Friday, May 02, 2003

General consensus seems to be that Gary Hart's blog is lame. Today Ken Layne weighs in with the same opinion. I haven't read it myself.

One thing should be obvious, though: A Presidential hopeful (stretching the word "hopeful" a bit) can't be a decent blogger. Not in the current political climate anyway. Or rather, he can't be a decent blogger and expect his party to endorse him. The problem is simple: Blogs are expected to have a certain degree of glibness that traditional media and especially politicians aren't known for. The tone can still vary widely, but people expect a blogger to speak their mind more or less.

Frankly I think America is craving a leader with the guts to be blunt at times, who will speak his mind but do so with refined tact instead of political correctness--which is all the difference between a gala and chimps in tuxedos. Jesse Ventura came pretty close to that, succeeding at least where candor was concerned, and that got him into office. He's turned out since, many say, to be a terrible leader, but at least he proved that you can have opinions, speak them, and still win an election.

For now, I'm immensely proud of leaders who are taking risks on behalf of their convictions, at least when their convictions aren't gibbering and insane. I've complained before about the demagogic ads on right now from the public unions in New York state pleading for people to force Pataki not to use some fiscal discipline. Now they whine that he's threatening to veto the budget they managed to get passed in the legislature. I think this is his finest hour. He made a mistake and let the hole in the purse get too big; it's time to close it up again, and he's taking a hard line against leaving it open. The public employees' unions want the gravy train to go on forever, supported by higher taxes on their favorite whipping horse, "the wealthy". I want the weathiest New Yorkers to invest their money in regional businesses instead; I don't want them to pay (even more) through the nose for public services instead. Public services can find some other way to pay for themselves, or restructure; they cannot be allowed to grow without bound, nor to rule out shrinking when it's a good time to do so.

So to sum up: Principles good, glibness good, Gary Hart's blog bad (I'm told), public sector unions very bad.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

InstaPundit reports that the Boycott Hollywood site is having its domain shut down under legal pressure by the William Morris Agency. The circumstances behind it are rather obnoxious, including that the site's owners never received any request (despite that WMA's letter said they sent one) to desist. Frankly given the behavior of WMA here, I'd say the site owners have the greater credibility. (The only extenuating circumstance that's not against WMA is that the site owners didn't have correct contact information; however I can understand why not, and it was stupid of the registrar not to give them a chance to fix it.)

Also, to accuse someone of libel just for saying bad things about one of your stars is absurd. It's not libel if you tell the truth. If you keep a record of stars' statements and keep a list of which stars have said what, that's legal. This sort of behavior is appalling. I hope the site reopens under a new domain.

If you have the energy for it, head on over to wma.com and write them a letter (snail mail) giving them the typewritten Finger.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Alan Greenspan says growth is still slow, but we still shouldn't have big tax cuts. Sort of. I say the economy's only still in the toilet because the tax cuts of 2001 weren't big enough, soon enough and weren't permanent.

Sooner or later it's time to acknowledge that we got into this mess, the nastiest depression (I'm still calling it that, screw technicality) since the '70s, on Greenspan's watch. Maybe he's not quite the genius he's made out to be, and someone else could do his job at least as well. Hmm?

If you want evidence, just look at what happened in 2000 and 2001 when he just kept lowering interest rates a peg at a time. "Maybe this'll help. No, maybe this. Maybe this." And investors were incontinent because they had no idea if the rates were the lowest they could get or if they could go down again next week. Instead of just slashing the rates right away, giving a big shot in the arm and a really good indicator that they wouldn't drop again anytime soon, he just kept too-little-too-late micro-adjustments and scaring the market half to death. This while there were corporate scandals brewing. The collapse of venture capital brought all this on; is it any longer wise to hang onto the man who made investment that much more risky in a time when it shouldn't have been able to get any worse?

Well, it's not all bad. If you get into the article he's not quite the hack the headline makes him out to be.
He said he continued to believe that the centerpiece of Bush's plan, eliminating the double-taxation of stock dividends, would have long-term advantages for the economy.

But Greenspan also said that in light of rising federal budget deficits, he continued to believe that any further tax cuts need to be offset either with cuts in government spending or tax increases in other areas to keep the deficit from soaring.
In other words, he's not really so much against the tax cut, but thinks we should cut spending. Okay by me. I'm not sure that's entirely possible in a war setting, but at least I'm for it. We might have to live with the fact that deficits, you know, go up during wars.
The Fed chief, in testimony before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, said conditions appeared to be in place for a faster recovery in the second half of this year, with consumers feeling more confident and factories already seeing enough orders to cause backlogs.

"I continue to believe that the economy is positioned to expand at a noticeably better pace than it has during the past year, though the timing and the extent of that remains uncertain," Greenspan said in the closely watched testimony.
Limited growth isn't good enough, Alan. Some of us are still looking for work. You have to do something about the tech sector, and the way to do that is to put gobs of money back in venture capitalists' pockets and then give them a financial climate in which it's wise to invest it heavily. I didn't work in a friggin' factory, and most Americans don't. I won't be satisfied with the growth until there are good programming jobs in Syracuse again. Right now we're better off running too hot to catch up again than too cold. Don't let us ramp up slowly; bring on the heat, man, or delegate to somebody with the balls to do it for you.
The Fed chief said he would carefully watch the low rate of inflation, saying it would be an "unwelcome development" if it fell too low.
He's worried about deflation. I think the worry may be a little premature, so let's focus on growth first.
In his testimony, Greenspan held out the prospect for further interest rate reductions if necessary, especially if business investment, so far a no-show in the current recovery, continues to lag.
Oh don't "hold out the prospect", ya idiot. That's what screwed us up in 2001. Either cut the rates now, by a significant enough amount that everyone knows you have no intention of revisiting them for quite a while, or don't speculate on raising or lowering them because it only makes the market jittery. You fart and stockbrokers jump to their deaths, man. Don't go wishy-washy about this. Be decisive, now, or shut up.
"Unfortunately, the future path of the economy is likely to come into sharper focus only gradually," Greenspan said. "In the interim, we need to remain mindful of the possibility that lingering business caution could be an impediment to improved economic performance."
What's he even saying? Growth is likely to be slow, but if it's slow it's a bad thing and we need to be mindful of that? Uh... of course it's a bad thing if the growth is slow. Being "mindful" isn't going to help that. Slashing taxes will. (Slashing capital gains taxes will do even better.) And screw the deficit if that's what it takes.
Greenspan held firm to his February view that any further tax cuts should be paid for and that tax legislation was more suitable to addressing the economy's long-term growth prospects and not as a short-term stimulus measure, given the length of time it takes to get a tax bill through Congress.
At least there's some realism in that, but even "short-term" means "won't kick in for several months" in econo-speak. Legislation will not only care for the long term, but if done right it can also boost the short term. Not short enough, to be sure, but any improvement is welcome. In the '90s there was fear of growing too fast. Now clearly the time has long past come to blow all the plugs and reach full steam again. Somebody, cut the brake already!
Greenspan said that in the event the economy needs a further boost, the Fed is prepared to deliver more stimulus by cutting already low interest rates further.

"We still have room in monetary policy if we choose to move," he told the House Financial Services Committee.
Forecasts for growth are slow, Alan; you said so yourself. We do need a further boost. We needed it in 2001 when you were busy futzing around at the wrong level of detail. More, more, more, now now now. Have the stones to put your foot on the gas, man. It's a tough hill.
Even with this policy disagreement, Bush announced last week that he would nominate Greenspan for another four-year term on the Fed when his current term ends on June 20, 2004.
Mr. President, I think it's time you put someone in the office who has a tendency not to freak out investors, who can show some cojones when it's called for.
California is neutering its textbooks for political correctness. There's very little room for comment there, since that's just everyday life in the Duh State. Surfer and dye, blond morons.
I have peered into the depths of Roger Friedman's crystal ball, and I see brain-dead people.
I told you Madonna knew how to sell record albums. So here's the result of her crazy month of self-promotion at all costs: Her American Life will debut at No. 1 next week, with somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 copies sold.
Man, stockbrokers would kill for that kind of foresight. What's the Dow going to be doing about this time next week?
This is no small feat in a time when superstars can't sell records and music downloading has cut into actual sales.
No Roger, the small number of new releases has cut into actual sales. That, and it's entirely possible that new CDs that underperform do so because they suck.

If Madonna's CD does open at #1, and I have my doubts, then it'll be because there's not a lot out there to compete with it. However some new artists are climbing the charts. Just the other day I heard some good stuff from Lillix (It's About Time), Rachel Farris (I'm Not the Girl), and Kaci (I'm Not Anybody's Girl). As pop music goes, all of them are good--and American Life is not. I also heard Jewel's new song Intuition, and I'm sorry to tell you it's repetitive and dismal. I find Jewel to be hit-or-miss, leaning toward miss, but I expect so much better than this garbage.
Tonight: A Historic Night of R&B
Okay, Roger recoups some points for not saying "an historic", a priggish tic that drives me nuts. If you pronounce the H, you don't say "an", people. The next time you see someone say "an historic", hit them with a rock.
The fact is, American rhythm and blues is the basis for almost everything being played today on pop radio. It's not acknowledged, but in place of original compositions, R&B is plundered to embroider the junk that passes today for "music."

Ironically, in 20 years, we'll see that there has been little original music from the current generation. They will have to dig out the source material — the sample — for their nostalgia. (I mean, seriously, you don't think you're going to be humming numbers by 50 Cent when you're getting a colostomy, do you?)
Finally something we agree on! Apparently, crap brings people together. Yes, indeed, much of modern music is just stolen. However, the genres that do that most are the ones I can stand the least, which includes hip hop, the genre that's called rap but isn't (rap died in 1991), the modern genre that's called R&B but usually isn't (Alicia Keys' Fallin' is a major exception), and most diva pap. Melody is a lost art to that crowd.

But I do often find myself humming or singing a tune from singer/songwriter Michelle Branch, or Avril Lavigne. And rock has provided some good tunes, like Lifehouse's Hanging By a Moment from a while back, and Evanescence's Bring Me To Life. They aren't drawing on R&B, though, and probably part of the reason is they don't feel they have to.
Comments over at InstaPundit regarding a book speaking against genetic engineering in humans. I have one; it has nothing to do with the book.

What's so horrible about genetic engineering in humans? I'm not talking about eugenics; I mean the elimination of genes that are dangerous or universally unwanted. A short list of genes I'd like to see dodoed out of the species:

  • Genes causing a greatly increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke
  • Serious developmental disorders such as the inability to grow one (or all) of the sections of the fingers
  • Dwarfism genes (no offense to dwarfs; it's a health issue)
  • Other hereditary diseases
  • Colorblindness

    I don't mean people with those genes should be killed; who would be safe? Rather, it'd be nice to be able to flush them out of our bodies and replace them with better genes via a medical procedure, and the day may come when that's possible. And if we're able to make those changes in utero, we can stop most genetic birth defects in their tracks. That's some genetic engineering I want to see.

    There's no question that the technology will be abused. But like most technologies, the positive uses of it will far outweigh whatever grief comes into the world as a result. So screw the naysayers; this is a good thing. So is running water, mechanized farming, and electricity. It's a bit late in the game for Luddism.
  • I have to stop late blogging. Anyway, here's this one: Carousel Center is implementing a curfew in June. Those of you who aren't from Syracuse, and therefore probably have no idea what I mean when I say I had salt potatoes with dinner, should know as background that Carousel is the big mall around here, sooner or later to be vastly expanded to become the ill-named Destiny USA, the largest mall in the US. (Beat that, Lileks!)

    Carousel has had a problem for a while with gangs on weekends. I don't mean full-fledged drive-bys and whatnot, but basically loser teens hanging around in large groups, harassing mall workers, committing petty crimes--especially on the lower level. It could escalate into something a lot worse if it's not taken care of. So now they're actually doing something about it, and implementing a weekend curfew on kids and teens under 18 unless they can prove they're mall workers or with an adult.

    I'm in favor of this, although the 4 PM cutoff seems a bit strict when 6 or 7 will probably do just as well. It might need some adjusting, but the idea is sound.

    Tuesday, April 29, 2003

    The anti-tobacco ads are just obnoxious. I grew up with the "Just Say No" campaign, and it at least was honest, effective, and not just pointlessly rude for the sake of having some "youth edge". I respected those ads, but the campaign waged now against smoking is just vicious for no good reason.

    Today's anti-drug ads are only slightly better in that they don't swing at you. I watch one of the anti-tobacco ads and I feel like I'm being harassed--and I don't even smoke. They're preaching to the choir yet I feel like taking an ax to the pulpit.

    Somewhere, the tobacco execs get to enjoy the meager satisfaction that the ads they were forced to pay for aren't nearly as effective as they ought to be for the money. If anything they're making it look cool to smoke.
    Allow me to shed light on a secretive deal concerning the acquisition of British software company Entraline. The company began as CyberLife, which debuted by creating the game Creatures according to a modified version of the artificial life vision of creator Steve Grand. It later became Creature Labs, and next there's no telling what it'll be named.

    The story of Creatures is an interesting one. The game, as it's usually called, was a simulation of artificial creatures called Norns, who could think, learn, and interact according to a few guidelines and with some limitations. The theory behind it was that the drives that biological creatures feel are an integral part of their thought processes, and thus artificial intelligence (AI) might be easier to develop as an emergent property of artificial life (AL). The Norns had a biology that was simplified but not rudimentary, and a genetic structure that was simplified and rudimentary, with the hope that Norns could be bred for interesting traits like intelligence. (Unfortunately, the genes controlling their brain lobes really didn't lend themselves to selection.)

    Creatures hit US shelves in July 1997, after first being marketed in Europe in November 1996. It was distributed by Mindscape, a company widely blamed for many of the sequels' woes. A huge Internet community built up around the game, of which I was a part, but these days most of what's left is a shambles. Things started going wrong probably in 1998, which is when one of the well-known community members who had been working for the company left in a serious pique. The upcoming sequel, Creatures 2, was supposed to be a huge step up. Ultimately however, C2 was little more than a retread of the original with better graphics and a little more breathing room for biochemistry and the scripts that controlled objects in the world. The real problem however was that the Norns of the sequel were damaged, and often led to serious failures right out of the box; several developers including myself tried to correct that with our own custom Norn genomes, and to a limited extent we succeeded. But that wasn't the real problem.

    CyberLife released Creatures 2 in 1998, and with very little hindsight the community realized it had come out too early. Genetic development had been rushed, there were some bugs, and beta testing had all been done in-house which kept them from receiving important feedback on creature quality and playability. Among other problems, several gamish aspects were added to the design that did not improve it and were widely condemned. The Early Adoption Program--a sort of beta program which had been around for the original Creatures--was a joke in C2, for its members didn't receive their copies of the game until it was already on the shelves for a few days. And as problems mounted, CyberLife distanced itself from the community, even to the point of alienation, and like the Iraqi Information Minister would smile and say nothing was wrong.

    Part of the problem by this time was that the original vision of the company, developing better and better AL and AI simulations with mass appeal, was lost. They tried to turn into a games company and found that games had moved on from the days of Tamagotchi and Petz. Worse, they proved in 1998 that they were determined to follow a textbook formula for destroying their own company: Alienate the customers, tick off key employees, emphasize glitz over quality, and always go faster, faster, faster into the ground. For all the heat Microsoft gets, much of it deservedly, they've never done all that.

    Don't even ask about Creatures 3 and the later release of Docking Station; the landslide was already well underway by 1999 and there was no stopping it. What's happening with them now? Nothing good. The company closed up shop and site a few weeks ago, and some in the community are buzzing about the new buyers, but there's really no reliable word on what's happening after that.
    Disgruntled former staff contacted Business Weekly to say they believed members of the former management team might be in the running to buy the assets in a ‘third time lucky’ bid to pursue a speculative contract, but the liquidators said they couldn’t comment.
    Notice the "disgruntled" part? To a man they pretty much all left like that. The community was more forgiving of the company's faults, but then you would be too if your paycheck didn't depend on it. Frankly from what little I've been hearing, this assessment of the situation sounds dead on. Whether there's a future for the company I don't know.

    I suppose the moral of the story is: Don't forget what got you there. If you started out with a vision for better AI, then you'd darn well better stick to it.
    The foks at Indymedia say that the September 11 attack was a hoax. Well thank God. It's good to know that never happened. Um... that is what "hoax" means, isn't it? The gentleman making the assertion, one John Kaminski, seems to be suggesting that the event did happen, but that it was organized by the US government. Wouldn't that make it an inside job, not a hoax? "Hoax" means the towers didn't come down and those 3,000 people are still alive, stupid. Even free-floating twit spores whose only thin connections to reality are the ravings of Helen Thomas and the paranoia of Oliver Stone have to have some rudimentary semblance of semantics if they want to be taken seriously. Our man John is terribly close to being declared so stupid as to be an inanimate object. Let's take a look at some of his strokes of imbecility. (Quotes are from the article, but the link above is to the LGF commentary on it.)
    Opposed by everyone in the world who was not bought off...
    It was? Then I think I have a check coming.
    ...the illegal invasion of Iraq was undertaken for many reasons...
    Does "illegal" have any meaning in an international context? No, John. International law is more like international convention. But he got the "many reasons" part right, even though he was wrong on what they are.
    ...the imminent replacement of the dollar by the euro as the world's primary currency...
    Whoa--when did that memo go out? I missed that one for sure. Did "the world" suddenly get shrunk down to pre-Columbian proportions? Are we just including continental Europe alone or what? Or is this just John Kaminski's own little world, the bizarre universe in which all of this makes sense?
    ...the tempting lure of untapped oil reserves...
    All along I was under the impression that Iraq had hundreds of well heads and was actively tapping said reserves, albeit not as much as they'd like. I'm through debating the oil canard, except to ask this: How friggin' stupid do you have to be to succumb to the 6-year-old mentality that we'd literally be stealing the oil like some cartoon character armed with a Portable Hole or something?
    ...the desire to consolidate U.S./Israeli military hegemony over a strategically vital region...
    Hegemony? Exactly which part of the Middle East outside of Israel does Israel actually control anymore? It's my understanding they gave up a lot of strategic holdings and now only have the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, both of which are part of Israel proper. Where does the US govern for a country there (besides in Iraq, a temporary special case)? Where do we levy taxes and exploit them already? Where are the plans for us to do so in the future? What exactly, John, did you think "no taxation without representation" meant to us? And by "think" I mean the number of revolutions generated by the gerbil in the wheel.
    ...but the most important reason was to further obscure questions about the awesome deception staged by the American government that has come to be known as 9/11.
    I suppose fighting actual terrorism couldn't be counted in there. Must not have made the top 10. Well okay, how did that "deception" go again?
    9/11 was a hoax. This is no longer a wild conspiracy assertion; it is a fact, supported by thousands of other verifiable facts, foremost of which are...
    As previously mentioned, "hoax" means it didn't happen at all and the whole thing was staged. It means if you go to New York, the towers are still there. Or else someone painted them pink and fired up a Somebody Else's Problem field over them, which is more or less what John did with the actual facts, and with the meaning of the word "hoax".
    The attacks of 9/11 COULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED without the willful failure of the American defense system. In Washington, Air Force pilots demanded to fly but were ordered to stand down.
    Which pilots, on which bases, with what kind of advance notice, ordered by whom, and why in the world would they want to be involved before the attack instead of just warning and stopping the planes before they took off? If any of this is verifiable, make with the verification already.
    Yet instead of prosecuting the president and military leaders for this unprecedented dereliction of duty, military leaders were promoted and the president was praised for presiding over a defense system that suspiciously failed the most crucial test in its history.
    Which leaders were promoted? Since all promotions above the rank of Major, as I recall, have to go through Congress, I assume there should be a "verifiable" record of those promotions.
    None of the deaths would have happened without the deliberate unplugging of America's air defenses.
    Well I'll sure sleep better at night knowing America's defenses are absolutely 100% failsafe. Thanks, John.
    Planes that lose contact with control towers are usually intercepted by fighter jets inside of ten minutes, as the incident with the golfer's plane a few months earlier so clearly demonstrated.
    Quick math exercise: Consider the speed of a fighter jet, the time needed to cover distance, the time needed to launch and/or the resources needed to keep fighters in the air at all times. To have a 10-minute response time, we'd have to have a patrol net about as big as the commercial fleet and operating on the same busy schedule. Nice to know our fighter pilots won't be stuck for work anyway, what with few enemy air forces worth the name; my cousin's in training now.
    Yet on 9/11, the jetliners that struck New York were allowed to proceed unmolested for more than a half-hour, and the plane that supposedly crashed in Washington was not intercepted for more than an hour and forty minutes after it was widely known that four planes had been hijacked.
    Supposedly? So like in that French book, it just didn't happen? That'll come as a huge relief to Solicitor General Ted Olsen, whose wife was on that plane. Where has she been for the last 19-odd months, John? And is it really that difficult to believe it would take time to intercept those planes?
    The twin towers could not have collapsed as a result of burning jet fuel. Most of that fuel was consumed on impact. In the south tower, most of the fuel was spilled outside the building. Heat caused by burning jet fuel does not reach temperatures needed to melt steel.
    As a result of that alone, perhaps, but that was hardly the only cause of the towers coming down.
    What does stand out as particularly suspicious and still unexplained is that fires raged out of control beneath THREE of the collapsed towers for ONE HUNDRED DAYS, clearly indicating the presence of some kind of substance utilized in the demolition of the structures.
    Indeed, like jet fuel. Not all of it would have been consumed. Between that and other substances found naturally in the building, it'd be easy to sustain fires in a huge mountain of rubble, particularly underground where access to oxygen is limited and heat would be slow to dissipate.
    The Twin Towers did not fall because of plane impacts or fires. Most likely explosives were placed on structural supports in the towers (as was done in Oklahoma City), and these controlled implosions snuffed out the lives of three thousand people.
    Even by watching video you can tell there were no explosions beyond the planes hitting. Any explosion big enough to take out key supports would have externally visible consequences.
    FBI Director Robert Mueller insisted officials had no idea this kind of attack could happen when in fact the FBI had been investigating the possibility of EXACTLY this kind of attack for almost TEN YEARS.
    Numerous previous attempts at using planes as weapons, intimate knowledge of terror plans called Project Bojinka, and knowledge of suspicious characters attending flight schools who were being monitored by the FBI make his utterance a clear lie on its face.
    I could have sworn it wasn't the FBI who were investigating that, but let's give that a pass: Why does the word of one official caught off-guard make a difference here? Maybe he was out of the loop on that stuff. A lot of evidence surfaced to the effect that the FBI and CIA and INS had more than enough advance warning if they'd just coordinated their intel just a little better. Somehow I don't think John would assert the FBI is perfect. And... Bojinka? Anyone have a clue?
    The names of the alleged hijackers, all ostensibly Muslims, were released to the public only hours after the attacks, despite Mueller saying we had no knowledge this would happen. This is an impossible twist of logic. If he didn't know of a plan to strike buildings with planes, how would he know the names of the hijackers?
    By the passenger manifests, stupid. You check your lists, rule out the obvious ones like the children on field trips, and it narrows down really quickly to the 19 Arab dudes (including 15 Saudis) who had some red flags in the past. You also check terminal video to see who boarded together. Then you coordinate all this with the accounts of passengers who described the men on their cell phones. It would've been a good idea to keep better track of them in the first place, but that's water under the bridge. Point is, catching them in hindsight was easy. With the right resources even John could do it. (Nah.)
    Various artifacts were discovered in strategic places to try to confirm the government's story, but these have all been dismissed as suspicious planting of evidence. Since that time several names on that list have turned up alive and well, living in Arab countries.
    Have you ever seen Arab names? It's like trying to find Billy Bob Tucker in Tennessee; of course you can find the name.
    Yet no attempt has ever been made to update the list. And why were none of these names on the airlines' passenger lists?
    This question kind of comes off like some illogical event in a dream, where you ask yourself when you wake up how it could possibly make sense, but you're convinced it happened. "But... how could that whole city have fit in my pocket? I wasn't even wearing pants before that!" Since John's in dreamworld here I'm gonna just write this one off.
    Much like the invasion of Iraq, the anthrax attacks were designed to deflect attention from unanswered 9/11 questions in the patriotic pandemonium that followed the tragedy.
    If anything I think the anthrax attack was too quickly blamed on the lone madman theory instead of a more likely culprit: Allies of the hijackers. And if anything the anthrax attack intensified those questions. Some distraction.
    In addition to making large amounts of money for the president's father and his friends from the hasty sale of inefficient drugs to a panicked populace, the investigation into these killings was abruptly halted when the trail of evidence led straight to the government's door, and has not been reopened.
    I forget who makes Cipro, but I'm pretty sure Bush doesn't own stock in them. What are the hard figures on who profited from drug sales and by how much, John? Surely you have those handy.
    The anthrax attacks also amped up the climate of fear and deflected attention from the passage of the government's repressive Patriot Act.
    I think just that it was a bill in Congress deflected attention; Americans tend to want to avoid knowing the gritty details about our laws, and in this case it was for the worse. I don't think the law was nearly as oppressive as John makes it out to be, but it did have its flaws. I never saw the anthrax as distracting anyone from them.
    The Patriot Act was presented in the days after the tragedy supposedly as a response to it, yet it was clear that this heinous act, drafted to nullify provisions for freedom in the U.S. Constitution, was put together long before 9/11. In addition, testimony by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) revealed that most members of Congress were compelled to vote for the bill without even reading it.
    This was a vote to eliminate the Constitutional Bill of Rights, which has defined American freedom for 200 years, and it was accomplished when legislators voted for the bill without even reading it.
    Nullifying any portion of the Constitution requires an amendment, which must be ratified by the states. That parts of the law were unconstitutional are open to valid debate; that it could legally repeal parts of the Constitution is not.
    Okay, skipping ahead now slightly because it just gets dumber from here (oh yes, it's still possible):
    The hole in the Pentagon was not made by a jumbo jet. Damage to the building was simply not consistent with the size of the hole nor the absence of debris. At the supposed point of impact, a whole bank of windows remained unbroken and there were no marks on the lawn.
    No airplane debris (except what was planted on the lawn) nor remains of passengers were ever found.
    It was made by a plane, and the plane that's said to have hit it was lost with all hands, so you do the math. What's the proof that the damage wasn't consistent, that windows were unbroken, no remains found? This sounds more like demented wishful thinking than fact, but if fact it is, present it with hard evidence.
    The president has admitted that he continued to read a story to schoolchildren in a Florida school for 30 minutes after being informed that two planes had struck New York and that the nation was under attack. He has never explained this puzzling behavior, nor how he saw the first plane hit.
    The President immediately excused himself when he was told the news. He did not go on reading for half an hour, nor did he ever say he did. And... "he saw the first plane hit"? What the...? He never said that either, ya moron. Anything he ever saw of it would have been on video, since he wasn't even there.
    It was never televised, only recorded by a French crew filming firemen in New York. In that film, the plane in question does not appear to be a passenger airliner.
    Um... it was televised, and it was most definitely a passenger jet. And if it hadn't been, what happened to that flight?
    The plane in Pennsylvania was shot down and broke apart in midair. No other explanation can account for the wreckage, which was spread over a six-mile area, or the eyewitness accounts that describe debris falling fromthe [sic] sky.
    Never heard a thing about any such eyewitness accounts, which likely as not were also plucked from the sky, along with the previous "facts" that Bush saw the first plane hit and went on reading to kids for half an hour.
    Cellphone calls cannot be made from airliners in flight that are not close to the ground. As research by Professor A. K. Dewdney has shown, the emotional conversations between hijacked passengers and others would not have been possible under conditions that existed at that moment.
    Planes fly within a few miles, vertically, of cell towers, and are unobstructed by ground clutter. The reason they say you shouldn't use cell phones on planes is that it can interfere with equipment, not because they won't work. It gets worse, though. Wait for it....
    These calls were cynical fabrications, exploiting the distraught emotions of those who lost loved ones.
    So the government got voice prints of passengers, ran them through their Magic Voice Impersonator 2001, and reproduced intimate details of how these people normally communicated with their spouses and family so that the conversations would seem genuine? That's an awful lot of trouble to go to, especially when some of the people on those flights weren't known to be going aboard until the last minute.
    Radio communications from firefighters on the upper floors of the Trade Center towers clearly indicate that fires were under control and the structure was in no danger of collapsing.
    And we know it's all true because the Iraqi Information Minister told us himself.

    So what are the big questions this leaves us with?
    Who benefited from the suspiciously high numbers of put options purchased prior to September 11 for shares in companies whose stock prices subsequently plummeted, on the supposition that whoever was behind the hijacking was also behind most of the purchases of these put options?
    If there's any consistent pattern in there, let alone a handful of individuals or corporations, I'd be amazed. John seems to think there is, but he won't say who. Perhaps that's because he has no data at all.
    And what was the role of the new executive director of the CIA, Buzzy Krongard, who handled these transactions?
    The CIA is a brokerage firm? Who knew?
    Why was the debris from the collapsed Twin Towers removed from the site with no forensic examination?
    Because the primary site was on fire.
    Why did so many people, from San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to many employees of companies in the World Trade Center who failed to come to work that day, know in advance that something bad was going to happen on Sept. 11, 2001?
    They didn't. The only people who failed to show up failed by chance. Come up with your own theories about Willie Brown, but he didn't work in the WTC.
    Why do all the major U.S. media continue to act as if none of these questions is legitimate or relevant?
    John, you will not like my answer to that.
    Today, millions of people around the world are protesting the criminal destruction of the nation of Iraq.
    Where were their protests over the last 12 years Saddam was destroying it himself? Why does the major media act as if that's irrelevant? More importantly, John, why do you? How much did Indymedia know in advance about Saddam's crimes against humanity, and why was it so silent on the issue?
    History has shown all too clearly the deceived American people WILL support the destruction of faraway countries on phony pretexts of defending so-called freedom.
    So apparently in order to get Indymedia's approval, the war has to be waged on a phony pretext instead of the actual defense of freedom. Good to know. Maybe when we storm Syria or Iran or wherever we'll tell them the leaders were considering putting in a McDonald's; that seems to get their panties in a twist. At least history also shows that informed Americans WILL support the destruction of certain regimes in order to defend freedom.

    I can't help but wonder if John Kaminski has been the unfortunate victim of a psychotic break; his ravings are like schizophrenia. If I ever read any more of that bunk, I may need an aluminum hat collection of my own. Hoo boy.

    Monday, April 28, 2003

    Well, the RIAA has cooled off a bit from its pay-for-streaming-media wet dreams, and is now allowing songs to be downloaded and kept. The bad news? It's being introduced on a marginalized platform and won't be widely available until next year.

    It's hard to say if this will make the pomalytes happy or not. On the one hand it's one more thing that's briefly exclusive to their beloved-at-all-costs gloss-over-the-problems and man-that's-good-Kool-Aid platform. On the other hand, it's still a pay service under the watchful eye of the RIAA. (Privacy? Fair Use? What's that?) One thing's for sure: It certainly won't make the Beatles happy. Apple isn't supposed to be in this business. Would that someone would say and enforce the same about the RIAA.
    Remember that kid in school who wanted to give you a penny they found on the floor for your dessert? He's with PETA now. That's right, from the people who never heard a dumb idea they didn't like, it's Yet Another Brainless Stunt.
    HAMBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- An animal rights group says it will donate $15,000 worth of vegetarian patties to area schools if officials change the borough's name to Veggieburg.
    Any mayor who doesn't respond to that proposal with "Get out of my office" is unfit for the job. Any mayor who would follow that up with a rank insult so vile they wouldn't be able to repeat it in their whiny press statement ought to be thrown a parade.
    But town officials say they're not biting.

    "I don't care if they offer us $1 million worth of veggie patties or $2 million in cash, I don't think anyone in the community would want to sell their heritage," said Mayor Roy C. DelRosario.
    Good enough, Roy. They're probably still scratching their heads in confusion over the concept that someone would refuse to sell out, let alone for chump change. Besides, the idea that any schools are using actual meat in their burgers now is rather beyond belief.
    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says the name Hamburg conjures up images of slaughtered cows and unhealthy meals.
    It's funny how narrow-mindedness and lack of imagination can do that. "Like, dude, we just fee sooo baad about all the like animals and stuff, and how they have to kill 'em to feed people, and it's like so harsh, so when we hear like 'Hamburg' it sounds like 'hamburger' and like it's like, dude, you want some like fresh cow blood on your greasy McDeadflesh?" Sure when most people hear the name they think of burgers, but if it conjures up images of slaughter and unhealthiness, maybe the problem is you. Maybe it's your own obsessions that are conjuring up those thoughts, and if you'd devote just a little more energy to solving real problems you'd just laugh off the name as a harmless coincidence. Or, you could insult the intelligence and integrity of town officials and try to buy them off with a wrinkled 10-spot and a bucket of fish. (Oh wait, no dead fish. Sorry.)
    The offer mirrors one PETA made this week to Hamburg, New York. Officials in the Buffalo suburb, which says it is the birthplace of the hamburger, have turned down the offer.
    These people have to live in craploads of snow every year and you try to make them sell off their only claim to fame? Sheesh. I hope you at least offered them $16,500 and a fur coat. (Doh! I've done it again.)
    "This campaign is a bit tongue-in-cheek because we don't expect anybody to accept, but the offer is serious," PETA spokesman Joe Haptas said.
    As in, if there's anyone dumb enough to accept, they'll follow through. Gee that's big of them. Anyway the idea that PETA has a sense of humor was pretty much ruled out when they compared eating meat to the Holocaust. Screw you all, ya hippie freaks.
    Hamburg was incorporated in 1837. [They mean the one in Pennsylvania. Way to keep clarity in the story, AP.] Town officials said the borough is named after Hamburg, Germany. [Huh. I never made the connection. Mr. Obvious, you're a life-saver.] The mayor said the idea that people associate the borough with animal abuse is silly. [Stronger terms come to mind.]

    "We don't have slaughterhouses in town and we don't even have any animal farms," DelRosario said. "Our name is connected to our German history, not hamburgers."
    Well, maybe I can see where the PETA people are coming from. After all, every time I eat a pita, it conjures up images of spaced-out lunatics wearing hemp. Maybe I should offer them my loose change collection if they'll change their name to VETA (V for Vegetarian); it takes "people" out of their name, which is closer to the truth, and then it sounds like Evita, a Madonna film whose songs I deeply detest, so there won't be so much of a problem if I conflate the two in my head.

    My friend Julianne who sent me the link also tells me there's a site that says Jesus wants me to be a vegetarian. Uh... really? 'Cause I keep in touch on a daily basis, and this is the first I've heard of it. The site tells me why Christians should be vegetarians.
    Jesus' message is one of love and compassion, yet there is nothing loving or compassionate about factory farms and slaughterhouses, where billions of animals live miserable lives and die violent, bloody deaths. Jesus mandates kindness, mercy, compassion, and love for all God's creation. He would be appalled by the degree of suffering we inflict on animals to indulge our acquired taste for their flesh.

    Christians have a choice. When we sit down to eat, we can add to the level of violence, misery, and death in the world, or we can respect His creation with a vegetarian diet.
    "Violent" deaths in slaughterhouses? You mean like hardened serial killer type stuff, or does any premature death count as a violent death? Presumably we would be allowed to eat animals who die of old age. Well let's see, was Jesus a vegetarian? Easter was recently, and I know he celebrated Passover. How does that go again?
    The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire-head, legs and inner parts. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD's Passover. (Exodus 12:1-11 NIV)
    Hrm. Maybe we're only supposed to kill animals on special occasions then.
    Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. (Matthew 15:36)
    Okay. But he didn't kill those fish himself; surely he wouldn't participate in the killing of animals.
    One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

    When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."

    Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."

    When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. (Luke 5:1-7)
    Well, there goes that idea. Maybe all that's over with now though.
    About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

    "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

    The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

    This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. (Acts 10:9-16)
    All right, so Peter gets a pass too. Anyone else?
    Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:1-8)
    Paul says I can eat meat. I think I'll go with Paul.

    So you can go vegetarian if you want. But telling me I have to? Now that's really just plain... uh... silly.
    Okay, more from LGF, though not directly. Over at Kesher Talk, Judith Weiss is keeping a running account of the usually rational Aziz Poonwalla's descent into anti-Jew hysteria and the arguments against it, as well as the futility of convincing him he has no case.

    To sum it up: Aziz made mention of Israeli attempts to develop a bioweapon that would target Arabs but not Jews. If you don't roll your eyes at that, your bovinexcremeter needs serious readjustment.

    Look, bioweapons are not the future. We're nowhere near the day where a pathogen could, for example, target a particular set of marker genes to kill a specific individual. Can't be done. If it can ever be done, the problem arises of keeping the weapon under control and preventing mutation. Bioweapons are indiscriminate, and being made of lifeforms (or viruses spread by lifeforms) themselves, they will spread in an uncontrolled manner. Duh!

    Now, consider the genetics: For Arabs and Jews to have strictly separable DNA, it would mean their genes diverged not long after the time of Abraham and remained mostly free of mutation since then (mutations that would bring them closer together genetically, anyway) and completely unmingled. Does this sound plausible to you? If such a marker existed, which is darn well next to impossible, the technology does not exist to target it via a bioweapon and even less would exist to keep the bioweapon from becoming more dangerous.

    Furthermore, there'd be no way to confine the effects of such a weapon just to the Middle East. Someone would inevitably bring it to North America, Europe, Africa... you name it. And the US has plenty of citizens of Arabian descent, some whose families have been citizens for generations. Does anyone think the US would stand idly by if a plague started striking down our own? (News flash: We count naturalized citizens and native-born people descended from immigrants as our own. Those who have trouble wrapping their minds around the concept are invited to hit themselves with bricks, or shoes if that better suits their mindset.) Does anyone think the US would stand idly by if it had good intelligence (which would be 100 times sharper than a rumor at least) that something of the sort was going on?

    Apparently Aziz does. Aziz, don't be an idiot. This concept is patently ridiculous and you ought to have the good sense to know better. It is no more possible to design a bioweapon to perfectly (or near-perfectly) identify and destroy a particular millennia-old ethnic group than it is to design a moron-seeking missile. And if the latter ever becomes possible, tell the cretin who sold you this fantasy to move to Berkeley so the homing signal will be thrown off.
    Dandy. At LGF there's a little note on a suit in Belgium to try US military officers for war crimes. Aside from the fact that the idea that the US committed war crimes by conducting the least civlian-endangering war in human history is complete bunk, I have a little problem with Belgium's self-important declaration that they have the right to hear these suits against anyone, Belgian or not.

    Let's try a little exercise in logic here:

  • Belgium thinks it can try anyone it wants. Therefore, a much stronger nation (in every sense) like the US can do whatever it wants. By extension, the US is pretty much incapable of committing war crimes because the winners get to make up the definitions.

  • Anyone who thinks we deliberately and "indiscriminately" bombed civilians is too stupid to live.

  • Therefore, US voters have not just the right, but the responsibility to turn Belgium into a glow-in-the-dark parking lot.

    Maybe that's not mathematically sound, but it's the ethical thing to do. Mr. President, if you want to nuke Belgium you have my blessing.

    If you miss and hit Paris, I'll whistle and look the other way.

    [Update: Reading on, I see LGF has even more on the Axis of Weasels. Luxembourg (they still exist?) wants in, and they're thinking of forming the anti-NATO to compete with the US. But stop laughing for a minute, because it gets better: France is trying to forge closer ties to Iran, and complains of US "hegemony" in the region. Fun stuff. It's like every day de Villepin finds a new way for his country to commit suicide.]