Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Thanks, I think
I'm part of Jay Zilber's Legion of Essential...Pets?

Well, I'm there with the entertaining Insolvent Republic of Blogistan, so it can't be too bad a thing. I'll take it as a compliment. (Time to break out the animal totem I use in print and put it in my blog header. Stand by...)

And Little Green Footballs lists me among the Anti-Idiotarians, and I won't turn that label down either. I only wish I'd thought of it first.

[UPDATE: Don't write to explain it to me: I'm a comic-book reader from wa-a-ay back. I "get" the hierarchy of "Legion of Essentials" / "Legion of Substitute Essentials" / "Legion of Essential Pets" (I had explained it, but I figured, who am I to spoil it if Jay doesn't want to? So I've removed the explanation. *phththtp*), and I really am pleased to be included.]

Friday, January 25, 2002

They (still) don't know us very well, do they?
Believe me, you're not getting half as tired of me saying this as I am getting.

Our international friends think Americans are arrogant. They haven't heard the half of it. Get a load of this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Can you beat that? We think our rights apply to every human being on the planet! How arrogant is that?

Okay, maybe I'm being silly. But we Americans take those words seriously, and you won't understand us unless you understand them, and believe that we believe them.

All America really wants is to live in its own way. We think most people feel the same way. We've no interest in owning Afghanistan. We're not in the colonialization business: Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, don't want to go back. We like our way of life, and that steady stream of immigrants would seem to indicate that a lot of other people prefer it, too. We think Afghanistan would like it if they tried it, but it's not our place to force it on them.

God knows we don't want to rule the world. It's really nothing to us how the rest of you want to run your countries, so long as you can continue to do business like adults, and so long as our people are safe when they're in your country doing business with you. We'd really rather you didn't slaughter your own people, but when it comes down to it, the only thing we really have a right to do about it is to stop doing business with you. "Play nice or we'll take our checkbook and go home." For most of you that seems to be incentive enough.

Those rights I mentioned -- you know, life, liberty, pursuit of happiness? -- apply to you, too. You have the right to live however you want. Right up to the point you start shooting at us.

The Great American Rulebook is right there where anybody can see it. Check it out.
Watch where you point that thing
The Saudis respond to the Americans' decision not to require their female personnel to wear the abayah while they're out and about:

"If some American women want to deliberately challenge our local customs, then you'll see a clash, especially with the mutawaeen," he said, referring to stick-wielding religious police who roam Saudi streets to enforce Islamic codes.

Not meaning to be too bellicose for our Saudi friends, but I think the first mutawaeen who lays a stick on USAF Lt. Col. Martha McSally (whose lawsuit prompted the change in policy) will need both hands to retrieve it from where she puts it.

Or is that insensitive of me?
Friday Five
Since I neglected to answer the Friday Five last week, I'll double-up now. If this gives you an idea of who the person behind the blog is, it's done it's job.

Last Week:
1. What do you have your browser start page set to? My Yahoo.
2. What are your favorite news sites? You mean other than My Yahoo? The main reason I read so many blogs is because they do a better job of sorting out the news I want to see than any of the "real" news portals do.
3. Favorite search engine? Google.
4. When did you first get online? Before you were born. :)
5. How do you plan to spend your weekend? Assembling the APA (amateur press alliance) mailing I edit.

This Week:
1. What cologne or perfume do you wear? None.
2. What cologne or perfume do you like best on the opposite sex? None. Thanks to a childhood addiction to nasal spray, I can't smell it anyway.
3. What one smell can you not stomach? Tobacco. It's the one smell that I can almost always detect, even in traces.
4. What smell do you like that others might consider weird? Malt vinegar. When I order fish and chips, I load it up with malt vinegar until I can smell it. By which time everyone at my table, and probably at adjacent tables, can smell it too. (See above.)
5. How do you plan to spend your weekend? Preparing for an ARTC meeting.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

Ooh
Very sorry for the lack of updates this past day or so. I'd like to say I was hypnotically captured by this page, but in fact it was a much more mundane lack of sleep and spare time. I'll get better soon, I promise.

In the meantime, in between X10 ads, take a look at these: Wallace and Gromit news, and a checklist of Bush campaign promises.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Test pattern
Yesterday I was commenting that the big reason the rest of the world doesn't understand America is that they (like us) believe what they see on television. And what do they see on television? American escapist entertainment, peopled by characters who never existed and never could.

As I was sitting stunned today over how many page hits I've gotten from that (thanks, Steve and Glenn! I wish I could return the favor), I was thinking that the point probably deserves more exploration than I gave it...

...and it hit me. Epiphany from a cathode ray tube. Now I understand. Silly me, I was thinking "Friends" and "Survivor", but those are too new. America's image problems are far older than that. Now I know who they think we are.

The Beverly Hillbillies.

We tripped over an oil well and fell into a mansion. Such wealth and power as we have, we have by accident, and we are largely uncomprehending of it. The best that can be said of us is that we are well-intentioned.

In the Bush family's case, they may even think it's literally true. Certainly our domestic Democrats appear to think so: They have expressed their opinion of George W.'s intellect in terms that suggest he might have a tough time keeping up with Jethro Bodine.

There's the evil Republican banker, Milburn Drysdale (can anyone doubt he is a Republican?) scheming to retain control of the Clampetts' money. And the dour Democrat, Jane Hathaway, Drysdale's sounding board and conscience.

Hm. This is getting a little too close for comfort. I need to go relax by the cee-ment pond.
The News War
In any business, there are two basic approaches to growth: You must either find consumers who aren't yet being reached by your product, or win consumers away from your competitors. Grow the market, or grow market share. Most businesses do both, to some degree. Some are forced more towards one or the other strategy by their particular market.

Take soft drinks, for instance. In the United States, especially in retail areas, it's hard to find a place worth calling a place where there's no cola machine of some kind. There are no American frontiers where colas can't be had. Thus, if a soft-drink bottler is to grow its domestic business, it must do so at the expense of some other beverage.

Which brings me to cable news, a fizzy and frothy mess if ever I saw one. I can't seem to find who said this, so I apologize for stealing this insight, but it's so darned true: In the absence of any real news from the Front, the continuing machinations of the cable news channels are the best show in town.

It's old news by now (so to speak) that the CNN brothers are redesigning their respective "looks", not-so-subtly copying what they perceive to be the Fox "look". It's also old news, and I think a near-universal opinion, that whoever is responsible for the busy design of the new CNN Headline News should be shot. Or, at the very least, forced to watch it. At length. (Is it true that picture-in-picture-capable televisions implode when the viewer tunes to CNN-HN? And does anyone watch CNN-HN for local weather coverage?)

The flaws at CNN are more than skin-deep. They knew that: That's why they laid off so many of their staff early last year. It was an exodus so dramatic that it inspired its own web site, Ted's Turnovers, to chronicle the ongoing downward spiral of CNN. (Ted's Turnovers was an entertaining site, while it lasted: They're closing down, but even their goodbye message is worth a read.)

They ditched some of their senior news-gathering and reporting staff in order to hire actress Andrea Thompson, implying that they think their problems all stem from not being pretty enough. Just the right move to revive the form vs content argument, driven by ever-more-vocal viewers with a new medium in which to express their skepticism (this one). Unrepentant or deaf -- or perhaps, correctly judging their audience -- they just acquired lovely Serena Altschul from MTV as well.

The issue was brought to a boil by Paula Zahn -- not her, and not her jumping networks from Fox to CNN, but CNN's marketing. Specifically, That Promo, which aired on a smirking Fox's news programs more often than it actually aired on CNN. Oh, I believe them when they insist it was actually a needle scratching across grooves, not... what you thought. I'm sure that's what the sound effects CD said it was. It almost doesn't matter.

Do you think Zahn would have approved of the spot without the sound effect?

Who did approve of it, anyway? Nobody edited it, nobody produced it, nobody previewed it, it Just Happened. Spontaneous television. As if the Air Itself couldn't contain its enthusiasm for Paula's, er, credentials. Doesn't this raise some interesting questions about everything else that airs on CNN? Shouldn't it? (Has anybody else noticed that none of the news networks run production credits?)

The Truth about Television: Pretty people get preference. (Duh.) Andrea, Serena, and Paula all have something that Peter, Dan, and Tom don't have. This is the elephant in television's bedroom, the thing that controls everyone's decisions that no one dares speak of. (Of course, Peter, Tom and Dan have job security. Andrea, Serena, and Paula only have jobs until their credentials begin to sag. But there's always another Laurie Dhue waiting in the wings.) (I just heard: Connie Chung to CNN? How can she be a "higher-profile personality" in need of a "huge visibility boost"?)

Meanwhile, Fox News is facing a crisis of its own. Now, I believe Roger Ailes when he says he's trying to live up to his network's motto, "Fair and Balanced". But his argument is being refuted by his own listeners, who are protesting (in large numbers and with strong language) his recent hires, known liberals Geraldo Rivera and Greta van Susteren.

And we mustn't count MSNBC out, either. After watching the other two poach each other's talent (using the word loosely), MSNBC has clearly elevated the average IQ of the room by landing Alan Keyes to a weeknightly hour, "Alan Keyes is Making Sense," a silly name for a potentially fascinating show. Keyes will have the 10:00pm hour opposite the charisma-free Aaron Brown on CNN and van Susteren on Fox. Between that and his lead-in from current hot property Ashleigh Banfield (who has really bloomed as a correspondent in the last six months, with or without, ah, credentials), Keyes just might collect a significant audience by default.

And if he does, I'll forgive him for borrowing my color scheme for his show graphics.

Monday, January 21, 2002

The Holy Constitution
Steven den Beste has had the courage to suggest that, just maybe, it was through our own actions (and those who came before us, who built the nation whose blessings we enjoy) that America has come to be the only superpower left standing as the 21st century begins.

Predictably, overseas observers don't like to hear that. They think that we should adopt such policies as they ask of us, without regard to the proven failure of those policies elsewhere. They are not too proud to accept our money, but they would rather we recanted the activities that result in our having the money to spare. (They don't seem to have thought much about where they would be if we had the same "success" with their policies that they have had -- but there is in the world a class of people who think that money Just Happens, that our national wealth is due to luck, no more. Get a clue: It isn't luck.)

And in particular, they don't understand our insistence on national sovereignty, our failure to yield to the United Nations on key issues, in service to our own Constitution.

When den Beste explained to a correspondent that our elected officials swear to uphold the Constitution, he responded:
Then it's time to change. The Constitution can't be holy, can it?
To which den Beste asked:
Do Europeans really understand America so little?
They don't understand us at all. It's easy to forget that, since so much of America spreads throughout so much of the world, courtesy of our mass media. However, that doesn't reflect who we really are. We're aware of this unreality at home, as we watch "Friends" and "Survivor", but we forget that this is what the world sees of us.

America is so diverse that there are plenty of observers here to tell us that we don't understand the rest of the world. I'm not here to dispute them. But who's going to tell the rest of the world who we really are?

We've entered into a contract with ourselves: We call it the Constitution. It defines what we need a central government for; it defines the powers we've granted it, and the conditions under which it can exercise those powers. Other than that, we're on our own. We are 300 million sovereign entities, who choose to hang together for each other's common good. (Well, that's the theory. By and large, it works.)

We are a nation that has reasoned itself into existence. (I wish I could remember who said that first.)

Of course we look chaotic. We are chaotic. We have taken that freedom into our own hands. We choose to be, what was that word, "undisciplined", because it allows each of us to live our lives in our own way.

They think that's a weakness. It is, in fact, our greatest strength. And when the contract is threatened, that strength shows. We come together in our own common defense with a speed incomprehensible to foreign observers, because that contract -- the Constitution, and its various ancillary documents -- defines what happens, who does it, and who's in charge of what part of it.

The contract hasn't been threatened this badly since the American Civil War. And much as I wish that 9/11 hadn't happened, it's been a joy to see just how well that contract is defended.
We will fight World War III before we will let foreigners rewrite the Constitution or take away our rights.
Damn straight, Steven.

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Anybody can be President
Christopher Hitchens, writing for the Observer, has created the funniest, most savage deconstruction of liberal hatred that I've seen in a long while.

You know the funniest part? I don't think he meant it to be funny.

I'll take the time to puncture one balloon, then move on: Hitchens said that President Bush "failed by a good margin to collect a majority of the popular vote". This, even allowing for partisan bias, is flatly wrong. Even a casual glance at the election returns reveals that what we had in November 2000 was a statistical tie. If there is a flaw in our electoral procedures, it is that our methods of resolving such a situation are slow and deliberate, not at all suited for 24/7 television coverage.
The Devil's Music
I do not share Justin Slotman's (at the Insolvent Republic of Blogistan, and what a great name!) enthusiasm for Peter Bagge, whose cartoons appear at Reason Online. ("The greatest comics mind of his generation"? Even good work looks mediocre when introduced with such hyperbole.) Nor am I a listener, nor yet a detractor, of contemporary Christian music. However, I found Bagge's overview / history to be well worth the time.

You may be annoyed, as I was, that Bagge is so creeped out by the calmness, politeness, and patience of Christian audiences. (He says it like it's a bad thing.) You may find yourself puzzling, as I did, whether that remark about VeggieTales was a compliment or not. But the end of the story, most especially the final panel, makes the journey worth the trip for me.

Friday, January 18, 2002

"Split it up."
You know how every now and then, you hear some new fact that makes you readjust your world view? Well, of course you do, you remember September 11th. I just had one of those moments, not on the same scale, but in its way just as flabbergasting.

I was watching Neil Cavuto on Fox News' "Your World"... Well, ok, I wasn't watching, it was on in the background while I was working, because sometimes at 1:30am you want the sound of another human voice and you don't much care whose. Sorry, Mr Cavuto, nothing personal.

Anyway, he was talking to Farooq Kathwari, President and CEO of furniture manufacturer Ethan Allen. Mr Kathwari was born in the Kashmir region of... well, that's the crux of a big problem in southwestern Asia right now. Every day it looks more like India and Pakistan are going to come to nuclear blows over Kashmir. Since 1996, Mr Kathwari has been a part of the Kashmir Study Group, "an organisation that has dedicated itself to help bring about a solution to the crisis that has plagued the state of Jammu and Kashmir for the last decade." A worthy and honorable project, to be sure: A resolution must be found if the region is to survive.

On the January 17 "Your World", Mr Kathwari shared his ideas on what must be done, and it appeared to stun Cavuto as much as it did me.

"Split it up," he said.

What?

I'll link to a transcript as soon as Fox posts one, because this is one of those moments that makes me want to see written confirmation. I mean, it's an obvious idea, and I've heard it suggested before, but never by someone in the public eye. And now it's been said on American television by a successful businessman from the region, a man who has spent the last six years studying this question.

Just... wow.

LATER: I just watched the later rerun of "Your World". If I were a big-time media outlet, I would simply delete the accompanying post. As it is, I'll just confess that I dramatically mis-heard the interview. "Split it up" was Neil Cavuto's mis-statement of Mr Kathwari's position. Mr Kathwari quite reasonably concluded that neither Pakistan nor India hold the key to the issue, and for so long as they continue to glare at each other, so long will the tensions mount. They have to come up with a solution that satisfies the people of Kashmir.

Well, that makes too much sense.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

To a talented newcomer... uh oh
You won't find me chatting about popular music much, as my tastes are entirely too, uh, old. I'd barely heard of Dido before I saw that she was nominated for a British Best New Artist award, only to see the nomination withdrawn when they discovered they'd nominated her for Best Female Artist last year. Oops.

She doesn't seem too broken up about it, but still, something seemed familiar about this...

Then I remembered what it was. Way back in 1984 (before some of you were born, sigh), the Academy of Country Music presented its Best New Artist award to Nicolette Larson, for work that would eventually appear on her first MCA album, "...Say When."

Her first MCA album. "...Say When" was Larson's sixth album: Her first, "Nicolette", contained her best-known hit, "Lotta Love", which made it up to #8 on the Billboard charts in 1975.

At the time, I wondered if the CMA didn't know that "their" Larson was the same Larson. Now I understand: They didn't care. The music industry was so firmly segmented (and, for all I know, still is) that if it didn't hit the country charts, it didn't matter. And the same separatism seems to be in place from the other side: Her Rolling Stone biography talks about her pop activity, then trickles off into, essentially, "then she did some country stuff" after her five Warner albums. (Rolling Stone gets the count wrong: She did three country albums, not just one.)

What's really odd is that her sound didn't change that much in the transition from pop to country, but her wardrobe sure did. But then anything would have been a dramatic change after her last "pop" album, "All Dressed Up and No Place To Go", on which she wore -- a pink towel.

[I admit it, I'm a fan. I had all of her albums, but lost them in a house fire. Most of them are not available on CD -- but I'm still looking.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

The skies are friendly, it's the ground that'll get you
The FAA's directive to start screening all luggage by Friday has sent reporters back to the airports. Well, great! I'd like a closer look at the people who are doing the screening -- who are they, how are they trained...

What? What's that? That's not what the stories are about? They're about how travelers feel about the longer lines this will probably create? And this informal, unscientific (yet highly influential, since it's on television) survey reports...what?

"I think it's a great idea." "We flight attendants have been lobbying for this for years." "Considering the recent events, I agree with it." "Well, it'll be inconvenient, of course, but it's worth it for the additional security."

I think the national press is just bound and determined not to cover the actual story here.

Flying is already unpleasant. How often do you meet an airline employee who actually cares whether you make your flight? Anecdotal evidence would suggest that the best you can hope for is indifference. Veiled hostility is not uncommon.

Airport security's only job is to keep you off the plane: If they do that, they win. Failing that, they can keep some of your belongings off the plane -- or at least, they get to paw through them while you wait.

Theft prevention is nobody's job. What are you going to say when you get to your gate and your cell phone is missing (assuming you notice that soon)? You could go back and complain, but you'd probably miss your flight. And your only hope of getting it back is if the security guard took it himself.

Now, what has changed?

The same security people are still there. You know, the "undertrained minimum-wage workers" who were there before September 11? The ones they were going to replace when we federalized airport security and put Real Professionals in place? They're still there, grandfathered into place. They have far more work to do, little additional training, no additional pay, and now that they're federal employees, they're almost impossible to fire.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that airport security is far more invasive, and no more effective. Senators are pantsed, pilots have their nail clippers confiscated, and your confidential essentials are publicly frisked with bored condescension and glacial speed. Time saved by flying is lost in lines. Travelers are dehumanized at best, infuriated and humiliated at worst. Yes, I realize anecdotal evidence (a nice way of saying "somebody said...") isn't conclusive.

But the television reporters couldn't find one passenger to say any of that?

[Disclaimer: I don't fly. The swift travel time and the coolness of actually being airborne is far outweighed by the miserable experience of getting to the airport and dealing with the people who work at the airport. (And the killer headache I get in a pressurized cabin.) But that's just me.]

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Did I miss it?
During the last Presidential campaign, then-Governor Bush was saying that the economy wasn't as rosy as it looked, that we might be headed for a recession. This contention was answered by then-VP Al Gore, when answered at all, with one of his trademarked half-laugh contemptuous puffs.

The Boston Globe and the Dallas News both suggested at the time that it might be true. The Washington Post quoted Lawrence B. Lindsey (now the White House Assistant for Economic Affairs) way back in mid-1999 as saying "There are a lot of risks in the economy right now." And the economy he described then (that is, I mean to say, the future he saw coming) is pretty much the one we've seen since.

Turns out Bush was right. I just felt that someone should say that, since the newspapers won't. Or did I miss it?

Monday, January 14, 2002

"I have not heard one Democrat say he or she wants to raise taxes."
That was Dick Gephardt, as quoted by Robert Kuttner, in the Boston Globe. Gephardt knows that saying "I want to raise taxes," in so many words, in this climate, would be just as good as saying "I didn't really want to go back to Congress anyway."

What they say is that the newly-achieved tax cuts should be eliminated before they actually take effect. Thus is honor maintained -- if you're the kind of person who can spin the word "is", or if you're the kind of person who can, with a straight face, describe a tax cut as a "government expenditure". (The assumption is that All Your Money Are Belong To Us, and if we let you keep it, you'll just spend it on all the wrong things.)

Reversing a tax cut is by definition a tax hike. Is it that hard to understand?

Anyway, Kuttner goes on to name a few Democrats who "have suggested that the 10-year tax giveaway should be repealed or deferred as a whole or in part." Inherent in his phrasing is that this is the same thing as raising taxes.

(Heh. "Giveaway." All your money are belong to us, indeed.)

But I must thank Mr Kuttner for codifying, better than I could have done, what makes a Democrat a Democrat:

Let's recall for a moment why there is a Democratic Party. In the big picture, Democrats have one big thing to offer the electorate that most Republicans reject:

The Democrats are willing to use government to give ordinary citizens things that private markets can't deliver - secure health care, safe airways, consumer protections, clean environment, educational opportunities.

There it is, right there in the middle of the second sentence, the defining statement for Democrats: The assumption that the marketplace is, always and irrevocably, hostile to the individual citizen, that we are in bigger trouble than we could possibly understand and only the Government can save us.

I have yet to see any proof of that.

[LATER: Private markets can, and have, delivered all those things. One big thing private markets cannot do is wage war.]

[LATER YET: Let me apologize here to my friend Jerry Lawson for stealing "All your money are belong to us", which he said in his comment to this post. Credit where credit is due. It perfectly illustrates the absurdity of Congress' apparent belief that they control all money regardless of whose pocket it's in at the moment (after all, it's only there temporarily).]
Everything is owned
I'm not one to raise red flags about the growth of the large media conglomerates, and I'm not going to start now. There will always be room for the person who has something to say and the wit to say it clearly and cleverly. That's one of the ways you get to be a Big Boy. After all, Rush Limbaugh used to be a disk jockey, and Mike Wallace used to host a game show.

That said, you might find this chart instructive. From The Nation, it lists their Big Ten corporate behemoths and a fairly comprehensive list of their holdings. At least for now. As the accompanying article explains, these things aren't etched in stone.

Saturday, January 12, 2002

The Principals' Principles
So, the educationist bureaucrats have taken a good long look at their schools, and they've figured out what the problem is. It's all those students. Goodness knows what we could accomplish if not for them.

For instance, new Mason (Ohio) High School principal Gerald Cox thinks that every student should know the school fight song. He also plans to tighten up the dress code, make the halls one-way, and increase student parking passes from $40 to $100. (They pay to park at high school?)

Dress code violations seem to be epidemic. In Causey Middle School (Mobile, AL), during December's finals, a 13-year-old scofflaw was given an ultimatum: You're going to let us rip the rivets out of your pants pockets (the khaki corduroys were "too jeans-like"), or we're going to suspend you. So far, the administrators are hiding behind "She gave us permission to remove the rivets: We would never have done such a thing without permission." But if you buy that permission with the threat of suspension, is it freely given?

And in Hancock County, Mississippi:

The superintendent of Hancock County schools says he is prepared to strip search students to find drugs, if necessary.

"They're pretty creative about how they hide their drugs," Superintendent Mike Ladner said. "It may be in their crotch area, where we're not patting them down . . . We're dealing with criminals here."

Silly me. I thought you were dealing with children.

Ladner said he is launching an �all-out war� on drugs after a high school student overdosed on prescription sleeping pills before the Christmas holiday.

Tragic, certainly. Criminal?

But the law is with the superintendent. The Mississippi state Attorney General's office says that while police need probable cause, school officials need only have "reasonable suspicion."

He said he is prepared to have students stripped naked, if they are suspected of having drugs...

Ladner said he would strip search a student only if he was confident the student had drugs and there was a possibility that harm could be done, either to that child or to others.

But [special assistant attorney general Jeff] Klingfuss said that, by law, it need not be an emergency for a student to be searched by school officials because of the importance of schools being drug-free environments.

I'm trying to be understanding. I know that many schools have gotten into the habit of being "parental" in ways that shock me, because so many parents are afraid to say "no" to their children.

Let me put it this way: If it isn't an emergency when you strip-search my child, it will be when she comes home and tells me about it.

Just be sure. Be damned sure.

[LATER: I hope my use of the word "scofflaw" above is seen for the sarcasm it is meant to be. Are things going so well at Causey that pants pocket rivets are their biggest problem?]

Friday, January 11, 2002

Friday Five
Oh, they do this every Friday. Duh. Well, again, why not?

1. What was your first job? Bag boy at my dad's grocery store. Not cool, yeah, I know.
2. How old were you when you had your first kiss? Seventeen. Yeah, I know.
3. What was your first car? What happened to it? A 196? Plymouth Valiant (No, not that one, that's just a picture I found of a '63 Valiant that looks right. Mine was even the same color. But if you ever wanted to know anything about Valiants, this guy can probably tell you.) Traded it in for an only slightly newer Chevy Nova, with which I once hit a horse. Yeah, I know.
4. What was your first concert? Oliver. *blank stares* You know, Oliver? "Good morning, starshine, the earth says hello, you twinkle above us, we twinkle below..." Oliver? *continued blank stares* *sigh* Yeah, I know.
5. How do you plan to spend your weekend? I'm an old man, I need my sleep. And yeah, I know, okay? I haven't seen Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings yet, either.

Somehow I think this game was meant for younger bloggers than me.

[LATER: Actually, I had a feeling I would spend much of my weekend watching the collected first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. I was afraid to say so, though, because even though I bought it on Thursday, it's not supposed to be released until next Tuesday. I didn't want to cause any trouble for the store I bought it from.] Thanks, Sam's Club!

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Are your web pages... private?
Eric Zorn's column in the Chicago Tribune of 12/29 (I'm cleaning out my temporary bookmarks, okay?) is alternately funny and surprising, raising a point that I, in my webophilia, hadn't considered.

Would you be angry with me if I googled your sister?
The reason I ask is because a good friend recently turned on me when I let drop I'd googled her younger sister. She used bad words, expressions of disgust and ... insinuations.
One of us was out of line. I think she was, but I'm open to the possibility that I provoked her with an offense against the great and largely unwritten code of civilized behavior on the Internet when, in an idle moment, I typed her sister's name into the great search engine at google.com.

That's not rude. Is it?

Zorn goes on to explain that he often googles familiar names when he's bored. Well, so do I. I thought everybody did. I'm tickled when I actually find them, and I'm amused when I find other people with the same name. Apparently, there's a politician of some note in New Zealand who has the same name as a good friend of mine.

Heck, I google myself. (Note: None of these people is me.)

Is it an invasion of your privacy if I google you?
"Duh" Headline of the Week
Can Money Buy Happiness? Apparently, Yes
LONDON (Reuters) - The adage that ``money can't buy happiness'' is quite wrong, with even quite small lottery wins or inheritances able to produce lasting contentment, new research published in Britain has shown.

Professors Andrew Oswald and Jonathan Gardner of Warwick University in central England tracked 9,000 families over the past decade to study whether there was a link between cash windfalls and contentment.

``We find a very strong link between cash falling on you and higher contentment and better mental health in the following year,'' said Oswald, who is a leading researcher in the area of happiness and economic performance.

I don't know about that, I think I need more empirical evidence. I've done my part: I bought a lottery ticket...
Neepery Bloggery HTML Geekery

I received an e-mail from someone wanting to know how I managed to put a picture in my blog. The Blogger interface, after all, doesn't offer you a button for "insert picture". I was halfway through the answer when I realized that, just possibly, other people might be interested too. Thanks to Blogger and tools like it, there are a lot of people creating web pages these days who might not know.

Well, first, of course, you have to locate a picture, and you have to know its URL, its web address. In my case, I took it myself with my widdle digital camera, then took it into Photoshop to crop it, increase the contrast a touch, and size it for the hole I wanted to fill. Then I uploaded the file to my FTP space. Chances are, your ISP is holdling some FTP space for you, too.

So. Now I've got a photo sitting at http://members.aol.com/dtaylor404/blog/delk.jpg. How to get it into my blog comment?

It's not well publicized, but you can use most HTML code in a Blogger entry. Since I'm one of those long-time web users who wrote his first page with Notepad, I know the form that the image tag takes, which is this:

<img src="http://members.aol.com/dtaylor404/blog/delk.jpg">

That's the first line of my comment, right after the subject header. It's that simple. (I had to use another HTML trick to actually display the code rather than the picture, but never mind about that now.) (By the way, I strongly advise you against linking to images on other people's servers.*)

If you have a small image and you want text to wrap around it, put ALIGN=LEFT or ALIGN=RIGHT inside the bracket after the image source URL.

I can highly recommend HTML Goodies: Chances are, whatever part of HTML you're curious about, Joe Burns has written a tutorial to help you add it to your site.

*[LATER: Jerry's comment (click on the "comment" link) regarding copyright issues is well taken. However, when I warned you against displaying images that originate on other people's servers, what I had in mind was bandwidth theft. The web is a genial libertarian anarchy, in which intellectual property ownership is little more than a rumor -- but if you "borrow" bandwidth that someone else is paying for to serve images or other content to your site, you're asking for trouble.]

[LATER STILL: My inner geek demands that I mention this: If you have a web page editor like, say, Dreamweaver, you could use its power to format your comment however you want -- then go to the HTML source view, copy that, and paste it into the "Edit this Post" window in Blogger. But I daresay part of the popularity of Blogger is that you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on an HTML editor to make decent pages with it.]

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

Public service
I just got three e-mails telling me to search for, and delete, an alleged virus called SULFNBK.EXE. Fortunately, I don't believe anything I read in an e-mail from somebody I don't know.

If you get one of these... Don't do it. It's a Windows file that helps the system manage long file names (hence the LFN in the file name). You need it. Here are the full details from McAfee.

As you were.
"It's not a tax hike"
I realize you people who opposed tax cuts and refund checks have a serious case of denial about the issue, but it's not amusing any more. Get over it or get therapy.

The tax cuts happened. It was in all the papers. My tax rates are now lower than they were. You can say you want to "postpone implementation" all you want, but what you want to do is raise taxes back to 2001 levels. I know it, and you know it.

If you can't call it what it is, I'm not going to consider it. It's my money, and it's going to stay in my pocket, thanks.
Pass the mustard...?
I know that many of you actually check out the Blogs of Note and "recently updated" list at Blogger.com, since hundreds of you found me that way. (Those of you who aren't Googling for pin-up calendars, anyway.)

That's how I found this comment about "marrying ketchup". And I chuckled and giggled for several minutes. Perhaps you will too.

Monday, January 07, 2002

Journalistic Integrity
Leaving aside the question of whether that's an oxymoron in this day and age, I feel obligated to say something about Vanessa Leggett.

Ms Leggett has succeeded in outliving the grand jury which ordered her to surrender her notes to federal prosecutors. Her case was never tried, she was never convicted of anything: She was just held in jail for five months, then freed because the penalty clock ran out.

Happy as I am to know she's been freed, something still bothers me, from the Dallas News article:
Federal prosecutors contend Leggett is not a journalist and does not fall under the First Amendment's protection of the press. Leggett has not published a book or news articles.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld her incarceration, noting that neither she nor any other journalist has a qualified privilege protecting confidential sources.

Now here's a quote from somewhere else:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Now, where does it say that a journalist, or anyone, is exempt from laws otherwise in effect when she is gathering information for publication?

Ms Leggett's case is not a First Amendment issue. It doesn't matter if she's a journalist (whatever that is) or not. There is no "right" to protect sources.

I hate saying this. Journalism, after all, is what my degree is in. I want the writer to be the Good Guy. Unfortunately, I have to fall back on an old cliche: You knew the job was dangerous when you took it. Bravo for standing up for your principles, Vanessa -- but you broke the law. If you didn't know that, then you aren't a journalist.

Sunday, January 06, 2002

"One of our best journalists"
This may be old news. Link found at PhotoDude, article from the Wall Street Journal via MSNBC:
Last May, someone sat down at an IBM desktop here [in Kabul] and typed out a polite letter to a bitter foe of al-Qaida, the anti-Taliban leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. The writer tapped at the computer for 97 minutes, according to its internal record, then printed out the fruit of his labor: a request for an interview with Massoud, to be conducted by 'one of our best journalists, Mr. Karim Touzani.' On Sept. 9, two men posing as journalists, one carrying a passport in the name of Karim Touzani, detonated a hidden bomb as they interviewed Massoud.

Frivolous comment: And I thought Dan Rather was biased.

Serious comment: Can there be any further doubt? We are dealing with (a) utterly ruthless people who (b) aren't the sharpest tacks in the box. And I'm not sure which side I'm talking about.

Massoud's people forgot who they were dealing with. The al-Qaida forgot -- or never knew -- that computers track what you do.

Saturday, January 05, 2002

Obsolete language
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I have used the sentence structure "If we (do/don't) (fill in the blank), then the terrorists have won" with a straight face. My only excuse is that I wrote it in the week following the attack, before it became a parody of itself. (No, I didn't start it.)

Taken literally, of course, the statement is absurd. Osama bin Laden does not care how long the lines are at airports. Mullah Mohammad Omar doesn't care whether we microwave our mail before we open it. Saddam Hussein doesn't care how many holiday parties we stay home from. They want us dead, all of us.

But there is a sense in which it is a true and useful thing to say, which is why it kept popping up in the weeks following the attack.

What the enemies of America want is for us to collapse, preferably painfully. And even the dullest of them would recognize the delicious irony of it if we collapsed under the weight of our own good intentions.

Let's face it, the United States is the engine that drives the rest of the world. There's a reason we have most of the money, and it's because we deliver. Even people who hate us have to react to us. There is no corner of the world so remote that American interests don't matter there. Arrogant it may be to say so, but it's the truth, and ignoring it won't make it less true.

Many say that the U.S. should care what happens elsewhere, and that's hard to dispute. But the reverse is also true: The rest of the world needs to care what we think, too.

Our national commitment to individual responsibility is the reason we are the only remaining superpower. That works. Other countries can and should learn from this.

If we start sloughing off those things that make us unique -- the freedoms that define us, the conventions that make our economy work -- in the name of security, then we're no longer driving this train: They are. And we've seen where they want to go.
Shorthand
And now I hear that the term "9-11" or "Nine-Eleven" is growing jingoistic and tiresome.

"We don't say '12-7' or '6-6', why should we say '9-11'?"

Well, we do love our succinct nomenclature for traumatic events. I'm sure the good people of Pearl Harbor would rather that the name of this geographic feature didn't carry such unfortunate connotations.

But you have to call it something. Appomattox. Normandy. D-Day, VE-Day, VJ-Day. Bay of Pigs. San Juan Hill. The Gulf War. (The people who live there don't call it that, because for them it didn't end when we left. Which brings us, indirectly, to where we are now.)

"The Attack on the World Trade Center", an awkward mouthful, also ignores the Pentagon strike, as well as the first heroes of this war, aboard a plane that never reached its target. This most recent attack was a co-ordinated campaign intended to hit a widely diverse range of targets. The attacks are united only by the date on which they occurred.

For better or worse, "9-11" is the name that will stick.

Friday, January 04, 2002

Friday Five
Okay, why not?

1. You've just won a complete collection of movies starring one actor - what actor would you pick? Michelle Pfeiffer.
2. What was the last movie you saw in a theater? Uhh... "Atlantis."
3. What was the last video or DVD that you bought? "Shrek." I have kids.
4. What movie could you watch over and over again and not get sick of? "Casablanca." Oh, you probably meant a movie whose stars are still alive... "Sleepless in Seattle."
5. How do you plan to spend your weekend? I'm an old man, I need my sleep.
Southern snow


Well, why the hell should we know how to drive in snow? We only get it one day every two years or so!

Yes, I do get a mite testy when the Yankees start giggling at the phrase, "Atlanta is paralyzed under a one-inch blanket of snow..."

Well, for one thing, it was closer to four inches of snow on Wednesday night, but I realize nobody from Buffalo is likely to be impressed by that. Let me explain why Southern snow is different.

(1) Because we get snow so rarely, who has a chance to practice driving in it? That's one of the reasons people move to Atlanta: It's just like a Real City *ahem*, but without snow.

(2) Because we get snow so rarely, we have no fleet of snowplows and salt trucks to clear the streets.

(3) It may be an overall higher humidity, or it may be an overall higher ground temperature due to our more moderate winters. (Some meteorologist will have to explain to me exactly what's going on.) But when it snows here, it melts when it hits the streets, then freezes glassy smooth overnight. Even Yankees slip and slide when they drive on this stuff.

(4) If we get more snow after that, it freezes into little icy ball bearings on top of the glass, making the streets even more treacherous. (And let's not even talk about sleet.)

(5) It's an excuse to take the day off. Sort of a Peachtree Street version of Mardi Gras.

Now, if y'all will excuse me, I have to go defrost my windshield.

Thursday, January 03, 2002

From the party that owns "fairness"
Paul Craig Roberts, in his current column for Creators Syndicate, observes:
Filibusters have been used when organized interests or regions of the country are strongly opposed to a piece of legislation. But they have never before been used by one party as a means of rendering a president unable to staff his offices and advance a legislative agenda.
As we approach President Bush's one-year anniversary in office, Senator Daschle's continuing machinations to block the President's appointees grow ever more tiresome. The threat of a filibuster over every single confirmation, requiring a 60-vote super-majority vote to break that the Republicans can't command, guarantees that the President will still have empty desks come the 2004 election -- unless the Republicans are prepared to play the same hardball that the Democrats, led by Daschle, are obviously willing to play.

I can't help it. I watch the halls of power in Washington, and I think playground games. The metaphor leaps to mind unbidden. But the White House is playing with a handicap: They're acting like grownups.
Note to television executives
It's really not hard. Give us what we want, and we'll watch it.

WPIX in New York returned to its roots and broadcast a fireplace for two hours. No, really. That's not the punch line. From 1966 to 1989, it ran all day Christmas Day, and ever since they cancelled it faithful viewers have asked for a return to "comfort television". This year the program, called simply "Yule Log", returned to the air.

Here's the punch line: It won its time slot.

Well, what else do you need on Christmas morning?
I should have known
I've spent the last three months chatting about this and that with you, and you've barely peeped. Do a piece on nude calendars, and the hit counter goes crazy. Should I thank you? :)

By way of an update, I received a very nice message from Helene Meurer at Salt Spring Market, regarding their calendar.
Thanks for mentioning the calendar in your blog. To answer your question, yes, the calendar is still available. We haven't published a 2002 version, but last year's model can be recycled for the year 2007 and beyond. Calendar purchases from a very supportive and appreciative global audience helped make it possible to buy back some of our island's precious lands from the logging company. We are currently in the process of transforming these lands into a National Park.

How's that for a good news story?
I think it's great news. I mean, loggers have to work too, but not everywhere. And with all the publicity the eco-terrorists like ELF get, it's nice to see someone taking back the land the old-fashioned way: Buying it.

So there's another reason why there are so many grass-roots "amateur" nude and near-nude calendars: They work.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Calendars

Interesting trend, this: Small civic groups, clubs, and organizations of all kinds have discovered a new kind of attention-grabber: The nude calendar.

I know, nude calendars aren't new. The first was probably "September Morn", published in 1913. But I've been seeing stories about calendars lately that are an odd hybrid of band-booster club album and artistic statement. There was a time when the average person wouldn't admit ever having seen a nude calendar, let alone owning one -- but these days a surprising number of Just Plain Folks want to be on one.

Take this one, for instance, a publication of Sexey's School (as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up) in Somerset UK. As the school's official statement says,

The Sexey's School calendar is not available for sale to the public, it was produced by 6th Form students as part of a Business Studies project for internal sales only. Sales income generated was to cover production costs and not for raising school funds. Media interest was not sought and has, unfortunately, distorted the true content of the publication.

"Media interest was not sought�" Did they think this wouldn't attract attention? Quoting this time from the Reuters report via Yahoo:

The 12 pictures in the fund-raising calendar include one of a 16-year-old girl with her arms crossed over her topless cleavage. Another shows a teen-age girl ... lying back seductively in a sleeveless black dress, her finger pressed to her lips.

In fact, you might think the UK invented nudity. At fundraising.co.uk, they keep a list of such calendars. The Kent County (UK) Cricket Team has a nude calendar for 2002. The cast of a Welsh soap-opera did a nude calendar for charity in 2001. And just when you�re thinking that there must be some group immune to the nude calendar fad, along comes a group of scientists in Antartica, posing nude in 30 below Celsius. (That's -22 Fahrenheit.)

Lest you think this only happens overseas, The Mudcat Cafe in Westchester, PA, published a 2002 "Nearly Nude" calendar, which for $10 they�ll e-mail you in Adobe Acrobat format. The Men of Maple Corner (Vermont) Calendar 2002, on the other hand, is available on old-fashioned paper.

Last year, 32 women of Salt Spring Island, Canada, agreed to pose nude for a calendar to raise funds and draw attention to the island's endangered natural resources. (I don't know if the calendar is still available, but its webpage is still up, as is ABC News' coverage of their, er, uncoverage. I can�t believe I said that.)

In probably the most notorious calendar of 2001, Father Olan Rynn of Galway - yes, that's Father Rynn - posed nude (modesty protected by a Bible) for a charity calendar called Bare Shakers. The calendar raised funds for cancer and cerebral palsy research and treatment. But when the Bishop heard exactly what kind of calendar it was, he "suggested" that the Father withdraw, and in fact his photo was not used in the final calendar. Here in America we were busy trying to decide who won some election, and our front pages didn't have room for a story from Galway, Ireland. Here's the story from "model" Des Kenny of Kenny's Bookshop, and I say fair play to him as well.

An uproar you may have heard about was that in response to the Canadian nordic skiing team 2001 calendar. Here is the news story, but I don't advise trying to access the site from which they say you can get more details. And it was in 2000 that the Australian women's soccer team got so much attention for their calendar. The Matildas' own site hints that the calendars are still available from them, but somehow I doubt it: I think it's just an outdated link. (You might try eBay.) But this and the previous calendar feature hardbodied athletes, so I�m getting a little astray from my original point.

In Tasmania, a group of elderly women (aged 65 to 82) posed to raise money for new curtains for their community center. I'm a little concerned that the only details I can find on this come from Pravda.

The Edinburgh Naturist Swimming Club felt that there were so many nude calendars that the whole idea of nudity was being cheapened. So when they produced their own 2002 calendar, they did it with their clothes on.

Why so many nude calendars these days? Well, thanks to Kinko's and shops like it, I suspect the answer is "Because we can." A lot like blogs, I guess.

[UPDATE: Gosh, I had a feeling January 1 was the right time to talk about calendars, but both Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) and Tony Adragna (Shouting 'Cross the Potomac) saw it, and now (thanks to them) so many of you, too. Thanks for visiting. "How about a nude blogger calendar?" Glenn says. Don't say it too loud. Goodness knows Blogger is a good cause...]

Where is the center?


  1. It's not possible for everyone who says they are moderate to actually be moderate, if the term is to have any meaning.


    1. It's possible the term doesn't have any meaning.


  2. In order to discuss contemporary American politics, we must consider the American media, the unofficial fourth branch of government.


    1. In fact we must consider them first, since most of what we know of the government's activities, we get from the media.


  3. Like the other three branches, the media and its representatives often invoke Constitutional protections to commit acts that would be illegal if you or I did them.


    1. This is not the intent of the first amendment.

    2. Freedom of speech is not the same thing as freedom to break the law in order to gather content.


  4. The mass media -- newspapers, television, radio, all of it -- are headquartered in New York City.


    1. If the newspaper business is somewhat less centralized than the others, this is compensated by the fact that many newspapers -- and much of television news -- take their lead from the New York Times.

    2. CNN thinks the Times is too conservative.

    3. NPR thinks CNN is too conservative.

    4. Everybody thinks Fox News is too conservative.


  5. New York City is demonstrably the densest, largest, most liberal population center in the country.


    1. Check the notorious red and blue USA Today voting map if you doubt this.


  6. Because they are surrounded and permeated by this liberal culture, they are no longer able to judge where the middle of the road actually is.


    1. This is borne out by a 1996 Freedom Forum / Roper center poll, in which 76% of Washington reporters and bureau chiefs described themselves as "moderate", but 89% of them voted for Clinton.


  7. News coverage mirrors the sensibilities of those who choose what to cover and how.


    1. They think they're being fair.

    2. They think the "middle of the road" is about three lanes to the left of where the rest of us think it is.

    3. This is no secret to most of the country.

    4. I've been saying this for years, but Bernard Goldberg (late of CBS News and author of Bias) is saying it with authority and inside knowledge.

    5. The media power centers of New York, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. (and, though it is a shadow of its former stature, Chicago) remain blissfully, determinedly, provincially unaware.


  8. The truth shall make you free.

Monday, December 31, 2001

All right, it's official, I'm concerned

Thanks to Steven den Beste and others, in the aftermath of the Great Blog Breach, I'm now concerned about the future of Blogger.

Don't misunderstand me, I really like this service. It's handy to be able to update my blog from anywhere. I've paid for my ad-free page, and thanks to Glenn Reynolds' suggestion, a number of other people have, too. I just don't want to wake up one day and find my site retired. Evan Williams sacrificed a large portion of his Christmas to get Blogger back up after the hack, and I appreciate it. But if it happens again, will he prop it back up, or will he decide he's lost enough money and move on?

I've really enjoyed having this opportunity to get my thoughts in order. So while I'm not prepared to abandon Blogger, I am looking into ways to continue without Blogger.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

God bless us, every pair

In a sequel to this item, it is my pleasure to inform you of this report in the St. Petersburg Times, that

Leaders of Without Walls International Church in Tampa decided Saturday [12/23] to accept gifts gathered by strippers at a Brandon club who flashed their breasts for a toy donation.

They didn't really want to accept them, but the kids really needed the toys. Well, does any kid really need toys? But I know what they mean. I have kids myself.

How does it go? "God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform." Sometimes sex does make people stupid. I'm encouraged that, at least this time, it didn't make them lose sight of their goal.