Sunday, January 30, 2005

This is Beyond Awesome

The turnout for the Iraqi Election has to this point seemed spectacular. I have heard second hand of reports of Iraqis facing attacks in polling lines only to overwhelm and capture the attackers. If true, it would be as if they were saying, "You are not going to screw this up for us!"

If anything, this has shown how many of the Iraqi citizens are embracing the process toward democracy. Between the number of people voting, and the relative scarcity of attacks, it brings into very stark relief what the friendly/hostile composition of Iraq truly is.

As a friend of mine has put it, "The people of Iraq are finally taking responsibility for their own country." I couldn't agree more.

Update: Another thought that came up about ten minutes late. I kept hearing that it was too soon for elections because the security situation was not well enough established. I think that the participation in this election shows that people are willing to risk the danger in order to take control of their lives. This election has put everyone, American and insurgent alike, on notice about how things really are and what the people want the future to be in that country.

I am looking forward to what the newly elected government will say as to the American military forces in their country. Will they request that the Americans leave as soon as possible or stay indifinitely to finish the job? That will be another big moment of political repurcusion in our country. If the Iraqis invite us to stay and continue to assist them, what will those who call for American pull out ASAP have to say? Will they respect the will of the Iraqi's, or should the US put its good ahead of all the rest of the world? You know, like the thinking that put Saddam in power in the first place.

Update #2: I just realized what the Leftward Fringe would say if the new Iraqi government asked the US Military to stay in-country and help them cut down the insurgents. They would say, "See, this proves that the election was a sham created solely to install an American puppet regime." The entire decision would devolve down to whether or not the Iraqi Government would choose to do what the Leftward Fringe knows is correct. Any other decision would be proof of incompetence to decide. Depressing, yes, but I can see it happening all too easily.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

What Will the Iraqi Election Turnout Mean?

I don't think that a foreign election has ever captured this much American attention. So far most of the attention has been focused on how many people will vote rather on for whom they vote. Some predictions have it coming out very high, others quite low. Of course, what has been described as disastrously low would be considered typical for an American off-year state election, and that is without the danger of polling places getting bombed.

If the turnout is low, what would that say about the average Iraqi's desire for freedom? Given that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has released a tape on the internet of which it is reported:

The man identified as Mr. Zarqawi, who has claimed responsibility for many of the insurgency's most brutal attacks, including dozens of bombings causing mass casualties as well as kidnappings and beheadings, railed against democracy, saying supplanting the rule of God with that of a popular majority was "infidelity itself." The fit punishment for any Muslim "apostates" joining in, he said, was death.

then any turnout will show a great deal of courage. What would the turnout in the US Presidential Election have been if a couple of polling places on the east coast had been bombed shortly after opening? While the faint of heart have just as much right to vote as any other, the strength of the Iraqis who do vote will be demonstrated all the more by the violence they face to make their voices heard.

Of course, there are some who doubt Iraqi courage. Then again, this guy also called those who have signed on with the Iraqi police as terrorist rejects, so take it for what it is worth. ("Comic" Links via Roger L. Simon)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Libertarian Anti-Christ

I speak of Matthew Lesko, the Ron Popeil of getting "free" money from the government. Star of radio, television and infomercials, Lesko is the living embodiment of the let the government pay for it attitude. Just think about those numbers on your W2 form the next time you hear one of his commercials.

Hell, the guy deserves a flogging just for those jackets.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Something I Have Learned at Work

Spanish language radio is much like English language radio. Namely, they play the same damn songs over and over and over again. I may not know the language all that well, but I can sure spot the same lyrics.

At least the accordians aren't as bad as steel guitar.

He'll Wish He Stayed in the Car

They are calling it the deadliest train accident in Los Angeles history. And it was caused by a botched suicide attempt. If there is anything to be said about suicide is that you don't take other people with you. I would have felt no pity for the guy if he had killed himself. Now, I wish that the police didn't have him on suicide watch. Hell, I'd give him my shoelaces if it would help.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

My Kingdom for a Link!

I had such a nice head of steam going for a post today. It stemmed from a news report on the radio about a number of celebrities sending a letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger urging him to allow the issuing of drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Then I get home and I can't find a link to the story anywhere. I was even set to use it as the inaugural of The Count for 2005.

So, lacking that story to work with, I'll just go with this one:

Gates gives $750M to vaccinate kids

It is stories like this that make it hard to keep a non-stop stream of vituperation aimed at Bill Gates. Let's just hope that these vaccines make it possible for the children to fight off viruses better than Windows XP does.

That was a long way to go for a joke. I think I'll go to bed now.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Photoshop and Idle Hands Can Be a Dangerous Mix

Some people just have no respect. They would take historic photos from the Mars Exploration Rovers and twist them for comic purposes. I almost feel ashamed of myself for laughing my ass off (especially the one with the walkers from The Empire Strikes Back).

I do agree with Professor Reynolds as to my favorite.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sick and Twisted, But in a Good Way

Disclaimer right off the top: VW had absolutely nothing to do with this ad showing a suicide bomber being foiled by the failure to his VW Polo to turn into shrapnel outside of a cafe. Utterly tasteless, but at the same time giving the sense that the terrorists should be derided.

Link via Andrew Sullivan and AdFreak

Saturday, January 22, 2005

This Sounds Like Fun...

Have you ever been on a treasure hunt? My friends and I used to play a game like this. We never actually had anything of value at the end, although a couple of Atomic Fireball Candies were much more prized back then. How about a treasure hunt with some real jewels? The clues are hidden in a children's book, and they will lead to gold tokens hidden in public places that can be redeemed for insect figurines encrusted with gems. While the monetary values would be nice, I would like to see the pieces just for the workmanship. If it is as nice as the article suggests, I think that this would really be a big deal for the jeweler who has partnered with this project.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Three Days Already?

Driving 2 1/2 hours each day to and from work really sucks. I think I may have mentioned that before, but my memory is largely shot by the time I get home. So, for you greatly appreciated readers who still check when I'm not around (Bad blogger! - ed.), I shall now catch up by unloading all of the posts I dictated to the voice memo feature on my cell phone. Has anyone else noticed how cell phones have gotten memo and scheduling features, in addition to the voice memo feature, that make them almost as useful as PDA's? Yes, I am so tired that I am that easily amused.

Anyway, on with the data dump:

Bipartisanship Requires Bipartisan Effort

Much like you can't end a war with discussion from only one side, the divide in Congress will have to be resolved by both sides. Democrats and Republicans are both saying that America needs bipartisan cooperation. What I have read between the lines is that each side is saying, "Shut up and enact our agenda. I see four more years of gridlock, with the government not getting many major initiatives through the system.

If it were not for the automatically increasing budgets, I'd almost call it a victory of Libertarians.

"Complaining Witnesses" Just Doesn't Have the Same Ring

Michael Jackson's lawyers are asking a judge to stop the prosecution from using the term "victim" to describe the boy bringing the charges against him. You know, the victim. Somehow I don't think that the jury is going to be fooled. Give it whatever euphemism you want, those twelve people are still going to be thinking of him that way.

Speaking of juries, I got a summons this week for my turn potentially in the box. I know most people do what they can to get out of it, but since complaining about stupid juries is one of my favorite pastimes, it would be hypocritical of me to not attempt to raise the IQ by what I can.

Survive This

Richard Hatch had quickly discovered the rules and best strategy in winning the first season of Survivior. His idea was to divide and conquer while keeping his perfidity honest, everyone knew he was a snake, so no one felt deeply betrayed.

Being obvious with one's plotting doesn't really cut the muster when it comes to the IRS. Those guys have no sense of humor. Especially when you back file, leaving out the small matter of $1,331,139. Evidently, the computers don't forget the previous returns when they get a new one filed. That must have been one sum to large to ignore.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Right There With Flying Cars

So how long have we been promised biodegradable plastics? So maybe we've had them for a while, but what about useful biodegradable plastic? I'd really like to see if this product from Teijin really pans out.

On a side note, I see that they imply that their resins don't need microbe bearing soil to decompose. Then, at the end of the article, they show pictures of samples from tests done in compost. They got rid of the soil, but not the microbes. The insistance on photodegradable does offer interesting options. Rather than requiring burial in a landfill, this material will supposedly decompose even if unburied and left in the sun. Sounds like a good description of litter to me.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Playing Those Head Games

So the wife of a man who worked at an Austrian estate was spending her nights making the owner of the estate think that his home was haunted. It is certainly a better thing for a disgruntled person to act like a ghost than to make a ghost.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Blogger Ethics

So the new bit of news is the two bloggers who were ont the payroll of the Dean campaign. One of whom, Markos Zuniga, can be found through the Daily Kos link to the right. They were exposed by Zephyr Teachout on her blog as having recieved money ($3000 per month) to push Howard Dean in their writings. She said the following:

With the growing importance of blogs -- short for Web logs -- Ms. Teachout said she thinks bloggers need to rethink their attitudes toward ethics.

Not to be a lazy bum, but ethics is not really my job. Sure, I have them. Whether or not they are up to snuff is a decision left to you folks. I thank those of you who spend the most valuable resource you have, namely your time, in reading this weblog. Whether you continue to do so, and your reasons for choosing either way, is entirely up to you.

In the meantime, I'll keep writing. Enjoy it if you like it.

Another Stop on the Inter-Planet Itenerary

Pictures coming back from Titan, Saturn's largest moon. I don't see this as a tourist destination, when the beaches run up against seas of liquid methane I'd pass on the swim. What would really strike me as a big deal is if the scientists can confirm that those boulders are ice, as in water. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the first time that a large amounts of water have been found anywhere other than Earth and Europa near Jupiter? Boulders of ice ready to carve and toss in the tanks. What could be better for long range interplanetary travel?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

For the Hermit Who Has Everything

Want some out of the way place where you and seven of your closest friends can just get away from the world for years at a time? Then step right up and put a bid in for Biosphere 2, the only scientific experiment to serve as the inspiration for a Pauly Shore movie. I don't recall what the experiment was supposed to prove, but it did show that being cooped up with seven other people in even a 3.1-acre building can send a person right of the deep-end.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Lack of Trust Can be a Good Thing

I just got home from work, and I'll take it for granted that there has been a deluge of pixels put out on the blogosphere about the Memogate report and the firing of Mary Mapes, the producer responsible for the report that relied on fraudulent documents. A quote from a statement about the report struck me:

"The combination of a new '60 Minutes Wednesday' management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network's news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles," the report said, according to the CBS statement. (Emphasis mine)

Let's leave aside the fact that "fundamental journalistic principles" were ignored in preference to a whole list of pressures that professional journalists have been crying about for years and focus on what I highlighted.

"A zealous belief in the truth of the segment..." Ms. Mapes had been working on this story for five years. Surely that type of dedication is going to draw attention from those who would wish her success. It would also be a sign that she would pounce on any evidence whatsoever that would prove her right. And if that evidence would come along with an iron clad deadline, namely the election, then the skepticism that should be a hallmark of a good reporter would be supressed even further. I heard an interview with former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg where he expressed his opinion that the liberal consensus of the newsroom probably made true skepticism too hard to maintain, allowing for the initial "error" of airing the story to have a sliver of a chance of being in good faith. It is only a sliver because even if Mary Mapes may have been driven by an excess of zeal, there should have been editors and then Dan Rather to look at the story with cold reason. The secondary failure is theirs.

It has been said about the blogosphere that you can't trust what is written to be free of partisan hackery or out and out ignorance. They are right. The internet is called a "low-trust" environment, nothing should be taken without an unhealthy portion of salt. Don't trust what I write. Only a scant few of the people who read this blog know what type of person I am away from the keyboard. I really am a decent person who honestly tries to approach a topic honestly, but virtually any politically minded hack will say that about themselves.

By approaching what I offer you with a lack of trust, you stand to become better educated by pursuing thought on your own than by anything I can download to you. By not trusting what anyone writes on the internet, you will be more likely to find the truth.

And you would be more like a journalist than Mary Mapes was with the memos.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Let the Reader Beware

Roger L. Simon offers two competing views as to the best response to media bias and the image of objectivity: either surrender the pretense and honestly state the inclination of the reporter, or hold the line and cut down bias ruthlessly. I am of the first opinion. If you have a photograph of something, you can then get more information from it if you know where the picture was taken. As close to all of the information possible is recieved when image is combined with perspective.

One exchange in the comments is very telling. Miriam asks why can't reporters just report the facts. Ross the Heartless conservative responded:

The trouble with the facts is that there are so darn many ways to interpret them and they often don't make a lot of sense without the context. And context can be everything.

If the dollar falls against other major currencies it can be factually reported as making American products more affordable to the overseas market or as weakening the purchase power of the American dollar.

To paraphrase an old political adage the audience determines whether Bourbon is "that elixer of life that soothes a man's nerves after a hard day at work" or if it is "the demon liquid that destroys families and is the scourge of modern civilization". I could find "facts" to support either position.

Image, perspective.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Way to Go, Gov. S.

Governor Schwartzenegger's first step to fame and fortune came from shoving things around that really didn't want to move. At the far end of his career, he is doing it again. This time the inertia is being provided by the California Legislature. You can tell that your precinct has been gerrymandered when the description of the borders is longer than the ballot. The idea of a 50-50 state is all right at the basic level. Having it as one pure Republican district intertwined with a pure Democratic district undoes that. Only a reactive electorate is going to keep the representatives alert to what the people really want.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Scenes From the Imperial Shipyard

One of my favorite bloggers, Stephen Green aka Vodkapundit, had been away from the keyboard for quite a while without explanation. It turns out that he was pressed into service at the Imperial shipyard. Actually, more like pressed, snapped and clicked in order to complete this huge Lego set. 3,104 pieces big.

Damn it looks cool. Too bad I just don't have the patience or a secure place from a cat who would love to be the kamikaze A-Wing from Return of the Jedi.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

And Now For a Word From Our Sponsor

Sorry for the light blogging, although from the sitemeter stats it would seem that you guys seem to prefer it when I'm away. I just started the new job this week. Nothing can take the energy from a body like a two hour commute, not to mention waking up at 4:30 in the morning to do it.

There are two things that will help the situation. One is to move closer to work. (If any of you out there know of a cheap apartment or room for rent in the Los Angeles area, please drop me a line.) The other is going to second shift. I have always been of the opinion that it is better to stay up late than get up early. Must be a holdover from my college days. Plus, it means that I could spend my weekends gaming without throwing my body clock completely out of whack. For some reason, seeing dawn on sunday via a too-long tryst with saturday night tends to make monday morning a real bitch.

So, within the next week, I shall be a night shift metallurgist. Somehow that seems to sum me up quite well.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Never Thought I'd Write This

Congratulations to USC (shiver) Trojans. As a die-hard UCLA Bruins fan, I will take some consolation that my team's keisters were handed to them by the national champions.

Obligatory slam: The dual unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from the celebration after the seventh touchdown were uncalled for. Not very classy, and from the score, you guys have obviously been in an endzone before.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Are We Sure We Want to Pick This Fight?

If this comet has a big brother, we might be in for some serious trouble. Yeah, yeah, sure, we'll get to uncover the deeper layers of a comet's nucleus, not to mention the satisfaction of getting the first shot in. I think that I could come up with a story about how the aliens resident within a comet get more than a little huffy by the equivalent of a window broken by the baseball of the little snot nosed brats on the third rock from the sun.

Time to get to work, I smell a movie deal in this.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Permanence of Past Moments

Warning: This post includes a spoiler to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. If you have not seen or read it and wish to keep the surprise, stop reading now.

Michele of A Small Victory is waxing poetic about the concepts included in a novel called Time After Time. The key concept being that the past is never truly gone, that it exists side by side with the present. Toss in that the future is here as opposed to being somewhere not yet here, and you have a full picture of Einstein's space-time. The image that I like is that all of the pages of the Book of Days has already been written. While the present for the characters in a book is whatever page you happen to be on, the pages that you have read, have not read, the events those pages carry still exist.

Quantum Leap had a good start on this approach to time. All moments touch on one another. If time travel is possible, then it would only be a matter of disconnecting oneself from one "point" in time in favor of another. It fell apart with the idea that there could be a before and after a change to a time line. If there is only one time line, then there is no where outside of that can contain the concepts of "before" and "after".

The best example I have seen in popular entertainment of time travel has been Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The events of that final afternoon happened exactly the same for Harry and Hermione both times they were there, the only difference being their perspective. How they influenced the world in the second go-round (tossing the rock, howling like a wolf, summoning the Patronus) were already manifested for the first go-round. All influences time travelers have or "will" make to our past must have already happened. If it is in the past, it must have already happened because their isn't another schedule to place it on.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

So This is 2005

No New Year's Resolutions this year. I know what I need to work on, and I don't need the pressure of some big fat hairy promise tacked on. 2004 was rough. Honestly speaking, I am not a fan of this whole 3rd Millenium so far. But, I am starting a new job, and I hope that optimism gets easier the more I practice it.

Any Opportunity for a Cheap Shot

Tim Blair has a handy round up of articles pertaining to international aid, in particular the United States' contribution. Polly Toynbee of the UK Guardian shows a particular willingness to make the data fit the conclusion:

"Charity begins at home" is the mean-minded dictum of the right, unwilling to spend on foreigners, unwilling to spend on those outside the family fortress at home, either. But there may be a lot of truth in the old maxim. Countries that tolerate vast wealth gaps are unlikely to concern themselves greatly about the poor even further from their door. Countries that give most - the Nordics - are the ones that have created the most socially equal societies at home first. Can America be anything but unjust in dealing with foreigners when it cares so little about the third world poverty within its own borders?

Ms. Toynbee is evidently operating under the assumption that only charity that comes from the government can truly represent the people of that nation. How about we just let the people decide by sending their own, untaxed, money to help the relief effort. If anything, that money is going to be far better spent than it will as it travels through the corrupt channels of numerous governmental bank accounts.