacy of a former governor as an insurgency and the candidacy of a first-term senator, taking on the same political establishment, as conventional politics?

We know the answer: The campaign press corps. But the campaign press corps’ stories citing all these factors, causes, dynamics and developments never mentions the centrality of the campaign press corps in picking what counts and doesn’t count in explaining--or explaining away--political reality. The campaign press corps pretends it doesn’t exist, except to observe and explain. It pretends it is a political innocent.

That was written by Cole Campbell, former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I'd say his perspective is fairly credible, wouldn't you? He came to those questions by virtue of reading the Washington Post's Iowa coverage the day after the results were final. Read the comments to that post, too; PressThink is widely read by members of the press, and they're not shy about commenting.

The thing that annoys me the most about the press is the pretense that it puts up, as Campbell says; reporters and editors surely know that they are players, so why pretend otherwise? Language alone can be powerful; by now many people believe that Howard Dean was "angry" when he recited that list of primary states, simply because the press has said so over and over again. I've heard it called a "meltdown;" as I've said elsewhere, I can only conclude that no member of the press calling it that was ever on a sports team where the coach tried to boost the team up after a defeat. The first time I saw that video I immediately recognized what Dean was doing; why did the national press not do the same?

Because it has its own agenda. Frontrunners need to be knocked down, in order to make better copy.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

The media as message

I'm rapidly finding that Campaign Desk is becoming a favorite site to look to when I want to know what the media thinks it's doing. Case in point: when watching the Democratic debate, it seemed to me that the candidates weren't getting much more time than the moderators to speak their piece. Lo and behold, I was right. One of their observers actually counted the words used by both groups, and it was awfully close to a wash. The folks over there have also done the work necessary to learn that the Dean speech was initially reported more-or-less fairly, but then coverage degenerated into a morass of pejorative adjectives. They were less than impressed with Diane Sawyer's interview with the Deans, too.

Here's an explanation of why Dean has been so successful running against the "Democratic Establishment;" there really isn't one. It became complacent during the years the Democrats controlled the House, and when that was lost it fragmented into labor, environmental and other groups and lost its coherence. Could be, could be.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:28 AM | Comments (1)

January 23, 2004

States of the Union

Another meme, but it's one I have more positives for than that 100 Best Movies thing. I got it from Batty.

Bold = been to
UPPER = lived

1) Alabama, 2) Alaska, 3) ARIZONA, 4) Arkansas, 5) CALIFORNIA, 6) Colorado, 7) CONNECTICUT, 8) Delaware, 9) Florida, 10) Georgia, 11) HAWAII, 12) Idaho, 13) Illinois, 14) Indiana, 15) Iowa, 16) Kansas, 17) Kentucky, 18) Louisiana, 19) Maine, 20) Maryland, 21) Massachusetts, 22) Michigan, 23) Minnesota, 24) Mississippi, 25) Missouri, 26) Montana, 27) Nebraska, 28) Nevada, 29) New Hampshire, 30) New Jersey, 31) New Mexico, 32) New York, 33) North Carolina, 34) North Dakota, 35) Ohio, 36) Oklahoma, 37) Oregon, 38) Pennsylvania, 39) Rhode Island, 40) SOUTH CAROLINA, 41) South Dakota, 42) Tennessee, 43) Texas, 44) Utah, 45) Vermont, 46) VIRGINIA, 47) Washington, 48) West Virginia, 49) Wisconsin, 50) Wyoming, and 51) Washington, DC


1) Yukon Territory 2) British Columbia, 3) Nunavut, 4) Northwest Territories, 5) Alberta, 6) Saskatchewan, 7) Manitoba, 8) Ontario, 9) Quebec, 10) New Brunswick, 11) Nova Scotia, 12) Prince Edward Island, 13) Newfoundland & Labrador.


Posted by Linkmeister at 04:57 PM | Comments (4)

Lights, crime, and death

Something which sounds cool: 360 Degrees of Times Square on New Year's Eve. From the NYT Circuits column (non-web edition).

"What, or even who, killed humankind's nearest relatives, the Neanderthals who once roamed Europe before dying out almost 30,000 years ago?" If my beginning Anthro class hadn't been taught in an auditorium to 500 of us, I might have stuck with it. Then I could have been an author of this new study which theorizes about the answer to that question.

I have no particular memories of Captain Kangaroo, who died recently, but here's an extraordinary obituary of the man from someone who worked with him.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:15 AM | Comments (1)

January 22, 2004

Video, cats, and other

I played hooky yesterday afternoon and went to see LOTR: The Return of the King. I thought it was very good indeed, but now I have a question for all you DVD aficionados: is the director's commentary specific to each film? When we were given DVD players for Christmas, I also got The Two Towers extended version DVD, but I'm wondering if I should get the extended version of Fellowship, or just get the one which has the movie. If the commentary's the same, what do I care? Anybody know?

Here's one for the cat lovers: are you ready for National Answer Your Cat's Questions Day? The California Veterinary Medical Association answers 10 questions your cat may be asking you, including such winners as "what the hell do I want with an annual exam?"

And the next time you see your vet, he/she may have a PDA along. 700 disorders, right there at the doc's fingertips.

Finally, from ABC's The Note, "One thing we gotta mention: Dean is SMILING when he yelps. He's not yelping in anger. So stop, fellow media world, saying that he was angry when he was yelping." No kidding. I said at the time I first saw it, that's cheerleading for the crowd, not rage. If I believed all the crap the talking heads have been spewing I'd think the guy was ready for the Jack Nicholson role in a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:25 AM | Comments (6)

January 21, 2004

Um, sir? We're not in Texas now

I have nothing to say about the President's State of the Union address (here's the text) except this:

The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message - that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches, and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now.

Did the man forget he's no longer salesman-in-chief for the Texas Rangers? Or, as I saw in comments somewhere, did Pete Rose bet him $100 that he wouldn't put it in the State of the Union address?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (6)

January 20, 2004

Spam attack

In the space of 20 minutes earlier today MT-Blacklist blocked roughly 100-150 pieces of comment spam; if you value your sanity, keep your copy of the file current!

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:25 PM | Comments (1)

Our very own theocrats

You may have heard about sharia law in Muslim countries. Well, the NIH is once more under attack from the likes of the Traditional Values Coalition and its Congressional allies. God forbid science learn anything which might reduce the spread of AIDS or improve public health if it offends these people.

Late last fall, a conservative religious group released what it said was evidence that the NIH was financing scientifically useless studies of morally repugnant behavior.
What qualifies the Coalition to judge whether something is "scientifically useless?" Hard to tell; nowhere on its website is there a list of its officers and directors. Apparently transparency is required for NIH but not for its critics.

First seen at The Bloviator.

Update: I wrote about this when TVC initially released its list.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)

Judge not, lest ye...

The next time someone tells you that the Democrats are being obstructionist about Bush's judicial appointments, point them toward this article.

The Pickering episode is the latest chapter in a long-running war between Republicans and Democrats over judicial nominations. During the 1990's, a Republican-controlled Senate rejected by vote or procedure 114 of President Bill Clinton's nominees to the bench.

By contrast, the Democrats have approved (reluctantly, in some cases) roughly 170 of Mr. Bush's appointments and blocked 6. From Campaign Desk.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (4)

January 19, 2004

Remembering MLK Jr.

If you've never read (as distinct from hearing audio clips of) Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, Brad DeLong has posted it in its entirety.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

Damn them!

I find it particularly offensive that The History Channel is starting a new series called The Barbarians on the same day that Democrats caucus in Iowa! Damn Republicans!

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2004

Yeah, yeah, yeah

In a break from Iowa, here's a startling event that happened just across the river from me back in 1963: a letter from a 15-year-old girl pushed Capitol Records into releasing the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" two weeks earlier than planned, thus precipitating Beatlemania. She'd heard a portion of "She Loves You" played during a December 10 segment of the CBS Evening News, liked it, and wrote a letter to a WWDC disk jockey. He couldn't get that song, but he got a copy of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" from London, hand-carried by a BOAC flight attendant. He put it into rotation, and that started it all in the US.

The song was already No. 1 in England at that point. But Capitol Records had low expectations for the song's performance in the States. After all, the label had previously refused to release Beatles records at all. A notorious 1963 Capitol memo curtly dismissed the group: "We don't think the Beatles will do anything in this market."

I lived in Annandale, just a few miles from the letter-writer; I listened to the radio, but I have no memory of whether it was WWDC or another station. Still, I remember hearing that song played a lot that Christmas season.


Posted by Linkmeister at 07:37 PM | Comments (2)

Caucus v. Primary


Why a caucus rather than a primary?

Iowa has held caucuses every two years since the early 19th century, before it was even a state. Iowa leaders chose to hold caucuses instead of primaries because of the active, grass-roots participation the caucus system embodies, said Peverill Squire, professor of political science at the University of Iowa. (My emphasis)

Iowa briefly considered switching to a primary and actually held one in 1913 before returning to the caucuses in 1916.

So are they universally loved?

Jim Hutter, associate professor of political science, said an advantage to having the first caucus in Iowa is that voters generally know more about the candidates.

"A caucus takes longer but it allows various neighbors to interact, discussing and debating the benefits of candidates," he said.


Dick Haws, associate professor of journalism and communication, does not like the Iowa caucuses. Haws wrote about his aversion to the Iowa caucuses in a recent commentary for the Chicago Tribune.

"I wish Iowa would have a primary, because it would be more user-friendly and more people would turn out," he said.

Haws said keeping the discussions available at a caucus would be beneficial for voters.

However, making voting private and having the caucus site open for an extended period of time to let people vote when they want to would probably elicit more interest from a wider pool of voters, instead of making all votes public and forcing everyone to vote at the same time in the tradition of the caucuses.

"We think it's more democratic if we have more turnout, but the rules of the Iowa caucuses restrict turnout," he said.

I guess what Professor Haws objects to is the limited time period (two hours or so on a Monday night) and the show-of-hands method of voting. If you're a registered voter you're eligible to show up and cast your vote.

Who can participate in the caucus?

Anyone who will be 18 years old by Nov. 2, 2004, the date of the presidential election. If you are eligible to vote for president, you're eligible to participate in a caucus. You must also be a registered Democrat to vote on the Democratic presidential race. Likewise, you must be a registered Republican to vote on the Republican presidential race. You can register or change your registration at the caucus site. An independent voter could show up, register and participate. Anyone may view the caucus.

Not enough available time? Open voting? Well, as to time, you'd have to switch to a primary system; how many people have a couple of hours available to discuss politics on a workday in January? As to open voting, you could do secret balloting with scraps of paper; Mead would be happy to sell each party a bunch of notebooks.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2004

In spring they'd be crocuses


How does a caucus work, anyway? I have to say, if it were held in spring, it would sound kind of appealing to me. You get a crowd of proponents for each candidate in your living room (or, more likely, a public building in your precinct), sort by candidate, then count up the votes. If one of the candidates fails to get 15% of the votes in the room, he's (now that Carol Moseley Braun has dropped out, I can safely use the male pronoun, right?) disqualified, and his supporters have to find another candidate to support. This process can, as you can imagine, take some time and test your powers of persuasion. There's obviously a lot of room for discussion and horse-trading here. It may seem a little haphazard, but you have to remember that there are convention delegates chosen as a result of these meetings, so it's serious business. For a more detailed explanation, the Des Moines Register has prepared a page of FAQs for you.

In my last Iowa post I mentioned the CJR's Campaign Desk site as a media watchdog; the Annenberg Foundation has also set up one of these; it's called FactCheck. The proprietor of FactCheck was on "Now with Bill Moyers" last night; he said he'd heard some complaints about there being too many corrections to statements made by and about Democrats on the site. He rightly pointed out that all the action at the moment is on the Democratic side, so why would you expect otherwise? Fair enough.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:29 PM | Comments (1)

January 16, 2004

Who to believe, who to believe

Here's the Associated Press story about the NASA decision to let the Hubble Space Telescope die, and here's the UPI story. Why was this decision taken? Well...

UPI version: "According to an internal NASA memo obtained by UPI, O'Keefe's decision was made for safety reasons and not budgetary concerns. Nor was the new space initiative, announced on Jan. 14 by President George W. Bush, a factor in the decision." (My emphasis)

AP version: "He [John Grunfeld, NASA chief scientist] said the decision was influenced by President Bush's new space initiative, which calls for NASA to start developing the spacecraft and equipment for voyages to the moon and later to Mars." (My emphasis)

Now, far be it from me to note that UPI is owned by the publisher of the extremely conservative Washington Times, a staunch fan of the Bush Administration, but...

Either way, it's a sad day for astronomers. The Hubble has provided a tool to understand the universe far better than anything we ever had before it went into service.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:20 PM | Comments (4)

Moans and groans


One of the things that annoys me most about campaign coverage is the emphasis reporters place on a candidate's changing his position. Has the reporter never done so himself? How many of us make decisions based on insufficient data, only to reconsider, modify, or even reverse said decision when the facts warrant it?

Gephardt is attacking Dean in Iowa with ads saying Dean once (in 1993!) called Medicare "one of the worst federal programs ever." Well, as far as bureaucratic complexity and confusion goes, it may well be (speaking as one who's had to try to figure out the bills), and that's what Dean meant. Dean has gone from thinking NAFTA was good to thinking it needs revisiting; how many other programs have needed fine-tuning after their initial implementation? A few, I'd imagine.

Clark was attacked yesterday by the Republicans (who based their attack on a report by Drudge, an unreliable source if ever there was one) for ostensibly switching from supporting the war in Iraq to opposing it. That report has been thoroughly debunked by the folks at Campaign Desk, a brand new and very welcome media watcher from the Columbia Journalism Review. It's so new that all its current balloon-puncturing stories are still on the front page, so just scroll a bit to find its analysis of the Drudge misrepresentations and the RNC's pickup and broadcast of same. Clark did not say he supported the war; what he said, as the Washington Post reported, was that "force might be necessary, [but that] it should be a last resort."

President Bush, on the other hand, doesn't change his mind; he just obfuscates. As Al Gore put it yesterday, "Indeed, they often use Orwellian language to disguise their true purposes. For example, a policy that opens national forests to destructive logging of old-growth trees is labeled Healthy Forest Initiative. A policy that vastly increases the amount of pollution that can be dumped into the air is called the Clear Skies Initiative."

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:55 AM | Comments (2)

January 15, 2004

Blog Burst


As part of an Iowa blog burst organized by Seth, here are some facts and figures about the state, along with links to pertinent caucus-related sites.

The capital of the state is Des Moines. The area (those 99 counties many of the Democratic candidates have been traveling through) is 56,275 square miles (or 145,753 square klicks, for those using the metric system). The population is 2,997,513, or 3 times the size of the population of Honolulu and 1/10 the size of the NY metropolitan area's population. The Mississippi, Missouri, Des Moines, Iowa, and Cedar rivers flow through the state; the highest point is 1,670 feet. Major industries include food products, farm machinery, chemicals, electrical equipment, printing and publishing; the agriculture business includes raising hogs and beef cattle, and farming corn, soybeans, and oats. All of that was compiled from AllStays, a tourist-oriented website.

If you're looking for more information about Iowa than that provided above, try these sites:

Happy surfing!

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:19 PM | Comments (1)

Refutations and obfuscations

In support of the mass extinction story that came out in Nature last week, Carl Zimmer refutes Gregg Easterbrook and all the other skeptics.

As long as I'm in debunking mode, a new study throws cold water on the oft-repeated claim that greedy lawyers are destroying American businesses. Before you ask, the study wasn't funded by either lawyers or corporations.

$1.5B to promote marriage? Are you kidding me? It would be used "for training to help couples develop interpersonal skills that sustain 'healthy marriages.'"

The 9/11 panel wants an extension to complete its job and present its report, but the White House wants it done either by May as scheduled or not until December. So how come either/or? Oh, wait. Isn't there an election in there somewhere? Part of the reason the panel wants the delay is because it's had a terrible time getting documents from -- the White House.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2004


My award for most eye-catching headline I've seen thus far this year goes to The Guardian: tunnelling badgers endanger Britain's trove of hidden relics. It looks funny, but it's not really. Apparently a zillion badgers are taking advantage of "easy digging conditions," undermining Salisbury Plain, home not only of Stonehenge but of Bronze and Iron age sites as well as later Roman, Saxon and medieval settlements.

In other critter news, you should all be informed of the dangers of drinking water directly from a mountain stream while in Nepal. (Do not read this if you have a weak stomach.) From That Crazy Neighbor Lady.

Last but not least, giant rats will be trained to smell out tuberculosis. No word yet on emolument for said rats.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:45 AM | Comments (4)

January 13, 2004

You don't need to know that

Great. Now the Administration wants to control emergency declarations and peer review.

Under a new proposal, the White House would decide what and when the public would be told about an outbreak of mad cow disease, an anthrax release, a nuclear plant accident or any other crisis.

The White House Office of Management and Budget is trying to gain final control over release of emergency declarations from the federal agencies responsible for public health, safety and the environment.

And the Republicans deride Democrats as the "nanny" party? But this goes far beyond that; it's massive information control. The trend towards hiding information (Energy Task Force, anyone?) continues, but this is truly scary. It means that political judgment will trump such things as public health. Remember how EPA told New Yorkers that air quality around the WTC site was fine? We later learned that that was not the case, and EPA was rightly vilified.

"Incredibly, OMB's response to this widespread criticism about political interference in public health decisions is to come right out and explicitly propose to take authority over release of emergency information away from health, safety and environmental officials and transfer it into the hands" of John Graham, said Winifred De Palma, regulatory affairs counsel for Public Citizen.

Why does this remind me of the Chinese government's initial reaction to the SARS and AIDS epidemics? This ought to terrify all of us.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:35 AM | Comments (4)

January 12, 2004

So many books...

Here's a book review of Kevin Phillips' latest work, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. It's a study of four generations of Bushes and their overriding ambitions, not out of principle but from a need for self-aggrandizement. There are several good quotes from the book in the review; here's one:

The Bushes have nothing to commend them to the public save rank ambition. Other than accumulating a certain amount of money and achieving a measure of what passes for aristocratic social position in this country, the Bushes have achieved nothing of distinction and appear to believe in nothing except their own interests.
Before all the pro-Bush folks shriek, let me quote Yardley again:
That this powerful argument has been made by Kevin Phillips should be a measure of how seriously it should be taken. He is not an ideologue of the left -- to the contrary, he has been identified with the Republican Party for some three decades, though he now calls himself an independent -- and he is not a conspiracy theorist; indeed he makes plain at the outset that "we must be cautious here not to transmute commercial relationships into . . . conspiracy theory." It is true that in some instances his argument rests on circumstantial evidence and in others (mostly involving the family's engagement with espionage and secret arrangements) on conjecture. It is also true that at times reading his dense prose can be an uphill battle. But American Dynasty is an important, troubling book that should be read everywhere with care, nowhere more so than in this city.

I've read Phillips' Wealth and Democracy, and I recommend that one. This book sounds equally interesting.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:45 AM | Comments (2)

January 11, 2004

With fairness to all


Note there's no change in tax rates for the lower two brackets from 2002 to 2003, while in the upper four there are significant percentage drops. Tell me again how Mr. Bush's tax cuts are benefitting all Americans?

From T. Rowe Price.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:44 PM | Comments (2)

When did the President decide?

Well now. If this is true, a whole lot of people (I devoutly hope) are going to reconsider their opinions about George W. Bush and the War on Iraq. Paul O'Neill, the former Secretary of the Treasury, has given an interview to 60 Minutes. On the program he says:

"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," he tells Stahl. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do is a really huge leap."

O'Neill, fired by the White House for his disagreement on tax cuts, is the main source for an upcoming book, "The Price of Loyalty," authored by Ron Suskind.

Suskind says O'Neill and other White House insiders he interviewed gave him documents that show that in the first three months of 2001, the administration was looking at military options for removing Saddam Hussein from power and planning for the aftermath of Saddam's downfall -- including post-war contingencies such as peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals and the future of Iraq's oil.

"There are memos," Suskind tells Stahl, "One of them marked 'secret' says 'Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq.'"

If this can be corroborated, it's some pretty definitive proof that ousting Saddam Hussein and occupying Iraq were on the Administration's to-do list long before September 11, 2001, despite all claims to the contrary. It could also be suggested that the President of the United States violated at least the spirit of the War Powers Act by lying to Congress about the threat Hussein posed to the United States in order to fulfill a goal planned long before the terrorist attacks of September 11. In any Congress but one controlled by the President's own party, that might be considered an impeachable offense. It would mean that nearly 500 US military personnel have died and many thousands more have been wounded during a war which needn't have been waged. It would also mean that many Iraqis have been killed and injured, relationships with our allies have been severely damaged, and at least $167 billion has been needlessly spent on the war.

Perhaps this will open a few eyes among those who have been supporting Mr. Bush and his policies for three years; if he lied about this, what other lies may have been told?

Update: O'Neill has also given an interview to Time. In that article he implies that V.P. Cheney really is running the show, as far as he can tell; that President Bush is unengaged, and that politics matters far more than good policy. None of that is particularly new to many observers, but confirmation is never unwelcome.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (13)

January 10, 2004


I've been doing this blogging thing for a little over two years now, and I recently needed to upgrade my server space to 50mb (thanks, Small Packages!). But it suddenly occurred to me that back in 1980 I was responsible for a club accounting system on an IBM mini-computer (S/34) with 5,000 membership records and about 27,000 sales transactions per month, plus payroll, accounts payable, and general ledger, using a 13.2mb disk. After a year of whining, I was finally able to get approval to double the disk space to 27mb (at a cost of $5,000 for the additional 13.2mb drive). So here I am, needing more capacity than I ever did running a business. Hmm. Where's the bloat, man?

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:12 PM | Comments (3)

January 09, 2004

New book

I've liked John Le Carré's books since The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but I haven't read any for a while. Now he's written a new one entitled Absolute Friends, which takes place in the now.

The action moves restlessly forward in time, past the fall of the Wall, through the Gulf War and up to the present day. Ted and Sasha watch the triumph of the cold war — a triumph for which they mortgaged much of their lives being squandered by corporate cowboys and callow compromisers.

If you think that passage is aimed at a particular country and its President, you're absolutely right. Le Carré is an angry man.

I have a couple of gift certificates at Borders left over from my birthday; I think I'll spend them on this one upon its release (January 12).

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2004

It couldn't happen again

The Queen of England went to Southhampton to launch the Queen Mary 2 Thursday. The last time that port's name was in the news for a ship launching, well...

I do hope this cruise turns out more successfully.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:22 PM | Comments (6)

Health Notes

President Bush proclaimed the years 2002-2011 as the Bone and Joint Decade. Didn't know that, did you? Would that all his proclamations were so benign!

Perhaps of more interest, if you want to keep up with news on over 1,000 medical conditions via an RSS feed, MedicineNet has a deal for you. Add the desired URL into your reader, and you get recent articles from many sources. The conditions can be either general (Daily or Weekly Medical News) or disease-specific (arthritis), and can even drill down to specific drugs (atenolol).

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:31 AM | Comments (7)

January 07, 2004

Johnny Paycheck wrote a song about this

"Is staying here worth the grief?" Surely that's one of the most distressing questions you can ask yourself about your job; I've done it myself. Now three enforcement officials at EPA have asked it, and decided, "Nope."

"The rug was pulled out from under us," said Rich Biondi, who is retiring as associate director of the air enforcement division of the agency. "You look around and say, `What contribution can I continue to make here?' and it was limited."

Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for the agency, said of the departures, "This is an office of several hundred employees — and to have one political appointee and two career employees leave is not indicative of unrest or departmentwide frustration."

Two other top enforcement officers left the agency in protest in 2002. Upon hearing of the latest departures, one had this to say: "We will see more resignations in the future as the administration fails to enforce environmental laws."

It's no coincidence this happened after the August decision to relax the rules about air pollution, allowing utility companies to avoid upgrading pollution controls when making repairs to their plants.

I've been in that boat; I once saw everyone in my department quit within six months, and I was the only one left standing. It's an unpleasant feeling. "Are they right? Am I wrong?" are not happy questions. (For the record, I shifted to the parent company and lasted another three years or so.)

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004


Now here's a worthy cause:

Americans serving abroad make requests for goods that will help the local people and improve their relations with them. Spirit of America collects donations to meet the request and purchases and ships the goods to the requestor. Donors are given follow up information and photos when the goods are distributed.

Seen at Baseball Musings, whose attention was caught by the story of Afghans learning baseball. (Can you imagine trying to explain the balk rule to those guys?)

Oh good grief. A first novel uses Mad Cow disease as a plot device. For all I know, it's a good novel, but still...

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)

See/Hear no evil science

Neal Lane, who served as director of the National Science Foundation and then as presidential science adviser during the Clinton administration, observed: "It's always the case in the White House ... that science is one of a number of sets of issues that a president, a political policymaker, has to consider when they're making decisions. Sometimes the decision goes in a way that the science would not suggest. But there's such a long list of egregious actions taken by this administration that I think it essentially gives a false impression of what the science really is and strongly suggests the administration simply doesn't care to find out." (My emphasis)

We have an Administration actively trying to keep science from interfering with its own preconceived notions, thus undercutting scientific integrity to the potential detriment of the entire planet and its population.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

January 05, 2004

Pete Rose

I am lukewarm on Pete Rose's reinstatement into baseball; I think he should be eligible for the Hall of Fame, but forbidden from ever working in the game again. He broke the rules (rules against gambling are prominently displayed in every clubhouse from the lowest levels of the minor leagues all the way to the top), and he's finally admitting it in his new book. With the admission of guilt, if he were allowed to manage again, how could a game decision he made ever be free of questions about possible betting? His behavior for the past fourteen years has done nothing to make him shine brighter in my eyes, and here's a column which points out that even the timing of this book is sleazy. The book is to go on sale Thursday, only two days after the results of the latest election to the Hall are announced. Anyone think the new member or members' joy won't be completely overshadowed by the media crush surrounding Rose? It's a damned shame, and it shows once again that for Pete Rose, the game isn't the most important thing.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:48 AM | Comments (8)

Sports and beverages

"I can't take the TV coverage anymore....

I was switching channels between 60 Minutes and the Sugar Bowl last night, and I swear the producers of each show had colluded to ensure that commercial breaks between stories/action occurred simultaneously. This amusing screed is only incidentally about that, but I read that sentence and felt a ganglion twitch.

Another quixotic idea: the American Academy of Pediatrics wants to eliminate soda sales in schools. I admire and even agree (back in my day there were no vending machines at school!), but the odds of school districts giving up concession income in times of shrinking budgets seem remote at best.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:21 AM | Comments (2)

January 04, 2004

Percy Lowell would be proud


For all you folks who are excited about Spirit landing on Mars, here's the home page for ongoing information. If you're looking for more images like that above, go here for about sixty (expandable) thumbnail images.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:41 PM | Comments (3)

What's wrong with this picture?

Can someone please explain why the owners of the Sugar Bowl thought a wireless telephone company should attach its name to their game? I mean, wouldn't C&H Sugar have been a more sensible choice?

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:21 AM | Comments (2)

January 03, 2004


AOL lists the top ten spam subject lines of 2003. No surprises here. Viagra, pharmacy, debt consolidation, and sexual enhancement products top the list.

I ain't gonna do this anytime soon, but here's how you turn your vinyl record collection into CDs. I have nearly 300 albums, and at 10MB per minute, that seems a tad out-of-reach for my current disk capacity. It would take some editing (do I need a digital copy of Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66?), but it's nice to know it's doable.

Oh my. Things Creationists Hate. Snagged from Making Light.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:20 AM | Comments (3)

January 02, 2004

You need what?

Yep, we have a Bill of Rights, alright. As I recall, it outlaws unreasonable search and seizure. So what's this?

LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas hotel operators and airlines serving McCarran International Airport are being required by the FBI to turn over all guest and passenger names and personal information, at least during the holiday period, several sources said Tuesday. (My emphasis)

FBI spokesman Todd Palmer confirmed the federal action and said the requirement that the companies surrender customer information is a "normal investigative procedure."


'all cities of 50,000 or more had been told to [do] "what was needed to make sure the cities were safe and secure."'

Who gets to define "what was needed?" And when? And when does it stop? And is it happening in your town?

(From TalkLeft)

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:42 PM | Comments (2)

Gimme shelter

Here's a dilemma: last month at this time I was trying to figure out how I was gonna come up with enough money to buy Christmas presents; on Wednesday I got a check for consulting fees I'd billed for July 2002-February 2003, and today I got word that a check for the balance is on the way. So I've gone from tapping into IRA money last month to pay for health and car insurance to now worrying about how to separate income from 2003 and 2004 for tax purposes. Nice problem, but a little dizzying.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:30 PM | Comments (3)

January 01, 2004


We had lots of rain on New Year's Eve, which may have diminished some of the noise and smoke we usually suffer through. I could tolerate it a lot better if my dog did; we had to give her three tranquilizers over a five-hour period, and she still hid under the bed for most of the evening. She wasn't nearly as trembly as she has been in the past, though, and long about 1:30 am she came out and went to sleep in my room as she usually does. Meanwhile, I finished reading Jon Meacham's Franklin and Winston, a Christmas book. I enjoyed it; it's part bio and part history, replete with quotes from many of the still-surviving members of each man's official circle and his family. That kept me up till 1:45 am.

Everybody have a good time?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:49 PM | Comments (6)