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5.31.2005

Deep Throat

My roommate was impressed by the sword swallower at Coney Island yesterday (you watch her in a peep show for $1), but today brings other Deep Throat news.

Linked article plays up the FBI powerplay motivation for Mr. Felt. As it happens I believe that every President is a criminal, and I've long held that intelligence officials were never held responsible for The Massacre of September 11, 2001 because they could easily land President Bush in jail if they were humiliated and left alive. Similarly, but for Republican readers, this Drudge book excerpt says a little about how philandering cokehead Bill Clinton was limited in his use of executive power:
--Richard Clarke on the record hitting Clinton for not having the guts to fire FBI director Louis Freeh, who Clarke called a major obstacle on anti-terrorism policy. "He should have just fired Freeh and taken the shit it would have caused."

The standards for impeachment are a little different than just breaking the law; it really comes down to the will of those that know laws are being broken.

Websites

Sploid is the new Drudge.

The Cruel Site of The Day is wonderful. We should get this guy to play our Drink Tank anniversary party.

The Onion is still funny; it's only boring because we know the joke. The only website I can really think of that has stayed good over years of reading is Undernews. I get it emailed to my phone now. They pointed out this Star Wars-themed abuse of power article. (2nd section; login: miguelspam@gmail.com, miguelspam)

Toyota aims to sell service robots by 2010

I really hope this isn't over hyped. The worst possible outcome is if people think the robot will do more than it actually can, and get turned off and convinced the technology isn't ready.

Read comments on slashdot here.

5.27.2005

A Hard Look at the European Constitution

A good article with the irony of the day:
First, there has been little debate on the Constitution. The vast majority of the European public has not read it and does not know what is in it. That has partly to do with the length of the Constitution (70,000 words) and its impenetrable language. In contrast, the U.S. Constitution is 15 times shorter and easily comprehensible. Not surprisingly, its chief architect, James Madison, believed that, "It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood."
Thank GOD law in America isn't like that!.

McCain

There's a good long article about presidential contender John McCain in the New Yorker, if you have it (not online). It features him getting asked to leave the 2004 convention because he's getting too much media attention, and his team is delighted to leave so they can go to a fancy restaraunt and get really drunk. McCain plays craps for 14 hour stretches.

What I thought was the most interesting part was the explanation for his campaign finance limit enthusiasm. I've often heard it said that Republicans like puritanical laws because they'd be having orgies with their cousins and livestock otherwise. Conversely, Democrats so disdain the poor that they require the coercive state to enforce charity. I did not know that McCain's career was nearly destroyed when he accepted money, bahamas vacations, etc. from Charles Keating while Keating was spending like crazy to get out of trouble for the S & L scandal.

Star Wars 3

PS. Expect a long-ass post about the recent Samuel L. Jackson movie that came out.

==============

Well, here it is. (Some of my bitching & moaning is just general to the prequals…)

What's good:

1) Superior special effects.
I hated the first two prequals' special effects. In ep1, the Gungans (fully CGI species) were an overly ambitious catastrophe of appearance alone (forget the annoyance of character). The use of leather clothing and CGI droid armies (flat metal surface) seemed like a big cheat to avoid complications with tecture, flesh, etc. When the CGI met miniatures (space ships, sets, etc.) it was a disaster.

In ep2, the problems were more stylistic---WTF was going on in that final series of battles? Did a five-year-old do the story boards? The whole movie looked matted and (as Trevor agreed) the CGI Yoda looked unconvincing---those polar bears in the Christmas Coke commercials looked better.

Well, anyhow, the effects in ep3 were by far the best of the lot. Yoda looked good. The different planets were beautiful. A sign of the success of the effects was my forgetting the effects. Maybe only Return of the King had better.

2) I've been waiting to see how a normal looking Senator Palpatine was going to end up a pasty, fucking gnarled emperor with yellow eyes. I sorta thought he'd come into power and be, like, "Tah-dah! This is my true evil appearance!" Indeed, the hooded Sidious in the first two movies---with tricks of holographic light, maybe---looked gnarled in the shadows. But I watched ep1 again about a month ago and noticed that the shadowed, hooded Sidious was definitely NOT gnarled (especially in the scene in person with Darth Maul when he's, like, "At last we will get our revenge!").

3) Light saber battles were great. It was awesome to see Obi-wan lob off fucking THREE of Anakin's limbs in one swing. My fear coming into this movie was that Obi-wan would win the lava duel on accident or something. Like, oops!, Anakin just got hit by a chance tidal wave of lava! Obi-wan's character has been totally squandered in the previous films (why not make him the badly needed Han Solo wise-ass swashbuckling element sorely missing in these films? It'd make total sense that he'd turn all conservative and grumpy from the Republic falling apart before his eyes.); it was nice to see at least this final duel done right (well, save for the dialogue, of course).

4) General Grievous (as usual, though, he coulda used at least a fucking HINT of a background story).

What's bad:

1) Why all the cameo appearances in these prequals? Do I really need to see Jabba, Bib Fortuna, Sand People, Jawas, Chewbacca, Greedo, and so on. How ‘bout some new good shit? Between 1983 and 1999, all Lucas came up with was evil Mandarin Capitalists, Gungans, and battle-droids that look like Gungans.

2) Linking original trilogy characters together just for the fuck of it. Anakin built C3PO? Yoda and Chewbacca are bff’s? Obi-wan fought with Boba Fett’s Dad? Jabba’s Mom used to own Darth Vader AND his Mom?

3) Idiocy of the Jedi. The Chosen One will bring balance to the force? How do you suppose that balance will swing in a galaxy of a few thousand Jedi and maybe, like, two Sith? Expecting him to recruit more Jedi, increase their powers? Of course, if the Chosen One were to bring balance to the force, it should probably mean that users of the force would use both Light and Dark Side. The Jedi are ineffectual fools and need some Dark Side passions to temper their aloofness.

4) Bad dialogue. I’ve written better love stories by heaving buckets of chum at brick walls. You should read them sometime.

5) Yoda constantly speaking with inverted syntax. Watch The Empire Strikes Back and notice his syntax is normal at least half the time. To quote the New Yorker, “Break me a fucking give.”

6) Frankenstein-like anger scene when Darth Vader finds out he killed Padme and bends machines with his mind.

7) Overall, this episode has a shit load of loose ends to fix from the previous two. Thus, it had, like, a 45 minute long ending. Had to happen. I’m pretty convinced that this movie was as good as it possibly could have been given the director, writer, and actors. Still, its overall success makes me more depressed that the previous ones were so fucking bad, and that, indeed, the original trilogy is made retroactively much shittier itself. Fuck you George Lucas!

==============

FINAL GRADES:

Ep1: D

Ep2: F

Ep3: B-

ANH: A

TESB: A+

ROTJ: B+

I have to apologize to Trevor and Ivan for telling them Revenge of the Sith was better than Return of the Jedi before they saw the former. I was still feeling the effects of the two whiskey flasks Miguel, Andrew, and I finished off during the movie. I knew there’d be hell to pay…

==============

Miguel:

How did Vader's ghost learn to come back from the dead if only Yoda, Qai Gon, and Obi Wan knew the lost art, anyway?

MAY 26, 2005; 5:59 PM

==============

8) Well, since you brought it up, how in the hell did Qai-Gon learn the turn-into-a-ghost trick in the first place? Based on George "The Goiter" Lucas interviews I've read, when a Jedi (or anyone, really) dies, their life-force is dispersed into the One Force, like a fart in a theatre. Thus, I can only assume that Qai-Gon MUST have known the ghosting skills before he died, for what does it mean for "Qai-Gon" to learn anything post-death if his singularity no longer exists at all?

So, if he knew the skill before he died, why did he keep it a secret from all the other Jedi? He was a maverick Master, not on the Jedi Council. Did he disdain them so much that he'd withhold this skill from them? Why? Oh, and why wait TEN YEARS before he contacted his favorite-est person in the world—Obi-wan?

Is it an entirely Light Side power? Sidious in ROTS says the dark side can give 'unnatural' life-sustaining powers. Is turning into a ghost a similar ‘sustaining’ power? Well, obviously Lucas doesn't think so: You'll notice at the end of the DVD version of ROTJ, Lucas has replaced the old ghost of Anakin with the visage of Gayden Crystalmeth as he looked right before he turned to the Dark Side. This would suggest that only that part of Anakin's spirit that remained Light was able to sustain itself post-death---it must be a Light Side power.

(Of course, I hate this ROTJ ghost replacement for several reasons, not least that it undermines the whole idea of turning Darth Vader back to the Light Side---what? He wasn't REALLY turned back completely so his old ghost wasn't Light enough to represent him in death? WTF is that? You failed after all Luke! There is still BAD in him, I can feel it.)

When it comes down to it, Lucas was trying to plug a huge plot hole: Yoda and Obi-wan needed to know how to turn into a ghost, but no other Jedi could. Otherwise there'd be, like, a few thousand Jedi ghosts all helping Luke, or at least raising some havoc for Sidious and Darth.

I KNEW It!

The Speculist: Carnival of Tomorrow 3.0

High Noon at Sunrise Rock

"The ACLU sues over a cross honoring fallen soldiers--and cashes in."

Apparently, a cross, privately maintained, on what was once private land, but now is public, needs to be torn down.

If the ACLU didn't blatantly attack Christians so disproportionately often, I would say they are pretty much a lobbyist group for criminals.

The first amendment is there for a reason. But let's review:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Note that it does not prohibit funding (explicit or implicit) to religious entities ( e.g. faith-based initiatives, all churches have been tax exempt for quite some time), nor restrict the decisions of politicians to be based on religion.

The clause was mainly concerned about two things:
-Do not establish a national religion
-Do not persecute any particular religion.

Somehow, people have interpreted this to mean that the government must actually discriminate between private religious entities and private secular entities, which, if anything, goes directly against the intent of the law.

This said, let me establish that I think all entities (private & secular) should be taxed equally, and government should fund basically nothing save for national defense & government agencies like the law enforcement, law making, and law interpretation. I dislike faith-based initiatives pork, but not because of the separation of church & state.

But this kind of attack is way beyond. Somehow, it is persecution to show any hint of religion in the public sphere.

I'm not trying to get all victimized here. The whole point is that people need to be less sensitive to these non-issues that violate one's taste more than one's rights.

5.26.2005

Gaudi's Grand Hotel

There's a bunch of fond reflection on the Chrystler building in the New York Times today, which reminds me how fun nice architecture is, and of how much I wish I was in charge of the utterly failed effort at Ground Zero redevelopment.

In case anyone didn't know, one of history's greatest architects -- Antonio Gaudi (good introductory site) -- had a plan for the site one hundred years ago which is considerably better than anything currently under consideration.



The above image is from this webpage, which notes that the plan was not really finished, but pretty well developed (cross section). It would do everything people currently want in terms of catering to both cultural and commercial interests, and have New Yorky stuff like fancy restaraunts and a theater. In addition, it looks cool. It doesn't necessarily creepily memorialize The Massacre, but really the Twin Piers are the way to go in that department anyway.

Linked here is a long article about the idea, with a very well-stated and numbered case for it at the end and some good pictures throughout. That the property is being turned over to the, um, best modern architects is a huge mistake, and honestly, since the proposal only exists as sketches, the egomaniacs who want to develop their dumb visions now could probably work on the finalizing anyhow. It's too bad the Governer, the Port Authority of New Jersey, and the poor guy who bought a lease on the site in July 2001 are in charge of the memorial.

The Mad Genius from the Bottom of the Sea

Using the heat differential from the surface of the earth and the bottom of the sea turns out to be a great way to harness solar power.

Alive? Dead? Wounded? ..Retiring to a Life of Writing The Great Jordanian Novel?

My internet's been down for the last five days, so posting's been slow. Nothing like Bruckheimer to get me back in the action.

PS. Expect a long-ass post about the recent Samuel L. Jackson movie that came out.

Das Keyboard - UberGeeks Only

5.25.2005

LIVEWRONG Wristband

LIVEWRONG...The wristband for the rest of us.

Sure, we all love Lance, but what if you can't live like he does? What if you don't eat right, or if you take a few risks now and then? We drink a little, party a little (a lot?). Sometimes we stay out too late.

We're not afraid of "carbs". We sometimes indulge in red meat. What if you like to mix a little fun into your life? Does that mean you live wrong? YES IT DOES.

Show the world that you're not ashamed of your lifestyle and don't apologise for it!

5.24.2005

Iraqi Expat: Iraq abolishes Saddam's alcohol restriction law

I suppose that doesn't do much if the problem was fundamentalists attacking sellers.

I can only assume that because Al Sadr is no longer reported as a threat, that the threat of such fundamentalists are small today in comparison to the foriegn & baathist redoubt terrorists.

"More" by Mark Osborne

Correspondence

Drink Tank readers can reach me by email.

Your www.mybudweiser.com username is: forty
Your new lifetime email address is: forty@budweiser.com


Sign up page.

Grocery Store Wars

what do you call a pig taking a survey?

polled pork.

5.23.2005

So Much Drama in the PhD

Listen to this NOW!

Gin and Juice

laid back.

Relax and enjoy yourself.

PRIUS+ Strategy

A good project. They want to mod enough Toyota Prius cars to be "pluggable" (charging the batteries by plugging into a regular electric outlet) to convince Toyota to make the feature standard.

With this, growth in adoption of hybrids would mean growth in demand for higher quality batteries, which would be a real revolution.

5.22.2005

David Elsewhere

in a Slurpee Ad

in a car commercial

at 'Kollarboration 4
w/ Autechre in the background! (tri repetia, right?)


...and the original Kollaboration 3 vid

more candy here
and of course here

Undecided about what to watch?

Woah

George A Romero's Land of the Dead

I"m not sure why I have a soft spot in my heart for zombie movies.

Box Transformer

Does this count as a dancing robot? I'm not sure if we've blogged it if so...

I LOVE the end!

Nochnoi Dozor

Night Watch looks good.

The 14 Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

Thanks to Mark.

Robot, Dancing,

...Bodybuilder

5.20.2005

One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Freedom Fighter

Exhibit A: 77-year-old Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles, accused by the US government of entering the United States illegally. Accused by Fidel Castro of murdering 73 people when he allegedly blew up a passenger airline (a crime for which he was acquitted twice by the Venezuelan government). It's a no-win for the US government: free him, and they look like terrorist-harboring hypocrites; send him back to Cuba and the right-wing Floridian Cubans muster the wrath of conservative America over the radio and cable television.
I say send him to Cuba, or at least try him in the states; while they're at it, the US should lift the embargo to unleash the army of Cuban-grown Brittney Spears imitators and Big Mac ingestors to overthrow Castro, so the circle of irony is at last complete.


Exhibit B:
Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. We've been reading some things lately: a spate of foreign suicide bombers in Iraq (500+ folks dead in May); a US offensive on the Syrian border; peg-leg himself meeting with lieutenants in Syria. Some things I'd like to know: what is the extent of foreign involvement in these bombings? How in the hell are secular ex-Baathist Sunni insurgents mingling with hyper-religious a-national, pan-Arabic insurgents? It does not make sense. If I'm to believe the CIA, Zarqawi is a born Jordanian and I think he falls into the second category. But then Syria hands over Saddam Hussein's half-brother---a secular Baathist Sunni---and I'm supposed to believe peg-leg's been hurt? Explain. What are their common goals?

Spectator Sport

Midget army v. a single lion.

No cameras, according to the article.

When I went to see the bullfighting in Mexico, I thought it was outrageous that the game was so stacked in favor of humans. No such squeamishness so in Cambodia.

I'd buy it.

The Ugandan government is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote its image abroad after growing criticism.
Yah, that's the problem. Your PR image.

5.19.2005

The story of a duck

Some mornings...

Claytronics

"A robot without moving parts," Goldstein added, "is pretty cool."
Indeed.

A Major Swipe At Sweatshops

I like that it’s the companies doing this. I've thought for some time that today’s free-flowing information networks can help achieve a good deal of “ethical” labor and business standards. Companies that do things their buyers won't like must try to either reform or hide from the spot light. The latter is becoming more expensive.

5.18.2005

Middle East Newsline -

WASHINGTON [MENL] -- The U.S. Congress has decided to support efforts to overthrow the Islamic regime in Iran.

A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would support the opposition in Iran. The legislation, termed the Iran Freedom and Support Act, would require that the United States work to ensure a referendum in Iran on the type of regime sought by the people.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican and a member of the GOP leadership in the Senate. Santorum has served as chairman of the Republican Conference and the third-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership.

In a statement, Santorum said Iran has been linked to strikes against U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia in 1996 and Al Qaida attacks against civilians in Saudi Arabia in 2004. The United States has never blamed Iran for Al Qaida's campaign in Saudi Araiba.
Jeez, we should just forget about these folks and give them the nuclear materials they seek...

Great

"They look like boobs but they're not. They're my knees." Ha ha ha ha ha.

Prison Wine

If you should choose to follow this recipe, which my roommate found via the Cruel Site of the Day, pay close attention to this passage:

Make sure to keep a close eye on Baby Pruno, because if you're not careful, the bag holding Baby Pruno will pop, letting nasty orange pulp and mushy fruit cocktail seep all over the place. This happened when we were making pruno and the apartment smelled like Newark for three days.


Really, it fucking reeks. I don't think I'll drink any.

Heh

Loading the New York Times, some server error let the title through, but a pop-up informed me "This document contains no data". Heh.

SWeeT

Secret Wall Tattoos

Bad

The New York Times has announced an expanded subscription service to be launched this September. Subscriptions will cost $49.95 per year and include access to both the Times archives (currently available on a pay-by-the-article basis) and to the paper's op-ed columnists (currently available for free, but probably not for long). The Times also posted a more detailed explanation (registration required) for their decision.
Oh well. Guess I won't be reading them anymore. Wonder what they'll do when they realize their readership (and thus clout) has plummeted? Maybe it'll be like Ratzinger's hope for the Catholic Church---a purer following at the expense of size.

It's alright, cos The Washington Post is pretty much the same, but a little less pretentious, and is remaining free---for now.

5.17.2005

More Good

WASHINGTON, May 17 - The Bush administration warned China today that its currency policies were "highly distortionary" to world trade and implicitly threatened to retaliate if Chinese leaders did not change course within the next year.

In language far harsher than any it has used before, the Treasury Department declared that China's fixed exchange rate between its yuan and the dollar posed a risk to itself as well as to global growth.
I only hope Congress doesn't do the dumb rash thing and implement quotas for Chinese garments. Otherwise I'll have to break the bank and buy them all a copy of Free to Choose. (See through the rhetoric and know that any anti-trade talk on the floor is just string-pulling by dinosauric special interest.)

Good

New York will become the first city in the country to make “morning after” contraceptive pills readily available to all women who want them. Michael Bloomberg, New York's Republican mayor, promised the new programme will provide $1m in public funding to promote emergency contraceptive pills at city hospitals. He also promised another $2m for family planning in poor neighbourhoods.

The plan was blasted by anti-abortion conservatives, who complain of Mr Bloomberg's leftist sympathies. (He ran as a Republican merely to avoid a gruelling Democratic primary in 2001.) The mayor countered their complaints by saying that a goal of the programme is a cut in the 90,000 abortions performed in the city each year.

For background see: In search of Plan C, April 7th 2005

Muslims Riot Over Spelling of 'Koran' in U.S. Media

I heart scrappleface.

Free World, Islamic Dictatorship

America.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said a retraction was only "a good first step" and said NEWSWEEK should try to set the record straight by "clearly explaining what happened and how they got it wrong, particularly to the Muslim world, and pointing out the policies and practices of our military."


Pakistan.

"The apology and retraction are not enough," Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Reuters.

"They should understand the sentiments of Muslims and think 101 times before publishing news which hurt feelings of Muslims."


The government is explicitly and threateningly asking NEWSWEEK to use its pages to lie.

(Koran flushing isn't even technically illegal, as far as I can tell, because think Bush has held that Guantanamo detainees aren't protected by the Geneva Convention.)

5.16.2005

Bush Proudly Displays His Skid-free Briefs, Pushes Alternate Fuels

Arab Export

The combined exports of the entire Arab states in 2004 amounted to $379 billion, slightly more than the exports of the Netherlands ($359 billion), and more than three-quarters of Arab exports were oil. Those figures from the World Trade Organization (WTO) indicate that the countries occupying a broad swath of the earth from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans accounted for a paltry 4 percent of world exports.

Flushing the Koran Down the Toilet

It's obvious to everyone that this is official US policy, right?

Same as with torture, I think it's commonplace, and when you get down to it, popular -- irrespective of whether or not it's efficacious policy. Otherwise the president would simply say "torturing men and women is an illegal outrage which Americans shan't allow, even in wartime," and "as a man of faith I would never allow the desecration of a Holy book as military policy, even for the lowlifes at Guantanomo."

So what's the big deal? The Newsweek story is even true, as far as I can tell -- the source just just said that the evidence was in a paper other than the one it appeared in. Does Glenn Reynolds even question that this is an interrogation tactic while he calls for the abolition of the free press?

Let me know if Scott McClellan or George Bush ever says the reports that US soldiers desecrate Bibles, Korans, etc. as a questioning technique are wrong on substance.

Solar Tower of Power

5.14.2005

NTT DoCoMo: VISION 2010

Try not to cry.

Attention: Wal-Mart Anti-Fascist

Rest assured.

5.13.2005

Kittens


How much will I earn through this program?

I'd be surprised if I get more than a dollar with adSense. I'm more interested in seeing how it works.

I'll give fellow drinkTankers a share the first time I see you after every $0.02 check comes in the mail :)

Carnival of Tomorrow 2.0

Feynman mp3...

5.12.2005

Transparent Screens

awesome

5.11.2005

chris cunningham, rubber johnny

Michael Jackson Lyrics - Dirty Diana

I love that iTunes lets you listen to everyone's music on the network. Something like 19K songs are in my network (not all unique of course).

Anyway, these lyrics are crazy. sample:

She Likes The Boys In The Band
She Knows When They Come To Town
Every Musician's Fan After
The Curtain Comes Down
She Waits At Backstage Doors
For Those Who Have Prestige
Who Promise Fortune And Fame,
A Life That's So Carefree
She's Saying That's Ok
Hey Baby Do What You Want
I'll Be Your Night Lovin' Thing
I'll Be The Freak You Can Taunt
And I Don't Care What You Say
I Want To Go Too Far
I'll Be Your Everything
If You Make Me A Star


Heh.

What does ivan stand for?

Limited government? Freedom in our times? The inevitable rise of AI? No, "stands for" in a much more literal sense:
International Value-Added Network (Sprint)
Iter Vehemens Ad Necem (game)

Fun with one of my favorite sites acronymfinder.com.

It's worth it just to find sites like these.

Internet Stuff

Real ID a test to destroy Judicial branch of US government
Comment: Can a judge declare that a law which "would prohibit judicial review" use judicial review to declare that law unconstitutional? This is the same issue as in Risk 2210 when you play a card to stop an opponent from playing cards and subsequently play a card which allows opponents to play any card.

Fortune cookie numbers come up; chaos ensues
You get the feeling that Powerball operators would like to make it a crime to disseminate random numbers.

The dumb art of blogging ennobled
Larry David on a blog? Internet good again? We'll see. (The Get Your War On fellow is on that site, too. They'll need to deploy a technology which lets you weed out the posters that suck, because there's too much on there right now.)

This is utterly disgusting; the man who showed it to me said I'd feel less gross if I shared it with someone else
Don't click on that; it's nasty.

Throwing Christians to the Lion

Or "Why My Lame-o School's Having a Philip Glass Concert Instead of a Christmas Play:"

Some Christians should practice the magnanimity of the strong rather than cultivate the grievances of the weak. But many Christians are joining today's scramble for the status of victims. There is much lamentation about various "assaults" on "people of faith." Christians are indeed experiencing some petty insults and indignities concerning things such as restrictions on school Christmas observances. But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic.
...Read on Christian Soldiers.

5.10.2005

Dear Senators Kerry and Clinton

I'm sure you're very busy these days preparing a 2008 presidential campaign. Actually, that's why I'm writing. I volunteered on the Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign in my home state of Minnesota in 2004, and may consider working for the Democratic party again in 2008. But before I make that decision, there's something I want you to consider as a potential campaign issue: Freedom. Right now the Republican controlled federal govermnment is disturbingly adding a lot of intrusive requirements to state drivers licences. And they're doing it in an Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, which is ostensibly to provide funds to soldiers abroad. The bill would likely require RFID chips to be implanted in your drivers licence, so that personal information can be broadcast from your wallet. This is a bad choice, unless we want everyone to be subject to Minority Report style personalized advertisements all the time. Please do everything within your power to remove the Real ID section from this Appropriations bill, so our soldiers can return to a free country when they finish their tasks abroad.

Thanks in advance,

Miguel
Brooklyn, NY

Sent a message...

...to your Senators & representatives telling them to block Real ID.

Can a Lightsaber Cut Through Adamantium? Discuss

Hey, Let's Talk More Soviet Stuff

Here's a fantastic installment from the War Nerd:
It's weird how nobody remembers those millions of dead Ukrainians. It's like they just don't count. Everybody remembers all the poor Londoners killed in the Blitz. You know how many English civvies died in WW II? Less than 60,000! According to my calculator, that means almost 300 Soviets died for every Brit who got bombed. But all my life I've been reading about them "cowering" in the subway stations as the bombs fell. I never heard a word about the millions of Ukrainians who died in Stalin's famine, and I sure as Hell never realized that 29 million Soviets died in WW II. Until I got serious about learning war on my own, all I ever heard was the "Battle of Britain" and D-Day, which were sideshows to the real war, back there in the snow in Russia...
...read the whole thing. (And in case you missed it, read his great piece on Turkey.)

And here's another!:
How Russia Lost World War II
MOSCOW

MY parents named me Victor in honor of the Soviet Union's victory over Hitler, and I am proud of my name. I see no reason to cast doubt on the historical significance of that victory; for years the Russian people, who lost millions of soldiers in the war, have united around the celebration of Victory Day. Yet, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, we are seeing not so much a celebration as a major disagreement between millions of people, and even between nations...

Are You a Homo Sovieticus?



Russians still use the word "Sovok" to describe shoddy service reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

It is equally apt whether one is speaking about a rude saleswoman in a corner shop, potholed roads or bureaucratic behaviour that wastes your time.

A person with a Soviet mentality is also a "Sovok", or "Homo Sovieticus" - a term coined by the philosopher Aleksandr Zinovyev.

These terms can also be extremely offensive - after all most people in the former USSR lived a large portion of their life under the old regime, and they are not ready to dismiss those years as futile.

"I still consider myself a Soviet man and see nothing shameful in that," says Russian State Duma deputy Viktor Alksnis.

"Yes I am Latvian, but I am also a representative of the nation that performed miracles during its existence between 1917 and 1991."

He is talking about the Soviet people - a pan-ethnic group which the communist ideologists believed they had created...

This reminds me of something I saw on Wikipedia the other day. The ethnic breakdown of Bosnian town Neum was as follows:
In 1991, the municipality of Neum had 4,268 people, of whom 3738 Croats, 209 Serbs, 196 Muslims, 92 Yugoslavs, 33 others. The town of Neum itself had 1,993 residents: 84% Croats, 5% Serbs, 5% Yugoslavs, 5% Bosniaks, 2% others.
Who are the "Yugoslavs?"

(This cartoon is by Andrey Bilzho, featured cartoonist and restauranteaur.)

The Western Front

But it's already clear the state [Oregon] is looking to influence behavior in addition to raising revenue by implementing a "vehicle mileage tax." Under a VMT a motorist would pay a tax for each mile driven, probably around 1.25 cents. To administer this tax, a global positioning system would be mounted in each car. As a driver fuels up, the device would relay mileage information to the gas pump, which would calculate the VMT. A simple electronic odometer-reading device would do the trick, but Oregon is looking at GPS devices because they would also allow for charging higher VMT rates for miles driven in "congested" areas during rush hour or to exempt miles driven out of state.
Why not just make more toll roads?

5.09.2005

Bust a Move for Democracy

Bush was greeted by the Western-leaning President Saakashvili of Georgia and taken on a tour of Tbilisi, the capital. Music and dance groups performed for the two men.

As Bush was leaving the performance, he took onlookers by surprise -- including those from his home country -- when he started dancing briefly.

Hands on his hips, he shook side to side for a few seconds, then took a few steps, turned around and did it again.

First lady Laura Bush seemed caught off guard as well, first clapping along then pointing to her husband and gently touching his back.

After waving to the watching crowd, Bush began to step into a car. Only putting his feet in, the president stood on the car's floor, raised his hands above his head and waved them back and forth to the music as he grinned widely.

Despite the playful atmosphere, Bush's arrival in Georgia -- from Moscow -- carried great political significance.
George just felt at home in Georgia, dassit and dassall.

Romulus 2 Fulfills Destiny, Birthright

Get out the tissues. Where is Remus?

Aeon Flux

Official site: here. Looks interesting from the flash intro. It really depends on how bodacious Theron's outfit is as to whether or not she is a good fit...

Mech


I'm not sure if this is real. I certainly would need a video, but it won't play for me.

Update: try here, with a bad video here. Obviously not done yet.

Cyc

Cyc is about to go online. The company that has sometimes been called the biggest AI pork spending project ever will face the wrath of thousands of people trying to trick this chat-bot .

Supposedly it isn't based on simple rules like other brain-dead chat bots like ALICE and Eliza.

5.07.2005

How old will I look in 40 years?

5.06.2005

The Russians Are Being Assholes Again

Mr. Bush's trip, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Russian defeat of Nazi Germany with more than 50 other world leaders in Red Square on Monday, has brought forth an angry exhuming of the arguments between Russia and Eastern Europe after World War II. The Baltic nations see the anniversary as the beginning of their unlawful annexation by the Soviet Union, and today they stepped up demands that the Russians apologize for five decades of occupation.

"Once would be enough," said President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia at a news conference at Riga Castle today.The Russians have furiously responded that the three Baltic countries were allies and that the Russian military was invited to march in. "One cannot use the term 'occupation' to describe those historical events," Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, said at a news conference in Moscow on Thursday. "At that time, the troop deployment took place on an agreed basis and with the clearly expressed agreement of the existing authorities in the Baltic republics."

Ms. Vike-Freiberga, asked in an interview with ABC News today if the Russians were lying about their history in the Baltics, responded, "Through their teeth."

5.05.2005

05:05:05 05/05/005....

LOOK AT A CLOC FAST!

Micro Loans, Solid Returns

With about $200 of his own money and a $1,500 loan, Vahid Hujdur rented space in the old section of Sarajevo and started repairing, then reselling discarded industrial sewing machines. Eight years and several loans later, Hujdur now has 10 employees building, installing, and fixing industrial machinery. Hujdur didn't get his initial loan from a local bank. "They were asking for guarantees that were impossible to get," he recalls. Instead, the capital came from LOKmicro, a local financial institution specializing in microfinance - the lending of small amounts to the poor in developing nations to help them launch small enterprises.
This is a good idea. It works in Bangladesh. It works in Bosnia. Goes to show that self-righteous bureaucracy through coercive taxing is neither the proper dao for the environmentalist nor philanthropist. It's capitalism.

Photographic Interlude


Does anyone else have the urge to crush these cheeks and the face they belong to? Just askin'.

New Element: Governmentium

heh

Google, say it aint so!

5.04.2005

Project Sledgehammer

Look here for the latest updates on the changes my wife and I are making to our new house.

Yes, there will be a fair amount of sledgehammers. Actually, as often as possible.

5.03.2005

Was Al Sharpton The Most Successful Candidate In 2004?

Government action to combat childhood obesity (Sharpton's pet cause) seems a lot more likely than whatever his opponents were running on...

Memoirs of a Monster

This is the best blog I've seen since Terry Schiavo's.

Wired: Nuclear Now!

The best things to possibly come from the raving about global warming would be an adoption of a pro-nuclear stance by environmentalists. It would also mean a lot for the core green movement, as old assumptions of the entire lot being dinosaur pinko zealots would prove inaccurate.

We are all environmentalists...

Read this...FOR THE CHILDREN!

Laura Bush Talks Naughty

Tierny is right -- there are many people I meet here in Boston who have no idea what a Bush voter looks like. They use caricatures of gun-loving, bible-thumping, white-trash bigots in the south. That's a pretty bigoted view itself, but they are too content with themselves and their metropolitan views to bother talking to people who might disagree.

For a video of Laura's excellent stand-up routine, go here.

5.01.2005

NYT Hat Trick

I know I keep posting about the New York Times, but for completion I'll share this on-the-money letter sent in about the quality of the paper's coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian "problem" and its possible bias in either direction. (Asside: I was amused to see some people think the paper is actually anti-Israel on the matter.)

The Palestinian-Israeli (or Israeli-Palestinian, I don't care which) issue is an intractable conflict that doesn't affect the lives of most Americans. But it inflames passions as if it's the most important problem on earth.

The Times is a victim of its own success. It has built itself into the closest thing we have to a definitive picture of reality. Every other news source of any stature takes its lead from The Times. Thus when there should have been a lull in coverage after the cold war, The Times's constant bleating about the Middle East kept the conflict hotter than it should have been.

Is this conflict of central importance to The Times because of New York's Jewish population? In Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble is always big news. Everywhere else, people just buy their Tide and Pringles and go on about their business.

JOSH THOMAS
Kentland, Ind., April 24, 2005

SP Politics

An update, this time from the pretentious desk of a New York Times op-ed guy---the weekend dude.