Wednesday, March 31, 2004

General laundry fault. Abort, retry, fail?

Yahoo News (from AP) | College Tests Laundry E-Mail Notification
Technology is taking laundry from the clothesline to online. Carnegie Mellon University is testing a Web-based system that sends e-mail to students when their laundry is done and allows them to log on to an Internet site to check the status of machines.

The e-Suds system, developed by USA Technologies of Malvern, is being used in three dorms this spring. The school expects to offer it to its nearly 4,000 students who live on campus by the fall semester, according to Timothy Michael, director of housing services.

"The whole idea is to create convenience for our students," Michael said, noting many students are pressed for time. "The feedback has been really incredible."

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Trivial and Obvious

Washington Post | Bush and Kerry, a Running Gag on Late Night
In Washington, of course, everything must be studied and scrutinized. So the Center for Media and Public Affairs has divined that Bush remains the biggest late-night target -- the butt of 213 jokes from Jan. 1 through March 9 -- compared with 53 for Kerry (who barely beat the 43 jibes aimed at Dennis Kucinich).
Next you'll be telling me some study has determined that Homer Simpson's diet is unhealthy... No, wait!
Calgary Herald | Doh! Homer diet slammed
After analysing 63 random episodes of The Simpsons, Rutgers researchers found Homer not only eats more often than the other characters, but also talks about food more, eats greater quantities at meal time, and is less active.
And they paid how much for this study?

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Cable charity

Duluth News Tribune (from Washington Post) | Cable industry defends packaging
TELEVISION: Critics say consumers shouldn't pay for unwatched channels, while the industry says smaller channels would die in an a la carte system.
In the dream world of some television viewers, they would pay their cable or satellite companies only for the channels they want. Some might not pay for MTV, because they don't want their 8-year-olds watching it. Others would turn down ESPN Classic, because they've already seen the 1975 World Series. Others would eschew TeleFutura, because they don't speak Spanish.

Reality is far different.

... Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., peppered Cox Communications Inc. President James Robbins, asking the head of the nation's fourth-largest cable company why consumers have to pay for channels they don't want. Robbins' answer: Giving consumers that degree of choice would cost too much.

Besides adding to the cost, cable companies say, selling channels individually might make it difficult for lesser-watched, niche channels to survive.

Under an a la carte system, top-rated cable channels such as USA Network would probably thrive because ratings suggest enough people would choose to buy it individually to make it worth a programmer's while. However, less-watched channels that serve distinct but smaller audiences, such as TechTV and BET, may not survive, because not enough viewers would pay for them.
You say that like it's a bad thing. Like TechTV and BET have a right to survive even if nobody is watching.

Interesting to hear a cable executive admit they're requiring customers to buy channels they don't want on purpose. It's not just an accident of marketing and technical limitations. It's because their vision of program diversity won't be achieved if we leave it up to those idiot viewers to decide what they want to see.

It's hard to pretend it's elevating our culture to ensure that Game Show Network, Speedvision, and the third ESPN network endure. (And I enjoy GSN.) And it's always alarming to discover a hidden subsidy at work where I was expecting to find market-driven free enterprise.

Why does this remind me of The Great Muppet Caper? Fozzie and Kermit are hot-air-balooning between and among the opening credits, and Fozzie asks, "Nobody really reads these, do they?" and Kermit replies, "Well, sure they do. They all have families." I'd hate to think the only people watching BET are their families.

(I'm linking to the Duluth paper because it doesn't require registration.)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Coffee break

Miami Herald | BSO bagel break broke the rules
BSO admits that Parkland was briefly without a patrol presence while the day shift went noshing together.
When five Parkland deputies were photographed hunched over coffee and bagels at a Coral Springs deli two Saturdays ago, it gave their employer, the Broward Sheriff's Office, a spot of indigestion.

BSO acknowledged Wednesday that the city of 18,312 was briefly without a patrol presence while the entire day shift, including a sergeant, went noshing together in another town.

... The breakfast was not only a breach of BSO procedures. It was a bad political move.

It came just 13 days after the city police department merged with BSO, the result of a contentious 3-2 City Commission vote. Scores of residents registered loud objections to the merger, some claiming that police protection would suffer.

... Former Parkland commissioner Ricky Gordon, who was voted out of office after supporting the merger, cautioned against overreacting.

''I think they were all close enough that if something happened they could respond,'' he said. "People have to realize we're still in a position of transition. We just got a new chief, David Carey, and we need to give the department a chance to get established.''

... [Jim Leljedal, a spokesman for the sheriff's office,] said of Strathmore Country Bagel and Deli: ``Apparently it's the place to eat at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. It's barely a mile out of town, and the rationale was that if there was a call they could easily respond to a call from there. It's generally a quiet time and, in fact, there were no calls for service.''

Other than watch where you eat when you are on duty, there is another lesson to be learned from the episode, Leljedal said.

''People have to realize that those cellphone cameras are everywhere,'' he said. "I plan to use this photo as a lesson during training sessions. You never know who's watching or has a camera.''

Monday, March 22, 2004

Guess where this happened.

Yes, of course, it's that hotbed of seething hatred, Ground Zero of the War on Terror... San Francisco.

(The chain of discovery goes through Lileks to LGF to the source, whose bandwidth I hope doesn't get blown to hell. There are plenty of entertaining photos of the rally, but ultimately I had to choose the same one Lileks and Johnson did to convey the flavor of it. Believe it or not, this is actually the most rational sign they had.)

Friday, March 19, 2004

He is working too hard

Yahoo (AP) | Kerry Vacations in Idaho
As John Kerry was snowboarding down Idaho's Bald Mountain, the Bush-Cheney campaign was racing headlong in challenging the Democrat's credentials, a contrast that raised questions about the timing of the presumptive presidential nominee's vacation.

... The timing is critical as voters' image of the Democrat is evolving. Kerry's break from the public stage is allowing his rival to fill the void and draw a picture.

"This is probably one of the worst times because we're right in the middle of the struggle to define him," said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.
Funny, I don't have any trouble defining him. Arrogant, check. Rich, check. Liberal, big honkin' check.

You know, I'll bet he would attract more favorable publicity if he told people he was a Vietnam vet. I wonder why he doesn't promote that more. Possibly because he grabbed the first loophole within reach to get out...? And then spent the next year or two as a civilian protesting the war? Yeah, I guess that would be it. What's the point of being rich if you can't even use it to get out of fighting a war you don't support? So he's not only rich, he's incompetent?

I'm just glad to see the press complain about somebody other than the President taking a vacation. Maybe they think he already is the President.

Worms, bunnies and Abe Vigoda | War of the Words: Scientist Attacks Alien Claims
Astronomer Philip Plait is tired of radio personality Richard Hoagland's claims. He's had enough of Hoagland's assertions that NASA is covering up evidence of extraterrestrial life, that the infamous Face on Mars was built by sentient aliens and, of late, that otherworldly machine parts are embedded in the red planet's dirt.

And then there's the mile-long translucent Martian worm.

... Plait has two words for the latest claims of alien objects on Mars. The first is "garbage." The second and more scientific word is "pareidolia." This is the same phenomenon that makes us see animals or other familiar objects in clouds.

"It's pretty common," Plait said of pareidolia. "Just a few months ago, a water spot on my shower curtain took on the uncanny form of the face of Vladimir Lenin." Plait took a picture of the liquid Lenin and uses it illustrate his contention that, though objects on the surface of Mars can sometimes take on interesting shapes, they are just a bunch of rocks.
You have to follow the Lenin link to find out where Abe Vigoda is.

I'm sure at some point in human evolution it was a lifesaving skill, being able to find patterns in (seemingly?) random shapes. Occasionally it still proves useful. But like any human activity, it can be taken to extremes, and once we convince ourselves we've seen something Significant, no amount of proof can convince us otherwise.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

"Holocaust on a plate"

Yahoo (Reuters) | German Jews Attack Vegetarian Ad Campaign
BERLIN (Reuters) - An animal rights group said on Wednesday it would go ahead with a controversial advertising campaign that likens the slaughter of animals to the murder of Jews under the Nazis despite threats of a legal challenge.

Paul Spiegel, president of the Central Council of Jews, said he would ask prosecutors to raise charges of "inciting racial hatred" against vegetarian group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for the advertisements called "Holocaust on a plate."

PETA campaign coordinator Matt Prescott said he was aware of the council's views, but added: "We are not willing to end the campaign." He said he himself was Jewish.

The posters, due to be displayed in Stuttgart from Thursday and in 11 European cities at later dates, show pictures of battery hens packed into cages next to historic pictures of emaciated Jewish inmates in Nazi concentration camp bunk beds.
PETA. Holocaust-related promotional campaign. In Berlin.

Just when I think they can't top themselves...

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Oh, good, I can retire the PETA stuff

The Center for Consumer Freedom is all over it. I'm just an amateur being silly with their own silly photo-ops. CCF is going after them for their funding of the Earth Liberation Front and their advocacy of laboratory and restaurant bombings.

And if that weren't enough, the season premiere of "Penn & Teller" on April 1 (no, really) will be all about PETA.

It isn't what he said, it's what he didn't say

Thinking of the previous post, and of this one, led to a further epiphany.

Pundits are wondering why, when they ask how Senator Kerry intends to conduct the war, he replies in term of "law enforcement". I say he is answering the question as clearly as he dares.

He doesn't intend to.

His first act as President will be to declare an end to hostilities, and to turn over Iraq (and command of the few troops he leaves there) to the United Nations.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

John Forbes Kerry, Blabbermouth

The lightbulb finally went on. I finally realize what's bothering me about this.

Quoth he: "I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, 'You've got to win; you've got to beat this guy. We need a new policy.' Things like that."

And later, after this "correction" of the original quote from "foreign leaders" to "more leaders" (it gets scare quotes because it's a difference that makes no difference, and because, as you see, Kerry immediately undoes it):"I have heard from people, foreign leaders elsewhere in the world who don't appreciate the Bush administration and would love to see a change in the leadership of the United States."

The point isn't whether this statement is true. The point isn't when these meetings took place. (Hugh Hewett says CNN verifies Kerry hasn't met with any world leaders since declaring as a candidate. He hasn't even left the country since 2002.) It isn't even whether we should care which "foreign leaders" are for who in the U.S. elections.

It's safe to say that Colin Powell, as Secretary of State, has met with plenty of world leaders, and speaks to them on an almost daily basis. It's also pretty safe to say that not all of them agree with the Bush administration's policies. It's not too much of a stretch to presume that some of them wish Bush weren't president. On the other hand, some of them undoubtedly regard the prospect of a Kerry presidency with the same dread that I do.

Does Powell tell us this? No. Why? Because, as elitist as this may sound, not everything that is done in public service is, or should be, done in the public eye. I daresay world leaders would stop talking to Powell if they thought he was going to tell CNN what they said. (Substitute "Fox News" if media slant is an issue for you. It isn't the point here.)

Kerry is correct not to name names. It would be a violation of confidentiality. However, he has already broken confidentiality in revealing that the conversations took place at all. It would be improper of these "world leaders" to make public statements that might influence the American election, and it is improper of Kerry to reveal the contents of these private conversations (assuming for the moment that they did happen). These people took a significant political risk in confiding to Kerry that they support him, and Kerry demonstrated that their trust in his discretion was misplaced. The fact that he hasn't named names (yet) is small consolation. When he perceives that there is political gain in doing so, he will reveal them. If the press doesn't already know their names, it's because they choose not to know.

John Kerry can't keep a secret. That's the issue here, or should be.

From the Perisphere to Deep Space Nine

San Francisco Chronicle | TREK TECH: 40 years since the Enterprise's inception, some of its science fiction gadgets are part of everyday life
In the 23rd century universe of "Star Trek,'' people talked to each other using wireless personal communicators, had easy access to a vast database of information and spent hours gazing at a big wall-mounted video screen.

On 21st century Earth, that future is already here.

People talk to each other on wireless communicators called cell phones. They have instant access to infinite amounts of information on the Internet. And they can spend hours staring at a big wall-mounted plasma or liquid- crystal display TV watching reruns of "Star Trek." That is, if they can afford one.

Indeed, 40 years after "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry outlined his vision for the groundbreaking science-fiction TV series, some of the once- futuristic personal technology depicted in the voyages of the starship Enterprise have become a reality.

Moreover, "Star Trek" has influenced a generation of engineers and scientists, inspiring them to engage in the future they saw on TV and to "make it so."
Well, yeah. Duh. Who wouldn't want a tricorder?

Before that it was the 1939 New York World's Fair that defined what we thought of when we thought of "the Future". For the next forty years, imaginative engineers worked to make a world that looked like that, and by and large they succeeded. Subsequent World's Fairs, whatever their other charms, generally failed to ignite the popular imagination as that one had (although 1964 came close).

Just as 1939's inspiration waned, along came a new generation of scientists and inventors raised on Star Trek. It's as good a place to find inspiration as any. Few of the gadgets that Kirk, Spock and McCoy waved around were based on any real technology, nor were they meant to be. (It's well known that many of McCoy's "medical scanners" were actually salt shakers.) They were good-looking boxes that performed a dramatic function, props that, with a minimum of business by the actors, would appear to allow the characters to learn what they needed to know to resolve that episode's crisis.

With this sterling model of product usability before us week after week, it's no surprise to me that engineers began designing user interfaces to fit.

I wonder what the next source of inspiration will be. EPCOT was supposed to be exactly that (it stood for "Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow", as I recall), but doesn't seem to have worked out that way. I'd hate to think that Microsoft is the best we can do.

Don't read this

Boy, I wish I were a big time columnist like James Lileks. Then I could write a column about green poop.

As it is, I can share another piece of baby-related trivia with you, and thank goodness I don't have to worry about things like this any more, but here's another Thing Nobody Told Me: Breastfed babies' poop doesn't stink.

No, really. It doesn't. Barring some mitigating factor, breast milk is the food that babies are designed to thrive on. They digest it more efficiently than anything else. Poop doesn't begin to stink until they start eating something else.

I told you not to read this. You're welcome. I'm here all week.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Spain surrenders

Yahoo (Reuters) | Spain's Troops Heading Out of Iraq Under Zapatero
Spain's incoming leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero indicated Monday he would pull his troops out of the "disastrous" occupation of Iraq in a major swing from his predecessor's pro-American foreign policy..

Some analysts said it could be an alarming first case of Islamist militants influencing, by violence, the outcome of a major Western election.

But Zapatero called his triumph a first consequence of the Iraq war's unpopularity with Spaniards.

... Spain has 1,300 soldiers in parts of south-central Iraq. Critics of the government have argued that the Madrid bombings were the price Spain paid for backing the Iraq occupation.

"We have been very clear about the risk and the threat that we were all facing with this illegal war in Iraq, and unfortunately Spain has paid the price," Spain's likely next foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told Reuters.

"The sooner we admit that the wrong policy has been made, the better for the future of the international community."

USA Today | Violence, outrage, ouster: A new tack for al-Qaeda?
n American politics, it's called the October Surprise: a dramatic, last-minute event that swings the election into the hands of the incumbent president. In Spain, that surprise came seven months early, a terrorist attack that turned a near-certain win for a pro-U.S. government into a stunning defeat with potentially ominous repercussions.

... "This event rivals 9/11 in terms of a victory for al-Qaeda," says homeland security consultant Randall Larsen. "They just influenced an election. That's a frightening development because it's only going to encourage them."

Dog Bites Man | TV News Runs Hot for Kerry, Cold for Bush
Mainstream news organizations may "filter" the news, as President George W. Bush claimed late last year, but not to omit good stories from their Iraq coverage, but to broadcast more negative news about the president himself, according to a report released today by and Media Tenor.

The report reveals a strong negative cast to ABC, CBS and NBC news coverage of the president thus far in 2004. Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry, Bush's certain opponent for November, has received more positive coverage by the same three networks.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Today's PETA Prank

AP (Las Vegas Sun) | Chicken-Themed Trading Cards Peeve Parents
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - An animal-rights group ruffled some feathers by handing out chicken-themed trading cards to children after school.

Representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, including a person dressed in an 8-foot-tall chicken costume, passed out "Chicken Chumps" trading cards to Lincoln Elementary School students Thursday. The cards showed unhappy-looking children with names such as "Cruel Kyle," eating chicken.

Carol Mills, who walks her children home from the school every day, questioned the tactics of PETA.

"How mature are these people to come harass elementary school kids because they eat chicken nuggets?" she said. "Are they serious?"
Define "serious".
Ravi Chand, a PETA campaign coordinator, said the oversized chicken accompanying him brought a message of caring and compassion to the children.
Free clue: Small children often find animals of a size an adult would consider "oversized", even fake ones, to be terrifying. Slightly older children find them "lame". In order for them to think "cute and lovable", you generally have to start with a character they already know, like Barney, Mickey Mouse or Scooby-Doo.
But school board Secretary Jon Olinger said an elementary school was the wrong place for PETA to spread its message.

"I think it's pathetic that they're aiming a political message at 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-year-olds," he said.
"Besides," he whispered conspiratorially to the reporter, "That's our job."
"It's a professional terrorist organization as far as I'm concerned."
"Yes," he continued, "I see absolutely no moral difference between coming to school in a bargain-basement Big Bird suit and blowing up 200 Spaniards on their way to work. It's the same thing."
Olinger said he would not mind if PETA targeted high school students...
...unless they did so on religious grounds...
...but that trying to get at parents through young children is wrong.
He then returned his attention to counting the proceeds from the PTA's candy bar fundraiser.

A rabbit has no memory

James Lileks, in his Star-Tribune column (registration required), explores one of our culture's unanswered questions:

Why are Trix for kids? Why can't the rabbit have some?

Now, having grown up with Saturday morning television, I'm sure I've seen more than my share of these thirty-second passion plays (or are they only ten or fifteen seconds now?) in which the Trix rabbit is prepared to pay any price, endure any hardship to achieve his dream... only to have those hopes dashed at the 27-second mark.

I've seen at least one commercial in which the rabbit does get the cereal. He eats it, it's every bit as good as he thought it would be, and he asks for seconds... But, of course...

At the moment, Trix is having a birthday promotion in which, after all this time, you, yes you, can give the rabbit a spoonful of Trix. (Like Lileks, I found it unsatisfying that the rabbit never did eat the Trix I gave him... but perhaps he was just shy.)

So, why does the rabbit put up with year after year of denial with no more than a wistful sigh?

Personally, I think of it as a metaphysical event. There is only one Trix story. It's been presented thousands of times, but the rabbit and the kids don't experience it thousands of times... only once. Each new cartoon is a new beginning. No history, no trauma, no memory.

Well, I know, that's not the real reason. This, and this, is the real reason. (Found it at Hooray for Captain Spaulding.)

(Was I the only kid who found it unsettling when he disguised himself as Bugs Bunny? And it almost worked? So it's not all rabbits who can't have Trix, just this one. That seemed unnecessarily cruel.)

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Coming soon to a store near you

USB Swiss Army Knife from Victorinox and Swissbit.

At least it doesn't leave dead batteries all over the house

The Age | Is it wrong to kick a robotic dog?
When pet Lila wasn't getting as much playtime as the other two animals in her Plymouth, Massachusetts, home, owner Genie Boutchia felt guilty.

Then when a potential new owner came calling with $US850 ($A1120) in hand, Boutchia felt even guiltier. She changed her mind and deemed Lila not for sale.

Such feelings of moral responsibility might seem normal, even admirable, in a dog owner. But Lila is not a real dog. She's a robot.

And like tens of thousands like her in homes from Houston to Hong Kong, she's provoking fresh questions about who deserves moral treatment and respect.

How should people treat creatures that seem ever more emotional with each step forward in robotic technology, but who really have no feelings?

"Intellectually, you realise they don't have feelings, but you do imbue them with personality over time, so you are protective of them," Boutchia says.

"You feel guilty when you play with the other two dogs (which, as newer models, are more apparently emotive), even though you know Lila could not care less."

Trouble is, Lila seems to care, and her newer kin seem to care even more.

Now on sale

Bag of Plagues from the Store.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Old news

Interesting how a December 7 (hmmm... isn't that date significant for some other reason...?) rally/party for John Kerry and managed to slip under the radar until this week, when Drudge reported that Kerry's official site is rife with obscenities. The description of the Kerry/MoveOn party has apparently been sitting on the Kerry for President blog all this time.

So. The Kerry campaign wants to be in bed with Okay. That's interesting.

Here's the part I like:
When Teresa Heinz-Kerry arrived, she handed me a pin that read in the center: “Asses of Evil” with “Bush”, “Cheney”, “Rumsfeld” and “Ashcroft” surrounding it.
We've come a long way from "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" and "I Like Ike." Here's Lileks' reaction:
There you have it: the President of the United States is an Evil Ass. I’d love for someone to put this question to Kerry in the debate: Senator Kerry, your wife handed out buttons that called the President an Evil Ass. Do you believe he is Evil, an Ass, or both? And if I may follow up, I’d like to ask if you can possibly imagine Laura Bush doing that. Thank you.
And while we're at it, Senator, how would you react if she did?

If you'd like your White House to act more like a frat house, I guess you know what to do.

Monday, March 08, 2004

It has to be a fake... doesn't it?

Seattle Times | Altered photos becoming harder to spot
As someone who spent much of my frustrated youth trying to convince Kansas cousins that professional wrestling was faked, I've always taken great interest in the veracity of images. As a journalist, I've been party to debates over the ethics of even small alterations to news photos.

I've always carried the reassurance, though, that at least faked images could be detected fairly easily. In the Kerry/Fonda situation, a Web logger, Sisyphus Shrugged, offered a detailed (and amusing) deconstruction of the image, pointing out kerning, gray-scale and resolution giveaways.

So I was somewhat disturbed when graphics experts told me that it's getting harder in a digital environment to determine image fakery. So sophisticated are retouching tools becoming that detection is no longer a simple step of blowing up an image's pixels.

Friday, March 05, 2004

"It made me feel really bad"

Washington Post | Parents Irate Over 'Passion' In School
As a teacher showed sixth-graders at the District's Malcolm X Elementary School parts of the movie "The Passion of the Christ," 11-year-old Cutairra Ransom was growing upset by the violence unfolding in front of her.

"I saw Jesus getting beaten," Cutairra said yesterday. "Needles were going in his arms. It was scary the way they was beating him."

She added: "It made me feel really bad, terrible."

After about 15 minutes of watching the R-rated film about the final hours of Jesus's life, Cutairra said she walked out of the room.

She was one of the 16 to 20 students who were shown the movie Tuesday at the public school, which is in the Congress Park neighborhood of Southeast Washington. D.C. school officials, who said sixth-graders should not be shown R-rated movies at school, have placed the teacher, Ronald Anthony, on leave with pay pending an investigation.

Among the issues that school system investigators say they are looking into is how Anthony obtained a copy of the movie, which has not been released on videotape or DVD.
Malcolm X Elementary School?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The media conspiracy

The Straight Dope | Who owns the major U.S. media outlets?
I often hear that there are only five or six major corporations that control almost all of the U.S. media outlets, but I've never seen a list. When one thinks of AM and FM radio, network and cable television, the Internet as well as newspapers and magazines, can this really be true?

...You're right that the mass media are basically a playground for big corporations, but there are way more than five or six. The online list maintained by the Columbia Journalism Review currently includes 45 firms, ranging from Viacom and Time Warner to outfits most people have never heard of--e.g. A.H. Belo, owner of the Dallas Morning News. Make no mistake, these companies are huge--Belo, for one, takes in $1.4 billion a year and owns or operates eight print outlets, 20 TV stations, and ten cable news channels. But 45 companies sharing the U.S. media pie is a lot different from slicing it up into just half a dozen pieces.
Here, in case you lost the link above, is Who Owns What, from the CJR. If the subject interests you, continue to's Media Ownership Monitor and their 2001 Media Ownership Chart,'s report on Media Ownership and Deregulation, and The Nation's late 2001 profile of the Big Ten media conglomerates.

It strikes me, though, that it shouldn't be too surprising that the mass media are owned by large companies. Only a large company could maintain a national network in any medium. All businesses of national scope are large. It goes with the territory, doesn't it?

I mean, would you watch "Uncle Vern's National News"?

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

What the hell...!

USA Today | U.N.: Iraq had no WMD after 1994
A report from U.N. weapons inspectors to be released today says they now believe there were no weapons of mass destruction of any significance in Iraq after 1994, according to two U.N. diplomats who have seen the document.

... The report, to be outlined to the U.N. Security Council as early as Friday, is based on information gathered over more than seven years of U.N. inspections in Iraq before the 2003 war, plus postwar findings discussed publicly by Kay.

Kay reported in October that his team found "dozens of WMD-related program activities" that Iraq was required to reveal to U.N. inspectors but did not. However, he said he found no actual WMDs.
Well, obviously, all we had to do was ask Sean Penn: He knew it all along.

Am I the only one who can tell the difference between "We haven't found them", "He didn't have them", and "He never had them"?

We know he had them at one point: He used them. I don't see any mention of finding evidence of the destruction of what we know he had. Is it possible that the reason he only used them to the extent he did was that he ran out?

If he did exactly as the U.N. resolutions required him to, except for that trivial afterthought of documenting his actions to the U.N.'s satisfaction, then why did he continue to act as guilty as homemade sin? Were we "punk'd"?

Can you tell I've had it up to here with "Bush lied"? | President Delivers "State of the Union" (2003)
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages -- leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained -- by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.
Where does it say Saddam is sitting there with his finger on a nuke button? Where's the lie? What did Bush describe that wasn't found?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

He did what?

SF Chronicle | Bush congratulates Kerry in phone call
President Bush telephoned John Kerry on Tuesday night to congratulate him on wrapping up the Democratic presidential nomination, and said he looked forward to a "spirited contest."

"I'm thinking about you," Bush was quoted as saying.

Today's PETA Prank

Reuters (Yahoo!) | Police Bust Up Nearly Nude Protest
Police arrested six shivering protesters on Monday after they braved cool temperatures and staged a nearly naked pillow fight outside Harvard University to promote animal rights.

... "This is nothing compared to what the animals go through," protester Karla Waples, wearing nothing but pasties to cover her nipples and a pair of panties, shouted to reporters as she was led in handcuffs to a waiting police van.
Monday's high in Cambridge was 50°, according to the Weather Channel. Some might think they're enjoying this public nakedness thing a little too much. I wonder that the police don't show up at these PETA exhibitions more often than they do.

Harvard Crimson | PETA Protest Ends in 6 Arrests
Anne D. Conlin ’07 criticized the spectacle nature of the event.

“If they want to bring in people from the mainstream to their cause it can be better done with persuasive data than naked antics in Harvard Square,” she said.

[PETA VP Dan] Mathews defended the group’s methods as unfortunate but necessary.

“Anything that gets people talking about issues is effective,” he said. “It’s a shame that we have to go to such lengths, but if we had been clothed and holding up pictures of animals being electrocuted on fur farms, there wouldn’t have been such vast public interest. Or jokes on Saturday Night Live.”
Ah. Just as I suspected. PETA as street theater.

I wouldn't have said anything...

...because I would have thought that the media would be all over this.
AP (Miami Herald) | Brown rips into Bush administration official
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown verbally attacked a top Bush administration official during a briefing on the Haiti crisis Wednesday, calling the President's policy on the beleaguered nation "racist" and his representatives "a bunch of white men."

Her outburst was directed at Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. Noriega, a Mexican-American, is the State Department's top official for Latin America.

"I think it was an emotional response of her frustration with the administration," said David Simon, a spokesman for the Jacksonville Democrat. He noted that Brown, who is black, is "very passionate about Haiti."

Brown sat directly across the table from Noriega and yelled into a microphone. Her comments sent a hush over the hourlong meeting, which was attended by about 30 people, including several members of Congress and Bush administration officials.

Noriega later told Brown: "As a Mexican-American, I deeply resent being called a racist and branded a white man," according to three participants.

Brown then told him "you all look alike to me," the participants said.

During the meeting, Brown criticized the administration's response to the escalating violence in Haiti, where rebels opposing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government have seized control of large parts of the country.

After her comments about white men, Noriega said he would "relay that to (Secretary of State) Colin Powell and (national security adviser) Condoleezza Rice the next time I run into them," participants said.
Tell me: In what other context could any elected official say "you all look alike to me" and get a free pass from the national press?

This story, like an increasing number of character-revealing incidents, is being more widely discussed in blogs than in the "real" press. Winds of Change has two posts (so far) tracking the coverage, or lack thereof, in what can be considered national newspapers. Of those named, only the Washington Post has mentioned it... in the context of covering (I might say trivializing and dismissing) Rep. Henry Bonilla's call for her resignation, not the incident itself. And it's only a three-paragraph item buried in the middle of a story about something else.

High schoolers with siege weapons

Tennessean | Students spring into action to build catapult
SEWANEE, Tenn. — Inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, three sophomores at St. Andrew's-Sewanee School came up with a daring idea: Build an enormous working siege engine — or catapult — for academic credit.

''I was looking for an independent study project,'' said David Fort, who suggested the idea to classmate Benjamin Miller. ''He laughed and said, 'That would be a lot of fun but we'd never get it approved.' ''

... ''They pulled the pin and it was so beautiful. It made almost no sound at all but a whooshing,'' said [sponsor Patrick Dean], who gave the boys an A-plus and a history credit for the project. ''The adults were looking at each other like 'Can you believe they made this work?' ''

... In the weeks since the first launch, the students have flung more than 60 pumpkins and water jugs into the open field. So far, their top distance has been 122 yards — about the length of a football field — although they keep tweaking.
The word they want for what they've built is "trebuchet." I hope the teacher and students know that word and the reporter just chose not to include it, feeling that his audience wouldn't understand it.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Eleven for eleven

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won every award it was nominated for, tying the record eleven won by Ben-Hur and Titanic.

(Mark Evanier and Daniel Frank blogged the event in real time: It's almost like watching it yourself.)