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Friday, January 30, 2004

Thursday, January 29, 2004
Just how much should a 2-year-old girl be spanked? The story strongly implies parents had used a belt on her in the past, yet police did nothing... Kudos to "Bikers Against Child Abuse" whoever they are....

Extremists are trying to elect a slate to lead the Sierra Club. Actually, this article didn't surprise me since enviros have a long history of anti-immigration activity. It reminds me of the strange alliance between radical feminists and the religious right on issues of public decency...

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
A story in the Salt Lake Tribune details how Utah reneged on an 1894 promise, written into its application for statehood, to use revenues from 100,000 acres of trust lands deeded to the state to build a hospital for those who mined the land. Well, it looks like they're finally going to honor the promise -- 110 years later. Naturally, nothing will happen to compensate miners for the century of broken promises....

Monday, January 26, 2004
Here's an interesting page on New Hampshire Winners Since 1952. Keep in mind that every nominee has been #1 or #2 in NH in recent memory.

Dean Goes Nuts -- the site name says it all....

Sunday, January 25, 2004
Here it is -- the infamous Dean "Scream" speech from Iowa. Also Known As: The Speech That Handed Kerry the Nomination... I exaggerate, of course. Dean still has loads of cash and some very committed supporters.

Saturday, January 24, 2004
Today's IEM 2004 US Democratic National Convention Market Price Graph shows just how far Dean has fallen, according to the market (i.e. people who have money staked on the outcome of the nomination). In a few days, he has plunged from more than 50 cents to only 10 or so, while Kerry stock has risen from a few cents to 60. Each share pays $1 if "your" candidate wins the nomination. I think Dean has lost momentum, but come on -- he's worth more than 10 cents with 49 states to go...

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has posted the first of three essays on Peter Jackson's rendition of Tolkien by Bradley J. Birzer, author of J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle Earth. Looks to be interesting reading; I just finished Brizer's book. Keep in mind that Bizier is, like Tolkien, a quite doctrinaire and conservative Catholic -- so the casual comparison of abortion clinics to Nazi gas chambers and Soviet gulags should be taken in stride...

Thursday, January 22, 2004
A British tabloid report says that someone has finally died from overdosing on marijuana. The person smoked about 23,000 joints and may have eaten large quantities of the drug before death, if the tabloid is to be believed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Churchill's #@**@!! parrot is still alive after 104 years! Apparently Churchill had it trained to swear at Nazis, which it continues to do to the present day...

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Monday, January 19, 2004

A heartbreaking triple-murder case in Atlanta leaves me wondering why the defendant bothered to plea bargain. Perhaps her attorney was simply lying when he said that the defendant refused to kill and was set on fire for it. In any case, it seems unlikely the defendant would have received the death penalty giving the mitigating factors listed in the article. She pled guilty and got three consecutive life terms without possibility of parole. This strikes me as one of those cases where parole in 30 years might actually be justified, if the defendant has demonstrated an ability to succeed on her own in society. But then again, her attorney may be lying.....

Usually I don't go for tabloid stuff. But when the story involves one of the smartest men alive -- responsible for a whole series of discoveries about black holes, including "Hawking radiation" -- I take note. Even though he's in a wheelchair and almost completely paralyzed, the article eschews "domestic violence" in favor of "Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome." Why use psychobabble to account for stuff like "a broken wrist, gashes to the face and a cut lip?" Would anyone even think to ask whether a man who was beating up his disabled wife had Munchausen-by-proxy?

Thursday, January 15, 2004
A great photoshop contest at Fark.com asks users to create their own warning labels featuring stick figures. You know, the ones that show a stick figure getting smooshed by a tipped-over vending machine, that sort of thing.....

Ick. I know the Iraq War hasn't gone well, but we should at least be able to provide the troops with disease-free food. Naturally, the whistle-blower was fired, and the unsanitary meals continue...

MoveOn Political Group Picks Winning Ad, the news services are reporting. It wasn't my favorite one, but it is a cute, slick little number...

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
The Soviet Exploration of Venus is a wonderful website about the various landers (10 of them!) that the Soviets put on the surface of Venus. Especially noteworthy are the photographs, which the author of the site has painstakingly reconstructed from the original digital signals. Very impressive!

Sunday, January 11, 2004
Slate is running an article called The Unlocked Box - How Bush is plundering Social Security to close the deficit, by Michael Gross. The article points out that since the earl 1980s, every budget has spent some of the Social Security surplus that's ostensibly being saved for the Baby Boomers' retirement. This is a bit misleading. While the existence of the Social Security Trust Fund does mask the true size of the deficit, the money isn't directly handed out to the defense contractors like regular old tax revenues. Instead, the government borrows money from Americans and others by issuing bonds. What's been happening is that the surplus is being used to buy some of these bonds. This may seem absurd -- akin to paying oneself with IOUs and spending every penny of cash today -- but such a view is too simplistic. If people believe the US government intends to honor (ie pay interest on) its bonds, then the bonds still retain a great deal of value because the government can simply sell them to others for cash. Of course, it's anybody's guess what will happen to the value of bonds as the market becomes flooded with them in a decade or two. Whether you believe Social Security will be there for the Boomers depends on just how optimistic you are about the market's willingness to buy US bonds.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Bush in 30 Seconds is an amateur anti-Bush political ad contest. Some of the ads are quite effective. Both "Polygraph" and "What are We Teaching Our Children" take Bush to task for lying. The latter adds a bit of humor and is, in my opinion, the most effective of the bunch. "Bush's Repair Shop" tries to link him to sleazy mechanics, an unlikely but damaging image. The deficit-centered "Child's Play" tries hard, but Americans generally care more about their pet spending programs than the deficit (see this recent survey for details). A few of the ads are amateurish in a bad way: "In My Country" has an apparently foreign-born American lamenting the oppression in his country (the US), but never makes the point that his country is also your country. "Desktop" is cute, but it lumps together issues like the deficit, environment, and "separation of church and state." The last of these has never been a strong seller to moderate Americans. Meanwhile "Army of One" takes a great idea -- protraying Bush as cutting benefits for combat troops -- and louses it up with a sarcastic voiceover and erratic audio mixing. Meanwhile the humorous "Leave No Billionaire Behind" focuses on the deficit (low-impact issue) and Bush's tax cuts, which did give more money back to most Americans. A few ads are clearly aimed at the fringe left; "Imagine" implies that Bush is starting wars to boost the profits of arms manufacturers, an old socialist trope from World War I. "Hood Robbin'" play "us" against "MegaCorp Inc." It implies the alternative might be taking from the rish and giving to the poor, Robin-Hood style. Americans don't respond well to such appeals, probably because everyone seems to think they're middle or working class, not upper or lower class. Finally, "Gone in 30 Seconds" has an interesting buildup but a rather limp conclusion -- if I was being chauffeured by a reackless driver, his ultimate destination would not be the chief worry on my mind. Other ads are simply bad no matter how you look at them. "Wake Up America" actually insults the electorate as being ignorant or lazy. "Human Cost of War" takes up the issue of lies about Iraq, but ends with a statement about how lies kill superimposed over a US flag. Gee, thanks for implying we're a nation of liars. "Bankrupt" devotes inordinate time to the opinions of other countries (Americans just don't care) and the "human costs" of war in Iraq (plenty of evidence shows that Americans just don't care about foreign casualites -- only American deaths reduce public support for war). I'd vote for "What Are We Teaching Our Children" but registration is too much of a pain...

Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Rotten.com is starting up a fun dead pool for the morbidly astute. I'm signing up as I write this...

Monday, January 05, 2004
My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance sounds like a great, trashy idea for a show to me. The problem? It's not just one show, but an entire series. How far can you stretch one gag?!?

This could be me if I ever end up living alone for a few decades....

Just in case you didn't get the joke about every futurist dreaming of aircars, here's a story about why they never seem to make it: Can We Ever Commute as Jetsons Did?

Interesting quote from the Harper's Index for December 2003: "Percentage of U.S. Muslims who said in 2000 that they would vote for George Bush: 40 Percentage who say this today: 2"

January 1, A.D. 3000 is a fascinating take on the future from 1856, courtesy of Harper's Magazine. Particularly noteworthy are predictions of a US empire, bans on tobacco and alcohol, enforced conformity, artificially-grown replacement limbs, etc. Of course, much of it is similar to other dystopian material, but there are unintentionally cute touches: still-unexplored regions of the earth, the ever-predictes aircar (here referred to as a floating buggy), a private telgraph (with twenty wires!) and even a "Lunar wire" for communication with the Moon, and an endlessy reprinted roll of paper as substitute for network TV....

Right-wing, Evangelical Christian news site WorldNetDaily's latest unintentionally hilarious story covers the phenomenon of hormesis, the belief that small amounts of poisonous substances are good for you. While this is obviously correct for some substances (vitamins, even water -- the dose makes the poison, after all) leave it to the folks at WND to imply that we no longer need the EPA because all that pollution must actually be good for us. Three cheers for arsenic! Three cheers for PCBs! Three cheers for abestos! *cough* *wheeze*

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