Saturday, April 29, 2006

I'm Not Alone

If you've read some of my early posts, especially this one, you know part of my reason for beginning this blog was my frustration with politics as usual, especially the divisive polarization practiced by both Republicans and Democrats. According to an article in the most recent New York magazine, others share my opinion. Read it, as well as the two associated articles, here and here.

Friday, April 28, 2006

United 93 and the Seven Minutes

Just returned from seeing "United 93." I think much of its almost non-stop intensity is achieved through verisimilitude: many of the FAA controllers and military leaders and bureaucrats were played by themselves, and mportant dramatic moments were captured on tape, enabling writer/director Peter Greengrass to recreate them with incredbile precision.

But I wonder -- how much of the communications between the FAA and the military and the White House depicted in the film are also true? I ask because several references are made in the film to the need for presidential approval of rules of engagement. The military needs approval to bring down this commercial plane if it is deemed necessary to prevent greater harm. Only the President can grant this approval. Requests are made, but neither denial nor approval is forthcoming, to the great frustration of the commanders on the ground.

Given the filmmaker's efforts at accuracy throughout the film (and simple common sense), I'm imagining efforts were indeed made to learn the President's mind on this rather imporatant little matter. In fact, we know this is true, because we know the message got to him -- we saw Andy Card whisper it in his ear in that famous bit of footage. And then we watched him keep on reading to those kids for SEVEN MINUTES while some of the most serious shit in history is going down outside.

Radio Right will tell you that during those seven minutes, the country was perfectly safe. That despite being informed by his Chief of Staff that the country was under attack, the President's team had every thing covered and the President did just what he should have. But If "United 93" is accurate on this point about the need for rules of engagement approval, then that's not true. Our President was desperately needed. If not for actual leadership, at the very least for his authority. But he couldn't even give that.

Fortunately, we had Mark Bingham and Todd Beamer and the other passengers of United 93 to be decisive when the President wouldn't be.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Bad Old Days

Seagate has announced a brand new hard drive: 750 gigabytes for $559. To put that in perspective, the first hard drive I bought, back in 1984, cost about $2000 and stored 20 megabytes. So 37,000 times as much storage for about 1/4 the price. That hardly makes up for all the money I lost when the dot-com bubble burst, but it's a start.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bonzo Goes Gonzo

Is the real "Planet of the Apes" on its way? First there was this incident. Then a few days ago, in Africa, 27 chimps that had escaped from a preserve attacked several tourists and killed a driver.

Where's Dr. Zaius when you need him?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I Hate Plagiarism

I hate plagiarism, perhaps more than any other minor sin. It's worse than piracy. Pirates merely make illegal copies, but the end user still knows who is the creator of the work. Plagiarists take credit for work someone else has done, usurping the crown of achievement. I am always very careful to give credit for good ideas and good work where it is due, partly for reasons of self-interest: I want to receive that credit when I am the one who's done a good job.

But to attempt to pull off the kind of plagiarism this Harvard sophomore was trying? Did she think people would actually buy her story that it done was "unconciously"? To the point that she was able to remember large passages verbatim, or nearly so? She should be expelled and a portion of the sales of her book should go to the author whose work was lifted.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Napmaster Dick

Cheney claimed he wasn't sleeping during the visit of Chinese president Hu Jintao, just double-checking his notes. But believe me, I know what a man in his mid-60s looks like napping, and this is it.

A CIA Scapegoat?

Here's an interesting piece by a former CIA agent, giving some inside perspective on the recent firing of a CIA agent for allegedly leaking classified information, something that is strictly forbidden unless you are the President, and really NEED need it in order to support a sagging case for spending hundreds of billions of dollars of our money on a family vendetta that will coincidentally enrich many of your closest cronies.

Friday, April 21, 2006

"I'm gonna live forever!"

An interesting piece from writer Walter Kirn, writing on

"At least the high-school students in Kansas who decided to shoot up their school but were stopped before they could because they first wrote about their plot on MySpace.Com already have an insanity defense.

Can a craving for attention drive people crazy? It seems to have in this case. The motivation for the crime was also, here, the motivation for discussing the crime online, and that has proved fortunate. But it makes me wonder if these sort of massacres-as-spectacle aren't the defining offenses of our time. Even politically-motivated terrorism seems to be an effort to garner publicity.

There's something about the world these days that brings out the worst in the lonely and the obscure and feeds their grudges until they grow enormous. And I don't think it's violent video games and movies. I don't think it's access to firearms. I think it's the simple message that you're not anyone until you've done something worthy of media coverage, whatever that thing may be. The star-system has become a kind of moral code with only one commandment: Thou Shalt Not Go Unnoticed. When the concept of fame broke free from its old grounding in the concept of public virtue -- when it was supplanted by the lesser idea of Warhol-ish celebrity -- the lid was off the jar.

Luckily (I think), the Web has come along, where anyone can make his presence felt -- or have the illusion of making his presence felt -- without having to perpetrate a sensational crime. The Kansas kids were eager to do both, of course, and they foiled themselves. Perhaps the Web's promise of liberating people from anonymity will aggravate their mania, but here's hoping it will bleed it off some."

I post this because the lovingly-crafted post I had made for you was lost in the cyberether. If I work up the resolve, I will attempt to re-create it at a future date.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Important/Not Important

Important Issues:

Global Warming
The War in Iraq
Social Security

Not Important Issues:

Flag Burning
Same-Sex Marriage
"Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance

(It's not that I don't think freedom of speech or equal rights or separation of church and state are important, it's just that these three subjects -- not to mention things like Brangelina's baby and Tom Cruise's Scientology rants -- are often used to distract voters from Important Issues.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In My Dark Place

From time to time -- and only from time to time, thank goodness -- when the paranoia really kicks in, I think about purchasing firearms. It's not outlaws I fear, but some of the ultra right wingers whose posts I read on discussion boards on the Internet. Some of the things they say (and therefore presumably believe) is enough to curdle the blood: suggesting non-Christians move to other countries, locking gays and lesbians in internment camps, suggesting we run all domestic prisons like Abu Gharaib. In the darkest hours of the night, I worry what might happen to civil liberties if somehow a theocracy managed to come to power in this country. What might they decide to do with a person like me? A card-carrying member of both the ACLU and Human Rights Campaign? I'd be first against the wall.

So when they come for me, I want to be ready. I'm figuring a sniper rifle of some sort to pick them off at long range, a handsome 12 gauge if they make it inside the house, and a nice Glock 9mm for the last stand. Who's with me?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Am I Cold? Am I Heartless?

Perhaps I am, but I just don't understand why the Golden Gate Bridge District is considering spending millions on a study to determine if a suicide barrier would be feasible for the span. First, if someone really has it in for themselves, they'll find a way. Second, wouldn't those millions go farther in preventing suicide if they were invested in, say, mental health programs?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Flipping the Bird Flu

The bird flu worries are starting to hit home; one of my clients was recently required by one of ITS clients to put an avian flu readiness plan into place, which included sending me a PowerPoint presentation listing the different levels of alert and what is required at each level, from increasing handwashing to closing the office entirely.

If N5N1 mutates into a form which can be passed from human to human, I'll just dip myself in Purel every morning.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse... gets worse. The administration, led by President Bush, is apparently making plans to attack Iran. And not just attack -- a NUCLEAR attack. Tactical nukes designed to hit the bunkers 75 feet under the Iranian countryside. Once, again, our leaders believe our action will be met with cheers by the ordinary citizens of Iran, who will be relieved to be freed of the chains of repression.

Bush doesn't deny the reports, he merely calls them "wild speculation." Speculation merely means conjecture without firm evidence -- it doesn't mean what's being speculated about is true or false.

I don't want Iran to develop nuclear weapons, but I don't think this is about nukes. It seems clear, at least to me, that President Bush and his cronies just can't live without that oil money. They want to control/steal as many major oil fields as they can. The option of conservation and developing alternative energy sources cuts Bush and Cheney and their buddies out of the financial loop.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Scratching the Itch

Earlier this year on "The Apprentice," one of the 16 overachievers selected for the show stated he suffered from "attention surplus disorder." I wouldn't mind catching a mild case of ASD. My focus has been known to flashcut from one point of interest to the next with alarming rapidity, with effects both annoying and beneficial. (Hence the "mild" case.)

This comes to me as my paripatetic mind continues to regularly seize onto golf as the target of my attention. Golf has overwhelmed me in the past two years, and taken over a goodly amount of my mental real estate. But I'm feeling more focused and attentive during these past couple of years than I ever have. Maybe it's just age, but what if golf is a form of self-medication for ADD? After all, ritalin works for some people because it stimulates parts of the brain in a way they crave. Thus satisfied, the rest of the brain can operate with more focused attention, without the distraction of those bits of brain crying out for serotonin and dopamine. Perhaps the consuming pyschological nature of golf scratches some itchy part of my brain for me.

Someone once said "golf is 90% mental, and 10% mental." I have made par on every hole at my favorite local track. So why can't I make 18 of them in a row? I obviously have the physical ability to do so, I've demonstrated it. Therefore, the only thing holding me back is my mind. The fact that I can't achieve on a consistent basis the results I know I am physically capable of achieving drives me to try and puzzle out how to let the mind/body do what my consciousness knows it is capable of. Perhaps contemplating this conundrum occupies the frenetic part of my mind so I can more easily point my attention where I want it to go and keep it there for as long as I choose.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Scooter Fingers Bush

According to a federal prosecutor's report, Scooter Libby was given approval to leak classified information to columnist Robert Novak, as part of the administration's desire to heighten the impression that Iraq was pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons technology. Apparently it's not a crime, since the President can de-classify information if he likes, but I don't think that matters a whole lot. It's just another instance of Bush acting like a demagogue, either above the law (FISA wiretaps) or acting AS the law, as in this instance.

It's all starting to sicken me.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Sovereign Nation Acts

The Oglala Sioux nation of South Dakota apparently plans to step in to fill an unmet need. This time it's not gambling, but abortion.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Fix is In?

Have the powers at August National Country Club, the uber-exclusive (even Bill Gates couldn't buy his way in), uber-traditional host of Golf's most illustrious event, the annual Masters tournament, fallen in with Nike and the starmakers? Over the last 10 years, the course has been lengthened several times (but never lenghtened in the 62 previous years of its existence). This year they've not only added another 155 yards, they've put in more trees, changed tee locations and generally made a tough course even tougher.

But is it tougher in a way that's designed to help The Man, the golfer who has brought more money and popularity to the game than perhaps any golfer in history, Tiger Woods? In a story on, Fred Funk said of the new layout: "If they want Tiger to win every year, then they got it with the changes they’ve made."