June 30, 2007

Movie Review

As a longtime fan of the original "Die Hard", I can honestly say that if you liked the first movie, you'll like the new one. The 2nd movie got away from the script a little bit, and it wasn't nearly as good as the first one. In this latest movie, you lose the confined-space feel of the first movie, but the basic spirit of it, the humor and the ideas, is all there. It was a definite guilty pleasure.

At first, I thought I would've liked some cameos from the first movie, but maybe it would've been too jarring. The movie already has enough crazy stuff in it that it is pretty much self-parody. Seeing the twinkie-eating cop or the slimy reporter somewhere in the thick of all of this would've probably changed the mood for the worse.

On the way home, I was talking baseball with J*stin. I asked him who the Rangers played next, and he knew it was the Angels. I told him, no, I don't think so, surely they're not playing division games right now before the All-Star Break, that would make no sense (spoken in complete professorial bullshit mode that I'm very good at). He insisted, and then the game was on the radio, and they said the Angels are coming in next week. Just said, "See! I told you!"

I said, "Wow, I guess you were right. I really had no idea."

The conversation went on like that the whole drive home. I enjoy the pre-gift hint-dropping conversation where everything is clear in hindsight. There was a time, long ago, when I could do this sort of thing with M*chelle for one or two minutes before she caught on. Now, I can't even give her a funny look without receiving the complete mental sensor scan conversation if there are any special occasions coming up.

That's why I have to resort to buying flowers and little gifts and so forth at odd times of the year when she isn't expecting it. It is the only way I can surprise her. And that's always fun. :)

No, baby, I promise I do not have any surprises right now, because if I did, I wouldn't be dumb enough to write what I just did.

Anyway, when J*stin finally opened the tickets, he rewarded me with the "Oh, now I get it!" look about our conversation. He's very excited, and I'm sure we'll both bring our gloves, assuming I still have one somewhere that I can find.

Posted by Observer at 08:59 PM | Comments (3)

June 29, 2007

Birthday Boy

J*stin's 18th birthday is coming up tomorrow. He's getting a new rechargeable electric razor, a gift card for Subw*y and a ticket to go with me to a Ranger game Tuesday night to see us lose to the Angels. We'll be in the front row near the foul pole in right field.

He'll like the gift card for sure. We have a Subw*y maybe 500 yards away from us in a little shopping center, and when he has money in his pocket, he likes to go there to grab a sandwich for supper on nights where it would otherwise be "fend for yourself". Or lunches during the summer (and even during the school year, though it is a bit far and crowded at noon for that). He'll make good use out of that.

I'm looking forward to the game, too. I got tickets for that night because I know they're having fireworks the following night (we're going to a different show, though). I thought most people would want to go see the fireworks, so there would be less demand the night before and the night after and better seats available.

Posted by Observer at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

Dumb and Dumber

Your ultra-liberal left wing USA Today newspaper today held a debate on its op-ed pages over whether Michael Moore's "Sicko" is wrong or ... very wrong. Ironically, both critics get on Moore's case for presenting a "one-sided" account about the health care industry.

Over the next few weeks, keep a sharp eye out for prominent voices in the traditional media advocating a health care system that is more in line with socialized medicine in other countries (whose health care, by just about any measure, is higher quality than ours, not to mention cheaper).

I mean, given that the media is ultra-super-duper-communist liberal, surely we'll see all kinds of prominent columns and news segments expounding upon the wonders of socialized medicine, right?



Posted by Observer at 04:24 PM | Comments (1)

June 28, 2007

Nothing But Net

We're trying to reclaim our back porch from the bugs. With all of the rain this Spring and Summer, the mosquitos have been even more ferocious than usual. With M*chelle's mom coming down, we thought we would surround the back porch with some mosquito netting that M*chelle researched since we all like to be out on the back porch from time to time. Maybe with the netting, it will be bearable, and if so, I'd love to get out of those outdoor swings and a couple of other pieces of comfy furniture to read in.

I'm a little worried that the netting might not let all of the barbecue smoke out as efficiently. When I'm cooking burgers, it can get pretty smoky. The porch is about 12 feet x 16 feet and covered by a (real) solid roof extension. Little 2x6's hang down around the outer edge and provide a rim to keep the smoke from getting out quickly. Anyway, we're going to clean everything off and install the netting this weekend and see how it goes. At least that's something we can do whether or not it is raining.

The weather guys say this is the most rain we've had in June ever except for three years ago, but I honestly can't remember getting this much rain during the summer here ever, much less three years ago. I'm fine with it, to be honest. Keeps the electric and water bills way down while it lasts. I haven't had to water the yard all year so far.

And the rain hasn't really stopped us from doing anything except getting the shed built. We're ready to install the floor and build the rest of it now that the foundation is all done. Just need about two days of free time and non-rainy weather. We've been working out at the local Y most nights for the past few months, and it is a nice habit. The kids come, too, and go swimming at either the indoor or outdoor pool, whatever they feel like.

Kinda screws up the supper hour, but we usually manage something before or after if we're quick or prepare ahead of time. I used to get acid reflux if I ate too late after 6pm, but ever since I dropped down from 220ish to about 190 (now hovering in the high 190's -- oops), that hasn't been much of a problem. Less fat pressing on my stomach, I guess.

I'm trying to be a little more careful about snacks now so that I don't have to get really strict about my diet to lose weight. I'd like to just maintain and maybe lose a little bit so that I drift back down to the 180-190 range over the next few months.

Posted by Observer at 10:57 PM | Comments (4)

June 27, 2007

The Other Heroes

We're catching online episodes of Heroes every once in a while when we don't have anything else current to watch on the DVR. All 23 episodes are available here in full-screen albeit low resolution and about 5 15-second car commercials you are forced to watch. Best we can do since season 1 isn't out on DVD yet. We just finished episode five, and it definitely leaves me wanting more.

In other news, it is raining a lot and I am enjoying the part of summer where I have no responsibilities other than the kids.

Posted by Observer at 10:42 PM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2007

Friends Like These

Media Matters has a good summary of the Washington Post's record of behavior on the whole Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame/Dick Cheney scandal. This is a nice bookmark to have when people try to tell me about the "liberal" Washington Post.

The Post is turning into the Wall Street Journal, in a sense. Good news reporting combined with an editorial page that doesn't seem to read any of the reporting.

In other news, I am quite obviously not a Diablo "power gamer". I'm not even in the ballpark of the top 200 Paladins, and I got to start at pretty much the same time as everyone else last night. I just can't put in the hours that those meddling kids can these days, I guess! 'Swhat I get for sleeping.

I lot of names I wanted (like Hammerabi) were taken, so I had to settle for "LooksLikeNail".

Posted by Observer at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2007


Looks like my interest in Diablo II has some good timing, because I just found out they're going to start up a brand new ladder season with everyone building from the ground up and all that good stuff. Starts today sometime, presumably this evening according to the latest info in the Blizzard forums.

I guess I'll try it and see if the 1-2 hours of time per day that I can afford to play will keep me in the top 100 paladins.

In other news, it looks like I'll be teaching five classes this Fall plus lab instead of the usual three plus one. I'll get paid well for the overloads, but it will be very busy. I think I might spend some of my free time this summer writing my exams in advance for at least a couple of the courses. There's not a whole lot else I can do in advance that I haven't already done.

Posted by Observer at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2007

The Wheel of Game

The cosmic Wheel of Game has rotated off of "Heroes III" and back to "Diablo" for a while. I've discovered that Diablo II runs really nicely on my spiffy new Intel-based Mac, so I'm building up an item finder (Blessed Hammer paladin) from scratch just to try to remember how to play. I may try a different class this time if I can find a complete set that's good for, say, a Sorceress or Necromancer.

Heroes V will enter back into the rotation if Freeverse can get its act together and release a patch that will make the game playable.

Posted by Observer at 08:45 AM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2007


It has been a long week. I haven't slept well all week because every morning I've been paranoid that I would oversleep for a workshop I was teaching. This is the first time I've tried an extended (15 hour) workshop with other teachers instead of just a two-hour quickie, and the whole thing was a huge load of stress I didn't expect. I guess I get stage fright when I'm teaching something new.

It went very well, but right after it was over, I came home and basically crashed for the rest of the day, feeling sick, and I spent most of yesterday feeling about 70% while doing a lot of stuff. I drove a four-hour round trip to pick up our now 15-year-old Ashl*y from camp along with some of her friends, then to get the cake, then out to run errands, then out to see a birthday movie (Nancy Dr*w, blech) with the older kids. Just exhausting.

I'm looking forward to having the next two weeks with basically zero responsibilities (aside from looking after the little ones, which is major, but better than having to do that AND prepare for a workshop).

Posted by Observer at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2007

Once More, With Feeling

Ana Marie Cox over at Time's blog points to one of these dumb articles that purports to show evidence of liberal media bias or something. The article in question contains a list of people in the news industry and shows that, of the people on their list, about 90% gave to Democrats.

Right there, did you see it?

That's where every dumb-fuck Republican in the entire Universe stopped reading.

First of all, this lists only involves contributions to specific candidates or political parties, not advocacy groups. The list doesn't include EXECUTIVES or PUBLISHERS, who are the ultimate deciders of content in news outlets. HELLO, THAT'S PRETTY FUCKING IMPORTANT!! Plus, most of the people on this list aren't even in the news reporting business. They are sports columnists or theater critics or food reviewers and so forth, and we don't even see any names on here that have a big influence (because they're generally smart enough not to get their names on such a list).

Also, the point about liberal media bias is explicitly about WHAT APPEARS IN THE MEDIA. It doesn't matter who contributes to what. If I go on TV and say, "You know, I think our president is doing a great job, and we should get behind him during a time of war," it totally doesn't matter that I've been blogging the opposite for going on five years now. What matters is what I say on TV, the message that goes out there to everyone exposed to it.

That's what people like me analyze. We don't try to know the hidden hearts and souls of the people in the business, what their nefarious motivations are, etc. The Swampland commenters have a lot more to say on this matter, and here are some of the best comments:

OH NOOOOOs! The Obituary author in Bum-frak OK donated money to a Democrat! That's totaly the same as Chris Mathews creaming his jeans everytime he sees Fred Thompson's face.


I don't recognise these people. So this is the liberal media. What's new? Is a donation by a theatre critic a political act?


OH MY GOD!!! The Travel columnist, Theatre Critic, Film Critic, and Sports Statistician have donated money to Democrats!

WORSE YET!!!!! The Style editor donated as well.



The whole article is moronic...

Here's the thing. The universe is 100,000 journalists. 0.14% of these journalists contributed to political causes. In other words, 99.86 percent DO NOT contribute to politicians or parties. Yet Dedman thinks he sees a "pattern" that somehow confirms the "liberal media" nonsense because 90% of 0.14% of journalists gave to democrats. [...]

What is more significant? The fact that Dedman's corporate overlords at General Electric contributed MILLIONS to political candidates in the last few years -- with 2/3 of it going to Republicans? Or that the David Denby--film critic of the New Yorker gave Kerry $1250?


Who cares?

You've got a whole freaking network devoted to disseminating Republican propaganda and it's a big deal that some weatherman in Dubuque gave two hundred bucks to John Kerry? You have got to be kidding me.


Of course the rightwingnuts are going to be apopleptic about this report.

Too bad they'll conveniently ignore the fact that those who actually direct and control our national discourse -- the folks on the op-ed pages, the editors, and the owners -- overwhelmingly support Republicans.

Maybe it's me, but I'm pretty sure the right-leaning Wall Street Journal op-ed page is a bit more influential than the left-leaning farm reporter from Eastern Bumblefuck Iowa.


"Come on now, if 9 out of 10 journalists gave to Republicans you would be up in arms -- you know good and darn well you would."

you're right, i would.

But, like most wingnuts, you are unable to read. See, the story in question does not show that 9 out of 10 journalists gave to Democrats. It shows that less than 1 out of 1000 journalists gave to Democrats.

In other words, it is the writer of the story who is biased, because he is leading people to believe stuff like "9 out of 10 journalists give to Democrats" when the number is 1 out of 1000.

and he knows his audience pretty well -- people like you who can't do simple math, and realize that when there are 100,000 people involved, and about 125 of them give to Democrats, it doesn't mean 9 out 10 of them gave to Democrats.


From the article:

"There's a longstanding tradition that journalists don't cheer in the press box."

Huh? That's a new one.

I guess I must have imagined all that I've read about the press cheering McCain and booing Gore. On the latter, according to Time's Eric Pooley, writing in 1999: "Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some helpless nerd." According to Hotline's Howard Mortman, "the media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something". Jack Tapper gave a similar account.

I would like a quarter for everyone wingnut blog or comment this article shows up on over the course of the next ten years as "proof" of the media's liberal bias.


Posted by Observer at 12:57 PM | Comments (1)

June 20, 2007

What "The Left" Believes

Digby gave a speech today, and Glenn Greenwald talks about how it applies to the liberal blogosphere:

I want to focus on one part of Digby's speech, where she identifies what she contends (accurately, I think) are the core, commonly held views defining the "progressive blogosphere":

We may argue about tactics and strategies, or the extent to which we are partisans versus ideologues. And believe me, we do.

But there's no disagreement among us that the modern conservative movement of Newt and Grover and Karl and Rush has proven to be a dangerous cultural and political cancer on the body politic.

You will not find anyone amongst us who believes that the Bush administration's executive power grab and flagrant partisan use of the federal government is anything less than an assault on the Constitution.

We stand together against the dissolution of habeas corpus, and the atrocities of Abu Grahib and Guantanamo.

And we all agree that Islamic terrorism is a threat, but one that we cannot meet with military power alone.

And yes, a vast majority of us were against this mindless invasion of Iraq from the beginning, or at least saw the writing on the wall long before Peggy Noonan discovered that George W. Bush wasn't the second coming of Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we also all agree that the mainstream media is part of the problem. Democracy sufferes when not being held accountable by a vigorous press.

That is a rather comprehensive list of the defining views of what is commonly referred to as the "liberal blogosphere" or "the progressive blogosphere" or the "netroots." Is there a single one of those views which can remotely be described as fringe, radical, extreme, out of the mainstream, or even rigidly ideological?

Beyond that, are the views Digby described really accurately characterized as "liberal," at least in the sense that the term was understood prior to the advent of Bush radicalism? There are large numbers of individuals who have never considered themselves to be "liberal" in the past -- and certainly not anywhere near the "Far Left" -- who would vigorously embrace every one of these propositions. Indeed, large percentages of Americans -- if not clear majorities -- embrace each of these beliefs.

Only in the true fringe -- what Digby calls "the modern conservative movement of Newt and Grover and Karl and Rush," as well as their establishment media enablers -- does opposition to the Iraq War, or Guantanamo and torture, or the abolition of habeas corpus, or the grotesque deceit of the Limbaugh Right make one a "leftist" or fringe liberal, as those terms are used in their pejorative sense. The reality is that the views Digby identifies as the crux of the "progressive blogosphere" are entirely mainstream American views. "Extremism" is marked by those who reject those beliefs, not by those who embrace them.

Radicals and extremists are those who believe that we ought to invade and occupy foreign countries which have not attacked and cannot attack us, or that we ought to lock people away indefinitely with no process and/or torture them, or that the president has the power to ignore our duly enacted laws. As is true for any collection of large numbers of people, there surely are liberal bloggers who hold views that are shared only by a small minority. But objectively speaking, the defining views, the ones that its members hold almost unanimously in common, are anything but radical or "fringe."

It is not only our national character that has changed fundamentally over the last six years. So, too, has our political spectrum. As I've argued many times before, the term "liberal" or "the Left," as used most commonly, now denotes "opposition to Bush radicalism." Anyone who meaningfully deviates from the worldview of the Bush movement, who devotes themselves to opposing it, finds themselves -- for that reason alone -- described as "on the Left." Even the CIA, and Bush appointees such as Richard Armitage and James Comey, are so described that way. That is how profoundly these terms have been transformed.

Ideas that were always previously so radical as to be unthinkable are now routinely identified as "mainstream conservatism." Conversely, political principles that have been such an integral part of America's political identity as to be unquestionable are now the hallmarks of "fringe liberalism" (a "fringe" which, as our last election demonstrated, now includes an ever-growing majority of the population). Those whose views of "bloggers" are based upon the caricatures of Time Magazine and The Washington Post would undoubtedly be shocked to learn of just how unremarkable is the Platform of Beliefs of the "Progressive Blogosphere" as articulated by one of its leading and most admired commentators.

Of course, it isn't just Time Magazine's "liberal" pundits who routinely disparage bloggers. The wingnuts do it instinctively, but as always, they are beyond hope, so people like me don't waste our energies on them. As you can see every once in a while when a true Bush believer comments, there's pretty much no hope for someone that far divorced from "mainstream reality".

Posted by Observer at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2007


Glenn Greenwald today has a good time mocking the most liberal regular columnist at the Washington Post, Richard Cohen, who joins the chorus calling for Libby to be released or pardoned. Notice I didn't put liberal in quotes or anything. Cohen truly is the most liberal columnist at the post, and so a pardon for Libby, I guess, represents the left wing of respectable opinion on the matter according to the Post.

God, I love how everything on this Earth is just so incredibly liberally biased.

You could have fucking fooled me.

Posted by Observer at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2007

Government vs Corporate

"Let the market decide" is the mantra of free-market conservatives, liberals and libertarians. Why let government provide a service when you can privatize it and let corporations do it more efficiently with higher quality, etc. This idea has been applied to all sorts of things and is in the process of expanding to prisons and even schools (not the exclusive rich private schools but schools meant to cater to the general population of today's high schools and middle schools).

The problem with this philosophy is that the government is accountable to the voters. The corporation is only accountable to the shareholders. Neither of these accountability relationships works as well in practice as it should in theory, but there's a difference between voters and shareholders.

Voters want what is good for the country, and they normally want what is best for the common good of the country. Shareholders want what is good for the company or to maximize profits, usually the latter more than the former. And shareholder goals are not usually compatible with the general welfare of the citizens of a country.

A good window on this philosophy comes with immigration. For all of its flaws, immigration legislation does attempt to satisfy the good of the country. Corporations are trying to get around it and/or get the laws changed, and they don't give a damn what's good for the country. What's funny is that the corporations who abuse immigration laws or the same ones that donate lots of money to Republicans, and a big fraction of the base Republican voter pretty much hates immigrants.

Here is a link to a video of an interesting seminar recently given by a law firm that advises companies on how to avoid hiring American workers so that they can justify giving green cards to cheaper-working immigrants within the narrow interpretation of the law.

As you watch this video, try to imagine the outrage we would feel if a government agency were doing this. But since it is a corporation doing it, what can we do? This video is a microcosm of why we must not let ourselves be governed by generally unaccountable corporations and why the influence of corporations in our government should be limited.

Posted by Observer at 02:45 PM | Comments (3)

June 17, 2007

Misdirected Anger

You know, one of the most frustrating things to me about the whole Iraq war is how mad Bush supporters get at war critics or bearers of bad news. Take General Taguba, for example, the guy whose report initially uncovered the Abu Ghraib systematic torturing that we were doing.

Everyone in the administration, the right-wing noise machine, and the pro-Bush crowd all got mad at TAGUBA. Oh sure, some of them expressed disappointment at the actions of a "few bad apples" (which tells me they remain ignorant of the report, which makes it clear the abuse was completely systematic and sanctioned by the entire chain of command), but most of them simply directed their anger at those who reported this while at the same time minimizing the story as "fraternity-style hazing".

People seem to have lost sight of the fact that what makes America great is not that we can kick ass. What makes us great is that we are supposed to be better than this, so that other countries can look up to us as the "city on a hill". That's how we win hearts and minds, and that's how we can influence other countries to do what's best for us.

This administration has made us look like third-world thugs, and I'm saddened, angered and shamed as an American by it.

Posted by Observer at 06:59 AM | Comments (0)

Ummm, Examples, Please?

In an otherwise agreeable post, Joke Line makes a common pundit mistake:

It was Republican political consultants, talk show hosts, freak-pundits like Ann Coulter and leaders like Newt Gingrich who were the pioneers of the rhetorical poison now afflicting the extremes of both parties.

Why is it that the "sensible centrist" pundits can prattle on endlessly about the "angry left" or "rhetorical poison" or what have you but can never really NAME ANYONE who is the left-wing equivalent of, oh, I don't know, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin, Newt Gingrich, ... you get the idea. Give us some examples of an irresponsible left-wing bomb-thrower who routinely questions the patriotism of the other side, who routinely spews out the most blatant (and easily checked) falsehoods, who has a large and regular platform granted by traditional media outlets (network or radio).

How about any two of those three qualities? The only one who might come to my mind is Michael Moore, whose accuracy has been questioned in his movies. However much you want to argue, it is abundantly clear to me that even if you give the wingnuts the benefit of the doubt on their anti-Moore screeds, his batting average with the truth is WAY higher then any of those people I mentioned above on the right.

Plus, he really doesn't fit either of the other two. Oh sure, he gets a lot of attention every few years when he has a controversial movie coming out, but he doesn't get a platform to speak unopposed. In fact, he is most often covered by right-wing or, at best, "pox on both houses" pundits who bend over backwards to make the case against Moore.

Posted by Observer at 12:21 AM | Comments (4)

June 16, 2007

What If We Lose?

James Wolcott notes the changing (for the worse) dynamics of the insurgency in Iraq and asks an unusual follow-up question about the potential for disaster in Iraq if we leave:

On the op-ed pages and the pundit panels and in the presidential debates, the onus is put on those who advocate withdrawal, even wimpy, slow-mo, phased withdrawal. They're put on the defensive as the questions are posed, "What happens if the US withdraws? What would that do to American credibility? Are you prepared to take responsibility for a bloody aftermath?"

But the counter-question also needs to be asked:

"What happens if the US stays--and loses? How prepared are you to deal with that eventuality?"

Democrats and Republicans and the elite media alike are acting as if America's continuing presence in Iraq is predicated on national will, on an elaborate, tortured, tortuous decision-making process that will either extricate us from Iraq or establish a permanent footprint; that the final outcome is up to us. But what Lind, Larry C. Johnson, and Timothy Garton Ash perceive is that the groundwar dynamics have shifted into endgame gear, outracing the rhetorical cornmeal of a Lieberman or McCain and raising alarms that the political-media establishment is refusing to heed.

I still can't believe these idiots are seriously considering starting up some kind of action with Iran right now while we're mired in Iraq.

Which brings me to something I got a good laugh out of today, this irony-filled news story that shows Bush threatening to veto the "out of control" spending by Democrats.

What are those crazy Democrats trying to shower money on? Uh, hello? Homeland Security. You know, those ports you've been ignoring for going on six years? Border agents? Cargo inspections. You know, the kind of stuff that actually DOES help make us safer, instead of a foreign adventure that makes them all hate us even more.

The Democrats' bill requests about $37 billion while Bush only wants $35 billion, so Bush is complaining about spending an extra $2 billion on homeland security. The cost of the Iraq war so far? Oh, we're in the neighborhood of $435 billion. All for a war started by an idiot concerned about runaway spending.

It truly boggles the mind.

Posted by Observer at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2007

Have We Met?

Tom Tomorrow imagines what life must have been like in the Justice Department during the past few years.

I'm sure whatever memory erasing drug must be in the administration's bottled water supply will also show its horrifying effects when Congress finally holds hearings on war profiteering by Republican-owned, politically connected contractors.

Posted by Observer at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2007

Vector TD

Ok, so now I'm playing this Vector TD game, but I'm still learning. I haven't been able to clear up to level 50 even on the easiest maps so far. Still, it is fun like the other game I played a month or two ago, and with lots more variables to play with. I wish the range and damage bonuses had a bigger circle of effect. I can't decide if pumping up the interest is really worth it or whether to go with lots of small towers (like the cheap blue ones to slow things down) or a few big ones concentrated around some bonuses.

Posted by Observer at 10:31 PM | Comments (7)

June 13, 2007

Media Treatment

Crooks and Liars has a little excerpt today from an interview Michael Moore did on Good Morning America about his latest movie. Watch the clip and follow the links, and see the confrontational way in which the reporter conducts the interview.

Now, can anyone find a similar interview conducted by the national networks of any Bush administration official? Hell, any Republican?

Posted by Observer at 10:47 PM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2007

Gore's Book

I haven't read Gore's new book, but I know that one of the central points made in the book (based on interviews Gore has done about the book) is that the political discourse in this country is broken. Journalists care about style over substance, they are sloppy about errors, and their priorities are completely out of whack with what's good for the country and its citizens.

Naturally, the traditional media has been falling all over itself to rush out and prove Gore right. Sadly, this is why Gore can't run for president. He can't even write a BOOK without a ridiculous repeat of the kind of nonsense that happened during the 2000 election season.

On June 10, The Washington Post published an opinion column by Andrew Ferguson about Gore's new book. [...]

Ferguson, an editor at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard, disliked the book, waving it off as "a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation."

What was embarrassing for both Ferguson and the Post was that in the very first sentence of his column, Ferguson made a whopping error when he condescendingly observed that The Assault on Reason had no footnotes. (The book is such a mess, footnotes would have been of no use, he suggested.) The problem, according to Ferguson, is that without footnotes readers have no way of checking the sources for the many historical quotes Gore uses in the book, including one on Page 88 from Abraham Lincoln that Ferguson would "love to know where [Gore] found."

In fact, if Ferguson had simply bothered to look, every one of the nearly 300 quotes found in The Assault on Reason is accompanied by an endnote with complete sourcing information, including the quote on Page 88 that Ferguson focuses on. The endnotes consume 20 pages of the book. [...]

At The New York Times, conservative columnist David Brooks ridiculed Gore for writing a book that Gore did not actually write. Brooks described Gore's utopia as a machine-driven world that is without emotion, family or friends: "He envisions a sort of Vulcan Utopia, in which dispassionate individuals exchange facts and arrive at logical conclusions." Suffice it to say that Brook's mocking description bears no resemblance to The Assault on Reason. Then again, Brooks has been making stuff up about Gore for years, so why stop now?

The same goes for his colleague Maureen Dowd. Like clockwork, she typed up a derisive, trivia-based column to greet Gore's new book. Believe it or not, she thought the most telling facts about The Assault on Reason were that A) Gore's image does not appear on the cover; and B) Gore's author photo on the jacket dates from the 1990s. And neither reflected well on Gore. According to Dowd, the lack of photo on the cover revealed Gore's pretensions about the book, while his dated author photo revealed his vanity. (Ridiculing The Assault on Reason in the Sunday Times of London, Andrew Sullivan also stressed very high up in his review that Gore's face does not appear on the book cover. Sullivan and Dowd literally critiqued packaging.)

Meanwhile, The Washington Post, embracing rampant anti-intellectualism, fretted that Gore was too smart. (Or he was acting too smart.) And the paper despised him for it. Reviewing The Assault on Reason for the Post on May 30, Alan Ehrenhalt, whom the Post described as an "intellectual," leveled a personal attack on Gore in the review's second sentence, complaining that he "annoy[s] the maximum possible number of people." (Ehrenhalt offered no proof for that attack.)

He belittled Gore for including too many quotes from the likes of Louis Brandeis, Edmund Burke, Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, John Donne, and the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas. (All the quotes showed that Gore was "desperate to display his erudition.") Ehrenhalt then concluded by noting, "The Assault on Reason is a serious work by an intelligent man with an incurable habit of calling more attention to himself than to the ideas he wishes to communicate."

So Gore was guilty of "calling attention to himself" by not putting his image on the cover of the book and by filling The Assault on Reason with quotes from other people? You figure it out, because it makes no sense to me.

Three days later, while covering a local speech and book signing, the Post's Dana Milbank literally made fun of Gore for even discussing topics of historical importance, such as the Enlightenment and the Information Age. Milbank wrote that "Professor Gore" kept pompously reminding attendees that he was "the smartest guy in the room." Yet Milbank's mocking article provided no proof to back up that assertion. Instead, the article included quotes from people in the audience who said Gore was the smartest person in the room.

In The Assault on Reason, Gore correctly laments that we cannot have intelligent, informed national debates. Yet the sad fact remains there are Beltway press players who devote much of their time and energy to ensuring that those debates cannot take place. Hopefully Gore will write a book about them some day.

Thanks, "liberal" media!

Posted by Observer at 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2007

All Clear

The CT scan at the pediatric ER turned up negative, so it's nothing worse than perhaps a mild concussion with some bruising on one side of his face. Poor little guy says his eye is hurting (when he wakes up every once in a while from being poked and prodded), but he just needs rest and maybe some pain meds.

It's a huge relief. Head injuries and vomiting are not a good mix. On the up side, those two symptoms put him at the front of the ER line when he arrived, so M*chelle managed to get the tests run and out of there fairly quickly all things considered.

Posted by Observer at 12:13 AM | Comments (5)

June 10, 2007


Our nearly-four-year old, Daniel, fell while playing on a tile floor. It was only a couple of feet because he was crouched over running a little car around, but he really yelled about it and has bruises around his eye and across one cheek. Later, he said his eye was hurting pretty bad, and he threw up, then he wanted to go to bed. This is a couple of hours before his usual bedtime, and he read for a bit then fell asleep pretty hard (very tough to rouse him).

As always, I had my concerns and figured he was probably going to need to get checked out, but I kept my mouth shut and let the infalliable Mommy Sense guide us. Sure enough, to the ER with the boy. M*chelle is there getting him looked at, and we'll see what they say. I hope it isn't a concussion or anything worse. There's probably a 95% chance it is nothing, but we have to get him checked out to be safe.

Posted by Observer at 09:53 PM | Comments (1)

June 09, 2007

Mystery Science Theater

You can now take a fun virtual tour of the creation science museum. You know, it's one thing to hear these guys criticize various scientific theories and try to cast doubt on evolution or cosmology or what have you. But to actually watch them try to construct a competing narrative for the way the world works is like watching my three year old try to explain calculus. You laugh and yet feel incredible pity for the people who believe such things.

Posted by Observer at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2007

Eric Explains

Joke Line is, I think, trying to reinvent himself as a blogosphere martyr, earning pity for taking on a bunch of abuse from the "angry left". Eric Alterman explains why he's full of crap:

It seems to me that Klein is genuinely obsessed with this question: A "reasonable reader might ask, Why are the left-wing bloggers attacking you? Aren't you pretty tough on the Bush Administration? Didn't you write a few months ago that George W. Bush would be remembered as one of the worst Presidents in history? And why on earth does any of this matter?"

Let me see if I can explain. Nobody really cares about Joe Klein, per se, one way or another. What justifiably angers people is when Time magazine offers its 3.25 million readers false and defamatory information. Ditto ABC's This Week and its however-many viewers. Therefore, the fact that Klein is not always wrong does not obviate the fact that he is often wrong. When he is wrong -- and defamatory -- this needs to be pointed out for the sake of correcting the record and ensuring informed democratic debate. And it is not necessary to add that he is not always wrong. Nobody ever said he was. Again, the point is not Mr. Klein; the point is the information itself.

Second, most of this piece is critical of the tone taken by netroots bloggers. And yet in the very same piece we hear of their "free-range lunacy," as well as the "fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere." When Klein did not like what I wrote about his work -- and only his work -- he responded by saying I was "perpetually intemperate," ..."obsessed," "still-obsessed," "futile and pathetic," and "still pathetic," "still after [him]," "a suck-up" and "intellectually dishonest," "not reliable," and full of "non-stop crap." Methinks this is not a writer who should be lecturing bloggers about tone, much less content.

Third, oh yes, content. Nowhere in Klein's piece does he note the fact that the netroots were consistently correct about George W. Bush as he now admits, while Klein and the vast majority of his colleagues were consistently and tragically wrong. The netroots, had they been listened to, could have saved the country from the ignominy that is the invasion of Iraq and all the damage, death, and destruction that it has caused the nation and the world. Even if Klein were right in comparing these people to Rush Limbaugh -- who, after all, celebrated Abu Ghraib and regularly issues racist rants from his microphone -- that would strike me as a pretty considerable difference.

Common in the lament of the "sensible centrists" who are being bashed by the liberal blogosphere is the "pox on both houses" mentality. Those rude and angry left-wing bloggers are exactly the same as the crude, racist, violent fantasists that populate right-wing websites. Since both are critical of me, I must be doin' somethin' right, eh? Heh heh heh.

Uh no. Both liberals and conservatives can agree, for example, that Osama bin Laden is a deeply sick, evil individual. That doesn't make him a saint. Being a contrarian does not automatically make you right. And it shouldn't immunize you from criticism.

Bob Somerby has more perspective on Klein's performance as a "liberal" pundit over the years. Remember as you read this stuff that Klein is a guy who gets really really mad at people who question his "liberal credentials". Sure he may disagree with Republican positions, but why does the guy spend 90% of his airtime and column space criticizing Democrats?

Look, we don't hate the guy. It's just that we liberals get pretty insulted when someone like Klein is held up as our spokesperson to provide "balance" against the myriad right-wing voices in the media. Watching a debate between Klein and Dick Armey over Social Security for a liberal would be comparable for a conservative to defining Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez as the "left" and "right" boundaries of the debate over the role of government in income redistribution.

Wouldn't right wingers bitch if someone like Chavez were trotted out everytime a "conservative" spokesperson were needed on the news? Or someone crazy like that former Klan guy David Duke. What if every time a racial issue came up in the news, the media called on David Duke to represent mainstream conservatism?

How do you think we liberals feel that every time a racial issue comes up, the media lets Al Sharpton speak for us? No one is forcing the media to do this.

Posted by Observer at 08:32 PM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2007


That's the ERA of the BEST Texas Ranger starting pitcher this season. In times like these, I take comfort in knowing one of the world's largest egotistical assholes (Tom Hicks) is experiencing some displeasure.

As much displeasure as one can get from owning a team that, regardless of on-field performance, pulls in somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 million in net profit every year in addition to appreciating in value.

Posted by Observer at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

Gravity Lies

Those of you with more landscaping experience with me (in other words, every other adult human reading this blog) will appreciate this little dilemma. We're going to install a big shed on top of a set of 27 or so cinder blocks. The idea is to get all of them as level as possible, and it will act as a poor man's pier and beam foundation once we put the metal floor grid and attached plywood on top.

So here is a diagram, a top view of two cinder blocks we were trying to level today. I like to level with sand because it is easier than messing with the clay-like soil in the backyard, and it makes me feel a little like Indiana Jones in the Central American temple trying to figure out the right weight of sand to offset the weight of the precious idol.

So we get these two bricks into their little slots in the ground that are carefully dug out and smoothed with dirt and sand. A--B is nice and level, the bubble is right at the center. C--D is also nice and level. B--D is also perfectly level.

A--C? The bubble is pinned with A being much too high. Seriously, What The Fuck?

We'll figure it out tomorrow, I guess. We've done enough for one day, and it's supper time. I've decided that I much prefer working in the middle of the afternoon on this project. Yes, it is hot as all hell, but at least the damn mosquitos aren't out so I don't have the bathe myself in Deet. I think Deet is what made me so ill on Monday that I slept half the day.

Posted by Observer at 05:41 PM | Comments (3)

Law and Order (for Them)

It looks like the "Law and Order" crowd is falling all over themselves to be the first to declare that Scooter Libby should be pardoned for obstructing an investigation that likely would have led to the impeachment of Vice President Cheney for blowing the cover of a CIA operative as political payback. There is very little doubt in my mind about the whole pardon thing.

I'm quite sure Bush will pardon everyone he perceives has been loyal to him, and probably a few more that his loyalists recommend. And then these slimeballs will pop up again as elder statesmen the next time the Moron Americans get fooled into putting another Republican president into office (with any luck, it'll be decades).

Posted by Observer at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2007

Subpoenas: Now With Immunity!

Are you a Republican operative who has recently suffered from catastrophic memory loss when questioned about your activities for the past six years? You may want to ask your doctor about subpoenas.

Posted by Observer at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2007

What Conservatism Is

Glenn Greenwald today talks about how "conservatives" are fleeing from Bush now due to his unpopularity. They're trying to convince people that Bush isn't a "real" conservative. And I agree with them. Problem is, Republicans who call themselves conservative have been engaged of little short of Bush worship for the past six years.

One of the few propositions on which Bush supporters and critics agree is that George Bush does not change and has not changed at all over the last six years. He is exactly the same.

And none of the supposed grounds for conservative discontent -- especially Bush's immigration position -- is even remotely new. Bush's immigration views have been well-known since before he was first elected in 2000, yet conservatives have devoted to him virtually cult-like loyalty and support. Just logically speaking, Bush's immigration views cannot be the cause of the flamboyant conservative "rebellion" against Bush since those views long co-existed with intense conservative devotion to Bush.

There is really only one thing that has changed about George W. Bush from the 2002-2004 era when conservatives hailed him as the Great Conservative Leader, and now. Whereas Bush was a wildly popular leader then, which made conservatives eager to claim him as their Standard-Bearer, he is now one of the most despised presidents in U.S. history, and conservatives are thus desperate to disassociate themselves from the President for whom they are solely responsible. It is painfully obvious there is nothing noble, substantive or principled driving this right-wing outburst; it is a pure act of self-preservation.

There is no longer really a party for socially and fiscally conservative people. Republicans really don't qualify for either. Just a quick look at the government's accounting books will tell you all you need to know about the current Republican party philosophy of "limited government" and "fiscal responsibility". The fact is, though, that they aren't really socially conservative either.

Oh sure, they'll pass a symobolic gay-bashing law once in a while, but let's be honest. They've had control of all three branches of the federal government for six years until very recently, and what really major new socially conservative idea did they enact into law? Any meaningful new restrictions on abortion? Anything new on gay rights (limiting them)? Any new major mixing of church and state?


And it is because in part there are enough sane Republicans who won't enact anything along these lines, but it is mostly because the political operatives in the Republican party know it is a bait and switch game. If they repeal "Roe v Wade", the jig is up because everyone will get mad and vote 'em out. If they start seriously enforcing anti-gay laws (like sodomy laws), same thing. People will no longer see it as the bigoted joke it is.

They put just enough hateful rhetoric out there around election time (which is when all of "defense of marriage" initiatives get on the state ballots, hardly ever during off-years since the purpose is simply to increase Republican half-wit turnout for the elections that do matter power-wise). But it is only rhetoric, and they'll keep doing it as long as it takes, even if they show no results because the Moron American "values voter" figures "oh well, the Dems would be worse".

So they're not super motivated, but they definitely won't vote Democratic. The trick is just getting them to the polls.

So anyway, it is no surprise that true "conservatives" are disgusted by Bush. Problem is, it is Republicans pretending to be true conservatives who are now complaining. But they aren't true conservatives because they have supported they ridiculous agenda of the Bush administration from day one.

A question I'd like to see in the debates is this: What is the core philosophy of the Republican party's domestic agenda that is unrelated to terrorism? And what steps have you taken or the party has taken while in control of the government to enact those steps?

Posted by Observer at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2007


We started a big project this weekend with the help of lots of family members: we're building a big 10' x 13' shed in the backyard to store tools, bikes and associated crap that is cluttering the garage. We can park two cars in there if we squeeze (and we do during severe weather), but it would be nice if there were enough space to move around in the garage with both cars out there.

We used to store Xmas presents in the outdoor shed at our old house, but we have a much larger attic in this house, so that's not a problem. Anyway, we were gung ho to get started, and then it rained most of the morning, so the backyard was a mudpit. Made for easier digging, I suppose, but the foundation for the shed will be right in the middle of what used to be a big ivy patch. That's a lot of roots to cut and dig up.

We got the cornerstones for the foundation level with each other and squared, and we got the floor kit assembled. We couldn't get much further, though, so we just came in and had a big supper that M*chelle and other family members had been working on. Over the next week, my goal is to place about 27 large cinder blocks at various strategic points within the four cornerstones and get everything nice and level. Then we can put the floor kit on there, somehow attach the plywood to the floor kit (still haven't figured out how to do that), then we can actually start building the damned shed.

For now, that's a lot of work that I'm dreading, because my back is killing me.

Posted by Observer at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2007

Comments Working

Well, I figured out why comments weren't working, and it didn't have anything to do with Blacklist. It was the IP ban list created by the MT (blogging) software itself, which I couldn't find nor edit via forms (that's a definite shortcoming of MT). Anyway, I finally found the part of the script that was calling the IP ban list, and I disabled it.

Blacklist is still off as an experiment. I'll give it a day or two and see if the spam coming in on the front blog page alone is enough to merit blacklist filtering or if I can just do it by hand and ban common IP's using a different, more flexible path.

Posted by Observer at 10:43 AM | Comments (1)

Why We're Different

Glenn Greenwald is apparently being criticized among the wingnuts because he's not reporting on how Al Qaeda in Iraq is torturing its prisoners. The wingnuts wonder why we liberals get mad about what America did at Abu Ghraib while not complaining about what the terrorists do.

The argument makes sense for all of about 0.1 seconds. I liked this response best:

It isnít news because they are terrorists, you fucking simpletons. Yesterday, my cat scratched himself then shit in a box. The media didnít report that, either.

Years from now, a book will be compiled with all of the intellectually humiliating commentary that passes for political discourse among the right-wing websites. Hell, it will probably be written by one of them as a point of pride!

Thank God I don't teach some kind of critical reasoning class. If I ever gave any of my students a passing grade and they went on to argue like a wingnut argues, I'd never live down the shame. As a science teacher, I may end up giving a passing grade to some sort of creationist, but only if they "fake" understanding. You can't really fake a grasp of simple logic if you don't, you know, actually grasp simple logic.

Posted by Observer at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2007

Summer School

Our nearly-15-year-old flunked her second semester of Algebra, so she's going to get a healthy dose of Teacher Dad this summer. The plan is for her to do at least a couple of hours worth of math work each day for me before she earns standard privileges such as TV or game time. She also flunked her second semester of English, but it isn't for lack of ability.

She is actually quite a good writer for her age level. I've always been impressed with her writing ability, especially compared to the two older boys. We get samples of their writing once in a while when we decide to get creative with consequences (e.g. "write me a one-page paper on what you could've done differently in the last hour to avoid this fight you get yourself into," or "write a list of 20 things you can do this summer when you are bored besides throwing balls in the house.").

Anyway, the problem with Ashl*y is that she consistently blows off assignments in every class. It's sort of one-third sheer forgetfulness, one-third lack of organizational skills and one-third screw-this-I-hate-school. At least, that's how I allocate the fractions when I'm feeling generous. We considered formally sending her to summer school, but we'll wait until next summer if she gets behind further before taking that necessary step.

She's on a credit system, so flunking a class just means repeating it rather than being held back, but if she flunks too many, she won't accumulate enough credits to graduate. She GREATLY fears and despises summer school, so I hope she'll take her classes more seriously next year because she knows that's the consequence of flunking. And it also means no summer camp.

Posted by Observer at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)