Wednesday, June 30, 2004

More musings on Michael Moore

Ever feel some way about something but you can't quite articulate it correctly? You just can't put what you want to say in just the right words; they always feel like they're just out of reach of your brain. Michael Moore's recent Fahrenheit 9/11 has always made me a bit uncomfortable, but I couldn't quite express how or why. Yes the movie will make any anti-Iraq-War Democrat feel good about himself, but I don't think the movie really contributes much of anything to the discussion.

There's an editorial in today's New York Times by Nicholas Kristof that I think expresses this much better than I've been able to:

I'm against the "liar" label for two reasons. First, it further polarizes the political cesspool, and this polarization is making America increasingly difficult to govern. Second, insults and rage impede understanding... But the rush to sling mud is gaining momentum, and "Fahrenheit 9/11" marks the polarization of yet another form of media. One medium after another has found it profitable to turn from information to entertainment, from nuance to table-thumping.

And I think that sums it up very well. This movie seems to elevate the shrillness of the political landscape, but brings very little to the table.

Monday, June 28, 2004

I'm a mental twelve year old

I actually got this in some animal crackers a while ago. It cracked me up then, and it cracks me up now. It just goes to show you exactly how juvenile I am.
Buffalo Humpin

Brought to you by the perverts at Barnum's Animal Crackers.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

We need computer penicillin

For the past few days, I've been my firewall [1] has been catching a huge upswing in the number of computers attempting to connect trying to connect to mine of port 445. It's hundreds per day, sometimes five to six per minute. They're mostly from various IPs, similar to mine. (I think my ISP rents lines from Level3.) That's one of the ports that WinXP uses for sharing folders, but I think this is primarily due to variants of the Korgo virus attempting to spread.

For crying out loud, who on Earth these days connects a Windows machine to the Internet without some form of virus protection? We don't live in an era where you have to click on some emailed attachment anymore, some of these viruses spread just through defects in the Windows networking layer. It's not just unwise, it's irresponsible not to have a virus scanner running on your computer. It's not like they're particularly expensive.

It's almost enough to get me to switch to a Mac.

[1] ZoneAlarm Basic, free for personal use. Download here.

Friday, June 25, 2004


Brought to you by a clip of the Daily Show seen on tonight's Larry King Live:

BORGER: Well, let's get to Mohamed Atta for a minute because you mentioned him as well. You have said in the past that it was, quote, "pretty well confirmed."
CHENEY: No, I never said that.
CHENEY: I never said that.
BORGER: I think that is...
CHENEY: Absolutely not. What I said was the Czech intelligence service reported after 9/11 that Atta had been in Prague on April 9 of 2001, where he allegedly met with an Iraqi intelligence official. We have never been able to confirm that nor have we been able to knock it down, we just don't know.

-- CNBC interview, June 17, 2004

But then,
Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that's been pretty well confirmed, that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.

-- Vice President Cheney, Meet the Press, CBS, December 9, 2001

And we're supposed to trust these people?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


I try not to harp on about the Abu Ghraib thing, but something occured to me this afternoon. The President is now say that he did not order any torture. It's not clear if he's talking about Abu Ghraib in particular, or including Guantanimo in that statement. But on the other hand, we're hearing more and more about administration memos that basically say that it's not torture unless it hurts so much that the victim feels like he's going to die. So part of me wonders if he's splitting hairs here. As if he was arguing about what the definition of "is" is.

Electablog has been writing a bit about this, much more eloquently than I ever could:

Our Soul, Our Being, Oh Yeah, And Our Laws
Worse Yet to Come in Torture Scandal?
Justifying Torture

Read them. I know it's not as entertaining as reading the comics, but this stuff is important.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

OJ (no not that one)

David called me this evening to make sure I caught the first episode of Outback Jack tonight. This is the reality show where they take a bunch of women and throw them in the Australian Outback with some big Aussie hunk.

I watched the first few minutes of it, and was struck by the women. They are all stick-thin, vapid, and modelish-looking. Now, I'm sure TBS is editing the hell out of the clips to make them seem like airheads. After all, that's the show's schtick. But something else struck me as odd. There's the token black chick, four brunettes, and the remaining seven women are all blonde, in varying degrees of natural-blondeness. The women are, on average, four year's younger than "Jack's" 28 years. (One presumes Jack's real name of Vadim Dale just sounded to ... ethnic or something.)

It seems like we're getting one too many of these shows. The first one or two were interesting, but now they're cropping up all over the place. Are we really such a nation of couch potatos that we're fascinated by watching other people date people and have lives that we are unable to get any of our own?

Monday, June 21, 2004

We license cars...

I'm really starting to think we need to institute a policy under which everyone much get a license to use the Internet. I've just finished reading a handful of reviews on Amazon, and I have to say, there's no way I'd buy anything based on the opinions of these nitwits. Under my policy, to get an ISP account, you'd have to prove you can type acceptably well, understand the intricacies of the comma, and Own A Keyboard That Actually Has A Shift Key. BUT NOT A SHIFT KEY THAT STICKS, OK?

Really, people, it's English, not particle physics.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Just my five cents (inflation, you know)

I got a new nickel the other day, with a different back. It was commemorating the Louisiana Purchase. I thought the mint was doing with the nickel what it was doing lately with the state quarters. Nope. Turns out that the nickel will have different designs for 2003, 2004, and 2005. The Spring 2004 design is the Louisiana Purchase one I saw, and there will be one in Fall 2004 for the Lewis and Clarke expedition. It's not clear from that site if there will be different designs for 2005.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Ow, my eyes!

Here is an excellent reason why there should be a mandatory course on web presentation before anyone is allowed to put up a web page:

It's also a good reason why <BLINK> should be ripped out of the HTML specifications, roots and all.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Reagan and AIDS

There's an interesting discussion over at on exactly how much Reagan did or did not do with respect to what we now know as HIV and AIDS during his tenure as president. [1, 2, 3] One reader points out that funding for AIDS grew steadily from 1982 to 1986.

Rush Limbaugh said on June 9 about those silly revisionist liberals:

[Opponents are saying that] Reagan caused AIDS, Reagan allowed AIDS to happen. I would parse what they said with the utmost logic. There's one way this disease is spread. Does anybody know something about Reagan we don't know? Of course, that did not win me any friends in that community. [That community, Rush? Oh, it's "those people" again?] But then they would say, well, no. He didn't care. Well, how do you know he didn't care? Because he never said anything about it. He didn't get any money spent on it. Not true. By the time Reagan left office, we had spent six, what was it, billion dollars, $5.7 billion on AIDS research. What they're really angry about, folks, is that Reagan did not turn his presidency over to AIDS.

Rush, no one is saying that he should have "turned his presidency over to AIDS." But maybe acknowledging that it even existed would have been reasonable? According to the Advocate article mentioned below, Reagan first mentioned AIDS in a major policy address in October of 1987. That's six years into the epidemic and nearly 30,000 people had died, and there were 60,000 reported cases. And he just now got around to mentioning it. Think about that. That's ten 9/11's before he addressed the issue.

The Advocate has what I think is an excellent opinion piece. Of course, that's a gay magazine and therefore, by definition, part of the commie, mutant, liberal press, so it's expected it would have a bit of an anti-Republican slant.

Yesterday I was at work and had to look up an old Nature paper for something I was researching. When I download a paper, I often look around that volume of the journal to see if there are any other interesting articles nearby. And I came across a fascinating series of news articles and opinion pieces.

Now let me put this into perspective. This isn't a gay news and entertainment magazine like The Advocate. This is Nature, one of the premier scientific journals in the entire world. It's British, and it's closest American counterpart on the same level is Science. These two journals are incredibly prestigious. At this point in my life, getting an article published in either of them would probably make my career. It's a major feather in the cap of even a well-respected scientist.

These articles range from July to December of 1987. Remember, it's at this time, in October, when Reagan first mentioned AIDS in a policy address. Thirty thousand people are already dead, and thirty thousand additional cases of AIDS (not HIV infections) are known to exist.

[President Reagan's advisory panel on AIDS] consists of people whose ideological qualifications are clear, but whose expertise on AIDS is not just suspect but non-existent. Theresa Crenshaw, the sex therapist from San Diego, supports abstinence from sexual activity as a general prophylactic against AIDS. That is symptomatic of a philosophy already espoused by the Reagan Administration for "wrong" behaviour of which it disapproves: "Just say no."

... [There are] questions of the balance between personal liberty and communal health, that will be tackled wisely only by well-prepared communities. Yet these are the issues for which the US government needs advice. The panel now appointed will deliver nothing of the sort. President Reagan may know that in advance.

-- "Bad advice on AIDS." Nature. 328, 366 (30 July 1987).

That was an Opinion piece. This one is in the News section:

The credibility of the US presidential commission on AIDS is in serious doubt... critics claim that its 13 members had been appointed more for their conservative views than for any expertise on medical issues.

... [About Secretary of Education William J. Bennett's handbook, AIDS and the Education of our Children -- a Guide for Parents and Teachers] The handbook, which comes with the approval of the White House, toes the now familiar conservative line that, as Bennett puts it, "when it comes to AIDS, science and morality walk the same path, they teach the same thing." [That is, abstinence. Presumably just up until marriage to your high school sweetheart.]

... [Surgeon General C. Everett Koop] also accepts that monogamy will prevent the spread of AIDS, had has strongly recommended the sue of condoms to the many young people who do engage in premarital sex. Bennett's handbook, in contrast, points out there is a danger that 'promoting the use of condoms can suggest to teenagers that adults expect them to engage in sexual intercourse."

-- "President's new AIDS commission in turmoil." Nature. 329, 570 (15 Oct 1987).

Faithful readers of this site (of which I think there are exactly two, including myself) will remember a previous rant of mine about how abstinence-only education in public schools does not work, can not work, and is probably more dangerous than teaching a responsible program of comprehensive sex education.

Bear with me, these last two are short:

Prompted both by the success and the failure of its first effort, the US Institute of Medicine has begun work on a second edition of its report Confronting AIDS: Directions for Public Health, Health Care and Research. When released last year, the report generated massive press coverage, and its conclusions were widely embraced, but not put into practice by federal government.

-- "AIDS report update." Nature. 330, 307 (26 Nov 1987).

And finally, oddly enough in a piece primarily about the Strategic Defense Initiative,

There is still no body identified to coordinate the US response to AIDS, no strong leadership from Reagan on the subject and no large-scale public education campaign.

-- "Togetherness by debate." Nature. 330, 408 (3 Dec 1987).

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


(Apologies to Wonkette for the title.)

I didn't want to write about Reagan until some time had passed; it seemed in bad taste, somehow. But with parallel Republican plans to place him on the $20 bill AND the $10 bill AND the dime, I figure my comments are reasonable.

I'm not sure how much the Reagan administration actually ignored the AIDS epidemic compared to how much gay activists claimed he did. I was 13 when it's claimed he first publicly addressed the issue, so a lot of the early epidemic is history for me rather than personal experience. The truth probably lies somwhere between the two extremes. But with round-the-clock Republican political masturbation and CNN being turned into the all-Reagan's-casket-all-the-time network, I found this letter to a friend rather poignant.

More later when I'm not at work.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Food geeks unite!

I'm getting hooked on America's Test Kitchen on PBS. Of course, I'm a nerd, but I love the fact that they do only one or two recipes in a half-hour show, but do them very well, and tell you all the little tricks they use. They'll cook a recipe systematically with all sorts of different types of ingredients, or different cuts of meat, and tell you which one worked best. It's like edible science.

The website is annoying because you have to register, but the show is definetly worth checking out.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Fifteen years

Tiananmen tank guy It has been fifteen years to they day since the massacre in Tiananmen Square. It's a bit of a cliche that we in the US take our freedoms for granted, but it's also rather true. I think we often forget that we're lucky to live in a country where speaking out against the President and his war isn't treason (well, not until Ann Coulter gets appointed to Queen Bitch of the World, anyway) and that, once upon a time, people actually had to fight and die to secure our freedoms. Part of the reason that we even have the Second Amendment is so that we will always have the ability to keep our government in check.

Not everyone in the world is so lucky. China is not only the most populous country in the world, it's the largest totalitarian government. Fifteen years ago, the government had hundreds of people killed, just for saying that they would like to have a democratic government.

That same event gave us what is probably one of the most recognizable images from the twentieth century. Had it happened here, would you have been the one to stand in front of the tank?

His name -- and his fate -- are still unknown.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Back to the Dark Ages

The Catholic church is trying to get back into politics, it seems. A few bishops are threatening to deny Communion to Catholics that vote for political candidates that are pro-choice. Now, I'm not a Catholic, and I don't really understand this stuff, but it seems to me, based on this, that this could very likely damn a parishoner to Hell. So, basically, what these bishops are saying is that voting against what the Church wants is a dammnable offense.

It's interesting, however, that they're only threatening to do this for one topic, abortion. Well, reproductive issues really, since it covers politians that want stem cell research and similar stuff. Now that covers most Democratic candidates, since they tend to be pro-choice.

What's really interesting, is that they're not threatening to deny Communion to Catholics that vote on other issues the Church disagrees with, like the death penalty or the war in Iraq, which are generally Republican issues.

So these bishops are, in essence, threathing Catholics with dammnation if they vote Democratic, and not Republican. Sounds like grounds for revoking their tax-free status.