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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Buddy can ya lend a hand?

posted by Jazz at 2/19/2005 04:27:00 PM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

Somebody in the sleepy town of Guilderland, New York can. Man, the creepiest things happen in small towns, I don't care what anyone says. This is something straight out of Picket Fences.

Police investigate report of severed hand
GUILDERLAND -- Paul Gleasman couldn't decide if the thing on his front lawn was a severed human hand, or a Halloween fake. Gleasman, worried that his young daughters might see the prank, used a shovel to toss the hand into trees behind his West Old State Road house.

But the hand haunted him -- perhaps it was real. His wife urged him to talk to authorities Friday, the day after Gleasman had discovered the hand on their property. As he dropped off his youngest daughter at day care, he mentioned the hand to a parent who is a Guilderland police dispatcher and, in turn, called police, who recovered the apparent hand from the trees. All day police combed the neighborhood for clues, even interrogating Gleasman.

The find even fooled pathologists at the Albany Medical Center, who thought it was a human hand as well. Until they X-rayed it.

"It is not a human hand," said Guilderland Police Lt. Curtis Cox, who got the news at 11 p.m. Friday. "Preliminary X-rays pathology shows that it is an animal claw that was very realistically made up to look like a human hand."

It may have been a bear claw, Cox said.


Every dog has his (or her) day

posted by Jazz at 2/19/2005 02:36:00 PM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

While there are certainly questions remaining about this case, I have to say that I liked this story.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The state Supreme Court granted clemency Friday to a dog sentenced to death for fighting with a neighbor's pet.

The high court ruled unanimously that Murphy, an Alaskan malamute-shepherd mix belonging to Doug and Lorele Dittoe, should not be killed for causing "relatively minor injury" to the other dog after slipping out of the couple's fenced-in yard in 2001.

Murphy had been deemed dangerous by the county sheriff, and a judge ordered her destroyed.

"We conclude that the order for the destruction of the dog was not reasonable," wrote high court Judge John Wright. "The county court ... abused its discretion." He noted that the other dog's owner waited two days to have the dog seen by a veterinarian, and the bill was only $34.06.

The Dittoes adopted Murphy in 1994 from a friend who found her malnourished and lying in a ditch. After she fought with neighborhood dogs several times, the couple took her to a trainer and put up a six-foot fence. But she got out again when a gate was accidentally left open.

At a hearing before the high court last fall, the Dittoes' lawyer, Mark Fahleson, said authorities trying to kill the dog were demonstrating "a bloodthirsty vengeance once thought reserved for only the most cold-blooded of human killers." Both the sheriff and the dog's vet testified that they did not believe Murphy should be killed, he said.

All too often, dogs are the ones blamed for the poor behavior of owners. The dogs wind up being put down, while the owners often pay nothing, or at most a small fine, and go on their merry way. These people fought for their dog, all the way to the supreme court, and the justices showed some of that infamous "mercy of the court" that people so often want to throw themselves on.

The dog's future?

As for the Dittoes, they are planning a party for Murphy.

"She might just get a steak," Lorele Dittoe said.
The lucky dog in question, with family. (Photo credit: AP)



It's all the old folks fault

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/19/2005 11:57:00 AM

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David Brooks is well David Brooks once again today. Social Security and Medicare problems are all the fault of those greedy and well organized "old folks".
We may as well be blunt about the driving force behind all this. The living and well organized are taking money from the weak and the unborn. Over the past decades we have seen a gigantic transfer of wealth from struggling young families and the next generation to members of the AARP.
This is enough to make my blood boil but at least it's easy to shoot full of holes. When it comes to Social Security I have had FICIA taken out of my paycheck for over 40 years. Until the last few years it was taken out of all my wages. Since 1983 they have been taking additional money out and investing those in treasury bonds to pay for my benefits. I'm sorry ass hole, I'm not taking money from anyone. George W. Bush likes to say "it's your money", guess what that's my money. And as for "taking money from the weak and the unborn"; our corporate controlled medical system in the US is doing a lot better job of that than I ever could. The working stiffs in this country see there premiums rise or their insurance disappear altogether as costs and corporate profits rise. It's the large corporations that are "taking money from the weak and the unborn", not those of us who have worked all of our lives and paid into the system. The major problem with the Medicare drug benefit he rails about is that it amounts to a veritable cornucopia of profits for the drug industry. Sorry David, once again you have shown yourself to be a not too bright partisan hack. Well at least Mr Brooks you never disappoint me.

Gannon/Guckert - Rove: Connecting the dots?

posted by Jazz at 2/19/2005 07:38:00 AM

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I was just looking over this opinion column by CBS political editor Dotty Lynch. I really haven't done very much coverage of the Gannon/Guckert story, mostly because I think the story is pretty well played out and over by now. Lynch, however, asks a question which I'm sure has occurred to many observers of this sad tale. Was Gannon tied to Karl Rove?

She talks a great deal about some of Guckert's earlier "work" in the South Dakota political scene, and his relationship to the GOP in the highly contested Thune v. Daschel campaign. The ties were so close that, as Lynch reports, one Daschle aide called Guckert "the dumping ground for opposition research."

The one thing she fails to do, however, is to close the deal with any sort of hard evidence of a direct connection between Rove and Guckert. There seem to be no photos, no documents, nor even any eye witnesses that ever place Guckert and Rove in the same room together except for one White House Christmas party. Guckert was clearly in cahoots with the GOP on many levels, but does that automatically put him in Rove's pocket?

This doesn't mean that I'm disputing Lynch's allegation by any means. Karl Rove is a hands on kind of manager, and I think that there is very little, if anything, that goes on behind the scenes in the handling of Bush and Cheney that he's not personally in charge of. He is also legendary, by most accounts, for his ability to "keep his fingerprints off" any dirt work that gets done by the politicos for the Republicans at that level. My only point is to say that you'd think CBS might have learned their lesson from Dan Rather. It's obvious that there is very likely a relationship between Rove and Guckert, but before you go reporting on it in CBS air space, you should probably come up with some sort of solid documentation to back it up.

There is a much longer analysis of this over at Ezra Klein. Also, skippy the bush kangaroo has more.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Putting in those change of address cards is a bitch

posted by Jazz at 2/18/2005 05:50:00 PM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

As a sort of public service announcement, our good friend Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice (One of the true "oasis" type spots in the vast desert of the blogosphere) is having some problems with his recent switch of internet housing. His old address at his typepad account has been stripped, far ahead of schedule, of his forwarding information. His new address, listed in our "must read" blogroll, is the place where people should be going. Please make sure to change your bookmarks and blogrolls accordingly, and if you could, pass the information along to your readers. Thanks for your help in this. Joe is one of the true good guys in Blogostan, and I'd hate to see any of his readers think he'd quit the biz.

Some Good Stuff for Friday Afternoon Reading

posted by Jazz at 2/18/2005 03:12:00 PM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

On the odd chance that Blogger actually allows us to post anything, here are some odds and ends that may be of interest to you from some of my favorite haunts around Blogistan and some new places as well.

Today is the 33rd birthday of Atrios. Go give him some love. (Who knew he was such a young punk?)

Do you like Michael Medved? James Wolcott doesn't. And we all know what happens when somebody raises Wolcott's ire. You won't want to miss this one. (Caution. Set down all beverages and food before reading.)

Was the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima terrorism? I'm going to hold out on (public) judgement of this, but Ron will get you thinking about it over at MEJ.

One aspect of the new Bush "Look, Ma', I can pull a budget out of a rabbit's ass" Budget which I never commented on was the impact on farmers. The One True Tami (blessed is her name) will enlighten you on this.

A Dog Named Jazz. You know, Doug... I'd be offended if I wasn't laughing my ass off. Lovely picture. (Don't just look at Doug's dog pictures. Read his blog. He may not be a "librul" but he's got an even handed view on the political landscape which I respect.)

"The body accepts inversion. The line away from earth is straight and perfect." (If I told you this story involved ballet and smoking, you'd probably not read it.)

I'm a sucker for Jim Morrison. Prophet or Madman takes you beyond the normal bounds of reality.

And to conclude, though you may be sick of one of my all time favorites... The Tea Nazi Cometh. Run in fear, puny mortals.

I'm going to go eat some hot wings and play a little darts. Hopefully I shall survive to check in with you later. Enjoy your Friday, loyal readers.

Hillary Thinks Ahead

posted by Jazz at 2/18/2005 01:22:00 PM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

This article caught my attention, if only because I am so fervently interested in seeing real, substantial and transparent voting reform happen in my lifetime. Of all people, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry teamed up today to begin the push for a voting reform act. You can read the article yourself, but cutting to the chase, this proposed bill has five major components.
  1. Create a federal holiday for voting on election day.
  2. Require paper receipts for all ballots cast.
  3. Allocate $500 million to help states make the transition to the new system.
  4. Allow ex-felons to vote.
  5. Require that the changes be in place before the 2006 election.
Let's skip number one for a moment. I think that number two should be endorsed and embraced by every person in this country. If you see Republicans opposing this, you need to make sure that people are asking in loud, clear voices, exactly what problem they have with a verifiable paper trail for votes. Follow the objectors and you will, I bet, find the people who have the most to hide in our recent elections.

As to number 3, I realize that Bush has driven the federal financial situation into an abysmal black hole of red tape, but if there's anything in this country right now that needs a half billion thrown its way, it's the voting system. I would pay higher taxes for one year to fund this. I'm guessing, however, that this is one of the ones that the GOP will use as a crutch to argue against the legislation, now that they are suddenly "fiscal conservatives" again this week.

Number 4 should be a no brainer. They aren't talking about people in prison or on probation. They are talking about ex- felons. People who have already "paid their debt to society" as the phrase goes. I've never understood how there is any constitutional grounds for removing somebody's basic democratic rights for the rest of their lives when they are given a sentence to serve and they do it.

Number five may prove impossible. The Diebold type machines are a mess, and getting new electronic voting machines that deliver paper receipts designed, built, paid for, and shipped to every precinct in the country in twentyone months would be a titanic effort. I think 2008 is doable, though. I think they should be ready to bend on that one if they want to get it passed.

Back to the first idea... when I first read it my immediate reaction was, "Ugh. We do NOT need yet another federal holiday. Besides, most places have voting for something like 14 to 18 hours on election day. I've yet to have any trouble getting to vote, and I believe that applies to most people unless they live in heavily Democratic/minority areas in Ohio when the GOP is trying to suppress the vote."

My mind changed, however, when I read this from Shawn at the Liquid List.
Today, pretty much anyone with a job or a family is unable to help their favorite candidate on Election Day. Indeed, many people have to struggle just to get to the polls in time to vote.
I hadn't thought of it that way. I know that a lot more people would be out helping their candidates or assisting in GOTV drives, volunteering as election workers, etc. if they didn't have to miss a day of work to do it. I don't' agree with a federal holiday just to go vote... but I do agree with a federal holiday to allow people to go get involved in the process. Except for the 2006 deadline, I have to say I wholeheartedly support this bill. Hillary, who I used to despise nearly as much as Bush and Cheney, has been surprising me more and more lately. I still don't know if I'd vote for her for President, and her sneaky moves about religion and abortion lately have been a turn off, but on this one she's hit a winner.

Of course, checking in with some other bloggers from both sides of the aisle, you'll find the usual carping about anything that Clinton or Kerry endorsed.

Quando Blog says, "No and No!" but does offer an intriguing counter offer which could be added into this bill. Why not set up all the states to have early voting so that you have several days, or even a week to vote? It's already done in some places. Quando takes the predictable "compassionate conservative" outlook of "Screw the criminals. You don't get to vote." *sigh*.

Pandagon is all in favor of this bill.

The Brothers Bush Judd trash the bill, but give no reason for doing so aside from complaining about "criminals and slackers." Very enlightened, boys.

I'll keep an eye out for more good takes on this proposal.

Just Wonderful

posted by Jazz at 2/18/2005 10:53:00 AM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

And now our right hand column seems to have disappeared, even though it's clearly still in the template. We're working on it, folks. Sorry about that.

So.... who knows anything about Powerblogs? I'd like some feedback on it, because this week is about the last straw for me and Blogger.

"You know," Richard Perle sighed sadly, "when Elvis used to take the stage, women would throw their panties at him."

posted by Jazz at 2/18/2005 09:32:00 AM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

... unfortunately for him, Perle's "fans" seem to have aimed a bit lower in the wardrobe department. (Mind you, we're not in any way insinuating any sort of foot fetish here.)

Shoe tossed at ex-Pentagon advisor during debate
PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) -- Howard Dean, the newly minted leader of the Democratic Party, and former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle made clear their opposing views on the war in Iraq during a debate marred by a protester who tossed a shoe at Perle.
Perle had just started his comments Thursday when a protester threw a shoe at him before being dragged away, screaming, "Liar! Liar!"
Right off the bat, I have to give Richard Perle credit. Going into Portland, one of the most solidly blue cities in the country, and taking on Dean (of all people) in a debate on the war took some serious intestinal fortitude. He probably should have expected this sort of a reception, though.

While the humorous value of this is hard to deny, this seems a bit excessive. I agree that the Democrats certainly need to grow a new set of cojones to deal with the current onslaught of the neocons, they want to be careful not to act so much like Bush's GOP goons do at appearances that they are branded with the same label. I think a far more elegant approach would have been for the protester to simply walk up to the moderator's microphone and quietly say, "Excuse me, Mr. Perle, you may not have noticed but your trousers appear to be engulfed in flames."

Dean wins honors for our Quote of the Day, however.
"Defense is a lot broader than swaggering around saying you're going to kick Saddam's butt,"
Perle made his usual Bush supporting case for why the war wasn't the tragic disaster of a mistake that it clearly is. Later, he was called to task by another question on his predictions concerning George W. Bush's legendary status in Iraq in the future.

Perle, a veteran of the Reagan administration and a former Pentagon adviser, was forced by one of the questioners to recast a comment he made on September 22, 2003, in which he predicted that within one year, there would be "a grand square in Baghdad named for President Bush."

"I'd be a fool not to recognize that it did not happen on the schedule I had in mind," Perle said, adding that he did not deny that the administration had made mistakes in Iraq.

But, Perle added, "I will be surprised, yet again, if we do not see a square in Baghdad named after this president."

That may well still happen. However, with the "grateful" Iraqi citizens having just elected a government controlled by the heavily Iranian influenced Shiites, and considering the way we've been threatening to rain hellfire down on Iran lately, I can't help but wonder how long it will be before Bush's "grand square" is the scene of a picture like this.



We may have a different shot of this historic moment coming in from Baghdad shortly. Stay tuned.

I'm Moving to New Jersey

posted by Jazz at 2/18/2005 07:14:00 AM

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... because in New York, nobody like this parks on my street.

Police find $5 million inside idling, unattended truck
CRANBURY, New Jersey (AP) -- State police seized more than $5 million in cash Thursday from a tractor-trailer found idling unattended for two days on the shoulder of a roadway, authorities said.
I'd like to think that I'm a fairly honest person. Just last week a cashier at the cafeteria where I have lunch on occasion gave me change for a ten when I'd only given her a five, and I gave the extra money right back. But if I found a cardboard box with one hundred pounds of cash in it...

I just don't know.

Friday Sphinx Blogging

posted by Jazz at 2/18/2005 06:14:00 AM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

But first, your regularly scheduled reminder to swing by the Modulator for the Friday Ark. Then, on Sunday, head on over to the carnival of the cats. I'll let you know where it is this week as soon as the site answers for me.

And without further ado.... could this be the great sphinx of Egypt from our last trip abroad? No... it's Spider again. This time she's caught in profile against the early morning light in the window. She still cuts a trim and stunning figure for a cat more than a dozen years old. (Click on image for rediculously large picture.)



Alan Greenspan, just another partisan hack?

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/18/2005 12:04:00 AM

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Paul Krugman takes on Alan Greenspan today calling Greenspan a Bush shill and another partisan hack. His double speak to congress on Social Security was a case of him trying to have his cake and eat it too. He said that Bush's privitazation plan was a good idea but not really. Alan Greenspan did a fairly good job when all he really had to do was tweak the interest rates to keep inflation under control. He preached that deficits were bad until Clinton managed a surplus which was bad. He warned of an economic bubble but did nothing to stop it's inflation and he had a number of tools he could have used to do so. He apparently didn't want to anger the booming investment community. As a disciple on Ayn Rand he has always despised everything about the New Deal, especially Social Security. George W. Bush put Mr Greenspan in a very bad position, he came up with a plan that would eventually destroy Social Security but is so ill conceived that the economist had to say take it slow while the Bush shill wanted to say full speed ahead. Ok, enough of my rantings, here is what Krugman had to say.
Four years ago, the Fed chairman lent crucial political support to the Bush tax cuts. He didn't specifically endorse the administration's plan, and if you read his testimony carefully, it contained caveats and cautions. But that didn't matter; the headlines trumpeted Mr. Greenspan's support, and legislation whose prospects had previously seemed dubious sailed through Congress.

On Wednesday Mr. Greenspan endorsed Social Security privatization. But there's a difference between 2001 and 2005. In 2001, Mr. Greenspan offered a convoluted, implausible justification for supporting everything the Bush administration wanted. This time, he offered no justification at all.

In 2001, some readers may recall, Mr. Greenspan argued that we needed to cut taxes to prevent the federal government from running excessively large surpluses. Even at the time it seemed obvious from his tortured logic that he was looking for some excuse, any excuse, to help out a Republican administration. His lack of sincerity was confirmed when projected surpluses turned into large deficits, and he nonetheless supported even more tax cuts.

This week, Mr. Greenspan offered no excuse for supporting privatization. In fact, he agreed with two of the main critiques of the administration's plan: that it would do nothing to improve the Social Security system's finances, and that it would lead to a dangerous increase in debt. Yet he still came out in favor of the idea.
So as we can see Greenspan is a man torn between being an economist and being an Ayn Rand Uber Libertarian and Bush shill. Yet while not fully endorsing the Bush plan on Social Security he was still able to play the shill.
Yet the chairman managed to avoid admitting the obvious - that borrowing on the scale the Bush plan requires would substantially increase the risk of a financial crisis. And the headlines didn't emphasize his concession that crucial critiques of the Bush plan are right. As he surely intended, the headlines emphasized his support for privatization.
And Krugman makes one final disturbing observation.
One last point: a disturbing thing about Wednesday's hearing was the deference with which Democratic senators treated Mr. Greenspan. They acted as if he were still playing his proper role, acting as a nonpartisan source of economic advice. After the hearing, rather than challenging Mr. Greenspan's testimony, they tried to spin it in their favor.

But Mr. Greenspan is no longer entitled to such deference. By repeatedly shilling for whatever the Bush administration wants, he has betrayed the trust placed in Fed chairmen, and deserves to be treated as just another partisan hack.
I think Krugman is not quite on target here. Greenspan is not just another partisan hack, he is a modern day true believer in feudalism, a true Social Darwinist.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Lonely Defense of the MSM

posted by Jazz at 2/17/2005 03:34:00 PM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

It's not often that you'll see me taking up a dispute with one of the other authors here, but in an open exchange of ideas, it can happen. And today it shall. This ties in rather nicely with a couple of previous pieces I did on the importance of keeping some perspective on what we, as bloggers, do in comparison to the old, established media. (Here and here, for those who missed it.)

This reflection was spurred by the publication of Peggy Noonan's glowing praise of bloggers in her most recent column. Now Peggy Noonan is, in most all regards, a right wingnut writer who is adored by the neocon supporting bloggers. As such, it was no surprise that they were falling all over themselves to shower adoration on her comments. (For just a sampling of this, see Poliblogger, Captain Ed, Betsy Newmark, Dan Gilmore, Quandoblog, Michelle Malkin)

I also found our own Ron getting behind the article over at Middle Earth Journal.

To give credit where credit is due, Noonan makes some good points.
Blogging changes how business is done in American journalism. The MSM isn't over. It just can no longer pose as if it is The Guardian of Established Truth. The MSM is just another player now. A big one, but a player.
This much is true. I do agree that the blogosphere has become a "part" of journalism in our global society. It's a new part, but certainly a part, be that for better or worse in terms of the dissemination of information. Peggy also makes a couple of other good points. She talks about how bloggers use most, if not all, of the tools of conventional journalists to dig up more facts than any one group of reporters can find. She also notes the speed at which bloggers can report and spread information, and the freedom from limitations of article length, timing, etc. Plus, as she points out, blogs are free. And "that is a service."

But then she ties into the first of two or three areas where I think most of us are missing the point.
It is not true that there are no controls. It is not true that the blogosphere is the Wild West. What governs members of the blogosphere is what governs to some degree members of the MSM, and that is the desire for status and respect. In the blogosphere you lose both if you put forward as fact information that is incorrect, specious or cooked. You lose status and respect if your take on a story that is patently stupid. You lose status and respect if you are unprofessional or deliberately misleading. And once you've lost a sufficient amount of status and respect, none of the other bloggers link to you anymore or raise your name in their arguments. And you're over. The great correcting mechanism for people on the Web is people on the Web.
I'm sorry, but I have to throw the bullshit flag on this one in a very big way. Where is this governance of which she speaks? Posting outright lies will certainly get you kicked to the curb, but bloggers on both sides of the aisle participate in the promulgation of slanted, distorted, and specious postings that make "the other side" look bad all the time. The methods are, most certainly, those of attack dogs hunting for trophy game. You can always print a very tiny correction later if you feel so inclined, but if you are a popular blog on either end of the political spectrum, you're readers will keep coming back and cheering you on for "exposing the evil" of the other side. There really isn't much of a correcting mechanism in place that I've seen.

The level of partisanship and red/blue divide prejudice is insane. There are very few blogs that manage to straddle that divide and provide any sort of balanced coverage. (Some of the only exceptions that come to mind are The Moderate Voice and Centerfield, along with a few others.)

Second, though I've said it before, is the fact that Noonan is really not being very honest in saying that the MSM is now just a "player", albeit a big one, on the field in terms of true journalism. The MSM is far beyond being the 800 pound gorilla in this sense. If the traditional media sources were to suddenly disappear tonight, 99.9% of the political and news oriented blogs would dry up and blow away by tea time tomorrow like so many fall leaves. That's where almost all bloggers get their information to start with - they simply expand on it and amplify it from there. Without those sources, blogs would go back to being personal journals of daily life and recipe exchange sites.

The last point, however, which Noonan completely fails to address is that of quality. Quality in writing is something that I look for and attempt, with pathetic results, to emulate. I do try, when I have the time and patience, to put a lot of work into creating some well crafted posts where I will endeavor to make an eye catching turn of phrase. However, I can look at the very best of my work with no small amount of pride and then flip over to the shortest, most off the cuff paragraph of James Wolcott and realize that I will never rise to that level of excellence. It would be easy for me, as a "left leaning" blogger (so tagged since I oppose the Bush administration and the Iraq debacle) to take on right wing blogs for their shortcomings. But I won't do that. Go take a look at Atrios, Kos, or most of the other left side blogs. You'll find typos, misspellings, poor structure and misused words galore. They are still great blogs, and I read them daily. But it lacks the grace of a really well written piece of pros. You can blog 24/7 for years from your basement while wearing your pajamas and taking pictures of your cats, and you aren't going to rise to the level of the thoughtful, well crafted writing of Leonard Pitts. (Unless of course you were born with his sort of innate gift, in which case you are probably already a published author.)

My point is that there is a certain grace, style and substance to good writing. And, like it or not, it doesn't grow on trees in our back yards. It takes a natural talent combined with hard work and education, combined with years of honing your skills at the grindstone to reach that level of the craft. Not every blogger has it and, truth be told, the vast majority of us do not. (And yes, I am most certainly including myself in the category of "far below the benchmark" on this.) Putting away the "dreaded MSM" too fast in our eagerness to surpass them would be a tragic mistake.

Rewards continue for the dishonest and incompetent

posted by Jazz at 2/17/2005 11:30:00 AM

NOTE: YOU ARE VIEWING AN ARCHIVED POST AT RUNNING SCARED'S OLD BLOG. PLEASE VISIT THE NEW BLOG HERE.

I'm about as cynical as they come when matters of the Bush White House are under discussion, but even I didn't see this one coming. Bush has named John Negroponte to the nation's top security position.

"John's nomination comes in an historic moment for our intelligence services," Mr. Bush said in a ceremony at the White House. He said intelligence was now "the first line of defense" in the war on terrorism.

"John brings a unique set of skills to these challenges," Mr. Bush said in a ceremony at the White House.

Well yes indeed, Mr. President. Let's take a look at those "unique skills", shall we?

In case you don't remember John, allow me to refresh your memory. He was our ambassador to the UN back during Bush's rush to war in Iraq. One of the key things that Bush felt he needed during that period was a UN resolution authorizing him to attack the country. The UN, of course, balked at that. At the time, however, they still believed there were WMD's there and wanted Saddam to be more open to inspections. They did not, however, have any intention of giving Bush an open invitation to launch a war.

That's why, when the resolution to call on Iraq to be more agreeable to inspections came up for a vote, John was sent in. The other members of the Security Council didn't care for the "face serious consequences" clause in the resolution. Negroponte went and had individual meetings with each of the members, and later gave a speech to all of them at once, assuring them that there was "no automaticity" in the resolution. He promised them, in the name of the United States, that the resolution did not mean that failure to comply would result in a US attack, but that it was a "two step process" and the issue would be revisited in the UN.

Now, of course, we know that Bush never had any intention of honoring that promise and was just playing the UN for pawns in his preparations to launch the war. But John was a key part in getting the deal sealed. Is this is just the guy we want in charge of all of our intelligence resources?

Outside the Beltway is reserving judgment on John for now, but ponders questions about his complete lack of background in any intelligence capacity, or in running any sort of large umbrella organization like this.

So, this brings up the question in the subject line. Negroponte appears to have very little in the way of qualifications for this extremely important position. His "claims to fame" in both his tenure as UN ambassador and occupation honcho in Iraq resulted in dubious "success" at best. So what is the motivation for handing him this post? Could it be anything beyond the loyalty that George W. Bush values over all things?

People's Life-Altering Experiences

posted by Mike at 2/17/2005 11:20:00 AM

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I have recently begun checking out MetaFilter to see what all the fuss is about. In the process, I came across, honestly, one of the most amazing reads I've had in my life. If you ever follow one of my links, follow this one. Wow. It's a long read, but it's worth every word.

Lucy is freaking me out

posted by Jazz at 2/17/2005 09:17:00 AM

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There is an online toy, tool, application, whatever you want to call it, named Talk to Lucy. It's an animated woman with a pretty extensive vocabulary and conversational skills. Her dialogue and ability to answer questions, make comments, give opinions, etc. has been growing since she learns more from every person who has a "conversation" with her. It's gotten fairly frightening, particularly if you have your speakers turned up. She speaks in an audible voice as well as displaying the text of her comments.

I asked a series of questions, starting with some banal stuff about the weather and moving on to questions about who she voted for in the election, her opinion on the Iraq war, etc. Some of the responses were pretty startling. One of my favorite exchanges:

Jazz: You look French. Are you from France originally?

Lucy: No, but I have many friends from France.

Jazz: Oh, then where are you from originally?

Lucy: I live inside your computer, Jazz. Where are you?

Jazz: New York.

Lucy: Really? What's the weather like in New York right now?

Jazz: Cold and snowing. How's the weather where you are?

Lucy: It's always about seventy degrees in your computer, Jazz.

Jazz: I suppose I should have known that.

Lucy: Don't feel too bad.

I can only speak with her for short periods of time before I start getting a whole "Invasion from Mars" thing going in my head and have to bail out. Go check her out and ask some oddball things. You may be surprised at her answers.

Not My Cup of Tea

posted by The One True Tami at 2/17/2005 09:07:00 AM

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But that doesn't matter!

Justice Dept. Fights Ruling on Obscenity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 - In a case representing a major test of the Bush administration's campaign against pornography, the Justice Department said Wednesday that it would appeal a recent decision by a federal judge that declared federal obscenity laws unconstitutional.
Seems that there was a criminal case against a California video distributor for violating federal obscenity laws. It's a company that does, indeed provide what some would label as "hard core". Personally, I'd label it, "offensive".
The examples given in the article are "scenes of simulated gang rapes and other attacks on women". I don't want to watch that. I certainly don't know if any of my friends want to watch that.
Louis Sirkin, a Cincinnati lawyer representing the pornography distributor, said he believed the judge's opinion would be upheld.

"You can't legislate morality," Mr. Sirkin said. "You have to let people make their own personal decisions, and that's the important principle at stake in this case."...

...Judge Lancaster interpreted that ruling to mean that "public morality is not a legitimate state interest sufficient to justify infringing on adult, private, consensual, sexual conduct even if that conduct is deemed offensive to the general public's sense of morality."
That's it, right there. No, I don't want to buy this stuff, but this is a free country, and sometimes freedom means that people are allowed to do things that others find repulsive. Buying filthy videos doesn't hurt anyone. If the people participating in them are all there willingly, and the filmmakers aren't misrepresenting themselves, then they should be allowed to conduct business. There's just a fundamental difference between disgusting and illegal, and we, as Americans, have to respect that. It's part of what makes us a great country, right?

I find myself defending the most outrageous, unusual cases I can find, all for the purpose of making sure that the small, everyday freedoms remain safe far, far inside the container.

Back in the mail bag

posted by Jazz at 2/17/2005 07:48:00 AM

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We get letters. Oh boy do we get letters. At times like this morning, however, I'm forced to look back at the words of Alexander Pope for some consolation.

Heaven first taught letters for some wretch’s aid,
Some banish’d lover, or some captive maid.

People e-mail all sorts of things to blog writers. There are actually a fair number of letters which are friendly and appreciatives. Others suggest news items we might want to blog about. I'm always happy to get those. Others have well thought out disagreements with some opinion which one of us may have posted. These can often spark a lively discussion of issues, and that's always a plus. Hell, even some of the flame infested hate mail from conservatives can be great fun to read.

Then again... some days you get letters like this. (The return e-mail address was bogus, so I won't bother including it here.)
running coward,

i hope you take this as a free advice the way it's intended. i"ve seen just about enough of your anti-american bullshit and hey, because of how great our country is, youve been free to write whatever you want to. to bad you dont appreciate the freedoms you have that other people fought and died for and are still doing today. but thait time is about over and if you have any brains atr all you will figure that out now whiel there is time. your time is coming. i don't want you to think this is a threat form me personally or anything because its not. the problems you have or are gonna have is with the governmnet. people like you who always talk shit about our great president and our brave troops in iraq are not just 'having opinion' like you say. you are actually putting lives of troops in danger with your unamerican bullshit. you do whats called giving aid to the enemy and lowering the spirit and survive ability of our troops. and thats gonna stop real soon. people like you need to be in jail and the courts are waking up tothis. have a nice time wiht your new cell mate frenchy.

Todd
Now, all comments on keyboard difficulty aside, what do you find the most alarming about this letter? Some initial suggestions... (but feel free to add in your own.)

  1. The person is probably old enough to vote, and you know who he voted for.
  2. With that level of writing ability, he probably can't read very well, so he's getting all of his news from Faux on "the tee vee."
  3. Yet another sign that Bush's supporters really don't care about freedom of speech or informed dissent, and they are buying into the whole "dissent = traitor" tag line.
  4. This guy actually earned enough money someplace to buy a computer.
  5. The invention of the paragraph eluuuuuuuuudes him.
  6. It wasn't that alarming, Jazz... he was nice enough to insinuate that you are French.

You make the call.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Do you know where your towel is?

posted by georg at 2/16/2005 03:41:00 PM

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Amazon.com has a trailer of the new movie version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. While I fully expect it to be yet another variant of the story, this one seems to have the special effects well worth the effort, and I look forward to wasting my $5.

Not a Fan Letter

posted by The One True Tami at 2/16/2005 02:43:00 PM

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Dave Shuster is a fan of Condoleeza Rice. Still though, he has a few unhappy words to say about her dealings with the French public.

Apparently, she gave a speech at a school where she took questions. Spontaneous questions? No, no! Vetted, pre-approved questions, of course!
The controls clamped down on the Secretary of State's "interaction" with French students are even more embarrassing when you consider what Dr. Rice said in her speech. "History is made by men and women of conviction, of commitment and of courage, who will not let their dreams be denied." But there was Dr. Rice, denying a free exchange between the Bush administration and a bunch of French college students. What exactly is the administration afraid of? Men and women of conviction? That the French students will ask annoying questions? So what?


So, what, indeed.

And, of course, this shining example of liberty and freedom preceded her fabulous job talking about the current issues between Syria and Lebanon, and why we recalled our ambassador before a HUGE funeral of State.

I'm not a fan of Condoleeza Rice. I think she's a smart, talented woman who's wasting it all in order to be able to play the game.

Humpday Question of the Day

posted by Jazz at 2/16/2005 02:27:00 PM

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Since they are apparently handing out press passes to just about anybody these days, let's put you in the shoes of Jeff J.D. GannonGuckert. If you could get invited to one of Scotty McClellan's white house press gaggles, what question or questions would you like the opportunity to ask him?

And, assuming that you based your question on knowing that you'd get a highly spun, if not outright dishonest answer, what questions would you ask him if you could suddenly slip him a 100% effective truth serum? Remember... it would have to be something he actually knows, otherwise you'd still just get the stock, "I'll have to look into that and get back to you."

Buttons Have Been Declared Enemies of the State

posted by Mike at 2/16/2005 12:36:00 PM

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Jeremy Caplan writes in this week's Time Notebook column about the army's new uniforms

The new duds substitute Velcro and zippers for buttons, which used to snag on gear.


Okay, wait a minute. Let's think this out.

You're a soldier. You're trying to creep up on a sniper who's shooting people. As you approach him, you realize that you need to reload your gun, and your bullets are in your pocket. You cautiously reach towards your ammo pocket, and start to pull it open ...

RRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!

Unless they've invented silent Velcro, this doesn't exactly seem like a wise design choice to me.

(On another, entirely nonpolitical note, learned something a bit sad about Keanu Reeves yesterday, of all people.)

Those Who Do Not Learn From History ...

posted by Mike at 2/16/2005 12:02:00 PM

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I was reading perhaps the umpteenth article or column on Dean ascending to the position of DNC chairman, and I realized that there was a very interesting analogy.

Those who opposed Dean and his philosophy mounted what most people have called an "Anybody But Dean" campaign, in which various contenders stood up. However, most of them were extremely unpalatable, and their own personal platforms were either quite unclear or were anathema to the Democratic party. None were as brash and outspoken about the beliefs of the Democratic Party as Dean.

The results, I think, could be directly compared to the results of the national election.

Kerry's campaign (as well as those various groups assisting Kerry, such as MoveOn.Org, etc.) was rather consistently predicated on an "Anybody But Bush" campaign. I remember that even during the debate, when asked about a particular stance, Kerry suggested viewers look at his campaign website for his full plan, rather than having developed plainspoken concepts (again, the need for Democrats to master framing reared its head) to express his plan.

To summarize ...

Bush won the election, I feel, because he was able to express* the values** of the Republican Party*** in a way that spoke to the basic heart of Americans, while his opponent ran a campaign based not on his own values but on "Anybody But Bush."

Dean won the chairmanship, I feel, because he was able to express the values of the Democratic Party in a way that spoke to the basic heart of liberals, while his opponents ran campaigns based not on their own values but on "Anybody But Dean."

* — With the help of a mysterious bulge, of course.
** — Not that those values are actually honored in practice, mind you.
*** — Republican Party (Neocon Mutation).


Outsourcing a War

posted by Mu at 2/16/2005 11:41:00 AM

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As most of us have realized the biggest military ally in the war in Iraq is not the British Army, but a horde of mercenaries, usually described as "security contractors". Reports have their number at 20,000, about as much as our "allied" troups combined. Now, these guys do what noone else wants to do, guard supply convoys or provide pricy (around $5,000 for a 20 mile trip) but safe passage from the Bagdad Airport to the green zone. They are voluntees, highly paid, and know the risk.
But who controls these guys? If MSNBC is correct, noone. The provisional authority/govenment excempted them from Iraqi law, and it looks like the US military sure won't do anything about them (bad press, plus you'd have to send your own guys into harms way).
And it keeps politicians safe from war crime charges, if they can deny responsiblity for actions of their own military, whatever your outsourced local subcontractor does is surely not something to be blamed on anyone in DC.

New Mars Rocks

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/16/2005 10:26:00 AM

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Thirteen months and still going. The Mars rover Spirit is still making new discoveries months after it was supposed to dead.

(Image: NASA/JPL/Cornell)
The Mars rover Spirit has found the most interesting and significant exposure of bedrock so far in its 13 months of Red Planet exploration. The outcrop - dubbed Peace - is in the Columbia Hills which rise above the ancient lakebed of Gusev Crater.

The exciting feature of Peace for scientists is that it contains higher levels of sulphur than anything yet examined by Spirit. Other rocks encountered to date had sulphur minerals forming a surface crust, but little in the interior.

In contrast, Peace contains high levels of sulphur deep inside, says Ralf Gellert of the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany. Because it is highly correlated with magnesium in the rock, it suggests the presence of magnesium sulphate, he says.

"This is probably the most interesting and important rock Spirit has examined," says chief rover scientists, Steven Squyres at Cornell University, New York, US. "It gives us even more compelling evidence for water playing a major role in altering the rocks here."
More evidence of water on Mars in the past.
The science team concluded that the rock seems to consist of sand-sized grains of typical Martian volcanic rock - olivine, pyroxene and magnetite - cemented together in a matrix of magnesium-sulphate salt.

That suggests two possible formation mechanisms, says Squyres, with both mechanisms involving the action of water.

The first is that liquid water, laden with dissolved magnesium sulphate, percolated through the rock and then evaporated away leaving the salt behind. The second is that the rock was weathered over a long period by dilute sulphuric acid in the air, reacting with magnesium-rich minerals already in the rock. The team hopes to pin down which way the layered bedrock formed by studying more areas in the coming weeks.
The Spirit's partner, Opportunity....
...has also shattered all previous Mars travel records, covering 157 metres (514 feet) in one day - 30 January 2005. This speed is far faster that the average rate of about 6.4 metres (21.1 feet) per day that it achieved during its first year of operation.
Tax dollars well spent.

My Apologies

posted by Jazz at 2/16/2005 06:56:00 AM

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Yesterday, while clearing ice outside of our home, I managed to slip, fall, and jam my left hand on the ice to the point where I have damaged my left hand. (I'm thinking two fingers are dislocated.) Posting may be slow or non-existant from me today until I get an appointment to the doctor's. The other authors will have to take up the slack. Sorry about this. (And right in the middle of the Koufax awards... I know.) Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Speaking of classy (jokes) ...

posted by Mike at 2/15/2005 11:07:00 PM

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A cardiologist died and was given an elaborate funeral. A huge seven-foot-wide heart, covered in flowers, stood behind the casket during the service. Following the eulogy, the heart opened and the casket rolled inside. The heart then closed, sealing the doctor in the beautiful heart forever.

At that point, one of the mourners burst into laughter. When all eyes stared at him, he said, with a wry grin, "I'm so sorry, but I was just thinking of my own funeral ... I'm a gynecologist."

That's when the proctologist fainted.

Inaugurations Classy and Corrupt

posted by Mike at 2/15/2005 05:54:00 PM

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Yeah, I know, it's not exactly the meme of the moment anymore. But I was brought back to it today by:

"Instead of being the host of an expensive Inaugration celebration while members of the U.S. military are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush could have unified the country by putting the $40 million that the festivities cost into a trust fund. That money could have been paid to the families of our military dead and to the injured and battle-worn survivors of conflicts." — David M. Pepper, Malibu, CA


The above letter appeared in this week's TIME, and when I read it, it just floored me: why didn't Bush do that? It would have been an amazing bit of PR for him. Hell, I hate the guy, and even I would have begrudgingly given him major props for the gesture. I suppose the only reason my cynical (and still semi-bleary) head can come up with is that it would have appeared to have been a concession to the charges, and thus a weakness. He would have only gotten the credit if he had come up with the idea first, instead of having it be a reaction to the charges of overextravagance. Still, a man that would let his ego and reputation get in the way of making substantial assistance ... Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) noted at the time that $40 million could have bought 690 Humvees and a $290 bonus for each soldier serving in Iraq.

I have to respect FDR. In the middle of World War II, his inauguration "ball" was a short speech at the White House followed by a buffet luncheon featuring chicken salad and pound cake - and that was it. Class. The American public should expect no less of this moron. Unfortunately, they'll no doubt continue to let him get away with everything he wants, showing them to be braindead morons themselves. I hate to have such a low opinion of the American populace — it's not exactly useful, let alone nice — but why do they let him get away with so much sh—t?!

Complete Michael Jackson Coverage

posted by Jazz at 2/15/2005 03:37:00 PM

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This, from Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: 1com·plete
brought to an end: CONCLUDED <a complete period of time>

That is to say, this is all of the coverage of the Michael Jackson trial that you'll be seeing from me. (Not that other authors here might not cover it, but I certainly won't be reading those posts.) If you are really interested, I suggest you check in regularly with The Moderate Voice. Joe Gandelman seems to be keeping up with it.

Now... for my one and only statement. (At least until this trial is finished.)

I am so sick of this guy that doctors from the Mayo clinic keep calling, begging me to come in for an exam so they can name this new sickness after themselves. I've gotten to the point that I'll turn off CNN when he shows up. (And trust me.. it takes a lot for me to turn off CNN Headline News.) I made my mistake in the 90's. I got sucked into the O.J. Simpson trial until it devoured my life. If I'd been blogging ten years ago or more, you'd probably have blacklisted this blog because it would have been nothing but 24/7 OJ rants and news stories. I'm not doing it again, and I'm glad.

Most celebrity trials are bad enough, but this one is odious beyond description for me. I'll confess that I'm generally creeped out by "Jacko" and I can't stand even looking at him, say nothing of talking about him. I don't know if all of the running allegations against the man are true. If they are not, then I hope he's not convicted, but he's still way to weird for me. If they are, then I hope he fries and rots in hell with all other rapists and child molesters. Either way, I just don't want to know. My world is ugly enough without dealing with him.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Maybe I'm Actually Paranoid

posted by The One True Tami at 2/15/2005 02:10:00 PM

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OK, maybe I'm a bit of a moonbat on this one, but...

Yesterday, I was watching the news, and I saw yet another story about Valentine's Day being outlawed in Saudi Arabia. Suddenly it occurred to me - this is anti-Saudi propaganda. Oh, god, are we going to war with them, too?

I'm hoping I'm just paranoid.

The Bush Administration is truly evil

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/15/2005 12:53:00 PM

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This should be beyond belief but it's not. Steve Soto at The Left Coaster reports of this disturbing report in The Asia times, US fights back against 'rule by clerics'. Steve does a great job of discussing the story so I'm not going to do a lot of copy and paste here, just head over to the Steve's post. What it's all about is the Bush administration is arming Baathists in the Shia areas in the South to fight the Shiite majority.
In other words, for the sake of maintaining control of the oil, the United States is prepared to foment civil war between the emerging Shia powers, who assume that with the election they will finally see the benefits of "liberation", and the same Baathists who ran with Hussein all these years.
[.......]
So, what the PNAC cabal thought they could control politically by installing their guy as PM, only to see him lose out to the Shiite factions, they now will try to control through armed militias, with direct ties to the United States.

Obviously, the Bush Administration’s definition of liberation is different than the Iraqis’ definition of liberation.
I don't know what more to say.

Reid put to the test

posted by Jazz at 2/15/2005 12:25:00 PM

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In case you missed it, Bush has now renominated twenty of his previously (and still) unacceptable picks for judiciary seats. While the Dems passed along almost every one of his choices, this rogue's gallery of right wing neocon judges were too much to swallow. Apparently, anticipating the GOP's use of the "nuclear option" he's run the same ones up the flagpole again. I'll be waiting to see how Reid reacts to this.

Tax evasion

posted by Mu at 2/15/2005 08:45:00 AM

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In their neverending quest to cheat the states out of their well earned taxes, Americans have found a new way - fuel efficient cars. Since a large part of your fuel prices goes to your state you are robbing your fellow citizens of their needed highway funds by switching from that hummer to a hybrid! But don't worry, the solution is imminent. Tax them by the mile. Really easy math, if you'd driven your hummer at 10 miles to the gallon, and at 50 cents tax on fuel per gallon, that's $5 per 100 miles driven. A bit of big brother (can't have people cheating, we need real time milage collection via GPS), but that cannot be avoided (possibly due to the needs of the war on terror).
See, and you thought, if you'd get everyone to switch to that hybrid with 60 miles to the gallon, you could save that alaska preserve. Silly you.

Men are from Mars. Women are from... Newark?

posted by Jazz at 2/15/2005 07:03:00 AM

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Michael Gurion has bravely stepped forth to risk the wrath of womankind everywhere, releasing his new book, "What could he be thinking?" He seeks to make the case that men and women truly are different, and the reason is completely biological/genetic.
[Gurion] believes there are about a hundred structural differences that have been identified between the male and female brain.

"Men, because we tend to compartmentalize our communication into a smaller part of the brain, we tend to be better at getting right to the issue," he said.

"The more female brain (will) gather a lot of material, gather a lot of information, feel a lot, hear a lot, sense a lot," he said.

Scientists say males have more activity in mechanical centers of the brain, whereas females show more activity in verbal and emotional centers.

One example he cites is a rather disturbing one, if you think about it. But I think it's something that most of us have observed in real life.

The differences can be noticed from early childhood, Gurian said, such as when an adult gives a child a doll.

"That doll becomes life-like to that girl, but you give it to a two-year-old boy and you are more likely, not all the time, but you are more likely than not to see that boy try to take the head off the doll," he said.

"He thinks spatial-mechanical. He's using the doll as an object".

That last bit could really explain a lot. I mean, there's a lot of scumbag woman beaters out there. Did somebody give them a doll to play with when they were kids? Stick to the toy trucks cowboy hats, parents.

The article goes on to say that the differences are genetic, and tries to try to pinpoint exactly where the split happens.

It all boils down to genes, according to Dr. Marianne Legato Partnership for Gender Specific Medicine Columbia University.

Women are born with two X chromosomes, and men with an X and a Y.

"And on that Y chromosome are at least 21 unique genes unique to males which control many of the body's operations down to the level of the cells," Dr Legato said.

She also said those genetic differences explain other differences, like why men can drink more alcohol than women without becoming intoxicated.

"Women do not have the enzyme in their stomach that degrades alcohol which men have," she said.

Unfortunately it doesn't explain why some men leave the toilet seat up, or some women can't take out the garbage.

That's odd... I always thought that women were fully capable of drinking just as much as men, but chose not to because they saw the men acting like drunken idiots. Live and learn.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Reminder: Support the Koufax Awards

posted by Jazz at 2/14/2005 06:07:00 PM

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The last categories in the finals for the Koufax awards are up. You can check out the Best Single Issue Blog, (Why wasn't Panda's Thumb put in this category instead of group blog? Just a thought.) Most Deserving of Wider Recognition, Most Humorous Post, (man that was a tough one) and Best New Blog.

The usual blogwhoring reminder can, of course, be shamelessly slipped in here. Running Scared is in the finals for Best Group Blog, so if you want to show us some love, we'll be much obliged.

Wampum is still trying to raise funds for their efforts and costs, so if you can afford the scratch and would like to help, you can do so here.

Be sure to check out the various entrants in all the categories. (Including ours!) I've expanded my bookmarks a bit from those lists. Some excellent blogs there.

Brainfry

posted by Mike at 2/14/2005 04:32:00 PM

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I am exhausted this afternoon, and my brain resembles slightly rotten Swiss cheese. Therefore, I toss these links at you, and I will see which stick on the wall, and which will fall on the ground for the cat to eat and then upchuck.

Rick Klau celebrates Dean's ascension to the DNC chairmanship, aptly noting, "[W]hen people like James Carville claim to be embarrassed by the grass-roots energy behind the selection of Dean as the party’s chair, well, I think that tells you just about everything you need to know about the state of the party today."

Last Thursday, Disney head Michael Eisner described as "pretty pathetic" the computerized human characters created by Pixar. Pixar head Steve Jobs zinged back, "Our films don't stack up to 'Atlantis,' 'Emperor's New Groove' or 'Treasure Planet.'" Heh. Imagine Jon Stewart doing his "Oh, SNAP!" Daily Show bit right here.

Top 10 Signs the Apocolypse Is Nigh. "5. 'A new strain of the AIDS virus that swiftly causes disease and resists virtually all anti-HIV drugs has been detected in New York City.'"

A hilarious moment in Batman history. "So, they laugh at my boner, will they?!"

I have to call bullsh—t on this one.

Finally, actor and blogger Wil Wheaton has evidently finally landed a role ... on CSI, even. He'll be playing a homeless individual, although his make-up seems to make him look like a drummer for a '80s hair band. If you've never checked out Wil's blog, you've missed out on some incredibly, incredibly fine writing. Who woulda thunk that 'Wesley' could turn out to be one heck of a writer?

Blogging and Self Importance

posted by Jazz at 2/14/2005 04:00:00 PM

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As a follow-up to the earlier post on partial defense of MSM blog bashing, I've been reading further into Jeff Jarvis' post on this subject. (Which, in fact, spurred the entire thing.) Also, it's worth taking a look at the comments sections in Jarvis' post, mine, and the others linked in that article.

Jarvis is one of your more level headed bloggers at most times, but there are points where his enthusiasm for and belief in the raw power of this new "citizen's media" gets in his way, I think. On some of the more rabid blogs, I constantly see references to how blogs are going to "take down the old media and bury it!" RAAARGH! (Insert scream of your choice here.) Jeff isn't in that camp, but some of his points in the referenced post lean in that direction. It's very important to remember that if all of the MSM were to suddenly disappear overnight, 99% of the political blogosphere would fold up the next day. We would have nothing to talk about because, like it or not, that hated, dreadful MSM is where all of the "regular" bloggers get their information. And yes, that includes Atrios, Captain's Quarters, Kos and Powerline.

Right up front, let's remember something - Jarvis isn't some pajama mujahadeen blogger sitting in his basement posting items in between taking pictures of his cat. He's an experienced, credentialed, professional journalist who still appears regularly on CNN, MSNBC, and other venues. He still works in publication, though in newer, different formats. He's a pro. It's pretty easy for him to talk about the "power of bloggers" and to make suggestions for how the MSM can work together with bloggers for a newer, brighter future if all the experience he has to go on is how his blog is treated by the MSM.

Let me give you a hypothetical example. Jarvis works down around the Big Apple, but I live in the wilds of Upstate New York, a few hours away. We have some influential, national political figures in our state. George Pataki is one who comes to mind, and he travels around the state quite often. Let's just say for a moment that he showed up in Binghamton, New York and gave a quick speech to a small group of GOP supporters here. When things like this happen in my area, I tend to show up, and certainly I'll blog about it. Imagine for a moment that Pataki said something truly outrageous... for example, "You upstaters have to realize that the only way we're going to get real school reform in New York is if we get rid of most of these blacks." (Obviously he'd never say that... this is just an example of something that would cause a media feeding frenzy.)

Trust me... if I'm there, the local paper is going to be there. They would run like hell to go to press with that story. It would also get picked up (eventually) on the wires, and find its way to the Times, the Post, LA Times, etc. (There's an outside chance that the NY Post and the Washington Times might print it, but it looks bad for the GOP so they might pass.) The point is, if I run straight home and write up a blog entry about this, and the NY Times is using this "new media" and see the story, are they just going to print it? Can you picture the Times running with a front page story on a controversial Pataki quote just on my say so? No... they'll dispatch reporters to the scene, call the local papers, look for other witnesses and, you know... the usual "professional journalism" stuff. Even if I'm correct, what happens to them the first time they run a huge front page story based on an account by some blogger without vetting it first and it turns out to be partisan hackery? They're screwed. Now if Jarvis blogged it, they would very likely already be working on the lede. Why? He's a journalist. There's a difference.

Jarvis has some specific complaints about the Times piece linked in the last post. One of them is how the Captain's Quarters blog author is described.
This being The Times, many of the slaps are subtle. When they quote Edward Morrissey of Captains Quarter, who stayed on top of the Jordan story, they make a point of saying he is "a call center manager who lives near Minneapolis" Read: "He's not one of us. He's not a real journalist."
I'm sorry, but... this is an insult somehow? The guy IS a call center manager from Minneapolis. Is he supposed to be ashamed of that? Or is it that the Times is pointing out, by way of identifying the source of the quotes, that Ed Morrissey isn't a professional journalist? Because guess what, Jeff? He's not. He's a call center manager with a blog.

I just read a piece in our local paper this week where the reporter was asking a number of local residents what they thought about a new helicopter contract which a Lockheed Martin received in our area. One of them was answered by, "Linda M. Grocery clerk at Giant supermarket." Was that an insult to Linda? No... they asked her what her job was, and she told them. The story identified where the opinion was coming from. If they had not done that, the reader might be thinking, "Hrmmm... Linda M.... is she from the Department of Defense?" No. She's giving an opinion, just like Ed Morrissey and most all other non-professional-journalist bloggers do.
I'm simply not getting this criticism of the Times at all. They are identifying the sources of quotes. If Jarvis' point is that anyone with a blog should be taken, de facto, as a "member of the media" and treated as such by the MSM, that's a bit too much aggrandizing of the blogosphere for me.

We're all safe

posted by Mu at 2/14/2005 02:50:00 PM

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from beeing hit by debris from interceptor missiles. In a stunning repeat performance our high price national missile defence system failed to get of the ground again.
Someone give them some hamster feed.

A Partial Defense of MSM Blog Bashing

posted by Jazz at 2/14/2005 11:17:00 AM

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Prepare for something you don't normally see - a defense of portions of the accusations recently leveled against the blogosphere which has so many Citizen's Media pundits howling today. It may also lead to a bit of ranting. You have been warned.

The object of all this fury is the linked piece in the New York Times where Katherine Seeley and her co-authors took bloggers to task as "News Media Trophy Hunters." This piece deals, of course, with Friday's resignation of CNN executive Eason Jordon, following the perfect blogstorm which hit him from the Bush supporting, right wing side of Blogtopia.
With the resignation Friday of a top news executive from CNN, bloggers have laid claim to a prominent media career for the second time in five months.

On Friday, after nearly two weeks of intensifying pressure on the Internet, Eason Jordan, the chief news executive at CNN, abruptly resigned after being besieged by the online community. Morever [sic] , last week liberal bloggers forced a sketchily credentialed White House reporter [ed: "Jeff Gannon"] to quit his post.

At the same time, some in the traditional media are growing alarmed as they watch careers being destroyed by what they see as the growing power of rampant, unedited dialogue.

Steve Lovelady, a former editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal and now managing editor of CJR Daily, the Web site of The Columbia Journalism Review, has been among the most outspoken.

"The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail," he lamented online after Mr. Jordan's resignation.
She is reporting the basic charge that bloggers are acting like a rabid pack of wolves attempting to take the heads off of any MSM figures who appear to slip up, pass off bogus or intentionally distorted information, spin/ignore stories, or display partisan tendencies in their reporting. (And really... how broken do your irony and hypocrisy meters have to be for most bloggers to level that last charge without making you cringe or chuckle.)

Before we go any further, I want to state right up front that the attacks on Eason Jordon, who definitely might have been due some criticism, were questionable right from the start. To give absolutely fair coverage to the "other side" of the argument, I'll point you to a timeline of events in "Easongate" hosted by possibly the most partisan, right wing source possible. The newly minted easongate blog, which so may right wingers were swooning over. You can read the litany of "charges' there.

Now... before we get to the furor over the trophy hunting, lynch mob comments, (covered below) why is this ado questionable?

Item - The biggest complaint from the right wing (and we'll see more on this below) is about the so called "liberal bias" of the media and their unfairly slanted coverage of any news concerning Bush or the Iraq war. (Or anything else to do with Bush, for that matter.) Where did Eason publish the alleged charges that US troops were intentionally killing journalists? Jordan's remarks were made at a private meeting in another country. The other reporters from the MSM, which was so lambasted by the Bush blogs for "not covering the story", almost uniformly stated that the meeting and all comments were "off the record." If Jordan had published these allegations at CNN, you'd have a story. Even if he directly made an accusation of intentional targeting of reporters (which he apparently has not done) he didn't publish them.

Item - In the so-called "timeline" much is made of an October, 2002 appearance in which he made comments about reporters being endangered in Israeli border areas. He never mentions American troops there (the crux of the right wing accusations that he has "sullied the good name of our troops") and was talking about Israeli forces. Unrelated to the current situation.

Item - An April, 2003 op/ed piece he wrote. (Clearly labeled as an "editorial", by the way... not a news story.) In it he describes how he failed to cover a lot of stories about Saddam's atrocities before the war because of fear for the lives of journalists. He was clearly referring to a danger they faced from SADDAM... NOT American forces. Unrelated.

Item - A November, 2004 speaking appearance where Jordan expressed concern over the number of reporters killed in Iraq and a reporter held at Abu Ghraib and allegedly tortured. Well, several reporters HAVE been killed. And the reporter, though he worked for Al Jazeera, was still a member of the press, he was held at Abu Ghraib, and he claims he was tortured. So that's not a story just because it might look bad for America?

There hasn't' been much of a case built for any "pattern" of verbal attacks on US forces that I can see. His remarks at the recent conference were supposedly made "off the record" and not only has a tape not been produced, no two people have even come up with the same quote from him. Jordan had attempted to clarify his remarks, and I would point out that nobody has ever quoted him as saying that US forces intentionally (and that would be the key word) targeted journalists.

Now, on to the head hunting allegations. Did the right wing bloggers engage in some sort of lynch mob mentality, personal attack on Eason Jordan to try to bring down his career? OF COURSE THEY GOD DAMNED WELL DID. They've been acting just like a pack of attack dogs who almost immediately lost sight of whatever the original issue may have been in an effort to have an impact on the real media and bring down a person they viewed as a "disloyal American" for not agreeing with the invasion of Iraq. They smelled blood and opportunity and went into a frothing hysteria. But to read the comments in various blogs and articles today, you can hear a collective, "Lynch mob? Who... us?" You can just about see the glowing little halos over their heads, arms crossed behind their backs , one toe scuffing the floor, as they mutter, "Awww, shucks. Not us. How could ya'll think that?"

Michelle Malkin took a moment out from her blogging to write in the New York Post, " The ad hominem hysterics of Jordan's defenders stand in stark contract [sic] to the way the vast majority of bloggers approached the search for truth in this matter." It's an amusing side note that when I, of all people, have to correct the typos in a New York Post article by Malkin on this subject, you can rather see the level of "journalism" that you're getting here. That's a published piece from an allegedly legitimate "MSM source."

She goes on with the righteous indignation in her blog, where she tries to cast herself in the light of the far more rational and even handed Jeff Jarvis, saying "
or pushing Jordan to be accountable for his words and actions." That's Jeff Jarvis, Michelle. Hardly representative of what we saw from the true right wing.

Captain Ed appears to be so incredibly pleased that he was mentioned in the Times piece that he calls it an "excellent background piece" and describes his interview as "tough but fair."

But it is worth looking at some concrete examples of "what they say now" compared to "what they said then." We can start at Powerline, who as always can be counted on to show both faces. Today they are jumping on Michelle Malkin's bandwagon about "the MSM and the lynch mob meme." But not very long ago, we saw Hindrocket saying, "This story is playing out in excruciatingly slow motion, but the ending has already been written: Eason Jordan is finished." But no, Hind Rocket... you're not after his head, are you?

While Captain Ed, as shown above, is cool as a cucumber now, not very long ago, he certainly sounded like Eason Jordan was on the menu. He describes Jordan's departure as giving "justice to our fine young men and women serving America and the cause of liberty and freedom in Iraq and around the world. Never forget that they were the target of Eason Jordan's lies and slanders." Nope.. nope.. no "head hunting" here, eh?

We've already quoted Michelle Malkin's righteous indignation above, but let's see what she said just prior to Jordan's resignation, shall we? "I have not called for Jordan's firing or resignation (yet)--unlike many other bloggers who did so even before I published by reporting on Rep. Frank, David Gergen, and Chris Dodd on Monday." You know, for somebody who's not trophy hunting, and defending all of your co-conspirators, you certainly seem nearly ready to call for his head, and knew of a lot of others who had already done so.

These same things are repeated over and over and over again in conservative blogs around the web. If you want an even deeper look, check out the comments sections on these posts. The faithful readers of these bloggers go much further, calling for Jordan's imprisonment as a traitor and all of the same old rhetoric they level against anyone who ever dares disagree with the administration or criticize the disaster in Iraq. The self justification and denials of the "howling pack of wolves" charges rings hollow, folks. You should probably give it up. I'm far from the brightest bulb on the tree and I was able to find your dishonest distortions on this in under an hour.

Dear Bill

posted by Mu at 2/14/2005 11:05:00 AM

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Microsoft's Bill Gates gave a long speach on the advantages of his Internet Explorer and other Microsoft products in regards to interoperability with other's vendors product. Now the Register has published this great response by the CTO of Opera, one of the competing products MS is seeking interoperability with. Even if you skip the technical mumbo jumbo - it's a great piece of "how to debunk political speak if there are actual facts to be looked at".

Winners and Losers

posted by Ron Beasley at 2/14/2005 09:39:00 AM

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Yesterday over at Middle Earth Journal we discussed how the neocons and George W. Bush were the real losers in the Iraqi elections. In the Washington Post today Robin Wright elaborates and tells us Iraq Winners Allied With Iran Are the Opposite of U.S. Vision.
When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq two years ago, it envisioned a quick handover to handpicked allies in a secular government that would be the antithesis of Iran's theocracy -- potentially even a foil to Tehran's regional ambitions.

But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.
While the Bush administration tries to spin this as a great victory it can only be seen as a loss as the US supported party came in a poor third. As Condi Rice takes her dog and pony show on the road and continues to threaten Iran the two parties than won over 70 percent of the vote have Iranian ties and are expected to have relatively good relations with Iran.
Thousands of members of the United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite-dominated slate that won almost half of the 8.5 million votes and will name the prime minister, spent decades in exile in Iran. Most of the militia members in its largest faction were trained in Shiite-dominated Iran.

And the winning Kurdish alliance, whose co-leader Jalal Talabani is the top nominee for president, has roots in a province abutting Iran, which long served as its economic and political lifeline.

"This is a government that will have very good relations with Iran. The Kurdish victory reinforces this conclusion. Talabani is very close to Tehran," said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraq. "In terms of regional geopolitics, this is not the outcome that the United States was hoping for."
The bottom line is the Bush administration is so delusional and incompetent it can't even accomplish it's own nefarious goals.

Sticking with the Valentine's Day theme

posted by Jazz at 2/14/2005 08:52:00 AM

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We knew this was bound to happen sooner or later. I mean, they've had numerous television shows already where "reality" contestants can compete to find somebody to marry them. So I suppose this was inevitable.

Radio station offers free divorce for Valentine's Day

SYRACUSE, New York (AP) -- Cupid occasionally misses his mark, so a local radio station is running a Valentine's Day contest offering a free divorce.

"Everyone associates Valentine's Day with love, and diamonds, chocolate, roses. But what about those people that hate it? This is for those people," said Scott Petibone, program director at WKRL-FM, a progressive rock station.

The station began promoting its divorce-giveaway last week. By Thursday, the station received over 100 entries, Petibone said. A winner will be selected on Valentine's Day.

Of course, whenever you try to do something nice for somebody, there's always going to be a spoil sport waiting in the wings to rain on your parade. In this case it was ... surprise, surprise ... one of the local churches.

"A divorce is a death, the death of a dream," said the Rev. Joseph Champlin, rector at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. "You wouldn't make a joke out of someone who died, would you?"

Petibone, who is married, is surprised by such criticism.

"We're not asking happily married couples to get a divorce. The people who are entering want to get a divorce," Petibone said. "If a contest makes you want to get a divorce, then you've definitely got problems."

I hate to break it to you, Scott, but any of your listeners who even answered this contest have likely got some problems.

My Next Dinner Date

posted by Jazz at 2/14/2005 08:41:00 AM

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I don't know why I find the idea compelling, but I think I'm going to call this guy and see if he wants to have dinner.

Artist hits road to have dinner with ... you
A phone message to the nation: Please call 510-872-7326, Marc Horowitz wants to meet you for dinner.

Go ahead -- dial it. If he doesn't answer, just leave him a message. That's what thousands of people have done after seeing his number scrawled on a dry-erase board in a Crate & Barrel catalog photo last fall.

Horowitz, a conceptual artist in San Francisco, was working as a photo assistant on a shoot for the catalog when he came up with an idea for an art project that would question social barriers and maybe make the world a little smaller.

Apparently he's been flooded with offers, and what was originally just going to be a fun project for a couple of weekends has now turned into a cross country RV journey that will take more than a year.

Aside from thousands of dinner offers, he's gotten rants, raves, obscene messages and offers for sex. (Personally I think that any woman who calls up a random cell phone number and offers to "entertain" in that fashion might have more issues than you'd want to bed down with.)

It would be fun to talk with him, though. The problem is, I imagine that he wants you to do most of the talking so he can collect stories. I'm simply not all that fascinating, and would rather hear about his adventures with other callers.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

North Korea: How did we get where we are now?

posted by Jazz at 2/13/2005 12:02:00 PM

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There is a really in-depth series of articles detailing US (and international) relations with North Korea, and the history of their nuclear program going on at Mahablog. It is currently in five rather long parts, but if you take the time to read it and check out some of the linked resources, I assure you that it will be an eye opener for many of you. Excellent Sunday reading.

Part 1
Part 1.5
Part 2
Part 2.5
<>Kelly's hissy fit in North Korea, Harrison says, was calculated to drive a wedge between Pyongyang and Seoul/Tokyo. The Bushies wanted to stop the Japanese and South Koreans from getting too chummy with North Korea.

So, the Bushies want to control the agenda, and their agenda doesn't seem to be a reduction of tension or a normalizing of relations or anything else that might keep peace in Asia. Then what is their agenda?

<>You'll remember that the Bushies got some immediate political perks from the North Korean crisis it had stirred up -- which was, let us note, on the eve of the 2002 elections. Immediately after Mr. Kelly started his bomb-throwing act, the rightie puditocracy was unleashed throughout news media to inflame public opinion against the evil Clinton-Carter 1994 agreement and, by extension, Democrats. Funny how that worked out.

There's more to come tomorrow. Check back with her for the wrap-up of current relations and what's going on behind the scenes in the Bush administration.