moldybluecheesecurds 2

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Should have gone with coaster

UPDATE (3/2/06): Apparently, this CD had not been released to the general public at the time this was originally reported. The Republican Party has promised that people will be notified that their data will be sent to the party and that the online database of names and responses will be secured (it hadn't been yet).

There's been some news about the Sony rootkit, a program that installs itself in your computer and can disable antivirus programs and or disable your hardware. Offering proof that some people should never be let near technology, the Minnesota Republicans have taken it to a whole new level. Sending you an "informational" CD on immigration and abortion issues that asks your opinion and then phones the information (including your name and address) back to GOP headquarters.

I almost feel sorry for the Republican faithful who get suckered into using this CD for anything other than a drink coaster.


P.S. Do not, under any circumstances, put this in your computer, MyCapacity. It is not a search tool...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Life tip for February 26th

Do not apply hand lotion immediately prior to flossing teeth unless:
a) sufficient time passes between application and flossing
b) you plan to wash off said hand lotion in advance
c) you have the dexterity to floss without touching any portion of your mouth
d) you have flavorful hand lotion

I chose (e), none of the above.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Come about hard to port!

The port debate involves issues of economics, national security and politics. But I think Steve Sack captures the essence of the issue best:

I particularly enjoy the double-edged commentary. Bush gets his comeuppance for his incessant use of 9-11 to justify anything, but Democrats are simply sinking to the same level.

I'm not sure if I agree that the port issue is pure politics, but it certainly beats Terri Schiavo any day of the week.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Depicting Mohammed, a changing taboo

Over time, religions tend to change to suit the times. Popes change what Catholics can eat, and clerics change what Muslims can draw. Interestingly, depictions of the prophet Mohammed were more common in the Middle Ages, so the taboo appears to have strengthened over time. Fascinating, or it would be if people weren't being killed over it.

(added note) The host of these Mohammed images seems to have a fairly conservative, pro-Israel perspective, so I'd like to emphasize that the site should be taken with a grain of salt - as should mine. However, I followed a few links back to their source (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), so they seem to be true.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Disturbing Thing About the Bush Administration #1,048,576

From tomorrow's print edition (and right now's web edition of the New York Times:
[Senator] DeWine is calling for legislation that would explicitly authorize the wiretapping and exempt it from the 1978 law that created the intelligence court to review classified applications for wiretapping inside the United States. The White House has embraced that concept, because it would take away the uncertainties of judicial review. (emphasis added)
Uncomfortable uncertainties such as:
a) "No Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause" (the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)
b) "Nor shall any person be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" (the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)
c) And "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury" (the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)

Perhaps the President should recall his position on the U.S. Constitution

This is no Family Circus

Several dozen people have died, a few embassies have burned, and a lot of Muslims are offended. So what's really with these cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed?

Kwame Appiah of the Philadelphia Inquirer says it's about the political inequality. It's easy to shrug off slights of your religion and person when you are powerful and the slanderous are not. But when a Danish paper can mock one billion Muslims with impunity, it's more about the political power to do so. Appiah has a nice historical role reversal, of a Saint Perfectus in 9th Century Spain.

The Christian Science Monitor seconds the political notion, but argues that it's internal. Arab leaders (in countries like Iran, Syria, and Lebanon) are looking to score political points with their people by creating a common enemy to rally around, in their ongoing competition against Al Qaeda for the hearts of the faithful. In Iran, for example, young activists have protested in favor of greater democracy and secular government. This cartoon fiasco is the perfect chance to create "Persian nationalism" and anti-Israeli sentiment.

Free Speech
The Christian Science Monitor and others also discuss the free speech issue. For example, CSM editors opine that the Danish newspaper had the free speech right to publish the cartoons, but that the Danish paper recklessly used its freedom in solicited offensive depictions of Mohammed. Other US Media outlets such as the Washington Post agree that it's no reduction in free speech to refrain from publishing gratuitously offensive material.

Time Magazine writer Andrew Sullivan argues that its one thing to enforce a taboo internally, but one can't expect non-believers to adhere to Islamic taboos. "I eat pork, and I'm not an anti-Semite," he writes.

Writer David Morris also defends free speech, in particular for the opportunity to learn about other cultures. How, for example, can Americans even understand what is offensive if they can't see the cartoons? Or why, you might add, was it okay for an Egyptian newspaper to publish the cartoons with a condemnation if the depiction of Mohammed is always taboo? His strongest point concerns Salman Rushdie, who wrote a novel called the Satanic Verses that earned him the following:
In February 1989, the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini issued a religious edict. He called for Rushdie's death, for blasphemy. His fatwa extended also to "those publishers who were aware of its contents...I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare to insult Islam again...…" Iran offered a $1 million reward to spur Rushdie's execution.
In other words, these Danish publishers were trying to emphasize how fear of violence from extremist adherents of Islam is chilling free speech, even in European countries.

Was it worth it?
Judge for yourself. This link goes to the Brussels Journal, allowing you to see all 12 cartoons for yourself.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Let the idiocy air out

An interesting twist on free speech has arisen in Minnesota this week. Since the war in Iraq began, there has been a consistent effort by partisans of both stripes to paint the war favorably or unfavorably. Politicians, parties and their associates debate whether the war was a distraction or an intergral part of the War on Terror, and whether we are in fact "making progress," as President Bush says several times a day. This week, the battle is back in advertising.

A local television station in Minneapolis, KSTP, has taken the bold step of refusing to air an issue advertisement by the conservative 527 Progress for America Voter Fund. This "Midwest Heroes" video is an effort to sway public opinion on the war by politicizing troops returned home. These citizen soldiers exercise their free speech to say that the Iraq War is the front in the War on Terror (Al Qaeda is the enemy!) and that the media distorts the real progress being made in Iraq. Their message is driven home by the burning World Trade towers as their backdrop. KSTP's rationale for refusing the ad is that their newscast does not distort the facts, and they will not air a commercial that falsely accuses them of doing so.

In fact, KSTP is correct that the advertisement is false, misleading, inaccurate (ad nauseum). However, these soldiers and their conservative financial backers still have the right to express their opinion. In fact, with the reprehensible misuse of World Trade Center footage as the backdrop, I think increased airtime only enhances the morally vacuous nature of the piece.

But here's the best part. The ads claim that "the media" distorts the truth about Iraq. Let's address a few reasons why the reports from Iraq might not be to the heroes' satisfaction:
  • 2,273 American deaths since 2003.
  • Al Qaeda only showed up in Iraq because the U.S. decided to attack.
  • The whole "going to war on false pretenses" thing.
  • "virtually every measure of the performance of Iraq's oil, electricity, water and sewerage sectors has fallen below preinvasion values." (2/9/06 NY Times story by James Glanz)

So what's that media bias, again?

Friday, February 10, 2006

What. Were. You. Thinking.

It was one in the morning
and all through the house
not a creature was stirring
not even a mouse.

When outside there began
such a scrape and a roar
men with snow shovels
and two big ass snowblowers.

They cleaned up the sidewalk
from the front to the back
and then did the driveway
of noise there's no lack!

The kicker was talking
like it's noon of broad day
so I called the cops
to come haul them away.

Alas it's too late
to get a night's sleep
But maybe next time
better hours they'll keep!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bush sets de-facto troop withdrawal date

After months of machismo about troop withdrawal, the Bush administration found a backdoor method to set a withdrawal dealine - the federal budget. By forecasting no expenditures beyond 2007 for either the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts, the Bush administration budget is saying that all the troops should be home by Christmas '07.

Among other implicit policies: no more aid for New Orleans after 2006, no changes in the Alternative Minimum Tax, and no plans for handling skyrocketing Medicare costs (an unfunded liability topping $62 trillion).

But the deficit will be halved by 2009. And the troops will be home!

Getting too big for his britches

Alberto Gonzales was on the stand yesterday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend the executive branch's claim that it has been given extra-legal powers to conduct surveillance without warrants. Some features of his testimony:

Senator Russ Feingold accuses him of perjury, because Gonzales responded to a question about such a warrantless surveillance program during his confirmation hearing with "that would be entirely hypothetical." Since the program was underway at that point, I guess it wasn't hypothetical was it, Mr. Gonzales?

Senator Arlen Specter notes that Congress was trying to make warrants easier to obtain at the time this program began, effectively saying, "we, the law-making body, will make it easier for you to legally listen in on suspected terrorists." In other words, Congress was affirming that Bush did not have the authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to pursue warrantless wiretaps.

Not only is Bush unashamed that his administration has clearly overstepped the authority granted it by Congress, but he has the audacity to say that he can act without legal authority. The last time a president so flagrantly violated the law, he was forced into resignation. Take note, Mr. President: in the land of checks and balances, the pendulum always swings back.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Get the beef and get it faster (rev3)

One reason I remain only mildly impressed by the President's attention-grabbing note that we are "addicted to oil" is that his proposal doesn't really ask people to work that hard. Reduce oil imports...(good)...from the Middle East...(okay, that's still most less than half (thanks, Slummy!) of them) 75%...(I'd like to go for energy independence, but 75% ain't bad) 2025...(all these caveats and it takes 19 years?).

No, the economy doesn't turn on a dime and neither does the way we use oil. But 19 years? Even a private company (GE) has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in six years. Why can't we move quickly?

Let's think about this. 2/3 of our oil goes to the transportation sector. We already have the technology to have cars run on 80% biofuel (such as ethanol), to be gas/electric hybrids, and to plug in to the wall to give us the first 20 miles from electricity each day. Thomas Friedman has noted that this could push fuel efficiency over 500 mpg. If we review the "Nerdy Math" section from my original post on this, we could achieve complete oil independence in two years for the lowly sum of $170 billion. That's about 6.6% of the total federal budget, but it gets the job done in 1/10th the time. What are we waiting for?

P.S. How to get $170 billion? We use 9,063,000 barrels of gasoline per day, that's 139 billion gallons a year. If we increase the federal gas tax by $1.22 $0.61 a gallon, we pay for energy independence in two years (sorry about that. The initial figure would have financed the change in one year). It costs, but it's better than sending that money to the mullahs.

Friday, February 03, 2006

We're addicted to oil

In the first step in moving the United States along a 12-step program, President Bush finally admitted that this country is addicted to oil on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to watch the speech, so until I give the transcript a full read, I'm relying on secondhand assessments. One, by the Christian Science Monitor notes that although Bush's bold statement talks about reducing oil imports from the Middle East by 75% over the next 19 years (once again, a ridiculously long time horizon for a Bush environmental proposal), his plan doesn't really match.
"The president's initiative ties an oil savings target to a basket of energy solutions for homes and businesses, which have nothing to do with our oil problem," Gal Luft of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, an energy security think tank in Washington, said in an e-mail.
It's a bold statement, George, but where's the beef?