"Bush Ignored Urgent Warning on..."

Today's headlines:

Bush Ignored Urgent Warning on Iraq.

The sad fact is that "Iraq" can be replaced by several other disasters in that sentence, but you've already seen those headlines.

Gas is cheap...

...guess I'll vote for the GOP.

The retail price of gasoline has plunged by 50 cents, or 17 percent, over the past month to average $2.38 a gallon nationwide, according to Energy Department statistics.

Los Angeles had the highest pump price among cities at $2.78 a gallon, down 8.8 cents. Cleveland had the best deal at the pump at $2.11, down 11.2 cents. Houston was at $2.17, down 11.5 cents.

Fimat USA oil analyst Antoine Halff said there is no doubt that "the downturn in prices is welcome news from an electoral standpoint for the ruling party." But he scoffed at the notion that Bush had the power to muscle around a global market. |The Houston Chronicle|


Wait, wait, wait... Can they do that?

Under the "Torture Compromise," can the president designate a United States citizen, such as myself, as an "enemy combatant" based on his discretion, even if I have never left this country? And hold me forever, with no trial? And I have no right to judicial review?

Can this possibly be right? And if they can't do it, who is supposed to stop them?

I'm not even worried about the "torture" part any more. This is completely crazy.

UPDATE: Yglesias answers my question, "who is supposed to stop them," at least enough to point out that it won't be the courts.
There will certainly be challenges, but I wouldn't count on anything. The court-stripping issue hasn't been litigated all that much, but the idea that congress has the power to do this kind of thing has some real support from the text of the constitution. What's more, courts are generally disinclined to interfere in national security questions. And, of course, there's no particular reason to think that the Supreme Court's five conservative justices disagree with America's conservative politicians about this. You never really know what's going to happen, but we have a political system for a reason . . . if people elect politicians who want to give the president the power to indefinitely detain and torture people on the basis of his say-so that they're terrorists then the president is going to end up with the power to indefinitely detain and torture people on the basis of his say-so.


Outside my window this morning there are several hundred Michiganders lined up for a The Real World casting call. It's pretty clear that at least a couple dozen of them spent the night in line, and that very few of them can recall the olden days of Real People and That's Incredible.


Who wants to be a Shatner? Part 3

(see also, part 1 and part 2)

Our second nominee for Shater the Second is....

DOCTOR SHAQ, a.k.a. The Diesel, a.k.a. M.D.E., a.k.a. L.C.L., a.k.a., The Big Baryshnikov, a.k.a. the Big Aristotle and Master, a.k.a, Superman.

Seven feet and one inch of Shatner Potential, Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal has a lot going for him in this competition. Shatneresque details include, but are not limited to, the following:

* He is a famous basketball player.

* He is a famous basketball player who is famously bad at a key component of the game, the free throw.

* Like many of our nominees, Shaq is a musician. His 1993 debut album, Shaq Diesel, went gold. He also performed a song on the Pootie Tang soundtrack.

* Shaq starred in the cow-tipping episode of Beavis and Butt-Head.

* He's a dilettante pro-wrestler, having attacked WWE superstar "Carlito" with a chair.

* Shaq is a reserve police officer with the Miami Beach Police, in which capacity he presumably carries both badge and gun. He is also an honorary U.S. Marshal and was previously a reserve officer in the L.A. Port Police.

* Shaq has his own martial art style, with the shatneresque name of "Shaq-fu," as chronicled in the video game, Shaq-fu.

* Shaq-fu is one of the worst video games of all time.

* In Curb Your Enthusaism, Larry David takes Shaq down.

* Shaq allegedly does his own stunts in his movies, since 7'1" stunt men are hard to find.

* Shaq played Kazaam the gentle Genie in Kazaam the movie. In this movie, according to Wikipedia*, the genie was trapped in a basketball for thousands of years. It must have been one of those Sumerian basketballs.

And finally, lest you think Shaq doesn't have the geek cred to be Shaterrific, remember that Shaq has played DC superhero Steel in the movie Steel. Steel is friends with and inspired by Superman. Shaq is also a big Superman fan in real life (see nicknames, above), and sports a tatoo that says, "You're not Superman."

Shatner Potential: 8.4 out of 10

What's your rating? Let us know in the comments.


* This is a case where Wikipedia is not to be trusted, unless Boromir and Steven Tyler were both in Kazaam.


Growing oranges in Alberta

Wow, those who really, really want to deny that global warming is happening sure are willing to adjust their evidentiary standard. You can find some crazy things on the internets if you try. But just because you can find a "scientist" who says that radiation is good for you and that you should get 20 chest x-rays a year does not make it so.

As August J. Pollak puts it,
... we have more evidence to prove it than most prosecutors have in criminal court cases....

Or, as I put it, you go to war with the science you have, not the science you want. Although it is at this point undeniable that the planet is getting warmer, it is entirely possible that the cause is not manmade, and it is entirely possible that the trend will reverse itself at a later point. However, that's not what our science suggests. To take the side of a few (well paid) scientists against the staggering majority of the scientific community when making policy because of misguided fears about the economy is really, really cynical and wrong.

Science gets it wrong sometimes. The starting point of science is skepticism, so it's definitely a good idea to question the conventional wisdom. However, when you sit down to draw up national policy, it makes absolutely no sense to base your plans on a tiny minority of scientists because you like their viewpoint better.

Where is Eastasia when you need her?

I found this post by Kevin Drum to be somewhat fascinating. After explaining the basis of the "Authoritarian Index," Drum writes:
It will come as no surprise that authoritarians tend to vote Republican. What may surprise you, though, is that this has only become true in recent years.

That did surprise me, but it fits with my current bullshit theory of my country, which is this:

We are still recovering from the Cold War. Our institutions, or systems of thought, our political language... virtually everything that is modern America was born out of World War II and the subsequent nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union.*

The utility and meaning of many aspects of our national makeup were called into question at the end of the Cold War, often in ways so subtle that the questions are still unanswered. The messy birth of a new notion of our nation is, as always, disturbing to those with an authoritarian bent. I think what we are witnessing with in the widespread support for a misguided War on Terror** is a concrete, political manifestation of abstract, existential anxiety by voters who are afraid--even more-so than they are of terrorism--of change.


* For our younger readers, the Soviet Union was a large country with many nuclear weapons.

** I take the threat of Violent Islamic fundamentalist extremism seriously. These men want to kill us for no good reason, and should be stopped. What I think is misguided is the approach of the Bush administration to this serious issue.


Gorillas... People... MEN!

We normally don't do caption threads at this site, but for some reason this photo cries out for a good one.


Creepy Thursday

(source, via Mark)

The picture portrays some of the half million coffins that the guv'mint is storing in a field in Georgia.

Discussion question: How many coffins should the government of a modern industrial state keep handy? Be sure to explain the rationale for your answer.


Developing: Record industry execs are bloodsucking bastards

The other day I was listening to NPR while half asleep and heard, or possibly dreamed, about a lawsuit being pursued by recording artists and having to do with royalties owed on digital downloads. Maybe they were talking about this lawsuit from April, or maybe it was a flashback. I'm not really sure, but there don't seem to be any recent news stories to link to.

At any rate, as I understood things the nub of the issue has to do with the distinction between royalties owed for sales and for licensing. Standard recording industry contracts pay sales at a lower rate, presumably because the record company can expect higher overhead. Here are some key graphs from the article linked above:
The class-action lawsuit claims that the artists' contracts require Sony to pay its artists about 30 cents out of every 70 cents it gets for digital downloads--out of a total of 99 cents that iTunes charges per song. But the complaint maintains that Sony is only paying artists 4.5 cents for each song.

The case hinges on whether a digital download is comparable to a sale of a CD, as the labels contend, or more on par with a license of a song for use on a movie soundtrack, for example, as the artists claim.

At the end of the day I'd like to see artists paid, but what really gets me is that the record companies are trying to have it both ways. As a consumer, it doesn't feel like I really own the songs that I download from the iTunes Store. After all, with other things I own -- cds for example -- I'm free to make copies for personal use, transfer title to others, and so on. Not so with downloaded tracks, which I can only (legally) use in a very constrained way. The point being that so long as the DRM significantly limits my rights regarding a downloaded track, my consumer experience is more like licensing than owning.

Which is, you know, fine. I hardly ever download music precisely because I prefer owning cds to putting up with restrictive DRM. All I'm saying is that if the record industry is going to insist on that sort of consumer/vendor relationship at one end of the supply chain, then that fact ought to be reflected in the royalties paid at the other end.


In honor of the occassion

Q: Avast matey, wouldja have heard the tale of t'pirate who had a dispute with his employer?
A: Please don't kill me!
Q: His case went to arrrrrh-bitration.

Q: What agency is oversees collective bargaining relations on the high seas?
A: Take my wife...please!
Q:The NL-arrrrrrh-B.


Which video game system should I buy?

Hello gamers! With the upcoming launch of the latecomers to the new generation of videogame consoles, I thought it might be a good time to remind everyone that they should instead spend their monies on the Xbox 360.

In short, it comes down to following three factors.

Cost: Nintendo wins by a long shot, here, but mostly I bring up cost to rule out the Playstation 3, which will cost approximately one million dollars.

Game selection: Xbox 360 wins this for a variety of reasons, the most profound being the fact that the console has a whole year head start on the other two consoles. But other factors include Microsoft's outreach to quirky Japanese game studios and the fact that Nintendo always ends up scaring off third-party developers. The facts are that if you purchase a Wii this fall, chances are that next fall you will still be waiting for your third fun game for your system. Conversely, if you purchase an Xbox 360, you could have several weeks worth of fun playing only the free demos available from Xbox Live. Once you are ready to spend money on a game, there are many high-quality titles for you to enjoy already on the market, with a glut of new ones coming this fall.

Online play: While Sony and Nintendo are still being cagey about how this will work on their systems, Microsoft has implemented a near-perfect solution, out of the box.

I am a very big fan of Nintendo, and I will no doubt purchase a Wii sometime next year when there are more than three titles worth playing. However, despite the reduced cost, I cannot see how the Wii is a good choice for purchase this fall.

For those of you are not bored to tears already, after the jump I've included a longer, more rambling agitation in favor of the Xbox 360. It's a mail I sent to a friend who recently got a job with Microsoft but is still planning on buying a Wii instead. Click only if you can handle the overwhelming nerdiness!

Hey Scott,

I will probably pick up the Wii when they release Smash Bros. for it (next spring, I hope), but for sheer utility as a gaming machine, Xbox 360 is my new fave, for these reasons (no particular order):

1. Xbox Live (XBL) is awesome. After playing a few months of World of Warcraft, I thought I was turned off of networked games for good. What I discovered through Live is that networking is as fun as I originally thought it was, and that network design and the nature of the game are both very important. Here's a common scenario: I'm happily watching a DVD or playing a game (these days it's "Dead Rising") by myself. Meanwhile, one of my friends, unbeknownst to me, is pinned down under heavy fire in a multiplayer game of "Perfect Dark Zero." That friend calls for help (via a game invite in XBL) and I accept the game invite. My disc tray pops open automatically and I put in the PDZ disk. Next thing my friend's enemies know, they've been shot in the head. 

I have an idea of how Nintendo is going to handle their global network based on my experience with Nintendo WFC on the Nintendo DS. They understand that connecting should be easy, but they don't quite get what you will want to do once you are connected. For example, you can quickly find opponents in Mario Kart DS, but there is no way in the game to trash talk as you lap them. 

All signs point to Sony completely dropping the ball on networking. But it doesn't matter to me because I'm not going to sell my car so I can afford a PS3.

2. Dead Rising is awesome. You haven't lived until you've put a bunch of horsehead masks on zombies and taken a picture of them (before chopping them up with a lawnmower). 

3. The controller is awesome. It combines the best elements of the xbox, ps2, and gamecube controllers, as well as some added awesomeness. 

4. Games get patched. I have no faith that Wi or PS3 games are going to get improved upon after release, but it's common in PC gaming and it's becoming common on the Xbox. Almost all the games I've played on Xbox 360 have already received at least one bug-fix patch. This could turn out to be a bad thing down the road, because it will encourage developers to release buggy products, but... they were already releasing some pretty buggy products, and on other consoles, they just stay broken.

5. Oblivion is awesome. It is the most entertaining RPG-ish game I've played in some time. The people all wander around based on their Radiant AI which leads to many genuinely surprising situations.

6. XBL Marketplace is cool. It's a central (and functional) way to get content updates like patches, demos, or expansions. 

7. Demos are everywhere. There are some great, fully playable demos on XBL Marketplace, so you can have a LOT of fun before you ever actually buy a game. They are also much more helpful than reviews or advertisements for figuring out which games are worth my money. I have saved money on several games that I would have purchased or rented in the past, because the demo convinced me that they would be no fun.

8. The UI is really well done. It's not quite up to Apple standards, but it's close. (Haha). 

9. The graphical power of the machine is impressive.

10. XBL Arcade has a bunch of cheap games (most under 15 dollars). A lot of these I find to be worthless (which I found out by playing the free demos), but I've purchased a few of them and been very happy. The ones I've enjoyed the most so far are Hexic (a puzzle game), Joust (basically it's just Joust, but Joust is awesome, and you can play it with/against your friends over XBL) and Cloning Clyde (a quirky platformer). Hexic was free, and the other two were under 10 dollars.

11. Potential for the future, part 1: Homebrew games may be really cool. Microsoft is pimping their developer studio (XNA). This will allow people to design games for Xbox 360 and Vista. They give it away, so hopefully this will result in lots of quirky games. 

12. Potential for the future, part 2: Upcoming arcade games look pretty interesting. The one I am most interested in in Lumines. Also coming up are some classic board games like Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. Check out some screen shots here.

13. Potential for the future, part 3: Upcoming main titles are plentiful (where even at it's height a Nintendo console will have very few games). Here are the ones I am most excited about:

- "Star Trek: Legacy." It's hard to imagine what this game will actually be like, but I have high hopes. They say that the whole feel of the game changes as you move through the different eras of ships with their respective technologies. Check out this clip of gameplay.

- "Gears of War" is supposed to be the Next Big Thing in first-person shooters.

- "Viva Pinata" is supposed to be a quirky, Nintendo-ish game to woo the Japanese. It's questionable how well they will succeed at that, but I do love the phrase "Pinata Cannon."

- And, above all, I'm excited about "Assassin's Creed" (and yeah, it will be on the PS3 as well, but not on the Gamecube (they say)). This game is made by the team that made "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" which is probably my favorite game of the last console generation. So far, they are saying all the right things about it. Here's a short interview with one of the developers. The interesting bits are the crowd reactions (it's part of gameplay) and climbing (anything that projects more than a couple inches from a wall can be used to climb).

Anyway, I just realized I haven't been doing work for a couple hours, so I'll have to wrap it up for now. To sum up: Buy an Xbox 360!




But the history of people even trying to create what would today be recognized as quality television programming is simply very short. Nothing from before the 1990s holds up at all and even something as good as the beloved Buffy is rather mechanically crude compared to a contemporary understanding of how you're supposed to put serialized drama on the screen. |Yglesias|

In the comments Yglesias makes it more explicit that he's only talking about dramas, but still. I seem to recall that Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere were both pretty good. Northern Exposure, by the way, came on the air in 1990, and I think it holds up pretty well against just about anything.

Anyway, there's something a little fishy about comparing TV shows across eras. Expectations change, and that doesn't necessarily mean that modern expectations are better. One thing to remember about shows like The Wire is that their intricate plotting more or less assumes both that viewers will watch episodes more than once and that viewers will sometimes watch several episodes back to back. To fault a show from the 1970s for existing in a different technological milieu strikes me as a mistake.

Still, I think it is right that there is an awful lot of good TV out there at the moment. I watched the first six episodes of Weeds the other day, and it was awesome. Sad and funny and clever all at once.


[Origin: 1275–1325, Middle English variation of 'triacle', antidote; from Greek 'thiriakos', concerning wild beasts]

Contrived or unrestrained sentimentality.
2. British. (a) Molasses, esp. that which is drained from the vats used in sugar refining. (b) Also called golden syrup. a mild mixture of molasses, corn syrup, etc., used in cooking or as a table syrup.
3. Pharmacology, Obsolete. Any of various medicinal compounds, formerly used as antidotes for poison.


Say it ain't so JC

Number one on Juan Cole's iPod playlist: Christina Aguilera



This is pretty neat. The diagram shows a distributed search procedure called nagging. Basically the way it works is that one processor, the master, starts at the beginning and advances along the search. Periodically other processors, naggers, will query the master about the status of the search. The master will tell the nagger how things are going and then the nagger will go off on its own and start running the algorithm an arbitrary number of steps ahead. Once it's made some progress the nagger will report back and then the master will know that it doesn't need to cover the ground that the nagger looked at.

Apparently it works pretty well. All I know is that something about it is very attractive to my inner geek. Also, my inner nerd would like to read a sociology of science paper analyzing the process by which computer scientists came to choose the labels 'Master' and 'Nagger'.

By the by, here's the story of how I came across nagging. The other day I did some fancy stuff over at baseball-reference.com, the result of which was, an automated email from the man behind the site, Sean Forman. The name reminded me of a professor I once had, so I googled "sean forman baseball" and, as luck would have it, one of the top hits was a faculty page at St. Joseph's University, which page had a link to the paper Forman co-authored about nagging. The guy I was thinking of, it turns out, is Sean Foran, not Forman. In figuring that out I found this page and I'll bet that if Bellmaniacs follow the link many will see a face they recognize.

Shorter John Gizzi: Muslims are scary!

This is just ridiculous.

All of the problems Gizzi ascribes to Kosovo are the result of years of war and and (more recently) Kosovo's ambiguous status as a state.

Gizzi belives that the problem is (I guess) that Kosovars are predominantly Muslim.

Recognizing Kosovo as a nation lets us use many well-honed tools to reduce the risk of terrorism. Also, there doesn't seem to be a coherent alternative. It's telling that Gizzi doesn't suggest one.


Several years too late

How to Dissuade Yourself from Becoming a Blogger
Step 1: Find five completely random blogs, and read them daily for a month. After thirty days, you will absolutely dread your self-imposed requirement to read all that dreck. Any blog you create will most likely be on par with what you've been reading. Don't put anyone through that.

(another fine wikiHow)

Update: Link fixed. What's so evil about kinkos, anyway? I'd google it, but apparently I'd just end up at Janna's blog.


The real reason Wikipedia is in trouble

Before I get to the real reason, let me give props to Jimmy Wales for standing up to the Chinese government. Cory Doctorow writes:
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has refused to censor the content on the Chinese version of Wikipedia, resulting in its being blocked by the Chinese government. Google, Yahoo and others have folded to demands from Beijing's totalitarian bureaucrats, but Wikipedia has stood firm. Predictably, Beijing has come to Wikipedia to ask them for some kind of peace-treaty, because China can ill-afford to block critical information resources if it is to remain economically strong. If only Google and Yahoo's executives were as confident in the importance of their services as Wales is of Wikipedia.

That's awesome. However, it looks like it wasn't the confidence in the importance of his service so much as a naive trust that the Chinese would come around based on common sense. At least that's how I read this quote from Wales (with bold text added by me):
I can understand that they would be upset - although of course I still don't think they have any moral right to ban anything - if we were pushing one set of figures in contrast to their objections, but if we are reporting both, to me that's exactly what an encyclopaedia should do and they should be comfortable with that.'

Am I missing something or does Wales miss the whole point of state censorship?


Or maybe mice.

A shooting star is crashing down

"Whilst sunning myself in Ilam, I saw a bright meteorite fly high over one of the buildings with a yellow tinge. It continued for about five seconds before breaking off into two smaller pieces and disapearing. Seconds later a loud rumble permeated the air, which startled me," said Georgia Weaver from the University of Canterbury. |link|


Don't follow the link!

On the one hand I think the political posturing around 9/11 is obscene (hence this). On the other hand, this joke made me laugh. Conclusion: I've got a few good instincts, but on balance I'm a bad person.

Global War on Running With Scissors

Just another reminder why the "War on Terror" is a meaningless and cynical political construct that will have just as much success as the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs:

From 1995 to 2005, 3175 Americans died as the result of terrorism. More Americans were killed by being shot by law enforcement in that same period.

Also in that period, 16,742 Americans died as a result of their hernias.

Americans must unite if we are to win the Global War on Hernias.

(source: Wired News)


[French, 'ramequin']

A small, separately cooked portion of a cheese preparation or other food mixture baked in a small dish without a lid.
2. A small dish in which food can be baked and served.

Don't look surprised

I'd like to write a post about the ethics of disobeying anti-strike laws, but until I get time, this'll have to do:
Detroit Federation of Teachers President Janna Garrison opened the court-ordered meeting saying, "We don't have a contract," which immediately brought the thousands of teachers inside Cobo Hall to their feet, chanting, "No contract, no work."

With little preamble, Garrison and the DFT board stood and read the judge's order out loud, and Garrison declared the meeting adjourned.

Teachers again erupted into chanting and raised their arms in defiance and solidarity. The entire session lasted less than five minutes. |Detroit Free Press|

The district, by the way, had declared today to be a "teacher planning day" and hasn't tried to re-open the schools.



Given his track record, I think we can take this to the bank!

Heard just now on Meet the Press:
Tim Russert: What if the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in November. What do you expect?

VP Dick Cheney: I don't think it will happen. I don't think Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker.

... and this was immediately after Russert exposed a bunch of Cheney's previous predictions as baseless bravado rather than sober judgment.

So let me to be the first to congratulate the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi on their victory!


Who wants to be a Shatner? Part 2

This september, we're trying to figure out who can replace Shatner when the time comes for Shatner to go. Our first, but certainly not our best, nominee is,

David Hasselhoff, a.k.a., The Hoff

There are some immediate and obvious facts in favor of the Hoff.

ITEM: Hoff starred in two iconic television series.

ITEM: He's big in Germany.

ITEM: He may very well be the antichrist.

ITEM: According to wikipedia, Hasselhoff has a "penchant for self-parody."
In a cameo as himself in John Waters' 2004 effort A Dirty Shame, Hasselhoff defecates in an airplane's washroom.


ITEM WITH THE MOST POTENTIAL: "Late 2006, a musical based on his life called David Hasselhoff: The Musical will open in Australia before moving to the United States. Hasselhoff describes it as 'totally campy.'"

In general, my gut feeling says "NO" to Hasselhoff as Shatner 2. My main issue is with this alleged "pencant for self-parody." In reality both of these cheeseballs have embraced self-parody as a way to get on TV and to get paid. I have no problem with that.

But with Hasselhoff it does not seem sincere, and with Shatner it does.

It's not fair to the real Shatner or the real Hasselhoff, but our little contest isn't about the real people but about their cultural significance. If part of being Shatner is being convincingly self-deprecatory at times (and I suggest that it is), Hasselhoff's failure to be convincing is a major strike against him.

Shatner Potential: 6 out of a possible 10.

Disagree with my rating? Please leave an argument for a higher or lower rating in the comments.

At least one Bellman reader is confused about what actually makes up "Shatnernicity." So far, it's proven impossible to state in mere words. So I am just going to pile up more and more details about the space that Shatner occupies in our collective psychological landscape, in the hopes that we can all come to a similar gestalt understanding.

Here's another data point, from today's Wired News:
Wired News: So speaking hypothetically, how do you feel about the possibility of someone else taking on Kirk's gold shirt in the upcoming movie?

Shatner: Well as long as he's good-looking, talented, slim and ... rich, I guess. Lacking any of those elements I would feel very bad.

(According to IMDB, Matt Damon is rumored to be playing the part of Kirk in 2008's Star Trek IX: This Series Goes to Eleven. That would, of course, give Damon a huge leg up in the "Who Wants to be a Shatner" contest... in 2008. In the mean time, I wouldn't even consider him as a nominee, because he can actually act.)

We're still accepting nominees in the comments of the main post. If you want your nominee to be considered, however, please explain why you think that person has a shot. It may be obvious to some why Howie Mandell is Shatneresque, but it is not obvious to the contest administrators.


Ollie Ollie Oxen Free

Why haven't I heard more about this?

Update: a denial

If we don't invade Iran, the crocodiles will have won

...pace CNN, most Americans probably are not in imminent danger of death by stingray. But I do wonder if Irwin, having taken risks so oftten in the past, having cheated death on so many occasions, may not have gradually become over-confident in the face of danger.

Nations, as much as individuals are susceptible to such thinking. Kissinger said – I wish I could find the exact quote – that past victories can lead to defeat because those past victories can appear to have been inevitable.

I worry that because Americans proved equal to the task of defeating the Axis is the 1940s, and because the Communists lost the Cold War, too many of us have come to think we will of course defeat the Militant Islamists or the Islamo-Fascists or Radical Jihadis or whatever term you prefer. But the outcome of those other pastwars was not inevitable. Nor is the outcome of this one. Every stingray is a very real and present danger. |Cliff May, The Corner|


So, in the fever swamp, the lesson of Steve Irwin's death is that the doctrine of prevention is fully and completely justified. Or something like that. I'm just guessing that May won't move from "stingrays are dangerous if you poke them" to "don't poke stingrays" but will rather conclude that the only prudent course of action is to purge stingrays/islamofascists from the seas/earth.


Mac v. PC - a clear victory

Kevin Drum has opened the door. I found this comment to be dispositive:
I hear all these people with horror stories about their PCs and Windows programs, but I can honestly say that I do not have one. I keep up with the latest and best available anti-virus ware (for my money, I like Trend Micro Antivirus) and the best anti-spyware (I prefer Webroot Spysweeper), and run them fairly regularly.

I'm also very selective about where I peruse on the internet. At the risk of sounding like a prude, I urge those who have experienced problems to exercise discretion and personal fortitude regarding where they go browsing, i.e., KEEP AWAY FROM ADULT ENTERTAINMENT-ORIENTED WEBSITES.

So many of those adult sites originate outside U.S. borders in Eastern Europe, etc., and the inability to adequately regulate such sites in effect renders them the proverbial "Wild, Wild West" of the world-wide web. They are notorious for purposefully harboring and implanting viruses, spyware, and other noxious e-attachments that can collectively harm your computer's operation.

'nuff said!

TV worth watching

The new season of Dancing with the Stars, featuring:

Note the absence of the bow tie.



[From French 'sentinelle perdue', forward sentry: 'sentinelle', sentinel + 'perdu', past participle of 'perdre', to lose (from Latin 'perdere', to lose)]

Hidden, concealed, obscured.

Obsolete. A soldier assigned to an especially dangerous mission.


Who Wants to be a Shatner? Part 1

During September I'm going to be trying to answer a question that has been vexing me for some time:

Who will fill Will Shatner's shoes when Shatner no longer cares to?

I'm obviously not talking about a specific gig--like Boston Legal or a Priceline commercial--that will need a new actor when Shatner feels like quitting. Chances are he'll outlast that show and maybe even that company.

Instead I'm referring to the unique cultural space that is William freakin' Shatner. If he retires or checks out, will there be a Shatner-shaped hole in the world, or can some younger actor/director/singer/author achieve almost full Shatnerness?

This isn't really about Star Trek. There is no doubt that William Shatner could not be William freakin' Shatner without Star Trek, but neither is Star Trek in any way sufficient.

To help flesh this out, let's mention a few things that made this Shatner:

ITEM: Shatner starred in one of the only movies ever made that was written entirely in the made-up language of Esperanto.

ITEM: In the film Free Enterprise, Shatner plays "William Shatner," and it is not a flattering portrayal. Also, according to Wikipedia,
Hip-hop artist "The Rated R", joined by Shatner, provides the concluding musical number, which is a tribute to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.


This is just the beginning. We've got four serious nominees so far, and I'll be posting facts to support their claim on Shatnerhood, as well as more information about Shatner himself to further define and refine our conception of what it would take to fill his shoes. If you've got an actor or actress in mind who might fit the Bill, let us know in the comments.

Looks like a distinction without a difference to me

Posner in The New Republic and me in VDARE.com had both scoffed at Gladwell's theory that the reason "car salesmen quote higher prices to otherwise identical black shoppers is because of unconscious discrimination. They don't realize what they are doing. But buried prejudices are changing their responses in the moment."

Posner and I had pointed out that auto dealers aren't tragic victims of their own hidden bigotry. Instead, they are relying on their years of experience at milking different kinds of customers for the highest possible price.

Thus, they make higher offers to blacks and women because they've found they can often manipulate them into paying more.

That's part of a comment by Steve Sailer (who' an idiot, but sometimes a clever one) on this thread.

Sailer agrees both that (a) car salesmen solicit higher prices from blacks and women, and (b) that they do this because their experience has taught them that they can get away with it. What I don't understand is how b is supposed to show that there's no bigotry, conscious or otherwise, at work.

His idea, I assume, is that even though the car salesmen have made a conscious decision to treat people differently on the basis of race and gender, this decision isn't evidence of bigotry because...

No, I just can't figure out how to finish that. I'm stumped.

Roll the union on

Jon Stewart, Union Man
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/30/2006 4:54:00 PM

The Daily Show is getting unionized to the hilt.

Last week, the writers became members of the Writers Guild of America.

Wednesday, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists brought the show officially into its contract--it had been covered under a side contract--as part of a new, three-year deal with Comedy Central.|link|
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