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Monthly Archives: September 2005

Required Reading

September 29th, 2005 - 11:55 pm

I’ve argued the last couple weeks that the Republicans are in trouble. Howard Fineman reports that the Democrats may be in even worse shape – still.

Just what we need in a time of war: Two abso-frickin’-lutely useless parties to choose from.

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September 29th, 2005 - 10:28 pm

Had a martini and got inspired – this happens more often than you might think. Or less often than you think, depending on how well you know me and/or martinis.

Anyway, I’m working on this thing now, and have no clue if it will end up as yet another 800-word newspaper-column-with-sex-jokes thing, or something to sell, or another 3,000-word magnum opus.

However it turns out, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’m going to make a second martini and get back to work.

I’ll try to squeeze in some subpar blogging, but no promises.

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September 29th, 2005 - 12:46 pm

The WTC-sited “Freedom Center” is toast:

After Governor Pataki ordered the embryonic Freedom Center off the memorial quadrant on Wednesday, the center’s founders responded almost immediately by putting an end to the entire project, saying it was intended exclusively for the ground zero site and could not be placed elsewhere.

None too soon, either.

The first half of the story relates the final final plans for the WTC – and this time, they mean it.

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September 29th, 2005 - 10:20 am

Fred Barnes also thinks the Republicans have an uphill fight in 2008.

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Sweet, Sandy Crude

September 29th, 2005 - 10:12 am

All the oil talk lately has been about shale extraction, and how it could soon become profitable. When oil is at $70 a barrel, shale extraction is a real possibility. Once economies of scale come into play (and some of the capital expenses have been amortized), it’s thought shale extraction could remain profitable even when oil drops to the $35-40 range.

But now there’s this:

Analysis of seismic recordings revealed the presence of a “deep fault” at the base of the Eugene Island reservoir which was gushing up a river of oil from some deeper and previously unknown source.

Creating that much oil would take a big pile of dead dinosaurs and fermenting prehistoric plants. Could there be another source for crude oil?

An intriguing theory now permeating oil company research staffs suggests that crude oil may actually be a natural inorganic product, not a stepchild of unfathomable time and organic degradation. The theory suggests there may be huge, yet-to-be-discovered reserves of oil at depths that dwarf current world estimates.

Read the whole thing, since I snipped out all the scientifical bits.

In any case, it’s comforting to know when I’m stuck in a wheelchair (or in the ground), my grandkids will probably still have the option of buying giant cars with massive V-8 engines.

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September 28th, 2005 - 11:29 am

This is big:

WASHINGTON Sep 28, 2005

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Objects In Space

September 28th, 2005 - 6:32 am

Also caught the Serenity blogger preview last night. Liked it, didn’t love it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun flick with a lot of slam-bang, and as others have noted, an unusual amount of solid character writing for the genre from creator Joss Whedon.

That said, I have to disagree with Steve on one point: I suspect people who didn’t see the “Firefly” TV series (and not many did) are going to be more than a little lost. I thought the script assumed too much familiarity with the characters and their histories–although I should note that Glenn, who apparently hasn’t seen the show, liked the movie just fine, so it’s possible I’m all wet. Then again, Glenn is a science fiction fan, and this is a movie expertly tailored to the smart-SF crowd. I have my doubts about it crossing over to a larger audience, but I’d be happy to be wrong about that.

For those who were already familiar with the show, it’s great fun, even if some of the characters got relatively short shrift just by the nature of the beast (Jewel Staite’s wonderful Kaylee, for instance, didn’t have much to do in this movie, but she still gets the best one-liner in the script). I liked the story a lot, particularly the explanation of how the cannibalistic Reavers came to be (which made a hell of a lot more sense than “they just went nuts because space is so big”). It takes chances, and isn’t afraid to get very, very dark. Whedon pretty openly based his lead character on Han Solo, but for all the happy-go-lucky-ism that implies, this really isn’t an upbeat tale–and good for Whedon for dodging that temptation.

On the other hand, for all the kudos that “Firefly” received for presenting “realistic” science fiction, the movie repeats one of the show’s most annoying conceits, with characters recovering almost instantly from major traumatic injuries. Granted, that’s also a conceit of the Western, from which the “Serenity” world borrows heavily, so perhaps it’s a feature and not a bug, but it still bugs me.

To sum up: I had a good time, and if I’d paid for a ticket, I wouldn’t have regretted the time or the cost. It’s the kind of thing you’ll like, if you like this kind of thing.

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Can’t Stop the Signal

September 27th, 2005 - 10:46 pm

Went to the blogger screening of Serenity, and enjoyed it competely.

Does it help if you were a fan of the series? Probably. But don’t let that stop you. In an engaging and clever first ten minutes, writer/director Joss Whedon introduces you to all the major characters, plus the spaceship Serenity.

I haven’t seen a character-driven action picture this much fun since the last Indiana Jones movie, or maybe since the first Die Hard. Only instead of one or two heroes to cheer for, you get nine. And Chiwetel Ejiofor’s “Operative” character is the best bad guy since Darth Vader. And I don’t mean the whiny, petulent Vader from “Revenge of the Sith.” I’m talking about “Empire Strikes Back” full bad-ass mode. And with just a touch of “Jedi” for good measure.

The rest of the cast from the series is back for the movie – although not all of them will be returning for the sequel.

And right now, I’m hoping dearly there will be one.

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“Species Traitor”

September 27th, 2005 - 12:00 am

The bad news is, people like this not only exist, but mean deadly serious business.

The good news is, more sensible people tend to be armed.

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If Elected, Please Let None of Them Serve

September 26th, 2005 - 11:34 pm

Patrick Ruffini has another straw poll for 2008 Republican presidential candidates. About 17,000 people voted in the last one, so don’t miss out.

After you’ve voted, come back here and take a look at Patrick’s list of likely candidates. Here they are, along with my comments in parentheses:

George Allen (too young – also Senators don’t win)
Haley Barbour (too corrupt)
Sam Brownback (too unknown, at least for now, see Senator rule above)
Bill Frist (too tainted)
Rudy Giuliani (too liberal to nominate, a fantasy choice)
Chuck Hagel (bad hair, see Senator rule again)
Mike Huckabee (bad name, uninspiring)
John McCain (I’d vote for Evita Peron first)
Tim Pawlenty (nice record, not a senator, so maybe)
George Pataki (not even New Yorkers like him)
Mitt Romney (can’t carry his home state)
Tom Tancredo (would turn off Hispanic voters Bush & Rove have courted)

And… that’s it. As of right now, those are the probable Republican choices for 2008. From here, the Republicans look a lot like the “Seven Dwarves” the Democrats put up in 1988.

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Required Reading

September 26th, 2005 - 11:30 pm

The true symbols of the War on Terror are the Islamic veil and the two-piece woman’s business suit.”

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September 26th, 2005 - 10:00 pm

Just in case you missed it:


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Too Good to Work

September 26th, 2005 - 8:00 pm

John Dvorak has come up with the worst good idea ever. Or maybe it’s the best bad idea. Read and decide for yourself:

Some years ago I was flabbergasted when Congress banned the use of laptops by U.S. representatives. The rules are more relaxed now, and computers are part of the day-to-day life of a legislator. But I think it’s time for us to consider taking things to the 21st century by completely virtualizing Congress, letting the representatives and senators work from within their districts instead of living and working in Washington, D.C.

Things would work more effectively with teleconferencing, and the Congress folks wouldn’t be so hounded by lobbyists in a corrupting environment. Lobbyists would have to travel to the districts.

Brilliant. Just brilliant. Better even than my idea a few years back to move our nation’s capital to somewhere in western Kansas – and amend the Constitution to forbid Congress from convening during any month other than August, or have air conditioning.

Here’s where Dvorak gets even smarter (or dumber, which we’ll get to in a moment):

As things sit today, one suitcase nuke set off near the Capitol buildings would pretty much wipe out the federal government and kill all the representatives and senators at once. This would be a serious problem. Just look at the devastation a submegaton bomb caused in Hiroshima. Well, imagine D.C. being in that condition. Why does it remain a sitting duck?

Now let me tell you why it won’t work.

Pretend for a moment that you are Rt. Hon. Congressperson Mylar H. Crawfish, representing the greater East Sphincter, Utah area. You get to spend most of your time in a city filled with people just like you. Some are elected officials, some work in the media, some are lobbyists, and some come from exotic foreign countries. And not only do they share your Washington-centric attitude

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This Is Why I Don’t Try To Steal His Beer

September 25th, 2005 - 6:08 pm

From today’s Washington Post:

Something wasn’t quite right about the pewter flagon on the auction block in front of Donald Herr.

The antiques expert knew it was authentic, and the “1762″ marking in front attested to its age. But something about the pitcher’s feet — tiny cherubs’ heads — jogged Herr’s memory.

Normally, the flagon would have two feet in front and one in back to make the container easier to tilt forward for pouring Communion wine into goblets. But this flagon was different: It had one foot in front and two in back.

Just like a flagon that was stolen from the Historical Society of Frederick County 30 years earlier.

Herr rushed home to look at pictures of the stolen decanter. He had collected the images long ago while writing a book about pewter church antiques, and he found that the two flagons were identical, down to the dents and the initials of its creator, Johann Christoph Heyne, an 18th-century German craftsman in Lancaster, Pa.

Donald Herr is my father-in-law.

The Post article leaves out most of the story, but he went to some pretty remarkable lengths to make sure that nobody unknowingly bought a stolen item, and that the decanter got back to its rightful owners. Due to staff turnover, nobody at the historical society even remembered that it had been stolen. Neat stuff.

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September 23rd, 2005 - 2:50 pm

Just click the link for a good chuckle.

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Friday Recipe

September 22nd, 2005 - 10:56 pm


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From the Desk of HRC

September 22nd, 2005 - 6:43 pm

So much for moving to the center:

Thu Sep 22 2005 18:54:45 ET

The nomination of Judge John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States is a matter of tremendous consequence for future generations of Americans. It requires thoughtful inquiry and debate, and I commend my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee for their dedication to making sure that all questions were presented and that those outside of the Senate had the opportunity to make their voices heard. After serious and careful consideration of the Committee proceedings and Judge Roberts’s writings, I believe I must vote against his confirmation. I do not believe that the Judge has presented his views with enough clarity and specificity for me to in good conscience cast a vote on his behalf.

Actually, I overstated the case. For the most part, only party die-hards care that much about Supreme Court nominees – and Hillary still has 18 months or so to tack back to the center.

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Out There

September 22nd, 2005 - 3:14 pm

Here’s an interesting idea:

If high-power microwaves, able to evaporate significant amounts of water, could be beamed down from space, what if they were beamed into the path of a hurricane? Would they be sufficient to change its track? Or, if they were beamed into the eye wall of the storm, would they vaporize enough water to reduce the strength of the storm? It seems the process might affect the winds and perhaps raise the barometric pressure near the center of the storm, and could potentially reduce, say, a Category 4 storm into a Category 3.

The author, Gray Rinehart, admits we’re “far from being able to implement or even test ideas such as this.” But his essay is trying to promote new uses for space and space-based power – and that’s what makes it a good read.

Then again, those in the reality-based community know that Karl Rove has had weather-controlling microwaves for years already.

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Smear Job

September 22nd, 2005 - 2:35 pm

Here’s what looks like the Next Big Scandal:

Federal prosecutors have opened an inquiry into allegations that two Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee employees illegally tapped into Lt. Gov. Michael Steele’s credit history.

WBAL-TV 11 News reporter David Collins reported the workers obtained the report in July while executing opposition research on the lieutenant governor.

Damning stuff, but it gets worse. Matt Drudge linked to the story thusly:

Update: Did Schumer’s DSCC Destroy Evidence?

Apparently not. The relevant bit of the story says, “Collins reported that the two employees have since resigned and committee officials said they have destroyed the document.” In other words, they properly destroyed the credit report they obtained (it seems) fraudulently. What the employees did not destroy was evidence of wrongdoing – since they already fessed up and resigned.

Remember: It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. Drudge is hyping a cover-up where it doesn’t look like one exists.

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September 22nd, 2005 - 2:32 pm

Jimmy Carter must be reading Paul Krugman.

There’s no permalink to the entry, but it’s the audio link currently right up at the top.

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The Good Fight

September 22nd, 2005 - 2:25 pm

This looks like it could be a worthy effort. I’m interested to see what happens when the site goes “live” next week.

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The German Question

September 22nd, 2005 - 10:42 am

Angela Merkel hasn’t given up hope on forming a Grand Coalition government in Germany:

German opposition leader Angela Merkel said she’ll pursue talks with both Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats about a “grand coalition” and with the Free Democrats and Greens on a three-way alliance, as she bids to form a government after an inconclusive election.

“We have agreed to hold a further round of talks to determine whether or not there’s sufficient common ground,” Merkel, 51, told reporters in Berlin today after a first meeting with Schroeder, 61. She said talks with the Greens will also go ahead even though “the differences in our programs are huge.”

Maybe Merkel really is the German Margaret Thatcher – that last line was classic British understatement. Also, the odds of a GC government look slimmer with this news:

Members of the Left Party in the new German Bundestag are backing Gerhard Schroeder’s bid to remain chancellor, despite his Social Democrats (SPD) coming second in weekend elections, press reports said Thursday.

The SPD and its Greens coalition partners lack the votes to keep Schroeder in office, but the votes of the Left would give them an absolute majority in the new Bundestag when it meets to choose the chancellor on October 18.

Schroeder has already said he won’t make any deal with the Left Party. But even without a formal SDP-Green-Left coalition, Left ministers could still vote to keep Schroeder as Chancellor.

Of course, no matter what happens, don’t expect any big reforms any time soon:

“It’s true,” said the economist Thomas Straubhaar, president of the Institute for International Economics in Hamburg. “Germany has been governed by two social democratic parties.” One of them is the actual Social Democratic Party, with its 19th-century origins in Marxist notions of social justice. The other is the Christian Democratic Union, and its Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Union, with their origins in 19th-century Christian notions of social justice.


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September 22nd, 2005 - 9:28 am

Something good has come out of France, and it isn’t food or wine. No, really:

A Paris-based media watchdog has released a free guide with tips for bloggers and dissidents to sneak past Internet censors in countries from China to Iran.

Reporters Without Borders’ “Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents” is partly financed by the French Foreign Ministry and includes technical advice on how to remain anonymous online. It was launched at the Apple Expo computer show in Paris on Thursday and can be downloaded in Chinese, Arabic, Persian, English and French.

“Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure,” Julien Pain, head of the watchdog’s Internet Freedom desk, writes in the introduction.

In a bid to inspire budding Web diarists around the world, the 87-page booklet gives advice on setting up and running blogs, and on using pseudonyms and anonymous proxies, which can be used to replace easily traceable home computer addresses.

When the French are doing more to promote digital freedom than an American company like Yahoo!, you know there’s something wrong.

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MSM Follies

September 22nd, 2005 - 8:26 am

Mickey Kaus is having trouble getting rid of The Los Angeles Times:

LAT Desperation Update: After cancelling the L.A. Times, then cancelling again when I got a bill showing an ongoing account (with only a “stop delivery adjustment”), I got a phone call from the Times this morning. “”Thank you,” the Times rep said, “[We] want to welcome you back!” It seems the Times was “in [my] neighborhood” and he was offering me a rate of $2.99 a week! I told him I’d cancelled. He said, “It’s on hold right now.” I said no, I’d cancelled it twice. He said “So you don’t want the paper right now” and rang off. … Something about that final “right now” tells me I’m going to be “welcomed back” again soon. … Is the Times telling advertisers and shareholders that a lot of subscriptions are “on hold” when really they’re cancelled?

I feel his pain.

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September 22nd, 2005 - 8:22 am

Larry Sabato is already handicapping the 2006 Senate race:

The long and short of this analysis: Democrats have only a long-shot chance at Senate takeover, and they are short of opportunities to make it happen. Of course, if 2006 turns into a Democratic 1994, then even our mind-stretching list of upsets and perfect-D luck is a possibility. It’s too early to tell, but we wouldn’t bet on it, and we advise you not to bet on it either!

Read the whole thing, especially the part on gubernatorial races.

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Just in Time for the Holidays

September 21st, 2005 - 12:43 pm

Kenny Smith has your “Don’t Get Stuck on Stupid” bumperstickers.

I’ve never been much for bumperstickers – but isn’t there at least a little irony in a sticker with that catchphrase?

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Gorgeous George Galloway was recently in Madison, WI. You’d think he’d have received a warmer reception

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The NYT is Stuck on Stupid

September 20th, 2005 - 10:31 pm

The New York Times is getting rid of 500 employees:

The Times said it expected 250 jobs at its main newspaper group to be affected, which includes the Times, the International Herald Tribune and the online operation of the Times. Of those job cuts, about 45 will come from the Times’ newsroom, the company said in a statement.

This, in the same week the NYT walled off its Opinion page to all but paid subscribers. Stupid.

Opinions are cheap. Everybody has one and, as the blogosphere has shown, it doesn’t take any superhuman skill to express an opinion in a readable way.

Reporting is expensive. Not everyone has the time to go out and find stories. Not everyone can afford a research staff. Not everyone has the skill to develop and maintain useful contacts.

Look. I usually suspect any New York Times story to be biased – but I can expect it to be researched and fact-checked. And in this day and age, I can rely on some smart blogger somewhere to tell me exactly what the NYT got wrong. But what I can’t expect blogs to do – at least not yet – is to do the dreary, day-in-day-out work of getting the news in the first place. For all its faults, the MSM is still far better than blogs at reporting.

Given all that, do recent decisions at the New York Times make any sense? They’re forcing people to pay for opinions they can get most anywhere else for free, while cutting back on doing the one thing they can still do better than anyone else. The New York Times, in other words, is eating its seed corn.

Sure, the NYT may improve online revenues by charging for opinion pieces. But is it really in their best interest to wring extra money out of Maureen Dowd, if they’re going to cut back on the reporters who do the only work there worth paying for?

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“You Are Stuck On Stupid”

September 20th, 2005 - 5:25 pm

If you haven’t seen it already, check out this transcript of General Honore’s press conference in New Orleans. Better yet, click through and listen to the audio, it’s even better. Duane’s commentary at Radioblogger (just below the transcript) is spot-on, too.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnesses to a rare and wonderful moment: a new catch phrase has been born.

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On the Nightstand

September 20th, 2005 - 1:56 pm

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

It’s a kind of Unified Theory of Absolutely Nothing. Or Everything. Or maybe of Two Things You Thought Went Together Like Sauerkraut and Ice Cream.

Whatever it is, it’s damn sure interesting.

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