February 29, 2004

Slick

I'm supposed to pick up my sister and her family at the airport this afternoon, so I cleaned out the car's back seat floor in preparation. Anybody need about 12 quarts of 30wt motor oil? Unopened, priced to go. $1 apiece OBO.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:22 PM | Comments (4)

February 28, 2004

Disagreement is futile!

Censorship from the Treasury department?

Anyone who publishes material from a country under a trade embargo is forbidden to reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, or replace "inappropriate words," according to several advisory letters from the Treasury Department in recent months.
What the hell? "Correct syntax or grammar?" Thought control is rapidly becoming a favored policy for the United States government, if this is any indication.

Oh, and since the Administration didn't learn a damn thing about listening to conflicting views about Iraq's WMD, it's now thrown out two members of its Bioethics Council, apparently because they don't march in lockstep with the desired attitude towards stem cell research, cloning and other issues.

In their places he appointed three new members, including a doctor who has called for more religion in public life, a political scientist who has spoken out precisely against the research that the dismissed members supported, and another who has written about the immorality of abortion and the "threats of biotechnology."
Now, we've all seen the evidence that Rumsfeld, Cheney et. al. only paid attention to intelligence that conformed to their views about Iraq, and look where that has gotten us. Are these idiots repeating their mistake? I grant you the consequences of doing so are less severe than what's occurred in Iraq, but this could still be very costly.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:03 AM | Comments (2)

February 27, 2004

Risk v. reward

"The FDA has approved Avastin for use as a front-line treatment for colon cancer." Good news, right? But if you wonder what part of the story behind health care costs is, try this: "The drug will cost $2,200 per dose, with patients receiving two doses per month. Global sales of the drug are expected to peak at $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion."

Now, very few patients are gonna pay $2,200 twice a month out of pocket, which means their insurance companies are going to pay the bulk of the freight. In fact, that's addressed in the Reuters article discussing this event. "He [Ian Clark, Genentech's vice president of bio-oncology] said they expect insurance reimbursement of about 95 percent of the cost of the drug." That means that somewhere down the road, depending on how many patients are identified as needing Avastin, premiums from those insurance companies are going to rise.

This is not to say I think Genentech is over-pricing, or even that the insurance companies will unfairly raise their premiums. It's only to point out that this is a part of the health care discussion which needs to be fully understood before an intelligent plan to reduce costs can be formulated.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

Can't get good help

My car registration needs to be renewed by the 29th, so I went looking for a service station to do the annual inspection yesterday. I had to drive about five miles to find one which had an inspector, passing about 20 other stations along the way. All of those had food marts or car washes, but no live attendants or service bay people. This is an annoying trend, no? What are we gonna do when the mom and pop gas stations all close?

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

February 26, 2004

In defense of Kerry

The next time you hear some Republican operative claim that John Kerry has voted against 13 weapons systems (as claimed here by the RNC), cite the facts contained here in rebuttal. Fred Kaplan of Slate has done the legwork to find out just what each of the bills/resolutions cited in the RNC's talking points contained, and learned that there's no there there.

Something for which there seems to be no defense: the President and Vice-President refuse to speak to the entire commission investigating 9/11; they will only speak to the chairman and vice-chairman, and only for an hour. The National Security Advisor also refuses to speak in open session. Which raises one question: why?

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:27 AM | Comments (2)

February 25, 2004

Voter ed 101

I attended my local precinct caucus last night (Democratic; did you need to ask?). It was held in the cafetorium (that's archaic, isn't it?) of a neighborhood elementary school. There were roughly 100 people there, and the party says it was a record turnout statewide. As more or less expected, Kerry won with ~46% of the vote; the surprise was that Kucinich came in second with ~30%. Kucinich was the only candidate who actually campaigned in the state (who said this guy was dumb?), and it obviously helped. Edwards was third and Dean fourth. Neither of the latter received more than the 15% required to gain delegates, so the twenty up for grabs were apportioned between the K boys.

It was an interesting experience. There wasn't any electioneering going on for specific candidates; it was almost as though everyone there had already made up his/her mind. Unlike Iowa, there were no preliminary vote counts to determine whether any candidate had fewer votes than the needed 15%, followed by attempts by other candidates' supporters to persuade those folks to switch. Each precinct sat at a table, and we voted by secret ballot.

After the presidential preference polling was complete, each precinct then had to select delegates to attend the county and state conventions; since many of us didn't have a clue who the other folks were, this was trickier. Somehow I ended up as a delegate to the county one; that should be interesting.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:08 PM | Comments (2)

February 24, 2004

Pitchforks, part II

Well, it's official. Mr. Bush has sided with the forces of bigotry and hatred. The last time an action was prohibited through the Constitution, it lasted just over a decade. There's a very entertaining history of the issue here.

I'm not going to try to guess what the political outcome of this might be, but I can certainly see some of the loonier parts of the Republican party going way overboard in their campaigning for this issue (see Pat Buchanan's speech at the 1992 Republican convention for an example), causing a backlash from moderates in their midst, as happened in 1992.

I would just ask Mr. Bush and his married supporters, "Now that some thousands of people have gotten married in San Francisco, has your marriage been endangered by them? Have they called you to suggest you divorce? Just how has your marriage been affected?" If you're honest, you'll answer, "Not at all."

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:26 AM | Comments (2)

February 23, 2004

John Muir won't like this

Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Sierra Club? If so, be advised that that estimable organization is in danger of being corrupted by several anti-immigration groups. They are attempting to take over the Board of the Club, as they've tried before. I've heard about this in the past, but Mary Ratcliff has done a great deal of research and posted her results over here at the American Street. A couple of the prospective board members have served in power positions at anti-immigrant organizations in the past, organizations which have been partially funded by Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife, you may recall, was the money man behind many of the false accusations leveled against Bill Clinton. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the nation's leading hate group watchdogs, has put his name in nomination to the Sierra Club Board in an effort to publicize this hostile takeover attempt.

If you're a member of the Club (I used to be, but let the membership lapse for economic reasons), please familiarize yourself with the issues and be sure to vote in the upcoming Board elections.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:24 PM | Comments (2)

February 22, 2004

Toxic botany

Hey, all you folks who question the value of genetically modified plants; check this out. A hybrid plant called a Thales cress may be able to detect the location of land mines. Apparently the plant is highly sensitive to nitrogen oxide, a chemical often found in mines; its leaves turn from green to red when NOX is detected nearby. Hmm. My first question was, "Who's gonna plant these things?," but that's been addressed. "Its seeds can be sprayed over fields from planes or via spray guns at a cost significantly less than conventional methods." It's about to go into field tests in Denmark (Denmark? Leftover WW2 mines, maybe?) and elsewhere. It could be a big deal for both the lifesaving aspects and the financial ones (countries spend $200-$300M a year de-mining; imagine what that money could otherwise be used for).

Speaking of plants, on today's Meet the Press Ralph Nader said "Seeds have to be given a chance to sprout in nature." He was speaking of independent third parties while announcing his decision to run in this year's election. The country needs a plant similar to the Thales cress for Ralph. His ego has completely taken over his reason. He continues to claim that there's no difference between the two major parties; has he not observed a damn thing in the past 3+ years?

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:51 AM | Comments (3)

February 21, 2004

Grover needs help

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Public radio and television, whose funding does not depend on commercials and ratings, is essential to the flow of information in a democracy. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) promotes and funds public broadcasting, helping to support programs and services that are educational, innovative, locally relevant, and reflective of America’s common values and cultural diversity. This mission is increasingly important in a media environment dominated by a handful of giant corporations more interested in the bottom line than in serving the public interest. In 2004, CPB faces several threats to its independence and ability to ensure objectivity in its programming. These challenges illustrate the increasing efforts of some in the industry to force out diverse viewpoints and continue the disturbing trends in media consolidation.

Given the rollover by the House/Senate Republican conference committee during the omnibus spending bill negotiations which overrode the 35% ownership percentage agreed to by the full Congress, allowing big media to own up to 39% of television stations nationwide, public broadcasting is needed more than ever.

According to published reports, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Senator John McCain (R-AZ) intends to submit a reauthorization bill that essentially continues CPB as constituted in current law. But public broadcasting critics on the committee, including Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), may try to amend this legislation in ways that will reduce public broadcasting’s editorial independence.

The Bush Administration has appointed two people to the CPB Board, both of whom are highly partisan and very big Republican contributors. One (Cheryl Halpern) stated during confirmation hearings that she felt it was fine if the Board intervened to promote "balance" in programming; the other (Gay Gaines) was chairman of Gingrich's GOPAC at the time he was trying to cut all funding to CPB. I think it's safe to assume that Gingrich's goals for public broadcasting are shared by Gaines.

Here's a list showing the annual appropriations CPB has gotten since its inception in 1969. Here's the Common Cause article from which the above info was gathered. Thanks to Raye for the pointer.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

Friday cat blogging (sorta)

("`-''-/").___..--''"`-._
`6_ 6 ) `-. ( ).`-.__.`)
(_Y_.)' ._ ) `._ `. ``-..-'
_..`--'_..-_/ /--'_.' ,'
(il).-'' (li).' ((!.-'

Found in Calpundit's comments.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:48 PM | Comments (2)

February 19, 2004

Rats!

What's your definition of unpleasantness? I have many, but close to the top is having a kitchen range exhaust fan's blades blocked by a dead rat. The vent goes down below the floorboards and outside, and it (presumably) has a flap over the opening, but somehow...well, you get the picture (or the odor).

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:05 PM | Comments (11)

Scientific outrage

I've been squalling about the Administration's politicization of science and scientific advisory panels for some time (see here, here, here, here, and here). Now a group of scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, has weighed in in agreement with me and all the previous articles I cited.

The two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases.

The organization which sponsored this outcry has a 38-page report available here.

In other news, I'm off to have brunch with the visiting Bunny.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:49 AM | Comments (2)

February 18, 2004

Good cops

The NRA's leadership is disingenuous in its support of legislation to protect gun dealers from lawsuits. So says Chief William J. Bratton of the LAPD. So, he and 80 other police officials have begun an ad campaign to lobby the US Chamber of Lords Senate to vote down a bill which would do just that.

The campaign is supported by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents the chiefs of police in the 50 largest cities.

"To give gun manufacturers and dealers immunity from lawsuits is crazy," Chief Bratton said in a telephone interview.

"If you give them immunity," he added, "what incentive do they have to make guns with safer designs, or what incentive do the handful of bad dealers have to follow the law when they sell guns?"

"This is not about doing away with guns, but about trying to ensure the safety of police officers and the American public," said Chief Bratton, who was police commissioner in New York City in the early 1990's when there was a sharp drop in homicides, as there was last year in Los Angeles under Chief Bratton.

If there was ever an organization whose leadership was worthy of being drowned, it's the NRA. "From my cold dead hands," indeed. Hey! Red Sea! Why did you miss that guy?

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2004

Mean or Green?

This is a content-free posting.

Greenest Cars, 2004. Not an American make in the bunch.

Meanest Cars, 2004. Half of them are American, and virtually all are SUVs.

Those are the picks of the American Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy. Rejoice or repent as your situation suits.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:11 PM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2004

Neocons explained

They said Saddam had WMDs. He didn't. They said he was in league with Osama bin Laden. He wasn't. They predicted that no major postwar insurgency in Iraq would occur. It did. They said there would be a wave of pro-Americanism in the Middle East and the world if the United States acted boldly and unilaterally. Instead, there was a regional and global wave of anti-Americanism.

So concludes former neoconservative writer Michael Lind, writing about the neocon movement in the February 23 issue of The Nation. Maybe it takes an apostate to really explain his former creed; it's about as definitive an article as I've seen.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:20 PM | Comments (1)

February 15, 2004

Halliburton and privatization

Here's a rather damning article about Halliburton in particular and crony capitalism in general from The New Yorker. It details the "revolving door" between government and industry, among other things, citing Vice President Cheney's dealings as just the most obvious example. One rather startling item: somebody estimates that if all the jobs Halliburton and its like were done by the Army, there would need to be 300,000 soldiers in theater rather than the 130,000 currently there.

Halliburton, in the face of all this criticism, has started advertising in selected markets. I saw some of the testimony mentioned in the article; it seemed pretty damning to me. One of the company's business practices was to make a series of purchases from one supplier, keeping each buy under $2,500 so competitive bidding wasn't required. Another, as quoted in the article (I heard this on C-Span as well) was this remark: "a Halliburton motto was: 'Don't worry about price. It's cost-plus.' " What that means is that Halliburton would bill the government for a price set by its vendor plus a percentage previously negotiated. There's no incentive to bargain for a lower price if the company knows it's going to get its percentage no matter what.

This points out something that has bothered me for some time. What happens if the US military becomes so dependent upon private contractors that the Army can't fight without their help? Or if there's only one remaining supplier in the United States for a military requirement? There was a story on All Things Considered a while back (I suspect it came from here; the 1/12/04 entry) which discussed an apparent glitch in the supply of bullets to the Army; there's only one munitions factory in the country which makes them. If your only ammunition source is subject to a terrorist's attack, what are you going to do? Or if your supplier of electronic widgets for cruise missiles is located in a foreign country which suddenly decides it's not going to support your policy, what then? The argument for privatizing military and other government functions has been that it saves money; at what point does the laudable goal of saving taxpayer money overtake the need for accomplishing a specific task swiftly and with full control?

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:41 AM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2004

Follow-ups

Our week of diary-keeping for the Nielsen people ended Wednesday night. I'm afraid that none of the exotica (The Bachelor, Survivor, etc.) got any votes from us. In fact, if you look at the evening logs, it's really boring. Local news at 5:00pm, ABC news at 5:30pm, local news again at 6:00pm, the News Hour from 6:30-7:30pm, and (for me) Sportscenter as background noise till 10:00pm. After that it's local news again and then off to read for an hour or so with no TV. Mom is slightly more interesting in the evening; she watches 24, The West Wing, ER and Judging Amy.

My Timex watch turned out to be replaceable, so the Native American watchband now has a bright shiny one (with BIG numbers, as the watchmaker sarcastically pointed out) attached. The Longines is still waiting for a back-ordered part, and the Accutron has had its band adjusted so it no longer breaks the back of my hand while rolling up or down car windows.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:26 AM | Comments (3)

February 13, 2004

Translations wanted

Professor Juan Cole of Informed Comment is starting a project to:

translate important books by great Americans and about America into Arabic, and to subsidize their publication so that they can be bought inexpensively. I hope also to subsidize their distribution. This is a non-profit project, but until it grows large enough to become a proper foundation, it will not be tax-deductible.

The project will begin with a selected set of passages and essays by Thomas Jefferson on constitutional and governmental issues such as freedom of religion, the separation of powers, inalienable rights, the sovereignty of the people, and so forth.

This seems like an extremely worthwhile idea. The professor explains there are very few books about American history, philosophy, or diplomacy available in Arabic anywhere in the Middle East, and book publishing is a spotty business in that part of the world.

You know, if you were an Arab intellectual in Cairo, Amman or even Baghdad, and you wanted to read a book that collected some central writings of Thomas Jefferson in Arabic, you almost certainly could not get hold of such a book. I repeat: The major classics of American thought either have not been translated into Arabic, or were published in tiny editions and are now impossible to find. I just checked. Bernard Mayo's Jefferson Himself appeared in Cairo in 1959 and 1960. Nobody now could find a copy, I am sure. I searched for the Federalist Papers in Arabic and got nothing. Abbas Mahmud al-`Aqqad's book on Benjamin Franklin was published in 1955, and appears to be the last word on the subject.

Click here if his idea makes sense to you; you can contribute via Visa or Mastercard. And pass the word along, too.

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

February 12, 2004

Scientifically speaking...

Shangri-La no more? The Dalai Lama has "concluded that to achieve genuine happiness, it is important to understand both inner consciousness and external phenomena," so he's asked that science and math be incorporated into monastic teaching. More at (I love this URL!) Science for Monks Dot Org. If that's not enough science for you, go see Dr. Fox's Cool Science Links.

Here's a little-known fact: the US Patent Office is self-funding. Taxpayers don't pay a dime for it; it pays for itself with patent fees, and if ABC News is to be believed, it receives 1,000 applicatiions a day. Congress has used some of its revenue as a piggy bank, apparently; it diverts some of the money to pay for other things, which seems typical but unfair.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:38 AM | Comments (4)

World Democracy post-9/11

CalPundit remains Bush/Guard central, with new stories from the suddenly energized media appearing nearly hourly.

Budget five minutes and read this remarkable article from the New Yorker.

A DEMOCRATIC WORLD by GEORGE PACKER Can liberals take foreign policy back from the Republicans?
In treating the war on terrorism as a mere military struggle, the Administration’s mistake begins with the name itself. "Terrorism" is a method; the terror used by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka is not the enemy in this war. The enemy is an ideology—in the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s phrase, "Islamist totalitarianism"—that reaches from Karachi to London, from Riyadh to Brooklyn, and that uses terror to advance its ends. The Administration’s failure to grasp the political nature of the war has led to many crucial mistakes, most notably the Pentagon’s attitude that postwar problems in Afghanistan and Iraq would essentially take care of themselves, that we could have democracy on the cheap: once the dictators and terrorists were rooted out, the logic went, freedom would spontaneously grow in their place.

[snip]

Another approach remains available to the Democrats—one that draws on the Party’s own not so distant history. The parallels between the early years of the Cold War and our situation are inexact. The Islamist movement doesn’t have the same hold on Westerners that Communism had. It draws on cultures that remain alien to us; the history of colonialism and the fact of religious difference make it all the harder for the liberal democracies of the West to effect change in the Muslim world. Waving the banner of freedom and mustering the will to act aren’t enough.

Packer indicts both parties about equally; the Republicans for thinking there is a finite number of "terrorists" which can be killed, and the Democrats for not formulating a policy other than one of shouting "you're doing this wrong." It's extraordinarily thought-provoking. The anecdote Senator Biden tells at the beginning will break your heart.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2004

Health care 101

If you want to understand the American health care system and its impact on the country's economics, you should read this. It's a succinct summary of a study commissioned by the Manufacturers Alliance and the National Association of Manufacturers. Curb your cynicism, though; it appears to be a relatively accurate description of the problem, despite the inherent self-interest of the study's backers. We've all seen stories about companies trying to cut or shift the cost of retirees' health benefits; one gets a better feel for why the firms feel it's necessary after reading this.

In Canada, the private sector spends 2.8 percent of gross domestic product on health care; in the United States, the private-sector figure is 7.7 percent. And American private-sector spending falls disproportionately on big employers like manufacturers. Some 97 percent of members of the National Association of Manufacturers provide health care coverage for employees. In 2002 alone, General Motors, which covers 1.2 million Americans, spent $4.5 billion on health care.

These two trade groups seem to be advocating something traditionally anathema: a form of (gasp) socialized medicine! I suspect the Congressional Republicans and their allies (Yo! Grover!) who've read the study are cursing the names of the Alliance and the NAM, for this knocks some of the underpinnings from their long-standing hatred of "big government."

Don Johnson has some questions about how big a bite of GM's SGA expenses that $4.5B really is, and Matthew Holt (from whose page I found the article) agrees with him in the comments. Their argument is that while the $4.5B is a huge number, it's relatively small as a percentage of sales and/or expenses compared to what small business incurs for health care. That's true (I pay roughly 25% of my income for an individual health plan), and I think the use of the word "disproportionately" is a false modifier in that quote, but having the manufacturer's trade groups advocate for government health insurance is far more likely to be heard in Congress than my lonely sole proprietor's voice, so I think Don and Matthew are missing the larger picture.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:03 AM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2004

Woof!

I'm having to console Tigger; she's heartbroken. Her fellow German Shorthaired Pointer didn't make it out of the first round.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:25 PM | Comments (2)

Observations

Now this is funny. Here's a list of "non-standard units of measurement", including such items as

  • 2.4 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital = 1 I.V. League
  • 365.25 days = 1 unicycle
  • 1000 female sheep = 1 milieu
  • 2 doctors = 1 paradox

and more beauties along the same lines. Swiped quite blatantly from Mark Kleiman.

When Mom signs on to her new MSN Internet receiver, it makes the most screwy jungly noises you've ever heard. I wonder if this is standard with the latest version of MSN. I've never heard a butterfly make a sound, so somebody's imagination ran wild when creating that thing.

Oh, if you wonder why I'm not going bonkers over the Bush = AWOL thing, it's because Kevin Drum is all over it.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:01 PM | Comments (1)

February 09, 2004

Alt-Hist

I take a back seat to nobody when it comes to vivid imaginations, but I must admit that writing a (so-far) ten-volume alternate history of the United and Confederate States is so far beyond my abilities that I can only bow down in awe. I think I found this over in Theresa's comments somewhere. If you're a writer, by the way, you could do a lot worse than read her blog; she's a good writer herself, and I think she works for Tor or one of the SF publishing houses. She's got stories!

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:15 PM | Comments (5)

February 08, 2004

Where was the press?

From Campaign Desk comes this link to the New York Review of Books' analysis of pre-war press coverage; it's not a pretty thing.

In the period before the war, US journalists were far too reliant on sources sympathetic to the administration. Those with dissenting views—and there were more than a few—were shut out. Reflecting this, the coverage was highly deferential to the White House. This was especially apparent on the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction— the heart of the President's case for war. Despite abundant evidence of the administration's brazen misuse of intelligence in this matter, the press repeatedly let officials get away with it. As journalists rush to chronicle the administration's failings on Iraq, they should pay some attention to their own.

Why did the press willingly go along with the Administration's claims? "In a city where access is all, few wanted to risk losing it." Here's a telling point from near the end of the story:

If nothing else, the Iraq saga should cause journalists to examine the breadth of their sources. "One question worth asking," John Walcott of Knight Ridder says, "is whether we in journalism have become too reliant on high-level officials instead of cultivating less glamorous people in the bowels of the bureaucracy. "In the case of Iraq, he added, the political appointees "really closed ranks. So if you relied exclusively on traditional news sources—assistant secretaries and above—you would not have heard things we heard."

Among many other interesting items, there's this, which should be a caution to those who wish to fall upon David Kay's neck in relief after his recent resignation amid negative results from his work:

According to the IAEA, his background in nuclear and weapons matters was very limited—he has a Ph.D. in international affairs—and he spent no more than five weeks as an inspector in Iraq in 1991. This was far less time—and far longer ago—than was the case for many other inspectors.

That implies that Kay's pre-war ability to judge WMD existence was suspect, so perhaps his post-war ability is equally suspect. He's had ample time and money to search since the invasion, so it's easy to assume that his post-war knowledge is greater than that he had last year at this time, but it raises questions, at least for me. No doubt the spinmeisters at the White House will also notice that quote from the IAEA.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:03 PM | Comments (2)

February 07, 2004

Norquist's agenda

From the "know thine enemy" department: Grover Norquist writes:

There are many good reasons to expect President George W. Bush to win re-election on November 2, 2004. And there is one good reason to believe a Democrat, any Democrat, will defeat him.

[snip]

The one big reason to bet against Bush is that the Republican coalition and the Democratic coalition face very different incentives this year. The marvels of modern gerrymandering and the five Senate seats in the South being vacated by Democrats ensure that, whatever happens to Bush, the Republicans will control the House and Senate on November 3, 2004. So if Bush loses, taxes will not be raised. Dean [this is from the March 2004 issue of The American Enterprise magazine] cannot enact any new spending program or law that doesn't first run the gauntlet of Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. There will be no new gun control laws. No part of the center-right coalition will be crushed.

[snip]

The coercive utopians of the Left, who rely on judges rather than lawmakers to enact an unpopular social, environmental, and aggressively secular agenda, cannot afford four years of Bush judicial appointments. Heck, just one or two Supreme Court appointments will put them at risk of losing 30 years of "progress."

If the Democrats win the Presidency, they can veto Republican advances. If they lose, they don't eat. The very sinews of their political power will decay with increasing speed. The Democratic coalition will be weaker, shorter, and poorer in 2008 than 2004. This sense of desperation explains the "hatred" and vicious attacks on Bush.

This should not surprise us. Expect the crescendo to grow through 2004. The other team isn't being unreasonable. It is reacting rationally to a real threat to its ability to function. Anything short of placing snipers on the rooftops of D.C. would be an underreaction by the Left.

Cornered rats fight. Hard.

So should we expect the GOP to invade the Democratic convention, Ó la Chicago 1968? Frankly, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was a gathering of Republican operatives in Boston, similar to the ones who turned up in Miami in 2000 to disrupt vote counts. If you take Norquist's belligerence as gospel to the initiated, that may not be too outlandish a scenario.

I recommend you read the entire article; it's a pretty brazen display of what Norquist and his people would like to see happen. The destruction of unions, the packing of courts, the destruction of the Democratic party; it's all there. Grover isn't much of a fan of democracy, judging from this call to arms.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:20 PM | Comments (4)

Darwin lives!

In the wake of the Georgia schools' argument about evolution, here's a brand new website which addresses the teaching of the subject. It's huge, and it's fascinating. Quoting Carl Zimmer, one of its creators,

Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Foundation, it charts the history of evolutionary thought (both before and after Darwin), and lays out the different lines of evidence supporting evidence for evolution, as well as its relevance to everyday life. It addresses some of the common misconceptions about evolution, and lays out the nature of scientific inquiry.

It's from Berkeley; given the crisis in California's higher education funding, no wonder they had to look for grants elsewhere.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2004

Pump up the numbers

We got approached by the Nielsen people, so we're keeping a diary of television shows watched this week; if you're trying to keep one of your favorites alive, bribes should be sent here. I'll take them in the form of more server space or renewal of domain registry. 'Course, since I gave Mom an MSN TV receiver for Christmas, and we just had a new phone jack put in so she could use it, I may never get her off the 'Net, which would drive the Nielsen folks crazy (and the ratings for daytime CNN and C-SPAN lower).

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (5)

February 05, 2004

Not in Bodega Bay, but...

How did the 1918 flu virus infect humans? Well, viruses use "spike-like" molecules to attach themselves to cells, and apparently there were very few differences between the molecules in bird cells and those in humans for that particular virus, so it jumped pretty easily. This article from Time Asia explains what's going on with avian flu in scientific and economic terms. The current US edition has some very good graphics depicting the molecules, but unfortunately those graphics are not on line, which is annoying.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2004

Does anybody really know what time it is

The watch repair concessionaire at Sears was offering a three-dollar off sale on new batteries this week, so I thought I'd go take advantage of it. This involved finding all the watches which need them, of course, and I suddenly realized how many I have. A Longines bought in 1984 in Lucerne, a Bulova Accutron bought on Kwajalein in 1977, two Seikos (one gold, one silver) bought who knows when, and a Timex bought by my parents as a gift (mostly because it has a Zuni watchband similar to these) back in the early 1990s. Why do I need all these?

Anyway, I start taking them down to the watch shop, and I learn that the Longines stem is broken and has allowed water to seep in, causing an estimated $160 worth of damage to the interior. I then learn that the Timex (my second-favorite) has plastic innards and would cost about $60 to repair. Fortunately, the Accutron is still functional with its new battery. It, however, has a big 1/4-inch thick case and weighs about six ounces; I damn near broke my wrist while rolling up my car window this afternoon.

Next step? See if the silver Seiko can be re-energized with a battery and then put on to the watchband formerly on the Timex.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:37 PM | Comments (3)

February 03, 2004

I feel ill

Lemme get this straight: there's a new strain of flu apparently transmissable from chickens to humans which might become a pandemic, the Senate Majority Leader just got some ricin through the mail, and the Bush FY 2005 budget cuts the Center for Disease Control budget by 8.9%. Meanwhile, the budget includes $10.2B for a missile defense system to protect the homeland from somebody.

I don't get it.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:43 AM | Comments (3)

February 02, 2004

It's Awards season, isn't it?

The award for Selective Response to Public Outcry by a Public Official goes to (drumroll)...Michael Powell of the FCC.

On June 2, the FCC by a partisan vote of 3 to 2 approved sweeping broadcast media deregulation. The FCC’s decision came in the face of overwhelming opposition from the American people. In all, more than two million Americans contacted the FCC to oppose the rules changes.

Ah, but today, in the wake of the breast-baring incident at halftime of the Super Bowl,

Powell, for one, thinks we may be seeing the public pushing back against the purveyors of what some see as good old-fashioned smut.

Mr. Powell sure seems to pick which public he wants to listen to, doesn't he?

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:09 PM | Comments (0)

Suits in the news?

So which advertiser is gonna be first to sue CBS, MTV, Viacom, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson? Think about it. Millions of dollars spent to get your commercial first on the minds of all viewers talking around water coolers today, and what's the primary topic? On the cable "news" channels, too, that "oops" moment is way at the top of the programs. I'm not sayin' the suits would have any merit, but still...

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:42 PM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2004

Super Sunday

Well, that was a surprise. I certainly didn't expect the total points to get to 61. We were all caught a little off-guard when the game suddenly started to get really exciting there; most of us had concluded that the second half would be more like the first 27 minutes of the first half.

The best stat I heard all day came from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday. Commenting on BeyoncÚ's selection to sing the national anthem, Liane Hansen said: "In previous games where singers with one name sang the anthem, the AFC won." (For the record, I think she said Jewel sang it in 1998 and Cher in 1999).

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:13 PM | Comments (4)