November 30, 2005

PiE on Rep. Cunningham (R - CA)

I wanted to raise the President in Exile's comments on Duke Cunningham, because I think they are particularly perceptive:

"It's always fun to pretend the illusions of media stereotyping are real-- but you're a chump if you think being able to shoot down a lot of planes makes you a moral person, or if you feel sorry for this crook. There are many other crooks in more need of pity who got a lot less than a Rolls Royce and a yacht, betrayed far less important principles, and will be punished far more severely."

I agree. But, I still salute him as a Republican capable of demonstrating shame (cf. Tom DeLay). To misquote Dr. Johnson, "A Republican demonstrating shame is like a dog walking on its hind legs; it is not done well, but you are surprised to see it done at all."

I Vote for Dr. X's Victory Conditions

I thought it over, and I agree with Dr. X that we should leave Iraq when a democratically elected government asks us to.

Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to be the plan:

BBC NEWS: Bush outlines Iraq 'victory plan': "Mr Bush said victory would come 'when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe-haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation'."

I'm afraid really means, "when the Iraqis elect a pro-U.S. government that won't be instantly overthrown when our troops leave." Which may be never, given how most Iraqis feel about what we've done for them.

Sleep Well

Now that you know the biomass of all ants is roughly equal to that of humans. Crazy, acid-spewing ants. And let's not get started on the squid and krill...

I Honor the Masters

Rarely indeed that I link to the Onion. However, I have been unable to finish

Fritolaysia Cuts Off Chiplomatic Relations With Snakistan


CIA Realizes It's Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years

without medical assistance.

"Panel condemns Patriot Act's procedures" UW Daily

I know what I'm talking about: I'm on a Panel, shown here:

Enlarged photo

Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper discusses the Patriot Act at the HUB last night as fellow panel members (from left) Ray Minchew, Jamie Bollenbach and Ali-Salaam Mahmoud look on.

This was a speech to the UW Libertarians (I know, I know- there weren't a lot) over developments in the Patriot Act. The revisions are before a conference committee right now, preparing to make many of the provisions most toxic to freedom permanent. For the love of liberty and democracy, call your Senators.

I may not be quoted in the story, but I am clearly on the Panel, and that's the important thing. That and changing this maddeningly proto-fascist legislation.

Norm Stamper, the keynote speaker who has been in law enforcement for decades, was the Chief of Police during the Seattle WTO riots, yet condemned the Act even more vehemently than I had.

The Republican on the panel was obscured by the podium.

Most Literate Cities

What would Seattle be if it didn't take smarty-pants pleasure in an obscure academic ranking of the most literate cities?

It wouldn't be number one.

Seattle: #1.

San Francisco: #5

Anchorage: #43.

November 29, 2005

Marshall Amok

TPM's 'Nice Try' contest is a lot of fun.

You guys won't like it, but the Moose has a modest proposal on the War.

November 28, 2005

Seahawks Not the Only Ones Who "Got Lucky"

Seahawks get rare NFL admission of ruling errors - NFL - Yahoo! Sports: "Sunday, with 1:14 left in the second quarter and the Seahawks leading 7-3, Shockey briefly caught a 7-yard pass from Eli Manning in the center of the end zone. Seattle safety Marquand Manuel then lowered his right shoulder into Shockey and forced the ball to the turf, though officials signaled a touchdown."

Manuel (in for Hamlin) laid a monsterous hit on Shockey that knocked the ball out of his hands before he got both feet to the ground. Yet, the officials ruled this a "touchdown." Still, we're expected to believe that the Seahawks only won this game because the Giants allowed them to. I call bullshit on that, man!

Mr. Duke Comes Home From Washington

From war hero (an Ace in Vietnam, where it was damn hard to be an ace) to corrupted confessed tax-evading influence peddler...

Shown here in happier days.

The NY Times sums up:

"Mr. Cunningham's plea adds to the ethics cloud over the Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush White House.

"In the Senate, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee and the majority leader, is under scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the timing of his trades in the stock of his family's health care company. In the House, Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, was forced to step down as majority leader after he was indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges in his home state.

"In a separate Justice Department investigation, Michael Scanlon, a former spokesman for Mr. DeLay, pleaded guilty last week to bribery. Prosecutors said Mr. Scanlon was part of a conspiracy to defraud Indian tribes and win legislative favors from lawmakers in return for campaign donations, meals, entertainment and other benefits. A former White House aide has also been indicted in that investigation, which is centered around Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist and ally of Mr. DeLay who worked with Mr. Scanlon. As part of his plea, Mr. Scanlon agreed to cooperate in the investigation.

"In addition, I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was indicted last month for perjury and false statements in the investigation of the leaking of the name of a C.I.A. operative. Other White House officials, including the senior political adviser Karl Rove, remain under investigation in that case."

November 27, 2005

Where the Smart People Actually Live

Seattle leads the U.S. in large cities with the highest percentage of its population with a four-year degree, nearly half (!) at 49%. Raleigh is a surprising 2nd and S.F. is right close at 3rd with 48%.

Anchorage is a respectable 19th, with a percentage of 32%, somewhat more than the national average of 25%.

Anchorage Beats San Francisco, Seattle

Forbes's survey of the richest cities in America rates Anchorage directly above San Francisco. Seattle doesn't even make the top five. As one sage commentator says in the story, "Smart people can live anywhere, and they choose to live in the best places." Apparently, part of being smart is not getting old, as Anchorage's lack of retirees is credited for keeping the median income up.

Median HH income / Median home cost

1. San Jose: $71,765 / $623,000

2. Anchorage: $61,595 / $294,374

3. San Francisco: $60,031 / $726,900

4. Virginia Beach: $55,781 / $192,000

5. San Diego: $51,382 / $605,600

Russians Interested In Deal

This sounds too good to be true (from the Alaska Ear):

NYET . . . Connected lobes have seen the Steven Pearlstein column in Wednesday's Washington Post and in Saturday's Daily News that suggests the U.S. raise money to pay down the federal deficit and "restore some sanity to the annual appropriations process" by selling Alaska back to Russia. The rest of the country will be glad to get rid of us and our incurable addiction to federal subsidies, the column declares.

But did you know the column has been translated into Russian and reprinted in newspapers there, where it is being taken as a serious proposal and is sparking discussions on whether Russia should buy us back? An amused earwig with Russki connections says it's so.

Missed It By That Much

Seahawks used to lose these games.

The Economist Weighs In

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"[T]he catalogue of failures thusfar does raise serious questions about the administration's ability to make Iraq work - ever. "

However, "there are strong and positive reasons for America to see through what it started... Most Iraqis share America's aims... Though few Arabs publicly admit it, Mr. Bush's efforts to spread democracy in the region are starting to bear fruit."

"Over time, American numbers should fall. But that should happen because the Iraqis are getting stronger, not because the Americans are feeling weaker."

"The road ahead looks bloody and costly. But this is not the time to retreat."

November 26, 2005

Job Forecast Improving, At Least For Ethically Compromised Macroeconomists

The White House is having a hard time finding economists to fill a set of rather critical positions. Precious few macroeconomists want to work for Bush.
"Everybody wants to go back into academia and be respected, so you don't want to say anything too foolish that people are going to laugh at you afterward," Professor Munnell explained.

Besides, War is Good for Your Mental Health

"Although the shattering psychological impact of war is well known, experts have become increasingly interested in those who emerge from combat feeling enhanced. Some psychiatrists and psychologists believe that those soldiers have experienced a phenomenon known as 'post-traumatic growth,' or 'adversarial" growth .' "

Spoiling a Nice Conversation

Post-Thanksgiving we were having our usual leftish comfort chat about our incompetent administration, when talk turned to Iraq. And I heard myself say something like:

"We attacked their country, removed their leader, disbanded their army and dismantled their civil institutions. Don't you think it's immoral to leave before we've repaired the damage we caused? Don't we have some responsibility here? You can't wreck a country and then walk away just because the consequences are inconvenient for you. I'm sorry we're taking casualties, but we're the ones who decided to have a war.

"And by the way, it would be kind of dumb, given our nation's dependence on foreign oil, to remove our armed forces from the most strategically important region of the world, especially when Iran appears intent on developing nuclear weapons?"

Is it cold in here or is just me?

November 25, 2005

Putin-Stevens exchange


From the most important Alaskan of the 20th Century (Anchorage Daily News' assessment in 2000) to laughingstock in just five years: Uncle Ted always wanted a national profile, now he's got one. Too bad he didn't bow out of his last race and let Democratic nominee Theresa Obermeyer take over the seat (we'd at least have known what we were getting). Now Steven Pearlstein suggests in the Washington Post letting Alaska go back to Russian so Steven will fit in better (well worth reading the whole thing). Here's a choice quote:

… what I like most about the idea of selling Alaska back to the Russians -- the cultural fit, so important in any acquisition. Let's face it: Although it's been American territory for nearly 140 years, Alaska has more in common with post-Soviet Russia, where government remains at the center of the economy and political power is in the hands of a small, shadowy group of oligarchs, who use it to enrich friends and family. It's a milieu in which Alaska's reigning oligarch, Ted Stevens, should feel very much at home.

Lately, all the attention brought on by his son's activities and the "bridges to nowhere" has generated unflattering coverage for the elder Stevens, prompting outbursts and threats to resign from the Senate. But I'm sure that once Alaska is reunited with the Russian empire and Commissar Stevens has settled into his new office at the Kremlin, those problems will magically disappear.

Meanwhile, back in Anchorage, here's what family embarrassment "Doctor" Nick Begich has to say about Ted and Ben on today's letters page:

My family has been in government in Alaska since the 1950s, with Dad serving in Congress with Ted Stevens in Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s. In recent years I have met hundreds of Alaskans who actually fear Ted and Ben Stevens as their senators and will not speak against them. Reminds me of how people feel about living in communist China. Power corrupts absolutely and in my opinion the Stevens boys are absolutely corrupted.

A little tougher for little brother to make nice with those big, scary men today than it was yesterday. Wonder if Nick handed out his letter at Thanksgiving dinner?

One final item to note from that same letters page. There are, TOO, good reasons to build our two bridges. You all Outsiders are so dense (this is a real, live letter):

Sure, it makes sense to build a bridge to nowhere. The reason that it is nowhere is that people cannot get from somewhere to nowhere. When the bridge is built and we can travel from somewhere to nowhere, then nowhere will become a somewhere. Duh.

Newsradio and the Comedic Art

I really liked Newsradio. The show got low ratings and no respect (one Emmy nomination), so I'm happy someone is trying to rehabilitate it. This site is completely over the top, but it really is worth reading through it.

Fair warning: the hyperbole is beyond category:
  • "The greatest ensemble cast in history..."
  • "Many would consider Alec Guinness’ acting to be subtle, but his acting tried to communicate experiences (about who the character was and what he was about). [Dave] Foley’s acting subtly communicates desires (what his character feels and wishes; his reactions and aversions) and is the much greater cinematic experience for it."
  • "Maura Tierney, who plays Lisa Miller, is an actress in the Greta Garbo class."
  • "Moreover, with her expressive power over relationships, Tierney functions in a similar capacity to John Wayne in Hatari!, Donovan’s Reef and Rio Bravo — as the central facilitator of a great ensemble cast."
  • "Combine [Tierney's physical comedy] with impeccable timing, superb reaction skills, and a natural instinct for comedy, and you have everything the great Carole Lombard had and more."
  • They compare Hartman to Belushi, which for me is like comparing Sinatra to Howling Wolf, but ok.
  • Stephen Root [Jimmy James] is "a latter day Edward Arnold." If you don't know who Edward Arnold was, I pity you.

And this obsessive-compulsive gem: "We should spend a moment discussing NewsRadio’s comic efficiency. There is one breathtaking sequence in "Who’s the Boss (Part 1)" [4-12] where eight gags roll into each other in rapid succession. Joe is on strike but his inability to fix things is driving him crazy. The sequence starts with Beth fixing the coffee machine while Joe sits nearby reading a magazine and saying "hot" or "cold." Dave, a coffee addict, looks over proceedings impatiently, empty mug in hand. These form gags one and two. Gag one ends with Beth blowing up part of the coffee machine. Dave is distraught — "My God, woman! What have you done?" Gag two segues into gag three: Bill steps out of the News Director’s office and calls over Matthew who has bought eleven cups of coffee from downstairs; "I believe you take yours black," Bill tells Dave. Gag three involves Bill being such a good boss that he is ahead of the game. Gag four involves Dave grabbing six cups of coffee for himself and rushing off. This then segues into gag five with Bill trying to send the incompetent Matthew on another simple chore. Gag six is Bill efficiently organizing Lisa, Beth, and Dave in order to report a bomb scare. Gag seven is Bill walking back to the office, but stopping to provide a speedy but highly professional statement of management’s position to the striking Joe. Gag eight is Bill fixing the coffee machine by cutting a wire and explaining, "The ground wire from the timer was shorting out the heating element." These eight gags take barely more than two minutes of screen time. This is faster than even the greatest Thirties screwball comedies were able to achieve."

The DVD is here.

A Bit of Holiday Cheer

The U.S. Justice Department's probe of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is broader than previously thought, examining his dealings with four lawmakers, former and current congressional aides and two former Bush administration officials, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

I'm betting President Harding will ultimately be vindicated, and that this whole Teapot Dome thing will rapidly fade from memory.

America Wakes Up

One measure of the president's political problems is that by 64 to 32 percent, virtually a two-to-one majority, many people believe that the Bush administration "generally misleads the public on current issues to achieve their own ends."

Now what?

November 22, 2005

The DC Fun Fair

Watching the administration these days is like being at a carnival with 30 or 40 roller coasters of political disaster, with one or two having crested the top and running down the wild ride of fiasco, while the rest are still chugging up the slope.

A while I had the sneaking feeling that what was going wrong was that George W. Bush has finally started actionally running the country himself, with predictable results. This Keith Olberman interview paints an incredibly isolated man, with suprisingly few remaining daily advisors, more Nixon than Nixon: Rice, Hughes, his wife and his Mom. Ain't that sweet. Idiot.

The plea agreement of Micheal Scanlon, aide to Delay and business partner of corrupt lonbyist Jack Abramoff, has a penalty of five years in prison. More importantly, with the bargin depending on information on other possible criminal indictments, it's a real can opener, much more serious and broad in scope than the campaign finance crime in Texas.

The investigation, which initially centered on accusations that Mr. Abramoff had defrauded tribal casinos of tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees, has created alarm on Capitol Hill, where the lobbyist and his junior partner, Mr. Scanlon, claimed friendships among the Republican leaders of Congress.

November 21, 2005


Jamie Bollenbach "Birthday" 28" by 60", Acrylic on canvas, 2005

Related to earlier works, I made the "quantum girl" graphic marks conform to a narrow hallway like perspective in the center.

This rented immediately in July -before I could get a photo - and just came back for display at SAM.


The Third Way, With Pike, Mace and Claymore

Nice article in the Asia Times, cooly summarizing the Administration's seemingly endless trainwreck on Iraq, and documenting a Democratic resurgence.

But instead of watching the Democrats fall silent under assault as they have for years, they unexpectedly found themselves facing a roiling oppositional hubbub threatening the unity of their own congressional party. In his sudden, heartfelt attack on Bush administration Iraq plans ("a flawed policy wrapped in illusion") and his call for a six-month timetable for American troop withdrawal, Democratic congressional hawk John Murtha took on the Republicans over their attacks more directly than any mainstream Democrat has ever done. ("I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done. I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, he [Bush] criticized Democrats for criticizing them.") Perhaps more important, as an ex-Marine and decorated Vietnam veteran clearly speaking for a military constituency (and possibility some Pentagon brass), he gave far milder and more "liberal" Democrats cover.
To our friends in the Democratic Party: appealing to moderates is NOT equivalent to being middling, indecisive and deferential to elites. The American people crave trustworthy leadership; and they will reward good leadership with latitude in policy.

The Republicans can be divided between the criminally corrupt, the persistently deluded, and the last few traces of ideologically honest conservatives. We can go Left and Middle as a good policy dictates, we can listen to people from all sides, but the time for Miss Nancy Fancy McMilquetoast is long, long over. We are in a battle for the nation's and even the world's soul, the GOP is showing weakness, and the Democratic Party needs to go medieval on their ass.

November 20, 2005

Seahawks Maintain

Okay, beating the 49er's by two points is not a great victory, but it is enough to give them undisputed claim to the best record in the NCF. I will now proclaim: Christmas eve will be a Super Bowl preview (with the Colts).

The First Refuge of a Hack the college newspaper (the second is an anonymous blog posting, but first things first). Following this episode at my alma mater, I find myself agreeing with Slate's Bryan Curtis. Shut 'em all down before more damage is done.

November 19, 2005

Duke Suckage Undocumentable

I am unable to find a negative review of the KTM Duke, the Laird's new ride. A positive one is here ("this is motorcycling's equivalent of the Third Way").

Undeadsoe Unleashed

Mid-season, Drew Bledsoe's looking really good. Not as good as he once was, but he has a good offensive line and good receivers. Like the pro he is, he refuses to gloat over being one of the top quarterbacks in the league in the first half. He's already passed Montana and Unitas in total yards this year. He's 33.

His next game is at home vs. Detroit, pitting the 3rd-best IAYPA QB vs. the 2nd-worst (Harrington).

Finally, a decent, kick-ass movie...

...about motorcycles.

Hopefully this will erase all memories of such recent 'hitz' as Biker Boyz and Torque.

November 18, 2005

Don't You Think It's Time...

...we all went to Sniper School?

Stansfield Turner Soft on Terrorism

Turner's condemnation, delivered during an interview with Britain's ITV network, comes amid an effort by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to pass legislation forbidding any U.S. authority from torturing a prisoner.

A Woodward of Mass Destruction

Cub Reporter Bob Woodward's revelation about receiving information regarding Valerie Plame before Scooter sounded off, looks bad, very bad. (Fitzgerald is already working to present to another grand jury). In the limpid prose of the Independent:
Now it is Mr Woodward's turn to come under suspicion that his powerful friends mean more to him than his professional obligation to his readers. At no time in any of his public rants against Mr Fitzgerald did he indicate he might have a personal stake in the story.
From repeated recent comments attacking prosecutor Fitzgerald and denying his own knowledge, Bob Woodward repeatedly misled us on what he knew, not to protect important principles of the free press, but to protect his sources, which are indistinguishable from powerful friends.

I didn't buy Judy Miller's argument about the First Amendment principles involved, and I'm not buying it now. We do need clear laws protecting sources, but I am appalled if not surprised at the cozy relationship between this fallen paragon of independent journalism and the administration. Woodward, like Miller, hangs around the powerful, and now seems to adore them.

But the Bill of Rights is not meant to protect the arrogant and powerful from the scrutiny of the people. Just the opposite.

On the bright side, this reopens a broad investigation of the White House, and turns a legal proceeding back into a political one. The Plame affair is becoming a weapon against an overcozy establishment media - political elite relationship. It might help turn writers back into journalists.

November 17, 2005

The US Senate

The very finest senate that money can buy.

This should make the mid-term elections more interesting.

I say should because in this day and age there's no guarantee the press will pick up the story and run with it.

November 16, 2005

And the Little Red Choo-Choo Goes Chuggin' Round the Bend

Dick Cheney has simply lost his marbles.

First Sea Lord Directs You to Load with Grape and Prepare to Repel Boarders

Burning of the USS Philadelphia at Tripoli by Barbary Coast Pirates


Pirate attacks are on the rise all over the place- tankers, cruise ships, cargo vessels. A contributing factor: too many rich people yachting about gaily, presenting excellent targets. Too many ransoms paid.

(Like all world problems, you have to ask whether it's Bush's fault. At the very least, his tax policies put a lot more big fat showerstall yachts at sea, and the Iraq War is tying up the navy, and has strained our military cooperation with governments around the world. )

Worse, pirate experts are worried about pirates hooking up with terrorists. Note an interesting detail: the pirate mother ship.

It's a good a time as any to recall the Barbary Coast Wars.

Two New Demographics

"Unstylish Pirates." (Seen here waving to Cruise Ship Passengers off Somalia before greeting them with a couple of RPG rounds.)

No hats, no swords, no flags, no gunports, no eyepatches, no chanties, no parrots, no rum - just matching windbreakers and a white fiberglass gig. Sad. Where is Queer Eye for the Pirate Guy?

"Bourgeoise Rednecks" seen here in a Knik Bridge Pileup. Huge and only huge late model pickups and SUVs being driven too fast from Tyvek palaces in Wasilla en route to professional obligations in home repossession and orphan sales in Anchorage - an unkindness of Republicans (the suggested plural) not even competent to operate large motor vehicles.

Fiddle de Dum, Fiddle de Dee...

...the bridges to nowhere are history.

November 15, 2005

Seattle Jells

The Laird is right: this is now a team to be feared.

On offense, Gregg Easterbrook notes, "After running 88 yards untouched for a touchdown last Sunday, this Sunday, Shaun Alexander ran 17 yards untouched for a touchdown as the Blue Men Group iced their game against Die Morgenmuffel. Many Seattle blocks were good, the best came from tackle Walter Jones. If I picked an MVP right now it would be Jones -- and it is about time an offensive lineman received serious consideration for this honor." And furthermore, "Shaun Alexander has more touchdowns than nine entire teams: Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston, Jersey/B, Minnesota, New Orleans and San Francisco."

Meanwhile, Hasselbeck has quietly moved into the Top 10 of Dr X's quarterback ratings, posting an IAYPA of 6.2, right up there with the two Jakes (Delhomme and Plummer - and by the way, what's gotten into Plummer? Stopped throwing INTs about a month ago...). Unlike most of the guys ahead of him, he's doing it without a marquee receiver.

[IAYPA update: The two best active QBs (Ben R. is hurt) are...drum roll...Brady (7.1) and Bledsoe (7.0). The worst is Orton, after Harrington's big game (3 TDs, no INTs) got him out of the cellar.]

The defense has not allowed an opposing rusher 100 yards this season.

They are young. They have no memory of the bad times, and they are still finding out how good they can be.

Peter King says "Lofa Tatupu rocks. Learn about him. There aren't five middle linebackers playing any better right now." The rest of the linebackers are a rotating committee, but it's working.

Teams that step up often do so because a bunch of young talent matures at about the same time. If that happens with the Seattle defense, they will get better as the season goes on, and this could get really fun.

"They Were Insolent, So I Had Them Liquidated"

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And besides, white phosphorous isn't technically a chemical weapon.

Jack Knows Rock

This program, Jack's Big Music Show, is the best kids' show ever. Many of the songs are better than anything, say, Poison or Pantera ever did. This week Jack plays space explorers, and sings a catchy rock song with the following lyrics:

Space Explorers,
flying past the stars,
Space Explorers,
Zipping past Venus and Mars!

Space Explorers,
Ready for a moon docking,
Space Explorers,
Houston we are rocking!

This can't last. This is one of those shows that's too good to live. Like In Living Color back in the day, its structure can barely contain all the talent - you just hope they can hold it together for awhile.

November 14, 2005

"There will be no dawn...for Rams."

A new power is rising. Its victory is at hand.

Meet the Seahawks newest bitch: the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks complete the sweep of the Rams, making them all but untouchable as the champions of the NFC West, and tied for the best record in the conference. More importantly, pimp-slapping the Rams has established this: if you want to see the Seahawks choke at the sight of a Rams uniform, you'd better invent a time machine.

As Charles Robinson put it in his column today, "for once, this is a team capable of delivering some despair."

The One That Hurts

Really, Ford...sponsoring O'Reilly. Gad. Ford is really ok... The CEO, Bill Ford, is reportedly a sincere environmentalist, nothing like Henry or the undead apparatchiks that run the rest of the U.S. auto industry. But damn guy, Ford's product looks like this:

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Can't park it here, can't drive it down Lombard Street, and Lord knows you can't afford to fill it up...

It wan't always this way. Ford and San Francisco used to go hand in glove. I mean my neighborhood made the Ford Mustang, and I think it's fair to say the Mustang held up its end of the deal:

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You know?

I don't think this guy would appreciate Ford paying broadcasters to invite terrorists to attack his neighborhood. I just don't think he'd be comfortable with that:

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And yet, he can't drive an Audi. He just can't.

It's a tragedy, really, for all concerned.

And I thought this was brilliant.

November 12, 2005

Art in Detroit

That Detroityes site is unbelievable. If you go to the "Guides to Site Menu" and pick "Table of Contents" you'll get a list of the photo-essays. Have a look at "Art Among the Ruins."

For the definitive take on the Urban Prairie, click here.

Dr X. is Not Amused

Now that Bill O'Reilly has suggested that terrorists attack my neighborhood, I have lost my sense of humor about this. Here are the three largest recent national sponsors of The O'Reilly Factor:
  • DaimlerChrysler
  • Ford Motor Company
  • General Motors Corporation
Nice. Ok, I'd suggest a boycott, but there is not a single domestic car in the garage of this building. Still - Detroit? Listen to Bill O'Reilly, do what he says, and soon your city could be as bucolic and pleasant as Detroit, Michigan. For a virtual tour of the ruins of this once-magnificent civilization, see this site.

OK, are there any sponsors not headquartered in horrific industrial wastelands? Well, yes. Continuing down the list:
  • Merck/Schering-Plough - Hah! Nice try Merck, you almost had me fooled with the NPR sponsorship.
  • Mitsubishi - Same folks who built the Zero. I wouldn't mention the sex harassment stuff, that's old news.
  • Capital One - The card's already in half.
  • Sprint - Won't be using them.
  • Best Buy - I have set foot in my last Best Buy store.
  • Morgan Stanley - I will never again use the investment banking services of Morgan Stanley.
  • UPS - From now on I'll Fedex it.
There's no excuse for responsible advertisers to be supporting this jerk. Maybe I'll print up some flyers and pass them out around the neighborhood.

Interesting Art Book

Or at least Richard Dorment's review of Art and the Power of Placement. The point of the book is: there may not be a right way to hang a painting, but there are definitely wrong ways.

The hardcopy of Dorment's review ($3 online, sorry) shows Jackson's Pollack's Blue Poles #2 hanging in a NY collector's apartment (and, if I may say so, hung very well):

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The author argues that Pollack painted this to cover a wall, and in his studio juxtaposed it with other large works. A good way to present the painting is in a relatively small space with it effectively replacing a wall. A bad way is to hang it in a giant airy chamber against white walls, where its power and immediacy are compromised by the sterile surroundings.

It's hard to argue with the idea that this is a good way to present the Nike of Samothrace:

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Others are not so fortunate, with the Musee d'Orsay singled out for various forms of abuse.

November 11, 2005

NY Notices Alaska

Big article in the latest New York Review of Books.

And, in case you missed it, Mr. Hickel explains it all for you, here.

November 10, 2005

This is Most Praiseworthy

MIT study of the efficacy of tin-foil hats.

November 09, 2005

Midseason Seahawks Evaluation

Well, we're half-way through the NFL season, and it's time to answer that musical question:

How good are the Seahawks?

Let's start with what they are best at:

#1 in the NFL: Offensive Yards per Game
#1 in the NFL: Rushing Touchdowns
#1 in the NFL: Yards per Play
#1 in the NFL: First Downs per Game
#1 in the NFL (tied): 4th down conversions

This just in: their offense rocks. The biggest reason for this is one Shaun Alexander:

#1 in the NFL: Total Yards
#1 in the NFL: Yards per Game
#1 in the NFL: Rushing Touchdowns

The Seahawk's offense has what it take to take it to the next level. But what about the defense?

#14 in the NFL: Total Yards Allowed
#9 in the NFL: Yards Allowed per Play
#14 in the NFL: First Downs Allowed per Game
#12 in the NFL: Rushing Yards Allowed per Game
#15 in the NFL: Receiving Yards Allowed per Game

The Seahawks offense is reliably in the first quartile. The defense is reliably in the second quartile. Is this good enough to go all the way?

The only one team has is ranked in the top quartile of both offense and defense (yds/game): Indianapolis Colts (8-0). One other is ranked in the top quartile of offense, and the second in defense: Cincinnati Bengals (7-2). (Though they are ranked behind the Seahawks in both categories.) One team is ranked in the top quartile of defense, and the second in offense: Washington Redskins (5-3).

I hesitate, after all these years, to say it: but this could be the year for the Seahawks to go all the way. Right now, Indianapolis is playing better, but there really aren't any other teams that can make that claim.

Darwin In; Fears of Spontaneous Ted Stevens Combustion Grow

Two election details:

A pro-evolution sweep in a Pennsylvania school board election as the people tell the Intelligent Design chowderheads to go away now.

In a big surprise, GOP House moderates stop drilling plans in ANWR. I suppose they didn't want to explain to their constituents why they were doing extra special favors for Big Oil.

Art, Reality, Broccoli

Walking through Pike Place the other day on the way to "punk rock" donuts, where the donuts are fresh and the donut girls are hardcore, a broccoli stopped me in my tracks.

It's an old form of Italian broccoli called "Romanesque," and is governed by a set of fractals, from a Fiobonacci relationship of the number of cone-pods distributed along the two crossing spirals on a cone-pod, to the cones on cones on cones themselves. I counted five levels of cones visible to the naked eye. It's organized as if each seed in a sunflower was a 3-d cone with the whole pattern repeated, on each cone on each layer, five layers deep. (As a plant it's the size of regular broccoli.)

I of course immediately bought some and in a moment of Schaudenfreudian transport I asked my students to try drawing it acccurately. That they didn't panic is a mark of personal satisfaction; some decent drawings began to appear after a lot of prepartory studies.

If you are familiar with the Fibonacci series and its ubitquitous presence in nature, or read the Da Vinci code (which was basically a way to sneak in art history to the masses) you could hardly find a more dramatic example.

This article gives an abstract on a mathematical paper on this specific broccoli published this year in the journal Nature. (Yes, I shamelessly use the phrase "the journal Nature," as if I read it cover to cover.) This broccoli, it appears, touches on the fundamental structure of much of the natural world. I suspect that the universe of universes may be a bit like it.

Plant growth following these types of patterns is called, apparantly, Phyllotaxis . This site has an whole set of galleries on these phenomena.

I also noted the loose relationship of the broccoli to the spiral pattern of Brughel's Tower of Babel, which is on this interesting page from GlobalSecurity. Note the repeated use of this design.

It requires a little bit more steaming than regular broccoli. Staring at it for a while is a
decent substitute for powerful recreational drugs.

The vendor who sold me the broccoli said that about half the people who stop think it's incredibly ugly. Which makes me think -perhaps uncharitably - they are a bit on the boneheaded side, maybe even seeing their fact of their own confusion at it's complexity as ugliness, because it is unpredictable and can't be grasped instantaneously.

Obvious I'm wildly speculating here, but perhaps this vegetable is a rough visual intelligence test.

And Here's to An Unhappy GOP

Wow. GOP slapped down on all coasts. VA and NJ Dems win solidly and handily, respectively, and California bitch slaps Arnold. Washington keeps a gas tax (!). Turnouts were decent. There are reasons for optimism.

November 08, 2005

We're Popular in Canada, Too

"The powerful radio signal causing the problem [garage doors malfunctioning] stopped transmitting on Thursday afternoon, around the time CBC News contacted the U.S. Embassy to ask if it knew anything about it."

The United States of America denies involvement, as usual.

We Are Saddened to Learn

...that your church does not support our President.

Whatta maroon.

Forecast for Crawford: High in the Mid-30's

The latest set of Bush polls have approvals in the 30s.

A pathetic tour of Latin America has not helped. The failure and corruption here is deep and layered, foreign and domestic, character and policy, leadership and honesty, a real lasagna of incompetence. I considered listing the disasters again but by the time I was finished my laptop would be obsolete.

Wing nuts are looking for him to turn it around. It's unlikely to happen. Ordinary conservatives love the illusion of character, competence, and predictability. That is broken. The basis for a recovery, outside of extraordinary circumstance, does not now exist. Bush rolled a lot of balls of shit up the hill and now he's stuck in the valley below.

I have a sense of relief. Conservatives like Bob Dole (remember Bob Dole?), who I disagreed with on virtually everything, did not take on an imperial overreach, did not set the nation on a course that might easily end in neo-fascism, did not indifferently degrade and erode ancient guarantees of liberty. Bush's political failure might just save our hash as a great republic. Doubters in his own party now have a voice and an effect, and it's looking more like the managed stumbling chaos of actual democracy.

I believe in Napoleon's principle that when your opponent is destroying himself, do not distract him, but this leaves us with how fix the nation that Bush drove into the ditch. Another poll -comparing the parties -is remarkable: Americans strongly favor the Democratic Party on many measures, except for the critical failing of perceived leadership. We need - and sorely lack- rock stars.

The Bush presidency has failed. The frat party is over. But the hangover has three years to run.

November 07, 2005

Ummm...Paris...Still Burning? Liberty? Fraternity? Anyone?

For almost two weeks now, the riots have grown and spread, all the way to Belgium (!)

The French Interior minister called the rioters "rabble," which has a rather unfortunate Louis XVIth air about it. In any event, while real poverty, racism, and alienation are a huge factor here, as a Greek friend of mine from Reed, Nikkos, once pointed out from his own experience in communist riots in Athens, rioting is a lot of fun for the rioters. But it's evolved into beating - and now killing- random citizens. And there is a feeling of Islamo-Fascism, as Chris Hitchens calls it.

In an increasingly rare event, George W. Bush appears unblameworthy. Except, well, the increasingly poisoned climate between Arabs and Europeans. And of course if the war in Iraq hadn't..., .... and mutual cultural suspicion...and.. oh hell.

The French have some awfully big riots under their belt. There was, you know, the Bastille, and the Paris Commune, and stuff. The riots in the late 1960's nearly brought down the government.

The NFL Jumps the Shark

If you were wondering how the NFL ever could top itself, I offer three words:

Lesbian Cheerleader Punch-up

November 06, 2005

Making It Look Easy

As they skip into the playoffs (4 in a row, tied w/ Chicago for longest NFC winning streak), here is a positive little piece on the Seattle offensive line.

The Terreliad

I've tried to ignore it, but it's real. Terrell is Achilles, Donovan McNabb is Agamemnon; I guess Andy Reid is Nestor or someone. You've got championship-level players, men capable of playing the game at the highest level, deciding not to because of considerations of personal pride and honor.

As the world lines up pro- and con- (5000+ hits on Google News), a few thougts from an IAYPA perspective. Two kinds of quarterbacks do exceptionally well on IAYPA:

1) Guys with strong running games who know when to throw the ball away. Roethlisberger is the current IAYPA leader, with 8.3; Neil O'Donnell used to be at the top of the tables when he played for the Steelers, and again when he played for the Jets.

2) Guys throwing to world-class receivers. The all-time IAYPA leaders are Joe Montana and Steve Young (thank you Mr. Rice). This season's #2 (tied w/ Brady) is Kerry Collins, who is unexceptional except for avoiding mistakes and throwing to Randy Moss. (Roethlisberger can certainly thank the estimable Hines Ward for some of his success.)

Now Donovan McNabb is clearly in the latter category, throwing to one of the greatest receivers in the game. Yet he ranks as just average on IAYPA (5.8). Some of this is due to the picks - he's thrown 7 this year, too many for Philly's short passing game, which is supposed to emphasize safe throws.

So what I guess I'm saying, is, Owens has a point. What's up with McNabb? You've got Terrell open or drawing double coverage, and you can't out-throw Jake Plummer?

Injuries are part of the story, of course. He's been horribly injured and in a flak jacket every time I've seen him play. In last year's Super Bowl he was reportedly sick and unable to call a play at one point.

If you were the greatest wide receiver in the game, and your QB was not able to perform, and your coach was covering for him, don't you think you might say something? And if you were Andy Reid, shouldn't you be looking around for a competent backup, someone who could spell a quarterback you know might not be able to go the distance? (On the other hand, I would not go picking fights with defensive ends.)

My money says McNabb pulls a Culpepper today and the Eagles season falls apart without Owens.

Other IAYPA Notes
  • The mothballed Culpepper finished the season with an IAYPA of 4.5, about the same as Favre's.
  • The worst ratings for the season are held by Joey Harrington (2.8) and Michael Vick (3.4), both of whom are still starting. Detroit is 3-4, while Atlanta has moved up to 5-2. Vick has never rated high on this system, and confounds football statisticians, as discussed here.
  • Most underrated Hall-of-Famers: Bart Starr and Roger Staubach are #3 and #4 behind Montana and Young in IAYPA, but don't rank nearly so well on the NFL's Pass Rating system.
  • Most overrated Hall-of-Famers: Namath and Bradshaw's career records are unexceptional on both measures (although Bradshaw's 1975 Super Bowl vs. Dallas ranks as one of the very best IAYPA Super Bowl performances). Len Dawson's NFL pass rating puts him far above people like Unitas and Fouts - IAYPA puts him where he belongs, a bit behind them.

Mandatory Testing!

Thanks to the Internets, I have been alerted to steroid abuse by televangelists.

I don't care if he's using: Creflo Dollar rocks.

Excellent Rat Bike Gallery


No, You'll Spoil It!

Getting rid of Rove? Ethics classes? Deficit reduction?'ll undo everything this administration has stood for...!

November 04, 2005

While Fark is quite good at this...

... Somethingawful does just as good a job.

Somethingawful's web site hosts a thing called Photoshop Phriday.

This week's contest was humbly titled
"The Grown-Up World of Richard Scarry"

Scarry Indeed. I'm still wiping off my monitor.

Umm...Will This Affect the Mars Mission?

I spewed latte on my Financial Times this morning as I read "the Bush administration's highest economic priority for its remaining three years is to control the growth of federal spending and bring down the US budget deficit..."

Whaaa?! Huh?

In a related item, "Bridge to Nowhere" has permanently entered our language.

The Old School

With the Vikings players using their lofty 2-5 record as a pedestal to complain about the terrible treatment they get from the media, I got a hankering for some old-time football stories. Here's one - I have no idea if it's true, but it's perfect:

"Lombardi was extremely perceptive and knew a lot about each of his players. He knew that Bob Skoronski was greatly interested in the stock market, that Boyd Dowler had no vices, that Max McGee was great at letting things roll off his back, and that Bart Starr was just the opposite because he had to get everything exactly right.

"But just because each player was recognized as an individual, Lombardi still insisted on a set of rules that everyone had to follow. He forbade racial and religious prejudice, enforced a strict dress code, and insisted that players be on time for everything. Even his wife was forced to follow the rules when she traveled with the team. When she asked to have a scoop of ice cream with her pie, Lombardi shouted, 'When you eat with the team, you eat what the team eats!' "

November 03, 2005

A Little Photoshop Fun

The people express their views in the Fark Exxon CEO Photoshop contest.

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A Letter From Abroad

Dear Conférencier X,

Thank you for your kind note. Yes, it has been a wearying week, even for a Parisian intellectual accustomed to adversity. As I told my existentialist Star Trek discussion group yesterday, Sarte was certainly not far from the truth when he observed that "everything is gratuitous...when it happens that one takes account of it, it twists your heart and everything begins to float...that is Nausea."

Actually nausea is watching Americans, a people we took the trouble to liberate, celebrating Trafalgar Day. The only meaningful battle the British won for ten years! I hope you will join us next year when we celebrate Marengo Day, Hohenlinden Day, Ulm Day, Austerlitz Day, Jena-Aurstedt Day, Friedland Day, and Wagram Day. There is talk of wrapping it all up into an omnibus "Kicking Old Europe's Sorry Imperial Ass Day", but the Conservatives are opposed.

Seriously X, your founding fathers held no nation in higher esteem than France. Dinner at Monticello was half-French (and therefore half-good), and certainly no objective thinker can imagine Benjamin Franklin pining for Philadelphia during his time in among us. So do you not, perhaps, detect a bit of conspiratorial revisionism on the part of your, how do you call them, Neocon Bastards? Our idéalisme is at odds with their realpolitik, so we become Käse-Essen Auslieferungaffen, or something like that.

A quiet reminder to you that America is the only large developed country that has not experienced a Verdun or Stalingrad - a single land battle that erases a million lives or so. And until you do you will not understand that most things are not worth fighting about - certainly not the provocations of a tin-pot politician, or the fate of a small colony in Asia. But if you ever decide to fight for freedom, equality, and/or brotherhood, do call.

Your friend,

PS, the ootleg-bay eese-chay is in the obacoo-tay ox-bay.

One Reason they Don't Call Fairbanks the "Paris of the North"

Admittedly, unlike Paris, Fairbanks is not beset by riots.


FAIRBANKS -- The state court system has bitten back in the case of the man accused of biting his dog.

A District Court judge sentenced John Ray Martin, 39, of Fairbanks to 60 days in jail after he pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals last week as attorneys prepared for a trial...

Martin was arrested after witnesses called police to Golden Heart Plaza following what they called an attack on the dog. A witness told police Martin put the dog in a headlock and bit part of its ear off after the dog's previous owner asked for the animal back because Martin wasn't taking good care of it.

Just A Little off the Cabal

Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Collin Powell who famously called the neo-cons a "cabal" last month, gives a blistering interview on NPR this morning.

He all but calls Dick Cheney appears directly responsibile for driving a US policy of torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, against the wishes of DoD. A typical soft-on-terrorism liberal, former Col. Wilkerson was head of the Marine War College for nine years.

Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor, a personal friend of the Vice President, thinks Cheney's gone off the deep end.

Fortunately, according to Scooter, Scooter has done nothing wrong.

NPR also reported the Orville BABCOCK case, which was the last time a sitting presidential official was indicted. He was an out of control, corrupt advisor, often compared to Iago at the time, to Ulysses S. Grant.

November 02, 2005

A Crack in the Base

Bush approval: 35%.

We Didn't Mention the Secret Prison System?

"Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long."


Senior Living with Josh and Dave

A somethingawful instant classic.

November 01, 2005

Battle of Trafalgar, courtesy of the BBC

If you haven't seen it - spend five minutes with the BBC's fine animation of the Battle of Trafalgar. Hit the "Play the Game" button, go through the introductory explanations, then do the "Play the Game With Information" version.

Then go back and watch the whole thing straight through.