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Archive for August, 2006

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Lots of Storage and Fun for the Kids!

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

Check this out – Lego hard drives!

Categories: Tech Talk, The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

The Ecological Economy?

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

I have not seen Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. But everyone I know that has seen it has told me I need to see it “for my sake and for the sake of my kids.” I put that in quotes because everyone who’s talked to me about this has used almost those exact words. I’m starting to wonder if the movie ends with a tutorial on how to get others to see it? Or maybe they hand out instruction cards as you leave the theater? Or perhaps it’s just that good a film? Whatever they’re doing, it seems to be working.

I’ll probably see the movie eventually, but given that a babysitter and a night out is a fairly rare occurrence, I’m not likely to dedicate one to a lesson on global warming from a guy who Saturday Night Live used to parody as the most boring man alive. He’s got a much better shot at me when the movie appears OnDemand, or in the local video store on DVD.

All of that said, I’ve read quite a bit about the movie, I’ve seen the trailer, and I’ve seen Al Gore on various talk shows discussing it and showing clips, so in the all-too-forgiving world of the blogosphere, I feel more than qualified to give my (somewhat uninformed) opinion on the topic.

From what I’ve seen and read, the global warming issue seems divided into two camps: those who think it is the single largest threat facing mankind today, and those who think it’s an unproven scientific theory that requires more research, at least until the people who think this way no longer hold political power and don’t have to do anything about it. As is often the case with debates like this, I find this dichotomy frustrating, because it prevents a whole lot of honest, thoughtful discussion on the topic. For instance:

Let’s stipulate, for the purposes of quieting the anti-Gore crowd, that global warming is a real problem, and that it’s caused by human activity. I’ve also read that we’ve already put enough pollutants in the air that regardless of what we do, global warming will continue unabated for the next X years (10>X>90). And I’ve seen the clips of the computer generated models, demonstrating that Florida and lower Manhattan will eventually be underwater if nothing is done. For the sake of argument, let’s assume all of that is true as well.

So here’s my question: Can we also stipulate that migrating the world’s economy, or even just the American economy, to a model that doesn’t depend heavily on fossil fuels (cars, yes, but also oil for heating/cooling systems, electricity, factories, public transportation, shipping, etc., etc.) would be a colossal undertaking, and that even in the best of social, economic and political conditions, it would take decades and billions of dollars of investment to make it happen? And if so, can we stipulate that even in the best case scenario, the current global warming problem will continue for decades to come?

I ask these questions not to imply that we shouldn’t do anything about global warming, but to suggest a parallel course of action that no one seems to have mentioned: the economic transformation approach. If all of the above is true, there are literally billions of dollars in profit just waiting for the taking in the coming years. This money will go to the corporation that figures out how to make levees work properly, or whoever builds a better hurricane detection system, or the guy that invents a way to make homes/buildings more resistant to storms and floods, or the scientist who invents a way to weaken and/or alter the path of a tropical storm, etc.. While we’re working on the electric car, the solar-powered factory and other preventative measures, why aren’t we also encouraging investment in protective measures as well?

I bring this up for two reasons: First, if all the predictions are indeed correct, we’ll desperately need these technologies at some point down the road. Second, and perhaps more importantly, this tack provides for new economic development, as opposed to disruptive investment in the existing economy. The incentives are exactly opposite to the ones standing in the way of what Gore, et. al are advocating: new money chasing new technology, with the possibility of moving the economy onto a totally different growth curve. And the financial gains from this brand new industry can be used (read: taxed) to defer the cost of the more traditional anti-global warming measures we’re currently discussing.

This kind of thinking isn’t new to Al Gore. It was his leadership (among others, of course) that helped transform us from an Industrial economy in the 1980′s to an Information economy in the 90′s and 00′s (and led to that whole nasty business about him “inventing the Internet.”) The change powered the longest peacetime expansion in our nation’s history and, despite the bursting of the internet bubble, has retained a great deal of its value in terms of new technologies, new industries, etc.

I’d think he would jump at the chance to migrate us once again, this time from the Information economy to the Ecological economy. Unless he’s worried that someone will one day accuse him of inventing the environment…

Categories: Political Rantings | 3 Comments »

From the Grimly Ironic file…

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

All this work to keep bombs off planes, and it turns out the unsuspecting laptop user may be a potential risk.

Categories: Tech Talk | 1 Comment »

On Politics – August, 2006

Monday, August 14th, 2006

There have been a few political events in the past few weeks that made me think, “Hey – I should blog about that,” but I’d keep getting too busy (or too tired) to write up an entry. So, I figure I’ll put some comments about each of them in one entry and see what interest it generates (i.e., will anyone other than Jeff comment?). If this sort of thing bores you, move on now. You’ve been warned.

First, the Democratic primary for senator in Connecticut. Jeff Porten has a couple of great posts up about how the Democrats are missing yet another opportunity here, and I have a couple of posts up as well. We have different takes on some of the particulars, but oddly enough, we are pretty much in agreement on this one.

(In other news, all the pigs are flying out of Hell because it’s getting too chilly, and Massachusetts has just approved cat/dog marriages.)

One thing we both agree on is the nasty nature of Dick Cheney’s remarks after the primary was over. The Vice President said that the Lamont victory might “embolden al Qaeda types,” because it would be seen as a weakening of America’s resolve vis-a-vis the war. This is dumb for several reasons, but mainly it’s dumb because it implies that the next terrorist attack is somehow the fault of those who voted against the current administration’s policies. If anything, I’d rather see the grandiose, made-for-TV protests stop (oh yeah, they have stopped, haven’t they?) and have people express their displeasure at the polls. It’s a more effective form of protest, it actually generates progress for the cause it advocates, and if anything, it shows the terrorists that the American people will have their voices heard, even if they disagree with their leaders. Also, an elected official should never be discouraging people from voting, no matter what the circumstances.

So Cheney did a dumb thing. Except that Cheney also did a smart thing, because he (and the rest of the GOP) have learned from recent history that this stuff works like magic where the Democrats are concerned. Instead of talking about democracy and the sanctity of “one man, one vote,” here are samples of remarks from both parties on the issue:

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV): “Once again, GOP (Republican) leaders are using terrorism and our national security as a political wedge issue. It is disgusting — but not surprising.”

George W. Bush: “Unfortunately, some have suggested recently that the terrorist threat is being used for partisan political advantage. We can have legitimate disagreements about the best way to fight the terrorists, yet there should be no disagreement about the dangers we face.”

Reid is wrong here and Bush is right. Terrorism and national security ARE political issues, and SHOULD be used as such. It is, after all, our politicians that decide how/when/where to fight terrorism and maintain national security. I can’t think of a more appropriate topic for the political arena.

What Reid is trying to do here is suggest that the Republicans are benefiting from the suffering of others (as the DNC did when Bush put a scene from Ground Zero into one of his campaign ads). The comparison falls flat here, though, because there wasn’t any suffering. This was a failed terrorist plot, and the way in which it was foiled, as well our government’s reaction in it’s aftermath are legitimate political discussions.

Speaking of government reaction, this entire ordeal has provided an interesting insight into British politics and civil rights that I had not seen before. For example, despite all our hand-wringing over wiretapping and financial surveillance, it was these kinds of techniques that led us to Rashid Rauf, who was arrested in Pakistan and led the British authorities to arrest 24 additional suspects. And while we complain about all the secrets our government keeps from the mainstream media, this article suggests that things are much worse in Britain:

Since 24 people were arrested last Thursday, it has largely been left to the United States and Pakistan to elaborate on what British police said was an “attempt to commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale”.

After 72 hours of caution, Home Secretary John Reid and the government’s most senior law adviser, Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith, reminded the media to “exercise considerable restraint” in their reporting.

They cited the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which essentially prohibits the publication of any information after an arrest that may give rise to a substantial risk of serious prejudice at any future trial.

The article also mentions that British law allows the government to hold a security suspect for 28 days without charging him. We’ve had complaints about this kind of thing in the U.S., but have never come close to passing such a law. Finally, did anyone notice that the restrictions placed on air travel by the British were far more invasive than those of the Americans? No carry-on bags of any kind, no electronic devices and no liquids. One woman was dreading have to spend an entire 8-hour flight without her iPod.

So, it turns out that our “govern by fear” administration provides more information to its public, treats its suspects better, and respects the civil liberties of its citizens more than our friends in the United Kingdom.

Something to remember next time you hear someone say we’re on the road to fascism in America…

Categories: Political Rantings | 10 Comments »

Poll Results: 1 in 3 Americans is Completely Clueless

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Recently, John Scalzi expressed his disbelief about a poll showing that 36% of Americans believe our government was somehow involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Now, there’s this:

SOME 30 per cent of Americans cannot say in what year the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against New York’s World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington took place, according to a poll published in the Washington Post newspaper.

All I can say is I hope these are roughly the same group of people.

The article goes on to point out that 95% could remember the month and date of the attacks. Thank God for small favors…

Is there any way we could potentially tag these people and prevent them from responding to polls in the future? After that, we can talk about voting rights…

Categories: News and/or Media | No Comments »

So What’s Up with the Pizza?

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

I know, I know – I got everybody excited with talk of pizza and Regis a couple of weeks ago and then SILENCE. What gives, right?

Well, here’s the update from Jason Bennion, our correspondent on the ground in Salt Lake City. Seems Dave (proprietor of Este pizza) is still working on transportation logistics, and Chenopup is still working on TV coverage. Also, Jason has sampled the competition and offers this promising review:

The pizza is indeed similar to what I remember eating in New York ten years ago: a thin, flexible but not-too-chewy crust, not too much sauce or cheese, and served in massive wedges that must be folded in half to be easily manipulated. As for the flavor, well… it’s good. It’s damn good, in fact.

As Glenn Reynolds would say, read the whole thing.

UPDATE: For the most recent update, click here.

Categories: The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

How Can 136,042 People be So Dumb?

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary last night by a tally of 146,061 (52%) to 136,042 (48%), in what has repeatedly been called a referrendum on President Bush’s foreign policy and the war in Iraq. I find it fascinating, though, that polling on the war itself is much more polarized (60% / 36%, according to the latest CNN poll). It’s almost as if opinion on a generic issue doesn’t fully translate when people are voting for an individual candidate. Now, I wonder where I’ve heard that before?

Speaking of voting for an individual candidate, I’m also fascinated by those who endorsed Lieberman through yesterday, but are now coming out squarely in favor of Lamont. If you take it as a given that Lamont and Lieberman disagree on many issues (the war being chief among them), then I would think these “blind Democrats” would have some explaining to do. Do you support the war or not? If not, why did you back a pro-war candidate for senator? If so, why are you backing Lamont now?

If their only concern is putting a Democrat in the seat, regardless of what that Democrat believes, I would think that all but the died-in-the-wool party faithful (in Connecticut and elsewhere) could be swayed with a solid, issue-oriented campaign.

Categories: Political Rantings | 2 Comments »

The Democrats Prepare to Lose to the Least Popular Bush Yet…

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Jeff Porten is aghast at the concerns expressed by key Democratic leaders that the Democratic voters won’t turn up in sufficient numbers to defeat the Republican majorities in the House and Senate in the 2006 midterm elections. Specifically, he charges them with not properly communicating the obvious reasons why every Democrat in the country should turn out to vote. Summarized, and with Jeff’s original links (all from today’s Washington Post), they are as follows:

1) The Republicans are screwing up the reconstruction effort in Iraq.
2) The Republicans are hurting our troops’ mental health in Iraq.
3) The Republicans are soft on the environment.
4) The Republicans lied to the 9/11 commission on how the FAA & NORAD reacted to the terrorist attacks.
5) The Republicans are abusing power with regard to the use of special military courts.
6) The Republicans are (still) soft on the environment.
7) The Republicans have overused and underfunded the National Guard.
8) The Republicans are (still) soft on the environment.
9) The Republicans have failed to stabilize Iraq.
10) The Republicans have (still) failed to stabilize Iraq.
11) The Republicans have ineffectively run the FDA, as evidenced by their inability to review and approve the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B.
12) The Republicans have maintained a presence on the Kansas State Board of Education with someone who believes Intelligent Design should be taught in classrooms instead of (or along side of?) Darwinism.

As I see it, Jeff is right to criticize the Democratic leaders, but then proceeds to commit the same exact sin he’s accusing them of committing. Instead, they should take the advice of their target market: a socially moderate, registered Republican in a democratic-leaning state with a significant number of electoral votes (read: me). OK, everyone listening? Here goes:

1) Your message has not been communicated well, and that’s something you need to get better at doing.

2) Your message has got to be something more than “The Republicans <insert bad thing here>.” As long as that’s all you’re doing, whatever debate occurs will focus on the Republicans’ agenda, and I promise you they have arguments prepared to defend their positions on each of these issues.

3) The only people you’re going to convince with these arguments are the people that would vote for a Democratic doorknob before any Republican. Even the best GOTV campaign is not going to win an election with only these people. As incredible as it may seem to people within that group, the group isn’t large enough to elect a significant number of people (and certainly not the President of the United States).

4) The reason for #3 is that all of the hypothetical Republican bashing melts away as soon as people are faced with a choice between an actual Democrat and an actual Republican. It’s far easier to paint the opposition party as evil monsters than a particular individual. Why? Because that individual will stand up and explain his position. And if he’s a halfway decent politician (and, let’s face it, all of them are), he’s going to come off sounding dramatically less evil than your GOTV campaign implies. Lots of people will hate the Republicans in general, but vote for their own, incumbent Congressman because “he’s a good guy who gets it.”

5) The way to escape this vicious cycle is to find candidates with their own ideas on how to lead. Bill Clinton was such a candidate, and it’s the reason he’s the only Democrat to serve two terms as President since FDR. JFK was that kind of candidate too, but we’ll never know how his second election would have turned out. Even Al Gore had a lot of independent ideas (the environment, the social security lockbox, and others), and he probably would have won if he stuck to his message during the campaign, rather than saying absolutely anything that he thought would help secure him a victory.

6) The focus on a “Democratic position” on key issues masks this kind of independent thought. Example: the recent kerfuffle amongst Democrats about when/how many troops we should pull out of Iraq (40,000 right now! Half by the end of the year! All of them by next Fourth of July!) not only makes the party look disorganized, but if a particular candidate actually has a well-reasoned plan for troop withdrawal, including an understanding of what the troops are doing now, who will take over those responsibilities, how long it will take, and what that means for troop levels, it’s instantly going to get compared with the various proposals on the table, and fall into a “me too!” category in the next News Cataloging story. He/She will not get the credit he/she deserves for actually thinking it through.

So, take my advice for what it’s worth: stop trying to get the whole party elected. Put together the best & brightest minds in the party, sit down with the candidates, and help each one of them shape their message so that their respective constituents know where they stand.

Make the messages start with “The Democrats <insert good thing here>, instead of waiting for Bush to “boil puppies,” as Jeff so eloquently puts it. Debate those issues in your local races. Convince the disgruntled Republicans that their Democratic candidate is a “good guy who gets it,” and give them a reason to vote for him/her.

It’s not as sexy as some grand, national strategy, but it’s what your opponents are doing every day, and it’s why they keep winning, despite how much you’ve convinced everyone to hate them.

Categories: Political Rantings | 2 Comments »

Daily Kos – Where do they find these people?

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Recently, I’ve been visiting Daily Kos on a regular basis, just to see what all the hype is about. My conclusion after just a few weeks? Wow, these folks are nuts. I mean certifiably looney. Just about every post is a hard slam against some Republican official (at least one in three is against President Bush), and the rest are slamming Joe Lieberman, persona non grata in the Democratic party these days. I honestly don’t care who wins the Connecticut Democratic Primary, but I kind of hope Lieberman pulls it out just to see what these folks do in the subsequent days. And then ultimately, will they support Lieberman in the general election, or endorse the Republican? It will be interesting times in Kosland, that’s for sure.

Oh, and every post gets 200+ commenters, all of whom agree with the poster. There is no semblance of debate or discussion, just a lot of “well put, Bob!” and “Here, here!” I can only assume that those with differing opinions (like myself) stay away because it’s just not worth screaming into that much wind.

Anyway, here’s the latest example of the craziness I’ve found over there:

Alaska oil production will be severely curtailed as BP investigates pipeline problems.

In the world of Big Oil, this is cause for celebration. While supplies shouldn’t be affected (the outage is 2.6 percent of American daily consumption and reserves are high), it’ll give oil companies another excuse to jack up prices and continue on its record gouging of American consumers.

Kos is apparently unaware (or assumes that we are unaware) that the oil companies don’t set the price of oil, the commodity markets do. In fact, he goes on to quote an article that calls the U.S. market well-supplied, but in “very high anxiety.” He translates “high anxiety” to “high opportunity” for … what else?

Oil giant Exxon Mobil has posted the second-largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly-traded US firm.

Helped by high oil prices, the company earned $10.4bn (£5.6bn) in the second quarter of 2006 – a 36% increase on the same period of 2005.

Exxon, which is the world’s biggest oil company, said its quarterly revenues rose by 12% to $99bn.

Of course, this data is from July 27th, two full weeks before the news of the Alaska pipeline problem. If anything, he’s proven that rising oil company profits are not related to shutdowns in domestic pipelines, but his juxtaposition seems to indicate the exact opposite.

Sorry, Kos. I ain’t biting…

Categories: Political Rantings | No Comments »

Proof that there’s Karma in the World

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

This is among the most bizarre stories I’ve ever heard:

A waitress in Westlake, OH loses her wallet in a bar in nearby Lakewood, OH on July 9th. The person who stole it sells her drivers license to another woman, Maria Bergan, who is 23 years old. Two weeks later, Ms. Bergan walks into a bar in Westlake and is asked for ID to prove she is 21. She hands the waitress the stolen license she just purchased and (wait for it…) the waitress recognizes it as HER OWN LICENSE!!! Ms. Bergan is arrested and charged with identity theft and receiving stolen property. Says police captain Guy Turner:

“The odds of this waitress recovering her own license defy calculation.”

Indeed. Almost as high, in fact, as the odds of someone who is over 21 using a stolen license to prove she’s over 21.

As Brannon Denning (guest Instapundit blogger) says, Doh!

Categories: The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

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