Saturday, August 28, 2004

Crossing His Fingers

Bob Dole, Bob Dole - this is an interesting screw up. Dole, on CNN to help prop up the collapsing scaffold of Swift Boat lying liars, added a bit of off-mic commentary: when the camera's cut to show Kerry's "Old Tricks" ad (the one with McCain telling George Bush he should be ashamed), Bob Dole said - on camera, but not being aired - "he was right". Slate has the video, and some commentary....

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Musical Jokes Welcome, though Superfluous

I can't seem to get serious. Well - this is serious news:

Dave Matthews sued for dumping 800 pounds of "liquid human waste" into the Chicago River - directly onto a boat carrying "100 people on an architecture sightseeing cruise".

Friday, August 20, 2004

Swift Boat Vets for - never mind...

Not much left to it I guess - The New York Times takes a closer look and doesn't leave much standing. (Via Crooked Timber, who include excerpts.)

Meanwhile - oops! - guess whose campaign got caught handing out flyers for the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth"? What's more surprising - today, they actually have a picture of their candidate up - the last couple days, all the images - at least the ones at the top of the page, were of Kerry - negative, obviously - but still. They're pushing Party for the President Day - so they actually have Georgie up there.

I'm afraid I can't participate. That's the anniversary of my friend's death in Iraq.

5 more months, and we'll be shed of this lying bastard, I dearly hope and pray.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

What they said

Via Crooked Timber comes this link to a discussion of gender neutrality in Canada. (More or less. Let's call it that.) Is "he" sex-neutral? It is not - can we say, per Pullum, "Was it your father or your mother who broke his leg on a ski trip?"? No we cannot. Then (parenthetically) he adds (and I bless him for it):

The commonest way to get around the gender problem here is to use singular they: Was it your father or your mother who broke their leg on a ski trip?; Either the husband or the wife has perjured themself. Shakespeare used it; Jane Austen used it; loads of fine authors use it. Get used to it. And if you have a usage book like Strunk and White that declares singular they to be an error, throw that book away.

This is a practice long overdue in English writing, my friends. When I read books that, in referring to generic individuals, switch randomly back and forth between he and she, I think - they - use they! Stop annoying me! If a writer does not mean to refer to a man or a woman, they should just use "they"! Let us hope this practice spreads.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Quick Hits (On the Cultural Tip)

Comics in Libraries:
Steve Leiber starts a meme - collecting lists of the 11 comic books that your local library should stock.

Link found on Long Story, Short Pier)

Fistful of Euros has a great story about German (and other languages) spelling standardization. Key line: "Thanks to the effectively universal use of a single word processing suite, English spelling is what Bill Gates says that it is."

Thank you, Belle Waring
The Top Ten Most Ridiculous Black Metal Pics of All Time - thank you. Complete with wrestling-theme Easter Eggs! It's too wonderful for words.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Naked political grandstanding? Us?

Bob Harris has a post on Tom Tomorrow's blog about "National Preparedness Month" - September, you'll be surprised to hear. Though perhaps not all of September, as the announcement will be made September 9th. To get into the Friday papers before the 9/11 memorials, Harris suspects. He is not impressed:

This is transparently a continuation of the Bush campaign by other means, financed with everyone's tax dollars, out of funds that could be used, say, to hire more actual first-responders, Pushtun translators, or troops to replace the exhausted guardsmen.

That sounds about right.

Friday, August 06, 2004


I just want to post this: Paul Krugman's latest column deals with the way the handover in Iraq has caused Americans to stop paying attention, even though things have continued to get worse there.

The trouble with this shift of attention is that if we don't have a clear picture of what's actually happening in Iraq, we can't have a serious discussion of the options that remain for making the best of a very bad situation.

The military reality in Iraq is that there has been no letup in the insurgency, and large parts of the country seem to be effectively under the control of groups hostile to the U.S.-supported government.

There it is. This war is or biggest problem right now, and we have to take it seriously.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Rock politics

Well, now - here's The Bruce - in the New York Times. Boilerplate liberal-speak (don't get the impression Bruce did any of the writing there), but hey! Fight the good fight, and do it on the right side, and who can complain?

Eric Alterman, of course, is in a tizzy. He has a book to flog - not that he needs much excuse to go Bruce crazy. Another link here, to an interview with The Man atBackstreets, which comes off a lot more natural sounding than the op-ed.

Meanwhile, related only in featuring a very cool musician with left wing politics - it's Mike Watt's page - useful!

Speaking Truth to Power

Our president:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Yeah, yeah, maybe that's a cheap shot - but look at the rest of the speech - "We must never stop thinking about how best to defend our country when we all must always be forward-thinking." - is that much better? lord.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Politics and Terrorism

From The New York Times:

Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.

The Bush administration has established a clear pattern of deceit through the years, to the point where I, at least, cannot take a word they say at face value. So when I heard about this terrorism alert, my first thought was of Fahrenheit 9/11 - there they go again, inventing fear. (It didn't help that I saw a clip on CNN with a reporter acting all jumpy when an ice cream truck went by. Could Michael Moore invent a better illustration of his point?) Later, I saw the news about the information found after the recent arrests - maybe they had something, I thought. But even if they do, why do they think this is going to happen this week?

So today the reports come in that the information they are using pre-dates 9/11. I wonder, then, what the odds are that this was done to counter the DNC's impact, and to support Bush's announcements about implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.

Oh yeah, on that subject - read Josh Marshall today. He says that while Bush claims to be implementing the commission's recommendations, in fact, he is changing them in significant ways - primarily, by gutting their recommendation that there be an centralized intelligence overseer, with budgetary powers and powers to hire and fire. It's all there.

Combined with the terrorism alert - doesn't this add up to nothing but another piece of theater? The President claims to be implementing the commission's recommendations - he does it in the context of a high alert, with armed soldiers walking the streets and subways of New York - hoping (knowing) people will read the headlines, see the clips on the news, and say, "gosh, he is taking this seriously!" But in fact he is watering down the commission's recommendations to near irrelevance (creating another bureaucratic post that duplicates at least one post (the Director of Central Intelligence) and possibly a couple others (what is this position supposed to do that the Department of Homeland Security shouldn't be doing? for instance), while allowing a major disruption of the country based on old information, timed, well, you get the drift.

The more paranoid among us will perhaps speculate that they are working on getting the public used to seeing armed guards on the subways, and making high profile terrorist alerts common enough to erode resistance and skepticism to them. It may not work that way of course - getting used to them might lead people to never trust anything Bush says or does (and by extension, nothing the government says or does). Who knows. That is the obvious risk, though - that their overt manipulation of terrorist warnings and the like for political ends will undermine real efforts to prevent real terrorism. Again - one of the themes of Fahrenheit 9/11, though not the one people tend to talk about. (Because talking about it would imply the critics were paying attention and not playing stupid, pretending not to understand Moore's arguments.)

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Infinite Denseness

I've been away, letting the blog go to pot. Too bad. I suppose I could come back with something profound about the Democratic Convention, or prices in Old Port Portland, or Nomah, but that will have to wait, I fear. What I can offer is a bit of Gregg Easterbook bashing, courtesy of Brad DeLong.

Seems Easterbrook is making fun of Stephen Hawking this time. (Linik is here - it's subscriber only, though...) Here's the first paragraph:

So Stephen Hawking now says he was completely wrong about black holes--they don't crush reality out of existence, and they aren't doorways to alternate universes. Bear in mind that Hawking also once argued that time may someday run in reverse, with the cosmos getting younger and people able to remember the future but having no knowledge of the past. Later Hawking withdrew that idea, too. Do the hundreds of thousands of people who bought his bestseller A Brief History of Time--which was "sexed up" with speculation that black holes destroy reality and the entire universe may someday operate in reverse-time--now get their money back?

That's quality stuff. Pure snark, and idiotic snark, too. Easterbrook adds: "It would be tempting to say that Hawking was able to become internationally famous while saying kooky things because today physicists have the status once held by medieval priests: People don't challenge their mumbo-jumbo." Something is missing here - perhaps it is the fact that Hawking himself corrected himself. (And, of course, people were arguing with him all along - he lost a bet for example, with another physicist, John Preskill, over this question.) Isn't this how science usually works? People take the data available - they analyze it and try to come up with a theory that explains it - they test the theory, argue about the theory, and if new data comes in that contradicts the theory, they correct it. Thus Hawking. How this incident is supposed to discredit Hawking is a mystery.

I used to like Easterbrook's football articles (though they got boring after awhile, with the cheerleader obsession and gratuitous political swipes overpowering the content), but I have yet to come across anything else by him that isn't silly. Even before he became something of a blogosphere whipping boy - I'd seen some of his writing on religion and science and found it very lacking. "Intelligent Design" - barely - since he is so dismissive of science (as in this article) he never gets any traction. And even here - DeLong also quotes Easterbrook mocking the Big Bang theory - "What came before the Big Bang? Cosmologists hate this question, but it's haunting nonetheless." This is a question - a rhetorical question, I mean, used to undermine the Big Bang theory - that leads, inevitably, to God, to Intelligent Design, and etc. from there. And that's all Easterbrook is after there - he's playing gotcha, and is about to pull out Genesis...

Anyway - check out DeLong's site - read the comments. Well worth it.